Lina sighed contentedly as her slaves carried in another chest full of gold and added it to the already looming heap nearby. She herself was lounging on a pile of cushions, being fanned by still more servants with palm leaves. A feast's worth of gourmet delicacies lay within easy reach; she didn't have to strain herself if she wanted to have a snack. The sorceress smiled, for the afternoon sun was warm and glinted brightly off the mountains of gold and gems in exactly the right way for one to admire the shine without being blinded.
She adjusted her sunglasses and glanced up at the cloudless blue sky, then reached for a handful of grapes. Pulling them off the bunch and popping them into her mouth one by one, she savored their sweetness. For all that it was said food tastes best after a hard day's work, Lina was finding food eaten in the lap of luxury to be none too shabby itself.
It was so pleasant here by the ocean side, alone on her own private island, Lina reflected lazily. The sun, the gentle sound of the waves lapping along the shore, the calls of the seagulls, the light sea wind, the wonderful food, Gourry screaming bloody murder...
Lina woke up.
That is the sound of a three-legged bandergabble gargling molten lava.
Coincidentally, it was also the sound of a screaming Gourry, and hence the first sound to reach Lina's ears as she woke. In the split-second it took to wake up, Lina's neurons fired in recognition of the audial pattern, signals flitting about her brain like so many flashes of lightning in a thunderstorm. Or at least sparks from sticking a fork in a toaster. As the sorceress had never heard of the three-legged bandergabble, she connected the sound immediately with its true source. Her half-awake thoughts went something like this:
Sound of Gourry screaming.
Something is making Gourry scream.
Gourry is being attacked.
If Gourry is being attacked and resorts to screaming, he is having a bad time of it.
Gourry needs help.
Lina fairly bolted out of bed, feet landing conveniently in her slippers. Across the room, Amelia sat up in her bed, rubbing her eyes and mumbling a question, but Lina ignored her. She grabbed her bathrobe and sword on the way out the door, which slammed shut in the sonic wave she left in her wake. Putting on the bathrobe was tricky one-handed and running, but Lina didn't want Gourry or his attackers seeing her in her pajamas. Or anyone else, for that matter.
Gourry and Zelgadis were in a room at the other end of the hall (the cheapest open rooms rarely being right next to each other at any inn), but Lina ignored the fact that her thundering footsteps might wake the inn's other patrons. After all, if they couldn't sleep through someone running down the hall, they had probably already been awakened by the racket Gourry was making.
Lina didn't bother trying the knob, figuring it would be locked. She took the more direct method of blasting the door open with a Fireball. Stepping through the smoking curtain of ashes and charred wood, she quickly sized up the situation.
Far from being attacked by stealthy assassins, random thieves, vengeful bandits, bloodthirsty lawyers, or rabid chihuahuas, the swordsman seemed to be completely alone in his bed, and quite unharmed. He was huddled in a trembling ball, covers clutched firmly over his head. Directly in front of her, a moderately singed Zelgadis stood glowering, the molten remains of the doorknob in one hand.
"Hey, whoa, whoa, calm down, Gourry!" Lina said, at the swordsman's side and shaking him in an instant. "Wake up, Gourry! Wake up and stop screaming already!"
The distressed slumberer woke mid-argh and sat bolt upright, reaching automatically for his sword. "Aaaaauu-huh?" he said articulately, as eloquent as ever in the face of a sudden change of surroundings. He turned wide, worried eyes frantically about the room, but smiled in relief when he saw his visitor. "Lina! I just had a terrible dream..." he started to explain, then was distracted by a thought. "How'd you get in here? I thought we locked the... oh." The swordsman trailed off as he saw what remained of the door to his room and the rather worse-for-wear chimera, then frowned. "Lina..."
"Yes, you might tried have tried knocking, Lina," Zelgadis added dryly. "Or even using the knob." He looked down at the cooling metal with a grimace of distaste, and flung it away. The stone skin of his palm was unharmed. "I heard you running and had just unlocked it. You do realize that, unlike a bandit camp or ancient ruins, we will be expected to pay for repairs? Doors are typically things meant to be closed again, once opened."
Lina rubbed the back of her head, laughing nervously. "Eheheheh... well, I heard Gourry screaming and figured you guys were being attacked. I figured this was the fastest way in, so..." She broke off, noticing the crowd of variously curious and cranky people peering into the room through the ruined door. This was just the excuse she needed to change the subject, and so she immediately marched over, opening the remains of the door to address them. "C'mon, c'mon, show's over, you can go back to your rooms. Just someone waking up screaming their lungs out from a nightmare, that's all. It happens. Everyone go back to bed."
The crowd dispersed with a few muttering grumbles and Lina's forceful traffic-cop waves. When the corridor was empty, Lina shut the door. Unfortunately, what remained of it hung together only precariously, so it immediately fell to ash.
"Gah, what cheap wood..." she muttered, ignoring Zelgadis's pointed look. She snatched the quilt from Gourry's bed and pinned it in place of the ex-door with a simple Make-Blanket-Stick-To-Wall spell.
"Lina! That's my blanket!"
"Well, now it's a door. Do you want all those nosy people looking in on you while you sleep?" Lina asked matter-of-factly, turning around. She paused, then grinned. "Nice pajamas, guys."
Gourry hastily pulled up the rest of the bedclothes around him to hide the fact that his pajamas were blue, fuzzy, and had feet. (He needn't have worried; the pajamas Lina was wearing under her bathrobe were printed with pictures of chibi Ceipheeds and Shabranigdos. But Lina wasn't about to volunteer that information.)
Zelgadis crossed his arms and looked back crossly, dignified even in his pajamas. "Are you done here, Lina? I want to go back to sleep."
The sorceress stuck out her tongue in reply, and sat down on the edge of Gourry's bed, her feet dangling. "Anyway, you said you had a nightmare, Gourry?"
"Huh? I did?"
"You were screaming, and when you woke up you said you'd had a terrible dream," Lina reminded him. "Remember?"
Zelgadis sighed in annoyance and returned to his bed, pulling his pillow over his head.
Gourry watched him, so Lina repeated herself. "Your nightmare?"
"Oh..." A pause. "Oh, oh, yeah..." He shuddered. "It was really sca-... it wasn't very fun."
Lina tilted her head and swung her feet. "Want to talk about it?" Seeing his look of surprise, she shrugged. "Sometimes it helps."
Gourry was hesitant. "Well... I already woke you up and all..."
"So go back to sleep," the chimera said from under his pillow. "Lina, go away."
Scratching his head thoughtfully, Gourry. "It's sort of long... and I don't think you'd like some of it," he finished, cringing slightly as if expecting a blow. Gourry was slow, but he had been on the receiving end when Lina exploded often enough to learn to duck.
Wincing inwardly, Lina made a mental note to restrain her temper more often when it came to the slow-witted swordsman. As far as she was concerned, there was nothing wrong with openly expressing one's anger; after all, bottling up emotions was unhealthy, right? But if it meant that her best friend was more afraid of her than of a dream that he'd woken from screaming... Well, everyone needs to make sacrifices now and then for the greater good, she told herself firmly.
"Gourry, I'm not mad that you woke me up, and I promise not to hit you for whatever your dream was, okay? People can't help what they dream about."
"You won't?" The surprise was clearly written on Gourry's usually blank-slate face. "You promise not to hit me, Lina?"
"Okay..." The swordsman scratched his head, leaning back against the headboard of the bed. "Well... A lot of really strange things happened. Oh, and there was always music in the background, too, and sometimes it sort of fit with what was going on, but most of the time it didn't."
"Music, huh?" Lina asked thoughtfully, then shrugged. "Anyway, go on. What sorts of strange things happened?"
"Ummm... well... Hmm. I don't remember exactly. First, there was a lot of Amelia and Zelgadis." He stole a glance at the other bed, where the chimera still pulled his pillow firmly to his head. "And sometimes they would be acting really shy and stuff and then they would kiss, but sometimes one of them would run off and the other one would be really upset, and a couple of times one of them was dying and the other one was crying and really sad. And the music kept changing, and I couldn't figure out where it was coming from. Then that stopped, and, ummm..." The swordsman was clearly trying very hard to remember, judging by the sound of turning gears. "There was a lot of the same stuff, only this time it was you and Zelgadis, and the two of you kept saying you were in love with each other and kissing which I thought was really strange because I didn't think that was true. And Zel got killed a couple times and you were sad."
The sorceress scratched her head, baffled; it was beginning to become contagious. "That's really …weird. Why would I be kissing Zel? No offence, Zel!"
A warning growl rose from the chimera, somewhat muffled by his pillow.
"I don't know." Gourry rubbed his temples, frowning. "It didn't make much sense. I didn't understand most of what was going on, except that it was strange and there was music." Then he brightened. "The next bit was really funny! It was a wedding, only instead of a bride and groom, there was Zelgadis and Xellos."
There was a choking sound from Zelgadis. Gourry continued, oblivious. "Xellos had a dress on, and was calling Zel, Zel-chan, in this really funny voice. And then everyone was doing karaoke! Xellos was really good, which is funny, and then Zelgadis serenaded him, which was also kinda funny. Oh, then you and Amelia got really drunk, and-."
"Gourry. Shut up and go to sleep."
Lina shushed Zel. "Let him finish. I wanna hear the rest. You don't, whatever, go sleep in my and Amelia's room… Zel-chan." She snickered when he growled again, and then turned expectantly back to Gourry. "So, what else?"
Gourry looked at her nervously. "Er, well… Then it all changed again, and it was kind of the same only it was different, because..."
"Because...?" Lina prompted him when he hesitated.
"Because..." He hesitated another instant, then plunged ahead in typical Gourry fashion. "This time instead of you and Zel, or Zel and Xellos, it was you and me, and stuff kept happening and sometimes we would end up kissing, which was sort of nice - rememberyoupromisednottohitme!"
With what felt like superhuman effort, Lina controlled her Fist of Death."Go. On," she managed through clenched teeth.
"Anyway…then there were a couple times that we were fighting Mazoku and stuff and I remember lying on my back and hurting a lot and you..." The swordsman furrowed his brow, but the look of concern on his face could just as easily been one of intense concentration. "You were really sad, Lina, and sometimes crying. You know, I don't think I've ever seen you cry? I mean, really cry, not just fake tears because you didn't get your way over something. I wanted to tell you to not be sad but I couldn't..."
The swordsman sounded genuinely upset, and Lina's First of Death unclenched, irritation becoming tempered with concern for her friend. Well, it was just a dream, right? It's not as if he really did try to do any of that stuff in real life, right? she rationalized, forcing her pride to take back seat to compassion. "Hey, hey, don't worry about it, it was just a dream..." she said reassuringly, patting him on the shoulder. "It's all okay now, neh?"
Gourry continued, oblivious to her reassurances. It was as if now that he'd started, he couldn't stop. "And then things turned around and this time you were hurt real bad. And it was my fault because I hadn't protected you right, and Sylphiel wasn't there to heal you, and Amelia's and Zel's magic wasn't enough, and you were going to die."
"..." Lina said eloquently, taken aback.
"And then you really did die, and I felt ... really awful, like my heart was gone or something, and then I had to go through it all over again and you kept dying but I couldn't do anything, and then I was looking at your grave and Zel and everyone was telling me it was all my fault you'd died and there was all this sad music... I'm really sorry, Lina, I tried really hard..." Turning his eyes to Lina, Gourry's look was one of a puppy expecting to be beaten. The apology, devotion, and desire for approval in his gaze were enough to tug on anyone's heartstrings, and Lina's ego found itself once more shoved rudely aside for the demands of friendship.
"I'm sure you tried your hardest, Gourry," she said softly, then caught herself and threw on a wide, smiling-eyed grin with a cheerful wave. "Anyway, don't worry about it, Gourry. I'm fine, see? Nothing's happened to Lina Inverse here! It was just a dream, and it's over. So everything's okay now. You don't have to worry about it anymore."
"I guess so..." Gourry smiled weakly.
Lina shrugged, trying to seem reassuringly nonchalant. "Right. Anyway, is that what made you scream?"
"Oh, no. I was really upset about that, but that wasn't the really scary part." He paused, staring vacantly up at the ceiling and putting a finger to his cheek. "Hmm...hmm... oh, right. Everything went away, even the music, and I was standing in the middle of nothing, and I was going to go do something, I forget what. Then I heard a noise, so I turned around. There was a bunny wearing a pointed hat standing there, and it just stood there for a moment. Then it suddenly grew into a giant hopping squid and shouted 'Boo!' and so I tried to run away, but it kept following me and saying 'boo!'" Gourry chuckled. "I suppose that's a really silly thing to be scared of, even in a dream," he said, rubbing the back of his head. "Right, Lina?"
The sorceress blinked, then shrugged. "Nah, not so silly. I used to have this really creepy dream with a bunch of glomp-fish that kept following me. Whenever I'd turn around to look, they'd hide, but I knew they were there."
The swordsman and sorceress sat in silence as the former processed this information. In his bed, Zelgadis relaxed, sighing gratefully at the quiet.
The silence lasted a bit longer, until it was broken by a stifled yawn. Lina decided it was time to head back to her room and get some sleep. Yawning again, she stood up and made her way to the quilt.
"Where're you going?" Gourry asked, slightly alarmed that he might be left alone. On the other side of the room, Zelgadis twitched under his pillow, his body language expressing an emphatic plea for quiet.
Lina, about to brush the blanket-door to the side, turned with a shrug. "Back to my room to sleep, why?"
"Oh. Umm..." The swordsman bit his lip. "What if the bad dream comes back?"
"Oh, I see, is that what you're worried about?" Feeling unusually inclined to be indulgent, Lina returned to sit on the edge of the bed with a chuckle. "Then I'll stay here for a bit longer. You just go to sleep and don't worry about it, 'kay? Ol' Lina here won't let any more bad dreams come."
Gourry smiled in relief. "Okay. Thanks, Lina!" he said, snuggling down under his sheets and closing his eyes. Then he reopened one eye, frowning up at her. "What about you, Lina? How can you sleep if you're watching me in here?"
She waved it aside. "Eh, don't worry about me, I'll be fine."
"You sure? Okay. Goodnight, Lina." Easily reassured, the swordsman turned on his side, closing his eyes again. It seemed he had one of those immediate-sleep-inducing pillows always found in stories, or a sudden onset of narcolepsy, because he was snoring peacefully a moment later.
Lina smiled at her sleeping friend. Out like a light, eh? "Goodnight, Gourry."
"Good night, Lina," Zel told her irritably.
In the land of dreams, a group of slaves stood around in confusion on a sandy shore, a few clutching palm-leaf fans for reassurance. An abandoned pile of treasure, food, and pillows waited as they cast about mournfully for the mistress who had so suddenly disappeared.
They would have to wait for another night, because she was busy keeping the bad dreams away from her friend. When she did finally fall asleep, it was to dreams of fighting strange monsters called 'songfics' with Gourry, not desert islands.
And, of course, a stiff neck and back from falling asleep sitting up.
Author's Note: I initially started this 'fic years ago, before FFnet essentially banned songfics. When I got interested in Slayers again, I dragged this out and cleaned it up. I'm posting it as both a parody of and a sort of homage to the banished genre. Thanks for the memories of 'fic both good and bad, everyone.