Summary:Lucy will not be denied. (Modern AU where Natsu is a race car driver and Lucy is a dauntless writer for a sports magazine. Warning for a wee bit of swearing.)
Author's Note:Not sure where this came from, but apparently I like the idea of Natsu and cars. I blame Edo-Natsu.
This was the last straw, she decided. No more fruitlessly chasing some creep that kept jerking her around. Today, right now, she was going to catch this guy and put the fear of Lucy into him.
When her editor gave her, a shiny, newly minted magazine journalist, the job of getting an interview with the infuriatingly handsome Natsu Dragneel she had been ecstatic. What a coup! What an opportunity! You won't regret this, she'd promised. It'll be the best article you've ever seen, she'd sworn.
Only her sleazy boss hadn't bothered to let her know that he'd given her an impossible assignment and pinned her continued employment on it to boot. The bastard just didn't mention that the notorious race car driver had a nose for journalists and consistently avoided them like the plague. Interviews with Dragneel weren't just uncommon, they were non existent.
Still, Lucy had been full of optimism, jumping into her task with four years of college worth of enthusiasm. She'd poured over his history, read every magazine article, dug into newspaper archives, spent hours on the phone with the local history librarian from his hometown, and even burned days trolling through online forums and fan sites.
She'd felt prepared, felt like she knew everything there was to know about the mysterious man. He'd actually been very polite when she spoke to him, and his eyes stayed on her face the entire time. She couldn't even say that about her own boss! In the end, after all that effort, it all amounted to her getting ditched in a coffee shop when he'd blown off their promised meeting time.
Undaunted, she'd made another appointment… and then sent him another email… and then made another agreement and got stood up again before she started talking to his crew mates about how best to get some time with him. The oh-so hilarious response had been "Maybe try growing some wheels." The guy who'd said that ended up rolling on the ground when she'd wrathfully slugged him in the gut.
Her patience was exhausted, and the pink haired hooligan had wasted every last minute of the three weeks she'd been given. The damned story was due in two days, and she was not going to lose the job she'd had to fight tooth and nail for just because some asshole thought it was funny to yank her chain.
Now there he was, sitting in his race car with his gear on, waiting to pull out for his chance to run time trials. He was right there, and he wasn't getting away again. Dashing forward, ignoring the squawking of the enormous, white haired pit crew member and the shouts of the dark haired fellow driver with the name 'Fullbuster' on the breast of his jacket, Lucy planted her hands on the sill of the window and, somehow, got herself inside and onto the passenger seat.
She seriously didn't care that her flouncy skirt had blown upwards and that she'd just flashed her super cute, lacy underwear to everyone in viewing distance. Just. Didn't. Care.
The driver's head swiveled to look at her, jaw hanging completely loose in utter shock. "Holy crap, it's you -"
"Shut up," she snapped. "Damn right it's me, and you're going to live up to your promise. I want my interview right now."
"Now?" he asked, eyes darting back towards the roadway where a very surprised man had been about to direct him to start his laps.
"Yes, now!" Lucy lunged forward and grabbed the front of his overalls with fierce fingers. The cap of her pen which was clutched in her right hand dug uncaringly into his throat when he swallowed thickly. "I need this job," she seethed, "and I'm not going to lose it because you wouldn't sit down for five fucking minutes with me and answer a few questions!"
He continued to gape at her for a few seconds, before a grin spread across his oddly soft looking lips. "Well, okay then." Intrigue lit his dark eyes which raked over her quickly and settled back on her face.
"Seriously?" Her expression screamed skepticism.
The driver nodded, still beaming. "Sure! But you'll have to wait till I'm done -"
"Ooooh no you don't! We've been through this before, and I'm not falling for it again." Anger was boiling behind her brown eyes. He must think she was an idiot or a pushover. Maybe an idiotic pushover.
Natsu leaned past her to look at the gargantuan man just outside the car whose face was currently as pale as his hair. "Hey, Elfman, would you mind helping this pretty lady out? Make sure she doesn't disappear. We gotta have a chat after I finish kicking ass."
"Make sure I don't disappear?! Just who do you think -" Elfman's meaty hands interrupted her ferocious tirade when they hooked under her arms and tugged her out of the car.
"Sure thing, Natsu. Sorry she got by me," the middle Strauss said apologetically as he gently set the raging blonde down. He even very politely batted her skirt down without trying to peek.
The pink haired speed demon just laughed. "Actually, I think I'm kinda glad you didn't catch her."
An indignant noise lept out of Lucy's mouth as he jammed his foot on the accelerator and sped towards the starting position, loud cackle almost drowning out the roar of the engine.
And that was how she found herself sitting at a very trendy cafe with an obnoxiously good looking and famous man staring at her while she flipped open her notebook and adjusted the voice recorder on the table.
"Okay, I promise this won't take too long. I've already got all the questions right here -"
"Pfft. That's boring," he declared. "Let's play a game instead."
She gawked. "A g-game? Look I just want -"
He leaned back in his chair, tilting the front legs up off the ground. "The reason I don't like doing these interviews is that people always have the same dumb questions. Let's make it more fun. You can ask me something, and then I'll ask you something."
The noise of frustration she made just caused him to chuckle. "Fine. Fine. Whatever you want -"
"Whatever I want! Wow, that's pretty generous." She couldn't quite tell if he was actually leering at her or still teasing.
Rather than get flustered, even though she really already was, Lucy haughtily cleared her throat. "You've only ever raced with one company even though others have repeatedly offered you much more money to join them. What's the source of your loyalty to Fairy Tail?"
Pink brows rose up in surprise. Obviously he hadn't been expecting her well thought out questions, she thought smugly. "They're family," he said simply. "Gramps has always treated me like one of his kids, so why would I want to go work for someone who just wants me to win a bunch to make them look good?"
That gave Lucy pause. It was an uncomplicated answer, and one that struck a chord with her. Family…
"What's your favorite food?"
She blinked. "My favorite… Uh, Italian, I guess."
"You guess?" he teased. "You sure you want to go with that?"
Her eyes rolled, but the smile that threatened to tilt her lips was hard to fend off. "Fine. Pizza. I love a really good, cheesy wood oven pizza."
"Nice." Natsu didn't seem to feel a need to hide his own grin. "Your turn."
"I understand you have acute motion sickness. Got any tips for our readers on how to combat that?" She felt inordinately pleased with herself when his lips puckered into a grimace.
Scratching the side of his face with his index finger, the driver's eyes cast around the other tables nearby. "You, uh... You know about that?"
"Sure do. I did my homework." Smugness really wasn't attractive, but she couldn't help herself. Plus she wasn't supposed to care what he thought of her. Really. She didn't.
He blew out a loud breath, letting the front of his chair drop back to the ground with a thunk. "It's not so bad when I drive, but if it's anyone else I feel like I'm gonna barf all over. Forget flying... Mirajane makes these ginger candies that kinda help, but the prescription shit they give me just knocks me out cold and makes me feel way worse later."
She winced, feeling a pang of sympathy replacing her earlier vindictiveness. "Ouch. That really sucks."
With a careless shrug, he took an exaggerated swig of his lemonade. "Eh. Not much to be done about it. What's your perfect vacation?"
"Um… camping," Lucy admitted, not liking the way he was prying personal details out of her. Being a journalist meant she was supposed to be asking the questions.
"Really?" He nodded appreciatively. "Gotta be honest, I had you pegged as a girly girl."
Biting her lip, the blonde stared hard at her notepaper. "I… like looking at the stars. You can't really do that in the city." He didn't need to know about her painfully fond memories of laying on her back next to her mother, tracing familiar light patterns and inventing constellations. Definitely not.
Quiet met her explanation, making her look up to see the careful way he was studying her now. When neither spoke for more than half a minute he said, "Your turn again."
"R-right." She couldn't let him rattle her. It was just bad practice. "Why did you want to become a race car driver?"
"Duh. I like to go really fast," he laughed, draping an arm over the back of his chair. "Pretty sure that's why most of us do it. Plus, cars are cool, and it's neat to figure out how you can tweak the engine to get the best performance. Not to mention how minor changes to the weight and shape of the chassis… You think that's funny?"
"No, no!" the woman assured him with a quick wave of her slender hand. "You just sounded more excited about working on the car than you did about going fast. It surprised me is all."
Natsu raised a lazy shoulder and grinned at her again. "Well, why did you want to be a reporter?"
The practiced answer tripped off her tongue without hesitation. "It's a chance to serve the public good, to root out the truth and bring them information -"
"W-what?!" His quick cut off caught her completely off guard. "I'm not lying-"
"Sure you are." He pointed a long finger at her. "I've got a nose for that kind of thing. You won't get it past me. Why did you want to be a reporter?"
"I… uh… well, you see," she hedged, feeling like her leg was caught in a bear trap and a pink wolf was about to pounce on her. "I d-didn't…I didn't actually want to be a journalist…"
That got his attention, making him sit up from his lackadaisical slouch. "Yeah? Then what did you want to be?"
A part of her wanted to protest that he'd already asked his question, and it was her turn now. Another piece whispered that it had been a very, very long time since anyone had cared what she wanted.
"So you wanna write books?" The pink haired man nodded. "Why?"
She bit her lip before rushing out her answer. "Because I can create entire new worlds, have the characters be whatever and whoever I want. Anything can happen just the way I imagine it. Everything goes just the way I want -"
"You lost someone," he interrupted, face suddenly intense and calculating.
"W-what makes you say-"
"Your dad?" he demanded with dark, snapping eyes.
Lucy physically withdrew like he'd tried to bite her. This was diving into territory that she wanted to protect at all costs. "You already had your turn. I get to ask next."
"No. Your mom. You lost your mom," he insisted, tone leaving no room for doubt. "I get it. I know that feeling when everything's out of your control. When you wish you could just hit the pause button - or better yet, rewind." There was a thread of sympathy bleeding through his sharp gaze, and she remembered that he'd lost his own parents when he was an infant only to also lose his adoptive father years later.
Yeah, he got it.
They stared at each other for nearly a full minute, sharing a strangely intimate and wholly unexpected understanding. Eventually he whispered, "Your turn."
She actually flinched, being dumped out of a comfortable mental space that she hadn't occupied for what felt like forever. "R-right… Next question…" A grimace twisted her lips as she reference the paper in front of her. Her stupid editor had snuck in a query to her list that she had only agreed to because it shut the guy up. Screw that noise. "What's your favorite color?"
Natsu barked out yet another laugh, and tapped the bright crimson Fairy Tail patch on his shoulder. "Red! But I'm pretty sure that's not the question."
The aggrieved sigh she heaved made him laugh even more. "No… It's just so… so stereotypical and dumb. Not my idea, I swear."
"Go on," he urged. "You've earned it."
She must've pulled a truly disgusted face judging by how he snickered. "Ugh. Fine. Is there a special person in your life?"
His pink head cocked to the side, glittering black eyes regarding her. A grin warped his mouth into the most wolfish smile she'd ever seen in her life, displaying teeth that seemed too sharp and neat and blindingly white to be human. He really looked like the pink predator she'd imagined earlier. "Not until today!"
"W-what?" The fact he made her stutter so much should've annoyed her, not make her blush like a teenager.
Leaning forward until he was invading her personal space to a degree that had her heart hammering painfully against her ribs, Natsu continued to beam at her ravenously. "You are definitely the weirdest, toughest girl I've ever met. I like that."
"So, weird is your barometer when it comes to women?" That seemed absurd. Then again, so did he.
"And tough," he stressed. "You did dodge all my pit crew and jump into my car just to talk to me. That's kinda sexy."
She snorted. "It was kinda dumb too."
Natsu shrugged. "Nah, mostly just sexy. And you caught me like you wanted. What're you going to do with me now?" The statement was made even more suggestive by the smoldering, hooded eyes that pinned her to her seat.
"Do... with you? I, uh… I wasn't planning…" How was she supposed to answer that question without revealing that she'd been fantasizing about dragging him off to her bed for the last two weeks? That was just unprofessional.
"If I could make a suggestion," he said nonchalantly, calloused fingers reaching out to brush across the top of her hand and sending sparks of something jittering through her nerves. "Maybe you should finish up that article you're supposed to write. And then…"
"And then?" she whispered, enthralled.
"And then," Natsu drawled, voice low and lips so tantalizingly close, "we could order some pizza and do some stargazing."
For all she wanted to cling to her mantle of consummate, detached professional, Lucy knew, deep in her fluttering gut, that this sounded like the best idea she'd heard in years.