Natsu sat up and rubbed grass from the back of his head. "Lucy?"
"That's my name." She smiled. "I was surprised to see you taking a nap out here in middle of the park. Long day?"
"I guess you could say that." Natsu looked around. Just as he suspected Juvia was nowhere to be found.
Lucy reached her hand to him. "Need some help?"
Natsu accepted her offer. "Thanks. So what's going on?"
Lucy smiled and held up a piece of paper. "I found a job. Want to go with me?"
Natsu smiled. "Sure I was itching for some action."
"Great. It's an easy one that even you can't mess up. The client is waiting near the train station. We should head over and meet with them before they get angry."
"The station?" Natsu fretted. He could feel his stomach starting to turn. "We aren't taking the train are we?"
Lucy answered his question with a smile and ominously walked back into town. Suffice to say this didn't exactly fill him with confidence.
She continued walking as if she didn't hear him.
"Lucy, wait up! Are we taking a train?! A carriage?! Airship?! I need to know! My stomach can't take much more punishment!"
As Lucy stated earlier their job was a fairly easy one from the description. They only had to escort their client – a young man by the name of Ethan – to a small village in the east named Pistil. According to the story he told the Fairy Tail wizard's he was going there to surprise his girlfriend for Valentine's Day. Thankfully – for Natsu's sake at least – the journey to Pistil didn't require them to ride the train or any other manner of vehicle. All that was needed was a three hour walk through the East Forest.
"…And then after she punched me I flew into a wall and the whole theater came down!"
"Was anybody hurt?"
"No. Everybody made it out in one piece. I even saw Erza bowing to the Theater director."
"That's Erza for you." Lucy giggled. "She never knows when to hold back."
"My jaw agrees with you. It's still a little sore when I talk."
"You two remind me of my girlfriend and I." Ethan observed innocently. "How long have you two been together?"
Lucy froze and her cheeks flushed red. Natsu was unfazed by sudden question.
"Seven years." He plainly answered.
Ethan's eyes widened. "Wow. Are you married?"
Natsu raised an eyebrow at his second question. "What are you talking about?"
Lucy quickly covered the dragon slayer's mouth before he said anything else embarrassing. "We're not getting married." he haphazardly denied. Her face was getting redder by the second.
"I see. Have you at least talked about it?"
"We're not together at all!" Lucy squealed, unable to contain her embarrassment any longer.
"But he said-"
"He meant we've been partners for seven years. Working partners." She emphasized the "working" as much as she could to get her point across. The client accepted this and bowed in apology.
"Forgive me. It's just that you two seem so close that I naturally assumed-"
"I-it's ok." Lucy quickly waved off. "It's a common mistake." She finally removed her hand from Natsu's mouth.
"What was that for?" Natsu irritably demanded.
"For being an idiot. Now come on. Both of you." She stormed off.
The young men looked to each other, Natsu giving a confused shrug.
After another hour or so of silent travel, the village of Pistil came into view.
"Is this the place?" Natsu asked Ethan.
"Yes. It is."
"I bet you're excited to see your girlfriend." Lucy grinned.
"I am. Because of my job for the council I can't visit as often as I'd like. The only way for us to see one another is through communication lacrima."
"That must have been hard not seeing each other face to face." Lucy sympathized.
"It has. But Susanna and I have been together since we were kids so I don't doubt the strength of our bond." He reached into his bag and pulled out a small black box. Lucy's eyes went wide.
Paul nodded with a grin.
"I saved up for six months to buy this. Hopefully she'll accept it."
Lucy smiled. "If what you've been telling us about your relationship is true, then I have no doubt that she will."
"So why did you need me to come along, Lucy?" Natsu asked, looking ahead to the approaching village. "You could have done this job all by yourself."
Lucy started to blush again. "I know, but it's been a while since you and I went on a job together."
"We just finished a job a few days ago."
"I mean with just the two of us. It kind of reminds you of the jobs we went when I first joined the guild, doesn't it?"
"Not really." Natsu answered bluntly. "Those were-"
"What's that?" Ethan pointed.
Natsu and Lucy looked ahead and saw a large man holding someone a lot smaller than him in the air. There were a group of at least ten to twelve other men behind him. There was also a woman on her knees. She appeared to be begging.
"What's going on?" Lucy asked.
Natsu's eyes narrowed. "Looks like trouble."
"Susanna!" Ethan blitzed past the Fairy Tail wizard and made a beeline for the men.
"Wait!" Lucy shouted.
"See, girl." The leader of the group smirked. "This is what happens when you try to be a hero." He squeezed the neck of the man in his clutches, further restricting his air.
"Please! Let my brother go!" Susanna pleaded. "He's only a child! He didn't mean to do what he did."
"You should really be apologizing to my boy over there." He pointed his thumb to a man on his left – who was currently nursing a bump on his head. "Hitting him with that rock wasn't a very nice thing to do." He squeezed harder.
"Please! Don't do this!"
The big man and his group began to cackle when a bolt of lightning hit him on the arm, forcing him to release Susanna's brother.
"Ow! Dammit! Who the hell did that?!"
"Leave them alone!"
Susanna's eyes widened when she saw who was running towards them. "Ethan?"
Ethan forced himself between the man and his beloved.
"Are you alright, Susanna?"
"Ethan…I can't believe you're actually here." she was on the verge of tears.
"How is Beltran?"
Susanna shook the stars out of her eyes and checked on her brother. She pressed her ear against his chest. His heart beat was slow, but steady. "He's still alive." She wiped the tears from her eyes. "Thank God."
"Susanna, listen to me. I want you to take Beltran and get out of here. Go home and lock yourself inside. Don't come out until I tell you."
"What are you going to do?"
He smiled at her. "Isn't it obvious? I'm going to teach these guys a lesson in respect."
"What?! Ethan, you can't! There's too many of them for you to take on alone!"
"Let me worry about that. Now go!"
Susanna scooped her kid brother into her arms and stood up. When she looked to Ethan, her eyes were filled with concern. It was like she would never see him again.
"I'll finish this quickly. I promise." He winked. Weak as it was Susanna couldn't help but smile at him.
"Don't take too long." With that she ran off.
One of the Big Man's followers tried to chase her, but he stopped them.
"We can take care of her later. Right now it looks like we have another hero on our hands, boys."
Ethan readied himself for a fight as the group started to surround him. Based on their size alone he would have trouble beating one, let alone ten of them - and that was before he factored in their massive leader.
He looked to their weapons: some had swords, some had knives, and others carried magical staves. Looking at the odds, there was no way Ethan would come out of this fight unscathed. Let alone alive.
"You're looking a little pale there, Hero." The leader mocked. "What happened to all that gusto from earlier?"
Ethan grinned to hide his anxiety - though his hands were still a little shaky. "I still have plenty to spare. I just didn't want to intimidate you guys too much. Wouldn't want you to run away before I had a chance to make you apologize for what you just did." He looked around at the men once more, taking note of the flaming skull tattoos on their arms. "I take it you guys are the Bad Skull Gang." He looked to the leader again. "You must be their leader, Geordi."
"The one and only." The leader of the gang smirked. "Flattered you know about us."
"It's part of my job as a member of the magic council. I've been ordered to bring you guys in."
The gang all laughed.
"Bring us in? I like you, councilman. I'll be sure to take good care of your girl when you're gone. What was her name again?" Geordi licked his lips lustfully. "Susanna?"
Ethan gritted his teeth and leapt at the man in a rage. He drew back his fist but was instantly swatted into a nearby building.
"You got lucky before. That won't happen again." Geordi and as his men stalked the downed Ethan. The large man reached into the rubble, hoisting Ethan into the air by the collar of his shirt. He punched him hard in the stomach.
Ethan gasped for air and his vision started to blur.
"Oh don't fall asleep on me now, Hero." Geordi smirked. "We're just getting started."
When drew back his fist a second time, a torrent of flame came rushing towards him.
"What the hell is that?!"
In the confusion Ethan headbutted Geordi in the nose, forcing him to let go. As Ethan fell to the ground he was caught and taken away. When the dust settled Natsu and Lucy faced the gang, the latter with Ethan in his arms.
"You were pretty cool back there." Lucy complimented with a smile.
"Let us take it from here." Natsu set Ethan against a nearby building and looked ahead to the group of criminals. He cracked his knuckles. "Ready, Lucy?"
The Celestial Wizard grabbed her keys. "Yeah."
"Who the hell are you?!" Geordi yelled, still nursing his broken nose. "You got a death wish just like that councilman, don't ya?!"
"Wait, Boss. I think I recognize them." One of his men said. "That's Salamander and the Cosplay Queen! They're wizards from Fairy Tail!"
"I'm not the 'Cosplay Queen'!" Lucy shouted in offense. "You're going to get an even worse beating for that."
"I'll take down the big guy." Natsu delegated. "Think you can handle the others?"
"Alright, let's do this!"
Natsu and Lucy charged.
Natsu pulled back his fist and lunged towards Geordi. The big man blocked with his forearm. The clash rocked the area.
Geordi pushed Natsu back on his heels. "I've heard about you, Salamander. You're supposed to be strong. Is that weak punch all you have?"
Natsu clenched his fists tight, both igniting in flames. "I'm just getting warmed up."
"I was hoping you would say that." Geordi held out his hands and the ground began to shake around him.
"What's going on?!" Natsu panicked.
"My rumble magic!"
"It lets me manipulate the earth in ways you could only dream of." Pieces of the ground broke apart and covered Geordi's arms up to his shoulders. He slammed his rock gauntlets together. "Hope you're ready to eat dirt, Salamander."
Lucy ran towards the rest of the Gang at top speed, but they were unfazed by her hardened glare.
"What can one little girl do against all of us? You that eager to die, blondie?"
"No one's dying today!" Lucy held out Leo's key.
STAR DRESS: LEO FORM
In a glow of golden, Lucy changed into a black and gold dress. Before the men could even blink she dispatched all of them with a well placed Regulus Lucy Kick. Narrowly dodging a bolt of lighting from above, Lucy spotted more staff users on the roofs of the buildings.
They must have been hiding there the whole time.
She grabbed Sagitarrius' key.
STAR DRESS: SAGITARRIUS FORM
Avoiding a combined blast of water and fire, Lucy leapt into the air with her sights set on the stave users.
From her bow she let loose five arrows of light, each one hitting their mark and knocking the men from the rooftops to the ground below. Upon landing safely on the ground herself, Lucy returned to her regular clothes and ran to Ethan's side.
"Are you ok?"
"Yeah." Ethan struggled to his knees, his eyes on the battle between Geordi and Natsu. "I have to help him…"
Lucy held him back with a hand on his shoulder. "Don't worry." She assured. "Natsu can handle this."
Natsu and Geordi traded punches in the middle of the village, their colliding fists sending one shockwave after another into the air.
"You're moving pretty slow, Salamander." Geordi smirked. "Don't tell me you're tired, already."
"Actually I was going to say the same thing to you." Natsu retorted. "I only slowed down because I'm trying to give you a fair fight."
"Why you-!" Geordi punched Natsu in the face as hard as he could.
"Natsu!" Ethan shouted.
"Just watch." Lucy said.
"Not so tough now are you?!" Geordi began to laugh but quickly stopped when he felt his fist heating up through the rock. "What the hell?!"
"That all you got?" Natsu asked through a cocky smirk. There wasn't a mark on his face at all.
"You bastard!" Geordi ran at Natsu at top speed.
Natsu bent his knee and gathered flames around his right arm. When Geordi was in range he lunged forward.
FIRE DRAGON IRON FIST
Natsu plunged his fist as deeply as he could into the large man's abdomen. Geordi's eyes went completely white from the pain, and he fell to Natsu's side unconscious. The dragon slayer straightened up, giving Lucy and Ethan a thumbs up.
Ethan was at a loss for words. He had heard tales of Fairy Tail wizards, but he had never seen them in action before outside of lacrima footage here and there. The way they quickly defeated the entire gang without so much as a scratch on either of them was nothing short of astounding.
"Took you long enough." Lucy teased as Natsu made his way over. "You could have ended that fight the minute it started if you wanted."
"Yeah, but I haven't had any exercise all day." he rotated his shoulder. "I needed to loosen up."
"Honestly." Lucy sighed with a shake of her head.
Natsu helped Ethan to his feet. "You ok?"
"That was amazing." the council officer praised. "I couldn't touch him at all, but you took him down like it was nothing."
Natsu rubbed his finger under his nose and puffed out his chest with pride. "I am pretty awesome, aren't I?"
Lucy smacked him in the back of the head.
"Ow!" the dragon slayer groaned. "What was that for?"
"Don't be a jerk." She scolded.
"I wasn't being a jerk." Natsu protested.
"You were being cocky. That's pretty much the same thing."
As Ethan watched the two argue he heard a voice calling his name.
He turned and saw Susanna running to him with open arms.
He caught her when she dove into his arms. The two spun around for a moment before coming to a gentle stop.
"I'm so glad you're safe."
"Me too." Susanna nodded. She then slapped him in the face.
Ethan quickly grabbed his sore cheek. "Why did you-" he was interrupted by the tears in Susanna's eyes.
"I thought I was going to lose you." She sniffled. "You dumb idiot! Don't ever do something reckless like that again."
Ethan pulled Susanna's head to his chest. "I won't. I promise."
Natsu and Lucy smiled at the scene, the celestial wizard inching a tiny bit closer to the dragon slayer.
"I'm glad we were able to help them out." Lucy smiled.
After a short goodbye to the couple, Natsu and Lucy were on their way back to Magnolia.
"Yeah." Natsu agreed. "He even gave us the reward money for taking down that gang."
"Not only that. Susanna agreed to marry him." Lucy swooned. "That was so romantic."
"Yeah...If you're into that kind of mushy stuff."
"It's not 'mushy'." Lucy argued. You're telling me you wouldn't want to marry the girl you love?"
"I mean I would yeah, but I wouldn't do it like that. My marriage proposal would be way cooler."
Lucy blushed and began to play with her fingers. "How?" she prompted.
"Your marriage proposal. How would you do it?"
Now it was Natsu's turn to blush. "N-none of your business."
"Aw, come on, Natsu." Lucy whined. "Tell me. I wanna know."
"I said no."
"Just drop it alright?!" Natsu began to run.
"Natsu, wait up!" Lucy shouted, running after him. "Tell me! I'll keep it a secret!"
Lucy stopped running when she realized she wouldn't be catching Natsu anytime soon. She looked at her watch and sighed.
"Guess my time is up. He's all yours, Mira."
Natsu made it back to Magnolia just as the sun was about to set. He was exhausted.
When he looked back he noticed that Lucy was nowhere to be found. I could have sworn she was right behind me. Natsu stood straight up and stretched his back. I guess that means another one of the girls is going to show up in a few seconds. I wonder whose next.
When the dragon slayer looked ahead, his eyes fell on a slightly worried Mirajane Struass.
"You look tired."
Natsu smiled. "I'm fine, Mira. I just came back from a job."
"No. Lucy was with me. She's probably already back home."
Mirajane raised in eyebrow in suspicion. "I see. I'm glad I ran into you. When I went home after the guild closed and saw you weren't there I got worried."
"Well you found me. So what's up?"
"There is a festival in Crocus tonight, and…I was wondering if you wanted to go with me."
Natsu smiled wide. "Sounds like fun."
Mirajane returned his smile. "Great. Would you like to shower first before we go? I don't think you want to get on a train smelling like you went ten rounds with a pig."
Natsu sniffed his armpit. He didn't think he smelled bad, but he could understand where Mirajane was coming from.
"I probably should. I'll take a quick dip in the bath and then-"suddenly Natsu froze.
He slowly turned to her, his face pale with fear. "Did you say we were taking the train?"
Natsu let out a deathly groan as the train rolled along the tracks, his head firmly resting on Mirajane's lap. Three train rides in one day did not sit well with his stomach in the slightest. He was beginning to think that the powers that be were punishing him for all the destruction he caused over the years.
"It's ok." the barmaid cooed, running her fingers through his pink locks. "We're almost there." When the train began rolling to a stop in the Crocus station she smiled at him. "See? That wasn't so bad was it?"
Natsu answered with a groan. He was better composed when the train came to a full stop. Mirajane lead him out of the train and into the capital city.
Day turned to night while on the train, so the street lights were lit all across town. No matter how many times Natsu saw Crocus at night he couldn't help but be taken in by the wonder of it all. The lights were even tinted red and pink tonight, giving the city an almost ethereal quality to it. It was spellbinding.
"It's beautiful, isn't it?" Mirajane asked. Natsu nodded.
"Yeah. It is."
"Come on. The festival is this way." Mirajane hooked her arm around Natsu's and pulled him along through the streets.
When they arrived downtown Natsu once again found himself entranced by the overall presentation of the festival.
As far as his eyes could see there were stalls with games and all kinds of foods that were each more pleasing to smell than the last. "Whoa." He heard himself gasp. "This festival is way bigger than the one we went to last time."
"Hopefully we can stay at this one a little bit longer than that one." Mirajane giggled. She tightened her grip on his arm and took him through the festival.
Natsu was pulled every which way by the surprisingly energetic barmaid. One would think that a full day of working at Fairy Tail would tire out even the hardiest of people, but Mirajane had shown time and again that she was very different from most people.
Natsu on the other hand was on auto pilot. Thanks to spending time with the other girls Natsu was mentally exhausted by the time he had met with Mirajane. His third train ride that day didn't help matters either. The only reason he was able to stand was because of Mirajane's arm being linked around his.
"Natsu, are you alright?"
He yawned. "I'm just a little tired is all."
Mirajane could see the redness in his eyes. "Oh my. That train ride must have taken more out of you then I thought. Do you wanna rest for a little while?"
"Yeah actually. Sorry."
"It's fine. Let's find somewhere to sit." Mirajane looked through the crowd and saw an empty bench behind one of the food stalls. "This way." She led the increasingly exhausted to the bench and sat him down. "I'll be right back. Don't go anywhere."
"No problem." Natsu gave the barmaid a lackadaisical thumbs up as she hurried back into the festival crowd. A minute or so later she returned with a plate of takoyaki and two chocolate dipped bananas. She sat next to the dragon slayer, scooting over so that their arms were touching. Natsu would have scooted over a bit to give her space, but he didn't have the strength.
Mirajane stuck a toothpick in one of the takoyaki balls and held it up to Natsu's mouth with a smile. "Say 'ah'."
"I can feed myself." Natsu grumbled.
"Oh quit being a baby and just eat it."
Natsu reluctantly opened his mouth and let the barmaid place the ball on his tongue. He closed his mouth and she slid the toothpick out clean.
"See? That wasn't so bad."
"Whatever." Natsu said through his chews.
"Don't talk with your mouth full."
"Sowwy." He finished the takoyaki and Mirajane prepared another. Just before she could place it in his mouth the pair heard someone call to them.
The Fairy Tail wizards watched as Hibiki and Jenny from Blue Pegasus walked towards them with smiles, their arms linked just as theirs had been earlier. Though Jenny's grip seemed to be a bit more possessive than Mirajane's was.
"I knew it was you two I saw earlier." Hibiki smiled. "How are you?"
"We're doing well." Mirajane returned with a smile of her own. "Natsu was feeling tired so we decided to sit down for a little while."
"Are you two on a date?" Jenny asked with a mischievous grin.
Mirajane felt herself get a little embarrassed. "N-no we aren't. We're here as friends."
"Oh that's too bad." Jenny cooed. She tightened her grip on Hibiki's arm. "Hibiki and I have been on a Valentine's date all day. This festival is our last stop."
"Congratulations. I'm so happy for you." Mirajane said through gritted teeth.
"Jenny, be nice. It's not a competition." Hibiki chided.
She snuggled up to him. "Of course it isn't when I've already won."
Mirajane's mood began to darken and she stood up.
"Perhaps we should have a real competition." She challenged her fellow model. "Like at the Grand Magic Games." Mirajane lifted her head, looking down menacingly at a cowering Jenny. Her eyes began to glow. "Remember how much fun we had?"
Jenny, Hibiki, and even Natsu began to shake in fear of Mirajane's proposal. The Blue Pegasus couple stepped back a few paces.
"N-no thank you." Jenny politely declined. "I'll pass." She tugged on Hibiki's arm. It was time to go.
"I-it was nice seeing you two again." He said. "E-enjoy the rest of the festival."
Mirajane's normal mood returned. "We will. Thank you."
With that Hibiki and Jenny quickly shuffled back into the festival. Mirajane returned to her spot next to Natsu on the bench. When she picked up the plate she frowned.
"Oh no. The food's gone cold."
"I can warm it up!" Natsu quickly offered. He was just as scared of Mirajane as Hibiki and Jenny were at the moment.
He grabbed plate and used his magic to warm up the food. He handed the plate back to Mirajane.
"Thank you." She poked into the now warm takoyaki. "Say 'ah'."
After finishing their meal Natsu and Mirajane returned to the festival. When they were done sampling all of the food stalls, they decided to play some of the games. Luckily for this went way better than last time. Natsu even managed to win some things for the other girls.
Mirajane hugged the white teddy bear Natsu had won her to her chest. "Thank you for this."
"You're welcome." Natsu looked down at the bags in his hands. "I was really on fire today. This was fun." He smiled wide at Mirajane. "Thanks for bringing me, Mira."
She looked away with a blush, her hand reaching for the dragon slayer's sleeve. "You're welcome."
As they walked towards the edge of the festival, Natsu's eyes caught glimpse of a sign up ahead.
"Look, Mira!" he pointed. "They're going to shoot off fireworks!"
"Oh they are? That should be nice."
"Let's go find a spot before it starts!" Natsu sped off, unwittingly leaving Mirajane behind, but she made no effort to chase him. Her time was up.
She looked at her bear.
"Have fun, Natsu."
Natsu made it to a grassy hill close to the city park. All over there were couples sitting on blankets in the grass, each of them waiting on the fireworks show to start.
"Aw man I can't see anything. What about you, Mi-" Natsu turned his head. Mirajane was nowhere to be found. He let out a sigh. "Of course she's gone. Why do they keep vanishing like that?"
"Natsu~! Over here!"
The dragon slayer looked around for the source of the voice and saw a girl waving to him from further down the hill. He walked over to a tree with a blanket already set up. Sitting on the blanket was Lisanna.
"Did you enjoy the festival?"
"Um, yeah." Natsu sat down next to her and looked over to the horizon. He could clearly see the reflection of the moon in the lake. "This is a pretty good spot."
"I got here early. I wanted to hurry and snag a good place before everyone else showed up."
"You didn't do anything at the festival?"
"Oh I did. I played a few of the games and I won this." She presented a toy fish to Natsu. "Isn't it cute? I'm going to give it to Happy."
"He'd like that." Natsu smiled. "Though he'd probably end up complaining that it's not a real fish."
"Yeah. I guess you're right about that." Lisanna giggled. She noticed the bags Natsu brought with him. "Looks like you won some things too. Can I see them?" Lisanna reached her hand over, but Natsu quickly snatched the bags away.
"Why not?" Lisanna pouted.
"Um…it's a secret."
Lisanna was unfazed by this excuse and reached again. "Just let me see it."
Natsu pulled away again. "No."
A loud pop signaled the end of their struggle and both Natsu and Lisanna looked to the night sky. A blast of colors dazzled beautifully in the star-studded air.
"The fireworks have started!" Lisanna gasped.
"Yeah!" Natsu smiled as he sneakily shifted the bags behind his back. He was grateful for the interference.
The colors continued to pop on the black backdrop of the sky. The gathered crowd sat in awe of the spectacle.
Natsu noticed that a few of the women around them had snuggled close to the men sitting next to them. His face began to heat up at the possibility of that happening to him and Lisanna. Almost instantly he turned his head to her, surprised when she was looking his way as well. The two stared into one another's eyes, the sound of the fireworks drowned out by the loud beating of their hearts.
"What is it?"
"Do you remember…when we were kids and I joked about becoming your wife when we were older?"
"Y-yeah I remember. What about it?"
Lisanna reached for his hand, lightly gripping it in her own as she inched her body forward. "I just…" her lips parted more the closer she got to him. "What if I asked that again?" their breaths began to mix. "What would you say?"
Just then a strong gust of wind blew between them, effectively ruining the mood.
"What was that?" Natsu frantically asked.
"I don't know."
The pair heard clapping and looked around at the crowd. When they looked to sky they only saw stars. The show was over.
"We missed the whole thing." Natsu whined. "What a waste."
Lisanna sulked a bit at those words. A waste? But we almost…
"Let's hit some of the stands before they close." Natsu suggested. He stood up and stretched his hands towards Lisanna. "I want to eat some more before they shut everything down."
After taking one more stroll through the festival, Natsu and Lisanna found themselves eating at the same bench Natsu remembered sitting on with Mirajane just an hour or so ago. They ate their food, engaging in light conversation every few bites to keep things from getting awkward.
Natsu looked over his plate, but his eyes were focused on Lisanna's lips. They weren't as full as her sisters, but they were still had their own charm. He watched Lisanna bring her Blueberry crepe to her mouth and took a bite. Her lips glistened in the moonlight.
Natsu's eyes met Lisanna's in a panic. "Y-yeah!"
"Are you watching me eat?"
"W-what?! N-no! Why would I do something weird like that?"
"Well then why are you staring at me?"
Natsu had to think of an excuse fast. "I-I was just going to tell you that you had something on your cheek." He pointed to the right corner of his mouth and Lisanna mirrored him, finding a rogue bit of crepe.
"That's so embarrassing." She ate the crumb off her finger, Natsu once again watching her lips. "Thank you."
The two finished their food as the festival came to a close. They walked through the streets of Crocus, watching as all of the festival vendors took down their stalls and decorations.
"That festival was fun." Lisanna smiled.
"What do we do now?" Natsu yawned. "It's getting kind of late."
Lisanna yawned as well. She rubbed her tired eyes then looked to the clock on one of the larger buildings. "It's almost eleven."
"Should we go back home?"
The pair headed to the train station. Natsu was dreading getting on the monster for what would be the fourth time, but he accepted it as a means to get home this late at night. He let Lisanna board before him, but just before he could step inside he was pulled back inside the station by his scarf.
"Not so fast, dragon boy."
"Agh!" Natsu landed on his back, his eyes looking up at a smiling Cana.
"You didn't think I would forget about you, right?"
The fortuneteller dragged Natsu back into the city.
"Cana, wait!" Natsu struggled. She let him go and he stood up, his face showing how unamused he was by her rough methods. "What are you doing?"
"Well I was bringing you along with me until you started whining."
"No I mean what are you doing here in Crocus?"
"Are you serious? This place has some of the best bars in the entire kingdom." She smiled. "And we're going to them all!"
Cana linked her arm around Natsu's and pulled him along. "Come on! Happy hour's almost over!" she pointed ahead.
Their adventure began.
Natsu rested his head on his hand, watching in utter boredom as Cana drank her fifth opponent under the table.
"That all you guys got?" she challenged. She had yet to get buzzed. "I thought you were 'real men'."
The pair were currently on what Cana affectionately dubbed "Liquor Lane". In reality it was a street in downtown Crocus about a mile or two long with bars reaching as far as the eye could see. According to Cana, no one had ever made it from one end of the street to the other without puking their guts out. She aimed to break that trend tonight. While not interested in her goal in the slightest, Natsu was at least thankful that Cana was funding this expedition herself.
"Your girlfriend can sure knock 'em back." The bartender said as Cana faced her sixth contender.
"She's not my girlfriend." Natsu retorted automatically. In a matter of minutes Cana claimed another victory. She sauntered over to the bar.
"I need your largest pitcher of water and some bread."
"You got it." Within a minute he came back with order. "Going to make it to the end tonight?"
"That's the plan."
"Thanks." Cana down the pitcher in one go and began eating the bread. She then looked to her weary companion. "What's wrong?" she muffled, her mouth full of bread. "You look like you're not having fun."
"I'm not." Natsu said bluntly. "All you're doing is drinking. I don't even know why I'm here."
Cana finished her bread. "It's because you're my D.D.S. of course."
"D.D.S.? What does that mean?"
She smiled. "My 'Designated Dragon Slayer'. You're supposed to be encouraging me to complete this challenge…as well as carry me home if I pass out."
"So I'm just a lackey?!"
"Now you're getting it. It's a team effort." Cana hopped off of her stool and moved to Natsu's ear. "If I make it to the end, I'll give you a present." She whispered lustfully.
Natsu's spine tingled.
Cana grabbed his wrist. "Come on. We still have a long way to go."
The duo travelled to the bar across the street and Cana went on another tear, this time drinking seven men under the table. When she was finished she would always order water and bread before moving on.
Zig-zagging from one one bar to another in what felt like no time at all, Natsu slowly began to find himself warming up to Cana's habit. He knew she was the hardiest drinker in the guild, but he had never seen her abilities on full display like this before. Watching her defeat opponent after opponent on her own field of battle left him Natsu was awestruck.
"You're amazing!" he praised. They were nearing the home stretch. Only one bar left.
Cana was starting to feel the early stages of being drunk, but smiled at the dragon slayer. "Some people are good at beating other people up." She poked his chest. Then she poked her own. "And others are good at drinking. It's a-" she burped. "Excuse me. It's just a skill."
"Can you really make it?" Natsu's tone was a mix of concern for Cana's health and excitement for her actually completing the task set before her.
"I can if you're still here to keep me on my feet."
Natsu nodded in determination. "You can count on me!"
They entered the final bar, which was appropriately named "The Ninth Circle". As they walked in – Cana more so stumbling at this point – the bartender took notice.
"Congratulations." She said. "Welcome to the Ninth Circle. This is the last stop on 'Liquor Lane'. You made it just in time too. We were just about to close for the night."
"But it's only 12." Natsu said. "Why would a bar close so early?"
"To be honest, it's because we're out of alcohol."
"You're what?!" Cana and Natsu shouted in disbelief.
"Sorry. We always close earlier than the other bars because our champ runs us dry. Kind of hard to stay open with nothing to drink but water."
"Well where is he?" Cana demanded. "After I beat him I'll be the Queen of this thing."
"Over there." The bartender pointed to a tabled in the back. "Past the drunken bodies."
Natsu and Cana's eyes widened in shock. There had to be at least twenty to thirty men on the ground, all of them unconscious from drinking. At the head of this mountain sat a man sipping on a mug of regular beer. Natsu and Cana recognized him immediately.
"Huh?" the Cerberus wizard hiccupped. "Someone call my name?"
When he spotted the Fairy Tail wizards he smiled. "Cana! How's it goin?!" he stumbled over to them, tripping over an overturned chair along the way.
"You're the champion of this bar, Bacchus?" Cana questioned.
"The one and only." He grinned. "Hey, you're that Fire Dragon Slayer…Natsu right? Nice to see ya again." He reached out his hand, and Natsu begrudgingly shook it.
"Yeah. You too." As expected Bacchus reeked of alcohol. Natsu had to hold his nose closed just to keep upright in his presence.
The ace of Quatro Cerberus returned his attention to Cana. "You taking the challenge?"
She firmly nodded. "I am."
Bacchus laughed. "I should have known I'd see you in here sooner or later." His smile gave way to an eager grin. "What do you say we get started?"
Cana softly pushed Natsu away. "Fine by me."
"Stella. Bring out the good stuff."
The bartender let out a sigh. "Coming right up."
The two moved to a table near the middle of the bar and awaited their drink. Stella the bartender placed a pure white bottle on the table. She also placed glasses before each of them.
"Thanks, Stella." Bacchus said.
Bacchus pulled out the cork and the sharp scent of the alcohol filled the air. It was enough to make Cana retch if she wasn't careful.
"If you can't take the smell then you definitely won't last long, sis."
Bacchus poured the crystal clear liquid into each of their glasses. "They call this stuff 'Dragon's Mouth" Sake. If you thought the smell was strong, just wait'll ya taste it. Just one glass will put you on your ass." He chuckled at his rhyme.
"Quit posturing and let's get this over with." Cana said. "I'm taking that title of yours."
"Your determination makes my spirit tremble."
They both downed the first shot and Cana felt the effects almost immediately as the first sip. Her vision started to blur and her head started spinning. It was like she was trapped in a whirlwind. The other alcohol in her system didn't help her cope either.
Bacchus smirked. He was seemingly unaffected by the drink. "You alright over there? Told you this stuff was strong."
Cana shook her head free of cobwebs - for the moment. "Keep pouring." She demanded.
"Alright! Let's get wild!"
After the first glass the battle started in earnest. In quick succession the drunken gladiators downed one round after another. The only spectators being the somewhat invested bartender, Stella, and a very worried Natsu.
He knew that Cana hadn't forgotten what happened the last time she and Bacchus battled one another in a contest like this. He could see it on her face. She was apprehensive, but there was also a flash of excitement in her normally subdued eyes. This wasn't just a battle for bragging rights, this was retribution for the humiliation she suffered back then. A grudge match on the perfect battlefield.
As Natsu continued to watch them, he noticed that Cana was shivering.
"She won't last long." Stella spoke.
Natsu turned to her. "What do you mean? She's still in this as long as she doesn't pass out."
"You saw her was shivering, right? That's not by accident. Don't you wonder why it's so cold in this bar?"
Honestly Natsu really hadn't, because of his dragon slayer magic he could stand the freezing cold and be able to move freely, but he did remember that he could see his breath when he walked in.
"The name 'Ninth Circle' isn't just something that looks nice on a building. We chose that name for a reason. In the divine comedy the Ninth Circle of Hell was the coldest. It was a frozen lake that housed the most unforgiving of sinners. The more grave their sin, the deeper in the lake they were placed."
Natsu was lost. "What does that have to do with the bar getting colder?"
"Alcohol gives you the illusion of warmth when you drink enough of it, but in reality its making you lose heat because it dilates your blood and your capillaries. Your body is working overtime to keep you warm, but at the same time it's also burning itself out."
Natsu looked Cana. "But she's not shivering anymore. That means she's ok right?"
"That only makes it worse." Stella explained. "Shivering is your body's natural defense mechanism against the cold. When you stop shivering hypothermia will begin to set in."
Suddenly a burst of cold air flowed through the bar.
"What was that?" Cana asked through chattering teeth. "When did it get so cold in here?"
"You finally noticed." Bacchus smirked.
"The Ninth Circle is always kind of chilly, but when someone challenges the champion of the bar one on one, it slowly gets even colder. You see Stella over there is an ice wizard. She gradually makes the place colder so that it's harder to drink. It's an endurance test to see if one is worthy of becoming champ."
Cana could feel her joints aching as she clutched her glass. Damn. I wasn't expecting this. Sneaky bastard set me up.
"Looking a little pale there." He mocked. "You sure you can keep up? Isn't much left in the bottle. No shame in quitting while you're ahead."
Cana pushed her glass forward. "Just…pour…"
"I knew I liked you for a reason, Cana." Bacchus poured another round.
Damn, Cana can't last much longer. Natsu turned to Stella. "You have to stop."
"I can't. This is the rule of the bar. When a champion is challenged it is my job along with theirs to test the challenger."
"But she'll pass out and get sick! She could die!"
"She chose this path. It's not up to me."
"Dammit!" Natsu turned to Cana. She was starting to sway and her breathing was shallow. It was the early stages of hypothermia. I have to do something!
Cana struggled to bring the glass to her lips.
"Looks like you're almost done." Bacchus said. "It was a good fight, but it looks like I win again."
"Damn…" Cana cursed. Everything hurts. I can barely move my arms anymore. I can't even see straight. It might be best to just give up. She slowly lowered the glass. It's just a dumb drinking contest anyway. Why did I even wanna do this in the first place…? Cana felt a pair of arms snake around her waist and pull her close. Her back hit something solid and within seconds she felt her body heating up. What's going on? I suddenly feel warm.
"Don't give up! You're almost there!"
Cana's eyes widened and she turned her head. "Natsu? What are you doing?"
"Keeping you on your feet." He grinned. "That's what a D.D.S. does right?"
Cana was shocked. "Natsu…"
"Hey, Stella!" Bacchus called. "Can he do that?"
"As long as she is the only one drinking its fine."
"Wanna come warm me up?" he grinned.
"I'd rather freeze to death."
Bacchus shrugged. "Worth a try."
"Natsu, I appreciate the help, but even if you warm me up I don't have much left in me." Cana admitted. "This stuff is hitting me pretty hard. I'm honestly surprised I can talk coherently right now."
"You just worry about beating this guy. I can handle the rest."
Cana grinned and looked back to Bacchus with renewed determination. "You heard the man. Fill 'er up, doggy bag."
"You Fairy Tail wizards sure know how to make a guy's spirit tremble." Bacchus shook the bottle. "This will be the last round."
He poured the liquid into the glasses and they both took their final sips.
Cana's vision went white as soon as the alcohol hit her stomach.
"Come on, Cana!" Natsu cheered. "Fight it!"
She blinked a few times and her vision started to return. She stared into Bacchus' eyes. With the alcohol gone it was now a test of wills.
Bacchus chuckled. "I had a feeling…tonight would be fun."
"Me too." Cana grinned. "I haven't had this much fun drinking since the last time you and I squared off."
"I feel the same." Bacchus' eyelid started to get heavy. "We should do this…again…sometime…" he fell to the ground with a smile on his face.
"You won, Cana!" Natsu exclaimed.
"I did?" when she noticed that Bacchus was unconscious her eyes widened. "I did! I won!"
"Congratulations." Stella clapped. The temperature in the bar started to return to normal. "You're the new champion."
"I knew you could do it." Natsu praised. "That was awesome."
"Thanks…but I couldn't have done it…without…" Cana fell over on the table, her eyes spirals.
"Was wondering when she would finally pass out." Stella commented.
"Cana!" Natsu shook her. "Cana, wake up!"
Cana muttered in her sleep as Natsu carried her to the train station. The combination of alcohol in her body made sure that the fortuneteller could no longer walk on her own power, but Natsu was more than willing to carry her back after what she went through.
As a prize for winning the Liquor Lane challenge, Cana was given a plaque declaring her the champion, as well as a bottle of "Dragon's Breath." Since she was much too drunk to carry them herself, Natsu placed them on his bags.
"Natsu…? Where are we…? Did I win?" she slurred. It would be a while before she slept this off.
"Yeah you won." he smiled. "You should probably go back to sleep. We're almost at the train station."
"The train station? But you hate trains…"
"Yeah, but it's faster than walking home. Besides If you can handle all of that booze then I can handle a stupid train."
"Natsu…" Cana called.
"Yeah?" he was starting to get irritated. "What?"
"Wha-" he turned his head and Cana's lips caught his. The kiss was quick, but Natsu could tell that Cana was putting her all into it. Natsu quickly faced forward, his face completely red.
"That's your present for helping me." Cana smiled. She rested her head on his back and drifted off to sleep once more. "You're the best D.D.S. a drunk could ever as for…thank you…"
Natsu grinned as the train station came into view. "You're welcome."
Natsu slept peacefully in his bed, snoring the rest of the night away as Cana laid at his side. From a crack in his door, Erza, Mirajane, and Juvia peaked inside. Their tempers flaring.
"Curse that sly drunkard." Erza fumed. "First she sneaks off to who knows where with Natsu, now here she is lying in his bed with him after we spent the whole night looking for the both of them. We were worried sick."
"I know she tried to make a move on my beloved while they were out together." Juvia glared at Cana. She was practically steaming at the thought of the fortuneteller doing something salacious with Natsu while they were alone.
"To be fair, weren't we all trying to spend time with Natsu in some form or fashion?" Lucy spoke up. The three girls' glares made her shrink back in fear. "I was just saying."
"We should just let them rest." Levy said.
Lisanna nodded. "We've all had a long day. We should all get some sleep."
"I'm going in there. I will not let Cana gain the upper hand."
"Wait, Juvia!" Erza hissed. "You can't just barge in there."
"Come back." Mirajane called.
Juvia opened the door and walked into Natsu's room, the other girls tentatively following behind. The rain woman stopped when she noticed something on the floor. "What is that?"
The others looked down, seeing seven bears sitting on boxes of chocolate. Six were arranged in what loosely appeared to be a heart while the seventh sat in the middle. They were all holding a rose.
"They look like teddy bears." Lucy said. She reached for one.
"They have our names on them too." Levy pointed out.
Each girl grabbed their corresponding bear and chocolates and brought them into the light of the den. Each of the bears matched their respective owner's hair color: Erza's bear was red, Lucy's was yellow, Mirajane and Lisanna both had white bears, and Juvia and Levy both had blue bears – though Levy's bear was a shade lighter than Juvia's. On the boxes of chocolates "Happy Valentine's Day" was written.
The girls were shocked.
"Did Natsu do this?" Erza asked.
"When did he have the time?" Mirajane wondered.
"Come to think of it he was more tired than normal today."
"Yes." Juvia nodded. "He was much groggier than usual."
"This must have been what he was doing." Lisanna realized.
"How long did it take him to get all of this done?" Lucy asked. "He must have searched everywhere for bears like these." She looked hers over. It was very well made. "They must have cost him a fortune."
"And we just dragged him around with no regard for his health." Erza slumped her head in shame, as did the other girls.
"He's always going out his way for us and we never thank him enough." Mirajane lamented.
Lucy, Levy, and Lisanna nodded.
"Wait, where's Juvia?" Lisanna asked.
Natsu's door was wide open again.
"Don't tell me." Erza said.
The girls ran back in to Natsu's room, watching as Juvia gently kissed him on the cheek.
"I'm sorry, beloved." She whispered. She then got into his bed opposite of Cana.
"Juvia, what are you doing?!" Erza yelped. Her face beet red.
"I am sleeping with Natsu to show my gratitude for his gift." she explained. "It is the least I can do for being careless."
"I agree." Mirajane started to move forward.
"Mira?" Lisanna questioned.
"Mirajane, not you too." Erza sighed.
"Why not? I say Natsu's earned a good night's rest."
"Well yes, but-"
"Then I don't see a problem." Mirajane positioned herself between Natsu and the headrest. "Don't tell me you're scared, Erza."
"I am not afraid." Erza fell for the barmaid's taunt and moved to the bed. She managed to worm her way in between Natsu and Cana, and rested her head on his chest. When she looked across, her eyes met the glare of Juvia.
"This is my spot."
"Just bear with it for now." Erza said, her cheeks still red.
The other girls hesitantly followed their lead. Soon all of the girl's were lying in Natsu's bed. Slowly the dragon slayer began to smile.
"I think he's happy we're here." Mirajane giggled.
"Let's just got to sleep." Erza said quickly. "The sooner the sun rises, the quicker we can all leave."
"You could always leave now." Juvia pointed out.
"You be quiet."
"Good…night…everyone. Happy Valentine's...Day..." Natsu said, surprising the girls – save for Cana who was now hugged against Erza's back.
The girls all smiled warmly.
"Goodnight, Natsu." They said in unison.
The end! How did you guys like the omake? I should have posted this earlier but there was a lot of things going on, not to mention how much of a pain it is to edit things just right.
As always leave a comment/review letting me know what you think. Thanks for reading and HAPPY VALENTINES DAY!
Next time it's back to out regularly scheduled story.