"Love looks not with the eyes, but with the mind…"
It was through the harsh, bitter, evening breeze after her fifteenth failed date when Lucy heard the sound.
She had breathed out in a huff that sent the mist of her cold breath spiraling into the night. It was autumn, warm-colored leaves crunching under her feet at she trudged on. She might have had the warm, heavy coat of the guy she'd just met for dinner, if she hadn't stormed out partway through the date. He was even creepier than some of the rest, having the audacity to suggest more intimate endeavors between them later, after their first date. Talking about it as if she owed him for buy part of the the dinner, like some prostitute that exchanged her "services" for food. Was chivalry not in that bastard's vocabulary?
Not that it was an uncommon happening for her. One time, she'd needed to call up her friend Gray to beg for a ride home because she was afraid of what the man would do to her, or get lucky that Loke was walking by to punch away a guy that had been about to take a grab at her. The guys she'd gone out with, who'd acted like perfect gentlemen before, she'd discovered were completely in it for whatever physical benefits possible. Some had told her so without shame when she'd flat out questioned why they'd asked her out.
"Because you're hot."
"Because your eyes sparkle."
"Because you look like a fun night."
Yeah. She'd heard it all.
All those movies and books about girls who wished they were beautiful so that some guy would notice them…
Oh, how Lucy wished she was butt-ugly.
Sure, she'd been proud of her appearance for a while, loving to dress up for a night out with the girls. There had been a few creeps in high school, but nothing she couldn't handle.
Fending for herself in college without her protector friend, Erza, however... it was all she could do to try to cover herself up. No matter what she did, there were people staring at her in some objective awe, leering eyes tracing up and down her body, as if slowly removing all the clothes she'd carefully piled on to hide her generous bust and curvy figure with their gaze.
All she wanted was a nice guy who didn't even mention or care about the fact that she looked beautiful.
Now, making her way down the lamplit streets of the town of Magnolia back to her dorm, the sweet, haunting melody from a violin came to her, louder every footstep as if walking toward some heavenly light that she was blind to. Lucy looked about in confusion for the song, feeling the dulcet notes washing over her and filling her with some sort of longing that ached. After passing a few closing shops and lively bars, she finally came across the source of the music. It was a boy, about her age with wild pink hair, a thin hoodie and jeans. His eyes were closed as his bow glided across the strings like a swan on calm water.
His features were serene, a melancholy face flickering between intensity and concentration in his expression. The boy was simply breathtaking, and she wasn't sure if it was the effects of the music or the fact that he was indeed good-looking. His feet moved too, lightly treading in circles, swaying like a flower in the wind. The battered violin case was open, a few dollars thrown inside.
Others walked on past, as if they were far too busy or good to stop and appreciate the miracle of his dancing fingers or sliding bow. This made her inexplicably angry, and she pulled out the wad of cash she'd brought along to pay for the tip and dessert at least. All of it she put in the case, and promptly took a seat on the edge of a nearby stoop. All of her scorn for beauty, frustration from tonight seemed to fade away, only leaving her wish for something more.
The violinist didn't seem to notice her, continuing on with his song for another few, glorious minutes before ending in a resounding chord that hung in the air like rain paused in mid-fall.
Lucy let out a breath she didn't realize she'd been holding, lifting her gloved hands after a moment to clap. A few passersby turned to offer a clap or two, a few quarters, before moving on. The man smiled jovially in gratitude before scooping up the tips and shoving them into his pocket. Pulling out her phone, Lucy saw that it was far later than she'd suspected. Her roommate, Levy, would surely be worried about her. The song had just seemed so short, probably because she'd never wanted it to stop.
As the man frowned, contemplating the next song to play, she sighed and stood. Lucy didn't want to creep him out or make him nervous by staring for so long. He didn't seem to have noticed her anyway-
"I see you there," the boy mused, cutting off her thoughts, facing her now with his violin tucked under his arm. "Please don't go… unless you have to be somewhere, of course. Or if you're cold."
She froze at his cheerful voice, gazing up at him. Lucy winced, hoping he wasn't another creep that wanted her to stay for eye candy. "O-oh, em…"
"You can use my sweatjacket, if you like," he said, shifting his feet. "I-I mean, if you do like the music, but I think it was you that left the most money, so-"
"I love it!" she blurted, amazed that there was the possibility that anyone couldn't. "It's so beautiful and… I didn't want to make you uncomfortable by staying."
"You wouldn't make me uncomfortable!" he said quickly. "I-I hardly ever have someone stay to watch…"
"That's very hard to imagine." Putting her cheeks in her hands and sitting back down, she told him, "I suppose I can stay for more."
"Awesome!" he said with vigor, bouncing on his heels in the most endearing way. "Hey, do you know what time it is, by the way? Gotta be back before my roommate freaks."
"You don't have your phone?" Lucy asked, digging through her purse for her own to see the clock for greater accuracy.
"I do," he admitted, reaching with his free hand to his back pocket. Pressing down the home button, the boy said, "Siri, what time is it?"
"It is nine-twenty pm," came Siri's cool voice. "Good evening."
She gave him a weird look. "Em, you know there's a clock on the lock screen, right?"
"Is there? Interesting," said the man, stuffing the phone back into his pocket.
"You never noticed?" Lucy laughed.
"I notice more than you, apparently," he sniggered back. "I can't see the damned thing, weirdo."
"Why not? The screen lights up."
It was just then that she noticed, in the flickering streetlight, that he wasn't looking right at her. His dark, glazed-over eyes were focused on a place a little right of her face.
"Oh!" she gasped suddenly, clapping a hand over her mouth. "Oh gosh, I'm so sorry; I didn't realize-"
"Nah, it's fine." He waved her off. "It's kinda refreshing when the first thing someone notices about me isn't that I'm blind. Well, I haven't always been..."
"So…" she began tentatively. "How do you play if you can't see?"
Lucy didn't mean to sound rude, but he answered simply, "I don't need it. I hear the song, I play it. That's all."
"Oh," she breathed, fascinated. "Is it your major?" At least, she assumed he was in college…
"That's right," he said happily. "Violin, piano, guitar, cello, bass, viola, drums, a few other woodwinds and brass that I've tried out… whatever they need me to play. But I prefer my violin. Mel understands me best. She's more limitless."
"You make it sound like your lover," she teased.
He shrugged, gently running his fingers along the side of the smooth wood. "She's close enough. I can be myself around her, I play her love songs, I've touched all of her, and I love the sounds she makes when I do so." The boy wiggled his eyebrows in her direction, and Lucy couldn't help but let out a shout of laughter. His face lit up at this, and he asked, leaning up against the brick wall beside him, "What's your name, then?"
"I'm Lucy," she told him. "Going to college here too in my sophomore year. And you are?"
"I'm Natsu Dragneel, at your fiddling service." Natsu gave a bow, and then said, "I'm a junior. You wanted one more song. What kind of song would you like? You're the only one listening, anyway."
"How do you know I am?" she challenged.
"I can hear when people stop or keep walking, weirdo." He rolled his sightless eyes. "I heard you, light footsteps, yet slow. A girl that was looking for where the music was coming from. I heard money and something fall into my case. I heard your steps stop over there and you sit. I hear everyone keep walking."
"Alright, genius listener dude," Lucy scoffed, again setting her face back into her hands and watching him avidly. "You said you played Mel love songs. Play your favorite?"
A smile quirked up on his lips, and he nodded. "As you wish, Lucy."
This time, it was not a sad song, as she was expecting. It was bright and hopeful, something singing about new love and a new horizon of promises.
"Wow," exhaled Lucy when he had finished, and he grinned.
Lucy found her cheeks grow hot for some reason as he gently laid his violin back in 'her' case and covered it with a velvety cloth. Before he picked the case up, he shrugged off his plain, black sweatjacket and handed it over. "I promise it's fine; I just washed it a few hours ago."
"You don't have to," Natsu supplied quickly. "I just heard your voice shake and figured you were cold. And as I remember, girls have this thing with stealing guys' hoodies."
"Y-yes," she laughed. "Thank you very much." Lucy gratefully took the hoodie from him and zipped it up over her blouse. It was very warm, smelling of pine.
"Well then," he said cheerfully. "I don't have my seeing-eye cat with me, so maybe you could low-key, like, make sure I don't crash into a pole on the way back to campus?"
Lucy got the feeling that he didn't usually ask for help, so she took him up on it, strolling along beside him. Eventually, it was apparent that he didn't need help at all; Natsu could pass for a regular person on the street, acting like he was looking around casually, and if she didn't know it before, she couldn't have guessed that he was blind.
When they arrived to the entrance gate, he mentioned, "Which dorm?"
She let him know, and Natsu nodded. "I'm a floor above you, then."
"Well." Lucy found herself smiling, though she knew he couldn't see it. "Thank you for walking me back."
"No problem," he said easily, bringing his hand up to wave. "See ya around? Or… well, I won't see you around," he laughed.
"No, but I'll see you," she promised. "Oh, and here's your sweatshirt-"
"Nah, borrow it." Natsu began to turn away. "So that you can give it back to me another day."
Heat pooled into her cheeks. "Okay."
After the most genuine smile on a man she'd ever seen, he walked away from her.
Lucy could never get enough of the sound.
This little cafe where Natsu played his sweet violin she had frequented more times than she'd admit in the last few months, accompanying him there and back each time. One would think she'd get sick of it, but the same green tea, same seat in the corner, and same view of his crooked grin just got better every day. She found herself more entranced by the ease of speaking to him, curling up against him late at night when they watched (well, he listened to) movies in her dorm, and those random urges she got to just grab his face and-
Her thoughts were interrupted by the few people sitting in the small space clapping as he finished his final song. Giving a playful bow, he swept his tips up into his pocket, rose hair tumbling into his glazed eyes in a way that was almost ethereal. After he'd lain Mel back in 'her' case, Natsu made his way flawlessly to her table by the window and gave a smile in her general direction. "Screwed up that Sonata again."
"I thought it was perfect." After hearing the song he spoke of several times during his long practices and much of his cursing at the same tricky spot that involved something called a 'harmonic' and 'fifth position', she had recognized when he made a slip of the fingering. Natsu had just danced right past the mistake, making it sound as if his way was exactly how it was written. That's why she thought it was perfect.
His slender, strong musician hands curled around his nearly-empty mug that had cooled in his absence. While his blank, dark eyes stared straight ahead, he absently seemed to run his hands along the outer edge of the table, the groves within it, Lucy's book on the top. "You always say that!"
"It's 'cause I think it's true," huffed Lucy in response, reaching over to flick him in the forehead. "Well, I was waiting until you took a break to take a trip to the bathroom, so I'll be right back."
"Okay," he answered cheerfully, pushing earbuds in to occupy himself. Unable to help herself, she gave him a last ruffle of the hair before walking off to the restroom
When she returned, she noticed a boy, one she recognized from class, with his hands planted on Natsu's table. He seemed to just be talking, so Lucy shrugged and made her way to the counter to get Natsu some more coffee.
From here, she was in earshot of their conversation. "-see you've been hanging around the Heartfilia girl a lot."
Lucy tensed in her place in line, matching Natsu's own stiffening features as his jaw grew hard. "What's it to you?"
"It's a big deal to a lot of us, bud," the guy said, threatening sound subtle. "She's the hottest girl on campus. Gorgeous, in fact. Not really fair for her to hang out with a guy that can't even see her."
Gritting her teeth, Lucy was ready to start forward and tell the guy to screw off, but her curiosity as to what Natsu would say won over with an ache in her chest.
"I don't see why it matters," Natsu told him, voice edging on dangerous.
"Yeah, you don't see much, do you?"
Rage boiled within her - his hands clenched. "That may be, but I can still recognize a douchebag when he interrupts my damn coffee."
"Listen smartass," hissed said douchebag, face turning a splotcy scarlet. "She deserves a guy that can tell her she's beautiful, so why don't you just-"
"I don't give a single crap about how she looks," Natsu cut him off. "Piss off."
"You wouldn't be able to tell if I did!" laughed the guy, pushing Natsu's cup over so that it spilled on the table.
At this point, Lucy could no longer stand by, and marched up to the boy, grabbing him by the shirt, and punching him square in the face. He fell back, shouting out in surprise and pain while holding the blood flowing steadily from his nose. Making a disgusted face in his direction, she snapped, "Beat it, asshole," before fetching some napkins to wipe up the coffee that had spilled across their table. Natsu's expression was conforted as the intruder stumbled away, mouth tight. Lucy watched him cautiously while he picked the mug back up and set his sightless eyes downward.
Finally, Lucy tried, "Something wrong, Natsu?"
"You shouldn't have done that," he told her quietly.
"You're my friend," she him lightly. "Of course I should have."
"I could take him." His teeth were gritted, and he stood.
"Well, I got there first," she told him, deciding it was better not to mention that it would be hard to hit what he couldn't see.
"You think I can't do it myself," he said, picking up his violin case.
Lucy blinked in surprise; she'd never heard him be this sensitive to anything before. "I never said that."
"I don't need you to do things for me," Natsu snarled out in a startling tone, and she backed up a few steps.
Feeling defensive, she shot back, "Oh? Then why do you ask me to walk with you all the time?"
At this, she noticed his cheeks darken to match his hair. "I-it's not because I need you to! I can get back just fine; I have been for years!"
Lucy felt a hardening in her chest and narrowed her eyes. "Lying to me, then?"
"N-no!" he protested, twisting his hands on his case's handle. "I-I just... I wanted a reason to spend time with you, okay?"
While it did bring heat up her face, Lucy managed to say, "W-well then why didn't you just ask? You don't need an excuse to hang out with me!"
For once, he had no answer. He turned away from her, swinging his case up onto his shoulder and storming from the cafe.
After some pathetic crying in her room and giving up on her essay for the day, Lucy curled up on her bed and miserably began to flick through all the rom coms in Netflix. Natsu hadn't called after their argument; no texts, nothing. She tried to tell herself that friends got into fights all the time and this was no different than their argument about how much she supposedly weighed or making him wash his scarf.
But he'd never had that expression of rage and humiliation, never walked out in the middle and never let her sit and mull in the misery of their frustrations.
Honestly, Lucy knew she wouldn't be able to handle not being his friend; from the night she met him, she didn't know how she'd lived her life without him. He was part of her, the piece that had always been missing. She was his eyes, he was her hope and the holder of the most intense love she'd ever felt.
Of course, not that he could see it.
Or seem to return it.
Lucy was only left to brood in a puddle of angst for another hour; it was at that point that a tentative knock sounded at her door, and she turned dead eyes to the entrance. Should I pretend I'm not here? Could I see someone without wanting to scream at them right now?
Eventually, her kind side won out and she sighed, heaving herself off of the bed and sluggishly wandering to the door. Her hair hung limply, and she hoped that maybe Juvia just needed to borrow some silverware or something rather than seeing someone she'd feel the need to look better for.
It was Natsu, shifting nervously on his feet, hair damp from shower and sunflowers clutched tightly in his hands.
Lucy could only stare for a few moments, during which he cleared his throat. "Lucy, right? Yeah, you smell like Lucy… Em, can you… take these? I think I felt a vase on your desk before and I don't want them to die."
"O-oh, y-yes," she stammered, bustling forward and taking them from him. She ran her finger lightly along a bright petal. Her heart swelling, she set them aside and shyly approached him again. "What were those for?"
"Apology," mumbled Natsu, grimacing. "I was a jerk, and I should have thanked you rather than snap at you like that. I've come to ask… if you'd hang out with me. There will be fireworks at the festival tonight and I thought we could go…"
He was interrupted by how she'd attacked him with a hug around his waist. "I'd love to."
His face had grown rather pink. "I guess asking wasn't that hard."
They'd picked a deserted pier off of the lake that the fireworks were being lit over. They'd stopped for a couple of beers and the cool air coming from the lake was a lovely excuse to sit close to him. Natsu's face was as serene as when he played violin, which was a difficult feat. The two sat in a comfortable silence, letting the cold and gentle waves tickle their bare feet.
It wasn't too long before the first, resounding BOOM echoed across the lake, causing a few whoop far along the shore. Lucy watched delightedly as the bright purple explosion rained sparks down onto the reflecting water. Natsu gasped in surprise, clutching his chest at the sound reverberating through him. His childlike smile was contagious. Though he couldn't see them, the sound and feeling seemed to awe him with their intense sensations.
Another burst forth, a twinkling white. He whispered to her, "Lucy, I really don't care how you look, but… may I see you? Please?"
Her heart rushed, and she stammered, "What do you mean?" Then Lucy saw his hands tentatively raising, and she understood. "O-oh. Of course, Natsu…"
His violinist hands were surprisingly warm, and more gentle than she'd ever felt. They traced down from her forehead like butterfly wings. Across her eyebrows, fluttering over her eyelashes and smoothing across her cheekbones. Lucy had a sharp intake of breath when his fingers ghosted across her lips, down to her neck...
"How do I look?" Lucy asked for the first time in many years.
"Really weird," was his response.
She was cut off by another blast of a firework that rocked the wood beneath them, and most importantly, how he'd pulled her close and kissed her with the same fervor he put into every love song. Her hands shook when she gripped his shirt, letting herself fall into his enveloping embrace. Lucy didn't know how long it lasted, but knew she'd never been held this way, or ever be satisfied by anyone else.
When he slowly backed away, breathing heavily, he muttered, "I don't know if you look beautiful or not, and I never will. I can't tell you that you look beautiful, but I can easily tell you that you are."
Lucy let the words replay in her mind, fill her with warmth that she had a feeling wouldn't end. "Why'd it take so long for you to kiss me, then?"
In the dark, she could barely make out his flushed cheeks. "I was afraid I might miss."
"Well, you don't need to worry about that any more," she told him, grabbing him by the scarf to pull him back in for another.
"...and therefore is winged Cupid painted blind."
-William Shakespeare, A Midsummer Night's Dream
THIS IS SO LATE AHHH IT'S NEARLY A MONTH LATE! I meant it to be for my friend Britt's birthday (comewhatanime on tumblr - You are a precious sunshine child), but I just got so unmotivated by thinking this story turned out sucky and then school happened and UGH but hey here's a very belated present and I hoped you didn't think it was as bad as I did XD SORRY!
I've got one other present to complete before I get back to DDD and TWWS; stay tuned! School and stage crew are kind of taking up some time.