Next Time

Chapter One

He had first seen her during the Grand Magic Games. It was over as soon as it had begun, with him roughly bumping in to her in the market district before the games started. Her hair was short and blonde, and her dark brown eyes held a flame in it that he couldn't help but be drawn to. Her skin was lightly tanned, and she wore a black tube top and black and red striped pants. A black coat with gold trim was tied firmly around her waist. The oddest features were a strange tattoo on her left shin, and a golden gauntlet that ran all the way up to her shoulder, a red insignia decorating the capped shoulder. The verbal lashing she gave him left him as speechless as her appearance, and as much as he wanted to, he couldn't forget her if he tried.

"That's why you need to watch where the fuck you're going! Are you even listening to me?"

"What's your name?" He nearly cursed at himself. It wasn't an apology, or even any indignation for her yelling at him. He ran in to her, bowled her over, didn't help her up, let her yell at him for nearly 10 minutes, and all he could ask for was her fucking name?!

Natsu Dragneel was not a very smart man.

The woman raised a brow, her eyes still wild, and her chest heaving slightly as she caught her breath. It seemed to be the snap she needed to remember that she was in public, and that making a scene here wouldn't be okay. Taking several more moments to catch her breath, she slowly inhaled a deep breath and exhaled it equally as slowly.

"My name is Dimaria." She replied calmly. Natsu ran the name through his mind a thousand times in an instant before standing up and offering her his hand.

"Sorry about that, Dimaria. I guess I wasn't looking at where I was going." Where the hell had that come from? Natsu never apologized to anyone, at least not one that he meant. "My name is Natsu Dragneel, and I'm competing in the Games!"

He saw Dimaria's eyes widen, the wild look seeming to gain a hint of panic. The woman babbled out a quick excuse and quickkly turned away from the man and ran off. Natsu watched her go, confusion present. She had just been so calm a minute ago, so what had changed? He quickly shook himself out of his stupor and gave chase to the strange woman, but as soon as he turned the corner that she had moments earlier, she was gone.

No. Gone didn't accurately describe it. It was like she suddenly didn't exist. He had her scent, exotic spices and the sea, and it was powerful. And then it wasn't. It wasn't weak, or mingled in with other scents, it was just gone. Natsu shook his head, shock still evident on his features as he made his way silently and slowly back to the inn. Nobody had ever vanished like that. Sure plenty had the ability to move quickly enough to disappear, or even fly away, but they always left a trail. A hint of their existence and the fact that they were real.

But not her. Not Dimaria.

Her ability to vanish without a trace left Natsu fascinated in a way he didn't think possible. For her to be able to do that, she had to be strong in a very unique way. Natsu slept that night with the understanding that he would need to find her again.

He did find her. He caught her scent in the middle of his speech to Sting during the chariot race. He kept his angered gaze on the Sabertooth mage, but his mind was doing everything in his power to pinpoint her without breaking eye contact from the mage. He caught her gaze after Sting left, if only for a moment, but it was all either of them needed. He saw the smallest hint of a smile on her face, and the pride in her eyes. They each shared the barest hint of a nod before the dragon slayer helped prop up Gajeel and the two went on to finish the race. He smiled as he thought of her gaze though. It told him what he needed to hear.

'We'll talk later...'

He found her that night. It was nearly two in the morning when her scent seemed to flood his room. He sat up and rubbed the sleep from his eyes, his vision quickly adjusting to the dark of night. He quickly dressed himself as quietly as he could, making sure to sneak by each of the occupied rooms, and followed the scent down the stairs and out the front door. He gave a quick nod to the bartender wiping the counter, quietly stating he was going for a walk as he exited the bar. The man gave a silent nod and mumbled about locking up when he got back in as the dragon slayer left.

The scent seemed to permeate his tongue, he could taste hints of ginger and other spices combined in to a delicious heat. It lured him around the corner and nearly a block down before turning down a dark alleyway. She was leaning against a dumpster, the light from the street illuminating her just enough for Natsu to see her wearing the jacket that had previously been tied around her waist.

"Natsu." She greeted calmly.

"Dimaria." He responded, though not nearly as calm. He had so many questions for her. How had she projected her scent in his room without ever going in to it? How did she vanish? Why was she the dominant thought of his mind when he was here to fight for his guild and show that they were still the best?

"That was a nice speech you gave earlier." She replied, her voice not doing anything to give away her thoughts. Another thing to drive him mad, he thought to himself, that he couldn't get a read on her from the tone of her voice.

"It's not hard when it's true." Natsu admitted. Dimaria gave a soft chuckle, but otherwise didn't move. "But I have some questions for you, if you don't mind..." Natsu finished lamely, doing his best to seem nonchalant. Dimaria let out a soft sigh.

"Sure. Ask away."

"Why did you run away earlier?" He questioned bluntly.

"Not one to beat around the bush, are you?" She chuckled.

"No sense in it." Natsu answered back, catching on a bit to her game.

"Very well... Would you believe me if I said that I had a sick grandma that I suddenly needed to attend to?"

"Do you think I'm stupid?" He shot back equally as quick as she answered.

"Do you really want me to answer that?"

"Only if the answer is no." Dimaria had to let out a loud snort at that.

"Well that's too bad. I had my reasons for leaving, and you're just going to have to take them at face value." She crossed her arms and Natsu resisted the urge to pinch the bridge of his nose.

"Will I ever get the real answer?"


"On?" He asked as calmly as he could.

"Why do you want to know so much about me?"

"Are you serious?"

"As a heart attack." She stepped closer to the man, allowing him to finally see the wild eyes that captivated him in the reflection of the streetlights behind him.

"You're strong." He stated simply. Dimaria gave a soft sigh and stepped away from him, once more leaning against the dumpster.

"You were so close." She murmured quietly, her eyes showing him enough to see that she was disappointed.

Why did that hurt him so much?

"What?" He stammered out. Dimaria gave a soft huff before pushing herself off the dumpster and standing so close to the man that he could see the small freckles on her cheeks.

"You were so close to getting an honest answer from me." She spoke, her tone nuetral once more. "But if you can't be honest with me on such a simple answer, then how can I be honest with you?"

Natsu felt panic start to swell in his chest when she quietly pushed passed him towards the exit of the alley.

"W-wait!" He nearly sighed in relief when she did, just at the end of the alley. "Give me another chance! I'm just not thinking straight right now!" Where the hell was this side of him coming from? He never acted like this around anyone else, so what was special about Dimaria?

"Fine. We'll try this again next time." The blonde spoke calmly before turning the corner. Natsu quickly sprinted after her, but once again, she was gone without a trace. That when the answer of why Dimaria was so special hit him.

It was because she was Dimaria.

She wasn't like Lucy, or Erza, or Mira, or any of the other women he knew. She was unique in that she was so nonchalantly guarded, so open but closed off, that he couldn't help but invest himself in solving the mystery that was Dimaria. Everything about her was right in front of him, like a math problem where the answers were right in front of him, but he needed to figure out the equation used to solve them. And she had given him his first hint. The first clue that he needed if he wanted to figure out even a small part of her.

And he was determined to figure it out.

She found him again when everything was over. Future Rogue was defeated and the king had deemed it reason enough to throw a large feast, and though Natsu could eat enough to feed an army on his own, his appetite was suppressed on this night. He stood on the balcony of the palace, overlooking the city being rebuilt under the setting sun. His mind was still overwhelmed by everything that had happened. He had watched his partner die, fought a dragon, met a friend of his father's, and nearly died more times than he could count. His fist clenched at the thought of Future Rogue and his last words about Gray.

That Gray would become a dark mage, and kill Frosch.

He didn't dare give the thought any ground to stand upon. Gray was a good man, and though he and Natsu never got along, it never went deeper than their attitude towards each other. Natsu knew that, deep down, he held a level of respect for Gray that few others would ever have in his eyes. He didn't worry about Gray turning on everyone he knew because Gray would sooner end himself than become something so twisted.

His thoughts were halted when he caught the familiar scent of exotic spices. His eyes quickly scanned all around for a shock of blonde hair, only to narrow when he couldn't see a sign of her.

"Follow your ears." A whisper on the wind, but Natsu could almost hear the smirk on her face by the tone alone. He quickly leapt from the balcony to the edge of the wall and sitting himself upon it. He caught a hint of an amused chuckle, and snapped his head to the right. He was off the wall and in to the streets before the chuckle could finish. He must have appeared as a madman to the locals, running with no cease and whipping his head in any direction he could. He caught a spike of her scent and another chuckle, this one lighter and more airy. How was it behind him? He rounded on his heel and turned back down the street, only stopping when he passed by yet another alley and a whistle caught his attention.

"Dimaria?" He asked in to the alley, pausing for a moment to catch his breath. He decided to walk down the alley when he didn't recieve a response.

"You know the legends of the Siren?" Natsu quickly rounded when he saw the blonde leaning against the wall at the entrance of the alley. How had she done that? There were no streets the led here aside from the one he had been running down. She whistled once more, catching his attention as she awaited his response.

"Can't say that I do." Natsu replied. Dimaria pushed herself off the wall and motioned for the dragon slayer to follow her as she exited the alley. Natsu fell in step beside her rather quickly, not wanting to give her the chance to vanish once again.

Dimaria eyed him from the corner of her gaze before walking forward casually. "Legend is that the Sirens are ferocious predators disguised as beautiful women. The would perch upon rocky outcrops of islands and sing, and their songs were so beautiful that lonely sailors would become entranced by them and sail directly to them. They would crash their ships right in to the rocks and sink, and the Sirens would feast on the victims."

"Sounds terrible." Natsu hummed quietly as the two walked.

"It does." She agreed.

"So does your story have a point?" Natsu asked bluntly. Dimaria gave off a small laugh.

"The point of the story is meant to be discovered by the one listening. You're supposed to garner your own point from it."

"So did you garner a point from it?" Natsu turned to face her fully. Dimaria stopped after a moment and turned to face the man.

"I'll tell you if you'll be honest with me."

"I will." Natsu quickly agreed.

"Why do you want to know so much about me?" Dimaria held up a hand to prevent him from speaking for a moment. "This is the last chance I'll give you..."

"Because..." Natsu stammered for a moment. "Because I can't stop thinking about you. You just suddenly came in to my life, and then vanished without a trace. Nobody, no matter how strong or how fast, can do what you do. You fascinate me like nobody else ever has, and I can't seem to get you out of my head."

"So you want to know more about me, because you are confused by me?" She rose a single brow at him. Natsu shook his head.

"No. I want to know more about you, because I want to know you." He poked a finger at her. "Like where are you from? What kind of food do you like? I want to know what makes you, well, you."

"Fair enough." Dimaria supplied calmly. Before turning to face the man. " I suppose it's time for me to be honest with you. That story earlier, the one about the Siren, do you know why I asked you about it?"

"No." Natsu shook his head. "But you are still strange to me, so I figured it may just be who you are."

"It's not that." Dimaria laughed. "I told you the story because you remind me of it."

"Am I the lonely sailor, and you the captivating singer?" Natsu teased lightly. Dimaria huffed at him for a moment.

"Is that the feeling you took from the story?"

"I won't say no." Natsu admitted. "You have a hold on me that is strange at best, and easily dangerous."

"Then that puts us on equal ground." Dimaria spoke calmly as the two walked in to the market district. Most of the shops had closed for the night, but Dimaria didn't hesitate to walk up to the stall selling spices. She seemed to peruse the goods for a moment before ordering a small bundle of spices from the woman running the stall, who nodded and scooped them in to a small canvas bag. Dimaria handed the woman a handful of jewels and continued on her way, the confused dragon slayer still keeping step next to her.

"Can you explain that to me? What do you mean by equal ground?" Natsu paused when Dimaria suddenly turned on him.

"It means," She spoke quietly as she grabbed his hand and brought it between them. She gently pried his hand open and gently set the small bag of spices in it, before closing his hand with her own. Natsu stared down at their joined hands before turning his gaze up to the blonde woman. "It means that I feel the same way about you. I know that being around you is dangerous for me, just knowing who you are is enough to keep most people away. My brain is telling me that I should stay away from you, but my heart can't help but be drawn to you. I think, in the same way that I am your Siren, you are mine, and we will only lead each other to ruin..." She spoke sadly as she let his hand slip from her grip. Her eyes widened when she felt Natsu's other hand firmly grasp around hers.

"I don't believe that for a moment. I think that with enough time we can be allies, friends even. But I don't want you to disappear on me again. I finally got you to answer a question for me, and now I only have a thousand more, so don't go."

Dimaria gave him a soft smile before gently pulling her hand from his grasp. Natsu let it fall back down to his side limply, his wrist still warm from where she had gripped him.

"So I suppose this means that you won't leave well enough alone and never try to find me again?" She laughed weakly.

"I've tried all the way until now, and it hasn't worked, so do you honestly think that after today it would?"

"No." Dimaria admitted weakly, her eyes showing a bit of warmth to the man, who could only offer a weak smile. "But you can't expect me to just sit by and let you figure me out."

"Then how do I get ahold of you? Do you have somewhere I can send mail to?" Natsu asked as Dimaria took several steps away from him. She smiled as she gestured behind Natsu, who quickly turned to see that nobody was there. Turning back to face the blonde, he wasn't surprised to see her gone.

"Find me." Her voice was another fleeting whisper on the breeze. Looking to the bag of spices in his palm, Natsu held them to his nose and inhaled deeply, finding his sense of smell flooded with the familiar blend of scents that matched up to the blonde woman. Snapping his gaze back to the spice vendor, who had just finished closing up her stand, Natsu quickly walked over and grabbed her attention.

"Excuse me, ma'am! These spices you sold that blonde woman," Natsu handed the bag over to the woman, who opened the small sack and sifted through it before handing it back to the man. "Do you know where these spices come from?"

"Well most of these spices grow all over the continent." The woman said, causing Natsu to deflate. "But there was a unique one she requested." The woman gestured to a cluster of small red peppers in the bag. "Those are a breed of pepper that are pretty common in Fiore. But the ones she bought were a variation strain of the plant. If I remember correctly, that particular strain grows in Alavarez, mostly in the forests outside of the capitol city."

"I see. Thank you very much." Natsu spoke calmly as he wandered away from the market district and back towards the palace. If Alvarez was where he was going to find his next trace of Dimaria, then he would be going to Alvarez. But he had things he needed to take care of first. He had to get enough jobs done to save up some extra money for traveling, and get a few bags packed for what was likely a very long trip.

Alvarez was a very long ways away after all.

So I'm back. And I'm not homeless. But I am poor. So I edited this whole thing on a kindle that my dad gave me, and am uploading it from a hotspot that I'm boosting off of. I've had this in my head for quite a while, and figured I'd put something out there since my computer died and I lost all my other stories and progress. That was rough. Anyway, let me know what you think of it.

Hope you enjoyed,