Disclaimer: I do not own the Fairy Tail series or any of the characters.
Summary: Natsu might be a wild and reckless little boy, but he knows that some things are more important than fighting or magic. Some things are special, even if he doesn't have the words to explain why.
Set six years before the series starts, shortly before Natsu finds Happy's egg in the forest but not long after the Takeover Siblings join the guild.
Bigger Than Anything
"This is Romeo, my son."
Macao looks so proud and so happy, as he holds the tiny new person in his arms. The guild is quieter than usual today, but there is a buzz of excitement. Everyone crowds around, trying to get a glimpse of the newest unofficial guild member, who is only ten days old.
Natsu can't really see much. The baby is all wrapped up in a blanket, and everyone else is blocking his view. Erza and Mirajane shove their way to the front of the crowd, and Cana slips in after them, dragging Gray along behind her whether he likes it or not. Levy, Jet, and Droy are quick to follow. Natsu looks around for Lisanna, because she is the youngest and the smallest, so there is a chance he might get to beat some people up to make them move out of her way. But Elfman is using his size to make a path for his little sister, so Natsu is left to struggle through the forest of bodies on his own.
Eventually, he emerges and peers through the space between Erza's shoulder and Gray's head. Being so short is annoying, but at least Gray hasn't had a growth spurt yet, either. Natsu can't stand the thought of being outdone by Gray. Gray is twelve, and while Natsu isn't really sure of his own age, everyone agrees that he must be around twelve, too. Erza is a year older, and has been taller than both of them since before Natsu joined Fairy Tail.
Macao bends down a little so the kids can see, and Natsu finally gets a quick peek at a round, sleeping face. It's sort of weird-looking, all scrunched up and indistinct and so tiny. And then it disappears from view again as Macao straightens up, and the kids are being shooed away, because Mira pushed Erza or Erza pushed Mira (Natsu isn't sure which), and the adults say, "No fighting near the baby."
"Babies are boring," Gray announces, dropping his shirt on the floor. He wanders after Erza and Mirajane as they move to the far side of the guild hall to have their fight. The other kids scatter without complaint, because Gray is sort of right.
Natsu likes to watch Erza and Mirajane fight. He can't think of anyone who deserves to get beat up more than those two. But today he doesn't really feel like watching them. Natsu is too busy thinking.
What do you even do with a baby?
Natsu has no idea. He's never seen a baby up close before. He never even saw one from a distance until after Igneel disappeared, because he was never really around humans before then. But living so far from humans had allowed him to see baby animals sometimes, and Igneel told him baby people weren't much different. Aside from a basic understanding of how they are made (gross!), Natsu knows only that babies are little and helpless and fragile, and need to be protected. That last part is important. Igneel said so.
So he sits on a bench at a nearby table and watches Macao and the baby instead of watching Erza and Mirajane, even though the fight is probably a lot more exciting.
The crowd thins out as people go back to the things they usually spend time doing, and Macao makes his way over to where the Master is sitting on top of the bar.
"This is our newest member, is it?" asks Jii-chan, holding his arms out immediately.
Macao passes the baby to him. Jii-chan looks even more comfortable holding it than Macao, like he has lots of practice.
He must have practice, come to think of it. Natsu calls him Jii-chan, but Master Makarov is really Laxus's grandfather, not Natsu's. So he must have held Laxus like this. And he must have held his own son, too. Natsu can imagine Laxus as a baby if he really stretches his imagination, but it's impossible to imagine Ivan Dreyar as one. It's hard to believe that Ivan is even related to Jii-chan or Laxus. He scares Natsu, to be honest, in ways that not even Erza can manage, and Natsu is glad that Ivan is almost never at the guild. He's only actually seen him twice.
Jii-chan is smiling at the baby. It's not his loud smile, the one he wears when the guild is throwing parties and he's laughing and drinking and having fun. It's his quiet smile. It's the one where his mouth only curves up a little but his eyes smile so much that they crinkle at the corners. Natsu likes that smile. It makes him feel warm. It makes him think of Igneel.
"Welcome to Fairy Tail, Romeo Conbolt," Jii-chan says. His voice is soft.
"Hey Macao, how's your wife doing, anyway?" asks Wakaba. It's strange to see him not smoking. He'd put out his cigarette the minute Macao had walked in with the baby.
"She's fine, but she's completely exhausted," Macao replies, "Not that I'm much better, but she has it worse, of course. All the feedings are bad enough, but she wakes up when he makes even the slightest noise. I finally convinced her to let me take him out of the house for a bit so she can sleep. He won't need fed again for a couple hours, and the walk home only takes five minutes."
"To be honest, I'm surprised your wife let you bring him here," Wakaba declares. "I figured it would be months before we got to see the kid. Maybe years."
"You'd probably be right if she wasn't too tired to care," admits Macao.
Natsu doesn't like Macao's wife. It's not because she isn't a member of Fairy Tail, or because she isn't even a mage. He wouldn't let something as silly as that keep him from liking someone. He doesn't like her because she doesn't like Fairy Tail, doesn't seem to like any of its members, and sometimes doesn't seem to like Macao all that much, either. She and Macao have only been married for five months, and Natsu does know how long babies take, so there's something not quite right about that. Gray says Macao and his wife got married because of the baby. Natsu thought people got married because they love each other, but Gray was raised by humans, so he's usually right about this sort of thing. Natsu finds it all very puzzling.
"Anyway, I figured that it was the perfect day to bring him," Macao continues, turning to address the man who is leaning back against the bar on the stool closest to where Jii-chan sits. "Since it's rare to see you here for more than a day, Gildarts. Want to hold him?"
"Give me a minute," Gildarts answers, closing his eyes and appearing to gather himself for some daunting task.
It confuses Natsu, but he seems to be the only one. Jii-chan seems perfectly content to hold the baby all day long, and the others barely glance at Gildarts until finally he opens his eyes again and says, "Alright, let's see him."
Jii-chan passes the baby over. Gildarts takes the little bundle cautiously, as if he is holding something made of the most delicate glass in his great big hands. His smile is genuine, but Natsu can smell stress. It's almost like fear.
Gildarts seems to like the baby, but he doesn't hold it very long, and he looks relieved as soon as he hands it off to Wakaba, who is insisting that he should get a turn now as the father's best friend. The fear smell fades away.
Natsu almost laughs as a funny thought strikes him. Maybe Gildarts is afraid of babies!
It will be several years before Natsu begins to understand just how absolutely careful Gildarts has to be all the time, and only then will he realize that the only thing Gildarts is really afraid of is himself.
"Hey there, Romeo," Wakaba says casually. "You'll see me around a lot. When you get older, I'll give you your first booze and teach you how to chat up the ladies. And when you crash a magic 4-wheeler into the livingroom or puke on the doormat or knock up some chick, you can come hide out at my place until your old man forgets he's pissed off."
Macao doesn't look impressed, but Jii-chan and Gildarts are laughing.
"Have your own kids, and then you can make them as screwed up as you are," Macao growls.
"No way!" Wakaba exclaims. "Why would I want kids when I can corrupt other people's kids instead?"
"Give him back," Macao demands, but he doesn't seem all that serious about it.
"No. He likes me."
For someone who doesn't want kids, Wakaba sure seems to like this one.
"Laxus!" Jii-chan calls suddenly, his eyes twinkling. "Come over here."
Sometimes Natsu doesn't like Laxus very much, but there is no denying that the older boy is cool. Laxus is seventeen, and the guild's newest S-class mage, and thinks he's sooo great. Natsu can't wait to beat him someday, and he is determined to keep trying until he succeeds. But even if Laxus occasionally squashes Natsu like a bug, he isn't all that bad, really. He let Natsu listen to a few songs on his sound pod, once, after Natsu asked about the faint music he could hear coming from Laxus's headphones. And it seemed to put him in a good mood when Natsu said the music was cool. And then Gray said that "classic rock" was lame music that only old people listened to, and Laxus had pounded him, which had been pretty funny to watch.
Whenever Natsu is in a bad mood and needs something to cheer himself up, he likes to remember the terror that was etched on Gray's face that day. It's a great memory.
When Jii-chan calls his name, Laxus looks over from the table where he is sitting by himself, headphones in place as usual. He is always by himself, it seems. He acts as though he likes it that way, but Natsu wonders. He must get lonely. Sometimes, when people speak to Laxus, he looks slightly astonished that it is happening.
"Come here, Laxus," Jii-chan repeats. "Welcoming new Fairy Tail children is an S-class duty."
Laxus stares at his grandfather in surprise, and then grows suspicious.
"You just made that up," he accuses, but he doesn't sound entirely certain, and he doesn't bother to struggle when Jii-chan stretches out a looong arm and pulls him over to the bar.
"Don't argue," Jii-chan says, making Laxus sit. "This is good experience."
Wakaba is snickering as he tries to give the baby to Laxus. Laxus resists at first, but finally he has to give in just to make Wakaba leave him alone.
Natsu doesn't feel quite so bad about not knowing much about babies, because it's clear that Laxus is just as clueless. And if Gildarts had smelled a little bit scared, Laxus's scent is terrified. And that's just too good to pass up.
Natsu slips off of the bench and casually sidles up to the group at the bar, biding his time.
"Relax, Laxus," Jii-chan laughs. "You're so awkward. He won't bite. He doesn't even have teeth!"
"Laxus'll be next," Macao declares. He's sitting on one of the stools now, his head cushioned on his arm atop the bar. He looks really tired, but he's grinning. "Give it a few years, and he'll be the one stumbling in here in a panic because he's knocked up some girl. I can see it now."
Laxus splutters, turning pink as he tries to form a protest. Wakaba drops an arm over his shoulders, his expression sly.
"Don't deny it, we know your attitude is all a ploy to attract the ladies. How many girlfriends do you have, huh? Four, five? I bet they're wild for that "lone wolf" appeal, right?"
Laxus's face has bypassed pink and moved on to red. "Get off!" he growls, elbowing Wakaba to dislodge the older man's arm.
Natsu notices that despite Laxus's irritation and embarrassment, he is careful not to let his movements disturb the baby.
"I'm too young to be a great-grandfather," Jii-chan says with a frown. "Laxus! No girlfriends until you're at least thirty."
"Bit late for that, don't you think?" Gildarts laughs.
No one has really noticed Natsu getting closer yet, but now he marches up to stand right in front of Laxus. He leans in, invading Laxus's space, eager for another look at the baby.
"What do you want, brat?" asks Laxus.
"I just wanna see," Natsu answers. "Why do you always gotta be so grumpy?"
Laxus frowns, but decides to ignore him, so Natsu continues examining the baby. Before, there were too many people crowding around, but now he can finally catch the baby's scent — a combination of its parents' smells, milk, powder, and a subtle scent that is all its own. It still isn't doing anything interesting, but he watches closely in case that might change. Laxus is studying the baby too, with all kinds of complicated emotions flickering in his scent and on his face, and Natsu suddenly feels mischievous.
"Hey, Laxus," he starts, feigning innocence, "Are babies dangerous?"
"What? Don't be stupid. Of course not."
"Then how come you smell so scared? Oof!"
Laxus doesn't move from his seat, but his foot comes up and finds Natsu's belly and shoves. All the wind goes out of Natsu as he flies through the air and lands on his back, but he's not hurt (except for maybe his pride). The older men are chuckling, and Natsu suspects that most of it is directed at him.
Okay, guess I was kinda asking for that.
If Laxus really wanted to, he could flatten Natsu like a pancake, so Natsu knows that Laxus is only vaguely annoyed at Natsu's teasing, not angry.
"That didn't even hurt," he boasts as he hops back up. "Is that the best you've got?"
"Not even close," Laxus mutters, rolling his eyes.
Natsu chooses to pretend he didn't hear that, and approaches from the side this time. Laxus's feet can't reach him so easily here, and his hands are full, so Natsu feels pretty safe. He leans against Laxus's side, which feels tense, but solid and reassuring, and he rests his chin against Laxus's arm as he cranes his neck to see the baby. Laxus frowns at him, but he doesn't tell Natsu to stop it. Natsu files this away in his head for future reference, because he is plenty observant, but the concept of personal space eludes him, and he doesn't think he'll ever figure it out. How can he, when the rules keep changing all the time? And no one can explain it properly, because it seems to be something they all just understand without words. It's much easier to not bother worrying about it, so he doesn't. He studies the baby some more, mulling things over.
"He doesn't do much," Natsu comments after a minute, and he is close enough to hear Laxus make a little noise of agreement.
Natsu doesn't care if the baby is kind of boring, though. He's sure now that Igneel was right. There is something special about babies. He can't really put it into words, even inside his own head, but he can tell from the way everyone treats this one that it is true. Babies are important.
"Macao, can I hold him next?" he asks, turning, and he has just a moment to see the surprised look on Macao's face before his attention is drawn by a shrill laugh.
"You?!" crows Mirajane mockingly from across the guild hall. "You, hold a baby? That's funny!"
"Shut up, Mira," Natsu fires back.
"No one in their right mind would let you hold a baby," Mirajane continues, clutching her stomach as she laughs.
Erza stands nearby with her hands on her hips. "I hate to agree with her, but she's probably right," Erza announces, frowning.
"I could so hold a baby," Natsu insists hotly, stomping a few steps towards them with his fists clenched. "Why not?"
"Isn't it obvious?" Gray drawls, smugness written all over his stupid face. "You'll probably break him."
"You take that back, Underpants Shogun! I wouldn't break something that important!"
"Flame Brain, you destroy everything."
"Babies are important!" Natsu howls with fury, "I wouldn't break him! I know they're important! Igneel said!"
"What's so great about babies?" he hears Mira ask, sounding doubtful. "I'm never having any."
Natsu can't get the words to come out right. It all makes sense in his head, but he's so mad and the words just won't come! His eyes prickle as tears of frustration threaten to well up.
"They're important," is all he can manage, but the words aren't the right ones.
"You're not making any sense, idiot," Gray scoffs.
"Aw, he's gonna cry," Mirajane comments with a smirk, "How cute!"
"I hate you all!" Natsu explodes.
His shout wakes the baby, and it starts to cry. Stricken, Natsu stares in horror. And now he is taken by surprise as the tears he has been trying to hold back suddenly escape to go running down his face. He dashes for the door, trying to muffle a sob.
He can't do anything right. Maybe he'll just go curl up in a hole and die.
Someone grabs him from behind before he makes it to the door.
"Jeez, talk about melodramatic," his captor huffs, lugging Natsu back to the bar and plunking him down on the nearest bench before sitting down beside him.
Natsu is too upset to take notice of who has caught him, and he yanks his scarf up over his face so no one can see him wrestling with his emotions. His feelings have always tended to burst out of him, ignoring any attempt he might make to control them, but lately it's worse than ever.
Twelve is a horrible age to be.
He realizes after a moment that he doesn't hear the baby anymore. Apparently, it stopped crying sooner than him. That's just embarrassing. He's blushing now, but it helps him to pull himself together, and finally he lifts his head and scrubs his face on his sleeve to make sure there aren't any tears left.
"You're an idiot," Macao says, and Natsu belatedly realizes that it is Macao who had caught him, and that his hand is gripping Natsu's shoulder, and has been for a while. "I never said no, did I?"
Natsu stares at him, surprised to find that Macao doesn't even seem angry that Natsu made his kid cry. Macao is smiling at him.
"Bring him here, Laxus," Macao says.
Laxus gingerly carries the baby over. He acts as though it is a bomb that might go off at any second, now that it has proven that it can do more besides sleep. He seems more wary of it than ever, but he is only slightly clumsy as he hands it over while Macao arranges Natsu's arms around it.
And suddenly Natsu is holding the baby all by himself and Laxus's terror makes perfect sense because there are a million billion things that could go wrong and Natsu wonders why none of them occurred to him until now.
What if I drop him? What if I break him?
"Why do you smell so scared?" Laxus teases, whispering too quietly for anyone else to hear, repeating Natsu's earlier words.
At the time, Natsu is sure Laxus is just making fun of him, but in six years when he thinks back, he will realize that Laxus, the secret dragon slayer, could probably smell his terror after all.
He ignores Laxus, because what he is busy doing is so much more important.
The first thing he notices is the weight of the baby. It is a surprisingly solid bundle to hold, but at the same time it hardly weighs anything at all. It's so small. Impossibly small.
The second thing he notices is that the baby isn't asleep anymore. Its eyes are open, moving around in an unfocused way, looking but not quite seeing properly. They are a muddy greyish colour, which is strange to Natsu because Macao's eyes are dark and his wife's eyes are an unforgettable shade of green. Maybe that's normal for babies. Natsu doesn't know.
Then that vague gaze flits across Natsu's face. Just for a moment, their eyes meet, and Natsu's breath catches in his throat.
Suddenly, Natsu can't think of him as The Baby or It anymore. He is Romeo; he's a person.
It's such a strange feeling, because while Natsu is having this revelation, the person who caused it couldn't care less. All Romeo wants to do is go back to sleep. His tiny face contorts in a yawn, giving Natsu a close-up look at a little tongue and pink gums and not a single tooth. At the same time, through the blanket, Natsu feels little limbs stretch with an uncoordinated, jerky spasm, before they relax again. Dark eyelashes fan each pale cheek as Romeo closes his eyes, trusting Natsu so completely that Natsu can't even really call it trust. How can it be trust when Romeo is too brand new and innocent to even know that an alternative exists?
Natsu's head is reeling. Romeo is a person. It's such a simple observation, but it feels like Natsu is teetering on the edge of something huge. This tiny, sleepy bundle won't stay little for long. He'll get bigger, and even though it is all hidden right now, soon Romeo will be able to show everyone that he has a self, a personality, feelings, intelligence, likes and dislikes. He'll have memories, secrets, dreams. He'll have a whole world inside his head, just like Natsu has. Just like everyone.
This tiny baby will grow up. He might become a carpenter, or a painter, or a teacher, or a soldier. But probably, he'll become a mage and join the guild. Mages are rare, but the ability tends to run in families. And when it comes to learning magic, the possibilities are endless. He might master fire magic or transformation magic, like Macao. He might learn Requip, or Take Over, or Molding Magic. Maybe he'll pick something different, something new.
Romeo's future is a blank canvas, full of so many possibilities. He can be anything.
And maybe someday... someday it might be Romeo sitting here like Natsu is now, his brain alight with amazing new thoughts, when a guild member trusts him to hold a brand new baby.
"Pretty neat, isn't he?"
Natsu is startled by the voice, because until now, Natsu had all but forgotten that anyone else exists. He looks up at Macao, who has been sitting beside him all this time, but when he does, he is shocked. Because for a moment, he doesn't see Macao there at all.
As clear as day, he sees himself, a grown-up man, smiling at a dark-haired boy, who is holding a baby with a look of awe on his face.
And then it's sort of like standing between two mirrors, watching the tunnel of reflections repeat over and over. Now it is a dark-haired man, smiling at a pink-haired little boy who looks a bit like Natsu but isn't. It changes again, and maybe this time, the grown up is a woman, one who looks like Erza, or maybe she has Mirajane's hair. And this time, the child looks like Laxus, or Cana, or Gray. And maybe this time...
The pattern spins on and on and on, without end, stretching forever into the future in an unbroken line.
The vision spans generations, but lasts only an instant. Natsu blinks, and the man sitting beside him is Macao — has always been Macao. The thought, barely more than a flicker, is gone, but the feeling remains. The enormity of it has swallowed Natsu whole.
He looks to Jii-chan, because if anyone can understand what Natsu can't even put into words, it would be him.
Jii-chan seems startled by whatever he sees in Natsu's eyes, and then he smiles. He knows.
"Sometimes, you impress me, Natsu," Jii-chan says. There is pride in his voice that makes Natsu's throat tighten. "You see it, don't you? Igneel was right, you know. The next generation is always the most important thing. We protect the young ones, and they grow and protect the next generation, and on it goes. We are all part of something so much bigger than ourselves."
The guild is quiet, except for Jii-chan's voice. The other kids have all drawn closer, unable to help themselves. Jii-chan doesn't make speeches like this often, but when he does, none of them can resist the urge to listen. Sometimes they don't fully understand, at least not right away, but they can always feel the importance of his words.
"Fairy Tail is a family. We are all free to come and go as we choose, but it is love that connects us and draws us back again. Love feeds into itself, if you take the time to nurture it. And so our guild — our family — grows stronger. Love is a circle, you see. It always comes back to the beginning. It is a principle that this guild was founded upon, a most essential truth."
"It's so big," Natsu whispers. He can feel the weight of it.
"It is. Truths always are," Jii-chan replies, giving Natsu the same smile he'd given Romeo earlier. "That's how you know."
Natsu looks around the guild, and feels such a rush of affection for all of them — even stupid Gray and bossy Erza and mean Mirajane and grumpy Laxus — that he's afraid he might start crying again. If he keeps this up, everyone is going to think he's a crybaby.
"Natsu," Jii-chan speaks again, because somehow he always knows. "Don't be embarrassed by your feelings. Your emotions will always be powerful. It is the nature of your magic, and the source of your strength. In time, they will not seem so overwhelming. Your feelings come from your love for your family, and that is nothing to be ashamed of."
Natsu bites his lip and looks down at Romeo, sleeping soundly. In his head, he makes a promise.
I'll always protect Fairy Tail. And I'll protect you, too, Romeo. I'll protect you, so that you can grow up strong. And then one day, when you're grown up, you'll be able to protect Fairy Tail, too. It's a circle, see? And it's important. It's bigger than both of us. Bigger than anything.
He feels satisfied, now that he has made this promise. And now all the other kids have changed their minds and want to hold Romeo, too. But he's fine with that, and doesn't feel rushed, because he has gotten his fill. He happily gives Romeo back to Macao and lets Cana take his spot on the bench.
Natsu has already fully recovered from his life-altering epiphany. Part of him is aware that he has changed somehow; he will never again be quite the same boy he was when he woke up this morning. But isn't that true every morning? He isn't one to dwell on such things. He lets it go, and decides that he must be smarter than the other kids, since he wanted to hold Romeo before it was cool. And because Natsu is Natsu, he wanders over to Gray with a grin as the other boy (who called babies boring only a few minutes ago) waits impatiently for his turn.
"Guess what, Snowflake," Natsu teases. "I bet Romeo's smarter than you."
"What?" Gray squawks, indignant. "There's no way a baby's smarter than me. Babies don't know anything."
"Bet he is," Natsu says, smug. "You know how I can tell? You do stupid things all the time, and he hasn't done anything stupid, yet."
"That doesn't make any sense!" Gray exclaims, grabbing fistfuls of his hair in exasperation. "He's too little to even do anything. And I don't do stupid things!"
"Put some pants on before you talk to me," Natsu answers, before gleefully darting out of range, because he totally won that one!
He feels light and happy, and wants everyone to feel this way. He aims a playful punch at Gildarts as he passes, and gives Jii-chan a broad grin while dodging Gildarts's retaliatory swat, and he basks in the sound of their laughter.
He pauses for a moment, watching his family, his heart full.
And then he sees something that needs fixed.
Laxus is sitting at a table by himself again, pretending he isn't watching the activity around Romeo, pretending to be bored, pretending not to care. Laxus pretends and pretends, until sometimes Natsu thinks that if he doesn't stop pretending, eventually he's going to start believing himself.
So Natsu sneaks up behind him and boldly yanks the headphone off one of Laxus's ears. He latches onto Laxus's shoulder before the older boy can decide to smack him for the annoyance, and Laxus is too surprised to do anything about it.
"Laxus," Natsu whispers loudly, directly into Laxus's ear canal. "Gotta tell ya something."
Laxus's face scrunches up and his head jerks away, trying to escape this new torment. Hmm... maybe another personal space issue? Or maybe it's just a Natsu issue. It's always difficult to tell. Once, Laxus had declared his belief that Natsu was some sort of punishment, disguised as a twelve-year-old boy and sent here just to torture Laxus personally. Natsu still wonders what Laxus thinks the punishment is for.
But despite his irritation, Laxus is listening. So Natsu continues, before Laxus can change his mind about squashing him.
"Don't worry. I was scared, too," Natsu confides. "But I think being scared just tells you what's important. Jii-chan said feelings make us strong. So it's all okay, right?"
Laxus's face is blank, but not in a bad way. Natsu is getting through. So he pulls out the big guns now, but this time he whispers very quietly, because he doesn't want to be overheard.
"And besides, it wasn't just us. Gildarts was scared, too."
Natsu gives Laxus a little, conspiratorial grin after he shares this secret. And Laxus is looking at him as if he can't figure Natsu out at all, but he isn't pretending anymore, which is what Natsu wanted from the start. Because Laxus is his nakama too, even if he holds himself apart from everyone. And people should talk to Laxus more often, until he admits he likes it. He is family.
Mission accomplished, Natsu skips away, congratulating himself on managing to achieve his goal without getting tossed through a wall for being a pest. And then he yelps when he brushes against the metal part of one of the bar stools and gets the worst static shock of his life. He turns and shakes his fist at Laxus, who is laughing at him.
But it doesn't really hurt. Laxus isn't cruel. And Laxus is smiling (okay, smirking, but not in a mean way, so it still counts), and laughing for once, so it's totally worth it, because that's definitely something that needs to happen more often. Natsu can handle a little shock if that's what it takes. He'd do the same for any of them.
This is his family, after all. And that's bigger than anything.
Jii-chan - grandfather (informal)
Nakama - comrades, friends who are like family
A/N: Man, this was difficult. It starts out so light, and turns into something so intellectual. Epiphanies are hard to write! Especially when you are trying to write from the perspective of a child who doesn't even have words to describe it. Really challenging! Writing humour is somehow a lot easier than writing about such weighty matters. It took me a very long time to write and edit it, and I made many revisions as I went, because you just can't say something this important unless you say it right. I hope I succeeded, and I hope you all enjoy reading it.
Writing anything longer than a drabble in present tense is a nightmare, as I automatically default to past tense when I write. But I felt like present tense gave more immediacy to the narration, a quality which seemed to lend itself well to expressing the thoughts of Natsu as a kid. I enjoyed delving into his childish insights about the people around him, letting him notice details but not fully comprehend all of them. And a sense of wonder is always fun and challenging to write as well.