Disclaimer: Slayers does not belong to me, but belongs to Hajime Kanzaka and Rui Araizumi and the companies that represent them. I'm just borrowing the characters for a little while.
Author's Note: This story is for Icka M. Chif, who gave me this nasty little plotbunny when we were discussing how Zelgadiss could possibly fill a Yoda-type role in Slayers. It is also for Ichiban Victory, who encouraged Icka to throw a stuffed plotbunny in my face - and she did!
She sat on the porch, her feet lightly touching the worn wooden planks as she rocked in her chair. It was a gorgeous sunny day, and she was determined to enjoy it even just for a little while.
It provided her with the perfect view of the road winding its way toward the city of Saillune, and the man heading down that road toward her. He looked the exactly the same from the night she first met him so many years ago. He was covered from head to foot in beige traveling clothes with a mask obscuring all but his eyes. If she hadn't seen him exchange one set of clothes for another over the years, she would have sworn that it was the same set repaired over and over again.
It took him a good ten minutes from when she first spotted him to when he reached her side. Without saying a word, he dropped into the second rocking chair a few feet away and stared at the road as well.
"Jeez, I could be jealous of you," Lina said in lieu of greeting. "You haven't changed since the day I first met you. You got my letter I suppose."
"Yes," Zelgadiss replied, his gaze sliding over to appraise the now grey-haired sorceress. "I got it last week. I was in Sairaag, and it took me awhile to get transportation fast enough to get me back to Saillune City. Is he…"
"Still hanging in there." Lina glanced over the shoulder at the entrance to the small cottage where she and Gourry had moved after their children had grown up and moved away. "Think he's holding on for Aiden. He's in Zefielia, you know, studying with Luna. We're expecting him in the next day or so."
Zelgadiss closed his eyes. "Damn it," he muttered beneath his breath.
Lina kept rocking. In her mind's eyes, images of the way they used to be slid one right after the other – a time when they were young and carefree, and could move without pain. Death had already taken one of them, and now it loomed again, waiting for the next. It would claim a man so strong that he had killed hundreds of Mazoku in his lifetime and survived. But the illness that he fought against so vainly would claim him where no one else could.
"It's hard to believe," she said, "that you met us searching for the Philosopher's Stone that would enable us to stay young. But now, you're the one still young while we're growing old. I really hate that."
"I hate it as well," Zelgadiss snapped and Lina glanced at him, startled from her memories. "Do you really think it's a picnic staying the same while your friends grow old and die?" He dropped his head into his hands and let out an anguished groan. "When I was younger, all I wanted was to be human again so I could be accepted."
"Let me finished!" His gaze bore into hers. "Look at us now. Amelia's gone, and Gourry's just hours from being dead as well. You're not that far behind. Another what, five or ten years and you'll be dead too. You don't think it's a picnic getting old? Well, it's hell to watch the people you care for die." He tore his eyes away to stare at the road. "Sometimes," he admitted bitterly, "I wish I'd never met any of you. Now I know how Rezo felt after all this time – and I hate him even more for forcing me to go through the same."
Lina didn't say anything for a long moment. She absently worried the worn gold band that Gourry had placed on her left hand so many years ago. "Stop that," she retorted. "You don't mean any of it."
"I do!" Zelgadiss insisted.
Lina glared at him and rose, hands on her hips. "So, I'm going to die and you'll live. Big whoop!" She pointed at him and for one brief, glorious moment, Zelgadiss saw the fiery young woman he initially met standing before him. "There's a reason that we all live and die. The Lord of Nightmares sees to that. You were there, you know that we all come from chaos and will disappear into chaos once again."
"You let me finish this time!" Lina jabbed her finger into Zelgadiss's nose, then turned away and folded her arms over her chest. "You know how people are these days, obsessed over the latest hero and all. Once we're gone, there'll be no one left to talk about what we did – which happens to be much better than anything these so-called sorceress are doing these days."
Despite the gravity of the situation, Zelgadiss found himself smiling a bit.
"There needs to be someone around to teach these young hotheads about what we did, you know?" Lina flicked a glance over her shoulder and grinned. "That job falls to you. Someone's got to do it. Might as well be the one who is part golem."
Zelgadiss laughed and Lina turned fully to face him. "I realize it's not easy," she said. "I realized it when Amelia died, and again when I realized that I'm going to outlive Gourry. I never told him this, and he'd throttle me if he knew, but I always wanted a fast and violent death, you know? Die in the heat of battle and go down in a blaze of glory. I never expected to live as long as I have."
"But, you know, I feel better about it all, about dying and such." Lina crossed over to Zelgadiss and tapped his chest. "Yeah, it sucks for you that you'll outlive us, but you'll also have pieces of us with you. I know that as long as you're around, we'll never fully be gone."
Zelgadiss found his hand reaching up and closing over Lina's. Their eyes locked and held, acknowledging what was to come. Lina nodded and drew her hand away, just as a dry, hacking cough sounded from within the cottage. Moments later, the front door opened and Lina and Gourry's wan, tired daughter appeared, a dishtowel in hand.
"Mama, Papa's awake and asking for you," Emilie said in a raspy voice, then her eyes lit up. "Uncle Zel! You came!"
He rose to his feet and smiled at the petite woman. "You know I'll always be here for you," he said, and knew in the bottom of his heart that it was the absolute truth. He would be there for her, and for Aiden as well. He would be there for their children and their children's children. He would make sure that they would never forget the great deeds they did when he, Lina, Gourry, and Amelia were young and had wandered the world.
"Come on, let's go," Lina said cheerfully and slapped Zelgadiss's back companionably as she headed into the cottage. After a moment, Zelgadiss smiled, shook his head and followed her.