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 short story was written in response to episode 4 of Slayers Evolution-R. IF YOU DON'T WANT SPOILED FOR THAT EPISODE, TURN BACK NOW. *coughs* Okay. In any case, I took the events of that episode and crafted a story that is a companion piece of "Nine Months ... and Then Some." It's dedicated to Noseless Wonder, whose words last night prompted me to go ahead and give this story a shot. The title comes from Doctor Who series 1 when the Ninth Doctor and Rose visit her past to see Rose's father.
A few years after they started traveling together, Lina, Gourry, Amelia, and Zelgadiss wound up in the strangest of strange situations involving a fish-woman who insisted that Gourry was the father of her children. Oh, they had briefly encountered the woman - Kuppi - earlier, but even Gourry knew that there was no way he could have fathered those kids. But when the youngest had leaped into his arms, he knew there was no way he could refuse them.
So the plan had been simple. He decided he would stay with the family for a time and get them used to being on their own, and then he'd rejoin Lina and the others. That had quickly unraveled. Not only did they discover that it was a hoax to begin with, but Gourry found himself missing Lina so dreadfully that he did everything he could to hide it. Just when he thought he couldn't stand it any longer, he had looked up to see her smiling at him.
It was one of the happiest moments in his life.
The second such moment had come hours later when Kuppi's husband was trying to force her to let Gourry go. Suddenly, he'd begin addressing Gourry directly, telling him in no uncertain terms that he had to travel with Lina because Lina loved him. It was before their adventures in Kunan, before the fateful day when Lina had finally confessed her true feelings. Gourry found himself just staring as Lina lamely tried to deny that he was anything but a self-appointed protector. Her voice faded and she just stared back, her eyes conveying everything he needed to know.
But the incident had unlocked something buried deep inside Gourry. He'd always loved kids, had enjoyed spending time with him. But for the first time, he found himself really wishing that he were a father. Despite what had happened when he was a teenager and despite his brother's interference, Gourry had had a good childhood. He was firmly convinced that children needed both sets of parents to grow into fine adults and enjoyed the task of guiding and providing for the next generation.
"I really wanted to be a good father," Gourry found himself confessing to Lina when all was said and done.
She placed her hand on his shoulder and smiled. "Gourry," she said quietly, "one day, you'll be a splendid one."
He'd smiled at her and knew deep within his heart that when he started a family for real, it would be with her.
The years slipped by. Lina and Gourry had gotten married and still traveled. They had discussed starting a family every so often, but the crisis of the moment took precedence. They agreed that they needed to find a place to stay put for awhile, but hadn't quite gotten to making that decision when nature, and Lina's tendency to really piss off people, made it for them.
When Lina pressed his hand to her stomach the day they discovered she was pregnant and he felt the baby's fluttering deep inside her, something in his life shifted. Gourry's single life goal for eight years had been to protect Lina. He would - and have - given his life for her. But now, there was something beyond that, something he would need to protect even more than Lina. That was the child they had created together.
But first there was pregnancy, and it was very hard work. In a fit of self-denial, Lina insisted on traveling until Gourry literally dragged her to Zefielia. It was the middle of summer and despite the mountain climate, everyone was hot and miserable. Gourry tried to make himself as useful as he could and found himself starting to learn the merchant's trade from Lina's parents.
As her due date got closer, Lina expressed more concern that she'd be rubbish as a parent. Gourry spent his time assuring her that she'd be fine, even though a seed of doubt tugged at the back of his mind. He squashed it, scolding himself and insisting that Lina came first and he really couldn't brood.
Then the day came. Luna had dragged Lina off to the royal palace for some function or another and Lina's mother picked back up teaching Gourry how to keep track of inventory. They had just been about to stop for lunch when a sweaty, breathless soldier burst into the store. Lina was in labor and needed both of them now.
Lana Inverse chose that moment to impress the hell out of Gourry. He quickly got an inkling of where Lina got her powers from when she grabbed Gourry's arm, pulled him outside and began Raywinging them through the city. They plowed through people. "Out of my way!" Lana barked. "My daughter's having my first grandchild!"
But her power didn't last all the way and they wound up sprinting the last few blocks, then through the palace itself. He nearly plowed over Sylphiel right outside of Lina's room and caught himself just in time. "Sylphiel!"
She smiled. "Gourry-san." She gave him a kiss on the cheek. "I was about to go check on Lina-san." A scream pierced through the air.
"Is she okay? Why are you here?" Gourry tried to be polite, but his gaze kept nervously darting to the door.
"I was with the team of negotiators from Saillune and..." Sylphiel's voice trailed off as Lina screamed again and Gourry shot through the door. She smiled gently after him, shook her head and proceeded into the impromptu delivery room.
Emilie Gabriev was very small, at least to her father. Gourry was presented with a bundle of blankets that made her appear even tinier and nearly started crying all over again after he'd broken down just moments after her birth. She had small tufts of red-gold hair and he swore she had blue eyes. She was a warm, slightly heavy little bundle that wriggled slightly as he stood in front of the window holding her. She cracked her eyes slightly and whined a bit.
"See that?" Gourry tilted Emilie's face a bit toward the setting sun. "That's your first sunset. Isn't it nice? I'll show you your first sunrise as well." He looked around. The room had cleared and behind them Lina slept. He placed his lips close to her head. "I don't think I'll be sleeping tonight. I know Lina's been worried about being a good mother ... but I just want to be a good dad for you. I had a chance once, but it wasn't the same. There's a lot that's happened to me and well ... not even your mother knows it all. But, I know this - you're not going to grow up without a father. You're always going to have me, whether or not I'm doing this right."
"Why don't you ever read to me, Papa?"
Gourry cracked open one eye as his five-year-old son stood impatiently at the foot of the couch where he reclined. "You don't want to read anything that isn't boring," he gently teased him.
Aiden grunted. "The technicality of the probabilities of the explosions in fireballs isn't boring!"
For you that is. Gourry marveled at his genius of a son not for the first time, then snagged the boy and pulled him into his lap. He scooted so Aiden was tucked in on his side. "I'll tell you a story instead. Let me tell you about the time your mother..."
"So, tell me again ... why did you take me fishing along with the two of you?" Emilie slanted Gourry a suspicious look out of the corner of one eye as Aiden, sitting on the other side of Gourry, chattered about the calculations involved in making an accurate projectory of fishing line after obtaining the proper angle with the pole for optimum fishing. Yeah, she didn't get it either. "We're not going to go back home to find Mama with a baby are we?"
"Believe me, if your mother was pregnant, not only would you know it, but her complaining would be heard all the way in Kunan."
"Point," she conceded. She shivered in the early morning chill and pressed closer to her father's side.
Gourry looked down at his 13-year-old daughter and placed an arm around her shoulders and she smiled. "Is it a crime to want to spend time with both my kids, Little Miss Know-It-All?"
Emilie smirked and nudged his side. "That title belongs to Aiden. Besides, fishing isn't all that bad. I know Mama's spell."
Gourry's grin was mischievous. "I was counting on that."
The bedroom door slammed shut. Lina and Gourry's eyes met over the ruins of the kitchen table that Emilie had promptly fireballed upon entering the kitchen just 30 seconds earlier and shared a moment of understanding before he followed their 15-year-old up the stairs. He paused outside the door, then tested the knob. It twist easily beneath his grip and he pushed it open slightly.
Emilie lay on her bed, eyes dry but intense as she hugged an old doll to her chest and stared at the ceiling. Anger radiated off her in waves. "I don't want to talk right now, Papa," she ground out.
"Okay." He closed the door and leaned against it.
Emilie closed her eyes and he smiled at the annoyance flitting across her face. "I just want to be alone!"
Knowing his eldest better than that, Gourry simply waited. After a few minutes, Emilie cracked open one eye. "Are you just going to stand there until I talk?"
"What if I don't talk for a day?"
"Two days? A week?"
Emilie didn't say anything for a moment. Her eyes narrowed. "Won't you eventually need to go to the bathroom?"
Gourry grinned. "Won't you? I'm blocking the door."
Despite herself, Emilie started giggling and Gourry pushed off the door to sit at the foot of her bed. He patted her foot. "What's wrong?"
Emilie didn't say anything for a while, then sat up. "I was reading about recent history in the Saillune library," she said quietly, "in the years leading up to the war. Uncle Zel wrote the book, so it talks about Mama casting the Giga Slave. I ... I was told by some of the other sorcerers that Mama could have killed us all and she was so reckless that she needed to be locked away."
Gourry flinched. Those words didn't sit too well with him either. He eyed Emilie knowingly. "And just how much damage did you cause?"
Emilie absently twirled a lock of hair. "Oh ... not that much. Say, how long does it take to rebuild an entire wing of the royal library study rooms, Papa?"
"I don't know." Tongue firmly in cheek, Gourry smiled at Emilie. "Why don't you ask your Aunt Amelia? She's pretty used to cleaning up this family's messes by now."
Emilie grinned. "That's exactly what Uncle Zel said when he came to assess the damage!"
"I don't get it."
It was a time that Gourry had never hoped to have happen again. He squared off against his son, both armed with wooden practice swords. Aiden had stormed out of his room and had challenged Gourry to a duel in the middle of lunch. There was something bugging him, and he was 99 percent sure he knew what it was.
"Aiden," he calmly explained as he feinted an attack, "just because I'm giving Emilie the Sword of Light doesn't mean I see you as any less."
"Sure," Aiden spat out and made a wild swing that failed to connect with any part of Gourry's body. "I'm only 13. I can't handle a sword like that. Emilie has the potential to destroy the world, blah, blah. She doesn't like swords! Why her?" Tears leaked in his eyes, pooled onto his glasses. "You're the one who's been teaching me all these years. Why her?"
"Stop it." His voice unusually firm, Gourry caught the blade of Aiden's sword in one hand and pulled it from him. "You're not going to amount to anything as a swordsman if you use your emotion to make blind attacks. You'll have emotion as you fight, but use it to make every swing of your sword precise." He stared into Aiden's stormy eyes and sympathized. His son didn't know yet of the battle over the Sword of Light more than 30 years earlier.
But maybe it was time.
"When I was 11," he said in a soft voice, "my father, your grandfather, died. A huge battle erupted among my family over the Sword of Light. My mother had to take me away to keep me from getting killed. We came back when I was 17." Gourry could see the moment when Aiden's deep thirst for knowledge took over and he fully had the boy's attention. "Another battle happened then and ... your grandmother died. So did your uncle." He faltered, not really wanting to go into the details and was relieved when Aiden simply nodded.
"My father once told me that he felt I was the rightful heir to the Sword of Light, even though I was the younger brother. If I was to go strictly by the way that things were in my family, you would get both swords, Aiden."
Gourry stared at him until Aiden's mouth snapped shut. "When the war happened," he explained calmly, "your mother and I had known for years that your sister would be a target. This doesn't make you any less capable in our eyes, and it doesn't mean we love her more than you. But, you're just like the way we were. You want to travel and increase your knowledge. Emilie needs to travel. She wants to stay here, but if she does so, she'll eventually become a target again. She needs a reason to go, Aiden. You're that reason. So is the family legacy. She needs something to protect, and she'll protect our legacy along with you. What she didn't tell you, but what I will now, is that you will inherit the Blast Sword one day."
Aiden's eyes grew as big as saucers.
Gourry smiled, strode to his son's side and ruffled his hair. "But, you see, you need to become a better swordsman first. I could barely handle the Sword of Light at 17 and at 13? Impossible. I'd been dedicated to swordsmanship for more than half my life when I met your mother. And I still need to protect your mother while you kids are gone."
"You mean protect everyone else from Mama," Aiden said knowingly, his shoulders slumping with the relief of having not been left out.
Gourry roared with laughter. "That too!" he managed after a moment. "That too."
Their children left five days later to make their way in the world. Lina and Gourry stood side by side, neither one quite finding the motivation to go back inside their now-empty house until they could no longer see them. Arms around each other, they headed back inside, truly alone for the first time in 17 years.
The store seemed to echo slightly without the presence of a sweet, yet stubborn daughter and a brainiac son. Gourry found himself wandering to the window so many times, part of them hoping they'd turn around and come right back, that Lina nearly tossed a book at him.
But, instead, she moved to his side. Gourry had long ago forgotten the incident with Kuppi and her family, but she hadn't. How could she, when she had been reminded of it so constantly every time she saw Gourry interact with their children? From holding Emilie the day she was born and waking up in time to see him show their daughter her first sunset to defusing a potentially family-destroying situation with Aiden, Lina remembered how Gourry had expressed his desire to be a good father one day.
"They'll be okay, you know," Lina commented casually. "It's not like we won't ever hear of them. We'll just follow the damage reports."
Gourry chuckled a bit.
She slipped an arm around his waist. "I'm going to miss them too."
Suddenly, she was swept up in a fierce hug, being held so tightly that Lina thought her lungs would crush. "Can't ... breathe ... Gourry."
He didn't release her, only held her tighter. "Did we do the right thing? Did we let them go too early? Maybe I should have given Aiden the Sword of Light. Did they pack enough warm clothes? Did we give them enough money? Did..."
"Argh!" Lina infused magic into her hands and used the added strength to break from Gourry's desperate hold. She took a few moments to regain much-needed oxygen and just eyed him. "You're such a worrywart."
Gourry laughed a bit sheepishly. "I can't help it."
"I know." Lina smiled, then placed a hand on his arm. "Gourry, you've been a splendid father. They'll be fine."
The smile he gifted her with in return was brighter than the sun.