*peeks around corner to see if anyone is still there*

Heeeeey guuuuys...sorry for disappearing forever...again...my bad. Cons started up again, and me being nuts, I signed up with a 6-cosplay competition piece for October 23 (Chise, Yona, Shirayuki, Morgiana, Mey-Rin, and Erza for anyone who is curious...you can see my progress pics on my insta quiteariot if you want). So basically I'm sewing nonstop in all my free time to get it done in time. BUT, previous to that, I was working on PAPI! My plan was to get this whole week written and then break it into chapters to publish so I could go back and edit if I needed to, but thanks to the recent reviews I've gotten and a supportive message from Grimnack (who never fails to message me when I really need that kick in the pants), I think the first two days are publishable enough to post now! So, here's a 10k snack to get your appetite up for PAPI again and I promise to return with at least the other 15k I have written so far in November when I'm done with the breakneck con-crunch I'm on.

P.S: Lupe, since you don't have an account I can message, I left you a note at the end of the chapter!


He could not, it turned out, hold out for a week.

Though, in Natsu's defense...he wasn't the only one to spin out of control that week…

Day 1 (which happened to be a Thursday)

Gray awoke with a start, feeling like he'd fallen out of bed, surprised to see the ceiling a couple feet above his nose where it belonged and his aching back still cradled in the dip of his veteran frat mattress.

Then he realized his arm was tingling and his sheets were also wet in a perfect outline of his body beneath him, sticking to his naked skin (he preferred to sleep in the buff when Natsu was out for the night) and decided that, before anything else, he should have mentioned to his (still stubbornly silent) soulmate that apparently water did, in fact, travel through their bond just fine.

He groaned and slapped a hand over his eyes.

Why had he wanted a soulmate so badly again? Because so far, all it had gotten him was passive rejection and a growing pile of damp laundry.

He rolled out of bed, gracefully landing on his feet from the loft and shaking out his arm. If she was already up and getting inexplicably wet, he might as well shower and get ready for class…

Several minutes earlier...

Juvia's eyes fluttered open to the sound of wind rustling through dry leaves outside her open window and fought the urge to dig her fingernails into the parched, itchy skin of her arms.

Fall was the worst. It was like every scrap of moisture had been plucked from the air, leaving her eyes burning no matter how many hours she slept. It was even worse that she didn't hear her humidifier going when she awoke.

She must have forgotten to turn it on or fill it up the night before, or something. It was the only thing that would account for that extra layer of pain slathered in between her eyeballs and lids. But...she could have sworn she had filled it the night before...

Well, it wasn't like she didn't have a good excuse for being distracted.

She looked at the arm that recently held the message from her alleged soulmate, but it was now just back to being her bare and unremarkable arm, her mysterious Don Juan's number safely stored in the old school paper address book she'd had since middle school until she could work up the courage to message him. Or, god forbid, call him.

Anxiety swelled again in her chest like it had when the message had first appeared, making it hard to breathe. Just like it had the night before...as she stared at his contact page in her address book and fought the urge to hyperventilate.

It looked like she wasn't ready now either. At least not without downing a liter of ice cold water and taking a shower.

Now, anyone who had ever spent the least amount of time with Juvia could confidently tell you one undeniable fact about her: she was excessively accident prone. Well, perhaps unlucky was a better word for it. After all, could one really count natural disasters as accidents? Seemingly since birth she had embodied the ability to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. It was like she lived her life under a dark cloud of misfortune that followed her wherever she went.

So, by the time she hit high school, she (with help from the few friends who felt safe standing within conversing distance with her) had developed a system of safety checks to help prevent the many inevitable disasters that befell her on a daily basis.

But, on this particular morning, distracted by her troubling thoughts, she forgot to perform said checks. Such as examining the floor carefully before setting a foot out of bed.

Which is why she didn't notice the puddle of water...

...which had leaked out of her beloved humidifier when it broke in the middle of the night, the fragile plastic tank finally surrendering in its recent battle against the hairline fractures caused by her tripping and landing on it the previous week...

...which had happened when she had been wrestling one of her new slippers out of her vacuum cleaner...

...which had gotten sucked up by said vacuum when she had been distracted by the sudden sound of the neighbor powering up his chainsaw outside her window during her seasonal deep clean.

The saddest thing about that story was that it was actually one of her better days, because that kind of stuff was always happening to her. This was just one example in a long line of unbelievable catastrophes that she had come to expect as inevitable in her life.

Anyway, long story short, she didn't see the water and slipped on it, trying her best to twist and land on her hands to break the fall (she had gotten quite good at falling over the years), but hitting the ground funny bone first instead, making her arm go numb. She lay on the floor a moment catching the breath that had been knocked out of her and letting the ache from her elbow begin to fade.

Maybe it was one of those days where it would be better to just go back to bed…

On the days when even her beloved water betrayed her, nothing was bound to go right.

She lay there for a several minutes, trying not to move a muscle lest she somehow make the situation worse, her heart still pounding in her chest from her anxiety and her lungs still refusing to expand fully.

Then, all of a sudden, she was drenched in an invisible downpour that materialized out of thin air, her satin nightgown sticking to her body as more and more water beaded up on her skin, soaked through it, and rolled off onto the floor.

Yeah, it was going to be a shitty day. She could just feel it.

Levy bounced on her heels as they waited for the realtor to unlock the door to the first apartment they had lined up to visit that day. Gajeel pulled her into a hug from behind and smiled. He was glad Levy had warmed to the idea of moving in together so quickly. Her first look of apprehension over their lunch had made him a little nervous. But now, he could tell she was just as excited as he was to live together.

The realtor, measurably less enthused than his clients, finally got the slightly warped door unlocked and threw it unceremoniously open with a fake smile.

Taking simultaneous deep breaths, the young couple entered what could be their new home.

It was a little...underwhelming, admittedly, but the shiny new adult-like feeling that had been trying to bust out of Levy since Gajeel had broached the subject told her to look at the positives and come back to the negatives later.

Like...all the natural lighting...through the three cracked window panes.

And the pretty purple paint in the bathroom...right next to the puke green tile.

And the-

Gajeel bumped his head on the ceiling fan in the bedroom before she could find something else to Pollyanna up.

"Fuck," he grumbled, rubbing his forehead.

"Next apartment?" Levy asked brightly, sliding her hand into his.


Before Erza knew it, her feet had taken her there again.

Maybe it was the warm lighting...or the sweet smell...or the complimentary drinks...but whatever charm of the place kept summoning her back, Eclipse Bridal was starting to feel like her home away from home. She hesitantly walked through the door, once again dressed in impeccably coordinated workout clothes.

The girl at the counter next to the door saw her and hurried around to greet her. "Miss Scarlet! Welcome back! I didn't think we'd see you again so soon."

"Hello again," Erza said confidently. Her mother always said, customer service personnel only responded to confidence (and Irene received nothing if not perfect service everywhere she went...under pain of death). "I would like to try on a few more dresses today. I understand if you are booked up, especially since I didn't make an appointment, but I just can't seem to stop thinking about the Heart Kreuz collection…"

Erza trailed off as her eyes hungrily gobbled up the semi-circular rack display of lace, satin, and tulle covered gowns running the entire length of the far wall.

"Of course. It's a weekday and our slow season right now, so feel free to stop by whenever, now that we have you registered. Just let us know when you pick the official date, future Mrs. Fernandes!" she chirped. "I'll see if I can get you the same room you used last time."

"Is the girl who helped me last time here again? I really liked her, but I can't remember her name…"

"Um...maybe...I'll go check who your consultant was."

Erza felt a twinge of guilt break down her confident wall as the girl scampered toward the dressing rooms. She hadn't even decided whether she was saying yes or not yet…

It wasn't that she didn't love Mystogan. She definitely did...it just felt like it might be too soon for something so serious. Even if they were soulmates, they had only been together for a few months. If he really loved her, what was the hurry? Getting married wouldn't change anything about their current situation. They could easily wait a few years. But…

She looked around and a giddy giggle escaped her lips.

Having an excuse to try on wedding dresses was just too good a chance to pass up.

For her stress relief.


What other reason could a mature woman like herself possibly have?

With everything that had happened to her lately, she NEEDED this.

Wendy let loose a wild whoop as the machine in front of her strobed with multi-colored lights and let out a long line of staccato chings, spitting a stream of tickets out of the tiny slot right above her knees. For a second she was embarrassed at how loud she yelled, but a quick glance around showed that she and Romeo were still the only two customers in the arcade at midmorning on a weekday. She grinned. It had totally been worth it to trade for the graveyard shift in order to spend the morning with her muscle-bound boyfriend clutching his head in frustration behind her.

"How is it possible that you beat me at every single game?! I basically spent half of my time in high school gaming!" Romeo wailed dramatically.

Wendy just smiled and surveyed the bright, flickering landscape around them for her next opportunity to beat the pants off him.

"Don't take it too hard, it springs from too much time in a solitary childhood and an inability to connect with people my own age. For the most part. The rest is just because I hate to lose."

Romeo's heart squeezed at the word 'solitary'. The mental image of a miniature Wendy with her face buried in her knees sitting in an empty place devoid of human contact hit his imagination like the heavy weight of a sodden beach towel and inharmoniously stuck there with a heart-wrenching 'splat'.

It was a very specific mental image. You had to be there.

Wendy squeaked as Romeo enveloped her in a bear hug, lifting her tiny body easily off the ground.

"Romeo~! Put me down!"

After several warm, comfortably squeezy moments, he did as she asked, grabbing her hand.

"Alright, now that I've gotten that out of my system, is there a game in here that you aren't the all-time record-holder in?"

Wendy thought about it, feeling the warmth from his hand spreading up her arm and the blush across her cheeks from his spontaneous embrace. "Um, I'm not quite as good at shooting games?"

"Alright, a shooting game it is. Prepare to taste defeat as all those hours of playing Halo finally pay off!"

Wendy couldn't help herself from giggling at the eager, determined look on his face.

It was almost enough to convince her to let him win the next one.


From the moment the bet was made, Natsu's plan of action was a no-brainer: avoid Lucy like they were living in the peak period of a phase six pandemic. Because, if he didn't see her, he couldn't jump her. Right?

It was foolproof!

And he was using every ounce of willpower he had to stick to the plan, but his body just wouldn't cooperate! If he stopped actively concentrating on something (anything!) other than Lucy, his feet automatically took him to where they knew she would be. After weeks of practically stalking his girlfriend every moment he could, he knew her class schedule in his muscle memory, with each of her routes and stops burned into his tissues on a cellular level.

So, it really shouldn't have been a surprise to look up after spacing out, again, to see the golden curtain of her hair shining like a beacon at the end of the hallway.

In a building across campus from where he was supposed to be.

"GODS FUCKING DAMMIT!" he cursed before spinning on his heel and running full speed in the other direction.

Lucy's head snapped up when she heard his voice. She tried to mentally tally the number of times he'd done that since she woke up...and lost count. His voice quietly chanting in her head wasn't helping.

Don't go to Luce. Don't go to Luce. Don't go to Luce. Don't go to Luce. Don't go to...

How ya doin' there, champ? Her mental tone was sympathetic, as she felt his frustration with himself prickling on his skin.


Lucy tried to keep the laughter in, but it busted out anyway. The group of students walking in front of her turned and gave the notoriously weird Bunny Girl suspicious looks before picking up their pace and exiting the building, letting the door close in her face.

That killed her humor in a hot second. Apparently her dream of connecting with people easily and making friends all over campus was just something that wasn't meant to be. She sighed and pushed through the doors, taking a deep breath of crisp fall air...

And stumbled backward as she almost ran into Natsu, who had appeared again right in front of her.

"They can go fuck themselves. You have enough friends." He wrapped his arms around her in a quick hug, then swiftly let go and ran in a full sprint in the opposite direction.

Fuck, I love her so fucking much. NO! STOP THINKING ABOUT LUCE! Stop thinking about Luce. Stop looking for Luce. Unless she's sad, then I need to... Dammit! No! Stop thinking about the Weirdo already!

Lucy watched him go with a soft smile and set off toward the English building with the spring back in her step.

"Midnight," Jellal began idly as he lounged on the Sleep Number bed the guards had smuggled into his cell, fiddling with the remote. "I think it might be time to think about getting out of this place."

The henchman in question, sitting cross-legged on the massive LoveSac bean bag chair taking up most of the remaining floor space, opened his blissfully mascaraed eyes and lifted a brow. "Really? Why?"

Jellal popped a grape into his mouth and interlaced his fingers, staring at the cracked ceiling above him. "As nice as it is to be treated like a king in a prison, being out of prison is obviously still greatly preferable. And, I suspect Death is growing bored with me."

Midnight's scalp twitched as his skin crawled, but his facial expression remained passive, not betraying his apprehension. "Well, I guess we should entertain him then."

Jellal let a malicious smile curve up one side of his lips. "Perhaps we should."

Midnight let out an exhausted sigh and allowed his body to fall to one side until he rolled smoothly off the bean bag onto his feet.

"I'll go fetch the warden."

"Tell him to bring that steak sandwich I like when he comes."

Midnight rolled his eyes, but gave Jellal a mockery of a salute as he meandered out of their perpetually unlocked penthouse cell...or the equivalent thereof.

"Of course, your Lordliness."

Perhaps for the first time in her life, Cana was completely and utterly sick of being surrounded by men.

No, not men. Boys.

Because as she watched the brothers of Fairy Tail fraternity using everything not nailed down to create a miniature golf course through the house, starting on the second floor and ending (after going down to the basement, up again and around the backyard) out the front door into the open trunk of a Ford Fiesta that was covered in more rust than paint, it was painfully obvious how boyish they still were, despite their broad-shouldered manly bodies.

It was a fucking Thursday night for gods' sakes! Didn't any of them have evening classes? Or girlfriends? Or an exceptionally made HBO Original Series to binge?!

The rational part of her brain, buried deep behind the hormonal mood swing currently pissing her off, told her that on a normal day she would have been the first one in line to play all 64 holes of the Third Annual Fairy Tail Putt-Putt-Palooza (as the sign above Freed's door touted as the location of the first hole). But the the tiny, imaginary man with a rusty knife stabbing her in the abdomen, and the twitch in her eye were ready to change the fucking scenery right damn now.

Cana stomped through the house, weaving through the chaos until she found Mystogan discussing counterweight options with Gray and Natsu as they duct-taped Sho to a huge spinning wheel made of plywood with notches cut out around the side to let the ball through, his head blocking one of them, while his hands and feet covered two others.

"Oi, Mysty! I'm taking the night off. You're in charge."

Mystogan rubbed his already tired eyes and didn't even bother rebutting the nickname. He'd been in a frat long enough to know when a nickname had stuck for good. "Actually, I was planning on leaving myself in a few minutes to see Erz-"

He was cut off as Cana grabbed his collar and pulled his face down to her level. "Unless you want to go back to the hospital for an extended stay while they try to relocate where I sent your balls, there is only one correct answer when I say you're in charge."

The blueberry science major cleared his throat, barely resisting the urge to cup his family jewels protectively as he replied, silently cursing his weakness for domineering women.

"Yes, Ma'am."

"You know what, I think I'll take the whole weekend."

"Yes Ma'am."

Day 2

Levy leaned on the counter at Black Steel, staring at the portable computer she had brought with her from home to browse real estate listings during her shift.

"I liked the...fourth one?" Levy declared without conviction, shuffling through the windows on her laptop to bring up the apartment she hadn't totally hated from the list of choices they had been dragged around to the previous day and early that morning.

Gajeel leaned over her shoulder, looked at the page and grimaced. "Fuck no. The shower head in that place doesn't even make it to my neck. What about the second one? That one wasn't terrible…"

She closed the listing he'd rejected and pulled up the second apartment. "Ew, no thank you. That was the one with that burnt-looking outlet! I'm not moving my babies into a fire trap!" She closed out of that window with a cringe and a shiver.

Running his fingers through his long hair, Gajeel sighed. "Looks like we need to keep looking."

Levy hummed her agreement. The other apartments they'd seen hadn't even met the basic requirements for liveability. By both of their standards.

"It might be a little more expensive, but maybe we should try looking to see if there are any houses around to rent instead. If it's too expensive, we could always get roommates."

"Sure. Sounds good to me," Gajeel agreed. He honestly didn't care what they ended up with as long as the ceiling wasn't low enough for him to hit his head on and he could shower without folding in half. However, he hadn't anticipated finding those two simple things would be that difficult.

"I'll let the realtor know. What time do you think we could go tomorrow?"

Gajeel shrugged. "After work? Erik is taking the day off, so we can't really step out over lunch again like yesterday."

She nodded. "Okay. I'll try for six."

A few minutes later, the door played its guitar riff announcing they had a customer, so Levy smoothly closed her laptop and stowed it under the counter, putting on her professional smile.

"Welcome to Black Steel! How can I help you?"

The Goth that came through the door was wearing twice as much eyeliner as Levy had ever owned, and a fur trimmed snake-skin coat that made her skin crawl, but he was rocking it. Apparently some people were really born for that obviously-dyed-black-hair-pale-as-the-undead-rockstar look. He smiled without teeth, tilting his head as he gave the part of her he could see above the counter a once-over. Levy suddenly wished she'd spent a little more time picking out her clothes that morning. Or that she could afford to shop where Lucy used to. Or that she had studied up on her Bram Stokes more recently in case he suddenly went for her jugular.

"Yes, I'm actually looking for a specific artist. I heard that Cobra is inking again and that I could find him here? He did most of my other work and I haven't been happy with anyone else since."

Levy furrowed her brow for a moment before realizing who he meant. "Oh! You mean Erik! Sorry, I didn't know him when he went by that name, so it took me a second to figure out who you meant. Yes, Erik works here, but he won't be on shift for another few hours. If you can't come back tonight, he has tomorrow off but he'll be here all day on Sunday, so that's always a good time to find him. Or I can set you up with a design appointment with him if you want?"

His smile widened, showing bright white (thankfully fangless) teeth against his navy blue lipstick. "No, thanks, just tell him Macbeth came by and that I'll come by again when he's working. He won't have any trouble remembering me."

Levy struggled to keep her professional mask on as the hairs on her arms stood on end.

"Of course. There aren't a lot of people running around named after the Scottish Play these days,right?" Levy babbled. "It would be a hard name to forget. I'm sure Erik will look forward to working with you again."

Macbeth nodded slowly with a little laugh and backed out of the shop. "I sure hope so."

Levy deflated when she could no longer see him through the front windows, her suddenly weak knees dropping her down to sit on the floor. Once she was down there, she leaned back to lay on the checkered floor, her head popping through the chain curtain. Gajeel, prepping his machine for their first scheduled client of the afternoon, glanced over at her with a raised eyebrow, then went back to work.

"Get off the floor, Shrimp. Yer gettin' blue hairs all over my nice shiny wax job."

"...I will in a sec," Levy replied a little shakily.

Gajeel stopped what he was doing for a second to turn toward her. "You okay?"

"That guy who just came in...I can't shake the feeling that I've met him before. And he gave me the creeps."

"What did he want? I wasn't listening." His gaze darted to the view of the empty lobby through the chains, as though he could look backwards through time to judge whether he was a threat...or maybe it was just to make sure he hadn't come back.

"He wanted Erik to do some work for him. But he asked for him as Cobra."

"Hmmm. Did he give ya his name?" Gajeel asked as casually as he could, hiding his sudden apprehension.

"...Macbeth." Levy shivered saying it, casually rapping the wooden door frame with her knuckles. She knew superstitions were illogical and sort of silly, but it still made her feel better to knock on wood. She also never walked under a ladder or opened an umbrella inside. Why tempt fate? Being friends with Juvia had more than convinced her that fortune was a force to be reckoned with.

The tension in Gajeel's shoulders lessened. He couldn't recall every name Erik had dropped in his gang days, but he knew Macbeth wasn't one of them. He would have remembered that.

"Well, don't go on some sorta stupid crusade again trying to hunt down what past life you know him from or something. If yer meant to remember, ya will. But if he approaches you again, inside or out of the shop, let me know, yeah?"


"Great. Now get off the floor and do your job, before I have to fire ya."

Levy stuck out her tongue at him, but then got to her orange-Converse-clad feet, remarking drily: "Yes, darling dearest. I live to serve."

"And find us a place to live while you're at it."

Levy opened the laptop she'd already retrieved from under the counter. "Already on it, big bad bossman."

Gajeel smirked. It felt good to see a little of Levy's spark returning. And he didn't mind her choice of pet names for him either…


Erza scrutinized her reflection in the massive tri-fold mirror that took up the wall in front of her.

"I think that's the one, don't you?" one salesgirl said, her eyes glistening with her own personal dreams of bridal bouquets and handsome grooms.

"Are you kidding me?" another salesgirl rebutted. "The last one was perfect! She has to go with that one!"

Erza's favorite consultant, a petite, blonde, wisp of a woman, came up and placed a hand on each of their shoulders.

"Girls, please. Don't argue." She turned and gestured to another mannequin behind them. "Especially when she hasn't even tried on that one yet!"

Erza twisted away from the mirror to see where she was pointing. "Which one?"

The staff of Eclipse Bridal turned back to her with a matching look of unbridled (all the pun intended) fervor in their eyes. The first salesgirl nodded slowly, her eyes looking a little glazed.

"You're right. We can't know for sure until she tries on that one!"

"Well, logically," Erza added with authority, catching more than a whiff of their zeal. "I can't know for sure until I try them all on…"

The wispy blonde planted her hands on her hips and smiled calculatingly. "Whatever it takes to help you make the decision to walk down the aisle with Mystogan!"

Erza blinked hazily for a moment. "Sorry, what did you say?"

"Nothing, dear. Let me help you out of that dress so you can try on the next one. You've got days of dresses yet to go!"

Wendy shoved another bite of soggy hospital chicken salad sandwich into her mouth and grinned at her phone.

"Well, this is a sight I never thought I'd see," Dr. Sky Grand remarked snidely as she efficiently finished her club sandwich on rye and picked up a carrot stick from the neat little Jenga-like stack she'd built them into.

The younger blue-haired surgical resident barely registered her words, only picking up on her tone. "Hmm?"

"You've hardly used that phone for anything but taking pictures of your cat since you bought it, and now you can't even carry on a face-to-face conversation without getting distracted by it. If I'd known that it would be so annoying when you finally started behaving like one of your own generation, I wouldn't have been trying to convince you to do it for so many years."

Wendy blushed and tore her gaze (and fingers) away from the active chat she was having with Romeo long enough to set her phone pointedly off to the side. She flinched as it dinged with a new message notification, and her eyes darted to the darkened screen for just a moment before she focused on her mentor's face again.

"Sorry! He's just so-" he phone dinged again. "Adorable." DING. "And funny." DING. "And-"

"Persistent?" Sky inquired cheekily, pursing her lips to keep herself from smiling.

Wendy ducked her head, unable to keep her lips from curling into a smile. "Yeah, that too."

The phone dinged another four times before Sky gave up. "Oh, just answer the poor boy before he bursts an aneurysm. I'm done eating anyway."

"Thank you! It will be completely powered down when I come tomorrow for dinner. I promise!" Wendy vowed as she scooped up the phone and her fingers went to work on the digital keyboard at warp speed.

The smile that lit up her usually serious countenance was more than enough to Sky to make up for the lack of her active company. The white-haired doctor rested her chin in one hand and allowed her face to soften a bit.

"I'll hold you to that."

Lucy looked at the collection of stuff laid out on the bed in front of her and then back to the already full pink trunk suitcase balanced on a chair beside it.

"Well, that's not going to work. And that's the biggest suitcase I have...guess I'll have to start over," she sighed to herself, beginning to pull out what she had already packed and setting it back among the piles on the bed. Something had to go, but honest to Mavis, she didn't have a clue what was okay to leave behind.

What the hell am I supposed to bring to a deserted island?

Is that the start of a riddle? If so, the answer is me, Natsu joked in her head. No deserted island is complete without my hot bod.

She could feel him flex his muscles suggestively. To which she rolled her eyes.

Shut up. I'm being serious. What the hell do I bring? I've got no idea since I've never even gone camping before! How the hell am I supposed to know what I'll need and what I won't? There's no way I can take everything I've got here.

Well, you could start by eliminating all that stuff you usually use on your hair. There won't be any outlets to plug them into, and I'm pretty sure Lisanna said the Tenrou Conservation Society has banned any chemical aerosols from the island. Natsu offered helpfully, dropping his faux-ladykiller tone.

Lucy nodded, grabbing the pile containing her blow dryer, flat iron, and hairsprays and taking them back to the bathroom. She grabbed a couple more hair ties to take back to add to the pile on her bed. Braids it is. What else?

She could feel Natsu stop and lean up against something as he did the trick that allowed him to see through her eyes again.

What's that big pile in the corner there?


God-Fucking-Serena, how many could you possibly need?! That's the size of a small child! Actually, fuck that, I'd put that kid on Keto he's so fat!

We're going to be there for two weeks! On an island! Even if we don't swim, I'm not going to ruin my perfect tan lines running around in a t-shirt! I figured I'd just wear bikinis instead of underwear and then I can swim whenever or throw a pair of shorts on and be comfortable in the humidity.

They're all bikinis!? Natsu pushed himself off the wall and started walking, tugging at the scarf around his neck in frustration. So you're planning on wandering around a deserted island with a bunch of guys you've barely met, practically topless, with only Cyan to watch your back?! Fuck, are you trying to get assaulted?

Calm the fuck down, Judge Turpin. And I resent the idea that the way any woman dresses is inviting assault. That's surprisingly shauvenistic of you. It's just a research trip. Everyone will have their own things to worry about. Honestly, it will probably be me and Levy and Wendy alone with the glyphs in the caves while Levy tries to decipher them. And we'll have Mystogan to protect our helpless female virtue, just like you Neanderthals insisted. Plus, Lisanna will be there. You like Lisanna.

She's more likely to grope you than the guys! Now I'm definitely coming with you. You're gonna lose this bet and then I'm going to bring every long-sleeved shirt I own and make you wear them 24/7.

Yeah, right. More like you'll be the one stripping me naked.

Whaaaaaaat? Why would you think that? The tone of Natsu's thought was dripping with saccharin innocence.

Which would have been more effective if he wasn't also picturing her running down a beach topless. Lucy winced just seeing it.

Well that just looks hella uncomfortable.

There was a knock on her door just as she felt Natsu's knuckles hitting wood.

A shiver of anticipation and panic went through her. She just wasn't sure if those were her emotions or Natsu's. She walked into the living room and stood in front of the door.

"Natsu," she called through the hollow-core barrier. "What are you doing here?"

"I came to help you decide what to pack. Obviously." And I want to see you. And touch you. And fuck you into next weeken-shit, don't think about that! DO NOT THINK ABOUT TAKING LUCY TO POUND TOWN.

"...you should probably go. Unless you want to lose that bet…" she called back. POUND TOWN? What are you, twelve?! Seriously…

But I wish he'd stay. I miss him. Her stray thought slipped out before she could stop it.

"Lucy, come on, let me in." I really want to see you.

"No. Go to class." I really want to see you too.

"I don't have class 'til one." Come on. Just for a few minutes. We can control ourselves.

"Then...go study or something. I'm not letting you in." Wait, is the door even locked?

A millisecond after she thought it, Lucy dove for the deadbolt, but she was too late. Natsu had already turned the knob and gotten one leg in. She threw her weight against it on sheer principle, but it wasn't even a full thirty seconds before he'd overpowered her and the door was slamming shut behind his shit-eating grin.

I win.

Good for you. She thought bitterly.

Lucy's hands twitched towards him involuntarily and she swiftly locked them together behind her back, her eyes drinking in the sight of him like they'd been separated for years...instead of only a day.

Natsu winced and backed up, hitting the door behind him.

"Luce, if you keep looking at me like that, I'm not gonna be able to keep my hands off ya." Fuuuuuuuuck, she looks so good. And her pajamas are fucking adorable. Fuck this stupid fucking bet...

Lucy averted her gaze, her arms moving to cross one protectively over the pink cartoon sheep emblazoned across her thin oversized pajama crop top and the other to tug down the hem of the matching fuzzy short shorts. If she'd known he was coming over, she would have gotten dressed first. She wanted him to lose the bet, but she wanted to win it fairly. She peeked sidelong at him through her lashes. His hands were clenched in fists at his sides and his face looked like it was in pain, but the emotions she felt on him were a mixture of anguish, love, joy...and lust.

A whole lotta lust.

It almost overpowered the love.


Her eyes teared up and her arms came down, starting to reach for him as her feet closed the gap between them. The anguish got more intense as she came near, and he spun around to face the door, leaning his head and fists on it. She stopped a foot or so away.

Gods, Luce. I want to… Images raced through his head almost faster than she could see them, but one reoccurred enough to make an impression: Natsu hugging her desperately to his chest.

And Lucy couldn't take it anymore. She tripped forward, wrapping her arms around his waist and pressing her body snugly against his back. They both let out a sigh of relief as the tension in their bodies eased at the physical contact.

You're so warm. I missed you so much.

Can we just stay like this until I have to go to class?

Unlike you, I have class in an hour. And even then, I think a four hour back hug would be a bit much…

Naw, it's not nearly enough... But it's better than nothing.

They stayed that way for several minutes, neither thinking, or moving, or noticing the time pass in the silent, sunny apartment.

Eventually it was Lucy who moved, pulling back slightly, her fingers dragging over the defined muscles under his t-shirt as though the wanton little digits were loath to part with him until the very last possible moment. But right before her fingers left him, they both gasped, their vision going white for a moment.

He slammed her against the ragged stone wall of the cave as she pulled on his hair. Her fingers clenched into his still sopping wet mane of tangled hair, pulling his head painfully back until he was forced to quit lapping up the beads of water running down over her chest and meet her demanding lips.

The steady, continuous sound of rain falling in sheets right outside their secluded lovenest only egged them on, complimenting the sound of the blood rushing in their ears to the beat of their frantic heartbeats. She bit his lip and tightened her powerful thighs around his waist as he fumbled with the ties that held her lower fur garments over her hips. She had divulged him of his own sopping garments less than a foot into the cave, eager to stroke the part of him she had once so easily ridiculed.

Before she knew the incredible things it could make her feel.

With the last barrier between them falling away, he wasted no time entering her, lapping the raindrops that dripped from her hair onto her ample bosom. He loved how they tasted coming off of her...like well-seasoned meat. The taste made his stomach growl with rapacious hunger.

She awkwardly tried to force his hips to move with her own, whimpering into the darkness as she squirmed around his sacred rod. He stopped her squirming with a firm thrust, pinning her almost painfully against the cave wall. She cried out in pleasure and he rammed into her again, biting her shoulder the way he knew she enjoyed.

As his rhythm increased, her legs unwrapped from his hips, her feet trying to find purchase on his wet skin in order to tilt her pelvis enough for him to hit her favorite spot. They slipped against him, rasping his skin with the sand they had picked up from the cave's floor.

Unwilling to relinquish any control, he grabbed her under the knees and spread her wide, bracing one of her legs over the rolling muscles of his chest as he pulled the other out and up at an angle.

Her cries of pleasure, barely distinguishable from those of excruciating pain, grew wilder and louder. They filled the echoing space with layers of sound, from the lewd slap of their bodies coming together to her dulcet screams, tightening her inner walls firmly around him until she could add his savage groans to the cacophony.

Their coupling wasn't always like this. Sometimes it was lazy, or sleepy, or sweet. But both agreed the primal way he'd first taken her next to the pond where they'd met was still the best. Especially when the weather forced them to abandon their beloved woods and take refuge in the humid caverns of the island. They preferred to spend their time together, away from the others in their now joined villages, since any time they were apart was an invitation for another member of his village to attempt to take her. Or for a member of her village to sneak into his tent to lay furless in wait for him.

When the tribes had first united, she had bedded whoever stole her away. At first she had been willing enough, content to get her pleasure from anyone who could satisfy her. He, too, had accepted the members of her village who came to him on the nights she was elsewhere. But it didn't take long for them both to realize that merging with anyone other than each other felt...wrong. Only he could fulfill the hunger inside of her that had nothing to do with meat or fruit, and only her shapely body could make his sacred rod as tall and hard as the great tree at the center of their island. So she took it upon herself to throw out the naked surprises waiting in his hut by their hair, and he dedicated himself to thwarting the many attempts to snatch her away from him.

Then, after several months of only bedding each other, her abdomen had begun to swell and distort, and she had sought him out more than before, barely leaving him time to hunt between her bouts of avaricious need. Thankfully, though, her change in appearance had also halted the kidnapping attempts by his brethren, enabling him to gain time to hunt again when he would otherwise have to guard her. At first her growing belly had concerned him, as had her inability to keep down the precious meats he hunted and smoked for her, but when they had consulted The Goddess, she had assured them it was not a curse but a blessing that had befallen them.

He had wept tears of relief that day in The Goddess' sacred cavern and they had celebrated by not leaving their hut for three days.

One of his hands moved unconsciously to the bulbous curve of her abdomen, gently cradling it as he plowed into her relentlessly. Finally, he felt the fluttering clench of her core around him and let himself go with a triumphant yell that echoed into the cave, petering out until all that could be heard once again were the falling sheets of rain. Even their harsh breaths couldn't be distinguished from the rush of water as he carefully lowered her feet to the ground again and fell to his knees so he could place an ear against her swollen stomach.

The goddess hadn't told them exactly what was inside of her, but only that it would reward them with happiness beyond their current concept of joy. He couldn't wait to see what manner of beast he could feel kicking his face gently from within. It was already precious to him.

Slowly and carefully, using him to help brace against her newest unbalanced weight, she joined him to sit on the floor, leaning back gingerly against the wall with a wide smile and heaving chest as she still fought to catch her breath. He leaned forward to press his lips to hers one more time-

Lucy and Natsu flinched as they came out of the flashback, surprised to find he had turned around and they were clutching each other fiercely in a hug. They each had to make a concerted effort to relax their locked up muscles enough to pull away. Lucy could feel the velvety weight of Natsu's regret as he forced himself to let go of her and step back. It distracted her enough that she didn't immediately notice the underlying buzz of anxiety or how he couldn't take his eyes off of the exposed strip of skin between her midriff pajama top and low rise shorts.

"Um, Luce...you don't think that was some kind of...premonition, do you?"

Lucy's hands unconsciously zipped in to cover her stomach. "Oh, gods. I hope not."

"I mean, we've been pretty careful though…"

"What exactly is your definition of 'careful'?! 'Cause you sure as hell haven't been putting on a condom in your sleep when you jump me in the middle of the night!"

The air seemed to darken with their shared dread. Their eyes locked in complete agreement.

Let's go get you a pregnancy test. Just in case.

Yeah! As soon as freaking possible! Just let me go change.

Sure, I'll come with you.

Oka-HEY! NO! You do not need to watch me change! That's what got us into this situation in the first place!

Juvia sat down at her desk and took a deep breath, releasing it peacefully as she made sure everything was in its place before her; pencil, paper, phone, address book, and water bottle neatly lined up and waiting for her. She had intentionally waited until Meredy was out of the house, but now privacy didn't seem half as important as having someone there to push her into doing what needed to be done.

She couldn't make him wait forever.

Nervously, she picked up her phone and opened the contacts, grabbing the little address book she'd written down her soulmate's info into a few short days ago.

At the very least, I can get the information entered into my phone. No risk in that, she decided. Carefully she transcribed the numbers into the correct digital field and began typing in his name.

Gray-SM (for soulmate...she was nothing if not a thorough and clear note-taker)

But when she clicked out of the box, it autocorrected.


Juvia pursed her lips. Meredy had apparently been borrowing her phone to look up anime fanart again. She clicked back into the box to change it, but hesitated.

...on second thought, she actually kind of liked it.

So, feeling a little cheeky, she tapped carelessly out of the box to prove to herself that she wasn't going to edit it.

And accidentally hit the call button.

Juvia dropped the phone onto her desktop with a squeak as the screen went black except for his name and the Call End symbol.

That little red circle of light stared her down like her beat-up Samsung smartphone itself was daring her to hang up after it had gone to all the trouble of contacting her soulmate for her. Despite that, after only a moment of hesitation, her finger darted out to end the call, but didn't make it before the status of 'Calling…' changed to a steadily counting timer, making her freeze. She could hear it faintly ringing.

What was worse? Waiting to see if he answered? Or hanging up when the call had already connected and his phone had begun to ring? And then having to decide whether to answer when he inevitably called her back?!

If she didn't pick up, would he assume she never wanted to meet him? Would he resent her? Would the millennia they were destined to be together over many lifetimes be soiled by the resentment such a careless little mistake had caused? Wouldn't it just be easier to let it ring? Maybe he wouldn't answer! Maybe she could just become a missed call and put off their inevitable first conversation for a few hours more…

But if she let it ring and he picked up, she had to talk to him! Like, right freaking now! She wasn't prepared at all! She had been intending to write out at least 6-7 options for what she could say to him in their first phone call. Maybe go over feasible scenarios so she could preemptively avoid her dark cloud from fucking up her life for the umpteenth time. At the very least, she could have called Levy and gotten all the tea on her supposed soulmate first!

Her hand jerked back and forth by marginal increments as her body tried to keep up with her vacillating feelings concerning which side to come down on. Three rings in, the choice was out of her hands as the telltale click of a call being accepted heralded by-far the sexiest baritone voice she'd ever heard.


Juvia grabbed her phone, slammed it against her ear, and sucked in a breath quickly to reply, but instead choked on her own spit, bursting into a coughing fit.

"Hello? Are you okay?"

She desperately grabbed the water bottle, expertly flipped the cap open with her thumb, and gulped it down, pausing only to rake in a breath and cough harshly again.



"Juvia? That's you right? Hit the buttons or something if you're choking to death, okay?!"

The ball of anxiety in her stomach came right apart with the half-laugh, half-cough that burst from her chest at the distress and panic in his lovely voice. If she had been choking to death, she couldn't think of a better sound to go out to.

"No," she finally got out hoarsely. "Just inhaled my saliva." She coughed again, sipping her water twice more before she could finally breathe clearly.

"Oh, thank the gods. It would have been just my luck to lose my soulmate to a peanut or something just when I found her."

Heat blossomed in Juvia's chest and she chuckled. "Gods, mine too. No one has worse luck than I do."

"Oh...I don't know," his voice took on a hint of playfulness. "I bet my last couple of months could give yours a run for their money..."

"I don't think that's physically possible," she replied with absolute confidence. Which would have startled her if she hadn't been avidly trying to picture the face that went with his dreamy voice. "As someone who has been struck by lightning, not once, but three separate times, I feel entitled to say, you have no concept of the level of bad luck I am capable of attracting."

Gray didn't miss a beat. "Wow. I think at that point you're just bragging about your good luck. How else can you explain how you managed to survive being struck by lightning three separate times?"

"Tell that to my physical therapist. I had the poor woman on speed dial. You know, when speed dial was a thing." Juvia's slowly growing smile dropped as it occurred to her that she had no idea how old her soulmate was. Maybe he legitimately had never used speed dial before! Maybe she would be branded a cougar for the rest of her life because her soulmate was a minor sporting an prematurely sexy voice, but...like...Beber Bangs or something! Wait, were Beber Bangs even a thing anymore?! How would they possibly find anything in common to talk about if she didn't even know what stupid hair style people his age were sporting now?!

"Whoa, I almost forgot about speed dial...I haven't used that since...gods, early high school? Back when flip phones were cool."

Juvia relaxed. Thank every deity in Fiore that her soulmate was old enough to remember speed dial. "Yeah. I can't say I miss that time at all."

"Well, that's understandable. I can't imagine physical therapy for getting hit by lightning was a particularly fun way to spend the time. How old were you?"

"The first time I was in elementary school, then the other two were in middle school. After that, my bad luck turned to...more human-oriented suffering."

"...bullying?" he asked casually, as if he was trying to pretend that was something normal to ask someone. Or maybe it was normal for him...

Juvia shrugged, forgetting he couldn't see it. "Among other things. Like a revolving door of shitty boyfriends," she chuckled without humor. Talking about bullying didn't bother her nearly as much as mentioning her many romantic failures. Especially to him.

"What exactly made them shitty? If you don't mind me asking." He almost sounded nervous. Which was actually pretty cute.

Juvia thought about it for a second. How much was too much to share?

"It ranged. Pretty much every one of them cheated, but some came with lies, or drugs, or abuse of one kind or another. It seems like part of my bad luck is attracting guys who seem nice, but turn out to be secret assholes."

The silence that rang back at her over the phone line prompted her to hastily backpedal.

"Not that you're like that or anything! I'm sure you're…" she trailed off, not really sure what to say. Because what did she really know about him? Maybe her previous boyfriends had been a preview to what her soulmate was really like.

Maybe her destiny was to never be happy.

She dug her nails into her arm, not quite hard enough to draw blood. Yet.

Gray looked down at the small, crescent shaped wounds appearing on his arm and clenched his jaw at how familiar the feeling was. And that familiarity broke his heart more than a little bit. For a second, he wished he had Lucy's powers. Then maybe he could heal her the way Lucy had healed Natsu.

"This is so fucking strange."

Juvia dug her nails in harder. "What?"

"I mean, I haven't even really met you yet, but I feel like I could straight up murder anyone who's hurt you."

"What?!" Juvia squeaked.

"Oh, shit, that sounded creepy as fuck, didn't it?! Sorry. It's just killing me a little to feel you hurting yourself, but I'm not great with words so I don't know what to say to make you less anxious." Gray groaned, leaning back in his desk chair and covering his eyes with his arm. "That was definitely not it though. Sorry. Again."

Juvia abruptly let go of her arm and stared down at the tiny drops of blood there.

"How did you know?"

Gray was relieved to hear more awe in her voice than apprehension. "Erza used to do that with her fingernails when we met. At least, when she couldn't get her hands on a blade."

"Erza? Who is that?" Juvia felt her stomach churn with jealousy. Whoever she was, they were obviously close.

"She's a friend. Well, more like family really. I don't have any blood relations left except for my cousin, so the group I went to therapy with as a kid is the closest thing to it. And if we were all a family, Erza would definitely be the protective older sister now...but she was just as messed up as the rest of us when we met. Luckily she got help pretty early, so she couldn't do much damage to herself, but I remember her talking about cutting herself in group, and seeing her do that when she got anxious or sad. So when I felt-oh, right. I don't know if you know this yet, but any injuries we have now immediately transfer to each other, so my arm is bleeding too. It's part of the bond."

"What?! Oh gods, I'm sorry! I didn't mean to maim you!" Juvia screeched and grabbed tissues to press to her arm. "Are you okay?!"

Gray couldn't help but laugh a little. "Pfft, I'm fine. I've gotten worse at boxing practice."

"You fight?" Juvia asked, wrinkling her nose.

"What, you got something against boxers?"

"No! It's just a little...barbaric, isn't it?"

"I mean, yeah, it can be, but it's a really great way to relieve stress and there's a lot more skill involved than you'd think. Erza, Natsu, and I all do it together and we're pretty fucking good, if I do say so myself. But...I guess I won't be boxing for a while now."

"Why?" Juvia greedily took in the snippets of his past he dropped for her, rabidly curious, but not comfortable enough to ask about what was clearly some pretty serious trauma in his past. Normal, happily adjusted kids didn't go to therapy...or usually have single living relatives.

"Injuries transfer, remember? I don't want you taking every punch I get to the face. Unlike Natsu, I've got at least that much self-restraint."

Juvia's heart fluttered at the thought that he would offer to give up something he loves just to keep her safe. With just that, he'd already passed up half of her exes. "So who is Natsu? You've mentioned her, er, him?... a couple of times."

"He's like...a pain in the ass little brother who looks out for me. And he's my roommate in my fraternity. He's also the first one who got soulbonded in this whole mess. He's a pain in the ass half the time, but a good guy. When he isn't screwing his soulmate in my fucking car."

"In your car?" Juvia squeaked. "How often does that happen?"

"More than I ever want to know about. I can't even sleep in my room half the time because they're like fucking rabbits. Although, right now I've got the opposite problem going on. Lucy bet the dumbass that they can't go a week without screwing and he's been an absolute nightmare ever since. It's only been a couple of days and there's no way he'll win this one, but he's making everyone around him miserable while he tries. Sometimes I think Lucy really got the short end of the string of fate with him, if you know what I mean. She's so out of his league...but damned if he isn't totally fucking devoted to her anyway," Gray said fondly, the words rolling off his tongue as he reveled in how comfortable he felt talking to Juvia. It had been a long time since he'd had a conversation with a girl besides Lucy where he didn't have to be careful not to say too much about himself. The whole knowing you were meant to be together really took the pressure off. Maybe if he hadn't spent so much time being around Natsu and Lucy, or either of the other bonded couples he knew, he might have felt more apprehensive, but at this point, he had no doubt. Juvia was the person he was meant to be with. So she deserved honesty.

"It sounds like you think very highly of...Lucy," Juvia fished, the churning in her stomach evolving into a full blown typhoon.

"Yeah, she's pretty great. It takes a fairly special person to get along with Natsu, me, and Erza, but Lucy didn't even have to try. Granted, that could have something to do with her soulbonded power."

Juvia, nearly blind with jealousy at this point felt her attention catch on his words. "Soulbonded power? Like what Meredy was telling me about? We all develop some kind of super power or something, right?"

"Yeah, something like that. It's a little different for everyone, but it usually has something to do with the other bonded people. Lucy's power is based on empathy, so she can feel any of our emotions when we're around and sometimes influence them. She's been working on controlling it and has made really incredible progress. She was even somehow able to stop Natsu from having his PTSD flashbacks. I hope when this whole bond thing is broken she'll get to keep her powers because she could do a lot of good with them."


"Oh, right...I've got a lot to catch you up on, don't I…"

Several hours of conversation later, neither of them had even noticed they'd missed the rest of their classes for the day. And Juvia was more than half in love with him. Not to mention jealous as hell of Lucy.

If Mystogan had ever felt a fondness for their new 'Master' Cana of Fairy tail, it swiftly left him as he stared at the calendar being shoved into his face.

He had to blink several times in an attempt to get his exhausted, burning eyes to focus.

When Cana had forced him to take command of the frat the night before, he had already been awake for almost 32 hours straight, having just handed in the final draft of his thesis to his advisor with only hours to spare before the prestigious professor left on a flight to a conference in Switzerland. All he had wanted was to find Erza, drag her into his bed, and sleep koala-beared around her until his first class on Monday.

Instead, he had been put in charge of Putt-Putt-Palooza and handed a Red Bull that contained more vodka than energy drink. Admittedly, blowing off steam with a classic Fairy Tail shenanigan over dozens of holes of mini golf had felt pretty good at the time, but now, as he struggled to get his eyes to focus on the planner being waved in his face, he found it hard to believe he'd just woken up from five rull hours of sleep. Granted, those hours had been between 11am and 4pm, but still, he could swear his eyelids hadn't closed in weeks with the way they refused to stay open. Perhaps he'd just hallucinated being asleep at all...

Not to mention his very real hangover was making him feel like he'd thrown himself off the roof onto a pile of mattresses. Which only served to support his hypothesis.

Either that or he'd actually jumped off the roof onto a pile of mattresses. Either seemed equally likely when it came to Fairy Tail.

"Can you just fucking tell me whatever the hell you're trying to show me?" he grumbled at Freed, giving up on a fundamental level the act of remembering which alphabet he was even supposed to be reading, let alone the language. Or, gods forbid, words.

"I'm trying to say, you're as royally fucked as my ass at last year's ComiCon!" Freed cursed. "The Waffle Man Fundraising Dinner we've had on the books for three months is tomorrow night and the house is a disaster! You've got less than 24 hours to clean up this idiotic golf course and get the house ready in time for the alumni walkthrough at two tomorrow! And I can't stay to help you, since I only dropped by to grab a book I forgot I needed! I have to get back to my immersion seminar before they figure out I'm gone and take away my credits!"

Adrenaline rapidly cleared Mystogan's head as he processed what Freed was saying. "FUCK!"



"You already said that."

"Dude, I'm about 30% sure I haven't slept in three days, and Cana fucking peaced out and left me in charge. I DO NOT HAVE THE MENTAL CAPACITY TO COME UP WITH ANYTHING BETTER THAN 'FUCK'!"

Freed furrowed his brows and took Mystogan by the shoulders. "Okay, Mysty, I'm gonna need you to dig deep for me, because it gets worse."

"What the fuck could POSSIBLY make this situation any worse?"

"Well, first off, you're wearing someone else's pants."

Mystogan looked down at the skin tight, corgi-printed pajama pants stretched over his quads that ended a good six inches above his ankles. "Hmmm. I...have no memory of this."

"But more importantly," Freed continued, shaking Mystogan until he looked away from his majestic corgi decorated legs. "You're currently the only other conscious person left in the house. So you are literally Fairy Tail's only hope to pull this off."


"Remember, it's all for the children, Mystogan." Freed's eyes got crazy-person wide and bored into his soul, somehow increasing the pain of the blunette's splitting headache. "For the children."

Mystogan begged for death with his eyes. "Do any of you even remember that I'm still recovering from being stabbed?"

Freed replied with his own eyes that Mystogan didn't have time to die right now because Fairy Tail needed him.

It was a very specific look. And an effective one.

Mystogan groaned and began the internal process of summoning enough energy to at least get himself to the kitchen for some coffee. "Fine. For the fucking children."

"Great! Good luck, Mysty. I've got to go like, immediately right now, but I know you've got this!"

"Fuck you."

"Anytime, peaches," Freed deadpanned.

"Oh gods, just fucking leave me to die already."

"Don't die. Your girlfriend would murder literally everyone."


Aaaand that's it for now folks! I'll see you in November for the rest of the week.

Now, the section I know you've all been missing...STUFF YOU MAY OR MAY NOT KNOW! *waves jazz hands*:

'before she could find something else to Pollyanna up': this in reference to the 1913 novel Pollyanna by Eleanor Porter (and 1960s film adaptation) whose title character is known for her endlessly optimistic attitude

'Or that she had studied up on her Bram Stokes more recently in case he suddenly went for her jugular.': Referencing Bram Stoker's famous novel Dracula. Because Macbeth (AKA Midnight) always looks more than a little undead to me...

"Calm the fuck down, Judge Turpin.": Props to any and all who got this one...it's pretty obscure. Judge Turpin is a character in the musical adaptation of Sweeney Todd, who locks his beautiful ward Joanna away in his house to control her. My husband is a huge fan of this musical.

'For the children!': Okay, so this is actually an inside joke from my husband's frat. Whenever anyone had to be convinced of anything that was the first thing anyone said. They'd grab the guy by the shoulders, look him seriously in the eyes and say something like, "But what about the children?" And inevitably it would end in everyone chanting "For the children." Still cracks me up to this day. So, in this case, I made it a literal fundraiser for children. So...FOR THE CHILDREN. O.O

philanthropy: For those who aren't familiar with American Greek life, frats and sororities are considered philanthropic organizations and usually have it in their charter that they need to do philanthropy events to raise money or help the community.

Dear Lupe,

I can't begin to tell you how much I appreciated your review. It made my month to know that my story made that kind of difference for you, especially since my husband and a couple of my closest friends have been where you were. I constantly thank whatever being twists our fates that there were people in the right place at the right time to prevent them from departing this world way too soon, so if I was able to help even the littlest bit to be that kind of person then the literal years that have gone into this story were more than worth it. Thankfully, the people around me have found reasons to keep digging themselves out of the dark hole they fall into sometimes, and I'm happy to be one of those reasons whenever you need it. As I said in the opening A/N, I had planned to release all of this later, but your review convinced me to release it sooner, because who knows might be needing a pick me up today, or tomorrow, or a week from now? If you ever want to chat, create an account and send me a message. It might take me a few days to get back to you, but I always reply to my messages.

Sincerely touched and sending you the biggest virtual hug in the history of the internet,