It wasn't like Orion was just able to put out of his mind what happened between his idol and mother. No way he would ever be able to. Every time he saw his mother glance at Laxus or the man spoke to her, he was on edge. At first, the thought of them together repulsed him (for good reason) and, though he didn't like it, the thought of it did bring one interesting option into play.
What if they…actually got together? And then Laxus would be his mother's boyfriend and then he would have even more access to the man. They would spend, no doubt, every single day together. And yeah, it would be disgusting to think about, his mother being with Laxus (or any man), but he figured he could stomach it if it meant that the man was around more.
Or forever. Because, deep down in a place he didn't even acknowledge, he had some sort of hope that maybe…they'd get married. And then Laxus would be his stepfather and it would just be great and everything would be perfect and he wouldn't even care much, what happened to his real father then.
It was a dream, he knew, but just as nice of one as all his others. They could be a pretty great family together, he figured. The master and his mother already got along so well (which was clear after what he'd came home to) and he and the man were on pretty good terms. He wasn't even angry with him anymore. Really. Just…well, he really wished he hadn't found out about it, but not angry.
The longer time went on though and the less he saw the Master and his mother even interacting outside of work, Orion was pretty certain it was just as much a pipe dream as the one that he could ever become as strong as Laxus. That one was pretty high up there too.
The man was his hero, after all.
He was gone so much around then though, as it was time to start taking even more jobs, to impress the Master and hope for his favor when it came to S-Class trials. Not that Orion thought he had to worry much as, the way he saw it, by taking him into his inner circle and practically making him one of his boys, the man had already shown that he was definitely getting his shot that year.
That only got him hit though, when he said as much to Erza.
"Do not take this as a game," she told him harshly as the boy only rubbed at his head. "Master Laxus has been very kind to you over the past few years, but do not take it for granted. All he has done for you has no bearing on the trials and you are foolish to think otherwise. Even bloodlines are not strong enough to sway them, but you think that his being so kind to you is?"
"You didn't have to hit me," the boy grumbled simply. He was spending the day over at her house, supposedly training, but mostly just helping the woman clean up around the place. With that done, he'd sat down to lunch, but apparently, Erza would rather assault him instead. "I was just joking."
"Well," she huffed, "do not joke on such serious matters."
"You know," he grumbled, "when I finally do become S-Class, I'm totally going to get back at you for all the things you've done to me."
"Being S-Class would not mean that you will outrank me," she told him simply. "And besides, what things? All I recall are good things."
"You just hit me!"
Erza didn't seem to get that, but it was okay. He wasn't sticking around long at her house that day anyways. She was going off on a mission and, honestly, he wanted to get some real training in. Part of impressing for the S-Class trials was taking jobs, sure, but another big half of it was how much you've improved physically and magically. He had aim down, sure, in the bag easily, but his transformation magic could always use a little work. And recently he'd been slacking on learning new spells to infuse with his arrow, so he headed out to the woods to get to work on all that.
It was while he was out in the forest though that he ran into Laxus. And for once, honestly, he could say that it was completely by accident. He wasn't seeking the man out or even hoping to find him. Not at all. Really, it seemed more like the slayer was seeking out him. Sorta.
"I thought I smelled your scent," Laxus remarked where he stumbled upon the clearing the boy was in. He wasn't doing anything then, training wise, and was instead seated on a stone at the edge of the clearing, sharpening some of his arrows. He'd heard the man approach and didn't look up in shock at his appearance. "It's dangerous to train out here all alone."
Still, he didn't look up. "I'm not a little kid."
Laxus, who had his hands in his pockets, coat hanging off his shoulders, only stared at him. Orion seemed to have forgiven him, for sleeping with Mirajane, but their relationship had taken a big change. He seemed less in awe of the man and more neutral to him. He could tell that he wasn't pissed over it any longer, but still, Laxus knew it would take some time to get things back how they were.
"Okay," the man said slowly as he only came further into the clearing. "Sharpening arrows, huh?"
"Yep," Orion remarked dryly, running the metal along the arrows edge. "Has to pierce flesh."
"You do know that we don't kill our enemies in this guild, right?"
Shrugging, Orion didn't glance up. "Never heard anything about not roughing them up a bit before you sending them on their way though."
There was never any doubt for Laxus, really. That was his boy. Coming to a stop in front of him, the slayer gave him a once over.
"You ain't even gonna ask me where I've been?" Laxus asked. "You think that I just came out here, to have this conversation or somethin'?"
"You're comin' back from some conference or something, right?" Orion still wouldn't look up from him. "Or something?"
"And you couldn't take the train because you get motion sick and you hate it, so you'd rather trek through the forest." That time, he did glance up at him, blue eyes meeting his. It was not nearly as nice as when they belonged to his mother. "It's not some big secret. You can't travel so you come through here."
"I didn't say it was a secret."
That only got a shrug from the teenager which, Laxus knew he shouldn't care about. At all. Orion worshipped him for years and he acted indifferent. Why couldn't he pull it off when the kid wasn't?
"You weren't at a conference though."
"Bickslow and Freed were talking and you were taking some woman out on a trip, right?" He went back to his arrows. "I heard them."
Considering he hung out with the men so frequently, it wasn't the first time that he'd heard of Laxus' many exploits (when else was he supposed to brag about them if not when Freed and Bickslow were around), because he had. A lot. Even before that, it was well known that the man got around. Especially when he first became the Master.
…The more he thought it, it kinda made sense that Laxus and his mother…
No. It still didn't.
"Yeah." Laxus only shrugged a little. "Took her to some hotel on the beach. Kept complainin' about how I never took her anywhere and- And I shouldn't be talking about this to you. Never mind."
"I just told you," the boy grumbled, "that I'm not a kid."
There. Laxus was back in the power position. And, with a toothy grin, he said, "So what then? You sayin' you've had a woman before?"
He thought that the boy would blush or look way or grumble out an obvious lie and they could just be done with it. There. Laxus would be in control again and there was nothing Orion could-
"Yeah, I've slept with a girl before." He was still messing with his arrows. "I have a girlfriend."
That was news to Laxus. And, with a frown, he said, "Who?"
"You don't know her."
"I don't know her or she doesn't exist?"
Laxus was feeling something in him. Something…fatherly. Orion, however, felt like he was being teased. And, well, considering the source, there was a very good chance that he was.
"You don't," he grumbled, "know her."
"Come on." Laxus lifted his foot to kick at the boy gently. "Which one is it? One of the Salamander's brats? Gray's? Who?"
He shoved at Laxus' foot. "She's not from the guild."
Laxus dropped his foot. "Oh yeah?"
"I take it she don't live in Magnolia either."
Snickering, the man said, "And nobody knows about her either, huh? Not your mom or your aunts or you-"
"What difference does it make?"
With a grin, Laxus moved to take a seat on the rock as well, Orion having to scoot over some to accommodate this.
"I had one of those," he told him. "I mean, I had a lot of those, I guess, when I think about it." Orion only rolled his eyes as the man continued. "But in the beginning, there was just one. You know, the usual. I'd go see her after every job and she'd wash my wounds and I'd buy her things. It's was a shithole of a village. I saved it once. When I first became S-Class. I'd go back there constantly. Then weekly. Then monthly. And then I had other women to fill the void."
That time, the teen only blinked. "It's not like that."
Laxus was reminiscing then, mostly, but still shook his head then. "Of course not, boy. You love her, huh?"
Well, that was a rather embarrassing thing to say to your idol, whether he'd broken your trust and faith a little or not.
"I dunno," Orion said, glancing at the man. "Did you love that girl?"
"The one you were just-"
"When I was a kid and didn't get what it meant? Sure. I did. I guess."
"Then you didn't?"
"At the time I did," he told him slowly. "I mean…it's complicated. You wouldn't get it."
Right. Like that was something to say to a kid. Snorting, Orion glared down at the arrow in his hand. Laxus only glanced up at the sky, thinking.
"I only ever loved one woman," he told him slowly, as if dropping the façade, if only for a moment. Orion couldn't figure out why, but Laxus knew. The other main guys in Orion's life were an overgrown, (faux) man and a crazy seith with little wooden babies that he spent more time with than he ever did women. Mostly Orion just had women to guide him and, knowing the ones involved like Laxus did, that just spelled disaster. No, he'd have to be the one to offer out some fatherly advice, it seemed. It was only fitting. "But I'm an ass. And things got tangled. And…"
Orion wasn't sure anymore what the man was trying to tell him. He definitely wasn't teasing him, that was for sure, but was he trying to…give him life advice? Or something? That didn't seem exactly right either.
But it was. Laxus was trying to figure out not only how to tell the boy what he was feeling, but exactly what it was that he was feeling. He wasn't sure. Just that he should tell something to Orion. Something important.
Like…not to get anyone pregnant that he might really care about because she would die. But not in those words because then he'd have to explain why that would happen and, well, Laxus just wasn't up for a big reveal that day. Or any day.
That didn't manage to come out though as Orion only glanced at him again before speaking for himself.
"I just thought that…you know, that you were interested in…" Then he had to clear his throat and work up some courage. The tides had shifted and they were not in his favor. He knew, of course, that it was just Laxus that he was talking to. Nothing serious. The two played cards together. The man respected him. One day they'd be at the same magical level. Still though, the words got a little caught in his throat and needed some forcing to get out. "My mother."
Laxus only blinked. "W-What?"
"Nothing. Never mind. I just meant-"
"Me and Mirajane are friends," he told him then. "That's all. Very good friends. And… I thought we weren't going to talk again about-"
"We're not. I already said never mind. Just forget it."
"The demon's too good for me," the man told him simply. "Way too good."
"I'm not kidding, Orion." Shaking his head, he said, "Your mother deserves someone a lot better than me. And she knows that. She doesn't even want me. It was just… It was stupid, for us to… But it happened. And it's over. So don't think about it anymore. You're not even supposed to know about it."
With a frown, he moved to set the arrow in his hand down before pulling another from his quiver. "Yeah, okay."
Reaching out, he tapped the boy in the back of the head, messing up his spiked, white hair. When the kid glared at him, Laxus spared him a rare grin.
"Your mom thinks you're out on jobs all the time," the man said. "So you're actually with this girl, huh?"
"I am out on jobs," Orion told him with a shrug. "Most of the time."
"I miss that."
"The adventure," Laxus told him. "Going places. Now that I'm the Master…"
"It's an overrated dream?"
Laxus paused for a second before nodding. "I guess you could put it like that, yeah."
"It's like what they say, right?" He fully turned to look at the man then. "Be careful what you wish for."
Slowly, Laxus nodded. "Yeah. Be careful what you wish for."
Orion could remember the weeks after that passing very quickly. The trials were upon them again in no time and, that year, there was no way he was letting anything stop him from getting there.
Mirajane declined going that year as well, though it had less to do with him and more to do with Master Makarov.
"I'll just stay here, Lax," she told him one day in the office. He was at his desk, smoking a cigar and glaring down at some papers on his desk as she stood to the side of it, staring worriedly at him. "And take care of him. Then you can go without worrying, huh?"
"Not worried," he told her before taking a puff of his cigar. "I know what's gonna happen."
"I just want to get the trials over with so I can get back home before. That's all."
Reaching out, Mirajane rested a hand against his head, stroking his hair tenderly. "You know I'll take good care of him."
Laxus knew she was trying to be soothing, but really, the gesture felt more like something she'd do to her son than to him. Still, he only nodded.
"Yeah, demon," he sighed. "I know."
"He'll be in good hands."
"He'd rather be with you than me anyways," he said, trying to laugh. It didn't come out quite right though.
"Don't say that."
"I've made my peace with it," he told her simply before taking another puff of his cigar. "People die. It happens. He's had more years than most get. He's in pain now and I want it to end. He's ready, so I am too."
Her hand stilled then and he could feel the solicitous gaze she was casting his way, but he only grinned, wry as it was.
"I got somethin' better to focus on right now," he reminded. "You know."
"It's not every day that a father gets to kick his son's ass."
Instead of mentioning the fact that Laxus very much so had made it sure that he didn't have a son, she just smiled back at him. "Or that a father gets his handed to him."
Glancing up at her, he said, "He has to make it to the end first, you know."
"And keep Gajeel's little bone crusher from ruining it before it begins." That time got a long inhale before he blew out the smoke. "Of course, considering he's getting another shot at it too, I don't see that as a problem."
"They might kill one another," she pointed out. "On the trials. If they go up against one another."
"Eh. Worth the risk."
And was it, too, for the two teenagers when they heard their names called a few days later. Radic had all his stupid guild friends around him, cheering him on, but still, Orion felt his gaze fall to him rather quickly and, when he returned it from across the hall, they had a moment to just glare at one another.
As far as they were both concerned, making a fool of the other out there on the island would be just as important as coming back S-Class. And if they couldn't have one, the other would do just as nicely.
That night, Radic went out with his father, for a few last minute pointers or whatever and Orion, after promising his mother he'd see her before he set off the next day, went to see Makarov.
The man wasn't well and, fearful that he might not be around when he got back from the trials, he wanted to spend as much time with him as possible.
"You've done well," the man told him as Orion sat as his bedside, watching him. They were in the former master's tiny house and were completely alone. The teen's mother would be along eventually, with the man's meal, but for awhile, they could speak without the fear of an interruption. "Very well. Whether you make it or not-"
"I am," he told him. "I have to."
Makarov's eyes were shut, but he did smile at that before holding out his hand. Orion was quick to fill it with his own.
"There is something to be said for confidence," he told him simply. "But there is also something to be said against it."
The man's hand was cold in his palm, so Orion just held it tighter, as if to warm it. There was nothing he could do for the frailty, however. He was reminded, if only a little, of a trick the man used to play on him, when he was younger.
"Shake hands, Orion," he'd say, whenever they'd meet and, always the diligent little boy, he would move to do so, gripping the older man's tightly. Makarov would always make his hand grow massively, usually startling the child, who would let go and jump back in fright. "What's wrong, Orion? It's just a hand."
At the moment though, it wasn't just a hand. It was one that the teen had watched get bonier and more wrinkled over the short few years that were his life. And that was outstanding, considering it had been so bony and wrinkled before.
"Mmmm?" He seemed to be drifting off and Orion knew that he should let him sleep, but there was something he wanted to say first.
"I'm just…" He couldn't help it and hung his head then, hunched over in his chair. "I'm just really glad that you've been there for me. That's all."
Makarov only laid there though and, after a moment, slipped his hand from the boy's before reaching out to pat him on the head instead as Orion just tried hard to hide his sniffles.
"And I," the man whispered, "am just glad that you let me."
The next morning came, inevitably, and Orion was forced to put all thoughts of the man out of his head. He had to. There was no room in there to focus on him, as much as he hated it. He had a shot, finally, at the one thing that every person in the guild dreamt of all their lives. And, on top of that, he had a chance to earn the respect of Laxus Dreyar, his hero to the end.
It was really something to look forward to.
"There's always next year," Mirajane had told him before he left.
"Mom, that's why you say if I don't make it," he complained as she only hugged him. "Which, by the way, I am."
"Mmmm. Just don't get discouraged, okay? I mean-"
"Do you really not have any faith in me at all?"
Of course she did. And he knew it. Usually she was more optimistic, but he figured she was more worried about him getting hurt than anything else. Anyone else in the guild? Let 'em have a melee, all out war if they wanted, until they were all bruised and bloodied. Just not her son. Not her baby. Her siblings? Friends? Her? Fine. Orion was different though. And he always would be.
He needed to keep her out of his mind then too though, of course. It was the only way to sty focused. He had enough arrows to last him, he was pretty sure, and his bow string looked alright. He had a backup, incase he had to restring it, but he hoped that didn't happen.
The whole ride on the ship out there, Radic stared him down. Even with all the other people around, it seemed that Orion was the only one he cared about. It would be nice, the other teen knew, to finally put that rivalry to bed. Because when he became S-Class first, there was nothing the other kid could say to him. Nothing any of them could. All those damn kids of the slayers, they'd have to bow to him. They could have the blood of all the powerful wizards running through them, that was fine, but it was no match for him.
He mostly spent his time staring off the ship, out at the water that surrounded. The deep blue reminded him of his family, given it was about the color of all their shared irises. He was glad that he looked like them and not his stupid father. It made him feel even closer to his mother. He was a Strauss. No matter what.
The island was huge. That was what stuck out to him overall. Not to mention the massive tree. It was all just so encompassing. And…well, he didn't really use word much, but beautiful. Striking, really.
Not that he was there to take in the scenery or anything. No, he'd have time for that when he was the one helping the Master with the trials (which he would, every year, he had no idea why any S-Class wouldn't, it was awesome). Considering he and Laxus were so close already, the man would probably want him around then anyhow.
It was business right from the get go. The second they were on the island, there was something to do. It was Erza that gave them instructions, as the Master was off somewhere, along with the other two S-Class that were there (Jules' mother Juvia and another one of Orion's mother's friends Cana), apparently to be revealed later. In fact, during the entire grueling process, he never even ran into Erza again and not Cana once, until it was all over. Juvia, however, was who he faced off with in the second task.
And damn if he hadn't always underestimated her. He knew, of course, given her status and the stories of how she was before Fairy Tail (though those were few and in between in those days) that she definitely wasn't someone to be taken lightly. She had him trapped in her Water Lock spell to nearly the point of submission until some quick thinking had him transform into Gray Fullbuster and, well, she was much easier after that.
Hehe. His mother came in handy sometimes after all.
There were other things, of course, but that was his first huge victory on the island, and, well, it was sweet. Then he got stuck walking around for a bit and got to check out the first master's grave. It was all a bit much to take in all at once. He'd heard about the island his whole life and, well, even if he didn't become an S-Class afterwards, he was glad that, at least once, he got to see it.
Although, Orion was slightly disappointed that he never got a chance to face off with Radic. Later he found out that the boy had encountered Cana early on and was taken out. Orion was a tad disappointed, really, as he had hoped to have some grand, final battle with the other teen, but what could you do? Besides, he had himself to focus on.
His magic was severely diminished by the time that he found himself standing before the Master, both just staring at one another, Laxus with his jacket hanging off his shoulders and Orion just trying to catch his breath.
"You made it," the man remarked, though his tone gave nothing away. "Orion."
The boy wasn't sure if he was surprised or impressed, but he knew that it didn't matter. He would have to beat the man which, as he was standing there, crossed his mind truly for the first time was impossible. Laxus was a brute. And he'd had a hard day. The sun was going down and where they were, under the cover of a heavy amount of trees, it was pitch black. Orion was worn out.
There had to be some way to get around the man.
Thinking that perhaps if he caught him off guard he'd have a better shot, he pulled an arrow quickly, on infused with a paralyzing spell. It flew too, right to his target, across the clearing over at where Laxus was standing. He'd opened his mouth to speak, but, quick as a flash, he was just standing there, arrow in hand. Orion thought he was seeing things.
Did the man just catch his arrow?
"I," Laxus grumbled as he tossed it to the ground, "was speaking, you brat."
The Master could catch… Oh, no. How had Orion never thought of that possibility? That was literally his whole attacking force. He shot arrows. But Laxus could catch them. Which meant…
He'd come all that way for nothing? Seriously?
"Now," the man went on as he came closer. "You've made it this far and, now, you're gonna have to prove yourself to me. Which, yeah, I know, won't happen, so here's the deal, huh? You don't have to completely beat me; then we'd never get a new S-Class wizard. Just get me down for more than ten seconds and it's yours, kid. But first," Laxus said, pausing slightly. Orion only moved to pull another arrow from his quiver, though he didn't have time to get it in the bow. No, Laxus was already to his next point. "You gotta prove that you can take a few hits of your own!"
That had to be have been the most blinding pain the teen had ever felt. Laxus shot a blast of lightning at him and, honestly, even the slayer thought he'd over done it. The whole area lit up as the shot made contact and it was all Laxus could do to not bite his tongue completely off.
The kid was supposed to dodge it!
But he couldn't show that he was worried. Or concerned. Just had to stand there, coat still swaying from his shoulders as he stared over at where the boy had fallen. It had been a powerful hit, after all. He figured that he'd give him a chance to shake it off.
Then he didn't get to his feet.
"Come on, kid," Laxus sighed, heading over to him. "If that's all you got, then let's head back to the beach, huh? Maybe in a year or two we can- Orion, it's not a joke. Get up."
He frowned down at the teen when he didn't move in the slightest, just laid there, sprawled out on the ground, eyes closed. For a moment, Laxus only stared. Then, gently, he kicked at the boy. Nothing.
"O-Orion, get up. Boy, seriously." Was he breathing? Laxus couldn't tell. His coat fell from his shoulders then as he moved to get onto his knees, bending over the teen's body. "Orion! Are you… Oh, shit. Mira's gonna… Orion, wake up. I didn't mean to! I- Shit!"
It was the teen's turn to be quick. With reflexes that the dragon could admire, the hand that had loosely been holding that arrow, suddenly sprang up, getting the head in contact with Laxus', the edge knicking his cheek.
"The hell did you-" Laxus stopped speaking then as paralysis took over. Orion only shoved up from the ground, though it wasn't as smooth as he'd have liked as he truly was injured from Laxus' attack, before moving to push the man over before leaning over him that time. From his knees, he moved to hold his bow and arrow over the man, from close range.
"Ha," Orion laughed, grinning over at him as he aimed for the slayer's eye. "Ten seconds, Master, or you get a patch to cover that scar."
Ten seconds had never felt longer. Orion counted it down in his head though and, to his surprise, so was Laxus. Because exactly at ten seconds, one of his hands shot up and socked the boy in the jaw. That could have been a bad call on the part of the slayer, what with him having an arrow trained on his eye, but Orion fell away from him as he let the arrow go, it's trajectory sending it flying across the clearing.
"You little shit," Laxus growled as he only moved to jump the boy and continued his beating. "I was worried about you!"
He took quite the beating too, from the Master, before the man got to his feet and left the boy there, bloodied and bruised, as he went to go retrieve his coat.
"Get up," he growled, not glancing back at him. Orion was just laying there though, not playing that time. He was hurt. "Now." When he didn't move, he glanced back at him. "Get up, Orion, I can't fucking carry you back to the beach. Not if we're going to say that you've made S-Class."
That got him up, though it was with a loud groan and a confused stare intermingled with his grimace of pain.
"Why would we say that?" he asked through clinched teeth. That was more out of pain than anything else. "I lost."
"You did," he agreed. "But that wasn't the wager."
"The challenge," Laxus went on as he turned to face him, "was for you to get me down for ten seconds. You did."
"Yeah, but… You could move, couldn't you?" He hung his head then. "I thought that you were paralyzed, but you weren't, were you? You could move the whole time, huh?"
"But I didn't," Laxus told him. "Which means-"
"Which means you cheated."
"No," he said. "It means-"
"Yes, it does! You let me win because you…because…" He wasn't sure why, really, other than what he said next. "Because you like my mother and you think-"
"Hey." Laxus' tone was back to its usual gruffness. "I've told you before, you and your mother are two separate things to me. I don't put up with weak. If you were a little runt, I wouldn't waste my time on you, no matter what Mira is to me. You're here because you deserve it. And I didn't give you anything. You're smart, kid. You got all the way here. And the only reason I wasn't paralyzed is because I'm probably more powerful than what you're used to. Just strengthen the spell from now on and you'll be fine." He was standing above him then and, shocking Orion, held out a hand to the boy. "Now come on. Let's get down to the beach. We got a new S-Class to celebrate."
When the boy took the man's hand, it felt right. And Laxus only lifted him to his feet before shaking his head.
"Your mother sees these bruises and I'll be dead," he grumbled, looking over the teen. "Don't tell her they're all from me, huh?"
They weren't. Even though Laxus was, rightfully so, the toughest thing he'd faced on the island, he was far from the only. Still though, none of that mattered then as it really sunk in.
He was S-Class. Him. Orion Strauss. It felt surreal.
Things only got better down on the beach. Most everyone else had already taken off earlier, as they were all dismissed, but there were a few people still milling about. Erza, of course, was one of them.
And he didn't remember a time he'd really hugged the woman, other than then. She did that thing, sometimes, where she claimed she was hugging him when she'd slam his head into her armor, but he was still pretty certain that was just child abuse, pure and simple.
That time though, it was a real hug, and it felt as good as the Master helping him to his feet.
But still not as nice as his mother.
It was late then and Laxus told him that they could just spend the night camping out on the island, and it sounded great to him. The slayer and him went off from all the others and he didn't even bring his headphones. They just went off, further down on the beach, and watched the stars and Laxus told him all about the island and its lore. Orion only laid there on his back, staring up at the sky, that silly grin never falling from his face. His body hurt and he was pretty sure he'd be sore for weeks, but it was worth it. All of it.
"I love this island," he told Laxus who just laughed and nodded his head.
"It's a great place, isn't it?" The slayer was lying on his back too and moved to hit his hand against his chest, over where his shirt covered his guild mark. "You gonna help me with the trials from now on? Huh? I think Cana's getting tired of having to stay sober for a day to help out and your mother is-"
"Hell yeah." He was quick to nod. "I-"
"Of course," the man went on. "That's a whole year away. I'm sure you got big plans now, don't you? Now that you can take any job you want?"
Slowly, Orion relaxed. "Yeah. I wanna take an S-Class job the second we get back. All alone."
Laxus had to smile too then, remembering the first time he went off on his own. "Is that all you're gonna do?"
"Well," he said slowly, "I'm gonna go see-"
"That girl again?" Laxus groaned. She'd been worked into a few conversations before and, honestly, he was tired of listening about her.
Leave it to his son to be in love and committed and annoying.
It was his first though, so he'd cut him some slack.
"Well, yeah," Orion said, glancing over at the man. "I have to go tell her all about the trials and-"
"And let her heal you back to health?"
That made him look back up at the sky. Instead of answering, he just said, "You know what's next."
"I gotta rise through the ranks," he told him before punching at the empty air above him. "I'm gonna take out everyone above me. The Salamander, Black Steel, Freed, Mom, even you and Erza. It's the only way."
Shaking his head, Laxus said, "I hope you do, boy. I really hope you do."
The next morning, they set sail back for Magnolia bright and early. Orion went to the guildhall first, with his mother in mind, but she wasn't around. His Aunt Lisanna was though, who hugged and kissed him and was really embarrassing (he ate it up though) before she told him that Mira was with Makarov, at the old man's house. Laxus wanted to see his grandfather too, so he accompanied him there.
"I wanna tell Master anyways," Orion said with a grin as he and Laxus walked side by side down the street. "If he's up, I mean."
"I'm sure he'll wake up for this," the slayer told him with a slight grin.
At the house, Mirajane was cleaning up in the kitchen. At the news though, she dropped the dishrag in her hands and rushed over to her son to hug him. He'd always like her hugs the best. It just made him feel so safe.
"I'm gonna go tell Master, okay?" he asked as she let him go, her eyes focusing then on all the bruises he had. "Mom?"
When she nodded, he rushed off, passed the current master, who was standing in the doorway of the kitchen. He waited until Orion disappeared down the hall and into Makarov's room to go over to Mira.
"You didn't just give it to him, did you?" she whispered. The slayer frowned at the accusation.
"Of course not," he grumbled, though it was hard to hide his grin. Not to mention the pride. "He got it fair and square. I'm sure he'll get around to telling you all about it."
And man if Laxus didn't like watching Mirajane when she was happy. Honestly, the demon was downright ecstatic then and, unable to contain herself, she took to hugging him too.
"Master?" the boy in question was whispering then as he came over to the man's bedside. "I'm back."
Makarov was hardly lucid then, as Mirajane had already given him his morning medicine, and only whispered the teen's name.
"It's me," he confirmed. "Orion."
"Orion," Makarov whispered, holding out a hand. When he took it, it was colder than the last time.
It's only a hand, he thought to himself.
It was forever etched in his memory, too, what happened next. Makarov had opened his eyes and was staring up at him, almost blankly, while the teen only smiled.
"I made it, Master," he told him, cupping the hand with both of his own, trying to warm it the best he could. "I'm S-Class. I beat Laxus. I did. I-"
"Orion." That time, it was less of a question and more of a statement. And, for a moment, he seemed more alert as he tried to sit up. "Listen."
"To what, Master?"
The man's eyes met the boy's blue then as he stared hard at him. "It's close now, boy."
"What is?" he asked softly, though he knew. Of course he knew. "Master?"
Not answering, he said, "I can't… I promised them, but I can't go knowing…"
"W-What are you talking about? Did you not hear me? I'm S-Class." Orion thought that the man was confused. Or that he was having a spell or something. "Master-"
"I promised Mirajane and your father, but I can't…" His eyes seemed more attentive than they had in weeks. He was staring right at him. "I can't go without you knowing."
Orion almost dropped his hands. His father? Was he going to tell him-
"I've loved you since I saw you," the elderly man went on. "Your mother let me hold you and I knew that I couldn't… But I love her too. And to watch something happen to her… It's was an impossible choice."
"What are you talking about?" The teen's words were hardly a breath. He felt like he was dreaming. "Master?"
"You," he said, never breaking the gaze once, "have always been mine. No matter what anyone has told you."
"Laxus just wanted to save your mother," Makarov went on. "That's all. I promise."
"I… What?" His head was starting to hurt. "What are you trying to-"
"They can do what they wish, they can tell whatever lies they feel are right," Makarov whispered as he sat up and reached his other hand out to lay it against Orion's cheek. "But you have always been my grandson. And you always will be."
The words weren't making sense. They were, but they weren't. All at the same time. Was he telling him…
"Are you," the boy whispered, "saying that Laxus is…"
Makarov only nodded slightly, letting his hands fall, both of them, before he moved to lay back down. "Oh, Orion. They'll hate me, but I had to make this peace. The curse is yours by birthright, but so is all the goodness that comes from it. You're a Dreyar, above all else. And I couldn't go, lying to the only child I've ever raised that truly cared for me the same."
There was a noise then, a knocking, on the bedroom door. It, along with almost everything else though, didn't make sense to Orion. It was Laxus' voice though, that snapped him out of it.
"Gramps," the man called out as he opened the door. "The boy isn't tiring you out, is he?"
Makarov was just laying there then, exhausted, as Orion only glanced at the doorway. Laxus was…
But that didn't…
"Hey," the slayer growled as, suddenly, the teen took off running, shoving passed him and out of the room. "What's your problem? Gramps, what did you-"
"I'm sorry," Makarov told Laxus as he drifted off back to sleep. "But you weaved the web. Not me."
"What are- Hey!" Suddenly, it hit Laxus. "What did you tell him?"
Not that he was waiting for an answer, as the slayer was turning even as he spoke to go after the boy.
He was rushing through the house though, for the front door. Mirajane, having heard the commotion, came to check on them.
"What are you all- Ori, where are you going?"
Away. Far away. He didn't even stop. Only swung the door open before making his escape. He had to get away from all of them. He couldn't…but…none of it…
"Laxus?" Mirajane looked to him as he just came to a stop then, there in the living room, staring at the open front door. "What's wrong? Where's he going?"
The slayer only stood there, panting slightly as his own head started to ache. Glancing at the woman, he could only shake his head.
Gramps was right. He knew it too, as he only stood there, not knowing for once what his next move should be. It was tangled damn web.
And finally, they'd all been caught.