AN: What can I say? I love irony and right now I'm full of sap. I guess that makes me a really healthy tree. This is a companion fic to On The Wings of A Wish and A Prayer. I suggest you read that one first before reading this one, though reading this first works too… I honestly think that Lea Salonga did the best version of Eponine (anyone feel free to correct me on the character's name and or spelling!)
In the Darkest of Nights…
Song is "On My Own" from Les Miserables.
And now I'm all alone again
Nowhere to go, no one to turn to
Without a home without a friend
Without a face to say hello to
And now the night is near
I can make believe he's here
Lina Inverse closed the door to her room and sighed, letting the mask drop. Another day of bandit-hunting, of trying to teach Sylphiel how to control her Flare Arrow (it blew up with all the force of three fireballs this time) and watching her and Gourry acting sweet toward each other. As usual, it annoyed her, but it was only recently Lina had come to understand her own jealousy: She was lonely. Not the kind of loneliness that came from being different or without friends, but rather the loneliness that stemmed from not having someone special to turn to, knowing that someone looked at you in a special sort of way, looking at you the way no one else did.
Was it so wrong to want to feel the way Sylphiel did when Gourry smiled at her? Was it so wrong to want the same kind of smile that warmed your heart, made it skip and stole your breath? Only one person had made her feel that way, made her feel secure, bringing a gasp of surprise from her when he protected her, made her giddy as he held her hand…
But it was impossible to have him. No matter what she wanted, no matter how hard she wished.
Sometimes I walk alone at night
When everybody else is sleeping
I think of him and them I'm happy
With the company I'm keeping
The city goes to bed
And I can live inside my head
Dropping her armor on the chair next to her bed and her boots next to the chair, Lina sprawled on the bed, burying her face for several numbing moments in the pillow before she flipped onto her back.
The moon shone full outside her window, hanging low in the sky and cast with a golden tinge, not yet late enough for it to become silver. It was gold, like the highlights on the hair of the one who had smiled at her, the one who had made her heart stop for the briefest of instants, whose warm expression stopped time and whose voice haunted her dreams…
She closed her eyes and did what she had done for so many nights now. She began to pretend. Pretending was easy. It was something she was good at. It was something she did every day, the face she showed the world, the mask she hid behind, the woman known as the Bandit Killer, the heartless Enemy of All Who Lived, the Dragon Spooker.
No one knew the truth behind the names… but he had glimpsed it, she knew, seen the kindred spirit that lit her eyes. So Lina played make-believe, spun her dreams of tingling gossamer, a fantasy of the one she loved beyond reason, despite her having known him for only a short time. Follow the path you believe in…then what you wish for will come true…
On my own
Pretending he's beside me
All alone I walk with him till morning
I feel his arms around me
And when I lose my way
I close my eyes
And he has found me
Lina hugged her pillow the way she wanted to hold him, pretended it was him crushing her against his powerful body. In her dreams they walked aimlessly, talking of many things, engaged in friendly argument, the exercise of two like minds. She pictured him fighting at her side, defeating all who stood against them, his power hinted at by his near-idle gestures, his instantaneous casting of spells, when he needed to use his magic at all.
In her dreams, he sought her in the night and finding her, would stay with her and together they would watch the stars as they crept across the sky in their preordained paths, routes that they had traveled since the dawn of time. And under those starts, two hearts would meet and become one. Hasn't it always been thus since the world's creation that a man would love a woman, and the other way around?
But not this love. They were so alike, and yet their worlds were so different, so separate that this dream could never be anything but…a dream.
In the rain
The pavement shines like silver
All the lights
Are misty in the river
In the darkness,
The trees are full of starlight
And all I see is him and me
Forever and forever
"Lina…are you all right?" Sylphiel's voice broke through her reverie. The two sorceresses were seated in a cabin, taking shelter from the heavy downpour.
Amelia and Gourry had gone into the village to buy supplies, and Zelgadiss was asleep near the fireplace, his cloak hanging nearby to dry. Lina blinked twice and turned to face the black-haired woman, who was cutting some potatoes for the night's supper – a savory rabbit stew made with a few coneys that Zelgadiss had hunted down earlier, and wild vegetables and herbs that Lina, Sylphiel and Amelia had found along the way. If the village inn hadn't been full they might have stayed there, but as it was, they were lucky that a local woodcutter had loaned them his cabin.
"Huh? What makes you say that, Sylphiel?" Lina asked, surprised. "I'm just fine! I was lost in thought, that's all." She laughed it off.
"Oh." The green-eyed shrine maiden lowered her gaze then raised it again. "It's just that for a moment, you looked like you were really saddened by something…as though you missed someone." Her hand flew to her lips in embarrassment. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to pry…I was just…"
"Worried about me?" Lina shook her head and sighed. It must really be bad if it's showing on my face! And whom else can I trust with something like this but Sylphiel? "Actually…you're right, Sylphiel." She picked up a carrot and started to peel it. "I've been in love with someone for a long time now, but I think it's impossible for me to even tell him what I feel, and the chances of a relationship are even slimmer."
Sylphiel's expression of concern deepened. "Why do you think that, Lina? It's not impossible to reveal your heart to the one you love…" Her expression softened and she blushed for a moment, then she looked up again. "Nothing is so impossible."
"Yeah, but hear me out…" Lina started chopping up the carrot into sticks, then cubes, with quick, practiced movements. "It's just that his world and mine are so different… what we are and what we do, in fact, even who we are get in the way of more than just friendship…"
"Lina, forgive me for interrupting, but can I ask you some things?" when Lina nodded, Sylphiel continued. "Why do you think you're in love with this …guy?" she held up a hand to forestall Lina's protest. "He must be very special indeed if he caught your eye and your heart. But I can't advise you unless you yourself know…why."
And I know
It's only in my mind
That I'm talking to myself
And not to him
I know that he is blind
Still I say
There's a way for us
"I guess you're right…" Lina picked up some herbs and began to trim them. "Let me think for a moment, okay?" The shine maiden nodded, and both young women sank into their own thoughts for a few minutes.
Finally, Lina started to speak, and Sylphiel pulled herself from her own reverie to listen. "Well, for one thing, I feel that I can respect him, really admire him because I know what he's been through. He and I aren't so different – we're both survivors." she thought some more about him and continued to speak. "I never felt safer than when he protected me, and with him, I felt like I wasn't alone, like I could depend on him being there…and it felt like I belonged there, like he belonged there. And I feel like we really understand each other… Plus, I've always felt I need someone at least as strong as me, or stronger, and I know he's that. Not just in the literal sense, but also in character and in spirit…" she trailed off, the smile that had lit her face dimming.
"It's because of those qualities you wanted in a man…that it's been so hard for you to find someone, isn't it, Lina?" Sylphiel asked, not without sympathy. Of them all, she understood the red-haired sorceress the most. "And now, you found that person but you think you cannot tell him what you feel because of circumstances."
"Yeah. You've hit it right on the head, Sylph." Lina sighed, melancholy again.
"Is that why you've been daydreaming a lot lately?" Lina gasped in surprise. "Sylphiel, you knew?" Sylphiel nodded, smiling a little. "I've seen many girls in love…I am one, you know… and I've seen them daydream about the one they love. I do it too, a lot. So I know what its like and what it looks like…" her expression turned serious. "I think you should at least try, despite all those obstacles you mentioned earlier." She reached out and clasped Lina's hand in her own. "You're not the type to fall in love so easily, you know. And if you think you're really that compatible, then he will listen to you at least."
I love him
But when the night is over
He is gone
The river's just a river
The world around me changes
The trees are bare
The streets are full of strangers
Startled, the two young sorceresses jumped. Zelgadiss sat up and looked at them, his expression serious.
"Zelgadiss! How long have you been…?" Lina exclaimed, mortified.
"Long enough. I didn't mean to eavesdrop. I was just sort of half-awake half asleep, so I couldn't help but overhear your conversation." Zelgadiss said by way of apology. He got up and checked on his cloak. "But from the sounds of things you shouldn't let this guy get away, especially if he is as good as you say he is."
Zelgadiss fingered the rough fabric and let it fall, sighing in annoyance. "Not dry yet…" he walked over to the girls and plopped himself down on the stool between Sylphiel and Lina. "It's true it's hard to fall in love, and it's even harder to risk opening yourself up to someone. Rejection is a scary thing, but I think… living alone is even worse. You think you and this guy think alike, then how would you react to his telling you he loves you?" he smiled as Lina blushed slightly.
"For all you know, he feels the same way. What will it cost you to find out?" Zelgadiss gestured to himself. "I know that I might just be wasting my time trying to find a cure. Shaburanigdo said he could not give me back my human body… and if he can't cure me, what could, right?" he smiled at the two women as they opened their mouths to reassure him. "But I'm going to look anyway. Who knows, I might find a cure. If I don't, at least I tried, didn't I? I'll know that there's no cure, which I think is better than simply giving up and saying 'What if…' the rest of my life."
Sylphiel looked at Lina, that strong light of encouragement. "He's right, Lina… you've got to find out. If you don't…"
Lina nodded. "I won't be able to move on if I don't do this." She finished chopping up her share of the vegetables.
"Exactly." Zelgadiss clapped her on the shoulder. "And if things don't turn out … we'll be around for you. You can always count on us."
"Thanks guys." Lina got up.
"Where are you going?" Sylphiel asked, surprised.
"I'm going to pack. I want to go as soon as possible. I need to get this done and over with." She grinned at her two friends. "You know me. Always on the go, right?"
Zelgadiss nodded, and with an expression as serious as a hear attack, he said, "But after dinner. You do have your priorities after all."
"That's MY line!" Lina snapped. The three friends then looked at each other and began to laugh.
I love him
But every day I'm learning
All my life
I've only been pretending
His world will go on turning
A world that's full of happiness
That I have never known
Lina stood on a cliff, looking at her map. "Just this last stretch…and I'll be there." She sighed and looked down at the escarpment she wanted to get off of. It was a steeply sloping one, but she didn't feel like casting a Levitation just to get down, so she jumped.
She grinned in exhilaration as she skidded down the mountainside and ended up in the woods below. She walked into a dreary little village a few days later. She managed to find someone to put her up for the night. She lay in the barn, having made a cozy little nest for herself and smiling up at the ceiling, liking the color of the hay and it's smell.
A lone candle in a candlestick cast dancing shadows onto the wall and shrouded the rest of the barn in friendly darkness. Lina looked at the neat rows of bushel baskets filled with maize and potatoes. An owl peered down at her, his large golden eyes growing bigger as he beheld the little human woman down below. Hooting twice, the owl dropped down from the rafters and ghosted out the window, his shadow framed against the moon for an instant before he vanished into the night.
At least…after this I will know. Then I can move on. She thought to herself, following the owl's flight out of the barn. After a few moments of silence, she sat up. "Who am I kidding? I know I've never fallen this hard before… it's going to take me a long time to get over him if he rejects me."
She kicked slowly at some tufts of hay. "This is even scarier than facing Dark Lords…and it feels like a bigger, riskier gamble than any I've ever taken. But…" she sank her chin onto her arm and knee. "I don't want to pine away for someone who doesn't want me. I don't want to keep loving someone who doesn't know how I feel, who doesn't need me…" she got up and threw on her cloak and shoulder-guards.
Hefting her duffel over her shoulder, she looked grimly out into the night after the owl. "I'm not going to be able to sleep, knowing you're so close. I've got to tell you what I feel…tonight, if need be."
I love him
Lina picked her way through some boulders littering a snake-wriggle path, thinking of the things that she would say to him when she found him at last. Words of affection and explanation were replaced by curses as her boot caught between two large stones. She dropped her bag and tried to free it, but found that her toe had caught between another rock. She sighed in annoyance and looked up at the moon in supplication.
The moon just gazed back serenely. "A lot of help you are." Lina sat down and proceeded to remove her foot from inside the boot. It took her a while, but she was able to, then eased her boot out from the hole and examined it for damage. Satisfied that there was very little, she pulled the boot back on.
Two stones clacked against each other. Lina froze, every sense alerted, every muscle tensed in alarm. Someone's beyond that bend…but who?
I love him
Hand on her sword, the other poised to throw a spell, Lina strained her ears to catch any sound at all. She heard the soft click of footsteps, then silence. Who's there? Did he or she hear me? Who could be out here in this time of night? Lina wondered to herself. She looked around, hoping to find a way to go around the person ahead of her. Intent on her mission, Lina began to tiptoe back the way she had come.
A voice began to speak, and she froze in her tracks. It couldn't be… the person beyond the outcropping of rock continued to speak to himself. It is!
Hurrying back to the wall of stone as quietly as she could, Lina pressed against it, her heart in her throat. He began to talk, thinking out loud, about how he felt. He spoke about the one he wanted to see, and wondered if he should confess his love to her, despite not knowing her well. Hearing this, Lina clung to the wall, her eyes wide, forcing herself to remain standing through the sheer force of will. They were alike, he murmured, and she was like no one else in the world. Yet he stood no chance with her, he believed. Though they were alike, they were also of different worlds…
Lina gazed up at the sky, clinging to the stone to give her strength. Her eyes were wide as the man she loved declared to the stars his heart.
I love him
It can't be. This is too unreal. Lina's heart protested, even as his words echoed in her mind. He loves…he loves…!
She was falling. With a yelp she landed on her knees a couple of feet away. Stunned, she looked up. Her instinctive shriek of indignation died on her lips as her ruby eyes met golden ones, mesmerizing her once again.
The world stood still, held it's breath, time freezing, as emotions she thought she had bottled away surged into her being and threatened to drown her. She breathed his name and memories overwhelmed her.
Once again, she was kneeling before him, and again he held his hand out to her, to help her up… "I'm sorry, Lina…I did not see you there. Are you hurt?" A look of concern, worry, contriteness…
"Huh? Oh, no, no, no, I'm fine, really! It takes a lot more than this to hurt me! Honest!" Lina took his hand and let him pull her to her feet, noticing how he was careful not to crush her fingers with his grip. She marveled at his instinctive restraint and control. It was only after a few moments that she realized that she hadn't let go of his hand, nor had he let go of hers, that the truth finally sank in.
She looked up at him, knowing she was blushing, and was surprised to see a blush on his cheeks as well.
But only on my own…
I know now. And there is nothing left to fear…when I never should have been afraid at all. Lina smiled and made her decision. She gazed at their hands, liking how her small hand vanished into his white-gloved ones. She had to tell him, but where to begin? The hell with it! Just talk, Lina Inverse! Seize the day, Lina Inverse! Tell him the truth, Lina Inverse! Smiling shyly despite herself, she murmured. "Ah…Milgazia?" There was nothing left to fear, now that she knew she was the one the Dragon Elder loved.
AN: Now that ye've finshed this, and ye've reviewed (please do!) go on and read A Prayer Answered, A Wish Granted It's the last part of this trilogy, which I've named Drawing Parallel Lines Read, enjoy and review!