I intended to get this out on my birthday, to complete the three year cycle, but I had homework and then I went out with friends and…let's just say I wasn't able to type the extra that I had written by the time we got back.
However, here it is, a few days late but here nonetheless: The epilogue and final chapter of Blood and Iron!
It had been 18 months since Levy had taken that job. A lot can happen in just a year and a half, but that didn't necessarily mean they were bad things.
For instance, Natsu and Lucy were forced to have a shotgun wedding for Natsu's sake when the guild, particularly Erza, found out that Lucy was about three months pregnant. So at four months, the blonde officially became a Dragneel and, whilst she had protested the wedding preparations the entire time, Levy couldn't deny that her best friend had never been more beautiful than she did at the altar that day. Her morning sickness had begun to fade, since she was at the end of her first trimester, and it showed. The smile she'd worn had flabbergasted even the man she was marrying—and Natsu had seen many more of her happy moments than anyone else in that cathedral.
Not long after—at the wedding reception, in fact, the drunken groom and best man got into an argument, where said best man had accidentally revealed the depth of his feelings for a particular blue-haired water mage. After hearing Gray's shouted confession, she promptly fainted and the usual chaos that was Fairy Tail engulfed the rest of the evening.
It took a while for Gray to admit it sober, but Juvia refused to give up, especially when she knew that her feelings weren't one-sided anymore.
Their wedding was just a month away, and Natsu and Lucy's daughter, Layla, was six months old now.
Laxus had disappeared on another journey to get stronger, but this time the Raijinshuu had been left behind. Fried took it harder than the others, but soon they had settled down. Evergreen and Elfman took regular missions together, and although they denied anything else going on, no one believed them. Fried and Bixlow took jobs together or separately, or with Ever and Elfman when they were asked along, but in the meantime Fried sometimes helped out around the guild.
Gajeel often joked that Elfman was wearing off on the rune mage, because he'd originally used the excuse that the girls behind the bar could use a man's help, even if they didn't need it.
Fried called it chivalry; Gajeel called it kiss-assery.
Cana and Gildarts had started to go on jobs together with more frequency, although sometimes the older man would still slip off on his own. At times like that, Cana would slip off to who-knows-where on her own, and once or twice she'd run into Laxus out there.
There was a number of other things that had happened, both big and small, but Levy was just happy to still be around for them. Her life had been in a lot more danger than she had anticipated when she had originally taken that job.
But now she was making progress, and that was all that counted.
In the year and a half that Gajeel and Levy had been together, they had developed a routine. They would follow their usual pursuits at the guild, for the most part, although gradually those pursuits began to include each other with more and more frequency. Levy would read books just as often as ever, but now instead of sitting with Lucy and the girls, she sometimes found herself reading while tucked up against his side.
Gajeel would stay in his corner, as was usual, but now was drawn even more frequently from his solitude by fights or arguments. These arguments had grown to encompass the men fighting over which one's significant other could win in a fight against the others, to which Gajeel would always loudly proclaim that his shrimp was the strongest, Natsu would argue for Lucy, and Gray would proclaim that Juvia could take them both. These arguments required all three girls—or Erza—to end them, and Levy would inevitably join Gajeel at his table in the corner for the next several hours, scolding him while he idly played with her hair.
After the guild, some nights Levy would retire immediately to Fairy Hills, but other nights she would go over to Gajeel's to spend time with him. Those nights were her favorite, when she could curl up against his side on the sofa, a book in hand while he tinkered with some small metal sculpture or listened to a new fighting tournament on the radio lachrima. Sometimes she would fall asleep there, and wake up in his bed, tucked against his side as he slumbered on. Sometimes they made their way into the bedroom in an entirely different manner and she would always wake to the dragonslayer running his fingers through her hair.
Levy just loved spending time with him, and she loved moments where they could sit together in comfortable silence, no shouting challenges or teasing taunts from friends at the guild involved. The best nights were ones where they just sat, enjoying each other's company and occasionally breaking each other's concentration for small conversation.
Tonight was one of those nights. The music from the radio lachrima was thrumming softly in the background as Gajeel continued to mess with his current project. He needed two hands for whatever it was, so Levy sat with her feet tucked under her, next to him, reading a book while he worked. The iron dragonslayer occasionally muttered a profanity under his breath, but that was common when he worked. She was used to it by now and would simply smile, ducking her head to hide it from him as she focused on the book in front of her.
There were so many things about him that she found cute. Levy couldn't possibly list them all if she tried to, so she had simply resolved not to try.
"Hey, Shrimp," she felt him nudge her, after a few moments of silence while he tinkered.
"Yeah?" she looked up at him, using her thumb to mark her page. His arm dropped comfortably around her shoulder, a sign that he was done with whatever he'd been working on. She took this opportunity to lean against his side, into his warmth. It was starting to get chilly outside, but Gajeel was nothing if not frugal, and he refused to turn on his heat until the first snow fell. He did, however, consent to the small fire crackling in the grate, courtesy of her solid script magic. "What is it?"
"Let's run off," his voice was soft, so Levy almost didn't catch his words.
"What are we running from?" she mused, sitting her book aside and discarding her page—she'd find it eventually, after all.
"Nothin'," he snorted indignantly, "we should just run off together."
"We could take another job, even though we just got back from one?" she suggested, sitting straighter to look at him with a smile. "Just as long as we could get back before the wedding! You're handing Juvia off, after all!"
"I don't mean now," he grumbled, glancing away and avoiding eye contact. Levy's brow rose in confusion. "I meant after the wedding. I wouldn't miss that Raindrop's wedding for anything. She'd drown me!"
"And I'd help her," Levy added, teasingly. "But I guess we could see what kind of jobs are available when that time comes. The wedding is on New Year's Eve as it crosses into New Year's Day, so I'm not sure what kind of requests will come in—"
"That's not what I mean," he grumbled, and she squeaked as he pulled her into his lap. He buried his face against her hair and let out a sigh that trembled.
"Gajeel, are you okay?" the tiny woman asked, cautiously, as she settled into her new seating arrangement. "You're acting a little strange."
"I'm fine," he groused, his voice muffled in her hair.
With a small frown, she turned her head slightly to look at him as he moved to rest his chin on her shoulder. He sighed, and to her surprise, she noticed that his chinks were colored a light pink. His blushes were one of those things she found cute about him, but now she wanted to know why he was turning such an adorable color.
"What I meant," he cut her off, his left hand lightly grasping her own, "was that we should run off after the wedding. There've been a lotta weddings 'round here lately, and I didn't want anyone to tease you."
"Why would they tease me, Gajeel?" Levy laughed softly, leaning her head back to rest in the crook of her boyfriend's neck.
"Because it's not nearly as pretty or shiny as theirs," he grumbled, and he shifted, grasping her left hand with both of his and fumbling for a minute. Dumbfounded, Levy looked down to find that he had slipped an iron band around her ring finger. It was crude, but still incredibly delicate for his usually clumsy work, and she felt her heart leap.
"Gajeel…is this…?" she breathed, lifting her hand up so that the ring glinted in the light from the fireplace.
"You don't have to wear it if you don't wanna," he declared, wrapping his arms tightly around her waist, "but someday, if you'll deal with an ass like me, I wanna marry you, Levy."
"Y-you were trying to ask me to elope with you, weren't you?" her voice was trembling, but she was smiling. As her eyes burned, she felt Gajeel lean back and she twisted in his lap to look at him. The red on his cheeks was burning even brighter now, and he begrudgingly nodded his head, avoiding eye contact. "And you're shy about getting married in front of everyone?"
"A wedding is about us," Gajeel grumbled, "an' I get why everyone wants the idiots there, but at the same time…"
With a giggle that caused Gajeel to look up at her, Levy brought her left hand to her mouth and pressed a kiss against the cool metal. Gajeel's red eyes widened just slightly, and a look of relief spread across his features like a wildfire.
"Let's leave during the reception," Levy suggested with a grin that brought a smirk to her boyfriend's—fiancé's—face. "We'll leave a note for them, but if we leave during the party they won't even realize we're gone for a while."
His arms encircled her waist easily, and he chuckled in his unique manner, his forehead bumping against hers. "And when will we get married?" he teased, bringing a light flush to her cheeks as a few tears finally fell.
With a laugh, she suggested, "How about…March? And we'll come back home in April or May."
"That sounds perfect," his low voice sent a shiver up her spine, and when he leaned in to capture her lips with his, she was both laughing and crying as she responded.
The blunette couldn't remember a time when she had ever been as happy as she was in this moment. She was planning to elope with the only man she'd ever truly loved after the wedding of two deserving people that were practically her siblings. She was so excited she didn't even know when she would stop crying, but at the same time she was having trouble getting her laughter to stop. She pressed her cheek against Gajeel's chest, listening to how fast his heart was beating, and she felt not only joy but also content.
"You know," she murmured softly, "we should get married in Lizzie's hometown, so that she and her parents can come. We do need witnesses, after all, if we want it to be official."
"That sounds like a plan," Gajeel agreed, squeezing the petite girl tightly. "It's probably because of the brat that we're here, anyway."
Giggling, Levy agreed wholeheartedly.
And maybe eloping meant they'd have to start a new routine—but that was just fine with her, as long as they were together.
AND THAT'S A WRAP!
I would go and thank each of you individually below, as I have done in the past, but I don't have much time right now. Sometime on my tumblr, panda013, I will try to make a master list of everyone that has reviewed this story, with a few words to each of you, so if you have a tumblr, please keep an eye out for that! I'll probably tag it with #Mrs. HopeEstheim, so keep an eye out! ]
THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR READING! And I hope you've enjoyed this epilogue!