Today was the day.
Earlier this morning, Happy, Charle, Wendy and Erza had returned from their mission and Natsu had wasted no time in filling in his feline best friend on Lucy's absence. And even though Happy failed to see why it was such a big deal that their blond partner had taken on a mission without Natsu, he was absolutely ready and willing to help his partner come up with a plan to find out Lucy's current location.
And come up with one they had.
It would cause a little, scratch that, a lot of chaos, but Happy knew it would be worth it. Natsu just wasn't himself without Lucy.
The plan had everything one needed for success. It was ingenious, it was fool proof, and it was completely crazy.
The partners in crime took a deep breath, locked eyes, nodded to each other, and then made their ways to their designated targets.
Phase one was the easiest. Cause a distraction.
Natsu walked over to Elfman, who was sitting at a table with Lisanna. He stopped right across from the male Strauss and openly stared at him until Elfman grew uncomfortable.
"You know, Natsu, staring isn't very manly!"
Natsu pretended to think for a moment, scrunched up his nose, and then scrutinized the other mage even closer.
"I don't see it."
Now both Strauss siblings were looking at him.
"See what?" Lisanna asked her childhood friend.
"Well, Gajeel said that Elfman is probably spouting stuff about being manly all the time to compensate for him being so small 'down there'. But just because you are sitting 'down here' doesn't make you small now does it?"
Hoping to look as dense as most of the guild members thought him to be, Natsu waited for Elfman to react to 'Gajeels' more than obvious slight to his manhood. He didn't have to wait long.
Embarrassment and anger flushing his face a hot red, Elfman slammed his hands against the table and stood up so fast that his chair fell to the ground behind him. He scanned the guildhall quickly with wild eyes until he finally zeroed in on the iron dragon slayer, who was sitting in the back with Lily and Levy. He was wearing a patronizing grin on his face as he patted the angrily pouting script mage on the head.
Surprised, the dark haired dragon slayer looked over to the shouting Elfman.
"What ya' want?"
"It's totally unmanly to talk about another's state of growth!"
Well, he couldn't really say 'penis length in the middle of the guildhall, right?
Gajeel, who had just been teasing Levy about being horizontally challenged, however, assumed Elfman was referring to that. And he didn't appreciate being reprimanded for his special blend of flirting.
"If something is tiny, then it's tiny and I can fucking comment on it as much as I want, so shut the hell up!"
Natsu quickly turned around so Elfman wouldn't see his huge grin. This was working out even better than he had planned.
Gajeel's ill-chosen words proved to be too much for Elfman's tenacious hold on his emotions and the take-over mage snapped.
"I will make you regret ever uttering the word tiny in my presence!"
Gajeel didn't need much encouragement to fight anyone.
"I would like to see you try!"
The two clashed together in the middle of the hall. But since fights weren't anything new in Fairy Tail and wouldn't hold anyone's attention for very long, Natsu needed to let things escalate a bit more. So he snuck over to the table Jet and Droy had retreated to when Gajeel and Elfman first started shouting at each other.
"Hey Jet, Droy, how are you guys?"
The two gave him a glance, sighed, and looked over to Levy, who was watching Gajeel fight. They sighed again and then mumbled a very unenthusiastic "Fine."
Natsu was mentally rubbing his hands together gleefully.
/This is almost too easy./
"Great! Say, do you guys have any idea where one would go for a romantic, first date? Gajeel asked me for advice, since he is planning to ask Levy out, but I don't have any idea about things like this."
Seeing the horrified looks on the two male members of Team Shadow Gear, the fire dragon slayer decided to go for the kill.
"He also asked if I knew of a place where you could make out without being interrupted by anyone. So, any ideas?"
Horrified had just turned into murderous and with the battle cry "Gajeel, you fiend!" Jet and Droy joined in on the fighting.
Now he just needed to wait for Happy to finish his part and then: Hello mission log book!
At about the same time that Natsu had approached Elfman, Happy had managed to locate Juvia in the guildhall. Quickly thinking about a pile of rotting, inedible fish, to produce some convincing tears, he flew over to her.
"Juvia! Is it true? Tell me it's not true!"
The water mage nearly lost her grip on the steaming cup of tea in her hand when the crying Exceed landed before her on the table. Quickly setting the cup down, Juvia turned all her attention to the obviously distressed little blue feline.
"Is what true, Happy? Please tell Juvia what is making you so upset."
Happy recalled the memories of every time Charle rejected the fish he brought her (no matter the beautiful and expensive hairbands he 'borrowed' from Lucy to wrap them in) to make his eyes extra watery and wide when he looked at the bluenette.
"I heard Gray say that you haven't been around him for the last few days and that that probably means that you don't care about him anymore and that you have accepted Lyon's proposal and are leaving Fairy Tail for Lamia Scale."
Juvia looked appropriately shocked by what Happy had just told her and stuttered out a worried question.
"G-Gray-sama really said that?"
The Exceed nodded.
"He looked really sad! I don't think he wants you to go with Lyon, but he doesn't know how to tell you! You aren't really going to leave us, Juvia, right?"
He then leaned close to Juvia and stared at her out of the biggest, saddest puppy eyes he could manage. It wasn't even completely a lie. Gray had commented on the fact that Juvia had been stalking him less these past few days. But the mischievous cat had censored the part where the ice make mage was quite happy over that and that he felt he might finally be able to approach his fellow Fairy Tail member with a little more ease now, and instead told that harmless, little white lie. Or, as he put it, 'a more entertaining version of the truth'.
He snickered into his paws when thinking about this and only remembered at the very last moment to throw in a few sniffling sounds to fool the water mage into believing he was crying. Juvia, meanwhile, was in a world of her own.
/Juvia can't believe it, Cana's plan actually worked!/
About two weeks ago, a very dispirited Juvia had entered a bar at the outskirts of Magnolia, after Gray had given her the slip for the nth time that month. Worried that her beloved was growing tired of her feelings for him, she had decided to drown her sorrows in a place away from Fairy Tail. Surprisingly, or unsurprisingly, Cana had been at the very same bar, drinking the bartender out of the house specialty. It had taken only two drinks for the card mage to get the reason for Juvia's depression out of her. The brunette had then started spouting about girl power, fish in the desert and sand in the ocean and more along those lines that didn't make a whole lot of sense to Juvia. But in a moment of clarity, Cana had said "You know, there is a saying that 'Absence makes the heart grow fonder.' Maybe you just need to give Gray the opportunity to actually miss you." And even though the brunette's words had been fairly slurred and she had fallen into a deep, drunken sleep right afterward, Juvia had taken the advice to heart
It had been incredibly hard for her, but she had managed to restrain herself from following her beloved around daily, had only stolen two of his discarded shirts, one jacket and only one pair of very adorably sexy blue boxer shorts with little snowmen printed on them.
But now it seemed her plan had worked a little too well. She couldn't allow her prince to remain believing that her love for him would ever waver. A fire blazed in her eyes as the water mage grew more determined than ever to smother Gray in her devotion and adoration to make up for lost time. She stood and, like a finely tuned radar, located her beloved in mere fractions of a second.
"Oh Gray-sama my beloved!"
It took 1.2 seconds for Juvia to get across the guildhall while completely avoiding the fight that had started between Gajeel and Elfman, and latch onto the dark haired ice-make mage. Then it took about 0.5 seconds more for Gray to run out of oxygen.
"J-Juvia... can't breathe.. let… go..."
But said woman was blissfully unaware of any wrong doing and snuggled more into a suddenly naked chest.
"Oh no, Gray-sama, you don't have to worry. Juvia will not go with Lyon and she will never leave you! Juvia will love Gray-sama for ever and ever until death do us part!"
Going by the blue tinge Gray's skin was adopting, that might come sooner than Juvia anticipated.
The devious blue cat was having a rather hard time of suppressing his giggles.
Operation: "Get the mission log book to find out where Lucy is, go after her, make sure she is safe, kick Laxus' butt, and bring Lucy back home." - was super fun! The name sucked, though.
Happy also doubted that Natsu would be able to kick Laxus' butt. As much as he loved and trusted his best friend and always cheered him on, Happy was very aware that Natsu simply didn't play in the same league that Laxus did. Yet. He would get there, eventually. But until then his pink haired best friend would suffer what would probably be many very quick and painful beat downs at the hands of the s-class mage.
Many of them would be about stupid things and most likely all of them would be initiated by Natsu himself. And they would all be hilarious!
He suddenly remembered that his part in operation: "Get the mission log book to find out where Lucy is, go after her, make sure she is safe, kick Laxus' butt and bring Lucy back home" – really, Natsu was no good with naming things – wasn't over yet. Happy quickly rid his expression of any mirth and flew over to the bar.
"Mira! Mira! I have big news!"
The former magazine model turned to the Exceed and smiled kindly.
"What news, Happy?"
Right now she was in a very good mood. Levy was avidly watching Gajeel fight, (and turning just the slightest bit of red whenever the iron dragon slayer flexed his muscles before an attack), Juvia and Gray were openly showing their love for each other, and Natsu had been in a state of both depression and determination ever since Lucy left with Laxus on that mission. He was obviously close to figuring out his feelings for his beautiful partner. Which meant all of her dream couples were heading in the right direction.
And now it seemed Happy had come with new, juicy gossip.
"I think Erza has a loooo~ver!"
The day was getting better and better! Did that mean Happy had seen Erza and Jellal on a secret rendezvous while he had joined her, Wendy and Charle on their mission? Oh how glorious!
The eldest Strauss blissfully grabbed one of the just washed glasses next to her and began drying it while talking to the blue cat.
"Why do you think that, Happy? Tell me exactly what you saw."
/In. Every. Detail./
She never noticed the almost evil glint in his eyes.
"Well, we had just completed the mission, - I was awesome by the way – when Erza's secret super power activated."
Mirajane blinked. "Her secret super power?"
/What secret super power? Did she get a new armor?/
Happy nodded sagely. "Yes, her secret super cake smelling power!"
The beautiful barmaid sighed, a little disappointed. "So, Erza smelled cake..."
"Yes! And then she dragged us to a nearby cafe that sold all kinds of cake and other desserts. They didn't have anything with fish though. Not even tuna! Can you believe that?!"
Mira smiled a little at the scandalized look on Happy's face. If she wasn't so eager to hear about the part where Jellal came in, she would certainly produce a delicious, raw fish dish to comfort the poor thing.
"And something happened at this cafe that makes you believe that Erza has a lover?"
Oh, the suspense was killing her. /Come on Happy, tell me so I can start planning the wedding./
Quickly shaking the memory of the fish-less desserts out of his mind – though how the cafe hoped to have any success without even tuna on the menu was still a mystery to him – Happy rapidly nodded his head.
"Right! So we were all sitting at a table outside, eating cake, except for Charle, she had tea, and Wendy actually had ice cream. And I had waffles, so I guess it was just Erza who had cake..."
Cracks were forming in the glass in Mira's hand as she tried to keep her alter ego at bay.
/Get on with it you stupid cat!/
"...when all of a sudden a very powerful wizard from another guild, who we all know, appeared right before Erza!"
/Yes, yes, yes! Enter Jellal, finally!/
"And Erza was all red and shaking."
Mira nodded vigorously. /Of course. She was probably shy and nervous, like she always gets where Jellal is concerned./
"And then he complimented her on her smell."
Mira's eyes glittered. /Nice going Jellal! Don't go for the cliche compliment! Commenting on a woman's natural scent signifies a deep connection!/
"And then he asked her out on a date!"
The demon take over mage squealed inwardly./How romantic!/
"And then he and Erza disappeared for some time. And when she came back, she was breathing hard and her clothes were really rumpled and she was grinning weirdly."
Now the white haired woman was hopping up and down and clapping her hands.
/I didn't even know that their relationship was at such a physical level already! Maybe I should plan for a baby shower as well! Cute little Erza and Jellal babies everywhere!/
"So that's why I think Erza has a lover! She must like Ichiya very much!"
And Mira's happy fantasy just came crashing down.
She must have misheard.
Surely Happy had just had a slip of the tongue. Robotic, her head turned to the innocent looking cat.
But Happy nodded, confirming her fears.
"Yes, of course. Who did you think I was talking about?"
He blinked his eyes questioningly up at her and watched as Mirajane's eyes glazed over with what had to be the mother of all shocking revelations.
Again, not everything he had said was a lie.
Erza had dragged them to the cafe after detecting the scent of shortcake in the air.
The cafe reallydidn't have any kind of fish flavored dessert on its menu – the horror!
Ichiya had appeared right before Erza, out of the blue, and commented on her 'parfume'. And Erza actually had been red and shaking because of it.
But contrary to what he had made Mira believe, it hadn't been out of shyness or nervousness, but anger and revulsion. And though the creepy little man had wasted no time to ask Erza out on a date, the red head hadn't gone with him, but kicked him away and then summoned one of her swords and ran after him to make sure he wouldn't come back so soon.
And when Erza had returned to the three others, her clothes had been in disarray, she was breathing hard and she did have a weird smile on her face. But those weren't the results of a passionate encounter, but of Erza beating the snot out of Ichiya.
But there was really no reason to clear things up for Mirajane. Said woman was meanwhile a captive of her nightmarish thoughts.
/A powerful wizard form another guild who we all know... who commented on Erza's smell... and asked her out.. Oh Mavis! Happy WAS talking about Ichiya! Oh no. No, no, no, no, no, no, no. It can't be Ichiya she went out on a date with! It can't be Ichiya that she... that Erza had... sex... No! This is wrong! Erza loves Jellal, and Jellal loves Erza! She is probably just sad and frustrated because they can't see each other much as long as Jellal is still a criminal in the eyes of the council! I have to stop her from making a horrible mistake!... ANOTHER horrible mistake!/
Faster than light, Mirajane had found Erza at a table in the guild. Before her was a piece of Strawberry short cake that she was enjoying so much, she didn't even notice all the chaos around her. In the next second, the barmaid had made her way over to the red head and grabbed a hold of her wrist.
"Erza, we need to talk. Right now!"
And in a show of strength that would have proven to anyone who chose to witness it just why Mirajane was among the most powerful of Fairy Tail, the ex-model vaulted Erza out of her seat, away from her cake and out of the guild.
The only one who had witnessed the scene, however, was a snickering Happy, who controlled his laughter just long enough to give his partner in crime a thumbs up sign.
/Finally!/ Natsu thought as he saw Happy give him the sign they had agreed upon. He gleefully surveyed the chaos that had broken out in the guild and felt like patting himself on the back.
He had known, after two days of trying and failing to get his hands on the mission log book, all the players that needed to be taken out of the equation if he wanted to succeed. The first two were obvious. The master and Mira.
Those two had been especially observant of him every time he so much as set foot into the guild for the last two days.
And then there were those looks they would give him. Mira's all smiling and dreamy and the master had been grinning like he knew some big, fat secret.
So those two had to be taken care of first. Fortunately for Natsu, some management issue concerning the guild had come up just this morning, and since Lucy wasn't there, the master had to take care of it himself. The old man had moaned and groaned pathetically and then shut himself away in his office about an hour and a half ago.
/Serves him right. Next time he will think twice about letting Lucy go away with anyone other than me!/
Not that Lucy would get back any sooner if she were on a mission with Natsu, but the pink haired young man chose to ignore that little fact.
Anyway, the master was out of the way, but that had still left plenty of players on the field. Like Mira, who was the actual keeper of the book. And if you had Mira for an opponent, you automatically needed to count in her brother. With Elfman's involvement, one had to watch out for Evergreen, though she would probably confess to having wrinkles before she ever openly admitted to helping Elfman.
/Tch. Not like she is fooling anyone./
And with Evergreen in the mix, the rest of the Thunder God Tribe, aka Freed and Bixlow, needed to be accounted for as well. Luck had struck again on this front, though. Yesterday evening Bixlow and Evergreen had dragged out a depressed Freed on a mission. They most likely hoped to distract him from his precious Laxus-sama's absence. Or they planned to abandon him somewhere in the woods so they wouldn't have to listen to his whining anymore.
Either way, they were gone and that meant Natsu had three people less to make plans for.
That had still left Gajeel and Gray, who had made it a competition between the two of them to see who could stop Natsu from getting the book the fastest.
With Gray came Juvia and with Gajeel came Levy and with Levy came Jet and Droy.
And then Erza had come back this morning and Erza alwaysneeded to be counted in.
So Natsu had needed a plan that would take care of everyone at once and would keep them occupied long enough for him to finally snatch the stupid book! And, if he may say so himself, his plan was completely, awesomely brilliant.
As he stood right before the cabinet that held the key to Lucy's whereabouts, he couldn't help but congratulate himself on being an absolute genius. He had made the perfect strategy for everyone. Had considered Elfman's likely reaction to an attack on his manhood, as well as Gajeel's eagerness for any kind of fight. He had counted on Levy's habit to closely watch those fights and Jet and Droy's resulting jealousy. He had kept in mind Juvia's devotion to Gray and Gray's inability to shake her off once she had him in her grasp. And finally he had planned for Mira's fangirl tendencies when it came to her matchmaking.
It had been perfect. He had accounted for absolutely everything and now his hand was stretched out for his reward, lying right in front of him. Nothing and no one could stop him now.
"Not one more move, Natsu!"
Except for Lisanna.
Natsu froze. He couldn't believe it. He had forgotten about Lisanna!
/Dammit! Dammit! Dammit! Dammit!/
His arm still outstretched in front of him, hand about to grasp the handle of the cabinet door, the young man turned his head to look at his childhood friend. Lisanna stood right behind him, hands on her hips, foot tapping angrily, and a disapproving scowl on her face.
/Okay, keep calm. I managed to get rid of everyone else, I should be able to come up with something to distract Lisanna as well! We grew up together, I know her just as well as I know the others! I'm Natsu, the almighty and most genius dragon slayer there is! Of course I can think of something!/
Determined, eager, and full of confidence, Natsu stood from his crouched position before the cabinet. He faced his slightly shorter friend, pointed behind her with his right hand and poured all his ingenuity into his next words.
"Look behind you!"
He waited for her to turn around, and waited, and waited. Sweat was starting to form on his forehead as Lisanna just kept looking at him, arms crossed under her chest and apparently unimpressed with his diversion tactic.
After what felt like an eternity to Natsu, Lisanna sighed, shook her head, and then gripped the wrist of his still pointing hand.
"We are going to talk. Now."
And then she dragged him to one of the back rooms in the guildhall. Away from the mission log book. Natsu felt like crying./Noooooo! I was so close!/
And before he had the chance to come up with any more genius plans, the door to the back room Lisanna had dragged him in slammed closed.
to be continued...
Alright! Finally got done with this chapter! And, I also have a new fanfic recommendation for you! :-) Check out: 'Firetrucks and Comic Books' by Ladybug77. It's a modern day AU. Pairing is Natsu/Lucy. I like that the author managed to write up a very sweet and entertaining story WITHOUT packing it chokefull with drama. Just like it is stated in the summary: When it's right, it's right. It's complete.