AN: I can't believe it's almost been a year since I've last updated this fic. I'm so sorry for the wait. I'm really gonna try not to take as long to update. Now without further interruption, here's the next chapter! I hope you guys enjoy it.
"Oh, there's a river that winds on forever
I'm gonna see where it leads
Oh, there's mountain that no man has mounted
I'm gonna stand on the peak"
"Are you sure this is it?"
"Yep." Billie chewed her gum as she peered at the warehouse in front of them.
"What's the vendor's name?" Laxus frowned when he saw multiple workers unloading crates filled with produce and taking them into the warehouse.
She blew her gum into a bubble.
He bit back a sigh and felt a pat on his head that wordlessly called out for his patience.
It popped. "Her name is Selia. She has blonde hair and dresses in black. Very pretty."
"I bet she's not as pretty as Lucy." Asuka grumbled from her spot on top Laxus' shoulders.
Laxus cleared his throat to cover up her words.
"You said something?" Billie looked up at the Gunslingers Mages' daughter.
"I said that—"
"We should go inside." The Lightning Slayer cut her off and made his way into the warehouse. The last thing he needed was for Asuka to put any ideas in Billie's head. He had a suspicion that Billie could be just as bad as Asuka.
"Follow me." Billie led the way to the warehouse. She lazily waved at a few of the workers that called out her name.
Laxus walked behind the girl with his arms crossed over his chest. His gaze surveyed the room making sure nothing was amiss. Not only did he have to look after Alzack and Bisca's daughter, but also Wakaba and Millgana's daughter. He took note of the closest exits as they walked further into warehouse. His gaze roamed to the secured stacked crates and boxes that filled three stories. Just the thought of one them tumbling down made him frown.
"There she is." Billie pointed at a blonde woman that had her hands on her hips as she yelled instructions to two of her workers.
"I said I wanted the mangos next to the watermelons not the strawberries!"
"You said the strawberries!" One of the men yelled exasperated as he leaned against the stack of crates. "Zack," He looked at his coworker helplessly. "Didn't she say to move the strawberries next to the watermelons?"
Zack nodded as he grinned affectionately at Selia. "She did say that, but now she wants the mangoes next to the watermelons."
"Whose side are you on?!"
"Hers." He winked at Selia, who shook her head at him while fighting back a smile.
"You're so whipped that it gives me second hand embarrassment."
"Selia!" Billie waved at the woman.
Selia looked over her two workers to see Billie approaching with a tall intimidating looking man that had a little girl sitting on his shoulders. "Hey Billie." She greeted the young girl with a smile. "I see you brought some new friends."
"Yep, they're Marie's back up for this season."
"Marie is a close friend and anyone that helps her is a friend of ours." Selia stuck out her hand to Laxus who shook it reluctantly. "My name is Selia and I'm the owner of this establishment."
"Laxus Dreyar." He said introducing himself and then pointed a thumb at Asuka. "This is Asuka Connell."
"It's a pleasure to meet the both of you." She waved a hand to the two workers she had been talking to earlier. "This is my husband, Zack."
Laxus glanced at her husband to see him share wink and a knuckle touch with Billie.
"The other man is one of our workers." She looked at the man with his forehead pressed against the edge of a crate. An aura of defeat hovered over him. "Charlie say hi."
Charlie didn't lift his head, but he did lift a hand to wave.
"As you can see he's not feeling well today."
"Moving on," She looked back at Laxus with Asuka. "Do you know what Marie needs?"
Laxus glanced toward Billie who shrugged since she didn't exactly know what Marie bought. "The usual."
Selia smirked knowing that Laxus nor Billie had any idea what the usual was. "Alright then, follow me." She pivoted and began walking further into the warehouse.
Laxus stood to the side with Asuka and Billie as Zack and Charlie piled various crates that were filled with fruits and vegetables.
"Here." Selia handed Laxus two plastic bags filled with spinach. "Tell her they're leftovers."
"Leftovers?" Laxus frowned.
"They're not really leftovers." She crossed her arms over her chest as Charlie placed a crate filled with mangos by her feet. "We just got them this morning but that's the excuse you need to give her. She won't accept it otherwise."
Zack brought the last crate of apples.
"She's stubborn like that." A hint of affection in her tone. "Tell her the payment won't be due until the end of the month."
"You're going to end up making me to talk to her, aren't you?" Zack said as placed the crate beside the one with mangos.
"Yep. I'm not a fan of getting yelled at over the phone."
"I got it covered." Laxus pulled out a folded piece of paper from his pocket and handed it to Selia.
Zack watched curiously as his wife unfolded the paper to see a lacrima number written.
"Call that number and tell the person who answers that I gave you that number. Tell him the cost and he'll have the jewels transferred to your company by this evening the latest." He felt it was the least he could do. Perhaps it'll keep Macao and Romeo from being forced to take another job throughout the winter.
Charlie let out a whistle. "You're a brave man."
Laxus looked at him confused and once again found himself glancing at Billie who looked at him with wide eyes. "What?"
Her eyes narrowed on him. "You keep surprising me."
He stayed silent not knowing if she meant it as a compliment.
"It's okay Laxus."
He felt Asuka pat his head.
"We'll be there for you."
Her words failed at comforting him.
"Natsu." Happy broke the comfortable silence that had hovered over them since they began fishing.
Natsu took his eyes off the still water and glanced at the Exceed.
"Do you know what time it is?" Happy said nervously glancing at him.
"No, but I know it's not lunch time." The Fire Slayer narrowed his eyes on his partner. "Why? What do you have planned?"
"I have to meet with Charle and Lily today." He quickly looked away.
Natsu wanted to ask him for what because he knew Happy was hiding something from him, but then again Happy had his reasons and he trusted his little buddy. "You should go find them right now."
"Are you sure?" Happy looked at him feeling slightly guilty for leaving Natsu to fish by himself and a part of him had been hoping they would have at least caught one before he had to go. His heart had been set on eating a fish for brunch. "I can go a little later."
"No, you should go now. It's not right to keep them waiting." Natsu grinned at him. "I'll save you some fish."
"You're the best Natsu!" Happy exclaimed with star filled eyes.
"I know." Natsu waved him off. "Now go have fun."
"Aye sir!" The Blue Exceed let go of his handmade fishing pole and took to the sky with his wings.
Natsu watched him go until he became a small speck in the sky. His gaze went back to the still water.
He didn't know how long he just sat there waiting for a fish to bite the bait when an eerie silence settled around him. His head snapped up and his gaze roamed around taking in the sight of the still leaves and grass. The sounds around him faded away and the wind that had been blowing slightly was gone.
Natsu let go of the fishing pole and stood up. The sensation of something not being right settled in the pit of his stomach. His gaze roamed his surroundings when the hairs on the back of his stood at the sudden sensation of being watched. No matter how much he looked nothing was there. He sniffed the air and yet he couldn't detect the scent of another living being anywhere near him.
And still the feeling of being watch remained.
His head snapped to look toward the water. The voice came from there. He took a step closer and looked down. His heart skipped a beat at what he saw. It was supposed to be his reflection, but it wasn't. Horns protruded from his forehead and the black of his iris had expanded leaving no white. The figure that looked back at him with pitch black eyes had his arms crossed over his chest. "What…?"
"The look on your face is priceless." He grinned revealing a role of sharp teeth. "You have no idea how long I've been waiting for this."
"Who are you?"
"You really are an idiot."
"I'm not an idiot, you freak!"
He threw his head back and let out a laugh that had Natsu growling. Once the laughter died down he shook his head in amusement. "I can't wait to watch the truth tear you apart."
"Truth? You're not making any sense. What the hell are you talking about?"
"Oh, this too much fun." He winked at Natsu, succeeding in further pissing off the Fire Dragon Slayer. "Let's meet again when we don't have company."
"Wait—" The sudden sensation of being pulled from behind and off his feet forced his eyes shut.
"Natsu." The voice had his eyes snapping open again and the hand on his shoulder grounded him.
His head snapped to the side to see Gray crouched down beside him. "Gray…?"
Gray released a relieved breath. He had been walking in the forest to clear his head unconsciously heading toward where he knew Natsu and Happy fished at. Once he had caught sight of his teammate he had called to him, but the Fire Slayer hadn't responded. It was strange because it wasn't in Natsu's nature to ignore him. When he got closer he saw how still Natsu was sitting. It was an unsettling sight. His body was there, but his mind seemed to be somewhere else. It wasn't until he placed his hand on Natsu's shoulder and shook him did the Dragon Slayer come to again.
"Take this." Natsu handed him the fishing pole.
"Hey," Gray protested with a frown, but nonetheless grabbed the fishing pole and watched as Natsu approached the edge and peered down at the water.
Natsu exhaled in relief not even knowing that he had been holding his breath. It must have been a bad dream. Even so it left him slightly shaken because of how real it felt.
Gray knew that Natsu was hiding something, but wasn't going to call him out on it not when he was also keeping things to himself. When Natsu took his seat again and snatched his fishing pole back, Gray bit his tongue from saying something insulting about Natsu's horrible manners.
"You can use Happy's fishing pole." Natsu tossed it toward Gray not giving him a chance to answer.
The Ice Mage didn't bother to say anything as he began to use Happy's pole and joined Natsu in fishing.
Natsu would never say it out loud, but at that moment he didn't want to be alone.
No good deed goes unpunished.
Laxus was beginning to become well acquainted with this saying. He should have known to prepare for the worse when Charlie and Zack simply deposited the crates outside the door and hightailed it out of there with a quick goodbye.
The glare Marie had directed at him could make even some of the most powerful Mages cower. Perhaps he should introduce her to Gray and Natsu. When Erza or Lucy weren't around then Marie could step in and settle the boys with one look.
Laxus shook himself mentally. Now was not the time to let his mind wander.
"Aunt Marie, I can explain." Billie spoke up, but when the glare was directed her way she gulped and took a step closer to Laxus as if he could protect her from such a look.
"I'm waiting." Her hands came to her hips.
Laxus now understood why Charlie had called him brave. "I asked Billie to take me to the warehouse."
Her glare swung back to him. "I was under the assumption that we were going together later."
He gulped. It had been years since he felt like he was digging himself in a hole. The sudden memory of being a child and sticking his hand in the cookie jar, when his mother had specifically prohibited him from eating one until after he ate his lunch, came to his mind. His mother had a six sense or something because the moment his hand was in the jar, she appeared in the kitchen doorway. Her glare was similar to the one that Marie directed at him.
"Aunt Marie." Asuka spoke from her spot in Laxus's arms. "Laxus saw that you were busy cleaning after breakfast. He just wanted to help." A pout that could melt hearts graced her lips.
Laxus looked down at Asuka in slight wonder.
Marie's glare softened as she gazed at Asuka and her lips curved helplessly into a smile. "I'm sorry."
Laxus met Marie's gaze shocked. Just a few seconds ago she had been furious, but now she was apologizing.
"It's hard for me to simply accept help, so when Macao and Romeo said you agreed to help I didn't know what to expect." Her fingers tightened on her hips. "You going to the warehouse by yourself and bringing everything back by yourself, is more than what was required for you to do. I don't want helping me to become a burden."
"That's not possible aunt Marie." Billie said fiercely. "Helping you is never a burden."
"We love you." Asuka said simply as she smiled at her.
Laxus felt a hint of panic settle in the pit of his stomach when he saw Marie's eyes fill with tears. "It won't. It's within my means and I see no point in not offering my help if I have the time." He felt his left eye twitch when a tear slid down her face.
She quickly wiped it away as Milligana stood up from her seat and walked toward her. She threw an arm around Marie's shoulders. "Later there will be time for the waterworks. Right now we must get to work."
"You're right!" Marie squeezed her eyes shut and rubbed them before lightly smacking her cheeks with her palms. When she opened her eyes there were no trace of tears. "We have to get to work!"
"While you're prepping everything, I'll go deliver the jewels to Selia."
Marie pulled out a black pouch filled with jewels from her pocket.
"It's been taken care of." Billie spoke up as she shoved a crate of apples toward the kitchen. "Laxus handled it." She looked over her shoulder and smirked at Laxus.
Oh she was evil. There was no doubt about it. Laxus was sorely tempted to glare at her for her betrayal.
"Then this belongs to you." Marie held out the pouch to him.
Billie began to cough.
Laxus glanced at her to see the girl shaking her head trying to wordlessly communicate to him to keep his mouth shut. His gaze abruptly swung back to Marie when he felt her grab his hand and placed the pouch in it.
"This is only half of the payment. Once the sell is done I'll pay you the other half."
This time he took Billie advice. He stood quiet and nodded. Perhaps the girl had a shot at redemption. If she ever came to the guild he would have to make sure that she did not associate with Lisanna.
Marie clapped her hands once. "Alright girls," she glanced at Laxus, "and Laxus. Let's get started."
"There's still more fruit outside."
"I got it covered."
"Selia gave us some leftover spinach."
"We'll be able to do green juices this season!"
"Yuck. I don't know how people can drink that."
"Even more reason not to drink it."
She simply shrugged and cast a helpless look at Laxus.
"For that response, you're in charge of washing all the grapes."
Asuka chuckled. "…Butts…"
Laxus quirked an eyebrow at her amused.
He looked over his shoulder to see Milligana peeling an apple with a knife.
"By any chance do you know anyone else that can help?"
"Milli." Marie frowned at her as she scooped some strawberries into a bowl.
"It doesn't hurt to ask."
"How many do you need?" Laxus asked.
"Two more people will be greatly appreciated."
"I can get you three."
Marie and Milligana shared a wide eyed look before looking back at Laxus as he made his way to the window and slid it open.
It had taken all Bickslow had to hold Freed back. The Rune Mage had almost given up their cover. It wasn't until Evergreen threatened to knock him unconscious did Freed settle down a bit.
"How can you stand to see him struggle like that?" Freed motioned toward where Laxus was walking with Asuka on his shoulders as he carried two crates. One filled with apples and the other one with mangos. A young girl walked beside him holding a small crate of grapes with two plastic bags of spinach on top while chewing on a piece of gum. Two men trailed behind them each holding two more crates filled with fruits and vegetables.
"It's not like he's carrying it all by himself." Bickslow shrugged. "He can handle it."
"He's not struggling Freed." Evergreen spoke keeping a close eye on Laxus.
"Not only does he have to help Macao's girlfriend, but he has to look after Asuka." Freed wrung his hands. "What if he really does need help? He's not good at asking for it—"
"That's why we're here." Bickslow grinned at him. "The moment he needs it, we'll step in."
"No," Evergreen narrowed her eyes on her guildmates. "We will not interfere unless he asks for us to." It hurt to say those words especially when a part of her wanted to help Laxus as well. "This is for his own good."
"For his own good." Bickslow repeated wrapping an arm around each of their shoulders.
This time they couldn't walk ahead of him to make sure no harm will come to him nor could they walk beside him like they wanted to. They could only watch his back as he continued to walk forward without them.
It was very nerve wracking for them.
"Maybe we should go." Bickslow said after they watched the two men, who helped Laxus take the crates into the apartment complex, come out.
"Five more minutes." Freed said looking at the doors fiercely.
The Seith Mage glanced at his other teammate to see her shrug.
And so they waited.
After those five minutes they waited another five minutes just in case.
"I'm guessing it's safe to assume that everything is fine." Bickslow glanced at Freed.
"We should go boys."
With a heavy heart they were about to begin their journey toward to the guild.
A window two stories above them slid open. The Raijinshuu looked up to see Laxus stick his head out the window and look down at them.
"Laxus!" They yelled a cross between excited and shocked.
They should have known that he would be aware of their presence.
"Since the three of you are keeping tabs on me, is it safe to assume that you have free time on your hands?"
"Depends on what it is that you need." Bickslow responded which earned him a smack on the shoulder from Evergreen and a disapproving look from Freed.
"We have time." Freed said gazing up at Laxus.
"Come up here and help."
They felt a sudden rush of warmth at the knowledge that Laxus needed them. Rare was the occasion when he would be vocal about it. The Raijinshuu responded without a second thought as they rushed inside the apartment complex.
"What's with that face?"
Juvia snapped out of her daze and looked up to see Gajeel glowering with his arms crossed over his chest. "What?"
"You're frowning again." He took a seat across from her not bothering to wait until she offered for him to do so."
The Water Mage sat up straight, her gaze meeting the Iron Slayer's. "Juvia wasn't frowning."
"Are you calling me a liar?"
"That's not what Juvia said!" She said fiercely.
"Gihi." He grinned. "I know exactly what you said."
"Why are you picking on Juvia?" Her eyes narrowed on him in suspicion. "Did you get in a fight with Levy again?"
"What?!" He reeled back as if she threw water on him. "No!"
"What did you do?"
"I didn't do anything!"
"What did you say?"
"I'm not fighting with Levy!"
Juvia tilted her head to the side as she contemplated why he would leave the Script Mage's side. If she could sit next to Gray like Gajeel did with Levy then she wouldn't leave his side, but now she felt that the right to be close to him like she wanted to was now taken from her.
"And there's that frown again."
"What's going on?"
"Nothing." Juvia shook her head.
"Liar." His eyes narrowed on her. "Does it have something to do with Gray?"
She looked at him surprised. "How did you know?"
"You frown the most when you look at him and when you think no one is looking you look sad when you stare at him." Gajeel leaned forward. "So tell me Juvia, what happened?"
"N-N-Nothing," She stuttered feeling her heart tremble within her ribcage.
The Iron Slayer cursed when he saw her eyes moisten with tears. "What the hell did that idiot do?"
"He didn't do anything."
Hearing her voice crack felt like a punch to his gut. "Then what's wr—"
"Gaj, it's something Juvia did."
When she wouldn't elaborate Gajeel felt frustrated. Juvia was a step away from a breakdown and he didn't know what to do. If someone messed with the Water Mage then he wouldn't hesitate to bash the person's head without hesitation, but in this situation he couldn't. He'd end up risking Juvia giving him the silent treatment. "Tell me what I can do."
And that was when the tears began to stream down her face and rain began to fall outside the guild.
"Oh shit Juvia." Gajeel looked at her shocked. It had been so long since she made it rain like this.
"There's nothing you can do." She buried her face in her hands.
The Iron Slayer flinched at the sound of Mirajane using his full name. He risked a glance over his shoulder to see the Take Over Mage standing a few feet behind him with her hands on her hips. He gulped for her eyes promised vengeance.
"What did you say to Juvia!?"
"When you said that you need our help," Bickslow grabbed another apple to cut into pieces. "I thought it was for something dire."
"This is dire," Freed grabbed the bowl full of sliced apples and took them to the kitchen.
"Laxus can only stay here for so long." Evergreen cut an orange in half and expertly peeled the skin off. "He still has to meet with Cana, Gray, Juvia, the Exceeds…"
"The Exceeds?" Billie asked from her spot beside Bickslow. She threw a grape in the air toward the Seith Mage only for him to tilt his head back and catch it in his mouth. She grinned when he nudged her lightly as he chewed.
"Would you stop eating the fruits?" Evergreen kicked him in the shin.
"Marie said we can help ourselves." He stuck his tongue out.
"Laxus." Evergreen glanced at the Lightning Slayer to see him cutting the top of strawberry and then popping it into his mouth. It was pointless to get him to try and scold Bickslow.
"What is it?" He asked after swallowing.
"Nothing." She closed her eyes and sighed.
Her eyes snapped open to see Asuka coming out the kitchen with a cup in her hands. She walked carefully toward Laxus.
He glanced at her and quirked an eyebrow at the cup she held up to him.
"Try it." She went on her tiptoes shoving the cup closer to him.
Laxus ignored the pairs of eyes that went his way as he ducked down and took a sip from the cup Asuka held. The taste of something sour and hints of sweetness that came from strawberries flooded his taste buds. "Strawberry lemonade?"
"Yup!" Asuka pulled down the cup and took a gulp before smacking her lips together. "Marie made it. Do you like it?"
"It's not so bad…"
"That means he likes it." Evergreen winked at the little girl.
"Want some more?" She asked him.
Laxus shook his head. "You drink it."
The Fairy Mage continued peeling oranges and kept a close eye on the way Asuka took a step closer to Laxus and went on her tiptoes to watch what Laxus was doing. After a few minutes she placed her cup on the table and ducked under one of Laxus's arms. Her eyes widened slightly when Laxus didn't bat an eye at Asuka struggling to climb on his lap. Although he did pause in cutting until she was seated on his left lap.
Her cup was forgotten as she leaned against his chest, her eyes becoming half lidded.
Evergreen glanced at Bickslow to see him jaw slacked as he watched Asuka and Laxus. A gasp had her looking at the kitchen doorway to see Freed standing there. He was hugging the bowl to his chest as tears of joy streamed down his face.
Billie blew a bubble with her gum and popped it breaking the moment. "You guys are so strange." One moment they could be cool and the next they did something that contradicted their appearance. Her eyes narrowed on Laxus. "Especially you."
The Raijinshuu let out a gasp.
In response Laxus flicked a strawberry at Billie's forehead just as Milligana maneuvered Freed out of the kitchen doorway to get through.
Billie stuck her tongue out at him.
"Children, behave." Milligana said as she grabbed some grapes from Billie's pile.
Laxus glanced toward Freed who had walked across the room toward the window.
"There was no mention of rain for the day."
He looked over Freed's shoulder to see the sky filled with dark grey clouds and rain was beginning to fall.
"It must be Juvia's doing." Evergreen frowned. "I wonder what could have trigged such a response from her."
"Probably something to do with Gray." Bickslow met Laxus's gaze. "I've noticed something tension between them lately."
"It's one-sided though." Freed walked back to the table with his arms crossed. "Juvia seems to be keeping Gray at arm's length."
Laxus had no idea what they were talking about. He had thought Gray and Juvia were good terms… well as good as they could be considering how the Water Mage acted with the Ice Mage.
"Well," Evergreen nudged Laxus with her elbow. "It's a good thing you'll be meeting with her today."
"Thank you for inviting me." Wendy said to Lucy as they both walked out the grocery store carrying bags.
"You don't have to thank me." She smiled warmly at the young Dragon Slayer. "You're part of the team."
The Sky Mage blushed lightly. Ezra and Lucy always had a way of making her feel safe and welcomed. "I promise to help with the cooking and cleaning."
"You don't have to." Lucy told her as she crossed the bridge over the canal. "You joining us is more than enough."
"I don't feel comfortable just bringing something, so please let me help."
The Celestial Mage's eyes softened as she glanced at Wendy, whose cheeks were coated in light pink. She was tempted to pull the younger girl into a hug. "If that's what it takes to make you feel comfortable then I welcome the help."
Wendy was about to say something when she felt a sudden drop of temperature.
"Is it just me or did it get colder?" Lucy shivered.
The wind had gotten colder and it was then that Wendy caught the scent of rain. "It's going to rain."
"What?" Lucy looked at her wide eyed. "There was no news about rain…" She looked up and frowned at the grey clouds that were dominating the sky. Juvia.
She looked back down at Wendy.
"We need to hurry to your apartment or we'll be caught in the rain."
As they jogged toward her apartment, Lucy was already making plans to head back to the guild and speak with Juvia. She was worried about the Water Mage.
"What the fuck?" Natsu glared up at the grey clouds that had taken over the azure sky. A heartbeat later water began to fall from the sky. "Rain?" He spluttered when it fell into his eyes and nostrils. "It shouldn't be raining."
"Must be Juvia." Gray said solemnly.
"Damn it, Ice Prick!" The Fire Slayer turned his glare onto his teammate. "What the hell did you do to make her cry!?"
"Screw you, Flametard!" The Ice Mage met his glare with a sneer. "I didn't do shit to her. And why are you making it seem like I'm always the one making her cry!?"
"Because most times you're the cause!" Natsu furiously pressed his forehead against Gray's.
"It's not like I want to be!" Gray shoved his forehead against Natsu's.
The truce that had wordlessly formed between them shattered as they made a grab at each other. Hairs and cheeks were pulled. A foot connected with a stomach and a fist connected with a chin. Curses words echoed through the rain.
"You want some of this, Flame Princess!"
"Go cry me a river… wait your girlfriend is already doing that!"
"You're deader than dead Natsu!"
Mirajane placed a mug of hot chocolate in front of Juvia and smiled softly at the Water Mage when she looked up with tear-filled eyes.
"Juvia swears that Gaj didn't do anything." She sniffled.
"I know." The barmaid said gently.
"Will you promise Juvia that you will not scare Gaj?"
"I promise so long as he behaves." Mirajane winked at her.
Juvia grabbed the mug and tried to take comfort from the warmth she felt travel throughout her hands. "Juvia is truly sorry for making it rain."
"You don't have to apologize. Everyone has their bad days and you're allowed to feel however you want."
"But no one else's emotions affect the weather like Juvia's does."
"That doesn't matter to us."
Juvia looked at her wide eyed.
"Cry as much as you'd like. We'll be here for you."
Her bottom lip trembled as her eyes burned with unshed tears.
The doors to the guildhall opened.
Her gaze went to the two Mages that had returned. Tears streamed down her face when warm cinnamon eyes met hers.
In a couple of strides the Celestial Mage covered the distance between her and the Water Mage.
"…Juvia is try—"
Lucy didn't let her finish before she wrapped her arms around Juvia's shoulders and held her close. "It's okay."
It was then Juvia felt herself crumble as she allowed herself to be held. Her arms wrapped around Lucy's waist as she allowed herself to hold on.
Max was sitting on a chair with feet propped up on the counter and ankles crossed. His arms folded over his chest and his head nodding off as he slept. The rainy weather never failed to cast a sleep spell over him.
Warren, who came out to keep Max company was failing horribly in his good intention. His attention was focused on the novel Nab had forcefully lend him, claiming that it was a must read.
Everything was going well and quiet with only Max's light snoring and the sound of raindrops hitting glass.
The Telepathic Mage was so engrossed with his reading that he didn't hear Laxus coming. He was close to finding out the identity of the antagonist. The author had done a superb job with building the suspense so much so that it sent chills down his spine. His hands grasped the book for dear life as he continued to read the final confrontation between the protagonist that had suffered greatly at the hands of the antagonist who identity remained shrouded in mystery… until now.
The protagonist only had to turn around for all the answers to come to light…
Lightning struck the shop and Warren screamed at the top of his lungs. He dove over the counter knocking Max's feet off and in the process caused the Sand Mage to fall of his seat. Both Mages lay sprawled on the floor.
Max groaned and Warren tried to get his own heart to settle down.
"That was cool!"
They glanced at each other in confusion when they heard Asuka's voice.
"You weren't lying when you said that we wouldn't get wet."
A throat cleared before a familiar gruff voice spoke up. "Do the both of you need any help?"
Max looked at Warren in confusion not understanding why he was on the floor and why he was hearing Asuka and Laxus. "Did you scream?" He asked his fellow guildmate because that was the only thing he remembered before he woke up on the floor with the breath knocked out of him.
"No." Warren said just as Asuka and Laxus said. "Yes."
The Sand Mage sighed letting the matter drop. He got up and saw Laxus holding a box under one arm and with the other arm he held Asuka. "Is that from Marie?"
Laxus nodded as he placed the box on the table and glanced at Warren when he got up reluctantly. For a moment he wondered if the Telepathic Mage truly did fear him. Guilt crept into the pit of his stomach.
"I've told you to stop reading that book if it keeps you on edge so much."
"But it's because it keeps me on edge that I like it." Warren whined to Max.
"Next time you call me in the middle of the night because you can't sleep, I'm not picking up."
"You wouldn't dare." His eyes narrowed on him.
Max began to pull out the fruit beverages that Marie had made. "Go tell the others that the drinks just arrived."
"Aye captain!" Warren saluted him causing Asuka to chuckle. The Telepathic Mage grinned at her before running off.
"It's not you that he's scared of."
Laxus quirked an eyebrow. A frown marred his lips.
"Don't give me that look."
Asuka glanced between Laxus and Max.
"I don't know what you're talking about."
"Of course you don't."
Laxus felt Asuka's gaze on him, but chose not to acknowledge it. He didn't want her to hear certain things. Didn't want it to change her opinion of him. Perhaps he was being a selfish coward. The breath rushed quickly into his lungs when he felt the tips of her fingers touch the bottom of his lightning bolt shaped scar. No one dared to touch it. They knew better. The only ones who had other than himself were his father, his grandfather, and Porlyusica.
"You're not scary."
Laxus felt his heart stutter within his ribcage.
Her small hand came down to his shoulder and began to pat it. "Not one bit."
The Lightning Slayer felt his face become considerably warm when the little girl graced him with a toothily smile.
Max could only gawk at the sight of Laxus blushing. Oh, how he wished Reedus was with him to witness the scene and paint a picture of it. No one would believe him about a blushing Laxus.
Without another word Laxus pivoted and walked out the shop to see many of his guildmembers rushing out the guild.
Cana smirked as she watched her comrades rush out the guild when Warren announced the arrival of Marie's drinks. "Laki!" She called after the Wood-Make Mage. "Save me one!"
"You should go grab one yourself."
The Card Mage looked over her shoulder and quirked an eyebrow at the barmaid. "Says the one that sent Kinana to go get one for her."
"I can't leave the guildhall unattended."
Cana's gaze swept over the almost vacant guildhall. Lucy and Juvia were still in their seats.
"What's your excuse?"
"I got my meeting with Laxus today."
"Your request must be really important."
"You can say that…"
The guild doors swung open.
"Speak of the Devil and he shall appear."
Mirajane waved Asuka and Laxus over.
She faced forward to see Laxus tense slightly as he walked passed Lucy and Juvia's table without greeting either Mage. She took note of Lucy's slight frown and the way her gaze lowered to the side. Her curiosity peaked. The day before they appeared to be getting closer and in the morning the Celestial Mage had been blushing over the Dragon Slayer, but now there seemed to be a distance between them.
"There seems to be trouble in paradise." Mirajane whispered to her causing Laxus to narrow his eyes on them. "How did it go with Marie?" she asked them once Laxus joined them.
"It went well." He placed Asuka on the seat across from Cana and put a hand on the little girl's head. "Make sure to get this one a strawberry smoothie."
Cana smirked at the child and whispered. "You have got to tell me your secret to getting Laxus to treat you to a free smoothie."
Asuka simply shook her head while chuckling. "I can't."
"Then I won't be the one getting free smoothies."
"Oh Laxus," Cana gaze swung back up to the Dragon Slayer. "You're so screwed."
He shrugged accepting his fate where it concerned Asuka.
"Are you ready to start meeting with people?"
"It's not like I have an option." He grumbled.
"Glad to hear that." She gave him a cheeky smile. "I'm the next one on the list."
"Let's head to my office." Just as he was about to walk away Asuka grabbed his hand. He glanced down at the child.
"Will you eat lunch with me?" She asked meeting his gaze shyly.
He remembered the slight breakdown she had in Marie's apartment. The sudden way she began to miss her parents. If this was what she wanted then he didn't see the harm in going out of his way to do this for her. After all, it was within his means of doing. "If that is what you want."
"Then come get me when you want to eat."
"I will!" Her smile was blinding.
Laxus looked away feeling his face heat up. Cana's snicker and Mirajane's aww was not helping.
Asuka gave his hand a final squeeze before letting go.
"Juvia thinks you should go talk to him."
Lucy looked at the Water Mage surprised.
"Love rival," Juvia placed her hand over Lucy's. "Juvia does not know the reason why you are hesitant to approach Laxus, but Juvia can see that you want to say something to him."
"I do, but now doesn't seem to be the right time." She glanced toward Laxus to see him walking with Cana toward the stairs.
"There is never a right time. You have to make the right time."
Lucy felt the moment slipping passed her fingers with each step Laxus took up the stairs. He would be busy meeting with guildmembers in his office and looking after Asuka when he wasn't in his office. She would be busy finishing packing, while having to cook for her team. They more than likely will not have a chance to talk later in the day.
She might not have the chance to talk to him before she left with Natsu the next day.
She couldn't simply accept that. "Laxus!" His name flew out of her mouth as she got up abruptly to her feet and ran toward the stairs.
Cana had reached the top of the stairs and turned around to see Laxus stop in his tracks. She caught of glimpse of surprise on his features before he turned around quickly. The Card Mage watched as Laxus seem to struggle to make a move toward the Celestial Mage who ran up the stairs. Her mouth fell open when Lucy tripped on one of the steps and let out an "Eeep!"
In a blink of an eye Laxus was in front of Lucy. His arm wrapped around her waist and pulled her toward him. His heart pounded viciously against his ribcage. The sight of her falling made him panic. She was about to get hurt and the only thing that crossed his mind was that he didn't want her to. The pain she was going to feel from the fall… he could prevent it from happening. This is something he could protect her from.
Lucy had her ear pressed against Laxus chest. She could hear the erratic beat of his heart and felt it mirrored hers. His scent filled her lungs. The hint of something sweet and sharp and fresh. The smell of thunderstorms. It was so distinctly his. Her hands fisted his coat when she felt his warmth seep through to her where they touched. Felt it course through her veins and ground her in the moment. The past and the future didn't matter at the moment. Only the present mattered, only this moment mattered.
This feeling was what she would be leaving behind. This feeling that chased away her fears and guilt. This person who made her feel safe. This person who made her smile. This person who she liked talking to. This person who she wanted to get to know more. She would be leaving him behind. "Laxus," she whispered his name and felt the arm around her waist hold her tighter and the hand that had slipped through her hair to grasp the side of her head curl slightly as if not wanting to let her go.
"Are you alright?" He asked becoming aware of their position. Ready to let her go in a moment's notice.
She nodded and his arms fell away from her. With a heavy heart she uncurled fists and looked up at him.
He remained silent not knowing what to say. She was the one who called out to him.
Her mouth opened and closed but no words would come out. There was so much she wanted to tell him but words were failing her at the moment.
Laxus for his part could relate to her at the moment. It truly was the worse when the right words wouldn't come. "Is this about this about you and Natsu leaving?"
"You don't have to ex—"
"It was something that we decided quickly. Not many in the guild know that we're going. I was going to tell you later today, but the Master…"
His gramps always did have a way complicating matters. Even so it didn't change the fact that she was leaving. "If you and Natsu have an emergency don't hesitate to contact me."
"Can I still contact you even if it's not an emergency?"
He tried not to let it show how her words affected him. Was she admitting that she liked his company? "If that is what you want."
That wasn't the clear answer she would have liked to receive, but she wasn't discouraged by his answer. "What do you want?"
For you to stay. It was not something he could tell her. "It doesn't matter what I want."
"It matters to me." She said without hesitation. An encouraging smile curled on her lips and glistened in her eyes.
And Laxus had the sudden urge to reach for her again, to touch her. He crossed his arms over his chest to keep from doing anything stupid. "I want what you want."
The smile fell from her lips and her eyes narrowed on him.
Now this was something he was familiar with. A smirk graced his lips.
"Fine." She hissed the words through clenched teeth. "I'll contact you every night."
"I'll hold you to that." He pivoted and began walking up the steps again.
"So you did want me to contact you!"
Laxus looked over his shoulder. "I have no idea what you're talking about, Heartfilia."
At the moment Lucy wanted to do many things to him. Mainly shove him a bit to wipe that smirk off his lips. He would probably chuckle at her attempts and make fun of her, but then a kiss would work on getting him to shut up. A kiss… She felt her face heat up at the thought of being bold enough to do such a thing, which led to how it would feel considering she already knew how it felt to be held by him.
"Now that's an interesting expression."
Laxus's voice cut through her train of thought. She could only look at him wide eyed and helpless.
"Makes me wonder what's going on in that pretty head of yours."
Before she could respond the doors to the guildhall were shoved forcefully open as a wet Natsu and Gray strolled in.
"So tell me Gray, when you catch a cold, do you sneeze icicles?"
"Quit asking stupid questions, moron." Gray growled at him. "Heat up already."
With that Natsu fired up to dry himself and the Ice Mage. "You never did deny that she was your girlfriend."
"That's it Fire Breath," Gray tackled Natsu who let out a yelp at the surprise attack.
"Laxus!" Mirajane called out.
The Dreyar sent lightning toward the teens as he continued his way to the second floor. He ignored the looks the First Master and Sixth Master were giving him.
Natsu was the first of the two to bounce back up. "Laxus!" He waved a fist in the air. "Fight me!"
"Not now." Laxus glared at Cana when the Card Mage nudged him in the ribs with her elbow.
"Later?" Natsu called out to him as he placed his hands on his hips.
The Fire Slayer's face lit up and released a cry of joy because it wasn't a flat out rejection.
"You're fucking crazy." Gray muttered as he got back on his feet.
"Lucy!" Natsu ran to her and pulled her into a hug. "Did you hear that? Laxus said maybe!"
"Congrats Natsu." Lucy couldn't stop the smile that graced her lips. His joy was contagious.
"Don't encourage him." Gray said as he took a seat beside Juvia. He took note of how the Water Mage went slightly tense and frowned.
"You're just jealous." Natsu grinned at him before turning back to Lucy and sniffing her.
"Natsu," Lucy placed her hand on his forehead and tried shoving him away when he continued to sniff her. "What are you doing?"
"Why do you smell like Laxus?"
"That is because Laxus and Love Rival shared a very romantic hug on the stairs." Juvia clasped her hands together and brought them close her chest as she looked at the stairs with a heart filled eyes.
"What?!" Natsu exclaimed looking at Lucy in disbelief.
"That's not what happened!" The Celestial Mage looked at Gray for help.
"I don't know Lucy, Juvia sounds certain about what she saw." He nudged Juvia lightly with his shoulder. She looked at him with a pink hue coating her cheeks and her gaze wide in surprise. It reassured Gray for a moment before she quickly looked away as if she couldn't look at him much longer. He wouldn't admit it out loud, but it hurt. He wondered if perhaps Natsu was right. Maybe he did do something to hurt her.
"Natsu!" Happy yelled as he flew into the guild holding two drinks in his small arms.
"Hey buddy!" Natsu grinned at him.
"You have to try this!"
"What it is?" He sniffed the drink Happy handed to him. It smelled of mangoes.
"It's one Marie's drinks. It's really delicious."
Natsu began to take huge sips.
"This one is for you." Happy handed the other drink to Lucy. "It's strawberry lemonade."
"Thank you Happy." Lucy pat the Exceed on the head.
"Holy crap!" Natsu exclaimed. "It's like there's a party in my belly!"
"It's times like these I'm reminded that mentally you stopped growing at eight." Gray mumbled amused.
"I know, right!?" Happy exclaimed as he hovered by Natsu.
"We need to get more!"
Lucy took a seat across Gray and Juvia and took a sip from her drink. She moaned at how good it tasted. "Happy wasn't kidding." She looked up to see Gray and Juvia giving her a look. "What?" She pushed her drink toward them. "You should try some."
"To the ends of the earth, would you follow me?
There's a world that was meant for our eyes to see
To the end of the earth, would you follow me?
Ends of the Earth (Lord Huron)
AN: I apologize for any grammatical errors. It's after midnight and I just really want to post this chapter after so long. There's still so much that needs to happen before this specific day can come to the end. I know I said there was going to be more Lucy and Laxus with Asuka, but it didn't fit in this chapter so expect some interaction for the three of them to be in the next chapter. The same goes for the meetings with Laxus, and Erza making a cameo along with Wendy.
Now with this chapter I have revealed what will happen with Natsu in this fic. So expect there to be angst when it comes to him… you have been warned.
With that said, I hope you guys liked the chapter!
Now I would like to thank: Lizz Cold 790, kurahieiritr JIO, ebonypol, Amanda, Blessed Unrest, Raiza-chan, papalogia, W1n6s-0f-F1r3, Maiokoe, Aletheia-Mustang, nerdfightersunshine, AnimeFan972, supercrazyperson, TheLoneWhiteAndGreenWolf, Aretha Atrahasis, GemNika, Veraozao, BrokenChildOfGlass, LittleMissee, vamplady019, FW Wandering, anime26, johanvy-chan, rebecca taylor, Guest, Trunksmybaby, justloverly, ichigo gaara rouge, Guest, Dragon'sHost, rrrrRANDOMmm, XxEnErGeTiCxX, CrystalVixen93, 3, , Tiernank, Retreat, SnowLilyAngel, DeborahBee, naes151, wingchan7, steffanyjane27, iheartpickles, shin, Peppi, dogsrcool5, , ytygr, Kairi Serenity Dark, Ancho Express, l1, Nina Heart, Dreyar is my married name, LePengwen, High Gaurdian, cloudcather, SCula, Paperhana, infinitelypanda, Paname, Lyssore, and .3 for reviewing along with everyone who added this fic to their favorites and/or alerts. You guys are the ones who give me that push whenever I find myself stuck in this fic. Thank you for all your kind words and encouragement (also your reactions to Laxus being described as a DILF were priceless XD ).
Please don't forget to review telling me what you think. I would love to hear from you guys and if you have any questions please don't hesitate to ask. :)