6 – Family – Gratsulu Week 2018 Prompt "Pregnancy/Family"
*Beta-ed by the ever phenomenal MorriganFae *
Light streamed in from the windows, the blinds casting an alternating pattern of sun and shade before hitting the whitewashed walls. Natsu lightly held the oak banister as he made his way up the staircase. He had just come from meeting with Lisanna. They'd spent the morning lazing around the guildhall, devouring their weight in curry as they caught up… or at least he had, the youngest Strauss showed more restraint with her portion size.
His childhood friend had recently returned from a month-long expedition with Elfman and the Raijinshū, though it had been even longer than that since he'd seen her last. His own missions with his team took them to every corner of Fiore, and occasionally the surrounding nations as well. He loved spending time with his partners, he missed Lucy and Gray when they went off on their own, but it was also nice to do things as individuals every now and then.
He perked up a bit as he turned the corner, pulling his hands from his pockets to jog up the landing to the next flight of stairs. Happy might be back from his mission with Charle and Wendy by now. Something he was wont to do more often these days. Still, he couldn't help the curve of his lips as he broke out into a grin – he missed the smallest blue member of their little family.
He snickered quietly to himself as he considered the stories he wanted to tell Happy, sure that the exceed would appreciate his antics in a way that no one else could. He snorted to himself when he remembered the ire of townspeople on their last job.
What? It wasn't as if it couldn't be fixed. One tiny garden fire and leveling half of one unoccupied building was hardly cause for panic. Gray had rolled his eyes, Lucy had just sighed, but Happy… he knew Happy would laugh right along with him.
His little buddy had a sense of humor.
His thoughts dispelled as his steps slowed to a halt halfway up the steps to their floor. His fingers clenched around the rail as his eyebrows furrowed. Breathing deeply, he could pick up the scent of salt water lingering in the air.
Was someone crying?
His frown because more pronounced.
He inhaled. Winter pine and night jasmine filling his senses as he shifted his weight, canting his head to one side. Both his partners were home… did they get into a fight?
He knew they all loved each other, but they weren't perfect. If his suspicions were correct, it wouldn't be the first time one of them had quarreled with another. He ran his tongue across the sharp edge of his teeth, hesitant to enter their apartment. He'd be willing to hear them both out, but Natsu also knew taking sides was dangerous – especially if he didn't understand the context of the argument.
Unlike what some assumed when they'd all started dating, the three of them did not suddenly become a homogeneous unit. They retained their individualities. His relationship with Lucy did not mirror the one he shared with Gray – even if the reflection showed he loved them equally. Neither handled conflict in quite the same way, so speaking up in an dispute he wasn't a part of could potentially hurt one of them if he wasn't careful with his words…
…and Mavis only knew: words weren't his strong suite.
Natsu let out a long suffering sigh. A heavy tension in his step, he marched over to their unit and pushed open the door, padding into the living room on silent feet. One glance around the space showed no one was in the kitchen, but he already knew that. He followed his nose to the hallway, hands jammed back into his pant pockets as he rounded the corner. He halted as a figure came into view. Gray was leaning against the wall a few feet away, carding his fingers through his inky locks in agitation. His shirt was nowhere to be found, adding to the unease creeping along Natsu's skin, peppered with goose flesh.
The pinkette shifted forward a bit so that he was in the hall as well.
"Hey, what's up?" Natsu asked quietly, trying to gauge the situation. His boyfriend was visibly upset, and he could hear shuffling from the bathroom just to his right. The taller man's eyes flashed sapphire, deep as an ocean trench, but there was no anger there. Just worry – confusion.
Gray made to move backwards toward their bedroom, tilting his head silently and Natsu obliged him, sending one last glance to the bathroom door. As they reached their destination, the noirette grimaced, pacing in front of the window.
"I'm not sure what's going on, but you know how she hasn't been feeling well for the last few days?" He paused, continuing when he saw Natsu nod. "Well, she went out earlier but the moment she got home she locked herself in there."
Gray waved his hand in her general direction as if to emphasize his point. The wrinkle between his brows becoming more pronounced. Natsu cracked his knuckles absently as he let that sink in.
"What do you mean?" He asked, knowing their girlfriend tended to take forever to get ready. The ice mage sighed, shaking his head as if he had already considered that.
"I thought she was taking a bath, but then I heard a crash and tried to ask her if she was alright. She didn't open the door and said she just knocked something over by accident, but her voice was off." He paused, troubled. "I think she was crying."
Natsu's spine went rigid, his fears confirmed. "Did something happen? Did she talk to anybody?" Seeing Gray shaking his head, he continued. "Did you guys…"
He drifted off, but his boyfriend let out a deep breath, understanding without needing the dragon slayer to explain.
"Nah, I don't think so. She was fine with me all morning."
Natsu bit his lip, flames licking against his fingertips as he rolled his wrists. He worked his jaw, wondering if he'd forgotten something he was supposed to do instead of meeting Lisanna. No, that wouldn't be it. Lucy had been aware of his plans, and the girls were on good terms as far as he knew. Lisanna had even relayed a message to thank Lucy for some dress she'd borrowed.
"Did I do something?" He asked, at a loss. Gray's response was instantaneous, alleviating the stress that had begun to boil up in him.
"No, she was just fine when we woke up and excited to see Happy. It wasn't until she went out for groceries an hour ago that she started acting strangely. She'd been in the bathroom ever since."
Natsu didn't like the sound of that. "Did you try to get her out?"
"Not yet, was just debating it when you got home."
The two men made eye contact, mouths setting in grim lines before they both simultaneously turned back into the corridor. They walked with steady strides, but before they made it to the bathroom door, it swung open.
They both startled as a blonde blur ran straight into them with a yelp. Natsu's hands went up immediately, settling on Lucy's shoulders as he blinked down at her. The celestial mage seemed just as surprised to see him, and Gray, beside her. Her mouth automatically curved up in a smile, but it didn't reach her eyes – the residue of tears embroidering her lashes.
"Oh, hi Natsu! How was lunch!?" She fumbled as she broke eye contact immediately, words too bright as she hastily untangled herself from them, pivoting on her heel as she dashed towards the kitchen. He let her move away, watching as she carefully filled the kettle on the stove with water. From his right, he heard Gray click his tongue. She only drank tea when she was upset about something.
His dark eyes scanned her over, taking in the slight tremble to her fingers. It set off a warning flare inside his skull. He decided to approach her delicately.
"It was fun. Lisanna said thanks for lending her a dress?" He conveyed, his voice hiking up an octave in question, not entirely sure what the girl was talking about. The words were simple enough to get right, but he didn't understand the concept of girls borrowing clothes like they were library books. Gray wouldn't lend him a shirt. Although maybe he should… at least then the stripper wouldn't lose them all the freaking time.
Lucy fiddled with the sugar jar, loosening the cap. She didn't bother looking up as she spoke, voice soft. "It was no problem, doesn't even fit me anymore. It's too tight."
The boys glanced at each other one more time, green meeting blue. Was this somehow related to her mood? It didn't really look like she'd gained weight recently and she wasn't usually overly conscious about it – taking Happy's jokes in stride as she riled the exceed right back up.
Maybe she was feeling extra sensitive? It did seem like it was around that time of the month. Natsu took in a deep breath. It didn't seem like it – there was none of the coppery tang in the air that he normally associated with sneaking extra chocolate gelato into the icebox. That, or telling her she was extra pretty for a few days prior to her monthly curse.
He wrinkled his nose, but there was something else there. A scent curling around her own floral aroma – almost like –
His eyes widened like a wolf-caught-deer, brows shooting above his hairline almost comically. If Gray noticed his expression, he chose not to comment.
Natsu tried to ignore the blood rushing in his ears as he opened his mouth, no longer patient enough to beat around the bush. "Luce, are you feeling alright?"
She stalled for a moment before reaching on her tiptoes for the canister of loose-leaf oolong. "Yes, I'm fine. I'm good."
That was about as convincing as Happy deciding he didn't like fish.
"Are you sure? You skipped breakfast this morning." Gray tried, his deep voice calm, though his fingers fidgeted against his pant legs.
"I'm perfect, everything is just fine and dandy!" She called out, not turning towards them, her soprano coming out reedy. Natsu licked his lips, wondering how far to push it, not wanting to make her uncomfortable if she didn't want to talk. Still, the tiny hairs on his arm were standing up straight. Her behavior was putting him on edge, and that smell…
"You know you can tell us anything right?" His words came out low, gravelly.
She flinched at that, her hand banging into the ceramic mug she'd placed on the counter, launching it off the butcher's block. Natsu's eyes widened as he took a step forward – knowing he was too far to help – when suddenly, the cup froze.
It was frozen mid-air, a tendril of frost surrounding it in an icy fist extending from the ground. Natsu let out a breath, glad to see his boyfriend had acted faster. Gray was already moving, the aura around his fingertips glowing as the temperature in the room dropped slightly. He plucked up the dish, placing it carefully back as the lingering ice melted away. The noirette tuned to drop his around Lucy's back, searching her eyes. The warm caramel was muted, dull.
"Lucy, seriously. You're kind of scaring us."
Her face twisted into a grimace, all pretense of good humour gone. She leaned into Gray, nuzzling her forehead against his bare chest as she sighed, swallowing.
It was dead silent in the apartment, as if the fragile ceramic had actually shattered.
Natsu shuffled on the balls of his feet – this wasn't like them. This wasn't the quiet warmth of a lazy afternoon, broken by occasional ringing laughter. This was tense, cold – like the eye of a storm.
His partners noticed his anxiety. Lucy let her fingers drift down to tangle with Gray's before she pushed up to sit on the counter, letting her legs swing in the air as she worried her lower lip. She extended her other hand, wriggling her fingers to beckon Natsu close. He obliged, letting their digits weave together, rubbing her palm in a slow stroke as he leaned part of his weight against Gray's side.
When she still didn't say anything, he reached up with his other hand, cupping her jaw as she pushed closer into his touch. From his peripheral, he could see Gray was running his palm down her thigh lightly in long comforting strokes. The three were bound into a tight circle, as they always were – no end and no beginning, joined in love and companionship.
She mewed, burrowing her head into the pinkette's clavicle. "Just give me a second."
Gray leaned over to rub his cheek against hers. "Take all the time you need."
Natsu just hummed in agreement, shoving down the impulse that wanted to badger the words out of her, knowing it would do more harm than good. Still, he couldn't help the distress buzzing through him. He was a man of action. He wanted to hone in on the problem, so he knew what he could do to make it better. Really, just point in a vague direction. He could handle the rest.
Results may vary, Lucy used to counter when he got into his spontaneous moods.
Nah, the dumbass will just destroy shit. Results guaranteed, Gray would counter back.
Natsu would ignore them and continue on with whatever plan he'd originally come up with. The pestering was all in good fun… it had been part of their relationships before they had gotten together and they didn't alter themselves after.
He was brought out of his thoughts when Lucy cleared her throat once. She leaned back so she could see them both clearly, lost for a moment in a sea of forest green and midnight blue.
"So, we haven't ever really talked about this, but I just need you guys to listen and hear me out, because it is a lot to handle – but there's no reason to panic! B-but it is important… and I—"
"—Luce," Natsu chuckled, stopping her tirade. "We'll listen, no worries. What's up?"
She smiled a little at that, some of the light in her eyes peeking through.
"Yes. Right." She took another fortifying breath, her smile strengthening as Gray squeezed her hand. Her voice was feather soft. "Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be fathers?"
Their answers were instantaneous.
She stayed silent as the boys whirled on each other, bewilderment painting their features before they hesitantly turned back to Lucy.
Natsu was the first to speak, though his heart was pounding in his ears. "I spent years of my life trying to find my dad. It was kinda hard not to think about it at some point."
Gray swallowed thickly, his breathing a bit shaky as his expression became more cautious.
"I hadn't, but I guess it never came up." He shrugged, shifting his balance. His eyes raked across Lucy's face, the frozen edge to her features. He squeezed her hand, making sure to keep contact – to prove he had no intention of withdrawing.
"But all that means is that I haven't thought about it before." He rasped, his lips curving upwards slightly, as if urging her to continue. Nervous energy hummed around the three of them in the kitchen. The only noise coming from the canal beyond as people basked in the August sun.
Natsu's pulse was racing, his heart threatening to leap out of his chest. He scuffled forward pressing his lips against their girlfriend's temple, shaking slightly as he pulled back so he could see both of his partners.
"Why? You got something to tell us?" His voice hoarse, watching his partners carefully. Both were still, though he couldn't for the life of him figure out what they were thinking.
Then Lucy nodded.
"Remember this doesn't change anything, and it's… it's a good thing even! But you can't freak out, because then I'll freak out an…and—" She rambled on before Gray leaned down and pecked her cheek, nudging her affectionately. Something in Natsu soothed at that, a bit of their boyfriend's mood uncovered.
She exhaled deeply before raising her chin, holding their gaze as she straightened her shoulders and firmed her resolve.
He swore neither he nor Gray were breathing as they looked at her with wide eyes – a second stretching into an eternity.
"You're pregnant?" Gray repeated. She nodded shyly, worrying her lip as she peeked furtively at them through her lashes.
"Really?" Natsu murmured, his voice sounding subdued in his ears as if he were hearing himself underwater.
"Really." She echoed. A strangled, gurgling sound escaped his throat and then he was moving, tearing his fingers from her grip only to maul them both in an enormous hug. He squeezed tightly enough that Lucy began giggling and Gray swatted at his arms half-heartedly to be released.
He didn't let go, but he did loosen his stranglehold. Lucy burrowed into his embrace, resting her forehead against the base of his neck. She tilted her head to the side slightly, her smile warm yet hesitant as she looked over at the noirette who had relaxed into Natsu's hold.
"I take it that you're happy?" She asked, her eyes flitting between their expressions.
"Fuck yes. Lucy… just – always." His words came out in a rush – in fragmented thoughts – but the glow on her cheeks was worth it. Natsu could practically taste her nervousness, but he'd always wanted to be a dad. He wanted that with Lucy, he'd had vague ideas of it from before they'd even officially gotten together. And Gray…
Natsu rested his lips against the crown of the blonde's head, a purr creeping out of him without permission as he too, glanced over to their boyfriend. He wanted that with Gray as well, but what Lucy had said earlier was true. They had never discussed this possibility. He had no idea where the other man stood on it.
Gray seemed to notice their hesitation, his stiff façade melting away as his eyes crinkled. Wriggling his arms free, he wrapped one over the pinkette's shoulders, while the other curled around Lucy's waist, holding them to him tightly. The fabric of their shirts pulled tight in his grip but he didn't care as a tentative smile graced his features.
"Yeah Lucy, this is great." He murmured, nosing at her ear. "We're both thrilled."
She squealed at that, the tension flooding out of her as she grasped at them desperately. Peals of relieved laughter poured from her, broken by the occasional hiccuping sob. The boys began fluttering over her, alarmed by her response, but she just batted their concern away as they led her towards the living room and plopped her down into the sofa cushions between them.
"I'm fine, promise." She giggled, wiping the tears welling up in her eyes before they could fall. "I'm just happy. You're both really fine with this?"
They jumped to reassure her, showering her with compliments until her grin threatened to split her cheeks. They all had questions, concerns, but this was a time of celebration. The rest could all wait until later. Right then, Gray and Natsu did their damn best to alleviate the fear they'd seen lingering in her chocolate eyes. They let her know how excited they were, how jubilant. They were all in this together – she wouldn't go through it alone. Never alone.
The three of them had chosen to walk this path together, side by side by side. They were just adding another, much smaller set of footprints to their family.
Their cooing and whispered sweet-nothings eventually petered off as she began to doze off in their arms, exhausted by the day's events. They were content to let her nap, rearranging themselves so Gray was tucked into one corner of the couch and Natsu was in the other. Gray had gently shifted so Lucy's head was snuggled into his lap, carding his tapered fingers through her silken locks.
The pinkette had taken it upon himself to gather up her legs, absently tracing whorls along the back of her calves, a soft smile on his face – the faint hint of his dimples visible in the afternoon light.
"Hey Natsu?" Gray voice was low, skittish even. The pinkette glanced up at the odd tone, his eyebrow arched as he hummed in response. The ice mage wasn't looking at him, his gaze focused at a random spot across the room.
"What's up?" Natsu tried when he didn't receive an immediate response. Gray opened his mouth, struggling for words as he cleared his throat.
"You guessed, didn't you? I was watching you earlier, and you were on edge before she even said anything." He did glance over then and saw Natsu grinning sheepishly, the tips of his fangs poking out. The fire mage tapped his nose once with his free hand.
"I don't know how I missed it, but she smells different. Our scents are all over the apartment, so I didn't think much of it before. It just kinda hit me."
Gray nodded as he let that sink in, mulling over the words as he breathed deeply. There was something comforting in the fragrance of their home, but he knew it meant more to his boyfriend's sharp senses. He couldn't help but wonder exactly what the dragon slayer had detected.
"Then, if it isn't camouflaged anymore…can you tell?" Gray winced a bit at his phrasing as Natsu just frowned at him, brow quirked. The noirette battled down a noise of frustration as he pushed forward as delicately as he could. "Can you tell what the…difference is? What's mixed in with her scent?"
Emerald flashed, shadows bleeding in with jade as Natsu's pupils constricted. He had understood the underlying question.
Not what, but who. Whose aura was it that had blended in with Lucy's.
The pinkette gave a half-hearted shrug, his eyes fixed on Gray's. His voice was gravelly, hushed as he spoke. "Would you love them any less, either way?"
Gray's throat tightened at that. Them – Lucy and the baby. He knew his answer instantly, already shaking his head.
"No, it wouldn't change anything. I'd still love them both." He answered firmly as he held eye contact with the man before him. "I'd still love all of you."
Natsu nodded as if he expected that, his posture relaxing. "Good."
"Good." Gray mimed, chuckling. His boyfriend hadn't answered the question, but then again, it didn't really matter.
Natsu smiled, closing his eyes as he leaned his head back into the cushions. It was quiet for a moment before he heard shuffling from the other end of the sofa once more. He opened his eyes, watching Gray fidget, waiting for him to say whatever was on his mind. Eventually Gray noticed his attention and flushed. Natsu didn't tease him for it, knowing all their emotions were raw.
"We'll be good dads, right?" Icy-blue eyes burned into him, as if begging for reassurance.
So that was the real problem.
Natsu stretched so he could twine his fingers with Gray's, brushing against his knuckles in tender strokes.
"Yeah, we'll be great dads. Who'd love their kid more than a couple of misfits like us?" He paused then, licking his lips.
It wasn't like he wasn't afraid, but he knew the thoughts that still haunted Gray. The nightmares he hadn't come to terms with. Mavis, all three of them had demons they had never been able to banish. Still, that didn't make them weak – it made them stronger. It's what drove them to protect what they loved with the whole of their hearts.
When you are ripped apart, when you heal… if you're lucky enough to heal – the scar tissue returns thicker than the delicate membrane it replaces. Not as smooth, not as pretty, maybe... but somehow still beautiful. An imprint of survival – of vitality. A map of a life well-lived.
Natsu continued, uncharacteristically somber. "We know what it's like to lose our parents, and I guarantee you, we would never let our kid feel that way."
The silence spooled out as the words hung in the air.
"Who knew you had such words of wisdom, Flame brain?" Gray teased, but his eyes shone with affection. Gratitude.
"Shut up." Natsu chuckled, glad to feel the tension ease away. This conversation wasn't over, but it was enough for now.
Snorting, he clicked his tongue before sending the noirette an amused glance. "Besides, even if we fuck up every once in a while, Luce's going to be one hell of a mom. She'll keep us on our toes."
Gray laughed at that, ruffling her hair softly. "Damn right, she will."
They sat there in contented silence, their limbs entwined as they reclined on the couch, hands threaded together and alternately stroking the sleeping blonde between them. As time passed, the tall shadows began marching across the floor as the sun began its descent. The quiet only broken when the front door opened and a ball of blue fur glided over to them.
What ensued was a blubbering mess as Happy fawned over the now very awake Lucy as he clung to her waist, wailing something about kittens. The blonde pet his head with exasperation as she tried to convince the feline to say baby instead. Singular.
She pleaded with her boyfriends to help, only for Gray to start laughing as Natsu goaded the cat on.
They were a motley bunch, but at the end of the day, they came together fantastically as a family. A family that loved each other to the moon and back – who would do anything to protect one another… who encompassed each other like a chain of glittering constellations...
...And that family was about to shine a bit brighter, the final piece to anchor them – like the north star guiding them home.
I know Gratsulu Week is over, but i was aught up in exams and really wanted to finish. I hope you enjoyed this chapter! I think this is a huge tipping point, when they really solidify together as a family. I also hope it got their general nervousness but over all commitment down. Having a kid when you weren't expecting it can be a surprise, but if you're in a place in your life where you can handle it - it can be a wonderful one. Especially when all parents involved go all in. Only one more chapter to go!
Also, thank you sooo much to those of you who reviewed, followed, favourited or PMed me! I really appreciate your support. If you want to chat, but feel uncomfortable posting a review, feel free to message me instead or use the anonymous review feature :)
General Gratsulu Note: Thanks to those of you joining me on this little Gratsulu side adventure! Don't worry, I still adore Nalu, and have fics in the works for them, but I like this ship as well. "Sugar, Spice and All Things Ice" is a collection of interconnected one-shots in an alternate version of the canon-verse. They vary in theme and length, but most are short and sweet.
If you have any questions or concerns, please let me know! I love feedback, and always make a point to respond. However, please remember to be polite. I am happy to accept constructive criticism, but if you just don't like the pairing, please just feel free to skip it and I won't be offended. I have a couple other Nalu stories in the works if you prefer those.