First Rehearsal - 11 Days Before Opening Night

"Holy flaming hot damn."

Natsu felt his cousin's larger body smack into his back when he froze, staring up at the stage.

"Hey, warn me when you're gonna stop like that, will ya?" Gajeel grumbled, gripping the rail of a nearby staircase to steady himself. "What are you 'flamin' hot damn'ing about?"

Swallowing thickly, Natsu remained silent, not knowing if he could speak or even why that was the case. In fact, he was far more focused on the new sight on his familiar habitat. One that gave him that tingling feeling in his chest and made his mouth part in wonder, dropping the wrench he'd been gripping to the ground.

"Oh don't tell me…" From the corner of his eye, Natsu saw Gajeel glance between his gaze and the object of it. "Oh no, look anywhere but there. Don't even think about it, Natsu."

"I burn, I pine, I perish…" Natsu murmured, blinking several times when he realized his stare was drying out his eyes.

"Did you just quote Shakespeare?" Gajeel hissed. "Don't say that shit around me; people can hear you!"

At this Natsu choked in realization. "I quoted Shakespeare… what the literal hell is wrong with me…?" But then he smirked and cocked an eyebrow over at Gajeel. "I bet Levy will like me better now, eh?"

Gajeel's fist in his arm hurt more than he'd admit. "Shut up, Salamander," Gajeel growled. "You're one to talk - don't go starin' her like that! Askin' for trouble, as always…"

"Is she new?" Natsu asked faintly. "I haven't seen seen her before…"

"And I've never seen you check out a chick before," Gajeel mentioned, seemingly impressed. "It really took the hottest girl in the school to make you realize your heterosexual temptations?"

"I just asked if she was new," he repeated. "Not about your opinion on the condition of my sexuality!"

Sighing, Gajeel leaned against the stairway up to the lit stage, where the actors chatted and looked around at the beautifully crafted set pieces that they'd be performing with. "Yeah, they recruited her. I heard they practically begged her to join, and she got the lead female role. Lucy Heartfilia. She's in eleventh grade, same as you. I'm tellin' you again, cos; she's trouble. And you know the rules."

Natsu did know the rules, as stated exactly in the Stage Crew Rule Book.

Rule #72: Becoming attracted to a member of BJ is equivalent to selling your soul.

"I know the rules," he voiced. "But it's not like number 72 stopped Elfman from lookin' at that prissy Evergreen girl, or Juvia from drooling over that stripper."

"Yeah, whatever," dismissed Gajeel. "She's an actor. They're all a buncha preppy brats anyway."

"Mira's not," Natsu muttered, tugging at the white, scale patterned scarf about his neck, "and Lisanna. Laxus' friends and Cana are nice, too."

"Whatever. C'mon, we have more seats to fix." Gajeel tossed Natsu the wrench he'd dropped. Buckles on his Harley boots clinking, Gajeel squatted down by the next broken theater chair and got to work. Natsu rolled his eyes at how his cousin kept having to push his hip length, black hair away from his face. I swear, I should just take a scissors to it in the middle of the night one of these days, Natsu internally mused.

Of course, Natsu understood the evident rivalry between the stage crew, otherwise known here as The Black Shadows, and the actors of Broadway Junior in Magnolia High School. While the actors took the spotlight, the audiences' hearts, and all the credit, the crew remained unseen and without a glance of appreciation. They didn't so much mind the unseen part. In fact, they rather took pride in their ability to conceal themselves in the shadow of the curtains and operate a musical on their own. And often, they didn't care much for the credit either. But the bitterness always remained in some way, especially with these particular actors.

Broadway Junior wasn't just some drama club; it was a class of elites, thirty students picked especially for their ability to sing, dance, act, and be a total diva. While it was great how all the nationwide awards they'd won boosted the school's image, it also created for situations like-

"Excuse me, em, you?"

The two boys tore their gaze away from the chair bolts they'd been tightening to the edge of the stage, where a brunette girl in tight dance clothes was crouching daintily closer to them. "Stagehands, right?"

They grimaced in unison at the title. "Stage crew," Gajeel corrected in a grunt.

"Whaddya need?" Natsu asked with an easy smile.

"Where are all the cowboy hats for the boys?" she said, raising her eyebrows.

It was Gajeel who snapped first. "Probably where you left 'em. They're your costumes."

The actress wrinkled up her nose, and the boys did the same in response. "Alright then," she went on. "And why doesn't this right door work?"

That got their attention. "What do you mean the door doesn't work?! I made that myself and it worked fine like five minutes ago!" Gajeel protested, and Natsu did his signature backflip onto the stage.

When they reached the door of the farmhouse set piece, Natsu couldn't help it - he looked again. There she was, the new girl, sitting on a crate, smiling gently with big, brown eyes shining and hair like sunlight being pushed behind her ear and-

"WHICH GENIUS," Gajeels booming shout interrupted Natsu's thoughts, "PULLED OUT MY DOORKNOB?!"

Natsu stiffened. He'd built that door too…

At once, all of the actors pointed their fingers at their black-haired, chill, top male singer, Gray Fullbuster. He was also known as the guy that did the fastest costume changes in the group. Mostly because he stripped down to his tighty whities right backstage, completely ignoring the purpose of the dressing rooms and scarring poor Wendy for life.

Natsu was there in seconds, grabbing Gray by the front of his shirt (miraculously still being worn) and growled heatedly, "You break my door, I break you!"

"It's your stupid door's fault!" shot back Gray, raising his own fist. "I tried to open it, but it wouldn't budge when I pushed and the doorknob came off!"

"The door opens when you pull, you streaking moron! If you broke something, you should've told us! "

"And get mauled by your crazy stage manager? Fat chance!"

"Is there a problem here, boys?"

They shivered simultaneously at the shadow of of the girl that had materialized behind them. "No, ma'am!"

Erza Scarlet, stage manager of the crew, stood before them with eyes narrowed and hands planted on her hips. Her boyfriend, Jellal Fernandes, trailed behind her with his usual calm expression. He'd been known by the girls around the school as the dreamy guy with the 'heavenly body', but the swooning giggles behind his back had instantly vanished once Erza and Jellal had become a couple. Surely none of the girls wanted to think of what would happen to them if they tried to hit on the mighty Titania's boy.

Natsu instantly let Gray go, said boy lowering his fist as well. Pushing his rosy hair back with calloused hands, he couldn't help but glance back over at that girl… Lucy. He internally cursed when he saw that she was looking between him and Gray, seemingly scandalized. Perfect.

"It would be wise for all to return to their places," Erza instructed. "We should be running the first act through soon. Natsu, Gajeel - I believe you are runners?"

"Yeah!" chorused proudly with a fistbump.

"Then get to stage left with Levy and and Wendy. Make sure you know your roles for the next scene change and listen closely for Levy's cues. There will be a lot of spike taping and light board programming today. Break!"

"Aye, sir!"

"Oh, and Natsu?" Erza added as she gracefully slid off the stage.

He paused. "Yeah?"

"Take off the scarf. Too white."

Natsu stuck his tongue out at her retreating back and made no move to do as she asked.

Looking back over his shoulder to watch Lucy pass the set piece house to her place and out of sight, Natsu promptly smashed into a fence and toppled into the curtain.

Third Rehearsal - 9 Days Before Opening Night

Natsu was an outgoing person.

Most would expect him to be out in the spotlight, jumping around exuberantly and being as loud as possible.

Truly, that did sound pretty fun to him.

But he wasn't one for dancing. Or singing. Or dressing up in weird stuff.

No, he contented himself with remaining in the shadows for moments like this.

The rush of his heart when he heard the Assistant Stage Manager, Levy, grip her headset, nod, and whisper, "Get ready."

The tightening of his legs as the blackout brought the stage to the glorious darkness.

The feeling of when his black boots hit the ground as soon as he heard the word "Go!" and he was off, running across the stage, darting between hasty actors and snatching up whatever piece he'd been assigned to before bolting back. There, he would place it off to its designated area. As quickly as he came, Natsu would snatch up something else backstage to drop onto the different colored spike tape, Gajeel, Wendy, Romeo, and Elfman often at his side.

The stage would take on an entire new feel and setting as the colored lights rose back to their brightness, the sounds of the scrollers accompanying his way back beside Levy's stool.

All in under twenty seconds.

Natsu leaned back against the cold, brick wall, grinning and already anticipating the next scene change. That's when he heard a ripping sound off to his right, and whirled to see someone tearing off some gaff tape.

"Hey!" he whispered harshly, snatching the tape roll out of the girl's hand. "That stuff is expensive-! Oh…"

She'd turned to look him in the eye, hunching her shoulders in an apologetic gesture. It was her. Lucy. "I-I'm sorry. I didn't know…"

"N-no it-it's okay, I mean, em," he stammered. "What do you, uh, need it for?"

Looking from right to left, she muttered back, "It's nothing. Never mind."

Natsu glanced down to where she had pulled her skirt up to her knee and was suspiciously holding a darkening paper towel to her leg-

"Is that blood?" Natsu asked.

"O-oh really, it's nothing. I just scraped my leg against something. Just being clumsy-"

"Levy!" Natsu jogged up to the petite girl with the blue hair squashed under her headset. "I'll need someone to pull in the curtain for the next change - one of the actors is injured and I'm gonna take care of it quick."

"Oh no! Sure thing, Natsu - We'll get it," Levy assured him before relaying the info to Juvia, the other ASM, on the other side of the stage through headset.

Natsu strode back to Lucy. "Can you walk? The classroom has the first aid kit and there's no good light in here to see…"

"Of course I can." Lucy waved him off. "Really, I only needed to tape this towel on to stop the bleeding. It's nothing severe-"

"C'mon," Natsu sighed, grabbing her before she could continue rambling and swinging her up with one arm over his shoulder like a sandbag.

"Hey!" she squeaked, pounding with small fists on his back. Man, the girl could pack a punch. "Let me down!"

"I will in the room," Natsu said nonchalantly, ignoring the stunned onlookers back in the workshop as he headed out to the hall. He hoped his face wasn't too red at the mere idea that he was this close to her, that she'd spoken to him…

Having tuned out her screeching along the way, he plopped her gently down on the couch in the drama room and unbuckled the first aid kit from the wall. "Lemme see the cut."

With a huff, she pulled up the dress to her knee again, taking off the red-stained towel. It was a few inches long, beginning to bleed again as soon as she removed the pressure.

Trying not to look at her face as to avoid getting all breathless again, he carefully cleaned around the wound. He'd done it a few times; actors were often too distracted to watch where they were going.

While he'd finished wrapping the bandage around her leg that would hopefully put a stop to the blood, Natsu felt her eyes on him. Swallowing, he stood, brushing his hands absently on his black jeans. "Right, well, em, that should do it. How bad does it hurt? I think there might be pain meds in here…"

"It's fine," she said softly, smiling. "Thank you…?"

"Natsu," he supplied very quickly, thrusting out a hand. "And it's no prob. What did you scrape it against?"

She took the hand and shook it lightly, saying, "There was a screw sticking out of the side of one of the boards…"

"Seriously?!" Natsu demanded. "I'll check that out right away. I'm sorry… We'll just blame the freshman, yeah?"

Lucy let out a laugh that sent his stomach spiraling. "Sounds like a solid plan."

The two of them began to walk back together, and Natsu found himself admiring how she wasn't making a big deal about the leg, trying very hard not to limp. She wasn't like the other actor girls; Lucy was tough.

"So, you're crew, huh?" she began.

"Yup!" he responded. "Natsu the runner, at your service."

Oh man, if only he could see her smile again and again… "It's almost hard to see you guys in that corner. How many of you are there?"

Natsu scratched the back of his neck as they made their way back to stage left. "Well, there's Levy she's the one with glasses, Gajeel, the goth death metal guy, Wendy, the cute one with the blue hair, and I running on this side. Juvia, that chick that talks in third person about Gray all the time, Elfman, the… man, and Romeo, the freshmen with the black hair, on the other. Alzack and Bisca, you know those two, always canoodling… they man the spotlights, Erza and Jellal in the light booth, and Laxus is master of the sound board. So there's, em… twelve of us. In stage crew."

"Wow." Her eyes were doing this shiny thing that he rather liked. "You guys are so skilled, running this thing with just the twelve of you."

He'd never heard an actor say something like that, and he stopped dead in his tracks. "Y-you think so?"

"I do," she confirmed. "It's pretty cool for techie people and drama people to come together to create something this amazing, don't you think?"

"I do," he replied with a grin, warming up to this girl more every second.

There was a moment where they just stood there, standing and taking one another in. Natsu almost felt like there wasn't some kind of rule book or status separating them.

For a moment, anyway.

When the song ended and the lights shut out, both of them jumped, Natsu cursing as he took off onto the stage with Lucy not far behind.

Natsu returned, finally, to his crewbies' sides, gripping the wall to keep himself upright with his dizzy mind. He heard Lucy start to sing, and oh the great Lord forbid she ever stop-

"Natsu, I'm serious, stop it," Gajeel warned when he saw that his cousin was staring again. "She's a BJ and you're crew. She's a prep and out of your league. Not worth getting yourself into."

"I want her."

"She won't even remember your name!"

"I want her."

"Would you stop being so damn impulsive?!" Gajeel hissed. "It's against the rules - she's an actor. Lucy Heartfilia is the richest girl in the school, and every guy wants her. You, the dude with the pink hair backstage that literally stays in a dark corner for a hobby, is the last guy that stands a chance, and she's not worth it."

"She's worth it alright. You can't change my mind. I want her."

" am I related to such a dumbass?"

Fifth Rehearsal - Seven Days Before Opening Night

"And then," laughed Natsu, eyes locked solely on the girl beside him, "I literally hang on this rope, trying to get the damned prop to come down from the ceiling, rope snaps, hits a light that was too close on the electric to the curtain, curtain bursts into flame, all the audience screamin' and fire trucks showing up-"

Lucy was laughing as quietly as possible, clutching her stomach. "And they still let you be in crew?!"

"Eh, that's not nearly the worst thing that's happened on this stage…" Natsu wiggled his eyebrows at her, causing Lucy to laugh ever the harder.

The lights went out.

Lucy left.

Natsu didn't like the dark as much as he used to.

Monday - Five Days Before Opening Night

Kicking his locker so that it swung open, Natsu wrestled some books from its horrifying chasm of food wrappers. He ignored the possy of BJ kids that boisterously bumbled behind him in the hall, jogging to lunch. After shoving handfuls of homework into his fraying backpack, he hiked it up onto his shoulder and headed towards the normal table that the twelve members of The Black Shadows shared.

He barely paid any attention to the conversation that Gajeel and Levy were arguing about (probably argue-flirting about whether metal or classical were more quality music genres) as he stuffed food into his mouth with one hand and scanned his pre-calculus homework. Usually, he tended to put all work off until the last second, but with being at school until nine pm every day both last and this week...

"Um, can I sit here, Natsu?"

When he looked up, he nearly spat out his juice. It was Lucy, standing uncertainly with her tray, today in some black jeans, a button down shirt, some bracelets and a necklace, those heart earrings that she always wore…

"S-sure!" he said, hastily pushing his papers towards himself and kicking his backpack away from the open seat next to him.

The other occupants of the table were gaping openly, though the rudeness of their stares was disregarded by Lucy. She only smiled with a wave. "Hello - I'm Lucy."

Natsu kicked Gajeel under the table. His cousin cleared his throat. "Uh, hey, I'm-"

"-Gajeel," Lucy finished for him. "Yeah, you're Natsu and Wendy's cousin, right? And you built that stairway - it's really nice. A lot more stable than others I've had to dance on."

Gajeel dropped his fork, speechless.

Levy saved him. "I'm-"

"-Levy McGarden, the genius in my AP English!" Lucy cut her off. "Top of the class, aren't you?"

And so it went, Lucy having memorized the names of them all, including Romeo and Wendy. Someone that cared about those losers in stage crew.

Natsu couldn't help but smirk at the shocked Erza. The stage manager had gotten word from someone (Someone Natsu called his metalhead cousin) that he'd gotten a crush on Lucy Heartfilia. He'd been punished with one of the worst on the Rule Book list - hanging up the entire scrim curtain. One. Tie. At. A. Time.

And now Lucy had just proven not to be like the other BJs.

Oh, he wanted her.

"You're in pre-calc?" Lucy asked, startling him out of his daydream.

"Oh, uh, yeah," Natsu answered, glowing at how impressed she seemed. He hid his blush in his scarf.

"Wow, I can barely keep up with functions," Lucy laughed. "Are the tech nights making it hard for you to get your stuff done, too?"

The small talk went on, but Natsu didn't care if they talked about the weather or the meaning of life - Lucy had come to be with him outside of the depths of the backstage, and the world was beautiful.

Eighth Rehearsal - Four Days Before Opening Night

Natsu rushed to Wendy's aid when the curtain got caught, instructing her to push the fabric away from the base of the chair so that he could pull it in. With a last tug, the curtain was back in, the lights flashing on to the next scene. Panting, Wendy slapped Natsu a high five before returning to Levy.

"Is that heavy?"

Turning at the sound of Lucy's voice, he shrugged. "Nah. Wendy can do it… you okay?"

She looked exhausted, smiling weakly as she swept some blonde hair behind her ear. "Oh, just a bit tired from extra dance practice last night. And dealing with… people."

He frowned, clenching hands growing cold. "People? Someone giving you a hard time?"

"O-of course not-"

Scene change.

Natsu ran his fence off, past a scowling actor that nearly got bowled over when he got in Natsu's way. "Yeesh, careful with that," the boy grumbled. "Broadway's show can't go on very well if you murder us."

Eye twitching in annoyance, Natsu said back, "Your show? Newsflash - it's mine too, pal."

"It wouldn't be anything without us," the boy dismissed. "We're the show."

"If it weren't for us," Natsu hissed, stepping closer to the kid, "you would be stumbling around a bare stage, naked and screaming in the dark. So run along, do your little dance, and stop your whinin' - it might give you frown lines that even your makeup can't cover."

The boy ran alright.

It was later that night, when Natsu had finished sweeping the stage and was having a penguin sliding contest across it with Gajeel, Romeo, Elfman, and Gray, that he heard the raised voice in the hallway. One he recognized.

"I told you, I'm really not interested. Now please leave me alone."

Looking behind him and seeing the other guys already involved in an argument, he crept off, peeking around the corner to see Lucy hugging her arms to herself and followed closely by a guy Natsu knew was in the wrestling team.

"You don't need to be so stubborn," the guy scoffed. "I mean, you're obviously asking for it in that short skirt and shirt-"

"If she was asking for it," Natsu interrupted, stepping out from behind the door. "I'm pretty sure she could use her words to do so. Leave her alone."

"And who do you think you are, kid? Some kinda-"

"He's my boyfriend!" Lucy supplied quickly, snatching Natsu's sleeve and nearly making him pass out in shock.

The wrestler dude raised his eyebrows at Natsu's surprised expression. "Yeah, I smell bullshit."

"And I smell BO," Natsu shot back, grimacing. "It's called a shower, man. If you wanna pick up girls, you could use one, and some respect too. Now screw off."

"And who's gonna make me?"

"This black belt district champion is gonna make you if you don't piss off, asshat," Natsu growled, pointing at himself.

"Or me!" And with that, Lucy promptly kicked the guy in the balls with her hard toed dance shoes, sending him toppling to the ground with a rather undignified shriek.

Snatching his wrist, Lucy tugged Natsu away, causing him to yelp, quickly off through the school and to the drama classroom, where she slammed the door shut and breathed out deeply.

He looked at her. She glanced meekly back up at him.

And they burst out laughing.

"Man, you sure are fired up today!" Natsu exclaimed. "That was some serious badassary!"

"As much as I appreciated the offer…" Lucy flashed him a smile. "I can take care of myself."

Marry me, Natsu thought.

Eleventh Rehearsal - One Day Before Opening Night

"I heard you said something to a stage crew member. Something about how it was our show and not theirs."

Natsu paused in the hall, hearing Gray Fullbuster's voice, hushed in the next hallway as he tiredly made his way to the front to drive home after the final rehearsal.

"Well yeah…" Natsu recognized the voice of that bratty kid from Tuesday. "I mean I only said it because the guy nearly killed me with one of those fences and they really are just side help-"

"It is your job to stay out of their way," came Gray's tone sharply in response. "They are not side help - they are part of our team. They worked just as hard, or harder, than we did for this show. We would be absolutely fucked without them, and if I ever hear that you said something like that to one of them again, I'll get you reported to the directors, or their stage manager. Are we clear?"

"Y-yes Captain!"

Natsu grinned.

Lucy was out at the front, just as Natsu had been hoping. Though she had left the theater much before him…

Muttering small curses under her breath, he saw her check her phone. "He said nine thirty…"

"What's up?" He leaned up against the wall beside her, beaming at her as brightly as he could manage when he was this tired. "I thought you went home a while ago."

"Nah, I… got some homework done," Lucy answered vaguely, gripping her shoulder bag. "You?"

"Waiting for my cousins so we can drive home," Natsu replied, turning his face to the stars. It was a clear night, though snow was drifting down gently.

"Oh," she said quietly.

Natsu examined her face. "Can you drive?"

"I-I can!" she said defensively. "But… my dad just doesn't let me drive much in winter, because of the slippery roads. He said Capricorn would be here half of an hour ago, but no one's answering and…" She ended with a sigh.

Her face was worn. He recognized it - that lonely expression that can only come from daddy issues. Natsu knew about that all too well. And as it had been doing often, his heart went out to her. Natsu patted her head. "I can... drive you home."

But she tensed. "O-oh! I… I don't know if my father would-"

"If he's not here by now, he'd have no right to care. You need to get home and sleep before the big show tomorrow!"

"But your cousins…"

Frowning, Natsu pulled out his phone and typed out a quick message to Gajeel: driving Lucy home quick. brb

He shoved it back into the pocket of his black jeans. "It's good!"

Slowly, she began to smile. "Alright. If you're sure…"

Natsu's vehicle was nothing special, a rusty old, red truck he liked to call the Fire Dragon, and he had to scrape off some snow before they drove. He pulled his black sweatshirt that had the white letters spelling The Black Shadows proudly on its back closer to his body, and burrowed his face deeper into his scarf while she buckled her seatbelt. Checking his phone a last time, he looked down to see his cousin's response: ur gettin in way too deep w/ that girl. u should bail. even the bjs r sayin so

He only replied with: dont talk about stuff u dont know about. srsly dont bother trying to change my mind. ill be back in a bit

It wasn't long to Lucy's mansion, and they, of course, blasted classic rock songs the entire way there.

"Come saaaail away with meeee…" they finished singing together (though Natsu doubted he'd gotten a single note on tune) before laughing and pulling over to a stop at the driveway of the address.

"Ahhh," Lucy sighed, sitting back against the seat and closing her eyes. "I wish all my car rides were like this…"

"Me too," Natsu admitted. "Gajeel is such a killjoy and sings almost worse than me."

"So, you drive him everywhere?"

Natsu checked the clock on his phone. It was late. Very late. "Well, yeah. I mean we all live together, so. We take turns driving, and Wendy sits in back."

"Oh, it would be so nice if I had my family all live with me," Lucy said dreamily. "Mom, dad, sisters and brothers, cousins… never be alone..."

Natsu's throat caught slightly. "Yeah, it would."

She frowned, looking up at him. She was so small, though not as small as Levy. He could just take her and hold her easily right in his lap-

"You don't… have that?" Lucy asked cautiously.

Shrugging, he muttered, "Nah. Parents died a while ago. Aunts and uncles too. Were all in the police force. We live with Gildarts. He's Cana's dad."

"Oh Natsu, I-I'm sorry I didn't know and I shouldn't have brought it up and-"

"Cool your jets!" he laughed. "I don't really mind talkin' about it-"

"My mom died," she blurted out, grimacing as she did so, shocking Natsu to silence. "A few years ago. Dad… won't talk about it."

For a moment, he stared. Natsu figured he was supposed to say 'sorry', but he'd always hated hearing that. So he only nodded, more tightly gripping the gear stick.

He felt something somehow both cool and electrifying, realising that she'd slid her hand onto his and squeezed her fingers around his own. He smiled.

For a few moments they remained, listening to the gentle strums of the guitar through the stereo.

Then he frowned. "Your hand is freezing."

"Sorry," she muttered, taking it away from his, but he only unzipped his sweatshirt and promptly draped it over her shoulders.

"Your coat is too thin," he said. "You can give it back to me later."

Her brown eyes seemed to search him. They were like smooth honey, warming him up all over.

Before he even knew what had happened, she'd kissed his cheek and rushed out of his truck, squeaking, "Good night! Thanks for the ride!" before bolting off to the towering doors of her home.

There he sat for several minutes, blinking repeatedly and holding a hand to his cheek. Then- "I could totally die happy right now."

Opening Night

"Natsu? Could you maybe… help me with my mic?"

He glanced up from where he'd been refilling batteries, heart jumping from his feet to the top of his head when he saw her in costume, that blue dress, hair curled. "Of course!"

She turned around for him, letting him slip the microphone pack into the elastic belt around her waist while she held her dress up. "Are… are you nervous?" she asked, shifting her feet.

Natsu only shrugged. "Nah. I've screwed up bigger shows than this. I trust our ability to improv."

Lucy laughed back, her shoulders seeming to lose their tension. "I love your perspective."

"I love your everything."

He'd blurted it out before he'd even realized he was thinking it, and out loud… oh hell.

She froze, and he could tell she was barely breathing. Neither was he.

Dammit, why did he always have to be so impulsive?!

Natsu was pretty sure his face was the same color as his hair.

Dear mother, he'd just confessed in the dorkiest way ever to the most gorgeous girl in the school. That girl that deep down, he'd known all along was way out of his league.

Muttering a short stream of swear words, he sighed, "Dammit, I'm sorry. That's awkward. Ugh, before the show too… I'm sorry. Just ignore me. I know you don't feel… I'm sorry. Forget I said anything."

Hastily zipping up her dress, he threw out the bad batteries and strode quickly backstage to his sanctuary.

With a groan, he threw himself down on Levy's stool, raking a hand through his hair. Stupid...

"Natsu? Are you alright?"

"Mmm," he said distractedly back to Juvia, who was looking at him in concern, dressed in all her black with ASM binder in hand. He hadn't heard her footsteps, but he supposed that was a stage crew special technique, after all. Being quick, quiet, and controlled. "Fine."

But she patted his back in some weird sort of understanding. "Lucy is a nice girl, and Juvia thinks you two would be cute together. It will be okay." Juvia gave him a wink. "Juvia is a girl, you know. She hears things."

"What kind of things?" Natsu demanded, but Juvia was already walking off, waving at him with a secretive grin.

Feeling the need to repay her somehow, Natsu shouted, "If that stripper doesn't come around and ask you to prom, I'll bash his face in myself!"

"There will be no bashing of Gray's beautiful face!" she scolded from across the stage.

He rolled his eyes, but he was smiling already. "Where do I even find these people?" he muttered, turning his thoughts to his crewbies.

Closing Night

Natsu gripped the curtain, zoning all of his focus in on the next set piece he'd have to take off. It was the last show night, and everything had to be perfect.

Ugh, but how could he possibly focus when she was singing like an angel of the Lord?

With Bisca's spotlight bathing Lucy and her golden curls, she sure looked like one. As far as he could hear, she hit every note right on, the music ringing across the theater and reverberating into his chest, causing him to let loose a sigh and lean against the wall. The sound reminded him of that safe feeling, home and warm and the trees rustling in the spring-scented breeze as Igneel laughed and chased him around the yard…

The song ended. The lights faded. And he ran.

She was backstage during the next scene, but she avoided his gaze; Lucy hadn't spoken to him since that moment on opening night. Natsu tore his eyes away from her, trying to gulp down the sick feeling in his throat. Maybe Gajeel had been right all along. Maybe she just didn't care anymore. Maybe she was disgusted that a stage crew person would bother with thinking he had a chance. Maybe she would come to forget him and his name. Like he was part of the backdrop.

But that didn't mean his soul didn't soar when he heard her sing.

It didn't mean he didn't miss her laugh.

It didn't mean he didn't still love her, however the hell that had managed to happen in only two weeks.

It also didn't mean that she'd ever feel the same way.

The end of the show used to be an extraordinary feeling for Natsu cheering along with his friends and feeling drunk on their own little victory. But today, the others indeed cheered, but Natsu just headed off to wait for his cousins by the door. He didn't know much how to handle more people being happy when it didn't seem like there was much to be happy about. He stood solemnly, holding his backpack loosely at his side.

The actors were going to the cast party, shrieking and giggling as the burst out through the front doors and to their cars. He wondered who she'd be driving with. Not that it was really any of his business.

Natsu set his forehead against the tall, school windows, the heavy breath he let out through his nose steaming up the glass. He wondered if Igneel would've told him what to do with a broken heart, had his father still been here.


His breath caught.

"Hey, can we talk?"

Clearing his throat thickly, he turned and muttered, "Sure, Lucy." He didn't meet her eyes. The humiliation weighed on his head so that he simply couldn't.

But he did see her furrowed brow, hair thrown into a messy bun, how her newly cleaned face shown, free of stage makeup. He saw how she was in some gray sweatpants and a white shirt and a black sweatshirt that was much too big for her. Man, she rocked that outfit.

"I just… forgot to mention something." She shifted her feet and glanced up at him.

Finally, he managed to look at her face. "What's that?"

Lucy drew a deep breath. "I also love your scarf."

Natsu blinked. "What?"

"I love your scarf."

Not exactly along the lines of what he'd been expecting her to say.

Well, he hadn't actually expected her to speak to him again, so it wasn't like he minded.

"Erm, why?" he couldn't help but ask.

A small smirk was beginning to play on her lips. He liked it. "Because it makes things easier."

He frowned. "What things?"

"Things like this."

That's when Lucy stepped very close, snatched his scarf, brought his face down towards her and-

Holy flaming hot damn.

She was kissing him.

Natsu stopped had a sharp intake of breath, his backpack crashing to the floor as his hands shot open. Her lips were soft and demanding against his. His face was warm. Everywhere was too warm. And he loved it.

Not knowing much else of what to do, Natsu pulled her flush to him by the small of her back and brushed his hand over the side of her face. Lucy tilted her head, and he was kissing her deeper and faster and-

She broke it off to breathe, putting her forehead against his chest. Natsu breathed with her struggling to form a single coherent thought through the white noise that was his brain.

Lucy hugged him around the middle. "Aren't you and the crew going to Denny's?"

"Yeah," Natsu managed to say.

"Mind if I join you?"

"Not at all."

She took his hand, leading him with a wide and blushing smile back to the theater. He followed numbly, watching her golden hair swish across the words The Black Shadows on the back of the sweatshirt she was wearing.

Before they pushed open the stage doors, Lucy leaned up and whispered in his ear, "I love your everything too."

With a smile that he felt he'd never lose, Natsu pushed open the doors and led her past the dark backstage and into the blazing lights.

Heya loves,

Yeah… just got the urge to write this… so I did. So much stage crew on my mind…

Is this corny? Yes.

Is the romance too fast? Yes.

Is there more telling than showing? Yes.

Are the characters OOC? Yes.

Do I care? Too tired tbh ehe…

This was just a little something for fun. Definitely not my best but just some Nalu fluff for ya. :) Hope it at least made you internally smile.

Many of this is based off of my own crew experiences. I have heard actors say these things and my stage crew indeed has a rule book. For example, rule # 51: Don't be a dumbass. (If you read TKOF, you may see the connection to the Bro Code. ;) )

And that rule about not being attracted to actors? That's a real one in my stage crew too. And I've recently broken it rather severely. But that's a story for another day.

Image credit goes to swordbreaker and mslead on tumblr!

Have a lovely night, and remember to always thank those kids in black when you see a show. :3