A/N: I LIIIIIIIVE.

FIRST OF ALL, I'm sorry it took me so long to update and even then it's not too much of a chapter. GOSH I'm nervous.

Anyways.

But I was conflicted about the direction of this story because, full disclosure, I'd written myself into a corner with the way I'd written Hibiki lmfao. NaLu is obviously endgame, but I didn't want to villainize Hibiki either, but I also didn't want to write him as the "I'll let the girl I like go :(" kind of character either. I don't like adding unnecessary dramatics and not every endgame needs to have a dramatic getting-together story, I like more of a circumstantial-organic-growth sort of an approach. ANYWAYS, I digress.

But I know how to take this now, so I will definitely update more often! As best I can, at least given the circumstances. I'm pretty sure I won't be able to please all of you and some of you might not even like how this goes, but it can't be helped. I've dropped some hints in this of course, so I'm curious to see if any of you pick up on that ;)

P.S: I know I used to respond to reviews, but I am not sure I can do that anymore as there's so many of them now and I don't want to end up responding to some and not to some others. [ Once again, cursing FF dot Net for their lack of a reply button, that would've been so awesome! ] That said, please know that I appreciate each and every single one of them, and my DMs are always open if you wanna chat! So is my tumblr!

www dot theanxiouscupcake dot tumblr dot com


PART II - HIM


Chapter 13: Hypocrisy


Natsu had never been one to complicate things, and likewise, mostly his feelings were kept simple. He kept them simple. Sure, maybe he'd observed the way his feelings had started to change their nature around Lucy, but suddenly Lisanna was back and he knew what he had to do. It was simple really, and that was the last he'd thought about it. Rather, the last he let himself think about it.

Until a week ago.

He sighed with frustration as he recalled his conversation with Lisanna. He'd had a week to mull over it and frankly, he hated that he was now faced with a complicated situation.

It had been simple enough on the first day, to be honest, after he had finally come to terms with his feelings; he was in love with Lucy. Lucky for him, she was in love with him too. It was that simple. They could both be happy now.

But the more time he had to dwell on it, the more he realized that well, no, things really were not that simple. True, he was in love with her. But the truth was that she had been in love with him; she'd herself told him that she'd been moving on, and she'd told him to be happy for her. And then, the worst part of it all, he'd avoided her since then and had not spoken to her about any of it. He wasn't an idiot, he'd been able to smell the tears off of her, and he knew he'd upset her. Hurt her.

Another thing that did not sit well with him. He'd never believed he'd hurt her. And he had, and he knew he had a huge apology to prepare, when he finally went back home. He'd made up his mind to tell her of his feelings of course, he owed her that much in her explanation at least.

As he entered Magnolia, he slowed his stride, every instinct in him screaming to go to Lucy's house, but he forced his feet to carry himself to his little cottage in the woods. He remembered their fight, and while he might be what people considered dense, he knew he wouldn't be welcome to just march into her house like he usually did.

Sighing, Natsu ran a hand down his face. He wondered if he should buy her a gift of some kind. Idly, he looked through the windows of the shops he was passing by, hoping he could find something of interest to her. Almost an hour later, he had white lilies - a peace offering - and a leather bound notebook with intricate designs on it based on celestial magic; he knew she'd appreciate that. He also bought a single red rose to hand over to her when he confessed his feelings.

He knew they might not be reciprocated anymore. That she'd probably even get angry. It might even complicate things further between them, but he had to tell her. He'd be a hypocrite not to, especially given how he'd flown off the handle at her for keeping secrets between them.


Two hours later, freshly showered, gift bag and flowers in hand, Natsu found himself in front of Lucy's apartment door. He stared at it, hating the nerves. He had never entered this way before and it made him feel like a stranger, oddly enough. Shaking his head, he knocked on the door, trying to keep it to a minimum of three knocks despite his urge to pound on the door till she opened.

He heard scurrying footsteps, before the door flew open and Lucy froze in surprise at the sight of him.

"Hi," he said, standing there stupidly.

"Hi," she replied, the surprise in her face slowly morphing to caution, which only made him more nervous. "What are you doing here?" she asked.

"Uh…" he said, thrusting the white flowers at her, and her eyes widened as she took in the flowers, and her eyes flicked over to his face with understanding. Sighing, she stepped aside to let him in, and he couldn't help but smile a little as he heard her grumble under her breath about how weird it was to let him in through the front door.

"Would you, er, like something to drink?" she asked, shifting on her feet as he sat on the couch. There was a stifling awkwardness in the air, and Natsu hated it. He felt like a guest at her house, and he did not like it one bit. He stared at her, struggling for words as she stood at the kitchen door, waiting for his response before laughing nervously.

"O-kay, I'll take that as a no. I'm going to make myself some tea, give me a minute."

"Y-Yeah, sure!" he said, wincing at his enthusiasm as he shuffled uneasily on the couch, debating if he should just follow her to the kitchen like he normally would. Steeling himself to shake off any awkwardness, because he was here to fix things, he followed her into the kitchen, noting with relief she didn't question him about that. His eyes went to the empty flower vase sitting on top of her microwave and he hesitated only for a second before reaching over and filling it with water.

Lucy watched him as she set the kettle to boil with slightly wide eyes as he stuck the lilies he'd bought into the vase.

"Thank you," she said, her voice slightly awe struck.

Natsu grinned sheepishly. "Wouldn't want the flowers to um, die, or anything," he said, finishing with a nervous chuckle. "Oh, and I also got this for you," he said hastily, showing her the leatherbound book. "I saw it at a store window and thought of you."

She took the notebook from him, tracing the embossed constellations and celestial bodies, lightly ingrained with silver powder in the grooves of the carvings with the tips of her fingers. "It's beautiful," she breathed, hugging it to her chest before looking up at him with a small smile.

Natsu shot her a grin as he hopped onto the kitchen counter as she turned back around to the hissing kettle. He could smell a faint hint of musk and cologne, not too fresh, but fresh enough. He willed himself not to comment on it.

"So how are things with Hibiki?"

Idiot.

So much for not commenting on it.

Lucy paused, looking at Natsu warily. "Good," she said slowly.

Natsu nodded, and made a show of sniffing the air. "Looks like he's been here recently, huh?"

Lucy's gaze sharpened, a frown marring her features. "It's been a week actually. We haven't been able to meet as often as we'd like."

"O-Oh?"

This was so not the point.

"Yeah, living in different cities and working full time at different guilds kind of makes that hard," she said, chuckling nervously.

Natsu cleared his throat. "I-I er, thought you guys went on jobs together."

"Only when I need the rent and when you-" she paused, licking her lips nervously as she coughed lightly. "Only when I need the rent really badly."

It didn't take much to deduce what the rest of her sentence had been. He'd been there when that had happened, when she'd needed to go on a job and he hadn't been talking to her. He also remembered his anger, and once again felt so stupid.

The stark stiffness in her shoulders made him want to gather her up in his arms and apologise to her. Clearly she was nervous and tense, he supposed that was natural given how he hadn't spoken to her in so long after almost lashing out at her and then had just taken off without warning.

"There's some leftover fire chicken from last night if you're hungry," she said at last, without looking at him as she now stirred her tea.

He looked at her with surprise. "What, who'd you make fire chicken for?"

She shifted on her feet. "Oh, um, no one. I was alone last night and I, um, hadn't made it in an unusually long time so I just…" she trailed away with a shrug.

"In a while," he said, biting his lower lip before he reached forward to wrap his fingers around her elbow to gently tug her in the living room. She blinked at him in surprise but did not pull away as he sat her down on her couch.

He sat next to her, eyes downcast before taking a deep breath.

"I've missed your fire chicken," he confessed quietly. "No one gets the sauce mix quite as right as you do."

She blinked at him in surprise, but before she could say anything, he continued. "And I've missed you. I missed coming home to you, and talking to you, being yelled at by you and… Just all of it. I missed you so much, Luce," he said, throat getting tight.

He felt her move, and looked up to see her set her mug on the coffee table before crushing him into a hug. "I've missed you too."

Letting his cheek rest on her crown, he hugged her, bathing in her scent, so her, and it served as a reminder to just how long he hadn't been with her. How had he even managed that? When he finally started to pull away, he had another apology on the tip of tongue, along with a confession but she beat him to it.

"I'm sorry," she burst out, interrupting him.

"You're sorry?" asked Natsu incredulously.

"Well, yeah. I'm sorry I lashed out at you, that was wrong of me. It was not your fault that I wasn't able to deal with my feelings and-"

"No," he interrupted her firmly, shaking off his surprise. "It was my fault. I shouldn't have behaved that way. And I'm sorry for leaving things the way I did. I was just… Confused and did not know how to act, and ended up acting like a jerk instead," he said petulantly.

She smiled at him apologetically. "Well, you were a bit of a jerk."

"Yes, well." Natsu snorted, before sobering and looking her in the eye. "I'm really sorry about that. I just don't know how to act sometimes and I know that's not an excuse but…. I'm just really sorry, Luce," he finished with a sigh.

He felt her hesitate for a second before she took her hand in his. "I forgive you, Natsu. But I'm sorry too, it was still selfish of me to lash out at you that way and-"

"Selfish?" he asked dumbly.

Lucy blinked at him, before looking at the ground uneasily. "Well, yeah. We're best friends aren't we? I know you're happy with Lisanna, and I didn't think twice before just saying that, and I shouldn't have. It isn't fair."

Natsu swallowed thickly, looking at his hands. Would it be selfish of him to tell her now, then? She was happy with Hibiki; she'd said so herself. Would he be throwing a wrench in her happiness if he went and told her he loved her now? She didn't seem to even know that Lisanna and him had called it off yet. Should he say something about that? Ideally, yes. He really should and-

"Natsu?" she asked timidly.

He looked up instantly to see she was looking at him expectantly, worrying her lower lip and he realized she'd asked him something. He blinked at her sheepishly, and she sighed, scooting a little closer.

"We are still best friends, aren't we?" she asked hesitantly.

"Yeah, the very best," he said at last, sighing as he pulled her into another hug, deciding that the rest could wait. For now, he had a lot to think about.

"I don't want you to regret what you told me," he said after a moment of quiet.

He couldn't help but wonder if he would have ever found out if she hadn't. Probably not. He did not like the thought of that, and yes, maybe what she said made things complicated, but he supposed they were necessary. He didn't have to like this situation they, rather he found himself in, but he did not regret knowing what he did. That she had loved him. Maybe it did hurt a little bit, that she was moving on, but he supposed he couldn't fault her for that. It really was his own fault, he supposed with resignation. Despite it all, he was glad that he knew, if only because he had been hurting her and he hadn't known and now, he did.

She started to pull away, but he held on tighter. "I mean it. We're best friends, I don't like when you're hurting. I hate it. Especially when I'm doing the hurting. I need to know."

She didn't say anything, so he drew back a little to look her in the eye. "Please? No more secrets?"

He could hear her heartbeat pick up just a little bit before she gave him a watery smile. "Promise." she said. "Can you- Can you promise me the same thing?"

Natsu wasn't a liar. He wasn't one to break promises either. So he gave her a soft smile and kissed her forehead instead. He didn't mind being a bit of a hypocrite, though.


A/N: SO? THOUGHTS?