Here we go! The Title Chapter! Which means things happen!
..actually yeah things happen, but not too many things, but still lots of things.
( “Turn the lights down low and kiss me in the dark
’Cause when you’re touching me, baby I see…”)
— Hilary Duff
Gajeel was surprised when Levy told him that the Guild people were at Era. He had never been to the place, but he knew about it. It was one of the biggest and most famous spots in the city. The closest he got to the nightclub was looking up at the building in awe from across the street one time he was going home from a gig.
But now he was not only going to enter the place, he was going to attend a private party, with a whole floor reserved for it.
‘I’m on a roll.’ he thought, as he was led to the elevator. It looks like whoever was in charge had told the staff to anticipate him coming. ‘Last night, a concert. Tonight, a party.’
He didn’t know how it happened. He suddenly had some semblance of a social life.
Almost everyone in the party was a familiar face to him. He sucked at names — he doubted he could name them all, but he recognized the faces. There was a sick remix playing, and about half of the guests were on the dance floor, while the other half were on the tables by the bar.
The first one he recognized (complete with a name) was Gray, who was standing by the bar drinking with a blue-haired guy he didn’t completely recognize. Thankfully, Gajeel didn’t have to suffer through awkwardly approaching them because Gray saw him first and raised a hand in greeting, calling out to him.
“Hey, man.” Gray said as Gajeel walked up to them. “You came, huh?”
“Just thought the night was young. Didn’t wanna go home yet.” Gajeel replied as he put his guitar case down. “This seat taken?”
“Nah, go ahead.” the other man shrugged. “What’re you drinkin’?”
Gajeel shrugged and looked down at the glasses in the table. “I dunno, uh… get me whatever you’re having.”
“Right.” Gray excused himself quickly and walked towards Mest, ordering Gajeel’s drink.
As he did this, Jellal introduced himself to Gajeel. Gajeel responded easily. He was more polite than the others, but also less formal than Loke who seemed to have an all suave and gentlemanly routine. Gajeel quickly felt at ease in the other guy’s casual company. Jellal simply updated him on what the group had been up to for the night so far — just a bit of drinking (well, some more than others) and lots of dancing. Nothing too eventful, but still lots of fun.
Cana passed by them holding two mugs of beer in her hands. She absently leaned against Jellal as she beamed widely at Gajeel. “Hey, it’s Big Guy! Ga… uh, Ga-someone. I dunno. You gotten drunk yet?!”
“GO KNOCK YOURSELF OUT, BABE! IT’S MY TREAT!”
“Err, yeah, sure…?”
Then she peered at Jellal, who was gently supporting her, his hands on her shoulders. “Ballerina, are you usually this blurry?”
Jellal just laughed lightly and asked, “Do you want to sit down, Cana?”
“Yeah, no, uh, wait.” she said, before she stood up straight again and smiled at him. “Okay, I’m good.” Then she walked away happily swaying her hips to the music.
Jellal’s eyes trailed after her and then he loudly called out, “Max, incoming!” just in time for Max to turn around and catch Cana before she could tackle him. Max just blinked before he gave Jellal a thumbs-up as Cana complained about treachery.
Jellal just smiled a pleasant smile back at Gajeel and said, “You get used to it.”
The raven-head raised both eyebrows but nodded nonetheless. That was when Gray came back with Gajeel’s drink. Gajeel thanked him as he rejoined them. He found himself in luck — Gray and Jellal both appeared to be usually quiet people. While Gray went back to his drink and Jellal contentedly watched the others, Gajeel finally took a proper look around the place.
It lived up to its reputation, and from the look of things, the event really appeared to be quite an exclusive party. He swore that other than the staff and those two teenagers, it was just the housemates. Even the DJ was one of their own — he was the guy who owned their building, from what Gajeel remembered. The boyfriend of that other guy (the fashion designer one) who dressed him up. Gajeel will never forget that. If his hair could experience culture shock, it would have done so after suddenly being gelled and tied back like that.
Then his eyes drifted to the dance floor. Even with the dark room and erratic lighting, Gajeel could see everyone clearly. They weren’t that big of a crowd, and the dance floor was spacious. Levy, Lisanna and Erza looked like they were having the time of their lives dancing with each other. Jet and Droy were watching them, cheering, while Lucy and Wendy were standing close together and just swaying to the music.
Then Gajeel caught sight of Natsu joining them, pulling Juvia with him. Juvia laughed as Natsu spun her around several times before he caught her hands again and led her into a playful dance. It wasn’t ‘serious’ dancing, really — Natsu was trying to get her to dance some goofy disco moves with him and for a while Juvia just stared before following his lead, giggling.
“You know she never dances like that… at all?” Gajeel told Gray. Somehow he felt like he had to let the other man know.
“Yeah, she told me she’s never danced in front of anyone before.” Gray nodded, smirking a bit. Now that he thought about it, he kinda felt honored, being the second person Juvia trusted enough to dance for…
“No, I mean like that.”
They both watched as Natsu started just randomly jumping up and down, and then Juvia did so too, both of them swinging their arms side-to-side happily.
It’s been a very long time since Gajeel has seen her having so much fun. The last time he clearly remembered was way back when they were young teens, she was puddle jumping and dancing in the rain one free afternoon.
Gray snorted. “Hm, yeah, maybe it’s the alcohol.”
“Nah, she’s not crying. When she’s drunk, she does nothing but cry.”
“Well then, it’s just Natsu. He does that to people.”
Gajeel raised an eyebrow. “Is he drunk?”
“I wish, but that’s his normal.”
Maybe Juvia finally noticed that her best friend has arrived, because she stopped jumping and said something to Natsu before she ran off from the dance floor and towards the tables. Natsu in turn grabbed Wendy and Lucy next.
Gajeel was grateful he wasn’t drinking because he would have spilled the beverage with how Juvia glomped at him giddily. “Gajeel-kun came!”
He chuckled, ruffling her already tousled blue hair gently. “Yeah, I was out early.”
“How was the gig?”
Gajeel blinked down at her. She didn’t know? He assumed Levy had told her. After all, that was what he told Levy — that his gig was cancelled so he’d come over and join them. At first he thought of texting Juvia but then she might be busy having fun with Gray or something, so he chose to contact Levy instead.
In speaking of Levy, she had joined their table, drink in hand as she occupied the chair where Jellal was sitting a few seconds ago. Gajeel hadn’t noticed the man excusing himself to grab a refill or whatever from the bar…
He exchanged a short look with Levy before he answered Juvia, “It was fine. Y’know, the usual.”
“Juvia is glad to hear that.” she smiled sweetly.
That was when the music had faded smoothly into a slower one. They all looked towards the dance floor and the DJ booth. It looks like Laxus had stepped down from the podium and the previous DJ took over again. Most of the people from the dance floor had started to pair up for the slow dance, the others who weren’t in the mood for it going back to the tables. They noted Erza pulling Jellal away from the bar by his hand, both of them wearing small smiles on their faces.
Juvia was surprised when she felt Gray tap her shoulder gently. She blushed when he wordlessly offered a hand. He must have seen how curious she looked, watching the other couples in the dance floor.
Juvia looked at Gajeel, who shrugged at her, and then at Levy, who smiled and nodded encouragingly, before she let Gray lead her away from the tables.
Gajeel watched as the two joined the other pairs, Juvia struggling to meet Gray’s eyes as they started to dance, standing closely together. Funnily enough, it was Gray who was confident at this thing, and it was Juvia who was a blushing mess. Gajeel didn’t expect that. After a few moments, he finally withdrew his gaze. There was no need to watch them too closely. Gajeel may be used to looking out for his best friend slash little sister, but she was in good company. They were both adults. He should let them have their moment.
As he took a swig of beer, he looked at the company he had left. Levy was also watching the others with a soft smile on her face. She looked back at him just as he put his mug down.
“So you made it.” was what she said, her cheerful smile ever-present. “I was starting to think you won’t be coming… It took longer than I thought for you to arrive.”
“Not easy walking from downtown to here.” replied Gajeel, looking down at his drink.
Levy nodded before she continued. “I’m sorry your gig was cancelled.” her voice was softer now, she could afford it because of the mellow music, he knew.
“Not your fault.” He shook that off. “And m’used to it.”
“You didn’t tell Juvia-chan, though.”
He paused. She was terrifying, sometimes. She seemed to read him so well. “Didn’t wanna ruin her night. She gets sad when things go wrong.”
The woman smiled an understanding smile at this. It wasn’t so far from what she knew of Juvia, after all.
“That… happens often?” she asked, in a tone of voice that told him that it was alright if he didn’t answer. She remembered the second time she met him — in the backroom of the record shop, walking in on him engaged in a particularly harsh phone call. She didn’t think too much of it at the time.
“Happens all the time. Although sometimes I’m the one who’ll quit.”
She didn’t ask further about that. “Well, you should make sure to enjoy yourself tonight, then! Make up for the negativity.”
He nodded, raising his mug again. That was exactly what he came here for, after all.
“Cheers?” she asked, raising her own glass.
Gajeel grinned this time as they shared a toast. “Cheers.”
If there was one thing Levy didn’t expect from Gajeel, it’s that he was. Such. A lightweight.
Like a total lightweight, holy crap.
Levy has had a couple of beers and some other stuff and she wasn’t even tipsy. She had her long-term friendship with Cana to credit for her surprisingly high alcohol tolerance.
Meanwhile, Gajeel had finished a mug and a half and his head was slumped in the table and he wasn’t moving. He wasn’t in the ‘Unreasonable Drunk’ stage yet, but… he was mumbling stuff Levy couldn’t quite catch and his face was all red. When she asked him if he was okay, he said that he was fine, he was totally fine, and he’s just waiting for the room to stop spinning.
“Dude, he’s down?” Jet called out, peering concernedly from the table he was sharing with Droy and Bixlow. Bixlow, for his part, was laughing hysterically.
“I think so?” Levy shrugged helplessly, before reaching out and softly patting Gajeel’s head.
He-… did he actually purr?
“Gajeel, are you really sure you’re alright?” she asked again.
Gajeel waved her off lazily. “Mmyeaaah I jus’ get buzzed early whatever shut up.”
“D’you need anything?”
“I need a band.”
“I need a decent band. Y’know. ‘Cause shitheads bail on me like allthetime? Godforsakin’ kids wan’ everythin’ t’be fuckin’ easy. Do covers and get famous and shit. Then some o’ dem do originals but won’ take no constract— critical— contraction—”
“Constructive criticism?” Levy guessed.
“That. Dey say IT’S FOR DA ART and I got no right t’say they suck but like. I dun’ say they suck. I just say they soun’ too pretentious sometimes. I just say they should expect some negative backwar— lack— backsh— fuck. Say it right, shorty.”
“N’ce. That. If they wanna be different, y’know. They oughtta freakin’ listen to people too. Yeah I know it’s music and there are all kinds but they hafta get used to strugglin’. AND Y’KNOW WHAT. I DON’T GIVE A SHIT IF THEY MAKE SOME FREAKY STUFF ON THEIR OWN TIME. BUT LIKE. IF I’M ON A GROUP, Y’KNOW? IF I’M IN THE BAND. I GOTTA HAVE A SAY. AND THEY GoTTA FUCKIN’ DEAL WITH THAT. ‘Cause… see. If they wanna make somethin’ with no complaints, they gotta do it by themselves. But if they wanna keep workin’ wit’other people — they gotta learn to listen too. ‘Cause it’s a fucking band. It’s not a fucking soloist and his fucking backup band. THAT’S WHAT I’M SAYIN’, OKAY. D’YOU GET ME, BABYGIRL?”
Levy had to fight not to spit out her drink upon being addressed so abruptly and in such a way. “Y-Yes, mostly? Art is subjective. You can’t always judge it, per se. But it’s a different matter if you’re making it with someone.”
“Right-o. AND I’VE BEEN. FUCKIN’ IGNORED. JUST ‘CAUSE I CAN’T SING TO SAVE MY LIFE. AND I’M NOT A PRETTY BOY FRONTMAN. AND THEY’RE OBVIOUSLY FUCKING BETTER, LIKE THAT. I just wanna fuckin’ make music, man. And not just a buncha covers forever, y’know? And I wanna do it with some decent people for once. I dun’ care if they’re fuckups like me, but they gotta respect me some, man. Like… listen? And… work wit’ me? And y’know. Respect… RESPECT THE GODDAMN ART!”
Levy smiled softly. Behind her, the other guys must have heard the last part because they cheered “HELL YEAH!” and “ART!”
Gajeel groaned. “Shit, I said all that out loud did I.”
“I gotta stop.”
“Hmm… not really. You’re adorable.”
“M’not supposed to be fuckin’ adorable. I’m metal.”
“Uh-huh. You’re metal.” she chuckled, but tried her best to humor him. “When was the last time you went out for a drink?”
He thought about it. “Uhhhh… like… a year? More. Than a year? Hell if I know.”
“Are you serious?” — because he seemed like the guy who drinks. Not an alcoholic, but… maybe the kind who always has beer in the fridge? ‘Alright, no. Stop.’ Levy thought, clearing her thoughts. She knew better than to judge other people based on how they look.
“Believe it or not, shorty. I just. Dammit, I don’t do this shit at all. Too busy workin’ then music and droppin’ dead then work again.” He grumbled. “I’ll pay you if you get me some cold water.”
Levy laughed, hopping off her chair to heed to the request. She got back quickly with a tall glass and a pitcher of water. As she poured some water in the glass and he slowly sat up to watch her do it, she said, “No need to pay me, this is free of charge.”
He nodded once, took the glass and drank it bottoms up. When he set the glass back down on the table, Levy came to the conclusion that she actually doesn’t understand how the man’s system worked. Because after that, he was looking perfectly sober again.
“Thanks.” he said.
“You’re… welcome.” replied Levy, trying not to look too weirded out. “You’re… okay?”
He raised a finger as if to make a point. “I’m still drunk. But much less drunk than before. Head’s clearer.”
Oh, so he just looked sober. “You… really don’t drink much, do you?” she asked.
He shook his head. “You?”
“I’ve had five beers already.”
He blinked. “You said shit.”
She nodded indulgently. “I said shit.”
“You said it again. Hey, hey, say ‘fuck’.”
He sounded like his world was getting turned upside down. “Holy shit.”
He really was still drunk, Levy believed that now. She raised an eyebrow. “I can’t curse?”
“You look too much like an angel sent from above for you to be out cursing-FUCK I’M TALKING OUT LOUD. DID YOU HEAR THAT?”
She bit her lip, trying not to laugh. “I did.”
“DON’T BELIEVE ME, I’M AN HONEST DRUNK.”
Okay, not laughing was taking serious effort now. Levy had to cover her mouth with a hand. “O-Okay…?”
“WHAT DID YOU PUT IN THAT WATER.”
“THIS IS WHY I DON’T DRINK. WHY ARE YOU TALKING TO ME?”
She shrugged, an amused smile on her face. “You’re fun.”
“I’M NOT FUN.”
“STOP.” he warned.
She did. But Levy leaned forward, leaning on her elbows and resting her chin in her hands. “I have a question, though…”
“Why don’t you go solo?” she asked. “I know there’s a bunch of guitarists out there who just do solo instrumentals.”
He shook his head. It surprised Levy that he was answering so quickly. “I can’t do it alone. My songs have lyrics.”
“Why not be a composer? Lyricist?”
“I wanna be more involved than that. But I can’t do everything by myself.”
She nodded. “You really don’t want to play by yourself, huh?” When he didn’t answer, she asked. “You had a band once? A good one?”
He nodded absently, looking towards the dance floor. The others were still dancing. Levy followed his gaze, towards Juvia who appeared to be listening to Gray as he whispered in her ear. “T’was a good run, but we had to go separate ways. Y’know, when ’ya get outta the system and hafta find a stable job. ’Cause being a scruffy band’s not gonna feed us and keep a roof ’bove our heads. Juvia’s the only one still with me. The others moved. Greener pastures, right?”
“Juvia-chan was in the band?” Levy blinked curiously.
“Not in the band. But sh’was with the band. Y’knowwhatI’msayin?”
She shook her head. “No.”
“She’s with us for every gig. Didn’t sing or play anything — y’know, stage fright — just kinda there like our lucky charm.” he chuckled, pouring himself another glass of water. “My songs sucked way back then. Weren’t good enough to build us a following before the split-up.”
“Why did you split up?”
“We needed to earn stable cash. Get jobs. Got a little brother to feed and send to school, wanna save up an’ go to college, hafta keep roof ’bove our heads… y’know the drill.”
This time, Levy nodded.
“Juvia always says my songs have improved from that, but she’s just bein’ kind.”
“No way, if you really kept working on them, you should have improved.” she reassured him.
“You’re kind too, y’know.”
She smiled. “Maybe. But I’m honest most of the time, too. Even when I’m not drunk.”
He just shook his head, before cradling it in his hands. He felt less dizzy and drunk now. Still tipsy, but he can manage.
After a while of just watching the others dancing, he asked, “You’re not gonna dance?”
“I’ve danced plenty tonight.” she answered easily, stretching. “I’m resting my feet a bit. Besides, it’s a slow dance right now. I’m not really into ’em too much.”
She shrugged. “You?”
“Same. No boyfriend too.”
Levy laughed. “I mean… you’re not going to dance?”
“I don’t dance.” he said simply. When she looked at him, a skeptical look on her face, he continued. “I play. That’s all.”
Gajeel sniffed and stirred his drink absently. Levy watched as he did this, her gaze traveling from his bothered expression, to his slumped posture, the half-full glass of water, and the guitar case resting untouched on the chair beside him.
“So… you never played tonight? Not one bit in the gig?”
He nodded quietly, putting his drink down.
“Would it cheer you up if you get to play tonight?”
At this, he looked at her with a thoroughly confused expression. “What?”
“There’s a stage.” Levy said, resting her chin in her hands, summoning an air of nonchalance as she looked up at the glass ceiling. “And I’m pretty sure setting up a single amp isn’t too much work.”
He didn’t take his eyes off her. He asked again: “What?”
“You said you don’t dance. That you play. That’s all.” she continued, her voice considerate and knowing. “Then play! I mean, we’re all doing our thing, why not do yours?”
“I—” he started, and found it hard to finish the thought, but nevertheless blurted it out. “…need a band?”
She smiled at him. “I can be your band!”
“C’mon, it’s just like what we did in the streets. That’s one of my favorite gigs, y’know!” this time Levy was beaming excitedly, and before he could ask further, she had already hopped off her chair and left him to watch as she skipped towards another table.
Gajeel watched as Levy approached Freed and Laxus, both of whom quickly turned to her when she called out to them. Laxus had to lean down a bit and Levy had to stand on tip-toe to say something to his ear. After listening to Levy’s request, Laxus glanced at Gajeel, then nodded, pat her head and stood up from his chair. Levy looked smaller than usual as she clung to the man’s jacket and followed him as he headed towards the bar and talked to Mest.
After a few short words, Mest gave the two what looked like his approval. Laxus turned to pull Bixlow with him towards the stage while Levy ran back to Gajeel.
“C’mon, sober up! I got us a gig!” she announced cheerfully.
Gajeel knew he was probably sounding like a broken record by now, but he had to repeat: “WHAT?”
“What’re we playing?”
“What d’you wanna play?”
“The hell, what should I play?”
Levy rolled her eyes, already making her way around the table and grabbing his guitar case. “Alright, pick one song from our tap mix. We’re going with that. You play guitar, I’ll be your percussion! It won’t be our first time.”
He tried not to think too hard on ‘Our Tap Mix’. “Yeah, it’s our second.”
“Don’t sweat the details.” she waved dismissively, opening his guitar case and lifting the sleek jet black electric guitar from it. She took a deep breath. “Whoa.”
At her reaction, he couldn’t help but smirk. “Like what you see?”
“It looks badass.” she grinned sheepishly, then got back to business, taking it upon herself to straighten the guitar’s strap. She swung it over his head and draped it across his shoulders, securing the guitar in place. He accepted the instrument as she handed it to him. “You got a song yet?”
He stared at her tentatively, then looked down at his guitar before sighing. “We’re really doin’ this?”
“We were just talking ’bout this a while ago, right?” Levy nodded. “I have my tap shoes on.”
He just shook his head in resignation, before turning back towards the table and downing another glass of water. He stood up, guitar in his arms as he addressed Levy again. “You think you can do the whistling song?”
She blinked. “What, ‘Sparks’?”
She looked like she was already on to something. “I can work with that one.”
“You gonna make your friends sing?”
Levy’s head snapped up, and he knew he had given her an idea she really liked. “I have an idea.” See?
She just smirked. “We’ve got a couple of good vocalists around tonight, you know.”
After that, he watched again as Levy approached Cana, who was sitting on the bar top, drinking merrily. Cana seemed surprised at whatever it was that Levy was telling her. The brunette even turned to look at Gajeel for a second, before grinning widely and sharing a high-five with Levy, looking very enthusiastic.
This time, instead of going back to him, Levy went to Jet and Droy next. Similarly, they looked totally on board with the plan. Whatever the plan was. Was there a plan?
Seriously, Gajeel was starting to regret things. He was not an impromptu person. Yeah, he can be counted on to improvise, but 98% of the time he wanted at least a clear view of how things were gonna go. He preferred things to be grounded — and that night not only did he have only the vaguest of ideas about what Levy was trying to do, he was also pretty tipsy.
But that night, Gajeel was in the company of people who seemed pretty much game with anything you throw at them. Levy just told them what was about to go down, asked them for help, and they rolled with it.
He liked her. See? He was an honest drunk. Really. It’s been pretty much going on in his head for weeks now that he liked her, and it was so simple he didn’t even bother to name it. He thought it was pretty obvious, anyway. He was not a romantic, and was busy with other stuff, and anyway, Levy always gave him a vibe that she wasn’t going anywhere, for some reason. So he just didn’t rush. It was as simple as that.
The point is — he wanted to keep being in her company even after this party he didn’t even plan on attending, so it was his best option to do what everyone else was doing.
He rolled with it. Whatever. Levy’s probably got this shit, anyway. He bet he could screw up and she’ll stomp her way through his mess of chords or something and come out of it looking badass.
Shit, he liked her more than he initially thought, huh. Oh well. She was cute and also awesome and if he really thought about it, she was bloody scary. Terrifying. He’s 200% sure she could fuck shit up if she wanted to. Gajeel was not stupid: she’s a hip-hop and tap dancer, so she’s got arm and leg strength for days plus amazing energy reserves and stamina. He bet he’ll lose against her on a fight. So who wouldn’t like her, really?
‘Okay, hold up, I’ve been hanging out with Juvia and Sting too much. I’m actually fucking swooning. I should stop.’ Gajeel groaned inwardly.
It was impressive what they could prepare in such short a time. A mellow song was just drawing to a close by the time Levy had successfully pulled Gajeel up the stage. Bixlow handed him a pair of headphones for a sound check as they plugged the guitar up to an amplifier. There was also a microphone on a stand in front of him. Meanwhile, Levy was doing some experimental taps in a slightly raised platform that they were able to acquire per Mest’s graciousness. Gajeel could see they also managed to set up a microphone by the floor. He knew they had special equipment for that, but the improvised method should work well enough. On the other side of the stage, Cana had her own mic and stand. She didn’t test her microphone, just crossed her arms across her chest and looked at the others still dancing.
When the guitar was set, Bixlow sent two thumbs up in the direction of the DJ’s booth, where Laxus was standing beside the resident DJ. With a quick nod to the DJ, the blonde took over the controls, cracking his knuckles before raising a hand in acknowledgement.
Gajeel knew what it meant: ‘Let’s start this thing.’
Instead of the slow dance fading into a new song, it faded out into silence. Then Cana cleared her throat and spoke into her microphone.
“Attention, folks — we’re wrapping up for the night!” she said, smiling mischievously. When she was answered with groans and complaints, she laughed. “Shut up, I’m kidding! Anyways, I can totally do that. ’Cause I’m paying.”
“No way! You’re not even drunk yet!” someone from the crowd shouted. Gajeel didn’t know who, but it was answered instantly.
“Whatever, Natsu!” Cana shouted back. “Okay, listen. It’s been brought to my attention…” She glanced at Levy shortly and the shorter woman gave her a shrug. The brunette continued. “That we’ve got a guitarist on the house tonight. AND BECAUSE HE WON’T DANCE AND I CAN DO WHAT I WANT~ Levy and I thought we should make ’im do his thing, and if he backs down, I’m making him pay for his drinks.”
“It was one beer and a pitcher of water.” Gajeel deadpanned. Then he realized his microphone was actually switched on. He groaned when the others laughed and sniggered. Levy sent him a peace sign, also giggling.
“You’re already standing there, so suck it up.” Cana replied, mocking. Then she turned back towards the others. “So yeah. This is totally happening.”
Among their audience, Gray had to smile when Juvia practically started bouncing beside him.
Cana just took a deep breath as she whipped her phone out again and then said, “Alright, hit it, Redfox.”
The whole floor was silent.
He could do this, no big deal. Look, there was Cana, who was ready to sing after being asked like only five seconds ago, and there was Levy, who must have come up with a mean routine already after hearing the song that same day. So really, he should be able to do this, right? All he had to do was play the tabs. They weren’t even difficult progressions. He could nail this. Just stick to the basics. It wasn’t even a hard song if you’re just accompaniment…
He stepped forward towards the microphone and whistled the familiar tune.
He heard Levy tap on the floor twice. A cue. Then he took one look at her, and she was looking at him in such an expectant way he actually regretted thinking of going into this thing half-assed.
Okay, so she was expecting him to be as awesome as her. Okay. Uh. Maybe he can at least try to keep up.
He started to whistle again, this time plucking at the strings to the first notes of the song while Levy started some basic tap drills that matched his rhythm. It was really simple, but he was just getting the hang of playing while accompanied by a different kind of percussion.
There were halfway through the first verse now, but there was no sound from the vocalist — just the sound of his guitar and Levy’s tapping gradually switching to more rhythmic combinations. He glanced towards Cana, and she just nodded at him. He got the message — ‘You have the stage for now.’
He had switched to the refrain, his playing still basic but more solid as Levy’s movements became more dynamic. She added some claps, slides and jumps in, but she was also moving faster. He kept up his pace. Gajeel knew it didn’t make much sense, but she somehow sounded like she was actually singing the song. In her own way. The others were starting to clap along, and some were cheering and whistling already.
Dammit, why was she so good? He had to up his game!
That was when she sent him a big smile and he knew what she meant.
They’ve got this. Time to go all out.
It’s the chorus, after all.
Levy jumped and landed to a graceful twirl, and on perfect cue, Gajeel switched to an impressive rhythm section, each note clean and clear, distinct. It was about time he sang along. To add to that, Levy’s tapping was on point. She had more stomps this time, her tricks more pronounced and erratic but still in sync with him.
It was a duet.
The cheers from their friends grew louder, and so did their clapping. Some of them were already swaying and jumping to the music created by the unlikely combination. Gajeel looked at them in surprise. It felt like… It felt like a concert.
He hasn’t played an actual decent concert for so long, he almost forgot how pumped up he got from playing.
He heard Levy laugh, breathless but still dancing. He switched to the second part of the chorus, and he heard Cana whistling to her microphone to accompany his rhythm section and Levy’s percussions.
There was applause when they finished the first chorus, but he didn’t stop playing. Levy also simply switched into simpler moves to catch her breath. She didn’t have to worry, though — because Cana had grabbed her microphone and sent an impressed smirk towards the two.
She came in right on time for the second verse, her voice strong and clear like always, and managing to bring a sultry sound to the song. She was swaying her hips slightly and was looking at her phone as she sang.
“Ticking-tocking like a bomb…
Throws me back to when I had you closer.”
It only occured to Gajeel that she must be looking at the lyrics she got off the internet, and that the brunette must have waited out the first part of the song because she needed to hear what it sounded like so she can sing along.
Fine, he’ll say it. Cana Alberona was a beast.
He didn’t even notice Jet and Droy come up the stage, taking over the tapping as Levy stepped back, still dancing casually.
“Skin to skin, we get it on…”
Then there was really loud cheering from their audience. Gajeel turned and caught sight of the scene in the dance floor. The crowd had taken several steps away from the stage. That left plenty of empty space in between, and that was where Lucy was pulling Natsu towards. It looks like round two of the dance showdowns for the night was starting.
“Without the love I feel you going bolder!”
It was interesting to see, because they were dancing different styles to the same music. Lucy was dancing contemporary, but with some broadway and jazz roots. Her movements were precise, matching the beat of the song as she did dynamic twirls one after another, punctuated with playful but graceful arm movements.
“You can promise castles, treasures, babies — I don’t care…”
Natsu was sticking to hip-hop and breakdancing. Nothing too fancy, mostly floorwork, but still very creative as he moved fluidly and never seemed to stay in one spot too long. It worked like a charm because as Lucy danced in the center, Natsu was the one who moved around her.
“’Cause for now you’re just enough for me, I want you near.”
Every so often, they would meet, but instead of colliding against each other in a mess, they always seemed to manage to dance through it. There were simple gestures or signals between them. Instead of bumping against Lucy after one of her twirls, Natsu would catch her by the waist, and with a nod, she let him give her an assist as she leapt to his other side. He held her raised hand for balance as she did a quick pirouette, and stepped away again.
“Like a fairytale to feel your breath right on my neck.”
When it was Natsu who moved too close, Lucy laid her hands on his shoulders and leaned back slightly to steady him. Then with a small smirk on his face, he made some simple pop-lock arm movements, which she picked up easily and did a variation of it as she stepped smoothly to the side, and he slid past her to continue his own dance.
“You remember what I love so baby take me back!”
It almost looked choreographed, and Gajeel was impressed. So were the others, seeing from the loud cheering that was going on. It wasn’t often that they get to see the two dancing together, and both of them looked perfectly comfortable because they were dancing their own styles.
When Gajeel noted sounds that were not from his guitar, the tappers, Cana’s voice or the others cheering, he turned towards the DJ booth. Laxus was adding his own touch to the song, expertly pressing keys on the DJ launchpad to add some techno effects.
So far the sound they were making was from an electric guitar, several people tap dancing, strong (impromptu) vocals, and a dubstep launchpad. And it somehow sounded good. Good enough that there were two great dancers on the floor dancing their hearts out on two very different styles. By the return of the chorus, Gajeel was just ready for these people to add whatever they want to add to this… whatever it was that they were doing.
“Turn the lights down low and kiss me in the dark…”
So it didn’t surprise him anymore when Laki and Lisanna strode forward, dancing jazz — a more snappy style. Both girls were completely confident, bending over, shaking their hips, making high leaps and extending their arms. Their steps were different from each other, but both danced perfectly in sync to the rhythm, so the end product still looked stunning.
“…’Cause when you’re touching me, baby, I see sparks!”
This seemed to pull the others in, because Alzack and Bisca also joined them. Gajeel had to resist gaping because hell, the song worked for cha-cha too? And this time, they were actually dancing as partners. Bisca’s ballroom footwork was on point, and Alzack maneuvered them around expertly. Their partnership was practically flawless, even managing to insert a couple of impressive ballroom turns and lifts in.
As they did this, Max and Warren were also dancing hip hop, their animation roots showing. Romeo was also able to dance along, a more energetic hip-hop style, with some simple breakdancing in between.
Maybe this got Levy pumped up as well, because she went back to the fray happily, in sync with Jet and Droy as they danced as a trio.
“You make my heart go…”
Gajeel knew Cana was busy singing lead vocals so he leaned over to do the whistling part. It was a pleasant surprise when the sound effects from Laxus’ launchpad came in perfect sync with it and actually sounded great.
Meanwhile on the floor, Juvia was watching it all unfold in awe. She held on to Gray’s sleeve, and maybe that was what told her this was actually happening. There was so much dancing, all in different ways and styles, by people with different personalities and it may look messy with everything going on, but it was still so… amazing. They danced with each another, moving around the floor and sometimes holding on to someone to partner up quickly before going on their way again.
She was about to say something but she heard Erza speak up. “Gray.” the red-head called out from Gray’s other side. “Are you seeing this?”
“What, the riot?” Gray replied with a chuckle. Both of them were also watching the others, amused smiles on their faces. Yes, they’ve done plenty of dancing that night, to each other, showing off… but not like this. This one had no showdowns or battles, just being themselves and dancing with friends, with different movements to the same rhythm and beat.
“Yeah, it’s a big mess but… look. Are you thinking what I’m thinking?”
Gray looked at her. Erza was looking back, her expression expectant. Gray shook his head in disbelief. He knew what she was trying to say, and he couldn’t believe she was actually suggesting it. “That’s crazy.”
Erza shrugged, her gaze turning back towards the others. “Just think about it.”
It seemed like Gray wanted to shake his head, but stopped himself.
The song slowed down for the bridge then, and Gray finally looked at Juvia. “C’mon, we’re not missing this.”
Juvia blinked as Gray pulled her to join the others. “E-Eh?”
He smirked as they stopped on a free space, raising their linked hands and twirling her around. “They already think you’re good, what are you worried about?”
“Juvia is worried about all of this.” she answered, voice high-pitched in nerves.
That was when he noticed that all eyes of their fellow dancers were on them.
The bridge was theirs.
“Oh.” he said, sheepish. He didn’t notice. He was too busy… well, he was too busy looking at Juvia. Oh well. “Hey, I’m here. Let’s mess up together.”
Somehow that worked, because Juvia only needed to take one deep breath. Then she pulled back and extended her arms gracefully before doing a quick pirouette that she punctuated with a split on the floor. He chuckled as the others cheered, impressed at the sudden feat.
Finally. There she was.
“Take it all off, want every inch of you…”
Gray strode forward, doing smooth pop and lock steps as he maneuvered around her. In turn, Juvia’s movements were slow, fluid and deliberate contemporary steps. Both of them danced carefully in calculated movements around each other.
“Traveling back in time…”
They didn’t have Natsu’s and Lucy’s quick coordination yet, but the slower tempo helped. Gray extended his arms expectantly and Juvia made a great leap, with an impressive flip mid-air which he caught before he gave her a lift, her extended legs sweeping in an arc before she curled up in his arms. As soon as he put her down, she switched into floor maneuvers as Gray did several quick pirouettes.
“Tangled uptight, just like we used to.”
Juvia turned back to him when she stood up, and he nodded. They both reached out and caught the other’s hand, Gray pulling her to him and Juvia twirling around and ending up wrapped in his arms.
“Now do that thing I like…”
They capped the bridge off with a dip, their faces mere inches apart. They heard some cheers and whistles from their friends, and had no time to react as the music picked up on the tempo and rhythm again. Gray just grinned and dropped a kiss on the tip of Juvia’s nose before pulling her back up.
Juvia was still in a daze when they both stood back straight, looking around as the others started dancing again. She caught sight of Erza finally pulling Jellal with her, the two dancing a casual ballroom dance. Mira had grabbed Loke again, while Natsu and Romeo had successfully pulled Wendy in to join them.
“Turn the lights down low and kiss me in the dark…”
Gray didn’t let go of Juvia as they danced again, this time more casual and carefree.
Gajeel looked around, Levy was enjoying herself tapping with Jet and Droy, Cana was still singing her heart out, and the others were dancing the night away. He caught a glimpse of the others trying to get Wendy to dance… and the girl caved in after a bit of prodding, doing some pretty impressive turns and flips. He almost cheered aloud with the others. He didn’t expect Wendy to pull something like that off.
He turned back towards the stage, only to meet Levy’s gaze as she was looking right back at him. She sent him one of her winning smiles. It was a look that screamed ‘I told you it would be fun!’
He grinned back, shrugging. She wins this round… because she was right. This night was easily the best fun he’s had for ages.
“…’cause when you’re touching me, baby, I see sparks!”
Laxus stepped back from the soundboard, letting them have this part. Gajeel looked like he was going all out on that guitar, Levy, Jet and Droy’s tap dancing were on point, and Cana’s vocals were amazing as always.
Mostly, it was just because he wanted to watch this all go down: the playing, singing and dancing. As he looked around, he spotted Bixlow holding his phone up, probably capturing the highlights in the dancefloor. On another spot, Evergreen was doing the same, this time her phone was focused on the ‘band’ on stage.
“You make my heart go…”
Cana had a satisfied smirk as she heard Gajeel’s whistling backing her up. She had only heard this song play once or twice before. Looks like she was able to pull it off. It helped that she’s got some great accompaniment keeping her pumped up.
“You, you make my heart go…”
Laxus felt warm arms wrap around his torso from behind and he half-turned to see Freed smiling up at him. “Hey.” he greeted.
Freed’s voice was hardly audible over the music and the cheering as he asked, “You’re done?”
The blonde nodded. “They got this one.”
Freed sent him a knowing look. “You like how it sounds, don’t you?”
“It’s better than I expected.” Laxus shrugged. “Levy’s always been creative, but this guitar guy? Real good ears.”
Freed chuckled. “And the others?”
“You, you make my heart go!”
Laxus shifted so he could face Freed, wrapping an arm around the shorter man. Then, he looked over the dancing crowd again.
He might have been busy with the mixing earlier, but he still caught those dances in the song. Levy’s tap dancing was as creative as ever, if not extra inspired because of her new accompaniment. Natsu and Lucy had kicked it all off brilliantly, Laki and Lisanna really weren’t to be underestimated, Alzack and Bisca have gone such a long way from being Mira’s shy, meek assistants, and the others had their own spin on their own styles. Even Gray and Juvia, who were only just beginning to find their way around each other, practically still gave everyone on the floor chemistry lessons.
“They just smacked me in the face ’bout how good they all are at what they do.” he answered. What happened that night was some kind of explosion of talent, and he knew he wasn’t the only one who realized that they should be putting these skills and creativity somewhere else. “Yeah, they need more work. Some polishing. But they’ve all got it in ’em.”
“Of course they do! This is the Guild we’re talking about.” Freed said.
The song had ended, and Cana was asking their audience if they want more. Out of the corner of his eye, Laxus saw Levy, Jet and Droy all hovering around Gajeel, patting him on the back and probably asking him to do another song with them. Levy was clinging to the guitarist’s arm and actually jumping up and down in excitement.
“If Erza, Gray and Levy play this right… They can win the contest easily.”
Freed replied with a firm voice. “You know they always pull through.”
Laxus frowned. “I know they always hold back, even if they don’t really mean to.”
“You said it yourself, though. They just have to play this right. So believe that they will.” Freed said simply, sending his boyfriend a bright, encouraging smile. “You can do that.”
It was unfair, Laxus thought. No matter how worried he got, when Freed smiled like this, he always seemed to instantly feel better. “Yeah.” he chuckled. “I can do that.”
Then somehow, the next thing they knew, almost everyone had gone up on the stage or were standing nearby. Cana was tap dancing to a fierce guitar solo from Gajeel and to the clapping and cheering of their friends. It looked like a battle of some kind. Max held the microphone and was beatboxing. Natsu held the other mic and was goofily narrating the battle as Jet and Droy made exaggerated “oooohhh” s and “aaahhhh” s in reaction.
“They’re nerds. All of them.” Laxus said.
“You love them anyway.” Freed laughed, pulling Laxus with him to join the others.
The blonde sighed. “Yeah, I do.”
Firstly, to answer several questions in the reviews:
— Nope, I don’t dance hip-hop or contemporary, or… anything, really. I’m great at DDR, though!
— And yes, wilathewitch, I’m honored you’re taking the chapter as a present. A belated happy birthday to you!
Gajeel being a total lightweight is inspired by one of my irl friends. Like… he’s a big tall tough guy and then I discover he’s like me, who hasn’t had a drop of beer in his entire life (and I’m 23, he’s 25). People say we’re legendary creatures.
Also, Sparks is complete at 17 chapters. So yeah we’re only three chapters away, wee!
— For the Levy/Gajeel duet: There are two electric guitar covers of “Sparks” in YouTube that I really like: the one by Ceciboy17 and Derrick Holleman. So yeah you can pretty much imagine that’s how the song went. Just add the badass tap dancing sounds. Percussive tapping is amazing and it creates such great sounds!
— Laxus’s techno touches were there to add more layers to the music. If you don’t know what a launchpad is, it’s the… flat thingy filled with glowing square buttons like a grid. I suck at using it (it takes. great. skill.) but it’s really fun!
— The idea of the guitar plus tap duet is actually inspired by a scene from the movie ‘Make Your Move’.