A/N: So, this came into my mind after seeing a post on tumblr titled, "AUs that really need to happen more" and number one on that list was "10 hour road trip AU" and so, I give you...
The Tenth Hour
Summary: She'd always wanted to get to know him better, but as she straps herself into his car and gives him the nod to go, she wonders if a ten hour road trip is just a bit too much.
They weren't really that close. They'd met in their first lecture during their first year at university. Embarrassingly, they were both running late. The difference came where she had stood outside the door having a mild panic attack at the thought of striding into her first lecture late, he had turned up and breezed through the doors as if the thought of tardiness barely phased him. Now she knew him a little better, she knew that it hadn't. She had stared at him in awe as he strode through the door and had been surprised when he paused and grunted, "you coming or what?" Like a scared mouse she had squeaked before dashing forwards and following him into the room. It turned out that their lecturer didn't care about them being late, but she had never forgotten how easy it was to walk into the lecture hall hiding behind his much bigger form.
They spoke sporadically after that first meeting. "Can I borrow a pencil?" "Did you get that part?" "What does that mean?" "Shut up, I'm hungover as hell" (surprisingly that one came from her more often than he). Her friends had been surprised when she had first sat next to him at lunch in the small cafe near their campus but they soon quickly welcomed him into their little group. He didn't speak much, preferring to stew silently whilst general madness ensued around him. She had always thought that was a bit of a shame. She figured there was so much to know about him that he kept hidden from sight. He was terrifying to look at. A 6 foot giant with wild unruly hair and piercings on every single possible place that could be pierced. And yet he was smart. In their English Literature lectures she would peek over and see his notebooks filed with annotations and notes and hints to help him remember and his grades were always in the top ten of the class. He reminded her of a book. A book with a thick dark grey and unwelcoming cover, but with pages and pages of interesting facts and fascinating stories and tales flowing from inside.
When they had all finally graduated she was sad to admit that she still didn't know him any better than that first meeting, so when Lucy proposed a summer road trip as a way of a final goodbye she had jumped at the idea. Especially after noticing the way his lips seemed to quirk up in agreement when she mentioned it. A road trip would be an excellent way to get to know the silent giant she had spent so much time with in the last three years of her life.
She frowned now as she carefully clipped her seatbelt in and gave him a little nod, signalling that he was alright to go. She had wanted to get to know Gajeel, yes, but as Levy looked around the empty car she wondered if this was a bit too much? Some miscalculations had been made, and it turned out they didn't have enough space in the mini-van for two more people. Out of fairness that decided that after each city, they would swap the two people who would have to drive alone and Gajeel and Levy had picked first shift. And, at the same time, they had both picked the longest leg of the road trip. A ten hour trip with nobody but Gajeel for company. She gulped a little as he turned the key and the engine began to slowly rev.
"You got the map?" he asked absentmindedly as he began checking his mirrors.
"Got 'em!" she replied, waving the thick map in front of her face. He nodded once and with that they were off.
The first hour was awkward and passed mostly in silence. He hadn't turned the radio on and she was too nervous to reach out and do it herself, so she busied herself by pretending the reread the map. Every now and then she would mutter, "turn left here" or "no, you missed the turn, go back" and he would reply with a grunt or an "ah shit". But apart from that...complete silence.
"Why're we stopping?" she asked suddenly as Gajeel slowed to a halt on the side of fairly deserted road.
She didn't have to look at the mirror to know that her cheeks had just gotten extremely red, "ah...ah...well...off you go..." she mumbled lamely as he flung open the car door and ambled towards a cluster of bushes not far off.
As he went off, she wondered if he was feeling as awkward as she. At least he had the road to concentrate on. She didn't think she could keep her head buried in the map for the remaining nine hours of their journey. She did have a book to read in her bag, but she couldn't help but wonder if that would be considered rude to delve into a fantasy world and leave him stranded in silence in the real world. She nodded to herself suddenly, making a decision to try with Gajeel. She had been so excited to get to know him a little more after all, what did it matter if the situation was more intimate than she'd originally envisioned.
"Sorry 'bout that," he said in his usual grunt when he finally returned to the car, "you need to go?"
"Eh? Oh God, no!" she shuddered at thought of squatting over a bush, "I'll wait till we stop off and get something to eat."
He shrugged as he started the car up again.
"So, Gajeel," she said, clearing her throat a little after a couple minutes of silence, "what do you want to do now that we've graduated?" she had realised that she had no idea what his intentions for adult life were.
He shrugged again, something she had noted that he seemed to do a lot, "maybe go back home?"
"Where's home?" she asked, shifting over in her seat in interest, she had known that Gajeel hadn't grown up in Magnolia, but she had never thought to ask.
"A small village near Oak Town."
She pursed her lips as a silence fell in their car once more. He wasn't great at continuing a conversation, preferring to just answer the question itself. She didn't take offence by it, she had long since learnt that that was just how Gajeel was. It didn't mean it wasn't annoying though.
"Yeah, but what do you want to do back home?" she pushed, as far as she could tell, he didn't have many interests...apart from his strange fascination with piercings – which she was determined to get to the bottom of.
He shrugged again.
Huffing, she flopped back into her seat. Talking to him was like talking to a tree trunk. Useless.
"Well, I want to start my own library," she said, not really caring if he was listening or not, she just refused to sit in silence any longer, "the town I grew up in was really unlucky a few years back. There was a massive fire, thankfully the causalities were few but...a few buildings in the town centre were reduced to rubble. The library was one of them, and they haven't got enough funding to build a new one! I mean, I could start a library straight away, I'd have to work, just doing whatever for a few years until I can save enough, but eventually...eventually I'll have my own library."
She smiled a little as she thought about her future. She knew it would take a while, but she couldn't wait for the day she could push open the doors to her library and usher in the next generation of children hungry to read a book or perhaps write their own.
"Maybe a teacher."
"Huh?" she whipped her head around, she had assumed he hadn't even been listening to her ramble, "what was that?"
"Maybe I'll be a teacher."
She didn't mean to. She really didn't mean to. But she laughed. It was a weird sort of laugh, those ones that come out as more of a snort and a splutter rather than a laugh because she was so desperately trying to keep it bottled up inside.
For a few brief seconds he took his eyes off the road to glance at her, "what's so funny?"
"I just...I mean...the piercings for one!" she gasped between giggles, "you'll terrify the poor kids!"
He frowned, "are they scary?"
"Just a little."
"Did they scare you?"
She wasn't sure if she was imagining it, but she couldn't help but wonder if his the tone of his voice seemed to lower slightly as he as asked this question.
"Not really," she said earnestly, "I was too busy panicking about being late to that lecture."
He chuckled as he too recalled their first meeting. She liked the sound of his laugh, it was different. An odd "gii-hii" in his deep voice. Unique.
"I remember, you were shaking and muttering to yourself. I felt sorry for you."
"Hey! I was not shaking!"
"You were," he chuckled again, "and muttering something about making a bad impression. I should've filmed it."
"How long were you watching for?"
"A few minutes."
Silence fell after this admission. She wasn't sure why, but her cheeks seemed to feel much hotter suddenly.
"What's your favourite colour?"
They had been stuck in traffic for a while now, and it didn't look like they were moving anytime soon.
"My favourite colour?"
"Grey? I guess..."
Levy rolled her eyes as she eyed his grey sweatpants and darker grey t-shirt, "I should've expected that."
After sitting in the traffic for over fifteen minutes, they had both reclined their seats backwards and were lying down staring up at the ceiling. Gajeel's unruly hair had fallen forward slightly, and she knew she'd be a liar if she didn't admit that the bed head look was definitely a good one for him.
She smiled a little, he had gotten a lot better and asking questions now, "maybe purple...maybe yellow...maybe brown."
"You're a weird one, shortie," a hiss of annoyance fell from his lips as he said the final word of his sentence.
"Shortie...?" she asked, turning to face him, "did you just call me shortie?"
"Sorry," he grunted, a faint pink glow resting on the tip of his nose, "it slipped out."
"Shortie...huh," she mused, a small forming on her face, "is that what you call me in your head?"
"You do!" she sung, laughing a little, "you do!"
He had said the impromptu nickname with too much familiarity for it to be a one time thing and she was sure he had never called her it before.
"I'm not that short," she continued, enjoying teasing him. The pink glow was slowly spreading to his cheeks.
"You are. I could step on you."
"Hmm," she hummed, "Shortie...it could be worse."
She turned to him and smiled, and to her pleasure, he smiled back.
The diner was dimly lit and smelt a lot like stale alcohol, but they were both glad for get out of the car.
They had been sat by a friendly looking waitress who promised she'd be back in a few minutes with their drinks whilst they looked at the menu.
The dim light they had in the diner gave her an opportunity to stare at Gajeel without him noticing.
As she stared at him and watched him furrow his brows as he tried to read the menu in the near darkness, she realised that he was a rather attractive young man. He was unlike anyone she'd been attracted to before, with his many piercings, and almost permanent scowl of annoyance on his face. But he was definitely attractive. She didn't know if it was the way his hair framed his face when he let it loose, or the way his muscles subtly flexed against his t-shirt whenever he moved. Or maybe it was the way his eyes would light up when he looked at her. She didn't think he noticed that, but they would soften slightly and his perpetual state of annoyance would evaporate just for a brief moment. She realised, with a start, that it had always been like this.
When he would growl and snarl at Natsu, and sigh impatiently at Juvia, and outright mercilessly tease Lucy, he would reserve a softer tone for her or would wait patiently for her to copy his work without snatching it away. They weren't huge differences, but they were definitely there.
"What're you getting?"
He didn't snap at her, or demand and answer like he often would with Natsu or anyone else. She cocked her head to the side as she continued to watch him. Maybe she was imagining it. He wasn't staring at her with gooey eyes and making kissy faces at her that was for damn sure. But there was something...she was sure there was something.
Her heart did a little, ba-dump, with the use of that nickname. She didn't know why she liked it. She normally hated when people made fun of her height, but when he did it, it felt almost endearing.
"U-uhm, some meatballs," she answered quickly, saying the first thing she noticed on the menu, "and a coke. You?"
"Extra large bacon double cheeseburger, some chips and...a coke."
"Someone's hungry," she quipped dryly.
He laughed as the waitress came back to the table.
"And have you decided what you want today, sir?"
He repeated his choice quickly before handing the menu back to her.
"Alrighty, and for your girlfriend?"
Levy froze. Girlfriend? Girlfriend? Girlfriend?!
"Meatballs. Meatballs and coke," he answered.
The waitress nodded, grabbed Levy's menu from her frozen hands and skipped off, promising to bring their food shortly.
"She thought I was your girlfriend," Levy eventually managed to spit out, "why didn't you correct her?!"
He looked at her for a few seconds before answering, "was it a problem?"
The question startled her because, and once again she wondered if she was imagining it, but she got the feeling that there was more to the question.
"N-no..." she said finally "no it wasn't," and she wasn't lying.
"Are you sure about this?"
Levy rolled her eyes as she adjusted the seat, "stop asking me that, Gajeel and just put your seatbelt on."
After their meal, she'd decided that he needed a break and had offered to drive for an hour or so. It had taken a while for her to get him to agree to the swap, but eventually he had reluctantly agreed to it.
Once he was all strapped in, Levy turned the key and the engine revved to life. She checked behind her as she slowly reversed out of their parking space. As soon as she ascertained that nobody was around, she took off. Quite literally.
"What. The. Hell!" Gajeel roared as Levy zoomed across the parking lot.
"Hm?" she asked absentmindedly as she quickly turned left – skidding slightly – and moved onto the motorway, "are you ok?" she glanced towards him and saw he was clinging to the arm rest for dear life.
"Hell no I'm not ok!" he shouted, "where and how did you get your license?"
Levy chuckled as she resumed her attention of the road ahead. This wasn't the first time she'd had a complaint about her driving. Her mother complained a lot about it. Levy didn't see why.
"Is there a problem with my driving?" she asked with faux innocent and she pressed her foot down on the gas pedal, sending the car jolting forwards just a little bit more.
"Speed limits!" Gajeel almost shrieked, "have you heard of them?"
"I'm under the speed limit!"
"Yeah, by about half a mile! Jesus Christ, Levy. Slow down."
She frowned, but obeyed. The car began to slow and she turned to face him. To her surprise he was breathing heavily and was glaring at her.
"You'll get yourself killed driving like that," he growled.
"I know what I'm doing Gajeel. I've had my license for nearly four years now."
"Who did you bribe to get it?"
She laughed loudly at that, "you sound like my mum!"
"She sounds sensible."
Levy nodded, "very. You'd get along great Mr. Sensible."
"Do you have any brothers or sisters?" he asked suddenly, now the car was going at a normal speed, he seemed to have relaxed a lot more.
"Just one, she's only fourteen. What about you? I've never heard you speak about anyone."
He shook his head, "just me..."
She frowned, she didn't like the way he trailed off like that, "and...and your parents?"
Silence fell in the car for a few moment before Gajeel blew out a breath of air, "my mother died giving birth to me and my Dad...Dad died when I was about 8."
"Oh...oh...oh Gajeel!" she breathed, her entire body filling up with sadness, "I'm so sorry!"
He shrugged, and silence fell once again.
"What was he like?"
She was fed up with the awkward silence. They had once again swapped and Gajeel was back to driving again.
She wondered if she was doing the right thing. They weren't that close, though she had been sure that that had changed drastically during their trip so far. Maybe she was wrong. Maybe he was just tolerating her and was eagerly counting down the minutes until they were reunited with their other friends.
"He was a jerk."
"Eh?" that wasn't what she'd been expecting.
He chuckled, "yeah, a huge jerk. He'd make me wake up at 6am and train with him and if I cried he made me train harder. He got mad if I didn't do well at school or if I bunked or anything. And he wouldn't let me have a pet. Something about being an irresponsible brat"
Levy watched his face as he spoke, instead of glaring...he was smiling.
"He was a tattoo artist and he did piercings and all that crap," he continued, "he had a lot of piercings."
"So that's where you get it from..."
He nodded, "I make sure I get at least one every year. On his...on his birthday," he rushed the last part as if it embarrassed him to admit it.
"He sounds just like you."
"Yeah? That'd be nice."
"You miss him." It wasn't a question. She could tell by the looking of longing on his face that he missed his father and that for some reason, he felt he had to hide it.
"I bet he'd be proud you," she continued, "you just graduated from a great university and helped the wrestling team win how many trophies while you've been on it? He'd be so proud!"
And then he turned and smiled at her. And she smiled back, a brilliant, wide, bright smile.
"Can I turn the radio on?"
7 and a half hours into their trip and she has finally gained the courage to reach across to turn the radio on. She smirked and shook her head as she fiddled with the knob to find her favourite station. It felt laughable now, but she couldn't believe how she'd been to nervous to do such a simple task before.
"Ah, I love this song!" she gasped as she leant back and began nodding her head to the beat of the song. To her surprise, after a few brief seconds she heard another voice jump into the mix. She quickly glanced around and saw that Gajeel was mumbling along with the lyrics under his breath.
"You like it too!" she said as she watched him absentmindedly tap his free hand along with the beat and bop his head.
"It's a good song, yeah."
"I didn't think this would be your kind of thing," she admitted as the song changed to another, "I can't imagine you listening to music or dancing in your undies when you get out of the shower."
The roar of laughter that fell from his mouth, surprised her completely. He threw his head back entirely and laughed, his body shaking with mirth. She had never seen him look so entirely happy before.
"Do you do that a lot then," he asked after he had calmed down, "dance around in your "undies" when you get out of the shower?"
Without missing a beat, she matched his cocky smirk and said, "yes! You should try it."
The faint pink glow was back on the tip of his nose again, "maybe you'll have to teach me how."
Her bottom lip fell open in surprise as she realised what he was doing.
What he had been doing for the whole journey, in his own weird little way.
He was flirting. And she liked it. She liked it a lot.
"Maybe I will," she quipped back, cocky smirk still in place.
"It's cold!" she sniffed as she followed Gajeel across the car park of the petrol station they had stopped at as they were running near empty. She would have stayed in the car, but her legs were beginning to get stiff and she needed to walk about.
He walked in front of her and for the first time she realised he had a very nice rear.
His sweatpants sagged slightly, and tightened ever so slightly around his butt. Very nice.
Her cheeks reddened and she shook her head wildly, when the heck had she become so pervy. She couldn't remember having thoughts like that about Gajeel...ever.
He was a friend. A very attractive friend who flirted with her, but still a friend nonetheless.
The thought made her a little sad.
He was a friend. Just a friend.
And a friend who would be leaving her soon she realised suddenly.
After the trip, that was it. They'd all be going their separate ways and Gajeel would be nothing but a piece of her past.
The thought saddened her more than she wanted to admit.
"You'll keep in touch when you go back home, won't you Gajeel?" she asked suddenly. It's nearing the tenth hour of their journey and the tiredness has hit them both hard. It's quiet in the car once again, but not an awkward silence.
"Do you want me to?"
"Of course!" she snapped back, almost indignant, "why wouldn't I?"
"We don't really speak that much..."
"You don't speak to anyone much," she pointed out with a smile, "and...I know, that's part of the reason I wanted to go on this trip. So I could get to know you better. So...will you keep in touch?"
"For as long as you want me to."
"Do you like me?"
He groaned, and turned to look at her, "Levy. Don't."
"Do you like me?" she pushed on, shifting forwards in her seat so she was leaning closer to him. She knew he wasn't the type of person who liked speaking about his feelings but she wanted to know.
"I like you," she admitted, stretching out a hand to place on top of his, she squeezed it lightly, "I find you fascinating. What about you? Do you like me?"
"You know the answer."
"So you won't say it?"
He nodded and she pouted in frustration.
"Will you...will you show me?"
He paused for a few seconds and then he nodded and she smiled.
; the tenth hour
She was surprised that they had beat Lucy and the others to the hotel. A quick phone call had told them that something to do with Natsu and Gray having an argument in the car which ultimately involved Erza left them about 45 minutes behind.
Levy didn't mind. They were sitting in the back of the car now. His arm was draped casually around her shoulders and she was resting calmly in the little nook between his arm and chest.
She had not expected this. If you had told her at the beginning of the trip that the first leg would end with her lying serenely in Gajeel's arms, she would have laughed right in your face. And yet, here she was.
She smiled slightly as she felt the soft vibrations in his chest as he hummed in response. It was oddly attractive.
"For the rest of the journey...let's just drive together."
She didn't need to look up to know that he wore an identical grin on his face.
A/N: This is supposed to read sort of like a TV show, where you see them getting to know each other better and then it cuts to the next scene and they're much better friends but you don't see everything they do and say, but you get the bridge sort of that shows how it's developing and the history behind it. Does that make sense? I hope it does.
This piece features a bunch of my favourite headcanons:
- Levy doesn't drink much, but when she does she goes for it
- Gajeel likes kids, a lot, and he's really good with them (taken from that chapter where he takes a teaching assistant job off the request board! I mean, come on, why don't more people ever mention that?)
- He likes to read but never has any time for it really
- Levy is one of those drivers who get a weird adrenaline rush out of driving fast
- Gajeel get's a piercing every year for Metalicana's birthday because Metalicana had loads and Gajeel has never understood the stigma against piercings because he grew up around men and women with hundreds and they were the kindest and funniest people he'd ever met.
- He doesn't like that he scares people just by looking at them, but it's happened so much that he's sort of tried to embrace it.
- (headcanon for the AU particularly) Gajeel has liked Levy for a long time but he's never acted upon it, preferring to admire from a distance
So yes, I hope that was cool, it was just an idea that popped into my head after seeing the prompt on tumblr.
Review please :)