A/N: YOU GUYS ARE HONESTLY THE BEST, THE ATTENTION THIS FIC IS GETTING IS MIND BOGGLING. I hope I lived up to your expectations this time!
A sigh escaped Jackal's lips as he stared blankly at the empty prescription bottle held above his head.
He shook the orange cylinder idly as he wondered when he had last taken one of the little white pills of Ambien. The prescription label was a blur to his exhausted eyes. Everything was a blur, really. He supposed that meant it had been a while since his last dosage. Bringing the bottle closer, he saw the purchase date as two months ago, meaning...
It had been a month since he had slept properly. A month since he had taken his insomnia medication. A month of tossing and turning and waking up every hour for days on end before eventually crashing.
A flick of his wrist and the bottle hit the opposite wall with a gentle clatter, falling into the pile of clothes he had stuffed behind the desk in his haste to spruce up his room a bit before Lucy took her nap.
He wondered how the blonde would react if she knew of his situation. If she knew that her call the other night had disturbed his crash day. She would probably tear herself to pieces with the guilt before turning on him and berating him for not taking care of himself.
He stared at the small digital clock on his bedside. Four-fifteen AM. Another forty-five minutes before waking up would be socially acceptable.
He sighed again and closed his eyes in hopes of maybe power napping long enough to rejuvenate himself for his date.
He almost smiled.
"What the fuck are you wearing?" Cana demanded as she pushed past Lucy into the living room. Her on-again, off-again boyfriend of five years, Bacchus Groh, followed in suit, winking at the blonde.
"Clothes, Cana," Lucy deadpanned, shutting the door and trudging after her brunette best friend. Cana tutted, raising a perfectly tweezed eyebrow and sweeping her scrutinizing violet gaze over her body. "You're going on a date looking like that?"
"It's not a date, you idiot!" Lucy snapped, patting her outfit self-consciously. Truth be told, she had spent hours in front of her closet pulling out every outfit she had and trying them on, much like she would before a date. She didn't want to appear too eager, but she didn't want to appear shoddy, either. Something in Jackal encited both the friendly outing and casual date feelings in her, leaving her a ball of confusion. Eventually, she had settled on an airy blue blouse and black slacks. Cute, but totally normal.
"He offered to let you explore an old favourite haunt of yours before he blew it up, it's a date," Bacchus inputted from her sofa, where he was rifling through the pile of books in her bag. "The fuck is a...serotonin reuptake inhibitor?"
"It's what's used in antidepressants, that's an article about the-never mind. Why do you think it's a date because of that?" Lucy asked.
"When I found out Cana was a booze whore like me, I took her to my family's moonshine distillery. That's how we started dating," sometimes, it was easy to forget that the perverted alcoholic on her sofa was actually the incredibly intelligent corporate heir to Groh Distilleries, the largest producer of various kinds of alcohol in the world.
"This is just a friendly outing," Lucy protested.
"The last time I had a 'friendly outing', I ended up having sex with Rogue Cheney, so..." Bacchus shot his girlfriend a surprised look. "Isn't he gay?"
"Bisexual," Cana replied. "Just like his boyfriend."
"I called Sting being bi a long time ago, time to collect..."
"Down," Cana said sternly, turning her attention back to Lucy, who had begun to shuffle herself towards the door in hopes of escaping. "Your room. Now."
Lucy's room resembled the after picture of a tornado sweeping through town. Her entire closet had been dumped on her bed in a pile nearly as tall as herself. Bacchus whistled low, eyeing the maze of shoes on the floor. "Goddamn, sugartits, you went wild here!"
"This is cute," Cana produced Lucy's 'little black dress' from the pile. "Pair these with the fuck me pumps, and we're good."
"Babe, no offense, but she ain't out for a night of clubbing that ends in an orgy," Bacchus flopped on her bed, scrambling to steady the wobbly pile beside him before it fell to the floor. Lucy groaned. "No offense, but the last time you two dressed me, I ended up getting stalked across town."
"Which led you to the hot individual you're about to go on a date with, so logic dictates that we dress you again for good luck," Cana said cheerily.
"That is so stupid that it actually makes sense," Lucy blinked, dropping to sit cross-legged on the floor. "Go nuts, but remember, you only have a half hour before he gets here."
Cana snorted. "I need half that."
"You wore shoes this time," Jackal grinned. "I see you learned your lesson with the demon pumps."
"I'm getting those things burned," Lucy swore. She approached his truck, opening his door and sliding into the worn seat. She buckled up, pretending to ignore the way his golden eyes gave her a once over. "Jeans suit you."
"Cana wanted to stick me in a dress, but..." Lucy waved over herself. Her new outfit consisted of stonewashed jeans and an airy black tank top. Casual, but could pass for a date outfit if need be.
"Not the best idea," Jackal shifted to drive and exited the parking lot, turning on the radio as he did so.
"That's what I said..." Lucy hummed. She discretely gave her new friend a glance. He wore baggy black pants and a beige shirt that emphasized his muscles. Curiousity ignited in her chest when she caught sight of a tattoo on his shoulder. She could just make out the bottom half of it, where she saw what could have passed for a serpents belly.
"That's an interesting tattoo," she commented. Jackal lifted his hand off the wheel briefly to roll up his sleeve. Lucy gasped. The ouroboros was done in black, but the detail was astounding. Her fingers tentatively reached out, brushing it. The scales were so lifelike and seemed to ripple under her touch. The only colour on it was the eye; magnificent and ruby red, it glared at her with its slitted pupil.
"It's beautiful," she breathed.
"Cost me a small fortune, too," he snorted. "The things you do when you're drunk off your mind in first year..."
"The first thing you thought to get tattooed whilst inebriated was an ouroboros?" Lucy asked incredulously. When she had gotten drunk in Crocus and ventured into a tattoo parlour, she had ended up with a rather unspeakably grotesque dragon on her back. She had yet to find a tattoo removal specialist within her budget to help with the issue.
"Not my idea, actually. It was Mard. The uptight bastard is obsessed with symbolism, so he took the both of us and we got inked at his suggestion," Lucy burst into peals of laughter. "You mean to tell me that our prim and proper Professor Mard Geer has a tattoo lurking on his person?"
"Yeah! Here," Jackal pointed to the cup holder between them, "Grab my phone, password is dynamite, and hit up the gallery. The folders name is 'Crocus'."
Surprised and oddly honoured by his trust in her, Lucy did as instructed while mulling over this new tidbit. Either Jackal was one to trust easily, which she highly doubted, or, more likely, he had good instincts. High praise for herself, she knew, but the most reasonable conclusion. Tapping the little picture icon, Lucy's jaw dropped at the exquisite pictures before her.
Jackal's ouroboros she had seen, but when surrounded by the harsh red of tender skin, it stood out even more viciously. Mard's took up the entire expanse of his upper back, and had Lucy gaping. Bold shades of red, orange, and gold swirled as they formed a flaming phoenix, its spread wings covering his shoulders, and a trailing tail of fire sweeping down his spine.
"This is...magnificent," Lucy breathed. To think that the cold and frankly caustic male she had somehow become decent friends with had such a drawing on his back...
"Right? Man, you should've seen him when he got his piercings..." Jackal laughed. "Oh, we made him wear such gaudy jewelry over his eyebrow!"
"You know, it's curious that Mard chose an ouroboros and a phoenix," Lucy mused. Already, her mind was whirring back to her days in university. She had written a paper on ancient symbolism and meanings they held as pertaining to psychology in her first year, and these two were of a particular interest to her.
"Oh? Do tell. I always figured he just wanted me to suffer his Greek mythology unit with him on a permanent level."
"Well, they both have essentially the same meaning. Rebirth, renewal, the cycle of life...but your little tattoo is little bit more special," seeing that she had caught his attention, Lucy plowed on. "Carl Jung is perhaps one of the most well known psychologists, second only to Freud, and he figured that the ouroboros held archetypal significance into the human psyche. He related it to alchemy, saying that it acted at the prima materia that hovered in our unconscious. It was the sort of...representative of how we seemed to rise from the ashes and adapted so quickly."
"Well shit," Jackal blinked. "That's pretty fucking badass. Rebirth and renewal, huh...?"
Lucy observed him as he took in the new information. He seemed contemplative, as if this was the final piece to some long, unsolved puzzle that only served to confound him more. Was it because he didn't believe in the concept of him being able to metaphorically rise from the ashes and start anew, or because he already had?
"Any ink on you?" he asked conversationally. Lucy blushed deeply. "Same story as you, except Natsu wasn't as wise as Mard. I've yet to find a removal specialist in my price range."
"Got a picture?" Lucy dug around in her pocket, pulling out her phone and angling the screen at him. Jackal took one look at the picture and nearly swerved into the next lane he was shaking with laughter so hard. Waving at the car behind them in apology, he turned on her. "Oh, for the love of all that's holy, tell me he got one just as bad!"
"A very demented dragon to match," Lucy smiled proudly.
"You know...it's salvageable," Jackal tilted his head as he made a left. "We should head up to Crocus sometime and I can introduce you to the guy who did mine. We can see if he can do anything about that mess."
"I'd like that," Lucy smiled at him. She supposed this was another thing to add to her ever growing list of his quirks. He was eager to help those he seemed to like.
"Here we are," Jackal parked, glancing around quickly. "Okay, so we gotta get in quick. I'm technically not supposed to let you in..."
"Is this illegal?"
"...kind of?" Jackal answered nervously. At her horrified look, he quickly corrected, "Well, it's not...too illegal. I think."
"Oh God, I can't go to jail again!" Lucy groaned, stepping out of the car and shuffling forward to the entrance.
"Again?" Jackal called in surprise. "You've been booked?"
"It was overnight back in second year, Natsu 'accidentally' set fire to a house party and...ugh."
"I remember that!" Jackal exclaimed. "That was...shit, what was his name? Freaky looking blond guy, red eyes..."
"Zancrow. Natsu's cousin," Lucy supplied. "He's a pharmacologist, now."
"That psycho crazy raver became a pharmacologist? Wow. I remember when he used to get drunk and make out with Sayla during those things..."
"How do you know him? You're three years older than us."
"He entered university with us and switched majors about five times, hence why he graduated with you," Jackal finally unlocked the doors to the library and pushed in, waving at the entrance in a mocking sweeping gesture. "After you."
"Why thank you, good sir," Lucy smiled coyly, entering with exaggerated steps. "Wow, they really stripped this place bare..."
The once cozy library had been made devoid of all the shelves. Nothing remained but the support pillars and the main desk, which had been affixed to the ground. Lucy felt a pang of sadness sweep through her. She had been so fond of this library growing up as it had provided a safe haven from her cold, empty home, but as the years passed and she aged, work and school kept her away from what was once one of her favourite places in the world, and soon, there would be nothing left of it but debris.
"Yeah, we needed to get rid of everything to avoid unnecessary damage," Jackal replied, standing next to her. Lucy jerked her head to the stairs. "Can we head up? I wanna check out my favourite spot."
"So tell me how this works, this whole...demolition thing," Lucy waved at the building. Jackal shrugged. "Simple, really. We just find the support structures at the base and load them up with explosives, then let gravity do the rest. It's like knocking a tree over."
"I've seen things where buildings kind of collapse down and not to the side, why not do that?"
"That's called a true implosion, and is ridiculously difficult to do. Only a handful of companies I know do it, mine ain't one of 'em," Jackal shot her a broad grin. "But believe you me, I'm capable of it."
"I don't doubt you. Oh! Here we are..." Lucy ran her fingers over the wide ledge of the window, imagining the original design of it. "There used to be a bright purple bedding type thing here. I used to just curl up with a really good book until I fell asleep, and then either Laxus, Erik, or Natsu would come get me."
"You used to come here often?" Jackal perched himself on the now hard edge, patting the spot next to him. Lucy sat down, flickering her eyes across the surprisingly large expanse of the room. She could almost see the original layout, pinpoint the exact spots of all the shelves and round tables.
"Every day. Better than the library I had at home," Jackal gaped at her. "A library at home? Jesus. And you came here? I helped take this place apart when the plan was originally proposed, it wasn't too impressive, no offense."
"This place was like a second home to me, you know? The library at home was full of books, but...those books were just meant to drill in more repetitive knowledge. Business, history, etiquette...nothing that sparked an interest in me. Then I came here, and..." the blonde pointed to a spot before them, where the outline for the base of a shelf could clearly be seen. "That right there was where all the psychology books were held. And this ledge right here was where I decided to become a psychologist instead of a businesswoman."
Silence followed her statement. Lucy continued to stare at the area where the shelf was while she let Jackal gather his thoughts. Had she been too depressing? What if she had freaked him out by her sudden turn of tone? Worried, she remained silent throughout her panic. It was so like her to chase away someone with her stories.
"I'm sorry," Jackal finally said. "That I'm tearing this place down. It means a lot to you."
"It's okay," she patted the back of his clenched hand. "It's been years, anyway. And it's your job."
"Still," he mumbled. Guilt flashed through her chest. She hadn't meant to make him feel bad. Rather, she wanted to help him understand her need to revisit the place before it blew. She supposed that was another thing to add to her collection of thoughts on him.
"Well," Lucy declared, ready to divert from the morose atmosphere. "I say we head out so you can set up shop! I'd like to stay for the explosion, if you wouldn't mind?"
"Implosion," he corrected, but smiled nonetheless. "Yeah, sure. We got some time, you up for late lunch? There's a diner down the street-"
"Ruby's," Lucy finished his sentence with a fond smile. "I used to have their signature sandwiches every Friday with a cup of coffee."
"Then let's get going!" he rose and dusted off his pants.
"I'll order for you, if you order for me," Jackal proposed, much to Lucy's surprise. "You used to come here often, and I currently come here often, so let's see how our taste buds fare, shall we?"
"Agreed," Lucy nodded as the waitress strode over. She smiled politely and introduced herself as Jane as she placed two glasses of chilled water before them.
"He will have the signature sandwich and vanilla cafe mocha," Lucy said.
"And she will have your chili and triple shot espresso," he leaned back in his seat with a smug grin. Lucy winced. She hadn't had a triple shot espresso since her university days and wasn't entirely sure she'd not go off her rocker with the caffeine boost.
Jane giggled. "Oh, I love it when couples order for each other! It's so cute. I'll be right back with your stuff, dearie!"
"We're not a couple!" Lucy called after her in a futile effort. Jackal snickered. "Oh? I'm hurt, wifey! After all these years and our passionate wedding vows? You wound me."
"I don't see a ring," Lucy waved her hand in the air. "Invalid."
"Ouch," Jackal deadpanned. "Like you need a ring to be married."
That was interesting. He had taken it seriously. Lucy recognized this tone well. It meant this was personal. It was likely, then, that Jackal's parents hadn't been married, yet they raised him together. Either that or someone close to him. She filed that away for later.
"Signature sandwich and mocha for you," Jane slid back quickly, placing the gigantic meal before Jackal, whose mouth had fallen open. "And the chili for you. Enjoy!"
"You ate one of these monstrosities a week?" he finally sputtered out. His eyes roved over her frame once more. "B-but you're so tiny! How? This isn't...possible! What kind of witchcraft?"
"I once ate five plates at a buffet and lost six pounds," Lucy nodded seriously. "Also, as for the figure thing...I was captain of the track and field team. Ran every single day for four years."
"I once ate ten plates at a buffet and made Tempesta pay, and he got revenge by dying my hair green," Jackal said. Lucy nearly spat out her drink as the image of the blond before her with bright green hair in a faux-hawk was formed. "Pictures?"
"Hard copy at home," Jackal took a sip of the mocha and blanched. "This is way too sweet."
"And this is too strong," Lucy said slowly.
"Trade you," they both blurted at once. A trade was made, and soon, Lucy was sipping the sweet glory that was vanilla mocha latte. She moaned as the delicious, creamy liquid hit her throat and filled her with all things fluffy and nice. Jackal coughed into his drink, averting his eyes. "So...how's the chili?"
"I've yet to try it," Lucy scooped up a spoonful and stuck it in her mouth, moaning even louder. "This is literally sex in a bowl, holy shit."
Jackal's only response was to take a large bite out of his sandwich.
"I need more olives in this," Jackal muttered. "You can never have enough olives with pickles."
"Laxus is of the opposite opinion. I have never seen a grown man throw a bigger bitch fit when it comes to his pickles," Lucy said. Jackal rolled his eyes. "Baby. Honestly, pickles are God's food. Pickles are holy. They're like the embodiment of everything good in this world."
"Passionate," she commented.
"For pickles? Always," he replied. "Anyway, we should hurry. I need to meet up with the others to blow the place up."
"Stay here behind the perimeter line," Jackal instructed before leaving to set up the detonation equipment. Lucy waved him off, her hand falling to her phone. She had promised to call Cana after the date, and she supposed now was as good a time as ever.
"So did you fuck in the library?" leave it to Cana to start off the conversation with sex.
"No, idiot. We went there, I got a little sentimental, he felt sorry for blowing it up because I got sentimental, and then we went to Ruby's for late lunch," hoping to distract her from further questions about that incident, she hastily added, "You know he has a tattoo? So does Mard."
"Get the fuck out," Cana gasped, "Mira! Your boy's got ink! What of, do you know?"
Lucy could hear the phone being put on speaker, and then said, "Jackal has an ouroboros, and Mard has this gigantic phoenix on his back. Hi, Mira."
"Oh my god, he's got a tattoo," Mira said faintly. "Oh, that is so...sexy..."
"Give her a minute to get her panties back on," Cana took over, "Why those things?"
"Mard's idea," Lucy but her lip. Should she tell them? Should she not? Telling them would only add to the teasing, but not telling them would only make life much harder when they found out after..."He's gonna take me to the guy who did his work to get my tattoo fixed."
Lucy yanked the phone away as two shrieks resounded. Honestly, those two could give a choir of helium-high twelve year old girls a run for their money.
"A third date? To get tattooed! Sound the wedding bells!" Mira giggled.
"You're one to talk. You and Mard have been on how many dates and you're still not dating?"
"That is an entirely separate issue. Point in, homeboy has got it bad for you. Honestly, I think you two would be great together," Cana said with genuine hope. Lucy smiled. For all her raucous teasing, Cana really did look out for her.
"We just met, Cana, he's just being friendly."
"Is this Dr Heartfilia I'm talking to, or Lucy the loveless idiot?"
"Dr Heartfilia. And I say he's just a naturally kind person. Besides, you've never even met him!"
"I say we remedy that situation. He's coming over on Saturday to help with your car, right? Bacchus and I will mysteriously pass by the neighbourhood and decide to say hi. Then, I'll wow him with my magic and give him a tarot reading while getting a judge of his character! Foolproof!"
It wasn't common knowledge that Cana was a proficient tarot card reader. The brunette had picked up the skill back in the second grade and had mastered it ever since. Eerily enough, in the fifteen years she had been practicing, Cana had never been wrong with her cards or judge of character.
"Fine. Now, let's discuss Mard and Mira. What is up with that?"
"Ready to see the building go boom?" Jackal asked with childish glee as he approached her nearly an hour later. Lucy grinned widely. "Why, of course! What did you use, C4?"
"Dynamite. We like that for concrete," he replied. "Made some holes, packed it full, and in ten seconds, this place will be nothing more than a pile of rubble."
Lucy couldn't hold back the look of pain at the words. Jackal winced apologetically. "S-sorry. That was insensitive."
"It's fine. Let's see this happen!" Jackal waved at the group of men by the other side, who nodded and clicked away at their keyboards. Lucy watched as his face lit up and he rubbed his hands together. "I can't do the detonation today, my turn was last time, so now it's up to Simon to do the job. Instead, we get front row seats."
He handed her a hard hat and large earmuffs, which she donned quickly. Next were the safety goggles, which she scowled at. The ridiculously bulky glasses brought back memories of highschool science class and attempting to wear the things over the glasses she had to put on then.
Lucy watched as Jackal mouthed the countdown, jerking slightly each time the number was announced. He honestly vibrated with joy, and once the loud explosion sounded, he threw his hands up in the air. His golden eyes were both alert and ecstatic.
"Isn't it amazing!" he yelled as he turned to face her. Lucy's breath caught as she saw his eyes fully. They reflected the sunlight beautifully, catching the varying shades and depths and flecks that made up the colour, and, widened by his joy, they were breathtaking. Combined with the heartstoppingly broad smile and the way his face seemed to light up, Lucy could honestly declare she'd never seen something so exquisite. "...engineering, huh?"
"Yeah," Lucy agreed to whatever he had said softly. "I agree."
Jackal laughed and rapped her hard hat twice. "You agree that you think this would turn you to engineering? Most would still say fuck no!"
Lucy blushed and looked away. "Stupid Jackal!"
As her new blond companion continued to explain the sheer genius behind the implosion, Lucy couldn't help but feel something akin to contentment settle within her. The same kind of content she had felt when curled up in the library he had just destroyed.
A/N: Fluff is here, and now you know why Jackal is so...oddly moody. Sleep deprivation and insomnia is a bitch, and I can only relate all too well.