Since the time he was born, it'd always just been Orion and his mom. Oh, and his Aunt Lisanna, who lived with them for a few years there. But mostly just him and Mirajane.
Not that it meant anything to him. Not at first. When he was younger, he didn't pay it any mind. How could he know that he was missing something if, as far as he knew, he never had it?
The older he got though, of course, he began to take notice that something was missing. And when he realized it, there was nothing more that bothered him everyday than that. He must have annoyed Mira with it constantly.
"How come they got fathers?"
And his favorite,
"Now am I old enough to tell?"
Mira usually had the same answer to any of the incarnations of those questions he could come up with.
"We'll talk about it when you're older." And she'd usually pat him on the head too, which was just annoying. Especially because he only kept getting older. But the answer never changed. Not once. How old was he supposed to be, anyhow?
Sometimes though, it was less curiosity that bothered him and more how lonely he felt. It hurt a lot, sometimes, watching Natsu get to play with his kids or listen to Radic brag about how he and his father had spent the whole day training. Whenever he mentioned that to Mira though, she'd only tell him that he didn't need a father to play with. He had his uncle, after all.
As great as Elfman was though, that just didn't fill the hole. At all.
He pictured the guy at least a thousand times. Depending on how he was feeling that day though, the picture changed. Sometimes he was a very handsome young man with tons of muscles and that was a great mage too. Those were the times that he felt like he was missing out. He'd decide then that the man probably went out on a job and gotten killed or something. Maybe just never returned. He could even be waiting for Orion to come get him.
Other times he was a jerk with beady eyes and an evil stare that left his mother all alone and never even cared. Those times were when Orion was angry with him, for leaving him all alone and never even coming back for him. He decided when he felt that way that he was better off without the guy.
Mirajane only really ever told him one thing about the guy.
"He always watches over you," she'd say whenever he got too whiny about the man's whereabouts. "That's all that matters."
Which led him at times to believe that he was dead. There was just something in the way that she said it though that didn't seem like it. And if he was dead, why couldn't she just tell him that later? When he got older? Why the big secret?
He'd asked everyone in the guildhall before to tell him, but he never got a real answer. Everyone loved Mirajane and there was no way they were going to defy her. He was more or less stuck.
There were very few times though that it hit him as hard as once, when he was nearly nine, and Radic was being a complete asshole about it.
The older boy was rather sadistic in most ways. None of the other kids ever seemed to like him much. He mostly used the fact that he was older than all of them to his advantage and would fight them mercilessly, never letting them surrender or, for that matter, actually agree to the fight. He liked bash their heads into the ground and, even a few times, had broken their bones.
But all of his abuse wasn't physical. He seemed to rather like making the younger kids cry any way that he could. And, as it turned out, that day he found the fact that Orion was fatherless to be the best plan of attack.
Orion couldn't remember exactly what was said, but whatever it was must have been pretty cruel. Not that that was shocking. Usually, in an attempt to appease him, the other kids would join in with Radic whenever he went on one of his tirades, if only to save themselves.
He was never one to cry much. His Uncle Elf always told him it was unmanly (though he himself did it quite frequently) and he tried his hardest to follow through. So when he came to Mira one day, in tears, rushing around the bar to bury his head in her dress, she knew something was wrong. And, since she wasn't the only one working that day, she was able to take her break and go calm him down.
"What's wrong?" She'd asked as she took him to one of the backrooms to talk. It was a storage room and his cries echoed somewhat. "Orion? Just tell me. Are you hurt?"
No. He even shook his head as, slowly, she got down onto the cold ground, even at the risk of ruining her dress, just so he could climb into her lap. He was staring to get too big for that though.
He just buried his head in her chest though, trying hard to swallow his cries as she took to stroking his head. When he finally calmed down enough, he told her about how Radic had shoved him down on the ground outside and held his face to the dirt, which, really, wasn't that unusual for the older boy. But when he refused to surrender or admit defeat, the older boy dug his knee into his back and began to taunt him about different things. The one that he found to be the most effective was the boy's lack of a father.
It'd never really occurred to Radic that that could be used as ammunition against the Strauss boy. He never thought much about it. The two of them weren't friends and, usually, the other child was around one of the adults. Recently, a lot of times he was training with Erza, which was obviously not someone he wanted to mess with.
Radic had leaned down too, to hiss in his ear about how much of a loser he was, that even his old man hadn't stuck around. That even as a baby he'd been able to see what a worthless little runt he was. And he made the other kids that they had been playing with join in. Tell him what a disappointment he was. How weak he was. And how even if his father ever did come back, he wouldn't stick around long, when he saw what a sissy he had for a son.
Mira only listened as he sobbed though, gently stroking his head. When finished, she even kissed his head.
"Why do you care what Radic says?" she asked. "I've told you before that there's something wrong with him. He's not nice and you shouldn't play with him."
He hadn't meant to. He was out at the park, playing by himself, and just sorta ran into the other kids. He didn't know that he would become the victim for the day.
"I'll talk to his mother," Mira said then. "And-"
"No." That was worse than not having a father and crying in front of the other boys all rolled into one. Lifting his head, he stared up at her with his eyes full of tears. "You can't."
"Ori, I have to. He-"
With a sigh, Mirajane said, "Fine. I won't. But I should. He had no business saying that to you."
He only cuddled closer to her again. "If you told me though, who my dad is, then I could-"
"When you're older."
"That's not fair!"
"It's not. All of the other boys, they get to go train with their dads. Natsu and Gajeel play with their kids. Why don't I get my father? It's not fair! I want a dad too!"
"Shhh." She went back to just stroking his head. "What have we said about that?"
"That you don't need a father to be there all the time. You have me and your uncle and-"
"I want one."
"I know. And one day it'll make sense, I promise, but for now, it doesn't matter. You know that he's always watching over you. Don't you?"
He only sniffled. "You say that, but-"
"And it's true. And he's so proud of you. I promise."
"How do you know? If you don't even talk to him?"
But she didn't answer that and, eventually, had to get back to work. Not before she made sure he was fine again though. And he was. Or at least he was finished crying. Radic had embarrassed him pretty deeply though and he had to pay for that.
It didn't take long for Orion to get his revenge, anyhow. Just a few days. All he needed was his bows and a very naïve Erza. She usually didn't let him train with magic arrows and would only let him use them under her supervision, but he was able to get a few out of her, to use while she was away on her job, he explained.
And use them, he did.
First though, he had to track the other kids on one of their own little training sessions. Sometimes Radic liked to go out with one or two of the other kids into the woods to 'practice' (beat the crap outta them where no one could hear their screams).
He followed along above, in the trees, all the way to a clearing. And when the three kids down below came to a stop, Orion got one of his arrows ready.
He hit Radic square in the shoulder. It didn't pierce his flesh much, as it wasn't meant to, but rather nicked him some before falling off, onto the ground. Just glancing up at the trees, all the other kids saw exactly who it was.
"You little coward," Radic had called up to him, almost immediately. "Your damn arrow didn't even hurt me! It-"
And he stopped talking too, just like that, as suddenly, all his muscles seemed to give out. Much to the shock to he other children, he hit the ground. Up above, Orion only grinned.
"What did you do?" the pink hair boy that was down there in the clearing called up to him. "Orion?"
He just jumped out of the tree then as the other kid, Gray's daughter, Jules, was the other one there with them and she just went to go kick Radic's shoulder.
"Is he dead?" she asked, staring at Orion in fear, if not some form of excitement. He just shook his head.
"Passed out." He went to retrieve the arrow and return it to the quiver strung on his back. "And you will be too if you don't help me."
They had to hurry. The effect wouldn't last long (Orion had to infuse it the spell into the arrowhead himself and, well, his magic abilities weren't that great just yet), so they only had a minute or two. When Radic awoke, he found himself tied to a tree and unable to get out.
"Hey," he growled almost immediately, his eyes focusing first on Jules and then the pink haired boy, both of who were just staring. "What the hell do you think-"
"My father is not something that will ever come out of your mouth again."
He focused then, across the clearing, at where Orion stood, bow in hand, one of his arrows poised to hit its mark, tied to the tree. Radic just widened his eyes.
"What are you doing?" he growled. "You little-"
"I just learned a new spell. You wanna see it? It's real cool." Orion's voice was cold then. "See the arrow head? How shiny it is? I've infused it with lightning. Just like Laxus. You know, the jerk? Wonder what it'll feel like when it pierces your skin?"
"I don't know what your problem is," Radic said then, his tone losing some of its gruff undertones. "But knock it off. What have I ever done to you?"
"My arms getting tired," Orion said then before, to the other two children's amazement, he actually released the arrow. It hit right above Radi's shoulder.
"Hey!" the older boy growled. "What are you-"
"Did you like it? The light that came off it? Looks even cooler at night." Orion moved to grab another arrow. "This one's not infused with anything, but I can think of a few places you would not want it to hit. Can't you?"
"Let me go, you little-"
He released it, the arrow coming to rest above the boy's head.
"Erza and I practice every day," he went on, grabbing another arrow. "She says that I have such good aim, it's almost like I was born with it. How do you think, Radic, that your dad will like you without an eye?"
That one hit the tree too, but it was at the right side of Radic's head. The boy wasn't even talking any more. Not fighting his bonds.
"Your not gonna bother me anymore," Orion said as he steadied his next arrow. "Are you, Radic? Because if you are, I'mma have to go ahead and make it hard on you. Don't you think it would be? With only one eye? Or ooh, how about none?"
"I won't talk about your dad anymore, you stupid freak! Now let me go!"
First he came closer, to retrieve his arrows. And stare the other boy down.
"I wonder what Gajeel will say," he said as he pulled them from the tree. He wouldn't be using them again, but he wanted a chance to look Radic in the eyes. "When he hears that you gave up. To me. And none of your friends came to your rescue."
"You can't tell him."
"Why not? You told everyone that I cried and that I-"
"You just can't."
"Maybe." He was finished then. "Or maybe I will. Or maybe when you say something about my father again, I'll-"
"I said I won't! Now let me go!"
"No way." He was walking off then. "Jules can. You could stay here and rot for all I care."
He knew too that he was playing with fire. And honestly, he was just glad that Radic was so stupid. If the boy had any intelligence, he'd have realized that, though he was bound, it would have been easy to have a rock come up and knock Orion in the head. But that was the problem with all the kids of the slayers; they were too damn stupid. Their fathers had filled their head with nonsense about how strong they were and it'd made their minds weak.
The last thing Orion had was a weak mind. He knew that he had a hold over Radic then and, also, a pretty good pick off technique. If ever the other boy started up on him again and threatening to tell the others of what had transpired didn't work, he'd just repeat the events. Maybe have a longer sleep effect in an arrow and drag the boy off to some part of the forest, bind him up, and leave him. That sounded like a real good plan of attack.
Even though he was pretty much over the whole thing then, as he'd extracted his revenge and established some form of dominance all in one fell swoop, Mirajane didn't know about it. He couldn't tell her, after all, as she'd see it as him misbehaving. So she still thought he was hurt by what Radic did and, though she was a great mom, sometimes she was really stupid. Or at least she made stupid mistakes.
He could remember too, it being the most embarrassing thing she'd ever done. Or at least he felt that way. Not that it was impossible for him to see where she was going with the whole thing. She knew that he admired Laxus and, as she and him had always been friends, decided to use it to her advantage.
Or at least that's what he thought.
"Hey, Laxus," Mirajane greeted as, one day, thanks to the packed hall, he got stuck drinking his beer up at the bar. Orion was up there too, going over a spell book, trying to read up on some new ones. Erza always wanted him to be learning new things, as his arrows' powers would become limitless if he did so. Mostly though the boy was just trying to get noticed by his idol, but the man seemed mostly focused on his beer and nothing else.
"How was your job?" Mira was standing in front of the two of them with a smile. Orion hardly even glanced up. Laxus didn't seem to have a lotta friends in the guild outside of the Thunder God Tribe, but the she-demon had always been kind to him. She was kind to everyone, really. Orion never once thought she would do what she did.
"Fine," he grumbled. "Why?"
"I was just wondering."
"Aren't you going to ask me about how I was doing while you were gone?"
That made Laxus stop, if only for a moment.
"Something happen?" he asked. "Mirajane?"
"Not with me, really," she said slowly. "But you know Gajeel's son?"
That made Orion glance up. Laxus only shrugged though.
"Enough," he replied. "The annoying little ass tried to attack me once."
She nodded slightly. "Well, he was teasing Orion about how he didn't have a father and-"
"What are you doing?" The boy in question had never felt his face heat up that badly. "Stop it! Why are you-"
"I'm just telling Laxus about how-"
"No! Shut up! You-"
"Hey." The man glanced down at the boy then. "You think it's alright, huh? To talk to your mother that way?"
"I was just-"
"You're lucky to have a damn mother." Laxus glanced back at Mirajane then. "Refill my beer."
As she scurried off to do so, the man glanced down at the boy again, who was still red in the face and, honestly, more embarrassed that Laxus had reprimanded him than anything.
Why had his mom done that? The last person he ever wanted to look like a crybaby to was Laxus.
"Why'd you let that little shit get you, boy?"
He only glanced up at the slayer speaking. "I didn't. He-"
"You gonna lie to me now?"
"N-No. I was just-"
"What do you need a father for? Huh?" Laxus' eyes were heavy as they bore down on the child. "I had one and it didn't do shit for me. You got more in your mother than most people do with even two parents. So stop worrying about it. And next time Gajeel's kid bothers you-"
"I already took care of it."
He was able to meet the man's eyes then. "Yeah. I did."
"Good." Then he gave him one of those grins and reached down to pat him on the head. "Having a father would have just ruined you. Trust me, huh?"
And then, even though Mira wasn't back yet, the man got to his feet and threw a wad of jewels down on the bar top.
"Tell your mother I had to run," he said simply. "Last thing I wanna do is actually listen about how her week was."
After the man was gone, he did give his mother the cold-shoulder for a bit. Sure, he'd gotten that nice conversation with Laxus in return, but the risk had been too much.
"I'm sorry," Mira told him later that night at home when he was still refusing to talk to her. "Honest. I just thought that Laxus could-"
"Why?" That was the first word he'd spoken to her in hours and, honestly, Mira didn't know what to say for a moment. They were in the kitchen at home, her making dinner and him waiting on it. "You embarrassed me! You know how much I like Laxus and you almost ruined everything. Just because you were in my business again."
"Laxus and I are friends," Mira told him as she glanced over at the table from the stove. "I've told him before about how you-"
"Well don't. You're gonna ruin it."
He couldn't put it into words, not really, but basically that weird feeling he got from Laxus. Like the man was impressed with him. Like he didn't think of him how he did the other kids. That he really thought that he was special.
"Just it," he told her with a frown. "Don't talk about me to Laxus. Don't talk to him at all!"
"Now you're just being silly."
He didn't care. Though he knew that his mother meant well in all the things she did, she also had a tendency of screwing things up. She was really nice and caring and sweet, but she wasn't the best at plotting things out. He couldn't risk her messing up what he had with Laxus. No way.
It never rightly seemed to add up to him, either, when he was a kid, but looking back on it, there was only one explanation to what happened that next week. Radic hadn't been bothering him, not since he'd gotten his little revenge, but he'd glared heavily at him a few times. He could feel the other child's stares every time he was in the guildhall.
But that all changed rather suddenly when, a week later, the boy and his father showed up to the guild hall both in rather sour moods, the later starting to drink early that day and well into the night. Their Exceed that hung around them, Pantherlily, would snicker sometimes at Gajeel's grumbling, but Radic was rather quiet the whole day. Every single time Orion passed his table (after first noticing it, he did it a few times for trial), he would wince a little and advert his eyes.
Though Gajeel was out of his funk the next day, it was that way with Radic for a year, at least. He wouldn't even come into the same room as Orion if he could help it. He flat out avoided him. Eventually, whatever was wrong faded from the boy's mind, of course, just like that threat of telling his father, and the demented boy went back to bothering Orion randomly, like he did all the children, but it was never about his father again. Never. And though he'd have liked to attribute it to that time he shot arrows at him, something just told Orion that that wasn't right. But nothing else could have happened. Not that he knew of back then. It didn't make any sense.
To him at least. From that first day, Mirajane, though not the most perceptive person in the world, knew exactly what had happened.
"You did not-"
"Why didn't I?"
He just leaned against the bar, watching her with a slight grin. It was near closing by that point and the whole day, as Mira was serving Black Steel his beer, she could tell something was wrong. Which wouldn't have been odd, had she not noticed that something was wrong with Radic too. It was actually Lily, who, when he said something about Laxus not being around, got a swift growl from Gajeel, that tipped Mirajane off the most.
"Gajeel knows that the boy's under my protection," the other slayer said with a slight shrug. She had been closing up when he came in and the only person that seemed to be around was the drunken Cana, who was snoozing over in the corner. "It was time that his son realized it too."
"You didn't hurt that boy."
"Of course not, demon," he grumbled as she, slowly, went back to counting the money for the night. "Just roughed up stupid Gajeel a little. The idiot don't know when to give. Whatever he did to his son is his business. Not mine."
"I don't think he hit him," Mirajane said slowly. "But what could he have told him? I mean-"
"Don't know, don't care. Just to leave Orion alone and that's all that matters."
"You're too old to be picking fights with the other guys in the guild. Honestly, you-"
"Shut up, woman." He was still just watching her. "Where is the boy anyways?"
"With Elfman. He and Ever are taking him out of town tomorrow, so he spent the night at their house."
Grunt. Then, "You should have just tell the boy his father's dead."
"I'm not lying to him."
"Why not? You're not telling him the truth either. What difference does it make? It'll make him stop asking. Don't you want him to stop asking?"
"I honestly don't care if he does. Do you?"
He narrowed his eyes at her then before saying, "No. I don't. But he ain't comin' to me, botherin' me about it. He's comin' to you."
"And I'm dealing with it. I just tell him the same thing. Eventually he'll get tired of asking."
"Or eventually he'll find someone new to ask."
That made her look up then, glaring right back.
"What do you want from me, Laxus?" she asked then with a frown. "I did everything you asked. He doesn't know anything. What more do you want?"
He just pushed away from the bar then before saying, "You need anything, demon?"
This annoyed her and, with a snort, Mirajane went back to counting the jewels. "If you're asking if I got your tip from the other day, yeah, I did. It's not all about money, Laxus. I've told you that a thousand times. Just throwing money at him isn't-"
"It's keeping him fed and housed, ain't it?" He was done with her for the day, apparently. "What more can a boy need?"
"I'm not even supposed to be talking to you."
"Eh?" That made him stop.
"He's afraid I'll say something to embarrass him," she told the slayer, grinning somewhat, finally. "And that you won't like him anymore."
"He thinks I like him?"
He grinned too then. "What else did he tell you?"
"Just that. I'm not allowed to talk to you about him." She giggled. "He's so afraid that you're going to think he's weak."
"He's not fucking weak." Then man's grin turned dark almost then. "He's a-"
"Strauss," Mira said then, before he could finish his sentence. "You made sure of that, remember?"
He could hear it in her tone then and, grin turning fully then, he glared at her before turning to walk off.
"Whatever, demon. The boy won't be bothered anymore. Just came by to make sure you got my jewels. That's all."
That wasn't all though. She knew he'd come to make sure that not only Gajeel's brat had gotten the message, but also that she had. That he'd listened. He was wanting her to tell him what a good guy he was. What a protector he was. How great he was.
But she wasn't going to do that. He didn't deserve it.
Mira only sighed though and went back to counting the money. Laxus was a lot of things, but worth her time, at that moment, he wasn't. Besides, she still had a bar to close down and a drunk Cana to get home.
Then again, what else was new?