"Hey, baby, wanna go for a ride?"
He tousled his spiky pink hair back with a casual hand, cockiness abound. How could she turn him down?
She eyed him cautiously with a raised brow. "Are you serious? You wanna take me for a spin?" Her boots clicked together as she made her way toward him, step by step.
"Absolutely. " His impish grin grew wider as she approached until she was inches from his face.
"You've got some nerve, Dragion."
"Agh-ahh, Lucy, wait!"
Too late. His left ear was caught in her vice like fingers and he found himself being dragged out of his beloved car.
"No, no, you know how I get outside!"
"Exactly. I can't stand your macho ego when you're in this box of metal. You've got something to say to me, say it honestly."
"Ow-owww-oww. Ahhhhh!" Immediately, Natsu's suave demeanor melted. He was on his knees, hands clutched together, pleading the leather-clad Lucy to please, be merciful and release his tender ear lobe. Tears streamed down his boyish face.
"That's better." Lucy finally freed the boy who quickly scrambled about ten feet away from her while massaging the whole left side of his face.
"Dammit, Ashley…" He muttered under his breath before immediately regretting his decision. She pounced on him like a tiger and Natsu found himself pinned to the ground, her knee on his chest.
"What are you last namin' me for, huh?" She came so dangerously close that her blonde side ponytail grazed his nose.
Needless to say the two sprang apart; one partly covered in snot and saliva, the other, praying for peace in the last seconds of life.
"I'm so-so-sorry, Lucy! I just- it was an acc-, I-I…"
Hold everything. She cracked a smile. Perhaps he had hope left.
"Urrrghh…what do you want, Natsu?" Lucy chuckled as she pulled her skull hair tie loose so that the blonde strands cascaded around her shoulders. She wiped the snot out of her hair rather dismissively.
Despite being out of his comfort zone and possibly inches away from a pummeling, he couldn't help but notice how rather non-evil Lucy looked when she wasn't threatening his life. She looked kinda, sorta almost prett-
"Hello? Don't leave me hangin', punk. Seriously, what's your deal today?"
What had been his deal today? Natsu thought as he cautiously searched for the right words to say. It was a normal day in Edolas after all. He'd spent the morning racing around the deserted streets, then happened upon Lucy walking alone in the middle of the path.
Ah, right. That's why he pulled up.
"You seemed lonely." The words were out before he could stop it. Well, she could take it or leave it. Honesty was what she wanted after all.
A strong breeze blew through the empty highway, kicking up a dusting along the road. Natsu was used to the debris so he paid it no mind, but he was surprised to see Lucy just as unaffected. They didn't call her a badass for nothing of course, but if he could read things right, it was because the girl seemed distracted.
"Aren't you a perceptive one, my dear Natsu." And there it was, the noogie.
"Owowowowowowow!" She was quickly hunched behind him, knuckles grinding into his temples playfully. This was the norm. As moderately painful as it was to be subjected to the daily torture, Natsu came to expect it rather affectionately. At the end of the day, they were still friends after all.
That's why friends don't let friends stay sad.
"Really, Lucy." He reached one hand out to cover hers. "What's going on?"
He suddenly felt her kneel behind him, bending low so that her chin rested atop his head. Her arms fell limply in front of his chest.
"Fiiiiiiine. Fine, Natsu. If you insist," Lucy let out an exasperated sigh. "I'm just thinking about the other worlds out there."
"Other worlds? You mean –"
"Yeah, all the infinite possibilities out there. You remember your other self? That crazy fire guy? So unlike you."
"S-sure…I remember your other self too…Super nice…" Natsu quickly recovered as he felt Lucy tightened, "But not as cool as you."
"Smooth save. But yeah, I guess I just wonder if I'm happier in another world. Another dimension, another life...Did I get stuck in a bad lot?"
Lucy suddenly stood up and walked out toward the edge of the road, eyeing the seemingly endless expanse of the path, winding and curving until it disappeared from sight. "You know, I'm the same Lucy in every world- down to the core. I have so much potential, don't I?"
Natsu didn't know what to make of all this talk. Pretty heavy stuff for the usual brash, knock-you-around girl he usually hid from.
"Am I all that I can be?"
The question hung in the air, unanswered; both parties suddenly far from one another as if on different planets. Her thoughts and his took their own paths as each grappled with the age-old question of self-worth.
Time passed unnoticed until at last, he stood up and walked next to her. He dusted his racing jacket and adjusted the goggles atop his head.
"I don't know much about what people can and can't do, but what I do know is that I'm damn happy that you're here."
Lucy started at Natsu's strange tone and as she looked over, she felt his arm lace through hers.
"Right here, right now. Exactly as you are."
How he could have the courage to say such words, he didn't know. Nor did he understand how his body acted as he boldly led her back to the car.
Perhaps it was just that—honesty.
Within the comfort of his car or not, he felt confident that he was happy to see her smile shyly, blinking back the tears while lobbing a painful punch to his shoulder. The bruise will certainly come tomorrow.
But for that evening, he was going to drive his friend through the wild road, wind roaring through their ears, the hills a blur as they raced through the valley. Happy to be together, electric alive, and feel the Edolas earth rumble beneath them.
He would also catch a glimpse of her brown eyes sparkle with a familiar joy that he recognized and was relieved to see restored.
A/N: Hello, my friends! It's only been a little over five years. So sorry. More of a sob story on my profile page, but I'll spare you the details here. In any case, thank you, thank you for reading as always. I'm so glad to be back! Feel free to drop me a line through PM or on Twitter at Fivercon