April 8, X779
He honestly did not know how this always happened.
Laxus would decide to go on a job by himself, and sometimes he succeeded, and sometimes Bickslow tagged along, and sometimes Evergreen would show up too, and sometimes, it was Bickslow, Evergreen, and Freed, and suddenly, they were an entire group. With a few exceptions, they were never invited; they just came, and Laxus accepted it. The experiences were never terrible, though, so Laxus never said anything to the contrary either.
Maybe this was what Acnologia meant when he called them his ‘puppies.’ They were energetic and sometimes noisy, but sincere enough that Laxus didn’t mind. He still found it weird, though. With the exception of maybe some of the S-Class jobs or particularly specific jobs, Laxus didn’t need their help, and in turn, Laxus knew their abilities well enough to know that they didn’t always need his help either.
Bickslow made sense. Even though Bickslow was great with people—much better at conversation than Laxus was—he didn’t like going on jobs by himself. The only exceptions were jobs with clients that he knew decently. Laxus didn’t blame him in the slightest, because even though some people didn’t ask questions, and some people didn’t assume the worst, there were just as many who would treat a user of black magic as badly as they would a demon or a follower of Zeref, as if those were supposed to be congruous. That aside, Laxus also knew that Bickslow hated to be alone. Even though Laxus was perfectly fine with solitude, it did no favors to Bickslow, even with his five soul companions keeping him company. Bickslow was good at companionable silence though, so they worked well together despite their differences.
Evergreen, on the other hand, was a complete mystery to him, especially for the first year or so since he met her. She would act like she was completely independent and didn’t need the help, but she was hiding behind him or Bickslow as soon as things got intense. Not that she couldn’t handle herself. For someone on the younger side, Evergreen had some impressive firepower when she had confidence. Laxus knew that she took some jobs on her own, too, but she seemed to jump at the opportunity to come with him whenever she could, generally making excuses along the way like feigning boredom or acting like she was doing them a favor. Laxus thought that she might be lonely, but he didn’t see her worm her away into going on jobs with other people. As talkative as she was, maybe she was just as bad at socializing as he was. She was weird, but she could be insightful at times. Besides, the kid had good taste in music, so she could be fun to have around.
Freed, however, baffled him the most. He was as young as Evergreen, but he vacillated between wide-eyed kid that looked like he was seeing magic for the first time and an uncannily responsible and competent mage. Laxus had no idea why, because sure, kids were kids, but everyone else was somewhat consistent. If he had to compare Freed to anyone it would be Erza—mature beyond their years but still new to the world—and that always bothered him, because he remembered when Erza joined the guild and looked like death walking. Nothing about Freed was quite so severe, though, and Laxus would never ask unless he thought it was necessary, so he let it be. Freed was probably the worst at being clingy, and that was counting the fact that the kid sometimes disappeared for what seemed like weeks on end. There were times that Laxus actually grew worried that Freed wasn’t shyly asking to tag along or getting invited along by Laxus’ bolder uninvited travel mates. Even though his unique rune magic was quickly becoming more and more refined, and the fifteen-year-old could be very focused and observant when there was a task at hand, it seemed to Laxus that he had poor self-esteem. He was finding ways to give credit to somebody else, especially to Laxus, at every turn. It worried Laxus, though it was also exhausting to handle. He hoped that Freed could learn a thing or two from Evergreen in that regard.
Maybe Laxus didn’t mind having the three of them around because otherwise he would just worry about them. Laxus in no way wanted to diminish their abilities, and he trusted his guildmates, but he also knew that they were all outcasts of sorts, and people could be cruel, and their skin wasn’t as tough as they made it out to be. Freed’s right eye turned black with his magic, and Laxus didn’t miss the way he grew his hair over it. Evergreen let it slip that she’s been kicked out of somewhere before, maybe her home before Fairy Tail, and Laxus knew that people were discomfited by the idea of being turned to stone with a glance. Bickslow went without saying, and Laxus had already beaten off idiots from his friend before.
Laxus himself wasn’t normal by any means, even for a mage, especially since his teeth were always sharp now and his eyes dilated differently. It wasn’t something many people noticed at a glance, and he was lucky that most of his guildmates were still oblivious, but Laxus was familiar with being on the receiving end of strange looks. However, he knew that people backed off whenever he was around, no matter what they thought. The distinction of being an S-Class mage helped greatly, and he was glad that nobody questioned them while he was around.
If the younger ones stuck to him because they trusted him to protect them, then Laxus wouldn’t let them down. He wouldn’t let any of them down. In turn, Laxus knew he could trust them with his own secret. It was hard enough to hide the fact that he was a dragon slayer just by existing, much less in a fight, and Evergreen and Freed were smart. But they understood that he didn’t have the same choice in the matter as the ‘first generation’ dragon slayers, and that Laxus might literally rather die than have to explain to his gramps what his dad actually did to him. Not that he was sure he could keep it up for much longer. He knew he shouldn’t, but it was still easier than addressing it.
Wow. They really were a strange group, weren’t they? Maybe Evergreen’s suggestion wasn’t a terrible idea.
“I’m serious,” she pressed, repeating herself, “we should just officially be a team already. I know it’s a big sacrifice on my part, but I’m willing to do it. It would only be fitting at this point.”
The four of them had been seated around a table at a tavern in this middle of no-where town they took a job in when Evergreen dropped the idea mid-meal. He had been too tired to process it the first time around, but the implications were starting to dawn on him.
“It is an interesting idea,” Bickslow agreed. “It could be fun, and we already got the rep for it.” His friend waved a hand in front of his face. “I think you killed Laxus and his poor introvert brain though. He’s been staring at the wall for like thirty minutes. He didn’t even finish his roll.”
“Dead, dead!” some of his babies echoed.
Laxus blinked out of his thoughts groggily. “I’m not dead.”
“Thank goodness, because that would be a really sad obituary. Like, really pathetic.”
“Shut up, I was just thinking,” he grumbled, hiding his amused smile behind his food. Bickslow was going to be the real death of him, that was for sure.
Freed looked thoughtful as well, steepling his fingers in front of his nose. “Wouldn’t the three of us forming a team with an S-Class mage diminish Laxus’ ability to go on jobs?” he wondered. “Since the team status would link our records.”
Leave it to Freed to somehow worry about him. Laxus shook his head. “Maybe? But that really doesn’t matter. The only jobs that get picky about the tier of S-Class mages are the SS-ranked and higher, and I wouldn’t be cleared to go on those for a few more years anyway.”
Gildarts—and Gramps, of course—were the only “senior” S-Class ranks in Fairy Tail. The second distinction of class wasn’t widespread knowledge, and admittedly, Laxus had been irked when he first heard about it…until Gildarts told him all about what SS-ranked and 10-year-ranked jobs entailed, and Laxus was reminded that Gildarts was on a different level of skill entirely. Few guilds had mages of his caliber, and Fairy Tail received jobs that other guilds didn’t even get to look at for that reason. Of course, Laxus knew that as soon as Gramps went through the formalities with Acnologia, he could jump straight to the level that Gildarts was at, but he was definitely an exception in every sense of the word.
It was fine. Laxus didn’t mind, because the regular S-Class missions were enough as it was. And they typically only required at least one S-Class mage to be present, so having a team didn’t matter so long as they were at least halfway competent, and Laxus would certainly say that these three were, even the younger ones. “Actually, it would probably help,” Laxus decided. “It promises diversity of skills to the client, and it would raise your reputation too.”
Freed was still frowning. “Still, it would be presumptuous of us to exploit Laxus’ position for our own gain,” he argued, completely overthinking the matter.
“If you don’t want to be a team, you can just say so,” Laxus told him gently. “It’s okay.” Freed may be clingy, but he had a sense of independence, and Laxus understood completely. Although strangely enough, Laxus himself didn’t feel as burdened by the idea of officially becoming a team than he thought.
“No!” Freed squeaked, his fifteen-year-old-ness bleeding out finally. “No, I mean, yes! I do want to be in a team, but we couldn’t— We shouldn’t be rude about it to—”
“Freed, calm down, it’s fine,” Evergreen shushed, patting his shoulder. “If Laxus says it’s fine with him, then it’s fine. You know how brutally honest he is.” The youngest then looked over at him with those big doe eyes. “I-I mean, if it is fine with you, of course.”
That was as much of a direct question as he was going to get, so what was his answer? Laxus never imagined himself as a member of a team. He always thought they were either for the gimmick, or because people were just that attached to each other. But Shadow Gear was a team, and he knew that they sometimes went on jobs separately, or with other people, so it was probably more of a statement than an absolute. Besides, Laxus expected to go on jobs with these three fairly often anyway, and if anything, making it official would ease the constant wondering in his mind. He supposed that team names were no different than guild marks—it was a symbol of unity, just more tight-knit. Laxus already knew that he would go to the ends of the earth for these guys if they asked, and he trusted them more than most. Honestly, the idea of sucking it up and making a team sounded pretty nice. It was a way to say something without having to find the right words.
“It’s fine. I think it would be nice.”
At his reply, Evergreen squealed and hugged his arm. “Thank you thank you thankyou!” she gushed, completely giving herself away after her usual ‘cool’ act beforehand. He couldn’t help but to roll his eyes with a smile at the display.
“Ooo now we just need a cool team name, right?” Bickslow continued, bouncing in his chair.
“We need something fitting for our esteem, of course,” Evergreen stated. “I was thinking something along the lines of ‘the Royal Fairies’ or ‘the Fae Elite.’”
Bickslow poked his tongue out like the words themselves were bitter. “Just ‘cuz you got the fairy gig going doesn’t mean we all do,” he argued. “I don’t wanna sound like snobs.”
“We’re all Fairy Tail mages though,” Evergreen rebutted. “So just because I’m the most fairy-like doesn’t mean it can’t imply.”
“Sorry Ever, I’m with Bickslow on this one,” Laxus cut in. “I don’t think that really fits us.”
“Yeah, I was thinking more along the lines of ‘Scary Eye Weirdos’ or ‘the Flying Freaks of Fairy Tail’ or maybe just ‘the Totally Awesome Quartet.’ I’m leaning towards the alliteration if you ask me.”
“Okay, so Bix isn’t allowed to name anything—”
“Hey!” Bickslow pouted.
Laxus leveled a deadpan at him. “All of those were terrible.”
“You never even gave them a chance.”
“…because they were terrible.”
“And you had the audacity to shoot mine down immediately,” Evergreen huffed. “At least they weren’t offensive.”
Freed cleared his throat. “Perhaps a better theme than our guild or our oddness is in order?” he suggested, and Laxus could tell that he already had ideas. “The eye theme is…mostly true, but Laxus doesn’t have eye magic.”
“He’s got lizard eyes, so that counts, right?” Bickslow retorted.
“Yeah, but having ‘lizard eyes’ isn’t the same as active magic,” Laxus said, agreeing with Freed. Besides, he doubted that calling attention to that aspect was wise.
“Precisely,” Freed continued. “I was thinking something along the lines of the ‘Thunder Legion.’”
“Thunder Legion?” Bickslow echoed, tilting his head. “That sounds like a lot more people than just the four of us.”
Evergreen nodded. “It has a ring to it, but if Laxus is lightning, doesn’t that leave him out?” she teased playfully.
“Yeah, even if we just throw him at things first.”
Freed tapped his chin. “No, you’re right. Then how about… ‘The Thunder God and his Tribe’? Since Laxus is the S-Class mage among us.”
Okay, hell no. “Please don’t,” Laxus managed, dumping his face in his hands. If Bickslow didn’t kill him with his shenanigans, then Freed was going to embarrass him to death.
“That’s just as long as Bickslow’s!” Evergreen squeaked.
Bickslow slapped a hand over his chest in mock hurt. “Am I the benchmark for bad ideas now?”
“Yes,” she replied without skipping a beat.
“The thunder vibe isn’t bad though,” she continued, more thoughtful. “It’s a little gritty, but elegant. We are pretty badass, too, if I say so myself.”
“Okay, okay.” Laxus held out his hands placatingly, stalling for thought. “The thunder theme does have merit, but no singling me out. It’s a team name. One that people need to be able to take seriously.”
“If I say I like the thunder thing too, will it stop being considered?” Bickslow asked. “Because I think it’s cool. We got the lightning, and thunder is all mysterious and weird and boomy, and we blow things up all the time, but there’s also rain and clouds and stuff and that’s neat.”
Freed took all suggestions in stride and nodded along. “I see, so we want to take the whole system into account. ‘Cumulonimbus,’ perhaps?”
Even though his helmet shielded his eyes from view, Laxus could imagine that Bickslow was blinking dumbly based on his expression. Evergreen and Laxus himself was the same way, and they had an education. “The what?”
“The cloud type that produces thunderstorms,” Freed explained.
“Wait, you mean clouds have official names and not just the ones I make up in my head?”
“Yes. Actually, weather systems can be quite interesting, given that—”
“Okaaaay,” Evergreen interrupted, “back to naming. Sorry Freed, but cumuleo— whatever it was is just to long. People have to be able to pronounce it.”
“Not to mention if we ask Chico to write that down on the form, she might cry,” Laxus added.
Evergreen nodded. “Exactly. Maybe something a little simpler—and more elegant. Like ‘Thunder’s Rain’ or ‘Weathervane.’”
“Oh yeah, Laxus loves weathervanes, right buddy?” Bickslow teased despite Laxus’ fierce scowling. He was never going to let him live that one down, was he? Never mind the fact that the topic of him being a lightning rod unfortunately came up more times than he would like.
“How about ‘Thunder Spear’ or ‘Thunder Strike’?” Laxus suggested instead.
He thought that they were pretty good suggestions, all things considered, but Evergreen laid a hand on his shoulder and shook her head. “The only things you name are your magic attacks, and it shows.”
Laxus let his head drop to the table. Ouch. That hurt. It was true, but still.
“Why don’t we just stick with ‘Thunderstorm’ then?”
All three of them looked in Bickslow’s direction with astonishment.
“That’s…actually not bad,” Evergreen admitted.
“Bix, you used a collective six letters to name these little darlings of yours,” she argued, stroking Peppe. “It's sad. Isn’t that right, Perseus?”
The soul rubbed itself against Evergreen’s cheek with a happy croon. Bickslow looked utterly betrayed, but Evergreen had a point about the name thing. He knew that nobody knew the souls’ real names, or even much about them save for their…situation, but at least they seemed happy with whatever they got. Evergreen was going to spoil them for sure though.
“It’s true though,” Laxus said. “The name’s not bad. It’s simple, but I think that works in this context.”
Freed nodded, eyes sparking in interest. “Laxus is right. The simplicity of the common word gives context to all the implications in this setting, and it’s easy to remember for traveling purposes.”
“Guuuuys. I can’t tell if you think it’s dumb or not.”
“No, I like it,” Laxus replied, and the sentiment was echoed by Evergreen and Freed.
Thunderstorms were complicated, with many different parts, and they could bring destruction or sometimes they just brought rain. Laxus always liked them for that reason, because they did so many things, and so did their team. Not to mention that thunderstorms were intimidating and not to be trifled with; there was something to be said about forces of nature that not even magic could replicate.
They were an unlikely group, but they worked well together, and Laxus believed that they could be a force of nature for good. He still didn’t know how they came to be, except maybe by the winds of chance, but Laxus was okay with that. He was just glad that it happened.