This little addition sorta crept into my head, and I want to know if you think it's a worthy addition. It's more of an alternate ending to the 1st part. If you liked it as it was, I'd recommend not reading on. Let me know what you think, thankyouverymuch. And if you didn't give me feedback on the first part of the story, now's your chance. *ahem*
"Levy, I'm home!" Natsu called out, the tiny gift weighing heavily in his pocket as he made his way back to the homely cottage at the end of the trodden path.
It had once belonged to Porlyusica, an anti-social healing mage that had been a steadfast ally to Fairy Tail. Well, Makarov, the former Guild Master of Fairy Tail, to be exact. The small home had fallen into Lucy's possession at some point after the last war. The Stellar Spirit mage had lived there with her daughter until her last days, where she was surrounded by her friends and family. After her passing, Natsu had chosen to live there with the young girl, not wanting to take the child from the only home she had known. There, with Happy, they had started the tortuous journey of becoming a family. A real family.
Natsu hadn't known contentment until he made the conscious decision to settle down.
Gray and Alzack had helped Natsu build a small house nearby for Happy, the Eksheed not wanting to impose and desiring his own solitude. Perhaps that would change if he ever decided to take a mate. Though they never spoke of it, Natsu was aware that the his feline friend continued to mourn the loss of Charle, who had valiantly perished in the war with many of Natsu's nakama. The dragon slayer didn't blame his childhood companion. He, too, knew all too well the pangs of losing someone he loved. He had lost many in the gamut, and Lucy's passing was the one that brought the most pain to his heart. Years later, her death was an open wound that refused to close, no matter how much he convinced himself he was content with his life.
Levy was the only thing that made his life relatively tolerable. Levy and Happy, to be correct. He still had many friends at Fairy Tail, sure, but the knowledge that his inability to remain planted in Magnolia may have contributed to any of Lucy's suffering still pained him horribly. He would never find forgiveness within himself, he was sure of it.
And that little girl waiting for him in their home was the only thing that could bring warmth to his heart.
His daughter. A little piece of him and Lucy; a perfect blend of the two mages. A testament to their unspoken attachment to one another. Their love. The simple emotion he was never able to confess to her despite her obvious loyalty. It was another failure on his part.
But, this time, he remained in Magnolia, if only to protect and raise his child. He had no interest in finding a mate, either—the child taking up more than her fair share of his attentions. Natsu knew he would never see Igneel again, and had given up that search long ago. Wherever he was, Natsu only hoped he was content. Perhaps Lucy was with him...
For now, he would guard his living friends and family ferociously, a promise he had made to Lucy before she died.
I miss you, Luce, he silently sent his thoughts to her as he did on a daily basis, despite never knowing if they were received on her end. He liked to hope she heard them. Sometimes he could swear he felt her presence...
"Poppa! Finally!" Levy came tearing out of the cottage, a child of nearly eight years.
She was gangly and skinny, her hair no longer the pale honey of childhood. Over the past two years, it had taken on a strawberry blonde hue that seemed to be a blend of her parentage. His hair was nearly as long as hers, as he hadn't cut it since his return. He had also taken a liking to retaining his facial hair—a look that he thought made him look more refined. Despite her evolving appearances, Levy's eyes still belonged to Lucy. Staring into them made him feel an indescribable sense of nostalgia and comfortable happiness.
She leaped into the air with amazing ease, her arms encircling his neck. He had only been gone a few days, mostly on a short mission to earn some money to sustain them for a while. She grinned at him toothily as she climbed around to his back, her elbows propped on his head as she spoke to him.
"I thought you'd never come back!" Her voice was filled with slight hurt, as he knew that she feared she'd lose him like she had lost her mother. She leaned down and planted a polite kiss on each cheek, prompting him to look around suspiciously. An affectionate Levy was a guilty Levy.
She squirmed, locking her ankles around his chest as her face screwed up with disgust. "Did you see Gray-sama's new baby?"
"I did," Natsu nodded as he continued toward the stairs to their home.
He had stopped by the guild to see Lisanna and Gray's new addition—their second child, a pudgy little girl named Mirabelle. She was the spitting image of Gray, something Natsu verbalized was detrimental to the child's good fortune. A short tussle later, both men were worse for wear, but as good of friends as could be expected. Gray's son, Mack, was nearly a year-and-a-half, and had already displayed an aptitude for his uncle's Beast Arm—at much surprise to mother...and child.
The next generation was booming at Fairy Tail. The loss of their comrades over the recent years had not been forgotten, and new names paid homage to the fallen.
"Well?" Levy sighed, a habit that was wholly attributable to her mother. "Whaddya think?"
"About Mirabelle?" Natsu asked, confused by her interest in the newborn.
"That's its name?" the girl frowned into her father's head.
"Correction: that's her name," Happy interrupted her, his wings disappearing as he landed next to them. His expression was stern, telling Natsu that Levy had likely done something that would require Happy to report in.
"What did she do now?"
Natsu shook Happy's paw, already preempting the look on the Eksheed's face as he glared at the girl. Natsu could feel her cringing as she hid her face in his hair. The blue feline crossed his arms over his chest as he shook his head.
"There was a fire," he said simply. "Started by you know—"
"I couldn't help it!" she whined, her voice pleading to Natsu for help.
"Oh, this was an accident?" Happy whipped his tail around, indicating the singed end that was still smoking
The girl stared at his tail, her eyes watering with shame. "I said I'm sorry, Uncle Hap-py!"
The way she enunciated the term of endearment for the cat made his eyes soften, if only a little. Natsu chuckled under his breath, withdrawing his hand from his pocket. He held it up to Levy, opening his fingers to display the neat rectangular package with its crumpled bow. It was as good of a time to interrupt as any.
"I brought you something."
She squealed with delight, clapping her hands together emphatically as she slid off of her father's back. "For my birthday?"
"You betcha," he smiled, a sharp incisor protruding over his lip as she quickly snatched the gift from his possession.
Happy watched them interact with muted amusement. He loved the girl like she were his own child, and would protect her with no less ferocity than Natsu. He knew that the young child returned his endearment. Levy was the redemption that both Eksheed and dragon slayer had been seeking. She was Lucy's parting gift to Natsu, though the mage had been too blind to see the girl for what she truly was: his child.
Happy had known that Lucy and Natsu had consummated their relationship—a fact that Natsu had only shared once after a brief (and failed) encounter with a barmaid in some far away town. It had reduced the dragon slayer to tears, and Happy knew, then, that Natsu was truly in love. Had it not been for his blind faith in Igneel's presence, Happy would have been able to convince him to return home. To Lucy. Perhaps that stupid war would have fared differently.
They had all lost someone they loved, a fact that still stung Happy to the core. He had given his heart to Charle, something he had confessed to her on a short return to Fairy Tail. She had promised her love as well, binding them in Eksheed custom. Her death would be difficult to overcome, and he was uncertain if there would ever be another who could reignite those feelings he had buried deep in the crypts of his heart. Eksheed joined for life, and the loss of a mate fared heavily on the remaining party, no matter if the relationship was ever consummated.
Wendy had visited the guild six months prior, and she had sought him out to spend time with her, mourning Charle's passing together. She would never recover from the void Charle had left, despite having a doting husband who cherished her more than his own life. He had no doubt that soon she, too, would welcome a child into this world. She had invited him into her home and life, but he was unable to leave Levy or Natsu.
At times, Happy felt as if he could sense Lucy's presence in the cottage, though he never shared that premonition with Natsu. Her knew the dragon slayer would not take that news well, his fragility so very visible to the Eksheed. Sometimes, late at night, he would find Levy staring at Natsu as he fretfully slept, murmuring his sentiments to Lucy as if she were right beside him. Both the girl and Happy knew that it tortured Natsu that he had never said those things to Lucy while she was living.
"I miss Momma, too," Levy would whisper as Happy tucked her back into bed.
"I know. We all do." He would stroke her hair as she fell back to sleep.
Levy's cry of awe pulled Happy from his thoughts as he investigated Natsu's gift. It was the same master key that Lucy had given to him before her death—the one she had used to lock her other keys away in the old wooden box. Only, now, it appeared as if the metal had a good oiling, because it was shiny and lustrous as it sparkled in the late afternoon sunlight. The girl jumped around in merriment, waving the gift in the air. She hugged Natsu's legs in thanks, excited that she was finally able to connect with something her mother had so dearly treasured: her spirits.
Happy also knew that she thought of spirits as toys that were expected to be a little girl's friend. He briefly wondered what Aquarius would say about that. Capricorn would visit the girl on occasion—mostly because he had sworn his fealty to Lucy's child prior to the Stellar Spirit mage's death. Levy had originally thought he was something she could ride around, until Natsu—between guffaws—informed her that he was not a horse, but rather a spirit that commanded her respect. That was when he took the key from her possession, to keep for himself.
Now, two years later, she was ready to become a mage. She already displayed the knack for magic—though some more tragically than others. Happy felt his annoyance flare at the thought of how his tail had been singed...
"It's time," Natsu agreed, patting her head as he crouched down so that he was eye-level with her.
"Tonight?" Levy yipped hopefully, adding a jut to her bottom lip.
"Tomorrow is better," Natsu solemnly told her, withstanding the adoring gesture, much to Happy's reassurance. "We have other plans tonight."
She pouted outright, but nodded her head and tucked the key away. Happy knew she had no intention of holding out until tomorrow, but he would keep that to himself for now. They had a birthday party to attend, and he would take care to make sure he was long out of range when she attempted to test her Celestial abilities.
Natsu gently unwrapped the skinny arms from around his neck, the girl falling asleep long ago on the walk back to the cottage. He had relished those serene minutes of walking, her head lolling on his shoulder as he carried her as Happy silently flew at his side. Natsu frowned in slight disgust as he noticed the wet spot on his shoulder and a long string of saliva connecting from it to the corner of Levy's mouth. He softly pulled the covers up to the girl's shoulders, stroking her long hair as she softly snored. He stepped away, watching her sleep for a few moments as he allowed his mind to wander. When the tears prickled the corners of his eyes, he quietly shut the door behind him with a whisper of, "Goodnight, Levy."
At the sound of the door closing behind her father, the child's breathing became more shallow as she peeked around her room from under a heavy lid. When she was satisfied that Natsu had truly left, she threw her covers off with a sigh of excitement. Her bare feet skimmed the floor as she quickly pulled the box from under her bed. She squinted at the lock that kept her from accessing what her mother had placed inside—the artifacts that she had so lovingly cherished. Levy pulled the key from the chain around her neck, sliding it into the lock and turning it. She grinned excitedly at hearing the satisfactory sound of the box unlocking. She hesitated, turning her head in anticipation of her father's footsteps. When she registered none, she opened the chest.
Her eyes widened with awe—she didn't recall the vast number of keys her mother had managed to gather over the years. She had heard whispers of Lucy's strength, but her memories were faded by childish eyes. She knew she loved her mother very much, and she vividly recalled what her mother had looked like at the time of her death. But, before that, it felt hazy. She strove to recall what her mother's laughter sounded like, or the smell of her perfume, but she found those memories difficult to retrieve.
She would have asked her father, but she knew Natsu still grieved her mother's loss. Though she knew he hadn't been around for most of her life, she couldn't remember what her life had been like without him. Nor could she imagine it. She was aware that she was named after her mother's best friend, whose picture hung in the Great Hall next to Lucy's. She had big shoes to fill, or so Happy had told her on many occasions. Usually ones where she had behaved badly.
Her fingers grazed over the keys, the metal warm beneath her fingertips. She had nearly snatched one with a zodiac symbol, but the glow of something caught her eye. She glanced at the master key around her neck and her brow creased with confusion. She gingerly brought the key to her face, the glow casting an eerie light in her room as it pulsated. Levy's attention was drawn away from the box of keys as she focused on the one cradled in her hand. The pulsating became more frequent and the girl couldn't tear her eyes from it.
"What are you? Answer me," she whispered to no on in particular. Suddenly the pulsations ceased, and she was left holding a lifeless, shiny key. She was slightly put off by the odd spectacle, but easily distracted herself by the myriad of keys in the wooden box at her knees.
"Levy," a soft voice called from behind her.
The girl's chestnut eyes grew wide as she heard the alien voice. She clutched the key to her chest as she scrambled away from the box, her eyes wildly darting toward whomever had spoken her name. How had someone entered her room without her notice? Though she was not a dragon slayer, she had inherited some of Natsu's natural acumen. The girl located the speaker, her mouth suddenly dry as it hung open in shock. Pure. Utter. Shock.
"Levy," came the sigh, this time filled with expectation, "Well, won't you say something, child?"
The girl's face paled as her eyes studied uninvited guest, who was impatiently clearing their throat. In response, Levy let out the most ungodly scream she could muster.
Natsu bolted upright, his mind groggy with sleep and his heart thudding with fear. I heard Levy scream!
He quickly leaped from his bed. He rarely slept under the covers, so very little was preventing him from moving—and doing so very quickly. He was immediately on his feet, throwing open his door as he heard Levy scream again.
"Poppppaaaa!" she shrilly called out to him as he flew down the short hall to her room. He quickly reached her, eyes wild as the adrenaline coursed through his veins. He immediately noticed the key she clutched in her hand, and he briefly considered that she likely summoned her first spirit.
"What is it?" he asked, eyes narrowed as he looked her over, noting no injuries. A bad dream, perhaps?
"Is it real?" the girl whispered, her voice a mixture of excitement and fear. She trembled as her eyes focused on something over his shoulder. Natsu suddenly felt the odd yet familiar presence. Every muscle in his body froze as his heart pounded in his ears.
"What?" he croaked, afraid to move. His nose could not detect a hint of anything or anyone.
"Her." Levy shot out an arm to point a finger, and he could avoid it no more. His head turned in the direction she was indicating. He said a silent prayer that she hadn't loosed Aquarius—as she was the least tolerable of Lucy's spirits.
"Me, stupid," a voice answered impatiently.
The familiarity in that voice chilled his blood as his eyes fell on her. "N-No...It c-c-can't be..." his voice cracked as he choked on his words. His eyes were as wide as Levy's and his body froze with disbelief as Levy gently peered over his shoulder. Natsu pressed her back to the floor, his legs shaky as he stood.
"L-Lucy?" he whispered, his mouth so very dry.
The woman standing before them was not the Lucy he had last seen. No, she was a beautiful specter of Lucy in her radiant youth. Warm blonde hair and deep chocolate eyes, which were now rimmed with tears.
The young girl sheepishly grabbed Natsu's hand, a smile spreading across her face. "I know you."
"I sure hope so," the woman responded softly, her eyes on Natsu's face.
"It's my birthday, Momma!" Levy told her as she tore past Natsu. Lucy scooped her up in a hug, tears streaming down her face as she buried it in the young girl's hair.
Natsu watched, face pale and fingers numb. This is a bad dream. A really bad dream.
"I know, Levy. Happy Birthday, my beautiful little girl!" Lucy cried, tears glistening on her cheeks.
"I knew you'd come back to us. You promised. I told Poppa that once, but he just cried," the girl pulled back, her hands grasping her mother's face, eyes round in exaggeration. Lucy laughed and hiccuped at the same time, the sound was beautiful to Natsu's ears. He shook the fogginess from his head. This was no dream. This was the one thing he had hoped for over the past couple years: another chance.
"I love you."
Lucy's eyes widened and Levy turned to look at her father. She wriggled free from her mother's grip, taking a step back as she curiously looked between her parents with an astuteness Natsu didn't know she possessed. Lucy was wearing a long gown of green, her blonde hair holding a natural curl and her lashes damp with tears. Levy tried to recall if she had ever seen her mother look so beautiful. She looked like the picture in the Main Hall.
No wonder Poppa loves her so much.
"What did you say?" Lucy whispered, eyes shining with something familiar. Warmth? Hope? Adoration?
"I said...I...love you," Natsu repeated it a second time, his voice louder. More sure. His fists were clenched at his sides, tears in his eyes. "I have to tell you, dream or no dream. I have regretted not telling you every day since you...since your—"
His voice caught in his throat and Lucy quickly closed the distance between them, throwing her arms around his neck with a sob. She buried her face in his shoulder as he wrapped his arms around her, one hand cradling her head and stroking her hair. They stood like that for some time, both too afraid to speak, but neither wanting the moment to end. Her smell overwhelmed his senses, and he knew that this was both a dream and reality.
"It's really you?" he finally whispered, his body reacting in ways he only faintly recalled.
"Yes," she replied pulling back, her eyes searching his face. Her fingers trailed along his jawline, where the pink whiskers spoke of days without shaving. A small half-smile tugged at her lips as she gently ran her fingers through his hair. His eyes never left her face.
"Are you an angel, Momma?" Levy asked sheepishly, the key still clutched in her hand.
"No, not an angel," Lucy whispered fondly.
"A Stellar Spirit," Natsu replied. She held the overpowering smell that a spirit carried, and he knew full well what that meant. "Levy's key is your key."
Lucy looked somewhat sad at this revelation, but nodded its validity. "It's true. I nearly died protecting my spirits, sacrificing my vision to summon the King. It had only been done on one other occasion, the year the dragons disappeared. He said my heart spoke to him, and it was enough..." She shook her head, unable to explain further.
Spirit Laws, he remembered. He didn't need the logistics of how she was allowed to live as a Celestial being; he only cared that she was here with him now.
"So you can stay with us?" Levy asked, clapping her hands in excitement. "For my birthday?"
Lucy's smile grew more as her eyes continued to roam Natsu's face, her cheeks flushing, "For a while..."
Natsu's fingers tightened on her waist, his eyes relaying his sudden fear of losing her again. His heart leaped into his throat and he suddenly felt as if he were going to lose control.
As if she could read his mind, she replied, "Spirits can't stay here forever, Levy. We just aren't...compatible."
The young girl's eyes teared up, "Y-You're gonna leave us...again?"
Lucy knelt before her daughter, wiping the tears from Levy's cheeks as Natsu fought down the impending feeling of doom that was threatening to overtake him. There was so much he wanted to say and do, and he couldn't bear the thought of losing her again—of tearing apart their family. She glanced up at him, and his eyes wordlessly pleaded for her to tell him this wasn't a sick trick of his mind. So she could only visit on occasion—it stung to think about it, but they could still be a family. Though, both he and Levy would age and she would not. Would she want an older Natsu? Would she still love him? Lucy stood in all her splendor before him, reaching up with her lips and brushing them against Natsu's. With a soft groan, his hand slipped behind her head, his mouth covering hers urgently.
"Ew," Levy looked up, nonplussed with the adult exchange. Her tears had dried on her cheeks.
Lucy and Natsu pulled apart, a smile on the former's lips as she looked between Natsu and Levy. "You've taken good care of her. I'm happy. I had my doubts, you know."
"I promised," he told her solemnly. "You expected me to screw it up?"
She raised an eyebrow in amusement as she grinned. "No, I trusted you would keep that promise."
He flinched as her words haunted him. "A day hasn't gone by that I haven't regretted leaving you."
She raised a finger to his lips, her voice steady with conviction. "It's in the past. All that matters is now."
"You can't leave us again, Luce!" he told her quickly, "I can't live without you! We can't live without you! It's been hell thinking I'd never see you again, that I'd never have a chance to tell you that I've loved you since the day I met you!"
"Yuck," Levy whispered under her breath. Her father was strong and brave, not one to spout romantic sentiments.
Lucy looked between Natsu and Levy, her eyes filling with tears. "I know. I know it's been hard. To me, it's only been a short while, but I know it's been so much more for you."
"How long can you stay, Momma?" Levy pleaded.
"I don't know, I can come and go, and that'll make it easier, but it'll be a toll on you. You're still too young and it'll take a lot out of you."
"I'll train real hard! I'll be the greatest Stellar Spirit mage in the world!" Levy promised, grasping the concept behind summoning and spirits. Lucy looked at her with pride.
"We can wait," Natsu promised, his eyes solemn, "Whatever it takes, Luce."
She looked at Natsu. "There is another way," she hesitated, "You could...come to live with me?"
"In the Celestial World?" Natsu deduced. He briefly recalled visiting in his youth. It was a far more beautiful place than he had ever known. He suddenly wondered if he could do it. Could he leave everything he has known here? Forever?
Lucy raised an eyebrow skeptically. "Where else, moron?"
That was the Lucy he remembered. He glanced to Levy, then back to Lucy, considering her suggestion.
"Oh, Poppa! It'll be fun!"
They were no longer children. His friends have died, and the others have moved on with their lives. He cared for them deeply, but his heart was elsewhere.
"We will go wherever you are." I'm not leaving you again.
Levy looked between her parents for a moment, her brow furrowing as she considered something they had overlooked. "What about Uncle Happy?"
Natsu paled, he hadn't thought about Happy. How would the Eksheed fare without him? Lucy, in her graciousness, had already considered that predicament, "He can come, too! I wouldn't leave without that perverted cat."
"Well," Levy tapped her chin like she had seen Natsu do on many occasions, "Then I think it's OK. But can we come back to visit?"
"You can always come back to visit," Lucy told her, doing her best not to show her excitement.
"We're gonna need to say goodbye to everyone," Natsu told her. "They'll want to see you, too! Gray's getting old, Luce. He's got a bunch of kids, now."
"He has two, stupid," Lucy replied. "I check in from time-to-time."
"Why didn't you say something? Come see us?" Natsu asked, hurt.
"I did see you. Just not in the way you wanted," she answered quietly, avoiding his stare. She was ashamed for prying into their private lives in the aftermath of her death. "I needed to be summoned, and I knew this smart girl here would figure it out."
"Just like you promised!" Levy beamed. "This is the best birthday ever!"
Natsu's eyes darted to Levy. "A spirit mage with a penchant for fire." The words had been spoken by Lucy, years before. She stared at him, her expression filled with sadness and pride. She reached out and squeezed his hand.
"Why don't we get you to bed so Momma and Poppa can talk?" Lucy asked Levy, whose eyes were growing heavy. The girl nodded, smiling happily. Natsu could see the drool collecting at the corner of her mouth, a sign of impending sleep. Lucy whisked the girl to her room, carefully tucking her into bed.
She touched her lips to Levy's forehead, her words soft as she watched her daughter sleep. "Gramma Layla would love to see you. Both of you."
Your mother? Natsu mouthed, incredulous. He was aware she had died, around the same time as the dragon's disappearance...
Was it possible?
Lucy nodded as she shut Levy's door behind her. "There's a lot you don't know, Natsu." A smile tugged at her lips as she met his gaze.
"'Spose not," He rubbed his neck, doing his best to contain himself. There was so much he wanted to say. So much he wanted to do. He was still in utter disbelief, afraid to go to sleep in fear that he would wake to find that this was a cruel dream.
"Don't worry," she whispered to him as she led him by his hand, a mischievous smile on her face. "We have the rest of our lives to figure our puzzle out."