Chapter 7: Smile
"Okay," Lucy agrees immediately, because that's just what you do when a world famous actor comes bursting into the bar you work at on a random Tuesday afternoon.
Natsu Dragneel—Academy Award Winner, People magazine's Sexiest Man Alive, and the recipient of MTV's Best Kiss Award in 2012—that Natsu Dragneel is standing no more than two feet across from her.
His naturally pink hair is covered up by what Lucy hopes is merely a tragic wig, but the rest of him is unmistakable – sharp peridot irises, cheekbones to die for, and full lips that Lucy used to kiss on the poster in her childhood bedroom.
(She had been fourteen back in 2012, okay?) Maybe fifteen. Whatever. She was a late bloomer.
"Go through the kitchen…" Lucy says, debating for a second if she should call him Mr. Dragneel before deciding she's not his personal assistant. "Tell Gajeel in the back that I said it was okay, Natsu."
"Thanks!" Natsu calls. He leaps over the bar with smooth, athletic grace before disappearing through the iron door behind her.
Luckily for him, it's 2:19 pm and her regular customers (all three), wouldn't care one way or the other that one of the most acclaimed actors in the world has just barged right through here.
Except for maybe Cana.
"Don't breathe a word and your next round is on me," Lucy whispers to the brunette.
"Free drinks for the rest of the night," Cana murmurs back, because she's an opportunist. That's why they're friends.
"Two, but I'll make them doubles," Lucy counters.
"Done," Cana says, pointing to the Jack Daniels. "No ice."
The deal has just been struck when a group of paparazzi burst through the doors, all beelining straight for her.
"What can I get for you?" Lucy asks the first guy, a smarmy little parasite with a press lanyard that says his name is Mard Geer.
"Natsu Dragneel! Where'd he go?" Mard nods to a crony behind him, "Jackal, go check the washroom. Take the camera! Do you know how much we could sell a candid shot of Natsu Dragneel for?"
Lucy tries to squelch down her disgust at Mard's blatant attempt to break privacy laws. Instead, she flicks back her ponytail and adopts a starstruck look.
"Is Natsu Dragneel coming here? I heard they were shooting a movie nearby, but oh-my-god! If I could get a picture with him, my Insta would seriously blow up."
She might be over playing it a bit, but Mard seems to bite.
"He just rushed in here thirty seconds ago," Mard confides, "but he might be hiding some place."
A few of the other people behind him start fanning out, going towards the adjacent games room with its solo pool table and three dartboards.
Mard turns back towards her with what Lucy's sure is supposed to be a pleasant smile. It feels as comfortable as a vivisection.
"It's not too busy, but he could have slipped past you." Mard lowers his voice, "We know from experience how sneaky he can be. Plus, he's wearing a brown wig so you may not have recognized him."
"Oh, I recognized him," Lucy gloats, ignoring Cana's eyes widening.
"So you did see him!" Mard practically pounces. "Which way did he go? Is he hiding in the back?"
Another photographer moves to lift the countertop latch and come behind the bar, but Lucy presses her hand firmly down, blocking him. She offers Mard a sunny smile.
"You talk a lot. Your throats must be so dry," Lucy hints.
Mard grins, waving at his coworker to back off for the moment.
"Of course I am. I'll take a glass of Chardonnay."
If this guy thinks he's going to get the scoop for one measly glass of wine, he's sorely mistaken. As he aptly pointed out, the bar isn't exactly experiencing a rush at the moment.
"Coming right up. And what'll it be for your friends?" Lucy asks in her perkiest voice.
Mard's smile wilts. He gives her a slow once over.
"I'm not sure they're thirsty, but maybe you and I can come to another arrangement? Perhaps dinner tonight?"
"My shift has just started and I work 'til eleven," Lucy says with her best dumb-blonde expression. She lets her eyelashes flutter slightly, biting her lower lip as if she might be persuaded.
Mard falls for it hook, line, and sinker.
She should really be given all sorts of accolades for all the pervs she has to put up with on the daily.
Lucy whirls to the wine fridge and finds the right bottle, expertly pouring him a glass. If it's a tad under the advertised six ounces, sue her. She puts it on the coaster in front of Mard.
"Even better, we can have dessert," Mard leers, talking directly to her cleavage. Lucy has to stop herself from dumping the entire drink down the front of his ugly polyblend shirt.
"I don't know, I'm not really interested in cheapskates…" Lucy trails off pointedly.
Mard sighs and Lucy can practically see the wheels in his head turning.
"I think I was mistaken, I'm sure my colleagues would love a drink," Mard nods to the rest of the crew. "First round is on me."
They don't need telling twice. It's a scorching day and Black Steel's beers come in frosted mugs. Lucy fills everyone's orders, but has an extra dose of respect for the one called Dimaria, who orders a triple shot of their finest scotch neat. Mard winces at her and Cana gives Dimaria a not-so-subtle salute with her own glass.
Mard reluctantly hands over his credit card and Lucy runs it through. Once it's approved, she settles down to business.
"So! What do you want to know?" Lucy asks.
"Where are you hiding him, sweetheart?"
"Hide? You think I would hide him?" Lucy gives an incredulous laugh. "I own this bar..." Not technically true but he doesn't need to know that. "I would be calling every friend I have to get their asses down here if Natsu Dragneel was sitting right here."
"But you just said he was here." Mard is definitely not amused, but his unamused expression amuses her so she pushes it, just a little.
"I said I would recognize him," Lucy corrects, all innocent. "And I totally would. I just watched Here Forever last night and started bawling even though I've seen that one a hundred times. And the barbarian one where they show him in the lake and you see his ass? Him scrubbing up his entire body? I've slow-moed that scene. A lot. I even have a screenshot on my phone, if you wanna see..."
Mard's fingers clench tighter around the wine stem.
"That wouldn't be necessary," he says curtly, his expression darkening as he considers her. "So you just tricked me into buying a round of drinks when you know nothing useful."
Lucy gives an affronted huff.
"What do you mean? I can tell you everything there is to know about Natsu! I know his birthdate, seen all his films, read every single interview. I am the Natsu Dragneel trivia master."
Dimaria polishes off her drink and nudges Mard.
"Come on, let's get going. This girl's nothing but a fangirl. He must've slipped into that flower shop next door. We'll catch him back at the hotel."
The paps shuffle out of the bar. Lucy gives a cheerful wave and an offer that they should come back soon. Mard is the last to go and the only one who seems a bit suspicious of her airhead act.
Lucy offers him her brightest smile, the one that always seems to increase her tip percentage. Mard's frown disappears and he's right back to looking like a lecherous toad. Before he can do anything more, Dimaria grabs him by the scruff of the neck and pulls him along, out of sight.
There's a slow clap behind her and Gajeel's standing at the kitchen door.
"Well done. I'll even forgive your transgression on handing out free drinks since you just made this my most profitable Tuesday afternoon ever," he says.
"You're as kind as always. Where is he?"
Did Natsu slip out the back? Without even saying thank you? That would be unforgivably rude. Lucy might bootleg his next film instead of paying full price, if that's the case.
"Still in the kitchen, I gave him lunch," Gajeel tells her.
Lucy feels her face going slack with shock. Gajeel's not exactly the warm-and-fuzzy type.
"I'm surprised you didn't get him to hide in a sack of potatoes," she deadpans.
Gajeel lets loose his distinct laugh, a robust gi-hi-hi-hi.
"Might've thought about it, but figured you'd get pissed off and tattle to Levy if I did. Then she'd get pissed and I'd end up sleeping on the couch tonight." Gajeel tries to sound disgruntled, but his chest puffs out with pride, as it always does when he's talking about his small girlfriend. He's thoroughly wrapped around the bookworm's pinky finger and happy to be there.
Lucy rolls her eyes.
"I'm trying to keep you off the couch because you're always bitching about your sore back the next day. But thanks for helping me out."
Gajeel shrugs off her gratitude. He isn't comfortable with it, but Lucy feels it's her sworn duty to show him what friendship looks like.
"The guy's not so bad. He knew what a naga viper pepper looked like and asked for four in the burger I made him." Gajeel seems far more impressed by this than by Natsu's acting ability in the movies Lucy's forced him to watch. "He ate every last bite and said it was one of the best meals he's ever had."
"You'll man the bar for me?"
It's not really a question since Lucy's already taking off her apron and passing it to him.
"Yeah, yeah. Go," Gajeel grumbles, shooing her towards the door.
Lucy practically skips through the kitchen, trepidation only catching up to her when she spies Natsu leaning against the long kitchen island, the hideous wig discarded in front of him. She wonders if she can accidentally knock it over a foot into the trash.
"Thanks for save, Lucy." Natsu says with a crooked smile that has her weak in the knees. "Gajeel told me your name."
"That seems fair, since I know yours. I mean, everyone knows your name, you're super famous…" Lucy cuts herself off. She's actually sounding like the fangirl Dimaria accused her of being. "Sorry. I bet you get that a lot."
"I do." Natsu acknowledges, grinning down at her, and his mouth is even more lush in 3D than she had imagined. Way better than her Dark Thirst poster. "However, I don't often get people proclaiming they have screenshots of my ass on their phones."
"You heard that?" Lucy shrieks.
Great. Just great. Now she wants to hide in the sack of potatoes. And she doesn't even eat carbs.
"Yeah, I ate standing near the door. Sometimes those guys can start wrecking a place while searching for me," Natsu says bitterly. "They try to intimidate people. I figured if they started destroying shit, the least I could do was come out and give them what they wanted – strike a few poses. It might save you guys from any trouble."
"That's super sweet of you, but have you seen Gajeel?" Lucy scoffs with a quick wave of her hand. "Black Steel is his baby. If the paparazzi had tried to mess with it, they'd have all left here in an ambulance, trust me. Or maybe a body bag. One of those. They would not be walking, that's for sure. But everything worked out just fine, I handled it."
"Yes. You definitely handled it," Natsu says.
His voice has an unpolished roughness up close. He seems to be looking at her with...admiration?
She hopes so.
Lucy wishes there was a way to pull her hair out of its ponytail and do the sexy librarian shake of her golden tresses, but that move seems a little too porno flick, even for her.
The thought shakes a wry grin out of her. She feels a little bit ridiculous. Lucy isn't one to stutter and trip over her words. She has never felt out of her depth manning the bar, not even when she was inexperienced and just starting out.
Dealing with Mard and the paparazzi wasn't any different than sorting out the Saturday night frat bros. She didn't do much, just her job, but Natsu's staring at her like she hung the moon and more.
It's endearing, honestly.
Lucy can't remember the last time she felt nervous around a man. She's just not wired that way.
Or so she tells herself as she drifts towards Natsu, trying to ignore the heat creeping up the back of her neck. The way Natsu's eyes darken as he studies her is worth Lucy's slight embarrassment. He has a gorgeous face. Photos and film capture it in all its carved marble glory, but up close it is a living work of art.
"So how long are you in town for?" Lucy asks him.
"A few more weeks?" Natsu gives a vague shrug of his shoulders. "It all depends on the weather and how many takes the director wants until he's happy. It could very well be longer."
"Yeah?" Lucy swallows thickly. She finds herself wondering vaguely how many people have seen this Natsu Dragneel, one free of handlers and careful grooming and scripted answers. His lack of artifice is more boyishly charming than she would've expected, but she likes it.
"Yeah. As a matter of fact, I've been thinking I might stay for a vacation after filming wraps," Natsu whispers, his voice low and intimate. "I don't have anything else lined up and I've found myself growing fond of Magnolia quite recently."
Lucy blinks up at him to see if he means it. Colour floods Natsu's cheeks and his grin becomes shy at the edges.
"How recently?" Lucy teases, shuffling a bit nearer because her fifteen year old self is dying inside of her, but her twenty-three year old self is a risk-taker and a big talker, even though she can't believe what's happening right now.
"Very recently," Natsu admits, wetting his bottom lip with his tongue.
Lucy tracks the movement, but she already likes how his gaze makes her feel a little too warm inside.
"I think it would be nice for you to stick around," Lucy tells him.
Natsu chuckles and Lucy basks in the beauty of the sound before she realizes he's staring at her mouth. It takes her a moment to realize she's giggling back at him and she has no idea why either of them are laughing.
When their titters subside, Natsu reaches up to brush her bangs back, his touch unexpectedly soft and warm. "I might need someone to show me around town."
Her entire body shudders with enough force to clack her teeth together. "I might know just the girl for the job," Lucy admits.
"I was hoping you would say that."
Lucy breathes out and then seems to stop breathing when Natsu takes her hand in his. He lifts her palm to eye-level, his thumb lightly tracing the blue veins on the inside of her wrist.
"No ring," Natsu notes, his soft pink lips dangerously close to her skin.
"I'm not married," Lucy confirms, all the oxygen leaving her lungs in a rush.
Natsu smiles at her, quiet and knowing and exquisite.
"Neither am I. Would you like to grab a drink?"
Lucy cants her head towards the iron door.
"I know the perfect place."
A/N - That's another Nalu Week done! Now that it's over, please let me know which prompt you liked best. Thank you so much for reading, following and reviewing!
Other writers who did Nalu Week are: wordsaremyspells1331, ShanaHollows and Professor or Gallifrey. Please check out their work!
Thanks to everyone who left a review! valerioux, Lodemai04, ShanHollows, stranger1999, BrokenAngelwings2, and xSteleAliniax! xox