Lina Inverse has a difficult decision to make. Gourry comes up with a way to help her make it, and Zelgadis has the surprise of his life. (rather fluffy)
Date written: 9/7/05
Warnings: hints of het and slashiness. OOC fluffiness.
Disclaimer: I do not own the copyright to these characters and I'm making no profit from this fic and intend no copyright infringement.
Spell-checked and self-beta'd. Please inform me of any typos or other errors.
Summary: Lina faces a difficult decision, Gourry helps her make it, and Zel gets the surprise of his life.
(Assume that this takes place a few years beyond the end of "Try," when Lina and the guys are all a little older - maybe then it won't seem quite so ooc.)
Kiss and Tell
Sometimes, a decision is made by fate.
Lina Inverse didn't think about fate very often. She thought about living life, following her road as she found it, taking each adventure as it came along, just as long as adventures kept coming. She always looked forward to the next great meal, a new treasure to claim, a new spell to try. Making decisions was not her favorite thing, not the kind of decisions that require long thought and careful consideration, anyway. When it came time to decide something important -- like whether to trust a suspicious-acting chimera, or whether to risk destroying the world to save a man's life -- her heart decided for her on the spur of the moment.
The decision she was facing now was much more difficult than deciding which gourmet restuarant to try, and much more important than deciding which treasures to steal from a bandit's lair. It was even more difficult than deciding whether to risk destroying the world for the sake of a single man. Compared to this one, the decision to use the Giga Slave to save Gourry was simple.
She could see them from where she sat tending the campfire. Zelgadis watched the fishing lines, and Gourry had gone to fetch water from the stream. That gave Lina a rare moment to study each of them and wonder: If it came to the point, which one of them would she choose?
The sun glinted off the rippling water in the stream and flashed off of Zelgadis' bright silver hair. Gourry's smile was nearly as brilliant as he turned to greet the chimera. Zel returned the smile with a rare one of his own. Gourry's golden hair fell over his broad shoulder and he brushed it back out of the way as he stooped to fill the jugs. Zel sat quietly by the fishing rods, watching Gourry with a thoughtful expression.
"I could never choose one over the other," she admitted softly to herself. "I hope I never have to."
Sometimes, the most difficult decisions are best left undecided.
Gourry finished filling the jugs and sat back on his heels. Shading his eyes with one hand, he gazed across the sparkling water. Zelgadis followed his gaze, seeing nothing but the sparse trees on the further bank.
"What is it? Did you see something over there?"
"Hum? No," Gourry answered. "I was just thinking."
Zel raised a single eyebrow, but as Gourry drew his gaze back to the near shore, he could see that it was true. Gourry's vision had been focused on something in his thoughts, not the wilderness around them.
Gourry turned to him with a sheepish grin. "I know, Lina would fall over in a fit if she heard me say that. But I do think about things sometimes, you know."
"I know that," Zel said with a smile of his own. "You hide it rather well, but sometimes you think things through far more carefully than the rest of us do. Especially Lina!"
"Ah! Don't tell her that!" Gourry said in mock alarm.
Zel shook his head and laughed softly. "Don't worry. I wouldn't risk it!"
For a few minutes, there was only the sound of rippling water over stones, a few birds chittering sleepily in the trees behind them, and the chirp of a frog hiding in the bank of the stream nearby.
"You hide your feelings just as well," Gourry said quietly.
Zel looked at him warily. "What do you mean?"
Gourry sighed. "Zelgadis... you should let her know how you feel. Don't keep her waiting forever."
"What are you talking about?" Zel said nervously. "I don't...."
He gave up under Gourry's direct blue-eyed gaze.
"Yes, you do," Gourry insisted softly. "And what's more, it's plain to me that she cares for you just as much as you love her. But if you keep going off on your own, acting like you don't care, she'll never know for sure, will she? She doesn't want to stop you, but if you just give her a sign, she'll follow you to the ends of the earth to help you find what you're looking for."
Zel stared, open-mouthed. As unnerving as Gourry's insight could be, he was even more shocked by the swordsman's generosity.
"Gourry, now you are being a jellyfish-brain! I know how you feel about Lina, and it's very clear she feels the same way about you! I know Lina and the rest of you wish to help me. I don't mean to seem ungrateful, it's just that I need to do things my own way. But that's not... Anyway, Gourry, you're the one who needs to tell her how you feel. Lina's as bold as any warrior, but there are some things even she is shy about. Admitting how she feels about you is one of those things. You have to speak up first."
To his surprise, Gourry blushed and dropped his head, half hiding his face under a curtain of golden hair. He mumbled something Zel couldn't hear, then peered up with one blue eye glinting.
"Zel, do you think I'm crazy? If Lina knew how I really feel, she'd blast me to a crisp! She doesn't feel that way about me. She'd rather be with someone who's got real magical ability, someone who reads books and thinks about things a lot.... like you."
Zel shook his head. "That's ridiculous! You and Lina belong together, Gourry! She loves arguing with you, and as much as she denies it, she loves having you as her protector."
Gourry got up and walked over to Zel, smiling and shaking his head.
"Nope. You've got it wrong, Zel!"
Zelgadis stood up and grinned at him.
"Well, there's one sure way to find out. We can go right up and ask her. I'm sure I know what she'll answer!"
Gourry stopped short, looking shocked.
"Are you crazy? I'll get a fireball in my face if you make her think I... if she knows that I... you can't just tell her that! Then again, maybe if you tell her how you feel, she'll be so happy she'll forget to blast me!"
"I doubt that very much! If you tell her how you feel, she'll be happy! But if you tell her how I feel, she may not blast me but she'll probably have a good laugh."
He couldn't even blame her for that, and he thought he might not even mind making her laugh.
"Uh-uh," Gourry said stubbornly. The swordsman's grin grew wider, so much so that Zelgadis got a little worried. He'd been joking when he said they should just ask Lina how she felt! Now Gourry looked like he was hatching a scheme, and that was downright unnerving.
"Come on!" Gourry said, taking him by the arm. "I know how we can settle this for sure!"
Too surprised to resist, Zelgadis let himself be led back up the slope to the campsite where Lina had the fire blazing.
"Hey, where's the fish? I'm getting hungry!" she said by way of greeting.
"The fish will have to wait a little longer," Gourry said with alarming decisiveness. "We have a question for you."
"Gourry!" Zelgadis stopped in his tracks a few feet away from Lina, while Gourry walked right on up to her. She looked at him suspiciously.
"You have a question? Do you have any idea how nervous that makes me?" she asked. Her eyebrow started to twitch.
"No, it's not one of those kinds of questions," he said, brushing off what anyone else might take as an insult. "You have to answer this for both of us."
He reached out and unceremoniously grabbed Zel's arm again to pull him closer, so all three were standing within arm's length of each other.
"Well? What is so important that it has to keep me waiting for dinner?" she said, tapping her foot dangerously.
"Gourry, this isn't a good idea!" Zelgadis said nervously, trying to back away.
His nervousness, and maybe his blushing face, caught Lina's attention. To his distress, she suddenly seemed a lot more interested in Gourry's question.
"Okay, what is it?" she asked, looking at each of them in turn.
Gourry hesistated only a second. Then he grinned, waved his index finger in the air, and announced his question.
"You have to tell us which of us is the better kisser!"
Zelgadis jaw dropped; he stood there gaping like a fish-man. Lina's eyes popped open, but then, to Zel's even greater distress, a sly grin crossed her face.
"Oh, I see! It's that kind of question, hmm?"
Zelgadis saw what Gourry's plan must be. Thinking it's a game and a way to pick on them, Lina would go along with it, but the result would be a clear indication of which one of them she had the strongest feelings for. The other one would probably get fireballed for "taking advantage of her innocence," but since that would undoubtedly be him, he didn't mind a bit. At least then, Gourry and she would finally have to admit how they felt about each other. And he could laugh his part off as a joke and go on being their friend, wishing them the very best.
Sometimes that jellyfish-brained swordsman was positively brilliant.
Lina looked at each of them in turn again, challengingly. "No extra funny, stuff, now!" she warned, stepping closer, still equal distance from both of them. "And my decision is final! Got that?"
They nodded, Gourry with a happy grin and a smug look aside at Zel. Zel's nod of agreement was a little stunned. He knew that Gourry expected to be the one to get the fireball in the face, but Zel was quite certain he was in for a big surprise.
"Hmm, where to start?" Lina mused. "Guess we may as well go in the order I first met you both..."
Zel watched as she closed her eyes and leaned up on tiptoe. Gourry braced himself, swallowed nervously, and bent down to meet her.
Lina couldn't believe she was going along with this. What were these to up to, anyway? She had to be crazy to be doing this... if they caught on to how she felt about both of them, it could ruin everything. But the expressions on their faces awoke a streak of mischief in her and wouldn't let her back away. They were both adorable when they blushed like that!
Besides, deciding which one is the better kisser wasn't like deciding which one she wanted to spend the rest of her life with. They didn't ask her that, anyway.
So she leaned up close to Gourry, placing her hand on his breastplate to steady herself on the points of her toes. He was so tall, and so strong and so close, and his hair brushed against her face just before their lips met....
She immediately realized she was in big trouble. For a big, strong, tough swordsman, Gourry's lips were wonderfully soft and warm and sweet. She sighed, and their breath mingled as he sighed at the same time. Wait a sec! she thought frantically. Breathe! Think! But it was too late for that. She should have done her thinking before she agreed to this crazy game.
For a few timeless seconds there was nothing in her world but Gourry, and the warm tingle that ran from her lips down through her body to her toes. Then slowly, the soft rippling of water, the slanting sun on her skin, the twitter of birds, and the quiet shuffle of Zel's feet in the dirt called her back to the present.
She stepped down and back, opening her eyes to look up at Gourry. His eyes drifted open, clouded and dreamy.
She pulled herself back into herself with an effort and plastered a playful grin on her face.
"Hmm, not bad, Gourry! Especially since I bet that's your first kiss ever!" She nudged him with her elbow. Then turned to eye Zelgadis, raising an eyebrow suggestively.
"Guess I better not ask if this is your first kiss," she said.
The mortified look and the deep crimson blush on Zel's face made her wish she hadn't said that. She really had no idea if he'd ever kissed anyone before... or done anything else, for that matter. She always had the idea he was a little more... experienced... than the rest of them, but then again, sometimes he seemed like the most innocent one of all.
Anyway, best way to deal with his embarrassment now was to jump in and not give him time to think about it. Besides, Lina had to admit to herself, she was even more curious about what it would be like to kiss Zel than she was about Gourry. Kissing Gourry seemed kind of strangely familiar, in a dreamy way. Somehow, she guessed that kissing Zelgadis would be a more down-to-earth experience.
If she could keep him from backing away into the river, that is.
"Lina, this isn't necessary," he said, holding up his hands. "I don't think... you don't have to..."
"Nah, it wouldn't be fair to let Gourry get away with this if I don't do it to you, too!" she said, grinning wickedly. No harm in having a little fun, she thought, especially if it helped Zelgadis get over his self-consciousness about his body.
He froze when she touched his arm.
"Hold still, Zel. This won't hurt a bit, I promise!"
He looked like he didn't believe her. But he held still, like a deer caught in a lighting spell, while she stretched up again to touch her lips to his.
As soon as she did, she knew the answer to their question, and to her own.
Zel's lips were firm but soft, hesistant and gentle in spite of his stone body and his distant manner. Another timeless flow of seconds passed, until she noticed that she'd cupped her palm against the side of his neck where she could fell his pulse racing, and that he'd placed a gentle hand under her chin.
She suddenly realized that she wasn't a little girl anymore, and this wsan't just a kissing game. Not for her, anyway, and maybe it wasn't for them, either.
She pulled back and stepped down, catching her breath a little. Zel appeared dazed for a second, then he stole a guilty look aside at Gourry.
It was the look on Gourry's face that really surprised her, and made everything clear and simple at last. The knowing, blissful smile he had while watching them faded slowly as she stepped back, placed her hands on her hips and cocked her head to one side.
She was right: she could never decide between the two of them. But as gallant as they both were, she guessed that either one would step aside for the other, if he thought it was necessary. She couldn't let that happen. She didn't intend to loose either of them, or see them lose each other.
"Hmmm...." she said. They waited speechlessly. Zel still looked dazed and confused, while Gourry looked like he'd gotten the answer to every question ever asked. She sighed, raised her hand to scratch the back of her head, closed her eyes and let them think she was thinking about it really hard.
"Nope!" she said at last. "I can't decide. Better try it again!"
Gourry's face crumpled into confusion. "Lina! What are you saying? Didn't you like Zel's kiss better?"
"Hah," she said, "is that what you were expecting me to say?"
"Well, I just thought..."
"Well, stop thinking, then! Come on, I said we have to try it again!"
Doubtfully, he looked down at her as she stepped closer again. She couldn't help grinning; he may have come up with this little scheme on his own, but he was being typically slow to catch on now.
This time, when she got up on tiptoe again, she threw her arms around his shoulders. Instinctively he circled his arms around her, in a way that she might have had to punch his lights out for on any previous occasion. Not this time. This time, she let that odd, familiar, warm feeling flow through her and let their lips dance together, really getting a taste of him.
When she slid down to the ground a minute - or so - later, he sighed.
"Lina..." Gourry's eyes fluttered open, and the light in them warmed her heart. But a second later, his soft smile was replaced by a frown of concern. "But...?"
Just as Zelgadis did a moment before, he glanced up at the chimera with a furtive, guilty look. Zelgadis was the one who now looked smug, like he knew everything there is to know about everything. And, Lina thought, he was still wrong.
"Not done yet," she reminded him. "One more time!"
Zel was startled and wide eyed when she slid her arms around his stiff shoulders and smiled up into his face. But he melted a little more quickly this time. Their lips curled and teased each other, and for a second his tongue darted out to taste hers.
She had to draw away a little more quickly this time and catch her breath. The tingling feeling was getting stronger, and now she knew her own face was flushed with warmth.
Once again, Gourry had that blissful, satisfied smile as she pulled away, but he was definitely looking at Zelgadis this time, not at her. Zelgadis blinked, looking like he'd lost something at the same time that he found it.
She nodded. "Thought so," she whispered to herself.
"Okay! One more try and then we'll have our answer!" she announced.
They both turned to her, completely baffled, to her delight.
"Don't you know yet?" Gourry asked, almost whining.
"Well, sort of, but there's one more test to make sure. I need a second opinion!"
"Huh?" they both gaped at her at once, then at each other, then around at the wilderness that surrounded them.
She took their arms and forcefully turned them toward each other.
"I can't really decide, so you two try kissing each other and see what you think!"
She almost laughed out loud at the way Gourry's eyes bugged out and his jaw dropped, and she'd never seen Zelgadis blush quite that shade of red before! But after a moment of shock, Gourry beamed happily.
"Hey, that's a great idea!"
"What?" Zelgadis squawked. "You're joking!"
Gourry shook his head and placed his hands on Zel's shoulders to steady him. Zelgadis looked like he was frozen to the ground, like he would have run away fast if he could have got his feet to move.
"Nope. Not joking at all."
Gourry glanced aside at Lina and winked, and she winked back at him. Sometimes it was downright scary how well they understood each other.
Before Zelgadis could protest any further, Gourry leaned down and nudged his stone-crusted chin up with one gentle hand. Zel's eyes were still wide open in shock when Gourry's lips touched his, but a second later they drifted closed.
The giddy warmth that rushed through Lina while she watched them told her that her decision had already been made, at least. Gourry had made his choice as well, she could see just as plainly. Zelgadis sighed, although Lina guessed he didn't realize he did so.
After a long moment, Gourry's eyes fluttered half open, and Lina saw the glint in them as he glanced aside at her. He slid his further arm around Zel's shoulder to draw him closer, and Zel sort of flowed toward him, letting his own arm circle Gourry's waist, but with his eyes closed he didn't seem to realize what he was doing.
Gourry dropped his other hand from Zel's shoulder and reached out to Lina. She stepped forward and circled the both of them with her own two arms, and leaned in close.
"Well, that wasn't so difficult after all," she chuckled softly.
"Mm-hm," Gourry agreed.
Zelgadis sensed Lina come up beside them, heard her speak, felt her touch, but it took a few more seconds for him to realize how close she was. He jerked back from Gourry but found himself trapped in their embrace. In a haze of confusion, he looked from one to the other. Nearly identical grins greeted him from both of their faces. Their arms were amazingly firm and comfortable around him, and around each other.
"What do you mean?" he asked. "What wasn't so difficult?"
"Don't see how we could make it any clearer," Lina said with a shrug.
Their three faces were close together. Lina and Gourry both looked blissfully happy, and a little smug as well. He felt like he missed something important, like the game and rules changed when he was standing there sighing like a dreamy schoolgirl.
"I knew I couldn't choose between the two of you," Lina sighed. "I love you both, you know."
"You do?" Zelgadis said before he can stop himself. She laughed softly again.
"Told you so," Gourry said to him with a twinkle in his eyes. "The problem is, I could never choose between you two, either!"
"Heh," Lina laughed. "And that means we're not letting you get away again, Zel. "
"You don't mean... you don't really..." he mumbled incoherently. Finally he drew back enough to look at both of them. "This is crazy. We can't all be together!"
"Why not?" Gourry said, with typical innocence. Then his brow creased. "Except if you only feel that way about Lina..."
"Argh!" Lina exclaimed. "No, no, no, idiot! It's you he feels that way about, that's obvious! He's just too shy to admit it. You have to speak up first."
"Hm, I don't know, Lina, I think Zelgadis would rather be with you, someone who does magic and reads books and thinks about things a lot!"
Zelgadis couldn't believe they were standing here in a group hug, arguing like they always did, only they were arguing over him, and using the same arguments he'd just used with Gourry about Lina.
"You're both crazy," he muttered under the sound of their argument. "Or maybe it's just me whose insane!"
They exchanged a quick look, and before he knew what they were up to, they leaned in from either side, Gourry bending down and Lina reaching up, and together they kissed the corners of his mouth.
"Not fair," he said breathlessly. " I can only kiss one of you at a time."
"Mmmm," Gourry said, "Me first, then!"
He drew Zel's face toward his with a gentle hand on his chin. Zelgadis could hardly believe how gentle Gourry was, or for that matter, how gentle he himself could be. Then he gasped into the kiss when he felt Lina nuzzle against his ear.
"Okay, come on, my turn now!" she said impishly.
Gourry gave way, pretending fear of her, but she was just as gentle with him as Gourry had been. When he started to feel light headed, she let him go, and then he watched with dazed eyes as they turned and kissed each other. He couldn't remember ever feeling such a wonderful warmth flow through his stone body as he did in their embrace. Their hair, red and gold, flowed together, and he pressed his face into the soft curtain of it.
Their kiss ended, and Lina leaned her head against Zel's. They both nestled under the tall swordsman's chin.
"Heh," Gourry chuckled softly. "Best idea I ever had, right Zel?"
"You're a genius, Gourry," Lina said. "But don't tell anyone I said that!"
"And I thought nothing stranger could ever happen to me, after all the other weird adventures we've been through together!" Zelgadis murmured in wonder.
"Well," Lina said, "all I can say is, this was the easiest decision I've ever had to make in my life!"
Sometimes, a difficult decision isn't really difficult at all.
(I have an urge to write a whole series of complicated, detailed lemon scenes with the three of them. Not promising anything, but you never know....)