There had never been a boring day in Fairy Tail when Lucy was seventeen, and when she was twenty-eight, it was thankfully no different.
Not boring, but not necessarily without its similarities.
Lucy still needed to break up fights in the school hallways with cracks of her whip, still greeted Igneel in the corridor while she walked to her next class to teach, still walked out into the guild hall every day to find chaos.
This time, Nashi was perched up on Igneel's shoulders, Ur on Silver's, playing some kind of game of chicken. It was almost a shame that Ur was the three year old other than Nashi-he got along with Lucy's daughter about as well as Natsu with Gray.
Nashi growled when Ur pulled her pink pigtail, and before her little hand could smack out, Lucy snatched her off of her grandfather's shoulders with a sigh and brought her child to her chest, glaring at the lot of them. "Can't you give my daughter a few years before she becomes as violent as the rest of you?"
Igneel looked sheepish, tie astray and graying, red hair mussed where Nashi had held onto it. "She was just playing…"
"Don't associate the word 'playing' with 'fighting', thank you," Lucy told him, not without a smile. "Levy, weren't you supposed to be watching her?"
"Hmm?" Levy seemed spaced out as she often did, sitting at a great, wooden table while translating works. Her own son, Drake, was bumbling around happily on her lap and playing with a little toy dragon while Pantherlily tried to bat it away.
"Never mind," Lucy muttered, rolling her eyes. "Let me guess-your husband is off fighting mine somewhere."
"Gray too," Levy said faintly, though she shot a smile. "I don't know how Gajeel, Gray, and Natsu manage to pull off a three way fight, especially with Natsu's abilities, but I still saw them heading to the dojo about an hour ago."
"Better drag him out before he lights them on fire," Lucy said, hiking Nashi higher up on her hip and waving. "Later!"
"Don't move around too much!" Levy warned her, eyes piercing through the rims of her glasses. "You'll wear yourself out before the special box comes today, and you can't let yourself fall asleep before Nashi and Natsu get their bedtime story. And be careful in that dojo."
"I'll be fine, Lev," laughed Lucy, patting her round belly. "This one is tough. If you could feel his kicks, you'd know."
After dropping Nashi back off with her grandfather so that she wouldn't be endangered in the dojo, Lucy made her way down the familiar, illuminated hallways and to the wooden slitted doors. Walking in backwards when she arrived just in case, Lucy peeked around to see-
Quick as a viper, Lucy reached out and snatched the rubber-capped knife that had been speeding towards the doors, and her face. Slowly, she turned, feeling her own eyes darken through the slits that were her eyelids. "Who threw this?"
Sure enough, three men stood on the sparring mat in the center of the cavernous room, stock still in mid-hit. Gajeel, dark hair finally short after his son had become fascinated with tugging on it, Gray, rough scruff along his jaw, and Natsu, prominent muscles tense at the sight of her expression.
Gajeel and Gray instantly pointed to Natsu, Natsu pointing to them both.
She locked eyes with Natsu, gesturing for him to come with a finger. With the most pathetic grimace, he shuffled forward. As expected, when he stood before her, he tried the puppy eyes as the first line of defense. Only rolling her own, she just handed back the knife. "Be more careful, hmm? If I wasn't a triple black belt, you'd owe your son a serious apology." Lucy patted her tummy in indication.
As if he hadn't thought of that, his eyes widened in horror dropping down to his knees and taking her belly in his hands. "Oh man, are you okay in there?" Natsu put his ear to her skin.
"What does he say?" asked Lucy in amusement, ruffling his pink hair that was curling with the heat.
"Pshh, yeah he's cool." Natsu stood with his eyes clearly glowing. "How was your day?"
She watched him swing his Bo staff over his shoulders, both arms lazily resting over them as he smiled down at her. He'd always been fit, but since his strength boost from being E.N.D. and how he had to keep up with his students in the dojo, he was sculpted to practical perfection. Considering her pregnancy stretch marks that were increasingly evident, Lucy thought it was rather unfair. "It was easier. Probably much less violent than yours. But I really, really want-"
"Pepperoni and sausage deep dish pizza and a side of curly fries and grapes," Natsu recited faithfully. "I'll get ya some." Over his bare chest was a sheen of sweat, so when he leaned down hopefully for a kiss, she shook her head and pushed away.
"Nope. Shower. Enough fighting-we need to save our daughter from Silver and Igneel."
"Yeah, yeah…" He shouted over his shoulder, "I'll pummel you guys later! My woman requires me!"
Instead of mocking him for leaving the fight, Gray called out, "Tomorrow, same time, ash-face!"
"Gray," Lucy stopped him in exasperation, "You're gonna need to save Ur from your dad, too. Last I saw them, Silver was throwing him up in the air where he might hit the staircase."
"Crap," Gray said anxiously. He brushed past her, giving her a brotherly pat on the head before bursting out the door and yelling, "I'm comin' Juvia!"
"Is my child in imminent danger?" Gajeel questioned, shoving his bat back into his straps.
"Only from your cat," Lucy admitted. "About to scratch Drake's eyes out, I'd imagine-"
"LILY, YOU LEAVE MY SON ALONE!" Gajeel howled as he raced down the corridor towards the guild hall.
Natsu raised his eyebrows at each as they left, eyes soon falling back to his wife. "Is any of that really happening?"
"Weeeell," Lucy drew out, hands atop her stomach. "Sure, but exaggeration works wonders."
"You are beautifully terrifying, m'lady."
"Thank you, hun."
Only stopping to drop a kiss onto her wrist, he jogged off to the locker room.
Once Lucy and Natsu entered the guild hall, she saw that all occupants were crowded around one table. Unable to tell what they were all observing, Lucy was thankful when Erza called her name, eyes shining. "Lucy! It's here!"
With a gasp, Lucy ran forward, but Natsu caught her gently with a frown. Coming back to her senses, Lucy patted his face. "Thank you."
"Little Elvendork probably doesn't like you running," Natsu warned when he let her go, rubbing her tummy.
"We are not naming our son Elvendork."
With a roll of the eyes, she more carefully came towards the table where a wide, tall box sat proudly with her name across its card.
Levy was spinning around with Drake held close to her chest. "I need it! I need it, I need it, I need-Lu, open the box already!"
Natsu's hands were squeezing her shoulders excitedly when she drew a knife to shakingly cut through the packaging tape and swing the cardboard flaps. After throwing the bubble wrap unceremoniously off of the top, Lucy's trembling hands reached into the box and drew out a thick, smooth chapter book. The cover art was even more stunning up close and finalized, a delicious thumping noise coming from the novel when she tapped against the side.
"It's amazing," Natsu breathed in her ear, sliding his hand down so that his fingers passed hers and ran along the cover. "I especially like the words at the very bottom."
Lucy melted into him, looking where he'd pointed, under the words "Based on a True Story", was her name, Lucy Dragneel.
Igneel and Levy grabbed for copies from the box next, then Erza scrambling for one and growling at anyone else who tried. Soon, each of them were holding out an open, blank page to her, eagerly passing her a pen to sign her work.
"Cool your jets!" Lucy laughed. "Get in line and I'll get them signed, you dorks."
Her own happiness seemed to bounce around inside, gazing at the cover of her greatest masterpiece. She'd published five books already, but this one… this one was the work she was most proud of, the one she would read to her children over and over before they closed their eyes at night. The story she wanted to be remembered for.
One by one, every one of her guild friends, old and new, shoved the book into her view so that she could write her name inside. Every time they did this, whether they particularly liked reading or not, and it was possibly her favorite part of the whole publishing process.
That, and bedtime.
Natsu had been true to his word, taking her and Nashi out to that pizza place he'd dragged her to all those years ago when he'd carried her out of a math class to skip school with him. Her cravings thankfully died down after that.
Nashi skipped between them as they made their way through Magnolia, down across the cobblestone and past the fountain, over to the East forest and the gravel driveway they'd made to that place only the two partners had known…
Their humble cottage sat on the hill, overlooking the treetops to the mountains, over Lisanna's memorial stone where they could gaze out onto the sunset and night sky. Nashi sometimes lay between them on the lawn at night filled with shooting stars, naming the constellations and falling asleep on her father's chest.
Inside, Natsu instantly picked his daughter up and zoomed her through the house over his head like an airplane. Lucy, hearing the giggle echo, knew he was taking her to the bathroom to get ready for bed.
On her own, she sighed, slowly making her way to her own room where she dropped off her bookbag and tiredly rubbed her belly. Their room wasn't too big, but Lucy hadn't wanted something lavish when they'd built it-just a master bedroom and bath, two extra bedrooms and bathroom, a living room, a library, and kitchen. Natsu had begged for a basement in which he could do some private training, which she surely wouldn't turn down at the sight of his face.
It wasn't too long before her husband joined her in their room, grinning and shrugging off his sports' bag before saying, "Man, Laxus and Mira's kid needs to learn that the punching bag isn't me. I'm beginning to think that lightning freak is telling him to hit me instead. I mean, I heal instantly, but the emotional wounds…"
"Oh, stop," Lucy teased, slipping out of her clothes she wore as an English teacher and into her nightgown. "I'm sure Laxus is toughening up his Fairy Tail dojo sensei for when Edward begins his training."
Natsu blanched at the thought of having to teach Erza and Jellal's child ninjitsu. "W-well… Nashi and Buford will beat them all! Eventually…"
"Our son will not be named Buford, either."
"Well, you didn't seem to like unisex…" Natsu said, tone muffled through the shirt he was taking off. He shot a smile before he turned to the dresser, rummaging through for new sweatpants.
With a deep exhale, Lucy came up behind and hugged him with one arm, using her right hand finger to trace the scarred and inked words down his back.
She could see that her touch brought a shiver down his spine. Facing her, Natsu returned the steady gaze, running his hand along the white bracelet circling her right wrist, the bracelet he'd clasped on the day he'd also given her the shimmering, diamond ring on her left hand. When he hugged her and just stood there for a while, they didn't speak. There were times where words would ruin the silent, I love you.
"Better get that new book you wrote," Natsu whispered eventually, drawing away and cupping her face in smooth hands. "Nashi's excited. So am I… since you wouldn't even let me read it earlier. I mean, what is it even about?!"
"I wanted it to be a surprise," Lucy said silkily, granting him a lingering kiss that he'd been wanting before and then continuing, "I think you'll love it. It'll be your favorite."
"Ever." Lucy pushed through the contents of her bag for a moment until she drew out a copy of her novel. "Speaking of Nashi, my dad, your mom, Igneel, and Gildarts are fighting in text wars over who gets to babysit her on our wedding anniversary."
"That's not for another month!" Natsu snorted, reaching for the door. "There is no winnin' with them, honestly; your dad is hopeless with kids, my mom will spoil the hell out of her, and Igneel or Gildarts might nearly get her killed…"
The couple shared a glance. "Mom," they agreed.
"Ma!" Lucy heard Nashi's enthusiastic voice call from the other room. "Da! Bedtime story?"
"Duty calls. Is there a boy voice for me to do dialog for? Do I need an accent?" Natsu asked, eyes alight.
"You'll see," was her only reply, taking him by the hand to their child's room.
Once they were settled onto her wide bed, pillows and blankets pushed a certain way specially for family bedtime stories, Lucy looked to both of them. Natsu and Nashi's eyes were locked only on the book in anticipation. The cover showed a faded image of a face with dark eyes illuminated as if by firelight. A boy, and in the middle, flames bursting from a circle of twelve, golden keys. Natsu's arms enveloped Lucy and fingers lightly made circles on her belly where their second child lay waiting.
"Now guys," Lucy introduced dramatically, Nashi giggling and crawling up closer to her. Lucy kissed the top of her head. "This is a story filled with war and peace, bravery and cowardice, hatred and love, laughter and tears, death and life, forgiveness and revenge, dragons and fairies. Prepare yourself for Ma's new book!"
"I'm fired up now!" they chorused, and Lucy snuggled into the pillows behind her before flipping open the cover. Natsu made a drumroll on her stomach.
"First time I'm dedicating it to this person-I waited for this book to do it," Lucy told them. She read out, "Dedicated to my partner for life, Natsu Dragneel-the past, present, and future source of all my adventures."
Natsu ran his hands up to clasp both of her own. His fingers played with her bracelet again. Together, they turned the page-one scarred hand in the other.
"The Keys of Fire," Lucy read out the title, and she could almost see the story beginning to swirl in her mind; a pink-haired, wild-eyed boy offering a frightened girl his gloved hand, a song playing for two by moonlight, a battle roaring with flames and blood, a kiss in the euphoria of victory, and a love that surpassed any boundaries set by human words. "Chapter one…"
I can't believe it's over.
I've been writing this for exactly a year now. This year has been the most difficult of my life so far, and this story had been with me through it. I've grown, not only I think in my writing, but as a person. And definitely not alone.
All of you I felt with me every step of the way. I feel we came through the journey of this year as one, and I wouldn't be who I was without you. I mean that.
I used to be a rather insecure person, both about myself and my writing. I'm not anymore. After your special words, believing in me, showing me I was never truly alone, I've discovered confidence and strength. I know I can do anything I put my mind to.
I promise to all of you, this isn't the end of my writing. Yes, I'll be writing more fanfiction, but I'll be doing my original works too. I've finished a fanfiction before, written short stories or thought up others… but this story, however messy at some points, I will always hold close to my heart. I never realized I could affect anyone with the words I keep all locked up here in my soul, but now that I know what I'm capable of, I'll let it all out. This story is so precious to me. I can't hardly explain just how much.
I've made so many friends through The Keys of Fire. So many friends that have helped shape me this year and I can no longer imagine my life without. And so many other people that I may not talk to much, but have shown me that there truly is hope for beauty prevailing in the world.
Sorry this little letter is sloppy-kinda trying not to cry to be honest ehe.
Special thanks to all those who beta read for me, who drew beautiful art that made me cry and I'll be crediting later on tumblr (*cough* I've taped all of them to my wall in my room *cough*), who've reviewed, who've PMed me, and who have supported me.
I've read every word any of you has ever sent, and I thank you from the bottom of my heart.
I hope The Keys of Fire did what it was supposed to. I wanted to make a story of not only humor and war, but faith, forgiveness, and all forms of true love.
I could never hope, however, that it could affect any of you as much as you have touched and affected me in the most amazing way.
I SHALL continue to write TKOF universe oneshots for you, to be posted as more chapters of my current oneshot "Make A Wish", which is also a TKOF universe story. Stay tuned. :) (TKOF Nalu wedding proposal hehe)
I'll be putting up a new multi-chap next month, as well as working on my new chapter(s) as a sequel to my medieval Nalu AU, "Stability". I'll have to get working on finishing The Fairy Tail Book of Brotherhood as well. Not to mention the 30 or so drabbles and a few collabs planned out. In any case, there will be plenty for you to read from me.
And now, a sneak peek of my next multi-chapter Nalu fanfiction, a story to be called The Way We Smile. It won't be as long or frequent as TKOF, but I hope you enjoy my historical fiction, 1870s Native American AU:
The Way We Smile
Prologue, Part 2
Natsu's heart rushed like hummingbird wings. His breath low and deep as his horse while he waited alongside his brothers, crouched behind the boulder.
"Be still," Laxus whispered harshly in their native Faetayen language, searing sunlight glinting off the scar over his eye as he addressed Romeo's shifting feet. "Quiet."
"I know, I know..." muttered the younger boy. But he followed instructions, becoming more still and silent.
The rumble was barely noticeable at first, and then it grew to shake the pebbles on the ground. Swallowing with widening eyes in anticipation, Natsu gripped the stone more tightly. The brazen heat of the golden plains reflecting from his bare skin made sweat accumulate to cool him, but he paid it no mind. The waves of warmth from the earth created a sort of ripple across the horizon, blurring the large, brown shapes approaching closer by the second.
"Ready yourself," muttered Laxus, fingering his bow strapped to his back.
Natsu had been born ready. Born for this.
The bison made the very earth tremble. Natsu stared in abject awe-all of them working together to create a movement that shook him to the core. This was true power. Natsu slowly drew an arrow from his quiver, pricking his finger on the tip. Only the sharpest in respect. Hopefully a quick, clean death.
It was perhaps dozens of bulls and cows that rushed towards the cliffs, several other boys from the Faetaye tribe whooping and galloping behind. Much less bison that his father had told him used to roam the plains, but quite a few nonetheless.
"Now!" shouted Laxus, jumping up from the rock. Natsu followed suit, leaping up onto his horse, Natai, back in one fluid motion and jarring him into a run, drawing a spear rather than an arrow to prod them forward. He'd never been faster, rushing from right and left to keep the buffalo going in one direction.
One by one, the bison fell from the cliff, down to the drop of over one hundred feet. With the other boys at his side, Natsu spurred Natai forward, down the slope at the side of the cliff to reach the bottom. It was bloody indeed, but Natsu had seen it many a time before. From here, he drew his bow, shooting into the hearts of the bison as they fell, wishing them a more merciful death than that of terror. Some boys took out rifles, and though Natsu's own gun resided in its holster on his back, he preferred his bow.
When the thunder was over, the boys leapt from the horses' backs, drawing knives. With a sigh and frown, Natsu knelt beside a barely breathing calf. He gently stroked its fur, killing him swiftly and murmuring, "Thank you." Placing his forehead against his prey's, he added softly, "May Great Spirit guide you safely to the heavens."
Natsu stood. Tonight, his tribe would feast.
While the other boys finished with the kill, Natsu faced the fading East. His soul remained restless; they'd been in the same place for camp for nearly a month. He felt they should move.
Something was shifting in the wind that tumbled through his rose-colored hair. Natsu could feel a change coming in his very bones. Perhaps others would feel frightened, but he…
He yearned for something… new.