Hey guys! I'm extremely sorry for updating so very late! I had had exams on going and then I had gone on a trip, and I've been extremely busy with other things as well. Anyway, now it's the summer holidays and I finally finished up this chapter! It's real long, so I hope it makes up for this late update.

I really hope you guys like it :)

Thanks for the reviews and also the people who have been following this story :)


Twelve

"Who is this Natsu, anyway?"

I sobbed and shot her a frustrated look. "Levy, I've told you about him a million times already."

"You just mentioned how he's a 'gentlemanly egoistic pain in the ass'," My friend quoted and I tried not to kill her a day after she came to visit me. "I haven't seen so much as a picture of him, Lu."

Couldn't Levy see how what I basically needed right now was a box of cookies and a plane ticket to Clover?

I mean, seriously. I came back home to the warm greetings of Yukino. For those of you who don't know, coming home to Yukino Aguria isn't exactly what you need to brighten your day.

Our little happy meeting with Adam out of the room went something like;

"What's with the red eyes, dink? Natsu didn't have much time for you either, did he?"

And I went all: "Now is not the right time, Aguria."

Due defiant-hands-on-hip position as Yukino says: "I don't even get you. You behave like you hate Natsu and then you try and jump him when all I wanted to do is talk to him."

"Yukino. Now is NOT the time for this, don't you get it you—" Insert some creative words and colorful profanities which I do admit I am ashamed of having used.

(But she asked for it. It's not like I'm touchy. Ever. Duh. Don't give me that look, you know I'm not touchy!

Oh back off already.)

So at any rate, this chummy gathering aside, when I make my way up with Levy and give her the one minute version of the tragedy that has struck the homes of the good people of Magnolia, Levy's only response is, 'Who's Natsu?'

This close from sharpening that meat knife down in the kitchen.

"That's because," I paused to sniffle—ugh, I hate crying; all this watery stuff coming out from my eyes—"You never asked for a picture, did you? And anyway, it's not like I waste enough time thinking about him out of all people that the thought of showing you a picture will ever come to my mind. And—"

Levy's eyes turned varying shades of amusement and sadness as she reached out and grabbed my shoulders to stop me from rambling. "Who are you trying to convince, Lu?"

I ran my hands over my face and kept them there. "I don't even have a picture of him to show you!" I wailed after a moment.

Levy sighed. I knew I was being impossible, but sometimes, being impossible seems like the only way we humans get satisfaction. It's so much easier to cry my eyeballs out and complain and whine rather than go back to the normal kick-ass Lucy I usually am, because honestly, I can't always stuff those feelings in. Irrationality is a talent we all broadcast in abundance at some point in our lives. I'll just let the hormones do their job.

Or not:

"Lucy," Levy said firmly, removing my hands from my face. "Why, for the love of God, are you crying?"

Okay, that's it. I'm getting that knife.

"Because Natsu's leaving and he kissed me before he did!" I blurted out really fast, then turned away quickly in mortification. I swear no trig sum in the whole universe could be more complicated than the emotions I'm feeling right now.

"He what?!"

We were standing in the corner of my room, by the balcony, but now Levy dragged me over to the bed and pushed me down, plopping down beside me.

I sucked in a deep breath, told my hormones to shut up, tried not to be an emotional jellybean, and said a little more calmly; "He kissed me."

I remembered the incident as I said the words. Right now, I could actually remember the way his eyes had held me for a second before he leaned in and gave me my first kiss. Then, all I could feel was this electric current running for a split second through me and then tiny Lucy's running through my brain screaming 'what the hell just happened' when he pulled away.

Only they didn't say 'hell'. But hey, my brain.

Levy surprised me by chuckling a bit. "Your first kiss. About time."

I glared at her and she suppressed her laughs. Then she said again, softly; "Look, Lucy. You didn't shed a tear when you left town and came here. And you used to talk my ear off about how much you're crushing on Rogue." She shrugged. "And you're bawling out here because some boy who you claim is the biggest pain in the butt is leaving?"

She left the words hanging in the air. She didn't need to spell out what I knew she was implying.

But I'm pretty sure I looked horrified. "I don't bawl!" I protested indignantly instead.

Levy rolled her eyes and then with a tone ringing with finality, she said; "Okay."

"Okay what?"

"Wash that face, Shrek, and let's go." She studied me,.

She looked at me meaningfully. "You know I love you honey, but now you gotta stop bawling because we have work to do."

I gawked at her. "Work to do? Where are we going?"

She got up and pulled me up, then pushed me towards the bathroom. She had the same let's-sneak-out-and-crash-Dan's-party look in her almond eyes. "Come on, Lu. Come back to the actual Lucy and think; what do you think we're going to do now?"

Oh. OH! Thickhead, my brain sniggered.

Shut up, I snapped in my head.

Mind the language.

Excuse me? You're my brain!

Well look here dink—

"Lucy?" Levy snapped her fingers in front of me impatiently.

"Something stupid and pointless that could end with us in a Dumpster?" I guessed.

Levy grinned.

I might as well add, that we'd probably have made it out sooner if I hadn't wasted a half an hour in the shower. But the cold shower was exactly what I needed and well pardon me, but a girl needs her cold shower, crisis situation or not. Just because I'm all ready to go save the world does not necessarily mean I cannot have a nice, long bath before I do. Even Batman showered, right?

That aside, I do regret the fact that when we tried to sneak at half past eleven, Adam came into my room with a worried look. I heard him say, "Lucy, are you okay?" as he knocked on my door once, and then proceeded to come in, and Levy and I froze mid-balcony. "Yui just left and she said you were crying and—"

He came in and stared at me and Levy with our legs slung over the balcony railings as we offered him tortured smiles. We were just about to skivvy down and bam! Busted.

"Uh," he started. "What, are you two doing?" Adam's light brown eyes turned varying shades of disbelief.

"Now, hot brother of Lucy," Levy started. "Let's all sort this out calmly and like mature adults."

Well, I'm pretty sure we didn't look very much like mature adults straddling the balcony railing.

Adam looked shocked beyond the time I came home riding his bike. Maybe he was finally realizing exactly what kind of lunatic he was living with and there was a brief satisfactory moment when I thought he might consider running for the woods. Hey, what are stepsisters for, right?

"Lucy," he turned to me. "Are you trying to get yourself killed? Because believe me, Mom would be happy to help if she knew about…this!" He gestured vaguely at us.

I sighed and got off, hopping onto the floor and walked across to him, clapping a hand on his shoulder. "Stepbrother dear," I said. "If I had to explain all this right now, you'd have to stay here all night. We just have to do a little…er something, and I swear we'll come back in one piece." I poked his head back for good measure and he scowled. "But your concern, though undeniably expressed pretty rudely, is cute."

"Cute?"

"Yep."

"Lucy, I—"

"So we don't have much time right now. Now that I've sworn solemnly, and called you cute, everything settled then."

He groaned in exasperation as Levy laughed her arse off behind me. "Fine!" he snapped. "At least use the door."

I nodded. "Thank you."

And then, with Levy trying to suppress her laughter, we patted Adam on the back and made our way down the stairs towards the front door.

Like normal people.

Wow. It's such a different feeling. These humans can do it in style.


"What's the plan?"

"Besides shredding Natsu's passport, confronting his dad," Levy shouted back at me over the roar of the bike.

Yes, you read that right.

Bike.

Don't bother asking; we nicked Adam's again. Then again, he's sort of my brother, and siblings help each other right? It wasn't even my idea to begin with, really. Adam was either very pissed, or very eager to get to sleep, and whatever the reason, he'd mooched off to his room and not seen us off.

So, naturally, Levy took one look at the bike in the shed and suddenly a blue haired Cana was grinning at me. "That's a bike."

Cue the wariness and sigh-I-know-what's-going-to-happen. "Uh huh."

"I know how to ride a bike."

"Uh huh."

"Hop on, Lu."

And there we were, me rushing directions to Levy as she rode not so gently. It was like riding a velociraptor around town (yes I've ridden one, why haven't you?), but I'm glad to inform you that we arrived at the Dragneel residence with all limbs intact—though I can't say the same about my stomach. I left it at home.

Honestly? I was clueless.

I didn't have the faintest idea of how to get Natsu to agree. Or how to come up with a proper story that could stop something as big as people moving away to another continent in a few hours' time. Or even how to explain this to his dad, whom, by the way, I had never met.

But like always, I acted on impulse and let the chips fall where they may.

When we made our way through the gigantic driveway, Levy gasped. "Oh, my God."

"Yeah," I agreed. "Huge, isn't it? Probably as big as Yukino's ego."

Levy nodded, and then stopped abruptly. She pushed the bike without much feeling for the hunk of metal to one side of the house wall. She smirked at me. The blue glow off the pool shone in her dark eyes. "Are you sure?"

I nodded, but for all the wrong reasons. "Nah you're right. Nothing can possibly be that big."

Alright, alright, I'll get on with it.

Once we were doing being stupid (it's a usual routine, strictly essential), we walked the rest of the way to the front door. Normally, when we used to sneak out to call my friends or crash a party or nick Lena Hart's diary, we preferred finding any way to break in that didn't involve the front door.

Sadly, whether or not the Day clan had a rich house, the hellhole in which Natsu lived didn't have so much as a creeper growing on it. The only way in I could see was the white-dude-butlered front door.

"Something's wrong with this place," Levy mused as we made our way up the steps. "It's like an abandoned place; I mean it's so big, but so deserted."

I looked straight ahead. "Yeah well. You're not wrong about the abandoned part."

She squinted at me. "What do you mean?"

We were interrupted by a soft, irritated voice; "May I help you?"

Levy and I halted and spun around on our heels to face the butler in the white suit. Honestly, by now, I was getting pretty annoyed with him even though I'd only met him about once for a span of ten minutes.

His expression kind of told me that he was getting pretty annoyed with me too. (Yes, you're right, it did shock me. I mean, I'm delightful.)

"Well?" He snapped. He looked irritated; his grey eyebrows were pulled together as he scowled at us.

"We just er...wanted to go in. A bit." Levy shrugged her shoulders and nudged me.

The butler sighed. "It's almost midnight, ladies. I can't let you in; Master Dragneel's asleep. I suggest you come back in the morn—" He cut himself off abruptly and I rolled my eyes and stepped forward. If anyone failed to notice, at rare moments in my life, my quota of patience is ridiculously less.

"Yeah, here's the thing Alf," I said. "You and I both know the Dragneels aren't going to be here for long in the morning. And I can damn well yell Natsu awake right now. So either you let us go in without getting all snappish on me, or you let me give you a demo of how your precious Master Dragneel came home with a broken nose the other day." I crossed my arms. "What's it gonna be, Alf?"

He stared at me.

"You're very infuriating, miss," he said at last.

Levy caught my arm. "We've been told," she smiled. "Ta!"

She pulled us away and towards the doors, which took combined effort to open up might I add. But this time, no one tried to stop us. Once we were inside, Levy huffed a sigh and looked at me for directions; I pointed up the stairs.

As we made our way to the landing, she spoke up; "Nice acting."

"Thanks." Even I wasn't delusional enough to think I could possibly take on a trained butler. He was there for a reason, and probably had a whole minion army waiting in the shadows, holding deadly weapons and stuffing themselves with Cheetos.

"But," Levy looked at me. "Lucy, why did you call him Alf? I mean, do you know him?"

I gave her an it's-so-obvious-duh look. "He just looked like an Alf to me, okay?"

We actually laughed for a second, and I was just marveling at how silent this large house was, when we reached the landing and froze; Natsu was pacing down the corridor in front of his room, and at first he didn't see us. When he did, he too stopped in his tracks and stared at us.

Then: "Well, quit staring, dink," I said. "We've got a plan to hatch."

For a moment, Natsu just stared at us. Well, me. His eyes held mine, and though it left the back of my neck burning in embarrassment, I held his gaze and my ground. Was he remembering, ah, that thing you do with your lips that we did, too?

"What?" He breathed out at last, incredulously. He probably hadn't expected to see me again for the next ten years, let alone tonight.

"To get you to stay in Magnolia, of course," Levy explained. "Come on now, don't be stupid. What did you think we're here at midnight for, dink?"

"If you'd kindly stop calling me a—"

Levy flared her nostrils. "My God, Natsu Dragneel. You're pretty slow. We don't have much time—or much ideas, you know. Also, I'm Levy McGarden." She added, because that's how humans introduce themselves.

"Uh," I couldn't help but be amused as Natsu scrunched his eyes at my best friend. "Excuse me, but do I know you?"

"Oh come on." I dragged Levy forward, and though I briefly considered pushing Natsu into his room as well, I didn't. Ugh; feeling weird is so weird. It was like getting cooties from touching boys all over again, and I for one, preferred a certain degree of freedom into kicking some male-butt once in a while. (Cough, Natsu, cough).

"Alright." Levy stretched her arms, once we were inside the neat little place. "Let's get cracking."


"Oh no, no, no." Natsu snatched the small booklet away from Levy. "That's my passport, and you're not destroying my passport."

The bluenette scowled and set the scissors she'd nicked from his desk aside. So far, almost all the interaction had been between Dragneel and her; it was like he'd made it a point not to look or talk to me anymore. It kind of stung at first, because it seemed like Natsu thought it was safer card to play.

But then I ignored it. As long as we got him to stay—anything would be better than not seeing him ever again.

Dang it.

"Fine," Levy said coolly. "It's either your passport, or every pair of pants you own, because you're not making it to that airport tomorrow, honey."

Natsu glared at her. I suppressed a smirk. "Why are you—both," he amended quickly. "Trying so hard to get me to stay?"

Levy shut up at that and looked down. The three of us were squatting down on the floor, heads bent, trying to figure out some way. Any way.

"Do you want to leave, Natsu?" I asked softly. It was the first time I spoke to him directly ever since we really explained to him properly that what we were trying to do in a few wee hours of the night were to make sure this whole thing didn't go upside down.

Everyone was silent. Then: "No."

"Then that's settled," Levy said.

"You don't understand." Natsu pushed his passport away. He looked like a mess, terrible really, with his hair standing up in odd places and sleep-deprived eyes. "None of it matters unless my dad's convinced. How can you stop him?"

I sighed. "He has a point," I said to Levy. "We can't possibly go and tell his dad, 'Oh excuse me, but would you mind awfully if you just left your son alone here forever so that he can continue his school?', can we?"

"He's left alone here anyway," Levy said in a small voice, at which Natsu shot her a dirty look. But I knew that he knew what Levy said was right.

"My dad," Natsu said at last, struggling a bit with the words. "He loves me. He's not the greatest dad, perhaps, but he tries; he's the one who always squeezes in time to visit me."

I nodded for him to go on, but he wasn't looking at me. He was examining the wooden floorboards.

"Now that this…thing happened, he wants to leave because he thinks it's a fresh start for both of us." He paused. "Not just for his company, but for me too. He thinks I'll be happier there."

"But—he knows you're popular and have friends here, right?" I bit my lip, frowning. What the hell was going on? "Why would he think you'd be happier away from Magnolia?"

Natsu finally looked up at me. But it was a strange tragic look that he gave me, and it kind of backfired on me and made me want to kick his damn ass; he didn't have to act so hopeless.

"I'm just popular because of all those parties thrown here," he shrugged. "Do you ever see me hanging out with a friend?"

"Well, you…"

I trailed off in horror. Now that I think of it, the only time I saw Natsu with people was when he was with his football team, or when he was swarmed by girls hopelessly in love with his looks. People who only saw the surface.

"Well you can't throw random parties but not make any friends," Levy scoffed. "Don't be all damsel in distress."

"I don't throw them," Natsu blinked. "My butler does. Jay does."

Oh so his name's Jay. But he still kind of looks like an Alf to me. Just saying.

And also—what the unspeakable word? What kind of a dude lets his freaking butler throw parties for him? That's like, trig level messed up. Nah, scratch that. It's Natsu level messed up.

"What?" Levy laughed out the word.

Natsu shrugged. "My dad made him promise to make sure I was happy here in this house all by myself and shit, so the only solution Jay came up with was throwing parties. He kind of pressurizes me into inviting everyone, and it isn't that bad really." A glimmer of the old Natsu came back into his eyes, and for some reason it disgusted me.

"Yeah why wouldn't you like them," I muttered. "I mean, sluts all around and stuff."

Levy knee-kicked me. Alright, that was a bit too far.

"Anyway," Natsu ignored me. "My dad feels it's time for a change. He'd have had to move either way, but…" he left the sentence hanging. "Shredding my passport won't really help. And personally, I like my pants."

The room was dim and everyone was silent for a while. Then I suddenly straightened up.

"You know what?" I piped up. "You do have friends here, and you have a life. It's not like you're a lost puppy; if we can just convince your dad to let you stay here, it'll all work out fine."

"Parents don't let their kids stay in a different conti—"

"Well that's what it's been like, anyway, right?" I said, but not unkindly. "You don't have to worry so much about disappointing your dad; maybe if Levy and I talk to him too, he'll listen."

Levy shot me a you're-seriously-dragging-me-into-the-stupidest-idea-ever look and I sent a sweet smile back. I know. I'm golden through and through.

"Well." Natsu finally sighed and a bit of colour came back into his cheeks. He didn't even look that terrible anymore. "I'm glad we had this talk. Now, you guys…?"

He trailed off, looking at Levy. I shrugged; "Do you want to go back and come back in the morning again?"

She shook her head, blue curls flying everywhere. "The sofa downstairs looks pretty comfortable," she yawned out. "Think we'll fit?"

Long story short, we ended up in the next room instead, which is just as well, because in a house this big, if anyone told me go and crash on a freaking sofa, it could end up with my fist somewhere very close to their face.

It didn't me long to start snoring—I felt myself give in to much needed sleep the second my head hit the pillow.


I will spare us all the awkward details of rolling out of bed and onto the floor (as usual) of a totally unknown house, ignoring my growling stomach, and making my way down with Levy with unbrushed teeth.

On the way down, I caught a glimpse of my reflection on an empty glass frame; hair like Medusa's, drowsy eyes, disgruntled expression. Epitome of cleanliness, that's me.

Natsu's dad will love us.

Dragneel junior was already downstairs, in the dining room; he seemed to have gorged himself already, judging from the half empty bowl of fruits and traitor butter-stained knife next to the plate in front of him.

"I can't believe we're actually doing this," Levy muttered to me. "What do you see in that guy? Except that he looks good and all."

Yeah so. I didn't exactly have much of an answer.

"Mind if we join in?" Levy called, plopping down on a chair.

Natsu shrugged; we were about to reach out for something, like an apple perhaps, when we were interrupted by a voice. "Master Dragneel. Your father's here."

Levy and I froze halfway through taking a fruit, and moved away in perfect unity from the table. I had already grabbed a banana and forgot to let go.

I was pretty much regretting this decision so bad that I started to revaluate my whole existence.

I mean, if I was Natsu's dad, I probably wouldn't be too thrilled at the idea of two random girls I'd never met before barging into my son's house and demanding his life plans to be changed.

But then, we worked on impulse. If we got out alive today, this'd be just another messed up day in our history.

Natsu walked out as Levy and I exchanged a what-the-hell-are-we-doing-here glance. I remembered the fruit in my hand and held it up. "Banana?" I said weakly.

"No thanks," said Levy drily.

"Just think of cherry lollipops," I advised her.

"Think—what?"

Before I could elaborate on the wondrous results of Cana Alberona's tips, Alf came in followed by the two Dragneels.

When Natsu's dad walked in, I got the shock of my life. Not to sound like every romantic Hollywood movie in existence, but I could totally see where Natsu got his hotness from.

Mr. Dragneel was handsome, sure, with his dark eyes like his son and his firm jawline, but he looked tired. In fact, I hadn't seen Allen look that tired even when he'd spent the whole day trying (and failing) to make a cake for Mom and chasing Blonde around the house when he stole the chocolate bowl.

Er. Long story.

As he walked in, he was talking to Natsu, but stopped when he saw us. "—and then the flight got delayed—who are these young ladies?"

He looked at us in a lot more surprise than really necessary; come on, had he never had random girls barge into his house before? Duh.

"Uh, hi," I cleared my throat, cursing Natsu for not helping us out here. "I'm Lucy Heartfilia, and this is Levy McGarden."

Natsu's dad sat down in a chair opposite as we spoke. "And…do we know you?"

"Uh, they're my friends, dad," Natsu hopped in. Well, I guess with his male brain plus the added stupidity of just being him, he took longer to process things. "Um…look, I'm not exactly sure what they're doing here—"

"We just want to talk to you!" Levy said quickly, as I threw a dirty look at Natsu. Forget leaving Magnolia, let me stab him with this deadly banana right now. "Sir," she added.

"Call me Igneel," said Natsu's dad. Well, obviously. He turned to look at his son, and as he did, I realized just how WRONG it looked for two girls to be standing around in his son's dining room this early in the morning. In fact, it was wrong and disgusting on a lot of levels. "When did they come here?"

"Look, Igneel," I said tentatively. "We wanted to talk to you about…well you and Natsu leaving Magnolia."

"What about it?"

"Uh, don't," I said smartly. "I mean," I sighed, moving forward and crushing my banana. "We actually came here yesterday to talk, and we got to know about…well the whole situation. So…"

"So we don't want him to leave," Levy said finally. "It's not like he's lonely here or anything…and anyway, since he's living alone with Alf—er your butler—at any rate, wouldn't it be alright if you…didn't take him along with you?"

I was looking at Igneel's eyes widen infinitesimally, but I could feel Natsu's eyes on me and it made the back of my neck burn.

"Look, girls," Igneel said at last. "This is a first, but you don't have to—"

"No," I cut across. "We do have to! I assure you, Natsu's not just popular in school, we have a whole gang up there. I mean, do you have to shift to another country and start over again? Does he have to?"

"But—"

"We know about…about why you're leaving," Levy interrupted. "And we're really sorry…but if you could just try to continue your work in Magnolia instead…"

"Yes, but you don't under—"

"We do," I leaned forward until we were face to face. "We get how sticky the situation is, but you could just try? I know there's more important stuff than Natsu having friends here or being happy here, but if you would just—"

"LISTEN!" Igneel bellowed, and the two of us shut up. There, it was over. Now all that's left was Natsu leaving and his dad roasting us on a spit. Just a normal day. "Listen."

I nodded in a defeated manner. He was going to say something about how this company meant a lot to him, and how the money would be more than enough for the two of them even after the divorce—

"I'm not leaving," Igneel said.

"I know, I know," I wailed. "Of course you are—wait, what? Come again?"

"I said," Igneel sighed, getting up. "I'm not leaving. Or Natsu's isn't. I still have work outside Magnolia, but," he looked more tired than ever. "We talked to the divorce lawyers day before. The house is ours."

"I don't have to leave?" Natsu echoed. "But what about your—"

"Well, I had made up my mind to take over outside Fiore," his dad said. "But since your…ah, friends seem so hell-bent on making you stay—I think I'm going to pass."

"But your company?"

"I'm declining the new ownership," said Igneel. "I admit, that was nothing more than a backup plan—but now, the house is ours. You can stay here." He looked at us, and for a fleeting second I felt like he'd smiled at us, just a tiny one. "And despite what you girls have convinced yourselves," he said. "I'm not going to leave Natsu alone in another country. I'll be around, like always."

Excuse me, but is this fiasco basically telling me that we wasted all our drama on trying to get Igneel to leave his new job for his son but ended up knowing it wouldn't matter either way because this house was now legally his?

Natsu turned away for a second, and though I wasn't sure, I think his hands went up to rub furiously at his face.

"I was meaning to let you know," Igneel said finally. "You still have to come with me today, to sign some papers as the child," he added. "But you can ask Jay to start uncovering those paintings." He winked.

Natsu nodded. Levy gave me a sidelong glance, and I shrugged in response.

As Natsu left the room, we stood around awkwardly. "Thanks," Levy said at last.

Natsu's dad surveyed us for a moment. "You know this would've worked out anyway," he said. "But I admire your…er, stubbornness." His exhausted eyes smiled at us.

"Well, at least now you know," I said. "You don't have to worry about him too much, do you?"

Igneel shrugged. "With friends like these," he said. "I'm sure not."

We stood there for a while, the silence growing less uncomfortable, until Igneel sat back down. "Are you having that banana?" He asked me suddenly.

I looked down at the yellow mess in my hand. "Uh…no?"

"Can I have it?"

I held it out to him, and he began to unpeel it promptly. Though there was fruit basket with five more bananas in front of him on the table, he took this one from me, which spelled out to me as a cue for us to leave without any awkwardness.

"I'll be leaving again today," he called after us. "But I'm staying for another week once we're back, so I hope to you see you again."

Watching Levy's slightly guilty face, I nodded back once and we walked down the wooden floor to the door. (Yeah, that's enough time to finish a martini, the distance from the dining room to the front door.)

"You know," Levy told me quietly, as I bundled up my messy hair into an even messier bun. "I'm not really his friend. This was all you."

"Don't get all soppy on me," I warned, but I looked away all the same.

"I can't believe Natsu didn't say a word though," Levy added, voicing my thoughts. "I mean…what do you see in him, Lu?"

Yeah, Lu. What do you see in that pink-haired bastard?

As we arrived at the door, Alf—I'm still gonna call him that—appeared out of nowhere and wrenched it open for us. "Please get the hell out, ladies," he said in his politest tone possible.

"With pleasure, Alf." Levy batted her eyelashes as we stepped out onto the sunlit steps. "Oh, speak of the devil," she added, looking over my shoulder.

I squinted through the sunlight to see Natsu rushing out of the open door. "Wait, Lucy!"

"I'm invisible, am I," Levy muttered under her breath, but she moved away to give us some space. "Hurry up."

Natsu reached me and halted without much grace for a football player. "Hey."

I cocked an eyebrow. "'Hey?'" Can you blame me? He hadn't so much as looked at me properly all this time that we'd been here! If he'd been expecting me to start swooning and knitting him Christmas sweaters just because he had kissed me, he was wrong.

"Uh…well, I just wanted to thank you, and your friend," he amended. Sunshine bounced off his onyx eyes.

"Her name's Levy," I said, and suddenly irritation flowed back into the space between us. "And thanks for letting us do all the talking."

"—what?"

I rolled my eyes at him and started to walk down the steps. "Catch you later," I said without enthusiasm.

"Luce…?"

"What?" I turned back, scowling. Maybe, now that it was done, I couldn't bring myself to feel anything but annoyance for him right now.

He stopped short at my tone. "What's wrong with you?" He asked.

I opened my mouth and then shut it. "I don't know." I said finally, and then I ran after Levy, who'd only made it till halfway to the front gates.


You want to know how the ride back home was?

Fine. Bumpy.

By the time we reached home, Levy and I were scared of looking at ourselves in the rear-view mirror anymore. What I had created as a topknot was slowly unfurling into a condition of hair as yet unknown to humans.

Levy snuck Adam's bike back into the shed, and tired, we trudged up the porch to the front door and rang the bell.

My idiot of a younger stepbrother opened it, grinning stupidly. "Ad says to not let you guys in," He announced.

"Yeah?" I said. "My brain says to show you how Brooke Moore ended up with a broken nose back home."

The two of us walked in without any warnings after that. Adam must have either fallen back asleep, or was determined to not talk to us after our outrageous midnight run while he was in charge, or Yui dear may have snuck back up into his room, the possibilities of which I refuse to discuss. I mean, I might just start puking over Zane if I do.

"You look horrible," Zane told us, as Levy and I sunk into a sofa.

"Your brother's what every girl wants, Lu," Levy mumbled against a cushion.

"Stepbrother," I yawned.

But remembering Natsu in a huge old house with only the ice cream butler, I cracked open one eye to offer Zane a small grin.

Looking shocked for a moment, he grinned back. A moment of peace passed.

A second after which he knocked over last night's lasagna by mistake and it fell onto the floor with a huge crash of breaking glass and the sloppy sound of cheese hitting ground.

"DAMN IT!"

"What happened?!" Adam hollered down the stairs. "Was that you, Zane?"

"Uh—Lucy distracted me!"

"She's back?!"

"Wasn't us, Adam!" Levy called up.

"Lucy, help me clean up this mess!" Zane groaned loudly.

"Nope." I turned my head into another cushion.

"You guys, will someone tell me what's going on?" Adam yelled.

"Why don't you just come down and see for yourself?" Levy challenged, and my older stepbrother's silence was enough to confirm that my suspicions about a certain Yui dear had been correct. Ew.

The phone started to ring at that exact moment, and Zane started to wail from his squat on the floor.

"It's probably Mom and Dad," he said. "Lucy!

"Fine, I'll get it!" I shouted, sighing and getting up.

Levy laughed behind me.

Yep. That's our house.


Well, that's it then :D Please do review!

It was pouring last night but right now in Calcutta, it's a cold 39 degrees. Excuse me while I go dunk myself in the pool.