Ten Years Later…

Laughter filled the summer air as Lucy finished preparing the sandwiches for lunch. She stepped out onto her porch and watched the scene unfolding in front of her. The sprinklers were on in the front yard and everyone was in their swim suits. Fifteen year old Emily had her now long brown hair up in a high tail which swung as she ran away from Natsu as he chased her with the hose. She wore a gold bikini which highlighted both her hair and her tanned skin. It was a small thing which Natsu was originally against but Lucy pointed out that he'd never been against her wearing one and that after all, she had Tetsu.

And she did. Seventeen year old Tetsu was the only one besides Natsu who could keep up with all of her daughter's schemes. He was always with Emily, he even snuck into the Dragneel house on nights when he couldn't sleep to crawl into Emily's bed and fall asleep there.

A few months ago, Juvia had told Tetsu the whole story behind his conception and birth and he was having a hard time coming to terms with it. Juvia told him she loved him and he tried hard to believe her but sometimes a feeling which he only described as "darkness" welled up in him. It was these times that he went and sought out Emily because only she could drive the darkness away. He had come to realize long ago that he loved her and had even told her when she came to him crying about a boy she'd been dating who just broke her heart. She had been surprised when he finally came out with it but she too had been harboring a hidden crush on her childhood best friend and so was elated by the news that he felt the same way. Now, Tetsu was even closer to Emily. When he'd revealed their relationship to Natsu and Lucy, both were happy with it. Natsu said he didn't like any of the other boys his daughter had been dating and knew that Tetsu would treat her right.

Now, Tetsu was throwing water balloons at Natsu's head to distract him from chasing Emily with the hose. It worked as Natsu turned towards him with the hose. The boy was wearing black swimming trunks and grinning. He was well muscled and tan from all the time spent in the sun. His hair was darker and his cobalt blue eyes had a lively sparkle in them that only ever appeared when he was near Emily.

"He's always happy around Emily." A voice said.

Lucy nodded at Juvia. "I'm sure he'll figure out how he feels about his birth." She said to her worried friend.

"Does Lucy think Juvia should not have told him?" Juvia asked quietly, watching her one and only child.

Lucy shook her head. "He would have found out eventually and he's old enough to know what everything means and make his own decisions." She said.

Juvia looked at the rings on her hand. "He won't accept Gray as his father." She said.

Lucy put the tray down and sat next to Juvia. "When I told Jason and Lily about Emily's paternity they had a hard time accepting her as their sister." She said. "It will come in time Juvia, don't worry."

Lucy turned to look at her son. Jason was ten and following in his father's footsteps. He was becoming a good football player and had the same appetite as Natsu. He had blond hair like Lucy but his smile was a replica of Natsu's and it was shining brightly on his face now as he squirted water at his father with his little water pistol. Jason had taken the news that his sister didn't have the same father he did hard. He loved Emily with all his heart but he questioned whether she could really be his sister. He finally decided it didn't matter who her real father was as long as his parents called her their daughter she would be his sister. He got very angry when someone said that she wasn't and even fought a boy because he wouldn't let it go.

Suddenly, Natsu looked down at the hose which was now dribbling water instead of the stream that had come from it just moments before. He looked around as Emily began to laugh and pointed towards the spigot. There stood a very proud Lily who had turned the water to the hose off. She was wearing a two piece green swim suit which went well with the pink-blond hair that was pulled up in pig tails at the sides of her head. Lily was nine years old and the youngest Dragneel. She looked up to Emily and saw Tetsu as her oldest brother. Lily was the perfect combination of Natsu and Lucy and she had her father wrapped around her finger just like Emily.

The kids began to lob water balloons at Natsu and squirt him with water from their pistols as he laughed and ran from them. Finally, they had him surrounded and Lucy decided to step in. "Alright stop drowning your father and come get some lunch!" she called.

Jason dropped his pistol and ran to grab the sandwiches she held out to him. "Thanks Mom!" he said.

She dropped a towel on his head and said, "You're welcome Jason." She handed out sandwiches and towels to everyone. Natsu didn't settle for just a sandwich and a towel. He leaned in for a kiss which he got but he did not get a hug. "You're all wet Natsu!" Lucy squealed as she pushed him away.

"Hey! Mom!" Emily called from her spot with Tetsu on the steps. Lucy turned to her daughter with a questioning gaze. "Is everybody coming on the lake trip next week?" she asked.

Lucy nodded. "Yep! Wendy even got the week off from the hospital!" she said. Emily grinned. Emily looked at Wendy like a big sister. Wendy had been her babysitter and had even lived with the Dragneels for two years. Wendy's family could barely afford the tuition for her schooling and Wendy hated living in the dorms so the Dragneels opened their home to her and got her a car to commute to school. She became like a member of the family.

The kids continued playing games outside while the adults sat on the porch talking. Lucy was on the steps leaning against Natsu while her mother had come out and was sitting on the porch swing. Juvia sat in a chair on the porch. Gray was next to her. He had arrived later having had some business to take care of. Somewhere along in the afternoon, Mirajane and Laxus' daughter Miley came over with her little brother Trent. Then Levy and Gajeel's six year old son Cain came over and a huge game of football began.

The kids played for the rest of the afternoon and it soon began to get dark. Emily and Tetsu offered to walk Cain, Miley and Trent home. Natsu was going to offer to drive the kids but Lucy stopped him with a shake of her head. Finally understanding, Natsu gave permission as long as Emily took her cellphone. She ran up to her room to get it and came down a few minutes later to walk the other kids home.

Emily waved to Cain as he opened the door to his house. Once it was closed, she felt Tetsu's rough hand grasp her small, soft one. She looked up at him and smiled, squeezing his hand. Tetsu wasn't big on public displays of affection but Emily knew he cared by the little things he did for her. She and Tetsu almost didn't need words to convey their feelings. So she could tell that something was bothering him and had been for a while now. She hadn't had an opportunity to get him alone to ask him about it but now was her perfect chance. "You gonna tell me what's been bothering you?" she asked.

Tetsu wasn't too surprised. She was always very blunt and he knew he couldn't hide anything from her. "It'll be my last year of high school in the fall." He said.

"So are you worried?" Emily asked, confused.

Tetsu sighed. "I go to college after that Em. I'll be away a lot." He said.

Emily was quiet for a little bit. "It'll be ok. We can figure it out." She said.

Tetsu stopped walking when he noticed they were in front of her house and turned to face her. "Em… if you want to break up and find somebody who is still here…"

Emily gasped and took a step back. "Why would I ever do that?! Wait! Do you want to break up?! Is that what this is? You're breaking up with me?" she cried. Tears pooled in her eyes and Tetsu very nearly panicked. He hated it when she cried because he always felt so useless.

"NO!" he cried. "No, I don't want to break up with you! But I can't hold you back Em; it wouldn't be fair." He added.

Emily hung her head. "You don't trust me. You think I won't be loyal." She said quietly.

Tetsu could hear the hurt in her voice. "Em I didn't say that! But I won't be around and if you get lonely… I don't want you to hate me for being away." He tried to explain himself.

Emily looked back up with a hurt expression on her face. "I can't believe you think so little of me." She said. Then she turned and ran into her house, slamming the door against his cries for her to listen.

Lucy looked amazed to see her daughter run up the stairs sniffling. Natsu looked concerned and stood to follow but Lucy grabbed his arm. "I think I should handle this one." She said. Natsu nodded and sat back down. Jason and Lily were in the basement playing together and the sounds of their play filtered up to him and he smiled. He'd never considered himself a family man but Lucy and Emily had changed all of that. He loved his family more than anything else and did everything he could to protect them. It was a good day if all of his children were smiling and the love of his life was standing there grinning with them. So when one of his children was sad he felt that he'd failed his mission and he hated losing!

Lucy stayed with Emily for a while and soon it was time for the other kids to go to bed. Natsu yelled down to them and they came scampering up. "Goodnight Dad!" Jason said, holding his arms out for a hug.

Natsu embraced his son and said, "Goodnight Jason. Don't forget we're going to the lake tomorrow for the week so pack some clothes and toys." Jason grinned and nodded, racing up to his room to pack. Lily followed but not before being swung up into her father's arms and kissed on the cheek. She wrapped her arms around him and kissed him back before he put her down and sent her up to her room.

"Mama why would he even say something like that?" Emily asked from her place in her mother's arms.

Lucy stroked her daughter's hair. "I don't know baby. He has had a hard time learning about love and he probably thinks he isn't worthy of you. I would bet that it isn't that he doesn't trust you it's that he wonders why you're still with him. He doesn't have the highest self- esteem so I would say he is blaming himself." Lucy said.

"It still hurts that he would think that." Emily said.

Lucy stood and smoothed her daughter's hair back. "I know it does sweetie but trust me, you'll get through this." She said. Leaning over, she kissed Emily's forehead and smiled down at her. "I love you Emi." She said.

Emily smiled softly at her mother. "Love you too Mommy!" she replied. Lucy went to check on her other children who were being tucked in by Natsu. She came behind him to kiss them goodnight and check on the bags they'd packed.

Natsu went into Emily's room after knocking softly. Emily had changed into some shorts and a tank top to sleep in. She was closing the door on her closet when he came in. "Hey pretty girl is everything alright?" Natsu asked.

Emily had learned of his aversion to sadness in the family and knew he was worried about her. "I'm ok Daddy." She said. Natsu could tell something was on her mind and waited for it to come out. "Daddy… did you think you were worthy of Mom?" she asked.

Natsu blinked but the answer came immediately, "No way! Your mom is amazing and I still wonder what I ever did right that brought her into my life." He said.

Emily nodded. "But you know Mom is amazed that she found you." She said.

Natsu nodded. "Yeah she's told me that. I think it's just something with guys. We are these rough, tough, sometimes scary beasts and you girls are so delicate and soft. So we figure there is no way you would like us and when you do… We are amazed." Natsu mused.

Emily walked up to her dad and wrapped her arms around his neck. "Thank you Daddy." She whispered. Natsu had no idea what he had done but she was smiling and seemed to be at peace so he didn't say anything. Instead, he wrapped his arms around her and hugged her close. "I love you Daddy." Emily said, stepping out of his embrace.

Natsu smiled down at his eldest daughter. "I love you too pretty girl." He said. She slipped into bed and he pulled the covers up around her. He placed a kiss on her forehead and stood. "Goodnight Emily." He said as he closed the door. Emily smiled back at him.

Later that night, Emily's window opened and a tall figure made its way in. Emily rolled over and noticed him come in. He slipped into bed next to her and she wrapped her arms around him as he pulled her close to his chilled body. "I'm sorry Tetsu." She whispered. He didn't say anything but she could sense his surprise. "I overreacted. It's just… I don't even like the thought of us… breaking up." She said.

Tetsu nodded. "Me neither." He whispered.

Emily looked at him and said, "I am not going to break up with you. There is nobody else I'd rather be with. I know it's going to be hard to be separated a lot but… we can figure something out ok? I'm not leaving you." Tetsu's eyes softened as he looked at her and Emily smiled at him. He only ever got that expression when she said or did something that showed just how much she loved him. Cupping her cheek with his hand he slid over and kissed her. She responded in kind and when they pulled apart she snuggled into his chest while his arms tightened around her. She could tell by the way he was holding her that he was going to stay the night and probably left a note with Juvia. She closed her eyes and fell asleep in his warm embrace feeling as though she could face anything tomorrow would bring.

Thanks for reading my story!