"I can't believe those two are finally and formally tying the knot!"
"Well, they did say they already did so years ago; they just never did so in writing. Technically, they got married before any of us did."
"Papa pick Hikari up!"
He reached down and put the child in his lap before looking back to Levy. "Regardless. I'm still amazed they held out so long. Those two were doing it like rabbits before any of us were. I half expected there to be kids years ago!"
"Gray-sama! Not in front of Hi-kun!"Juvia gently sat on the couch and let Hikari eagerly crawl over to her. She cradled him and gave him a kiss on the forehead before looking to their guest.
Levy snickered for a second. "Don't worry. Gajeel is the same way." She knowingly grinned at how protective of a father he'd become in the last year the second their own son started walking.
Gray sat back on the couch and looked to Juvia. He ignored the stern look she was giving him for the previous comment by looking to their son and ruffling his hair affectionately. "So...when it is?"
"This fall. They wanted to make sure you got more than enough heads up."
He snorted. "I'll say. That's six months away! We don't need more than a month to reorganize our calendars and get tickets." He eyed Juvia and the fairly large bump she was now sporting. "And just how do YOU plan on going? I'm assuming you want to..."
Juvia smiled. "Juvia wouldn't miss Lucy-san and Natsu-san's wedding for the world!"
He scowled, still looked to her stomach and his soon-to-be daughter. "You'll be in no condition to fly by then, let alone the baby!" His arms crossed, chin rising when he wanted to put his foot down on a topic. "You should stay here with Hikari and your parents. I'll go for us."
Juvia's eyes narrowed a little in retort. Her lips tilted despite his look. "Juvia will be more than fit to fly by autumn. Papa and mama will be happy to take care of Tsubasa-chan for a little bit. Mama and papa won't want Tsu-chan to fly any more than Juvia will. Juvia would be sad to be away from Tsu-chan for that many days, but this is a once-in-a-lifetime event! Juvia would forever regret not being able to go!"
"I knew you'd say that... As much as I don't fully mind Hikari coming with, he's still only three. I don't think it's such a good idea for him to be on that plane for such a long time."
Juvia looked to their son and smiled. "Does Hi-kun want to go to the wedding of mama and papa's friends? Can Hi-kun behave well during a long plane trip?"
The youth gave a toothy grin and looked to his father. "Hi-kun go with mama and papa! Hi-kun behave well for mama and papa!"
He heaved a sigh and gave his wife a dry look. Once Juvia said something to their son, he took it as an oath and there was no talking him out of it. That kind of stubbornness came from one of them (or maybe both?) and it was like pulling teeth after Hikari's mind was made up.
Levy was trying her hardest to hold in her laughter at the banter which was so familiar. She had done something so similar many times before with Gajeel. He was worse than Gray because of his protective streak toward the family he finally had and it looked like Juvia was able to get away with way more than she ever had! Honestly, if it wasn't for work, she wouldn't even be able to be in the Lockser living room right now! She was well aware how much she was going to hear it from Gajeel once she got back in another day...about what she missed out on with their son and how she should be there with him to enjoy all the cute moments.
"So how has Levy-san and Gajeel-san been? How has the little one been?"
Levy smiled. "His name is Ren." She pulled up a picture on her cell phone because she knew the request would soon follow anyway. She gave it over to the pair and let Gray flip through the pictures in the phone. She watched him hold it out to Juvia so they could both see. "He just started walking and realized he was doing it a few weeks ago." Her gaze turned a little guilty. "I feel bad for leaving him for work, and I know Gajeel is going to give me the biggest guilt trip yet for going this far away for so many days...even if it IS for work..."
Gray snorted. "I have to agree with Gajeel."
Juvia tsked and lightly patted his arm at the comment in front of their friend. "Juvia understands Gray-sama's concern over leaving a little one. Juvia would probably lecture Gray-sama like Gajeel-san will do to Levy-san, but Juvia loves Gray-sama too much and Juvia understands that Gray-sama feels guilty enough for leaving on past business trips away from Hi-kun."
He said nothing, but pursed his lips in something of a pout over a reminder of the previous four months of work which had often kept him from home and her and their kids. She knew him well enough to not give him shit for being unable to be at home every night with her and their unborn because he would be kicking himself enough over it as it was.
Levy grinned at the pair. God, they were such a normal, married couple! It was cute to watch in its stereotypical setup. She idly twirled a long lock as she let the two converse for a few more minutes in Juvia's native language. She was happy to see how Gray switched between it and English without effort after the five years of his being in Pergrande Kingdom. She wondered if he would teach Hikari English anytime soon and bet that Juvia would if Gray didn't.
The trio exchanged what they had been doing the past few months in each continent. Levy gave details as she knew of from the times she had been able to hang out with Lucy and Natsu around work and family life. She also took a few pictures of Hikari on her phone to show everyone once she got back because she just knew they were going to ask. Her time doing college scouting at the Pergrande Kingdom colleges was done and she was going back to Magnolia very shortly; she needed mementos to give until everyone met up again during the wedding.
It was always nice to be the one to visit everyone in person, though she was technically here on business. Emailed pictures and updates just wasn't the same as this. She missed them all and was the one to pass on messages and items from Natsu and Lucy for the trio whenever she arrived. The last time she was able to set foot in this land was when Hikari was just born and the year after she wasn't able to go because the program didn't have any interest from the local university last year.
It was never easy getting on that plane when her time here was done and it was always a mix of sadness and elation. Being the one to continue traveling, even if it was to go home to her own family and friends, was never easy to bear. She never could shake that bridge she felt like she was. She always left one group to see the other. It was like her undergrad years all over again...except she WAS able to see Gray and Juvia again, unlike the other students.
The afternoon wound down and Levy watched Aires make dinner in order to learn yet another recipe from this land to share once she got back home. Such was the best part about being able to travel on business: she informed the university she already had lodging set up and they let her go because she was saving them money. Thus, she got to have enjoyable conversations with Juvia's parents again that night and stayed up for evening tea. It wasn't until she was in the silence of Gray's old room much later that evening, staring out at the wintery land, when an old thought came to her.
Were there any more adventures to be had? She felt like, at their age as young adults, there should be more to do than this!
Her lips tilted, head shaking a little. She thought back to attending Gray and Juvia's wedding that summer he returned, hearing about Hikari's birth almost that next year, her wedding with Gajeel three years ago, the birth of their son, helping Lucy with business matters whenever it required her language skills, helping Natsu move into Lucy's house, hearing about Juvia's second pregnancy, and helping Lucy plan her wedding going by her own experience.
While things had definitely seemed to calm down over the past few years, the adventures were still going on...but mostly with the next generation. The Locksers were running the shipping business and raising Hikari...and soon to be Tsubasa. Gajeel was busy being the cop he always wanted to be and helping to raise Ren while she was traipsing all over the countries to find students for Magnolia University. Lucy was trying to take the reigns of her father's business more and more in order to give him more down time as he kept gaining years. Natsu had risen to work for the regional offices in order to try and help her even more. He was inspecting cities up to a few hundred miles around them with her in mind every time he left Magnolia.
No more adventures? There were always adventures to be had! She wondered if her household or Lucy's would ever settle to the sense of normalcy that Gray and Juvia had and realized that she kind of liked things the way they were for now. Maybe someday soon she would find a successor for her current scouting job at M.U. so she could have a second child like Juvia had beaten her to. She knew Gajeel wouldn't mind the attempts in the least and he also didn't mind taking off work from the force while she did her thing in the meantime. She knew it was his way of paying her back for helping him achieve his dream...and he got to spend more time with Ren whom she knew he adored.
She snorted when she thought to Natsu and Lucy. She had a feeling the second the gloves were fully off for those two, Lucy's father was finally going to get his wish at having that house filled with people! She bet those two were going to have at least two kids because they were both only children. She knew that Lucy mentioned wanting to give her father some extra happiness by letting him hold his grandchildren before he got too much older. She only wondered if Capricorn and Virgo would be enough to keep track of all those little fireballs running around the mansion! Maybe they'd have to hire someone else to keep them in line...
She smiled and shook her head before turning from the window. She still somewhat remembered how everyone had been so sad at Gray going away back then, but he had never left them in the slightest! They all still bugged each other relentlessly and they were all in each other's lives...almost too much at times! She never lost the sense of bemusement at thinking how they managed to stay connected so well for so long. Never had there been an instance where one party was out of the loop concerning anything going on with the other two. She knew such a tight knit group would continue because the Lockser shipping business would happily be working with the Heartfilias for many years to come.
There didn't seem to be much left to do except get married and have kids...
She had once thought that and never had she been more wrong! There was still so much left to do and everyone would probably make sure that all of the kids would be together with them to witness it! Perhaps one of these years soon, once Tsubasa was old enough to travel and none of them were too pregnant to enjoy the experience, the entire mass of families could reconvene on Lucy's property and camp out one summer. Her lips tilted at the thought of such an ordeal. How much fun THAT would be! She should go over it with Lucy once she got back home...after seeing Gajeel and Ren that was...
Thanks to all for reading this from start to finish! m(_ _)m I understand that this has been an extremely LONG story (the most I've ever written at once in the last 13 years), but I hope they were all enjoyable in some way.
Thanks to those who started with me last July and read this; I am thankful for your continual support and patience with this. I understand that it started slow and sometimes some of the chapters were fairly boring and uneventful. This has been a labor of love, sweat, tears, and writer's block. This has taken over my life in a good way over the last year and it became so much more than I ever thought it would be when I started the initial concept of the whole thing.
Thank you to my reader Ottery for discussing possible ideas with me and help nudge me to start this piece...without you, this may have never existed.
To all the many artists that I have found chapter inspiration from, I hope I have not irked too many by describing your masterpieces using my words. I hope that linking your work has been sufficient to gain more followers to love what you have made as I still do and helped created more fans in the process.
To all my readers past, present, and future, I hope you enjoyed your time and the 386,000+ words! You did it; you read it all! I shall always think of this work fondly, even as I move on to other series and ship other characters.