Warning: Contains sexual content and alcohol use.


Chapter Sixty: Vice

(April 14th, 2018, Saturday Afternoon)

"Excited to see your dad when we get back?"

Cana's jaw tightened for a moment before forcing herself to relax. She snorted, placing a hand on her hip as she glanced at Sherry. "More excited to kick my feet up."

"I hear that," Angel said, coming back with an empty bucket after pouring her water into a plastic bin in a shopping cart. "My feet are killing me."

Cana was just about to nod, but Jenny's voice interrupted her. "Oh come on, you have to be happy he's back!"

With a raised brow, Cana said, "It's not like he was gone that long." Then under her breath, she added, "Went the first thirteen years without him and I dealt with it just fine."

Of course, it wasn't all his fault he wasn't in her life. Her mother hadn't reached out to him until she had a health scare, but by then, she was used to not having a father around.

The last half year strangely felt like old times, but only when she thought of her father. Everything else just felt strange.

"Long enough to knock someone up," Meredy said, shaking her head. "I can't imagine being pregnant with the way things are."

"You better hope you don't end up pregnant," Cana said, shivering at the thought. "I can't imagine Lyon as a good dad."

With puffed out cheeks, Meredy said, "He can be surprisingly sweet."

"Yeah, that'd be one hell of a surprise," Cana mumbled, having known Lyon for far too long. She bent down, filling her pail with water before hauling it to her shopping cart.

Thankfully they didn't have a zombie chariot of their own, Cana knowing she would be creeped out by the sight. Unfortunately that meant they all had to move the water themselves now that they had no useable gas. They each had a shopping cart they would fill with bins of water before pushing them back to base.

On average they made five or six roundtrips to drop off water, seven if they were pushing themselves. The creek was a little over a mile away from base. It took about forty-five minutes to walk there and back, then another twenty minutes to fill the multiple bins each shopping cart could carry. Since their work held a high physical demand, they got a ten minute break for every roundtrip.

Their workday was approximately seven hours long. It used to be longer, but after some negotiating between Huisi, the head water gatherer, and Makarov, they shortened it by a few hours.

It was wise since most of the water gatherers threatened to get other jobs if they had to continue working nine hour days with only one day off a week.

That was around the time the runners and clearers got two days off a week, complaining about their harsh conditions with a lack of time to rest. Cana snorted, remembering the time she heard about how those negotiations had gone.

It was brought up that the people in the office had the safest and easiest job of them all, which had Makarov stepping up to contribute more towards the base.

He took on the most unsavory job at Fairy Tail, emptying and cleaning the porta potties. Cana had to admit, it was a little inspiring knowing their leader was willing to get his hands dirty.

Figuratively speaking, seeing as he had thick rubber gloves to get the job done.

Cana continued working, chatting occasionally with some of the other girls. She did her best to stay out of her head, but that proved difficult when Jenny and Sherry brought up her old man a few more times throughout the workday.

She supposed it was big news, and with how dreary and dull their world had become, they clung to any shred of excitement.

Coming back after everyone assumed he was dead was something to talk about, but unfortunately for Cana, she didn't want to hear it.

Last night hadn't gone well. She wanted to be happy her father was alive. She truly did, but knowing he just left her for months on end had been difficult to swallow.

She had been convinced he was dead as well, so to find out he made it back after so long when he could have come back sooner? She didn't know how to process that, especially after the horrid moment of Levy catching her with Macao.

Cana's grip tightened on the handle of her cart as she pushed, failing to distract herself. She tried listening in on Huisi and Meredy's conversation, but it wasn't long before she was thinking about a certain man who had her heart racing, but it was soon followed by a sharp pang.

Cana knew.

She knew what she was doing wasn't right, knew it couldn't go on, but how could she stop when he was the only thing making her feel alive.

Drinking could only numb the pain to a point, but to be praised, worshipped and loved? That had her going back for more each time, despite the shame she felt when it was over.

'I'm so stupid,' she thought, biting her inner cheek when she recalled how many times he said he was going to leave his wife for her, how they could be happy without all the secrets.

She knew, deep down he was never going to be with her. Cana was just a thrill for him, nothing more, nothing less. She wasn't even sure how far her feelings for him ran, but the thought of never seeing him again behind closed doors? It hurt far more than she cared to admit.

Which was why after she got off work and finished processing, Cana went to check on her homemade alcohol, hidden in a dressing room behind the stage in the auditorium. It wasn't the smoothest drink, but it got her messed up, which was her goal.

It was made using a bottle of grape juice, sugar, and bread yeast. Getting the ingredients had been harder than making the actual booze.

She had traded favors with a few survivors. Wakaba had some marijuana plants off base, and a few times Cana had gone to help him take care of them in exchange for some weed.

She then traded that to Jet or Droy for her other ingredients, unable to get yeast until the very end since not many homes had it lying around.

She had five bottles going, but she hoped to get more seeing as they limited how much alcohol a person could have a month.

Cana always took her maximum amount each time they allowed her, and after the rough few weeks she had, her supply of the 'good stuff' was exhausted.

She meant to save some each month for emergencies, but she always found herself dipping into that stash shortly after.

Something always came up, the world bleak. She was just waiting until the clock ran out. It was only a matter of time.

Cana's nose scrunched as she took a gulp of her homemade concoction. It wasn't tasty, making her cough after swallowing.

She took a few more swigs before hiding her booze, grabbing her flashlight to guide her out of the auditorium. The alcohol hadn't taken effect yet, not that she was surprised. With her tolerance she would have to consume a lot more to feel it that quickly.

A few times she had considered switching exclusively to weed since Wakaba had a steady supply, but there was something about alcohol that made her feel warm inside.

Like she wasn't alone anymore.

With a groan, Cana peered at the band room at the end of the hall. She would have to pass by it unless she took the exit to her right. However, she would have to walk around the school to get to her room instead of cutting through the halls.

But, walking more wasn't what swayed her decision. It was something that had her heart aching.

She sighed, knowing what she wanted to do despite it being wrong.

'One more time,' she told herself, frowning when she realized that wasn't the first, second, or even third time she had thought it.

Her shoulders fell as she moved towards the band room, but before she could peer in through the window or reach for the door, someone exited the room.

Cana jumped as if she had been caught, then sighed when she realized there was nothing to fear. The band room was where people liked to hang out and drink. It wouldn't be odd finding her there.

"Oh, sorry about that," a smooth voice said, catching her attention.

Cana's eyes zeroed in on the man closing the door, a gleam shining behind his glasses. He offered her a smile as he said, "Cana, right?"

"You're pretty observant," she said, cocking her hip before resting her hand there. She looked the man up and down, recognizing him as Lucy's ex, but his name escaped her. She didn't think much of him at first, caught up in her own head yesterday when Lucy introduced him to the group.

The man didn't miss a beat. "And you're pretty." He smirked when Cana's eyes widened, but she recovered quickly. It wasn't like he was the first guy to hit on her. Far from it.

"Calm down Lover Boy," she chuckled, eyes flitting to the band room. She couldn't see anyone through the sliver of a window from where she stood, wondering who was there today. "Remind me of your name again?"

He didn't appear insulted she forgot. "Loke."

"Loke," she repeated, testing out the name. She nodded, finding it interesting. "Hanging out in there?" Cana nodded towards the band room. She could feel the pull, wanting to go in, but she barely resisted. Using people was wrong, but Loke provided a decent distraction for the moment. He was certainly easy on the eyes at least.

Loke ran a hand through his gorgeous orange hair before leaning against the wall. "Yup. Having a look around Fairy Tail. Getting... familiar with the place."

"See anything you like so far?" she asked, vaguely aware she was playing a dangerous game. Not only was he a stranger, he was her friend's ex. Though, Lucy had the day off and wasn't with him, leading Cana to believe he was staying her ex.

Besides, it wasn't like any of it mattered anyway. It wouldn't be long before they were all dead. The others could try their hardest to keep Fairy Tail afloat, but something would happen to wipe them out.

Then nothing they did would have mattered.

Loke took his time looking Cana up and down, an appreciative smile appearing on his face. "Yeah, I'd say so."

Maybe it was the booze, or maybe it was his smooth voice, but something had her cheeks flushing. Cana snorted, not wanting to get swayed by Loke's charm, though it was tempting.

She didn't do well with temptation.

"How'd you do on your first day of work?" she asked, eyes flitting to the band room before settling on Loke. Her curiosity wanted her inside that room, to see if he was there.

She hadn't talked to Macao since yesterday. Despite knowing it needed to end, she didn't want to let him go.

How could she? He was the only thing making her feel alive.

"I start tomorrow," Loke said, pulling her away from her thoughts. "Thought looking around would be a nice distraction."

Cana perked up at that, needing a distraction herself. "You avoiding something?" she asked, biting back a smile when he pushed himself off the wall, taking a step closer to her.

"Just a little nervous." Loke stared into her eyes, Cana feeling her stomach swarming with nerves, but she wasn't one to give her emotions away so easily.

Her eyes hooded, tilting her head upwards as she whispered, "Need help taking the edge off?"

He smiled, leaning in an inch. "What'd you have in mind?"


"Ooooooh god! Don't stop!"

Cana tipped her head back as Loke's fingers plunged into her. Her nails bit into his shoulder blades, moaning as he sent her to new heights.

"Yeessssss," she groaned, body tensing as another wave of pleasure crashed over her.

She barely recovered as he traced his fingers over her folds, Cana twitching when he rubbed her clit.

"Y-your turn," Cana said, blindly reaching down his chest towards his jeans. They were covered in darkness, the two taking center stage in the auditorium. Luckily no one ventured in, the space used mostly for storing extra mattresses, though neither chose to use one.

Alcohol swam in their veins as the two got tangled up in each other, neither questioning how fast they were going. Cana had only meant for Loke to sample her booze, but before she knew it he was sampling her goods, feeding off her wanton moans and cries of ecstasy.

"Fuck! That's good!" Loke roared as he littered her neck and chest with kisses, occasionally nipping at her flushed skin.

Cana moaned, knowing she was skillful with her hands. Many men had told her so, the woman reducing Loke to a moaning mess within minutes.

He panted for more, and she delivered, sending him on a natural high of his own as she stroked with just the right pressure and speed.

It wasn't until Loke had finished and her hand was sticky that her senses came back, realizing what they had done.

Cana sucked in a deep breath, followed by another and another, but no matter what she did, it didn't feel like enough oxygen was reaching her lungs. Her eyes pricked with tears before she squeezed them shut, teeth gnashing as she pulled away.

"Oh god."

"Cana?" came Loke's voice, but she barely heard him, heading down a spiral of thoughts that lead nowhere good.

She shook her head despite the total darkness, her breaths coming out shallow as she imagined what others would think of her. Cana was very sex positive, but even she had to admit sleeping with her friend's ex-fiance crossed a line, especially after hanging out with him for what? An hour at most?

Probably more disturbing than that was the thought of betrayal from cheating on Macao, not that she had to be faithful to him seeing as he wasn't hers to begin with.

She shook, letting that last thought consume her. Macao would never be hers, always out of reach, even when he was in her arms.

Her whole world felt too small, the woman gasping for breath as she tried escaping the dark thoughts taking over. Hopeless. Everything was hopeless. Why was she even trying? Wouldn't it be easier to just give up? To end it all so there was no more pain? No more suffering...

She clenched her teeth as her nails dug into her thighs. She didn't want to die, but...

She didn't want to live.

Cana's first sob broke the silence, Loke muttering a curse as he shuffled around her. She didn't concern herself with his actions, disgusted by what she had done.

Among those crushing thoughts was another that made her sick, part of her feeling like she hadn't done anything wrong. So what if Loke had been Lucy's at one time? So what if she had casual sex with someone she wasn't dating?

So what if she cheated on her married boyfriend?

Cana seethed, a burst of anger surging up when she recalled how many times Macao promised to be with her one day, only to lie to her face each time.

How had she been so foolish?

How had she let herself stray so far from the right path?

The alcohol humming in her body didn't help, feeling queasy as she rocked back and forth, her mood changing every few seconds. It kept switching between anger and hopelessness. She didn't know which was worse, but she didn't have time to dwell on it.

Her body jerked when light shined over her, Cana covering her eyes despite keeping them closed, not wanting to see what she had become.

Her friends would be disappointed in her.

Lucy probably wouldn't even look at her after finding out.

And Loke?

Surely he couldn't think too highly of her after how fast she spread her legs for him. She acted tough, but she cared too much about what people thought of her, which often led to her drowning her insecurities with liquor.

"Are you okay?"

Cana shook her head, hating herself when the first thought she had was, 'I need a drink,' as if that would solve her problems.

"Cana, I'm sorry if I did something wrong? Are you okay?"

The urgency in Loke's voice pulled her out of her thoughts, realizing he had been left thinking he hurt her. She gulped before coughing, her vision bleary. She shook her head, unable to find her voice.

"Is there something I can do? Do you need space? A hug?" He sounded unsure of himself, guilt settling on Cana's chest as she looked around, finding her discarded clothes.

Her hands shook as she reached for her bra, Loke turning to allow her privacy as she covered herself.

More tears flowed as she pulled her clothes on, but not before she dragged her hand against the stage, trying to rid herself of the sticky substance clinging to her skin.

Her lower lip trembled before she bit it, trying to calm down. It didn't work, her mental state crumbling as she berated herself, her mind telling her how vile and despicable she was for her actions.

"Y-you're good," Cana mumbled, angry at herself.

Loke turned towards her, the flashlight shining off to the side allowing her to see he had already put his pants back on. She could make out his face, seeing his concern. "Did you not want that?" he asked.

Cana nearly gnashed her teeth, despising someone treating her like she was vulnerable, breakable. She scrubbed at her eyes, ridding herself of those wretched tears. "It's not that," she said, voice thick from crying. "Just, pretend that never happened?"

"Cana—" Loke started, but she shook her head.

"Don't," she said, loathing the part of her that wanted comfort. She was a tough badass woman, and she would be damned if she let some guy she just met make her feel any less than that. "You don't have to worry about it. I don't regret what we did. I just—"

When her voice trailed off and didn't finish, Loke frowned. "I'm not worried about that. I'm worried I hurt you somehow." Before she could retort, he added, "Even if it was an accident or doesn't even have to do with me."

Cana closed her mouth in frustration, but she couldn't pinpoint what bothered her. There was a lot of negativity going on in her mind, but the only thing she ended up voicing was, "Do you think... Lucy will be mad?"

Loke straightened up, the look on his face suggesting he hadn't thought of that. "Honestly, I don't know, but I don't think so. She made it abundantly clear she'll never want to pursue our relationship again, but..."

Cana's heart sunk, dread filling her until Loke said, "Is that really what's bothering you?"

Cana was quick to look away, giving Loke his answer.

"I'm sensing you're not in the mood to talk, but if I'm wrong, I can be a good listener."

The offer was tempting, which only made Cana groan. Why was she drawn to temptation, the woman failing to grasp some self-discipline. After her mother passed, she seemed to get everything she wanted.

Everything, but two loving parents who wanted to nurture and love her.

Her mom passed, and her father's idea of being a good parent was to give Cana whatever her heart desired without a solid structure to go along with it.

It was no surprise she had developed a love for liquor at such a young age. At least when she was drunk she didn't care as much. Didn't have to worry about other people's opinions.

Alcohol allowed her to feel happy, which meant she was chasing that feeling as soon as she sobered up, only to fall into a vicious cycle of drinking.

Was it healthy? Of course not, but what could she do when reality was too much to bear at times?

And then the world ended, and without any healthy coping skills, Cana allowed the temptation of alcohol and older men's approval to keep what little shred of sanity she held onto.

"Would it be alright if I made an observation?"

Cana had the feeling she would regret it, but how much further could she fall? "Sure."

Loke waited a moment, Cana sure he had changed his mind until he said, "I may be wrong, but I think you might, well, be dealing with some stuff? Possibly with your father coming back?"

She had to scoff, shaking her head. "Out of all my problems, Gildarts returning isn't high on the list."

"I see." Loke cocked his head, causing Cana to huff.

"It doesn't matter anyways. I'm just... I'm being overdramatic."

She saw Loke opening his mouth, bracing herself for whatever he would say, but he caught her off guard when he sighed. Her eyes found his, seeing a softness on his face, even with the dim light.

"There's nothing wrong with feeling what you're feeling. And it doesn't make you dramatic for going through stuff. We all have stuff on our plate. Some plates are just bigger than others."

She knew he meant well, but his words had her rolling her eyes. "Sounds like a bunch of clichés to me."

He shrugged, not bothered by her dismissal. "Sometimes clichés are good. They can be comforting."

"Maybe," she muttered, not that convinced. "I just..." She debated telling him. She didn't know Loke, and being vulnerable with him? It only spelled disaster. He could use what she said against her, use her feelings as a weapon.

Cana swallowed, not nearly drunk enough to shake off the trepidation looming over her.

"I have a lot on my mind right now," she confessed, stomach jerking at giving away even that much. Loke was a stranger to her, but he had been respectful with her. Even when they were tangled together he hadn't pressured her, letting her set the pace, which got out of hand quickly.

It was nice feeling wanted, needed. She craved positive attention, even if the source wasn't healthy for her.

'He seems decent enough,' she thought, sighing as she shook her head. "My old man..."

Cana's heart broke thinking about the offer he gave her. He had the audacity to suggest it, as if that would make up for all the time he had been gone.

"He asked... me to go back to Hargeon with him."

Loke didn't respond right away, waiting to see if she would say more. When a full minute of silence passed, he asked in a soft voice, "What are your thoughts on that?"

"I don't even know," she whispered, shoulders sagging. He had abandoned her, regardless if he claimed he was coming back or not. He started a new family, and she was just supposed to join them? And live happily ever after? The idea made her sick. "I don't know if I want to be near that asshole."

That caught Loke's attention, the man raising a brow as he cocked his head. "I take it he's not the best dad?" When Cana nodded, he confessed, "I didn't get along with my father. He was an ass too."

"Was?"

"Yeah, he died back when this all began."

Cana hummed as she tilted her head back, acknowledging his response, but she didn't know what to say aside from, "Sorry."

"Don't be." Loke didn't dwell on it before changing the subject back to her. "Do you want to leave Fairy Tail?"

Cana shook her head with no hesitation. "I don't, but..." She cringed, thinking about Levy's angry face when she had been caught. "I've made a lot of mistakes here, and... part of me... Well—"

She couldn't find the words, but Loke filled in the blank.

"You want a fresh start?" he asked, earning a nod. "I get that. Hargeon isn't the place for me, but it might be good to change your scenery. At least for a while."

Cana dropped her gaze to the flashlight between them before swallowing. "I guess, I could just take a break, from Fairy Tail."

She could leave with Gildarts in a week, then stay in Hargeon until she got a grip of herself. Her heart ached at the thought of leaving her friends behind. They were more family to her than Gildarts ever was, but at the same time, she knew she wanted some space from them.

Levy, especially. Deep down she didn't harbor any ill feelings towards her friend, but being around her had been uncomfortable lately. Levy had hinted she knew what was going on between Cana and Macao, but that awkwardness had become unbearable after getting caught in the act.

Her face flushed with embarrassment thinking about it again. Despite the humiliation of being caught with a married man, Levy hadn't been cruel towards her. Harsh, yes, but not unfair.

Cana knew right from wrong, but she also didn't think it mattered in the long run.

Because... there wouldn't be a long run.

'This is it. No one's coming to save us. We won't be able to keep this up forever.'

"I don't agree with some of the policies at Hargeon, but there's good people, and they want to help, if you're willing," Loke said, something in his tone sounding like he was hinting towards... Well, she wasn't sure.

"I don't think there's enough help left in this world," she confessed, her body feeling heavier as she dropped her gaze.

Instead of denying her claim, Loke offered her a soft smile. "Would you like to talk about it, really?" He paused, nodding when she shook her head. "Okay. I'm sorry you're not in the best place right now. I hope I haven't taken advantage of you?"

"You haven't," Cana said. "I... I wanted it. It was... nice."

Loke wore an impish grin. "I enjoyed our time together."

"Me too." Cana thought twice before deciding to admit, "You almost had me squirting."

"Well," he started, raising a brow as amusement leaked into his voice. "If you ever want to try again, you know where to find me."

She snorted, relaxing despite the knots in her stomach. "I might take you up on that offer, later."

A moment of silence passed before Loke asked, "Would you like me to stay?"

She shook her head. "It's not necessary. I'm about to head out." Temptation to drown her sorrows called at her, Cana knowing she would feel better if she drank more.

'But...'

Loke nodded, standing up before pointing the flashlight towards the exits. "I trust I'll see you at dinner tonight?"

"Yeah. I'll be there."

After he put on his shirt, they said their goodbyes. Loke gave her an invitation to talk if she needed before he took his leave. She waited a few minutes after he left before pulling herself up, feeling the weight of the world on her shoulders.

Her energy was zapped, the physical work from the day and the emotionally taxing conversation leaving her feeling sluggish. She walked towards the dressing room, but instead of stopping by for some booze, she kept moving.

Once again, Cana found herself leaving the auditorium. She had the option of going left, which would bring her to the band room. Considering how she was feeling, she could use some of the good stuff. Someone was bound to have some real alcohol, and if she challenged the right person, she could win a hand or two of cards and get some.

However, there was a good chance Macao would be there as well, and despite the yearning in her heart, Cana forced herself to turn right and head towards the school's exit.

She tried telling herself she wasn't in the mood to see Macao, that after the sexual encounter with Loke, she had enough touching for one day, but she knew that was a lie.

She never felt sated, because sex didn't bring lasting comfort.

Cana wanted to feel loved, treasured, cared for, but sex wasn't going to fix her desire to feel wanted, needed. Alcohol didn't bring her that comfort she desired either.

She was better off distancing herself from temptation, even if she knew it didn't matter in the end.

'Some fresh air will do me some good,' she thought, opening the door to step outside. However, her deep breath was tainted by a foul odor, Cana coughing as smoke filled her lungs.

"Shit! Sorry," came a familiar voice, Cana looking over with squinting eyes as the haze invaded her vision.

She saw Natsu waving his hand in the air, trying to get rid of the smoke. She blinked, furrowing her brows. "I thought you quit?"

Natsu dropped his hand and gaze, staring at his lit cigarette for a few seconds before sighing. "I thought I did too."

"Rough day?" she asked, watching as he nodded before taking a drag.

Cana hesitated, unsure what she wanted to do. Being alone felt dangerous, not trusting her thoughts to stay sane. Natsu seemed like a safe person to keep as company. He never seemed to look too deep into things, which meant he wasn't likely to pry as long as she didn't act too unusual.

"Mind if I join ya?"

"Be my guest," he mumbled, leaning against the brick wall of the school. "As long as you don't lay into me like Erza did."

"What?" Cana asked, eyes widening.

Natsu glanced at her, searching her face for a moment before shaking his head. "Nothing. Have a seat."

Cana moved to his side further from the door, not wanting to be in the way in case anyone barged through. Getting smacked with a door was not a good way to follow up the rough afternoon she had experienced.

"So, what's got ya smoking again?" she asked, nose scrunching when some smoke seemed to follow her.

"Stuff," he said, his tone suggesting she shouldn't ask more.

Cana nodded, deciding she could live with that. "Enjoying your day off at least?"

"Nope." Natsu didn't bother lying, flicking his cigarette before putting it to his lips again. "Not even a little bit."

Sensing talking wasn't the best option, Cana leaned against the school, letting herself relax. They sat in silence for what felt like ten minutes, Cana picking at her nails when Natsu lit another cigarette.

He inhaled deeply before slowly pushing it out. He stared off into the distance, seemingly zoned out until he muttered, "Lucy's a runner."

Cana looked over, ready to say something, but he beat her to it. "But I'm sure you already knew that."

She nodded, not bothering to deny it. "Yeah."

Natsu didn't say anything for another few minutes, the man simply smoking his cancer stick as his expression kept changing. However, no matter what form his face took on, there was a level of tension that seemed present in him, Cana wondering if she should say something or let him work things out on his own.

"I... take it you're not happy about that?"

Natsu's eyes narrowed. "No, pretty pissed actually." Another drag of his cigarette later and he was spilling his guts, as if the dam had been broken. "It's just, she's not the kinda person who should be off base. She says she's strong, but does she really know what kinda dangers are out there? I mean, you saw those things? They're not gonna care how fast she can run or how long she's been out there."

He shook his head. "A month isn't even that long. She doesn't have the right experience to do the job. She thinks she's safe, which is how I know she's not ready. You're never safe off base, you know?"

Natsu didn't wait for her to answer, groaning before sucking in another breath of his cigarette, only to sputter out a cough when he inhaled it too quickly. "Fuck, that doesn't feel good."

"You should probably stop then," Cana said, then snorted to herself. "But what do I know?" Everyone had their vice, and she hated when people suggested she should lay off the liquor. It was her body, her choice. Didn't she have the right to put what she wanted into herself, even if it wasn't healthy? As long as she wasn't hurting anyone.

'But... My actions did hurt someone...' Cana's chest ached thinking about Romeo. She didn't know the kid personally, but she could imagine it didn't feel good knowing his dad was being unfaithful to his mom.

The more she thought about it, the shittier she felt, so she did the only logical thing she could think of.

She stopped thinking about it, putting all her focus into what Natsu was saying.

Even if some of it didn't make much sense.

"She just doesn't get how dangerous it is," Natsu said, ignoring Cana's comment. "And Rogue's a fucking idiot for letting her be a runner. Makarov too, and Hibiki. Fucking assholes." He shook his head before looking at Cana. "She called me an asshole."

Cana's eyes widened, her shoulders shaking as she stifled a laugh. "Oh yeah?" Lucy had shown her true colors slowly but surely over the last two months, and there were a few times she had proven she could be feisty.

"Well, not exactly," Natsu admitted before taking another drag. "She said I'm being an asshole, but it still hurt." His brows furrowed before shaking his head. "But she said I hurt her."

Before Cana could ask, Natsu said, "I never touched her. Like hurt her feelings, nothing physical."

"Didn't think you had," she said, knowing Natsu wasn't that kind of person. He used violence a few too many times in his life, but she saw the bond between him and Lucy. There was no way he was harming her, but if he said half the stuff to Lucy that he was saying to her?

"I can see how you hurt her feelings," Cana said, seeing Natsu's jaw drop. "Don't give me that look. You haven't seen how far she's come. That chick's made for adventure. You should hear some of the stories she tells me and Levy at night."

Natsu's cheek twitched. She expected him to say something about Lucy's progress, but instead he asked, "She hangs out with you and Levy?"

Cana raised a brow, nodding at the unexpected question. "Well, yeah? She's in our room a few nights a week."

With a snort, she said, "Aside from the pillow fights and painted nails, it's basically a slumber party. You know, just with talking about guts and muscle soreness and how badly we wish we could take a nice hot bath instead of using those stupid camping showers."

Natsu held her gaze for a moment before turning ahead, mumbling something under his breath before putting out his cigarette. He took a deep breath, brows pinched before he asked, "What's up with her and Hibiki?"

That threw Cana off, the woman barking out a laugh before pulling a knee up to prop her arm on it. "As far as I know, Hibiki and her are good friends. They started hanging out after you left." She leaned in, almost snickering as she asked, "Why? Are you jealous?"

Natsu snarled, shaking his head, but the tightness in his jaw and tone of voice didn't match his words. "No. Why would I be jealous?"

"Well, why would you care if she's hanging out with Hibiki?" she challenged, leaving the man speechless for a moment.

When he didn't respond, she thought he was going to drop it. However, after a few deep breaths, Natsu finally said, "I just feel... kinda... replaced."

Cana looked at him, searching his face. She hadn't expected that, unsure what to say. "Why?" she settled with, thinking that was a bit ridiculous.

Natsu swallowed, shoulders slowly falling as his eyes flitted across the grass in front of them. "Because... She... she said he's been there for her, and I was there for her before. And, and she wanted to hang out with him today and not me, and I guess..."

He frowned. "I guess I kinda understand her logic, since she said she didn't wanna tell me about her being a runner until later, but, couldn't she find some excuse to hang out with me?"

He looked at Cana as if she might have the answers, but when she didn't respond, he sighed. "I just... I feel like she's been acting different." He shook his head. "No, she has been acting different, and I'm... worried, she's... found someone else to be better friends with."

Cana cocked her head, not understanding his logic. "You're best friends with Gray, right?"

She thought he would nod so she could carry on with her point, but the mention of Gray had Natsu's nose scrunching. Cana raised a brow, but chose not to question it. "And then you met Erza and became best friends with her too. That didn't take away your friendship with Gray, right?"

Natsu stole a glance at her before huffing. "I see where you're going, but this is different."

"How's it different?" she asked, surprised when Natsu made a sound of frustration.

"It just is!"

When she jolted, Natsu squeezed his eyes shut. "Sorry," he mumbled, hand coming up to cover his eyes and part of his forehead. "I... know Lucy is my friend. Was my friend."

Cana blinked in shock when she noticed Natsu's bottom lip quiver before he steeled himself.

"Is my friend. I just... I dunno. I want more of her friendship." He crossed his arms over his chest, green eyes dull. "I want the most of her friendship, but... I guess that's selfish."

"I don't think so," Cana said, having a hard time figuring out what he was thinking, let alone feeling. "From what I can tell, she wants to be your friend more than anyone else's."

"Before I left, maybe," Natsu muttered, his arms loosening around himself. "I think... I fucked up going to Hargeon." He looked at her, appearing shameful. "Don't get me wrong. I'm glad we found Gildarts, but..."

"I get it," Cana said, wanting to avoid talking about her father if she could avoid it. He still wanted an answer on if she was going to Hargeon with him when he left. He wasn't even considering staying at Fairy Tail, Cana's heart aching at the thought of losing a parent again.

She shoved those feelings so far down she gasped for air, swallowing thickly before saying, "If you hadn't left, you would've seen Lucy improving herself. She trained a bit with Erza, you know?"

"That's what Erza said," Natsu grumbled, not looking convinced. "But, all the training in the world can't really prepare you for being out there, fighting those things."

"She's not really trying to fight them though," Cana said, doing her best to reason with him. "She's a runner, not a clearer. She sees a few zombies a week, and she doesn't even kill most of them since someone else usually takes care of it."

She saw Natsu shudder, the woman raising a brow. "You okay?"

"I hate the idea of her being out there," Natsu admitted, the anger heard in his voice. "She doesn't need to be off base."

"Neither do you," Cana pointed out, causing Natsu's eyes to narrow.

"Did you already talk to Lucy?"

"What?"

Natsu shook his head. "You're just saying the same stuff she did."

That had Cana snorting. "Well, it's true. Lucy has every right to work off base that you do. I mean, seriously Natsu? Are you really trying to take her choice away?"

Natsu clenched his teeth before dropping his gaze. "I don't want to control her. I just... I just want her safe."

"From what she tells us, she's doing a good job."

"That doesn't help."

"Well, then I don't know what else to say." Cana shrugged, her voice indifferent. "Lucy's gonna do what she's gonna do, and you can either be a supportive friend, or step back so someone else can take that spot."

Natsu let out a growl, dark eyes turning towards her. She didn't waver, using his fear against him. "You're worried you're being replaced, which is ridiculous given how many times she brought you up while you were gone. The girl missed you Natsu. We all did, and no one's looking to replace you, but—"

She leaned in an inch, speaking slowly and clearly despite the last remnants of alcohol swimming in her veins. "Trust me when I say if I were Lucy, and you tried taking away my choice, I wouldn't keep investing in our friendship. So if you wanna keep in Lucy's good graces, I suggest you scrap that attitude and accept her decision."

When Natsu didn't reply, she narrowed her eyes. "Got it?"

He jolted, eyes falling to his lap before muttering, "Can we talk about something else?"

She sighed, hoping Lucy didn't give up on Natsu's friendship that easily. But, if she did, he would totally deserve it given what she heard so far. "Fine, but don't stop thinking about it. Lucy'll surprise you if you let her. She certainly surprised the hell outta me."

Her face tingled thinking about that slap Lucy delivered when they first met. Cana had deserved it, she knew that. It was wrong to grope the girl without permission. It didn't matter if Cana was drunk or thought it was funny, it was wrong, and thankfully Lucy had shown forgiveness towards her so they could move past it.

"What would you like to talk about?" Cana asked, tipping her head back to lean against the school. It was then she realized her hair was messy, forgetting to smooth it out after her activities with Loke.

She ran her hand through her long brown locks, wishing her hair wasn't hard to keep up with. Sometimes it seemed easier to chop it all off, but when she looked in the mirror she could see her mother's reflection staring back, and she didn't want to risk losing that.

With no pictures of her mom left, it was all she had.

"Wanna talk about Gildarts?"

"Hard pass," Cana said, shaking her head. "Pick something else."

"Fine," Natsu mumbled, the two silent for a moment before he said, "Just, tell me what's been up?"

When she looked at him with a raised brow, he shrugged. "What? I've been gone two months. Something interesting must have happened?"

With a sigh, Cana nodded. "Let's see..."

The next hour was spent catching up, filling each other in on what they missed about the other's life. Natsu went into a few more details since Gray and him told everyone about their journey last night, and Cana gave a rundown on her life at Fairy Tail, minus the excessive drinking and Macao.

She may or may not have intentionally mentioned a few things about Lucy, hoping to sway Natsu's decision. It wasn't like it was a big secret Lucy had been working out, smiling to herself when she told Natsu about how she almost kicked a punching bag right off the hook once.

The man had looked surprised, but otherwise didn't give any indication of his thoughts. Cana let him be for the most part, hoping he would come around.

She could only imagine how awkward it would be if Lucy and Natsu didn't get along because he was, to quote Lucy, 'being an asshole'.

Before Cana knew it, they were getting ready for dinner. She parted from him, silently wishing him luck as she moved towards her room. Her intention was to pop in and out to grab her dishes, but a guest in their room caught her by surprise.

"Oh? Hey Lucy."

"Hey," she mumbled, sitting at Levy's desk, a book in her hand.

Cana looked around, not finding her roommate anywhere. "What's up?"

Lucy glanced up from her book, letting Cana see the tiredness on her face. "Hope you don't mind. Levy said I could crash here tonight?"

Cana's heart fell, nodding before she could get the words out. "Doesn't bother me." She didn't try acting surprised. "I ran into Natsu," she said, causing Lucy's eyes to widen a bit. "He told me you two got into it. I tried setting him straight."

Slowly, Lucy relaxed before her eyes fell. "Thanks for trying."

Sensing the girl wasn't in the mood to dive into that topic, Cana moved to grab her dishes. However, as soon as her eyes fell on a bottle of hand sanitizer on her dresser, she paled, remembering the other man she ran into earlier.

For some reason, Cana seemed to have spent time with men close to Lucy today. 'Might as well go hang out with Hibiki too. Third time's the charm after all.'

Clearing her throat, Cana turned to Lucy. She didn't appreciate when people dragged things out, so after stealing a deep breath, Cana blurted out, "I jerked off your ex."

She didn't want some big secret looming over her, but judging by the way Lucy jolted and almost dropped her book, maybe she should have kept her mouth shut. "You... what?" Lucy asked, mouth gaping.

"Loke," Cana started, as if Lucy had more than one ex at Fairy Tail. "I ran into him, and... one thing led to another... It didn't mean anything. I promise."

"Oh..." Lucy's face took on a scarlet hue, the woman setting her book down before straightening in her chair. "That's... unexpected?"

"Yeah." Cana grimaced, deciding to get everything off her chest. "He... fingered me too."

Lucy's nose scrunched as her teeth clenched, Cana wondering if she said too much and offended Lucy, but the woman waved her off.

"I don't need details." She let out a nervous chuckle, lacking any humor. "That's... that's your business."

Cana wasn't shy when it came to talking about sex, but she realized Lucy probably wasn't as open to the topic. "I'm sorry."

"Don't be." Not an ounce of deceit was heard in her voice. "It's fine. Just... surprising. And, a little weird, but that's okay." She shrugged, sagging against her chair as she looked at Cana. "Who am I to judge? You're both adults."

"So, you're not mad?" Cana asked, relieved when Lucy shook her head. "You don't, like, still have feelings for him?"

Lucy gave Cana a soft smile. "No, I don't see him like that anymore. You can be with him, if you want?"

Cana shook her head. "He was fun, but I don't see it working out." She liked her men a bit older with more experience, though, Loke was quite talented. "I—"

Her voice cut out when the door opened, Levy entering with a plate of food. "Oh, hey Cana." She walked over to the desk, dropping the plate next to Lucy's book. "Alright, we'll see you when we get back?"

Lucy nodded, a broken smile appearing on her face. Cana could see she wanted to be happy, but something had her down. "Yes. Thank you again."

"It's no trouble." Levy looked at Cana, filling her in. "Lucy's going to stay the night here. Umm..." She turned to Lucy, her unspoken question answered when Lucy nodded. "Natsu and her had a fight, so she'll be staying here for a while..."

"Doesn't bother me," Cana said, glancing at the two beds. "Are... you bringing your mattress over?" She didn't mind getting in people's personal bubble most of the time, but one thing Cana didn't do was share her bed. That was a level of intimacy no relationship or even friendship had ventured before.

Lucy shook her head. "I have a blanket and pillow over there," she said, nodding to the corner of the room where a pile of bedding and clothes sat. "I'm... hoping I won't be staying long."

Cana frowned, remembering Natsu's resistance when speaking about Lucy being a runner earlier. It wasn't likely he was changing his attitude anytime soon, but she couldn't blame Lucy for holding out hope.

"He'll come around," she said, her words bringing a sad smile to Lucy's face.

"Yeah..."

"Alright, well, Cana and I should get going, unless you changed your mind about company?"

"No," Lucy said, eyes hooded as she gripped her book. "I'd rather be alone for a while, if that's okay?"

"Of course." Levy looked at Cana, the two taking a moment to gather their things before leaving. When they got into the hall, Levy asked if Cana could lock up, seeing as Lucy had her key.

"Sure."

Within seconds they were heading down the hall, survivors all around pouring from their rooms. Cana and Levy followed the crowd, the former happy Levy didn't try to talk to her like she had last night.

The conversation about her behavior and her thoughts on life had been uncomfortable, unsettling, and unwelcomed. She knew Levy meant no harm, but sharing feelings left Cana too vulnerable.

Her fingers twitched, wishing the flask in her pocket was filled. She could really go for a drink. 'Maybe I'll swing by the band room after this.'

The risks would be lower seeing as Macao would be with his family after dinner. There was no chance she could run into him, but instead of feeling reassured, that only had her heart sinking.

He would be with his wife and son, and she would be all alone.

Even surrounded by friends, she always felt so cold.

In a desperate attempt to stop her spiraling thoughts, Cana answered as soon as Levy asked about her day. She told her about work, but left out the events that followed.

Her heart cracked when Levy gave her a silent plea, but she didn't give in. She didn't want to talk about the deeper issues going on in her head, content with idle chit chat about the weather and work.

She hoped when they reached the arena the awkwardness would have ended, but it was just beginning.

Thankfully, it wasn't at Cana's expense.


"So let me get this straight," Loke started, raising a brow. "When I told you Hargeon took away women's rights to choose what to do with their body and wouldn't let them work outside the gates, you were also against it, but now you're trying to take away Lucy's right to choose what she does with her body by working off base?"

When Natsu clenched his teeth, Loke added, "Let me know if I'm misunderstanding."

"You're not misunderstanding anything," Erza said, narrowed gaze pointed at Natsu.

"What?" he asked, crossing his arms over his chest as he ignored his food. "I don't get why you're so on board with her risking her life?"

"Lucy's been doing it a while. I'd say she has a good grip on the job," Erza said, causing Natsu to roll his eyes.

Cana almost snorted when Erza's cheek twitched, Natsu gulping before muttering an apology.

"Didn't you say some of the best fighters here are women?" Loke asked, causing Natsu to nod.

"Well, yeah, but they have experience. Lucy..." He frowned, eyes falling to the table. "She's not... I don't..."

"It's not your decision," Jellal said, causing Natsu to groan.

"Can you all just lay off?"

"Depends, are you going to apologize to Lucy?"

"For what? For caring if she gets hurt?"

"For thinking you have a right to tell her what to do." Erza leaned against the table, her voice firm. "Look, I understand your concern. I also worry when you and Gray go off base, even when Cana goes to work, but I have to trust everyone is making the best decisions they can while out there. Lucy has some undead kills under her belt. And she's been training for working off base. The girl would impress you if you bothered to see what she can do."

"It doesn't matter how good she thinks she is. One screw up is all it takes."

"The same can be said about you," Levy pointed out, not backing down when Natsu glared her way. "What? You know I'm right."

Cana watched as Natsu grumbled before her eyes fell to the line again. It had dwindled down, her father standing towards the back. She turned towards her friends again, heart hollow and stomach jerking.

She didn't know what she wanted to do. Well, she knew what she wanted to happen, but it was too late. Gildarts had already started his new family and settled into a place far away from Fairy Tail. He wasn't going to stay and step up and be the father she always needed, and the sooner she accepted that, the sooner she could begin the healing process.

Cana had the option of going to Hargeon to be near her father, but why did it have to be on his terms? Why didn't he come back sooner? He gave her the excuse about the solar panels, Cana immediately asking him why he didn't just come back first before he started working there, before he lost his arm or got a woman knocked up?

If he didn't care enough to return in a timely manner, then she didn't care enough to tell him she had been concerned for him while he was away.

She had thought countless times her father had died during his travels, but a sick part of her thought it was worse he had been alive the whole time, merely delaying a return to Fairy Tail.

"Can we please drop it?" Natsu asked, breaking through her thoughts.

"Are you going to apologize for your behavior at least?" Erza pressed, causing Natsu to shake his head.

"Only thing I'm sorry about is yelling, but she yelled too, so no. I'm not apologizing if I don't mean it."

As Erza opened her mouth, Jellal put a hand on her arm, silencing any protests she had. "I don't like it either, but he has a point."

When Erza gaped at him, Jellal sighed. "Not about the yelling, but if he's not going to mean it, it's better he doesn't apologize. We can't force him to change his mind."

"Thank you—" Natsu started, but Jellal finished by adding, "Just like he can't force Lucy to work on base."

The man grumbled something under his breath before grabbing his fork to stab at his food, using more force than necessary.

Cana chose to focus on her own food before her mind drifted once more. However, instead of going back to her father or Natsu or even her escapades with Loke, who was sitting right next to her, Cana wondered why one of their friends was missing.

Her eyes flitted to the other side of the arena, spotting Gray sitting with his brother and sister. Considering he probably missed them, it wasn't too odd Gray would decide to eat with them, but she wasn't convinced it was as simple as that.

The way Natsu's face tensed when someone asked about it earlier suggested something else was going on, but no one cared to share with her, so she didn't bother pressing the issue.

For all she knew, she was being paranoid and there were no issues to discuss. Her mood had been a little unstable lately. She wouldn't put it past herself to make up problems where there were none.

The rest of dinner carried a level of tension, especially when Natsu followed Cana and Levy back to their room. They hadn't explicitly said Lucy was in there, but there weren't a lot of places she would hide out.

Cana didn't ask if Natsu knew Lucy had left his room or not. She figured he would have noticed some of her stuff missing, like her pillow for instance.

"Sorry Natsu," Levy said, standing between him and the door as Cana unlocked it. "This is as far as you go."

"But, I really need to talk to her," he pleaded, eyes flitting to the door as it opened, but Cana didn't give him enough space to get a peek inside.

"She doesn't want to see you right now."

"But—"

"No buts. Just, give her time."

"Levy, please, just... ask if she'll see me? I think I have a solution."

That caught Cana's attention, the woman slipping inside the room before looking for Lucy, finding her setting up a makeshift bed with her blanket.

"Natsu's outside," she said, causing Lucy to still before she sighed.

"Of course he is." Lucy went back to her project, prompting Cana to put her dishes away.

"Lucy," Levy started when she entered the room, keeping the door cracked behind her. "Natsu's here. Do you want to talk to him?"

"Do you know what he wants?" Lucy asked, her voice lacking emotion.

Levy nodded, pressing her lips into a thin line before saying, "He says he might have a compromise?"

Cana noted Lucy's interest, the woman raising her brow before standing. She took a step forward before shaking her head. "Tell him I'll see him tomorrow at breakfast."

"Please Lucy," Natsu called from outside, reminding them all of his sharp hearing.

With a disgruntled sigh, Lucy walked over to the door, Levy stepping out of the way so she could open it. "What?" she asked, not bothering to sound friendly.

Cana shivered, happy she had earned a spot on Lucy's good side. It had taken a while after her poor behavior during their introduction.

"Hey," he mumbled, Cana doing her best not to eavesdrop despite hearing them clearly. "So, I've been thinking about earlier."

Lucy kept one hand on the door as she leaned against the frame. "Yeah?"

Cana heard hope laced in her voice, but that was snuffed out when Natsu said, "How about instead of being a runner, you try bein' a water bearer?"

"Seriously?" Lucy asked, Cana in the background shaking her head. She could imagine Lucy's frustration. She didn't owe anyone a compromise, yet Natsu pressed it.

"Yeah. You'd still go off base, but you'd be way closer to Fairy Tail, and— What are you—"

Lucy closed the door in his face, locking it seconds later before turning to head to her bedding. She slipped under a flap of her blanket before looking at both girls, offering them each a 'good night' before facing the wall.

Cana watched as Lucy snuggled on her 'bed', not saying another word. Glancing at the door, Cana wondered if Natsu was still out there or if he had taken the hint.

After a few minutes of silence outside aside from the occasional survivor passing by, she deduced he had in fact left.

'What a strange day,' Cana thought, getting comfortable in her own bed. She didn't want to think about the events that led to the present, content with letting sleep take her as soon as possible.

Unfortunately for her, she wasn't that lucky, her mind keeping her up well into the night, replaying the same conversations she had over the last two days.

It was exhausting, unfair, and something she couldn't escape so easily.

Then again, maybe she deserved it. She certainly hadn't been making the best choices lately.

Her consequences were bound to catch up eventually.


Up next, Chapter Sixty-One: Distractions- Part One

(We're having Natsu's POV next chapter. It's been fun and challenging to dive into different people's characters, but I'm ready to go back to my favorite, lol)

If the apocalypse ever happens, I think a leader should take on tough jobs and not live 'like a king' or in luxury. They should be among the others, that way they can't let the power get to their heads. That's why Makarov cleans porta potties, so he can stay humble and contribute to Fairy Tail aside from managing books on supplies and survivors. Mavis is there to help with the logistics of Fairy Tail. The plan is for her to take over when she comes of age, but making plans in the apocalypse is a dangerous game.

Y'all, I tested positive for COVID-19. My symptoms started October 25th, and I found out I was positive on November 2nd. It's currently November 12th, and I'm much better now. At the worst my symptoms were: Coughing, fatigue, muscle/body aches, headache, loss of smell, sore throat, congestion, and nausea. Currently I'm only dealing with the loss of smell, but it's slowly returning! If I had to guess I'd say I have 30% of my sense of smell back as long as the scent is near my nose. Thank you so much for your kind words about me and my mom! We're doing good!

Thank you for your support! Shout out to those awesome people who gave me feedback last time: Jazzy-Mae WolfQueen, stranger1999, Lilly Cassandra, Hayitsmay363, positive vibes only(x3), CathJorda(x2), valerioux(x2), zooeyandvincy, Chivan, ReynaSofy997, Sakura2bloom, ElementalMiko12(x2), Chibi-Umaru, Ana Heart(x2), deboome, Mandapandaa, shootingstarssel, BlondeAlchemist, GothBanshee, iaga. isabella, babygirl290, Raquenzel, Xfangirl123X, Floreareginei, Guest, CleverDisguise, Bakers28, Tohka123, Wolfcry77, Claradare, Wapii, Marinamohsin, SistershoOk(x2), darkestangel944, Jazminee18, CathJorda, beefcakebarbierenewed, Ryu of Konoha, BlondeAlchemist, aiyannaliszkap, Guest, Arya Tripathi, ottermadness, justyourtypicalbookworm, Kleia, mariah. carmichael. 3, Mandapandaa, SingStar234, BloodySabbath44, Duchixx, alexmalik15, ipromiseimnotatotaldweeb, Nova1487, sakshishetty3003, Tohka123, Sydneste, Stellar Spirit Mage, Guest, Guest, AnimusLunari777, AJ, Abi6ail, FlameDragonHime, Mccrystal, Lovetoreadff, Meow Orbit, Guest, Lodemai04, atsuda(x2), SunsetRika, and AnnLuVazzel1!

Heads up, we're going into the busiest time of the year at work, but I'm still gonna write when I can. Lots of turkeys to sell. Fun fact: I work at a meat market but I've been a vegetarian for almost two years now. I do have some cans of expired chicken meat that I'll eventually eat though, but I'll probably wait until it's expired for about 2-3 years before testing it. I need to see how realistic it'll be for these characters to eat expired stuff. I eat a lot of expired food like chips, snacky cakes, stuff like that, but I haven't eaten much expired meat. I think only once when I ate some expired chicken soup. Love doing research for this story but sometimes it gives me a stomach ache, lol. Ate some expired coffee cakes today. They were extra crumbly but still tasted good. :P

Anyways, have a great day/night! I hope you enjoyed this chapter. It was a change of pace but I needed to direct Cana into her part of the story and it seemed better to be in her head while I did it instead of seeing it all from the sidelines. (Most of the rest of her story will be from the sidelines and we'll see it from Natsu or Lucy's pov) Let me know what you thought of this chapter! I look forward to hearing from you! Also, I'm still iffy on writing smut, but hopefully when Natsu and Lucy get that intimate I'll get into the swing of things again!

Also, 60 chapters! :D