Fairy Tail + Characters © Hiro Mashima
A/N: I adjusted the rating because I've been flip-flopping over whether or not to write more mature material in the future for this fic. Lately I've been feeling like that's a no go. It may change in the future however, so I don't know. Anyways, this chapter doesn't have a lot of dialogue except towards the end, as I wanted it to be more about gestures and actions (what am I even talking about idk). I hope that you enjoy it, I felt the need to put something sweet and fluffy out after that depressing chapter in the manga today (holy crapola).
Rated for Gajeel's potty mouth.
05. You Lead, I Follow
Levy McGarden was having a tough time hiding her excitement, as it was the first actual job she performed alone with Gajeel. It wasn't a difficult job, largely based around security detailing for a nobleman's wedding. Levy had chosen it because it was neither easy, nor out of her league. She had worried Gajeel would reject the proposition without a second glance, but he had been surprisingly eager to get out of Magnolia—even if it was for 'prissy shit like a wedding', as he had put it.
He hadn't said anything, but she suspected that his willingness to take the job with her had something to do with the way Jet and Droy had been behaving as of late. Although they had come around to the idea of viewing Gajeel as a comrade, they did not particularly enjoy spending time with him. They were also very dear friends to her that she had been neglecting in favor of spending more time with her secret boyfriend. So, for the past two weeks they had been occupying her time and space—so much so that Gajeel barely had an opportunity to chat with her. She knew they were doing it on purpose, but she had to take some responsibility for the way she'd been ditching them in the past.
So, when she saw the opportunity to take a job out of town, she invited Gajeel. Of course, Levy had told Mira she was taking the job with Juvia, who was eager to help out with the secret. Likewise, Pantherlily would be telling people that Gajeel and him were going up to the mountains for training. Gajeel had asked her when she had become so good at fibbing, and she had simply informed him of her extensive collection of espionage novels. With both of them covered for the weekend, they had stole away to their destination of Ruthermont Park—an estate owned by the Earl and Countess Penrose.
The estate was quite large, although it was only a quarter of the Heartfilia family's original property judging from the descriptions Levy had heard from both Natsu and Gray. Much of the estate was beautifully landscaped with cobblestone pathways throughout a lush, green garden in the front—which undoubtedly reached all the way behind the grand Victorian-styled home.
The servants were quick to usher the pair to the Earl's study, although Gajeel's appearance gained more than a couple unwanted stares. Levy tried to be as friendly as possible, to make up for her companion's broody silence. She'd noticed that the moment they'd entered the property he'd become tense and tight-lipped, and she wondered if being surrounded by all of this wealth and elegance made him uncomfortable. She kept her thoughts to herself, not intending to get off on the wrong foot with their employer by having that discussion with Gajeel where people would hear.
She shook her head slightly, dragging herself from her inner concerns to focus on the aforementioned employer, as he greeted them in the study. The Earl was a short and stout man of fifty, with a receding hairline and a kindly face full of laugh lines. He wore a well-tailored suit made of expensive fabric, but the colors were muted and modest looking. Her initial impression of him was that he was not a tyrannical aristocrat—like Lucy's father had been in the past—but rather a mild-mannered gentleman who just happened to have good fortune. She was even further fascinated by the way he looked at the two of them with relaxed approval, not even bothering to spare Gajeel a second glance.
"So, you're the two mages from Fairy Tail. Well, good morning." He stated calmly, shuffling the paperwork on his desk as he explained their duties, "My son is marrying his fiancée this afternoon, and the reception party will follow afterwards. The proceedings should not last long past midnight, and if all goes according to plan you will be paid your reward in the morning. You may use the guesthouse for your overnight stay, there are three separate rooms prepared to choose from. Now the reason you are here—"
The Earl found what it was he was looking for, and offered it to them. Gajeel snatched the photograph from his hand first, even though Levy had reached for it. She shot him a disapproving glance that went ignored.
"—is because my soon-to-be daughter-in-law has an ex-suitor who is not taking this arrangement very well. As you can see from the picture, he is a delinquent and also a member of a smalltime dark guild. The guild has no good reason to intervene on the wedding proceedings, but I'm afraid he might alone try to spoil the festivities or worse, assault the bride. He's been known to have a mean temper and is quick to get violent. He is, however, not overly intelligent."
Levy took the photo from Gajeel's fingers after he was finished with it, and began a thorough inspection of this repulsive human being. A resentful wrinkle wriggled between her brows as she grimaced at the photograph. The man in the photograph would be grievously handsome, if not for the obviously conceited manner in which he smiled or the detailed description of his foul personality. A perceptive chuckle from across the room garnered her attention once again.
"Yes, it is unfortunate that he has the face of a prince, instead of the ogre he really is." The Earl said, sounding tired and distracted. Levy frowned sympathetically, tucking the photo into her bag so that they would have it just in case. Weddings were supposed to be a happy occasion, and the stress this one man was invoking was trying its hardest to ruin the day. Levy's hand balled into a fist and she placed it against her chest, over her heart, as she regarded the Earl with an ignited determination.
"We will not allow this man to ruin your son's or his fiancée's wedding day!" She shouted awkwardly, her voice sounding louder than she'd intended, but she persevered, "I promise you! As a Fairy Tail wizard!"
An annoying blush had risen to her cheeks by the time she was done her speech, and she could tell that Gajeel was staring at her from the corner of her eye. However, the Earl seemed pleased with her display, smiling at her in an affable manner. "I have no doubt in my mind you two will be a successful team. Fairy Tail is a very popular guild and I've heard good things. If you do come into contact with the target and are required to utilize force, you may…but I must insist, please do try to keep the property damage to a minimum."
As it were, the ceremony went smoothly, save that he bride nearly tripped over her obnoxiously large ball gown. However, she did not appear embarrassed by the misstep, as her father steadied her before handing her off to the groom. The couple was young, but very sweet towards each other. While setting up some protective script barriers within the reception hall, she'd overheard one of the older maids telling a new employee the story—and Levy had been too curious to not eavesdrop.
Apparently, the young bride and her family were not of the upper class. In fact the young woman had joined this smalltime dark guild her former boyfriend was a part of in order to help out her large family—the bride's guests included seven younger teens and children who were undoubtedly related to her. Seven younger siblings and penniless parents had driven the poor girl to seek a life of crime. Fate, according to the maid, intervened and the woman's first robbery was on the young master. They met and fell in love, which was shortly followed by courtship and an engagement. Levy's face burned fiercely after hearing the story. It was the stuff of novels, a torrid love affair turned into a happy marriage.
Something must have shown on her face, because when she got back Gajeel had pointed and laughed at her, saying, "Looks like you saw or heard something you weren't supposed to."
She had been defensive, of course, retorting in a short tone, "I'm not a gossip or a snoop, I'll have you know."
He'd been unconvinced, but didn't press her on the matter—not like he'd care to hear the story anyway. Afterwards, she had gone for a walk to put up more defensive runes along the perimeter. If anyone entered the outer premises, she would be alerted about it immediately, and she had inscribed the scripts around the main house to only allow those with an invitation or employee pass to enter. With all of that done, Levy had laid herself down in the garden, on a slight slope just outside of the ballroom. There was an elegant, marble water fountain with tall female sculpture in the center that reminded Levy of Lucy's celestial spirit, Aquarius.
After a moment of admiring the art and architecture of the garden, she retrieved the novel she'd brought and opened it to the last place she'd left off. The glow from the chandeliers within the ballroom provided Levy with enough light to comfortably read. As she scanned the first few sentences, she idly thought the pianist hired to perform for the wedding was rather masterful, as the sound of graceful waltzes and party chatter drifted from an open window somewhere behind her. She was so tuned into the music and her book, that she didn't immediately take notice of Gajeel, as he sat down next to her. It was only when he leaned towards her that she looked up from the page to meet his gaze. His eyes lifted from the book in her hands to her face, and for a moment she forgot that they were in the middle of a job.
"H-How was the perimeter sweep?" She inquired pointedly, reminding herself to focus on business before pleasure in order to get the job done properly.
"Quiet." He replied, his eyes sweeping over her in one quick motion, before he lay back against the ground, using his hands to pillow his head. He shut his eyes for a few moments, and Levy couldn't help but stare. Since arriving at the estate they had said little to each other, but she felt that it had become a sort of comfortable silence—as though there didn't need to be any words. Levy's eyes fell from his face to his chest, watching it rise and fall with each breath. It was…peaceful.
When she glanced back to his face she found his eyes were open again, and focused directly on her. She felt herself blush a little, but smiled in spite of it. "Well, with my runes, we shouldn't have much to worry about. I'm afraid you might not get to punch someone."
He grinned and shut his eyes again, "That's a damn shame, I was so looking forward to kicking the shit out of prince charming."
She put her book back in her bag, and stood up suddenly—to which he opened a single eye, obviously curious about her intent. Levy brushed the dirt and grass off of her dress, before turning to face him with an extended hand, "Get up."
"What for?" His eye narrowed on her with suspicion.
"Dance with me." She urged, shaking her hand again. Another waltz had started inside the ballroom, and it happened to be one she had heard before. There was something bittersweet and beautiful about the song—having a melody with both heartbreaking and sweeping moments. Levy knew she was asking a lot of him by even suggesting they dance together, much less to a waltz, but she was a little more than determined.
"Hell no." He came his quick reply, as he shut his eye again. She wasn't fazed by his rejection, and instead reached down to grab his elbow, earning a swift glare from him.
"Oh, please? No one can even see us." She persisted, using the look and the voice to get her way. He still resisted, though. In the dim light she couldn't tell if he was blushing or not, but there was a distinct waver of hesitance in his voice when he spoke again.
"I don't know how to dance, shrimp."
"It's easy." Judging by the look on his face, he was unconvinced. She rolled her eyes and laughed softly, tugging him into a sitting position, "I'll even let you lead."
"You better not make a fucking fuss when I trample your toes." He muttered with a resigned groan, finally standing up.
He suspended his hands in the air around her small figure, noticeably unsure of what to do or where to place them. She took his right hand and put it against her waist firmly, before reaching her left hand to the back of his neck. He was so tall compared to her that her left hand placement was a little bit awkward, but she didn't let it bother her as she clasped their free hands together securely. She looked up at him brightly and said with gentle encouragement, "Now move your feet."
He had been absolutely right. He did not know how to dance. He was painfully clumsy during the first few movements, even stepping on her foot once with a mumbled curse. She almost felt bad for goading him into doing it, but when she relaxed her body against his, his motions became a little less stiff and a little more fluid. Perhaps it was the dancing and the romantic atmosphere, or the love story she'd heard earlier that day, but Levy McGarden was feeling rather smitten about her fierce iron dragon slayer in that moment. However, he was still a rookie. His hand gripped her waist tightly as her shoes slipped on the grass, which made her stumble backwards. He supported her weight with ease and leaned over her, displaying an agitated scowl.
"See, I told you I can't dance." The quiet rumble of his voice seemed softer than his expression. Her smile grew wide and affectionate, which caused his bottom lip jut out in a defiant pout. She decided at that moment that there was something innocently endearing about the way he pouted.
"What are you talking about?" She asked, still smiling, "This is just called a dip, it's a very common dance move."
"Tch." He rolled his eyes, and pulled her upright. He did not initiate anymore dancing, but he did not release his hold on her either. They stayed like that for a moment, before she closed her eyes with a sigh—leaning a little more heavily on him.
"You're not that bad, you know." She hummed low in her throat, "You'd probably do much better with a taller partner, though."
He said nothing, but released her hand to wrap his arm around her back. She might have been reading him wrongly, but she thought the gesture was intended to say that he didn't want a taller partner. Either way, she was glad of it, and she smiled against the fabric of his shirt. They stayed like that for a time, listening to the piano music spilling over into the grand courtyard and sitting close together. The rest of the evening was uneventful with no sign of their target. She had a feeling that even if he had shown up he just wasn't clever enough to slip through her carefully lain barrier, and even if he had, he would've only met Gajeel's fist.
As promised, they were given leave to use the guesthouse as they saw fit, and were supplied with all the amenities one might have found at an expensive hotel. They found themselves standing in the hallway, each with a door to a separate room behind them. Levy looked him in the eye, waiting for him to say something, anything that would reveal a portion of his thoughts. After a moment, he half-turned towards the door behind him and shut his eyes.
That's it? She wondered, biting her bottom lip. She knew she shouldn't press further, since the obvious, potential invitation for them to share a room had been clearly rejected by him. However, knowing what was the right thing to do and following through with it was two different things.
"We don't have to sleep in separate rooms!" She blurted out, heat rising to her face the instant the words left her lips.
He froze, before cautiously turning his head to peer back at her over his shoulder. The shape of his brow implied that he was scowling, as though irritated at the thought. He was always scowling, always irritated. He faced her fully and thrust his hand up in the air angrily, "Yah got to be fucking kidding me!"
Levy puffed her cheeks out stubbornly and her small hands formed fists, as she attempted to explain—albeit lamely, "W-Well! We've been dating for almost two months!"
"So you're ready to jump into bed with me at the first opportunity?!" He shouted incredulously, as though he couldn't believe the words coming out of her mouth, or his own for that matter.
"W-We don't have to do anything, except sleep of course!" She said, as though everything were that simple. His left eye twitched and she noticed the way his face began to redden. She realized her face must have been just as red, if not more so.
There was no need to explain what Levy had meant by the words 'do anything', although she felt shame in needing to sidestep around a simple word. After all, Levy had always been very meticulous about her use of words as a lover of linguistics and the like. A word was a word and it only had a simple, specific definition and she shouldn't have been too embarrassed to say it. Be that as it may, she did not correct herself.
Gajeel crossed his arms over his chest and scowled, as he rephrased his refusal, "No, Shrimp. It won't work."
"It won't work? What does that mean?" Levy's disbelief seem to only embarrass him further, his blush deepening.
"J-Just go to your room, and quit bothering me!" He stammered out, before he retreated to his own room—slamming the door shut behind him. Even so, she could still hear him grumbling loudly, "For fuck's sake! Tryin' to be a goddamn gentleman and I still get lip from her! Fuckin' impossible!"
"I can hear you, you know!" She shouted through the door, and she thought she heard a snarky 'I wasn't trying to be quiet' retort, but she ignored him. Rolling her eyes, she turned and plucked her overnight bag from the floor, before stomping over to her room. She would have left it at that, but she felt a compulsion to go to bed on a slightly better note. So she shouted—attempting to sound not as angry mind you—in the direction of his room, "Good night, Gajeel!"
The following morning had included the wrap up of their job, with a fine payment for the both of them to share, and then the short journey back to Magnolia. They'd chosen one of the more backwoods routes to the city, so that they could avoid being seen together—however, their plan failed unbeknownst to them.
"Carla, do you hear that?" Wendy asked, looking down at the white exceed comfortably situated in her arms. They had been up to visit old Porlyusica that morning, and were now just heading back into town when they happened upon the traveling pair. Carla said nothing, only nodded. Wendy glanced in the general direction from which the voice was coming, "It sounds like Gajeel-san, maybe he's back from training."
The girl took a step towards Gajeel's voice, but then a second one spoke up—and it was not that of Pantherlily, whom he had allegedly been training with, but Levy McGarden instead.
"Levy-san?" Wendy whispered, a little confused.
"Wendy?" Carla asked, blinking up at her with a frown.
"Shh!" Wendy whispered quickly, before she found a hiding spot in the bushes. The exceed huffed in annoyance, clearly perplexed by the whole situation.
"Wendy, why are you hiding?" She demanded, squirming a little in the girl's arms.
"Shh!" Wendy whispered again, as the pair was nearing their position. After a heartbeat, one of the sets of footsteps paused and Wendy knew she'd been found. She tried to peek through a hole in the leaves, and her keen eyesight prevailed. Gajeel was staring in her general direction, but he was definitely looking too high to spy her.
"What is it, Gajeel?" Levy asked, as she stopped and half-turned to face him with a hand on her hip. Wendy held her breath and willed him to not take notice of her. Thankfully, Carla remained still and silent as well, although she looked rather unhappy about it.
"I could've sworn I heard something." He said after a moment.
"Oh, did it sound dangerous?" Levy said, stifling a yawn, "Should I be worried?"
"Nah, it just…" Then he snorted and seemed to lose interest, "Never mind, it's probably nothing."
Before they were out of range of Wendy's sight and hearing, Levy laughed gently and looped her arm through his, before saying in a teasing tone, "I'd better stay close, just in case."
"Har har, very funny midget." He snapped, but did not shake her off of him.
Afterwards, when they were well ahead, the girl and the exceed emerged from the bushes and looked after the path. Carla had climbed out of Wendy's arms and was now staring up at the girl with a grown, "Why did you hide Wendy?"
"Gajeel-san and Levy-san are together." She said tentatively, her small hands clasped together as she attempted to explain her actions, "But they lied about where they went this weekend."
"I still don't see how this effects you." Carla folded her arms across her chest, now scowling.
"Well, I thought that maybe they weren't telling people, because they didn't want anyone to know. So, I guess I didn't want things to be awkward for them." The girl explained slowly, glancing towards Magnolia. When she looked back at her exceed, the white cat's expression had softened a great deal and she was almost smiling.
"I see. Well, in that case, that was very thoughtful of you." Carla then turned and started to walk down the path to town, "I suppose now we'll have to keep their secret as well."
A/N: Hi, okay, so Wendy finding out will become relevant later on. Also it makes sense, because I feel like with these kinds of secrets, they steadily become unraveled, or at least they would for these two. Anywho, if anyone is curious (which you probably aren't), the piano piece I had in mind for the dance is Chopin's Waltz No. 3 in A minor. It is without a doubt my favorite piano piece, and if you like classical music I highly recommend! Thanks for reading!