AN: My Laxana muse is on a roll, so here you go!
Disclaimer: I do not own Fairy Tail or its characters – Hiro Mashima does.
3. Courtship, or how to deal with Big Daddy
Laxus didn't shift in his seat; didn't so much as twitch as he regarded the older man across the table. "I said I'm courting your daughter. Sir," he added with emphasis.
Gildarts Clive watched him through narrowed brows, and Laxus held his gaze, blatantly refusing to buck under the disbelieving glare the older man was appointing him. He'd decided to cut to the chase, sit down with the man and explain the situation. He'd always respected Gildarts as a mage, and a senior member of the guild. He was one their strongest, if a bit eccentric, but Laxus had always known him as a man with a good sense of humour even in the darkest of situations. He'd thought he would appreciate the sentiment – an honest admission of his intentions with his daughter.
But, he realized as the man's brows seemed to go further down that what should be possible in a human face, he'd forgotten the fact that Gildarts Clive had been a father for a very short time. And that the thought of anyone having any kind of intentions with his little girl probably hadn't struck him yet. Until now, that was.
"Dreyar," he spoke, voice deadly calm in the quiet of the guild hall. His good hand was curled into a fist on the table, but the roof hadn't come down over him yet. "Cana is a pretty girl," he said.
"I am aware of that, sir."
Gildarts raised a brow. "I don't think you understand. She's beautiful. Like her mother. The miles-out-of-your-league kind of beautiful that doesn't come along very often." He leaned forward, resting his weight on his good elbow. "And you're telling me you're planning on putting your dirty hands on her?"
Laxus raised a brow – a clear challenge, but damn it if he was backing down. "My hands are clean," he said simply.
"You look like a bum," Gildarts pointed out, expression as severe as ever. "Bums don't have clean hands."
Laxus resisted the urge to sigh – or snort. "To be fair, sir, I didn't explicitly mention putting my hands on your daughter."
The older man raised a disbelieving brow. "What era are you from, boy? You don't think I know what 'courting' means for you kids these days?"
I'm pretty sure you know very well what 'courting' means, Laxus thought but wisely kept his mouth shut. Gildarts was notorious for his love of pretty ladies, but he wasn't about to raise the question about that particular double-standard when the man looked ready to tear him a new one. His infamous powers taken into consideration, he was more than capable.
So instead he stuck to the subject in question. "I have nothing but the utmost respect for Cana, sir. I'm not out to...corrupt her," he said, and had to ignore how damn ironic that statement was, the damn woman herself taken into consideration. The idiot was corrupted enough without his help, thank you very much.
But his personal opinion not-withstanding, he had a distinct feeling all the redhead across the table from him could see was the little orphaned girl who'd been right under his nose for years, and who he'd never spared a second glance. And for all his qualms with the subject meddling fathers, Laxus could recognise a good thing when he saw it.
And so he politely kept his mouth shut as Gildarts talked about the bad influence a guy like him would have on his girl, who deserved nothing short of a saint, although Laxus personally thought she would end up corrupting him if that was the case.
When he was done, Gildarts leaned back in his chair. "You got that, kid?"
If he'd been a weaker man he would have backed away, because who in their right mind would get involved with someone with such a lunatic for a father? But when it came to fathers, his own took the lunatic prize of the decade, and he wasn't about to give in to some macho power-play just because Cana's old man fought dragons barehanded and had the physical ability to tear him to shreds.
And then there was the woman in question; the source of his current predicament and the pain that no doubt awaited him at the end of it. A wiser man would say it was too much trouble for one woman, who was difficult enough to please as it was, and reason that there were simpler women won over with less effort.
Of course, a man like that had also never tangled his fingers in Cana Alberona's hair.
So, "I hear what you're saying, sir," he began. "But with all due respect, I didn't come to ask permission." He felt a smirk tug at his lips. "I came to tell you I'm courting your daughter. Whether you approve or not doesn't really matter to me."
He saw it the moment the words left his lips, the way the older man's eyes darkened, but Laxus held his ground, hands clenching where he still kept his arms crossed over his chest. If Gildarts made to attack, he wouldn't be caught off guard.
"Oh, kid, you've got your old man's nerve," Gildarts spoke then, voice a low rumble that had the hairs on Laxus' neck stand on end. Then he grinned, cold and hard where it was usually wide and good humoured, and cracked the knuckles of his good hand slowly. When he spoke next, there was a starkness to his tone that made Laxus wonder if maybe Ivan should consider handing up his trophy.
"And I never liked your old man."
He was contemplating his own lack of foresight when she found him.
"Smooth moves there, Thrift Shop. That's some tricks you've got up your five-and-dime sleeves."
Laxus glared up at the brunette as she dropped to sit down beside him, sandal-clad feet dangling over the edge of the riverbank, a grin in her eyes and dark hair haloed in the late afternoon sun. For all her earlier outrage at the suggestion of his plans of pursuing her, she seemed in an awfully good mood. Of course, it could have something to do with her old man beating the living shit out of him.
"Come to gloat?" he asked, and refused to put his hand against the bruise that was forming near his temple. Fucking hell, but the man could throw a punch.
She hummed under her breath. "Not really," she said with a quirk of the lips that had him momentarily forgetting about the pain. "I just can't believe you actually sat the old man down for a chat," she said, her grin widening. "You've gotta be the bravest idiot I've ever met. And then challenging him to a duel?" She laughed. "You're fucking loco, Laxus."
"I didn't challenge him," he pointed out.
Cana raised a brow. "You honestly think that wasn't what he saw it as?" She snorted. "You held your ground. Might as well have slapped him across the face with a glove where he's concerned."
Laxus rolled his eyes, and tried not to wince. "I didn't think it was going to be a problem. He's usually...more level-headed."
"...we are talking about the same passive destructive redhead, yeah?" Cana asked with a raised brow. "Level-headed doesn't describe him on a good day. Pops is fucking nuts," she said with a laugh.
"Family trait, then," he muttered.
"Don't test your luck, Lightning Rod, or you're going in the river," she warned, but the smile on her face betrayed her attempted severity. And he noticed then that there was no trace of her earlier suspicions. In fact, if he was being completely honest, she seemed almost pleased, where before she'd been one subtle push away from tearing his hair from his head.
Struck a little speechless at her sudden change in disposition, Laxus found he had nothing to respond with, and so kept his mouth shut. He had a feeling she had more to say, but he knew her well enough to know that she needed to get there on her own initiative.
An comfortable lull settled between them, perched as they were on the riverbank, before Cana finally spoke, breaking the stillness with a soft utterance. "Thank you."
Laxus raised his brows in silent question, and she shrugged. "For trying, and for sticking to your word." She crossed her arms over her chest – a decidedly insecure gesture for a woman like her, who was usually all hands-on-hips and obscenely clever grins. "Never been anyone who's done something like that for me before," she admitted with a shrug, and he was reminded of the night it had all started, and the remark that had set her off.
Jealous no one's ever come at you with somethin' decent?
But just like he knew how to push her buttons, he also knew how to avoid it, and so his answering smile was intentionally wry. "If I'd known how he'd react I might have reconsidered."
She looked at him then, seeming to assess him, before she pursed her lips in a smile. "No, you wouldn't."
He smirked. "You're probably right." He looked down into the shifting surface of the water, and their warped reflections side-by-side.
"So...I talked to the old man."
He didn't look up to meet her gaze, but kept his eyes on the river, and the gentle motion of her hair reflected in the water. "Yeah? Does he want me to come back for another round?" he asked with a snort, only partly joking.
She nudged him, and now he did wince. "Nope. To be honest, he seemed impressed you had the guts to come forward." When he looked at her, she grinned. "I might also have put in a good word for ya," she added with a shrug.
He snorted. "I've heard your attempts at giving compliments. Should I be worried?"
Her next nudge was harder than the first, but he grinned despite the pain. "Cheeky bastard. Do you want to hear what I said or not?"
"By all means."
She leaned back on her hands, and kicked her feet. "I asked him if he could find anything bad to say about you as a person, and not just as the guy after his daughter." She met his gaze. "And he was pretty hard-pressed comin' up with anything other than the fact that you dress like a rebellious hobo."
Laxus raised a dubious brow. "Those his words or yours?"
She grinned. "Not the point." She bent forward again, leaning her elbows on her knees. "And so I told him, 'if you overlook the fact that he looks like a drifter, is there anyone else in the guild you'd prefer I date'?"
"And what did he say?"
Cana looked up at him, cat-like eyes grinning in the sun. "Couldn't name anyone, when it came down to it. Your seriousness won you some points, for like the first time ever," she added with a snort.
"Didn't feel much like winning," he muttered, and the bruises seemed to throb in response.
She shrugged. "At least you're not dead. Pops' got a bit of a temper."
"You don't say," he deadpanned, and resisted the urge to wince at the memory of the fight he'd inadvertently gotten himself into. The older man hadn't even used his powers to their full extent, but the bruises he sported smarted like all hell.
His gaze was drawn back to the brunette beside him, and there was a strange smile on her face. "What?"
She was silent a moment. Then, "Hold still."
Then there were cool hands on his jaw, tilting his head down, and her grinning mouth brushed against his – a slow, fire-building-under-pressure type of kiss that sent a shiver down his spine, and that had him tangling his fingers in the thick mass of her hair and damn, but if that wasn't worth the humiliation. It was far from the combative exchange of the night everything had started, but this time she had come to him not with a mind to tear him a new one but of her own volition, and that he found, was a victory even her father's old-school whipping couldn't take away from him.
When she pulled back her eyes were dark, hooded under heavy lids, and her smile a cat's clever grin in the sunlight. He raised a brow. "What was that for?"
An odd smile curled along her mouth, and she seemed to look into the nothingness for a moment, before she spoke. "For making the old man feel useful," she said with a shrug. "I think he needs it."
Laxus was silent a moment, before snorting. "You can tell him he's welcome."
She threw her head back with a grin, dark hair spilling over her shoulders in bouncing waves as she raised her face to the sky. "So," she said, giving him a sly look out of the corner of her eyes. "Looks like you're courting me, eh, Dreyar?"
He smirked, and laid back against the cobbled bank, hands resting behind his head as he followed her gaze upwards. "Looks like it."
"Sure it's worth the trouble?"
For all her bluster and bravado, the uncertainty that slipped into her tone was hard to miss. He looked up at her then, haloed in the light of the setting sun, the river reflected in dark eyes hiding insecurities even her boisterous personality couldn't completely mask.
He felt a smirk tug at his lips, and reached out to tuck a lock of hair behind the shell of one curved ear, a gesture that made her brows rise in surprise, and just a hint of a blush erupt in her cheeks.
"More than worth it," he said as he let his hand drop, closing his eyes as he relaxed beneath the sun.
Beside him Cana sat, uncharacteristically silent, and he was beginning to wonder if he'd somehow said something wrong when he felt slim fingers curl around his. But he didn't open his eyes, recognising the rare moment for what it was, and instead simply closed his fingers around hers silently in return. No more words were said between them on the subject, and he felt a smile curl along his lip as he considered the oddity that was. For a woman so used to getting the last word, her silence rang louder than anything, and he found that maybe this courtship wasn't such a far-fetched idea after all.
"So Natsu claims he saw him throw an entire building at y–"
"I'd rather not talk about it."
AN: In all seriousness though, Daddy!Gildarts is one of my favourite things.