AN: Yay, this chapter is short enough for LJ again. And quite surprisingly, it's also a bit sad. At least, I think so. It's always hard for me to be reminded that Natsu and Lucy share this kind of pain, which is definitely a good reason why they have that amazing understanding for each other, but it's also the one huge very depressing reason.
But hey, that's what they have each other for, and that is what this story is for. In this one, there's a huge step forward in their relationship, one that makes it so much more serious than it was before.
Disclaimer: Not mine. Because I'm certainly not Hiro Mashima, as you might've noticed.
About the Simple Things
Chapter 5: The Thing with the Three Words
- In which there's a note and a tough day -
Oddly enough, that morning, Lucy didn't wake up in Natsu's arms; which was weird since they had spent the night together at Natsu's place. Instead, she woke up with Happy in her arms.
Lucy blinked at the little blue feline that was still sleeping soundly. And suddenly, she felt the strangest feeling soar up inside of her. It felt weird, very weird to not wake up next to Natsu. She had gotten so used to that simple little detail, his sleeping face right before hers, every morning when she opened her eyes, that now that he wasn't there, waking up felt really empty and depressive.
Careful not to wake Happy, she slowly drew her arm out from beneath his head, straightening up and thanking the heavens that she was wearing something. She didn't even want to imagine Happy crawling in their bed while she was laying there naked; it had happened once and it most definitely scarred her for the rest of her life. Then, Lucy glanced at the bedroom door, opened by a few inches. Peaceful silence was around her, disrupted only by a bit chirping from some birds outside.
Something told her Natsu might not be home.
Which was ridiculous, since she was still here. And Natsu would definitely not go anywhere and just leave her there. He'd know how insanely worried she'd be, because he was very well aware that he wasn't the only one fearing the loss of another loved one – Lucy had thrown a very hysterical fit when Natsu had gone on a quick mission with Gray the other day and accidentally forgot to tell her. She shuddered at the memory. She knew it was stupid to get so emotional over a mere five-hour-absence, but he was her boyfriend and she loved him.
Biting her lower lip, she brought her feet to the ground, feeling anxious for some reason.
Yes, she did love him. She might have not explicitly told Natsu yet, but she really did. So of course she would be scared that he might just disappear one day. Igneel did it. And didn't it say, like father, like son?
How could she ever be a hundred percent sure that Natsu wouldn't just leave her one day, without saying anything, just like his foster father did to him?
Now you're being stupid, Lucy you idiot, she mentally scolded herself, because that just didn't sound like her Natsu at all. Shaking her head, she softly slammed her hands against her cheeks to think clear. She told herself to stop being so unreasonable. Her little panic attack here was just plain crazy.
Alright, so it was morning and she didn't wake up next to him. Big deal. He was definitely in the shower, or in the kitchen eating a sandwich.
Just be sane, Lucy, damn it.
Breathing deeply in and out, she finally stood up, tiptoeing her way to the door. When she was sure she was far enough away from the bedroom so she wouldn't wake Happy, she felt the need to speak up, desperately trying to hide the concern in her voice.
"Natsu…?" she murmured quietly.
Everything was quiet, except for those damn birds and Happy's soft snores. Lucy knitted up her brows. Seriously, where was that guy?
So this time she called a bit louder, "Natsu!"
Still nothing. Those god damn birds were really getting on her nerves right now.
She began to chew on the inside of her lower lip in an attempt to get rid of her anxiety and calm herself, proceeding to look for her stupid boyfriend. She checked the kitchen, nothing, the bathroom, nope, the living room again, no Natsu there.
He actually wasn't home.
Maybe he'd gone out to buy bread or something. Maybe she should just go back to bed and… Hey.
Lucy frowned when she spotted a small piece of paper on the table. Taking a deep breath, she slowly, almost heedfully, walked over to carefully pick it up like it was precious ancient vase or something. And most certainly, there was really terrible scrawl on it that could only be Natsu's handwriting.
I'll be back in the evening. – Natsu
Sudden relief washed over her. Lucy gave a small sigh, smiling for the first time that day. Of course she was a little suspicious of that vague note and that he didn't tell her where he went or what he was doing, but at least he did leave a note this time. Meaning he'll definitely be back.
Really, there had been no reason for her to panic, even if there still was a certain feeling of anxiety deep down in her stomach…
Lucy startled a bit, whirling around to see Happy scuffling from the bedroom, rubbing his big saucer eyes. She quickly offered him a smile as cheerful as possible to not needlessly alarm him.
Happy sighed, and it sounded very relieved. "Good, at least you're here with me this year. I'd hate to be alone on this day again."
"What?" The summoner arched her brows, looking very confused. "You already know that Natsu's not gonna be here today?"
"Of course I know," Happy said as if it was the most obvious thing in the world. "It's that day."
Lucy blinked in bewilderment. "What day?"
Happy stared at her for a while, until a realization occurred to him and he nodded. "Oh aye, that's right. It's the first time it happened since you knew him." Then he frowned, adding, "But I'm totally surprised that you can be so dense at times. Lucy, you're not very bright, are you?"
"I really don't need to hear that from a feline!" she snapped, cheeks red in offence.
"Don't you know what date it is?" Happy inquired, sighing.
Lucy just quirked a brow in anticipation, visibly stumped for an answer. The blue cat looked at the ground, almost sadly, his shoulders sagging down a bit.
"It's the seventh of July."
And just like that, her eyes widened for two reasons that both hurt infinitely.
"I see." Lucy's voice was unusually quiet as she held her mug of steaming coffee tightly with both hands, leaning against Natsu's counter. "So every seventh of July, he goes to the place Igneel disappeared."
Happy nodded miserably, giving a small sigh. "Yeah, and he always goes alone, says he doesn't want anyone else there, not even me. He hopes that Igneel might come back."
"That's so naive."
Happy's head shot up, looking confused and maybe shocked even. But his eyes soon softened when they caught sight of Lucy's heart-wrenching smile as she gazed at her coffee.
Then, she gave a soft but hollow laugh. "And so like him."
Happy lowered his gaze. "Aye," he mumbled quietly.
Lucy couldn't really describe what she was feeling at the moment. She was overwhelmed by so many different emotions. There was guilt for thinking he would leave her when obviously he'd never do that to anyone else, knowing best how much it hurt. There was sympathy, because she knew how it felt, losing a parent. There was anger because he didn't say anything, because she had to hear about it from Happy and not him.
But most of all, there was disappointment. That Natsu shut her out, that he didn't trust her enough to rely on her when he needed her the most. He wouldn't let her be there for him, comfort him, be his shoulder to cry on, and that… That really hurt the most.
It hurt just as badly as this day did.
The blonde looked up at the soft sound of Happy's voice, eyes widening when she heard him give a quiet sob.
"Don't ever leave Natsu, okay?"
Lucy was speechless at first, and somehow, she wanted to cry. Instead, she gave a deep sigh, moving to gently pat Happy's head, making him look up at her with his teary eyes. She smiled warmly at him, shaking her head slightly.
"To actually ask that," she said to him. "It's like you're insulting me."
Happy sniffled, and soon was crying loudly, his small shoulders were trembling violently with each sob that escaped him. Lucy continued to fondle his head, affectionately and comforting, while she looked outside the window, thinking about Natsu and wondering if he was okay. Actually, all she ever thought about was Natsu and if he was alright.
What a joke. Like she could ever leave him. Happy really wasn't very bright either.
"You're so silly. You both are," she whispered faintly.
Now Lucy was getting worried.
She tried not to let it show too much, to not trouble Happy any further, since the poor cat wasn't doing so well either. The blonde nervously walked up and down the living room, biting on her lower lip and playing with her fingers; so much for trying to not let it show. She just couldn't help it – it was late, Natsu was not back yet and she was insanely worried.
"I'll be back in the evening, he said. My ass," she mumbled with something between concern and anger. "It's past midnight and there's still no Natsu far and wide."
Happy gave a soft moan that made her pause, wondering why he had been so quiet over the past few minutes. She couldn't help a sigh and a smile when she turned her head around to find out the reason behind his reticence – there he sat, that little blue feline, trying so hard to stay awake though his eyes kept falling shut.
Smiling warmly, she walked over to him, gently nudging his arm with her fingers. "Hey, go to bed, stupid. You're practically sleeping anyway."
Jerking awake from his little dozing, he flinched a bit, quickly shaking his head. "No way!" he insisted stubbornly. "I'm waiting 'till Natsu comes home."
"Look at me, would you," Lucy sighed, pointing at her head, and Happy blinked at her. "This is the face of one hell of a worried girlfriend. I'll never be able to sleep for even one second if he isn't home. You can bet your ass that I'll wait right here until he opens that damn door."
Happy knitted up his brows, indignantly glancing up at her. "You have to promise to wake me when he gets back."
"Pinky swear," she grinned at him, holding her smallest finger out to him. Happy nodded his okay and grabbed her pinky with his whole paw, seeing as he had no pinky, and then jumped off of his spot on the couch.
"Don't fall asleep on the floor or something."
Lucy grimaced. "Who'd do that?"
The little cat stopped at the doorframe of the bedroom, standing with his back to her as he spoke, "It's… it's really nice to have Lucy here. If I were alone this year again, I'd be twice as worried." His voice was quaking a little. "Y-you know, it was never this late."
She felt her heart twitch very painfully upon hearing that, but she tried not to let it affect her too much. Just because it took Natsu a little longer this time to get home didn't mean that necessarily something happened. It didn't mean that he wasn't going to come back. She had to believe in this, she just had to.
Smiling faintly, she softly told him, "Come on, don't make that face. Natsu will be here any minute now. Definitely."
"How do you know that?"
Lucy's smile faded, replaced by a baffled frown. "… Huh?"
"How do you know that?" Happy repeated, still facing away. "How do you know Igneel didn't come back this time and took Natsu with him?"
"Because Natsu wouldn't go."
Happy slowly turned around, brows knitting up and sniffling. Lucy smiled at him, very reassuringly and encouraging and it immediately relieved him a little. It even made him believe her.
"He'd never, ever," Lucy said, almost forcefully, "Just disappear and leave us behind. Ever. That's just not the kind of person he is. And you know that."
Suddenly, she was grinning a bit foolishly.
"So don't ever say that kind of thing again," she warned half-heartedly.
And Happy just smiled. "So you've been scared of that too, huh?" And without giving the stunned girl a chance to reply, he vanished inside the bedroom.
Lucy allowed herself a strained sigh when he was gone, sliding down alongside the wall behind her to a sitting position and letting her head fall on her arms. From somewhere nearby she heard a clock ticking, louder than she could bear.
Come home, Natsu.
She looked up at the clock. Twenty past midnight. Never had time gone by so slowly.
When the lock on the front door started rattling at three in the morning, Lucy was still sitting on her spot beside the door against the wall, not daring to move or to breathe. And then, the door was opened and Natsu came inside the pitch-black living room, and she felt like crying, from anger, relief, disappointment and sympathy, hit him, scold him, yet she did neither.
Instead, she just sat there, silently, and simply gazing up at him, watching him run a hand through his hair and closing the door behind him. Waiting to be noticed. Gasping soundlessly when she heard him sniff and saw him rub over his eyes, instantly knowing he had been crying.
That idiot. That stupid, silly idiot.
And suddenly, he turned around to her, more by mere coincidence than anything else. Somehow, it surprised her that he wasn't alarmed or startled at seeing a figure sitting in the dark by the door; instead he stared at her for a long time, wordlessly, until he turned away.
"What are you still doing up, Luce?" he mumbled hoarsely, trying to hide the dampness on his cheeks.
She kept quiet, watching him fidget a little in embarrassment.
He gave a hollow chuckle, scratching the back of his head, still looking away. "I mean, sorry I got home so late. Didn't mean to make you worry. I had some things to do…"
Lucy just looked at him with something between sadness and incomprehension, and then she slowly, very weakly straightened up to walk the few steps separating her from him. She took a moment, some heartbeats long, to stand there right before him, then gently reached for his hand, while her other one touched his face to make him look at her.
Natsu immediately squirmed beneath her touch. "No, Lucy, not right now, please-"
"I'm not going anywhere."
His eyes widened when he whirled around to her at last, staring at her in a mixture of confusion and total surprise. Lucy looked awfully determined and serious, a sight that he always found incredibly fascinating.
Arching a brow, he faintly laughed once more, "What the hell? That's so random-"
Lucy narrowed her eyes, but not for a scowl or a glare; it looked sad somehow. "I'll always be right here with you," she told him sincerely. "I will always, always, always be here. I will never ever go away, Natsu."
Slowly beginning to understand, Natsu closed his eyes for a sigh, lowering his head a bit. "Why are you telling me this?" he mumbled.
"Because I don't think you know." She placed her hands on his chest, leaning her forehead against the spot where his heart was. "I don't think you know that I could never leave you. And I don't think you know that I'm here for you, always. Always, Natsu. For anything and everything."
Lucy looked up at him, her hands wandering from his chest to his face, touching his cheeks and feeling the faint moisture still there. He was desperately trying to look away as her fingers softly grazed up and down his face.
"Look at me, damn it," she ordered quietly.
Funny enough, he did. Maybe because he couldn't ever deny her anything.
She gave a sad smile. "There's not only you anymore, you idiot. There's an us now. You shouldn't be out there doing your own thing," she told him softly. "No crying all by yourself. We're in this together now. S-so…"
Natsu squeezed his eyes shut with guilt when her trembling voice died off and she gave a heartbreaking sob that had all his insides clench until it mentally hurt. When he opened his eyes again, there were tears falling down her cheeks, slowly, but very painfully.
"So, w-why?" she sobbed, her hands trembling as they sank down to rest on his chest again. "W-why won't you talk to me? Why won't you let me be there for you? Don't you think I'm scared, too? Don't you think I lost someone one the same day seven years ago, too?"
She weakly punched against his chest.
"Damn you, Natsu. We should be crying together on this damn day!"
And suddenly, Natsu was completely calm, sighing softly and wrapping his arms around her lithe frame. Lucy sniffled against his chest, knitting her brows almost indignantly as he brought her closer, held her tighter, like he was afraid she would vanish into thin air any minute now. And then he said something for the first time that she would have never thought to hear him say after all this, after a day such as this one, in a moment like this.
"I love you."
Lucy felt her eyes widen at his unexpected confession, slowly moving her head to look blankly up at him. "… W-what?" she whispered faintly.
She was sure Natsu had never looked so serious about something. "Even more than about Igneel, I thought about you today. And how it felt so damn wrong being there without having you with me." His voice was causing shivers to run down her spine. "The whole time, all I could ever think about was how much better I'd feel with you just sitting there next to me, holding your hand and knowing you're here, and…"
His voice trailed off as he hugged her even closer, burying his head between her neck and shoulder, and breathing her scent in deeply – lilies and something fruity.
"I - I just love you." Lucy once again felt her entire body become covered by goose bumps, caused by his low whisper and his words. "I'd be going insane if it wasn't for you. I'd be lonely and a mess, and… and I love you."
Lucy felt her lips curl upward to a smile as his lips trailed kisses over her cheek, wondering how just a simple thing like this could make everything terrible completely fade away. And when Natsu finally smiled himself, she thought that maybe one day, if they were together, the seventh of July wouldn't hurt as badly anymore.
"I love you more," she said softly.
And then, Natsu truly grinned. "That's not possible."