It was morning and the air was cold enough for her to trace the smoke-like trail left by her breath. But Lucy wasn't paying attention to that very much. She was a bit too preoccupied with him. Although she had started out sleeping at the crook of Natsu's elbow, overnight she had rolled over so that her head was on his shoulder. One of his arms was tucked under his head but the other...the other was wrapped quite snugly around her shoulders.
'Survival,' she tried to convince herself, 'If he didn't do this, I would have died..." However, that did nothing to explain why her free hand was so casually draped around his neck...or why she rather liked it.
She drew her hand back to feel the portion of her cheek that felt warmer then the rest of her body. Was it a coincidence that it was where that smooth-talking yet mischievous Dream-Natsu had brushed his lips?
'Psh, of course not.' Lucy pulled herself up, propping her body with her elbow for support to come into view of his face.
Of all the members of Fairytail, Natsu was the closest to her. She had seen him ecstatic, she had seen him disappointed, she had seen him exhausted, full of rage, surprised, jealous, triumphant, she had even seen him afraid. But yet, this was the first time she had seen him so still. Even when he had slept on their past missions, he always seemed ready for anything but sleep...but here, he seemed so content, so calm. She laughed softly. What a change from last night when he was juggling fireballs!
The rays of the morning sun streamed through the ice, reflecting the light like a stained glass window. Out of impulse, she brushed his bangs out of his face and perhaps out of instinct, his hand automatically came up to loosely grasp hers. 'Oh crap, did I wake him up?' she thought, ready to pull away, but thankfully, he was still out. She breathed a sigh of relief.
As the sunlight danced throughout the cave, she still found herself staring at his face. 'He's nakama, and he's Natsu,' she thought, 'But he's just so...'
Then involuntarily, her mind began to flash: his crooked grin, warm hands, his rather woodsy scent. But her mind seemed to be fixated on one thing--the anticipation of the moment just as he was about to kiss her. And then she couldn't stop thinking about--
"Enough," she said, exhaling slowly, willing herself to stop thinking and just do. She blinked twice and then with gentlest of motions, she leaned forward, brushing her lips against his with the lightest of pressures.
After a few moments, she slowly pulled away, not wanting to wake him. He murmured something softly, turning in her direction but he showed no signs of waking. Was it her imagination, or did he seem to be blushing a little?"Nah, he's just sleeping," Lucy mumbled, pleased with herself. She reluctantly loosened his grasp on her hand, tenderly stroking his cheek before she stood up, a soft smile on her face as she made her way to the makeshift door of melting ice that led to the bathroom.
Just as the door shut, resounding with a dull thud, a grin began to spread on the supposedly sleeping boy's face. Natsu cocked open one eye, extremely glad for his acting skills because although she smelled of cinnamon, she tasted very sweetly of strawberry chapstick.
"How the heck did he do all of this?" Lucy wondered, twisting the knob of the bathroom door. It wasn't just a crude ice carving, it honestly did resemble a door knob. "I must have been knocked out for a while," she remarked, estimating the time it had taken him to craft everything, and also very thankful that the swelling had gone down. "And I guess it's about time to wake him too," she said, entering the cave. But to her surprise, he was already awake, sprawled out on the cave floor, stretching.
"Sup, Luce, morning, morning," he yawned as he stood up, stretching his arms above his head.
"Looks like someone slept well," she said, smiling.
"Yeah, you! Isn't the famous Natsu special something?" he grinned, flashing her a thumbs up. "But hey, you still owe me five thousand jewels, remember?" He began to rub his fingers together, mouthing 'Moolah!' at her.
Lucy gave the blankest stare she could manage. "You've got to be kidding me."
"But it worked, didn't it?"
"W-Well, yeah, but, but that's robbery! Five thous--" she sputtered, but she was interrupted when he held his hand up in front of her face.
"It's alright," he said solemnly, "I take payment plans. Now we can discuss this over breakfast, ready to go?"
"Wait, wait, you're kidding, right? You're really going to make me pay for that?!" she complained, scrambling to throw everything into her pack.
"Hmm...maybe if you rub my shoulders...," Natsu said, his palms glowing bright red as he pressed them against the edges of ice, melting it, "I'll give you a discount."
"Really? Okay, sure!" Lucy grinned, moving to enthusiastically knead the muscles of his shoulders as he worked. "So...how big of a discount are talking about here?" She asked.
"Eh, we're friends so maybe...five percent. That's pretty good, right?"
Instantly dropping her hands, she sarcastically scoffed, "What a wonderful deal that is, Natsu. I am ever so grateful."
He turned his face to her, an amused smirk on his features. "Yeah, I know. I'm pretty generous, aren't I?"
With a loud crack, the ice finally gave way and Natsu was able to heave the heavy block out, letting in a gust of chilly but refreshing mountain air. Lucy looked around as she walked into the sunlight, amazed because the landscape had changed dramatically overnight. The path they used to get to their cave had vanished, leaving the mountain covered with a fresh blanket of powdery snow. It would have been the perfect morning for skiing...but, important matters first. How were they going to get down from here? Lucy shielded her eyes from the sun. Far in the distance, she could see the bright gold tile of Blanche's village rooftops. 'This is going to be a LONG hike,' she groaned inwardly, 'But at least it's downhill.'
"Hey Lucy, check this," she heard, and as she turned, she saw that he was poised over the slab of ice, his mouth overflowing with flame. As Natsu sprayed a column of fire over the ice, it began to melt into a shape. The ice began to steam as it melted, so Lucy couldn't quite make out what he was making.
"A dinosaur!" she guessed. It...kinda looked like a dinosaur. It was rather bulbous in the middle. Kinda (but honestly, not really).
Natsu paused from his work and looked up, wearing a slightly incredulous expression. "Are you kidding me?" he laughed, taking in a deep breath as he let loose another burst of flame.
"Okay then," she said, as the ice began to take an elongated shape. "A banana?"
Now, he had flattened the majority of it into a thinner slab, but one end, he had rolled up. Kind of like... "A half rolled cinnamon roll?"
Flipping the slab over, Natsu carved four deep grooves, lengthwise, into the bottom with his fingers. Turning it right side up, he set it onto the snow. "Finished!"
As the steam began to clear, Lucy could finally make out the shape. "A...toboggan?"
"Well, yeah. How else did you want to get to the village? Walk?" Natsu grinned, dusting off some icy residue from the seat. "Now I know this isn't a fancy white horse," he started, "but--"
"Hey Natsu," Lucy interrupted. White horse as in Knight in Shining Armor as in Prince Charming? As in the discussion of last night's dream? This was a sign from the stars, she was definitely sure of it. And she should know, she was a stellar spirit mage, after all. "...Natsu, do you know how to dance?"
"What? Psh, no," he said, crossing his arms, "Me? Dance? Nope. Wrong guy."
"Oh...sorry, must have been someone else then," she said. Lucy was a bit disappointed because although it was just a dream, deep down inside, a part of her wanted it to be true. But then again he was biting his lips...and she knew him well enough to know that it was something he did when he was lying.
"You sure?" she tried again, "Perhaps a little of the..." But Natsu was already shaking his head.
"...Waltz?" At that, his eyes widened then quickly narrowed.
"So...you know," he said through gritted teeth, pointing at her. "Who told you? Was it Grey? He promised he wouldn't tell! I swear, I will slaughter him when we get back."
"No, it wasn't him. I just had...a hunch," she said casually, grinning. "So, how'd you learn?"
Natsu blew a gust of hot air. "Igneel made me take lessons," he mumbled, dragging the sled to the edge of the slope, impatiently gesturing for Lucy to get on.
Lucy was all smiles now. "Can you dance anything else besides the waltz?" she asked, settling herself into position. She hoped the ride would be fast, sitting on a block of ice was a tad bit uncomfortable.
"Err, a little swing and salsa. And I've got some mean b-boy skills," he grinned sheepishly, getting on behind her. He was just about to push off, then he remembered, his eyes narrowing once more as he pulled at her scarf until she was leaning into him. "If you repeat any of this," he said in a low voice, very close to her ear, "I'm going to have to kill you."
Lucy smiled, an innocent smile, as she turned her head to her shoulder. "Don't worry," she said, reaching backwards to pat his cheek, "We can work something out over breakfast, ready to go?"
"Oh ho, quite bold, Luce," said Natsu, his hand framing his chin, "Resorting to blackmail now, are we?"
Lucy only shrugged. "Well, what can I do? Apparently, I'm down five thousand jewels," she replied.
Natsu grumbled something then wrapped an arm around her waist, anchoring the other deep into the snow. With a quick shove, he pushed the sled over the edge and they were off, sledding down the slope to the village.
The wind whipped through her hair and the chilly air stung her cheeks but she didn't care. Leaning into Natsu was rather comfortable. His grip was firm and he radiated enough heat to warm her up but not melt their transportation.
Just as they were almost to their destination, Natsu moved his head until his chin was resting lightly on her shoulder. "So, I was thinking. Maybe if I forget a little service charge, you can forget a little thing about, I don't know, dancing?"
"Hmm," said Lucy, as the sled skidded to a stop outside the village border, "I guess I could. It does make for some juicy table conversation."
He glared at her, jumping off the sled and slowly slicing his pointer finger across his neck.
"I was only kidding!" She burst out laughing but immediately stopped because the villagers were approaching. And they were rolling something round and blue.
"...What is that?" she asked.
"I dunno. A large blueberry," replied Natsu, shoving his hands in his pockets.
"Hello there!" greeted the village elder, an old man with a long beard and a bright green cap. "I'm glad you're alright, we thought you two had been buried in the storm!"
"We were able to find a cave for shelter," explained Lucy, still eyeing the ball warily. It looked a bit familiar...
"Oh that's good! But you'll be happy to know that the path you two made was completely spared!"
"Really?" asked Natsu, in disbelief. "But that snow storm was pretty bad..."
"It was sheltered by all these fallen pine trees! The trees made a giant fence, shielding our lovely path. You mages from Fairytail sure do some nice work!" said the elder, very pleased.
But not as pleased as Natsu was. At the elder's comments, he immediately turned to Lucy, and it was very clear that his expression meant "Ah Ha! I told you so, I'm so freaking awesome." To which, she rolled her eyes.
"But on another note," said the elder, gesturing for his men to roll the blue ball to the front, "I think this is yours."
As the ball rolled, Lucy spotted a tiny pair of wings attached to its back. "Oh God..that can't be," she whispered to Natsu.
"No way. It can't be," he whispered back, "Happy's way too smart to--"
"Hey guys!" said the ball, once it's face was rolled upwards, out of the snow.
"...Happy, what happened to you?" Natsu asked, tentatively. Happy had ballooned from his normal cat-self to the diameter of a large basketball.
"Aye...the village speciality is flying fish soaked in miso and grilled till its crispy on a hibachi."
"...Your...favorite," said Lucy. 'How much did that crazy cat eat?! ' she thought.
"Well, he took shelter in the shed housing our cooling vats. He ate through a quarter of our entire stock before he passed out," described the elder. "And that brings us to your reward money...I'm afraid that the cost of the fish was equal to the money we owe you. And of that which the young lady was promised as well."
"Wait, so you're saying," garbled Natsu, his jaw dropping.
"I'll have no money for rent," Lucy gasped, mortified.
"Yes, in a manner of speaking," smiled the elder. "But we do hope you enjoyed your time in our village! And the path you built was lovely!"
Natsu absentmindedly rolled his friend as the trio made their way to the train station. He wasn't entirely upset, Happy, his best friend, had happily survived the storm, even if it had cost them their salary. And he had ended up with a night with Lucy. Not bad, not bad.
But Lucy was a different story.
"What. Am I going to do. About my rent?!" She was livid. Who cared if screeching was undignified? She had been counting on that job to pay for her apartment.
"There's always that call girl listing," said Happy.
"Not helping, not helping," Natsu warned under his breath as Lucy glared fiery daggers in their direction and stomped off, the dragon-scaled scarf flapping in the wind.
Natsu sighed. Lucy was angrily storming up the path to the post office, not the train station. Looks like he'd have to go get her. "Wait here," he told Happy, balancing the bloated cat in a pothole on the side of the road as he ran off after her.
He was surprised at how far she'd managed to get, he had to sprint to catch up to her. And there she was, standing under a snow-laden pine bough, her face all scrunched up in frustration.
"You know," he panted, "...You move pretty fast."
"What am I going to do?" Lucy wailed, "I'm going to lose my apartment!"
"No, you're not. When we get back, we'll take another job."
"What if we don't?" she exclaimed, "Then I'm going to have to move out. No, I'm going to have to take that callgirl job and there is no freaking way--"
She was cutoff as Natsu abruptly stepped forward, wrapping his arms around her. He pulled back, but kept his hands firmly on her shoulders. "There. Better now?"
Lucy glared at him but her cheeks flushed. "No," she said indignantly, "It still doesn't solve the problem of--"
But she was cut off once again as he leaned forward, kissing her. "How about now?"
Lucy was, to plainly put it, breathless. All her pent up emotions had evaporated away and she felt surprisingly calm, staring up at those gold-flecked eyes. But then she had an idea.
"Actually, no," she said, "I don't feel any better."
Natsu blinked. If it had stung, he hid it well. "Oh. Sor--"
"Perhaps if you tried again, it'll work better this time?" She suggested.
And so he did, embracing her as the frayed fringes of her borrowed scarf tickled his chin. "How 'bout this time?" he asked, "Success?"
"Yeah, I think so," said Lucy, not caring about the snow and ice, her red cheeks, or that darn rent. And perhaps everything was...not so bad. Of course, she and Natsu would have to do another job--quick. As soon as they got back, she was definitely going to request a mountain mission...one with a high probability of getting snowed in.
A/N: Yay! Complete! I'm rather proud of myself that I ended on chapter #7. How lucky, how lucky. ^^ AND, this was my longest chapter, to date! hurray!
To all of you who liked my story enough to review, this was for you.