Levy chuckled as Gajeel stumbled in a rush out the train doors, stepping foot onto the gloriously stable and unmoving dirt of Magnolia. The moment he passed the threshold of the vehicle, his stomach settled into compliance once again, and the headache quickly dissipated.
"Maybe next time you take a faraway job, you should invite Wendy. She can help your nausea, can't she?" Levy said, adjusting the bag on her shoulders and the book in her arms she'd finished on the train.
"Nah, the kid does her own thing. Besides, her exceed is a killjoy. Ruins my good mood sometimes." Gajeel replied gruffly, remembering the few times he'd offered to help train the Sky Dragon Slayer before. Carla always responded with the same haughty sniff and sour expression, humming in disapproval. Shaking his head, he went to hand the bluenette her headband back. Levy went to reach for it but hesitated, flashing him a cheeky smile.
"You keep it. You probably need it more than I do anyways. Besides, I've got plenty at home."
"I ain't gonna wear it." He reasoned. "It's yours."
Her amusement didn't waver. "If it helps you so much on train rides, just keep it."
He scowled, now eyeing the orange flowery pattern it sported with sudden aversion. He had quite a few of his own, much thicker ones, mind you. But they were more neutral colors and patterns, fitting more his style. There was not a chance in hell he'd be caught wearing this blatantly girly thing anywhere. Sure, it smelled nice, but really. The shrimp should know better.
Levy turned and continued her way towards the guild hall before he could retort. Mumbling under his breath, Gajeel reluctantly stuffed the peppermint-scented ribbon back into his pocket and tromped after her. Her stubbornness was growing to be just as difficult as his.
Even from down the street, Gajeel and Levy could hear the ruckus coming from the guild hall. Glass breaking, wood splintering, people yelling and cursing. Someone was laughing rather raucously somewhere in the mix. Magnolia residents passing them on the street took one look at the guild markers on their body and chuckled quietly to themselves, having grown used to the commotions the guild seemed to cause. Levy glanced at Gajeel, who looked to be in a better mood now that they were home. He caught her gaze and grinned back.
"Gihee, doesn't sound like anything's changed at all." He commented as they stepped closer to the imposing building settled at the very end of the street. Levy sighed, already seeing people milling about from inside the doors of the hall.
"Makes you wonder how the people of Magnolia tolerate us so well. You'd think the mayor would kick us out at some point."
"They'd have a tough time of it." Gajeel promised, flashing yet another grin in her direction. Shaking her head in amusement, Levy reached forward and pushed the doors open, revealing the usual chaos inside.
They stopped just inside the doorway, watching events as they unfolded before them.
"Love rival!" Juvia was shouting, chasing Lucy around the tables, wielding a steel fork. "Juvia sees how you look at Gray-sama when you think she isn't looking!"
"It's not like that at all, I swear! Just listen to me!" The blonde was trying to defend, waving her hands around in vain to ward off the water mage's advances. She was gaining ground, however. "Kyaaa! My shirt!" Lucy yelled, trying to hold up the shredded remains of her top when the bluenette got too close. How in the world could a fork do so much damage?
"Juvia will not fall for your lies!"
"Who dared to destroy my cake!? Erza drew her sword, slicing the wooden table in half as guild members scrambled away screaming. Splinters flew in all directions, a loud crack resounding around the hall from the impact of her blade. Her face was covered by her hair, but her shoulders heaved up and down in anger. The redhead requipped her Heaven's Wheel Armor, weapons pointing all sorts of directions. "Come forward! Reveal yourself!"
"Eh? What was that?" Natsu stood suddenly from his table, leaning across it to growl at Gray. The ice mage responded in kind, though meeting Natsu's frown of disapproval with a smirk of satisfaction.
"You heard me right."
"Say it again! I dare you." The pink-haired mage demanded, raising his fists. Gray crossed his arms, swaggering away in a self-important way.
"Heh, I'd beat you in a race around Magnolia any day." He proclaimed.
"Ha! Let's go, then! I'll take you down!" Both mages stood and ran out the doors past Levy and Gajeel, who had to sidestep their way out of their paths. Angrily, Gajeel turned and shook his fist at the two mages.
"Oi! Watch where you're going!" He yelled after the running mages, who ignored him and continued their route down the main street of the city.
The two made their way deeper into the guild, with Levy searching the faces for her two team members. Jet and Droy were nowhere in sight. She pouted, wondering what they were up to. Though her disappointment didn't last long, as something winged flew towards them and landed softly at their feet.
"Gajeel." The exceed greeted, crossing his arms much as his partner now did. The rest of his hello was cut short, as the bluenette beside him rushed forwards.
"Lily! It's been so long since I've seen you!" Levy crouched and threw her arms around the cat, who's eyes widened with surprise. She nuzzled her face in close to his, reveling in his soft fur and warm body.
"It's good…to see…you too…L-Levy…" He managed to grind out. The bluenette's hug crushed him in her arms, who was surprisingly stronger than she looked, and he struggled to breathe. She didn't seem to notice the distress she caused him, as she didn't loosen her embrace.
"Gihee, don't choke him, shrimp." Gajeel chuckled, poking her in the side. She jumped, relieving the pressure around Lily's body enough so he could escape from her hold. He lit back onto the floor, holding his small body to regain his breath.
"Oh, s-sorry…I just got too excited is all, hehe…" She scratched the back of her head sheepishly. Red crept onto her cheeks, no doubt from embarrassment. Lily cleared his throat.
"It's alright." His ears perked up, his head cocking to the side. "You two are back earlier than I expected. Did everything go well?" He pointedly looked at Gajeel with his last question, one eyebrow raised, and the dragon slayer 'hmph'ed and turned away, pretending not to notice.
Damn cat should mind his own business…
Lily sighed and rolled his eyes, not that he was surprised by Gajeel's attitude, really. He'd known the dragon slayer long enough to get used to his less-than-forthcoming disposition, much as he hated dealing with it sometimes. Not noticing any of this, however, Levy shrugged. "Yeah, it was fine. It didn't exactly turn out how I'd expected, but it's all worked out now."
"Hmm. I see." Lily's eyes never strayed from Gajeel, who was making a point not to look at him. After a moment, the exceed sighed, then summoned his wings and flapped into the air, hovering at their heights. "I spoke to Mira earlier, and she mentioned having another job waiting for you. You should go talk to her."
With that, Panther Lily flew off towards the bar, obviously expecting them to follow. Surprised by this unexpected development, Gajeel and Levy shared a look before heading off towards where the cat had gone.
"Oh, Levy. Gajeel. It's nice to see you two back home." Mirajane smiled warmly, setting down the tray of food she was about to take over to a table. The white-haired mage wiped her hands down on her apron, facing the both of them. "How did the job go?"
Levy shrugged, not quite sure what to say. She didn't want to spread the word about a dangerous book making its way to the Council, but lying wasn't really her strong suit either. "Not as I expected, but we got paid. So I guess it's complete."
Surprisingly, Mira didn't ask any more after that, nodding silently before reaching down for her job book, pulling out a specific poster from within.
"I'm sure Panther Lily already told you, but there's a client who asked for the two of you specifically." She held the ad out to Gajeel, who raised a brow but accepted it nonetheless.
He read it silently, eyes scanning the description with a neutral expression. Levy was too short to see what it said from the way he held it up, and she tried standing on her tiptoes to look. Realizing this, the dragon slayer lowered the paper to a height they could both see, and she eyed the request.
"An escort mission?" She questioned, turning to look at Mira. The barmaid simply nodded, waiting for Gajeel to finish reading. Once done, he placed the paper on the counter, crossing his arms.
"They asked for both of us directly?" He sounded surprised. For himself, not really. But Levy only strayed outside of her usual translation jobs to help Jet and Droy with more difficult ones on occasion. How this client had heard of her for an escort mission seemed strange.
In response, Mira only nodded again, her smile never wavering. "Yes, he needs protection relocating his magic shop from Peiora to Crescent Valley."
Levy frowned, calculating the distance and area between the two cities. "Wait…isn't the only path through-"
"A desert?" Mira guessed, her smile widening slightly. "Unfortunately, yes. And with the shifting balance of power for the cities in the desert, there's bound to be dangerous people wandering around. He wants to make sure nothing happens on the way to this new location."
"Sounds easy enough." Gajeel reasoned, shrugging nonchalantly. He'd been on stranger and tougher missions than that. He glanced down at Levy, who still looked a little unsure about all of this. "We don't have to take it if you don't want to, shorty. If your leg is still bothering you, we can-"
Levy looked up at his suggestion, frowning. "N-no, that's not it. It's practically all the way healed. I'll go, I don't mind."
"If you're sure."
Levy nodded one more time, a small smile returning to her face, and Gajeel returned the gesture, finally looking up to Mira. "Alright, we'll take it." Then, he turned to his exceed, who had been silent up until this point. "You going with us?"
Panther Lily shook his head, a sly smile beginning to light his lips. "Perhaps the next job. I promised Happy I'd help him train a little."
"That's nice of you, Lily." Levy commented. "How did that come about?"
The cat grinned fully. "He seems to feel pretty useless, seeing as Carla and I have another more convenient form we can turn to. Happy doesn't want to be left behind."
Gajeel eyed Lily with suspicion, wondering why the cat looked so damn smug and satisfied. Normally he jumped on the chance to accompany him on jobs. After becoming partners in the wake of the Edolas incident, they'd been nearly inseparable, training and finding respect in one another. There weren't many instances when the small black cat wasn't by his side. As of late, that didn't seem to be the case, especially when Levy was involved.
Lily gave no indication as to his intentions, but the dragon slayer had a fairly good idea, considering his encouragement to accompany Levy on a job in the first place. Levy continued talking with the cat enthusiastically, and Mira was taking care of the paperwork for the job, while Gajeel simply leaned against the counter, unable to shake the feeling that he was being set up in some way.
"I just need to stop by Fairy Hills and pay the landlady before we head out." Levy said, pushing the door to the guild open, holding it out for Gajeel to follow behind her. The bluenette glanced up at the sky, noting the darker gray clouds beginning to occupy the atmosphere. The air felt humid and heavy, and that fresh scent of water hung around them. "We should hurry, so we don't get rained on."
"You go on ahead. I'm gonna swing by my place and grab some things." He replied, starting off in the opposite direction. Levy paused, and looked back to him before he walked too far ahead.
"Oh, ok! Should we meet somewhere after?" Gajeel paused, and looked over his shoulder at her.
"Sure, shrimp. The city square in an hour. Got it?" He grinned, then waved goodbye. She returned the gesture and spun to head towards Fairy Hills, the bag of jewels she'd gotten as a reward a reassuring weight in her bag. She'd split it with Gajeel, though he refused to take more than a quarter, stating she'd done all the work anyways.
The pressure that had settled on her shoulders from not having enough for rent was suddenly lifted, and Levy smiled. Her wounds were healing, and things were looking up.
"Levy!" She heard somewhere in front of her, two voices calling out. Looking around for the source, the bluenette spotted her two teammates, Jet and Droy, approaching from further on.
"Hi, guys!" She called, giving a wave and a smile. They approached and gave her a hug each.
"Aren't you supposed to be on a translation job?" Droy asked, cocking his head in confusion. Levy resisted the urge to sigh, wishing not everyone was so curious as to ask the same questions. She was tired of repeating herself, but it wasn't their fault.
"I was, but I finished early. Gajeel and I just got back a little while ago." She patted her bag with a smile. "I'm on my way to pay my rent before Ruchio comes after me." Levy chuckled, imagining the landlady pursuing her with a rolling pin or other available impromptu weapon.
"Well, it's great to see you back so soon." Droy said.
"Oh, how's your leg doing? Is it feeling better?" Jet crouched down and examined the bandaged limb.
"Yup, now it's just sore most of the time. I should be able to take off the bandage in a few days." She reassured. They appeared to be relieved at hearing that news.
"Great!" They replied with smiles, already having feeling bad for allowing her to get hurt in the first place. At least she didn't seem to be in much pain anymore.
"You should go on a job with us once you're up for it." The speedster suggested. He dug for something in his jacket pocket, finally producing a piece of paper to the bluenette. "We found this one for a translation, but the client is afraid of being attacked just for having the book, so it's a protection job too."
"What do you say?" Droy asked, smiling optimistically. Levy sighed, trying to keep up her cheerful smile. They wouldn't like her answer, she knew.
"Oh, that sounds great and all, you guys, but I already agreed to take a job with Gajeel again. We're leaving in about an hour."
"O-oh…" Jet lowered the poster, slowly stuffing it back in it's place. He gave her a slanted smile, trying and failing to look as if he wasn't bothered. "That's alright, Droy and I can take another one. We'll go on a job once you and…Gajeel get back…" He finished slowly, as if even hesitant to say his name.
"Just make sure you stay safe, alright?" Droy dug his shoes into the dirt, feeling a bit awkward. The both of them weren't the biggest fans of the Iron Dragon Slayer, but they maintained a civil and neutral facade for the blue-haired mage's sake.
"We don't want you to get any more hurt than you already are." The orange haired man added, rubbing the back of his neck, looking away.
Levy nodded, not quite sure what to say when they got all mopey like this. Levy wasn't very good at comforting people to begin with. Or, at least, she didn't think so.
"You know I can take care of myself. But I promise." She gave another smile, before pointing in the direction of Fairy Hills. "I really should get going. I need to pack and make sure I've got the rent paid."
"We'll see you later, Levy."
"Bye, you guys!" With another wave, Levy trotted away, leaving her depressed teammates slowly shuffling away in defeat.
Gajeel shoved open the door to his small house, sniffing the air for anything unusual. Nothing seemed out of place, besides the expected rearrangement of some of the clutter from Lily. Fortunately, the exceed was more inclined to actually clean the mess that was Gajeel's stuff, despite how it never appeared to be any neater than before. It was a losing battle, but Lily was determined to have a 'decent house to live in,' as he so kindly put it.
Throwing his bag on the kitchen table, Gajeel immediately made his way to the bathroom to take a quick shower, feeling the grime and sweat sticking to his skin from their long journey back home. It was a wonder the shrimp hadn't said something the whole way back.
Once washed, he grabbed some clean clothes for the trip and replaced the ones in his bag, tossing the dirty ones in the hamper with the rest of his unwashed laundry. Hopefully Lily would think to clean the clothes as well while they were gone, since Gajeel kept forgetting to start on it when he was actually home. Aw, well. It would get done eventually, either out of Lily's frustration to keep things clean or Gajeel's desperation for clothes that didn't smell like dirty socks.
It didn't take him long to pack his things. After half an hour, he found himself at a loss for what to do in the meantime. He didn't really fancy waiting around at the city square for the bluenette, but there really wasn't much else to do. Staring around at the walls with a frown, he somehow made his way back to the kitchen.
Contrary to the rest of the house, the kitchen was always kept as clean and tidy as possible. At first glance to any other part of the house, one would think the dragon slayer to be a slob. It may even be true, to some degree. However, as a respectable chef, Gajeel knew better than to work in an unclean workspace, let alone allow his kitchen to become dirty or unsightly. His pride as a cook would have otherwise been soiled.
With a sigh, he tossed his bag back on the table, one of the few empty surfaces in the house, before heading down the hall and into the spare room, where his workbench was. Piles of scraps of metal cluttered the wooden surface, tools and other equipment stuffed in half-open drawers beneath. He really should get it more organized, he thought, but then shrugged and pushed some of his previous things aside to make room.
Picking up the half-finished trinket he'd been working on before, eyeing the beginning stages of a snake coiled around a rose. It was one of his better projects, but it was slow coming. Each detail took time to make, and he wanted it to turn out right.
He turned it this way and that, mentally planning and tweaking the design he'd had in mind right from the beginning. Picking up a engraving tool, he began working on the snake's eyes, slowly and carefully working the metal exactly to his liking.
Mind elsewhere, he idly picked up a stray screw and rolled it between his teeth, slowly nibbling away at the piece of metal as he worked. He picked away at the small trinket in his hands, the shaving falling to the floor below. He'd clean it up later.
Before long, the snake had one well-detailed eye, and he began working on the second, before he remembered he was supposed to meet Levy at the square.
"Shit…" He muttered, glancing at the clock on the wall. He was going to be late at this point. Time had gotten away from him.
Setting down the tool and the snake, he pushed away from the desk and returned to the kitchen, grabbing his bag and pushing out the door, giving his place a last once-over before he shut the door behind him.ns220.127.116.11da2