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She was late.

Again.

It wasn't a surprise, he was used to being one of the last ones to be picked up from school. That's just how it was, it was part of their new routine. Every morning she'd pull up to the front of the school, indulge him with the fantasy of a timely pick-up, and refuse to unlock his door until she got her goodbye kiss.

He wondered if she ever got tired of the charade.

He had accepted a long time ago that he was number two on her to-do list. Work had skyrocketed to the top once the ink on the divorce papers dried. She needed to work a lot so she could afford his school and so he could "keep his friends", at least that's what she said. That little spiel had also become part of their routine. Maybe it made her feel better about her consistent absences from his soccer games and school concerts.

Not like she cares. She misses out on a lot.

"Can I go to your house, dad?"

"It's your mother's week." Jellal stated practically, a hint of an apology clear in his tone. He gave his son a thoughtful glance before turning back to the road.

That was a no.

The younger man leaned his head against the window, watching the rain splatter against the glass. The quiet hum of the heat, and the rasping of the windshield wipers made the silence bearable.

Several minutes passed like that.


"You know," Jellal began.

Here we go. Every time.

"Erz—your mother loves you…A lot."

"She has a funny way of showing it," he muttered.

"Mind your mother," Jellal gave his son a warning look as he pulled into the driveway.

He chewed on his bottom lip, trying to sort through his jumbled emotions. If his dad cared so much about his mom, why did they get a divorce? He felt the familiar sensation of tears stinging at the corners of his eyes, and immediately willed them away before looking over at his dad.

"Don't give your grandma too much trouble, and do your homework." Jellal smiled ruffling the mop of dark blue hair atop his son's head. "All of your homework."

"I will," he feigned a smiled. "Goodnight, dad."

Jellal turned to give his son a hug but stopped short and stared out the window at the mailbox, his lips pressing into a solid line.

The mailbox no longer said 'Fernandes'.

"Scarlet's a better fit anyway," Jellal laughed under his breath, cutting the silence.

Tears rolled down his son's cheeks unrestrained. He hated this divorce, he hated his mom, and now he hated that stupid mailbox.

Chapter Text

Gajeel didn't have much interest in the arts but when Rogue came home after spending Christmas with his mother, the boy was consumed by all things ballet. Gajeel enrolled him at the local studio a week after that. He figured the classes would be good for Rogue anyway, since he preferred the company of their two cats to kids his own age. To say Gajeel was worried about him was an understatement. Ballet was as good an option as any, and Rogue seemed to be enjoying it.

"On the floor, s'il vous plait."

The sound of hurried feet bounced off the walls of the small studio. The ballet mistress smiled at the line of parents before turning back to their children who were now seated on the floor. She raised a reprimanding finger, and Gajeel watched Rogue and a blonde boy scurry from the back of the group to the front. His son peeked at him with an excited smile that Gajeel returned.

When they finished stretching, the children hopped from their places on the floor and ran over to their parents.

"Dad!" Rogue cheered jumping into Gajeel's arms.

"You were really somethin', squirt!" Gajeel held his son tight before pulling away to brush the bangs out of the boy's face. He smiled down at him admiring the familiar features—he was nearly a tiny version of him, though his personality was much more comparable to Gajeel's ex-fiancée's. The toothy grin Rogue gave his dad immediately disappeared when Gajeel licked his thumb and rubbed off a smudge on Rogue's cheek.

"Daaaaad!" Rogue whined, eliciting a chuckle from Gajeel. "You're gonna embarrass me in front of my friend." He pouted.

"Friend?" Gajeel glanced over at the blonde boy being doted on by the instructor. "What's the kid's name?"

Rogue quickly brightened, "Sting! He's the only other boy in this class, and he's really funny!"

"I see," Gajeel gently pulled his son's hair from his bun, tousling the inky strands. "You've become a little chatter box cause of your friend, huh? Is that why you two had to go to the front?" He teased gently.

"No," Rogue lied, smiling sheepishly as he nestled back into his father's embrace.

"They weren't too bad today, actually." The instructor said standing before the two of them. Sting stood flushed against her leg, holding her hand. She extended her hand, "Mr. Redfox, I presume?"

Gajeel rose from his seat, shaking her hand firmly.

"Yes!" Gajeel answered with surprising nervousness rising in his tone; he hadn't expected to be so caught off guard by the pair of dark emerald eyes that stared back at him. "Gaje—er, you can call me Gajeel, Mrs…?"

"Ms. Orlando. You may call me, Minerva." She took her hand back, laughing softly. It was the most heavenly sound Gajeel had ever heard. The corners of his lips pulled into a smile.

Maybe ballet was going to be good for him too.

Chapter Text

Rogue raised his arm and stared at his wedding ring, his brows furrowed in thought.

It had been like this for weeks. He hadn't been able to sleep and it was starting to get to him, though he'd never admit it (even though it was clear to his husband). Usually Sting would grumble something along the lines of 'go to fucking sleep', or placate his worried spouse by pulling him into his arms. Rogue loved being the smaller spoon, sleep just came easier that way.

Tonight was different, however.

"I don't think this is going to work." Rogue spoke softly. He brought his hand down to his chest and anxiously played with his ring.

It was quiet but he knew Sting heard him, Sting couldn't sleep either.

"You have to give it time," Sting moaned into the pillow. "These things don't work overnight."

There was another pause in the conversation which was a good sign in Sting's mind, but it didn't last long.

"Maybe we made a mistake?" Rogue rolled over on his side towards Sting, his brows heavy with worry. He reached out to touch his back, watching it steadily rise and fall, but pulled back at the last minute. "I think we moved too fast…" He whispered.

"You're the one who said, 'yes'?"

"I didn't mean it."

The silence was thick.

Rogue looked away when Sting turned to glare at him. Sting could see something that looked like remorse flicker over Rogue's features, but he couldn't be sure in the current lighting. He sat up and turned on the bedside lamp with a heavy sigh. Pressing his back against the headboard, Sting crossed his arms. The past several weeks hadn't been any easier on Sting, the lack of sleep combined with listening to Rogue's incessant indecision were affecting his patience. He thought it would have ended by now, and yet here they were.

He cleared his throat, and steadied his voice.

"Rogue," Sting began. His annoyance dissipated as soon as he saw his husband looking at him with pleading eyes—he didn't stand a chance. He released a frustrated breath, squeezing his eyes shut.

"Just hear me out," Rogue squeezed Sting's arm. Sting didn't respond but Rogue took it as a good sign when the other man let him pull his hand from its crossed position. Rogue brought Sting's hand to his cheek, closing is eyes and reveling in his touch.

"What's there to hear? You wanna stop," Sting laughed slightly.

Rogue sat upright, "what, and you don't?" He asked indignantly. "We've been sleepless for weeks!"

"I've gotten plenty of sleep!" Sting lied snatching his hand back.

"Bullshit," Rogue groaned, gently shoving his husband. "The twins crying has been unbearable! They don't like their beds, and—"

"You've become grumpier because of it."

Rogue shoved him again.

Sting chuckled and shook his head, "everyone says ya need to tough it out. Yukino said tough it out, and you know—"

"Minerva can glare anyone into submission! I'm sure she's intimidated their children into compliance!"

Sting rolled his eyes, and turned off the lamp before sinking back to the bed, "you're delirious."

Rogue stood from the bed in a huff, and stomped over to the dresser. He mumbled to himself as he searched for a shirt.

Sting sighed, ready to conciliate, "what are you doing?"

"I'm getting the babies," Rogue stepped into a pair of sweats.

"What!" Sting jumped up, hastily pulling on his sweatpants before Rogue could leave the room. "Don't go soft on me now! We have to stick to the plan!"

"Fuck the plan!" Rogue stomped towards the door but was jerked back and found himself on the floor. He glared up at Sting as a shadowy aura surrounded him, "move or be moved."

Sting smiled sweetly as he straddled him, "we're not sleeping with the twins tonight."

Rogue stammered for a moment, his false anger subdued, and his shadows absorbed back into him. He crossed his arms looking off to the side, realizing what Sting was doing. "You almost had me."

"Almost? I had you," Sting smirked.

He had to commend Sting for his efforts. Rogue's hands came over his face as he whimpered, "how can you stand to listen to their suffering?"

"I always knew you'd be the soft one." Sting sighed, pulling Rogue's hands from over his face. "Cool it. They fell asleep around this time last night," he soothed.

Rogue was about to concede when their bedroom door was slowly opened. He sat up and Sting turned to see their five year old daughter walk in. Her pigtails were askew, and her night shift hung off one shoulder as she rubbed one sleep-heavy eye.

Sting jumped up from Rogue's lap and crouched in front of the little girl. "What's the matter, sweetie?"

"I had a scary dream," she sniffled.

"Hey, it's ok! Come here." Sting embraced the little girl and she clung to him desperately seeking comfort.

Rogue stared on in disbelief.

"Can I sleep with you and papa?" She looked up at Sting with big teary eyes.

"Of course, honey! Of course you can sleep with us!" He held her tight before looking over at Rogue with a guilty smile.

Rogue smirked getting to his feet. He patted his daughter's head and smiled down at Sting. "I'll get the twins."

The little girl smiled, "Its a slumber party! I'll sleep in the middle!"

"NO!" Sting and Rogue yelled. Sting managed to grab her mid-jump and set her on the floor.

"Daddies don't want me no more?" She whimpered looking down.

"No, no! Of course we want you!" Sting comforted her.

"Just uh…help daddy change the sheets." Rogue supplied, sharing a look with Sting.

"Ok!" She instantly perked up and ran to their linen closet.


Several minutes passed before Rogue entered the dark room with their two exhausted toddlers in tote.

"Pst, twins coming in," he whispered making his way to the bed.

Sting stirred and lifted their daughter up from the middle. He patted the now empty space in the middle and turned on his side, holding their eldest in his arms as he drifted back to sleep. Rogue deposited the two snoring toddlers down onto the bed and unbuttoned the first three buttons on their pink frog onesies. He got into bed besides them and smirked at Sting's back.

"Guess I'm not the only soft dad in this relationship."

"Go to fucking sleep."

Chapter Text

How long had he been there?

If his numbness and fatigue were any indicator, it was far too long. But then again, he'd been feeling numb and fatigued for a while now. His limbs felt absent the way limbs tended to after prolonged idleness. What was the euphemism? They'd gone dead?

Fitting.

The doors at the back of the room opened with a weary creak. Light rushed in, illuminating the dim space, and the rows of empty chairs. The carpet absorbed the sound of the advancing footsteps. He didn't move to acknowledge them, instead he stared straight ahead and closed his eyes when they stopped at the end of the row he was in.

"Sir," an elderly voice prodded.

Gajeel didn't respond. A small part of him hoping that if he neglected the man, he would be able to remain there, numb to the world.

Another voice spoke up.

"Gajeel."

He'd recognize it anywhere.

"It's late. Juvia should get you home."

"We open at 8am tomorrow." The other voice added, as if it were consolation.

Gajeel barely glanced up. "Where are they?" His hand moved sluggishly over the chair besides him.

"Lucy and Natsu took the twins for the night," Juvia supplied. "It was no trouble. They were fast asleep." She reassured, gripping his shoulder firmly.

He managed a weak nod.

"Sir," the voice gently nudged before Juvia shooed him away. The man's footsteps faded into nothingness, and that provided Gajeel with an odd sense of comfort.

Juvia offered her hand. He didn't feel himself rise or take the few steps necessary, but he found himself standing right in front of her—Juvia pressed firmly against his side.

Levy's hair was still in its usual wild waves, free from her typically colorful headbands. Her skin still looked flush, and her lips held the faintest ghost of a smile. Her hands were clasped over her stomach, her wedding band shining in the dim light.

She looked as if she was sleeping.

Gajeel shut his eyes releasing a trembling breath. Juvia's hand wrapped around his waist, steadying him before he knew he needed the extra support. She had always been good for that—always so damn reliable and hyper aware to a fault—consistently knowing what he needed before he did.

He didn't realize he was speaking but saw Juvia nodding from his peripheral. They both reached up, his hand stilling over the polished wood of the casket before they slowly closed it. It made a dull sound that he was sure would plague him for the rest of his days. How could it sound so hollow when it held the most precious thing he had ever known?

He felt Juvia grip his arm, steadying his weight as it shifted again.

"Gajeel..."

He mindlessly tapped his fingers against the polished wood and inhaled a shaky breath.

"You're gonna have to teach me how to do her hair." His weak attempt at lightheartedness caught in his throat, as did his laugh which came out as a strangled sob.

Juvia's grip tightened and she pressed a guiding hand on the middle of his back, steering him towards the door. She held him in silence, as they walked into the night rain.

She'd be back with him at 8am.

Chapter Text

"It's a right after the light."

"R-right!"

This was the fourth date that had ended with Lisanna in the passenger seat sitting in silence. Somehow all these "nice guys" tended to find themselves at a loss for words once they realized she had a kid. The date would come to a swift end, followed by an awkward car ride, culminating in the promise of a text (even though they both knew it was a lie).

She had given up on her dating prospects, but Lucy insisted she had someone perfect for her. Lisanna wasn't buying it, and became even more skeptical when she realized it was one of Natsu's old friends. As nice as Natsu was, she wasn't sure if she'd hit it off with any of his buddies. Lucy remained relentless, even offering to babysit. Eventually Lisanna caved.

Bickslow was a great guy and pretty hilarious; their conversation flowed naturally, and left her sore from laughing. She couldn't remember the last time she had had so much fun on a date! It had been going well until Lucy called to tell Lisanna her daughter had gotten sick. After that Bickslow's entire demeanor changed, and she knew she had freaked him out.

Lisanna lurched forward, bracing her hands on the dash, as the car jerked to a stop.

"Sorry about that," Bickslow said looking off to the side, no doubt trying to avoid her annoyed expression. "Didn't realize there was no turn on red here…" his hands tapped nervously on the steering wheel.

She hummed, acknowledging his apology, and they fell back into silence. His shift in behavior didn't surprise her, lots of people didn't like the idea of dating someone who had children. Knowing that, however, didn't ease her disappointment.

It remained quiet, minus her giving the occasional direction, until he turned onto a residential road. Lisanna pointed out the window, "it's the white house with the green mailbox."

He pulled up to the curb, and smiled at her. "This was nice."

"Yeah," she replied absently, fishing for her keys.

That caught him off guard, and he wondered if he had read the vibe wrong. He immediately straightened up and rubbed at the back of his neck. "I uh…it was just tonight was pretty fun, and I…I think we should do it again."

Finally grabbing hold of her keys, she feigned a smile. "You don't have to do this."

"Do what?"

"You don't have to say that to make me feel better," she sighed getting out of the car. "You've been quiet since Lucy called, it's ok. Have a good night, Bickslow."

"Hey, wait!" He hastily unbuckled himself and ran around the front of the car. He stopped short, feeling his cheeks heat when Lisanna turned back to him. "It's not like that. I'd actually like to see you again."

Was he being serious? Her eyes widened in realization. "Oh." She adjusted the strap on her bag awkwardly and averted her gaze, "you just seemed a little…quiet when I mentioned my daughter."

"What? Nah!" Bickslow's face brightened, "babies are great, I have five of my own!" He laughed waving his hand.

Lisanna's eyebrows rose into her hairline. He hadn't mentioned that on their date.

Bickslow's laugh hitched as he seemed to realize the implications of what he had just said. "Not baby babies!" He clarified shaking his head, "though there's nothing wrong with baby babies! Babies are great! I just don't have any!"

"Uh huh." She gently teased, a smile blossoming over her face.

"Dog walker remember?" He asked, still frantic. He raised his phone after pulling up a picture and pointed at it in a desperate attempt to save his fumble. "Those're my babies."

Leaning forward she examined the photo and sure enough it was Bickslow surrounded by several dogs, all of their tongues out. Lisanna laughed into her hand, "they look like a handful."

"Aw, they're not so bad." He smiled fondly at the picture before tucking his phone back in his pocket. "Maybe you can meet them sometime?"

Her face lit up.

"I'd love to."

Chapter Text

Gajeel Redfox would have liked to have avoid being hit again. According to the illuminated disc in the middle of his vest he couldn't take another shot. Maybe if it wasn't a direct hit but with the enemy he was facing, he couldn't be certain the next shot wouldn't hit its intended mark. He gritted his teeth, feeling the sweat trickle down the side of his face. A desert wasteland was the last place he wanted to be, but the mission called for it. Today's heat was made that much more unbearable with the sun directly overhead, not a cloud in sight.

Gajeel crouched down against one of the vacant mud-brick homes, just under the window that was carved into the side. The dirt was less compact where he squatted, causing him to slip down against the wall of the building. He lifted his helmet a bit to swipe the sweat from his brow, securely bringing his hand back to the grip of the rifle. He could feel the loose strands of his braid clinging uncomfortably to his neck. Two low beeps sounded from a thin black bracelet on his right wrist. Edging his fingers under his helmet, he pressed his earpiece.

"General." His voice was low.

"You're doing well, Lieutenant General Redfox. You disabled my air fleet, and managed to immobilize my ground mechs." The woman's voice would have been congratulatory if it hadn't been so distinctly playful.

"Trying to flirt your way out of this?" Gajeel loaded his assault rifle and held it close. He edged low against the wall, maintaining his crouch.

She hummed over the headset, "was it too obvious?"

"You're about as subtle as a hernia, Lev."

"General," she corrected.

Gajeel cleared his throat, subduing a smile, "sorry, General."

"Redfox?"

He tensed. Had she spotted him?

Peering around the wall he surveyed the area before leaning back into the coverage the wall provided. It was clear, but there was no telling where the hell the General was. He pulled the bandana from over his nose, leaving it around his neck, desperate for some relief from the heat. It was sweltering, but taking a break would be a foolish mistake. Quickly, he pushed off the wall, and ran into one of the empty dwellings. He rested against the inner walls and sighed heavily.

Levy McGarden was the General of the Asheulean Army, the strongest standing army in all of Gaia. Levy was greatly respected and feared for her unassuming presence on the battlefield, as well as her impenetrable concentration (it was this same concentration that afforded her a victory in a chess match with the leader of Asheule).

Gajeel adjusted his bandana. Which Levy would he get today?

He needed more coverage. He couldn't possibly land a shot on Levy if he remained this exposed. "General," he finally responded.

"What do you want them to tell your family when I send your remains?"

Gajeel involuntarily shivered—serious, concentrated Levy it is. He peered through the window, keeping low. There was a building just a few feet from him. Fatigue was going to overcome him soon if he didn't make his move. He held the rifle perpendicular to his body and sprinted toward the back of the building, maintaining a low crouch. Raising his weapon, he hugged the outer walls before slowly creeping in to survey the room. After further inspection he found the room was completely empty minus the occasional creak of the old floorboards, and the sounds of scurrying.

The house was rundown but unlike the others, this one had remnants of occupants. Just beyond the entryway stood an archway surrounded by wilted plants, deserted and forgotten in their owners' urgency to escape the house. Gajeel clung to the shadows, moving towards the window just beyond the archway, draped in what appeared to be torn burlap.

The fatigue was beginning to get to him, the intensity of this missions far from what he had expected to face today. No one could say Gajeel was less than adaptive, he met every attack, and blockade with a skilled finesse. Brushing the curtains back, he peered out the window and caught glimpse of what appeared to be the edge of one of the general's hairbands. She was just in sight and if he worked quickly, he knew he could take her out. Kneeling off to the side of the window, he rested the barrel partially on the window, allowing just the tip of the muzzle brake to be exposed to the dry outside air. He braced the butt stock against himself before tilting his head to peer into the scope. Yup, that was definitely her. She was well over 100 yards away, but with any luck, he'd make the shot. He managed to keep himself hidden behind the curtains. While it wasn't the most comfortable position, he needed the vantage point and the coverage if he had any hope of winning. Steadying his grip, he pressed his left hand up to his earpiece, "tell them I lived."

Gajeel brought his finger to the trigger, ready to squeeze. If he were able to take out General McGarden…his mouth wet at the thought. While Levy possessed much more field experience and knowledge than Gajeel, he was one of the most versed in military strategy. All he needed was for Levy to move over just an inch and he could get a clear shot—

He stopped abruptly, feeling the hairs on his neck stand up as the weight of the floor behind him shifted.

"Always an optimist." There was a bit of playfulness in her voice. Levy removed the safety from her pistol, , "drop your weapon."

Gajeel could feel the color leave his face, and he released his rifle. He slowly placed his hands on the floor, "fuck!" He lost.

"Oh, come on!" Levy teased tapping Gajeel's fingers with her boot. "Look at me, I want to see your face."

Maintaining his kneeling position, he turned toward her, raising his hands "How…?" Gajeel gritted out, his eyes were an intense glare that bore into Levy's and if the General had been a weaker person, she would have succumbed to it. Instead it elicited a laugh, and a smirk from the petite woman.

Levy pressed the gun to the middle of Gajeel's vest, "any last words?"

"Long live the Asheulean Army."

"Long live the Asheulean Army."

The gun discharged, and a loud bang preceded the flash of bright red on Gajeel's vest. The disc in the middle of the vest lit up casting a small light onto Levy's knee guards.

"Desert simulation over: General Levy McGarden, victorious."

Gajeel moaned at the automated announcement that filled the room they were in. How had he lost? What kind of rookie left their back exposed? He had checked the entire room, and yet he was taken at close range. He came to his feet, dusting himself off and released another groan. Gajeel was going to run this simulation through his head for the next couple of months. How had he let Levy sneak up on him? Massive oversight.

Levy laughed softly to herself and began to make her way towards the simulator exit. Gajeel pulled off his helmet allowing his wet bangs to fall limply onto his forehead before he brushed them away. "General?" Gajeel grabbed his rifle and headed out after her, "General McGarden!"

"Isn't it a lovely day for a simulation, Gajeel? Though they could have lowered the temperature some! Cerro barely gets this hot, and even then at least there's some decent cloud coverage." She slowed her pace once Gajeel's heavy footsteps caught up to her. She laughed into her hand. "But honestly, who leaves their back so exposed to snipe with an AR of all things?"

Gajeel remained quiet as he got in step with Levy, he was still flustered by both the comment and the slight effort it took to catch up. Levy glanced up at him, still in the grips of laughter, which only caused Gajeel to smile sheepishly. She was right, he should have been more cautious and tactical. For now he'd blame it on his current state of exhaustion (it was probably this same exhaustion that made him think Levy would ever be foolish enough to leave herself open for a sniper).

"I can assure you it'll never happen again, General." Gajeel offered a genuine smile as they exited the simulator.

Levy scoffed, her lips betraying her as they curved into a smile. "I look forward to it, Gajeel."

Chapter Text

In the many iterations of their souls, Lucy usually notices Natsu first. There's an inexplicable warmth to him she can't quite put her finger on—his presence is a bright flame that draws her in. Their love instantly binds them, pulling and consuming them in an intense blaze.

Sometimes Natsu is the first to notice Lucy. In those lifetimes, their love is a slow crescendo that builds to a climax so passionate and intense it's impossible to ignore.

And rarely do they ignore it.

They were soulmates, it was hard for them to disregard the intense pull that drew them towards each other. It was a powerful force that totally consumed them, and in less forgiving cycles left them fraught. Soulmates had the privilege of never truly being separated, no matter how far apart they may be.

In the many iterations of their souls, they are usually there to help the other carry the weight of their love.

Usually.

Sometimes they miss each other.

It had happened at random one day when Lucy stood on the train platform, waiting for her train into work when she looked up from her phone and spotted him. This stranger across the way, standing right across from her, separated by tracks and traveling in opposite directions. She could feel the tears sting at the corners of her eyes—he looked the same as the day they had first met. An instantaneous and overwhelming warmth urged her towards the stranger the more and more she stared.

When he looked up from his phone the warmth intensified and Lucy found herself taking a step towards him, desperate to fall face first into that familiar flame.

The sharp tug of her collar pulled her back from the edge of the platform as the train sped through with a harsh gust of wind. Lucy paid no mind to the worried voices that immediately surrounded her apparent attempted train suicide. She got to her feet and desperately looked through the windows of the train car to the platform across the way. He was nowhere to be found, and his warmth had left with him.

Lucy took her seat in the corner, eyes downcast, and desperate to feel that warmth once again.

XXXX

When the connection is instantaneous, they both feel their inexplicable longing finally wash away.

"I finally found you," Natsu groans entering the small storefront.

"Ah, you're the one who called for the special order of silver paint, right?"

Natsu offers an exhausted nod before resting his head on the counter.

"I'll go fetch it for you," the petite woman says before disappearing to the back. A few minutes later a blonde woman takes her place, holding a medium-sized can, dried flaking paint covering her hands.

In this lifetime, Natsu immediately feels the warmth between them. When he rises off the counter to look into her eyes, he can see the millions of lifetimes they have lived together and the many more they have yet to live.

Lucy can feel it build up so quickly and so suddenly she loses her grip on the can. She doesn't react when the other woman runs in, frantic to mitigate the mess and save the paint. Lucy's concentration is too deeply ensnared by the stranger she has never met before.

In this lifetime, Natsu is also the one to break their deafening silence.

"I finally found you."

XXXX

There are cycles where friendship flourishes in the place of romance—the strength of their platonic connection just as immovable as their romantic ones.

In the instances their love stays grounded, constrained by circumstances beyond their control—someone gets married young, separated by locale, another dies before they can meet—their longing fizzles out to a deep, poignant numbness.

In the cycles where death prematurely separates them, neither of them are ever truly the same afterward.

Lucy pulls the young boy in, smiling as he nestles himself into her side as they continue to stare up. The little boy sneaks a look at his mother, "mama?"

"Hm?"

"Do you think papa is watching us too?"

Lucy can hardly pull herself to look into his big brown eyes but somehow she manages. "I am sure he is watching all of us." She ruffles his pink hair before taking his small hand and placing it on her expanding belly.

The little boy's face is absolutely aglow, and he presses his lips to his mother's stomach. "Hear that, Jay? You'll meet papa!"

Lucy's eyes are overflowing as she turns back to the expansive heavens, "I can't wait to meet you again."

The twinkle of a shooting star flashes and disappears.

XXXX

They don't always meet or end on amicable terms. Sometimes the passion burns so intensely it hurts to be around the other, no matter how hard they try to hold on. In these cycles neither come out unscathed, but they always manage to continue on—injured sheep in the flock.

The next iteration found them as teenagers on a gondola in the middle of an amusement park. The sky was dark, and twinkling with the lights of several rides and attractions. Lucy's heart hammered in her chest, sitting in silence on opposite sides of the lift as they continued their ascent.

It was the most romantic place in their city, and also the site where they had just ended their relationship. By the time they realized what was happening, they were already next in line and just made their way into the car.

Lucy peered out the window, silent as she took in the view, never wanting the moment to end, when Natsu whispered something that confused her.

"I can't wait to meet you again."

XXXX

Fortunately, fate seems to favor their connection.

The next time Lucy sees him, he's in the crowd of her show where she's trying to get him to come down and assist her. In that large blur of people one stands out. Lucy doesn't know if its the wide grin, or the contrast of his loud pink hair against his olive skin, but she can't look away and neither can he.

And when he is done descending the stairs of the large circus arena, she's overwhelmed by that familiar warmth she had been unknowingly longing for.

XXXX

In all the lifetimes Lucy has lived, she can always remember a fondness for the stars. Oftentimes it's borne in her—something so natural she can't deny—and other times Natsu helps her discover her love of the heavens. She can vaguely recall the moments they shared under the stars, enjoying each other's company. There was always a sense they had been doing it for a while—not just stargazing, but being in the other's presence.

Nothing felt more like home.

"Hey, there. No need to cry, sweetheart." Lucy scoops her daughter into her arms, and presses a kiss to the small girl's forehead. She shares a knowing look with Natsu who smiles behind his cup.

"But it's raining," she hiccups, rubbing her tear-stained cheeks. "They won't meet." It had been the first year she had been old enough to understand the mythology surrounding Tanabata, and it appeared it wasn't going to be a happy ending she had hoped for.

Lucy can only give a small smile. She is taken with the intensity of her daughter's investment in the story in only the way a child can be so deeply invested. She runs her fingers through the girls hair, "it's ok." She soothes, "they'll meet again. Don't you worry."

The little girl looks up at her mother with big brown eyes peeking out from her pink fringe. Her face is hopeful yet utterly perplexed, "really?"

"They always find a way back to each other," Natsu says softly. He reaches out, and takes Lucy's free hand in his.

Lucy nods, and gently squeezes Natsu's hand.

"Always."

Chapter Text

As far as dates go, tonight had been…good? Levy couldn't really gauge it, her mind was a complete and utter blur—distracted by other obligations the entire time. It wasn't that she didn't want to be cozied up next to Gajeel—it wasn't that at all!—but she also couldn't deny that she wanted nothing more than to get home and snuggle their babies immediately. She dug her hands in her pockets and quickened her pace, keeping her head down in an attempt to block the assault of the wind.

"If you keep up that pace you'll wear your shoes out, Lev."

Gajeel had noticed her inattentiveness as soon as they had gotten to the restaurant. At first he attributed her wandering eye to the flickering of the holiday lights and the ostentatious Christmas displays around the town center, but once inside the warmth of the restaurant her cursory glances were hard to ignore. Her nerves were so paramount, her twitching leg jostled their small table, nearly knocking over their glasses of wine in the process. He couldn't blame her for her jitters, it was their first night out since having the twins—if the guild (and it was indeed the entire guild) hadn't forced them to get out, they would have probably been held up in their house still.

"This is my normal pace!" She spun around to face him, still managing to keep with the furious pace she had set. "And it's cold, anyway," she added defensively before turning back around.

Gajeel hopped into a slight jog, catching up to her. "Easy, Lev. We'll be home soon."

"I know…" She tucked her chin into her scarf, trying fruitlessly to hide the embarrassment coloring her cheeks. "I just want to hold my babies!" They were supposed to have one night to themselves but she had ended up zoning out and thinking about nothing but her little ones.

He laughed before draping his arm over her shoulder, pulling her into his side, successfully slowing her pace. "I miss 'em too."

"I didn't mean to ruin tonight," she apologized, groaning into her scarf.

"You didn't ruin nothin'," he reassured with a slight squeeze.

XXX

Their walk back was a lot shorter than usual, fueled by Levy's anxiety, which had admittedly bled over and begun influencing Gajeel. They rushed up the small path towards their front door and hurried in, startling the two occupants on the couch.

Laxus raised his arm from the small of Lucy's back to check his watch. "You guys are back early."

"Yup!" Levy hastily removed her scarf.

Lucy sat up from Laxus' chest, smiling knowingly, "how was the date?"

Gajeel shuffled out of his coat before Levy, "great!" He tossed it at her and ran up the stairs, taking them two at a time.

"Are you serious? Gajeel!" Levy hissed incredulously. She dumped their coats to the floor watching as Gajeel fled to their children's bedroom.

"Did you guys even try and talk about something other than the twins?" Lucy laughed.

Levy stammered momentarily, "yes!" She lied, pressing her lips into a straight line.

Laxus scoffed, "yeah, it'll be like that for a while."

Lucy looked down at the small pile of winter-wear at Levy's feet. "Welcome to parenthood."

Chapter Text

It was one of those typical quiet Sundays and the twins knelt comfortably before their activity table. Yajeh was busy carefully arranging blocks into a tower, and Shutora was coloring in an impressively realistic stick-figure family portrait. She was just finishing coloring in her father's wild mane when Gajeel dashed into the living room. He looked around frantically, eyes darting in search of something, before acknowledging his children by motioning for them to 'shh'. Shutora looked over at her brother curiously and placed her crayon down.

"Is papa ok?" Her apparent concern making her sound much older than her seven years would indicate.

Gajeel nodded, "your mother and I are playing hide-and-seek." He turned and grinned spotting the closet door. Turning back to his kids he raised his pointer finger, "don't tell your mother!" Tip-toeing into the closet, he quietly shut the door.

Yaje looked over at his sister who sported the same confused look on her face. Was he being serious?

No more than ten seconds later, Levy ran into the living room and stopped short. The twins shared another perplexed look (cause, really, how were their parents actually playing hide-and-seek without them?).

Yaje placed his building block down, "mama, are you ok?"

Levy's eyes landed on her children and she smiled conspiringly.

"Mama's fine you two," her voice was deceptively sweet. "Have you two seen papa? I have something extra important to tell him."

They weren't buying it.

"No clue."

"Haven't seen him."

Levy pouted placing her hands on her hips. Her eyes narrowed, "are you sure?"

Any other time they had lied to their parents, they would instantly feel the weight of their omission, but right now was different—everyone knew the most sacred rule of hide-and-seek was to never give up someone's hiding place!

They nodded.

"Yes, mama."

"Haven't seen papa at all, honest!" Yaje smiled turning his attention back to his blocks.

Levy sighed dramatically, and the twins looked up. She edged away from them and stood in the middle of the living room before placing her hands on her hips. "That's really a shame. It was actually pretty important," she sang. "Do you guys want to know a little secret?"

Yaje turned to his sister but her brows were also furrowed in confusion and she only offered him a shrug—she was just as lost as he was. Turning back to their mother, they nodded eagerly.

"Mama's having a baby!"

The twins had little time to react when the closet door slammed open, nearly coming off its hinges.

Gajeel ran over to Levy and pulled her into a tight hug. "Are you serious, Lev? We're having another baby?"

Yajeh smacked his hand against his face, and Shutora shook her head somberly.

Levy smiled brightly, and placed a hand on Gajeel's cheek. "Found ya." She sang. .

Gajeel's excitement melted away, and he groaned as he released her. Turning on his heels he stomped out the room, mumbling to himself.

"I'll go count."

Chapter Text

The sound of a car door slamming punctuated the still midmorning air, and, if at all possible, intensified the fatigue they both felt. Mira didn't wait for Laxus as she began her slow walk towards their apartment door. They had been through a lot in the past 36 hours, and neither had been prepared.

Baby books never discussed the herculean strength it took to carry an empty baby seat.

They didn't know what went wrong. The midwife tried to reassure them that many people don't get a concrete answer. He had felt his entire energy sapped from him, though he couldn't find himself feeling much when he realized how unsettlingly quiet Mira had been. Her silent acceptance had jarred the birthing staff (and if Laxus was being honest, it perturbed him too).

Once the time of death was announced, she laid back in the bed—eyes drifting towards the ceiling, she folded her hands over her still round middle, and silently waited for the placenta to deliver. The entire room had been anxiously hyper-vigilant, though the tension seemed to ease once Mira's shoulders shook under the effort of holding in body-rattling sobs. She didn't even make a sound. It was in that silence he became fully aware of the delicate emotional condition of his girlfriend. That awareness and worry had put a temporary pause on his mourning, and all of his energy (little as it was) turned to her.

When he opened the apartment door for her, she unceremoniously dropped the carrier to the floor, hurried down the hall to their bathroom, and slammed the door. The click of the lock was thunderous in the deafening silence.

After an hour, Laxus had to coax her out of the shower.

XXX

Night came slower than either of them would have liked. In the agonizing silence and stillness of their drained states, they managed to fall asleep, though Laxus' slumber teetered between consciousness and sweet surrender. He dreamt of nothing, and thought of nothing—everything was astoundingly mute. He hadn't noticed Mira had left the bed, but he became aware of her missing warmth in the middle of the night. Laxus rose from the bed, not bothering to turn on the light, and slowly made his way into the dark hallway.

Light spilled from a doorway just past the hallway bathroom. His stomach roiled, of course he would find her in that room. That room they had been careful to avoid the past few hours. The room they had consciously closed the door to. The room painted a delicate, sweet pale yellow for their future that had ended so abruptly. Walking purposefully to their abandoned nursery felt wrong—weird—because somewhere in the depths of his mind, he expected to find Mira coddling someone who they would never meet. He stood in the doorway in silence, watching quietly.

Mira hummed a soft lullaby, stumbling on certain notes, as she reached up to remove an elegantly carved wooden letter from above the now dismantled crib.

Upon further inspection, a majority of the room they had lovingly pieced together now look disjointed, placed in separate boxes that would hold the weight of their loss.

Mira held up the letter, admiring its previous position on the wall besides the other pieces of script, and her humming ceased. Laxus wrapped his arms around her waist, resting his head in the crook of her neck. She took a shaky breath as she leaned back into his warmth, hot tears rolling down her cheeks.

When the sun rose, it still hurt.

Chapter Text

Erza pressed her palm flat against Gajeel's chest, stopping his forward momentum. "Gajeel," she cautioned.

"What the hell are you doing, Scarlet?" Gajeel glared.

Levy had been in a pretty bad accident on a job, and as soon as he heard, Gajeel had rushed to the hospital. When he got there however, Erza had been blocking his way into Levy's room—worst yet, the blonde seemed to be in support of her strange behavior.

"Move." He said through clenched teeth.

"It's best you stay away for a while—"

"—till she fully heals!" Lucy added.

"You want me to wait till my wife fully heals…to see her?" Gajeel looked between the two of them, confusion clear on his features. He released an annoyed breath, "I need to see her." He said, eyes downcast. "I know she just woke up, and I'm sure she's tired, but the kids haven't seen her in a month! I won't be lon—"

"—Gajeel," Erza started, her tone firm. They stood like that for a moment, the silence holding up the weight of Gajeel's rising anxiety. Erza's expression softened and her voice became distinctly remorseful. "She doesn't remember you."

The world tilted violently.

Several thoughts ran through his head, and Lucy's distressed expression only confirmed that Erza wasn't lying.

"What—"

"It was a pretty bad accident, Gajeel." Lucy added, worry creasing her brows. "She hit her head pretty hard…"

"What—"

"The doctor's say she should make a full recovery—"

"—and she will! She just needs lots of rest!"

"W-what doesn't she remember?" Gajeel asked apprehensively. His stomach lurched with several possibilities, and the glance Lucy and Erza shared didn't ease his fears.

In the end, Lucy was the bearer of bad news.

"She thinks we just got her down from the tree."

Chapter Text

Is she crying?

She doesn't remember the last time she cried during sex. It's not unwelcome, though surprising.

Had Minerva known that she'd hit a substantial dry spell after the divorce, she might have cherished the consistent mediocre dick she had during the duration of her marriage.

She hadn't expected things to go this far with him. She thinks she's too weak—is too weak—for a second chance at whatever this is that they're doing, and yet…

Her hips buck up abruptly, and the desperate wanting moan she emits not only shocks her, but manages to coax a greedy moan from the man between her legs. She sighs, content, once he places a sloppy, almost nasty kiss, to her lips, and she thinks she now knows bliss cause—

IS THAT A FUCKING TONGUE RING?

Another decisive drag of his tongue.

OH GOD THATS A TONGUE RING!

Her spine locks helplessly as she desperately tries to gather her thoughts, though she knows it's hopeless.

What the hell is she supposed to do with her GOD. DAMN. HANDS?!

It's been so long. Too long.

She doesn't even realize her hips are needily rocking against Gajeel's tongue. She's now fully aware this is exactly what she needed—and if this is how all of their kid's playdates will end, then Sting and Rogue can hang out as much as they want. Maybe this is a fluke. She wonders if this is at all professional to desperately fuck her student's parent.

She doesn't even care

It usually built up slowly, then flutters gently in her gut, steadily building up pressure until she recognizes, oh wait, yes, this is an…orgasm? (Confused that she even has to question it).

Not now. Not here. Not with him.

Maybe she's more hungry and desperate for a release than she thought, because this one does creep up on her and suddenly she feels like she's covered in sweat and overheating.

If at all possible she thinks her spine becomes more rigid with equal parts shock and satisfaction. She finds herself, back pressed helplessly into the sheets (pretty nice, grey cotton ones), riding out the rest of her climax. She prays her brain can be salvaged from its liquefied state, as she calls out for a god she has no business talking to.

Has she ever been eaten till she's cried before? Cause the tears are free flowing now.

Little desperate whimpers are coursing out of her, hitched on each exhausted breath and she wonders if it'll be like this every time—if there will be another time.

Her periphery is starting to clear, which is reassuring since the majority of her vision has already returned to normal. Her eyes remain fixed to the impossibly white ceiling that undulates in tandem with the rise and fall of her chest, heavy with exhaustion.

She's dead and she couldn't be more contented. Is this why the French call it the little death?

Those bastards are on to something.

It is then she sees him slowly crawl into her field of vision, hovering over her with a slightly smug, genuinely concerned set to his face.

If he'd let her, she'd claim his jaw as her throne right there and then, but it's probably best she waits till they're closer, or at least till her pleasant over sensitivity subsides.

She'll give him 10 minutes. Poor fool doesn't stand a chance.

His voice breaks through just then, pulling her back into the realm of the living. "You ok?"

She's not sure if it's a challenge, a tease, or a genuine question, cause she's still gasping out puffs of air.

She finds strength in her to nod and her mouth—her stupid mouth—moves without her thinking.

"You should put your son in level two." A pause to breathe. "He's really good."

Confusion flashes over his features, and the silence that follows isn't too terrifying because suddenly they're both laughing.

Distantly, she thinks that she's not sleeping in the wet spot.

Chapter Text

Juvia couldn't say she had been surprised that it happened, though she did think it would have happened a lot sooner.

Juvia and Gajeel stood in silence, staring out the kitchen window, watching as the twins ran around in the shade of the magnolia tree. It was comfortable, and of course it was, they had been friends for so long.

Gajeel took a long and loud sip from his mug, smacking his lips for effect. He pulled her in, shaking her by her shoulder playfully. "How long do ya think till one of 'em smashes their face into the tree?"

Juvia gently bumped her shoulder into his side, "Juvia thinks Gajeel should have a bit more faith in those two." She turned her mug in her hands and hummed in appreciation before taking a sip.

They stood there enjoying the comfortable silence, until a loud yowl emanated from one of the two children. Juvia winced as Gajeel let out a hearty laugh. He grinned down at her before handing her his mug.

"I'll head out now, you go finish gettin' dressed. Grab the first aid kit." He called, heading out the kitchen.

Juvia looked down at her black leggings and t-shirt. Her brows furrowed in confusion as she placed both mugs in the sink, before wiping her hands on the dish towel. "Juvia is already dressed."

Gajeel back tracked into the kitchen, "you left your panties on the bed." He smirked before walking out.

Juvia stood there, red-faced and sputtering. She shouldn't have been so surprised—of course he was still going to tease her—she had been silly to think things would change after one night.

Besides, what was morning (after) coffee amongst friends?

Chapter Text

"You and my dad have been friends for a while now…"

"Several years."

Cana hummed in acknowledgement as a breeze rolled through Magnolia park. Her arms rested lazily over the back of the bench she sat on, and she kept her legs spread wide, one folded over the top of the other, her foot tapping a steady beat into the grass. The weather was abnormally nice, and the ice cream she had made it that much more enjoyable—especially considering her current company. Her eyes slid to the side, in an attempt to discretely size the man up again.

Silver Fullbuster sat hunched over, elbows resting on his knees, and eyes focused on Cana. Silver and her father had been friends since as far back as she could remember—or at least long enough for her to consider him an adopted uncle. And if memory served correct, the two had supposedly met after crossing paths on a job, and had been inseparable since. Cana wasn't so sure if that was all the truth—she had just walked in on Silver and her father defiling each other no less than 30 minutes ago (in the hallway bathroom of all places). In her mad rush to flee the scene (and preserve her eyesight), she bolted from the house. Silver had managed to catch up to her, and thought talking about his and her father's apparent relationship would be best done over frozen treats.

No one could ever call Silver a coward.

"So…Are you two dating?"

A heavy sigh, "yeah."

"For how long?"

It had been a while but technically four years. Four long years because they hadn't realized they had begun to develop real feelings for each other. Four long, quiet years cause they couldn't ever quite figure out how to tell their kids.

"Does it matter?" Silver looked weary, exhausted with the sheer effort (or bravery) it took to sit besides her after what had just transpired.

"I'm not going to call you dad." Cana brought her focus back to her cone.

"No…we didn't expect you to," he replied and there was a smile in his tone.

"We." She echoed, receiving a nervous hum in response. Rolling her eyes she gestured towards his hands, "you should probably eat your popsicle before it melts."

"I'm…" He searched for an answer, he had bought the popsicle but hadn't really wanted it. "Not that hungry. I already ate."

"Yeah," she drawled. "I saw."

Silver flinched, his hand meeting his face in honest embarrassment as he mumbled something into his palm about locks and doors.

"In any case," she paused to take a bite into her nearly finished soft serve. "I see you got promoted from ambiguous uncle to something much more substantial. Congrats."

He stared at her in wide-eyed horror, a distinguished flush to his face that creeped all the way up to his hairline. "Cana!" He managed, surprised by the octave his voice teetered into.

"If you make my dad happy though…" Her voice trailed off, implications hovering on the gentle fall breeze.

Silver's embarrassment slowly turned into understanding, and the heat on his cheeks now warmed his smile. "Thanks, Cana."

"I always knew there was something going on with you two," Cana snorted, her hostile facade breaking. "But I'm the least of your worries, have you guys told Gray yet?" She could barely contain her grin.

(Silver promptly plunged the world into another ice age.)

(Gray could wait.)

Chapter Text

"I was fifteen." Minerva stated pragmatically, though her speech was slurred. She took a shot of bourbon, swallowing the liquid fire doubtlessly. She didn't look over at Gajeel on the barstool besides her.

They had been going at this for a while now, trading embarrassing stories with each shot. She could feel her body succumbing to the alcohol, her center of gravity getting more askew the longer they stayed like this. Her mind wasn't as sharp as it had been mere hours ago, blearing feebly under the assault of several shots of brown elixir (all foolishly chased with her dwindling glass of bourbon). She hiccuped, rubbing under her nose with a messy swipe of her forearm, brows furrowed in concentration at the coordination the task took.

The bartender smiled as she placed two double shots in front of the two. Minerva could feel her stomach somersault just looking at the clear liquid. She quietly thanked the gods when Gajeel's slowly pulled the small glass from her. Whimpering her gratitude, she looked up at him, eyes glassy and exhausted with their current pace.

Gajeel looked over at her before whistling thoughtfully, "that's a pretty embarrassing secret, Orlando." The tease was very evident in his voice, too drunk to care about the repercussions.

"If you tell anyone, I will not hesitate to cut you." She pressed her pointer finger into his broad chest as hard as she could, though in her drunken stupor it wasn't very hard at all. After a moment, her fingers splayed over his chest before she poked him again, causing him to jump and spill some of their shot onto the bar top.

Gajeel cursed under his breath, but Minerva's laugh depleted any fake annoyance he feigned in an instant. He could feel a warmth rise to his cheeks as she brought her hand over her crimson lips, trying to contain the sound though it was futile. "Found the nipple," she wheezed softly.

"At least buy me dinner before you feel me up." He redistributed their shots so they were even, and turned to her passing her one with a tip of his chin. "Last one."

Minerva's laughter slowed as she released a breath, taking the shot in her hand. She looked into the small tumbler, "figured that'd be pierced too," she muttered in afterthought.

He raised his brow, "I can gladly show you the rest."

Minerva's cheeks burned a bright red, and she let out a choked sound before regaining her composure. "Don't flatter yourself."

"I'm not the one searching for nipples."

"What? That means I'm interested in the rest? Never took you for a self-fellating type, Redfox. That'd make my job a lot easier." They both laughed as they clinked their shots and threw back the poison, wordlessly. A small part of her dying as she coughed on the aftertaste—who the hell ordered tequila after whiskey shots?

After the bartender answered Gajeel's wordless pleas for a chaser (which Minerva gladly partook in), they hopped off their barstools and shrugged into their coats. Minerva (surprisingly) maintained her balance all the way through but found difficulty with zipping her coat up. Her annoyance was quelled as soon as Gajeel gently swatted her hands away.

"Thanks." She whispered, tucking her chin in, slightly embarrassed that she needed help.

"Can't have you freezing on me," he answered decisively, bringing the zipper up to the dip in her throat.

"No, that'd make it hard for me to collect my winnings."

He smiled looking down at her. "You're not a lightweight, but you sure as hell got some weird secrets." He fished in his back pocket for his wallet, and turned back to the bartender.

The pleasant tingle and warmth the liquor provided didn't protect her from the truth of that statement. She was thankful his back was to her, because racking her brain for a witty answer that'd deflect from that statement, was proving harder than she thought. She did indeed have some weird secrets—quite a few in fact. She wondered if she'd ever get the chance to tell him, or if he'd ever want to know—though she wasn't sure that mattered. History was a good teacher and Minerva had learnt that once she revealed that part of her past, people tended to disappear.

"That's not even half of them," she said playfully at first, before her tone sobered. "Didn't want to scare you off so fast. Got quite a few…"

Gajeel placed the money on the bar and turned back to Minerva. She didn't look up to meet his gaze, opting instead to stare down at her boots and the disgusting bar floor, hands digging comfortably into her pockets.

"Haven't been scared in a long time, Min." He wrapped an arm around Minerva's shoulder, pulling her close against his side. "Got a few skeletons of my own."

Minerva's laugh caught on a hiccup, slightly taken aback by the nickname. Eyes sliding shut, she wrapped her arm around his waist, feeling a lot more stable in his grasp.

They headed out the bar like that, steps teetering in tandem.

Chapter Text

Of course it was raining.

Of course.

"Rogue," Sting moaned between pants.

Rogue's hands worked frantically, pressing against the deep gash that cut through Sting's abdomen. Applying enough pressure should keep him from bleeding out but even as Rogue maneuvered, Sting's blood still coursed out, washing away in the rain in a steady stream of crimson.

"Shut up!" Rogue snapped. "Don't say another word!" He moved his hand again, desperate to see if the new position would stop the bleeding. A rush of blood spurted out from the wound, and Sting released a strangled grunt. Rogue avoided eye contact, keeping his hand firm to the gash. "I-I didn't see the attack…"

Sting laughed but it sounded uncharacteristically effete. "Might be the blood loss but you look really good in this light." He placed his hand over Rogue's, drawing the other man's attention back to him. "Don't mind dying if—"

"Shut up!" Rogue's voice broke.

He could hear his heart pounding against his ribcage. The darkest corners of his mind moved in, extinguishing every ray of light, and sucking out every ounce of hope. He didn't know if his sob was audible over the roar of the torrential downpour but he didn't care, he was still scrambling to stop Sting's life from rushing out of him. He could feel the distinct burn of tears, shaking under the effort to both save Sting while also accepting that neither of them would survive this.

The finality of the moment was overwhelming, and regret gripped him mercilessly. They had been partners for so long—he had so many opportunities to tell him—and yet Rogue had never managed to express his feelings to Sting—favoring dancing around the topic.

"Rogue."

Rogue's eyes slid shut, unable to look at him. He knew that tone, the gravity was unmistakable.

Sting was telling him to stop.

Rogue kept his hands over the gash, feeling tremors seize him. He should tell him now—give them some closure—but his tongue felt swollen and heavy at the thought. What was one more dance?

He leaned forward and pressed his face into Sting's wet chest, his lament drowned out by the steady deluge.

Chapter Text

The remnants of the original structure of Cardia Basilica had been lost to the elements nearly three decades prior. What was left of the crumbling eighteenth-century baroque building, had been incorporated into the new two-story structure. It sat nestled between the main road and a backstreet in the densely populated second arrondissement, quietly adjudicating the populace that roamed the filthy and narrow streets.

The last evening mass had ended two hours prior, leaving the redolence of burnt incense. The lights remained dim, leaving the candles at the end of each pew to illuminate the main aisle. 

Laxus stood before the alter and pushed his glasses up the bridge of his nose, careful to keep the lit match in his hand from lighting his loose robes. He held an old, thick prayer book open in his other hand, its pages worn from use and stained from the smoke of previous masses, and quietly read from it, chanting the prayers. Steadying his hand, he lit the offering candle and muttered the blessing.

The doors at the back of the church opened with a weary creak. Continuing his ministrations, Laxus kept his head down and lit another candle and spoke another short prayer, determined not to be interrupted from his task; whether that single-mindedness was born of stubbornness or actual devotion, he wasn't quite sure. When the wick caught fire and showed no sign of snuffing out, he turned towards the back of the church. There, still in front of the doors, stood a figure dressed in a black cloak and hood pulled up, though some of their green tresses peeked through. Laxus nodded and turned back to the candles, blew out the match and placed it on the holder. He waited a moment until he heard the door to the confessional open, then slide shut. Reaching for his long black rosary beads, he walked slowly towards the back of the church, slipping the small spheres between his thumb and index finger.

In the last three months the city had seen a rise in murders which had in turn increased the number of individuals seeking out the reassurance of religion. Churches across Paris had begun to open up for late night confessions to ease the panic of the populous. Laxus’ own church had established an open-door policy wherein individuals could enter the sanctuary at any hour of the night. It served to relax most of the inhabitants and even brought new members to the congregation. However, these late nights bred more disreputable behavior, and Laxus often wondered if he would be the next priest found in a pool of his own blood.

Laxus quietly entered the opposite side of the booth and closed the door, threading the beads between his fingers, still managing to keep track of what prayer he was on. Having done this for several years had made multitasking easier, and distantly he wondered how many people would come in tonight and how many rosaries he would be able to finish. He shifted into a more comfortable position, staring down at the votive that sat on a small shelf in front of him. Clearing his throat, he raised his hand to his forehead.

“In the name of The Father, The Son, and The Holy Spirit. Amen.” He glanced over at the partition screen that separated him from the individual and smiled, though he knew they couldn’t see.

“Forgive me, Father for I have sinned,” they began, voice shaky. “It has been…some time since my last confession. I accuse myself of the following sins…”

Laxus leaned his head back, still holding firm to his rosary. This was always the part he found most interesting: the build up to the last sin. Usually Laxus could feel the regret and remorse roll off the confessing in waves, replaced with relief and clarity, and only then would they stop, awkwardly pausing before confessing what they really needed to get off their chest.

Laxus was only half listening when the occupant’s speech deviated from listing their offenses.

“You know, Father,” they began, tone genial. “It is rather partisan of me to bear my soul without you reciprocating.”

Laxus looked up from the candle, smiling to himself. “I suppose it is.”

“There is camaraderie in communal confessions.”

“Ah, yes, but it is not my turn.”

“Tell me Father…”

“Hmmm?”

“Have you sinned?”

Laxus hummed in acknowledgement and shut his eyes, attempting to silence his memories of his numerous transgressions. 

“When did their screams stop bothering you, Father?”

Laxus’ breath hitched. “Screams?” He asked, though it sounded more like a statement than a question.

“The eight Parisians," they stated. “three civilians, five priests. The ones you killed.”

The brightness of the candle flame dimmed till it snuffed out, dissipating into a thin ascending trail of smoke. Laxus could hear his blood coursing in his ear, and felt his heart pounding as it uncomfortably settled in his throat.

“I imagine no one knows then,” they spoke again.

Laxus turned towards the partition as a shiver ran down his spine. “Who…?” He broke out in a cold sweat hearing them laugh. It was only then Laxus fully realized how bitterly cold the booth had become, his shuddering breaths condensing on the icy air. “Who the hell are you?” He demanded, rising from his seat.

“‘Who the hell am I’?” They echoed. “Oh, I nothing like you, Father Dreyar. And yet—”

Laxus bolted out of the confession booth, rounding it and ran up the aisle, his breath still caught in his throat. He considered several scenarios though most of them ended with some kind of physical altercation. Under any other circumstance Laxus knew he could easily win, however something about this person told him the odds might not be in his favor. 

The man exited the booth, pulling down his hood and watched Laxus’ retreat with cold, unyielding eyes. “Please do not run anymore. I have had a long day.”

“You have no power here!” Laxus bellowed, raising his rosary with shaky hands.

“Are you sure?” A long arrow-tipped tail swayed languidly behind him as he advanced on Laxus, extinguishing the flames of the candles at the end of the pews with each quiet step. 

“D-demon!” 

“You may call me Freed.” 

Freed lunged towards Laxus, leaving him no time to dwell on his revelation. Laxus held tight to his rosary and whipped them at  Freed’s extended arm, watching them wrap tightly around it. They both stopped, hearing the sound of sizzling in the quiet of the church, as the beads burned the exposed skin of the demon’s forearm. Laxus held his gaze, ignoring the smell of charred flesh wafting between them.

“Ah, enchanted rosaries,” he chuckled staring up at Laxus through his green fringe. “Why summon me then?”

Confusion flitted over Laxus’ features. “What?”

“Hum,” the demon flicked his wrist causing the string to snap, sending the beads scattering across the pews and rolling across the wooden floors. “I heard your prayers, Father Dreyar,” he said as he inspected his burn. 

Laxus staggered backwards but Freed seized his arm, pulling him towards him, and held his gaze.

Freed hummed thoughtfully as he raised his other hand and ran a clawed finger along Laxus’ jaw, leaving a raised red line in its wake. “My, my, my.”

The last of the candles extinguished.

Chapter Text

Gajeel had never been a morning person, much preferring the quiet stillness of the night. That didn't necessarily mean he was fond of the middle of the night, nor was he fond of being tapped awake (or kicked on more urgent occasions). 

 

Seven months prior, he had gotten the surprise of his life when Minerva had tossed down the positive pregnancy test in the heat of an argument. Looking back on the moment now, that hadn’t been the most sanitary or creative way of announcing a pregnancy, but it did explain why their interactions had become prickly. 

 

Those were seven long months and though everything had progressed without a hitch, and Minerva had risen victorious from a seemingly hopeless fight with morning sickness, another hurdle had risen in the form of her intense and insatiable cravings. Last week she had requested fried dough; the other week she needed “just one bite” of her favorite burger (from a place that had closed a month prior); and yesterday she wanted double stuffed Oreos, which had ended poorly. (To their dismay,  Minerva sobbed openly after taking a bite of the cookie before casting it aside. Her gums were too sore because pregnancy was a bitch, and rendered once enjoyable things into painful tasks. He held her while she cried herself to sleep, cursing the mere existence of the cookie while also assuring him her anger was directed at the snack and not their unborn child.)

 

So it came as no surprise to Gajeel when he felt her cold feet rub up against his leg sometime around 2 in the morning. Shivering, he rose up on his forearms to stare at her through the darkness of their bedroom. Minerva stared back at him with a strained smile, a hint of guilt in her exhausted, sleep-heavy eyes.

 

“Hey,” her voice was still scratchy from sleep.

 

Gajeel shut his eyes and nodded before rising from his reclined position to sit up on the edge of the bed, slipping his feet into his house shoes automatically.

 

“Where are you going?” She asked rubbing small circles on her round middle.

 

“What do you two want tonight? Anything I can make?” He asked groggily as he rose from the bed.

 

“What? No, no.” She grabbed onto his pant leg. “I appreciate you, you know that?” She asked softly.

 

Gajeel was unable to hide his confusion when he turned back to her, but his expression softened seeing the strained look on her face. Minerva was not the type to get gushy or make open declarations so his mind immediately went into a frenzy of possibilities. “You in labor?”

 

Minerva rolled her eyes and turned away from him. “I wouldn’t be in this hell if I had just said ‘no’ to you like I intended,” she mumbled pulling her pregnancy pillow between her legs.

 

Gajeel laughed, crawling back on to the bed. “There was no way you were gonna say no to me.” He pressed his hands into the bed on either side of her and buried his face into the crook of her neck, peppering her skin with kisses.

 

“It’s not too late,” she said kicking the covers off in a huff. “You caught me off guard—you both did.” She tried her best to sound annoyed. 

 

“Yeah, and look how happy you are.”

 

“Ecstatic.” She groaned, wincing into a cramp.

 

“Sorry,” he placed his hand on her hip, rocking her gently through the pain.

 

“It’s all your fault, asshole.”

 

He laughed softly as her face relaxed, “and probably my best work.”

 

“Oh, not me as a wife?”

 

“Fiancée,” Gajeel corrected. “And you just said you should have said no.”

 

Minerva glanced over her shoulder, “well I tried being nice but you don’t seem to respond well to that.”

 

Slipping his hand off her hip, he cupped her face before she could turn away, and kissed her forehead. This had been a hell of a pregnancy and he was in awe of her resilience. He hummed  feeling her ease underneath him. “What will it be tonight, Min?”

 

“Nothing,” she whispered as she trailed her hand up his forearm, tracing her fingers over the metal studs. “Lay down, just don’t leave me.”.

 

“Wouldn’t dream of it.”

Chapter Text

There was something about Gildarts’ company, or the man himself, that derailed Silver from completing even the simplest task. Cana and Gray were having a sleepover which left Silver childless and set up for a quiet night in, when Gray called him in a panic (he had left his favorite blanket, and sleep never came as easily without it). The plan had been to head over to Gildarts’, exchange quick pleasantries, check in on Gray, tuck him in with his blanket, and return back to his tea and whatever was on television that night. What he had neglected to take into account in his plans was Gildarts who seemed determined to be a consistently annoying wildcard in his life. After checking on Gray (who had managed to chase slumber down without the help of his blanket), Silver found himself chatting with the other man for an extended period.

 

It had been several weeks since Gildarts had drunkenly propositioned Silver, and roughly two weeks since they had to have their ‘adult talk’. Nothing had changed between the two and even if it had, they would have remained cordial due to their children. It wasn’t that Silver didn’t enjoy being with Gildarts—the one time they had been together was actually pretty damn amazing—albeit a little confusing for Silver. He had never expected to find himself attracted to the other man, or any man for that matter. Gildarts grated on every last one of his nerves and yet somehow Silver found himself thinking about him more often than he’d like to admit. It felt stupid and juvenile and the stress of having not been romantically involved in years, on top of the liquor-fueled circumstances of their hook up, left Silver unsure if there was room for anything more between the two of them.

 

“You want a drink?” 

 

Gildarts' suggestion hadn't come as a surprise, if anything Silver had expected the man would ask sooner, most of their gathering did involve a spirit or several. Not finding any reason to deny the offer, Silver shrugged in silent acceptance. This of course only delighted Gildarts. Grabbing two highball glasses, he rummaged through his liquor cabinet, reaching far back into its recesses and laughed to himself before turning towards Silver with a white bottle. 

 

“Malibu?” Silver cringed watching him shake the bottle suggestively. Silver had only had the rum once or twice in his life but all he could remember was how absurdly sweet it was. Malibu was nobody’s night cap.

 

“Ah, come on. One drink, just a taste.” 

 

Silver could almost feel the regret take home in his gut as he gestured towards the fridge. “If we’re doing this we should as least do it right, dammit. Get the ice.”

 

It appeared one of Gildarts other annoying abilities was shameless persuasion because a 'taste' turned catastrophic rather quickly. Suddenly the Malibu bottle was empty, casted aside on the kitchen counter, and they had dipped into another bottle of rum (this one the color of burnt sugar, and much more to Silver’s liking). There was something about rum that made the tongue looser and inhibitions nonexistent, because amidst their banter Silver had brought up their last time together. Within a few seconds he could taste the warm liquor on Gildarts’ lips, and found his back pressed into the sofa cushions. Silver, in his hazy drunkenness, couldn’t have been more proud of himself.

 

Fueled by genuine desire, and encouraged by liquor, their kiss turned fervent and urgent before either of them were aware. Gildarts grabbed his wrists and pinned them to the cushion, eliciting a needy groan from Silver. Much to his delight that seemed to spur Gildarts on; he released his hold on his wrists and immediately began to trail them up Silver’s shirt. Silver wrapped his legs around the other man’s waist and pulled him in closer, desperate for more contact. They never broke their kiss, breathing heavily through their noses when Gildarts abruptly stopped and drew back. 

 

Silver would have been more embarrassed had the action not come as a total surprise. He could feel the weight of the warm liquor sloshing in his belly as he drew back and unraveled his legs from around the man, all but confused.

 

“Kiddo’s up.” Gildarts whispered, tipping his chin. Silver turned to see a very sleepy Cana slowly wobbling her way down the stairs, dragging the entirety of her comforter with her.

 

“Is she…asleep?” Silver asked squinting his eyes.

 

“Yessir.”

 

“Does she do that often?"

 

“Well, she doesn’t get that from me,” Gildarts sighed. “She never makes it past the first step though...” His voice trailed off, too caught up in staring at Silver’s bottom lip.

 

“Go be a father, jackass.” He grumbled, pushing Gildarts away from him. He knew they shouldn't have been making out on the living room couch, but he still quietly cursed his luck. Silver grabbed his long forgotten drink and took it back in one gulp.

 

“Well now,” Gildarts hummed taking the glass from him and set it down. “I can’t just let you drive home like that now can I, darlin’?” He patted Silver’s shoulder, allowing his fingers to linger, before climbing the stairs.

 

Silver wasn't sure if it was the rum or the apparent butterflies overtaking his stomach, but he could feel the heat creep up his neck before it burned his cheeks.

Chapter Text

Oddly enough the pressure started in his feet, and not his crisscrossed arms. He had done this once before but he had been too young, the situation too dire, for him to fully recall what it truly felt like. Back then he had been able to get away with scrapes alone and now…

The pressure built up, pouring out of him and pulling the wind into a small cyclone around him. The winds’ increased pace and force blocked out much of the noise that distracted him from the task at hand. It quieted his thoughts, and nearly drowned out the desperate, and exhausted protests from behind him. Last time he had stopped short—had been stopped—and that had altered the trajectory of two different lives other than his own. He had long since given up on forgiving himself, whenever he thought back to that moment he felt a familiar pang of regret. This time would be different however, this time he would go through with it, not just for himself but for his exhausted and incapacitated comrades who lay strewn across the battlefield.

“Lyon!” Meredy called, struggling to rise up on her injured forearm. “Stop!”

He bowed deeper into his wide stance as the pressure let up, replaced by a familiar tingling sensation that started in his fingertips and toes and danced up his arms leaving frostbitten veins in their wake. 

This was it, he could go through with it. 

“Ice shell!”

There was a brief pause in the tempest as he released a breath—then everything became quiet.

Chapter Text

Minerva smiled, picking up her glass of red wine and admired the dessert on the crystal cake stand and took a satisfied sip. Yukino had requested a simple cake and had been sure to emphasize simple but Minerva just couldn’t help herself. There was absolutely nothing simple about gateau marjolaine. The cake was a two-day masterpiece. Minerva had beat the eight egg whites by hand, melted four more ounces of chocolate than the recipe required (she knew Yukino had developed a sweet tooth with this pregnancy), and even handmade the chocolate wafers that decorated the sides of the cake—there was honestly no other way to do it. 

 

Wiping her hands off on her apron, she looked over at the clock on the wall: 10:35. The party was set to start a quarter past noon, which still left her with plenty of time to slip out of her oversized t-shirt and wash off. She took one last look at the cake when she felt Gajeel press up against her from behind. 

 

“Looks good,” he hummed in her ear.

 

“Is it too much?” She asked softly, finishing off the last of the wine. “It’s too much.” She leaned back into his chest still staring in admiration.

 

“Mhmm, looks real good.” He replied absently, wrapping his arms around her waist.

 

Minerva smirked. “We have to leave in soon, simmer down.”

 

Gajeel laughed and took a step back, pulling the edge of her t-shirt up to get a better look at her  ass. “Can’t, currently at a rolling boil.”

 

“Was that a fucking cooking innuendo?” Minerva turned towards him, swatting his hands off of her.

 

“What? You thought I was talking about the actual damn cake?”

Chapter Text

Laxus sat hunched over, elbows pressed to his knees, swaying as he tried to fight the unremitting waves of nausea crashing into him. When Cana and Mirajane had mentioned their daughter’s party was going to be at the pop-up amusement park during the Harvest Festival, Laxus had agreed to be there. Celia was a horrifying hybrid of her mothers: as sweet and unassuming as Mira and as feisty and persuasive as Cana, which was exactly how the eight year old had managed to get Laxus onto more rides than he had intended. It had been going well until it wasn’t.

 

Who knew a teacup would be his undoing.

 

His eyes slid shut and his stomach lurched at the not so distant memory. The cups had spun much faster than he had anticipated. He knew things weren’t going well when the all-knowing smirk on Freed’s face turned to a look of genuine concern. When the ride finally came to a full stop he remained seated, gripping the seat cushions for longer than he’d like to admit. (Laxus wouldn’t necessarily say he had to crawl off of the ride once it came time to get off, but then he’d be a liar.)

 

He tried to focus on his breathing, ignoring the noise surrounding him. The loud (and almost violent) sound of metal quickly sliding over metal, mixed with the incessant cacophony of screams and garbled chatter, weren't making the task any easier. Relief came in the form of a hand rubbing soothing circles over his back, and he felt someone sit down besides him.

 

“You look terrible. I got you some water.”

 

“Thanks.” Laxus mumbled, making no attempt to take the bottle from Freed. He rested his hand on his boyfriend’s leg, bracing himself as he slowly sat upright. Laxus could feel the protest in his aching midsection at the movement until he leaned back against the bench, and rested against Freed.

 

“Do you need another bag?” Freed offered.

 

“No,” Laxus answered almost too quickly. There was another violent roiling in his stomach, causing him to hunch back over, eyes fixed hopelessly on the plastic bag between his legs. “Just…stay here.” He gently squeezed Freed’s leg, looking for anything to concentrate on instead of his stomach as he felt another wave of nausea.

 

“Perhaps you should let Cana or Mira take her on the next ride.” Freed nodded, switching from circles to running his hand up and down Laxus’ back. “I don’t recall your motion sickness ever being this bad…”

 

“It never was.”

 

“Must be all those rides you thought you could handle…” Freed gently teased, never ceasing in his ministrations. “We could head home.”

 

“No.”

 

“You can barely sit up.”

 

“I’m fine.” 

 

“She has you wrapped around her fing—”

 

“Uncle Free! Uncle Laxy!” A small jovial voice prodded through the crowd. She ran towards the two men stopping right in front of them and tipped at the waist trying to get a better look at her queasy uncle. Looking up at Freed she pouted, “is uncle Laxy ok?”

 

“Actually, Celia—”

 

“I’m fine, Ceel.” Laxus lied sitting upright to smile down at the small brunette.

 

“Yippee!” She cheered with a jump. She ran in place for a moment and pointed dramatically towards the large red rollercoaster hidden behind the trees. “Can we go on that next!?”

 

Laxus’ smile dropped in time with the rollercoaster car as it dipped below the vantage point of the trees and filled the air with shrill screams.

 

“Celia,” Freed stifled a laugh. “Are you tall enough for that rollercoaster?”

 

Celia stood up nice and tall with a proud smile. “I’ve grown three whole inches since last year!” She was positively beaming

 

“Hold our spot in the line, and I’ll catch up with you.” Laxus offered, mustering up all the strength he could.

 

Celia’s eyes gleamed as she ran off towards the coaster. Laxus couldn’t help but smile though his light mood was interrupted by a heavy sigh from beside him.

 

“I had no idea you had such a soft spot for children, Laxus.”

 

“It’s her birthday,” he deflected.

 

Freed smiled knowingly before he stood and offered his hand. “We’re not having children.”

 

“None.”

Chapter Text

“You need to stop looking at me like that.”

 

“Like what?”

“Like that!” 

Gajeel blinks once—twice—before he smiles again, easy and dreamy at the sight before him. “Can’t help it. Somethin’ about you pregnant.”

Minerva huffs turning away, her cheeks blossoming red as she fans herself through the density of the July heat. The weather is miserable, she is miserable, and she still has a whole month to go.

“Do you need more water?” He asks and God help him because it’s an honest question, but suddenly Minerva can’t handle it. It’s too hot, she’s too tired, she’s too pregnant. The tears don’t fall immediately, she tries her best to steel herself, calming her nerves with a shaky breath before she whimpers. She can see him go rigid in her peripheral, alert and unaware of what to do, and that just upsets her more because she didn’t want to cause him distress. He’s been so patient, loving, gentle, kind and excited throughout her entire gestation.

“No thanks.” She manages weakly but her facade is visibly cracked. It’s just so hot and the air is so thick and each breath is getting harder and her chest feels heavy. She fans herself more frantically.

“Min. Babe.” His prodding, gentle as it is is what causes her to fully release. She sobs openly into her palms, paper fan discarded. Gajeel quickly rounds the table and sets himself in front of her, knees pressed to the ground and hands running soothingly along her sides. “It’s hard, I know—”

“No!” She snaps wiping at the corners of her eyes, still hot and flushed. “You don’t know!”

“Sorry,” he concedes.

She gives the most pitiful whimper in response because she feels pitiful. He’s trying to help and it’s not helping in the way she wants. She knows that’s not his fault. No, if he wanted to help he’d procure a fully staffed operating room and a sterilized scalpel, or ideally a time machine to fast forward past the achiness, fatigue, and swelling. 

“I don’t want to be pregnant anymore.” She sniffs because it’s true, she doesn’t want to be pregnant. She wants to have their baby—her baby—in her arms.

Gajeel pauses for a moment, calculation clear on his face, trying to decide what to say in response. It’s sweet and it makes Minerva laugh despite herself as she holds his face in her hands.  

“I know you know, “ she clarifies. “I’m just…”

“Tired,” he supplies.

“Yes. I just want…”

“A fan and your pillow?” He guesses and it’s rewarded with a genuine smile from his exhausted wife. 

“Thank you.” Her voice is sweet and soft and he can’t help but stare at her in absolute wonder and adoration. 

She’s the strongest person he knows.


Their daughter enters their lives abruptly, a few days before they were fully prepared, and it’s not like in the movies—because it’s never like it is in the movies. Movies give women and their families a false sense of what to expect. No, it’s definitely not like the movies. Minerva enters full blown labor three days after trying everything—everything—to encourage their daughter to leave her comfortable home of the last nine months. When the contractions get not too far apart, it’s absolute hell and she thinks she’d rather have Orga punch her at full force, than deal with it.

Minerva labors quietly for the most part, taking the pain with agonized moans and softer pants, finding ample support in the ironclad grip she has Gajeel ensnared in. When it’s time to push she’s not as ready as she thought she would be, but Gajeel and her body take over for her and it’s almost an out of body experience…right up until the ring of fire™[1]. The damn ring of fire™, seemingly one of the few unanimous things mothers can agree on—oh yes, get ready for the baby’s head presenting. That shit’ll kill ya! Minerva turns to Gajeel in that moment, emerald eyes hard and unmoving, and informs him she’s going to die. 

She of course, does not.

To his credit, Gajeel has done his research. He’s well-read from months of nervous impatience and he’s the epitome of a perfect birthing partner. Minerva makes no dramatic or cliche declarations pointing fault at Gajeel—she is fully aware she was a more than willing participant that night. Besides, a baby is exactly what they wanted.

Esme comes into the world quiet and peaceful, born en caul[2] and the midwives are actually kind of shocked because it is fairly rare. The silence doesn’t last for more than a few seconds but it’s far too prolonged for Minerva and Gajeel’s already frayed nerves. The midwives allow Gajeel to break the amniotic sac, and with shaking hands he watches her take her first loud breath. 

It’s cheesy and dumb and he never thought he’d think it but, it’s the most beautiful sound in the world.

The rest of the labor finishes smoothly and they monitor Minerva for postpartum hemorrhaging, which thankfully there was none. Minerva falls asleep, utterly exhausted from the 32 hours, and thankful to have their daughter in this world. While Minerva sleeps, the midwife kindly sets Gajeel up in the corner on a chair with his daughter in his arms. She moves the bassinet besides him just in case he needs a break, which he swiftly informs her, “won’t be necessary.” He watches her tiny face for the whole two hours before the staff successfully convince him he should eat. He begrudgingly places an order to the hospital kitchen with the help of a nurse.


 

When Minerva awakes, she’s cranky and tired and trudges to and from the bathroom, squirt bottle in hand[3], back to the bed where food awaits her. When she glances at Gajeel he’s staring at her, daughter comfortably sleeping in his arms, just like she left him.

“You have to stop looking at me like that.”

“Like what?”

“Like that!” Minerva gestures weakly at the awestruck look he’s donning.

Gajeel blinks once—twice—before he smiles again, easy and dreamy at the sight before him. “Can’t help it. Somethin’ about you.”

She hums in acknowledgement before picking up the plastic cutlery to poke at her food. “They say when men see their wives after they give birth, apparently they stop seeing them as women.” She sighs into her first bite.

“That’s true.” He pauses in thought, “you’re kinda a goddess.”

Minerva stifles a laugh, stealing a glance at him and sure enough he’s still awestricken, as if she's spun in gold. “You’ve got six weeks, Gajeel[4]. Easy there.” She teases shaking her head.

It is at that exact moment a nurse brings in a food tray for Gajeel, light steam coming up from the covered meal. Gajeel gives her a thankful nod as she ducks out of the room, giving the new parents privacy with their new baby. Minerva’s mouth rounds around another forkful of food. “Don’t touch anything hot when you hold the baby.” She cautions, overbearing mother already creeping into her person.

 

“I feel hot when I think of you.” Gajeel responds not missing a beat, slight wiggle to his brow.

 

Minerva is besides herself, choking on her surprise and falling into a fit of laughter. Her entire being hurts, and her abdomen is on fire, but she wouldn’t have it any other way.

Chapter Text

Erza came to slowly, still heavy and exhausted with the weight of a hard-earned deep sleep. And if the low chirp of the crickets were any indication, she had definitely overslept.

She made zero effort to move, vaguely aware of the fingers working through her hair, still numb to the world though very alert. Erza always found difficulty falling asleep, except for when she returned back to the castle gates where she could be lulled to sleep by Kagura’s quiet humming whenever they shared time and space together. She kept her eyes shut, relishing the feeling.

“What time is it?” Erza asks, voice still sleep-addled.

“You can go back to sleep if you want. The army won’t move without your word.” 

“You let me sleep in?” It’s more of a statement than a question.

“You're tired.” Kagura never ceases in her ministrations, continuing to carefully untangle long neglected knots in Erza’s hair.

Erza gives a thoughtful hum, sitting up slowly to rub the sleep from her eyes. A light summer wind blows through their bedroom window past the gossamer curtains, allowing moonlight to spill into the candlelit space. She can hear several low voices coming from outside just below their balcony, foot soldiers making their way towards the city gates ready to move out at her word.  

“We should leave soon.” Erza muttered. Glancing at the large clock against the wall, she stood from the bed and approached the mirror.

Her fingers traced over the long jagged scar running down her torso, careful to catch its peaks and valleys where the skin rose and puckered. She remembers the exact fight that garnered that wound—she remembers the origin of every single one of her scars in vivid detail.

“I’ve always been fond of this one,” Kagura interjects. Her hand joins Erza’s in its careful mapping, trailing her fingers up Erza’s ribcage to a horizontal silvery scar just below her breast. Her fingers are a gentle caress as she leans in to dip her face in the crook of Erza’s neck, peppering the exposed skin with soft kisses.

“You gave me that one.” Erza’s voice is breathy and playful as her lips curved into a smile. She leaned back against Kagura’s bare form, watching her in the mirror.

“And now you are more likely to dodge.” She teased, punctuating her words with a swift poke to Erza’s rib, causing her to jolt. It only makes Kagura laugh more and she wraps her arms around Erza’s waist, humming softly. 

Erza closed her eyes, feeling secure in her arms. Quiet moments had become fewer and further between for them—the nature of war required that sacrifice. After several failed diplomatic agreements, their kingdom had went to war with their former ally to the West. Their former ally had begun to encroach upon their kingdom’s territory faster than any one had expected. Erza had been home for less than a week after her return from the Southern campaign when she got word she was being called to the Western front. It appeared they would be spending much less time together than she had hoped to.

“I’m heading West today—To the Great Plains,” Erza whispered.

Erza’s deployment had not come as a surprise. They had received orders for their deployment earlier in the week, though Erza had insisted she’d tell her the location later, not wanting to ruin what little time they had together. Kagura now understood why: the Great Plains had been a battleground the army had been trying to avoid since the start of the war. It just wasn’t in their favor, the Western front was separated from their capital by rogue territory which made it difficult to receive backup and supplies. This would be one of the hardest battles either of them had faced in their twenty-five short years. 

It would be their kingdom’s last stand.

“The Great Plains,” Kagura echoed. 

Kagura stood there behind her, eyes trained on Erza’s expression in the mirror, searching for any hint of doubt. They had served in the military alongside each other for a majority of their lives, had been together for just as long, and Kagura could always tell when Erza was troubled by an order. Rare as it was, Kagura had learned quickly that if Erza was visibly worried, their battle would be much more arduous that she had previously thought. The energy around them was fraught with slight unease as they stood there in silence watching each other, searching for any sign of concern. 

Erza’s features remained calm and unmoving. 

“Ok,” Kagura conceded.

“Are you worried?” 

Kagura shook her head silently as she unravels her arms from around her, turning Erza away from the mirror to face her. Their eyes retained their battle-hardness right up until Kagura leans in and pulled Erza into a deep kiss. There was no buildup—there is no time for buildup—and Erza immediately melts against her, bringing her calloused hands up to cup Kagura’s face. Their kiss is slow and passionate, both of them feeling a desire for more as they savored the other’s lips before Erza pulls away. They rested their foreheads against each others’ in an appreciative silence. 

“To the Great Plains.”

“I’ll come back to you. I promise.” Erza whispered, smiling when she feels Kagura ease.

“Of course you will,” Kagura laughed, still holding her gaze. “Can’t leave till one of our spars ends in something other than a draw.”

Erza huffed out a laugh as they pulled apart, heading to opposite sides of the room to pull on their armors. This wouldn’t be the first time they would be separated due to war but it always felt like it was. When they were fully dressed they approached each other in the middle of their bedroom to tie a ribbon to the other’s armor—a quiet reminder to return back to what they were leaving.

Chapter Text

Bourbon. 

There was something about bourbon that always seemed to sit just right with him, easily slotting and filling the hollowed out recesses that held feelings or memories he longed to forget. 

And Gildarts wanted to forget.

His vision hadn’t quite doubled just yet but it was well on its way towards that if he kept going at the pace he had set. It wouldn’t be the first time he had drank to numb the feeling—or any feeling for that matter. He seized the shot glass, fingers moving deftly even through the haze of his previous indulgences and took it back in one gulp, slapping it back down onto the wooden bar top with much more force than intended. He raised a hand, calming the nervous look the bartender had shot his way. If there was anything Gildarts knew, it was how to drink just enough to quiet the demons without causing a scene and this little foray to the bar would be no different. After gathering himself, he left money for the bartender (with an ample apologetic tip), and made his way out into the mid-summer night. 

He paused briefly taking a deep breath of the cool and balmy air before digging in his pocket for a cigarette which he instantly brought between his lips. “Hap-hic!-py,” he dug a lighter out of his pocket, fumbling to ignite it. “Bir-hic!-th day-hic, Gildy!” His steps teetered as he crossed through town, by-passing the line of closed businesses. 

Gildarts had always been indifferent to birthdays, or more accurately his birthday. Along with the renewed awareness of him getting older, and thus closer to a much needed (though much avoided) retirement, he often found himself alone on it. Loneliness wasn’t the issue—Gildarts had been fairly lonely for a while. He had no serious partners, and he rarely worked with others for jobs, often favoring to take longer ones for the sake of the adventure and chance to clear his mind (via shamelessly sampling the local fare). 

This year he had been hoping would be different, however. Gildarts scoffed at the thought, crossing the footbridge over the small waterway that passed through the town, still annoyed. 

When had he last enjoyed a birthday? When had he last celebrated a birthday? And actually celebrated—not just heading to a bar to bathe his sorrows in amber libations to quell the demons, or falling into the warmth of a stranger’s bed, tipsy and numb. When had that become the norm for him—stumbling in and out of inn rooms, night caps for long and arduous missions all in an effort to silence the memories of the sliver of normalcy he had with Cornelia, who had long since passed. 

And it always came back to Cornelia, didn’t it?

The thought left as soon as it came, banished away. He dug his hands back into his pockets, cigarette and lighter long forgotten, and grumbled quietly with each fumbling step.

“Idi-hic!-ot.” He grumbled, eyes locked on the inn just in front of him. All he wanted was sleep and the silence of the room and the comfort of a flimsy blanket. This place was a step above the ones he usually procured, perhaps it had a nice waste bin—he could pull it near him in case he had to throw up in the middle of the night.

Happy birthday, indeed.

When he entered the small inn he didn’t return the warm greeting from the woman at the desk, instead jingling his key towards her as he passed. His mood had soured considerably quicker than it usually did and all he wanted was the luxury of silence in the privacy of his own space, even if it was purchased for just one night. He climbed the creaky old stairs acutely aware how each exhausted squeak of the wood vaguely resembled the quiet aching of his joints, yet another reminder of his age. He groaned when he reached the top of the stairs, cursing the walk from the landing to the end of the hall where his room was—a short distance when he was sober, and exceedingly long and burdensome when he was inebriated.

The key slid in easy and quietly, his eyes downcast but very alert to the presence on the other side. He pushed the door open, fist poised to knock out whomever was in the room but stopped short, as Silver turned towards him with an annoyed look. 

“Silver?” He asked dumbly, cigarette falling to the floor.

“You were going to haymaker someone you had no visual on?” Silver wrinkled his nose, one arm behind his back and gestured with his other. “How drunk are you?”

“The hell are you-hic! doing here?” Gildarts retorted straightening his posture before closing the door.

“It’s your birthday,” Silver smirked, annunciating each syllable.

It didn’t seem to convince Gildarts any because instead he narrowed his eyes and pointed lamely at Silver. “S’whats behind your-hic! back?”

Silver sighed, grumbling quietly to himself before revealing a plated chocolate-frosted cupcake with a candle in it. “I won’t sing ‘Happy Birthday’ for you.”

Gildarts stared at the small confection curiously before closing the distance between them. They had been unofficially seeing each other for over a three years now, catching each other when they finished jobs and meeting in the privacy of inn rooms in random towns just like this. He wasn’t sure what was more shocking of a gesture: Silver showing up for his birthday, or Silver showing up for his birthday with a cupcake in hand.

“You remembered…” Gildarts whispered half to himself, hiccuping quietly.

“Of course I did.” Silver rolled his eyes and reached into Gildarts pocket, fishing for the lighter. Once he grabbed it, he lit it with a practiced ease and lit the candle. “Go on, make a wish.”

Gildarts looked at Silver curiously. They had never planned to spend time together on either of their birthdays, and this was all too surreal. He decided to placate him and leaned in, watching the candle flame dance before smiling to himself, bad mood suddenly forgotten. He paused in thought momentarily and then blew out the candle with a small laugh, eyes watery. 

“I figured you could use some company.” His voice was soft as his hand slotted against Gildarts’ cheek in a comforting gesture.

Gildarts nodded as he straightened up and pulled Silver into a long and warm hug. 

“Thanks, Silv.”

 

Chapter Text

Minerva stared down at the address scribbled on the paper, pressing the toe of her expensive pump into the loose umber dirt. The address was correct, but all her years of law school and internships couldn’t have possibly prepared her for where the GPS had taken her.

A mechanic shop.

Sucking her teeth she balled the paper in her closed fist glaring at the dilapidated structure before her. Outside there sat a few old beaten up bodies, long lost to time. The brown earth bore no life minus the occasional patch of green sprouting scattered along the full lot. Several cars sat lined up just outside the garage entrance, a few men stood there staring at her. She sucked her teeth, steeling her gaze until they turned away in intimidation which delighted her to no end.

The place looked more like a scrap yard than a mechanic shop and the longer Minerva stood there, the longer she wondered why the hell she had been sent to shake down a mechanic in the middle of nowhere—though “shake down” wasn’t exactly the right way to put it either. The firm had just been handed one of the most publicized cases of the year. Media was buzzing nonstop around the office since her father had announced they’d be representing a famous business tycoon who had a lawsuit filed against them for a major violation of workers’ rights…“supposed” violation. How this lousy mechanic shop fit into it, Minerva wasn’t all too sure but her hard-ass father had been adamant that they needed to find out everything about a key witness who happened to be the owner of this shop. Their relevance to the overall case was a blur, Jiemma liked to keep details close to him till it was necessary—he claimed it was to minimize the risk of information leaks to the media or the prosecution, which Minerva really knew just meant it most certainly would get him debarred and the entire firm shut down. She wasn’t sure if she’d mind that all too much either, her father was an exhausting man and he had forced this case on her much to her displeasure.

She sighed heavily as she stepped away from the car glancing back. She had to trade in her luxury car for it in order to keep a low profile, she just needed a routine check up and to gather as much as she could about the shop’s owner. Squaring her shoulders, she dug her hand into her jacket pocket as she approached the open garage door hatch. She peered into the space, removing her glasses carefully as she did. There were several people working on cars, some of them had taken notice of her and took time to stop and stare, forgetting their tasks all together. Minerva simply ignored them and scanned the floor for anyone who seemed to be in charge.

“Can we help you?” Someone asked from behind.

“Actually yeah my car seems to…” 

Much to her surprise, her line of thought went directly out the window as she turned around. The woman behind her stood there with scarlet hair mussed and pulled into a ponytail. Her hands rested on the curve of her hips, pressing into the ratty fabric of her old tank top. Minerva’s eyes traveled up the length of her taut muscular arms, covered in a light sheen of sweat that also clung to her collarbones and rolled down the long line of her neck. Minerva caught herself staring at the perfect swell of her bottom lip which curved into an almost too sweet smile before she spoke again. 

“The check engine light is on, and I think the oil needs to be changed.” Minerva pointed out towards the car. “I was told by a couple of guys up the road the owner of this place comes highly recommended.”

The woman nodded, offering her hand after wiping them off on the dirty towel that hung on her pants’ belt loop. “Yeah, I can take a look at it.”

“Thanks…?” Minerva raised an eyebrow, glancing at her hand before seizing it. “Minerva Orlando.”

“Erza Scarlet, I’m the owner of this auto body shop.”

Minerva could hear the pounding of her heart in her ear as she stared into those disarmingly sweet chocolate eyes.

This case just got much more interesting.

Chapter Text

"I met a dragon."

Esme had suddenly announced that, unprompted and confidently, during breakfast. She had recently become consumed in all things dragons, and her newfound obsession with the magic creatures had her gushing about their extraordinary and unique habits often. But never had she ever claimed to have actually seen one.

Minerva shared a look with Gajeel as she placed her cup down. Their daughter's imagination had been the source of several inside jokes over her six illustrious years. "Did it have big sharp teeth like papa?" She teased. 

"He did!" Esme chirped through a mouth of oatmeal. "He told me to call him pops but I that's too close to papa, so I called him grandpa!" Her expression turned soft and fond as she smiled into her bowl.

Gajeel turned to Minerva, both of them holding the same interested look.

"What did this dragon look like, Es?” 

"Metal—"

"—Licana." Gajeel finished for her. He didn't bother looking at Minerva but he did feel her flinch slightly.

“And you spoke with this metal dragon?” Minerva asked. Gajeel leaned in, curious to see what their daughter would say. It wasn't everyday your child mentioned they had contact with the deceased. 

Esme nodded through another spoonful. "He says he’s papa’s papa!"

Gajeel huffed out a laugh as he took a sip of coffee. Metalicana had disappeared without a word, the context and reason for why had of course been cleared up but he found it humorous his old man would contact his daughter. "What else did the old tin can say?"

“He’s not tin, he’s metal!” She corrected, swiping her bangs from her eyes before pressing her knees into the chair.. “He said he's watching over us and that he really likes mama!" Esme smiled bouncing in her seat. "He thinks she's funny!"

Minerva flashed Gajeel a bright, knowing smile. If their daughter's interaction was indeed true, she just received the highest praise and there was absolutely zero chance she'd not use it for leverage. “Must be my charming wit!”

“Probably cause you wrangle me better than he ever could. He’s always liked to see me suffer." Gajeel mumbled into the dark liquid.

"Grandpa said I was the best little slayer he’s ever seen, too!" She was teeming with excitement now as she pressed her hands onto the wooden table top, eyes bright and alight with confidence from well-deserved praise.

"You certainly are!" Minerva leaned in to pinch her cheek, eliciting the bubbliest giggle from the little girl.

"Of course she is!" Gajeel grinned bringing an arm around Minerva, suddenly filled with pride. His father wasn't the biggest on compliments but it appeared he made an exception for Esme, tiny and scrappy little angel she was. And it was true, Esme had picked up both of their magics rather fast and efficiently and had only begun training within the year.

"Did he say anything else?" Minerva asked.

Esme looked up in contemplation before her excitement slipped into a more serious set to her soft features. She turned to her father, emerald eyes boring into his. "Is papa sad?"

"Huh?" Gajeel looked at Minerva and just like at the start of their conversation, they were both confused. “No…?”

She stared at him for a moment, the slit of her pupils narrowing significantly, trying to see if he was lying to her. He couldn't help but smile because she looked just like her mother when she was concentrating. "Ok." She finally said sitting back down in her chair as if the question had never been asked.

"Why did you think papa was sad, honey?"

"Because," she played with her spoon for a moment before she smiled. "He said he's happy papa isn't sad anymore." 

Gajeel raised an eyebrow. Admittedly he had been fairly lost and angry after his father disappeared. Finding and joining Phantom Lord had given him a purpose but, in the height of his more rambunctious teenage years he never found time to address emotional trauma from his abrupt abandonment. It went addressed for years, morphing into a profound sadness that presented in his aggressive and angry behavior. Fairy Tail had helped to quell that and the last bit of sadness had been chased away when he and Minerva had begun to foster their accidental friendship, until one day he woke up and the sadness wasn’t the first thing that pulled at him—replaced by his genuine excitement to spend time with his wife and daughter.

"Papa’s not sad,” Gajeel reassured. He pulled Minerva close squeezing gently and kissed the top of her head.

"Good!" Esme chirped, "and mama's not sad either, right?"

“It’s hard to be sad with you two.”She smirked, taking a sip.

“Good!” Esme took in another spoonful of oatmeal as she kicked her feet in excitement.

“That's not good for the baby."

Minerva went rigid as Gajeel's grasp tightened. They looked at each other, the genuine shock and confusion in Gajeel's eyes caused Minerva to waver as a light blush colored her cheeks. 

"I was going to tell you today."

Chapter Text

They sat in silence trying to concentrate on just about anything besides what had just transpired. 

Minerva hadn’t been all too thrilled about the prospects of introducing Gajeel to her father, but her mother foolishly insisted. That dinner had been one of the most excruciating experiences of her adult life. She had accepted a long time ago that her family’s pleasant, moderately successful exterior was a simple facade for the disfunction she had grown up with. She just hadn’t expected her father’s disappointment for her, and her half-brother would have come out full force during the meal. Her mother tried to stop him, Minerva would give her that, but her father had always ruled with an iron fist. (And on days when it didn’t creep her out, she’d even admit to herself that Gajeel had a bit of that ironclad tenacity—though somehow it fit him better).

Minerva sighed staring out the window of the car as they continued out of the quiet of her childhood cul-de-sac.

Gajeel glanced over at her then back to the road. Meeting Minerva’s parents had been an interesting experience for all the wrong reasons. He had heard a lot about her father, he was sort of an ominous figure that was mentioned around the industry in low murmurs. The man was supposedly successful and a notorious hardass. When Gajeel had realized he was dating his daughter he couldn’t deny the rush of fear that washed over him. However, meeting Jiemma and seeing how he treated his children had put the industry’s top dog in a completely different light. 

Jiemma fell prey to the need of being overly demanding of his children in an effort to maintain a successful and impressive legacy. His brusque behavior had come as no surprise to Gajeel after Minerva hesitantly divulged dark parts of her childhood to him. The level of emotional abuse she and her brother experienced, had left him confused as to why the meeting was even taking place. Halfway through dinner it became apparent that Minerva’s acquiescence (and acknowledgement that she and Jiemma shared DNA), was a testament of the respect she paid her mother. 

After the first off-hand critique, Gajeel couldn’t find himself desiring to be around him a minute longer. Jiemma had been obscenely course the entire time, and nothing Minerva did seemed to win her favor and as much as she denied it favor was a strong desire of hers. Which, Gajeel couldn’t quite blame her for. He understood that desire perfectly well. His father wasn’t as ruthless as Jiemma, and he could absolutely tell Metalicana at least liked (or at the very least tolerated) him, but he oftentimes came up short—whether that was in his own mind or not.

They remained quiet, washed aglow in the red of the traffic signal. Gajeel tapped his fingers mindlessly against the middle console when he felt Minerva grab his hand and intertwined their fingers. He turned towards hers, a bit shocked by the gesture after their long silence, but squeezed her hand gently before adjusting in his seat.

“Thank you, Gajeel.” Minerva sighed, drawing her hand out of his and patted his leg as if to punctuate her gratitude. She turned back towards the road just as the light turned green. “That’s one wedding detail out the way.”

Gajeel hummed in understanding. Minerva had went along with the meeting to appease her mother who had been hoping for a chance at the two making amends, hoping that Jiemma could walk her down the aisle for their wedding. After tonight though, it was very clear that wasn’t going to happen. 

“Well,” he yawned, reaching out for her hand again. “We never really planned for your old man to be there to walk you anyway. It's not like you’re really traditional. You’re wearing black.”

Minerva looked briefly from his hand to his face and raised an eyebrow. “Who the hell told you I was wearing black?”

“Sure as hell can’t wear white, Min.” He grumbled, barely flinching when she slapped his hand away.

“Why the hell not?”

“Church’ll go up in flames.”

“You’re an asshole.” Minerva rolled her eyes halfheartedly, her smile betraying her.

Gajeel smiled quietly to himself. “Why won’t you ask your brother?”

Half brother,” Minerva corrected as she leaned further into the seat. “He’s a little young-minded. He’d probably show up and sling his arm over me smelling like a pub! Love him but sometimes he takes after his namesake a little too much.”

Gajeel nodded slowly.

“Bacchus is the god of wine—”

“I know that, dammit!”

“Looked like you were rubbing flint together over there.” Minerva teased with a sly smile, though it didn’t last long as Gajeel tapped the break abruptly, jerking her forward. “Gajeel!”

“Sorry. Foot slipped.” 

“My foot is about to slip!”

“Alright!” He smirked, keeping his eyes on the road. “What about that poet friend of yours?”

“Rufus? No. I was thinking my cousin.”

“Which one?”

“Orga. So you remember not to fuck this up.”

“You’re honestly a big enough threat.”

“I'm glad we’re on the same page, Redfox.” Minerva smiled, tickling under his chin.

Gajeel rolled his eyes and gave a dramatic huff. “It’s your wedding. I still think we could just head to the courthouse and save us the headache.”

“The idea is appealing,” she hummed. “It’ll probably save you nervous sweating.”

“Can’t help it.”

“You’d like that? A courthouse?” She asked turning towards him, watching his facial expression in the evening light.

“As long as I’m marrying you.” He glanced at her then back at the road before slowing down to merge into the highway traffic.

“My mother would be distraught.” Minerva smiled, still watching him.

“You damn near hauled me off to the courthouse yourself after I asked!”

“Couldn’t help it.”

“Well, you still got time to decide. Gotta officially meet my family.”

Minerva looked down at the gift bag seated on the floor between her feet, worry dressing her brows. 

“Nervous?”

“I haven’t met your mother yet. She wasn’t there last time…”

“She’s probably the easiest person to get along with in the family,” he reassured. “My stubborn old man already likes you, Wendy likes you—Rogue likes you too, he’s just damn quiet. You’ve basically got the part, Min.”

“Wendy and Rogue are sweet though. Not sure where you crawled out from.”

Crawled. I’ll be sure to relay that to my mom.” He muttered under a snort.

“It’s so odd to think I’m meeting her after you’ve proposed.” Minerva laughed softly, “She’ll probably look at me funny.”

Gajeel hummed in acknowledgement, staring straight ahead as Minerva turned to him curiously. He cleared his throat and remained quiet, as they pulled onto a residential street lined in large oaks. 

“Are you fucking kidding me?” Minerva glared.

“Completely slipped my mind.” 

“Your fiancée slipped your fucking mind?”

“Min—”

“I’ll walk home,” she whispered to herself. “I’m walking home! Pull over.”

“We’re already here…” He pulled the car into park before cutting off the engine. “It…won’t be too awkward?”

She sat there arms crossed over her chest and glared at him, eyes narrowing as she quietly seethed in her seat.

“Oops.”

Chapter Text

It had been plastered all over the media in stark black font over a bright yellow background: 5 dead, 26 injured in attack by rogue mage.

 

Lucy sat motionless, completely rooted in her place unable to look away from the large ticker that ran along the bottom of her screen that demanded her complete attention. And she couldn’t look away even if she could summon up the ability to. Every channel had interrupted regularly scheduled programming to update the stunned and shocked populace around the nation, hopeless and absolutely shaken to their core, their already fragile sense of safety shattered. 

 

The numbers they were reporting were so variable, she wasn’t sure what to believe besides the absolute truth: there had been an attack. There were several reports of casualties, and that number was going to climb—some broadcasts were reporting as high as 20, some as low as 5. 

 

Each update increased her nervousness, and she sat washed aglow in the soft white light of the television, quiet and fraught as her hand rubbed soft circles over her swollen middle. Her impenetrable quiet observance was accented with the incessant hum of several unanswered text messages and calls. She had been ignoring them since the news broke, completely unable to answer any of their questions:

 

We heard about what’s happening…

 

How’s your family?

 

Hey, is Laxus ok?

 

Can you get in contact with him?

 

I can’t get a hold of Laxus, have you been able to get through? It’s going straight to voicemail.

 

Are you ok?

 

She had been reading them before she found herself fixated on the television, choosing to stop after about the tenth message, finding it nearly unbearable to read through the genuine concern and thinly veiled pre-condolences from friends and family. Somehow she had taken on their worry, feeling it manifest in a consistent tremor in her left hand with which she gripped the remote. Ignoring the calls and messages did nothing to quell the shaking though it was much easier than engaging with them.

 

Cameras panned through images of the historic and glowing iconic steel structure that sat perfectly placed in the midst of the violence. The long, busy roadway that ran along side filled with hordes of people running and screaming in terror, scared for their lives. The lights of the structure reflecting dimly off the murky river looked almost unfamiliar to her—marred by an act of violence so great her home became foreign. All the while, her eyes never left the streets. She found herself flipping through channels, watching carefully for a sign of anything familiar in the crowd. Her heart pounded furiously as each second passed, and her thoughts became an inescapable metronome—where was he? Why wasn’t he picking up his phone? What could possibly be stopping him from answering her that very moment?

 

When the broadcast switched back to the news studios, another clip of hastily acquired cell phone footage was placed in the middle of the screen. Shaky and grainy images punctuated with screams and the sound of explosions going off all around, playing on a constant loop. She hadn’t realized how quick and shallow her breathing had become, or how her hand had stilled in its meticulous soothing rubs. 

 

What if he didn’t come back?

 

Through it all, she remained still and quiet.

 

The small child curled up against her still deep in slumber. Lucy traced her hand lovingly along the girl’s cheek, watching her expression ease. 

How would she tell her? 

 

How would she tell her her favorite person wouldn’t be able to play anymore? Wouldn’t come home? Wouldn’t read with her? And what about the unborn one? What stories would she tell him of his brilliant and effervescent father? Would he look like him? Perhaps develop a similar personality? 

 

Her phone began to hum in staccato vibrations, pulling her attention from the small spiral she had entered. She picked it up without hesitation.

 

“Luc—”

 

“Where are you?!” 

 

“I’m ok, I’m ok! We just got back.”

 

Her throat grew hot and swollen as the tears came quickly, openly sobbing into her hand. “I thought you were...”

 

There was a pause, a moment taken by both, feeling the weight of her unspoken words.

 

“Hey,” Laxus soother over the other end. “I’m fine, I’m fine. We’re all ok. We left before everything…”

 

Lucy nodded, eyes shut tight through her next whimper.

 

“I’m fine, Lucy. It’s ok. I’ll be back soon.” His voice was sweet and soft, devoid of fear and filled with such certainty she couldn’t help but believe him. 

 

“Just come home.” She managed through a loud sniff.

 

“I’m coming home.”

Chapter Text

In some ways, Minerva found it oddly poetic. 

 

She sat there in the sterile white room, surrounded by the quiet and calm autumnal breeze that entered the space, filling it with the refreshing scent of leaves and sun as she spooned soup into Jiemma’s mouth. In these moments she found herself ruminating on larger questions that shaped, framed, and colored her life. 

 

How does a daughter heal the deep and open wounds given to her by her father?

 

Her movements were practiced and meticulous, consumed in a spiritual magic that was filled with an intense love and forgiveness not directed at him. These were spells for self healing, self love, and acceptance. These were the soothing balm that slid easy over her  emotional and psychological scars with the redolence of a promise.

 

Jiemma took the spoonfuls in quiet acceptance. His deep-set eyes never stayed on her long, instead looking to a corner just past her or the spoon nearing his mouth. When his focus did shift to her, they seemed far away. She wondered what he was thinking from time to time, wondered if he had ever realized, or even began to comprehend the extensive damage that…those were dangerous thoughts she relegated to the back of her mind. For now, in the silence, she’d dip the spoon back into the soup. 

 

This was their new routine. The silent acceptance of the finality of their relationship marked by abuse, intolerance, seething anger and pain, all culminating in quiet days of her lovingly feeding him.  Sometimes she’d allow her thoughts to drift, painting images of Jiemma feeding her younger self, but it’d distort as soon at it formed. 

 

No, that’s not right.

 

That’s not Jiemma.

 

That’s not them.

 

She couldn’t remember much of her mother but had remembered seeing an image of her stunning heart-shaped face framed by thick wavy raven hair. How had she come to love him? Was there another mysterious side her mother had discovered? One she deemed tolerable, even likable? Perhaps it wasn’t anything like that at all. Women had been forced into loveless marriages to secure financial and social gain for their husbands and fathers for centuries. Why would her mother’s fate be any different?  

 

Her thumb itched at her bare ring finger before offering the last spoonful, sobered by the thought.

 

Jiemma never thanked her but always gave a raspy and satisfying ‘hummm’ when the meal was finished. Minerva decided that was thanks enough because in another time, he would be liable, as well as physically able, to verbally lambaste her about her seemingly endless reprehensible qualities. In this silence however, Minerva found peace with the way things were. 

 

She set the bowl and spoon aside on the chair besides her, and rose from her seat feeling lighter and released of a burden that had plagued her for far too long. She took the cloth napkin that rested on the chair and wiped the remanence of the meal from the corners of his tired and down turned mouth, before she offered him a glass of water, straw pointed towards him. She watched as he emptied it of its contents, satiated and again, thankless. 

 

Yes, it was all quite poetic.

 

She placed the cup down and turned back to him to pull the blankets up his weary form. A grunt would alert her, informing her that she’d pulled the covers up too high. She’d right the mistake immediately. She remembered the first time she had seen him like this, battered and exhausted with the coming of age and weakened by the passing of time, gaunt and wrinkly. She had thought it would have effected her more greatly but then she recognized the deep scowl and intense look of disappointment in his eyes when she first entered the room. It was sad and yet comforting. 

 

Had she ever seen him smile?

 

She’d turn back to the bowl and spoon and napkin, and gather them, folding the napkin neatly over the bowl before placing them in the lunch bag she brought his meal in. She’d step into the hallway to refill the glass before resting it on the nightstand, next to the only picture of her mother she had ever seen. How greatly had her death colored their relationship? She’d never inquire. She’d head to the window and close it . All of her tasks done in their long established comfortable silence. Sometimes she’d tie back the curtain so he could look out at the sky as the sun set, and she’d find herself pausing. 

 

Would this be the last time she’d perform her daughterly duties? 

 

What would happen if Jiemma passed in the night? 

 

Whenever her thoughts drifted, an inconceivably tight knot would form at the base of her throat, threatening to choke her. Three even breaths righted the knot back 

 

                  down, 

                            down, 

                                       down,

 

into the pit of her belly where it’d festered until the next visit.

 

After collecting her purse and coat she would turn to him and give a knowing nod before she headed out the door, back into the hospital hallway, reintegrating into the world. She’d pass the nurses’ station, tapping the desk as she walked by, silently informing them that she was done  for the night and was leaving him in their hands.

 

She’d be back the next day.

 

Her walk to the train station remained muted, steps numb in the brisk fall breeze. The stairs into the subway, and the stops on the train blurred into the background, her movements becoming self-assured after months of repetition. She would eventually find herself sliding her key into the lock of the heavy iron door that led back into her warm apartment. She’d remove her shoes, shutting the door with the press of her back, before hanging her coat and following the smell of something delicious into the kitchen. 

 

She’d find him over a pot of brewing broth, carefully ladling it into the pyrex container for Jiemma’s next meal. He’d never look up when he greeted her but the warmth and caring was still there, his voice was a gentle reaffirming squeeze—everything was going to be ok. 

 

It was enough to make her cry.

 

“Thank you, Gajeel.”

Chapter Text

It had been one of the only pieces of jewelry she had coveted—besides the engagement ring, and the matching wedding bands that followed soon after.

 

It had been the most charming piece of jewelry she had ever seen. A delicate, simply designed 24 carat gold chain. A perfectly elegant and tiny charm hung from it from an even more dainty clasp that joined it to the chain. 

 

The first snow of the year hadn’t even occurred and Christmas had been months away, but Juvia could remember the inexplicable excitement that consumed her when she spotted him making the thoughtful purchase so far in advance. It had been months ago, just when the air had begun to cool, when she saw him through the jewelers window, staring at the necklace with a serene tenderness.

 

She would have never imagined how it’d feel when she opened Gray’s gift on Christmas Day, and found a simple set of pearl earrings.

 

Pearl. Earrings.

 

Juvia hated pearls. She thought they were awful and aged, and definitely not the perfect and delicate golden necklace she had seen him admiring in the store a few months prior. 

 

When she looked up to feign her excitement, her eyes caught the warm twinkle of holiday lights reflecting off the most darling and delicate golden necklace around Erza’s neck. 

 

XXX

 

Juvia hadn’t processed it well. 

 

After the booze had dried up, the gifting paper had been ripped to shreds, and their apartment had been abandoned by their friends high off the buzz of Christmas joy, she remained seated in the plush chair just besides the tree, still holding tight to the box with the pearl earrings. The realization hit her all at once, sudden and unsparing in its force. 

 

“You bought the necklace for Erza?” 

 

It was more of a statement than a question but it appeared it had been the correct deduction, because the color quickly flushed from Gray’s face. It was almost like being hit by a bus. She felt weightless, suspended midair after the initial blow, quietly sifting through years of their relationship for any—a n y—indication of his infidelity. When she finally crashed into the pavement it was almost liberating. 

 

Suddenly he was belting out a chorus of apologies, prayers of forgiveness, and declarations of no malintent. He even apologized for ruining her favorite holiday, though the issue wasn’t that she had discovered his transgressions on Christmas.

 

No. 

 

That was just an ironically torturous detail that magnified her unbearable numbness.

 

XXX

 

The months on the velvet sofa blurred and crashed into each other. 

 

Juvia had found herself being brought to sessions rather than attending them. She felt like a soundboard for Gray to use to explore how his behavior didn’t fully explain his character, and how his image of himself didn’t (or wouldn’t) warp under the weight of his indiscretions. Gray was adamant that this “wasn’t him” though to Juvia all evidence pointed to the exact opposite—this was him, it had been for the past five years.

 

Every declaration turned her spit sour.

 

One of their—her—biggest hurdles was that Juvia didn’t know what she wanted from this. Coming to the realization that for five years of marriage Gray had decided to partake in an extramarital affaire was more than hurtful, it was damaging. His behavior had perverted how she perceived herself and left her at the mercy of his infidelity. 

 

The decision to stay or leave was much more complicated and nuanced outside of drunken discussions with close girlfriends. Those discussions, often marked with bold claims of, “I would never” and “I’d kill him”, seemed to ring dull in the midst of that exact hypothetical scenario. 

 

She could leave him. 

 

There were no kids involved, and their investments weren’t too tangled up. 

 

But what if she stayed? 

 

They could potentially work this out, right? (“Till death do us part”, right?) Then there was the judgment to consider, the looks of pity and dismay if she were to work through this mess. 

 

How would that affect their image of her?

 

How would that affect her image of herself?

 

XXX

 

Breakthroughs were few and far between. 

 

What little progress they had made quickly unraveled under the midsummer heat, and the quickly approaching black cloud that was their anniversary. 

 

Gray’s covert demands for closure and moving past the infidelity didn’t match Juvia’s need to rediscover herself, and the truths in their relationship. 

 

Through the sweltering heat, Juvia lashed out at him, asserting that nothing had been real about their relationship. Gray’s usual retort was irate, questioning what she wanted from him and wondering why she continued attending their counseling sessions if she didn’t believe him or want to work on what they had. 

 

It was in the depths of his fuming that Juvia heard the truthful implication that she had the ability to make him seek out Erza again and again. Whenever she felt that unspoken truth she’d find herself locked away in their bedroom.

 

The momentary silence and solitude provided little solace however because her skin would itch as she sat on the white linen wondering how often Erza had laid where she sat.

 

XXX

 

Some days were better than others. 

 

They moved through the motions trying to salvage what they could from the wreckage with little grace. 

 

Juvia had discovered an incredible amount of self control in her thoughts and managed to keep them from veering down a rabbit hole long enough for them to seem ok around friends and family. But every time he touched her, an inexplicable plague of nausea came over her, leaving her hot and clammy as she shoved him away before she could spew on him. 

 

She saw how hurt he looked the first time it happened, and a small part of her felt a bubble of joy expand in the pit of her belly.

 

Ah, yes. 

 

Retribution.

 

XXX

 

Summer shifted to Autumn quickly bringing with it Juvia’s birthday. 

 

They sat across each other in the warm hum of the restaurant surrounded by candles, good food, and other seemingly happy couples. Things had been going well with them, they almost seemed genuinely happy laughing over their entrees when Juvia’s resolve snapped, and her eyes began to wondered around the restaurant.

 

Gray noticed immediately and leaned in close, pulling her attention back to him and the present reality. 

 

“I’ve never taken her here. I promise.”

 

It was followed by a reassuring squeeze of her hand which left Juvia shocked. Shocked that he had seen her mind spiraling, and shocked that her stomach didn’t immediately lurch at the contact he made.

 

She drew her hand away and gave a tight smile.

Chapter Text

She was fuming, and needed some air. 

 

That was the biggest argument she had had with Bickslow in a long time. 

 

They had been excited for their short weekend trip out of the country but the energy around them had been prickly since they had arrived—so much for a relaxing mini vacation! Things boiled over almost immediately, though this fight had been a long time coming. Who knew a discussion about transit would be enough to spark up unspoken grievances and unearth stress.

 

“I’ll be back!” Lisanna called as she stomped down the stairs. 

 

She didn’t want to be in the same space as him right now and desperately needed a walk. She snatched her jacket off the door hook in one fluid motion before shimmying into it, still completely agitated. If she could take a moment to clear her head, maybe even calm down a little, she could regroup and approach their argument with a different energy.

 

“Where?” Came the annoyed response from their bedroom after a short pause. 

 

“For a walk!” She rolled her eyes. Lisanna knew exactly where she was going, there was a hot cocoa restaurant just five blocks away. She probably should have told him, and knew better than to be so petty, but couldn’t help being curt with him as she swung the door close behind her. 

 

She should have asked if he wanted anything.

 

The late evening air was cool and crisp, and the street lights were just beginning to illuminate the quiet blocks off the main streets in the middle of Mont Royal. She tucked her chin and burrowed her hands into her pockets as she made her way down to the hot chocolate restaurant around the corner. Something warm would definitely sooth her frayed nerves and calm her down.

 

When she wasn’t thinking about what kind of hot cocoa she wanted, she was (begrudgingly) thinking about Bickslow. 

 

God she loved him but sometimes he made her want to smother him—not that she’d ever do it. He had a substantial amount of weight and height on her, and could surely fight her off with ease if she even tried.

 

That’s a shame.

 

She had been so agitated during her short walk she had barely heard the door to their rental open and close after her, or notice the footsteps that shuffled behind her. When she finally reached the restaurant, she held the door open for the person behind her, and strutted up to the ordering counter. The woman behind the counter exchanged short pleasantries with her before taking her order and stepping away to fulfill it. 

 

Taking a deep sigh Lisanna leaned against the counter, and turned back towards the restaurant only to see Bickslow standing in mild annoyance a few feet from her, off to the side.

 

“If you wanted hot chocolate, I️ could have got you some.”

 

He stared at her, clenching his jaw then unclenching it before speaking. “It’s late out.”

 

She raised an eyebrow, confused as to what the issue was. “You wanted to pick it up yourself…?”

 

“I didn’t know you were coming here. I didn’t want you to walk by yourself.” He stated matter of factly, waving off her flippant response.

 

Lisanna paused and stared at him for a long while before hearing her order called. She thanked the woman and headed out the restaurant with him walking quietly besides her. In their almost private silence she sipped her drink feeling increasingly warm as they walked back.

 

“Hey,” she grabbed the sleeve of his jacket, stopping him from ascending the stairs to the apartment front door. “I’m annoyed with you—”

 

“—Same—”

 

“—Actually very annoyed with you but…appreciate you.”

 

“I  love you too.” He was unable to hold off his smile, and so leaned in to kiss her forehead. “Still annoyed with you though.”

 

She laughed rolling her eyes as she headed up the steps and opened the front door, cocoa still in hand. “Come on, let’s finish this some where warmer.”

 

“Oh boy,” he sighed dramatically as he walked past her into the apartment. “More arguing?”

 

“Well, you asked me out,” she sang sarcastically as she locked the door. “You can leave any time.” The statement hung in the air for a moment and made her feel a bit sick as they silently shrugged out of their coats.

 

“Nah, I wouldn’t leave you…though that thought frequently crosses my mind,” he quipped as he went up the stairs to their bedroom.

 

“Hey!” She called after him with a pout, following him up the stairs. “Don’t add to this argument, Bickslow.”

 

They would pick up where they left off, only now with calmer dispositions and a desire for resolution at the forefront.

Chapter Text

Deep down he knew he deserved it.

It was a distinct sort of sadness he had not expected to feel, or rather he had hoped wouldn't be as intense, but looking into her eyes it was clear this all-consuming mélange of self pity, self hate and self loathing was inescapable.

"I'm..." she paused, biting her bottom lip in thought, unable to quell her anger. "I'm just not understanding." Her brows remained furrowed and hardened by the revelation that her father wasn't all she had thought he was.

Up until now he had maintained uninterrupted (though albeit uncomfortable) eye contact with her. However, upon understanding the true meaning of her statement, his eyes downcast immediately: she didn't understand why her mother was with him. It was a valid question, one he had grappled with for some time. It beat at the back of his head mercilessly from the moment Levy had truly begun to soften to the idea of him being around her. That question only became more intense when milestones in their lives were concerned—he was an absolute mental wreck when they exchanged vows.

It took everything in Gajeel to look into her eyes that remained cold and hardened by the new knowledge that her perception of her father and reality weren't lining up. Momentarily, he allowed his thoughts to wonder, curious about what she thought of him, or how gravely this long dreaded discussion had marred her image of him.

More than that, he wondered if any of it was salvageable.

He knew that was wishful thinking. If he had learned anything from reconciling his previous transgressions it was that if one was lucky enough to receive forgiveness, one had to be ready to part with the old relationship in order to build an entirely new one. He had been lucky with Levy, but now with his daughter the outcome seemed much more unclear. Her brother had had a similar reaction when he spoke with him earlier that day. Gajeel had watched Yaje walk away from him when Gajeel's answers didn't suffice. They hadn't spoken to him since. Sitting here with Shutora and facing her onslaught of honest questions, was proving to be much more difficult and painful than he had expected..

"I got very lucky." A shudder ran through him as he spoke. That wasn't the answer she wanted, and he kicked himself for even replying with something so self-serving and gratifying, even if it was the truth. Levy's kindness knew no bounds and he had never felt he deserved to be on the receiving end of such radical and selfless absolution, and yet here he was married with a family.

"Why?" Her tone was unforgiving and it snapped Gajeel out of any self pity he had felt moments ago. He had hurt his wife a long time ago and now those mistakes were hurting his kids.

"I...I don't know why," he admitted. "I don't know—"

"That's not good enough!" She interjected, surprising the both of them. "Why would she take you back?" She shook her head, diverting her eyes

Yet another good question he did not have an answer for.

"If some guy ever did that to me, you'd want me to leave! You'd kill him!" She snapped suddenly. "Why didn't she leave?"

His chest tightened.

XXX

"That was reaaaaaally good." Levy sighed contentedly as she sank deeper into their mattress. She glanced over at Gajeel besides her and smiled softly noticing their chests were rising and falling in tandem, both of them absolutely exhausted from an intense session. She blew her flimsy bangs out of her line of vision before rolling on her side, leaning on her elbow to support her weight. "What's on your mind?"

Gajeel scoffed offering her a cursory glance before placing his forearm back over his eyes. "What, I gotta be distracted 'bout somethin'?"

"No," Levy placated. "But something is definitely on your mind. What's going on?"

It was quiet for a moment before Gajeel groaned, pinching the bridge of his nose as he exhaled. Of course Levy could smell something was off, she had a better sense for that kind of thing than he'd ever hope to have. He had been thinking about something and had foolishly thought that sex would help him ignore things for a bit, giving him a short break from his growing self loathing.

"They hate me."

"Who hates you?" Levy asked sitting up, though she had a feeling she already knew who he meant.

"Your kids."

"Our children, Gajeel. OUR children." Levy corrected, though the amendment seemed to only make him more cynical. She leaned back as he got up and sat on the edge of the bed, his back facing her.

He laughed bitterly placing his head in his hands. "They don't want nothin' to do with me. You should'a seen the way Yaje looked at me..." he shook his head before shutting his eyes tight.

"It's been a few days Gajeel." Levy paused, watching the muscles in his back tense. "It takes time. They'll forgive you—"

"—I'm not sure I should be forgiven."

"Gajeel," Levy frowned as she got up on her knees.

"Come on Lev!" He groaned standing and turning to face her. "You know as well as I do I don't deserve—"

"—I know you deserve forgiveness. Especially from yourself!"

"Do I?" He snapped.

Levy flinched, the level of malice taking her by surprise.

"She asked me 'why?' Why'd I attack ya? Why did you forgive me? Why did you take me back?" He shook his head, frustration clear on his features. "I ain't got an answer for that."

"I'm the answer to that Gajeel. I'm the answer! The kids are the answer!"

Levy crawled over to his side of the bed, ready to embrace him but he stepped back. There was a clear warning in his eyes that he didn't want to be touched, or more so he felt he didn't deserve to be.

"She said if anyone ever did that to her I'd kill them." He stated matter of factly holding eye contact. "She ain't wrong, Lev."

"Gajeel, you're a father—"

"—and I'm settin' a pretty shitty example for my kids. I've been settin' a shitty example since before they were born." He sighed deeply into his hands, the fatigue from the past few days consuming him. "I shouldn't be here."

"That's not true. That's not true at all." Levy whispered, voice teetering off as she wiped at her tears. "That's a really terrible thing to say. You should be here. I chose you to be here."

"Yeah well…" Tears stung at the corner of his eyes as he ran his hands through his mess of hair. "Maybe it was the wrong choice," he laughed through an exhausted breath.

Chapter Text

“Are you even listening to me!?”

 

“I’m pretty sure the entire fucking building has been listening to you!” Gajeel spat bitterly.

 

The tension and anger hovered between them as they held the other’s gaze. 

 

They had both been yelling for nearly an hour but this argument had been brewing and building up over the past month. Gajeel had been offered the opportunity to apprentice under one of the greatest chef’s in Magnolia. When he had told Minerva about being offered the invaluable opportunity to train under one of his biggest idols, she had been lukewarm to the news. He figured it’d be best to give her time, let her sit and marinate over it, but as the days passed, and they continued to tiptoe around each other, they both eventually hit their boiling point. 

 

Arguments like this didn't happen often, but when they did they had a tendency to curl  in on themselves, transforming into emotionally exhaustive blow out matches that left both parties flustered and unsteady. Usually they were able to avoid these verbal battles—an opportune concession, a declaration of silence, a white flag in the form of a fatigued sigh—but not this time, not now.

 

"Do you know how many people would kill for this, Min?!"

 

"Congratulations!" Minerva retorted sharply. "I am not uprooting—”

 

“—There it is!" Gajeel threw his hands up, already at wits end as a growl crawled its way out of him. He and Minerva had been arguing about this for well over an hour and as the seconds went by his frustration increased and his patience dwindled. "There! I ain't never asked ya to 'uproot' for me—”

 

“—So you expect me to stay here while your halfway across the fucking country? Give me a fucking break!" Her voice teetered with a humorless laugh. “You want me to follow you—”

 

"WHY THE HELL NOT?"

 

"Why the hell not?!” Minerva growled, eyes sharpening. "I have a fucking business here, thats why not—an actual damn career—”

 

“—Jesus Christ!" He ran his hands over his face, his frustration peaking. "It's that damn ‘career’ shit again."

 

“Why the fuck wouldn’t it be a point of discussion, Gajeel?” She crossed her arms, voice straight venom. “I actually have an established career!”

 

Gajeel glared at her but her face was unmoving. "I bust my ass at the fucking restaurant!"

 

"I bust my ass too!" She defended. "I busted my ass throughout the entirety of this fucking relationship!"

 

"And I didn't?!" Gajeel bellowed. "I supported you while you chased down this goddamn bakery dream! I WORKED AFTER-HOURS TO MAKE SURE WE STAYED AFLOAT—!”

 

“—I never asked you to!”

 

“YA SHOULDN’T HAVE TO!" He swiped the potted plant off the island top, his frustration reaching its breaking point. The pot clattered to the floor leaving a mess of dirt and shattered ceramic.

 

Minerva flinched. "WHAT THE HELL IS YOUR PROBLEM?!"

 

"You!" He gestured towards her, still fuming. "You never needed to ask me to do that, Minerva! That's what you do—!”

 

“I NEVER ASKED YOU TO—!”

 

“—YOU MAKE SACRIFICES—!” 

 

“—DON’T PUT THAT ON ME—!”

 

“—FOR THE PEOPLE YOU LOVE—!”

 

“—I NEVER LOVED YOU—!”

 

The words left her mouth before she could think but as soon as they slipped everything paused. The explosiveness of their conversation ceased and the frustration in Gajeel's eyes flashed from shocked hurt, to a guarded quizzical stare in the matter of seconds. The air had completely left the room and they stood there at a standstill in the deafening silence. He watched her searching for even the slightest bit of remorse, the weight of her outburst filling the space, and weighing down on them. Minerva's lips pressed into a tight line, if the severity of what she had said had hit her, she didn't show it.

 

She…meant it…?

 

Squeezing the bridge of his nose he nodded silently before exhaling heavily, breaking the quiet. Gajeel turned towards the door, and grabbed his keys from the side table in one fluid motion. He didn’t look up as he shrugged into his heavy grey coat, and he didn’t glance back as he slipped on his sneakers and exited the apartment, slamming the door as he left.

 

It shook the entirety of the small unit.

 

Minerva remained where she was, eyes hardened on the door, any remorse she felt hidden under her intense rage. Her heart pounded, elevated from the adrenaline their bout had produced. She ran her hands through her hair, frustrated but trying to calm her nerves, when she heard a soft whimper. She glanced towards the sound, watching as Lily padded from his large dog bed in the living room into the small kitchen.

 

“Hey, Lil’. It’s ok." 

 

She reached down to pet him, but the dog dipped just out of reach before heading to the front door. He pawed at it for a moment before circling and laying right in front of it, releasing another quiet whimper.

Chapter Text

“Wait!”

 

Minerva regretted it as soon as she said it. She shut her eyes tight, struggling to catch her breath from the intense and (for the most part) accidental make out session they had engaged in. It had escalated quickly from fondeling to second base…or was this third?

 

She cursed under her breath, laying her head back as she swallowed hard. She held tight to Gajeel’s wrist, stopping his ministrations between her thighs. 

 

She really hated herself for this. 

 

Gajeel rested his head against her soft middle, sighing heavily in defeat, breath still caught in his chest. His fingers slipped out of her wet and slick, and he couldn’t help but feel oddly proud that he had managed to stop without breaking down in frustrated tears—it had been so damn long.

 

They laid there quiet, listening to the sounds of the other’s strained breaths.

 

“We…we shouldn’t,” Minerva cringed. 

 

What the fuck was she saying? 

 

She knew damn well she had been hoping he wouldn’t listen to her and they’d keep this break in resolve going until both of them were slick with sweat and completely satiated. 

 

She kicked herself mentally before speaking again. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to—”

 

“—Nah,” Gajeel interjected. “It’s fine. I’m sorry too. We shouldn’t have—I shouldn’t have…”

 

They stayed in silence for a moment, weighed down by their mutual sexual frustration. 

 

They had (stupidly. Foolishly.) made a bet to see how long they could abstain from any sexual activity before the wedding—the loser, or the person who fully broke first, was obligated to do anything the winner requested for the duration of their honeymoon. It usually started out by accident, or an attempt to get a bit of physical satisfaction with no feasible plan of how to slow things down before they got out of hand. Three days ago they nearly threw away two months of abstinence when Gajeel caught a glimpse of her passing through the steam from her evening shower; another time Minerva jeopardized their commitment when she instinctually ran her hand up his inner thigh during a movie. This time, however, they had both slipped but it was becoming increasingly clear that denying their desire—and quite frankly, out right desperation—to be naked around the other was getting more difficult with each passing day.

 

This isn’t fucking sustainable.

 

“I..” Minerva began, completely at a loss for words. She was certain she’d die from the overbearing sexual frustration before she ever had a chance to walk down the aisle. “I don’t know what to say.” She admitted flatly, still internally screaming at herself for cock blocking.

 

“I’m going to shower,” Gajeel conceded as he rose off of her. Looking down at the way she was laying on the bed, half naked was a mistake. He turned his head and cleared his throat, “…I’m gonna sleep on the couch tonight…”

 

“Wait, really?” She pouted. “It’s ok, we can sleep head to toe or something!”

 

He snorted with a laughed before crawling off the bed. “Nah, that’s not gonna work.”

“Gees. You’re making me feel like a virgin.” She quipped playfully, though the mirth was stripped away when a shiver ran through her as soon as she saw the absolute hungry way he looked her up and down.

 

Fuck me now, you idiot.

 

“If we want to do this stupid fucking waiting game, it’s in our best interest I’m on the couch tonight.” He grumbled, heading to the bathroom.

 

Minerva laid back in bed, groaning miserably, when he closed the door to the bathroom. She had a slight headache and her abs hurt—usual signs that she was denying herself sweet release. Her heart still hadn’t slowed down and descended back into her ribcage. All she could think about was hopping up, joining him in that shower, and sucking the soul from his body…

 

…Her competitiveness (or absolute need for self-sabotage and destruction, she wasn’t quite sure) wouldn’t allow her to.

 

She kicked her feet, and pounded her fists into the soft sheets before she crawled under the covers (mildly embarrassed by the tantrum), turned on her side, and fell asleep.

 

Five more miserable fucking months of this bullshit.

Chapter Text

“Honestly if his aunt asks about babies one more time I’m going to lose it, Min.”

 

Evergreen raised her double shot glass in tandem with Minerva, glasses clinking before they unceremoniously took it back, coughing on the liquid before grabbing a lime wedge and cursing under their breath.

 

“What does Elfie—”

 

“—Please never call him that—”

 

“—have to say about that?” Minerva asked through a snort, ignoring her interruption. She sloppily swiped her forearm over her lips, squinting through the mental fog from the liquor as she stared at Evergreen. “How does he feel about a little fairy?”

 

“‘Faiiiiiiry’, oh gosh!”

 

“Do you remember when you were obsessed with fairies? Cause I do.” She put little effort into hiding her grin.

 

“You never let me fucking live it down, how could I forget?” Evergreen waved her hand towards the bar hoping the sloppy gesture would get them more drinks. “You’re a real fucking bitch.”

 

“That’s why I’m single,” Minerva laughed, sipping the last bit of her long forgotten beer.

 

“Speaking of…”

 

“Don’t do this.”

 

“Min. It’s been five years and not one date.” 

 

“Thank you. I forgot.”

 

“Shut up.” She said in her teacher voice (and dammit if it didn’t take everything in Minerva to not jump a little). “It’s been five years and not one date. Every year—every year––you tell me you’d rather die than go home—”

 

“Cause I would,” Minerva interjected holding up a tepid finger. “My mom gets a drink or two in her and can’t stop telling me, ‘You know, I thought he was the one for you sweetie!’ and then my father—oh, God my father.” She shook her head annoyed by just the thought of her parents.

 

Evergreen was privy to the intimate details of the massive headache Minerva’s family was. Minerva’s father hadn’t been proud of her since the moment he found out his oldest and first child would be a girl; her mother, supportive as she was and as well as she meant, never really was strong enough to serve as a buffer between Minerva and her father, which led to a lot of resentment on Minerva’s half; and her half-brother though supposedly well-intentioned and shockingly successful in his own right, was drunk nearly every day of his adult life. Every instance she went home was a particular level of hell she wasn’t always ready to engage with, but her mother insisted she’d be home. Part of Minerva took it as her desperate attempt to stay connected to her, as well as a way for her mother to get a break from her torturous existence living with just her father. 

 

Minerva couldn’t blame her, she did pity her though.

 

“Well this year,” Evergreen paused mouthing a thank-you as the new drinks were dropped off at  their table. “I want to set you up with someone I think would…fit.”

 

‘Fit’?” Minerva glared.

 

“Oh come on!” Evergreen protested.

 

“No. No.” She drawled, the word coming out slow and smooth, even against the haze of liquor. “No. I’m not some…fucking charity case. If you want to set him up so bad, hand him off to Erza. Are her and Jellal still on a ‘break’?”

 

“Ouch.”

 

“What?” Minerva’s glare softened. “Oh shit, was that too soon?”

 

“Way too soon,” Evergreen smiled. “Look, you don’t have to marry the guy—”

 

“—This is the start of every bad Hallmark movie—”

 

“—Just see what he’s about,” she verbally shrugged.

 

Minerva glanced over at Evergreen. She was being way too casual about this and Minerva didn’t trust it. Evergreen had set her up on several dates before, sending her off with a ‘just see what he’s about’ and it had never ended well. The worse easily had to have been that pyromaniac who couldn’t quiiiite decide what warranted his focus—food, himself, or his friends. Minerva had sworn off of Evergreen’s recommendations for months after that.

 

“Fine, I’ll bite.” Minerva turned towards her, rolling her eyes as she rested her cheek in her hand. “Who the fuck is this guy?”

 

“Ohhhhhh, Minnie. My sweet, sweet little minnow fish,” Evergreen sang as she flashed a bright smile. “This guy might be worth the bite.”

Chapter Text

Minerva smiled contently through a deep breath. 

 

They were both completely exhausted from their previous activities. Gajeel rested atop her, quiet as he breathed out short puffs of air. Part of her hated the slight gesture of intimacy, feeling too hot and sticky to even want to have direct skin-to-skin contact (even if he was still seated perfectly inside of her); she took it as a sign of his comfortability, and willingness to be vulnerable around her.

 

Somewhere in the back of her mind, she was smiling.

 

She went to swipe her wet bangs from her face, but was met with a sharp tug of resistance from the ropes that kept her arms bound above her head.

 

She cleared her throat. 

 

“Gaj?”

 

“Hum?” 


He didn’t move, still solidly stuck in the euphoric daze that came just after an orgasm. She released a puff of air, feeling his weight press down on her as he loosened into just bones, completely satiated. There was a compliment somewhere in that gesture but she couldn’t find it at the moment, feeling her legs begin to tingle in fatigue from the restraints.

 

“Gajeel, untie me.”

 

He hummed again, unmoving. 

 

Minerva rolled her eyes as she gyrated her hips, demanding his attention. He immediately jerked upright, pushing his hands into the soft bed, holding up his weight. His eyes were glassy and wide with confusion, his mind and body dully buzzing with the slight pain of his oversensitivity.

 

“Untie me.”

 

“Please.”

 

“Fucking untie me, please.” She smiled wide. 

 

“Maybe I’ll keep you in this a little longer. Teach ya some patience.”

 

“I can’t wait till I have you tied up—I’m going to make you suffer.”

 

“Fine, fine,” Gajeel grumbled. He leaned back onto his knees, pulling out of her, before carefully untying her legs from their pulled back position against her chest. “This is pretty good rope, where’d you find these?” He inquired, leaning over to free her wrists with ease. 

 

“That shop around the corner from the real estate office.”

 

“Is that the new one?”

 

“No we said we’d go to that one together, remember?” Minerva sighed contentedly, rubbing at her wrists. The bindings hadn’t been too tight but sometimes maintaining a position for awhile left her feeling a bit stiffer than she’d like to admit. 

 

Gajeel hummed in affirmation, standing from the bed and stretching his limbs. He turned back to her, grabbing the ropes and began rolling them up.  “Go pee.”

 

“I’m so tired,” Minerva groaned loudly before turning onto her stomach, pressing her face into the pillow.

 

“Good,” Gajeel congratulated as he rounded the bed to her side to slap her ass.

 

“Gajeel!”

 

“I don’t know why you fight it every time.”

 

“Let me sleep,” she sighed with a lazy kick.

 

“You want to do this again? Remember last time?”

 

Minerva cringed—she definitely did remember last time. They had been all over each other after meeting up in the same town after finishing their respective jobs. While that had been nice, the horrifying urinary tract infection she had got afterwards contributed nothing to the memory of their romantic rendez-vous.

 

“Carry me."

 

Gajeel stared down at her for a moment, ropes secured in their roll and shook his head. “I’m not sure anyone would believe me if I told them you were this needy.”

 

“They wouldn’t,” she confirmed as she turned to peak up at him. “Are you going to carry me or not, Redfox?”

 

Gajeel rolled his eyes, setting the roll down on the floor besides the nightstand. “This is the last damn time, Min.” He grumbled waving his hand in minor annoyance.

 

“You said that last time,” Minerva teased rolling onto her back. She smiled contentedly when he scooped her up in his arms and made his way towards the en suite.

 

“Am I putting you on the toilet this time too?”

 

“If you were any kind of gentleman you would.”

Chapter Text

Gray couldn’t help it. 

 

He had been seized by a fit of laughter that hit a spot so sweet it interrupted his rhythm, and sent him cackling into the crook of Erza’s neck. 

 

His arms, which had once bore the task of holding him upright above her, now quaked with the all consuming hilarity they were caught up in. When his right arm buckled, sending his forearm into the soft sheets, he knew he wouldn’t make it much longer.

 

“Please…shut up.” He managed between laughs before burying his face against her neck—his weak attempt to muffle his laughter.

 

“Sh-s-she fell so hard!” Erza laughed into her hand, eyes shutting tight as tears began to spill. She threw her head back, completely consumed by the mirth of the memory, her laughs bubbling up from her tummy, tilted with delight. “S-she thought it was a wall.” She managed to wheeze out before they both erupted in a roar.

They continued on like that, laughing through tears, until Gray practically begged her through a tittering wheeze that he needed her to shut up or he’d come. This, of course, only made Erza laugh harder. She begged him, through unconstrained laughter, not to come because she couldn’t possibly imagine having to face their future child knowing that this was how they had been conceived.

 

He told her he hated her when he frantically pulled out and ran off to the bathroom.

 

After they calmed down and cleaned off the night’s partially completed activities, they cuddled and fell asleep.

Chapter Text

"Wait…You're a virgin?"

The question was one he was familiar with, though familiarity didn't make it any easier to answer.

The topic of his purity usually came up around this time, around about four to five months into the development of his romantic relationships. Laxus had been at this crossroad before, and found it was an easier conversation to have when he brought it up—putting himself in control of the way his sexual experience (or lack there of) was discussed with his partners.

There was often unwarranted judgement, something he had sadly become very accustomed to. After a certain age, or if you even looked a certain way (or in his case, both), people assumed that you had already had sex. It wasn't the assumption that necessarily bothered him—whatever preconceived notions people had about him were shifted more so than shattered—it was the discomfort of the shift that exasperated him more than anything. He could see the glint of excitement dull in their eyes when the topic inevitably came up.

"I'm sorry. I didn't mean to…" She paused, aware of how her question might have been offensive.

"It's fine." He spoke into his water glass before taking a generous sip, now all too aware that he had yet to take any sort of discernible risk in front of her on any of their dates. Maybe he was overthinking it—a glass of wine wouldn't make her less inclined to judge his celibacy. "It's how the conversation usually goes anyway," he gave a light shrug.

"What? No…" Her voice trailed off as she scratched at her neck awkwardly, avoiding eye contact at all costs. Maybe she had offended him—her shoulders slouched.

"It's fine, really."

"May I ask…"

"Why?" He supplied.

"Yeah. Yes—not that there needs to be a reason!" She clarified quickly.

"Haven't really met the right person," he tapped his fingers against the glass of water and his eyes seemed a bit distant. "Just, never really had that connection—it was a religious thing at first."

"And you're no longer religious?"

"Nah, haven't been to that old cathedral in a while." He smiled, almost nostalgically.

"Well, that's fine." She declared suddenly, and it took Laxus by surprise. "I mean, my opinion doesn't mean anything but—it's—that's fine! It…I don't think of you differently. You made a series of choices that led you to this point in your life and that's just fine!"

She was bright red, and now purposefully avoiding eye contact with him.

Cute.

"So," he cleared his throat trying to lighten the mood. "What's something you've never done?"

"I uh…" She paused in thought before making eye contact with him through her bangs. "I've actually never been to a fair or a carnival before? Pretty lame, huh?" She laughed softly.

"No, no. Not lame at all." Laxus smiled, easing into his seat. "Though…We're going to have to change that."

Levy sat straighter in her chair, alert with excitement from the implication.

"Yeah," she beamed. "I'd love that!"

Chapter Text

Lucy hugged her pillow to her chest, shutting her eyes tight through the increasing pressure building up in the spot between her eyes. There was nothing quite like the dull, steady pound of a headache to make the frustration she had already been feeling increase tenfold. She and Bickslow had been going over this—arguing—for over a week now with no end in sight.

 

 

Holy shit. When will this end?

 

Lucy glanced up at him, squinting through her annoyance at their inability to truly communicate well enough to hear each other. Bickslow had made valid points minus the fact that he was completely missing her point. She had absolutely no issue with him pursuing his dreams, she actually found his ambition the most attractive thing about him. Since they had started dating, Bickslow had always been the kind of guy to see an inconvenience, no matter how minor, and make an incredibly creative solution for it in the matter of seconds—he would have made coffee sleeves if someone else hadn’t beat him to it. Lucy would be the first to admit that most of his incredibly ambitious business schemes were brilliant however, those ideas usually didn’t fair well with the general public because magic alleviated most inconveniences. 

 

His crazy and creative ideas were never the issue though. The issue Lucy had was Bickslow’s absolutely lackadaisical approach to safety measures and backup plans—a trait that drove a planner like herself insane. Whenever she even suggested the idea of a backup plan he always had something to say.

 

~*“DoN’T nEeD a PlAn B wHeN pLaN a WiLl Work”*~

 

Or her least favorite retort,

 

~*”I jUsT wIsH yOu BeLiEvEd In Me!”*~ 

 

Why was it that she could show all the support in the world but the moment she suggested placing a safety net under his elaborate and bombastic trapeze act, she ‘wasn’t supportive?’

 

Men.

 

She rolled her eyes.

 

“Seriously?” He miffed, breaking through her thoughts. Bickslow stood at the edge of their bed with his arms crossed over his chest, a look of incredulous disappointment on his face.

 

“Huh?”

 

“Ah, you’re not listening either. Fantastic.” He huffed in  defeat, her confusion was the  nail in the coffin. “I’m gonna wash up.”

 

“Hey, hey, hey!” Lucy jumped up from the bed, scrambling up from her reclined position towards the end of the bed. She grabbed his arm before he was able to move too far. “I was listening! I was just thinking about something else.”

 

His brows furrowed.

 

“Wait, wait I know,” she placated holding up her free hand. “Let me explain. It wasn’t towards you. I think we’re missing each other’s stop.” She smiled, using his own metaphor for when they weren’t understanding each other—they were like trains passing each other’s stop, leaving them both confused and in different directions.

 

“Listening.”

 

“I want you to know I do support you. I always have and always will, but—”

 

“—but—”

 

“But…” She smiled. “I need you understand that when you dream big, I want to make sure everything else is in place to ensure those dreams are protected for when you do finally execute them. I love that you have all these incredible dreams and plans for our family—I really trust your vision.” 

 

He glanced at her, trying his best not to show how much his chest swelled with pride at the compliment.

 

“It’s just…how can I say this…?” She released his arm and tapped her chin in thought. “Oh! Ok, so for example, let’s say we’re building a house, right? While you’re thinking of how big and beautiful and extravagant the house will be—which I love because you think I deserve all of that even if I don’t need it—I’m thinking about and making sure the foundation is correct.” She adjusted her night shift as she pressed her knees into the bed getting at eye-level with him.

 

His body language loosened a bit—very reassuring.

 

“You’re thinking about the rooms, and the big play space for our kids, and how nice the kitchen will be, and that’s amazing, thank you for driving that part of the vision. However, as your wife—you’re partner—I’m thinking about how the foundation set. You’re saying you want this massive ensuite with a rain shower head, and all this stuff and a spa tub and a bidet and his-and-hers sinks, and I’m supporting you but I’m thinking of return on investment for resale. I’m thinking about the investment on the bathroom tiles, or if the electrical wiring can accommodate the electrical needs of the house, and extraneous things like making sure we have radiant floor heating.”

 

He raised an eyebrow.

 

“Yeah,” she smiled playfully. “Weren’t thinking about radiant floor heating, were ya?” 

 

“Toasty toes in the morning.”

 

She wrapped her arms around his neck before continuing on. “I’m here to provide the details and fine print for all of your plans, because they are our plans; and I’m always going to  support you...unless it’s—”

 

“—unless it’s unreasonable, I know I know.” He couldn’t help but smile as he rolled his eyes, arms threading around her waist.

 

“Exactly. You provide the vision, I provide the fine print details. I will always support you, I just need to make sure we are clear and certain about things so that our family is comfortable, and safe for when you move us forward with the plan. Understand?” Her voice softened as she placed her hand under his chin.

 

He nodded before pulling her into a kiss.

 

“Hey!” She pouted pushing him off. “Where did that come from? Are you even listening?”

 

“Yeah, I heard you, but you’re just so damn cute.” He leaned in again going for her neck.

 

“Bickslow! Gees, I didn’t know housing analogies turned you on so much.” She laughed bracing his shoulders.

 

“Gotta see how strong that foundation is.”

 

She snorted, falling back against the bed and pulling him down with her. He paused, hovering over her, watching as she giggled.

 

“You deserve it by the way.”.

 

“Huh?”

 

“You deserve everything and more, and I’ll make sure you get it.” He spoke softly, lacing their fingers together.

 

Lucy pulled him back into a long, slow kiss.

Chapter Text

“Which stain were ya thinkin’—red oak or red chestnut?” 

 

Gajeel asked looking up from his workbench before rounding it to face Elfman. He raised up one of the four artisan table legs he had painstakingly handcrafted for his friend as a late—five years late—wedding gift.

 

“I know the Mrs. said she fancied the chestnut but honestly you’re not tryin’ to live in some nightmare rustic renno.” Gajeel placed the wooden leg down before pulling off his glove. “I say scrap those choices and go for a dark walnut—if ya gotta stain it at all. I mean honestly some nice oil would do ya and it’d be fine.”

 

“Uh, let me just see what Ever wanted for that,” Elfman conceded.

 

“She’s got you by the balls, man.” Gajeel joked, watching Elfman smile through the text.

 

“If by ‘by the balls’ you mean that he’s considerate, and understanding of my needs, wants and time, then yes, his balls are in a vice grip.” Evergreen responded voice fatigued as she walked in through the shop door.

 

Men and their friends loved joking about relationships they were willingly in. 

 

Idiots.

 

She set her purse on the open workbench besides Elfman before seating herself on the stool. She rested her elbow on the dusty service before placing her chin in her hand, grinning as she glanced at Gajeel’s hand. “How’s your girlfriend?”

 

“Grip’s as tight as ever—”

 

“—You’re gonna give yourself ED, Redfox.”

 

“Ok!” Elfman interjected, raising a hand as if that’d keep his wife and friend from their usual cutting banter.

 

“Ejaculatory health is important—”

 

“Ever.” Elfman sighed trying not to laugh.

 

“Fine, fine.” She gestured at Gajeel, sticking her tongue out. “You’ve been spared by the grace of my king.”

 

“She’s ruthless,” Gajeel spoke through a grin. “Not sure how you survive it.”

 

Evergreen dipped her head in a bow, fluttering her hand in a downward motion.

 

“I was just about to text you about some stains,” Elfman said facing his wife.

 

“Could you sense Elfie—”

 

“—Don’t call me that—”

 

“—Was making a decision about your dining table without ya?”  Gajeel asked through a snort, ignoring Elfman’s interruption. “I gotta ask, are you sure you wanna stain this wood?”

 

“I’m here for a different,” she looked up in thought, “reason.” 

 

Gajeel groaned, he knew exactly what that meant—she was trying to set him up. Evergreen had tried to set him up on dates with her friends in the past, this certainly wouldn’t be his first rodeo and probably wouldn’t be his last since her suggestions were always so bat shit crazy. Gajeel had a few horror date stories under his belt curtesy of Evergreen, though surely nothing topped the girl who was super into astrology who bragged about being able to pick locks as if that was some highly sought after trait in a girlfriend—red flags abound.

 

“Is this your friend with the huge tits who’s hung up on that exotic pet dealer guy?” Gajeel asked matter of factly.

 

“Huh? Oh no. She and Erik are back together, they’re ‘meant to be.’” She waved her hand flippantly. “This one can match your needlessly excessive aggression, and resting bitch face.”

 

"Tell me more." He deadpanned, putting his leg up on a stool.

 

"When has Ever let you down before?"

 

"You got an hour?"

 

"Oh, shut up." Evergreen pouted. "Seriously, she's cute—"

 

"—All girls think their friends are cute—"

 

"—Smart—funny—a librarian, too—"

 

"Librarian?" Gajeel ask annunciating each syllable as if it was a curse. "Is this some fucking rom-com plot? You settin' me up with a cougar?"

 

"Shut up."

 

“Look, I’m done with your blind dates. I’m not even dating anymore.” Gajeel shrugged.

 

“Ohhhh, she’s working on herself and not dating purposefully. She’s soooooo different.” Evergreen jeered.

 

Gajeel stared at her, failing to keep his smile at bay. “How the hell do you survive her, Elfman?”

 

“Prayer and patience—”

 

“I genuinely think you’d like her.” Evergreen spoke up again clearing her throat. “Not sure why I didn’t think of placing you two assholes together in the first place.” 

 

“How bad are this one’s daddy issues?”

 

“It’s a fucking wonder why you’re single.”

 

“So they’re disastrous,” he snorted before standing upright and turning back to his work. “I’m not sure I’ll survive another one of your horrible fucking dates, Ever.”

 

“Would it really hurt you to just see what she’s about?” Evergreen verbally shrugged. “What the hell do you got going on for a Friday besides buffing your wood, and working in the shop.”

 

“Gees, Ever.”

 

Gajeel glanced at Evergreen. Something about the way she was acting was way too cavalier for Gajeel’s taste and it instantly put him on alert—she was either plotting something or genuinely believed this girl was worth his time. He could give this girl a shot and officially swear off of all of Ever’s suggestions, or he could put in some more hours at his shop and end it at the bar with some dead-end flirting—neither option were appealing.

 

“Fine, I’ll bite.” Gajeel rolled his eyes as he leaned against the workbench. “Who the fuck is this girl?”

 

“Ohhhhhh, Gajeel.” Evergreen sang as she flashed a bright smile. “Consider this moment the most pivotal moment of your life."

Chapter Text

“One more minute.”

 

Minerva sighed, looking up from her phone timer to stare back at her reflection in the mirror. 

 

The past few months had been pretty uneventful, though all things considered very productive. 

 

She didn’t feel different, or at least she thought she didn’t, but she certainly did think she looked different. She looked fatigued, and she was. Her dark eye circles had only deepened in tone, her usually mute facial expression had begun to droop into an exhausted frown, and her skin was much more oily than usual—all of which she honestly attributed to stress. Planning, and executing a large-scale move was a difficult and trying task, especially as a newlywed. She smiled at the thought, rubbing her thumb on the underside of her wedding band, trying fruitlessly to stop herself from smiling. If someone had told her a few years ago that she was going to marry Gajeel-fucking-Redfox she would have laughed in their face, and yet here she was…smiling at the thought of being his wife. 

 

Perhaps things had changed. 

 

The buzz of a text coming in pulled her away from her reflection. She already knew it was one of two people texting to check in on her.

 

/Wellllllll…?/

 

Minerva went to text Lucy back but paused when the ring of her timer went off, echoing off the now bare tile walls of the nearly empty bathroom. Her eyes stayed focused on the foreboding alert that popped up, a bright white “00:00” staring back at her before she quieted the incessant alarm. 

 

She released a shaky breath, a sudden rush of nerves overtaking her as she placed the phone down, locking it and returning her attention back to the mirror. If she did it quickly, she could cut the feeling of daunting anxiety. The issue was the anxiety was rooted in absolute uncertainty, did she want those two little plus signs to greet her during such a hectic time in her life—their lives?

 

“Ok, you’re being ridiculous,” Minerva muttered to herself. 

 

She turned towards the toilet, and grabbed both small plastic sticks in her hand, and peered at the tiny window on each.

 

One was a faint pink line accompanied with a darker pink plus sign, and the other simply read back an eight letter word.

 

“Oh my gosh…” She said breathlessly staring at the tests in disbelief.

 

Before she could even put together a coherent thought, she was racing out of the bathroom, ecstatic tears coming down her face.

 

“Gajeel!”

Chapter Text

“Do you ever just...does it ever just dawn on you that there’s a baby in there?” 

 

He glances at her, lifting his ear from her round middle just slightly before pressing it back down again. Gajeel had been in this position since dinner was over, nearly dragging her to the bed for the chance to feel anything from their little mango-sized plus one.

 

He peels down the top of her leggings, running smooth and gentle circles on the underside of her belly. Stimulating.

 

“There is never a moment in pregnancy I have forgotten what you’ve done to me.” Minerva huffed, smiling despite herself.

 

He hums thoughtlessly, ignoring the humor in her tone, far too caught up in the tiny miracle separated from him by just the warmth of his wife’s skin.

 

“She’s super quiet tonight…”

 

“Probably already exhausted from your paternal doting,” Minerva teases gently. “You’ll have plenty of time to bother our child when they’re in this world. Leave them be—and me too!”

 

“You haven’t felt her move right?” He’s too caught up in the sheer thought that his child—their child—is on this plane but somehow occupying an ethereal realm, still juuuuust out of touch. 

 

“No, nothing yet.”

 

“They say by now she should be kicking around in there.”

 

“And if it’s a boy?” Minerva raises her brow, and is immediately met by her husband rolling his eyes dramatically, ear still pressed to her abdomen.

 

He’s so damn cute.

 

“You and I both know that’s a girl. I already have her name.” Gajeel replies, eyes sliding shut, pure contentment washing over his features.

 

“You’re going to be in for quite the surprise if this ends up being—OOH!”

 

It was faint but certainly that was a distinct flutter, flutter of tiny precious feet demanding attention from inside her tummy.

 

“There she is.” He hums contently, eyes opening wide to stare up at Minerva. He’s grinning like a fool, and there’s wonder and pure excitement dancing in his eyes.

 

It’s almost enough to make her cry.

 

And so she does.