I Wanna Be Free
..aka “Levy’s Middle Name is Kindness”
Thanks for everyone who reviewed the last chapters! As promised, here’s the next one featuring dum dum dummmm… Gajeel and Levy! Well, it’s actually Levy-centric.
Shout-out to adryanna’s echo for beta-ing for me.
A little note again, yes, I am planning to repeat couples. Our ships are going to be recurring in the later chapters.
On to this one! It’s not as long as the other ones. It’s one little scene — just one conversation. It’s straight and to the point, like Gajeel. And sweet, like Levy. Enjoy!
Track 06: I Wanna Be Free
..aka “Levy’s Middle Name is Kindness”
“Is there a heart inside the night? I can feel its vital signs.”
— Panic! At the Disco
Levy McGarden ranked at the top of her class, came from a good and loving family, and with the way she smiled and laughed with her best friends while keeping up her amazing grades, most people would think her life was knew her life was good, but she also knew it could be better.
That night, she just wanted to make a new friend.
So, holding a bundle of handouts and photocopied handwritten notes in her arms, she walked on confidently. Levy was a shy girl outside her tight circle of friends and she always needed an extra push to deal with other people. She had the papers — they’re her excuse, her reason, her offense and her defense.
The bluenette stopped in front of an apartment complex, took several flights of stairs, and then finally faced the door of the unit tagged ‘Lockser and Redfox’.
“I hope Juvia-chan’s home.” she whispered, but when she rang the doorbell, she found herself wishing otherwise. ‘No, I hope Gajeel is alone.’
The door opened and Gajeel Redfox’s face greeted her. He raised an eyebrow when he saw her. “The fuck are you here?”
“Good evening, Gajeel.” she instead replied, smiling what she hoped was her winning smile.
Gajeel looked away — he always does, because for a reason that she had only guessed, he can’t stand to look her in the eye . “Juvi’s not home yet, she went to see good ol’ Frostbite.”
Levy nodded her head good-naturedly. “I’m not here for Juvia. Erza asked me to give you some notes and handouts since you were absent for the better part of the week. I didn’t get to ask you at school, but did something happen?”
“Nothing important.” Gajeel grumbled, and then eyed the bundle of papers the girl held tight to her chest. “Why would Titania send you?” — because nobody wanted Levy even five feet within Gajeel’s reach. Nobody could forget what happened to them back then-…
“I volunteered.” Levy simply said, before noticing something on the young man’s face. “Gajeel, is… is that a black-eye?”
Gajeel shrugged. “Juvia punched me.”
Levy raised an eyebrow. “I don’t believe you.”
“She did.” he insisted. “She was upset but I’ll just fix her when she gets back. But that’s none of your business. And I don’t need those.” He was looking down at the papers in her arms.
Gajeel looked at her shortly before turning his gaze back to his fluffy green kiwi-patterned slippers. “The notes, I don’t need ’em.”
“I live with Juvia, I can copy her stuff easy.”
“Oh.” — Levy, for all her wits, hadn’t thought of that bit. ‘Crap, I’m busted.’
“Yeah. So go away.”
Levy changed tactics. Plan A didn’t work, and because there’s no Plan B, she just went straight to the point. “Well, okay. I’m also here to talk to you.”
Gajeel looked at her, alarmed. “What do you want?”
The honor student breathed heavily, then looked at Fairy Gakuen’s “Iron Dragon” with set eyes. She said what she had been dying to say for months on end: “I want you to get over everything and forgive yourself, because I am so tired of still not being your friend.”
“W-What?” he looked at her again, this time incredulously. Where did the meek shorty from a while ago go? “I don’t—”
“And please let me in, I’ve had to walk five flights of stairs to get here, you know.”
“Fuck.” Gajeel cursed, but he didn’t try to shove her away. He knew that the bookworm would just continue to insist. Plus, she might tell Juvia. He let Levy in and the first thing she noted was how tidy the unit was, how everything seemed so.. so Juvia — all laces and blues and water patterns and a teru-teru bozu doll in the window. There were some things that indicated Gajeel’s share: his black torn bag in the couch and his unkempt books and school stuff in the table, his phone on the counter, a discarded shirt somewhere, some messy doodles and notes in the post-its on the fridge. Levy also noted the black cat lounging on top of the dining table.
“When did Juvia-chan get a cat?”
“No, Lily’s mine.”
Levy reached out to scratch the cat’s chin.
“He’s a snob.” Gajeel warned.
But the cat purred against Levy sweetly.
“He’s a sweetheart!” Levy squealed.
Gajeel grumbled something about bipolar felines before telling Levy to take a seat and heading to the kitchen. He came back quickly, slamming two cans of soda on the coffee table before sitting on the couch across from her. She knew he only did it to be polite.
“So, what’s the talk gon’ be about, shorty?”
“Us.” the girl answered quickly, straightening her position on the sofa and looking straight into deep black eyes.
Silence prevailed for a moment.
They both knew that this wouldn’t be an easy conversation.
“I don’t even want to know what the hell you’re trying to talk about.” Gajeel said roughly, clenching his soda can. Levy kept her gaze level but her hands continued to fiddle with her uniform skirt.
The girl took a deep breath again. “Gajeel, I’m not afraid of or even mad at you.”
“Like fuck you aren’t.” he snorted.
“It’s true.” Levy said, her eyes completely honest.
“Look.” he said, leaning forward and slamming a hand against the table between them. “One month. You were in that fucking hospital for one month because I beat you and those two guys up to pick a fight with that idiot Salamander and his bunch of friends. I’m a bastard—”
“Was. Not anymore—”
“Look, I still go home with a black-eye and a bleeding nose every other night because I was beating punks up—”
“But I know you’re just defending yourself! They pick the fights, but you don’t hurt people for fun anymore—”
Anymore — it’s a word that Levy always wanted to use against Gajeel and his arguments. ‘Not anymore.’, she always wanted to insist, ‘because he’s one of us now and we should trust him.’ She believed that. She had said that to herself over and over and over again, like a prayer.
“It doesn’t change the fact that when I was in Phantom, I beat you up — girl half my freakin’ size — because it was fun, because I wanted to fight Natsu, and you were begging — I remember that so clearly — you were beggin’ for me to just fucking take it all out on you and leave all your friends clear—”
Levy couldn’t take that much of a flashback — “But that’s over!”
“You almost died! I don’t even know how you’re in front of me and not scared because I’m a fucking monster—”
“A monster wouldn’t have a cat as cute as that!” Levy cut him off quickly, and Gajeel just gaped at her as she pointed at Lily, who was watching them attentively. “Look, you live with a very pretty girl and you don’t take advantage of her—”
“That’s because Juvi can beat me into a pulp if she really wanted to—”
Levy groaned out a pained “That’s not the point!”
“You brought it up!” Gajeel’s face was the very picture of confusion. “Why are you so random?!”
“Because it’s so hard to talk to you! I can’t figure out what I should say to get you to listen!” There it was. Out in the open. Levy had leaned forward too, but she ignored that because at that moment, she was just thankful that she was brave enough to argue.
“Why d’you even wanna friends with someone who tried to kill you?!” the young man promptly roared out.
Levy didn’t want to back down. Not when she was getting what she came there for — a conversation. She tried to summon up more courage… One more retort, she prayed. “Why d’you wanna scare me away after I’ve finally learned not to be afraid of you?”
“I never asked for forgiveness—”
Levy wasn’t having that — “Yes, but so what, you can take all your life without even looking me in the eye? Maybe you could take it-… hell, maybe you WILL take it, but I can’t bear that because no one is bad enough to deserve hating himself.”
Gajeel looked at the girl’s determined expression.
He asked, “Why are you trying so hard to help me?”
Levy only smiled weakly, looking down. “Why are you trying so hard to stop me from helping you?”
A cracking sound interrupted their argument. Gajeel looked down to see his soda can almost crushed in his fist. A hissing sound followed as the beverage spilled out from the can and dripped down to the floor.
“Shit, Juvi loves this carpet.” the young man mumbled, abandoning the crushed can in the table between them and flicking off the sticky liquid from his hand. Without a word, he stood up and headed to the kitchen to wash up and get a dishrag.
Levy looked down and she finally realized that when they were shouting questions at each other, Gajeel was looking into her eyes. Yes, she saw Gajeel’s point, but what she didn’t understand is why he was so intent on hating himself. Yes, the Phantom Lord Gang versus FairyGaku all-out fight a year ago had been one of the most destructive fights in Magnolia. Fairy High was known to have delinquent students who got into street brawls but when those students were joined by the others who were generally responsible and level-head, it shook the town
Levy, Jet and Droy had been the first victims — they were the unofficial front line and they didn’t know it. Seeing them beaten so mercilessly set their closest friends on the offensive. Then, even worse, Phantom also got a hold of Lucy. As predicted, Natsu, Gray, Elfman and the other guys stepped up quick, but nobody expected Erza and Cana to step in right after the boys. Levy was told that even Mira had been there, that Gildarts and Makarov did everything in their power to stop the fights, minimize the casualties and keep the children from getting expelled.
All she really remembered was begging Gajeel to do his worst to her but leave her friends alone, and him laughing, because he was hurting her and breaking her, and that was what he knew how to do — he wouldn’t leave anyone alone because he never promised anything to anyone. That wasn’t him.
After the fight, Juvia went to FairyGaku all on her own. Makarov asked Gajeel to come along because the old man didn’t believe in breaking the enemy. The headmaster just wanted to change the boy from worst to good. Levy knew that. Makarov talked to her himself.
“Do you hate Gajeel?”
“Are you scared of him?”
“Will you be able to forgive him?”
“Will you ever forget what he did?”
Makarov asked her those four questions on her first day back in school after her month in the hospital. He didn’t actually want to hear the answers — he simply asked the girl to tell Gajeel when she was ready.
Gajeel’s approaching footsteps snapped Levy out of her train of thought as he stopped to stand in front of her.
“Did you ever hate me?” he asked in a low voice, looking down at the top of her head, because she was looking down at her shoes.
“Of course.” Then she looked up at him and this time he held her gaze. “Headmaster Makarov asked me four questions about you after I went back from the hospital, did you know that?”
Levy smiled slightly and Gajeel sat on the table right across her, their knees touching, challenging her to tell him. “First question: Do I hate you? Yes, because you hurt the people I love.”
“Noted.” He replied.
Levy went on. “Am I scared of you? Yes, because you meant what you did to me.”
“Yeah. I did.”
“Will I be able to forgive you? Yes, because people change, and you’re with us now.”
He didn’t answer, choosing to just look at her as she breathed heavily before speaking again.
“Will I ever forget what you did? No, I don’t want to — because someday, I’ll look back on that and then look at you in that future and I’ll nod my head and say that you’ve really changed for the better.”
Levy looked at him as he bowed his head and buried his face in his hands and he groaned, “Godfuckingdammit.”
The honor student blinked and stammered out a startled, “W-W-What?”
“You’re so smart.”, he saidsays, his voice muffled against his hands.
“And kind,” he added.
Levy smiled. Somehow she felt as if a burden had been taken off from her shoulders. “So will you please take the handouts and come to school and stop acting like I’m air?”
Gajeel sighed, resting his chin on his hands grumpily. “Yes, yes, no.”
The girl pouted. “But—”
He grabbed the handouts from beside her and stood up as he flipped through the papers, turning his back to her.
He said, “I don’t act like you’re air. I’m pretty sure you don’t exist. You’re too good.”
Levy furrowed her brows. That was rude. “Gajeel, that’s mean!”
“It was a compliment.” He argued, still not bothering to face her.
“Make it sound like one.” Levy complained, straightening her skirt out and then stroking the fur of the black cat that had just climbed on her lap as if they had known each other forever. “I didn’t expect you to be a cat person…”
“You wanna be friends, right?”
Levy looked at him, smiling teasingly. “Will that be hard, tough guy like you?”
“Yeah. Will bruise my rep, my first friend will be a shorty nerd bookworm.”
“But there’s Juvia-chan! And you’re already friends with Natsu and Gray. And Lucy! Technically I’ll be the fifth.”
“Who said I’m friends with those bastards and that chick?”
“Well, there was that musical number you did with Lucy. Natsu and Gray because they like that you were with ’em when they beat up the Oracion guys last time. Sounds like perf bros to me.”
“How d’you even know I was there?”
Levy smirked. “Natsu tells Lucy everything.”
“Goddamn Salamander and Bunny Girl.”
“So are we friends?” Levy cocked her head to the side to peer at his face, but Gajeel hid behind the notebooks again.
“I don’t know.”
“But can you please call me by my name from now on?”
“I don’t want to. ‘Shorty’ sounds good enough.” Gajeel said, looking back at her. “What’re you smiling about?”
“Nothing. I just…” she trailed off, shrugging. “It’s just nice that you let me say what I had to say. Thanks. I think… I’ll go home now.”
Lily purred. When Gajeel looked at the cat, Levy was amused to see the cat gazing back knowingly, as if pet and owner were challenging each other.
Finally, Gajeel picked the cat up and dropped the feline back down on the table. Lily landed on all fours and proceeded to saunter away from them, towards a basket on the corner of the room.
“I’ll walk you home.” Gajeel said grumpily — as if that was the result of whatever telepathic debate he had with Lily.
Levy didn’t want to intrude, though, because he sounded like he was forcing himself. “No, I’ll be—”
“Just let me do it.”
Levy looked at him for a while before shrugging. She stood up happily and followed him out the flat. She watched him send a quick text to Juvia before they made their way down the five flights of stairs.
“It was so fucking stupid.” Gajeel sighed. “You’ll laugh.”
“I wanna hear it anyway.” the girl insisted, smiling her winning smile again.
“Ya know that box where she keeps her teabags? I left the windows open for Lily and when I saw a frog jump in the godforsaken box, I closed it to mess with the fuckin’ amphibian.”
“And Juvia-chan opened it?”
“I freakin’ forgot that I left it there, alright? She thought I was playing a prank on her but it had to be a fucking FROG for fuck’s sake. NEVER talk to Juvi about frogs. They scare the living shit outta her. And I made the friggin’ mistake of admittin’ that I’m responsible.”
“And then she punched you?”
“She was so busy crying and thinking I tricked her but when I said it was stupid, she punched me.” Gajeel said, cringing at the memory. Juvia wasn’t an ex-member of the Phantom Gang for nothing — that girl could be sickeningly sweet but she punched like a boxer. Gajeel rubbed his black-eye and Levy laughed. “She was really upset and she ran to her boyfriend’s flat. I think I’ll just bring her flowers. She likes the expensive weeds.”
“That’ll be really sweet for you to do, you know. The flowers.”
“Shut up. If she keeps being upset, she might poison my breakfast so I have to be good.”
Levy giggled again, then kept silent. A few moments of silence, then Gajeel spoke up.
“Why did you decide to rant about all that crap about us tonight of all nights?”
“Because,” Levy started, “Some bullies took my reading glasses last week and this morning, I found them back in my locker.”
Gajeel looked away. “What the hell does that have to—”
“Also, Cana-chan told me that there were some girls who were badmouthing me and before she could kick their sorry asses, someone else stepped in and told them to shut up.”
“I don’t know anything—”
“Here’s another one! Last month there was a ton of heavy books I was supposed to carry from the classroom to the library and I went out a bit to go to the girl’s restrooms. When I came back, they weren’t there anymore. Sensei said that Redfox told him he’s being stupid, asking a half-pint to carry that many books.”
“Well it was true—”
“At The Strauss’, I overheard Laxus telling Mira about Fairy High’s Iron Dragon letting himself be beaten up by two other students—”
“Not mine, but yes, they’re my best friends. I’ll have to talk to them about that, but I’m saying sorry on their behalf. I heard Laxus say you didn’t fight back.”
“The idiots couldn’t pack a punch. It tickled a bit, though.”
“Of course.” Levy giggled.
“Don’t do that, it’s annoying.”
Levy was a firm believer. She believed that she could prove this feeling she loosely called love. There isn’t one single feeling called love, she knew. Her feeling was only one kind of love.
‘Love’ because she indeed loved how Gajeel had been watching over her behind her back. She had grown to love the ways he was quietly doing her favors thinking that she didn’t know it was him. Levy loved him because he was already her friend even before he knew that he was being one.
Levy believed herself a good judge of character. As the friend she didn’t know she had (and she was sure he didn’t know he was being), she thought that Gajeel was one of the best ones she had — and he was just starting to change, so she was sure to expect even better.
Levy was also a hard worker. She had decided to work hard on that friendship because she was sure that he’d be someone she could be proud of someday.
Levy thought it was ironic — he was the one who was guilty, but right then, she felt like she was the one who got freed.
That’s it! I didn’t want the relationship to develop straight into romance — I like them being comfortable friends. Anyways, more chapters a-comin’! Review to give me your comments? 🙂