Jude Heartfilia was a man of no consequence. He had made many mistakes, and had never tried to fix them. The world spun around his will, was what he believed. There was nothing money could not buy, and he had all of it. Power, fame and most importantly fear. He was feared as a mighty businessman, who could shatter companies with the flick of his finger.

He lived in a luxurious mansion, had servants at his command, owned many estates worth millions of jewels. He has a flourishing business and several companies and shares. He had a beautiful daughter; clever and obedient, soon to be of marriageable age. She would spend all her time reading, at the library and in her room, without bothering him, like how it should be. In return, he gave her pretty clothes, gowns, jewelry, accessories, shoes, everything a girl wanted.

She was to wed the Prince Sawalu of Julenelle, which would be extremely beneficial to the Heartfilia railways. Tracks would cross borders and extend the railways, and business would expand more and more. They were wealthy too, a family fit for the Heartfilias. After her marriage, she would bear a son who could then take over the business. Everything would be perfect.

And then he lost it all.

Today, everything comes back to Jude but with a different perspective, and all he could see was how utterly foolish he was.

His very first loss had been his wife, Layla. So caring and gentle and so full of kindness for this cruel world. She was taken from his hands, in a cruel twist of fate, by the very magic that she loved and was proud about. He stood by the side of her bed watching her helplessly as she breathed heavily, watching the life in her slip out. Her early demise shattered him in unimaginable ways as he regretted letting her continue to pursue her family legacy. Something she should not even have been bothered about.

"It's for our baby girl." She had smiled, feeling not an ounce of regret on her decision. "Now she can be free."

He swore to protect their daughter, his only sign of her memory, to never let even the shadow of danger near her. But in doing so, he realized that he had inflicted more misery on the child than any father could, by becoming the object of her fear and hatred.

He found solace only by sinking himself deeper in his work, the business swallowing him up until he forgot all about the daughter he swore to protect who grieved not only the loss of a mother, but a father as well.

His second loss was his daughter, who ran away, leaving him a single note, "I'm going, Father. Don't try to find me. Goodbye."

He should have suspected, when he found her oddly obedient during the weeks before she ran away. Whiling away silently, not retorting back over any of his commands, and not supplementing her knowledge and intellect in any business proposal, which she had a habit of doing very often even when it wasn't welcome.

"Should we send out people to look, sir?" the servant asked.

Jude Heartfilia crushed the note and fed it to the burning fireplace. "She'll come back when the time is right."

He let her see for herself, the cruel world out there, and why he had kept her confined at the mansion. A part of him wanted that she come back on her own, realizing her mistake for throwing away her life of ease, apologize and never utter a word of complaint. But he also knew that she had the same stubbornness running in her veins as him, and her pride would never allow her to return, no matter how much she struggled, or despised it.

Jude's anger knew no bounds, when he found that the daughter of the prestigious Heartfilias had joined a lowly mage guild, Fairy Tail or something, that was known for its loud and brash mages, creating trouble everywhere they went. He knew that he ought to have confiscated those keys, sealing it off or selling it away at a high value. But it was the price he paid for the small heed he paid to Layla's final wishes; to let Lucy own the keys she had carried and use them as she deemed fit.

When the time was indeed right, he commissioned Phatom Lord to bring her back. She was a free spirit, a free bird, like her mother, caring and compassionate. She was meant to see the world, not to be confined in a cage.

And she did so courageously. She returned and faced him.

Lucy tore the pink gown, the very symbol of her oppressive life in the mansion, "What I want isn't pretty clothes or dresses. I want a place where I'm respected for who I am." she said fiercely, "Fairy Tail is my other family and it is far loving than this one was."

"If Mother was still alive, I know she would tell me to follow my heart." She smiled, and for an instance, he could see Layla's reflection in her.

It was at that time when Jude's memory returned to 20 years back, when everything was happy. When his beloved Layla was alive.

He realized then that he had lost Lucy, not when she left the house, but when he stopped being a parent, shutting her away and sinking deep down in his work.

How had he forgotten those times? How had he let this happen? How had he changed so much?

His third and final loss was his wealth, the wealth that he had treasured so immensely, the wealth that he had prioritized over everything.

Gradually, within a few months, Jude lost everything. The empire he had built by working tooth and nail, and by sacrificing his only daughter came crashing down. All his shareholders, business partners and investors turned their backs on him. As his business slumped, his debt went on increasing.

He sold various items in the mansion, ancient relics, antiquities, jewels, and paintings. All the lands and estates were sold, one by one and the servants sent packing away, until the bank took over the house.

Despite being stripped away of all his luxuries, the tremendous ego and temper continued to burn within him, when he appeared before his daughter, demanding for money, hurting her once again in the process.

As he walked to Acalypha, a long gruelling journey from Magnolia to Love and Lucky, the merchant's guild, he found his temper dissolving away and his mind swam in his memories dragging him back to the days when he met Layla at Love and Lucky. She was a beautiful and energetic young woman, bright and intelligent and holder of powerful magic, yet at the same time, extremely humble and kind. He could never fathom how she had fallen in love with him, chosen and married a man who had neither any luxury nor magic. An ordinary man, just working hard to make his name in the world.

At that moment, hope returned within him, like a glimmer of light and he believed that he could do anything. Just when he thought he had lost everything, he realized that it wasn't too late to fix his wrongs. He recalled the hard times when Lalya motivated him and picked him up from his miseries. She had been the key to his success.

Lucy, too, was out there in the world, living on her own power, making her name in the world as a great celestial spirit mage. She had done so without a penny from his treasury. It made him feel like he could achieve anything.

He decided to work hard and make his daughter proud. He knew that he did not deserve her forgiveness. He could not reverse time and take back the misery her inflicted on her. But he wanted to be a respectable man for her sake.

And when he found out that Lucy had come searching for him and single-handedly defeated goons, his heart was filled with immense joy and pride. She was extremely kind and humble, so much like her mother.

Beginning from that day, Jude worked to change his ways. He worked day and night, thinking only of Layla and Lucy, how much he loved them and how important they were to him. He traveled, met new people.

He read the news, about how Fairy Tail was always involved in destroying cities and damaging public property. But in his mind, he knew he did not need to worry, because Lucy had called them her 'family' and he knew he could trust her judgement more than any accredited newspaper in the world.

His heart swelled a hundred times as he read that she had been a part of defeating a major dark guild. He went around telling all his colleagues at Acalypha, 'That's my daughter! She's a mage from Fairy Tail!' as a proud father.

He longed to see his daughter again, even if for a moment. He knew she couldn't stand him, after all he had said and done and he was fine with that. Just seeing her again was enough for him.

Her birthday was approaching soon too! Would she be happy if he sent a parcel to her?

Jude clutched an old photograph of Layla, "Layla, how dearly I miss you. Do you think, Lucy could ever forgive me? Would she be slightly happy to see her old man? I wish you were here to tell me." His eyes soften slightly as his daughter's words ring in his mind, "I am sure, you would ask me to follow my heart too."

And then came the news.

A major chunk of the core members of Fairy Tail had been to an island for the ongoing S-class test, and had been allegedly attacked by a dark guild, Grimore Heart. And the next day, they vanished, with no trace of the island or it's members.

Jude dropped his cup of tea as he frantically read the list of names mentioned under disappeared people.

His knuckles turned white, heart thumping wildly in his chest as he found her name, sticking out and a picture along with it. Tears fell from his eyes and soaked the newspaper, "Impossible... "

Lucy is... no more...? He finds his head spinning, and the world darkens.

How can this be? He lost his daughter again? He can never see her again?

His mind conjured an image, of Lucy smiling softly and nodding, as she waves him goodbye, the last time he saw her in Acalypha, after she went with her friends.

Why? How could her life be snatched away like this, at such a tender age? He couldn't even repent... Couldn't even apologize properly, for all those horrible years...

What was he doing, still alive?

He looks at the framed photograph of his daughter, the newspaper and magazine cut outs he saved whenever there was an article that featured her. She was smiling, the bright spark in her eye. An uncanny resemblance to her mother, not just in looks, but in spirit too. So kind and gentle, yet passionate and strong.

No, it couldn't be. His daughter cannot be dead. He didn't know where his conviction came from, but his mind was resolute. She was out there somewhere, he was sure of it. She was a mage, a proud mage, a brave girl who didn't hesitate to throw away all the riches served to her on a sliver platter, and push herself out there in the cruel world and make a name for herself. And above all, she was Layla's daughter. She would never give in without a fight. She was a child of light, and nothing bad could ever touch her.

He puts all his faith in his belief. Belief that his daughter was safe and sound. Because that is what it meant to be a parent. To believe in their children, to believe for them, when the world refused believe in them.

He continued to believe, and it became the crux of his life, the driving motivation to live, the hope that he would meet his daughter again. Despite the crushing failure of several ships went on the rough waves of the sea, repeatedly, to find any trace of the missing island, despite the fact that he himself had set out to find her and failed, he put his entire faith around that belief.

And even when 1-4-7 years passed, every year, on the same day, Jude sat down on his desk with his quill and ink, and wrote a letter addressed to his beloved daughter. It had been long years, and he was a changed man.

A part of him knew that there was no point in sending these gifts and letters. All those years at the mansion, and he had never cared to celebrate her birthday.

He wrapped the box with a beautiful red wrapping paper and delicately tied a decorative ribbon over it.

In his neat handwriting, he signed her name on the gift tag.

He knew it was foolish that he had requested the landlady of Lucy's apartment to keep it under her name, even though so many years had passed since her disappearance. He was aware of all the sorry glances thrown in his way, whenever he set out to post the parcel.

"Poor man..."

"I heard he lost his daughter... "

"She disappeared without a trace... "

"Not even the body was found..."

"It's been 7 years already and he still sends her a gift every year on the same day... "

"It must be really difficult for you to come in terms, Heartfilia-san. She was very young after all... "

Paying no heed to everyone's words, he continued to believe. Lucy was truly a blessed child, and was sure she was out there, and Layla was definitely protecting her.

If loving and caring for his daughter meant foolishness, he was fine with being the foolish parent.

He went on his day following the same routine, working away, never stopping to rest. But this time, with the faith that his wife and daughter were with him, always.

The next time he wakes up for his daily routine, he lies on a hospital bed, his breathing heavy and body frail. He lets out a resigned sign, as the sad looks, and hushed whispers around him make him realize that he wouldn't be able to see his daughter again. His resolve crushes, and he is filled with regret.

But still, he smiles at Michelle, who came to him like a daughter in the course of his business, reminding him of the years back at the Heartfilia Konzern. He thanks her and entrusts Lucy to her, and she tearfully bids him goodbye.

He summons his old friend and business partner, and entrusts him a few final tasks, about his inheritance and the last parcel to be sent; all to be left, in obvious finality, in the name of Lucy.

With his last breath, he thinks only of his lovely daughter, hoping that she would only follow her dreams and be happy wherever she was, and would find it in her heart to forgive him despite everything.

He cannot help but still feel a slight regret, still plagued with the thoughts of whether he did anything right in his lifetime, and whether at least in final moments, he was able to make amends and at least heal the broken part of Lucy's life. But as he closes his eyes, what he sees isn't darkness, but light. It is warm, beautiful, gentle light embracing him from all sides, and it washes all his regrets and lingering thoughts away.

It was finally the time return to Layla.

a/n: This is a piece I wrote for fairyweek2020 on tumblr. this turned out longer than what is was intended to be, but at this point i give up xD
this time i chose to write on Jude Heartfilia and I think Lucy resembles him in many ways. Besides her temper and stubbornness she's also dedicated and strong-willed and a hard worker like her dad! It was really fun to explore a more family theme than a usual shippy fanfic. I hope you enjoyed this. Let me know your thoughts!