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A Dragon's Love

By FallenArk

Drama

Parallels


She stood with him.

That was the first real act of betrayal that Orion was chalking against his mother. He could send others her way, considering all the information that he was picking up, but it was the first that hurt so much.

It was the only time he could remember that he felt completely separated from her.

Not that he was alone. Or at least he wasn't supposed to feel that way, he knew. He stood over with his aunts and uncle, Elfman sobbing loudly and annoyingly as Aunt Lisanna tried to shush him. Not that it did much to help.

Evergreen kept touching him for some reason. She had been the whole day. Messing with his tie, fixing his hair. It was getting on his nerves. He couldn't be certain, but he figured the reason that she knew he was mad at her. Whenever he was, she always tried to do things for him.

Like once, when he was seven, she and his uncle had gotten into a big fight and she left town. Which wouldn't have really affected him (the two of them fought constantly), except for the fact that she'd promised to take him a few towns over to shop. There were some new shoes that he'd had his eye on for, oh, ever in a shop there and she'd promised to take him to go get them.

"We'll get your shoes, I can get a few things, and then we'll go out to lunch, okay?" She'd grinned real big at him when she made the promise. He remembered that for some reason. Mainly because she was so rare to truly do so. But she was excited that day. "Just the two of us. Okay?"

It made him excited too, when she phrased it that way. Whenever he was with his aunt, he was either with his other aunt or his uncle. He never spent any time alone with Evergreen, really. Maybe if he spent the night at her house and Elfman was asleep or out doing something.

But to go somewhere alone? Just the two of them? It sounded great.

He really did like his aunt. She was a lot colder than his other one, but that was just the difference in personality between Lisanna and Ever. Lisanna was bubbly and happy while Evergreen was usually more reserved. It was hard to get close to her, but Elfman kept Orion constantly for Mira, which meant he and the woman had to get along.

Knowing later that he was Laxus' son, a man that Evergreen revered above all others, well, he figured that that had done a lot to help too. Still, he knew a bigger part of it was also that she had no children of her own (and vehemently claimed she wanted none), leaving him to fill that void (that she'd claim wasn't there). She was always the first to buy him toys and gifts, taking the role as both the mean and spoil inducing relative in one swoop.

Then she didn't show up.

He was all ready too, sitting up at the hall with Mirajane as she opened, waiting on the woman. And waiting. When two hours passed, Mira told him that there was a good chance that something came up, but he didn't think so.

What could be more important than taking him to get the shoes that he wanted since forever?

Honestly?

As the hours tacked on and he went through juice after juice, eventually Lisanna got her break and offered to take him to get ice cream or something.

"And stop by Ever's?" he asked hopefully.

Lisanna, who'd gotten to work late because she spent the whole night with a sobbing Elfman, knew that that would do no good.

"Uh, no," she said slowly. "Ever's probably busy. But me and you could go get-"

"I don't want ice cream." He went back to moping. "I want my shoes."

Erza, who he happened to be sitting with, frowned at that. "Do not be ungrateful, Orion. I am sure that Evergreen has a very valid reason for not showing up."

"I wouldn't go that far," Lisanna said, "but she's right, Ori. Come on. Ice cream will make you feel tons better."

He couldn't recall if they went and got ice cream that day or not, but he did remember the next one, when Ever came to get him from his house bright and early (Mira either had the day off or wasn't working the morning shift because neither of them had been up when she got there). She kept hugging him and asking if he wanted to go then. They'd get breakfast, shop, find some other things to do, and even get lunch. Wherever he wanted.

"I don't want to," he told her with a frown.

"Orion-"

"You promised," he told her. "Then you didn't come. And I waited and waited."

"I know. But-"

"I didn't even go practice 'cause I was waiting for you."

"I'm sorry. Is there anything else you want? Huh? A different pair of shoes or-"

"Ever, I don't-" his mother had tried, but Evergreen was having none of it. If there was anything Orion knew about his aunt, it was that she was a pleaser. To the people that she wanted to be. Like Laxus.

And, on that occasion (and many others), him.

It should have dawned on him before that something was up with that. Sure, Evergreen was his aunt, but only by marriage. And more importantly than that, she didn't like any of the other children in the guild. Literally any of them. And she only liked his Uncle Elf half the time. Which left no reason at all for her to enjoy him so much.

Other than him being the son of the man that she and her two friends had admired their entire life.

Apparently.

It was much the same the day of the funeral. She wouldn't stop bugging him. He knew, of course, that it had little to do with the Master's passing and more to do with the fact he was upset with her over the Laxus thing. He was actually upset with all of them. From Lisanna and Erza. He blamed them all.

But Ever couldn't stand the thought of it. Or so it seemed, anyhow.

She left her hands on his shoulders throughout the whole service. Not that he paid much attention, really. She was annoying, fine, and yeah, he was pissed at her, but it was his mother that he couldn't stop glaring over at. She was standing with Laxus, towards the front of the crowd (he'd always seen Master as the old guild master with little to do, but apparently he had many friends, if his funeral turnout was any indication), constantly rubbing at his arm or whispering things to him. It was killing Orion. Literally. She was rubbing salt in a festering wound and he just didn't get how she couldn't see it.

Fine. Laxus had lost his grandfather. That sucked. And, had Orion not officially hated him forever by that point, he might have cared. In fact, he definitely would have. But at the same time, he was hurting too. He was suffering just the same, if not more.

He finally had his wish. He was getting everything that he wanted. But it was a bitter pill and he wasn't sure when his body would stop having aftereffects.

He had a father. The one that he wanted. Laxus Dreyar. He wasn't just going to date his mother or whatever stupid thing he wanted before (it sounded so childish in his head whenever he thought about it after that) and become his stepfather. He was his actual father. By blood.

And he sucked. He didn't want him. He was an asshole that used his mother and then had the audacity to allow him to make a fool of himself by worshiping the ground he walked on.

He had a grandfather. Who he loved more than anything and respected on the same level that he once did Laxus. He'd always treated him well and his mother loved the old man.

But he was dead. And the last time he ever got to see him, the least time they'd ever spoken, he'd run from the room over selfish reasons. So what? Laxus was his father. He could have dealt with that any time. He'd wasted the last hours of the man's life crying for himself.

If ever he could have something back, it was that. And the second thing would have been Laxus.

Even as he stood there, watching Laxus stare at his grandfather's casket, he would be a liar to say he didn't feel the tug. For so long his only goal had been to win the man's respect. To be considered, if not an equal, then at least a cut above the rest in the guild. And, when he finally achieved it, Orion found it to be far too short lived.

How could he go from loving the man with all his heart one day to hating his guts the next?

He wasn't sure, but he was trying his hardest. The part of him that was so used to bowing to the man, to showing him the utmost adoration at every turn was having trouble shutting down. It was such a big part of his life for so long and it wasn't mixing well with the anger swirling around inside of him.

Once again, he felt selfish for thinking about such things at the Master's funeral, but he couldn't help it. He didn't want to. But it was just…

His mother. Honestly, that was the biggest thing he was still getting all caught up on. How could she just stand over there, at his side, when she knew that Orion was across the crowd, mourning just as much? Praying for the man just as much? Holding just as many damn tears back as Laxus?

How? How could she do that to him? She was taking his side. Quite literally. She was over there with him, while he was off by himself. Why did he think that it would be any different?

When he really thought about it, he was talking about the same woman that not only let the man skate by without ever recognizing his son, but also allowed him to toy with the boy. Play with him. Laxus played Orion. Plain and simple. At least the way he saw it. He allowed him to think that they were friends, that they were buddies, that he actually cared about him. Only to find out what? That it was just a game the entire time?

Laxus being an ass was enough of a reason as to why he would do something like that, but his mother? The sweetest, most kindhearted person Orion knew? She allowed it all to happen. She was at the center of it.

Which he knew was wrong. His mother loved him. He just knew she did. All the sacrifices she must have made to even had him proved that. She did choose him over Laxus. When it mattered the most.

But…his mind wasn't with him that day. All he could see was her, grieving with him. Holding his hand. Speaking to people so he didn't have to. As if she hadn't promised Orion only a few nights ago that, if he wanted, she wouldn't have anything to do with the man. As if it didn't matter that he was her son, her blood, her baby. Nope. Laxus was in pain so she was just gonna go tend to him and leave Orion behind.

It was really hard to pretend like that didn't hurt worse than anything Laxus had ever done to him.

Not that Mira saw it that way. Of course not. It didn't even really cross her mind to do anything differently than she was. From the second Makarov died, the first place her mind went was to Orion. And what that would mean to him.

She knew that he loved the Master and, though his passing was a long time coming, it wasn't to him. He was just another adult that the boy was raised around. He hadn't had years upon years with him. Just a few, really, in the grand scheme of things and no doubt felt robbed of even though, as he wasted them not even knowing their true relation. It was really sad in that way and, when she did cry over Makarov, it was more for that than anything else.

But Orion didn't deal with death the same way she did. He never had. He'd always been much more serious than his mother and, in some ways, darker. Or at least more clear headed. He'd understood death from a very early age. She could recall in particularly once, when he was about four, and one of the neighborhood strays she fed (housed in her backyard) passed away.

"You know," she told him after she had Elf dig a hole for him to be buried back there, "the doggy just went to sleep. It's a lot less painful for you, to go to sleep. You remember how old he was getting?"

Orion was out there with her, sitting on porch steps, playing with some of his toy cars. "He breathed bad."

"It was all raggedy, yeah," Mira said with a sad smile as she sat next to him. "But he feels all better now."

"Really?"

"Mmmhmm."

"Even though he died?"

And he tilted his head back then, to stare up at her with equally deep blue eyes, awaiting an explanation. Mira's sad smile though just turned to a hard frown.

"D-Died? I told you he went to sleep."

"Oh." He went back to his car. "No, Mommy, he died. That's how come we put him in the hole."

"I know that," she said. "But you weren't supposed to know that."

He knew a lot of things back then. Mirajane took him everywhere with her and, by default, he overhead many things. Like Mira asking Elf to come over and dig a hole for the dead dog.

When he didn't say anything to that, Mirajane only moved closer. "Well, anyways, yes, he died. It's kinda sad, huh?"

He only shrugged.

"Because he was a good dog. Wasn't he?"

Another shrug.

"Ori-"

"He'll be died for a long time?"

She blinked. "Dead. And yes. He'll be dead forever."

"Oh." That time, he really paused before saying, "I'll miss him."

"Me too."

"But he won't breathe bad no more?" He looked at her again. "Right?"

Leaning down, Mirajane brushed a kiss against his head before mumbling, "Right."

And, with a grin, he went right back to playing and never mentioned the dog again.

It always bothered Mira, that he didn't share in her overflowing emotions parade she had, oh, ever day. The only thing that really ever got him going was if one of the other kids (mainly Radic) mentioned something about his father, but not much else. Then he'd come to her in tears and cry and fuss and get angry. Anything else and she got nothing out of him.

Which was not fun. At all. Lisanna told her though whenever she complained about it though that really, she was rather lucky. She had such highs and lows that dealing with a child with the same affliction (her sister's word, not hers) would just be problematic.

Orion just dealt with too many things on his own. Which Mira knew she should have been proud of. That he was so grown up. That he was so mature. And the older he got, the worse it got. He was so worried about her and her working so much that he came to her with nothing, for fear of bothering her.

Or at least that's what she assumed he thought. That she was just too busy to deal with whatever silly emotions he had. In fear of this, she tried many times to coax things out of him, but all she ever got was his annoyance at Bickslow if they'd been training together or how much he hated Radic. Oh, and a bunch of Laxus garb. She got that one a lot.

His personality was just so much more…dim. And bleak. He depicted the world in much more dismal shades than her. Sure, to Mira, bad things happened, but so did good. Many good.

The only good thing he ever wanted though was Laxus to pay some attention to him.

And as much as she hated it, his bleak outlook was turning into truth. Laxus was paying a lot of attention to him. Just not for the reasons he would have liked.

Mira just kept looking for some sort of easy median. In the days following Makarov's death, that's all she wanted. All she knew the Master would have wanted. For Laxus and Orion to do what he and Ivan and, in turn, Ivan and Laxus hadn't been able to do. Come together. Be together. If not as father and son then, at the very least, friends. Guild mates.

And it wasn't like she wasn't swamped with other things. Laxus was rather distraught, the whole Orion mess coming down on him at the same time, so the funeral arrangements were mostly left up to her. Then she still had the bar to worry about and, well, everyone in it, as though they'd all known the man was close to his finale, it was still a hard one to take. Fairy Tail had raised a good number of them and, honestly, saved them.

Makarov had changed all their lives. And then, just like that, he was gone.

The last thing Mirajane wanted to seem to Orion was unavailable, especially considering all the news that was crashing down around him all at once, but there wasn't a lot that she could do. With Makarov's passing, she wasn't able to just sit around the house and talk things out with him. Things had to get done. Letters had to be sent. And, as much as she hated it, Laxus did need to be taken care of too.

So was he on the back burner? Definitely not. He was in the lead of all of her thoughts. But at the same time, just because he was in the front did not mean that he was the only one getting any attention at all. And if he felt like he was getting none, well, there just wasn't much that she could do about that until the funeral was all over with.

By default, however, she and Laxus somehow found themselves alone together. A lot. Not that there was anything in that other than remorse. Laxus felt as if Makarov died thinking that he hated him, after what happened with Orion, and mostly just cried to her. A lot. And though she'd told Orion that she wouldn't have anything to do with him, it wasn't like she could just let the man pour his heart out to her and do nothing. She was the only one that Laxus felt like he could be that way with. She had to sit there and rub his shoulders and promise him that it would be okay.

Honestly, she just did.

And at the funeral, she didn't even think about it as standing wit one or the other. She thought that Orion would come over to her and Laxus, at first, but then she got so caught up in what was going on that she didn't think much about it. He was fine, she knew, over there with Evergreen and Lisanna. He'd told her that constantly the past few days. That he was fine. To stop asking him that.

Laxus, however, wasn't fine and did need her. Or at least someone. And though the Thunder Legion was always there for him, Freed just didn't seem to be who he wanted. Or Ever. And Bickslow wasn't much help in any situation.

No, he wanted his demon. And his boy. But his boy was mad at him. So he'd settle for the demon. If he had to.

He just couldn't get over the fact that Makarov passed so soon after what happened. All the times that Laxus had been an ass to the man, back when he was younger, and he'd always been able to make up with him. Always. Now, the one time that he really laid into him about something, the man went on. He left him.

What if he thought that Laxus was serious? About how he hated him? And that if something happened to Mirajane, if she got sick and died it would be his fault? And that if Orion hated him, if they never got their relationship fixed, it'd been on his hands? Then he'd stormed off, growling about how the man only ever ruined his life, always got the people he cared about to leave him, from his father to his son, and that as far as he was concerned, they could never talk again and he'd be fine.

Since they wouldn't be talking again though, surely in the life he was in then, Laxus felt completely different. Makarov was the closest thing to a real father he'd ever had. And he wanted him back. Or at least those final words back. And he wanted his boy back. Orion. He didn't want them to ever be like that. He never wanted him to be mad at him again. He wanted things to work out with the demon and he could be Orion's father and they could all be happy.

But no. That couldn't happen. It would never happen. Laxus was doomed to have tattered relationships with everyone he cared about. Except for the Thunder Legion. They were always happy with him. For some reason.

At the funeral he was glad to have Mira at his side. Honestly, he wanted Orion too. Makarov, now openly, was his great-grandfather. He was part of the family. He always had been, really. And even if there hadn't been a big reveal, he'd have let the boy stand with him. He'd have asked him to. Known relation or not, Makarov was important to both Orion and Mirajane.

But Orion didn't wanna go over there, Laxus knew. He also knew how angry he was with him. And, with other things on his mind anyhow, Laxus found it best to let him cool off for awhile. He figured a week or two after the funeral, he could talk to him. They'd have a heart to heart which, usually, Laxus would hate, but for the boy, he could manage.

Not that Orion wanted him to 'manage.' Or to do anything for him. At all. There wasn't any doubt in his mind what it was he was feeling deep down. It was hatred. Pure and unadulterated. The man had lied to him for years, toyed with him, and, not to mention, used his mother.

He didn't need Laxus. At all. And he didn't want him. It was his fault that he was gone when the Master passed. All his fault. Laxus had done nothing, but screw things up for him and he never planned on forgiving him.

Erza spoke at the funeral and said some really nice things. She was the only one that Orion managed to pay attention to. Everyone else was just there to him. And, when it was all over, they were supposed to be going to the guildhall for some sort of funeral repast, but Orion didn't want to go to that.

When he said this to his Aunt Lisanna, she frowned at him.

"You have to," she said simply. "I know that you don't understand, but it's just one of those things that you do."

But he did understand. And though usually he was the first to follow anything that his aunts told him to do, that was not one of them. As much as he hated it, Makarov was dead. And the funeral and reception after weren't for him. The man was gone. They were for his family. And his family, publicly, was Laxus. And Orion was not going to anything to give support to that man.

They were lucky he even went to the funeral.

His absence at the reception did not go unnoticed. By his mother, at least.

"What do you mean he's not coming?" Mirajane asked when her sister mentioned what he said to her. "Master never did anything to him. Why would he not come to his-"

"He's upset, Mira," Lisanna said with a shrug. "And now's not the time to focus on it, remember? We have a whole bar full of people."

Well, Lisanna did. Laxus decreed that Mirajane wouldn't be serving anyone anything that day and would just sit with him and the Thunder Legion.

She was too tired and beat down to fight it. Besides, people had brought food and such to the guild as a potluck almost. The only thing Lisanna would be bringing people was beer and drinks, if they wanted it. She could do that on her own.

"Where's Orion?" Laxus asked once as they sat there with one another, hardly speaking. Bickslow had gone off to talk to people, Freed was in the bathroom, and Ever was consoling Elfman (again). In a room full of people, the demon and the dragon were alone. "Mirajane?"

"Laxus, you know that this has been hard on him," she said, glancing at him. They were next to each other, but he didn't look at her. Just straight ahead.

"He should be here."

"He's a kid," she said. "A very emotional one who-"

"That boy," Laxus grumbled as his eyes darted around, looking at all the people, "is not emotional."

"He is so. He just wouldn't ever let you know that," she argued. "This has hurt him. Deeply. He-"

"I know."

"I know that you know, Laxus, but it doesn't mean that you don't need to keep hearing it."

Shaking his head slightly, he asked, "How are you?"

"Me?" When he nodded, she asked, "With?"

"With everything, Mira. I mean Gramps and Orion and-"

"I'm fine." Then, swallowing, she paused before asking him, "How are you?"

He only shrugged. "He was old."

"I meant with Ori."

There was a pause before, slowly he said, "I can't be mad at him. This is my fault, I know. But I just want him to understand. That's all. If he could understand-"

"He loved you, Laxus," she told him softly. "And you broke his heart. It'll take more than a little understanding to fix that."

"Yeah." Sighing, he looked off. "I just wish there was something I could say."

"Have you tried sorry?"

"Sorry? Mira, I was doing this to-"

"Sometimes, dragon," she whispered as he finally turned to look at her though his eyes were locked in a glare. "You don't say that you're sorry because you are. You say sorry because you love the person and care about them and know that if pandering to them will work, well, then you just do it."

Laxus had no rebuttal to that and only said, "Today's about Gramps. Tomorrow and every day after that can be about Orion. And if he doesn't want to be here, fine. We all grieve differently."

That much was true. And, that day, Orion decided to grieve by not openly grieving at all. Makarov was dead. And he knew that the last thing the man would ever want him to do was spend the rest of his life worrying about that. No, he'd want Orion to get better, Master would. That's all he'd ever wanted from him. To be the best that he could be. And, well, the only way to do that was to keep training.

He never thought that his first few days as an S-Class would be so backwards. He hadn't even gone off on his own solo job yet. And, honestly, he was still weighing if he even wanted to be a part of Fairy Tail anymore.

Err, that wasn't exactly right. Fairy Tail was his family. Literally. His mother, aunts, and uncle were all well known mages and, apparently, the man that fathered him was even the guild's master, and his great-grandfather before him. Orion was a fairy by blood.

But sometimes it doesn't matter how thick something is. It only has as much meaning as you're willing to give it. And knowing that he had Dreyar blood coursing through his veins made Orion realize just how hollow his father's identity had always been.

He wasn't a Dreyar. And he wouldn't have been whatever any other man's family name had been. He was a Strauss. He looked like them. He thought like them. He loved them. And no part of him loved Laxus anymore.

Orion spent the day learning new spells. He went to the bookstore first, to see if there were any interesting books to get, but nothing caught his interest. And the library was already closed for the day, so that was out. Most of his books usually came from the bookroom at the guildhall, but there was no way he was going there.

That left one place.

Now, Orion did not at all consider it breaking into Erza's house. No way. He went into her house without her being around all the time. Granted, she usually had prior knowledge, but a few times he'd gone in there to avoid going home, if he knew that his aunts were over or something and he just didn't feel like dealing with them. She was pretty open to it. Or at least the few times she'd caught him over, she hadn't said anything about it. Only griped if he left a wet towel on the floor after a shower.

Orion wasn't sure and he knew that Erza wouldn't admit it if it was, but he was pretty certain that she was a lot like his Aunt Ever. She didn't have a child and never would (for many reasons, but mainly the fact that it would impede on her warrior status), but she did have him. And she was proud of him. She told him that sometimes (not often) and though it didn't feel as great as when Mirajane said it, it was still something.

"What are you doing here?"

Except that time, there was someone else around. Really, if Orion's head hadn't been in such a mixed up place, he would have sensed the immense magic energy, but it wasn't that big of a deal anyways. Really, the person only made him frown.

"I could ask you the same thing," he grumbled as the man only laid there on Erza's couch, hardly having even rose. "Jellal."

"We both know why I am here," he said simply as Orion walked through the woman's living room and over to her bookcase. It wasn't big, as she did not own many magical spell books, but Orion also knew that really it was because she had all her actually reading material (if you could call it that) in another bookcase in her bedroom.

But Jellal was right. Somewhat. He knew that the man would come and visit the swordswoman occasionally (he was pretty sure what they did couldn't be classified as dating, but they also weren't married and fell into some sort of awkward place that was reserved only for them), but he also knew that the timing was off. The man had just been there, six months ago, and even though there was a chance that he just got freed up again so close to before, it was almost too coincidental.

"You're here for Master's…"

"More or less," Jellal agreed. "Though not necessarily directly, Fairy Tail has done much for me over the years and a lot of it was done under the supervision of the man. I have come to pay my respects, but was unable to do so openly. So I came here, to mourn him and visit his grave late tonight."

"And to see Erza."

"Always to see Erza." Sitting up then, slowly, Jellal asked, "Well?"

"I need a book."

"Surely not one that I am thinking of."

"Surely not."

"Then?"

"Erza has some spell books," the boy said, taking one from a shelf and glancing it over. "Advanced ones. That's what I need now that I-"

"You are S-Class," the man finished for him. "Yes. I have heard."

"Erza told me?"

"Erza told me plenty," he said. "She is quite…excited."

"What did she say?"

"Many things. Mostly though that you have done so before any of the others children and that she had a heavy hand in that."

Orion didn't wanna let on how happy that made him. It also wasn't a day to feel happiness, so he left nothing at all evident on his face. Just glanced over at him.

"I suppose she did."

"Really?" Jellal shrugged some. "I thought it was just more of her immodest bragging."

"Immodest?" Snort. "Hardly. Erza is- And you're joking." Sigh. "Well, anyhow, I got what I need now, so-"

"Why are you not with all of your friends?"

Orion had been turning to head back to the front door then, but stopped at the man's words and turned to face him.

"My what?"

"Your…guild members, I suppose." Jellal didn't know the boy well, but Erza told him about him frequently. He knew that friends was a loose term to use, but he'd been at a loss for words. It was a tender subject, after all, that he was hinting at. "Surely the reception Erza told me of is still-"

"I don't want to go to that."

"Oh." Jellal shrugged. "You are quite young. I am sure that Makarov did not mean-"

"He meant everything to me." And for some reason, that statement had some force behind it. Orion knew, of course, that Jellal did not mean to be offhanded, but rather just dismissive. He thought he knew the answer (as he typically did with most things) and had stated it.

But he was wrong.

"Ah." Jellal looked him in the eyes then, which was odd to the two of them. For two of the most important men in Erza's life, they hardly had any true relationship. "I did not think that you would mention it, so I would not."

"Mention what?"

"You know what. That your mother and Master Laxus…"

"Oh, great. Even you knew?"

"Erza enjoys telling me of many things," the man said with a nod.

"Then you've always known. Since I was-"

"It was not something that concerned me or currently does, but for the sake of this conversation, yes." Bowing his head, he said, "I even recall a few…dates that Erza and I accompanied your parents on. One in particular when Mirajane actually had to drag him there-"

"I don't want to hear about that." He gripped the book then, Orion did, before turning to walk away. "At all."

"Yes. Erza mentioned that as well. Your anger with Laxus." Then, after a pause, Jellal asked, "Is that why you are not at the reception?"

Orion didn't have to talk to him. At all. He hardly even ever saw Jellal. Just heard about his visits from Erza. But for some reason, he found himself speaking. Maybe it was the fact that he thought that he was the only one that could understand. That was such an outside observer that he would side with him. Would sympathize with him.

So he spilled. All the things that he hadn't been able to tell his mother. That he'd kept from his aunts. That he just knew his uncle wouldn't get. Or that Erza would rebuke him for feeling. To a complete stranger, practically, he was about to say everything that had been running through his mind, bothering him the past week, and all the thoughts that he was having over Makarov's death and Laxus' arrogance as well as Mirajane's betrayal. It all came out, as he was standing there, in the living room of a woman who was grieving the loss of one of her dearest mentors to a man who had caused her enough pain over the years that, really, Orion shouldn't even like him.

And he didn't. Not particularly. He really had no viewpoint on Jellal. He had just been the invisible fixture in Erza's life that occasionally Orion heard some really harsh (and mostly true) gossip about. At the moment though, he was just an unlucky and unlikely bystander who got to watch the teenage unleash all of his woes upon.

Jellal just sat there though, on the couch, watching the boy as he detailed every single thought in his head, it seemed. He didn't talk, though occasionally he did make noises of agreement or the like, as well as nodded his head. And when Orion was done, he was red in the face, the book luckily being a hardback, saving it from being wrung into a mangled mess. His breath was rapid and he didn't know what else to say. Was there anything else? He thought he had everything out.

Letting that all sit for a moment or two, Jellal seemed to mull it all over. Orion had to have ranted for over ten minutes at least. It was a lot to take in.

"I," he finally said softly, "had a man once, who helped raise me, in some manner of speaking. He taught me the most magnificent magic. I am unmatched to this day by many because of it. But he was only using me, manipulating me for his own gain."

"And what? You felt betrayed or-"

Jellal shrugged. "All the other things in my life, any ill-wishes would be wasted on such a man. If I wanted, I could lay blame for my upbringing on many others before he even enters my mind. But as it is, I've found little use for those sorts of thoughts no matter who they're directed at."

That one got a snort. "Yeah, well, I do. So-"

"My point, Orion," he sighed, reaching up to rub at his eyes, "is that I too have felt betrayal over my life. From many people, granted, but Brain seems the most parallel to your situation. If only slightly. And I think, personally, that though your resentment and anger over it is much higher than what I had and rightfully so, it would also be easier to find some forgiveness in your heart."

"And why's that?"

"You wouldn't be so upset if you did not have some amount of love still left inside of you as well." Jellal shrugged. "And if I understand things the way I think I do from Erza, who admittedly has a problem with embellishment at times, there's a high chance the relationship between Mirajane and the Master is far from over."

"She told me that she wouldn't…"

"And you told me that you saw them together, at the funeral. Right?" That time Jellal grinned at him, if only slightly. "The two of them cannot stay far from one another and now without the threat of you finding out not keeping them away, they probably-"

"She's my mother," he hissed. "And what has he ever done for her anyways? She'll choose me over him. Every time. She said so. She said-"

"And I believe that," Jellal agreed softly. "But the question is not what she'll do, but what you will. Would you honestly force her to make that decisions? When all the Master has ever done was help you?"

"Help me?" He couldn't help the heavy snort that time. "I thought you were on my side, man. Screw you. What do you know?"

"Side? I have no side," Jellal assured him. "Personally, the way I see it, this will have all blown up by the time I come around again and Erza will be onto the next wave of the never-ending drama that seems to plague Fairy Tail."

"And that's why you don't know shit."

"Maybe." His grin was distorted then, in a way that only Jellal could accomplish. "And honestly, I don't care about this. At all. But you have opened up to me, so I feel the need to say my peace now. It won't matter, in a few years, what it is that they hid from you or what lies they told you. And I know that it does now, but as someone who has lost much in his life, this honestly does not sound too bad to me. You have always looked up to the man? Yes? And I could see how this could ruin your image of the man, but all the same, surely, you realize that this is a best case scenario. You have acquired a man that you admire as your father. What could be better?"

"Gee, not having them lie to me? Or trick me? Or-"

"Mistakes, certainly," he agreed. "But have you bothered to speak with the man on his decision? I assume through your close relationship that he has grown to regret it, but wasn't sure how to tell you. Would you have taken it better at twelve? How about ten? Eight then? Or was it more once the die was cast there was no way of removing it from the solution?"

When Orion didn't speak, Jellal finally got to his feet to head out of the room and into the connecting kitchen. Over his shoulder though, he did call out to the boy.

"Congrats on S-Class, all the same," he offered. "And do not feel the need to take any of my words into consideration. I've been with Erza for over a decade now, and I'm still convinced she has never taken a single word I've said to heart. I am a fool who speaks eloquently enough to convince others my words are divine. A curse in its own right, no? But I suppose I will tell Erza that you stopped by and borrowed that book, if you wish."

He just stood there for a moment, Orion did, staring down at the spell book in his hand before slowly calling out to the man, "No. I…I'll tell her myself."

And he planned to. Really, he did. He was going to go to the guildhall, speak to Erza, pay some more respects to the Master, and, maybe, try talking to his mother.

Not Laxus though. He wasn't ready for that. But his mother, he could handle.

Like usual though, things didn't go exactly as planned. Namely, when he showed up at the guild, he didn't even make it into the hall. No, Radic along with some of the other teens, were hanging around just outside the gates. They'd grown up with Makarov, sure, but he hadn't meant as much to them as the previous generations and they were allowing the adults to mourn inside as they did to a much lesser extent outside.

Honestly, Orion had avoided the guild since the news of Laxus being his father broke and hadn't really had any interaction with the other kids. A few of them had spoken to him at the funeral, just in the standard way, but he and Radic had somehow missed one another.

That wasn't the case anymore.

He felt it too, Orion did, the second he was through the gates. Radic's red eyed gaze was heavy and thick. Orion, though a few years younger than him, held a title that he'd vied for over the years, constantly attempting to one up his father who'd never grasped it. If Orion had wanted it to prove himself to Laxus, Radic desired it to mortify his father. Rub the salt into the wound harder. He didn't just want to surpass Gajeel, he wanted to annihilate him.

Now though, he'd only managed to be embarrassed by the Strauss once again and, well, that just wasn't going to cut it.

Orion almost walked passed him. He would have, honestly, had the older guy not reached out and grabbed him, rather roughly, and pulled him to a stop. Radic had left the others behind for once, as they just stood and watched from the sidelines. Though no one would call Orion a friend, they'd all grown up some over the years and had no ill will against him. Not by any regard. Still, Radic was a brute when it came to most things and it was time to put up or shut up. Orion was S-Class now. If he wanted to hold that title, it was finally time to prove, in their eyes anyways, that he deserved it.

For some reason, the hate was there in Radic's eyes right from the start. He wasted no time on formalities. Didn't start off with their usual round of pre-fight jabs. He tried to punch him, right off the bat.

Which was just stupid, honestly. And what did it prove? Orion had his bows on him. They'd be using magic at some point. It was just a given. Honestly, a battle of physicality, fine, Radic might have him beat. But that wasn't all there was to being a mage. Not by a long shot.

Anyhow, the punch was wild and easy enough to fall back from.

"The fuck's your problem?" Orion hissed. They might have wanted him to fight, Radic might have seen it as him having to prove himself, but he did not feel the same sentiment. At all. Makarov's funeral had only been hours before and, for all intents and purposes, fine, they were at the hall, but they were also at his repast. There was no way that he was about to fight with the other teen there. He had way more respect for the old man than that. "Dude, we're at-"

But he was swinging at him again and Orion just wasn't feeling it. At all.

"You coward or something?" Radic hissed as, once again, he tried to back away. "Huh? Mr. S-Class? Or you just don't want us all to see that your daddy gave you the title?"

And it wasn't like Orion was stupid. That he didn't know that the whole thing had been like wildfire and spread maddeningly. Of course Radic knew. They all knew. But it was just so infuriating to hear him even suggest the exact same thing Orion had been thinking since he found out.

He lost it then. That someone else spoke aloud the same thing that had been haunting him, that not only was his perfect image of Laxus ruined, but also that his dream of being S-Class was going to be forever tainted by his apparent paternity set something off in his brain. He didn't even think about it. He just lost control.

It wasn't fair. Radic had a father and a mother and friends and he was, honestly, wicked strong, but still picked on him. Every fucking day he lived just to make Orion's life hell. And why? Because he was quiet? Because he loved his mother? Because he didn't wanna play along with his stupid games? Didn't submit to him like everyone else? Is that what he wanted?

No. Because even when they were kids and Orion did submit, did give in, did run off in freaking tears it did no good. It never did any good. Radic would just come back for more and more and more. A constant feeding.

There was no sense to it. None that Orion could figure, anyhow. Sure, sometimes top dogs dug into people at the bottom of the pack, but even that was out. If his S-Class status said anything, Orion wasn't that. At all. He wasn't even in the pack! And he didn't want to be. He didn't wanna be friends with any of those idiots. At all. He wanted them to do their thing and leave him to his. If it was up to him, they wouldn't even have to share niceties. Just ignore one another completely when they crossed paths.

So…why did Radic hate him so much then?

Orion didn't remember it all, or at least it didn't come to him immediately, but he remembered there being a struggle between he and Radic. Even once, the other teen had him pinned to the ground and it didn't seem like he was getting back up.

But just like that, somehow, he had the upper hand again. And somehow had managed to get his bow off his back.

He had him then, Radic, as he was on his knees, ready to fire one off at the Redfox boy who was still on his back. He had an arrow poised too, ready to fly right through his flesh, they were at that close a range. But it was then that he noticed that Radic's eyes weren't on him. No, they were passed him, staring behind Orion and over at the front of the guildhall.

Apparently, they'd caused too much of a commotion.

"Do you," hissed Erza as she came out of the hall, "know what you are doing?"

She wasn't alone, of course, as a few others had came to get a glimpse at what idiots were foolish enough to fight at the reception for their master's grandfather's funeral. Just the usual ones, it seemed, of the new age.

The only eyes that Orion caught though as Erza came to pull him up (none too gently either), were Laxus'. He was standing there, Mirajane with him, in the back of everyone, face void, but eyes locking with his almost immediately. Orion didn't know why, but he felt almost sheepish, as if the man had caught him doing something wrong. As if it would matter if he did.

What was Laxus to him then? Nothing, he kept trying to convince himself. It wasn't going well. Would he spend the rest of forever though with the same task?

Erza and Laxus had both messed him up though. And, in his shock of her pulling them off, two things happened. One, Orion noticed that the book he borrowed from her had somehow managed to land in some mud. And two, he released the taut bow.

The arrow hit it's mark too as it traveled the very short distance into the palm of Radic's raised hand. He must have thought Erza would hit him or something. Whatever the reason he'd raised it, he learned to regret it as the arrow sliced through the calloused flesh of his palm, skewering his hand.

Orion had miscalculated before, once, when he was practicing with Bickslow, and managed to give the man a pretty gnarly scar on his shoulder.

"What's a man without a few scars?" Bickslow joked at times, though back when it happened, it hadn't been nearly as funny.

Because of that, for the longest time, Erza made him use dulled arrows.

"You are not shooting to hunt or kill," she would scold whenever he whined about this. "The magic you infuse is your main goal. That is all."

But the older he got, the more reign he got over what he did with his magic and weapons. So he did sharpen a few, some more than others, just in case. It wasn't like he planned on seriously injuring someone or something. Not unless they deserved it.

And though he hated Radic, he purely detested the guy, he didn't deserve that.

It wasn't life threatening, of course, and though painful and bloody, it was patched up easily enough. He didn't even have to go to the hospital. Orion's mother and another woman in the guild rushed Radic up to the infirmary to take care of it.

The worse part to Orion was the way his mother looked at him as she carted the other teen off. Like he'd disappointed her or something.

That had more or less killed the reception and, all those not accustomed to the guild and the non-members cleared out about then. Even a few members did, as the mood before had been somewhat celebratory, over Makarov's life, but had been brought down once more by the teens' misbehavior.

Erza stuck around though. Of course. And chewed Orion out. About disrespect and how irresponsible he was becoming. And that yes, his life was turned upside down, but to pull a stunt like that at the Master's reception was unacceptable. Then she noticed her book in the mud and, well, he'd lost Erza for a week, at least.

They would make up later, of course, when he went over to her house one more, bright and early, to cut some tree limbs without being asked and mow the grass. It was hard for the swordswoman to stay mad at him for long anyways.

That day though, Erza left him feeling like shit. And the fact that it was Laxus waiting for him after she was done didn't make him feel much better.

"Don't let her upset you," he said simply after Erza, still fuming, headed off, leaving him standing there looking like an idiot. The slayer had only come over to him after she was gone, face void and hands slipped into his pockets. The crowd was dying down then, most everyone scurrying off inside and the teens that were hanging around before rushing off to check on Radic. "She's just pissed that-"

"I don't," Orion growled as his eyes followed Erza as she left the hall, "want to talk to you."

"Orion-"

"No," he hissed and, since he was already so worked up from all that he'd put up with previously, he went on. "You lied to me every fucking day of my life and now you want to talk to me? Like we're friends? We're not friends. I hate you. I hate you. It's your fault that I couldn't have been there when Master needed me. It's your fault that my mom had to spend all these years alone. Because you're a selfish jackass that sat there and paraded all those stupid women around the guild and acting like it was so cool. You had me think that you were cool. You're not cool, Laxus. You're an asshole and I fucking hate you. Why don't you get that? Just leave me alone."

Laxus would have liked to point out then that he lied to him, fine, but it wasn't as big a deal as the kid was making it out to be. He wasn't using Orion. He wasn't toying with him. He was just… He just wanted to be there for him. Even if he couldn't be a father to him, he wanted to be the closest thing to it that he could get, to guide him without doing so openly. And maybe he got a tad too good at it, but so what? And they had been friends. Perhaps a bit awkwardly, given the age difference, but they'd been more than a father and son could be. Because Laxus was able to treat him as an equal and it made things special.

Fine. He was an asshole. But he was not the reason Mirajane was alone. She was. She was the one that was always afraid of bringing other men around Orion, the one that sabotaged every chance at happiness with another man that she ever found. Tearing holes in every guy that came around until he just didn't anymore. That wasn't his fault.

And no. He did not 'parade' women around her. Ever. The women in his life were always very separate from her. He never took them by the guild, never boasted in front of her. Did she bring them up to him sometimes? Yes. But that was just out of pettiness. They weren't together, him and her. Not in the genuine sense. They just slept together sometimes. And she was welcome to other men at any time. And as far as he knew, she partook in it.

So how could he be blamed for the same? He was tired of taking the brunt of the distaste for doing the exact same things as her just because he was the man. Because he was supposed to abstain from things, because poor Mirajane was raising the son that he was still paying for, looking after, taking care of from afar, all by herself. You know, the son she chose to keep and, last time he checked, was just as involved in making.

And he never wanted to be cool. At all. Laxus didn't live his life trying to pander to idiots. He didn't want others look up to him. If they did,, fine. If they didn't, whatever. It'd always been that way. Would he still be the best and establish dominance in every way possible? Hell yeah. Because he was him. But he wasn't doing it to be cool. And if Orion didn't see him in that way, fine. He never fucking asked him to!

But instead of saying any of that, instead of arguing his very valid points, Laxus didn't even glare at the kid. Didn't buck up to him. Didn't put him in his place.

No. For once, he didn't feel like playing tough for Orion. For them all. Makarov was dead. His son hated him. The demon was…he didn't even know.

What was the point of feigning anything anymore?

"I'm sorry," he whispered, Mirajane's words from before resounding in his mind. "Orion."

That, honestly, was the last thing that the teenager was expecting and, using his shock to his advantage, Laxus was able to keep speaking without interruption.

"I'm sorry, Orion, that I'm such a shitty person," he told him, voice soft and actually sincere for once. "I'm not a good guy. And I was an even worse one before that. And before that? You don't even want to know.

"But it's not an excuse. And I know that. So I'm not going to make one. Not tonight. One day, me and you can talk about it. Really talk about it. One day when you want to listen and I don't want to be so defensive. And it still probably won't all make sense to you, but that's okay. It's all okay.

"'cause…I love you, boy. And I didn't ever wanna have to tell you that, but Ivan never wanted to tell me either and I don't think Gramps ever mentioned it to him either. So I'll fucking say it, if it'll save this. I'll say it as much as you want. I wanted you. I've always wanted you. And I couldn't have you. So I kept you safe and Mira kept you close and now we've messed up your life and, even though it seems like we've ruined it, I promise you that we haven't. Things look hopeless right now, but they're not.

"And you can hate me. I don't mind if you hate me. I mean, it hurts, but that's fine. I'm not going anywhere, boy. And now that you know, I'm going to just tell you right now, I wanna try again with your mother. An honest effort. Because you're my boy, as much as you hate it, and she's my woman."

Orion wanted to hit him. Really badly. How dare he? How fucking dare he? Now suddenly he was just throwing in the towel? Poor Laxus. He was just giving in. He wanted his son and his woman and for them all to just be happy, but if Orion didn't want it, that was fine. Because then it would be his fault. But not Laxus'. At least he'd tried.

Right?

Orion didn't know what to say to him, but he did know that he had no desire to even listen to the man any longer and just walked passed him and off into the hall. Laxus let him go, staying out there for some time. Whatever. Orion was done with him for the day.

Things were still rather somber inside, but the atmosphere was picking up some. People were starting to get drunk was the main factor, probably.

Evergreen was the only person to come up to him when he came in. And, for some reason, it was to hug him.

Which was odd. Though the woman favored him heavily, hugging wasn't their thing. She might pat his shoulder, toy with his hair, but hugging wasn't usual.

He was stiff, anyways, and didn't even attempt to put his arms back around her.

"Are you okay?" she asked softly as he only stared up at her. "Don't let anyone say anything to hurt your feelings, okay? That little snot deserved it."

Honestly, he'd more or less forgotten about Radic, given Laxus was still forcing his way into the boy's mind. But at her words, he did take notice of some of the glances he was getting.

As if he cared. Radic was a monster. He always had been. And if he got hurt sometimes because of it, they only had themselves to blame. They were the ones that let him get so terrible.

"Where's my mom?" he asked Ever though she only pointed up to the second floor. Right. She was tending to the wounded.

Gag. How many backstabs could she throw into one day?

"Come here." Ever took him then, by the hand, and led him over to a table where Bickslow as busy making his babies float around his Aunt Lisanna's head, in an attempt to make her feel better.

It wasn't working well.

Kinana was working then though, so she was off for a bit.

"Oy, kid," Bickslow greeted, though his tone was darker than usual. "Your aunt here's all sour at me for some reason."

"You spilled beer on me."

"Only a little, Lissy."

Elfman was missing then, but that wasn't shocking. He'd probably finally pissed Ever off with his sobbing and she'd sent him away.

It happened all the time.

Orion didn't really wanna sit with his aunts, but it wasn't like he had a lot of choices. Really, he just wanted to see his mother. That was all.

And, when she finally came down the stairs, he rushed right over to her.

"Mom," he breathed as she only stared at him. "I didn't mean to do that and I'm sorry and I should have been here and Erza's mad at me and I didn't mean to, really, but he just kept trying to hit me and-"

"Shhh. This isn't the place, Ori." Reaching out, she gently patted his cheek. And though he could see the worry in her face, she only said, "We'll talk later."

"But, Mom, I-"

"Later." When she dropped her hand, she forced a smile for him. "You're S-Class now, Ori. And that means that I can't tell you what to do around here. If you want to fight the others beneath you, fine. If you want to injure them, that's your choice. But today was not the day. Alright?"

When he nodded, she walked on, no doubt off to take care of some of the other numerous jobs that she had to do around there (Laxus wasn't around to remind her that he'd decreed it an off day for her) and he just let her go.

Then, for a reason he really didn't understand, he continued on up the stairs.

No one was up there anymore, he thought, other than Radic. Which made even less sense, he knew, but he found himself climbing them anyways, up to the infirmary. He was in there, of course, Radic was, but he wasn't alone.

It was Gajeel. Orion would know the deep grumbles anywhere. He thought, at first, that he was lamenting along with his son over what a dick Orion had been, but that wasn't the case. The closer he got, the more he realized that he was actually berating the other teen.

He was growling at him, about how stupid he was, how weak, that he let Orion best him again, and that he was just a little fuck up. He was always such a little fuck up. And Radic, for once, didn't say anything. Nothing Orion heard anyways. Just took that. Which, for the record, Orion had never heard him take anything close to that from anyone. Ever.

Orion was so embarrassed at overhearing that that he attempted to turn around when he realized what was going on, but he didn't have a chance. Gajeel, finished with his raving, was leaving the infirmary then, almost running into the teen in the process.

That got him a shove too, from the slayer, which usually would have ticked Orion off as he'd always found the man to be a tad too arrogant, but he was too shocked by the days events to do much. And, as Gajeel stormed off, he just stuck his head into the infirmary.

Radic was there, of course, alone, sitting on a cot. His hand was bandaged tightly and he was on the edge of the mattress, glaring down at the ground. Orion thought about just turning around then, but just as he was about to, the older teen spoke.

"You don't fucking get it, do you, Orion?"

He just blinked. Then he frowned. "Get what?"

Radic didn't lift his head and Orion didn't leave the safety of the doorway.

"What it's like," he growled, "to constantly have someone hounding you to be-"

"If you're about to tell me about how I should feel sorry for you because your dad's an ass, save it." Orion was glaring then. "At least you had one. You have a mother and a father and-"

"And what? I'm supposed to be happy with that?" He lifted his head then, returning to gaze just as heavily. "He fucking hates me. And you got the Master practically in love with you. Now he's your father too? And on top of that he gave you S-Class? I feel so sorry for you, Orion. All your dreams come true in one night. Let me shed a few tears."

"Fuck you. And he didn't give me anything. I earned that." It sounded hollow, even to his own ears. "I-"

"You get everything, once again, and I get-"

"Once again? I never get anything! At all. You have everything. You have parents and friends and everyone likes you-"

"Everyone's afraid of me."

"Because you make them that way! That's your fucking fault. Not mine." Snorting, Orion said, "What do you want me to say? That I'm sorry that I speared your hand? Fine. I'm sorry. But you're a jerk and I'm not going to feel sorry that your dad is too."

"You don't know anything about my father."

"And you know about mine? About what I'm feeling? What-"

"What are you feeling, Orion? Huh? Your little damn hero's your father and you're still not happy? Figures." Lifting his head to glare at the other boy, Radic said, "You always bitched about how unhappy you were and how you wanted a father and look, you got one. The one you wanted."

"I never bitched about anything. You were the one that always drove it home that I didn't have one." Orion couldn't remember another time when they wouldn't already be at one another's throats, but given the fact that he'd already gotten such a nasty wound before, he figured Radic wasn't up for it. "You always bothered me with it. You always-"

"Because you always cried about how unfair it was! And always acted better than us. Said that we weren't shit, even though we acted like we were. You know, because we were the slayer's kids and thought we were all that. You'd brag about how you were trained by Erza Scarlet and she didn't need some ancient magic to be great. That you weren't born to damn slayers and weren't some arrogant fuck like us." Shaking his head, he said, "Now look at you. Doesn't it feel great? To know that you're just like us?"

"I'm nothing like you."

"Damn right you're not." Getting to his feet then, Radic's eyes were daggers then as he advanced on them. Orion didn't dare break that gaze, even when the other teen was upon him. "I would give anything to have the Master look at me the way he does you. And low and behold, he's your father on top of that?"

"Stop talking about it," Orion hissed. "You don't know anything about it. And your father's just as tough as Laxus. So why-"

"You know why he hates me? Huh? Because I ruined a damn relationship he had, what? Twenty years ago?" Then, suddenly, Orion won as Radic looked off, but he decided not to chalk it up just yet. "Like it's my fault. Like I'm the one that messed that up."

Orion knew what he was talking about. Sort of. Or he could make a guess. "Lev-"

The name wasn't even out of his mouth before Radic snorted, heavily, just from the sound of it.

"How's it my fault, huh? He got my mother pregnant while he was with this woman, but it's my fault that she left him? So he's gonna constantly put me down, yell at me, tell me how much he hatesmy mother and wishes I was never born, 'cause I'm just such a disappointment. Like what? That's going to bring her back or something? That doesn't make sense. That doesn't make fucking sense."

Orion had heard that story a lot growing up. He remembered it. Levy McGarden had been a guild member or something and had been with Radic's father. Only, according to Mirajane (it was one of the juiciest stories to her though, after found out about his own birth, Orion wondered how she could be callous enough to gossip about someone else in a similar situation), Gajeel'd cheated on her or something and gotten the woman pregnant, resulting in Radic, and Levy'd left him.

He remembered her. Levy. Sort of. She was with the guild for awhile after that too, but left when he was about five. He saw her some times after that too though, as she was so entwined with Fairy Tail, but he didn't know much about her. Other than that she wasn't mentioned in Gajeel's presence.

It'd never really occurred to Orion what Radic would think about the whole thing. He just figured he didn't know. It was so long ago. It seemed crazy to him that Gajeel would still be bitter about it, especially considering Radic literally was the least at fault in anything that went down, but there was apparently a lot that Orion didn't know.

Then again, given the turn of events about then, he figured he should have been used to it.

It was so odd too, that Radic was even telling him something like that. It sounded extremely personal and, considering their relationship was anything but, it threw up a lot of red flags. Something in his tone though and the fact that he was so emotional over it tipped Orion off that there might just be some validity to the whole thing.

"It doesn't," Orion agreed softly and, when Radic met his eyes that time, they weren't so hard, but still very much so the same ones his father sported. And then, for the first time, Orion saw how lucky he had been. No matter how much he hated Laxus, he could look in the mirror and never see him. He could stare at himself for hours and never find a single trance.

Radic probably couldn't even take a glance at himself.

"I don't want your fucking sympathy, asshole," Radic growled nonetheless.

"And you don't have it." Orion wasn't backing down. "So Gajeel's an ass. Great. So I got everything I wanted and it's bitter. Even better. And you hate me because…I don't even know. I don't care, Radic. I don't care anymore. About all the slayers or their kids or this guild or beating you or even Laxus.

"I'm S-Class now. And I get to decide what that means. There is no rivalry anymore. I won, Radic. And you can hate me for it, you can get pissy, and you can fight me every single time was pass, but I'll always win. Not because my father gave it to me, but because I earned it. Did Laxus help me get there? I don't know. But I do know that I have it. And that alone makes this, me and you fighting over nothing, petty. And I'm not going to be that kind of S-Class. You can keep trying to look tough in front of the others, I don't care. Tell them that you beat the shit out of me up here or out on a job. It doesn't matter. You can't touch me anymore."

If anything, really, Radic had just unknowingly handed over fodder to Orion. He'd always known that the other guy had a problem with his father, but to know that the wound was that deep was news to him. When Radic was talking about his father's hatred of him, his voice about broke. It hurt him. Truly, it hurt him.

Just like not having a father had always hurt Orion.

But now he had one. And he didn't want him. Just like Radic didn't want his. And he didn't wanna liken himself to the other teen, didn't wanna sympathize for him in the slightest, but he couldn't help it. Was that maturity? Or was that weakness?

Would Laxus be proud of him?

Then he had to remind himself that it didn't matter. He didn't want Laxus to be proud of him. He didn't want Laxus at all. At that moment, he just wanted to get away from Radic, the guildhall, and everyone.

He wanted to take his first S-Class job. Right then. Alone. And just get away for awhile. He couldn't pay his respects to Makarov there. He couldn't mourn him. That much was obvious. But on a far off job, all by himself, he could do just that.

As he was planning his getaway though, Mirajane was trying to get together a much smaller one and just escape the guildhall for the day. Everything was starting to take its toll on her and a massive headache had set in. She needed some sleep, she knew, and wanted to go home to get it.

"Here you are," Laxus remarked when he found her in the back office. "Hiding out?"

"Something like that," she sighed as she glanced up from his office chair. Blushing slightly, she started to get up. "Sorry. I was just…I used to sit in here and do Master's paperwork for him and sometimes I forget that-"

"Stay." Laxus only shut the door firmly behind him. "We're alone."

"Are we?"

Nodding, he came closer. "I saw the boy run off with a flier he took to your sister. I think he took a job. S-Class, no doubt."

"No doubt."

"He'll be gone for awhile."

"Laxus-"

"I thought you were going to strangle him when he shot that boy."

"Radic's a bully." She lowered her head back into her hands. "He always has been and no one ever stopped him. He's picked on all the kids forever, but Gajeel thought it was just so great. That he was just so strong. Now he'll have a scar to commemorate the day he wasn't and Orion showed him that."

Grinning, Laxus stopped in front of the desk. "You don't sound much like Mirajane Strauss right now."

"I'm not," she told him with a sigh. "I'm tired. I'm sleepy. I'm exhausted. I'm deathly close to just kicking them out of the guildhall so I can go ahead and close for the day-"

"You're not closing."

"Laxus-"

"You're not." He was walking around the desk then, to go stand behind her. "You're going home."

"I don't want to go home," she whispered as she felt his hands on her tense shoulders. "Ori's not there."

"He'll be back, demon."

"I know. But it's starting."

"What is?"

But she didn't say. Only hung her head some more as he rubbed at her shoulders. It felt too nice. Had it felt that nice the whole week she was doing it for him?

"Your head hurt?" he asked when she continued to rub at it with the palm of one of her hands.

Nodding slightly, Mira said, "Horribly."

"Since when?"

"Mmmm…I dunno, Lax. Forever?" Then she laughed, but it wasn't very humor ridden. "This whole things been horrible. I just want to put it behind us."

"It is behind us," he told her softly. "He's going to go away, on this job, clear his head, and when he gets back, things'll make more sense. I'll tell him about the curse-"

"Damn it, Laxus, there is no-"

"It's too late now," he told her simply. "If there is one or isn't doesn't matter anymore. What's done is done."

For some reason, that idea felt good to Mira. What was done was done. It was over. There was nothing she could do to fix it. A simplistic concept, fine, but good in that scenario. Orion was off on a job and would be for a number of days. That was done. He was upset with her and Laxus. Done. And, until he got back, there was nothing she could do.

So clearly she should spend the next few days in bed, resting up for when he did come back.

When she relayed this to Laxus, he only stared down at her.

"Rest up," he repeated. "Alone?"

"Laxus-"

"I love you," he said simply. "And I'm lonely, Mirajane."

"Shut up."

"No. I am." And he was. "Not in a…sex way. In a real way. I'm lonely. Ever's mad at me because she thinks I made Orion mad at her, Bickslow's keeping his distance because he thinks if he doesn't, it'll mess up whatever weird shit him and your sister got going, and then Freed's, well, Freed, but he's not too happy with me over it. Then the boy's mad at me. He hates me."

"He doesn't hate you," she said with a roll of her eyes. "He just-"

"Hates me. He told me that he hated me. Multiple times." His grip on her shoulders wasn't much of a comfort then. "I told him that I loved him, but he just-"

"You what?"

He only nodded slightly. "I did. But I think it only pissed him off more."

"Oh, Laxus."

"And I told him that I was sorry."

"No buts?"

"None," he agreed. "I thought of a few, but kept them to myself. And he still-"

"Then you just have to wait." She rubbed at her head some more. It was killing her. Laxus and Orion were killing her, really. When could they all just be happy again? "For him."

"I know." He sighed that time. "And I can."

"It might be awhile, Lax."

"Mmmm. If you're there with me, I think I might just be able to do it."

Mira wanted to tell him that she wasn't there with him or for him or anything like that. She was with Orion. She was for Orion. But his hands felt so nice… And Ori would be gone for a bit. And when he came back, he probably would be more agreeable. And if she could just get them both to sit down and talk, well, things might just be perfect.

She wasn't choosing side. And Mirajane wasn't betraying either of them. But her head had hurt for so long and she just wanted it all to stop. Both of them. And to think. They were hurting, Orion and Laxus, but if they would just realize that the other was the one to put a stop to it, then maybe they could get someone where.

And maybe she could finally get some rest.

So she wasn't perfect. And she'd lied to Orion for years. And messed around with Laxus for even longer. But she'd kept Orion safe. And she did care for Laxus. Rather deeply, if she was going to be truthful. And if they would just help her out some, she could have both. They could have one another.

And they could all just get some sleep…

When Mirajane finally passed out, head rested on the desk, Laxus left her there, letting her catch a few. A huge chunk of it all was finally over. Gramps was buried, Orion knew, and the boy was S-Class. But there was still the curse, their relationship, and his with the boy to figure out.

Maybe just two things, he decided, when he walked her home much later only to find himself staying the night. They didn't do anything, honest (the Master had just been buried after all), but it felt right.

And if the boy knew, and Mira was still safe, then maybe they could…well…

Sigh.

"Later," Laxus resolved as he laid there in bed with her, Mirajane snoozing peacefully next to him. "But soon."

Very soon.

He could have the demon and the boy. He just knew he could. Enough time had passed that even if the curse was in play, Mirajane had gotten her years with Orion. Many years. It was Laxus' turn. And if she was willing to risk it, then he was tired of protecting her. He was tired of a lot of things.

Heh.

Maybe the demon and the dragon had more in common than they realized.



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