This is the most probably the last chapter I am posting before March, because I have annuals. This turned out to be long, and I worked hard on it so I hope you all like it. :)

Thank you, for the reviews and the support.


Eleven

You know what I hate?

Freaking trigonometry which will never help me in my world domination plans. (Well, yes it will, but that's not the point.)

You know what I hate more?

That here I am, finishing a mountainous pile of homework and projects while my best friend and my two geeky stepbrothers make plans for a party down in the garden like a happy gathering.

Yay.

Okay, fine. It's not like I don't value doing Trig. After all, it brings out so much in me. Like the ability to appreciate walls.

I was counting hours like the weekend, but an upcoming music festival which we have to host all on our own with drunken help from Gildarts didn't seem to instigate Jadeites and its teachers to go easy on us. They were all like, "Hey, about those two huge tests tomorrow? Drop in a ten page project too, will you?"

All cool.

There, I'm done ranting and venting and torturing you with my drama stick. Sowwy?

I was almost done with Trig and about to start with Biology when I heard an excited yelp from Levy. I cleared the mess off my glass table, and came out of my room, stretching. Maybe I could just pop in and see what was going on.

Once I came back from school today (Crab left me again and by now I have given up expecting a ride) I found the three of them brainstorming music. Mom and er…Dad left for the coast wedding thing (read: I don't have a clue where they've gone) this morning and I didn't miss Zane's oh-my-God-we're-SO-having-a-blast-now-that-you-guys-are-off tone as he waved bye to Allen and Mom.

Grabbing a can of Diet Coke, I stepped out the sliding glass doors and into the garden.

To see a gigantic van lined up beside our house.

"What the hell—?"

"Oh look, she finally decides to help!" Adam said sarcastically.

Do not even start.

"Don't you guys have any homework?" I raised an eyebrow.

"Duh, of course we do."

I tried not to kick Adam. "Yeah well, 'duh'ing isn't going to do your work for you, is it?" Duh.

Then I noticed Zane sitting on the grass with two books beside him and papers spread across his lap as he pursed his lips in concentration. Of course. That's what dedication is; help out and do your sums at the same time. Strictly for geniuses.

I looked up at the van again as two men came out, while Levy rushed to help. "I repeat," I said. "What the hell?"

There was light enough to see Adam's eyes glow. "That's the pool."

"…you're getting a pool?"

"Yeah! It'll be…what's that you say? Fab!"

"You're seriously getting a pool? What are people going to do with a freaking rubber pool Adam?!"

"For starters," Adam pointed to the rubber abomination being taken out of the van. "It's gigantic."

My jaw literally dropped (yep, Lucy Heartfilia's shocked) as the men stepped forward into the garden with two more holding the rubber abomination from behind. Levy hopped around uselessly.

"The inflatable, outdoor rubber swimming pool, largest size," One of the men called out. "Here?"

"Yep." Zane actually looked up from his books.

"Family time, eh?" Another dude called out and all three of us from the Day clan shuddered. Just imagining me and my Mom in a giant lawn pool with the smelly Day clan sharing mocktails for 'family time' freaked me out.

"Just, get the thing here," Adam said exasperatedly. I can relate. I have had my share of over-friendly delivery guy experiences.

"Who's signing?" They put the enormous bubble-wrapped—I LOVE BUBBLE WRAP, LONG LIVE BUBBLE WRAP—rubber pool on the grass, and one of them came forward with a clipboard. It looked folded in half, because there was something straining to hold it together.

I poked the pool with a stick as Adam ignored all comments of 'Are you sure you're old enough to sign?' and smugly scribbled down his signature. Then he brandished a wad of cash, handed it to the guy, and all but kicked him out.

"How much did that cost?" I raised my eyebrows. "And where did you—"

"Hello?" As the van drove away, a voice called out from the front gate. "Adam?"

I closed my eyes. Ah, jeez.

What? Do I need to spell out what happened? Fine. If you really want to know, Yukino happened.

Levy nudged me. "Who's that?"

Yukino, dressed in a tank top and a dark skirt, stepped in. Adam coughed and moved forward at once, face bright. Ew.

"Yui," He greeted, and I tried not to gag. "Hey."

"I thought I'd drop by." Yukino caught my eye over his shoulder.

I coughed louder. "It's getting dark. Perhaps we should all get in." And get them a room, I didn't say out loud.

Zane gathered up his stuff as we headed in. I flipped on the kitchen lights, threw my empty Coke can in the trash and headed to the couch, determined to eavesdrop.

What? This chick's playing both my stepbrother and one of my closest friends, and on top of that, she has the nerve to run after Natsu.

Levy sat down beside me, smirking as she realized who Yukino was. "She is pretty though," she commented as she handed me a Pringles can.

"Shut up," I said. Levy laughed and tossed chips into her mouth.

They were muttering and whispering, and I couldn't catch much of it. I'm sure we were almost getting to a juicy part when the phone rang.

"Who's getting it?" Adam called.

"Ask Zane," I called back.

"Zane!" We yelled up the stairs. "Phone!"

"It's probably Lucy's!" Zane hollered down.

"Lucy, go get it," Adam said.

"Levy, it's probably your mom," I said.

"It's obviously Yukino's house calling to check up on her!" she protested, already comfortable on the couch.

"I live next door, dink," Yukino said.

Meanwhile, the phone continued to freaking ring.

"Fine!" I groaned dramatically. "I'll get it you lazy asses."

I went to the counter where Yukino and Adam were, and took the receiver off its hold by the cabinet. "Hello?"

"Hello. Is Lucy at home?"

The voice sounded familiar… "It is Lucy." Obviously, I was again mistaken for Layla.

"Oh…Luce?" No one else save my mom would ever call me Luce.

"Yeah it's me, Natsu."

I could almost feel Yukino freeze behind me and start bristling with excitement like a panther about to attack. I so, I repeat like a broken record, need my own phone.

"Hey." His voice sounded weak, even though I'd never talked to him over phone before. He sounded…sick. "Um, I got your number from Cana."

"Cut to the chase, Dragneel."

"Right. So, do you think you could send me all your notes for the two days I wasn't there? I'll give you my email id."

Hahahahaha, HOLD UP. In all my school years, no one has ever wanted notes except for the total nerds, or unless there are exams the next day. What kind of blasphemy is this?

"Uh….okaaaay?" I answered. "Sure."

"Great. Thanks." Then he paused. "What's up?"

I checked the clock. "Don't you have any work to do or are you like, really sick or something?"

I heard a muffled laugh. "God, Lucy. How annoying can you get?"

"Oh a lot, mister. Now if you want me to give you a demo of exactly how—"

"I just wanted to talk to…someone." Natsu's words cut mine short. "If you don't want to talk, that's okay."

Wow. Arrogant, egoistic, proud Natsu sounded almost dejected. Not that he would be. Dejected if I of all people didn't want to talk to him I mean.

"Hey, Lucy," Yukino tapped my shoulder from behind and I wanted to yell into her ear how I don't do physical mutuality. "Is that Natsu?"

"Well, last time I checked," I said. "Why?"

"Oh, nothing…" she shrugged. "Could I talk to him?" I glanced at Adam, who was staring sadly at Yukino.

"So, would you just give me the phone for a sec?"

Levy and Adam both stared at me. "Um, you know what," I said slowly. "No, not exactly?"

"Say what?"

"You can't talk to him," I told her, trying to figure out what I was getting at myself. "Because I'm going over at his place and I don't think he'll have time."

I glanced again at the clock, slammed down the receiver, grabbed my wallet, and rushed out the front door.


Once I was actually on the street, it took me a few seconds to realize I probably didn't remember where Natsu lived because Cana only took me there once on an insane bike ride. Also, I didn't know how to drive one—pity, that.

Luckily, I got a cab. Then I vaguely told the cabbie the way to Dragneel residence as much as I could and hoped for the best. Heh.

Half way there, the cabbie looked at me and rolled his eyes. "Do you need to call someone and get directions?"

"Um…"

He sighed and took out his mobile phone, tossing it to me. Brilliant. That officially makes me the only without my own phone in this town.

I dialed Cana—yes; unlike some people I actually remember numbers—and swatted away her incessant questions to get the right directions.

Fifteen minutes later, the cab crawled along the vast grounds of Natsu's house. There was the pool with its lights on, and there was the house about twenty feet away. It took us five minutes to just get from the front gate to the actual house.

Once the cab left, I was just contemplating on how to go through all the awkwardness if Natsu's parents answered the door, when the door opened and a dude in a white suit stepped out.

Holy dolphins. They have a butler?

He was taking out a gigantic frame wrapped in a white sheet and was surprised to see a ridiculously dressed blonde standing outside. "Who are you?" he asked politely.

"Um…friend from school. Lucy."

"Oh. Is Master Dragneel having another party?"

"Uh no," Now I was surprised. "No, I just came to see him. Can I go in?"

He raised his eyebrows, and then kept the frame aside, gesturing me in. "Please. Excuse me for my intrusiveness."

I thought of saying 'no problem, dude!' and then high five him to settle everything, but then decided against it.

Everything was….weird inside. The house wasn't exactly as too-stinking-rich as I expected, but was kind of nice and comfortable if not too large. But something was totally off; it seemed like most of the furniture had just arrived because they were still in wraps or covered, and as I followed their butler up the stairs, I noticed there were no paintings anywhere.

"What was that you were taking outside?" I asked suddenly.

"A picture."

We reached the first landing. "A painting?"

"Yes."

"Uh…why? Did it get old?" Smart question Lucy. Because that's exactly why people throw away humongous paintings!

"That's Master Dragneel's room." The white dude ignored my question and pointed to one of the three rooms on the floor.

He disappeared down the stairs. Didn't even check me for guns. What if I wanted to kill his precious Master Dragneel, eh? What a careless butler.

As I started to knock on the door, I suddenly felt nervous. I didn't know why—maybe because I didn't give personal visits to hot guys who weren't exactly a friend like Gray was every other day. But then, I shook it off. I was Lucy Heartfilia. I didn't do nervous.

I rapped on the door twice. "Natsu?"

The door opened almost immediately and Natsu stood in front of me and for some inexplicable reason, my heart did a double flip. Damn it, I was nervous. I wonder why.

He was in a grey sweatshirt and black track pants, and his eyes were in wide mode. "Luce?"

"Is that how you're going to greet me every time I turn up?" I grumbled, pushing his aside and coming inside. "You're always like, 'Lucy?'" I made a pretty cool imitation of his voice.

He didn't laugh.

His room was the only normal room I'd seen so far, and even then it seemed odd. It was perfectly neat, for one, and my experience with my stepbrothers' rooms had led me to believe that all boys' rooms looked the same; messy and gag worthy.

Natsu's room had every book lined up perfectly, the bed sheets straight, pillows in place, clothes in place, even his desk was clear. He had only two pictures up in front of his desk, and the whole room seemed pretty small for a house as big as this.

So neat. Cue shudder.

Though there were boxes lined up against a wall in front of a closet, which was empty. Seriously, did he have imported clothes coming in for him every week or something?

"What are you doing here?"

"Did you not hear my conversation with Yukino?"

He shrugged. He looked weird…kind of apprehensive. "Not much. Then you hung up on me."

"Because," I said in my most duh tone. "I was coming here."

"Why?" He said incredulously.

"Um…" Good question. "I thought you were sick, and you sounded sad, so…yeah."

I sat down on the bed gingerly. He had left the door open, but now he shut it behind him and sat down beside me. "I'm just…well yeah, I was a bit sick."

"Good. Your parents seem to be out, so I'm here to help."

He looked at me, his onyx eyes searching me. "What's wrong?" I asked suddenly. His lips were turned down at the corners and for a horrible second I thought he was about to cry. "Are you okay? Natsu?"

He looked away. "Yes, of course I am."

In another vain attempt to get him to do something Natsu-ish, like crack stupid jokes or be perverted or give me witty comebacks or have another one of our verbal matches, I said, "What happened to your ego today? Why are you so rainy today?"

"Rainy?"

"It's an expression we used in my old school. There was this dude whose last name was Rain, right," I continued to rant. "And he was always depressed. Like he was almost always gloomy and we used to tease him about it, and then one day Lev—"

I stopped when Natsu let out a small laugh. I let out a deep breath and smiled. "Okay. Now what do you need? Hot water bottles? Chocolate mints?"

Well I'm not supposed to know how to take care of sick people!

"No, that's alright." Natsu looked at his hands. "I just wanted to hear your voice."

…what?

"Right, now you're freaking me out."

"Right," he repeated, smiling a bit. "I forgot you hate me."

"I don't hate you," I blurted out, and then I frowned. "I don't hate you, Natsu," I said again, softly. "I just find you incredibly annoying but then, what are my stepbrothers there for."

This time he really laughed. My stomach jolted and I was almost relieved as he turned to say something to me, and then, as I watched with horror, tears welled up in the corner of his eyes and spilt over. He stopped smiling and covered his eyes with one hand, standing up and moving away immediately.

I sat frozen on the bed, staring at him with my eyes wide. Natsu Dragneel was crying.

Uh…was it something I said?

I was about to get up and say something, anything to him, when he moved his hand away and turned to me. "I'm so sorry, Lucy." His voice was tight and his words came out in choked whispers.

I don't know why I did it. I didn't even think. I rushed forward and caught him around his chest, pulling Natsu close to me. And let me tell you, I never do that. Willing hug someone not my family or Levy I mean.

And I might as well admit, I'm not used to boys crying on my shoulder either. Usually I find it kind uncomfortable for anyone to wet my clothes with their DNA, but for some reason all I wanted was to comfort Natsu at that moment. I realized how much I took his unbending attitude for granted; it was not like I ever expected him to show me his weak side.

He brought his arms around me and I felt his face buried in my neck as he cried silently. He was taller than me, so I struggled to keep my arms around his neck and we sank to the floor, me holding him. "Shh," I muttered half-heartedly. "Natsu…"

I'm not sure how long we sat there in the middle of his room, but all I could focus on was why he was behaving in this manner (and also, I've never had guys this close to me before).

When we finally broke apart, Natsu looked bedraggled and tired. I exhaled and said, "Natsu. You need to tell me what happened."

"I'm leaving," he said shortly, and then resting his head in his hands, propped up his elbows on his knees.

"What? Why? I mean, you're sick, why are you trying to go—"

"I mean," he said again, this time gentler. "I'm leaving Magnolia. For good. My dad flew in two days ago to tell me."

I felt like my stomach dropped out from within. "Why?" I whispered.

"My parents," he sucked in a deep breath. "They don't…live here all the time. They both have different businesses and it's mostly my dad who comes and stays with me for a while." I kept my face expressionless as he looked up at me. "And…well things hadn't been going well between them for a while and my mom she…she wants to leave him."

"Leave?" I echoed, and then I realized as Natsu nodded. Oh. His parents were breaking up.

"But don't you—?"

"Dad tells me we have to leave Magnolia because this house isn't ours anymore. Mom's not going to come back to this town anymore anyway, they're both getting new company ownerships outside Fiore and well…" He pointed to the boxes and I felt like an idiot for not realizing sooner why the house was in its bubble wrapped state. It was being evacuated, not renovated or anything. "He's flying in again tomorrow. I'm leaving tomorrow."

I was suddenly pierced by how lonely Natsu must've been. All he had was that white dude butler, a mom who was always away and didn't exactly bother about her son, and a dad who came in probably once a month or less. Here I was, complaining about Adam and Zane when they were some of the most valuable people in my life.

"But Natsu, I—"

He rubbed his eyes and gave me a smile now. "Well, now you know why I'm all mushy, right?" He stood up, pushing his hands in his pockets. "Sorry for running that top of yours." He grinned and as I looked at him with who knows what emotions running bare on my face, his smile faltered.

I got up too, slowly. I barely knew Natsu. Maybe knew him for a couple of months. And yet, now that he was telling me he was leaving…

"So, is this the last time I get to see you?" I asked hoarsely, trying to straighten my hair for something to do instead of biting my lips off.

He cast his head down. "I'm not coming to Jadeites anymore."

"So that's a yes."

"Unless I can convince my dad to let me stay here alone forever, no," he said bitterly. "I wish I could, because Mom won't take this house anyway. I hardly ever knew her. But legally now, I belong to my dad and now that he's moving away from Fiore, it's impossible."

"You're telling me," I said, and now I felt like kicking those boxes and screaming at him even though it wasn't his fault. "You're not even going to be in the same continent as me anymore?"

He stared at me. "It's not something I can control, Lucy!" He exploded. "I've tried convincing my dad for the last two days, but I'm still just barely seventeen! Do you think I want to leave you—Magnolia?"

He cursed. I was all out of sarcasm and jokes.

"I'm sorry," I mumbled. "You're right."

Natsu shook his head and crossed his arms. "I'll…be at the airport around noon tomorrow. If you…" He cleared his throat. "If you want to come see me off…perhaps…"

Noon, huh? A whole twelve hours tomorrow for me to try and—

"You don't have to if you don't want to," Natsu added hurriedly.

"No," I said. "I'll be there." Even though I couldn't say another goodbye forever. I stopped at goodbyes after Jude.

Not sure of what to do, I asked him if I could help him pack, but he shook his head. Probably better, because I can't go through helping him pack up to leave Magnolia.

Should I even feel this way because one friend is leaving this town? I mean, I never felt this way even when I left Levy months ago.

Natsu bent down to sort out his CDs, and I caught about ten of my favourite bands and artists. I guess we'll never get to discuss stuff like music we both love or what we read.

The only thing we ever did was bicker, I thought bitterly.

Thinking of just leaving silently, I moved towards the door, hesitating as I tried to put on a calm face. In the next second, Natsu was right behind me.

"Wait," he said in a low tone. "You'd uh...your clothes are ruined because of me. Um…do you want to borrow a T shirt, maybe?"

I turned to face him. "Natsu, it's just saltwater. I don't need a—"

And then he reached down and kissed me on the lips. They were warm and soft, and as my eyes flew open in shock, he pulled away.

My first kiss. I'd never expected it to be this way.

Natsu was way too close for comfort, his hot breath fanning my face. "I love you, Luce," he breathed out heavily. "I'm sorry, but I do."

I felt like a caged animal, unsure of what to do or how to respond. I couldn't understand what I was feeling myself or whether I really wanted his lips touch mine again.

So I looked at him silently, torn between what to say. I should have said something, because his eyes darkened in despair as he looked at my face. "That's," he averted his gaze. "What I expected."

He moved away to give me space, and I remained where I was, frozen against the door. "Natsu, I don't know what to say—"

"You don't have to say anything." He looked back at me. "Sorry for doing that."

I bit my lip and looked down, turning the lock behind me as I did. "I should probably go."

Then I rushed out of his room into the empty hallway and ran down the steps. His butler met me halfway and probably noticed my flushed face, but I ignored him and raced out of the front door.

Cool air hit me and cleared my mind, and I began to walk away towards the gates, fighting away tears.


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See you guys :)