Zeref closed his laptop and stretched. 7PM, time to go home. He rubbed his eyes, tired from staring at the computer all day, and stood up. He let out a grumble, as his back ached. He was barely thirty-five years old, and already felt the weight of aging on him.
He grabbed his suitcase, put his coat on, switched the light off, and left his dull office. Another tedious day of work was ending. The black haired man got out of the impressive building of Fiore Banking Corporation, and walked in the grey streets, turning his back to the cause of his daily boredom.
It was a rainy day of November, but it didn't bother Zeref. He lived only thirty minutes away at foot from his place of work, and he liked to walk. Natsu, his lazy younger brother, always rolled his eyes and teased him about this antic. Zeref smiled at this thought.
He sighed in content as he finally saw the figure of his apartment building. He was sure Mavis was already home, trying to prepare something edible. She was such a terrible cook. But Zeref always appreciated the effort.
"I'm home…" He said, as he closed the door.
"Hey… You okay ?"
His beautiful wife came out of the kitchen to greet him, wearing an apron on her voluminous belly.
"I'm good. It's always the same at work, you know…"
He said with a frown on his face. Seeing her concerning pout, he smiled at her and reached out his hands to touch her belly delicately.
"And how's this little fellow ?"
"Really disturbing, he kept kicking me the whole day ! I couldn't focus during the boss's meeting."
Zeref laughed and hugged the blond, nuzzling in her neck. They stayed like that for a while.
"When do you stop to work ?"
"Mavis, don't be silly…"
"Seriously I don't want to ! I'll have to stop coming at the office, my boss didn't want to hear me argue with that, but he said I can work on a big project while I'm at home. I will be busier than I actually was before my pregnancy." She laughed.
Mavis was a renowned journalist, passionate and obsessed with her work. A little too obsessed for Zeref's taste.
"That's great, it's like a promotion, congrats !"
The black haired man loosened the hug and headed to the kitchen. He needed a scotch right now.
"Levy called. She wants you to call her back."
"Oh great. I will. Give me a second."
"Take your time, there's no hurry."
Zeref sipped his drink thoughtfully, while his wife hummed happily, burning the fish in the fry pan.
"You want to make me eat this ?" He asked playfully.
"You know you love it burnt." She winked.
Zeref chuckled, then left the kitchen. He grabbed the phone and walked into their bedroom to have privacy. As he dialed Levy's number, he wondered what she could want to tell him. It had been a while since the last time they talked.
After two ringtones, she answered.
"Hi Levy. It's Zeref."
"Oh hi. How are you ?"
"As fine as I can be. What about you ?"
"Good… Gajeel proposed to me."
"Really ? That's great, congratulations !"
Zeref's tone was lacking of enthusiasm. He hoped his friend wouldn't take it wrong.
"Thank you. Anyway, that's not why I called. I wanted to tell you, that I finally finished the film of Natsu and Lucy's wedding ! It took me four months, but I was quite busy."
The dark-haired man's eyes lit up when he heard this, and a genuine smile spread on his face.
"That's wonderful ! When can I see it ?"
"I can send it to you right now, if you want. You will be the first to watch it."
"But… Why me first ?"
"Well, your speech was so moving… You had a big part in this wedding, and therefore in my film, so… I want you to show it to Lucy and Natsu."
Zeref stiffened and frowned sadly.
"I'm still here. Are you sure about this ? You made this film, after all, and you're the bride's maid of honor."
"And you're their brother and brother-in-law ! Besides, there's no point in arguing with this, you show them, and that's final."
"Ok… Thank you so much Levy."
"You're welcome." She answered softly. "Did you choose a name for your baby ?"
"We have some names in mind, but we're not sure yet which one we like the most. Don't worry, you'll be the first to know when it's decided."
"You better !" She laughed. "I have to go now. Don't hesitate to call me ! We'll have a little party just between friends to celebrate our engagement."
"Perfect ! See you, Levy."
"See you, bye."
Zeref hung up and smiled. He was really happy for Levy. He knew her since high school. She was three years younger than him, but they both shared a passion for books. That's how they became friends.
Levy and Zeref were the ones who introduced Natsu to Lucy a few years later, not knowing they would fall madly in love, and finally get married. They were both very proud of their unconscious match-making.
Zeref sat at his desk, and opened his laptop. He found a link to Levy's film in his mail. She didn't waste time. He clicked on it.
A title appeared on a dark pink background with roses petals floating gracefully around.
Natsu and Lucy
A Simple Story, an Eternal Love
Zeref laughed a little. He recognized Levy's cheesy romantic touch. Lucy would definitely like it, but Natsu… He would call it girly of course. Even though he would probably like it deep inside.
Natsu appeared on his screen. This was the scene in the church; he was waiting for Lucy to join him at the altar. He looked stunning in his black and white suit. His pink hair was still dishevelled, nobody ever succeeded in disciplining it. His face was blooming, even if Zeref could discern a bit of nervousness beneath it.
The camera turned to shoot the bride. Lucy was amazing. She looked like princess, with her white fluffy dress. She was laughing and struggled hard not to cry. It wasn't the time to ruin her make-up.
The next scene was the kiss. Thankfully, Levy skipped all the priest's dull talking. They had happened to get a particularly soporific one, and Mavis, who wasn't a big church fan in the first place, fell asleep and snored on her husband's shoulder. That, Levy didn't skip in her film, of course. Natsu, who'd have never missed an opportunity to tease his brother's wife, would have certainly reminded her for the rest of their life.
The scenery changed, and Zeref was now looking at the fancy dinner room, where all their family and friends were gathered, a glass in their hand. Lucy's father stood up, and started to talk about her daughter and her new husband. Jude Heartfilia knew how to be entertaining and funny.
"…and the first time I met this young brat, he was climbing down from my daughter's window, only wearing boxers, and the only thing he found to tell me was : Oh hello sir, you don't know me, but I know your daughter … and you're never gonna believe what just happened to me; a stripper named Gray stole my clothes, and right now, I'm climbing up to ask Lucy, who is only my friend, nothing more, to lend me some."
Zeref burst out in laughter, even though he knew this story by heart. This was typical Natsu. The door of the bedroom opened, and Mavis came in.
"Why are you laughing so hard ?"
"I'm watching Natsu's wedding film."
"Oooh, Levy finished it, that's great !"
She put her hands on Zeref's shoulders and watched with him the blushing Natsu cursing at his father-in-law.
"Oh look, it's your speech now." Mavis stated.
Zeref in the video stood up, took the mic and started to talk.
"Since our parents are no longer in this world to do a speech, I will talk on their behalf. For Natsu, my dear brother. How can I start this… I didn't think, when we were teenagers, that he would ever find someone to put up with him."
Everybody laughed, except the broom, who grumbled.
"It's true ! Natsu is the most careless, hotheaded and destructive man I ever met. For example, he once managed to get his head stuck in the toilet. Don't ask me what he was doing in there, I've never wanted to know."
"Hey you were rough with him." Mavis chuckled and caressed Zeref's hair.
"But… Natsu is also the most attentive and loving person I know. Always there when you need him, always listening when you want to talk, always comforting and forgiving… He's a precious man, and only the right girl could see through his apparent weirdness and childish antics…"
"HEY SHE'S THE WEIRDO, NOT ME !" Natsu interrupted his brother, and the whole room laughed and cried in the same time.
"Lucy, I'm very glad you met Natsu, you are the kindest person I met-"
"AND WHAT ABOUT YOUR WIFE ?!"
"Stop yelling and stop cutting me off all the time, idiot. And Mavis is not kind. Ask her."
"I confirm !" People guffawed again.
"Anyway, Lucy, since he met you, Natsu is happy, really happy. You made him grow up. You made him have hope about the future. You made him want a future with you, and you made him forgive life for taking our parents away from us… My dear sister-in-law, don't ever let him go. And my dear brother… Behave yourself and hold onto this one. She's a gem. Cheers !"
"That was a great speech… But I didn't think you would be the funny type."
Mavis teased. She saw tears rolling on Zeref's cheeks. The blond hugged him tightly from behind.
"Sorry, I'm nostalgic."
"Don't worry, I understand."
Zeref stopped the film.
"Hey it's not over !"
"I'll finish it with them."
"Oh, ok. Tomorrow ?"
"Yes, it's Sunday tomorrow, it's better. You want to come ?"
"If you want to."
"Then come." He smiled, and brushed her lips with his. "There's a burnt smell… Mavis, you didn't leave the fish on the pan, I hope ?"
"Err… err… Not at all… Don't come in the kitchen."
She rushed out of the room, while her husband laughed hard on his chair, holding his ribs. Then he took the phone again, and dialed Natsu's home number.
"Hello ? Hey Lucy, how are you ?... Fine, fine… Can we meet tomorrow ? I have something to show you, I think you'll like it. … Yes, both of you. … Ok, at three, perfect. See you. Bye."
He hung up, sighed and left the room to help his struggling wife prepare dinner.
It was a gloomy Sunday. November announced prematurely the hard incoming winter. But at least it wasn't raining. Zeref and Mavis walked side by side on the gravel lane. Zeref had his computer in his suitcase, and he tightened his grip when he saw a blond head far off. Mavis squeezed his free hand, and they walked towards her.
Lucy looked up at them, once they were close enough. She looked terrible, with puffy eyes, white lips, as if she didn't eat much lately. And an empty look.
"Lucy dear…" Mavis hugged her tight.
"Hey…" The blond answered. "How are you ?"
"Better than you apparently." Zeref replied sadly. "Do you eat well ? You look terrible."
"Zeref ! Don't say that !"
"It's ok Mavis, he's right. It's not good for the baby. " She rubbed her still taut stomach. "What did you want to show me ?"
"Levy finished your wedding's film. I wanted to show you… and Natsu."
Lucy looked up at her brother-in-law, tears threatening to fall. He looked composed as he always did, but she knew deep inside he was as pained as her.
"That's sweet of you… "
They sat down on the gravel, like little children. Zeref opened his laptop, which was already switched on, ready to play the short film.
As the first part went on, Lucy was struggling hard not to cry loudly, but tears were rolling on her cheeks. Mavis crawled next to her and hugged her. Zeref kept his sight fixed on the screen. He couldn't face her despair, he was fighting his already.
Now they were watching the funny parts of the speeches, and Lucy let out some strangled laughters mixed with whimpers and hiccups. Mavis had a couple of tears running on her face. It was odd. The journalist almost never cried.
Hey Zeref ! Look at me, I'm the most powerful demon, Etherias Natsu Dragneel ! Mua-ha-ha-ha, fear me black wizard, for I will destroy eeeverything !
I don't want to play anymore, I'm tired… I'm always the black wizard, why can't I be the demon or the dragon ?
Becaaaaause, that's MY game, c'moooon let's play !
No, I don't want to. I'm mad at you.
Why… You don't love me anymore ?
… Dummie… Of course I love you. You're my brother.
You love me… Just because I'm your brother ? If I wasn't your brother, you wouldn't ?
…Why are you saying that… Of course I would ! You're nice, funny, you take care of me when I'm sick, even if I'M the eldest… You're the greatest friend and brother I could wish for… So don't say dumb things like that !
I'm happy ! And you'll always love me right ? Even if I'm annoying, or stealing your clothes, or… or setting your carpet on fire…
… I KNEW IT WAS YOU !
I'll always love you, and you'll always be my little brother.
You promise ?
A painful whining put Zeref out of his thoughts. He just realized he's been zoning out, and the film had moved a lot. On the screen they could see Natsu, a bit drunk who was talking directly to them.
"… Ok I have to t-talk I guess, teehee… Dear Lucy, when you see this video, I want you to… err not judge me. Because I'm drunk. But I love youuuu, I'm so relieved we're finally married, and we'll have loooots of babies, because Dad wanted me to have thirty babies at least… Hey if it's a girl let's call her Nashi ! Yeaaaaah that's a good name, don't you think ?"
Lucy was a total mess. She reached out her hand and touched the screen, touched the image of her husband who was giving her his typical goofy grin.
"…And if it's a boy… I dunno… Ooooh actually I do ! Let's call him Igneel, like Dad. I wish he was here… But that's ok, because he's laughing and partying up there with my mum and your mum ! Yeah I'm sure that's how he is right now, the old man can't behave, he's worse than me, ask Zeref, heeheehee… Anyway, let's be serious… I love you Luce, I'll always love you no matter what. I don't believe in destiny, fate, the one true love… But if it exists, then you found me, and I'm glad you did. You're my precious little princess who always kicked me out of her room when I tried to peek heeheehee… Before we dated of course."
Lucy stopped crying to listen to his voice. She was drinking his words.
"… Last warning, Luce, I'll never let you go. Ever. You'd better get used to me if you haven't already, hehe."
The scenery changed again. Now everyone was dancing on the dance floor, around the new married couple. The crying Lucy stood up abruptly and ran away, she couldn't stand it anymore. Mavis followed her, leaving Zeref alone, in front of the grave, watching the last minutes of the film, without really paying attention.
"Did you like it Natsu ?" He whispered. "Levy worked hard to make this."
The black haired man reached out his hand and touched the grave. The cold marble gave him a shiver.
"… Now a message for my big bro." Zeref stiffened as he heard Natsu's voice again, and turned to watch the laptop.
"Zeref, big brother, I want to thank you for everything you did. You introduced me to Lucy… Yes you counted too Levy, geez lemme talk seriously now ! … Back to you Zeref. And you helped me date this dense blond who couldn't understand I was the man of her life… and you helped us handle the wedding preparations… And…"
Zeref felt tears dropping on his pants.
"…I dunno, you're always by my side, when Mum died when we were young, when Dad died too a few years ago… Shit I'm gonna cry… But um, yeah, you're great, I'm glad you found Mavis, even if she hates me (I hate her too, don't tell her, she's a bully heehee)."
Natsu disappeared. Then the happy couple poured champagne and cut the wedding cake, and everyone cheered as they kissed. A yellow background ended the film.
For Natsu and Lucy, you will be in our heart forever.
Your Love shall never be forgotten.
"Levy chose the right words, right ? She always does."
Zeref remained silent for a while, his hand still resting on the grave. He looked up and deciphered the writing, even if he already knew what was on it.
Beloved husband, brother, friend and father
"You'll be a Daddy in a few months, you know that ? Like me. Our children will grow up together… And you won't be here. You'll be up there, with Mum and Dad, partying maybe, like you said. I don't know… I thought I had cried enough… I thought I didn't have tears in me anymore… But I guess I was wrong."
Zeref sniffled and rubbed his nose.
"Sometimes I wake up in the morning, and I want to call you to wake you up, like I used to, back in college. You were always so careless… You didn't mind being late."
"Lucy didn't cancel your phone number yet. I think she still calls you to hear your voicemail… She's a wreck you know. I am too. I hide it better than her, but I'm still… I still feel… lost, and almost betrayed. I know I shouldn't, it's not your fault. That stupid truck… If I could go back in time… If I could tell you not to pick up Mavis… If I could prevent you from buying that stupid motorcycle…"
He whined and put his forehead on the grave. Like he was touching his forehead. They used to do that back in their childhood, when they made up after a fight, or when they were sad.
"…But I still feel betrayed… You didn't deserve it ! Better me than you ! You are… You were the best, the nicest, the most loyal and faithful, the most understanding… You never judged, you always forgave…"
Zeref sat back straight, and fumbled in Mavis's bag, left beside him.
"Remember… Once we were joking about death… Like stupid young adults do sometimes to deny this fear… You asked that, if you ever died first, I'd have to put a blue rose on your grave… Well here it is. I forgot to do this at your funeral, but… Better late than never right ? You taught me that…"
Zeref put a pale blue rose with delicate young petals on the grey marble, and stood up. He rose his head towards the bleak sky, closed his eyes, and breathed in deeply.
"But now I know… Levy is right. You'll never be forgotten Natsu. Not because of photos or videos. Because you're in our heart. All the people you met have been touched by your honesty and your sincerity."
He tightened his fists to focus on stopping the tears.
"You left a part of you in every friend you made along the years. And the little fellow that Lucy is carrying, we'll treasure him for you. We'll teach him to love you, his or her Daddy. And I know you're watching us from somewhere, with your big goofy smile of yours, and you're laughing at how ridiculous we all look wearing black clothes like vampires."
Zeref breathed in and out again.
"Your love to Lucy and your friends is immortal. Our friendship and brotherhood is immortal too… Your memory is immortal."
Hey Zeref, you promise to never stop loving me ?
En mémoire de Nicolas, repose en paix.