He watched the S-Class promotion trials go by the first year without much care. He didn't get called, but that was fine. There was always next year. And Orion could remember well, when he turned thirteen, standing in the crowd with all the others, waiting on his name.
It didn't come.
Erza, who could tell he was hurt by this, spoke to him before she left with the Master and his mother to go hold the trials.
"Do you know that I was the youngest to complete the trials?" she asked him. "I was-"
"Fifteen," he grumbled as they sat out on her back porch. "I know."
"And your mother was sixteen when she accomplished hers. And Laxus, well, he was already seventeen. So see? Would you rather go before your ready and fall on your face? Or would you-"
"He picked," he grumbled through his teeth, "Radic. Over me! Radic gets to go and-"
"Radic is a complex case, yes," Erza agreed, smiling down at the young boy. "But he is the type that Laxus likes. He admires strength and-"
"Radic isn't strong. He's brutal. He's-"
"And once upon a time, Laxus was too." Erza shook her head, staring out at her backyard. "You will check up on my house while I am gone?"
He snorted, still in a rather foul mood. "I can't imagine anyone stupid enough to steal from Titania."
"I could name a few."
Glancing up at her then, he said, "Hey, Erza?"
"I wanna beat you." It was a whisper then as he spoke, but he said it anyways. "I want to be the youngest. I wanna have a record in Fairy Tail too."
"Of all the memories and lasting impressions I hold, that is not one that I am most proud of."
She gave him a stare. "You think that when people go back and remember me, that is what they will think of? That when people think of your mother, they will remember that she was an S-Class wizard? Not the countless times she saved the guild? Or the times that I put my life on the line for others? That is what is important."
"Yeah, but when the people that remember that die, so does the memory," he argued. "But a record-"
"The memory can fade, Orion, but the action never dies. The life you save will pass on, but the fact that once, no matter how long ago, you touched it remains. And if you think that being a mage is about anything other than helping others, then maybe you're not ready to be an S-Class."
He didn't wanna hear that though and glared at her. "I didn't say that was all I cared about. I-"
"I know," she told him. "But Master Laxus will choose you when he sees fit. And throwing a fit because another boy was chosen over you will not help anything. Do you know how long it took Natsu? Are you telling me that you are more powerful than he was at your age?"
"No," he groaned, kicking at the ground. "But Radic sucks."
"I will not agree with you," she told him. "But I will not disagree either."
Grinning then, if only slightly, he said, "If I ever do get to go-"
"When you get to go," she corrected.
"When I get to go," he said, "if I have to face you, I'm gonna take you down, Erza."
Laughing then, she said, "I welcome it. And do not think I will hold back."
"I know you won't." Unconsciously, he rubbed at his bruised arm from where just that afternoon the reequip mage had been a tad too rough in their sparring. "You never do."
As much as he hated not being able to be a part of those trials, he had to admit, watching stupid Radic come back a failure made him very happy. He didn't know what was better; that the boy hadn't made it passed the first round or the obvious disappointment in Gajeel's eyes. Orion decided it was a mixture.
Mira had found the time spent during the trials rather nice herself, as she always did. It was fun for her, participating and watching her friends have their dream come to fruition (the ones that failed, not so much). That year though had a rather different outcome that she was expecting.
"Trails were nice this year, huh?"
Mira hardly looked up as she was joined in the Master's office. "Mmmhmm."
Laxus only came in further. "What are you doing in here?"
"Just organizing your papers, Master."
"You know you don't have to call me that."
"I like it." She told him that every time he said that. "It makes me think of-"
"He ain't doin' so hot."
"He's held on longer than anyone expected," Mira said, finally glancing up for that. She was at a file cabinet, putting some things away. "But you're right. He won't make it out of this year, I don't think."
"He can't even get out of bed anymore, Mira."
Sighing, Laxus came to stand above her. "What kinda files are you putting away?"
"Nothing serious," she told him with a slight smile. "Why? You worried I'll find something in here?"
"Your snooping skills?" He snorted. "You'd have already found whatever you were looking for."
He let out a long breath then and, when she looked up, she gave him a look.
"I just… We were spending so much time together during the trials and you know how I-"
"This is why I keep telling you that I can't treat you like I did Makarov. We can't work so closely together. Not if you-"
"I only wanna-"
"I know what you want." Shutting the drawer then, she got to her feet, a few files in her hands. "But it doesn't work that way. I told you last time-"
"You know how many last times there've been?"
"I know that this time I meant it."
"We shouldn't be in here together." She moved to set the files on the desk then. He followed. "Laxus-"
"Do you remember," he asked softly as he came closer, "when we were first coming up with the rules? On how to keep you safe?"
"On how to keep you from being a father? Sure."
"You know that's not what it was about."
"I know that all the ideas you came up involved a lot of sacrifice on my part and very little on yours."
"What did you want, Mirajane? I told you, you could die, you could leave, or you could get rid of the baby."
"Kill the baby. Say it."
"Mira," he groaned. "It's not like that. You were just pregnant. If you just got rid of it-"
Glaring at her then, he said, "I told you when we first started sleeping together not to get pregnant. I even told you that sleeping with me was a bad idea. But you wanted to. You told me you wouldn't get knocked up. You did. That's your fault. So stop-"
"I'm not doing anything, Laxus, but telling the truth." She gave him a cold stare. "Did you ever think that maybe it was all bull anyways?"
"The whole curse to begin with. I mean-"
"I'm not fighting on this. I'm-"
"I'm not fighting you," she was quick to say. "Honest. But I'm not dead. And I didn't leave. And-"
"And Orion isn't my son."
"By blood he is."
"He doesn't have my name, he doesn't have my features, he doesn't have-"
"I still don't think that would have been enough," she told him. "I-"
"And we discussed that all, how many years ago now? What? Thirteen? Fourteen?"
She gave him a look. "Yeah and in those years, you sure had your barrage of women, didn't you, Master?"
"What does that have to do with anything? I'm sorry, did I ever even ask you not to date?"
"No, but you sure stuck me with a kid that-"
"I didn't want a kid," he hissed at her then, trying to keep his voice down. "At all. I gave you a multitude of options. You picked one. You seem to like this one. What? Would you have rather that we lived like a happy little family for a few years and then you died?"
"But I wouldn't have-"
"Fuck, demon, how many times do I have to tell you? It's a thing. It's been in my family for generations. The woman has a son, she leaves or dies. You weren't going to leave. I knew you weren't. But I love you. I saved you. You're welcome."
"Saved me? Are you still saving me, Laxus? Was it saving me all the times that we've slept together since-"
"That's why I wanted you to go away," he told her. "You know that. I tried, remember? I-"
"Yeah, to kick me out of the guild. To force me."
"You might as well have, back when I was pregnant. You made me miserable."
"I was trying to make you leave. I was-"
"Did it ever occur to you leave? At all? In these past few years?"
"Me? This is my home. This-"
"It's mine too!"
They'd been glaring at one another so long that, finally, he broke and looked off.
"Why are we talking about this again?"
Mira wasn't that easy to break though. "Because you were being an ass and coming in here all handsy-"
"I have not touched you," he told her then with a frown. "I've wanted to, but I have some self-control. Today."
"I just love you."
"Right now," she grumbled before looking back at the files on the desk. "Are you going to let me finish? Or do you want to continue this conversation? We only have it, what? Every six months?"
"This one didn't feel complete."
"One of us didn't storm off."
"I'm too tired."
"Poor demon." He looked back at her then, if only for a moment. "The curse is real."
"I don't believe it."
"You don't believe in curses? In a world of magic?"
Laxus laughed, but it was without humor. "Even though I can go back and show you every single woman in my family that died? That they gave birth to a son, he took the name, and then they died? Even though Gramps would attest to the same thing and Ivan literally watched my mother deteriorate-"
"I don't believe it," she repeated. "I'm sorry, but I don't. I mean, knowing the three of you so well, I assume that your ancestors were just as much of jerks and probably ticked some people off, but-"
"Then don't believe it," he told her then with a shrug. "I don't care. But you're alive. And I like you more that way. If denying it makes you feel better, fine. I don't care. But Orion's safe. And he has you."
"He wants you though, Laxus."
"No, he doesn't. He wants the mystery that you've decided to build up to be reveled. He wants closure that you made necessary."
"Oh, right, Laxus, I forgot that this was all my fault. Forgive me."
"Just…get out of my office, alright?" He was moving then, to go take a seat at the desk. "Don't organize shit for me anymore. Don't help me out. Just run the bar and I'll ask someone else. Or I'll do it myself. Is that what you want?"
"No, of course not. I-"
"Then what, Mira? You want me to go tell Orion that, surprise! I'm his father? You want that?"
"Of course not. I-"
"You wanna have sex?"
Well, he tried…
"Just go, demon." He sighed, moving to rest his elbows on the desk before his head in his hands. "There's not much else we can talk about, is there?"
She paused for a moment before saying, "I don't wanna be mad at one another."
"I'm not mad at you. I've never been mad at you."
"Well, now you're lying to me."
"I'd like to think I've gotten better at it over the years."
Pressing her palms against the desk, she said, "For awhile there, we were going pretty good."
"Mmmm…when Orion was probably about four. We stayed away from one another pretty well for, what? A year or two? Only spoke when we had to. You bothered Orion a few times, but-"
"I don't bother him. I check in on him," he corrected. Then, glancing at her, he said, "And you're hard to stay away from. I mean it when I say it. I do love you. You know that I do."
"I know that you've always said that. But no, Lax, I don't know that."
"I think you do. I think you hate to admit it, because it's easier to dislike me and call me a douche for what I've done to you, but you know that I care about you."
"Care and love are different things."
"And I do both. If you hadn't gotten pregnant-"
"It wouldn't have worked, Lax," she told him with a frown. "And you know it."
"Why do I know that? Huh? Why do I know something that didn't happen-"
"Because you're looking back with shaded vision," she told him. "We weren't the greatest couple, you know. And you were sleeping with other people."
"We weren't exclusive. We-"
"And we would have never been. And we would have ended a lot worse than we did. I'd have ended it or you would have and we would have caused a big fuss in the guild. We should have never been together in the first place."
Staring her in the eyes, he asked, "Do you really think that?"
"I really do. But I'm glad we were."
With a shake of his head, Laxus said, "I didn't think that we could keep it under wraps so long. I didn't think I could go without you."
"You haven't been without me though," she pointed out. And that was true enough. There had been slip ups. None in the past three years though, really. And she always regretted it. Really, they only served to send them backwards. They were never going to get over one another, that had been made clear, but every time they got to a shaky truce, they'd find themselves alone somewhere and it just… She hated herself, but she did still love him. For whatever reason, she always would. "And I hate not telling him. He loves you so much."
He looked off then. "Yeah, I guess he does."
"It's not just innate either. That's what makes it better, don't you think?"
"He chose you, Laxus, out of everyone. He thinks that you're the strongest, best, and bravest, not because you're his father, but because he's seen it. Because you are."
"I miss that."
"You bragging on me."
"Shut up, Laxus."
"I do." He grinned then. "You used to rub my back and tell me how great I was."
"I made a lot of mistakes."
It was her turn to grin. "You used to rub my shoulders too."
"You know, demon, I've only gotten softer, the older I've gotten."
"What do you do now?" she asked. "For the women you're with?"
"That worked when we were in our twenties," she scolded. "Just barely."
He still just grinned. "A man has needs, demon. You can't fault him for taking care of them."
"No." Shaking his head slightly, he said, "But I've never fallen in love again."
"That worked once," she said. "When Orion was, what now? Seven? Try again."
"I'm not trying. I'm just spilling my heart-"
"That didn't work. Any of the times you tried. And it's not this time either."
He just let out a long breath. "I still call out your name."
"Now you're getting weird."
"I still think about it, too. That time that I took you out of town, on that vacation, and we spent the whole time in the hotel room. Like fuck. I could have just kept you locked up in my apartment for no charge at all."
"That was a good week."
Her turn to grin came then as she stared at him. "Can I do your files now? Master?"
"Was that all this was? Getting me all buttered up and relaxed?" He shut his eyes then. "Go ahead. If you're not going to rub my shoulders. This guild is taking it's toll on me already."
"I'm not going to though."
"I didn't think you would."
It didn't take long for her to finish up either. The whole time that she was down there, organizing, Laxus just sat there, thinking she figured. It was when she was all finished up though and getting to her feet that he stood. And she knew. She just knew.
"No one can tell me no," he reminded as he cornered her, trapped against the wall by the file cabinet. "I'm Master now, remember?"
"I'm just kidding." He grinned as he held his hands out, on either side of her head. Staring down at her, he said, "I just want a kiss."
"No, you don't."
"How do you know?"
"You want me too, don't you? Huh?"
"Not…here, for one."
"Then where? You wanna come home with me and-"
"Shhh." He snickered. "Demon. Someone will hear."
"I'm shocked they haven't already."
"Just be glad." He moved to tilt his head forwards, but it was just to rest his forehead on hers. "Is the boy here?"
"He's on a job."
"Then what's the problem? Huh?"
"You're the one that always said-"
"I'm not gonna get you all knocked up again."
Rolling her eyes, Mira said, "You're such the romantic."
"I'm not." He smiled. "That's not even what I want from you."
That was enough. Mirajane literally shoved him away then as Laxus just laughed.
"I hate you, Laxus. So much."
He just reached out to grab at her, but she wasn't having it. He'd ruined it.
"Fine, go," he grumbled, as if he had a choice. She was leaving anyhow. "I love you."
He'd really annoyed her. Not that that was anything new. That's why he liked Mira; for all the love she had for everyone else, she was pure fire with him. She always had been. Even before the baby. And he just poked and poked until she blew up in his face. Then he'd give it some time and go right back to poking.
It was their thing.
They'd had that sort of relationship for years. And years. The boy had put a hamper on things, and technically an end, but he just couldn't close the door on her. He knew he should, that it was necessary, but he couldn't help it. Especially the more time that went on and she didn't die. He even started to question himself at times.
But he knew. Of course he knew. It'd been told to him since he was a kid. Since Ivan blamed him for his mother's death. And he didn't want that for his demon. Or his son. He loved them both. Honest, he did. Mira was just so…captivating. And tempting. And right there. He figured she felt much the same as him for the most part.
So fine, Orion couldn't be his son. And he'd separated himself from the boy as much as he could. Mira though was a different case. He didn't have to keep himself completely separated from her. Not really. He just couldn't call the boy his own. That was all.
It was a thin line though and he knew every time they tried to step out on it, things only flew back in their faces. He didn't like toying with her. Or giving her false hope. But at the same time, he knew that Mirajane wasn't a normal woman. She just wasn't. She understood. Even though she didn't believe, she understood.
And somewhere, deep down, he had an inkling that she did believe just a little. Because the woman she was, he had a feeling she wouldn't have let him off the hook if she didn't. She'd have forced him to accept their son. That was just the way she was. And she would have died in the process.
It wasn't worth it. The boy, fine, he wanted a father, but other than that he was fine. And Laxus couldn't come out and say that he was his dad, but he did take care of him. He watched over him. He loved him. Really. He just couldn't say it.
He stayed in his office for the rest of the day, going over a few letters he'd received from other towns and such. It was well passed closing when there was a knock at his door.
"Laxus? I'm closing up," he heard Mira call. "Everyone's gone. Can you lock up?"
"C'mere for a sec. I need somethin'."
"What?" Opening the door, Mira was quick to come in and look. "I really need to go."
"Look at this."
Curious, Mirajane went to go see what he was pointing out on the letter in his hand. "Wh-"
He smiled into the kiss too. It was almost chaste, really. Against her lips, he said, "I tricked you."
"It won't happen again," she agreed.
"Then let me use it to my advantage."
He liked to think, too, that she hadn't been with anyone else in the past few years since they'd last been able to be together. He always liked to think that. He didn't know why. He knew it wouldn't be fair. He wouldn't hold it against her if she had. In fact, he didn't care. He would tell himself she hadn't anyways. As wrong as they were, she'd always been the only one for him. Always.
She hated him the next day, again. Like always. They didn't talk again for a month, at least. Not unless they had to. And if she hadn't wanted it just as badly as him, he might have felt a little bad. But she had. She knew it. He figured that all the hate she exhibited towards him, she had just as much for herself.
It would be a tense next few months.
For the two of them, anyhow. For Orion, things were going great. He was able to get out of his head a little and was doing extremely well on his jobs. Erza even took him out on a few S-Class ones and he realized just how hard they could be. Fun though. And his transformation magic, though not on his mother's level, was definitely exceptional.
And, when the year rounded out, he almost died when his name was mentioned among the list of those who were going to get a shot at being S-Class. Hearing the other names though, and realizing besides just one, they were all veterans, he was almost certain he wouldn't get it. But that was okay. He wasn't scared. If he didn't make it, he didn't make it. But at least that meant that the Master was thinking of him.
His mother opted out of going on the trials that year. Which everyone expected. He was a little disappointed, that she wouldn't be there, but part of him was also glad. She was too much of a safety blanket. And the last thing that he ever wanted to do was go up against her in battle (or get his butt kicked by his mother). Erza was going though. There was no way she wasn't. And even if he didn't make it further than the first round, as long as it was between him and Erza, he was down with it.
But he didn't even get that far. Radic, who was ticked that he had been overlooked that year, got into a fight with Orion not soon after it was all announced. And with his bows, fine, Orion was beyond reach, but the fight didn't involve magic. It was pure strength. And, as much as he hated the older guy, he was a brute. He wasn't very smart, but he was brawny.
Orion had broken bones before, but damn, Radic about tore his fucking leg off. It was horrible. He'd never been in pain like that before. And the other teen didn't take that as enough retribution. He wouldn't let him up. Just held him down and made him grit his teeth in pain.
"If I can't have it," he growled at him at one point, "why should you?"
Honestly, Orion didn't care that he got bested in the fight. He didn't care that Radic had won. Not at all. He did, however, care that he wouldn't be going to the trials that year.
"I can go," he argued to the Master, up in the infirmary, after his leg had been wrapped. "I-"
"With a broken leg?" The man just shook his head. "You'd only be coming right back home, after losing. This is a serious test. You're not fit for it now. I'm sorry."
"No, Master, you don't get it. It has to be this year. Next year-"
"You won't make it." Laxus actually did look rather sad for him, too, which was odd. "I'm sorry, kid. I really am. You shouldn't have-"
"Radic attacked me! What was I supposed to do?"
"Be better at defending yourself," Laxus told him simply. "I'm sorry."
"Stop saying that." He'd never talked back to Laxus before, not really, but he was pissed at him then. Truly, he was. "I don't want you to be sorry for me."
He almost looked like he was smiling then, Laxus did, as he came closer to lay a hand on the boy's head.
"There'll be other trials, kid. Every year," he said as Orion just glared. "And one day, you're gonna go and you're gonna make it. And It's gonna be me and you at the end and you're gonna do whatever stupid final test I ask of you. Then I'm gonna make you and S-Class and you're going to realize it wasn't all it was cracked up to be. I promise."
"It's easy to say when you have it."
"It is, ain't it?" He fully grinned then. "I picked you, Orion, because I know you'll do good. And another year? A whole other year to grow and mature? You're gonna be so ready."
"I want it now."
"I know." Laxus just left his hand there too, atop the boy's head. "I want you to have it too."
That made the older man pause. Orion thought he was thinking. Actually, Laxus was choking. That wasn't supposed to come out. At all.
Why would he want some random guy in the guild to become S-Class? Hmmm.
"Because you deserve it. I watched you, kid. I've always watched you. I dunno why. Maybe because you were the demon's son and I've seen what she could do. She's one of the only ones that never completely pissed me off around here." He dropped his hand then. "Use this time with your leg all busted up to do something other than train, huh? There's more to being a good mage than just being strong, completing jobs."
"What do you mean?"
"Kid, I don't ever see you with anyone other than us old losers," he told him. "Don't you have any friends or something?"
"I just train with Erza and Elfman and Bickslow and-"
"That's my point." He snickered then. "There's tons of girls and stuff all throughout Magnolia. Take some time off, eh? Don't be an old man yet. It won't suit you well when you are one. Ask Gramps."
Looking down, Orion said, "I don't want to hang out with the other kids. They all suck."
"I sued to think that. I hated these people. I thought they were weak and only got in the way."
"Worked out well for you."
"No," Laxus told him then with a frown. "I had to grow up. Realize that I couldn't do it all alone. You think that I'm still like that? 'cause I'm not. I have friends."
Orion glanced up at him. "I never see you with anyone."
"What are you then? My keeper?"
"N-No, I just-"
"I have to go," Laxus sighed then, looking off. "Keep your head up, kid. And if you show me what you did this year, and more, then we can look into it again next year, huh? I want you to make it. I like you, kid. If I didn't, I'd let you go out there, get your ass kicked, and maybe even screw up your leg even more. But I'm not gonna do that. You can wait. You'll get better. And next time that kid jumps you, you'll be ready, right?"
He could only nod though, and, with a sigh, Laxus set off. He had had his sights set on the boy coming along too. Even if he didn't make it, it would have given him good taste of what the trials were like. But…another year wouldn't do him any harm. None at all, really.
Downstairs, Laxus sought out Freed and found him relatively easy. Then again, if they were in the same place, the guy was rarely far from him.
"You know Gajeel's loser kid?" he mumbled to him as they stood off in a corner.
"what of him? But he could tell from Freed's gazed that he'd already picked up.
"I think he'd look nice with a broken arm. Don't you?"
"I could picture it, yes."
"Surely you and Bickslow could figure something out while I'm gone."
With Laxus gone, Orion felt no reason to stay up in the infirmary any longer. He was still a little peeved though, at the whole thing, conversation with his idol or not, and set off for the downstairs, even on his bum leg. It wasn't easy with crutches, at all, but when he made it down, he found that most everyone had cleared out for the day. Most were probably still annoyed that, once again, they would spend another year being overlooked for the S-Class trials.
If he wasn't so down on himself, he might have left the hall too. But where would he go? Home? And look weak? Like he was going to go cry about not being able to go or something? No. Master, even if he wasn't there, wouldn't like that. Orion knew he wouldn't.
He decided then that he'd stay there, in the hall, and look as apathetic about it as he could be. And, later, he'd go over to Makarov's house and whine to the old man about it. He was the only one that really ever seemed to understand all of Orion's problems, anyhow.
"Looks like," he heard then, "you will not be beating my record."
He hardly even glanced up at Erza stood before his table. "Guess not."
"Then you will be around to check in on my house while I'm gone?"
"What else do I have to do?"
"Do not feel so down, Orion." She even tapped him on the head before turning to walk away, no doubt to get ready for her departure the next day. "If when you look back on your life this is the worst it has ever been, surely you will have lived a great life."
Yeah. But for some reason, he had a feeling that it wouldn't be turning out that way.
"There's always next year," Mirajane told him that night when she came into his bedroom to check on him. He just laid there though, on his bed, face buried in a pillow as he tried to block her out. "You know that."
"You sound like Master."
"Well," she sighed, sitting on the edge of his bed as she gently stroked the back of his head. "Sometimes Master says some smart things."
"He believed in me. And I screwed it up."
"You screw anything up. You-"
"I let Radic win. Again." Shaking his head slightly, he said, "That's what Master said. That I shouldn't have let him take me. He was basically saying that I'm weak."
"I promise you that's not what he meant."
"How do you know?"
"Because I just know, Orion."
"Laxus doesn't let anyone do anything to him to hurt him," he told her then, voice muffled by the pillow. "That's why he's the strongest guy around. If someone broke his leg, he'd break their face."
"It wasn't an accident and you know it. Radic's always hated me and it's not fair. I hate them. They all suck. They all hate me when I didn't do anything wrong."
"And why do you hate them then?"
"Orion, listen to yourself."
He didn't want to. And besides, he didn't really mean it. Not completely, anyhow. He and Radic had some good times together, occasionally. Even recently. It was just the second that a prize was waved in one of their faces that they got so bloodthirsty. Because as much as Orion hated to admit it, if he had thought of it before, he'd have broken Radic's leg that year he got to go.
They weren't nearly as different as they seemed.
"Next year you'll be even stronger," she said simply, leaning over to kiss the back of her head before getting to her feet. "And Master will be even more impressed."
"Unless he's not. Then what? What if this was my one chance?"
"I thought you talked to him? You said that he told you-"
"Yeah, he said that stuff," Orion grumbled. "But who knows what he's really thinking? He might have just been telling me that to make me feel better. He might not ever give me another chance and I blew it and now he's not going to ever let me-"
"Take a breath."
"Go to bed." She went to turn off the light and leave. "Things will look better if you just give them some time."