A/N: So, this story was originally posted in 2015. At the end of 2017/beginning of 2018, I decided to go back and revise every single chapter that I currently had posted. Some of the early chapters were rewritten slightly, while others just had a few minor edits for conciseness and readability (although some of them I tried not to edit too much). Whatever the case, they'd been edited. Every single one.
Anyway, to those just beginning this story, I hope you enjoy it, and hopefully you'll have an easier time reading it now that my writing has improved. To those who are coming back to re-read it again and see what changes I've made, well... I wish you luck, and I thank you for have put up with my horrible writing in the first place (if you were so unfortunate as to read this over a year ago).
"What?" he asked, blinking a few times with his unfortunate return to reality.
"You were staring at Blondie," the blond replied with a slight chuckle.
"I was not," Bickslow mumbled. "I was… staring at… Natsu," he lied. The fact that he had indeed been staring at Blondie – or Cosplayer, as he liked to call her – was something he would definitely not admit to Laxus. The whole Natsu story he could pull off… Or so he thought.
"Well then, I wasn't aware you swung that way," Laxus laughed. He knew he wasn't actually staring at Natsu, but he had decided to go along with it, just to see what his friend could come up with.
Bickslow's scowl was evident under his visor, partly because it only covered the top half of his face, and whenever he didn't have his tongue sticking out with a wide grin or if he was just showing no emotion it all, it was a scowl. "That's not what I mean, you ass." He thought for a moment before continuing with his well-thought lie, "He's always going on about he wants someone to fight him, and I was considering if it was worth wasting my time on him." That was believable… Right?
Laxus almost burst out laughing yet again. His friend was not the most creative when it came to lying. "Yeah, nice try. So why were you staring at Blondie?" he asked.
Bickslow was stumped. He should have figured out the Dragon Slayer would see right through it. Since he couldn't use Natsu, he decided to just embrace his inner – or not so inner, as everyone knew – pervert. "Have you seen the stuff she wears, dude? How can I not stare?" He finished with his signature grin, complete with his tongue hanging from his mouth with his Fairy Tail mark visible for everyone to see (or anyone who happened to look over to their table). When Laxus scoffed quietly, he went back to staring at her.
Lucy sat at her table with the rest of Team Natsu. She watched Natsu and Gray insulting each other and Gray subconsciously strip down, with both of them showing their respective elements on their hands. She wondered what would get destroyed from today's fight. She looked around at her friends and guild mates – family – happily. Erza sitting to her right smiling to herself before she had to go in and break up the fight before someone caught on fire or was surrounded by ice. She noticed Levy in a corner with her nose in a book, and all she could see was the top of her blue hair. Jet and Droy stood just behind her as usual. Gajeel was sitting in a dark corner eating some metal while talking to Pantherlily. She continued gazing around her guild when all she could hear from the bar was a very loud Elfman saying that Mira's stew from today was a man, and she smiled to herself.
This was her home, and she was glad that she was a part of the infamous Fairy Tail, despite its reputation for destroying things over the years. Most of all, she could say she loved everyone in the guild… Give or take a few people.
"Quit it out!" Erza shouted from between Natsu and Gray. A few chuckles could be heard in the now silent guildhall, where most people just turned back around and went back to doing what they were originally doing. At the bar, Mira was looking over some request forms while having a very one-sided conversation with Cana who was slumped over the bar with her keg of the day.
"There's just too many jobs to do at the moment, and no one is doing any!" Mira exclaimed while frantically trying to think of who could do what, if anything at all.
"Why don't I let the cards decide teams and force everyone to go?" Cana mumbled into the bar top. "It will be good for everyone to go and do something to for once. It's too loud in here with all the shouting."
Mira thought for a moment before she went on. Last time they let Cana do a divination, she was being controlled and the teams had been… less than favourable. "Cana… remember what happened last time we tried that?"
Cana threw her hand up to dismiss her thought before she let it fall back down with a thud. "Yes, yes, I know. It was just a thought, anyway."
Suddenly Makarov chimed in from his place on the bar, "Just let her do it. We need some fun around here, and this should mix it up." He chuckled at himself before going back to the mug in his hand. Mira seriously wondered who would win between Cana and Makarov if they ever had a drinking contest, and she shuddered at the thought of what would actually happen.
She was pulled from her somewhat horrific daydream though when Makarov suddenly spoke again. "Listen up, you brats!" Everyone stopped what they were doing and turned to the bar at the guild master's loud and sudden announcement. Gray and Natsu were mid-fight again and were now almost in suspended animation, waiting for what their guild master was wanting to say. "It's time for you to all go and earn some jewels and do some jobs for once." He looked around at the shocked faces of all of his children. He enjoyed it, to say the least. "And since none of you want to do it within your own little teams, we'll let our resident drunk—"
"Hey!" Cana shouted from her position, along with a few laughs from the others in the guild.
"As I was saying, Cana – our resident Card-magic user – will be the one to choose the teams, and whether they be fortunate or not, you will be going."
Various shouts came from the members of the guild – most remembered her last try at this, and were not fond of the same result.
Cana and Mira were standing over by the map of Fiore, with the requests all stuck to various locations on the map. Mira stood with a smile on her face, as usual, and Cana stood staring at the map with her cards in hand. I can't screw this up, the brunette thought. Most of the guild had gathered around them, curious as to see who would be going out on jobs and with who, yet the Raijinshuu sat down the other end of the guildhall, with Laxus using his sound pod, seemingly ignoring everything.
"Are you ready, Cana?" Mira asked, and Cana nodded.
"Alright, let's begin! And remember, no swapsies!" Makarov grinned. He knew there would be a few people who wouldn't be fond of going with their usual teams, but that made it all the more fun to him.
Cana suddenly opened her eyes and threw her cards towards the map at lightning speed, most in groups of two or three. She looked at the map again, now featuring her cards. Please don't screw this up, she thought again.
"Well then, let the fun begin!" Makarov received the first request and the two cards from Mira. He laughed loudly when he saw the pairing, only to be greeted by questioning gazes. "Gray and Natsu!"
"Wha—?" They muttered together.
"You heard the man, Flame-brain." Gray said. As much as he hated working with Natsu, they were both strong, since they were members of Fairy Tail's Strongest Team, or Team Natsu as most liked to put it, and even though he didn't like admitting it, they somehow worked well together. Well, sometimes.
"Why do I get stuck with Popsicle?!" Natsu was furious, to say the least.
"You'll be heading to a neighbouring town to sort out their problem with some lingering bandits and destroy their hideout, and I know that you'll be able to handle that part of the job."
"Yeah, well…" Natsu mumbled, with his hand behind his head and his signature grin on his face. Gray smirked. If it was destroying something, then they could definitely do it.
Mira handed the next request and cards to Makarov again. "Alright, next up we have…" He looked over the cards and skimmed the request, then said, "Freed, Evergreen, and… Elfman?" Mira giggled from her place next to the board, and gasps stemmed from multiple guild members. Evergreen was a shade of light pink, and Freed was a shade of an even darker pink just from the thought of being caught between the Fairy and the Man.
"Team is a man!" Elfman proclaimed as he stood up from where he sat, his fist up in the air. Evergreen didn't take too lightly to being called a man, and so her various cries let everyone know of her feelings for it. It eventually quieted down after Evergreen and Elfman had finished arguing, and Makarov motioned to Mira for the next pairing.
"Alzack and Bisca! No surprises there." Various cheers erupted from the guild, as usual. They were a lively bunch, after all. "Looks like you two will be acting as lookouts for a small bank while they get their security lacrimas installed. Seems easy enough." The two nodded. It wasn't something they hadn't done before, and they rarely ran into trouble on such jobs.
Slowly, the majority of the guild had received jobs. Some of the pairings were a bit strange, like Gajeel and Laxus – Bickslow wondered who would die first – and others were more expected, like Team Shadow Gear, or Erza going off on her own. Whether she stayed on her own for the entire job was a different story.
Bickslow twisted on the bench to look around the guildhall once again. Freed was trying to convince Makarov to let him trade places with Gajeel, Erza sat eating cake, Gray and Natsu were hurling even more insults before it was time to leave; and Lucy was… Wait, who was Lucy paired with? And then he realised that there were still more jobs being assigned.
Makarov and Mira looked at each other before the fourth master proceeded with announcing the mystery pair in his hand. It was bad enough that the undoubtedly two strongest teams in Fairy Tail had been split up. But that… That was something else, and it was going to be interesting. The job itself was simple, but it was the pairing. The guild members were getting impatient, and many were still waiting for their assigned teams or partners for their jobs.
"Just spit it out, Gramps! I want to go already!" Natsu whined, trying to hurry it along. He didn't like trains, but he wanted to get it over and done with, and that meant leaving as soon as everything in the guild was done and he wasn't at risk of getting squashed by a giant fist from attempting to leave early.
"Shut it, Flame-breath!" Gray yelld, starting another round of fighting for the two.
"Yes, alright, you brats," Makarov sighed. He shot a look at Cana who was now half asleep over a barrel. Now wasn't the time for her to screw up, but that being said, he trusted the guild's drunk, and so he finished stalling and read out the pairing. "Ah… Bickslow and Lucy!" The guild was silent for what felt like the first time in a very long while. Bickslow had just about fallen from the bench at his table, apparently pulled from whatever land he had been in, and Lucy had been about to take a sip from her drink which was now just held in her hand as she was too shocked to move. Multiple gasps came from across the guild, all equally as confused as the other.
"But… Wouldn't they work better if they were with the Raijinshuu or Team Natsu?" Wendy asked. She had nothing against the Seith mage, but she had been with the guild long enough to know that certain teams worked well together, and those two teams were forces to be reckoned with, especially when they weren't split up.
"Perhaps, Wendy, but rules are rules, and the job is simple enough anyway. I'm sure everything will be fine," Makarov responded before turning to Bickslow. "And I promise there's no cows anywhere near the location, Bickslow," he chuckled, to which the Seith mage only scowled under his visor.
"You and Blondie, hey?" Laxus asked. He had come back from the bar with drinks in each hand, sliding one across the table to his friend before taking a seat opposite him.
"What about it?" he asked, taking a drink from the cup. Bickslow could see Laxus watching him curiously, considering the man was basically staring at him from the other side of the table.
"It's weird." Laxus shrugged, though Bickslow couldn't really see how it was weird. Hell, he'd been out on jobs with a fair amount of people in the guild. Sure, the vast majority of those jobs were with his team and Laxus, but if he could survive getting bombarded with cows, then he could survive a day or so with the Celestial Spirit mage.
"Yeah, well, even if you say it's weird now, Loke will probably make a point of being there the entire time. I still don't think he's quite gotten over the Fantasia thing…" he mumbled and looked down at the table. None of them had quite forgiven themselves for that day. Sure, the guild had forgiven them, and Laxus was back in Fairy Tail, but they still couldn't get over it themselves. He shook his head, ignoring the past – since it was the past, after all – and finished his drink, slamming it down on the table to receive a questionable glance from Laxus. "As much as I'd love to stay and chat, I think they're done, so I'm out! I have a job to go do with Cosplayer!" He flashed his usual grin and began to walk towards Mira to get the details of the job.
"Don't have too much fun," Laxus called before the man had completely walked away. Bickslow turned his shoulder to face the blonde Dragon Slayer, his grin still on his face.
"You know I will."
Many members of the guild had gathered around the bar where Makarov was sitting. Mira was smiling as usual while she handed people large mugs or plates of food. Others were walking around the hall, trying to find their new partners. Bickslow made his way through the crowd and headed towards the bar. He was about to ask Mira for the job flyer when he heard someone call his name from just behind him. He turned around to see Lucy making his way towards him with a piece of paper in her hand. He looked down at her as she now stood in front of him. Has she always been this short?
"Hey, Cosplayer," He greeted her with his usual wide grin.
"I'm not a Cosplayer!" she insisted, her cheeks now a light shade of pink. She had mostly given up on trying to correct him at this point. There were worse nicknames out there, after all, so she just had to be grateful that this was a bearable one, for the most part. "So… When did you want to leave for this job then? I was thinking we could leave tomorrow morning so we'd have the entire day for it instead of having to find a hotel or something."
Bickslow shrugged. "That's fine. I'm guessing it's not in Magnolia, so how about we meet at the train station at about seven?"
"That sounds fine, so I guess I'll see you then?" It was hard to tell what kind of reaction he had to things considering half of his face was covered most of the time.
"I guess you will." Bickslow began to turn to start walking back to where Laxus sat. "See you tomorrow, Cosplayer," he called over his shoulder before he got too far away, his tongue rolling out of his mouth with a grin in his usual fashion. Lucy nodded and turned to walk back to where her team sat.
Lucy sat down at her table as Bickslow left. Gray and Natsu had apparently left in her absence from the table, and Erza was now talking to Wendy who had made her way over.
"You can always come with me, if you'd like. I'm sure master won't mind," Erza said before taking a bite of her strawberry cake.
"No, no, it's fine. I'm sure there was a reason I wasn't put in any teams for these jobs," Wendy sighed, trying to hide her obvious disappointment with the team selection.
"Nonsense! You are coming with me." Erza stood, putting her hand on Wendy's arm and pulling her up (maybe a little too roughly) and began walking over to Makarov to inform him of the new team arrangements, leaving Lucy alone at the table.
She looked around the hall for a moment, noticing that it was slowly becoming less and less full. A lot of the teams had already left for their jobs. With that she pushed herself up from where she sat and headed for the doors. It was now late afternoon, so she decided to just head home and get ready for the next day.
Freed had a scowl on his face as he sat next to Laxus and opposite Bickslow. The man was definitely not looking forward to being the third wheel to Elfman and Evergreen.
"Come on, it won't be that bad," Bickslow said with a slight smile. He knew it was going to be torture for him, but he had to try and cheer him up.
"Yes, it will," Freed insisted. "Anyway, I must go prepare. If I don't return… I fear Ever has most likely turned me to stone and pushed me off a cliff." He shuddered at the thought as Bickslow chuckled and Laxus made a noise that half resembled a laugh. They'd each had their moments where they'd feared Evergreen.
Bickslow and Laxus sat in silence for a while after that. Bickslow was looking down at his now almost empty mug, and Laxus was in what appeared to be an intense staring contest with his grandfather. "Do you know what kind of job you and Blondie are going on?"
Bickslow looked up to find Laxus now looking at him. "No clue. I heard it was simple, so I don't think it really matters," Bickslow answered. A job is a job. He rarely chose the ones the Raijinshuu went on with Laxus, so he was more or less just along for the ride. "What about you and Gajeel?"
"Something about some assassins. It's not too far away so we're taking the last train out tonight so I'll be back at some point tomorrow."
Bickslow looked down at his mug again before picking it up and downing the rest in one quick gulp. "Well, try not to set an entire forest on fire with your lightning this time, and… Try not to fry Gajeel." He slid from the middle of the bench to the end and was now standing, looking down at Laxus.
"Of course." The two had slight smirks, and Bickslow sighed and said, "Well, I'm out. See you later, then." He put his hand up and waved behind him as he walked towards the door, and he was only then realising that he was starting to feel a little bit nervous about working with the blonde Celestial Spirit mage. Maybe it's just because I haven't worked with her before? Yeah… It has to be. He shook his head and continued walking home with the babies following behind him.