Lucy rolled her eyes and pulled out her novel as she turned another guy away yet again. It wasn't her fault that she worked at a place that had everything under the sun-including xxx novels and magazines to buy. She was so fed up. With a sigh, she grabbed her pencil behind her ear and continued writing her story. The alternate universe provided relief like a balm on her frazzled nerves, and she began to relax once more.
It wasn't just that she worked long hours or stayed later than she was supposed to because someone didn't come in for their shift. It wasn't that she was annoyed at her managers for constantly changing her schedule despite her pleas that she needed time for homework and a small social life. Lucy was tired of being taken advantage of, and it was getting on her nerves more than she liked to admit.
She was beautiful. There was no denying that. But when mostly older men decided it was okay to come up to her and press the magazines and novels into her hands that were covered in plastic, Lucy felt utterly disgusted. Her sight aversion to anything sexual was amplified, and her senses were overloaded as the men whistled at her and wiggled their eyebrows as she rung them up. Lucy was tempted to push some tissues into the plastic bag along with the novel, but she decided against it. She didn't want to get fired, and her repulsion would just have to wait.
Since her relationship with Dan, she had felt dirty and damaged. He had practically raped her one night as he told her he loved her. As much as she pushed him away, he drew her closer and told her everything was to be fine in a moment. And then it was over.
The cashier shook her head and greeted another customer that asked where the comic books were. She had a job to do. It was no time to focus on the past, no matter how many flashbacks she had from it.
Lucy's job continued as droll as usual, and she gave her normal announcement to tell everyone that the store was closing in ten minutes. Another flashback came about as an older customer pressed a few novels into her hands that were less than savory, and they stared at her breasts as she rung them out.
"Hey. My eyes are up here, sir," she said softly, and the man seemed jostled by her words like she was irritating.
"Young women shouldn't turn away attraction," he said, reaching for her hand to kiss it. Lucy's lip curled and she pulled back, her eyes becoming dark as Dan's face began to come into her mind's eye.
Thankfully the general manager stepped in before things got even worse and politely told the man to get his bag and leave.
"She's being a bitch, you know. If I was her, I'd be grateful that anyone's even looking at her ugly face," the man said with a large smirk, and tears came to Lucy's eyes as fast as her hands balled into fists.
"That's inappropriate, sir. Please leave," Gray said with a hand on Lucy's shoulder. She smiled up at Gray with appreciation. He was quiet, but he knew about Lucy's past and was one of the first people that was told about it. Thankfully he and his wife, Juvia, understood her problem and even invited her to stay with them as she got away from Dan. Later that year, Gray was able to open up a new store of his business and invited Lucy to be the books manager. They had become fast friends after that, and most of the time spent during lunch was used by shit talking the customers.
"This is a free country. I can say what I want," the man said, crossing his arms over his chest. Lucy's jaw clenched as he once more reached a hand toward her, this time reaching for her breasts.
"Leave her alone," a voice said behind her, and Lucy turned.
The new stock room associate, Natsu, was now standing with his arm blocking the man's hand from Lucy's chest. Gray stepped back, and Natsu looked down at Lucy. His eyes were so dark but so kind, and Lucy felt comforted instantly.
"What are you going to do about it, pinky?"
"There's not much I can do about it. I can't touch you because you'll sue me. I don't want that. But what I can tell you is that I have a triple black belt in karate and know eight different ways to flip someone over onto their back. I am able to break someone's arm with two fingers. Lucy's a nice girl. She doesn't deserve someone like you creeping on you. Back off," Natsu growled, and a pin could be heard if it was dropped.
Lucy's gasp echoed in the room as loud as a shout. Never had she had someone defend her like this. She felt safe, and to have a man actually care for her other than a sexual way felt odd indeed.
Dan had defended her when they dated, but only when other men showed their interest. 'That's my girl,' he would say before threatening the man sixteen different ways. Lucy wouldn't feel safe because she knew that he would do that to her if he had the chance. Dan was a threatening kind of a man, and that's exactly what he did on the night that he raped her. He told her to be quiet and shushed her multiple times before having his way.
But this man was different, and Lucy knew that immediately. He wanted to protect her, not harm her. He had only said a few handfuls of words but Lucy knew that he wasn't out to hurt her. The way they talked was completely different.
The man slowly pulled away his hand, and Natsu pulled away his. The men's eyes were locked in a battle as if they were two western heroes.
"I'll be back," the man said with a glare at Natsu. Natsu responded with a finger in the air, and the man looked up where Natsu gestured to. Lucy tipped her head back and smiled knowingly. The man wouldn't even see what he had coming to him.
"See those? They're security cameras. And this is the manager," Natsu said with a hand on Gray's shoulder. "I don't think you'll be in here anytime soon, buddy."
The man scoffed and made his way out, shuffling with his novels not being paid for. Lucy silently cheered and smiled at Natsu.
"Thank you, Natsu," Lucy said, and then giggled. "Do you actually know how to break a guy's arm with two fingers?"
"No, but I could learn," Natsu said, flushing softly. Her giggle was so cute!
"Thanks, Natsu. I knew you had it handled," Gray said with a rare smile, and Natsu pushed the manager's hand off his shoulder with a smirk.
"I had it handled because you couldn't handle it, stripper," Natsu said, and Gray raised a fist in the air.
"You lookin' for a fight, Dragneel?" Gray asked, smashing his head into Natsu's.
"Careful, Fullbuster. I know karate," Natsu said, pressing his head into Gray's. His eyes darted to Lucy to see if she'd laugh, and she did. Natsu's flush returned before punching Gray in the arm, his confidence soaring. He made the cute girl laugh!
Lucy only rolled her eyes and went to go lock up as the two men fought. Thankfully the cafe manager, Erza, made her way over and smashed the men's heads together before they could wreck anything.
Retail had it's problems, sure, but having great coworkers made it not so terrible. Maybe working in a superstore wasn't so bad after all.