Welcome to my first foray into the magical world of Fairy Tail! I haven't written any FanFiction in a long time, so I'm feeling a little rusty. I hope I've done the characters justice - they're not as angst-riddled as the stars of my previous writings, so it's a little new to me. Regardless, I hope you enjoy! Let me know what you think!
..:: Disclaimer: Fairy Tail and the characters are not mine! They belong to the great Hiro Mashima! ::..
Taking as deep a breath as she could manage, Lucy paused to make sure that her towel was wrapped securely around her chest before pulling back the curtain to her living room. The last thing she needed right now was Natsu copping a perv if it slipped. And she absolutely didn't want him catching sight of–
"Let me see it."
Lucy squeaked and jumped in surprise, pain shooting through her side. Natsu stood right in front of her, close enough that she could feel his insane body heat, his nose almost touching hers. Still gripping the curtain, she stumbled back a step, her mind nose-diving into a jumbled mess. His onyx eyes were glaring at her intensely, even as he reached out to steady her, his reflexes as sharp as ever. The heat from his hand worked its way through her, easing her aching body, and, despite her jumbled thoughts, she was vividly aware of just how completely naked she was under her towel.
"Ahh… W-what? See what?"
"C'mon, Lucy." His hand moved from her elbow and it took a moment for her agitated thoughts to realise he was reaching for her towel. Heat that had absolutely everything to do with him flushed through her from head to toe, but years of habit had her slapping his hand away.
"Hands off, buddy!"
He frowned at her, a little growl sounding in his throat, the way it did when he was angry. "Dammit Lucy, I can smell the fresh blood. It's bad enough you didn't let Wendy heal you. Le'me see."
"Oh," she muttered. He wanted to check the wound she had gotten during their last battle. The very same wound she had hoped he had forgotten about – which, to be fair, wasn't such a far-fetched hope with the way his memory was. At the very least, she had hoped to be able to get dressed while he showered so he wouldn't see the bandages she had quickly slapped on. But if he could smell fresh blood, she must have disturbed it more than she had thought. She lifted her left arm a little and glanced down at the left side of her torso. Her head got a little dizzy when she saw the red stain spreading across her pink towel on her side, just below her breast. "Oh."
Natsu growled again and before she could protest, he grabbed her arm and stepped past her into the bathroom, pulling her along behind him. He kicked her little wooden bathing stool into the middle of the room and pointed at it.
Lucy sat without complaining, partially because she was a little dazed by the amount of blood that had managed to seep through the bandages and her towel, but also because Natsu had a continuous, faint, snarling rumble coming from his chest, and she wasn't sure if he was even aware of it. She watched him in silence as he rummaged through her medicine cabinet. When he turned around, he had just about everything from her medicine cabinet in his arms and when he crouched down beside her, he let it all tumble onto the floor.
She flinched at the sound of the glass bottles hitting the tiles, but remarkably, none of them broke. "You're going to put all that back, right?" she asked weakly, already well aware of the answer.
"Le'me see," was his only response.
She groaned a little and tightened her grip on her towel. The wound was too close to her breast – there was no way she could show it to Natsu without revealing herself to him. And maybe Natsu had seen her naked multiple times before, but it had never been because she had willingly exposed herself to him. Not to mention with how weird she had been feeling around him lately, she was too shy to let the towel fall even a little.
She froze, her eyes darting to Natsu crouched beside her, shocked by his tone of voice. She could only remember him ever saying her name with that angry tenor once before, way back when she first joined the guild and they were liberating Daybreak from Duke Everlue. He never had been one for patience and her refusal to let him burn the book had frustrated him, even if it had been the right thing to do – after all, he had just wanted to finish the job and go.
"Let me see, or I'll carry you back to the guild right now and get Wendy to heal you."
She swallowed, unaccustomed to having his ire aimed straight at her. "It's just … It's in a delicate spot, Natsu."
His expression softened, a ghost of his smile on his face. "I know I'm good at wreckin' stuff, Lucy, but I can be gentle if I wanna be. I'll be careful."
Lucy turned her face away, trying to hide the blush she could feel creeping up her neck. "That's not what I…" She cut herself off with a huffed breath. "Okay, fine. Please be gentle."
She took another deep breath, but still couldn't bring herself to drop the towel. After a moment of sitting there, she felt Natsu move, his heat coming closer as he reached out to pull the towel down. His fingers brushed the skin of her shoulder blade and she felt it through her entire being. Her fist loosened impulsively on the front of her towel and it slackened enough to slide down her back a little. Natsu nudged it the rest of the way down, and she had to turn her head to the other side to hide her nervousness. It didn't help that she knew he could hear how rapid her heart beat was – which was only because she was exposed. It had nothing to do with Natsu. Or the way he was touching her – with hands as gentle as promised. Or the fact that she was naked. Naked in front of Natsu while he touched her in a room that was still warm and steamy from her hot shower. Nope. It had nothing to do with all that.
She was distracted from her thoughts by the sharp sting of Natsu peeling the bandage off her skin. She sucked a breath in through her teeth.
"Sorry," Natsu grumbled. His tone carried the surliness he only ever reserved for himself, and Lucy couldn't help but smile at it – he was mad at himself for not being as gentle as he wanted to be.
"It's okay," she whispered. "Some things can't be helped."
"And some things can." She heard him sniff and felt the air tickle the hypersensitive skin around her wound. Around her breast. Her back snapped straight, flinching away from the dragon slayer's inquisitive nose, causing a stabbing pain to shoot through her side again, her nakedness momentarily forgotten in her surprise.
"Natsu! What are you–?"
"Did you even wash it?" he demanded, glaring at her. "Are you trying to get sick?"
"Wha–? I–!" She faltered under the weight of his glare. This was far from the first time she had seen Natsu angry, but it was definitely the first time it had been directed exclusively at her. "Of course I washed it … a little. It was sore and I didn't want to disturb it too much, so it was only a light wash…" She trailed off, watching as Natsu grumbled and shook his head, turning away to search through the bottles he had dropped on the floor.
"If you're gonna refuse Wendy's healing magic–"
"She's exhausted, Natsu! She's looking after almost the entire guild and then some right now! She doesn't need to be bothered by my trivial injuries."
Natsu grabbed the stool and jerked it – and Lucy – closer to him. This time, his nose did touch Lucy's as he growled at her. "This ain't trivial. You're lucky your lung didn't get punctured. Gah!" He threw up his hands and sat back on his heels. Lucy took the moment to take a deep, shaky breath, a little awed by his intensity. He was oblivious to it, swiping his hand through the bottles on the floor again, making them clink together. "If you're gonna refuse Wendy's healing magic," he repeated grumpily, "at least take care of yourself properly."
Lucy sat still, watching him as he selected a bottle, twisted the lid off and dumped some of the contents onto a gauze pad. The pungent scent of antiseptic permeated the warm air and Natsu wrinkled his sensitive nose.
"You're … really upset with me, aren't you?" Lucy whispered the question, not really sure why she wanted him to confirm something she already knew to be true.
"Yes. This is gonna sting a bit." As Lucy braced herself for the bite of the antiseptic, Natsu pressed his hand against the angry red flesh surrounding the wound. Lucy hoped that her gasp of surprise as the heel of his palm pressed against the soft flesh of her breast went unnoticed – or at the very least, mistaken for a gasp of pain. She would have smacked him for copping a feel if it wasn't for the soothing heat that emanated from his hand. "Ready?"
She closed her eyes and nodded, grasping the wooden stool beneath her. Natsu applied pressure with the hand he already had on her, then pressed the cold, wet gauze to her wound. Try as she might, she couldn't stop the whimper of pain, even though the pressure he was applying around the wound was helping with the sting a little bit. He held the gauze in place for a very long moment, before pulling it away and dabbing it along the length of the cut. Tears welled up at the corner of her eyes and she bit her lip to try to stop the whimpers. Maybe she should have gotten Wendy to heal it. Natsu was being absurdly gentle, but it still hurt like crazy.
"You should'a' let Wendy heal you," Natsu grumbled, voicing her thoughts. He bent down and squinted at the wound, his fingers touching her with a delicacy she hadn't realised he was capable of. She felt like a fragile soap bubble and he was touching her as if he would burst if he wasn't careful enough. She peeked at him over her shoulder, half expecting to see his face contorted in concentration, but he appeared to be completely at ease – as though being this gentle was as second nature to him as breathing fire. If she didn't know him as well as she did, she might be inclined to think he was incapable of the destruction she had watched him cause over the years. Yet, even being as gentle as he was, it didn't stop her nerves from screaming in pain as he explored the cut. "This is really deep – you should probably get stitches, at least."
She gasped a little, trying to suppress the pain. "And I'm sure you're just being over-protective," she muttered breathlessly. "But I have some of those butterfly stitches under the sink, if you think they'll help."
"Lettin' Wendy take care of this is what will help," he grumbled. But he still got up and rummaged through the cupboard.
"Natsu, I'm not going to–"
"Why won't you listen to me?" he exploded. He stood up to face her, throwing his hands out in a beseeching gesture. "I just wanna know that you're being taken care of properly! Wendy could have this healed in a second, and you'll be good as gold! I wouldn't have to sit here and know you're in pain every time you breathed – and don't try and tell me that you're not, because I can hear the change it's made to your breathing rhythm." He yanked on his scarf in agitation. "Dammit, Lucy, why didn't you listen to me when I told you to run? You wouldn't have gotten hurt at all!"
She blinked at him, surprised by his outburst, and still trying to deal with the lingering sting left by the antiseptic. He had noticed a difference in her breathing pattern? "Because … we're a team." Then she felt a stirring of anger, a belated and indignant response to Natsu's insinuation that she needed to be protected. "And because I'm a Fairy Tail wizard, Natsu. I can take of myself!"
"Is this your idea of takin' care of yourself?" he asked flatly. "Not takin' care of yourself?"
"I did what I had to, to help you!" Lucy clutched the edge of the towel to her chest as she yelled back at him, the pain in her side fading as she focused on her anger. "Where would you be right now if I had left when you told me too?"
"We would be at the guild hall, planning our next move with everyone else instead of being sent home to rest because you got injured!"
"You idiot! You seriously think you could have handled that on your own?"
"Of course! I would have found a way, Lucy, I always do!"
"Yeah, and you always get hurt when you do!" She stood up and pointed a finger at him. "What makes you think it's alright for you to risk yourself and get hurt, but it's not okay for me to do the same? I'm not some storybook princess that needs to be saved all the time, you flame-for-brains! Maybe I'm not as physically strong as you, but I'm also not some novice wizard that doesn't know how to use her magic. I am perfectly capable of holding my own alongside you! I thought you knew that!"
"Argh!" Natsu growled, throwing his head back and stamping his feet in a frustrated dance. "Stop spending so much time with Gray! And I do know that–"
"Then it's fine for me to take a hit every once in a while!"
"No, it's not!"
"NO! Dammit, Lucy! I've already watched you die once, and I'll be damned if I let it happen again just because you wanna take one for the team!"
The silence that followed Natsu's outburst was heavy. Lucy stared at him, speechless and contrite, remembering that day after the Grand Magic Games with perfect clarity. It was a day she would never forget. And neither would he. He glared back at her, the air around him simmering with heat, and his over-protectiveness suddenly made all too much sense.
"You died right in front of me." His voice was a low growl, but he held her gaze with his own, his onyx eyes blazing with emotion. Her chest felt tight as she saw the pain he still felt over that day reflected so clearly in his face. "You died because I couldn't protect you. I wasn't fast enough and I wasn't strong enough. So, I made a promise." The veins in his forearm stood out against his tanned skin as he clenched his fists. "I promised I wouldn't let anyone take away your future. And I'm gonna keep that promise, even if you try to make it a massive pain in the ass. I will do whatever it takes, Lucy. I know you've gotten stronger in the last year; I've seen it. But Lucy … these people, these enemies – they're strong, too, and this is war. People are gonna get hurt, people are gonna die. People already have."
Lucy's body shuddered involuntarily as she remembered watching Brandish's body collapse to the ground, lifeless and empty. And then the moment after that – when she had run to Brandish without thinking for an instant about her own safety, her only concern her dead friend. She hadn't noticed August casting his spell. But Natsu had. And Natsu had thrown himself at her, protecting her with his own body. Whatever it takes. She closed her eyes, trying to hold back her tears. "Natsu…"
She was enveloped in warmth as he wrapped his arms around her, pulling her tight against his chest. "It can't be you, Lucy." He whispered the words into her hair. "Whatever else happens in this war, I can't lose you."
Her eyes flew open in surprise. A part of her tried to rationalise his words away as nothing more than his characteristic protectiveness of his guild mates, but she couldn't convince herself completely. There was something about the way he said it that just felt … different. And the way he was holding her… But that was crazy, because Natsu didn't think of her like that. Did he? She scrunched her face up, squeezing her eyes shut, and buried herself in his scarf. Of course not, she was being silly. She and Natsu were best friends, and that's all there was between them, and she was fine with that if it meant she could stay with him. But he had to understand that he was important to her, too.
"So, please, Lucy – next time I tell you to run, just do it." He rocked her a bit as his arms tightened even more. "I can't stand seeing you get hurt."
Lucy shook her head a bit against his shoulder. "What about you?" she whispered. "Do you think it's easy for me to watch you be a reckless fool, fighting for what you believe in, to see you get hurt?" She squeezed her own arms around him. Her heart was pounding in her chest – or was that his heart? They were pressed so close together she could barely tell which heartbeat was which. But she was feeling a curious sense of nervousness. Possibly because this was the closest she had ever come to confessing her feelings to him, feelings that she hadn't even confessed to herself yet.
"If you tell me to run, Natsu, I'll do it on one condition." She could feel the way his body tensed as she spoke, and she knew he was apprehensive of her terms. Well, if he wanted her to do what he wanted, he had to be prepared to meet her halfway. She lifted her head to look him in the eye – she needed him to fully understand how serious she was being. He looked down at her with narrow eyes, his face full of scepticism. "If the situation is so bad that you want me to run, you have to come with me."
He balked, just like she thought he would. "You want me to run from a fight?"
"If you want me to, then yes!"
"No 'buts'! If you're so worried that you want me to leave, then it's bad enough that you could get hurt too." She dropped her head back to his chest, unable to face him as she muttered her next words. "And I can promise you that I don't want to see you get hurt any more than you want to see me get hurt. It worries me sick every time. So if you want me to run away, you have to come with me. It's the only way I'll leave. We fight together in this war, or not at all, Natsu."
He was silent for a long time, but his arms never loosened. Lucy was just beginning to think that he hadn't understood when he said, "Just to be clear, this is only when we're together, right? I don't have to run from a fight that I wouldn't want you to fight if you're not there?"
Compromise, Lucy thought to herself. It wasn't uncommon that they got separated in a battle, so she supposed it was inevitable that it would happen again in the near future. And as terrifying as it was to imagine either of them going up alone against these powerful enemies, it too, was inevitable. Natsu always found a way to be in the thick of things. "As long as you promise you're going to come back to me, then yes." She poked his chest. "But remember it goes both ways."
"Both ways? Ugh! So I can't tell you to just stay out of this all together?"
Natsu threw back his head, groaning. "Gah! This sucks, it's makin' my head hurt! I don't want you in a fight that could get you hurt, but we need your strength to win this war! Then I don't want you goin' into a fight without me because I can't keep an eye on you, but I don't want you near my fights because I won't be able to concentrate on the fight if I'm worryin' about you!"
Lucy looked up at the underside of his chin – the only thing she could see while his head was tilted back. "It's never been an issue before," she said.
His chin dropped, nearly hitting her on the forehead, and he looked at her with a raised eyebrow. "It's always been an issue for me, Lucy. I'm always worried about you. And before you get all angry with me, it's not because I doubt your skill or strength as a wizard. It's just … I can't explain it. And this time everything is different. With the Spruce Twisters–"
"You mean the Spriggan Twelve."
"You sure? That doesn't sound right. But whatever – with those guys runnin' around and Zeref goin' after Fairy Tail, this ain't like anything we've faced before. I just have a bad feeling about this. Somethin' really bad is gonna happen before this is all over, and all I can think is – it can't be you." He leaned down and pressed his forehead to Lucy's. "You're special to me, Lucy. That's the only reason I want you out of the fighting."
Lucy's breath hitched, her eyes filling with tears as she gazed back at him. It took her a moment to find her voice, and when she did, she couldn't muster anything more than a whisper. "You're special to me, too, Natsu."
He was so close; Lucy was finding it difficult to breathe properly. As they stared at each other, their faces close enough that Lucy could see all the different shades of green in his irises, she could feel a blush rising on her cheeks. Her heart felt like it was lodged in her throat and she wondered if he would kiss her. There was a time when she would have baulked at the thoughts going through her mind right now, but not anymore. She wanted this, she realised. She wanted this from him.
"You dropped your towel, you weirdo."
Mortified was an understatement. Lucy squeaked and stumbled backwards as she realised – she was naked. Naked and pressed up against Natsu. She squeaked again as she realised another thing – Natsu's chest was bare, exposed by his open vest. The blush on her cheeks spread to cover her entire face with a bright red glow. She had just been – oh, sweet Mavis! She buried her face in her hands.
Natsu chuckled. "What's with the weird face?" he asked. "It's not like I could see anything. Here."
Lucy peeked through her fingers and then swiped the pink towel from his extended hand. Yeah, he couldn't see anything because she had been pressed closer to him than a pancake on a plate. "Why didn't you tell me sooner?" she whispered.
"You were yellin' at me." His voice was the flat monotone he always used when he thought he was pointing out something glaringly obvious. "And I figured you didn't care, because you didn't try to cover up. Anyways, it's nothing I haven't seen before."
"You don't have to point that out!" she shrieked at him.
His chuckle told her he was completely unfazed by her anger. "Sit down, weirdo. I need to finish treating that cut before you make it worse with all your bumblin' around."
"I do not bumble," Lucy pouted, attempting to save face by pretending she was as unfazed by what had just happened as he was.
"Sure you do," Natsu retorted. He didn't say anything else as she resumed her seat on the stool, holding the towel to her chest. She was careful to make sure that she bared only what she had to for Natsu to finish his administrations. She had her mortification to keep herself preoccupied as he worked. She had been gazing up at him like some love-sick fan girl, waiting for him to kiss her. For Natsu to kiss her. Natsu, of all people. Natsu, whom the entire guild knew had never expressed any kind of romantic interest in anyone, ever. How could she be so foolish? She knew Natsu thought nothing more of her than a friend.
"There you go," he said. Lucy willed herself not to enjoy his warm fingers that left a smouldering heat behind as he smoothed out the edges of the new bandage. She straightened as she came out of her thoughts, finally noticing the slight discomfort of the butterfly stitches against her skin. "I'll check it again before we head back to the guild tomorrow."
"Thank you," she replied quietly, glancing down at the bandage on her side. It was easier than looking at him right now.
"And I accept." That made her pause and look at him. His face was solemn and serious as he clarified, "Your condition. I won't ask you to leave a fight unless I'm prepared to leave with you." The corner of his mouth lifted in the lopsided grin she had become so fond of. "We fight together or not at all."
She smiled at him, her heart swelling with affection. She reached out and let her fingers gently touch his guild mark. She understood the depth of his concession, and she was moved by his willingness to agree. Maybe he had no romantic interest in her, but she understood that he thought of their relationship as something special, something different to his other relationships in the guild.
"Thank you," she whispered. "That means a lot to me." He nodded and she pulled her hand back, using it to readjust her towel as she stood. "I'll let you wash up." She was ready to leave the steamy bathroom and the confusing mess of emotions it had conjured up behind.
"Wait, Lucy, there's one other thing." She paused to look over her shoulder at him, watching as he stepped up close to her. "I was gonna wait until after the war for this, but … I don't think I wanna wait any more."
Lucy tilted her head in confusion. "Wait for what?"
He stepped into her personal space again and tilted her face up to his with his warm hand under her chin. "This," he muttered.
His lips were completely unexpected … and delightfully warm … and wonderfully soft … and pressed firmly against her own. She gasped in surprise, her eyes wide as she stared at him. He was watching her carefully, a curious look in his eyes that she thought was apprehensive – like he thought she was going to smack him. And in the past, maybe she would have. But now…
When the pressure began to ease, she understood he was pulling away. And she knew she didn't want him to. She closed her eyes, moving with him to keep their lips together, burying her fingers into the soft hair at the base of his neck to hold him close. His deep chuckle vibrated through her, and she might have felt self-conscious if not for his arms that wrapped around her, pulling her tight to his chest for the second time that evening. And then he tilted his head a little to the side and she felt his tongue on her lips. Fire burned through her, setting her whole body ablaze with delicious heat, and she met his tongue with her own. His low growl did funny things to her body and she forewent holding her towel around her in favour of gliding her hand up his muscular arm to rest her palm over his guild mark.
When she realised later that she had let her towel fall away unnoticed again, she was far too comfortably nestled into Natsu's side to care.