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Hello From the Other Side

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Levy came home to their 60-inch TV missing. She dropped her bag at the door, hazel eyes widening in disbelief. Her mouth was agape as she took a trembling step inside the apartment. “Gajeel?”

Nothing but silence greeted her. Kicking off her shoes, she padded across the wood floors to the soft white carpet of their bedroom, walking past the glass kitchen table that had a rolled-up dollar bill and a razor on it. The door swung open without a sound to show that the bedroom too was empty. Levy’s heartbeat was the only thing she heard with each slow step towards her jewelry box sitting on her long dresser.

Please… she begged. Please let it all still be there.

Her steps quickened until she was standing in front of her wooden jewelry box. Her heart sank when she saw the bottom two small drawers were ajar. She slid them open all the way, her hand going to her mouth as tears sprang to her eyes at the empty box. The white felt that lined the drawers glared back at her. She checked the other three and saw they also were empty. Swallowing as a painful lump caught in her throat, she opened the top… empty.

Levy sank to the floor. Her mother just passed from breast cancer two weeks ago. Her jewelry had been her most prized possession. She remembered her mother wearing her necklaces like a queen during her childhood. There was no doubt in her mind he’d sold them, just like he had the TV. Levy pulled her cell phone out of the pocket of the dark-gray jacket she was wearing and tried calling Gajeel. It continued ringing then his voicemail sounded.

Leave a message or hang up.

 There was no telling where he was. He would have gotten a lot of money for the jewelry and the TV, enough to fuel his addiction for a while. She left Magnolia for just two days; she plead with whatever deity watching for his life. Levy dialed again while wiping her eyes, anger making her hands shake. Listening for a moment, she realized she could hear vibrations coming from the bathroom. Levy walked over to it to find Gajeel sleeping on the floor. She kicked him in the back of his leg with little force.

“Gajeel!” she shouted, leaning down to shake him. “Gajeel wake up!”

He groaned. “Stop shakin’ me would ya?!”

“No!” she cried. “Where are my TV and my mother’s jewelry Gajeel?!”

He laid back down on the floor. Her nose crinkled, realizing hadn’t showered in a few days. She sat on top of him and shook his shoulders again. “Did you sell my things?! Wake up right now!

“My head,” he moaned, opening his eyes halfway.

“Answer me!” she ordered, small fists grasping the front of his black tank top.

He looked away. “What do ya want me to say, Levy? You know the answer already.”

“Why would you do that?!” she cried. “That jewelry was all I had left of my mother! I buried her yesterday, and you take away one of the most important things I have left in this world to remember her by?!”

Levy’s sobs racked her body. “You told me you had quit. That you were getting better. You lied! I can’t trust you anymore Gajeel. I can’t!”

His arms that had lost their muscular tone wrapped around her waist. “I’m sorry Levy. I'm addicted and it ain’t as easy as I thought to quit.”

Levy shoved him off and stood up, stumbling backward. The wall caught her, but the aching in her heart was far stronger than the sting piercing her back. She’d found out three months ago that Gajeel was snorting cocaine.  Now it was out of control. She realized he seemed more hyper, more alert, and his dilated pupils darted back and forth at an unnatural pace. He had nosebleeds all the time and left for hours, returning with a haggard appearance. Levy ignored it. She ignored it because she loved him, and she was in denial. They’d been together for a year and a half now. Levy never imagined a drug problem would turn her world upside down. It took catching her lover in the act to stop pretending like she didn’t know.

“You need to go into a rehab program,” Levy said, crossing her arms underneath her chest. “I’ve given you too many chances.”

Gajeel stood to his feet holding his abdomen. “Holy shit, my stomach is killin’ me!” Looking over at Levy, he said, “Let me try to quit on my own more time.”

“You said this last time Gajeel,” Levy deadpanned. “What will make this time any different?”

“I don’t want to hurt ya anymore,” he whispered. “I have to do this for us.”

Levy turned and exited the bathroom. “No Gajeel, you need to do it for you.”

A month passed by, and it seemed like Gajeel was serious about stopping. The color returned to his cheeks. He’d gotten a job again. He looked healthier overall. Things were looking up. Levy couldn’t bear the thought of losing him to drugs. The rocky road they were heading down cleared every day… until one Friday night, Gajeel didn’t return home from work. Worried, Levy called his cell first, but it went straight to voicemail. Next, she called his boss over at the factory.

“Miss Levy, Gajeel hasn’t worked here in two weeks,” Makarov spoke. “He quit coming in.”

Dread budded deep in her chest. Levy called him again. He didn’t answer so she left a message. “Gajeel? Where are you? You need to call me right away. Your boss says you haven’t been to work in two weeks! What’s going on? Please let me know you’re okay.”

Levy tried Gajeel’s best friend everyone called Panther Lily. He knew about Gajeel’s habit and tried to help keep him on track. Panther Lily answered on the second ring. “Hello?”

“I can’t find Gajeel,” Levy fretted. “I called his work, and they said he hasn’t been there in two weeks. Have you seen him?”

Panther Lily sighed. “He came over earlier today to hang out. Said he was off today. Let me check something.” She listened to shuffling and a cabinet door open. “He’s taken my cash I was saving for a new weight set. We’ve got to find him, Levy.”

She and Panther Lily spent hours looking around Magnolia for him. They frequented all the bars he liked to hang out, getting clues from different people for help. Levy even contacted Gajeel’s father Metalicana for help in trying to track him down. At eleven at night, after many dead ends and still no calls from Gajeel, they stumbled into a dark alley where cocaine dealers lurked. As they walked through the piles of trash and past the dumpsters, some sleazy male appeared, took one look at Levy, and licked his lips.

“How much is she?” he questioned while rubbing his hands together and taking a step closer. “I’ll take her off your hands for an hour.”

Metalicana slammed the man so hard up against the concrete wall behind him it knocked the wind out of him. His eyes were such a light blue; they almost looked white. He and Gajeel had similar tall statures and menacing appearances. He kept his long gray hair pulled into a low ponytail that filtered down to the middle of his back and when he tightened his grip on the man’s shirt, the muscles in his arms rippled their power.

“If you speak of her in that way again, I’ll kill you,” he growled.

The man backed away in fear. “Hey, I’m sorry! I didn’t know!”

Panther Lily stepped forward and held up a picture of Gajeel. “Have you seen this man?”

He studied it for a moment then nodded. “He’s inside this building right here.” The man pointed towards a door about twenty feet from them. “Just go in that way.”

Metalicana dropped the terrified man on his ass and moved forward. “Utter trash.”

When they entered, the room was hazy; the heavy smell of marijuana and alcohol hit her nostrils. Levy searched for Gajeel with Panther Lily and Metalicana hot on her heels. She rounded the corner, knocking a drink out of a woman’s hand as she rushed past her.

“Watch where you’re going bitch!”

Her outburst fell on deaf ears when she saw Gajeel. He was standing on top of a couch, yelling and pointing at nothing. Levy ran to him. “Gajeel what are you doing?!”

“I’m trying to tell this asshole that this is my couch!” he yelled. “I don’t need him telling me what to do right now!”

He was hallucinating. Levy took a step back, knowing he could become violent in this state of mind. Panther Lily reached up and grasped one of his arms. “Time to go home Gajeel.”

“I’m not going anywhere, you over-muscled cat!” Gajeel shouted in Panther Lily’s face. He looked at his father. “Woah, you’re a fucking cool looking dragon! Watch this, I can fly too.”

Metalicana stepped forward, cocked his fist back, and slammed it into Gajeel’s jaw, knocking him to the floor. “You’re a disgrace boy!”

“No!” Levy shouted, but Panther Lily held her back. “Don’t hurt him! Not while he can’t understand what’s happening!”

The people standing around didn’t seem interested in their situation. They continued to dance, drink, and do drugs. Levy’s eyes watered. She gave Panther Lily a pleading glance. “Please stop him!”

“This is between father and son,” Panther Lily responded.

Gajeel struggled to get to his feet and tried to swing at his father, who kneed him in the stomach. “Your mother is rolling over in her grave seeing what you’ve become!”

“No… no, she’s not,” Gajeel coughed.

Metalicana hauled him up by his hair. “You’ve got to stop this boy. This can’t continue.”

“Dragon, I'm good, I promise,” Gajeel wheezed. “I just want you to stop fucking hitting me, damn it!”

That earned him another solid punch to the face. This time, Gajeel didn’t get up. Metalicana hauled him up and threw him over his shoulder. “Let’s go.”

Metalicana wanted to keep Gajeel at his house until he woke up; Levy insisted that she stay too. Metalicana fixed her a warm cup of coffee. The whole ordeal had shaken her. Levy bounced her leg against the chair she was sitting on, causing a rhythmic tapping to echo through the kitchen. Metalicana’s worn features turned to her.

“How long will you endure this Levy?”

She let out a shaky breath. “I’m not sure. I love him, but I don’t know if I can help him if he’s not willing to help himself.”

“Guys!” Panther Lily called, urgency lacing his voice. “Something is wrong!”

The two of them rushed to the living room where Gajeel was resting on the couch to find him seizing. Levy was at his side in seconds. “Call an ambulance!”

It's no secret
That the both of us are running out of time...

Levy, Metalicana, and Panther Lily sat in the busy waiting area of the local hospital. A doctor came out and called for Gajeel’s family. Levy jumped out of her seat and ran to the doctor. “Is he okay?!”

“Are you his wife?” the doctor asked.

“Girlfriend and this is his father,” Levy answered, pointing at Metalicana. 

“Sir, your son had complications from cocaine use,” the doctor concluded. “He went into respiratory arrest, meaning he stopped breathing, and we had to assist him with breathing. He’s breathing on his own now, but this was a close call. It’s imperative he goes to a rehab center because next time may be too late.”

Those words hit Levy like a ton of bricks. She couldn’t imagine Gajeel dying, but tonight was a serious lesson He had to turn his life around, or he would end it. Levy clasped her hands together in front of her and asked if she could see him. She sat by his side for two days straight, even calling in sick for her work as a book translator. Her boss wasn’t happy about that, but she assured Freed that she would work a double her first day back to make sure her current project would be ready for publishing the following week.

Gajeel awoke to a searing migraine, and the bright lights threatened to make his head split open. “Turn off the lights, damn it!”

When the darkness submerged him, he cracked open an eye. He felt like a train ran him over. The gnawing sensation for cocaine stabbed at him. It seemed to get stronger every moment he was awake. Gajeel licked his lips, realizing how dry and cracked they were.

“Fuck…” he moaned, curling into a ball from the pain raging inside his body.

“Wake up, you disgrace,” came his father’s menacing voice. “Sit up!”

“No need for name callin’,” Gajeel snapped. He still sat up like an obedient child.

The addict couldn’t make eye contact with any of them. He was ashamed of how he’d been acting and what he put them through. Gajeel was sure he could stop on his own, but his addiction was like a sweet whisper, caressing his mind 24/7, reminding him of how good it felt to be high. She would wrap her convincing arms around his neck, plant a gentle kiss on his temple, and tell him this would be the last time. It was a huge shot to his pride to know he had no control over this and yet that same pride wouldn't allow him to accept help. He couldn’t get any lower than where he was in his life and damn it he would get himself out, but fuck his cravings were eating him alive!

Goddammit!” Gajeel roared. He gripped his hair, chest heaving with each breath.

His mind was swimming as anger welled up in his being. He needed to get out of this fucking hospital room before he lost his mind. Panther Lily took a step forward. “What’s wrong Gajeel?”

“Back up!” Gajeel screamed. He launched himself out of the bed, ripping his IV out of his hand in the process causing blood to spurt from the wound.

Levy watched in horror at the monster in front of her, his wild expression like a wild animal. The doctor warned them he may be irritable or become violent because of his withdrawals, but she wasn’t prepared to see the love of her life act out of control like this. He looked sick too. Dark circles around his eyes, hollow cheekbones, and his once flawless skin had numerous scars. It made her heart bleed to see him like that.

“Gajeel, you have to stop!” Levy cried, running to him before Metalicana could grab her.

She threw her arms around his waist and buried her face in his chest, her own heaving with sobs. Gajeel shoved her off. “I need to get out of here!”

“You’re staying Gajeel!” Metalicana bellowed.

Levy's heart broke in half watching her lover's rampage.  Gajeel looked at her like he didn’t even recognize her. This was the true ugliness of addiction. She swallowed, realizing she couldn't handle this anymore for her sanity and for her own happiness.

“Make your choice, Gajeel,” she whispered. “It’s either me or the drugs. You can’t have both.”

“If you can’t handle me at my worse, then fuckin’ leave Levy!” Gajeel screamed. “Get the fuck out of here!”

Levy’s eyes widened in shock as she stumbled back. “You… you can’t mean that! You don’t mean that!”

Leave!”

Levy turned and ran with Panther Lily calling after her. That answer was enough. Levy had been trying to work through this, struggling to be his rock and help him climb out of the frigid, icy grasp of addiction. Tears streamed down her face as she ran, the hallways blurring past. Levy made it outside to one a bench and collapsed on it. She wanted things to return to normal before Gajeel discovered cocaine. They were so happy. Levy had never been as ecstatic as she was during their bliss together.

She placed her face in her lap and tried to compose herself. Panther Lily’s large hand laid between her shoulder blades, the bench shifting when he sat. Levy looked up at Panther Lily. He appeared intimidating because of how tall and built he was. At 6’6 and 300 pounds of solid muscle, people often walked on the other side of the street. The scar above his left eye and the seriousness of his features shadowed his gentle nature. He kept his head shaved which didn't help him seem less menacing, but he was the sweetest person she’d ever met. He was kind-hearted and cared about people. He seemed opposite of Gajeel.

“Levy,” he soothed. ”He’s going through withdrawals. He didn’t mean what he said.”

“How do you know?” she asked through hitched breaths.

Panther Lily rubbed her back. “He loves you more than anything. Just stick it out until he’s finished detoxing.”

Levy sat up and let out a shaky breath. Her small hands stayed balled into fists in her lap. “Okay.”


 

A week passed before Gajeel's release from the hospital. Levy and Metalicana picked him up together. The older man studied the giddy smile on Levy's face. He remembered Gajeel’s mother looking at him like that. His idiot son was very lucky to have a girl like Levy, who tried to see him through the ugly parts of his life.

The automatic double doors opened and out stepped Gajeel. He looked from left to right and when his eyes fell on Levy, he didn’t smile. Levy walked up to him. “How are you?”

“We need to talk Levy,” Gajeel stated while grasping her arm and leading her away. “Give us a minute Pops.”                            

“All right, young one.”

They walked around the side of the large building arm in arm. Levy’s gaze wandered to the leaves abandoning their trees because of the cooler weather. Different shades of brown, red, and orange blended together on the Earth’s floor like a painting she waited every year to look at. The leaves swirled around her booted feet as they walked and now and then, she heard them crunch underneath her steps.

Gajeel stopped in front of a large oak tree and untangled their arms to turn and face her. His expression worried her. He wouldn’t look her in the eyes and reached up to run his hand through his unruly hair. Levy remained silent and waited for him to speak.

“Levy I…” He turned away from her. “I’m breaking up with you.”

Her mouth opened in shock. “Why?!”

“Can’t keep letting a fuck up like me drag you down,” he answered. “Get out of here. You deserve better.”

“I deserve whoever I want!” she argued. “We can work through this!”

“It’s not that simple!” Gajeel yelled. “I’m gonna keep going back to it! I can’t stop!”

 “Let me help you!” Levy cried, running up and embracing him. “Your family can help you through this. Rehab would help-”

“I’m not going to a fuckin’ rehab,” Gajeel deadpanned.

Levy started crying. “Why Gajeel?! Cocaine has changed you and made you into someone I don’t recognize! Don’t you want to get better?!”

“I do!” Gajeel pushed her off. “Listen, I’m not arguing with you. It’s for your own good you don’t be with someone like me.” He turned and walked away. “Lose my number,” he said over his shoulder.

Levy stood rooted to her spot, numb to the core. Silent tears slid down her porcelain cheeks as Gajeel’s form retreated until he turned a corner and she couldn’t see him anymore. She wanted to run after him, plead with him, tell him how much she loved him. A garbled cry escaped her lips, she sank to the ground, and her hands moved to cover her face as she wailed.

Two years later…

Levy leaned her back against the coolness of the bar behind her and frowned. She looked over at her best friend. “Lucy why are we here?!”

Lucy pushed Levy’s shoulder playfully. “To have a good time! I told you, they have local artists come and perform here. Some are really talented!”

Levy enjoyed live music, but this run-down place desperately needed some refurbishing. The walls were bare and black. Aside from the small stage in front, there were a few plain tables and chairs. Lucy told her the place had just opened, and the owner was working on fixing it up. Levy looked up from her drink when she heard slight microphone feedback and her heart stopped.

Gajeel…

It had been two long years since their break up. Levy tried her hardest to get Gajeel to realize that she loved him and wanted to help him through his rough times, but the harder she tried, the more distant he became. He blocked her number and when she tried calling Panther Lily or Metalicana, they both told her to leave him alone. He’d come around when he was ready… but he never did.

Now here he was, pulling up a bar stool with a guitar in his lap. He looked healthy, like how he did when he first caught her eye so long ago. The hollowness in his face had disappeared, his skin looked clear, and he’d built his muscles back up. It looked like he kicked the habit for good. She swallowed, waiting for him to begin his song. She loved to hear his deep, sultry voice when he sang. Levy couldn’t count the number of times she’d told him his voice was beautiful. The stubborn man shrugged her off.

“All right, shut up already,” he snapped into the microphone. The small crowd laughed in response. Gajeel adjusted the microphone in the stand. “I wrote this song a while ago when life was kicking me in the balls.”

He leaned forward and closed his eyes as he sang. Levy’s heart melted at his voice. Lucy tapped her hand to the slow beat of the song. “Isn’t he amazing?! Levy?”

She was in another world, lost within the lyrics he’d created. Her eyes couldn’t look away from his form.

Hello, it’s me. I was wondering

If after all these years you’d like to meet to go over

Everything

They say that time’s supposed to heal, yeah

But I ain’t done much healing

Levy stood to her feet and slowly walked towards the front of the stage. When she was a few feet away, Gajeel caught her eye. He looked taken aback and a shocked expression crossed his features, but he didn’t stop singing. His crimson orbs locked with her chestnut colored ones. Levy swayed her hips in a slow pattern the words.

There’s such a difference between us

And a million miles

Tears pricked at Levy's eyes. The emotion he put into his song constricted her throat. Only she and Gajeel knew the lyrics were about them. There was something empowering about understanding the meaning.

So, hello from the other side

I must’ve called a thousand times

To tell you I’m sorry, for everything that I’ve done

But when I call you never seem to be home

He strummed a soft chord as he ended his song. The crowd gave a deafening applaud, but he didn’t seem to hear them and neither did Levy. Time stood still as he placed his guitar next to him and jumped off the stage in front of her. They locked eyes an eternity lasting just a few moments. The blue-haired woman didn’t know what to say. She was afraid to speak, knowing her voice would give away the turmoil raging inside her.

“I’m sorry Levy,” Gajeel breathed. “For puttin’ you through that.”

“I’m sorry too,” she answered, clasping her hands in front of her body to stop them from shaking. “Your song was beautiful.”

“You’re beautiful.” Gajeel took a step forward. “Fuckin’ gorgeous.”

“Thank you,” she answered. “So… are you...”

“Sober eighteen months,” Gajeel responded without her having to finish that sentence. “I thought I was at the bottom until I realized you weren’t there to help me up.”

Levy didn’t know what to say. “I wish you would have realized that then…”

She went to turn away, unable to handle the emotions that were racking her body. She was five seconds from bursting into tears, but the moment she tried to take a step, Gajeel grabbed her arm and whirled her back around. He embraced her like he never planned to let go. One arm wrapped around her body while the other rested on the back of her head. His chin pressed against her forehead.

“I’m sorry Levy.”

She began sobbing after those words. This exact moment had been haunting her in her dreams for so long, but each time, she’d wake up with emptiness gnawing a hole in her chest. This was real. She hugged him back with all the strength as she could muster. “I forgive you Gajeel.”

Gajeel tilted her chin upwards and captured her mouth and the crowd roared in approval, clapping as whistling their happiness for them. Her arms reached up to wrap around his broad shoulders as she kissed him back fiercely. When they separated, their hands linked.

Gajeel growled and dragged Levy back to the microphone. “Shut yer traps! It’s over now!”

“It just started!” someone in the crowd echoed.

Everyone voiced their agreement. Levy couldn’t erase the smile from her face if she wanted to. It seemed they were no longer millions of miles apart.

Hello from the outside…