Natsu hopped down from Lucy's window sill and turned to look up at the blonde chastising him for stealing the food she had literally bought for him to eat. He ignored her. If he argued back they'd be stuck here forever, and they had someplace to be. Somewhere important.
As he impatiently threw his hands behind his neck, staring up at her, Lucy stepped forward, catching her foot on something, and her irate face blanked out, replaced by sudden surprise as she lunged uncontrollably forward, reaching out to catch herself on the window frame and missing…spectacularly.
Lucy was falling.
Seriously? How many times was this going to happen?
Natsu raced forward, arms outstretched, ready to be the landing pad once again. How many situations to fall off something tall could Lucy feasibly get into? People fell off potentially fatal stuff like, what? Usually once or twice in their lives? And yet here she was, falling. Again.
Technically, by the laws of physics, even if someone was caught after a fall from a tall building, she would still have enough momentum to break every bone in her body, and that of her savior. If he wasn't a dragonslayer, she definitely would have killed him long ago with her terrible luck.
Because it wasn't like she planned to fall off all those places, it was just that she got kidnapped and taken to high places a lot. Really, an almost unbelievable number of times. Couldn't the bad guy, just once, have an underground layer? Instead of some flying form of transport that Lucy was forced to dive off of?
And ok, so that first one had sort of been all her…she had jumped out of a building on nothing but faith that he would show up to save her. Granted, he had…so it's not like she was wrong, but still, if she had just waited like ten fucking minutes he would have been there and could have climbed up the tower to kick Jose's ass and save her. Instead of getting road rash on is fucking back…again. Yeah, he had tougher skin than most, but running in a burst of speed at 60 mph, colliding with a person at terminal velocity and then hitting the ground fucking hurt. Every. Fucking. Time.
So, as Natsu stood looking up at his partner, as she fell with a cartoony expression of disbelief, he stepped forward and stuck out his arms, looking away in a sulk. Apparently, he was just going to be her safety net from now on. Forever. It wasn't like he didn't want to be with her forever, but who knew how many more times he was going to be the victim of the anvil falling off a cliff version of Lucy.
He braced for the impact of being thrown to the ground with all buck ten of Lucy slamming him into the ground and glared off to the side, nurturing the annoyance inside of him. He knew it was childish. But fuck it, at some point she had to own her tendency to take a header and try to stop fucking doing it. It scared the crap out of him every time. He was never sure if he'd be there in time.
But as he stood, arms outstretched, the impact didn't come.
At least to him.
He heard a thump and a groan to his left and quickly whipped his head over to see Lucy laying on the grass, rubbing her butt and glaring at him. Shit.
"Why didn't you catch me?" she shrieked incredulously.
He looked pointedly at his still outstretched arms.
"Why didn't you aim better?! I was all ready to catch you…again!"
"What do you mean by that?"
"Sorry, was it not obvious? You fall. A LOT," Natsu explained, as though he were speaking to a stupid child. Like the ones that eat powdered lacrima, because it's sparkly. Those children. You know the ones. Like Jet and Droy probably were. Or Vijeeter. "Maybe you should be more fucking careful!"
"Excuse me? It's not like I'm falling on purpose! And what, you just aren't gonna catch me anymore? You're just going to let me drop to my death?"
"I tried! And ya look FINE to me!"
"I'm gonna have a hell of a bruise on my ass, thank you very much!"
"Oh? Your ass is gonna be bruised? Did you see the one I got after you dove out of Phantom Lord? Down my whole back? Or the fucking abrasion when you fell out of the fucking sky from that evil clock bomb thing?! Why don't you just summon Loke or somebody to catch you when this happens? He can practically fucking fly! And he's immortal!"
"You have Happy! And you're basically jet-propelled now, so you can pretty much fly too!"
"Whether or not I can fly is not the issue. The point is that your spirits are just as capable of catching you as I am, and yet you never do anything to save yourself!"
"Oh, so you want Loke to be catching me instead? That pervy lion? Really?"
Natsu had to pause at that. True, Lucy was pretty heavy (hey, luscious boobs [as Macao seemed to constantly called them, no matter how many times he got punched] like that did not come without a price), but that didn't mean he didn't take the opportunity to pick her up any chance he got. She had great legs. And she never wore anything longer than mid-thigh.
God bless her and her collection of mini-skirts.
And knowing that, he definitely didn't want Loke getting his hands on her silky smooth legs (she had to have a charm or something because he never saw her shave them). Or her squishy chest. Or dat ass. Natsu's eyes glazed over just thinking about the number of times he'd managed to inadvertently get his hands on his curvy partner.
Total complete accidents.
Happy happy accidents.
That was his story and he was sticking to it.
"But…I guess if catching me is such a hardship for you, maybe I will just call Loke next time…" Lucy grumbled as she got to her feet, disgruntled that Natsu (spacing out with that expression he got when he talked about food) hadn't even offered his hand to help her up. Her words seemed to bring him out of it though.
"Hey, I didn't say I wouldn't catch you. I just wish you would be more careful. One of these times I'll miss, or I won't be there to catch you."
"You mean like just now?" Lucy barked sarcastically. As she brushed off her mini skirt and started toward the road.
"No," Natsu returned seriously, halting his steps. "I mean like when you're falling from another floating fortress in the sky over a maze of razor sharp rocks that no one can humanly traverse. Like when you're actually in danger."
Lucy stopped walking, looking back at her partner, who had hidden his eyes behind his bangs as he spoke. She couldn't help but smile a bit. Natsu always worried about her. About not being there for her. But he'd always been there. Since the moment they met. He wasn't going anywhere. Not if she had anything to say about it.
"Well, if I end up on anything like that, I'll do my best not to walk off the side. But I know if I do you'll be there to help." Her smile widened. "Though, hopefully, you'll be looking that time and actually catch me…"
"Yeah, Natsu, maybe you should be a little better at catching Lushy!" Happy chimed in, swooping in to land on Lucy's shoulder. He had heard just enough of the conversation to be annoying.
"ONE TIME! One fucking time I don't catch her! And now I'm never going to hear the end of this am I?"
"Nope." Lucy and Happy shook their heads.
"Whatever. Just watch. Next time, I won't be there to save you, and you'll regret this conversation."
"Pssh, yeah right Natsu! You're stuck to Lucy like sticky glue. 'Cause you liiiiiiiiiiike her!"
"Shut up stupid cat!" Lucy and Natsu said together, falling into step as Happy flew loop-d-loops up into the sky and giggled uncontrollably.
"Oi! Happy, get down here, we need to book it if we're going to get to that council member's house before Tartaros sends someone to take him out," Natsu called out as he and Lucy picked up their pace and put on their job faces. Happy tucked his wings and dove swiftly down to them, unfurling them again at the last minute into a graceful up-sweep right above them.
Together, Team Natsu set off to do what they did best: help people.
It felt like a million years later that Lucy slipped and slid over the familiar cobblestones of Magnolia, rain pounding on her back, Natsu's hastily scrawled note clutched in her fist as she chased his cold trail out of town. The tears blurring her eyes mixed with the fat raindrops assaulting her and stung. She blinked rapidly trying to clear them, but with no luck. And, as she peered blindly ahead of her, picking up speed instead of slowing as she should, the toe of her boot caught on a stone and she began to fall.
The sensation was a familiar one. It was as though time slowed down the gravity pulling at her…as though the world around her had agreed to follow the natural order and wait just one more minute...for him.
One more minute for him to come and catch her before she fell.
Lucy closed her eyes and breathlessly followed her muscle memory, almost feeling his hands encircle her wrist, or waist, or even her chest. She relived the sensation she'd felt a million little times…the feeling of being completely safe in his arms…before she collided with the ground, her cheek hitting hard stone with an impact that broke skin and released a trickle of blood to dilute in the water running down her cheeks.
And as she stared out from under her sopping golden tresses at the deserted road ahead of her she realized he'd been right that day not so very long ago.
It was high time she learned to catch herself.