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The music filled the square, the sound of flutes and drums inhabiting the lively atmosphere of celebration. Laughter and drinking were abound, the center of the large square was even being used for dancing, though it lacked any kind of group coordination, but it was entertaining all the same.


Lyon let out a wistful sigh, looking on from the sidelines, leaning cooly against one of the market’s many buildings. He believed this one to be a bakery of some kind, judging from the sign hanging below the awning draped in twinkling lights for the occasion, illuminating him dimly in yellow hues. It was all a wonderfully charming sight, the townspeople’s happiness at being able to finally rest easy showing itself as boisterous celebration in thanksgiving for their efforts — but Lyon’s ability to enjoy it was dampened.


He’d never been one for huge celebrations like this in general, not being a dancer or a heavy drinker, or even one who could relish in the commotion of camaraderie in such an obtrusive way. Unlike Toby, who, while making a bit of a fool of himself, seemed to be having the time of his life and heavily enjoying in pulling Yuka into it as much as possible. But still, while perhaps not his preferred scene, he could often appreciate it for what it was and even enjoy himself. Tonight was not being as cooperative.


The events of the day prior refused to leave him, the thoughts that vile mage had forcibly drawn out of and shoved into his mind swimming around, unwelcome and haunting him. Taunting him with the very regrets and doubts he’d been determined to keep at bay for over a year now.


Closer to two now, actually. That in itself was not a comforting thought, either.


Two years since Fairy Tail’s disappearance. Since they’d vanished into thin air without a trace, leaving the rest of them scrambling. And he refused to call it anything other than a disappearance, lest he start to despair, which he couldn’t afford.


Not any more than he already was.


A few weeks was too long for someone to be missing. Two years was an absurd amount of time, and any sane person would call it a lost cause and be forced to cut their losses. But be refused to. He had to. For Gray’s sake.


But he was wearing thin all the same. Search party after search party with nothing to show for them would do that. And every doubt he’d had before and since were intrusively stolen from his head and amplified before being thrown back in his face, leaving him nearly sick to his stomach.


You should have been there , the oily voice rang in his head, memories of his own thoughts played back in a voice that wasn’t his own. You should have been there for him, and you left him crying in the wreckage! You had a responsibility and you ran away for your own selfish goals. He should have hated you, just like you hated him, but he didn’t, and now look what you’ve done. Look what you let happen. He should have hated you, Ur would hate you-


“Lyon?” a voice cut in, taking him out of his uneasy reverie and snapping the blurred lights and figures back into focus.


He looked over to see Sherry to his side, a curious expression on her face. She looked tired, but lively all the same, and moved closer to stand beside him against the wall as a tipsy townsman shuffled by.


“You aren’t participating in the celebrations?” she asked lightly, tugging at a bandage wrapped around her upper arm.


“Not as Toby is, no,” he replied, finding him again in the dancing crowd with a chuckle, watching as his friend galloped about gleefully. “I prefer to watch the show rather than participate in it, at least in this case.”


It was quiet between them for a few moments, Lyon taking a sip of his drink in the lull. Out of the corner of his eye he saw Sherry swirl her own idly, clearly thinking over something.


“... Are you alright, love?” she asked eventually, dropping the question Lyon was sure he’d hear sometime tonight. She never did drop the habit of referring to him so intimately though, despite them never being an item and her having moved on to Ren, her all around obsession with love surfacing even in how she referred to others. She’d adopted the habit with most people she was close to, it seemed.


Lyon sighed silently to himself, closing his eyes for a moment.


“I’ll be fine, don’t worry yourself over me. You know I can handle things on my own.”


“But that doesn’t mean you have to.”


He looked back over to her, expression unreadable as he examined hers. He didn’t reply before averting his eyes back towards the crowd.


“I’ll be fine.”


He truly didn’t want to talk about it right now. Or ever. He had the habit of keeping his feelings and issues close to the chest, and he was certainly in no position to lay them on the table now. Not so soon after he’d been forced to confront them like a hot poker in his lungs.


Sherry was quiet, and Lyon was confident that the issue would rest for now. She and the others had become much more… prying since they’d all come to home in Lamia Scale. It wasn’t long after they had joined that they started to feel more like friends and less like underlings, a change that pleasantly surprised him and took a while to fathom.


“Would you like to dance, Lyon?” Sherry proposed half a minute later, peering amicably at him. He blinked at her, not expecting the subject, but laughed lightly after a moment.


“Afraid I’m not much of a dancer,” he replied, going back to his drink with a wan smile.


“Never too late to learn. Come on, I think it would be good for you.”


“Sherry, I’m not exactly in the best physical shape to-“


“HEEYYY,” interrupted a loud and moderately drunk sounding voice, Toby suddenly appearing from the crowd and stumbling his way over. He’d apparently spotted them in the time Lyon lost track of him during the conversation.


“Y’should come danshe, th’ party’s a blasht,” he slurred happily, for once not shadowed by Yuka who had likely taken the chance to release himself from Toby’s capture. Sherry looked amused but exasperated with the man, and while Lyon still held no desire to dance, a slow smile appeared on his face as he saw the golden opportunity presented to him.


“I’m afraid I’m in no shape to, but Sherry would love to dance with you,” Lyon said perfectly good naturedly, his smirk widening at Sherry’s indignant and shocked look. Toby’s face lit up, however.


“Great!” he barked, taking Sherry by the wrist and tugging her back toward the crowd before she could protest, effectively rescuing him from surely falling prey to the same fate at the hands of the woman.


“Wait-no, Lyon!” she whined as she was pulled away, and he couldn’t help but snicker. He was very much enjoying himself now, if only for a few moments. Hopefully trying to keep up with or escape Toby would keep her from thinking about him too much for now.


Lyon watched amusedly as the two of them tried to form some semblance of a dance in the mess, Sherry clumsily trying to follow along with Toby when he wouldn’t listen to her trying to instruct him, the buzz of the now calmer music heard somewhere in the back of his mind.


He still felt mildly sick. Without the distraction of conversation, the oily voice was louder again.


How could you? Stupid, stupid, you left him to rot, just like you were-


Somehow having appeared without his notice, a much larger form stood by his side now. It wasn’t something he realized still, his eyes and mind elsewhere, so it gave him a jolt when a solid hand came down on his shoulder.


“Enjoying yourself?” Jura’s rumbling voice asked, a smile on the Wizard Saint’s face as he looked out to the crowd. His appearance had changed since Lyon met him, his clothing choices more tame than they had been and a beard now growing, but the underlying face and man still the same. The Rock, certainly.


Lyon shook off his momentary shock and let a smile work back onto his face, half glad for the company and closing his eyes with a tip of his head.


“What, you want to dance with me too?” he joked, and when his friend looked down at him quizzically he simply waved it away.


“You look bothered,” Jura started a few moments later as he slipped his hand back into his large sleeve. Observant as ever, he’d always been good at picking up on someone’s mood, whether Lyon tried to hide it or not.


“It’s nothing,” Lyon breathed, closing his eyes again.


Jura hummed disbelievingly, and Lyon sighed internally.


“I wasn’t there, but I know what happened. I heard it, you know.”


Lyon deflated a little, leaning heavier against the wall. He’d almost forgotten about the communication lacrima at the time, but ever since he remembered it he knew this would come up eventually. Instead of responding, he just stared sightlessly into his drink.


“I can’t say whether it was false or not,” if he noticed Lyon’s flinch he didn’t bring attention to it, “but you know that’s in the past, my friend. It can’t be helped now, and you shouldn’t let it haunt you.”


Lyon grit his teeth. Easier said than done.


“Ten years, Jura,” he said bleakly without thinking. “I spent ten years trampling on my master’s legacy, and I left him like that. I’ve left much of my past behind, as I’ve had to, but that…” His voice died away in the noise of the crowd.


“You were a child,” Jura said softly.


“So was he,” Lyon hissed back, but he knew the bitterness he felt shouldn’t be directed at the other wizard. When he was silent, the quiet felt suffocating.


“I don’t know. It’s… a lot worse than usual. It has to be what that damn mage did.”


And it was. These thoughts were not usually so suffocating, and yet they threatened to choke him now. The hand returned to his shoulder, and he did not shy away from it.


“It is a very painful kind of magic when used in that fashion, and it can make your mind seem much less your own soon after the fact. But,” his hand gently gripped tighter, and Lyon reluctantly turned to look up at Jura, “they are still your thoughts, Lyon. Your emotions. They must be dealt with, lest they threaten to tear you apart. You cannot lock them away and expect them to leave.”


Lyon did not know what expression was on his face, but he was certain it was much more vulnerable than he felt comfortable being. The ice mage tore his gaze away from his friend’s firm but gentle look, choosing instead to stare at the cobble beneath their feet.


He hated how well Jura could deduct his mind sometimes. It had taken him a while at first, staring into still deliberately cold and detached eyes to try and find the secrets behind, untrusting of this new and notorious addition to his family. There was no trust at first, and it was steadfast in Jura’s eyes and his voice that Lyon would have to prove himself if he wanted the Saint’s confidence. But once Lyon’s eyes had started to soften and his determination for change was shown, Jura soon grew into a mentor role to him, and it wasn’t long after that he seemed able to read Lyon whenever he least wanted him to.


While the party raged on, between them it was silent.


“You miss him.” Jura stated, no question in his tone. Lyon paused. And then he chose to risk his composure in a way he was sure would backfire.


“It’s been almost two years…” he nearly murmured, and above him Jura’s eyes softened with pity. “Two years, and we’re no closer than when we started. What if they… What if he…”


He stopped, and he knew he didn’t need to continue. But he did, because the thought of it was going to eat him alive if he didn’t say it, say it to someone .


“I never apologized…” he all but whispered, the thought that pounded in his head more painfully than any other finally said in his own voice, hating the way it threatened to crack. His chest and throat burned with more than grief — it burned with an anger. Something dark that hurt like a knife.


“My stupid pride,” he cursed, “even when I saw him again I didn’t… It should have been the first thing out of my mouth, but I was too stubborn and stuck to say it.”


He was almost growling by the end of it, but it still sounded pathetically weak. His pride hated that. Hated that he was breaking, that he was stupid and pathetic enough to be saying this, hated that he even NEEDED to say it. But he needed to. He should have.


And more than anything else he hated that he may never get the chance again.


His eyes burned, his cup shook in his grip, and his injured hand ached with the exertion of holding it so tight he was sure it would crack. But he knew that was not the source of the tremor.


Silently Jura moved closer, the wizard’s long sleeve draping over him like a cloak and clasping Lyon’s opposite shoulder as he shook. When did he start shaking this much? He desperately hoped that no one else would take notice, especially not his friends. His stupid pride might not be able to take that.


“It’s okay to cry, you know…” Jura said quietly, voice and grip steady as a rock for Lyon to cling to.


The words struck hard. He’d barely cried since that fateful day on Galuna, desperately doing everything in his power to keep composure even after news of Fairy Tail’s ( Gray’s ) supposed death reached him. Weakness did not become him. He loathed the looks of pity discreetly shot his way whenever his sobriety cracked, and he was quick to push those boundaries back in place.


But the hole in his chest that had been carved out and forcibly ripped wider was suffocating and deep, and for once his wall of composure began to crumble faster than he could rebuild it.

His pride bucked against it — stupid, wretched thing that it was — but if tears slid down his face that night, cloaked by the grasp of a friend he was proud and grateful ( Undeserving, you selfish little- ) to have in the warm lighting of a victory celebration, that was nobody’s business but his own.