Author's Note: Okay, okay. Unlike me, I know. I unapologetically love my Slayers canon pairs. But this is a response to a challenge over at DeviantArt to work with a crack pair. So here's my silly little effort. Hope it's enjoyable!

Just Rivals.

Look at him. Just look at him. Sitting cross-legged by the fire, humming some obnoxious little tune to himself, and cooking a sweet potato on a stick. Does that look like a swordsman cunning enough to best the Howling Sword? It certainly doesn't. 'Cunning' is not a word that you could possibly attach to a brainless, blond oaf like that! And yet he must be cunning, truly, in order to have defeated…

"How long did you say you were going to be traveling with us again, Zangulus?" a peevish sounding female voice asked from the other side of the fire, eyes squinted in obvious annoyance.

I tore my eyes away from Gourry to give Lina a sharp look. "I didn't," I said. I lifted up the brim of my hat. "I'll leave you when I've defeated Gourry and proven myself to be the best swordsman and not a minute sooner."

Lina gave a mockingly heavy sigh. "Then we'll never get rid of you," she said.

Before I managed to get out a response, Gourry said: "Come on, Lina. Zangulus is alright. We could always use an extra hand if there's trouble."

"Maybe," Lina responded testily. "But as it is now he's the trouble!" She glared at me. "He mooches off of our food and I'm tired of him always starting fights." She sniffed and then added as a sullen afterthought: "And I don't think he's washed his hair in the last six months either."

"Don't be mean," Gourry said mildly, tilting his skewered sweet potato as though the act required great concentration.

Hmph. As though the ginger with the split ends has any right to lecture me on hair care. Anyway, this is the hairstyle for a swordsman: rough and tumble, pulled back enough to be out of the way, but long because a swordsman on the go has little time for haircuts. And anyway, swordsmen don't like other people holding blades close to their necks. It's just a training thing.

As to hygiene, well, the mercenary lifestyle doesn't give access to a lot of showers and shampoo. If I'd wanted glamorous hair I wouldn't have become a swordsman! The two just don't go together. Except with…


How does he keep his hair looking like that? We haven't been near clean, running water in days and yet his hair is as smooth and lustrous as ever! Sometimes, when we walk through the woods, the sun shines down through the leaves in the trees, and it catches his hair in such a shimmering way that it just…


…That's a… strange image to dwell on. How did I get here?

Oh, yes. That's right. It's no hairstyle for a swordsman. That's what I was getting at. I mean, he doesn't even tie it back or anything! He just leaves it flowing free and unencumbered so it could fall in front of his blue eyes at any minute, clinging to his face in the…

Well, how it looks isn't the point. The point is that a real swordsman shouldn't do that! Hair that can fall in front of your eyes blocks visibility and could leave you vulnerable to an attack! How could a person who doesn't know even this have defeated me?

He should… pull it back or cut it himself.

Except that… well, it's nice hair. Practically… perfect. It might sound weird to say, but it'd be a shame to change it. And anyway, he seems to have managed to be a great swordsman despite this handicap, so there's no point in ruining it.

"Fine!" Lina said, crossing her arms. "Then you pay for his food."

I really don't understand what Gourry sees in her. I mean, he can't find her attractive, can he? She looks like she's twelve. And as for her personality; I've seen better behaved rabid wolverines.

"Aww, come on. That's no fair, Lina," Gourry said, turning wide eyes on his diminutive traveling companion. "You've got plenty left from beating up those bandits. Don't be so stingy."

And he actually follows her around. Nothing seems to dissuade him from this. Not even the prospect of battling an equal, no, a swordsman of superior skill which has yet to be proven. That's something he should crave before anything else. How does this little girl wield so much power over him?

"You pay for him," Lina repeated, arms crossed. "After all, he's your stalker."

I stood up, taken aback by this sudden comment. "I'm not a stalker!" I said.

Lina gave me a skeptical look. "You follow him around and don't talk about anything else but him. What would you call that?"

"We're just rivals!" I burst out.

"Yeah, uh-huh," Lina said, rolling her eyes. "You know, last night I woke up and I saw you staring at him while he slept. I hope you know that's extremely creepy."

"I was just visualizing our inevitable battle when I defeat him!" I shouted back, my voice growing horse. "There was nothing… perverse about it!"

"Oh, sure. I believe you," Lina said insincerely. Then she coughed and said 'weirdo' under her breath.

I seized my sword from the ground, teeth gnashing together in rage. How dare that little witch imply such things about me? Does she not know that in order for me to defeat my enemy, I have to study him? It has to get to the point where I know every last little detail about him. I must memorize each motion of his hand, each tell and expression; I must look so deeply into his eyes that I know what he's thinking before he does.

There's nothing weird about that!

"We'll settle this now, then!" I declared, aiming my sword at Gourry who simply looked up at me with a perplexed and… admittedly slightly adorable look. Which isn't right either! A swordsman shouldn't be adorable! He should be ruthless and mean! He shouldn't make a face that looks like it should be on a holiday card! That's just wrong.

Damn you, Gourry. Damn you and your inconvenient adorability. How can my rival be so…

"Can't I finish my sweet potato first?" he asked.

"No!" I shot back, flourishing my sword through the air where it sliced two half vortexes in a satisfying way. "We decide this now!"

Gourry set down his orange root vegetable reluctantly. "I was going to have it with cinnamon," he said, seemingly unwilling to let his snack go.

"There'll be plenty of time for cinnamon later!" I snapped, eager to get on with the fight.

Lina just let her head fall into her hand.

"Did I say stalker? Because I think I meant boyfriend."