Author's Note: This was roughly written around the same time EarthStar wrote her story, "The Love That Never Dies." Re-watching the first episode of the anime while working on an outline for a major story involving the characters in this one-shot plus others inspired it. It's dedicated to Earth Star, for Lori and Rowan suddenly prompted an addition on my end as well.
"The First Time"
"Mama? How did you meet Papa?"
Lina peered at her 13-year-old daughter over the edge of her spell book. "And just why are you picking this particular moment to ask me to tell you a story I've told you a hundred times?"
Emilie's shoulders barely moved in a shrug as she contemplated the chessboard that laid between herself and Val. "No reason. I'm just bored."
"That and I'm about to beat her, Aunt Lina," Val announced as he moved his knight across a few squares. "Check!"
Emilie growled and scooted her king out of the way.
"She's hoping you'll distract me to the point where she could move the chess pieces around and I wouldn't notice," Val merrily said, ignoring the looks of death his best friend was giving him. Lina often marveled at the fact that Val seemed more like Gourry than the Ancient Dragon Filia named the orphan after. "But, I'll still notice."
"Good! Maybe you'll notice the fireball I'm about to shove down your throat!" Emilie shot at him, blue eyes as hard as granite. She was just going about the best way to completely annihilate the young dragon, resurrect him, and then blast him again when she felt a hand on top of her head. The anger drained instantly as she craned her neck to see her father standing over her. "Hi, Papa."
Gourry didn't say anything for a moment; instead he stared down at the chessboard as Val moved his knight in pursuit of Emilie's king. He leaned next to her ear and whispered into it. A moment later, her eyes lit up and she moved a pawn to create a barrier between Val's knight and her king.
"Hey! No fair!" Val jumped to his feet. "Aunt Lina! Uncle Gourry's helping Emilie cheat!"
"He is not!" Emilie shot at him.
"Is that so?" Lina abandoned her book and moved to Val's end of the board. She plopped down and gave her husband a death glare. "We'll just have to even the odds, won't we?"
Gourry shot her a devilish grin. "You won't stand a chance."
"Wanna bet?" Lina batted Val's hand aside and moved his queen. Gourry immediately countered by capturing Val's knight with Emilie's priest.
"Maybe you should…," Emilie started to suggest, but Gourry cut her off. "Not now," he said, patting her hand.
"Aunt Lina, perhaps you need to…"
"I can handle it, Val, just… Hey!! You took my queen!"
Gourry waved the black piece in front of her. "You should have been watching!"
"I was watching! These things need to cast magic!"
"But they can't!"
"You don't have to sound so thrilled about … Gah!!! My knight!"
Emilie and Val watched as Gourry swiftly dealt away with most of Lina's pieces before effectively cornering her king. "Checkmate!" he crowed.
"You cheated!" Lina yelled, pointing at him!
He folded his arms over his chest. "I did not! You just don't know how to play chess."
A tow-headed boy lumbered into the living room, lugging a thick book with him. He rubbed at his ear as he watched Lina and Gourry bicker, and then sidled over to Emilie's side. "Emmie? What're Mama and Papa fighting over this time?"
"Chess," Emilie replied and glanced at the book her 9-year-old brother held. "What's that?"
"Book on Shamanist magic that Uncle Zel gave me. Wanna see me cast a Dug Haut?"
"Not in the house, Aiden!" Lina replied without looking up from the chessboard. "And you so cheated, Gourry!"
"I did not cheat! Knights are supposed to move that way!"
"Says you and what rulebook?"
"The Official Chess Handbook, as honored by the Chess Players Guilds of Saillune, Zefielia, Lyzeille, and Dils, was first written approximate 470 years ago," Aiden recited. "There have been 17 revisions to the handbook since the original publication, which preceded the printing press by 200 years. The latest revision came out 53 years ago. Knights, as written in the handbook, are allowed to move in an L-shape across the board and only an L-shape. Therefore, if Papa used that move to capture your king, Mama, he won fair and square."
Lina, Gourry, Emilie, and Val all stared at Aiden as if seeing him for the first time, their jaws hung slightly. Aiden laughed and pushed his hand through his hair. "Not that I know anything about it or anything like that." he said a bit sheepishly.
"That's my brother, the walking encyclopedia," Emilie announced and elbowed him. "I'm going to get some cookies."
"I want some!" Val cried and followed Emilie into the kitchen.
Aiden sat next to his mother. "Were you two like this when you first met?" he asked Lina.
"What? My being vastly superior to your father?" Lina ignored the indignant snort from Gourry. "Of course! He recognized my beauty and intelligence when I was only a little older than Emilie is now."
"I thought Papa recognized you as a little girl," Emilie said, walking back in with a plate of cookies.
Lina narrowed her eyes at her eldest. "Watch it."
"I want to hear the story again," Aiden said and Val nodded around his mouthful of cookie. "I never really heard it before," Val said, and then swallowed. "Momma said that you and Uncle Gourry met each other a few years before you met her."
"I met Gourry when I was 15," Lina told Val. "He was being an idiot, poking his nose in matters I was handling perfectly on my own."
"In other words, she was surrounded by a group of really pissed off bandits," Gourry responded as he started to put the chess pieces back in their box.
"And I was handling them just fine!" Lina shot back. She wrapped her arm around Aiden's shoulder. "You see, about 20 years ago, I came across this gang known as the Dragon's Fang who had stolen a lot of treasure from nearby towns. Now, you know this is a highly illegal act and as a benevolent deliverer of justice, I simply couldn't allow this evil, nefarious gang to hang onto their ill-gotten loot."
"In other words, she wanted it for herself," Gourry clarified. Emilie, Aiden, and Val all nodded sagely.
"It's not like that at all!" Lina glared at the assembled group. "Anyhow, a few of the more disillusioned members of the gang came after me. I was about to dispatch them all with a single fireball when suddenly I'm interrupted by Mr. Tall, Blond, and Thick-As-A-Brick."
"That you, Papa," Emilie informed her father.
"I kind of figured," Gourry said, winking at her.
Lina rolled her eyes. "So even though I could handle them all myself, your father suddenly shows up and proceeds to give the most cliché of cliché hero speeches to get the gang to leave me alone. Of course, since your father was sporting a sword and men are naturally attracted to shiny, sharp metal objects…"
"What's wrong with that?" Gourry and Aiden asked together.
"… And then he proceeds to cleave through the bandits like a knife through butter. I was pretty impressed. He even cut the clothes off of one guy - including his underwear! Didn't leave a scratch. Pretty impressive, even I have to admit."
"That's because Papa's the best swordsman ever," Aiden said and Emilie and Val nodded in agreement.
"What did you do then, Aunt Lina?" Val asked.
Lina grinned. "I did what every heroine in distress does." She clasped her hands together and opened her eyes as wide as she could. "Eeek! Eeek! Save me! Save me!" She dropped the pose only to see the children had all fled to the opposite side of the room and were now clinging to Gourry. Hands akimbo, she glared at them. "What?"
"Mama…," Aiden said a bit fearfully, his arms around Gourry's neck.
"Well, there went whatever inner peace of mind I had left," Emilie muttered.
"I think I'm going to have nightmares," a pale-face Val added.
Gourry groaned. "I had hoped to never hear that again."
Lina sighed and leaned against the couch. "None of you any have appreciation for the fine art of theatrics!"
"So, what happened after you defeated the bandits, Papa?" Aiden asked, and the children turned their attention to Gourry.
He rubbed his chin as he thought back for a moment. Lina was quite positive he was going to say that he didn't remember and was surprised at the next words that came out of his mouth. "Well, I looked to see who I rescued. With all the ruckus, I thought they were fighting over a beautiful woman." Gourry gestured to Lina. "Instead, I saw your mother."
Lina growled at him. "Hello! I am a woman!" She spread her arms out wide. "Who do you think gave birth to two of those three kids clinging to you?"
"The stork," Aiden answered seriously.
Emilie slapped her forehead. "For someone who's so smart, how can you be so stupid about how babies are made?"
"They do come from the stork!" Aiden insisted. "Uncle Zel said so and he knows everything! I asked him myself! I thought it had something to do with Mama and Papa locking their bedroom door at night, but Uncle Zel says it's absolutely the stork."
Emilie gave her younger brother a disbelieving look. She jerked her thumb at him. "Is it too late to trade him in?"
"Funny, I was just thinking the same thing about your father," Lina muttered.
"So, if you didn't think Mama was a woman, what did you think she was?" Emilie asked Gourry.
"A Mazoku!" Val piped up.
"I think not!" Lina yelled at him and he cowed from her slightly.
"Just a little girl," Gourry told Emilie. "I mean, you look more like a woman at 13 than your mother did at 15. Or 16. Or 18. Or 24. Or…"
"Papa?" Aiden tugged on Gourry's sleeve, his eyes nearly as big as saucers. "Mama's starting to emit magic. I think you're making her mad."
"I'm just telling the truth." Gourry blithely ignored his fuming wife. "It's always important to tell the truth."
"Yes, sir," Emilie and Aiden said faintly, both of them casting a wary glance at their mother. Lina had risen to her feet, her hands clenching and unclenching.
"So, because she looked like she wandered away from home, I offered to treat her to a meal and take her home. She managed to convince me that she was on her own and from there, we never really sepa…," Gourry's narrative was choked off as Lina grabbed him by the back of the shirt and proceeded to haul him out the back door. The children winced as the door slammed behind them.
Emilie sucked in a deep breath. "So… Rummy, anyone?"
"We're in!" Val and Aiden replied.
Emilie headed to her mother's desk to rummage for the cards. Val followed. "How long you think it'll be?"
Emilie glanced at the clock. "Take Mama's rage and multiply it by 6… About three hours. At least. You should be used to this by now. It's not anything new. It's all foreplay to them anyhow."
"What's foreplay?" Aiden innocently asked.
Emilie snorted. "Trust me. You're better off not knowing for as long as you can."
After dumping Gourry in the water trough, Lina stomped to the edge of their property and plopped on the ground. Most of the village sat on a bluff overlooking Saillune City. While their view wasn't the best, it was still decent enough to see most of the city. After all, Prince Phil had been the one to select their property to begin with. She admired the man's taste in real estate. It had to make up for his personal looks.
She couldn't even begin to vocalize how furious she was. She was 35 years old! She'd been through hell and back numerous times with and for Gourry - and that wasn't even counting the two times she suffered through childbirth. He was stupid. Callous. A complete jellyfish. She sighed and leaned against the one tree that was a few feet away from the cliff. And, he happened to be absolutely right. She did have some shortcomings. A couple. Just mere tiny aberrations to an otherwise perfect body in a very petite package. She didn't need Gourry to point them out - especially in front of their children and Val. It already rankled her that Emilie was more developed at 13 than she had been until 22, when childbirth gave her a slightly larger chest that thankfully stuck.
She exhaled, blowing out her bangs with the force of her breath before she turned her head at the sound of crunching grass. Gourry stood a few feet away, sopping wet and looking so sheepish that Lina felt sorry for him. Almost. She sniffed and turned away. "You brought it on yourself, you know."
"I was only telling the truth," he insisted.
"There's the truth and the absolute truth! Little kid. Hmph. You were just so dazzled by my stunning looks that you couldn't even remember the vocabulary for how you wanted to describe me.
Gourry didn't say anything for a minute as he watched Lina, arms folded over her chest and one leg dangled over the side of the cliff, absently kicking. "You know, I'm glad I found you that day and not some babe."
She smiled just a bit. "You're just saying that because you hope to get laid again before you're 80."
Gourry laughed sheepishly, running his hand through his hair - a gesture, Lina noted absently, that Aiden mimicked constantly. "It's not that. Well, it is that, but it's not just that and well…"
"Save it," Lina said lightly and reclined against the tree trunk once more, her leg dangling off the edge of the cliff. "I'm not mad at you anymore."
Because Lina's moods tended to change with the wind and Gourry knew her all too well, he took the gift and went with it. He settled himself next to her, nudging her over just enough so he could lean against the tree trunk as well. When Lina didn't move, he simply pulled her into his lap and scooted into her spot.
"Hey!" Lina pushed against his chest. "You're soaking wet!"
"And whose fault is that?"
She grinned and cast a low-level fireball. The warmth bathed them, drying their clothes from the contact with each other and the water trough. She let the fireball extinguish and he wrapped his arms around her, settling his chin on top of her head. They sat in silence as they watched the lights twinkle in Saillune City about a couple hundred feet below them.
"It's really been 20 years?" Gourry said, a bit incredulously.
"Yeah. Sylphiel's in charge of that huge memorial service in Sairaag later this year. Or let me guess, you weren't paying attention."
Gourry fidgeted with the hem of Lina's tunic. "To what?"
Lina sighed. "The memorial service for the 20th anniversary of the destruction of Sairaag that you happened to witness. We're all going, the four of us, Sylphiel, Amelia, Zel, Val and Filia. Shizuri and Lyos if they get back from Kunan in time - and Lyos pretty much vowed to Sylphiel to move heaven and earth to get there. It'll be good. One of those educational things for the kids."
"Will you be okay?" Gourry asked softly, remembering another event in Sairaag that had taken place a year later.
Lina shrugged. "It hasn't bothered me in years, not since we went back looking for the Sword of Light. Yeah, we're going to have to tell the kids what happened eventually, but Aiden will be almost 10 by then and Emilie well… She'll understand."
They fell into a companionable silence as they watched the lights of Saillune twinkle below. There was no noise beyond the occasional sound of childish bickering coming from the house.
It had been a good 20 years, Lina thought as she considered their friends. The time since the day she met Gourry had been full of joy, but sorrow as well. Can't have one without the other I suppose.
She craned her neck to look at him and saw him beaming down at her. "What's that grin for?"
"Nothing. I'm just happy."
"Well, good! So am I!" They sat for a few minutes longer. "Want to go continue the story? I can think of at least 326 ways to embarrass Zel in the next five minutes alone."
"Does that include the part where you were almost kissed by a fishman?"
"Who told you that?" Lina shrieked.
"Zel did! I heard the fishman wouldn't even kiss you," Gourry teased.
"I am so not telling that version of the story!"
"Okay, then I get to tell the story about how you went along with a false wedding. Oh! And when Prince Phil accidentally stumbled in on you in the bath. He did mention you were remarkably flat-chested…"
"Fine then!" Lina leaped to her feet, jabbing her finger at Gourry. "You go right ahead and tell them all about that, Lala-san!"
Gourry went chalk white. "You wouldn't!"
"Complete with stuffed bra and cute panties! You were so adorable, Lala-san!" Lina darted away as Gourry made a grab at her.
"At least I was more of a woman than you were!" Gourry retorted and barely missed the fireball Lina hurled at him in response. He dashed around the tree and raced for the house, Lina at his heels, both of them shouting insults between gasps of laughter.
Meanwhile, in the middle of Saillune City, Zelgadiss Greywords suddenly felt a chill down his spine and sneezed. He shrank slightly, having the increasingly bad feeling that he was about to become the subject of pure, mortifying embarrassment.