Author's Note:I'm a super terrible song writer, so the song in this is super terrible. Just warning you. This is a modern AU where everything is pretty much like our world except that there are animal folks and spirits. So Happy is still a talking, flying cat, Capricorn is a goat, etc, and no one is weirded out by it too much.
Normal pairings: NaLu, Gajevy, Gruvia, and Jerza. Elfgreen doesn't appear, but just assume that's happening when no one else is looking. Also, I promise no Lisanna bashing, 'cause she's awesome.
Rated for sassy Aquarius' innuendos, Gajeel cursing like a sailor, and Natsu being unable to keep his hands to himself while he's sleeping. (Language and lime, folks.)
Disclaimer: I don't own anything to do with Fairy Tail. I wrote the super terrible song, and that's pretty much it. I can't even fathom why someone would want to steal that, but please don't. It's mine.
Summary: Natsu and Lucy were inseparable as kids, but he left to pursue his dream of music while she stayed to join her father's company. Now a rockstar, Natsu learns that a life of fame isn't all it's cracked up to be when a slip of the tongue ignites a tabloid frenzy - and reunites him with the girl who stole his heart.
SHOUT-OUT!: To the mighty Axlorg89 who beta read this entire thing in ONE DAY. Mad props to you. I couldn't have done it without your help, and it definitely would've been a poorer story.
CHAPTER 1: SOLDOUT
June 2, X793
"Uuuugh" Natsu sprawled dramatically in the overly plush leather chair, looking pale under his tan. "I hate tour buses… Urk…" He quickly slapped a hand across his mouth before swallowing the metallic tasting saliva that flooded his mouth. Across the room Gajeel had collapsed on the equally over-stuffed couch, groaning and looking green.
"We're not even on the bus anymore," Gray sighed, glancing exasperatedly at Erza before taking another chair and grabbing for the remote control to switch on the television. "Usually you two are fine by now."
Accepting the glass of ginger infused seltzer that Wendy handed him, Gajeel shot him a rather pathetically venomous look. "It's the stupid schedule! We do a show and then hop on the fucking bus again. We'd better not be doing this again. Ever."
"It can't be helped," Erza declared, watching Wendy make her way over to Natsu to hand him another glass of stomach-pacifying liquid. "The record company insisted on a rigorous timetable to hit as many cities as possible. It's earned us a lot of money and good publicity. We're almost done, so just try to hang in there."
"Easy for you to say," Natsu muttered sullenly into his drink.
"What was that?!"
"Nothing, Erza!" he yelped, scurrying out of his chair to put some distance between him and the testy redhead. He slowed his pace and trudged over to one of the huge suite beds, lying down gratefully. Letting his mind unfocus, he only dimly registered the rest of the conversation in the room.
"Our contract with that label is pretty much up. We should consider switching, I think," Levy put in from her perch on the arm of Gajeel's appropriated couch.
Jellal hummed in thought, index finger idly tapping against the crimson tattoo on his cheek. "I think we can all agree that they've been pretty terrible. This tour in particular has been… difficult from top to bottom."
"Not to mention their shitty advertising for our last album," Gajeel groused, taking cautious sip from his glass. He was pleased when it started to settle his stomach.
Juvia nodded vigorously while planting her hands on the back of Gray's chair, oblivious to his wince of discomfort at her volume and closeness, "Juvia did not appreciate their insistence that she pose in her swimsuit! She finds it very distasteful... and they didn't ask Gray to do it too." The brunette rolled his eyes, but didn't comment. Juvia did have a point that none of the guys had been badgered about posing in their skivvies.
"Don't worry. Master Makarov knows about everyone's objections and has been looking at all our options." Erza made a placating gesture with the palm of her right hand. "Once we're done with the tour and back in Magnolia I'm sure -"
"Whoa!" Gray suddenly sat forward in his seat, attracting everyone's attention. He mashed the volume control on the remote and stared intently at the television.
"Isn't that…?" Gajeel started but broke off when the news anchor's voice filled the room.
"- tragic death of Jude Heartfilia, founder and CEO of Heartfilia Konzern and Railways, has been confirmed. Rumors had swirled for years of his failing health despite representative's assurances that the company was stable."
Levy gasped, hands flying to her mouth. "Oh my God! Poor Lu!"
"An inside source claims his daughter, Lucy Heartfilia, has inherited the position of CEO as well as the majority shares to control the corporation. Stock prices have dipped in light of investors concerns and lack of confidence in an untested new head of the company."
Erza turned to look at Natsu with a grim expression. He had propped himself up on the bed on one elbow to watch the screen, but his face was carefully impassive. The tightening grip on his nearly empty drink was the only thing that hinted at his feelings.
"Reporters caught up with Ms. Heartfilia leaving her father's funeral -"
"Fuckers!" Gajeel grit out as the image shifted from the inside of a news studio to one of Lucy, hair pulled back in a neat bun and dressed all in black. She turned face from a camera, eyes red rimmed and skin pale. Loke glowered over his sunglasses next to her, hand gently on her arm. "Can you believe that?! They went after her at her dad's funeral! God damned -"
"Shhh!" hissed Gray with an irritated flap of his hand.
One of the reporters dodged an angry looking Taurus to shove a microphone in the blonde's stoic face. "Ms. Heartfilia! How to do respond to investors concerns about your ability to run the company?"
Clearing her throat, Lucy said calmly, "There will be a press conference tomorrow. We will address all your questions then. Please reserve your -" Still watching him carefully, Erza noted how Natsu's jaw clenched at the sound of her speaking. Through her carefully constructed poise, he could hear the slight tremor in her voice.
"But your stock prices are dropping! How do you -"
The man's question was choked off by Scorpio grabbing the collar of his shirt and dragging him back. Loke deftly moved to block the other journalists, arms spread wide. "Please reserve your questions for the press conference. Ms. Heartfilia has no more comments at this time," the lion spirit said. Behind him Sagittarius opened the door to a black car with tinted windows, helping Lucy inside amid the cacophony of questions being hurled at her.
Natsu's teeth ground together as he watched the car door close to hide the blond woman. If he hadn't been intently focused on her form, he might not have noticed how her hands came up to shield her face, and her shoulders slumped forward in grief. Lucy was hurting.
Levy leapt for her phone and quickly began to retreat from the room. "I'm going to call Lu!"
"Please let her know we're all thinking of her," Erza requested, face still somber. Levy nodded as she shut one of the doors to the extra rooms behind her, seeking privacy in their crowded quarters.
"Reporters are leeches! 'Cept leeches are less disgusting." Gajeel scowled, eyes sliding over to glance at the silent Natsu. In fact, nearly everyone in the room was stealing a peek at him, and he really didn't want to deal with their pity right now. Just one look at Lucy, and he felt like someone had squeezed a fist around his heart.
Hopping to his feet, Natsu plastered a disinterested expression on his face. "I'm gonna take a nap, you guys. That bus really did a number on my stomach." He could tell by the looks they gave him that no one was convinced by his act, in fact, Erza even took a step closer towards him.
The redhead spoke quietly, not wanting to be overheard. "I know you need your rest for the show tonight, but… do you want to talk?"
"Pffft. Nah!" He waved his hand dismissively. "That guy and I never got along anyway."
Erza said lowly, "You know that's not what I…" She stopped and shook her head. Something else had struck her while she'd been watching him. "You didn't seem terribly surprised to hear that he died." Her eyes watched him closely, taking in the way his shoulders tensed and his mouth twisted like he'd tasted something bitter.
"You got somethin' ta say?"
"No… Just… get some sleep." The redhead sighed as she watched him walk into an adjoining room, the door clicking shut softly behind him. Natsu cast himself on a king sized bed, letting his forearm hide his eyes. He wanted to believe the lingering nausea eating at his stomach was just from the bus ride.
The pink head jerked at the unexpected soft voice, but settled almost immediately. "Yeah, Happy?" The exceeds might often be considered a new feline species, but their ability to fly and speak set them far apart from their domesticated cousins. Happy might have gotten his name from being, well, happy, but that didn't change the fact that the cat could be surprisingly stealthy and solemn when he wanted to.
Nestling into the pillow next to his friend, the blue exceed looked dejected. "I'm worried about Lucy. I miss her."
Natsu was silent for a long moment, taking in the muffled voices from the other side of the door. Levy had come back and was attempting to sound cheerful, but didn't seem to be succeeding.
He still felt like someone had punched him in the sternum, and it was oddly hard to breathe. Shit, this hurts. I'm so dumb. Why didn't I…? Rolling over slowly, Natsu hugged hisstomach and pressed his face into the cool fabric of the pillow. "Me too, Buddy," he whispered at last, "Me too..."
July 1, X793
"Uuuugh!" Lucy cried. She had slunk so low into the office chair that Loke worried she might slide right under her enormous desk. "What percent do they have now?"
"41," he said. "But most of the other shareholders are pretty loyal and don't seem like they want to sell just yet."
She nodded, awkwardly pushing herself back into a proper sitting position. Aquarius would get on her case about her posture if she kept slouching like that. "Good. We'll have to find a way to sweet talk them into staying loyal soon. Any progress on the rail expansion?"
"None, I'm afraid. The Junelles are dragging their feet on permits and the investors are starting to get antsy."
"Damn it!" The blonde thumped a fist against the arm of her leather chair for emphasis. "It really sucks that we have to rely on the people who are trying take over the company to get this project going. There's got to be a way around this."
Loke discreetly shoved his glasses up the bridge of his nose. "Capricorn is working on it. Jude was always good at leaving some nice little loopholes in big deals like this that would benefit the company."
"I guess we'll just have to trust that Dad didn't get sloppy on this one, huh?" She wearily rubbed at her eyes.
The lion spirit sighed softly. "You look exhausted. Why don't you take the rest of the day off? We're not going to get anything more done today, and it's your birthday. No one would mind."
"I can't do that… Everyone is counting -"
"Um…" Aries' timid voice piped up from the doorway, fingers curling around the doorjamb with only her head horned poked into the office. "Ma'am… Some mail came for you. It was sent rush delivery, but there's no return address."
Lucy held out her hand with a grunt and tore the envelope open when Aries brought it to her. "Better not be another creditor notice, let me tell you. I'm sure I got in touch with all of them regarding Dad's death certificates…" She blinked in surprise when a single ticket slid out onto her lap. "The heck?"
"Oh ho! What's this now?" Loke declared, plucking it up. "It's for the welcome back concert for Fairy Tail tonight." He fanned it in front of his face with a deliberate smirk. "These have been sold out for months. Whoever sent this went to a lot of trouble."
Blushing, Lucy looked away. "I don't have time to go to a concert. If one of you wants to go…"
"No!" Aries squeaked, decidedly embarrassed by the two surprised sets of eyes that shot to her. "I think you should go, Ma'am. You've been working so hard. You deserve to have some fun on your birthday."
"See? If Aries is willing to speak up, that means you've definitely been spending too much time in the office," Loke said, extending the ticket towards his boss.
Lucy's eyes narrowed as she studied both of them in turn, drumming her fingers on the armrest. She puffed out her cheeks briefly before blowing out a long breath. "Fine. Fine!" Snatching the slip of paper out of Loke's hand, she said, "I'll go, but that means that all of you guys have to take the night off too."
Shrugging, Loke commented absently, "You know we don't need to sleep, and as long as we have our contracts with you we don't need to go back to the spirit world to replenish ourselves."
"Still," the blonde countered, "It's hardly fair of you to be slaving away while I'm having a good time. That's not in the spirit of the contracts I've made, and I don't want to be that kind of boss. I'd better not catch any of you doing work while I'm taking a break. That's how this goes."
With a chuckle, the lion spirit swept a courtly bow. "As M'lady commands. I'll inform the rest of the troops of your decree."
"Very funny…" the blonde snorted. She turned the ticket over in her hand, taking in the embossed Fairy Tail logo printed on it. It's been such a long time since I've seen any of them… Maybe this will be fun - even if they don't know I'm there.
Lucy dodged another elbow from one of the excited teenagers in the seats next to her. Yeah… so much fun, she thought irritably.
The ticket had put her in the fourth row with a great view of the stage, but the rambunctious high schoolers that were seated with her didn't seem to be too aware of their surroundings. She thought back to the odd look she'd gotten from the usher when she'd showed him her stub, and pondered if maybe he was being sarcastic when he'd said "I'm sure you'll enjoy the show!"
Had the guy known about little-miss-spaghetti-straps and her elbows of death?
She put up a hand to block a flailing appendage and silently thanked Capricorn for insisting she take some self defense lessons. Her reflexes might have dulled a bit over years of not practicing, but they were good enough for this. The spastic, spaghetti-strapped brunette turned to her in surprise, apologizing. "Oh! Sorry, ma'am. I didn't see you there."
And now I'm a 'ma'am.' Because this was already the most awesome birthday… "Don't worry about it," Lucy said forcing a smile. No need to take out her frustrations on a bunch of kids just having a good time. "Just maybe watch where your elbows are going, okay?"
"Sure, sure!" the girl said and turned away. Lucy heaved a sigh and considered again that maybe she should've changed her clothes instead of coming straight from the office. The business suit was very professional, but made her stick out like a sore thumb from all the 'Fairy Tail' t-shirts and ripped jeans.
Abruptly the house lights dimmed while the stage lit up. She couldn't help the smile that crawled across her face as she saw all the familiar faces haloed in the bright lights, though one in particular plucked at her heart more than the others.
"Hey, Magnolia! You guys happy to have us back?" Natsu's grin was so huge, Lucy was sure the nosebleed seats could see each of his teeth. He tilted the microphone towards the crowd which roared in enthusiastic response.
"I'm sorry?" He cupped a hand to his ear. "I thought I heard a whisper there for a second. Let's try this again." Once more he pointed his mic to the seats and was rewarded by a thunderous shout that left Lucy's ears ringing.
"That's more like it! Fairy Tail's been to all kinds of crazy places, but there's no where like Magnolia! Best damned city there is, right guys?" The other band members whooped while the crowd hollered. "Oh yeah! I almost forgot. We're supposed to play some music for you. Maybe you've heard this one."
Lucy's face started to hurt from smiling so much as the band played. She'd always heard Fairy Tail concerts were good shows, but she hadn't expected to enjoy herself so much. Even with the huge arena packed, the sound was still crisp and wasn't threatening to shatter her ear drums. Laxus hasn't lost his touch.
The blonde laughed happily when Natsu took a moment during one of Jellal's famous guitar solos to show off his signature 'fire breathing' trick, the source of his nickname 'Salamander.' She could still remember the day he'd insisted on demonstrating it for her in high school and very nearly set her hair on fire. The gout of flame spewed high into the air from his mouth. The pink haired main crowed jubilantly, the crowd cheered excitedly, and her heart felt lighter.
I really missed you guys.
"Phew! Man, this a great crowd." Natsu swiped at the exertion produced sweat beading on his forehead as he ducked back stage deep into the show. "Hey, Levy, can you adjust the lights?"
"Uh… sure!" the bluenette piped up despite her confusion.
He spun around with an acoustic guitar in hand but yelped when he found Mirajane and Cana crowding in right behind him. "What are you doing?!" the brunette backup singer cried. "You skipped the audience participation in the last song!"
Looking fierce and leaning into the younger man's face Mira said, "Yes! You were supposed to pull the person with the special ticket on stage. How could you forget?! It's really important!"
"Whoa jeez, you two. I just wasn't feeling it. Besides I've got something else in mind that should be special for everyone." He held up the guitar with a tired smile. Despite all his apparent energy, bruised circles were evident under his dark eyes. The two women exchanged a particularly frustrated look that Natsu decided he didn't quite understand and wasn't sure he wanted to.
"God damn it!" Laxus raged near Levy who was frantically changing settings on the lighting board. "I don't have things set up for that! Friggin' changing plans on me last minute… Now I need to fix all the sound settings for acoustic." The blond sound engineer stomped off, shouting orders to the other stage hands.
Unheard by the pink haired rockstar, Mira leaned over to Cana to whisper, "Well, if he's gonna sing that then maybe this won't be a total failure…"
Natsu decided to ignore the stir he'd caused with a lackadaisical wave. Heading back on to the stage he called out, "It'll be fine!" Strolling to the now spotlighted microphone, Natsu let the murmurs of the crowd wash over him.
"Sorry about that. Just needed to grab something different for this one." He strummed the strings and grinned at the sweet sound. "I figured, since this is a special day… Since this is kinda like homecoming for us, we'd do something a little bit different. You all don't mind if I try something new, do you?"
In her seat, Lucy cringed at the shrill affirmation from the teenagers around her. They apparently didn't mind at all. "Well, alright then! Like I said, this is pretty different than our usual stuff, but let's do this anyway," Natsu chuckled, striking the beginning chords "It's called 'Starlight.'".
"Lying in the summer night
Traced the patterns with your finger
Those pieces of every burning constellation
In my eyes they ever linger
My breath hung heavy in my chest
Couldn't get the words out right
Your hair shining like the sun's gold crown
More brilliant than it's great light"
Lucy no longer felt so buoyant. A lump began to stick in her throat despite a few desperate swallows, and she clenched her fingers against the uncomfortable armrests that had been abusing her elbows all night.
"Always right there with you
Through all your thick and thin
I thought that it would last for all of ever
This star lit bliss within
The sun can hide its face
Too bright, too close for me
The moon can fade away
Too dim, too far to see
But can the stars come out tonight?
They're the only light I need
Can the stars shine tonight?
She's the only light I need"
She shook her blond head vigorously, fighting off the stinging in her eyes. Is he…? Is this about…?
With a lung rattling gasp, Lucy lurched to her feet. The motion went unnoticed by the surrounding people that were already standing and swaying to the rhythm. "Ex… Excuse me!" she called, pushing her way as politely and urgently as she could towards the aisle. She was pursued by the song as Natsu continued to croon on stage.
"Too long, too long I waited
Now you're no longer at my side
But it's my own two feet that carried me
From your river of stars and tide
The blanket of brilliant lights
Covers the pitch black sky
The warmth of a thousand solar systems
Stolen by your one soft goodbye
How am I supposed to say
All the things that choke my heart
When all of the foolish choices I've made
Are what have taken us apart?"
Fleeing up the concrete stairs of the stadium, Lucy dashed a hand across her eyes. One of the ushers reached out a hand to right her as she stumbled, gasping. Lucy cast him a nod, but didn't answer when the man asked if she was alright. I can't… Not today!
"The sun can hide its face
Too bright, too close for me
The moon can fade away
Too dim, too far to see
But can the stars come out tonight?
They're the only light I need
Can the stars shine tonight?
She's the only light I need
Please, let the stars come out tonight
They're the only light I need
Oh, let the stars shine tonight
You're the only light I need"
Natsu let his eyes focus back on the crowd, anticipating cheers as he finished, but sucked in a breath of shock. Standing at the top of the arena, he spotted a head of painfully familiar golden hair turning to face him. Even at that distance, he knew her silhouette. "Lucy?" he called, louder than he meant to, sending the name careening through the air.
The sudden animated applause and excited activity of the people blocked his view of the woman. He started forward, toppling over the microphone in front of him. Natsu caught it before it fell with a soft curse of irritation. By the time he straightened it, he had completely lost sight of the golden girl. That couldn't… It couldn't be.
Jellal was the first to react to Natsu's obvious lapse in concentration, sweeping in to close out the show with a few gracious comments. The Salamander staggered off stage looking dazed and, for once, deaf to the adulation of throngs of people.
He passed the guitar off to Bisca who gave him a worried look. "Nothing," he muttered, preempting her question, as he kept walking. "It's nothing."
"Hey!" Natsu jumped when a hand clamped down on his arm. "You okay? You look seriously spooked, kid." Gildarts frowned.
The huge man let go when the pinkette hastily tugged free. "Yeah, I'm fine. I just thought… But we are in Magnolia..." he said to himself. "Maybe…" Gildarts' frown deepened in concern, brows drawing heavily together.
"Mr. Dragneel!" The two turned towards the voice, and Natsu swore when he saw a man with a press badge pinned to his obnoxious floral print shirt. "Hi! That was one heck of a show you put on."
"Yeah, thanks. It was a great crowd tonight." Natsu forced a weary smile, deeply regretting the promise he'd made for an after show interview. What the hell was I thinking? "Look, I'm pretty beat. I don't suppose -"
"The debut of a new song! You weren't kidding when you said it was different than your usual works. How do you think it was received?"
He sighed heavily, casting a frustrated look to Gildarts who just smiled blandly back. "I think they liked it. People tend to be pretty accepting when we experiment with our music. We did a studio recording of it, so you should be hearing it on the radio soon."
"Exciting!" the journalist exclaimed, scribbling in his notebook. "Now to the important question: Who's Lucy?"
Natsu blanched. "Wha… What?!"
"You said the name Lucy after the song. Is that who you wrote it for? You've never written a love song in your career and have been on record saying you 'don't write sap.' So is this a new girl in your life?"
Natsu backed up, feeling a sick clench in his stomach, but the reporter pressed forward relentlessly. "Will we be seeing you with her soon? She must be pretty important to -"
"I'm sorry," Gildarts practically cooed, interposing himself between the journalist and the rockstar. "We're going to have to cut this short. I'm afraid Mr. Dragneel really isn't feeling well at the moment. You know how it is…" He planted a pair of huge hands on the much smaller man's shoulders, easily spinning him around. "A whirlwind tour, a big show, all that stress. Why don't you contact Evergreen, and she can get you copy of our press release."
"But… but!" The half-hearted protests faded down the hall as Gildarts forcefully steered the man away.
Natsu stared unseeing, letting his legs give out under him. He dropped cross legged in the middle of the hall, burying his fingers in his bright hair. "Shit! This isn't… Not like this…"
"Wow. You okay?" Gray's voice was uncharacteristically hesitant, footsteps slowing as he took in the singer's obvious distress. "You took off all of the sudden, and now I find you sitting on the floor out here. What the hell happened?"
Eyes wide and desperate, Natsu croaked, "I fucked up…"
Author's Other Note: In case anyone is getting confused by what different people do in the story, he's a handy list.
For reference The Fairy Tail Crew:
Natsu: Lead singer, guitarist, songwriter, and all around poster boy
Jellal: Secondary singer, guitarist
Gajeel: Drums, songwriter
Cana, Wendy, Mirajane: Backup singers/eye candy when Cana and Mira they feel like it
Lisanna, Macao, Wakaba, Jet, Droy: other instruments (depending on the song)
Erza: Stage manager
Gildarts, Elfman: Security
Levy: Electronics maintenance
Laxus: Sound engineer
Freed: Press copy
Evergreen: Public Relations
Max, Bisca, Alzack, Vijeeter, Kinana, Nab, Warren, and pretty much everyone else: Stagehands and various other useful stuff
Loke: Lucy's personal assistant and sometimes bodyguard
Capricorn: Business adviser
Aquarius: Public Relations
Scorpio and Taurus: Security
Virgo: Maid, manages most of the non-image and non-business things in Lucy's life
Cancer: Stylist, responsible for making Lucy look fabulous
Gemi and Mini: a bit of everything