Fireplaces and Coincidences

The first day in the Heartfilia mansion was the longest. In fact, it was nearly brutal. Lucy spent most of that morning lying listlessly in her bed, her mind strangely blank as she stared up at the ceiling, only getting up to barely eat a supervised, lonely breakfast in the Heartfilia's empty dining room. She nearly laughed at the bitter nostalgia when the servants swept away her half-eaten bowl of cereal and led her back to her bedroom, as though she were just a mindless child.

All that her father seemed to trust her with was a pencil and a stack of blank paper that had been left in her chest of drawers from when she had first run away from home. But that was good enough to pass the time, so she spun stories of her most recent adventures with her teammates, wrote letters to her mother, and even put together some sketches of her friends at Fairy Tail.

"I wonder what you guys are doing…" Lucy said aloud as she shaded in a pair of pupils that belonged to Natsu. Since meeting the fire mage, she had always been under the impression that his eyes were coal-black, but during a potentially embarrassing moment at her welcome-back party, she had noticed that they were in fact the darkest of browns. "What am I doing is the better question…" Really, what did she think she could accomplish, jumping right into such a trap? Obviously she couldn't get married, but she couldn't just retreat from the estate either, her father would expect that, and she was positive he had a plan if she tried to make an escape. "There has to be some way out of this…" She muttered, resting her head on her paper-strewn desk.

A maid showed up at Lucy's door around noon, using a key to open it a crack and stick her head inside to ask if she could be of service. The blonde asked for the fire-place to be lit, complaining of a chill, and the servant was quick to kindle a flame in the hearth and take her leave, bowing politely before barring the door behind her. The girl stood up and began to pace the perimeter of her room, her pencil poised between two fingers as she tapped the rubber-end against her chin in a thoughtful manner.

She paused in front of the fire when something struck her, something deep inside that hissed in her head, announcing its presence. Her dark eyes widened as she brought her hands up to her ears, knowing if she looked around, there would be no one there to claim the voice as theirs.

"Maybe you just don't ever go far enough…?" The dark entity whispered to her. "Maybe it's time you really did something. Something irreversible, something that will never be forgotten by him or anyone else associated with the Heartfilia Company…"

Lucy shakily grabbed some paper from her table so she could sit by the comforting fire that reminded her of Natsu's warmth, trying to ignore the strangely enticing voice, but stumbled slightly in the dimly lit room, feeling a single sheet slide from her fingers. The girl watched as it instantly caught fire once landing in the midst of her hearth, the edges turning to a crispy brown that curled inwards and proceeded to break up into tiny bits. She looked on, her expression calm and calculative, even after the blank page had been completely eaten away, the blaze continuing to reflect brightly in her eyes that sparked with the crackling glow before her.

"Do it…" The voice continued in an alluring tone. "The problems…the threats…all of your ties to him and this house could be cut away…You could go home…to your real family…"

"But it's wrong…" Lucy heard herself argue aloud. "I shouldn't…"

"But you can," The voice replied. "And you know it…"

Lucy watched the last of the fire die in its grate hours later; just as the sun was finally setting outside her window. She sat motionless on the edge of her bed, detached thoughts endlessly swimming about in her mind. She was well aware that she could not turn astray from the perilous path she now walked. Her father had made his choice, and now she had made hers, but in reality, both decisions made her sick to her stomach, and her heart ached for a peace that would not come. It was pointless to think that Judo would change his mind if she asked. In the end, she could always leave, but he would always bring her back, and he always got what he wanted. If this went on much longer, her Fairy Tail would be at serious risk because of her.

She became aware of how cold she felt then, how deep the feeling of ice reached into her body, swallowing her heart whole. The consequences of this plot was a heavy price to pay, however, she still knew it must be done. She had known the moment she had set foot in Judo's office, when he faced her with that familiar cold stare she now hated more than ever before in her life.

She would be the one to end all of this. End the Heartfilia Company. End him.

"Lady Heartfilia."

The blonde's eyes fluttered open, and she pushed herself up from where she had passed out still fully-clothed on top of her duvet. She squinted at the maid that had shaken her awake and was now bustling about, broom and dustpan in hand. The unfamiliar woman turned briefly in Lucy's direction, but was careful to avoid direct eye-contact as she pointed toward the bathroom that connected through a neighbouring door, simply saying, "The bath has been prepared, so please go ahead and use it." Lucy did so without complaint, although she was curious as to what the rush was about all of a sudden.

While the weary celestial mage shrugged out of her clothes, and eased her body into the tub, she tried to remember when she had fallen asleep, recounting every thought that had entered her mind the night before, the voice that had whispered to her softly, almost kindly, in her ear, and the promise she had made to herself and the fiery flames in her hearth. She emitted a heavy sigh as her muscles relaxed in the steaming water, sinking down until only the top half of her head was visible. Her curiosity resulted in a very short time spent soaking, and within twenty minutes she was toweling off and brushing out her dripping wet hair in front of the bathroom mirror. She reentered her bedroom, finding that two maids waited for her, their expressions vacant as one ushered her forward so they could dress the heiress. That was where she drew the line, so Lucy told the women, in the politest of tones, that she could get ready without their assistance. They took their leave, albeit a bit hesitantly at first, but were respectful enough with their lady's request.

Once left to herself, Lucy look over at the clothes that had been selected for her to wear that day. Black lace had been embroidered into elegant patterns over a dusty pink formal dress laid across her bedspread, along with an intricately designed silver bracelet, and a hair net that felt as though it were made of silk. A pair of dainty flats that bore tiny gems on the toes had been placed neatly on the floor near her door.

"Fine...I'll play your game for now," Lucy thought as she pulled on the gown and trinkets, gathered her hair up on the top of her her head, and eventually slipped into the shoes that crammed her toes tight together. "But it will not be forever."

She was not guided to her father's office like she assumed she would be, but was taken to the dining hall, where a lavish breakfast was being set on the table that stretched nearly the full length of the room itself. Her father was seated at the head, and did not acknowledge her presence until she was seated on his right and was being served a glass of water.

"Today you will be meeting your future marital partner. His name is Masamune. Kaito Masamune. " Judo spoke, not bothering to make eye-contact with his daughter, who looked anywhere but at the older man. "You are to be silent unless spoken to, and should you have the idea to be sarcastic or crude, remember that anything you say could cost one of your friends their lives." Lucy bit her tongue, afraid that if she opened her mouth, her anger would win over her better senses and she would say something she would immediately regret, so they waited in silence for the butler to announce their guest's arrival. Fortunately, they did not have to wait long, and the man that would be Lucy's fiance soon followed the elderly employee into the dining room, where both Judo and the blonde girl rose to their feet to greet him.

Once the young man had raised his head from a low, respectful bow, Lucy felt her stomach flip and her breath catch in her throat. The name had sounded familiar to her when her father had spoken it, but she never would have thought...

"You!" Lucy spoke before she could stop herself. "I know you-!"

"Lady Heartfilia," The man called Kaito smiled, and approached, taking her hand to brush his lips briefly against her knuckles. "Truly, an honour to see you again."

"Again?" Her father barely managed to mask the obvious surprise in his voice. "You two have met before then?"

"On my last mission..." Lucy explained vaguely, hoping he wouldn't ask for a detailed explanation. "Kai-I mean, I had the pleasure of meeting this gentleman in Balsam." She remembered him well from their first encounter. He was the only one she had danced with that night (besides Natsu, but that had been more of a lesson than a waltz), and before she had taken her leave, they shared a few words of farewell, and he was sure to send her off with a wish of luck and a strange warning.

"She showed me quite a good time." Kaito added, his startling green eyes switching from the Heartfilia company's head over to Lucy. "Your daughter is quite a talented dancer."

"Er-yes..." Judo coughed, all serious business in his posture and somber expression. "Well, I suppose introductions aren't in order then. Please sit, sir, we have much to discuss. Help yourself to some tea or breakfast. Have you eaten?"

"I have actually," As he sat across from Lucy and to the left of her father, something in the arch of the young man's mouth resembled more of a smirk than a genuine smile. "but thank you for the offer."

Lucy didn't pay very close attention to the conversation that followed. From what she gathered, before she completely tuned out the discussion, this meeting had to do with the details concerning the marriage that would take place in five days. Occasionally, Kaito would ask her opinion on a trivial subject, such as the colour of the flowers or tablecloths, and she would feign interest and agree with whatever they thought would be best. The guest list consisted of nearly five hundred, all important contributors and benefactors to the Heartfilia Corporation. As her father droned on about seating arrangements, Lucy thought of her family, the guild that she missed more than she could bear, and this all-too coincidental meeting with Kaito Masamune.

"Is that all?" The young man asked two hours later, just as Lucy was beginning to feel quite fidgety in her hard-backed chair. Judo filed through a few more papers, reaching for his glass that had been filled with a deep, burgundy shade of wine, setting aside the pages and nodding wordlessly. "In that case, would it be alright with you if I asked your daughter to show me around your grounds?"

"Well, I don't see why not!" He spoke lightly, although it was quite clear to Lucy that the idea did not please him. "Don't wander too far though, it will not do if you both are caught in the rain and catch cold before your big day!"

"Of course." Without a moment's hesitation, Kaito leapt up from his seat and pulled the blonde easily off of her own by the wrist. She went without complaint, more than glad to be on her feet again. "We'll be back within the hour, you have my word."

Once outside and away from the unpleasant company of her father, Lucy shook herself from Kaito's grip, and crossed her arms over her chest, her expression that of reluctant gratitude, which quickly changed to suspicion when he burst into a fit of laughter.

"What's so funny?" She asked.

"You, of course!" He snickered, placing the palm of his hand across his forehead. "You should have seen your face when I walked in the door!"

"E-Excuse me?" Lucy stared at him, her mouth agape. "And whose fault is it that I was so surprised? You knew back then in Balsam exactly who I was, and you never even bothered to tell me anything about what my father had planned!"

"I wanted to see what would happen." Kaito shrugged as he tagged along half a step behind her and entered the rose garden that had been growing since she was a toddler. "And it was worth it. I honestly didn't think I could have controlled myself for much longer in that stuffy room with that stuffy old fool."

Lucy forced herself to keep a stoic face and her glare intact, though the temptation to laugh was difficult to resist. She cleared her throat, muttering, "You don't act like the others...", earning a strange look from her fiance.

"The others?" He prompted. "Ah, you mean other wealthy heirs to land, stock and money?" Lucy nodded in reply. "How many men has your father pushed you on in your life before you ran away to become a guild-mage? I must say, I've already been betrothed to a number of young ladies, but not I nor any of them ever thought of doing what you did."

"Are you saying I should have just let my father use me until the day he died?" Lucy snapped at him. "That I should have stayed in my cage, being told what to wear, how to act and who to marry?"

"Not at all, in fact, I'm impressed, envious even. But, I must ask you, if you are so against being here, why did you come back?"

Lucy realized they had come to a stand-still right outside one of the gardener's sheds, where all the tools were kept for trimming the hedges, harvesting the grapes in the vineyard, and planting flowers during the different seasons. She gave him a studious look, noticing that he must have been at least six feet tall, before asking, "Why do you care?"

"Curiosity." He answered bluntly. "I wanted to know my future wife before I married her, is that so wrong?"

"I'm not here to marry you, sir!" Lucy said before she could stop herself.

"You're not?" He was now smirking. "Well your father is in for a surprise." Lucy did not bother with a retort, she had already given away too much. "So what? Did he threaten you then?"

"None of your business."

"I'll take that as a yes. So what do you have planned to win this daddy-daughter war?"

"Look, I just said-!"

Kaito cut her off, turning her face towards him. "Would you answer my questions if I said I would help you?"

Lucy shut her mouth. She hadn't expected to gain an ally in this situation, much less from the man who she was being engaged to. It was unexpected, but not unwelcome. "How and why would you help me?" She tried to sound as aloof as possible.

"In any way that I can, of course. As long as I'm not liable for any blame from your or my father. Between us, I'm not ready to be married just yet."

"You mean you don't want to have responsibilities just yet." Lucy mumbled under her breath, though he heard her anyway.

"As a matter of fact, that's exactly it. I love my life exactly the way it is right now. And if you have a plan, I suggest laying it on me. That way, we can both end this chapter of our lives on a happy note."

She couldn't think of any reason not to believe his words, but she was still hesitant in confiding absolutely everything regarding her plot against her father, so she kept most of the important points to herself, only telling him that if he earnestly wanted to help her, he would follow any instructions she gave him in the future. He wasn't very satisfied with this, but didn't goad her further on the subject. Lucy continued to guide him along on the tour of her former home, answering any question regarding the property and its history until fat droplets of rain began to fall, signaling that it was time to head back.

"Listen," Kaito latched onto her wrist once they had reached the closest entrance to the manor, a small discreet door the servants used for easy passage from the gardens to the kitchens. "I know I may not sound as though I mean ity, but I am on your side, Lucy."

Taken slightly aback by the informal address, Lucy finally cracked a smile as she replied, "I'm glad for that. Really, thank you. I'm happy I can finally trust someone around here. It's so lonely with no one in the house to talk to." With that said, they then retreated inside, escaping the thunder and lightning that had taken over the sky to fill the heavens with music.

However, neither the heir nor heiress could avoid the coming storm that would cause more destruction than any natural occurrence in nature could.

OMG U GUYSSS! I'm so sorry about the wait! My laptop's keyboard has a virus and it makes it very difficult to type anything at all! Anyway, here's the new chapter. I was quite excited myself to get Kaito back into the story. But I know OC's are kind of annoying to some, and rly he only has one part after this chapter where he's needed, so don't worry, Ill try 2 make his existence as painless as possible. Sorry about the wait, once again! Hope you enjoyed this, hopefully the next chapter won't take so long!

Aren't you all absolutely LOVING the manga right now? When Mashima wants to write a shoujo scene, HE DOES IT. AND DOES IT WELL! :3