Disclaimer: I do not own Fairy Tail or any of its characters.
A/n- November 1, 2015: Had a good Halloween? October flew by! Sweet! After about a year of not working, I finally got my laptop fixed so I'm actually able to write as much as I want now. Of course with school and stuff, I'll have to stick to the monthly updates. But now I have more freedom since I'm no longer using my phone or father's laptop. And thank you so much for the positive response last chapter! This story got about 30 follows just after the last update so thank you everyone! Another thing, I may have to raise the rating. Not now, but later. The type of story this is as well as the time period makes it impossible to keep at a T rating for the whole thing. Hope you don't mind! Okay enough talk! Let's get back to the story shall we?
Recap: After Natsu and Lucy's fallout, Natsu takes to extreme methods to punish Lucy. Everyone tries to warn him out of it, but Lucy reluctantly agrees to go. After leaving her out in the rain, Lucy lets her horse go, thinking that she'll die out there. Natsu realizes the error of his ways and also accepts his growing feelings for Lucy, but knows that he doesn't have a lot of time to waste with asking for her hand…
Chapter 7: Through New Eyes
Natsu stayed in the room as long as he could. After she had drifted off to sleep, he took the liberty of carrying her to her bed. Even after tucking her in snugly, he refused to leave. He wouldn't take his eyes off of her.
The peaceful look on her face continued to pain him. He just didn't understand at all. After everything he had just put her through, how could she look so tranquil? And it only made the guilt rise. He was beginning to see her in a new light.
She was tough indeed; no one would ever be allowed to question that. At the same time though, she was delicate. A rose with many thorns was the best comparison he could come up with. Beautiful but could easily be destroyed without care. As for the thorns, he guessed most of them were because of him. No, he didn't guess, he knew they were because of him. But he would have to change that now. She had been a princess and he knew now that the only woman that could be his queen was her. No other woman could do it, she had proven that much.
He wasn't going to fight how he felt anymore. He had gone into this, wanting to get to know her and even hoping to fall in love. But something happened and he had tried his best to deny how he felt. Because seeing her face all the time only reminded him of what she had been before he took her family's throne. It was not a very happy feeling and in her eyes, the pain remained. It served as a constant reminder
He wasn't sure if it was even love, but he did care deeply. More than he had for anyone in a long time. And the thing was that after what he had done, he wanted to care. Not just about her, but he also wanted to care for. He wanted to protect her. And it all just felt so abrupt. This morning he had wanted nothing more than to make her suffer.
"I'm sorry…" he mumbled, brushing a stray strand of her normally perfectly kept hair out of her face. He frowned as his fingers brushed against her forehead. She was burning up.
His eyes widened in horror at the discovery. She was coming down with a fever. And a very high one at that. Natsu internal panic grew, realizing that there was no way he could take care of her alone. What was worse that he couldn't be at her side and he would be forbidden to do so if he called the physicians. But he couldn't be selfish. She'd die if she didn't get proper attention.
"Keep to your sleep Lucy, I'll go fetch someone, just please don't get worse," he begged, grabbing her hand and stroked it lightly with her. He had to tear his eyes off of her as he ran out of the room. Most of the castle had retired to their rooms by now; he had been with Lucy for hours. He had no idea who would be able to give Lucy the medical attention but he knew someone who might. He was dreading it though. But for Lucy's sake, he was willing to take that chance…
Erza and Levy had to be forced into their rooms. They had tried to go to Lucy's room, even tried to outrun the guards. But who knew that even when intoxicated they could still manage to catch and restrain someone as strong as Erza? They were forced into their rooms for the rest of the night and Jellal had stationed two guards outside of their door to ensure that they didn't run out. That was just delightful.
But neither sat still and seethed. They both thought of ways to get out of this room and into Lucy's. Even if the King was in there, it mattered little to them. They just wanted to attend to the girl they still saw as their sovereign ruler. Even if the very thought was treason.
"Alright, so here's what I was thinking," Levy started to say, "We can tie the sheets and if those aren't long enough, we can add the curtains. It's a 20 foot drop but she should be able to make it out. After that we can use entrance on the northeast side and—"
"There's a storm outside Levy, we'll be blown away," Erza sighed, shaking her head. Levy was a smart one, but sometimes she could forget some important details.
"Yes I know, but I was thinking that—".
Her plan was cut off by the door flying open, the guards standing at the entryway.
"The King has requested a meeting with you!"
They stood aside so that Natsu could enter. There was no questioning the look of disdain on their faces. But they were taken aback a bit by the weary and panicked look on his face. Even so, the look did not vanish off of their faces.
The second the doors shut behind him he began to speak, "She has a fever."
When he didn't say anything else, both girls found their anger boiling but Erza calmly said, "And whose fault is that? You left her to get completely drenched in the rain. It's not like she was at full strength when you took her. Everyone begged and begged you…"
Natsu kept his clenched fists to the side. He would've yelled back if it hadn't been for the fact that they were absolutely right and even he couldn't deny it. Forget yelling, he would've done a lot worse. Like what he'd done to Lucy…
"I realize that you are more than angry and it's justified, but if her fever rises anymore she could…" he drew in a sharp breath. He couldn't bring himself to finish the sentence.
"He sounds like he cares…" Levy commented quietly. She didn't sound convinced in the least.
"Listen," he began, unclenching his fists and taking deep breaths. "I don't want to argue. There's no point. And if we stand here and point fingers, Lucy will only grow worse. Can you at least do it for her?"
The room grew quiet. At the mention of Lucy's condition possibly getting worse, the expressions on their faces softened. Natsu smiled inwardly. He had them.
"I don't know who can tend to her…"he said after a moment. "I was hoping that you two did…"
The girls' faces instantly fell along with Natsu's stomach. If there was no one…
"Levy knows a little something about tending to the ill," Erza suddenly said. Natsu eyes instantly fell on the now wide-eyed and horrified girl.
"Erza! I don't know that much. Yes I've tended to my family when they were sick and I've read a few books on medicine, but I'm no physician! I can't!"
"Please." Levy's head spun around at the sound of the King's quiet, desperate plea. Shock and panic filled her as he approached her and grabbed her hand. "I know you don't think very highly of me right now. But I'm not asking this for myself. I'm asking this of you. Until I can get my physician over here, could you please tend to Lucy? Please for her.
Levy hesitantly looked down at the hand that Natsu was clutching and then brought her eyes to meet his. There was desperation, fear, panic, and another emotion. She couldn't quite discern what it was. And aside from the fact that even if this was completely insincere, he was still the King. But he actually cared for Lucy's health. He was a completely different person from the tyrant that morning.
She slowly withdrew her hand and looked him right in the eye. "I'll do whatever I can for her…"
Erza gave her a tiny smile and placed a hand on her shoulder while Natsu gave her a look of gratitude. Levy only hoped that she didn't let them or Lucy, most importantly, down.
Lucy's condition hadn't improved or deteriorated, but her fever was still high. So for now, Levy had to focus on breaking her fever.
"Erza, I'm going to need a cold, dampened cloth. Your Highness, I'm going to ask you to step back if you won't leave the room. There's a chance you might catch her fever yourself."
Natsu did as Levy asked without protest. Levy seemed to know what she was doing. Well that was until he saw that Levy was ripping the blankets off of her.
"What are you doing?!" he demanded, fighting the urge to march back over to the bedside.
Levy sighed, "Her temperature is too high. If I remove some of the blankets, some of the heat might be able to escape from her body."
"And then she will be cured?" Natsu asked carefully, only proving that medicine and healing were not his field of expertise.
"No," Levy said simply. "It'll break her fever in all probability, but she'll still be very weak for a while afterwards."
Erza returned with a cool, damp cloth. She handed it to Levy, who placed it on Lucy's warm forehead. It was amazing that through it all, Lucy managed to sleep peacefully. Well not peacefully, but she still slept through it all.
Natsu immediately became alarmed when Levy and Erza took a step back.
"Why are you—," Natsu once again demanded but was cut off by Levy.
"There's nothing more that we can do right now. We have to wait for her fever to break. In the meantime, you might want to make arrangements for a local doctor because with the current weather conditions, it'll be impossible to get your physician out here."
"She's royalty, she should be treated only by the best!" Natsu declared, not thinking about what he'd said until the words escaped his lips.
The girls gave him strange looks. Natsu said nothing and neither did the girls. They stood there for a long time and only the room growing less dark was the indicator that it was morning. The storm still raged on outside.
"Er Levy, I'll be here with Lucy. In the meantime, I know I heard there was a healer around here. Can you go and inquire?" Erza finally requested, breaking the very long silence.
Levy didn't answer. She was out of the room faster than Natsu could blink. He knew that she wasnted to be in the room as much as he did, but her beloved friend's needs came before her desires. Natsu was a bit touched by her loyalty.
"I don't know what you're playing, but I won't let you use Lucy for your twisted game," Erza's low, deadly voice snapped Natsu out of his musings. He stared at her, surprise painted on his face.
"I'm not playing any games, I just want—," he tried to explain only to be cut off.
"You may be the King, free to do whatever you want with your enemies, but leave Lucy out of it. She's an innocent in all this. You might've hated her father, but there's no need to wreak your vengeance out on her. She's not deserving of any of it. And if you think I'll let you torture her by marrying her…" Erza trailed off, realizing that she had let too much slip.
The surprise was replaced with irritation in less than a millisecond. "You are speaking to your King, I warn you. Men have had their tongues cut out for speaking even a tenth of what you've just said to me. And I don't know who told you about my intentions, but it's not to torture her. Quite the opposite actually."
"Oh? And I suppose that you suddenly just care for her? That you simply don't want to have her blood on your hands before the time is right? Or maybe before you can marry her and turn her into your broodmare?" Erza spat back. Her mind was screaming at her to keep quiet but she had pushed it away. The dangerous look that spread across Natsu's face instantly made her regret saying anything.
Natsu's rage was starting to win over the best of him, but he paused as Lucy's face came into his mind's eye. No, he couldn't do that to her trusted friend. She would never forgive him for that and he simply couldn't afford that right now. But normally that would warrant severe punishment.
"Might I once again remind you that you're talking to your King? I don't know what kind of person you take me fore, but I assure you that had it not been for the fact that Lucy would never forgive me if I were to do something severe with you; you wouldn't be standing right here. As for caring about her, that's my business alone."
Erza frowned and observed him. His eyes went back to Lucy and the look changed completely. He was no longer the tyrant who had ordered Lucy to come riding with him in the storm. No, he actually seemed to care now. What happened? Why the sudden shift in behavior?
Erza sighed, "She's been through a lot in the past half of a year because of you. And trust me she doesn't care much for the loss of her throne as it is the murder of her father. He was the only family she had left after her mother died and you took that from her. She can try and hide that from Levy and me all she wants, but it won't change the fact that we can see it in her eyes. We're her friends. No one's closer than us than she is. We're all she has left now."
The earlier anger evaporated but he hadn't taken his eyes off of Lucy for a second. Maybe he could forgive Erza for speaking to him like that. But the "we're all she has left now" echoed in his mind. It was a bit haunting to hear that. Natsu's fists clenched once again. Had he really made her so lonely? You could never tell with that attitude of hers. And she had never told him either. The guilt was only compounding with every little thing he was finding out. He'd have to find a way to fix this. At this point, he'd do anything to prove to Lucy that he wasn't the monster she thought that he was.
Natsu hadn't come down for breakfast. Gray kept staring at the empty seat. The King's absence was certainly felt. No one was commenting on it, but people would occasionally shift their eyes to the empty seat before going back to the person that they were conversing with.
Gray had to excuse himself. It was just too strange without Natsu. He didn't care how that looked to everyone else, but he had grown too accustomed to dining with someone he actually cared for. And that was really all of two people. But Juvia wasn't here and Natsu was within reach. Natsu never skipped a meal, no matter how bad of a mood he was in. He had figured the night before that Natsu was tending to Lucy and wanted to be alone, but he didn't think it would last into the morning.
Gray made his way up the stairs and to Lucy's room. He didn't even want to think about what he could possibly walk in on. But Natsu needed to eat.
"Gray!" Gray turned around to see Natsu coming up behind him. Gray had to do a double take at the sight of Natsu. To put it simply, he looked awful. His face was pale, his hair was disorderly, he was still wearing the same clothes from the night before, and there were deep pronounced circles underneath his eyes. And to top it all off, he looked like he had no energy whatsoever. That disturbed Gray deeply as Natsu was always one to be oozing with life and energy. What in the hell happened?
"Natsu?" he said slowly, dragging out the final syllable. "You look hideous."
Natsu ignored the blunt comment and continued to make his way to Gray only to stop 3 feet away. The next words that left Natsu's mouth took Gray completely by surprise. "I need someone to escort me to the nearby church. Since you're the one I'm closest to…"
"You need to go to…church?" Gray had to make sure he heard that carefully. Natsu only went to church when it was required of him. Like Sundays and special occasions. He was not a particularly religious person but did it for reasons of protocol.
"Yes, that's what I just said," Natsu mumbled, his irritation more than evident.
"There's a storm outside. We'd be lucky to even make it passed the entrance. And in any case, why the sudden need for church is odd," Gray deadpanned.
"I just…" Natsu's tone rose and fell, "Needed to go and pray."
"You can do that here. What's this about?" Gray inquired, extremely interested now.
"Lucy's sick with a fever. Her ladies told me to leave so that I don't get sick, but I…" he drew in a sharp breath.
Gray nodded his head in understanding. He knew exactly what Natsu was getting at. And even though he was sorely tempted to tease Natsu about this, he knew that it was best not to.
"Okay, well since we can't go to a church, there's an uninhabited room here. I go there to pray."
"You pray?" Natsu gave him a strange look. Gray scowled.
"Yes I pray, but not for myself," he answered, annoyed.
Natsu asked no more questions as he followed Gray. He didn't need to wonder why Gray prayed. Before he had met the Lockser girl, you had to stand behind him to make sure he was saying his prayers. But he spent some time at the Lockser's home and he returned a changed man. Okay he hadn't completely changed, but he stopped spending nights in the company of women and wine. He had actually cared about certain things, told Natsu to give Lucy a chance, and keep an open mind in general. Love had changed him and for the better perhaps. Natsu used to roll his eyes at the thought. Before, love hadn't seemed like a real thing to him, just something out of a story. Gray, however, never fit in with Natsu's assumptions of what a man in love should act like.
They came to a giant wooden door. Gray pushed it open and Natsu took a look inside. It was indeed unused. The room had a high ceiling and a window near the roof to let sunlight in. It looked like a place you'd put a prisoner in. It didn't even have a bed, just a long table with two chairs on each end. On the table was a thick book, Natsu guessed that it was a Bible. Gray took to reading that to so it seemed.
"You pray for her, don't you?" Natsu asked suddenly.
Gray didn't answer and Natsu took his silence as a confirmation. Gray wasn't one of those men who bragged about their women. She came up a few times in conversation, nothing more though. But it was the way he had talked about her that confirmed that he was a man in love. Well at least he hadn't been foolish about it. It was really Gray who had changed his views on love. And that was the reason why he, Natsu, wanted to marry someone that he loved.
Natsu walked into the room, passed the table without giving in a second glance, and kneeled down in the spot where the overcast sunlight was touching. He kneeled down clasped his hands together. Gray knelt beside him and did the same.
' I know that we don't talk often and I probably don't deserve everything You have blessed me with, but I'm not here for me. I've made Lucy suffer and now she is bearing the brunt of my foolishness. I ask for nothing, but her well-being. Please, I'll do anything. I'll take several pilgrimages to ever monastery in the land, just please. Amen…'
He opened his eyes back up to see that Gray had finished with his prayers.
"Are you ready to admit that you care for Lucy more than you've cared for any other woman?" Gray was blunt when he was being serious and he always went straight to the point.
"I admitted that to myself last night when she was drenched out in the rain. I tried to get myself to hate her, but I ultimately couldn't. I know I came here with the intention of trying to like her, but I didn't even need to try. And that scared me, so I denied it all I could. It'll be long before I can ever make up for what I did," he responded.
Gray's brows rose with slight surprise. Natsu had always dodged the subject of his feelings for Lucy. Well, it was a bit of a relief for him to see that Natsu was finally admitting it. "If she becomes your wife, you can definitely make it up to her.
At this Natsu turned to look Gray straight in the eye, a fiery determination that he was all too familiar with flickered in Natsu's eyes. "If? There's no if. There's no maybe. She will become my wife. Look at everything I've done to her, she's suffered enough. And I know how every man I've stationed here looks at her, like she's a piece of meat. And I put that idea into their minds. If I don't, they'll hurt her the second I'm gone. I can't and won't stand for that. I promised I'd never let anyone harm her again and as her husband, I'll be able to give her that."
Gray smirked at his answer. In his own roundabout way, Natsu had just admitted to loving her. He had admitted that he cared and took a liking to her, but Gray wasn't too sure if Natsu was aware of the magnitude of his own feelings. No matter, this was a step in the right direction.
"Excuse me, Your Grace!" Natsu and Gray turned around to see one of the servants at the doorway. Apparently he had been looking all over for him because he seemed out of breath.
"Yes, what is it?"
"Lady Levy has sent for you, Lady Lucy has awoken…"
Natsu of course had all but flown to Lucy's room. He dismissed all of the guards, servants, and anyone else in the room. He even requested that Levy and Erza step out for a while, expressing his gratitude.
"I just need to talk to her," he said quietly. His eyes shifted to where she was laying. There was a newly dampened cloth on her head and her eyes were half opened.
Everyone left the room quietly, including Erza and Levy. They hadn't wanted to, but they would be right outside the door if anything were to happen. But after last night, they had a small bit of confidence that he would not harm her.
Natsu made his way quietly to her bedside. Her eyes were met his own as he made his way. She gave him a tiny smile. Natsu could feel a twinge of guilt coming on. How could she smile at him after everything that had happened?
"Lucy I…" he began. "I acted stupidly. Even as a King I acted out of line. You're here sick because of me and I can't apologize enough."
He bowed his head as he sat on the hair next to her. He grabbed her hand gently and began to stroke it.
"Levy told me everything, you don't need to apologize," she said, her voice quiet from weakness.
"I do Lucy. Don't excuse my actions because I am your King. I'm not God, I'm still a man and I'm not above committing grave mistakes," he answered fiercely, taking Lucy by surprise. Not by his tone, but by his words. She never thought a King would ever admit to making a mistake and admitting that he was just a man. Even her own father could have never admitted to that.
"Well, in a couple days' time, you'll leave this place and you'll never have to think of me again," she offered. But for some reason, her chest ached upon saying it.
Natsu's eyes instantly widened, remembering that he needed to go back to the capital. His two weeks were almost up. But as he looked down at Lucy's weak condition, he knew he couldn't just leave her here.
"No," he said simply. Lucy made no attempt to hide her confusion. She tilted her head as much as she could.
"What do you mean?"
"Lucy, I want you to spend the next couple of days regaining as much of your strength. I'll make sure you get the best nourishment and I'll have the servants fetch fresh sheets. You're coming with me to the capital and staying at the palace. Your ladies may join you as well; in fact I want them to join us. I won't take no for an answer. I don't want you staying at this shabby manor any longer. You are coming back to Court and I'll see to it that you are well taken care of there…"
Okay not the best chapter admittedly. And yup! Natsu decided to take her back to the capital with him. You must all be waiting for the proposal and I assure you that I have something planned. Also yes Juvia will make an appearance in the story, but a little later. Actually I've had it written out for months and I can't wait to get to it. So I may have underestimated just how long this fic is going to be because this chapter sort of developed some more plot. The more the merrier I suppose! I really love this story and I'm sorry that the update came later in the day. I had school related things going on. Gotta love college.
Announcement: I've planned out another couple of NaLu multi-chaptered stories. They'll also be AUs but they'll be very different from this one. I have more stuff to think about, but they should be up anytime between late November (around or on my birthday) to mid-December. Yes I'm shamelessly promoting them now so I have motivation to actually publish it.
Okay that's it for now my loves! Sorry for the ridiculous end author's note. Thank you to everyone who's been favoriting and following! It really helps with the confidence! That's it for now! Next update is December 1st! As usual, please review? :*