Slayers Fan Fiction ❯ Epilogue ( Chapter 7 )

[ P - Pre-Teen ]
“I can take care of that, Lina.” Hawk said as he grabbed the account books from her.

Lina shook her head as her hands tightened around the books. “It’s no wonder that you and Mom never stayed in the black for long with the way you were keeping them. Hands off!”

“It’s late. It can wait till the morning. Go home to your husband.”

“Five minutes, and I’ll be on my way.”

Thirty minutes later Lina was on her way home. There was no Sorceror’s or Merchant’s Guild meeting. Her house was spotless and meticulously organized. She and Gourry had even planted a garden that spring that was well tended. Through their first year as a married couple they had pulled up their shirt sleeves and worked hard to make it their home. And now it was so well maintained there was nothing more to do but to enjoy.

Lina thought briefly about stopping by the cemetery to tend to her mother’s grave, but decided against it as there was no need. Last week had marked the first anniversary of her death and she had spent the whole day there with her family, polishing the granite headstone, arranging flowers, celebrating her life, mourning her death. Her mother’s final resting place was well tended.

There was nothing left to do but to go home and enjoy a quiet evening with her husband. And while it sounded like it should be easy to do, Lina found it strangely hard.

Lina felt as though she had been running continuously since she was thirteen. First she was running from Luna and all of her fears and insecurities. Then she was running a losing race as she sought to nurse her mother back to health. When her mother died, she ran to deal with the grief. She poured herself into the funeral preparations. When that was over she threw her energies into revitalizing the shop while her father mourned.

When she wasn’t working she was busy making her house comfortable with Gourry. As the house became more like a home she became active in the guilds so that she could keep her mind off of things. The store became profitable. Money started pouring in. Lina made some smart business moves and contacts. They were even able to hire some help for the first time since her parents had started the venture.

Her father was not much help with the store at first. He had taken her mother’s death hard. Whatever it was that kept him strong and motivated vanished when she died. He spent a lot of time wandering through the woods aimlessly as though he was looking for something despite not knowing what it was. If he wasn’t trudging through the forest, he was sitting by Tori’s grave or asleep in his recliner. Entering the bedroom he had shared with her for twenty-three years was out of the question for him. It was full of too many reminders that she was gone.

He’d barely eat, causing both Lina and Luna to worry for his health. He stopped practicing his swordplay, which both found alarming. They knew well his views on people who allowed their skills to rust up. At first Lina was too busy staying busy to pay too much mind. Then as summer turned to fall she tolerated it, even though seeing people mope around did little for her patience. And as fall turned to winter she decided she needed to do something.

“Come on.” She said, shivering slightly against the cold. “You’re coming to work with me today.”

He did not turn his head away from the tombstone. “You seem to have it under control.”

“I’ve got news for you. There’s a storm coming and people are going to want to stock up on supplies. We’ll be swamped and I need you to help out.”

“Get your sister to help.”

Lina wanted to smack him so hard. “She is. And you know damn well that’s not enough for this time of the year!”

He said nothing. Lina’s desperation mounted and morphed into anger, “You can’t keep doing this!” she screamed, “Look, I’m not asking you to be happy or to be cheerful, I’m just asking you to be a part of life again!”

He did not so much as flinch. Feeling that if she stayed there any longer she would cast a spell she would later regret, she turned away and stormed off to work. A few hours later the door chimed and he came in. As Lina had expected they were packed to the gills with customers, and at first Lina did not even realize that it was not another customer who had entered the store. “I can help the next person!” he called, causing both sisters to turn their heads in surprise.

“Bout time!” Lina snarled as she went back to haggling.

When the customers had finally left and the family was alone and closing up shop Lina asked, “So, what changed your mind?”

Hawk did not look up from rearranging the merchandise, “I realized that your mother would never forgive me if she knew I was neglecting the two of you so.”

Lina and Luna exchanged a relieved glance. “Damn straight.” Lina said before going back to the inventory.

It was a slow struggle. And at first the work he did was downright pathetic. But he was working. In the evenings he picked up the sword again. And finally one morning Luna walked into the living room to discover that he was not in the recliner, but asleep in his bedroom.

Keeping busy became difficult that winter when an unexpected snow storm hit Zeferia. None of the Inverses could ever recall seeing snow in their city, but for one week Zefiel came to a halt as massive snow banks kept everyone shut indoors and sent the people who relied on harvesting grapes for their livelihood into a panic at the thought of what the frost would do the vineyards.

The week that Lina found herself shut inside her house with nothing to do was agony. While lying about the house doing nothing might have been welcome under other circumstances, it severed her from her means of coping with her grief. Gourry did what he could to distract her, but it was the first time she had had to sit and think about the enormity of the life she had left behind and the person she had lost.

When she woke on the third day of being snowed in and looked out the window to see that the snow was still blocking it she felt as though her cabin fever would burn her alive. As she struggled to find the gumption to get out of bed, Gourry wrapped an arm around her and nuzzled at her neck. “Morning.” He said.

“Hmm.”

“What are you thinking about?”

Lina thought for a moment, “That I’m trapped. And stuck. And waiting. And that it’s hard to be the one left behind.”

“Huh?” he asked as he traced circles lazily along her arm.

“When I left. It was hard on Mom. I never understood why until now. When you leave you’re off on an adventure. You meet new people. See new things. There’s things you leave behind, but the excitement of everything that is new makes it so you don’t miss it so much. When you’re left behind you have to adjust. There’s a hole you have to fill. There’s little novelty. And there’s someone to miss.

“And I miss her so much. But I’d been gone for so long! I’d gotten used to her not being there all of the time. And still, here I am wishing she was here. Is that strange?”

“I don’t think so.” He said as he brushed her hair back. “I think it would be stranger if you didn’t.”

Lina thought for a minute before saying, “There’s so much I could have learned from her that I never did! She used to travel with Daddy like we did. I never learned what helped her to go from making money as a mercenary to shopkeeper and wife. And now I never will. There’s a lot that I will never know.”

He was quiet for a moment, “Is it so hard being here?”

“No!” she cried as she turned to face him. “It’s just we went from saving the world to playing house overnight. I sometimes wonder what I’m doing with my life.”

“I guess I figured that after all we did we deserve the chance to sit back and enjoy life.” He smiled, “But if you want to go on another adventure we can. As long as I’m with you.”

“Zel and Amelia’s wedding is coming up.” Lina pointed out. “May be that will make things easier, being on a journey to Seyruun.”

She got her answer when winter turned to spring and she headed out with Gourry to Seyruun for the wedding of the year. At first it did feel good to be back on the road. But it wasn’t the same. There were no more letters to look forward to. Nothing could change that knowledge.

The wedding was elegant, expensive, and pompous. Zel and Amelia seemed to be settling in well together. As they made their way back to Zeferia, Lina found her fondness of travel die as she realized that after enjoying a comfortable house of her own, staying in cramped, smelly inns was no longer so much fun. Traveling has lost its luster, and when they finally returned home, Lina felt as though she had reached some sort of peace with her new life. She didn’t drive herself as hard to fill up every moment of her spare time. The moments of depression lessened, and she started to feel more like herself. More at home. More comfortable in her roles as a wife and businesswoman.

A torturous heat wave announced the beginning of summer. Soon the grapes that survived the harsh winter were ready for the harvest and all of the local businesses shut down to partake in the accompanying festival. Lina and Luna sat on a blanket fanning themselves while Gourry and Hawk went to get drinks.

Somehow the rupture between Lina and her sister had mended. Lina saw a side of her she had never seen in the wake of her mother’s death. Sometimes Lina wondered if Luna even cared about her family. But as she watched her care for their grieving father she realized the answer to that question. Luna’s motives were often obscure and subtle. But she did care. In her own way and on her own terms. And she still had her own agenda that she devotedly pursued and that Lina knew she would put ahead of the interests of the family if it benefited the world. Which meant that Lina still did not trust her fully.

“It’s almost been a year.” Luna said.

Lina picked at the grass for a moment before asking, “Do you still miss her?”

“I think I always will.” Luna contemplated her for a moment, “But I meant since you married the swordsman.”

“Yes. So?”

“So when will you two procreate?”

Lina sat up, “Now look! You seem far too interested in this matter.”

“The promise of new life after death is a good thing.”

Lina eyed her warily. The feeling the she would always be at the mercy of her sister’s plans asserted itself again. While she used to never contemplate Luna’s motives, lately something had been bothering her. “So this has nothing to do with the fact that if a child has a sorceress like me for a mother, and a swordsman like Gourry for a father…”

“The result could be a spectacularly powerful individual?”

Lina’s eyes narrowed, “And would you chase it off to you your bidding, like you did me?”

Luna smiled, “I don’t think that even I could withstand the beating you and your husband would give me should I try to harm your child. You don’t mess with a mama bear’s cubs.”

Lina eyed her suspiciously and leaned back down on the blanket, “So how come you don’t go traveling? Why do you keep having to find people to send out to take care of your dirty work for you?”

“What makes you think I’m doing none myself? My job is only part time after all.”

Lina fanned herself faster. Just like her hypothetical boyfriend this was one of those instances where Lina wasn’t sure if Luna was stringing her along or if she was being genuine. And, she figured, it was unlikely she ever would.

She shared her first anniversary with Gourry quietly, thankful that her mother had lived to see the wedding day.

And the next week she fell back into the trenches as the day that her mother died approached. She poured her energies into work again. She redid tasks that had already been done. Anything to keep herself from stopping, from thinking, from paying attention to the void in her life.

She wrapped her arms around herself as she walked out of the busy market square and towards the quieter, more provincial part of town. She had built a good life for herself. While her reputation as a sorceress was as admirable as it was infamous she was now respected as a sharp businesswoman, married to a swordsman who was the most sought out teacher in the kingdom. And she hoped that he was as happy with her as she was with him.

The houses thinned out as she reached the border of town where her home sat. The lights were on. Once again, Gourry had gotten home first and was waiting for her. She stopped and stared for a few moments at the crape myrtle that framed the porch and the cucumber and tomato plants that were currently flourishing.

If he ever felt neglected or cheated by the fact that as soon as he really had her he had to deal with being put on the back burner while she worked through her grief he never said anything. He was always so patient with her. And she wondered sometime if she took it for granted, that he would always be there, waiting. Waiting for what?

She climbed the steps and opened the door. The smell of fried chicken permeated the air. Lina inhaled. “Smells good!” she said as she closed the door.

She was lying. Gourry tried hard but he was not much of a cook. If he noticed he never said anything. He smiled brightly as he walked over to her and embraced her and gave her a quick peck on the lips. “How was your day?” he asked.

“Good.” Lina said as she pulled him into a longer and more intense kiss. “How was yours?” she asked when she pulled away.

He put an arm around her as they walked into the dining room. “Good. Even better now that you’re home.”

She sat in the chair he held out for her and looked at the food spread across the table. Over a year had passed since they had settled here. And sometimes she felt that she was so wrapped up in keeping herself busy that she was neglecting him. It did not help that they had gone from spending every moment of their days together to sharing evenings and the rare days off she took once they were married.

He sat down and started to dig in, only to stop when he realized she was staring at him. “Are you sure you’re okay?” he asked.

She nodded. “I was thinking, you have tomorrow off, don’t you?”

He nodded. She grabbed a drumstick and bit into it, “Well, I guess I can let Daddy run the shop for one day. The world won’t end if I stay home and do something else. If there’s anything you want to do.”

He smiled at her, and her the boulder she felt that her heart had been tugging for the past year eased. “Well, I’ve got a lot planned, but I guess I can pencil you in somewhere.”

The next day she left her clothes on the floor like she used to before her mother died. She spent less time with work obligations and keeping her house obsessively clean and more time reading books, practicing spells, and walking through the woods with Gourry. “You seem a lot happier lately.” He pointed out as they walked to her childhood home.

“Yeah. I guess.” Lina said, “I guess you could say I’m moving on.”

“I’ve noticed. I guess time heals everything.”

“That, and realizing you need to let go.”

“How so?”

Lina smiled as she stared off in the directions of the vineyards they walked past, “When I left home, I knew I would return one day. And so did Mom. When Mom died, there was no returning. In my brain I knew that. In my heart…Well, I felt I had to keep working, keep moving, keep the home fires burning until she returns so that everything is perfect.

“But she’s not returning. There’s no need to keep working so hard for something that won’t happen.”

“Ah, that explains the clothes on the floor!” he chided her as he squeezed her hand.

“Hey!” she said as they climbed the patio stairs.

“Smells good!” Gourry said to change the subject as Lina opened the door.

“Glad you could make it.” Hawk said as he put down the paper when they walked through the door.

“Good timing, too. Dinner is just about ready.” Luna said.

“You wouldn’t expect those two to be late for dinner.” Hawk said as he made his way to the dining room.

“Hey!” Lina and Gourry both said at the same time.

“Daddy’s just stating a fact.” Luna said in her matter-of-fact way as she sat a platter of fried chicken on the table. “And no digging in before everyone is seated!”

“Fine, fine.” Lina said as she sat down. “By the way, Sis, don’t you ever get tired of serving food to people all day and then going home and doing it again in the evening?”

“Speak for yourself. Being a waitress is an art.”

“If you say so.” Lina replied.

“Are you offering to cook instead?” Hawk asked.

Lina nearly choked on her tea, “No, no. Just asking.”

Dinner went on pleasantly. The knowledge that one was missing was tempered with the understanding that this would have been what she would have wanted. Their family had survived tempests and storms. There were threats from within and without that could have ripped them asunder. But they endured, and now they were stronger.

AN: If you enjoyed reading this, then you need to go out and buy the MP3 of Corrinne May’s Fly Away. Or support your Pandora station. No, really. And here is why.

When I first conceived of this story, it was Lina’s father who was supposed to die. The story was supposed to start with chapter 3, where Lina was supposed to receive a letter that he had died. She and Gourry would race to Zeferia and find that the funeral was over and she never got a chance to say goodbye and all that stuff. Lina’s mother and sister were about as peripheral as I’ve ever made them. And then the scene that ended chapter 3 was how the story was supposed to end. In fact, I noticed when I posted several people seemed concerned that it was the end because I guess the sense of finality clung to the scene.

So what happened?

When I sat down to write this I turned on my Pandora station, which is not in and of itself an unusual thing. I was having a hard time figuring out that first sentence. When I’m writing I can be stuck on that sentence for hours (days even). Once I get that first sentence I’m good, but sometimes it comes faster than others. Well, while I was trying to figure out that first sentence Corrinne May’s Fly Awaycame on.

I had heard the song before but never really listened to it. I had a vague idea that it was about a lover letting go so they didn’t impede on someone’s growth, which I thought was a beautiful message and all that. I was close, but not quite there. For whatever reason I really listened to it this time. I then pulled up the lyrics. It was about the singer’s mother letting her go to pursue her dreams, and then the singer being called home to let her mother go when she died.

And then I became the song’s slave. Or the story became the song’s slave. Or something like that.

Because right then and there I switched things from Lina’s dad dying to Lina’s mom. And then, spurred by the power of the song I realized that if this was going to have the same emotional impact I would have to explain why Lina left in the first place. And then I realized that if I did that, then I would have to explore Lina’s relationship with Luna, and that if I did that, then I would have to do this, and if I did this, I would have to do that. And it turned into this huge spiral. And this is how something that was supposed to be a one shot jumped to being four chapters and then jumped to being six chapters and an epilogue (this song had me whipped I tell you…whipped!).

While music often relates to the emotions I’m exploring in my writing, never before has a song so singlehandedly driven something I was writing. It was exhilarating as it was frustrating because I went into territory I was never too comfortable with.

For instance, after making a go of doing what I usually do when I write Lina’s parents (Mr & Mrs Inverse) I realized I was going to have to give them names. This was not comfortable for me because I have this bizarre need to get it right. I finally decided that since I have no way of deducing what Mr. Kanzaka thinks their names are I would need to find something to fit the themes of the story. So I went with birds. Hawk is obvious. Tori is Japanese for bird, though I nearly went with Wren for her.

I also had to settle on some things with regards to Luna. Before I read the books I had come to the conclusion that Luna was abusive towards Lina because the anime hints at that. And while it is never said in the anime, I always figured that Lina never wanted to go home because she was scared of her sister. So I was stunned when I read the second book and Lina mentioned casually how she was thinking of stopping by home and visiting her folks. While I think you can make the case that anime!Lina is running from her sister and may be scared to return home because of her, I don’t think that you can say the same for novel!Lina. I eventually decided that the purposes of the story would be served better with the anime!Lina take.

And then there was getting it started. I wrote two first chapters, with slightly differing takes on Luna. That was a mess! The second chapter was always as I had envisioned it, and the third came easily enough because it was supposed to have been the entire story for a while. But I was stuck on which first chapter to use and worried that it was not that good of an idea because it was so influenced by a song. That is where the wonderful pharoah999 came in and graciously read both chapters and pointed me in the right direction and gave me the confidence to pursue this and the feedback needed to improve on it. I really might have consigned this to the unfinished folder without her help.

So yes. If you liked this support Corrinne May. Or if you hated this and would have preferred the original version then condemn her. Either way, this fic would not have happened without her beautiful and inspiring song.

I Love You Too Much to Make You Stay, Baby Fly Away