AN: Due to popular demand, this thing has spawned. For those of you who wished for it (and those who didn't, but wouldn't mind reading it either way) – I give you the mirror-story to "Hatchling", from Gajeel and Levy's perspectives.

Disclaimer: I do not own Fairy Tail or its characters – Hiro Mashima does.


Mate

by Miss Mungoe

The first time Levy met Metalicana, she'd stayed so close to Gajeel she might as well have been attached to his back.

Of course, her reaction at the time had been perfectly ridiculous. They hadn't been in battle, and it wasn't that she'd thought he'd attack or anything. Or at least, that was what she'd been telling herself over and over and over in her head as she'd taken in the small mountain that was Gajeel's father. Truth was, their experience with Acnologia had planted a fear in the roots of her heart; a fear that had sprung to life upon first laying eyes on the great hulking shape that had settled down in front of them. Razor sharp scales had blocked out the light of the sun and thrown an enormous shadow over their little group, and the similarity with the dark dragon had been so immediately striking her knees had all but buckled beneath her. It was true that dragons had a certain air about them that commanded respect and just a tiny ounce of fear, but Levy was ashamed to admit she'd felt a good deal more of the latter than the former. Enough to have made her want to throw up her lunch.

Gajeel had seemed wholly unperturbed by it all, unsurprisingly, and had been in such good spirits it had lifted her own, if just a little bit. She'd come to see him as a pillar of strength, not solely because he was a good deal bigger and stronger than her, but because there was usually an air of confidence about him that had a way of chasing away her petty fears. She'd been standing next to him at the great dragon's decent, and when the ground had quivered beneath them with the weight of the giant beast, she'd staggered on her feet and all but crashed right into him. He'd caught her around the waist and steadied her, not even noticing the blush spreading from her ears to her toes, and though the proper thing to do would have been to take a polite step back, to put some distance between them, the thought hadn't even struck her at the time. So she'd lingered, much too close for anyone's comfort, least of all Gajeel's, but he'd been much too occupied with the arrival of his long-lost father to even notice. And so she'd stayed where she was, a silly smile on her face and horribly pleased with herself for her cunning.

But of course the dragon had noticed.

"Who is this?"

One great, scaled head had obscured her entire vision, pushed so close she could have reached out and touched it if she'd wanted to, and a single puff of warm air had almost knocked her clean off her feet. The deep, rumbling voice speaking the human tongue with an ease that betrayed years of use had sent a shiver down her spine, but instead of being threatening, it had quite the opposite effect.

Because where Acnologia hadn't even deigned them worthy of speaking to, Metalicana was conversing, in their language. Like an equal.

And that had made all the difference.

"This is Shorty," Gajeel had said, before she had a chance to introduce herself. She thought she'd caught a note of pride in his voice, before he'd added with a smirk, "She's smart, even if she's short as hell."

"Hey!"

"Shorty," the dragon had repeated, the great voice drowning her indignant rebuttal. The word had rolled off his tongue, and he'd tilted his head, as though finding it an odd name. "And are you a mage, Shorty?"

Gajeel had grinned, clearly pleased with himself, and stepped out of his father's immediate line of sight, and suddenly Levy had found herself in the close scrutiny of a pair of enormous, glowing eyes. She'd felt the curious gaze of the others on her back as well, and had felt oddly intimidated, but not because she was being introduced to a dragon the size of a building. No, it was a different kind of intimidation, and when realization had fully settled, she'd been so mortified she'd felt like digging herself a hole and never showing her face ever again.

She'd been intimidated because she was being introduced to Gajeel's father.

"I-uh, I'm a script mage," she'd said then, mentally slapping herself for sounding like a nervous wreck. She'd felt Gajeel's eyes on hers, and pointedly ignored him, hoping he wouldn't catch on to why she was nervous. She swore she'd heard Lucy snicker from somewhere behind her, and the heat in her cheeks had flared up until she knew it had to be noticeable for miles.

And of course, the dragon had noticed that, too.

"Are you well?"

She'd coughed, and nodded. "Yes." And it was only through sheer will that she hadn't flinched at the squeak that escaped her. She had to have made the worst first impression, and all the while the dragon had looked at her with that half-amused, half-curious look, as though he'd been perfectly aware of what went on inside her head.

And hell, maybe he had known. Maybe he'd sensed what would become of her silly infatuation, long before she'd admitted it to herself, let alone to Gajeel. Maybe he'd seen it coming. If he had, did he approve? She hadn't asked, and it was a little late now.

The thought made her feel sick.

"The hell's got you so nervous, Shorty?"

The voice of her mate pulled her out of her nervous musings, and she opened her eyes from where she's squeezed them closed, trying not to imagine the sharp disappointment in the old dragon's eyes when they met him. Gajeel was seated across from her, one ankle resting lazily on his knee as he slouched in his seat. There was a slight green tint to his cheeks, meaning she wasn't the only one feeling nauseous, but as always, he was handling it with that stubborn set to his brows that screamed refusal. He hadn't even touched the paper bag sitting innocently on the empty seat beside him, and she knew he wouldn't so much as acknowledge its presence unless it was a dire emergency.

"I'm not nervous," she tried.

The snort that met her had her brows furrowing, and she crossed her arms over her chest, trying to stifle her nervous shivers. Gajeel didn't take his eyes off hers, but his brows had furrowed. "You've met my old man before," he said.

She averted her gaze to the window and the passing scenery. "I know."

"Then what's the problem?"

She sighed. "Last time I was just...well, me. Now I'm...I'm..." she waved an arm between them in an indication to the bond that she was some days certain was visible, like a golden string binding them together at the heart. There was nothing there, of course, but it felt like it, and she still hadn't gotten used to the feeling of being so...attuned to someone else, all the time. It was unnerving on most days, and sometimes just plain freaky. And maybe just a little bit annoying.

Like when she could feel his amusement before it showed on his face.

She wanted to throw something at him.

Gajeel smirked. "What, scared he's not gonna approve?"

It was meant as a joke – because of course Gajeel couldn't fathom his father not approving of his choice, but for Levy, it was all she'd thought about since they'd agreed to take the trip in to see the old dragon.

And as she knew refusing would be futile – as he'd know before she even said it that she was lying – Levy told the truth. "Yes."

"Don't be stupid."

"I'm not being stupid, I'm being..." she trailed off, not able to find an appropriate word, even with her extensive knowledge.

"Stubborn?"

"No."

Snort.

She glared. "You think this is funny, but you don't have to meet my parents, so I think I'm entitled to a little sympathy here, thank you," she said, before muttering under her breath, "Not to mention your father's a dragon."

Gajeel shrugged. "So?"

"So..." she trailed off. "What if he thinks I'm weak?"

"Are ya weak?"

"NO!"

"Then what's the problem? Pops'll see what ya show him," he said with a shrug, as though it was the easiest damn thing in the world.

And maybe it was, but damn it, if it didn't feel like the biggest obstacle in her life so far.

She sighed, letting her head fall back against the cushioned seat. "I just...I don't think I made the best first impression."

He raised a brow. "Might have been 'cause you were hiding behind me," he pointed out.

"Beside the point," she said, a little miffed, although she knew it was true.

Gajeel grinned. "C'mon, Shorty, Pops likes ya."

"He thinks my name is Shorty."

"Isn't it?"

She nearly threw her book at him, and he laughed, and the amusement rumbling in his chest was like a warm wave rolling through her. And despite her attempted irritation, a smile tugged at her mouth, and her features smoothed out. Gajeel smirked. "It's not like it'll be a surprise," he said then, tone dry.

She felt her shoulders slump a little at that. "Was I that obvious?"

"Pretty much."

She stuck her tongue out. "Like you knew," she retorted.

He snorted. "Shorty, yer heartbeat was so erratic I thought ya were going into cardiac arrest. And yer temperature was going up and down like a bloody see-saw."

He wasn't lying, and that irked her, somehow. "Stupid dragon senses," she muttered.

"Can't admit they don't come in handy."

She glared, but didn't argue with him. It was true – they did come in handy. Most of the time, at least. Sometimes they were more of a hassle, like the heightened sense of smell, which was more of a curse in her experience. Not to mention it led to horribly embarrassing revelations about her fellow mages, as there were a good many things one could deduce from certain scents.

She felt like throwing up just thinking about it.

The train passed through a tunnel, and she caught sight of her reflection in the window. There wasn't much changed from before the mating, although she could swear her eyes had tilted just a little bit at the corners, and that her canines became sharper each day. When she'd first started noticing the changes – subtle at first, then more and more prominent – she'd had a horrible nightmare about turning fully into a dragon, and since then any change that had come over her had made her a little more paranoid.

When Gajeel had found out, because the stupid bond didn't allow her to have secrets anymore, he'd snorted and told her she was being stupid. It was probably just normal changes, he'd said. When she'd asked if there was any documentation on what kind of things passed along in the mating of a human and a dragonslayer, he'd only shrugged and told her he didn't know of any, or even if it had happened before. And after a thorough search of all the library catalogues she could get her hands on, Levy concluded that there really wasn't anything written about the subject.

And that she might very well be turning into a dragon, for all either of them knew.

"Yer not turning into a dragon."

She said nothing, but turned her eyes back to his as the train exited the tunnel, and sunlight streamed in through the cabin window. "What if no one documented it because they didn't have a chance to write it down? What if they just woke up one day, with wings?"

He gave her a look, before shaking his head. "Ya read too many horror novels, Levy." She glared at him, and he grinned, fangs gleaming. "If there's no documentation, why don't ya just write it yerself?"

She blinked, and then a smile stretched across her face. "Hey, I could do that."

"And if ya turn into a dragon, ya can at least put in a warning."

"Gajeel!"

His laughter continued all the way to their station, and made him forget his motion sickness for a while, and despite her continued attempts at being angry with him, his good humour was hard to ignore. Especially when she could feel every ounce of it as though it was her own.

At the outskirts of the little village they'd stopped at, Levy hesitated. In front of them loomed a forest, and beyond the tops of the trees, white-tipped mountain crags thrust sharply into the endless blue of the sky. A perfect dwelling for a dragon who preferred solitude. It was far enough away from any large city and human population, but close enough that half a day's journey from Magnolia was enough for his son to visit.

His son, and now his son's mate.

Taking a deep breath to settle her roiling stomach, Levy nodded at Gajeel, steeling herself as she followed him into the first line of trees. He knew the way by heart, and so she merely followed, her hand in his a comfort as they neared their destination. He usually wasn't very keen on hand-holding in public, but amongst the trees where their privacy was certain, his fingers gripped hers with a reassurance that emphasises the one wrapping itself around her heart. She was as nervous as she could ever remember being, and he could probably feel every ounce of it.

When they arrived, Metalicana was already waiting for them, perched on a large stone jutting out of the ground across the clearing that had become their designated meeting place. Upon their entering, his voice rumbled through the air, making the grass before him sway gently.

"Gajeel."

"Pops!" Gajeel greeted, fangs gleaming. He didn't let go of her hand, and made no move to step out of the way, keeping instead just a little in front of her – another subtle reassurance – and Levy's heart made a small jump in her chest, like it always did when he did unexpectedly romantic gestures without even realizing it. When they got near enough, though, she summoned her courage and stepped forward, determined to make a good impression to wipe away the first unfortunate one.

Taking a breath, she bowed her head like Gajeel had shown her, although she'd never actually seen him perform it himself. It wasn't a very deep bow, but it required she avert her gaze to the ground, as well as dip her right shoulder ever so slightly. "Greetings, Great One."

When she raised her gaze again, she was pleased to see the eyes before her had widened in obvious surprise. The great dragon straightened a little in his seat, his tail swaying, as though uncertain of how to react. A puff of air escaped his nostrils. "Such formality," came the amused rumble, but she caught a hint of pleased surprise in his tone, and her pride swelled within her like a living thing. "It's been decades since I've received such a greeting."

A smile tugged at her lips despite herself, and she could feel Gajeel's exasperated amusement thrum along her veins. Yer such a nerd, Shorty.

She grinned. Shut up.

Meeting the old dragon's gaze again, she felt her smile fade a bit as she caught a strange flicker in those great eyes. Shifting a little where she stood, she squared her shoulders, wondering what he was looking at – or for. It was almost like he was trying to see through her.

"You have studied the old tongue," he said then, although she knew that wasn't what he'd been thinking about. She felt Gajeel's curiosity wind itself around hers, and figured that whatever it was, Metalicana wasn't about to tell either of them.

Her nervousness flared back up, and she wondered if she'd done something wrong.

She was a little more wary when she spoke now; her pride a little deflated. "I have."

"And what do you think of it?"

His words made her feel a little better, eager as she always was for a chance to talk about what she liked best. "Oh, I think it's wonderful! Some of the words are quite hard to pronounce, though I've been practising, but some of the glottal sounds–"

"Now you've done it, Pops," Gajeel said, cutting her off, a smirk on his face. "She won't shut up now."

"Gajeel," she warned.

Metalicana rumbled his amusement. "Let the little one speak, brat. I am curious to hear a human's view on this. As I recall, you had no patience for the tongue."

Levy beamed, thoroughly pleased at his interest, and she ignored Gajeel's roll of his eyes. "Well," she began. "Script magic and language are connected, so the more languages I know, the more I can expand my skill. And I figured, the more people who know the tongue, the bigger the chance that it's not lost." It was one of her biggest projects; single-handedly – or at least it seemed that way sometimes, alone as she was in her enthusiasm – working for the upkeep of the many languages that were going extinct. She didn't tell him that she'd also been toying with an idea to combine the two – her own magic and the dragon tongue, into some kind of dragonslayer-script magic hybrid. It was just an idea, but she didn't want to let on that she was working on it until she'd actually gotten somewhere with her efforts.

Although she had an eerie feeling the eyes regarding her could see into her very soul and read all her thoughts, anyway, so perhaps he did know. It certainly felt like he knew something she didn't, scrutinizing her as he was. It made her feel even smaller than usual.

"Not many humans have the patience for such things," Metalicana said then, and there was something in his tone that caught her attention.

Gajeel grinned, no doubt sensing it as well. "Shorty ain't like most people," he said, and the pride in his voice was echoed by the warmth spreading through her, and it was difficult to keep the smile off her face. From the corner of her eye, she caught a soft snort of amusement, and the low rumble that followed had her heart skipping in her chest.

"No, she is not."

She didn't know if her senses deceived her, but she almost thought she caught a hint of pride in his voice, too.


It was late evening when they finally made their way back to the train, Gajeel cutting a path through the forest and Levy following in his footsteps. Her eyes had no trouble adjusting to the dim light, but she wandered mostly in her own thoughts. Her worries had lifted, settled by a meeting she now couldn't fathom she'd ever been nervous for, but now that that was out of the way, another worry had taken its place.

She was still nauseous.


AN: Probably just the motion sickness that hasn't let go yet. Or, you know, BABIES.