. Between the Lines .

His first impression of the guildhall from across the street was that it was new and improved, yet still held its initial charms. He eyed it thoughtfully. He didn't mind, but it'd take him a while to get used to it.

Natsu Dragneel bounced impatiently on the balls of his feet. He wanted to go inside, but there was something he thought far more important coming beforehand.


He whirled on his heel and grinned so widely, he thought his face would split. "Hey, Luce," he replied cheerfully, and then grunted when she slammed into him. He laughed as he hugged her, wrapping his arms around her tightly and pressing a quick kiss to her mouth. Well, he intended for it to be a quick kiss. It soon became much more.

When she pulled back, he was breathless. Her cheeks flushed. "Sorry," Lucy murmured, "got excited."

He certainly didn't mind.

Natsu tugged on a lock of golden hair affectionately. "Did Yukino get your gift?"

"Sorano was very kind to deliver it in person," Lucy replied. "I hear she cried herself into a puddle or something like that." Natsu snickered, and then turned his face back towards the guildhall, impatient. Lucy, however, seemed reluctant. He paused, studying her face questioningly.

"Seven and a half years," she muttered. Even after their return, there had been a massive list of things they'd had to do upon re-taking and taking up their thrones. They'd not seen anyone but those within the Estate and the Empire. They'd barely had time to even call one another, although that had become easier with the official declaration of an upcoming marriage. It had been a long wait, and both had been excited when they'd found the time to finally go They'd be off again come morning, but they had the one night. "It's such a long time. The War only ended a few weeks ago for us. They've had so long."

"They're family, Luce," Natsu said confidently. "No matter how long it's been."

"I guess." She took a deep breath. "Let's do this."

They crossed the street quickly, hand in hand, and Natsu stopped Lucy when she went to simply open the door. "No way in hell you're taking this from me," he warned, and grinned mischievously as he lifted a foot, reeling back.

"You're going to hurt yourself," she said desperately. He wasn't a crazy durable fire mage anymore, and he seemed to forget it.

He ignored her and took a deep breath before suddenly slamming his foot as hard as he could through the doors, slamming them open with a loud crash. Lucy briefly wondered if they'd been built purely for this moment.

The loud commotion silenced the guildhall and Natsu grinned as he straightened, Lucy rolling her eyes and stepping forward to stand beside him with an apologetic look on her face. "We're back!" he cheered, beaming like a child at Christmas.

There was a few heartbeats of stunned silence.

And then there was a roar of excitement from old guild members, while a carefully selected few who had been welcomed to the Fairy Tail guild after the War lifted their brows in confusion.

Happy got to Natsu before anyone else did, screeching and clawing his way up Natsu's legs, and Natsu laughed, hugging his friend. The hug became a shared one when Wendy sobbed and slammed into him. Erza joined them a moment later, chuckling in affection.

Lucy's heart swelled with warmth, and she wrapped her arm around herself with a happy smile, relief flooding her when she saw that no one appeared to be furious. She heard Levy screaming and crying in excitement alongside Mirajane and flashed them quick smiles. She was caught by surprise, however, when she was suddenly dragged into a hug by a widely grinning Gray Fullbuster. She returned it easily, laughing, and Gray summed up everything she felt in two simple words.

"Welcome home."

Alright. Time to bawl my eyes out because holy hell this has been an incredible journey that I'm so happy to have chosen to take (and am grateful for those who tagged along). As promised, however, I have some facts, some information, and some news! Keep with me, this is gonna be a LONG author's note, my friends.

BTL started out as an idea I had several years ago, around the end of 2014, beginning of 2015: what if Fairy Tail was in the modern world, where magic wasn't visible but existed like a secret society? That was quickly followed by: what if I rewrite the original arks of FT with my own twist? Initially, it wasn't going to include so many arks. It was already going to be a big project, even in the planning stages, and was going to be around 100 chapters at most, probably less. I rewrote the beginning chapter two, maybe three times, and it was actually going to be both a Nalu and a Gajevy fic, with Levy discovering magic alongside Lucy. Lucy wasn't a princess whose mother had died because of a connection to the dragons. In fact, both Levy and Lucy were going to have nothing to do with it whatsoever until they came across something that I didn't even get around to planning because I scrapped that idea and decided to focus on Lucy.

The final time around with that first chapter, in which I really got my shit together, I was actually really excited about how things were turning out. I got to the point where with Bubbles's help, I wrote that song that not many probably remember. "Forgive Me" ring a bell? If not, check it out, it's available on my profile. :D Anyhow, I wrote that and I actually started planning out a longer plot. BTL hit 50 chapters before I even began posting it, and it was about that time that I started realizing 100 chapters wasn't going to cover it. So I moved up the number to about 200. Clearly we went past that as well.

There were a few things that I had planned YEARS before I even wrote them. I knew from the moment my plans kind of shifted into several arks that there were a few select ideas that would have to be included. The seven years change was planned so fucking long ago. Around the time I was writing Loke's introduction into BTL, I think, when I started posting. Natsu's disappearance was going to be longer, and I knew EXACTLY how his return was going to go even before I planned everything with Lucy's anti-ethernanos tumors. That stuff came up when the manga started releasing Natsu's issue, and I went "what the hell, this'll be fun." Even Loke being the one to have his key broken during Tartaros was in the original plans four years ago.

There were a few other things that I planned, however, that didn't make it into BTL. Mainly, the ending. I've mentioned how much I suck at knowing what I'm doing? I didn't think of magic's erasure as a true ending to BTL when Loke first brought it up. I literally wrote that and went "Meh. I'll figure something else out." I only truly decided on it as the ending when Lucy discusses it with Erza, after Sabertooth's incident. There was also a huge debate on my part regarding the involvement of the Spriggans and if I was going to actually end after Tartaros. Just imagine that, my friends. I think I mentioned it a few times, even, and threw a poll up for a bit. That would have been like 50-100 chapters less. The original ending was actually going to be more depressing: Lucy and Natsu were never going to come back.

The original ending of BTL was one I messed around with a lot before giving up entirely. Gray was always going to be a huge part of the ending of BTL, and I'm very pleased that he ended up as the last one to speak in this one. Anyhow, initially, Natsu was going to remain END and he and Lucy were going to disappear into thin air. Seven years down the road, Gray was going to be working a job in this town and hear rumors of a demon. Immediately suspicious, Gray was going to go and investigate at night and find Lucy and Natsu together, protecting the massive grave of the dragons, with this little child alongside them (Haru, mentioned in the previous chapter). Gray would have left them in peace and gone home, feeling at peace about what had happened with them.

Anyhow, I'm very VERY happy with how BTL turned out in the end. There are a few weird parts I still don't like (I kind of want to re-write the first chapter with all of the messages as well as me disliking the whole Earthland ark now that I look back), but this will always be a special thing for me.

Moving on from the nostalgic stuff, I want to look forward to the future. I promised some news regarding a few various matters. Starting with the continuation of BTL's world/history/etc. First off, Between the Lines: Tales of Fiore. This is something I'm going to keep continuing with. This will have various stories whenever I feel up to writing them. The one I'm currently working on is all about what happened when Lucy and Natsu first reappeared in the Alvarez Empire after their seven year absence. There was also mention of Grandeeney leaving a letter that she mentioned to Yukino, which might be done next. I'm going to write a series of "Afterwards" stories that include things occurring after BTL ends, such as the wedding, too! ;)

Alongside this, we have a spin-off fic! It won't be long, but Between the Lines: Scripted in Iron is going to be all about how Levy and Gajeel got together. It'll explain more about how he came to join the guild and whatnot. I don't know when it'll be out, nor do I know it's length. I'm estimating about 15 chapters right now, but we see how good I am at sticking to my estimations. To be honest, I don't know if this will ever come out, but I feel like I'm more likely to push onwards with it if I inform others, so.

On for the news I'm most excited for! If you follow me on Tumblr or read my profile recently...I'm VERY fucking excited to announce the release date of BTL's successor: ODAS! Of Dust and Shadows is another big piece I've been trying to write for years. It's going to consist of four parts (I'm almost done with the first, just a few more chapters). It's going to be mostly Nalu (I don't write for much else, apparently). It's a huge project that's actually taken some serious world building. I have eight pages of notes just about the time-line, which is an important part. ODAS will start releasing a week from today, February 14th, and will take over BTL's update schedule of Mondays and Thursdays (with the occasional missing update, likely). I wrote a part last night that creeped me out and made me have problems sleeping, so. It'll be fun. Make sure you check it out!

So enough of my constant ranting. It's time for the most important part: my gratitude. First of all, I gotta thank Bubbles (as should all of you). Though she's not kept up with BTL and no longer edits for me, she's the one who introduced me to FT. Fun fact: I was very, VERY against reading it and refused until she introduced me to Gajevy and basically made me sit down and read it. I actually hated it until I read it, which still surprises me every day, considering how much I love it now. And, of course, I have to thank all of you lovelies. Without all of you readers, I never would have gotten this far and actually finished this. Your support (and kind words) meant and continues to mean the world to me, whether you recognize it or not. So...THANK YOU ALL FROM THE BOTTOM OF MY HEART, and I hope to see you all again soon!

As I always say at the end of a multi-chaptered fic...

"Don't say goodbye!"


P.S. Sydneste, I will absolutely be drawing the image of Natsu and Lucy on their thrones as described last chapter. I don't know when, but keep an eye on my profile. It'll be there eventually.