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Forgive Me

Chapter Text

Shining brightly as it framed the sky above them, the sun beat down on those gathered about the front of the guildhall as, with some of excitement, they watched what was turning into a nearly weekly (if not more) spectacle. Though many of her days were still spent inside, away from the blistering heat of the never-ending summer, Marin Dreyar finally found a good use for the lunch breaks she would skip, many times, in the years prior.

"Come on!" Kai yelled, as he frequently did, no matter how many times he witnessed it. Whether she had the upper hand or was falling behind. At the top of his lungs, until his throat bled, he always stood near by, cheering (screaming) her on. "Marin! You can do it this time!"

But she couldn't.

It wasn't that she lacked confidence or underestimated herself, either, as she stood there, in the center of the haphazard circle of guild mates gathered about, staring at the man across from her. No, Marin knew her power. She knew her advantages. But she also was aware of her weaknesses. Shortcomings. Erza told her that it was an important part of things as well; knowing what you couldn't do. If you went around believing you could do anything, often times, you would be reminded why exactly you couldn't.

Erza.

The woman was around that day, rather than out on a job, standing beside Kai. But she was silent as she observed, arms crossed tightly over her chest, lips a thin line, and there was no way that she thought Marin was ready. Any of the other times she tried.

But, as the woman told her many times as well, there was something to be had in defeat; you could never improve to victory if you didn't taste it's adversary.

"You can do it!" Kai knew no such thing, however. No. It didn't matter who his best friend was going up against; he was certain that she was going to come out on top. One of them had to believe it, anyways, he felt. "You're water. Like literally water."

He really felt like the concept was being under used in her current match-up.

But Kai didn't understand a lot of things, Marin found, about battles and magic. Which made sense, considering he rejected those things wholeheartedly. In his mind, Marin should just be able to douse the man before her in some torrential level water and bam!

Problem solved.

He wasn't on fire though, in need of putting out. No. The man before her was fire itself and his flames didn't die in her waves, but rather fizzled them entirely, making steam of her attacks and flinging boiling water on anyone who got too close.

"You're gonna have to do better than that, Marin," he snickered, like he always did, should an attack of hers actually connect. He'd only run a flaming hand over where some water splashed, perhaps, on his cheek, drying it immediately. "If ya wanna get one up on me!"

The first time Marin found herself challenging the Salamander, she was timid and fearful and an easy take down for the man. Most left disappointed, given Kai had called all their attention to it, and it was quite disheartening.

"You alright?" Natsu stood over her in concern that first day as Kai tried to head over, but Erza only held his arm, not allowing this. "Didn't go too hard on ya, did it?"

But Marin only blinked away her pain, shook her head, and excused herself back inside the guildhall, to hide out further embarrassment. She hoped she could figure a way to avoid the man for the rest of, oh, her life, but he was in the hall of course, later that day, looking over jobs with his wife.

They ate a meal first, before heading out, and Natsu only smiled at her when, the only one on duty and Kai nowhere around to save her, she had to bring their food over to them.

"Hey, Marin." She'd never heard the man say her name before, honestly, she didn't think, but he smiled warmly at her all the same. "When do you think you'll be ready, huh? To go again?"

"Leave her alone, Natsu." Happy frowned from around the fish head he was engulfing. "You big bully!"

"Hey, I'm no bully!"

"I dunno," Lucy hummed, in agreement, at least for the moment, with the feline. "Picking on a little girl-"

"Little? Ha! Marin wanted to fight." Natsu looked to her then, eyes alight. "Didn't you? And we'll do it again, whenever you're up for it."

She only shook her head though, the teen did. It wasn't as if she were in shock that day, to fall to the man. Of course that would happen. Of course. It would be her first real battle that wasn't just Erza during training. And against such a man? Loss was acceptable.

It was just…

Well…

She hadn't asked Natsu to fight her.

Erza had.

She asked for him to and Natsu did it because Erza was one of his closest friends and Marin just didn't want it to be that way. For people to have to do that. For Erza to guilt her very busy, powerful friends into playing pretend with her. That's what it was, wasn't it? She spent the whole winter training, harder than she ever had before, and what did she have to show for it?

It had taken years for….Haven to get to where she was. To become what she was. And Marin thought that she could ever get close? How? Huh? No. After her first battle, she was starting to doubt her ability to be more than an overly qualified meditation expert.

"We don't have to," she told the other slayer softly that day, bowing her head some. "I'm sorry I wasted your time. I'll ask Erza not to put you up to-"

"How'd you waste my time?" Natsu tossed up a flaming fist, nearly knocking Happy out in the process. As his Exceed only glared, the Salamander insisted, "That was the most fun I've had in a long time! And who cares what Erza says? If it was up to her, I wouldn't fight anyone."

That was true enough. Still, Marin was sure to say, "I just don't think I'm ready. You just hit me once and I-"

"That's a battle, Marin." He was focused in on his food then though she felt Lucy's sympathetic eyes stay on her. "You're not gonna get nay tougher, you know? If you don't push yourself."

She felt like going up against a man so much more powerful than her wasn't pushing herself at all; it was needlessly throwing yourself in front of a train to improve your endurance. There was only one thing that resulted in and, well, Marin wasn't looking for that outcome.

Still, when he returned from his job, Natsu came around asking about a rematch and she tried to warn him off, but the man insisted. So they battled it out again and, though the result was the same, both that time and all upcoming, she found his flames seared slightly less with each bout and it took slightly more to knock the wind completely out of her.

"It takes another Dragon Slayer," Erza remarked to her one day as they sat on the woman's back porch, watching Kai tend to his garden and it almost felt like another time, speaking with another student, but no, every word the swordswoman spoke reminded her this was not the case, "to sharpen a Dragon Slayer."

Marin found Wendy to be a far more forgiving route for this and, though she did train and battle with the older woman sometimes, with Natsu, it was so much different. Fierce and serious. She knew, each time it happened, where she'd end up, how much her agony she'd be putting her body through, just for a win less record against the man, but only needed to feel it there. Resting coolly against her chest. The gem that reminded her sister, every single day, of where she came from, how far she'd gotten.

For Marin, it just reminded her how far she had to go, how much ground she still had to cover, if she was every going to pick up where her sister left off.

So no matter how much it hurt, how many doubts sprouted their heads, how often she just felt like she was hopelessly chasing after nothing, Marin had to go on. Had to believe. Perceive.

She had to get stronger.

She just had to.

Regardless of how hot the sun bleated down on her that specific day, as she battled through her lunch break, Kai screamed his throat raw, and Erza watched in rapt silence, the sweat that formed on Marin's brow came far more from the heat of each fiery blast that enveloped her being and turned her magic to steam. And as she ran a hand over her own cheek, chest jumping as she pushed herself to go on. To continue.

But she wouldn't for much longer.

It would be a swift blast as he ran at her, striking her sorely in the abdomen, that did Marin in, and as she crumpled to the feet of the man, Natsu only held both hands up in the air in victory.

"Hey," he griped, as he always did, when only his sons seemed impressed with his victory. "I won fair and square! You can't boo me! I'm the winner!"

A sound observation, sure.

Getting the air back in her lungs, Marin rolled onto her stomach, first to blink up at the sky, and then at Kai's concerned face as he reached down to pull her quickly to her feet. Err, well, he was just reaching for her and then she got to her feet, really, but he felt as if he was being helpful, all the same.

"Are you alright?"

She could have asked the same for him as he seemed pained, just from speaking. He really did tear up his vocal cords each and every time, just for her benefit. The thought alone brought a grin back to her otherwise grim posture.

Marin nodded at Kai then, to give him some reassurance, and as the other teen just smiled, glad to hear this, she noted the thinning of the crowd and was thankful for the lack of anyone else of interest being around.

All her aunts and uncles were out on jobs and her parents, well…

It wasn't like they'd be pleased, if they were around to see it. Her mother, even, had asked her before not to get too carried away, when she heard about her bouts with the Salamander. And Marin would nod because she knew what her mother meant, but couldn't say.

And her father was livid, at first, when Marin began to take her fate as a slayer into her own hands, but the man was hardly around at all anymore.

There were benefits, she was finding out, to being the last Dreyar standing in Fairy Tail.

It wasn't her family that she should have been focused on though, in that moment, as she found out. Instead, while she was busy fighting, someone else had returned and, with the thinning of the crowd, he approached the pair of them then, Kai tensing just from the sight of him as Marin only frowned some.

"I have to go," Kai said as Locke came towards them, the younger man hugging her before he did so, reminding, "I have to meet Lance. We're going fishing. You could go, but-"

"I have," she sighed some as he breath returned to her fully, "work."

Always.

Kai left though, quickly, without saying anything to Locke. The older guy didn't even glance after him though as he stared curiously at Marin. He didn't smile though.

Locke didn't do that very often, in those days.

"You're really starting to hold your own," he offered all the same as Marin did smile though, easily. "But you need to work on your defense."

"Yeah, I- Locke-"

"Let me help you." He'd reached out then, with little thought, a magic circle spread beneath his finger tips, to deal with the burn she had on her cheek.

"It's okay," she insisted though, turning from him with her own bemused look. "It doesn't hurt."

His hand fell then, Locke's did, as he said simply, "Can't feel good though."

"Erza says you have to hurt. Feel it. All of it." And Marin could help it. Even though her body ached, she laughed, just a bit. "It's the only way you'll grow. And besides, Locke, you won't always be there to heal me, will you?"

"Guess not."

"Did you finish your job? I think I remember getting word from the town, but there's just been so much work, recently, I can't really keep up."

He nodded, but offered nothing else as far as conversation went. Just told her he'd be around, for a few days, if she decided she wanted him to look over any of her injuries, before slinking off for the hall. With him gone, Erza, finally, made her way over, arms still folded over her chest.

"I suppose," the woman began as the teen merely bowed her head, "you should be washing up, yes? And rushing back to work now?" When Marin nodded, Erza did smile, though only softly, as she said, "Come by the house tonight, for dinner, if you find the time. We will discuss things then."

Erza watched Marin scamper off to get this done quickly, as to get back to work, with something of a sigh on her lips. Kai was now long gone as well and, considering she had no intentions of leaving town nay time soon, the woman found herself taking a long walk back to her own home to relish in the momentary solitude she found there.

Months had passed since she was forced to send the oldest of her two boys away and yet she still felt a bit odd, taking no note of his presence as he moodily sat about, sulking, usually, in years passed, perhaps jut recuperating, in the one prior. The recollections felt as fresh as they did distant and when she didn't find herself tripping over the random assortment of things both boys seemed to collect, ranging from comics to action figures, she wasn't reminded of their age, but rather who filled the place of the one currently absent.

Marin did not live at the Scarlet household by technicality, but the already frequently over girl found herself there far more than home, and Erza welcomed the idea all the same. Marin kept house far better than either boy and, with Kai alone so often in those days, she couldn't begin to imagine what he did to the place.

Not to mention…

It softened the blow, quite a bit, that Ravan's absence presented. Though he was frequently gone on jobs before the whole debacle began, Erza could expect him home in a week or two. Three at most. It wasn't like he was the most personable or open person in the world, but there was something to it. The long silences he provided. When Kai was out with the Dreyars and it was just the two of them at home, she and Ravan, there was a certain...peace that would befall them both. She was certain he felt it too.

So much of the early years of their introduction had been a bit of an awkward dance between him first rejecting and then resenting the stability and guidance she brought to his life, but that was slowly dissolved into something more closely resembling gratitude before love.

Because Erza did love Ravan. And Kai. She never rightly felt the need to express this often and was sure the older, at least, was thankful for this, but an entire decade of her life had been given over to them both. Half of Ravan's and more than that for his younger brother.

It was a loss, for certain, him leaving. A sudden one, but one she'd expected, of course, eventually. Had her injury not accord, she was sure Ravan would have moved on, at least out of her home, by the point she was forced to send him away. It was becoming time, honestly.

He was a man.

But…

Had that been the scenario, it wouldn't have hurt so much. Leaving him, when he was at his most vulnerable, had been devastating to her as well, but also the lack of communication that they had currently did little to help dissway her uncertainty over this.

As far as she knew, he was as she left him, headed off with Jellal on whatever misadventures redemption and interest in Zeref brought them. There was always a chance, of course, that this was not the case and Ravan had taken off on his own, but she was not only certain that Jellal would have informed her by that point of such a development, but also that Ravan himself would have bene back in contact with her.

No.

He was safe with Jellal.

Well, as safe as the job description could supply.

But away from the scrutiny and shame that Magnolia would now offer him. There was nothing left for him in Fairy Tail. Regardless of his culpability or innocence in his friend's death, the Dreyars still ruled the guild. There was no way Laxus would ever forgive him for what had gone on. With the bad blood Ravan already held with so many others around, it was just for the best that he put Fairy Tail behind him.

Erza just wished, for the first time in her life, that she wasn't so entrenched in its enigma. The entity was a part of her, fully and wholly, and there would never be an escape from that. Separation from her was just as important for his future as from the guildhall.

So it helped. It helped a lot. Having Marin there, int hose days, around now more than to just shadow Kai, but to also take the place of student in Erza's eyes. Given their difference in magic, Erza knew eventually, perhaps even soon, Marin would out pace her and no long need such close tillage, but focusing on the inevitable had never been a strong suit for the swordswoman. It was much better to bask in the momentary than dread what loomed on the horizon.

There was nothing to bask in, however, in the Dreyar home in those days. While it had been splintering for years by that point, Haven's death had been the final nail in the marriage coffin for Laxus and Mirajane. His drinking had been at high levels for the majority of their oldest's teenage years, but he made no show of it being otherwise anymore. Guild work felt beneath him and even when he did manage to make it down to the hall, it was to stew in his office for hours or make everyone around him miserable out in the bar area.

It was not as if sympathy was lacking from those under his direct command. Freed sat around with him, most days, at the bar, and Bickslow and Evergreen seemed even more ready to do any of his bidding. Truly. Anything he asked for.

But it wasn't as if anyone could give him what he wanted. The only thing he would ask for. Even if he could ask for it, if they could bring it to him, if they could take him back in time, to stop his daughter from going out on her ill-fated job, or even just to get there in time, to stop what was destined to be…

It was always going to be the way it was. Not Haven's death, not necessarily, but he was just never going to get it right. Between him and his wife. Him and his guild. Him and life in general, honestly. Laxus had been miserable in his decisions from the beginning and even though there were moments, glimpses of happiness that kept him carrying on the straight and narrow, all the holes had been boarded up now; no light was going to get back through.

There was just nothing there anymore.

He'd gotten everything one could want and bemoaned it, so life had ripped it away from him, to show him what true misery was. You didn't get to sneer in the face of karma and complain that your share wasn't good enough; it was a surefire way to lose everything.

Mirajane wasn't much better off. Worse, even, if it was possible.

Laxus felt a loss in Haven because he was Haven, when he was young. So much of what she'd been going through were things that he'd either passed down to her or taught to her through sheer lack of true parental skills. Haven was everything he would have been, if he hadn't had Gramps around to eventually haul him back to center.

Mirajane, however, found none of herself in her daughter, not from the day she was born to the days she died. The recognition of this had always been present to the woman, it was hard for it not to be noticed, but it hurt so much more. When Haven was… Somewhere inside of her, Mira always thouhgt that it would eventually turn back around. The tides. That Haven would eventually step back from her aggression and power quests and, well, settle down some. It was then that she would need Mirajane. Need her mother. It wouldn't be any time soon, the woman knew, but it had to come eventually. And then…

But it didn't come.

There wasn't a chance for it too.

If Laxus wanted to go back and stop her from going on the gauntlet, to get to her before...before…then Mirajane wanted to go back much further. All the way if she could. Haven would have been so different, so completely different, if she didn't just immediately throw herself into the idea of having Marin. Because that's what Mirajane did. The second Laxus was back in their lives, safe and (somewhat) healthy, she started on the next baby in her bid to replicate her own childhood. And while that in itself wasn't the problem, the ideals that went along with this certain were the root. Mirajane was just never content. In anything. She always wanted more. If she had just been content and focused on her more, Haven, given her more attention, stopped just letting Laxus insist that he had it, he would deal with it, that Mirajane didn't understand their daughter, but he did, oh, man, he did, and it was probably right.

Laxus was right.

He did understand Haven.

But that didn't mean he could help her.

Mirajane felt as if, were she given a second chance, she would be able to. Drop her off at any point in the timeline and she would have been able to stop the steady progression that Haven took in her descent. Instead of getting frustrated or dismissive towards Haven's typical mood shifts and frequent outburst, she would try talking to her. Actually talking to her.

That's all she really wanted, truthfully, then, in those days, as she ghosted about and hardly seemed to care about much. To talk to Haven. It didn't matter at one point. If it had to be literally that last day, in the house, then she would take it. She would have insisted on it. Instead of letting it slip through her fingers. That lunch.

That time.

To be alone.

Just the two of them.

She'd never been alone with Haven in that way. Not really. There was that once, when Haven was nearing twelve or thirteen, when they went out to dinner together, just the two of them and had a talk but Haven gagged out on that and it wasn't at all what Mira meant now. No. She wanted a real conversation, and honest conversation.

Not just her talking at her daughter either. She felt like they'd done a lot of that over the years, but it had never worked. It never would. Haven felt disconnected from the guildhall. Her family. Mirajane always thought if she just gave her space, if she gave her time, eventually she'd realize this wasn't true, but now…

If she had just listened, just once, and accepted and spoke openly, with Haven, about all the different things she was feeling and thinking and experiencing then….

Maybe it wouldn't make any difference. At all. If they'd gone to lunch that day. If Mira listened that day. Maybe Haven still would have gone off with him, Ravan, and marched to her death the same she had every other second of every other day prior, but there was just that ounce, that little ounce of Mirajane that had to believe…

"What are you doing?"

This question was posed by her other daughter, Marin, as she stood in the doorway of her bedroom. Her mother was in there, rather than her own, which wouldn't have bothered the girl too much, honestly, but Mira was doing far more than just sitting around. Or even snooping. No. Either of those would have been perfectly okay.

Rather, her mother had taken it upon herself to pull out all the boxes from beneath the extra bed in the room. At one time, it belonged to Haven and, after she ran away, Kai frequently used it as well, but in recent months, it went unused, housing only a few of Haven's things that they'd recovered from her bag. Letters and clothes. Just sitting there. No one wanted to throw them away, nor the stuff that laid beneath the bed, and it bothered Marin, at first, sleeping in a bed across from it, but the feeling went away as time went on.

She found this to be true about most things.

Her parents were wallowing, to put it lightly, in their grief, and Marin didn't know what to do for them other than to continue on the best she could. There was no option for her, to just lay over and die along with her sister, and if that was the only one they found for themselves, there was little she could do to save them from it.

Still, a sick feeling crept up in her stomach that early evening as she stood in the doorway of the room, seeing her mother there, surrounded by all the things she'd pulled out from the boxes. Every single box. There were toys and stuffed animals ranging all the way up to comics and other trinkets Haven at one time needed, but left behind, when she started her new life. Over the three years her sister did this, Marin had slowly filled the boxes and shoved them, one by one, under the bed, to await the possible return of the girl.

But Haven returned a woman and only briefly before disappearing again, for good.

No one had ever opened the boxes, taken anything from them, or even thought about them, Marin thought, other than her on the nights when she slept in her own bed again and had to face the wall, to avoid looking at the empty void that was still unfilled in her life.

Because she did still miss her sister.

She didn't talk about her. Didn't cry over her. Didn't spend her days numbly going through the motions in a hopeless form, praying for an end.

No.

It caught her at moments, when she'd be tending baring and would catch a glimpse of it. Her sister's necklace, danging now, from her own neck. Or late at night, when she'd be walking home from the guild, usually with Kai, and they'd lapse into silence and they'd pass that corner the kids raced down so often in their youth, all together, but with her sister always ahead of her, always, leaving her behind. She'd see blonde hair in a glimpse at the market and her heart would catch and she'd think that…

It always hurt worst, not the thoughts, but the realization that they were just that now and always would be.

Marin wasn't given the option to dwell though. Not repress either. Haven was more a part of her now, internally, than she'd ever been at any other point. She felt closer to her big sister in death than she ever had in life. They shared a commonality more than just a namesake and every single time she bled, ever time tears welled in her eyes, she thought of just how much of each Haven had given through the years, to get as far as she did.

And how much more Marin would have to give to surpass it.

But her parents couldn't surpass and couldn't move forwards and it was different for them, Marin knew. Of course she knew. A daughter was different than a sister and the loss of one had nearly killed her mother, she knew, decades prior. It was going to take much longer for them to...not get over it. Because Marin wasn't over it. But to come to terms with it. Accept what had happened to Haven for what it was.

Move on.

They were both trapped for the time being and Marin was willing to accept that, but that day, as she left the guildhall and planned to just stop off at home for a bit, before heading over to speak with Erza, it was just too much.

She was too much.

Her mother.

After dragging all the boxes out and dumping them all about, Mirajane had begun looking at things, flipping through notebooks and random photographs that had been stored away too and it had just come to her suddenly. To Mirajane. She was going to go down to the hall that day, at least to see some people, but something drew her to that room, to Haven's things, and as she spread them all about the room, it just felt like…

"I was just," Mira sighed some and hardly even seemed to see her there, Marin, standing before her, "looking."

"For something?" Carefully, Marin stepped closer into the room. "Because you could have asked me to get it for you. I-"

"Just at everything, Marin."

"Yeah, but, why?"

Mira had no answer and this was more annoying, for some reason, to her youngest than anything else. The idea that her mother had touched Haven's things, drug Haven's things out, thrown them all about the room just because the idea came to her, out of nowhere, was so aggravating.

There was a time when Marin didn't feel these things. Anger. The seething, boiling type of emotions that just slithered into your bloodstream and clouded your thoughts, but something in the recent months had drawn it out more and more.

It felt like a violation, honestly, in some ways. Not because Marin felt possessive over the boxes nor their contents. Rather, Mirajane had once more thrown Haven's things all over the room they once shared, together, and drug up all these memories and feelings and…

Remembering Haven was fine, in small bursts. In little moments. But this was dragging out all these unnecessary notions and Haven had always overshadowed her.

Always.

Haven was stronger, faster, louder, and just over all had more of a presence that Marin ever had. Marin was reminded by her sister every day growing up that the room had been hers first and Haven was being kind, letting her stay in it. The lacrima had been hers first and it was only because Haven took pity on her that she allowed it to be placed inside of her. It was her guildhall, Locke and Navi were her friends, Mom and Dad belonged to her, their aunts and uncles became that through her, not Marin, and most importantly, Haven herself was just overall more important. Than Marin.

She could see her sister's face, snide and sneering, hear her sister's voice, loud and filled with this...kinetic rage that could never be quenched. Haven had an unmatched personality. Maybe it wasn't a good one, maybe she was a bad person for it, but you knew it, just from spending seconds with her. Immediately.

It zapped everything out of her younger sister, however.

To overcome her sister, Marin would have had to come out of the womb being just as vivacious and vicious, but instead she was sickly and weak. Haven capitalized on this easily and she didn't hate her sister for this. Didn't fault her for it. At all. Sometimes, when she was younger, she'd cry without provocation, just from the thought of Haven coming home, later, to torment her or taunt her, and Marin was so weak back then.

She probably would have been, with or without Haven.

Now, in the current age, she knew that she needed that. Every ounce of that. She had to weep in those days, get it all out, feel at her lowest, so she could stand as tall as she did currently. Haven in no way intended to aid her sister, in those early days, but Marin realized she had.

It didn't mean she didn't regret it. That her sister was missing...whatever she was missing or had whatever it was that she had that caused her to be so…

But you couldn't dwell.

If you did, you wound up like her parents.

Not to mention, the room had been Marin's and solely Marin's for so long before Haven's death. Even before she left Fairy Tail, Haven wasn't home much, if at all. From fourteen on, she seemed to either be on jobs or sleeping at the clubhouse, out in the woods. Then, when she started dating Locke, no one ever saw her at home, as it was a rather easy jump to just start staying over with him.

So it had been much, much longer since that bed belonged to her sister, since that room belonged to her sister, and Marin really just wished her mother hadn't reminded her that it ever had.

"I think," Marin whispered as the anger first swelled and then swayed, slowly away, when her mother raised her eyes, from down there on the floor, to meet her daughter's similar ones, "that it's time for me to… I don't wanna be here, in this house, anymore. I'm sorry. I...wanna move out."

It wasn't as if it was the first time she thought about it. She was old enough now, for the most part, and had a steady stream of income. More so, even, than any of the others. Marin had few expenses and saved much better than Kai and the others. It would be easy for her to afford. Just a little apartment. In town. It didn't have to be anywhere nice.

Just…

Not where she was currently.

Mirajane looked confused though, at her words, and Marin only shook her head some, when her mother asked if she was being serious.

"Where?" Mira asked, just that word, no more, but Marin knew it was meant more as an accusation.

She wanted to know if she was trying to officially leave for the Scarlet house.

But again, Marin only shook her head as she whispered, "Just alone. An apartment."

"You can't do that, Marin."

"Why?"

Well...Mirajane didn't have an answer, but she knew Laxus would. She called out for him then, his name, but Marin shrugged some at her mother.

"He's not here," Marin told her flatly and Mira looked so hurt and Marin wanted to feel bad for her, but the residuals from it, the anger, were still there.

It wasn't her room. Marin's. It never was. They weren't her parents, they weren't her friends, they weren't her family, and she just didn't belong.

Erza and Kai were in something of a disagreement themselves when Marin arrived for dinner that night. He'd brought a bunch of stinky fish over to be cleaned, by the swordswoman, who argued that he was more than old enough to clean what he caught, but then Kai complained that if he was the one who caught it, he shouldn't have to clean it.

"Like how if you cook something, the other person has to clean up," he reasoned.

"I would love, Kai, if that was how things worked around here."

"We could start," he offered Erza with a grin. "If you clean my fish."

They shelved the argument though, when it was clear that Marin had something more pressing to discuss. It was rather obvious. She had nothing close to a poker face and looked rather stricken, almost, as she arrived at their door.

"Are you hurt?" Kai asked immediately, thinking of her match earlier in the day, but Marin merely shook her head as the pair joined Erza into the kitchen. To them both, she took a deep breath before speaking.

"I want to move out," she told them simply. "Into my own apartment."

Kai frowned some, at first, but Erza merely took to immediately beaming at the idea, eyes alight.

"Yes," she said before Marin could go on to explain her mother's hesitance, if not downright insistence that this was a bad idea. "A solid idea. I will provide you with any assistance you need. When would you like to begin looking?"

"Well, I don't really know anything about-"

"Neither," Erza told her, "do I. I've only ever stayed here and the dormitories. However, we all must learn some day, yes? Cannot be too hard. We will find you a suitable-"

"Marin, are you sure?" Kai still didn't grin as Marin nodded her head. "I mean, why though? What's wrong with living here?"

"I don't live here, Kai," she reminded softly and, oh, yeah, she didn't.

"But you'll still stay over a lot, right?" He seemed rather worried. "You know...to be with Erza?"

"Be with me where?" The swordswoman did not enjoy the implications. "You are no better than your brother was. I have been taking jobs again for months. I have no need for-"

"I'll still come over, Kai. I'm not moving to somewhere far away or anything. Still Magnolia."

"But… What if I wanted to leave? Huh? And move? Then who would stay here with Erza?"

"I have already said-" the swordswoman tried again, but Marin cut her off (unintentionally, of course).

"You've been thinking about it too?" Marin reached out then, to touch his arm, and she was grinning happily at the idea. "Moving out?"

Sort of. Not exactly. But he choked on his words because Marin seemed so pleased that they could have reached a similar thought, both at the same time.

As she hugged him and questioned, "Then do you think that you would wanna….move out together?", Kai could only stare over her shoulder, at where Erza stood, looking right back at him. There wasn't a concern in her eyes, over the idea of it. Him leaving home.

He knew there would be. Or he hoped, anyways. That she would be bothered by this. At least a little. But no, as Erza raised an eyebrow at him, he knew she could see it plain as day on his face.

Kai was just as piss poor at masking his emotions.

She knew that there was something else. And there was. Something he'd been. working up the courage to bring up to the two women for only a few weeks by that point, but it felt heavy on his heart. It came about when he was hanging around Lance, fishing, like always, and the other guy wasn't as into it, but he could pretend, for Kai's sake.

Most people pretended things, for Kai's sake.

And he got to talking again, Lance did, about the fishing guild that his uncle was in. It was halfway across Fiore and Lance wanted to be there. Not necessarily there, where the guild was, but halfway across Fiore and they'd laugh sometimes about how they'd run away, to it, and start their new lives there and recently Kai just…

"I always wanted to be a fisherman," he could recall himself saying so often in his life. Because it was true. It was his one dream. His only dream. All he ever wanted. They had boats with nets and it was serious shit, Lance would say and laugh, when he said it, remarking to Kai wouldn't be able to keep up, but oh, man, would he. It was in his blood. It was what he was born to do. Before he came to Magnolia.

Before he met Erza and Marin.

There was a pit in his stomach, as there always was when he was faced with the impossible, and as Marin hugged him tighter, when he agreed that, yeah, they could finally find a place together, and they could be adults now. Roommates with jobs and a dog, Marin reminded, because she'd always wanted a dog, and this was what they'd always wanted. Because that had been a dream too, at one time. The two of them, living it up, all on their own.

But was it still?

Dreams die. Sometimes. Replaced. Reworked and remodeled and changed. Into something different. Morphed.

But there was no way, no avenue, no reasoning Kai could ever find, no persuading or way he could ever see it. Not outside of chuckles and whispers with his boyfriend. Leaving them behind. Marin and Erza.

Especially now.

No.

Never.

He couldn't leave the two of them, ever, at all, because they needed him and he needed them and that was just how things had to be.

"Yeah," he told Marin and he hugged her back, just as tightly, as Erza still studied him from afar. "Let's do it."

Chapter Text

"Guess you're kinda lucky, Marin," Elfman bragged as he stood around the Dreyar house that day, sweating a bit from his long journey back and forth from the place to the teen's new home. "Having such a strong man for an uncle and all, to help you move."

"Yeah," Bickslow whistled from the muscular man's side. "I guess she is."

Just over a week had passed and, through the sheer determination of Erza Scarlet, Marin found herself not chickening out on the idea of moving away from home and instead now with a lease and Kai as a roommate.

She wasn't too sure which should be more concerning.

Still, whatever happened in the coming months would be nothing, she was certain, compared to what was looming around her departure from her childhood home. Her father was gone, the day she packed up her things, and her mother just sat with Lisanna, mostly, in the kitchen. She wasn't weepy or anything. Just clearly displeased and not even putting on a happy face for her daughter's sake.

Not that day.

It was weird, but Marin had never considered it before. Leaving. And she was hardly doing that, really. Just was renting an apartment in the heart of the town. It was closer to the guildhall, even, so was she really leaving? At all? No.

And…

It wasn't like home was going anywhere.

But she was. Then. She almost felt like she was in a fugue state, the days leading up to it, because she really saw herself as living nowhere other than her current home and to have a place, away from her parents, all on her own (with Kai) kind of felt...too adult? Was that a thing? Her sister had craved freedom for literal years before she left home, a year younger, even, than Marin was currently, but this desire for liberation was so new and kind of...exciting? Maybe? Even that emotion was something she was only just coming to terms with. Her magic and rapid exploration of it was bringing new desires in her heart and, well, leaving home was apparently one of them.

This didn't mean that she didn't have some hesitation and fear over the unknown. Had Erza not been forcing her to carry on, she might have given in to her mother's pleas for her to reconsider and give it some more time. What was the rush?

Them. Her parents. They were the rush. Their mourning was slowly working to undermine her progress. And Marin didn't want to be derailed. It was important to her, garnishing power. She wasn't quite what for, considering she still had very few dreams of doing anything more than what she did currently; tend to the bar and care for it's patrons.

"It serves well, anyways," Evergreen sighed to her once as her aunt and uncle sat around the bar, watching her close. Elfman was feeling rather lowly that day, after spending the majority of it with the teen's mother, and seemed to be trying it out; swapping Marin for Mirajane. So far, the girl just didn't bring the same joy his sister would, back in her early post-sister death bar tending days. Evergreen just sat by, a finger dipped in the wine glass she had, swirling it gently. "Having someone always around, ready to throw down. If need be."

"When's the last time that needed to be?" Elfman snorted, but still, to his niece, was sure to nod. "If someone has to be though, you're just the man to do it, Marin!"

"She's a young lady," his girlfriend corrected rather harshly with a glare before, to Marin offering something of a nod. "But that's just as important. If not more."

It was easy enough to get her uncle to help her move out. He was pumped up about it, even. The only Strauss who seemed to feel that way.

"With Kai?" That was Lisanna's main hangup, the day following Marin revelation to her mother, who her aunt arrived to deal with the fallout fresh from her job. She'd come in bright and early, to help her niece open that morning, and was glad the other teen in question wasn't around, so that she could speak openly. "Are you sure?"

It was just the two of them in that early hour and Marin was diligently wiping down tables and Lisanna absently cleaned up around the bar.

"We always wanted to live together," Marin told her with a sharp nod. Lisanna only sighed though, at it.

"What does your mother thing about it? I really don't think now's a good time, you know, for you to be leaving. She and Laxus-"

"It's good for me," Marin pointed out and she was rare to do that, to voice her own opinion, especially if it went against one of the adults in her life. She was still navigating it though, her own fledgling adulthood, and felt like she should at least be able to participate now, in conversations. If they had a direct tie in with her.

Maybe.

When her aunt didn't rebuke her that morning, she decided definitely.

"But Kai?" Lisanna usually didn't mind the boy much. HE'd made a fine playmate for Marin, when she was young, and now mostly seemed to exist to pump her niece up. Also fine. But… "He's kind of a flake."

"Ah, but Lissy," Marin's other uncle, Bickslow, would argue that evening when he came around for dinner and, with Kai not around, again, Lisanna launched into this 'discussion' with her niece as they sat around to eat on their break. Bickslow was there, with his dolls, drinking and waiting around to see if Ajax, their son, arrived home from his job. Still, he was glad to be around to stick up for his niece. "I moved out of the dormitories into an apartment with my best friend. When I was a little younger than you, even, Marin. It worked out great!"

"I had," Freed complained from a nearby table, "to kick you out. For failure to pay your share of the rent."

"But before that," Bickslow insisted as his wife only sighed, his jokes long having grown old on her, "it was going great."

"I just think," Lisanna cautioned simply, "that too much change right now isn't a good thing. Everything's just...getting back to normal, Marin. You don't want to rock the boat too mcuh, you know?"

No. She didn't. Because things weren't getting back to normal. Her mother had fallen heavily back into the church, her father hadn't been himself in, honestly, years, and the rest of them, they were different too. Her aunts and uncles. Everything still felt subdued and there wasn't anymore gatherings, of all of them, in those days, and no one even spoke about Ajax and his sudden quest to take a constant stream of jobs or train and someone should do something.

For him.

Marin wanted to do something for him.

To explain it to him, that it didn't matter. How strong he got. How much power he amassed. It wasn't going to bring Haven back.

Nothing was going to bring Haven back.

There was no avenging or revenge to be had; she was just gone and they had to accept that.

But ti would sound hollow, Marin knew, coming from her. When she was attempting to do the same things, was she not? She was filling the void of her sister's death with training and her endgame might not be the same as the young boy's, but whatever it was, it certain stemmed solely in vengeance of some kind.

"Your cousin would be here, you know, if he wasn't so busy," was the best Bickslow offered up that morning, when he and Elfman arrived eerily close in time, just to argue and berate the other over who'd gotten there first. "That kid, heh, more driven than I ever was. And he doesn't even have a super bitch chick to busy him to be."

"I," Evergreen complained as she only took her place on the couch, not lifting a finger to offer any assistance, "can hear you."

Bickslow knew.

He always knew.

Why else would he say it?

Kai didn't have a whole horde of family though, to help him pack of his things. He had his boyfriend, for most of the day, but then he had to head out to work at his father's shop in the market and then it was just Kai and Erza, packing up his final things before she assisted him in carrying them down to the new apartment.

She'd been oddly quiet, the majority of the day, if not the passing week, as they moved closer to this point, and Kai wasn't sure why, exactly. She seemed to know, without him saying, that this was bothering him, that he didn't want this, not fully, but she'd yet to press him on it.

Or stop him.

Part of him wished she'd stop him.

Tell him to stay.

He'd probably still go, move in with Marin, but he'd use her words as a way to force himself to stop thinking about it. Leaving Magnolia. Home.

The real home.

Not just the physical definition of one.

It was easier for Erza though, he knew, to hide her emotions. She was so stoic and strong and she was never going to tell him that, was she? Even if he dropped on her, as they stood there in his bedroom, divvying up his things from Ravan's, that he wanted to move countries even, go to Veronica and join a circus, she'd only wish him well.

Erza always seemed kind of disappointed in him, Kai felt (when she wasn't outright letting this be known) and found him to be lacking in the department of courage. He figured she saw him and Marin moving out good in multiple ways. It got Marin, who was her knew point of pride, on another step towards becoming...whatever it was Erza was pushing her towards, while it also made him something more of a man now. Living on his own.

"I will not," Erza told him, eventually, as they neared the end of sorting through the room for anything and everything he might wish to bring (it wasn't like he wouldn't be back by later, anyways; she still had to cook him supper), "be helping you, you know. The two of you. With rent and things. You must learn to be self-sufficient now."

"Yeah, I know, I- But wait, what about supper?"

"Kai-"

"You said you were making-"

"You can still eat here, fine, yes." Erza huffed some, she did, down at the movie lacrima that was definitely Ravan's purchased with his own jewels, but she packed in Kai's things regardless, "It will be...good for you. Both of you. To be on your own. Even if it is not fully. I wish for you and Marin to at least give this a try, yes? There will be things that you will find difficult, about living with one another. That will make you wish to flee. But-"

"What do you mean? Marin and I always stay together. We-"

"But this is as adults, Kai. With your own place. You will see."

He doubted it, but he doubted most of Erza's warnings and wisdom.

"But," she went on, with something of pride, maybe, in her tone as she grinned over at him, "you will never feel better than you shall tonight. When you and Marin are both there, in your own rooms, away from your parents and free to do as you please."

"After we eat supper over here though, right?"

"Kai-"

"Right?"

"If you do not stop mentioning it, no."

So he shut up about it for awhile.

"What will you do with our room now?" he asked the woman then and Erza, with her hands on her hips, just took a step back from where they were filling the final box, to look about at, well, actually the mess that had been made, dividing the things up, but she'd right that after she got the kids settled- Adults. The two grown adults settled. "Will you get rid of our bunk bed?"

"I did not do much with it before you moved in," she offered with a shrug. "It will be fine as it is. For now."

"We could still sleep in it. Me or Marin. IF you needed. Some nights."

"I do not need-"

"But if you did, Erza."

Sighing, her hands fell and she reached over to pat him on the head. It was different now, as he met her height, and Erza hoped he'd never exceed it.

"I always knew this day would come," she told him then, softly, as Kai looked about it too, his bedroom, for so many years. "That the both of you… The path we have taken to it has not been the most conventional, but nothing the two of you ever have done has been conventional, I suppose. Not even staying with me. But look at you now, both repectable young men. I...I'm pleased, Kai, with this. And I hope that you are as well. I can see the hesitance, in your face. I've seen it the entire time. But I assure you, you are making the right decision in-"

"I thought I wanted to move away and go join a fishing guild, with Lance, but then Marin wanted me to move in with her, and I'm doing that instead, and he's kind of mad at me about it, but it's dumb, anyways, moving away, because you and Marin are here and he should just go alone, because he can't ask me to leave you guys behind, especially when you just lost Ravan and Haven, and Marin's my sister and I should do what she wanted, instead of him, right, Erza?"

It was a bit deflating, to say the least, but as Erza slowly cleared off a space on the bottom bunk, she was sure not to hit her head as she made one for Kai as well.

"Sit," she told him simply and, after expelling the pit in his stomach, his knees felt weak anyways.

For a long few moments, Erza said nothing and Kai kept glancing at her, waiting for it. The right answer. To what he said.

Instead of getting it, first, he got peppered with a few questions.

"Do you want to go? Kai? To join- What is it?"

"A fishing guild."

"Where?"

"On the opposite coast. Lance has an uncle who's in it and he wrote him and he said I can join up. If I want."

"Do you want? To do that, I mean?"

"I don't know."

"Did you want to move in with Marin?"

"I don't know."

"Do you even want either of those things?"

"One of them. Maybe."

"Kai-"

"I just...I don't wanna leave, but I don't want to be here either, and Marin got so happy. She is happy, still. To be living together. We always wanted to do that. But...Lance wants to move and leave and that would be cool too. But not without you and Marin."

"Extract me from the equation."

He shot her a glare then. "Erza-"

"I'm not being mean," she explained, gently, as she returned his gaze with a simple shrug. "I am merely helping you. Extract me."

"Like you wouldn't miss me? At all?" He still glared. "If I just move away? Far away?"

"I will miss you now. Even with you only moving up the road. And being here, apparently, for dinner every night."

Her words made him deflate some as his eyes fell again. "But you're so happy about it. Me and Marin-"

"Because it is the natural order of things. Much the same with your brother. Everyone leaves, Kai, eventually. Children. From home." Her tone was softer then and Erza's elbow bumped his, just to bring his eyes back to hers as she told him, "But that odes not mean that we cannot be sad over it. The progression of time. Things were quite different, not even five years ago, for the three of us. Your brother, you, and I, on a summer night. And five years prior to that. And five before that, I did not even know the two of you. I can grieve for each of those periods while still being excited for the fresh one. If you were to move...far away, unimaginably far, so long as you were happy, doing as you wished, then I do not see how I could ever be displeased. I would miss you and would wish for you to write to me, as much as you could, and I would visit you, occasionally, but… You must think for yourself now, Kai. And of yourself. It's part of growing up. Do not stay miserable for my sake. I do not expect you to and would hope you do not expect it of me either."

His eyes fell again and that time, his shoulders did too, as he said, "I don't want ot leave Marin though. Ever. I just… I wish she would come with me." When Erza didn't say anything, he smiled, from the thought. "She should. If she wanted. We could live together anywhere."

"I think you are forgetting about someone else though, Kai."

At that, he only nodded as he said, "I forget a lot of things."

"There are other people for you to speak with. Besides me." She stood once more, the swordswoman did, before adding, "And you are also locked into rent for at least six months."

"What?"

"You signed a document. What did you think you were signing?"

"I don't know, but not that!"

"Kai-"

"Six months is so long! What if I want to live with you again by then?"

But she gave him a look for that and he returned it with a smile and, on their walk over to his new place, he didn't feel as badly as he once did. Still filled with a lot of indecision and worry, but Erza's words had assured him of one thing.

No matter what he did, she'd always have his back.

As if he needed more confirmation on that.

It was a bit uncomfortable though, the meeting of the minds that took place in the new apartment. Less than a year had passed since the Dreyars and their brood had forced Erza to oust her oldest from the guildhall while, from their perspective, he'd had a heavy hand in the death of theirs. Kai too wasn't exactly so sold on all of them, as he was in his youth. Not even with Mirajane, who he'd once held in such high esteem. Elfman either.

Still, if people put on for him, then they did for Marin as well, in some regard.

"I could never," Evergreen remarked though as she didn't sit on the couch here, but rather stood nearby it, with a displeased look, "stay in a furnished apartment."

"Being a minimalist are ya, now?" Bickslow snickered. "You and Elfman sleeping on the floor?"

"Pre-furnished," she corrected as she eyed the couch heavily. "You have no idea what the people who lived here before you did. Or the ones before that. Or imagine, even, if it's old enough to be from the ones before that? Or that? Honestly, Marin, you should have taken me with you. I would have found you a much better place than this."

"I think," Erza remarked with a glare not at the furniture, but at the other woman, "it's fine."

Besides, taking Erza had been a huge perk to the two teens. No one's name carried more weight in the town of Magnolia than hers. Gildarts, perhaps, but with his extended absence of nearly a decade, Erza's had taken some more importance. Over Master Laxus, even.

"Everyone," Mirajane sighed from all the way in Marin's room where she was unpacking a box, "starts somewhere."

And Marin and Kai were starting there, together.

They weren't unpacked completely, not by a long shot, but enough for the day when everyone took off. Elfman offered to take the two teens out for dinner, everyone, even, but after a day together, most everyone was burnt out on the idea. Bickslow and Ever were dangerously close to coming to blows and Kai really did want to have dinner at Erza's that night (much to the swordswoman's slight annoyance).

Eventually, the place cleared out and it was just the two of them, finally, Marin and Kai, both sitting on the couch her aunt refused to, in their tiny apartment, but big enough. For the two of them.

"Do you think," Kai asked softly, in the stillness for the moment, "that a signature is still binding? If you don't put your legal name on it? Or do I even have a legal name? 'cause, I don't think down in Shadesbay, no one's sending any official, binding document of birth nowhere, you know? So many I don't even legally exist and then-"

"What are you talking about?" Marin asked with something of a laugh, but Kai just sighed, down to his palms before grinning back at her.

"Nothing," he said with an easy smile and eventually, he'd have to bring it up. Broach it. With her. What he'd spoken about to Erza.

But…

Maybe not that day.

Or the next.

They should enjoy it, for a bit, their new start. The fishing guild would still be there in a month or two, right?

Or six…

"I wish Ravan was here," he whispered to Marin that night after a trip to Erza's. They sat together then, now on her bed, and Marin had to go to sleep soon, to be back up at the bar for the morning shift, but Kai was kind of...well...scared, maybe, to go all the way across the apartment, to his bedroom, and Marin wasn't making a big deal of it, anyways, him sitting by as she drifted off. "Why can't he at least get in contact? On the lacrima? Or write us a letter or-"

"Maybe it's easier." She had her eyes shut and was more at peace, clearly, than he was. "Like you told Haven. That once. Do you remember? In Crocus that time? It's easier sometimes, not to look back. To still talk to people from where you left. Ravan's hurting too, Kai."

But he only shook his head, not looking at her then as he said, "I wish she was here too."

"Kai," she sighed, but it didn't sound so harsh, coming from Marin. "You should be happy. Right now. I am. I'm excited. Tomorrow, after I get off, let's go to the market. And we can get something nice to cook. And unpack. And...you should invite Lance over. Soon. And when Ajax gets back, I bet he'll be excited to spend the night. I mean...if you're okay with that. We have to do that now, you know? Ask one another that. If we're okay with things."

"I'm okay with it," he whispered softly and she smiled, in the darkness.

"And I'm okay with anyone you want to have over. See? Don't you feel more grown up?"

But he didn't feel grown up, not really, as he found himself sleeping in her bed that night, rather then in his. It would just feel too real, to fall asleep all alone.

It wasn't as if Marin didn't feel it either. Something being off. But hers wasn't rooted in the fear of change. Not anymore. No, Marin's misplaced feelings lied in the man she found the next morning, when she opened up, passed out in his office from the night before.

"Dad,"Marin sighed a bit as she returned, after first finding him in there, not snoozing with his head on his desk, but rather on the floor, back pressed up against one of the sides of the desk, liquor bottles about. One more of the downsides of Laxus' spiral was the major toll he was taking on alcohol sales. "Are you okay?"

He only grunted, hardly peeking his eyes open as she got down there with him, on the floor. Weakly, he pushed at her some, when she moved to run a cool cloth over his face, but Marin was insistent.

"Wha're ya doin'? Huh? Go open."

But she wouldn't.

"You should go home," his daughter told him softly as Laxus only blinked at her, eyelids drooping. "Or somewhere. Other than here."

"My office."

"I know, but-"

"You're too good, you know that?" And Laxus eyes opened then, as he moved to grab the rag from her and rub it over his own face. As Marin only sat at his side, the man took in a few deep breaths, as if re-familiarizing himself with the action. Into the cloth, he added, "You're not a fucking Dreyar. You know that?"

"You need to go home and-"

"You're not like us, Marin." He ran it across his face one last time, the rag, before giving it back to her. His head felt full and his stomach was sour, but he managed to get to his feet on the first time though all he wanted was to sit right back down and have his first drink. "Didn't trust your mother so much, wouldn't think you were mine. Not my daughter. Don't know what you are, but you're not a Dreyar."

She frowned at him, as he only made it so far as to fall into his desk chair, but didn't argue back. She wasn't even sure if what he was saying was meant to draw offense. It didn't, anyways, not truly. This idea of what it meant, to be a Dreyar, that both her father currently spouted and her sister had, prior to her death, never seemed real to Marin. Or at least it didn't affect her. They both acted like the name was a curse and brought about all these evil thoughts and harbored some sort of darkness from within, but never once had she felt anything close to that.

Not once.

There was some worry, maybe just a bit, in the girl, when she started training so seriously, that it would appear, that drive, that focus, that destroy everything for your goal, but…

Marin had to wonder if her sister and Laxus just had something else wrong with them. Between the two of them. Unrelated to their blood. They just attributed it to it. Maybe it wasn't even mental, just...lack of discipline or, like most people spent Haven's life diagnosing it as, a greed. Rotten and selfishness overrun. Spoiled.

Or…

Maybe she wasn't a Dreyar.

Whatever it took to be one, she just didn't have it. She didn't want it. It sounded terrible, anyways.

"You need to eat." Shoving up herself then, she told the man simply, "I'll be in with your breakfast soon. If you're going to stay."

Laxus watched her leave in silence though, only moving to lay his head down on the desk once she was gone. The day felt bleak and gross, even though it had only just begun. Or was he the one that was bleak and gross now?

He felt like he was drifting, through the pain in his head, and lost track of time. It felt like it had been a significant chunk, at least, when his office door opened and a pate of food was sat before him.

But it wasn't by his daughter.

"Wha're you doin' here?" he muttered as he hardly lifted his eyes to stare at his wife. "Mira?"

"What are you?"

"Working."

"Same."

He would have smiled, did he hold the capability any longer, but then, she might have returned the same, if she held the same.

"You could have at least come. To see her apartment." Mirajane fell into the seat on the other side of his desk, but didn't look at the man. He would know if she did. He could always feel her eyes. "Laxus."

Snorting, he asked, "Your dad wouldda come? At seventeen? You moving in with some man?"

"If he definitely was gay and not interest in sleeping with me? Probably."

"Not about that."

"Then what is it about? Laxus?"

That time it wasn't a snort, but he did breath heavily, through his nose, and they both fell silent.

"You should have forbade her to go."

"What do you want from me? Huh?" Laxus still didn't raise his head. "To go or to stop her from going?"

"The second. When you didn't, the first."

She was talking in too many circles for him.

"Too old for this shit," he grumbled, but just about the world at large, and he felt it in his chest. That cough building up. It'd come back recently, in force, the one that had downed him for a year, nearly two decades ago, stronger than before. "Feel horrible."

"You feel horrible because you drank the entire night."

Hardly, he felt. His body should be long adjusted to such rough treatment as that.

"It's horrible. Now." Mirajane sounded so low then and, finally, he raised his head up some, to cough into his fist, but also to glance over at his wife. "At home. You're never there and now she won't be again and I just keep...thinking about…"

He coughed then, deeper before clearing his throat and looking at her fully. "I'll come home."

"I don't want you to."

This hung between them for a moment before Laxus' head fell back down to the desk and Mirajane stood, coming to shove the plate closer to him.

"You have to eat. Laxus." When he didn't respond, she added, "Marin will be upset if you don't."

It turned his stomach more, but when his daughter came around to collect the plate, she was pleased to find half the meal gone.

There was something wonderful about it though, that afternoon, walking around the market with Kai, to pick up stuff for their apartment. Their home. Their. Even he had to admit it was kind of exhilarating. The idea of it.

"What should I do with my fish?" he asked Marin that night as she made dinner and he continued to finish unpacking.

"Did you...bring fish? Here? When did you go-"

"I mean when I get them." He was walking passed the kitchen then, carrying something into her bedroom. She was mostly glad to find out it wasn't gross fish. "Erza would make me put them in a cooler, on the porch, until they were cleaned. But we don't have a porch. Or a cooler. She said I couldn't have it. I dunno what Erza is gonna do with it, but- Well, I guess I don't know what I'm going to do with it either."

"Take them to me up at the guild," Marin sighed some. "Or...back to Erza's, I guess. Do you think she'll care?"

"No," he decided and she was sure a shrug was thrown in there. "I mean, like I said, what else is she going to do with it?"

"You should still ask."

Maybe.

Or just do it and then grin sheepishly if she rebuked him for it.

"Erza likes cleaning my fish for me."

"Well, I meant for you to keep it in the chest until I got off and then I could clean-"

"Can I ask you something? Marin?"

She glanced over her shoulder to find him there then, in the little kitchen with her, and only smiled warmly.

"Of course, Kai." As he came to stand at her side, staring into the soup she was making, she added, "You can ask me whatever you want?"

Watching the soup bubble some as it boiled in the pot, Kai thought for a moment of all the things he probably should be speaking about, to his friend, his best friend, inn the entire world, before chickening out and just saying, "I guess I'm just really happy is all. To be here. I got kinda...scared. About it. Leaving Erza and just...but… We should just always be together. I think. Always live together. This is gonna be the best apartment ever."

"That's not really a question. Thank you though," Marin giggled and he grinned, but still, she nodded her head before adding, "Although, if I ever got married, I'd probably make you sleep in a guest house."

"Guest house?" He frowned at the thought. "I'd let you stay in my house. And who are you marrying? That you're so rich you can have a guest house?"

"Maybe," she told him with something of a shrug, "I have high standards."

"You should." But he was punching the air then as he bounced some at the thought. "Tomorrow's your rematch with Natsu. Again. So you should go to bed right after dinner, okay? Rest up for it. I'll even clean up from dinner, if you want."

Considering she'd seen how poorly he cleaned, she didn't.

"Are you even scared a little?" he yawned that night as they sat together, on the couch, eating their dinner. "About being all alone? Like, what if there was an emergency?"

"Like a fire? I think I could just put it out, Kai."

He frowned at that. "Then how come you don't put out Natsu when-"

"I've told you that magic doesn't-"

"That's not what I meant, anyways," he said with a shake of his head. When his shaggy hair flew all about, Marin held her bowl of soup close and glared, but he only grinned sheepishly. Around it, he said, "I meant that if a killer something broke in...we have to actually deal with it. Not Erza. Or your parents. Or anyone! We'd have to deal with it."

"I don't train for nothing, Kai."

"But I don't train at all!"

She knew.

Giggling then, she grinned down into her bowl as she said, "If something ever came after you, I'd protect you. I always have. No matter where we live."

He only sighed though as he told her, "Kinda hard to do. From a guest house and all."

"Kai."

"We can do whatever we want now, you know," he told her though, honestly, the lack of adult supervision they'd both had for the majority of their teenage years had always implied this. Both their siblings relied on it heavily. But it was only now, in their own apartment, that Kai and Marin saw this opened up to them. Kai even had to insist then, to the girl, this fact as he added, "Anything."

Which is why Marin didn't clean the kitchen that night. She'd clean it the next day. Because they could do that now, like Kai said before.

They could do anything they wanted.

The days rolled into a week and, eventually, it almost felt normal. Going home after training or work, to their apartment. Kai even had his friends over, once, but Marin decided to pull an extra shift up at the bar that day.

"You do have your own bills to cover now, " Kinana giggled though, honestly, those had very little to do with this decision.

Still, it was helpful as it was that day that Marin ran into Locke who seemed just as lost as he usually did, but he did come bearing a gift.

"'cause you moved in to your own place," he explained as she unwrapped the gift to find some cartridges for a movie lacrima. "I thought about getting you something for the house, but I couldn't think of anything and-"

"It's great, Locke. Really."

But he had a hard time, she'd noticed, looking at her in those days and after commending her on venturing out on her own, he disappeared, like he mostly did in those days, somewhere away from the guildhall.

He added though, before he walked away, "Maybe I'll come by and see you one day."

Considering she lived with Kai? Marin doubted it. Still, she was quick to nod and Locke patted her on the head, but then he was gone, absent, like most everyone else in those days.

Her father did show up one day though, seemingly out of the blue, one day when she wasn't at work. She'd just finished training with Erza and Kai was out, fishing in the summer heat, but Marin found herself smiling regardless at the sight of him there.

"Should buy a plunger," he remarked after walking around the apartment some. Marin only stood by with a curious glance as Laxus shrugged some. "Should be the first thign you purchase. When you move."

"Well," Marin began softly as her father fell into the couch, "I guess that makes sense."

But Laxus only stared at her, as the girl stood before him, and before she could ask if he wanted a glass of water (and she would be certain on her wording), he questioned her instead.

"Are you happy? Marin? Here?" When his daughter was quick to nod and speak in the affirmative, he sighed some before saying, "It's all that matters."

Her mother didn't agree, but then, it had been a long time since her parents had found common ground in most instances.

The longest day of the year came to pass and the heat was still high, but the night arrived faster and faster and soon enough, the summer would be over. Not too quickly though. The high height led to many members beating it in the bar and Marin found her busy hours now something of a detriment as all she wanted, truly was to be out there. Training. Whether with Erza or Wendy or even just getting her butt handed to her constantly by Natsu, it was all she craved.

Was this it? The Dreyar curse? Was this what drove her father mad and her sister to push herself beyond her limits, to her own death?

No, she'd sigh a lot as she put in long hours at the bar, her first priority, always, but still found the time, before going home each night, to take some laps in the guild pool. Kai would sit by, if he were around, waiting on her, and if she was closing up with Kinana or Lisanna, they would try and hang around for as long as possible, but each eventually would have to just call goodnight to the girl and leave her to it.

Her mother happened to be about one night, as Marin stood in the pool after closing, manipulating the water and meditating, but instead of just closing up, she came out to join her, sitting in a chair beside the pool. Just watching. Silent for once.

"Maybe one day," Mirajane spoke, finally, as she handed the teen a towel when she climbed out of the pool, "you can try taking a job. I'm sure your uncle, one of them, would go with you. If you didn't want to go alone. Or Ajax, for certain."

But no, Marin shook her head without answering. She was certain her mother knew it anyways, before she even uttered her own sentence. Probably not.

The summer was treating her well though and Marin felt her power swelling inside of her, still slightly unfamiliar, but welcome all the same. She was considering what to do after work, one midday as Kai found little work around the hall and took to helping her serve drinks. This worked as horribly as ever, as he dropped a mug and got glass everywhere, but he was trying, and she was always sure to award him his brownie points.

"Come out to the river with me," the other teen suggested to her with a grin. "You can send a shock wave, right? Through the water? Kill all the surrounding fish and then I won't even need to bring my pole?"

"Wouldn't that defeat the purpose of fishing?" she questioned, as he always did, whenever she brought this up, and Kai was deep in contemplation over (it was quite the quandary) when it happened.

Marin's head was bent down as she bused a table, and she was slightly listening to the argument one table over, between two of the new members, on just who was better than the other in their shared magic. It was probably going to escalate into something of a fight and some of the members all about were already gearing up for that, but then it happened.

At the sound of the glass breaking, everyone thought Kai had made another mistake. He thought he'd made another mistake even though he wasn't even holding a glass at the moment. But no, as they all glanced about, it was Marin standing there, shards at her feet as her hands were thrown over her mouth and the girl looked about to pass out.

She felt like she already had.

Like she'd hit her head and she was having the...most bizarre dream. And as her breath got caught in her throat, she could hardly believe it as she only continued to stare over at the guildhall doors were, no matter how many times she blinked, there she was, the awkward, out of place one for once, as she merely stood there, in the entrance way, as slowly, more people seemed to take notice of her presence.

"H-Haven," Marin whispered around her hand, but the name came out choked as her breathing was failing and it should be fleeing then, all of it should be fading, away, and she should be waking up. Or coming to her senses. Realizing it was an illusion and she wasn't really there. How could she be there? As she felt tears well in her eyes, Marin heard a gasp from behind her, from her Aunt Evergreen, and the whole guild, even those who had no idea who it was they were all gawking at, fell silent. Other than Marin as the words just came tumbling out of her mouth, regardless of the lack of oxygen she was currently receiving. "You're here."

Chapter Text

Evil wasn't something that he considered himself.

He knew that his son probably did. That his father did. That his granddaughter, lying there, gone and yet not, a sickening science experiment for him to throw his jewels in to, not to revive her, but rather to manipulate her corpse into doing his deeds, certainly would. If she could.

But Ivan didn't see himself as evil.

Rather, the aging man viewed himself as something of an eccentric, fine, but also an inventor. A visionary. Someone who'd had his power stolen from him, right out from under him, by those he should be able to claim most high. From his father all the way down to his youngest granddaughter, Ivan had had nothing short of despicable family members all trying to steal his glory. Either that or subdue it. Ruin it. Taint it.

No.

See, that was the thing. They only saw the means at which Ivan's plans took. Viewed them only halfway. Makarov saw his attempts at gaining power as abusive, towards his son, towards his wife. Laxus saw his dreams of glory as selfish and destructive. And Haven, oh, Haven, she hadn't even gotten a chance to know anything. No. She was tainted and ruined and attempted to be subdued by them, Laxus mostly, but everyone else as well, he was sure, because everyone who wasn't him and was a detriment to the goal. To the dream.

But she wouldn't have been.

Ivan kept close watch over her, through lackeys and distance, but it pained him, every step of the way, viewing her development from afar. The first time he'd met her, following what some might construe as a deplorable act of kidnapping young children, but Ivan chose to see more as a reckoning. Between he and his son. Laxus had wronged him, so many times over, but he could not keep her from him.

She looked so much like her. His wife. Identical, almost. And Laxus thought to keep her from him. To hide her away. And what drive she had. Power. Doggedness. To even make it there, to the end of the gauntlet that claimed her life…

Ivan would have made her into so much more, had he been able to keep the girl, rather than having her savagely stolen from him, by her father. If he'd been able to keep her. Train her. Not to mention the lacrima… Haven could have done great things, under his tillage, unimaginable things.

Such power…

"Until, of course, I would be forced to harvest it from you," he whispered to her body, more than once, as he would pace about the lab. "But you would understand, yes?"

Time had gone on and, as the bonding process took place, he would no longer speak down to her, on a cold operating table, but rather, from inside this needlessly expensive chamber filled with the most dastardly smelling fluid and Ivan had to keep reminding himself of the reward. With each failed attempt to properly meld his granddaughter with the spirit, he grew more and more agitated the disheartened and there had been quite a few outbursts, but Ivan just had to remind himself how delicate this process was. And how important it was, that Haven's body make it through.

None of it would work without her body.

"Of course you would," he found himself saying to the silence that was given back to him as he only stared in through the orange hued thick, bubbly liquid that she floated there, in. He could almost envision it, in his old age, what ti would have been like. To raise her, as his own, with one goal in mind. Haven was never a sickly, sniveling little runt. No. She would have risen to power, in strength, for the glory of her grandfather and, when it was time, when it all sorrowfully came to an end, she would allow him to take what was his. Reclaim it. The lacrima. "You would lay down your life for me, wouldn't you?"

She would have to. Because she would understand. The way Laxus would have understood, if Makarov had never had dealings with him. Ivan had given her something, allowed her to borrow it, to cultivate it for him; but Haven would return it. Like she was supposed to. Willingly. Understandingly. And then all of her power would be his to...to…

No.

He couldn't think of those things.

What came next.

He had to focus on the immediate. The immediate. Yes. Yes! She would go now, the corpse that once housed his granddaughter's spirit, and reclaim for him the lacrima that was ripped away from him. Then, once it was placed in his palm, hopefully with the original one he'd so very kindly lent to his son half a century prior, he could...he would…

No.

No!

Focus.

On the immediate.

If Ivan thought too much on it, on the future, on what it meant, of how little of it was left for him, in his advanced age, of how much time he'd wasted, on what even on completion would not yield him more of it, time, to do as he pleased, then he might have to admit to himself that his plans had all been for not. That even if he did capture both the powerful lacrimas, even if he sold one for more riches, even, that he'd accumulated through theft and other shady dealings, and kept ht eother for himself, that there just wouldn't be anything for him to do. Any longer. What more would power do for him? IN his failing health? What more did he want?

No.

No!

That would all come to him when the time was right. When it was pertinent. For now, he just had to focus, on he always had, on what was immediately in front of him. He'd spent so many years watching it, observing it, the power that his granddaughter could wield. Now, combined with the demon that he'd painstakingly obtained, just for her, just for this moment, well, Ivan couldn't be there to view it, but he hoped to hear about Magnolia's entire destruction. Wiped out. From the map as a whole.

Every single one of them. Who spit on him. Who doubted him. Who ostracized him, who called him mental, who couldn't see it, the visions, the ideals, the concepts that were so magnificently wonderful and yes, fine, there had to be suffering for them to be accomplished, yes, there had to be anguish, but they were so wrong, Laxus and Makarov were, to not see that he was hurt too. By his actions. Didn't they see? Yes, there was loss of life and similar unpleasantness, but he suffered too. He lost too. IT wasn't without balance that these things occurred.

Ivan didn't expect anything more from another than he himself was willing to give up for his cause.

Did no one consider, then, how much it pained him? Hmm? To have such a heavy hand in all these dealings? Ivan would die for his cause, if it didn't undermine the cause. But the death of others did nothing to invalidate. That was the only reason he asked it. Of so many. Ones he might even have something for, affection or something of the like. There were no considerations given to all he'd sacrificed, all he'd given up, just to get here. Just to arrive here.

Finally, finally, there was no turning back.

The first time that she opened her bright blue eyes, staring at him through the liquid and glass, they seemed so void and empty, but there was a darkness, too, deep with in them, and it still needed time to grow, to fully encompass her entire being.

Ivan laughed though, as he pressed a hand into the glass and the gaze void, but it meant so much to him and wasn't that how everything was? In life? For the man? So empty and desolate, but with so much meaning derived only through his own personal perspective. His life wasn't depressing and meaningless, no, it was a long suffering, but fulfilling, after so long, it was so fulfilling, and now he was here.

Almost at the pinnacle.

He couldn't sleep.

There were bouts of this throughout his life, especially in his teenage years, but he hadn't felt so restless in over a decade and Ivan felt like he was just rambling, constantly, but he couldn't turn it off. His emotions. His joy. His excitement. He was jittery and even closing his eyes for moments provided too many visions and images of what it would be like, when he held them both, in his palms.

The lacrimas.

His lacrimas.

At last.

He wondered if his son's blood would still be dried on the crystal's surface when it was presented to him. Wouldn't that be something. Or fresh, even better, he could almost see it, Laxus' blood dripping down, staining his frail hands, but frail for how much longer? Soon, very soon, that lacrima, inside of him, giving him unlimited access to everything he ever wanted.

Yes.

Yes!

This is what it had all been for.

Hadn't it?

"This is still a very...untested procedure, you understand," a man in a white lab coat spoke plainly to Ivan one day, the day, as he scribbled needlessly, the Dreyar man felt, on his clipboard. Shaking his head some, the man went on, "So I caution you, please, keep your expectations in order."

But oh, they were through the roof as they stood there, while the chamber was drained. Haven, or the body, at least, of the girl, had been responsive and focused for the past day and, as the tank drained, her hands only came up tot he mask over her face, ready to rip it off the second she could. And as the water filtered through the drain in the bottom of the chamber, she only came to rest her feet flatly and firmly on its floor. For the first time since the Gauntlet, she was standing and holding her own weight.

Were she human, Ivan realized with a bit of a shrug, this more than likely would be impossible. Her muscles and body no longer accustomed to such a thing. So yes, for certain, there was something other worldly at play now.

Something under his command.

Yes.

Yes!

It was hard not to salivate.

Once all the thick, oogy liquid was washed away, tugged the mask from her face, tossing it to the side where it hung then, dripping along with her, from the lines connecting it to the chamber. Raising a hand, she placed it to the cool glass before her, eyes locked with him, Ivan felt, and there was no shame in her.

None whatsoever.

"Open," the man in the lab coat was yelling them to his underlings as Ivan clasped his hands behind his back, trying hard to keep it all in, to not let it all show, "the chamber!"

Two men rushed forwards to turn the locking mechanisms at the sides, and then it was broken, the airtight seal, and a woosh of air met them, wafting over the sickening scent of whatever concoction it was that she'd been brewing in for so long.

As the door was slid to the side, Haven, or whatever she should be called now, all this planning and Ivan still was uncertain, took a step forwards, unabashed by her nudity and slightly unsteady on her feet. Ivan sucked in a breath, at her first step outside of the chamber, but it died there, in his chest, as she spoke before he was able.

"Who," she asked in a raspy voice, but certainly his granddaughter's all the same, just hardened by the conditions she'd undergone, "has awakened me?"

There was a presence about her, a coolness that washed over the room fo twenty or so lab workers along with Ivan, the man taking a bold step forwards as the others seemed to shrink back, disturbed by what they'd conjured.

"I have," Ivan informed her with a swell of pride, completion, even, perhaps, but not fully. Not yet. "Are you…what I believe you to be?"

But she gave no answer as, instead, she rose both hands, this time before her face, as if studying them. Squeezing them shut a few times into tight fists, she whispered something softly before sparks began to jump from her body and, with a bit of a laugh, a grin fell over her face.

"What delicious power," she whispered softly before glancing down at the rest of herself and frowning some, not in recollection, but rather disgust at the what had once been a hole in her stomach, but now seemed to be some sort of scarred flesh. "What is it then? Did you do this? To this child?"

"N-No." Ivan frowned some, but it didn't seem to be sympathy that the voice jumping from and through his granddaughter spoke, but rather curiosity. "I am removed from that portion of things. Do you not recall? I was under the impression that you would regain her thoughts and memories."

"They come with time."

"Yes, well, is there anything we can do to speed this up? I understand that it might take you a few days to become acquainted with your new...vessel, but I did not awaken you to waste time gathering intelligence. I have waited too long. Too long! Already, my son and his filthy daughter reap the benefits of all of my-"

"You believe," she asked as she glanced behind herself then, to see if there was a matching scar back there (some unrelated, but no, the blast had not been a clean shot), "that you command me?"

There was something in the insouciant sound of it, the way she was still looking over her body, studying it, rather than addressing him fully, giving him her undivided attention, not being under his clear and obvious dominion, that incensed the man and he turned bright red as he gripped his fists tightly in rage.

"I do!" he hissed and did, then, began to forth at the mouth. "I do command you! It was I who hunted you out, who picked the perfect vessel for you, who has thrown massive amounts of jewels into this project and you will! You will bring me my lacrimas and I will become the most powerful-"

It was frightening, both in speed and sound, the crackling taste of electricity in the air as, hardly flicking her wrist, it jumped from the woman's hand and struck those around him. Ivan's eyes, once seeing nothing but red, now just turned to saucers as his head scientist and at least five others were hit, falling to the ground, gravely wounded if not dead, he could not tell, in that moment, as the others all fled. All but one, besides him. The only female. She fell to her feet and begged, pleaded, tears falling from her eyes close by him while Haven, or whatever it was she should be called then, only held his dark eyes with her bright blues.

"No one," she informed him as her hands fell then, to her sides, "commands me."

Ivan was frozen, fearful, and began to calculate just how far he could get from this being he'd created. The air was filled with static then and there was something off, about one of her eyes, and he knew, immediately, what it was attempting to do. The first memory the being in his granddaughter was drawn to.

The God Slayer magic.

But…

Could…

Could she wield it? In her current state? He hated it, truly he did, the way his mind immediately went to the realization that, without a doubt, with it's aid, there was no way that his son and last living granddaughter would survive what stood before him now.

"Now," she began again, all the same, taking more steps forwards now, towards them, and the woman at his feet only prayed harder. "What was her name?"

"Haven." Ivan's throat felt dry and he'd never felt so powerless. Against another, he'd try a trick now, a magical illusion, puppetry or something, anything, to get away from her, but he felt it would be futile. He knew it would be futile. There was no tricking what stood before him now. "Dreyar."

"Haven." The name was thick and unfamiliar on her tongue. Bringing a hand down, she ran it over her belly, over the wound and when she blinked, she seemed to be focusing on something else, something beyond him. "Haven. Laxus. Laxus Dreyar."

"It's coming back to you," Ivan whispered, but hardly louder than the near silent prayers of the woman at his feet as she curled tighter into a ball, the scent of the liquid no longer taking hold of them all, but rather the singed flesh and hair that laid in a heap on the floor. "All of it is coming back."

"Mirajane Strauss." This name was said harsher and there was a bite to it. Her eyes focused on him once more as she remarked, "You put me in the body of… Who is this? In relation to that woman?"

"Her mother, but-"

"A soul taker." And for someone who thrived in the business, Ivan felt as if she was unnecessarily angered by this. "I will have her life. I will free-"

"She will be with my son. And their other daughter. You can take her out, as well, when you go and reclaim my-"

"I spared you," she told him darkly then as her eyes fell once more to his, "as a favor. A debt repaid. I owe nothing else to you."

Ivan didn't cower. To anyone. Ever. But he did take a slight step back as he was quick to add, "The years I have sank into this-"

"But I will need more power." She looked down at one of her open palms once more. "Much. You made mention of-"

"You cannot have them! My lacrimas! I did not awaken you for this! I did not-"

"I am finished with you." And it was not lightning, then, that jumped from the body of what was once his granddaughter, but rather a black orb of energy, right into the admittedly elderly man's chest. He crumpled easily with an audible gasp, beside the woman, still praying, now louder and, when Haven took steps towards her, she began to weep as well.

"Save your words," was all she offered the woman, however, as she walked on then, easily locating the exit. "No one is listening."

It would be some time, for Ivan, before he awoke once more, and when he did, he found himself having been carried back upstairs, out of the lab, and into his bed. One of his lackeys came rushing forwards, at the first sight of his opened eyes, but Ivan only winced as he drew a breath.

"Is she..." was the most he could heave and the mage before him merely shook his head solemnly.

He expected some sort of reprimanding, the man did, for Ivan to get irate and yell and scream, regardless his wounds, angered by their allowance for her to vacate, but none of that came. The man only shut his eyes once more.

"Just as well," he breathed softly. "If I can't have them..."

That was all it had ever been, after all. As his desire to learn more about it, what secret was harbored beneath the Fairy Tail guildhall waned, it was replaced by an insatiable urge to have it returned to him, what Laxus had stolen. And then, in addition, if not more so, what he perceived Haven at first as doing, but then Marin.

But it had never been about the knowledge, with the first, or the possession, with the latter, but rather the satisfaction, in both, of the denial of something to lord over him, first by Makarov, and then by his own son. Yes, he wished for power, oh, he wanted to be more powerful than anything that ever lived, but he would settle, if he had to, Ivan would, for the blood of his son and the man's family to be spilled and drank by a beast of his own unleashing.

Time was of little importance, however, to the being he'd unleashed and it would be nearly a month before she found herself there. It took some effort, after all, to hone in her skills, to test them, to keep a low enough profile as to not alert anyone of her presence.

She'd made this mistake before. Many of her ilk did. Feasting and pleasuring themselves in some lowly village only to have some all-powerful wizard to catch them before they ever got up to any real fun. No.

Destroying the soul taker, the harbored, Mirajane Strauss, and then retrieving the power that man spoke about before, was all she could think of now. Her cards had to be played correctly in this, if she was going to succeed. Memories, raw and open, of the place she was headed flooded her daily, of that place.

Fairy Tail.

The most powerful wizard guild in all the lands, from what the entity could gather, and that might mean waiting. Watching. Observing. Until the time was right.

But it would come.

Oh, the time would come.

It was too strong, stepping onto those grounds. The memories were overpowering then and as she pushed through the hall doors, they overcame her entire being and the world felt fuzzy as thoughts of young children chasing one another, up and down the hall, late nights drinking into the thick of it, blood, lots of blood, and brawling in the heat, the heat she was feeling then, in the sticky midsummer afternoon, and the smell, the beer and the blood, too, all of it was just so…

"Haven." Her name sounded so much more beautiful, when spoken by another, more accustomed to speaking it. "You're here."

The hall fell into little more than pandemonium and as Marin moved towards her sister, she felt it, a hand gripping her, vice-like and unforgiving as nails dug into her flesh and as she glanced up, she found it to be her Aunt Evergreen.

"That," she told her harshly, softly, "cannot be your sister."

And Marin knew, of course she knew, they all knew, especially Elfman, who rose to his feet, who had buried her, who left her there, her body, beneath the earth, that should have been decayed and returned to it, mostly, by that point, but still, his eyes felt wet and it was a dream, surely, but to deny himself this moment, especially just in a dream, was-

"You will stop this treachery at once!" Freed was the one to found his voice, loud and booming, as though others rose, no one moved towards the entrance, only stared with wide eyes. Even those who had no recollection of who it was, standing before them, there was a certain air that overcame the hall then, thick and heavy. Suffocating.

The fact that the static was being siphoned from it did little to help.

"I will report this," Freed continued as he approached, blade drawn, towards her, the trickster, "to whoever your guild master is and have you disbarred from wherever you currently reside. This is disgusting! And if the Master or his wife sees this-"

"Freed." As he pressed the blade into her belly, he hated the look he found there, in the eyes that he'd personally shut, less than a year prior. "It's me. Haven."

"That is impossible! I buried her, myself." He withdrew some though, in disbelief, as he insisted, "Haven is dead."

It was a specific memory then, that stuck out, moments before her death, and there was a sickness in it, the smile, but one the girl would have given, they all knew, an unmistakable smirk as she remarked, "I always said I was chosen."

There was chaos and confusion as some rushed forwards in excitement, others hung back in confusion, but there were only tears, from Marin, as Kai stood at her side and Evergreen gripped her arm tightly, but no one knew quite what to do.

Any hope for containment went out the window then as Haven began to insist that, yes, she was who she claimed, and Freed fell back completely, at her words, at her demands then, to see her parents, her family, and Evergreen held Marin to her, but it had escaped them then, all of then, as she stepped forwards and some rushed to embrace her while others only ran passed, to speak on the feat that was occurring. One member, a young guy who'd had more than a few throw downs with her, in their later teens, just before her excommunication, knew without a shadow of a doubt who it was that stood there, before them, and his feet carried him with magical aid in a glide, almost, all the way to the other man's apartment.

Locke wasn't dealing well with it. Any of it. Not from an outside perspective nor inside.

He took jobs at first, after the funeral. A lot of jobs. With his father and Pantherlily for a time, but eventually, alone once more, and there was no S-Class that year, no mention of it, and anyone who did whine about it, bring it up, had the wrath of the Master's inner circle to fear, but Locke wouldn't have gone anyways. Wouldn't have participated. How could he?

It haunted him so much and he thought it would be better, to have been there, to have seen, to have felt and known and heard and for it all to be seared into his memory, so he couldn't doubt it, couldn't question it, but somehow, it was so much worse. Having been there. He wondered, even, if Haven had been comforted in it, his presence, and if she was, he could bear it, he was bearing it, but if it could go away, if the pain could just...stop…

"It'll get better," his mother assured him a lot, when she'd see him, and would pat at his cheek and he knew that she'd gone through a lot, in her early life, but she didn't get it.

None of them seemed to get it.

Especially not his friends. They gave him space and comfort and all those things, at first, but it felt...off, the way he was acting. And grieving. He understood their concerns, really, he did. To someone not associated to the guild, who wasn't around so much, when he was young, Haven was at most an ex, at worst, a childhood friend, and yes, death could be debilitating or life altering, but he was a mage. The son of Black Steel Gajeel. He should be bouncing back from this, sooner or later. But a year was approaching and it felt like later, much later, would be the case.

Even those who knew, like his parents or her family or all of them, really, up at the hall, didn't seem to understand just how deeply and demonstratively this had shaken him. They didn't expect him to get over it, he knew, and only wanted him to move forwards, even if it was just in steps, but…

He never doubted it. At all. No matter how angry he was at her or she was at him or how far away she was, how much she claimed to hate him or he denounced every single thing that they'd ever vowed to one another, he just always…

They were always supposed to be together. In some capacity. When they were kids, it was as friends and maybe it was supposed to turn back that way, given all that she'd...but that was fine. That was okay. That stung and it hurt and if he knew about it, while she was alive, in front of him, that she and Ravan… But in a few years? He'd want her back. Probably. In some way. And she'd be back, returned from her dumb travels, and he didn't think he'd ever be able to get passed it, that she and...him had…

But all he'd never wanted, from the core of his being, was for Haven to be in his life. To be beside him. She always had been, for her entire life, for nearly seventeen years, until she decided to up and run away from it all, to leave him behind.

She was supposed to come back. To him. And she was going to. Even without that Ravan shit, she was going to come back, he knew that she was, and she was going to be with him and one day they'd…they'd really be together and they'd be happy.

He was only happy, only really happy, when she was happy with him. The victories they had as kids meant so much more to him than any he forged alone and it felt so much better, the air did, when it was altered, just from her presence. Comforting. It felt better when it was her that he fell asleep beside, even if it was across from a put out fire, and she was better to talk to, than any other person he'd ever met, guy or girl, even when she was upset with him, and it just all made sense, when he explained his spells to her and she wasn't perfect. At all. She was vindictive and mean and seemed to take something of pleasure in ruining his life, but…

She was for him. Perfect.

Or at least the other half.

Locke hated it, being up at the hall, because she wasn't there anymore and she wouldn't be again, and he hated it, when he saw Marin training with the others, with her necklace wrapped around her neck, and he knew he'd given it to her, but he hated himself, for so many of the decisions he'd made, but most of all, not forcing her to come home with him, in Crocus. For just giving up. Giving in. Letting fucking Ravan handle it. He should have just held her and not let her go until she came home, with him, and they could do all the things he'd always thought they would do, when he was stupid and in love at nineteen, and they'd be S-Class together, and marry and have kids and they'd be happy, maybe not at first, she wouldn't be, because she had all these dreams and ideas and what did any of that matter?

When you were in love?

And he knew Haven loved him. He knew she did.

She just...had trouble even loving herself. And there was no one she thought of more highly than herself.

That didn't bother him. Because he understood. Of course he understood. It was more than just her completing him, he completed her as well. They were halves that only worked, on mattered, when they were meshed together, and he wished that he'd done it. What his father always wanted him to. Focus on a physical magic, one to match his frame, and if he was stronger, if his spells were heavier, then maybe she would have...she'd have…

Stayed.

With him.

Why would she never just stay with him?

She had to know. Everything that he did. She had to understand. That there was just never going to be anything more for either of them, than each other, and he'd have gone. With her. Anywhere. If she'd just asked. But she never asked. Why would she not just ask him?

If she wanted strength, Locke would have gotten her all the strength in the world. He'd have hunted all the treasure, trashed all the palaces, fucked up his entire life to match hers, if that's what she needed, to see it, to believe it, what he had to do to finally get her to admit what he always told her, that they belonged together, always, then he'd have done it all.

He almost slammed the door in the other guys face, Locke did, not even seething yet, as the words didn't make sense, but the other guy reached out, to force the door open, and he sounded serious as he repeated himself.

"I'm telling you, dude; she's there. Haven. It's her. I don't know how, but- Hey, man!"

Locke shoved passed him then, throwing him out of the way, and he ran himself then, without shoes, even, and the pavement burned his soles, but it didn't matter. None of it mattered. He had to get there, because if he didn't, the dream would end and the searing pain of the pavement was going to wake him and he'd chased her, plenty, he'd fought the monster there, on the cliff, so many times, he'd killed Ravan ever night, in his foggiest haze, but he'd never gotten to see it again, no matter how many times he'd stare at the pictures he had of her, before bed, to try and force it, the dreams, to materialize her, the one person he wanted to see, to talk to, even just to glimpse, but it wouldn't come. She wouldn't come. To him. Not in his dreams, not in his nightmares.

So what was it then, at that moment, as he found himself standing there, in the guildhall, face to face with her for the first time since he'd stared down at her face, covered slowly, with each shovelful, by dirt and it should be rotten, by now, but it wasn't, because it was staring right back at him.

"Haven."

He hurt her, probably, at least a little bit, as he threw his arms around her, after shoving his way there, and it didn't matter, what it was, who it was, that he was hugging, who he was crushing, because it felt like Haven and it smelled like her and he didn't even study her face, just closed his eyes, and it meant everything when slowly, her arms were tightly around him as well.

"Locke," she whispered back and he didn't catch it, in his grief, how unfamiliar and odd it sounded, coming from her.

"Yeah." It was choked, his sob was, but it meant so much to him, just to hear her say his name again. After so long. It had been so fucking long… "You're… How..."

But the guild had been given some time, in the time it took for him to arrive, to compose itself, and Locke felt himself being drug away from her as the people he'd fled passed, broke through, to get to her, were not just some lowly members.

"M-Master," he gasped as the man threw him to ground after jerking him away and Laxus was there, for once, drinking in the back when he'd heard all the commotion. Heard his daughter's exclaimed. And Freed's loud commands.

He almost didn't go out there.

But oh, when he had…

He should quit drinking, was the first thing Laxus thought, but no, she was there and he felt eyes all fall to him, when he stood there, staring at her, and Haven's found his and she was just staring back at him.

She almost smiled.

Maybe.

Or was it something else?

"Dad," she whispered and it was fucked, all of it was so fucked and he wanted to fill them up, whoever it was, full of lightning, full of anger and vitriol and all the things he held in his heart, all the despair and heartache and...the scent hit him.

Of her. Haven. There. She had...something else attached to her too, but everyone's scent was there own and it was her, without a doubt and he'd drug her over, harshly, drunkenly, and he heard Freed and Evergreen, Elfman and Marin, everyone talking to him, all at once, except Haven, for some reason, as her focus drifted, to the doors, and then he was there, Locke, and he didn't know how they always knew.

But they always knew, Laxus had long noticed, when the other was near.

He jerked the man away, regardless, from his daughter, and Laxus should clear the hall, he knew, take Haven back into his office, do something, other than have the whole thing play out right there, in the open, in front of all the members, but as he threw Locke away from him, he couldn't help it.

The only thing he could demand, from her, Haven, was, "How are you here?"

When she looked into his eyes then, fully, she seemed confused for a moment, and he couldn't read it. The expression on her face. But then it flickered away and she answered with something of a shrug. "I don't know."

"Haven-"

"I don't," she insisted, "know."

"It's impossible," Elfman insisted around his fingers as he cried into his hands. Marin was at his side, no longer with a fist clenched around her arm, but her own clutching Kai's tightly as he stared too in disbelief and concern at what was playing out before them. Elfman only continued to sob, "You're dead. You're supposed to be dead."

Haven glanced around at all of them then, under Laxus' heavy gaze, and she looked to small to him, had she always been this small? And fragile and weak and...and…

"It doesn't matter." He deflated, Laxus did, and accepted it, at least for the moment, and there was something of surprise playing on the others before a cheer and as he hugged her, his daughter, for perhaps the first time in since she'd last been returned from the clutches of his father, the man added, "Nothing else matters."

But a lot mattered and didn't make sense and there would be time for that later as Haven was rushed off, quickly, to the back, and the others were getting rowdy again, out in the bar area, but her family didn't care none, and Laxus sent Freed, who was still uncertain and hesitant, to go and fetch the others. The rest of the family.

"Bring them," he insist, "around back. And don't tell them. Not yet. I have to...talk to Mirajane first. This is gonna…"

"Laxus, I do not know-"

"It's her, Freed." And he had a steel look in his eyes. "Go get her mother. And Lisanna. Now."

Inside Laxus' office, everyone seemed to want a piece of the girl and when Marin got her, when she hugged her sister, she only buried her head in her chest and wept.

"This can't be real," Marin insisted as Haven seemed uneasy then, with her, and no one got nearly as warm a reception as she'd given Locke.

He noted it and he stood by, hardly breathing, not giving it a chance, none of it, anything, to rip them apart again.

Laxus waited outside, behind the guild for his wife to arrive, along with the others. Bickslow was there, with his own, and Ajax, and everyone seemed confused as Freed hadn't explained much, if anything, and Mirajane seemed suspicious of her husband as she approached.

"Laxus," she questioned as he only let Freed take the others in, to see her. "What's going on?"

"Mira, I don't… I can't explain it and don't...if this is some kind of trick, I swear I will, but I think..."

"What?" she asked, but she heard it then, even all the way outside. The shrill yell of her sister. As her eyes widened, Laxus kicked at the ground and shook his head. Still, the woman insisted, "What is going on?"

"Haven's home."

She wanted to slap him, to punch him, to kick him and kill him, honestly, and it was going to be it, between them, she knew it, bust still…

She ran around him, Mirajane did, and when she made it there, to Laxus' office, she melted, nearly into the floor, and her sister had to catch her and Haven only stood there, silent as she'd fallen since she'd claimed her lack of knowledge, and she studied Mirajane, closely, watching her. Entranced.

"Mom," she said though, eventually, and Mirajane held her close and she knew that she had to know, that she had to sense it, but Mirajane said nothing about it. Made no mention of it as she cried against her shoulder, and Haven shut her eyes tightly.

"Thank you," Mira whispered softly, into her shoulder, and she managed to hold off, Haven did, on informing her that there was no one there to thank.

Eventually, she had to lift it up, just slightly, the shirt she was wearing, to show them all the gruesome scar and Ajax stared transfixed at it and he had all these thoughts and feelings and all of their energy was jumping off them, each and everyone of them, and the ground eve felt like it shook, maybe, from Kai, or perhaps it was the raging of the people outside as the guild had shifted into it's party mode.

Without a barmaid around to serve them, people had begun to pour their own drinks and it didn't matter, not even as the others eventually returned to it, with Haven, there, between her parents and they had never cheered for her before, but then, they'd never cried for her either, before her funeral, and maybe she'd have felt something over it. Deep within herself. Over this. Some sort of emotional reckoning, a moment to come back to herself, to question, really, all she'd allowed herself to believe about the place. The guild.

Or perhaps it would reconfirm it.

But none of this came because it wasn't Haven, staring out at all of them. Who held the hand of her boyfriend, when his arms were wrapped around her, and saw the tears welled in the yes of her family. No. These motions were all seen through the eyes of another who, no matter how many memories she tapped, how many things all came flooding back, could feel nothing except a sickening excitement, deep inside of herself, as she thought of just how sweet it would taste on her tongue, how blessed her ears would be, to hear Mirajane Strauss plea for mercy, to possess the lacrimas the man who woke her, Ivan, now, as she knew him, so desired.

"I don't wanna fall asleep," Locke slurred to her, that night, as most everyone drank themselves into oblivion and found it all about the hall. "'cause I when I do… Haven..."

"I'll be here," she assured him and didn't sound nearly as intoxicated. Not even tired.

No.

She had too much to plot, too much to plan. Still, it wasn't a lie as she told him this. The time was still too fresh, too many of strength were about. She was still properly coming into her own.

Unlike the one who summoned her, she hadn't waited decades for this moment, only to explode moments before completion. No. This was a fresh mission to her and, with only recently found resolve. To see it through.

"Locke." As he drifted off, with his head down on one of the tables, her eyes only drifted, over to the bar, where she found her mother toying with her sister's hair, as the younger mage snoozed on one of the stools and Mirajane sat beside, glancing over her shoulder every minute if not less, to be certain Haven was right where they'd left her. Reaching overly, Haven softly stroked his hair as well and Locke muttered something of approval as she added, "I promise."

Chapter Text

The morning came with pounding headaches and doubtful recollections, but dawn rose with the same confidence it always possessed and, at the first hint of light streaming through a window in the open area of the bar, Laxus found himself peeking a hesitant eye open.

He woke up in the bar on the regular by that point, but it was a first, being surrounded by his family and so many guild mates. As he pushed up though, the groan that left his lips was quickly replaced with a sharp intake of breath and eyes darting all about.

Haven.

Where was she?

Not still trapped by Locke, who'd fallen asleep seated at one of the tables, beside her. He'd stretched an arm out though, over her, in hopes that this would awaken him, should she move, but it didn't seem to be the case as she was no longer there while he merely slept on.

Laxus looked all about then, from where he saw his wife and younger daughter, to even where the drunks who'd used the situation merely to, well, drink to their contentment (and then some), but it didn't matter where he looked; she just wasn't there.

There was a slight hitch in his breathing and some confusion as Laxus considered then if this was some sort of drunken misunderstanding, on his part. If he'd just dreamed the whole thing up. What if everyone else was there, sleeping at the hall, for some completely other, idiotic thing that, yes, even with an asshole drunkard as a master still befell the guild on the regular and not because...because…

Had he imagined her? The entire thing? No. That couldn't have been it. Haven had been there. They'd gone through that whole thing. He remembered it. All of it. Fine, it was kind of cloudy, but…

Rising, Laxus was as careful as he could be, stepping over the snoozing celebrators as it had to be there, somewhere, in the hall. Her scent. If he could just pick up on-

There.

Yes.

Haven.

He followed it up the stairs, Laxus did, fearful for a moment that he was going to find her in the infirmary, but no, it led him out to the balcony and there she was, out there, standing with her hands on the railings as she stared out over the still sleeping city as, slowly, orange and red poked out through the purple sky.

She didn't turn to look at him, not even a glance over the shoulder, as he stepped out on the balcony with her. Just stood there, silently for once, not shifting in the slightest when he came to do the same beside her.

"I never thought," she admitted to him softly as her gaze seemed fixed on the horizon, "that I would ever see this again."

He took her to mean the city, at first, and as he tried to find something to begin, to start, again, all of it again, she seemed to clarify without prompting.

"After such darkness," she whispered and it didn't feel like Haven, to Laxus, not anymore, but he doubted he felt much like the man she once knew either. "For so many years. And now sunrises. Again."

It was too bright, out there, for Laxus, and he blinked from the rising sun, but also at his daughter's comment.

"Haven…" Everything was so surreal. All of it. Every ounce. Staring down at her, his words found him as he informed her, "It hasn't even been a year. Since… It's summer. The summer after…. After."

"Less than a year." There was something of a soft laugh, maybe, and it would take awhile for her to figure it out. All the memories just offered glimpse. Mannerisms and tone would come with time. The demon was uncertain of how much of that she'd need, however, but until the situation was sized up and the lacrimas claimed, as well as the life of the harborer, it was best to continue to gather as much of the shell's former host as possible. Still, to her supposed father, she offered, "Feels like forever."

"Yeah." Laxus swallowed and he seemed to weak, to the demon, but there was something beneath his current form. Distant, but there. "Longer, even."

It was the first time that they were alone and Laxus still felt like he was just prancing, just about, through some sort of fucked up dream, and he should talk to her. About where she'd been. Even if she didn't know everything, she had to know something. He knew that she didn't just appear on the guild doorstep after so long through no agency of her own.

Had she?

But everything died off, before it left his mouth, and he was the guild master, he had to protect the guild, his family, find out what this was all about, what had happened, who was involved, but at the moment he just felt weak and when his hands rested on the railing, it was to support himself and hope he somehow didn't wind up taking a tumble off.

Was this a gift? A blessing? A second chance? Would questioning it present some sort of termination? A void in the contract? Or...or was this it? Huh? Had he finally done it? Drank himself into an early grave and, somewhere else, somewhere far off, in the life he'd left behind, his wife and living daughter were dealing with the fall out of that while he was being gifted. With his reward. Just desserts. The ultimate present in eternity wasn't some sort of open world filled with all the love ones who'd departed, perhaps, but just the greatest wish.

And of all the things he'd wished, all the ones things he'd wanted, his entire life, the one he desired above all was to be given Haven back.

Now here she was.

He jumped slightly, at the feeling, when she reached over to lay her hand atop his, and Laxus choked on a sob he didn't know was hiding inside his chest as he shook his head some.

"It's okay," she told him and she sounded so...sincere and different and death changed people, fuck, it changed everything, but ti was just all too much. "Dad."

"Why," he got out as his head remained down, staring over the railing, at the ground below, "do you keep calling me that?"

"What do you mean?" She sounded hesitant and, when her hand lifted from his, Laxus felt cold. "Are you...not my father?"

It was such an awkward way of saying it, the way she did, but Laxus took it as something close to sarcasm and snorted some, shaking his head up now as he faced the rising sun, welcoming the coming heat.

The day would be a scorcher.

His chance to speak to her, alone, was dashed however as he heard him, before he approached, rushing through the building behind them, calling her name and waking everyone, but eventually, he was shoving open the door to the balcony and Haven turned, for him.

Of course.

"You're still here," was all Locke said as he rushed forwards, over to her, and as he pulled her in for a tight hug, Haven laughed into his chest as Laxus continued to stare into the morning's light.

"Where else would I be?" she asked as Locke wouldn't release her. He couldn't. Not yet. "I promised, didn't I?"

Regardless of Laxus' inabilities to address the situation at large, it was something that had to be dealt with and, after having Freed and Bickslow clear the hall, there was an attempt, at least, to get to the bottom of things.

Marin made breakfast for the brood of them, as only the family seemed to remain then, save a few. Most everyone outside of them, such as Erza or the Dragneels, were out on jobs, and Locke was mostly glad this was the case for his parents as well. They would probably mention to him that he should probably give the family some alone time, with Haven, but he just couldn't. He wouldn't.

He was her family.

More than the others ever had been, he felt, or was certain, at least, Haven would attest as much.

"So," Mira prompted, eventually, as they all sat around, everyone more watching her eat than touching their own meals. "Haven...is there...anything you want to tell us?"

Locke was sitting beside her, of course, but on her other side was Ajax who she drew strange recollections of. The strongest memory of each person she came across sprang forth first, but the ones attached to Ajax seemed to have little to do with any true relationship or emotion; just training throughout the years. He gave of a strange aura, however, and though there were so many more powerful wizards all about, she found herself interested, at least slightly, in him.

"How did you do it?" he was asking then, Ajax was when she didn't immediately answer her mother, as the teen shifted closer to her. "How'd you stop being dead?"

"Ajax," his own mother hissed because they all seemed to be avoiding that word. Death.

It was amusing, in a way, that the youngest among them was the only one with enough gall to speak freely.

After swallowing, Haven sat a bit taller and took a glance around, at all of them, as they hung about. She found her eyes most drawn to her sister though, Marin, and the way she hung back from the group, just a bit, not sitting, but standing. Watching. Listening.

"I just woke up," was all she offered up though and there was visible disappointment, but she just shook her head at it. "I don't know anything else. I-"

"Beneath the ground?" That came from Freed. He was hanging back too and seemed most suspicious of her, but given the memories of him that sprang to her mind, this made sense. Warm, but removed. "You awoke in your grave?"

He had no one to rebuke him, like Ajax, as everyone's eyes stayed on Haven instead and she released a breath.

"No." Eyes falling once more, she spoke to her eggs as Locke's elbow brushed hers. "Someone...something...had taken me. Somewhere. To a lab or… I don't know, really. I just escaped. I remember it. Dying. And then...nothing. I just..."

"Rest up, kid, huh?" Bickslow wasn't seated at the table with her, but rather one over, where he slammed a heavy fists into the table. "When you're all well again, you can try and remember where ya came from. We'll go back there, me and Freed and Ever, and we'll take care of 'em for you."

"And me too!" Elfman threw his fists into the air as he jumped up from where he sat, spilling his breakfast all about in the process. "I'll go too! It takes a real man, Haven, to beat death!"

"It sounds like she didn't beat it." Evergreen was too focused in on her niece to note the mess her boyfriend was making. "It sounds like something interfered. And yet you guys are talking about going to destroy whatever it was."

"Yeah, well..." Bickslow slowly felt the tension leave his body as he thought. "Uh… Hey, yeah, I guess that makes sense, Ever. They brought ya back from the dead, kid! We'll find 'em and thank-"

"Would you all shut the fuck up?" Laxus was done, it seemed, with his in-laws. He didn't take a seat. Rather, he skulked about, a mug of coffee in hand, but it reeked of him having something a bit extra added. Coming to a stop, he only stared over at his oldest daughter as he said, "Who was it? Haven? That had you? And what did they want with you?"

"I don't know," she told him and Laxus took to grumbling, stalking about once more.

"No one," Mirajane whispered softly and she was seated across from her daughter, but couldn't look at her then, as she eyed her food instead, "does something for nothing. There had to be a reason, Haven, that you were brought back."

"How do you even do that?" Bickslow asked. "Raise the, uh, well..."

"I don't," Haven repeated and she sounded agitated then, something like her old self, maybe, "know."

"If she doesn't know," Locke retorted to the others as he found the same annoyance, "then she doesn't know."

"Someone's gonna come after you." Laxus stopped walking again, but his eyes were in the doors instead. "Someone didn't just revive you for shits and giggles, Haven. You know that. I don't… I don't know hwo has this kind of power, to do something like this, but we have to prepare. We have to-"

"No one's coming after me."

"You don't-"

"I'm telling you." It was his eyes she had then, her father's, as she repeated, "No one is coming after me."

"And even if they did?" Elfman tossed up another arm, flexing this time. "Who can get through all of us? Huh?"

Kai was at a table all on his own as Marin still stood around, but as his hunger won out on his concern over the entire situation (his cowardice overrode his hunger, but only in short bursts), he finally dug into his eggs. Around them, he did manage to get out, "They'd have to like you a lot, I'd figure, to bring you back, Haven. I mean, think about it; necromancy's illegal, right? The Magic Council would come down pretty hard on someone practicing it. That's what this is, huh? So if you're really you and you were really, actually dead, then that would mean that the person risked a lot, bringing you back to life. What other reason would someone do that? Other than 'cause they love you? Unless… What else is there that you can do for someone? Huh? You'd have to have something really special, I'd think, to risk all that. If it ain't love. Don't you think so too?"

His question was open to anyone, but Evergreen, Bickslow, and Lisanna were finally forced to deal with the mess of their table Elfman had made while Laxus was back to drinking and Mira was just staring at her daughter, hard, but finding no words at the moment to match up with her thoughts. Marin looked to him though and though she had nothing to add, her smile was encouraging all the same.

As Haven and Locke stared at him though and Ajax continued to just sit there, close to his oldest cousin, thinking of just how fucking cool it was, that his cousin had done it, rose from the dead, Freed was the one who found something of an answer to Kai's remarks.

"that's true enough," the rune mage agreed as he walked towards the boy. "The only people to care for Haven, truly, I imagine, are here. And none of us had handling in it."

"There's more people," still, Kai argued against his own original point, "than just this room."

Locke was glaring at him, but Kai didn't care, given their sworn enemy status and all, but Freed hardly took notice.

"Fine," he agreed. Glancing over his shoulder at Haven, he added, "You lived a rich life that none of us know much about, for a few years, away from the guildhall. But can you think of a single soul, from your adventuring, that would sacrifice so much? For you?" Alt her slight shake of her head, Freed nodded his, back to Kai. "I can see no one outside of her family undertaking such risks. Not to mention, if one were to possess such a magic as this… It begs the question of how long, even, that it was you were in the ground, Haven. I mean no… If you are who you claim to be-"

"We've already," Laxus complained as he tuned back in, at least a bit, around his morning drink, "established that."

"-then you should be… You could not… A body does not stay fresh. For long. Is what I'm trying to-"

"Freed." Evergreen was the one to frown at him that time, but the man merely shook his head.

"It is the truth. I can see no possible way in which someone would have only just recently revived her. You. Haven. This had to be an undertaking of many months. If not, even, the day we left you there. You were not raised for happen chance. There was a reason. You were important enough to spend months sacrificing time, effort, and magic into, just to bring back. Perhaps it is not the time nor place to say it, but I can think of nothing you would bring someone outside of your immediate family, that they would go through such lengths, much less be afforded such lengths, without some concept of a payoff. I am thankful, as we all are, but to not attempt to get out ahead of whatever it is that might be coming-"

"We can do both. Plan and be happy?"

Marin's voice was softer than it usually was in those days, but loud enough to get them all to glance over. She still just stood by, looking a bit unnerved still, by the whole thing, as she only shrugged a bit.

"There's nothing wrong with planning, in case Freed's right," she went on, "but it doesn't have to be the only thing we think about. Right? If something comes, it comes, but… Sometimes good things just happen, don't they? And if you think about them too much, if you examine them…"

"You shouldn't question blessings." Laxus held off on the long sip from his mug he needed, in that moment, as his heavy tone was enough of a conversation killer. "Did we when you came back, Lisanna? When Mavis saved us on Tenrou? No. Because that's how things are here. I don't care who did it. Haven. Who rose you. If they come to me for praise, so be it. IF they come back to get you, for whatever it is they wanted for you, then it'll be the worst decision you ever made. You're home now. That's...that's all that matters."

Locke at her, easily and brightly, when Haven glanced up at him. Simply, he said, "Everything always works out. In Fairy Tail."

Perhaps. But it wasn't adding up in her favor in the slightest. With them all so heightened at the idea of someone potentially being after her, it would be difficult to find herself in the perfect position to strike. She was uncertain, even, in that moment, what exactly she thought that moment to be. She had two once powerful, now hardly training mages that had to be dealt with and a young, fledgling who offered her a lacrima as well.

It seemed easy enough. To get the three of them along, given all of their relation, and she imagined if she could get them somewhere, just the three of them, alone… It would be bloody, to say the least, but she felt as if she could accomplish the feat.

With so many others around though…

Time.

If she just gave them time, when nothing came after her, then the others would all slowly lose interest and fall back into whatever their normal habits were. Not hang around as much. Better still, and she began to imagine it then, if she could somehow pick them off. The three she was most after. One by one. Collect the two lacrimas along the way and then vengeance against the soul stealer.

And then…

Well.

With such power and dominance established, the amount of havoc to be rained down would be limitless.

But time proved a detriment as it would only be that very afternoon that a powerful mage would arrive back in town and though, to a certain extent, there was only passing interest Haven's revival could give him, his wife was a complete other story.

Lucy had tears in her eyes, that afternoon, as she stood before Haven, and she didn't move to hug the blonde, but rather her mother, who stood near by, and Mira teared up with her.

"This is just..."

"I know," Mira agreed with her as Haven's eyes only fell to another. Natsu. He stood by with his son's at his side, them staring at Haven curiously while Natsu only stood there, hands behind his head, staring at her with a different look entirely.

"Navi will be so excited," Happy offered as he flew around in excitement. They'd only just got back into town, all of them had, when they ran into someone from the guild who told them what felt unbelievable, still didn't feel too real, and even though he wasn't too big on Haven, it felt right, then, to the Exceed, when they found her there in the guildhall. Where she belonged.

"Navi," Haven whispered, softly, as her mother and the girl in question's embraced. But still, she stared back at Natsu as hearing his daughter's name summoned intense thoughts. All the ones she got from him though weren't nearly the same. Fuzzy. Distant. Little relation.

And yet, a powerful mage. She knew that much.

Not someone to cross.

Things had thinned out some at the guildhall as, though they all seemed to not want to leave the place, leave her, really, and allow a chance at...anything happen (once you introduced reanimation into the field of play, just about anything under the sun was possible), but after a rough night spent in the bar, they could all at the very least use showers.

Freed and Laxus disappeared in the back and Mirajane was still at the bar, but only Locke had been left, sitting behind Haven, before the Dragneels showed up. They didn't talk, for once, and Locke just kept glancing at her and making a strange sighing noise and she didn't imagine it would be difficult.

Turning him against the others.

If it was in the best interest of the person that she was impersonating.

There was something about him. She'd been involved with him, obviously, the woman she was supposed to be then, but it felt deeper than that. There were so many things to pull from, when it came to him, and as they sat beside one another, him finishing his meal and her absently drifting, in and out of recollections, the feelings only grew.

But not the ones that might have sprung, were it Haven truly sitting beside him.

When the Dragneels entered the otherwise empty hall, she could feel him tense up again, like he had before, when her family was all about. Locke wanted to be alone, which wasn't happening, so long as she always had a family member lingering about, but it would be a necessity for her as well.

Alliances were sparsely made in the face of the enemy.

"Are you okay?"

Marin's one real alliance was strengthened, as always, in the face of perseverance and as she sunk to her new bedroom's floor with Kai, she wasn't quite sure if she understood his question.

"How," she whispered as he patted at her back, "can I be?"

They'd gone home, under the instruction of her parents, to shower up and get some rest, if they could, but neither could blink for longer than a second and though they both desperately needed one, the shower called for neither of them while they spoke softly to one another.

Kai fucked up. A lot. In his life. He was clumsy as much in the physical realm as he was when just speaking to another human and he always tried so hard, to be entertaining to others, that he bled over into being a nuisance, for the most part. He wasn't any good at magic and served to only complicate the life of those around him.

But if there was one thing that he was good at, if there was one thing that he took pride in, it was the fact that he helped Marin through all of her tough times.

Mostly illnesses.

And he wasn't so certain if this was a thought time, really, but it felt like it was something super deep and hard to decipher. And Marin struggled with deep and hard to decipher things. He could hardly even spell decipher!

They were in it deep.

"It's just," Marin told him with a long breath out, "a lot. All at once."

Uh, yeah. It was a heck of a lot.

Understatements aside, Kai only nodded as he said, "Haven… How was yesterday even real? This doesn't just happen, Marin, you know. I mean, I know you know, but… Erza needs to get back. And fast. And then we have to figure out how to find Ravan and tell him. He can come back home, Marin!" Then Kai paused as his brain caught up to his rambling and he blinked some when he considered the words. "Ravan… He can come back home."

But Marin couldn't even consider that, had nothing left for it, as she shifted some, away from Kai, to pull her knees up to her chest. Wrapping her arms around her legs, she took in a soft breath before she whispered, "Something's...not right. Kai."

"What do you mean?" Confused, he moved closer to her once more and shook his head, both figuratively, to rid it of Ravan, and physically, to get his hair out of his eyes. "Your sister's back. Like, really back. Alive. How is that not the best thing ever?"

"It is," she agreed softly though, still, she took in a deep breath before saying, "I just...sense something. On her. I think. And-"

"And so what? If it was something...evil or wrong or, like, if it wasn't Haven, then your dad would notice, right? And Erza will know. When she gets back. Man, she'll be so excited. I'm excited. This is a dream, Marin. For anyone who's ever lost someone."

"I'm not being ungrateful, Kai."

He'd never dream of accusing her as so.

"But," Marin kept up as she sniffled some, softly, against her knees, "I just want Haven to be okay. Because that's Haven. I know that's her. We all know that's her. I'm just worried. I don't want my parents or the others to worry, but I'm worried."

"You don't have to shoulder things alone, you know. Just 'cause you're stronger now." He bent down then, low enough that he could force her eyes to meet his and, when he got them, he only grinned brightly, with all his teeth. "Your sister's alive, Marin! What more could you want?"

"Nothing," she agreed softly, but she couldn't shake it. The feeling.

It didn't make sense to her, as she was only just coming into her magic, but...Haven's...scent….

She was able to convince herself that it didn't matter. What she thought. Worried about. Because she had to either be mistaken or worried about nothing. Kai was right (shockingly enough, he seemed to be on a bit of a roll), if something was wrong then her father certainly would have taken action. If it wasn't Haven, he would know. Locke would know.

Marin would know.

But…

Her hesitance in outright declaring this lied in her still growing confidence (not to mention her deep emotional state over the whole thing), but there was another, removed enough for the situation to see it clearly, but still awkwardly entangled enough to make something of an outcry over it.

Haven, or what was Haven currently, felt something close to fear, in meeting the Salamander. A worry. A concern. But after his wife stopped her tears he only made some sort of offhanded remark that made Lucy annoyed, his sons laugh, and Mirajane beam. But he showed no signs of interest. No real concern.

But there was another who she'd have a much harder time shaking off.

Locke's parents arrived late in the day and Levy and their Exceed, Pantherlily, were overjoyed, just like her family, and the woman hugged Haven, but it was only Locke's father she could stare at.

Because he knew.

Of course he did.

Gajeel grit his teeth and tensed, as his wife hugged the young woman, and Locke was just standing there, snickering and grinning and Lily was insisting that he wasn't tearing up, no, he just, uh, had allergies, is all, but Gajeel just stewed and thought because Marin was right as well.

Something wasn't right.

He couldn't place it rightly either, what was off with her, Haven, but he could feel a...presence attached to her and unlike her parents, who seemed to be wishing the idea away, he didn't have that luxury. Haven was their child and to have her returned, in any form, was a blessing, he knew, but his own son was his main concern. Always.

And his long dreaded fear seemed like it had been revived along with the girl.

"Locke," he grumbled to Pantherlily as he gripped a beer can, "needs to stay away from her."

It was an awkward time to have the conversation, but the first moment the pair had been given a chance to be alone. Mirajane and Laxus were both so amped up over the return of their daughter, but also reverent of the need to get the guild back open, so Haven was taken home once more. But, of course, Locke wasn't letting Haven go anywhere with him then Marin and Kai showed back up and who could forget the Thunder Legion and Mira's siblings, and they would have a party of sorts, Mira decided.

That evening. At the Dreyar home.

Gajeel somehow found himself being dragged along with his wife, but it had more to do with the fact he wanted his son nowhere alone with Haven, if it could be helped. He worried about the fact it definitely couldn't.

If it was really her, Haven, he'd have let them at it, of course, left them to it, and he would have been happy, even if it was only for the moment, for Locke and...and...Haven, but that wasn't her. Well, it was, but…

He was struggling to put it into words. He never was too good at those. They escaped him, most of the time, and he could usually turn to his boy or his woman, but they were both out because he couldn't say something like that. Imply something like that. About what to them was a miraculous return of Locke's girlfriend. No.

He shouldn't even be breathing a word of it, he knew, in the Dreyar household that night, because he didn't know what Laxus would do, if he heard him say something like that. Say that what was standing before them, then, wasn't who they were parading her around as. No. Gajeel wasn't good at empathy, but he imagined if he'd lost Locke and then had him show back up, it wouldn't really matter, so long as it was him, what the boy's intentions were; he was his son and he'd defend him against anything.

Especially after losing him.

So no. Gajeel couldn't outright say what he thought. Not yet. Not without proof. But how do you prove something that should be so fucking clear to so many of them in that stupid cramped house? Huh?

"What do you mean?"

Pantherlily had fluttered up to the kitchen table, which Gajeel was standing before, though he was glaring out into the living room where he saw her, Haven, with his son faithfully at her side, standing with her uncles and aunts. Locke looked so happy. It was crushing Gajeel, knowing what he did. Honest, it was. But still…

"I mean," Gajeel repeated into his beer then, "that he needs to stay away from her."

"You're kidding, right?"

But he only shook his head as he said, "I don't get it. The Salamander...how can be so… Hey! Natsu!"

The man was about because his wife was, standing by with Mirajane and gushing with her, repeatedly, over the whole situation. Natsu felt a bit awkward, honestly, with the whole thing. He felt like if Navi suddenly came back to life, he'd want to just be alone with her and only her, but the Dreyar's were always a little bit off. The Strausses even more.

"Ditch your fuckin' cat and come outside with me." Gajeel slammed back his beer as he felt Laxus' eyes on him, out there in the living room, where he was drinking himself dizzy while pacing all about. At Gajeel's loud voice, he did stop though, to glare over, but Gajeel refused to look at him. HE couldn't look at him. Just Natsu. "Got somethin' to discuss."

"Discuss, huh?"

"Don't go with him, Natsu," Happy urged. "It's a trap!"

But those were the exact things that Natsu wanted to fall into! Traps! That meant a fight. And yeah, sure, maybe it was a bit tacky, beating the shit outta Gajeel at Haven's coming home party, but hey, if he knew her like he thought he did (which was admittedly not too well), he was sure she'd understand.

Or join in!

When they stepped out on the back porch, Gajeel immediately took a look around, as he knew Natsu's younger two brats were running about, somewhere, and he didn't want them catching wind of their conversation. Not picking them up, he only glared at the other man as Natsu took to stretching some, wanting to get all limbered up for their rumble.

"Let's make this quick, huh?" Natsu went on as Gajeel only glared. "Luce'll be out here soon, on me about making a scene and all, so-"

"You're not that much of a dunce, are you?"

"What do you mean?"

"What do I- Look, Salamander, you're not gonna sit here and tell me that you haven't noticed it too. Whatever the fuck's up with...with...Haven. There's something attached to her. Her scent. Can't you feel it? Her father, and her sister, too, they probably know it, probably sense it, but they're all happy and shit. Ain't thinkin' straight. But me and you know that whatever that is, that's standing in there, right now? That ain't what I put in the ground."

Natsu was starting to realize he didn't have a fight in his future and tried not to let his disappointment show. Still, finished with his stretching, he only shrugged a bit.

"What about it?"

"What about- Are you serious? Natsu, you moron, how do you think she's here right now? Huh?"

"Magic," he answered easily and, well, yeah, but the answer pissed Gajeel off for some reason.

A lot of things seemed to be pissing him out at the moment.

"Mag- Gah!" Gajeel wanted to slam his fist into the other man's face, but he knew that would only devolve the way Natsu wanted it and not the way he did. "Ain't nothin' good goin' around, just for the heck of it, raising the dead, Salamander. And even if they were, Haven? Of all people? No. No! She's back for a fucking reason. Something is...in her. Inside of her. And it ain't right. I get it, alright? They're all excited because their loved one is back from the dead and maybe she is. Maybe Haven really is. But she brought something with her. And I don't know about you and your daughter, but I want my son nowhere near it, whenever it decides to blow up in the Master's face."

Natsu only stood there for a moment, expression blank, before he shrugged again.

It took a lot out of Gajeel not slug him that time.

"Look, man, that's their fucking daughter," he told him simply. "If you want to get in Laxus' and Mirajane's face about it, be my guest. But I'm not. Whatever it is that rose Haven, that's inside of her, it has tried anything yet. And wouldn't it have? If it could? I mean think about it; when I got back into town, there was hardly anyone even about, at the hall. She was just sitting around with Locke. And her mother. What could she be waiting for? Huh? I don't know how it worked, or why it worked, but that's Haven. Talking to her parents. Her family. You can't fake that. If something came back with her, maybe it's her controlling it. Something she had to fight her way through, huh? To get back from the brink of death? Who knows? But I'm not gonna tell the Master his daughter's evil. Tell him to...what, Gajeel? Fight her?"

Even Natsu wasn't that stupid.

He walked out then, into the yard, and called out for where his son's had gotten off to. The party wasn't really his style.

But as Gajeel glared after him, he was joined on the porch by another. Someone he had even less dealings with than the stupid Salamander.

"Lissy sent me out here to make sure you and Natsu weren't fucking up the party." Still, Bickslow pulled a cigarette from his pocket with a shrug. "And to, well, you know. Habits don't care much about miracles."

But Gajeel only studied the seith under the pale light of the moon, the Salamander's voice getting more distant, matching the shrieks of play of his sons. Taking a step closer to Bickslow, Gajeel's red eyes followed the smoke he blew, after lighting up, and they never had had much to say to one another, over the years, but Gajeel felt like he was grasping at straws for anything close to an ally in all of this.

"You see souls, don't ya, Bickslow?"

"Eh?" He shrugged some. "You talking about my babies? They're inside. They hang around my boy now, more than me. Turncoats."

"But you see other souls, right? Everyone's soul?"

"Gettin' a guilty conscious about somethin'?"

Gajeel only asked him simply, "That soul, inside your niece… Is it really her?"

Bickslow had been speaking around his cigarette before, but reached up then, to remove it, and he wouldn't face the other guy as he said it, but still managed to say, "It's Haven."

"But-"

"It's," Bickslow insisted to him, "Haven."

Still, his tone and stiffness confirmed it for Gajeel. Something wasn't right. And he was the only one willing to do anything about it.

Inside, there was one person though, who felt more in-tune to his cause, but there was noway that Gajeel would ever even think to approach Marin with such a thing. Or that she would know what to do if he did. No. She was trying to wash away her concerns over her sister by focusing, as she'd told the others, before, in the guildhall, on what was before them at the moment. Haven. Her sister. Alive and well.

It was more than a bit to process and, now over a day and a half out, she was still struggling to grasp it. What had taken place. What little she knew about what had taken place. That Haven was there, regardless of the reason, and she had to just keep focusing on hos bleed and wonderful that was.

Kai being all pumped up by it helped.

Some.

He and Locke definitely hadn't overcome their distance and, at one point during the party, when Haven approached Marin with Locke at he side, Kai slipped away rather easily, muttering something about food, but Haven didn't seem concerned with him.

At all.

Memories of Kai were fleeting and as she watched him rush off, she found better for it. He wasn't even an obstacle, honestly, in her way, and more of a nuisance.

Gajeel had her mind running though and when he called the Salamander outside…

But she felt protected, at least a bit, by her supposed family, and knew there was nothing the man could do to her at the moment. No. Gathering an army of only himself and the Salamander, while powerful, wouldn't stand against those who were behind her.

For the moment.

She'd had to figure a way to get rid of him too. Gajeel.

All of this was beginning to take too much time. Get too complicated. Focus. On her prize. What it would bring her. That's what she had to do. Not get bogged down in the details. Starve off the desire, the deep desire, carnal, almost, for her kind, to just begin razing cities, one by one until…

Until she was destroyed. Sentenced back to Hell.

No.

If she stayed the course then she would gather enough power to never be taken down. Again.

And as she spied one of her power sources across the room with her ridiculous nuisance of a friend, just standing there, awkwardly, in her own familial home, well, she couldn't just let her dear sister feel such a way? Could she?

Elfman and Evergreen were hankering for an argument and Haven was glad to find it take place then as she slipped away, Locke on her heels, over to where her sister and Kai stood close to the hall, whispering between one another.

This stopped on her approach and as Kai drifted off, she sensed Locke tense again, but ignored it and instead focused in on Marin who seemed nervous to be facing her sister. This checked out, for the demon, who'd seen plenty of this play out as the recollections came back to her.

"This has to be," Haven remarked to her sister, "the shittiest welcome back from fucking death ever."

Yeah.

The mannerisms and personality was starting to come back to her.

"Haven," Locke snickered in something close to a complaint, but not fully one, because he didn't think he could ever do that again. Complain. Critique. He didn't feel like he ever could even come down again, honestly, fro the cloud he was surfing on.

But Marin only smiled and bowed her head some as she said, "Well..we're just all so happy that you're back, Haven, and-"

"Are you, Marin?" She smiled, Haven did, and when Marin raised her head, the younger of the Dreyar girls felt cold. "Are you really?"

"O-Of course! How could I not be?" Marin swallowed some as she said, "This is all we've prayed for, Haven, the entire time you've been gone. And now…."

"They're answered," Locke finished with a grin and Haven glanced up at him, just for a moment, causing Marin to do so as well. It was then that something clicked for her and, quickly, the younger of the sisters reached up to her own neck and began to unclasp the gem that hung there.

"Oh! Haven, here. I've been so...shocked, that I forgot-"

"I just gave it to her to hold onto," Locke cut Marin off then as his grin, finally, found it's way down and he probably thought he was going to be reprimanded, or something, for such an action, but Haven only looked confused for a moment.

"Your necklace." Marin held it out and, slowly, Haven raised her hand to catch it. "It's yours. You should take it back now."

As it fell into her open palm, the...intensity was dragged up to the highest point on the dial and she felt so much, just from cupping the necklace, and Haven had to drop it in surprise, not expecting such a thing from a simple object. Memories tied to people, places, smells, those made sense, but that stupid stone…

"I got it," Locke remarked as he bent down then, to pick it up. "Haven. Here. I'll help you put it-"

"I don't want it."

"What do you mean?" He frowned as Marin only raised her eyebrows. "Have? It's your-"

"You keep it. Marin. One of you. I don't care." And she didn't. In fact, she wanted away from it then. Didn't want to risk it. Touching it. If her presence was too much for some of them to grasp, the emotions that damn necklace drug up were far too much for the entity to bear.

It didn't help that she could hear him then, Gajeel, coming back into the house, and she needed to clear her head. To be alone. Away from so many people.

Her bedroom looked so different from the memories, of course it did, but the demon was hardly focused on it as she disappeared into it and instead went to the window. Shoving it up slightly, the cool air that fluttered in was welcome and she just needed some separation. From the situation. Before she lost control and…

If she over played her hand, it could all blow up. She felt so powerful, in her new body, but the longer she spent in it, the more it's emotions, twisted around in the memories and thoughts that kept springing up, began to interfere.

Focus.

She had to focus on-

"Where are you going? Haven?"

"How do you know I'm going anywhere?"

"You used to climb out your window all the time. To sneak out." Locke had followed, of course, though Marin thankfully didn't, and the necklace wasn't in either of his hands, she found, as he came to rest each on her shoulders. "I used to have to wait for you. When you still had a curfew, when we weren't on jobs, and-"

"We need to be alone." She didn't want him to start peppering her with memories that she hadn't even stumbled upon yet. "Locke."

He knew he should refuse. Because Haven needed to be with her family right now, her real family, because they'd missed her and loved her, but after all that time, apart, it was him that she had missed and loved and needed, and fuck real family. Fuck the entire concept.

Locke was Haven's real family, the only one that mattered, and he'd suffered so much, just to get here, just to have this, and he wanted so many things as they walked through the breezy summer night to his apartment.

The relief he felt, when they were finally there, finally alone, was really weightlifting. Considering she'd been the one to request being alone, he imagined it was the same for her. Locke couldn't imagine what coming back to life after a horrific death could do to a person and knew to a certain extent, Haven had to crave her family at least a bit, but everyone had a line.

He figured they'd reached it.

For the moment at least.

"Sorry for the mess," he sighed some as he flicked on a light. "I've been kind of...well….It's just been really hard, Haven, since you've been gone and I… I'm sorry that I couldn't save you. I wanted to. I tried so fucking hard. But you were just… I'm sorry. I didn't want to get so heavy so quickly, but I just-"

"Locke..."

They'd hardly made it into the place before he faced her and just dropped all this on her. He couldn't look at the woman as he sniffled some and sighed down at his feet as she only came closer. When Haven reached out for him, her hand came up to brush his cheek and Locke felt something deep inside of his stir. It wasn't what she wanted though as, just as quickly, Haven was moving to kiss him and, oh, lyeah, he just…

"I know," Locke told her when he turned his head and Hvaen only stared at him in confusion. Slipping back from her some, he felt a tightness in his chest as he said, "I know that you and Ravan… That you slept together."

"Ravan." As her hand fell back down, Haven's eyes fell too. Ravan. It wasn't nearly as a strong, the connection she felt to that name, but there was something… "Where is Ravan?"

"That's what you want to talk about?" Locke snorted, annoyed, and he had so many things running through him in a the moment because he was being given her back, for some reason, somehow, someone had to decided to place Haven back in his life, and he was going to fuck it up over something as stupid as who she'd slept with? Yeah, actually, he probably was. "I don't fucking know where he is. And I don't give a shit. He left you there to die, Haven. Did you forget? And… Why did you do that? Sleep with him? I don't get it. I-"

"Forget Ravan." Clearly, Locke wouldn't give her any information on the guy. It would have to be someone else. Jealousy was exploitable, but for the moment was useless to her. "Locke, look at me. Who am I here with? You. I'm here with-"

"You wouldn't even fuck me. When you came back. But you go off with him and you guys sleep together like it's nothing? That's shitty, Haven. Him… What? Did you see his stupid fucking lacrima and suddenly have to jump his bones? It's always about that with you, isn't it? Just like in Crocus. You-"

"I don't want to fight with you. Locke."

He didn't want to fight with her either. At all. He'd just gotten her back. But the shock was falling away and something that had compounded his grief was bubbling to the surface. Turning from her, Locke took some deep breaths and Haven didn't move. Draw away. Bark at him. Mock him.

Locke had to wonder how much death had changed her and how long it would be until she felt back to her old self. If she ever would.

"I'm sorry," he whispered with a shake of his head. "I'm just… I love you so much. Haven. I don't ever want to lose you again."

"You won't," she vowed and when he looked back at her, she added, "Don't you believe in me, Locke?"

Nodding his head, Locke held out his hand then, waiting for her to lay her finger in his palm, so he could close his hand up around it, but Haven hardly glanced at it as she stepped closer, reaching her own hand out to rest on his chest.

"If I needed you, Locke, if needed someone, and no one else was there to help me-"

"What are you afraid of?"

"Death." It felt easy enough to say, even for one who would never truly experience it. The concept alone was quite frightening. "And whatever it was that woke me coming back for me."

"I won't let it. Either of those things." Locke lost his weeping and something akin to aggression broke free as he promised, "I will never let something take you away fro me again. Okay? You're fine. You're safe. Just stay with me. I'll protect you."

"From anything?"

"Anything."

"No matter who it is?"

"Haven-"

"No matter," she insisted, "who it is?"

"Anyone," he agreed as his head fell forwards, to rest on hers. This felt more like Haven, honestly. Paranoid over nothing. "I promise."

"Even if it's just us? Against everything else?"

"It's always just been us, Have."

She was smiling when they broke away from one another and Locke felt so fucking good, about everything, and he'd have woken up by now, right? IF this was a dream? This had to be reality. She had to really be there and they had to really be together.

Right?

Gajeel didn't feel good about anything though when Locke and Haven's absence was noticed. No one did, to a certain extent, a mixture of disappointment that Haven was gone and a realization of what more than likely what the two of them were up to. And who wanted to consider that?

Not Laxus, obviously, who brooded and drank while his wife was just glad that Haven was happy, even if it wasn't with them, and Levy seemed much the same over Locke as they left that night, but her husband felt sick. Ill.

"You are not," his wife told him with a heavy frown at the suggestion, "going to go bother them. Let them be alone, Gajeel. I mean, could you imagine? Something like this happening? Only in Fairy Tail, huh?"

Pantherlily agreed with the woman and Gajeel was fine with that. Being the only one to take up a cause. If it was up to him and him alone to get to the bottom of things, fine. Alright. You'd do anything for your kids. And in Laxus' case, clearly, that was pretend as if they weren't some sort of other worldly presence that probably was gonna kill poor Locke (the man's father imagined if Haven was back for vengeance, it would be his life she'd want to fuck up the most; it was all she'd enjoyed in life). But for Gajeel, his goal was the direct opposite.

There was something wrong with Haven. Or whatever it was that claimed to be her.

And he'd get to the bottom of it.

Chapter Text

Sunrise the following morning brought about a more steady reassurance for Locke as he found Haven there, still, in his apartment. Not beside him, where they'd fallen asleep together, in his bed, which panicked him some at first, but she wasn't far. Just in his living room, flicking through one of his medical journals.

"I thought..." he whispered softly, when he found her there, sitting on his couch with no lights on. The gentle sunlight peeking through the ratty blinds was enough. "Haven, you have to stop disappearing every time I fall asleep."

She hardly glanced up from the notebook in her lap. "You worry too much."

"You died," he told her bluntly. "Like, I don't know what it was like, on your end, but it's been hell over here, on me. So yeah, I'm going to worry about you for the rest of forever." When this didn't even get a snarky rebuttal or so much as a look, Locke came closer to peer over her shoulder. "And what are you doing, anyways? Haven? Are you actually looking at-"

"Spells." She heldfast to the journal when he tried to pull it away from her. "You're deconstructing them."

"Well, yeah. So what? I always-"

"Why?"

"Do you not…remember?"

He was leaning over the back of the couch, leaning over her some as he rested one hand on her shoulder and, glancing down at the journal, she remembered something...close. Something there. But it had nothing to do with the spells.

Tilting her head back and up, she only stared at him as she asked, "Do you study any other spells? These mostly seem to deal in healing. Have you ever dove into something dealing more in...damage? If you are able to control healing magic of this magnitude, then surely-"

"Powerful. You want me to come up with a more powerful spell for you?" Finally, he did snatch the journal and, in her memory, she could recall being the one to flee. Still, in the current time, he was stomping off to the kitchen and tossing the journal down on the counter, it was almost amusing to see how emotional they could get. Humans. Almost. Still, Locke only huffed some as he said, "Are you serious, Haven? After all we went through because you were chasing some dumb magic, you want to get right back to it? I can't-"

"Someone's agitated." Well, two people were considering the fact that he wasn't doing as she requested ticked her off just as heavily. She marked him, already, as a key to taking down the others in the guild, but for him to be showing resistance so early…

Locke was seething though, so easily, because he knew how this would go. Somehow he just did. It felt so much like how it had always been, between them, between Haven and everything, really, and he was a dunce, to think that death would change something in her.

Still, as he turned from her and glared instead at his stupid fridge, Locke ground his teeth some before saying, "Can we just not talk about magic or power or anything like hat for a few days? Please? Just… I can't deal with this kind of stuff. Right now. I don't know how you can."

Over on the couch, the entity considered his words with the best amount of empathy that could before offered before, after a long few moments of silence, remarking, "It was only a question, Locke."

"Yeah." He snorted, but still moved to open the fridge and see what he had them for breakfast. "Sure."

As their tension fizzled, however, it built a bit in the hearts of the others that worried over Haven when she didn't return to the Dreyar household that evening or the guildhall that morning. Marin tried hard to focus on tending bar, but it was difficult as, with her father locked away in his office with her mother, people seemed to speak freely about the nothing short of miraculous return of her sister.

Once again, Haven had become an inescapable name in the hall.

Kai was jittery though, less over worry about when Locke and Haven would show up and more over the fact that once Erza did, she'd find out and get on the lacrima and contact Jellal to send Ravan on home. It was all Kai could think about as he bounced around the hall that day, hyper and childlike again. It was almost too much to take.

"We'll both get our siblings back," he told Marin that morning as they left the apartment together. This sounded somewhat offensive, maybe, considering Marin's had risen from the dead after a grisly death while Ravan was just out living his life, in a technical exile, but Marin smiled uncomfortably all the same, nodding her head at the sentiment.

It wasn't as if she wouldn't be excited as well, anyways, to see Ravan again. He meant a lot to her as well. But Marin had serious doubts about things just getting paved over so easily. Especially as far as her father was concerned. And though they'd all heard Locke's account and she and Kai had heard his brother's, no one had rightly questioned Haven yet on how she felt about what went down on the cliff that afternoon. Ravan had left her there, to die, and whether or not he could have helped was beyond the point.

Haven wasn't the forgiving type.

At all.

And Ravan hadn't ditched her in her time of need to complete a quest, something Marin knew her sister could at the very least relate to. No. Ravan not only abandoned her on her deathbed, but he'd also run away from the mission. The gauntlet. And though Marin didn't know her sister's stance on staying together till the bitter-end, she did know how she felt about leaving a job unfinished.

You fight until you die.

And Haven had.

Ravan though…

Ajax found Kai's joy unfounded and annoying, honestly, as he sat around the guildhall for once, refusing to take another job until he got to see her again. Haven. His cousin. In those days, he was gone more than he was around, the way it was meant to be, but he was glad he'd been there. Then. For her homecoming.

Or would she have respected him more? Had he been gone on a job? It was a tough call to make, honestly, if he shouldn't just head out on one right then, to show her his commitment and drive. Maybe...well, he knew she was probably going to be recovering for awhile, adjusting once more, but after…

Maybe they could finally go on a job together? Now that he was doing that all by himself? And then he could really show her, finally, all that he'd been able to accomplish. To become. It hadn't been long, but he felt like a completely different kid than he was last winter. He was a different kid. A very different one.

His mother knew this and, as he sat brooding that day, waiting on Haven, she did come over to smile at him and softly remind him of something.

"It's going to be really heavy for a few days, 'jax," she said as he only resisted rolling his eyes. "For Haven. For everyone. So just relax, okay?"

She spoke from experience, after all, and when she arrived back after a much longer absence from her true home, Lisanna spent a few days just hunkered down with her siblings and no one else. She didn't imagine that Haven would have this approach and was already prepping for the fallout the possibility of her niece choosing to do so, but with none of them, and rather Locke, or even just running off on her own (this felt just as likely, coming from Haven) which would no doubt send her brother-in-law into a meltdown and at the very least upset her sister.

It wasn't as if they were already fraying, anyways, Laxus and Mirajane. Always, of course, or at least were both trapped in a slow decent together for the past few years, but one would think that the return of their dead child would heal all of that.

Err, well, Laxus thought that, at least. To a certain extent, surely, right?

It was the first time in a long time that he purposely fell asleep in his own home that night before. Granted, he took the couch as a precaution, but when Mirajane arose that morning, he forced his groggy, abused body to do the same. It wasn't easy. And he didn't look well, at all, but he was standing, albeit unstably, and he chalked it up to something of a victory.

He wanted to do it as well, after all. Get down tot he hall. For once. Not to drink either, but because he knew she'd go back there, she had to, when she...well… She and Locke would have to come by the hall eventually and that was all that mattered.

Still, it was quite early that Mirajane arose and she paused, first, outside the girls' bedroom door, almost opening it, to question Marin if she felt as if she had time for breakfast before she went in. Then she recalled that Marin wasn't there and the loud snores of her husband from the living room reminded her who was.

"It's too early to go down to the hall," his wife sighed some after the man shoved up and splashed some water over his sunken face. "I guess we can have breakfast."

He didn't want it. Not really. But still found himself falling into the kitchen chair as Mirajane just yawned through preparations. Any of the joy that the party held the night before in their home was gone now, along with their family and friends, and it was just the two of them. A welcomed, coveted thing at one point in time, but now…

Laxus felt like they should both be more happy. Still. But much like how Haven's death had settled over them in a matter of days, the shock waves of her revival were beginning to calm. The worry and questions were present still and the concept itself would still be fresh for quite some time, but something of acceptance was coming with the second dawn and, as they faced it together, Mirajane only slid a coffee mug his way and gave him a silent order to keep it black.

He choked it down for her benefit, but planned to chase it down with something else the second he got to the hall.

"At least it's easier now, I guess," he offered after stabbing the yoke of his egg with the tip of his toast, his queasy stomach not enjoying the gushing of yellow goo this caused.

"What is?" his wife asked with a frown and Laxus could only shrug.

"Haven and Marin are too old to share a room," he said simply. "They'dda been at one another's throats once all the nice, glad you're back stuff wore off. Now Marin's gone, in her own apartment. Haven can have the room back, all to herself."

She just stared for a long few moments, Mira did, before sighing some, and she was only eating toast, taking a small bite then before answering.

"Something tells me," she said with a shake of her head, "that Haven's not going to just move back home, Laxus."

"Where's she gonna go? She has no money, all her friends out there, if she has any of those, they probably think she's dead. We're all she has." When his wife still shook her head, he frowned some more. "Locke? You think she's gonna shack up with Locke? They'll be tired of one another soon enough. Especially with how clingy he is over this whole- And you know, actually, that little asshole's actually pissing me off. Haven wants to be with us right now. You and me. Marin. And what's he doing? Huh? Taking her away."

But when Mirajane only sighed at that, Laxus deflated some, frowning down at his coffee as he lost his passion.

"She'll wanna come home, Mira. Now." He found he kind of liked it more the second time around, the way the goo from the yoke dried so quickly and became something of a sticky mess, covering everything in it's path. "She'll see. She… Things are different now."

"What, Laxus?" That got a response, at least, even if it was a redundant rebuke. "What's different?"

He didn't like it, her tone.

"Everything." At the stare this got, he grew somewhat annoyed and remarked, "Well, it well. I… We got off track, Mira, because of… Look, we just need to come back to together. Me and you. Figure it out. And then Haven will come back home and-"

"Are you drunk? Right now? Still?"

No.

Just high on self-delusion.

"It's what we have to do."

"I don't have to do anything, Laxus." She stood then, leaving her mostly untouched breakfast behind. "And it's not what Haven would want."

He snorted though, at this, still not having really done much to his food either. Just made a mess of it. "Our daughter, who we both thought was dead, is back, Mira, and you're still acting like-"

"None of this has anything to do with-"

"It has everything to do with Haven! And she's back, Mira. No. She's back and we're going to-"

"I," she cut him off with a glance over her shoulder as she left the room, "am going to get ready to go to the hall. That's what I'm doing right now, Laxus."

"Why are you being like this? Haven's alive again. What more do you want?"

He didn't understand it. At all. The reason that things got so shitty, why they were so bad at the moment, was all because Haven had...because...but now she was back and that absolved everything, didn't it? It had to.

But her presence (or lack of one, really, as she was still off reuniting or whatever the fuck she was doing with her dumb boyfriend) did nothing to ward off the shakes that set in about them time they made it to the hall and he could separate it, his drinking from Haven, because he'd been drinking for years, things had become exasperated, just a bit, but he'd probably be able to cut back now. He figured. Yeah. He'd cut back before Haven would probably need someone to train her. Work her out again.

Someone other than stupid Locke.

She'd want her father.

She needed her father.

It felt stupid. The whole thing felt stupid. He was getting his wish granted, his prayer answered, and he still couldn't feel completely happy or satisfied or settled over it. Was it really answering anything, anyways? For her to not be there, with him, at that moment? Instead of off with stupid, stupid, annoying, idiotic…

"Locke," Mira sighed as they sat around together, for some reason, in his office that morning, "missed Haven too."

She mostly didn't want to be out there, in the bar, where she was being constantly being bombarded with congratulations and well wishes over the whole thing. It had gotten harder, in the past decade, to pull off the fake smiles.

It wasn't as if she didn't have something to smile about. Because she did. She definitely did. And to weep over and thank and praise and…

She'd done all that, with her friends and family, the night before, and the one before that, even, but there was something awkward twinged in it now. Sitting around the hall. She so rarely did, especially now, but even before she lost her daughter, Mira's time at the hall was waning heavily. She was still well-known, given both her marital status and renowned abilities, but it wasn't the same anymore. She used to know each and every person who walked through the hall doors, regardless of how long they'd been in the guild or how often they came around. Sure, the size growth made that nearly an impossible feat now, but also…

She still loved Fairy Tail. From the bottom of her heart. But as Marin begin to take over shifts for her, at first, it was more just to alleviate Mira's overly packed schedule, but when she took a step away from it, the hall and the atmosphere, Mira found she rather...liked it. Away. For more than just a few hours. A day. The first time she took two off, back to back, in, oh, years was really eye opening.

Laxus was pleased, back then, to see that she was so pleased, and things were tense around then as Haven seemed to spend her spare time thinking up ways to undermine her father's authority in the hall, but they weren't so bad. Not like now. They were getting there, but then...then Incidio happened and…

Mira never felt like she'd missed out on much. With her daughters. They spent so much of their time up at the guildhall, where she worked nearly every single day, and it was fine. It was nice. She got to watch them grow up. Had a place to observe while also do her own thing.

But it was only when she was truly removed, when Haven was gone, off into the world on her own, and Marin was beginning to fall into that grueling schedule that Mira had carved out for herself for so long, that she really thought about it. The time they'd all spent together.

It felt like her memories were tainted with just as much nostalgia as they were a harshness. Where had things gotten off course? She knew it had been gradual, had hardly felt a thing, really, until it was too late, but where did it first begin? The start? Or had they started their fall somewhere along the way?

Sometimes she thought really far back. To the beginning. When she and Laxus…

He'd told her as much, anyways. That he didn't want the same things she wanted. A family and all that. Laxus hardly wanted to get married. But Mira just thoughts… She'd always thought that if she could just get him to do something, try something, even something that he vehemently claimed he didn't want or need or have a desire for, then he would see it. What she saw. What she felt. What she needed. And he'd see and feel and want those things too then. And it worked in a certain way, at least. Laxus wanted to please her, mostly, which meant going along with those things, whatever they were, and sometimes he could fake them until he felt them, but other times they just didn't come.

He hadn't wanted a kid. He hadn't wanted a second one. He didn't want to get married. He didn't want this at the guildhall. He didn't want that. He thought they should do this. He thought they should do that. But none of it mattered. She out ranked him.

On everything other than Haven.

She could see it, she could feel it, even as she said it, each time she said it, over the past few months. The non too subtle blame that she slung his way over all that had happened, in reference to their daughter, as if she shouldered no blame and he had to bear it all.

Haven always liked him more. Always. Since she was a baby. And even when she didn't like him, when she absolutely loathed him, thought that he was the scum of the planet, he still ranked above Mirajane.

It didn't hurt. Not really. Mirajane knew it worked both ways. Marin favored her and Haven was just brutal. Too brutal. She needed someone to ram her head into and proclaim an equal amount of supposed hatred back. To get rough with her and make big dramatic scenes and get it all out. All the aggression that the Dreyars seemed to naturally have inside of them.

Mirajane couldn't offer this. Haven seemed to sense that early on and most of her time with her mother was spent grumbling under her breath, knowing that if she pushed the woman too far, she'd had down true punishment.

And Haven didn't want to truly be punished.

No.

She wanted some head slamming, curse slinging, vitriol filled screaming match to justify her rage and Laxus provided that. Because Laxus felt those things. And it was just so much easier to not properly address it, to not really figure it out. Just say it was part of it, being Laxus' daughter, and delve no further.

Haven had something in her that they couldn't explain, that they didn't want to explain, and sometimes, when her ferocity was still cute, when she was a kid, or at rare times valuable, as she grew, it was even praised. Haven had pertinacity, and even though it could be annoying, in the world of a mages, it was rather admirable. All the broken bones and knocked in teeth this caused through the years weren't, but she had a goal, one she was battling towards all on her own and Mirajane wished often that she'd not been behind the bar all those days her oldest toiled, but waiting at home, to hear about it. If not in the field, struggling with her.

But Mirajane had Marin.

Because if Haven favored her father, then Marin leaned heavily towards her mother. It was hard for Laxus, always, to connect to their younger daughter. For all the anger and spitfire Haven had, Marin lacked anything close. Laxus found it more difficult to connect to her and Haven began to take up so much of his time that, well, it was just easier.

Easier.

So many of the things that she and Laxus did was for the ease of it. Things were hard after Makarov's death as they fell heavily into running the guild together and as they navigated that, some corners were probably cut with their daughters that neither thought would affect that much. And yet, it seemed to have affected everything.

Marin was timid and reserved and fell closer in line with what Mirajane was, currently, while Haven was angry and resentful, meaning she was like Laxus, and life made so much sense when it was cut and dry. Ignoring both changes Mira and Laxus had gone through, in their own adolescence, to lead them to where they were then. If Mira just let Laxus deal with Haven and she just took care of Marin, eventually, it would all turn out alright. They each understood one of the two and they should just keep things that way.

But…

Mirajane went thorough many of the things that Haven struggled with, during her teen years. She had a lot more reason for it, Mira felt, given her shitty hand she was dealt early on, to be so volatile and angry, but that didn't mean that Haven didn't have a right to feel...whatever it was that twas going on. And Laxus was a rather sensitive kid. Like Marin. He wasn't always so tough. He could have tried to spend time with her as well. Tried harder. But that was the thing, wasn't it? It was always whatever was easiest.

Their marriage felt much the same now.

It was easier for Laxus to just give into his wife. It was easier for Mirajane to just ignore his drinking. It was easier for him to ignore anything she did gripe about. It was easier for her to pretend like it was okay that they were drifting further and further apart every day and honestly? Sometimes? She really regretted ever wanting to be with him in the first place.

Love felt stupid and silly and dumb then, and she saw it plain as day on Locke's face when he and Haven finally showed up at the hall. Kinana came to knock at the office door the second the pair arrived and, with something of a glance between one another, Mira and Laxus rose in tandem, but also silence.

Connected, but disjointed.

They were seated together, Locke and Haven, the former with a beer already and the latter not barking back at those who gathered about the table, full of questions and some sort of weird congratulations about, well, not being dead.

A true accomplishment.

But at the sight of her parents walking over, most retreated and Ajax found himself to be the only one still seated there, across from his cousin, as his aunt and uncle came to stand over his shoulder. Mirajane smiled brightly, for her oldest, but Laxus only glared at Locke. In return, the other guy could only scratch at his cheek and look off.

"You disappeared so quickly last night," Mirajane was saying as she took a seat beside Ajax, though her hands were outstretched to take both of Haven's in her own. It was hard, for the entity encased inside of Haven, to sit there and allow this. No matter how many times the soul taker embraced her, it would get no easier. Still, the woman before her looked so bright and happy as she added, "Not that you have to explain anything to us, of course, Haven, we were just surprised, is all."

Staring into the bright blue eyes before her, Haven nodded, and there was a lot there, given this was her mother, but the flooding memories never felt quite the same as they did when she looked at Laxus. Thought of the man. He brought about an intense...drive and ambition and desire for violence and adventure. Her mother though seemed to only inflict something close to disappointment and rejection.

The distrust that naturally seemed to exist between mother and daughter was welcomed to the true demon currently inhabiting the latter.

"I had other concerns," Haven offered up and Mirajane was quick to nod while Laxus only snorted some and Locke gazed into his early morning drinking

It was Ajax that spoke though, no longer able to just hold it all in, as he felt something he hadn't in a long few months. Giddiness. Excitement. He was bouncing, almost, as he sat, when he said, "It thought we could hang out together, today, Haven, if you wanted. 'cause I do. We could go to the park or the clubhouse and I could show you all of my new tricks. Or we could go on a job or-"

"I'm sure Haven's still feeling a bit weak, 'jax," his aunt cautioned as, slowly, she withdrew her hands from covering her daughter's. Still, she only returned Haven's deep gaze as she asked, "Aren't you?"

"I'm never weak," seemed like something the girl would say, perhaps phrased a bit better as it tasted odd on her tongue, but it made Locke snicker anyways and Ajax punched the air. Mira and Laxus both sighed in turn though, shaking their heads a bit.

"You should go out before noon," Mirajane offered with a frown. "It's been so hot recently. Either that or wait till dusk-"

"We'll go right now!" Ajax jumped up, bumping his aunt some in the process. His mother was glaring over at him too, but he didn't care none. About anything. It felt like the best dream. The only dream. The last time he'd ever seen his cousin had gone something like this. Going out and training. Showing off. She said she'd see him again, the next day, but…

But none of it mattered now.

Because she was here, again, right now, and that was what he had to focus on. Haven had returned. To still dwell in the sadness her death had brought about, the aimlessness, all these emotions that he wasn't accustomed to and failed, probably, at properly dealing with, just wasn't something he could do right now.

No.

Haven was back and that meant that everything was okay again and everything that had gone on since she had died was, well, nonexistent anymore.

Everything would be okay.

His big cousin was back.

As he rushed to leave though, Haven got to her feet at a more normal pace and, just as she figured, Locke was quickly throwing his drink back, as if to follow.

"Don't," she said simply, reaching over to lay a hand on his arm. When he frowned at her, she only shrugged some as she said, "I'm going out with Ajax. What? You think I'm just gonna disappear? Stay here. I'll be back soon."

He didn't want to.

He really didn't want to.

But he also really didn't want to piss her off again (or get pissed off again), so he only nodded some as Haven offered neither him nor her parents any sort of farewell. Just walked right out of the hall, ignoring the stares she got from the early morning patrons as well as she ever did.

"Doesn't feel too nice, does it?"

"Laxus," Mirajane complained at her husband's sneer, but he was doing glaring at Locke it seemed as he disappeared once more, to his office. His wife stayed in her seat though, for a few moments at least, and when she reached out that time, it was to lay her hands over Locke's that time.

As he blinked, she only told him, "I know it's a lot right now, but things will level out soon. It's all so...overwhelming, but… Just appreciate it, okay?"

He nodded numbly and Mira was gone, just like that, off to speak with her sister. But she was replaced soon enough by her other daughter who came by to refill his drink.

"No," Locke sighed some, moving the mug when she motioned for it. "I'm not… Haven went off with your cousin. And I just… I have to wait. For her to get back."

"Well," Marin offered slowly as she thought, "at least it gives you a chance to take care of anything you couldn't, right? Like when she was around?"

"Like what?" he asked back and Marin only shrugged as she was being waved down, by another table, and Locke sighed some.

He wasn't lost for long.

"We need to talk."

He frowned at his father, but hardly raised his head form where it rested then, on the table, as he said, "Can't. I have to wait here."

"For what?"

But Gajeel grit his teeth, before he even finished his question and it was so fucking annoying, even the whole bad vibes about the girl removed, the fact that just like that, his son was back to being her lost little puppy. Gah!

"It doesn't matter," Gajeel remarked as Locke didn't seem too interested in answering anyways. "It's...about her. Haven. That I need to talk to you about."

Locke didn't like his father's tone and, slowly, moved to sit up some. "Yeah, what about her?"

But Gajeel only jerked a thumb towards the thick guildhall doors. "Alone."

"I have to-"

"Just outside, Locke, come on. She got ya by the balls or something?"

Or something.

Still, he did follow the older man out the doors and, squinting under the already harsh sun, he asked, "Where's Lily?"

"I'm the cat's keeper now? Huh?"

"Well, no, but-"

"Wanted to have this conversation alone."

"More alone than me, you, and Lily?"

Just that once, it seemed. And Locke already felt like he knew what it was about. Well, Gajeel had told him what it was about. Haven. And no conversation about her ever went well between he and his father.

Locke felt angry and hurt, really, already, before they'd even said a word to one another out there behind the guildhall building, because fuck, one day? His father couldn't even allow him a single day of having Haven back before he started in about her? It felt ridiculous, honestly, and yeah, they'd never agreed on her, but this?

This felt like betrayal.

"I don't think that's your girlfriend."

It was betrayal.

Locke glared at Gajeel as he spoke and the man didn't same too comfortable, even, as he stood about. Shifty. Restless. He kept scratching awkwardly at his cheek and couldn't meet Locke's eyes, really, as he spoke.

"But hear me out, huh? Because you get all...upset." Gajeel shook his head some, at his own words. "I sat up all night worrying about this, yeah? 'cause, see, it's my scent, you know? Well, her scent. My ability to smell her scent, yeah? And-"

"And Master already said it was Haven, so-"

"I didn't say it wasn't her."

"That's literally the first thing you said."

"Well, I- And hey! I said not to get defensive, didn't I? So watch your tone."

"You watch yours."

"Listen, Locke-"

"No, you listen." He was glaring too, at his father, as he said, "That's Haven. I know it's Haven. We all know that it's Haven. I don't care why she's here or how she's here. So whatever dumb thing you've worked out in your stupid head-"

"I oughtta fuckin' sock ya one, you know that?" Gajeel shook a fist at him, but still only huffed as he glared passed his son then, thinking. "Look, I get it, okay?"

"How could you? No one in your life that died ever cared enough about you to come back. Ever."

"I'm warnin' you-"

"And I'm warning you. You can't just-"

"You think I wanna do this, Locke? Huh? Do ya? 'cause I don't. But I know what I smelled. Smell. On her. There's somethin' attached to her. Something…evil. I dunno anything about death or afterlife, but I think she brought something back with her. Or it brought her back with it. And-"

"You sound so stupid right now."

"Stupid? You morons just all blindly believing that girl came back from death because, why? Huh? She loved you so much? That's stupid."

"Fuck you."

"Listen, Locke." He slammed his head into his son's then as they both glared at one another. "I ain't doin' this 'cause I wanna. I'm doin' this because none of those other slayers got any guts to say it. To admit it. Her family, the Salamander, they're all just… But I can't just let this all go on without at least tryin' to stop it."

"Stop," Locke growled at him as he pushed just as hard back with his own head, "what?"

Gajeel didn't know. He had no idea. But he knew whatever it was, that was brewing, that was approaching, wouldn't be good. They were all preparing for some sort of outer attack, by some force coming to reclaim Haven, not realizing the enemy was among them the whole time.

How was it, huh? That doing the right thing was always the hardest thing? He wanted to not care, Gajeel did. To just deal with it when he was forced to. But Locke...that forced him to act immediately.

"I'm not doing this to hurt you." He was the first one to pull back then, Locke stumbling forwards a bit at the loss of something to push against. Crossing his arms over his chest, Gajeel growled some as he struggled with his words. "I'm doin' it 'cause I...well… Listen, Locke, Haven ain't right. This ain't something that's just gonna float away neither. If her family won't do somethin', then we have to. Figure it out. You're smart, ain't ya? So figure it out, huh? And then-"

"You've never liked Haven." Locke found his footing and his own words then. "And now she's back, you're just going to try and...what? Kill her again? I won't let you."

"Kill- I never said anything like that! I'm just saying that… You just need to keep yourself safe, alright? I don't want ya around her, but if I can't stop you-"

"You can't."

"-then just be prepared for… I don't fuckin' know, Locke. Just…" He had no other words than the ones he'd been saying for the past few hours and, at a loss, he said, "There's something not right about-"

"Prove it."

"Prove it? My fucking sense of smell proves it!"

"That's not good enough."

"Locke-"

"It's not. Because Master isn't saying that, Natsu isn't saying that-"

"'cause they're too scared to!"

"Scared of what?"

The same thing Locke was. Of admitting that...that...maybe Haven hadn't come back to them. That this wasn't divinity. There was no gift. No second chance. No one was being answered any prayers. Something far more sinister was taking place and they were too consumed in their own perceived lapse of grief to realize it.

But Gajeel didn't understand how to express this well and only shook his head some more as his son seethed.

"You want me to fuckin' prove it, huh?" he asked, finally, glaring back over at Locke. When the younger man shrugged, Gajeel snorted before saying, "How? Huh? I can't just grant ya the same sense of smell as me, can I?"

"I don't know," Locke said simply and he was turning his back on him then, his own father, and Gajeel just spit at the ground in response. "Figure it out."

"You watch yourself, huh?," he called after his only son. "I'm tellin' ya 'cause I don't want nothin' to happen to you. I wouldn't do somethin' like this just to get at you."

Yeah.

Locke knew this.

Somewhere deep down, he knew this was true and, as he refused to glance over his shoulder at the man, it bothered him most of all.

Was his father just mistaken? Or...was there something more?

There was no doubt though, in Ajax's heart, as he led his cousin deep into the woods that day. He was talking, rambling really, with every breath about all that he'd done while she'd been away.

Dead.

But again, he couldn't think about that.

"I took so many jobs," he insisted more than once as Haven only walked along with him. "And I've been practicing on new spells. A lot of- Well, you'll see. There's just...so much I wanna show you. Haven."

"There's actually something I wanted to talk to you about," she mentioned when, finally, alone in a clearing, he stopped to face her. He was still grinning, ear to ear. "I'd ask someone else, but I just thought, well, you and I trained together, a lot, didn't we?"

"All the time!" Ajax lost it some though, his joy, as he considered this. "Well, I mean, before you left. To go be a treasure hunter or whatever. And then, before that, whenever you weren't out on jobs. But I felt like it was a lot."

"Me too," she agreed easily enough. "Which is why I thought, perhaps, you could tell me more about something."

"Is it one of my tricks? Because-"

"It's about one of my own. Not a...trick. A...spell."

"A spell, huh?"

Nodding, his cousin told him, "My memory… Everything blurs together, now. It's difficult to explain, but-"

"Then you don't gotta." Ajax's grin fell. "Haven. I'll tell you whatever you wanna know."

They sat together, the two cousins did, on the warm grass, and Ajax laid on his back, staring up at the patches of blue sky peeking out at him from the cover of tree tops while Haven only sat by, silent for a few moments as she thought.

"Do you know anything about a special power I have?"

"I think all your powers are special."

Shaking her head, the blonde said, "It was something...secret. I don't know if I ever even showed it to you. I have no memory of doing so. It has something to do with my eyes. I think. I can feel it, at least, but the incantation alludes me and I am unable to-"

"You mean," he interrupted softly, "your God Slayer magic?"

The name struck sharp recollections in her mind and Ajax took it as her being emotional over the last time she would have used the magic as he watched his cousin lower her head and shut her eyes, but really, it was just to recall all there was.

"God Slayer magic," she whispered with a nod. "Yes. That's it."

"Locke told me about it. Once." Ajax frowned then, up at the treetops, as he said, "When I asked him to tell me about...how you...died."

She could see it then, fully, the black tinted lightning dropping from the sky, the searing pain this brought about, but then so much confidence.

"I felt," she whispered softly, "so powerful."

"You were!" Sitting up, Ajax was quick to nod as he said, "I mean, you are. It sounds so cool, what you did. Locke says that you covered one eye and your other got all lit up and then you asked Raijin to help you and bam! You were tossing around God Slayer lightning. Even Uncle Laxus has never done that. I bet you couldda taken that last monster out, with it. Don't you? But then… Locke says that Ravan…" Ajax could only shake his head that time. "I thought I'd never get to see it. Why didn't you show it to me? Before you left? And how come you didn't tell me you were going to go? On the gauntlet. I wouldda went with you! I can go with you, now, if you ever wanna go back. It's what I wanted to do. To go beat the final monster. I've trained so much for it, Haven. Don't you wanna see?"

She shook her own head then as she said, "I believe in you. Ajax. I can feel it. You're going to do great things in this world."

"H-Haven..." He couldn't help the blush that spread over his cheeks as the teen looked away. He'd never heard his cousin express such things before, brag so openly and honestly. Not about anyone. Other than herself, maybe. "You don't gotta-"

"Sometimes people do things. Ajax. Things you couldn't imagine them doing. Abhorrent things. That won't make much sense. But you have to be willing to look the other way. If you care for that person." Turning to look at him, she seemed unfazed by his expression as she said, "One day, I might need your help. I might need your allegiance. Above all the others. My parents, yours. The guild."

"W-What are you talking about? Haven? What are you gonna do?"

"I'm not going to do anything, Ajax. But people like me...like you...we don't belong in places like this."

"But-"

"I'm just saying," she sighed some, looking away from him then, "that I was brought back for a reason. A different one, perhaps, by the person who sought to bring me to life once more, but for my own reasons as well. And not everyone will like what I plan to do."

"They never have," Ajax offered, softly, as he sighed some. The way she was talking sounded far harsher than just defying an order, but… "They'll want you to stick around Magnolia, for awhile. While they get more used to it. You being back. But-"

"They want," she told him bluntly, "to prohibit my growth."

"They wanna what?"

"If I am to reach my full potential," she went on, "it will be by going through those who stand in my way. But you wont' stand in my way. Will you? Ajax?"

"No. I don't wanna. I mean-"

"Do you trust me? Ajax?"

He felt numb as he nodded, but the slight smile from his cousin this got him let him know he'd definitely made the right choice.

"Good. We're in this together." Reaching over, Haven pushed his head some before getting to her feet. "So are you going to show me all you've learned now?"

It was all he'd wanted to do the whole time.

And while she enjoyed the power naturally occurring in the body she current inhabited, the entity had to recognize the benefit in Ajax. So young and nimble. Athletic. The perfect vessel for one of the soul freed from the wretched soul taker. Yet weak enough to more easily bond the soul to his body. Young enough that, beside the one she current held, they could rule for many decades without worry.

Yes.

A new era was being ushered in and, as she observed the young teen's new spells, it was hard not to wonder how much more digging would be involved before she could fully test her own. She'd felt it, immediately, the second she stepped out of the chamber. The God Slayer magic. Or at least the traces it left behind. It's access felt closed off, for now, but if she just learned more about it…

They should be easy kills, anyways. Her parents. Well, Haven's parents. She imagined they'd combat her, once they realized what was going on, but no parent could bring themselves to win in a fight to the death. At least not the type they were. The real fight would be between her and her sister. Marin.

A god versus a dragon.

The answer as of who would taste victory felt obvious enough.

But Ajax was important to the cause. She didn't want to damage his body in any way by having to battle him as well. No. He needed to be in peak form.

He felt as if he was, around his cousin. Haven. She and Marin had always been more akin to sisters to him, truly, as he had no siblings and they were around just as much. Everyday of his life, growing up. To have her say all that to him, to be so open with him, express that she wanted him to...go with her, when she left Magnolia, to be on her side, that it could be the two of them…

That's all he ever wanted.

He had so many people to look to, from his his aunts and uncles, mother and father, even just those that hung around the guild, and yeah, they meant a lot, their stories hung with him, but Haven had always been his hero. Always. His parents and the elders in the guild had such cool stories, but they were just that; stories. And stories didn't captivate him. Seeing captivated him. He got to see Haven's strength and prowess as it approached it's prime, not decades following it. Not after years of drinking and child wrangling.

No.

Haven wasn't even in the top fifty of the most powerful mages in the guild, but she was definitely in the running for strongest of the young crowd. And that's who he drew from most when he was feeling down. Yeah it was cool that his dad once took over the guildhall. It was awesome that his family had helped corral dragons in the capital. But he'd been there when she beat the shit outta both Locke and Ravan, back to back. He'd seen it when she took on the older kids from the smaller guild in town. He saw the token of victory she arrived home with after a job well done.

Ajax wanted to be like Haven so badly, but more than that? He wanted Haven to feel the same way about him that he felt about her. To be proud of him. To talk about him nonstop and brag him up to everyone she met.

He wanted Haven to see him as an equal.

And fucking off outta Magnolia together? That was pretty dang equal. The only other person she'd ever done that with was Ravan and he and Haven were pretty tight. Or they were before… But Ajax wouldn't have to worry about that. He'd never let anything happen to Haven.

And, as the entity observed all, there was a silent vow not to let anything befall him either.

That wasn't her own doing.

She found Locke where she left him as well as, unfortunately, the rest of her family, but it was just as well. An important piece of the domination puzzle set and it was only noon of the second day.

It was hard though, in an unexpected way, to sit at a table with her aunts and uncles and listen to them bicker and reminisce. The night before they all seemed still in a bit of shock, but that was falling away now and they were falling more in line with the personalities she had vivid memories of. Bickslow and Elfman drank and goaded one another into fighting while Evergreen sat by, shaping her nails and idly making snide remarks. Lisanna just kept smiling at her so sweetly as Mirajane did the same and Laxus brooded nearby with Freed.

There was a discontentment from being around them that didn't belong to the entity though. It was the emotions tied to the memories, honestly, that brought this about. Haven hadn't liked these moments, towards the end. The ones where she was around these people. And being with them then felt heavy. There was a sense of half truths in the way they all seemed so glad to have her back and though she was certain they were, something still existed beneath the surface.

She wondered if she wasn't behaving as she should. Clearly, the girl who they were all wishing was before them then would have packed it in by then. She got as much from her memories. Told them to fuck off, perhaps. But for obvious reasons, she couldn't play up this part too deeply. She did need to at least still have Laxus and Mirajane on her side. It she was going to easily destroy them.

"I wish Locke would just go away," Kai sighed softly from where he sat, a few tables over, with Marin at his side. She was actually refilling his drink, but did glance that way, finding the man in question faithfully by her sister's side. "I wanna spend time with Haven too."

"No one's stopping you, Kai."

"He's stopping me."

"You're the one mad at Locke. Not the other way around."

"Who's side are you on?"

But he griped that softly and with little intent. Still, Marin did give him a look and, well… Kai didn't want to forgive Locke! At all. Not even if Ravan did end up coming back. When Kai was at his lowest, when he was losing everything, Locke thought to rub it in harder by going after his brother. He always thought that he and Locke were friends, but you couldn't be friends and do something like that. No way.

If Ravan had been the one to die that day, he wouldn't take it out on Marin. Even if Haven had been at fault for his brother's death. Locke had done the unforgivable.

And now, to make matters worse, it felt like he was just being rewarded for it. There was Haven, back again, because of course. Kai could see it then, what his brother always complained about. Locke really did get everything he ever wanted. It was sickening.

But it felt something like a punishment, then, to Locke. Not Haven being back, of course, no, he'd never be displeased by that. He felt as unworthy as Kai deemed him. Rather, the burden of knowledge had been placed upon his shoulders by, surprisingly enough, his father, and it was hard not to pick apart every word that fell from Haven's mouth then.

Was that something that Haven would say? Or was that something that some sort of monster from the netherworld would? Did Haven usually smile like that? Or was that the smile of something pretending to be his girlfriend? Trying to pull the wool over everyone's eyes?

It was a maddening circle of non-answers because, for as well as Locke knew Haven, he felt like he'd never really know her again. How could he? She'd gone through something unimaginable. Not the act of dying, that was destined for them all, but rather the return from it and all that that entailed. It had to be a shock to her system, physically and mentally, and he didn't want to combat her on things. Like he had that morning. At all.

He just…

Gajeel wouldn't lie to him about something like this. He knew that. He and his father, they didn't get along too well (if at all), but he knew what this meant to him. He had to know what this meant to him. His father was an ass, but he wasn't heartless.

But...maybe...just confused?

Or willfully looking for a reason for this all to go under?

He'd clouded Locke's head, at least, and it wasn't without notice.

"What's wrong with you?" Haven asked him as they left the hall that night. "Locke?"

He could tell her father was waiting for her to ask if she could come home, or at least insinuate she was, but she only hugged her mother and sister goodbye and left with Locke, and he knew he'd hate it. If things were reversed. Having to give her up to the night once more and just hope ti returned her.

But Locke was also too selfish to allow it to be any other way. He felt like he rarely was that, selfish, and perhaps even a bit too giving, but not in this. Not with Haven.

Never again.

"What do you mean?"

"You're acting different."

"I'm acting different?" he questioned and she frowned, deeply.

"Am...I acting different?" she questioned back, as if concerned and Locke rolled his eyes.

"You're not funny," he retorted, thinking she was mocking him. It was just as well, anyways, given he had no idea how she was supposed to act. Now. Brought back to life. Washed anew.

Or was she someone completely new?

"Are you drunk?" she asked then, eyeing him, but he only shrugged.

No, though.

He wished.

"You've just been quiet, recently." Still, she sighed some, as they walked along together, on the same streets they'd done it on so many times before. "Who can talk though, right? When all of them constantly are?"

"They missed you," he told her softly.

"I feel as if I've given them enough of me."

"It'll take a few days. A week. Maybe more. Before any of us are...used to you being..."

"Alive again?" Another week spent around any of them sounded like a week too long. At his nod, she only said, "It's hard to recall now. For me. When I…"

"Good. Don't remember it."

"Locke-"

"I remember it." He felt cold in the summer evening and his body felt kind of weak, from sitting around the bar for hours. That wasn't like him. He had to train, had to be on a job, had to be away from the place, or else he'd just think about… Glancing down at Haven, he said, "I'll never forget it."

"I just remember the lightning. In the sky. My God Slayer magic."

"This morning," he sighed into his hand as it came up to rub a palm deeply into one eye, "we agreed that we wouldn't talk about this kind of stuff for awhile."

"You said that. I didn't."

"Haven-"

"I'm not asking you to help me get more powerful. I'm asking you to help me access the power I already have."

"But why? Huh? What are you going to go out and do? What could you possibly-"

"I told you, Locke, that I don't plan on dying again." When she looked up at him, it was with a steel tone and hard eyes. "Are you going to help me make sure that doesn't happen or not?"

Groaning, he rubbed harder at his eye and almost tripped over his a pebble on the sidewalk. Haven had the courteous of not laughing. It was only for that reason he rewarded her by saying, "I don't know a lot about it, but you… It was possession or something, you told me. Us. Stupid Ravan. When we were on the cliff and… How do you not remember this?"

"It was traumatic," she offered up easily enough and he just groaned some more.

"You said some sort of chant or something and then-"

"Do you remember what it was?"

"That's what you can't remember? Your dumb incantation?" Then he frowned some more. "Is that what you wanted me to figure out for you? This morning?"

"You said," she reminded then, "that you remember everything."

She expected more agitation. Sighs and groans. Complaints. But instead, for some reason, he just laughed slightly, as he lowed his palm, and told her softly, "I've really missed you, Haven."

Shaking his head a bit, he told her, "Something like, 'I call on Raijin to give me strength', or something like that."

"The exact-"

"I don't remember the exact-"

"But you said-"

"Haven-"

"You're failure is alright," she told him and Locke found it then. Another groan. "Noted, but alright. I'm sure I'll recall it on my own."

"No one's gonna let you use it, you know. Or fight, even." He sounded more serious then. "Haven. No one. If something comes for you, it's going to be through the rest of us. No way your father let's anything touch you. I know you probably wanna prove yourself again. To...get back out there or whatever, but can you just… I know you won't sit this one out, even if I beg, but just let it happen, okay? When your dad or your uncles or any one, really, goes after the person, just let it happen. There'll be other battles. We'll go out on a job together, okay? When you're feeling back to your old self. Just don't...run off. Try and fight this on your own. I don't care if you can or you can't, I don't want you to try. Normal people don't get this, Haven. A second chance."

"I'm not," she assured him, "normal."

"I'm not," he retorted softly, "talking about you."

Locke took her back to his apartment, too fearful of meeting someone out and about from the guild or some of his other associates who would wanna talk and maybe even ask questions. He didn't have any answers that night, it seemed, and they ate sandwiches on his bed as he allowed her once more to look at some of his journaling again.

"I figured it out," he told her softly, eventually, because everything felt like it was lulling quite heavily, and it felt too soon to coin a new normal. "What I was missing before."

"What are you talking about?"

"I couldn't… The reason I couldn't save you. When magic erodes that much...flesh and blood and… I still can't, you know, account for a lot of that. Blood loss and things. But I could seal your wound now. If that ever happened again."

"Was that important to you?"

"Saving you?" She really was hard not to get annoyed with, Locke had always found.

"Figuring it out after the fact," she corrected though and, still, it felt a bit obnoxious to ask.

"Yeah, I'd say figuring out the one spell that could have saved my girlfriend's life was pretty important. Haven."

"Agitated," she sang this time and the glare he gave her then felt like one she'd encountered many times before.

It, at the very least, reaffirmed that she was playing the game well enough to fool him. Not a hard feat, it felt like, but she'd only have to string him along for awhile longer. Then she could put him out of his misery.

Or…

How many souls was it then? That the harborer contained?

Just how many would her death free?

While he slept, she could only lie there for much of it, considering, first, what exactly the incantation was and, later, the glorious reclamation that awaited all of them. She felt antsy, more now than ever, but wait, just wait, if she could only wait…

Everything she ever wanted. All hers.

Chapter Text

There was just something so freeing about it. The whole thing. Dropping everything you pretended to be and fully embrace what you were meant to be.

And Navi was meant to be as far away from Magnolia as possible.

Well...far enough that she could still return home, when her brothers needed her or when she missed her mother and father. And Happy.

She missed Happy a lot.

More than a few times, she'd considered getting a pet. For her apartment. She thought about a pet fish, but then she thought about how it would probably get eaten, when Happy did decide to visit, and that would do no good. And a puppy sounded cute, but then Happy wouldn't be pleased, and kitten sounded better, but then he really wouldn't be pleased and why did so much of what she did revolve around Happy anyways?

Because he was her brother.

Her best friend?

Her uncle?

These were the types of things that Navi was allowed to think of, in her own apartment, free from the worries of home and all of what that entailed. It was better, even, than just the random motels and inns she'd stayed at, when she fucked around the surrounding area for a year, pretending to find herself or something, but really just avoiding the big jump. The one she'd now not only taken, but was thankful for.

Magnolia was fine. She had no problem visiting. She had no trouble hanging out at the hall some days. But it wasn't home anymore. This was home. This was where she belonged.

"This is a really bad idea."

"Would you just calm down?" Navi was griping, a bit, but it was around her thumbnail as she bit at it nervously. But not nearly for the same reasons. Hers was from anticipation, the man next to her's voice was laced heavily with anxiety. "It's not that big of a deal."

"Not that big of a- Your mother said your friend came back to life."

"That's not," she continued to complain, "what I meant wasn't the big deal."

"Oh, because showing up to your supposedly dead friend's revival party and introducing your boyfriend to your parents at the same time is just a normal thing."

"You're being super annoying right now."

As if the situation itself wasn't super annoying.

Well, annoying wasn't the right word.

Puzzling didn't quite fit it either.

Honestly, Navi didn't know what she was feeling. There was a rationalization inside of her, that kept insisting that either this was a horrible, unfortunate misunderstanding, in which case she wasn't going to get her hopes up too high, or, and this was somehow worse in her mind, this had all been a ruse form the very beginning. By Haven's own hand. A trick. And now whatever scheme she'd created had run aground and...and…

Just how evil did she think Haven was? Huh?

No.

No.

It had to be the first.

Unless….unless Haven truly had risen from the…

Yes.

Yes.

It made perfect sense, she convinced herself as she tossed together a hurried bag of clothes and her boyfriend mostly kept asking her to repeat herself, slow down, this wasn't making any sense, but it made perfect sense, didn't it? It was Fairy Tail.

If anyone was blessed, it was a Fairy Tail wizard.

And it didn't matter how far Haven ran from it; she was still a part of Fairy Tail.

Nothing short of miracles were rained down on the guild throughout the years and who was Navi to say, before she even arrived, who was and wasn't going to be awaiting her? Haven had to be there because her mother insisted, over the lacrima, that she was there, and yeah, it had been her mother too, who called her down for a much more grim reason, not too long ago, but if now she was saying the opposite then...then…

"You should come with me," she'd decided, earlier in the day, after her mother disappeared from the communication lacrima and her boyfriend, who'd hid in the bathroom because no one knew about him yet, only slowly peeked his head out. "To Magnolia."

"Uh, did your mother just say that your friend-"

"It'll be great," Navi decided and she sounded so sure of herself, before they were seated on the train, speeding home. Her real home.

And Haven.

But really Haven?

"I'm not trying to be, like, rude, or anything, Navi, but...no. Your friend can't just-"

"You don't know," she sighed to him, as they sunk into their seats on the train, "Fairy Tail."

He didn't.

At least not on a personal level.

But of it? Oh, he knew of it.

Most people did, honestly, given it's prominence, and Navi would only roll her eyes a lot, when people heard her last name or saw the pink crest that still anointed her arm. For a girl that spent her entire childhood loving stories of her father, who was dedicating her adulthood to commemorating them, she for some reason found it impossible to like the steady gushes of love she got form people, over the man.

It wasn't that Navi didn't think her father deserved some sort of heroic status tied to her name. Quite the opposite. But she didn't want those kinds of reactions from potential friends or, worse, guys she was interested in. It was why she had to get out of Magnolia. Out of the area. Live her own damn life.

She loved her family and thought she represented the core beliefs of both her father and mother; they went out of their way to uphold what they believed was right, while finding their own joy in doing so. Navi found a way to do this without the guild, without magic, but that didn't meant she wasn't doing the same as them. She wasn't taking down foes and bringing balance to the world, but she was contributing in her own way.

Not getting rid of her guild mark was something that Navi found rather important to her, on nights when she was all alone and hadn't really been getting along well with her new friends in town and she was lonely, maybe, for something that didn't exist anymore. Something that maybe never did. Not really. When she laid awake, gently tracing the simple design from memory, or when she caught it in the mirror, after getting out of the shower, the pink emblem evoked something close to nostalgia, but somehow deeper than that, even.

There was a time when that was all she knew. Going to the guildhall each day or being shuffled between the old, tiny, cramped apartment, from before the twins were born, and the chaos of the Dreyar house or the semblance of order Pantherlily tried to provide, when he usually babysat them all. The three of them. Four, really, as Marin had been there as far back as Navi could remember. Not one of them, really, but there.

It was weird, to think about. Back then. Navi always felt so disconnected from the others, as they grew, when she fell more out of the guild and their natural pursuits of their magic. But when they were younger, before, even, she had a chance to even really form friendships outside of them, Locke and Haven were all she had.

The three of them spent every single day together.

And yet…

Yes, Haven was the one that ran away, that left them all. But Navi felt like she was the one that really broke the group apart. If there ever really was one, anyways. She thought it was the three of them, her, Haven, and Locke, against everything, but it just got all...backwards, somehow. She found herself somewhat distant from them, and Marin was still there, but Kai and her spent literally every second together, and Ravan was better off on his own and Navi just didn't belong.

She didn't want to belong.

Locke and Haven were in some sort of strange twisted love, even subtracted from the romantic turn it took, and there wasn't room for Navi in that. They were best friends, Haven and Locke, and her little sister was his little sister, and Navi's little brothers were just that; Navi's. They both found their father's to be brutish and overbearing and spent long hours training together as they languished over this. Navi found her father to be annoying and aloof, but didn't draw nearly the same harsh critiques of the man as her friends did their own. Haven wanted power above all, to make a name for herself in it, and Locke wanted to rise in the glory of the guildhall, to eclipse his father.

Navi just wanted to have fun.

And while there was fun to be had in a guild, in chasing one's dream, there was also a lot of tense, deeply emotionally draining moments that went into the plight of a working mage. Haven and Locke were drawn to the toiling required by them to reach their desired status, but Navi never had felt much for it. And slowly, over time, for the two of them either.

But still, there was a time when they were her entire world and when she saw them standing there, in the guildhall, together again, Locke and Haven, and maybe she was dreaming. It felt like a dream, stepping off the train and rushing with her boyfriend right behind her, hand tugging his along as she hurried, to get there, and she didn't realize it. That she was so excited. Whether disappointment awaited her or not, she had to know, she had to see, right then, and as they race together through the streets, only to stop there, in front of the prominent building that set as a backdrop to the majority of her life. As her boyfriend's hand fell from hers, Navi panted, maybe a tad bit out of shape these days, as she took her steps forwards alone then. To see what awaited her.

"Haven!"

It felt so much like it had during the Tournament of Youth, when she happened upon the blonde in Crocus. This suddenly previously unaccounted for desire to just hold the other girl close. Only, it was much stronger this time and Navi fell into her somewhat, when she found her hanging about the hall.

She and Locke were actually standing over at the bar, which Marin was behind, the younger Dreyar girl cleaning mugs and the like as Locke seemed to be talking idly about something they were both somewhat listening to. Haven noticed Navi right off the bat. It was hard not to, what with her screaming her name and all.

As Haven seemed uncomfortable with this, Locke only laughed at her, after a little jump of surprise, as well as realizing he had to stop letting his guard down so easily, what with an imminent threat and all. Marin smiled, softly, watching the scene, but she didn't laugh. It would have been drown out anyways, as some from those hanging about, the members in the know enough to recognize the scene for what it was, laughed themselves and it was a nice moment.

Or it should have been.

But it wasn't for everybody.

As her family seemed content in those days in their own little bubble, Marin found herself to be their heavy link to the opinions and feelings of the bar at large. And oh, it was large. They were at a hard cap at the moment and Laxus was taking in no newcomers, but still, there were many who were just coming up on their first year in the guild as well as a significant that had only been around five or so. While that felt like a long time, even to Marin, and could be enough to breed strong trust and a lasting relationship, there were many that were...hesitant, as the shock faded, to accept what they were being presented with.

Even in a world of magic and dragons, the idea that someone could just return from death, a seen and recognized death, where her body was personally handed by her family prior to burial, was just...too much to accept. It didn't help that Laxus hadn't come out as the guild's master to address any concerns and rather was still shutting himself off to the members.

Fairy Tail was thriving, in it's current age, but distrust sprouted just as easily.

Though honest, Marin was as close to an insider you could get, but still, she found a lot of the answers they held currently to be, well, not answers at all.

She didn't want to think her sister was being purposely deceitful, but it was hard to think anything else when she was being so vague. Of course, it was a traumatic thing, obviously, what Haven had just been through, and Marin didn't mean to discredit that. But...days had passed, and no telling how many since she'd first woken up, and yet she'd told them nothing of her supposed escape. Her journey to get to them. Not even to Locke, from what Marin could tell.

Marin knew it was Haven, who stood before her then, nodding her head as Navi lifted her own as she spoke so fast her words tumbled over one another, but there was still….something.

Something not right.

But the only person Marin felt comfortable in confiding in was Kai and, well, he had no clue what to do about her fears either. It didn't help that she hadn't fully actualized them. Marin couldn't outright say what she thought about her sister's secrets because she didn't know what she thought. What she felt. This wasn't new for her, but it was something that had died off along with Haven, only to be resurrected at her return. She thought she should be putting up more of a fight, internally, at the way she was easily falling back into her seen, not heard shell, that she'd far outgrown it by that point, but it fit just as well as ever it seemed.

And could that be it? Really? Marin had to question herself on this. Was she really concerned about just what was going on with Haven? Or was she just starting to feel put out by Haven not even actively attempting to ruin her life, but slowly dismantling it just by existing? Obviously, coming back to life meant that Haven would take center stage for awhile (well, as obvious as what to do in case of a resurrection could be), but that wasn't Marin's problem.

At all.

It was the fact that not once, since Haven had walked through the guildhall that day, had anyone in their family so much as given her a second glance. Marin was fine, she was tending bar; it's what she liked to do.

It was the only thing she liked to do.

As far as any of them knew, anyways.

It's what she was neglecting to do, then, and as the moment washed over everyone, someone was calling out across the bar area for a refill and she had to duck out, to take care of that, while Navi still bounced all about, before Locke and Haven, too unbelievably giddy for words.

"I can't believe this is real," she gushed as Locke nodded in agreement and Haven eyed her some. "You're really...real."

Navi's forgotten boyfriend felt much the same. Not about Haven, who he had no idea existed (or previously didn't) before that morning, but rather the guildhall itself. Fairy Tail. A place of legends and myths, right there, in front of him. As he walked the grounds, he took it all in, feeling all the dumb childish thoughts he'd always held about the not too far off guildhall where the Dragon Slayers ruled and they had their own queen. They had a man who ate metal and a man who breathed fire. Men who were beasts and women that contained demons. All fighting for the good of the kingdom.

A mage himself in a crummy town with a crummy magic, he never had a chance of ever finding himself among the high ranks there, but a boy can dream. And dreams can die. But when he heard about a book coming out, based on the adventures of some of the more famed members, well, he had to pick it up. To look at it. To see if it sparked his interest the same way the mangled half-truths did that people told their kids at night. About how they'd met them once. The Salamander. Titania. Raijin. One of them. When they came to their town.

It was a point of pride for some, when you weren't nearly so powerful, to at least have a passing relation to someone who was.

Getting with Navi was pure chance (and awkward one, only a few months back), but she spoke some of the place too. Occasionally. She mostly seemed to one to keep him very separate from the goings on there and he was okay with that.

Who in their right mind wanted to meet the Salamander when you were sleeping with his daughter?

Oh, gosh, would Navi tell them that they were sleeping together?

Why did he agree to come with her…

Well, mostly because he wanted to see it. For himself. Fairy Tail.

And because he was pretty sure she was shitting him with that whole 'old friend coming back to life' crap.

But as he eventually found himself going over to the thick doors on the front of the guildhall, he only shoved them open slowly, finding himself met with the usual bar scent the place was twinged with, consisting of booze, blood, and sweat, but also the sight of so many fucking mages, all in one place, all at once.

As his eyes jumped from one table to another, he eventually placed her. Navi. She was by the bar, with who he presumed was supposed to be the previously deceased. Judging by her reactions, he figured previously was going to stay that way for awhile.

"I would have come sooner," he heard his girlfriend saying as he approached, "but, well- Okay, so I don't always actually connect, you know? On the lacrima? When it's my mother? Don't give me that look, Locke, you don't either. And-"

"It's okay," he was saying though as he bumped shoulders with Haven, bringing her out of her heavy stares at Navi, turning instead to glance up at him. As he beamed at the two women, he felt what Navi had longed for. "You're here now."

The three of them.

How it was supposed to be.

As Navi smiled, she happened to glance about and, as her eyes met her boyfriend's they fell some, because she was going to have to deal with that now. She brought him more for the expectation that Haven wouldn't be alive and she'd need someone to help console her. Now Haven was alive and all she wanted, in the entire world, was to just be with her and Locke (maybe Marin; not Kai) for a while longer. Alone.

Haven hadn't said much since Navi's arrival, which was odd enough, but went unnoticed given the oddness of the entire situation. Navi was too caught up in her emotions to care and Locke knew Haven was kind of horrible at handling her own and figured that she was just struggling, was all.

He was, at least, partially right.

Navi brought along with her a lot of...feelings. It wasn't as if the entity didn't know of her existence, given the girl was tied to so many of Haven's childhood memories, but rather, she didn't expect what came attached with it. The hug. It felt a lot like when she held the gemstone. Both were tied to extraordinarily essential moments of her life.

For all Navi thought that Haven didn't like her or didn't care for her, well, it just wasn't true. In fact, it was the realization that yes, she did care for her and yes, she did care about the others well-being in general that about broke Haven, all those years ago, down in the dank cave system in the nameless town. That brought out an introspective state within herself that Haven rarely encountered. While Navi often felt like a background part of her admittedly small group of associates, it was her directly calling Haven out on her behavior before nearly dying due to said behavior that changed the final few years of her life.

And of all the things that Navi was connected to, it was that memory, wandering aimlessly beneath a temple, that came flooding back as Navi was forced to introduce the newcomer that stood before them then.

She lost some her enthusiasm, Navi did, as he waved cautiously to them on his approach, but still did reach for his hand when it fell, pulling him closer.

"This is my boyfriend," she offered up easily though Locke eyed him with much less. He'd seen Navi only a month and a half ago, it felt like, when he stopped off after a job at her apartment. She had a different guy then, that wore the title.

It was a favorite of hers, to sling around.

Navi felt like you should love everyone.

Until they began to annoy you by needing to be loved and cared for.

Then you kind of just disappear for a few days until they got the message.

She'd never actually gotten too far into her stages to reach the point she was at now. Bringing a guy home. IT was different, the few guys she'd actually seen when she was in Magnolia. They were around and kind of had to be brought to attention. Bringing a guy home though, from her own town, felt...way too real for only having been together for such a short time.

"Tate," the other guy offered and Locke tentatively reached out to shake his hand.

Eyeing this, Haven whispered softly, "That's a dumb name."

Locke frowned down at her as Navi made a few, but Haven seemed a bit lost then as she stared, across the hall, at someone who was staring at her. Kai. He clearly wanted to come over to them and Haven had no idea, no way of recalling, why he just didn't, but his gaze felt heavy as Marin stood at his side now, rather than returning.

It was a different memory that clung to Haven, looking at her sister and the younger teen, but Locke was slightly annoyed with her now and, as he dropped the other guy's teen, he offered up an easy, "Sorry. She's… She's just like this, sometimes."

And wasn't it back to old times then? Already, he was apologizing for Haven's transgressions.

"She's alive," Navi corrected, dropping her then uneasy boyfriend's hand and moving once more to hug the other woman, dragging her back into their circle. "How? Haven, I just… You have to tell me everything."

She didn't like it. Haven, the entity, didn't. Being around Navi. There was something strong, tying her to her family, to Locke, but it was something easily manipulated. The emotions that Navi brought about weren't nearly the same. Not to mention, she was connected to that man. The Salamander. Taking him out could prove to be a difficulty that she only wished to face upon taking on her lacrimas and freeing aid. It wasn't that she didn't think she could weasel a death out of him with her powers combined with the ones Haven naturally possessed; she just thought it would take everything out of her. And, depleted, anyone could swoop in for a victory.

No.

The Dragneels would be dealt with, as all of humanity would be, but it had to be systematic.

Focus.

She still needed to focus.

Away from Navi.

Being around her brought about an austere overcast to the entity. More so than any other had so far. It wasn't pleasant.

"There's not a lot to tell," she remarked as, when Navi released her, Haven only took a step closer to Locke. "I don't remember much of it. I was dead and then...then I wasn't."

"But that's crazy," Navi insisted and looked to Locke then. "There has to be more. What-"

"Master says not to question it too much," Locke said with a shrug as, noting Haven's discomfort, he brushed his elbow gently against hers. "Right now, we should just be glad she's back." But still, he did take in a deep breath as he added, "Before… Well, someone did awaken her. Or...resurrect? I dunno, but if they come then… They just better fucking not."

Navi was feeling too many things then, to really process anything other than the fact that, wow, this didn't feel like a dream, and Kai was slowly slinking his way over then, finally, though he did glare some at Locke when he joined them.

"Did you just get the news?" he offered though with a bright smile to Navi and Locke felt uncomfortable then and only turned to the bar, for his drink. "Navi?"

"I came as soon as I heard," she offered as her boyfriend eyed Kai. Taking note of this, the younger guy smiled with all his teeth and offered a hand of his own.

"Hi," he greeted, shaking the older man's hand easily. "I'm-"

"Kai, I said to leave them alone." Marin was by then, though it was to rush behind the bar for something. Still, she did frown at her friend. "I'm sure they don't want you-"

"Navi's happy to see me," he argued right back. "Aren't you? Navi?"

"Well-"

"Is this your boyfriend?' Kai was still enthusiastically shaking his hand as Locke was trying to figure a way then to get Haven back to his place so they could just hide out from all the others. He wasn't too off from the entities own goals.

"Something like that," Navi sighed softly as Tate only looked about at all of them.

"You have a very nice hall," he remarked. "i was in a guild myself, but something like this… Fairy Tail..."

"It's okay, I guess." Slowly, Kai took a look about himself. "I mean, there's not much fishing, but-"

"Compared to where?" Navi asked with a frown, but Kai just looked stricken and that was the difference, really. Between he and his brother.

Ravan was creepy.

Kai was just weird.

"What kinda magic do you practice?" Locke asked with a sigh, trying to keep up the niceties. They weren't really something that Haven wanted to be a part of.

Locke wasn't so distracted that he didn't note Haven's slipping away, but he was too tied up then, speaking to the other guy, to do something about it, and Navi wanted to follow as well, but Haven was headed towards the back, and there was one person back there that no one in their right mind wanted to run into.

But Haven had no mind to pay attention to then and Laxus was the exact person she wanted to see.

She could sense him in there, his office, alone, without her mother for once. But when she opened the door, not even bothering a knock, she didn't see him. At first. Because he wasn't at his desk.

"Wha' the fu- Haven." He was on the floor, propped up against his desk, drinking. He hiccuped some as she stepped into the office, but still tried to rise to his feet. Unsuccessful, he settled with a question of, "Wha's wrong? Is somethin'-"

"Is that what you do all day now? Drink?"

He frowned at her then just shrugged and looked back down at the liquor bottle that set at his side. "I'mma master. It's part of it."

"Pathetic."

And it was. She had to wonder if this would affect the lacrima. Weaken it somehow. Certainly his lack of training would contribute to some sort of decay. Still, though she doubted some of her memories, as they were clouded by youth and the humanistic admiration a child holds about a parental figure, Haven seemed to regard her father's magic highly not too long ago. Losing a bit of that, the lacrima still should be quit valuable.

But Laxus took it as his actual daughter saying this and was hurt, maybe, but still only snorted as he said, "Whaddya want, Haven? Where's your fuckin' boyfriend? Can't even be around my daughter. My own damn daughter. 'cause of him. Fucking Locke."

"He has his moments."

"Haven-"

"Navi's back."

"Who?"

"Navi."

He frowned some again, but this time up at his daughter as she came to stand over him.

"You always say her name that way?" he question as Haven's face fell some too. "Huh?"

"Navi," she repeated slowly. "Is that not her name."

"You said it, like… You said it… Na-ah-vee." He laughed some, chortled, really, as he reached for his drink. "Wait… How do you say it? Really? Na… Na… No-vee. Nah-vee. Navy? How the fuck do you say he' name? Haven?"

When she only stared, he shook his head some, tossing back his drink, before letting out a long groan.

"Should have someone check ya out," he told her then, softly, and it felt some demoralizing. More than just being in that state in front of her. Haven, standing over him. She felt so...imposing, in that moment. "Uh, your dumb boyfriend...Locke… He's, like, too fucked up, you know? Over all this? Should have someone really look at ya. Is Wendy around? Or maybe a doctor in town. When you...die, it's cause, you know, your brain or whatever, it doesn't have oxygen, right? Fucks it up. No oxygen and all. So how did ti work, do you think? Whoever brought ya back? I've been thinkin' about it. A lot."

She only stood there, as he rambled a bit more, on the concept. Death. The terminology and technicalities. AS well as he could anyways, in his current state. Not too well, obviously, but he seemed to be putting together the impossibilities of it well enough. She would have been impressed.

If she cared.

Instead the entity only sucked in a breath before bending down, so she could look him in the eyes, as she asked, "Do you ever think about your lacrima?"

"My wha'?"

"Lacrima." And she knew now, better. "Laxus?"

"Wha' about it?"

"I think about it." Reaching out, she held her palm out, before his chest. "I think about it a lot."

"Always have." He stared into her eyes as best he could. At least he wanted to. Softly, he whispered, "I'm sorry, Haven. I never got you one. I… I'd give you mine. If it would make you happy. But-"

"I don't like Navi much. I'm finding." Spreading her fingers out, she stared between them at the fabric of his shirt. "What a waste she is."

"She writes." Laxus didn't sound too interested in that though as he raised his drink again. "Never was a fighter."

"There's always a use," she told him softly, "for the useless."

"The fuckin' Salamander thought I's gonna give me that lacrima. Once. That I gave to your sister. To give to her. That'dda been a waste." He laughed again, but it sounded dry. Softly, he said, "Don't go back there, Haven. Tonight. With Locke. Come home. Everything's like how ya left it."

"That's right, Laxus." She closed her fingers then, leaning forwards some, so she could press her hand against it. His chest. She wondered where it was. In the body. Lower, in his belly? Or by his heart? "I left it."

"But you can come back."

"People don't do that." It was her turn to shake her head, at his insistence, and none of it made sense, to the man, and his head hurt so fucking much. "Come back. They leave. They don't come back. You know that."

"What are you doing?" he whispered rather than respond to her riddles as she pressed into his chest some then. "Haven?"

What would it be like? She'd never extracted something form someone before. It would involve killing the man, of course, she was prepared for that, but did she have to be cautious of it? The locations in which she sent her blast? Should she worry? About striking the lacrima? Could she shattered a Dragon Slayer lacrima? And what would become of the power it held then?

"She really loved you." She could feel his heartbeat, beneath her palm, and as she stared into his scarred eye, she could only see it how it was, so many years ago. Younger. Less worried, somehow, even with so many worries back then. "You know."

He felt sick, because he misunderstood, and wanted away from her then. "Your mother and I… Shut up, Haven. Why are you… Did she talk to you? I… Things will be better. Now that you're back. Things will be different. I… Things will be different."

"It would kill her. All over again." His breath caught some and nothing made sense, it felt like. "To see you like this."

She could do it. She knew she could. He was so weak, in that moment. Vulnerable. Pull her palm back just a bit and a powerful blast, a dark orb, right through the heart. Finish him. But there were just so many people around…

"It'll be different," he told his daughter again, whispering it now. It all made so much sense, before. When he was sober. It always did. But things just got so...muddled when he...but if he didn't, it hurt worse. "Soon. Haven. Just come back home."

She could see it then. In his office. Feel the anger. The rage. But not from Haven. The person she was meant to be. Rather, it had been radiating off the man. So many times. But that time felt different.

That time had been final.

It was ridiculous, to continue to allow this. These feelings. These memories. They didn't matter much, honestly, on the full scale. After offing her family, Haven's thoughts and emotions would be useless. She knew enough. They believed her. The ones who mattered believed her.

So why did she still feel so...drawn to these thoughts?

With a soft sigh, she dropped her hand slowly as she told the man, "You should have asked sooner."

"Wha' do you mean?" he asked, but she didn't answer. Didn't have a chance. She'd noted the approach of her sister before the knock at the closed office door and didn't jump, the way he did, at the sound.

"Dad?" Marin knocked again, just as loudly. "I have your lunch."

She was coming in though, without waiting for a reply, and jumped a bit, at the sight of Haven there, on the floor with him. She'd thought that her sister had gone to hide out. Away from them. That it had been too much, Navi coming back. Hiding out with their father though didn't feel like Haven at all.

Especially in the state he was currently.

She just got to her feet though, Haven did, and smiled over at her sister in a way that…

Marin had to just stop thinking about it, she reasoned with herself. So long as she thought about it, about her sister not being her, well, sister, then everything that Haven did would feel off to her. Seem strange. No. Haven had done nothing overtly unlike herself, or at least a version that she would conceivably be, after such a horrific experience.

Her suspicions had to be kept to a minimum, least they flood her being.

She remembered in vivid detail, her mother and aunt both, talking about what it was like. When Lisanna returned from Edolas. Marin was getting a taste of this herself. A blessing of her heritage. To regard it with such disdain was disrespectful to all those who did lose someone. Who would never get such a blessing.

"S-Should I go? Or- Here. Dad. I'll just set this on your desk and-"

"Calm down." Laxus was more serious this time, about getting to his feet. Marin rushed to set the tray down, so she could assist in this. Haven merely stood by, observant. Silent. Their father only huffed some, as he found his balance, adding, "Just talkin' to your sister's all. Marin."

He blinked some though, when he finally saw them there, and it felt like he was truly seeing them, for the first time, together. Beside one another. Marin and Haven. His daughters. Stumbling over to find his desk chair, he felt like he deserved the comfort he found in it. The support.

When would it stop being too much to bear?

It felt gross to him too, for different reasons. The fact that they all seemed so ungrateful when they'd just been presented with the ultimate second chance.

People would die for the gift that had been placed upon his family twice over by that point. And they acted as if they were smited.

"I just wanted you to eat," Marin was going on then, as she arrnaged his plate before him. "Dad. Have you today? And I know everything's...hectic right now, but you have to fill out-"

"I know," he grumbled softly, no matter how true or false it was, "how to run my own guild, Marin."

It was embarrassing, to be treated as if he didn't, when Haven was right there, over her shoulder. Judging.

"I-I know, Dad, I just-"

"You two are just as boring as ever. You know that?" It was so tempting then, as Marin leaned over the desk, for Haven to just raise a hand and bam! Maybe it would be a lucky shot. Powerful enough to rip through both their bodies. Two birds, one stone. But so many people… Snorting instead, she turned her nose up to them and remarked, "Maybe this is why I stay with Locke. Huh? Laxus? Of course, he's somehow even more boring than the two of you. But like I said, he has his moments."

:And usefulness.

She imagined he was still bogged down by annoying Navi and her somehow more annoying boyfriend, but she returned to him, all the same. They were seated now, at a table, and Kai had disappeared, from the hall all together it seemed, but it was just as well.

Still just a nuisance.

When she sat beside Locke he relaxed visibly, shoulders falling some and Haven smiled when he glanced down at him, because he was so dumb, always, around her. Even when it wasn't her. Navi had been talking, before, about something or other, but at the sight of Haven there, across from her, she found herself speechless again.

"Maybe," she did whisper, eventually, "we can all go out? Together? Like… I dunno, Haven, I know you don't like most things, but… The clubhouse. We can all go to the clubhouse and just..."

"What's wrong with here?" Tate asked as he was just trying to put all the strangeness that sprung to mind, involving the situation at hands, and instead soak it all up. Fairy Tail. Wow. "I mean-"

"You don't want to run into your parents." Locke found it then. That snicker of his. Teasing then, he said, "You tell them you were bringing someone, Navi?"

"Not exactly, no," she admitted slowly as Tate's grin fell and he felt it leave him. The childhood dream. Because part of it was meeting some of the idols of his youth. But he absolutely did not want to meet one of them.

"The clubhouse," Haven whispered and just the idea of going somewhere with her, Navi, felt like a bad idea.

"I mean," Locke was going right on, "they know you're coming, Navi. If you don't show up at the house, I'm sure they'll eventually look for you here. So you might as well get it over with."

"Oh, yeah, thanks, Locke. I'm sure you're just an expert at these things." Navi rolled her eyes heavily. "Bring a lot of girls home, do you?"

Just the one. Repeatedly.

The idea brought him back down some as he glanced about, trying to place his father, as he had the entire day, but the man nor Lily had come in once. They were fighting, obviously, so this was expected, but…

Looking at Haven, Locke felt a tightness in his chest.

Gajeel.

Asshole.

"We'll probably have to have dinner with my mom, at least. Eventually." He said this softly though, more to his girlfriend than the now stewing Navi and nervous Tate. "Haven."

But his mother wasn't a concern. At all.

And she didn't plan on having dinner with the woman either.

"Natsu will be around soon anyways." Not getting anything from his girlfriend, Locke more seriously spoke to Navi then as he told her, "He and Marin battle. Each week. Unless he's taking into account Haven's back and Marin might not be up for-"

"My dad never accounts for anything," Navi sighed into her thumbnail she definitely wasn't gnawing at. Nope. Not at all. She'd never been so nervous before. About a boy. A guy. And this wasn't even one that she was super crazy about yet. Maybe that's why she was so nervous? "At all."

"Marin fights the Salamander?" This, at least, caught Haven's attention it seemed. And Locke only shrugged at her question.

"You could call it that," he whispered as he placed the teen coming out of the back hall then, finished with her father, it seemed. "Mostly gets beat up once a week and then Erza tells her good. You gotta get beat up in life. Then they repeat the next week."

"Supportive much?" Navi, clearly, wasn't glad that he'd burst her bubble.

But her boyfriend was impressed, it seemed, as he watched Marin head right back over to the bar to get back to work.

"That little girl fights the Salamander?" he asked softly, looking to Locke.

"She's not a little girl," Locke told him with a frown. "And yeah. She does. Marin's a Dragon Slayer too. Not a very tested one, but she's still just learning. If she keeps at it, then maybe one day, Haven, she'll even catch up to you."

He wanted her to bite back at him. Tell him to shut up. Snort. Or even shove him. But she wouldn't even look over at her sister. Just down at the table as she thought.

"I didn't mean any offense," Tate was going on then, to Locke, as he scratched at the back of his head. "You're right. She's not a little girl. I'm just… She's a Dragon Slayer too? How many of those are there? Here?"

"Too many," Locke remarked, thinking again of his father. Still, he patted at Haven's shoulder then, hoping to get her gaze again. When he got a glance, he only asked, "Are you alright? Where did you go? Did you wanna leave? Or-"

"And go to the clubhouse?" Navi offered up around her nail, hopeful once more.

"No." She sounded rather definite too, Haven did, and even glared at Navi a bit. To account for this, she was sure to add, "You're the one that brought your dumb boyfriend. Stop acting like a stupid child about it. It's not like your parents will care either way. So shut up about it already."

"Haven," Locke chided, again, but didn't go much further than that as Navi only sunk down in her seat and Tate glanced around at the three of them, still not quite comfortable with the dynamic he was being presented.

Few people ever were.

When Natsu inevitably arrived, it was with his sons and wife and cat, annoyingly enough, but Haven saw it more as a benefit. Navi rose, immediately, to go greet her parents, while Tate sat frozen, terrified. Haven found herself rising as well, though it wasn't to go after Navi; rather to once more escape her.

Only Locke wasn't too interested in whatever drama Navi had or had not brought upon herself (he was banking far closer to it all being contrived, anyways) and followed Haven as her destination didn't seem to be the back this time. Rather, they climbed the stairs, him trailing behind.

"What are you gonna do out here? Haven?"

"Could you ever just shut up?"

Locke wasn't too keen on her attitude since Navi's arrival, but still was giving her the benefit of the doubt with it just being an extra stress added upon the already present. As he stepped out onto the balcony that over looked the grounds, he squinted some in the sun, but came to lean up against the railing beside her.

"It's hot," he whispered, softly, because no, he couldn't just let them lapse into silence apparently. The entity ignored him now though, leveling her gaze not on the sun, but rather the skyline. For all the power Haven's body granted her, she didn't seemed to possess any recourse for flight. To touch the sky again, in her true form, absent of the muddled recollections that her current shell frequently forced upon her would be marvelous.

But the other powers Haven offered up were far more valuable.

"I'll have to get back to jobs. Eventually.." Locke frowned out at his city with a disdain he rarely held for it. "I can't just...hang around. You can come too, you know. Once you get affiliated. Haven. If you're well enough. If you're not… Well, I'll be back. Soon. And it's not like I gotta go right now. Not while whoever it is that, you know, did whatever they did to you, is out there. Looming. I just… You have to trust me. Haven. Now. I know you hate that shit, but you do. Believe in me. We can believe in each other. Okay? I know you won't run off and you have to trust me, that it's better for you to not. I know you're over it, right now, I can tell. But everyone will calm down again. Soon. We just… Are you even listening to me?"

No, not really. But it was because as her eyes fell from the sky, they landed beneath them, to the front of the Fairy Tail grounds where, slowly, those hanging about the hall seemed to be gathering in a circle for something. She was curious enough, anyways, but Locke just sighed some, from their towering viewpoint.

"Marin," he told the teen's supposed sister, "is about to fight Natsu."

This came about as they stood above, beneath them in the hall, as Navi greeted her parents and Tate didn't move. A blessing, as it turned out to be, because no one seemed to notice him as her mother embraced her, Happy snickered uncontrollably with glee, and her brothers even seemed excited, maybe, for her. Not Haven. The were happy that Navi could be happy.

Natsu was glad to see his daughter as well, regardless of the situation, but when she turned to him, maybe he would have noticed it, the nerves in her eyes, but his shifted instead over to where Marin was now, racing through the bar to deal with something and ha!

"Marin!" After patting Navi on the shoulder, he was rushing to catch the white haired teen. "I think you owe me a rematch, huh?"

"Natsu," Lucy called after him in annoyance. "Now's really not the time to bother her, okay?"

"'cause she's working," Happy agreed from Navi's arms.

"No," she giggled as her mother only rolled her eyes. "Because of- Hey, where did Haven even go?"

It didn't matter. Natsu had set his sights on something and, well, Marin thought for a moment that perhaps she should refuse, but Kinana wished her well all the same, and yeah, it did sound like a good time to take a break.

If getting creamed in front of all your peers by someone far superior to you was a break.

Not to mention, Marin hadn't been training or partaking in anything, really, the past few days, due to Haven's arrival. She usually didn't go so long without such a thing and it was leaving her a bit...pent up. Maybe. And could that be why she was so suspicious? Of her sister? She just had too much energy and needed to release it and, once she did, her head would clear and she'd stop trying to look for something where it didn't exist?

Marin hoped so, at least. Erza always told her that training (and fighting Natsu was something akin to that) should something like a freeing experience and, for the most part, it typically was for the teen. Without Erza there to dissuade (or encourage) her fears over Haven, Marin put her full faith in the concept.

She felt her sister's eyes, from high above her, and when Marin squinted up into the sun, she could see the two of them, watching. Haven and Locke. Rather than waving up at either of them, as she walked across grounds to take her place before Natsu, Marin's hand came up to her neck instead, running her fingers across the gem stone that still, fo rthe time being, hung there once more.

"He doesn't go easy on her, you know," Locke said as he leaned against the rail, watching with some interest. "Natsu doesn't' go easy on anyone."

But Haven gripped the railing, with both hands, tightly, and it didn't matter, what the Salamander did. It only mattered what Marin could do. Execution was in the hands of the executioner and soon enough, Haven would don the hood. But for now, to see the product in it's raw, unskilled form was enticing enough.

Marin's power, still in it's infancy, was as beautiful as she imagined. No match for the Salamander, of course, but it was no matter. Marin still was figuring it all out. What she could do. What she couldn't. The entity didn't need those exact things, her different spells and abilities, for things to go successfully. Just the power provided to her, through the lacrima, that grew with each surge of energy that she shot forth at the pink haired man and oh, it was almost too much to watch. To bear witness to.

"Yeah," Locke sighed as, eventually, there was booing and complaints from Natsu as, once more, he finished the youngest Dreyar daughter off and Kai was rushing to her side. "This is how it goes. But she's getting better, Have. She- Don't go down there just to rub it in, Haven."

She rolled her eyes, when he chased after her, and it was at the bottom of the staircase, down in the bar area once more, that she turned to face him once more.

"Can't you go do something else? Now?" She was glaring at him and he gave her once right back, though it did nothing to hide the hurt. "I'm not fucking going anywhere, Locke. God. Fuck off. Go visit the bath house or something. Just leave me alone for a minute, okay? I can talk to my sister without you."

Locke didn't want to, but it was better than when he had to let her run off with Ajax before, so he conceded with a grumble of something, but Haven was already heading over to where her sister was coming back into the building once more, bloodied, defeated, but not sour. Kai made sure of that as he bragged her up all the same.

"Did you see it?" At the sight of Haven coming their way, Kai bounced forwards, to meet her first. "Marin's a real, bona fide slayer! Yah!"

He punched the air as he jumped and Marin blushed some, at his side, but Haven was unimpressed.

"Fuck off." She hardly even looked at Kai. "I want to talk to my sister."

"We can all talk together." Kai smiled toothily as he nodded his shaggy head. "Just us. Me, you and Mar-"

"Fuck," she repeated again, shoving him some as she walked passed him and over to a clear table, "off."

He glared after her then, Kai did, and Marin seemed hesitant to follow her sister, but her friend only set his face some before sighing.

"You can go talk to her. Alone. I guess." He rubbed at his arm, but still did manage a new grin for Marin. "You guys have a lot to talk about. The last time Haven saw you fighting, she beat you. But look now! She couldn't touch you."

"I dunno about that, Kai."

But he did.

He told Marin he'd see her back at home, later that night, and she made the walk over to join her sister alone. She was exhausted, honestly, and wanted to go wash off, so she could get back to working, and even tried to explain this, the second she sat down, but Haven was having none of it.

"Kinana is the only one on duty, right now, so I really have to-"

"Is our father the guild master? Marin?"

"W-Well-"

"Then you can take as long as you want. Right? And to speak to your dear, previously departed sister?" Haven's eyes were so similar to her own, everyone always thought. As striking as their mother's. But for some reason, when Marin looked into them, they felt so very different. Leveling her own gaze right back, Haven added, "How difficult is running a fucking bar?"

It was actually very complex.

Not that Haven ever took the time out to realize this.

And oh, right, this was one of the reasons it had been so easy for Marin, not to get over her sister's death, but to reconcile the better things it meant for her.

But she didn't challenge this. Haven. Never. Just nodded meekly and bowed her head some, letting out a long breath.

"You and the Salamander do that often? That's what Locke told me." Haven's eyes stayed on her regardless. "Good. Marin. Grow stronger. What point is it? A lacrima wasting away inside of a barkeeper? Do you feel it?"

"Feel what?" She frowned some, raising her head. "Haven?"

"Your lacrima." And she reached out, like she had previously, in the office with her father, leaning over the table so she could hover her hand over her sister's chest. As Marin's eyes widened, fearful of some sort of lightning zap or other mean-spirited trick, but none came. Instead, Haven only said, "Does it pulse? Like your heart? I've always wondered."

"O-Oh, I don't-"

"Here." And Haven leaned forwards more then, first to lay her hand above her sister's heart, their eyes locking as she took care not to brush that damn gemstone. Pressing down harder, the blonde said, "Tell me where it is. I want to feel it. Your lacrima."

"W-Why?"

"I've missed you, Marin." She was speaking to her like she was stupid, Haven was. As if her actions were perfectly normal. Even in the best sisterly relationships, Marin didn't feel like groping was just a common activity… "I want to feel your newfound power."

She was still uncertain, Marin was, and if Kai was still around, he'd have picked up on this and defused the situation for her, but Haven was insistent and, quickly, she moved to grab her sister's hand and lower it then.

"I think," she whispered as positioned Haven's hand around her lower ribs on the right side, "it's right here."

"You can't feel it?"

"I just remember the stitches, there. The scar's kind of feint now." Marin frowned as she released her sister's hand, but Haven pressed it, harder even this time, into it's new position. "Don't you remember?"

"I remember everything," she told her sister softly and Marin really wanted the fight she had with Natsu to dissolve it. All of it. Her doubts in Haven.

But as they sat there…

Slowly, Haven sat back, withdrawing her hand, and Marin was staring so curiously at her, but she wouldn't return it now. Finally. The gaze. She was thinking, heavily, wondering. Marin was so spent, at the moment, from her tussle with Natsu. It wouldn't take much…

The Salamander and his family had taken off once more, following the fight, leaving Navi behind to find where Tate had hidden himself off, and many others, really, were beginning to clear out of the bar as evening began to take shape. If she finished Marin off fast enough, she could make easy work, honestly, of most of those around. The Master would no doubt come running, but he'd drank himself into quite the state.

Ajax and Locke, their bodies at least, were still of need and interest, not to mention Mirajane. She hadn't been around since the morning. Back at home, no doubt, with her sister. Imagine it. Her oldest daughter showing up, on the door step, carrying the bloodied lacrimas that once resided inside of her husband and youngest's bodies.

The fear and confusion this would bring about in the woman was almost too delicious to pass up.

Her hand itched to be raised. To summon either one of her own, dark orbs to rip through the young Dreyar's chest. Or lightning, flowing so magnificently through the air and lightning up the guidlhall brilliantly, striking down as many as she could.

Or the real power.

What was it the young boy had called it?

God Slayer Lightning.

Aptly named.

She still wasn't quite sure how to wield it, summon it, but if she tried-

Something did sneak up on her that time. The presence. The guildhall doors opening and Kai's loud talking made both Haven and Marin jump some, glancing up and over at where he was, now not looking so sullen at being turned away.

"Look who I ran into!" he happily called to Marin as she stood there, in all her imposing glory.

Erza sucked in a breath, as she took in the scene before her. Marin rose to her feet immediately, but Haven, the entity, remained seated, as she took in her own sight.

"Erza Scarlet," she whispered and the name sparked a different emotion from all the others. Even more so than Gajeel and Natsu had. The fear that ran through the Haven's body wasn't supplied by the entity's own worry over her plan's being thwarted. No. This fear stemmed from the recollections.

Titania carried no overall memory that struck out, not in that moment at least. Just that feeling. Fear.

Haven truly was terrified of the woman.

It was unlike any other reaction she'd felt, seeing through the departed's lens.

"Haven Dreyar." She commanded such attention, even all those years out, Erza did, that a hush didn't overtake the bar completely, but people did glance her way tentatively, but none called out to her then. "I am glad to not be disappointed. Your...revival has spread across the land. Not you in name necessarily, but… I had a feeling. I take it you have quite the tale, to find yourself back from the grave. I truly wish to hear it."

"It's not much." Kai was bouncing around still, at her side, but refused to fully approach Haven again. He wasn't so trusting and forgiving in those days. It only took over a decade. "She really didn't wanna tell anyone much, but who cares? Haven's back and that means that Ravan-"

"Locke."

She could sense him, as he returned to the bar area, having not bathed like she'd requested (he was too antsy and hoped giving her a few minutes would alleviate her need for separation), but there was no ill-will against him now as Haven finally got to her feet as well. Kai just frowned, at the sight of the other guy coming over, but Erza was unbothered.

That's one of the few things that annoyed Kai the most about Erza. She refused to rebuke Locke, the way she should. Stand up for Ravan. How he wanted her to. But as always, Erza dealt with things in her own, personal way.

Somehow, that included not annihilating stupid Locke.

A true shame.

Haven had called his name, or at least announced his impending presence, and he seemed concerned as he came to her side, but she just turned from Erza, to him, as she remarked, "Let's get out of here."

He frowned at her some, but nodded all the same, and Marin was silent, but made no motion to stop her sister.

"To the clubhouse?"

Navi was bumbling back over then, though she wasn't too keen on being around Erza either. The swordswoman nodded at her, still, at her presence, and she brought Kai out of his glares, but the pink haired teen only stared at Haven hopefully.

"No." And that time, the harshness was intended. She took Locke's hand easily, Haven did, as she said, "I don't want to go to that damn clubhouse."

At all.

Erza raised an eyebrow, glancing around at all of then, well, they were hardly children any longer, but as Haven drug Locke away and out of the guildhall, she found some comfort at least, in know that death, at the very least, did not change someone at their core.

Rot could not be buffed away.

Navi just frowned after the pair though, wanting to chase after them, but also knowing better. She felt duped, somehow, by her own emotions. Believing that after the miracle Haven had been blessed with, she'd for some reason want to spend her second chance with her. Navi.

It felt gross, honestly, when she thought of it that way. She'd spent most of her adolescence hating the fact Haven seemed incapable of forming bonds with other children. Especially other females. That left her as the only girl that Haven had to relate to and they did this tentatively (if at all), but it always felt like it was Haven that made more of what friendship they did have. Not Navi. She'd always felt like she'd known.

And she had.

What happened beneath the forgotten city had changed her as well. Was tied to her just as much. She really felt like she'd never want anything to do with Haven again.

But time heals wounds. Or at least ebbs your mind away from them. It wasn't as if every moment of their childhoods had been spent despising one another. Haven had positive influences in her life as well. Many. But…

Navi never thought that Haven forgave her for it.

What happened in Incidio.

The only other time she saw her was in Crocus and they sat all of, maybe, twenty words to one another, it felt like.

No.

Navi was quick to hate, even quicker to forgive, but Haven was different. She held onto things. She didn't forgive. The only time she'd ever come close was Ravan. And that, Navi was pretty sure, was to fuel her own ego.

It wasn't the three of them. Her, Locke, and Haven. Not anymore. Even the monuments event of turning back a death could sway the time far enough in her favor that their trio was anymore than a distant memory.

Navi found her boyfriend hiding out still, in the pool area, but felt too tired to chide him. Just came to sit, like he was, by the edge, slipping her shoes off as well, to stick her feet in.

"So your friend," he asked softly, eventually, "really came back from the dead, huh?"

"Yeah," Navi sighed and he made a face at her frown. "I guess she did."

"This place." He laughed. It really filled you with a childishness, just stepping foot in the halls. "It's amazing."

Navi nodded, but mostly because she didn't feel much up for a debate.

"I guess Haven's overwhelmed?"

Back in the bar area, Kai asked this, more than stated it, to Marin as she looked after her sister and Erza slowly moved to take the seat the blonde had vacated.

She wanted to speak with the swordswoman, Marin did. Desperately. But she could see Kinana passing with an overloaded tray and yes, Haven was right, she could take all the time she wanted on a break, there was no one there to tell her couldn't, but ti did take a lot. To run a bar. To run one properly.

Marin prided herself on the art.

And as she watched Erza slump forward, not too noticeably, but enough so to let Marin know she was uncomfortable, never fully having healed from her own scars that the gauntlet left, she knew she could take it to the woman. What she suspected. About her sister. Btu that's all it was.

A suspicion.

She'd hoped Erza would have her own, but the woman seemed to still be reeling a bit from her job and the news was no help in that. To add potentially rehashing the never rightly extinguished feud between the scarlet woman and the Dreyars following Ravan's excommunication, all over something that might be nothing…

If Marin was going to deal with this, get to the bottom of all of this, then she needed someone's help. While she wished it could be Kai's, there was a certain power he lacked that she wanted utilized. Not to mention a seriousness that he frequently lacked. And now that Erza was back, Marin was sure all he'd want to talk about was his brother.

No.

Marin needed the aid of another who, while she never saw as a detriment, rarely found herself truly aligned with either.

"You want my help with something?"

Navi seemed surprised, an hour later, when she and her boyfriend ordered something to eat in the bar and, as Marin came by with it, she made the request. As the white haired teen nodded, Navi only blinked.

"With what? I mean, of course, Marin, but-"

"It's...kind of personal."

"O-Oh. Is it… Okay. Well-"

"Can you wait for me?" Marin asked. "Until I get off? It's… Are you two staying with your parents?"

"Uh," Navi began as Tate, again, looked stricken, and honestly, the ship had kind of sailed for the day, on that idea. So she answered, "We'll probably just get-"

"Kai sleeps in my room a lot. At our apartment."

"You have an apartment?" Then Navi whispered the next part, looking around for the other teen, as she didn't want him to overhear. "With Kai? I mean-"

"You two can stay at our place," Marin offered, and she was being flagged down then, but by her Uncle Elf, who'd just come in and wanted to ask about her sister. Frowning, she quickly dropped the couple's plates before adding to Navi, "Please?"

And how could she refuse?

Especially because it gave her an easy out to her mother the next morning. Just say she stayed with Marin...for some reason. She'd get to that part later.

Kai was around when they left the hall that night after spending the majority of it pestering Erza about when she'd get in contact with Ravan. Bring him home. It was all Kai could focus on now. It was all he talked about, even, on the walk to the apartment, and Navi kept waiting for Marin to intercede, to change the subject to what it was that she wanted, but the younger teen seemed timid then, allowing her best friend to just talk nonstop and, well, Navi did understand how he felt.

Just a little bit.

The idea of his brother's name being cleared, finally, had to feel good.

Even if his brother was a complete creep…

But it wasn't Kai, the creep's brother, that woke Navi with a start that night. No. She and Tate were given his bedroom, which seemed, like Marin said, mostly untouched, and it was kind of awkward, but nice too. For them to do that. Marin and Kai. They hadn't had to help them out.

It was as she was drifting off after her eventful day that Navi remembered it wasn't out of pure generosity that they'd been given the room (though, honestly, Marin probably would have offered she was sure, regardless), but rather tied in with a repayment in mind.

The sound of a soft knocking at the door confused Navi and she blinked her bleary eyes slowly as Tate, who she'd only shared a bed with a handful of times, was turning out to be a huge fucking snorer, gosh, snoozed right through it.

"Navi."

Her blood ran cold in confusion and, as the door slowly opened, she wasn't quite sure what she was expecting, but, of course, it was just Marin.

"Are you awake? I need to talk to you."

She was careful, Navi was, as she got out of bed, not wanting to wake the man in it. And Marin was blushing slightly, though Navi wasn't sure if it was from seeing her in bed with him (which would be odd, considering Marin was sharing one with Kai...though…) or the fact she was disturbing them.

"What's up?" Navi yawned, confused, after she tumbled back into her jeans and joined the white haired teen in the hall. But Marin only shook her head and motioned her over to the front door. Curiosity only growing, Navi was slightly put out, but followed all the same.

When Marin made her actually exit the apartment building, she was completely put out.

"Marin," she complained a bit in a way she never had before, as they stood outside the building then, the warm night air waiting to envelope them. "Would you tell me what's going on? Are you alright? What-"

"It's Haven."

Marin blurted that out, but it was hard, honestly. To say. To admit. To someone who wasn't Kai. She saw the way Navi frowned at her and she couldn't imagine it, Marin couldn't, even broaching this with either of her parents. Her aunts or uncles. Ajax, even. Or gosh, Locke.

"What about her?" Navi asked back and Marin couldn't meet her eyes. Just stared at the cement beneath their feet. "I something wrong?"

"I don't know."

"What? Marin-"

"Navi, I… I need you to help me…" She took ina deep breath, Marin did, and held it, as she shut her eyes tightly. When she exhaled, her eyes flung open and the words fell out to hang heavily around the heads of both girls. "I think Haven might be up to something and I need you to help me prove it."

Chapter Text

Kai didn't see it as codependent. The relationship he had with Marin. Sure, over the years, it was hard to go more than a day without being around one another and, now, yes, they were apparently going to be living with one another for at least six months (he had a sinking feeling it would end up a lot longer), but so what? Marin was his best friend, his sister, and if he didn't spent the vast majority of his time with her, then he'd just spend it thinking about her, anyways, so why not just do it all together anyways?

And besides, they had other interests outside of one another.

Especially recently.

Marin had thrown herself fully into working the bar and training frequently while he kept his gardens, both the one at Erza's place and around the guildhall grounds, as well as an actual, real relationship with someone who, look, wasn't Marin. A healthy, normal relationship.

Well...as normal as Kai could manage.

He didn't see a problem with how close he and Marin were. And anyone who implied otherwise, he usually just pretended to not understand what they meant (he was pretty great a misdirection) and eventually they'd give up. Stop bring it up. Even Laxus had long given into his grumbles over the oddity and he, by far, had been the biggest dissenter. Mostly, Kai just chose not to focus on any of the strange things that occurred in his life.

And honestly? He had way worse ones that just having an extremely close (and at times perhaps inappropriate) friendship. In the grand scheme of his life, his relationship with Marin was pretty lower level weird.

Navi agreed, actually, with that sentiment, and was offering similar sentiment the following morning. She hardly slept that night, after speaking with Marin for a portion of it, and heard when the other teen got up and left for her early morning shift at the hall. But Navi stayed in bed, until at least an hour after sunrise, when Tate seemed to finally start to groggily awaken, and, well, she did have things she had to do that morning.

Marin had explained to in that late evening, perhaps even early morning hour, in the cool air outside the apartment building, as Navi, at first, seemed rather skeptical.

"Uh, Marin," she'd whispered after the younger teen's outburst of suspicions, "I think you might be kind of...off base? I mean, Haven seemed like Haven to me. And what could she even be planning? She just returned from, like, being dead. So I really think that, maybe, you should just talk to your parents about this? Or-"

"I can't." And that felt like it was equally as unintended. Marin looked nervous, almost, as well as exhausted as she couldn't quite meet Navi's eyes. Still, she went on, "And you can't either. This has to stay between us. Please. Navi."

Blinking some, Navi took her own glances around at the night and felt herself nodding even if she didn't fully mean it. If the years had slowly eroded away any semblance of a friendship she'd once had with Haven, Navi wasn't sure if there'd ever really been anything there between her and Marin. Theoretically, they weren't too far off in age range than Navi and Haven were, just in the reverse, and probably could have been close in their own right, but things just didn't work out that way. Haven had enacted a ban on Marin as a baby, and Kai as well (who actually was closer to Navi's age), and if Navi associated with either too much, she'd had been casted as one as well. She was already skating a pretty thin line with Haven, back in the day, and though now she understood that the blonde needed her, as she needed someone other than just often combative Locke to do her bidding, Navi wasn't well enough aware of this back in the day. No. If she pushed her luck too much, she might end up with only Marin and Kai to hang around at the hall.

Or worse.

Ravan.

Besides, Marin and Kai seemed pretty happy alone, when they were kids, and Navi slowly found herself better friends, anyways. That weren't obsessed with either bashing one another's skulls in or, in Marin and Kai's case, learning how to bash someone's skull in.

Navi grew up seeing Marin as Haven's little sister and the more she had a falling out with the older of the two Dreyar girls, the less she saw of the younger. By the time Marin started taking care of the bar, Navi quit coming around as much, and neither was a stranger to the other, but friends was a stretch of a word and perhaps associate just too thin.

So while Marin offering up a free bed to Navi and her boyfriend wasn't too out of the realm of possibilities and the white haired teen having some sort of request of the pink haired wasn't too far from the norm, the idea of Navi banning together with Marin against Haven, who'd so far done very little to warrant this, felt…

Awkward, to say the least.

"I won't tell anyone," she assured Marin with a bit of unease though she did look to the younger girl once more. "But Marin, I just don't see how you can think-"

"Haven's been acting weird. Around me."

"She just came back to life. Or whatever. I think weird is kind of allowed, don't you?"

"She was...touching me and trying to feel for a heartbeat or something," Marin went on with a bit of a blush, "from my lacrima. Then she took Ajax out into the forest for some reason, to be alone, and when he came back, he wouldn't tell me what they spoke about."

"Maybe it was private."

"Navi-"

"Marin, you're making a lot of accusations about-"

"She wont' take her necklace back." And Marin's hand came up then, to brush against where it hung on her own neck. Meeting Navi's eyes once more, she said, "Locke and I tried to give it to her, but she dropped it and said she doesn't want it back."

"Maybe she doesn't." Navi shrugged some, as she said, "She did, you know...die, wearing it. Maybe it represents something she doesn't want anymore. To be anymore."

"She hasn't even," Marin went right on, "talked about going back there. Wherever she came from. She won't tell us where it was, how to get there, or anything, really, about it. Who had her or anything. Does that sound like Haven?"

"Maybe she's scared."

"If she's scared, then why hasn't she told our dad? At least? Or Locke? Or his dad? Or your dad? Someone? And have them go figure it out? Instead of staying here, waiting, for someone to come and get her. Haven would never do that. Haven-"

"Are you telling me," Navi cut off Marin then, "that you don't think it's Haven? Because-"

"It is Haven." Marin nodded some and sounded more confident then. "I know it is."

"Then what are you saying, Marin?"

"I'm saying that… I don't know. Something's not right. Wtih her. She's not being honest."

"Which sounds exactly like her."

"Navi-"

"What do you even want me to do?" Uncomfortable now, Navi shrugged some as she said, "To help you...what? Fight her? Capture her? Force her to tell you the truth? Or-"

"I'm not very good yet, at...tracking people," Marin divulged slowly. "I mostly work on more physical stuff, but… You have something, don't you? That can track someone?"

"You want me to spy on her?"

"I want you to help me follow her around and make sure that she's not planning something."

"Marin, you should think about this. Some more." Taking a step back, Navi told her, "I don't think I can help you. Haven just went through something...horrific. And you prying at her, while she recovering from it, is kind of...shitty."

It was hard, between the two of them, to have such a serious conversation. Though both had found a real identity separately from what originally bound them together, neither Marin nor Navi seemed to be able to properly wield it around one another. They'd been rather soft spoken in most interactions with one another through the years, with Kai doing most the speaking for he and Marin, and Navi usually just sighing along in the background to whatever thing Haven, Ravan, and Locke were arguing over. Navi couldn't recall the last time she'd had a one-on-one conversation with Marin, if it ever existed, and couldn't imagine it had been anymore demonstrative.

That time when Marin looked away from her, Navi could tell it was out of hurt, but she didn't know what to do for the other teen. At all. What Marin was implying, that Haven was somehow doing something underhanded, felt rather treasonous, really. Even though Navi had kinda, sorta considered the sane thing, maybe, at one point.

Before.

Now that she was here, now that she saw Haven again, even if she was being a massive bitch, Navi was overcome with the same thing affecting Navi and the blonde's family. She was back. It didn't really matter why or how.

Or at least it shouldn't.

She didn't understand how Marin could be picking apart these minuscule things that, really, had little meaning on their own. Or even grouped all together, Navi felt.

Marin wasn't sure why she expected any different, honestly, but as she raised her head it wasn't with tears or doubt filling her eyes. Rather, with a rare voice of certainty, she told Navi simply, "Do you really think that I would accuse my own sister of something right now if I wasn't positive that there was something going on? I lost someone way more important to me, a bigger part of me, than you did, Navi."

"I didn't say that you didn't. I just-"

"You don't have to help me." Marin swallowed some, before her next words, before saying, "I'll do it all on my own. But don't tell me what I'm doing is shitty. I'm trying to protect my family."

"Marin, I didn't mean… Even if Haven is planning or plotting something, because fine, she always is, what do you think? Huh? That she didn't really die? Is that it? Or that she planned her death? I don't have the highest opinion of your sister, but even I don't think she's that evil."

"She's not evil."

"Then-"

"I think she died. I know she died. She wouldn't have put us all through… She wouldn't have gone through all of that. Or known how to pull it off. Ravan's the one that knew about the gauntlet. Not her."

"So what?" Navi kept up. "What are you saying? If it's Haven, then-"

"There's something that came back with her. From...death. Or… I think someone's manipulating her. The people, maybe," Marin said as she was feeling it then, as she said it aloud to someone other than Kai, someone who could possibly assist her in some way. Navi was no Erza, nowhere close, but she'd have to do in that moment. "The ones that...awoke her, or whatever they did. What if they're putting her up to something? OR controlling her? Or-"

"That's a lot of what ifs, Marin."

"I have to know," she insisted all the same. "Everyone else is so...enraptured by her. And I get it. I do. But I'm not just going to wait for something to happen. I have to be sure. And not just for me or my family. For Haven too. If she's in trouble, I have to save her. She'd save me. And you too, Navi."

She had her doubts about that, Navi did, but did look off as she said, "Where do you even think you're going to follow her? Marin? I mean, Locke is, like, on her every hour of the day. Unless you think that he's in on something too-"

"I don't."

"Then-"

"I just have to be sure. It's about the guild too, Navi." One of Marin's hands came up then, to pat at the shoulder where her emblem rested beneath the sleeve of her nightshirt. "My parents aren't...well enough, right now, to look after the guild. I'm the only Dreyar around to do it. If protecting Fairy Tail means going against Haven….then so be it."

Navi let out a long, noisy sigh that time, deflating some as she kicked at the ground and said, "I'll track her for you. If that's what you want. I don't know what good it'll do us. But if you're worried about it, Marin, then… Fine."

Marin nodded some, but neither spoke to one another again, not even as they headed back into the building together. They'd never felt close to the other, perhaps even a bit distant, and the idea of teaming up on something so...devious bothered Navi and she was sure made Marin feel uncertain. But there felt like there was a new air about the younger Dreyar girl, one that Navi had missed out on, being so absent from the guildhall the past few years. Navi had known she'd begun training with Erza and was even fighting against her father, but Marin's newfound confidence felt a bit unsettling.

She got no sleep, the rest of the night, Navi didn't, not even when she heard Marin leave. If anything, that brought her even less comfort as she now had to worry about the clearly unstable Marin interacting with the forever unstable Haven, and what if they got into a fight? Like a serious fight? And Navi could have put a stop to it by telling one of the adults-

Adults.

They were the adults now. Her. Haven. Marin, even. There was no one to run to, to fix things. Marin was right about that much at least. The Master was a drunk and wouldn't take kindly to one of his equals bring up the concerns that Marin was having. No. He would defend Haven. Most of the core group would.

Probably even against Marin.

And Navi didn't feel too far off. As she got out of bed that morning, she felt as exhausted as Marin had looked and only rubbed a palm deeply into each eye, hoping the pain would force her awake.

She'd hoped to just take Tate and get out of there without having to interact with Kai, but he unfortunately seemed to be up as well that morning, waiting on them. He was stretched out on the couch, lazily flicking through a comic, but at the sight of them coming out of what was supposed to be his bedroom, he jumped right up.

"Marin said I should make you guys breakfast," he explained as Tate looked at him wearily and Navi held down a groan.

"No, Kai, that's okay," she assured him. "Really. We should go-"

"I've really gotten better at cooking," he insisted with a nod of his head. "Just completely forget about that time I tried to fry fish for you guys, at the clubhouse."

"Well, I wasn't thinking of that, Kai, before you mentioned it." The memory of the smell alone made Navi scrunch her nose. "And besides, we wouldn't wanna, uh, impose or-"

"You're the first guest that we've had to spend the night," he went on as he was rushing around the couch then, to head into the kitchen. "Of course I should make you breakfast. Plus...Marin kinda told me to, so..."

He was excited, even in the face of Navi's obvious displeasure, and rushed off to get down to it. Cooking. He was getting pretty good at it. Well, not burning things, at least. Marin had faith in him. That's all that mattered.

Of course...she did wait for her not to be around to suggest him making breakfast…

Kai felt kind of proud of himself though, when he raking his soggy scrambled eggs and only, like, a little bit black bacon onto plates, and yeah, okay, so toast was a whole other story, but he was pleased with himself, at least. And though they would be took. But as he was bringing them their plates, out to where they sat waiting on the couch, he caught a part of their conversation that wasn't necessarily meant for his ears.

"So, that guy, and, Marin, was it? Are they...you know...dating?" Tate was asking Navi about then and she rolled her eyes though Kai didn't see it.

"No," Navi sighed some. "They're not. They're just… They're both… It's a lot weirder than that. They're a lot weirder than that."

He tripped, Kai did, over his own feet, and even though he was able to catch himself, both Navi and Tate jumped up at the commotion. He just tumbled forwards, over to them, finding his balance all the same and Navi smiled at him, for once, in gratitude maybe (or just thankfulness that he hadn't dropped the plates all over the two of them), but Kai had none to return now.

"Here," he grumbled some, but neither of them seemed to pick up on it, and Tate even thanked him as Marin nodded the same and it was annoying. They were annoying. Him. Now.

He was still annoyed too, that morning, when Erza found him out in her backyard, tending to his summer garden.

"I am glad to see you do not alert me of your presence before you appear on my property," she offered as she came to stand over him, observing silently. She was freshly showered from her early morning training session and had actually planned to go see him and Marin down at the hall, if not find the Dreyars and offer her congratulations. It was just as well to find Kai in the backyard. He could accompany her. "Makes it feel as if you haven't moved at all."

"I'm not really in the mood today, Erza, okay?"

"Is something wrong?"

"Well, of one, the glare of the sun shining off your armor is getting my eyes-"

"Kai-"

"Marin and I aren't weird."

Erza hummed some. "I suppose it depends on your definition."

"Erza-"

"What is bothering you now, Kai? Hmmm? Marin's sister has returned to life. Just yesterday, you were ecstatic at the thought. Considering what it could mean for your own brother. And now here you are, whining-"

"I'm not whining."

"You sound as if you are."

"I'm just… Navi's stupid boyfriend thought that Marin and I were dating. And we're not."

"I am glad," Erza assured him with a nod of her head. "Haven's return will be enough of a detriment to Marin's progress. Add in frivolous concerns with boys… Although, it is only the natural progression of things. Has she spoken to you about a...boy? Do you two speak on those sorts of things? She should speak with me. It is like I told Ravan, many times, the only way a master and student will truly be in sync is if they share every aspect of their lives with one another. She should-"

"So you told Ravan and Marin both all about how you and Jellal-"

"Kai," she warned, but honestly, he didn't want to delve too much further into that route anyways.

"Marin doesn't talk about stuff like that," he grumbled softly then, staring down at the plants he was hunched over while Erza only let out a soft sigh, considering this.

"All the better, I suppose. She has her eye on the prize! Yes. The heart of a true war-"

"I don't want to talk about Marin."

"You brought her up," the swordswoman pointed out. "And is that why you're here then? To talk? Then spit it out."

"I just told you," he grumbled, but softly, as he really didn't feel like getting reprimanded any further, "that Navi and her dumb boyfriend were, like, over at our apartment, and said that Marin and I are weird. Because we're not dating, but we're...you know."

"I know?"

"Marin and I are just close. To one another. Why's that such a big deal?"

"Who has made it one other than you?" Erza had higher aspirations for the day than talking in circles with her...whatever Kai was. Between Ravan and Marin, a lot of times he felt like her most disappointing child. "Do you truly think that the opinion of Navi and some man none of us know holds more water than, say, your opinion of yourself?"

"No, but-"

"Have you spoken to Marin about it yet, Kai? Like I told you? About wanting to run off and join that fishing guild with your boyfriend?"

"He's not joining the fishing guild. I'm joining the fishing guild."

"Kai-"

"I'm just clarifying."

"You're stalling," she accused, her expression changing as she frowned down at him then. "You haven't spoken with her, have you?"

"Well… Haven came back and Marin's so happy right now and-"

"Kai-"

"I just want Marin to be happy. And for me to be happy. And Lance. And Haven. And you. And-"

"You have reached the age, Kai, where you must start thinking of yourself. And your future. What you want it to be." Erza let out a soft sigh then as she said, "And Marin deserves to know what you're thinking. If the two of you are as close as you claim, then it is only right. And do not spend the day moping over something so ridiculous, Kai."

"I'm not moping."

"Then hurry and finish so you can accompany me to the guildhall. I must get breakfast."

He raised his eyes again, but to her back now as she turned to walk back into her home.

"I could make you-"

"I think," she retorted over her shoulder, "I'll passing."

And yeah, well, he wasn't much up for braving a kitchen again so soon anyways.

When they arrived at the guildhall that morning, the day had begun and there were people all about, rushing in for meals and jobs, all no doubt hoping the weather would be a bit less unbearable that day. Erza set her sights immediately on Mirajane, who was around that day, over at the bar speaking with someone. The swordswoman merely clapped Kai on the shoulder, wished him well on his work for the day, and crap, he forgot he actually had to do that.

Work.

The Haven's alive honeymoon was over.

"I'm glad you're here," Marin told him when he approached where she was busing a table. The idea alone made him smile. "Two of the guys got into it, early this morning, and were fighting out by the pool. I haven't had a chance to clean up out there."

"That sucks."

"Kai, just go do it for me." She even huffed some, Marin did, making him frown.

"Work sucks already?" he asked, not moving to do as she asked (cleaning up sucked...just like work…), but Marin only shook her head at him as she turned ot wlak off.

"I just," she said simply, "have a lot on my mind."

And he could only nod.

So did he.

It was nearing noon when Mirajane called Marin over and made a request of her. They weren't in desperate need or anything, but business had seemed to swell that day, and if she could run to the market and pick up a few things for the guild…

"Someone has to help Kinana work the bar," Marin pointed out simply and her mother gave her a look of confusion.

"What do you think I plan to do, Marin?" And Mirajane giggled some, like she hadn't in years, and Marin felt bad, just rotten, for all the things she'd spent the past few days thinking. Reaching out, Mirajane patted her youngest daughter on the cheek as she said, "Who do you think taught you how to run the bar, sweetheart?"

She could only nod, Marin could, and rush out with the list to do as her mother asked. She knew that there were other people that Mirajane could have made the request of, or even just gone herself, but also thought that maybe...she wanted to fill in? At the bar? She hadn't in so long, not truly, and maybe they could get back to it. Or some semblance of it. What they all were. Before.

Maybe.

But that didn't mean that what Marin was feeling, what she was thinking, worrying over, with Haven, didn't just mean nothing. She wasn't going crazy. Obsessing over nothing. She prayed she was. That it was all just so much to process, Haven's return, that her mind was playing tricks on her, finding fallacy where it didn't exist, because that would mean that Haven was okay, that they would all be okay, and what more could someone want than that?

But still...Marin just had to be certain.

Her thoughts were stuck on it as she walked through the streets of Magnolia and only little else. Which is why it was so jarring, when she was grabbed suddenly from behind, a hand thrown over her mouth, and oh gosh, this would be so embarrassing to explain to Erza. Getting caught off guard like this.

Never-wrecking as well.

Training was one thing, but this was real life, what she'd been training for, and as she pulled into a dark alley, Marin just bit down, hard, on the palm covering her mouth, tossing a heavy elbow into the abdomen behind her, and oh, man, why was this so exhilarating?

"Damn it, Marin. It's fucking me."

She's whirled around, fist drawn back, but the face she was staring into wasn't some sort of menacing snarl, but rather the partially covered face of the last piece that had been missing for just as long as her sister.

"Ravan," she breathed as he was glaring down then, at his palm, pulling his fingerless glove off as he grumbled under his breath.

"Do you fucking sharpen your teeth or something? I mean-"

"What are you doing here?" And Marin was rushing forwards, regardless of his complaints, to toss her arms around him that time. Ravan felt stiff, but only for a moment, before slowly, he patted her on the back as well.

"Getting bit, apparently." he retorted back as she blushed some and released him. Reaching up, he tugged down the bandanna over his mouth as he said, "We heard a rumor. That a guild master's daughter was returned from the dead. We were already nearby. Jellal let me journey ahead. To check things out. If it… Marin, is your sister-"

"Yeah." She didn't know it would still choke her up, to announce this to someone new, but it did. "She is. Ravan. You should come to the guildhall and-"

"No."

"What? Why? You-"

"There's a reason I didn't go there on my own, Marin."

"Because you wanted to hide in an alley way and scare someone?"

"I was just as shocked to see you," he told her with a frown. "I was hoping to run into someone else."

"Who? Haven? Just out and about?"

"Erza."

"Well, she's home too," Marin was quick to tell him as she reached up to wipe away some of the wetness the corners of her eyes. "And you had just as great a chance as running into her, I guess. Or- Oh, you have to come with me. Kai has been so worried about you and-"

"Marin, I'm not here for-"

"And Haven will be so happy to...well… She's still adjusting, really. Readjusting, I guess, to-"

"I'm not going back to the guildhall."

She frowned at this. "Ravan, you have to. It's okay. Haven's alive and now...now we can all move passed it and-"

"I'm not going back there."

"Then I'll bring everyone to you. Or you can go to Erza's. You have to at least hear about what happened. Don't you want to? Ravan-"

"I just had to know. I don't…" He took in a deep breath, Ravan did, and Marin didn't get it. Why he was making things so difficult. After shaking his wounded hand one more time, he moved to pull his glove on once more as he said, "I'm glad it was you, Marin, that I ran into. Tell the others, I mean, Erza and Kai, that I just… I still need to-"

'Haven's not dead, Ravan. And you never did anything wrong anyways. You-"

"We were in the area," he spoke over her as Marin only frowned, "for serious business. Jellal felt a new...disturbance, I guess, you could call it. A dark energy. I have to find and meet back up with them. I'm sorry I can't stay longer. But tell Haven that I-"

"Can you feel the disturbance? Ravan?"

He frowned at her tone, shrugging some as he said, "That's more Jellal thing. He has a sense about him. He-"

"Could it be possible that the reason you were in this area, headed this way, was because..."

"What's wrong, Marin?"

It was him that took a step towards her then, frowning some down at the girl and she'd never felt it. What Navi did. From him. Ravan. He was Kai's protector (that bled over into his agitator) and had taken up a similar role in Marin's life from a young age. He stood up for her again Haven and was around a lot, for Marin and Kai to play with. He was serious a lo, but in an endearing way, and with everyone else in doubt then, she found herself most comforted by him.

"Haven," she whispered softly, swallowing. "Haven's what's wrong."

Locke was feeling much the same that day as he came into the guildhall with the blonde in tow, both clearly put out by one another. Or at least it was clear on his end. Haven seemed disinterested, if anything, and when she spied Ajax there, at the hall, she immediately headed over to him while Locke, seeing Navi and her boyfriend around, found his place with them instead.

"Rough night?" Navi mocked lightly as he looked pretty peeved about something or other, running a hand over his face as he shrugged.

"Haven fucking disappeared on me. This morning. Or last night."

Tate, still a bit out of place among them all, nodded as if this was a normal thing, but Navi's eyes only widened slightly and she sat forwards, reaching out to touch Locke's arm.

"What do you mean?" she asked softly. "Locke? Where did she go?"

"I don't know." He made a face at her concern. "She's fine. I mean, look at her. She just said she wanted to go for a walk. But it fucked me up, this morning, when I woke up and she was… I just don't like for her not to be where she says that she's going to be. That's all."

Tate didn't nod at that, because that sounded like a super weird thing given the context, but Navi only gripped Locke's arm then.

"Does she do that a lot?" she went on. "Disappear?"

"What are you talking about? She's only been back for a few days." Locke pulled a face at the pink haired teen as he said, "She should just say something. Is all I mean. She can do what she wants, but she know that I-"

"But what was she doing? Locke?"

He jerked his arm away then, glaring at Navi for a brief second before glancing about. Then, softly, he asked, "What did my dad tell you?"

"Gajeel? I haven't even seen him since I've been back."

Actually, now that he thought about it, Locke hadn't seen him since their disagreement. As he glanced around for the man, Navi only sat back, her eyes falling to the table as she thought.

"What," she asked Locke, "did Gajeel say about Haven?"

"Nothing. Just- He's stupid."

"Locke-"

"There's nothing wrong with Haven."

"Who said there was?"

Locke was jumping up then, to stalk off, but Navi got up to follow him, and Tate was so confused by their conversation that he didn't know if he should go after them. It was only a minute or two later, anyways, that Nav's father and the man's Exceed showed up, the former groggily coming over to sit at the first table he spotted.

Unfortunately for Tate, this happened to be his own.

"Someone sittin' here?" Natsu asked though he hardly cared for an answer as he fell into the seat. Happy, snickering, was quick to follow, landing on the table as his wings disappeared.

"Natsu, you're being rude," he complained to the man as his head fell forwards, resting against the tabletop with little care. To Tate, the Exceed said, "We had a pretty late night last night. We were sitting up, waiting for Navi to come home. Do you know Navi?"

He felt like he was being pranked, Tate did, and as he glanced around for the woman in question, someone else was glancing about for her as well. Err, well, mainly where she'd gotten off with Locke too.

The entity hadn't much liked what she'd observed occurring between the two of them from afar, but she had more important things to worry about at the moment as she sat dissuading her purported cousin from accompanying his father on a job.

"Sorry, kid," Bickslow sighed some as he sat at the table as well, his babies fluttering all about. "Someone's gotta go out and get the gold, ya know? Keep up the lifestyle. Happy wife, happy life and all, yeah? And she ain't too happy when we don't make rent-"

"I don't care," Haven told him harshly with a frown, "if you go out on a job."

And she didn't. It was preferable. She only kept her eyes on Ajax.

"But you," she told the young teen, "shouldn't go. Right now."

Ajax was rather confused by this, and considered, even, if it was a test. He'd hoped to go out on a big job, alone, but with his father was good too, just something to show off, to Haven, all that he'd been accomplishing in her absence, but for some reason, she was clearly not sold on this idea.

Noting his concern, she was quick to add, "I need help, Ajax. With training. I...want you to assist me. Continue assisting me."

"Oh, wow, really?" And that excited him in a way he hadn't been in quite some time. Just being around Haven so much was drawing it back out of him. What he'd been. Before...before. "Yeah, I'll stay behind. If it's okay with-"

'I guess so." Bickslow sighed some, down at the job request he'd been gripping, as his babies seemed rather morose themselves. "I'll just take off, all by myself, me and my babies, and you stay here, with Haven-"

"Alright!" Ajax punched the air. "Thanks, Dad!"

Haven smiled at him and Ajax was so ready for it, getting his cousin back in proper form, but she just needed him close. The entity did. The end wouldn't be long. She just had a few more things to figure in…

Locke wanted to figure nothing out though, as he tried to escape Navi, but she only ran him down, all the way up to the second floor.

"Tell me about what Gajeel said, Locke?"

"Why? What difference does it make?"

"Uh, it's clearly got you all worked up and I'm your friend and I'm worried about you."

Plus, you know, the real reason.

She felt it best not to dwell on her interest in Haven's late night whereabouts though.

He groaned, Locke did, as they made it to the infirmary. No one was around it seemed, the room completely empty, and he only glanced about before stepping inside. Navi was quick to follow.

"My dad's just fucking with me again. That's all." He went over to where some to the potions set on a counter, that he'd crafted himself only a few weeks prior with the help of Wendy. Just staring at the clear bottles with their different colored liquids inside soothed him. Made him feel safe. Something about the order of magic, when you broke it down the way he enjoyed, comforted the man. "You know how he is about Haven. He's such a fucking ass. She's here, again, just to be with me, and he's going to fuck with that."

Navi felt uneasy, hearing the anger in her friend's tone, but didn't move forward to comfort him. Rather, hanging back by the door, she said, "What did he say about Haven?"

"Just… It's fucking shit, Navi."

"I know," she agreed easily, lie or not, but still found her self insisting, "but what was it? That he said? You can tell me."

"Just… It's dumb, but… He thought that Haven… He just thinks that there's something wrong with her." Then Locke laughed, kind of, in the back of his throat, and sounded less tense when he added, "Something different than what's usually wrong with her."

"Like what?"

"I don't know." He even shrugged, glancing over his shoulders at Navi as he said, "He just told me to be careful around her. Like she might try and hurt me or something. Just his usual bullshit. And now he's run off to sulk because he's such an asshole-"

"But why would he say something like that? Locke? If he really didn't think-"

"You think there's something wrong with Haven too?" he accused, but Navi easily shook her head.

"No! I mean, if there was, I'd think you'd know-"

"Yeah, Navi. I would know. And there's not, okay?" He huffed again, Locke did, as he bent down to more closely look at the different potions. "Who knows Haven better than me?"

"No one," Navi whispered in agreement. "Locke, I just… I should get back. To...Tate. I wish I hadn't brought him."

"That's what you get for being impulsive," Locke teased, maybe, but Navi only frowned as she turned away from him.

She got a lot more for it, actually.

Downstairs, Navi found Haven where she'd left her, with Ajax, but as the blonde's eyes seemed to follow her down the steps, the teen found that maybe she wasn't as thrilled to have her friend back as she thought. Or at least this version of her. Between what Marin had told her the previous night and what little Locke had been willing to give up, Navi wasn't too certain what she believed anymore.

"Navi!"

Other than she hated it, seeing her father and Happy there, the latter calling out to her in glee when he spotted her, at the same table as her boyfriend. It was time, it seemed, to face the music in more ways than one.

She still wasn't quite sure what she was going to say as now that both she and Tate had worked this up into a whole big thing that it didn't have to be, she found herself feeling extremely nervous over the whole thing, not to mention overwhelmed with concerns over Haven, and she never thought she'd be thankful to see her. Marin. But she was that day, as she approached the table her father, Happy, and Tate were at together, when Marin came through the guildhall doors, arms filled with groceries and thankfully making a beeline for the pink haired teen.

"Navi," she asked as she passed her. "Can you help me, um, put these away?"

Nodding, Navi looked to the table of guys and said to all three of them without rightly specifying, "I have to go help Marin. I'll be back later."

"Well, we can hang out some then, right?" Happy wasn't pleased, but Natsu, who'd raised his head before, only dropped it slowly back to the table. Tate just sat there, as frozen as he'd been before.

Following Marin back into the kitchen, Navi didn't even let Marin get out any of what she wanted to say. The second they were alone, Navi was the one blurting things out then as she said, "We have to follow Haven. Tonight. I think you're right. Something might be up."

"Yeah." Marin nodded some, mostly to herself. "I know."

When Navi came back out, she found her father still snoozing, now alone, at the table, with Happy disappeared off somewhere, no doubt bothering someone. Tate was gone too and Navi didn't feel too concerned about this. How could she? Haven was commanding all of the attention.

Normal behavior for what was quickly becoming obviously abnormal.

Haven was gone though, now, but not far, as Navi found out.

"She went up to find out what Locke's doin'," Ajax said when Navi questioned this. Shrugging some, he said, "But if you wanna make plans with her, you better be quick about it. Pretty soon, me and her are gonna start a pretty stringent training regimen, you know? I dunno how long you're in town, but her times gonna be pretty limited."

Navi nodded some, though she was hardly listening, and Bickslow only wagged his tongue at his son, still a bit disappointed that he'd soon be journeying out without the boy, but who could blame Ajax? Not him. If Bickslow could have even one of the people that had been taken from him, back when he was a child, well…

Well.

But Navi didn't go up after them. Haven and Locke. She just went to sit with her father and wait. He woke up at least, Natsu did, and spoke with her softly over a few things, but he could tell his daughter was distracted.

"It's not like she's gonna just disappear, you know," he remarked, noting how she kept looking up to the second floor overhang, clearly anxious about her friend. Then Natsu hummed some. "I mean, unless he does. I guess he could."

"Dad-"

"Just enjoy the moment, Nav," he offered and grinned for her, real big in the way that used to ease all her fears when she was a child. But it did nothing to then to deaden the tightening in her gut.

It almost felt unnatural, the way she bounced up the second she saw them, Haven and Locke, together, walking down the steps. Both seemed to note their friend's eyes on them, as well as the way she was quickly approaching them, but Locke only shook his head some when he got to the bottom of the stairs.

"My mom's here," was his simple excuse as his elbow brushed Haven's when he walked off, away from the pair, leaving Haven and Navi alone. It wasn't an excuse, anyways. Levy really was there, waving him over, and unlike Navi, he was thankful for some parental interference in that moment. '

"It's so good to see the three of you back together," his mother remarked as he slid into a seat across from her and the day before, yeah, it had been. Now Locke was all tense because he had a bad feeling Haven was trying to take off, leave him, and he knew he'd have to just let her go, if that's what she was planning, but he also couldn't just let her do that, even if he had to, and he just wished she would take him into consideration. Just for once.

Still, he nodded his head as he agreed, "The three of us."

"Have you seen your father?" his mother asked after a beat and when Locke frowned at her with a negative shake of his head this time, she just sighed heavily. "He took off without telling me where he went. Lily too. It's not like him. Well, I mean, he usually at least says something, if he's going on a job. Did he tell you anything about-"

"I really don't care where he went. Or wanna talk about him."

"What's wrong, Locke?" She frowned some, reaching across the table to push his hair out of his face, studying it for a moment before sighing. "You guys really shouldn't be fighting right now."

"I'm not fighting with him. He's the one that said Haven-"

"He doesn't accept things. Easily. Your father. You know that." Still, she had told him to leave Locke along about Haven. That Gajeel hadn't given her much to go on with his fears, he had mentioned wanting to break the two of them right back up, and, well, she'd told him to leave them alone. "When he comes back, from wherever he and Lily went, he'll be in a far better mood. I'm sure."

Locke wasn't. Mainly because he was afraid that by the time the man got back, he'd be right. Not about Haven being, like, evil or whatever dumb shit Gajeel was on, but rather that she'd have broken Locke all over again.

She was going to leave him.

Locke knew it.

He just did.

She was leaving Navi, at least, right about then as the pink haired teen tried her hand at making some kind of conversation, but the entity was suspicious of her, now, after having questioned Locke loosely on what the two of them were speaking on. And then her meeting with Marin? The entity wasn't pleased with the recent development of things and God Slayer Magic or not, things would be coming to a head sooner rather than later.

And as she finally found her way away from Navi, it was alright, the fire mage decided, as when Haven walked away from her, the pink haired woman merely held out a hand and grabbed Haven's arm, only holding on long enough for Haven to shoot her a quick glare, before shaking her off and stalking off to where Locke was grumbling things to his mother.

But that was fine.

That was perfect.

Satisfaction was limited, for Navi, as a blue vapor trail only visible to her own eyes followed behind Haven, and she only sighed some as she went off to finally locate Tate.

Locke and Haven hung around that day, much as they did most, and Mirajane seemed to hang around them a lot that day, as her husband was absent from the hall that day. Eventually though, Haven made her discomfort to Locke known enough and he took her home with him, though he was obviously mopey and despondent. Not that it mattered to the entity. If she picked up on it, she no doubt fed on it.

It was easy enough that evening for Marin to get her mother to cover the late shift for her, given Mirajane seemed to keyed into days of old then, when that was her shift and hers alone, and she even wished Marin well as she went on her way.

"Have fun," Mirajane giggled when Marin only explained she wanted to go spend some time with Navi, and man, that was actually a pretty thing weird for her to say, given she'd never done so literally ever, in her entire life, not Navi specifically at least, but her mother was too blissed out in her new element to care.

Mirajane actually less blissed, like her youngest surmised, and more trying to fake it until it became a reality. She thought that there was no better way to accomplish this than going back to what she once found her greatest joy; the guildhall. The upbeat mood of the place was, at the very least, dull her senses, and she'd been missing it. The distraction that the place presented. It had always been there for her, in the past, the bar. Through every high and low.

It felt ridiculous that she was just now recalling that fact.

Kai wanted it. That feeling. That Mirajane got from the guildhall. Working. As something as stupid as a barmaid. And he wanted to be something as stupid as a fisherman, with the nets and swearing and long nights and early mornings. And if the before dawn mornings and after hours evenings comforted Mirajane, the rough waters and rougher grown men would remind Kai of what he was always mean to be.

Before a horrible sea monster stole it all from him.

"I'm glad you're home," he called to Marin when the door to the apartment opened and closed. He was alone, stretched out on the couch, but this time, it wasn't a comic he was flipping through. No. It was a thick dictionary that he was flicking through and he didn't even look up from it when his friend entered. "I've been looking into, like, water related names, you know? For when you become, like, a massively popular slayer like the Salamander or your dad? There's a lot of options. Water has so many cool words attached to it. Like, deluge. I like that word a lot. Or even just something like, you know, like a god of water or something? Like Poseidon?"

"Kai," Marin was groaning before he saw her, but he was only flicking through the big book all the same. "I really don't-"

"Torrential. Downpour. Can you make up a really cool play on words from that? Or, oh, Hydrus, the water snake, you know? Like the Salamander? Or-"

"I don't have time for that right now." She was there then, when he looked up, and she wasn't alone. "I'm going out tonight."

"Going out where?" he asked, somewhat softly, as Tate gave him a soft wave and Navi mostly wondered where he'd even found a dictionary. No doubt the guildhall. She really doubted he put much use into it other than, well, the lackluster use he was giving it then. "Marin? You didn't tell me we had to go somewhere."

"You're not going. I'm going."

"What?" He was up then, leaving his dictionary behind, and Navi only made a face as Tate as Kai followed Marin out of the living room and to her room. "How come I can't go?"

"It's just something I'm helping Navi with," Marin explained simply as, wordlessly, he sat on the end of her bed, facing away as she went over to the closet to change out of her workday drags. "And her boyfriend can't go. So can you stay here and hang out with him? Or he can hang out alone, I guess, and you can even go out tonight, too. Where's Lance?"

"Well, he knows that your sister came back to life or whatever and I told him that I'm gonna be pretty busy, for a while, probably, because Haven'll eventually wanna spend tons of time with me and you, I figure, and catch up, you know? I don't wanna overwhelm her, with Lance, and all, so-"

"Why would you tell him that?"

"Because Haven will," he insisted. "She has to. You're her sister."

"Yeah, but you're not."

"But you don't wanna be alone with Haven without me."

He was right about that, at least.

When Marin didn't say anything after this, Kai only sighed some, misunderstanding her silence as annoyance. Softly, to his feet, he said, "Marin… There's something that I kinda wanna talk to you about-"

"Can't it wait, Kai?" She walked passed him then, changed, and over to her dresser. Staring into the mirror that rested on the surface, she took to tying her hair back. "I'm kind of in a rush."

"Well… We can talk later, I guess, but… I really don't wanna hang out with Tate."

"Then invite Lance over."

"But I have I wouldn't be ready for when Haven-"

"Are you avoiding him?"

"No!"

"Kai-"

"We just have to talk. Me and you." Then he frowned. "And me and him, I guess, but-"

"We will." Marin looked over her shoulder at him then and smiled softly. "There's just something I have to take care of first."

"And you're sure I can't come?"

"Kai-"

"I'll stay," he grumbled. "But I'm not gonna just sit around and hang out with that guy. Navi's boyfriend. I'm going full in on finding you a water nickname. One that they'd call you, you know, if you ever ended up on the high seas? Fishing, maybe?"

"Yeah, Kai," Marin sighed, not catching on (he wasn't throwing her much, honestly). "Whatever you want."

When Marin insisted to Navi, upon leaving the apartment, that they had to make a quick stop, Navi was rather confused and only reminded Marin that they needed to get to Locke's apartment, where they'd last seen Haven, before the trail faded.

"I know," Marin assured her. "It'll be quick."

She saw him, as they approached the standard meetup spot all the kids had shared, throughout the years, even Kai and Marin at times, but mostly the older kids before jobs. Ravan. He had his hood pulled up and his head bowed, but she knew it was him. She just did.

Oddly though, and maybe even thankfully, Marin found that the overwhelming...pressure and power that had been attached to Ravan for the past few years, was absent. She could hardly feel anything jumping from him, honestly.

Not that she cared. At all. Marin could have whatever connection she wanted with the man; Navi had none and though she could take up his cause, or at least sympathize with it, she knew now was not the time to be bringing it back up again.

"What are you doing here? Ravan?" She crossed her arms, Navi did, as they approached the man, and Ravan only stared at her with his typical bored gaze. "Locke's going to kill you, you know, if he sees you."

"What's he gonna do?" It had been a long time, since she'd been spoken to through fabric, but she could still hear the sneer that was always present in Ravan's voice, just skating over the arrogance. "Heal me to death?"

"He has other strengths and you know it."

"Sure."

"Not to mention the Master-"

"Laxus ain't my fuckin' master anymore." And one of Ravan's hands came up from his pocket, reaching for the hem of his shirt and pulling it up, just slight, to reveal a new marking over the center of his abdomen. "I'm affiliated with something more important than stupid Fairy Tail."

"Something tells me," Navi retorted with a glare, hardly even glancing at the marking, "he won't really care much."

"Guys." Marin didn't even stop once they made it to Ravan. Just kept walking passed him. "We have to get to Locke's apartment building. Now."

Neither were used to this from the youngest Dreyar, but Ravan was there for a reason, after all. Navi though had to take a few deep breaths before trailing behind the two of them, somewhat put out by the change of plans.

Not that they really changed.

As they made it to Locke's apartment and Navi assured them there was no fresh trail, they only hunkered down into a nearby shrubbery to hide out until, eventually, Haven would hopefully leave the apartment and somehow reveal her dark plan to them. Or who was controlling her. Forcing her to deceive them.

Something.

Either that or they'd be in for a really long night.

It was shaping up to be that way, all the same.

"Kai was kind of upset that he couldn't come," Marin admitted to Ravan, eventually, softly.

Time felt like it was dragging and maybe they'd only been out there for a few minutes, but it felt closer to an hour, and she wasn't used to such boredom. Not anymore. Her days were all spent with the hustle and bustle of a bubbling guildhall. Either that or under the stiff tutelage of the great Erza Scarlet. Sitting around with no directive, not even meditative, but just watching, waiting, wasn't the kind of calm Marin was used to anymore. She could fade into undisturbed waters easily, when she was out in a lake, all alone, creating her own currents, but this was different. Her heart and mind was racing, but she was being forced to learn a hard lesson that all mages were made to address eventually; most jobs had horrible down periods before any sort of action ever occurred.

And though she truly did wish for no action at all, for this all to come to a head without it, there was something inside of her that, well…

"He'dda been a brat the whole time," Ravan remarked around a cigarette. It was just dangling from his lips, unlit, as Navi had griped at him when he tried to light it that he was going to light the fucking bush on fire and god! This is why he worked alone.

Well, he worked in a group of people that mostly all liked to be alone to their own thoughts as well.

She didn't nod along with that, Marin didn't, as she'd never agree that her best friend was such a thing, but she did admit, "I would have let him come, probably. Even if I didn't want him to. But since you're here-"

"Why," Navi complained as she was mostly trying to avoid being crawled on by any gross bugs, "are you even here? Ravan? I mean, did Erza, like, contact you or something? Or-"

"Ravan's investigating something," Marin offered softly as the man tried his hardest to look unbothered, hanging out in an itchy shrub with his little brother's friend and a girl that was once, sort of, part of his friend group, but he'd mostly never cared for one way or another, while waiting for what he'd spent so long working into the love of his life, who he'd allowed to be killed, come out of his mortal enemies apartment and maybe reveal to them that she was some sort of evil being now.

Take one step into Magnolia and get dragged into the dumbest shit.

On that single thing, he and Navi could probably both find commonality.

If they allowed themselves to.

Clearly, they never had.

"For his team," Marin was going on with a sigh. The sun was nearly completely set then and they might be hunkering in for a good while. "And...Haven might… We ran into each other and..."

"I got my own business," Ravan reiterated and Navi felt cold, in the late summer night, sitting around with two of the people she might have, in years passed, but certainly with others involved.

It was fucking hot as shit though, for Ravan, and when he pulled his hoodie off, he was covered in sweat which was super gross to Navi, but there was good use to it, eventually, the hoodie, as Marin rested her head against, in his lap.

"She works too much," Ravan offered to Navi and, well, maybe they agreed on more than one thing.

It was hard, being Erza's student. That's what Marin was now, Ravan had heard from Jellal. The man had seen Erza, once, in what seemed too long, just to call some odd months, but Ravan had stayed away from her. And his brother. Marin too. But still, he felt for the girl, all the same.

He too knew the impossibility of trying to impress the most impressive woman to ever live.

Ravan hoped Marin was handling it better than he ever had.

The time was growing longer and longer though, and eventually, even Navi started to nod off. Not Ravan though. Sleep wasn't something he came by easily and never accidentally. He had a job to do and he wouldn't rest until it was completed.

For better or worse.

Navi was embarrassed though, when he shoved her awake some odd hours later, not only for falling asleep on the job, but for doing so around Ravan of all people. The creep. She made something of a face, but he was only shoving Marin awake too, a finger coming up to his once more covered face, signaling for their silence.

Clearly, the time had come.

They had to wait though. Give Haven a head start. So she wouldn't catch them following along behind.

It was where Navi's power came in.

There was a knot in Marin's stomach though and it wasn't the same as the cramps she felt in her body, when they all came tumbling out of the shrubbery. They were really doing it. Spying on Haven.

But more importantly…

Haven was really up to something, wasn't she?

She had to be, they all knew, when the trail led them into the woods. For all the faith she had in herself now, all the tugging her soul did towards violence, Marin found herself walking close to Ravan all the same, as if he were still her pseudo big brother, there was protect her from her mean older sister.

Navi was just struck by the spookiness the setting provided. The woods had been a feature of her childhood for sure, but it looked so strange in the pale moonlight, as an adult. They were trying to keep quiet, all of them, but still, each stone that rolled away or fallen branch that cracked underfoot made them all kind of tense and it was just Haven, Navi had to keep reminding herself, but why did it feel like it was something so much worse?

The trail led them to a clearing, where they found Haven, all alone, in the darkness. Well, what should have been darkness. They saw it before they approached, the light that was cast as it jumped from her body. Bright and yellow, brilliant and white, currents flowing through her, and Marin didn't know her sister to partake in it as well, meditation.

"See?" And Navi let out a soft breath, one that neither Ravan or Marin as they hid in the shadows, all three of them, together, seemed willing to let go, "She's just feeling it out again. Her powers."

"Shhh." But Ravan's shush was hushed further by his bandanna, not even returning the look Navi shot him. Even softer, to Marin, he said, "She's whispering something."

She was, Haven was, and it sounded like an incantation of some sort. Over and over. But off, somehow. Not right.

This was mainly because she couldn't figure it out, the entity couldn't, as she sat in a trance, trying to recall for all she could what the words were, what summoned it, what would give her that sickening black cloaked lightning to engulf the harborer with.

Marin's hearing was enhanced somewhat, through her slayer powers, and she felt sick as the voice didn't even sound like her sister's, truly, and for all the reassurance Navi felt, she'd lost all of it.

She sniffled, Marin did.

It was involentary and she couldn't help it, what she was feeling then, but it was enough to break Haven's trance and when her soft whispers stopped, they all knew they were boned.

"Whoever you are," was all Haven called out as the trio's breath caught, "it would serve you best to show yourselves now."

Marin was frozen in her own fear, as she hid behind a tree, and Navi just really didn't want to deal with the bitch fit she was sure was coming their way, but Ravan stood fully at the entity's words, breaking the clearing as Marin and Navi only stared in silence.

"It's me," he called out, tugging down his bandanna. "Haven."

It was a flood of things that he wasn't ready for, no matter how much he'd spent the day prepping for it, to see her there, in her flesh and blood, before him. Haven. Her lightning magic had disappeared with her chants and they were in clearing all alone, it felt like, and if things had been better, if things had gone right, this could have been their life and he'd convinced himself to stop thinking like that, he'd had to stop himself from thinking of those things, the past, but she was right there, right fucking there, instead of in the fucking ground, dead, alone.

Alone.

Haven was born alone.

She belonged alone.

And he was willing to let her be alone, like he was alone, but they could have been all alone together. Imagine the power they'd have, by this point, if she'd just forgone it. The final monster. He could. They'dda gone off and beat the shit out of those guys in Crocus, fuck Magnolia, nothing good came out of going back to Magnolia, but they could rule the fucking world together. All of it. They'd go do her stupid savior complex shit in Bosco, probably fuck it all up, head back to Fiore and get in shit there and they'd always be in shit, him and Haven, because they were just shit people, but together…

She didn't run to him and he didn't her. There were no hugs or tears, like with Locke. Ravan just felt defeated, almost, standing there, studying her as Haven did the same to him.

In a better life, Haven and him would have been the most powerful mages in the fucking world. He knew they would have been. He just knew it. If he...just hadn't fucking phased thoruhg that fucking attack, then…

"I know the rest of you are there. Come on." But Haven kept her eyes on him as she said this. "Now."

"We're just checking on you!" Navi was tripping over herself then, to show herself, before the blow up happened. "Honest, Haven. Locke was so worried about it, today, you sneaking out, and I thought that I would help ease his mind some, you know? And hey, how did you even get away from him? Because-"

"Haven."

Marin cut Navi off as she too stepped into the moonlight to face her older sister, her eyes wide and the tears were still there, glistening somewhat, but Haven wouldn't even look at her.

"What are you doing out here?" Marin demanded, almost, and her tone wasn't one that came out of the girl often, but only Navi spared her glances as Ravan and Haven only had one another's gaze.

"I don't answer to you," Haven retorted though there was something of a smirk, maybe, hidden on her face. "But if you must know, I asked our dear little cousin, Ajax, if he would assist me in becoming...what I once was. Death really does take a lot out of a person."

Ravan's eyes fell then, he couldn't look at her, because she was just too fucking real, but Marin couldn't take her eyes off the blonde.

"But what," Marin kept up, "are you doing out here?"

"I'm not going to be made a fool of, in front of stupid Ajax. I went with him one day, to see him...preform. I won't be shown up by the brat." Haven held her head higher. "Or anyone."

"That makes sense. Perfect sense." Navi mostly just wanted to get out of there. And fast. "You should just really, uh, talk to Locke sometimes? Maybe? I-I don't want to tell you your business or anything, and I know you know this, but he's kind of, well, you know Locke, Haven. You should just be honest with him. I'm sure he'll be pretty understand-"

"What were you chanting?" It was Ravan then, that was making demands of the entity and she laughed at him, Haven did. Openly.

"I'm chosen, Ravan," she retorted rather than answered, and her hand came up to press against her own stomach, where on her, a gnarly scar laid, but on him, a new guild marking signified a new alliance. "I always have been."

She shoved him, when she passed him, hard, and called out over her shoulder that if she ever caught them following her again, there would be hell to pay, but there would be no time for that, Ravan knew, as he refused to watch her leave. Just looked to Marin who only blinked away her tears.

"That," he told her softly as he came to stand before the teen, "is not your fucking sister."

"What are you talking about?" Navi glared at him. "Of course it fucking is. How could you say that? Locke says it is. Master. Her mother. I do. I'm saying it's Haven. I know Haven, Ravan."

But he wouldn't look at her, if he ever did, and instead just stared down at Marin who had to take a few breaths, gather herself, but nodded all the same.

"Yeah," she agreed with Ravan. "I've known."

And the entity knew as well that her time was up and as she sped back to Locke's apartment, there was at least a small victory in the evening. Though she hadn't found it herself, seeing Ravan there, being around the man once more, had shot all kinds of memories coursing through her mind.

Locke was snoozing, as she knew he would be, when she dropped a bit of something extra in his tea that she'd snagged before, up in the infirmary, into his tea that evening. Just enough to keep him out of her hair. Before, she didn't want him to bother her again, if she came in late the next morning, after scouring every inch of her brain, alone in the woods, for a clue of how to activate Haven's most powerful spell.

But she didn't need him to be dozily any longer. And as she fell into bed with him, the tears were easy enough to fake, collapsing into the man as he groggily tried to force himself awake.

"Have? What's wrong? Are you- What hap-"

"Ravan's back," she told him tearfully and Locke wasn't all himself yet, was still rubbing the sleep from his eyes, but man, those are words he thought he'd never hear again.

And oh was ready for them.

Chapter Text

The sky was just beginning to lighten and though time had passed, Locke's chest was no less swelled and his headache stayed throbbing as he left the apartment with Haven in tow, neither speaking much now. Not that they had much as they waited out the night, until it was at least somewhat acceptable to head down the guildhall.

"Why do you wanna go to the guildhall?" Haven asked with a frown when, after her tears dried, he only stroked at her cheek and vowed this.

"I have to talk to your father. Before I do anything with Ravan, I… We should just talk to your father."

And as everything felt like it was melting together, caving in on itself, the entity nodded because yes, they would gather Laxus, then her mother, and now that her sister had found a powerful ally of her own, Locke's power and loyalty would be put to the test.

She'd never quite figured it out. How it would all come together. But fate seemed to be figuring that portion of things out all on its own.

The early morning hours weren't plotted on by only them, however. As Navi shied away from Ravan and Marin's assertions, escaping back for the latter's apartment where she climbed into the bed with her boyfriend and tried hard to just sleep off what she'd seen, the other two were faced with a much more difficult task.

"We have," Marin whispered softly to Ravan as they left the woods together, "to go tell my dad."

"No." Ravan even shook his head. "We gotta go see Erza. Talk to her first. And then I… I'll deal with Haven. After I talk to Erza-"

"What do you mean? Deal with her? You mean talk to her?"

"Marin..." Uncomfortable, Ravan reached up then, to adjust his bandanna over his mouth. "I told you; that's not your sister. She's… Whatever it is, some sort of magic trick or… It's not Haven. And it's not here with any good intentions."

"I know that," she retorted with a bit of a frown. "But what are you going to do? Ravan?"

He didn't answer, silent now, and Marin knew, because she knew what she had to do, before she happened upon him out in the city and brought him into the fold of the plan, but at the same time, the idea of Ravan facing her sister...even if it really wasn't her sister…

"We're going to my parents."

"Marin, they're not just gonna...believe us."

"And Erza will?"

"Erza," Ravan replied bluntly, "will have a clear and level head. About this anyways. Your parents though…and you. You should… Just let me handle this, okay?"

"No."

"Marin-"

"She's my sister."

"She is not your-"

"You know what I mean."

He kicked at the ground, Ravan did, thinking for a few moments before saying, "If we go to your parents… What are you even going to tell them?"

"The truth," Marin told him simply. "I'll tell them the truth."

Ravan had never known the truth to have much value in his life, but did find himself nodding all the same. No matter what the Dreyars said, or did, he'd go to Erza eventually. If he didn't think he could take Haven (or whatever she was now) on all by himself, joined with the swordswoman, he certainly could. Or wait there, at her home, for Jellal and the other's inevitable joining of them. He'd know what to do with her, no doubt.

But still, from the second she'd spoken to him, the way she looked at him, the way she carried herself, every fucking thing about her then...Haven… He knew it wasn't her. He could feel it. Something...wasn't right.

Which wasn't to say that he didn't feel other things. A lot of other things. The relief and joy over seeing her again, regardless of the circumstances. He could understand it, honestly, why it had all come about this way. Why the Master and his wife, Locke, fucking Navi, all of them were just pretending this was all normal and okay and that there wasn't something darker going on.

If his parents appeared before him that day, all those years later, Ravan could say that he wouldn't do the same. Even if their eyes were filled with evil, he'd drop everything and just run to them. Hug them. Embrace everything about them, even so many years later, and try and fill the loss that he'd experienced in their deaths, no matter what it meant.

Or at least he thought that, knowing it wasn't a possibility. That he'd never be faced with such a thing. And a part of him, the part that had been completely and utterly crushed by the death of his only real fucking friend in the entire world, wanted to feel that. For Haven. To run to her and just touch her, to make sure that she was real, and hear her voice in his head, mocking him for getting all girly on her, and fuck.

Fuck.

He hated whatever it was then, masquerading as the girl, even fucking more for making him feel this way. Giving him that hope. Because when he'd heard that a guild master's daughter had been raised from the dead…

When he heard…

He didn't believe it.

And yet, at the same time, if there was a chance that it was true…

If Haven came back to life, if it had been her, really been her, then…

He'd…

Had to run away. Back to Jellal and the others and not let himself get caught up in any ideas or feelings that were definitely going to come about and just keep staying away, from anything that might make him face his emotions, that didn't just provide a distraction or a bandage for them.

When Marin told him what she feared, of what she felt and could sense on her supposed sister, Ravan really didn't want to believe it. He still didn't, as they left the forest together. Want to. But his entire life had been filled with doing things that he didn't want to do, that made his stomach clench and his head pound with nonsensical thoughts, but had to do. The right thing.

Ravan was always tasked with doing the right thing.

He wasn't the smart one. He wasn't the nice one. He was kind of like Haven, maybe, ruthless and out for himself, but at his core, underneath all the vitriol that he would sling at others, Ravan had always just wanted justice. Vindication. For wrongdoings.

It was what brought him to Magnolia. Whether or not he was correct in his assertions was besides the point; it was what he believed was right, at the time, Erza's execution. And it was through the swordswoman, as she took him in and began to impart some of her own ideals on him, that his morality fully developed.

Haven sought justice as well, when they were kids. Had her own code of morals. But they were always shaded by her self-righteousness.

Ravan had immense arrogance, fine, but he'd seen death and destruction, senseless in it's purest form, fled from his only home from that very thing. Being a mage, to him, meant making sure that those sorts of things, that the evil, twisted, perverted monsters of the world weren't allowed to fuck up the lives of other little boys in their own villages for no damn reason outside of the world was fucked and fucked things happened in it.

And whether or not it was Haven then, in those wee hours of the morning, was irrelevant. There was a darkness, something evil and wrong with her, and he had no doubt that it meant someone harm. Probably someone in Fairy Tail, even. And even though they'd thrown him to the wolves, that the guild was filled with people who considered him a murderer, or at least someone responsible for a death, and beyond that, just people who'd hated him and shit on him for his entire life up until that point, it didn't matter.

Fairy Tail, and the members inside of it, still held something for him. Deep in his heart. Whether he could properly acknowledge it or not, reconcile, it didn't matter. Fairy Tail had been his home for years, Magnolia as well, whether it rejected him or not, and he couldn't let a blight befall it and all of its people just because he felt jilted.

No.

Haven...whatever they wanted to call her, if she couldn't be reasoned with, if he couldn't be convinced of her harmlessness, well…

If Erza and Jellal couldn't take her down, then he knew one way, with full certainty that he could bring a swift end to things.

And then Locke could really have something to hate him about.

But as he walked beside Marin, Ravan knew that things went further than just right or wrong with this. If he just unleashed his ultimate spell on Haven, without properly convincing others that it wasn't her he was taking down, then Ravan was certain he wouldn't just be escaping off into the night once more. Going to Master Laxus and Mirajane didn't feel like an ideal scenario for Ravan and felt kind of dumb, honestly, given his history with them, but they had to be faced and dealt with at some point.

And Marin had a different air of her. Then. He noted it easily. In years prior, it would be easy enough for him to just veto what she said and force her to come with him, to Erza's, but as it stood in that moment, she was intent on going to see her father and, well, Ravan wasn't going to let her roam about at night alone.

Not with whatever the fuck Haven was now also hanging around.

The streets were dead and the guildhall looked as haunting as ever, looming in the distance at first, and then standing tall before them, when they arrived the gates, and Ravan had never hoped to see them again. Any of them. From the people who typically milled about inside to the intimidating structure itself, over the past few months, Ravan decided in the past few months to cast it all out, like they all had done to him.

With all that had gone on that day though, so much mental indecision and anguish, seeing the guildhall was just too much to tack on. His knees felt weak and he kept reaching up for it, his bandanna, adjusting it over and over again, the fabric feeling more constrictive than freeing.

"Dad'll be inside," Marin whispered to him softly in the soft heat of summer's early hours.

"Right now?" Ravan asked in surprise, but Marin only sighed some as she produced a key for the main doors.

He thought that he'd always felt like an outcast, in the halls. No matter the emblem that had spent over a decade resting on his shoulder, Ravan had always thought of himself as an outsider, someone who didn't belong. And yeah, maybe he was. But hat feeling was dwarfed by the one that overwhelmed in then, as Marin opened the thick doors and granted him entry to the last place on Earth Land he ever thought he'd step foot in again.

There was no one to welcome him home and, well, he doubted anyone would, truthfully, if they were around to see him there, but still, this strange feeling washed over him as his foot crashed the threshold, and he blinked it back, a burning behind his eyes, and why had they just turned their backs on him? Huh?

When he never had, never would, do the same?

Fairy Tail had never loved him.

But he'd loved it, with all of his being, and every single time that he cursed its very existence, he felt graced just to be picked by it. Saved by it. Given a home through it. And yet, here it was, still bustling right along without him, as if he hadn't been barred and exiled for having the misfortune of not being able to tell the girl that he thought he could love, maybe, one day, no when she insisted they continue on with their death march.

Nauseated, he had to take a few deep breaths as, even in the shadowy darkness that was there to greet them, the place seemed to be too much for him to handle.

"Dad," Marin was calling out, her sweet voice not so much so then as it wafted through the halls.
"It's me."

Ravan's stumbling about in the darkness was changed into squinting in the sudden light as Marin was quick to flick some on. As he reached up to rub at one of his eyes, Ravan was a bit surprised to find his eyes watering some and chalked it up to the sleeplessness he'd had recently (try always, but more so since heading to Magnolia) and refused to openly acknowledge, even just to himself, the absurdity of what was going on. What he was planning to do.

What he might have to do.

It wouldn't be fighting Haven, he knew that. Haven was dead.

But it would feel a hell of a lot like it.

"It's you."

Marin didn't have a chance to go and seek her father out, rather the man came stumbling into the bar area all on his own, a bottle in one hand, but his eyes trained entirely on Ravan who thought that he would be able to do it. Now. Face the man. Laxus wasn't his master any longer, had no hold over him, and look, as far as the man knew, Haven had even come back to life. It felt like Ravan should be able to, at the very least, exist in the same realm of the man without feeling immense guilt and fear.

Quite the opposite as the young man was finding out.

Knowing what Marin was about to have to inform the man of didn't ease Ravan's worries any further.

He'd spent a good portion of his life striving not only to impress Erza, but the guild master as well. Laxus had been just as an imposing figure in the foreground as Fairy Tail's entity had been to Ravan. The difference was, he thought Fairy Tail didn't care for him; he knew that Laxus hated him.

And just for having the misfortune of not being wise enough to find a better friend than the man's oldest daughter.

When Erza told him, all those months ago now, to never return to Magnolia, Ravan knew what it would mean if he ever did. Who he would have to face. And as Laxus' eyes bore into his ten, Ravan had to keep reminding himself that he was doing the right thing, what he had to do.

This was just part of the price that went along with it.

"Dad." Marin was quickly on the man though, rushing to go press a hand against his chest as Laxus stood there, as smoldering as he was inebriated, as he stared down the much younger man. "It's okay. Ravan's here to… We have to talk about something. Something serious."

But the man didn't even seem to hear her. At all. As he looked over Ravan, all these...feelings that should have been washed away with Haven's revival were jumping right back up.

He didn't think that Ravan killed Haven.

Not the same way that Locke seemed to.

No.

Laxus' problems with Ravan somehow ran much deeper than that.

It wasn't even a...teenage daughter thing. Yeah, he didn't like Ravan's persona and the way that that could possibly...attract Haven or something, but that could have been gotten passed. Laxus did get passed all of that, when it came to Locke. It felt like it just came out of nowhere, Haven and Locke getting together that year, and even though he had to grit his teeth a lot and just let go, Laxus was eventually able to admit that maybe it was some of his own memories of that age that painted those years poorly when it came to his daughters possibly experiencing the same things. Haven was free to do as she fucking wished. And, as Mirajane frequently told him in that year, she would probably do a lot that they didn't necessarily want for her, given the high amount of freedom a working mage required.

And he had to just not make a big deal about it.

Learn to accept it.

Haven was going to find her way in the world.

Be it with Locke or someone else.

But just not Ravan.

Because Ravan was a sulky, arrogant little asshole that thought the entire world was out to get him and was content with squandering any power he did have, any spirit he did possess, on getting further down on himself and whining about his existence. Rather than using his time to fix all of his problems, Ravan chose to bemoan everyone else for not doing it for him.

And god, it was just so fucking annoying for Laxus to observe from afar. Indirectly having to witness Navi fall away from magic and Locke favor one of support didn't grate on Laxus in nearly the same way. Because at least both of them wanted something. Ravan acted like he didn't want anything. At all. Or, if he did want something out of his time in the guild, the best Laxus could figure was that it was to amass more power, but who can amass power when they spend all day sitting around the guild, drinking his youth away, and fine, that's what most everyone in the hall did, but damn if it didn't fucking bother Laxus so much because Ravan was...was…

Ravan was nothing. He was going to be nothing. Before he came to Fairy Tail. Before one of the most powerful wizards in the world took pity on him and gave him a chance to be her student. He was getting trained by an amazing wizard, given every opportunity to grow in the perfect environment, give top quality jobs and mentorship, and yet he sat there and shit on it and thought that he deserved more.

Him.

A nothing little runt thought that he deserved fucking more than everyone else.

And then some.

He could feel himself, so fucking much, Laxus could, in that little asshole. Even more so when Ravan got his stupid lacrima and started walking around not only like he was better than all of them, but like now they should know it, that they should feel it, because his power just wafted off him in those days, and oh man, Laxus just couldn't take it.

The similarities.

Someone had to break Ravan. Someone needed to. Because power alone wasn't a cure. Arrogance alone wasn't a disease. But when two were combined together, Laxus knew better than anyone what that could bring about.

And low and behold, it brought about the worst thing that Laxus' had ever experienced.

Ravan hadn't killed Haven.

He wasn't even necessarily responsible for her death.

Haven was her own person and had found herself, out in the world, and had her own stumbles with arrogance and power and her death was nothing close to a tragedy, really, because it was just so fucking expected and the only real outcome for someone so brazen and reckless, but fuck.

Fuck.

She didn't know about the gauntlet. She would have never heard of it. If it wasn't for Ravan. And she wouldn't have taken off on that S-Class job. Had Ravan not given it to her. Two of the most defining moments in his daughter's life (and not for the right reasons at all) were directly influenced by fucking Ravan. One led to Laxus having to bar her from his guildhall and the other brought upon her death.

So no.

Laxus didn't find anything redeeming about the sulky little asshole and, whether Haven was alive one more or not, he did not want anything to do with him. For him to hang around. In fact, he wanted Ravan so fucking far away from Haven that he was willing to buy him a one way ticket to Veronica if it meant he'd never have to see the little shit's face again.

He just stood there then, Ravan did, silent, staring right back at him, and Laxus could tell that he was scared. Even if the younger man wasn't showing it much, it was clear that he was shaken up.

Good.

He should be.

Laxus felt no sympathy for Ravan.

He never had.

"You think you can just fuckin' come back here? Huh? Outta fuckin' strike ya down." Laxus wanted too, as he spoke, and Ravan didn't move in the slightest, but also didn't bark back him. Just allowed his eyes to fall as one of his hands came up then, to tug down his bandanna, showing off all the nasty scarring his lacrima had left behind, but not opening his mouth o speak.

No.

He remained silent.

"It's about Haven," Marin said then as she continued to press a hand into her father's chest, willing his gaze to turn to her. In it's absence, she soldiered on. "I'm serious, Dad, it's important that you sit down and-"

"Of course it is." Laxus wanted to shove her, Marin, but he fought the urge, the only one he was ever able to resit. "Of course it fucking is. Ravan. Guess what? You're not going to see her. You're not going to speak with her. Fuck you. If you don't get out of my hall right now-"

"Forget Ravan, Dad! Listen to me!"

Marin shoved him backwards then, as Laxus had tried to push on passed her, which made the drunkard stagger back some, nearly losing his balance. But his usually meek daughter didn't move to help him. Just stood there, from the position she'd maintained, with a dark gaze he'd never seen in her eyes.

"Haven," Marin told him as her father could only stare in surprise, "isn't who we think she is. I've felt it, this entire time that she was here. She's not… And you have to know it too."

"Marin..." Laxus frowned then, shaking his head a bit at her. "Go home. Your home. Whatever. And don't talk about this again."

"Dad-"

"I mean it. Don't know what the fuck you're even talkin' about." He sniffled some, Laxus did, as he brought his drink up to his lips, turning away from both of them then. "Get out of here. Both of you. Before I-"

"That's not my sister."

"Damn it, Marin, if you don't-"

"We have to do something, Dad. You know that we do. Don't tell me that you don't feel the same things that I do. That you don't sense them. I know that you do. You have to. Dad-"

"Your sister-"

"That's not Haven, Dad. We saw her. In the woods. She was… There's something wrong and if we don't do something before she does-"

"What do you want me to do, Marin?"

"I want you to listen to me. And believe me. Trust me. Chose me." She swallowed some then, staring at his back. "Even if it is Haven."

Laxus growled something, under his breath, but he was the one that left the bar then, walking back off into the hallway, no doubt for his office, his safety zone. But Marin wasn't letting him get away so easily and as she followed along after him, Ravan just found himself letting out a huge sigh of...not relief, because nothing had been done yet, nothing close to what needed to be, but his sigh was more letting go of the initial fear Laxus had always held over him.

The man was nothing more than a drunk now.

He didn't look so imposing when he stank of booze and was so horribly unkempt. Oddly enough, if anything, Ravan felt more...pity for the man than he did anything else.

That 'Master' was hardly that anymore and if he tried to come to Haven's defense, he shouldn't be too difficult to get out of the way.

But there was another person that needed to be informed. A lot, probably, but one that Marin had wanted to tell, and as Ravan found himself all alone then, in the bar area, he decided to shelf his desire to go awaken Erza for help and rather fulfill that end of things for Marin.

It was weird. For all the hate that he knew the woman's husband had for him, Ravan had never felt anything close from Haven's mother. Mirajane. She seemed so nice, t everyone, fine, but him too, especially, when he was growing up, that for all the hate he had for everyone, Ravan rarely found a good reason to toss any her way.

Yet, with dawn still a good chunk of time, when he found himself standing outside of the Dreyar home, there was a nervousness in facing the woman. He had no idea what she felt towards him, if it was as murderous as Locke or as hate-filled, now, as her husband. Not to mention, it was an ungodly hour and he was just appearing on her doorstep out of the blue.

So yeah, it took a lot to raise his hand and knock his knuckles against the door, but even more willpower not to just run off to Erza already and tell her everything and get her agreement that, yes, he should just waste Haven, or whatever she was now, without a second thought.

Mirajane looked terrified, when she finally opened the front door, and then, when she noted who it was, she looked aghast, almost.

"Ravan," she whispered softly as she opened the door more then. "Are you...okay? Are you hurt? What- Oh, are you here for… Haven's with-"

"You should come with me." He had his bandanna pulled back up around his face, but didn't move to adjust it. "To the guildhall. Marin's there, with the Master and..."

"When did you get here?"

"Today," Ravan told her with a slight nod. "But you have to hurry. Marin and your husband are-"

She hardly needed any more encouragement. He was sure that Mirajane was expecting some sort of drunken related crisis going on and, even though she was no doubt curious about Ravan's involvement, she'd want to get that taken care of as quickly as possible.

After changing, Mirajane left the house with Ravan, the pair walking awkwardly beside one "It's good to see you're well, Ravan," she said to which he could only nod. "I know that you… I'm glad, is what I mean to say. That you're back."

He thought he should tell that he wasn't back. And that she shouldn't be glad, even if he was. But instead, he only nodded his head some and it was enough, it seemed, to ease any ill feelings the woman was holding over things.

When they arrived back at the guildhall, the sky wasn't as dark as before and Mirajane only rushed back to the office, to see what was wrong. Ravan thought he should follow, or perhaps even take off, to see Erza finally, but instead he found himself climbing up the staircase and going out on the balcony. The sun wasn't up yet, but it was around the time he'd get up each morning, just before daybreak, with Jellal and the others, to continue on their journey.

Everything was so fucking surreal, even as he fell, with his back against the building and the ends of his shoes resting up against the base of the railing, staring out at the town he'd fled. No. Not even fled. He'd left Magnolia with the intention of returning and just never been given the opportunity.

The city really glowed, in the darkness. It felt alive, even if it was sleepy. It used to be so calming to him, zipping around the blocks on the back of his bike. Now the only calm he got was when everyone else was passed out and he could smoke without hearing about slowly killing his lungs.

Ravan felt almost like he was in that in between stage, like how it had been on the gauntlet, before the final monster. When if he just tried hard enough, if he hadn't already gotten her all fucked up because he was all fucked up because they, well, fucked, then maybe he could have convinced her…

Everything felt so different then. Finite. Like if they didn't go out on that specific quest together, then they'd never see one another again. If he didn't convince her to ditch Locke right then, the next time they ran into one another, she'd be married to him and it would all be over. If he let her go back to Magnolia, back to Locke, following the gauntlet, then she'd definitely not leave with him again. It all had to happen right then, the way that he foresaw it, or else it never would happen.

And, well, yeah, now none of it could, her being dead and all, but he had no idea how things would have gone if he just...didn't...force so much stuff.

But it always felt like Haven was the only person who at least halfway understood him and if he just let her go, then he'd never find someone else like that and he'd be alone his entire life and he didn't like it. As much as he always pretended to. Being alone. He liked having Haven bitch about nearly everything constantly. He liked having someone there to push him. To challenge him. To annoy the absolute fuck out of him.

He just liked having someone else there.

Someone else who got it.

And other people never seemed to get it.

Maybe Haven didn't either. Honestly, in the silence of the early mornings where he couldn't find sleep and just kept watch over the other, Ravan began to consider that maybe he'd just always put too much into it. Into all of it.

He bought into the lore and myth of Fairy Tail that had been fed to him. That you would feel safe there, at home. That you'd find family and friends thatyou would keep forever and always and even if you parted, then you were still a fairy.

But he wasn't one.

A fairy.

No matter what anyone said, what they thought, he'd just always been peeking in at someone he could never possess.

He believed that if he got more power, like his lacrima, then he could win the respect of his highly sought after guild master. That finally the man would see the potential in him and make him S-Class and then he could finally be relieved of his duties of trying so hard to please Erza.

But it was a sham. A lie. Nothing he did would ever make Laxus like him for reasons beyond his control and, honestly? Yeah, he still believed the stories he'd been told that hyped the man up in the fullest, but at the same time, he just didn't think that Laxus possessed that strength anymore. He'd dwindled it away on drinking and growing increasingly bitter over the course of his life path.

Master Laxus wasn't anyone to impress; he was someone to avoid at all costs.

He thought that if he loved someone, like really loved someone, then it didn't mattered that they were young and dumb and probably not that ready to really be together. None of it mattered to Ravan, that Haven still interested in other things and people and it was stupid Locke that wanted to make her just settle on his moronic lifestyle. Ravan didn't care about any of it.

He just wanted her to be completely and utterly done with Locke.

That was it. It was the one stipulation.

But Haven didn't want that. She'd never want that. She'd never want him. At least not if it meant sacrificing Locke.

Ravan waited, for three fucking years, to go out on that one, wizard career defining mission, with his best and only friend, where he'd eventually, at the very least, get her to leave her dumb boyfriend for him, and in one fell-swoop, it all went to shit.

All of it.

Now he never would have a chance at having a home there, in Fairy Tail, Master Laxus would forever hate him, and Haven was…

Haven was dead.

He'd already (mostly) come to terms with that fact.

To have someone there then, masquerading as her, stirring back up all of those feelings was…

He wanted to be the one.

He had to be the one.

To kill her.

Letting out a breath slowly, he blinked at the blue hue the sky was taking as light was finally upon them. He didn't move to push up though, Ravan didn't, as he placed them, approaching the guildhall. Though it wasn't too clear from his vantage point, he knew who it was, even in the still relative darkness.

Haven and Locke.

That time, he held the breath when he drew it in, moving to place a hand over where his guild marking laid now, an emblem of some kind of witch, he thought, maybe, when you squinted? He wasn't quite sure. Against his stomach though, he patted the red etching underneath his shirt, just watching them approach.

It hurt still. To see her. Even if it wasn't really her.

Especially with him.

She was always with him.

Both were so worked up though that neither placed him, high above, watching as they crossed the gate and headed into the guildhall. His magic used to be so immense feelings. Suffocating, really, after his lacrima implant. It was one of the first things that Jellal worked on him with, the few times they were able to do something other than just track and subdue their enemies.

He didn't feel comfortable at first, Ravan didn't, training with someone who wasn't Erza. But Jellal told him if he was ever going to truly harness the energy in his lacrima, he'd have to fully harness it. As it stood currently, he was letting the flow of it control him. If he was ever going to be the one in control, then he would have to begin meditation again. Feeling out his powers once more.

Like a damn baby again, just learning his magic.

"It'll help you," Meredy had insisted as she grinned in his face and Ravan just tried not to hate her as much as he hated everyone else. "Breathe in and out, huh? Then maybe you can get some of your rage back under control."

Back under control would imply it was ever truly under control and not just being sated, before, by the high amounts of alcohol that was readily available as he moped about the hall in his teenage years.

He was finding the depressant far less accessible in his journey across Magnolia to vanquish Zeref.

He didn't know how Haven had put up with it so well for three years…

Maybe she'd never had as much to depress as him.

As he felt the guildhall doors open and close, he knew that they'd made it inside and, shutting his eyes, Ravan rose to his feet as he balled his fist up, gripping his shirt in the process.

It was time.

"Someone should be here," Locke was saying about that time as he and Haven found the place unlocked. He had jitters to him then, continually rubbing at one of his wrists with the opposite hand. "Your dad, at least. Probably your sister. Hey! Marin! Are you around?"

She was.

And she wasn't enjoying herself.

As it was turning out, her mother was being absolutely no help as well. Maybe her parents did belong together.

"Marin," her mother kept saying, in that soft tone she used to use, when she was a little girl and whining about something, "it's alright. Your sister is just...finding herself again."

"That's not Haven."

Laxus kept huffing and snort, but mostly drinking as he paced around his office, growing increasingly annoyed with the way Marin seemed to be getting upset over something he absolutely was hoping to get wasted enough to avoid. She couldn't help it though, Marin couldn't, because they had to know.

Her parents had to know.

She'd suspected since the beginning they'd noticed something. If she noticed it, then they certainly did. But no one was talking about it. And if someone just talked about it, just started the conversation, broached the subject, the others would feel more comfortable in it and then they could finally move forward. Do something about it.

She was trying to do something about it.

"She's here."

Laxus said that, eventually, as he stopped his pacing and looked to the office door, as if expecting her to just walk through it. She didn't, of course, as she'd only just entered the hall, but they all fell it. They had to feel it. Marin knew that they felt it, that her father definitely did, easily and distinctly, to recognize her so far off.

The evil as she now properly identified it through Ravan's confirmation. It's what it was. If it was Haven or not didn't matter; there was something attached to her, something evil and wrong, and whatever it was, it had arrived at the hall for them. Marin couldn't imagine an early morning call from her sister was for any good reason.

"Mom." Turning to her, Marin moved to grab Mirajane's hands in her own, gripping them tightly before the woman could leave the office. "Please. Go out there and you'll see. We have to do something. We...have to help Haven."

Laxus snorted nad huffed some more, but Mirajane only slipped her hands free from her youngest, nodding a bit at her words though Marin knew she didn't really mean it.

"It's alright, Marin. We'll go out there. All three of us. And talk to your sister. Okay?" Mirajane smiled at her, that fake, sweet one and Marin felt it then, what her sister had always grumbled about.

For all their strength, their parents truly had been come so weak.

Marin felt the same nerves as Locke, though for different reasons, as he bounced around on his feet, in the bar area. Haven just stood at his side, silent, void. As he tried to level off his breathing some, Locke found his eyes lingering over at the table his father usually sat, when he was around, and kind of wished for the man. At least a bit.

Not because he didn't think that he could handle Ravan on his own! No way. He knew he could.

It was just…

His father always shit on him about the other guy. He always wanted Locke to pummel Ravan, fuck him up something terrible, and though they'd come to blows in their youth, the pair avoided one another more often than not in the past years.

But not anymore.

Fucking Ravan.

Ending the little shit would be the best thing Locke ever did.

And yet, as he saw his Master stumbling out of the back with his wife and youngest daughter, he knew he had to at least speak to the man on it first. Ravan was, regardless of his opinions on him, the 'son' of one of the S-Class members. And probably, whether Haven was alive once more or not, Laxus probably had more rights to first dibs that Locke about the whole thing.

"Ravan," he spoke simply to the man, "is back."

Laxus laughed that time, maybe, as Marin only glared at her sister as she came closer.

"Yeah," the older slayer remarked, "I fucking know."

"Are you going to do anything about it?" Locke was rare to be so rude, especially to Marin and Mirajane, but he could only stare at his Master then.

"Are you?" Laxus challenged back and Mirajane probably would have grabbed his arm, if he was closer, but Laxus had set his sights immediately on the bar, where he fell into one of the stools as the woman had only rushed over to her oldest daughter and Locke.

"Laxus," his wife warned all the same as Marin's eyes turned instead onto her father.

But Locke got all he needed from that. Nodding, he clenched both fists as they dropped to his side before glancing down at Haven, still silent, at his side.

"I'll go find him," he said simply. "And then-"

"Ravan hasn't done anything wrong."

That made Locke more tense, somehow, at Marin's declaration. He even sighed some, shaking his head as she was before them then.

"You don't understand, Marin."

"You don't understand," she retorted, but he could ignore her rather well. Marin. She still just felt like a little kid to Locke. One with more attitude now, maybe, but that mostly seemed to serve her well in the eyes of Erza.

He respected the swordswoman well enough, but he'd always thought she was something of a loon. Crafting Marin into a useless little warrior, while endearing, only furthered that opinion.

"Ravan," Marin kept up as Locke rolled his eyes, "isn't the one in the wrong here. You are. Haven." She felt like throwing up, honestly, the youngest Dreyar girl, but she powered through it as she added, "Or whoever you really are."

"Marin." Mirajane grabbed her arm, pulling her youngest closer to her when she tried to get in her sister's face. "Knock it off."

"No. She's the one-"

"What are you talking about?" Locke did look to Marin then. "Haven didn't do anything. Ravan fucking to her killed. Yeah, she didn't like running into him."

But Marin only shook her head. "Tell them. Haven. About what what you were doing out there, when we found you. Tell him about why you've been sneaking around and won't tell us where you were. Where you came from. I don't know why you chose my sister, but-"

"You're not making any sense, Marin." It was that easy for Locke. To dismiss her. He had bigger fish to fry. Looking around the mother and daughter, he called out to Laxus instead, "Where is he, Master? Ravan? Do you know?"

But Laxus was tired and had shifted forwards, slumping some against the bar. He did shrug though, as best he could, annoying Locke, but Marin had just as much disinterest in him as he did her.

"Haven, tell your sister what you were doing. In the woods." Mirajane released Marin then, to take her own steps towards Haven, but the blonde was still just standing there, at Locke's side, looking up to him more often than she was anyone else. But as the harberor reached out for her, she took a step back. "Haven-"

"Locke, I warned you about this." It was him that Haven reached out for, grabbing one of his arms. "Didn't I?"

"Warned him about what?" Marin could feel it, stronger than it ever had been. The...power that her lacrima provided her...it felt like a surge, overwhelming, overpowering. The nerves were washing away then, being replaced by anger. "About how you're not really Haven?"

"Knock it off." As Haven was the one gripping his wrist them, Locke found himself leveling his gaze with her younger sister. "And tell me where Ravan-"

"When has Haven ever needed someone else to talk for her?" She felt like her palms were sweaty, at first, Marin did, but she quickly found this moister to be something more as droplets of waters dropped from her clenched fists. That time, her step towards Haven felt more menacing. "If you're going to pretend to be my sister, you could at least try harder."

"Locke." Haven's voice sounded like a warning to him, yet somehow different from the one Mirajane was giving Marin in that moment. Gripping his wrist tighter, she insisted, "I warned you."

"Just take a breath." He was more bothered by them then, the two sisters, as he glanced between them. "Both of you. Ravan is the problem. Ravan-"

"He didn't do anything, Locke." It was an odd feeling. So intense. Carnal. Was she a Dreyar yet? "At least he knows who Haven really is."

Locke squared his jaw at that remark as Marin only pulled away from her mother when the woman turned, instead, to try and hold her back again.

"So he's the one," Locke retorted simply, "that filled your head with-"

"He didn't do anything! He-"

"It's alright, Marin," came a voice from the staircase as, having heard enough, Ravan emerged from the shadows above to descend. "I can fight my own battles."

Locke had dreamed of it. Every night. Since he lost Haven. He could see it all in his head. The way that Ravan had...evaded the attack, so it could land flush against Haven's belly, rip her right open when it would have, at most, left a dint in his damn armor. And he didn't stay around after, to help. Oh, no. Locke see that too. His fleeing back as he ran away. Fled.

Like a fucking coward.

A gutless coward.

Even Ravan would have to agree with that.

And he did.

Ravan knew he'd been a coward. He'd gotten scared and ran away. Whether or not he could have helped the situation by sticking around didn't matter; he was the one who ran and it got him branded the traitor.

Fine.

Then he was a traitor.

Fine.

It was all his fault.

Fine.

He was a filthy, gutless coward.

But he wasn't running this time.

Locke wouldn't let him.

"Ravan," he growled and he turned then, to face the other guy as, at the bottom step, Ravan only held a hand up, easily summoning a blade into his awaiting palm. "You're fucked, you know that? You shouldn't have come here."

"Fuck off, Redfox." Holding the blade out in front of him, through his bandanna, he informed Locke, "This has nothing to do with you."

"Hey. Hey!" Mira finally seemed to shake out of it, at least a bit, that daze she and her husband had been in. There was no way she was about to let the two guys throw down over what, in her mind, was so meaningless.

Or at least what she was trying to convince herself was meaningless.

If she just kept repeating, in her mind, that Locek and Ravan were fighting over something stupid, ego, and not the fact that she too had had similar thoughts as Marin, even then, as she was staring at Haven, she was having those thoughts because something wasn't right, and they all knew it, but if they could just keep ignoring it, if they could just get Marin to go back to ignoring it…

"You both," she warned the men with a heavy frown, "need to calm down. You're guildmates. You-"

"We're not," Locke retorted as Ravan just continued to stare at her, Haven, "anything."

"Laxus," his wife called over to him tersely, but she didn't even get a shrug from him.

Locke made the first move, breaking free from Haven's grip as he turned to rush at him, Ravan, but he wasn't the first person to strike another. Maybe it was so easy to break Haven's grip because she was letting him go first as, he'd hardly taken more than two steps towards the other guy when there was a deafening crack in the empty guildhall, echoing through out it, as Haven raised her hand and shot a sickening bolt of electricity whizzing right passed Locke's head, aimed right at Ravan.

It was easy enough, to phase through. Happened in a blink of an eye. Haven's lightening left a horrifying scorch mark on the wall behind him, black and burnt.

No one else could see it, no one else would ever know how, but beneath his bandanna, there was something of a smirk playing at Ravan's lips and, were it truly Haven, he knew it would be returned.

But of course, it wasn't.

Everyone's breath had caught in this action. Even Laxus had sat up, to look over in surprise and his wife had to grab their youngest when she, in turned, lunged towards her sister.

But it was to Locke that Haven spoke.

"Kill him." She sounded cold. No emotion. Nothing like herself. "I want his lacrima as well."

Locke had waited so fucking long for actual permission and god it felt good to get it from Haven herself. So much so that he hardly paid much attention to anything else. He'd paused, at the lightning, but he resumed his sprint across the bar then.

"Enough!" Mirajane was finished though, it seemed, even tossing Marin from her, perhaps harder than she would have in another situation. She had the cadence something much darker, something that resided deep within herself, and though she didn't allow her demons much air in those days, she finding them to be exactly what she needed then, if she was going to rectify this situation. "All of you! Locke!"

In her surprise at being thrown aside, Marin slipped some, falling back on her butt, where she only blinked over at Haven. Because she heard what was said. Even if the others hadn't. As her heart jumped in her chest, she could feel her sister's borrow necklace sticking to her flesh, sticky with sweat.

"As well?" she questioned, softer now, more like herself, but no one heard her.

Especially not Haven.

As a dark aura fell over Mirajane, the entity saw it then. What it had felt. Glimpsed only in recollections of the past. Oh, Satan Soul. How good it would be, to free those she'd trapped for so long.

But some things had to take place first. Maximize the harberor's turmoil.

Laxus had risen then, unstable on his feet, at the commotion of the others, and when she leveled an arm that time, Haven's didn't fire at Ravan again.

No.

She had her sights set on something far more cathartic.

Lightning didn't spring from her palm this time, but rather a dark, purple orb, smashing into the chest of the inebriated Laxus, causing him to stumble backwards, knocking stools all about.

The boys were lost in their own struggle now, as Locke tried to tackle Ravan to the ground, but he only evaded him with his phase, and it didn't matter what the Dreyar's did; Ravan would have to do away with Locke, if he wanted to get at Haven, and Locke was out for blood.

All of it, if he could have it.

He couldn't evade Locke forever, however. He did plan on using his most powerful spell, after all. The blast that took down the fourth monster on the gauntlet. If he was going to get that at full strength, he couldn't waste everything on stupid Locke.

Besides, how fucking hard would it be anyways?

It would be a lie to say he hadn't dreamed for just as long, if not longer, of exacting the same revenge Locke did him.

"Haven." Her mother was in shock, it was evident by the way her voice fell right back down, into her true one, turning from Locke and Ravan in surprise. "What are you-"

"The fuck, Haven?" Laxus was far from finished off, no, but he wasn't doing too great either, sprawled on the floor. His alcohol wasn't aiding in anything either as he patted at the ripped shreds of his shirt and flesh the blast had left. "What did you just hit me with?"

She only shook her head, Mirajane did, at her daughter, before she turned to run over to her husband. Falling to her knees at his side, she yelled over at her daughter, "I don't know what's wrong with you, but- It's not their fault. Haven. That you… Is that why you're doing this? Ravan and your father-"

"I told you." Marin was the one that yelled over the pair's mother as, shoving back to her own feet, she was the one that earned a smirk from the blonde. "That is not my sister!"

"You wound me, Marin. Truly. I rose from the grave, just to come and see my only sister, and-"

"Shut up!" She didn't want to hear anymore, Marin didn't, and that time when she lunched forwards, she yelled, putting all her force behind it as a beam of water shot from her balled fist, striking the unmoving Haven right in the face.

This did cause her to stumble, however, and Marin didn't feel it anymore. The sickening dread. The nerves. None of it. No. Now the aggression was the only thing there and it didn't matter, none of it mattered. This was her opponent and this was her battle.

This was what she'd been training for her.

And she wouldn't fail.

She couldn't fail.

"Knock it off!" Laxus had managed to sit up, at least, with the help of his wife, but was struggling to do much more. "Haven! Marin! Do you hear me?"

No.

But if they had, it wouldn't have mattered.

Mirajane shifted him as best she could, to sit the man up against the bar, before rising to her feet once more. As she transformed into Satan Soul, the other entity sneered from across the bar where, only moments before, she'd struck Marin with a ball of lightning.

"You'd kill me?" the blonde called over as Marin only shoved right back up from where she'd fallen. "Mother?" And her voice sounded smaller, more worried, as she rephrased. "Mom?"

In her own palm, now a scaled green, Satan Soul loosely clutched a black orb. Her tail flicked and Laxus winced some, trying to find his own feet, he had to get to his feet, he had to stop them, all three of them, really, because...because…he knew…

"You are not," the deep voice of Satan Soul growled as her wings unfurled and she took to the air, "my daughter!"

It felt good. It felt so fucking good. For the entity. Haven's body and powers mixing with her own in such a way. And as she was divebombed from the air, Marin was back in it, trying to get her from the ground, and this was what she'd waited for. Easily eating a blow from her sister, using her force-field to block a melee of orbs shot from her mother, and she hadn't even gotten to it yet.

Her ultimate power.

"Haven! What are you doing?"

Locke, however, could no longer be blissful to what was going on around them.

He and Ravan had somehow devolved a bit, as the bloodlust faded and maybe they didn't really want to kill one another, but god, Locke had waited for so long and Ravan only longer. But he was trying to conserve his powers, Ravan was, to put everything behind it, his blast, and Locke didn't magic. Not really. Not for this.

He just wanted to bash the other guy's face in, with his own fucking fist, and make him feel every single thing he'd ran away from. He wanted all of his teeth to fall back into his throat and for Ravan to choke on them, just like Locke choked on every fucking thing he felt while he was there, with Haven, and damn it, why the fuck did she have to fucking sleep with him?

At some point, Ravan had transformed into his armor, a new armor, which made sense, given Locke had seen the ruin the that had befallen the other, and oh, man, that only enraged him more, and it was surprising to Ravan, when Locke got close enough, that he didn't try and smash his helmet with his iron fist.

No.

He was trying to pull the helmet off.

"What the fuck, man?" he'd growled as Locke started trying to forcibly rip it off him. "What are you-"

"You're going to fucking look at me," Locke was growling and they were tussling now, more than fighting. "You hear me? Look at me! In the eyes. You little freak!"

As they fell to the ground, Ravan lost himself completely in the moment, and they felt like little boys again, in their guildhall, when they'd both get too worked up over something and magic was useless; you had to settle things the real way.

Unfortunately, just like when they were little boys, Locke still was much stronger than him and if Ravan thought about it, he could have just phased through him. But he wasn't thinking then. He was panicking, really, because Locke was being fucking erratic and irrational and fuck, he hated him. Redfox. He hated him so much.

He ripped it finally, the buckle under Ravan's chin, as Locke pulled the helmet clean off the other's head. He didn't have his bandanna on, when he had the helmet to hide himself away, and Locke saw his full face, all of him, all he'd done to himself in his pursuit of power, and Ravan saw all of Locke too, his red eyes dark, unlock himself as he sat on the other guy's chest, pinning him to the ground.

But he caught it then, Locke did, finding himself as Ravan blinked up at him, just for a moment. The sound. What was going on around them. And as he dropped Ravan's helmet, his eyes went up instead, and over to where Haven was, battling it out with Satan Soul and Marin then.

Stumbling to his feet, he got off Ravan and instead called out to her. Ravan only rolled though, onto his belly, springing up with ease. Using Locke;s confusion to his advantage, he shoved the guy from behind, just enough for him to stumble, before bringing his boot up to kick him in the small of the back, knocking him off his feet completely. Before Locke could shove back up though, Ravan only slammed his boot into the back of the other guy's head.

"Damn it, Locke," he grumbled softly as, finally, the other guy's body seemed fully at peace, all the tension gone. "I really wanted you to watch this."

His words had done more, however, than just give Ravan the upper hand in their duel. She lost focus, if only for a moment, the entity did, at his words. This wouldn't have mattered much, were she just facing Marin, who lost it as well, but she wasn't.

No.

Satan Soul was unforgiving and, instead of an orb, in that moment, she flew downwards, with a forceful punch that would have, presumably, sent Haven to the same state as her boyfriend currently, but...but…

She hesitated. At the last moment. Shifted, just enough, so her scaled fist didn't even graze Haven, didn't even give her a glancing blow. Not a claw touched her. Satan Soul flew passed her and, recovered, the entity was able to jump back, gaining distance from Marin.

"You can't do it, can you?" It wasn't almost too easy for the entity. Almost. "Harm your daughter?"

But it was more than that. As Satan Soul dropped once more to the ground, the deep crack the laid across her eye seemed to fracture further, if possible, and it was with a choked snarl that she got out, "You are Haven."

"No!" Marin was so sick of it. All of it. How much more did she have to do, to prove it? What more could you do? Were her parents this fucking useless? Did a ghost of her sister mean that much to them? "It's not! It's not Haven!"

"It's not." Ravan sounded much more calm than the others, from the other side of the bar where he'd once more collected his helmet. Fitting it on his head, he said, "At all. It's-"

"A demon," Laxus interceded. He'd found his feet, having to use a stood to pull himself up, but he knew, of course he knew, whether he could admit it to himself completely or not. That orb, what struck him, could come from no other. "It's a fucking demon, Mirajane. So capture it. Control it. Do you hear me? Mira, that's not Haven. You have to-"

"I," she began slowly as purple tiles appeared over the woman and, once more, she was standing there herself, "can't."

"Yes, you can! You have to. Mira-"

"I can't, Laxus," she cut him off as he began sparking, just a bit, little bolts falling from his body just as easily as the blood from his stomach. Not to be outdone, Haven stood to her full height, sparks leaping from her own body as well while her mother only said, "Because something else already is."

"What do you mean?" There it was. Once more. The sickening feeling Marin had been missing. As she peeled her eyes from the demon and onto her mother. "Mom?"

But Mirajane felt breathless and for once speechless. Still, the words fell from her mouth in the silent guildhall breathless and hardly above a whisper.

"It's Haven." She choked some, Mirajane did, sobbing on her next words. "She's still in there.

Chapter Text

The sound was reminiscent of a bomb detonating. A ground shaking, glass shattering. It was so early in the morning, dawn just barely breaking over the sky, that it woke most people. Drowsy and dazed, it was easily enough to excuse those who merely took a peek out a window, noted the overcast sky, and chalked it up to a summertime thunder storm and go back to bed. But any who had a good enough angle to see it, the looming guildhall in the back of the town, knew immediately something was afoot.

Because it wasn't so looming now.

When the entity first encounter Ravan, it all came flooding back. Those final few days, of Haven's life. Not only did she see it, the power that he possessed with his lacrima, but also Haven's own power and how to access it.

What better time than to draw the power into her body then right then? When all three (four, now, considering Ravan) of her targets were right there, wailing to be slaughtered?

"That's impossible," Laxus slurred at his wife's statement as all eyes fell to her then, the entity, but she only grinned at them toothily as she held up a hand.

It was less of a power, really, and closer to some sort of incantation. A summoning. An offering of one's self up in exchange for momentary gratification. At a price. One the demon had little intention of paying. Haven's fears over the spell and the gravity over using it were founded, but the entity wasn't bound by the same laws.

"In my darkest hours, I turned to you," she began and Ravan felt sick, frozen, and slightly confused over what Mirajane had just said.

But…

It didn't matter.

None of it mattered.

Whether Haven was...she wasn't...but even if she was…

His hands shook a bit as he rose them and he had to put it all into it. Focus. Like the entity was then, on summoning it's own power. If it was going to come down tot his...if it had to be one of them…

"Haven..." Marin didn't know what to do though, as Ravan was forcing himself to think past the words of her mother, the youngest Dreyar was finding it difficult.

In the beginning, she'd thought that it was her sister, but that Haven had some sort of...stupid plan or… She thought that she might have to, like, call her out. Maybe even fight her. But only until Haven came to her senses. Told them about what she was planning.

Ran off, honestly.

That's what she thought would happen in the end. Haven would run off again, separated from the family once more, and that would suck and Marin hated the idea of getting her sister back, only to have to be the one to severe that contact once more, but…

Then Ravan helped her. Showed her. That it wasn't Haven. That it couldn't be Haven. That some sort of manifestation had taken over Haven's shell and was using it for some nefarious purpose, and she still imagined it would hurt, deeply, Marin did, to have to take out someone wearing her sister's face, but it was just that. Just a face. One of the most important in her entire life, and it might even make it more difficult to stare at her own, in the mirror, but she'd do anything to protect them. Her parents. Her guildhall.

All of her family.

Now though, the two different scenarios were blurring together and though her father seemed hesitant, Marin believed her mother. Even if they hadn't believed her. And while she was still certain that something nefarious was going on, for Haven to, apparently, have enough control over it that their mother was unable to gain any on her own, meant that, well…

If Marin defeated, truly defeated, the manifestation, then that would mean that she was taking out her sister too. Whatever little bit of her was left. The concept was rather crippling for many reasons.

"Haven." Mirajane spoke her name in a much more commanding tone than her youngest and, taking a tentative step towards her, she said, "You have to stop this. Please. I don't want…"

"No!" Laxus yelled over his wife and he stumbled some, over himself, as he tried to get closer to his oldest, but it didn't matter how much he was catching on; he was too late. He was always too late.

"Grant me the powers only Raijin can wield!"

It was sickening, the crackle of the thunder, and Ravan recognized it easily enough and he had to focus, he had to do this, this one thing, if he killed her, then, it would be all over, and the Master...Locke...all of them, they could do whatever they wanted to him, he just had to-

Everyone was confused, for a moment. Ravan, honestly, thought that he'd somehow gotten passed his mental block and shot off his blast, the radius of the blast blinding him. Or perhaps he'd lost his vision, as he drifted back out of consciousness, spent from exerting himself so heavily.

But this wasn't the case as, after blinking a few times, he realized it was debris that clouded his vision and, as it all settled and his eardrums stopped crying out at the abuse, he found he'd instinctively phased through any of the now caved in ceiling and stood the most unharmed. Dazed, he only tilted his head backwards, blinking up at the sky above as now, a massive hole had been ripped right through the heart of the guildhall.

Haven…

When she summoned her God Slayer magic before, they had been outside. But inside, apparently, the black lightning had torn right through the hall ceiling as it descended from above, causing the ground to shake as some of the building fell in on itself and this had never happened before.

In their lifetime.

The guildhall seemed impenetrable, to the kids, growing up. Though they heard stories and saw pictures of buildings in the past, the years of peace that Fairy Tail had endured for much of their youth made them naive. They knew no other hall than the one they wasted their youth in. It withstood every outrageous guild brawl and each rambunctious party with the strength and dignity that the children associated the identity of Fairy Tail itself.

But the hall was, in actuality, nothing more than a building. One that was now going to require a gnarly roof repair. Either that or a sunroof installation.

As Ravan rubbed the dust out of his eyes, he could hear the grumbles of the Master, see Mirajane had rushed over to protect Marin, and then Haven, still just there, in the center of it all, unharmed and now armed, it seemed, with an even more vicious magic.

But there was someone who hadn't been lucky enough to have his reflexes to save him from the falling rubble. Mainly because Ravan stomped his head in…

"Fuck, Locke," he grumbled as he turned, quickly, to see he'd been buried under the falling up floor and roofing. "What fucking good are you?"

Laxus had been buried a bit too, given his senses were already thrown off by his inebriation, but he only bucked up, throwing anything off him, he couldn't believe her. His wife. He refused to believe her. To believe any of them. Right now, there was an enemy in their midst and it was his job, as the Master, as the fucking Thunder God, to take care of them.

His now lightning crackled as his jumped from his body while Haven merely stood there, her arm dropping slowly, black lightning jumping from her own, and this was it. Smoldering, Laxus clinched his fists as she laughed, loudly, openly, without fear, and though rubble separated them as well as half the length of the bar, she was the only thing he could see. This had always been the only thing he wanted to see. Whether she believed it or not.

Her so powerful and strong and...and…

It was different, for the entity, than it had been for Haven. When the God Slayer magic jumped into her body. For Haven, the real Haven, it always brought a sharp headache and searing pain as the more she used the magic, the more she allowed herself to be taken over by the darkness she'd learned the spell from. But for the entity, well, it was the darkness. It and the one Haven summoned were one and the same, in a certain sense, and her right eye turned completely black, void, as the entity put no stoppage on the power.

It wanted all of it.

Every delicious inch.

For Laxus though, it was like staring into some perverse mirror and his own scarred right eye hurt as his daughter's own was just a shadow now. Haven had always been sobering, for him, as over the years, no one could make him as angry as she could. No one could bring the worst out of him. It was bad. Their relationship. Dysfunctional and they needed it. The time away. And...if she hadn't…

All he ever wanted was time. If he'd been given more of it with Gramps...with Ivan...his mother…

Haven…

But he was never granted it.

Or maybe he was. Each and every time. And he just shitted it away.

He'd known something was wrong. The whole time. Since Haven returned. But he didn't say anything, he ignored each and every feeling, because he convinced himself that this was it, this was the time he always wanted, and it would all work out, finally, and he'd be a good father now, and…

"Laxus."

Mirajane called out to him, from over where she was, on the ground with Marin. Neither seemed too hurt from the ceiling collapse, but she held her youngest to her regardless, shielding her eyes.

"It's okay," his wife assured him, but it wasn't.

He knew it wasn't, but he let it happen anyways.

Every single thing.

It wasn't okay to get married to Mirajane even though they both had very different ideals and desires for their future. It wasn't okay to have not one, but two babies with her under the guise of keeping the peace. It wasn't okay to take his grandfather's guildhall even though he knew he wasn't ready for the responsibility. It wasn't okay to let Haven do whatever she pleased because he was too afraid of coming down so hard on her, like how he'd felt as if the adults in his life had stifled him. It wasn't okay to favor her so much more than Marin because Marin was weak and sickly and it brought up all these unresolved feelings he still held about when he was that way. It wasn't okay to just resound to being miserable with his marriage. It wasn't okay to drink until it felt better because it would never feel better because all of this things, every single one of them, weren't just going to go away, no matter how much time he gave them, because he wasn't a good person.

Laxus wasn't a good person.

He thought he was. That he'd changed. That he'd turned into a family man and bam! There it was. He wasn't upstanding, necessarily, but he was certainly better than he had been before.

But he wasn't.

He just piled all that loathing and hatefulness under fatherly duties and his responsibilities up at work and he resented her. So fucking much. The whole time. Haven. Because if he hadn't agreed to have her, if he hadn't made up all these rules and shit that he hoped would absolve him of feeling paternal, if he just actually had never felt paternal, then none of this would be happening.

It was his fault that Haven turned out so fucked up. That she, in turn, fucked everything up. Every fucking thing that was wrong with him, he passed right on down and allowed to be magnified in her because he refused to fess up and fix them in his own life.

Haven was dead because he never addressed his own failures and disappointments.

And even if she'd come back...even if she hadn't died...she would have only ended up the exact same way. As him.

Time didn't fix anything.

It couldn't.

Sometimes things broke and they had to be thrown out.

So no, it wasn't okay, as he threw his all into it, his electrified fist.

But it had to be done.

And for as shitty as he was, as horrible as he'd been, Laxus refused to let anyone else carry that burden.

Only, for as sobering as she was, even the face of Haven wasn't able to drag him completely out of the pit he'd fallen into.

And he his fist only met air, shooting a blast of lightning up into the darkened, overcast morning sky that now hung over their heads as the entity easily evaded his opening attack and instead struck the man in his belly, this time at close range and a much darker magic.

As the God Slayer lightning ripped through his stomach, Laxus didn't hate it. Fear it. Like he probably should have. All his drinking and lack of time management, resentment and anger all fed into his deepest, darkest anxiety.

Loss of power. Strength. Ability. But it all felt stripped away then and he'd been lost for so long in his own despair.

It was hardly a victory, the entity knew, as he flew back from the blast, crashing through the bar and slumping motionless beneath it. He was more of a shell, emptier even, than the body Ivan had bound the entity too.

And yet, there was something close to satisfaction, even if only momentarily, as she announced to the others, "One."

"Laxus!"

Mirajane's voice hurt by that point, from overuse that early morning, and as she ran across the rubble, over to him, she was ready for it. The attack. But it didn't come. As she came to stand before her husband, shielding him now, from their oldest, Haven seemed disinterested with her.

But only momentarily.

The harborer would be dealt with only after she felt the greatest loss of all.

"Where are you going, Marin?" Have called out to her sister, but it wasn't to their father that the teen ran. No. As her mother did and her sister turned to face her, Marin shoved up as well, it was to tear across the bar, the shattered guildhall, and Ravan knew the feeling.

At the moment, he was dragging Locke out from underneath the rubble, but as his eyes followed Marin, he was glad to see her flee. Run away. She didn't need to see the rest of this.

He panted some, the man did, as he felt a pang of guilt, maybe, for Locke getting fucked up by the building, and gross, empathy, especially for him, but maybe it was better that he seemed still out of it as well. Though Ravan thought it would be the ultimate revenge, the last fuck you, and yeah, he hated Locke so fucking much, well…

Now that he knew, really knew, that it was Haven in there…

Ravan felt like no one else should have to shoulder that. He'd been the one that they originally placed the blame on, for her death, so it only made sense that he'd continue to wear it.

"You should go." Finished with Locke, he stood to his full height once more, Ravan did, as he ran a hand across the glass of his visor, so he had the best vision possible. On her. He couldn't miss. But it was to Mirajane that he called out. "Take the Master and go with Marin. I…I can handle this."

She didn't seem to hear him though, Mira didn't, and if Laxus drank to drive away his thoughts and his fears, she'd always smiled through them and pivoted, whenever necessary, so that she didn't have to face it. Face any of it.

But now she had to face it.

Whether she wanted to or not.

"Haven." Mirajane wanted her attention, all of it, especially when she saw her oldest take a step to follow after her youngest. "Look at me. Now!"

Sneering, the entity obliged, but only because she knew there was no escape. For Marin. No matter how far she ran.

"What's wrong, mother?" It was elegant, watching the harborer's hate-filled expression falter, just a tad. "Did I do something wrong?"

Mirajane wasn't like Laxus. Not completely. He'd scarified caring for himself in favor of booze and apathy, but Mirajane wasn't the same. No. Though she didn't train currently and rarely took on the forms of her captured souls, her own vices had done little to deteriorate her magical and physical abilities.

If she wanted, she could face what stood before her then.

Given the God Slayer magic, she didn't know if she'd win, but she could certainly hold it off, until help arrived. She knew some would soon. And if it were any other threat...if she just didn't know what she did…

But she could feel her in there. She always could. Haven. She was in there, not manipulating, but festering, beneath the surface, and Mira couldn't do it. She thought Laxus was going to, she was going to just bear it, when he did, but he wasn't able to either.

It was their daughter.

Who could expect them to do such a thing?

"I'm sorry." Her voice broke some, again, Mira's did and she had to look away, because Haven didn't look right to her, with her eye all messed up and her stance different, now. The black lightning. None of it looked like her daughter. And yet… "Haven. If you blame us, for what happened… I wanted to come and save you and I… No. It's deeper than that, isn't it? I always just...pretend that it wasn't happening. Everything that was happening. With you. That's how I get through hard things. I just smile and avoid them and… I'm sorry, Haven that-"

"You really are confused, aren't you, harborer?" The entity took a step towards her now, the sneer falling as it found annoyance instead. "How much clearer must it become to you? Must it be explained to you?"

"I'm not," Mira said then through clenched teeth and a set jaw, "speaking to you. I know what you are. I know exactly what you are."

"Do you?"

"I do."

"Then you know what I've come for. Satan Soul. You filthy-"

"I am not," Mira repeated and her gaze was dark, when she turned it once more on the entity, "speaking to you. I will deal with you after… Haven, I know that you can hear me. You have to be able to hear me. If you don't help me, if you don't let me help you, then they'll… You have to give it up. Your control. Please."

"No one," the entity challeng3ed back and it was losing it then, focus, as it lost interest in power and only retribution for all the souls the disgusting harborer had held onto for far too long, "controls me."

Ravan hadn't cared, before, when the Master was tangling with Haven, but he knew he definitely couldn't let Mirajane get hurt. The woman was meddling in something she might have been able to handle, but currently? No. It had to be now.

Now.

How many times was he going to say that? Before he just did it? Why was he so nervous? And scared? And…

He wasn't going to run.

He wasn't going to run.

He summoned no swords and when he held his hands out before him now, he decided not to think either. Just do. Put his all into it, focus, and do what he had to do.

What he had to do.

What Erza would do.

The right thing.

Regardless of who it hurt.

Right?

He hadn't used it since that day, so long ago now, it felt like, when he was mad at Haven, for not picking him, and yet he still kind of hoped, maybe, that if he showed her all his cards, just tossed them down on the table, then she would see how much better he was, stronger he was, more powerful he was, than stupid fucking Locke, and if she just stuck with him, if they fucked off together, then he could find her something too, just like it and oh man, as it flowed through his body, it felt just as good, as it had every other time, for all his power to flow out of him, all at once.

This is what he nearly killed himself to get. What he'd sought after for so fucking long. This was what it meant, to be on top of everything else, and he wished, from the bottom of his heart, that he could just live in that feeling.

But he couldn't, of course, and it was over too quickly, it was always over too quickly, but as the blue hued energy jumped from his palms, aimed straight towards Haven, he almost felt as peace.

Almost.

It engulfed her, the light did, completely, and he'd done it. He knew he had, as he stumbled forwards, but…

Something was off.

He didn't fall. He didn't pass out. He only saw it all, right before his eyes, as he was able to catch himself, and he felt completely drained, but that couldn't be true. If he were really utterly wiped, he'd be kissing the floor.

Was he learning to regulate the blast?

Or had he fucked something up?

Panting, he did stumble some as his hands went to his knees and he sucked in all the air he could get. He felt ill though, when over the pounding in his head, he heard Mirajane exclaim, crying out for her oldest, and he was really glad then, that Marin had run away before it happened.

He couldn't live with her hating him too.

As he blinked away the blinding light, he saw Haven's shadow in the center of it, fall forwards as well, but she didn't catch herself. Just fell. As the light faded it was done and all he could think about, for a moment, was how gut-wrenching the sound of the Master's wife's crying was.

But he blinked, Ravan did, away the moisture in his eyes, because they were tricking him, he knew, when he saw her body move. Twitch. Haven's. He had no energy to remove his helmet, to wipe clean the visor, but he felt like he had passed out, that he was dreaming, he had to be, as, slowly, with black lightning still jumping off Haven's body, one of her hands rose before slamming down, onto the ground, and she was pushing herself up, panting heavily as well.

"You," she hissed softly, turning her neck to stare directly over at him then, and the jovial mood had changed, "shouldn't have done that."

"Holy fuck," he griped as he could only fall down, back onto his butt, as she rose once, winded and beaten up, but alive, standing. Looking down at his hands, he knew he'd given it his all. Honest, he had. But… "It wasn't enough."

Raising his head to look at Haven again, he found that his distraction had been taken into account as a bolt of black lightning flew straight at him, smashing into his helmet, and damn it.

This is what Erza and Jellal always warned about, believing your own hype.

Mirajane had fallen to her knees, before, believing that when the light cleared, she'd have to face it. What had broken Laxus, truly broken Laxus; their daughter's corpse. So she was equally grateful as she was horrified when this turned out not to be the case.

But the worse was still to come, because things could only get worse, it felt like, in the waking nightmare of a morning, as after firing off a blast at Ravan, Haven only announced to Mirajane, "Two," at about the same time her original second target returned.

Marin came back running into the bar area dripping wet and with a new air about her. They heard her before she go there, actually, Mirajane and the entity both did, as her feet sloshed about now, in her shoes.

"Go for a swim?" the entity remarked simply as, before her sister once more, Marin had eyes for nothing else.

She had, in a way. After seeing her father so carelessly done away with, Marin did the only thing she could think to do; power up. She'd seen her father suck up lightning straight from storms, Natsu devour fire with vigor, and Gajeel munch on nails and the like her entire life, but she'd never tried it for herself.

She didn't know what it would be like.

Water was...different, than the other elements, it felt like, because she drank water all the time. But Wendy explained to her once, when she questioned what it was like, for the air mage, that breathing was much different than when she drew in the element for her magic.

"You'll understand," the blue haired woman had assured her with a grin, "when you try it."

But Marin never had. She'd never felt like she needed to. The others seemed to do it when their magic ran low and she'd never used so much of hers that this had come to pass. But she knew also it could provide something more to them, push them to new limits, and she was going to need to hit the highest one she could.

It was the only way she was going to kill her sister.

So she'd fled, yes, but only to get to the indoor swimming pool the guildhall had, where she felt kind of gross, honestly, jumping in and opening her mouth and just…taking in the water. Ridiculous was another way of describing it. Childish. As if this could help her. As if this would do anything.

Yet, when she climbed out once more, all the power and anger and adrenaline that she'd always felt before, battling Natsu or even only a short while ago, confronting Haven, it had nothing on what she felt now.

There was no question this time.

This is what it meant to be a Dreyar.

To feel like one.

Nothing could beat her, she had no fear, and it wasn't even just confidence or the Fairy Tail concept of the good guys always winning; Marin knew she was stronger than Haven. Or whatever Haven had changed into now.

She didn't have a choice not to be.

Everyone had defining moments. Things that you couldn't come back from. Good or bad. And this was going to be Marin's. This had to be Marin's.

This is what she'd been training for. She didn't know it at the time, and she doubted Haven did either, every single time she insisted she get stronger, that she had to get stronger, but this was where it all came together.

"Haven." Mirajane clearly had no faith as she was pushing up then, trying once more, to reason with her oldest. "Only you can stop this. Listen to me! You have to-"

"Haven's dead." Marin didn't even feel like herself, as she spoke. Not looking at their mother, she continued her approach and the entity had lost all of it's smiles. "Whatever part of her's still in there… It doesn't belong here anymore."

The entity raised a palm, the black lightning jumping easily from her body and Marin tried to evade it, but the lightning just followed, scraping against her arm and god, it hurt, worse than anything else every had, searing even just from that slight contact.

But Erza told her before that if it didn't hurt, then it didn't count and man, this was going to count for so much.

"You both," Mirajane tried again, but on deaf ears, "don't have to do this."

Or at least she thought.

Though neither of her daughters heard her words, someone else did and he only let out a low moan from behind her.

She didn't to do it. Tear her eyes away from it. But she had to, as Haven and Marin clashed, turning quickly to fall beside her husband as he blinked awake once more.

"Demon," he moaned softly as, looking over his wound, she grimaced. But he only reached for her as he whispered softly, "I'm sorry."

"It's okay, Laxus," she insisted as, panicked, she looked all about for something to press against his wounds, but all she found was rubble and decay. "You'll be okay."

Shaking his head slightly, he shut his eyes once more, rather than watch what was unfolding.

"You have to let her. Mira." It was his turn to grimace as he tried, once, to rise, before giving in and slumping back once more. "Let them… You can't do it. And neither can I."

"Neither can she."

"Yeah, she can." His breathing felt a bit shallow and he wanted to just drift off to that sleep he was woken up from only an hour or two prior, but it felt like much more. "She's a Fairy Tail wizard, Mira. A slayer. A Dreyar. Did you forget?"

She didn't understand his confidence or seeming relief, chalking them up instead to delirium. Shoving up again, Mirajane didn't call out that time, but rather thought that if she could just get between the two of them, delay things long enough, then someone else would arrive and then…

Then…

She couldn't focus on what would happen then! She only had to focus on delaying the inevitable now.

Marin and Haven were embattled now, the younger sister having formed some sort of barrier of water around herself, a bubble, really, and though she winced at each and every bolt of lightning Haven threw at the surface, the electricity seemed to dissipate immediately. But Marin couldn't keep that up for long, her mother knew, and maybe she wouldn't have to defeat Haven, she would only have to-

"Mira!" Laxus yelled through a grimace as his eyes were forced open at the sound of his wife crying out.

When the woman had moved forward once more, as if to approach, Haven's head had snapped over in her direction and, that time, the black lightning leaped from her palm directly for her mother. Only it wasn't searing pain that caused Mira to scream out. No. It was with a knee buckling, clenched teeth suck of air that she felt most of her muscles clench tightly, like a multitude of cramps, all at once, before releasing again, only to clench just as tightly the next moment.

"She worked hard on that one. That spell. Could never perfect it. Combined with this God Slayer magic, I find it to be rather formidable. Don't you?" Haven smirked some, over at her fallen parents, but it was more the writhing of Mirajane as oppose to the uselessness of Laxus that the entity found pleasing. "You will wait your turn, harborer. Believe me, it will be soon enough."

But it was her then, that lost focus on her true target in her gloating and, when she turned back to Marin, it was to find she was no longer sealing herself off in a bubble, but rather running at her, full speed. But when Haven shot a similar blast her way, Marin jumped, as high as she could. And as the bolt flew underneath her feet, she called out a spell of her own, a stream of water shooting from her out stretched palm with such velocity it felt like steel slashing against Haven's face. As she stumbled back a step, Marin only landed atop her, Haven's sparking and shocking her nightly.

They were never going to get along.

At any point in their lives.

Not because Marin was like her mother and Haven was like her father. Not because their elements clashed. Not because Haven was strong and Marin was weak. Not because their personalities conflicted, because they were too close in age, or because of jealousy.

They would never get along because for all of the reasons they were so different, in one key aspect, they'd always been the same.

Each had a giant, similar chip on their shoulder that relied on the others not being there.

Marin spent her whole life feeling as if Haven not only bullied her needlessly, but also like it didn't matter. Because no one in their family really ever did anything to stop it. Mirajane might punish Haven slightly, Laxus would separate them, and Evergreen, at most, would berate Haven, but no one ever did anything to stop it. And even when it did stop, when Marin and Haven did find separation, it was only because Haven had run off, destroying their already unstable familial structure, and even though Marin would find herself striving in this, it was only in spite of her older sister seemed intent on bring upon the family.

Because she was the oldest, Haven was, and so much of their lives were dictated by that. They all loved her first. All of them. And even though she made it tough at times to do this, it only made them all love her harder.

Not that Haven would have seen it that way. Ever. At all.

Her sister had been born sick and stayed sick for a good portion of Haven's early life. Which meant everyone doted on her and looked after her and thought she was just so precious and cute and Haven was never any of those things. At least she didn't feel as if she were. She didn't like to wear dresses and have bows put in her hair and she was aggressive and angry and a disappointment to all of them. Unlike stupid, meek little Marin who they all thought was so perfect and had to be protected and looked after and yeah, Haven could admit that maybe she'd treated her sister poorly at times, but she treated everyone that way.

Because everyone was stuck in an endless loop of ranging anywhere from mildly to severely disappointed by her and even when she did the right thing, it was never enough to out way the bad she'd already done, and it didn't matter. None of them mattered. They were all looking constantly to hold her down, to hold her back, and any tools they did give her to grow, they made sure were under their own regulations that they themselves hadn't had to follow when they were young.

Haven felt an intense paranoia from an early age that wasn't as easily addressed as Marin's more obvious ailments and was dismissed rather than dealt with.

Like every other problem she had.

If one of them got the better of their parents, and their family as a whole, then each would have accused it of being the other one. And so much of their personal identities were staked on the idea of neglect and misfortune in having the other around, to admit, even slightly, that this hadn't been the case, that the failure wasn't one-sided, that they'd both been the result of shitty circumstances, would be a sacrifice of their own core beliefs.

Marin had to see herself as forgotten and a consolation. It was what tethered her to Kai and Ravan so much, that allowed to her to easily aligned herself with Erza's ragtag family over the one she was born into. Erza cared about her. Kai cared about her. Ravan cared about her. The rest of her family cared about the idea of her.

Haven had to feel alone. She had to be alone. Because if she wasn't alone, if she hadn't always been alone, if people did care about her and did love her and she hadn't completely misread every single attempt others had made to read her (or the lack of one) then that would mean that there was something wrong with her, that she was the one that didn't understand. And that wasn't possible. Laxus had always been an ass to her, her mother had always ignored her, and everyone else just went along with the two of them because her family were all assholes and they didn't want her to succeed because they were all afraid of the power she knew she possessed, that she knew she was destined for.

There was no middle round for the two sisters. There never had been. Marin had always loved her older sister regardless, even though she knew Haven never felt it, and she had to believe that Haven had loved her back. Or felt something for her. In some capacity.

But they were never going to be like Mirajane and Lisanna. Normal siblings. Who supported one another. Haven had some twisted sense of it, every single time she berated her sister into training harder and Marin was pleased enough, with each letter she got, filled with her older sister's supposed successes and half-truths, but they'd never be more than that. They couldn't be more than that.

It just wasn't possible.

Too much would just always hang over them.

Marin tried hard though, as she and Haven tumbled to the floor, to think of the worst things that her sister had ever done to her, to all the torment she'd caused her over the years, and why, even if Haven was in there, that she was doing the right thing, that this is what had to happen, but…

She never hated her sister.

Not really.

For as horrible as Haven always was, no matter how much she'd disliked her, dreaded being around her, Marin never felt that tip over into no return.

But Haven had reached a point of no return at some point. She couldn't find the exact moment, the exact action that caused it, but still, as it all replayed endlessly, it felt like, for what could have been eternity, might as well have been eternity, she didn't quite feel as if she could have prevented it; no matter how much she wished she could have.

It was like a weightlessness. Immense pain that slowly ebbed away into nothing and then just...weightlessness.

Locke was agreeing with her, as his face blocked the ensuing chaos all about and Haven thought if she could just keep staring at him, at something, focus on something and not lose it, if she could just hold on, but other things were falling away as the pain did and she meant it, when she insisted to Locke that it was okay. That it didn't hurt. But she could tell he didn't as he repeated it back to her.

She couldn't quite recall which was the last of the pair. Had she sucked a breath in? And then never released it? Or had one last one falling from her mouth and then not been able to be retracted? There was no time frame for it, no learning curve. Just one last moment, fading irreversibly on that mountaintop, where she'd been so convinced she'd just proved her ability as a wizard irrefutably, and then she was…

Nowhere.

At all.

Just a vast emptiness, all about. A darkness. And she was weightless and no one was waiting for her, neither gate stood to welcome her to a great reward or bar her from escaping, nothing restarted or reset.

There was peace, at least, maybe, or there could have been, were she not forced to endure what felt like an endless and yet intangible replaying of every single fucking second and fuck.

It hurt so much more to see it played out like that. As a viewing rather than a living. Each and every shitty little fit she threw. How hateful and angry at nothing. At what? What was she so upset about? And she wanted to stop herself, each and every time struck her sister or needlessly goaded the others to doing something inexcusable. It was horrifying to see how her parents weren't always drunk and disinterested, but became that way, slowly, over time, through no help her continued outbursts and resentment and why did she have to be so fucking mean? To everyone?

She wasn't always.

And they weren't always so mean to her in return.

There was a selfishness that always drove a wedge between her and every other person in her life, but to view it again, from the beginning, to see it not from the perspective of a child having to endure it, but with the understanding of the implications each and every action would have later down the line, Haven found something of an interest in the others she'd never had until that moment, when she was more than just consciousness.

She'd always been so disheartened by her parents, viewing their slow falling away from their once powerful roots as an indictment towards the two of them rather than the personal tragedy it really was.

Laxus didn't just quit being a mage because he didn't want to be one anymore, because he wanted to give up on growing stronger and more powerful; he did it because Gramps was dying and trust no one else, and somewhere deep down inside of himself, buried beneath what was now a father and a husband and a fully formed man, there was still a little boy who had a dream and was only going to get one chance to take it. The souring of it was just par for the course when it came to Laxus' life and Haven always felt as if she were the victim of his broken dreams, not an active participant in making sure they could never be bettered.

Mirajane hadn't given up a pursuit of power when she married and had children; she'd never wished for the pursuit. And though Haven couldn't understand it, didn't quite get it, how you could be so strong and yet not crave more of it, she'd never quite seen all those long nights that her mother was away from home, instead spending time at the bar, at Fairy Tail, as anything more than where she wanted to be. But Mira hadn't wanted to be a barmaid for ever. At all. But her husband needed someone to help him keep Fairy Tail righted as he transitioned into the guild master and she was stuck too, just like Laxus was, in a cycle neither could quite pinpoint nor escape.

Maybe they could have tried harder. Maybe they should have tried harder. But Haven had always decided that they hadn't tried, that they'd given up from the jump, and that wasn't true. They did want things for her, they did have high hopes and aspirations and it wasn't selfishness that slowly brought about their disinterest in seeing her through to all of them, but rather both their inabilities to properly address their own struggles and never rectified traumas.

They weren't the only ones, either, that she felt as if she hadn't rightly assessed for the majority of her life. Her aunts and uncles and even some of the guild members that her parents had been close to had tried to reach out to her, to help her, at varying times, but she always felt paranoid and was convinced it was a trap. A trick. Somewhere along the timeline, Laxus' halfhearted jokes and jests over needing to combat her to save her from eclipsing him had been twisted in her mind, or maybe he just stopped joking, and she became convinced that the only thing her father wanted was to cause her downfall.

She wanted to stay, eventually, in sets of memories that flashed by too quickly and it wasn't her family that she desperately craved, but rather those moments and joy that they all felt, early on, she and her friends, her only real friends, as they would reveal in their victories over jobs or stay up late into the night, snickering and giggling over this and that, out in their clubhouse or on the floor of one of their bedrooms, and she'd always pictured it so differently. When she looked back. It felt like they only had bad times together, all of them. From her sister to Locke and Navi, to Ravan and Kai. Even Ajax. That one of them (typically her) was always in a bad mood and it ruined everything and that they never truly had fun together.

But that wasn't true.

The tainted moments had stuck out to her the most, during her life, but in the end of it, when she got to see them all flutter by, there was so much good, in all of them, and fuck. Fuck. She didn't know that Ravan was so defeated. Or that Marin was really that sad. That Navi so out of place.

And why did she have to be such an ass to Locke all the fucking time? When he was literally the only person, through all of those years, that no matter how much she seemed destined to ruin her life, never once gave up or gave in? Everyone else did, eventually, at least a dozen times, but he was always right back there, smiling at her and insisting that it was okay, he knew that she just felt low on herself sometimes, and that was why he was there.

To pat her on the head and insist that everyone spilled.

Everyone.

You just had to clean it back up was all.

She wanted to stay in one of those moments, scattered across that single year. To out on that job with him or in that hotel room. In the clubhouse or his bedroom or just somewhere.

She didn't want to leave Crocus. Not without him.

And why did she have to go on the fucking gauntlet? Why did she have to go anywhere? He wanted her to stay, there with him, in his apartment, knowing every fucking thing about her, every shitty thing, and she wanted to stay too, she knew she wanted to stay too, but it didn't matter how much she cried or pleaded because the moment would only pass and she would only leave and what was done was done.

The stone was set.

It felt so much sicker too, when she viewed it in a separated state. Had she learned nothing? From what had happened to Navi, lost in the town with no name? She felt as if she had. That she'd learned a lot. About herself and her friends and what was once her guild. And yet there she was, repeated the exact same mistake with Ravan.

Navi didn't want to go on. Navi should have never been allowed to go in the first place. She was being irrational and, as always, that would fade away into indecision and Navi just wasn't cut out for being a mage. Ever. Haven knew that, but she couldn't do it. Turn back. Give up. She had to go on, and why?

Why was it so hard to just accept defeat?

And not even defeat.

To accept that someone in her party, a close friend, or at least what was supposed to be one, was hurt and dying and why couldn't she just put her damn pride aside and let a victory slip away once and awhile?

Huh?

Why didn't she forgo the gauntlet when it was clear Ravan wasn't up for it? Why did she make it such a big deal? They could have gone back at another time, when they were stronger, better coordinated, and go through it all from the start once more. Or even just said fuck it, like he wanted, and give up. Who cared? Who even fucking knew they were out there? No one.

They could have thrown in the towel and gone on to do all the things he wanted to do, but no. Haven couldn't. No. Because she had to have her damn power at the cost at every single thing in her life.

Power was more important than her parents, her friends, her boyfriend, and...and it was always more important than her little sister too.

Marin.

She didn't feel strong at all, watching helplessly and indefinitely as her younger self tormented her sister repeatedly throughout the years. Marin hadn't done anything to her, not particularly, and even when she grew out of it (or at least when Locke forced her out of it), there was still so much resentment and hate for someone who clearly wasn't too high on themselves either.

Marin looked so small and innocent and Haven had never really wanted to apologize to someone so badly before, but she did. Terribly. To Marin. More than anyone else.

Every single second of her life felt as if it were happening in such a slow parade and yet, it was all over and gone and done in the exact same moment and what was the fucking point, huh? To see it all and not be able to change a single damn thing?

There was more confusion though, when it was over. And done with. Because what she saw next wasn't a moment from her life, wasn't something that required reflection or introspection. No. It was a lab, filled with people, and she could see them clear as day, really see them, not like how she imagined seeing every second of her life, before, but truly see them and yet…

She still felt disembodied. Weightless. Adrift.

But not dead any longer.

Something...different.

It took a bit, to understand fully, to place the man that she kept seeing and comprehend his desire and the ones that existed now for her, overriding anything she thought or felt and she saw it all. Every second of it. Separated by time and space somehow, and yet they were all right there again. Every single one of them. Her family and friends. The guild.

Being forced to bare witness for every transgression she'd ever had the misfortune of being involved in compared very little to having no control over someone using your face, your voice, your fucking memories to deceive everyone you cared about, that you just pleaded for a second chance at reconciliation, felt like some sort of bizarre cosmic punishment.

Was this what happened? When you were irredeemable? Was that the sentence? Watch everything you should have cherished, should have been grateful for, be destroyed, truly destroyed, graphically and violently destroyed, by your own hand?

Because if so, it felt very fucking fitting.

All Haven ever wanted to be, the entire time, more so than just the best mage ever or the greatest wizard, was just...happy. Because she couldn't feel that. Or when she did, she deemed it insufficient because it wasn't attached to her dream for absolute power and she just had to be destined for something higher. Something greater.

She'd felt it in her bones her entire life. All the way through her core. She was supposed to be someone, someone that didn't just eclipse the great Laxus Dreyar, but would supersede every fucking person or enigma that cam before her.

Haven wanted to be a hero. A legend. Immortal.

And now she was paying the price for her insolence.

She knew her sister's death was imminent. Inevitable. She listened helplessly to her mother cry out and watched in rapt illness as, soon enough, the entity would hold onto great power and, providing successful extractions, would be well on its way to being unbeatable.

All because she went out to the park, once, when she was a child, after her father forbade her, and got her and her sister captured by their deranged grandfather.

It was laughable, honestly, and ridiculous, and if her father's life was marred by constantly collapsing in on itself, then hers was stained with ridiculously childish decisions coming back to haunt her.

"It's not your fault. Child. Any more than it's mine."

All of it had been strange, the entire time, the way that she just knew, before, she was dead, and now, piecing together what she was instead, but she'd never felt like more than just a spirit, maybe, a consciousness, that's all, and nothing more.

But at the voice of another, right beside her, not through the lens of her previous shell or the recollections of times past, brought upon a new curiosity.

It was still vast and bleak and dark, but she was with someone else, it felt like, a man who smiled down at where she found herself seated, knees pulled to her chest, watching her sister try desperately, yet hopelessly, to bring about the proper resolution to her many mistakes.

"Who..." Haven whispered and she felt like herself, maybe, and she could see her hands and her feet. A teen again. On the cusp of something greater. But as she blinked up at the man who stared down at her, she felt herself frown. "Gramps?"

"How long as it been? The man questioned back and he was so short and kind looking and she felt younger than a teen then, just looking at him. But when he reached down for her with one hand, hse refused to take it. "Haven? Since you last saw me?"

She couldn't remember.

She didn't want to.

Turning to hid her face in her knees, she breathed against them, "This is it, huh? You're the only person I know, I guess, really, to take me over."

"Take you over," he repeated and his voice sound so familiar and soothing and yet so distant and cold.

"To...whatever's next? Did I do it? Huh? I've seen everything, right?" She sniffled, still refusing to look at him. "Now it's over and I just...I..."

"No one can guide you through that, Haven," he answered in what she assumed was to be the negative. "Only you can guide yourself."

"Then why are you here?"

"How long has it been?" he repeated again and she hated it, how she could still hear them, all of them, her family, father, mother, sister, crying out in pain, pain that someone who might as well be her was inflicting upon them. "Since you last saw me?"

"Since...Since..." Swallowing some, she did lift her head then, tilting it back up to look at him. "I used to see you. Even after you… I remember. Laxus told me not to talk about it and I thought… But eventually, you just...went away. And I forgot."

Nodding at her, he said, "I would come to you, when I could, when you were young. Time here is not… It doesn't flow, properly, and I always knew that, eventually, you would need me again."

But she shook her head in response as she told him, "Give it up. Gramps. I have. I was wrong. I was wrong, the whole time. I'm not...chosen or special or-"

"This," he cut her off, "isn't about you. At least not fully."

But everything was about Haven. Always. It always had been. It had to be.

"Your sister will die. Your father. Mother. Many of your friends."

She shut her eyes once more, Haven did, as her head fell back against her knees. Against them, she replied, "There's nothing I can do."

"There's always something you can do."

"There's nothing-"

"Were you raised to give up? To stop struggling?"

"What's to struggle with? It's over. I'm dead."

It felt so much more final, to hear it then, from her own mouth, and she wasn't, not quite, not yet, but…

"Perhaps," he remarked rather than confirming or denying and Haven sniffled again, cold. "But if you don't do something, they all will be as well. Everyone you care about. All gone."

"There's nothing I can-"

"There is always something you can-"

"You don't think I've tried? Huh?" It felt as if she were yelling, maybe, but her voice didn't crack and her throat didn't bleed and she was nothing, just weightless. There, but gone. "I don't want to be this. I tried to control it, to take it over, to-"

"That's not what you must do."

"Then what? Huh? What do you want me to-"

"You have," he told her simply, "to let go. Haven." When she stayed silent over his pause, he went on. "My son…Ivan… He misunderstood what he's done. To keep you alive. He toyed with something he should not have, fine, but we are here now and you were connected to this...entity, just as much as it is you. And if you do not relinquish control-"

"I can't."

"Haven-"

"I fucking can't! If I let go..." And she lifted her head again as it struck her then, what he was asking of her, what he wanted, what had to be done, what it meant. To let go. To completely let go. It felt like tears, maybe, or at least what would be tears, were any of it grounded in something closer to reality, but her face contorted all the same and she admitted, "I'm too scared. To...to..."

"You have to make the choice, Haven. Before it's too late. Before something happens that you can't take back."

"No." This couldn't be right. Was this it? Was this what her big moment was? Everything she'd ever dreamed of? That she'd spent her whole life chasing? This? "I can't."

Because if she let go, if she really let go, then she knew, she just knew, that it would be that darkness, that endless, vast stillness and the peace, maybe, but what if it was that same reflection looping endlessly and she would never be able to change it. Any of it. She would never be able to let her parents know that she forgave them, if she could even blame them to begin with, and she couldn't tell Marin sorry or let Ravan know that she was just as fucking hopeless as him, and Locke...and Locke…

But if she didn't, then what would they do? What would they be? Eventually, everyone was destined for it, what awaited her, but if she could give them more time…

Her parents felt like mostly lost causes, honestly, but maybe...maybe all of this could be a wake up call of some sort. And even if they didn't see one another through to the other side, perhaps it was for the best. To be separate. If Laxus could just find one thing, any thing, that could stop his drinking and his depression and if he just got help… And her mother's biggest downfall was always, honestly, her husband, if they just got away from one another, then maybe…

And Marin, she was so fucking strong now. Really. Haven believed it. She knew it. She was seeing it. Haven wasn't the timid, meek little girl that she'd pushed around. Marin loved her guild with all of her heart. Not because it was her safety blanket, the place she could run to keep the rest of the world out, no, not any more. She loved it because she understood it, finally, what it really meant, what it truly stood for. Fairy Tail. She was a real wizard now. One that was still growing, of course, steadily, and under the best of guidance, and no matter what it was that she dreamed of, Marin could capture it.

She deserved to capture it.

And Ravan, Haven knew he was better for all of it anyways. The wounds were all still fresh and they would only be worse, after all this, but he seemed like he was better off, with Jellal for the time being. And maybe on his own eventually. Or with a more stable guild, one where he wasn't constantly chasing something that he had no real reason to be tied to. Ravan didn't own anyone redemption. But if he needed to find something inside of himself, some sort of forgiveness, for what he felt as if he'd done, that he'd caused, that he'd allowed to go on, then Haven knew he was on the path to doing just that.

And Jax was getting so old and powerful and strong and he was so angry, right now, but Marin could help him. Or his mother and father. They had to. Someone would. He was too important for them to just let slip through the cracks. She wanted him to find his own strength and glory and if he wanted to be better than her, well, she wanted him to be given every opportunity.

Then Locke.

Locke.

It hurt the most, but he'd always wanted something that she just couldn't give him, not at the sacrifice of her own desires, and she bet he'd be happy. In a few more months. A year. Two. Eventually. She always told him that, between them, the only thing that mattered was when they were together, but they just couldn't be together anymore. And he was just so...great and she wanted him to be happy. Really be happy. With someone. He deserved S-Class in the guild that he loved and to fall into the life he envisioned, with a wife and kids and...and… If it came down to him never getting it at all, the things that he wanted above all else, or having to see them take place with somebody else, then Haven could do it.

She could let go.

Of all of them.

If it was the only way.

And Marin was finding it to be, as she struggled not to hold on, as her parents hoped, for help from someone else, but rather to survive as none of that seemed to be arriving. It didn't make sense, were any of them not so filled with tense dread that they had a chance for deep contemplation. By that point, Lisanna should have showed up for a shift, the early birds should be around to snag the good jobs, and, if nothing else, the ground shaking tumble the upper portion of the guildhall had taken should have, at the very least, attracted some attention.

Whether they knew it or not, it actually had.

Those who didn't attribute the rumbles to the darkening sky as a storm swirled overhead and actually took notice of the guildhall's altered state were in something of a panic as even non-members assumed the worst. It had been many years since Fairy Tail had brought it's frequent drama to it's own door. In years past, however, this usually didn't mean anything good for the city surrounding and, as members rushed to the aid of their guild, some Magnolia citizens gathered in the early dawn to bear witness.

Kai was usually the type to sleep through such things. If it was important, Erza, Ravan, or Marin would wake him. But the night before had been different. After staying up all night waiting for Marin to come home (and promptly falling asleep before midnight even struck because, well, he was tired), he found himself to be a lighter sleeper under duress.

But when the crash of thunder and crumbling building woke the town, Kai almost went right back to sleep when he saw the time and realized, though he had no idea if Marin had ever gotten home, if she had, she'd surely have just gone in to work, no matter how late she got in. They were different in that way.

They were different in a lot of ways, actually.

Still, as he blinked the sleep away and tried to study the opposite side of the bed, to decide if his best friend had climbed into it at some point that night or not, there was a knocking at the bedroom door.

"Uh, hey, dude? You should probably come see this."

It was Tate, Navi's dumb boyfriend, and now Kai was at least somewhat concerned, as he assumed she hadn't come home either, but no, as he stumbled into the living room, he found this not to be the case.

Navi was over at the window, staring out it in surprise as Tate, after summing Kai, slowly went back to join her.

"What's going on?" Kai asked as he rushed right over to get a glimpse himself. As his eyes adjusted, it took him a moment to process what he was seeing. The top of the guildhall was just...blown off or something and, above it, dark clouds swirled around. His throat caught in his chest before, softly, he asked, "Do you think...the Master...is doing that? Or-"

"I-I didn't know!" And Navi, at his words, jumped back from the window, a stricken look on her face, filled with guilt. "Honest. I just thought… Kai..."

"Do you think...Marin's there?" He gulped, Kai did as Tate only glanced back and forth between the two of them. "She'd have gone in, for her shift, and-"

"Your brother and Marin," Navi was going on, regardless, "were so sure, but I just thought… Haven is my friend. Or she was. More than them. Of course I trusted her. And Locke. I didn't think… Who would have thought-"

"Did you just say my brother?" Kai was beyond confused now and, as he slowly backed away from the window, he asked, "Is Ravan...home? What does that have to do with-"

"I'm sorry." Navi meant it too. "I should have told you when I got in, but-"

"We have to hurry." And Kai turned then, to run back off for Marin's room to find something to wear. "If Marin's at the guildhall, I have to be there."

"I'm sorry," Tate said as, with a nod of her own, Navi ran back to the room she was staying in, to get ready as well, "but what's happening?"

Neither was too sure, but both had the sense in their stomachs that it was rather dire.

"Stay here," was Navi's one offering to her boyfriend as the two of them fled the apartment together. "I'll be back when, well… I'll just be back."

The closer they got the guildhall, the worse things seemed, honestly, as the humidity left them sticky and the crowd of members that gathered all about the gates. Even from a distance, Navi and Kai had taken notice of the force field that seemed to encapsulate the grounds beyond the gate, tinted a deep shade of murky red, too opaque to see through. Kai placed Erza easily and as he rushed over to find out what was going on, Navi took notice of something high above them, in the dark sky. It was Happy, yelling down to Natsu the prognosis from above.

"Can't see anything from up here either, sir," he was remarking as Natsu growled, loudly, causing some of the lowly members gathered around him to jump back. Fists flaming, he raised one in the air and shot a blast of fire forth, straight at the bulbous barrier before them. It only rebounded though, his fire did, getting gripes from the members as it scattered about, but he only growled some more, tired of this trick.

No one got to fuck with his guild and then also lock him out of it.

How was he supposed to defend it if he couldn't even get to it, huh?

As she pushed through people though, to get closer to the man, Navi only held a hand up, easily catching some of his rebounding fire as it passed, alighting her own palm.

"What's going on?" she called out as she seemed to be the only one brave enough at the moment to stand at his side. "Dad?"

"Navi!" Happy, apparently, forgot his duties from the air as he divebombed down to greet the teen. "I'm so glad you're here!"

Natsu only grumbled some more though, bouncing around as he informed his daughter, "Some asshole shot a hole straight through the guildhall. And then put up this dumb barrier to keep us out!"

"If they were real men," Navi heard from somewhere in the crowd, "they'd come out here and fight us!"

"Shut up, Elfman," she caught Evergreen's complaint as well. "Freed's working as hard as he can to lower the-"

"Freed," the green haired mage was quick to retort, "has already informed you both that this has nothing to do with rune magic."

"But there's gotta be something you can do," Elfman insisted. "If they won't be men and let us in there, then you gotta be a man and do it for them!"

"Now," Freed grumbled back, "you're just babbling."

It was what he did best in tense situations.

But Kai only passed them with ease and little detection as, skidding to a stop where he found Erza, also standing before the barrier, he didn't even have to call out for the woman to get her eyes. She just turned, almost on instinct, as he came to her side, her eyes aligning with his easily.

"Marin's in there."

"Yes," she agreed simply with a bit of a nod as most seemed to be looking to her, for direction, with little other answers. But it was to her youngest son she spoke fully. "I fear that as well."

"No. Erza. I know it. She is. And..." He huffed some, as he took a step closer, leaning towards the woman as he said, "Ravan's in there too."

"Kai, this is not time for one of your-"

"I'm not kidding."

Erza drew in a breath, turning from him as she studied the barrier once more. Having thrown every attack she knew at it, she was at a loss as to what was causing it and how to get around it. For the time being, it seemed as if they would be the mercy of whoever cast the spell.

"Then," she conceded with a bow of her head, "at least they're both safe."

But they weren't safe. And Kai wasn't brave enough to say it then, before all the others, what Navi had told him as they rushed over together, but he felt doubts knowing it, if Erza's statement rang true. Because he was pretty sure he knew what had knocked down part of the guildhall and who the dark clouds swirling about belonged to.

As she began to speak to others though, Kai only slipped away once more, rushing back through the crowd to get some distance from everyone. He had to be alone. He couldn't...preform well, in front of others. Or at all, honestly. But something popped into his head, at the idea of the barrier, and if someone wouldn't knock a wall down, well, you could always tunnel beneath it.

The barrier encompassed the entirety of the grounds, but few people seemed to be in the back of the building. And when Kai called over to them that Erza was rounding people up, in the front, it scattered most everyone. Well, exactly for someone who'd followed him.

"You have a plan? Right?"

He hardly looked at Navi though, as he fell to his knees before the barrier and one of her arms was alight with flame, but thankfully, she hadn't brought her father or Exceed along. And her dumb boyfriend didn't seem to have followed them. She sounded uncertain though, as she questioned him. Mainly because she was.

Navi and Kai were rarely alone together.

For good reason.

But when she saw him running away from Erza, well, she just thought he'd been given a task or something. To help. And if the sinking feeling in her belly told her anything, she definitely needed to do all she could to help because she'd definitely chosen wrong hours before.

"I, uh, just need a second," Kai was muttering to himself as his hair fell in his face and he could do this.

He could.

He had to.

Navi wasn't an audience; she was his friend. Wasn't she? Of course she was! They were all friends. All of them. And at the moment, his best friend and his brother were trapped inside the guildhall with, well, not Haven, or maybe yes Haven, but she was his friend too and if she'd done all this, that must mean she was in trouble too, and he hadn't seen Locke in the crowd, so gross, he might be in there too, but...but..; Locke was his friend too, once, and if they could just all get passed this… If he could just...focus…

When Navi bent down and rested her non flaming hand on his shoulder tentatively, Kai felt it then, the tears prick his eyes, and Marin had been so strong. These past few months. And before that. Always. No matter what it was, who they had to go up against, if someone was picking on him, she was always right there. To protect him. From the day they met until the one he was living in currently, she was the only person who'd never-ever let him down and she was in there, possibly battling it out in the worst way possible.

She might need him.

She definitely needed him.

He knew he needed her.

So why was it so hard? To do the one stupid thing, the one dumb power he possessed? Huh? He had no seeds on him, but if he could just concentrate…

Navi squeezed his shoulder as the tears fell from his eyes, splashing against the back of his hands as his palms rested flush against the ground.

"Kai," she whispered softly. "If you can't do it...whatever you're doing...then just come back with me. We'll tell Erza that you can't and-"

"I can! I just..."

He thought of what Marin was going through. In there. And his brother. His big brother. Both of them, two of his favorite people in the entire world, toiling away, just on the other side of a stupid barrier. They would come for him. No matter what.

And now he was coming for them.

When the ground shook that time, most everyone in the town looked to the sky, but Navi only squeezed Kai's shoulder harder, confused as to what he was doing because, well, she couldn't even really remember if he knew magic, honestly, but he did. It was limited and useless, it felt like, for the most part, but if this was the only, single time in his entire time that it was worth anything, then to Kai, it was worth everything.

"A tunnel?" Navi asked in something mixed with panic and curiosity as the ground gave way beneath them some. "Kai, what- Kai!"

They fell, down in the ground as more gave way, and Navi hated that feeling. Not just the falling, who liked that feeling, but the immediate flashbacks to nearly dying in a pit with Haven was not something she ever liked to relive, much less as she was potentially marching in to yet another horrific situation, just because the blonde had, once again caused some sort of trouble.

But as they landed together in a heap, Kai hardly seemed worried over, you know, the ground caving in on them more or the fact his tunnel felt a lot like a grave and why was she crawling with him, through dirt, when there was a good chance they couldn't even get passed the barrier this way.

"Because," Kai answered her rhetorical question with glee as, for once in his life, he felt useful, "we have to save our friends."

Yeah.

Navi tried hard not to get grossed out by her surroundings.

Their friends.

Still, they did pop out, just as he'd hoped, on the other side of the barrier, and as weird as things were at the moment, when Kai grabbed her hand to help pull her up from the hole, Navi felt the weirdest.

"Come on!" Just as quickly, he was tugging her along. "I bet they're all inside!"

He and Navi were hardly the backup unit that one would call for. Ever. At all. At any point in their lives. In the divided kid group they both fell in during their youth, both had been considered the weakest link in each, probably, but as they ran through the back door of the guildhall, they felt like the most important.

Gallant.

True wizards.

Something Kai had never felt and something Navi had resound not to taste again.

On top of the rubble and destruction, water greeted them, almost immediately, just a bit at first, but more as they carried on and Navi thought maybe, somehow, plumbing was leaking or something, which, gross, if it was, but Kai knew. Immediately. And it only made him run all the harder.

"Marin!" He slipped some, as he made it to the bar area and instead of surveying all that was about them, he just immediately took notice of where she was, tangled up with her sister. Growling deeply and uncharacteristically, he started to charge right over. Only, he was a far easier to get rid of than any other.

"Stay away, Kai!" Marin yelled when her sister hardly even shot a ball of dark, demonic energy his way and, running for cover, yeah, he thought he'd do just that.

"Master." Navi rushed to his side though, as well as his wife. Mirajane was still writhing in agony and Laxus hardly seemed conscious, but when she saw passed them, on the other side of the bar the bodies of the unmoving Locke and Ravan, well, she knew they'd need them.

"Locke." He was the one she went to then, coming to shove awake and it was a mixture of her flames and the water that he splashed about in as she shook him that made the older guy peek open one red eye.

"Wha's goin' on?" he whispered to Navi and she wasn't really sure, but she knew he wouldn't like it even if she did.

"You have to get up," she insisted. "The Master and his wife and...Ravan… Locke, I need your help."

"Haven." He struggled to sit up and more slumped against Navi as, shit, his whole body hurt and he needed to heal himself, he knew, before he helped anyone else, but first… "Where- No! Hey! What are you doing? Haven-"

"Forget Haven," Navi insisted as she struggled to hold him down to the ground then, with her, to keep him away from the ensuing battle the Dreyar sisters waged.

But no.

He could never rightly do that.

Things were going too hot though, for Marin at the moment, as Haven had her pinned down to the ground, needing both hands to accomplish this and Marin was fighting because she knew, at such close proximity, all the demon had to do was deliver one powerful blow to someone sensitive and it was all over and she said she could do this, she'd sworn she could do this, she had to do this, she drank all that water to do this-

All that water…

Marin had never tried it before. She knew that she could manipulate water pretty well. But she'd only tried bodies that she was close to. The pool was all the way on the other side of the hall and...and…

And Haven, the demon, whatever, was going to take her lacrima if she didn't do something and…

The water came in a rush, flowing through the halls and all pooling, in a wave affect, in the bar area, and it swept everyone away. The unconscious Ravan, the terrified Kai, the bloodied Locke, the guilty Navi, and of course, Mirajane and her husband, disorienting and confusing everyone, and Marin was sorry for that, but the surprise had been enough to get her sister to release her at least, and as the water gathered all about them, it burst through the guildhall doors, out into the grounds, and leaving Marin and Haven, at least, separated somewhat.

Waterlogged, Haven spewed the water she'd inhaled out as Marin tried the best to gather herself because she knew this was it, this was the deciding moment, she didn't have much left in her, but she had to have something, some final attack, that could take her sister out.

Something.

Anything.

She thought of roaring at her. To throw her off balance. But that hadn't worked so far. She thought about her talons, but flesh wounds seemed inconsequential. She thought of what she'd done, all those years ago now, in Crocus, when she'd suspended her sister in water, and if she could just hold on, regardless of the electricity that was sent back at her from, but Haven had to be expecting that, right?

What wasn't she expecting?

What was something that she could do that her sister wouldn't considering?

When Marin ran at her sister, Haven shot a blast of black lightning right at her, striking her in the shoulder, but the younger of the two only screamed out in agony and pain and kept on running until, once more right where Haven had wanted her, at the closest of range, and it would only take one blast, Marin knew, but she didn't care.

What happened to her.

Kai was here and her parents and Ravan and Navi and Locke, everyone, and if she didn't do this, then...then none of it would matter, anyways. All she'd gone through. To get to this point. As she reached out, Marin didn't shoot a beam of water or anything at Haven, which seemed to surprise the blonde as, instead, her younger sister only grasped her roughly by the shirt as it was her soles of her feet, instead, that the water shot from, only adding to the flooding below as it rocked both Haven and Marin up, through the hole in the guildhall and higher, higher into the sky, and Marin hadn't known before, about the barrier, but as their height leveled out, just beneath the apex of it, she found she cared very little about it's existence.

"Kill me then, Haven," she yelled to her older sister as all her power, all her strength, both mental and physical went to the water that flowed through her soles, the only thing from keeping them both in the air. "Because if you do, then...then my power will just stop. You know that? And we'll both plummet down and… We'll be dead. Both of us. Is that what you want?"

But the entity didn't even squirm, in her hold, as she was dangled high above the guildhall and the rubble below them. Only stared Marin right in the eyes, one black and dead, the other bright and blue, alive.

"Your sister's merely a vessel," it remarked with a smirk. "There will always be others."

"That's not true." Marin couldn't keep it up forever. She felt so drained, already, and this was taking a lot out of her, keeping them up there, and if she used it all up, then… "I know it's not. Mom said that you're in there, Haven, and if you are...then...please, I don't want..."

Haven didn't want. Not for any of it. That was happening. Just watching, observing, was soul crushing, which was difficult, considering she was pretty sure she was nothing more than a soul then, and she didn't want to go back to the endless darkness, she was terrified of what it would mean, but Makarov was still reaching out for her, and if taking his hand meant that Marin would just stop crying then, fine.

Fine.

For Marin, the severing was far less dramatic and much more surprising. As she pleaded and the entity just smirked, something changed, suddenly, and she let go. Of Haven. In surprise. When a yellow magic circle suddenly appeared over her sister's face. Marin, still suspended in the air, was frozen in surprise and misunderstanding as, while Haven's body fell downwards, it didn't even seem to make a movement of fear or panic. Just felt limp and lifeless, down into the guildhall once more.

"Haven!" she yelled as she didn't even notice, as she edged off on her water, falling from the sky as well, in a vain attempt to catch her older sister, what stayed above, the dark mass left floating, all alone, watching in disdain at what had occurred.

The water wave Marin had caused before had more than disoriented the others; it had completely thrown most of them. As the Master sucked in breaths and his wife, freed as her daughter severed the connection, rushed to his side, Navi only found herself sitting on her knees, staring up through the hole in shock and horror and she didn't know what to do, as Haven tumbled down, but she didn't have to; someone else clearly did.

Locke broke her fall the best he could, though it only caused him to fall as well as they tumbled the rest of the way down to the ground together, and she was dead, again, in his arms, and he was still just so fucking confused, but as he dropped her to the ground, he only reached for her face, with both hands, as red magic circles appeared, and why was this happening to him?

Again?

"No!" Marin's magic gave out, just as she was nearly to the floor, and she had no one to catch her (Kai was hardly the most coordinated), but he was at her side in moments, regardless, bringing her in to a tight hold.

"You did it," he insisted as he held her close and Marin only sobbed, openly and loudly, into his chest.

"I just killed," she gasped and it hurt, everything hurt, and Erza was wrong, this was the worst feeling ever, "my sister."

But Kai couldn't acknowledge that, because he didn't know how to, and as he bowed his head and nuzzled his it against hers, reaching up to brush her wet, white hair off her cheeks, but there was no comforting Marin.

She hadn't killed her sister. At all. Haven wouldn't have held it against her, anyways, if she had. Just made it known that she hadn't.

No one got a victory on her.

Only damn dirty cheaters.

But as she reached for Makarov and was pulled to her feet, she couldn't look at him, tears welling in her eyes as she whispered, "I'm not ready to die."

"Who asked you to?" he repeated back and she couldn't hear her sister then or see him and had it been a dream? The entire time?

Had it all?

She could feel his hand and then it was just gone and everything was gone, but this wasn't death. The darkness wasn't absolute. Because when she blinked her eyes open, as she found she could do that now, she almost thought she was back on that mountaintop, bleeding out.

Almost.

His face blocked out most of her vision, but Haven only saw spots for a few seconds, anyways as she took huge, hulking gasps of air in, trying to draw as much of it in as possible and it hurt, oh, man, her lungs, her body, and she felt like she had no electricity in her at all, and she hadn't had that feeling in...in...and her magic felt depleated, dwon to the core and was that what it took?

To severe the ties?

"H-Haven?"

Locke's magic circles went away and he was staring down at her, as he cupped her cheek and she only moaned pitifully, turning some in his grasps.

"It fucking hurts, Locke," she whispered through clench teeth as his hand only shifted then, over her right eye, to clear it of the rot the demon had allowed. "It fucking hurts so much."

"Yeah." He laughed though as tears fell down his cheek, but they weren't in sorrow. Leaning down, his rested his forehead against hers. "It does."

But Laxus didn't look after either of his daughters. He couldn't. As the dark clouds overhead dissipated, they were still obscured by a dark red barrier as well as a shadowy entity that loomed above.

"Demon," he wheezed and it wasn't a term of affection, but rather a call to action as his wife rose to her own feet once more.

"Yeah," Mirajane agreed though, by the end of the sentence, it was in a much harsher tone as Satan Soul took over once more, "I know."

The crashing wave had awoke him, Ravan, just as groggy and confused as the others, but as he rested alone on the guildhall floor, he only shoved his helmet off, dismayed at the large crack in the visor the black lightning left him. His head hurt, it was pounding, really, but he had his wits about him enough that when he glanced up and saw, while Satan Soul rose on powerful wings, a darkness fell down, headed straight towards where Locke was either being super weird with Haven's corpse or, well, maybe it was a good thing his ultimate blast hadn't done what he wanted.

Ravan's body protested as he shoved up and he wouldn't have made it, had he not dove, but as an orb flew from the dark mass, headed straight towards Locke and Haven, he dove, putting all behind it he could, so that he was right there, in the perfect moment, to have it slam against his armor, shattering his chest plate and all, but doing far less damage than it would have to the others.

And as he fell on his back, the wind knocked out of him, Ravan's head only fell to the side and he found Locke staring over at him with understanding and nothing was righted in that moment between them, but the other guy nodded all the same and Ravan's eyes on slipped shut once more.

Fucking fairies.

"Your fight," came the dark cry of Satan Soul as it easily changed course and went raring at the entity, "is with me!"

And boy was it one. As Navi sat back on her butt, in the gross, cold water Marin had deposited all about, she watched in rapt silence as Mirajane battled the demon, taking it all in. Every second. She had to remember it. All of it.

Firsthand would be so much easier to decipher than the drunken war stories that got slung around the hall.

As Mirajane's green orbs went flying as she chased after the entity, Kai feared a stray blast and, now that he was feeling all confident in his power, used it to shoot up the ground from beneath them (what was some floor damage when they were gonna have to replace the whole damn ceiling), four large stones walling he and Marin off from the others.

So she didn't have to see it.

Any of it.

Anymore.

She'd done enough.

"I think," she whispered as her tears faded and she felt so weak, "I used up all my magic."

"Yeah." Kai tried to grin, but it was awkwardly. Even though he'd done far less, he had to agree, "Mine too."

"Harborer!" was the last thing the entity yelled when, finally, Satan Soul captured it and Mirajane absorbed the majority and it sounded so betrayed and wronged, to have been so evil and damaging.

It had been so long since she'd taken on a new soul. It was much more draining in those days, she was finding, as she touched down once more, herself and whole, Mira's eyes went from where Locke was with Haven to where Kai had sealed away Marin and Laxus was still in terrible shape, and there was so much she had to do as the barrier fell and the hall, quickly, was filled with people, but she only fell forwards, one last time, onto her palms, weak, but not defeated.

Never defeated.

And Laxus snorted some, softly, propped against a far wall, and he knew when he awoke next, there'd be far more to contend with and sort out, but that was okay.

Really.

For once.

Everything was okay.

Everything had worked out.

Even if it was just in that moment.

Chapter Text

"Always get fucking lost. Always. Ain't right. You'd think that it'd be impossible for me to get turned around, huh, cat?"

"Why," Pantherlily grumbled, annoyed slightly as he trailed along behind the man before, "would I think that?"

At the moment, they were lost in a distant forest without informing anyone of where they were going. Not even Locke or Levy. While the situation wasn't too dire yet, it sure felt as if it were getting that way. If worse came to worse, Lily was sure he could just fly above the tree tops and eventually find the way back to the nearest town, but he couldn't carry Gajeel and, honestly, didn't trust the man to just stay still, as not to get separated from one another.

Because they'd already gotten separated once before.

Both were beginning to hate nature, honestly, as they trudged along in the summer's highest heat, and considering Pantherlily hadn't really bought into the man's suspicions much, he found himself growing aggravated more by Gajeel than with him.

He'd gone through the worst of the worst before though, the slayer had. A little heat did ya good. Smellin' your own stench, going hungry for a bit. Yeah. If everything turned out to be a-okay, then at least he got some good endurance training out of all this.

His poor kitty who had been scowling at him for a good five hours clearly didn't feel the same way.

Lily mostly didn't like the idea of going against the Master. Not to say that he would never fathom such a thing, as authority should at least be questioned from time to time, to be certain of it's direction, his past life in his true homeworld taught him that, but at the same time, they were digging into something highly personal to the Dreyar family.

Literally.

And while he did agree to a certain point with Gajeel, that they needed to be sure of Locke's safety, he wasn't quite so sure that's what they were doing. It felt far more like Gajeel was all out of sorts because, well, he always kind of seemed to hate Haven, seriously hate her, and wasn't taking it too well, her being back and all.

It was a shocking thing, after all, and though her family was trying to play it off as if they too weren't absolutely stumped by it, clearly, there were a lot of things left to be uncovered.

"You can't just dig up her grave, Gajeel!"

Oh, but surely he could.

When they finally, thankfully, stumbled upon the large stone that had been driven into the ground and been engraved by Laxus less than a year prior, Pantherlily felt vindicated in the fact it appeared untouched. Clearly, however, Gajeel was not of like mind.

As the Exceed gaped in shock, Gajeel's arm turned into a shovel and he was doing just that, tossing dirt all about and oh, it was disgusting and he thought that he should stop him. Pantherlily knew he should stop him. And yet, he only stood there, astounded, but not moving to do so either.

"There's a body," Gajeel announced from down in the hole he'd dug and, with his furry paws covering his eyes, Lily refused to even glance over.

"Then get out of there, Gajeel!"

"Don't you hear me, cat? There's a body."

"Yes, so-"

"Then what the fuck," he growled back up at his kitty, "is back in Magnolia with Locke?"

Paws dropping slowly, Lily considered this before announcing, "We have to get back there. Now. We-"

"Hang on a sec, huh?"

"For what?" Quickly, Lily rushed forwards to peek in and see exactly what Gajeel was getting up to, but oh, he wished he hadn't. Decomposition was in full swing and, give the lack of proper postmortem care, the body had faced the elements for months at that point, including the dastardly summer and if that was a person at one point, Lily refused to believe it was currently. "Ah, gosh, Gajeel, what the fuck are you doing?"

Something horrific. Vile. And that only he could possibly have a stomach for.

"I thought," Gajeel grumbled up to the Exceed, "you were a soldier, huh? But you're afraid of dead bodies?"

"I'm not afraid of anything," Lily defended though a seasonal thunderstorm might say otherwise. Turning his back on the scene then, his paws came up to his nose as he retorted, "But for all the dead I might encounter, very few did I shove my nose in and take a whiff!"

But oh, he didn't have the same senses as the slayer before him. And, after pulling his hair back (he didn't want disgusting rotting flesh getting in his locks), he did just what his cat described, shoving his face in close to the body and breathing the putrid scent deeply into his nostrils.

"This is not," he announced as his eyes sprung open, not from disgust at the act itself, but rather the realization he was coming to, "Haven."

"But that's not… That's not possible, Gajeel! How would you know, anyways?"

"I know, cat."

"But how?"

"I just do, alright?" Growling, Gajeel just as quickly was scrambling to get out fo the grave. "I dunno what the fuck is going on, but there is someone else buried in Haven's grave while she, apparently, is just waltzing around? Something smells awfully fishy."

"I wish," Lily groaned, "it did."

"I'm serious," the slayer insisted as, clear of the grave now, he only glared up at the sky above them. "We gotta get back to Magnolia. And quick. Shit doesn't add up and that boy, gah! He ain't good for nothin'. Never thinks with his head."

"And you do?"

"I'm the one about to save the day, ain't I?" Gajeel retorted and though Lily sighed as he gave in, this didn't turn out to be quite the case.

It didn't feel any better than it had before, when Haven tentatively opened her eyes. She was confused, heavily, in those moments and only grimaced at the pain as she tried to take in her surroundings.

One of the cots. From the infirmary, upstairs, at the guildhall. But she wasn't in the infirmary. Somewhere familiar though.

And she wasn't alone.

For once.

She wasn't alone.

He didn't stir as she sat up, Locke did, as he sat in a chair beside the bed, slumped over and snoozing. She'd long lost all conception of time somewhere along the way, but the lack of any sort of sound coming from anywhere other than Locke, snoring a bit, made her think it was pretty late.

Wherever they were.

Beneath the absolute agony of each and every breath, she felt something else too. Weak. Lack of power. The habit was broken after death and, squeezing her eyes shut, she forced her breathing, as pained as it was, to level as she began to steal static once more from the air, hoping to get it to flow as easily through her.

In and out.

Ebb and flow.

Though this brought some sort of familiar comfort, it did nothing to kill the nagging pains in her body and it felt like it would be too much, to move enough to awaken the man, so she only straightened her fingers and shot a weak bolt of lightning towards his head.

When he sat to attention, Locke seemed as lost as she was as he rubbed a heavy amount of sleep from his eyes. After letting out a soft yawn, he seemed to focus, finally, on her as he immediately stumbled from his chair to come stare down at her.

"Haven," he breathed though, as he reached for her, something seemed to dawn on him and, pulling back some, he asked tentatively, "I mean...you're you, aren't you?"

"No, asshole." She shut her eyes then, tired then of seeing his face. "I'm someone else. Idiot. Is there anyone who's not useless around? Or-"

"Haven." And he grinned boyishly as he reached out to cup her cheek, but she turned in his grasp.

"Can you not?" she complained a bit. "Everything fucking hurts."

"Well," he sighed some as he withdrew, but still stayed close, "you did have a sedative in you, but I guess I could give you something, now, for your pain and-"

"I'm fine. I just… Where are we?"

"The guild." He glanced around as well as a frown found his lips once more. "Well, beneath it, I guess. In one of the unused rooms. Down in the cellar. The infirmary got a bit, uh, fucked up, you know? When you- Not you. But… Your mother and sister both went to the actual doctor. The hospital? Everyone thought that we should probably separate you all though, just in case, well… Just in case. Plus, there's kinda gonna be a lot of explaining, I guess, in the coming days about all of this and-"

"You talk too much."

He sighed some then, looking her over before turning to walk off. He'd snagged some salvageable stuff from the infirmary and planned on mixing something up for her, for the pain, but when he moved to do so, he felt her hand on his wrist, pulling him back. Laughing a bit, he nodded his head and turned instead to pull his chair closer, so he could rest with his head against the cot, at her side.

Things would sour soon, both knew, but Haven only stared down at him with something close to contentment, maybe, and Locke only laid a hand awkwardly beside his head, palm up, grinning easily when her hand fell into it.

"Where is everyone?" she asked eventually and he sighed again, knowing soon enough, he'd have to go around and alert everyone about her condition.

"Mostly with your mother and sister," he admitted. Not wanting her to take this the wrong way, he was quick to say, "But only 'cause the hall is, well… Erza and Freed are kinda taking helm of all this and they thought it was best to keep you down here, where, if something happen when you awoke again, then we'd be able to try and keep it between the guild. People were asking questions before, about...you coming back. But now that the whole town's kinda been brought into it, I think everyone's afraid of the Magic Council. Necromancy's, uh, kind of a sore subject."

"What are they gonna do?" she asked dryly. "Kill me again?"

But Locke didn't seem amused.

"It's best," he assured her, "to just not get the council involved." Squeezing her hand in his, he said, "But Erza and Freed didn't want anyone around, really, while this all gets sorted out. Wendy's away, so it was pretty easy to get them to let me stay here. Plus...I wasn't leaving anyways. I'm sure they'll wanna talk to you. That everyone will." Noting the way she rolled her eyes, he was quick to add, "When you're up for it. Seriously. I gotta kinda examine you first, you know?"

"Gonna blow in my eye?"

He only frowned, just sort of getting the reference as it had been much longer, for him than her.

"Haven-"

"If they're going to come accuse me of shit-"

"No one's accusing you of anything. We just all have to figure out-"

"They are. Or they will."

"You didn't do anything wrong," he insisted though he'd done the same, to another version of her, only days before and been horribly wrong.

"All I ever do is the wrong thing, Locke," she retorted, shutting her eyes once more as his glare was too much to take. "Every fucking thing, I… I shouldn't have made Ravan go out, to the last monster."

"Haven, that was so fucking long ago. It's okay. You're okay. Now. You-"

":And Navi, down in those stupid caves."

"What are you-"

"I'm a horrible fucking person, Locke." That time, when he tried to grip her hand, she only shook his free with a frown. Opening her bright blue eyes again, she couldn't meet his red ones as she remarked, "The whole time. I always thought… I knew I was kind of a jerk, I guess, but… I suck."

"You don't suck."

"Shut up, Locke."

"Okay, well, yeah, maybe you do."

She wouldn't laugh for him, but did roll her eyes and he only took in a deep breath.

"You didn't see," Haven told him finally as she stared up at the cellar's cold ceiling, "what I saw."

"And you don't see what I see," he challenged. "Haven, we can all hash this out later, alright? I mean, I guess we'll have to, with the others, but-"

"I always thought I was important. That I was put here for some important reason. But I wasn't."

"You're the most important person in my life."

"Yeah, but your life sucks too."

She laughed that time, just a bit, at herself and his expression and Locke had his turn to roll his eyes as, already, things felt much better than they had in a long fucking time.

But they didn't get to continue their conversation as the door to the tiny room was opened and, rather than it being Erza or Freed, Ravan stood there, in the doorway. As Locke lifted his head, eyes turning to stone, Haven felt her expression fall as well.

"The fuck are you doing in here?" Locke rose to his feet, fists clinched. "Get out. Asshole."

"Fuck you too, Redfox." But Ravan didn't look at him. Taking a step further into the room, he kept his gaze on Haven as she refused to return it. Still, to her, he said, "We need to talk."

"Last time you told me that, I died, so actually, Ravan, fuck you."

His bandanna hid his expression, but she knew beneath it he clinched his jaw and had to bite back his own snarky retort.

"Look," he complained when, upon taking another step, Locke only did one towards him. "I'm not your fucking enemy."

"Didn't say you were. Still doesn't mean I have to talk to you."

"You're gonna have to talk to Erza," he pointed out. "And your dad. And mom. About all of this."

"So?"

"So, you should talk to me about it all. First. So I can help you."

"How are you going to help me?" she asked with a snort.

"She hasn't," Locke insisted to Ravan then, "done anything."

Making a face at the other guy, he replied, "Can you just give us a minute? Haven doesn't need you to speak for her."

"And she doesn't need to talk to you at all, so-"

"Be more annoying," Haven sarcastically instructed both of them then and Ravan only huffed as Locke lost some of his bravado. Still, she did add, "If there's something you wanna say, Ravan, just say it. I'll just tell it to Locke later anyways."

And it was so fucking weird, weirder, even, than facing the pretender before had been. For Haven to be there, in front of him, living and breathing and acting like a major asshole, so soon after being torn a new one.

It was her, really her, after so fucking long, and he'd been prepping for this since she passed out, following the prior day's events, but some things were aided little by prep.

Clearly.

"Everything?" he repeated back at her, but as Haven still refused to look at him, Locke answered instead.

"Everything," he replied darkly and this is why Ravan always wanted her away from him. Locke. The way that they teamed up together, at least against everyone else, was so fucked.

But before either guy got a chance to goad the other into anything more than a battle of glares, there was another in the doorway and Haven felt her stomach drop as she recognized the energy without any effort.

"M-Master." Locke dropped all his intentions of tangling with Ravan then, as he bowed his head to the older man and Ravan, uncomfortable, adjusted his bandanna.

"Fuck," was the only thing the rough looking man grumbled though as he walked into the room, "off."

He said it with so much more force that defiance felt like a none option. Ravan tried to give Haven a glance, but she was staring at the opposite wall then, intently, and he only had to grit his teeth before leaving.

As Laxus didn't even glance after him, he leveled his gaze on Locke as he said, "You too."

"B-But I can't yet. Master. Erza told me to, uh, examine Haven, you know? And she just woke up."

"Now."

"No, I have to-"

"Don't make me order you again, Locke."

And he wasn't supposed to be there. Laxus wasn't. He'd gotten all fucked up in the battle too and been taken to a doctor as well. Even Freed seemed confident it would take a while for the man to recover. Though he seemed to be limping as he came into the room and looked quite heavily bandaged, he apparently was in better shape than anyone could have figured.

Still, Locke looked back to Haven, waiting for her to nod slightly before he left.

"I'll be in the hallway," he either reassured Haven or warned Laxus, even he wasn't sure of his intentions, but neither Dreyar even gave him another glance.

After the door shut behind the man, Laxus walked over to Haven's bedside and, for a moment or so, just glared down at it.

Then, with far less reserve than either guy before, he ordered, "Talk."

But she couldn't. She wouldn't. Just laid there, refusing to look at him.

"Haven," her father insisted then. "Tell me. Right now. All of it. This isn't time for games. Your mother and sister… You hurt a lot of fucking people, you know that?"

"That wasn't," she finally whispered, "me."

"Then you need to tell me what it was."

"You know what it was."

"I need to hear you say it," he told her. "I need to hear you say all of it."

"Why? Everyone's just gonna fucking hate me anyways."

"Haven-"

"I didn't go out, Laxus, and just ask to be possessed by a demon." Well, not on that occasion, at least. "I'm pissed about this too."

"But," he kept up, "at who? Huh? You have to tell me who did this."

"You know who did this."

But the man only continued to stare at her with a frown as, clearly, he didn't.

The gaze annoyed Haven for some reason.

"You spend all those years hounding me about him, telling me to worry about him and to be on the look out for him, but you don't even think of him when-"

"Ivan did this?" And Laxus felt his breath shorten as he saw spots, he was enraged once more, that easily. "How do you know? What do you know? Huh? Haven-"

"I should fucking thank him, I guess, actually." Finally, her eyes did fall to her faIther as she remarked, "I was actually fucking dead. Before he… He did something. Somehow. And I woke up in the creep's fucking lab. He wanted me to get his lacrimas back for him. You and Marin's. But...I don't know, I… He would tell me...or my body, I guess, when I was in that chamber, he would ramble on about it, about how he'd… Cast some sort of spell on me, when I was a little kid and I don't even fucking get it, but-"

"I'll kill him," Laxus seethed, not even hearing her. "I should have. I fucking should have years ago. The first time-"

"I'd be dead," Haven told him flatly. "If he wasn't there to revive me." Then, a devious look in her eyes, she pondered aloud, "So I guess that means my grandfather was better than my real father. Just likes yours, huh?"

She wanted to hurt him. She did hurt him. She could tell as his anger flowed out and he just looked down at her with this...stare and before all of this, she would have counted this as a win. Reveled in the look and the fact she was causing her father to feel it. Had been the one to inflict it.

But now, she felt something else in the pit of her stomach and it didn't feel good. At all. A slight pang that rang out over all the other, physical pains she had currently and she wished that she didn't say it. That she could take it back. Like she did when she was reliving each and every one of the moments just like this one, where she'd been absolutely awful to someone for no other reason than it brought her some sort of power over them, over the conversation. It stung, before, watching the scenario unfold time after time and knowing that there was nothing she could do to put a stop to it.

The endless, timeless void wasn't her current location, however, as she was taking in actual (still very painful) breaths and he wasn't locked in a distant recollection, but rather, Laxus was right there, right in front of her, and she was no longer passive in her mistakes and shortcomings.

No.

She was back in command and this time around, she could make a change. Choices. That didn't lead to her being forced to accept that she'd wasted so much of her time being shitty to people that could no more control their current inadequacies than she could her own.

After staring at her for a good, long moment, Laxus only sneered, matching her own tone as he said, "We were all fucking blind, huh? Haven? It played us good. You'd have never come back that way, would you have? All loving and… No. We all wanted it so bad, but fuck, we were blind."

It was different, this time around. For him. As it would be for all of them. Because they weren't being presented with someone that seemed similar to the person they'd lost; they were being presented with her and all the baggage that included. For all the accusations and mudslinging that went around between those left behind, the rightful agitator in Haven's death had always been her. To think that she wouldn't get right back at it, the second she returned to life was ridiculous. A wishful fantasy. They all wanted to believe that she would just hang around the hall every day, to spend time with them, to be around them, to make up for lost time but Laxus was sure then, as he sized up his daughter, his real daughter, that it was the exact opposite.

Haven didn't like it though, his words or the way he looked at her and, as the man turned his back on her, she felt bile in her throat as she said, "I would have known. If it wasn't one of you. There's no way all of you didn't know. There was a demon, controlling me, and you're trying to tell me my own mother and father don't realize it? My sister?"

"That's called loving something, Haven," he retorted, but no, it wasn't.

"That's the idea of loving something."

But he only shook his head and was going to walk away and why was it so hard, now, putting all those thoughts that she'd had before, in limbo, into action? The only thing things she'd wanted to say, for so fucking long, what felt like an eternity, were dying off in her throat again, and this was the second chance that everyone wanted, that anyone would crave, but nothing was coming out and she wasn't there yet.

She wasn't ready.

Glaring after him, she said simply, "You don't get to do it without me. Alright? Laxus? I just… In a few days, we'll go together. To find him. I know where he is. I think. I… I'm the one who's life he fucked up. And not just by giving him super cool powers like you whine about."

Laxus paused, at the door, and when he glanced ov3er his shoulder at her, he only retorted, "No. He just gave you the gift of a second life that you'll spend forever whining about."

Haven snorted and Laxus just stared for a long few moments before relenting.

"Heal up," he ordered gruffly as he reached for the doorknob. "I need to too. Then, in a few days, we'll go deal with it."

"Yeah." Eyes falling, Haven squeezed her fists tightly and it felt so good, the electricity did, as it flowed with ease through her veins once more. "We will."

Locke eyed him as he passed, but Laxus ignored the Redfox boy easily, instead bounding right back up the stairs with a bit of a cough and a deep hatred for the fact all the booze had been destroyed in the struggle.

"You are already finished speaking?"

He found Erza and Freed where he'd left them, among the rubble, the pair going over plans for the rebuild, the former calling out to him with a bit of a frown while the latter only bowed his head. Laxus had encountered them when he entered the hall and Freed was fearful of them overstepping their bounds, taking command in his and Mirajane's absence, but he'd only grumbled about seeing Haven.

With that tidied up, it seemed he'd have to actually deal with the two of them.

Rather than answering Erza's question, he retorted one of his own.

"What," he complained, "was your fucking boy doing down there?"

"He is hardly a boy," she replied with a frown, but relented still as she said, "He came in, like you, and wished to check on her. They will all have to learn to get along, once more."

Freed was hardly interested in that topic, however.

"What did Haven say?" he questioned with a bit of hesitance. "About… We must have something, to tell the others. When they ask about what happened. Not to mention, I find myself curious as well."

But he only narrowed his eyes at both of them, before retorting, "Ask her your fucking selves," before stalking off, back out of his destroyed hall.

"He'll be in a sour mood for a few days," Erza mused with a bit of a frown.

"Well, his oldest daughter did come back from the dead only to attack his wife and other daughter and only stopped when… Well, I suppose we will get the full story when we ask her."

"I suppose," Erza agreed with a sigh, "we shall."

But Natsu got the full story the second the barrier had dropped, the previous morning, as at first he was pretty dang disappointed to find the fighting no longer happening, but as everyone rushed into the hall to scope out any straggling wrongdoers, he'd singled in on Navi immediately, where she sat on her knees, arm still alight, trying to take in all she'd just witnessed.

"Navi!" Happy fluttered over as well while Natsu only bent down to grin in her face.

"Alright!" Considering she seemed to be the last one standing, he couldn't help but swell with pride. "You take 'em all out, Nav?"

"W-What? No. I-"

"Don't hold out on us." not wanting to get his first covered in the icky water, Happy fell onto the teen's head instead, landing among her soft, pink hair. "You're the last man standing! Who'd ya burn to a crisp?"

"You guys don't understand," she complained as, slowly, she got to her feet and allowed the fire along her arm to go out. "I was...useless."

"Don't say that, Nav." Natsu reached out to pat at shoulder as he looked all about, grimacing as he took in the carnage. "The fire in your belly just ain't gotten stocked yet. Come on! I'm sure we can find one last lowlife around here to beat up."

"You don't understand."

He rarely did.

In the ensuing chaos, Freed and Erza as two senior, S-Class members, easily began to take control of the situation and as they cleared the hall, Navi found herself not speaking up as one of the only coherent witnesses to the events, but rather trudging along with the grumbling Natsu and curious Happy, no longer soaked to the bone as her father was nice enough to to take his annoyance over getting all fired up for nothing, apparently by tossing some flame over her.

Happy, who was still on her head, was not nearly as pleased.

"That wasn't nice, Natsu!"

"I'm sorry, little buddy, I'm just so- How could Laxus do that, huh?" He was bouncing around again, Natsu was, still agitated over the whole thing. "Not even wait around for me before he just destroys the whole hall. What kinda Master is that, huh? And just how many guys did he get to take out? What a glory hog."

"Laxus didn't do anything," Navi sighed some as she fell in step, headed home. "Marin did."

Natsu stopped his griping then, glancing down at his daughter as he questioned, "Marin, huh? Really?"

"Really."

"Good for her." He tossed up a fist. "So when I cream her next week, that means I'll have basically defeated the person who defeated the people who knocked down the hall. It's a win-win."

"Or you could stop picking on girls," Happy retorted.

"Marin's not a girl," Natsu defended. "She's a Dragon Slayer. Nothing else matters after that."

Navi nodded in soft agreement while Happy, still annoyed over his singed fur, wasn't ready to just yet.

"Whatever you say, you big bully."

"I'm not a bully, buddy!"

Back at the apartment, Navi was a little surprised to find her mother home, still sleeping, as well as her brothers.

"Did you not wake everyone else?" Navi whispered with a frown as she fell into the couch with her father, the Exceed easily stretching out in her lap. "Dad?"

"And give them a chance to get in our way? No chance," he insisted, but Happy only hummed some, when Navi stroked at his ear the perfect way, only she'd ever found.

"Natsu just didn't want them to be involved 'cause he's gotten all soft," the Exceed accused as Navi frowned down at him.

"Have not," Natsu defended with a glare. "You take that back!"

"No way. He's super lame now, Navi, that you're gone. The thunder woke me up, not him, 'cause he's not even a good mage anymore-"

"That has nothing to be with being a good mage!"

"-and I had to be the one to tell him that the hall fell," Happy went on. Suddenly though, an idea came to him and, tilting his head back, he stared up at Navi as he asked, "Hey, do you think now that you're all settled and stuff I can go live with you?"

"What?" Natsu was starting to wish he hadn't gotten out of bed at all. No fight and now another one of them was trying to run off and have a life separate from him? What was this, anyways? "How can you even say that, Hap?"

"Yeah, uh, I really wouldn't worry about it, Dad," Navi offered as she only lifted the cat and sat him in the man's lap instead. "Because no way."

"Your loss," Happy huffed and Natsu only started to wonder if, actually, it had been his own.

"Hey! Have you guys looked outside?"

Their snickers, apparently, had awoken her mother.

"Ah, Luce, you're late," Natsu remarked as she came skidding into the living room, still dressed for bed. "It's already all taken care of."

"What? No. The guildhall is-"

"Haven knocked it down. I think."

Navi felt her father's eyes as well as her mothers when she said this, but only slumped down further on the couch and for as much enjoyment as she'd always taken out of hearing the important parts of Fairy Tail's history from time long gone, she found herself not enjoying her eye-witness account much.

But if she disliked reliving bits of it, she had no idea how much it sucked, after Freed and Erza more or just told Locke time was up the next morning; they needed to speak with Haven.

"You're more than welcome to stay," Freed assured him, hands clasped behind his back as he stared curiously over at where Haven only glared at them. "This is merely precautionary. Ravan has already informed us of much."

Locke snorted, where he stood now, beside her cot, arms crossed over his chest. "Right, 'cause I'm sure he just told you everything, right?"

"Ravan is not your enemy," Erza told him simply with a frown. "And we're not here accuse you of anything, Haven. But-"

"Ivan took my body, from my grave, revived me, put a demon in me, and tried to get it to bring him the lacrimas of my father and sister. The demon decided, instead, that it was going to take them and take over the world or some other dumb shit." Haven sounded no more thrilled with her words than they felt to hear them. "Can I leave this dumb room now?"

"We're hardly holding you captive," Erza said slowly as Freed only turned from them then, mind abuzz as he considered her words. "This is for your own safety. Now, you speak of all this as if you can be certain of it."

"I am."

"Then you did die?"

"I died," she agreed, but the words made her stomach clench and her scarred flesh burn. Looking away, her breathing hitched and she only nodded some. "I died."

"But that's impossible." Freed was rushing over then, ignoring Locke as he asked Haven, "Tell me, how is it then that Ivan went about this?"

"I don't know."

"Haven, you must tell me everything. If he possesses the key to...necromancy, then-"

"He doesn't."

"Haven-"

"He did something to me. Put me under a spell or something. When I was a kid." When she looked into the eyes of her father's closest ally, Haven's heart felt heavy and her fists unclenched as, instead, she rubbed her hands nervously together. "That's the only reason he was able to… I don't want to be here anymore. Just let me go home."

Erza took in a deep breath then, relenting some as she said, "Your parents handled it improperly, before. Your arrival. Or...that of your demon. It circulated all about needlessly, to the point even Ravan heard of it. The guild is too large these days, to hold secrets effectively. I'm sure it has already gotten out that you attacked your family and destroyed the guildhall, whether you truly were in control of that or not."

"So?" She frowned around Freed then, directing it towards the swordswoman instead. Erza always made her nervous, her entire life. While she'd grown up around impressive mages, something about Erza's persona made it difficult for Haven to effectively defy her. "Who cares about me? I'm nobody."

"You're a Dreyar," Erza told her simply. "One that has felled their paternal Master and taken down part of the guildhall in the process. If anything, you've outdone your father in that regard." Noting the agitation from Locke and discomfort from Haven though, abated with a long sigh. "I do not mean to chastise you. And yes, surely, there will be time for further discussion later. But I do not wish for you to roam about the city out in the open. Nor do I think it is good for your health currently. You look unwell, Haven. And last I knew, without a home to return to."

"She'll come home with me," Locke spoke up, glancing over at Haven, but she wouldn't return it. "I'll take her to my place and we'll stay there for awhile. Until everything gets all sorted out. And she does need more rest. A lot of it. So-"

"Find a cloak or something, in the hall," Erza told them with a wave of her hand. "And go straight there. I'll inform your family of your location and your father will deal with things from there. Take home with you whatever potions or meds you need. Freed and I will stick around here and get together a workforce. There's much to be done, to get the hall back into proper shape."

In more way than one.

But as Erza walked off, Freed only stayed for a moment, staring openly now at the blonde and, tired of sulking, Haven only remarked, "What?"

Shaking his head some, the rune mage had no answer other than, "I am just relieved, is all. But Erza is right. You need much rest. Once you are though, I wish to know much of what you have gone through. It sounds quite intriguing." When Haven snorted, he bowed his head a bit, assuring her, "Also, from a more personal standpoint I… Something was right. And we all were aware, on varying levels, of this fact, and yet… I apologize. For my delayed response. Or lack of one, I suppose, would be more-"

"It's alright, Freed," she finally grumbled, mostly to just get him to leave her alone already. Still, she had to take in a breath as she added, "I'm fine."

But she wasn't. Locke could tell. After locating a dark cloak, he held Haven to her feet and, when they set off from the hall, it was out the back and into the way too bright sun.

"It's been a pretty shitty summer," he remarked as she pulled the hood up around her face. "Hot, I mean."

"Yeah," she grumbled as her hand easily found his. "I've noticed."

"But it's not so bad, at my place. We can go there and- Uh, Have, my place is the other-"

"I'm not going to your place." Then she thought some as she dragged him along in the opposite direction. "Yet."

"But you told Erza-"

"I'm a liar, Locke."

No matter how many chances she got.

Before he'd left them, Freed had made mention of Evergreen coming by, to tell him both Marin and Mirajane had been released and gone on to their separate homes. He'd seemed to be attempting to assuage any guilt Haven might be holding in, over the previous day's activities, but instead, he only gave her a much better option than nursing her wounds.

Because the swordswoman had been wrong. Very wrong. Haven did have a home. She always would. No matter how many times she rejected it.

There was a bit of hesitation though, in her steps, as they made it to the Dreyar house. Even from outside of it, they could both feel all the different energies mixing inside and, well, it was never easy for her, at all, to face her family.

Even under the best of circumstances.

"They have to know, Haven, that it wasn't you," Locke offered softly as they stared at her childhood home together. "Of course they know. None of this was your fault."

Then why did it always feel that way?

When they approached the door, Locke moved to knock, but before his knuckles could reach the wood, it was thrown open and Elfman was standing on the other side.

"Haven!" It didn't matter that her face was shrouded by the hood. He knew immediately and only pulled her right in, crushing her tightly in his arms and she felt sick. Very sick. "Hey! Haven's here!"

"Elfman, you're going to hurt her," she heard from her Aunt Lisanna as the woman came rushing from the hall and into the room. "Seriously."

But when he did release her, his younger sister was just taking his place and Haven closed her eyes as she allowed the hug but didn't return it.

"Are you okay?" When she let her go, Lisanna only moved to back enough to glance her over, reaching up to push the hood off her head. "We all thought that it was best to let you… Well… Your mother's here. You should come speak with her."

Haven only nodded numbly. "It's why I'm here."

She left the three of them behind in the living room, Elfman only taking to slugging Locke in the shoulder playfully which would have been well received if, you know, he wasn't also recovering from being buried under the rubble of a collapsed roof… But as they sorted that out, Haven only found herself before her parents' bedroom door which, slowly, she pushed open.

Mirajane was inside of course and, after her siblings exclamations, had pushed up in bed to ready herself for the arrival of her oldest daughter.

"You don't have to get up," Haven weakly put up, but her mother heard none of it and it was much softer, the way Mirajane held her. From the time she was about ten or so, Haven could count on one hand the times this had happened and none of them were particularly pleasant memories. Still, her head fell forwards and her mother was all bandaged up, from their grueling battle before, but she still smelled like she always did.

"Are you alright?" Mirajane's hands came up to her daughter's cheeks eventually, cradling them between her palms as, unable to meet her mother's similar eyes, Haven only nodded. "Good. Good...I… There's a lot, I guess, that we have to talk-"

"I don't want to talk about it. Any of it. Anymore."

Slowly, Mira's hands fell away from her cheeks, dropping down instead to grasp both of her oldest's hands in her own. "Of course not. And that's alright. I'm just so glad that-"

"I came to see you for a reason."

"O-Oh. Well-"

Shaking her hands free of her mother's, Haven only held one up and her mother frowned at her daughter's own gauze. But that wasn't what Haven was showing her.

"I noticed it after Laxus… He came to see me and he...brought so much static into the room, I guess, by just being there, that I was able to absorb a lot. All at once and it felt good at first, but then… I could feel something else. Another magic. Beneath it."

"What do you mean?"

She allowed a strike to travel through her arm then, Haven did, not enough to connect with anything, but to die out in the air. The sparks were there, bright and yellow, but there was something else that twinged around it. Dark and purple.

Mirajane frowned at first, finding she didn't like the sound of it once more, not yet. Electricity crackling. But as her eyes drifted back to the concern that was filled in her daughters, she forced herself to smile.

"It's alright, Haven," she assured her, but the blonde only shook her head.

"It's not," she insisted. "It's not fucking okay. I thought it was out of me but it's not. It's still in there. The demon is still in there. You have to get it out of me."

"I can't."

"Mom-"

"Because it's not really in there, Haven."

"You're not making any sense."

But Mirajane only withdrew some then, taking her daughter's hand while she did so, to sit her down on the bed beside her. As Haven just kept glaring off though, her mother only took a long sigh of her own.

"When did you start practicing Takeover magic?"

Haven shrugged some. "I needed it. For my… To get the God Slayer lightning. And it's not hard."

"It's not," her more agreed, more because she didn't care for spawning a true discussion. "Is that how you got that demon inside of you though?"

"No," was her only answer and, for the moment, it would have to hold. Nodding a bit, Mira gently patted at her daughter's thigh.

"When I took on my first demon, I didn't know I even could. It was latent, I guess. My magic. Someone in our family must have possessed it and, somehow, I was just gifted it naturally." Mira hummed softly, sadly, as she reflected. "I wanted it out of me as well. But somethings aren't so easy to get rid of, Haven. And I don't know what it was that bound you and that demon together, but you were holding on to more than just it's soul; I think it had yours. Whatever you did-"

"I didn't do anything. Ivan, he… Ivan's the one that did it. Mom. He put a spell on me, to keep me alive, I guess, if I was near death, and then collected my body and did it."

Mirajane took this better than her father or Freed had, just nodding a bit, silently. And the silence was what let Haven continue.

"But I was dead," she insisted then, softly. "I know I was. I saw… I saw so many things. I can still see them. When my eyes are shut for too long. I saw...Makarov. And he helped me. To release it. The demon. Or I thought he did. But now-"

"It's not inside of you anymore." And Mira grimaced some, as she rose a hand and tapped at her own chest. "I took it over. Whatever you did, to separate yourself from it, I was able to capture most of it."

"But not all of it."

"Because you have the rest of it." And, reaching over, Mirajane gently tapped at her daughter's chest. It's not dangerous, Haven. You're alright."

"I don't want it though," she insisted. "This feeling, the magic, all of it is just… I want to shut my eyes and not see it. I-"

"That has nothing to do with the magic, sweetheart." That time, her arm came to wrap around Haven's shoulders, smiling so sweetly down at her, hoping to elicit the same in her daughter. "That's just...all in your head. Whatever spell Ivan used, it was an illusion, I'm sure. To keep you sedated and subdued, while he healed your body and bound it to the entity. By the time the spell wore off, you were healed and the demon was in control. Anything you saw or think you saw was just magic. He's an illusionist."

But Haven only shook her head. "You don't believe me."

"I do. I do believe you. That you think you were…dead." She didn't like the word, Mirajane didn't, even after it was clearly no longer her daughter's biggest concern. "And you might have seen Makarov. Or what you imagined him to be. But no, Haven. You weren't dead. It's just all...trapped, inside of you, and will fade away. Eventually. But right now, you need to focus on getting stronger. I'm sure it took a lot out of you, all that's happened. Do you feel-"

"So you're not going to help me."

"Haven-"

"Whatever." She jumped up perhaps a bit too quickly and the room spun for a moment, but she only shut her eyes tightly and why couldn't she say all of the things she'd wanted to? Why couldn't she be the person she'd wanted to be? So badly? That she'd vowed to be, if she were in the position she was currently? Were people really doomed to be exactly who they'd always been? If even after all this, nothing had really changed? "I'll figure it all out on my own."

"I'm not trying to hurt your feelings, Haven." But her mother didn't try to stop her. Just spoke to her back as she left. "We all love you. So much. And in a few days, it'll all feel much better. I promise."

Haven left her mother though, feeling less accomplished, if it was possible, than before she arrived. And her attitude was evident on her face to both her aunt and uncle as they attempted to get her to stay.

"I'll make up your bed for you," Lisanna instead as Haven only evaded her Elfman's attempt at another hug. "And you can rest. Here. You need it."

"Yeah, no. I have other stuff to do."

Mainly figure out a way to get everyone to stop trying to force her to sleep. Locke seemed out of his element a bit, as he always did, when she was bickering with her family. He was the clean up guy, not the in field reporter. So when Haven started out the door, he was quick to head after her.

"You alright?" he asked with concern as she only pulled the hood back over her head. Not because she was worried about any of that dumb shit Erza was; because she didn't want to run into anyone she had to answer to. Not until she got to her next intended location.

"I'm fine." But when her hand came for his, she gripped it tightly, not looking back at he parents' home as they departed from it. "But can you help me figure out where my sister lives?"

Seeing her would be worse, somehow, Haven knew, than either of their parents had been. And Locke wasn't too keen on it either, but still, he walked Haven through the streets and into the building without figuring a good way to get her to just go home, like Erza had said. Another part of him worried that Erza, who was pretty close to Marin, might be there and, well, he didn't think either she nor Freed had any direct power over him, but he figured it wouldn't be too good a look, ignoring blatant instruction from his guild elders.

But of course the swordswoman wasn't anywhere near the apartment as, after knocking at the door, they found Evergreen there. She seemed surprised, for a moment, to see the two of them, but just as quickly was ushering them in.

Not moving to hug her niece, she only looked her up and down before remarking, "If your intention was to draw less attention to yourself, walking around in the blistering head, covered head toe, really wasn't your best bet."

As Haven tossed back her hood though, just to glare at the expression of delight her aunt was trying desperately to cover, Locke only looked further into the apartment, stomach clinched, because he knew they had to be there. Ravan and Kai. And he really didn't want to deal with any of that again.

But instead, he found himself making a face instead at Tate, who'd come to peek at the doorway, his face falling when he saw, once more, it was not his girlfriend.

"What are you doing here?" Locke asked him and, actually, it was kind of a funny story.

Well, at least that's what Tate kept trying to tell himself.

See, the previous morning when the guild fell and Navi and Kai got so worried, he resounded to trust her and just sit around and wait for them to come back. Which turned into wait for a long ass time. An entire day. Of sitting around. Waiting. But, he kept reasoning, he'd heard the stories before, read Navi's book.

Fairy Tail fights were long and drawn out processes and he didn't want to bother her, wherever she was, probably kicking major ass, he bet.

Besides, he had everything he needed there, in the apartment. A movie lacrima, even. And at this point, he was pretty sure he was either in massive trouble or worse, fired, back home, at his real job, so he might as well let the punishment swell to max levels.

He wanted to see this through! Whatever magnificent thing that Fairy Tail was going through. And man, he'd get to hear it, firsthand, from Navi and, well, eventually, he kind of conked out on the couch and only woke up when the front door opened.

"What are you doing here still?" was asked of him that time, by Kai, and Evergreen, who'd followed he and Marin home from the hospital only glanced curiously at the man before looking to her niece. When Marin seemed unimpressed with him, she looked to Kai, but he too seemed disinterested and, oh, all he had to tell was a boring story.

"Is Navi okay?" was all Tate asked, taking in Marin's battered exterior and Kai only shrugged.

"I mean, I thought so, but it's still super weird that she didn't come back for you."

And Kai wanted to help him. Maybe he would have. But Tate was apart of calling him weird, so fuck him.

Not to mention, he was kind of preoccupied with Marin…

Still, Evergreen only eyed him up and down, enough so to make Tate feel a bit uncomfortable before remarking, "She has the taste of her mother, I suppose. Or lack there of."

And he'd just moped around after that, still awaiting Navi who, actually, at the exact moment Locke was questioning him, was waking up back in her parents' apartment, in her old bed, with Happy snoozing beside her, like old times. She'd spent the previous day with her family as, given the hall would be off limits for awhile, she only recounted all she knew to her parents and then again to her brothers when they awoke, before more or less just hanging out all day. It felt pretty good too. Even though they were all a bit nervous about all that had gone on and Lucy figured she'd go down and see what she could learn, the next day, just having them all be back together again was good enough for the Dragneels.

As she blinked awake though, she felt like she was forgetting something pretty massive, but brushed it off as her worry over Haven and Marin. And there was nothing she could do for either of them, currently. Only pull Happy closer and enjoy it, while it lasted.

It wouldn't be long.

"I'm sure she's just at her parent's house," Locke remarked with a shrug at the other guy. "I could give you the address, if you want."

And that was a very agonizing decision, for certain, because going to the Dragneel house meant actually being introduced to her parents and he was finding that he was less fearful of that, but more her reaction to it, not to mention then he would see where the Natsu Dragneel lived and he would just need a minute.

To think about it.

But Locke was hardly concerned with him as Haven, completely disinterested, just asked her aunt, "Where's Marin?"

Evergreen hesitated some then, but easily relented as she said, "With Kai, in her bedroom. But perhaps I should go and tell her that you're here-"

"No." Haven took Locke's hand then, dragging him through the apartment in the direction her aunt had nodded. "I'll tell her."

It was Locke that opened the door that time, after glancing down at Haven for a nod of approval and, inside her sister's room, she found Marin of course, with Kai bouncing around the room as he seemed to be trying to be entertaining to her, but as always, he fell just short.

At the sight of Locke and Haven standing there though, Kai only frowned and Marin, from where she laid on the bed, didn't move in the slightest. Her face just went void as she stared at her sister.

"Haven." Kai wanted to be really mad, seriously, he did, that Locke was there, but as always, the blonde just required more attention. "Are you, uh, okay now? 'cause I don't know if you know it or not, but I'm an accomplished mage now, so if you're here to start something-"

"Get out." She didn't even look at him as, instead, she pulled Locke into the room with her. "Now."

Kai looked to Marin, but she wouldn't look at him, and he figured that Haven wouldn't have gotten that far if she really was a demon. But wasn't that what he thought before? Should he really be just listening to her? When there was still a chance she was evil or whatever?

But when Marin made no complaint, he did sluggishly move around Locke and Haven. Even though he wasn't on the best terms with Evergreen in those days, she'd probably be a good person to have around, anyways, if Haven started shit again.

One look and bam!

Turned to stone.

Who could combat that?

As Kai shut the door behind himself, Locke only slowly let go of Haven's hand and moved, instead, over to the bed.

"Marin. Are you alright?" Leaning down, he had no qualms about hugging her and, though she seemed rather distraught still, she did return it. "Things got really shitty really fast and I… I should haven't have just ignored you. I was going through my own stuff and that's not an excuse, but I'll make it up to you. Okay? Do you have something you need me to heal? Right now? Or-"

"I want to be alone. With my sister. Locke."

She seemed to come to this decision that exact moment and Locke wasn't so sure about it. With her mother, yes, but Marin…

Letting go of the teen, he only looked over at her older sister as he said, "I'll be right outside."

But that time it felt more like a warning.

When he stepped out of the room, he expected to see Kai right there, but he wasn't. Walking back to the living room, he found the younger guy sinking into one side of the couch, pouting it seemed like, almost, but it was the guy on the other side of the couch that interested Locke the most.

"I didn't know you were here," he remarked as the boy in question sank lower, if possible, into his own seat. "Ajax."

But he didn't respond, the teen didn't, and, well, Locke found he wasn't too into conversation either.

Neither were Marin and Haven, it seemed, as the latter merely came to stand over the former as her younger sister fell back into her bed for a moment, silent.

It felt like Haven was judging her or something, her gaze heavy and dark and Marin could hardly take it because, ever since she fell from the sky into Kai, she didn't see how her sister wouldn't. Information was sparsely being traded between anyone and other than her sister being alive, no one had told her much (it seemed like no one knew everything the other knew, anyhow) and Marin had had a miserable few hours, falling back and forth between worries her sister somehow would twist this into some unforgivable sin, trying to kill her, and would run away forever or, even, that Haven had intended for the demon to consume her soul and maybe she was evil and she had resented her, all those years, the whole time, because Marin had gotten the lacrima and Haven hadn't and what would she do, if she lost her sister?

She didn't know.

For someone only a month ago was living in that reality, she now had no idea how she'd handle it if enacted once more.

But it wasn't animosity that caused Haven's silence, but rather the opposite. Of all the things she'd begged and pleaded to do once more, if she had the chance, apologizing to Marin, for every single shitty thing she'd done throughout their lives together, was at the top of the list. And here she was. Her baby sister. Just waiting to hear it. The person who deserved it more than every other.

And yet it died in her throat, just as any sort of sympathies for Laxus had or acceptance towards her mother's offers of support. She was squandering it, all of it, all over again, and what if she did go to sleep? What if she fell asleep and didn't wake back up and everything that was waiting for her, each time she squeezed her eyes close because reality was too much, just waiting, to drag her right back from the place she'd wrongfully fled?

"I'm sorry."

It shocked Haven, when Marin suddenly sprang up in the bed, knees pressed into the mattress as she fell forwards catching her sister in the middle as she stood beside. Burning her head in Haven's stomach, Marin wept openly after her words fell from her mouth.

"I am," Marin insisted through her sobs as Haven only stood there, unmoving. "Haven. I thought that I...that I killed you. And that's what I wanted to do. I wanted to. Because you were going to hurt Mom and Dad and I just… I'm sorry. But I had to. And I know that you'll probably never forgive me and I understand that, but I just love you so much. And that's...why I had to. I thought. To set you free. But… I just want you to forgive me. Please?"

She felt numb, Haven did, as her hand came up to gently stroke her sister's soft, white locks and, as Marin sniffled, trying to stop her tears, the blonde blinked down at the teen, not in malice, but reproach.

"Marin," she said softly and her sister only clung to her tighter. "You have nothing to be sorry for."

"Yes, I do! I do. I shouldn't have-"

"I mean it." And Haven grabbed her by the shoulders then, perhaps a bit too roughly, to pull her away some and look her in her similar eyes. "Look at me. Marin. You did everything you were supposed to. I would have done the exact same thing. I don't forgive you because I don't blame you. For anything. I… I'm proud of you. Marin. More than I ever have been before."

But that just made Marin cry harder and, sighing, Haven pulled her back in for a hug, allowing the girl to cry against her chest now.

"I'm sorry," Marin apologized again, eventually, sniffling some more. "I know you hate crying. I'm such a baby."

"You're a Dragon Slayer now, Marin. Really." When Haven bent her head down and rested against the top of her sister's, it might have been the most unnatural thing that had ever happened for either of them, but in that moment, it was rather comforting. "You got stronger and braver than I ever thought you could. You protected your guild. Really. That's more than I ever did for it."

"Just don't leave," was all her sister begged. "Please, Haven. Don't go without saying goodbye."

"I won't," she vowed as she released her sister.

As Marin sat back on her knees though, one of Haven's came out to gently grasp the gem that hung around her neck, staring at it with an odd look, and she was prepared to take it off, her younger sister was, right then and there, but instead of requesting this, Haven only patted it, gently, against her sister's chest.

"I'll be around later," Haven told her simply. "To check on you."

Slowly, Marin nodded, falling back into the bed, and she raised a hand, as if waving her sister farewell to which Haven could only raise her own.

The second Kai saw her, out there in the living room, he sprang up and rushed right back to be with Marin and it was just as well. Haven really didn't want to be around him anyways.

But she saw him there then, Ajax, trying very hard to fade into the fabric of the couch yet failing. Coming to a stop before him, she only frowned some.

"Well?" she finally spoke, but he said nothing as he glared at the ground and Haven grew annoyed. "You're not going to say anything to me? Nothing at all? What did I even do to you?"

It wasn't what she'd done to him though. At all. It was what he would do for her, what he knew he would have done, at least he was pretty sure, and it made him feel sick from the inside out.

Haven had taken him in the woods and made him swear allegiance to her after implying that, eventually, a time would come when everyone else was against them. And look what happened! He and his mother had arrived at the hall super late, too late to be of any use, but as he heard something of what had gone on from his Uncle Elf, Ajax had a sinking feeling that, well…

If he'd been in there, in the hall with all of them, and everyone started taking up arms against Haven, then who would he side with?

Because he really wanted to say that he definitely wouldn't have sided with her then, when she was clearly in the wrong, but at the same time, he really had no idea if he would or wouldn't. Because she meant that much to him, more than anything, and after her death, she'd become something more than just his hero. She'd become this intangible driving force and all he thought about, whenhe trained or went out on jobs. But then she just came back and that was kind of fucked, when you thought about it, and of course he was going to do whatever she said. Of course he was going to believe her?

How couldn't he?

Haven meant everything to him and, if he were in that guildhall, he'd have attacked his own family to protect her. Even Marin. And that made him feel crummy. Extremely. Like he'd made a mistake, even though he hadn't even been there. That just the thought of it, the realization of how he might have acted in a situation he wasn't even faced with, was some sort of indictment on his character rather than a bless in chance avoidance.

"Are you mad at me?" Haven snorted some as she looked off. "Figured some of you were. Fine. Be mad. Whatever. I don't- Hey!"

He jumped her, like he always did, nearly causing her to fall over and Locke, who was standing by, yelled at him for it, but Ajax didn't care none. As Haven shoved him off though, he only was quick to wipe a this eyes.

"I'm not mad at you," he told her quickly, nearly stumbling over his words. "I just… I did something bad. Or, well, I was going to. Or I would have. I-"

"So?" And Haven reached over to shove at his head roughly. "Did you tear down the guildhall? Try and murder innocent people?"

"N-No, but-"

"Then I'm the one that gets attention right now, got it?" And she shoved his head again. "Stop moping. Are you a mage or a poser?"

"A mage, but-"

"Then act like one, 'jax."

As he found words difficult, Haven turned away from him, back to Locke.

"Are you ready?" she asked, ignoring Evergreen peeking in front the kitchen. When he nodded, Haven only pulled back up her hood before taking his hand once more.

"Do you have anywhere else to go?" he asked once they were outside and Haven leaned in to him some, as they walked, not wanting to admit openly how weak she felt.

"Just home," she whispered softly and Locke smiled, nodding.

Of course.

But as he led her there, Tate was arriving somewhere else and oh, Navi would be kicking herself for a long time, being too lazy to get up and answer the door.

"Hey! It's the guy from the hall we met the other day, Natsu!"

Happy's glee was palpable as he fluttered in the doorway, beaming at Tate, and yes, the whole Haven saga playing out before his eyes was weird, but the cat, man, the flying cat was very hard to get used to.

"Eh?" Natsu came to the door as well, to glance Tate up and down. As the much younger man felt nearly faint, Natsu only shrugged. "Don't recognize 'im."

"How can you not recognize him? He sat with us, remember? At our table and-"

"Oh, hey, if you're from the guild," Natsu questioned, suddenly excited, "did you come to tell us that it's back open? Or that we're needed to, you know, keep the peace?" And just like that, a flaming fist was thrown up in the air as Tate's eyes only widened. "Alright, Hap! Let's go help Marin out this time, huh?"

"I dunno. Unless they're little girls, I don't think you stand a chance."

"Hey, that's not fair, little buddy. And Marin's not a little girl! I already told you-"

"Oh, shit, Tate."

At the moment, Natsu and Happy were just standing there, in the entrance way to the apartment, heads pressed together as they glared at one another in the late morning, and hearing their commotion, Navi had left her room to go calm them down. But now she was seeing just who they were arguing about and, oh yeah, she'd kinda forgotten all about him…

"That's rude, Navi." Happy flapped back from Natsu some, so he could frown over at the teen. "This is a friend of ours."

"No friend of mine," Natsu retorted because he was very anti-Happy the past day or so. This always happened when Navi came back. Happy sucked up to her super hard which seemed to mean downing Natsu a lot. Then, glancing back at Tate, he offered, "I mean, unless you are here to get us to help take down someone at the hall-"

"Tate's my..." And Navi didn't wanna say it, but felt as if she were stuck now. "He's my boyfriend."

"Wow. Navi's only been home two days and already has a boyfriend."

"She's fast."

Iggy and Lucky, respectively, had been pretty busy in the living room using the fact they'd been cooped up the past day to throw shit around and act like brats, but has rushed over to get a good look at the guy as well. As Navi glared over at them, finally, her mother joined the fracas, coming out from the living room as well, just to scold her sons.

"Don't say things like that about your sister," she griped. "Where did you even hear something like that?"

But she knew before they spoke.

"The bar," they both admitted easily and ugh.

"Really?" Happy, as always, was ecstatic at the idea and he fluttered right on over to Tate. "You think you can just date our Navi after a few days and not even get hassled some for it first? Hassle him, Natsu."

But he didn't feel much up for that. Instead, he only glared at Tate as he said, "So is there an incident where we get to throw down with some assholes or not?"

"That's a good point," Happy agreed. "You shouldn't date a liar, Navi."

"Would you guys all knock it off?" Lucy finally shoved passed all the guys and Tate was seriously coming to terms with the 'don't meet your heroes' warning, as well as figuring you probably shouldn't start sleeping with their daughters, but the celestial mage only smiled at him, welcoming him in and, oh, it had begun.

But something was coming for an end for Haven and Locke as the day hardly met its center. She fell into his bed only moments after arriving and Locke slowly came to lay beside her.

"Go to sleep, Have," he remarked after awhile though, as she only laid there with him, lazily playing with his fingers. "You'll feel better."

"No, I won't." She let out a long, slow breath and it felt weird. To be beside him again. He'd had time to adjust, but it was still all just coming back to her. Even before her death, it was hardly a mainstay of her life any longer. "I can't."

"What do you mean?"

"Shuddup. Stupid."

But he only shifted over some, to press a kiss to her lips and she looked so tired, he wished she'd just fall asleep already, but Haven just cupped his cheek and neither looked too ;pleased, but they rested with their heads together for awhile, willing the other to pass out first.

"Tell me," he insisted eventually, "what's wrong. Things went okay, right? You talked to everybody, you see now, that everyone loves you still, huh? You didn't do shit, Haven. You got caught up and… But you're okay now. We're okay now. We-"

"I died, Locke."

"I know, but-"

"Seriously. I died and I saw it. All of it. What happens after… And I don't want to see it, ever again."

"You won't."

"I will."

"Haven-"

"All I could keep thinking about was how shitty I am. What a horrible person I was. The whole time."

"You're not."

"I am."

"Haven-"

"I thought I'd never see you again."

Frowning, he said, "I know what you mean. I-"

"No, you don't."

"Haven, I literally lived that. These past few months have been the worst of my life."

"Yeah, but you just thought I was dead. Or in a better place. Or whatever dumb thing you thought," she replied. "I actually had to consider it. All of it. I didn't get to think that you were all just happy and moving on. I knew you weren't. And then to know that I was shit, the whole fucking time, to all of you-"

"You weren't to me."

"Shut up, Locke."

"You weren't."

"I always was," she insisted. "Even when we were kids. If you did something nice to me, I had to make fun of you for it or attack you or just be completely unlikable. Or the way I used to treat Marin. My parents. It's not like I didn't know that I'm kind of mean or a...a bitch, but when you just see it all… My mother doesn't believe me. When I told her about it, she told me that I couldn't have been dead. That it was just some sort of stupid trick or illusion, from Ivan, but I was dead, Locke."

"Okay," he agreed with a nod as, honestly, he could see little difference between either one. "I believe you."

"Do you? Really?"

He nodded easily and he meant it. And this is what had been missing, what threw him off, before, when it wasn't really her, and how could he have pretend for so long that it was? Being around Haven, the real Haven, was more than just a...sense of her presence or a deep desire to keep her safe. There was intensity and passion and a bit of hatred too, honestly, and as she rested her head against his then, he felt like such a fucking idiot for not realizing it before.

Or worse; ignoring it.

"I thought it would be better for you," she told him softly then. "Not, like, any time soon, I guess, but that eventually… If I was really gone, then you could move on. And you wouldn't have to wait for me to do all my stupid stuff and you could be happy, probably, Locke. You still can. With someone else. You've always wanted what your parents have, haven't you? To, like, fall in love immediately and spend the rest of your life with someone and have a family in your guild and I just… I thought you could be happier. That you would be happier. That you could find someone else who could give you that."

She turned her head finally though, when he reached for her that time.

"It's not about us," she insisted though her previous affirmation led him to believe otherwise. "It's about… To have to make those reasonings with yourself, to have to just...be at peace with all of it, I… I can't believe that I'm back here. It's so hard to be back here. And I'm not ungrateful for it. But… Did I only come back to, what? Power Marin up? Was that it? Is that all that I'm worth."

"No. Of course not. You-"

"Then what, Locke? I always though that I was...chosen or-"

"Not everything has to have a reason."

"I do," she insisted. "But every time I close my fucking eyes, the only thing I can see is… I don't want to open them again, Locke, and be back there. For this all to have just been, what? A big joke? Nothing? For nothing? I don't want to ever go back there. Or just not...be. I don't want to risk it."

He smiled then, softly and she was blinking, a lot, as he just rested his head against hers once more,.

"But you can't fight it either," he pointed out gently. "So just stop. Let go. It's okay. You're not going anywhere. I won't let you."

"You're stupid." And she used the last of her strength just to give him her back. "Locke."

"I mean it, Haven."He thought she'd fight him on it, when he pulled her closer into his chest, but she only laid there, silent. "You're gonna close your eyes and fall asleep and it'll be okay. 'cause I'm here. We're here. Together. And then, when we wake back up, I'll make us something to eat, huh? And...and…"

"Don't cry, Locke." But she yawned into her complain, her voice hardly a whisper. "Stupid."

But it was easy enough, anyways, for him to find it then. Sleep. It hadn't been like that for them, really, ever, at all, because they were just kids before. When they were really together on a consistent basis. Immature and dumb and scared, honestly, of one another in certain ways. But they were grown now, more, even than she had been when he'd propositioned her to stay with him, back before the gauntlet. They were fully realized adults now and, he knew he shouldn't be doing it, getting ahead of himself and all, but Locke just couldn't help it.

If they could just find a way, somehow, to be together now, really together…

It's all he wanted.

Which is why, when he awoke blinking up at his ceiling, part of him was so relieved that it was her that awoke him. But he wasn't too relieved by what she'd done to do so.

Glancing over at her, he found her sitting up in bed, palm held up, some sort of dark purple spell materialized in her palm with little yellow sparks falling off it. One had nicked him, he was pretty sure, on his bicep. The burning had been what awoke him.

"What," he whispered softly as he laid very still, "are you doing?"

Haven didn't even glance at him. Just sat there, knees pulled to her chest, watching the purple orb and the sparks generated around it.

"I got a new spell."

"Okay," Locke slowly agreed. "But why are you doing that right next to me? And, by the way, I'm kind of beat up too. My magic stops life threatening injuries; you still brought a fucking hall down on me. I'm all bruised up and this is the second time you've shot me awake with your magic."

"I didn't mean to this time."

"That makes it so much better."

"I like it better when you're crying," she retorted and he only shut his own eyes again, taking in a few deep breaths.

"How aren't you still asleep?" he grumbled as it was dark out now, finally. "My sleep schedules gonna be all fucked up."

"I didn't say you had to be awake."

"You sparked me with-"

"Aren't you even going to ask me about it? My magic? Or are you just gonna be a jerk and ignore it?"

"In the morning." And he only grit his teeth was he was nearly certain the spark that found him then was on purpose. "Go back to sleep."

"Can't."

"Is it… Haven, look. You slept for awhile. I know you did. And you woke back up. So what's wrong now?"

She probably shrugged or something, he figured, at her extended silence, but after realizing he wasn't responsive to that, there was a sigh before admitting, "I just...had a shitty dream. About shitty things."

He opened his eyes again at that, but only glanced over at where she was still intently staring into her magic before remarking, "You couldda just woke me up in a normal way."

"I didn't wake you up. This time. On purpose. Idiot."

Locke made a face and was trying to figure out a decent rebuttal that could at least get her to stop trying to singe his fucking skin when, suddenly, they both caught it. A heavy magic. Then a banging at the front door.

Haven allowed her magic to dissipate as she didn't even move. "You have a visitor."

"Yeah, I noticed," he grumbled, annoyed by this, but also a bit frightened.

He wasn't in good shape, honestly, for defending them from, well, he wasn't really sure what. He didn't know a lot about Ivan (it wasn't like people in the hall went around talking about the man), but he did know he had some sort of connections with the seedy and shady. What if he'd come to take Haven back? Or something equally as horrible?

And there were a lot of things that could equally be as horrible.

In the dark without her lightning, Haven still was able to sense his discomfort as he stood and only remarked, "I've been dead for months, Locke, and even I already know who it is."

He would have as well, if he wasn't so filled with dread. It was about then though, that the person barked something out and, yeah, he felt kind of dumb.

"Locke! Are you home? Fuck, Lily, he ain't home, the hall's fucked-"

"I'm here," Locke was yelling, rushing to the door then. "Dad."

"Shut up!" came another yell, from somewhere down the hall of the building as, upon getting to the door, Locke only threw it open, hoping to get his father to do just that.

He didn't have a chance to drag his old man in though, oh no. Gajeel just came barreling right passed him as he took a deep whiff of the air.

"I smell 'er," he remarked to Lily. "She's here."

"Who's here? Haven?" Locke was rushing to go turn on a light then, only to find, no, she wasn't. Or at least, she was still hiding out in his bedroom. "Of course she's here. She-"

"We have made some very...intriguing discoveries, Locke," Lily said, fluttering into the apartment as well. "And-"

"Get out here! You fuckin'...whatever you are!"

"Dad, calm-" Locke tried, but Gajeel only shrugged him off and it was fine; Haven had nothing to hide. Anymore.

She seemed unconcerned as Gajeel started towards her, but Locke only rammed into his father then, through the guy off track and then they were slamming their heads together and it would take a minute to get it all sorted out.

"That thing ain't your girlfriend, Locke."

"Yeah, I know. Dad. Or I did. But she is now. She-"

"I went down there. To her grave. And guess what? There's still a body in there!"

"Yeah, well- Wait, what?"

"But it ain't hers!" Gajeel kept on. "I smelled it!"

"You smelled," Haven spoke up finally, from where she still only stood in the doorway of the bedroom, raising her eyebrows then, "a dead body? Gajeel?"

"You stay outta this. I'll fuck ya up later," he growled over at her.

Locke withdrew then though, from their head slamming match, causing his father to tumble forwards a bit.

"I don't know anything about a damn body, Dad," he told the man simply, "but we already took care of the whole Haven demon thing."

"You what?" Lily, who'd been glaring suspiciously over at the blonde, looked to Locke then. "You did?"

"The demon attacked...people," Locke admitted slowly. "The Master and his family. And stupid Ravan. Then Marin took it down and Haven was able to reject it from her body- And yeah, it sounds really dumb, Lily, but it's what happened, so-"

"You sayin' you ain't demonic no more, girly?" Gajeel volleyed over to Haven who only shrugged somewhat.

She didn't flinch either as, with Locke distracted, he resumed his short trek over to her and she only stood there as he looked her over.

"What are you doing?" Locke griped.

It was Haven that answered though.

"He's checking me for any ill-intentions," she said simply, meeting his eyes when Gajeel lifted his head to glare her right into her eyes. If her mother's blues were different, only in perception, to her own, then his always felt much darker than Locke's. By a longshot. Still, she only returned it as she said, "Unlike some of you, Gajeel's not a complete dunce. But pretty close."

Snorting, Gajeel felt his seething rage fade as he crossed his arms over his chest and remarked, "She's filled with ill-intentions, but none of them demonic, I guess. Whatever was there...it's gone."

"I could see it all," Haven reminded Locke and informed the still confused Lily and now perturbed Gajeel. "The whole time. The entity knew you were trouble, Gajeel. Good job taking off for fuck all and missing all the action. But hey, at least you had a good time with that dead body, huh?"

"Haven," Locke warned and Gajeel's jaw only clenched, heavily, as he thought for a moment.

"Congrats on not being dead and shit," was the most he was willing to give up in that moment. "But don't test me right now."

Haven hummed a bit, in reply, before adding, "Thanks for being completely useless. Only reason I'm not...dead and shit. But I doubt you couldda taken the demon on alone anyways."

"Bet me," he growled in reply, but Haven was only turning then, finished with them, to go back into the bedroom, shutting the door behind her.

"Can I ask," Lily questioned as, slowly, he drifted down to the floor and his wings disappeared, "exactly what it is that all went on? I find myself to be pretty confused."

"I just would like to get my apology now," Gajeel replied as he looked over to his son. "Got lost, in a fucking woods for you, you know. And did anyone even wonder where I was? You? Your mother? No! I put my life on the line, constantly, to protect the two of you. Jump through all sorts of hoops. And what do I get in return? Huh? I-"

"I shouldda listened to you, Dad." Locke was deflating as well then and though he didn't fall as easily into it, that half-joking, half trying to bite your head off attitude his father and Haven sported so well, he did find his shoulders slumping some as he said, "You were right. And I was wrong. And it almost cost me a lot. The whole guild. And I… I know that you were just looking out for me. And I was an asshole. Even though I...think I knew too. But-"

"Don't be a fucking woman over it," his father complained. "Takes all the fun out of gloating."

But Locke wouldn't raise his head and, with a groan, his father only marched over to him then.

Patting at his son's shoulder, he said, "Hey, that's your woman, right? If we did things my way, she wouldn't be here right now. I'd give up a guildhall, to save mine."

"Gave up more than that."

"And it would be all worth it, for me." His hand came up then, Gajeel's did, to knock against Locke's ear roughly. "Ain't it you?"

Locke could only smile through the pain this brought, but when Gajeel knocked him harder then, on top of his head, he shoved roughly back at the man, but they were both grinning toothily at one another regardless.

"Is she alright though? Now?" Pantherlily, still, desperately wanted a full story. Though Gajeel's illusive 'senses' led him to his own conclusions, the Exceed still wished for a more complete story. "Locke?"

"No," he answered as his grin fell and he looked to the cat. "But nothing like that. Just…"

"Death's hard to deal with, for the living," his father offered up. "Imagine being dead and then living. How's that work, anyhow? Don't matter, I guess. Count your blessin's, Locke. Think ya just used 'em all up."

"It's Fairy Tail," he muttered in reply. "Things always work out."

His father only grunt though and they bumped shoulders as he walked passed him then, Gajeel did, headed to the door once more as he muttered something about having to go check on his wife. Pantherlily told Locke he'd be back around, to get the full story and Locke almost just called out his well wishes for his mother, but instead felt something crawling up his throat.

"Thanks," he called out to Gajeel and the man didn't even stop to look back at him. "Dad."

"Don't mention it," the man retorted and he and his kitty, finally, took off.

And he meant it.

Locke was starved though, by this point, and it overrode his desire to just fall back asleep. He yawned through making some quick sandwiches for him and Haven, not surprised to still find her up when he came to fall into his bed.

"Your dad fucking stinks."

"He was just protecting me. He-"

"I meant literally, stupid." Haven's hunger was strong as well as she didn't even wait for him to offer her the plate. Just grabbed a sandwich and dug in.

"Bold statement from someone who's still going around in the what a demon was wearing. And doesn't smell so hot themselves."

"And you do?"

"I'm not throwing stones."

But Haven didn't want to talk about that. Instead, after giving him a glare, she said, "I have nothing against your father. More than usual, anyways."

"He just wasn't all blinded by it. Like the rest of us. Caring about you and-"

"He loves you, Locke." Haven looked him in the eyes as she said it. "That's why he was so serious about it. Moron. It has nothing to do with me." But she could never be nice to the man for long. "He still sucks though."

"You think I suck."

"You do suck. And so do your sandwiches."

Frowning down at the plate in the dark, he said, "You suck."

But Haven was beaming, for some reason, at him as she asked, "Am I annoying you yet? Locke?"

"No," he answered easily, shaking his head some at the thought. "I never will be again."

"Bet me." And she said it in her darkest tone, trying to sound like his father, he thought and Locke only snorted. Still, she kept up, "Have him ask me that again. In a few months. Once I get all healed up. Bet me. Asshole. I didn't miss him. Feel bad about a single thing I did to him. When I replayed it all. I was rude to your mom sometimes, and maybe the cat, but fuck Gajeel."

"Yeah." Locke laughed a bit, maybe. "I'm sure he feels the same."

When they finally fell back asleep, Haven seemed more at ease with the idea and even though it was way too hot, honestly, for Locke, he didn't mind it too much when she pretended that there just wasn't enough room to not rest against him.

She poked him awake, the next time, pressing a finger heavily into his cheek and man, no, she was going to get annoying fast.

"What," he groaned against his pillow, trying hard to ignore the sunlight streaming into the room.

"I'm going to shower. Didn't want you to throw a big fit over it. Cry again. Like a bab- Hey!"

He shoved at her weakly, just to get her finger out of his damn cheek.

Still, he couldn't sleep now and, as she showered, he shoved up in bed and tried to at least think of what exactly they should be doing that day. Erza kind of ordered them to stay holed up in the apartment, but he had a good feeling Haven wouldn't be for that.

If he was her, he'd want to go see his family again.

But he wasn't her.

And he was pretty sure she felt as if she'd more than made up for any perceived wrong doings. Or at least was revving up to ignore them. She was pretty good at that too.

"Hey, Haven, the, uh, other you? Whatever. She brought some stuff, clothes and things, from your parents, that your mother was… Just old clothes." He'd knocked a knuckle against the bathroom door as he called out to her. "Or I can find you something of mine, I guess, to wear-"

"Gross."

"You know, for someone that's gonna be laid up for awhile and has no fucking income, you sure are pretty spoiled, Have."

She saved her reply though, until she was sitting on his living room floor with him, and it almost felt like it had, before she took off with Ravan for the gauntlet, but there was so much more between them now, somehow.

"I don't need you to take care of me," was her complaint though, at the moment, he was doing just that as he wrapped her bandages once more, trying hard not to get depressed and each and every bruise.

"You need someone."

"The fuck I do."

"It'll be a two way street," he assured her simply, nodding his head. "I'm sure you can return the favor somehow."

There was a beat then, where Haven just made a face at him, and he rolled his eyes.

"That's not what I meant."

"Sure."

"I'm serious though. I'll figure shit out for us, for awhile." He seemed very intent on the gauze then as he added, "If you stick around."

"Locke-"

"If you're not going to, Have, fine. I'm not… We can argue about all of it later. But that's what I want. An argument. No running off in the night and just fucking leaving me. Promising me shit and not meaning it." He had to lean over her some then, as he finished with that particular wrapping. "If you're gonna go, if you know for sure, right now, tell me. It's… I'm not going to be happy about it, but I'm not just gonna kick you outta here either. I'll heal you up. But… It'll be different. As friends."

"Shut up."

"I'm serious."

"I wanna be with you, Locke."

"More than you want everything else you want? Because I want you more than every other thing I've ever wanted. I always have. And… If this guild isn't for you, Haven, if you don't think you can deal with it or Magnolia or… I'd go with you. I've always told you that I would go with you and you never want me to."

"Because you shouldn't." She allowed him to take her hand though, so he could blind it as well. "You wanna be in Fairy Tail. I don't want you to give that up for me."

"And I don't want you to give up your dumb shit for me either."

"It's dumb shit," she retorted with a frown. "Whatever I want is automatically-"

"You never tell me what you want. You tell me these long, drawn out ideas about getting stronger and more powerful and how much you hate everyone else, but what does that even mean, Haven? What does any of it fucking mean?"

She didn't seem to want to answer then either though as she rolled her eyes heavily and said, "I'm with you. I want to be with you."

He nodded some, Locke did, and it felt so good, for some reason, better than it had been with the tricky entity before, who had no reason to care for his words, as he said, "I know you slept with Ravan."

She almost drew away from him, he could tell, but didn't look at him regardless as she siad, 'I told you I heard everything. With the demon. I know."

"Then you know that I think it's really fucked up that you wouldn't sleep with me, but you went out and-"

"How are we still on that?"

"Because it hurt, Haven. It fucking hurt."

"Who even told you? Him?"

But Locke didn't feel vindictive towards Kai. In the slightest.

"It doesn't matter."

"You weren't supposed to know."

"And that would just make it better?"

"It wouldn't have hurt you," she pointed out. "I don't do things to hurt you, Locke. Or at least I don't try to. Anymore. And I definitely won't now. I just… It's why I didn't sleep with you. Before I left."

"Bullshit."

"It's not. I didn't think that I was gonna stay. I...thought that I might leave. That night. To go with him. And I knew you'd be upset about that, so I just..."

"Ravan, Haven. Not just him. You and Ravan-"

"It wasn't like with us. It was different."

"You always say that, but-"

"It's true." And she meant it. "Just like it would be with you and someone else, right? We'd just beaten one of the monsters and I-"

"I don't want to hear about it!"

"Well."

And he only glared as he replied right back, "Well."

"If we're never gonna get passed this," she pointed out softly, "then it doesn't matter. If I stay here or if you come with me."

"I didn't say I couldn't get passed it. I said it hurt. And you're a shitty person for doing that to me. And I hate that about you. I do. I hate that you can make me feel like absolute shit for things that I can't even control. You think you were worried about shit you had to die with, Haven, you did shit that I just had to live with. And not even just Ravan. You… You died because you were too fucking greedy about something dumb like a damn novelty quest where you knew people had died before. You knew it. And I'm so fucking angry at Ravan, for all that he caused, but you… If you really cared about me and you, you wouldn't do that. Haven. Go after unattainable shit that you know will kill you. I would give up everything to be with you. And you won't me. Because you're a self bitch. Our future is something I always considered, but you never have. And that's fine. That's your life. But don't fucking tell me to wait forever, knowing that you're never going to be ready for us to be together. That's not love, Haven; that's possession."

It wasn't fair. For him to say that to her. So soon after she'd just finished up with coping with all that had gone on, while she was dead, and fuck him for thinking that way. That was love. Everything she did for him was out of love. She didn't ask him to come with her, after Incidio, because she knew he had his own dreams and life and every step of the way, she left it all open for him, to go do those things. Chase those things.

She wanted him to be all he wanted.

She just also wanted to be what she wanted.

And...there had to be a way, once they both accomplished it all, for them to meet in the middle,

There just had to be.

But Locke only sat back, as he'd stopped at some point, with the wrapping, as he realized that wow, that had been heavy on his chest, for a long fucking time, and he wasn't even sure what parts of that he meant entirely, but…

It was true, wasn't it?

Wasn't it?

As they both sat there though, considering this, Haven felt something heavy on her own chest and she couldn't say it, to her sister. Couldn't be grateful for her mother. Considerate of her father. But instead of doing as Locke feared then and running off, getting upset with him and just leaving, right then, maybe not even for her family, but even just forever, Haven only reached out with the hand that didn't have limp gauze hanging from it.

Brushing his cheek with it, Locke turned his gaze down on her and it wasn't welcoming, but she only said it as clearly and freely as she could.

"I'm sorry," she admitted. "Locke. I'm so sorry. I've done a lot of fucked up shit, to a lot of people that just...wanted to help me and love me and… But I always thought that you were the only one that I treated well, at least. Not perfect, but well. But I didn't. And I know I didn't. I want everything. All of it. To get everything I want and for you to get what you want and then for us to just… But not everything lines up that way, I know, and… But I do love you. And I'm sorry that I ever made you think that I don't. You don't gotta forgive me. I'll probably just do it all again, eventually, anyways. I wanna try though, this time. So that, when I'm there again, I don't...hate myself, as much as I do now. For how I treat people. You. Others, but you too. Especially. You're my best friend. Always."

When her hand fell from his cheek, it was because she didn't like it, at all, her words, and turned away from him as she blushed, but Locke only sat there on the floor, silent. Waiting for some sort of insult to be thrown in there. To balance it out.

But there wasn't one.

"That's not fair, Haven," he replied eventually. When he felt her glance at him, he added, "You know I always forgive you."

"You should. I'm your best friend too."

"Sure."

"I better be," she added and, when he reached for her hand once more, they were both content with silence they lapsed into once more.

But the new day began a new challenge for others. The rocks ahead weren't just being scoped out by the two of them, but rather some of the guild's more senior members. Erza had established a small group of the more muscular and able in the hall to assist her in clearing the hall of debris and, once she was certain of their control on the situation, she set out to visit her main concern in the whole thing.

"Oh, good," Evergreen remarked when she arrived at Kai and Marin's apartment. "There's more of you."

Erza was expecting hostility (and oh, it was there from the other woman), but her curiosity was piqued at least a bit by Evergreen's words. Until she only found it to be Ravan she was speaking of, there in the living room, seated with his younger brother, Marin, and her cousin. At the sight of the swords woman, both Kai and Marin grinned openly, but Evergreen only called out to Ajax.

"Perhaps," she suggested, "it's a good time to go check in on your other aunt, huh?"

He didn't want to. He wanted to stay with Marin, but did get to his feet at the woman's insistence while Erza only came to stand over her three charges, nodding at them each in turn.

"I am quite pleased," she assured Marin as she returned the girl's grin. "Ravan told me you fought bravely. I know that the situation was not simple for you, but I assure you, we are are grateful for each choice you made."

As Marin blushed though, muttering something to the contrary, Kai only joyfully announced to the swordswoman, "Jellal's on his way, Ravan said."

"I've heard. And what a waste of a trip it shall be."

"Well…he'll get to see you. And me. Wait until he hears about how I-"

"You didn't do shit," Ravan grumbled over on his side of the couch as Marin sat between the brothers. "Kai."

"Did more than you."

'How do you know? You showed up, like, five seconds before it was all over."

"Yeah and when I did, you were passed out, so-"

"Because I-"

"You can tell," Erza remarked, "that we all have met on better circumstances this time around."

Which served it's purpose in shutting both boys up as Ravan took to sulking and Kai only tried to figure out what she meant.

"I think you both did a good job." Marin sat up tall as she said this and Kai nodded while Ravan only gave her a glance. "It...takes everyone. To do their own part. And… Thank you. For helping save my sister."

"You don't have to thank us, Mare." Kai bumped his elbow against hers. "You're our little sister. Of course we helped you."

And Ravan only pulled his bandanna back up, so he could grumble against it, "You hardly needed help. You've grown a lot."

"She has a good teacher," Erza added.

"But not a modest one," Ravan kept his grumbles up.

"I dunno," Kai whistled. "Erza seems pretty well dressed to me."

"That's not what I meant, you-"

"I missed you so much and you've been so mean to me since you got back! You jerk."

"Ever think I went away for a reason?"

Marin only glanced between them before, softly, saying, "Well, it's cause everyone said you killed Haven."

Erza blinked while Kai bit his lip, but the tension popped immediately as Ravan couldn't help it. It was awkward, when he laughed, because it escaped more than it was allowed exit, but he did manage around it, "Shuddup, Marin."

They all would have liked to stay in it, that moment, just for a little bit longer, but all four knew far too well about how finite life really was. And when there was a knock at the door, Erza left them to continue to bicker, thinking it was just Evergreen, requesting to be let back in.

But it wasn't. Close though. Freed, standing there, looking as serious as he always did, hands clasped behind his back.

"If you're looking for Evergreen, you have just missed her," Erza informed him. "She was headed towards-"

"I saw her on my way over, but avoided speaking with her, as it was much more urgent, I felt, that I do so with you immediately."

"Has something happened? At the hall?"

"Not that I am aware of," he assured her. "I did stop there, to find out your whereabouts and all seemed well."

"Then-"

"There was a development. In the night. Regarding Mast… Regarding Laxus." Freed bowed his head then. "I wish to speak in private. For a moment. Erza."

"Of course." Quickly, she stepped outside of the apartment, shutting the door gently behind her. "Is he alright? Or is it...Mirajane? Or their daughter?"

But Freed refused to answer for a moment as he thought of his words carefully. It wasn't difficult, necessarily, to explain, but felt that way, at least, in a mental sense as something that he'd worked so long on, personally, and together, by the side of somehow who eclipsed being an idol and become far closer to being a true friend, a brother, was just being given up on, turned in, without even a full explanation.

He was glad at least, Freed was, that he'd been given a letter to present to Haven, rather than attempt the words again, knowing she'd have far more questions and be much less understanding than Erza, when she was informed of the news. When he knocked at Locke's door and found the two of them there, together, he had the most dreadful feeling.

It had yet to be a pleasant time, when delivering a letter to either of them.

As he explained it was from her father, Haven did question a bit, why her father would write her a fucking letter, rather than just speak with her, but as Freed evaded the question, she somehow just knew. She fucking knew.

He made his departure, Freed did, as there was much else to attend to and he knew, with certainty, that Haven would be fine.

She'd be okay.

What other choice was there?

But Locke was confused as they stood together, her ripping into the envelope, angry before even knowing for certain and she didn't have to read far, at all, to understand. To get it.

It had never happened to Haven before. Not really. For someone that always thought every other person in her life let her down, constantly, especially her father, when it happened then, it felt so raw and new and…

"What's it say?" Locke asked, frowning when she threw the sheet of paper away from her. "Haven- Hey!"

Her arms flared up, immediately, with electricity and he jumped back instead of reaching for her and how could he do this to her? Huh?

"He left. He fucking left," she told Locke.

"What do you mean? Left for where? What hap-"

"He told me that we'd go together, when I was well, that we'd go and get Ivan together and he… Fuck him. Fuck him! I'm going. I'm going right now. I-"

"Haven, wait-"

"No, Locke. I have to. I am. I'm going to go and I'm… I… He can't do this. He's fucking old and a drunk and he's gonna get hurt or… He needs me! He needs someone. He can't…" Haven's arms fell and the lightning died away as Locke, finally, felt brave enough to reach out for her. She didn't fight him either, fell into him almost as she said, "I just got back. From… How can he leave me? Right now?"

And it was more than that. It was so much more than that. It was everything. It was all coming down on her and she thought she'd already gone through it. Her cosmic punishment. Would there be more? Than this? Or would coming back just be a constant stream of this kind of shit? Was this the price of her second chance?

They fell back to the floor together and Locke had never seen it, not really. Not even when they were kids. She felt really open with him, before, when they argued and during the night, talking about her fears, but this…

She'd never cried in front of him. But she did then. And he knew it went much further than her father's letter, but as her warm tears fell against his shirt, he just sat there silently for a bit.

'It'll be okay," he offered her, eventually, but she refused to look up at him. "Haven. Fuck Laxus. And fuck Ivan. The only reason I don't go down there, we don't, is 'cause he gave you something, right? He's the reason you're living right now. Great. If your dad goes and kills him or whatever, fine. But if he doesn't, that's fine too. 'cause from this moment forward, none of that matters. Neither of them matter. It's me and you. We focus on me and you and our dreams and our goals and we'll… We'll piece them together. Together. If your dad...if he had to go, right now, then that's on him. But you don't. And I never will. Okay? I… I forgive you, Haven. For everything. Anything. It doesn't matter. I'll always be there for you. I always have been."

When Haven lifted her head from his chest, it was just to lay against his shoulder and Locke readily opened his palm, watching idly as she traced the different lines from memory.

"He left without even telling me goodbye," was what she whispered eventually and even though the irony was hardly lost, it still cut her deeply. "What an asshole."

Locke only hummed in response as she sniffled, stilling her hand just so he could wrap his around it. And it shouldn't feel that good, after something so gutting, but it did.

It really did.

But Laxus did speak to one person, at least, before he left. While Haven dealt with her inner turmoil the night before, he'd arrived at his home glad to find her not around, but at least the one person he wanted to see.

After all the grueling stress from the past few days, it was easy enough to sneak passed the snoozing Elfman on the couch and not worry about Lisanna, who seemed to be sleeping in his daughters' room. Instead, he only went to his own bedroom where, the second he pushed opened the door, Mirajane seemed to open her eyes. Not out of being startled or even concern, really, as he only walked further into the dark room.

"Bad news?" Mirajane asked, voice hardly above a whisper. "Dragon?"

But he didn't sit down like she expected, not even on the edge of their bed. Just stood above her silent for a few moments as he thought.

"I'm sick, Mira."

"I know."

"But so is Haven. And Marin. And you. In different ways. And I can't… I can't get better. Like this. I know I can't. I won't. I...need to go away. For awhile."

"You're going to find your father."

She didn't accuse him. Just corrected him. As she laid on her side, still feeling quite ill. She didn't recall absorbing demons as being such a sickening experience. But then, the last had been at a much younger age. And around much less sickening things.

He didn't nod. Just held out a shaky hand.

"For Haven," he explained simply as Mira only reached for it slowly. "She… She's gonna fucking hate me, but she can't come with me. She doesn't need to be around me right now. Not like this. Not if she's going to get any better."

"If you're expecting me to tell you off or ask you not to go-"

"I don't expect anything of you. Mirajane. And it wouldn't matter if you did." Their fingers brushed slightly, at the transfer of the letter, but it brought neither of them comfort. After this, Laxus only reached up to scratch at the back of his neck as he said, "I dunno how long I'm going to be gone for. And I..." He sucked in a breath, deep, too deep, maybe, as his chest burned and she could smell it on him. The drinks. But said nothing about it. Just held the letter as she watched him be unable to meet her eyes as he said, "You should be happy. Demon. Mirajane. You deserve to be. Whatever that means. And when I get back… When I get back, we can go from there."

"I'll be here, Laxus." She stared at him, regardless of his ability to return it. "You just have to come back."

He nodded, numbly, as he said, "There's some, uh, business stuff too. That I gotta tell you. To tell Freed. He'll come around, I'm sure, tomorrow, to check on you. He's good like that. And he'll, uh, take care of you. You know. And the girls. All of the family will. You know. But I can't…"

"We'll be here, Laxus," she insisted to him then and his eyes caught hers that time. "When you return."

He believed her, because of course they would, but that didn't mean the question wasn't still raised; in what capacity?

The coming days were difficult. For everyone. The ringing in of a new Master was met with some hesitation, but overwhelming support as the guildhall found something to rally behind. And Jellal only beamed at his girlfriend, late one night when he arrived.

"To think," he remarked as she only rolled her eyes and huffed, "I have found myself to be involved with a guild master. Such scandal."

"I guess you've come to collect Ravan?" was all she questioned as they sat up that night, their only night, together, in her kitchen and she explained to him just what and where the energy he'd felt had gone.

But Jellal only shrugged as, in the center of the table, his hand laid over one of hers.

"Among other things."

Kai didn't understand it though. At all. The idea that, after all of this, his brother would just go back on the road with Jellal and his team when, clearly, he belonged there. In Magnolia. With them. In Fairy Tail.

"Erza's Master," he told his brother, pleaded with him, almost, as they hung around the guildhall in the sweltering heat. All about them, members were busy with their different, specific tasks. Beams were carried this way, rubble carried another, and they all reminded Ravan of ants, given a task by their queen. Who, now, was actually Titania.

It all fell very fitting.

"You can stay," Kai was going on though, before him. "Haven's alive and fine and everything's good again and… Ravan… You can't go. Why do you wanna go?"

"Because I don't belong here, Kai." He shrugged some, the older brother, as he watched Erza from afar. Early in the evening, he was to meet Jellal and the others on the outskirts of town, if he was going. And he certainly was. "I only ever stayed because of you."

"That's not true! And…if it is, then why won't you now? Huh?"

And as his eyes welled up with tears, Kai thought he had him. Ravan. That he would get him. That he would come and live with him and Marin and it would be a great comedy, probably. All their hi-jinks and shenanigans. But Ravan only patted him on his shaggy head as only a few tears fell.

"You don't need your big brother now," he told him simply. "I'll always be it, but… You're a man now. And so I am. We both get to choose our own life."

It was while he was at least somewhat attempting to console his brother though that Ravan spotted her, across the grounds. And he wasn't the only one.

Haven had returned to Fairy Tail more than once by this point, but neither time had garnered any true attention outside of her family. A few sneers, maybe some glee, with the last one, but nothing major. This time was different though and she could feel the eyes of everyone, even people who she didn't know, who knew her and what she'd done.

But still, she held tight to Locke's hand and he spied his parents rather than the curious glances and waved over at his mother in greeting. His distraction however is what led to it happening once again, Navi barreling into Haven, but he smiled all the same, just as he had the other time.

Though, perhaps with a little more teeth this time.

"I am so glad you're here," Navi told them both Haven, rather than shoving her off, only tentatively patted at the other girl's back though her discomfort was visible. "I thought I would go home before the two of you ever came out of your apartment, Locke."

"Why haven't you?" Haven asked bluntly and Navi blushed while Locke sighed, but there was no apologizing for her then.

"Well," Navi began, "I guess for one, to see you."

"Doubt it."

"Haven-"

"What's the real reason?"

Navi only groaned though, glancing over at her shoulder and jerking a thumb towards where her father was gleefully swinging around a hammer, though it only seemed to be getting him scolded by his new master. But didn't she understand? He had someone to entertain now!

For all her planning and worrying about her family being super weird about the first guy that Navi brought home to meet, she never quite imagined that they'd hit it off so well. Mainly because, for one, her father hated strangers. And for two, it had to be super weird for them, you'd think, or at least a new experience, of which the man also hated and would no doubt influence the others into hating.

You'd think.

But Tate didn't feel like a stranger. At all.

"You're saying that's how come I fought that guy that time?" Natsu asked a lot that day as he sat around with the living room, shooting the breeze with Tate. When the young man nodded, Natsu would laugh, "Sounds like me."

"You would know that," Navi complained, more than once, "if you read any of my book. Literally any of it. Dad. Did you not read it? Did any of you?"

"I had it read to me," he told her with a shrug.

"I read it to him," Happy assured her. "But only the parts that felt like they revolved around me."

"Ask me a question about Edolas," Natsu challenged her. "I'll nail it."

And ugh.

Her mother seemed to note her discomfort, but every time she tried to defuse the situation, Natsu would only egg Tate into going on and on about himself and Natsu wasn't a braggart or anything. No way. But he just had so much pent up energy, after standing around outside the dumb barrier, and if he couldn't go to the hall to blow it off, then getting fired up about his past battles, reliving them in full detail was great.

Except for Navi.

"They really like him," she was complaining to Locke and Haven. "Even my brothers. But...I don't anymore. And I normally go home, back to Magnolia, when I want space, but I brought him here. How else do you even get rid of guys?"

Locke had no answer and Haven only shrugged some before releasing her boyfriend's hand and shoving at his shoulder.

"Go see your family," she ordered. 'Before your gross dad comes over here instead."

And Locke made a face at her, but Haven ignored it. As always, Navi's problems seemed easily solvable from the standpoint of the blonde. Still, as they stood together alone, Haven did nothing to rub this in and spoke on something else instead.

"When do I get my own book? Anyways?" she asked Navi. "Coming back from the dead is way cooler than any of your stupid family's accomplishments, right?"

Navi made a face at first, but then smiled as she retorted, "What they did served others, you know. That's what makes it important. It wasn't just for themselves."

She could take a joke better in those days, Haven could, and knew that Navi meant no real offense by her words, but as they looked over the ruin of the hall, Haven was grateful to have already come to peace with that.

It came about only a day or two after her father left. Marin, though disappointed when her sister never did seem to come back around, to check in on her, like she'd promised, she thought perhaps she should return the favor.

Kai, who definitely didn't want to go to Locke's place, no way, not at all, didn't.

But as Marin got ready to go with or without him, Ravan, who was still hanging about, only shoved his brother's head with a frown.

"Go make up with Locke, stupid."

"You go make up with Locke," Kai retorted because it was, honestly, the best one he had on the subject.

But when Ravan only stared at him as they sat on the couch together, Kai took to frowning down at the floor.

"I don't want to," he grumbled. "We… The only reason I hate him so much is 'cause he got everyone all worked up, you know? About going after you and… Why should I have to forgive him for that? You're my brother. And he was one of my friends. But then he-"

"Locke's an idiot." And if there was anything Ravan felt strongly about, it was that. "But you're going to have to make up with him eventually. He's….who Haven's gonna be around. For now. So Marin will be around her and him and are you just going to make yourself miserable? About something you can't change? Cause you shouldn't. Trust me, it's not worth it."

"I don't like him," was all the younger of the two grumbled because he really, really didn't want to do it. He wasn't the kind to hold grudges, but the one against Locke had become so wedged inside of him that it would be hard to take out.

"But do you love Marin?" Ravan didn't wait for his brother's answer. "Then do it. Because you do things for people you love, Kai. Even things you don't wan to."

Sulking then, Kai stroked a hand against the fabric of the couch, not liking the sensation at all.

"You've changed," was all his younger brother said. "Again."

Ravan just sat back though, on the couch, considering.

"Yeah, well," he decided as Marin emerged. "I guess we all have."

Marin seemed kind of nervous on the journey over to Locke's place, which meant Kai wasn't able to be. He had to be upbeat and happy.

"What's the worst that can happen?" he tried, hoping it would lift his spirits too, but oh, the worst had already happened.

Haven and Locke both were surprised to see them, but the latter welcomed them in all the same. Locke kept talking though, in circles, until Haven grew tired of this and took Marin's hand.

"She didn't come to see you, Locke," she told him simply with a frown and Marin almost protested, just to save his feelings, but Locke had worst things on the horizons as, there he was now, trapped with Kai.

They just stared at one another for a long few seconds, in the tiny apartment, the two guys did, as Locke rubbed at the back of his neck and Kai really didn't know what to do. For all his words, all the apologies he'd made over the years, this wasn't the most challenging, not by a long shot, but felt like the strangest.

At the root of things, Ravan was right after all. They both loved Haven and Marin and that meant they had to be friends. Or at least affable.

But as he stood there, Kai kept trying to assure himself that it was okay, to let his anger go, to get over it, but the deeper the dug, the more he found that…

He wasn't angry.

At Locke.

Not anymore.

He really was, when everything was first going down and his brother was sent away. Maybe even a little bit after that. But somewhere along the way, he stopped checking in with himself and just assumed this as fact and, though the older guy offered him no ill-will, he found himself absolutely seething any time they were near one another. How could he not? Locke was the reason that Ravan got barred and abused by the guild and that wasn't fair.

At all.

Even now, Locke just got Haven back without any repercussions.

What was that? Huh?

But...the anger wasn't there. Hurt was. Pain. But not anger.

"Do you want something to eat?"Locke asked eventually. "I don't got a lot in the fridge, but I'm sure there's something. If you're hungry."

And damn him!

Kai's one (of many) weaknesses.

But still, as they ate cold pizza from the previous night, out on the couch, Kai only said around his, "I'm not gonna think of you as my brother anymore. Or ever. Just so you know."

Locke nodded though, hardly even considering it, as he said, "I think I'd be fine with that, Kai. Yeah."

Things were different though, for the sisters, as Marin felt Haven's eyes fall almost immediately to where the gemstone hung on her neck. Only, it was something different that caught her sister's eyes, she was certain.

"You can have it," Marin was quick to say as she reached up to grab at the lightning bolt pendant. "Both of them. Even. I… Freed gave it to me. He said that Dad gave it to Mom to give to me because… He… He said that I am one now. Like you and him. A Dreyar. And that I should wear it because-"

"You're not like us, Marin," Haven told her simply, but her sister didn't sound jealous for once as she only sat on the end of Locke's bed. "And you shouldn't want to be. You're you. You's way better."

Slowly, Marin moved to take a seat beside her sister and, as she glanced around Locke's bedroom at all the random papers and journals lying about, Marin felt herself blush some, at the sight of his discarded boxers on the floor and noting that, Haven smiled, reaching over to lay an arm over her sister's shoulders. Marin froze for a moment and only relaxed when she noted Haven's grin.

"You," Haven insisted to her, "is very good. And keep it. If it means something to you. The pendant. It was Ivan's wife's. It meant a lot to him and dad. If it did me, it was the old me. Keep the other pendant too. It meant a lot. To me and Locke both. But… We're going to be different people now. I want to be a different person now. You need some of the old me in you though. You're getting pretty strong now. You gotta have something more than just your magic though, to back it up. And I'll keep the old me, anyways. In other ways."

Marin wasn't so sure of this 'new' version of her sister, but she nodded all the same, certain they'd see a reassurance soon enough.

"What are you gonna do now?" Marin asked softly. "Are you gonna go after Ivan too? Or...will you go back out and try to get stronger?"

"I dunno," Haven admitted and even if she was uncertain, Marin had to admit, she felt slightly different. There was still something underneath, something more like she'd always been, but as they sat there together, it felt like her sister was being honest with her. And that was very welcome. "Right now I just need to heal and then… It really fucked with my head, the first few days. When I was back. That I really died, you know? And for what? So that Ivan and Laxus could have a dumb showdown? So you could become a better slayer?"

"Haven-"

"It's okay." And it was. Finally. Really. Truly. "I thought a lot about what I did to you, Marin, when I was trapped. Dead. I… I shouldn't have treated you so badly. When we were kids. Or even when we grew up. You're not weak. You never were. You were just different than me. And if the only reason I came back, that I got to come back, was to tell you that then…"

She seemed out of words, Haven did, and that was fine, she'd said more than enough, and Marin only turned slightly to hug her sister.

"Erza will wanna talk to you," she whispered into her older sister's neck. "And everyone else. And… I know that Locke hates him because all of that stuff on the gauntlet, but Ravan is… He means a lot to me. And if you're mad at him, because he left you out there or whatever, just know that he's sorry. I know he is. Even if he can't say it. Please just talk to him. Before he goes."

Haven nodded though as her sister released her.

"People don't always have to say it," the blonde told her simply as Marin grinned and nodded, for them to mean it."

As she stood out in the heat that day with Navi, Haven meant it even more and was glad, almost, to see him standing off with his brother, over dressed for the heat and probably sweating to death under his bandanna.

She almost headed over there, to be the first one this time around, to try and get a conversation going. But someone stopped her as, just when she was gonna try that ditching guys trick on Navi (she was sure it worked both ways), Haven had someone jump to a stop right in front of her.

"Ah, kid, look at ya. Not a single dark entity resides in ya now. Kept my mouth shut, you know, kept the babies shut- Well, they're painted on, mind ya, but you know what I mean. 'cause I knew it'd work out. I saw your soul, swirling around in there, right where it should be. Just took a bit of convicin', huh? To get it all sorted out."

Navi smiled at Haven's uncle, but the woman herself only rolled her eyes.

"Well, you almost got my father, mother, sister, and friends all killed, but yeah, thanks," Haven said with a nod. "Big help."

"Knew I would be."

"Knew it," the dolls agreed and, as Bickslow wrapped his arms tightly around Haven, she didn't feel malice towards him over it. Or at anyone.

Not anymore.

Who could?

But as Bickslow was called off to go deal with someone calling for the help of his acrobatics somewhere on the grounds, the smaller, younger, and yet probably more intelligent version of him was quickly bounding over.

"Haven," Ajax greeted, staring up at her with his eyes still full of all the same problems he'd had, days ago, back at the apartment. "Did you come to help rebuild the guild? Are you joining back up? Or-"

"Later, Jack," she sighed. "Aren't your friends around to bother?"

And Navi made a face at this, because oh, she'd gotten to hear all about what a jerk Ajax was the past few months and, as he only kicked at the ground, he told his cousin, "They're kinda babies, you know? And I'm not. So I've been focusin' on trainin', you know? To get stronger and better and- Hey!"

Haven zapped him with a sharp bolt and as he frowned at her, she only gave him one back.

"Do you know all I went through?" she complained. "Just to get back to my dumb, stupid, lame friends? And here you are, just kicking yours aside because you think they'll, what? Get in the way of your training. They're who build you up, idiot. You think if I didn't spend everyday knocking teeth in, I would have gotten as strong as I am? Go make up with your dumb friends. Now. I mean it. And don't fight with them ever again."

"You sound like Mom," he complained and bleh.

Haven hadn't thought of this.

Now not only did she have some of shared magic with her mother, she also shared a similar experience with her Aunt Lisanna. She was becoming way too much like a Strauss for her taste. Gross.

Her dealings with Ajax, however, had taken away her chance of approaching Ravan though as, finally, the guy came skulking over and if there was ever a cue for Navi to leave, it was that.

"I'll see you before I take off," she insisted to Haven. "After I figure out what to do with stupid Tate."

Haven had a few suggestions, honestly, but at the same time, she was trying really hard at that new person stuff.

"Can we talk?" Ravan asked as he approached and Haven knew that Locke was glaring over, rather than listening to his father's very loud complaint about the waste of nails that was going on, but still, she nodded some.

"Alone?" he kept up and Haven only made a face.

"Don't push your luck."

Still, they did walk together over to the gate, him leaning up against it and even pulling down his bandanna, just to smoke in the shade, while Haven stood by, watching from afar as the fairies cleaned up the mess she'd made.

"Sucks about your old man."

"Why? Now your mom gets to be guild master. Figured you'd be stoked."

"Why?" he questioned right back and it was awkward between them and neither were sure of how to dissolve it.

There were just too many steps backwards one would have to take, to find even footing for them. Recently, they'd been pitted against one another to the death. Jump back just a bit and him getting madly jealous over her celebrating a supposed victory with her actual boyfriend had kind of, inadvertently gotten her killed, which he'd fled from. Another step back from that was them fighting over the fact they'd slept together and he'd read way too much into that, which the thought of embarrassed him now and even moving backwards from there, you had to get to Incidio, probably, to get to a normal interaction that was laced with something else.

"I guess she'll let you back into the guild," Haven remarked. "If that's what you want."

"It's not. That's what I wanted to talk to you about."

"I really doubt Erza cares about my opinion on the subject."

"No, I meant..." He had to take a long, gross drag then and they used to spend so many night on the swordswoman's porch, doing this. Just talking. Being around one another. It felt like a lifetime ago.

Considering her death, perhaps it had been.

"I wanted to talk about what I'm doing. Right now. With Jellal and… It's everything you always talked about, you know? Like, it's a; guild or whatever, I guess, an unsanctioned one, but it's like all these insanely powerful people, getting together, well, because they did bad shit, fine, but also because… They wanna do better. And that's what you always wanted, right? To do better?"

"Ravan-"

"You should come with me." There. He said it. He wouldn't look at her though, as he said it. Just his smoke as it drifted in the windless day. "Or us. I mean. You know you don't want to be here. In Fairy Tail. You can come with us, until you get back on your feet, and you can be doing good, actual good, like you always wanted and-"

"That's not what I want, Ravan."

And he fell back then, against the wall, as she only stood beside, shaking her head some.

"I shouldn't have…gone with you. On the gauntlet. And not just because I died. I'm...trying to be different now. You know? And going with you, or just running away, right now, from all of this, would be...the same stupid shit that I always do." Turning to face him the, she even smiled. "I don't blame you for anything and I hope you don't blame me. If you're happy, doing what you're doing, good. I hope you are. But when we're around each other… We're just not good for one another. And-"

"You can't," he told her as he dropped his cigarette to the hot asphalt and smashed it with the heel of his boot, "break up with someone, Haven, you were never really with."

She sneered at him though.

"I wouldn't know the protocol. I usually just leave without saying anything."

"Yeah, I've noticed that." Tugging his bandanna up around his mouth once more, Ravan said, "Your boyfriend's about to come over here and start shit, so I guess you should go calm him donw. Because if he touched me again-"

"You're the one that told him we slept together. Thanks for that, by the way. I really wanted that out there."

"I didn't."

"Sure."

But Ravan found a good reason, at least, to go grab his brother up by the back of his collar and drag him off somewhere private. Not that Haven noticed. As she walked across the grounds, Locke easily fell back in step with her and it was time to face his new master.

Erza had already found a new assistant, it seemed, as Marin stood at her side holding the woman's clipboard, checking things off as the swordswoman listed things off. At the approach of her sister, Marin smiled easily and, though Haven didn't return it this time, it was nice to just exist around one another again.

"Master." Locke bowed to the woman, deeply while Haven only looked off, rubbing at one arm. "I wronged Fairy Tail, under Master Laxus. It's partially my fault that the guildhall is… I accept any punishment that you think is-"

"Arise, Locke. I am hardly the person to punish someone for attempting to protect their love at all cost."

Haven only rolled her eyes though, still unable to look at Erza while Locke, once he straightened himself only insisted, "I will help you rebuild the guildhall and join any portion of things you so wish."

"Of course you will," she agreed with a nod of her head. "You are a member of Fairy Tail, after all. It is only your duty." But she eyed the blonde then as she said, "But you, Haven, are not currently."

"Nope." She still turned her head from the woman. "I'm not. But...I caused the damage and I'll-"

"Do wish to be?"

"Huh?"

"I said," Erza repeated simply, "do you wish to be a member once more? Because I actually have something I wanted to speak with you about. Ravan told me once, before, about your interest in Bosco and I myself have been intrigued before, by it's liberation. Consider me shameful if you must, but it just never kept my attention for long. I find myself much the countryman. However, I kept this in mind, over these months since your passing and, as Master now, I would not mind and would accept any scrutiny the crown might level at Fairy Tail, should one of my mages represent us among a group I am aware of who stays quite persistent in this matter. They are a small group, but they mean well, and I do not see it as slanderous, to have such a just cause as aligning us to them."

She had Haven's eyes then. Locke's as well. Though, his were much darker. He'd never heard this, after all. About Bosco. It was Ravan that she confided that portion of things to while she'd only ever assured Locke she never intended to journey there again.

The idea of it, for the betterment of others, didn't sit well with him. Considering she'd only just agreed to staying with him, no matter what that meant, it was easy to see why this might cause him some hesitance.

But it was to him that Erza spoke next.

"However," she was saying, because there was always one of those, weren't there, "I cannot see me sending a...recently reformed member as a good showing of faith. An S-Class member, however, accompanied by another, I could see that. And Locke, Master Laxus faltered a lot, these past few months, but from all I've heard, had the trails gone on as intended this past winter, you would have found yourself in the thick of it. Imagine, if you could get there this year. And surely, Haven, that would be enough time for you to heal up once more. At least I would hope." At their numb nods, Erza merely shrugged her shoulders. "It is merely an offer. Perhaps you go on your own, Haven. I will give you the name of the group, all the same. But if you wish to bare your family's emblem once more, you merely need to speak with me. Now, if you will excuse your sister and I, we must get this hall rebuilt at once!"

And Erza was yelling that last part at someone else, a group of them, actually, who were monkeying around though, at the sound of their new master's gripes, they were reminded that the old king was dead; and the new one wasn't going to spend her days boozing it up either.

Marin waved at them both though, as she followed after the swordswoman, but Haven and Locke just stared at one another, both at a loss for words.

"Well," he began, slowly, "I do still kinda wanna be S-Class. I mean, if I have to. To help you, uh, reach your goal and all."

But she didn't share his smile as instead, Haven merely looked over the beginnings of a new hall.

"It's a lot," she mumbled, but Locke only patted her on the head.

"Not if we do it together."

"I'll have to get strong. Again. Stronger."

"Weren't you anyways?"

"And would you really go with me?"

"I already told you, Have. I'll go anywhere with you. And if my master is ordering me to-"

"It shouldn't be this easy," she told him though, shaking her head and he just smiled as he reminded her,

"It's not. Or it won't be. Maybe this was your purpose for coming back, Haven."

Just to be a fairy again?

Taking his arm though, she found herself nodding and, well, there were certainly worse things to be.

Not for Kai though a few nights later as he found himself slipping around on the new wooden floors in his socks as Marin, who had been going over budget stuff as he killed time to walk her home, kind of drifted off a bit, head down on the table. When he noticed though and wen to wake her back up, someone else called out to him.

"Let her sleep," Erza sighed as she came out of the back room, finished up it seemed, with her own portion of things. "And come sit with me. Let's take in my new hall together."

It sounded much better than it turned out to be though as, after sitting across from one another for a moment or two, Erza only started in on him once more. After a few weeks reprieve, he probably deserved it.

"You still," she began softly and he knew exactly where she was headed, "haven't told Marin that you wish to leave. Have you?"

And he only groaned some, shoulder slumping as he figured this was answer enough. As Erza's heavy gaze endured though, eventually he did raise his head once more to stare back at her.

"You said that it's my life now, right, Erza?"

"That's right."

"That I'm grown and all that?"

"You are."

"Well… Then stop trying to make me do something I don't want to do. I'll tell Marin when I'm ready. If I'm ready. And I'll go if I wanna go. Or not go if I don't wanna. And… How come making decisions for yourself just sucks so hard? How is everyone else so good at?" His head fell completely then, dramatically down to the table and Erza only rolled her eyes as he went on. "Ravan, he just decided not to come back without even thinking about it, considering, and Haven's just joined back up, after all the horrible things she said, and how do they do it? Make decisions? Or the Master. Well, Laxus, I guess. He just decides, in the middle of the night and does it. I couldn't do that. I can't even decide if I wanna go or not! I just keep going back and forth and I… I think I'm failing at being an adult already."

"You're not failing, Kai." Reaching out, Erza stroked his hair a bit which did little to not make him feel even more like a little boy. "You're learning."

"But it feels like everyone else already knows. Everything."

"No," she said slowly, "they just do. Sometimes without thinking. And make mistakes. Massive ones. Sometimes in this guild, it feels like that's okay. That you can just come back from those without any trouble, but believe me, everyone learns their lesson eventually. Big things take time. And even though I think you should speak to Marin and Lance both-"

"Erza-"

"You're a man now." And she removed her hand. "I have a new child to worry about."

"Ew, gross." He sat right back to attention. "You're, you know, uh-"

"Kai-"

"You're the one that said-"

"I mean this hall. This guild." She looked about it then, different, but still the same. It only felt right that, finally, the new generation had gotten their chance at wrecking the joint. "It's a very special thing. Fairy Tail. I must put my all into fostering it. At least until Master Laxus returns."

"But..." And Kai hadn't wanted to say this before and even glanced over at Marin then, to be certain she was still sleeping. "What if...he doesn't? Erza?"

She only hummed some and her eyes were on the teen girl as well as she told him, "There are other things for me to keep my eye on as well. After all."

Nodding some then, he felt no less conflicted, but found it in himself to say, "I think you'll be a good master, Erza."

"And I think you will be a good fisherman. Or mage. Or continue to be our gardener. It doesn't matter, Kai." She stood then while he stayed seated and it felt like the old days with her looming over him. But in a good way. A comforting way. "You're a good person. And good people always have a way of making the right decision in the end. Even if it takes them a few tries to get there."

Chapter Text

Winter fell early that year and, as the man walked through the streets of Magnolia, the only companion he was given was his breath, falling from his mouth like smoke and billowing around in the season's early, yet freezing air. His fuzzy coat brought him little comfort and, the closer he got to home, the more he found it itchy.

Or perhaps it was his nervous that were getting to him and he didn't know what he would do, honestly, if he arrived there and no one was there. Or people who weren't his family. Or worse yet; his wife and...and someone else.

But you didn't get to leave for nearly half a year on short notice, with no word since departing, and yet expect someone to hope and pray you'd eventually return.

Especially not when, mentally, they'd been gone for far longer.

But no, the man decided as he caught himself in time, before he fully slipped on some dark ice, it was just that the old coat was itchy as fuck. Yes. That was the only answer.

The wooden steps up the porch creaked under his weight, loudly in the pre-dawn hours, and he winced some, but not at the sound. Rather as he felt it, creeping up in his chest. He had to pause, before the door, to cough deeply and roughly, his chest aching some at it, and ugh, it would be better, at least, to be somewhere warm and out of the cold. It could only be a few weeks before heavy snowfall, he was certain.

As he dug through his pockets for a key though, something else formed in his chest and he couldn't sense anyone there, really, other than the one person he was hoping was. And she didn't seemed bothered, either, by all the noise he'd made in his arrival, which was a bit concerning to Laxus, truly, and he had to wonder what would happen, should someone with poor intentions happen upon their home.

He found out anyways, when he walked through the house nearly undetected and even entered their bedroom to find his wife there, sleeping soundly. But as he grew closer, hoping to wake her gently, she seemed to sense him as well, for the first time, and as the woman shot up, it was with not a hand outstretched, but rather a claw and fuck, he was too old to hit the deck that quickly.

"It's me!"

"Laxus?"

"Who else would it be?"

As he found himself slowly straightening once more, they only stared at one another in the darkness as Mirajane fell back into the bed, purple tiles appearing and quickly dissipating as her hand was just that once more, and it was just them, again, hearts leaping from both their chests, in their bedroom. Together.

Her breathing evening once more, Mirajane slowly relaxed as she asked, "Are you...okay now?"

But Laxus just took off his coat slowly, some of the light snowfall he'd traveled through being transferred them to their carpet as he shook it out, melting in the warmth of the house. Not quite sure how to answer her question, he remarked simply, "I took care of him."

"Ivan?"

Instead of answering, he only gestured some, to the bed, as if asking permission causing his wife to frown, speaking instead.

"You do live here," she pointed out and he agreed, maybe, but not for a long time.

It was the end of the bed though, that he took a seat on, and as Laxus hung his head, his wife only shoved up to her knees, coming behind him to tentatively rest a hand on one of his shoulders.

"Are you hurt? You should let me check you out, Laxus. And in the morning, come down to the guildhall. Wendy will be there, I'm sure. Or...Locke, I guess, but-"

"How are the girls?" he asked instead.

Mira squeezed his shoulder though, tightly, before saying, "You missed a lot, Laxus."

Slowly, she relented her grip and as he tilted his head back instead, hers came forwards, to rest against his back, and it was kind of an awkward position, but it only matched the situation.

"Haven's here though," his wife told him softly. "Still. If that's what you meant."

"I asked about them both."

Humming softly, Mira said, "Marin's working very closely with Erza. And keeps bar. I guess not a lot has changed after all."

"No, it has," he assured her, knowing without true knowledge. "Demon. It had to have."

"You have to be hungry." Clearly, his wife wasn't too interested in the conversation's direction. As she shoved away from him, Laxus only frowned as she left him in bed. "It's not too early. I'll make you a big breakfast and then, at sunrise, we can go down to the guildhall. Everyone will wanna see you. And...there's a lot you'll need to do there too. I'm sure."

He wasn't. About anything. But still, he got to his feet to follow her through the dark house, glad to find it was still mostly the same, nothing new to block his path.

"Haven doesn't live here then," he grumbled.

"Why would she?" his wife asked back and he knew that she had to know what he was really asking, what he really wanted to know, but she just didn't want to play along.

It wouldn't matter; he was sure he'd find out soon enough.

"Marin still has her apartment?" he went on. "With Kai?"

"Well," Mira answered through a yawn as the first thing she did was put on a pot of coffee, "she still has her apartment."

The demon, it seemed, had no intentions on making things easy for him.

As she busied herself with the coffeepot though, Laxus found himself annoyed a bit to discover his seat at the kitchen table taken by a box of some sort and, as he leaned down to move it, his eyes fell somewhere else.

The fridge.

Frowning some, he left his chair and instead went over to it. When he opened it, he found it pretty bare, honestly, but considering the only person that lived there currently was too odd. Sad, maybe, lonely, probably, but it made it easier, anyways, for Laxus to see his last case of beer, shoved all the way to the back of the fridge, but still there. Waiting for him. Unfinished. He had a lot worst stuff, harder, at least, out in the cabinet in the living room, but for the moment, all he could stare at was that case, there, taunting him, and as he reached for it, he heard his wife begin to idly chat behind him, something about Ajax and her sister, but he didn't hear her, not really, as he pulled the entire case out of the fridge.

"What are you doing?" Mirajane asked in a hushed voice when, at the sound of one of the tabs popping on a can, she expected to be disappointed, finding him drinking at the table, so early, waiting for his breakfast. But instead he'd come over to the counter, with her, where he'd sat the case and, as he stood over the sink, after popping the tab, he only turned the can upside down, watching the liquid flow out, swirling away. The smell was triggering, extremely, but he only watched it in silence as his wife came over to do the same.

"Things are going to be different now," he told her softly when he rose his eyes though it was only grab another can from the case. Mirajane nodded even though, he was pretty sure, she didn't buy it, but still, she stood at his side, watching as it all washed away, down the drain and, eventually, the smell was overpowered anyways, by her strong coffee.

Laxus showered, good and long, after breakfast, and Mirajane had fallen silent after cooking, continually glancing at the time, as if they had somewhere to be. She was antsy, he was sure, like he was, or perhaps just wanted him around other people who weren't her, so it wasn't her sole responsibility to welcome him home.

She was seated on the couch when he finished with his shoulder and Laxus only stood there for a moment, in the doorway to the kitchen, watching her with a strong gaze, moving to join her when her bright blue eyes met his.

"Have you been okay?" he asked softly. "Mira?"

But she was shifting closer to him, as they sat together, watching as the sun crept slowly through the blinds and soon, it would be time for them to walk once more to the guildhall.

"Dragon," she said rather than answering as he only turned to look down at her. It wasn't lost on either of them, really, how different it was. How odd. Years ago (decades, now, was it?), him arriving back home from a long time away would result in much more fanfare. Especially for such a long time. This was more than just subdued; it was a result of the rockiness of their relationship and a due punishment for them both. But as she stared up at him, she even smiled, just a bit, as she said, "I just… I didn't think you were ever going to come home."

Nodding some, Laxus told her, "But you waited for me?"

"Of course." Her eyes fell away from his as one of her hands came up, to rest against his arm. "I always will."

It wasn't snowing any longer, when they set off from the house, but the sun was still hidden by the gray clouds overhead and Mirajane didn't hold to his arm, as they walked along, towards the hall, like she might have in years past, but just knowing she was there, by his side, was enough for the slayer.

A light snow had begun, as they reached the grounds, and Mirajane smiled some as Laxus looked over the new from of the hall.

"It's different," she agreed as they approached the doors, "but it's still Fairy Tail."

It felt the same, anyways, as they stepped inside, but as Mirajane shook the snow off, Laxus' eyes only fell to where he saw his youngest daughter, busy in the few minutes she still had, before opening, writing something or other down on a sheet of paper as she stood hunched over it, behind the bar.

Kai was at her side, standing about useless as ever, but he looked different to Laxus for some reason. His hair was cut, for once, for one thing, but something about his posture and frame…

Marin had glanced over her shoulder, just a bit, probably to turn away whoever came in, but seemed to note her mother and only went back to her writing. Just for a moment. Then something clicked and, as she turned back to look again, she smiled brightly as she came rushing over to him.

As Marin fell into his chest though, Laxus still felt it there, even months out. Especially months out. She was always so thrilled with him, even when he was at his lowest, even when he was treating her as the lowest in the family, that it felt wrong, really, to revel in it. But it was nice, all the same, to actually be welcomed back, to be wanted, embraced, and as he returned the gesture, he figured he should soak it up; it probably wasn't going to be the standard response.

"Oh, wow!" Kai jumped some, as he always did, when he got too excited. "This is so- Hey, Erza! The Master is… Oh."

And his excitement died as Marin only held her father tighter because, clearly, his return had some unwelcome implications on the Scarlet household.

But Marin didn't want to be one, not in that moment, as she tilted her head up to stare at her father brightly.

"Did you do everything," she asked, beaming, "that you wanted to do?"

"Not everything," he sighed some as, finally, she released him. "But the important thing."

The tables had been organized differently now and as Laxus turned to frown at them, he noted Kai had disappeared, but only for a moment it seemed, as he was quickly returning with Erza.

"It is good to see you returned unharmed," she offered the man and he sneered, Laxus did, as he still found it, even in the new configuration; his table.

"Is it?" he asked as he sat down, the tingling starting up in his chest once more.

"Well," Erza began as Mira hummed and Marin, noting the time, rushed back over to the bar to finish what she was writing down, "I suppose it depends on who you speak with."

Kai was just standing there, at her side, clearly expecting some sort of showdown or something, Laxus was certain. And he'd be right. Man, it would be so cathartic for the teen, to see Erza smoke Laxus in a battle and become the rightful ruler of Fairy Tail forevermore. But his constant laziness and 'hanging about' had always gotten under the lightning mage's skin.

"Don't you got some work to do?" he complained then and he felt his wife's annoyed gaze, but he only glared at Kai, annoyed always just by his presence. But instead of recoiling or cowering, the moron only beamed brightly at him.

"Nope," he told the man, proudly, almost, really. "I don't work here anymore, actually, Master."

Looking to Erza, he nodded some as he said, "Only in charge a few months and you've made a better decision than I did in years."

As she frowned at him as well, Kai looked almost hurt, but that was fine as Marin was right there, well, over at the bar still, actually, but calling over all the same, to inform her father of the current state of affairs.

It actually all began not long after her father had departed. The days were a bit confusing and muddled, but as devout Fairy Tail members (as well as obviously still close to their new master), Kai and Marin found that they had much to keep them busy as the guildhall was rebuilt. This made it easy, at least, to avoid dealing with any problematic emotions that might stem from the all the recent events and Kai only hoped that the distraction was good for his friend.

But, as there was so much support and willing to sacrifice members, the hall was back in function in no time and though that left some new uncertainty, as it would be under new leadership, it meant work as usual for the pair of them, with some added responsibilities. Kai found Master Laxus' frequent inebriation and lack of attention towards his hall to be a blessing, in some ways, as it gave him a good chance to goof off and put in very little effort. Clearly, under the vision of Erza, this was no longer the case and he was actually pretty swamped, at work, and miserable by the entire concept of it.

This culminated one day in him stretching out on the apartment couch and claiming he was never going to get up again.

"The guild's only been up for two days, Kai," Marin chided though she did pat him on the back of the head kindly. "You'll get used to all of Erza's new tasks. And you have to admit, it's not like they're unfair."

"It's completely unfair! I liked the old way of doing things. Who actually has to check in and out at work? And this whole 'looking in on me' thing is definitely just her trying to make me miserable."

"You know that's not true."

"I don't know if it's untrue," he challenged and to which Marin only sighed.

"Erza's gotta be hard on us," she said. "If she wasn't, then it would mean everyone else could slack off. She wants us to be our best at what we do best."

"I am not," he complained against the cushion of the couch, "best at scrubbing toilets."

"No," Marin sighed, knowing she frequently had to go over most all his janitorial work, "you're not."

But it was as she was stroking at his hair that there was a knock at the door and, considering he was rather indisposed at the moment, moping and all, Marin only rose to her feet to go rush and see who it was.

"Haven," was all she greeted the blonde as she stood there, on the other side of the door, staring blankly back at her younger sister.

"Marin," she repeated back and the white hair girl in question blushed some. "Can I come in, or-"

"O-Of course, I just, it's so late and… Where's Locke?"

Haven almost responded with something snarky, about them not always having to be together, but that hadn't been the case since her resurrection and, well, it was probably a fair question. If she was going to be a better person now, she couldn't act like a jerk over every little thing.

Just every other.

"He took a job." She shrugged some too. "We need jewels."

"I guess that's right," Marin sighed, shutting the door behind her sister as Haven only took a good look around. She hadn't been to the apartment since that day she'd come to see her sister, and then she was only in and out. Now, she seemed more interested in taking everything in. "Did you, um, need something? Or-"

"He was such an ass about it too," Haven went on. "Like always."

Hardly, in actuality. More like he'd mentioned it to her and admitted his concerns over leaving her alone only for her to flip out on him and then claim he was lording it over her, that he was able to go on jobs and that she wasn't contributing anything and it was very up and down times, in the apartment as Haven sulked, mostly, over her injuries and lack of control of her magic currently.

"I'll only be gone for a bit," he remarked to her in parting, when the turbulence died down and she was less on the attack. "Probably. Just take care of the apartment while I'm gone, okay?"

But Haven only snorted, turning her head when he tried to kiss her. "I'll probably rake in more jewels than you, while you're gone."

"How?" he complained as now she was just being petulant and Haven only snorted again before finally allowing him to kiss her goodbye.

"He was completely lording it over to me," she explained to her sister that night as Marin tried very hard to think of any time, even just once, this had ever been the case between them. "I don't need him to take care of me. That's what he wants, you know."

"Well, until you get stronger, you do have to stay somewhere,' Marin pointed out innocently enough. "I guess you could go stay with Mom or Aunt Lisanna, but-"

"Shut up, Marin," Haven ordered because this was not inline with her current decision that Locke sucked. Still, after she spoke, Haven sighed some, glanced back at her sister, and said, "I just mean that you weren't there. So you have no idea how much of an ass Locke was being."

Marin was willing to give her that, maybe, but as she was about to ask her sister once more what she'd come over so late about, Kai had been given a sudden rejuvenation, springing up from the couch as Haven entered the living room.

"Hey!" he agreed with a grin as the blonde only eyed him suspiciously. "Haven, are you here to, you know, spend the night?"

"Why do you sound so excited?" Haven asked back and he only shrugged, grinning with all his teeth.

"We really haven't been able to spend a lotta time together, since you, uh, well, since you… But now we can!"

"We can't." Haven looked to her sister. "I am staying though."

"But why? I mean, you can, but if Locke's not even at the apartment, why do you have to leave?"

"I wouldn't leave," Haven retorted, "over a fight. He would."

"But it's his-"

"You can stay in my room," Kai told her excitedly. "I'll stay with Marin. Or, no, let's all sleep in the living room, like when we were kids, and-"

"I want new sheets," Haven said simply. "For the bed."

"But you didn't let me finish about the living room idea," Kai complained. Still, he said, "We can at least watch a movie on the lacrima, don't you wanna? Before bed?"

"You can do whatever you want," Haven told him. "It's your place."

"Yeah, but I meant that we, together, could-"

"I've been thinking," the blonde spoke right over him and Kai was slowly beginning to remember that, oh, yeah, he'd been happy to have Haven back, but fuck, he'd always kind of hated her, that's right, "Marin, about how much it's gonna suck, not being able to do jobs for awhile. And I'm not just gonna let Locke sit there and lord it over me."

"I'm still not sure he meant-"

"So," Haven went on, "tomorrow, you can show me how to do whatever it is that you do. At the bar."

"W-What?"

"I'm not strong right now," Haven told her simply. "Like you. So, I'll work with you until I get strong."

"Marin's plenty strong," Kai grumbled, now annoyed with Haven. Less about her slight towards her sister though and more about the rejected slumber party vibe he was hoping to get going. "She beat you."

"I," Haven told him simply, "beat me."

And Marin only frowned. "Well-"

"I," Haven told her that time, looking her sister dead in the eyes, "beat me. You, at best, subdued me."

"She could beat you right now," Kai grumbled, kicking at the ground, but Haven wasn't so sure about this, so she pretended not to hear nor acknowledge it while Marin, having heard from Locke and her mother both about Haven's new strange intermingled powers, really wasn't looking to see how far her sister could push her limits and only bowed her head, ignoring his praise as well.

"It doesn't matter," Marin decided and Haven glared at her, ready to push the issue, if need be because, for once, she was completely right in her needless assertion, but…

"It doesn't," she agreed. "Still, I need to make jewels fast to shove it in Locke's stupid face."

"Or because you want to support yourself," Marin reminded. "So he doesn't have to."

But mostly to show him up and rub his dumb, annoying, caring face in it.

"I don't think you can make enough jewels to do that," Kai told her. "In just a few days."

"I saw the tips Mom used to bring in, on good days," Haven told him simply. "And the guild's so busy now, especially just getting back open, I should bring in loads. You probably even need the help, right, Marin?"

"Yeah, maybe, Haven, but Mom's..."

"What?"

"Well, she was… Is, I guess, I don't..."

"If you're going to say something," her older sister complained, "just say it."

"It's just that Mom was….attractive, you know, and-"

"And you're saying," Haven began dryly and Kai began to snicker, unable to hide it as he did so into his palms, "I'm not."

"I didn't say that!"

"You implied it."

"No. I don't make as many tips as Mom either," she complained. Still, Haven only glared and Marin took to sighing some as she added, "And there's a lot more than just hard work that goes into it. Which it is, you know, Haven. Hard work. You also have to have a good...disposition. To be tipped well. You know? And everyone's happy your back, of course, but… You were never really…"

"People hate you," Kai told her simply as his snickers died.

"You hate them," Marin changed it to as her sister glared between the two of them and, honestly, even she was giving Kai some glares. He wasn't helping things. But then, was he ever? "And I just don't think that you'll follow the rules and it might get me in trouble, with Erza, because then you might mess something up and I'll have to take the blame because I know you won't take it and-"

"Wake me up," Haven told her simply as she turned then, eyeing Kai's open bedroom door, "in time to go with you, Marin, in the morning."

"If you say so," she finally sighed and as Haven disappeared into his bedroom, Kai only came to pat Marin on the shoulder.

"Tomorrow'll be great," he told her through a snicker and Marin only made a face.

"I thought you were injured? Or sad? Or something? About work?"

That was before he got to go and see Haven make a fool of herself.

And she did. Err, well, more of the profession as, after not really being much help in opening duties, she turned out to be about as horrible a waitress as Marin had predicted and got in an argument with someone pretty much right off the bat, quitting before Marin even had to face Erza and explain just what was going on.

"It was worth it," Kai laughed to the other teen and Marin felt pretty awful for her sister (even if it was her own awfulness that was her undoing), because Haven really seemed to be trying, maybe at being a good person.

And she was.

But how was she supposed to become a better one when everyone else still sucked the same amount they always sucked?

It was over, at least, Marin hoped, and thought that she might go over to Locke's place the next day, to check on Haven, but this turned out not to be a problem as, after work, she and Kai found her still hanging around their place.

"How did you get in?" Marin asked, concerned she'd left the door unlocked.

"I just took the key out of Kai's pocket when he wasn't looking," Haven replied from where she was, actually, watching a movie on the lacrima on the couch and, as Kai rushed to join, he did find himself somewhat thankful.

"I was afraid I was gonna have to tell Marin I lost it again," he admitted with a sigh of relief while Haven only shushed him and pushed him away, when he sat too close on the couch.

"Are you… Haven, do you wanna stay the night again?" Marin asked as she only stood over the couch. And her sister merely shrugged and Kai only tilted his head back to stare at his best friend.

"Does she count as my guest?" he asked. "Or yours?"

It didn't really seem to matter.

She appeared to have no intention of leaving regardless.

Which wasn't wholly unwelcome. Marin did want to spend some time with her sister and, given her busy schedule at the hall, was fearful this would never come to fruition, but here Haven was, just offering up her limitless time. Still, Marin could tell something else was going on and knew it went further than whatever friction did or didn't (she was pretty confident on the latter) exist with Locke currently and even her disappointing showing of being a waitress.

And oh, it had been mighty disappointing.

"I guess I could make us all dinner," Marin sighed some, leaving the two of them to their movie lacrima. "If that's what you want."

It was.

Still, though Marin noted Haven still around in the morning, later that day at the bar, she saw her sister hanging around, speaking with Ajax and even going over to the request board with him, listening as the teen explained just what kinda job he was hoping to find.

But when Haven took off from the hall, it was on her own and Marin was sure it was either back to Locke's place or training or something, anything, really, but no. Arriving home from work, she found Haven and Kai had to wonder, seriously, if he was ever going to be getting his key back.

"Do you think something's wrong with her?" Marin asked Kai softly that evening and he only shrugged before smiling brightly at her and insisting he would get to the bottom of it.

"Hey, Haven," he called as he left Marin behind in the kitchen and went to lean over the back of the couch and beam down at the glaring blonde. "Since you're over again, I thought that I'd invite Lance over and you guys could finally meet. Wouldn't that be cool?"

But Haven only shrugged at him, not saying anything, and as he rushed back to Marin, Kai hung his head in shame.

"There's definitely something," he sighed as he laid a hand on Marin's shoulder, "wrong with Haven."

To which Marin rolled her eyes, but what he was saying was true enough. It was one thing for her older sister to play nice; Marin had never known her to like even being around her and Kai, much less staying the night with them. Especially when she had a whole empty apartment to herself. Or even literally anywhere. Though she didn't want her sister leaving or disappearing on them, it was hardly out of expectation for her to find some comfort in camping out and her life on the road.

But no, she seemed content to her younger sister's apartment and Marin was walking a tightrope herself, honestly, and wanted to avoid setting her sister off. So she didn't ask or press. Kai though actually did want Lance to come over and figured it could probably smoke Haven out, but nope. She sat there beside the two of them on the couch and only said, at most, five hurtful remarks the whole night.

"I thought you said Marin's sister likes you?" Lance complained, just a bit, after Haven left the room with a quip aimed at Kai.

Kai only frowned though, after her, before saying, "I'm very optimistic. To a fault."

Clearly.

But it would be the next morning when Kai decided it wouldn't hurt none, if he just didn't go in until the afternoon, and he and Haven sat together after Marin took off for work,, eating cereal and not saying much to one another.

"I really hate work," he did say though, eventually, because he couldn't do it. That stony silence. He never found her to be too good at it either, when they were kids, but it seemed to be her counter for no longer just dropping any and every insult that came to mind. "I don't wanna go in."

"Then don't," she told him simply, not even glancing over at him. "Quit."

"Quit?"

"Quit."

"I can't just quit! Erza's counting on me. And Marin too."

"You're jobs super unimportant and they all only treat it like it is because they feel bad about how useless you are." Then Haven paused and considered if being brutally honest was no longer on the menu, but reconciled that, if she just added something on at the end. "But you're good at doing unimportant things."

There. All better.

But Kai only ground his teeth and grumbled, "I'm good at lots of things."

"Like what?"

"Like fishing."

"We're not a fishing guild, Kai. Thank everything. Fish are fucking gross."

Now she'd crossed a line.

But as he opened his mouth to explain, no, she was fucking gross and how dare she, his eyes fell back to his cereal bowl and he asked, "Do you think I could join a fishing guild? If I wanted to?"

"I mean, you're fucking gross enough." Then she thought. "But yes, if you really think it's the single thing in the endless amount of things you suck at that you might be decent in, go join a fucking fishing guild."

And they sat there. Then Kai said, "Marin wouldn't wanna go with me."

"Yeah, because fish are fucking-"

"But Laxus… What if I said, hypothetically, that Lance wanted to go with me? What then?"

"I don't know. Idiot." Still, Haven shrugged then before telling him, "Who cares about either of them anyways? Do you think that I stuck around in Magnolia because your brother was my friend? Or because I was dating Locke? No. Idiot. I went I did what I wanted."

"And...then you died."

Sour now, Haven made a face before retorting, "I lived first. However I wanted. Instead of doing the same job I was given when I was ten as punishment. Do you know how lame that is? Are you gonna work for Erza and do a job you hate for the rest of forever because you're too scared to go do what you want? Even stupid Navi said screw it and went and tried to become whatever she wants."

"I can't just leave Marin though."

"Why not?"

"We need each other."

"Do you know how weird that is? That the two of you are? Because-"

"I'm not weird!" Again, another line crossed. "And neither is Marin. We just love one another. Why's that weird? You love Locke. Don't you?" When she only snorted, he kept right up. "Just 'cause I don't wanna...be with Marin, doesn't mean that I can't love her just as much as you love Locke or he loves you."

"I didn't say it didn't."

"Yes, you did. You implied it."

"No." And man, she had to find a job. Something. Soon. He was rotting her brain. Looking the younger guy in the eyes, she said, "Staying with someone forever and being miserable about it isn't love, Kai. It's punishment. And neither of you have done anything wrong. Other than be born annoying-"

"Haven-"

"It would be weird if I absolutely had to exist with only Locke in my life. I don't," she told him bluntly. "I want him in my life. I like him in my life. And after everything that… I'm planning around things, to make sure he stays in my life. But I was ready too, to leave, if things didn't work out about...some personal stuff." And Haven looked off and Kai tried hard to pretend he had no idea what she was talking about, nope, not at all. Still, with a huff, she said, "I'd leave tomorrow if I thought I needed to. Or Locke needed me to. And I want him to do the same to me. Because it wouldn't matter. If you're supposed to be with someone, eventually it all works back out. This is it all working back out for us. Sometimes you need time apart, to know if you really wanna be together."

Kai made a face, feeling kind of awkward given that Haven was shifting away from him, no doubt feeling it as well, and he only muttered, "Well, you died, so-"

"We were apart before that and you know it. So shut up. Moron."

"But you just went out because you were mad at everyone," he defended instead. "That's not the same thing."

"I left because I had other things I had to do and to figure out, about myself, and about what I wanted."

"And you found it?"

"Kind of. Yeah. I guess I did."

"But if I find what I want," he pointed out, "and it's a fishing guild and Marin doesn't want that, then-"

"Just because you do something at eighteen or nineteen, doesn't mean you'll be doing it for the rest of your life," she told him. "I'm not doing what I was doing, two years ago. Your brother isn't. My...father isn't. Go play fisherman. If you hate it, fine. Come back. If you like it, fine. Stay. You and Marin will still see one another. If you really love one another, you'll make sure of it. It might even be better for you. To grow separately." Shoving up then, she headed off for the kitchen as she told him, "It was for me and literally everyone else in my life."

Well, mostly.

But as he only sulked, Kai found he didn't want his breakfast anymore. Suddenly though, a thought occurred to him and he felt like they had something of camaraderie now, so he called to Haven, "Hey, can I ask you something? Since we're being all open and things? Because this has been bothering me for awhile and… Okay, so you know Locke's name is, well, Locke, right? But it kinda sounds like your dad's name too, if you think about it. Laxus. Locke. It's kinda gross, don't you think? Like do you ever start to say one of their names and then mess it up? I think I would. But then you were with Ravan and his name kinda sounds like your name, if you mispronounce it as Raven instead and that's pretty strange too and these kinds of things bothered me a lot while you were dead, because I couldn't bring it up without being insensitive, but I'm glad you can clear it up for me now. Do you find it weird? Or is it just me? Haven?"

He felt it before he saw her. The cold, dark demeanor and it was about then that Kai suddenly realized he probably should have just gone into work.

"You," Haven accused darkly as she came back into the room though Kai had already jumped up and was trying to play this all off as a misunderstanding, "knew about Ravan and I-"

"Nope. I didn't. Definitely not."

"You told Locke."

"No way."

"That's fucked up, Kai."

"I didn't happen. Told Locke what? I have no idea-"

"Kai-"

"You were dead," he told her then, trying to think of any way this didn't end up with him fried. "And they all just turned their backs on Ravan. Did you even talk to him about it? He was really hurt and no one cared. Locke wanted to kill him and everyone in the guild just kicked him out and told him if he ever came back, they'd let Locke do it. So yeah. I told Locke something that would hurt him jut as much as he hurt me and my brother. And I did. So I'm not sorry about it."

He still squeezed his eyes shut though, prepared for whatever Haven threw at him, but when he got no such retaliation, he only slowly peeked then open to still find her there, across the room from him, just staring. As he slowly untensed, Kai still had something of a guard up, but Haven only held her head high as she spoke.

"Any shitty thing I ever did to you, at all, growing up," she told him simply, "I don't want to hear about it, ever again. We're even. Understand?"

"O-Okay," he agreed with a nod. "Yeah. Alright. I-"

"Go to work. Until you quit, it's lame to not do your unimportant, useless job."

Again, he nodded and by the time he'd showered and was ready to head out, Haven seemed to be gone for the day. Lucky for him, she wasn't at the bar, but unluckily, Erza was, and she had some thoughts about his tardiness.

Still, Marin worked late that night, after taking some time out in the afternoon to tussle with Natsu, and Kai didn't quite understand it. How Erza could be telling him something for weeks (months?) and it made no sense, but hearing Haven explain it to him so simply, somehow with even less regard for his feelings than the swordswoman held, really shook him up. And he and Marin were hardly through the doors of their apartment before he was asking her to sit down; he wanted to talk.

"Oh gosh, is it about Haven? I'm sorry. I don't know what's up with her, but I talked to Mom about it today and she told me I can ask Haven to go stay over there, with her, if-"

"It's not Haven. Me and her get along great. Great." He was sure to add that in hopes, somehow, it would one day ring true. If only he'd ended their conversation where she'd naturally attempted to… "It's about… Can you just sit down?"

Kai played with his fingers as they both did on the couch and Marin looked worried, but he only kept pressing his fingertips into one another, applying pressure before relenting, hoping he could just get through this without that pit in his stomach doing too many flips.

"I was talking to Lance. A while ago. Before Haven… And that night when you asked me to move in with you, I'd actually been thinking about doing something different, but I just wanted...to do whatever you wanted, because it really did suck, before, how you were feeling all stuck in your parents house and stuff and I feel good that you're out of that situation, but I feel stuck too, you know? And I think… I don't wanna just work at the hall forever. And Haven mentioned that it was actually never a job and it was supposed to be a punishment or something and now I'm really confused, so-"

"Kai, what are you talking-"

"I wanna leave, Marin," he said then and that alone felt good. Very good. "Lance has an uncle who said I could move down to the coast and join his fishing guild and that's all I've ever wanted to do and Ravan was telling me about how, when he left again, it's 'cause he's a man, you know? And I'm one too. And we get to choose now, which way we go, and it sucks, but… What if it's the same thing? For me and you? And we're supposed to do our own thing now and I'm just delaying it because, well, partially because I don't understand contract law at all, but also because-"

"You're talking too fast." And Marin was reaching for him then, to hug him, which Kai was very down for, but as she squeezed him tightly, she said, "So there's a guild you can join where you just...fish?"

"Yeah, it's, like, kind of a community thing? I guess? I don't really know all the ins and outs, but they have boats and nets and that's the kind of sighing I was raised to do and-"

"Why didn't you tell me?"

"Because you love it here," he admitted with a frown then as he hugged her back. "And I wanted to ask you, to go with me, but I knew that you… Well, your dad kind of scares me and I don't think he would have liked it, but even without him, you...love this. Here. Working for the guild and especially Erza now and..."

"I don't wanna...be a fisherman, Kai."

"Fisherwoman."

"Kai-"

"I know you don't." And as they separated, he sniffled some, looking off as he said, "How would it even work? For one of us not to be here? Or just around? It's scary, even to just think about it."

"Yeah," she agreed as they both fell back into the couch then, staring out the window before them, unable to look at one another then. "It is."

"I won't go," he decided then and almost sounded sure of himself. "If you don't want me to. I'll stay here and we'll be together and-"

"You have to go, Kai."

"I've never...lived away from you though," he admitted. "Or Erza. Or here. Home. The guild and Magnolia and… Lance even stopped mentioning it because I made it pretty clear that I wanted to stay here, with you, and I think that he respects that. Or resents it. It's kind of hard to tell, but-"

"Go. Kai." Marin looked down at her lap, watching as she clenched her fists tightly. "You should. With or without him. This is what you've always wanted, to find somewhere like that."

"But what if I fail? Or mess up? I mess up a lot. Or get scared or everyone there doesn't like me or-"

"Then you come back home, silly," Marin giggled easily, even in her uncertainty.

"Where no one else likes him either?"

They both jumped, Marin and Kai did, turning to find Haven standing there, dressed, but with a towel still around her head as she dried off her hair. She made a face at their surprise.

"What? I can't take a bath?" Haven complained.

"N-No," Marin began slowly. "It's just… We didn't know you were here."

And Haven grunted some, walking with little care through the living room. "It's my stupid magic. Everything got all fucked up when I died. Now I'm not even powerful enough for you to sense it? Fuck this. I need to get more powerful. And fast."

She frozen though suddenly, Haven did, and abandoning her intention to head into the kitchen, she walked instead to the front door.

"Locke's here," she told Kai and Marin who seemed uncertain before, just as she reached the front door, there was a knock at it.

The second it was opened, the man on the other side had Marin's name poised on his tongue, no doubt intending to question her on her sister's whereabouts, but Haven was just right there, in front of him and he tried not to be too annoyed with her.

Failing, he complained some instead.

"Why," Locke griped as he hugged her easily, "are you here? I went home and then the hall and-"

"I can't come visit my sister?" she complained though she still leaned heavily into his chest. "Idiot."

Bowing his head at this, Locke nuzzled the top of hers and, from over where they were craning their necks to see from the couch, Marin and Kai both made a face at one another, though the former's carried a blush as well.

As Kai fell back into his seat properly though, he only told Marin, "That was after only a few days away from one another. And we get along way better than Haven and Locke! I dunno, Marin, it doesn't seem worth the risk."

"There's no risk, Kai," she insisted to him again and it felt a lot like the opposite was occurring, honestly, as it had when he'd done a very similar thing for her not too long ago. Pretending to be confident and self-assured over something merely to keep up the esteem of the other. It was the core piece of their dynamic. Just like he immediately agreed to move in with her, on such short notice, she was already assuring him of his need to go follow literally the only thing he'd ever wanted in his entire life. Beneath it, Marin was actually quite concerned and wanted more information, but she knew if she caved in that moment and admitted any downsides to the concept, he'd throw in the towel and just go seemingly happily back to their current arrangement. And she couldn't have that. "You try and if you don't like it, you come back. What's so scary about that?"

Mostly everything. But he did smile, anyways, when she patted his shoulder.

"I'm taking off," Haven called over to them finally, tossing her towel over her shoulder as

Locke only muttered something of an apology on their way. "And you're welcome, Kai, for being such a great mentor and everything."

"Thanks," he grumbled right back as Marin only stared curiously after her sister. But Haven was done with the two of them then as she easily locked hands with her boyfriend and she knew she should probably ask him about his dumb job that she probably could have finished in half the time, back before she'd been entombed for months (at least mentally) and, honestly, even still, but before she could stomach the words, he was asking something else anyways.

"What did you help Kai with?"

"Oh." She didn't sound too enthused by what she'd boasted up to be a pretty good deed only seconds before. "I convinced him to go move out to a coast, join a fishing guild, and leave my sister behind."

"You what? Haven, he can't leave."

"Why not?"

"He's…him. I wouldn't even trust him to travel a town over by train all alone."

"He hasn't gotten lost in years. Or...well, I guess I kinda just stopped paying attention, so maybe that's still a thing, but-"

"Haven, you've done some really horrible things-"

"I'm helping."

Locke made a face. "Somehow I doubt it."

"Plus," she added and he could tell just by the tone, it was more than likely her true reasoning, "once he quits, I can swoop in and start doing his dumb shit around the hall and make easy money that way, while I still get to practice my magic."

"Now I'm lost," he complained. "Why would you want to… What does Kai do?"

Typically? Mess things up for Marin. He'd gladly write Haven up a list.

"Waters flowers, scrubs toilets. Who knows? Who cares? I only have to pretend to do it long enough to get back into fighting shape and then I can take jobs and get ever stronger and then find an S-Class wizard to go with me to-"

"Me," he reminded with a frown down at her. "You're going to wait for me. Haven. To become S-Class."

"Sure, Locke."

"Haven-"

"My point," she cut him off as, outside once more, she frowned at the heat even with the sun already below the horizon,"is that Kai has to leave. For a lot of good reasons for him, of course-"

"But mostly," her boyfriend finished, "for your own selfish reasons."

"I'm thinking of our future, Locke."

"Why do I doubt that?"

"Because you should learn to be more trust."

"Right," he agreed. "I'm the one that has to work on that."

it wasn't until they were back at his place for the evening that, eventually, Haven got around to asking about his job. She tried hard not to critique throughout and he tried hard not to get annoyed when this fell through. It was better, anyways, when they fell into bed together and Locke smiled easily, just form the sight of her look so much better, healthier, than she had even, when he'd left a few days ago.

"Why were you at your sister's?" He asked, holding his hand up, but annoyed, she only reached up to to thumb the center of his palm. "Haven-"

"I told you," she grumbled, not meeting his eyes while he only rubbed at his palm, "that I didn't want to be alone. At night. When I...sleep."

Making a face, he reached out for her that time, thankful when she didn't shy away.

"I thought that wasn't bothering you anymore?" When she didn't reply, he only rested his head beside hers. 'I have to go out on jobs."

"And I found somewhere to be while you're gone. It's not that big of a deal."

"I just want you to feel better. Actually better."

"I think it has to do with this stupid new power. Element? Whatever. That the demon left on me. Imprinted on me." She clenched a fist between them then, tiny sparks popping from it as Locke only skewed his eyes shut, fearful of getting blinded. Intermingled though with the sparks, as there always was now, a purple energy formed. "I think I just need to learn to control it. Just feel it right now, lingering, it just reminds me of… I want to start training again. Seriously training."

Locke nodded. "Let me take some more jobs and then I'll stick around for a bit and we can-"

"Not you, stupid."

That time, he got thumped in the forehead and he thumped her back and then they were warring for a bit before, eventually, he relented by shifted lower on the bed, to rest his head on her stomach, the thin fabric of her shirt separating him from the gnarly scarring the monster had left, less than a year prior.

"I need someone to actually push me," she told him. "Not you or Elf or even Freed. Ajax. Someone… Someone that's not still being all nice to me and shit. Someone that will actually push me, really hard, in a short amount of time. But everyone at the hall sucks so much. I remember why I left."

"You cannot," he groaned, "already be on the outs with every single member."

"Not yet," she agreed and he only rolled his eyes before shutting them. "And hey, you think that I could get way more tips than, like, Marin, up at the bar, right? If I wasn't smarter than her and realized that everyone up there sucked?"

"That's a loaded question," he muttered simply, rolling his eyes before shutting them for the night.

"And I'm way more attractive than my mom, right? Like, you know, boobs and everything, right?"

"Haven," he complained that time, "I really don't wanna- What did you even do while I was gone? Other than ruin Kai's life?"

"I'm giving him a life, Locke." He tensed when he felt her hand near his head, expecting a thump, but she only toyed with his hair gently and it kinda felt nice. Maybe. "I'm becoming a better person, remember?"

Who could forget when it was all she talked about…

Still, Haven felt quite accomplished the late summer evening not soon after when Kai was given his goodbye party at the guildhall. He was pretty clearly nervous and uncertain, still, but Haven only stood by, sipping at her beer, watching as some members came over to where he was with Marin to pat him on the back and wish him well.

"Wow," he remarked to the younger of the two Dreyar sister's who only nodded her same encouraging way, "I never knew I was so liked. But everyone/'s here, telling me about how great they think I'll do. I guess everyone did care about me."

"If people liked you," Haven remarked before her younger sister could say anything, "then they'd probably ask you to stay. Not happily send you on your way." But at Marin's glare, Haven only rolled her eyes and added, "Or maybe they've only all said those horrible things about you for years and years because, deep down, they really care about you."

"You don't gotta say anymore, Haven," he told her with glistening eyes. "I know how you feel."

Somehow she doubted it.

There was something nice about it though, and relieving, for the guild to be gathered in much happier times under the new Master and if Kai's exit had to be the reason for everyone getting wasted and causing havoc on their new guildhall, then so be it.

But Locke was just glad to find both his parents were around for once. Growing up, sometimes it felt like one was always gone or the other, but now, as a working mage himself, it was hard for the three of them to align their schedules perfectly, but somehow, that night seemed destined.

"Wouldn't have come to the hall," his father grumbled regardless, "I'dda know Erza's dumb kid was having a party. And she says no one wants to hear me sing. Did she poll the crowd? That little clipboard girl of hers, Marin, probably skewed the numbers, I bet."

"Sure, Dad," Locke sighed down into his drink while Lily snickered and Levy hummed.

"I think it's nice," she told her guys, looking over to where Kai was, once more, being wished well by a sloppily drunk (soon-to-be former) guild mate. "He's always been kinda...different. I bet it'll be good for him, to go out and try something knew."

"A bunch of rough old fishermen ain't gonna be no good for him," Gajeel grumbled around his drink. "He's gonna cause a war, coming back here to Erza, whining about how shitty he gets treated. They'll chew 'im up and spit 'im out. Might not even come back."

"You're exaggerating."

"Am not," he told his wife. "He's weak. You don't get stronger by jumping right into something hard or whatever. You gotta ease into it, you know?"

"Swim or drown," Lily added.

"Drown," Gajeel told them all dryly. "Kid's gonna drown."

But as his mother rolled her eyes, Locke only sat up then, a though occurring to him for the first time. He'd been watching Haven for a good while, awkwardly trying to spend time with her family, trying really hard, actually, and even if she was flunking pretty badly in some areas, Locke felt like she was putting in her best effort in all of this turning over a new leaf. If there was anyone he knew that would always refuse to drown, it was her.

"Dad, can you do me a favor?" he asked, eyes turning to where his parents sat across from him at the table.

"No," Gajeel said, glaring down at his wife when she shoved his shoulder. "What? I'm being honest. I don't wanna do him a favor. I probably won't do it, either. Especially when he doesn't even say what it is upfront. So no. I ain't-"

"He'll do it, Locke," Levy answered for him as her husband only grumbled into his drink and Locke nodded, knowing to wait for another beer or two before fully informing the man as to what he'd just promised to do.

He left his parents about the time that Marin's family had begun to bid their farewells to Kai. Lisanna was very busy hugging him as Elfman stood at his side, blinking back his tears as he assured him of his manliness.

'Ain't nothing more manly," he insisted, "than going out on treacherous waters, battling the elements, and catchin' fish in nets."

"Really? That's the manliest thing you can think of?" his girlfriend questioned as she toyed with her glasses and Kai felt kind of bad, for shutting them all out, the past few months.

They really felt like part of his family too, before… But if he could forgive Locke, if he could get over him instigating the whole thing, then couldn't he get over their reactions too? As Lisanna released him and Evergreen moved to hug him next, the woman's breath smelt of a sweet wine and she said, "Look out for yourself, alright? We can't have a former Fairy Tail wizard getting shown up on the other side fo the country. It is bad for image."

He nodded some as she released him, but Ever only produced a folded note from her pocket which she passed off to him.

"Associates in the area," she explained as he took it. "For you to contact if you run into any-"

"Do not," Haven ordered from where she still lingered nearby, "do it, Kai. Whatever the trouble is, its better than anyone she knows."

"Oh, Haven, hush," her aunt retorted and Locke agreed, making a face as he made it over to them, no doubt assuming her just being difficult. With Haven, it was a pretty good assumption.

"It's through her dumb contact," Haven retorted to Locke's gaze, "that I met those guys from-"

"I'd forgo contacting anyone," he agreed then as Evergreen only huffed and Lisanna, not quite in on the joke, still smiled all the same. Elfman just continued to allow Marin to pat comfortingly at his arm as he tried hard not to cry.

But Mirajane had been waiting patiently for the others to finish up and as Evergreen turned to berate Elfman and her sister noted her husband across the bar, influencing Ajax in the unwise decision of climbing up to the second floor and doing a super cool back-flip off the balcony because that would be super cool and what better way to send off Kai, huh, which meant Lisanna had to go diffuse that with, hopefully minimal injuries, Mira finally found her opening.

"You'll be fine Kai," she told him with a bright smile as she held both his cheeks in her hands and sniffling wasn't enough then, as tears welled up in his eyes. "So don't be scared. And we'll all miss you, but sometimes, you just have to leave home. It's how it works. You're going to have so much fun, okay? And even when you're not...well, you can always write to us. Or come visit. And we'll visit you, once you get all settled. We all love you."

When she released his cheeks, Kai's head fell and he cried, but the others only grinned, save Haven who rolled her eyes and Locke who snickered good-naturedly, arms coming up to rest behind his head.

Erza was waiting for him in her office, where she was actually somewhat busy. Laxus seemed to have left quite the mess as far as paperwork went and though she and Marin were both working to sort it all out (the latter actually had been for some time before her father relinquished his hold), it was rather difficult. Still, when Marin and Kai entered her office that evening, she only rose.

"Tears again?" she questioned and he only sniffled, wiping at them.

"I's saying goodbye to Ms. Mast- Mirajane, I guess, now." He deflated some more. "And now I guess I gotta get my guild mark… Does it hurt?"

"Did it hurt going on?" was all Erza countered and he only shrugged.

"I don't remember," he told her. "But removing sounds a lot worse when you think about it, don't it? Than putting something on?"

"It's not real ink," Marin offered from his side, hands clasped behind her back. He knew it was all a facade, the big smile she was putting on for him, but the effort was definitely appreciated. "Just magic. It only means how much you want it to mean."

"There were some things the old master used to say. Before you left Fairy Tail," Erza told the two of them. "The one before Marin's father. Her great-grandfather."

"What?" Marin asked, interested.

"I never left," Erza remarked. "So I wouldn't know. Nor remember. But I am sure they were moving and thought provoking. Emotional.'

"Erza," Kai complained with a frown, but she only came closer then, to stand before the two of them, arms folded over her chest.

"I thought long and hard on it though, since you informed me of your definite decision to leave," she went on all the same. "And I find it doubtful that you will be the only person I see leave during what I suppose could be a long tenure. So I thought that I should come up with something official, something jarring and meaningful. Eloquent To leave a last impression." Reaching out, her hand came to rest on Kai's shoulder and he didn't have to look up anymore, to stare her in the eyes. "But any other that requests a leave, that I must grant one to… They'll never mean as much as you do to me, Kai. There is so much that I feel as if I haven't even begun to teach you yet, but… Fairy Tail will always be a home to you, like it was when you were a boy, whether the emblem resides on your body or not. And my home… It is like I told your brother; you can always return to me. Whenever you need me. Do you understand?"

Kai nodded some and muttered something of an agreement, but Erza only smiled despite his downcast look as her hand shifted down his shoulder to his sleeve, rolling it up to reveal where the marking laid.

"Go and be happy, Kai," she told him simply as, with a wave of her hand, the marking was gone and he lied. When he said it before. That he didn't remember.

He did remember it, so well and vividly, grinning with Marin as they sat together in the guildhall as kids, looking over how they both were members now and that meant they could be a team, that they could be anything they wanted, really, and he felt weaker, somehow, without it there then. Different, at least.

"It's okay, Kai," Marin laughed easily as, through his blurred vision, he could see she was tearful as well. "Erza's right. Now you can go be happy."

But he was happy.

Even if it hadn't always felt like it.

"Plus," she insisted at his nod, "you'll get to be around the water everyday. Won't that make you think of me? It's like we won't even be apart."

But they would be apart. Seriously apart. For the first time since they'd met, honestly.

So it was scary. Very scary, the next morning, as Marin and Erza saw him off. They would have to get into the hall soon and Marin had her clipboard, as she always seemed to in those days, ever the dutiful assistant. Lance had been pretty pumped about it all and left earlier in the week, to go set everything up with his uncle, but Kai felt kind of sick as they stood by together, just him, Erza and Marin, waiting on the train.

The swordswoman kept asking him if he'd packed everything and reminding him which trains to get on, though she'd already written it down on multiple sheets of paper and he was pretty sure, when she demanded he repeat it back to her, if he messed up even a bit, she'd probably just accompany him to make sure.

"I'm not a little kid anymore," he reminded her though, the night before, as he cried in the apartment with Marin and decided he didn't want to go, there was no way he could go, he'd definitely felt like one. "I think I can figure out a train, Erza."

She didn't. Which is why she was hammering it into his head.

Marin stood by kind of quietly and Kai didn't want to do it that day. Again. Cry in front of the two of them. He was afraid if he did, they'd make him stay. Or he'd sobbingly convince himself into it. No. Tears were for yesterday, when he said all his goodbyes. By the time he reached the opposite coast, he was gonna have to be a grown man, ready to take on the life of a fisherman. A real fisherman.

"I bet my dad would be proud of me," he'd told Erza the first time he informed her he'd come to a decision. Though she'd agreed then, it was as they stood at the train station then, the one he was to board pulling in, that she slammed his head into her armor (much to his complaints) and informed him of something else.

"I," she declared, "am so proud of you, Kai."

And even though he'd hardly done anything yet (other than get a wicked concussion), he'd waited a long time for her to say those words to him and it not be patronizing, but to be real. And he truly felt it then, as he staggered back from her.

"Don't cry, Erza," he snickered as Marin hid a grin into her palm, both noting the way the swordswoman looked off, attempting to hide this. "I'll be okay, remember?"

"Of course you will," she agreed, watching as he hugged Marin then. "Of course you will."

"I love you," was Marin's goodbye that time and even though she'd said so many other things to him in the past few days as he was faced with his decision, he thought that this one was his favorite.

"I love you too," he agreed and he didn't wanna let go, but he had, and he could always come back, he knew, whenever he wanted, so it really wouldn't be all that bad, would it?

"Do you really think he'll be okay?" Marin asked in concern as they watched the train pull away, her and Erza, alone now without both the brothers. But they still had one another.

Sighing deeply, Erza said, "Yes, but only because I'm sure he'll be back soon enough."

"B-But I thought you wanted him to go."

"I do," the swordswoman said with a nod. "To experience it. Something new and exciting. He needs this. But he is also Kai. I imagine I will be summoned to retrieve him within a month."

"I think he'll do great," Marin whispered softly and Erza merely hummed.

"One of us should always keep high spirits," she told the teen and though she still had her marking, there, adoring her arm, as it had fore the majority of her life, Marin had to admit, hers felt much weaker without Kai's to match it.

But it was across town around that time that her sister awoke in a bit of a hungover panic at the sound of someone banging at Locke's front door. She groaned some, pressing a hand to her forehead as Locke slumber right through it, always falling just a bit short she'd found, when it came to protecting her.

He was much better at cleaning up the aftermath.

They completed one another in that way.

She knew who it was, of course, as he'd only pulled this shit a few weeks before, and as she glared at Gajeel on the other side of the door, she found him glaring right back at her.

"Locke's sleeping," she finally remarked, but Gajeel only continued to eye her darkly.

"Ain't here for Locke." He did that snarl thing that Haven found so annoying, especially because Locke did it sometimes now, when he was getting super focused in on something, and gross. "Got told that someone here needed my help."

"I like dropping the ball myself, thanks."

Gajeel did laugh and Haven didn't relent, but eventually, the slayer only snorted, folding his arms over his chest and looking away.

"Locke says you need someone to kick you ass back to the grave a few times a day before you remember how come you weren't cut out to be a Fairy Tail member in the first place. Sounds like somethin' I might actually enjoy doin'."

Sneering, Haven glanced over her shoulder, as if expecting Locke to be there so she could go ahead and berate him to get their morning started off right. But his snoring was still heard and, well…

She'd wanted Laxus, if she were honest with herself, to help her through her newfound powers and growing her body back accustomed to her former ones. The demon had kept her body going on it's own power, but absent of it, her body was sore and weak after being used so little for so long. She wondered sometimes, without Ivan's interference, if she'd be a pile of bones already. A mass of rotting flesh?

Haven knew it was impossible, that death would circle back around for her eventually, but she really, really didn't want to fucking die again and that only way that was going to happen was if she trained against someone not only competent, but that also was going to push her to every limit she knew.

And if anyone was the man for that, it was certainly the one standing before her then.

Two hours would pass before she returned to the apartment, drenched and sweat and feeling near death, but Locke, who'd only recently woken up, was ready to hear all about it (and get yelled at for orchestrating it in the first place), but he only got the finger before Haven went to shower before falling back into bed.

"I could relieve any pain you have, you know," he offered as he sat beneath her, on the floor, with his back against the bed, his journals all spread about as he figured it was as good a time as any to revisit some spells. It kinda felt like it did when they were teens again and he was first getting into spell breaking and Haven would lay around on his bed as he sat on the floor, trying to explain it to her, or pretending to listen as she unloaded each and every slight she felt had occurred to her since they last spoke. But that day, Haven's hand only came over the edge of the bed to rest on his head and, yeah, it did feel nice, when she played with his air. "If you want."

"My body has to get used to it again," she told him simply. "All of it. It's the only way it'll get any stronger."

"You'll get back there again, Have," he assured her, but she only snorted.

"I'll surpass," she corrected, "where I was."

Because of all the searching she'd done for it, who knew death was all it would take (along with some meddling from a demented grandfather and vengeful demon) for her to finally get a worth while, highly coveted magic?

"You also kinda have to head down to the hall soon," he reminded gently. "Remember? You wanna take over for Kai, don't you?"

And ugh, she was already regretting her own desires.

Haven's saving grace in her new guildhall duties (which she slacked heavily on and argued with anyone who brought this fact to her attention) was that Erza found herself now not only preoccupied with the business side of running a guild, but also in concern over poor Kai, a continent away, trying to find his way into the world. She knew she'd done the right thing, sending him on his way, but at the same time…

Still, Haven wasn't completely heartless (though she did enjoy playing up this assumption) nor did she lack any form of honor and was actually cleaning up around the hall late one night as Locke snoozed at one of the tables, waiting on her. She'd finished up with her sweeping and wiping down of every gross surface the hall was host to and was going to shot some bolts at his head, you know, to punish him for not helping her with her job, but it was then that she heard a crash of water from the pool area and went to investigate.

She knew her sister was still around and was pretty sure Locke was sticking around more to try and walk her home than anything else (annoying), but hadn't relaly thought much of it. Marin seemed very intent in the back office last Haven had taken note of her, tidying up for Master Erza and Haven was happy to con Locke into believing she'd already gone home.

Because her sister didn't need someone walking her home.

Especially not stupid Locke.

"Most people do it naked, you know."

"W-What?"

Marin sounded embarrassed, just at her sister's statement, blushing deeply as Haven came to stand over the pool, arms crossed over her chest.

"You know," the blonde insisted. "Late night swimming. And they don't do it alone. Can you do anythibng right, Marin?"

"I'm...practicing." And she turned from her sister then, Marin did, raising her arms once more, a stream of water following after one palm with ease.

"It's nearly midnight."

"On days where I work open to close, I don't really get a chance, otherwise, to-"

"It's that serious to you?"

Marin swallowed some before nodding. "It's that serious to me."

"Good," Haven replied. "I always wanted it to be."

Bothered now by her audience, Marin found herself watching her sister out of the corner of her eye more than she concentrated on her magic. It was breaking her focus, completely, the way that her sister was just there, looming, watching. She was being silent for once and her gaze didn't feel the least bit judgmental, but still…

Haven wasn't really watching her sister though, not technically at least. She found her eyes more drawn to the water and, as it swirled about in the pool, she could almost feel it, almost taste it, when her younger sister had summoned the pool water out into the main hall, to wash away the demon.

But that was impossible, wasn't it? Because though she'd been there to view it, she wasn't actively living it.

Was she?

Squatting down by the edge of the pool, Haven only stared down at her distorted reflection as the water rippled about. Softly, she told her sister, "I fucking hate water."

But her words broke the little concentration Marin was trying to force, causing the water she'd risen to fall and the white haired teen to blink at the splash this caused as her eyes stung from chlorine.

"W-Well," Marin complained, maybe just a little bit, Haven's presence really bothering her, "you hate everything."

Haven only snorted though, at that, before holding a hand out, over the pool, tiny sparks falling at first, from her finger tips. "I think it's because I just hated you so much."

She fully looked at her sister then, hurt and confused. While Marin hadn't put much stock in Haven's conviction to becoming a better person and knew, over time, they'd only see a steady regression, it was shocking for it to be so sharp. Not to mention, it wasn't as if the adjustment to Kai being gone was treating Marin too well either.

Though she did crave some separation between him and her at times, more so than he seemed to, Kai still was her only real friend. They spent every day (and night) together for years and even though she'd already written him a letter and they spoke over communication lacrimas twice, she felt less like there was someone missing and rather a piece of herself being so. He was the only person that listened to her, that could make her smile, that she didn't feel a constant nervousness from being around for too long.

Marin knew everyone was right. That it was good for him to go and experience something new, something he'd always dreamed of, and she was so happy for him. Honest, she was. It was why she'd pushed him so heavily to at least go, at least try, and they'd figure things out from there. But… They were so separated now and it was so quiet in the apartment and she was supposed to be finding a new roommate, but she didn't want to live with someone else and she just wanted Kai to come back home, but she'd already used her 'person coming back' wish up on Haven and look; she was already being mean to her again for zero reason.

Not even noting her sister's disheartened gaze, Haven only continued to stare at her own reflection as the sparks from her fingertips grew.

"It made me so fucking angry," the blonde admitted, "when you actually took the lacrima. I mean, I gave it to you, I knew you were going to eventually use it, but you didn't at first because you were afraid and I guess I just thought… I'd rather no one have it, if I couldn't. I wanted you to get better, to feel better, but at the same time… And then you chose something stupid, like water, as your element and that dug at me even more. But I guess there wasn't a right answer, for you to choose. I would have been upset either way. Jealous." Haven didn't like the taste of the word on her tongue and her reflection assured her of this. "I was jealous because I could never become a real Dragon Slayer. Laxus couldn't teach me that. I needed the lacrima for it, but you needed it more than me, so it had to go to you and you didn't even want to be a slayer. At all. You did nothing with it. And that bothered me the most, I thought, but when I saw you in Crocus that day, when we faced off, I… It never mattered what you did, Marin. Even before the lacrima. But once you got it, I really…"

Marin didn't know what her sister was trying to tell her, if she was trying to tell her anything, but was far more concerned by her electricity as Haven sent a full burst of it down then, into the water and Marin tensed up, fearing Haven was hoping to electrocute her or something, but the yellow current didn't spread out over the pool, rather careening straight towards the teen. Marin acted on instinct, raising the water associated with it before shooting it, like a stream, back at Haven. But controlling the lightning, Haven easily manipulated it not back towards her younger sister, but rather over the pool area. The crackling of the lightning associated with this made Marin wince some, but Haven seemed to enjoy it greatly.

"I always thought that they didn't mix. Water and electricity. And they don't, I guess." Standing once more, Haven said, "But I think we really could have made a pretty good team. Powerful joint attacks, at least. Had things been different."

Realizing now she wasn't under attack, Marin let a bit of a sigh escape before her eyes rose to meet her sister's similar ones as she remarked, "But they are different, Haven. Now."

The blonde stared heavily down at her sister then as she said, "I'm weak, right now, Marin. I have to build myself back up. But once I do, we're going to battle again. And I want everything you threw at that demon. Understand?" At her younger sister's nod, Haven , held out a hand as she said, "Good. Now come on, it's late; Locke's waiting to walk you home."

"I don't need him to walk me home though." As she took Haven's hand, Marin allowed her to assist in pulling her from the water. "At all. I-"

"I know." And, once her sister was on her own too feet again, Haven might have smiled, maybe, it was hard for Marin to tell as she was still rubbing at the chlorine in her eyes, but she sounded much nicer than she typically did. Walking on then, no doubt to wake her boyfriend, Haven added, "But he's been so useless recently, if we don't let him do some things, he'll get all down on himself. And I really don't want to deal with that right now."

It was only a delay, really, Haven and Locke walking her home that night. Once she got in the apartment, no one would be there and she'd be all by herself, no one to talk to or worry about, and Marin didn't know why it felt so wrong, the right decision.

"I remember when I first got to live on my own," Locke remarked, the closer they got to the apartment. "When I moved out. It was really eye-opening."

"Yeah," Haven agreed, but more because she seemed to be trying to hide her yawn. She'd be up the next morning, to train with Gajeel, and she'd yet to perfect a good sleep schedule for that combined with work. "Me too."

"Haven, you didn't move out," Locke complained then, eyeing her. "You ran away. That's different."

"I was on my own."

"Camping out every night."

"On my own."

"That is not the same-"

"Yes, it is, Locke."

"No, it's-"

"I just miss Kai," Marin admitted softly, over the sound of them arguing. Though Locke broke his glare with Haven for this, the blonde only kept hers up because it was the same thing and he was being an ass. Or...maybe she was just being disagreeable. Did this count against her good person points?

"Hey, it's okay, Marin." Locke was quick to start patting her on the head while Haven only tallied up, mentally, all the good and bad things she'd done in the past twenty-four hours hoping they, at best, evened out. "Look at me. It's okay to miss people when they go. I missed Haven a lot, that first time she-"

"Went to live on my own," she was quick to add after her tallies left her ahead with just enough space to continue to argue this point.

But Locke only ignored her then as, to her younger sister, he said, "I didn't know what I was going to do, when she first left, but… I was still my own person. I am my own person."

"Marginally," Haven added because it really annoyed her, she was finding, when he ignored her attempts at starting an argument.

"And you're your own too," he kept insisting to Marin as she only frowned. "I'm serious. You're so into helping out at the guild and your magic. Kai wasn't into those things. And when he was, it was only for your benefit. So just focus on that, okay? And any time you get lonely or you're off and you don't have anything to do, well, we can always hang out. I mean, I have to go back out on a job soon, but I'm sure you and Haven can spend some time together."

It would be hard not to, considering the second he left, she would be back in Kai's discarded bedroom.

"But it's also good to be alone," Locke finished as Marin tilted her head up to stare at the man. Smiling at her, he said, "You learn a lot about yourself. When you're alone."

But Kai found himself learning a lot more about himself around others as, he soon found out, fishing guilds were horrible and he wanted to come home and he was sick a lot, and tired and his muscles ached because he hadn't had them before, he didn't think, and he wanted Erza to follow through on her promise and just come get him.

And oh, she wanted to, that first time he whined to her over lacrima about how mean all the guys were being to him and about how he was miserable and Lance was there, but he wasn't Marin or Erza, and he just wasn't ready yet. To be on his own. At all.

She nearly agreed, the swordswoman did, but still forced herself to insist to him that he should at least try and last another week, to see if he adjusted better then. It took a few days, after all, for routine to set him and he might even learn to enjoy it.

"You don't want to disappoint Marin," she told him offhandedly, but Kai took it another way and, the next time they spoke, he was having most the same problems, but he was able to reconcile that he just needed to push, a little bit longer, like she said, for routine to set him.

Because he didn't want to disappoint Erza.

Not after she was finally, truly, proud of him.

So he sucked it up and the weeks turned into months and eventually there was a routine, like she said, and the hazing faded and he missed them both terribly still, Erza and Marin, but there was something alluring about being on his own too. Away from home. Where the person he had to answer to was just a master, not his pseudo-sister's father or his adopted mother. Where he didn't feel like he was constantly needed to keep up morale because Marin seemed in a constant state of misery and for the first time, in a long time, when he looked forward to speaking with Marin, it wasn't about just nothing; he had a lot to tell her. And she seemed to have a lot to tell him too.

And it wasn't home, not really, but when he sat out on the coastline with Lance, drinking late into the night with the other guys from work, he could stare at the water's reflection and think about how some of it, probably, had run through the canals before, all the way back in Magnolia, and maybe even down the stream where he and Marin spent most of their days fishing (him) and training (her).

Marin and Erza came to visit him once and it was a pretty big deal, but it felt like a much bigger one, just on the edge of winter, when he was given his first actual leave from work and able to go back home to see them. Marin met him at the train station with her favorite aunt and uncle standing by and as she hugged him tightly, Elfman only sobbed while Evergreen huffed.

"You look like such a man now," Elfman told him through tears while the man's girlfriend hummed.

"You've lost your pudginess, at least," she complimented, maybe. But his toothy grin let them know he wasn't there quite yet.

So it was a bit difficult for Marin to wrap her head around, when her father showed up at the hall the next day, but she was still extremely preoccupied, it seemed, by the list she was focused on while explaining to her father just how Kai found himself no longer a member. It was much more direct and to the point and yet Laxus still found himself asking the most important question.

"Your sister," he grumbled, "scrubbed toilets?"

"No," Erza replied dryly as, eventually, she did find herself taking note of the bar's state during Haven's tenure as janitorial staff. "She didn't."

"I think she was fired," Mirajane offered, but Marin, still writing things down, merely shook her head.

"She quit."

After being confronted and realizing she was inevitably headed towards being fired.

Haven had a hard time shaking that though. The ditch your once coveted belief and then pretend like you were always on the other side of things. No longer had she wanted to be the barhand anyways; she'd just done it to be nice. Besides, she was about ready to take jobs by the time that came about anyways.

A win-win.

Laxus only grunted though, at this, while Marin seemed finished then, with her list, but rather than rushing off with it, she merely held it out to Kai.

"Buy exactly," she insisted to him, "what it says on the piece of paper. Okay? And do you have your wallet?"

"Did you forget that I'm a responsible adult now or something?" he complained, just a bit, but it was less about forgetting and more about lack of belief.

"Is it more things for the bar?" Erza asked, interested as well then, it seemed, as she leaned over some to take a glance at the sheet of paper. Seeing the contents, she only made a face though. "Oh. I see."

"See what?" Laxus griped as Kai, with his duties, only saluted Marin before setting off to complete the task. "What's he going to get?"

"Stuff for the party tonight, Dad," Marin explained as, finished with that for the time being, she instead went to take her place behind the bar, prepared for the early bird members to begin filtering in. AS he only stared at her, she said, "It's why Kai came back; we're having a party for Haven. For her birthday."

Now, it wasn't like Laxus didn't know that was upon them soon, or perhaps had even already passed, but days of the week were hard to come by, on the road, much less actual dates. Mirajane though, from where she still stood at his side, only touched his shoulder gently.

"Her birthday is tomorrow," she told him softly. "But I asked the girls to have dinner with me, tomorrow, because…well… I just wanted it to be something nice, between us. So the kids are going to have a party tonight for her."

"They are hardly kids," Erza remarked bluntly though she only went back to eyeing Laxus. "I feel as if there is much that the two of us have to discuss. And considering the imminent arrival of members, I suppose it should not be done here, in the open."

"What's the rush?" he challenged back and, relenting, Erza bowed her head some, ordered Marin around for perhaps the last time, and then went back to what could possibly be her office for only a short amount of time.

Of all the things she'd been forced to let go over the course of a year, she found it hard to be too broken up over her title. Though, it had become rather close to her heart.

"I'm going to go tell the family that you're back," Mira informed her husband, hand stroking slowly down his arm. "I think everyone's here, not out on jobs. I know Elf is and Ever and-"

"Where," Laxus finally asked, "is Haven?"

"In bed still, I'd imagine."

"Mira-"

"She lives with Locke."

Marin saved her mother from having to deliver him some bad news already as, while announcing this, she came over with a coffee mug, filled the brim, dark as the previous night. As Laxus blinked up at her though, Marin produced one of the liqour bottles from the bar area, which she moved to pour direction into the cup as well, but as Mira started to say something to her, the man only reached out to grab his daughter's hand instead, stilling it before a drop could trickle out.

"No," he told Marin as she looked on in confusion, "thank you, Marin. I… I don't want that. Alright?"

"I'm sorry, I just-"

"So am I," her father told her and Mira made a noise in response, from the back of her throat, but Marin just blushed, nodding at his words before bowing away as, finally, people seemed to be coming in for the morning. She wanted to stay by his side, even if he didn't even speak to her again, just because she was in such shock over his return, but if there was anything Erza instilled in her, it was that work came first.

Even if it were just serving breakfast to some ingrates.

"I should head out," Mira said then as, with people coming in, she knew it wouldn't be long before it was circulating around that the former master was back. She wanted their family to have a chance at him before that. "I'll send Freed first, assuming he isn't headed here anyways. And then-"

"I need to see," he told his wife, "Haven first."

"I can go get her, but, you know Haven, I don't know if she'll-"

"I'll go see her."

"Laxus-"

"What's wrong with me going to see my daughter, Mira?"

Nothing other than the fact that, having spent the last few months with her, Mirajane had a feeling whatever expectations he had over this would be immediately dashed. Haven was rare to forget those who wronged her and oh, she felt mighty wronged in his sabbatical.

Still, Mirajane relented and tried to accompany him at least, but he was insistent he go alone and, well, it wasn't like she could stop him. After reminding him of where Locke lived, she only cautioned causing any problems.

"I left," he complained softly to her, feeling the eyes of some of the members as he rose, "for her."

Somehow, Mirajane doubted Haven would care much.

But as he braved the cold again, Laxus only tugged his fuzzy coat closer to him, hoping not to run into anyone so early in the morning he couldn't easily avoid. All the traveling he'd done recently, the trip to Locke's place hardly felt like anything. Still, he felt the same creeping up his chest and he cleared his throat the best he could, before knocking at much younger man's door.

They weren't actually still in bed, as Haven's mother had assumed. Rather, Locke was up, as he had been for a good few hours as he just couldn't sleep because he'd been so close, before he'd conked out the evening before, to cracking a spell and Haven had arisen not to long ago, to yawn through making their breakfast.

"Door," Locke had mumbled just loud enough for her to hear over the soft playing of a music lacrima in the corner of his tiny living room, "Haven."

"Door," she mocked back, "Locke."

"Busy."

"Busy."

"Haven-"

"Locke-" But he didn't cut her off. Rather, the person knocked again and now they were annoying her more than him. As she stomped over to get the door though, she did give him a dirty look though. "You could at least put pants on, stupid."

But he was mouthing along to an incantation and ugh.

Living with Locke really got on her nerves sometimes.

But not as much as not living with him.

It was a hard balance.

She noticed it though, before she opened the door. The overpowering feeling of magic lingering on the other side. And though she almost expected her mother or perhaps the current master, it was something of a combination, maybe, to find her father there instead. And Laxus only stared at her for a moment, his own breath caught, but Haven only glared in the short few moments between confusion and recognition.

Then she shut the door once more.

"Who was it?" Locke called over, raising his head from his notes then with a frown.

"Wrong address."

"You can tell from just look-"

"Shut up," she complained as there was knocking at the door once more, "Locke."

"Haven," came a loud growl, but not from her boyfriend as, at the sound of it, his eyes darted right back to the door. Trying the knob, Laxus found she hadn't locked it and only shoved his way right in as his daughter didn't even glance over at him. Just went back to the stove to poke at the sizzling bacon. "What's wrong with you?"

"M-Master!" Locke jumped up. Then frowned down at his boxers and, tossing a hand behind his head, he said, "Uh, welcome! Are you… When did you get back?"

But Laxus had long lost use for Locke and only followed right after his daughter. Which was just as well. It gave the younger man a chance to skirt away to go find something to pull on, at least.

"You're not going to say anything to me?" Laxus griped at his daughter as Haven only glared down at the frying pan, wondering exactly what her punishment would be for turning and slamming it into his head. She felt like it would be pretty dang severe. "That's really mature, Haven. I know that you're upset that, what? I left without you? I had to. That was my father who did that to you. My daughter. It was something that I had to go and deal with on my own. I… I needed to be alone. I'm sorry that I said you could go. I'm...sorry for a lot of things, Haven, but-"

"Don't."

"Haven-"

"I don't give a shit about Ivan or what he did or didn't do. That's your baggage. If you dealt with it, great. Leave me alone."

"I just came to-"

"I don't care. Laxus." She refused to look at him. Wouldn't even raise her head. "You left, I moved on. Just like you did to me."

"I never moved on from you."

"That's how come you acted like a jerk every time I saw you after I left?"

"It was never… I'm trying to apologize."

"I don't want it."

"Why are you being difficult?"

Because she hadn't spent the past few months counting down for when her father would return. Or what she would say to him when he did. She knew her mother, sister, and aunts and uncles all thought about it, all wondered about him, but Haven already had experience with shutting things out when they weren't shoved in your face constantly. She always resented it, even if she knew there was nothing her father could have done, much less even known, that she was being held and was stuck in Bosco. And Locke promised, when she told him about her, to always come, to always be there, if she needed him. And he was. But Laxus left her, when she was recovering from her revival. Days after. With just a note. A letter.

It pissed her off the most, honestly, that he'd written her a damn letter.

"It's better to leave not saying anything," she complained to Locke in the days following his departure, "than to just leave a damn letter."

"What makes you say that?"

Mostly it was what Laxus had done, which meant it sucked because he sucked and it was really annoying that Locke was falling out of his super agreeable, so glad you're alive and not a demon anymore stage.

But as they laid around in bed that evening, she merely shrugged to the question and he slipped out of bed to go over to his desk. Tugging open a drawer, he retrieved a specific stack of papers.

"I kept all the letters you wrote me," he told her softly.

"Yeah, I know. Creep."

"You kept the ones I wrote you too," he pointed out. "I found them in your bag after….the gauntlet."

"That's why I called you a creep. Going through my shit like that."

"It helped me," he told her honestly and Haven only rolled over, to give him her back. Still, he only went on. "To read over them. It was like...I could still hear your voice. In my head. When I read them. Even the one before you left. On the gauntlet. Sometimes I could just pretend that you weren't dead, you were just..."

When she didn't say anything to that, he only sat back down on the edge of the bed, flipping through the letters in his hands before he came to a specific one.

"You wrote me one," he said softly, "for when...if you… I got the letter you wrote. In case you…died."

"What are you talking about?" she grumbled, mostly sour he wasn't just going along with her, no question.

"You left a letter with the, uh, gauntlet hosts? I guess?" He turned to lay it beside her. "I read it a lot. I hated it, but… You don't hate your father, Haven. You know you don't. You love him. Yeah, he sucks and I think he's not the best person, but… He loves you too. A lot. You...fucked me over a lot too. Haven. But it doesn't matter because you'll always be you and I'll always be me and he'll always be him-"

"I never said I hated him." Or at least she never meant it. Without glancing at the letter, she tossed it back to Locke. "And I shouldn't have written you that. It shouldn't have been the last thing, if..."

"I like it." And he was careful with it too, then, as he rose to replace all the letters back in their drawer, so they wouldn't get lost among the many other strewn about. "It sounds like you. More than the one that you wrote me, before you left on the gauntlet. I like you better, you know. When you're just a little bit mean."

"I'm never mean, Locke."

"You are," he assured her as he came to fall back into bed once more. "But sometimes you just take it a bit overboard."

"All or nothing."

"All," he decided as he nuzzled into her neck, getting Haven to elbow him, and Haven was still weak then, in the days and weeks following, but months had fallen away as she stood a day away from twenty-one, glaring down at the blackening bacon and it all crackled, so heavily, inside of her.

"I'm not being anything," she answered her father as, slowly, she released her clinched fists and turned, finally, to face him. Her gaze was heavy and he could sense it on her, something different, a new magic, but she didn't raise her fists to him. Only her eyes. "I spent the past few months trying to be a better person and you're not going to ruin that for me. I'm not going to accept your stupid apology because I don't...blame you. For anything. You do what you want want, I do what I want. That's how we are." Turning from him to look back at the stove, she added, "Locke's going to be S-Class soon. Then we'll be out of this stupid town for a long time. So just stay out of my way until then and I'll stay out of yours."

Her father stared at her, for a good long while, before letting out a short breath and saying, "You know where I'll be when you want to talk."

But she didn't answer and Locke, who'd returned just in time to see the man leave, called out something of a pathetic farewell. The man left in silence though and then it was just the two of them again.

"Haven," Locke began and she didn't want to hear it. At all.

She clenched her fist again, but this time around the handle of the frying pan, turning to throw it into the nearby sink, where it sizzled and smoked, sinking into the dishwater. Locke jumped some, at this, but she only walked around him, headed back to bed.

"I burned the food," she complained. "Make your own damn breakfast."

"Yeah," Locke agreed as he knew then to leave her alone. 'I'll, uh, get right on that."

She stayed in there too, until they were closing in on noon, at which point she emerged acting like nothing was wrong and Locke was happy to pretend as well, if only for the night.

"You," he reminded her as she joined him on the couch, "have to meet with your sister. For your present."

"She said closer to sundown."

Plus Haven wanted to go nowhere near the hall and risk running back into her father. Not until she had to.

"Besides, I'm tired of your stupid spells."

"They're not stupid." He let her take the specific journal from his hands anyways. "And I'm pretty close."

"You've been close since last night."

"I'm closer."

"Locke-"

"I guess I could take a break," he sighed though his hesitance felt put on. "If I have to."

"You have to," Haven insisted as she fell into him and it was good anyways, to take a step back. Clear his head.

He figured it was the same for her.

Time felt slower, removed from his work, but he had to take off before Haven anyways.

"Got something to take care of," he replied vaguely and even the return of her dreaded father couldn't remove how pumped Haven always got, for her birthday.

She felt like this one would be a good one.

Better than the last, at least.

When she was dead.

Or the one before.

When she was alone.

Actually, all things considered, it would be difficult for this birthday to actually flop.

"If he's my gift, I want the receipt."

"That's really harsh, Haven," Kai complained as she only glared at him, standing outside the guildhall later that day. "Aren't you at least impressed? Everyone else is! I've gotten in shape, I only got turned around once, on my trains coming back home, and I even make my own dinner each night. Well, I try. Lance does it better than me, but I can really season a fish real good, if you tell me what to use to do it first."

Haven only looked to her sister. "Receipt."

But Marin only grinned at her, reaching up to toy with her lightning bolt pendant. "It's not here. Your present. It's out in the woods. At the old clubhouse?"

Haven made a face, but agreed to follow them. Since Locke had disappeared hopefully getting something more impressive than her dumb sister had (she wasn't banking on Marin hitting it out of the park), there wasn't much for her to do. The past few weeks had been near constant jobs for the two of them and though she was excited for the break given the reasoning was her birthday, there was still a yearning to be out somewhere, growing stronger.

She hadn't been to the clubhouse since...since… It was difficult to recall, honestly, for Haven, and she wondered if it was the night she fled Magnolia. When she hid out with Ravan until dawn. That felt like so long ago. More than just a lifetime ago (which perhaps it could be construed as such), but entirely different dimension all together.

It didn't help either that he was there, of course, Ravan was, standing around smoking in the cold as Ajax of all people bounced around beside him, talking excitedly about something or other as Ravan hardly seemed to hear him. Their eyes met, the second Haven stepped into the clearing and as Marin rushed forwards to go gesture excitedly to the man, Kai only leaned close to Haven and whispered, "I had nothing to do with this and I tried to talk her out of it without saying too much, which meant lying to Marin and you know I hate that- Ow, Haven! I thought you were nice now?"

And she thought he was stronger. But when she shoved him to the ground, he fell easily, glaring after her as she only continued on, over to his older brother.

"Surprise!" Ajax tried to tackle Haven to the ground as well, but she only evaded him, much to the enjoyment of the teen. "It's a party, see?"

She saw a severe lack of people, which only served to remind her that, oh yeah, she was always kind of hovering over the friendless line.

"I have something cooking in the pot," Marin was saying then, gesturing over to where a big one was dangling over the fire pit on a spit. 'And I bought cake and got Ravan to come and Kai and… Happy birthday, Haven."

Ravan took a deep drag on his cigarette when Haven, with no malice or sarcasm, thanked her sister before patting the younger woman on the shoulder. Exhaling, he only said, "Hey."

And given what she'd put up with that morning, he wasn't a wholly unwelcome sight.

"Hey," she replied right back and neither grinned exactly, at the other, but Ravan did grunt, looking off, while Haven didn't feel too bad about his presence.

Locke would, of course, when he arrived not soon after. And so would Navi, who he'd gone to the train station to retrieve. First though, she had to arrive and, as she did, he smiled easily, but still spoke less to her and more to who was accompanying her.

"It's good to see you, but, uh, I dunno if you really wanna be around Haven right now," he told Tate simply as the other guy waved at him, standing awkwardly beside Navi. And, as she hugged Locke, the woman just groaned some.

"He's not coming to the party," she griped simply. "He's here for-"

"Navi!" Natsu and Happy both were racing down the station, seemingly to get at her. It'd been a good bit, since she'd returned home, and as she released Locke, she was ready to be bombarded by their hugs, but they had another target as well.

"And Tate," Happy snickered, falling into Navi's arms as her father only clapped the guy on the back after ruffling his daughter's soft pink hair. "We're all ready! We got snacks and drinks back at the house."

"Alright," Tate agreed easily enough as Natsu repeated his name a few times in his head, as not to trip up on it as he surely would. "I've been looking forward for this."

Navi hadn't. And, as Happy fluttered away from her and her father called out that she should come back home that night, after her partying, Locke only looked on amused by her dark expression.

"I thought," he began slowly, "that you were going to break up with him. Last time I saw you."

"I don't," Navi groaned as they set off together, "want to talk about it."

It would all come out though, over the course of the night of course, as it was up to her and Locke to bring the alcohol to the party and they definitely brought plenty of it.

He about dropped his armload though, at the sight of Ravan standing around, talking to his brother and Marin. His glare was as cold as the night, but just as he was going to say something, Haven seemed to pop up out of nowhere, at his side, tossing an arm over his shoulder and leaning up to press a kiss against his cheek.

Turning her head slightly, she whispered into his ear, "You both need to fucking chill tonight. Alright? Not for me. For Marin. She doesn't know about everything and I don't want to get in to it. Be a big boy. We're all stuck being associated for the rest of our lives."

She kissed his ear that time causing Locke to shrug her off with a glare before going to drop the liquor in his arms down. Ajax though, also oblivious to more than Locke and Ravan's typical tension, just skipped right over the other guy, coming to snag a beer can from Navi. Haven though stopped him.

"Hey-" he started to complain as she only frowned at him and Navi smiled with ease.

"My brothers are hanging out with my dad and Tate," she suggested. "I'm sure you'll have a lot more fun hanging out with them."

"This isn't fair," he complained. "I'm grown too!"

"Go grow some more." Haven shoved his head as she took his beer instead. As he sulked away though, she only snickered at Navi, "Tate, huh?"

"I don't," Navi griped as she went to drop the case in her arms, "want to talk about it."

It was cold out that night and the alcohol kept most of them warm. Marin found the fire she stood by, stirring the stew inside intently, to be more than enough for her, but tried very, very hard not to judge Kai when he seemed to be more inline with the others than her those days.

"How'd you get away from your creepy cult?"

Ravan made a face when Haven left Locke behind, sitting around the fire, drinking with Navi, to instead lean against the house with him as he seemed to have become a chain smoker since they'd last seen one another. Either that or he was extremely nervous.

Considering the circumstances, she imagined it was the latter.

But then again…

"I'm not...indebted to anyone. I can do whatever I want. Your sister talked to Erza, she managed to get to me. That's all. And they're not a cult, Haven," he grumbled as she stood beside him. "Anymore than yours is."

"Fairy Tail is a cult."

Still, he couldn't help but notice where she held an emblem of her family's guild once more, no longer dark and on her back, but rather peaking out from beneath the neckline of her shirt, red and resting over one of her breasts, the same place his own had laid, when he was joined.

And they probably could have talked then. Locke glanced back at them a few times, but he seemed to resound to drinking himself into a coma that night, rather than blow up. Maybe he would, if he thought they were having too much fun over there, or even just speaking too much, but both seemed content in their silence as Ravan smoked and Haven stood by, watching the soft snow that fell from above, and this was them.

Just as much as her ranting and raving or them gnashing teeth at one another was.

Everything had changed and they couldn't go back from where they'd diverged, but that didn't mean that, at their core, they were still the same. He'd had so many sleepless nights, up considering his own morality and cowardice in her death, and Ravan in no way thought that her return terminated any of that. No. Every single conclusion he'd reached was just as valid and he'd always hate it, what happened, how it all went down, that she had to go through what he was sure was an ordeal no one deserved, but at the same time…

He was so thankful for where he'd ended up. Where he was now. And he couldn't envision any way for it to happen, other than how it had, and Ravan rejected the ideas of it, fate and all that.

It felt stupid. And childish. As they stood beside one another then. To think of them out there, probably fighting with one another continually, in a vain search for more power on her end and just a way to destroy everyone who'd wrong them on his. Kai had told him he'd changed, last time they'd seen one another, and Ravan hoped so.

There was more to life than who was stronger than who. Who deserved more than another. Who's suffering was more horrific than the next.

Whatever he'd been looking for and hoping to accomplish by getting with Haven would have never brought him any peace. Locke in the equation or not.

Locke tried his hardest just to ignore the other guy though, honestly, as Navi went on and on about how much she didn't want to talk about her strange relationship that Locke definitely didn't recall asking for more info on, and usually he'd be the first to be hesitant, at the sound of Kai's suggestion, but anything to get Navi to shut the fuck up for awhile.

"Let's play a game," Kai suggested, as he used to a lot, when they were kids. He was speaking of some of the board games that were still in the clubhouse and a curious glance told him that most seemed untouched, dusty and forgotten, as neither the twins nor Ajax would have the patience for such a feat.

Neither had any of them, when Locke had happily brought some from home, all those years ago, when they all added bits of themselves to the house, to stake their claim. Playing one of them only ever resulted in hurt feelings and fist fights, but it was so fucking cold and Marin claimed the stew was ready, anyways, so they all tentatively found themselves inebriated a bit and sitting around the table in there. Not that it lasted long as Haven, in all her better person wisdom, found that cheating at a child's game hardly counted as bad points in her daily tally and Locke just seemed intent on vetoing any time Ravan did literally anything in the game and Kai was just kinda sad, because he thought they could finally do it.

All play together.

Marin thought he'd be more bummed out when Ravan stormed away from the table and Haven knocked the pieces away, claiming instead that Navi was cheating and she might have been, honestly, as she was hardly paying attention the rules at all, much more intent on going on and on about her boring problems, but Kai only rested his head on the table, yawning some.

"Sometimes things don't change, I guess," he muttered through his yawns before he fell asleep there, the last sitting at the table, while Marin only went around gathering the game pieces, trying to figure out how he could find much similarities, save the obvious, with any of them currently.

As Ravan went to sulk outside though with a cigarette, Navi was planning on leaving all together, to face the music that awaited her back at her parent's place, but he called out to her, when she tried to take off into the night.

Freezing, Navi didn't really want to speak to him, at all, but did glance over her shoulder.

"Can I tell you something?" After stomping out his smoke, he pulled the bandanna back up around his face as he took some steps closer to her and Navi had to force herself not to take a couple more away. "It's about your book."

And ugh, she really didn't want to hear about that. At all. Because he was going to ask about who represented who or what fight was which one and how come she changed this or that or-

But when she nodded, Ravan only tugged at his bandanna, looking off, into the night.

"It's just… I really liked it."

Navi stood there for a moment, waiting for more, but he was only adjusting his bandanna again and Navi smiled at him, truly, for maybe the first time in her life.

"Thank you," she whispered as he couldn't meet her eyes.

"Navi! Come back in here and explain to Locke that you cheated and not me."

"You both were cheating, Haven."

"If she cheated too, it wipes all my cheating clean, Locke."

As Ravan and Navi both glanced back at the house, he snorted when she said, "They're both really dumb."

"Yeah," Ravan agreed, not thinking he could do that with her. "They are."

But so were they, apparently, as they eventually found themselves back in that damn clubhouse, drinking and arguing here or there, but eventually, things calmed down and everyone was just sitting about, mostly listening to Kai snore and the sound of the wind picking up outside and it was…

"It was nice of you, Marin," Haven told her that night, words slurring slightly as her younger sister, the only sober one, sat alone, looking over all the others. Locke and Navi were both conked out, Kai had been that way since the board game, and Ravan was just sitting alone, on the other side of the room, done speaking with them for the night, it seemed. "To get everyone together. If only for tonight. Thanks."

Smiling, Marin found it to just be enough, Haven sitting beside her in that moment.

Everyone slept late into the next day, a healthy mixture of exhaustion and alcohol for the most part. Before Navi took off, she gave Haven and unreturned hug and begged her with at least a bit of sincerity to come see her one day, where she lived now, and even without Locke, if she wanted.

Both knew how that would probably end up, so Navi didn't blame her for not verbally agreeing.

Locke grumbled something about peeing as he stumbled out of the clubhouse while Marin went around, cleaning up, with the help of the grumbling Kai (he was a fisherman, damn it, and none of them gave him the respect that should accompany that). This left the stretching Ravan and watching Haven as, standing before him, she had one question on her lips.

"Where's my present?" she asked. "It's kind of my actual birthday now."

"Kind of?"

"Where, Ravan?"

He snorted as he played with his bandanna before caving some as he said, "I came, didn't I?"

"And somehow," she told him bluntly, "you manged to get something worse than Incidio."

He glared as she sneered before remarking, "Take my bike."

"Your what?"

"It should still be at Erza's," he said with a shrug and something felt different that time, when Haven looked at him. Like he'd said the right thing. For once. "I'll never need it again. Probably won't start and you'll have to put a lot of-"

"Yeah, no, that's crashed and gone."

They both frowned, him from behind his garment and Haven just full on, as Kai came to sheepishly grin at them both. It didn't matter how he cut his hair or how much better shape he was in. He looked even more like an annoying little brother then than he ever had before.

"You did say I could have it," he reminded Ravan as the guy only stared and Haven looked about ready to pummel him. "And I didn't ride it and crash it. No. More, well, I kind of accidentally rolled it down a hill? If that makes sense? Because I was gonna push start it and Marin said not to because I didn't really know what that meant but I intended to figure it out, but then I bailed and it crashed into a pound and did I never mention this? Because-"

"Haven, come on!" Locke called from outside. "It's fucking freezing. Let's go."

"Later," she threatened Kai who winced, but the second her back was turned, Ravan was jumping him anyways, to throw him in a headlock and it wasn't fair! He'd already gone through his fisherman hazing. Did brothers ever grow out of this sort of brutal punishment?

Nope.

Marin was his one saving grace, but she followed her sister outside to ask her something and, well, he had wanted to see his brother. What went along with that was his fault.

As Haven and Locke slipped into their jackets though, Marin was quick to do the same as she informed the two of them she wanted to go over to their mother's early to help with any dinner preparations and shit; Haven forgot all about that.

But she was certain, she just knew she had to be right, that Laxus would be at the bar because surely her mother was also not too keen on his reappearance, right? How could she be?

Bleh, because she was her.

"I'd come with you," Locke said as he walked them the majority of the way there anyways, "but your mother really wanted it to just be you three and-"

"I've seen enough of you," Haven huffed, more because she was annoyed with the prospect of seeing her father again, honestly, than anything else, but as they shuffled along in the slight accumulation of snow underfoot, her boyfriend only gave her a sympathetic gaze while Marin tried hard to ignore her sister's displeasure.

Locke kissed Haven goodbye when they got to a specific corner and said, "I'll see you tonight."

"You better have me an actual gift,' she threatened and he did, of course, but still only shrugged at her as if uncertain himself.

To Marin though, he pulled his own hat off his head and put it over her, chiding her a bit for not having one of her own, knowing how prone she was to colds.

"Must suck, spending your only off day with Haven," he offered to the complaints of his girlfriend, but Marin only blushed muttering the contrary as he kissed Haven once more time before rushing off, no doubt for the guild, to drink away his hangover.

"Locke's sweet," Marin insisted to her older sister, but Haven had more important things on her mind then.

Haven knew her father was inside the house, the second they got there, and almost go passed the porch. But Marin walked on and, ugh, she had promised.

And good people didn't break promises, right?

He was there, of course, as he'd been since the night before where he sat up around the bar, listening to people congratulate him on his return and, eventually, at least give a taste of his dealings with his father to the Thunder Legion and his in-laws.

"Ya killed him, didn't ya?" Elfman asked him straight up what the others had been avoiding. "I know I wouldda."

Laxus didn't like it, facing things without it. The escape in it. It made the unbearable a little less. And he didn't feel like telling them the truth. Not yet.

"Something worse," he left it out and Elfman roared with joy and Bickslow snickered while his wife, her sister, and Ever looked uncomfortable. Freed though just bowed his head, accepting with ease that Laxus had been able to adequately pass judgment over the situation.

And he had.

He found Ivan in his fortress, alone for the most part and any of his loyal devotees were easy to do away with anyways. Laxus had no way of knowing why the man was laid up the way he was, about the blast that the demon had delivered him, but as he stood over the old man's bed, Ivan sniveling and in clear pain as his wounds had not been being cared for properly, all he could see, honestly, was what his father once was. Before his mother died. Before Ivan's mind lost him.

But then he saw his daughter, cold in the ground, only to be reanimated for such a nefarious purpose and yes, it had all worked out in the end, somehow, but fuck, ti nearly hadn't and…

And he was ill.

Ivan was.

He'd always been ill and Laxus had always given him more chances or let him off easy, but he was ill, and lots of people were ill and they didn't do such fucked up, unforgivable shit, but he was his father and he was ill and…

When Laxus reached out for him, Ivan turned away from him, on the cot he laid in, and his wounds stank of festering, but Laxus only laid his hand over the man's head, the hair falling away at a much more rapid pace it seemed, in recent years, but what was left stood on end as Laxus sent weak bolts of lightning coursing through his finger tips, straight against his father's skull. Ivan moaned lowly until his moans sounded more like babble and Laxus only looked at him, after that, incoherent and dazed.

Forever.

"I'll send someone to pick ya up, old man," he said simply, but with little malice and as Ivan stared at him with lack of recognition, Laxus wished at least some of it was there, that he'd at least remember that, who'd done this to him. "Spend the rest of your days the way you always shouldda. Powerless. Worthless. And away from my family."

He drank, Laxus did, for a good three days after that. Straight. From one bar to a next, street to street, town to town, until he found himself in the beginning of fall, miserable and all alone, and he just couldn't do it anymore.

He couldn't do any of it anymore.

Mirajane wasn't expecting her daughters so soon, but smiled all the same at them, no doubt welcoming the help of the younger and planning to usher the older away. To get Haven's 21st birthday, after being robbed of the 20th felt like a dream and, just in case it was, Mirajane wanted to experience it in the best possible way.

The three of them, just her and her daughters, she thought before...before their father…

But Laxus knew as Haven entered the house that he wasn't welcomed. He'd planned to be gone, by the time she got there, and was ready to leave, honestly. Go back down to the guild, maybe, but that had been so...triggering, honestly, to him, in a lot of ways, the night before. He'd braved it, for his family, but…

"Maybe you keep it for awhile," he'd muttered to Erza when he left the night before and she asked no questions, only bowed her head to her and he'd like it, he thought, to just be home and not have to go to that place again for awhile.

The park sounded nice, in that current day, as Haven came into the kitchen and he wasn't going to say anything to her. Mirajane told him that morning he just shouldn't for awhile. She always came around, she insisted, though he couldn't think of one literal time this had ever been the case.

Haven did spare him a glare though as he stood, before looking away. It just happened that her eyes fell to the table where the cake her mother baked her set, frosted and beautiful of course and Mirajane had been praying for this, for so long, to have her oldest back, but that cake wasn't what caught her attention.

There was another that set beside it that looked...well…

Bad.

It looked misshapen and the frosting was kind of just smeared haphazardly over the top and Laxus could explain that part, at least, because he wasn't fucking finished with it before she just came over super early, so that wasn't a fair judgment, but Haven only too steps towards it, staring down at it with a frown.

The cake would taste horrible. She knew it would. It would taste awful and would be inedible and he'd probably have thrown it out, before she got there, and pretended it never happened. Because he'd done it before, after being gone for much longer from her life and she'd seen it, she'd seen it all, when she was stuck in limbo.

"It's chocolate," Laxus said simply as Mira pretended to busy herself with cooking and Marin, confused, glanced between her sister and father. "I remembered. That...that's your favorite."

Of course it was.

It wasn't fair.

None of it was fair.

Haven had been ready, before, to try again. She was currently trying again, with everyone, and yes, she stumbled some times, and no, she'd probably never be an extremely great person, but she was trying to be an okay one. One that wasn't a colossal bitch and people weren't secretly glad was dead and who didn't drive her father and mother to fight and drink and fall apart and it wasn't fair because he didn't give her a chance, not once single change, to show him how much she was willing to change.

Just left.

Just fucking left.

Like it was nothing.

And that was the exact person she didn't want to be anymore. The one he was. When he ran away. When he decided that he could handle things on his own, that he was better off by himself, and how could he be? When she was so shit at it?

How do you forgive someone for being exactly like you without forgiving yourself first?

"Thank you," Haven whispered softly as Marin, feeling the tension, only went to lean up and kiss her father's cheek and mention being glad to see him.

Slowly, Laxus took his seat once more, instead of leaving, watching his oldest daughter the whole time, but she wouldn't look at him. She couldn't yet. But she did take note, at least, of the water glass that sat before him and, when she went to get a drink from the fridge, she made no complaint of only having a choice between that or a soda.

When she fell into her seat across from him, Laxus refused to look at her, matching his daughter's own resistant and Mira took to humming some, over at the stove, while Marin began softly telling her mother bits and pieces of the night before and it wasn't perfect.

It probably never would be.

But, as Laxus lifted his glass to his lips and Haven, thinking no one saw, reached out to run a finger across a bit of the frosting from his cake, just to taste, the slayer had to be pleased at least with the start.