Strider viciously jerked awake, his unsheathed sword in hand. His breathing was heavy, pupils dilated, and senses on high alert.

"It was just a nightmare… it was just a nightmare… Relax," he whispered to himself, trying to calm down - a feat that was much easier said than done. The cold sweat glistened on his body as his past experiences came back to haunt him. He had but to look down to be reminded of all the pain.

'Fuck,' he thought to himself, his memory drifting to the horrors that haunted him. He bit his tongue, trying to use the pain to drive them out, but to no avail.

He stretched, a few pops escaping here and there; almost immediately, he sat back down on the bed, body weary. He took a moment before getting up again and heading to the bathroom. As he doused himself in cold water and dried off, he paused to look at himself. He didn't know if the man that stared back at him was a stranger or not.

'Am I fooling myself by coming here? I still have some responsibility. But… No. No, I need this. I need it,' he thought, rubbing his temples.

Opening the window, he let the elements inside. The rain was still coming down hard, but he enjoyed it. It gave the air a fresh feel - one that he soaked in with bliss. He glanced over at the clock - close to 6:00am. The day was just beginning, and it seemed as though it would be similar to the one before: rainy. After taking a cold shower and getting dressed in his clothes from the night before, he was down in the main guild hall by 06:30am. It wasn't long before he was greeted by the smell of breakfast.

"Who else is awake?" he wondered aloud, as he went towards the source of the smell which was coming from the bar area. "Hello?"

"Oh, Strider! You're awake!" he was greeted with the bright smile of Mirajane Strauss, resident bartender of Fairy Tail.

"Good morning, Mira," he smiled at her. "What're you up to?"

"Oh, just making some coffee and breakfast! Would you like to join me?" she asked, hiking her thumb behind the counter and inviting him to the kitchen area.

"Sure, thank you," he said before hopping over to her side.

She led him to the kitchen, where she had prepared some eggs and toast with a pot of coffee. As she prepared another plate, he took an empty seat at the table and began to relax, taking in the smell of the warm and fragrant meal. He picked up a different scent as well - something heady that made him catch his breath. He looked around for the source, before mentally slapping himself for missing what was right in front of him.

"That smells amazing, Mira," he said. She caught on to the double meaning and gave a sly smile with her back still turned to him.

"Oh? The food or the perfume?" she wondered innocently.

"Ha. Both," he said, chuckling slightly.

"Well, thank you for the compliment. Both of them," she said as she turned around, setting a new plate before him. Both began to eat their meals happily. Strider was chewing as slowly as possible - making sure to take in the aroma and taste of every bite, determined not to miss even the slightest flavor. After so long a time on the road, he wanted to enjoy the little things - a warm bed, a nice, home cooked meal and the company of a beautiful woman.

"Did you sleep well?" Mira suddenly asked, taking a pause to look at him.

"I did," Strider said with a strained smile. "Been a while since I've had a bed, though, so it was a welcome change."

"Where did you sleep on your travels?" Mira wondered.

"Wherever I could find a place, really. I don't mind camping out, though - so it was never a major problem. It's been a fun road, but I think I'm ready to take a little break," Strider said.

"Do you mean that you're not planning on staying here?" Mira asked with a frown.

"Mmm, I haven't decided to be quite honest. Right now, I'm letting life lead me wherever it wants to. I don't really have any intention of going back home yet - at least not anytime soon. So I figure that this might be a… interesting route to travel," he answered.

"I see. A nomad, hmm?" she asked.

"I suppose you could say that. It's worked well for me so far, though," he replied.

"For what it's worth, I hope you decide to stay. Especially considering how quickly you decided to join Fairy Tail, we'd hate to lose you so soon," Mira said.

"The guild certainly has a broad upside," Strider said with a pleasant smile.

"How long has it been since you came to Ishgar? Or Fiore?" Mira inquired.

"A few months, perhaps? At least, that's when I landed. Or... I think I landed here. Or maybe not… uhh…," Strider wracked his brain, trying to remember what he was thinking when he made the journey, as well as his initial landing.

"Having trouble remembering?" Mira giggled.

"You could say that. I don't remember much of my first week on the continent, though - that might have something to do with it," Strider said casually.

"What?" Mira asked in shock.

"What?" Strider wondered.

"You don't remember your first week?" she asked uncertainly.

"Nope. Like I said last night, my flight put me out of commission for close to a week. It takes a significant amount of concentration to traverse that distance. I'm actually surprised I didn't end up losing power halfway through," Strider chuckled.

"That's not funny. You know how dangerous those waters are," Mira frowned.

"I thought it was. That's by the by, though. I'm here now," he said.

"Mmm. So what's your first impression of Fairy Tail?" she wondered.

"Beautiful, in a word," he said, flashing a charming smile at her. Mira blushed slightly, looking down at her plate. Strider saw the ghost of a smile creep on her lips.

"That's sweet. But seriously," she said, finally looking up again.

"I'm completely serious," he said. She was about to speak when there was a loud crash and bang.

"What was that?" Strider asked, shooting up and ready to unsheath his blade.

"Calm down!" Mira said in a slight panic. She quickly jumped up alongside him, resting a comforting hand on his shoulder. She saw his face had lost all previous emotion; he looked more akin to an animal about to pounce than man. As she looked to his hand, she saw the knuckles ready to break through the skin, drawing blood away from the extremity.

"An attack?" he snarled under his breath.

"No. That's probably Natsu. He loves to make a grand entrance if you couldn't tell yet. He's probably really excited to finally have some alone time with you. He loves to fight, although it's usually with Gray. don't worry," Mira said, trying to lighten the mood. After a pause, Strider finally calmed down, giving her a strained smile. Looking at him directly, Mira saw that the twinkle had all but left the dilated eyes.

"I see. Sorry about that. I...," he trailed off uncomfortably.

"I understand," Mira said softly, gently rubbing his shoulder. Strider took a moment to compose himself. Looking carefully at him again, she saw the warmth had returned to his eyes and the smile was at least a bit less forced.

"Well, it's best that I not disappoint on my first day as a full-fledged member of Fairy Tail. Thanks again for the meal, Mira," Strider said, swooping down and kissing her on the cheek. Mira's eyes widened in surprise as she felt his rough lips connect with her cheek, making her blush a furious red. "See you later."

Mira brought a hand to her chest and felt her heart beat wildly. It had been a long time since she had shared a kiss with anyone, even something as simple on the cheek. She touched the spot where his lips connected. It felt as though it was one fire, she thought.

'Why'd he do that? Wait, why am I asking that? It's obvious, isn't it? Or is it? Mmm…,' her thoughts trailed off, trying to put a reason to his actions. Sighing, she began to clean up. No doubt he'd be on her mind all of this day as well, now.

'He looked just about ready to attack whoever that was. I wonder what...?' Mira trailed off, shaking her head gently.


As Strider saw the boy, he let out a sigh.

'That could've been bad. I hope I didn't scare her off already,' he thought.

"Hey there, Natsu. How're you doing?" Strider asked as he approached the pink haired Dragon Slayer. Natsu grinned wide as he saw the newest Fairy.

"Strider! Just the man I was looking for! It's time for our fight!" Natsu exclaimed, pointing at him.

"Ha. Sure, Natsu. Let's head out, though. I don't want to destroy anything here just yet. Know a good place where we can cut loose?" Strider asked.

"I know just the place! Come on, follow me!" Natsu said, leading Strider out the doors of the guild. The rain was still pouring down, but the small party didn't mind; the only thing on their mind now was how would the other man fare?

As they made their way through Magnolia, Strider kept turning his head side to side, taking in the sights. He couldn't help but compare it against his homeland.

"So tell me a bit about yourself, Natsu," Strider said as he ran a hand through his hair. The rain had soaked in completely, but as opposed to feeling icky, Strider felt almost instantly refreshed.

"Huh? What do you wanna know?" Natsu inquired.

"Whatever you're comfortable sharing, I suppose," Strider said.

"Well, let's see. You know that I'm a Fire Dragon Slayer, right?" he asked.

"Yup. And Wendy is a Sky Dragon Slayer, while Gajeel is an Iron Dragon Slayer. Interesting names, given the fact that you all don't seem to have had many interactions with Dragons," Strider mentioned.

"Well, they were all raised by dragons," Happy interjected.

"Really? That's pretty amazing," Strider said in surprise. He didn't know many dragons that were so kind, that they'd take anyone in in such a way - especially not at that age.

"Aye!" Happy chirped.

"Yeah, my dad's a dragon. Igneel, a Fire Dragon. He's the one that gave me this scarf. I've been looking for him for years now, but…," Natsu trailed off as he held the scaly scarf in his hands. Strider observed him, sensing the mood change significantly.

"I see. He… abandoned you?" Strider asked.

"I dunno. I guess. The same happened with Metallica and Grandina - Gajeel's and Wendy's dragons. But…," Natsu trailed off, unusually thoughtful.

"But what?" Strider pressed.

"They all disappeared on the same day. July 7, X777," Natsu said.

"I see. The seventh day of the seventh month of the seven hundred and seventy-seventh year," Strider said, closing his eyes as he wracked his brain. He didn't know too much about this new country that he now called home, but he figured any little bit would help.

"What? What is it?" Natsu asked, looking at him.

"Hmm? Oh, sorry. I was just thinking. It seems to random to be coincidence, however. Especially if it was of them on the same day. No, I think you might be right in looking for Igneel. Something tells me there's more to this than meets the eye," Strider said.

"Really?! You believe me?!" Natsu asked aghast, rounding on him.

"I do," Strider said.

"You believe in dragons?! I mean when I told Lucy, she thought I was insane!" Natsu exclaimed.

"Well, we were looking for Igneel in a city…," Happy trailed off.

"Dragons exist," Strider said with a smile.

"Have you seen any?" Natsu asked excitedly.

"I have. Back home, however. Not here. Yet," Strider answered, adding the last word on for good measure.


"Slow down there, buddy. Let's see. Well, there's one dragon that I know uhh… particularly well. His name is Ancalagon. A black dragon with a glowing red underbelly when he breathes fire. Probably the largest dragon I've ever seen in my life - I mean he was known for destroying mountains a long time ago. Put it this way; out of all the other dragons I've encountered, he could probably swallow most of them whole. Not much of a talker, but I suppose I did pick up a few things from him - as well as from the other dragons; such as how to treat with them. I don't think he knew Igneel, Metallicana, or Grandina - but I suppose it's not completely out of the question. Dragon-kind as a whole used to be very connected before they started dying off, only separated by countries and the oceans - although a few made the journeys around the world," Strider said. Natsu listened in awe; he knew no one else that would believe him so readily - and he certainly knew no one that had encountered a dragon before besides the Dragon Slayers.

"Man, that's so cool! I can't believe you actually know a dragon!" Natsu said excitedly.

"He's alright when he's awake. Tends to sleep mostly nowadays," Strider chuckled. As they continued, Strider saw Natsu's face fall up and down rapidly.

"Do you think Igneel is still alive?" Natsu asked hesitantly. Strider smiled and put a comforting hand on the boy's shoulder.

"Don't lose hope. Dragons are extremely hardy creatures. Like I said, I don't think it's a coincidence they all disappeared on the same day. Keep searching," Strider said kindly. Natsu grinned and nodded before continuing to lead the way, happily talking with Happy.


"Alright, here is fine. You ready to feel the pain, Strider?!" Natsu exclaimed, taking his place around ten feet away. They were in the middle of a small glade. The wind whistled through the trees around them while the rain continued to pour heavily.

"If you can bring it, certainly. Although, I'm no stranger to fighting. So best prepare yourself," Strider said, drawing himself to full height as he stared at his opponent.

"You can do it, Natsu! Bring home the fish!" Happy cheered Natsu on. The Fire Dragon Slayer began to exert steam as his body temperature began to rise. Strider was surprised to see that the droplets that fell on him almost immediately vaporized.

'That's impressive. How hot is he running, I wonder?' Strider thought.

"FIRE DRAGON ROAR!" Natsu roared. A burst of red hot fire ejected from his mouth and towards Strider, who was taken aback.

'This is new. I suppose I made the right choice by coming here. Unfortunately for Natsu, though…,' Strider thought as he held his hand out. Immediately, the fire stopped several feet away from impact.

Natsu was stunned, to say the least. Walls, water, pans, and brute force sometimes stopped his attacks. However, he had never encountered a person that could stop them by just holding a hand up. The Dragon Slayer didn't have much time to think on that; the flames suddenly shot right back at him. Knowing that he didn't have much time to move, Natsu brought his arms up and crossed them over his chest in an effort to defend against the attack. It scorched his clothing but left him otherwise unharmed. Besides putting his hand up, Strider hadn't moved an inch.

"THATS SO AWESOME! I'VE NEVER SEEN ANYONE STOP MY FIRE IN MIDAIR LIKE THAT!" Natsu shouted happily at Strider, giving him a thumbs up.

"Suffice it to say that my telekineses magic has quite a bit of range. Part of that is being able to effect other people's attacks in such a way. It provides wonderfully on both offense and defense," Strider replied.

"Well, we'll have to try something else then! Try this on for size!" Natsu yelled as he suddenly broke forward at Strider, running at an astonishing speed. As his dragon senses enhanced several aspects of his being - sight, smell, hearing, strength, and more - Natsu was confident in his ability to attack and defend against anyone. Strider should be no different, he thought.

'He's a quick one, that's for sure. I don't think I've seen many people run that fast. But…,' Strider thought as Natsu closed on him. Rearing his head back, Strider waited for the perfect moment before lurching forward. His head connected with Natsu's in a vicious headbutt that reverberated through both of their skulls, echoing throughout the forest. Natsu was left stunned by the forceful attack; if he didn't know better, he'd assume that Strider cracked his skull. The attack didn't stop there, however; while Natsu's head shot back from the force of the headbutt, Strider hunched himself forward and launched into the air - his right knee connected first with Natsu's chest, followed quickly by his left. As the Dragon Slayer fell on his back, Strider landed with both feet on his side. He could've pressed his advantage - stomping the boys head in or cracking his sternum - but the point wasn't to previously injure the kid. Natsu's nose was obviously broken, evidenced by the blood that poured out. Off to the side, Happy just looked on in surprise.

As he looked up at the fire that towered over him, Natsu was stunned. He didn't expect that the fight would end so quickly - it had just started! His mind raced, trying to process what happened - he got one attack off, which Strider blocked; he tried to go for a physical, which Strider countered and followed up on.

'How strong is this guy!?' Natsu thought. He saw Strider lean down slightly, his hand outstretched. Grabbing it, Strider pulled Natsu up, a look of worry evident on his face - thinking he might've gone overboard. His worry was soon allayed as Natsu grinned wide at him.

"Wow! You're pretty tough, you know!? You might even give Erza a run for her money. I just thought you should know, though - I was going easy on you! It's gonna be different next time!" Natsu promised him.

"Ha. I look forward to it, Natsu," Strider chuckled. He admired the gusto that Natsu had. It was glaringly obvious that nothing could keep the boy down.

'Could've used more people like him up there. But no… he's too young for that. Far too young,' Strider thought. He sighed to himself as he saw Natsu's sidewinded nose.

"Looks like your nose is broken. Here, let me try something," Strider said as he held his hand up. Contorting his finger slightly, Natsu's nose suddenly realigned - with a yelp of pain from the patient.

"OUCH! THAT HURT! Wait… no way! It's fixed! I can't believe that worked!" Natsu said excitedly, gingerly touching his nose. It was back in the right place, to his surprise - although still bleeding quite a bit. He stuffed a handkerchief in his nostrils to stop the bleeding and grinned his thanks at Strider.

"Ha. I can't believe it either. I think we should head back to the guild for now, though. You might want a second opinion on that," Strider said as he let Natsu lead the way back.

"Sounds good! But wait! I just had a great idea! Strider, I want you to join Team Natsu! Come on, we could use someone with your skill!" Natsu said excitedly.

"What's Team Natsu?" Strider inquired. Happy soon floated atop his hand and rested himself on it, yawning.

"It's one of the teams at the guild. A lot of the members take solo jobs, but some of them form teams to tackle the harder ones. Like the old saying goes, two fishes are better than one," Happy said sagely.

"Pretty sure it's two dragons are better than one, Happy. Get with the program," Natsu said smugly.

"It's actually two heads are better than one. But back to the teams for a second. I guess I'm interested. Who else is on the team, though? And what other teams are there?" Strider wondered.

"One of the more famous teams is the Thunder Legion. They used to be led by Laxus, but he left Fairy Tail to find himself or something. There's Freed, a green haired guy - you'll probably see him around; Bixlow, a guy in knight armor who has flying tikis around him; and Evergreen. She can turn people to stone," Happy said, shivering.

"Wait - what?! Stone? How?" Strider asked in shock.

"You look into her eyesssss," Natsu said in a creepy voice, wiggling his fingers.

"I see. That's pretty impressive. Although, I think I may try to chance it. Alright, so what other teams are there?" Strider wondered.

"There's Team Shadow Gear. That's Levy - she's the one that asked you where you're from. There's also Jet and Droy. They're the smartest group in the guild, but I'm pretty sure that's only because of Levy," Happy said.

"Jet and Droy must be the two guys always lingering over her shoulder. They ought to make a move on her, though. Beautiful and intelligent; what more could you want?" Strider added.

"Aye. They looooooooove her. But she loooooooooooves Gajeel," Happy added with a giggle.

"Haha, yeah, right, Happy. No. Way," Natsu said.

"And so who's on Team Natsu?" Strider asked.

"Well, that'd be me! Natsu Dragneel, Dragon Slayer extraordinaire. As you can tell, I'm the brains and the brawn of the team! There's also Lucy. She's the blonde chick you met. She's a Celestial Mage, which means that she can summon a bunch of spirits with her keys. There's Gray, the Ice Princess - don't worry about him. There's also Erza. She's scary. Really scary. Like, don't mess with her scary. Oh yeah, and Wendy and Carla. SO?! YOU WANNA JOIN?!" Natsu asked excitedly.

"You'll get lots of fish!" Happy said, adding the irresistible cherry on top.

"Sure. Sounds like it could be fun. Tired of solo work anyways," Strider said with a smile.



As they arrived back at the guild, it was much more full than when they left. Cana was the first to notice them, although she just trailed Striders figure with her eyes, smirking as she saw how well his sopping wet clothes clung to him. Before anything else, however, Natsu led Strider over to the table where his team was. Lucy blushed as she saw the handsome new arrival, while Erza eyed him with interest.

"GUYS! Let me introduce to you the newest member of Team Natsu. The one, the only, the new guy - STRIDER!" Natsu said happily, draping an arm around his shoulders and spraying fire in the air in excitement.

"Good morning, everyone. It's nice to see you again," Strider said, waving at them.

"Natsu! What… happened to your nose?!" Lucy cried in shock, noticing the copious amount of blood that had leaked onto his shirt and was now staining the wooden floor red.

"Huh? Oh. That. Well, Strider and I were sparring and he kind of, sort of, broke my face," Natsu said sheepishly. Gray started to laugh uproariously while Lucy and Wendy sweatdropped. Both were surprised at the damage; usually, whenever Gray and Natsu fought, they barely bruised or scuffed the other. Strider appeared to have done some decent damage. The new Fairy just scratched the back of his head in embarrassment.

"Hmm… That's quite impressive, Strider. You appear to be a capable fighter," Erza commented. Strider had only just noticed the beautiful scarlet-haired beauty. He reprimanded himself for missing her the night before. Her beautiful scarlet hair fell just past her shoulders, draped over her signature Heart Kreuz armor. Erza regarded his formidable figure with interest before finally giving him a small smile.

"We would love to have you on our team, however. Unless anyone objects?" Erza said, opening it up for discussion. No one disagreed. "In that case, go let Mirajane know. She has to make it official."

"Hm? Oh. Right. I'll go do that, then," Strider said, finally breaking his gaze away from her. Lucy and Erza watched him go before turning inwards to the table and discussing the recent event.


"Hello, Mira," Strider said, flashing a charming smile at the bartender. She gave him a sweet smile of her own and paused what she was doing to lean over the bar.

"Hey there. How was your fight with Natsu?" she asked.

"The kid has definitely got skill. A lot of energy and charisma - important characteristics, especially if he's leading the team… which, I suppose he is, considering the namesake," Strider said thoughtfully. Mira just giggled; she figured he'd soon find out that it was Erza who wore the pants in the team.

"He could use some refinement in his technique, I suppose. Not a wise idea to just run in and attack all the time. But he's on the right path," Strider said, glancing back at the cackling Dragon Slayer.

"I thought you were fighting? Sounds like you were grading him on his performance," Mira said. Strider just smiled in response.

"Erza said that I should let you know that I'm going to be joining Team Natsu. Something about making it official," Strider said.

"Oh wow. So quick? Natsu really must've made an impression on you," Mira said in surprise. She expected that Strider would take on a few jobs solo before joining a team - especially when she considered how long he seemed to have spent alone.

"Well, what can I say? He's quite an exciting character. Plus, it's been a long and lonely journey. I could use the company," he said, managing to conjure up a small smile.

"Well, I'm happy to see that you're settling in so quickly. Let me know if I can be of any help in making you more comfortable. I'll go and make the team official right now," she said, beginning to turn and walk back before he spoke again.

"Perhaps there is something you can do. Would you mind showing me around the town sometimes? Would love to get to know the area," Strider asked with a smile. Mira smirked in response.

"I would be more than happy to do that. We can walk around tonight if you're free?" Mira suggested.

"That works for me. How about we meet up around 8pm at that large fountain just east of here?" Strider asked.

"Sounds like a plan," Mira said. As she watched him walk back to the table, Cana quickly replaced him. She grinned at the model, who just sighed - she knew what Cana had on her mind.

"Working quickly, I see. That's so not fair," Cana said.

"Oh? I dunno what you're talking about," Mira said innocently.

"That won't work on me, Mira. I heard what he said. He just asked you out!" Cana said.

"I don't think it's like that. I'm just showing him around the town," Mira said, although a slight blush crept on her cheeks. She hoped that Cana would be too buzzed to realize.

"Mhm. First, it's a date, then a kiss, then he's got you bent over the bar-," Cana said before Mira made a hasty exit. The beautiful brunette just giggled as she watched her friend go. Despite having so many suitors - so many men desperate for her attention - Mira was undoubtedly more innocent than her photo shoots let on. Cana looked back at Strider and sighed.

'Hmm… Well, it's not like they can see the whole town in one night,' she thought.


Back at the table with Team Natsu, they were peppering him with questions regarding their newest teammates. As he slowly walked back, Strider could make out most of the conversation. What's he like? How strong is he? How'd he break your nose? Did he use that sword? How'd he break your nose? He knows a dragon? That's so cool! Does he like strawberry cake? How'd he break your nose?

"Damn it, Gray, why do you keep asking how he broke my nose?!" Natsu deadpanned.

"Because it's hilarious, Flame Brain. I'm never letting you live this one down," Gray chuckled. Natsu just grumbled before beginning to answer their questions.

"Alright, let's see. He's really powerful. I MEAN SUPER POWERFUL! He stopped my Roar mid-attack and then broke my nose with a headbutt. He didn't even need to use his sword! I dunno about tele-whatever, but he's pretty good at it. And yup, he knows a dragon! That's so awesome! But I dunno if that dragon knows Igneel. I don't know if likes strawberry cake, Erza. You'll have to ask him that yourself," Natsu finished.

"Strawberry cake? I love it," Strider said as he walked finally made it to his team.

"Wonderful! We'll have some later. Is Mira making it official?" Erza asked.

"Yup. So how does this job thing work?" Strider asked.

"it's fairly simple. You go over to that board and choose a job to do. You take it to Mira or Master and they approve it. After that, it's yours to accomplish unless you choose to relinquish it - as often happens when some wizards pick jobs too difficult to do, such as S-Class jobs. For those, you need an S-Class Wizard escort," Erza said, spelling it out for him.

"Who are the S-Class Wizards here?" Strider asked.

"That would be me; Laxus, although he likely won't be back for a while, if ever; Gildarts Clive, who also won't be back for a while; or Mirajane," Erza said.

"Mira? She's an S-Class Wizard?" Strider asked in surprise.

"Yeah, Mira's really strong! You don't want to get on her bad side. She can be kind of scary," Wendy piped in, shivering slightly. Although she was usually kind to the bluenette, Wendy had seen how Mira could be when angry. It was enough to scare her straight.

"They call her the She-Devil. Yeah, you don't wanna cross her, man. She can be terrifying," Gray said, shivering as well.

"I see. Interesting. So Erza, is it alright with you if we go on an S-Class Quest? Perhaps I'm in over my head, so I'll leave it you," Strider said. Erza's eyes widened as she repeatedly opened and closed her mouth, struggling to find the right words. Strider looked on in amusement.

"You… you… you're asking my permission?!" Erza asked, aghast.

"That's… what you said, no? I need an escort?" Strider asked, raising an eyebrow.

"… Yeah. It's just… no one ever asks permission," Erza replied weakly. The rest of the team sweat dropped before looking at each other.

"Yeah, I guess we were never big on the whole 'rules' part of the whole thing. Now that I think about it, we never really ask permission to do anything. You guys think that's why we always get into such trouble?" Lucy wondered. There was silence before Natsu finally answered.

"Na. Couldn't be."

'Looks like I chose quite the interesting group to join,' Strider chuckled before restating his question to Erza.

"So, how about it, Erza? Can we go on an S-class quest?" he asked.

"Hmm? Oh. Sorry, yes. Yes, of course. Go ahead and choose one and we'll set out immediately," Erza said, snapping back to reality.

"Ah, any chance we could postpone to the early morning? I'm going around the town tonight, trying to get acclimated," Strider said.

"Certainly. We'll set out at 4am sharp," Erza said with a smile.

"Wonderful," Strider replied. Erza was slightly shocked - she thought she was the only person in the entire town, maybe even the Kingdom, that got up that early.

"4am?! But Errrrza… I need my beauty sleep!" Lucy whined.

"You're plenty beautiful as it is, Lucy," Strider said with a charming smile. The compliment flew over Gray and Natsu's heads - both of them mostly oblivious when it came to women. Erza, Lucy, and Wendy, however, blushed deeply as they look at Strider.

"W-w-what?!" Lucy asked nervously.

"I said you're plenty beautiful as it is, Lucy," Strider said, reiterating his point.

"Oh! Well… uh… CRAP I FORGOT SOMETHING SEE YOU LATER!" Lucy yelled as she ran into the downpour outside.

"Huh. I wonder how long it'll take for her to notice how stormy it is?" Strider asked cheerfully before walking to the job board.


Looking at the board, he saw that there were quite a few jobs open for him. Most of them seemed low-risk, low reward; easy enough to pull off, but not challenging enough for his taste. Finally, he found one that seemed perfectly suited to them.


A large winged and feathery monster has been terrorizing our town for the past month. It's eaten livestock, destroyed crop, and most recently started to attack the townsfolk. It makes it's roost in an old fortress, from where it emerges every few days to rampage. We don't care how the job is finished, just please get rid of it!

Location: Valmar, on the Northern Seaboard of Fiore

Reward: 18 million jewel

Rank: S-Class

"Not a bad sum. Looks like this is the one. A large, birdlike monster? Sounds interesting - a phoenix? A griffin? Or literally just a Big Bird? Hmm… Valmar… Why does that sound so familiar? I don't think I've spent any time there, but… hmm…," Strider hummed to himself as he walked back to the table. He showed them the request, which was unanimously approved (minus the flustered Lucy). Natsu and Gray were especially interested in what the identity of the monster could be.

"This works. Go ahead and have Mirajane approve it," Erza said.


"Hey, welcome back. Choose a quest?" Mira asked.

"Yup. Here you go," Strider said, handing over the flyer.

"An S-Class Quest already? Are you sure about this?" Mira asked, her voice laden with worry. She didn't know what level Striders particular abilities were at, but she wasn't sure if he'd be up to the task. She had gone on S-Class Requests that were brutal and vicious; even being an S-Class Wizard was no guarantee of completing it.

"Positive. It sounds pretty fun. The world's a big place, after all. I want to see as much of it and its wonders as I possibly can," Strider said, a happy grin playing on his lips. Mira smiled at his courage and enthusiasm before looking at the flyer. Biting her lip, she nodded.

"Alright. I'll approve the quest. Mind asking Erza to come over, though? I need her approval as well," Mira said. Strider nodded and jogged on over to give the redhead the news.


"Erza, do you think he's ready for this?" Mira asked as her best friend approached her, still worried about approving the quest.

"I do indeed. Strider seems quite capable of handling himself. He took Natsu down in three hits, and I'm fairly certain at this point that's only because he didn't wish to hurt his ego," Erza said. Mira looked on in surprise, her eyes snapping onto Natsu - finally noting the blood down his front. The Fire Dragon Slayer was a powerful figure as she had seen countless times. He had defeated Erigor the Reaper single-handedly; he rescued Erza and stopped Jellal from activating the Tower of Heaven; he stopped the Jupiter Cannon from destroying the guild hall; he managed to stop Laxus from destroying Fairy Tail, and he even helped bring her little sister back. Hearing that someone was able to so effectively and easily take him down came as a wildcard. She thought about how strong Strider might be. Finally, she sighed; either Natsu wasn't going full force, or it was a fluke, she thought.

"Anyways, like I said, he seems to be capable of handling himself in a fight. This way, I'll be able to keep an eye on him, as well as evaluate his power. I'm interested in seeing what he can do first hand. We'll be starting the Request at 4am sharp," Erza said. Still worried about him but seeing that she wouldn't win this fight, Mira relented and approved the job.


"So, new guy," Cana said, ushering Strider over to a table she took in the corner.

"Hi there. Cana, right?" Strider asked, taking a seat.

"Yup. And you're Strider?" she asked.

"That I am. Pleasure to meet you," he said. Cana poured him a drink and they clinked their glasses before taking a hearty gulp.

"Interesting name," she said with a smile. Strider just winked at her before taking another sip.

"Not as interesting as your choice of dress. Not that I mind, but it's pretty cold out there," Strider said.

"Ugh. I was counting on the rain letting up, to be honest. Not a fan of wearing anything heavy," Cana said.

"I'd be more than happy to escort you back home, should you like," he suggested with a smirk.

"I think I'd like that. Although I wouldn't want to make you late for your date with Mira," Cana said, smirking as well.

"Ah. You heard that?" Strider wondered.

"Yup. You move fast," she said.

"I'm not sure it's like that," Strider said.

"Oh? Why not? She's hot," Cana replied.

"Oh, Mira is certainly beautiful. But I don't think she views this as such. No, I think it's more like her having the patience of a saint, showing the new guy around," Strider chuckled.

"That's good to hear. After all, a tall, dark, and handsome guy appears out of nowhere. We wouldn't want him to get scooped up day one," Cana giggled.

"No worries. There's plenty of me to go around," Strider winked. Finishing her drink, Cana suddenly stood up.

"Mind walking me back now?" she wondered.

"Lead the way, Miss Alberona," Strider said with a dramatic bow. Cana giggled before leading him out. As Mira watched them leave, she frowned.

'What're they up to?' she thought.


As they exited, Cana felt Strider drape something over her. Looking at her shoulders, she saw that she was now wearing his hood and cloak. The weightlessness, durability, and dryness of the material startled her. When Strider arrived, it looked as though it was sopping wet - but wearing it, she couldn't even feel a drop of water on her skin.

"Woah. This thing is… comfortable," she said.

"Glad you think so," Strider said, slinging an arm around her shoulders.

"Umm… what're you doing?" she asked uncertainly, blushing.

"Just trying to keep you warm. Am I making you uncomfortable?" he inquired.

"No, it's fine. Thanks," she said, leaning in.

"Not at all. So where to?" he asked.

"Fairy Hills. The girl's dorm," she said.

"Ah, perfect," he said with a smile.

"Don't get any funny ideas," Cana said with a smirk.

"Don't worry. I'm a perfect gentleman, as you've noticed. As well as a gentle lover, if that helps my case in any way," he chuckled, eliciting a laugh from Cana as well.

"And here I thought you'd be the strong and silent type. We need one of those in the guild," Cana said.

"You'll find that I'm plenty mysterious enough. I'll keep you on your toes," Strider joked.

"Curious - what is this thing made of? It's wet on the outside, but I can't even feel a drop underneath. I don't think we have anything like it here," Cana said, fingering the material.

"Mmm, a special brand of textile from back home. It's got quite a few properties, one of which is a significant amount of water resistance. Doesn't take long to dry and the wearer will almost never get wet - assuming they're well covered with it. You want me to put the hood on?" Strider asked.

"Please," Cana nodded. Going behind her, Strider gently motioned her hair down the back of the cloak and underneath before putting the hood on. Cana let out a comfortable exhale before leaning into his arm again.

"Glad you find it comfortable," Strider said.

"Oh, you've no idea. This thing is amazing," Cana said.

"A question," Strider said.

"What's up?" Cana wondered.

"You said you were a Card Mage last night. What is that, exactly?" he wondered.

"I'll give you a short demonstration once we get to my place. Card Magic is a kind of Holder Magic," Cana said.

"Ah. Yes. Of course. Holder Magic. Continue," Strider nodded sagely.

"You've no idea what that is, do you?" she giggled.

"Not even a little bit," Strider grumbled.

"How long were you in Fiore before you joined? I would've thought you knew at least that much," she said.

"I was on the continent for a few months before, but I didn't spend too much time in one place. I learned quickly that there was Magic here, but beyond spending time on the language and learning the lay of the land and its people, I spent most of my time exploring. At the very least, most of my interactions - with Mages or otherwise - has been very brief," Strider explained.

"I see. In that case, let's wait until we get comfortable. Then I can give you a run down," she said.

"Works for me. Guess we should just enjoy the weather for now," Strider said, sighing deeply as he turned his head up and let the rain cascade in full on him.

"A fan of the rain?" she wondered.

"Yup. Torrential rain and a beautiful woman. I'm pretty sure this is paradise," he said.

"Easy there, Prince Charming," she giggled.

"As you wish, my lady," Strider said.


"Mind if I dry off real quick in there?" Strider asked as he entered through the second-floor window.

"Sure. Go for it," Cana said before she got settled on her bed. She smiled at the door he went through, biting her lip as she imagined him getting undressed on the other side. A few minutes later, he re-entered and went over to the bed as well. Attempting to get on, Cana held a hand to his chest and smirked.

"Nope. No way," she said.

"I wanna get comfortable too!" Strider complained, moving forward a bit more.

"Then sit on the chair," she said, motion behind him.

"But a bed is so much more inviting. Trust me, I make a great pillow," Strider said, edging forward a little further. Cana was almost laying on the bed by now.

"I bet you do. But I'm afraid I'm not that kind of girl," Cana said.

"Oh? And what kind of girl would that be?" Strider asked, leaning a bit closer. Her back finally on the bed. He hovered over her, his hair masking his face, which was just a foot from hers. His hands rested on either side of her head. Cana smiled at being in the position before blushing gently.

'Why am I blushing? I should be the one making moves on him!' she thought. Running a hand down his chest, she let out a gentle breath; he was certainly muscular and well defined. To her intrigue, it felt as thought there were several ridges under his shirt.

"You know the answer," she whispered. Holding his position for a moment, Strider sighed and nodded. Grumbling, he took his seat as she sat on the bed, looking at him. "Ha. Been long without a lay?"

"Oh, you've no idea. But that's for later. Alright. So Magic in Fiore," he said seriously.

"Hmm? Oh, right. Ok. So there are two main classifications of Magic - Caster and Holder. Caster is magic that's expelled from the body without a conduit. Natsu and Gray, for example, use Caster Magic. Yours would classify as Caster as well. Holder Magic uses an external source - so my Card Magic or Lucy's Celestial Spirit Magic," Cana explained.

"Got it. So I guess the benefit for Caster Magic is that you can use it wherever, whenever?" Strider asked.

"Pretty much. It's either learned or innate, whereas Holder Magic is almost always learned. Took me years to get my Card Magic just right. I'm still learning new things every week," Cana said.

"It seems like there's quite a bit to it. What's your magic about, then?" Strider asked in interest.

"The cards that I use can produce different effects. I've cards to thunder and lightning, earth, wind, and fire; air and guns; and a bunch of other things," Cana said.

"Guns?" Strider wondered.

"Yeah. You know… point and shoot things?" Cana said. Strider shrugged and shook his head, taking Cana by surprise.

"You don't have guns where you're from?" she asked, aghast.

"I don't think so. Point and shoot, though… bows and arrows, you mean?" Strider asked.

"Not quite, although similar I guess. Guns uhh… actually, if you want to learn about them, you might want to ask Bisca. I think she's out on a job right now, but I'm sure she'd be happy to give you a lesson on them. Basically, guns are weapons that shoot small rounds of ammunition at a high speed," Cana said.

"Alright. That's good for now, I guess. Back to card magic, though," Strider said, bringing the conversation back home, although his mind was still running at the new revelation about weapons.

"Right. So like I said, my cards can produce a bunch of difference effects. I throw the card at my target, after which it does its thing. So if I wanted to say, put you to sleep, I'd throw this card at you and you'd be out like a light," Cana said with a smirk as she pulled out a card that emanated a soft, green glow. Strider looked at it in wonder, a childlike wonder spreading across his face. Cana giggled at the reaction; it seemed to be so out of character for what he looked like.

"Speaking of sleep, I'm pretty tired. How about using it on us?" Strider suggested.

"Sorry. No can do. But wait here a sec," Cana said, biting her lip before she walked into her closet. Strider looked on curiously as he saw a soft, dark glow emanate. Walking back, she handed him a card with her likeness on it. Her beautiful brown eyes and sweet smile looked up at him through the card.

"What's this for?" he wondered.

"It's a call card. If you ever need me or want to talk, just use it. I have its lifeline, so mine will ring when you do," Cana said, showing him the companion card.

"I'll be sure to treasure it," Strider said with a smile, getting up and hugging her tight. Cana giggled at the reaction and returned the hug, holding him just as close. Putting her arms around his neck, she felt that his hair was still a bit damp, although he was otherwise warm.

'This feels nice,' she thought with an inward giggle.

"I suppose I should get back to my team. Let's do this again sometimes," Strider said, telekinetically opening the window.

"I'd like th-," Cana said before a loud knock on the door cut her off.


"Oh, crap. Out, out, out!" Cana said, pushing Strider towards the window.

"Easy, there!" Strider chuckled before leaping down to the ground and quickly making an escape, his cloak billowing in the window. Leaning on the windowsill, she smiled as she watched him go.

'Yeah. Let's definitely do this again soon,' she thought before sighing. Now it was time to pay the piper.


As Strider arrived back at the guild, he saw that Lucy had finally rejoined the team - sopping wet thanks to the continued downpour. As she saw him, Strider could swear that he literally saw steaming coming off of her, her cheeks a deep red.

"Hello, Lucy. Enjoy your shower?" he asked pleasantly.

"Y-y-yeah. Sorry about that. I had to take care of something really quick," she said softly.

"I understand. Forgive me if I made you feel uncomfortable, though," he said pleasantly.

"What?! No! It's fine!" Lucy said, shaking her hands apologetically.

'It was really nice, actually. I can't remember the last time that's happened. The guys here are way too dense,' she groaned inwardly.

"Strider!" Erza shouted.

"What's up, Erza?" he inquired.

"Cake!" she said, holding out a piece of strawberry cake for him. Taking a seat at his side, she set her intense gaze on him. Strider raised an eyebrow before looking at the others, all of whom sighed fondly at her antics. Taking the fork, he cut into the cake and brought it to his mouth. The creamy pastry was laden with soft and fresh cut strawberries, melding into one of the sweetest things he had tasted - certainly the sweetest since he arrived here.

"That… is some good cake. Wow. Who made it?" Strider asked.

"I thought so! And Mirajane. She makes some of the best cakes," Erza said, drooling slightly. Strider chuckled before holding his cake out for the others to share. Erza was the only taker; soon, they were both digging in.

"Strawberry cake is the most wonderful thing existence," she said happily. Strider was amused; he first pegged her to be extremely strict, but it seemed as though Erza was prone to the same airy moments the rest of the team was.

"It's been a while since I've had something this sweet," Strider said, sucking on the fork a bit, making sure to take in every last bit of the sweet taste. "By the way, do you guys know a Bisca?"

"Bisca? Sure. I think she's still on a job, though. Why do you ask?" Lucy wondered.

"Cana said she could teach me about something called a gun," Strider said nonchalantly.

"You don't know what a gun is?" Wendy asked in surprise.

"Nope. First I heard about them was today," Strider said.

"You guys don't have guns where you're from, then?" Lucy wondered.

"I suppose not. Cana said something about pointing and shooting, though. We have bows and arrows," Strider shrugged.

"Interesting. I suppose there's likely quite a few differences between our homelands, considering no trade or contact exists. I suppose it's not too surprising," Erza said with a frown.

"Anyways, look for a chick with long, green hair. Only one like that in our guild," Natsu said.

"Got it. Anyways, time for me to head out for a little bit. I'll see you all in the morning. Thank you for the cake, Erza," Strider said, nodding at her before taking his leave.


By fifteen minutes to 8pm, Strider had made his way over to the fountain to meet Mira. The rain had let up mostly, although he could tell it would likely begin again soon. While he enjoyed it, he figured that Mira wouldn't. He gently contorted his right forefinger and middle finger, casting a small telekinetic charm that would act as an umbrella, allowing the rain to simply fall to the side and leaving them dry. He took multiple deep breaths, letting the fresh air cycle through his body. The petrichor scent lingered heavily in the air, giving it that fresh-rain-on-earth smell. The cool and crisp wind gently fluttered through his hair as he watched the people go about their business, mostly ignoring his presence.

About fifteen minutes later, Strider spotted a silverfish aura making its way through the dark and towards him. As it got closer, his breath caught ever so slightly. It was Mirajane, walking his way in a beautiful red dress that she filled wonderfully. It was adorned with a large pink bow set in the middle of her chest while the hem skirted around her shins. Despite the conservative choice, she looked magnificent, he thought. Around her neck, he noted a beautiful necklace - a sapphire-blue jewel set in a silver locket and hung on a thin, silver chain.

"Hey. I hope I didn't keep you waiting too long," Mira said sweetly, standing squarely in front of him with her hands folded in front of her.

"Not at all. Shall we begin?" he asked with a smile.

"Lets," she said as she began to lead him across the town. As they snaked through the streets, it began to drizzle as he expected. His charm kept them protected, although Mira didn't seem to notice. She was talking on and on about the sights of the town, encouraging him to ask questions as he saw fit. Strider mostly nodded as she finished a sentence; it was pretty par for the course thus far.

"So, Strider…," Mira trailed off.

"What's up?" he wondered.

"How was your time with Cana?" she wondered. He let out a short laugh before putting an arm around her shoulders.

"Don't tell me you're getting jealous," he teased.

"What?! Why would you say that?" she asked, flustered.

"Why else would you ask?" he wondered.

"I'm just looking out for my guildmates," she answered.

"I see. Well, what didn't happen is what you're obviously thinking. Here I thought you were sweet and innocent," Strider laughed.

"That is so not what I imagined," she replied.

"If you say so. Nah. I just walked her to her place and she told me a little bit about her magic. Told me something about a weapon you guys have here that we don't have where I'm from," Strider said, removing his arm from around her.

"What's that?" Mira wondered.

"Guns," Strider replied.

"You don't have guns there?" she asked in surprise.

"I don't think so. Still, I have to make sure. I suppose we might have an equivalent under a different name. She recommended I talk to Bisca," Strider said.

"Speaking of which, I have a kind of umm… personal question," Mira said, shifting uncomfortably.

"What is it?" he wondered.

"Your name," she said.

"What about it?" Strider asked.

"I mean… is that really your real name? Strider?" she asked hesitantly. Strider laughed a bit at the question before shrugging.

"It's a long story, unfortunately. I'll tell you about it sometime, though. But yeah. More or less, it's my real name," he sighed.

"I'm sorry. I didn't mean to sound so accusing of you," Mira said quickly.

"Don't worry about it. I've gotten the same question several times. I'm used to it," he said. Mira paused for a little while before nodding.

"Alright… Anyways, Bisca is pretty good with that stuff, I suppose. But I am really surprised to hear you might not have guns where you're from. What's it like there?" Mira asked. Strider stiffened as she asked and paused as he thought of a reply.

"That's a long conversation for another time as well, I think," he answered.

"Alright," Mira shrugged. She didn't want to make him to uncomfortable so soon.

"So have you and your siblings always lived here?" Strider asked, trying to change the subject quickly. He regretted doing so as he felt the air change. It got a bit tense; looking to Mira, he saw her smile fall, her eyes harden slightly, and her right hand grab at her necklace, rolling it in her fingers.

"Umm… That's a story for another time," she said sadly.

"Oh. I'm sorry, Mira. I didn't mean to-," Strider began to apologize before she cut him off.

"No, no. There's no need to apologize. You couldn't possibly know. It's just… it's something that a lot of people ask; something I've answered a lot. I just don't like to… umm… go over it so much," Mira said quietly, looking at her feet. She felt him put a comforting hand on her shoulder a moment later.

"I understand, Mira," he said gently. Looking at him, she saw his warm gaze and smile. He didn't look at her with fragility or pity, as did most of the people she had relayed the story too. It was a look of understanding, she thought.

"You do?" she asked softly.

"Yes. Everyone has some events in their life that shape who they are and what they become. Those events often aren't very easy to speak about, even if you have spoken about them. It's less about the act of talking about them, I think; and more about sharing it with someone that has gone through something similar. Some… a connection is important, I think. Not saying they have to relate to every aspect, but they should relate in some. But these kinds of crucibles are extremely personal - a point in time that irrevocably changed them. I certainly have them, as do you; as I imagine do others in the guild. But it's impossible to share them in their deepest and truest form unless you know someone who has experienced the same or similar event. It's not often something that can be easily conveyed. No… there needs to be a deeper connection, I think," Strider said with a sad smile as he trailed off into his own mind.

Mira stared at him as they continued their walk in silence, approaching a small bridge that ran over a swollen brook, leading to a small house in the distance. It was true, she thought. She had talked about her story with some of the others in the guild - Erza, who listened intently; Natsu, who was surprisingly earnest in listening as well; Lucy, the Master, etc. - but the only ones she could talk to about it completely were her siblings. Only they could understand what she had gone through because they experienced the same thing right alongside her.

Her mind soon trailed to something he had said.

'I have them.'

She was about to ask him what he had gone through, chastising herself gently for her hypocrisy. As though sensing what was on her mind, however, Strider shook his head. She caught the meaning and blushed slightly, nodding and giving him a soft smile. It wasn't long until they were on the doorstep of the house - her and her sibling's house. Mira looked in her surprise that they ended here.

"Wow. I didn't even know we were walking this way," Mira said, slightly bewildered.

"People tend to go on autopilot when they enjoy themselves. I know I certainly did," Strider said.

"True enough. Sorry, but I don't invite guys in on the first date," Mira said as she stood on top of the doorstep. Even doing so, she barely came up to his chin. Smiling down at her, Strider suddenly leaned forward, causing her to blush.

"Oh? Are you sure that I couldn't persuade you?" he asked quietly and intensely, his face half a foot from hers. Looking into his eyes, she saw they were just as intense as her voice.

"I…I…," Mira stammered, bringing her hands up and resting them on his shoulders. She didn't feel afraid of him, but she choked nonetheless. She felt her face get hotter as she struggled to reply coherently.

"You what?" he asked.

"I… we can't… not…," she said, still flustered. Feeling as though he had had his fun, Strider laughed and backed away, winking at her.

"Ugh. You're so mean," she grumbled, surreptitiously bringing a hand to heart. Like it was in the morning when he kissed her cheek, the organ thumped wildly.

"My apologies," he smirked, bowing slightly. Suddenly, Mira noted something that had escaped her attention the whole time - the rain.

"Hey! It's been raining the whole time, but we're completely dry!" she said excitedly. She held out her hand, trying to catch some of the drops but her body seemed to simply repel them, as though an invisible umbrella covered her.

"I didn't know if you enjoyed the rain or not, so I took the liberty of keeping it off of us for tonight. A good choice, I think. I wouldn't want to ruin that stunning dress," Strider said.

"You're sweet," Mira said with a smile.

"I suppose I'd better be off. Got an early start with there eat of the team tomorrow. Thanks again for showing me around, Mira. Let's do this again soon," Strider said.

"Definitely. I haven't gone on a nice walk like that in a long time. Be safe on your journey tomorrow, Strider," she said as she pulled him in for a hug. Resting her head on his chest, she felt his slow and calm heartbeat.

'Wow. He's really warm,' she thought. Strider held her just as close, letting her warmth wash over him like an afternoon sun.

"I will," he whispered. They kept the position for a minute that felt as long as an eternity. Finally letting each other go, Strider turned and began to walk back to the guild. As Mira watched him go, she saw the beautiful design on the back of his cloak. She was about to ask him about it but opted against it. She'd have plenty of time to learn more about him, she thought.

"Good night, Strider," she whispered. Strider picked up on the quiet words and smiled. He canceled the enchantment and let the rain begin to pour over him.


If you notice any errors - punctual, grammatical, etc., - please feel free to point them out. I'm aiming for longer chapters, and with that comes a higher chance of misusing a word, comma, or something else.