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 20
Oh Glory


…aka “Even Laxus Has Feelings too”

Chapter Notes:

It is here! The last of the Rainjinshuu chaps, and the longest (I am telling you it IS a long read — 37k words, prepare yourselves) and maybe the heaviest.

This is Laxus’ chapter! And Laxus Dreyar is a precious dork jerk with a heart of gold. So in this chap we have awkward big bro Laxus, brooding teen Laxus, I-dunno-how-to-boyfriend Laxus, and I-will-recite-a-shounen-speech Laxus.

Ah, but getting serious now. I faced some major challenges writing this. Particularly because the ‘Fighting Festival’ arc where Laxus was just a big dang bastard (and his major plot arc) would be too hard to pull off in this fic. There’s no way I can do his major comeback in the Tenrou arc, either.

And with that, I picked his very impressive ‘I Wiped Out Raven Tail In One Sweep’ moment. Which gives us Ivan Dreyar. And around that, I just mixed in some elements from his other arcs. So family drama’s on. So here is Laxus’ chapter. It starts out quite peacefully but picks up on the feels by the end.

Prepare: Dreyar Family feels, Fraxus, Porlyusica-san, Frerajane friendship, a little Gajevy treasure and Raijinshuu preciousness.

I put so much into this, so I hope it gives our blonde grumpy lightning dragon slayer justice.

Track 20: Oh Glory
…aka “Even Laxus Has Feelings too”

I can only hope it’s true enough that every little thing I do for love
redeems me from the moments I deem worthy of the worst things that I’ve done,
and saves me from myself at times of envy when I’m missing every one.
If I wake in the morning, I only need two more miracles to be a saint.
Everything I promised everyone I’d be, well I just ain’t.”
— Panic! At the Disco

It was an ordinary day — or rather quite an ordinary day in Jellal’s standards. Well, actually an ordinary day consisted of Meredy making him want to question his sanity, Ultear making him want to quit the student council thing, and Kagura making him want to jump off the rooftop of the school building to save himself from the pain of whatever she was about to do to him, and only the Meredy thing happened that day… So maybe it was a peaceful day after all.

Jellal cherished peaceful days like these, specially when it will end with tea and cake with Erza.

But when he arrived in the FairyGaku student council office to see a very fancy bouquet of flowers and little balloons, with a small white teddy bear to go with it on the center table, and the red-haired young woman of his heart sitting on the couch, already very enthusiastically eating expensive-looking chocolates from an equally expensive-looking box… his world shattered.

No damn he hates this day after all. Is this why Ultear and Kagura were kind to him today? Because some rich someone will give Erza this bunch of gifts that he could afford only after selling off what, his kidney? And Erza seemed to like it so much too and all Jellal ever offered her was a little phone charm and a slice of cake one day a week and…

“Jellal, great timing! You should taste these chocolates, they’re to die for!”

Damn, Erza liked it so much she didn’t even notice there was a smudge of chocolate on the side of her lips.

Damn, she looked so cute, smiling brightly like that.

Damn, he wasn’t the reason but oh what the hell he was standing there like an idiot.

So Jellal composed himself and smiled. “Really?” He asked as he walked towards her and sat on the couch, gingerly putting the box of cake he brought with him down on the table, beside the chocolates. It broke his heart a little because she kinda failed to notice the cake as she was so busy with the chocolates…

“Really! Here, have some.” Erza said, pushing the chocolate box towards him eagerly, and he humored the girl, taking a piece of chocolate and popping it into his mouth.

She was right.

“Th-they’re really good…” he said, chewing slowly.

“Told you.” Erza said with a small smile then ate another piece, sighing as she savored the taste.

Jellal took this moment to scrutinize the alarmingly fancy flower and balloon arrangement in front of him. Is there a card? There must be a card… Did Erza hide it or…? Maybe it was in the teddy bear? That teddy bear had a silk red ribbon on it and it was holding a plush heart. Embroidered in the heart are the words ‘For a very special lady’. He swore that heart was mocking him. He couldn’t help but glare at it and think ‘damn you Erza already knows she’s special you don’t have to tell her, stupid heart’.

Then Jellal realized he was talking (or more accurately, thinking) not like himself. Maybe more like Cobra-kun. Maybe the guy was hanging around him too much lately and it was rubbing off on him…


It baffled him that it wasn’t much different.

“Isn’t it pretty?” Erza asked, smiling at the bouquet and the teddy bear, catching his attention. “I wonder how much this cost, though…”

He smiled back, uneasily this time. “It looks pretty expensive.”

Erza nodded, then offered him the box of chocolates again. “Want some more?”

Those chocolates were mocking him too, because he couldn’t help but say ‘yes’… they just tasted so good.

“Oh, you brought cake! I’m kinda full…”

Jellal got angrier at the chocolates.

“Want to share?”

Okay, chocolate — you are forgiven.

He still hated the teddy bear’s stupid plush heart, though.

But Jellal sucked it up (because he knew he had no right to be jealous because hey, he’s just a friend and Erza was famous and her getting presents shouldn’t be unusual) and he simply said, “Sure.”

Erza grinned and then stood up. “Great. I’ll go make some tea.”

Jellal watched as the red-head headed to the storage cabinet of the office to prepare their usual tea set. While his companion had her back turned to him, he slowly, carefully poked around the bouquet and the teddy bear for a card, a letter… any indication… Because he was just curious, see.

Unfortunately, he found none, so he kept his hands to himself and waited patiently.

Not without taking another piece of chocolate, though. He swore, if they didn’t taste so good…

After a few minutes, Erza laid the tray down on the table and poured a drink for both of them before sitting down again.

“Um, Erza…” he called out tentatively, while the other teen was unwrapping the cake he brought.

Erza looked up at him. “Yes?”

“You’ve got, uh, chocolate…” he trailed off, and then gave up and resorted to gesturing vaguely towards her cheek.

“E-ehh..?” the red-head blushed and then quickly brought her hands to her face. “W-where? Here?”

“No, on the… other side, no, not there, uh… a little to the left—”

Erza blinked in confusion, then started rubbing on the wrong spot on her face… “Here?”

“No, uh, let me.” He said, then took a tissue from the nearby tissue box and reached out towards her—

She leaned away… awkwardly.

He blinked, then realized what he was doing, and quickly shook his head and “A-ah, I’m sorry— Just…”

“N-no, I mean… Err… uh—”

“H-here, the tissue.”

“Thanks, umm…”

“err, it’s beside your lip— no, left side—”

That’s when another voice was heard. A groan, followed by “God, Erza just let him do it. Then get carried away so you can kiss each other and then hook up and beat Natsu and Lucy to it.”

They both whirled around to see Max on his desk looking at them, unimpressed.


“Since when have you been there?!”

The treasurer raised an eyebrow. “I’ve been here the whole time, duh.”


“You,” he pointed at Erza. “…were so busy with the chocolates. You,” this time he indicated Jellal. “…were so busy being jealous of the chocolates and glaring at the teddy bear and flowers to notice me.”

Erza looked at Jellal. “You were what?”

Jellal didn’t know how to explain.

Max sighed. “Erza, please end his suffering.”

“What…?” the student council president asked, clueless.

Max sighed again. Gods, if they ever start a bet, these two would be a tougher time than Natsu and Lucy. “Dude, those stuff are from Lucy, leftovers from her big party last weekend. She got a lot of presents and brought some here to share with everyone. So there’s no rich fancy tough competition, calm your manly tits.”

Erza looked at Jellal, and Jellal looked down, embarrassed. “A-ah…”

And finally she got it. “You thought someone gave these to me?”

“He was looking murderously at the innocent teddy bear.” Max supplied helpfully.

Jellal gaped, looking away “I-I…-!”

His companions looked at him, one confused and one smug.

“O-only for a bit.” he admitted lamely.

Erza got more confused.

Max sniggered, standing up and slinging his bag over his shoulder. “Anyways, I’ll go home and leave you two alone now. Bye, prez, and prez’s boyfriend.”

“Take care.” was all Erza said as she watched the guy leave (he stopped by the table to grab some chocolate for himself before heading for the door) not bothering to correct him. These days, she had almost completely given up. When they were left alone, Erza looked at her companion. “What did the teddy bear do to you?”

He couldn’t quite figure out how to say that he felt like the teddy bear was mocking him without saying that he felt like the teddy bear was mocking him.

So Jellal simply pointed at the young woman’s face again. “There’s still some left.”

Luckily, Erza was distracted by that and by the time she got the chocolate off her cheek, he was already happily serving her the slice of cake he brought… and Erza, being Erza, forgot everything else and thanked him sweetly.

Jellal smiled as they shared the cake slice and Erza talked about how Lucy surprised them all when she arrived that morning with the fancy bouquet and like five boxes of chocolate. She said that the blonde thought that the flowers will add some cheer to the otherwise plain center table (it turned out to be too fancy for the office, but hey it looked nice) and then they all shared the chocolates.

“Laki has already claimed the bear, she’ll come back for it tomorrow.”

Erza didn’t know how many times Jellal had recited ‘I’m sorry, bear.’ inside his head as she talked.

“I’m really glad that Lucy’s back, though. She’s been really busy last week, we almost didn’t see her outside classes.” Erza mused absently, watching him eat the cake they were sharing.

“I saw the news on that. It looked like a really big party.”

“Levy looked up these pictures from the net and it looked as high-profile as it sounded.” Erza said, shrugging. “It’s almost hard to believe that the girl in the photos is the same Lucy who rushed early today with Natsu and the guys to go to the arcade.” she said with a small laugh.

Jellal chuckled. He can pretty much see the blonde dragging Natsu and laughing with the guys while they played video games.

After talking some more, Erza and Jellal had finished the cake and ran out of tea. He was helping the red-head clean up when there was a knock on the door and before Erza could say come in, it was opened and none other than the FairyGaku headmaster himself walked in.

“Master.” Erza blinked, seeing her guardian. “Good afternoon.”

“Ah.” Makarov said, then smiled when he saw Jellal. “Jellal-kun is here.”

“Good afternoon, sir.” Jellal said in greeting.

“I hope I’m not interrupting anything..”

The teens quickly shook their heads, and Erza said, “Not at all, Master! We were just cleaning up. Anything we can do for you?”

Makarov shrugged. “Naw, if you’re busy, I guess it’s fine…”

“We’re about to go home.” Erza assured. Jellal didn’t want to impose, either, so he kept silent.

“Oh. Well, then. Can you do me a favor and go do some groceries? I sent Laxus to do it and he sent me back a ton of questions about the stuff and I think it’d be better if you joined him and help him with it or he’ll just buy all the wrong things.”

Erza groaned, rolling her eyes. “He’s so reliable.”

Makarov chuckled. “My grandson fails at the simplest tasks.” He gave Jellal a friendly grin and the young man simply smiled back. “But if you kids have somewhere to be, I can just call him to clear things up.”

“No need, Master. I’ll go text him and meet up. I need to buy some things, anyway.” Erza quickly said.

“Great. What about you, Jellal-kun?”

Jellal shrugged. “I was just about to head home, sir.” He wanted to walk home with Erza, of course. But he also knew that he shouldn’t be demanding… he had no right to. He knew full well that he wasn’t Erza’s priority.

Makarov nodded at both of them. “Take care, then. Both of you. Erza?”


“I might be home late. I promised Porlyusica I’ll go to her for check-up tonight.”

Erza nodded obediently. “Sure thing. Should we leave dinner for you?”

“Nah, don’t bother.”

With another nod, the old man waved in dismissal and went out the room. Erza and Jellal finished cleaning up and headed out side by side. They parted by the school gates where, in what seemed like perfect timing, Romeo and Wendy were just passing by on their way home. Erza waved goodbye to the three of them and watched their retreating backs until they disappeared down the road before she started walking to town.

Contrary to popular belief, Erza and Laxus got along well. Laxus was a bit of a jerk (okay, sometimes he was a REALLY big jerk) but Erza was mostly quiet and composed around him, so he had very little to complain about. Her little quirks, such as her enthusiasm for cake or her blushing and stammering at something that scandalized her, he let all of those pass. He’s had worse (Bixlow was NOISY when he wanted sweets, Freed THREATENED people when he was embarrassed) so Erza was, pardon the pun, a piece of cake. Erza was used to dealing with brutes and tough guys, and if you ignore Laxus’ potty mouth and occasional rudeness, to her he was just like any big brother — minus the doting she was used to seeing between Jellal, Mystogan and Wendy. Laxus doesn’t dote.When she got to the grocery store, Erza walked around to look for her brother. The last text she got from him just told her to “hurry up slowpoke. i’ll wait.”

It wasn’t hard to find a tall blonde guy in a purple polo shirt, really. When she found him, though, Erza had to resist laughing because Laxus was listening very intently at none other than petite, gentle Levy, who was pointing out at something on his list and very patiently explaining something.

“Is this guy bothering you?” Erza said as she approached them. The two turned towards her, Levy with a bright smile and Laxus with an unimpressed frown.

“Erza! Laxus was just asking about sugar.”

Sugar.” Erza repeated, looking pointedly at the blonde. Levy giggled.

Laxus looked away, grumbling “There’s like a shitload of sugar in here.”

Erza simply shook her head hopelessly and held out her palm. Laxus grudgingly handed her the grocery list and then wheeled off their shopping cart.

Erza turned to her friend. “Thanks, Levy. I’ll take it from here. Sorry, my rude brother must’ve scared you.”

“No problem!” Levy said with a laugh. ‘I actually thought it was cute. Y’know, when big tough guys ask for help. They get all embarrassed and stuff.’ Erza raised an eyebrow but didn’t ask further, because Levy was already skipping away. The blunette waved. “See you at school!”

Erza waved back, then caught up to Laxus, who was dumping some snacks in the cart.

“Hey, that’s not in the list.” she pointed out, looking through their grocery list.

“I’m paying for ’em. Get some too if you want.”

She blinked. “Your treat?”

“Yeah, but not too much. It’s just we got paid for a gig so I have some pocket money.”

“Oh. Okay.” Erza said, smiling lightly, then taking a pack of her favorite biscuits and putting it in the cart as well. Laxus looked at it shortly before shrugging and continuing his walk along the grocery shelves. After that, he simply followed Erza as she went through the lanes and picked stuff up and put them in the cart, crossing off items from the list.

By the middle of their errand, he found himself carrying her schoolbag for her and silently trailing after her, just grunting some answers whenever she asked his opinion about something.

“By the way are you home on Friday?”

He paused for a beat before answering. “Yeah, why wouldn’t I be?”

She raised an eyebrow at him and then shrugged. “I don’t know, maybe you’ve got a date, or a late-night gig and you’ll crash at Freed’s or Bixlow’s? You always do, you know.”

Laxus shook his head. “Well, not this week, I’m free. Why’d you ask?”

Erza crossed out another item on the list as she placed some vegetables on the cart. “Well, it’s just that I felt like you need a heads up, because we’re having a sleepover of some sorts…”

“Sleepover? Who?”

“Oh, it’s just me and the girls. Lucy, Levy, Juvia, Bisca… I don’t know if Laki is coming, or Cana, because she might be tired from work. But that’s it.”

“Shit, you’re havin’ a… what does Bix call it? A girl’s night?”

“Something like that.”

“Why?” he asked dumbly, watching her place a dozen eggs in the cart. “You guys see each other everyday at school, you also have to sleep together?”

She gave him a half-hearted glare.

“…and what will you do, talk about boys?”

“Not really-… well, I’m sure Juvia will talk about Gray, but we’re helping Lucy write these… um, thank-you card… things. From her party. It’s the least we can do to help her out, ’cause she’s had a tough couple of weeks. And we’ll just watch a movie and maybe eat more of those delicious chocolates she stocked up.”

“Huh.” was all he said. “So what you’re sayin’ is if I stay at home Friday night, I’ll hear girly giggles and chit-chat until mornin’?”

“I’m sure it won’t last until morning.” Erza chuckled. “It’s just that it won’t be as quiet as usual so if you don’t like that, go make plans or something. Take your boyfriend out or go to a gig, or have your own night-out with the band, or a sleepover…”

“Whatever, that’s noted. I’ll see if I can bear your flock of girls, or if I’ll just go sleep at Freed’s again.”

“Don’t overdo it. He might get tired of you.”

Laxus huffed. “Since when has Miss ‘Too-Young-To-Date’ been an expert in relationships?”

Erza rolled her eyes. “I’m just saying that you shouldn’t get used to just barging in so rudely because one of these days you just might piss poor Freed off for real.”

“I don’t ‘barge in rudely’.” Laxus snorted. “I always text first before coming over.”

Erza simply sighed and did a once over on the list before folding it neatly. “We’re done.” she said with a smile.

“Ah, finally. Let’s get goin’. I’m hungry. What’s for dinner?”

Erza followed him as he wheeled their cart towards the checkout counters. “I don’t know. What do you want? Master said we should have dinner without him, since he’ll be at Porlyusica-san’s tonight.”



“Hn.” he mused for a bit as they fell in line with the other shoppers at the checkout. “Let’s just eat out. Been long since I last ate at Yajii-jii’s.”

The red-head blinked. “Your treat? Again?”

“Yeah.” the blonde looked at her. “Why, ya wanna pay?”

“N-No! I mean, it’s good, your treat. Let’s eat out. Did the last gig pay that well?” Erza wasn’t used to her foster brother treating her snacks and dinner… it was a rare thing. Yes, when he gets paid after a gig, he took some stuff home. Like a box of doughnuts for dessert, or he stocked up the snacks in the house, sometimes he brought small treats, like pudding or cookies… several times he bought her small presents for her birthday and she knew it was from the band’s big things he brought home, like the apple pies, cakes, a pot of curry, those were mostly tokens from Freed or Evergreen that he just delivered. But Laxus telling her to get whatever she wanted and then to treat her dinner after, well it was a nice surprise…

“Nah, it’s the usual.” he simply said. “It’s just I don’t have anything I’d use cash for right now, and I still haven’t spent everything from the gig before so I got some bills to spare.”

Erza accepted the answer easily and just smiled to herself. She’ll just enjoy the rare treat while it lasts.

“Ah, it’s Erza-chan and Laxus-kun. How nice, I don’t always see you together…”Both students looked up from their meal when they heard the familiar old man’s voice address them.

Erza’s face lit up as she gave a little polite bow. “Yajima-san! Good evening, sir.”

Laxus smiled more casually, nodding at the man in regards. “Hey, Yaji-jii, what’s up?”

The old man couldn’t help but smile back a little. He had almost forgotten how different the ‘siblings’ were. One rightly proper and the other rough and laidback. They have always been contrasts. For him, Erza, Laxus and their circle of friends were like his grandchildren. He may not know them all as well as Makarov does, but most of them grew under his wing in one way or another.

“Ah, nothing. Gray-kun’s got the bakery covered so I thought I’d check here. Didn’t expect to see you children.”

Erza quickly moved to offer Yajima-san a space to sit in with them and he did so. Laxus continued eating while Yajima-san talked. Erza, ever polite and proper, entertained the man in conversation between bites. Yajima-san told them about how often Cana and Gildarts ate out in the restaurant these days, that it was nice to see father and daughter getting along so well. He asked how the new kids Gajeel and Juvia were doing, too. He told the siblings that Gray sometimes brought home some cookies and pastries for Juvia when he was getting off his shift early, and that he doesn’t hear much from ‘that quiet Gajeel-kun’ but he thinks that if the young teen’s not making trouble then it was just as well. He said it was very nice of Mirajane and Elfman to give him a new set of cooking utensils for his birthday the previous month. Then he smiled up at Erza and said that he thinks that Jellal-kun was such a fine young man, that Erza chose well having such a thoughtful boyfriend.

Laxus sniggered while Erza stuttered and blushed while trying to correct Yajima-san.

In the end, he asked the kids — never mind that they’re not too much of kids anymore — how they were doing. Erza if course answered the usual, that she took the Fiore U exams, that school was getting busier but it was really fun… All in all she was doing well. Laxus said that he was cool, too. He’s got uni and the band and that’s it — he was set. Freed, Bix and Ever were the same as always. Yajima-san seemed content with their answers.

The two stayed a bit longer after they finished their dinner so they could talk a bit more with their makeshift-grandfather. Before they left, Yaji-jii told them to say ‘hello’ to Makarov and Porlyusica for him. Like the concerned parent that he was, he told them to take care as well, specially Laxus, who was going to drive his motorcycle home.

They said the obligatory ‘yes, Yaji-jii’ before the man let them go.

“Man, Yaji-jii got old.” Laxus said as he started up his bike while adjusting the grocery bags they had with them.

Erza chuckled. “Of course he did.”

“Nah, I mean he got OLD old. Like, sentimental old.”

The red-head hopped into the bike behind her older brother and pat her skirt carefully before holding on to his shoulders. “Master’s the same age, you know. Don’t tell me you don’t notice.”

“Gramps will always be gramps.” Laxus snorted. “Grumpy and crazy.”

Erza simply shook her head, but couldn’t help but smile. It was nice, catching up with Yaji-jii, who she already saw as family, and then kinda-sorta-hanging out with Laxus, just like back when they were children. He wasn’t the most outstanding big brother to her growing up but he had his moments.

As they rode home, she leaned her head on his back and closed her eyes, savoring the feeling of the wind against her face and her hair. Laxus made a noise that sounded a lot like ‘don’t fall asleep back there’ and left it at that, let his little sister just savor the moment.

But that night, what Erza really appreciated the most was that while Laxus knew a lot of shortcuts, he took the long way home. She guessed he knew how much she liked the ride, after all.

When Erza first joined their family, Laxus said, “I don’t have a sister.”That was his response when Makarov introduced the red-haired eight year old to his grandson and told them that from that day forward, they were siblings.

“Well,” Makarov started, patting Erza on the head while she avoided looking at the blonde. “Now you do.”

Laxus huffed. He’s never even seen the girl before. She was a sad-looking thing, and who wore an eyepatch these days? Must be some weirdo… “You’re the one adopting her, gramps. Not dad.”

“I didn’t know that you’d rather want an aunt.”

“I don’t want an aunt!”

“Fine. Erza-chan is your sister, then.” Makarov smirked. Laxus pouted, knowing there was no way he could win against his grandfather. “Your father’s not around, and you don’t have much friends. You could use some company. Erza-chan doesn’t have a family. She’ll be happy to have one. It all works out, doesn’t it?”

“When dad comes home, he’s taking me with ’im.” Laxus said. “He told me last time.”

“Still works out.” the old man shrugged. “That way I won’t be alone when you leave.”

Laxus flinched a bit, but quickly acted smug as he turned to Erza. “Yeah, you can just take care of gramps. Don’t go botherin’ me now.” With that, the boy walked away, headed to his room.

Erza looked uncertainly at her new guardian, but Makarov just sent her a kind smile. “He’s not always like that. Don’t worry. He’ll warm up to you. He used to be more cheerful.”

“Is it true? You’re going to be alone, Master?”

“Nah, that’s not gonna happen anytime soon, child. First, we have somewhere to be. I asked a friend to look at your eye for you. She’s a great doctor, she might be able to do somethin’ ’bout it.”

“H-Hai…” the girl said meekly, then watched as her guardian set down the bag that contained what little belongings she had on the bottom of the staircase. Makarov gave her a reassuring smile as he offered his hand to her and then led her out the house again.

They got into a cab, Erza silently listening as her guardian talked about her new family. “My son Ivan is a busy man, you see. He runs several businesses — a few years ago, his office was just here in Magnolia, but then he moved to another town so that his partners and clients will have an easier time getting in touch with him. Laxus’ mother died when he was just two, she has always had weak health. Unfortunately, Laxus got that from her, so when he was younger, he was very sickly.”

Erza blinked. The tall, tough-looking boy earlier didn’t look sick in any way. He was kinda rude and mean, but not certainly not sick… “He’s okay now?”

“Yes. It’s been about three years since he recovered and he’s now very healthy. Ivan worked very hard to get him the best treatment possible. I thought that since he’s back to full health and can go to school again, he’ll make friends, but it looks like he hasn’t made any. Maybe the closest relationship he has to a child his age is with Mirajane — and that’s because they’re always fighting.” Makarov chuckled, very familiar with the famous shouting matches and so-called ‘duels’ between his grandson and the eldest Strauss daughter. “See, he isn’t that good at making friends, or even being friendly in general, but maybe that’s simply because he doesn’t know how — hasn’t figured it out yet. So I hope you’d be patient with him.”

“He’s just been alone too long.” Erza said. “Am I right, Master?”

Makarov nodded, pleased that the girl picked up so quickly. “I knew you’d understand.”

Erza understood. All her other friends from the orphanage are gone — and for this new family and life that Makarov offered her, she knew she needed to start from scratch.

Like Laxus, she didn’t quite know how to reach out to others. She was willing to try and figure it out and maybe… just maybe he was, too.

At Friday night, Laxus found himself helping his grandfather clean up after an unusually loud dinner with their guests. The girls wanted to help out, but Makarov insisted that they head upstairs to do whatever it was that they came over to do and that he and Laxus will handle the cleaning. Laxus grunted but grudgingly helped his grandfather out. Erza and Cana were stubborn and didn’t take ‘no’ for an answer when they started washing the dishes — so the men let them have their way while, according to them, the other girls upstairs have already started helping Lucy with the blonde’s ‘thank-you’ cards.After the dishes were cleaned, Erza and Cana announced that they will be joining the others upstairs.

Makarov waved them off cheerfully. “We’ll be bringing you snacks later.”

“Snacks?” Erza blinked. Her guardian didn’t mention anything about preparing snacks for them…

Cana backed her friend up. “Gramps, please don’t bother. The dinner alone was great already—”

“Ah, nonsense. I rarely have you young ladies over — let’s make the most out of it.” the old man cheerfully said, while Laxus simply groaned. He just knew that he’ll be helping his grandfather prepare the snacks, whatever snacks those were. And he also knew that he sucked at those.

It took a bit more goading from Makarov to get Erza and Cana to join their friends already, but after a few moments, the dishes and the dining table were clean. Makarov asked Laxus to turn the TV on and switch to a news channel and the blonde did so, slumping lazily on one end of the couch while his grandfather sat on the other end.

Grandfather and grandson remained silent as they watched the news reports on the television, but after a few minutes, Laxus spoke up.

“Say, gramps…”

“Hm?” the old man asked, turning to look at his younger companion.

“We never got to ask, ’cause I went out and Erza slept early last time, so… How’d the check-up with Porlyusica-san go?”

“The usual, she scolded me for indulging myself in too much of Yaji’s pastries.” Makarov chuckled. “But it was alright, for the most part. Got myself the usual prescription.”

Laxus nodded absently, grunting as he looked at the TV screen, not really watching the show.



“Could you make me a cup of coffee?”

Laxus stood up with a small grunt. “Comin’ right up.”

Makarov’s gaze followed his grandson as the young man walked past him and headed to the kitchen. “You do know my blend?”

Laxus snorted as he took out a mug and set it beside the jars of instant coffee, milk, creamer and sugar on their working table. “Who d’you think’s been makin’ it for you all this time, old man?”

“The past two years? Erza.” Makarov said absently. “It’s just that you’re often busy.”

Laxus paused abruptly as he grabbed a teaspoon and was about to scoop out some instant coffee.

His grandfather was right. Laxus used to do this all the time as a kid, even as a young teen, but the past few years (specially those months he “ran away” from home), Erza had taken over the task. She was always the good kid in the household, anyway.

All Laxus said was “Don’t worry, I’ve got it.” and his grandfather didn’t say anything more.

As he was stirring the hot beverage, the phone on his pocket rang.

He used his free hand to answer the call, not checking the number. Only the band called him on his phone, besides Erza and his grandfather. “Yo.”

On the other line, he heard Freed’s clear, soft voice. [‘Hey. Good evening.’]

“Hey.” he said, glancing at his grandfather, who was focused on the primetime weather report. “What’s up?”

[‘Can you come over?’]

Okay, that was really straight to the point. Weird. “What, now? At your place? Something wrong?”

[‘No, nothing’s wrong. But we need you at Mira’s. It’ll be quick, I promise.’]

“Eh?” — and now he was confused. “What’s up at Mira’s?”

[‘We’ll tell you when you get there. Can you go? Please?’]

“Err, I dunno, man — Erza’s girls are over here and gramp’s making snacks and I’m kinda helping out—”

“Is that Freed?” Makarov asked, not taking his eyes off the TV. Laxus hasn’t answered yet but the old man turned towards him shortly and gave a dismissive wave. “Go ahead.”

“But you—”

“Nah, everything’s cleaned up and I can always call Erza to help for a bit, anyway.”

Laxus frowned, then shrugged and then got back to the call. “Alright, lemme just grab my jacket. Mira’s?”

[‘Yep. Thanks, Laxus!’]

“Yeah, yeah. This better be good.”

[‘I swear. Be safe!’]

He hung up, picked the coffeed up and handed the mug to his grandfather. “I’ll be out for a bit. Freed’s being weird.”

“Sure, sure. Say ‘hello’ to them for me.” Makarov said simply, and said nothing more as his grandson grabbed his furcoat, wallet and keys, and then went out. He heard the tell-tale sound of the motorcycle roaring to life and then fading out as the vehicle sped down the street.

He sent Freed another text as soon as he parked his bike in front of The Strauss’. It was almost closing time, and from outside, he can see Kinana, Elfman, and another part-timer attending to the late evening crowd. There was no sign of Freed or Mira in the bar.[‘Im here. Where r u’]

[‘Out back.’]

He raised an eyebrow, but followed the instructions anyway, taking the small alley beside the bar and climbing the stairs before knocking on the door to the Strauss family residence.

The door opened and he was greeted by Evergreen, who was wearing an apron, and a baking mitt on one hand. “Hey! You made it.” The brunette greeted cheerfully before turning to shout at someone inside the house. “Mira, Laxus is here!”

Ever let Laxus step inside the house and then pushed him towards the kitchen, where Mira just took a freshly-baked, delicious-smelling party-sized pie from the oven. The barmaid smiled her sweet smile as she laid the tray in the table with a flourish. “Ta-da! Perfect timing, Laxus! The pie’s fresh out of the oven. We’ll wrap this up so you can bring it home.”

Laxus started dumbly at the two women as they worked on setting the pie on a nice plate and then put it on a plastic container. Then while the two fussed over choosing a proper cloth to wrap the container with, Laxus finally snapped back to his senses.

“Wait, what am I doing here, exactly?”

“Oh, we asked Freed to ask you to come over. We wanna send this pie to Erza.” Mira explained kindly.

“Where’s he?”

“Err, I don’t know. At home?” Evergreen shrugged. “We just asked him and he said he’ll take care of it and send you here and… well, here you are.”

“He’s so reliable.” Mira sighed, smiling.

Laxus groaned tiredly. “And you couldn’t just come over to the house and bring the food yourself because…?”

“…because I have a bar to run and it’s Friday night — I could hardly take an hour off to make this with Ever, and Ever’s got somewhere to be in, like, fifteen minutes.”

“Yep.” Evergreen nodded. “Erza and the girls wanted us to come, but we both couldn’t, and she’s nice enough to invite us so we thought we’ll just send our love via apple pie…”

“…plus, we’re sure the Principal could use some help, knowing you’re kinda hopeless at kitchen duty.”

Laxus rolled his eyes. “Why didn’t you just ask me to come over and pick up the nice pie? Freed was weird over the phone, I thought something was up.”

“Awww, he was seriously worried!” Mira squealed.

Ever huffed, adjusting her glasses smugly. “Knowing you, you’ll just act grumpy and tell us to do it ourselves.”

“No, shit. It’s just some food, and it’s just here and I’d rather play delivery guy than listen to my sister and her friend’s chat all night, or watch the dumb news with gramps.”

The two stared at him.

He stared back. “What.”

Evergreen raised an eyebrow. “You mean you would’ve done it, no questions?”

“Yeah, I’m not some jerk.”

“Yes, you are.” both women answered.

“Most of the time, at least.” Mira added.

To support the barmaid, Ever pretended to think first before saying, “Umm, about 55 to 65 percent of the time.”

He groaned. “Fine, but-… err-… fuck, just get it over with.”

As the blonde strapped the cozily wrapped pie to his motorcycle, he called his green-haired bandmate-slash-boyfriend. It rung a few times before Freed picked up.[‘Hey. Anything wrong?’]

Laxus groaned. “You set me up. Very nice.”

He heard Freed chuckle. [‘I’m so sorry, they kept asking me and I tried telling them that they should tell you themselves but… I don’t know, they keep saying you won’t listen to them.’]

“Am I really that bad?”

[’Well, you were at home, and most of the time you’re having a row with your grandpa, or having some silly argument with Erza — this time there are at least five teenage girls in the same house, so maybe they thought you’d be cranky and stuff…’]

“Whatever. Where are you anyway?”

[‘I thought I told you. Family dinner? At my parent’s house?’]

“OH. Yeah. You did say somethin’ like that.” Crap, how could he forget? And to think he fell for the trick and expected Freed to be at Mira’s when he came…

[‘How is it, anyway? Have you gone home yet?’]

“Nah, still at Mira’s parking lot. On my way home. The pie looked nice, smelled nice too. The girls will have a field day.”

Freed laughed. [‘They will. Get going now, though… I just snuck out from the dining table so I have to get back ASAP.’] — and he did sound rushed. He was talking at twice his usual pace.

“Fine, fine. Enjoy whatever boring talk there is with your folks.” he said, sighing. “You free tomorrow?”

[‘I think so. Why?’]

“Eh, Lucy brought over some nice chocolates and she gave me one box, said to share it with the band, you got a special mention for… she said somethin’ about getting her out of a pinch.”

[‘Ah, yes. I kinda did. That’ll be great, though, the chocolates. I’ll call you tomorrow when I’m free.’]

“Alright, sure. I’m off.”

[‘Okay. Drive safe! Love you!’]

He knew that after that, Freed will immediately hang up, so he quickly said, “Hey, wait.”

[‘Y-Yes? Anything I missed?’]

“Say that again.”

[’Um… what? I said I’ll call you tomorrow when I can meet up, or if I’m going back to my flat—’]

“No, the other one.”

[‘What? Umm… drive safe? I love you?’]

Laxus wanted to slap himself because he looked like an idiot with that stupid grin on his face. Something about how Freed just so easily said those things, without any warning whatsoever… It somewhat brought his mood up.

Fuck, what was in that iced tea that Mira made him drink? He was being all weird.


“Nothing, I just liked hearing it.”

There was an awkward pause before Freed sighed. [‘It’s unfair, though. I don’t get to hear it from you.] Then he laughed and said, [’Kidding!’]

“Nah, I don’t wanna say it over the phone. Just wait tomorrow maybe.”

[‘Don’t push your cold heart too much, it’s not used to being romantic.’] Freed said jokingly. [‘Till tomorrow then? Go now before the pie gets cold. Mira and Ever will kill you if that happens.’]

He said a curt ‘yeah, bye’ again before hanging up and slipping his phone in his pocket. He got in his bike and started the engine. Laxus took one last look at The Strauss’, and from outside he saw Mira back in the bar, helping Elfman and Kinana out. She must have heard the rumble of the motorcycle because she turned towards his direction and waved.

Laxus gave a little mock salute before taking off.

Makarov was indeed very happy (and relieved) when Laxus came back with a box of freshly-baked delicious homemade apple pie. Laxus helped his grandfather set it on a tray with a stack of small plates, a knife and several forks before he brought the set upstairs to the girls.

He knocked and called out, “Room service.” Laxus heard several laughs and giggles from his sister’s bedroom before Levy opened the door. “Mirajane and Evergreen send their love via homemade apple pie.”

He tried not to flinch at the excited exclamations from their guests.

“Oh my gosh, for real?!”


“Did they come over?!”

“I love Mira’s apple pie!”

He was about to leave as soon as Levy took the tray from him, but Cana and Lucy had pulled him inside the room to ask him about Mira and Ever. While at it, Erza and Levy slice the pie, placed the slices on the plates and passed the plates around their friends—

“Wait, wait we haven’t taken a picture of the pie yet!”

The plates were placed back beside the tray as someone took maybe 10 pictures of the food, then the girls took them again and began posing for a group picture…

Laxus found himself taking said group picture of his sister and her friends each holding a little plate with a slice of the apple pie. He didn’t know how it happened but then Laxus also found himself sitting on the floor with the girls, with his own plate, looking at the camera as Laki took a picture of everyone.

He was about to run for dear life with his slice of pie but the girls started asking him about Mira and Ever. He sighed and gave a short explanation of how Freed asked him to come over and the women shoved the pie towards him for delivery.

Then they started asking about Freed and he simply said that Freed was doing fine, he was having dinner with his parents tonight, they’re okay really, the band was still doing good, and he sleeps over sometimes…

That was when Lucy started talking about Freed and how nice he looked at the ball, and what he said about Laxus’ reaction to his dashing get-up.

Cana and Erza proceeded to scold Laxus because ‘SHINY is not a compliment!’ and ‘YOU SHOULD HAVE TOLD HIM THAT HE LOOKED GREAT!’

…and Laxus tried to think of what the freakin’ hell was wrong with that night, because he didn’t know how he got dragged and swept away to joining in stuff that he normally never got involved in.

Because hell, he cleaned up after dinner with a bunch of girls, got summoned to be an impromptu apple pie delivery guy, and now… now he was in a freakin’ slumber party slash relationship council.

Gray planned to spend his quiet ‘alone’ night making something, a sketch maybe, or a sculpture since there was a huge slab of ice in their freezer sitting there for days now. He never really found the time. He already called Juvia and told her to have fun with the girls ( “And remember, they’re all good friends of ours, so don’t get stabby.”), and he had sent Cana off after confiscating the beer she stashed in her bag ( “Don’t cause trouble for Erza or the principal, you drunk!”).Don’t get him wrong. He loved time with his girls, but it was a nice change of pace — he really was looking forward to this quiet Friday night alone…

Unfortunately, Natsu barged in with Happy, claiming that he was bored because Igneel was out drinking with his buddies and Lucy was with the girls. Next came Gajeel, who said that it was awkward just staying at Lucy’s flat with Loke. The guy claimed, with a straight face, that his eyes hurt because the bodyguard sparkles too much. Then for some reason, Natsu thought it would be cool to call Jet and Droy over as well, because Droy will no doubt bring food. Gray didn’t know how but somehow Alzack, Warren and Max came over too, and then finally a reluctant Mystogan who dragged Jellal with him for support, just in case.

They all pitched in to bring some form of snacks and drinks. So Gray had nothing to complain about that.

But dammit, there goes the quiet Friday night alone. When he complained, Natsu said, “What, you really want some… what do they call it? ‘You’ time?”

Gray rolled his eyes, picking Happy up when the cat began purring by his feet. “Nah, it’s just that this destroyed a whole night of plans. But whatever, you guys are already here. What do we do now?”

Natsu was about to speak, but he cut himself off and then stared back at Gray.

The two looked at their friends: Gajeel had grabbed a throwpillow and was already dozing off on a spot on the floor, Max was on the couch busy tapping on his phone and Mystogan sat beside him reading a book, while Jet and Droy sat on the floor and opened some drinks and snacks to share with everyone. Alzack, in what looked like an attempt to make Jellal, who was sitting in a bean bag, feel less awkward around them, handed the other guy a pack of potato chips, which Jellal accepted with a relieved smile (perhaps thinking ‘Yay maybe I won’t be harrassed today’). Warren claimed the beat-up loveseat (Gildarts brought it in a few weeks ago) and the remote as he boredly flipped through TV channels.

Boy, you’d think it’ll be a lot louder than this.

Finally, Natsu asked, “I dunno, what do we do?”

Alzack experimentally tapped the beat-up Playstation console in front of the TV, as if doing so will prove if the thing still worked or not. “Maybe we can play something?”

“That thing’s still kicking?” Jet asked, eyebrow raised as he drank his canned soda.

“Damn right it is.” Gray said, sighing as he walked over to join his friends. On his way, he grabbed a worn-out CD wallet and he tossed it to Warren before sitting on the floor, just next to the bean bag Jellal was using. Happy then transferred to Jellal’s lap, sniffing the guy’s snack and obviously wanting to be fed.

The boys proceeded to fuss over the game CDs, Natsu joining them shortly after he grabbed some cold cookies he found in the fridge.

“Those are Cana’s.” Gray said, in a tone that clearly stated ‘My hands are clean here and I’m telling her it’s you when she goes looking’.

Natsu just brushed him off, nibbling at the cookie. “I’ll just bake her another set. She’ll love it.”

Gray sighed and silently watched as his friends debated over which game to play. After a while of the quieter guys just boredly watching their louder friends squabble over the CDs, someone spoke up.

“You guys. You have to see this.”

Everyone turned to look at Max, who was still tapping away at his phone.

“What?” Gajeel asked grumpily. He was already falling asleep and he was quite sure he couldn’t care less about whatever the student council treasurer had to say.

“While we’re all here in a boring sausage fest,” Max started, then flipped his phone to show them what was on his screen. “Guess who’s hanging out with our girlfriends.”


“Laki posted it just now.” he explained.

Then Max had to back away when the rest of his friends practically pounced towards him for a closer look at the photo.

“Isn’t that Laxus-san?” Jellal asked innocently.

In these situations you will clearly know certain peoples’ priorities.

Warren — “Are they playing GTA?”

Jet — “They have an XBox and we have a freakin’ Playstation One?”

Droy — “They have pie.”

Natsu — “Shit now I want pie too.”

Gajeel — “Dang, I’m hungry.”

Gray — “I thought I confiscated all of Cana’s beer?!”

Alzack — “Erza has a lot of cool samurai posters.”

Jellal — “Y-Y-You mean that is Erza’s room?!”

Mystogan — “Isn’t it normal for someone to be in his own house?”

Max looked at them all in disbelief. “Seriously? That’s all you guys care about? The Xbox, the pie and the posters?”

They all shrugged.

“Lucy’s wearing his headphones.” Max tried.


Another try: “Bisca’s leaning on him.”


“Levy’s feeding him chocolate.”

“Dude…” Jet tried to think, but ultimately came up with nothing. “…It’s Laxus.”

“Cana’s on his lap.”

At that, Gray said, “Cana sits on everyone’s laps.”

Max rolled his eyes. Yeah, maybe he expected too much.

“She’s heavy when she’s drunk, though.” Natsu said, obviously recalling something, then turned to one of his friends for confirmation. “Right, dude?”

Behind his book, Mystogan mumbled a small, “…No comment.”

They stared.

“It was one time! I don’t want to talk about it!”

They made him.

Jellal, for once, was happy that he wasn’t the one getting bullied. Ah, he was so GLAD he came.

It really wasn’t all that bad.Okay, Laxus didn’t understand more than half the stuff they were talking about but that was for the best.

As Lucy, Levy, Erza, Juvia and Laki worked on the thank-you cards, the ones who hadn’t heard Lucy’s anecdotes about her big party listened to Levy’s retelling of it. They each had small lists of names and fancy pens as they wrote down the names on small postcards and then slipped the cards to their respective envelopes. Every now and then someone will ask about a person, a vaguely familiar name, or a famous celebrity they were writing about, and Lucy will give a bit of trivia or an introduction. Meanwhile Bisca was shuffling through Erza’s little collection of martial arts, samurai and action movie DVDs, listening to her friends.

Cana sat beside Laxus with her beer can and looked at him shortly, smiling amusedly at how he sat like a kid, back leaned against the side of his sister’s bed and eating pie as quietly as possible so they don’t notice him.

She said, “I took your beer from the fridge.”

He narrowed his eyes at her. “You’re lucky I bought a six-pack.”

“You call that a lot?” the brunette raised an eyebrow in honest astonishment. “I’m down to this last one and I ain’t even tipsy!”

“You took all of them?!” Laxus said, looking disbelievingly at the alleged last can of beer.

“Yeah.” Cana said, frowning. “Y’have more?”

“You’re shitting me.” was all he said, taking a bite from the pie, this time grumpily. “I’m never letting you near the fridge again.”

“Hey, it didn’t have your name on it.”

“You don’t even live here.”

She stuck her tongue out and then drank another gulp. She almost choked when he raised a hand and flicked her forehead with his index finger. “Why’re you not joining ’em?”

The young woman rubbed her forehead a bit before shrugging. “Dude, have you seen my handwriting?”

“Whatever it looks like, it can’t be worse than Freed’s or Bixlow’s. Freed’s are like, runes or something. And Bix writes in all-caps and can only fit like five words on a page.”

“Mine look like scribbles, plus Gray once threw my homework away because he thought I was just doodling to test my pen.”

He considered. “Fine, maybe you shouldn’t write in those fancy cards at all.”

She nodded solemnly and looked back at her friends. She blinked when Levy gestured for her to come over. “Cana-chan, look at this!” Cana quickly crawled over to the blunette excitedly, curious as to what Levy wanted to show her.

Laxus found himself watching them silently and he didn’t even notice that he had finished his slice of pie. He knew he should have just left the room as soon as they had let go of him after the picture-taking and relationship counseling (They told him over and over that Freed was this precious perfect boyfriend and he should be protected at all costs and Laxus didn’t know why they thought that it was necessary to drill that to his brain because he was quite sure he already knew that fact). He should have just sneaked out with his plate of pie and then ate it silently and peacefully in the dining room, or maybe even his room.

It’s just that somehow he found it interesting to watch them. Yeah, it was weird. But it was the little things he noticed that kept his eyes glued to them.

Bisca’s green hair that now fell to her lower back — when did she grow them out? Why? All throughout middle school she kept it short because of all the sports she participated in, it was more practical.

When he first met Juvia too, she had shorter hair, now it was all wavy and curly down her upper back, and when did she start talking so much? Back then he thought all she knew how to say was Gray’s name… Now it was kinda a miracle that for the three or four hours she’s been here, he only ever heard Gray’s name from her twice or thrice. All in passing.

He wasn’t too close with Laki but now he thought back to when Erza first introduced her to him. She was timid and collected, with glasses that looked weird on her because she just got it. Now he thinks it grew into her well, or vice versa. Maybe both. And for a smart, quiet, obviously bookish girl, she held herself very confidently.

Cana has always been the headstrong, rowdy one — even before she started being Magnolia’s resident drunk. She was mighty attractive and she knows it, even likes flaunting her curves with her daring numbers. It was kinda weird to see her wearing a shirt too big for her, obviously worn and old but still comfortable, with the print on the back saying ‘MAGNOLIA POLICE HEADQUARTERS’ and below it, a familiar surname: ‘CLIVE’. He bet she charmed Gildarts into giving that to her and the man didn’t know why she wanted it but gave it to his daughter anyway.

Levy has always been the smallest kid of the bunch: too shy, short and sweet — she still is, so he really never noticed how much she changed from… well, ‘shy short sweet and scared’ to ‘shy short sweet but owning it’.

Lucy was new, he didn’t know her as a kid, but when he met her she was a stunning blonde in a cheerleader outfit, makeup and shiny accessories, practically exuding an aura of confidence in her talents. She gave him the impression of a typical perfect princess at first but over the past year or two, she’s just Lucy. One of the girls. Wearing just a tank top, cotton shorts, her hair down, still visibly stunning…and he noted that she has picked up some of the boys’ (and Erza’s when she’s mad, Cana’s when she’s drunk) vocabulary.

He kinda felt old, only noticing these stuff now. He knew most of these girls as… well, that. Girls. Little girls. Now they’re not so.

As for Erza, well… maybe it was just because she was always close by that he never noticed if anything changed. She will, to him, always be that scruffy little sad-looking girl his grandpa just took home, who tried her best to impress and never let her adoptive family down, who was confident but awkward at the silliest times… Now she was a different girl, but still very much the same.

Laxus always envied how his ‘little sister’ was so grounded: how she always knew who she was, what she wanted to be, where she belonged and who she wanted to be with.

Sometimes, he was jealous that she can be the perfect daughter of the family and still leave space for him. He always sucked at fitting in, even in a place made exactly for no one but him, but most importantly, he sucked at sharing.

“—No, that’s not mine…”

“Not mine either-…”

He was brought back to reality when a phone ringing was heard, and one of the girls turned to him, “Laxus, that yours?”

Laxus quickly put his hands to his pocket to take his phone out. “Yeah, yeah. Gettin’ it. Don’t let me bother you.”

When he looked at the caller’s name flashing on his phone, he stopped.

“Hey, if it’s Freed, you better answer him, ’ya hear me? We all got pens here. Sharp pens.” He heard one of the girls warning him. From the drunken slur, it was probably Cana.

Laxus snorted and then tapped a button to reject the call before pocketing it again. “Nah, it’s just some dumb annoying classmate from school. Probably will ask ’bout something stupid again.”

“That’s kinda mean.” Levy said softly, pouting.

All he said was, “Well, you haven’t met him.”

“Say,” Laki started, resting her chin on her hand. “We’ve talked a bit about it with Freed, Bixlow and Evergreen, but we haven’t heard anything from you… So mind if we ask?”

He shrugged, “Shoot.”

“What’s Uni like? For you?” the bespectacled girl asked.

“Yeah!” Lucy followed up. “We’ve heard all sorts of stuff, like Freed said it’s really difficult to manage time because it’s just too busy, Evergreen said it was hard to make friends… Bixlow just said it was mostly fun at first but gets boring in no time…”

He rolled his eyes. “Fine, but first — Freed’s so busy because he’s taking up crazy subjects and electives and has his so-called ‘internal deadlines’ to impress all his professors by turning stuff in like, a week early. And he’s always studying everything in advance, so he really has time problems. Let’s face it, Ever’s never good at making friends because she scares normal people off. And Bix will eventually think that everything is boring, ’cause that guy has the attention span of a five year-old.”

“Yeah, we kinda got that.” Bisca sighed. “But how about you?”

He shrugged. “What do you think?”

Several answers came at once:

“You’re bored?”

“You’re angry and people pick a fight with you and stuff?”

“You’re just doing it to get your grandpa off your back?”

“Your classmates ask you stuff ’cause you’re smart?”

“…and then you get mad at them and scare them off, right?”

“Guys, he’s not that worse off…”

God, he has such a bad reputation. He scratched his head and sighed, making them all stop and actually listen to the actual answer.

“Listen.” he started, glancing at the girls’ curious expressions before going on. “You’re all asking because you’re… what, worried? Are all of you going to Fiore U.?”

“Most of us, yes.” Lucy answered, knowing that some of her friends have other plans, namely Laki, Juvia and Cana, maybe even Bisca.

“Well, you’re all smart girls, aren’t you? And none of you are too awkward like Ever, or too weird like Bix. And I’m sure Freed’s the only one who’s that obsessed with being an early bird. I think you’re all gonna do fine in there.”

There were little appreciative and relieved smiles from the girls, but of course they still need details. Levy spoke up. “What about you, though? Any problems? Fitting in? Adjusting? Time management?”

“Time management… most of the time you’re free to do whatever you want ’round campus, like skip a class to hang out somewhere or just study a lesson on your own… There are more places to keep to yourself and do your stuff around the campus so it’s just really up to you about how to deal with schedules and deadlines.”

“Are the people okay?” — that one cames from Bisca. “Like, are they nice, is it better to know a lot of people or just a few…?”

“I didn’t find it really necessary to find friends to hang out with since I already have the band, and in there if you want to be left alone, most people would be cool with it. Mostly when there’s something goin’ on, like a party or folks going out together, they invite everyone in the room so you’ll get asked. It’s more out of politeness, but then you still get your say, anyway. I think you SHOULD keep some useful acquaintances, though. Contacts, in case you need some stuff, it’ll be easier to know the right person to ask.”

Then it was Erza who asked this time, “How about the classes? Are the professors scary?”

“Well… uh, most professors got their own perks. It’s just luck, really — if you happen to get the nice ones, or the good ones, or the weird ones. If you’re lucky, you’ll get a teacher who works for you. Some of ’em are real tricky to deal with, so you just have to be flexible, really. Just pay attention, I guess — though I think all of you are good at that. I don’t really think you girls will have a problem out there. Y’all got good heads on your shoulders.”

“Really?” Lucy asked, a bit worriedly.

Laxus shrugged. “Yeah, really. But if you get yourselves in a pinch, you can always find at least one of us — me, the band, even Elfman — around the campus — anyway.”

“Right. I suddenly felt better when I remembered there’s five of you I can go to.” Laki smiled, sighing in relief.

“You’re one of us, we’d feel bad not helpin’ out. Just send a text. Or call. Ask around.”

“Ask around?” Levy inquired, while the other girls blinked.

“I’m pretty sure Freed gained quite a rep being the ‘smart genius law student with the green hair’. And if you’re looking for Bix, just go to the I.T. hall and ask around for the noisy programming kid with a screw loose. They’ll point ’ya to him. Elfman’s pretty hard to miss in a crowd ’cause he’s a really big guy. Ever’s pretty good at blending in, though.”

“How about ’ya?” Cana asked teasingly. “Any reputation to speak of?”

He groaned, rolling his eyes. “I don’t really know for sure…”

“Maybe ‘big grumpy blonde with the scary scar’…” Erza said, chuckling.

“More like ‘big scary blonde dude with the furcoat in the middle of summer’.” Cana said.

“Excuse me, I don’t wear the furcoat during summer.” Laxus argued, but the girls were already having a field day trying to do an impression of themselves and random college students.

Levy pretended to be a lost innocent first year as she faced Cana. “Um I’m sorry, but have you seen a big grumpy-lookin’ blonde guy around here?”

Cana made a show of being an experienced co-ed. “Oh, is that the scary dude wearing the furcoat in the middle of summer?”

“Yes!” Lucy piped in. “Would he happen to be boyfriends with a hot law student with green hair?”

Cana made an exagerrated expression of remorse. “Oh god damn! They’re boyfriends already?! THE PAIN! THE SORROW! I thought I had a chance!”

“Very funny.” Laxus shook his head, but couldn’t help but crack a smile when the girls laughed together but assured him that they love him anyway and that he’s a sweetheart for hanging out with them like this. They thanked him for the unexpectedly useful advice. Someone mentioned that they never would’ve imagined him spending time with them like this…

…and he had to agree.

Man, he’s changed.

The girls decided to watch a movie when they finished helping Lucy and chatting together. They told Laxus that he could stay and watch with them if he wants to, but he simply said that he didn’t want to crash their party (not that he hasn’t done so yet) and left them to enjoy the rest of their night.He went to bed unusually early, but maybe that was for the better. His grandfather told him to wake up earlier the next morning since he’ll be needing help preparing breakfast for the girls.

Laxus did wake up earlier than usual — but from the sounds of running water, cooking and various activities from the kitchen, he guessed that he didn’t wake up early enough. His grandfather must have started to prepare, maybe even asked Erza to help.What he didn’t expect was to find his grandfather and a very familiar green-haired young man bustling around the kitchen when he got there.

Laxus blinked, then tried to rub the sleep from his eyes. “What the-… Freed?”

Makarov beamed. “Good morning, Laxus. It looks like this very nice young fellow here came in early to help out, and to bring some bread from Yajima’s. Looks like I wouldn’t be sendin’ you out there for an early ride.”

Freed gave him a small smile before turning back to his cooking. “I figured the principal might need an extra pair of hands this very early morning. In addition to yours, of course.”

“And he was right, as always.” Makarov continued, mixing some hotcake mix in a bowl.

“You guys don’t trust me.” was all Laxus said, standing beside the bassist and looking at whatever it was that Freed was cooking. It turned out to be hotdogs. “Just admit it.”

Freed laughed, then quickly leaned up to give the blonde beside him a peck on the cheek. “I felt kinda guilty for setting you up last night. So I’m making up for it.”

“Nah, I’m over it.” Laxus grumbled, ruffling Freed’s green hair shortly before walking towards the fridge to get himself some water.

Makarov huffed. “I’m not sorry for that, though. I still have to thank sweet Mirajane and Evergreen myself.”

“You’re lucky gramps was already awake when you came, though.” Laxus said.

Freed rolled his eyes. “Oh, please. I sleep over everytime. I’d know when the people here wake up.”

“You really should marry into this family already.” Makarov said with a teasing grin. “I want you in this house, in this kitchen, every day, Freed.”

Freed didn’t know what to say to that. Laxus, however, couldn’t help but grin as he looked at the other young man’s now bright red face. He just shook his head and playfully said, “If you want that so badly, then YOU go marry him, old man.”

“If I could, I would.” the old man said, then turned to his grandson. “Stop standing around there, boy. Help out.”

“Geez, can’t a guy take a minute to drink water after he wakes up in this house?” The blonde put down his glass of water and then headed to the cupboards. “Fine, I’ll take out the dishes, fix the table, ’cause I suck at everything.”

“Ohhhh, someone’s grumpy…” Makarov chuckled, exchanging an amused look with Freed.

Laxus groaned. “It’s six in the morning and I’m not in bed. This is injustice.”

Freed shook his head. “Just make up by taking a siesta later. You’re not doing anything today, right?”

“Alright, but you’re gonna join me.”

At that unexpected reply, Freed yelped as he accidentally dropped the spatula he was holding and had to jump away to save himself from the cooking oil. Makarov laughed heartily as he saw the whole thing unfold and Laxus whirled around and raised an eyebrow at the riot on the kitchen.

“What the hell, you still asleep?”

Freed crouched to pick up the spatula, and when he stood back up, his face was red. “N-N-No, but you obviously are!”

“Shit, you like it anyway, I’m being so mushy I’m starting to scare myself.”

Makarov swore he’d never laughed so hard in so long.

Freed tried hard to keep his composure. “Please don’t distract me, I’m cooking!”

Laxus looked at them, confused and helpless. “What did I do?” — then when he noticed that his grandfather was still cracking up — “GRAMPS, STOP LAUGHING-…! What-… Aw, fuck, fine! Laugh harder! That’s what you’re good at!”

He was ignored when Cana, Levy and Erza came in the kitchen and all of them practically glomped at Freed who tried his hardest to ensure them that he can cook all the hotdogs just fine by himself. Makarov helped the young man by calling out to the girls asking who could assist him with the pancakes. Cana and Levy quickly volunteered, but both were ultimately helpless when it came to cooking the pancakes. It was only when Juvia came in and took over that they got things moving again. Meanwhile, Erza checked on the rice while Levy and Cana went to help Laxus prepare the table instead.

After a bit, the rest of the girls were downstairs and pretty soon all the people in the house were sitting around the table and enjoying a loud, cheerful breakfast.

The cleanup after was quick, too. All their guests helped and in the rush of young women expertly maneuvering themselves to get work done, the men in the house found themselves with nothing to do. The girls assured them that it was just right that they help out, after being accommodated so well during their stay.

Before long, the house was quiet again. The girls had gone home — Makarov finally had a moment to sit down and read the newspaper while Freed sat down across the old man, drinking hot chocolate and scanning the photos that the girls posted online the previous night through his phone. He smiled lightly — it looks like the boys thought they had to compete, had their own night-in and posted stuff, too. Laxus and Erza were upstairs, putting away the spare sheets, pillows and futon that were used the previous night. From the dining table, they could hear the siblings’ tell-tale debate about some trivial thing or another.“Principal?” Freed called out.

“Hn?” Makarov replied, not taking his eyes off his read, encouraging his young companion to proceed.

“I almost forgot. I passed by the police booth on my way here, and Gildarts asked me to give you something.” the young man said, then took out his wallet and produced a folded sheet of paper from it. “He just told me to give you this note.”

“Huh.” The old man raised an eyebrow and accepted the note. “What could this be?”

Freed shrugged. “He didn’t tell me. I didn’t read it either.” He saw his older companion’s eye narrow upon reading the message, followed by a deep-set frown. Freed inquired worriedly, “Principal? Is… is something wrong?”

As quick as the frown set in, Makarov’s expression changed into his usual fatherly smile. “Ah, it’s nothing, child. You know, ah, I just found it hard to read this thing. Gildarts has awful handwriting.” The man chuckled.

Freed smiled in relief. He rarely saw the old man frown, after all. Makarov has always been a cheerful father figure. “What’s it about? Oh, but if it’s confidential, please—”

Makarov waved it off dismissively, “Just a quick update about some school-police stuff. You know he’s in-charge of the station near the school, right? I make sure we have a good relationship with the people guarding our students.”

“I see.” Freed nodded, accepting the answer easily. The principal wasn’t known to be someone who keeps things from the many students he was close to.

Makarov folded the paper back and pocketed it, then went back to his reading.

It was silent before they heard a familiar voice shouting from upstairs. “LAXUS! GIVE THAT BACK!”

Another voice, Laxus, was heard. “Nope, I’m not done readin’!” — then after a pause — “Dear Erza, you don’t know me but I have always admired you-… beautiful and strong… like a queen-… Fuck, this is so lame!”

“You’ve read it! Give it back!”

“Shit, there’s more!”



“What do you want me to do, throw away people’s honest feelings?!”

“Shit you’re a big damn softie, aren’t ya?”



“Not everyone’s an artist, stop being rude!”

Then there were hurried footsteps, crashes, warcries, muffled shouts, cursing and the general sounds of childish rough-housing.

“Sounds rowdy up there.” Freed chuckled. “Should I intervene?”

Makarov smiled. “I just let them be. Those two very seldom act like the children they’re supposed to be. Erza is too responsible, Laxus broods like it’s his goal in life. Those two are so different, the only way they bond is by trying to kill each other…”

Freed laughed, and shook his head his head in amusement.



Laxus has always been an only child. He didn’t know how to be a big brother. He knew younger kids, of course. When his grandfather takes him to the Strauss’, there’s that big kid Elfman and little Lisanna. Elfman was shy and always scared, but Lisanna always approached him with a cheerful smile on her face. He didn’t really think that they were close, but it was just really hard to be anything but nice around such a good kid. There was Cana, too. She always went around town on errands for her mother. There was Gray, who hung around at the Strauss’, mostly just tagging along with Cana.So they were nice and he didn’t pick on them, but he never really saw them as little siblings. Just… kids he knew, who were younger than him.

He didn’t know how it was like to have an older sibling, either… So he had no example to follow.

So when Erza joined the family, he wasn’t exactly sure what to do. He simply did what he was familiar with… treated her like he treated the other kids. He simply let her be, didn’t pick on her but didn’t really pay much attention to her either.

She was just… sort of there. The girl had wormed her way in the family’s daily routine quite normally. She did chores, accompanied his grandfather in the dojo for training, helped with household stuff, but mostly kept to herself in her room on her free time. She wasn’t the type of girl who wanted dolls and tea sets and stuffed animals, although Makarov bought her a doll as present once, she simply kept it on her desk for display. She liked books and read a lot when she wasn’t practicing her kendo.

When Makarov told Laxus to ‘be more of a big brother’ around the girl, he huffed and told the old man that he didn’t know how. “She’s fine like that, right?”

The old man shook his head and then told Laxus that he should start getting comfortable around Erza, because they’ll be by themselves for three days.


“I’ll be leavin’ for some business. Just a short trip, I’ll be back in three days. I already asked Porlyusica to watch over you.”

“Then she can hang with granny, right?”

“Porlyusica will be staying here while I’m gone but she still has a job in the hospital. She’ll cook for you kids but you’ll be left alone during the day.”

Laxus grumbled, telling his grandfather that it didn’t make a difference anyway, the red-head’s a shut-in with no friends, so she’ll be fine just being at home.

Porlyusica did cook them breakfast, but before she could cook some lunch to leave for the children to heat by noon, she received an urgent call from the hospital. There was an emergency operation to be done and the doctor in charge wasn’t available, so they need someone to fill in on short notice.“It’s fine, Porlyusica-san. I can cook…” Erza offered obediently.

“No, I’m not risking it.” the woman said, side-eyeing Laxus in particular. They never really got along, and Porlyusica was never good with kids. ‘You children know your way around town, right? Here.’ she said, handing some bills to Erza. “If I don’t get back by noon, don’t starve yourselves. Buy some food. If you need me, you can call the hospital. Do you have the number?”

“Yes, ma’am.” Erza replied.

The woman eyed Laxus. “You’re the older one here. Whatever happens, I’ll hold you responsible.”

Laxus grumbled, “Whatever.”

Come lunchtime, Erza rode at the back of Laxus’ bike as they made their way to the nearest family restaurant. Porlyusica gave them enough money to order two full meals and deserts and Laxus watched in mild amusement as Erza very enthusiastically ate a slice of cake. It took him quite a while to convince the girl that it was fine to order desert. He’d feel guilty if he was the only one to do so, after all. It would be awkward if he ate cake and she just watched him.As he pedaled back home, he said, “I’m goin’ to the arcade after dropping you off. You gonna be fine at home, right?”

She simply said, “Yes. I’ll be okay.”

“You’re gonna read again?”


“That’s boring. Don’cha have any friends?”

“They were all from the orphanage…”

He was rude but he wasn’t too insensitive… he heard the obvious sadness in the girl’s voice. He didn’t speak for a while after that.

Then it hit him.

“Okay, I’m gonna get’cha some friends, then.”


“You don’t have friends ’cause you don’t know other kids besides the ones from the orphanage, right? Well, I know kids your age.”

“But… But I don’t—”

“Don’t worry. They don’t bite. And if they bully you, just kick their ass.”


“Don’t play so innocent, gramps always goes on about how you’re his best student in the dojo. So if they try anythin’, just go grab some stick and hit ’em.”

If she spends more time outside, finds some friends to hang out with and stops being some sort of poster girl of sad adopted children, maybe his grandpa would finally stop bugging him about spending time with her.

It’s a win-win situation, she’ll be happier, and he would have done nothing at all.

Besides, he didn’t see why he had to work on getting closer to her. His father is going to get him soon, to live in the big city and get involved with his father’s work. Laxus was looking forward to that the most.

“You let her tag along with children she only just met?!”Crap. He knew he should have told Erza to go home early, or at least before the time their temporary guardian said she was coming home.

“They’re not bad kids.” Laxus said, looking away. He left his so-called sister with Gray and Cana, who were hesitant at first, but when Laxus said that Erza was a sad orphan kid with no friends, Cana determinedly dragged the girl with them and offered to play together. Gray just trailed after the brunette like always. Laxus left when he saw Erza smile back at Cana after the other girl handed her some yarn and declared that she will teach her new friend how to play cat’s cradle. He knew that Erza was familiar with the way home. She always did errands and walked around with Makarov.

Laxus wasn’t particularly close to either Cana or Gray, but he never heard any history of bullying from them. He was just being honest — they were good kids. At least he counted on that.

“How sure are you?” Porlyusica asked, rubbing her temples. It had been a long day at work, she didn’t need one of her wards going missing. “It’s already dark out there. How can you be sure she hasn’t lost her way? She’s quiet and not used to people and then you shove her towards the town rascals?”

“She can handle herself. She… I… I know she can take down guys twice her size!”

“She might be alone out there for all we know! What if she felt unwanted when you left her? What if she ran away? You’re her big brother — you should be looking out for her, no matter how independent you know she is!”

He had nothing to say to that.

Porlyusica look at the blonde boy. He looked so much like Makarov in his youth. The boy was looking down, an expression of guilt slowly settling on his face. The woman closed her eyes and exhaled slowly before she looked at Laxus again. She laid a tentative hand on the boy’s shoulder. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have shouted, I’m just.. tired. But you really should have known better, Laxus.”

He nodded coldly.

“Alright, we’re going to look for Erza now, let’s focus on that. You say you left her with the kids in the playground?”

Another nod.

“Let’s go, then.”

Young Laxus stood still for a bit and it wasn’t until the woman handed him his coat and led him by the shoulder outside the house did he move to follow her.

Just as they stepped outside however, a police car stopped right in front of the Dreyar residence. Porlyusica let go of Laxus and then rushed towards the vehicle. Laxus held his breath and watched. The police? What could have happened?

But then the car window rolled down and there was little Cana sitting on the passenger seat, brown hair visibly unruly from playing. On the driver’s seat was Gildarts, who leaned over to greet Porlyusica politely.

“G’evening, ma’am.”

“What’s this, boy?” Porlyusica asked sternly. The cop chuckled at the address. He might be a grown man but he and his friends will always be ‘boy’ to ol’ Porlyusica’s eyes.

“Don’t worry, there’s no trouble. Just came by to drop your little lady off.” Gildarts cocked his head to look towards the backseat. “Okay, Erza-chan. Here’s yer stop.”

Porlyusica sighed in relief when the door to the backseat opened and Erza hopped off the car. The girl’s gaze switched between Gildarts and Porlyusica, before she settled by the old woman’s side and then bowed politely at Gildarts. “Thank you very much for everything, sir.”

“Nah, don’t mention it, ojou-chan.” Gildarts smiled. Cana waved a little wave at the girl and Erza smiled back. The window of the backseat slid down as well, revealing more kids: Gray, Levy, Jet and Droy.

Levy said a cheerful “Come again tomorrow, okay, Erza-chan?”

“E-err… I’ll see if I can.” Erza replied, blushing slightly.

Porlyusica raised an eyebrow at Gildarts. “Why are all these children with you? Did they get in trouble?”

“Nah, not at all, madame.” Gildarts laughed. “Well, maybe they did… They’re kids, so you never know. But really, they just showed up at the station buggin’ me to give them band-aids, just minor scrapes though, I assure you. I checked.”

“They bothered you at work?”

“I’m used to these rascals by now.” the cop reassured. “They just hung out at the station. ‘Cause it got dark fast and my patrol’s starting, I thought I’ll drop these little scamps home. It’s great to finally meet little Erza-chan. The principal’s been talkin’ about her.”

Erza smiled, and Porlyusica laid a hand on top of the girl’s head and let out a small smile at Gildarts. “Well then thank you for bringing her home. We were just about to go looking.”

“She really wanted to get home already, y’know. But I felt bad lettin’ them go off alone so I told them to wait so I can drop them all safely. My bad, I shoulda called.”

“At least they’re all safe now.” was all the old woman said. “That’s what’s important.”

“Yep. Well, gotta go and drop the rest of these kids off. Their parents might worry.” Gildarts nodded politely. ‘See ’ya round, ma’am.’ he also smiled at the children. “Erza-chan, Laxus.” Erza bowed again while Laxus nodded.

They watched the car speed down the road before Porlyusica looked down at her wards. She turned to Erza first. “I’ll have you know that we were very worried about you, young lady.”

“I’m sorry, Porlyusica-san… I wanted to go home earlier but Gildarts-san won’t let me, says it wasn’t safe.”

The woman sighed. “It’s alright. Let’s just get inside. I’ve no doubt you’re starving by now.” She looked at Laxus then. “You’re going to help me make dinner.”

Laxus thought he was still lucky to get away with just that, so he just nodded again and followed the woman and the girl back to the house.

Erza’s red hair was unruly and her shorts were dirty. There were band-aids on her knee, elbow and right cheek. While Porlyusica, ever the meticulous healer that she was, took the band-aids off to properly apply disinfectant on the minor injuries, Laxus watched them silently.“Scratches and scrapes. And bruises. What did you do, young lady?” Porlyusica grumbled, but didn’t seem to mind so much. Of course she had definitely seen worse. Maybe the old woman simply didn’t expect the quiet girl to go home in such a state. Erza had always been proper.

“I’m sorry.” the girk answered, looking down as the woman stuck fresh band-aids to the scrape on her arm. “I… i couldn’t help it. There were bigger kids, and Levy-chan and the others were really nice to me, so I didn’t wanna see them being picked on. And… Gray kicked one of them and they got angry… So I… um… helped… him.”

At that, Laxus couldn’t help but chuckle, looking at her with a bemused expression. “Don’t tell me you seriously grabbed a stick and hit ’em with it.”

Erza pouted. “You told me to do it if I have to.”

Porlyusica looked pointedly at the blonde, who looked away, trying to feign innocence but failing to stop himself from looking pleased. A girl beating up bigger kids. Man, he wished he was there.

“Can I… can I go play with them again tomorrow?” Erza looked up at their temporary guardian. “I promise I will go home right away, or if we end up at the police station again, I will call…”

Porlyusica sighed. The girl was earnest and clearly very eager to meet up with her new friends. The woman was sure Makarov would allow it. “Fine, but Laxus is going to watch over you.”

Erza looked at her ‘big brother’, who was the one who introduced her to the others in the first place, who trusted her to go back on her own…

Laxus scoffed, then turned his back towards them, doing his best to look uninterested. “Whatever, gran. As long as you don’t go all paranoid again.”

He didn’t need to turn know that Erza smiled widely as Porlyusica finally agreed. For some reason he knew she would react like that.

He grunted — an afternoon with the little kids sounds bothersome, but hey, it might just be fun to watch.

When Makarov got back two days from then, the house was empty. He wondered if Porlyusica took the kids somewhere, but there was no note or anything left to indicate where they were.He just put down his luggage by the couch when the door opened and in went Laxus nursing a bruised cheek, followed by Erza who was poking a band-aid near her elbow and holding her slippers, one of which was broken. Both children looked ruffled, messy and unruly. There were little leaves on Laxus’ blonde hair.

When they saw him, Erza quickly struggled to fix her hair and clothes while Laxus simply said “Oh, gramps is back.”

“What happened to the two of you?” was all the old man was able to ask, looking at them closely.

Laxus shrugged, “Well, we were playin’ at the playground—”

Makarov raised an eyebrow. “You were playing…?”

“Yeah, I’m kicking ass at dodgeball, but then these nasty kids came in to bully us and Erza almost drove them away but she tripped and missed…”

Erza continued, “And then Laxus hit them… but he got hit too.”

“They’re weak so they look worse.”

The girl nodded. “They do.”

“But her slipper broke and I had to carry her home — this squirt is heavy as hell, gramps. What do we feed her?”

“I said sorry already!”

Makarov simply stared at them.

He didn’t know what went on while he was gone, but whatever it was that happened, he was very glad that it did.

It was the late afternoon and Makarov was contentedly doing some take-home paperwork over tea and biscuits. The house was silent after Laxus and Freed went out to meet up with Bixlow and Ever for an impromptu band practice, while Erza decided to take a long relaxing bath to try out some bath salts that Laki gave her. The man leafed through paper after paper while taking some notes every now and then.After a while, Erza came downstairs, wearing a simple white blouse and blue skirt, coat tucked in one arm while the other carried some books. Her bag hung from her shoulder.

“More paperwork, Master? That’s unusual.” the red-head remarked. While Makarov was used to dealing with paperwork, he hardly took some home. He preferred that his work stay in his office.

“Ah, I really took these home.” he replied, smiling and waving a piece of paper. “Students’ career forms.”

“O-oh.” Erza blinked, smiling back. “You’re going to discuss that with students starting next week?”

“Yep. Including you, of course.” Makarov nodded, then regarded his ward’s attire. “Going out?”

“Only for a bit.” Erza answered. “I have to return these books to the library. They’re due today.”

“Hm.” the old man nodded.

“Do you want me to pick anything up on my way back? I’m pretty sure Laxus will be going home late.”

“No, I’m good. Will you be back for dinner?”

“I’ll try. I don’t have any other destination besides the library, anyway.”

“Alright, I’ll be cooking for you as well, then. You’re going alone?”

She shook her head. “Not really. Jellal has some books to return today, too. So we’re going together.”

“Ah, is it a date, then?”

Erza stopped and stared at her guardian, the look of realization slowly dawning on her face, red creeping up on her cheeks. “D-d-does it look t-t-that way?”

“Looks a lot like it.” Makarov laughed. “But whatever you say. I know you’re good friends, either way. Be careful, the both of you.”

“H-h-hai.” the girl answered, looking down.

“I mean it.” the old man said, this time his tone turned serious. Erza looked up to see him regarding her with an expression that matched his tone of voice. “Please be careful. Avoid unfamiliar alleyways, take the safe sidewalks home, and if you’re going to be late, keep your phone with you, okay?”

Erza blinked, then smiled reaasuringly. “Master, I’ve gone out with Jellal many times now, I’m sure he’s not that kind of—”

“I know, dear. I think that he’s a very good, responsible young man. It’s not him I am worried about..”

“Then what—”

“My son. He’s back in town.” Makarov breathed heavily. “Now I know you’re capable of protecting yourself, but better safe than sorry. I don’t know what Ivan is doing back here — if it were something good, he would have turned up at our door by now. But he’s hiding — and I think that’s something to be… cautious of.”

Erza nodded understandingly. They almost never mentioned the other member of the family… he has done some really terrible things. “Does Laxus know?”

“I will tell him when he gets back.”

“Okay. I promise we’ll be careful, and we’ll try to go home as early as possible.”

Makarov nodded and Erza took that as permission to leave. She stopped by their doorstep to put her shoes on, then left.

Erza didn’t know her real parents, nor did she have any memory of them. She grew up with her friends in the orphanage, and later as part of the Dreyar family. Makarov gave her a choice to keep her last name or not. She made it very clear that she was proud to be part of his family, but she also chose to keep it — ‘Scarlet’ — as a sort of memento from her days at the orphanage and the other kids who were her first family.Makarov understood her, and then gave her another choice — it was entirely up to her regarding what she would call him as. Father, grandfather, uncle… as long as she was comfortable with it.

She never outgrew ‘Master’, but by now it has become more of an endearment than a formality. Besides, they didn’t have to call each other anything to prove that they were family.

He was the father she never had, and more.

When she was young, she knew that Makarov kept things from her… mostly to make her feel safer and accepted, she knew. It was a new thing, but little Erza understood that — yes — all adults kept secrets, anyway. Besides, she wasn’t the only one who had been kept in the dark. Laxus was, too.

The problem was that while she was a quiet child still careful around her new family and afraid to do anything wrong, Laxus was outspoken and was unafraid to demand answers to his questions.

She was in primary school and Laxus was in his second year of middle school when Makarov declared, over dinner, that his son, Ivan Dreyar, was back in town — but that the children are not allowed to see him.

“What do you mean dad can’t come here?” Laxus asked, face confused.

“It’s just as I said, Laxus. Your father is not welcome in this house from now on.”

“Why?!” the boy asked, slamming a hand on the dining table. Erza kept silent, looking down at her food. The supposedly pleasant family dinner was interrupted. “He’s my dad! He lived here with us before! It’s not like he did anything wrong — why’re you mad at him all of a sudden?!”

“I can’t tell you.” the man said. “Not right now, Laxus. I’ll tell you when… when you’re—”

“When I’m ready? Bullshit. He’s been tellin’ me he wants to go back home. For months now! Why’re you shutting him out?”

“Laxus, I just need you to understand for now—”

“I won’t, ’cause I don’t know shit about it!”

Then the boy stood up, stomped upstairs and locked himself up in his room.

Makarov sighed, then looked at Erza. “Finish your meal, dear.”

Erza looked at him.

She suddenly remembered that one time, when a drunk Macao who had been kicked out of his house because of a fight with his wife turned up at their doorstep, Makarov had let him in, given him a futon to sleep on and a hot beverage to sober him up. Makarov told Erza that ‘Everyone is welcome to our house, unless they intend to harm you or Laxus — I will always let them in.’

She hasn’t met Ivan Dreyar yet, but from how Laxus talked about him, she thought that he would be a good man. Maybe a kind and loving father, just like Makarov. If he is, why is Master not letting him into the house? If everyone is welcome, except ones who want to hurt the children, does that mean that Ivan wants to hurt her? Laxus?

Before thinking about it, she has said out loud, “Is… Is Laxus’ father a bad man?” Then realizing what she said, she quickly continued, “I’m sorry, I’m sure he’s not! But Laxus… Laxus was really looking forward to his father coming home…”

“I know, child.” Makarov replied in a somber voice. “But it’s complicated. I myself am still figuring out what to do… How to break it to both of you. So please… will you be a little more patient?”

The girl just nodded, picking up her bowl of rice and resuming her meal. She had many questions, and Laxus does too, and now Makarov has told her that he is still thinking about how to answer them. That was enough for her. She wished that Laxus was here to hear that, too.

“Thank you, Erza-chan.”

That same night, after the children had gone to bed, Makarov came to check up on them. First was Erza, who slept peacefully snug against the covers, hugging a plush toy that Makarov knew was from her days in the orphanage. He stared at the girl’s sleeping face for a while before going to the next room.Laxus’ bed was a mess. He had kicked the blanket off the bed, along with a pillow, in his sleep. Makarov sighed and picked the pillow up and returned it to the bed, then draped the blanket over the teen’s sleeping form. He stopped abruptly when he noticed the tear tracks on his grandson’s face. He had been crying. Makarov felt a heavy weight in his chest and he reached out to stroke the boy’s blonde hair, but then Laxus grunted sleepily, then, still deep in slumber, flipped to his other side, his back towards his grandfather.

Makarov simply sighed and then walked towards the bedroom window to draw the curtains together.

Laxus was angry at him, he knew that. But more confused than angry, and even more frustrated than confused.

He had been a cheerful boy, really. Before he was hospitalized, and even while he was stuck in the hospital for months on end, his health suffering. He always had that bright smile on his face. But the medications and treatments took a toll on him and that’s when he started smiling less. Granted, the doctors said that the treatments were making a difference, but Makarov felt that he was losing his happy, cheerful grandson. He was always sleeping, most of the time only took medicine, and after the operations, he was always too tired. It didn’t help that he only had his grandfather with him. Makarov couldn’t blame Ivan — because if he were in his son’s shoes, he wouldn’t hesitate taking extra hours at work day after day, even taking the weekends, if it meant that Laxus got the best treatment. If it meant that his little boy gets to stay.

When Laxus recovered, he was already a year behind in his schoolwork, and the few friends he had have all left him behind… He was more quiet, perhaps feeling out of place after his return. You would think that Ivan would be happy to spend time with his son, to finally take some time off work after the boy had left the hospital, but it was the opposite. Ivan still stayed long hours in their business office, and when he got home, he still had work with him. Makarov would sympathize with his son more if Ivan looked torn between his work and his son, but he wasn’t — the man was almost eager to do more work. Despite this, Laxus still looked up to his father. His grandpa never stopped telling him that he was getting the treatments he needed because his father was working really hard. That stuck to the boy, and he admired his father’s hard work.

Makarov was too busy worrying over his grandson that he thought that his son still had his back, but it seems that he had lost Ivan in the effort to keep Laxus with them. He now barely knew his own son, what Ivan really did at work, why he had to spend extra hours, meet up with who he called ‘clients’ even in the evenings and the weekends…

When Ivan moved out to set up an office in the big city, Makarov couldn’t stop him.

“Laxus is doin’ fine, dad. What’s there to worry about?”

But Makarov knew that Laxus isn’t doing fine — the boy needed his father, now that he was having a hard time knowing where he belonged.

“I have to do this. My career’s at its peak, dad. When I go out there, it can only get better—”

“At what cost, Ivan?”

HIs son didn’t listen, and still moved out. Laxus was told that his father was promoted, that there were more opportunities out there. The boy was happy for his father, so Laxus sent him off with a smile and wishes of good luck.

In the months that followed, Makarov saw Laxus retreat further into himself, almost never going out, just playing some video games, reading manga and listening to music. Since he got back into full health, he had begun growing taller than most kids his age. One of the Dreyar family’s traits are their tall, larger-than-average builds, so Laxus, the quiet kid older and bigger than everyone else, didn’t gain any friends in school.

Makarov, in an attempt to prevent father and son from drifting further apart, decided to send Laxus to his father during the boy’s vacations. It would be a good change of atmosphere for Laxus, and perhaps they can finally spend time together.

The first time Laxus went to stay at his father’s was a two-week stay. Makarov thought it impossible for the two not to at least go out together for that short stay, and when Laxus came back, the boy was visibly more cheerful than when he first set off.

Over dinner on the boy’s first day back in Magnolia, Makarov decided to ask. “So did you get some time with your father, Laxus?”

“Not really, he was so busy with work.” the boy said, but shrugged, as if it wasn’t that big a deal anymore. “But he showed me his office for a bit, and his assistants showed me around town, and we went to this big toy store, and they told me I could get anything I want. Anything!”

Makarov blinked. “…and what about your father?”

“He had work to do when he came home, so I didn’t bother him, ’sides he got me some new games and the CD’s I’ve been wanting to get for, like, months now.”

What Makarov feared would happen had happened — Ivan decided to replace his presence in Laxus’ life with material things. And the boy adored his father all the more for it. After all, what kind of child, at Laxus’ age, wouldn’t look up to a man who can give his kid anything he wanted, anytime he wanted it?

Still, Makarov kept trying, sending his grandson to his father for holidays and vacations, so that maybe somehow Ivan would spare the boy the time of day, and not just blind him with toys, games, records and the leisure of the big city.

Makarov does see changes to the boy, yes — but they were not what he really wanted to see. One vacation, Laxus went home with a new bike — a very expensive-looking one — and Makarov didn’t really mind the gifts. He was glad that the boy’s father can provide Laxus with the things he wanted. However, Laxus had a different air around him. He was somehow more… confident. Makarov thought this was a good sign, because the boy used to be somber and withdrawn, but the confidence was laced with arrogance now. Arrogance that Makarov saw in his own son whenever Ivan talked about advancing in his career ahead of his peers, when the man looked down at people he saw to be beneath him. Ivan was smart and skilled at many things, but over the years, Makarov saw that as his son climbed to the top, he had lost his humility… he didn’t know how to look back.

When Makarov asked Laxus if he and his father often talked, the boy replied, “Of course, gramps. Over dinner, he tells me some stories about work. They’re really funny. All those guys are afraid of him, and ‘course they should be! And this one time, when someone spilled somethin’ over his desk? I thought that was really stupid too, no wonder dad fired that guy!”

The headmaster was pleased that his son and grandson were talking again, but he didn’t like how Laxus was being influenced by his father’s ideals. It wasn’t wrong to be ambitious, but it was wrong to step on the people below you. Makarov tried to intervene, to be the correct positive reinforcement that the boy needed. Under his wing, Makarov tried hard to change the boy’s outlook to a humbler one.

But it was hard to say ‘no’ when the boy asks if he can spend a vacation or a weekend over at his father’s, since it was one of the very few things that Laxus was ever enthusiastic about.

It was harder to change the boy’s opinions after he had picked them up from his father.

When Makarov decided to take Erza in, Ivan had neither gone home or checked up on the new member of their family. Ivan simply told his father to do what he wanted to do, that if they needed him to send more money than usual, they should just say the word and it was done. He asked Makarov if the girl wanted anything — presents, dresses, a bed fit for a princess — but Makarov declined all of that. Little Erza needed a family, not a financer, and Makarov didn’t need Ivan bribing his way to another child’s affections.

He was able to persuade Laxus to staying home more often to keep Erza company, but the boy still talked about going with his father, even roping in innocent Erza ( “You’ll like him, he’s awesome.”, “He’ll buy you any book you want, y’know.”). He was even talking about staying with the man for good — and Makarov was getting tired of making excuses on why Laxus should stay in Magnolia.

Then, just a few days ago, Gildarts surprised Makarov by turning up unannounced at the headmaster’s office. The man had a serious, conflicted expression. For a second, Makarov felt scared — what happened? Did something happen to one of his students? To Erza or Laxus?

“I shouldn’t be here, principal.” Gildarts started, sighing heavily. “I can… I can get fired for this. But I… I don’t believe that you can… that you’d be able to do it. I just know it. You’re like a father to me, sir, so… so I’m giving you a heads-up.”

As Makarov listened to the cop’s next words, he recalled his own words… words he asked Ivan, before he left years ago, telling his father that ‘it can only get better’.

He asked his son: “At what cost, Ivan?”

…and Gildarts brought him the answer.

On the following days, Laxus was still cold and distant towards both of them. He locked himself up in his room when he’s not at school. Erza didn’t know if her big brother was aware of how Gildarts have been coming over more often, exchanging hushed conversations with Makarov. The man gave excuses like bringing over some pastries from Yajima-san, or that he was just on patrol around the neighborhood, or coming to talk to Makarov about some school-police matters. Meanwhile, Makarov always told Erza not to worry and just go back to her room to finish her homework, that he will have dinner ready in a few…Maybe, Erza thought, if Laxus knew about the cop’s visits, he would have hesitated going with his father when Ivan himself picked him up from school that one afternoon. He didn’t see her watching from afar, and Erza was too dumbstruck to call out for the blonde to stop.

The girl rushed to FairyGaku first — her grandfather’s office, but found it empty. After asking around to no avail, she ran towards the police booth.


The man turned towards the panting girl, blinking in surprise. “Erza-chan?” He noted the child’s distressed expression and then asked, “Is something wrong? Are you hurt again?”

She shook her head. “Laxus went with his dad. He… he came to the school and then.. then they left together.”

Gildarts’ mouth drew to a thin line, and with an even tone of voice he told the girl to come sit down and then offered her a tall glass of water which she gratefully accepted.

“Relax, child. Laxus will be alright.” Gildarts reassured.

Erza frowned. “But Master told us that Laxus’ dad can’t come to the house. He told us to stay away if we see him. Will Laxus really be okay?”

“I don’t think his father will do anything to hurt him.” the cop continued. “But we don’t want Laxus to know. Not now, at least. Not yet.”

“Don’t want him to know what?”

Gildarts sighed. “I’m not in the position to break this to you, dear. But I will contact the principal, right away. He should be the one to talk to both you and Laxus about this.”

“We’ve asked. Laxus kept asking. And… and we still don’t know anything.”

The cop watched as the girl slowly broke down in tears. “Erza-chan..”

But with that, Erza broke down completely. She had been holding them back for days now, and so when she finally got a chance, a person to hear her out, she let it all out. “I know that Master is thinking about many things, and that he doesn’t want us to get hurt. But Laxus loves his dad, doesn’t he? He thinks his dad didn’t do anything wrong. So that’s why he still goes with his dad, right? But I didn’t stop him. I wanted to stop him, but I didn’t, ’cause… ’cause why would he listen to me? I’m like him, I don’t know anything, too. Besides… I’m not even his real sister…”

“Erza-chan, you shouldn’t talk that way. The principal loves you like you’re his own daughter. Laxus cares about you, I’m sure—”

“I want to stay with Master and Laxus.” the girl continued, sniffing. “I want to stay with them, and… and maybe Laxus wants to leave with his dad, but I don’t want him to, because… because he… he’s my… my big brother and he helped me find friends and lets me ride with him to school and helps me with my homework and I-… I can’t even stop him from going, I can’t even help Master, I can’t do anything for them, even though they did so much for me—”

Gildarts could do nothing but stare. He wasn’t used to these kids breaking down on him like this. They were always such a cheerful bunch, getting into trouble or involving him in their games… Erza was a smart girl, always so composed and up for a challenge, and to think she actually feels this way…

“Yo, Gildarts, Cana told me ’ta bring you this-… What’s happening?”

Gildarts turned to the entrance of the station, where Gray was standing with a paperbag from Yajima-san’s bakery. The boy’s gaze switched from the cop to the girl, who turned away from him, trying to hide. It was useless, though — Gray knew the red hair and uniform very well.

Gray gave Gildarts a look as he walked towards them, and the cop just stood there silly. The boy stopped just beside Erza, then fished a crumpled handkerchief from his pocket, grabbed one of the girl’s hands and put the handkerchief on her palm. “When someone’s crying, you give them a handkerchief to cry on, dummy.”

Erza took the handkerchief and blew on it, but didn’t let go of Gray’s hand. The boy then looked at Gildarts. “Did you make her cry?”

“N-No! I-…err-… It’s… family stuff…”

Erza chuckled apologetically. “I’m… I’m sorry for crying like this… Thanks, Gray.”

“What’s wrong, did you fight with your grandpa? Was Laxus being mean?” — Erza shook her head — ‘Did you do something?’ — but before she could answer, Gray looked at Gildarts. “Are you gonna tell on her?”

Gildarts smiled lightly as he watched the kids interact, then brought shook his head and simply brought his hands down on the children’s heads. “Alright, here’s what. Gray, you walk Erza-chan home. Think you can do that? Erza-chan, I will talk to the Principal about this, okay? Don’t worry, I’ll take care of it.”

He sent them off shortly, trusting Gray to take care of the girl (that boy never let him down before) then picked up the phone to try and reach Makarov.

Erza was getting worried when it became dark outside and neither Laxus nor Makarov have gone home yet. Gray had left her earlier… he stayed over for a bit, but it was getting late, so she told him to go home as well.The girl started flipping through the books that Levy had lent her, then looking at her unfinished homeworks, but she was too restless to accomplish anything. She just sat by the television and switched to a local news channel.

After a while of just staring at the evening news, the door opened and Erza turned to see that Makarov had arrived with Laxus in tow. The blonde was frowning, looking at the ground, obviously angry.

“We’re sorry we’re late.” Makarov said, smiling his easy smile at Erza. “Are you hungry, dear?”

Erza shook her head, tentative. Should she ask about what happened?

“Alright.” the old man nodded. “If you could turn the TV off for a minute and sit down with us? There’s something we have to talk about.”

Erza eagerly switched the TV off and followed the two to the kitchen. She found herself sitting beside Laxus, both of them across their guardian.

Makarov regarded them shortly before starting. “This is about what I said a few weeks ago, about my son being back in Magnolia, but that you two are not to see or speak to him, and should always stay away. Well… that stands. For now, we are not to associate with him, and I know that you two want to know why.”

The children didn’t speak up.

“We all know that Laxus was very sick when he was young, right? He spent months — almost a year, in the hospital, until the doctors were able to do the required surgeries on him to help him get better. See, those surgeries cost a lot of money, not even I, with the school, and some help with our friends, was able to make that much. The one who worked very hard to earn the money for Laxus was his father, Ivan. He told me that it was from a loan, a health plan of some sort, one of the benefits for employees of his company, and I believed it.

“But it wasn’t that way. He got that money… he got it using illegal means. I didn’t know how he got involved in this, but even after we got Laxus back from the hospital, he did not stop in this… business of his. He had gone to the city to… to expand, to earn more.”

With that, Erza couldn’t help but ask, “But you told me he’s doing business, right? Like, um…—”

Laxus continued for her. “Selling land, apartments and properties, managing loan and insurances and stuff, and… and those bars in the city and downtown. I don’t see what’s wrong, is he duping people? Is he stealing their money? Dad’s had those businesses and offices for years now, what changed? And if he’s guilty, the cops should’ve come already!”

Makarov sighed again. “I don’t know how to—”

“We’ll understand. We’ll try to.” Erza said, almost pleading.

“Fine, then.” the old man said, looking at the children in the eye. “Laxus, your father is using all these businesses, bars, connections, as a cover for… for an underground syndicate. They’ve been selling and dealing illegal drugs, even to minors. It’s not just drugs, they’ve been doing some… other things, too — but this was the main concern so far…”

The children looked at him, dumbfounded.

“That’s not true.” Laxus said, voice shaking.

“This syndicate has already been in the police’s radar for years, but they cannot find leads. They’ve been investigating, there are traces and witnesses for the activities, but there has been no evidence, not enough to look for the leader or to pin certain people to the case. Until now, when Gildarts and his team had gotten a tip… important information from someone, and it stated very certainly that the leader of this group was Ivan Dreyar.”

Laxus quickly spoke up. “It’s just a lie. Some stupid thing that someone jealous of dad did to… to ruin his business. He’s being framed or something!”

Erza followed, “Yes, and they didn’t even know who sent that info, right?”

“They do, child.” Makarov said, and there was an pregnant pause before he continued, “And that man… the one who sent the information, before the police could come to him to protect him… they found him dead. In his own house.”

Erza gasped, then looked at her lap. She wished that she didn’t ask, that she didn’t hear what Makarov had just said.

“No.” Laxus shook his head, even chuckling lowly. “No, dad can’t do that. Dad won’t-… Dad can’t kill anyone—”

“Laxus, we don’t know that it was him who did it, but the information said that he is involved, and there were some investigations and theories that fit well with your father being the leader for this group—”

“Dad won’t do that — he’s good. He’s my dad and he worked hard—”

“He did, Laxus. He did. But there are findings… there are FACTS that we can’t ignore, so—”

“You believe them?! He’s your son!”

This time, Makarov had raised him voice. “And I barely know him anymore!”

They looked at their guardian, taken aback. Makarov was very rarely angry. He was strict at times, but never mad at them—

“I’m sorry.” the old man. “But it’s true. We barely know what he’s really doing out there, what he’s been doing out there… for years. We can’t pretend or lie, it will make things worse. He had just grown so distant. And this… if we stop the police from investigating, we will never know if it’s true or not. Do you understand?”

Shakily, Erza nodded, while Laxus looked away.

“Now what I need you both of you to do is to keep your distance from Ivan. I’m not saying that he’s a real criminal… the police still need more proof, but it would be better off if we don’t associate with him right now.”

“He’s not going to hurt me—”

“I want you two to be safe, so I don’t want either of you talking to him or meeting up with him. Ivan is my son and I will do my best to help him, but for the two of you… I just don’t want you to get involved with this. Am I clear?”

“Yes.” Erza said, looking down sadly. She wanted to meet the man that Laxus had been telling her so much about, but now that seems like a distant possibility. She just wants everything to be okay, as soon as possible…

“Laxus?” Makarov called out to the boy. “If he comes to pick you up like he did earlier, I don’t want to have to get you myself. I want you to tell him ‘no’ and go home. If he insists that you come with him, call out to Gildarts, he will always stand guard by the school. Are we clear on this?”

The boy didn’t move.

“Laxus. Look at me.” — Makarov said, this time sternly. The boy finally turned to look at his grandfather in the eye. “Do we have an agreement?”

The blonde finally nodded. “Yes.”

Dinner that night was quiet. Erza attempted to strike up a nice conversation and Makarov tried to engage her, but Laxus didn’t speak up a word. Pretty soon the conversation died down again. Both kids went upstairs early, Erza saying something about some books to read, and Laxus grumbling about homework.But Laxus didn’t touch his notebooks, not one bit. He laid on the bed, hands fisted in his sheets as he sobbed on his pillow.

Gildarts and Makarov didn’t want to believe in it — they still wanted to think that Ivan was not guilty, that Laxus’ dad was a good man. The man who worked too hard to succeed, for the better of his family.

Laxus didn’t want to believe, too — but it was too late. He already knew the truth. He already got the confession that he knew Gildarts, his grandfather and the rest of the police wouldn’t hear from his father.

Because that afternoon, before Makarov arrived in the office where Ivan had brought his son to, Laxus already heard the words from his father.

— “Laxus — your grandfather and other people have told you some things about me… If they haven’t yet, I’m sure they will. Soon.”

— “Dad…? What-… What are you talking about?”

— “Son, I just want you to know that those things… all those things they’ll be tellin’ you I did… I did all those for you, Laxus.”

Maybe Ivan did ruin their family… killed a man, did illegal deals and more…

…but it was for Laxus, and that was too much for the boy, knowing that it was because of him that his father had done terrible things.

On the next room, Erza pretended that she didn’t hear her big brother crying.

It was a peaceful Sunday afternoon, the day after Erza had been told that Ivan Dreyar was back in town. Laxus didn’t go home the previous night, telling them that the band will be out until late and he and Bixlow will just sleep over at Freed’s place.He still hadn’t gone home until now, and Erza knew that Makarov was getting anxious. They had to give Laxus a heads up, and not just a text… God knows how he’ll interpret that. They tried calling him but it just goes to voice mail. Erza had already suggested calling the other members of the band, but Makarov shook his head.

“We can wait until later, child.” the old man had said earlier, smiling reassuringly. “Laxus has changed, I’m pretty sure he won’t be as foolish as to get himself in trouble.”

So now Erza was spending the quiet afternoon sitting by her windowsill, reading a book that Jellal lent her the day before.

She heard the phone ringing and prepared herself to stand up, but after two rings, it stopped — Makarov must have picked up. Her guardian was lounging on the couch watching an afternoon show last time Erza saw him.

After a while though, she was surprised to hear an almost strangled call of her name.

Erza quickly put her book down and rushed downstairs, stopping dead in her tracks when she found her guardian.

Makarov was lying on the floor, clutching his chest and breathing heavily.

Cana was having a great Sunday shift at the Strauss’ talking to Kinana about the night before, how they watched movies and talked about all sorts of things, when someone called out to her, saying that Mira needs her on the kitchen and that it was urgent.The brunette blinked, but nodded anyway. She exchanged a short look with Kinana before jogging her way to the kitchen.

As soon as Mira saw her, the barmaid rushed to her and gripped her shoulders. “Cana, you’re off for tonight. You have to go to the hospital.”

“W-What? Who—”

“It’s Principal Makarov. Porlyusica-san called and said that it’s a heart attack, we’re still not sure what’s happening really, but Erza is alone in there. She needs someone. I can’t leave the bar as it is right now, so I’m sending you over. We’ll all cover for you. Please… just… it sounds bad.”

Cana was already taking her apron off. “Okay, I got it.”

Mira got out some bills and handed them to Cana. “Take a cab. Laxus is not there. I’ll try getting ahold of him. But Erza—”

“Right. I’ll be with Erza. Don’t worry. I’ll tell the others, too. But Laxus-… He has to be there!”

“I know, sweetie.” Mira sighed. “I’ll do my best to get him there. But right now you have to go.”

Cana didn’t need to be told again — she had rushed to the staffroom and just grabbed her bag and jacket. She got into a cab and told the driver to get her into the hospital as quickly as possible.

On her way, she called Gray, then Natsu, who was conveniently at Lucy’s flat. She wasn’t sure if Gajeel and Loke were there as well, but she let them do the rest as she had already arrived in the hospital.

Cana found Erza sitting by herself just outside the emergency room. The red-head was looking down at her lap. It was obvious that she rushed her guardian home. Erza was only wearing a simple tank top, a pair of worn jean shorts, and some flip-flops, her wallet in her grip. Cana noted the other girl’s puffy eyes, flushed cheeks — she had been crying.

Erza looked up when she felt a pair of hands drape a jacket on her shoulders, to see Cana, still in her waitress uniform (minus the apron), smiling down at her.

“Hey.” Cana said softly. “How’re you holding up?”

Erza smiled back sadly, wiping the new tears falling from her eyes, shaking her head. “I’m so scared…”

Cana quickly shushed her, wrapping her arms around the red-haired girl and telling her that it was all going to be alright.

When Erza had finally calmed down, Cana sat beside her and finally asked, “What happened?”

“I don’t know.” Erza sighed, looking down when Cana held her hand. “I just found him there… on the floor, he was in so much pain and I… I didn’t know what to do. I don’t remember but somehow I managed to call the ambulance and get him here. I asked them to call Porlyusica-san as soon on our way here, and now she’s inside to. She told me that Master will be alright… she said he’s safe, but they still have to stabilize him and I… I don’t remember the rest of what she said… Just that he’s safe…”

“That’s good, isn’t it?” Cana said, and Erza nodded. “You don’t have your phone, do ’ya?”

Erza shrugged. “I forgot to bring it with me. I was panicking so much, I guess. I didn’t even know how I remembered to bring my wallet… I think I left the house unlocked, too. God, I’m a mess—”

“Okay, lemme give you a hand.” Cana said, then took out her own phone and started calling. ‘Hey firebutt — relax, I’m with Erza now. The old man’s safe, but they’re still on the ER. I have to talk to Lucy.’ — after a bit, Cana’s tone changed — “Hey, girl, we need a favor. No, don’t worry, Erza’s alright, I’m with her. But she rushed here, so could you guys drop by her place? I think she left her phone there, she said the house is unlocked, so maybe you can secure that too… Yep, grab the keys… Yeah, I think that’s all. Oh, yeah — maybe a coat too… Thanks. Be safe with the guys, ’kay?”

“Thank you.” Erza said in a whisper, sighing again. “Sorry to cause you trouble—”

Another voice cut her off. “Dude, there’s no way we’d leave you here alone.

Both girls turned to see Gray, who had bothered to change out of the Yajima Bakery uniform. The raven-head sat on Erza’s other side and wordlessly held the girl’s other hand.

He was looking straight ahead as he said, “Stop apologizing. We’d do this even if you yell at us to stay away.”

Erza chuckled, then simply nodded and leaned her head on Gray’s shoulder.

“Hey, listen to this.” Cana said then, in her ‘i-have-a-freakin-awesome-story’ voice. “When I got back from your house yesterday? Guess what I found at home.”

“Oh please.” Gray said, rolling his eyes.

Erza smiled, seeing her friend’s attempt to brighten up the situation. “What?”

“The boys. All of ‘em. They had their own slumber party, but they, like, slept until noon, so I was able to take a pic of them all sleepin’ like losers.”

“You took pictures?!” Gray asked, obviously it was his first time hearing of this.

“Yeah, there were good ones, too. Like Mysto using Gajeel’s hair to cover his face, and you spoonin’ Natsu while callin’ Juvia in your sleep, and Warren hugging the cats, and a lot of stuff I’m saving to blackmail you guys in the future, and… and god, you should’ve hidden our broom from Max, man!”

Gray grunted hopelessly but didn’t complain because Erza was laughing a little appreciative laugh at their efforts, and he was just glad that she knew that she was not alone in all this.

When Porlyusica finally exited the emergency room, she raised an eyebrow at the sight that greeted her.On the waiting area where she left Erza sitting alone by herself, there was now a bunch of teenagers all silently, patiently waiting together to hear an update on the FairyGaku headmaster’s condition.

When they heard the sound of the doors opening, they all looked up and turned towards her. It was quite unnerving, as she had the undivided attention of all these kids, from Erza who was sitting between Cana and Gray, to Levy and Bisca sitting with them, Jet, Droy, Alzack and Natsu who were sitting on the floor with their legs crossed, Lucy and Loke standing beside each other, Gajeel who was leaning on the wall and standing a short distance from the group, and finally Juvia sitting by her best friend’s feet, hugging her knees to her chest.

“I thought I only told Mirajane to keep Erza company.” the woman sighed, shaking her head. This was far from what she asked the barmaid of, but then again, this was Makarov in the hospital. The man was known for gathering troubled children under his wing. However, the doctor frowned slightly — there was someone who was supposed to be here, but was still noticeably missing. “But I guess the old fool would be happy to know that all of you came over.”

“How is he?” Cana asked in behalf for the group.

“Stable.” Porlyusica answered, and she let a moment pass to allow the teenagers sighs and smiles of relief. “His life isn’t in danger anymore, at least — but he is still in a very delicate condition, and we’d have to keep very close watch on him. I doubt he’ll be waking up anytime soon. It might take a day or two.”

Lucy asked this time, “So right now, he’s… in a coma?”

“Not exactly, but there’s been quite a strain in his heart, and we’d have to continue giving him medication and life support until he’s strong enough. At this rate, we definitely think that it’s better that he stay unconscious — waking up, trying to talk, worrying about things might just stress him further. For now, we’re moving him to the ICU.”

“Thank you for everything, Porlyusica-san.” Erza said, smiling a tired but relieved smile at the woman who had always been like their extended family. “I don’t know what I’d do without you…”

“It’s nothing, child.” the woman said, shrugging dismissively. ‘Makarov is my closest friend. I would’ve never forgiven myself if I let him go like that.’ The doctor waved in dismissal when the others all thanked her as well. She never dealt well with kids, much less with teenagers. “Erza — I’ll come back once we’ve moved him to his room. I will allow you to see him, but only for a while. Then you’ll have to watch behind glass from the viewing area. You may stay the night, but we only have one small couch and some chairs in there so I suggest you go home. Someone will make sure to call you when something happens.. The rest of you should all go back home as well. There’s school tomorrow.”

They all thanked the old woman politely again as she took her leave. The tension that hung in the air just before Porlyusica arrived with news has now dissipated. Everyone can breathe well again.

Erza regarded her friends with appreciative smiles. “Thanks for keeping me company, guys. But Porlyusica-san is right. We all have school tomorrow.”

“Will you be alright?” Bisca asked. “It’s pretty late, and our parents are probably worried, but we can stay if you need us.”

The others all made sounds of agreement, and Erza simply shook her head. “You guys have done more than enough. I’ll be alright here. I… I have my phone and I’ll try to contact Laxus again, maybe he can stay here while I’m at school—”

Cana cut her off. “No way, you’re still going? You’ll be here all night, you have to get some rest after that.”

Erza sighed. “We have tons of work at the student council.”

“Erza, please.” It was Lucy this time. “The council’s not just you. There’s still me, Max and Laki. We can take care of it as well. You should take tomorrow off.”

“I’ll take notes for you.” Levy offered as well.

Erza finally gave in. “Fine. You guys would just drag me and lock me in the house if I try to go, anyway.”

Natsu chuckled. “Hell yeah, we would. And you wouldn’t ruin your house tryin’ to break out, right?”

The red-head nodded. “Right. Okay, fine. You guys go home. As soon as Laxus gets here, I’m leaving him to keep watch, and I’m going home to get some rest. Are you all happy?”

She chuckled when her friends all chorused their own versions of ‘yes!’ and then all made plans to go home.

Jet, Droy, Levy, Alzack and Bisca all agreed to pitch in for a cab ride home, to be on the safer side. Lucy, Loke, Natsu, Gajeel and Juvia went home together in Lucy’s car, dropping Natsu off at his house before the rest of them headed back to their apartment complex.

Cana and Gray stayed with Erza. Gildarts was on his way to check up on the principal’s condition, and to give Cana and Gray a safe ride home. When Gildarts arrived, Makarov has already been transferred to an ICU unit, and the teens were lounging in silence in just outside the room. There was a wide glass pane where they could watch the patient inside, sleeping peacefully, the machines around him showing the steady beating of his heart.Gildarts couldn’t help but smile sadly upon sight of the tired trio. Erza was sitting on a chair, hair in a messy bun, a blanket draped on her lap as she tapped on her phone tiredly but restlessly. Gray was slumped on the far side of the couch, obviously fighting sleep, head resting on his hand. Cana was lying curled up like a cat beside him, already dozing off with her head in Gray’s lap, taking most of the space in the couch. Her jacket was draped on her torso as a makeshift blanket.

“How are we doing?” the cop asked, making all three teens look up at him. Cana sat up, rubbing her eyes.

“Porlyusica-san said that he’s doing fine, but we shouldn’t expect him to wake up until after a day or two.” Erza answered, again looking at her guardian through the glass window.

“I’m glad. At least he’s safe now, eh? Got the call earlier. Gave me quite a fright.”

Erza nodded, then looked at her two friends. “You guys should go home now. I’m sorry for making you rush here from work.”

“No way, you’ll be alone.” Gray said. He turned to Gildarts. “You should take Cana home. I can stay here.”

Before Gildarts could answer, another voice spoke up. “Or you can all go home and get some sleep ’cause you have classes tomorrow. We’ll take over from here.”

All four of them turned towards the two figures walking towards them. Erza sighed, smiling lightly. “You guys…”

Mira and Freed both gave her comforting smiles as they stopped in front of her.

Freed frowned apologetically. “I’m sorry, Erza. We couldn’t get a hold of Laxus. He slept over last night and left early this morning, and he hasn’t been in touch since.”

Mira continued. “Don’t worry, though. We’ll take his place until he gets his late butt in here.”

Erza shook her head. “But… But Mira, the bar—”

“Oh, Elfman’s got it covered.” the barmaid said nonchalantly, then looked around her. “So what do you say? Gildarts, would you take Cana and Gray home? Freed and I will stay with Erza. We’ll send her home if we think she really needs it.”

“There you go.” Gildarts said, eyeing his daughter and her roommate, who both simply shrugged and relented.

“We’ll drop by again tomorrow, okay?” Cana said. Erza nodded gratefully at the brunette, then smiled at Gray when he silently laid a hand on her shoulder and gave it a comforting squeeze. She then watched Cana and Gray follow Gildarts down the corridor and out the hospital.

Erza didn’t exactly remember everything, but somehow Mira got her to move to the couch and sit with the barmaid. Mira took her phone from her, and then Erza was just sitting there, trying to stay awake but slowly dozing off on the other woman’s shoulder. She remembered watching Freed standing for a while in front of glass pane, watching Makarov in silence, then turning to his phone and trying his best to contact the one person that Erza knew should be in there with them.

Porlyusica checked up on them before she left to head home herself. She told them that the hospital staff are keeping close tabs on Makarov’s condition and that Erza, Mira and Freed were simply tiring themselves out, standing unnecessary vigil outside the ICU. The doctor must have understood Mira’s pleading smile, because she then shrugged and told them to do what they want to do.

After a few minutes of silence between the three of them, Erza chose to speak. “Porlyusica-san said that Master was healthy the last time he went for a check-up. She said she couldn’t imagine this happening so soon unless he ate a ton of food that affected his blood pressure or he went under a lot of stress. But I don’t remember him eating anything bad, and just yesterday, he was still so lively, preparing our breakfast and reading the third years’ career forms…”

“You tell me.” Freed said, smiling. “We were having cofee and biscuits just yesterday, too.”

Erza nodded. “And Laxus?”

“I don’t know where he is.” Freed replied, leaning his head on the glass, and for the first time that night, Erza noticed that the young man was tired. She didn’t have to look at Mira to know that of course the woman would also be exhausted from a day in the bar and then having to rush to the hospital at this late hour. The two were just reliable like this, that they knew how to hide how tired they really were. “I’ve been calling since Mira asked me to get ahold of him.”

Erza closed her eyes, sighing slowly. Mira wrapped an arm around her and pulled her closer.

Freed ran a hand through his hair, biting his lip. “Honestly, he’s always been like this… just disappearing without leaving an explanation or anything. But we don’t complain because he always answers when we call. Even just to tell us to leave him alone or don’t worry about him, and then hang up like a jerk. He will always — ALWAYS — answer. But I don’t know what’s wrong now. He was alright yesterday, I’d say he was even cheerful. But this morning, he was gone when I woke up.” — he chuckled then — “…and you know how early I wake up. Bix sleeps like a log so he didn’t notice Laxus leaving, either. I tried to call him but he won’t pick up. He did leave a note, but all it said was that he left early. Now no one knows what he’s up to.”

Mira sighed as well. “He came to the bar in the morning. It was very brief. I told him I’ll treat him breakfast since he rarely comes over alone, but he just declined and told me he was in a hurry, ordered coffee and then left. That’s it. Nothing.”

Erza came up with just that, as well. Nothing. These days Laxus was either at school, at home or with the band somewhere. He rarely went out on his own except for the occasional errands or to stop by somewhere before meeting up with friends. He’s always been that way. Even before the band, he mostly kept to himself, but never went anywhere they couldn’t reach him, except when-…

The red-head stopped abruptly, withdrawing from Mira’s arm and saying, in a whisper, “No, he wouldn’t… he.. he’s different now, he wouldn’t do that…”

Mira blinked. “Erza?”

“He never went anywhere we couldn’t reach him, he always makes sure we know where he is, except… except back then… whenever… no. He’s not with him. He wouldn’t.”

Freed narrowed his eyes. “Erza, what—”

“He could be with his father.”

Freed shook his head. “Father? But he’s not even—”

“He is.” Erza continued, looking at her companions. “He’s in town. Master told me just yesterday. He wanted to let Laxus know as soon as he got home, but he slept at your place. We were waiting for him to come home today, but then… this… happened. Master was… Master wanted me to be careful. And Laxus… I don’t know, he could’ve known on his own, and he could’ve gone there—”

Mira looked at her friends uneasily. “But I’m sure Laxus knows that it’s a bad idea—”

“I’m sure he does, but he’ll do it anyway. He did it back in high school, after the investigations stopped, when no one was able to find any evidence and Ivan got off the case scot-free even though we really knew it was him.” Erza said.

When the two just stared at her, she continued. “Laxus… Laxus went to him, several times, even got involved with whatever it is that he was doing. I knew it. Master knew it. Laxus was going to his father. Master couldn’t stop him… or he simply didn’t, because he couldn’t do it. He can’t even look his son in the eye, but he knew that Ivan was alone, without a family, so Master just… lets Laxus stay there, go there whenever he wanted. Master really didn’t want anything to do with Ivan… but he couldn’t help it. He’s still a father, and he can’t take that away from his son too… Master thinks that his son was just lonely, that maybe if Laxus was around, Ivan wouldn’t feel so alone, that maybe he would even change… for Laxus.”

Mira stared. “I… I didn’t know…”

“But then Master got angry when Laxus started doing… stuff… errands for Ivan. Laxus got mad too and it was bad for a while… They’d fight every time… Laxus started defending his dad then, but thankfully it all stopped all of a sudden. We think he stopped going because Ivan went away again, something about someone in their group almost giving away enough proof to continue the case and prove them guilty, I think. After that, Laxus was back to us… so if… if he just stopped coming because his dad left… maybe-… maybe now he’s doing it again?”

Freed cut the girl’s musings off with a stern “No. Laxus wouldn’t do that now. Just… no.”

Erza argued, “He did it once already — and he never told anyone if he was still loyal to his father or not! I’m not mad at him, I don’t blame him… I wouldn’t know what to do if I was in his shoes, because… well, that person is still family! I’m just… I’m just worried now, because… because it’s dangerous. What if—”

“This time he’s different.” Freed said. “He knows better.”

“Freed.” Mira started, smiling sadly. “You can’t defend him all the time… We’re not blaming him, but we all know he’s done some… things… some things he knew weren’t exactly the right things, while he was working for his father in the past. If he’s not up to trouble, he would have answered… or even called, by now. He only stopped doing it before because his father left Magnolia so… it’s still possible that—”

“That’s not what happened.” the young man said, this time more firmly.

His two companions looked at him.

“And I’m not defending him.” — after a quick pause, he sighed tiredly. “Okay, maybe I am. It’s been some sort of instinct for me to defend that jerk by now. But I mean it. That’s not how things happened. I-… I should know. He told me. Us, the band.”

Freed glanced at the girls, then looked down. “He left his father shortly after we formed the band.”

Erza and Mira exchanged looks, then Erza asked, “Why? Did he… Did he realize that what he was doing was—”

“Wrong?” Freed finished for her. “He knew all along. He knew what was getting himself into. I knew, too. I picked up the signs, figured things out on my own shortly after we became friends… I was mad at him for it. For a while I just wanted to leave him, but I couldn’t. Believe me, it was hard to stay silent like that, knowing my best friend was up to something… delivering ‘cargo’ and some stuff he called ‘packages’, running so-called ‘errands’. God knows what he’s delivering around town, and to some real shady people, too. We couldn’t leave him, though. Not just because Bix and Ever held on to him like a pillar, and I was stupidly in love with him — we couldn’t leave him because Laxus couldn’t quit it himself.”

“What do you mean?” Erza asked.

“It wasn’t just the family thing. Laxus thinks it was his fault that all of it happened, anyway.”

Laxus blamed himself, so he chose to stay. Screw what his grandpa says, he was going in there, to his father.It all started when he became sick, anyway. Ivan said that he only started it because he wanted his only son to live. He just lost his beloved wife, and was about to lose Laxus the same way. He couldn’t let that happen, and when he ran out of legal means to afford the treatments, he resorted to the illegal ones.

Laxus knew that his father could have stopped right there, after Laxus recovered, but he didn’t. Ivan chose to carry on, and the man told his son that it was just for Laxus’ future. For the family, so he can give his son everything and anything he wanted. So Laxus would feel safe and secure—

‘He’s doing this for me. It’s just right that I support him.’

That was all he chose to think about all this time, following his father’s orders to deliver sealed packages to gang leaders, young dealers, so-called ‘business partners’ and other people. Sometimes it wasn’t sealed packages but letters, bank checks…

His father trusted him to do those and to not expose their operations, and he just kept on doing it, to keep a close watch on his father. He had seen the evil grin on his father’s lips and the maniacal glint on his father’s eyes… He had heard malicious laughter that he never expected to hear from the man he once knew.

Sometimes, he wanted out. Whenever he had doubts, whenever he so much as suggested the possibility of stopping this, of going back to using correct, legal means (after all, the businesses that Ivan used for cover were also successful), his father talked about how far they have come (and it was ‘they’ now, not ‘I’ anymore), that this was additional insurance, that this way Laxus wouldn’t struggle to start from scratch when his father goes, because Ivan now has a legacy to leave his son with.

Laxus chose to ignore the ‘legacy’ part, because that meant accepting that he will take over all this someday, and he wasn’t sure if he wanted this to be what his father left him with. He ignored that for now and just focused on working with his father for this ‘insurance’ they were talking about.

He chose to stay. This happened because of him, and he will never again let his father carry the burden alone.

But Laxus had his limits.

“We have to talk.”

Ivan did not look up from whatever paperwork he was doing, even with his son’s cold tone of voice and the harsh slam of his office door. “Go on.”

“One of your guys forced Bixlow to buy this.” Laxus said, dropping a packet of various drugs in his father’s desk. “Forced. He doesn’t go here anymore ‘cause I’m the one gettin’ whatever he needs from here but some fucker approached him while he was goin’ home and made him buy this. He said they threatened him. Do you know who Bixlow is?”

“Hmmm… I guess not…”

“He’s my drummer. I thought I already made it clear that no one touches my friends—”

The man raised an eyebrow, looking shortly at the packet that his son dropped. “Why didn’t you tell him to just enjoy it then? These are my best, son.”

“Because he doesn’t take those stuff.” Laxus answered, gritting his teeth. “He’s… he just takes coke every once in a while to help him focus ‘cause he’s sick. He takes it because he needs it — and only sometimes, in just the right dose — he’s not one of those stoners you’re leechin’ on.”

“Laxus, relax…” Ivan sighed. “Fine, I’ll find out who did this, and I’ll refresh our men on the policy on your friends…”

“Next time someone harrasses Bix, or even Freed and Ever, they’ll have to go through me—”

“Yes, yes. I’ll make sure no one touches your little gang.” the man sighed, exasperated. “You always seem to know what to do to anger your grandfather…”

“We’re not a gang.” Laxus said. “And this has nothing to do with gramps.”

As promised, Bixlow never got threats again. Freed and Ever never got involved. For a while Laxus kept quiet again, obediently doing jobs for his father’s group, making sure to keep things separate between his ‘sideline’ and his band.That was until one evening, as he stood with Freed and Bixlow outside the studio they used for band practice, waiting for Ever who told them she forgot something and went back inside the studio to fetch whatever it was. Freed was watching Bixlow playing a game in his console. Laxus then turned to look at the other side of the street, where he saw a familiar brunette on her way home.

He knew about the rumors spreading around about Cana. Personally, he didn’t believe it — Cana was smart as a whip. If Laxus knew the girl as much as he thought he did, she would have figured out another way to earn her keep and survive on her own without resorting to selling her body to perverted old men. Just because a pretty girl walked alone at night with well-earned money on her wallet doesn’t mean she also slept around — of course she was just going home after working two or three different part time jobs. Besides, if he ever thought otherwise, Erza would give him hell.

So it annoyed Laxus to see what looked like two grown men walking on either side of the girl and trying to “pick her up”. He heard them laughing and asking her how much she charged for a night ( “Ne, missy? We heard a lot about how GOOD you are…”), and then the dignified reply from the brunette ( “I’m not in that line of work. Too busy working on three different decent jobs, you know. So sorry to disappoint, misters.”)

Then they stood directly in her way and she was forced to stop. Laxus’ eyes narrowed, but he stayed still. The men looked… familiar, somehow.

One of them smiled, but it came off more malicious than friendly. “That was indeed disappointing, Cana-chan—”

Cana cut him off quickly. “I don’t know you.”

“Ah, but we heard you’re pretty… err… well-connected, see. Y’know a lotta kids, and a lotta workplaces, and you seem pretty familiar with the town—”

“What do you want from me?”

“We want to offer you a job. You know, a sideline—”

“I work three different jobs. I can’t afford a sideline.”

“But this sideline is worth it, sweetheart. Our stuff sells well, and I’d imagine quite many of your friends will like them—”

Realization finally dawned on Laxus. These were the types of guys who hang out at his father’s bar downtown. And they were, as always, trying to ‘expand’ their business.

And dammit, Ever was still inside the studio — what did she forget anyway?

“Hey.” the blonde said, turning to his companions. He took his guitar case and then handed it to Freed, who was surprised but accepted it anyway.

Bixlow paused his game and blinked up at him, while Freed adjusted his hold on the precious guitar. “W-What is it, Laxus?”

Laxus cracked his knuckles, then cocked his head to indicate at the scene across the street. Cana was arguing with the men openly now, and the two were starting to get forceful. Freed was about to say something but Laxus beat him to it. “If things get messy, I want you to leave me behind and take her home safely.”

Freed gaped, and Bixlow almost dropped his Gameboy. “A-Are you gonna do what I think you’re—”

“Take care of my guitar, too.” — and then before his bandmates can speak further, he crossed the street and approached the trio.

“Oi.” As soon as Laxus reached them, he laid a hand on Cana’s shoulder while he looked imploringly at the men harrassing her. “What d’you think you’re doing?”

Cana looked up at him in surprise, but upon seeing a familiar face, she instinctively stepped closer to him and held on to his shirt. “They want me to come with them somewhere.”

“You guys know who I am, right?” he asked, a freshman high school student to two men who couldn’t be anywhere under 20, but he held his ground.

One of them was confused, but the other one visibly shaken. “Y-Yes… Laxus. Laxus Dreyar. Y-You’re-…”

“Oh. So you do.”

The other one, who obviously didn’t know who he was, started to argue, “Hey, whoever you are, we got here first. And that girl is—”

“—not interested in your stupid business offer.” Laxus finished for them. “So you’re gonna leave her alone, and never approach her again.”


The other man cut his more reckless companion off quickly. “Yes, sir! We’re sorry— this is-… we’re—”

“Just fuck off, okay?”

“Y-Yes!” With that, the men took off, one of them glacing shortly at him before they disappeared down the street.

After a while, he heard Cana sigh. “Thanks. Really.” Laxus looked down to see that the brunette had tucked herself neatly to his side, her face hidden in his sleeve.

He shrugged. “You shouldn’t be walkin’ ’round alone at this hour. At least have Gray with you.”

“He’s still at work.”

He sighed. “Fine, I’ll give you a ride home.” He looked across the street. Bixlow was the one holding on to his guitar now. It looked awkward at best. Freed had his arms crossed across his chest, but was smiling a relieved smile. Evergreen (oh thank God she’s finally out) was looking at him, her face a mix of disbelief and adoration. Maybe she thought it was sweet that he saved a poor innocent girl from harrassment.

Well, he thought that the harrassment shouldn’t have happened in the first place.

“We have to talk.” — he started with that again, his angry tone and the slam of his father’s office door not even enough to faze the man who sat by his desk working.“What is it this time?” Ivan asked absently.

“Two of your men—”

“Fine, I’ll fire them—”

“They thought they could harrass Cana into being a dealer. A middle-school girl, one of gramps’s students, and Erza’s best friend. What the fuck were they thinking?”

“Ah,” Ivan sighed. “I doubt they knew all that when they were trying to convince her—”

“No, shit. They did a background check on her, they knew where she worked and knew her friends and school. So you can’t tell me they didn’t know that she goes to FairyGaku.”

The man finally looked up. “Laxus, I thought you’d understand. Many of our dealers sell our stuff to students. Having a dealer inside the schools is a surefire way to expand our profit. Besides, I believed our exception stands for only three specific students. Your so-called band.”

Laxus shook his head, looking at his father in disbelief. “You’re not involving the school here. That’s OUR school.”

Ivan scoffed. “YOUR grandfather’s school, son. He wouldn’t pass it on to me. I had such high hopes for Fairy Gakuen, you know.”

“What are you talking about?”

The man sighed, leaning back on his chair and looking at his son. “I never liked how your grandfather ran it. Accepting delinquents, not segregating classes by ranks, mixing the top students with the worst ones in one class… your grandfather thinks he’s building this… what he calls a ‘culture’ of openness and acceptance and whatever it is he thinks he sees. I wanted to build a culture of excellence in that school. There are stellar students and their potential is being wasted by mixing them in with trash. If I ran it, only the best would stay. Don’t worry, that includes you. And your band, if you want them with you. And your so-called little sister, ’cause I’ve been hearing that she’s a model student. Imagine how great it would be if FairyGaku was only made up of the most competent—”

“It’ll be great.” the young man nodded, looking down. “But if you have such high hopes for it, why are you fine with ruining it now?”

“Laxus, we simply protect our own and crush whatever it is that’s not our own. That’s how we should do things, son.”

“And the school is not yours, so you don’t have any problem sending your men to harrass a student to distributing your goods. It’s all business.”

Ivan nodded, pleased that his son understood so quickly. “Yes, exactly.”

There it was again, Laxus saw. The evil glint in his father’s eyes. That was the moment Laxus decided that he has had enough.

“You don’t deserve it.”

The man stopped, staring at his son in shock. Laxus has always been difficult, mostly a moody teenager in himself, but he has always been quite loyal— “I’m sorry?”

“Gramps won’t give you our school because you don’t deserve it. Also, I quit.”

That startled the man. “W-What? Laxus…?”

“You said it, dad. We simply protect our own.”

“Son, you can’t—”

“Fine, let’s make a bargain. I keep doing your little private errands and you don’t involve FairyGaku.”

At this, Ivan stood up, slamming his hands against his desk. “LAXUS! I can’t just let you do this, after everything— I thought we were in this together!”

“We are.” Laxus said, turning his back to his father. “That’s why I’ll keep quiet. I won’t say anything about all these plans and operations of yours. Look at it as me stayin’ loyal. But I won’t do any of your favors anymore, dad. I quit. ’Sides, the band’s doing great. I wanna focus on that.”

“Laxus. Son! Please think about this—”

Ivan stopped when Laxus turned his head to glare at him.

“I’m leaving you and your people alone, so leave mine out of your shit too.”

It was five in the morning and there was still no reply from Laxus. Mira had fallen asleep sitting on the couch, an arm still around Erza, who stayed awake even after Freed’s story, just staring off to the distance. Freed was sitting on the chair reading a thick paperback novel in between attempts to reach Laxus, but it was obvious that he was struggling to stay awake, too.Evergreen arrived then, and seeing the state her friends were in, she told them that they should all head home. “Get some sleep, you guys. Specially you, Erza.”

Erza shook her head. “But… Master-… I don’t like the idea of just leaving him here, alone with no one keeping watch—”

“The staff are keeping close tabs on him, right?” Evergreen supplied, but stopped when Erza gave her a look. She sighed. “I know, I know. You mean family. Well, that’s why I’m here. I’ll keep watch while you guys get some rest. Bix should arrive soon. I called to wake him up before I left.”

Erza smiled. Between the many thoughts in her head, the lack of sleep, and the fatigue, she quickly relented. It was obvious that the band was filling in for Laxus while he was absent.

Soon, the three of them headed home, leaving Evergreen with the blanket that Lucy and the others had brought in when they first arrived.

Mira took a cab back to the bar while Freed went home with Erza in the Dreyar residence. He didn’t feel like sleeping over his parents’ house, and his flat near the university was out of the question.As soon as Erza fell asleep, Freed went to Laxus’ bedroom. The room looked just like always, a semi-organized mess that he obviously just tried to keep decent enough to avoid Erza nagging at him. His two guitars — an electric and an acoustic — both sat in their usual spots. His bed was not made, the blankets were rumpled and the pillows misaligned.

Freed just sighed and took off his coat and turtleneck to change into one of Laxus’ cotton shirts, more comfortable to sleep in. He got in the bed and laid on his side, staring blankly at the guitars on the corner.

Erza seemed shaken after he told her the truth about how Laxus worked for his dad and then quit. He was starting to think that he shouldn’t have told her. After all, they barely got Laxus to open up about it… Maybe Freed didn’t have the right to share it just like that, even to Erza, who was family…

But then Laxus was gone, on a time when Makarov and Erza needed him. He didn’t tell anyone where he was going, he wasn’t answering texts or calls…

Freed tried to be cruel and angry and grumpy — yes, of course it was right that he let Erza know what really happened. Screw it, if only Laxus had just told them what the heck he was doing, Erza wouldn’t worry too much and Freed wouldn’t have to tell her that story to calm her down. So it’s all on Laxus, really.

Good. That guilty part of Freed’s had been taken care of for now.

Still, it stuck to him how back then no one asked Laxus to quit or to leave his father. He decided by himself. Even though he blamed himself and didn’t want his father to be lonely, he still left — he just did it, stepped down… protected his own.

Freed closed his eyes and sighed. Laxus has changed. A lot. But Freed prayed that the young man that Laxus had been back then… the Laxus who without hesitation turned his back on the father he had always yearned for just to protect his friends and to keep what was left of his family (the family that sincerely cared about him) in tact…

Freed prayed that the young man who did all that was still there, that right now he’d do the same.

[‘Laki’s absent today, told us she’s not feelin’ too well, so it’s just me and Max in here, and I’ll have to go home earlier today, too. I have to be at the big house, there’s this really important dinner that dad can’t get in time to so I have to fill in. Hug Erza for me, Levy-chan!’]“Sure thing, Lu-chan.” Levy smiled as she listened to Lucy through the call, telling her to take care on her way to the hospital before hanging up.

School days were busy, even after school. Most of their friends wanted to pay a visit to Makarov in the hospital but many of them have urgent business themselves. Most of her friends promised to drop by after, though. Cana and Gray already told her that they’ll be coming after their shifts at work. Droy came home early due to some mishaps in their flower shop, and Jet was stuck in a group project for one of his classes. Levy was lucky that her afternoon that day was off.

Principal Makarov was like the grandfather she never met, really. Both of Levy’s parents had passed away before she was even born. Being one of Erza’s playmates when they were kids, Levy often spent afternoons at the Dreyars’. When Makarov learned about her passion for reading, he let her borrow a gorgeous volume of fairy tales that up until now was one of Levy’s favorite books. She had fond memories of sitting beside the old man and laughing alongside him while they watched Erza, Gray, Natsu and the others running around in the Dreyars’ backyard playing one of their games.

She knew — they all did — that the headmaster’s condition was stable by now. Erza texted her friends that update earlier in the day. Yet Levy still couldn’t help herself. She still wanted to stay as close as possible to the old man as he recovered. She wanted to be there to welcome him back when he wakes up… and Levy knew that the same goes for her other friends.

When Levy arrived at the hospital, she headed straight for the waiting area by the ICU. There were already some familiar faces present. Bixlow was sitting on one side of the couch, engrossed on a game in his PSP while Romeo was perched on the armrest beside the college student, watching him play. Sitting on the couch on Bixlow’s other side was Wendy, who was curiously watching the game as well while quietly nibbling on a biscuit. Mystogan was sitting timidly on one of the chairs, stroking Happy on his lap. Yajima-san, Macao and Wakaba were there too, talking to Porlyusica-san on the far end of the hall. Erza was standing, talking to Jellal in between bites of a familiar-looking pastry, probably telling him about her guardian’s condition. Levy then noted the basket of pastries, sweets and biscuits on the nearby table and recognized the treats as some of Yajima-san’s creations. The old man must have brought it in for the teens’ snack, knowing that they’ll be there. Natsu and Juvia were standing together by the glass window, Juvia laughing softly at something Natsu was saying. Both of them were watching Makarov sleeping. Levy was quite sure that Natsu was telling the blunette a funny story about the old man — most definitely from their childhood.

All in all, it looked close to one of the rowdy impromptu get-togethers they usually held at Mira’s… just quieter. They were in a hospital after all.

“Hey.” Levy greeted as she approached Erza and Jellal. Both of them smiled at her and greeted her back. “Lucy’s down for the count, told me she has urgent stuff in the big house. Jet and Droy too. Cana and Gray will drop by late. How’re we doing?”

Erza nodded. “Pretty much is the same condition as last night, stable but closely monitoring… Porlyusica-san is getting a bit worried, she said Master’s condition can worsen anytime, since it’s been almost 24 hours… and yes, it’s still good, but she had expected him to get a bit better by now. She said there’s a possibility that it can go downhill since it hasn’t improved either.” The red-head sighed, but quickly brightened up again. “But we’re being positive. She said maybe it’s just because of his age that he’s taking longer to recover.”

Levy looked at the unconscious man in the ICU before turning towards Erza. “Let’s hope so. Don’t worry, it’s the principal. He’ll be back soon, won’t let you graduate without him.”

“He wouldn’t. Oh, Yajima-san brought some snacks. You should try some…” Erza said, pointing towards the basket on the table, which Bixlow and Romeo had finally noticed and were digging through enthusiastically. “…before the boys eat them all.”

Levy was just relieved that Erza looked much better now than she did the day before. No signs of tears anymore, and no doubt Mira and Freed had made sure that the red-head got enough rest.

Levy settled herself on the empty space on the couch beside Wendy, then took a pastry from the basket and began eating engaging the younger girl in a conversation. They talked about a book that Grandine got for her daughter for a while before the blunette got thirsty.

“I’m gonna go get myself a drink.” she announced.

“Ah, me too! Can ye buy one for me? Where are you buyin’?” Bixlow asked, taking some coins from his pocket and starting to count.

“The vending machine right around the corner. What should I get for you?”

Bixlow handed her some coins and told her to buy him a soda. That was when Romeo tugged at the drummer’s sleeve and said he was thirsty too. “Yer dad’s over there, lil bro.”

“Aw, but he’s talking to Porlyusica-san and she’s scary!”

The others were now watching the little moment in amusement. Bixlow sighed, but quickly perked up and then took some more coins from his pocket. “Alright, here’s for my lil bro…”

“What about Wendy?” Romeo asked. Wendy turned to them and gaped, quickly telling Bixlow that he didn’t have to treat her.

Bix produced more coins anyway. “…and my lil sis Wendy-chan.”

“Hah! You’re so cool, Bix!” Romeo said, in an obvious display of flattery.

The drummer laughed, playing along easily. “I know, right?”

Levy chuckled as she accepted the money. Wendy chose to go with the blunette to help her carry the drinks back, and the two engaged in casual chit-chat on their way.

When they got to the vending machine, Levy was surprised to find a familiar figure sitting on one of the nearby benches by himself.“Gajeel!” she called pleasantly, making the other student look up.

The raven-head raised an eyebrow. “Shorty.” then he saw Wendy, who bowed politely and wished him a good afternoon. He raised a canned bottle of iced coffee in reply. “Wendy, right? What’s up?”

“Ah, just fetching some drinks.” Levy said, walking past him and proceeding to drop coins in the vending machine. After the machine let out the first can of beverage, Levy handed it to Wendy. “How ’bout you? Why’re you all alone in here?”

“Just havin’ coffee, as you can see. Or you’re half-blind ’cause you don’t have your glasses?”

“Haha, very funny.” the blunette rolled her eyes, retrieving the third can out of four now. ‘I can see you very clearly, for your information.’ She bought Bixlow’s orders first, so as she handed the third can to Wendy, she said, “Wendy-chan, you go ahead and bring those to Bix and Romeo. I’ll just catch up.”

“Hai.” the girl nodded obediently, adjusting the drinks in her arms and then bowing in greeting to Gajeel again before running back to the others.

Gajeel watched as the girl rounded the corner by the end of the hall. “So polite. Nothin’ like your lot. Beer Queen thinks a proper greetin’s a smack on the back intended to break someone’s spine. Bunny girl glomps at everyone.”

Levy simply shook her head and then sat down beside him. She opened her drink and took a small sip. “Don’t complain about it too much. That’s how you know they love you.”

“Trying to kill me in greeting?”


After about a minute of silence, Levy finally asked. “But no really. What’re you doing alone out here? Did you come for the principal?”

“Duh. Who else will I come here for?”

“How should I know? You’re here, and his room is over there at the other side of the hospital.”

“Nah, it’s just I took one look at the ol’ geezer and that’s that. Abort mission.”

Levy raised an eyebrow and looked up at her companion. That was kinda confusing. “Umm… what?”

He scoffed. “You’ll laugh.”

“I won’t.”

“You will.”

“I promise I won’t.”

He grunted. She won’t leave him alone anyway. “I just mean, it’s… hard. To see ’im like that, y’know. I mean, he’s nice and everything.”

“You mean you don’t want to see the principal that way, huh?”

“Yeah, kinda. I mean, I owe him a lot. I… err, beat up his students and almost got all of you either hurt — really badly — sorry again. Or kicked out the school.”

Levy cringed slightly. That all seemed like a lifetime ago, but sometimes the memories came so fresh. It was different this time, though. Gajeel felt… warm… beside her. She remembered him as the violent teenager who hurt her back then but right now that didn’t seem to matter because she simply couldn’t feel any form of harmful intent. In fact, she felt safe and secure, just like how she always felt in the company of her closest friends.

“But he still took us in. Me and Juvia. So last night when I heard what happened — damn.”

“You panicked?”

“Kinda? Not really panic. It’s just… it’s been a while since I really felt… scared.”

They fell into another moment of silence.

He asked, “What, not laughing?”

Levy pouted. “What, you want me to? I promised, right?”

Gajeel simply grunted, taking a sip from his drink. “Yeah, you did. Good job.”

“I don’t get why you guys think you have to act so tough all the time.” Levy sighed. “It’s normal to be scared for someone you care about. You’re not the only one. Why do you think so many of us rushed here last night so quickly? Here.”

Gajeel looked down when he felt the girl tug at his arm and then simply watched as she looped her arm around his and shifted, making herself comfortable beside him. “What are you doing?”

“Duh, you’re so big, it’ll take two of me to actually hug you. I’ll settle for an arm.”

“Why do you have to hug me?”

It was the blunette’s turn to shrug. “It’s sad that you’re hiding out here. Scared alone. So I’m stayin’ and we can be scared together.”


She sighed. Really, they can be so dense sometimes. “That’s why everyone rushed to the hospital all at once and stayed vigil, Gajeel. ’Cause it’s sad to be scared and alone. Better that we’re all scared together.”

“Man, you’re weird.”

“Want me to let go?”

“Nah, it’s like there’s this baby bird trying to kill my arm and it just tickles.”

“Rude!” she hit him arm half-heartedly before they settled in comfortable silence again, just drinking in peace, arms linked.

Gajeel had to admit that it was pretty comfy, so he didn’t mind that they stayed like that even after finishing their drinks.

“There they are. Gajeel-kun and Levy-chan!”

The two looked up when they heard a familiar voice calling their names. Mira was walking towards them, followed by Freed. The woman smiled her kind smile at them as she asked, “Having some alone time?”

“Keeping this loner company, yeah.” Levy replied with a small smile of her own, while Gajeel shrugged. “What about you? I heard you did an all-nighter here.”

“Can’t be helped. We didn’t want to leave Erza alone.” Freed answered.

“So… he really is still out there, huh?” Levy asked tentatively. Sure, the others have stopped trying to look for him, but many of them were still wondering where exactly he was.

“Whatever it is he’s doing, it better be good.” Mira crossed her arms across her chest. “We can fill in for him just fine but he has to show up sooner or later.”

The others nodded. Then Mira looked directly at Gajeel. “Actually, we have… a clue… on where he could be. And… and we thought, Gajeel could… help us a bit.”

Levy saw the conflicted look in both Mira’s and Freed’s faces, the subtle, hesitant glace they stole towards her direction. She took it upon herself to excuse herself. “I guess… I should leave—”

“No, you can stay.” Gajeel said, surprising his companions. Levy nodded silently and remained in her seat, while Gajeel addressed Mira and Freed. “What is it?”

“We really hate to ask you this, we know it’s all in the past, but—”

Gajeel sighed, quickly figuring out where they were going. “Phantom? It’s fine. I still get some random news every once in a while. Just… don’t ask Juvia about it anymore.”

The others couldn’t help but smile lightly. They all knew how protective he could get when it came to his best friend. Mira nodded, then spoke slowly, choosing her words carefully. “We’re not really sure about this… There’s this underground syndicate that used to… collaborate… with some of the big gangs around Magnolia? I remember it, too — well, my former… friends… and I didn’t get involved with it because it was bad news, but we’re not sure if Phantom had any connections to it whatsoever?”

“If you’re talkin’ about those dudes who call themselves ‘Ravens’, then yes — Phantom used to deal with those guys. Everyone knows they run that bar downtown. Even Metallicana used to drop by there. Dunno why the police hasn’t taken them down yet. Probably politics, or the boss is just that smart.”

Freed and Mira exchanged looks before Freed asked, “Are you familiar with that group?”

“Good ol’ Master Jose used to send me on little ‘errands’, bringin’ and pickin’ up stuff there. In that part of town if you’re not tough, you’re gonna end up dead.”

Freed cringed slightly. He remembered that one time Laxus and Bixlow went to him beaten up, asking for a first-aid kit because if they told anyone else, they’d be in trouble.

“Their boss goes by ‘Alexei’. Kinda crazy dude, but keeps stuff professional. Met him several times when picking up some goods. The guys at Phantom are patrons of his stuff. Master Jose always talks about how he’s good friends with this Alexei person but I think that part’s one-sided. He went out of town a while back, layin’ low for a bit. Probably because the police were gettin’ persistent. You think Laxus is there with Raven?”

The two didn’t answer, and it scared Levy a bit. She didn’t know who this ‘Alexei’ person was, but she was pretty sure that she knew who was the leader of the syndicate that they were talking about. Mira asked, “Any news of this group recently?”

“I’m tryin’ to stay away as much as possible, but I get some bits of useful info from Aria and Totomaru. Helps a lot to let me know what to avoid. And yep — looks like the Phantom guys are frequenting the bar again, so I think it’s back in business. They said the boss is probably back running things properly again. Not sure if it’s still the Alexei dude, though.”

“This Alexei, is he this person?” Freed asked, this time taking an old photo from his pocket and showing it to Gajeel.

Levy felt a heavy weight on her chest. It was a picture of Ivan Dreyar standing beside a young Laxus. She knew that Laxus once got involved in his father’s business, but he had already gone back to them… He was like their big brother…

Gajeel brushed off Levy’s tightened grip on his shirt as he looked at the photo. He understood that maybe it was scary for her to talk about these things. “Younger-lookin’, but yeah that’s him. How did you-… Wait.”

Freed withdrew the photo and looked down.

“Was that kid Laxus?” Gajeel asked, glancing at Levy. Now he knew why she was suddenly so tense.

“Yes, that was him. With his father, Ivan Dreyar.” Mira said, her voice almost in a whisper. “…and we think Laxus might have gone to him.”

“Y’all told me he was a good guy. Well, a jerk but not a criminal—”

“It’s a long story.” Freed said simply. “All we know is he used to go to his father in that bar, and now he might have gone there, again. If he was not up to trouble, we figured he’d have answered at least one of us by now.”

“You’re going there.” Levy said, disbelievingly. She knew Mira and Freed were strong, but… it was still very dangerous. “Please don’t do it — you should just tell the police, tell Gildarts!”

“We won’t do it.” Mira said, but it was very obvious that she was just trying to appease the other girl.

“No, but-…” Freed cut himself off. How sure was he that they wouldn’t try to find Laxus soon? “…it depends. If this goes on for another day or two, we might really go looking.”

Silence fell upon the four until Gajeel finally spoke up. “I’m out.”

They looked at him.

“This is all I can do. Provide the intel. I’m done here. Go looking, but don’t ask me to join you. I-… I made a promise to the old man that I won’t get involved anymore. I owe him where I am now, and I don’t wanna disappoint a man in a coma.”

Mira couldn’t help but smile. She understood where Gajeel was coming from. She simply nodded. “Got it. We won’t ask you anymore. Thanks, Gajeel.”

“Yeah.” was all he said, leaning his back against the chair again and looking down. Beside him, Levy looked questioningly at Mira and Freed, who both avoided her gaze.

Mira and Freed then thanked their younger companions for their time, and asked them to keep this between them. The two had just taken a few steps away when Gajeel spoke up again.

“He wouldn’t want you to go, you know.”

The two stopped and looked back at him. Gajeel was looking down, staring at the empty can in his hands.

“I dunno if this is just me, but he probably ain’t answering your calls because he doesn’t want you to get involved. If you believe that he cares about you, you should know that he wouldn’t want you to go after him and hurt yourself.”

On the fourth day, Porlyusica delivered good news. Although Makarov was still unconscious, they have noted that his condition was getting better. The doctor said that the old man took his time, but his body was recovering again. They were all hopeful, and she said that they should expect Makarov to wake up anytime soon.“Better find Laxus now, though.” the old woman said. “If he wakes up and finds out that his grandson is missing in action, the stress would most definitely affect him.”

The waiting area was silent. It was the early morning, so only Mira, Erza and Freed were there to receive the news. For the past few days, Mira, Freed, Bixlow, Evergreen and Elfman took turns in keeping Erza company, or filling in for her whenever she went to school or home. There was always someone keeping vigil by the ICU unit, while in the afternoons and early evenings, Makarov’s other friends and students dropped by to check on the headmaster’s condition.

Upon hearing Porlyusica’s warning about the consequences of Laxus’ absence, Erza looked down and sighed. They had gotten tired of trying to reach the blonde, although every now and then they still tried to drop by a voice mail or a text message. After Gajeel gave them advice to stay still and wait for a while, Freed and Mira also tried simply waiting for Laxus to reach out to them himself.

They had asked Gildarts to keep an eye out for Laxus around town, or during his patrols, but the cop still found nothing. Not even a sign of the blonde’s motorcycle. The police once tried to patrol in the downtown area, too. The place in town where Ivan’s bar was, but found nothing even when he asked around. No one had seen Laxus in that part of town. Or maybe they just didn’t want to answer because Gildarts was a cop. The man couldn’t really count on the answers that the people over that part of town gave him. It was already under the influence of gangs and syndicates.

When Erza excused herself to get some coffee, Freed looked at Mira. “We’ll have to look for him now.”

Mira sighed, looking back at her friend. “I’m afraid so.”

Freed immediately called Bixlow to come in by lunch, saying that he and Mira had somewhere to be by that afternoon.

He wasn’t there, even when Freed and Mira went inside the bar and asked around for the blonde guy with a scar by his eye. Now they knew how people got defensive about their businesses sometimes — Mira knew that all too well, she ran her own bar too — so the two of them got… quite… creative.Mira thought it was fun, really.

Freed had to admit that he didn’t particularly miss the barmaid’s high school persona (since he suffered quite a bit from it himself), but it was certainly useful this time. He only had to stand by as the normally sweet silver-haired barmaid held some poor guy in a headlock. The guy was tapping the bar top as he gasped and cried that he will cooperate with them and answer any question they have. The rest of the occupants of the bar stared, gaping.

‘Sorry, man. We’re just really… determined.’ was all Freed thought. Someone from behind him moved to intervene (while not-very-subtly using the b-word to describe the barmaid (hint: the word wasn’t ‘beautiful’)) and Freed quickly stuck out his arm, an umbrella in hand. “Oh no you don’t, sir.”

The man looked down at the tip of the umbrella pointed at his chest and then glared at Freed. “What you gon’ do, granny? Hit me with it?”

Freed gave a threatening smile. “Yes, actually. And believe me, I know how to do it quite effectively.”

Mira looked up from her ‘hostage’ shortly and watched as Freed knocked a guy out in three careful hits (using her favorite umbrella, but they’d talk about that later) and then promptly urging everyone else in the establishment to ‘try, if you want to’. She just shrugged and went back to interrogating.

“What did you say?!”

“I-… I don’t know!”

“I don’t believe you. Are you going to tell me where your boss is, or do I have to smash your head against this bar again?”

“A-A-Alexei-sama left a couple days ago!”

“And his son? Was he here?”

“I’m not sure—”



Freed stopped, listening to the interrogation.




“They were-… They were supposed to go to another one of Alexei-sama’s offices! I don’t know which one— Honest, I really don’t!”

“That’s really all you know?!”

“T-T-They booked a flight for it! That’s all, ma’am! I swear!”

Mira finally let go of the guy and stepped back. She exchanged looks with Freed, who quickly shook off his disgruntled expression and said, “Let’s get out of here.”

Mira nodded, then pulled the guy she had been interrogating up by the collar, and he was begging for his life, she simply smiled her sweet, friendly smile. “Thank you so much for answering my questions. And sorry I had to bash your head in like that, you won’t answer me otherwise. To make up for it, come over to The Strauss’ and I’ll give you free coffee — unlimited refills! Have a nice day!”

Then as quickly as they came in, they were gone.

Somewhere outside Magnolia, Laxus was sitting idly on an easy chair, flipping through some documents. “What’s this ‘Tartaros’ thing and why’re they ordering like a shitload of our stuff?”Standing by his desk, Ivan Dreyar sent a smirk towards his son’s direction.

“Those are our best clients, son. They buy most of our goods in this part of Fiore, but we don’t really know that much about them. They are very elaborate in their operations. We better not disappoint them — they’re very generous with their tips.”

“Tips as in ‘shut up about us’ money?” Laxus asked.

“You can call it that, too. Now, I want you to greet them very politely when we meet them later—”

The man was interrupted when Laxus’ phone rang again. The blonde looked at the phone in the desk nearby table and promptly ignore it.

“Ah, who is it calling you so often? Your little sister? Your girlfriend? You should answer, you know.”

“I don’t have a girlfriend.” was all Laxus said, ignoring the ringing until the person at the other end gave up. “Not a girl, at least.”

Ivan paused for a bit, looking at his son who was absently reading through a document he swiped from his father’s desk. It took him a while to figure it out. “What… a boyfriend?”

“Yeah, my bassist.” Laxus grumbled, feeling slightly uncomfortable. Most people who knew about their relationship usually didn’t bat an eye at the news… but then those people were their closest friends, so they kinda expected that bit.

Ivan burst out laughing, and Laxus glared at his father. “Hah! You do know how to anger your grandfather, eh?”

Laxus cringed at such unadultered amusement — but kept his cool. “Yeah, but that kinda failed. It turned out he’s been rootin’ for it all along. Now he thinks we’re a happy couple.”

“Eh?” the man chuckled. “Well, turn it in on ’im. Dump your boy-toy. Surely you can’t be serious about—”

Laxus didn’t let him finish. “When are we meeting these Tartaros people again?”

“This afternoon, why?”

“I saw a nice burger place on our way here. I’m gonna go get a bite.” was all he said, dropping the files on the table and picking up his phone.

“Be back on time!” Ivan called, just as his son had gone out the room.

Mira and Freed told Erza. She had the right to know.Mira just hugged the girl when she cried on her shoulder.

It was the fifth day, and after hearing the update from Erza — that they expect Makarov to wake up real soon — most of the old man’s students were getting more anxious.“Geez, I think at this point gramps is just messin’ with us…” Natsu said, pouting towards the still unconscious figure of the principal on his hospital bed. “Maybe messin’ with ol’ granny. Maybe she’ll be standin’ by his bed doing doctor stuff and then he’ll go ‘BOO!’ at her and then laugh ’cause she screamed.”

As luck would have it, Porlyusica was just passing by at that exact moment and the woman hit him on the back of his head with a clipboard as she walked past.

Beside him, Juvia giggled, and on his other side, Lucy just sighed exasperatedly as Natsu told the old woman to ‘Chill, grandma! It was a joke!’

From their seat on the couch, Gray and Erza simply watched the scene in amusement. Erza then went back to reading Levy’s notes from their classes. Beside her, Gray was boredly sketching a portrait of Evergreen, who was taking a nap on the chair across them.

The peace was interrupted when Cana announced, “Gray’s drawing girls on his notebook!”.

In a flash of blue, Juvia was beside them and asking Gray if he still loved her or if he was getting tired of her or “Is Juvia not enough, Gray-sama?!”

Gray groaned and just said “It’s my sketchbook, okay? I draw stuff in front of me when I’m bored and right now Evergreen’s in front of me—”


“And there’s a buttload of your face in this notebook already.”

“Really?! Can Juvia see?!”

“What’s happening?” Evergreen asked, waking up to the ruckus.

Gray had to give up the little sketchbook because it wasn’t just Juvia — all the girls around (…and Natsu, Loke, Max… and when did Bob-san even get here?) had fussed over it.

“What’s up?” Elfman asked, arriving with two boxes of donuts for everyone.

Natsu just repeated what Cana had announced earlier. “Gray’s drawing girls on his notebook-… Wait, is that me?! That’s me! OMG GRAY DO YOU HAVE A SECRET CRUSH ON ME?!”


Loke’s smooth voice then commented, “My, I look good. When was this?”

Lucy quickly said, “I want that one of Loke! Gray, may I have it?”

“Lucy, love — you can have a picture of me anytime, any way you want—”

Natsu then cut in: “Can I have the Lucy one? Will use it to scare roaches and rats off-… OW!”

Then Cana shouted, “GRAY YOU DREW ME IN JUST MY BRA?!”


Elfman just chuckled and announced that the donuts have arrived. Everyone dug in enthusiastically.

Erza looked around at her friends — extended family, really. Maybe… Maybe they can all fill in for the gap that was Laxus when Makarov wakes up.

She hoped for it, but knew anyway that it was futile. For Makarov, there will never be a substitute for his grandson’s presence except Laxus himself.

Still, they can try their best.

It was in the early evening when Mira found Laxus on her doorstep.The barmaid was just about to go to the hospital, and now for a while, she just stood there, staring at her friend’s back. The blonde was sitting by on the staircase, smoking a cigarette.

Before she could speak, he beat her to it. “Err, Freed’s mad at me.”

Mira chose to take the gentler route. She asked, “Really?” in an even tone of voice as she sat beside him. As soon as she did so, he offered her a cigarette, and she took the stick. She let him light it for her before she placed it between her lips.

She didn’t smoke anymore, but for some reason when he’s in the staircase with her, she still ended up doing so. Just for kicks.

“Really. I guess you’re mad at me, too.”

“Kinda. Do you know about what happened?”

“To gramps? Yeah. My super awesome dad was very happy to tell me.”

Mira paused. “I… don’t know how to take that in.”

“Freed took one look at me and then recited this whole essay on why he’s mad at me and then drove me away.”


When Freed saw him, it took the law student five full seconds to perhaps prepare a speech, and then he recited it just as quickly.“I’m angry. At you. Where were you? You weren’t answering or replying for six days. Your grandfather is in the hospital. I’ve missed classes because of you. Mira, Bix, Ever and Elfman are taking turns to keep Erza company and to look after the principal, and WE DON’T EVEN KNOW WHERE YOU WERE! And the next thing we know, you’ve flown off with your father doing God knows what and now you’re back here because God knows why and you just turn up like this and you’re wearing that stupid shirt that I hate because it’s an abomination and have you even gone to the hospital?!”

“No, but—”

“Why are you here?! Did you come to me first? Because I’m so not letting you in — you have to go home, say sorry to your little sister and be THERE when your grandfather wakes up — because if you’re not, he’ll just get sick again! Do you understand?”


“Good! Now go!”

Then the door was slammed to his face. Laxus scratched his head. Well, that was awkward. Then he knocked on the door, gently this time…

Freed didn’t open the door, but he shouted, “WHAT?!”

“I deserved that.” was all he said. “But… err… I think I left my house keys in your counter.”

He heard angry footsteps inside the flat before the door opened and Freed shoved the keys towards him.

“Um, thanks.”

“Is that the only reason why you came here first?” Freed asked. He had calmed down after his speech.

“Yeah. So… err—”

“Well, you got it. Go now.” Laxus was about to say something else but Freed reached out and gave him a little push. “Just don’t say anything. I’m supposed to stay angry and you’re making that difficult. Take care.”

Freed didn’t slam the door this time.

“Wow, he held up quite well.” Mira remarked, after Laxus did a summary of Freed’s speech. “I don’t know what to add, he pretty much said everything.”He shrugged. “I bet everyone hates me again.”

“Of course not.” Mira said.

Laxus looked at her, unimpressed. “You suck at lying.”

“Fine.” Mira sighed. “Of course they are. Well, they don’t really ‘hate’ you, they just… I don’t know, maybe they got frustrated not knowing where you were, not knowing if they should worry about you, or be mad at you.”

“Which one did you choose?”

“Both.” Mirajane sighed. “I might have taken out the ‘mad’ part at some poor stranger in your father’s bar downtown…”

“You went there? That place is dangerous—”

The barmaid giggled. “It was fun, really! I haven’t slammed anyone’s head on anything for years and Freed was swingin’ my umbrella like a real sword, being dashing and everything.”

Laxus groaned. “I keep forgettin’ that you’re a she-devil and he’s a match for Erza.”

“So,” Mira started. “Freed told you to go home and see your grandpa. Have you done that yet?”

“Not yet. There was something I had to do first, then for some reason I needed to sit down and your staircase seemed like a nice option.”

Mira raised an eyebrow. “What could be more important than checking up on your family after being missing for five days?”

“I dunno. I wanted to set some things right, I guess.” he said, looking into the distance. “Dad almost broke the family apart once. Not letting him do that again.”

She looked at him questioningly.

“I went to Gildarts.”

The cop didn’t expect to see Laxus standing by the doorway of his station that afternoon. They’ve been looking for him — he went missing without warning, and now he was back just as quickly as he had disappeared.“Laxus.” the man started, but couldn’t bring himself to think of what to say next. Perhaps he should ask the young man about where he had been? Or was that too direct? Was Laxus even aware of his family’s situation?

As if reading the policeman’s mind, Laxus stepped inside and said, “I know. Gramps is in the hospital. I think it was my fault.”

Of course Gildarts denied that. “Laxus, no—”

“I’m not a kid anymore, I know when I should take a blame.” the blonde said. “But you should know that I wasn’t just wandering ‘round the place for no reason. I was workin’ on this.”

With that, he laid a folded stack of papers on the cop’s desk. Gildarts looked at him hesitantly before picking up the papers. His eyes widened. “This is…”

“A tip.” Laxus said, and then took a packet from his bag and put it down on the cop’s desk as well. “And some evidence. I wrote down the places where you could get more.”

“This is not just a tip.” Gildarts said breathlessly, looking at the young man standing before him. “Laxus, this is intel. You’ve listed down addresses of more than one base of operations, warehouses, clients, actual names, bank accounts, contact numbers… how, when and where they do their deals. This is—”

“Everything I know, basically. Dad has been calling me since last Friday night, and I answered by Saturday. He told me he was back in town to fix a deal, and asked me if I wanted to go help. I went to him Sunday. He thinks I still want to get involved, asked me if I wanna come with him to his other ‘office’. I came, he didn’t know I just wanted to take notes. Now you’re holdin’ those notes.”

Gildarts nodded gravely. This was something big. These information and evidence were what they were failing over and over to retrieve from their investigations. The intel was enough to bust the whole syndicate, something the police has been trying for years…

“Does he know? That you went back here with this information? Because the last time someone tipped us—”

“—he was killed. I know.” Laxus finished for the man. “And I told him that I quit, but he doesn’t know that I have that info and I’m tellin’ someone.”

“You do realize that they’d probably know it’s you once the police makes the move.”

“Yeah. And I don’t care. He can have me killed, but I’ve left enough info to bring them down, dead or not.”

“Laxus…” Gildarts breathed deeply, looking down at the documents again, and up at the young man across him. “Why? Why did you do this? Ivan Dreyar is your father.”

“Father? Really?” Laxus scoffed, remembering how his last conversation with Ivan Dreyar went. How he asked his father why the man still let him in the group even when Laxus had already quit and left him once back in high school.

— “I wanted to involve you because your grandfather loves you, of course.”— “What do you mean by that?”

— “As long as you’re here, father wouldn’t touch me! You’re protectin’ me without even tryin’, Laxus. That way we know your grandfather won’t get involved with the police, because that means getting you caught along with me.”

— “Like what you told me back then? We protect our own?”

— “Yes, son. We just protect our own.”

“Maybe he was.” Laxus continued, looking at Gildarts. “Once. I hardly remember.”“He was a good man. I still remember that. He did love you and your mother. The principal had been concerned when he was working too much and I agree that he could’ve balanced things more… But I never expected him to be involved in these things. Even I was surprised when we got that tip, years ago.”

“He’s not that man anymore.” Laxus replied. “Gramps kept trying to change him. I didn’t know but gramps was hopin’ I can get dad to come back to us. For years I thought it was my fault that dad got involved, and that I screwed up in bringin’ him back.”

“You didn’t. We never held you responsible for what he became, Laxus — you should know that—”

“Yeah, I know that now. He was too far gone when we first tried to reach out.”

— “You’re not protecting me, dad. You’re using me.”— “Using you to protect everything we’ve worked hard for!”

— “Still using me! And YOU’VE worked hard for all this, not me—”

— “This is for us—”

— “For us?” — Laxus scoffed. “Is that why we never heard from you for years? No, just admit it. This is for you.”

— “Are you forgetting that it was because of YOU that I started this—”

— “No, I’m never forgetting that, dad. Because all these years I blamed myself for being a sick, dying kid when I was freakin’ FOUR years old, because you loved that sick dying kid enough to start dealin’ with these stuff just to keep him alive.”

— “Because that WAS what I was doing! I was just trying to keep my family—”

— “I know! But what about after that? You could’ve quit, could’ve just stopped. But you went on with this, and used me for immunity against gramps? Guilt-trippin’ me into getting myself in this shit, making me think that you’re still doin’ it for me. Without knowin’ about it, you were… you were conditioning me to make me think I’m responsible for everything. No shit. You weren’t supposed to blame that four year-old kid for being sick, for making you do this. Because you did it all by yourself. You did what any parent would do — save their son, except after all was said and done you made me believe that I made you do it. Guess fucking what — I never asked. You were supposed to be my father. You were supposed to be the bigger person, the parent. That’s how families are supposed to work, dad. They don’t ask, you do everything for them and if you screw up, you don’t say they fucking made you do it — ’cause of course they didn’t. You don’t make your kids air your dirty laundry, you don’t let them take the blame for whatever you did for them, that’s what being a parent means. And guess what? I never learned that from you. I learned that from the person who raised me RIGHT — my GRANDFATHER.”

— “Are you done?” Ivan said, a straight look in his face. Perhaps he had realized that he had lost Laxus this time. “But it’s not like it was a bad deal, isn’t it? You got a ton of stuff you wanted, right?”

— “Deal? So you were treatin’ it as a deal. Another one of your business shit. We don’t do that, either.”

— “I gave you everything you asked for.”

— “And made me think that it was everything I’d ever need. Congratulations. It worked for a while.”

Laxus shrugged at Gildarts, adjusting his bag on his shoulder. “Go ahead. Use it. Took me a couple days to compile everythin’ but I think that’s more than enough.”“Are you really sure about this?” Gildarts asked.

“If I say ‘no’, will you allow me to take that back?” Laxus asked back, smirking.

Gildarts smiled ruefully. “No. I’m afraid it’s too valuable, now that I’ve read it.”

“There’s your answer. I was sure the moment I dropped that to your desk.”

“This will bring all of ‘Raven’ down. You know that, right?”

“Yeah.” Laxus said. “And I should’ve done it earlier.”

— “So you’re gonna quit on me? Again? Never figured you for a coward, son.”— “I already quit once. When you tried to get my family caught up in your fucking dirty business. I thought I made that clear, but then after years I receive another call asking me if I’m still in.”

— “And you came! You still want to do this!”

— “No, sorry. I came because sometimes you do stupid things for your family, like keep hoping that maybe things have changed. Like coming over to check out if maybe somehow my evil father’s not evil anymore. Maybe he’s stopped being a shitty parent who gets a kick guilt-tripping his son. Maybe things can be fixed. I was wrong, obviously. So I’m done here.”

— “But you’re in too deep here. I saw-… I saw how you looked at our people! Admit it, you like how you can hold them at the palm of your hand, how they do everything you say, because you hold the power, the money—”

— “That was a look of pity, because they have to work for someone like you. If you really knew me, you would’ve noticed. Besides, I have people who count on me and if they say I’m not like you then I believe them. Now if you really want the words — I quit. I really do. Leave me the fuck alone because I have to get back home and check up on gramps. My FAMILY are tellin’ me that I better get my ass back home, and believe me you can hold me hostage here but they’ll just come over, kick you to the curb and drag me back. It kinda works that way.”

— “You can pretend to be happy with your boring grandfather and fake sister and your little country band and your silly friends and your pretend boyfriend, but you really want this. You want to be here, in the big city, with all the things you want—”

— “I’m not that eight year-old kid that didn’t care if his dad didn’t talk to him because he got shiny CDs and a new bike. Not anymore, dad. What I want right now is to go back to Magnolia. Because my ‘boring’ grandfather is awesome as fuck, my ‘fake’ sister can kick your ass, my ‘little country band’ is the best fucking thing in my life right now, my ‘silly’ friends are insane and I’m never bored with ‘em, and sorry to disappoint because the thing with my ’pretend’ boyfriend is actually really serious and fuck you he’s a damn good kisser.”

Gildarts placed the files in a spare folder. “I’ll say that this was an anonymous tip. Or do you want credit?”“Nah, do whatever you like.”

“You’re going to the hospital now?”

“Yeah.” — then after a beat, “How is he?”

“You should find out yourself.”

Gildarts watched as the blonde adjust his bag and then turned around to leave. It still didn’t seem real to the police — of all the things that could happen that day, he didn’t expect Laxus to turn up on his station, valuable intel in hand, and just walk away as easily.

Just as Laxus was about to go out the door, Gildarts called out. “Laxus.” The blonde stopped. Gildarts continued, “You did the right thing.”

Laxus nodded, and then was gone.

Everyone had basically divided Gray’s sketchbook among themselves. Yajima-san called to let them know that he will bring dinner for the ‘children’ (ah, they will always be children for Yajima-san anyway) and asked for volunteers to help him bring it, who by draw-lots turned out to be Gajeel and Mysto. Evergreen and Elfman had left to go back to the bar so that Mira can come over. Natsu was still complaining about Makarov still sleeping, this time to Max and Laki. Juvia and Gray were sitting on the couch beside Erza, who was still reading Levy’s notes. Alzack and Bisca were in a hushed conversation about something the others couldn’t quite catch. Levy, Jet and Droy were chatting as they all sat on the floor nearby. Lucy was sitting on the couch’s armrest, playing with Happy. Cana was standing beside Loke, flipping through a fashion magazine, the bodyguard reading along.It was the early evening on that fifth day when Makarov woke up.

The one to notice was Laki, who while listening to Natsu complaining, turned to the principal’s unconscious form and then saw one of his fingers move.

“Um, Natsu…”

Then slowly, they saw the old man’s head move, and his eyes opening, then blinking out the bright lights of the hospital room.

“…I think he’s waking up.”

“What?” Natsu and Max, beside her, asked at the same time, then also looked at the man. “No, shit. He’s up!”

Everyone else looked up from their activities and rushed towards the glass window. From his side, he couldn’t see them, but from their side, they could see that Makarov was indeed looking around groggily.

Erza stood still among her friends. It was Lucy who called out for someone to go call Porlyusica. Jet needed no further instructions and quickly took off. On the back of the crowd, Gray was calling Yajima-san and Cana was contacting Mira.

It wasn’t until Natsu wrapped an arm around Erza and gave her shoulder a squeeze, saying “Erza, see! Ol’ gramps is okay!” that the red-head pulled herself out of her daze, smiled back at Natsu and nodded.

As soon as Porlyusica arrived, the doctor called Erza to come with her and the younger woman followed quickly, leaving her friends watching excitedly by the window.

Porlyusica entered the room first, calmly welcoming her friend back. Erza listened in. Makarov asked the woman what happened, and Porlyusica explained briefly — he had a heart attack, still not sure why but they think it’s most likely high blood pressure, has been unconscious for a few days, but he was going to be fine…Makarov took this all in slowly, telling the woman that he was still feeling weak and sleepy. Porlyusica assured him that it was just natural, that it came with the medicine and being in bed for days.

“Everyone’s been really worried about you. For the past few days your room’s been some kind of hangout for your students. And former students. And your friends. I swear, if Yajima brings me one more basket of pastries and sweets, I will get diabetes.”

Makarov couldn’t help but chuckle. “Really now? Sounds fun out there.”

“Anyway, you can’t see it right now, but there are at least ten children on that window over there being their loud selves.”

The old man turned his head weakly to look at the ‘window’, which just looked like a plain mirror for him, really.

“…and now they’re probably waving at you like idiots even though I already told them you can’t see them.”

Makarov laughed weakly. “Can’t you send them in? They’re my kids, after all…”

“No, let’s take it slow. One at a time.” the doctor said, then looked behind her and called out, “You can come in now.”

Makarov looked up to see Erza taking a tentative step towards him. He smiled. “Erza-chan. How are you?”

Her voice was small, obviously trying not to break down. “I’m good, Master. How are you?” she asked, sitting down on a chair beside his bed.

“I feel like my bones have left my body.” the man said, chuckling. “But Porlyusica says I’m fine, so I must be fine. If they take out my eyes and she says I’ll still be able to see, I’ll probably believe her.”

Erza smiled, while Porlyusica scoffed. “Stop flattering me, it won’t get you a discount on your bills.” she said, then laid a hand on Erza’s shoulder. “I’ll be right outside.”

Erza nodded and thanked the healer, then looked back at Makarov again. “Everyone outside’s excited to talk to you again. You gave us quite a scare, Master.”

“Ah, sorry for that.” Makarov said, then raised a weak hand. Erza took it. “It’s good to be back. How did things go?”

“I skipped a few days of school…” Erza admitted.

“You didn’t have to do that, child.”

“I couldn’t help it.” she looked down.

The man smiled again. “Of course you couldn’t. I’m very lucky to have you.”

“No, I’m lucky to have you. We all are. We’re really glad you’re back.” Erza sighed.

That was when Makarov asked the question that Erza was afraid to answer, “Your brother. Has Laxus… has Laxus come home?”

Erza looked down sadly.

“Ivan. Ivan called that afternoon…” he said. “He said that Laxus went back to him, that they will leave together, and I didn’t know-… I—”

And then there it was — cutting through the old man’s weak statements. The voice that Erza hasn’t heard for days…

“And you seriously fell for that?”

She whirled around to see Laxus standing by the doorway. He just walked in like nothing out of the ordinary happened… like he wasn’t gone for days on end.

Makarov stared at his grandson and watched as the young man took a seat beside his sister, crossing his arms across his chest. “He sounded very confident.”

“Like I’d really go with ‘im. He’s crazy, remember? Or are you really gettin’ senile, gramps?”

Makarov coughed. “Hit him on the head for me, Erza-chan.”

Erza did with more force that necessary, and Laxus yelped and rubbed his head. “That hurt. Happy now?”

“You’re a jerk.” Erza stated, glaring at her brother. “A big, big jerk.”

Laxus rolled his eyes. “Yeah, just rub it in.”

“Master is still sick, stop being rude.”

“Aw, he’s just pretendin’ to be sick so you can dote over him.”

“Maybe if you stay at home more often he won’t be so lonely.”

“Okay, I didn’t say that. You heard her, gramps. She thinks you’re lonely.”

“How dare you! You got him here in the first place!”

“Not my fault he believed his son talkin’ crazy on the phone.”

“And why not, when you’ve been gone a full day?”

Makarov cleared his throat, making the two look back at him. “Stop it now, both of you. Erza-chan, now that I’m back, you should go to school again, so you shouldn’t stay up so late here, understand? I want you to go home early and get some rest. Laxus, I want me some of Yajima’s stuff. Porlyusica talked about them and I got really REALLY hungry.”

The two just stared at him, then looked at each other before both of them smiled at their guardian and nodded.

Makarov smiled back. Life is good.

As promised, Erza went home early, Lucy giving her a ride home. Laxus told her that he’ll take care of things in the hospital, and she only replied with “you better!”. Yeah, he had that coming. Most of the students dropped by inside the room to tell their headmaster to get well soon. Porlyusica didn’t let them stay too long since that might tire Makarov out too much. Macao, Wakaba, Gildarts, Yajima and Bob-san dropped by shortly too, but didn’t stay too long as well. They knew there will be more than enough time to catch up once Makarov gets much better.Before long, it was just Laxus sitting on a couch inside Makarov’s new hospital room. It was just a regular room now. The doctors have decided that it was safe to take him out the ICU. Makarov was sleeping again. All the visitors must have tired him out too much.

It was late night when someone knocked softly and then opened the door. Freed peeked his head inside the room, then saw Laxus sitting alone on the couch.

“Hey.” the bassist greeted softly, in consideration of the sleeping patient in the room.

“Hey.” Laxus greeted back, smiling a bit. “You still mad at me?”

“Little bit.” Freed answered, then entered the room slowly, closing the door behind him. He sat beside Laxus and looked at the sleeping man on the bed. “How’s he doing?”

Laxus shrugged. “Great, Porlyusica-san said. Then she hit my head with a clipboard and now I probably have a concussion.”

“You had that coming.” his companion replied, taking his shoes off to sit more comfortably on the couch.

Laxus nodded. “Along with the two weeks of household chores and a promise to take my lovely little sister out to watch that samurai movie next week.”

“You owe that to Erza.”

“And I have to get Mira a new pretty umbrella.”

“I really didn’t mean to break it.”

“It’s nothin’. Bix demanded ice cream and Ever told me to get her a nice bangle… What the fuck is a bangle?”

“It’s a bracelet.”

“Oh.” Finally Laxus looked at his companion. “What about you?”

Freed didn’t look at him and just hugged his knees to his chest. “Nah, I’ve got it covered. Knowing that the principal’s okay and that you’re back. From… from wherever the heck you came from.”

“You want me to tell you?” Laxus asked, in a voice that told Freed that he really will.

The bassist shook his head. “I want you to tell me you’re not gonna do that again.”

“I did it to fix some stuff. It’s all fine now. I’m not gonna do that again.”

Freed looked at him and Laxus stared back. Then the bassist’s lips drew into a gentle smile. “Good. That’s all I need.”

“You sure?”

A nod, then Freed went back to looking at Makarov.

Laxus leaned back comfortably on the couch, and soon began to boredly play with Freed’s long green hair. Freed closed his eyes and sighed, finally relaxing and leaning against Laxus’ side.

They were interrupted by a knock on the door, followed by Bixlow and Evergreen peeking in. Bixlow grinned, observing the moment briefly. “Mommy, can we sleep here with you and daddy?”

Evergreen smiled as well. “We really missed daddy.”

The other two rolled their eyes and simply made room for their friends on the couch. Evergreen sat beside Laxus, hugging his arm as if it was a pillow. Bixlow settled himself beside Freed, smiling a silly little smile.

After a bit of shifting and struggling, the four of them were all sitting comfortably on the couch. It was crowded, really — but it was very warm.

“So… what do we do now?”

“I dunno, I’m gonna go sleep here.”

“Don’t! You’ll snore!”

“Why are we all even here anyway?”

After days of being by himself, Laxus was happy to be home.

Chapter Notes:

Makarov didn’t get the Yajima pastries he asked for, by the way. Porlyusica didn’t let them feed him anything sweet.

And yes,Laxus took Erza to that samurai movie and then asked for her help in finding a bangle for Evergreen and a pretty umbrella for Mira but both of them suck at buying those so they ended up asking Freed to help them after all.

On a more important note: We Are Young is ending soon. I’ve gotten some very sweet messages and reviews while working on this. It helped my writing skills a lot, as well… and this fic is very very close to my heart (it’s been my baby for two years!) But all things should end sometime, and after two more chapters and an epilogue, I will be closing this book. So a big big big thanks for everyone who sent me messages and encouragements and have kept reading until now!

But there’s still quite a bit of writing to go and I’ll keep working hard to end this fic with a bang! I will participate in NaNoWrimo by November, but I have written quite a bit for the next chapter, so it should come not later than December!

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