We Are Young

24 Jun 2015
Part 1 of We Are Young

They’re teenagers, they’re young and they can worry about love and life.

A collection of character and relationship-centric, interrelated stories about some students of Fairy Gakuen.

Teen (13+)
Chapters: 23
Words: 377,513

We Are Young

Chapter 19
When the Day Met the Night


…aka “Loke the Dashing Lion”

Chapter Notes:

First off, apologies.

Midway writing this back back back in Febuary, I got sick — mostly sick for a week. Then after I recovered, it was like a month of 13-hour shifts at work. It took me another month to slowly pick myself up but work’s not letting me go so easily. Real life is demanding. Then when I finished, I didn’t like it very much (or maybe I’m just tired and upset) so I scrapped 3000 words and then picked up again from there and yada yada yeah. I was picky. 😛

I prioritized this little picture-book-project for June, so I temporarily dropped this for that month. And come July, voila — work was kinder, I got a tablet which I developed a habit of taking out with me and continuing my writing while hanging out at restaurants after work and yes — finally you have this chapter.

…it’s one of the most romantic shit I’ve written in my life ever the lines are so cheesy but I justified it with what is Loke but not cheesy. So another apology in advance.

This chapter is Lucy and Loke, because throughout the past 18 chapters, they’re seen around together, with a close bond, Loke more like the reliable boyfriend than the bodyguard, really. I wanted to write their backstory. Plus, Loke and Karen’s mini-arc in the manga was one of the most heartbreaking ones, establishing our dear dashing lion’s character there, and kicking off this wonderful partnership between him and our resident celestial spirit mage.

It’s a really nice relationship, and I thought I wrote enough about their friendship in “Four Speeches” already, but this one — this one’s another, deeper thing. It’s Lucy and Loke having heart-to-heart talks, and since it’s been long since we’ve seen Lucy’s conflict with her dad, I got something sprinkled in here too. I’ve always imagined Lucy and Loke as this kind of princess-prince or princess-knight relationship.

So yeah, I think I wanted to see too much from both of them and I added in bits of everything here and there. Hence, the length.

Which I am supposed to regret, but I don’t. And I hope you don’t get mad at me for it.

One last note: I had two songs that are both perfect for this chapter, and I couldn’t choose one. So… yeah, the track kinda changed midway.

Track 19: When the Day Met the Night
…aka “Loke the Dashing Lion”

“When the moon found the sun,
He looked like he was barely hanging on,
But her eyes saved his life
in the middle of summer.”
— Panic! At the Disco

It was one of the few peaceful, quiet lunchbreaks that they’ve had for a while. Lucy and Natsu were off somewhere, Juvia got invited by Bisca to eat with the swimming club girls to discuss some future club activities, and Levy went to join Jet and Droy on their classroom. As the only two left from their usual circle of lunchmates, Erza and Gray had finished their lunch early and now they sat across each other on the raven-head’s desk. Erza was doing her homework while Gray copied some of her notes. They spent the moment in small talk but mostly in companionable silence. Such was their regular dynamic, anyway.But when Gray yawned for the sixth time that hour, Erza finally looked up from her work to check up on her classmate.

“Gray, are you alright?” she asked.

Gray groaned, rubbing his eyes tiredly. “Yeah. ’Course I am. Just a li’l bit sleepy from…” — another yawn — “…the extended shift in Pegasus last night.”

Erza frowned. “Don’t you think you should take a short break from your jobs? Finals are coming.”

“Nah, s’okay. I can’t do that. They’ll hire someone else and then they won’t have a spot for me.”

The red-head insisted, “Come on, just until finals are over. Two weeks. You’re a good employee, they’ll take you back for sure.”

“I already took last week off from all my jobs. I can’t ask again.”

Erza blinked. “Last week? Why?”

Gray looked back down at their notebook. “U-Uh… I had some… stuff… to do.”

Erza peered closely at her friend’s face, smiling slyly. “Stuff? What kind of stuff?”

“Just… stuff. I can’t tell you.”

“No, seriously. What is it?” the student council president insisted.

“It’s a secret.”

She squinted, now suspicious. “Gray? What’re you up to?”

No reply.

“Gray. You do know you suck at secrets, right?”

Still no reply.

Erza huffed. “I guess I’ll just ask Cana about it then—”

“I’m fixing a portfolio, been talking to Ultear and Lyon… Looking for stuff.”

Well, that was easy. The young woman looked at him curiously. “A portfolio?”

Gray shrugged. “You guys are not the only ones thinking of what to do after graduation, you know.”

“Oh.” Erza said, obviously in pleasant surprise. She mustered up a small smile. “That’s great. What school?”

“That’s what I’ve been talking to Ultear about. We’re still looking. Look, don’t tell anyone yet.”

“Why? I’m sure everyone will be happy for you—”

“It’s complicated. I… have a hunch Juvia won’t take it too well.”

Erza blinked, clearly confused. “I don’t see why Juvia would be upset if you’re working to take a course you actually want to take—”

“No, it’s not that.” Gray grunted. “It’s… different, okay? It’s not that she’ll be upset, but-… I really can’t tell you yet ’cause I’m not sure myself. Just do me a favor and keep this between us.”

His friend nodded, although she still looked tentative. “Well.. if that’s what you want, I guess.”

He looked at her. “Promise me that.”

“Promise.” Erza swore. Gray doesn’t open up to other people often. She thought that it was already very surprising that he even shared what little information she got out from him. She was sure he would tell her once he had figured things out.

As if on cue, Juvia then came running inside the room, heading straight for her desk.

“Hey, Juvia.” Erza greeted. The blunette smiled at her before picking up a paperbag of what looked to be art supplies from beside her desk, then walked towards them. “Back from the meeting?”

“No, Juvia just came to get these supplies. Juvia forgot to take it with her a while ago.” the blunette explained, then turned towards her boyfriend. “Did Gray-sama like his lunch?”

“Gray-sama loved his lunch.” Gray answered with a small smile, lifting a hand to poke at the blunette’s cheek lightly. “Thanks.”

Juvia smiled sweetly, blushing a bit. “Juvia is glad. Oh, does Gray-sama have plans for the weekend besides work?”

“Not really. Why?”

The girl looked down, shifting the bag of supplies in her arms gingerly. “Juvia was wondering if… if Juvia and Gray-sama can go out for a bit.” At this, Erza turned to Gray to watch his reaction.

Gray blinked. “You don’t have plans with your mom?” Lately they haven’t gone out much because Juvia and her mother were going out on various outings together, probably catching up.

“Mom said she will go visit some of her friends out of town… she said she wants to thank Gray-sama for helping us with the groceries last Saturday so she’s going to leave us alone for a while…”

Gray chuckled. “Geez, it was just two hours and the bags weren’t even heavy. T’was nothing, really.”

“But that’s what she said, anyway…” Juvia shrugged.

“Alright.” Gray said. “You go plan something. I’ll go.”

The blunette’s face lit up. “Really?”

He nodded indulgently, returning to his notes. “Just make sure I’m at Yajima-san’s by 2.”

“Hai! Gray-sama is so sweet!”

He shook his head. “Yeah, yeah.” Out the corner of his eyes, he saw Erza smiling at them in amusement.

“Juvia has to go now. Bisca-san and the others are waiting!”

“See you later.” Erza called out as the blunette exited the room. She picked up her pen and started working on her homework again. “Now I really can’t see what you’re worried about, because you two look perfectly fine to me.”

“We’re doin’ good, yeah.” Gray shrugged.

“How do you even manage?” she asked, putting down her pen for a while and looking out the window. “I mean, you have school, chores to do when you get home because I’m sure Cana won’t agree to do everything by herself, then there’s your part-time jobs. You have… what, three?”

“Four when Mira needs an extra dishwasher.”

“That. Then you still get to hang out with the guys regularly… How do you still have time for Juvia?”

“I got used to it, I guess.” Gray shrugged.

“But was it difficult?’ Erza asked.” I’m sure you had to adjust a lot of things when Juvia came in the picture. You weren’t exactly rich with free time before that.”

“Dude, you don’t even know.” he groaned. “T’was hard, yeah. Had to re-adjust my hours or something… Heck, I had learn how to ask my bosses for day-offs. One time I even asked Natsu to sub for me at Yajima-san’s. Imagine ’im wrapping up cake, right?”

Erza nodded, not daring to tell her friend that she was the actual victim of Natsu wrapping up said cake.

Gray continued, “I had to learn how to say ‘no’ to the guys ’cause I’d spend some time with her instead. And how to buy little things for her. I’m not really the pampering type and Juvia’s not really too needy about gifts, but I wanted to give her something nice once in a while.”

Erza nodded again, she was there when Juvia blushingly showed the girls the cute butterfly hairclip in her hair, Gray-sama’s first ever present.

“Then there’s the being sensitive and opening up and stuff. Gotta up my game on some departments, obviously.”

“But you got used to it anyway?” Erza asked, grinning a bit. “Like you just said?”

“Yeah. It’s just really a lot of compromises and learning stuff on the way. But when you really think about it, you’re not gonna be alone in the compromising and learning thing.”

Erza was looking at him then, listening to him speak while watching him very calmly copying her notes.

“It’s easier to do these stuff if you remind yourself that you’re not the only one trying. In our case, I definitely knew I wasn’t the only one trying. I mean, Juvia isn’t exactly subtle.” — a chuckle. “And when you get down to it, you really don’t have space for pride to hold you back from asking others to give you time off… if you really want to spend your time with someone.”

“If there’s a will, there’s a way.” Erza said, nodding.

He snorted. “Yeah. That. Goddamn, I should have just said that and saved some breath.”

“It’s still amazing, though.” Erza sighed. “How you… manage to do it. I don’t even know if I have those kind of compromising and time management skills.”

He glanced at her. The red-head was looking distractedly out the window. He raised an eyebrow. “…Are you asking for tips?”

She looked at him and blinked. “Pardon?”

“You sounded like you’re thinking about… getting started on a… relationship… thing.”


Gray smirked, seeing his friend blush again. “I think I heard Lucy and Levy say something about going with Jellal to a party? This is about that, isn’t it?”

“I-.. I don’t know what you’re talking about—”

“Dude, the guy’s already boss at makin’ time for you.” he chuckled. “I’m sure you guys would take off without a hitch.”

“I’m not talking about this—”

“You know he likes you—”

“Yes, but—”

“Wait, you do?”

“I mean n-no—”

Gray gaped. “Holy shit. YOU KNOW.”

“I don’t!”

She couldn’t convince him otherwise. “You totally do. Did he confess? What did you tell him?”

Erza looked away. “He didn’t-… Well, technically he did, but he didn’t ask-… It’s complicated. It’s a secret too.”

“Hey, no fair—”

“Completely fair.” she corrected decisively. “You have your secret, I have mine.”

He huffed, leaning back on his chair. “Fine, fine. Quits.”

Erza sighed, self-consciously running a hand through her hair as she tried to get back to her homework. Gray shook his head, clearly not content, but letting her pass anyway.

That was when Lucy entered the room, face agitated, holding her phone in her hands as she sat down on her chair. Her two friends stared, perhaps expecting the blonde to greet them cheerfully as always, but Lucy just sat there, looking at her phone, biting her lip.

They waited a full five seconds for Natsu to barge in the classroom any time soon, but when the guy didn’t arrive, Erza decided to call out to the blonde. “Lucy?”

Lucy looked up, distracted. “Erza. Y-Yeah?” she replied, trying to muster up a small smile.

Erza raised an eyebrow. “Is everything alright?”

“Y-Yeah?…Yeah.” the blonde answered. She saw both Erza and Gray’s curious expressions and asked in turn, “What’s up?”

“You look freaked out.” Gray remarked.

“Do I?” Lucy blinked, then looked back down at her phone tentatively. “Sorry. I mean, it’s just me. I’m… There’s nothing to worry about.”

“Why do you look freaked out?” Gray tried again.

“My dad’s coming back. For the first time in like, three months. Or something.” Lucy answered, burying her face in her hands. “Oh gosh, he’s gonna kill me.”

“Hey, relax.” Erza said.

Lucy wrung her hands nervously. “He’s soooo gonna kill me.”

“He won’t.”

“No, he will!”

“Why?” Gray asked, putting down his pen and shifting in his chair to face the blonde. Erza had stood up and headed to sit on Lucy’s desk. “It’s not like you did anything wrong—”

He stopped when both girls looked at him pointedly.

“She basically ran away from home, Gray.” Erza deadpanned.

Gray groaned. “Crap, I keep forgetting that stunt was illegal.”

“Capricorn and the others have been covering up for me but as much dad ignores me when I’m at home, I do think he’d notice if I was gone.” Lucy sighed.

“So go home for a bit.” Gray said. “Call Loke, ask ’im to pick you up today, get your stuff from your flat and go back home. Gajeel can look after the flat for you.” Erza nodded at the suggestion.

“What about work—”

“I’ll go and tell ’em you can’t come in tonight. Emergency.” Gray continued. “I’m sure they’ll understand. It’s just Mira’s and the bookstore.”

Erza commented, “I really think you should have a proper conversation with your dad already.”

“Trust me, I’ve tried.” Lucy rolled her eyes. “I guess I’ll just have to pretend that everything’s normal.”

“If that’s what you think is the best course right now.” Erza shrugged. “Gray’s right. You can pull this off. Gajeel’s reliable, and I’m sure that Mira would understand if you can’t come in today.”

“And the bookstore’s a bore anyway. It’s never packed full so I’m sure your boss will manage.” Gray added.

Lucy nodded. “Thanks, guys. I think I’ll call Mira for an early heads-up, though.”

“Yeah.” both her friends said, giving her encouraging smiles.

Lucy smiled back and picked up her phone, excusing herself as she dialed the Strauss’ barmaid’s number.

Erza and Gray watched her exit the room just as she said, “Hello, Mira? It’s Lucy.”

“Man, I hope she doesn’t run to us crying like last time.” Gray said. “I didn’t know what to do then.”

Erza sat down across him again. “Let’s just hope for the best.” That was what she said, but the red-head also made a mental note to make sure that her guardian, principal Makarov, hears about it.

After classes, Lucy stood by the school gates impatiently. Natsu wanted to keep her company, but Igneel had needed several extra hands at the Dragon and Lucy insisted that he go. It took a good half hour of Lucy telling him repeatedly that Loke will pick her up, that Gajeel will help her, and that she will call to tell him what happened before her pink-haired best friend finally relented and went to go help at the restaurant.She stared at her phone again — no messages or calls — Loke wasn’t answering any of her texts or calls. The last she received from him was the message telling her that her father was coming home, but that was still at lunchbreak. It has been quite a few hours already since then.She was asking for the bodyguard to pick her up at school or at least meet up with her in the flat, but there was no reply.

She jumped when a hand clasped her shoulder. Lucy turned around to see Gajeel standing just behind her.

“Sorry, was on cleaning duty. Where’s your bodyguard?”

“He’s not replying. Virgo and Aries, the ones in the house are not replying, either. This doesn’t happen. At all.” Lucy said, sighing. “I guess we have to walk home.”

He shrugged. “It’s not that far. Let’s get going if you want to go back to that big-ass house of yours before dark.”

“Yeah.” she nodded, quickly falling into step beside the raven-head as they proceeded to walk home.

Lucy headed to her bedroom as soon as they got to the flat. Gajeel was at a loss of what to do as he stood by the bedroom door and watched as the blonde started packing.“Hey, what am I really supposed to do here?” Gajeel asked. Lucy let him freeload on such short notice and he owed her. He wanted to help. “Just tell me.”“Just watch over the place for me, really.” Lucy said, stuffing a set of clothes on a large bag and then looking around the room before heading towards her bookshelf. “Don’t let it get too dusty. I don’t know how long I’ll be staying home but this is my dad we’re talking about… he probably won’t notice that my room’s missing more than half of my stuff or that I drop by here before going home because I forgot something. Just… well, enjoy the place.”

“That’s not really fair.” Gajeel said, watching the blonde put some books and notebooks on the bag as well. “I don’t even split the rent with you.”

She sighed, pausing on her packing for a while to look at her temporary roommate. “Gajeel, you’re a friend. You have no place to sleep on and I have two. That’s more than enough for one person. It’s perfectly fine for you to stay here. I don’t care about the money, I have more than I need.” She looked down again and laid a hand on top of her books. “I always have more than I need but too little of what I really want.”

“Great, now I made you sad. Way to go, bunnygirl.” he rolled his eyes before stepping inside the room. “Just make me do something, man.”

Lucy looked at him and then gave him a small grateful smile. “Okay, I need those two textbooks I left on the dining table. Get it for me.”

“That’s better.” Gajeel said, going out the room to heed to the request. As if on cue, as soon as he got ahold of the books, the doorbell rang.

Lucy quickly went out of the bedroom and shared a tentative look with Gajeel.

“Want me to get it?” he asked.

“No, I’ll do it.” Lucy shook her head. She headed to let their guest in, all the while mumbling to herself, “Gods, please be a friend. Please be Loke. I need that guy right now.”

Wish granted, it was Loke, looking grimly apologetic.

He was standing behind none other than Jude Heartfilia.

Gajeel and Loke found themselves waiting on the balcony outside Lucy’s unit as father and daughter talked inside. Loke crossed his arms across his chest and stayed silent, looking down at the floor. Gajeel scratched his head, at a loss of what to do before finally deciding to speak up.“I dunno how this thing usually goes, but are they gonna be in there long?” he asked.“It depends.” Loke answered, sighing. “I really should have made some stupid excuse to sneak off, just to answer a call or a text…”

“Yeah, she kept calling you and you won’t answer.” Gajeel said, narrowing his eyes. “What’s your deal? I thought you’re some sort of knight in shining armor who always has her back—”

“My hands were tied, basically. I had to… Her father was so angry, and he asked me about all sorts of things, told me to stay in sight and don’t contact Lucy… Everyone in the house got some serious scolding, actually. He was mad that we all covered up for his daughter, but well.. what can we do? Living on her own’s been doing her good. The whole day I was driving him around town and whenever I try so much as take my phone out, he orders me to put it away. The people in the mansion all got their phones confiscated for the day — he made sure no one got to contact Lucy, even put someone new temporarily in charge. It was lucky that Capricorn somehow managed to tell her, but I guess it didn’t change anything all that much.”

“She was waiting, I was helping her pack so she could go back to the house early and pretend like there’s nothin’ different.”

“It wouldn’t have worked, he took us by surprise when he arrived early this morning. We didn’t know he was coming back… and well, everything went downhill from there.”

“Bunnygirl’s been fidgety the whole afternoon.” Gajeel grunted.

“She should be. Her father really isn’t pleased.”

“After what ’ya told me about the situation in the big house, I can tell that this is gonna be messy.”

“Lucy will apologize. She always does. She’ll take the blame if only for her father to not turn it on us. She’s like that.” Loke said. “That’s how she normally deals with things whenever her father disapproves of something. But sometimes she really snaps and talks back, then feels bad about it — which really is worse. I just hope Master Heartfilia accepts the apology and ends this quickly.”

“You want him to be kind.”

“I always want him to be kind, more for Lucy than for us. He’s our employer, we can take an angry employer. But to Lucy, he is family. They only have each other, it’s really painful to see him being so harsh.”

After a few more minutes, the door opened and Jude stepped outside, phone pressed to his ear and in a conversation with who they assumed was someone from the business. He gave the two a dismissive wave.

“Come in, you guys.” Lucy said, holding the door open for them. Loke and Gajeel gingerly went inside, letting the blonde close the door behind them. “He said it’s an important call or something. Whoever it was, I wanna thank them because I was about to lose it right as the phone rang.”

Loke and Gajeel watched as the blonde sighed, walked past them and slumped down on the couch. The two men exchanged quick looks before Loke walked towards his mistress and kneeled by couch. “Lucy, are you okay?”

“Of course she’s not.” Gajeel said quickly, walking to the dining room to give the two some privacy. He felt that they needed it.

She closed her eyes and sighed again before shrugging. “Why weren’t you answering my calls?”

Loke cringed, but somehow he was relieved that she didn’t sound angry. “He didn’t let me.”

“I figured. He told me he got back this morning, and if I assume I was busted by then, he must’ve taken it out on you guys. What happened at the house?”

“Well,” Loke started tentatively. “uh, it’s not that bad…”

Lucy frowned, resting a hand on his shoulder. “Stop kneeling. Sit with me.” — an order, and she almost never gave orders. “What happened?”

Loke heeded to the blonde’s command, sitting beside her as he did a quick recap. “Phones were confiscated, Capricorn’s not in charge, we’re being worked to death — but that last one’s not you, alright? It’s just that we’re pretty understaffed and the preparations had to start on such short notice. More people are coming in tomorrow, so the others can probably breathe easier. I believe you’ve been told about the event?”

“Yes.” Lucy sighed. “I thought I was safe this year.”

“Okay, I’m lost.” Gajeel commented from his seat on the dining table.

“The ever extravagant Heartfilia Konzern Annual Charity Ball.” Lucy drawled, in a tone that more than suggested her stand with regards to the event.

“That sounds like fun.” Gajeel deadpanned.

“It’s not really that bad.” Loke said. Lucy noticed that her bodyguard had said that twice now. ‘Not that bad’… so Loke was really trying to make her feel better. “It’s unecessarily extravagant, but it’s for a cause.”

Lucy nodded, letting the young man know that she can see his effort in trying to raise her spirits. “It’s to raise funds for my mother’s charity foundation. It’s one of the few things dad and I agree on. Dad’s doing it ’cause it gives the company a good public face, I’m doing it in memory of mom. She never really got herself involved with the business all that much but she worked hard for this charity because it helps a lot of people. It’s always been held in the mansion in Crocus—”

“You have another mansion.” Gajeel said, trying to clarify what he just heard.

“There are like three others, two farms, a handful of statehouses and a private resort in Tenrou. We’re rich.” was all Lucy said dismissively, almost too used to the fact to just blurt it out easily. “Back to the ball. I always try to get involved in it, ’cause like I said — for mom. Before dad left last month though, I asked him about it, but he said I didn’t have to attend this year because I have to focus on entrance exams and getting into university. He thought I might just get distracted if I have to go to Crocus and involve myself with the preparations and the event like I do every year. So I passed up for this year, you know, I just didn’t want to argue with him.” Lucy explained for her friend’s benefit.

“So, what, he came to pick you up ‘cause he changed his mind and you’re goin’ after all?”

“That’s the catch.” Loke continued, smiling ruefully. “There’s been some mishaps in Crocus and as a last minute decision, just to push it through, the ball’s going to be held in Magnolia this year.”

Gajeel groaned. “So there’s gonna be a big royal party in your house.”

“And because I live there — or at least I’m supposed to be living there… I now have no excuse not to attend.” Lucy finished. “And he’s said it too. I don’t want to argue. I never do.”

“It can’t be that bad.” — Lucy smiled when she heard Loke say that. Strike three. “We’ll be with you. It should be easier than all the times it was held in Crocus when it was just Capricorn and Supetto-san.”

Lucy shook her head. “It’s not that I hate the event. It’s just that I hate that they just… barged in like this and he caught me and took it out on you guys.”

“We’re fine.” Loke said. “So we’re being bossed around in our workplace? That’s part of our jobs. We’re more worried about you.”

Lucy bit her lip, looking at her bodyguard. “He still shouldn’t have done that.”

“Technically we really shouldn’t have allowed you to do what you did, love.”

She didn’t argue further. Gajeel noted her resignation and kinda understood where she was coming from. Loke was clearly trying hard to comfort her — assure that it wasn’t her fault at all. That everything will be back to normal soon.

Gajeel wasn’t the most sensitive guy but even he felt Loke’s desperate attempt to at least make everything look “better”. He had to give it to the bodyguard — he was practically radiating fondness for his mistress. Scratch that, Loke wasn’t even trying to hide it.

“So… what did he say?” Loke finally asked.

“Of course he’s mad. I’m here, alone, no security, without his permission… I should remember who I am, Lucy Heartfilia, heiress of like every gold bar in our magical vault.” she answered, shaking her head. “It’s really fine, guys. I’m just mad that he was mean to the others, he’s mad that I’m not living up to his grand impossible expectations — what’s new?”

Loke nodded. “What did he say about… this place?”

“…and me.” Gajeel added.

“We were actually just getting there—”

The door opened and Jude went back in. Gajeel quickly looked away while Loke quickly stood up and positioned himself behind the couch to put some distance between him and Lucy, who looked down at her lap.

“Lucy,” the man started. “You haven’t introduced me to your… friend.”

The blonde bit her lip. What can she say? ‘This is Gajeel, dad — I swear he’s a nice guy now, and noooo he’s totally not part of the gang that almost kidnapped me last year.’ She was sooo dead. “Um, dad, this is.. Gajeel Redfox. He’s, uh—”

“From school.” Gajeel interrupted, then quickly added “…um, sir. I was just… here to return Bunn-… err, Lucy’s notes that she lent to me and, her, uh, other classmates.” he finished, gesturing toward the notebooks on the table in a lame attempt to support his white lie.

Loke and Lucy both held their breaths as Jude silently assessed the young man. Lucy was thankful that Gajeel was still in uniform and that he was wearing less piercings than usual…

Jude finally nodded. “I see. You have clearly returned my daughter’s things. Is there anything else you came here for?”

“I-.. err, um… No—”

“You may take your leave.”

Lucy stood up. “Dad, he’s my guest!”

“No, it’s fine, I really should get going.” Gajeel said, cutting off the blonde. Lucy looked at him with wide eyes, but he simply nodded subtly as he picked up his schoolbag, obviously telling her that she didn’t have to start an argument with her father because of him.

Lucy simply stopped, helpless, and didn’t look back at her father as she silently showed the raven-head out the door. Gajeel shared a look with Loke before following Lucy.

As Gajeel stepped out, she whispered, “Where will you sleep?”

“It’s one night. I’ll manage.” he grunted under his breath. “But your old man wouldn’t happen to have anythin’ against cats, right?”

Lucy shook her head, managing a small smile. “Don’t worry about Lily. Go to Gray’s. And there’s Natsu, or Erza, Gildarts—”

“I know. Calm down. I’ll be fine.”

“I’m so sorry about this—”

“Don’t.” he simply said. “Call if you need anything. I owe you some.”

“I’ll be okay. Loke’s with me.” she said, smiling. “But thanks. Take care.”

Lucy closed the door behind her to see her father looking around the place. He was clearly unimpressed. “You know, if you wanted your own place, you should have just told me. I would have gotten you a bigger, better apartment, with enough space for your maid, a bodyguard… and better security.”

“I am very safe here without all those.” she said.

“Are you really?” the man asked. “So safe that you let a delinquent bully you into lending him and his friends help studying—”

“OUR friends.” Lucy corrected. “And I’m not being bullied by anyone.”

Her father shook his head. “I understand how you suddenly have this… little whim… of wanting to live on your own, but I disagree that you’re doing it in such a lowly place as this. And we’ve discussed this before — your choice of so-called friends—”

“It’s not a whim.” Lucy replied, voice shaking. ‘I get it, I could have anything I want: I could demand a posh flat with my private pool and an army of maids and guards, and you’ll give it without asking why — because it’s what I want. Because you can. Right? But obviously it just so WRONG to hang out with people my age who actually care about ME instead of only being curious about how many digits there are in my family’s annual income.’ She stopped abruptly when her father shot her a look, but after a beat, she continued. “I get it, and I’m going back to your empty house and I’ll be there for the ball. I’ll move out this small stupid flat, pack up all of my things right now if you want me to. But I don’t wanna hear anything from you about my friends.”

Lucy held her ground, but in truth she was scared. Did she just actually say that? Gave her father an ultimatum? Jude Heartfilia wasn’t someone you gave an ultimatum to. So Lucy readied herself for a slap in the face, or more hurtful words from her father.

Instead he scoffed. “Fine. And don’t trouble yourself so much, young woman. Consider yourself lucky that I am letting tonight pass. You’re going home tomorrow.”

She blinked, but knew that she couldn’t show him her surprise at such a light-handed verdict, so she nodded and looked down, trying to appear composed.

“Loke will stay with you.”

The heiress and the bodyguard both looked at him.

“Stay? You mean-..?”

“Tonight. Help you pack whatever you need to pack. For the next following days, I want him to be wherever you are.” Jude said, eyeing the bodyguard sternly. “He has been incredibly lax with you. Everyone has been indulging your foolishness while I was away.”

Loke looked at Lucy before looking back at his employer. “B-But sir—”

“We will be holding a big public event in a few days.” the man sat, cutting the bodyguard off. “There will be people of high positions coming to town, and with that there will be media. I want my daughter safe, secure from those prying people and cameras.”

The other two couldn’t argue. Jude had a point. Besides, after realizing that there will be all sorts of people who will probably try to get to her, Lucy felt more comfortable knowing that she will always have a guard. “Understood.”

Loke simply nodded. He didn’t have much of a choice anyway.

“Call Capricorn and tell him to send another car. Escort me downstairs.” — then he turned to his daughter. “I want you home straight after school tomorrow, Lucy.”

Lucy also nodded. That wasn’t new. Besides, she had already decided to do her best and be involved with the upcoming event anyway. For her mother.

As Loke stood beside his employer waiting for Capricorn, Jude spoke up. “I want you to do your job well, Loke.”“You don’t have to tell me that, sir.”“I am serious about this. We’ve always held the event in Crocus and back there we have more control on the media. Lucy has never had to deal with the publicity as we always had majority of our marketing team taking care of that, and she never had to leave the mansion there. Now my people are busy transitioning things from Crocus to Magnolia, and Lucy is expected to still come to school. You know what that means, of course?”

“People would try to approach Lucy even before the event.”

“She deals with publicity well. I don’t have to worry about what she says when asked.” Jude said. “But I still don’t want her crowded by microphones and cameras by every little tabloid and news center.”

“Noted, sir. Lucy’s safety is my top priority.”


After a while, Loke inquired, “Sir?”

“What is it?”

“Thank you for being… lenient… with her.”

Jude considered the statement. Lenient? Yes, he did tell Lucy that she was lucky that he was letting her get away with what she did that easily. Maybe he was just too tired from the events of the day. But why was her bodyguard of all people thanking him for it?

“Tell, me Loke…”

“Yes, sir?”

“You’ve only been her bodyguard after we moved to Magnolia. That’s barely two years. Of all Lucy’s bodyguards, you are the only one who had ever thanked me for being, I quote, lenient, with her.”

Loke swallowed. “Sir, I-… Obviously, I only care for your daughter—”

“Why? Why this… fondness… of my daughter?”

“Sir, I believe you know this,” Loke started, clearing his throat before he continued, “Lucy is the reason I’m still alive. I owe her my life.”

“I know, I don’t forget. That’s exactly why I approved of you as her bodyguard.” Jude said, then eyed at the man standing beside him. “But you would also do well to always remember that, as you are giving me reason to think that YOU are forgetting. The reason why you’re still here is because you owe her your life. Wouldn’t you want her to have a good one?”

“Yes, sir—”

“You can start by keeping your distance.”

Loke looked back at his employer with wide eyes, but the man was staring straight ahead, not sparing him a glance. “Sir, with all due respect, I don’t intend for anything—”

“Just do your job.” Jude said. “And be reminded that is is a job, nothing more.”

Before Loke could retort, a car sped down the road and stopped in front of them, and his employer had taken his leave.

Lucy was sitting on the couch with Lily on her lap. The blonde was absently stroking the cat’s fur.“Hey.” the bodyguard greeted when he came back.“Gajeel texted. He said he’s crashing at Erza’s tonight.” Lucy said.

“Well I guess I’m taking the couch. Under orders.” Loke replied with a smile as he sat with her. “How’re you?”

“Fine.” she shrugged. “I wish the whole shouting and arguing thing didn’t happen, but you’re right. It wasn’t that bad. We’ve definitely had worse.”

Loke nodded, glad that his mistress wasn’t feeling too down.

“How do you think he does it?” Lucy asked, looking down at Lily, who was already sleeping. “How can he… care about me that he’s ready to give me anything, absolutely anything that I want even if it’s just… shallow and stupid, but why is it that he.. he couldn’t even be bothered to care about the people I care about? Is it that hard? Like, what does he find more difficult? Respecting someone who wouldn’t ever hurt his daughter, or signing a check to give me something I don’t even need? Can’t he… trust in my choices, even a little?”

Loke shook his head, clearly not knowing what to say, but he still tried. “Is it maybe the ‘it’s not that I don’t trust you, it’s that I don’t trust THEM’ thing?”

“No, because I chose to trust those people.” she replied. “By saying that, it just means, yeah sure he trusts me — but he doesn’t trust my judgment. Why?”

Loke smiled ruefully. “He must have his reasons.”

“If he trusts me, he would tell me those reasons.” Lucy sighed, then looked at Loke, who was watching her. “Wait, why are you taking his side?”

The bodyguard knew that his mistress wasn’t angry, just simply curious. Between the both of them, Lucy always knew that no matter what, Loke was on her side. For him to be trying to justify her father, he must have his own reasons. “Same reason that you have, after all this time still asking ‘why’. I believe your father loves you dearly, just that there must be something that makes him treat you the way he does. Neither of us wants to be angry without fully knowing why.”

“Yeah.” Lucy nodded, sighing again. “I wish he listens as well as you do.”

“Maybe he does, we just can’t see that yet.”

“Nah,” she laughed lightly. “No one listens to me better than you.”

He raised an eyebrow. “Really?”

“For some reason, yes. Really.” she rolled her eyes. “I mean, all of my friends are great listeners, but they always take my side. You know when to try not to. It’s weird. I don’t want to be angry with my dad and you help me with that the most.”

“Consider it an advise from someone with experience.”

Lucy blinked. “Experience.” she repeated.

“Let’s just say that I knew someone who I just couldn’t understand fully and got angry at — but before I could make up with them, it was too late.” he simply said.

The blonde paused and looked at him. She knew who he was talking about.

He must have read his mind, because he smiled and nodded wordlessly.

“I’m… sorry.” Lucy looked down. She didn’t want to remind of that. Of… of her.

Loke chuckled. “No, it’s alright. You don’t have to apologize. I’m just glad to be of service.”

“They really don’t pay you enough to deal with a spoiled rich girl’s rants.”

“Oh, trust me.” he said. “I couldn’t care less about how much they pay me if I get to listen to you talk all night, love.”

Lucy shook her head in resignation. “Smooth. Real smooth.”

Loke wanted to throw a quip about how jokes are half-meant, but he held himself back. That would ruin the moment. Instead, he stood up and said, “Now, I believe we have things to pack?”

“We do.” Lucy lifted Lily up and settled the cat into his basket, feeling better — no, feeling her best since getting news of her father’s surprise arrival. “Follow me, lion.”

He said, “Always.” and she shook her head again, laughing. If her bodyguard was to be graded in terms of how he pulls off the lovestruck dashing loyal knight, he’d get top marks.

But if only Lucy knew how often Loke meant exactly what he says.

The next morning at school, Lucy, with Lily in her arms, found her friends huddled together in a hushed discussion. Levy was sitting on Juvia’s desk while Natsu sat on Gray’s. The raven-head had shifted his chair so he could face Juvia and Levy, while Erza stood behind the blunettes.“She’s usually here by now—”“I told you guys, we should just text her, or call her—”

“Do you think she’s grounded?”

“Stupid Gajeel should have stayed there!”

“Natsu, he did his best to lessen the damage.”

“Yes, if Gajeel-kun tried to argue, Lucy’s dad just might get angrier at her.”

“Argh, but why isn’t she here—”

Lucy smiled as she approached them, finally speaking up. “You guys worry too much.” Her friends all stopped abruptly and turned towards her.

“Luigi, you’re late!” Natsu said, grinning cheerfully. “What’s up?”

“I had to drop some things home, that’s why I’m late. Oh, and as if I didn’t hear you guys fussing over me even before I got here.” she said. Her friends looked at her semi-guiltily. ‘I’m good.’ As she let Lily jump down and settle into Levy’s lap, she looked at Erza. “How did it go with Gajeel?”

“It’s no problem. We’ve had more than our fair share of temporary runaways asking to crash at our place for a night or two. We’re used to it.” Erza said, looking down at the cat, who was purring as Juvia and Levy scratched him behind his ears. She turned to Lucy again. “How did it go with your dad? Gajeel said he didn’t look happy.”

“He never looks happy.” Natsu huffed, then looked away innocently when Lucy gave him a minute glare.

“Flamebrain’s got a point.” Lucy admitted. “But it’s fine. He actually wasn’t that hard on me last night. Just.. pretty disappointed that I didn’t choose a bigger, better place. Told me I just had to ask and he could’ve given me so much better. Y’know, independence but still with maids, bodyguards and tough security. But it’s fine, I actually kept my head cool.”

“What’s the verdict? You’re moving out?” Gray asked.

“That’s it, I don’t know if I am.” Lucy sighed. “But, uh, I have to go back home for at least a week or two, I think. And I kinda agree with that. It’s for the family business.”

“Why, what’s goin’ on?”

“Remember last year when I took a week off from school and went to Crocus ’cause we have this important event?”

“I remember that.” Levy said. “Is this the charity event? I think? Something your mom started?”

“Yep. Well, this year it’s gonna be in our house here, and I’ve always taken a sorta hands-on approach on that event so I agreed with dad that I’ll be coming home for a bit. As for the flat, well… he hasn’t said anything about ditching it. So it’s not all that bad, really.”

Her friends all nodded, agreeing with her. It really was nothing compared to a Lucy running to Gray’s flat in tears, or her breaking down on Natsu like the previous times she and her father had a row.

“Oh, and I’m kinda stuck with Loke.” she said as an afterthought.

“You’re always stuck with Loke.” Natsu deadpanned.

“I mean, dad wants him to be wherever I am.”

“You’re not gonna run away or anything.” Gray said, frowning.

“That’s not what we’re worried about…” Lucy answered, then stepped forward to look out the window. Her friends followed her gaze, spotting the familiar expensive-looking sportscar they knew was owned by their blonde classmate. It wasn’t hard to find Loke, either — he was approaching a group of people who were standing by the school gates. Lucy flinched as she saw the familiar get-up: suits, cameras, microphones, notepads, recorders. There were maybe four or five of them, but Lucy still grew uncomfortable. “Gee, it’s already starting.”

“Are those reporters?” Natsu asked, voicing everyone else’s concern. “Luigi, what did you do?”

“Nothing, really.” Lucy shrugged. “They just want to know what Jude Heartfilia’s daughter wants to say about the prestigious annual event.” They watched as Loke said something to the reporters and the group all hesitantly nodded and stepped back. Some of them actually looked towards where Lucy and her friends were watching, and Lucy immediately withdrew, not wanting to get caught.

Her friends looked at her. Natsu whistled. “Wow, Luce, you’re famous.”

“That’s ’cause she’s rich.” Gray said, wanting to hit his friend with a notebook. “And she’s throwing out a party.”

“What’s so wrong with throwing out a party?”

“It’s kind of a really big party?” Levy tried, easing Lily into her arms. The cat had tucked its head on her shoulder.

“Like how big?”

Lucy rolled her eyes. “Like how about ‘Freed’s-parents-are-probably-attending’ sort of big?”

“Oh.” Natsu stopped.

Gray added, “…and ‘the-rest-of-us-see-it-on-TV’ sort of big.”

Natsu whistled. “Damn, that’s big.”

Juvia spoke up then. “It looks like Loke-san managed to drive them all away, though.”

Lucy peeked at the window and saw Loke walking back towards the car and standing guard there. The bodyguard looked at them and waved slightly.

“So I can’t walk home with you guys today.” Lucy said, waving back at her bodyguard. “But if you want to hitch a ride, you’re more than welcome. I mean obviously I’m gonna be stuck on that car when I’m not inside four concrete walls so yeah.”

“No, thanks.” Erza said. “That’s very kind of you but we’re worried about the cameras.”

“We are?” Natsu asked.

“Yes. We are.” Erza answered, looking at Lucy with a smile. “But if you need anything from the school, or any help from any of us, just say so. We’re with you on this. Like always.”

Lucy smiled back at the red-head, trying to stop herself from bursting out into tears. However, it only took her a few seconds to cave in and she glomped at the student council president, giving Erza a tight hug. “Erzaaaa, you’re my herooooo!”


As her friends laughed around her, Lucy thought it was very easy to forget her problems as long as she was with these people.

When Lucy arrived in the mansion, it was bustling with activity. There were some familiar faces she didn’t often see — some servants and personnel from the Crocus mansion were indeed brought in to help. There were also people from the company, mostly from the marketing and finance departments, all engaged in their own business. Her father was talking amongst these people, and only spared her a short glance when she arrived with Loke and several bags in tow. The other employees who recognized her from the yearly events greeted her politely, and she greeted back with her own smile.Virgo and Aries were quick to take Lucy’s bags from her while Supetto-san fussed over her beloved young mistress. “Lucy-sama, you look well! We’ve missed you around here! Have you eaten dinner? I can get something ready in no time.”“I’m fine, Supetto-san. Not too hungry, either. I can wait for dinner time.” Lucy smiled kindly, laying a hand on the old maid’s shoulder. “Can you tell me where Capricorn is? I want a quick recap of everything that’s been done here so far.”

“Oh, as you wish, young lady!” the woman quickly led the young blonde towards the staircase. “He is at the sitting room with some of the head planners. You came in perfect timing, Lucy-sama.”

“That’s great.” Lucy said, letting the woman lead her around. She looked back and gave Loke a dismissive wave. The bodyguard took that as his cue.

Lucy would be safe in the house, no doubt. Loke put one of the other security personnel of the house as a substitute before excusing himself. He got into Lucy’s car and drove towards town.

The Blue Pegasus opened up as early as 5 pm, but the real crowd starts streaming in at around 7. When Loke entered the club at 6, there were barely any customers, and he considered himself lucky.He was instantly greeted by a blonde lady donning a shiny purple dress, her long wavy hair accented with flowers. “Hello, welcome to the Pegasus!” she greeted with her stunning smile, then blinked when she saw who their guest was. “Oh, it’s Loke!”“Good evening, Jenny.” he said, sending the woman his own smile.

“Good evening!” Jenny Realight — the Pegasus’ leading lady — replied, welcoming him with a friendly kiss on the cheek. “What brings you here, handsome? I thought you’re back full-time on the bodyguard stint?”

Loke shrugged as he led the lady towards the bar. “Well, I forgot something last time I was here—”

“Aw, bummer. I got business. Talk to you some other time. Sorry!” Jenny interrupted, patting his arm before stepping away. Another customer had gone in and she headed over to welcome the man, who was very happy to be greeted by a very beautiful lady.

Loke chuckled as he sat on one of the stools, settling himself in front of none other than the club’s owner. “Hello, Bob-san.”

“Hello, Loke.” the man replied, not looking up from drying wine glasses. “What brings the lion back?”

“I’m just here to pick up a nice suit.” Loke said. “I believe I left it here last time.”

Bob-san nodded. On nights when Loke wasn’t looking after Lucy, he was part-timing at the Pegasus. He was an old face in the club, had a good track record as one of the hosts, and Bob-san set him a deal that he can come back anytime. Sort of a freelance sideline to his being a rich daughter’s bodyguard. “You could have gone straight to your closet.”

“Of course I wanted to say ‘hi’ first.” the bodyguard said. “It’s nice to see the place kickin’ as usual, Bob-san.”

“Indeed it is.” Bob-san said, finally looking at the younger man. “Drop by more often. The customers miss you.”

Loke sent the other man a teasing smile. “Only the customers?”

“I see past your tricks, boy.” Bob-san chuckled. “But it’s a good trick. Would’ve fooled anyone who wasn’t me. Go get your suit.”

Loke laughed, standing up. “Alright, alright. By the way, where are your bestsellers?” he asked, looking around for the three poster boys of the club.

“The Trimens are coming in late tonight. Something about Ren surprising his girlfriend for her birthday and needing wingmen for it.”

“That’s unusually sweet of him.” Loke raised an eyebrow. “Is he proposing to Sherry already?”

“No. Not yet, at least.” Bob-san shook his head. “I think he would have the better sense to take the whole night off if he’s going to do something that big.”

“Point taken.”

“By the way, what do you need the nice suit for, if I may ask?”

“There’s this kinda fancy ball for the Heartfilias’ charity foundation. Everyone has to come in their best attire.”

It was the club proprietor’s turn to raise an eyebrow. “Ah, will you be escorting her? This special young lady of yours?”

Loke laughed lightly. “I’m afraid not. I’m just a bodyguard, wanting to dress for the occassion.”

“But clearly you feel more than that.” Bob-san mused. “…and everyone knows.”

The freelancer looked down, avoiding his employer’s look — he knew that Bob-san was sending him a knowing smile, anyway. “Is it that obvious?”

“Oh, my dear boy.” the older man shook his head. “You make it too clear that she’s the best thing in your life right now.”

“You know me too well, Bob-san.”

“Not really. It’s just that when you met her, it was the first time we’ve seen you truly happy since Karen.”

Loke knew he flinched slightly at the mention of the name, but it wasn’t pain, he knew. It was some sort of dull pang, a little bitter but almost forgotten taste in his tongue. “R-Really?”

“The question is, are you going to pursue this one?”

“I’m trying to be professional.” Loke simply said. “I’m happy just keeping her safe.”

“Someone less resilient would break down in heartache.”

“I’m lucky then.”

“You are.” Bob-san sighed. “But please don’t let me get you down, young lion.”

“As you said, there are those less resilient.”

The proprietor simply waved him off. “Just go get your suit, and do a favor for me.”


“Try to have at least one dance with Lucy-chan. I don’t always see her, but you two look stunning together.”

Loke simply shook his head as he saluted the man and walked towards the back of the bar. “I’ll do my best.”

The dressing room of the Blue Pegasus served as both a changing room and locker room for all the hosts and hostesses working in the establishment. When Loke entered the males’ room, he was greeted by the usual sights of the other hosts dressing up, combing their hair, trying on their winning smiles in the mirrors. It was a spacious room. They were told that the ladies’ rooms were twice as big, but that may simply be because they had more women working in the club. The others greeted him pleasantly, some asking if he will be working that night. Loke shook his head and answered them just like how he answered the others, simply saying that he was there to pick up some things. They let him off easily and returned to their own business, prepping themselves up for the night.The lockers were too big to be called lockers, really. They were more like small closets where the hosts kept their own wardrobe. Loke opened his own and easily found the suit he came for, taking it out and folding it neatly before placing it in a paperbag. He also took some spare ties — several of his finest, and put it in the same bag. He knew that the party was for one night only, but they had all been told that some guests were to stay in the Heartfilia mansion instead of a hotel, and they were to stay for a day or two before and after the big event. They were instructed to dress as appropriate. Loke wasn’t a member of the house’s squad of security guards, but rather more of a personal bodyguard for Lucy, so he didn’t have the others’ uniforms.Lucy would surely have her hands full accomodating the guests. There were already some cameras documenting the preparations for the event. In the car ride home, she was already complaining about having to wear her nicest clothes even at home.

So really, how could he bother his mistress with such a trivial thing as his affections for her, when she already had her hands full?

Loke didn’t want to take too long, so as soon as he had packed what he needed, he said his goodbyes to the other men in the room and took his leave. When he got out of the room, he was greeted by the sight of a young woman picking up small items from the floor. He recognized her as one of the new hostesses, a beautiful brunette with a cheerful disposition, donning a little red dress. When he looked closely, she was holding a broken necklace in one hand while trying to gather the beads strewn on the floor.

He didn’t hesitate to walk up to her and offer his help. “Let me help you with that, young miss.”

She was surprised to find one of the best hosts in the club kneeling before her and helping her out. The woman blushed bright red. “O-Oh! Loke-san! I-It’s okay, I can—”

He looked up and saw that more beads were slipping out from her broken necklace. “More are slipping.”

“Oh my god, I’m so, so sorry…”

“No problem, always a pleasure to lend a hand to a beautiful lady.” he reassured.

They both quickly gathered the beads strewn around them. Loke helped the brunette stand up and then gave back the beads that he picked up. She bowed deeply, still blushing, and stammered her thanks.

Loke smiled a small wistful smile as he watched the young hostess run towards the ladies’ room, carrying the pieces of her broken necklace.

He first met Karen like that, when he exited the men’s room and found a green-haired woman kneeling on the floor. Her little utility box broke and beads, pins and buttons came spilling on the floor. Like the gentleman he was, he helped her gather the items without question.“Haven’t seen you before.” he remarked. “Are you new here?”“Yes.” she answered, smiling a curt smile. He remembered how pretty her painted lips looked with that smile. “But not a hostess.”

“Oh, are you the new designer?” he asked then, remembering how Bob-san told them that he finally found a new interior designer to replace the one who resigned a month prior. The Blue Pegasus boasted of its modern, elegant and classy interior designs that changed every other month. Bob-san hired only the best.

“That’s me.” she answered, then extended a hand. “Karen. Karen Lilica.”

He took her hand and then kissed it. “Loke.”

She raised an eyebrow, looking at the dashing young host, visibly suprised, but also obviously impressed. “I’m guessing you’re one of those ‘bestsellers’.”

“They say that sometimes, yes. What gave me away?”

“You’re very… professional.” was all she said, extending the utility box and letting him return the trinkets he picked up. He stood up before offering his hand to the lady and helping her to her feet. “Thanks a lot. Now I… gotta get back to my studio and finish my work.”

“Always welcome.” he said, watching the woman walk away towards what he knew was the resident designer’s office. “You should join us on the floor, have some drinks.”

“Oh, you’ll see me around.” she waved dismissively, and then disappeared to her ‘studio’.

She was a fascinating woman. Smart, creative and grounded. Karen was beautiful, as well. Sometimes some customers mistake her as a hostess and ask for her attention, but the other employees were quick to correct that she was their art director. Her presence demanded attention and she was never afraid to voice out her thoughts and boast out achievements. The young women in the club looked up to her with adoration while it was no secret that she was admired by the gentlemen. Bob-san also thought of her in high regard.

Nevertheless, she had negative traits, too. There were moments when she was too demanding, domineering and assertive. While it was good that she was honest, there were times when she had unapologetically let out cruel comments towards her co-workers. Sometimes she broke the club’s house rules: brought her boyfriends in the bar, forced younger employees to do her favors, and abused her authority. Sometimes, she apologized, but at times she didn’t, but mostly they tolerated that. As Bob-san said, she was a valuable member of their staff and all of them had seen what she brought in the table. She was an asset.

Loke had a good friendship with her. He has always been a ladies’ man, and so Karen was charmed. She knew how much of a ‘catch’ he would be, and knew that he was fascinated, but she kept her distance. For a while, it was a professional understanding, with both of them dropping hints of their attraction for one another. They had interesting, intellectual conversations. They both loved the arts, and more than once Loke escorted her in exhibits and galleries. Their other co-workers thought they made a great pair, and were sometimes confused on why they weren’t a couple yet.

Loke always simply said, “We’re good friends.”, but he knew to himself that he was falling for this beautiful, albeit flawed woman.

He was sort of disappointed when Karen said ‘yes’ when Hibiki asked her out. Everyone else thought that Karen already had her sights on Loke, but then Loke really didn’t have any right to feel entitled to the woman’s affections. It was a fact: Hibiki asked first, and Karen consented. The two dated, then soon went steady. Loke and Hibiki were friends and co-workers, and they were mature enough to not let one woman cause bad blood between them or break their sense of camaraderie.

The relationship wasn’t short-lived, but it didn’t last too long, either.

It always caused considerable tension in The Blue Pegasus whenever Karen and Hibiki fought. They all had to agree that it was mostly Karen in the wrong, though. She had quite a possessive streak, and Hibiki’s line of work required him to associate with other women. He had proven his fidelity time and again. He had proven that what he did in his work, it was only his job: entertaining other women, keeping them company for their stay in the club. Nothing more.

“You knew what you were getting yourself into when you started this relationship with him.” Loke said once as they shared a drink on the bar. Karen had a habit on confiding in him when things went wrong, or after a fight with her boyfriend. He thought that it was nice that Hibiki trusted him enough and had never questioned the other man’s friendship with his girlfriend. “He’s just doing his job.”

“That’s what he says, too.” she said bitterly.

“Well, because it’s true.”

“You should’ve seen how that bitch looked at him.”

“Did he return the lady’s advances, though?”

She glared at him, the kind of anger from knowing that she couldn’t say anything to prove him wrong. “Still.”

“Still what?”

“I think we should just break up.”

He didn’t say anything to that. They were adults and professionals, and he wanted to trust his friends’ judgment.

A few months after Karen and Hibiki broke up, the designer finally admitted that the person she really wanted to be with was Loke. It was easy saying ‘yes’ to her, specially when Hibiki approached Loke directly and told the other man that he respected their choices and that he didn’t want Loke to hold back just because of him, that there was no need to feel awkward or anything.

“We can just carry on like always. No hard feelings.”

Loke appreciated that very much. “Thanks, man.”

Karen’s and Loke’s relationship lasted longer, and usually they were a happy couple, but they had disagreements which were sometimes worse than the arguments Karen had with Hibiki. But well, Karen was a woman with an attitude, someone who didn’t take well when told of her flaws.

Loke always thought that it was because they had been good friends that they were also more honest with each other. So it didn’t take Loke much to point it out whenever Karen was being possessive, too demanding, or full of herself. It also didn’t take much for Karen to say how righteous her lover was being, how he sometimes neglected her because of his work. It was a rocky relationship but they tried hard to make it work. It was the hardest when Karen and Loke fought over Loke’s sisters. Virgo didn’t like her brother’s girlfriend, and Karen always thought that Aries was too timid and weak. Loke didn’t like how his girlfriend was treating his sisters, while Karen was always pointing out that the girls should change, so they can get along better.

Loke hated to admit that he apologized more often than she did. Karen was a woman with her own set of standards and ideals. He tried hard to crack her shell. He always believed that she had her own reasons on why she acts that way, on why she never thinks that it was her fault. She must have some reason. He held on to that firmly, that’s why no matter how bad it got, he didn’t leave her and simply tried to understand her.

He knew Bob-san tried to talk to Karen about it. He overheard their conversation once.

“Karen-chan, if you continue treating people who love you like this, you’re going to regret it.”

“So are you saying I’m wrong here?”

“There is a difference between a strong-minded woman and one who thinks too highly of herself.”

It was answered with Karen’s stubborn, “You guys don’t know anything about me.”

“Then open up, sweetheart. It doesn’t have to be a big revelation, it doesn’t even have to be all of us here. At least tell Loke. He loves you so much, and he would understand, if only you let him in.”

He didn’t hear what came next, and when he asked Bob-san, he was told that Karen kept silent after that, as well.

Sadly, no one really got to know where she was coming from, what her reasons were, what made her the beautiful, mysterious, stubborn person that she was.

Loke’s biggest regret in life is that he didn’t get to understand Karen.

The last time he heard her voice, it was cracking in sadness. The last time he looked into her eyes, she was crying. The last time she came to him, they argued, shouting, accusing. He didn’t tell her how much he loved her, instead he had told her how he was so disappointed in her.

The last time he touched her, it was to push her away.

She never came back, and never will.

Loke drove back to the Heartfilia mansion in silence. He usually had the radio on, but that night, he just didn’t feel like it. He knew he was distracted and he tried his best to get back in focus. It’s been long since he last thought of Karen.His thoughts were interrupted when he heard the familiar message alert tone of his phone. He stopped the car on the side of the road for a bit.[ ‘Hey, where are you? Come home. It’s almost dinnertime!’ ]

Loke smiled. There was no use thinking of the sad past now. His mistress was waiting for him.

Lucy was good at business. She didn’t want to sound overconfident, but she knew that if it comes to these stocks, numbers and finance stuff, she was capable. After all these years of being the honored Heartfilia Konzern heiress, she had learned much about her company. She may not be an expert on the topic and may not have a whole degree focusing on business (yet), but she was familiar with what their business does, and what’s happening internally.Capricorn knew this. His young mistress was never content to be a simple dolled-up princess attending parties and cocktails, boasting of a car her daddy gave her, or an overseas vacation she was having with her equally rich friends. She wanted to be able to answer questions relevant to the industry. She wanted to know what exactly was happening with the business and their partners. She may not be looking to inherit everything, but Lucy wanted them to know that she wasn’t a simple girl entitled to daddy’s riches, that she was a young woman who knew what business they were dealing with. Maybe she didn’t want to be ‘visible’, but she wanted to be aware.The butler watched quietly as Lucy looked over the latest company newsletters that she requested him to acquire. She had been focusing on her studies lately and had moved out, so she had some catching up to do. However, as Capricorn watched the way the blonde teen was nodding to herself as she read through the papers, he knew that she was catching up quickly.

“I’m done.” she said, leaning back on her seat and sighing.

“Any questions, Lucy-sama?”

“Not really, it’s all just the usual stuff. Ups and downs, new deals, old deals. I think I got most of it. Just gotta review before the ball.” she said, smiling sheepishly.

“Lucy-sama, you really have a talent for this.”

“I have to keep up. I don’t want to look stupid in front of that crowd.” she said, frowning as she laid her chin on her hand, looking absently at the empty sitting room. The other organizers had gone downstairs to attend to their tasks but Lucy made a mental note to catch up to them on another time. For the meantime, they left her some documents relevant to the event’s preparations. She downright demanded to know what was going on.

“One of the marketing heads suggested that you give the opening speech, Lucy-sama.” Capricorn said.

Lucy gaped. “W-What-.. Seriously?!”

The butler nodded. “Yes, they said it is the first time the ball is being held in Magnolia, and since you are the one who knows the town well, you may be able to provide your insight.”

“What the heck…? Nobody told me…”

“That’s because Jude-sama hasn’t approved of it yet. It was a suggestion. Of course, they will be providing the speech, and you will only be delivering it.”

“Now that’s crap.” Lucy blurted out, then looked guiltily at her companion. “Pardon the language. I mean, okay, if dad wants me to open for the event, fine. But he has to give me more time because I won’t read something from a lame script given to me.”

“I’ll tell him you said that.”

Lucy almost fell from her chair. “Oh my gosh, no—”

“I’ll rephrase.” the butler reassured, with his own calming smile.

“Okay. Thanks.” she said, smiling gratefully. She knew she could trust Capricorn. She sat up straight again, flipping through the papers on the desk. “Where was that guest list they told me to review?”

Capricorn helped her with the documents before they found the one they were looking for. Lucy hummed as she breezed through the list of guests they had invited. It was a lot of people, with some names already marked with several comments. Confirmed, tentative, declined, removed… Lucy asked about some unfamiliar names and the butler answered her questions dutifully. Then she asked about the ones marked as removed.

“I believe they were removed from the list as they will most likely decline, seeing that the venue has moved.”

“Send an invite anyway.” she said quickly. “These are politicians, they love parties like these. They get to brag all night, we get to bag some of their money and give it away to people who actually need it.”

By this time, Loke had entered the room and nodded politely at Capricorn as he stood behind his mistress’ chair. Lucy looked up at him and spared a quick smile before going back to the list.

“How about the non-politicians?” Capricorn asked.

“I’m highlighting some names, please make sure we send invites to them. It might be late, but at least they get one. These ones made it to the past years’ events, it’s only courtesy to send them invites this year too, even if they decline.”

“Noted, Lucy-sama.”

“Who decided these, anyway?” Lucy asked, handing the folder to the butler, who accepted it dutifully. “It’s not the usual.”

Capricorn was skimming his mistress’ highlights and edits as he said, “I believe this list was prepared by a new employee.”

“Oh, okay, then. If they ask, I’ll go and talk to them myself.” she looked down at the rest of the documents. “Ugh, there’s still so many.”

Loke finally spoke up. “Someone asked me to come home because it’s almost dinnertime.”

“Gee, that’s right.” Lucy blinked. ‘I forgot.’ she looked up at her bodyguard. “Has dad eaten yet?”

“He said he will be having late dinner with the marketing and finance people, and that you should go ahead and eat first.”

“Typical.” Lucy shook her head as she stood up. “I’ll finish this later, Capricorn. Can you bring them to my room?”

Capricorn also stood up to arrange the documents in the table. “Sure thing, Lucy-sama. Please take your time.”

“Join us after, okay?”

The butler smiled and nodded. Lucy was happiest when she was eating dinner with a lot of people, so she developed a habit of joining their mansion staff in the servant quarters’ dining area. She was obviously excited to be having a meal with everyone again, as she had taken Loke’s arm and dragged the bodyguard with her, practically running downstairs.

“Are you that hungry, Lucy?” Loke asked, laughing lightly as he let the blonde pull him with her.

“Duh, I was talking to the organizers, the documents were tiring, and I missed the food here.” Lucy replied, slowing down to her normal pace as they passed by the mansion’s main hall — the area where the ball will be held. Some of the workers looked at them as they walked past. “By the way, did you get what you had to get?”

“Yep. My nicest suit.”

Lucy smiled slyly, peering up at his face. “You’ll look more dashing. As if your normal look isn’t enough to have the girls swooning.”

“Well, I know one girl who wouldn’t swoon.”

She knew him well enough to get his quip immediately. She patted his arm. “That’s because I see you everyday.”

“Then I consider myself very fortunate, because that means I see you everyday as well.”

“You know, you weren’t in the ball last year.” Lucy mused, looking at him. “But this year, you will be there. I’m sure the young ladies would die to dance with you, and the young men would be jealous.”

He chuckled. “I’m a bodyguard, love. I’ll just be a nicely-dressed man standing to the side. No dances.”

She shook her head. “Awww, but it would be interesting to see you charm like, the whole ballroom… and maybe then I won’t have to dance as much! It’s tiring, you know, having all sorts of people asking.”

“I’ve heard from Capricorn and Supetto-san that you are a stellar dancer, though.”

“That doesn’t mean I don’t get tired.”

“Wait, you’re not denying that you’re a good dancer?”

She looked away. “I-… I think I’m a capable dancer. I don’t step on people’s feet, at least.”

“Well, it’s a shame that I’d only be a mere spectator, then. What I’d give to dance with you, Lucy.”

Lucy shrugged. “What I’d give to just dance with you all night, Loke.”

He raised an eyebrow. “What was that?”

“I mean, I hate these ball thingies. I don’t even know why it has to be a ball, but apparently that’s something my mother was fond of, so I do this for her, y’know?”

“I know.”

“But I really don’t like it, dancing with people I barely know, talking about business and politics and how the company is doing… l can barely concentrate on where my feet are because I have to be careful on what I say, you know… That’s why I study hard on what I can answer to their questions, why I make sure I know the people attending. That’s it. I may be good at the dancing thing, but I’m not having fun at all. Of course there are really nice ones. I’m not saying all my dad’s rich guests are stuck-up and evil. There are others who I really like, they’re good company… It’s just that so many of them are just so… focused on material things, or looking perfect, or… or other stuff. It’s all so… impersonal. So next week, on that ballroom, I think the only person in that room that I’d really be happy to dance with would be you. ’Cause I know you won’t ask me those stupid questions, and I don’t have to think too hard on every word I say.”

Loke stopped walking then, causing Lucy to stop as well since her arm was looped around his. She blinked in confusion when he took her hand from his arm and twined his fingers with her own instead. “Then how about I make you a deal?”

Lucy raised an eyebrow. “A deal?”

“On the big night, if you’re getting uncomfortable, or tired, or if you simply want to stop dancing with someone — anyone, just let me know and I’ll find a way to get you out and give you a break.”

He smiled knowingly as he saw the blonde’s lips quirk into a half-smile. “How do I let you know?”

“We’ll figure that out later.”

“And how many times am I allowed to ask?”

“However many you want.”

She nodded. “Okay. What’s the catch?”

“In return,” he started, looking into his mistress’ brown eyes. “Save one dance for me. After the party, the next day, it doesn’t matter. Just… one dance.”

“Deal.” Lucy said quickly, smiling. “A dance, I don’t care how long the song is. Just get me away from those sucky partners.”

“I promise.” he said, earnest.

Lucy pulled him to walk with her again, “You’re the best. Now, I’m really hungry. Let’s go.”

For the rest of the week leading up to the big event, Lucy and her friends have resolved to eat their lunch at the rooftop. They always get distracted by the group of reporters who try to wait out by the school gates, and some stay even after Loke had told them to go.Lucy finds it tedious that she has to deal with the reporters in between school and event preparations in the mansion. Her friends found themselves amazed when she tells them about what exactly she has been doing, the guests she had to welcome to the mansion because they were staying there instead of the hotel, and the scale of the event she was involved in preparing.Gray simply shook his head in resignation. It was tiring just listening to the jobs that the blonde was doing. Erza found herself nodding silently and listening in wonder, while Juvia and Levy were the ones who keep the conversation going by asking Lucy for details, which the blonde was gracious enough to provide. At other times, Gajeel, Cana, Jet and Droy had joined them.

Natsu in particular, was getting grumpy. “We always have to hide out in the rooftop and Loke has to punch all the reporter dudes to get Luigi in the car, and Luigi never hangs out with us after school and she doesn’t come in early and she’s always tired. It sucks. Also Igneel’s actin’ like some abandoned old man, he keeps talkin’ ’bout how he misses you already.”

“Tell him I miss him too.” Lucy answered. “And yes, it sucks. That’s kind of the whole point on why I’m ranting on you guys.”

“Don’t worry, everything should go back to normal when all this dies down, right?” Erza reassured.

“When all this dies down, it’s almost graduation.” Gray pointed out.

“Oh, crap.” Lucy cursed, biting her lip. “I forgot about that. Oh my god, I’m doomed.”

“Why? You’re not behind or anything, Lu-chan.” Levy said.

“No, it’s the ball. If people ask what I’m going to study in university, what do I say?”

Natsu was the first one to answer. “Aren’t you takin’ some writing thingy? So you can be a writer and stuff?”

“They’d expect you to answer something about business and management and all that crap.” Gray said, catching everyone’s attention. “What? I’m right.”

Juvia looked at the blonde. “But Lucy doesn’t want to study those…”

“This would be so much easier if my dad isn’t too busy NOT talking to me.” Lucy groaned. “Oh well, I guess I’ll just use my deal with Loke.”

Natsu raised an eyebrow. “Your what with who?”

“Loke made a deal with me. If I get myself in a pinch with some other rich person in the ball, I let him know and he helps me out.”

“Isn’t that, like, his job?” Natsu asked.

Gray took the liberty of enlightening his friend. “Maybe she meant if she has to ditch someone but there’s no polite way to do so, Loke can do something.”


“Yeah.” Lucy said. “That’s it. Gray, you’re awesome.”

The raven-head simply held out his arm and the too shared a fistbump.

“Deals are two-way.” Levy reminded.

“Well, in exchange for that, I promised him I’d dance with him after the party.”

“Ohhhh…” Natsu mused, weighing in what he just heard.

Meanwhile, Erza, Levy, Juvia and Gray stared at Lucy, then looked at each other in alarm.

Lucy blinked at her friends’ unusual reactions. “Guys, what—”

Then the next thing she knew, Erza was counting something with her fingers, obviously doing mental math, Juvia was on the phone: “Hello, Gajeel-kun? We have a problem.”, Levy had grabbed Lucy’s hand and begged ‘Lu-chan, no! I… I’m winning-!’, and Gray grabbed Natsu by the collar and said “What the hell are you doing, idiot?! Loke’s beating you to the punch!”

Natsu looked at the raven-head incredulously. “Whaaaaaat?”

“GUYS, I DON’T UNDERSTAND?” Lucy exclaimed, confusion written on her face.

The rest, except Natsu, answered her with two words: “THE BET!”

The blonde buried her face in her hands, sighing hopelessly. “I can’t believe you. All of you.”

The ball’s extravagance easily exceeded Loke’s expectations. He had seen photos and footage from the previous years and had seen the drafts of the setup for the mansion, but it was nothing compared to seeing the various guests streaming in, hearing the band playing live, seeing the banquet and servants in action. It was almost overwhelming, but he knew that if someone actually should be nervous, it should be his mistress.Lucy was going to be the one to formally open the event with a welcome speech. The last time he saw her, before his sisters and the make-up artists took her away, she was frantically re-reading the copy of her speech. As he was the one who always escorted her from place to place for the past week, he knew that she was really nervous about it. She had done countless editing and revision to the piece. Whenever she got to sat down for some free time or had a moment to herself, even in car rides, she was pouring very meticulously on what she would be saying. He wished her luck before the other women took her away to get dressed.She’ll do brilliantly, he was sure. This was Lucy, after all. For the past days he had seen her get involved in the event preparations, welcome guests to the mansion and accommodate them, and deal with the media and journalists who were allowed to have an interview with the young heiress. He had to say that she did so well, even when at the end of the day, he saw her sigh tiredly after she held on to him or Virgo or Aries because of the pressure.

She shone even under pressure, and he was very proud of her. He knew that she wished her father would be proud of her as well. Loke didn’t tell his mistress that several times he saw Jude Heartfilia steal glances on his daughter’s way, or that his employer regularly asked Capricorn on how Lucy was doing. He wanted the compliments to come directly from the father. He knew Lucy would appreciate that more.

Loke checked his watch. Half an hour before the start of the big event and the place was already packed. That was when he heard Virgo’s voice behind him. “Brother, the princess is ready. She wants you to escort her to Jude-sama.”

The bodyguard nodded, then followed his sister. “Alright, let’s go.”

He knew he always told Lucy how pretty she was. It was almost as if he himself would get tired of telling the blonde that she was stunning, but tonight… well, tonight she just simply looked breathtakingly beautiful.

Lucy stood in her bedroom dressed in a gown of red, pink and white, she was wearing a matching red choker and earrings and her hair was in an elegant updo, decorated by little red and white roses. She smiled when he entered the room. “Hey.”

Loke didn’t know how he managed to reply without his voice cracking. “L-Lucy, you look beautiful.”

“Oh, you say that everyday.” she rolled her eyes, then eyed his outfit. “Nice suit.”

Loke wanted to keep a low profile but also wanted to be dressed appropriately. He looked almost the same as usual, except that his black coat and slacks then had elegant dark gold pinstripes, and he wore his finest red necktie. “Thank you. But I mean it, you look like a queen.”

“It’s my mother’s.” she said, looking down at her dress. “I hope I do it justice.”

“I’m sure Layla-sama is proud, Lucy-sama.” Supetto-san said, wiping tears from her eyes.

“Supetto-san, don’t cry!” Lucy said, patting the old woman’s shoulders.

“But you look really really beautiful indeed, princess.” Aries said. Beside her, Virgo nodded, smiling earnestly.

“Okay, stop spoiling me, everyone.” Lucy laughed. “If you keep on doing that, I’ll forget my speech. Loke, let’s go?”

“Of course, Lucy.” the bodyguard nodded, offering his arm to the blonde as they exited the room and headed for the top of the staircase, where Lucy and Jude, the masters of the party, would have their entrance.

As they walked, Lucy heard the music and the crowds, and also saw the guests, all dressed up in their fancy attire. Loke felt Lucy’s grip on his arm tighten, and noticed that the blonde was breathing heavily. “Lucy, you’ll kill it out there, and you know it.”

“I do?” she said, voice more high-pitched than usual.

“Yes, you do. They’re going to love you. Because you’re beautiful and strong and smart and kind.”

“Thanks.” Lucy said. “Now if only you don’t tell me that everyday, it’d have more impact.”

Loke chuckled. “Well, I mean it twice as much tonight.”

Lucy gave his arm another quick squeeze before sending him a smile that Loke knew would have stolen his heart if it didn’t already belong to her.

Jude was waiting by the top of the grand staircase of the mansion, overlooking their guests and talking to some of his assistants. Lucy and Loke stopped a few feet away from the man, where Lucy let go of her bodyguard and stepped forward to approach her father herself.

“Dad?” she asked, voice tentative.

Jude turned around to face his daughter, letting a split-second look of surprise betray his straight face. He looked at Lucy carefully, then nodded. “It suits you. Layla would be very happy.”

Lucy looked down, smiling. “T-Thank you.” The words felt so… so different, coming from her father. She couldn’t help but want to cry.

“Raise your head.” Jude said, extending a hand. “You have to welcome our guests.”

Lucy took her fathers hand and let him escort her as they stood on top of the staircase. Their guests were hushed, and the band’s music faded into silence.

Somewhere in the room, an announcement was made: “Ladies and gentlemen, presenting Jude Heartfilia, Head of the Heartfilia Konzern, and his daughter, Lucy Heartfilia.”

Loke held his breath as father and daughter descended together down the steps while their guests offered them their gracious applause. He would never forget how beautiful Lucy looked that night, a smile on her face as she stood with her father, like a king and his princess, to welcome their guests. They stopped in the middle of the staircase, Lucy one step above her father, accepting the microphone handed to her.

She breathed deeply, before speaking in her polished, dignified voice, “Honored guests, I, Lucy Heartfilia, first and foremost, would like to greet you all a good evening. Welcome to the Heartfilia Konzern’s Annual Charity Ball.”

‘Alright,’ Lucy thought. ‘Here goes nothing.’

“I screwed up I screwed up I screwed up didn’t I”“No, no, you did great, you were brilliant, you were everything back there, it was perfect — Lucy please calm down.” Loke whispered, under the guise of handing his mistress her purse.“I didn’t screw up?” she asked, looking up at him. “I’m pretty sure I forgot some stuff and improvised my way through a whole paragraph!”

“You should have seen your father’s face, he was very proud.”

“He didn’t look at me.”

“Oh, you know him.”

She breathed out, looking around, trying to look as composed and confident as she can. “Okay, here I go. Ready to associate with rich people and stuff.”

He nodded, stepping back. “I’ll be on the line of guards by the balcony, love. You just signal to me if you need anything.”

“Alright, got it.”

“Good luck.” Loke whispered one last time before leaving his mistress in the crowd, where she was immediately approached by a couple she recognized as two of her father’s many business partners.

“Hello, Miss Heartfilia.”, they greeted, and by instinct Lucy sent them her most gracious winning smile and greeted back.

“Please, call me Lucy. I hope you’re all enjoying yourselves?”

“Oh, we’d never been better. This venue is marvelous, by the way. We thought you’d hold back a little since it’s not Crocus, but it’s as fabulous as ever!”

“Thanks, ma’am. It’s mine and my father’s pleasure.”

Loke kept a watchful eye on his mistress dutifully and as promised. He had been told by Capricorn that Lucy played her role really well, that she didn’t like the big parties and formalities but was really good at them. He now believed that. The young heiress was standing in the center of the room talking to her guests, laughing with the other ladies and gracefully accepting compliments from the gentlemen. While her father politely exchanged small talk with the visitors, Lucy walked around and happily returned praise with praise, news with news, and insight with insight.

How does one stand out so much while completely blending in?

Loke didn’t know if it was just him or if Lucy was really just… glowing that night.

Damn. There he was, a good few years her senior and gaping like a lovestruck schoolboy. Loke wanted to be ashamed of himself but he was too distracted by the beauty before him to really bother.

That was when the night’s entertainment began. Performers, musicians and dancers took turns in the center of the ball room to showcase nothing but the best. In between those were celebrities, politicians and other business personalities who had something to say about their new project, their own foundation, their current tenure and how it was all thanks to everyone’s support. It was a social occasion, alright. Then finally, as the night’s main people and events drew to a close, the band played once again and singers stepped up.

When the guests had started walking in pairs to the center of the ballroom, Loke knew what time it was. The dances have begun. The night has just actually started.

He kept an eye on Lucy then and breathed in relief when she, by tradition, gave her first dance to her father. They seemed to be having a hushed conversation, keeping up a proper air between them as the other guests, dancing or no, watched as father and daughter danced an elegant waltz.

Loke knew that they didn’t practice. It came naturally between them. And damn if Lucy’s smile at that moment didn’t melt his heart. She was all too happy to be sharing such a rare moment with her father, when she was holding his hands and he was guiding her, holding her close. This didn’t often happen, and Lucy savored the moment.

After a song, a young man politely interrupted and asked Jude for his permission to dance with his daughter. Jude nodded curtly and whispered briefly into Lucy’s ear before letting her go. Lucy curtsied politely at the young man who was her second dance for the night before letting him sweep her into the dance floor once again.

Lucy held her ground and gracefully accepted her new dance partner’s compliments. It wasn’t new to her, being told that she was very beautiful, she danced so gracefully, her welcome speech was very insightful, for a young woman she was intelligent beyond her age, or simply that it was an honor to meet her. Some asked questions — ranging from business-related to plain personal.

She answered their questions wisely and carefully. What does she do for a hobby? She loves reading novels and hanging out with her friends when she wasn’t busy studying for exams or keeping herself updated with the business. What were her favorite flowers? Stargazer lilies, it was her and her mother’s favorite. Layla had a garden of those flowers. By that time, she already knew that she will receive a bouquet of those very same flowers in a week or two, even though she just said that they already had a garden. What does she think of the new mayor or head of a department or member of the board? They were a pleasure to be with, she has heard of their achievement and she, along with her father, believes that they can bring something new to the table — then because you really don’t know who actually sides with who, she makes sure to drop a hint or mention about something heard from rumors, oh so discreetly but very politely. She didn’t let them think that she was all praise and graces. Of course she knew some of the more ‘confidential’ news, too.

Then it was her turn to ask questions. ‘How’s your daughter? I always see her in the newspapers!’ Because she had heard of the young woman’s achievements. ‘I’ve seen your latest ad on the television, I’d have to say it was really creative.’ Because who hasn’t seen it, it’s everywhere? ‘I’ve heard of the latest deal you closed with this other corporation!’ Because she was curious and she keeps herself updated.

Lucy was good at appearing perfect. Luckily for her that night, she had already danced with a lot of people, but all the dances remained short and polite. She found herself looking towards Loke’s direction several times, but she simply shook her head discreetly to let him know she was going fine. For the most part, the guests were nothing she couldn’t handle.

Still, like dancing, just because she was good at it, doesn’t mean that she was tired. At the first opportunity she got, she expertly redirected her dance partner’s attention to another beautiful girl in the party (bless her and best of luck to her) before slipping out the dance floor and quickly heading for the refreshments table and asking the server for a drink. No one would be so impolite as to interrupt the lady of the night while she was drinking, just to ask for a dance.

Several women approached her, surely with their own set of questions, compliments and opinions, and Lucy let them. At least they won’t be asking to dance.

“Good evening, Miss Heartfilia.” one of the older women greeted. “Thank you very much for inviting us. We’re having a great time.”

“You’re very welcome, ma’am.” Lucy replied with a smile, recognizing them as wives of several business affiliates. “And call me Lucy, please.”

Another woman said, “So we heard that you’re graduating from high school. My, how time passes! We still remember how you were just a little girl.”

“We could never quite forget how you and your mother always sang a song for us guests. It was really a sight to behold!”

“Ah, I’m afraid I might have lost my touch with that.” she said, laughing tentatively. She hasn’t sung, not since her mother died.

“You look so much like her, though.”

“T-Thank you.”

“Oh, and we also heard from your father that you’ve taken the Fiore University exams? We’re sure you’ll pass with flying colors, but we’re quite curious… what course will you be taking?”

Before Lucy could answer, one of the guests said, “Oh, silly — of course she would take a management course. Before long, she would take over the company!”

“But she’s such a beautiful young lady, though. And with quite the reputation. I wouldn’t be surprised if she wants to be a model or an actress. Right, Lucy, dear?”

“My daughter would never stop talking about wanting an acting career. I don’t mind so much. Girls nowadays just simply want the easy life. I’m sure Lucy here wouldn’t enjoy such a dull, boring desk life…”

“But she is very intelligent, given a young lady of her standing…”

‘Stop.’ Lucy wanted to say, looking down at the glass she held in her hands. ‘Stop talking about me, as if I’m not even here, right in front of you.’

“Don’t talk about such nonsense, ladies! There’s no way her dad would let her do anything else. Jude makes sure she’s well-learned in the business. After all, she’s the only one who would inherit the Konzern!”

“That’s what Jude wants, indeed.” a guest said, then the woman looked at Lucy with a seemingly knowing smile. “And Lucy gives him what he wants, of course, so daddy can give her whatever she asks for. Am I right, dear?”

‘No. I don’t even try to ask for anything.’ but Lucy kept that to herself and simply smiled politely. “Oh, ma’am… I don’t… I mean, umm…”

“Sweetie, it’s okay. You’re quite a step up from the others. My children just wants to spend their father’s money but won’t even try to understand where it comes from. At least you do.”

“Yes, we can see how you involve yourself in your father’s affairs. It’s very impressive. Wise decision on your part, I’d say. Make sure the business stays with the family.”

“Jude is quite smart to have raised his daughter to know her priorities.”

“Why, what about us? My husband and I have all these young ambitious newcomers trying to sweet-talk our daughters to asking us to give their suitors a promotion. Why, I just tell my girls to stop thinking about mere social climbers and try looking at some rich sons. They may be boring but there surely are better ones out there.”

“Lucy, dear — we’ve seen the young gentlemen eyeing you. Anyone of them who succeeded in catching your fancy?”

Lucy just wanted to go back to the dance floor and just dance again.

Sometimes, she just can’t deal with THE WIVES. Sometimes some of them just wanted to gossip so much…

That was when she felt someone tap her lightly on the shoulder, and Lucy, very desperate for a change of company, didn’t think twice before turning around.

It was someone she didn’t expect to come to the party, but as the young gentleman cleared his throat before offering his hand and asking her for a dance, she said ‘yes’ in a heartbeat.

As they started to dance, Lucy sighed. “Oh my gosh, you’re such a lifesaver. I owe you one, I mean come over to Mira’s anytime and I’ll treat you a drink. Take the band with you, I don’t care, I’m treating them too.”Freed Justine chuckled at the blonde’s words. It wasn’t like he was watching Lucy closely, but it was the first time that night that he saw the FairyGaku student he knew in the young woman before him. “Relax, I get you. In gatherings like these, there are two types of wives. The ones who want friends, and the ones who want trophies. I stay away from both, unless I really know them well.”“Accurate.” Lucy sighed. “I love the ‘looking-for-friends’ ones because they’re like, really nice people, while I don’t want to sound so whiny but really, I can’t deal with the trophy-seeker types.”

Freed shrugged. “Nice party, by the way.”

“Oh, yeah, I didn’t think you’d be big on parties…” Lucy raised an eyebrow, and while at it, threw him a smile because for the first time that night, she was allowed to speak like her normal self.

The bassist rolled his eyes. “My mother is still under the impression that if she exposed me to enough well-mannered, intelligent women, I’ll stop liking men.”


“…and I’m sorry but I let it slip that I know you personally, and she wants me to introduce her to you. I promise I’ll do my best to not let it get too bad.”

“It’s okay, I told you I owe you. Besides, it’s easier to deal with politicians than with the gossiping wives of billionaires.”


“So…” she started, looking up at her dance partner. “…how did you decide I needed help, exactly? Did I really look that mortified?”

“Well,” Freed said, dropping his voice to a whisper. “There was this very well-dressed bodyguard who very nicely asked me to ‘save’ his lady. He was afraid you’d opt to splash your drink to the other ladies’ faces.”

“I’ll kill him for thinking I’d do that.”

“I’d venture to say he’d welcome the murder.”

Lucy rolled her eyes then turned towards the direction she knew Loke was. As soon as she laid her eyes on the bodyguard, Loke nodded and gave her a peace sign. She couldn’t help but smile before turning to her partner again. “Really, though, Freed. Thanks a bunch.”

“It’s nothing. Would have helped even if Loke didn’t ask me. One can only handle so much pressure.”

“It’s just… they’re all asking about me, and it’s like, one sensitive topic after another. My mom, then getting into college, then my dad, then inheriting the company. It got uncomfortable real fast.”

“Don’t worry. I won’t ask about any of that. You look beautiful, by the way.”

“And you look handsome. Well, you always look handsome, but this outfit’s just… wow. Not many people can pull off red velvet, you know.”

Freed chuckled. “I know, it makes me proud.”

“I bet Laxus thought you looked gorgeous.”

Freed’s eyes narrowed, and Lucy chuckled. Obviously Laxus disappointed in that department. “He told me I was shiny. Bixlow was the kinder one, told me I looked like someone from a Disney flick. The idiot even stole a selfie.”

Lucy laughed. For the first time that night, she was effectively, sincerely enjoying the moment. There’s nothing quite like the company of a friend.

After a while of dancing with Freed — which was really nice, they talked about a lot of things that Lucy actually enjoyed — the blonde felt the fatigue in her feet coming back. When she complained, Freed simply made a move to guide her off the dance floor. Lucy practically begged him not to leave her to other guests, and then came up with the brilliant idea of letting him introduce her to his parents instead.After that, she went to introduce Freed to her father ( “Why, it might just impress him that not all my friends are juvenile.”) As the night’s festivities went on, Jude politely pulled his daughter to greet some highly important people (namely the journalists and media) while Freed stepped back, gracing back the blonde with his “you’re welcome” when she thanked him for the umpteenth time. For a while, he watched as father and daughter went around the room, Lucy clinging to her father’s arm. Jude seemed to be taking the brunt of the interviews, so Freed assumed his friend was doing well.The first time he met Lucy was when he was with the band at the Dreyar residence and came across Erza and her friends in a study session. To the bassist’s chagrin, Bixlow and Laxus set up a prank on Natsu… but for some reason it ended up with Lucy as the victim. Freed’s first conversation with the blonde heiress was when he and Erza were apologizing on behalf of the two unrepentant troublemakers. Natsu laughed at Lucy though, and the blonde snapped and chased the pink-haired teen around the room. Freed couldn’t believe back then that he was looking at the famous graceful and serene heiress of the reknowned Heartfilia Konzern.

Well, Lucy was a nice girl and it was clear as day how important she was for their circle of friends. Freed meant it when he said he would have helped her without anyone asking. He was having a dull night before Loke had approached him, after all. He didn’t enjoy parties like these himself.

In speaking of the bodyguard, Loke was still standing where the green-haired guest last saw him. By the entrance to the balcony overlooking the gardens. Almost everyone’s attentions were focused on the live feed of the interview with Jude and Lucy, and the balcony was free, so the guest decided to take a glass of wine and stand by the balcony area.

“Did I do well?” he asked no one in particular, but Loke knew he was the one being addressed. The guard stepped away from his chosen station and stood beside the guest.

“Thanks, Freed.” Loke said.

“No need to tell me, Lucy has been telling me so since I first asked her to dance.”

“How is she?”

“She’s doing perfect. I’ve never seen her in action before, but she’s really just full of charisma, isn’t she?”

“This is your first time attending the charity ball?”

“We have never been invited, but when the venue was moved here in Magnolia, I think they deemed it fit to invite the local celebrities.”

Loke nodded. “I see. I was surprised, as well. About Lucy being good with all this, I mean. She’s always telling us how she doesn’t like how fancy everything should be.”

“Same here. I mean, if you want to help, why not just give the money? No need for all these big parties. But I guess that’s how they get the money in the first place. Connections.”

“That’s what she said, too.”

“I heard from Erza that you guys have been having a tough time with local reporters.”

“Yes, I’ve had to tighten up a bit for the past week.”

“Lucy’s very lucky to have you, I think.” Freed mused, taking a sip from the wine glass before continuing. “If it was anyone else, they wouldn’t have sent her any help when she was dealing with those visitors.”

“I simply care.” Loke looked down, placing his hands in his pockets and chuckling. “It makes a difference, you see, that before I was her bodyguard, I was a friend.”

“It does.” the younger man nodded. “You see past her, don’t you? Wait, it’s not even that. People can see past other people easy enough, it’s just that only few bother to reach out. I think if it were any other person, even if they were friends with her, they’d still try and act professional. They wouldn’t have done anything even while she was emotionally compromised.”

Loke kept silent.

“You don’t bother with all that. You know that physical safety isn’t everything. I’m quite impressed. I’m sure she knows she’s lucky to have a bodyguard who doesn’t hesitate to be a friend.”

“I’ll take all that as a compliment.”

“You better.” Freed chuckled. “I was surprised when you actually asked me to go to her. I didn’t expect that.”

“Sorry for that.”

“No need. I wasn’t enjoying the party before that, anyway. It would’ve been a boring night.” he sighed. “Besides, I’m sure you know it too. Lucy’s the kind of person who prefers that she have a person to stand beside her, not any impenetrable shield of whatever kind in front of her.”

“I know.” Loke said, looking up to watch the interview as well. Lucy was talking about all the projects that have been completed because of the donations gathered from the previous year’s events. Schools, foster homes, feeding programs, scholarships… He and Freed watched the live feed in companionable silence.

He knew that. More than anything, first and foremost, to Lucy he was a friend and not a shield. She preferred to think of everyone that way. It’s just up to the others if they treat her as more than a fragile item needing protection. On his first day working as Lucy’s bodyguard, she was really happy — no airs of ‘please take good care of me’ (because she already knew that he would do that) and ‘I hope we get along well’ (because they already were). Instead, he got an excited ‘yay, more people at home!’, a half-kidding ‘go easy on me, okay?’ and the best one: ‘i’m so glad it’s you’.

“You know,” Freed started again, glancing at the man beside him. “They’re always talking about Natsu and Lucy, and I admit, I do see something there. But see… I’ve just realized that… not many people actually watch closely enough to see the way you look at her.”

Loke tried to look away, smiling gingerly. “Whatever do you mean by that, Freed?”

“You know what I’m talking about.” Freed rolled his eyes, but couldn’t help but smile. Is this how Mira felt when she’s so bluntly telling people that she knows how they feel? “I admit it’s quite obvious that you were smitten, but I’ve never really considered it anything serious—”

“Really got no idea on what you’re talking about.”

“Deny all you want.” the bassist said, and he thought he heard someone say that before. Damn, he’s good at improv. “…and I won’t take sides, but doesn’t it… sting even a little? Having something that’s… not acknowledged? Keeping it to yourself?” — somehow, that one hit too close to home, but Freed held his ground. That was in the past.

Loke laughed lightly. “What made you think it wasn’t acknowledged?”

That made Freed blink. “Wait. What?”

“For the record,” Loke started, raising his head and looking up at the stars. “I’ve placed my bet. Mira says my chances are moderately high.”

“…R-Really? So you’re not all that jealous of Natsu?”

“I didn’t say anything about that.” the bodyguard shrugged. “For another record, Lucy knows.”

Freed blinked again. Okay, this was something: “Okay, she knows that you placed a bet? Or she knows how you feel for her?”



“Just… yes.”

Freed rolled his eyes. “Wow, talk about being not in the least bit vague.”

“And for yet another record,” Loke said again, this time a smug grin in his face. “Guess who has the honor of being her first kiss?”

Freed fell completely silent then, and the only sounds they heard were the faint music from the band and Jude Heartfilia answering an interview question.

Finally, Freed said, “But you’re not… you know?”


“Even with… uh, yeah?”

“It was something special, but that ends there.”

Freed gaped at him. “Wow. You. Are. Very. Resilient.”

“Funny, you’re not the only one to tell me that. But I’m not as resilient as you. A certain barmaid told me you’ve kept feelings bottled up for years before finally spilling.”

“That’s different. I have a friendship to maintain and Laxus has the emotional stability of… I don’t even know. But yes, that’s my point.”

“Well, I have a job to keep, and I don’t think Jude Heartfilia would like his daughter fraternizing with her bodyguard too much.”

“Touche.” Freed sighed, accepting defeat. “So… she knows. Yes?”


“And you’ve no plans or anything…?”


Freed gave the other man a pat on the back, just because he thinks that Loke deserved it. “I admire you.”

“Why, thank you…” Loke said in his sweetest, most adoring tone. “I admire you very, very much too—”

“Stop flirting; I’m taken.”

“Well, I’m not.”

“I can see why you’re a Pegasus favorite.”

Loke laughed, and Freed simply chuckled. It was when Virgo came up to them and whispered something in Loke’s ear that the bodyguard had to excuse himself. “Duty calls.”, he said.

Freed shook his head and looked down at his wine glass with an amused smile. “Duty. Not fooling me, lion. You’re not fooling me.”

He thought it was going to be another wasted night, and Freed was never so glad to be wrong. His friends really were interesting.

The first time Loke met Lucy was at the Strauss’, barely a month after she transferred to FairyGaku. Mira was busy with inventory on one side of the bar. Cana was serving him a drink that early afternoon, ranting absentmindedly. He couldn’t remember what Cana was talking about then. He was distracted that day.Well, back then he was distracted most days. Bob-san and the others at the Pegasus tried hard to let him know that what happened with Karen wasn’t his fault. It was an accident beyond his control. The first two months after Karen died, everyone in the club let him mourn. He tried to get back to work by the third month, but it was just too painful, remembering her and seeing the woman he loved in every corner of the bar she used to spend her time on. Even Hibiki had tried to talk to him, but Loke still blamed himself. By the third month, he quit his job at the Pegasus and did some odd jobs for the meantime. He had many useful talents so he got all sorts of jobs easily. The other staff at the Pegasus made sure to let him know he can come back anytime. Maybe it really was just hard for him to stay too long in a place with so much memories.“Dude, you look out of it.” Cana said then. “You’ve been staring at your drink for a while now.”

“I’m sorry, I’m just… I—”

“You’re depressed, I get it.” Cana sighed, looking down at the glasses she was wiping clean. “It shows. I thought I’d talk to get your mind off stuff, but I guess it wasn’t working.”

Loke let out a small, grateful smile. “Thanks, Cana.”

“Man, you haven’t even hit on me once. It’s weird.” the brunette chuckled. “Cheer up. I know everyone keeps telling you this, but really, it wasn’t your fault. And we know that you miss her, but if you really wanna talk about it, we’re here. Everybody’s been tellin’ you the same thing, and maybe you’re gettin’ tired of us-.. well, I bet you ARE gettin’ tired of us, but we mean it, okay?”

“Okay. Thanks. I’ll try and… sort myself out as soon as possible.” the customer said. The barmaid nodded, having said what she wanted to say.

Loke knew that — yes — it wasn’t his fault, but he could have done something… he could have changed things. And he actually had a chance to, but he refused to take it then. For him that was just the same as being at fault.

Things got bad between him and Karen and no one was willing to apologize. He would have said ‘sorry’ if he saw any reason to, but he simply didn’t. This time it was Karen who was at fault, clear as day. Loke was tired of fighting with his girlfriend about his sister (specially Aries — Karen and Aries never got along) and he was tired from a night’s worth of work at the Pegasus, so he might have said some really hurtful things. Loke decided to give her the cold shoulder until she apologized. When she confronted him about it, he refused her offer to ‘just forgive me already, it won’t happen again!’ because no, that wasn’t an apology. That was a demand for forgiveness. She cried by the end of their row and walked away from him sobbing.

She was crying while she drove her car. She was crying while she oversped and missed several traffic lights and then that was it. No apologies, no reconciliation. It was all over so quickly and Loke couldn’t help but think that maybe… just maybe… if he had given in to her earlier would she still be with them? If he hadn’t been so stubborn—

“Are you sure we.. we’re allowed in here? It’s-.. It’s a bar, right?”

“Psssh, cafe, bar, restaurant, whatever, it’s anything you want it to be. You’ll love Mira’s desserts.”


“Cana works here! See her over there?”

Loke looked at the pair bickering by the entrance, Natsu trying to pull a hesitant blonde with him. She was a new face to Loke, and that was saying something. Loke was well-acquainted with Cana’s and Gray’s group of friends. He was one of the Strauss’ patrons, and he knew the teenagers that Mira treated like her younger siblings.

“Look, it’s Natsu’s girl.” Cana said.

“Really?” Loke blinked, raising an eyebrow at the brunette. Natsu didn’t really seem like the type to have a… well, someone. Loke knew the pink-head as a playful, childish, energetic bundle of mischief and energy. But well, he wasn’t the closest to Natsu, so he really shouldn’t be able to tell.

The brunette shrugged. “Just transferred in. Somehow they clicked and now they’re, like, glued to each other. It was kinda weird, but hey, they’re cute.” She watched as the two guests each took seats in the bar, Natsu beside Loke and Lucy on his other side. The blonde gave Cana a nervous smile. They weren’t exactly close yet.

Natsu greeted the man beside him. “Yo, Loke.”

“Yo.” the host replied, raising his shot glass. He looked at the teenagers with a slightly teasing grin. “On a date?”

Loke noted the blonde quickly shaking her head fervently, while Natsu laughed and waved him off. “Haha! No way, man!” he then turned to Lucy. “Hey, this guy’s Loke. He hangs out with Gray and he comes here often.”

Before the girl can speak up, Loke beat her to the punch, switching to his suave mode. “I prefer the term ‘patron’, Natsu. I’m one of the Strauss’ patrons.” then he cast a dazzling smile towards the other teen’s direction. “Hello, my name is Loke. You are?” Natsu leaned forward against the bar top to make way for the host who extended his arm and offered his hand.

The girl smiled back politely and accepted his hand. “Oh. Um. I’m Lucy. Lucy Heartfilia. It’s nice to meet you.”

She expected the man to shake her hand, but instead, he kissed it, and then winked. “The pleasure is mine, young miss. What a pretty name, very fitting for such a beauty.”

Lucy’s smile turned to a mix of amusement and shyness. “Why, thank you. You look dashing, yourself.” He expected the girl to blush — and she did. But she did not stammer. That was something that caught his attention. For a girl who acted timidly, she took well to praise.

“Ohhhh, new girl’s immune!” Cana whistled, catching Loke’s slightly startled expression before the host could brush it off.

Natsu sniggered. “Your career’s in danger, man!”

Loke sat back and cleared his throat, narrowing his eyes at the teenagers. Lucy was blinking in confusion. He cleared his throat. “My career is going well, thank you very much. It simply seems like Miss Heartfilia is being honest. I know that I am dashing.”

“Loke works at the Blue Pegasus.” Cana explained for Lucy’s benefit. “It’s a host club. He’s their best.”

Loke shook his head, chuckling. “I’m afraid that title’s been taken by Hibiki.”

“Only ’cause you decided to part-time on other stuff.” Cana said, before turning back to the blonde. “Don’t let him seduce you.” Lucy giggled.

“To be fair, I’m a professional and that’s my source of income.” Loke reasoned out.

Natsu made a proposal. “Oh, so y’have an income. So treat us somethin’, because we’re kids.”

“Please don’t listen to him.” Lucy said quickly, looking apologetic.

“Awww, Luigi, c’mon, ask him to treat you ’cause you’re new and stuff!”

“Have some shame, please.” the blonde deadpanned.

Loke simply chuckled and turned to Cana. “Fine, two drinks on me.” Cana clicked her tongue, mumbling ‘lucky’ before asking for her friends’ orders.

“Loke-san, you don’t have to!” Lucy gaped, while Natsu raised a fist in victory, immediately giving Cana his order. “Natsu, seriously?”

“It’s fine, it’s fine. Just this once.” Loke waved dismissively. “Consider it a ‘Welcome to Magnolia’ treat.”

“More like ‘Come Back Again So I Can Flirt With You’ treat.” Cana said.

Natsu laughed. “Don’t worry, I won’t let him seduce me!”

Loke narrowed his eyes at the teen. “You’re not the target. You just happened to be in the way.”

“Still lucky.” Natsu mumbled, then prodded his companion with his elbow. “C’mon, Luigi. Order something. It’s free!”

“E-Eh, but-… uh… what do you recommend?”

“I can make a killer milkshake.” Cana said, while fixing Natsu’s iced chocolate.

Lucy nodded tentatively. “Alright then, I’ll have that one.”

By then, Mira had stepped in and noticed that there was an unfamiliar face beside Natsu and more introductions commenced. Loke watched again as Cana and Natsu introduced Lucy to Mira, who, with her great conversation skills, had already started interviewing the teenagers. Natsu talked about how Lucy was their new classmate and she just transferred in. Mira asked stuff about where Lucy was originally from and why she transferred. By then Loke had looked down at his drink again, keeping to himself but catching snippets of the conversation. It felt livelier with more friends around, like always. Natsu was a rowdy ball of energy, so maybe that was it. Loke mostly hung out with Gray, who was a much more mellow person.

He caught something about the blonde moving to Magnolia with her family because of business reasons. When Mira asked the girl about how she thinks of Magnolia so far, Loke heard the newcomer answer enthusiastically. She said something about the town and people being nice and friendly and having friends at school…

Lucy seemed like a pretty normal girl. She was very, very pretty, he thought, and really friendly and cheerful as well. Loke thought she’d be a nice addition to Natsu’s circle of friends. Mira seemed to like the girl already, which was a good sign if anything.

Lucy thanked Loke for the treat a few more times while Natsu simply pat the other guy in the back and talked about how the host was a total bro, unlike his friend Frosty.

After a few moments, Loke stood up and took his leave, paying for three drinks and saluting to them. It was a nice break for him. A breath of fresh air.

The next time he saw Lucy was at Mira’s, as well. This time, he was sitting alone on the far corner of the bar, absently drinking a tall glass of iced coffee while reading a magazine. That was when Lucy sat by the bar as well, a seat away from the host. She was wearing sunglasses and she nodded politely at him when she took them off. Loke also nodded in acknowledgement. She ordered a parfait from Mira and the bardmaid was happy to take the order. Within a few minutes, her order arrived and Lucy thanked the woman, who said it was nice to see Lucy coming to the bar often. What really caught Loke’s attention was when the girl took out an issue of the local newspaper and began reading through it while enjoying her dessert. You seldom see pretty teenage girls in The Strauss’ eating parfait while reading the news.That was when three patrons arrived and Lucy noticed that they wanted to sit together by the bar, as well. There were free seats on either side of her but she would end up in between them, so she courteously volunteered to transfer seats. The men thanked her for being a very nice girl and giving them her seat.She ended up beside Loke, who she wasn’t all that familiar with, but nevertheless was an acquaintance.

“Good afternoon, Loke-san.”

“Good afternoon.” Loke greeted back. “And please, just call me Loke.”

“Thanks.” she said, before returning to her parfait and news.

The conversation was supposed to end there, but Loke couldn’t help but say, “It’s rare to see a young woman like you reading the newspaper nowadays.”

She blinked, then smiled sheepishly. “R-Really? I guess so…”

He looked down at the paper and raised an eyebrow — she was in the Business news section. He caught a glimpse of the headline (something about a large corporation starting a business in Magnolia) before Lucy quickly flipped the page to go to the Entertainment news. From there it was pictures of models, actors and actresses.

Lucy chuckled. “I like to read, and… uh, sometimes it’s better to read news than just watch them on TV. It’s more detailed when it’s written.”

“Hm, fair point.” Loke nodded, absently stirring his own beverage. “So… you’re reading while waiting for Natsu and the others?”

“Nah, that guy has track team training for the whole afternoon. I’m not meeting up with anyone.”

“Oh. So some alone time, then?”

“Kinda.” she smiled. “Is it weird?”

“Not unheard of. Erza flies solo most of the time, as well.” Loke said.

That was the actual end of the conversation, as Loke’s phone beeped, indicating a text message and Lucy went back to pretending to read the Entertainment news.

That was when something dropped to the floor in a weak clatter, and both of them looked down to see what it was.

“Ah, my keys-!”

“I got it.” The man quickly got off his stool to pick the item up for the blonde. It was a set of keys and a car remote, all hanging from a cute star-themed keychain. ‘Here you go.’ He watched as the girl accepted the items with a quick thanks and stuffed them on her bag. “Whoa, am I talking to a high school student with her own car?”

Lucy looked away. “Uhhh… y-yes, but it’s nothing fancy—”

“What is it?”

“Err, just a black Ferrari, nothing special—”

“Wait. JUST a Ferrari?”


“Yeah-… shoot. It is kinda fancy, isn’t it?”

“Please don’t tell me you’re fifteen and you have a sportscar.”

“I’m actually sixteen and… well, technically yeah it’s mine. I have a sportscar.”

“…Are you driving around town in it right now?”

“Yeah, it’s parked in the lot. Why?”

“How rich are you?”

There was a moment’s pause before the girl answered, “Confidential.”

He blinked, then quickly nodded, respecting the request. “Take care of your keys, then. I haven’t seen it but I’m sure it’s a really nice car and you’d hate to lose it.”

“Got it.” she said, smiling, happy that he didn’t push the topic.

As they returned to their dessert and drink respectively, Loke said, “I knew someone who always… just… well, let’s say she’s never careful with keys. She would misplace them, forget where she placed them or just… y’know, when she needs them and they’re not there she gets furious looking.”

“She sounds like a handful.” Lucy said, chuckling.

He nodded, looking at his iced tea wistfully. “Once she really couldn’t find where her car keys were and she’d turn my flat upside down looking when the goddamn keys have been in her bag all along. So… what we did was she gave me some duplicates and told me to carry them everytime, so when she needs a key and couldn’t find one, I can lend her a spare.”

“That’s really sweet.” the girl smiled, looking at the man beside him, who was absently stirring his drink. “And for you to look out for her like that. Is she the lucky lady?”

Again, he nodded. “She was the lucky lady, yes.” He sighed then, cutting off any further remark from the young woman. “But that was back then; it’s over now.”

Lucy quickly looked down apologetically. “O-Oh. I… I won’t ask anymore. I’m so sorry.”

“It’s fine, really.” he reassured. “I brought it up and all. It’s okay.”

“If you say so…” she replied tentatively, then pretended to read the paper again. It was a really nice conversation. With the way Loke started his little anecdote, she thought that she would get to listen to a great love story of some sort. Since moving to Magnolia, she has heard a lot of interesting stories, what with the colorful bunch of people she’s suddenly been introduced to, but there wasn’t really any sort of romantic stuff abound so she was in a way eager for something like that. She was writing a novel herself, after all… though she hasn’t had much inspiration for it in quite a while.

He must have seen her disappointment, because then he smiled at her apologetically. “I’m sorry you must have expected something nicer.”

“I did.” she admitted. Loke liked how honest this girl was. “I guess you’re sadder than you look. Some people are.”

He smiled despite himself. “I think so too.”

She was about to say something else when her phone went off. It was neither a call or a text, but an alarm. A reminder, that obviously was for something very important as she frowned and quickly moved to clear up her things. “Gosh, I gotta go.”

“And I was just starting to enjoy your company.” he faked a hurt look, his suave mode still in place despite everything.

“I’m sorry, but someone’s gonna kill me if I don’t get home stat.” Lucy smiled, jumping down the high chair and grabbing her bag. “It’s nice talking to you though.”


She stared at him for a full second before answering, “Actually, no. I think I made you sad, which is never a good thing. But you’re nice.”

“Nice. I can’t say that’s something that girls often call me.”

She chuckled. “Did you expect something else?”

“Not really. I quite like it.”

Lucy simply raised an eyebrow. He really was quite the charmer, even when he doesn’t mean to. She’ll give him that much. “I guess I’ll see you around? And hopefully get to talk to you about less depressing stuff.”

She left with a little wry smile and a wave, but not before personally saying goodbye to Mira, who ever-so sweetly told her go take care on her way.

A few moments later, the barmaid cleaned up the empty glass of parfait that the blonde left. She gave Loke an amused look. “You’ve been really down so much lately that now it’s weird to see you smiling like that.”

“Smiling like what?” he asked.

“Smiling unapologetically. It’s good. Lucy-chan’s a good girl, isn’t she?”

“She has this… stellar smile I can’t help but admire.” he mused absently. “Not sure if it’s part of the novelty of being the new kid, or she’s that infectious.”

In truth, it was something else that made him feel drawn to the blonde, Loke knew. He wasn’t sure what it was when he was talking to her, but when he thought about it, he realized what it was.

She reminded him of Karen.

Of course, not entirely. It wasn’t the typical similarities — in fact they were very different. They didn’t share the same eye or hair color, and Lucy’s bright polite smile was far from Karen’s ever present sly confident smirk. It wasn’t in the way they moved either — Lucy had a particular hesitant but quiet grace despite the skip to her step, while Karen walked demanding attention, the click of her heels seeming to echo her sure firm presence.

It wasn’t the keys, or the parfait, or the way Lucy swung her feet back and forth a bit while sitting on the high stool (when Karen would surely have crossed her legs classily).

Loke wondered how he noted so much, despite having sat with the girl for barely an hour, but he simply shook that off and attributed it to being observant of the interesting new girl.

Lucy reminded him of Karen with that momentary glint of hesitance that grew to a kind honest certainty when she said the word “confidential”, then the memory was gone the instant the girl smiled at him for heeding to the silent request. Karen was like that — there were times that he saw fear in her eyes when she thought she was sharing too much of herself, then she will put up her shell, assured that it was her right to do so, but without much cruelty because she knows that she was the one who almost gave away too much. She has a sense of privacy like that, a glint of which Loke saw in Lucy. But Lucy was grateful, whereas Karen was too proud, too assured that you had no right to know her too well, that she would never give you that thankful smile. She would have thought that you were simply doing the right thing.

But that wasn’t all that reminded Loke of his late lover in the guise of his new young acquaintance. She took well to praise. Granted, despite Loke’s reputation as resident prince charming, his close female friends were mostly immune to his charms. Cana would laugh it off, Erza and Levy know that he was simply teasing, and Mira would most probably take it in stride and playfully return the compliment. Lucy was different in a way that she accepts the praise in a somewhat business-like manner, like she didn’t quite believe it, but she saw where you were coming from. Out of politeness (or perhaps in some spark of defiance) she gives you something in return. It was very much like Karen, who knew how beautiful she really was but will never let you tell her so, because she didn’t want to owe you just because you praised her. There were smaller things… even subtler things, like how the girl’s choice to go alone for herself felt a little like some sort of escape, unlike most people who go away in company of others, or how sincere she was whe you ask her if you by any chance let her down.

It was funny, everything reminded him of Karen, every day — but nothing hits quite as hard as seeing things that were so unique to her manifest in another person. These were things that reminded him of how much he really knew her and at the same time how he never really did. Seeing these little things, those subtle sparks in someone so different but open and much much kinder, it reminded him of how in the end he didn’t really know her enough to understand her… to crack her open.

It stung badly — and despite the smile (which was a real smile, don’t get him wrong) he gave this bright young girl who could be Karen’s exact opposite with how warm she was, it did hurt.

The wounds were barely healing, and the fresh cuts were unexpectedly deep — and for a moment he just wanted to let it end, let himself go.

However, all it took was a sweet smile from Mira, a cheerful greeting from Cana who just went in, and a warm salute from Makarov who sat on the other end of the table with some of his friends… and he was back, reminding himself this time that he still had a life to lead, and people who care, waiting for him to recover, giving him all the time in the world to heal.

‘Maybe’, he thought. ‘Just maybe, I can avoid some cuts while the wounds take time to heal properly.’

It’s not that he decided to avoid the new girl. Maybe he can just try not to look into those beautiful chocolate brown eyes for too long so as to not catch any accidental glimpses of the ghost of a person whose memory makes him hate living with himself.

Lucy was a good girl, he agreed with Mira with that. He didn’t know her for too long but he had a feeling that she was here to stay. And no matter how much she unknowingly cut deep in to him, he will never ever involve her in his pain.

‘She’s different.’ he reminded himself, and then repeated what everyone else kept telling him. ‘It’s all over. I’ll be fine.’

He didn’t really avoid Lucy. He just… distanced himself a bit. She was a friendly, outgoing girl. Pretty soon she was the new darling of the group. The girl was softer than Erza and Bisca, tougher than Levy, more confident than Laki and subtler than Cana. So among the girls she had the most perfect balance of traits and that’s exactly how she got along with almost everyone immediately. With how she was fitting in so well it was impossible to completely ignore her.However, she hung out often in the Strauss’. On weekend afternoons sometimes he’ll find her alone, either waiting for some friends or simply enjoying her own time. Because they were both regulars in the bar they always came across each other. Perhaps she really thought that he was nice, because she always sat next to him or on his table. He made small talk, sometimes answered her questions about someone or somewhere, and mostly kept silent as she read the news or a book while enjoying one of Mira’s delicious desserts.She trusted him too much, he thought. Did he pass some sort of test when he kept his word on not making a big fuss about her car? That, he’ll never know, but they enjoyed each other’s silent company.

He still missed Karen, though. Badly, and no matter how hard he tried, a memory or two always manages to slip into his mind.

And it was harder when Lucy trusts him enough to stay silent in his company, because that gave him room to stare, and he found it harder to distance himself as he first planned.

He felt pathetic. How was it so hard to move on? He thought of actually talking to Mira, he knew she lost someone back then, but he couldn’t quite bring himself to really do it.

“You know,” Lucy started one time. “They… told me about what happened, why you look so down everytime.”

He tried to keep up the smile. “Really?”

“I’m sorry if I might’ve reminded you of sad stuff that one time.”

“Don’t worry.” and then he found himself admitting, “In times like these, it’s barely been half a year, one finds himself being reminded of all sorts of, well… memories… even in the littlest things. Don’t worry, I’ve had worse.”

“I know that feeling.” Lucy said, looking at him. When she was talking to him like this, so honestly, he couldn’t see how she had reminded him of Karen. Too different. Too kind. “I’ve been wondering for some time now why the others are so careful around you…”

“They are?” that piqued his interest, and before he could help it he had taken a quick look around. Sure enough, there was Mira, who quickly looked down at the glass she was wiping dry, a guilty smile on her face. She was watching him, and very clearly didn’t expect him to look around. “Wait, do they always do that?”

“Yeah.” Lucy said, giggling lightly at his surprised expression. “At first I thought it was me, ’cause I’m new and all, but then I noticed that they’re actually watching you. So I had to know why.”

“I never noticed.” he said, looking down.

“I didn’t, too, when I was in your place.”

He raised an eyebrow.

She continued. “I kinda understand. I lost my mom a few years ago, and I never noticed how much the people around me really tried to support me. I mean, I knew they’ve got my back, but I didn’t realize just how much they gave extra. Not until I had the chance to look back, and really really look around…”

“This time I should be the one to say sorry for reminding you of something really sad.” he said, apologetic but appreciative of the sentiment.

“It’s okay. It actually reminded me of everything my… family… did to support me, and it makes me feel all warm and fuzzy.” she chuckled gingerly, then saw Gildarts and Mira exchanging whispers while stealing glances at her and her companion. Lucy waved, and the cop and barmaid both waved back as well.

Loke smiled, nodding at other two adults, then turning back to Lucy. “You’re a really interesting young woman, do you know that?”

“I’ve been told that.” she shrugged. “But I don’t know if I believe it yet.”

“So what else have my dear friends told you about me?”

“They told me you used to be so much happier.” she said, looking down at the book on her lap. “Mira said that when you’re, I quote, ‘back like brand new’, I’ll definitely swoon.” she laughed, and he chuckled at that.

“And do you look forward to that?”

“Do you really want an honest answer?” she asked before sipping on her iced coffee.

He blinked. “Oh, well I wanted a ‘yes’. You’ve been proving to be quite the challenging conquest so far.”

He couldn’t help but laugh out loud when she blushed bright red and almost choked on her drink, even catching the other customers’ attentions. He was still laughing as he grabbed the tissues in the middle of their table and offered it to the blonde, who was in a bad coughing fit. She accepted the tissues and pat his arm as thanks as she wiped her lips.

When she recovered, she faked an unimpressed glare at his very amused smile. Loke in turn faked a hurt look. “What did I do?”

“That was good.” Lucy said, shaking her head. “I didn’t expect that. You’re good. Really good. I’ve never heard that one before. Challenging. Conquest. Lord help me.”

“I finally got you.”

“It sounded so romantic. I… I can’t.” she said, rubbing her temples. “Gosh, and right now you’re not even at your best. I believe Mira’s statement about swooning now.”

He laughed. “I try hard.”

“It worked.”

“I saw.”

She pouted, making him laugh again.

“So what’s this… honest answer you were talking about?”

She calmed down then, absently stirring her beverage with the straw. “Well… how do I say this… It’s um-… I… I think I will never quite get to… meet… the person you were before.”

He raised an eyebrow, obviously not expecting that answer.

“Not that I think you will never be happy again, okay?” she quickly added. “And really, it’s not like the ones we have left are not enough, but there’s just… no replacing that void, y’know?”

“Is that a bad thing?” he asked softly.

“Nope. I don’t know, maybe it’s just me, though. Because… they told me that you used to be so much happier, but…” she trailed off, smiling that one stellar smile of hers that reminds him everytime that she was this whole other person, not a shadow of someone gone who came to haunt him. “When we lose someone that important, we’re never the same. Maybe we go back to our old life but we’ll be different… Sometimes the difference is so hard to see, almost like they’re not even there, but I think there’s always gonna be that part that’s changed, y’know? It’s kind of a forever-there thing, like a scar. There’s just gonna be that one day, someday… that it won’t hurt you anymore.”

He fell silent, and maybe she understood, because she let him keep it.

Everyone kept telling him that it will be fine, that soon he’ll be whole again. Fixed like brand new. That soon that happy, whole person will be back like nothing happened…

Yet there in that moment was a girl, who told him that it was okay to be broken. It’s alright to come back not brand new but simply patched up well, cracks visible.

What people always thought whenever he says that Lucy saved his life was that one time when… well, she saved him from falling off a bridge. So… yeah. It happened a week or two after that conversation in the cafe. Bridge. Loke almost falling off. Lucy in some odd twist of fate was there and pulled him back and DAMN she actually cried and told him to “please hold on we’re here for you don’t do this we all love you please come back” and he just hugged her back and maybe cried a bit (read: A LOT) and told her that it’s fine, okay, he’ll stay, such a pretty face shouldn’t be crying.He didn’t have the heart to tell her that he was just simply standing there with no plans to kill himself when his beloved sunglasses fell off and he lunged after it, practically forgetting where he was and what would happen to him (‘Well, he added, ’it’s not like I forgot myself because I was so distracted thinking of a certain blonde girl and her smile and eyes and laugh and those cute little heart earrings, no I wasn’t.’) — it’s all very stupid, really… but still, thank God for Lucy.So yes, it was indeed very true that Lucy saved his life.

But what no one knew was that whenever he said “I was thinking of ending it all, but she brought me back and gave me a reason to go on.” he wasn’t talking about the bridge incident. Not really. He was actually thinking back to that one peaceful afternoon spent in that little corner table at the Strauss’.

So he’ll just let them think that he fell for the girl who cried with him on that bridge, but he knew for himself that first, he fell for the girl who sat across him in that table, whose smile assured him that he can come back… maybe not brand new, but as whole as he can manage.

How did he land the bodyguard job? Well, after that bridge incident, he insisted to escort Lucy home. The blonde broke a shoe running to him, apparently. The straps on the expensive-looking stilleto heel came off. When they got to the mansion, he found out that she sneaked out of Capricorn’s watch again. Lucy was taken away by her army of maids while Capricorn and the others questioned Loke.“I’m sorry sir, it really wasn’t Lucy’s fault. She did a very brave thing and risked falling off the bridge to save me—”By then, Supetto-san had fainted while Capricorn had paled and had to hold on to a nearby table for support.

“I am very very sorry for endangering her life, I swear on my life— which, err… I’m not planning to end anymore… that I will never ever do anything to make her do that again.”

They looked at him tiredly.

“And… If you don’t mind me asking, what is this I heard about needing a bodyguard who knows Magnolia like the back of his hand, again?”

The cleanup after the extravagant event lasted until into the early hours of the morning for the caterers and event guests who were temporarily staying in the Heartfilia manor were up late drinking more wine and lounging by the fireplace in the mansion’s sitting room.Lucy was glad to have the excuse of being a student because this allowed her to pass up on the more private little gathering and let Virgo and Aries pull her to her own bedroom to take off her dress and makeup. As soon as the young ladies were gone, Loke also finally loosened his tie and sat down with the other staff in the dining table of the servant’s quarters.He was about to take off his coat as well, but then Capricorn stepped in and told him that Jude Heartfilia wanted to talk to him.

The bodyguard nodded politely at the butler and then stood up to go to his employer’s study. He got there to find Jude was still wearing his suit, but without the coat and tie as he stood by his table looking through some papers.

“Sir, you called for me?”

“I did.” the man answered, sitting down and leaning his back on his chair tiredly. “First things first. You did your job of keeping my daughter safe during the past days, and tonight. Good.”

He smiled a curt smile. “Thank you, sir. Your daughter’s safety is my priority—”

“It should be.”

Loke looked down. “Of course, sir.”

“Lucy’s work here is done, but it would be preferable if she stays here until our guests have left. They want her company, and it would do her good to spare some time to entertain them.”

Loke blinked. “Sir… by ‘stay until the guests leave’, do you mean…?”

“You are to accompany her back to her apartment unit. She can stay there, but I want you to stay there as well. Rent another room if you have to. She has to have a bodyguard at least.”

“You’re letting her… go back… to her own—”

The man cut him off. “Must I repeat myself?”

Loke quickly stepped back and shook his head. No matter how he looked at it, Jude Heartilia was being… lenient, yet again. But he wouldn’t complain. He was sure that Lucy would be happy to hear this. “No, sir. My apologies.”

“She kept her end of the bargain. This is how things are in this industry. You keep your word, I keep mine. She has done her job, she always has. She plays her part really well.”

Loke stared at the man who was looking down in his desk in resignation. He had never worked so closely with Jude Heartfilia, but he knew that this was a rare moment for the man. “I saw, sir.”

“Did you? See her analyze everyone who talked to her? Did you hear her boast and haggle in just the right ways, on all the right people, to get more from them, for the sake of more help for the beneficiaries of the foundation? Did you see how she flatters people with such honesty?

“Others who would have tried to do that would have looked fake. They would have been liars. And my daughter is good. Good enough go do it right and still be sincere.”

Loke could somewhat understand what the man was talking about. He’d overheard some senior marketing executives and event planning staff talk about how the event will be carried not by Jude, but by Lucy. He didn’t know how crucial she was to the success of the charity until he saw her, right then and there, reach out and actively seek potential sponsors and benefactors for the foundation. Then, he realized — Lucy’s part in the ball was not how to impress people with how well she had memorized figures, dates and names. It was much more than that.

And she knew it.

“Her ultimatum was that I leave her alone regarding her choice of company. Tell me, boy — are they worth it? Are they good enough for her, when she’s holding this big of a responsibility in her hands?”

Loke looked back at the man, considering his answer, knowing to himself that it was a rare chance, to have Jude possibly take his next words into consideration.

“I can’t speak on your daughter’s behalf, sir.” he started. “But all I can say for certain is that during the course of my service, I have never seen any of her ‘choice of company’ try to hurt the young lady in any way.”

“They never will, not to her knowledge.” the man grunted. He heaved a heavy sigh and looked down at his folded hands on his desk. “When things were… simpler… we had very good friends, Layla and I. But it was when we were almost at the top that we realized how many stabs we were taking on our backs.”

“But sir, surely—”

“Surely these children wouldn’t think to take advantage of my daughter? Maybe. But it makes her soft. Maybe these school friends of hers wouldn’t be the ones to turn on her, but they make her vulnerable. Trusting. And I’ve been raising her to be strong. Discerning. Cunning.

“When we were betrayed, we hardly got through. And then we found it hard to trust again. We decided to be more impersonal with our partners, to keep some distance. However, Layla was too kind, she found it hard to see the worst in people, or even any shred of bad in them. She distanced herself from the business, couldn’t take the pressure of being more cruel. Instead she focused on the charities, on our daughter, the house… the things that will not require her to look at others as anything but the best of people. Layla was kind, that was what caused us to drift apart — and Lucy… She is too much like her mother.

“I just don’t want to see her suffer like Layla did, I don’t want her to be too kind, because she would need some cruelty if she is to step inside this industry… as she definitely will, someday. Layla could afford to be kind because she had me to leave the business with. Not Lucy, however. I won’t always be there.”

Loke stared at the man in bated breath. What… right did he, a mere bodyguard, had to hear those words? Why is Jude Heartfilia telling him, of all people, of his reasons behind his attitude towards his daughter?

But Loke knew one thing: he was not the one who needed this.

“Sir, if I may?”

The man regarded him with expectant but cold eyes.

“I think… you should be saying this to your daughter, not me. She is looking, almost quite desperately, for a way to understand you. I rather think that if you only told her, there would be no need for the arguments.”

“And what makes you think she would actually understand? Listen and not completely believe that she’s old enough to make her own choices, that I shouldn’t decide for her?”

“It’s as you said, sir. She’s like her mother, and didn’t the late madame still understand you despite disagreeing?” Loke smiled. He was throwing stones at point blank now. He wasn’t sure of what he was saying anymore. Nevertheless, he continued, “And it’s just my opinion, but Lucy couldn’t have gotten all from Ma’am Layla, sir. From what I’ve seen, she took a bit after you, too. After all, she’s your daughter as well.”

Jude raised an eyebrow this time. “What are you talking about?”

“She knows how to lie, hide everything behind a mask.” Loke said gingerly. “And I think it’s not from her mother that she got that from.”

There was silence between the two men as Jude pondered upon the bodyguard’s words and Loke waited for his cue to either continue or leave.

“You know her that much, huh.”

“I think you know her well too, sir. You just… you just don’t quite know how yet. I mean it for you and Lucy both.”

Jude stared at the bodyguard and was about to speak again when there was a knock on the door. “Come in.” the man called.

“I am very sorry to interrupt, sir.” Capricorn said, stepping inside the room. “But one of our guests are asking if you would be joining them in the sitting room. He said he wants to discuss something with you, I believe he is interested in sponsoring for the foundation’s scholarship program. Lucy-sama seems to have gotten him interested earlier.”

“Very well, please tell them that I would be with them shortly.” Jude said, waving the butler dismissively. Capricorn nodded and exited the room wordlessly.

Loke now had no reason to think twice about how much Lucy really was taking after her mother’s work on the charity. Still he believed that she was stronger than her mother in that same department, too. He can see that Jude, even though he wasn’t the best in fatherhood, still raised her to be tough.

Now really, all they have to do is not butt heads due to their strong personalities.

“You may leave now, Loke. Tomorrow’s a Sunday, no doubt our guests will be planning something — I want you to be ready to accompany Lucy if she ever needs to go with them.”

“Yes, sir. Have a good night.”

The bodyguard turned to leave, but the man spoke again. “And another thing.”

Loke blinked and faced his employer again. “Sir?”

“I am dismissing you of your position after Lucy graduates from high school.”

The younger man felt a heavy weight drop upon him and was about to react, but Jude cut him off.

“She will be living in the university dormitories once she studies there. It’s a secure enough environment, and she knows Crocus well enough to make her way around town. And she will be a college student. I am certain that she will prefer some freedom.”


“But once that’s all over, once she starts working in the industry, she would need someone behind her. Someone strong, steadfast, sensitive, and most of all, someone we know we could trust.”

“Sir… why are you telling me this?”

The man simply shrugged. “Because by that time, I know that my daughter will insist on having a say on who that person would be, and who knows, you might be getting a call from Capricorn.”

Lucy was sitting by her dresser, letting Aries brush her hair while Virgo and Supetto-san were putting her dress, shoes and accessories away. Her room was filled with various bouquets, little boxes of presents and fancily-wrapped sweets and candies, while her desk was filled with some notes and cards. This was the usual sfter the ball, there were some people who brought gifts and little tokens, just to gain extra favors from the Heartfilias. Her usually straight blonde hair was now in wavy curls from her complicated updo for the ball. Aries was talking about how great her mistress was during the party. Lucy simply smiled at the other girl and told Aries that she only felt strong and confident because she knew that the maid and the others were near, that she would have support.“But you were really like a real princess, miss.” Aries said. “So graceful! The way you danced, too…”“Aries,” Lucy started, taking the girl’s hands in hers and giving it a quick squeeze. “I could only do that because you guys made me look like a real princess in the first place. Got it?”

The pink-haired girl nodded, blushing shyly. “Do you want anything done with your hair, miss?”

“Oh, just let it down like that. You guys should rest now too.”

There was a knock on the door and Aries opened it. Lucy watched as her maid let het father step inside the room. Lucy dismissed her attendants and stood up to greet her father a good evening.

As soon as the servants have left, Jude said, “Good job tonight. We raised more than we expected. Just now, one of our guests confirmed that he will be sponsoring for an additional student in our scholarship program.”

Lucy smiled tiredly. “I’m glad to hear that, father.”

“I’ll be leaving for Crocus early tomorrow, so it will be up to you to see to our guests until they leave. They should be gone by tomorrow night, anyway. After that, you may do as you please.”

“Got it. And… um… about… about the apartment—”

“I’ve left the arrangements to Capricorn and left instructions with Loke.”

“Okay, but—”

“Our guests are also looking forward to a nice lunch out tomorrow and I told them that you know the best restaurants in town. Can I trust you with that?”

“Wait.” she said, looking at her father with wide eyes. “T-take them out to lunch? Just me?”

“Capricorn and Loke will be there.”

“B-but-… I’m not sure—”

“Lucy.” Jude said, making his daughter pause abruptly. “Remember who you are.”

The girl looked down, bit her lip and bitterly started to recite, “I am… Lucy Heartfilia, heiress to the Heartfilia Konzern, one of Fiore’s biggest, most—”

She stopped when she felt her father’s hands on her shoulders, and he said, in the gentlest voice she has ever heard from him, “You are my daughter, and the one I trust and believe in the most.”

Lucy felt her father’s lips press against her forehead and all she managed to do was look up at him, at a loss if what to say. “You’re tired. Rest now.”

All she could do was nod silently as her father left the room.

Hidden Track:
“Best Song Ever”

“Maybe it’s the way she walked straight into my heart and stole it.
Through the doors and past the guards just like she already owned it.
I said, ‘Can you give it back to me?’
She said, ‘Never in your wildest dreams.’”
— Gabrielle Aplin (One Direction cover)

—Loke knocked twice and was answered by silence. Still, it was Lucy who called for him, so he simply said, “I’m coming in, princess.” before opening the door and letting himself in.Lucy was sitting by her dresser, wiping her eyes with the sleeve of her nightgown, sniffing silently.

Loke swallowed — Lucy was evidently crying, and there could be all sorts of reasons why. “Lucy? Are you… are you alright, love?”

“I’m okay.” she said, sniffing a bit and then turning towards him. Her eyes weren’t all that puffy, so she might’ve only cried for a bit. She composed herself as he stepped towards her. “I… um… tomorrow, we’re taking our guests out to lunch. I was thinking of introducing them to something we have only in Magnolia. So what do you think about having them taste some of Igneel’s finest?”

He chuckled. “If you tell him to go easy on the spicy, I think that’s a perfect idea.” he reached out to cup the blonde’s chin and get a better look at her face. “Now tell me, why was my lady crying?”

“It’s nothing. It’s…” she laughed gingerly. “It’s just dad… he… he came in to talk to me and-.. and it was…”

Loke’s brows furrowed. Could he have said something wrong to his employer earlier?”

“It was different. He… he’s warmer in a way.” Lucy said, slowly breaking into a small smile. “I felt… for the first time, I felt like I’ve made him really look at me.”

“That’s good.” he said, finally breathing out in relief.

“It felt good.” she nodded, playing with the sleeve of her robe. “I’m really glad I listened to you-… well, that you listened to me and told me to listen to him and that… that’s it’s not all that bad. He said I did a good job…”

“You did.”

“And I’m gonna keep at it, just ’cause I feel like things are looking up right now.”

“See? Never assume the worst of someone until you really understand them.”

“I know.” she said. “I’ll try harder to crack him.”

He couldn’t help but think. He had been adamant that Lucy always give her father a chance, that he had his reasons. It was because he didn’t want her to share the same pain as him — losing someone while angry at them, never getting to know them at all, letting things end so bitterly. He had a lot of regrets — he didn’t want this soft-hearted girl suffer. If Karen had let even that small of a crack for him to understand her… would things have been different?

But it was no time for that. He had Lucy now. Loke smiled and nodded, but before his hand fell to his side, Lucy caught it.

Loke blinked.

Lucy shrugged, twirling her fingers in his. “I owe you a dance.”

He chuckled. “I can wait until you’re rested, you know…”

“I can’t, though.” she said with a little mischievous smile. “But I’m not wearing that beautiful dress anymore, and I’m just… this… right now. Is that still okay?”

He shook his head, leaning down to take her other hand in his and pulling her to her feet. “What do you mean you’re just ‘this’, love? Just this beautiful and stunning? And you don’t need any fancy dress, you can wear rags for all I care and still shine like a star.”

“Stop.” Lucy said, laughing. “You’re overdoing the stock lines, lion.”

“I try my best.” he simply said, and then they found themselves standing in the balcony of Lucy’s room. “But you’re really quite the challenging conquest indeed.”

She laughed at that, clearly recognizing the little quip from one of their oldest conversations. “That one still gets me the most.” she said, letting him rest her hands on his shoulders, while he laid his hands on her waist.

“Ah, when will I ever top it?” he sighed.

“Don’t worry, you already did.”

He blinked. “Really? When?”

“It’s a secret.”

“Oh, please don’t do that.” he complained, but stopped when she looked up at him.

Lucy looked expectant. “We’re here but there’s no music.”

“Will you sing, then?” he asked, hopeful.

She shook her head. “I don’t sing.”

“Funny, I was quite sure you sang this one boy to sleep… when was that, last last week, I think? And it was really beautiful.”

She looked away. “You… you heard that?”

He smirked.

“W-which part?”

Loke simply sighed and took it upon himself, humming a tune and taking a step back, pulling her with him as they started to dance to his humming.

Lucy laughed despite her initial insecurity, letting him lead her as they swayed to his humming under the pale moonlight on the balcony.

It was one of those old mellow pop love songs you always hear on the radio when the station was playing old songs. Yes, Lucy admitted to singing it softly that one night while Natsu dozed off on her lap while she was reading a book. Natsu said it sounded nice, and told her not to stop ’cause “it’s really really nice, Luce — dad likes this song, says he used to dance with mom to it.”

Lucy also knew the song from remembering her parents dancing to it when she was young. It was one of those old hits.

And now she was dancing to it being hummed by a man who for all she knew, meant the words to the song with all his heart.

She giggled when he twirled her around, and then caught her in his arms again, and Lucy simply closed her eyes and buried her head on her bodyguard’s shoulder, slowing their movement gradually until they were simply swaying side by side.

Loke stopped humming, looking down at the blonde locks and pale neck illuminated by the moonlight. “Lucy?”

“No, no… don’t stop.” she whispered. As he started to hum again, she sang the words, just loud enough for both of them to hear.

Loke smiled, holding the young woman closer to him, listening to her lovely voice. Supetto-san had once told him that Lucy used to sing with her mother for the audience of the ball. He was told that Lucy had a beautiful voice, but that she stopped singing after her mother died.

Now maybe it was selfish that he wanted her to sing for him, too — just like how she sang for Natsu a little while back… but he allowed himself that bit of weakness, because she was doing that right now, and if she was, that means that she wanted to do it. He always made sure that he wasn’t forcing anything on his mistress. When in doubt, he asks.

When the song was over, Loke found himself silently humming another song, while Lucy simply listened to him. Soon, he got tired, sighed and stopped humming, but they didn’t stop their little dance.

“Lucy?” he whispered.


“What was it?”

“What was what?” she whispered back, still not withdrawing her head tucked nicely by his shoulder.

“My best line?”

Lucy giggled, her shoulders shaking a bit before asking, “You really wanna know?”

“Please?” he asked sweetly. “For research and analysis purposes?”

“Oh, you do statistics now, huh?”

“Well, I have to know my customerbase.” he chided. “Thought you’d know that it’s profitable for the business.”

Lucy sighed hopelessly, and when he looked down, he caught a little smile on her lips.


“Y’see,” she started, poking at his loose shirt absently — ah, he’d only just realized that he was only wearing his shirt and slacks, that he had no tie or jacket on. Clearly he wasn’t dressed up for a dance with the princess. “Nothing gets me quite as much as that one ‘I’m in love you’ once.”

“Eh?” he groaned. “But I tell you everyday that I love you.”

She was pouting, a blush playing in her cheeks. “Yeah, but you only said you were in love with me once.”

“So… that one?”

“Yep. That one.”


“Really?” she laughed. “You’re asking me why?”


“Did I ask you ‘why’ back then?”

“Well, no… actually why didn’t you?”

“Why didn’t I what?”

“Why didn’t you ask me ‘why’?”

“I dunno…” she shrugged. “I guess I was too busy admiring how much you meant it, I thought the reason doesn’t matter.”

He chuckled. “Ah.”

Lucy sighed against his shoulder. “So… did that change?”

“Nope.” he said, quick and sure. “It kind of stuck to me. Doesn’t help that you’re dancing with me right now, being breathtaking and all…”

“I’m sorry—”

He quickly cut her off. “Lucy. We’ve talked — agreed — about this, right?”

She sighed again. “Hai, hai. I shouldn’t be sorry. Because that means I feel bad for not loving you back.” — she almost recited it.

“And you shouldn’t.”

“I shouldn’t.” She nodded. “Maybe you’re the only one who will ever tell me that.”

“I would have said that to any woman I fall for, because that’s what loving means for me. The fact that it is unrequited will never mean that it’s something to regret, or that it’s meaningless. It’s never meaningless, loving someone. Reasons can be hard to find but they’re always there.”

“You know…” she started, her voice dropping into a mere whisper. “Sometimes I wish I can be as honest as you.”

“It’s simple, you know.” he said with a small smile.

Lucy nodded. “I know.”

“You just tell Natsu how you feel. Don’t worry so much about what comes after. No one’s ever really ready for what comes after.”

She paused. It was always easier to hear that from their friends, who joked about it (albeit they get serious when they’re talking about bet stakes and the like) good-naturedly, sometimes even a bit childishly. It was easy to hear them say roundabout things like ‘kiss him already!’ or to hear them say it so unthingkingly straight to the point, like ‘just tell him you like him!’

It was different when it came to Loke. Not that Lucy doubted any of her friends’ sincerity — she knows that they care about her. It’s just that Loke was… more earnest when he talked about these things. Yes, he’s had his fair share of jokes, but when it came down to it, it always sounded more like an encouragement. Something with a bit more understanding. There’s always this sense or feeling that she can always say ‘no’… and not because she wouldn’t, but because she couldn’t.

He knew the difference.

When Lucy’s silence continued, Loke spoke up again. “You show it already, anyway. Why not say it too?”

“I don’t know.” she answered simply.

Loke nodded. “More time, hm?”

“More time. Yeah.”

“He can wait.” he said. “He will wait, anyway, if I’m seeing right.”

“Do you really think… he…?” she asked, trailing helplessly by the end. She withdrew from his hold but didn’t step back. They just stopped there, standing in front of each other with her hands fisted on his shirt.

“I think he does.” he simply said, looking at her hesitant face. “Don’t you feel it?”

“I feel it, but maybe it’s just me. But… I’m scared. And I don’t know how or why because it really is simple when I wrap my head around it. It’s not like the stories where we’re warring countries or the mermaid and the human, or I don’t know, star-crossed anyones, it’s just us — we’re human and nothing’s standing in our way and I know I’ll fight for it if I have to… and I know I should just step up and say it, really. We’re even close. He’s my best friend, we fight and talk and spend a lot of time with each other and we understand each other but I still don’t get why I’m stalling. Even though you said it already… It’s simple.”

“It is.” Loke chuckled, feeling like the chosen one, to hear his mistress voice out her feelings like this. ‘But Lucy, simple doesn’t always mean easy.’ He took a stray strand of her hair and tucked it behind her ear. “Don’t force it, okay? It’s simple, yes, but if you bend something too much it breaks, you will come to regret it. Simple things are hard to fix when they’re broken. The damage is too visible. The simplest things are often the most basic ones, too. Sometimes when they break, that’s it. We don’t want permanent damage now, do we?”

“I don’t think I understand as much as you want me to.” Lucy started, smile uneasy. “But I kinda get it.”

Loke gave her hands a light squeeze, and her nervous grip on his shirt tightened. “You just have to be ready. To say it out loud, I mean. I know some surprises or bursts of courage are nice, too. Maybe being careful doesn’t exactly make for an exciting story, but sometimes the wait is worth it.”

Lucy nodded, looking at his hands wrapped around hers. “You’re so good at this. How many times have you ever…?”

He shrugged. “Enough times to know much, but still not enough to not be scared. I don’t think anyone’s ever not scared of loving someone. There’s always going to be that little bit of fear.”

“I wrote that down once, you know.” she smiled. “In the novel. I wrote it down… You’ll know you really love someone when how much they matter scares you so much, but if you had to choose, you’ll prefer to stay afraid.”

“Are you?” he asked with an understanding grin, somehow already knowing the answer. “Scared?”

She nodded smiling gingerly. “With all my heart.”

“Hang in there.” he said with a chuckle.

“Is that what you do?” she asked. “You just… hang on?”

He shrugged. “Why else would we call the opposite ‘letting go’?”

Lucy laughed. “That’s a good one.”

“I’m witty.”

Then she looked up at him. “So… is that hard? Letting go and moving on and stuff?”

“You know, it might just worry you more if I tell you. Or let’s put it this way. Aren’t you being a ray of sunshine, already thinking things would come to that? C’mon, love… when you write a story, do you write the ending first?”

“No, but I always picture it.”

“But without writing the rest first, would you know how to actually get to it?”

He had a point. Maybe she was looking too far ahead.

Other girls would have been flustered, asking the man who was in love with them about how he was faring in that department, but not Lucy. Maybe if she was still that sweet new face in Magnolia, she would have done so, but much has happened between them in those first few months of friendship. Somehow he felt like he could answer her questions with the truth, and she knows that his answer won’t always necessarily be the right one, but it would be true. And for Lucy, she can always ask him things she wouldn’t dare ask other people. He answered with care, but without hesitation, and while she won’t always agree with him, she always believed in him anyway.

It’s nice, she always thought — that she has someone like Loke, who she can talk to, in a heart-to-heart way, but without the embarrassed fumbling and awkward stammering or the shy tears.

Lucy always considered Loke her ‘grownup friend’. He wasn’t as young as her schoolmates, so he’s not as childish. He wasn’t as old as Capricorn and the others, either — so there’s no big generation gaps. He didn’t completely fall under the ‘older siblings’ category like Mira and the Raijinshuu did, and he wasn’t a parental figure like Gildarts or Igneel. He was just… him. He had that place to himself for some reason. Unlabeled and unique. Something like an older best friend slash confidante, that one friend you don’t know how you got because you were so different but somehow you understand each other.

And he fell in love with her and he said it’s fine, it’s okay and she asked him if he was sure and he explained and she explained and they talked about it, sat down together, had tea and cookies and just straight out talked it out—

God, you don’t just talk about these things. There has to be a more complicated bout of awkward and some confessions and pain and hurt because of the unrequited feelings because that’s what the books tell us. That’s what the movies and songs say. There’s this utter pain and you can’t look at her because it hurts so much and you can’t talk to him because how dare you turn him down you’re so lucky someone fell for you. But they made it work out somehow. It’s the romance that didn’t destroy the friendship but strenghtened it instead and since when was all that even possible?

But apparently when you were like Loke, who was loyal and honest and always believed that the women he falls for are never accountable for whatever he ends up feeling for them, you can look at things in a different way.

He fell for Lucy on his own will, and he doesn’t question that (because why not? she’s wonderful) nor did he regret anything (maybe her not knowing would make things easier, but when she understood him, he realized that she was really worth the risk, even worth the ‘no’). It broke his heart (did you think it didn’t?) knowing she didn’t feel the same, but he already loved her enough that he accepted her rejection, so how hard would it be, standing beside her as a friend?

Answer: it kills, but it doesn’t hurt as much as turning his back fully just because he felt hurt. He chose to live with it because why disappear bitter from a person’s life when you can stay, still loved, recognized and understood? People would call him either selfish or martyr, but what was wrong with loving yourself a bit while standing up for something you believe in?

Lucy never quite understood him, not fully — because when he told her his feelings, she hasn’t fallen for anyone yet… at least not as deeply. She simply didn’t know how it was, how those things felt like. She was confused, and it didn’t help that she was an impressionable young woman, he was an attractive charming man and she couldn’t help but have this very certain crush on him. So it scared her a bit, because she knew her feelings were only so shallow but she didn’t expect him to already be in too deep.

But when he told her that she didn’t have to return it, that he held himself fully accountable, she wanted — really wanted — to love him back right then and there.

The fact that she knew she wanted it told her that no, it wouldn’t be real. It would be something like pity. That was being in love with love — Lucy realized that it was possible, being in love with someone’s feelings — but that was it. It was simply loving how you are loved, and it was so easy. “I love him because he loves me” was so easy, and true… even beautiful. But she knew that it can be blinding. Sometimes a simple “I love him.” can be everything. Just three words, no conditions, her own terms.

And if she said ‘yes’ to him back then, and he asked ‘why’, her answer will not have been that.

Maybe that’s why you say “no, thank you”. Because it’s not what you want, but you’re grateful for the offer, and you say that with a smile on your face. There might be a pang of hurt at first, it might sting, but there is no one to blame, even no blame to be put on anyone.

She would let him go if she hurt him too much, but he chose to stay — and this is when she becomes a bit selfish and a bit of a martyr herself, because she will not deny herself the privelege of having him in her life, even if it means always remembering that she might have hurt him once, maybe still hurting him everyday, even if it wasn’t intentional.

But it gets better, easier… and like all things, they learn to live with it until it’s all just part of living, like how they both chose to stay in each other’s lives because they knew were far too important to each other to just drift apart because one of them might have loved too much, the other too little. They were friends, they were supposed to make each other a better person. Before anything else, they were friends first.

Besides, it’s not just romantic relationships that last a lifetime. There’s more to life than that.

“Hey.” Lucy spoke up, after a bout of silence. “Let’s dance some more.”He shook his head and led her into another unaccompanied waltz. He hummed and she sang and they danced until her bare feet started hurting again… But she didn’t mind that. He was her favorite dance that night.

Loke didn’t lie to Freed. Lucy knew. She knew because he told her once. They never really told anyone about that one night. It was an unspoke, mutual agreement that they choose to keep things between them. Like their own special secret to their own unique bond.. or maybe they were just both hopeless romantics. They’re cheesy like that.Besides, it was their own inside joke — how he will always love her (and then they’ll both sing the song from that movie with the very obvious title) and how she will have a crush on him forever (because damn isn’t he perfect really?)He didn’t lie. Lucy knew that he has placed his bet, too. Because who hasn’t? Mira told him that After Levy, he had a good chance of winning. Hah — that was because he knew his mistress well. It’s just that Natsu was too much of a wild card, an unknown variable. But in all honesty, he really wanted those two to sort it out. But it’s not like he was getting impatient, nope — it was fun watching them.

He didn’t lie about that first kiss, but he assured that it wasn’t stolen. He was a sentimental guy and a gentleman… and he wouldn’t dare do something as rude as stealing a young lady’s first kiss. It wasn’t exactly given to him either. It was something spontaneous and a bit surprising to both parties… an ‘it-just happened’ kind of thing. But like the confession, it was their own secret too. You’ll have to be really good to really get that from either of them.

Thinking about it, it all sounded like a little silly over-the-summer sweet love affair that ended and now they were simply looking back at it fondly.

Maybe it was. That doesn’t mean it was never real — it was as real as even the longest-lasting relationships out there. It’s just that this one ended, and became something else entirely.

But what really mattered was the ‘looking-back-fondly’ part.

They say that that’s what life is about, after all.

The next morning, Loke found Lucy eating breakfast with Aries, Virgo and others in the servants’ dining quarters. It was so early, the only ones awake were the servants and guards, while the kitchen staff prepared the meals for their guests, who were still mostly asleep. The day was just starting for the mansion personnel.“Mornin’. Have some breakfast.” was all the blonde said when her saw her, eating the same food as everyone else. She was still in her nightclothes, complete with some bed hair.“Lucy? You’re early.” he said, not questioning her presense in the dining table with the staff. She always ate her meals with them, anyway.

“Dad’s earlier. He already left.” Lucy shrugged. ‘And I gotta prep up for our special guests.’ she continued, rolling her eyes. “Ugh, I hate dolling up in the house.”

“You don’t have to, you know.” Loke said as he sat down with them with his plate and utensils, then grabbed some eggs and hotdogs from the serving plates. “You wake up perfect.”

“My brother is right.” Virgo said, and Aries nodded perfectly. “Even princess’ bed hair is fabulous.”

Lucy grunted. “Guys, stop. I know I look horrible.”

Aries nodded again. “Yes, but it’s a cute kind of horrible…”

Lucy sighed. “Plus, I gotta make a call.”

Loke simply smiled and ate his breakfast, listening in as Lucy grabbed her phone and dialled a number.

After a beat, she spoke up. “That was fast. I thought you’d still be aslee—”

The phone didn’t need to be in speaker mode for everyone to hear, “LUIGI WHAT’S WRONG? ARE YOU CRYING? ARE YOU OKAY—”

“What the…? Natsu?” Lucy chuckled, looking aroun and seeing Loke smirking, while Aries and Virgo giggled. The other staff were either amused or confused. “I’m fine, I’m eating breakfast with the others, what’s wrong with you?”


“Okay, just shut up. We’re all fine. Last night was nice.”

“Yeah I saw.”


“T’was on the news kinda, Igneel made me watch.”

Finally her friend’s volume went back to normal, and Lucy concluded that Natsu had calmed down. “I’ll talk about it on Monday. For now, uh… I have to talk to Igneel for a bit. Is he around?”


Lucy cringed as she listened to father and son obviously scrambling to exchange tasks in the kitchen, but then broke into a touched smile when she heard Igneel’s greeting. “How’s my lovely girl doing and what can this ol’ man do for her?”

The blonde mused. “Hmmm… I have a party of about eight high profile people and they want to have a taste of Magnolia before leaving for this afternoon. I was thinking of how the Dragon’s one of the town’s originals, so… you getting me?”

“Eh? Not yet married into the family and already working on the business’ PR? That’s my girl— NATSU DRAGNEEL DON’T YOU LEAVE THAT SOUP! -I’m sorry, dear. So what time are these guests comin’ and on a scale of King to God, how fancy do you want the menu to be?”

Lucy laughed. “You’re the best, Igneel.”

“Eh, still waiting for the first of the thirty babies, see.”

‘Yes.’, Lucy thought. ‘I love these guys so much.’

At lunchtime, Lucy and the Heartfilia Manor guests arrived at The Fire Dragon restaurant and were welcomed by the proprietor himself. Lucy was impressed at how Igneel was wearing a classier outfit than usual, and that there was already a table prepared for them on the spot of the restaurant that provided the best view of the streets of Magnolia. She introduced him to them and in turn also introduced them to him: a new business partner and his wife and two children, a new member of the board and three of the Konzern’s closest long-time associates. Lucy was thankful that Igneel acted neither too close nor too distant to her and maintained a very composed air. It was wonderful to watch, the man being the impressive manager of one of the most creative restaurants in the region.Loke and other guards took another table and watched as Lucy and Capricorn assisted their guests while Igneel entertained them, making his own recommendations as they looked through the menus. It wasn’t long before the orders were given and after a few moments, a set of waiters and waitresses have started to bring in the dishes.As their bosses began to eat, the guards were also served their meals. Loke saw that Cana was one of the waitresses. When the brunette caught him looking, she winked mischievously and he gave a mock salute with a small amused smile.

“Y-your girl…?” one of the other bodyguards whispered lowly.

Loke chuckled. “Nah, she’s just a natural charmer.”

“Man, she’s hot, though.”

“Careful, her dad’s a cop.” Loke warned good-naturedly, and simply laughed when the other guy sighed.

When Cana went to their table again to serve some drinks, Loke asked in a whisper, “Natsu’s not around?”

“He’s in the kitchen.” the brunette answered. “Running things with Macao.”

Loke sneaked out to the kitchens after a while, when both the bosses and their guards were happily eating the Dragon’s finest dishes. True to Cana’s words, Natsu and Macao were like a head chef duo of some sort as they supervised the other cooks while they themselves were cooking the dishes.It was rare to see Natsu serious, but Loke knew it wasn’t unheard of, and he had heard that the boy was a force in the Dragon when he was cooking, taking excellently after his father.“I’m almost done here, where are those veggie chops I asked for? C’mon guys, we’re cookin’ to impress!” the teen called out. One of the assistant cooks handed him a bowl of chopped vegetables and he inspected them shortly before pouring them to a pan. He looked around and then narrowed his eyes at another assistant. “Oi! Oi, you… uh, new dude from last week, hold off on the hot sauce! Don’t follow the recipe book, those geezers are here for the first time so we hafta make ’em wanna come back, y’know? Okay, just… just hang in there, don’t send it off without me tasting first.”

Macao looked at his the young man and chuckled, “Give the guy some slack, Natsu.”

“Eh, don’t worry he can do it but I’m just gonna make sure no one screws up.”

The older man shook his head, bemused and then finally noticed Loke standing by the kitchen doorway. “Hey, Natsu! Loke’s here.”

Natsu looked up from his cooking and blinked at the bodyguard. “Oh. Hey, man. You’re here — why?”

Loke smiled. “Cana told me you’re running things here and I just had to see. Can I come in?”

“Eh, yeah sure. How’re they likin’ the food?” Natsu said, not looking up from his work as Loke stood before him.

“They love it so far. Great job.” the bodyguard said. “Lucy looks relieved.”

“Really? Nice.” Natsu smirked. “How was the party last night? I saw it on the news and Levy sent me some pics she got from the net. All these famous people with Luce, dude. It’s crazy.”

Loke nodded. “It was overwhelming being there.”

Natsu shrugged. “How’s Lucy? ‘Cause before all that she was always tellin’ us that it’s just tirin’ dancing and talkin’ and stuff.”

“She was excellent, as always. The people like her, because… well, why not?”

“So she’s okay? Really okay?” Natsu asked, finally looking up at the bodyguard. “Even with her dad there? He wasn’t mean and shit?”

“He wasn’t.” Loke answered. “I think they’re fine with each other right now. I’m gonna let Lucy tell you about it, though. But yes. She’s really fine. She said her feet hurt a bit, after dancing. But she took it like a champ.”

“I guess that’s good.” Natsu said, smiling his cheerful smile. ‘The girls are gonna ask her ’bout every detail on Monday, anyway. M’sure I’ll just sit back and listen.’ he snorted, then remembered something. “Oh hey, did you dance with her? She said she was gonna dance with ya.”

Loke blinked, not expecting that. “We did, actually… Um, after the party, though.” He paused when Natsu finished up cooking the current dish and then did a taste test on another before sending a waiter off to serve the food.

Natsu stepped away from the empty pots and pans and grabbed the towel draped on his shoulder to wipe some sweat off his forehead. “Eh, so you danced, huh. The girls will have a field day, talkin’ bout lovey dovey things.”

Loke chuckled. “You should have been there, you know. Danced with her.”

“Nah, that’s not me.” Natsu said gingerly, scratching behind his head. “That’s your thing, dancing and being… prince-y and… shiny. Luce likes those sorta stuff. I don’t do ’em though.”

Loke raised an eyebrow. “But she likes you anyway.”

“‘Course, ’cause I cook really good, duh! I’m a mighty cookin’ dragon!” Natsu laughed. “I love Luce to bits but dude, you can’t make me all princey and dancy on a suit like you do. Cooking’s my thing soooooo I just make sure those people out there are havin’ the best food ever. Lucy will kill me if I screw it up, ’ya know.”

Loke chuckled. “I know.”

Natsu looked down, playing with a pot holder on his hands. “Plus, I wanna cook really good stuff for her ’cause I know she’s been pushing herself hard the past few weeks and we couldn’t do anything for her ’cept listen to her complain ’bout it…”

By that time, Loke had noticed that a certain blonde was already standing by the kitchen doorway, listening to the young cook as he talked. Lucy raised a finger to her lips and Loke understood that she wanted to stay unnoticed by Natsu, whose back was turned towards her.

“…and Erza says we hafta support Lucy but it’s hard because there are these cameras and reporters and other shit… And we can’t even really be there in that party to have her back, so… we just had to look for other ways, yeah.”

Loke nodded, smiling. “You’re a great friend.”

“You too.” Natsu grinned. “You take care of Luce really good, though you’re kinda a pervert.”

“I’m not.” the bodyguard deadpanned. “Don’t be rude to the guy looking over your girl.”

The young cook huffed, then smirked slyly. “Eh, my girl’s awesome enough and she already managed to beat some thugs using hot sauce once. She’s badass, yo.”

Loke was about to roll his eyes, but stopped when he saw Lucy quickly move towards them. Natsu stiffened when, without warning, the blonde laid her hands on his shoulders, gave him a sweet peck on the cheek, and then said, “The food was perfect. You’re awesome. Thanks.”

She was out the door just as quickly, and Natsu only managed to catch a hint of blonde hair when he whirled around.

He looked at Loke with a confused expression. “What… Who-… Did that… just happen?”

Loke nodded.

Was that…?

Loke nodded again, this time obviously stiffling a laugh.

Natsu blushed slightly, a hand awkwardly scratching the back of his head, and he was very clearly trying not to smile too widely. “What a weirdo.”

“Both of you. Are too cute. To be real.” Loke said, shaking his head, smiling the wide smile that Natsu was trying to hide. “Honestly.”

It was Cana’s turn to peek her head inside the kitchen. “HEY, LOSERS! Boss says it’s time for dessert! Keep it comin’!”

“Got it!” Natsu answered, then pat Loke’s arm wordlessly before walking past the bodyguard and addressing the kitchen staff. “You heard that, men! Let’s do this! I’m all fired up!”

Loke simply chuckled and, having seen, said and heard more than enough, took his leave.

That night, Loke stood by as Lucy, Virgo and Aries sat on Lucy’s bed, sorting through the stacks of thank-you notes, complimentary cards, bouquets, presents, treats and chocolates from the previous night’s party and some follow-up deliveries during the day. He nibbled on a chocolate bar that Lucy took from the stash and gave to him, while the girls had opened a jar of sweets and were snacking on those as they worked.It looked like the aftermath of a princess’ debut, but Supetto-san and Capricorn told him that it was the usual. They seemed very much used to it when he handed them a pack of expensive fruit drops and biscuits (again from the presents stash) on Lucy’s request. Both simply chuckled and accepted the treats, telling him to tell Lucy they said ‘thanks’.While they did this sorting, Lucy was on speakerphone with Natsu.

“Ne, Luigi. Why’d you run away earlier, huh? Just goin’ in like that and goin’ out.”

Lucy shrugged. “What? I could barely sneak out from those guests and I was in a hurry. I said ‘hi’, didn’t I?”

“Errr… yeah ya did.” his voice sounded tentative. “So whatcha doin’ right now? You still in your big house?”

“Yep, still in the big house. I’m letting Virgo and Aries help me go through the presents. While Loke’s chillin’ on the corner knockin’ himself out with chocolate.”

Loke pouted and called out. “Hey, you gave it to me!”

“Tell ’im to calm down, yo.” Natsu said, laughing.

“He heard you.” Lucy mused.

“What presents?”

“Oh, just gifts. Like, uh, tokens and thank-you cards, and some candies and chocolates, flowers…”

“Wow, why, are you sick?”

Lucy laughed. “No, dummy. It’s… uh, customary for ’em to do this after the big event, see. I dunno, they just want to impress some more. Yay for us, though. We got real nice food and flowers here for free. I already gave Supetto-san her favorite fruit drops and Capricorn some biscuits, since he likes those very much…”

“Eeehhhh? So you just really got gifts for throwing out that big fancy party?”

“Don’t worry, I’m saving up some for you and the others. I set aside some cookies… and candies and chocolates… Let’s eat ’em up tomorrow!”

A whistle. “Whew. Nice! There’s really that many?”

“Yep. I dunno how these people expect me to eat all of this.”

“Eh, so that’s why you get fat…”

“Shut up. I’m not getting fat.”

He sniggered.

“And hey, can you believe how many still sent teddy bears and stuffed animals? Gosh, there’s a whole bunch!”

“What’re you gonna do with ’em?”

“Ah, I’ve gathered those and I’m telling Capricorn to put them in with the toys we’re gonna give out to the children in the orphanage on Christmas. Except some. I think Levy and Juvia will like these, plus there’s a really cute big white kitty I think Wendy-chan would love.”

“You’re giving ’em away?”

“I already have lots of these. They’ll be more appreciated with others.”

“Okay.” there was a pause. “So, um… I saw you with those other rich folks a while ago… y’see, I kinda took a peek just to see how they liked the food and… and umm…”

“Yeah?” Lucy encouraged. These were the rare times Natsu was being serious again, like that one time in his bedroom when they were musing about Romeo, or when they were in her apartment talking about Lisanna. She was about to stand up, excuse herself and take her phone with her to her balcony for more privacy, but then Virgo and Aries, as if sensing the mood, automatically stood up. Virgo said that she will get some drinks while Aries said something about taking out the trash to clear some space in the bed up. Loke opened the door for his sisters and was about to follow them out when Lucy shook her head, signalling for him to stay.

He nodded silently and closed the door again.

“Umm…” Natsu continued, and Lucy could just as well see him pouting up at the ceiling, brows furrowed and thinking hard. “I kinda thought you were great back there. Like, you’re really different, even Igneel says too, but it’s kind of an awesome type of different ’ya know.”

Lucy smiled, exchanging a look with Loke, who shrugged innocently at her. “It was? Really?”

“Yeah. I mean, you kick ass, kinda… not in an Erza kinda way but… yeah. You were like, really cool, I think, ’cause when ya told us before that you’re gonna act all charming and sweet like with the people at the party… what I thought was you’re gonna be this creepy sweet snobby-ish princess-ish… yeah. You get me?”

“I get you.”

“But y’know you’re not that at all a while ago. I mean, when you were with ’em, you’re different but you’re still you and I think they like you enough even without the princess drama. You don’t really hafta do much, you know. You should lay off the best actress gig for a minute and I think they’ll still like you…’cause why not?”

“You really think so?”

“Yeah, geez — I really thought you’ll be a completely new Lucy in there but that was really just a more badass version of you.”

Loke had to agree. Even at the party, Lucy wasn’t a completely different person. She spoke with more grace but that was still her. Maybe this was what Jude meant when he said that his daughter could put up an act and still be honest. And Natsu… Natsu was more sensitive than Loke expected, picking that up.

“Thanks.” Lucy said, a small smile on her face and fiddling with the hem of her nightgown. “That’s really nice of you, to think of it that way.”

“Yeah. And now my head hurts ’cause of all that.”

Lucy laughed. “Your head hurt thinking of me, huh?”

“Yeah, duh! You’re so troublesome, Luigi!”

“Thanks for bearing with me.”

“Yer welcome. Don’t bring lunch tomorrow, okay? Igneel’s excited to cook for you again. Also let’s go to the arcade after school! You never go with us to play anymore!”

Lucy laughed again, shaking her head. “I’ve been busy.”

“Yeah, and Jet’s beaten your high score in the racing game.”


“Serves you right, not comin with me anymore.”

“Okay, I’m going tomorrow. I’m gonna take back my throne!”

“Yeah? You’re comin?”

“Definitely! I’m all fired up!”

“That’s my line, you weirdo!”

Loke sighed again, then smiled as he watched his mistress laughing and smiling, listening to Natsu on the other end of the line, laughing with her. It was their usual childish banter, but he could tell that they haven’t had one in a while. From the way Lucy was smiling her fond smile, hugging a teddy bear tight against her while she listened to her best friend, Loke didn’t need any other indication to tell how the blonde really felt.

He could just as well say that they were in love already, but he wouldn’t dare push them together too much.

Sometimes people are not ready for love yet. It takes time, preparation and, sometimes, security. Some people want to feel at ease first and foremost, before really falling for someone.

But people are always ready for happiness, and even without the sweeping romantic moments, Loke could tell that the two young people were happy together, satisfied with each other’s company, content with just a simple ‘are you okay?’ and ‘i’m fine’, just knowing that they’re well and they can be together.

Maybe that’s love already, but Loke didn’t want to rush. If they’re happy right now, then that was all that matters. They were young and free, and while nothing is stopping them, there’s no hurry either. They can take their sweet time, fall on their own terms, move at their own pace. They can take as long as they want to figure things out.

As for himself, Loke was content just watching them grow together, and of course, seeing Lucy’s smile. He’ll be there for her — for them — he had made up his mind, just like the others. They were his friends, after all (almost family too).

He wasn’t the source of that smile of hers, but so what? Loke, above all, knew to himself that he was in love. And for him, loving means not caring if he was the reason behind that stunning take-your-heart-away smile, but simply being satisfied that said smile was on that beautiful face.

Loke had seen how lonely and bitter someone can be, and it almost killed him back then because he saw it in a woman he loved fully. But there are very few people in the world who are lucky enough to witness a certain kind of honest, unadultered happiness with their very own eyes. Loke saw this in Lucy, and really — that alone was enough.

Chapter Notes:

Don’t look at me like that, he breaks my heart too!

Next chapter is the last Raijinshuu chap. And finally — Laxus!

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