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25/01/2019: Dearly Departed

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Sting being late to the guild hall isn’t necessarily unusual, although he has been getting better with his timing since being named Guild Master. However, this morning Rogue has… a feeling. He frowns to himself, arms crossed as he sits quietly at a table, going over some official paperwork from the Magic Council that Sting has to sign off on. This feeling has been gnawing at him since he woke up that morning to find Sting’s side of the bed cold and Lector missing from his little hammock. The two had not been out the back of the dragons’ lair training, so Rogue had assumed that Sting had gone out hunting for croissants again, something the White Dragon Slayer is want to do occasionally.

However, it is several hours now past both breakfast and lunch, and Sting is still nowhere to be seen, the afternoon sun beating down through the high windows.

The words of the paper in his hands are burned into Rogue’s brain from reading it several times, and he still can’t actually comprehend what any of them say because he can’t focus for the life of him. He needs to go and look for Sting – it’s not unusual for him to be late, but it is unusual for him not to show up at all. And for him to disappear without informing Rogue, let alone dragging Rogue with him wherever he was going.

“Frosch,” Rogue says softly, running his fingers down the little Exceed’s back to wake it up where it has been curled up asleep on the discarded pile of paperwork Rogue has already struggled through in his non-comprehending state. “Frosch, wake up.”

Blinking large eyes up at Rogue, Frosch mumbles, “Where’s Lector?” sleepily rubbing its paws over its face.

“I’m hoping he’s with Sting,” Rogue tells Frosch gently. “I’m just going out to look for them. Can you stay here in case they come back before I find them?” And he waits for Frosch’s small nod of consent before Rogue stands from the table and heads for the door, shadows starting to swirl around his feet. As he reaches the archway over the door, walking into the shade it casts, Rogue slips into the shadows and starts his search for Sting.

Rogue’s nose is strong, and he is intimately familiar with his mate’s scent, so he gets further and further towards the edge of panic the longer it takes him to pick up a single trace of Sting anywhere near the guild hall, the shops he likes to frequent, and their lair. “Where the fuck has he gone?” he rumbles, that protective streak he tries to pretend doesn’t exist beginning to well up. “Little shit, I’m going to kick his ass when I find him.” Rogue is not, actually, going to kick Sting’s ass. Spank it, maybe, unless Sting has a damned good reason for pulling a disappearing act.

The sun is almost starting to set by the time Rogue finally catches Sting’s trail, and he’s halfway to the Fairy Tail guild by that point, flitting from shadow to shadow amongst the trees of the woods. Rogue pulls out of the shadows, a frown creasing his brows as he starts following his nose through the forest, keeping a sharp eye out for his wayward mate. “Sting?” he calls out after a few minutes of following Sting’s scent. Rogue is confident now with the strength of it that Sting must be within hearing range. “Sting, where are you?”

“Over here,” comes the subdued reply. Rogue’s eyebrows shoot up at the tone of Sting’s voice, and he picks up the pace, bursting into a tiny clearing that is nothing more than a large boulder in the centre of a ring of trees. Sting is half-curled on the top of it, Lector asleep beside him. “Hey, Rogue,” Sting murmurs dully, eyes slanting across to meet Rogue’s intense, worried gaze. “Sorry, am I late for something? I lost track of time.”

“Lost track of…” Rogue trails off, staring at Sting incredulously. “Sting, love, you’ve been gone for nearly fifteen hours. I thought something had happened to you!” And he marches over, scales the boulder, and gives Sting a swift flick to the temple in reprimand. “What the hell are you doing?!”

Sting whines pitifully and bats at Rogue’s hand. “Has it really been that long?” he mutters, crossing his arms and frowning thoughtfully at his knee. “I didn’t realise.”

“Were you thinking again?” Rogue asks, somewhat condescendingly, trying to lighten the tension in the hopes of getting a straight answer out of his mate. Sting can be quite the scatterbrain when he gets caught up thinking too deeply about something, it isn’t much of a surprise that over half a day had slipped by without Sting noticing, although it is strange that Lector didn’t alert him to it. Rogue picks the sleeping Exceed up and settles him into Sting’s lap so that Rogue can sit beside Sting. “Wanna talk about it?”

Leaning comfortably into Rogue’s side, Sting shrugs. “It’s stupid,” he says, almost sounding sullen as he starts to pick at the hem of his top, a frayed string dangling over his bare stomach. “Had a nightmare and wanted to clear my head. Guess it stuck around more than I thought.”

Rogue can empathise. “About Weisslogia?” he asks softly, tipping his head down against Sting’s hair, the soft, un-styled blonde locks ticking his chin. When Sting nods silently, Rogue puts his arm around Sting’s waist and focuses on making Sting feel better. “It’s okay, you don’t have to tell me.” Ever since finding out that everything they knew about their dragon parents’ deaths was a lie – and then witnessing the actual death of the last five dragons – the nightmares have been plaguing them both, memories re-writing themselves, dragging up from the depths of their pasts. One or both of them jolting awake in a cold sweat with dying screams on their lips is just par for the course nowadays. “I get them too.”

“It hurts,” Sting whispers, clutching his arms tighter to his chest. Rogue can smell the salt of the tears that have started to roll down his cheeks. “We didn’t… We didn’t even get to talk to them properly. I wanted him to hold me like he did when I was little.”

“I know,” Rogue says, feels his own eyes starting to burn. He’d wanted that too, remembers how warm Skiadrum’s scales had been against Rogue’s tiny body, no matter how cold the shadows had looked. “I know.”

Sting shifts, wraps his arms around Rogue and buries his face in Rogue’s chest. Sometimes, they spend hours of the night talking about their dragon parents, and sometimes they barely mention the word ‘dragon’ for weeks on end. Rogue is sure that one day the two of them will be able to move on, but right now is not that day. “Why couldn’t they have stayed just a little longer?” Sting asks, voice muffled in the collar of Rogue’s cape.

“Because their time was up,” Rogue answers. He knows that Sting knows this, but he also knows that neither one of them likes to be coddled or have things sugar-coated. “But they loved us, and that’s all that matters.”

Sting sniffles, wipes his face on Rogue’s shirt much to Rogue’s displeasure. “Yeah,” he rasps, sitting up slightly. That devilish grin finally appears on his face, though still sad around the edges. “Okay, enough sappy shit for one day.” He rubs his face, and leans in to give Rogue a lingering kiss. “Good morning,” he says, near reverent, just like he does every morning. Although, they’re usually still in bed.

Rogue flicks Sting’s forehead again. “Idiot,” he says, and tries to hide a laugh in his other hand. “It’s nearly dinner time.”

They end up venturing into Magnolia and having dinner at the Fairy Tail guild hall. The presence of the other Dragon Slayers cheers them both up immensely, enough for the two of them to even share a private toast to their dear, departed dragons.

(There is hell to pay from Minerva when they finally return to Sabre Tooth the next day – Frosch drove almost the whole guild to despair with incessant questioning about the Twin Dragons’ whereabouts.)