Nalu Week 2016 is currently happening, so here is my entry! I whipped this up in one day and I'm still proud of that fact. B) 15 pages, heh. There will be one more entry but since it will be nsfw I'll probably be posting it in my nsfw nalu collection. ;)
Enjoy! Reviews are always very appreciated as per usual!Make me smile. :3
nalu week 2016 day 4: secrets
hidden in plain sight
"And above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don't believe in magic will never find it."
― Roald Dahl
"Hey Natsu," Lucy said, staring at her reflection in her bedroom mirror, "Did you know I'm something like a witch now?"
The words hung in the room before dissipating into a heavy silence, and Lucy groaned as she ran her hands through her hair.
No. This wouldn't work.
"Natsu, I have to tell you something. This has been going on for a little while now, but I didn't know how to tell you…" Lucy faltered. Now she sounded like she was confessing a love affair.
But how did you tell your boyfriend of two years that, after finally graduating from police academy, you had suddenly been recruited by an odd one-man-department that specialized in magic crime because the chief – and only member – had sensed your magic potential?
Lucy still couldn't really believe it herself.
All her life, she had considered herself to be absolutely normal. Non magical. Because magic did not exist, not in the real world. It was for children and story books. The notion that she possessed magic powers had sounded like a complete joke to her, and so she had actually laughed at Chief Clive's face as he had suggested it.
But she had found out all too soon that it had been no joke.
Her last doubts had been cleared when he had produced a small ball of pure, blinding energy in the palm of his hand. After staring at it for what had felt like hours, entirely mesmerized by its beauty, she had demanded to know the trick behind it, but had encountered no tools. Then Gildarts had started orbiting it around her head with a grin, and in that moment Lucy Heartfilia accepted that magic did exist.
That had been only two weeks ago, and her world had been turned upside down.
But somehow, between hunting supernatural criminals and learning all about magic theory, Lucy had not yet found the time to even attempt to explain her new occupation to her boyfriend of two years.
Not like she even fully understood it herself.
Lucy sighed. Natsu should be at her place every minute now; he'd texted her asking for takeout preferences about half an hour ago, when he'd gotten off from work. There'd been no fires, he'd reassured her, but for the first time in his career he'd actually had to rescue a cat.
Something about the way he'd said it had made her suspicious, and she was planning to squeeze it out of him over dinner.
That fool… she'd really missed him. Work had been crazy this week, especially with the new case she and Gildarts had been assigned, and she'd spent her days rushing through Magnolia to collect evidence, witness accounts… and lunch for her lazy ass boss.
She hadn't seen Natsu for too long, and was looking forward to some all around quality time with her best friend and lover. It was rare that they didn't see each other for days at a time, but it seemed distance really did make the heart grow fonder.
As long as it didn't become a habit, she could cope.
Besides, she had learned so much in the last days, more than any of the boring theory books Gildarts made her read could have taught her. Nothing beat practice, after all. Lucy felt like she had finally made some real progress, after having repeatedly failed to recreate the magic formulas her teacher showed her.
It had been frustrating, and she'd shut herself away from the world to practice, but now she felt so much more accomplished and confident in herself.
She was just about to sit down over some case files when she heard stomping from the corridor, and jumped up in excitement to greet Natsu. Maybe today she'd work up the courage to tell him…
But when she rushed out into the corridor it was empty, so she supposed he was already in the kitchen, in a hurry to eat as per usual. With a mischievous grin, Lucy tiptoed over the carpet.
Carefully, she peeked around the corner. Natsu was standing with his back to her, not clad in his uniform but wearing the firefighter shirt that she could recognize even from behind. It was one of her favourites. He seemed relaxed, suspecting no attacks.
Her grin stretched wider as she prepared to take her next steps, not even daring to breathe lest her cover might be blown.
"Hi, Lucy," Natsu said with the most casual air she'd ever heard, and Lucy froze mid-step.
She glared at his back. "How do you always do that?!"
"I missed you too," he said, grinning at her when he turned around.
And just like that, Lucy lounged into his arms, hugging him tightly as he chuckled into her hair.
She pecked his cheek when she was done, and then reconsidered and moved in again for a long, happy kiss that he reciprocated gladly.
"Boy, you're making me hungry for dessert," he murmured when she finally pulled back, and she smirked at him cheekily.
"So what'd you bring?" she asked and turned towards the counter, but not without casting him one more suggestive glance over her shoulder. "Oh, what's in this box?"
Forsaking the plastic bags in which a stack of many different aluminium containers smelled promisingly of fried things, Lucy reached out a hand to pull up one sides of the open cardboard box.
But Lucy's jaw had already dropped. The first thought that popped into her mind was that at least now she wouldn't have to interrogate Natsu about his secrecy. The answer was in the box. And the cat inside was very real, no matter how you looked at it.
"Natsu… you stole the cat?!"
"Wha–" Natsu lifted his hands in defense as she whirled around, a ragged ball of fur clutched against her chest. "I didn't steal it! It didn't have an owner!"
"How can you be sure about that?" Lucy looked down at the cat in her arms, carefully stroking its head. It began purring. "What if someone's missing it?"
"No one is. I just know," he insisted, "Besides, have you seen the state he's in? If he had an owner then I damn sure won't return him."
Anger flared in his eyes, and Lucy had to agree with him. The poor thing was all fuzzy and scarred, his fur knotty and dyed blue in some spots by some unfortunate accident she didn't want to imagine.
She was far empathetic for her own good: she already felt fond of the cat.
A troublemaker, if the glint in his eyes was anything to go by. But he was just too cute.
And she was too weak. She wanted to keep him.
"But… Natsu, how will this work?" she asked, a little hopeless. "We're both working, and don't even live together either. As much as i want to let him stay, it would be difficult…"
"Ah, it's okay," Natsu beamed, "I'll take him! I work a little less anyways, and when even if I get called in for emergencies… he can stand a few hours alone. He's not a dog, after all, right buddy?"
To her surprise, the cat in her arms meowed as if in agreement.
With a little laugh, she shook her head.
"You always win," she chided, but he cocked his head with a lopsided grin.
"You wanted me to win. You didn't even try."
At this, Lucy bit her lip to hide a smile. "Maybe," she allowed, carefully setting the cat down onto the floor. He looked around a little suspiciously, not moving for a long moment.
"I love you, you know," she sighed, "With your elephant sized heart and all."
Natsu pressed a kiss to her head on his way to the food containers. The rustling of the bag and foil was enough to send their new family member racing out of the kitchen.
(They wouldn't find him again until much later, hiding under the couch.)
It was exactly in that moment, when his lips touched her head just above her ear, that Lucy first felt it.
It came out of nowhere, and she immediately dismissed it as an effect of studying and practicing too many formulas earlier in the day. But the flash of memory had been so vivid, the feelings so real, that she couldn't quite shake it.
The smell of campfire smoke, feet intertwining on soft couch pillows, the deep ache of missing someone alone at night, laughter as a pillow fight ended in sweet victory…
Lucy recalled everything clearly, even now, as she was munching away at her stirfry noodles, deep in thought. It would have been nothing but a memory, an idea, a silly daydream to her if it had happened only two weeks ago, but maybe two weeks ago she wouldn't have been able to pick it up at all.
The magic presence a person left behind, like a trail of smoke that dissipated into thin air. Gildarts had taught her to pick them up if she concentrated hard enough, but never before had one been so vivid.
Maybe it was her own?
"What're you making that face for?" Natsu asked in amusement, noodles hanging out of his mouth as he spoke.
"Says the one who looks like a combine harvester," she dead-panned, and he was offended enough to forget about his question.
Again (for probably the hundredth time) Lucy wondered if she could somehow casually bring up the fact that magic was real and she was not just any amateur practitioner but an actual magical apprentice.
Magical apprentice. It sounded ridiculous even in her head.
Puffing her cheeks, she took a deep breath and then took one last bite of her meal before giving up. It was just too much. As usual, Natsu had bought enough food to feed an army.
And yet he always managed to finish it all. Sometimes she really wondered if he was human.
But at no point before had she ever actually considered it.
But now she faltered, watching him more closely as he devoured his portion and reached for hers. It was impossible… right?
They'd been together for two years! He would have told her!
Then again… She understood that particular dilemma all too well.
Lucy decided to investigate this notion that just wouldn't let her go. No matter how much she thought it to be ridiculous, her gut instinct wouldn't relent.
And considering she'd been schooled to pick up magic presences throughout the last two weeks… maybe her instincts were a more reliable source to trust in this case.
"Say, Natsu…" she began, pondering how to breach the topic. But she came up empty, so she decided on action instead. Maybe if she touched him again… "Do you wanna watch a movie later?"
Natsu's eyes it up. "You bet!" he called, grinning, and then she watched as his expression slowly morphed from one of innocence to mischief, and it occurred to Lucy how their movie nights usually ended. "You bet," he said again, but this time his expression was sly.
Lucy laughed. "You get to choose," she said with a wink, and then got up and carried her plate over to the sink. She left it there to be washed later. When she turned, Natsu had already abandoned the dishes and fled the table.
She moved in time to see him fling himself onto the couch, and rolled her eyes.
He was such a big child sometimes.
Her suspicion seemed more and more ridiculous, and Lucy was almost convinced she had simply overworked herself a little too much.
It was enough that her job suddenly involved the supernatural, she didn't have to turn her boyfriend into a magical being too.
So when she got to the couch, she was determined to just let it go.
With a content sigh, she plopped down at his side, wedging a spot for herself. With a lazy grumble, Natsu, who had previously been stretched across the entire couch with his head buried in a pillow, rolled to his side to accommodate her. His arms wound around her waist and he pulled her down to him, cackling happily as he wrapped himself around her.
"Lucy is so soft," he sang, and Lucy couldn't help but giggle.
Turning in his grasp, she moved until she was face to face with him. It was far too easy to get lost in his eyes, so dark and deep and intense. Lucy shivered, a small smile on her lips.
His brows furrowed as he watched her more closely, and that was when Lucy felt it again.
But this time it was different.
A tugging, a knocking in the back of her mind that was begging to be let in; a conscious presence she could feel very clearly. This had never happened before, and the sensation was extraordinary.
They were still staring at each other, but their eyes saw far more than just a face.
As Lucy gave in to the feeling, a safe warmth overcame her – and then she saw and felt flashes of memories that weren't her own.
Igneel – Natsu's father, but he looked younger here – laughing at a table, with Natsu and his siblings, Wendy and Gajeel… and five other people she didn't know, all children. A hand gliding through a campfire as if it were water. Warmth. Natsu, older now, arranging a tie as he looked at himself in the mirror, the fashion long outdated. A young blond man, about their age, producing a light as she had seen it in Gildarts hand, and Natsu laughing as he answered with a ball of fire that grew in his hand until it enveloped it whole. Heat.
They both snapped out of their state at the same time, panting as they jerked upright and stared at the other in disbelief.
"I knew it!" they both gasped, which only served to send them back into silence.
Contrary to Lucy's, Natsu's expression soon turned to one of exhilaration.
"You can use magic!" he beamed, "You're a witch!"
And suddenly Lucy felt very rightly offended over the fact that he'd stolen her line.
"Y-you!" she started, her mouth open as wide as her eyes, "You're… a witch?"
This seemed to amuse Natsu more than she could understand.
"Oh no," he said, and for a second Lucy relaxed just the tiniest bit. He grinned. "I'm a god."
Had Lucy been the type, she would have fainted.
Instead, she sat dumbstruck, frozen into place. Only when Natsu gently shook her did she react, slowly blinking.
"A… a god," she echoed, "Are you serious?"
Natsu seemed to realize that maybe he should have breached the topic a little more carefully. Taking her by the shoulders, he pushed her into the backrest, where she melted into the couch.
"A god," she said again, and laughed.
"I think I broke her…" Natsu mumbled, and she cast him an incredulous glance.
"I can still hear you, you know."
He sank into the backrest right beside her, looking straight ahead. She thought she saw the corners of his mouth twitch.
"So," he said after a while, "This is a bit unexpected, huh?"
Lucy cast him a desperate smile, laughing behind closed lips. "A bit," she agreed.
"I always sensed some dormant magic energy in you," he admitted then, "But never more… until lately. I thought maybe it was my imagination. Then I thought maybe it was my fault. Y'know, I thought maybe my magic was rubbing off on you… But that's not it, right?"
Lucy shook her head.
Well… here it was. Her opportunity to tell him.
It hadn't exactly happened the way she'd planned, had it? Not at all. Not even a tiny bit.
"Remember how I told you I got offered a great position right after I finished my training? Well, the position I was offered…"
Understanding dawned on Natsu's face, and a grin began to form.
"I heard there's a department that deals with… our matters," He nodded, chuckling to himself for some reason. "Didn't know my girlfriend is part of it, though."
"I wanted to tell you," she said meekly, but then remembered that he had conveniently forgotten to do so for two years, not two weeks. "You're one to talk!"
Natsu scratched his head. "I was gonna bring it up…" he tried, an apologetic grin on his lips, and it was like looking into a mirror. Except this mirror was a lot more carefree in his approach. "But now you know! And even better, you are magical too!"
This guy… nothing could extinguish his enthusiasm, could it?
Then again…he had a point. She couldn't see anything bad coming out of this situation just yet.
Natsu for one seemed positively ecstatic.
With a sigh, she cuddled against him. His arms closed around her, and his familiar, comforting warmth rushed through her.
"So… you're not gonna break up with me?" he suddenly asked, and Lucy's head shot up in shock.
"What? Of course not, Natsu," she said softly, bringing a hand to his cheek. Gently, she kissed him, and felt him relax in relief. When she pulled back, a mischievous twinkle was in her eyes, and Natsu looked even more relieved. "Who would pass up on dating a god, after all?"
Snorting quietly, Natsu leaned his head back and stared at the ceiling.
"Only lame people," he said, and she grinned. But there was something on her mind ever since she'd peeked into his head.
"Say, Natsu… The things I saw. It looked like you–" Trying to order her thoughts, she hesitated. "How old are you?"
"Ah…" His eyes darted away from hers yet again, and Lucy prepared for the worst.
"A little over… 400 years?" he peeped, pursing his lips innocently as he caught her eyes.
"What?!" she shreeked. "I'm dating a zombie?!"
"Oi!" he protested, "Don't compare me to those! I'm very alive, thank you."
"I can see that."
Natsu shot her another sheepish grin.
"But if you're 400 years old…" Lucy trailed off, but Natsu seemed to follow her train of thought. "Sooner or later…"
"Well." He fidgeted. "That's something you don't have to worry about… if you choose to stick with me."
"You mean… I won't age?!" The prospect equally thrilled and terrified her, and she bit her lip when Natsu confirmed it with a nod. He was avoiding her eyes, but when Lucy grabbed his chin and forced his face closer to hers, there was an insecurity in his that she wasn't used to.
"I know it's only been two years…" He took a deep breath, his hands coming up to brush his thumbs across her cheeks. "But my decision has been made anyways. It's all up to you."
Lucy's eyes were wide as she stared at him. He wasn't proposing, but he might as well have been. Her cheeks turned a dark red.
"You wanna be with me forever?" she asked, her voice barely above a whisper.
"Well – it's not forever," he said with a grin that his nervosity betrayed. "But a lot longer than any human gets to live. So, yeah. Something like forever."
"Something like forever sounds nice," Lucy said with a large smile.
Natsu's face lit up along with hers, and before she knew it he was showering her with enthusiastic kisses to her lips and all around them whenever he missed, smiling as she laughed and squealed.
Then her hands landed on his shoulders and she pushed him back with a suddenly serious and apprehensive face.
"So how does this work? Do you have to bite me?"
Natsu snorted, choking back laughter. "I'm a god, not a vampire! Really, Lucy?"
She pouted, squinting at him. "Who knows anymore…" she muttered under her breath, and Natsu smothered her in a hug, no longer able to contain his laughter.
"Besides," he added, "since you're magical too, you'd have an extended lifespan anyway. Maybe not quite as much as us, but far longer than any normal human."
"Oh." Lucy hadn't even considered this before, and she was reminded how much she still had to learn about this new lifestyle that had been thrust onto her. Well – not like she'd refused much. Or at all. Magic had sounded like an irresistible adventure, and not only because the alternative would most likely have been paperwork.
Suddenly she found herself wondering just how old Gildarts truly was. Then again… he behaved like a perverted teenager most of the time anyways, so maybe it didn't make that much of a difference.
The thought of her teacher reminded her of her duties, though, and she eyed Natsu with pursed lips. The professional in her reared its head.
"You know, I should probably introduce you to my boss," she said, and Natsu raised his brows.
Lucy nodded. "It's a matter of police work."
"What, I'm gonna be your lab rat?" he asked with a laugh, and Lucy gasped in indignation.
"It's just that he should know, is all." She crossed her arms over her chest and puffed her cheeks. Not her most professional look, but it worked.
"So you wanna go right now?" he asked, an amused twist to his lips.
"Right now?" Lucy asked, taken aback.
"Well let's get it over with, right? Gotta earn my stamp of approval."
"It's not like that!" she protested, but Natsu was already pulling her along, towards the door. Lucy trailed behind him like a puppy on a leash, wondering whatever had gotten into him.
On their drive over to Magnolia's Police Department, Natsu filled her in some more: he was part of a god tribe – another word he used was 'genie', but in the end it didn't really matter – located in and around Magnolia, of which each member (he called them all his siblings) ruled over an element. Igneel was of course the head of their family, and had raised all the kids himself.
"So are you even an actual firefighter?" she asked when they pulled up beside the large building, and Natsu laughed.
"Even gods have to work," he said with a wink, "We're just people too, when it comes down to it. But my powers sure help when it comes to my job. Besides… it's a matter of heart."
Something in his expression pulled taught, and Lucy looked at him with worry.
"What do you mean?" she asked carefully.
Natsu didn't look at her when he spoke next. "I died in a fire," he said quietly. "Or, well – I turned into who, or what, I am now. Igneel saved me. But my parents…"
"Oh Natsu…" Lucy didn't know what to say, trying to hide the tears that were threatening to spill.
"It's the same for all my siblings," he went on, reaching for her knee and smiling at her reassuringly. "Igneel saved us all. Don't worry, it's a long time ago now, and we all have each other."
Wiping at the tears that had quietly spilled onto her cheeks, Lucy nodded, but didn't manage to look very convincing. Smiling, Natsu reached over to wipe at her tearstained skin.
"And I have you, too." Lucy smiled through her tears, taking his hand into hers. He grinned his large grin again, the one she'd fallen in love with. "And the cat."
Boxing his arm, Lucy laughed. "If the cat's family, then why doesn't it have a name?" she asked, raising her brows, happy that they both were smiling again.
"He has a name!" Natsu lied, rubbing his chin. "He's… Happy!"
"Wait, that's his name? Happy?" Lucy bit her lip.
"Mmhh," Natsu hummed in agreement, lifting her hand to his face to press a kiss to the back of it, "Very happy."
Lucy shook her head with a smile, unsure of what to do with all the love she felt in that moment. She opted for leaning over the gearshift and kissing him, long and good, before pulling back with a large smile.
"So let's go, Lucy! Jeez, you're always so slow!"
Lucy gasped, pouting at him, but he already was halfway out the door. She joined him on the pavement, interlacing her fingers with his.
"You sure you wanna do this right now?" she asked, still confused about the whole matter. "It's not like it's urgent."
"You said you have to take me to him so he can have a good look at me, right?" Natsu said before sauntering off, and Lucy followed him once more with quizically raised brows.
She felt the same way she had when Natsu had told her about the cat he'd rescued. He was being fishy again. But the feeling was beginning to creep up on her that maybe this time he would be the cat in the box instead.
An ominous foreboding overcame her, and she shivered.
And indeed, Natsu wore a disturbingly evil smirk as they made their way to Gildarts' office, past security and long corridors and offices that were mostly empty at this time of day.
But Lucy knew her boss would be working long hours again.
She hadn't known him for long, but somehow it felt like he'd always been her boss. As weird as he could be, he had a good heart, and Lucy had taken an immediate liking to the odd man.
And now she was about to introduce her boyfriend to him. At her workplace. Long after her shift had ended.
Nothing odd about that at all, was there?
She guessed they made a great team. They were both weird in their own way.
Still, when she knocked on his door, Lucy felt nervous. What the hell was she doing, anyways?
But sure enough, Gildarts' voice allowed her in seconds later, and with a dreadful, warning stare in Natsu's direction, she opened the door.
And then Natsu pushed right past her, stomping into the middle of the room.
"Guess who's dating your new Constable?" he boomed, hands on his hips, and Lucy lost all colour.
Gildarts didn't even flinch. He stared at Natsu for a long moment, then at Lucy – and then he tossed his pen right in Natsu's face.
"You're dating that punk?!" he cried out, pointing at Natsu, who had crashed into a shelf in shock, "Igneel's spawn?!"
Lucy didn't know what to do. Her favoured course of action would have been to run away screaming.
She should have known. She should have known that they knew each other, and that Natsu had taken it onto himself to drag her all the way here just so he could play some cruel joke.
"How did this brat even end up with a woman like you?" her boss went on with his complaints, "I didn't know he even knew what romance was!"
"Oi!" Natsu called, tossing the pen right back but mysteriously missing (seriously, it had been aimed straight at his nose). "You better shut up, old geezer!"
They both glared at each other, with Lucy helplessly standing in between the mess they'd made – and then they broke into laughter.
Lucy's world was hanging by its hinges for what felt like the hundredth time this month.
She understood nothing.
GIldarts got up, and she watched the two men exchange bear hugs.
"It's been too long," Gildarts beamed as he ruffled Natsu's hair, who grinned back at him widely.
"Excuse me," Lucy seethed from her corner, "Would you mind explaining what is happening here?"
"Aw Lucy," Natsu cooed, trying to sneak into a hug but shrinking back when he saw her death stare. "I just couldn't resist not telling you."
"What did you do to poor Lucy?" Gildarts demanded, "She is under my protection now."
"And under mine too," Natsu snarled, "For far longer. You got a problem with that?"
Gildarts looked almost proud. "And here I was thinking you'd never grow up," he laughed, slapping his back so hard that Natsu spluttered.
"And here I was thinking you'd never take another apprentice in your life, wizard," Natsu mimicked, sticking his tongue out. It looked like he had trouble breathing. Then he turned back to Lucy, his grin suddenly innocent and pure. She didn't know how he did it. "Of course we know each other. He's the police and I'm a firefighter, we always run into each other!"
"Not to mention I'm somewhat of Magnolia's magical supervisor," Gildarts added with a grin. "Someone has to keep that rowdy bunch under the control of the law."
"Couldn't you have deduced that, Lucy?"
They both snickered.
"Boys," Lucy said with a sweet smile, "You better stop it right there."
How was she supposed to survive with two insane men by her side day in and day out?
But as they both looked at her with fond smiles, she thought that maybe it wasn't so bad.
"Yo, Gildarts, you wanna come?" Natsu suddenly asked, "I bet Igneel would love to see you again too, after so many years."
"Come?" Lucy asked, suddenly alarmed, "Come where?"
"Your party of course!"
"We have to celebrate that you're officially part of the family, duh!" Natsu declared, his arms wrapping around her waist, and this time she let him. "Everybody is waiting already!"
Gildarts laughed, picking up his car keys. "I'm driving."
"But… how did you…" she stammered, but Natsu just winked. He leaned in closer, his lips brushing against her ear before he pulled her along once more.