A Dragon's Love

Denouement


There was once, when he was really young, that Orion could remember Mirajane telling him about her parents.

Not that she didn't after that. Because she did. But it was always in passing and hardly ever any real details.

No, most of his knowledge from that time came from a fuzzy memory of being five or six and waiting for her to tell him a bedtime story. Only, that night she was coming up with nothing. He'd heard about Edolas and Phantom. Knew everything about what preceded the seven-year lapse and the major events to follow. He'd heard everything.

So Mira went further into her memory bank and told him about something completely different.

"You know," she said softly as they snuggled up on his tiny mattress. "When I was your age, I wasn't even in Magnolia yet. I lived in this tiny village with your Aunt Lisanna and Uncle Elfman. And, of course, my mother and father too."

"Really?"

"Mmmhmm." She smiled softly about then, but whether it was at him or just from the thought alone he couldn't recall. Just that it was nice, like always. Comforting. "We lived in this little hut. Even smaller than our house. Everyone was always in someone's way, but…I'd never been happier than when I was there. Until you."

Then she probably snuggled him or something else silly and just so like her then before she continued.

He couldn't remember everything that she said, but he did know that she went on and on about how much fun she and her brother and sister used to have, when they were kids. That her mother would a tad stricter than her father, but that was okay, because they loved her all the same. And even when she was scolding them for something, their father would be making just as strong a case for them as to why they shouldn't be punished. He never liked to get them in trouble. He never would either.

"He was just so happy, you know," his mother whispered. "To have a family. To have us. He loved us. He spoiled us, too, but out of love. He didn't know any better. He'd grown up all by himself, with no one. So when he met my mother, that's the first thing he wanted. Children. I think if it had been up to him, I would have had a thousand other siblings, but then, it wasn't all his choice, was it?"

She told him, that night, all about how she used to love spending time with her father and that it was her mother that taught her how to cook. Oh, and that she must have spent every day playing with Elfman and Lisanna. They'd do everything together. They had an even stronger bond back then, if it was possible.

"But then," she mumbled eventually. "Papa got sick. Very sick. And we didn't catch it, whatever it was, but only because we weren't the ones taking care of him. My mother was. And when she got it, she just couldn't fight it like he was. She died within weeks. And without her…Papa never had a chance."

Orion remembered just laying there, staring up at her as his own mother's similar deep blues filled with tears at the memory. The woman cried at everything. From when he first said a word to the time she was able to sense all his latent magic ability, Mirajane was just a sobber. So watching her do so was never too big a deal for him. That time though, it made him feel odd. He was so young, but he knew a thing or two about comforting someone. She did it for him enough.

So he only reached up to wipe at her eyes, like she would do for him if the roles were reversed.

"Don't cry," he whispered as she sniffled a little. "It's okay. We don't gotta talk about it. We can go to sleep."

"Awe, Ori. I'm sorry. I didn't mean to get all sad." She snuggled him some more, probably. She liked to do that a lot when he was little. "I just…I was thinking about how my father would hate it."

"Hate what?" He was still just staring up at her then, about ready to fall asleep finally. "Mommy?"

"That I'm making you grow up all alone," she told him, her grin returning then. "He would probably scold me on it. That you deserve brothers and sisters and-"

"No."

"No?"

He'd seen the other kids in the guild, with their siblings and having to put up with them. Not to mention share their parents. He only had one at that! He couldn't risk something like that. Some other brat coming in, taking his toys, and his mother. It'd always just been him and Mira and he was fine with it staying that.

Other than, like, if his father suddenly came into the picture. Back then, he'd have been all for that. Of course, he probably didn't grasp that a man would only force him to share Mirajane as well, but the follies of youth and all.

"I don't want a brother or sister," he insisted as he stared at her, as if willing her to agree with him. "Okay?"

"Why not, Ori?"

Because she was his mother and his only. And what if she liked the new kid better than him? That wouldn't be any good. Not at all. He'd heard about parents having favorites and, while he couldn't see him not being Mira's, he also didn't want to take the risk.

Not that there weren't moments of weakness over his childhood where he wished that he had someone to play with, someone to gripe with, or even someone to fight with. He'd never really gotten along well with the other kids and never had a close friend. Though there was no guarantee that a sibling would provide such a thing for him, it was a haunting thought at times.

Then, at the age of eighteen, the worst happened.

Mira finally got that coveted second child.

There was a lot preceding it, of course, and none of it had been pleasant for Orion. Mira gave him an option, not soon after he returned from his first ever S-Class job. She and Laxus, apparently, were rekindling their relationship, but only at his discretion.

"I'm not putting pressure on you," she was quick to tell him. "Honest, Ori. If this makes you uncomfortable, that's fine. Believe me; this isn't really that big of a deal to me. I've been fine without Laxus. And I can tell that this bothers you, so, you know what? We just won't. Okay?"

And that was okay with him. He didn't want his mother having anything to do with Laxus, really. From that point forth, he figured that he would go ahead and make it his own personal mission to keep them apart. It went pretty well for a month or two.

Until his mother got sick.

At first, he didn't notice it much. He was taking jobs then and she was working so much up at the guild that they missed one another a lot and only got glimpses of each other. But the few down times he had at the house, he picked up on her fatigue. His mother was always tired, of course, but it seemed more and more like she couldn't get out of bed. And constantly she would mention her headaches and how none of the pills she was taking were helping anything.

His Aunt Lisanna suggested she go to the doctor, but Mira didn't seem to want to. He wondered later if it was because she knew. Or at least suspected and was fearful of finding out the truth. Of admitting the truth.

He was out of town on a job when she collapsed up at the guildhall. From what he heard, Laxus was there and, when she came too, he personally took her to see a doctor, claiming that he wouldn't allow her to work again until she went.

Orion arrived back in Magnolia to find him mother claiming that she was fine and the doctors were just being overly cautious and that he had nothing to worry about.

Everyone else didn't seem to have that same outlook.

It was the catalyst for him and Laxus finally speaking again, as it was. They'd both avoided one another since Orion had told Mirajane that he did not, under any circumstance, want her to date (or whatever they did) Laxus again. It had pissed Laxus off and try many times to get Orion alone, demanding to speak with him, but the boy had always kept his distance and, well, for Orion things had been going great on that side.

Laxus? Not so much.

It aggravated him that Mira was just going to let Orion decide their lives for them. Not that the boy's opinions didn't matter to him, but for him to just flat out decide to not give Laxus a chance ruined everything. He was ready to come and, not necessarily parent the boy as he was sure Orion would reject that, but definitely go back to that role model staple he'd been in his life for years. He wanted to show him that it hadn't been that he didn't want him, but rather that he did want him and Mira that kept him from revealing the truth to him.

But Mirajane shut that down. Told him not to speak with Orion about the curse or, really, anything until the boy was ready to forgive him. From Laxus point of view, that was lunacy. Orion was still just a teenager. Fine, he had the freedoms of an adult in some aspects, but that didn't mean that he was ready to make all the decisions in life. Laxus was certain that if Mira just forced him to accept them, then, eventually, he wouldn't know any better. He'd see Laxus as his father and everything would be great.

Only, they didn't get a chance to try that out. Because with Mirajane's sickness, Laxus decided it was time to supersede her and tell Orion the truth. Explain things to him. After all, if she did end up passing and it was just the two of them left, he wanted to have the boy back on his side and not lost forever.

When Orion arrived to find her sick though, the last thing he wanted to do was be away from his mother. So it wasn't easy for Laxus to corner him alone, but eventually, with the help of Ever, he managed.

Orion had shown up at his aunt and uncle's place planning on meeting with the woman. She'd requested he come over and help her move around some furniture or something. He wasn't sure why Elfman wouldn't be better suited for that and, when he got there, he found it was because there was no heavy lifting involved. Just a deadbeat that he wanted nothing to do with.

"Orion," Laxus tried when, upon entering through the backdoor, the teen found him there and tried to turn right back around. "Don't-"

"Hey." Ever was there too, standing near the backdoor, and moved to grab him by the arm and drag him in. He could have fought her, of course, but he was never one to openly be disobedient towards his aunts. "You two need to talk about this. Come here. Sit down."

"No. I-"

"Now."

She drug him over to the kitchen table then as he only called out for his uncle to help him.

"Elfman's at the hall," she said simply as she forced him into a chair. "Now stay. The two of you have a lot to discuss."

"Traitor," he hissed at her as she headed out of the room. That got her to freeze, if only for a moment, but not turn back to get him.

He was left alone with his father.

"You can leave," Laxus was quick to say as the boy glared over at the backdoor. "But I just want to tell you something first. And it won't fix anything and it won't absolve anything, but-"

"What?" Orion hissed. "You gonna tell me about some other bastard you have or something?"

"No," Laxus said slowly. "And you really shouldn't call yourself-"

"What?" he insisted. "What do you-"

"I know why your mother's sick," the man told him. "And I…I know why she won't get better."

That was the first Orion had heard of the curse and, of course, his first reaction was pure hatred. Of Laxus. That he would let something so stupid be the thing that separated them. He was right about one thing though. It didn't absolve him of anything.

For some reason though and, he couldn't quite understand it, Orion felt pretty dang upset with his mother too. Extremely upset. And it culminated as, after leaving Ever's house following him chewing Laxus out again (the man managed to just sit there and take it), he went home to where his mother was resting in her room, bypassing his Aunt Lisanna's request that he leave her be and went in there to yell at her a little too.

But he couldn't. When he got in there and found her looking less than well, he couldn't yell at her. Only fall into bed with her and let her stroke his hair.

"What's wrong?" she asked after a moment or two and he only sniffled. "Ori? Did someone say something? Was it Lisanna? I told her that I'm fine, but she keeps insisting-"

"You wouldn't tell me who my father was because of a curse?" He lifted his head from where it was resting on the mattress, just to say that. "Really?"

Her face then became contorted, just from his question alone. "Who told you about-"

"It's true then?" he asked. Though he was still a little ticked at Evergreen, he didn't want to get her in trouble.

"No. I mean, well, yes, but I don't believe in the curse. I just-"

"So something that you don't even believe in made you-"

"It didn't matter what I believed, Orion," she insisted as she frowned at him. "Laxus believes in it. And the Master did too. They-"

"So they made you not tell me? All the times that you had a chance to, but they made you-"

"No," she sighed. "But Laxus believes so completely in it that I… I decided that if he didn't want you to know, then he didn't have a right to you. I didn't want him around then. I-"

"Then why did you let him be around?"

"Orion, it's not-"

"And what about my rights? Or what I deserve? Or does that not matter to you?"

"Of course it does. Ori, listen to me. Do you think that if the option was available to have someone care for you with me, to not be alone all the time, to have someone that had to wake up in the middle of the night to care for you, I wouldn't have taken it? Because I would have. But if I told you that Laxus was your father, he'd have only denied it. He told me as much. He thought that the only way to keep me safe was to keep you from knowing. He honestly still believes that. If it wasn't for Makarov-"

"Is it?"

"Is what?"

"Is the reason you're sick…because of me?"

She was quick to sit up then. "Orion, of course not. Don't even say that."

"But it's true, isn't it? You're sick because I-"

"I am not." And even though she wasn't much up for anything that day, she moved to take his cheeks in her hands and press a few kisses to his head. "You," she added, "have nothing to do with that. Is that what they told you? Who was it? Was it Laxus?"

Slowly, he nodded as her eyes grew darker. "He said that he had to tell me. So I knew. So that-"

"It's complete and utter bull, Orion." And that was the closest his mother usually came to using profanity around him. "So don't believe it."

"But you're sick."

"I am not."

"Mom-"

"I'm not." And she sounded like she believed it. He, however, wasn't convinced. "I'm fine. And I'm going to keep being fine for a long time. So don't think otherwise."

"Where are you going?" he asked then as, after pressing one last kiss to his forehead, she moved to get out of bed. "Mom?"

"I have a certain guild master to go see."

He asked her not to, told her that she shouldn't be out of bed, but she ignored him and Lisanna when she heard of the plan. Mira was on a mission then and, honestly, Orion was just glad he wasn't on the receiving end of her rage.

His mother didn't get better though, despite her insistence otherwise. She had days where she was fine and even able to go into work, but then she had others where getting out of bed was impossible and there was no way she honestly still believed she was as fine as she claimed.

It was horrible. But not as horrible as swallowing his resentment and anger when he told her that he wanted her to be happy and, if Laxus was that happiness, then he was fine with that. He'd listened to the doctors, even though she refused to.

Mira didn't have long.

And, apparently, his mother and Laxus did love one another. He didn't understand it, didn't want to, really, but also didn't want her to be alone. She clearly didn't want to be alone and, well, it wasn't fair of him to force her to stay that way. He could, at times, justify in his own mind that it wasn't fair for the two of them to be together, not after wrecking his life so terribly. They didn't deserve to be happy. Not if he couldn't be.

But then he'd remember how much he loved his mother and, honestly, deep down still revered Laxus and there just wasn't any way that he could do that to them. Not just to her, but them. Laxus, though Orion hated to say it, hadn't been all that bad since thee revelation came out. He annoyed the hell out of him, trying to talk to him constantly, but mostly the man seemed more concerned with Mirajane. Making sure that she took breaks, if she ate, did she want someone to go with her to her doctor's visit, what about dinner? Was there someone to make her dinner? Because she wasn't well enough to do it. He'd make it if he had to. Did she want him to?

It was never-ending. The man was honestly worried about Mirajane. Orion couldn't hate him for it. He tried. Really, he did. Grumbled about how if he cared so much, he wouldn't have been so absentee in their lives for so long.

That was the thing though. The one hang up. He hadn't been. At all. He'd been around Orion since he could remember. And, if his words were true, been paying his mother jewels the entire time to help with bills and toys and whatever else the boy wanted. Imagine his surprise when his mother told him that, actually, that nice, shiny red bike he'd wanted when he was seven was bought with the jewels Laxus had given her purely for that reason.

Not to mention the fact that the man, apparently, was only out of his mother's life in tiny intervals. They were routinely together behind his back for years. So there was no way to say that the relationship was dead or even that Laxus had neglected it.

They were together. His parents were. He was pretty sure most people would be excited about that, but he just couldn't force himself to be. He was angry. He was upset. He was confused. He was hurt. But he wasn't happy. And he couldn't fake it. Not even for his mother.

She didn't want to take him up on his suggestion at first, that she and Laxus try dating. She only told him that she had much more important things on her mind then and that she knew that it still made him uncomfortable, regardless of his insistence otherwise.

So it took a lot more sucking up of pride when Orion went to Laxus personally one day at the guildhall and spoke to him.

The Master was filling out some forms at a table, off by himself, and didn't seem to be in too good a mood. It was usually rather easy to judge whether he was or not. If he was, then he'd have the Thunder Legion hanging off him or would sit up at the bar, where he could talk to Mirajane. That day, Mira was sick at home and, though Evergreen was around, Laxus sat alone.

Orion didn't know why, but he felt a tightness in his chest as he approached his master and it only grew as he came to a stop in front of the table, his heavy boots thudding loudly before they got there. There was no way that Laxus didn't know someone was coming over to him and, slowly, the man looked up.

They just stared at one another for a moment and Orion hated that tug he felt. The one he always felt. His idol was disgraced, fine, but for so long he'd been held in such a high esteem that it was hard to see him otherwise.

"Yes?" Laxus finally prompted when Orion only stared him. "Did you need something?"

He felt like a child again, addressing an unapproachable man. His hero. Needless to say, Orion's throat felt as if it was housing his stomach.

"You can date my mom."

That's not what he wanted to say. At all. But just talking to the man was unfeasible and, really, that would have been the gist of what he wanted to say. He just wished that it had been said in a much less childish way.

"What?" Laxus was understandably confused. "Orion-"

"You just can," he insisted before turning away. "But you better do it right if you're going to. Because I'm S-Class now too. And I could take your ass out if I wanted."

There. The end was a little better (not by much). Laxus didn't try and stop him either from walking off. Just let him go. And, not a week and a half later, Mira asked him if he was really okay with it before she went off on her first date with Laxus.

And man if he didn't have to bite his tongue. A lot. As the dates shifted from weekly to nearly every night, maybe with a day or so in between, it was like Orion couldn't escape his parents love. Laxus started buying her gifts not soon after that. And, of course, somehow figured it was a good idea to buy Orion things as well.

It was not.

If there was anything that Orion picked up from the man, it was his stubbornness. He refused to use, look at, or even ride (the guy bought a motorcycle, claiming it was for himself, but left it parked over at Mira's and hinted at Orion frequently he could borrow it) anything that came from his father. He couldn't be bought.

That didn't stop Laxus from giving him things. And, even though the teen wasn't around much, off on jobs or visiting his girlfriend, the influx of gifts never ceased. Laxus would just leave things in his bedroom. And, when Orion complained to Mirajane that that was an invasion of privacy and there was no way that Laxus should be allowed access to his room, the man just started leaving the gifts on the kitchen table, or in front of his bedroom door.

Laxus was nothing if not persistent. He seemed determined to at least make Orion acknowledge him, but he refused. He couldn't.

He wouldn't.

Time went on. Mirajane didn't seem to be getting any better and, after around seven moths of dating, Laxus went to Orion and told him that he wanted to ask Mirajane to marry him.

He about hit the man. Really, he did. What did he want him to do with that information? Huh? What could he do with it? He hated Laxus. He blamed Laxus for ruining everything. And his mother wasn't well enough for such a thing anyways.

But Laxus insisted that that last one was why he wanted to do it. She'd never made it clear to him, fine, but she did want to be married. She always had. It was one of the things that she'd dreamed about forever. And Laxus let it slip also that she wanted to have another child and was fearful of what Orion would think.

Which, by the way, Orion wouldn't care about. Not really. Had it been with anyone else. Some other guy who, maybe, he grew to respect or at least like and that treated her well (like Laxus was) and that there was no animosity towards. If that was what Mirajane wanted then how could he complain? She'd given up years raising him alone. All by herself. If she wanted to be married and happy and have another kid, he didn't take it as an insult at him. He knew that she loved him. It was just her going after what most people did. A happy family.

But Laxus? Seriously? The man that had shattered that chance before? Over a curse? A damn curse?

Orion didn't want to tell him okay. He could tell that's what Laxus wanted and, really, he didn't want to give anything to the man. But once again, taking away from his father would only result in hurting his mother. And, after holding out for awhile, he had no choice, but to cave.

It wasn't like a ring and a ceremony would make things any different. Laxus was already staying the night. Mira had run that by him first too. He knew, of course, that she and Laxus were sleeping together. She'd been staying over at his apartment before the first time she asked if it would bother him, Laxus coming around the house, and though it annoyed and disgusted him, he only shrugged at the question. What else could he do?

Mira was very courteous to him though. Of course. She never had Laxus over when he was around. Or at least tried not to. He would only spend the night if Orion was out on a job though, more than once, he'd come home to find the man's jacket or boots somewhere in the living room which made him gag before rushing to his own room to throw the covers over his head and hope that Laxus just left in the morning.

He never did. They almost always had some sort of run-in when daybreak came. Either Orion would be leaving the shower at the same time Laxus was coming out of Mira's room or they'd both somehow end up in the kitchen, looking for something to eat. It was horribly awkward, especially because Laxus was intent on making small talk with him during those times and just…ugh. It was hell. Torture. Unadulterated.

To make matters worse, after the engagement, Laxus and Mira decided it was time to tackle living together. As he understood it, the two of them never had and, though Mira asked him first, again, it was impossible to make a complaint. How could he? He was trying more and more to just not be at the house, but that also was keeping him further and further away from his mother. It was impossible to balance.

Add on top of that that Laxus had, at some point, told Mirajane that Orion was seeing some girl in some other town and, well, there was just no way to be around the house. Mira was always asking about her and wanting to meet her and getting on his nerves with her extremely personal and gauche questions that, sure, as his parent she probably had a right to know, but that she couldn't bring herself to ask directly and he didn't ever feel much up for answering.

Not that things were easy on that front either. It wasn't long after Mirajane and Laxus' wedding that Orion just got so hard to deal with (he was never in a good mood, hardly came around, and when he did, he just wanted to rant about his father), that he finally got broken up with. As if he needed another problem in his life.

He got to a point where he didn't even want to go home. He just took jobs constantly, only staying in Magnolia long enough to check in with Mirajane and, maybe, Erza or one of his aunts. He didn't care about much else.

Mirajane only got worse, it seemed, as time progressed. There was no cure for her ailments and, eventually, she'd only manage to go down to the hall once or twice a week. She mostly just stayed home, miserable and alone. Orion was gone on jobs and Laxus had to go to the hall. He was the Master.

She finally had both her boys, but she couldn't ever find time to be with either of them. It was maddening.

Orion figured that was why she was so excited when she got pregnant some months later. And it was. Partially. Of course a big part of it was that she'd always wanted to have another child, but the idea of having something to do during the day was great. Laxus didn't seem to think the same way though.

They'd argued over even trying for another child, before he proposed. He claimed that the curse was already in effect (bleh) and that having another baby might speed things along. She only told him that if what he was saying was true and she was cursed, it wouldn't be getting any better. And she wanted another baby. She always had. If he couldn't' give that to her, then what was the point of toying around with one another?

She got her way, of course, in the end, but did hate to admit that he had been right about something. The pregnancy weakened her. A lot. Not that she would say it had anything to do with the curse, but really the cause didn't matter. Being pregnant on top of having her energy drained constantly to begin with wasn't easy. And those final months had been unbearable. Mira just had to keep reminding herself of the end result that she desired so much to keep her spirits high.

Laxus tried to gather enthusiasm as well. It wasn't easy. Orion's resistance to him was still bothering the man deeply. He wasn't sure how he could deal with another child, a baby at that, when he couldn't even get his other one to talk to him. Look at him. Acknowledge his presence. How could he possibly keep a baby under control with that on his plate?

Not to mention, he hated seeing Mira the way she was. She was clearly sick and the pregnancy hadn't helped anything. There was nothing he could do, of course, but hope for the best. He tried a thousand things, spells, chants, whatever to get rid of the curse. But to no avail.

Mira was leaving him. He just knew it. All he could hope for was that he had her for another year or so and that his baby was healthy. With Mirajane refusing the validity of the curse and calling it poor coincidence that she was sick at the same time Orion found out, there wasn't much else Laxus could do for her. He felt helpless. And hopeless.

And then his daughter was born. Not that it brought any of the attention off the fact that Mirajane was only continuing to get worse or that Orion was even more distant, but it was definitely a silver lining in all of it. She was so perfect. She exhausted him, honestly, as Mirajane was frequently too tired or sickly to deal with her, and though Lisanna and the Thunder Legion were over frequently, late nights were left for him.

Mirajane tried hard to help out though. She wanted to do everything she could. After all, she knew for certain that it would be her last child and, well, that made everything that much more special.

And, in the back of her mind, though she was stark against the idea of a curse being the cause of her ailment, she knew that her time was short. It had been for awhile. She didn't know how much longer she had and every moment she did she wanted spent with her baby. And Orion, when he was around.

The weaker she got, the more he was. Mirajane could tell though that that wasn't any fun for him. He was young. It wasn't fair to waste his youth on sitting around the house with her, recanting old stories and memories, forcing him to help her tend to his younger sister. She didn't want him to resent any missed opportunities because of her.

He felt the exact opposite. He could tell, even though he didn't like to think about it, that the time was short. Orion loved his mother and the worst part of it all was watching her deteriorate. Maybe even worse than knowing that he caused it.

Not that he liked the idea of a curse, but it wasn't like he could escape it either. Since Laxus planted it in his brain, it had only festered. Of course, he could never be for certain, but what in life was?

It had been such an insurmountable loss, losing the Master the way he had, but his mother… He couldn't even fathom it. She was all he had. She'd always been all he had.

But she was insistent that that wasn't true. He had his aunts and uncle and all of Fairy Tail, really. And, she was always quick to say, he'd always have Laxus. He might not want him, he might never again, but he was always there.

"One day, Ori," she'd whisper to him when they were alone. "You'll wish that you gave him a second chance. He never did any of this to hurt you. He couldn't even stay away from you. Even now he can't. Please, the only thing I want now is for the two of you to come together. To be together. Please."

"Don't talk like that," he'd grumbled back. "The only thing you want. You have a thousand wants. And you have years to get them all done. So don't say otherwise."

But she didn't. And, when Mirajane reached the pinnacle of her sickness, Orion could hardly stand to see her. At the same time, however, he couldn't stand to leave her. He was certain that most everyone felt that way. All of her friends visited frequently and her siblings hardly ever left the house. Laxus, well, he was just as stoic as ever, but Mira told Orion that was because he was hurt. Crushed. He felt like he'd caused it all.

"He did," Orion hissed under his breath once. "He- Hey!"

He was sitting at her bedside as his younger sister sat in their mother's lap, but that didn't stop Mirajane from reaching over and slapping his cheek, if only slightly.

"Don't say that," she told him harshly with a frown. It was hard to even stare her in the eyes anymore. If she'd been pale her entire life, she was almost ghastly then. And she couldn't keep any weight on. She hadn't been eating right in months. He couldn't fight with her at that point. He hadn't been able to in a long time. "Don't ever say that."

"But it's true," he insisted. "If he didn't then, well, I did."

"You've never done anything," she told him then. "I promise you. You've only ever made my life better. I love you."

And he hated it, every time she told him that because all he could do was worry that it would be the last time. Every time they talked he worried that it would be the last time. He didn't want any last times. He wanted forever.

But no one was granted that.

It finally came, not soon after that. His mother's passing. He hadn't cried that openly over something in years. It wasn't fair. How could you only ever have one person there for you your entire life and then lose them? What was he supposed to do?

What were any of them supposed to do?

He couldn't be in the house after that. Even though it had been his home since he was born, he couldn't stand the thought of staying in it. After all, with his mother gone, it didn't belong to the Strauss family anymore. It belonged to the Dreyars. Laxus and his sister. He wasn't one of them. And he refused to ever be associated with them.

He went to stay with Erza. She was nice enough. She'd let him stay there since the funeral and then afterwards. In her own weird, straight-forward way, she was very comforting. He could tell that all she wanted was for him to feel better, but he didn't think he ever would again.

It had been so horrible. Her funeral. He was supposed to stand with Laxus, but he couldn't. He couldn't be with any of them. He was mad at everyone. And it was worse than when Makarov had died because his mom wasn't there to explain it all away. Make it all better.

He'd been wrong before. He wasn't alone when the Master left him. But he was then. He figured he'd better just get used to it. Solitude. He'd be stuck in it for the rest of his life.

Not that Laxus felt any better. For something that he'd been avoiding, something he'd known was coming for years, Mira's death blindsided him. As if something had been taken from him and all he could do was watch it happen from behind glass.

There was the guild, for one, that he still had to run. And then there was Orion who, no matter how much he wasn't, felt orphaned and alone. Then, of course, there was his one-year-old daughter who just…cried constantly. He couldn't get away from it. Had she always been that loud? Or had he just not been listening before?

It felt selfish then. All of it did. Having Orion for starters, but then going back and having another child that he'd known would just be motherless in the end. It felt like he and Mira had only been thinking of themselves. And hadn't they? What was Laxus supposed to do with a child, all by himself? When he felt broken to begin with?

Lisanna kept the baby that first week as Laxus just laid around the house, not doing much. All those years of watching Mirajane raise Orion alone, he'd felt…cold. Alienated. But he hadn't been at all. He'd gotten the demon and the boy and everything had been perfect.

Why had he ever tried to have more? Now he really was alone. He didn't know the boy at all anymore and his daughter, well, what was he supposed to do? Mira had cut and run, but he was still there, with an unwinnable situation. How could he handle it all alone?

But then he reminded himself that that was exactly how Mira had felt, all those years. She'd been alone. Sidelined. But she'd figured it all out. He just had to figure it out. That was all.

Orion, however, was figuring a way out. He didn't want to be in Fairy Tail anymore. He didn't want Magnolia or his aunts or his uncle or anyone else. What had they done for him? Huh? Or his mother? He hated them all. More than he ever had before. They'd seen where everything was heading and had never stopped it.

Worst of all, it entered his mind at times that his mother was just as guilty. And wasn't she? Had she not ever pictured where things with Laxus would get them? Curse or no curse, she'd been the one to bring Orion into the world only to completely fuck his life up. And for what? Some stupid guy?

He hated her. He really did. Sometimes. When it was dark and he wanted her to sing to him or tell him a story or just that it would be okay. That's what everyone kept saying. That it would be okay.

But it wouldn't be. How could it be? When your entire life was shattered for, really, no reason at all?

By the third week, Erza told him that he should take a job.

"Not a hard one," she said as he sat at the kitchen table, head rested on it while he stared blankly at the plate of eggs she'd sat in front of him. "Just something to take your mind off things."

There wasn't a job big enough to take his mind off what he was going through. He had no friends, he had no mother, he didn't want the family he did have.

What was left? He'd accomplished his dream early, of being S-Class. He had no other aspirations. Though killing Laxus sounded nice, he'd never see that coming to fruition.

The only thing left for him in Magnolia, really, was his mother. Or at least a promise he'd made to her. He said that he'd always take care of his sister. She'd about cried to him that that was all she wanted from him. That and to be happy. Those two things. That even if it didn't work out with him and Laxus, even if they couldn't at least become friends, then she wanted him to at least love his sister. To take care of her.

And what could he say? Huh? Other than yes? Swear to it. He couldn't break the final promise he made with his mother, could he?

It wasn't fair. None of it was, of course, but that in particular. That she just got to leave all those expectations on him. He hadn't asked for a sister. He didn't want one. He didn't want a family. Not without her. How could he? She'd been his world for years. Forever. Now he was supposed to just forget her and move on? Stay in the same damn place that he'd seen her everyday, so that he could be haunted by her memory constantly?

The whole thing felt cruel. Like a sick, cruel joke. Everything he ever asked for, a father, Laxus, S-Class, all coming on him at once only for the most important thing in the world be taken from him as retribution. Equal carnage for the bitter rewards he'd reaped.

What had he ever done then? Huh? To life? That it would treat him that way? That it hated him so much? What?

He couldn't take it anymore. By the middle of the third week, he decided to just go. He didn't want to be there anymore. He didn't want to be anywhere near Magnolia. His mother's wishes be damned. He couldn't stand Laxus, he didn't want a sister, and hell, if she wasn't there, he didn't want any his family. It was an all or nothing deal.

Facing Erza though was a no go. He couldn't imagine telling her that he was leaving Fairy Tail. That she'd spent all that time training him so that he could just run for the hills when it got hard. That the thing that she loved more than anything was just a caustic sore in his mind that had caused him nothing, but pain.

That she'd failed. That they'd all failed. He couldn't handle other people. He wasn't any good at it. He wasn't his mother. And that he couldn't stand to think about her anymore.

So he left in the middle of the night. Packed up the few things he'd taken over to her place and set out. He never wanted to see that town again. And he never planned to. He'd go far. Maybe a whole other country. Never look back. The past was dead. He could survive on his own.

What other choice did he have?

But he couldn't just leave without seeing her one more time. Or, rather, going to her grave. His mother's. And the Master's. He had to see them. Just one more time. Tell them goodbye.

They were the only ones that deserved it.

The graveyard, understandably, was empty when he got there. It felt eerie too, though he was nearly certain that it had less to do with the dead and more to do with the church looming in the background.

Master's grave was where he went first. He wasn't sure what to say. A few years had passed since the man's death and he'd come to grips in with it along the way. Still, he only rested a hand over the stone and mumbled a prayer for his soul before moving onto his mother's.

He hated it too. Seeing it. Just the sight of the name Dreyar on the end of her name pissed him off. Because she wasn't one. She wasn't! She was a Strauss and so was he and they always had been and why would she ever let them think differently?

What had Laxus given them? Other than turmoil? Nothing! He was just a jerk. A pompous, idiotic jerk who bought his own rhetoric about how great he was. He was one of those damn slayers. Those stupid, cocky slayers with their damn kids that were never nice to Orion, why? What was so wrong with him, huh? What was so bad about him that no one ever wanted him? That no one ever wanted to be around him? Was he that horrible? That even his father didn't want him? And his mother would choose the man over him?

Was he?

Orion hadn't realized it until he felt the soft grass beneath his knees that he'd fallen to them. That he was sobbing. Again. He should have been out of tears by then. Why wasn't he out of tears? He felt so foolish, out there in the open, in the middle of the night, crying over his mother's grave.

He felt weak. And alone. But hadn't he always been? Weak? And alone? Why should then feel any different?

Somehow he lost hours out there. Just sobbing and mourning and feeling sorry for himself. It was pathetic. Something he'd look down on someone else for. Pity someone else for. But there he was doing it. Living it. He was worthless. He was utterly worthless.

No wonder Laxus had never wanted him.

And that was how he found himself, sitting there in the desolate place, not even with his mother's spirit it felt like, just completely isolated from the rest of the world, recalling a thousand memories as they flashed before his eyes. From his mother's smile to what she'd looked like in her casket, all intermingled with thoughts about Laxus and how, no matter what he said, it still hurt, it would always hurt, or that he wanted his aunts to know that even though he was leaving, even though he thought he'd hated them, he couldn't. He never would. Or his Uncle Elf. And Bickslow'd taught him a lot. Did he remember all he'd passed on to him? Because Orion did. He remembered it all. What about Erza? Did she get that she'd been put on the same shelf as his mother? That he loved her just as much? That she meant just as much? And what about the way that his sister would never know him, but what did Orion care? Huh? What difference did it make? What was she to him, but just another way that Laxus had taken his mother from him?

It was a shock to him, when the sun came up. He'd watched it, of course, the sky turn from it's darkness to light blues and then reds.

That, however, wasn't what disturbed him.

"What are you doing out here?"

It was Radic, actually. The older teen was out there, arms full of what looked like gardening supplies, standing over Orion. He only blinked up at him, eyes still filled with tears.

He hadn't seen the other teen recently other than at the funeral. Since the Master's, they'd both steered clear of one another. Radic was around less even than Orion. Honestly, as he was sitting there on his knees, it hit Orion that Radic probably wasn't even a teen anymore. He'd probably finally hit twenty. At least.

And they only stared at one another for a few minutes. Radic's red eyes dead as they stared at the overly emotional blues that Orion was sporting. Time seemed just as frozen for the younger of the two as it had the whole night.

"It's honestly sorry," Radic said after awhile. "That you're still out here crying over her."

Orion couldn't breathe. He didn't know what to do. He wanted to kill him. Murder him. And what better place? But he could only sit and stare.

"She's dead, dumbass." And then he was dropping those gardening supplies. "You think that she'd want you to sit out here for the rest of forever? Huh?"

The most astounding thing he did though was hold a hand out to Orion then. It had to be for the first time in their entire lives. For a moment, Orion wasn't going to take it. Then something crossed his mind, if only for a moment.

It's just a hand.

Slowly, he reached out. And, when he did, Radic only held him in a vice like grip before pulling him stumbling to his feet.

"You should go home," the older of the two said after they stood there for a moment or so, awkwardly. "You-"

"I can't." And he hated it, the way his voice broke. But Orion couldn't help it. Hell, if he could, there's no way he wouldn't have. "I just can't."

"Of course you can," Radic grumbled then, still just staring him in the eyes. They hadn't had that much eye contact in, really, ever. "If you can sit around in a dank cemetery, I'm sure you can brave your own house."

When Orion shook his head, Radic only looked off and sighed. It was clear that he just didn't know what to do with the other guy. That was all. Radic didn't care about him. Of course not. Orion wasn't foolish enough to think that. But it was just like it'd been that day when he was sitting on the cot and Orion had the upper hand. No matter how cutthroat they were with one another, how ruthless, when it was over, it was over.

And it was over.

"Look," the dark headed one tried once more. "Your old man ain't doin' so well. And I get that you hate him. I hate mine. But if he was in as bad a shape as yours was, I'd at least go be around him some. I mean, what do you have left?"

Orion just stared for a moment before saying, "What difference does it make to you?"

"Well, for one, I ain't exactly his favorite person over at the hall," he pointed out. "And I don't think I'll be yours. He starts gettin' these crazy ideas in his head about havin' you like him and kicks me out to help that along, I don't think my pops'll be too happy with me."

"He's an asshole."

"Yeah." Radic even nodded. "But it don't stop you none from wanting to please him, does it? Least it never has me."

And, with that, Radic held out his hand again. That time though, it was just to reach over and punch the other boy in the arm. It stung. He hadn't held back. Then again, he never had.

"Come on," he said as he turned then to walk off. "I gotta head down that way anyways."

That was a lie. There was no way that it wasn't. Radic had clearly been heading to the cemetery to do maintenance or something. He'd have no reason to leave.

But he walked with Orion across town anyways. And it made no sense. Any of it. Did the other guy feel…pity? Or had he changed? Granted, they'd never been close and even less so over the past few years, but change just didn't seem to be something he went for so easily.

And it wasn't. As they went along, Radic grumbled out over the silence what exactly he was doing out in the cemetery.

It was community service of sorts. He'd had a rough couple of two years as well, it seemed. His temperament out on jobs had not been appreciated by local villages and they'd written to the guild. That on top of some property damage he'd done around Magnolia left the Master with a very stern warning. Shape up or ship out.

For some reason, Radic didn't seem to like the latter.

Orion always figured he'd do better with another guild, perhaps even a dark one, where his violent tendencies would be appreciated, but Radic didn't seem to see it that way.

"I've only ever lived here," he admitted quietly at one point, as they walked along in the early morning streets. "I don't have anywhere else to go. All I have is my mother and father."

The words sounded so cowardly, but Orion returned the same sentiment. They were brought up in the guild. And even though he'd been ready to leave before, many times actually, the thought was petrifying. The unknown was, well, unknown. And what happened to you out there held the same name.

"So they told me, the city, that if I couldn't pay to fix the shit I've wrecked, then I owed them," Radic finished. "Big. Now I'm stuck with stupid duties like trash clean up after parades and other shit like that. The worst is tending to the local graveyards. I hate it. It's too damn creepy. And I'm supposed to go out there early in the morning, around dawn. You know, when no one else is around. So no one sees me or whatever." Then he snickered. It sounded so much like the man that he hated that it was almost creepy to Orion. Gihi. Gihi. Did he sound like Laxus when he laughed? He hoped not. "'cept now I guess I gotta go earlier. Huh? Beat out people like you."

Orion didn't know why he walked all that way with Radic. Maybe it was his exhaustion. His mind was mush and he had no choice anyhow. It was either that or be the loser in the graveyard with tearstained cheeks, mumbling to himself incoherently.

He felt odd, too, when they finally got to his house. He and Radic just stood there for a moment or two, staring up at it. The place looked the same. But it sure didn't feel the same.

Had he not cried so much before, Orion might have started tearing up again.

"Well," Radic grumbled finally. "I got some graves and flowers to tend to, yeah?"

Slowly, Orion swallowed before nodding. And even though he didn't speak, Radic still glanced at him.

"It ain't the same without her," he said softly then as he turned to walk off. "And it never will be again. So you just gotta find a new same to look forward to. Even if it sucks ass."

And he knew that was the closest to a condolence he'd ever get from the other guy, so he left it at that. The next time they saw one another, Orion knew it would be different. They'd be back to either avoidance or pure hatred. Even though he reviled the other guy immensely, he hoped that the situation was never reversed.

He truly didn't wish what he was feeling on anyone.

Not even Radic.

The door was unlocked when he got to it. And, pushing in, Orion wasn't ready for what he saw.

He'd never seen Laxus cry before. Honest, he hadn't. Not at Makarov's funeral or his mother's. Never. But there he was, lying on the living room floor, openly doing so.

It wasn't sobs. It hadn't been for the past few days. In fact, the night before, he'd gotten through it without a single tear.

But something hit him that morning, as he lay on the living room floor, trying to play with his daughter, but failing miserably. She was just happily sitting there, next to her father, enjoying her blocks in the oblivious way that only someone so young could possess.

If staring at Radic had been hard, looking Laxus in the eyes then was worse. They were bloodshot and he looked miserable. Orion hated that he looked that miserable. It completely destroyed the desperate opinion that he wanted to keep of the man. As some sort of villain that had not only taken his mother from him, but been the direct cause of her death.

Laxus looked just as devastated as Orion. Just in different ways. He hadn't shaved, didn't look like he'd showered, and, honestly, didn't smell all that great. The past few weeks had been just as hellish for him, after all. As much as Orion didn't like to admit it, he'd lost someone too.

They all had. Not just him.

The first thing that the man took notice of, Orion was sure, was that he had his bag with him. He had to think that he was coming home. Not realizing that he'd been planning on skipping town without a word. He must have thought that he'd come back to him. That he wanted him.

But he didn't. No way did he. Because he didn't need Laxus. He didn't want Laxus. He wanted his mother. All he'd ever wanted was his mother. Why hadn't he only just wanted his mother? Huh? Why had he ever longed for a father? When all having one did was burn him?

Laxus just lay there too, on his stomach, as he watched the front door. Orion was still half out it, as if the sight of his father had shocked him. And it kind of had, honestly.

The biggest surprise, though, was that it was still there. Underneath it all, it was still tugging. All of it. He just wanted his hero back. His idol.

Why couldn't he have that?

Because it had been obliterated. His entire opinion of the man had been so darkened that there was no way to rectify it. None.

Laxus knew that. He knew that he could never make it up to him. Any of it. No matter how much he wanted to. And it just wasn't for Mira's sake. It never had been. He just wanted his boy back.

Why couldn't he have that?

It took a bit for Orion to slowly come into the house, the door closing behind him. And Laxus could only stare as, slowly, he came closer.

"I was gonna leave."

The man blinked before, slowly, nodding. He didn't speak though.

"But I can't." And, slowly, he dropped his bag as well as took off his quiver, leaving his bow down on the ground as well. "I just can't."

If Radic was confusing that day, Orion felt completely disconcerting. What was he doing? He didn't even know. His words were just as much new to him as they were to Laxus.

"I told Mom that I wouldn't. And I won't break a promise to her just because she's not here." He moved then to lay down on the ground with his sister as well then. The baby grinned at him and made a noise of recognition before going right back what she was doing. "I won't leave Makaria just because you're here. I don't care that you're here. She's mine too."

The child made no glance at her name. She didn't usually. It was more for meaning and the connections that it held that it was chosen. Laxus and Mira had always called her by her nickname, Snow. That was what his mother said that she reminded her of, when she came out with that white tuff of hair and it just stuck. It used to make Laxus and Mira giggle to call her that.

Orion usually didn't call her much of anything.

"I know," Laxus whispered as he lay there, staring over at his son. He wasn't sure what else to do.

"I love her."

And Laxus took a breath then, glancing at the baby before back at the teen.

"Yeah," he whispered. "I do too."

Orion refused to look at him then, as he just kept staring at his younger sister. She looked happy. He wanted to be happy.

"I loved my mother."

And that was whispered. As it was hard for him to make that past tense. Was it supposed to be? Because he still loved her. He always would. Whether she was there or not.

"I loved her too, Orion. So much."

He thought that he was done crying. He should have been done crying. But the teen felt his body heave and, though no tears came out, Laxus saw it and knew what he was feeling. Swallowing then, the slayer paused, before adding softly,

"I love you."

It wasn't immediate, but then again, nothing would be from that point. There was years of mistrust and misplaced anger to be dealt with. Many more truth and confessions to come out. It would take years.

But Laxus had years. And he hoped that Orion was willing to hand over some of his as well.

He was still heaving, Orion was. It all felt like too much. And it was. There was just so much. How was he supposed to deal with all that? It all swirled around inside of him constantly. It had been his mother that always figured it out for him. Took all the muddled thoughts and put them in their proper places, separated and restored them. He couldn't do it alone. He didn't know how.

The baby glanced over at him then, the sounds he was making catching her attention. And it killed him, looking at her. Thinking about her. Thinking about anything, really. All of it was just so messed up.

Turning his head down, Orion shut his eyes tightly as it slipped out. His whole life was in shambles and he couldn't contain it anymore. Because hidden behind all the resentment, tumult, and strife the man had caused him, it still remained true. He didn't think it ever wouldn't be.

"I love you too."

And it sounded so pained, the way that he said it, that Laxus could only sit there for a moment, unsure of what to do. He wasn't a comforter. He didn't deal with crying. Maybe for his baby, but not for someone else. What was he supposed to do with Orion, as he laid there heaving, his voice strained as if he were dying?

He did the only thing that crossed his mind. He sat up on his knees and crossed the tiny space. And, when Orion lifted up, he moved to wrap his arms around him for the first time possibly ever.

Maybe it was what he should have been doing from the beginning. Holding him. Because it worked, if only for that moment. Orion clung to him and Laxus felt warm in a way he didn't think he would again.

"I know," he sighed as the boy continued to sob. "I've always known."

Orion would never get his hero back. But, if he wanted, and if they both worked at it, he could get Laxus back. Maybe not how he had him, not the way he wanted him, but it was the same on the slayer's side. The relationship they'd had before was fragmented. It would never be whole again. But they could piece what they could back together and, really, that was all Laxus wanted.

It was what Mira would have wanted. And, though neither would be doing it for her, both would admit that the thought alone made them at least somewhat happy.

But it wouldn't happen that day. Or the next. The whole month was shot. Maybe the year. Orion wasn't even sure if he could really live there with them, Snow and Laxus.

He could visit though. It'd always be his house. And Laxus promised that his room would always be his. It was his home. Above all else.

And it wasn't like the indignation was gone. Because it wasn't. He still hated Laxus. A big part of him did. Blamed him. Still though, he'd admitted it, not only to himself, but to the man in question, that he loved him. That floated to the top. It always would.

How could it not?

Laxus would wait for it to pass. As long as it took. Orion was just one of the tiny pieces of Mira that he still had. And, more than that, he was his son. He'd always been his son. Curse or no curse, he'd always loved the boy. With or without Mirajane.

It didn't make the crying jags stop. Didn't put Orion's mind at ease. Didn't stop keeping Laxus up at night, worrying about it. But, in that moment and many more to come later, it mended that moment. Because Orion was his boy. And Laxus was all he'd ever wanted for so long.

He had him then. Whether he liked it or not.

When they pulled back then though, from that awkward hug they were locked in, they both only stared at one another. Laxus was waiting for the boy to blow up at him again, but it didn't come. And Orion was waiting for the pain to wash away, but it never would.

So they just sat there on their knees, watching the other.

"P'ay?"

It was the sound of Snow talking though that made them both glance over at her, staring at her for a moment in shock, as if they'd forgotten she was there. Maybe they had.

Things weren't just about them though. Mira had left them both with the one thing that would bind them forever. A part of her that wouldn't be going away.

And, though it was more of with a grimace than a smile, Orion moved to lie back down and pick up one of her dolls for her, shaking it in the baby's face. She loved this, of course, and giggled loudly. Laxus sat there, watching, as his chest panged and he worried that he'd gone too far. Hugging him.

Had he just wrecked everything?

But then Orion was looking up at him and his eyes weren't full of hatred. Just normal, bloodshot eyes.

Voice hoarse, he whispered, "Aren't you going to play?"

It was his own turn to lie back down. Nodding all the while, he promised them both, "Always. I mean it, Orion. Always."

Even though he didn't want to and only hours before he wouldn't have, Orion believed him.

They loved one another. Always.



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