The promised Gajeel/Levy multi-chapter fic. It takes place during the Oracion Seis arc and depending on the development in the manga might continue into other arcs as well. I really hope I'll do those two characters justice. Rated for language and violence.
Disclaimer: Characters? Mashima's. Money? None. Plot? All mine. Enjoy :D
Chapter 1: Of rescues and virginal sacrifices (where Gajeel is a reluctant saviour and Levy is too nice for her own good)
"Master! Master Makarov!"
Mirajane was clearly distraught. She was clutching a large book with one hand and waving a piece of paper with the other.
"Calm down, Mira-chan," Makarov told her as he contemplated his next step. He finally moved one piece ahead and then looked at the transformation expert. "What is the problem?"
"We received an update for a mission that had been already taken."
"So?" Makarov didn't see a problem with that.
"So, the update makes that mission S-class one."
Makarov took a quick breath. Now, that was a problem.
"Who took that mission?"
"The Shadow Gear."
Levy, Jet and Droy in other words. Good, capable mages, all three of them but none up to par to take an S-class request, not even together.
"Tell me more about it," he asked, already taking a mental inventory of all mages who could be send as back-up.
"The request came from the Sakura town. It lies rather deep in the mainland but it's situated on the crossroads so it's quite prosperous. There has been a series of disappearances recently and they asked for a mage investigation. They had a similar case several years ago and it turned out that the culprit was a succubus demon. Since the cases had so much in common, they thought it was another demon."
That would explain the lower ranking of the mission. A single smaller demon could be dealt with by a competent mage or a team of them easily so it was not so difficult as to get an S-ranking.
"What is the new info?"
"It turns out that the one responsible for those disappearances this time around is Kain Jebel and Approaching End."
Now those news were downright disturbing. Kain Jebel was a leader of a religious sect Approaching End which believed that the end of the world was coming soon and that to be saved at the end, one must regret their evil deeds, to repent and to give up everything. It wouldn't be that bad, there were many religions and sects with similar themes of atoning but Approaching End took it to the extreme. Even those who weren't members of the sect could be saved. In that case they must have been ritually sacrificed.
The group had been chased by mages all over the continent and they lost a lot of members but the leader was yet to be caught.
"How reliable is that information?" Makarov asked tightly.
"It comes directly from the Council. They have been monitoring the situation carefully and they believe only Jebel and his most devoted followers remain. About twenty people."
Twenty people. And about half of them mages. That was the worst about this sect. Kain Jebel was a former S-class mage who had gone insane. That was the reason why he set up the sect. He had delusions of grandeur of the worst kind, thinking himself a saviour of the world. He had killed several mages before he had defected from his guild and from then on, his crimes kept on piling up. And Shadow Gear went right into his lair without suspecting anything. Makarov clenched his fists. They were as good as dead if left without any help.
"Master?" Mirajane asked. "Who will we send to help?"
It had to be an S-class mage, anyone weaker would be just a plaything for Jebel.
"Erza, Natsu and Gray have gone to fight Oracion Seis, Mistgun has made himself scarce since the Fantasia Festival, the Raijinshuu and Juvia-chan are all on their own S-class missions. We have no one left."
"What about me, Master?" Mirajane suggested tentatively.
"Can you give me a guarantee you will be able to fight when necessary?" Makarov asked, not out of doubt but concern. Mirajane hung her head.
"No, I can't."
"Then I can't send you, Mira-chan. You understand."
Makarov stood there, thinking fast. Wasn't there anyone else, anyone at all he could send?
"Oi, what's with the long faces?"
It was a loud and grating voice whose owner was clearly irritated but to Makarov, it was a sound from heaven.
The Iron Dragon Slayer blinked when the Master and Mirajane both turned to him with hopeful and eager faces.
"What the hell's with you two?"
"Gajeel, I need you to go on an S-class mission," Makarov didn't waste any time on niceties.
"No," neither did Gajeel.
"What? Why not?"
"'Cause I just came back from a mission and I don't intend to go for another until I get some rest."
"It's a matter of life and death," Mirajane pleaded.
"So is my rest," came a rude retort as Gajeel turned from them.
"Gajeel," it was the stern voice of a guild master that Makarov used and Gajeel looked back. "I'm not asking you to go, I'm ordering it."
It seemed as if Gajeel would say something rude but he restrained himself. When Makarov used that tone of voice, it meant that the situation was really serious.
"Fine. Where do I need to go?"
"Mira-chan will give you details."
"Well?" he looked expectantly at her.
"It's a town called Sakura, deep in the mainland. What appeared at first as a demon related kidnappings has now been confirmed as doing of Kain Jebel and his people."
"That shithead's still around?"
"You heard about him?"
"The wacko guy who thought himself a Messiah? Yeah, I heard. He's supposed to be tough," Gajeel grinned. "So, you want me to take him out? Has some kind of fancy magic from what I know. Might be interesting."
"No. Your first priority will be a rescue of a Fairy Tail team who had accepted the request to investigate the case before the other facts became known."
"You're sending me to save some morons' asses? For real?"
"It's the Shadow Gear, Gajeel. I would hardly call them morons."
"That's the blue-haired bookworm and her two accesories, right?" the Iron Dragon Slayer smirked. "I take it back. She's not a moron. The other two, on the other hand..."
"Do you need anything else before you go?" Mirajane didn't even bother to hide her displeasure with his behaviour. Three members of the guild were in danger and he kept cracking jokes.
"Nah, just tell me when they left. I might still catch them on the road and save myself some trouble."
"They took the last late-night train to Harujion and they planned to hire a carriage from there."
"Shit," Gajeel cursed. They had more than sixteen hours on him. He wouldn't catch up with them before that Sakura town. "Well, nothing to do about it. I'll be going then."
"Good luck, Gajeel."
"Luck's for morons," he called back as he threw his pack across his shoulder and went out. Mirajane looked after him and then turned back to Makarov.
"Do you think he will be all right?"
"I wouldn't worry about him, Mira-chan. Gajeel's a tough mage and deep down he cares for the guild and his nakama. He will come back safe and he'll bring the Shadow Gear with him."
It was the utter confidence in Master's voice that finally helped Mirajane to calm down. Yes, Gajeel was one of them now. He could be trusted with the safety of the others.
The journey to the Sakura town was boring. Gajeel's appearance - black clothes, spiked hair, piercings all over his body - and an overall air of 'don't-mess-with-me-fuckers' kept him free from any attempts at conversation his fellow travellers migth have made otherwise. Even the hired carriage driver seemed to pass all of his limits and previous records, shaken by the appearance of his customer. Gajeel didn't mind. The sooner he got there, the sooner the job will be over. And what a job it was.
A rescue mission. He had been sent to do a rescue mission. Never mind it being S-class. Glorified or not, rescue missions were a hassle of the worst kind. But he couldn't go against the Master's orders. And who knows? It might finally shut up those two idiots he was supposed to be rescuing. They seemed to mellow out after the whole Luxus fiasco but then they saw him talking to their little blue-haired friend - she and Gajeel had bumped into each other in front of the job request board and that conversation had consisted entirely of her apologies and his neverminds - and it was back to square one.
Gajeel grinned to himself. It was actually rather amusing, that jealousy of theirs. He and Levy got along just fine, as little interaction as they had had since the festival and they must have felt threatened by it. But Gajeel could care less about the opinions of two idiots who were still wary of him even after he almost got his ass fried for their guild's sake. And unless he pulled one hell of a rescue mission, it wasn't about to change anytime soon.
"S-sir?" the driver was hovering nervously at the door. "We've arrived."
Gajeel brushed past the frightened driver, looking at the town in front of him. He was not impressed. It laid on a small plateau, covering the entirety of it with buildings and streets that looked more like a maze than a proper town. The carriage station was situated at the eastern end of the town on a small hillock so he had a good view of the whole area. Just where in the fuck's sake was he going to start looking?
"Oi," he turned to the driver who jumped a bit in fright.
"Do you remember the people you've been driving in the last couple of days?"
"Yes, sir. Most of them."
"Good. Was there a group of three mages among them? Short, blue-haired girl and two walking fashion disasters."
The man thought it over.
"Yes, I believe there were such people. The girl was very nice."
Gajeel rolled his eyes. Trust a guy to remember a girl.
"Do you know where they went from here? Or were you too busy ogling her?"
The driver seemed to take an offense at that, drew himself up to protest his innocence and... he deflated. Gajeel didn't look like a person you wanted to piss off.
"They were talking about checking into a hotel and then speaking with the mayor about their job."
"Right. Where can I find this mayor?"
"The townhall is directly down the main street in the middle of the town."
"Figures," Gajeel mumbled to himself. He turned away from the driver who sagged with relief. Time to search for the lost mages.
It wasn't that hard to get an audience with the mayor. All it took was a couple of words - more like well-worded threats - with his secretary and he was ushered in. The mayor seemed to fill a stereotype set for such a position. Short, rounded, pompous. And wholly unimpressed by the Iron Dragon Slayer.
"Give me one good reason for not having you arrested right now, Mr. Mage."
Gajeel gave him his trademark grin.
"You've got an insane S-class mage on the loose somewhere in the town. I can take him down."
The mayor blinked at him. Gajeel looked back steadily, the grin never leaving his face. The mayor finally looked away.
"What do you want?"
"Three other mages came to investigate those disappearances you had. Where did they go?"
"The Fairy Tail mages? Is one of them the S-class one you were talking about?"
"No, you idiot," Gajeel barked. The stupidity of some people... "The S-class fucker is the one responsible for the disappearing thing. I'm here to save their asses."
"Ah," the mayor floundered for a moment. "They said when they came in last night that they would start by searching the forest on the northern side of the town. There are some old ruins there and they thought the demon might have settled there."
"Okay. I'll start there, too."
The forest was dull as Gajeel found out after the first ten minutes. Some trees, very dense underbrush, small clearings now and then, it was an ordinary forest like any other. But what wasn't so ordinary were the trails going through it. There were clear signs of their frequent use - broken twigs, flat-stomped grass, even some rubbish.
Gajeel straightend up from where he had crouched down to examine the trail and sniffed the air. There was nothing at first but then the breeze changed direction and he caught smells of several people. And among them - he took another sniff to make sure - was the familiar scent of the Fairy Tail's resident bookworm.
Gajeel smirked. It seemed the rescue mission was going to end sooner than he had thought. He started sprinting in that direction and he could see that the tree line was already getting thinner. He paused just at the edge of the forest and took a good look at the ruins in front of him.
They were hardly deserving of the name. Scattered boulders, remains of some walls, weed and bushes sprouting everywhere. The only thing that looked tended to was a large slab of stone in the middle of the ruins. A circle of people was surrounding it and Gajeel spotted the two male members of the Shadow Gear, bound and unconscious in the front of the altar thing. As for Levy herself...
Levy tugged at her bonds again but they held firm. She glanced worriedly at Jet and Droy though from her position at the top of the altar, she could barely see their heads. Her attention was brought back to the man who had defeated them all when he stepped to the side of the altar and smiled down at her.
It would have been a nice smile, if not for the face that was surrounding it. The face was thin, almost gaunt and there was a hungry expression on it as if the man was starving for something he couldn't get. And his eyes were even worse. They glinted with an unchecked madness and their fanatical light seemed to hold all of his followers in a trance.
Levy squirmed again, because even if it was useless, she was at least trying to do something and not just lying there like a helpless victim, resigned to her fate.
"Don't fight, little girl," the man spoke soothingly, petting her hair. "Very soon you'll be delivered from this world of evilness and to a paradise. Isn't that wonderful?"
Levy refused to reply. It was blindingly obvious that this man was severely lacking in sanity and trying to talk to him would accomplish nothing at all.
"Why are you so silent? Don't you want to thank me for helping you reach salvation?" he stopped petting her hair and grabbed a handful of it instead, raising her head off the altar. "Answer me!"
"Let me and my friends go!" Levy demanded with more bravado than she felt. "I don't want your paradise!"
He let go of her head abruptly and Levy barely suppressed a yelp of pain as it struck the stone surface.
"You don't have a choice. You'll be saved like all those people in the town. They resisted, too, but once their blood flew freely, they stopped struggling and you will be like them."
Something that had so far been eluding her finally clicked into place and Levy's eyes widened.
"You were the one kidnapping people, not some demon."
She had thought the presence of that group of people in the ruins had been a coincidence because everyone in the town had insisted that a demon had been the one responsible for the missing people. They should have known better than to trust a town gossip and it was a mistake that could end up being their last.
"You are a smart girl and what is even rarer, still pure," the man commented and smiled at her again, his outburst from before forgotten. "I'm glad to have saved you."
He didn't seem to expect a reply this time because he motioned to one of his lackeys and was handed a long thin dagger which was decorated by a single ruby in the pommel. He raised it high and his followers raised their arms, mimicking his motions.
"Let's pray!" his voice boomed. "Let our prayer open a way to paradise for this innocent soul."
"Let's pray!" everyone echoed. Levy closed her eyes tightly. This was the end. She would never again see her friends. She would never return to the guild and take more missions. She would never-
The chanting stopped. And in the silence that followed, a very familiar and most welcome voice spoke up.
"Hey, cut it off, you crazy fuckers."
Levy's eyes flew open. The man with the dagger was no longer standing over her. Twisting her head, she saw him on the ground several yards further, a thin iron rod protruding from his chest. Quickly looking the other way, she saw Gajeel, who was standing nonchalantly several feet from the circle of acolytes, a wide grin stretching his face.
"Heh, not so tough as claimed," he said and as screams of fury erupted from the throats of the man's followers, he transformed one of his arms into a large blade. "Let's see about the rest of you."
Some of the men had swords and they unsheathed them, lunging towards Gajeel. He easily dodged their assault, swiping his sword-arm across their backs as he moved towards the altar. He blocked another attack by simply raising his other arm and the attacker's sword glanced off it. Gajeel punched him out and then simply jumped into the air, landing next to the captive mages. He sliced Levy's bonds and pulled her to her feet. He steadied her for a bit before handing her a small dagger.
"Release those two and wake them up."
Levy nodded but he didn't see because he had already turned away to face the second wave of the attackers.
"By the way!" he called out to her. "Nice dress."
Levy blushed. The men who had captured them had changed her outfit from her usual bright tunic and black leggings into a white shift that could be best described as skimpy. She didn't care much when she had been waiting for her upcoming death but now that it was clear they would get out of the mess alive, she felt all of the embarassment return tenfold.
She knelt down, slicing the ropes that bound Jet and Droy and tried shaking them awake to no avail. Their captors had forced them to swallow some kind of potion and it seemed its effects had yet to wear off.
Levy glanced around, thinking quickly. She tore off a bit of the hem of her shift and using the dust, wrote 'WATER' on it. Raising the scrap of cloth over her friends' heads, she poured her magic into it. The transformation was instant and about a litre of water splashed down on their faces. They coughed and sputtered as the cold water helped them wake up.
"L-levy? Are you alright?" Jet asked as he shook out the water from his hair.
"I'm fine. We have been saved."
"Who?" Droy was rubbing his wrists and looking around.
"Iron Dragon Roar!"
A sonic wave passed over them, knocking down two men who were stealthily approaching them from behind.
"Gajeel?" Jet gasped.
Levy nodded, not bothering to hide her smile.
"He came at the last minute, just as their leader was about to kill me," she explained and then added sternly. "I told you he could be trusted."
Jet and Droy glanced sheepishly at each other. It went unspoken that they trusted Gajeel just fine, except with Levy. But they couldn't tell her that. The awkward moment was broken as Gajeel landed next to them, glaring at them.
"Hey, I'm working my ass off to save you. The most dangerous guy is out of the fight so stop chatting and do something, too."
And he was gone again. There were only eight enemies left by then, five of them mages. The Shadow Gear stood up as one, their years of working together showing clearly as they split up to fight. Jet blurred up, his speed alowing him to overcome the distance between him and his opponent before the other had a chance to blink, never mind avoiding Jet's hit. Droy directed his plants to tangle up their enemies' legs and hold them immobile while Levy sacrificed even more of her already diminishing skirt to flung little fireballs at them.
"About time," they could hear Gajeel murmur. With all four of them fighting together, it was a matter of seconds before there were no more enemies to defeat. Overall, they were rather weak. Gajeel, of course, was the one to do most of the work and he knew it, if his smug grin was anything to go by.
"Piece of cake," he said, walking over to the Shadow Gear. "You, the guy with plants-"
"My name is Droy," Droy interrupted him but Gajeel waved it off.
"Whatever. Use your magic to tie up those guys. We'll send the town's militia to clear this up and it would be bad if some of them were to run."
"What about their leader?" Levy asked as Droy reluctantly set to work.
"He's probably dead and good riddance," Gajeel sneered. "He wasn't supposed to go down so easily. S-class mage, my ass!"
He circled the altar and stopped in his tracks.
"What the hell?"
"What happened?" Levy asked, alarmed.
"The fucker's gone!" Gajeel exclaimed. "I got him clean through the heart so where the fuck is he?"
"Who was it?" Jet spoke.
"Kain Jebel, heard of him?"
Levy nodded mutely, a shiver of fear running down her spine. She had certainly heard of him. One of the most feared criminals on the continent. And he came very close to killing her. She was going to have nightmares after this, she knew it.
Gajeel was sniffing the air and frowning.
"I can't catch his scent. It's like he disappeared into a thin air or something."
"Is that a problem?"
"Not ours. I was here to save your asses, not take him down. Mission's over."
"But, he's very dangerous," Levy argued.
"We took down all of the lackeys he had left. Well," Gajeel corrected himself, "I took them down. He won't be able to do a rat's ass for a while. And by then, someone else will catch up with him."
The Shadow Gear had to agree with him. And besides, they couldn't follow Jebel since they didn't know where he went. Levy changed into her original clothes and the white shift was tossed away. Leaving the bound sect members behind, they trudged back into the Sakura town, notifying the mayor of the details of the mission and collecting the substantially raised reward for subduing the dangerous sect.
And now, they stood in the lobby of the hotel that the Shadow Gear had checked into the previous day. Levy wanted to spend the night in the town and set out for Fairy Tail in the morning. Gajeel had protested, of course, wanting to be gone as soon as possible but Levy prevailed. There was only one minor obstacle.
"No rooms are left?" Levy repeated disbelievingly after the receptionist.
"I'm sorry, Miss, but the annual Sakura Market Day is in two days and all of the rooms are already full. It's the same in all of the hotels in the town. If you didn't come in yesterday instead of today, we wouldn't have been able to provide you with your rooms either," the clerk spread his arms in a helpless gesture. "I'm really sorry."
Levy huffed and turned to the rest of their group. Before she could as much as open her mouth, Gajeel spoke.
"It's settled, we're leaving."
"We're not," she said, putting her balled hands on her hips. "I have been almost sacrificed today by a lunatic and I want to take a bath and have a full night's sleep."
"Okay. You stay, I'll camp out. Not like I really give a shit."
"That wouldn't be fair. You saved us, you deserve a room and a warm bed just like the three of us."
Gajeel rolled his eyes.
"Stop making a fuss. I have survived worse."
"No," Levy was glaring at him stubbornly and even Jet and Droy knew better than to interfere in this. "There is another option. We got two rooms yesterday, one for the guys and one for me. Both of them had two beds. You can sleep in the free one in my room."
"Levy!" Jet and Droy spoke at the same time, shocked by her suggestion. Gajeel raised one studded brow.
"Aren't you afraid to share?" he grinned wickedly.
"I trust you," she replied simply. And that seemed to settle it.
"Lead the way," Gajeel spoke, brushing past the stupefied mages and following Levy upstairs.
A/N: So, Gajeel, Levy and a hotel room. Imagine what could happen, then please take a look at the rating and imagine again :D I won't update for about two weeks because I'm leaving for ten days for my summer job and there won't be an internet connection there. Which means I won't be able to reply to your reviews, either but I promise I'll try to catch up. BTW, I hope you liked the first chapter.