Chapter One: Prelude
Three weeks earlier...
Uneven wild jazz poured out of the loudspeakers into the garage. It wasn’t too loud, just the right level to appreciate the music. The blue fluorescent lights shined down on the six foot man whose hair was pulled back into a bushy ponytail behind his head. The light reflected off of his face sending out points of light from the many piercings on that adorned it and forearms. While the look was intimidating, the actions of the man were anything but. He hummed out of sync to the uneven tempoed music as he leaned under the hood of the 1941 Pontiac coupe and took out the carburetor. He was replacing it with a new one. He smiled appreciating the great condition the vehicle was in, the owner had taken great care to make sure the machine was in its best condition, something he understood. The chrome had been polished so well that it cast a halo of light around the car, and the paint was in a high gloss white that was so pristine it was like looking into a mirror. His focus shifted back to the task at hand under the hood of the car. It was here he worked his magic and brought this old time gem back to life and give her a deep growling roar when she revved the engine. The grin disappeared as his brow furrowed and he scowled in concentration making his already severe face seem a little scary. He placed a few of the screws in between his teeth as he pulled the fastenings out removing the piece.
The sound of the wrench moving in time made the music feel like it had a more even tempo and made the sound a little more even. Keeping something old in good condition was a labor of love, and one he did not take lightly. If you asked him the thing would have looked awesome with some white wall tires, but it was rare to see them anymore. He hummed to himself off time with the music as he replaced the part. .
The music which had been streaming out of the speakers whined, scratched and came to a halt. It was followed by the most obnoxious idiot he had ever known yelling, “Gajeel, you seriously have the worst taste in music, what is this the 1950’s?”
Gajeel grumbled under his breath as he spat the screws into his hand, “..still rock and roll to me.” He extracted himself from under the old Pontiac hood and shouted “Yeah whatever Dragneel, but if you scratched my record I’m going to skin you alive and sell your hide to cover replacing it.”
Natsu Dragneel looked down at the record in question. “Nah no problem it’s fine!” He put the pin for the record player to the side and walked into the main garage of Fairy Tail Custom Cars. “Want to hangout with a few of us at the bar?”
Gajeel put the wrench he had been holding down on a working table and grabbed his neck letting it hang back to stare at the ceiling. The bones ground against each other and made crackling sounds as he moved his head from side to side. “Which one?”
“Quatro Cerberus! Gray is already there.”
Gajeel opened his red eyes, and rolled his head over towards Natsu. “Don’t feel like it, I mean I have the place to myself tonight.” He motioned towards the carburetor sitting on the workbench and started to walk back to the car.
Natsu grimaced “Come on man, you’ve been dodging us for ages,” when this garnered no reaction from the taller man, who began to set the metal screws on the bench making to get back to work, Natsu smirked and walked towards the taller man. “Unless of course you are avoiding the bar because you think I’ll whoop your sorry ass in a drinking contest again?”
That instantly had the effect that Natsu had been hoping for Gajeel’s shoulders hitched up and he looked over his shoulder at the man. “I ain’t no coward, ‘specially not of some pink haired idiot.”
Natsu did have pink hair and was much leaner than Gajeel, but both were rippling with muscles from manual labor and the gym. Those who worked at Fairy Tail Custom Cars all had a penchant for activity and competition, and none of them took a loss lightly. Natsu looked daringly at Gajeel. Natsu grinned with excitement, “Then I challenge you to a drinking match, straight vodka.”
Gajeel lost any notions of returning to his work with Natsu’s pansy face so close to his shoulder egging him on, “You’re on Salamander, and whoever loses pays.”
When her phone alarm went off at three pm Levy McGarden scowled at it. She had been happily reading about a couple who lived in a fishing village. The language was surprisingly poetic in nature for a book she wasn’t certain would be entertaining.The man in the story loved the ocean and his work as much as his family. She had just gotten to a heartwarming portion of the story where the captain in the story was telling his daughter about the giants he saw in the canyons on the water, and how they guarded the lost city of Atlantis. In the novel the man’s struggles were real and he spoke about his ship with such a passion she ached for him as he had to consider giving up everything he knew for a new job or risk losing his loved ones security. There was so much of her that wanted to return to the story between the pages to see if the fisherman would have any more luck. However, the clock had a mind of it’s own and she had friends who would dearly miss her if she didn’t get ready. So she carefully placed a bookmark in between the pages of the copy of the “Downeaster Alexa” and gingerly placed it on her night stand.
Levy dug herself out from under the soft blankets of her bed. As she clawed her way through the silks and down comforter she felt the chill come into her skin. Whenever she had finished reading something particularly good she found It was like coming slowly and painfully out of a freezing pool and back into the cold air of morning. She had been thoroughly enjoying the deep romance shared between the wife and husband and the trust both of them displayed despite the hard times. Mavis, if she could only be lucky enough to find someone to suffer her need to find someone who replicated her favorite fictions. Someone handsome, tenacious, poetic, and thoughtful, and fulfilled her father’s hopes and dreams for her future husband. Not that marriage was currently on her mind, mind you but, she didn’t place it any lower in hopes of a potential boyfriend. However, much like the man between the pages of the “Downeaster Alexa” her love life was pure fantasy, never having existed in the first place. She rubbed her shoulders creating some warmth in them as she turned away from the novel and towards her bedroom closet.
Hanging on the closet door was a beautiful orange dress with airy silk on the top and a full skirt that ended at her knee. It was vintage inspired and complemented the blue dyed hair that she sported. She would wear kitten heels and matching orange gloves for fun. Her hair however would end up being another matter. The soft hair had a mind of it’s own rarely laying correctly and constantly changing shape unless drawn back in a head band. She walked over to her vanity opening her drawer and pulling out a blue headband which would complement the dress and maintain some semblance of order for her hair for the evening.
Taking a seat in front of the vanity she looked into the mirror and scowled again. She sighed into the mirror. At the age of 21 it was an absolute necessity to paint the face so that she didn’t appear blotchy, but the effort never seemed to come to fruition so Levy found the exercise annoying. Levy hated makeup, it clung to her skin like plastic, and while it had its advantages, the stuff just left her feeling gross by the end of the night.
30 minutes later she was wiggling herself into the fluffy dress. As she was looking over her final appearance she opened her phone and hit her first speed dial number. Someone picked up on the first ring, “Lilly could you bring the car around? I’ve been invited to the Heartfilia's for an event.”
The McGarden’s were from old money that was invested in very good companies, where the money seemed to endlessly grow. Levy had little interest in why or where the money was stored, but knew that it afforded them a quiet and comfortable life. As she waited by the front door to see her driver pull around to the front steps she thought to herself that some comforts were better than others.
Lilly pulled the car around the front of the McGarden residence, parking and then quickly jumping out to hold the door open for the young heiress. Lilly was a very muscular black man with a scar down his right eye. He was a quiet man, but was very observant and protective. Traits that had come in great use to the McGarden’s who prized their privacy.
As Lilly started to pull away from the mansion he looked in the rearview mirror at his charge for the evening. “Will you be anything special for the evening Ms.McGarden?” Levy sighed slightly, wishing she had brought her book but looked back towards the front towards Gajeel’s eyes still waiting for a response.
“No, nothing in particular.” She said. “I’ll keep my phone and call when I am ready to return home.” Lilly had been looking after Levy as a driver and bodyguard since she was eight years old. He was a mountain of a man standing six foot four, but in the right moment you could catch a smile (or more often a smirk) on his face, which often left her with the impression of a large teddy bear or house cat. The man was staring a little harder at her now.
“Are you sure? It would be no trouble miss.” He had probably noticed her reluctant sigh. She chuckled a bit.
“No, no I just am lamenting leaving a book back at the house, and don’t you dare turn around to help me get it, if you do I fear I will be a very bad friend this evening.” Levy relaxed a bit and grinned. The man had instilled much of the love of reading in Levy as her teachers had, every year he made it a point to gift her some obscure but wonderful book.
A soft grin set to his features again as he asked, “Which book has you so entranced this time?”
The rest of the travel to the Heartfilia's took an hour. In which time Levy shared the heart rending story of the Downeaster Alexa and the many characters with Lilly. Lilly listened and nodded until he pulled into the long driveway to the Heartfilia estate. Their Mansion was in upstate New York, out of the hustle and bustle of the Uptown atmosphere. Layla Heartfilia, had named the place, “The Home of the Stars” after the small observatory Jude her husband had, had built for her. However, that corner of the house had been left alone for many years, since her death. All the same Lucy, their daughter and Levy’s friend, would often sneak up there at night to identify the constellations. If Levy was visiting they would sneak up there together and write silly stories about them. Those trips had been happened less often recently. She made a mental note to try and go again some time.
Lucy greeted Levy at the front of the Residence, “Oh thank Mavis you’re here! I thought I was going to die from boredom. I don’t know how my father manages it, but he finds the most boring men to invite to these parties.” Lucy wore a floor length midnight blue dress with cap sleeves that showed off her impressive chest while still being modest. Her hair was styled up in an intricate messy chinese hair style, not doubt a creation of her off kilter but loving wait staff. Brachyura Cancer was a renowned hair stylist that the house employed, but he did the most outlandish things with hair. The style made her appear younger than she was and it made Levy remember some other rather funny hairdos that she had worn through high school.
Levy grinned and gave Lucy a quick hug. It had been awhile since she had last visited and she was glad to see her. There came a rustling from behind Levy and Cana appeared with a white dress form fitting cocktail dress with a white fur shrug. Her hair was done up like Eva Peron and she was stunning. “Well, well, well, if the gang isn’t all here.” She said in a slow friendly drawl. All the girls smiled as they huddled in the entry way. “So,” began Cana, “what is the monumental event that forced your father to invite the likes of me?” Cana had a bit of a reputation among the upper echelons of society as being a drunk and a floozy.
Lucy’s smile faltered into a concentrated face, “I wish I knew. I’ve been trying to divine the reason for a month ever since father put together the invitations, but he’s been mum on the issue.” Levy looked at her friend worriedly, Lucy’s father, Jude Heartfilia, was a worrying man who was very strict and stern. For him to fund an extravagant event like this was very irregular. In fact Levy struggled to remember a time before Layla’s death that a party had been hosted at their actual home. In Manhattan, sure, but not at the house.
“Well,” said Cana, “might as well enjoy this shindig while it’s still interesting. So, where’s the booze?”
Lucy giggled, “right this way.” She lead them through the long entry hall past the stiff an unused family room to the large gathering room that had a buffet set up on one side, the bay doors to the large gathering space lined the back wall and all of them were open to back garden and the crisp night air. The bar was set up on the back patio. Cana came up to the bartender and asked for an Old fashioned, Lucy grabbed a cosmopolitan, and Levy grabbed a flute of champagne.
“So how has it been up here Lu? You haven’t been to your place in Uptown since early spring?” asked Levy, she had missed her friend.
Lucy smiled softly, but it didn’t entirely reach her eyes. “Oh you know more lessons on being a lady and such, have to keep up the family appearances.” She paused and in a hushed tone leaned in towards the girls, “I’ve been accepted into Juliard for their Liberal Arts program, but dad doesn’t know yet. I’ll be starting in the fall.”
“Oh,” said Cana, “worried daddy won’t like you going off to an education.” It wasn’t uncommon for heiresses to go without a degree, more often than not they came from enough money they didn’t have to worry about such things. Though it was becoming more likely that they would get one, it seemed more like an accessory than anything else.
“Not so much an education as one in writing, I’m sure he’d love me to pursue one in trade, law, politics, medicine, or any number of things, but he’s never been a fan of the arts.” Lucy fiddled with the martini glass by spinning it in her hand. “I’m thinking of heading down to the Manhattan townhouse on my own and attending classes from there. I’ve put aside enough money to cover a few semesters, but I don’t know what to tell him I’m doing in the meantime.”
“Lu, you should just tell him the truth, he may not like it, but I doubt he would stop you.” said Levy. “Besides what I’ve read from your writing is spectacular, anyone who’s read you work knows that you have the ability to write very well.” Lucy blushed a little bit this time with a genuine smile.
“Thanks for the vote of confidence Levy, but I don’t want him to tell me no outright, better to do and ask for forgiveness, than ask at the outset and be banned from the practice”
Cana grinned, being naturally for anything that involved rebellion of any sort. “Go get ‘em Lucy. And if your dad finds out and disowns you, you can always stay at my place.” Cana owned a huge apartment above a brewery she started called Visions. While she had come from money Cana’s hobby had turned her into quite the successful business woman. Which meant, much to her father’s chagrin, she could do whatever the hell she wanted.
“I appreciate the offer Cana, but I’ll take this one step at a time. On that note what have you two been up to?”
Levy smiled at the women before her, “I’ve been given some work here and there from firms trying to translate older texts, but on the whole lately I haven’t had much to do, so I’ve been staying home, studying, and reading.” Levy had many jobs one was translating unknown texts, which was work that didn’t come around too often, sometimes she acted as an interpreter working for visiting dignitaries from different parts of the world. However, with winter approaching that work had been drying up too. She hadn’t interned yet but she was working towards a degree in Business Law.
Cana just smiled sipped from her glass and said, “Oh, you know, the usual. Keeping up the family’s good name.” Levy and Lucy paused and then joined in with Cana in a round of laughter. However, their quiet conversation was brought to a halt as two young gentleman approached them.
“May we interrupt?” Asked the tall and slender young man with shocking orange hair. He was almost painfully thin and his hair, like his counterparts was up in a short ponytail.
Next to him was his black haired friend, where the man with the orange hair was almost painfully thin, the other man who smiled and waved at Levy shyly was exceedingly fat. “How have you been Levy?” The larger man asked. Levy’s face split out into a grin.
Jet and Droy were childhood friends of Levy’s they had enjoyed summers playing in the pool and had even built a tree fort together, but those warm summer days had long since passed. Now the young men made it their business to see Levy often. They both had talents which kept them in the same circles for work. Jet, the thin orange haired man, was the manager of a catering company that had fast, but well mannered waiters.Droy on the other hand was in charge of decorating for large parties, he especially excelled at flower arranging and was starting to gain some of the proper notoriety. The three of them had recently started discussions about starting a business together to make their trio official.
“What are you two doing here?” Levy asked as she jumped up from her seat with the champagne glass in hand.
Jet grinned, “I’m here providing the catering for the evening, and Droy,” he motioned to the man next to him, “finished dotting this place with Christmas lights an hour before sun down. We are now enjoying the fruits of our labor and mingling with friends. “
“Oh, and I haven’t even looked at the food yet. Did you bring anything special?”
Jet looked down at the other girls, “Mind if we steal her for awhile?”
Lucy giggled, “Of course, we’ll be here when you three are done talking,” She shooed them away with her hand. Cana took a healthy gulp of her whisky as the three walked away, a man on either of Levy’s arms.
With her eyes fixed on the retreating trio Cana cocked her head “Do you think either of those idiots have gotten over her?”
Jet led his two friends towards the buffet. He pointed out the ice sculpture of interconnected stars that swirled up from the base meant to honor the mansion's name. He showed the vibrant color spread and then started showing some of the new and exotic concoctions on the table.”Here, we have a gold dusted zucchini and goat cheese tart and over here we have all of these bits of fruit, now we soaked those in champaign and pre cut them into star shapes.” He went through the whole table stopping at certain items he thought Levy would like and making her try them.
She was excited, the food was not only spectacular but she could tell that Jet was really starting to get a handle on what it took to throw the lavish parties that New York demanded. While Droy didn’t say as much she also noticed that the flower arrangements around the ballroom matched the swirling ice sculpture’s nature and the twinkling lights added a wonderful touch to the home. She finished chewing a delicious shrimp on a stick with Cajun spices and cleared her throat.
“So, have you two thought any further on whether or not you would want to partner up for a business?” She had suggested it to them only a few months before. Droy looked at Jet and Jet looked back before they both turned to the much shorter girl. Jet started, “Well we’ve thought about this for awhile, and…”
Droy picked up where Jet had left off, “...we would love to go into business with you, if…”
Jet finished off, “...you will have us.” Levy felt her heart pound in her ears as excitement spread throughout her body. This was really going to happen. She was going to start a party planning company with her friends. She could feel the heat coming off of her face as she turned to her friends and grabbed both of their hands.