Alright. I really did intend on making this chapter a good 8-9k words longer, but it would've taken me another few months. Next few months will be super busy for me as it is between exams, going out on prac, and moving (possibly twice, too), I won't really have any time to write anyway. So. I decided to cut the chapter short, and post it now. I really wanted to post something, and... Well, I have nothing else to post.

Anyway, I hope you enjoy the unedited, unproofed mess that my chapters always are. I really do hope I'll have the time and inspiration to get something better out to all you guys soon. Thank you as always for being patient with me.

It was a little past noon when there was a knock on Lucy's door, and she had every intention of ignoring it until she heard from the other side, "Lucy? It's Felix. May I come in?"

She sat up quickly, closing the book and smoothing out the blanket on the bed. "Uh, yes, of course," she called back, looking down to herself quickly before Felix opened the door. At least she'd gotten out of her pyjamas.

Felix gave her a kind smile as he opened the door, holding up the plate and the glass in his hands. "I thought you might be hungry since you haven't come downstairs all morning," he said, gently placing them down on the empty desk by the door. "It's just a sandwich, nothing special." Usually Idelle hated having food upstairs, but Felix decided it was for a worthy cause.

Admittedly, she was pretty hungry, but she hadn't really wanted anyone to bring her anything, especially not one of her hosts. "I'm sorry, you and Idelle must think I'm being incredibly rude right now," she mumbled, wringing her hands together in her lap. She'd been trying her hardest to be polite and be a good guest and not make it obvious that she was uncomfortable as all hell, but then Bickslow had just had to go open his big mouth and ruin it, and she was still so mad at him that she just couldn't bear to see his stupid face because she kind of wanted to punch him.

"Not at all."

"I just… really don't want to see Bix right now," Lucy added quietly.

Felix nodded. "It's understandable." He glanced down to the food left on the desk before gesturing to the bed where Lucy still sat. "May I sit?" he asked.

"Oh, of course. I mean, it is your house…"

"Well, it's my wife's, technically, but I let you have that one," he said, only getting a hint of a smile from Lucy beside him. "Idelle does wish to apologise, though. She didn't mean to make you uncomfortable."

"Oh, no… She doesn't need to do that," Lucy said quickly. "And she didn't make me uncomfortable. It was fine, really…" Well, it had been until Bickslow had opened his dumb mouth.

"If it makes you feel any better, Bix has just been sulking all morning."

"That does make me feel a little better…"

"It's been quite annoying, actually…" Felix mumbled. "He keeps biting everyone's heads off. And, I was going to try and sneak Scarlett up to you as well, because I thought you might cheer up with a few cuddles, but he doesn't seem to be letting her out of his sight for more than thirty seconds at a time…"

Lucy couldn't help but smile for a moment. "Yeah, he gets like that sometimes," she whispered.

"Anyway, I just thought I'd check up on you," he said, letting out a sigh as he slowly stood again. "You have to remember to eat and drink plenty of water up here. You need the energy."

Lucy nodded. "I know. Thank you."

"I do hope you make it down for dinner, though. I can make something you like, if that would help."

"Oh, no, that isn't necessary…"

"Well, if you change your mind, I won't be too hard to find."

Lucy nodded again and smiled politely at the man before he gently closed the door behind himself again. She hadn't really wanted to make anyone feel like they needed to check up on her, but even then, she was glad that it had been Felix and not Idelle. He was easier to talk to, and he just seemed… nicer. And it wasn't that Idelle wasn't nice, but there was something about her that just made Lucy uncomfortable.

And Lucy supposed that she probably should make an effort to go downstairs at some point. She felt like she was being a horrible guest by hiding up there, despite what Felix said. She still didn't really want to see Bickslow, but she could at least try to make an appearance.

"I'm sure she'll forgive you," Idelle said softly, adjusting the bauble on the branch before reaching for another one from the box.

"I really fucking doubt it," Bickslow mumbled.

"She just needs a little space, that's all."

"I'm pretty sure the only reason she didn't get on a train back to Magnolia this morning was because she's too worried about offending you," he scoffed. "She doesn't need space as much as she just needs to get as far away from me as she possibly can."

"Bix, don't say that," Idelle sighed. "And watch your language, mister. Especially in front of your daughter."

Bickslow rolled his eyes and shook his head as he worked on untangling the tinsel, only getting frustrated when it knotted up and tugging on it so hard it broke in two. "She's like two months old. Like she cares." Besides, she was too happy just lying on the floor to care if he swore or not.

"That's not the point. But… Still, just let Lucy have her space. I'm sure she'll come down eventually once she realises you were just trying to protect her." Although Idelle still felt horrible for it. None of it would've been happening if she'd just talked about something else. In hindsight, it probably hadn't been the best idea to ask her house guest about future family plans. It hadn't been any of her business.

"Except that's why she's pissed at me," Bickslow pointed out. "And I really, really don't think she's going to forgive me for that." He knew he'd fucked up, and if he had a time machine, he'd sure as hell be going back to make sure he just kept his mouth shut to let Lucy handle it on her own. She was more than capable of it, and Bickslow knew that. Why he'd even bothered trying to help at all, he had no fucking clue. It sure as hell hadn't been his place to say anything at all, and he'd known that.

Idelle pursed her lips as she watched Bickslow drag the decorations box over to where Scarlett was still preoccupied with the playmat and the hanging toys, sitting down next to her to begin rifling through it. She was beginning to doubt that there was anything she could say to Bickslow to make him feel better, and Idelle really wished that it was different. Perhaps all she could do was try and keep him preoccupied. At least if he was distracted, he wasn't quite as mopey.

"What do you think of lasagne for dinner?" Felix asked as Bickslow walked into the kitchen. He didn't look up, only kept looking through his recipe collection for inspiration.

"Uh… I don't know," Bickslow mumbled, looking around for wherever he'd left the formula for Scarlett. Bickslow was convinced it was never in the same place he left it. "I don't really care what we have. Isn't it a bit hot for that anyway?"

Felix sighed and flicked through the pages some more until Bickslow held Scarlett out for him so he could get her bottle. "It's cooled down a little bit," he said, gently poking Scarlett's chin until she smiled at him. "I'm just trying to think of something that Lucy will eat."

"She's not a picky eater. And I doubt she'll come down for dinner anyway."

"Well, she might. Does she eat lasagne anyway, do you know?"

Bickslow tried not to laugh for a second as he finished mixing up the bottle. Does she eat lasagne. "She has eaten an entire tray of it cold in one day." He was still kind of amazed by it. How she hadn't ended up sick from it, Bickslow had no idea. "She likes my cooking," he added when his father raised an eyebrow at him. "It's probably the only thing she likes about me at this point…"

"Oh, stop that already. It's getting ridiculous."

"Stop what?"

"Moping around and being miserable."

"I'm not moping, thank you very much." Or maybe he was. But still, he had a good reason for it.

Felix shook his head as he carefully handed Scarlett back to him. "You are. You pissed her off and you need to just deal with that," he said, closing the recipe book and getting up from the stool. "No one is going to feel sorry for you when it's your own fault she's mad at you, so quit being a miserable prick and do something else."

Bickslow opened his mouth to defend himself, but then quickly shut it again when he realised he didn't even have anything to say. If it was one thing his dad had always been good for, it was calling him out on his shit. Granted, his mother was good at it too, but his dad was the best at it. He wasn't afraid of offending people, or at least not his sons.

Still though, even if Bickslow knew his dad was right, he sure as hell didn't like being called out like that. It was… embarrassing. And it was frustrating, too, because damn it, why couldn't anyone be on his side? They were all on Lucy's side. And granted, it made sense, because it was his own fault, but they were still his parents. They were supposed to feel sorry for him.

Bickslow still didn't know what he was supposed to say, so he only scowled and stormed away with his daughter and her bottle. She'd already had her bath so it was almost bedtime for her. Hopefully she'd actually sleep that night, too, because she sure as hell hadn't the night before.

Bickslow wasn't sure if he'd ever had a dinner so uncomfortable quiet, not even when he'd still been living at home. Lucy had actually come down to eat, much to his surprise, but she hadn't said a single word to him - although that, Bickslow hadn't been surprised by. His mother had been too worried about upsetting Lucy again so all she'd done was apologise, and his father had mostly just been trying to stay out of it, but conversation had never really been his strong point anyway. The only words Lucy spoke the whole evening were to Idelle and Felix though - she'd assured Idelle that she had nothing to apologise for, and she'd thanked Felix for cooking another wonderful meal, all while apologising for being such a rude house guest.

As soon as everyone had finished, Lucy excused herself and disappeared back upstairs, and as soon as she was out of the room, Bickslow groaned and let his head hit the table. Thankfully, he'd moved his plate out of the way first. "She hates me," he mumbled. "She really hates me."

"Honestly, she really might," Felix agreed.


"What?" Felix shrugged as his wife continued to scowl at him from across the table. "It's his own fault. There's no point in sugar coating it, especially if she really does hate him for it."

Bickslow groaned into the table again before he slid his chair out and sluggishly pulled himself up from the table. His dad was probably right again, but that didn't make him feel any better. He just seemed to keep fucking everything up lately, first with Laxus, then with his daughter and Katie, and now it was things with Lucy, too. Although pissing of Lucy almost hurt the most, at least right then.

"I think I'm just gonna go to go to bed," he mumbled. Sleeping sounded like a good idea. He was still exhausted from Scarlett being up all night, and the heat just made it worse. "Night."

"Goodnight, Bickslow," Idelle said softly. "Get some rest." Hopefully he'll be in a better mood in the morning. The last thing she needed was one of her sons moping around on Christmas. Perhaps some sleep with do him some good. Perhaps it'd help Lucy come to her senses, too. Idelle could only hope. Once Bickslow had gone though, she only looked back to Felix with another frown. "You didn't need to rub it in, you know," she muttered.

Felix sighed as he picked up his glass. "I know," he mumbled. "But it's still his own fault. No one else should feel sorry for him."

"Oh, how can you say that? He's your son, and he's clearly upset by this."

Felix shrugged again. "He's a grown man who should be able to handle his mistakes." Sure, he felt a little sorry for Bickslow, but it was still his own fault he was miserable. He'd thought he wouldn't have to deal with his son sulking again when he'd moved out. Apparently not. Still, he felt more sorry for Lucy, because she hadn't come to have Bickslow blurt out her secrets. "It's not my fault he's upset."

Idelle huffed and picked up her plate to take it to the kitchen. "Well… Well that's just mean," she said bitterly before walking away. Granted, Felix made a little sense, but Bickslow was still their son so the least he could do was care about him a little.

Lucy talked herself in and out of finally going to see Bickslow at least five times before she dragged herself off the bed one last time and crept into the quiet hallway. As mad at him as she was, after staring at the same four walls for nearly an entire day, Lucy would admit that she might've overreacted a little. She probably hadn't needed to ignore him for an entire twenty-four hours, even if it did still feel kind of justified, because she still very much wanted to punch him or something.

He was almost like Natsu in a sense. He had an innate ability to piss her off so much, but she could never stay mad at him for long.

And in any case, even if she was still mad at him for what he'd said, she kind of missed him, too. She'd come with him to spend the holidays with him, not lock herself in a guest room and determine how likely it would be for her to get away with murder.

It was late enough that Lucy assumed Bickslow would be in his room, but she wasn't sure if he'd still be awake or not. She counted the doors in the dim hallway, reaching the second door down from her own and gently knocking before pushing it open a tad. "Bix? Are you still awake?" she asked quietly, peeking in through the gap to see Bickslow sitting up in his bed.

"What? Yeah, of course." He lowered his book and watched Lucy let herself in and close the door behind herself before making her way over to him, climbing up onto the mattress and making herself comfortable next to him. Bickslow didn't really mind that she was there, and she could sleep there for all he cared. He was just confused, because the last he knew, she was ignoring him. When Lucy remained silent, only dragging her pillow closer to him so she could drape her arm across his stomach, Bickslow took it upon himself to ask, "Does this mean you're talking to me now or something? Because last I checked you were still ignoring me…"

"Yes," Lucy mumbled.

Bickslow was going to assume it meant she was talking to him now, although really, it was more of a hope than anything. "So… Are you still mad at me then?" he asked.

"Yes," Lucy mumbled again. "But… I'll admit that I might've overreacted just a little bit." Not a lot, but a tiny bit. And it was the closest thing Bickslow was going to get to an apology from her, too.

Bickslow closed his book and set it down on the nightstand, setting his glasses down on top of them so he could slide down the bed and put his head on the pillow without them getting in the way. "You didn't overreact," he said softly. "And even if you did, it was completely justified. I was such a dick to you yesterday. I made you stay here, and then I told everyone that you couldn't have kids, and… And I'm sorry. I really am."

"I know you are."

"I thought you'd want to go home, to be honest."

Lucy gave a small shrug, burying her head in the pillow. "I did want to at first, but I knew it would've just made things worse and I knew you wouldn't have wanted me to leave," she whispered. She wasn't sure if staying had actually been the right decision, but leaving would've just ruined the whole point of going there in the first place, and she still wanted to spend Christmas with him.

Sure, Bickslow wouldn't have wanted her to leave - and he still didn't want her to leave - but he wasn't really going to admit that. He just had to be grateful that Lucy had stayed, because he really wouldn't have blamed her for deciding she didn't want to stick around for another few days. "I'm still really sorry. I should've just let you handle it on your own and I shouldn't have said anything at all."

"Bickslow, please just stop apologising already. It doesn't really change anything." She knew he regretted it, but an apology didn't really take anything back. Bickslow had already said what he had, and it had already hurt, and there wasn't really anything that could change that. "Just… don't do something like that again, because it kind of hurt," she said.

"I'm sorry."


Bickslow couldn't help but grimace. "I know. I heard it," he mumbled. He seemed to be a compulsive apologiser when it came to Lucy, not that he was sure it was a bad thing, but at least right then, he was going to have a hard time trying to keep his mouth shut again. "I'll stop apologising now, even though I feel like I owe you at least another seventy-three of them."


"Give or take a few. I just want to know how to make it up to you, because I feel super fucking terrible for what I said."

"You don't need to make it up to me. It's fine," Lucy said quietly.

"I want to, though," Bickslow insisted. "You're still mad at me for it, which is understandable, but I just… I need to make it up to you somehow, because… Because I'm sorry, I really am. And I know you told me not to apologise, but I really can't help it."

Lucy let out a deep sigh, closing her eyes and just relaxing for a moment. She probably should've expected Bickslow to want to just keep apologising or insist on making it up to her, because that was just what he was like. But that just really didn't help, because apologising over and over again wasn't going to achieve anything, and she just had no idea what Bickslow could do to make it up to her, because in a way, as much as it had hurt for him to blurt it out the way he had, she'd kind of already forgiven him for it.

He'd made a mistake, and he'd had a momentary lapse in judgement. Lucy still wished he hadn't said it, because she hadn't needed Bickslow's family pitying her and she certainly hadn't needed Bickslow to think she needed his help, but it wasn't like it was the worst thing that could've happened. Of all the people Bickslow could've blurted it out to, his family was probably the best option. It wasn't like she'd see them again after Christmas anyway, so she could just forget about it keep living her life as usual.

Still, she couldn't do that if Bickslow was going to apologising every five seconds and trying to make it up to her every chance he got. It was already driving her insane and he'd only just started.

Opening her eyes again, she shuffled forward slightly so she could rest her head on the edge of Bickslow's pillow instead, and quickly pressed her lips to his. "Bickslow, I promise you don't need to make it up to me, and you don't need to apologise anymore," she said. She knew Bickslow hesitant to actually believe her, but she'd expected that much. "I know you didn't mean it, and what's done is done, so there's no point in dwelling on it. If you really wane to make it up to me, then you can just forget about like I'm trying really hard to do. Okay?"

After a moment, Bickslow gave a small nod, and Lucy quickly kissed him again before she made herself comfortable by returning to her own pillow. He really didn't want to get forget about it, but… If that was how he made it up to her, then that was what he'd do. Sometimes he really wasn't sure why Lucy put up with so much crap from him.

He'd never exactly been the greatest friend to her, always joking around and never really being serious, and then pushing her away that time when she'd been trying to help with Scarlett. He'd given her plenty of reasons to just turn around and decide he wasn't worth the time or effort, but she'd just always put up with it all, and she'd always forgiven him for every shitty thing he'd ever done to her. Bickslow just didn't think he deserved her, not in any way. He didn't think anyone deserved her. Still, as little as he deserved her attention or even just her friendship, Bickslow really didn't know what he'd do without her, and the more time he spent with her, the worse it got, and Bickslow just wasn't sure if that was a bad thing or not.

In any case, Bickslow was just glad that she could still actually tolerate him, and he couldn't help but wrap his arms around her as best he could and crush her under him in a tight hug. He didn't really care that it was still quite possibly thirty degrees outside and that it was way too hot to even be touching another human. He'd missed her, damn it. And sure, it had only been a day, but it had been an entire day where he'd felt like absolute crap and he'd been stupidly miserable, and he already felt a million time better just knowing that Lucy liked him enough to actually talk to him again.

"God, get off me, you oaf," Lucy groaned. He was heavier than he looked, and Astrantia had the most ridiculous winter that was not at all suitable for any form of cuddling. "It's too hot for this."

"I know it is." Bickslow sighed as he finally let get of her, rolling back onto his side. "I just really missed you for some reason. Is that weird? It's totally weird." He shouldn't have missed where when she'd been in the same damn house the entire time. It just didn't make sense.

"Why do you think I'm here right now?"

"I don't know, because you got bored?"

"…Well, yes… But… I missed you as well, even if it sounds really stupid."

"Well, I guess we're both weird then," he said softly. It was still weird and definitely stupid, but he didn't feel quite so bad about it knowing that Lucy had kind of missed him as well. It gave him hope that he hadn't completely fucked things up with his big mouth, too. "But, uh… Not that I really mind or anything… Why are you here?"

Lucy gave a small shrug. That's a stupid question. "Do you mean like, right now? Or in general…"

"Both, I guess." He was still curious as to why Lucy had bothered coming to Astrantia with him, but mostly he just wanted to know why she was in front of him, because she was the one who'd insisted of staying in the guest room.

"I… wanted to be with you and Scout for Christmas," she whispered. Lucy thought it had been obvious, but maybe not. Natsu had said they were like their own little family, her and Bickslow and Scarlett, and… They kind of were. So where was the harm in wanting to spend the holidays with her family? That was what normal people did.

"And now?"

Lucy shrugged again, burying the side of her face into the pillow and casting her eyes downward. She thought that was obvious, too, but really, she'd just wanted to cuddle - or, well, something close to it, since it was way too hot to actually cuddle. She was weak to the cuddles and Bickslow was always just so warm and it was so easy to curl up next to him and fall asleep. But, she didn't really want to say that. Not out loud, anyway. "Just because," she said instead.

"Fair enough," Bickslow murmured, a soft smile on his lips. "Although… You're probably better off staying in the other room anyway."

"Are you trying to get rid of me already?"

"No! No, I… I like it when you, you know, stay over. Well, back home, at least," he admitted. He wished he'd turned the lamp off when he was sure he felt all the blood rush to his cheeks. But still, he probably liked sleeping with her more than actually having sex with her. "I just mean… You'll probably sleep better in your own room, because Scout barely slept last night, and she's already woken up twice since I put her down earlier, and… And it's not fair for you to lose sleep as well."

"I don't mind it." She'd even get up for her if she had to. Scarlett was always good for her anyway.

"Are you sure?"

"Of course I am, now stop worrying about it."

Only watching her for just a flicker of hesitation, Bickslow finally sighed and reached back to turn off the lamp, leaving the room in almost complete darkness. He'd wanted to go to sleep earlier, but Scarlett had started crying almost the minute he'd gotten into bed, and then an hour after she'd settled down, she'd started crying again. Bickslow was sure it was the heat, but he didn't really know what else he was supposed to do. He'd given her a cool bath earlier, hoping that it would help her sleep, and he'd hadn't bothered putting her in a onesie or anything else because he'd known she'd be too hot in it, and he'd tried leaving the fan on all day too to try and cool the room down, but none of it seemed to be enough. If it didn't cool down soon, he'd have no choice but to ask his parents how they'd managed with him and his brother, and Bickslow really didn't want to ask his mother for parenting advice.

Still, last he'd heard, his brother's family would be arriving at around eight, so he needed to try and get some sleep. He loved his family - well, mostly - but Christmas almost always ended in disaster. He'd technically only been back for Christmas once since waking up on Tenrou, but the holidays when he'd still been living at home had always given him the worst headaches imaginable. He wasn't really looking forward to the morning, even if Lucy being there would make it somewhat tolerable.

"Hey, uh… Can I ask you something?"

Lucy opened her eyes again, just making out Bickslow's face in the shadows. She had a feeling she knew what he wanted to ask about, and she was inclined to say no just so she could go to sleep and not worry about it. But she knew that if she did say no, then she'd be stuck thinking about what it was Bickslow had wanted to ask and she wouldn't sleep. "If you must," she mumbled.

"Does it, um… Does it… hurt? Knowing that you can't have kids, I mean. Although I guess that's a stupid question since I made you cry that one time, so it must hurt, but… Does it bother you?"

"Haven't you already asked me that before?"

Bickslow hummed, tilting his head slightly. "No, I don't think so?" He wasn't really sure, though. He knew they'd kind of jokes about what their hypothetical kid's last name would be if they were married, and he'd said that he wouldn't really mind if Lucy had somehow been pregnant and wanted to keep the baby, but he was almost certain he hadn't asked just how she felt about it all. He didn't think it was something he should be asking about either since it wasn't really any of his business, but he was kind of curious. It didn't help that he had a horrible feeling he was somehow the cause for her supposed infertility, too. "You don't have to answer it. It doesn't really matter. I just thought I'd ask because, you know, when my mum was asking you about it last night, you said you were fine with it."

Lucy let out a quiet sigh and just listened to the steady sound of the ceiling fan spinning above them. She strangely didn't mind talking to Bickslow about it. It helped that he was the only person she could talk to about it all, but even with him having blurted out to his family that she couldn't have kids, Lucy still wasn't really opposed to answering his question. It was just that her answer wasn't really one she'd thought about much. Thinking about it right then though, it didn't really hurt her as much as everyone else would probably expect.

"It doesn't really bother me that much, I don't think," she answered slowly, considering her answer and her words so that it made some kind of sense. "It only really hurts in the sense that it's the one thing I'm supposed to be able to do, but I can't even do that." She still didn't even know why she couldn't get pregnant. No one had given her a straight answer. Although since she technically already had been, she wasn't even sure what to believe anymore.

"I see…" Bickslow murmured. "But… Other than that? It doesn't bother you?"

"Not really. It sucked at first, and it kind of hurts every now and then, but… It's not really the end of the world. I mean, I can still have kids some day. They just won't really be my own. I'm not even sure I want kids anyway, and I don't think not being able to get pregnant is a bad thing, either."

"What do you mean?"

"Well, would you want something the size of a watermelon living inside you, taking up all the room where your organs are supposed to be, and making you want to pee every five minutes? Not to mention actually delivering said watermelon," she said. As far as Lucy was concerned, there were far more cons than pros when it came to creating new humans, and she was convinced it wasn't as glamorous as everyone made it out to be.

"W-Well, no…" Bickslow mumbled. That doesn't sound too pleasant… "Now I just feel sorry for Katie… Because, I mean, I did that to her…"

"Yeah, but you got Scout out of it so her suffering was worth it."

He had to give her that one. "I suppose, yeah." Scarlett made lots of things worth it. "But… Seriously, you're not that bothered by it?"

"I don't think so, no. I'm not even twenty-one yet anyway, so it's not really like I've been thinking about having kids and all that." She was doing pretty okay without kids anyway, so Lucy just didn't think she had a reason to be upset by it. She really didn't think it was the end of the world anyway, and even if she did maybe decide to have kids one day, which was entirely possible, then all it meant was that she'd have to do it another way, and that was fine. She didn't think she was missing out on anything, despite how many mothers would disagree with her and try and convince her otherwise. "Besides, if I want a baby, I can just steal Scout. It's fine."

Bickslow couldn't help but smile in the dark. "Yeah, I guess you can," he whispered. As far as he was concerned, Lucy could steal Scarlett any day of the week. He'd already named her as Scarlett's guardian should anything happen to him, right before they'd left for Astrantia. He probably should of at least told her about it, or asked her if she was okay with it, but it had been kind of impulsive and he'd been in a bit of a rush. Still, he trusted his team a hell of a lot, but when it came to his daughter, he trusted Lucy more.

Lucy woke first, emerging peacefully from her slumber to no annoying birds outside her window and to no screaming infant, either, although the latter was far more surprising. Only slivers of the morning sun came in between the curtains, but it was enough light for Lucy to see Bickslow still asleep beside her, and Scarlett still in the old crib on the other side of the room. Without her keys she couldn't ask Horologium for the time, but judging by the fact that Scarlett wasn't up yet, Lucy supposed to it was still early.

She stretched her arms above her head as she glanced back to Bickslow, then dragged herself out of bed carefully so she didn't disturb him before ducking into the adjoined bathroom quickly. Bickslow had rolled back over by the time she walked back in so she supposed he wasn't completely asleep, but that didn't matter since she had every intention of waking him up anyway. It was Christmas, and you always had to be up early on Christmas. That was part of what made it so fun.

She crawled back onto the bed and over to Bickslow, not being overly gentle as she laid back down right next to him and propped herself up on her elbow. Briefly Lucy wondered if the movement would be enough to get him to properly wake up, but it seemed it wasn't. So she pulled herself up slightly so she was almost lying on top of him, something that Bickslow was no doubt aware of, and lifted her other hand to hover just above his face before lightly running the tip of her finger down the centre of his mark. "Bix… Wakey wakey," she whispered. She couldn't keep from giggling quietly as his nose twitched and he turned his face away reflexively. "Come on, Bixy…"

Naturally though, Bickslow was awake, because having someone climb on top of him and touch his face tended to ruin his sleep. He only let out a quiet sigh, keeping his eyes closed as Lucy traced her finger down his nose again. "Why do you always do that?" he murmured, unable to keep his mouth from curling into a slight smile. For whatever reason, it kind of tickled, although that didn't surprise him much considering all it took was one gentle touch to his side to be howling with laughter and flinching. Still though, it wasn't the first time Bickslow had woken up like that, and as weird as it was, he really didn't mind it.

"I don't know." Lucy gave a small shrug, tracing the mark up and down again. "It's kinda fun. And I think I like your face a little too much."

"Thanks, Cosplayer," he chuckled tiredly. He let out another sigh before lifting his hand and rubbing at his eyes before pushing his hair back and folding his arm under his head. He supposed it was about time he actually woke up. Well, sort of. And with Lucy's smile being the first thing he saw as soon as he did open his eyes, Bickslow really couldn't help but think that he was going to get far too used to that if they kept that up. It would've been fine if they were still in Magnolia, but since Lucy would be going back on her own in just a few more days, Bickslow really didn't want to get too used to seeing her first thing every morning, because he already enjoyed it far too much.

"Did Scout sleep the whole night?" she asked.

Bickslow shook his head. "Nah. She was up at about two."

"Really? I didn't hear her wake up."

"I know. I took her downstairs before she started crying," he said. He still had the habit of getting up close to midnight because of how many times he'd already gotten up with Scarlett. He'd expected her to wake up much earlier in the night considering how little she'd been sleeping lately, but she'd slept peacefully right up until nearly 2 a.m., and even then, she'd only fussed a little before Bickslow had picked her up to take care of her downstairs. "Didn't want to wake you up."

"You know I don't mind getting up, though," Lucy whispered, sliding off him slightly so she was back on her side. "I could've gotten her last night and you could've got some rest. I mean… I am the babysitter, after all…"

"You're never going to let me forget that, are you?"

Lucy shrugged, lips curling into a devious smirk. She knew it wasn't the truth and that it really had just been an accident of sorts, but still, she had every intention of bringing it up whenever she could. "Never."

Bickslow closed his eyes and sighed through his nose, shaking his head a little. He really shouldn't have expected anything less. It was still just a small blessing that she could tolerate him enough to tease him.

"Anyway…" Lucy pushed herself up slightly, intending to sit up and crawl back to the edge of the bed. "I think I might go have a shower bef—"

"Nuh-uh. Not yet." Bickslow's arm snaked out from under the pillow to catch Lucy around her waist, pulling her back down to him. "Just… A few more minutes," he mumbled, making himself comfortable again facing Lucy. It was still peaceful, and that was something he rarely got when he was at home. He wasn't quite ready to begin the day and deal with the chaos that would most likely ensue.

"Fine. Just a few more minutes," Lucy whispered, smiling softly. She still had no idea what time it was, but a few more minutes in bed wouldn't hurt anyone. "Do you know if your brother will be here today? Or does he stay with his own family."

"He'll be here most of the day. I think Dad said something about being downstairs before eight though, since he wanted me to help get all the food ready for later…"

"Well, I think it's still early anyway."

"Mm, probably. But Scout'll probably be up shortly anyway, so I should probably get up soon."

Lucy glanced back to the crib, just making out the shape of Scarlett still fast asleep with the babies stacked in the corner. "Maybe," she murmured, looking back and shifting her head on the pillow slightly. "But she's not up just yet, so for now, we can just enjoy the quiet." She leant forward just enough to gently press their lips together for a second. Except as soon as she did, Scarlett began to fuss, and Lucy couldn't help but laugh as Bickslow turned and groaned into his pillow. "…Or not," she added.

Bickslow was convinced his kid was out to get him. She was so good at ruining every nice moment he got to spend with Lucy those days, and Bickslow was very much sure it was intentional. It had to be.

It was a little past eight by the time Bickslow headed downstairs for the second time, having put Scarlett back in the crib for a short nap and having finally had time to have a shower and get himself dressed for the day. Having only been awake for two hours, Bickslow was desperately needing some form of caffeine. The only problem was that it would make his headache worse, and with the pounding at the back of his head and the ache behind his eyes having gotten worse right from when Scarlett had started crying that very morning, Bickslow decided it was best he just go without his favourite cup of coffee for the morning. He didn't want to intentionally make the pain worse when it was already going to do that once his brother got there.

"How long will she be down for?" Felix asked as Bickslow walked back into the kitchen, trying to clean the lenses on his glasses with the bottom of his shirt.

"An hour or so, maybe," he mumbled. He really wasn't sure anymore, but he'd consider it a win if she napped for an hour.

"Plenty of time to help me get breakfast started then."

"Fine." Bickslow sighed and nodded, walking around the counter as he held his glasses up to see if they were clean yet, frowning when he could still see the cloudy streaks on them from his shirt.

Lucy only rolled her eyes and reached out to snatch them from him. "Give them here," she muttered. He wasn't going to get anywhere while using his shirt. She doubted they had any alcohol solution to spray on them, at least not in the kitchen, so she only went and grabbed a tissue from the breakfast nook and went about trying to do a better job of cleaning them.

Bickslow didn't really think much of it, only looking at the checklist that his father had written the night before. Felix just didn't really know what to say, though. Considering Bickslow had come downstairs with Lucy earlier that morning, he decided it was safe to assume that they were getting along again and that Lucy wasn't avoiding Bickslow anymore. Still, the more he saw them together, the more he began to see why his wife was so intrigued. They were somewhat amusing together, especially when they argued over who got to hold and feed Scarlett (Lucy won; Bickslow pouted). Even then, Felix knew that his son wouldn't have bothered inviting Lucy there at all if she didn't mean something to him. It was a matter of determining how much she meant to him, and Felix had a feeling that he'd be finding out before Lucy left for Magnolia.

Felix shook his head, looking back around the kitchen and trying to remember what it was he'd wanted to start on first. The carton of eggs next to the muffins jogged his memory, and he turned to Lucy to ask, "Do you eat eggs benedict, Lucy? Or would you prefer I make something else for breakfast instead?"

"I don't think I've ever tried it, but you don't need to make anything else, it's fine," she answered, inspecting Bickslow's glasses before finally handing them back to him now that they were sufficiently clean. "I'll eat anything though, honestly."

"Told you she's not a picky eater," Bickslow mumbled.

Felix rolled his eyes. "Really? Have you not learnt your lesson when it comes to talking for Lucy? She is quite capable of talking for herself, you know."

Bickslow frowned and tried to ignore Lucy's wide grin. Apparently he wasn't allowed to make a mistake without people bringing it up every five damn minutes. "I was just saying that I told you so," he muttered, snatching up a small knife from the block and the bag of muffins on the other counter. He hadn't been talking for her. He'd merely been pointing out the obvious. There was a difference. Probably. "How about I just keep my mouth shut for the next eternity then, since everything I say lately seems to be the wrong thing. Will that suit both of you?"

"Honestly, kind of," Lucy answered, stifling a giggle.

"Unnecessary, Cosplayer. Totally unnecessary."

"What's unnecessary?" Idelle asked, clipping her earring into place as she joined the rest of them in the kitchen. She walked around the counter to quickly kiss her husband on the cheek before doing the same to Bickslow, only making him grimace and roll his eyes.

"Our son seems to think Lucy is being unnecessarily mean," Felix decided to answer. "Although I'm not entirely sure why he just referred to her as Cosplayer…"

Idelle knew it wasn't entirely true as she noticed the smirk on Lucy's face and the scowl on Bickslow's, but… It was Christmas, and she was in a good mood, and there was nothing wrong with some harmless teasing. "Well, perhaps it's deserved," she said. "The first part, at least."

Bickslow quickly dropped the knife on the counter, throwing his hands up and shaking his head. "Alright, this is just ridiculous now," he muttered, turning and walking away to the amusement of his parents. "I actually hate you all. You're all horrible people." He pointed to Lucy before he finally left. "Especially you." He just couldn't win. They were actually all out to make his life miserable. Even his mother had gone over to the dark side. The babies giggling in his head were also on the dark side, as far as he was concerned, and at that point, Bickslow wouldn't even put it past his daughter to be on the dark side, too.

Because Lucy was horrible and she was the queen of winning people over, it seemed.

Felix shook his head as Bickslow stormed out, and Idelle couldn't help but laugh quietly to herself as she fetched the jug of cold water from the fridge. She didn't really expect anything less when it came to Bickslow. He was either irritating everyone by doing his best to tease them, or he was complaining about everyone being mean to him. He'd always had a playful side to him though, so Idelle knew he wasn't really offended by anything or anyone that morning, but he'd also always had a flair for the dramatic.

"Perhaps I should go apologise…" Lucy announced with a sigh, pushing away from the counter.

"Oh, I wouldn't worry about him. He'll be fine," Idelle said.

"I know…" But, Lucy knew that if she didn't apologise then Bickslow would just sulk all day, and she really didn't want to deal with that. She doubted the rest of his family did too, but then again, they were probably far more used to it.

She didn't have to go far to find him, much to her delight, finding him sulking on one of the sofas in the main living room and already working a dangerous point onto the end of a candy cane with his mouth. "Healthy breakfast, I see," she said, walking around the lounges until she was able to climb up onto the cushions and straddle his lap without really thinking about it. Still, he couldn't really avoid her if she was sitting on him.

Bickslow shrugged, continuing to sharpen the end of the candy cane. "It's like toothpaste in candy form," he mumbled. "Anyway, go away. I don't want to talk to you."

"Oh, come on. Don't be like that. You know I was just kidding."

So, admittedly, Bickslow knew that she'd just been messing with him, but he was too stubborn and petty to back down then, or even admit that he'd kind of liked it. The fact that she was teasing him was a good thing, because it meant she was in a good mood. Bickslow sure as hell wasn't going to point that out though, just in case he ruined it somehow. So he continued to be a stubborn brat, just because he could, and made a show of turning away and pouting. "Nope. You meant it," he insisted. "Now go away. Otherwise I'll poke you with my candy cane."

Lucy tilted her head slightly. "You'll poke me with your candy cane? Really?"

...That didn't sound quite so sexual in my head. "Shut up," Bickslow grumbled. "Don't twist my words, meanie."

"I am not twisting your words." Lucy tried not to roll her eyes. She almost wished she'd just listened to Idelle and let him be. But, it was still Christmas, and Lucy liked Christmas, and she wasn't going to let Bickslow ruin her day by being a spoilt brat. If that just meant actually apologising, then she'd just have to bite the bullet and do it, even if she really didn't think it should be necessary. So with a frustrated sigh, Lucy only said, "Fine, I'm sorry for teasing you just then. Of course I don't want you shut up. I wouldn't have anything to laugh at then."

Bickslow scowled at her for a moment. As far as fake apologies went, he supposed it was good enough. "Fine. I'll accept it."

"So you should!" Lucy scoffed. "Especially after the crap you've pulled on me lately."

"…Harsh, but fair enough." A harmless joke wasn't anywhere near as bad as blurting out someone else's business. Still, he'd gotten some kind of apology out of Lucy, which was really all he'd wanted in the first place, so he was free to stop being annoyed at her.

But Bickslow didn't get the opportunity to talk to Lucy about anything else before his mother joined them in the living room, looking just a little surprised for a short moment as she saw Lucy sitting on Bickslow's lap. Bickslow didn't really think much of it, but Lucy's face flushed a deep red as she was too stunned and embarrassed to move. Idelle quickly forgot about it, decided she didn't really have a reason to care much (she'd just been surprised, that's all), and smiled warmly at them before she said, "Would you care to help me in the garden for a little while, Lucy?"

"Oh, uh… Sure!" Lucy said, finally jumping off Bickslow's lap and standing on her own two feet. Really though, she couldn't care less about any garden, but she didn't want to be rude and say no.

"Oh. You're still here."

Bickslow groaned as his brother walked into the dining room and stared at Lucy in disappointment. He'd been there for all of three minutes and he was already being a prick. Admittedly, Bickslow wasn't surprised, but it was still Christmas so he'd at least hoped that Alexander would've been a little less of a douchebag that day. Apparently not, it seemed. "Honestly, do you ever think before you talk?" Bickslow asked.

"Of course I do," Alexander snapped. "I just assumed she would've left by now." He still thought it was slightly weird that Lucy was there, or that she was somehow capable of putting up with his idiotic brother's antics for more than five minutes, but after the disastrous dinner, Alexander was really just surprised that she hadn't just packed her bag and left. Perhaps the Heartfilias were more resilient than he'd given them credit for. "Surely it's a little hypocritical for you to ask that after what you blurted out the other night."

"I swear to god, I will—"

"Bickslow, that's enough," Idelle interjected, arriving just in the nick of time to welcome the rest of her family and stop Bickslow from swearing in front of Elaina again. "And the same for you, Alex."

"What? But Bix start—"

"Nope, I don't care." Idelle shook her head quickly. Elaina giggled quietly when her father made a funny face and looked like someone had just kicked his puppy. Bickslow would've been snickering had it not been for Lucy elbowing him in the stomach to get him to shut up. "Just this once, we're going to have a peaceful Christmas where you two get along and don't start shouting at each other every opportunity you have, okay?"

"Well, to be fair, I wouldn't be shouting at him if he wasn't such a dimwit," Bickslow mumbled.

"But this is what I mean! He's the one who starts it all the time!" Alexander argued. Anya rolled her eyes as she finally slipped away and went to find Felix with Elaina following behind her. "I agree with you, Mother." He crossed his arms, turning his nose up slightly as he looked to his brother for a moment. "But for the record, Christmas was always more peaceful after you decided to run off. Why couldn't you just stay dead or frozen or whatever it was on that stupid island?"

"Alright, that's fucking it." Bickslow had always considered it his duty to punch his brother in the fact when he was being a dickhead, and right then, Bickslow had the overwhelming urge to punch his dickhead brother in the face. Or better yet, have his brother punch himself in the face. Alexander had always been the greatest test subject for Bickslow when he'd been learning to control his Figure Eyes. But before he could even get up after pushing his chair back, Lucy placed her hand on his arm and made sure he stayed down and merely gave him a kind smile. Damn it. He wanted to hit his brother. What was wrong with that? Damn Cosplayer. Somewhere deep down, Bickslow wondered just why the fuck he'd even listened - not that she'd actually said anything, but still, it wasn't like she'd needed to. He didn't really want to consider the fact that Lucy might have gotten that much control over him. So he only scowled and pulled his chair back in, glaring at his snickering brother opposite him. "I'll get you later. Don't you worry," he muttered.

"Oh, I'm sure you will," Alexander said. His lips curled into a smirk in the same devilish way that Bickslow's did, and Lucy had to resist sinking down into her chair slightly. It was mildly terrifying.

"Enough, please," Idelle sighed once more. "Now come on. Let's just enjoy a civil meal together before we go and open the presents."

Elaina was of course the first to open her presents after breakfast. The majority of the presents under the large tree were for her anyway, and as far as everyone else was concerned, the only reason they were there at all was because Santa had already left so many presents under her own tree that he just hadn't been able to fit them all, so he'd had to leave some with her favourite (and only) Grandma and Grandpa.

And it wasn't as if Alexander and Anya were the only ones to spoil the shit out the kid on birthdays and Christmas, because Bickslow was just as guilty of it, just like his parents. Ever since he'd found out Elaina had been born while he'd been frozen on Tenrou, Bickslow had been sending gifts back home throughout the year for her birthday or for Christmas. Half of the ones from him that sat under the Christmas tree that morning had been sent before his own daughter had been born. But still, Bickslow just really loved spoiling people he cared about it, and he really did love his niece. She was already such a brat and he loved it.

For the most part though, Bickslow just didn't really care much for Christmas. He didn't care much for the presents. He'd never really understood why people always rushed to decorate their houses and trees with fancy lights and horrible glittery tinsel. And he sure as hell had never figured out why he had to be sociable for the entire fucking day. When he'd been younger, and when his grandparents on his mother's side had still been alive, he'd loathed Christmas. Sure, they'd been his grandparents, but they'd been snobs who had constantly had something to complain about, and Bickslow had lost count of how many times they'd suggested to his mother to ship him off to some boarding school for mages in Pergrande Kingdom.

Still, even with his grandparents long gone (thankfully), Bickslow still didn't care for Christmas. But while he may not understand why people loved it so much, he sure as hell had no intentions of ruining it for a five-year-old girl, or even the rest of his family. Even then, Bickslow could tell Lucy enjoyed Christmas, and with all the shitty things he'd done to her lately, ruining her Christmas was the last thing he wanted to do.

So for the most part, Bickslow just watched and enjoyed the rest of his family enjoy the holiday. He had to admit that he was getting a kick out of watching Elaina tell Lucy all about the other presents she'd opened at home. He doubted Lucy could actually understand her considering how fast she was talking, but she was still going along with it.

When Elaina started playing with her new doll set right in the middle of the floor, with Alexander sitting down in front of her and grabbing one of her other dolls to join her, Bickslow got up to fetch one of the last presents under the tree and hand it to Lucy. "Come on." He sat back down on the lounge next to her, sitting on one foot as he shoved the present into her hands. "Your turn."

Lucy hadn't really expected Bickslow to get her anything, much less take it to Astrantia with him. She looked back up to Bickslow grinning beside her before turning her attention back to the small gift with the festive paper. It was thin and it wasn't extraordinarily heavy, so she figured it had to be some kind of box, or maybe even a book. There was a red envelope taped to the front of it so she decided to start by tearing it off so she could open it up and see what was inside.

"Please don't, uh… read it out loud," Bickslow mumbled. His brother would tease him endlessly about what he wrote if Lucy read it out loud, and his mother… Bickslow didn't even want to think about what his mother would do if she knew what he'd written. She was already suspicious as it was, and he didn't want his mother going all Mirajane Strauss on him.

That just made Lucy even more curious, and with another glance back to the Seith mage to see that he looked just a little bit uncomfortable all of a sudden, Lucy opened up the small card with the shooting star printed on the front of it to read what Bickslow had written.

My favourite Cosplayer,

I'll never be able to thank you enough for all you've done over the last couple of months. I don't know where I'd be right now if it wasn't for you having been here for me the entire time.

Thank you for being my guiding light through all this, and for believing in me when it seemed like no one else did.

Merry Christmas

Lucy couldn't help but tear up a little as she finished reading the card. "Aw, Bix…" She still didn't understand why Bickslow felt such a need to thank her for helping him (because really, she didn't mind doing it and she wasn't even helping him anymore as it was), but it was still possibly one of the sweetest things she'd ever read.

Alexander lifted his head to look between them, momentarily forgetting about his daughter with the dolls. "What? What did he write?" he asked.

Lucy merely ignored Bickslow's brother, setting the card down beside her so she could finally open her present. She pulled at the paper carefully to slowly reveal a polished walnut picture frame with some form of certificate inside it. It took Lucy a moment to read over the page, focusing on the coordinates at the top, a date from a few weeks earlier, and her last name underneath it all. The stamp in the bottom right that said Magnolia Observatory was what gave it away though, and Lucy quickly set the frame on her lap so she could reach out and wrap her arms around the Seith mage.

"I can't believe you did that," she murmured, quickly kissing his cheek much to amusement of Bickslow's parents. "This is amazing. Thank you, Bix."

Bickslow did his best to ignore the heat that crept up onto his face. He was all too aware of his mother's coy smile behind her glass her juice as well. He could only smile awkwardly and give a small nod, doing his best to keep his head low.

Her own gift was feeling ridiculously inadequate now that she knew he'd gone and named a damn star after her. She almost didn't want him to see it at all, but she'd feel even worse if she didn't give it to him anyway.

Still though, part of her wanted to see what Bickslow thought of her gift for him, so she gently set the framed certificate aside so she could pick up the larger present from under the tree, and hand it back to Bickslow once she'd sat back down. "This one's yours," she said with a soft smile.

"You know you didn't need to get me anything…" Bickslow mumbled. He hadn't even known it was there until right then, nor had he known that Lucy was even planning on getting him anything. He really just hadn't wanted anything, especially not from Lucy when she'd already done far too much for him.

"Well, I wanted to," Lucy said. "But… It's really not anything special. It's actually kind of stupid…"

Bickslow doubted it. Nothing Lucy ever said or did was stupid. Well, most of the time, at least. He didn't waste any time in tearing the wrapping paper away to show off the heavy white leather bound tome with S.R. embossed on the front cover, with delicate silver flowers adorning the corners and the spine. He wasn't entirely sure what it was until he opened up the front cover and saw a small slip of paper glued to the inside.

Scarlett Redfarrow-Theroux

October 17, X794

He couldn't keep the grin off his face, especially when he looked to the first page in the album and saw the photo that Lucy had clearly taken of him at one point, with him fast asleep on his bed and with Scarlett tucked safely against his chest. He remembered doing that, since it had been the only way to get her to stop crying for more than a few minutes and actually fall asleep; he just hadn't known Lucy had gotten a picture of it. "God, I can't believe she was ever that tiny," he whispered, peering down at the glossy photo. Underneath, Lucy had written the date and 'First week on the job.' "She's already so big!"

"I know."

"This is super awesome, Cosplayer," Bickslow said with a wide grin, turning to face Lucy again.

"It's… It's really not…" she mumbled. "I just thought it'd be a nice thing to have, so you can show it to her when she's older or something…"

"Well, I really love it. So thank you." It was probably the best thing he'd ever received, and he almost couldn't wait to fill the pages in the album with moments from his daughter's life.

Bickslow was too busy staring at the one photo to notice his brother had gotten up and walked around the lounge just to peer over his shoulder. "I guess… that is kind of cute," Alexander mumbled. Not so much his brother, of course. But the kid. The kid was cute. Sort of.

After being talked into actually opening the rest of his presents from his family, Bickslow excused himself to the kitchen to get something to drink. He was desperately craving something sweet. The only problem was this his parents rarely kept anything in the kitchen that was full of sugar, at least in the way of chocolates and lollies. The mango in the fruit bowl was a viable option, but Bickslow was sure he still had some pineapple juice left from when he'd bought it just a couple days earlier.

"She means a lot to you, doesn't she?"

Hearing his mother, Bickslow looked over the top of the fridge door while shoving a few a grapes into his mouth. "Hm?

"Lucy," Idelle said, sitting down at one of the stools as Bickslow got his juice and shut the fridge door. "She means something to you."

"Oh." If he thought about it, Bickslow really wasn't surprised that his mother was asking him that again. He was really just expecting it at that point. Still, he was a good mode that day - at least if he ignored his growing headache - and he just didn't really want to lie to her that day. He didn't really want to worry about coming up with any excuses, and he just couldn't be bothered trying to convince her that Lucy didn't meant a hell of a lot to him. He figured he'd be lying to himself if he did that, and that wasn't even considering the fact that it was most likely ridiculously obvious to his family how he felt. But Bickslow just didn't care that day. "Uh… Yeah. I, um… I guess you could say that," he eventually mumbled, slowly opening up one cabinet to get a clean glass.

"Well, it's clear she does anyway. You wouldn't have invited her otherwise," she said. Bickslow only gave a small shrug. "Now are you going to tell me why she's here?"

"I just like having her around…" Bickslow mumbled. He could've sworn that he'd already answered that question, too.

"You and I both know that's not the truth."

Bickslow shrugged again as he finished pouring his drink. So it wasn't the whole truth, but it wasn't really a lie, either. He really did just like having her around for the most part. "It kinda is actually…"

Idelle sighed and shook her head slightly. "You know, you used to actually tell me things when you were younger," she muttered. She got that Bickslow had grown into a private person, but it still stung a little when he made a point of keeping her out of his life those days. Idelle was sure that Bickslow wouldn't have bothered telling them he had a daughter at all if he hadn't been planning on visiting for the holidays anyway.

Still, she knew it was ultimately her fault Bickslow was like that anyway. He might've trusted her more then if she hadn't pushed him so hard as a teenager.

"Mum, come on. Don't be like that."

"No, it's fine. I get it. You're an adult now so you don't need to tell your mother anything anymore."


Idelle shrugged, glancing over her shoulder as she crossed her arms and turned slightly on her stool. "It'd just be nice to know what goes on in your life these days," she sniffed. "You don't visit very often, and I feel like I don't know anything about you sometimes. That's all." Granted, deep down he was still the same Bickslow she'd raised for eighteen years, but there were still many things she didn't know about him.

It was really no surprise to Bickslow where he got his stubbornness and his brattiness from. He'd known for years. Still, sometimes his mother just made him want to hit his head against a brick wall. It'd probably be less painful.

The worst part was that she was kind of right. He didn't visit very often, but he also knew that the distance between himself and the rest of the family wasn't just his fault. His parents were as much to blame as he was, considering they'd been the ones to push him away in the first place. And as far as him not telling his parents about anything that went on in his life those days… Well, truthfully, Bickslow just hadn't thought about it much. Apart from finding out Scarlett existed, nothing exciting or extraordinary had happened in his life. The last thing like that to happen had been waking up on Tenrou Island after being frozen for seven years. So when he didn't tell his parents things, it was mostly just due to him not really having anything to tell them.

In any case, Bickslow knew that his mother wasn't really interested in hearing about every trivial detail. He was well aware that she only really cared to learn about one thing, and that was Lucy. Bickslow still didn't blame his mother for having an incessant need to know what the fuck was going on, just because she was his mother and it was perfectly natural for her to want to know everything she could about the girl he brought home for Christmas. But for the most part, Bickslow just didn't know what to tell his mother. It didn't help that he didn't particularly want to tell her anything about Lucy at all, because as far as Bickslow saw it, he'd already said far too much about her as it was.

But… If he wasn't going to tell anyone the truth about Lucy, then it might as well be his mother. She could keep a secret, and, well… He really had told her everything when he'd been younger. It had been the same for his dad, too. As much as he'd hated them as a teenager due to their constant need to push the family business onto him, he really did love them.

Besides, Bickslow didn't want to make his mother pout and sulk on Christmas Day, so he figured he had no choice in actually telling her.

Letting out a great sigh as he put the juice back in the fridge, Bickslow quickly tried convincing himself that telling his mother that the girl they'd tried to marry him off to when he'd been younger was technically his soulmate wasn't just a disaster waiting to happen. "Okay, fine, if you really want to know, then I'll tell you, okay?" he said. Idelle gave a small shrug, still frowning slightly. "You just have to promise to keep it to yourself." Although Bickslow completely expected her to tell Felix, which would be fine as long as he could keep it to himself. But still, the less people that knew, the better.

Idelle wasn't sure why the secrecy was necessary, but she wasn't going to complain when her son was finally letting her in again. She she nodded then, silently urging Bickslow to continue.

I can't believe I'm even doing this. The babies were more than fine with telling him he was insane right then. "Do you remember when I was younger and learning all that shit about my magic, and how I told you and Dad that some people have, uh… soulmates?" he began.

"I… vaguely recall you mentioning that," Idelle mumbled. It had been a long time and it wasn't like she'd paid attention to everything Bickslow had told her about his magic. Most of the time she'd just smiled and said 'That's nice, dear.'

"Well… Lucy's kinda mine…"

"What do you—wait, are you saying… Are you saying that Lucy is actually your… soulmate?"

Bickslow grimaced as he gave a small nod. Surprisingly, it was oddly satisfying to actually say it out loud, but he still hated that he was having to have that conversation at all. It was just… embarrassing.

And while Idelle had suspected they were they close, she'd never thought that it would be because of something like that. "So… How do you know? Are you sure?" she asked. She had so many questions all of a sudden. "Does Lucy know this? Oh, and imagine what would've happened if you hadn't moved away! It could've been so perfect…"

"You do realise this is exactly why I didn't want to tell you at all, right?" Bickslow mumbled. Because of course his mother would talk about him moving out again. Even if he'd expected it, it didn't make hearing it any more tolerable.

"I'm sorry," Idelle said, doing her best not to show her amusement too much.

Bickslow shook his head. His mother's apology was empty and he didn't even blame her for it. "Anyway, yes, I'm sure. No, Lucy doesn't know, and I'd really fucking appreciate it if she didn't find out, especially not from you or Dad. And… I know because I looked…"

"Looked? Hm?"

"Sometimes souls can become connected," he mumbled, looking away out of embarrassment. "They kinda join together… And parts of them kinda… swap…"

Idelle really didn't know that much about souls - she hadn't even known what Seith magic was until she'd met Felix and he'd told her that it ran in his family - so she didn't quite understand what Bickslow was saying. But she knew enough to get the gist of it, which seemed to be enough. "So that's what you could see? That your souls are connected?"

Bickslow nodded. "It's… It's kinda like a rope…"

"I see…" She couldn't really picture it, not even if she tried to imagine it, but that didn't matter.

"It's also why I invited her here," Bickslow continued. "Because it's better when she's around. It… It kinda hurts when she's not, and I didn't really know how bad it would be if I came here without her…"

Idelle got up from the stool just to walk around the counter and pull her son into a hug. She doubted he wanted one right then, at least judging by his sigh and his hesitant pat to her shoulder, but she felt like giving him a hug anyway.

She still had more questions to ask - like why he didn't want Lucy knowing, or how long he'd even known what they were to each other - but she figured she could ask those at another time. The rest of their family would no doubt be wondering what they'd gotten up to, and being sworn to secrecy for the time being, Idelle didn't want any of them getting suspicious, and she doubted Bickslow would, too.

As disgustingly hot as Astrantia was, there was one thing Lucy had found that she didn't mind, and that was strangely the sun. Well, sort of. She mostly started sweating bullets the second she walked outside (and with no air-con in the house, the inside was only slightly cooler most of the time), but the permanent sunshine was good for one thing, and that was getting her tan on. With it technically still being winter and with the weather taking a turn for the worse back in Magnolia, Lucy had decided she wanted to soak up as much warmth as she could while she was there, and with the lack of sun back home, she was convinced she looked whiter than her bed sheets. And that just wasn't good enough.

It seemed to be a Christmas tradition for Bickslow's family to spend the morning inside having breakfast and opening presents, then spending the rest of the afternoon outside playing in the pool. Most surprising to Lucy was that the Redfarrows didn't really do any kind of Christmas dinner, either. Bickslow had told her that they only really did breakfast and lunch, although the latter usually didn't happen until mid-afternoon as it was, and they usually cooked so much and ate so much that no one ever wanted to eat dinner. It didn't help that by the evening, after a full day in the sun, almost everyone just wanted to sleep. Still though, there were always plenty of leftovers, so dinner was always sorted for anyone who did want to eat it.

With the sun high in the clear blue sky and after a quick dip in the pool to cool down, Lucy slathered on some more sunscreen and retreated to one of the lounges just off to the side to relax a little. Bickslow and his brother were still in the pool playing volleyball (and Bickslow was cheating with the babies, if Alexander's curses were anything to go by), Idelle was sitting in the shallows with Scarlett, keeping her cool and playing with her, and Felix was keeping an eye on the barbecue that was slowly roasting the marinated chicken and the pork.

"You mustn't be used to this kind of weather at this time of year."

Lucy lifted up her sunglasses to see Anya laying her towel out on the lounge next to her before sitting down on it. Her dark hair was pulled up into a high bun and her fair skin shown off in the simple black tankini. Lucy laughed nervously as she slid her glasses back down, shielding her eyes from the harsh light. "Yeah, I guess so," Lucy replied. "Although it's growing on me. I think I could get used to this. It's kinda nice." Granted, she did like the rain and the snow, but there really was something nice about being able to lay out in the sun and play in a pool on Christmas Day. It was just… refreshing.

"It took me months to get used to the warmth here," Anya said. "Summer only lasts a few weeks where I'm from."

"Where is that, by the way?"


Lucy had thought as much. As a child, one of her tutors had been born and raised in Bellum. When her father's business trip had been extended one year due to the blizzard and the snow, she'd told Lucy stories of how the winters in Bellum were bleak and miserable, and how they'd often have so much snow that it would go halfway up the walls and you wouldn't even be able to open the doors to try and clear a path.

"Must have been a bit of a shock to you, coming here then," Lucy laughed.

"A little bit," Anya agreed. "Although it is nice here." She'd hated it at first, everything from the sand at the beaches and to the people that lived there, but she'd eventually come to see it as home. Although admittedly, she hadn't had much of a choice, since the only reason she'd moved there at all was to marry Alexander. And it wasn't as if that had ended up being all bad, but having met Lucy and having heard all about Bickslow from Alexander, Anya couldn't help but see that she'd kind of stepped into a life meant for someone else. "So… I guess I'm kind of living your life…" she said quietly.

Lucy turned to face her, raising her eyebrow slightly. "Hm? What do you mean?"

"Well, you and Bickslow were to be married once, yes?"

"Oh." Right. That. Lucy had a feeling that everyone in Bickslow's family knew about that now. "Uh, yeah… I guess… Although it was technically such a long time ago…" she mumbled.

"Yes, but if you had, then Bickslow would be running the company right now, not Alex, and you would have moved here, not me," Anya explained.

Lucy supposed to made sense, since she knew that the only reason Alexander was at the head of the family business was because Bickslow had left all of that behind, but even knowing all of that, she'd just never really thought about what her life could've ended up like if Bickslow hadn't left - not seriously, at least. The few times they'd joked about it didn't really count.

But still, maybe Anya had a point. Maybe Anya was living the life that had always been meant for Lucy. And Lucy just didn't know how she was supposed to feel about that, because she couldn't help but wonder if Bickslow leaving when he had had actually ended up being the best decision.

"Yeah… I guess you're right…" Lucy murmured. She watched the brothers in the pool for a few moments, not really paying much attention but just watching. She knew Bickslow would've been older if he'd stayed, and so would she since they wouldn't have ended up on Tenrou, but other than their ages, Lucy didn't know if anything else would be different. Surely they would've at least been friends if they'd gotten married all those years ago. "Do you, um… Do you mind if I ask what it's like?" She cleared her throat gently, turning away from the pool in front of her to look back to Anya relaxing next to her. "You know, between you and Alex. I mean… Your families did arrange for you two to be married, right? Or did you, you know… actually date or something?"

Anya smiled softly at her. "It was my father's wish, yes. Idelle and Felix wished to expand beyond Fiore, and my father acts as ambassador for Bellum in Crocus."

"Oh, wow."

"And… It's not that bad. At least not anymore," Anya added quietly. "Alexander can be difficult sometimes, but… He's not always as bad as he seems. He can be incredibly kind, and he's wonderful with our daughter."

Lucy had a hard time picturing Bickslow's brother as kind, but she knew she'd just have to take Anya's word for it. She lived with him after all, whereas Lucy had only met him two days earlier - although two days was plenty of time to decide that the guy was a pretentious douchebag. When it came to Elaina though, Lucy didn't doubt it at all. She had a feeling that he was exactly like Bickslow in that regard. "Well, at least you don't hate each other," Lucy murmured. "I imagine you're rather close now if you're having another child together."

Anya gave a small shrug. "I suppose you could say that. Although… It's more than we've reached an agreement."

"What do you mean?"

"Our marriage was convenient for our families and that is it. We respect that we are of benefit to each other; he gives me children and makes his family happy at the same time, and I offer connections beyond Fiore's borders that expand their business," she explained. "And while we'll never be, what do you call them… Soulmates? We do still care for each other." It wasn't exactly the best, but it worked and at the very least they always did their best to appear the happy, loving couple in front of their daughter.

Lucy found herself looking back to the pool, where Alexander had supposedly gotten bored of losing to his brother and was climbing out to grab a nearby towel, and where Bickslow was sitting on the steps and adjusting the yellow, flowery hat on Scarlett's head. Somehow, hearing about Anya's relationship with Alexander just reminded Lucy of her own with Bickslow, not that she was sure she could call it a relationship at all. But still, Lucy liked to see it as one, albeit a slightly unconventional one, and she couldn't even deny that she did care for him, perhaps too much. And as much as she loved him, something she'd admitted multiple times, Lucy just didn't think she was in love with him.

Or at least that was what she assumed. Sometimes she just really wasn't sure though.

"At least you've got it all worked out," Lucy said with a quiet sigh. She liked to think that things would've been similar if she'd ended up marrying Bickslow all those years earlier. Still, she couldn't help but truly wonder.