Slayers Fan Fiction ❯ I Held Her As I Cried ( Chapter 4 )

[ P - Pre-Teen ]
“I Held Her As I Cried.”- Corrinne May

The sun was shining. No clouds marred the blue sky. It was a beautiful day. But the weather was not what made it so wonderful. No, the weather was icing on the cake. Good weather happened all the time. But holding hands with Lina Inverse for the first time? That happened once in a life time. Hearing the most amazing woman in the world agree to be his wife? It made for an extraordinary day.

Long ago he had sworn to always be with her and protect her. Now he would make that oath public. But it was always one sided. She had never made any reciprocating agreement. Gourry had to content himself with the fact that she never left, even after he returned the Sword of Light to its home. But not anymore. She would make her own vows to protect and stay with him. They would build a family together. What he had dreamed of for so long was actually going to happen.

They made no plans. What would pass would come to pass. Eventually Lina said something about getting home to check on her mom, so hand and hand they went, enjoying each other’s’ company silently. That was the only dark cloud on the horizon, the possibility of Lina’s mom dying.

He remembered too well what it was like to watch a loved one die and to stand by helpless as it happened. At the time he’d had no hope that things could get better, that one day he would be happy again. Eventually he met Lina and learned that he could. No matter what happened to her mother, he hoped that looking forward to a life together with him would give her that hope he lacked then. That it would make a hard time more bearable.

He just wished that something so horrible had not been the catalyst.

As her parents’ home came into view he wondered if she would make any attempt to keep their engagement a secret. His heart raced as she remained hand in hand with him and stayed quiet. She really was not going to try and cover up or deny anything! They were almost there when the door opened and Luna stepped out, dressed in her work uniform. She noticed them, and as they approached the porch she said, “Finally. I was worried you two wouldn’t get together until it was too late. Mom just took a turn for the worse, and I have the day off tomorrow. We’ll get the dress fitted and you two wed the next time she has a lucid moment.”

Lina’s face flushed as she stopped on her way up the stairs. “What?”

Gourry froze. Had he been overconfident?

“You heard me.”

“And who gave you the right to plan my wedding?” Part of Gourry relaxed at the knowledge that Lina was set on marriage, but the tension did not leave the air. Instead it seemed to thicken.

“I’m not. You can chose the dress and whatever flowers you want. I’m just saying that you are to get it done before the week is up.”

Gourry moved to stand behind Lina as she stiffened with rage and hands curled into fists. “Gourry and I will set a date, and it won’t be within the week.”

Was it his imagination, or had the temperature dropped a few degrees? Luna sent Lina a look that gave him goosebumps. “Are you really so selfish that to spite me you would deny our mother the chance to see you happily settled before she goes?”

“Selfish!” Lina yelled, “Who are you calling selfish?”

“You! Now shut up and be ready to go shopping tomorrow!”

“Or you’ll what? I’m not scared of you anymore!” Lina practically screamed.

The door flew open as Hawk stuck his head out, his face purple with rage. “Lina just got home and already you two are fighting…”

“Stay out of it, Daddy.” Luna said, and with a flick of her wrist the door slammed shut, penning him within the house. Gourry’s eyes widened in shock. She hadn’t even touched the door! Hawk seemed to work the handle uselessly from the other side for a few seconds before giving it up as a useless cause. Gourry felt his heart quicken. That was something he was fairly certain that no human should be able to do.

He glanced at Lina who had gone pale and was trembling slightly, her eyes never leaving Luna as her sister said, “Why don’t I give you a choice this time? Would you rather I tie you down and dumped a pail of slugs on you? Or that I give your ears a good boxing? Or the old inflecting pain through the force of my will? Or something new this time? Do you know what I’ve always wanted to do to you?”

Gourry could feel his blood boil and before he knew it his hand was on his sword. He moved so he was in front of Lina, shielding her from Luna. He stared at her, his eyes cold and set. “You will not harm her. Who do you think you are, threatening me if I let her down while you do this to her?”

“Gourry!” Lina screamed. She only sounded like that when his life was in peril.

Luna regarded him coolly before calming descending down the steps. “He’ll do.” She said to Lina before she set off to work.

Gourry blinked in confusion, wondering how something that he knew was going to be a nasty confrontation turned out to be so anticlimactic. He turned to look at Lina, who looked as though she had been knocked over by a troll. She was biting her lip in an effort to reign in her tears and she was shaking violently. Her arms were wrapped tight around her stomach as if she was trying to keep the butterflies fluttering within from tearing through her guts. Her breathing was too fast, as though she was trying to keep herself from hyperventilating.

He was always baffled at how she could be so scared at the mere mention of her sister, especially when you considered the strength of the monsters they faced every day. He’d always wondered how Luna could have been worse. Now he was starting to understand.

He reached out a hand to comfort her. She took a step back, and then ran into the house. Gourry stood there awkwardly for a moment before Hawk came out and clasped him on the shoulder. “Welcome to the family.”

***

How could she have stood there and done nothing? After all she had done? After all of the magical knowledge she had amassed? How could she have stood there, cowering before her sister? Her sister!
She had destroyed Dark Lords! She had slayed Hellmaster! She’d taken care of many a monster who had more power than her sister. It wasn’t easy, but she had done it.

Lina brushed away tears as she stood, back to the door. She glanced at her mother who was sleeping before she slid down and buried her face within her knees and let the sobs come.

It was amazing how in a flash you could feel like a vulnerable child again. Memories of the torturous punishments Luna would inflict on her washed over her. The pain was branded in her mind. The humiliation! The way she would always gloat to everyone that she had just punished her, as if she wanted to make sure people had no doubts as to who was the stronger sister while rubbing salt onto an open sore.

Her tears felt hot with the rage that coursed through her and she struggled with the urge to break things. And at the base of it all was the feeling she rarely allowed herself to admit: betrayal. Once Luna was loving and sisterly. They got along and shared secrets and adventures. And then one day, for some inexplicable reason Luna had turned against her. And she did it by exploiting her weaknesses while appreciating her strengths. While Luna might not have been as powerful as Shabranigdo, Luna had never underestimated her. It hurt enough when someone you don’t know sets out to harm you. But it was someone Lina loved. And it hurt even worse.

Of all the enemies she fought, only Hellmaster knew her weaknesses as well as Luna did, and he had played her as well as Luna could. But none of the monsters, not one fully appreciated her strengths. That was part of the reason she had been successful. They dismissed her as a mere human. Luna had never made that mistake.

It was why Luna terrified her more than anyone else she had ever faced. And why she always would. She had thought that being away would change things, that she would learn to stand up to her. <i>Guess I haven’t grown as much as I’d like to think,</i> she thought bitterly.

Lina took a deep breath and dried her eyes as a sense of numbness grew within her. She welcomed it. The events of the past few days had left her feeling raw and exposed, states of mind she never enjoyed.

She stood up and went to check on her mother. Lina put a hand on her forehead. It was hot and drenched with sweat. It was so bad that the sheets were soaked. Mechanically, Lina went to grab some fresh linens and a basin. She was going to have to sponge her off and change the sheets.

“Aqua create!” Lina cast, and the bowl filled with water. She was about to cast another spell to warm it when someone knocked. It had to be Gourry. He was the only one who would knock.

Lina didn’t answer as she continued to prepare the water. Part of her was terrified that after learning the extent of Luna’s power he would abandon ship. The door opened. “Are you okay?” he asked.

“I’ll live.” Lina replied. “I bet I got taken down a notch or two in your book.”

He moved to stand before her and gently tilted her head up so he could look her in the eyes. “Why would that happen? When you seem stronger to me because of what you survived?”

How could someone who was infamous for sticking his foot in his mouth also have a penchant for saying the exact thing she needed to hear when she was feeling distressed? It was something about him that puzzled her to no end. Lina felt her lower lip tremble. She did not want to cry again. It was that impulse that had to have compelled her to stand on her toes to kiss him. He wrapped his arms around her, and Lina felt some of the torment she had experienced earlier retreat before the passion that she felt as he returned the kiss. He meant it. He really meant it!

He pulled away and ran a hand through her hair. She planted her feet firmly back on the floor. “You’d best get back to caring for your mom.”

Lina nodded as she reluctantly pulled away. He caught her hand. “I love you.” He whispered as he squeezed her hand before letting it go to head out the door. Lina spun around to look at him. “Gourry!” she cried.

He turned around. She’d better say it before he left. “I love you.”

He smiled, and then left Lina to deal with her emotional whiplash. The exhilaration of mutual feelings of affection for a man she had traveled with for years competing with the grief of coming home to find her mother so ill, not to mention facing some of her worst childhood memories. How could she go from being the happiest she’d ever felt in her life one moment to the worse the next, and then back?

Lina dipped the washcloth in the basin and regarded her mother. Her mother, who she had just experienced her first kiss before and did not so much as stir. “I’d give anything for you to tease me right now.” Lina said as she started to mop her forehead.

The door opened, and before Lina could look up to see who it was her father spoke, “I wasn’t sure about him. How could I trust a man with my daughter when he would give up such a priceless treasure as the Sword of Light? But he got Luna off your back. That’s not something your mother and I were ever able to do. So I guess he’s worthy of you. Congrats.”

Lina blinked a few times as he put an arm around her, pulling her into a sideways hug. “Thanks.” She said quietly. “It means a lot.” She added quickly.

They stared at each other awkwardly for a few seconds. Feelings were not talked about much in their family. Finally he said, “Let me help you.”

They were quiet as they gave Tori a sponge bath, dressed her in a fresh gown and changed the bed sheets, only talking when they needed to give the other a request. But Lina could not help but notice the tenderness in his eyes as he cared for her mother, nor the fact that his eyes were baggy and red rimmed. It struck her that he was seeing her mother during her most vulnerable moments, and he was still there, still caring, still loving.

Lina was never comfortable with weakness. She never liked showing anything that could be exploited to anyone. For the first time in her life she started to wonder if it followed that an enemy could fall if they don’t appreciate one’s strengths, then love could not grow if one’s weaknesses were not appreciated. If love only existed when two people were at their best it would be very shallow. The sudden knowledge permeated her being as she sat beside her father after they finished tending to her mother. She leaned against him and held his hand, trying to comfort him with her presence while drawing comfort from him.

Gourry had just seen her during one of her most vulnerable moments. And he was still here.

******

The following days passed in a blur of worry and hard work. Providing care for someone so ill was a demanding and draining job. Fortunately everyone in the household was a hard worker and each quickly found a role suited to their abilities. Hawk and Lina were the caretakers, though the brunt of it did fall to Lina as Hawk still had to make sure their store did not go completely untended. Between stints at her waitressing job Luna would tend to the housekeeping and cooking. Gourry worked during the day, and would go over plans for the building of their home with Lina when he got back. He’d run errands, fetch groceries, and do whatever else he could.

Tori spent several days feverish and struggling in pain. The few times she was awake she was in so much agony that Lina would cast a sleeping spell so that it could not reach her. Lina suspected pneumonia, which the doctor confirmed. He left behind a concoction of Echinacea, olive leaf, turmeric, and several other herbs to halt the infection.

It did little to nothing. The fever still raged. Tori was still not herself. One night her eyes fluttered open and she looked at her younger daughter. “Lina?” she asked.

“Yes?” Lina perked up as she put her book down. It was the first time she had said something not pain related in days, “How are you feeling?”

“It hurts. Breathing.”

“You have pneumonia.” Lina said. “Take some of these. The doctor said it would help.”

Lina helped her to sit up and take some medicine for the pain. As Tori settled back down onto the pillows she said, “Talk to me about something.”

Lina decided that if she was going to tell her it had better be now. Who knew the next time she would be this cognizant? “You were right, about Gourry and me. We’re engaged.”

Lina was expecting her to congratulate her or tease her. Instead she narrowed her eyes in confusion. “But you’re much too young for that…”

“Mom, I’m twenty.” Lina said.

“Oh Lina. You and your silly jokes.” She whispered before drifting off to sleep.

Lina stared straight at the wall ahead of her, feeling as though she had been slapped in the face. Her father slowly walked up behind her and clasped her on the shoulder. “That happens sometimes. One time she didn’t remember me. Why don’t you get some rest?’

Lina nodded and walked out and was about to head to the living room when she noticed that the light in what had been her bedroom was on. She had not been into her room since she got back. Something about finding that it had been converted to a guest room had caused her to stay away from it. She was suddenly possessed by an overwhelming urge to go into it.

Gourry looked up from sharpening his sword as she came in. “Hey.” He said.

“Hey.” Lina muttered as she looked around what had once been her room. Her bed and books were gone. Now a bigger bed occupied the room, piled with quilts she had never seen before. There was a nightstand by each side along with a lantern. Only her dresser was familiar.

“How is your mom?” he asked as she sat beside him on the bed.

“Amelia better get her butt up here fast.” Lina said, her voice harsh.

Gourry put his sword down and wrapped an arm around her. She wiped an escaped tear from her eye. “That’s the only chance we have and…” she gasped as she tried to hold it together, “And I’m not sure that will make any difference.”

He pulled her to him, rubbing her shoulder as he did. It felt nice, but it did little to dull the ache within her heart. She suddenly realized that she did not want to sit up anymore. She was exhausted. She could not remember the last time she had not slept in a chair. She kicked off her shoes and laid back, head on the soft pillow, enjoying the feel of a comfortable bed beneath her. She was still miserable but at least she was comfortable.

“I can go in the living room.” He offered.

She grabbed his hand. She did not want to be alone, and at the moment she didn’t give a damn what her family would say the next day if they found out. “Stay.”

He joined her and wrapped his arms around her and kissed her forehead gently. “Why is it so much easier to kill someone then it is to save them?’ she asked.

“I don’t know.”

“You can cut someone’s jugular easily. I’ve killed many with a simple spell. It’s so easy. But this? We have spells to heal damage wrought by injuries, but for diseases? What do we have? A few piddling, useless herbs? How is that right?”

“May be Amelia will have something up her sleeve.” Gourry suggested.

“I just…I just can’t believe this is really happening.” She cried before breaking down into sobs.

He held her tightly as she buried her face into his chest until at last her sobs eased and she drifted off to a much needed sleep. Gourry rubbed her back, enjoying the feel of having her curled against him. He had been worried about her driving herself too hard. He always worried about that. But for now she would rest. And he was in no hurry to fall asleep.

He had waited for five years to hold Lina as she slept. He was going to appreciate it. Especially because she could be gone in an instant. It scared him to watch her father, to think of what he must be going through. What it would be like to slowly watch the love of your life die? He held Lina a little tighter and took comfort in the rhythmic motion of her breathing. He tried to shut out the ‘what ifs.’ He was going to live in the moment.

***

Lina came out into the living room the next morning to find a bolt of pink tinted satin lying on the sofa. Confused, she walked up to it and touched it gingerly. She liked the feel of it. It was good quality. She nearly jumped back a mile when Luna said, “I ordered it sometime after learning about the Giga Slave you performed for Phibrizzo. You once said you wanted to be dressed in pink tinted satin for your wedding. Unless your tastes have drastically changed, this should fit the bill.”

“What is this?” Lina asked.

“A gift.” Luna said. “And my offer to take you to get it made still stands.”

Lina eyed her warily. “And if I don’t?”

She shrugged, “Suit yourself. I’ll pay if we go out.”

Lina shook her head as a dull ache started to grow within it. “We both know you’re more powerful than Gourry. What’s with this change of heart?”

“We’re going to be living in the same town. It’s time I rebuild your trust in me.”

“My what?” Lina cried, before shaking her head. “It was a lot more than my trust that was broken.”

“Then let me get you the dress.”

“So you think a stupid wedding dress will make up for anything?”

“I think it would be a start.” Luna said in her indifferent tone. “All I can do is offer. All you can do is take a risk.”

Lina became aggravated as once again as a familiar feeling of being manipulated asserted itself. Lina grabbed the fabric and headed towards the door. Without waiting for Lina to ask, Luna followed her out of the house and into the bright sunshine of a pleasant midday afternoon. They said little as they went to the seamstress, had Lina’s measurements taken and left instructions with her.

As they left the seamstresses, Luna said, “There’s a new flower shop that opened.”

Lina sighed, “I guess we might as well. You have a way of getting what you want, even if it is none of your business.”

“I am the Ceiphied Knight.”

“What the hell does that mean? Does butting into the personal life of your younger sister fall under your job description? Or are you just some obnoxious busybody?”

“I only butt into the personal lives of those worthy of my time.”

“And how am I worthy of your time?” Lina snapped. “The only thing I’ve been to you is a punching bag.”

“And that was worth my time.”

Lina could feel the smoke pouring from her ears. “How is picking on someone who is less powerful than you worthy of the time of the Ceiphied Knight?”

“Let’s see now. Hellmaster Phibrizzo is gone, along with Gaav and a plethora of lower ranking monsters. Dark Star was a far unforeseen bonus. And another 7th of Shabranigdo was destroyed. Minimal casualties on our side, though Auntie Aqua was unfortunate. Progress was made in this long battle between the monsters and the gods, progress that was in our favor. It was very worthy of my time.”

Lina stopped in her tracks. “You drove me away.”

“Yes.”

“So I could do your dirty work for you.”

“A good boss knows how to delegate.”

Lina grabbed her hair by the roots and felt like tearing it out. The feeling grew as Luna continued, “I knew you could be extraordinary when you cast your first Dragon Slave when you were ten. It helped that you were small and looked even younger. I knew the monster race would underestimate you. It paid off.”

“How nice for you.” Lina said caustically. “So, now what? Should I pack up my gear and track down the remaining monsters for you?”

“Nah, your advantage is lost.” Luna said as she approached the flower shop. “The monster race is in retreat right now. They don’t want to bloody their nose any more than they have to. Meaning you can live in peaceful retirement with the swordsman for all I care.”

“Well, thanks for that!” Lina yelled as she followed her into the shop.

She was fuming so much that she had a hard time focusing on floral arrangements. She wondered if any decision she made in her life was truly of own accord and not influenced by her sister. She wondered if she would even be able to make a decision in her life that her sister did not approve of. But there was something else that was bothering her. It started small, but by the time they had placed their order and left it had snowballed.

“For someone who says they don’t care about what I do with the rest of my life, you sure are adamant that I marry Gourry, and soon.” Lina pointed out as they made their way back to the house.

Was it her imagination, or did Luna’s eyebrows rise slightly. “I just want you to be happy.”

“If that were the case then you’d let me take this at my own pace.”

Luna was quiet for so long that Lina had given up on a reply. “You’re right.”

“Huh?” Lina said as Luna stopped and put a hand on her shoulder. Lina shuddered and took a step back.

“I did what I did to benefit the world. And it tore apart our family. I knew it would. Mom and Dad haven’t said anything, but Mom hates herself for letting it happen. Her biggest regret is letting you go when you were so young.”

Lina’s eyes widened. Was Luna really opening up to her?

Luna stared off towards the vineyards as she continued, “And Dad? It was a blow to his competence, that he could not protect you from me. They missed so much of your transition from a young girl to a young woman. And I can’t give them that back. But if I can make sure that Mom sees your wedding day, then I will have made some amends.”

Lina felt her knees go weak as Luna kept walking. Mechanically Lina followed her. “And it’s not as if I’m forcing you to wed him. It would have happened sooner or later. Why not sooner?”

Lina folded her arms across her chest and stared at the ground as they walked. She was not sure what to think. Was Luna being sincere? Or was she still manipulating her? Threats and pain would no longer work, so why not open hearted conversations and mentions of wanting to right wrongs? Eventually Luna smiled.

“I don’t expect you to understand. You think like a human. Logically you knew the swordman’s life was not worth the world, but because you love him you decided to risk destroying the world to save him. You were thinking with your own selfish interests.”

Lina reddened, “Now wait a minute!”

“You can’t comprehend what it is like to not have that luxury. Given the ultimatum Hellmaster presented you with no other human would fault you. Most would probably have done as you did. But I have to look at the larger picture. You almost sacrificed the world for love. I sacrificed love for the world.”

Lina sped up a little bit so she was walking beside her and not behind her. She wanted to believe her. But she couldn’t disregard the past ten years. And while it would make sense that she would want to see her married to Gourry before their mother died so she could witness it, Lina still had an unsettling feeling that there was more to it than that. But damned if she could see what it was. Finally she said, “So you’re not going to beat me up for casting the Giga Slave?”

Luna smiled. But as with all of her smiles, it did not reach her eyes. “I’ll give you a pass. This time.”

******

“Come in,” Lina said as she put her book down. Gourry slowly opened the door and stared at her, his eyes filled with concern. “What’s wrong?”

“Are you okay?” he asked as he sat down on a chair beside her.

“Fine. Why?”

“I heard that you and Luna went to town today.”

“Oh that? Yes, she wanted to take me to get the dress made.”

“She didn’t threaten you, did she?”

Lina smiled and shook her head as relief washed through her. So that’s what he was worried about. “No. Actually she bribed me. My dress and the floral arrangements are paid for courtesy of my sis. I guess the cake will have to come from our own budget.”

“You sound like you’re planning something.” Tori whispered.

Lina spun around. “Mom? How long were you listening?”

Lina put her hand on Tori’s forehead and nearly collapsed onto the bed in relief. It was cool. Her fever had broken. “Long enough to know you and Luna went on an outing.”

Lina grabbed her hands, “Yes.”

“Did you fight?”

“We had a heart to heart. It’s okay, Mom. We’ll be fine. And so will you.”

“What’s this party you’re planning?”

Lina took a deep breath, hoping that this time the news would go over better. She turned to look at Gourry and smiled at him. “You were right about the two of us. We’re getting married.”

Tori smiled as a tear leaked from her eye. “I’m so happy to hear it. When?”

Lina stared at her mother for a few seconds. This was as good as she’d seen her look in days, yet ‘good’ was a relative term. She was still pale and thin. And while she had beaten the fever, her father had warned her that she had a bad habit of beating one, recovering slightly, and then catching another one. How long did they have until that happened again?

Ever since her conversation with Luna she wondered if she should rush to the altar the next time Tori rebounded or wait until she made a full recovery. Part of her was starting to realize that if she postponed her wedding and Tori had passed she would never forgive herself. The other part worried that if by rushing to get married she would give the impression that she was not expecting her to make a full recovery.

But now, looking into her eyes, she knew she’d best do it, and fast. She could see in her mother’s eyes that it meant the world to her to see her married. Lina smiled and squeezed her hands. “The dress will be ready tomorrow. So the day after.”

She glanced at Gourry who smiled supportively. She focused on her mother, “So rest up and get better. I expect you to be around to drive me nuts by spoiling your grandchildren in a few years, okay?”

We Need You, Please Come Back
Even Though it Breaks My Heart to Know We'll Be So Far Apart