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.
Chapter 6: "Home"
"Okay! Your turn!" Gourry looked up from his breakfast to see Lina walk in, their daughter held at arm's length. She presented him the infant and a diaper. "There you go, have fun." She swiped the rest of his bacon off the plate and headed back out of the room.
Amelia was amused. "I take it Lina-san doesn't like to change Emilie's diapers."
"She says that since she has to endure Emilie throwing up all over her, I get to change the bad diapers." Gourry spotted an unused sideboard along the edge of the room and carried the baby over to it. "So we have an arrangement. She only changes the good diapers, I change the bad ones."
"What constitutes a bad diaper?" Amelia leaned against the opposite end of the sideboard as Gourry unpinned the sides of the diaper. He lowered it and their noses immediately wrinkled at the sight and smell. "Oh. I…see," Amelia said in a faltering voice, all thoughts of eating now very far from her mind.
"Um…I might need to give her a bath with this one." He quickly did the diaper back up and picked her up. "I'll take her back to our room."
"No, no, there's a full bathroom just down the hall." Amelia motioned toward the door and Gourry followed. Emilie had woken up in the meantime and was starting to show her displeasure over not having a clean diaper.
Amelia led them into a bathroom that was only slightly smaller than the one in the guest suites - more than big enough to hold a grown man, woman and infant. Amelia twisted the taps, tested the temperature and rummaged for soap. She filled the tub with about three inches of water as Gourry removed Emilie's diaper and used it to clean up most of the mess. She stepped away and he lowered the baby into the water, leaving the dirty diaper on a vanity.
Amelia felt a slight twist in her heart as father and daughter interacted. Emilie wasn't old enough to do much, but she did splash her tiny hands in the water eagerly as she was cleaned. She cooed when her father spoke to her and gurgled with delight when he suddenly blew on her stomach. That made Amelia grin from ear to ear. Somehow, she knew that Gourry would make an excellent father. And Lina as a mother in fact. I wonder what I would be like as a mother?
"There we go!" Gourry lifted Emilie up and extended her toward Amelia. The princess grabbed a towel and took the baby, wrapping her in the soft cotton before cradling her in her arms.
Amelia looked at her goddaughter, thought of all the paperwork she needed to do that day, and made her decision. "Do you mind if I kept Emilie with me for today?"
Lina had finished her own bath and was partially dressed when Gourry walked in sans child. She whirled around, slightly panicked. "Where's…"
"Amelia took her for the day." Gourry yawned, already feeling tired. He laid on the bed, intending to take a nap. Unfortunately, their child tended not to honor normal sleeping schedules. "We had to give her a bath, so Amelia said she wanted to take her."
"Good!" Lina flashed him a grin. He cracked one eye open, returned the smile, then his gaze swept over her bare chest and abdomen. She quickly reddened, then grabbed her tunic.
He levered himself onto his shoulders. "What's wrong?"
"Nothing's wrong! It'll just be good to have a break, that's all," she said shortly.
"You haven't been embarrassed about getting dressed in front of me for years," he pointed out.
"I am not," she lied, then hissed. "You looking at me in that way got us into this situation to begin with!"
"Wasn't it you straddling me on our anniversary?"
Lina grumbled. "You know, you constantly amaze me. You can't even begin to remember how a basic Lighting spell is performed and slaughter most of the history of our known world, but you remember our sex life perfectly."
"It's something worth remembering!"
"And history and magic aren't?"
Gourry gave her a wide-eyed look. "Isn't that what you're for?"
Lina tossed her hairbrush at him and he rolled to the side. It hit the headboard with a loud clatter and fell on the pillow. Gourry picked it up, returned to his spot and handed it to her when she reached for it. "So, partner, what do we want to do with our unexpected day off?"
"Sleep," Gourry instantly replied and closed his eyes.
"Best plan I've ever heard from you." Lina crawled up beside him without bothering to do up her tunic. She snuggled against him and both were asleep within minutes.
"Everything is remarkably quiet considering that you've given those two the day off, so to speak," Phil mused as Amelia played with a gurgling Emilie.
"They're either being intimate or sleeping," Amelia said wisely and grinned at her father's shocked look. "Just because I'm not married doesn't mean I don't know what goes on behind closed doors, Daddy. I am almost 24, you know, and that particular activity led to this beautiful little girl. Besides, I think they're just sleeping. They look exhausted. And it's all your fault," she said in a cooing voice to Emilie. The baby waved her little arms and cooed back.
"You know, I think she's proud of that fact." Phil ran a hand over her downy head.
"She is Lina-san's daughter." They exchanged grins at that.
"Still, daughter, I wonder what Lina-san and Gourry-san will plan to do now that they have this little one?" Phil asked as Amelia passed the baby over to him. He lifted her high into the air and she squealed with delight.
"I don't know." Amelia folded her arms over her chest and looked pensive for a moment. "Lina-san's letter mentioned them making a go at settling down in Saillune. It's just hard to think of those two as being settled."
Phil lowered the baby and placed her against his shoulder, absently patting her back. He had to agree with his daughter. It was hard enough to reconcile the fact that Lina Inverse was a mother to begin with. The news had sent part of the Saillune legislature into an apocalyptic fit, until Amelia had reminded them of who the child's father was. The sentiment was clear: Everyone wished that Emilie would turn out a bit more like her father than her mother. It would make the ensuing damages a lot easier to swallow. None of them wanted to think about the quantities of food the three of them alone would consume once the child was older.
But as the crown prince of Saillune, Phil knew an opportunity when he saw one and despite the collateral that came along with her, Lina was an asset to the kingdom. Sure she had blown up part of the city when the Mazoku had released their hold over the chunk of land that had hovered over it thanks to Alfred's actions. But if Lina hadn't been there, the entire capital would have been wiped out in a single stroke. Over the years, both Amelia and Zelgadiss had quietly filled him in on Lina's actions regarding Rezo the Red Priest, Ruby-Eye Shabrangidu, Rikufalso and Hureika, and Darkstar. The world had nearly been eradicated a few too many times to Phil's liking and he knew it was Lina who had stood in between them and the darkness every single time.
"I think," Phil said aloud, "it's time we paid Lina-san for everything she's done for our kingdom."
Amelia raised an eyebrow. "Well, she eats us out of house and home."
"Despite that, we agreed on a wager when she was my bodyguard a few years ago and I never got around to paying her for it." Phil slammed his free fist on his desk, startling Emilie. She promptly started wailing.
"Daddy!" Amelia scolded.
"I forgot. Sssh, sssh." Phil quickly tried calming the baby, patting her back until she calmed down and sniffled her way back to sleep. "As I was saying," he whispered to Amelia, "yes I know we've picked up Lina-san's … expenses over the years. But, I never gave her the actual payment for the bodyguard job. Follow me here, daughter. I'm going to give Lina Inverse a deal she can't refuse."
It took a few weeks to put Phil's plan in place, and Lina was never the wiser. With Amelia pitching in to help care for Emilie, Lina found herself sleeping most of the time. What she hadn't told Amelia, and what she tried to keep from Gourry as much as possible, was that the birth had been harder on her than she cared to admit. Because she didn't want Luna going after her, Lina had gotten up much earlier than recommended and pretty much shoved her life back into some semblance of the same order that it had before she'd gotten pregnant. Hence the rush to arrive in Saillune just eight weeks after Emilie's birth.
She'd known she'd been risking a lot when she snuck away from camp and took out a bandit camp, but she had to prove to herself that she was still the same person she'd been before she and Gourry had gotten their plus one. When she arrived back at the camp, she found a very hungry child and a Gourry that had nearly gone frantic with worry. He'd stared at her with the bag of loot in one hand and her pale face from where she pushed herself too far. She could see the struggle in his eyes, whether or not to yell at her. Instead, he pulled her into a fierce hug and whispered into her hair to not make him worry like that again.
That did more to quell her wanderlust than a screaming match.
She still wasn't quite sure what she wanted to do about everything. Lina peered through the window as the royal carriage carried her, Gourry, Emilie, and Amelia through Saillune City. She could see herself staying in one place for awhile. But permanently? Sure, she'd rambled on about being a shop owner when she was 15, but she'd now been on the road for 10 years. It was hard to consider just … stopping. Lina knew that she needed to stop, that Emilie would become a primary target for her enemies by constantly exposing her to them before she was old enough to defend herself. Sure, they'd still come after her in one spot, but …
Lina's train of thought derailed as the carriage pulled to a stop and Amelia threw the door open. "Go on out," she urged and grabbed the traveling basket that Emilie slept in.
Lina hopped out of the carriage with Gourry following. They stood in the middle of a town square, one of the villages that bordered the perimeter of Saillune City, she realized. A fountain bubbled gently in the center of the square, and an elegant garden extended from all sides. The most prominent shops in the town were here, she deduced, in the middle of the picture-perfect scene. She spotted the market extending down one side of the square and more homes in the distance. It was a direct contrast to some of the seedier sides of Saillune that Lina had seen before.
"So, what's here, Amelia?" she asked as Amelia joined them.
"You'll see," she promised and led the way into one of the buildings.
It was an empty storefront, a rather large one at that, Lina thought as she assessed the interior. There was a large main room, and a side room that could either serve as storage or a showroom for specialized merchandise. A spacious kitchen and living area was behind the store, with another small room that Lina guessed served as an office. She spotted a stairwell and guessed there were several bedrooms on the second floor, at least three if not four.
Gourry rapped his knuckles against the walls. "Good construction," he observed, then sniffed. "This is a brand-new building."
"Seriously?" Lina squinted, paid closer attention to the bright, shining wood and the new stove and fixtures. "You're right. What used to be here?"
"An old bookstore. The previous owner had died and it'd fallen into disrepair. The exterior still looked good, but the interior was a mess." Phil descended the stairwell dressed in old coveralls and a paint-splattered shirt. Paint had even gotten on his mustache. He beamed at them. "This was a good exercise in manual labor!"
Lina eyed him suspiciously. "You built this?"
Phil beamed. "It does no good for an idle prince to sit upon his throne and dole out unequal laws to his people. It is unjust! He must become one with his kingdom and do the work that they do! Only then will you truly understand them and be able to serve them properly."
Lina frowned. "Isn't that a poem?" She shook her head. "Oh, never mind. Glad to know that you're an active participant in the laborer's guild, Phil-san, but why exactly are you helping to build this store?"
"To help pay off a debt." Phil moved to the table and picked up a sheaf of papers. He thrust them into Lina's hands. "Congratulations, Lina-san! This now belongs to you!"
Lina's jaw fell. "Huh?????"
Phil grasped Lina's hands, nearly wrinkling the papers in the process. "You've served this kingdom for many years, Lina-san. You as well, Gourry-san. When my precious Amelia told me that you wanted to make this kingdom your home, I wanted to repay the debt that I never paid you all those years ago."
LIna's eyes widened. "Oh, that's right! You didn't … let's see, now how much is that with interest …"
"About the cost of this plot of land and the building that now stands upon it," Amelia chimed in and gave Lina a sweet smile. "I saw you appraising it. This is prime real estate. The village is just far enough outside of the city to where you can use your black magic without any problems, but close enough that it should only take you an hour or so via carriage to reach the palace."
"Wa… wait a minute!" Lina stammered, her gaze swinging wildly from Amelia to Phil and back again. "Don't I have a say in this matter?"
"Hey Lina!" Gourry's voice echoed down the stairwell and Lina realized he'd wandered upstairs. "The bathroom has one of those really big tubs like at the palace. And indoor plumbing!"
Lina swung back to Phil with a huge grin. "We'll take it!"
They sat on the back stoop together. The yard extended until it met a cliff, which netted them a gorgeous aerial view of Saillune City, part of the reason why the property had been so expensive. Lina and Phil had spent the afternoon going over the deeds before signing and securing them away in a lockbox. He'd also graciously provided them with enough basic furniture to get started with. Amelia's belated gift for Emilie's birth had been a fully stocked nursery and unlimited offers to baby sit, which had nearly been more welcomed than the store itself.
Lina was still trying to grasp it. In one fell swoop, she'd gone from traveler to store owner. All because of the infant waving her tiny arms as she lay in her father's arms.
"Well?" Her gaze swung to Gourry's. "You haven't really given me your thoughts on this. What do you think?"
Gourry gave her a curious look. "Think about what?"
Lina poked his side. "About this. About stopping. About owning a store, having a permanent home, having a kid … everything. Will you miss being on the road?"
Gourry didn't say anything for a moment. He absently jiggled Emilie in his arms. "Well," he said. "I don't see how this changes anything."
"It changes everything!" Lina protested, getting to her feet to pace. "We can't just pick up and leave when the going gets rough any more. We can't just go after the next legend, wander to random festival or do what we want. We've got to consider Emilie now, and apparently we're going into business for ourselves. Doing what, I suppose we'll figure it out. It's just … everything's different now."
Gourry frowned. "But how?"
"Weren't you listening, jellyfish brains?"
He nodded. "I am, but … we're together. It's not like that's changed, has it?"
Lina stared at him a long time, then smiled. "No. It hasn't." And she realized then that despite all of the changes, the biggest part of her life would remain exactly the same.
Author's Note: Finished! This story actually serves as the set-up for a longer piece of fiction I'd like to indulge in a bit further down the road and establishes Lina and co. into their situations for that fic and introduce most of the OCs created for that story - namely Emilie and Val. As alluded to in "The First Time," Emilie does eventually gain a younger brother, Aiden, and he also plays into that story. But, despite OCs, the focus of the story - as always - is on the original characters in the Slayers canon. I'm just expanding it for fun and ... well, fun.
Some homages in this chapter: Sharp-eyed people may see allusions to "Ulysses" by Tennyson in Phil's speech to Lina, which was actually completely unintentional but fit very well. Others influences include Billy Joel's "You're My Home," which I had going through my head the entire time I wrote this chapter, and the final scene of "These Happy Golden Years" by Laura Ingalls Wilder.