AN: I took a much-needed breather from the uni-work currently choking the life out of me, and this was the result. And I didn't explain this in the last chapter, but this story will be filling in the gaps in 'Hatchling'. Meaning Metalicana won't make an appearance in all of them, and they'll be depicting more explicitly what is only briefly mentioned by the old dragon.
Disclaimer: I do not own Fairy Tail or its characters – Hiro Mashima does.
Suffice to say, the pregnancy was hard on the both of them.
'Course, he should have seen that coming from a mile away, with how he was so freakishly attuned to everything else she felt. Since the bond had fully formed, the feel of her giddy excitement when she discovered something new in one of her nerdy books had become a familiar warm trickle along his nerves that never failed to make him grin, even if she was hella weird. Her anger, too, he recognized without problem, even if the potent thing was a rare occurrence. She could be irritated, yes, but never really angry. Not like he could. But he could pick it out, regardless – like crackling electricity up his spine, a warning if he ever knew one. Thrilling in its own way, at least for him. Not so much for Shorty.
She'd been horrified at first; the almost animalistic senses so foreign to someone used to being simply human, but she'd warmed to them quickly enough when she'd learned to decipher them properly. He'd had his share of amusement at her expense in her attempts at getting used to all the different sensations that weren't necessarily of her own making. Of course, compared to everything else – the small tidbits where she would sense his impending irritation and buffer it, or when he could tell there was something bothering her even if she told him there wasn't – was nothing compared to what the thrilling sense of desire did to him. It was decidedly the most potent feeling of what the heart could produce, even one as corrupt as his own, and it had been decidedly...interesting, getting used to that particular sensation. He remembered a time when he'd been able to read her interest through the way she'd blush and her heart would leap in her chest. That had been innocent – almost too innocent – and on a whole other level than the jolt of electric heat of her interest as he could feel it after the mating.
Should have known it'd come back to bite him in the ass, though.
He felt her wake before he was even fully awake himself. Felt the soft shift of the mattress as she rolled off it, and the hurried, uneven 'thump thump thump' of her small feet across the length of the room. A door slammed, pulling him roughly out of his wavering state of sleep before rebounding against the wall of the bedroom, followed by the now familiar sound of a toilet-seat rebounding loudly against the porcelain of the actual toilet.
The nausea hit him before the sound of her retching did.
Rolling over on his stomach, Gajeel felt the room tilt, and groaned into his pillow. For the last month, his existence had been a continuous, drawn-out train-ride to hell, with only a few moments of peace to catch his breath from the constant need to empty his stomach. She'd wake up at all hours of the night, and throw up pretty much anything she'd eaten. He'd known it was coming, when they'd first connected the dots. The nausea he'd chalked down to nervousness when he'd first taken her to see his Pops as his mate. It had also explained why he'd been even more motion-sick than usual on the train, and why the old geezer had seemed so damned amused. He didn't think Levy had picked up on it at the time, not as used to a dragon's expressions as Gajeel was, but it had bothered him all the way back to Magnolia.
He should have sensed it himself, and maybe the fact that he hadn't picked up on it at all had been the reason behind his father's humour. But then, Gajeel was a dragonslayer, and though far from human, his senses weren't even near that of his old man.
Although now, he'd beg to differ.
Pushing himself up, he threw the covers off, rubbing his eyes as he made his way towards the bathroom, swaying slightly as the nausea threatened to floor him. He never threw up. Oh, no. He was kept from enjoying that particular release, however disgusting it was. Instead he was simply forced to endure the feeling, not unlike the bloody motion-sickness he hated with every bone in his body.
She hadn't even bothered to turn on the lights before all but throwing herself over the toilet, but he could see perfectly well in dark. Inhaling deeply, he tried to push the nausea away, reaching out along the bond as he neared the small bathroom. Her exhaustion leaped out at him, hitting him like a well-aimed kick to the gut, and his sharp gaze softened at the sight of her sprawled over the toilet. She didn't so much as lift her head from where it was resting on her arms, folded over the seat in a way that couldn't be hygienic, and he knew her nose had to be giving her hell. His was, and he was still in the doorway. Her hair was a mess, sticking up at odd angles, and a soft groan escaped her, muffled by her arms.
He didn't say anything as he knelt down beside her, placing a hand on the exposed skin between her shoulder blades, fingers ghosting over the guild-emblem. She didn't say anything, but then an almost violent heave rippled through her, and Gajeel had to turn his nose away for the sheer force of the smell. It was painfully drawn out, and when she was done she seemed to slump even more over the toilet-seat. Her breaths were heavy and pronounced, lifting her small frame with each intake and exhale, and he ran his hand down her spine, the only way he knew how to give any form of comfort. She shivered under his touch, and when he slid an arm beneath her legs she let her weight fall against him without a word. It had become routine for them after the first early morning she'd fallen asleep over the toilet and he'd had to carry her back to bed.
Lifting her into his arms, he noted with a frown that she seemed lighter than normal, if that was even possible for someone as small as she was. He'd taken notice of it after the first week where she hadn't been able to keep anything down. The hag had sprouted some kind of medical mumbo-jumbo with a bunch of foreign words he hadn't been able to understand, but she'd assured him, in her own, gruff down-to-business no-coddling way, that it wasn't anything serious. Not yet, at least – he'd caught the warning look she'd given him. He'd been given orders, however much it irked him to be bossed around, to make sure she ate. So he had; the problem was that she kept throwing everything back up.
Shifting her weight in his arms, her head fell against his shoulder, and she buried it tiredly in the junction of his throat. A heavy sigh shook her small frame, and he tightened his grip, wondering if he'd picked her up too soon and if she was about to be sick all over the both of them. It had happened before, he remembered not without a small amount of dread. Sensing his apprehension, she stirred against him.
"No more," she mumbled against his skin, the soft words warbled and barely discernible, and he nodded, before moving towards the bed. She was on the brink of sleep, and he hoped she'd get a few more hours. The nausea was dwindling away, leaving him feeling hungry but without an appetite, and he contemplated finding some scrap-metal to much on to rid himself of the feeling. Placing her down onto the mattress, she didn't protest when he tucked the blankets firmly around her, before climbing in on his side of the bed. His head was till spinning, and he let his head drop back onto his pillow with a tired rumble. This time she did move, but only to shift closer, and he slipped an arm beneath her as she rested her head on his chest. He tried not to hiss as her feet brushed against his calves, freezing cold as always.
"S'posed to see your dad today," she mumbled, voice soft.
He snorted. "That ain't happening." Not with her so exhausted, and no matter how much she wanted to improve the bad impression she was adamant she'd made, the weirdo. He'd tried telling her she'd made a good impression, but he knew her well enough to know that if she'd made up her mind about something, it was hard to change her mind. Hell, it was probably half the reason she was currently curled up beside him; years of dancing around each other hadn't deterred her in the slightest. Any other woman would have grown tired and moved on.
He felt her irritation – not directed towards him, but at the situation. Without the bond it would have been difficult to tell the difference, he mused tiredly. But he knew she hated being so tired all the time – she hadn't been to the guild in days, let alone done anything more productive than read and take small walks whenever bunny-girl came over. "We should do it soon, though."
"Pops already knows yer knocked up."
He grinned against her hair. "Well, I ain't the one that'll be teachin' the brat ta speak," he said with a nudge. Or at least he hoped not – the kid would have one hell of a potty mouth if that was the case.
Levy smiled against his skin, and he felt her spirits rise a little at the remark. "And if it turns out we're not getting a nerd?" she asked, using the word he so often tried to pass off as an endearment. "Feels like a handful already, and that's your influence. A few years from now we'll be having a bad-mannered punk on our hands." The words were tired but tinged with amusement. Despite her sorry state, he knew she was looking forward to it.
Gajeel said nothing, trying to wrap his mind around the concepts 'child' and 'impending parenthood', and failing miserably. Without much noticeable evidence other than the small bulge of her stomach and the not-quite-in-the-morning sickness that was the current bane of his existence, it was hard to think about what it would eventually lead to. He had no memory of any parents other than his old man, and he didn't need a degree in human behaviour to know that it was going to be completely different raising a brat of his own. It wasn't that kids bothered him, though. Hell, he didn't mind them much, come to think of it. He'd done that teaching job a few times, and he'd made a few toys and trinkets for the cowboy-couple's little weirdo. He'd even been told he was good with kids, but that didn't really make him feel any less inadequate. They'd all been other people's kids, after all. Not his responsibility, or at least not completely.
The creature whose heartbeat he could just barely pick out beneath Levy's own steady one was different. It would be his, and hers.
He was almost relieved she'd fallen back asleep, because he knew she'd have been able to pick up on his current thoughts even in her exhausted state. And that wouldn't make things better; not with the weight already on her shoulders.
Pushing the thoughts away, Gajeel focused on the soft breathing that had evened out beside him, and along with that, the near imperceptible beat of a tiny, tiny heart that served as a reminder that it wasn't just the two of them anymore. Sleep tugged at his conscious, pulling him down, and he didn't offer any resistance. He was hella tired, after all. One of his hands brushed against the fabric covering her stomach – not enough to wake her, but enough to feel the slight swell there.
Yer a troublemaker already, brat, he thought tiredly, although not without a wry quirk of the lips.
Give her a little rest, would ya?
It was too damn early to be awake, but he hadn't gotten anymore sleep after he'd put her to bed for the second time – he'd had about an hour of shut-eye when she'd made another bolt to the bathroom – so after she'd fallen back asleep he'd gone into the kitchen to brew coffee dark enough to rot his gut and dig out some cutlery to munch on from among the many nooks in which he stashed his scrap-metal. The sun wasn't even up yet, but he didn't really mind, settling down with an old edition of Sorcerer's in a lack of anything else to read.
He'd been sitting less than an hour when the soft pad of furry feet reached his ears, and he raised his hand in silent greeting as Lily entered the small kitchen, up at the break of dawn as usual. Then again, Gajeel doubted anything could drive the military out of his partner, no matter how many years he spent in Earthland.
Helping himself to the second batch of coffee Gajeel had made, Pantherlily raised a brow at the liquid. "You don't usually drink coffee."
Gajeel only shrugged, looking up from the magazine to regard his friend as he sat down across from him on the small table. He hadn't said anything, but then Lily could read him so damn well he didn't even have to. "Rough night?" the Exceed asked.
Casting a look towards the bedroom he shared with Shorty, Lily sighed. "She's more awake than she is asleep these days," he rumbled, the concern evident in his tone. Gajeel nodded, brows furrowing as he wondered if the hag would kick him out if he came knocking down her door again. He didn't want to consider that anything was wrong, because he was having trouble dealing with the situation when it was right, but the severity of her symptoms were starting to worry him, even if he didn't want to admit it.
"Is it normal, for humans? Or...whatever she is now?"
Gajeel felt something like unease crawl over his nerves. "Some humans. Hag said it'd probably get better, but 's far as I know, she ain't got any brats of her own, so I don't know how much her judgement counts. Asked the cowboy, but he said it hadn't been this bad for them."
Lily hummed under his breath. "Perhaps it varies between different women," he said with a shrug, although his brows were furrowed ever so slightly. "She's lost weight, too."
Gajeel didn't need the reminder. "Yeah."
"She's sleeping now, though?"
He nodded towards the bedroom. "Been asleep two hours straight." And hopefully she would be, for several more hours yet.
Lily nodded, brighting up considerably. "Good." Then one of his brows quirked, and he tilted his head. "Weren't you going to visit your father today?" The you sure she should be leaving the apartment in this state? was unspoken, but Gajeel caught it. He shook his head, and was about to open his mouth to reply when a sudden feeling of abject terror struck him, crashing through him with enough force to knock the breath from his lungs and almost causing him to drop the mug he'd picked up. Lily's eyes flew open at his blatant show of distressed surprise, but he didn't even have a chance to rise from his chair before the door to his bedroom came crashing open.
Stumbling out, Levy looked a right mess, dressed in an over-sized shirt and sporting a head of hair that looked more like a nest than anything else. If it hadn't been for the genuinely frightened look on her face and the fear thrumming along his senses, Gajeel would have cracked a smile at the sight.
"What if it's a dragon?!"
Gajeel blinked, not able to make sense of the question. "What?"
Coming towards them, she gestured wildly with one hand to her stomach, the swell not even remotely visible beneath the enormous shirt. "What if the baby is a dragon?"
Gajeel didn't even know how she'd gotten that idea into her head, but her fear was genuine, and he could only gape stupidly in response.
Lily was a bit quicker on the uptake, though. "Did you have a bad dream, Levy?" he asked, and Gajeel detected the twinge of amusement in his tone.
Levy turned to the Exceed, terror still clear on her face. "I was–hospital, but not really a hospital, right? And it was– and it was a dragon, Lily! And– and there was this ripping–"
"Whoa!" Gajeel nearly shot out of his seat. "Keep the horrors to a minimum, would ya? Geeze," he muttered. Rising from his chair, he got hold of her shoulders, before guiding her to sit down, running a hand down her back without even thinking about it. He felt her shoulders relax a bit, but she still felt too high-strung for his liking. "Too damn early fer those kinds of mental images, Shorty," he said, discreetly checking her temperature as he nudged a wild lock of hair out of her face. She hardly seemed to take note of his presence.
"Ya hungry?" he asked then.
She nodded, then shook her head...and then nodded again, and Gajeel rolled his eyes as he went to get something to eat that she (hopefully, if there was any greater power with any sympathy left for them) she would be able to keep down. With the way things had been going so far, he sincerely doubted it, but anything she was willing to eat, he was willing to give her.
Opening the fridge, her voice reached his ears as she talked to Lily. "I was huge, Lily – really, really big, but they said it was normal, and then I went into labour, and then they were all freaking out about something – I couldn't catch what it was – and then there was pain and blood everywhere–"
"And that's the last time I'm lettin' ya read horror novels before bed," Gajeel muttered to himself without taking his head out of the fridge.
"–and then there was this screech, and it wasn't a baby, Lily, it was a dragon! A-a squirming, scaly lizard w-with fangs and wings and–" she stopped, gesticulating wildly with her hands, but apparently at a loss of how to explain it better, although Gajeel had some rather vivid mental images that would need a good purging, or he'd be the one waking up in hysterics next.
Closing the door to the refrigerator, he walked back to the table, placing a small box of yoghurt in front of her, to which she was momentarily distracted enough to scrunch her nose at the sight.
"Eat," he said simply, voice a rumble that brooked no argument, before pulling out a chair for himself.
She tentatively touched the small box and the spoon he'd dropped next to it, understandably wary, but once she took a small bite she nearly devoured the entire thing in one go. He refrained from smirking at her fervour, knowing she had to be starving. When she was done, she looked at him, visibly more relaxed, but there was still traces of fear in her eyes. "I know I sound crazy," she said.
He snorted. "Understatement."
She glared, but it was half-hearted, and her eyes were still haunted, which made something within him constrict. "Haven't you considered this?" she asked then, and he was reminded of a conversation they'd had some time ago. He knew she'd entertained thoughts about transforming herself, remembering the hysterics she'd been in one morning when she'd discovered that her canines had sharpened. Having had unnaturally sharp canines for the better part of his life, Gajeel hadn't seen what the problem was, but her fear had been as palpable as the one he felt now, slinking along his nerves like ice.
He shook his head, and refrained from smiling, knowing it would only spark her irritation. "Yer not carrying a dragon, Shorty." Because grotesque mental images aside, the idea was just the kind of ridiculous thing she'd conjure from that weird-assed imagination of hers.
"And how do you know?"
He raised a brow. "Dragons lay eggs, Levy. They don't give birth ta live young."
She gaped a bit, then closed her mouth. "Oh, yeah. They do, don't they?" The last part was mumbled, almost to herself. It seemed the remnants of her nightmare were still clinging to her, clouding her usually sharp intellect, but at least she'd calmed down. In an hour, he figured the entire thing would seem ridiculous.
"Sides," Gajeel said with a shrug, not being able to help himself. "Even if yer carrying an egg, it'll be better giving birth to somethin' round than a live thing with arms and legs, right?"
The look she gave him was something between abject horror and fury at his poor attempt at humour, and he bit down another grin. From beside them, Lily shook his head. "I'm sure you'll be fine, Levy," he said, throwing Gajeel a look that said he wasn't being very helpful. "Has Porlyusica said that anything is out of the ordinary? You just had a check-up, didn't you?"
She shook her head slowly. "Well, other than the severe morning sickness, and she said that might pass...but..." But nightmares plant ideas that are hard to get rid of. Gajeel knew the thought would haunt her for a while, and resolved to remove the stash of gory novels she kept under her nightstand.
Reaching out, he nudged her forehead, as he was prone to. He wasn't good with showing affection, but he could feel her relax at the familiar gesture, and knew she understood. She could read him as well as he could read her, after all. He didn't need to tell her for her to know he was there.
"I guess I'm just being silly," she said then with a small smile. "I just...I was looking for documentation of children born from parents with specific magical propensities, to see if...well, if something could be passed down, and...there's nothing on dragonslayers. It's like I'm walking around blindfolded," she said, rubbing the bridge of her nose.
Gajeel said nothing. He knew how much she relied on documented evidence for her work, and the distinct lack of it in this case was throwing her off. He'd tried to get her to just go with it and take it as it happened, but then that was his way of dealing with things. It wasn't like he was any less nervous, but he wouldn't tell her that. She already knew, anyway, even if he denied it.
"I mean, do you even call it a 'baby'?" she asked.
He shrugged, attempting to keep his amusement to a minimum. "Pops would call it a 'hatchling', I think. 'Cause, y'know, dragons hatch."
She seemed strangely interested. "Hatchling, huh?" She seemed to fall into deep thought, and her eyes got that faraway look to them that they had whenever she was solving puzzles in her head, and for a moment, Gajeel refrained from interrupting her. Her shoulders had relaxed completely, and he could feel the rest of the apprehension as it drained away. He sighed, feeling his own shoulders sag in turn, and grimaced as he realized he hadn't even been aware that he'd been so tense. It would still take time for him to get used to all the unconscious things he did just because whatever she was feeling spurred reactions in him.
Levy chewed on her lip thoughtfully, before a smile tugged at one of the corners of her mouth, revealing a distinctly sharpened canine. "Why not?"
He raised a brow. "Why not what?"
"Why don't we call it that, too? A hatchling?"
"This coming from the woman who, five minutes ago, was freaking out just at the thought of it having any similarity to a real dragon?" he asked, tone dubious. His amusement rolled along the bond, but she ignored it.
Instead, she shrugged. "Well, maybe that's the problem. Maybe I have to accept that it may be something else than just a normal human baby." Maybe it's time I accept that I'm something else than just a normal human, was what she didn't say, but what he heard with stark clarity. Nevertheless, there was an air of stubborn determination about her, and Gajeel grinned as he felt it.
"Hell, why not? I ain't got a problem with it."
She rolled her eyes. "You don't have to give birth to it," she reminded him.
He shrugged. "If it makes ya feel better, I'm nauseous as hell most days."
"It does make me feel a little better, yes."
Lily piped up from beside them, "I for one am looking forward to seeing what other things you'll channel, Gajeel. I've heard it gets pretty bad once the mood-swings kick in, and you're moody enough as it is."
"Yer a right comedian, Lil. Gonna put on a show soon?"
Levy laughed, and for a moment, he let her good humour seep through him, feeling some of his sleep deprived irritation drain away at the sound. Her mood seemed to have brightened considerably, and the haunted look was gone from her eyes, although he didn't need the bond to know she was till exhausted. Her eyes were visibly tired, and the way she leaned her weight on the table told him she should probably still be in bed. She fiddled with the empty yoghurt cup, eyes on something far away again. Thinking back, he wondered when she'd last had a real meal.
"Ya want something more ta eat?"
Glancing towards the fridge, her nose wrinkled as she contemplated the question, before her eyes brightened suddenly. "Do we have any bacon?" she asked then. The implication to her words were clear, and with a sharp look at Lily, clearly saying 'this stays within this apartment', Gajeel rose to his feet without a word. Ruffling her hair, he went to rummage the fridge for the desired food, before setting about making it. Two pairs of eyes followed his movements, one visibly amused and one warm, and even if he'd strangle his cat if anyone ever found out about his inability to say 'no' to his mate, the gratitude that brushed along the bond was enough to not make him give a damn.
Because after all his insisting demands and knocking down her door, the hag had given him one simple advice: make sure she eats. And even if she was going to throw it all back up again in a few hours, that was exactly what he was going to do.
He'd barely gotten the bacon out of the fridge before he had to support himself on the door as another round of nausea washed over him without warning, and he cursed loudly. In the corner of his eye he caught a blur of blue as Shorty made a bolt for the bathroom again, and his stomach roiled in protest.
Pantherlily sighed, picking up his coffee. "Hopefully this doesn't last all nine months," he mused, almost to himself, throwing a sideways glance at his partner who was two seconds away from crawling into the fridge. Gajeel was inclined to agree, although all he could get out was a round of expletives that trailed off into a groan.
At this rate, he didn't know if he'd last all nine months.
AN: My sister-in-law lost a lot of weight during her pregnancy due to severe morning sickness and not being able to keep food down, but thankfully it lessened once she got into her second trimester. And of course Arumi's a troublemaker-in-the-making.