A/N. I'm alive after all! I cannot believe that I have 91, 106 favorites, and 161 followers on this story. I... there's just no words, it wasn't what I was expecting when I chose to write this story. I really have no excuses for not updating sooner, but look after the story for a brief summary.

(Previously) "I think you may be right... so could you please help me learn dragon slaying magic properly?"

"Of course I can help you!" Lucy grinned at him. He smiled.

"Really? When can we start?" he asked eagerly, leaning forward. She smirked.

"Right now if you want. The first exercise is kind of easy in theory, but it takes time to master. I still haven't but you might have more luck since you already have a lacrima." She paused. "Well technically its the second exercise, but I'm assuming you know how to manipulate your magic and find it and meditate for it and all that." He rolled his eyes and sighed.

"It was one of the few things Gramps really wanted me to learn... Otherwise... he didn't really care how strong I was..." he trailed off wistfully. Lucy tilted her head, wondering what the story behind that was. Then she decided to just continue with the impromptu lesson.

"Alright. So... sit down, preferably with one of the rocks a few feet in front of you," she instructed, still sitting herself. He did so.

"Now what?" he asked curiously with restrained excitement. She grinned at him.

"Okay, what you need to do is send your magic to your mouth. And turn it into lightning while it is still in your mouth instead of expelling your magic and allowing it to form into lightning. It must be lightning magic before that," she explained.

He nodded and started focusing. Getting his magic to his mouth was easy, he'd done it several times before, it was second nature. The tricky part was turning it to lightning magic before letting it escape. It prickled and hurt like many needles jabbing the inside of his mouth.

After a few more seconds of trying to change his magic into lightning magic, he gave up and let the magic escape back into the rest of his body. The sensation remained and he opened his mouth to ask Lucy if that was supposed to happen, and to his surprise, lightning flew out and hit the rock. It dented slightly.

"Nice for your first attempt," Lucy commented. He turned to look at her incredulously.

"That was supposed to happen?" he demanded as he rubbed his cheeks, still feeling them tingle a little. She smiled sheepishly and couldn't help moving away slightly, his temper wasn't something to take lightly.

"Well... yeah... I forgot to mention... a few things." She fidgeted. "The pins and needles sensation in your mouth is because your magic doesn't like being transformed into something different before leaving your body. So it reacts by causing pain; it doesn't help that your body isn't used to it yet. It's part of the reason dragons preferred teaching young children, their magic tends to be more willing to change like that." She let that sink in before continuing at his nod.

"Because you weren't focusing on using your magic, it went back to normal, and since you had already succeeded in making some actual lightning with your magic, it couldn't go back with the rest of the magic and so it flew out in an imitation of a dragon's roar. That's why a dragon's roar is the first move any dragon slayer learns, and becomes the default as well. It helps that it is very powerful." She decided to let him say something this time. It took him a few minutes to respond as he thought it over.

"So it's going to be kind of painful?" Laxus asked. She nodded. "Great."

"At least its only the pins and needles sensation instead of something worse," Lucy pointed out. "But anyways, you're supposed to keep doing the exercise until you have success with all of the magic you gather. And the more you do it, the less pain there will be."

"You're not going to tell me the next step?"

"I haven't even really read much of it yet, plus it would probably be bad if you skipped this one and moved onto the next one," she explained patiently. He sighed.

"Alright alright, so changing magic into lightning magic... in my mouth..." he grumbled a little as he settled down again.

He concentrated on his magic and then changing it while it was still in his mouth. This time it was easier because he knew what to expect. At the same time, the pins and needles sensation was annoying and hard to ignore. This time the stream of lightning was nearly the same size as her attempt.

"So you're either a fast learner or the lacrima is helping you..." Lucy observed calmly. "Or possibly both."

"You really think I'm a fast learner?" Laxus responded, shocked. Lucy nodded.

"I'm only as far as I am because I took the day before coming back to the guild to try as soon as I read about the exercise. It took much of that time before I could convert as much magic as I did."

"Really?" Laxus still seemed surprised. "I never learned fast enough for my father..." he added, looking at his hands. "He'd consider this weak for a second attempt, he could do better..." He looked up again as he continued, "if he were here..." he trailed off upon seeing her wide eyes and gaping mouth. He groaned and smacked his head with the heel of his hand. "Shouldn't have said that... Sorry," he grumbled, rubbing his face, irritated with himself for revealing so much to someone he barely knew. Lucy leaned forward a little.

"Your father is an idiot," she said bluntly. He fell off the rock with a small thud as he gaped at her.

"Why do you think that?" he managed to get out as he sat up and shook the dirt out of his hair. She shrugged.

"First there's the matter of the dragon lacrima you have. Then there's the fact he apparently doesn't agree with Fairy Tail's values and got kicked out... and he thinks this isn't fast learning." She sighed. "Everyone learns at different speeds. He probably could learn that fast, I don't know him so I can't judge, but that doesn't mean you can or that you have to. Some people learn fairly slowly, others fast, and it also depends on their determination, strength and affinity with what they're learning. You're doing just fine this way." She shook her head. "Honestly. If you keep this up, I might have to lend you the book for the next few steps."

Laxus shook his head but didn't say anything for a moment as he thought about what she said. His automatic reaction had been to deny what she was saying but he quashed that part down, especially since that part was the part that believed his father could do no wrong. He let his hand trace his scar as he thought. Then his hand pressed against the spot where his lacrima was implanted. Finally, he sighed and started to speak.

"I'm not sure that it's stupid... but I know what you mean..." he responded haltingly. "He is... very smart. He just didn't care about limits and consequences, he probably knew how the lacrima would affect me in the end. He calculated everything, and everything was done for a reason. I don't know why he pushed me so much... but he wasn't so bad until my mom went missing when I was 10 and she was pregnant at the time too..." He slapped his hand over his mouth and looked away from Lucy, blinking rapidly. She tilted her head.

"Why are you telling me so much?" she asked curiously, choosing to keep her comments to herself about what he said. "You barely know me." He groaned and ran his hand through his hair in frustration.

"I don't know," he replied honestly. "I've never told anyone this much about my past before... not even Freed." Lucy nodded thoughtfully and then her eyes lit up.

"I see. You need to talk about it to someone, you know talking always helps," she rambled excitedly, "I'm guessing some part of you just wants someone to understand..." she trailed off sheepishly as he stared at her.

"You know..." he mused thoughtfully. "I think you're right. But how did you know?" She looked away, rubbing the back of her neck.

"I... I haven't really told people about my past either," she admitted. "My father is very... strict and he was arranging a betrothal when I ran away. My only friend growing up was Cancer."

"A spirit?" he asked in disbelief. "That's worse than how I had it... Must've sucked." She nodded.

"Yeah, it did. Still bothers me sometimes..." She trailed off as she looked up at the sky. "I think we should head back, it's getting late... We could always talk more later... if you want?" she offered tentatively. Laxus stared at her for a moment.

"Yeah... I think... Yeah that sounds good. I suppose it would be nice to talk about it all..." he paused briefly. "But I think maybe we should get the Raijin tribe in on it too, I think they need it too... and maybe need friends more than I do." He stood up and stretched. Lucy did the same before she approached him.

"You need friends just as much as them," she whispered as she put his hand on his arm. "And you deserve them too. You're a good person." She pulled away her hand after a moment. He stopped her.

"Thank you. For not freaking out or pitying in me..." he said quietly. "I needed that more than anything." She smiled at him brightly.

"It's just what I want with any problems I have, so why would I treat you any differently?" They started walking.

"Not many people think that way. It's a refreshing change." He smiled slightly at her as they headed back to the hotel.

Evergreen was laying on her stomach on the bed Freed had claimed (Laxus would take the other bed and Bixlow would take the couch), flipping through a magazine. Freed was reading a book calmly on the couch while Bixlow sat on the floor on the opposite side of the room, talking to his babies. It could be disturbing listening to the conversation, since the souls didn't always answer in what passed for verbally, so sometimes it was like hearing one half of a conversation with Bixlow talking to nothing.

So, Evergreen and Freed took that time to pursue other things while he had his talking time with his spirits. After a while, about an hour after Laxus and Lucy left, Freed checked the time.

"I believe we should order our food now, knowing Laxus it will be at least another hour before they return." Freed tossed a menu to Bixlow and one to Evergreen. After a few minutes, he grabbed the communication lacrima. After giving his order, Bixlow told him what he wanted and Freed relayed it. Then they looked at Evergreen.

"What do you want Ever?" Freed asked. "And don't say 'just a salad' you need to eat more than that," he added sternly.

"Yeah, we don't want you to starve," Bixlow added, crossing his arms as his babies floated up around him. He joined Freed on the couch. Evergreen sighed.

"Alright, alright, I'll get that chicken wrap then. And some of that chicken noodle soup, happy?" she snapped before she shut her magazine. Then she sat up on the edge of the bed, looking a bit irritated. Freed repeated that and turned off the lacrima and set it aside.

"Very," he replied calmly. "You haven't been eating much again." He walked over and sat next her on the bed. She crossed her arms and looked away from them.

"Yeah, remember what happened last time you did that?" Bixlow added as he sat down on her other side.

"We just don't want to see you like that again," Freed commented softly, placing a hand on her arm. She sighed.

"I know... I know..." She cringed at the memory of being on a mission and just suddenly collapsing in the middle of a fight after feeling lightheaded. And then waking up at the hospital, and being told she hadn't ate enough. The doctor nearly kept her for some psych therapy, but Freed and Bixlow had promised to keep an eye on her. And they had.

Suddenly she felt them wrap their arms around her. She stiffened and wondered why as they hugged tighter. She could feel the warmth seep into her and comfort her. She relaxed and then realized she had been crying and tears were still pouring down her face.

"I'm sorry," she whispered. "I just... I don't want to be fat... and sometimes I'm never skinny enough..." They tightened the hug briefly.

"You're perfect the way you are, fat or not," Freed replied sternly.

"Yeah, you don't need to be perfect, Ever. You're our sister, and we like you the way you are," Bixlow added, trying to lighten the mood. She smiled a little.

"Thanks," she said softly as she returned their hug by wrapping an arm around each of them. "I... I have trouble remembering that sometimes."

"What caused it this time?" Freed asked quietly.

"Just... all the girls in the guild are so skinny..." Evergreen sighed. "I want to be like them."

"You don't need to be. Try not to worry about it," Freed whispered.

"Please," Bixlow added.

"I'll try not to..." Evergreen sighed again. "It's just so hard..."

"We know," the two boys said at the same time as they hugged her more.

There was a knock at the door. With a sigh, Freed stood up to retrieve the food. He brought it in, and they started eating. Freed and Bixlow tried very hard not to look like they're watching what Evergreen eats and Evergreen forced herself to eat and not be annoyed.

"Okay that's enough staring, I can eat you know," she pointed out in frustration just after she finished the soup. They jumped and looked away, a light blush on their faces.

"Sorry," they muttered in unison as they focused on their food. She sighed.

"I know you care and I know you're worried... it's just really hard to eat with you staring at me." They both winced. "I'll try and if I have more problems I'll try to bring it up instead of eating less again, alright?"

"That will have to do I suppose," Freed agreed reluctantly. "There's just no good way to go about this is there?" She shook her head.

"I don't think so... I'm sorry for snapping."

"No no, it's fine. We know it's hard on you Ever, we just want to see you healthy and happy," Freed stated. She smiled.

"I know. I'm glad to know you care though. That helps a lot."

The rest of dinner was silent. But it wasn't a tense silence or an awkward silence. It was just the silence of the three friends, in siblings in all but blood, enjoying their companionship and relaxing. There was a few joking pokes and prods trying to get each other to drop some of their food. All were grinning when they finished eating.

Evergreen sprawled on the bed again while Freed took the couch and Bixlow the floor between them. They were silent for a moment, debating on what subject to talk about. Then Evergreen spoke up.

"You know... if Lucy is willing... I think we should ask her to join our team," she said cautiously. Freed gaped at her and Bixlow's babies fell with a small thud when he lost his concentration on them. He had been doing a small exercise he liked to do with them when he was bored.

"Seriously?" he asked incredulously as he helped his babies back up. "I don't think it's a bad idea... I just..."

"Wonder if you're really willing to tell her about your past and problems, since she'll have to know," Freed finished. Evergreen blinked and then thought about it for a moment.

"Considering what we've done, what Laxus did, and how she's treated us... I don't think she'll be upset or that it'll change much," she commented thoughtfully. "But we can wait to decide until after the mission if you're still uncertain," she added, smirking as the two threw mild glares her direction for picking out that they were uneasy about sharing their past with Lucy as well.

"We'll see," Freed responded with a sigh. "Depends on what happens and how she gets along with us if we have to fight and all that."

"Yeah. I don't know if I even could tell her..." Bixlow admitted quietly. Evergreen sighed.

"Alright, we can wait. But I'm sure it'll be no problem, Lucy isn't the type to pity or hate people for what they've been through." She tried to sound confident but kind failed.

"We'll wait and see... but I do agree she could make a nice addition to the team," Freed commented.

"Of course she would!" Bixlow agreed enthusiastically. Evergreen laughed at their antics and rolled her eyes.

"And it has nothing to do with you two liking her does it?" she said teasingly as they went pink.

"Oh shut up Ever..." Bixlow groaned. "It does and it doesn't!" He looked at Freed pleadingly.

"It'd be nice to have her on the team because we like her yes, but we also know she would be decent enough not to make things awkward if something happened in that field. She also has good qualities, such as intelligence, strength in many ways, and a good magic," Freed explained, a hint of pink still present on his cheeks. Evergreen just grinned.

"Sure, just keep telling yourself that," she teased. They groaned again. "In all seriousness though... would that work? Her leaving her current team and joining ours?" Both Bixlow and Freed considered it.

"I think it would," Freed said slowly. "That team is getting too big. It cuts down the reward a lot, and she often complains about needing money for rent. We also don't wreck much property so less reward loss and we've seen what Natsu thinks of her." Bixlow scowled.

"She's not weak at all, doesn't need any protection! It'd be like us trying to protect you Ever," he added to make his point. She scowled.

"Don't you dare, I can take care of myself." It took her a moment of them staring to realize that that was the point. "Right, sorry."

"She does well when she's in a fight, she's just overshadowed by her teammates who have more experience and more showy magic. I think she could work well with us, she works well with her spirits for sure..." Freed mused aloud.

"I think she's missing something though," Bixlow said suddenly. "She can't use magic with her eyes like we can." Evergreen tilted her head.

"No... she can't. Is that a problem?" she asked, a bit confused. Freed seemed to get it though.

"Not really, but it is who we are, all three of us use eye magic of some sort, so it would make sense to have her learn it as well," Freed explained.

"Oooooh. That makes sense. I think she'd like that, actually. Do you know how to... oh right you did your eye yourself, you know how," Evergreen finished sheepishly as Bixlow and Freed laughed at her. She reached behind her and tossed a pillow at each of them. Freed let it hit him and then put it behind his head. Bixlow grabbed the one thrown at him and placed it on the floor.

"For now let's wait and see how things go," Freed decided.

Things had dissolved into random conversations, sometimes veering off into what they could do to train. They lost track of time a few times, but every time they remembered to check it they were surprised Lucy and Laxus weren't back yet. Finally, the two did return, Laxus with a slight smile and Lucy smiling widely. They had obviously just finished a conversation.

"What took so long?" Evergreen asked when it became obvious none of the others were going to say something.

"We lost track of time," Lucy responded cheerfully. "I was showing him my new book." She was holding onto it tightly. Laxus went and sat on his bed, relaxing and laying back after a moment.

"What book?" Freed asked curiously. She hesitated and then tossed it to him. He caught it and then looked at it. He blinked a few times. His mouth hung open slightly as he started flipping through the pages. "Where did you get this?" he queried as he kept looking at it in fascination. She grinned.

"My last mission, the client wanted to give me a bigger reward but I declined, instead he gave me that book since it's been gathering dust," she explained as she sat down next to Evergreen on the other bed.

"It must be incredibly rare," Freed commented in awe as he stared at it longingly. Laxus sighed and rolled his eyes as he sat back up.

"Let Lucy finish it, Freed," he remarked in exasperation.

"But... but..." Freed gaped at him and then at the book. "It's so intriguing..." Bixlow grabbed the book from him suddenly. Freed jumped and then tried to snatch it back. And failed as Bixlow held it out of reach.

"It's not your book! It's cosplay girl's!" Bixlow protested loudly, grinning. Freed sighed and looked down, looking like a kicked puppy.

"But I want to read the secrets of dragon slaying magic!" he objected passionately. Lucy watched with a faint smile on her face. Freed was amusing when it came to books and he did look pretty cute being so disappointed.

"You can borrow it when I'm done," she promised sincerely, grinning as he perked up. He looked surprised at the offer. "And until then you can ask any questions you want." She grinned as he looked ready to jump up and cheer. He barely held himself back from doing something so undignified for a bit. This was a side she had never seen of Freed, and she liked it.

"Thank you!" He jumped up and hugged her, looking like a kid getting a treat. Evergreen and Laxus chuckled, used to his antics when it came to books. Bixlow was surprised, though he didn't show it.

'Freed usually doesn't act that way unless he's comfortable with what's going on.' Bixlow reconsidered his surprise. 'Should have seen that coming with his crush on Lucy.'

"Is Freed always this excitable when it comes to books?" Lucy asked the others with a grin as Freed released her sheepishly, blushing a dark shade of pink.

"Yes," the other three chorused.

"Especially when it comes to books he hasn't read yet. He devours them," Laxus added, with a small smile at the scene. 'Definitely teasing material for later.' He thought to himself. Freed blushed a bit more.

"Sorry, Lucy," he apologized. Lucy shook her head.

"It's fine, no need to apologize, I just never thought I'd meet someone who loves books more than I do," Lucy responded, smiling and earnest. Freed smiled and opened his mouth to speak, but Evergreen beat him to it.

"Well this is nice... but I think we need to focus on what we're doing tomorrow," she pointed out drily with a smirk.

"I don't need to worry about anything, I just need to patrol, right?" Bixlow questioned while Freed and Lucy recovered from the sudden subject change.

"I think it would still be best for you to come along to meet the client," Freed responded thoughtfully. "So you know exactly what to look for."

"What time then?" Laxus inquired as he checked the current time. Freed thought it over for a moment.

"I think around 11 would work out. We would be there for the meeting, you can then go to patrolling, while we head to the room assigned to us as rich guests."

"That gives us enough time for shopping!" Evergreen commented excitedly. Laxus and Freed groaned.

"Well, we're going to try to look like rich people, right?" They nodded reluctantly. "Then we need to dress the part, shouldn't be too hard, all three of you can act in the right way most of the time." Lucy grinned at their faces. "Just act snobby, and you'll get along fine with the company... hmm... might need to call Virgo for some jewelry though..." she mused.

"What time do you think we should go shopping then?" Laxus asked resignedly.

"Oh... 8 should be good, some stores are open then." Lucy smiled as all the boys sighed in disappointment at not being able to sleep in.

"I think we should get some rest then, considering the time," Laxus pointed out. Everyone turned and checked.

"Well, good night then." Lucy stood up and stretched before retrieving her book. "I shall see you in the morning." She left the room.

"Good night," Evergreen said softly before going and hugging each of her friends. They let her and even hugged back, it was just something they did often. Then she too left the room, leaving the three boys to get ready for bed.

Lucy snuggled into the blankets of her bed. It wasn't the most comfortable, but she'd slept on worse... such as the ground. She heard Evergreen get into the other bed, and let her curiosity get the better of her.

"Evergreen... Why do you act so haughty and arrogant around other people?" she asked softly, turning her head to the other girl. She could barely see her in the light. Evergreen froze.

"What? Why do you ask?" Evergreen countered in a slight panic. Lucy sighed.

"I was just wondering, you haven't really acted like that much today. And all that arrogant attitude does is drive people away you know," she added sleepily.

"Oh... didn't think of it that way..." Evergreen mumbled as she mulled over those words.

"Just thought you should know." Lucy yawned and pulled the blankets tighter around her. There was silence for a bit.

"I was just trying to protect myself," Evergreen whispered suddenly, startling Lucy awake from drifting asleep. "I never realized it would drive people away too."

"That makes sense," Lucy responded quietly. "It's hard finding a way to act that protects you and yet allows you to make friends, isn't it?" she observed.

"Yeah... it is... how do you know?" Evergreen asked curiously, propping her head up.

"I go through the same thing all the time," Lucy admitted softly. "I almost adopted your way when I came to Fairy Tail." She yawned.

"Really? I... I didn't expect that from you," Evergreen divulged uncertainly as she removed her glasses and set them on the bedside table.

"Just a mask, like yours, and the ones I'm sure the others wear to." Lucy yawned again. "I'm sorry, can we discuss this another time? I'm kind of tired."

"Oh, right, that's why we're in bed... in the dark," Evergreen responded sheepishly. "Good night, Lucy."

"Good night, Evergreen. I hope we can be friends," Lucy whispered before she rolled over and drifted off into sleep.

Evergreen stared at her blearily for a while. After a while, a smile grew on her face at the idea.

"Friends... I hope so too," she whispered to the night. She fell asleep with that same smile on her face.

A/N. Okay it's been longer than I intended at all. I have a lot of reasons, and they're not meant to be excuses. It sums up to being tired of writing after reaching 50000 words, then going to Florida, then freaking out at the mess mom made in the kitchen I had cleaned before leaving but was a disaster when I got home, the winter depression symptoms setting in (being more tired and unmotivated than usual), and being sick on and off with a persistent cold on top of that. Oh and my birthday was in January. But nothing excuses laziness in the end, and that's what it boils down to. I was just plain lazy, I didn't write anything except one poem. And admittedly I did get stuck in writing this chapter. But now I'm back.

And fun fact. I wrote this chapter while listening to either Tangled (the movie) or the Frozen soundtrack. And there is a small section written while bowling. I got three strikes in a row during that time. That was awesome.

On another note, I've gone through my plans for this story in more detail, and it will eventually become completely AU from what I know of what happens in the anime/manga. I have read the manga up to the end of the Naval Battle chapter. And based on the spoilers I've found in fanfiction and on the wiki, I know it's going to be totally AU. Which makes me feel better about my plans for the Grand Magic Games, which is the point I see it diverging completely. If you don't like it when stories diverge from canon too much, I suggest you don't continue reading and keep comments if you do continue to yourself.