Slayers Fan Fiction ❯ I Love You Too Much to Make You Stay, Baby Fly Away ( Chapter 6 )

[ P - Pre-Teen ]
“I Love You Too Much to Make You Stay, Baby Fly Away.” –Corrinne May

“I wish I could have been more help.” Said Louis as he stood beside the sign that marked the border of Zefiel.

“So do I.” Was Lina’s catty response.

“Miss Lina!” Amelia protested.

“Thanks for making the trip down.” Gourry said.

“Yes!” Amelia agreed before Lina could cut in again. Ever since hearing that her mother would not recover she had been venting her anger out on Louis, “And have a safe trip back.”

“Have fun getting rich off of sick people!” Lina said.

“Lina,” Gourry said softly.

Louis waved his hand dismissively, “A common reaction among people experiencing grief.”

“Oh, so you’re used to working with people experiencing grief?” Lina asked caustically, “Must not say much for the odds of your patients.”

“Miss Lina, please!” Amelia cried, “Doctor Louis came down all this way to help and this is how you act?”

“Yes!” Lina yelled, “Because it’s not as if he did help!”

She spun around and headed back towards town and called, “Have a safe trip back, Zel.”

“I’m so sorry about this.” Gourry said to Louis, “She’s just really upset right now. Both of you have a safe trip back.”

He turned to follow Lina and wrapped an arm around her when he caught up to her. Louis sighed and slowly walked in the opposite direction towards Seyruun, leaving Zel and Amelia alone together.

“Make sure you give Daddy my love when you get back!” she said.

“I’ll give Phil your letters when I get back.” Zel corrected.

“Good enough.” Amelia said as she wrapped her arms around him and pulled him close to give him a passionate kiss. Reluctantly they separated. Zel squeezed her shoulder before walking off after Louis. “You’d better write to me!” Amelia called after him.

“Don’t worry.” Zel replied.

“Every day!” Amelia pressed on.

Zel waved as he walked off into the distance, and Amelia turned to follow Lina and Gourry.

***
The one place where Lina’s foul mood made no appearance was in her parents’ home. And fortunately for the world, it was where she spent most of her time. That final weeks were slow and bittersweet. There was the chase to enjoy each moment while dreading the final outcome. And in some ways that Lina was loathe to admit, she welcomed it because then the anxiety would be over.

Hawk closed down the shop. Luna took time off of work. Tori was awake and lucid and, while she did not get stronger, seemed to be in high spirits at least. Gourry worked and ran errands while Amelia helped out around the house and provided medical care and a shoulder to lean on.

One day when Tori was napping, Lina and Amelia sat out in the dining room drinking tea when Lina asked, “When your mother died, was it quick?”

Amelia looked up, “Yes.” She said quietly, “She was dead before a Resurrection spell could be performed.”

Lina’s hand tightened around the fragile porcelain cup, “I don’t know which is worse. Getting it over with without having to say goodbye, or saying goodbye every day because it could be the last and never knowing.”

Amelia patted her arm, “Personally, I would give anything to say ‘goodbye.’”

Lina nodded as she stood up, “Yes, I guess you’re right.”

She walked into her mother’s room. Tori was sound asleep with Luna beside her. “I don’t think it will be today.” She said softly.

“Good.” Lina said as she climbed into bed on Tori’s other side.

When Tori woke up, both of her daughters were asleep on either side of her while Hawk watched them from the foot of the bed. “Hey.” She said.

“Hey.” He replied with a sad smile, “Remember when the girls were little? And we would put them to sleep in their beds, and wake up the next morning to find that during the night they had climbed into bed with us?”

She gently stroked Luna’s hair, and then Lina’s. “Do you know how much I missed it when they grew out of it?”

“They were such beautiful babies.”

“Oh brother.” Lina said as she gave up the ruse and got out of bed.

“You two!” Luna said as she did the same.

“I don’t think my stomach can handle this trip down nostalgia lane.” Lina said as she walked out the door.

“Agreed. Let’s give them some time together.” Luna said as she followed her.
Tori and Hawk smiled at each other as Luna closed the door, allowing them some time alone. Hawk stroked her hand and said, “Remember when Lina was born?”

“No.” Tori said, “I nearly bled to death bringing her into the world. And then that quack of a midwife! But Lina was worth it.”

“I was terrified at the thought of having to raise them alone.”

“There was no way I was going to leave you to raise them on your own.” She said, “Remember what an easy baby Luna was?”

“And we thought ‘hey this is great, let’s have five or six more!’”

“And then we had Lina…”

“And we decided two was enough!” he said with a laugh. “Remember when we first moved in here?”

“And when the snow fell so heavy that first winter that the roof caved in?”

“There was always some calamity that prevented us from getting ahead financially.”

“Such as when Lina decided to experiment with Fireballs…inside of the house!”

“Oh, I don’t think I had ever been so mad at her!” Hawk said, “I still miss that couch.”

“I wasn’t sure whether to be mad or proud. It’s not every six year old who can throw a Fireball.”

“Remember how since she was four Luna would have made her bed, been fully dressed, and have breakfast ready by the time we woke up?”

“I sometimes never felt like I got to be a mother to her.” Tori said wistfully. “She was always so good at taking care of herself. I never had to get onto her about her chores or homework. And aside from picking on her sister she would always do as asked.”

“Hence why for every embarrassing story we have about Luna was have ten about Lina.”

“Do we have embarrassing stories about Luna?”

Hawk thought for a moment. “I’ll have to get back with you on that one. Remember when you swore you would never kiss me so long as I smoked those damn cigarettes?”

“You persuaded me otherwise eventually.” She stretched, “Thank goodness Luna broke you of that habit.”

“That’s our pain in the ass Luna story.” He grumbled, “I’m still not over that one.” He smiled, “Remember when we slayed our first monster together?”

She laughed, “We thought we were hot stuff!”

“Until Luna slayed that dragon.”

“And Lina defeated Shabranigdo.”

“And suddenly our piddling low ranking monster seemed like child’s play.”

She put a hand on his arm, “Do you remember what you first thought of me when we met?”

He nodded, “I thought that you were way too small to be anyone’s bodyguard.”

“Hey!”

“Not that I didn’t think you were cute, but I thought that the Baron was wasting his money on you. It didn’t take long for you to prove me wrong.”

“That was a good first adventure together.” She said as she closed her eyes.

“I remember how scared I was when I asked you to marry me.”

“You shouldn’t have been. There was never any other answer.”

He was quiet for a moment as he struggled to compose himself. Finally he said, “I still don’t want to do it without you. The girls are grown women now. And still I’m terrified of doing this alone. You’ve been by my side for so long.”

She reached a hand up to caress his cheek which was damp with tears. “It’s hard to be the one who stays behind, isn’t it? And…I don’t want to leave. I don’t want to leave you here. I don’t want to miss seeing my grandchildren or seeing you go grey or signing off the store to our daughters while we spend a few years in quiet retirement. I would have liked to travel for a little bit again. That’s how I wanted it to be.

“But now I just have to trust that you and the girls will care for each other when I’m gone. I’ve been holding on for so long now. I don’t think I can keep it up for much longer.”

He pulled her into a tight embrace, as if he could will her to stay with him if he squeezed tightly enough, “When you need to go, you’ll go. Just please don’t do it any sooner than you have to. Tori, were you happy with me?” he asked, his voice ragged, “Did I do right by you?”

She pulled away to kiss him lovingly. “Yes. If I had to do it over again I would. In a heartbeat.”

He kissed her again. She tasted salty, though he was not sure if it was from her tears or his. He laid down beside her to pull her into a tight embrace. He knew his time was running short to do so. And while twenty-three years was a lot, it was not enough.

***

“Fold.” Hawk said as he threw his cards down. “I swear the deck is stacked.”

“Would I do that, Daddy?” Lina asked sweetly.

“Yes!” Gourry, Luna, Tori, and Hawk answered at the same time.

“Hey now!” Lina protested, “It’s not as if I’ve won the last few rounds.”

“And that’s because we’re not playing for real cash.” Luna said.

“Or maybe it’s because of the ace you have stashed in your cleavage.” Lina muttered.

“Hey!”

Tori laughed. It was almost like old times when the girls were younger. Only now they were crammed into the bedroom playing cars instead of the dining room table and they had Gourry with them. Gourry, for his part, had blended in well with the family, almost as though he had been there from the beginning.

It felt good to know that Lina had found someone who was nice and could fit in with the family. Naturally he and Hawk liked to talk about sword play and old adventures. And he and Lina seemed so natural together. Her thoughts strayed to grandchildren she would likely never meet and she pulled them back to the present.

“I’m in.” Lina said as she threw in some chips.

“Me, too.” Gourry said.

Tori inhaled a little too deeply, and a familiar nagging pain reverberated through her lungs. She ignored it. She had waited for seven years to see her family on such good terms again. She was not going to let on about the pain.

“What about you, Mom?” Lina asked.

“Raise you ten.” Tori said.

“I’ll see your ten and raise you five.” Luna said.

Lina shook her head, “You must have a good hand. Again.”

“I think she’s bluffing this time.” Hawk said.

“Well, her poker face is her normal face.” Lina said.

Tori smiled. It was nice having Lina and Luna in a room together without a major argument erupting between them. The pain rattled in her lungs again as everyone made their bets. “Let’s see what you have.” Lina said.

“Read them and weep.” Luna said as she laid them down.

“Dammit, a straight flush!” Lina cried as she threw her cards down.

“I have a full house.” Tori said as she put her cards on the deck while Luna reached for the chips.

“Not so fast!” Gourry said as he laid down a royal flush.

Lina cheered, “Way to, Gourry!”

She reached to grab the chips and Luna cautioned, “I believe those are your husband’s.”

Lina shrugged, undeterred, “What is his is mine now.”

“Are you all right, honey?” Hawk asked as he noticed Tori leaning back in the pillows.

“Just a little tired.”

Lina sighed and started cleaning up. “Come now, let’s let Mom get some rest.”

They cleaned up and Luna cleared out. “I’ll be in the living room if you need anything.” Hawk said.

Gourry kissed Lina on the forehead, “And you know where I’ll be if you need anything.”

Lina settled into a chair and pulled out a book, “Do you want me to read some?”

“No, not right now.” She said as she laid back on the pillows. “Tell me about your house.”

“It should be ready in a few weeks.” Lina replied, “It will be just like any other house in town. Well, except for the library.”

Tori smiled, “What will you do?”

The “once I’m gone” part hung awkwardly in the air. Lina rubbed her arm absent mindedly, “Don’t know. I might help Daddy with the store. I might get more active with the guild. I haven’t really thought about it.”

“I remember how it was when I first settled down with your father. It was quite a change from the adventurous life we’d had until then.”

Lina moved from the chair and snuggled up into bed with her, “Was it difficult, leaving that life behind?”

“Sometimes.” Tori smiled wistfully, “But then I had your sister, and once you came along I was too busy to think about it much.”

“What was the hardest part?”

Tori leaned forward suddenly, her hands grasping at her temples. “My head…”

Lina sat up, “Mom?”

Tori looked at her, her expression dazed and confused. A pit of fear formed in Lina’s stomach. Whatever this was it couldn’t be good. “Stay here.” She ordered, and then ran for the door.

“Something’s wrong.” She cried as she flung it open.

The sound of heavy footfalls reverberated down the hall and soon the bedroom was full once again. “Where is the princess?” Luna asked.

“She went to take a bath.” Lina said as Hawk knelt beside the bed and grabbed Tori’s shoulders and asked her if she was okay.

“I’ll go get her.” Luna said and took off.

Lina stood, frozen in place as Gourry walked up behind her and put a hand on her shoulder. She watched as her father asked her mother to say something, and what came out was slurred gibberish. And suddenly an overwhelming urge to walk out and leave flooded her. Surely there had to be a bandit camp out there somewhere that she could pummel into next week.

The cozy bedroom suddenly felt like a dank, underground prison where the air barely touched. Lina took a deep breath and felt as though she had not taken in any air. She wanted to run, part of her wondered if by running what she was witnessing would cease to occur. Or if she could run far enough she could pretend that it was not happening.

Despite her instinctive need to run, she stayed right where she was as Gourry wrapped an arm around her. Luna returned with Amelia, whose hair was still wet. “What happened?” Amelia asked.

“Don’t know.” Lina said. “She said her head hurt and then…” she let her voice trail off. The scene before them told more than she could describe.

“Excuse me, Mr. Hawk.” Amelia said as she moved to take his position. She knelt in front of Tori and asked, “Can you move both of your hands up for me please, Miss Tori?”

Tori gave it a shot, but one arm was higher than the other. Amelia nodded, “Here, lean back on these pillows and rest.”

Amelia helped Tori arrange herself so her head and shoulders was slightly elevated on the pillows and then turned to face her family. Lina had seldom seen such grim look on her face. “She just had a stroke.” Amelia explained. “You’ll want to get the doctor, Mr. Gourry. Though, I don’t think that there’s much to do right now but wait.”

Lina felt her legs give out from under her as Gourry guided her to a chair. He moved so that he was standing in front of her and knelt down before her, cupping her cheek gently, “Will you be all right until I get back?”

She wanted to say that she would go with him. Anything to get out of this house that suddenly seemed stifling and oppressive. But the knowledge that she would regret it if her mother passed away in her absence kept her rooted in place. She nodded. He quickly kissed her on the forehead and was gone.

When she looked up Amelia was busy taking her mother’s vitals as her father held her sister. He was crying openly. She had her head buried in his chest. Was she crying? Lina could not remember ever seeing it happen. He opened his arm out, “Lina.” He said softly.

There was no escaping what was happening. The floodgates opened and Lina felt her cheeks moisten as she got up and wrapped her arms around both of them.

****

The doctor came and confirmed Amelia’s diagnosis and said that there was not much to do but keep her comfortable, and that soon it would be over.

But Tori proved that she was ever the fighter. She survived the night and the following morning. And then the day. Lina, Luna and Hawk did not leave the bedroom hardly at all, leaving Amelia and Gourry to care for the household business.

Every day she seemed more feeble, but still she clung to life. She slept most of the time, and the few times she woke she was so confused that it was a welcome relief when she fell back asleep.

There was a sick feeling in Lina’s stomach. How could someone who had been so strong be withered down to this? She was tired of watching as the life slowly drained from her. And while she did not want her to go, she realized that if she could not have her safe and healthy then she did not want her to suffer anymore. One night she snuggled close to her mother and whispered in her ear, “It’s okay, Mommy. I’ll be okay. You can go now, to some place better than here.”

The next day when Amelia came to check her vitals she wrinkled her nose at the smell. “You smell it, too.” Hawk stated as he sat at the foot of the bed, his hand on his wife’s knee.

Amelia looked at him, and then nodded. “Impending death has a smell.” He said, his voice distant.

Behind her she could feel Gourry as he patted her gently on the back as she lay cuddled up to her mother. Luna rested similarly on the other side. Lina felt her body quiver with sobs as they kept a silent vigil. The knowledge that she would soon be gone clung to every crevasse of the room.

It was late in the afternoon when Tori Inverse drew her last breath. It was Luna who broke the silence. “Goodbye.” She said evenly. Through the light that filtered through the window and hit her face Lina could see that it was wet with tears.

It only made it more real.

Hawk buried his face in his hands, his shoulders heaving with weighted sobs as Luna got up to embrace him. Amelia got up from her chair and checked her vitals and shook her head. Lina felt a sob tear through her body as Gourry lifted her up and pulled her into his lap and rocked her gently back and forth.

The pain of her loss was immense, and Lina felt as though a void had been opened within her that could never be filled. And then there was the sense of relief. That horrible sense of relief. Relief that her mother was safe from the pain and that she was no longer suffering. That hopefully, wherever she was, she was safe and whole and strong again.

Even Though it Breaks My Heart to Know We'll Be So Far Apart
Epilogue