What follows is two or three story fragments that I had rolling around in my head and gathered together into one coherent story. I tried to tie it all together with a few running themes, but I'm not sure that I pulled that off very well. Anyway, I really enjoyed writing it, so I hope that you enjoy reading it!
===The year is X778===
"Who is this?" Poylusica asked sternly. Before her stood two girls. The thirteen year old with the beautiful red hair she knew well. Erza had gone through such traumatic surgery after a hard early life that even Porylusica could not find much bad to say about her. She may hate humans, but Erza was hardly human.
The other one cowered behind Erza, frightened of the scary old lady. She wore a little yellow dress and had an unruly mop of cerulean hair. Her large hazel eyes were slightly watery and red-rimmed, but kept scanning Porylusica's cottage and all of its interesting contents.
"Hey, please be kind. This is Levy, one of our newcomers. She's a little under the weather okay?" Erza was an odd mix of polite and direct. The sentence was said in an inarguable tone. But Porylusica was annoyed, as she often was with her fellow species.
"Are you telling me that this girl is ill even before she has come in for a check-up? Is she going to be making a lot of work for me?"
"S-sorry." The tiny voice came from the small girl. Porylusica scowled, but motioned for her to sit on the examination table that she used. Erza practically had to help her clamber up. Porylusica did not bother to make any adjustments for children. Erza winced empathetically as the old lady started her examination, jabbing and poking with few warnings.
"For heaven's sake," the old lady muttered upon completing her examination. "Why am I being bothered for the sniffles?"
"Well," Erza stammered, "she seemed really unwell last night…"
The witch glared at the small girl with frustration, and she looked away. Shivers, congestion, runny eyes and a temperature this high from a common cold? She could already see that this eleven year old girl had a feeble body. There were two ways this would go – either she'd grow out of it quickly, or she'd be feeble for life. And that second thought angered the unkind woman.
"You better not be one of these people who gets sick a lot. I have enough work as it is!"
Porylusica glowered at the tiny girl lying on her gurney, half asleep with fever. A moist towel rested on her head and a small blanket was pulled over her.
"Again? How many times has it been, you little weakling?" She muttered as she completed her work.
"Hey! Don't call Levy weak!" Shouted the orange haired boy behind her.
"Yeah, she's the brains of our team! We'd be nothing without her!" Agreed the black-haired boy.
"That says more about you two!" She shouted in return, beating them away with her broom. In truth, she liked to see the bonds these people had for each other – it was the only reason she worked as guild physician to Fairy Tail. It was one of the few human traits she saw in a positive light, though she had no plan to show that now. "Now go home! She won't be going anywhere tonight."
Porylusica retired to her bedroom that night, changing into a floral nightgown. At some point in the night, she awoke as her door squeaked open. She rolled over to see Levy standing in the doorway, practically hiding behind the door.
"What are you doing?" Porylusica snapped.
"I…I'm sorry, but it's cold and…dark. I don't like the dark."
Porylusica's expression softened. She motioned for Levy to join her on the bed. She reached over onto a nearby shelf and plucked something, pressing it into Levy's hands. Her face lit up – it was a little stuffed bunny. It was clearly very old and homemade – the fabric was quite rough compared to modern toys. It was anthropomorphic and brown, with buttons for eyes.
"That's Alfred. When I was a little girl, he always protected me from the scary monsters under the bed."
"Wah! He's so brave!" Levy marvelled. She squealed as a hand cuffed her over the back of the head. Porylusica had already rolled back over.
"You're thirteen now, you'll have to grow up someday," she said dismissively. Levy merely smiled at the older woman's attitude and snuggled under the blanket clutching her new guardian.
"No, no! I don't want it!" Levy cried as Jet and Droy physically manhandled her through the door to Porylusica's cottage. The witch sighed. It was the time for the annual check-ups, where every member was poked and prodded and measured to check that they were developing properly.
Levy was not a fan, for obvious reasons.
Out came the broom. It still took a while to get Levy to obey. Porylusica was amazed at the change the girl had gone through in the previous years. The shy, nervous little girl had become this sunny thing, full of energy and happiness.
"Okay!" Levy stated after the examination, regaining her positivity as Porylusica held a clipboard with all of her measurements. "I was four foot ten last year, so I must have reached five feet by now! Give it to me!"
"Four foot ten."
Silence flowed through the small cottage, deafening any words that should have come out.
"W…what?!" Levy exclaimed. "You mean I…I've…"
"Stopped growing," Porylusica languidly finished for her.
Levy looked determined not to be deterred. "Well, I'm fifteen now, I guess most girls would have…"
"Laki: one inch. Bisca: one and a half. Cana: two," the venerable healer read dispassionately.
"B…but they're all about a year older than me!" Levy looked aghast.
"Uh-huh. That Cana's a tall one, alright. Want to know the rest of your measurements?" Levy's hands flew to cover her chest, face panicking.
"No," she said shakily, shoulders drooping.
"Okay, I won't give you any numbers, but they're basically all the same as last year's. Oh, stop crying! There are worse fates to be revealed during a medical exam, you know!" She stood up, preparing to get her broom. "It just looks like your role as the team brain has been finalized. You'll never be a mighty warrior like that hot-headed fool or Erza."
"Just be careful. You're not the sort to get into brawls, alright? Don't make more work for me!"
"Sorry…I…know you said not to get into brawls…"
"Hush child, it's not your fault."
Porylusica scowled at the purple blotches that covered the tiny girl. All the nicks and cuts, the abrasions, the bump on her head. Even for a person who detested humans, she found it amazing that there was anyone so vicious as to perform such a violent act onto someone so unable to defend herself. Phantom Lord's attack dog was not someone to meet in a dark alley…she frowned at her choice of metaphor.
"I…I tried to stop him…," Levy replied, tears in her eyes, "but I wasn't strong enough."
"I said hush!" All things said, the hospital had done good work, but her professionalism was not going to let other people care for her guild during a time of crisis. And she had spent far too much time with this girl for something like a secondary infection to get her now.
"B…but Jet and Droy were hurt…I was so scared and…"
"Stop it!" Porylusica urged. "Whining won't help you!"
"Don't apologise!" She snapped. "Just work harder on staying safe! There are plenty of muscle-bound morons in your guild; you don't also have to be throwing yourself in harm's way. Some people aren't fighters; it's okay to have other people to look after you."
"But I couldn't leave them…," Levy trailed off.
"Of course not," Porylusica said in an unusually kind voice. "Just think about yourself sometimes, okay?"
"I refuse!" The old crone blinked as Levy glared up with defiant eyes. "I will never leave my friends in trouble! I don't care if it causes you all the hassle in the world!"
On the inside, Porylusica was glad. She could heal her body, but not her mind. She was happy to see that the girl's spirit had not been broken. No, this one was definitely strong willed. It didn't stop her from grabbing her trusty broom and administering a quick lesson on manners.
"Stop squirming, it's just a sprain," Porylusica said angrily.
"My legs are important to me," Jet replied forcefully. "I'm nothing without them."
Broom to the head.
"Then stay still! If you just stay off the leg for a few days, you'll be fine." Jet stood with the help of a cane, clearly distressed by the loss of his trademark speed. His gaze fell upon the table which Levy had once slept on. He could clearly picture it, even after all of these years. Unbidden, tears began to flow and he rubbed his eyes.
"Sorry. It's…just the little things set you off sometimes, y'know?"
Porylusica nodded sadly. She knew. Even for her, having everyone that mattered to her simply disappear one day was difficult. It had been five years since the incident at Tenroujima. That night upon retiring to her room she reached up to take Alfred down from his shelf again and held him in her arms.
"You were always good at looking after me," she said sombrely, "I hope that you can spend a little time looking after that little girl, wherever she may be now."
"Fuck off, ya old hag, I'm fine." Porylusica was irked. All of the broom beatings in the world seemed unable to beat manners into this man. "Look after Shrimp first."
"C'mon Gajeel, you're much worse off than I am! Let her look at your arm!" Levy urged.
"Little people should worry about themselves first," Gajeel said dismissively.
"I'm not little!" Levy huffed. She went violently red under Gajeel's raised eyebrow and turned away.
Porylusica was amazed. Was this the man who had put Levy in such a state all of those years ago? He certainly seemed like the uneducated, brutish sort, but something was fundamentally different. The way these two argued like a married couple. It was certainly amusing, and Porylusica couldn't help it and a chuckle left her lips.
"Tell you what, Slayer. I'll cut you a deal. Let me examine your arm and I'll let you peek at Levy's records. Would you like to know exactly how short she is?"
"W…what!?" Levy cried. She'd never heard anything so companionable from the healer's mouth. And Gajeel's face lit up like a little boy. His arm was immediately offered for examination. Porylusica couldn't help but marvel at the grievous injury. His slayer constitution was all that had saved his arm, using the iron of Yomazu's sword itself to fuse with the bone and become part of him. This was legendary level ruggedness.
The complete opposite of the Fairy across from him.
"There," she said, bundling his bandaged arm in a sling around him. "I know that you'll ignore me, but try not to use it too much."
"Fine, now can I see…?" Gajeel left his question dangling.
"Mr Redfox," she huffed good-naturedly, "I could never break doctor-patient confidentiality…and there's a man named Alfred who looks after hers."
"Really!?" Gajeel missed the knowing smile flit across Levy's face. He looked annoyed. It couldn't be that he was jealous of this other man, could it? He pouted and looked away. It hadn't happened in the way Porylusica had imagined, but she was very glad that Levy finally had someone capable of looking after her.
"Ya better not hurt her," Gajeel hissed.
"Gajeel, it's okay!" Levy said in placating tones.
"I ain't letting anyone hurt ya!"
Porylusica looked up from the rather large bump that was Levy's stomach to glare at the Slayer. He glared right back, not giving an inch. Who'd have thought the gruff man would be so protective? From the stories reaching her ears, Levy had not actually walked much in the last few months, instead being carried everywhere.
She imagined the small girl was probably grateful, as the pregnancy was a serious strain on her frail body. Particularly with the devil-spawn bearing half of his genetics. She'd never come across such a lively preborn. It kicked all the time! Still, he was frustratingly overbearing. You'd think that Levy was made of eggshells the way he was going on.
"Would you like to know the gender?" She asked. Levy's face spread into a broad grin.
"Yes! I want to know everything about the little one!"
"Ya won't hurt her?" Gajeel said warily. Porylusica sighed and took a small charm in her hands, resting it on Levy's belly. It was a simple magical device. If the baby was a boy, it'd turn blue, pink for a girl. A moment passed and it began to shift to an azure colour.
"Ooooh!" Levy said, her grin wide. Not even the prospect of a mini-Gajeel could dent her happiness.
"So…wassat mean?" Gajeel asked, to a pair of sighs.
"So, managed to pry him off this time, did you?" Porylusica asked wryly. "In fact, I dare say you look a little…charred for a pregnant woman!"
"Oh this is nothing! Little Takamura's a right hell raiser!" She giggled in a voice that sounded a little like her sanity was fraying. "The fact that Natsu's instilled a love of fire into him certainly hasn't helped, but I'm used to it now!"
Porylusica watched the two year old rampaging around her room with a deadpan expression. It was as if Levy had had no genetic input into this child at all, with the black hair and red eyes, proud nose and smirking grin. Gajeel as a father was a worrying prospect, but Natsu as the godfather? And here she'd always thought that Levy was clever! At least the mother and godmother had their heads screwed on right.
"Well, you seem in otherwise good health. Want to know the gender of this one?"
"Yes please!" She sounded delighted by the prospect, though the witch noted the crossed fingers. There was a veritable sigh of relief as the charm went pink.
"Oh thank Mavis!" Levy exclaimed. "I don't think I could live through three Gajeels!"
"Wait here," Porylusica ordered sternly. Levy watched quizzically as the old woman left and returned a few minutes later. She practically went starry eyed as she noted the form of Alfred in her hands.
"Here, this is for your little girl, in case she ever needs someone to look after her in the dark."
Levy's lip was trembling, her eyes watery. "I can't…this is too…"
"Please. I'm an old woman now, and I won't be around forever. It'll make me happy to know that there's a little girl under his protection. It's what he was made to do, after all!" Levy was amazed to see the kind smile on the face of the scary old woman. What a difference a few decades made!
"Thank you. If she's anything like I was, she'll love him!"
"Again!?" Porylusica was shrill and strident as she examined the multitude of tiny bruises covering every square inch of Levy. "Have I not told you many times not to get into brawls?"
"They're my children!" Levy raged back.
"I also told you that you had a weak body…"
"You didn't say that it also applies to my genetics!" It was certainly true that she had ended up with two mini-Gajeels. If there was any Levy in these kids, you really had to look – slightly rounder eyes, slightly leaner frames. Little Aiko was tearing around after her brother with glee. "Jeez, I thought a girl would be easier, but she's even wilder than her brother! And he's learning magic from Natsu and Romeo now! What if she starts too?"
"Then they'll snap you in half."
"Stop sounding so amused! I liked you better as the old hag I was so scared of!"
"And I preferred you as the quiet little girl who was too scared to talk back. We live and learn."
Aiko ran over. "Mummy wanna fight?" She asked hopefully. Levy shooed her away, saying that Daddy would always be ready for a fight. Literally, any time of the day, any day of the week. Seriously, there were days when he opened the front door to a double ambush and dived gleefully headlong into it. He would lie there laughing as tiny fists pummelled him. Unfortunately, Levy was not made of iron.
"Oh my," Porylusica noted, tousling the infant's hair. "I can see how she's a handful."
There was a woosh and the bright flare of something immolating behind them. Levy wrote the word 'Water' with practised ease, dowsing her son's damage. She hung her head in despair.
"I think I'll be seeing you often, Porylusica-san."
Porylusica smiled. "Do you remember when we first met? I told you that I didn't want you to make a lot of work for me. And you gave me a tonne! But, the worst part was the seven years when I never saw you – any of you. I think I can stand a little rowdiness from now on."
"Babysit?" Levy asked hopefully, a kid pulling on each arm.
"Never in a million years."
"Little Mother!" Aiko called happily as she opened the front door. Levy made only the smallest eyebrow twitch at the nickname. Aiko had certainly taken after her father, sprouting up to almost a full foot over her mother. As an adult, Takamura looked far more civilised than his father, but Aiko was practically a female Gajeel, all wild hair and grin. What was perhaps more annoying than the nickname was the crushing hug that pushed Levy's face into her bosom. By the age of thirteen, Aiko was 'bigger' than her mother in every way that mattered.
"You heard the news then?" She asked.
Levy nodded. "Your brother told us. I'm so happy for you. Your father is freaking out about being a grandfather though! He's feeling old!"
Aiko giggled. She knew how silly her father could become with such things. He was such a softie, after all. Particularly for his 'Big girl'. A name he used to differentiate her from his 'Little Girl'. Amazingly, Levy never found the humour in these things.
"It's a girl!" She shouted happily. Her mother's face lit up and she began to forage in her handbag. Aiko watched as the little form of Alfred came out.
"Mom," she said dismissively, "I never needed someone to look after me in the dark!"
Levy smiled a little ruefully. "Nope, you were like your father. You loved the dark. But, this little guy always stayed with me after you rejected him. I always worried about you when you weren't with me – silly mum stuff that you'll understand soon – and he always looked after a silly woman worrying over nothing."
Aiko took the little doll reluctantly. It seemed silly to her, but she was a bit nervous about the whole motherhood thing. What could it hurt? Little girls liked things like this, right? Even if she'd always been a bit of a tomboy. Well, a whole lot of a tomboy. Perhaps her unborn daughter would find more value in it.
"Hey mum, you never told me where this guy came from."
"Oh Alfred?" Levy smiled. "I was given him by a kind old woman who looked after us all! Every last guild member was her child. She'd never have admitted to it, but she was the most caring person that I ever met!"