Summary: Lucy really enjoys talking to the cute, pink-haired boy who comes into her coffee shop. It's such a shame she has to kill him.
Dedicated to: JAKEDSNAKE and Slash2104
Own Me, I'll Let You Play The Role
Natsu rapidly types on the keyboard, glancing at the ledger open to the right of him. He hits the enter key and the blue jagged line of the graph spikes up, showing the gain. He moves on to the next line.
"Let me just clear this away for you," his favourite barista says, reaching for his empty plate and coffee cup.
"Thanks, Lucy." Natsu turns slightly in his seat so he can look at her fully. A woman like Lucy Heartfilia deserves his undivided attention.
"I've never understood stuff like that," Lucy waves a hand to his laptop's screen with its coloured chart and percentiles on display.
"It's not too bad if you know the formulas."
Lucy gives a self-deprecating chuckle. "That's a big if for someone like me. I think I would be too daunted to try."
"I don't have much of a choice." Natsu shrugs. "I have to do a big presentation for our investors and they like to see the hard data."
"Oh? Well, don't work too hard, Natsu." She anchors his stacked dishes against her hip and tucks a wayward strand of hair behind her ear. It's done up in a messy bun like always, a tangled nest of sunshine. Natsu has an alarming number of fantasies about reaching up and rubbing a lock of it between his fingers, like a miser with a gold coin.
Natsu refocuses on her face. "Thanks, Lucy. I wouldn't."
"When's your big presentation?" Lucy asks. She's been making it a habit to linger and indulge in a bit of conversation lately during his daily coffee break.
"Tomorrow. I have to fly to Crocus this afternoon," Natsu grimaces and it seems like he's not looking forward to it. "That's why I'm trying to get things finished up now."
"I guess I won't need to save you a jalapeño bagel in the morning?" Lucy asks. She has his order memorized, usually pops it into the toaster the second he walks through the door, before he can even reach the counter.
Natsu snickers at the slight disappointment in her tone.
"Don't miss me too much. I'll be back the day after."
"Miss you?" She scoffs, a blush spreading across her cheeks, highlighting the freckles across the bridge of her nose. "Don't flatter yourself, Natsu."
"A man can dream," he says, but his phone pings with a text message. Natsu glances down at it with a frown.
"I'll let you get back to work," Lucy tells him with a bright smile before making herself scarce.
Lucy ends her shift at the coffee shop at 3 pm, goes home, showers, and makes herself a chicken breast with a side salad full of leafy green vegetables. As she's eating, she logs onto her laptop and starts her real job.
Lucy opens an encrypted email from her employer, Jellal Fernandes. He's starting to get impatient by her lack of progress.
Jellal has it all meticulously planned. Six months ago, he bought a small coffee shop near Natsu's apartment building. Then he hired an assassin to moonlight as a barista to get close to the man and kill him.
After that, Jellal will take down Natsu's brother Zeref, and Fiore's drug trade will indisputably be his. Lucy isn't hired to take on Zeref nor does she want to be. She's a one-hit wonder, always has been. No families, no kids, and her intended target has to meet a certain immoral criteria before she'll agree to the hit.
So far, Natsu hasn't done much by himself, but if Lucy squints, she can definitely make a case for guilt-by-association. Laundering money for his brother might clean the cash, but it doesn't keep his hands clean.
After the hit, Lucy will continue working at the coffee shop for a bit, just until the heat wears off. Jellal has mapped out this part, too. Déjà Brew, having operated at a loss for several months, will go belly up. It'll be just another small starter business that couldn't compete against Starbucks. A sad thing, but it happens all the time. Without employment, Lucy will leave town, never to be seen again.
No one will guess she'll be leaving vastly richer than a minimum wage worker has any right to be.
Lucy sighs as she reads Jellal's message. He's a man of nuances, not one to make idle threats. Indeed, he's not threatening her—yet—but she can tell by the bitten off words that he's getting testy.
It's never taken her so long to kill a mark before.
At first, Lucy's reasoning had been sound. She needed to blend in with the community, establish herself as a sweet, slightly vapid girl who's trying to make it as a social media influencer while working as a barista.
Lucy's Instagram page is chock full of healthy recipes, makeup tutorials, the odd thirst trap picture of herself in a complicated yoga pose. A few pictures of the pumpkin-spiced lattes she's made at Déjà Brew. Nothing too witty, nothing too memorable.
It's all so basic.
The police will never suspect her.
Once the groundwork had been laid and Natsu had walked into the coffee shop, it was remarkably easy to start flirting with him.
Natsu is handsome, friendly, and he's never tried looking down her shirt as she's bent over refilling his coffee cup – not even once. She gives him full marks for that one.
At first he came twice a week, but now it's every day. He doesn't talk about his profession and Lucy isn't stupid enough to blow her cover by asking, but he seems open to talking about anything else.
Unfortunately, she doubts telling Jellal that Thor: Ragnarok is Natsu's favourite movie will count as valuable intel.
Jellal must not be a Marvel fan.
From the little she knows of Jellal, the only thing he's a fan of (aside from money and power) is his girlfriend.
Erza Scarlet has a menacing aura, a smile like a knife, and a death count in the hundreds. Wonderful woman. Lucy knows it's only her friendship with Erza that has kept her in Jellal's good graces this long.
And she's running out of time.
Lucy will have to carry out the hit soon or go on the run. Either way, her time with Natsu Dragneel is coming to an end. It's such a shame. She'll miss their chats and he really is very cute.
Lucy leans back in her chair, mulling over her options. At least if she kills him, she gets paid.
She's always been pragmatic.
Lucy pulls the duffle bag out from under her bed and starts strapping on weapons.
Natsu's apartment building is in the richest part of Magnolia. Several weeks ago, Lucy had donned a pink wig and posed as a french maid kiss-a-gram for another of the building's occupants, an ice-cold bastard named Invel Yura, yet another one of Zeref's henchmen.
Invel's apartment is on the twelfth floor, as opposed to Natsu's penthouse suite, but the elevator keycard is the same for everyone. That had been a bitch to swipe, but Lucy had adopted a very servile persona, calling Intel 'master' during their brief interaction.
Lucy might've done a little too well with Invel, because after their chaste kiss, he had given her his number and inquired if she was into knife play.
Lucy had almost slit his throat right then and there. She would've been doing the world a favour.
Instead, Lucy had taken the number, simpered up at him like he was some sort of god, and let him cup her ass as he whispered how much he would enjoy collaring her and making her his slave. Lucy had let him get away with it because she was a goddamn professional.
But perhaps if killing Natsu doesn't take too long, she can make a quick pit stop on her way out.
Lucy confirms with Levy that Natsu caught his 4:45 pm flight, then goes about disabling the building's security cameras. Natsu's personal alarms inside his apartment turn out to be a lot more complicated, but Levy walks her through them.
After Levy gives the all-clear, Lucy tucks her blonde hair into a brunette bobbed wig and walks right through the front door. The elevator keycard works like a charm, and she's quick enough with a lockpick at Natsu's door to make it look as though she has keys.
Lucy has it open within seconds.
It's show time. Lucy steps into the foyer. Her black combat boots make no noise on the oak plank floors. She still moves with care. Old habits die hard and without them, assassins die young.
Jellal hasn't specified how he wants Natsu killed, a nicety Lucy appreciates, but he did say he wants the body easily found. Jellal wants to send a message to Zeref about who's coming for him.
It's not a philosophy Lucy personally agrees with, but no one is paying for her opinion on the matter, so she's kept her mouth shut. Zeref staying focused on Jellal only helps her.
Self-preservation is key when you're an independent contractor.
Now that she's in, the only thing Lucy needs to do is wait for Natsu to walk through his front door. She'll have such lovely surprises waiting for him.
That doesn't mean she can't poke around a little bit first.
Intel, she tells herself. Besides, anything she digs up of value might turn into a bonus on her final paycheck.
The apartment is indisputably a man's place, wood and glass seem to be the main themes. An entire wall is just floor-to-ceiling windows, offering a gorgeous city skyline view. There's no balcony and the glass is bullet-proof.
The only personal touch is the abstract painting above the gas fireplace. Lucy finds herself drawn to it – it's a gorgeous piece. The dabbed swirls look like either sunlight coming through dark clouds or perhaps the illusion of smoke and fire. It would be the perfect place to hide a discreet wall safe.
Lucy lifts the bottom edge of the painting to check, her blood running cold when she hears someone delicately clearing their throat behind her.
Her hands are in the air, no chance of reaching the small utility belt at her waist that holds her arsenal of weapons. Not if the person behind her is the least bit competent.
"Well, this is awkward," Natsu says.
Lucy keeps her hands raised, tilts her head slightly to catch him in her periphery to gauge how far he is behind her and what sort of weapon he might be holding. The fact that he was able to get the drop on her is galling.
She gives a resigned sigh, shifts on the balls of her feet slightly as she turns, readying herself into a defensive stance. This is going to get a lot messier than she'd hoped.
"Hey, Natsu, I figured I would drop by–" the rest of her lame excuse is lost when she sees him with one arm extended, offering her a single, long-stemmed pink rose.
Um, okay. This is unexpected, to say the least.
Natsu's dressed in a grey button-down shirt, jeans, black socks. His eyes are full of mirth and there's a genuine smile curving up his full lips.
Lucy's a little insulted. The fact that he's caught her here means he must know what she is, who she works for. The least he could do is don a bulletproof vest.
"I like your leather outfit," Natsu winks, then lets his eyes roam freely over her frame. "Leather's one of my kinks."
"It's Kevlar, you idiot," Lucy snaps. Leather reflects far too much light and rustles when you move.
Lucy realizes with those two, simple words Natsu has given her confirmation that he was lying in wait for her. He must have rigged his own flight and security system…and done it in such a way that not even Levy had suspected a thing.
That makes him extra dangerous.
Lucy drops one hand protectively to her belt, feeling immeasurably better once her hand touches a dagger. She doesn't miss the way Natsu smirks slightly as she wraps her fingers around the hilt.
She gets the feeling Natsu's used to being underestimated and has used this to his own advantage many times before.
Lucy isn't here to play games. She pulls the blade out in a quick, smooth motion. It's one of her smaller ones, but the sharp edge can saw through bone.
"You seem to know a lot of things about me."
Natsu studies the metal in her hand, gives it due consideration. "I could say the same for you."
Natsu has his left hand raised to show he's not hiding anything in that palm. He raises his right one holding the flower a bit higher, silently urging her to take it.
Natsu sighs as if he expected as much. "I'd like to talk about the things I know, if you're willing."
Lucy hesitates. She knows it would probably be for the best to just snap Natsu's neck and be done with it, but there's something in his nervous stance, the way he shuffles his feet, that's causing her to hesitate.
He had the opportunity to kill you and he didn't, a treacherous voice whispers inside her head. A colder, more calculating part of herself doesn't want to ruin months of reconnaissance work by being impatient. Lucy has a sniper's heart, after all. The least she can do is hear him out.
"Fine," Lucy concedes with a quick nod, trying to ignore how pleased Natsu looks by her decision. "What did you have in mind?"
"How about dinner?"
"Dinner?" Lucy huffs out a laugh. "That's not what I was expecting you to say."
"What were you expecting me to say?" Natsu moves slowly. With careful placement, he puts the rose on the coffee table behind him, keeping his hands where she can see them. "I didn't know there was some sort of protocol for when you're asking your would-be-assassin out on a date."
Lucy chokes on nothing but air, spluttering out, "Date?"
"Yeah, we could eat in, go out. Whatever you like."
She raises her eyebrows at him. "You've gotten bold. I've been flirting with you for months and this is the first time you've asked me out."
"I prefer to date people without any masks on. Besides, subtly is dead. I stabbed it eighteen times in the chest," Natsu says drolly, his eyes dropping to the weapons strapped to her waist. "It's a sentiment I'm sure you can appreciate it."
"Since we're being honest with each other, I should warn you not to drink the bordeaux you ordered last week," Lucy tells him.
"The entire case?"
Lucy shrugs, not the least bit repentant. "I couldn't leave anything to chance, now could I?"
"I appreciate the warning. I swapped out your arsenic at the coffee shop for regular sugar, by the way," he offers.
"You did?" Lucy's impressed. "How long have you known I'm not a regular barista?"
"Since the start," Natsu waves his hand if that question is far too easy. "Zeref wanted me to kill you right away, but I was intrigued. Then I started getting to know you…" The shrug of his shoulders seems to say, and here we are.
"How do you know I won't just kill you right now?" With the dagger in her hand, all it would take is one flick of the wrist.
"I don't," Natsu says, looking directly in her eyes and seeming unfazed by the prospect. "I know what you're capable of, but I'd like to think even at the coffee shop we made a connection. In fact, I'd bet my life on it."
He's cracking jokes now?
Lucy has never had anyone act so blasé in front of her. She's used to bargaining, tears, begging, even stoic silence, but this? She's not sure what to do with this.
Lucy narrows her eyes at Natsu.
"Okay, if we're doing this dinner thing, I need to set some ground rules. First of all, I'm not eating or drinking anything here. We'll order in and I'll pick the place. Plus, you have to eat first."
Lucy yanks the itchy brown wig off her head and pulls her golden hair out of its bun, letting the strands flow freely to her shoulders. Natsu watches her, his eyes darkening with things she has no intention of reading.
Not right now, at least.
"I feel like a food taster at a French court," Natsu grouses, but he's more relaxed. Lucy can tell by the looseness of his shoulders, the crinkles forming around his eyes.
"And...I'm keeping this out." Lucy twirls the dagger in her hand, letting it flash in a complicated pattern.
"You've got impressive knife skills," Natsu acknowledges. "I do love a woman with clever hands."
Lucy has to bite her bottom lip to keep from chuckling. "I would advise you not to get overly familiar or the last thing you'll see are my 'clever hands' snapping your neck."
"Duly noted." Natsu's angelic smile that isn't the least bit apologetic.
"I still want to know why you are doing all this." Lucy can't see why he'd risk his life. Had she seen him first, she would've shot him in the head, wouldn't have hesitated for an instant. The thought now sits uncomfortably in her chest.
"A lot of reasons, but honestly? I see three options here. One, you kill me and then Zeref kills you."
Lucy scowls. She'd like to think she'd take on anyone and win, but she can't take down an army by herself. And an army is exactly what she'd be up against. Zeref wasn't going to let her walk away from murdering his own brother. He'd have all the time, money, and certainly the motivation to hunt Lucy down to the ends of the earth, do whatever it takes to exact his revenge. It would not be a fast or merciful death.
"Go on," Lucy presses Natsu.
"Two, come work for us instead."
"Option Two sounds a lot like Option One," Lucy spits out bitterly. "You think Jellal is just going to let me go? He wants you and your brother dead. If he thinks I betrayed him for his enemy, he'll send Erza or Gajeel after all of us."
"He might," Natsu hums in agreement, "but we have Mira, Laxus and hopefully you. Jellal can launch a full scale war if he wants, but I have a feeling he hired you to get rid of me so that he'd have the element of surprise. Without that, I think he'll rethink his next move for a good, long time."
"There's a whole lot of speculation in that option, but let's just suppose for a minute that you're right. It seems like no matter what I do, I end up caught up in some sort of mafia war. That's the last thing I want, Natsu." Lucy glances out the window of his apartment. The sun is just beginning to set and the sky has turned lilac and honeysuckle. It's gorgeous, but she's not about flowers and sunsets. She's not that type of girl. "I was supposed to be leaving this godforsaken place. Find a beach somewhere, wear scandalous bikinis and sip Mai Tais for the rest of my life."
Natsu gives a dry, humourless laugh.
"Come on, Lucy. You can't expect me to buy that. How many years have you been training? You like the chase, the thrill, the intrigue, same as I do. There's no way you were going to give all this up."
He's probably right, but she doesn't see any reason to admit it.
"You said there was a third option?" Lucy probes.
"Date me," Natsu says very quietly. "No strings attached, I promise. Although that protection I was talking about will still be yours. Truth be told, I've already told my brother that you're off limits to anyone, no matter what. You can take the jobs you want, still be Lucy. I won't interfere. You'll get to know me, I'll get to know you. It'll just be a regular relationship...or as regular as things get for people like us."
"I don't do relationships, Natsu," she tells him point-blank. "In case you can't tell, I'm all business."
"Yeah, so was I. Before I met you. Now I think I would like something for myself, something personal. How about you?"
Lucy studies him. She has never thought of her life as small. She's travelled the world, made friends, and lives by her own code of conduct. Natsu seems to be offering her something bigger, something more.
Lucy's always pushed herself, but this time the pull might be so much sweeter.
"Let's order some dim sum and I'll think about it."
Natsu blinks at her in surprise and Lucy absentmindedly notes the tell. She'll have to train him better, if she decides to take him up on his offer.
"I know you said you'd pick the place, but can I suggest Blue Pegasus for the food? You won't regret it," Natsu promises.
"I might," Lucy says with a sharp grin, showing all her teeth. A warning that her regrets will quickly become his, "but sure."
Lucy's surprised by her easy acquiesce, but Natsu's answering smile is warm. She can't remember the last time someone smiled at her, not a persona she was wearing. It does strange things to her heartbeat.
Lucy closes the distance between them and lays her dagger on the table, still within easy reach. It can stay there.
A/N - I had put Thor: Ragnarok as Natsu's favourite movie (since it's my favourite Marvel movie), but then wordsaremyspells1331 reminded me that Ragnarok is also the name of the Dragon King Festival in Fairy Tail. *mind blown.*
Title comes from the lyrics from Bad Guy by Billie Eilish.
FF has not been sending email notifications for PMs for months now, so now PMs can sit unnoticed. I would like to keep thanking everyone who reviews, but I will keep doing it here, so you guys can actually see it. :D
Shout out to all my reviewers from last time! ShanaHollows, NaluLover, valerioux, Ember Reverie, JAKEDSNAKE, Professor of Gallifrey, BeachBumBabe and stranger1999.
Thank you to every single person who has read these!
Please check out the other writers participating in Nalu Week! wordsaremyspells1331, ShanaHollows, and Professor of Gallifrey!