Catch the Thunder

BY : Rhov
Category: +. to F > Fairy Tail
Dragon prints: 14267
Disclaimer: Fairy Tail is the property of Hiro Mashima. I make no money, I just do this for my own pleasure.

ADULT-FANFICTION READERS: Please note that I forgot to post Chapter 57. I'm very sorry and it probably confused a lot of you. I've fixing it. My apologies.

Chapter 62

Camping in Style

It was a boring weekday afternoon, and Laxus was sitting at the computer, searching online for a new job. He had applied to a few places, but his resume looked sorely pathetic. He could not put down the years he had worked as a strip dancer, nor all the client work he did. That meant his work experience was the electrician job he did after high school, followed by a long break in working, and then only a few months at Blue Pegasus, again supposedly as an electrician. He did not have a college degree, and he did not have any good explanation for the long break in work. All he had were some damn good references: Freed, of course, who now graced the cover of Fiore Business Magazine in every grocery store; Gray, who was the newest star dancer at the Magnolia Opera House; and Natsu-frigging-Dragneel, brother of the President. Business, entertainment, and politics. It made some gruff, unemployed man like him look sketchy, even to Laxus.

He clicked one link and read the job description. "Security guard, huh?" he muttered. "Always thought that'd fit me. Hell of a ways away, though. Can I even get there by bus?"

He had started to search the local bus maps when his email dinged. He looked over, wondering if it was Freed. Instead, the email held a different Justine name: Evergreen.

"The hell?" he muttered. "When did she get my email?"

He read the message, written succinctly and properly as if she was composing an essay, as he suspected all of her emails were written. Still, the content intrigued him.

"Huh … nice offer, lady. I think I'll take you up on it."

That night, Freed and Laxus ate dinner at their little table just off the kitchen. As they cut into chicken, Laxus brought up the message.

"So, your sister sent me an email. Something about a camping trip."

Freed looked up in surprise. "What day is it?" He pulled out his phone and checked his calendar. "Wow, seriously? Already?"

Laxus glared, slightly accusatory. "You knew this was coming up and didn't tell me."

Freed sighed as he put his phone back into his pocket. "It's a family tradition, a week roughing it in Colorado, getting away from hectic city life. Father would say it builds character."

Llewellyn, of course, had already granted his son a week off work. Freed had known for months about this trip and had plane tickets purchased far in advance. The weekend-long BDSM scene had not caused any negative physical effects of sub-drop, but it had made him completely forget about things for the past two weeks. At work, he had to be reminded about projects. He had forgotten about a coworker's birthday and needed to order a present to be delivered that same day to the person's desk. Now this, a yearly family trip planned months in advance, something he had been looking forward to all summer. How could he forget it was this weekend? He rubbed his head at just how much their sensual fun had messed with his memory.

"She wrote about it," Laxus said, "even sent me a map and fliers about the area. Apparently, I'm invited to go camping with you guys." He stabbed awkwardly into some asparagus. "Can … can I come?"

"Of course," Freed said immediately. "I wasn't hiding this from you, really. I just forgot."

"But this is purely a family thing, right? It won't be some business-related holiday dinner, or a huge social gala garden party. It's just your family, out there camping. We'll all be in a tent, or probably a cabin since it's you guys, right? Fairly close quarters."

Freed chuckled with slight embarrassment. "I know Evergreen called it camping, but I'm not sure you would define it as a camping trip."

Laxus arched an eyebrow. "Don't tell me you're gonna stay in some fucking mansion in a forest."

"Then I won't tell you."

He slammed his fork down and ran his hand through his spiky hair. "Goddammit, you are such a spoiled rich boy. Can't even go camping without servants and shit."

"Actually, no servants. That was what made this roughing it. We had to cook all our own meals and do our own laundry."

Laxus rolled his eyes and shook his head. "You do realize, that's normal life for most people."

"I … I know," he mumbled awkwardly. "I mean, I know now. As a kid, it was a bit of a novelty."

"A novelty is shooting a rabbit, skinning it, and roasting it over an open fire."


"I bet all the food is already stocked in the house and you just throw it in the microwave."

Freed pouted and looked away. That described exactly what really happened. He had grown up thinking this was camping. He had been so sheltered, he did not realize that normal people really did camp in tents like on television, not until he was in college, got invited to a camping trip, but had to go back home on the very first day because he had arrived without even a blanket. It had been humiliating.

He looked over to Laxus. He looked like the sort who enjoyed trekking through the wilderness and roughing it.

"Did you ever go camping? Like, real camping?"

Laxus nodded as he ate dinner. "My gramps took me a few times. My parents weren't interested, so that was like our time, when he would tell me stories of the war, show me how to chop wood and set snares, even let me shoot his rifle. He tried to take me a few times after my mom passed away, but life was pretty shitty then for me."

"Well, maybe we could do something while we're out there. What do we need? A tent, right? Sleeping bags? There's a forest around the cabin."

"You mean mansion," Laxus pointed out.

"Er … I guess," he muttered, but Freed was now enthused by the idea. "Maybe we can go out into the woods for a night, actual camping. Evergreen would never do that, and I'm not sure if Bickslow would be trustworthy. He'd probably try to pretend he's a bear. So, something just for us," he said, reaching across the table and slithering his hand up Laxus' arm. "It's also an excuse to get away from the others."

Laxus smirked at him. "You want the novelty of having sex in the open, you kinky bastard."

"Maybe that, too," he admitted with a sly twinkle in his eyes.

"Ooh? Did our little excursion in the park, marking your territory, awaken a new kink in you?"

Freed's tongue dragged over his lips. "Maaaaybe."

"Fuck," he whispered, awed by Freed's sensual face. "I'm buying us a tent tomorrow."

They flew out on Friday right after Freed finished with work. The flight to Denver involved many motion sickness pills, wrist bands and ear seeds to help with nausea, and large headphones with binaural beat music that supposedly eased motion sickness symptoms. At least Laxus waited until they were off the plane before running through the airport terminal and to the nearest restroom to vomit. The drive up into the mountains was just one more torture for him to endure.

"Are you sure you wanted to come?" Freed asked, trying to massage a point in Laxus' wrist that he claimed Porlyusica had used, but it seemed he did not have the talent for acupressure.

"Don't wanna be away from you," Laxus said stubbornly, covering his mouth with a plastic-lined barf bag sitting on his lap.

When finally they arrived, Laxus got out of the taxi and sat on the solid ground, his head between his knees, gasping for air and swallowing down his stomach acid. Freed gave the poor driver an extra large tip and apologized for the mess. After it drove off, Laxus finally took off his headphones and looked up at the two-story house in front of him.

"Not as bad as I thought," he muttered. "This ain't a cabin, though. It's a house that happens to be made out of wood and happens to be up on some mountain. Don't tell me your family owns the whole mountain."

Freed chuckled as he loaded his shoulders with their bags. "We're not that rich."

"Could've fooled me." Laxus forced himself up to his feet and saw Freed shouldering all of their luggage. "Hey, I'll take some of those."

"I'm not weak."

"I know, but neither am I. I'll feel better once I'm walking and on firm ground."

They entered without even a knock. There was no butler here, no maids to take their bags. It was just them, and inside they saw Evergreen and Bickslow drinking cocoa on some couches in front of a large stone fireplace.

"You both made it," Evergreen said in excitement.

"Hey, Ever." Freed dropped his bags, went up to her, and hugged her. Then he glanced around. "Where's Mother and Father?"

"Ah." She frowned and sat on the couch again. "Apparently, they're not coming."

"What?" Freed said in shock. "They never miss this."

"Well, I don't think they want to be together now." She had a scowling look on her face.

Freed sighed and sank onto the couch. "Dammit," he muttered. He had hoped that a little time together would help to mend the issue between Laxus and Llewellyn, and that maybe his mother would come to like Laxus more if she saw him in a more casual setting like this. "Well, can't blame them. This divorce doesn't seem like it's exactly a shock to either of them, which means they haven't been happy together for a long time."

It would have been a great bonding time for them all, especially after the family drama that year, but he understood how hanging around an ex would be really awkward, even depressing. His parents had been putting up with it for small things, like his college graduation, his birthday, and the garden party, but a week living together was certainly pushing their limits.

Laxus set the bags down and came over to sit beside him. "Ya okay?" he asked with gentle, worried eyes.

"Yeah, just…" He looked over to a chair that his father had always sat in as their family spent time around the fire. "This has always been a family trip," he lamented.

"It still is," Laxus pointed out. "You three are pretty damn close, right? My guess is your folks don't wanna be a downer on you guys. If they both showed up, they'll be miserable. If just one shows up, it'll be awkward. Best to let you three have fun as siblings. Plus you're all adults, so it's not like you need Mommy and Daddy to tuck you in at night. It might even be their way of showing you all that you're gonna have to do family things on your own one day, and you need to stick together, the three of you, no matter what."

His words made all three of them smile slightly.

"He's right," said Evergreen. "That's how Mother and Father are. They spoiled us—heaven knows they did—but they've always encouraged us to be independent."

"I think it's awesome," said Bickslow. "Laxus is right. With either one of them around, it'd be weird and too much drama. With just us kids, we can go nuts. I wish I'd thought of inviting Lisanna."

"Oh, you should!" Evergreen urged. "Call her up, right now."

Bickslow got on his phone, and Evergreen went to the kitchen to make Freed and Laxus some cocoa.

"What about you?" Freed asked her. "Are you going to invite Elfman, make this a couples thing?"

"I did," she mumbled. "He's away at a sumo wrestling competition."

"Sumo? Seriously?" Laxus said, even more intrigued by his fellow dating-the-Justines buddy.

Evergreen came back with two mugs and a sly chuckle. "You two better behave with Mother and Father not around. Try not to have sex so loud that I can hear it."

"Evergreen!" Freed shouted, flustered and blushing. "Obviously I won't be having sex around my own siblings."

"Oh really?" Laxus said lasciviously.

Freed glared over at him. "Yes, really. Not gonna happen."

Laxus smiled as if that was a challenge.

It turned out Lisanna could only get one day off work, so she could be there over the weekend up to Monday. That was the best she could do, since not everyone could leave their jobs for an entire week without any warning. Bickslow immediately got her a plane ticket and planned to pick her up from Denver airport Saturday afternoon. She would have to leave Monday evening to get back to work in time.

With that planned, they spent that first day adjusting to the altitude and unpacking their bags. It was easy to get out of breath and dizzy up in the mountains, so the most they did was walk around the grounds. The area around the cabin was cleared with sculpted gardens and a fake pond that Freed said could be used for ice skating in the winter. All around were dark woods filled with firs, spruces, and pines, as if nature was just waiting for the moment to reclaim this area.

As they roamed the surroundings together, Freed pointed to a bald hill that went even higher than where the house was located. "In winter, that hill over there is perfect for skiing."

"That'd be fun," said Laxus. "I've never gone skiing before."

"I can teach you."

They went around a wood shed packed a few meters high with quartered logs. Laxus followed Freed and looked at his butt in those tight jeans, along with a green flannel shirt, as if he was trying too hard to look like a woodsman. Impulsively, Laxus grabbed that ass, and Freed yelped in surprise.

"Laxus!" Then he laughed and shook his head. "Naughty."

"Yup." He suddenly pushed Freed up against the wood shed and trapped him in with one arm. "You should wear jeans more often. They're hot on you."

Freed's heart began to race as he saw Laxus' eyes panning up and down his body, devouring the sight. "D-Do I really look okay in them?"

Laxus pressed his groin up against Freed's. "They make your ass look tight and fuckable. Makes me wanna slip my hand down inside those jeans." He fingers began to slide under the belt and hem, nestling under the elastic of his boxers.

Freed made a slight groan as he felt Laxus' rough fingers skimming down over his skin. Just as he felt the fingers start to brush against his pubes, Freed jolted and suddenly pushed Laxus away with force. Laxus stumbled a few steps back, stunned by the rough rejection, but he saw that Freed had backed away and almost looked mad.

"Didn't I say it before? I'm not having sex around my brother and sister. It's … too weird, okay?"

Laxus regained his footing and glared at the rejection. "You know, you saying that makes me wanna do it even more."

Freed stared coldly back at him and replied with a curt, "No." He spun away and marched back to the cabin door. Laxus stood there, watching that tight ass again.

"Dammit," he whispered to himself, and he ran his hand through his hair. "Getting rejected really riles me up. Huh! Who would've thought?"

Laxus behaved himself, though. A 'no' was still a no. That evening, they sat down for dinner. Evergreen seemed excessively proud of herself for making rice with baked chicken. Freed praised her, but Laxus saw that he added extra salt to the rice to kill the taste, and Bickslow poked at his chicken as if wondering if it would grow feathers and fly away. Definitely, she had not inherited Freed's talent for cooking.

Then they sat around and played a card game Laxus did not know called Sevens and Kings. They tried to explain the rules, but Laxus ended up losing horribly anyway. He almost recommended strip poker, until he realized these three were siblings, and that would be beyond weird.

After watching television to see the nightly news and a comedy late night show, they split off to the bedrooms. Laxus saw that this so-called cabin had enough rooms to invite a few influential friends and still allow each of their children to have a room of their own.

They took showers separately, since despite the size of the cabin, there was only one bathroom. By how Evergreen complained and insisted on being the first to shower, Laxus got the hint that this was one of those roughing it concepts the Justines were not used to.

Finally, they were in bed, the lights off, with the moon shining crisp in the Colorado skies. Laxus stared up and thought about Freed in those tight jeans. Beside him, Freed was reading some article on his phone. Laxus figured it was likely something boring about business or politics or maybe a classical novel from the eighteenth century, so he rolled over in bed, wrapped his arms around him, and held him possessively. Freed did not take his eyes off the screen and absently stroked Laxus' hair.

"Ya gonna stay up all night reading?" he muttered.

"Almost done."

Laxus tried to look at the screen. "Anything good? Reading a naughty novel?"

Freed softly laughed. "That's debatable. It's a release of letters written by James Joyce to his wife."


"He wrote Ulysses, Finnegans Wake, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man…"

"Never heard of him," Laxus grumbled, snuggling up into Freed and frowning at the phone's screen.

"You may like this one." He scrolled back up a few pages. "This is one of the famous letters he wrote to his wife Nora in 1909.

"'Do you believe in my love at last, dearest? Ah, do, Nora! Why everyone who has ever seen me can read it in my eyes when I speak of you. As your mother says "they light up like candles in my head." The time will fly now, my darling, until your loving tender arms encircle me. I will never leave you again. Not only do I want your body (as you know) but I want also your company.'"

"Nah, he just wants her body," Laxus jabbed in.

Freed smirked secretively and continued. "'My darling, I suppose that compared with your splendid generous love for me my love for you looks very poor and threadbare. But it is the best I can give you, my own dear sweetheart. Take it, my love, save me and shelter me.'"

"Boring! Put that crap away. I could write you a better love letter than that."

"You should try. I'd love to see what you'd write."

"I can't even write a fuckin' email," Laxus grumbled.

Freed chuckled that here Laxus thought he could write a love letter to match one of the most famous authors of Modernist literature when even emails were a challenge. "It's almost at the good part. 'I am your child as I told you and you must be severe with me, my little mother.'"

"Did he seriously just call his wife his little mother?"

"Indeed. 'Punish me as much as you like. I would be delighted to feel my flesh tingling under your hand.'"

"Wait, what?" Laxus surged forward to see if the screen really did say that.

Freed held back a laugh and continued. "'Do you know what I mean, Nora dear? I wish you would smack me or flog me even. Not in play, dear, in earnest and on my naked flesh.'"

"Holy fuck, did he really write that?"

Freed bit his lip to hold back from laughing, knowing it was going to get better. "'I wish you were strong, strong, dear, and had a big full proud bosom and big fat thighs. I would love to be whipped by you, Nora love! I would love to have done something to displease you, something trivial even, perhaps one of my rather dirty habits that make you laugh: and then to hear you call me into your room and then to find you sitting in an armchair with your fat thighs far apart and your face deep red with anger and a cane in your hand. To see you point to what I had done and then with a movement of rage pull me towards you and throw me face downwards across your lap. Then to feel your hands tearing down my trousers and inside clothes and turning up my shirt, to be struggling in your strong arms and in your lap, to feel you bending down (like an angry nurse whipping a child's bottom) until your big full bubbies almost touched me and to feel you flog, flog, flog me viciously on my naked quivering flesh! Pardon me, dear, if this is silly. I began this letter so quietly and yet I must end it in my own mad fashion.'"

Laxus yanked the phone out of Freed's hand and slammed it down onto the nightstand. "Why the hell are you reading erotic crap when you're in bed with me."

"It's historically important, a look into the life of one of the greatest Irish writers—"

Laxus suddenly pinned Freed down and climbed half on top of him. "If you wanna be flogged, just tell me."

Freed gazed up at him, startled and thrilled by his dominance, yet he looked upset at the offer. "Obviously not now," he whispered sternly. "I just happened to finish Finnegans Wake and started up on the letters between James Joyce and Nora."

Laxus ignored the excuse and lowered his voice. "How do you want me to flog you?"

Freed put his hands on Laxus' chest to push him back up. "I don't, not while we're here, and I won't talk about such things while we're under the same roof as my family."

Laxus smirked that he was making up excuses. "We've done a lot worse in the middle of your family's Christmas dinner."

Freed's face went red. "That … was different. We were deep underground and—"

"And your dad knew precisely what we would be doing under there." Laxus slid slowly along Freed's body, grinding his hardened cock over him. "Or was that why you liked it? You really liked that one time when I sucked you off at work, too." He leaned in close and hissed at Freed, "You like the idea of doing naughty things with your father around."

Freed suddenly shoved Laxus away and in a flash was up out of bed. For a few seconds, he looked enraged, and Laxus worried if maybe he had crossed some line. However, as Freed calmed down, he also looked alarmed, ashamed, and bordering on horrified. Laxus had known for a while that Freed had some sort of daddy complex, but it seemed that Freed was only now starting to realize it.

"Look," he said softly, cringing and rubbing the chill out of his arms, "maybe I have some weird perversion like that," then he firmed up, "but I will not do anything with my sister around."

"What's the difference?"

"She's my sister," he shouted. Then he folded his arms and turned away. "It's … weird."

"But it's not weird when your dad knows we're fucking?"

"I don't know," he snapped, looking ashamed again. "It is, but…" He ended weakly, "I just don't know, okay?"

Freed gulped as he realized Laxus had a point. It had happened a few times, Freed getting even more turned on thinking about having sex and his father knowing about it, or at least possibly finding out. He had loved being with Laxus in his father's underground pleasure room, the blowjob in the restroom at work, and dreams of having sex in his father's office. He had dismissed it as a twisted sense of possessiveness, claiming his lover under the nose of the man who had been submissive to Laxus first. Could it be more? Maybe some Freudian symbolic thing?


Freed spun back around at the dejected mutter and saw Laxus sitting in bed with his head lowered.

"You said earlier not to. It riled me up. Still, I shouldn't have pushed you. I just wanted to humiliate you a little, and that fuckin' Joyce guy didn't help."

Maybe that was partly his fault. Freed could have bored Laxus with one of the less-interesting letters, although James Joyce had a hell of a perverted mind when it came to the erotic letters to his wife. He had teased Laxus and aroused him without any intention of giving in to him. That was unfair. Now he saw the half-hard bulge in Laxus' boxers.

"If … if you really need it, I could jerk you off."

"You obviously don't want to, so I won't make you."

It was not that he didn't want to, but he strongly felt repulsed by the idea of doing it where Evergreen could hear them.

"Let's just cuddle." Laxus opened his arms to embrace him with a placating, although awkward, look on his face. "Come on."

Freed happily slid back into bed and let Laxus wrap him up. He still felt the lump pressed up against his ass now, but he did his best not to press back against it and tempt Laxus even more.

Yes, Laxus felt disappointed, but he respected Freed's limits. As much as he wanted to frot up against his ass or punish Freed by forcing him to suck him off, he settled for just cuddling tonight.

"Don't read about whipping anymore, though," he mumbled. "Just knowing you're reading about that sort of shit will turn me on."

"James Joyce also wrote prolifically about his erotic fantasies of frigging his wife in the ass and having her fart all over him as he did it."

"And there goes my boner," he muttered.

Freed chuckled and turned off the light. He scooted up against Laxus and sighed. "Give me a day or two with my brother and sister. Then we can go camping…" He smirked to himself in the dark. "…and you can pitch a tent."

"Goddammit, Freed," he grumbled, clutching him closer. "Don't rile me up."

"I'll try not to."

Yeah right, Laxus thought to himself.

They fell asleep to the sound of the mountain wind blowing and crickets chirping.

The next morning, Freed woke up extra early and nudged Laxus.

"Wake up. We need to cook breakfast before Evergreen attempts to poison us again."

Laxus grumbled, rolled over, and drifted back off to sleep. Freed nudged him once more, but Laxus was not about to wake up. With a chuckle at how adorable he looked, trying to snuggle into his pillows, Freed let him sleep.

A few minutes later, Laxus heard the sizzle of sausages and smelled coffee. He dragged himself out of bed and shuffled to the kitchen rubbing sleep out of his eyes. As soon as he stepped in, he heard a high gasp. He struggled to open his eyes against the glare of morning sunlight and saw Freed, Evergreen, and Bickslow in the kitchen. All of them were staring at him, or more precisely, their eyes were down below the belt.

"My, my!" Evergreen blushed as her eyes scanned him up and down.

"No wonder Freed likes you," Bickslow said with a naughty chuckle.

Freed stood by the stove wearing full two-piece pajamas and a housecoat wrapped around. His hair was pulled back as he cooked hash browns with one hand and sausages with the other.

"Oh my God, Laxus! Wear a robe," he cried out in admonishment.

"I thought you said we're family. I don't care if they see me in boxers—"

"Your fly is wide open and you've got morning wood, you idiot!"

Laxus looked down and saw he was right. He was so sleepy, he had not even noticed how erect he was that morning, and the tenting had shoved the opening in his boxers wide apart, giving far more of a tease than he had ever given patrons at the strip club.

"And who's fault is that?" Laxus said, feeling cranky before his first coffee.

Bickslow snickered. "Aww, did Freed not put out last night? No wonder you two were so quiet."

"Well, I don't mind." Evergreen leaned over, wishing Laxus would turn just a little bit more so she could get a better view.

"Evergreen, don't you dare stare at my boyfriend."

Laxus saw that Freed was beyond humiliated; he was almost angry. He turned around and trudged back to the bedroom with a loud yawn. "You better have coffee waiting for me when I come back."

Bickslow shouted after him, "Will you spank him with the spatula if he doesn't?"

"Bickslow!" Freed squawked

Laxus curtly waved without turning around. "Not a bad idea."


He heard Freed's voice nearly crack at the shout, so he said nothing more. Mornings were really not his thing, and he was used to walking around his old apartment and now the condo in boxers or even nude. He would have to get used to the idea of living with other people, as least for a few days.

When he returned wrapped up in a soft robe with slippers—the wooden floors were ice cold—the rest were already eating. Freed had set out a plate with eggs, hash browns, sausages, toast, and a steaming cup of coffee.

"You've really got him trained as a good wife," Bickslow said with a playful gleam in his eyes.

Laxus took a long sip of coffee. "Nah. Maybe as a good husband, though."

Freed jolted and looked over with massive eyes.

"Oh-ho!" Evergreen covered her mouth. "Is that a marriage proposal?"

"Nah. When I propose," and Laxus rubbed his slippers over Freed's foot under the table, "he'll know it."

Freed bit his lip. Of course he would. They had agreed to a marriage safeword: fini, end, meaning they were finished thinking about it and had decided. Freed wished he was not blushing. He really, really wished he could stop his cheeks from feeling so hot, but the idea that Laxus still wanted that day to happen made him too happy.

"Freed's blushing!"

He rolled his eyes. Of course Bickslow always pointed that out.

"When, not if?" Evergreen's playful teasing had changed. Instead, she looked alarmed and sounded a bit worried. "You two haven't even been dating for a year. Shouldn't you slow it down?"

Laxus drank more coffee. "We're in no rush. Just sayin', I don't do subtle bullshit. When that time comes—if it comes—Freed's gonna know what I'm asking, because I'll probably just shove a ring in his face and demand him to elope with me."

"Aww, don't elope," Bickslow said, spreading way too much jam on his toast. "I wanna see who wears the wedding dress."

"Bickslow!" Freed snapped.

Laxus' reply edged toward being angry. "Ain't gonna be no dress, and he's not going to be my bride, or my wife, or a mother if we ever adopt. He's too manly for bullshit like that."

Freed was not so certain if he really meant that. After all, Laxus had dressed him up in women's clothing just two weeks ago. He tried to bury his face in his coffee cup as he wondered what Laxus really thought about him.

"Don't go thinking your brother is the woman in this relationship," Laxus scolded Bickslow. "Trust me, a woman can't fuck me the way he does."

Freed spewed his coffee out and all over his breakfast plate. "Laxus!"

Bickslow scratched his head. "Huh! I thought for sure it'd be the other way around."

Laxus merely shrugged as he cut off a piece of egg. "Sometimes. He does have a great ass."

"Can you not talk about this?" Freed cried out.

He skidded his chair back and stormed away from the kitchen. They all listened as his heavy footsteps stomped all the way to the bathroom, where he slammed the door. Laxus shoved a forkful of food into his mouth and eyed Freed's empty seat. The poor man had looked shaken, almost traumatized. There was a lot more going on here than just being ashamed to talk about sex in front of his siblings.

"Ooh, we pushed him too hard," Bickslow whispered.

"This is all your fault," Evergreen said in as soft of a voice as she could make. "You know how he is around me."

"What's up?" Laxus asked.

Evergreen and Bickslow looked at each other, then over to him, then to one another again.

"Can I tell him?" Bickslow whispered.

Evergreen tried to flippantly wave the matter aside, but her words were stiff. "It's nothing I'm ashamed about. It was a stupid and gross rumor, and no one even believed it."

Still, Bickslow looked back to where Freed had left to the bathroom. "I was young, so I don't know all the details about it. When Freed came out, people were … less than accepting."

"Only a few, our parents' older, more religious friends," Evergreen clarified.

"One lady from our church was outright nasty. She began to come up with these theories about why Freed ended up that way."

"Reasons why he's gay?" Laxus shook his head, barely able to comprehend such a level of ignorance. "That's stupid. You're born that way."

"I know. Most of us knew that. But that lady thought something traumatic happened to him. There were a few whispers from these sorts of people that maybe our father sexually abused him."

"Which is bullshit," Evergreen added, stabbing at her eggs.

"Yeah, but this lady had another reason, and apparently she asked Freed directly. She thought it wasn't abuse, but incest."

"What?" Laxus sneered, and his eyes went straight to Evergreen.

"She thought…" Bickslow glanced over worriedly to Evergreen. "…that Freed and Ever played around with each other as kids, and our parents beat him for it, and it must have repulsed him from all women."

"It was stupid," Evergreen muttered. "She was a horrible old woman, and I hope that when she died, she knew it was coming." Still, she stabbed at her food without eating. "Freed and I, we were close as kids. I practically felt like I had a big sister … until he hit puberty, of course. But when we were little … I mean, yeah, maybe we kissed. I don't remember, but it could've happened. Siblings sometimes do that without any meaning behind it. And when we were really little, I recall one incident where all three of us stripped nude and went running through a dinner party."

"Damn, I wish I remembered that one," Bickslow chuckled.

"But we never did anything like that. The fact that she accused Freed of raping me, and to his face … it was sick and awful of her. Yet, from that moment on, Freed was very cautious around me. When I'd grab his hand to pull him along to somewhere, he'd shake my fingers off. For a year, he refused to even be in the swimming pool with me."

Freed stepped into the kitchen. "Because she wasn't the only one to think it. She was just the only one who said it to my face."

His eyes met Laxus', and in that moment Laxus realized that this was the reason Freed was vehemently opposed to doing anything sexual with his sister around. In a way, he was still protecting her, and maybe he was still haunted by the rumors of long ago. Freed walked in and took his seat, but he still did not touch his food.

"The old church lady may have started the rumor, but after she said it, it was in the back of everyone's minds. For about a year, if I got even within a foot of you, I heard them whispering about it. I figured my reputation was trashed the day I came out, but I wasn't about to let those people drag you down with me. You're my sister, and I was going to protect you at all cost, even if that meant keeping you at a distance.

"It became a habit over time, especially as you grew to become the beautiful, young woman you are now. They never said it around you, of course, but more than once, someone came up to me saying things like, 'Your sister is so lovely, I don't blame you if you buggered her when you were kids.' That damn, stupid, disgusting rumor never fully died, even when the old woman did. Every time any jackass said that, it drove into me the need to keep my distance, because you are the darling of the family, Ever; you are the life of every party, and I was not going to let anyone take that from you."

Evergreen's eyes teared up and her lips trembled. "Freed," she whispered.

"Fuckin' old bitch," Laxus grumbled. He did not even know who this woman was, but he had half a mind to seek out her grave and desecrate it.

Bickslow was obviously of like mind. "I've pissed on her grave twice."

"Show me where," said Laxus. "I'll make it a full bladder, maybe take a shit on her tombstone while I'm at it."

"You boys!" Evergreen scolded. However, she looked at Freed with worry. "Are you okay?"

He wanted to assure her that he was fine, but the truth was that being in this cabin with just her and Bickslow had made him think about those sick accusations from the past. People knew their family went camping in Colorado every year, and they probably would hear that Llewellyn and Liberty did not go this time. Bickslow being out of rehab was not common knowledge yet. A business partner of his father had winked as he said to Freed at work on Friday, "Going up to the old cabin with your sister, eh? You two behave." Freed had no idea if this partner knew about the old rumor, but a sick chill in his gut had struck so fiercely, he probably would have canceled the trip if Laxus had not seemed to be so eager to go.

It was just a gross rumor from some homophobic woman who had been dead for years, and yet it would probably always haunt him because it involved the one family member Freed was determined to protect. He sighed, finally took a bite of cold eggs, and sipped some coffee. He felt Laxus' hand on his, and although it was a comfort, his mind was still lost in some dark moment of his past.

"People can be really cruel to a gay kid. It's not just the ones who call you names, who say 'that's so gay' like it's something disgusting, who tell you week after week after week that you're going to hell, or even the ones who fling around gross accusations at your family, as if they are to blame for having a gay child. It's the ones who believe things worse than any rumor but say nothing aloud. It's the ones who believe it's none of their business, 'hate the sin, not the sinner,' and yet you can see in their eyes that they are utterly repulsed to be near you, afraid they'll catch your gayness like some disease. It's the ones who politely hide their laughs as you're called a faggot, who nod in agreement to the sick rumors whether or not they really think they're true, who keep quiet because they don't want to start anything, when all they need to do is say, 'Hey, that's sick, stop hating him for being who he is.' It's not just the homophobic people who are cruel; it's the ones who stand there and watch the world tear apart your soul without saying a single word."

Laxus squeezed his hand. "That's why you turn to us. You turn to the family who knows better, the friends who won't take bullshit like that, the parts of the community who reject intolerance. The rest of them can go shrivel up and die, and we'll piss on their graves."

"Yeah," Bickslow said with a grin. "Don't try to protect all of us on your own, Freed. We fight together."

"That's right," Evergreen said, throwing her hair back. "I don't need my brother to protect me, and if you think I need to be shielded just because I'm a girl, I know where to tickle you to make you scream like a baby."

Laxus smiled proudly at the closeness of these three. "There are plenty of assholes out there, but when they push you, we'll catch you. We've got your back. We're your safety net. You're strong as hell, you're a born fighter, but your safety net is so strong, if you fall, it'll be like you landed on a fucking pillow."

Freed blushed a little. "Thanks, guys, but I don't need you to protect me—"

"Yeah, you do," Laxus cut in. "Just like I need you to protect me, and Bickslow needs us to protect him, and Evergreen has been relying on her brothers even though she's a strong, independent woman."

"See, I like your boyfriend," Evergreen said. Any man who recognized her independence was a decent man to her.

"You need us," Laxus said again. "And you need to stop allowing this fucking bitch from the past to get in the way of you and your family. She's burning in hell, or wherever it is assholes go after they croak. Anyone who believed her is a fucking asshole as well. There's all fucking assholes."

"Fucking assholes!" Bickslow cheered.

Laxus pointed at him. "You sound like an idiot when you cuss. Don't." He turned back to Freed, leaving Bickslow to pout. "You are always trying to handle everything on your own, and I know better than anyone that you are strong as hell, but this—letting something like this get in the way of your family—fuck it!" he sneered. "You turn to us, or turn to someone. Don't go handling it on your own and letting it tear you apart from your family. These two," he said, pointing sharply at Evergreen and Bickslow, "are the best friends you'll ever have. They've got your back. I don't even know you guys that well, but I can see that much. You protect them when they need it, so let them protect you from time to time."

Freed smiled faintly. "Thanks. I still don't want to talk about my sex life around family. It's embarrassing."

"I'm cool with it," Bickslow assured him. "At the garden party, we went up to my gaming room, and me, Elfman, Natsu, Gray, and Laxus all started talking about sex. I know all about Freed's and Evergreen's bedroom quirks."

Evergreen's face went bright red. "What?" she screamed. "Elfman … he … what the hell did he tell you?"

Freed furrowed his brow as he glared at Laxus. "My bedroom quirks?" Laxus couldn't have mentioned the BDSM, right?

"Yeah, sorry," Laxus said, giving him an apologetic shrug. "I let slip about how you like to watch anime after sex."

"What?" he said in confusion. Wait, that was it? Something stupid like that?

"Oh my God, you never grew up out of that anime phase?" Evergreen chuckled and shook her head at him. "So seriously, Bickslow, what did Elfman say about me?"

While she pried Bickslow for the truth, Laxus leaned over to Freed and whispered into his ear. "I'd never tell them about how good you look wearing my collar and a golden cock cage as I parade you around a fetish club as my Green Angel, or how much you love it when I suck you off at work or fuck you in your Corvette or make you come in public. I wouldn't even tell them about how much you love it when I call you Mister Justine." He practically purred the name.

"Laxus!" he hissed. Shit! With just that, Laxus had roused him.

His hand slipped down under the table and stroked over Freed's crotch, feeling the stiffness there. "Good. Payback for James Joyce," he whispered.

"What are you saying to him?" Evergreen demanded as she saw Freed's face turn red.

Laxus pulled back and acted like nothing had happened. "Freudian slip. We were thinking about camping out in the woods later, and I accidentally said I wanted to pitch a tent." Laxus shrugged and ate the last of his toast. "Not my fault his mind went to a dirty place."

Evergreen turned red, and Bickslow burst out in laughter. Freed glared over at him, but in that moment he almost wanted to forget his sense of propriety and drag Laxus to the bedroom so he could deal with what he had purposely roused up.

After breakfast, they planned what to do for the day. Evergreen wanted to go hiking and berry picking. Freed wanted to sit by the river that ran nearby and do some reading and photography. Bickslow was supposed to leave soon to pick up Lisanna, but he had vanished.

Evergreen shook her head. "I swear to God, if he's off getting high—"

"Hey, guys!" they heard him shout from upstairs. "Guys, you gotta see this."

Evergreen, Freed, and Laxus climbed up the stairs to the second floor. There were more bedrooms, a game room with a pool table, storage rooms, and a bathroom. However, Bickslow was looking down from a hole in the ceiling.

"The attic?" Freed wondered. "Man, I haven't been up there in ages. Remember, we used to hide away up there while Mother and Father entertained guests."

Bickslow waved for them. "Yeah, come look."

They climbed a precarious ladder into the attic. It was much smaller than Freed remembered from when he was a child, playing around up there like it was another world. Now, it smelled of dust and old things. A single light bulb lit the steeple roof and bare floors. Laxus had to duck slightly to fit in.

"Look!" Bickslow pointed to a little area hidden away by boxes marked as Christmas decorations. Two old chairs had been set up with a blanket strewn over it.

"Our blanket fort," Freed said in astonishment. "My God, we haven't used that since … forever."

"Ten years," Evergreen whispered. "That's when you decided you were too old for blanket forts, so we stopped coming up here. Someone must have just left it like that." She knelt and looked inside. "Everything's in here. Oh wow. Bickslow, look." She pulled out a yellowing piece of paper with a crayon drawing of the three of them.

"No way," he exclaimed, taking the paper delicately. "How did that end up there? I drew it when I was, like, six."

"Someone placed a lot of our old things here. Maybe Mother liked to come up here and think about us as kids."

Laxus realized precisely what this was. "A shrine to her pride and joy." He looked over at the crayon drawing. "Why did you write Thunder God Tribe over the top?"

The three of them all chuckled, and Evergreen muttered that she had forgotten all about that.

"We would come up here mostly during the summer," Freed explained. "There was a group, a YMCA or Boy Scout camp of some sort, that would meet nearby. We would sit in on lessons about the indigenous tribes and their culture. We learned about Thunderbird and other Native American deities, which caught my interest. Here." He pulled out another drawing, stylistically much more mature than Bickslow's elementary school crayon scribble. It was of a huge bird with yellow colored pencil lightning bolts shooting out from it. "It's … um … Thunderbird," he explained, bashful to see the way he drew back then.

"I see," Laxus mumbled.

"I really loved the idea of this powerful creature. I had learned about Zeus and Jupiter in school, but Thunderbird was awesome, and he wasn't in Rome or Greece, but right here, on these lands. So I decided to call ourselves the Thunder God Tribe. Wow," he sighed with a nostalgic laugh. "I completely forgot about it."

"Thunder god, huh?" Laxus looked down at him thoughtfully. Maybe Freed forgot about this clubhouse of his childhood, but perhaps subconsciously his love for the Thunderbird led to his attraction to a man with the stage name of Thor. Maybe it all started up here in this dimly lit attic. Life really was odd like that. "Y'know," he said with a teasing smirk, "that's cultural appropriation."

"Oh please, I was probably twelve. I appropriated a lot more from Roman history than anything else."

The three siblings searched more in the tiny blanket fort, like children finding a long-lost treasure. Laxus drifted away. This was a good bonding moment for them, and he did not want to be in the way. The rest of the attic had a mix of spare parts and antiques: dishware for special occasions, extra blankets, winter gear, a bright red toboggan, boxes of books, vintage furniture, old portraits of the Justine ancestors. Some of the boxes were so dusty, they had probably sat there for decades. The furniture was covered in plastic, but Laxus wondered why they would keep chairs that look a hundred years old.

Then something caught his eye. "Well, look at that."

There was a Winchester rifle hanging on the wall. It was nothing fancy, and by the faded polish on the stock's wood and scratches along the action from loading in cartridges, it was not merely ornamental. This was a gun that had been used frequently and yet was kept in good shape.

Laxus carefully lifted it off the mount and immediately checked to see if it was loaded. The chamber was empty, but he saw a tin down below with old, yellowed boxes of ammunition. Definitely, this was a rifle that saw some hunting action but which had not been used in a long, long time.

"Been a while since I've held one of these," Laxus said, lifting the rifle and looking down the sights. "My gramps used to take me hunting as a kid."

Freed looked over, but his face instantly went pale. "Put that away."

"I'm curious if it still works—"

"Put it away!" he screamed.

Bickslow stood up and placed a hand on Freed's shoulder. "Easy. It's not loaded."

Laxus slowly put the rifle back on the wall, but he looked worriedly at Freed's triggered response. It seemed like all three of them were terrified in their own ways. Evergreen refused to look at the weapon, Bickslow's mouth was pinched tightly together, and Freed was shaking with outright terror.

"That gun," Freed said, feeling breathless, like he might faint into Bickslow's chest. "That's the gun my grandmother used to shoot my grandfather. She tried to make it look like a hunting accident. When the police figured out it was her, she shot herself."

Laxus vaguely remembered that Freed had mention something about how all four of his grandparents had met tragic ends. His mother's parents died in a drinking-and-driving car accident, but Freed never went into detail about the fate of his father's family, only that it made the news, the wife had killed the husband to get at his money … the money that came from the Justine Corporation, the money that was now Freed's inheritance.

"We should trash that thing," Evergreen grumbled, still unable to look at it.

Freed shook his head. "Father is the one who insistes on keeping it. His father really loved to go hunting, so maybe there are good memories wrapped up in it … despite the tragedy."

Evergreen turned away. "Let go get some fresh air. It's dusty up here."

The childhood magic was gone, struck dead by a nightmare from the past. The three of them went back down the stairs, but Laxus looked again at the rifle. It was not as dusty as the other things around it. Perhaps Llewellyn Justine still used it, or at least held it from time to time. He obviously cherished it.

What memories were tied into that rifle for him that made him want to hang it up on a mount and not buried in one of the dusty boxes? Why would he keep the weapon that had been used to kill his parents?

What a complex family!

Next Chapter: "S'mores and More"

A/N: The cheery and talented Sass-queen-justine made some fan art for this chapter. It's awesome, go check out the boys looking smexy in flannel:

I wrote that they play "Sevens and Kings." This was my family's favorite card game, pitting us siblings against each other in fierce competition, so I thought it'd be perfect for them. However, when I tried to look up about it to give readers a reference, I came to realize that the game … doesn't exist. Apparently, it was unique to my family. It was passed down word-of-mouth, each generation learning it from the previous, making up rules as we went, evolving it into the game I played as a child. Pretty awesome, if you think about it. So I wrote down all the rules as I remember them. If you want to learn a new card game, check it out:

Freed was reading "Selected Letters of James Joyce." The letters are to his sweetheart Nora. (I call her his wife, but he didn't actually marry her until decades later, after their kids were grown.) It's basically a turn-of-the-20th-century version of sexting. They were sensual, vulgar, filled with graphic details of all the things he wanted to do to her, what ways he wanted her to punish him, he encouraged her to write naughty things back to him, and then told her about masturbating to her letters. He had a huge fetish for being spanked, farted on, and making Nora poop her bloomers. James Joyce was quite a character.

I made another audio drama, for people who enjoy listening to these:

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