This is my newest one-shot! I hope you guys like it. It's just slightly different from my normal fics XD
"Natsu!" Lucy protested, twisting her wrist in the pink-haired dragonslayer's grasp. Her attempt to break free was in vain and the man in question continued to drag her to Mavis-knows-where. Lucy Heartfilia groaned and finally elaborated on her kind of whiny protest. "Natsu, I already told you that I didn't want to go fishing with you today!"
"I know," said Natsu Dragneel simply, looking down at the blonde celestial mage that he was dragging along. "We're not going fishing."
That didn't tell her a thing, Lucy decided, and she wanted to know where they were heading now.
But…if it was Natsu, she could resign herself to being dragged all over the place and to parts unknown. After all, the foster-son of the dragon Igneel was Lucy's best friend, and it was not only common to be dragged around by the excited young man; it was practically in the job description. But like she'd already acknowledged, it was with Natsu; the blonde knew she was safe with him. Outsiders might think that she was insane to have so much trust in the crazy, destructive fire dragonslayer, but anyone else in the guild would understand completely. Whenever she was in trouble, he was always there to help her, so what could possibly be different on their day off? Well, it was supposed to be their day off, but as the train station came into view Lucy Heartfilia began to have her doubts.
At first, the celestial mage thought they'd be passing the train station. After all, this was Natsu and unless it was for a job—which they weren't supposed to be doing because it was their day off—he wouldn't be caught dead on any mode of transportation.
"Natsu…" Lucy began again, uncertainly, "Natsu, I told you that I wouldn't go on a job today, either—"
"Jeez, Luce, don't worry," Natsu grinned back at her and just continued walking. "We're not going fishing or going on a job today, just like I promised you."
Lucy flushed when he'd turned away, surprised that her best friend had remembered his promise. She'd forced him to agree to a day off last week after her favorite skirt got singed on a job, and it actually hadn't been too hard to convince him. She'd just decided that even Natsu, the one who absolutely loved going on jobs, needed the occasional day off.
Even though the girl was resigned to being pulled along with the dragonslayer wherever his whims blew him…she could usually guess where they were going. This time, however, Lucy was completely lost. If they were heading to a train station but weren't going on a job, then what could be going on? Where could they be headed? Until this point it had been child's play to get the answer out of Natsu or to figure it out on her way, but this time that wasn't the case.
When Natsu and Lucy arrived at the ticket counter, Natsu bypassed it without slowing; he flashed two already purchased tickets at the woman behind the cash register. He stowed them away before Lucy could get a glimpse at the destination, and so she was still left in the dark. From the time they arrived in the train station—where, she was astonished to find, he had overnight bags for both of them in a locker—to the time they boarded the train, Natsu made sure to tell all the personnel they spoke to that the destination was a surprise. Because of him, none of the staff of the train station or the train itself said anything about where they were going and Lucy was still left in the dark.
It didn't help that all the female personnel were pointing at them and giggling behind their hands after they were all informed that the destination of the two mages was a surprise to the blonde girl. It made them seem all couple-y. And although Lucy was embarrassed by that assumption, she wouldn't speak out against it. No one would believe her, anyway, when her cheeks were burning as bright as a tomato at the thought of this being a date.
But it couldn't be a date, because it was Natsu and although she trusted him with his life…she didn't think he'd see her like that.
The image of them as a couple was probably only further solidified in the minds of all the people in the train station when the two of them sat down on a bench to await the arrival of the train that would take them to Natsu-knew-where. The pink-haired Salamander had dropped his arm around her shoulders as he kind of slouched on the bench with a lazy, childish grin seemingly etched permanently on his face.
Embarrassed, Lucy huffed and crossed her arms over her chest. Natsu's arm was warm on her bare shoulders and his hand grasped the one farthest from her lightly, as though afraid she'd get up and make a run for it. And where his skin was touching hers sent tingles through her entire body. Sure, this wasn't the first time the two had skin-to-skin contact in such a purely innocent manner, but when everyone in the vicinity was already wondering if the pink-haired mage and the blonde mage were a couple it just made her feelings hit her like a ton of bricks.
She'd have to admit it to herself sometime, but she really didn't want to.
"Where are we going?" Lucy tried again, looking up at Natsu when she was sure her blush had at least died down.
"You'll see," he said lightly, beaming.
The blonde groaned.
"Train's coming," Natsu said suddenly, five minutes later, perking up.
Though she listened as closely as she could, Lucy was disappointed and said, "I don't hear anything."
The duo waited about three more minutes before the distant sounds of chugging reached Lucy's less sensitive ears. And a few moments later, the gleaming black steam engine rolled into view, dark smoke puffing out from its stacks as it slowed to a halt. Natsu gave Lucy a kind if I-told-you-so grin and picked up both of their bags as the previous passengers began to stream off the train. He stood and pulled Lucy up by the hand, keeping her close to him as their ride slowly cleared out. She tried to extricate her fingers from his grasp and managed to, only for him to grasp her wrist once more.
Sighing, she realized that she just couldn't win.
"C'mon, Luce!" the cheerful dragonslayer started to drag his blonde nakama toward the train with him and they were halfway there, just passing the last of the disembarking passengers, before a sudden thought hit the celestial mage and she dug her heels in to slow their progress. Natsu looked back and asked, "What is it this time?"
"What about Happy—isn't he coming, too?"
Natsu blinked at her and then said, as if it was obvious, "He left on a job with Wendy and Charle around eight this morning."
"Oh," Lucy said intelligently. The thought that stuck her then made the blush she'd valiantly banished earlier come back with a vengeance and she turned her head down. "Why are we getting on a train, though? If it's you, I thought you'd rather be walking somewhere."
Natsu chuckled and took something out of a pocket Lucy didn't even know he had. He shook the small vial in front of her face with an even bigger grin.
"Wendy made a potion that works just like her Tr…Tro…her spell-thing," he stumbled over Troia but continued as if it didn't matter at all. "You know what I'm talking about, right? The one that takes away my motion sickness—so we can get where we're going a lot quicker than we could if we were walking there."
The dragonslayer ignored her when she asked, yet again, where they were going and just pulled her onto the train, flashing the tickets at the person waiting inside. The personnel on the train had been switched out for those who had been wandering around in the station, so he knew not to say the destination out loud. Lucy was yet again disappointed by her inability to learn where they were going.
"We're in…compartment 7 C," Natsu read off of a ticket stub before stowing them both out of his companion's view. The celestial mage sighed at her misfortune, but checked their surroundings and learned that they were in the regular seating.
"We'll need to find the compartments, then," Lucy said before really comprehending that they had a compartment; the compartment tickets were double the price of regular tickets, and even if regular tickets were pretty cheap, paying double could lighten the wallet. She spoke her mind before she could stop herself. "Wait—why do we have a compartment?"
"I thought you might like it," Natsu shrugged easily, taking her wrist and pulling her toward the rear of the train. "Sorry I didn't get one of the better ones. C-class isn't nearly as good as A or B—"
"Don't worry about silly things like that, idiot!" Lucy said, blushing as they passed a few passengers already seated and a few who had stayed on board. "You didn't have to get a compartment at all! We don't usually get one, you know—what made you think we needed one now?"
Natsu just shrugged again, making a noncommittal noise in his throat that had Lucy sighing for the umpteenth time that morning. The silence stretched through the next car as they worked their way through the train, and finally Lucy realized that there was something she hadn't said to him yet today.
"Natsu?" she asked shyly, looking at her feet as she followed his lead.
"Thank you," Lucy wouldn't meet his eyes when he glanced back at her, but in her peripheral vision she saw him smile gently back at her…and it was kind of weird. It was different than the excited grin he'd been wearing since he showed up at her house an hour and a half ago to make her shower and get ready. It made her heart feel all fluttery.
"No problem," he said softly, making her flush. Natsu wasn't a soft-spoken sort of person, so hearing him talk like that was new and…it was music to her ears.
He continued into the next car in the train, Lucy following, and within a few moments they found their compartment. Natsu released her wrist and opened the door for her, motioning for her to enter first. That action was so gentlemanly and so different from Natsu's normal self that she stared blankly at him first, uncomprehendingly, until he motioned again. Lucy felt her cheeks burn and mumbled another, "Thank you," under her breath as she entered.
Natsu closed the door behind himself, and their fate was sealed.
The train was in motion and had been chugging steadily along for three-quarters of an hour now. Natsu was sprawled on a seat, rubbing his stomach as Lucy nibbled on some of the food that they had been brought. A loud burp escaped the dragonslayer's lips and he mumbled, "'Scuse me," to which Lucy just shrugged. The old Lucy Heartfilia would have shrieked and told him to say it properly or to not burp at all, but since joining Fairy Tail she'd become used to antics like these.
In fact, at that moment she let out a small burp of her own. She flushed darkly and covered her mouth with her free hand quickly while saying, "Excuse me!"
Natsu laughed at her reaction and then proceeded to say, "Jeez, Luce, can't you do better than that?"
The blonde huffed and slouched a little in her seat, taking a bite out of the biscuit in her hand. Her idiotic pink-haired nakama continued to laugh at her expense, his earlier feeling of satiety forgotten as he reached out to take a piece of chicken off of the table. Looking up through her lashes, Lucy watched as the dragonslayer demolished the meat in record time and she grinned to herself. Whatever this thing was—whether it was a date or just a friendly outing or even a job although he'd promised it wasn't one—she was having fun. She might not be acting like it, but she was thoroughly enjoying herself.
"Where are we going?" she tried for the fifth time since they'd boarded the train.
"Not telling," the dragonslayer said after swallowing the food in his mouth. "Aren't you tired of asking yet?"
"I just want to know," replied the celestial mage innocently, batting her eyes playfully at him so he'd know that she didn't harbor any ill will towards him. He chuckled, flicking a bread crumb from the tabletop at her. She squealed and ducked to let it hit the wall behind her, frowning at him when she sat back up. He grinned mischievously back at her.
"Too bad," he said, leaning back again. "I'm still not going to tell you."
Instead of sighing or huffing, she just grinned and shook her head. "I expected that…but since you won't tell me where we're going, will you tell me what we're doing?"
"We're riding a train," he said, raising an eyebrow. "I thought you were smart, Luce."
"Don't be a smartass," she snorted, taking a sip of soda as his lowered eyebrow raised once more at her choice of language. "I mean, what are we doing when we get to wherever it is we're going?"
"We're going to have fun, duh," Natsu spoke as if it was the most obvious answer in the world—and for him, it might have been. Nevertheless, Lucy could tell he was hiding something more than just their destination from her. It was both irritating but invigorating at the same time and Lucy wasn't entirely sure what to do with herself.
The food was finished and cleaned away by one of the train's attendants about fifteen minutes later, and the table was folded away, back into the wall.
The two Fairy Tail mages fell into a comfortable, if a little random, conversation.
"We're here!" Natsu beamed at her, grabbing his bag and once more also grabbing hers before she could do it herself. His hand missed her wrist when he reached for it, instead meeting her hand, but he grasped it and pulled her out of their compartment just after the train stopped. It was already two in the afternoon, and they'd been on the train for almost three hours. They were miles from Magnolia and all their friends, and Lucy still didn't know where they were. She wouldn't know where they were until they got off the train.
They got caught in the crowds getting off, and Lucy realized with a start that they'd gained several more passengers in the few stops after Magnolia…and that all of those passengers were getting off here, too, except for a few stuffy old businessmen.
Finally, after about ten minutes of being caught in the crush of bodies with Natsu's arm protectively around her waist, steering her in the right direction and keeping her pressed tightly against his side, they were able to climb down the steps. The two mages joined the throng heading toward the open train station doors and Lucy spotted a name on a sign above the door: Welcome to Nibelheim!
"Nibelheim…?" she turned to Natsu, kind of astonished, "Isn't that—"
"—the hotspot for amusement parks and inland resorts?" a tourism guide popped out of nowhere, grinning a fake smile from ear to ear. "That's the place! Is there somewhere in particular you're headed in our wonderful town? I, or any of my fellows, would gladly help you if you need directions!" The woman motioned to the others in the glaringly bright canary yellow outfits that permeated the crowds in the station. "My name is Cheryl, and I, on behalf of the Nibelheim Welcoming Committee hereby welcome you to our glorious town!"
"I—ah—thanks?" Lucy managed as Natsu tugged on her waist to get her to move.
"Thanks for the offer, but I know where we need to go."
"Enjoy your stay!" the woman waved, then turned and welcomed another unfortunate visitor with her bubbly and annoying tones.
"First we'll drop our stuff off at our hotel," Natsu said, cutting across her as he finally released her waist and took her by the wrist for what seemed like the thousandth time that day. "And after that, we'll go check out the closest park for a little while, okay?"
"S-sure," Lucy still wasn't exactly sure what was going on until they got out of the train station and Natsu pulled her aside, reaching in his pocket and showing her a couple of passes.
"I got us each a three-day all-access pass to every park and one of the resorts!"
"N-Natsu!" Lucy flushed, looking at his beaming face. "How much did you spend on all of this?"
"It's a secret!" he put a finger over his lips, rolling his eyes at her. "I can't tell you."
Lucy stood there, working her jaw to try to say something, but the words just wouldn't come. She couldn't believe that Natsu had done something like this—they really weren't going on a job…they were on a vacation! And even more than that, it was just the two of them…alone…together. Lucy didn't know if it was a good idea or a bad idea, but her heart was going all fluttery again and she once more didn't know what to do with herself.
"C'mon, Luce," he reached for her wrist again and, almost robotically, she reached her hand up to meet his. It was a subconscious reaction that made her cheeks warm just slightly at her own foolishness, but Natsu just squeezed her fingers and started off once more as if nothing out of the ordinary was happening.
After dropping their bags off at the hotel and resort that Natsu's passes covered—one of the better ones in the city, Lucy found to her astonishment—the duo headed off towards the nearest amusement park, which was actually situated just down the street. At the entrance, they showed their passes and were let through the gate immediately. They roamed through some of the game booths and Natsu bought Lucy a cotton candy that they ended up sharing anyway.
Natsu talked Lucy into riding a few rollercoasters with him, which wasn't too hard since Lucy somewhat liked the thrill. Around four, she was beginning to wonder if Wendy's potion would ever wear off, because Natsu was raring to go on the biggest rollercoaster in the park. Lucy convinced him to work up to the big one and so he, in turn, dragged her along on the other smaller coasters.
"Natsu," Lucy said, trying to pull out of his grasp as, at five-thirty, the only coasters they hadn't ridden were one that was broken down and the largest one in the park. "Natsu, I don't want to ride that one—!"
"Aw, c'mon, Luce!" the pink-haired man pouted at her. He pouted at her! And it was so undeniably adorable that she almost cracked right then and there and climbed onto the coaster with him. She caught herself, however, and stood firmly in place. Lucy glanced apprehensively up at the monster they had yet to conquer and she felt her insides squirm. Natsu broke across the silence, "C'mon, Luce, I'll be right there. And I don't want to ride it alone! What if…" he shuddered and she felt it through his hands on her shoulders, so she looked at him in worry. "What if Wendy's potion wears off while I'm on it?"
"Ugh," Lucy groaned, letting her forehead fall forward onto her best friend's chest. "Let's just get it over with, then."
"Aye!" he beamed at her, an expression that made her feel weak at the knees, and proceeded to pull her—by the hand—toward the relatively short line for the Supercoaster, as the park dubbed it.
Before they were even at the top of the first drop, Lucy felt her stomach in her throat. She liked rollercoasters well enough…but this one just wasn't her cup of tea. And, if looking across the town to the big coasters at the four other amusement parks was any indication, the biggest attractions at the others wouldn't be her cup of tea, either. Her knuckles were white on the bar holding her in the car, and the thought briefly crossed her mind that she felt as though she might fly out as soon as the descent began.
Lucy didn't have any more time to think, because the bottom suddenly dropped out of her stomach as the coaster's cars began to plummet. A shriek tore from her throat even as a cheerful whoop escaped Natsu's, and she desperately reached over and wrapped her arms tightly around his torso since both of his arms were in the air. His scarf, which he'd been asked to remove, flapped up at them from where he had it tied around his waist.
That ride could not have ended sooner for Lucy, and even waiting for the attendants to unlock and lift the safety bar seemed like torture. As soon as she could, she stumbled out—immediately after Natsu—and clutched at his arm for support. Her legs were like jelly. Natsu understood instantly and put an arm around her waist to help her keep her feet and dignity. It wasn't enough to make her blush again, but it did make the tingles shoot up her spine again.
"Have fun, Luce?" he asked, grinning at her in a mischievous manner.
"Shut up," she muttered, elbowing him halfheartedly in the side. "I was having plenty of fun until you decided you wanted to ride that…that thing."
Natsu laughed again, a sound that made Lucy pay him more attention. He was the picture of happiness, and it made her feel warm inside to be witnessing it. He then surprised her by saying, "Sorry I forced you into it, Luce. You should have just refused again if you really didn't to ride it."
"It's okay," she said, and then before she lost the nerve she added, "You were right there the whole time, just like you promised, so it's okay."
He smiled that gentle smile at her again, and her heart started beating a rapid rhythm on her sternum. Just how could he make faces like that?
"Let's go back to the hotel for tonight," Natsu said, gently propelling Lucy toward the exit of the park. "We can have a nice soak in the hot springs and meet up afterwards for supper."
"Wait a minute," Lucy said, stopping and causing Natsu, whose arm was still around her waist to help support her, to come to a halt as well. She turned her eyes to meet his and said incredulously, "There's a hot spring?"
The grin was back and Lucy let out an excited squeal, unconsciously throwing her arms around the pink-haired man's neck in her elation. Natsu was unsure of what to do for a moment, but then he chuckled good-naturedly and wrapped his arms around her in return, making the one-sided hug a true friendly embrace.
Lucy knew she wanted it to be more than just a friendly embrace, and she feared she might have to admit it to herself before this little three-day vacation was through.
"Aaaah," the blonde celestial mage stretched after climbing out of the women's side of the hot springs. "That felt nice!"
The white, fluffy towel that she wrapped around herself felt like heaven, and she walked slowly back to the changing rooms with a contented smile on her face.
Natsu really knows how to treat a girl right, she found herself musing. If I'm not careful, I might let it slip.
She blinked at her thoughts, and then a heat entirely unrelated to the steaming water raced into her cheeks. She had barely been able to tell herself that she just might have kind-of-sort-of fallen for the fire dragonslayer, and now she thought she'd let it slip? Oh, Mavis, now she really knew she had it bad. And the fact that he was treating her so well didn't exactly help matters. And Lucy could just picture Mirajane's face now, or Levy's face, when they found out about her feelings.
"Forget when they find out about that," Lucy muttered to herself, thankfully out of earshot of the other women. "What'll they do when they find out it's just the two of us on vacation here?"
The blonde celestial mage shook her head, her wet hair clinging to her skin as she reached the changing rooms and began to dry off, preparing to slip on the complementary robe she'd worn down to the baths. She threw her hair up in a messy, wet bun and then slid one arm into one of the sleeves. As she was sliding the other arm in, another woman walked in. By her dress, Lucy realized she was a worker.
"Hello," the brunette said kindly, smiling a genuine smile that had a devious edge to it. Lucy was immediately a little wary, but listened as the woman spoke again, "Are you, perhaps, a Miss Lucy Heartfilia?"
"That's me," the blonde returned, smiling back at the woman even though she was having brief doubts about her. It was hard not to smile at this woman. "Is there something you needed…?"
"Oh, not me!" the woman laughed lightly. "Your friend, Mr. Dragneel, wanted to let you know that there's a new dress in your room for you and that you when you go back and get ready, he'll meet you in the lobby to take you to dinner!"
Lucy flushed at the message.
"Oh, um, thank you for telling me," she said, fidgeting just a little. The brunette beamed at her.
"It's no problem! Just have fun on your dinner date!" she giggled and left the room before Lucy could even protest that it wasn't anything near a date…and before Lucy paused to argue with herself in her mind about whether it might actually be a date or not. Finally, the blonde decided that whether it was or wasn't didn't matter at the moment—what mattered was that Natsu was most likely already waiting for her and she shouldn't keep him waiting after he'd done so much for her.
Dinner was just as she expected, but with a few little twists. Natsu was decently dressed and was even so nice as to pull out her chair for her. He ate just as much as normal, which was okay because it wasn't one of the fancier restaurants in town, but he did manage to be neater about it all. The dress he'd gotten for her was relatively simple; a white sundress with blue and black designs and a blue ribbon around the middle. She paired it with a pair of small white wedges that Natsu had packed in her bag and the ensemble worked together nicely.
After dinner, though, the pair took a nice little walk along the river that ran through the center of Nibelheim with their arms linked together.
Now, more than ever, Lucy felt like any passersby would see the two Fairy Tail mages as a couple…and she really couldn't have cared less because she kind of wanted this to last. Being Natsu's girlfriend, even for a few days, wouldn't be so bad. She'd rather be his girlfriend for longer than that, though.
When it was about nine, the two turned in. They had two futons to lie out, as it was a traditional sort of inn, but that was just fine by Lucy and she knew Natsu wouldn't care. He slept on the hard ground when he went on solo jobs, so sleeping on a hardwood floor with a cushion between he and the floor wouldn't be too bad. In fact, it might just be comfortable to him. Kind of like her bed was.
Lucy fell asleep quickly, a smile on her face.
The second day of their vacation passed without incident, unless the fact that she was coerced into riding the three large coasters in the three parks they visited that day was considered as an incident. Lucy was happy to be able to cling to Natsu, though, so she didn't mind that she had been talked into riding those.
And it seemed all too soon that the last day of their little vacation had arrived. Lucy woke up with Natsu's arm slung across her waist and she didn't really mind. She rolled over and his arm fell and she wondered—briefly—if their futons had been that close when they had first lay down to sleep. Whatever the case may have been, she wanted a quick bath, so she made her way to the springs.
She was back in their room before Natsu woke up, and she picked out a fresh change of clothes that consisted of undergarments, a cute Heart Kreuz sleeveless top, and a jean skirt with a frayed fringe. Natsu was just stirring when she slipped into their bathroom to change and get ready.
"Luce? Are you in the bathroom?" Natsu called in a groggy voice as she was doing her own hair.
"Yeah," the blonde replied before adding, "You should go wash up and then change clothes while I go get some breakfast. Okay?"
Lucy heard the pink-haired man rummage around briefly and then she heard the door open and close. When she left the bathroom, she saw that he had grabbed a change of clothes before leaving their room. With a small smile, she headed off to procure breakfast for two before Natsu came back.
"The last park," Natsu said, staring down the street lined with games and stands.
"Yeah," Lucy agreed somewhat reluctantly. Was it bad that she didn't want their three days of vacation to end? She shook herself out of her brief melancholy and forged onward, taking Natsu by the wrist and pulling him down toward the main rollercoaster. "Let's work our way down from the biggest ride this time…okay?"
Natsu looked down at her and flashed her one of those sweet little smiles that she hadn't really seen until this vacation and her heart wanted to leap right out of her chest. Did he even have a clue what he was doing to her?
"Let's just get it over with," the dragonslayer imitated her words from the first day with a grin. Lucy smiled back at him and there was the fifth repeat of her shrieking as the rollercoaster descended from its highest point and she got the cling to her favorite person in the whole world as if her very life depended on it. And that ride was everything she had expected it would be, because it was just like the prior four but so much more bittersweet because it might be the last time they ever did this together. But she was thankful for this time.
When they got off, she was able to lean on him for support while she got the feeling back in her jellied legs and he was glad to provide that support.
"Let's play a few games," Natsu suggested, and Lucy agreed wholeheartedly. She'd already won a little plush dragon, which she presented to Natsu with a big grin, when she finally reacquired full use of her legs. The two of them then proceeded to ride two smaller rollercoasters before lunchtime was upon them and they stopped to get a corndog apiece and a funnel cake to share. As they were sitting together on a bench, Lucy leaning against him as she reached over for a piece of the funnel cake in his opposite hand, she spotted something dangling from one of the top prize sections of a game.
"Luce?" Natsu asked her when she froze, her fingers inches from the snack he'd been playfully keeping from her grasp. "What is it?"
"Oh…it's nothing," she pulled a piece of funnel cake away and started to nibble on it as her eyes trailed back to the display. If only it wasn't a game of strength, Lucy thought in dismay. From what she could glean from the sign, you had to hold a thousand pound dumbbell up over your head for thirty seconds in order to get the key, and for her something like that would be impossible. She couldn't even figure out how the dumbbell didn't snap with so much weight on it. She could always call out Loke or Taurus, but she didn't particularly want to use her two most perverted spirits in a public amusement park.
"It's not nothing," Natsu pulled her chin so that she was facing him, but her eyes strayed once more. He followed her gaze and grinned to himself.
"Oh…that's one of the Zodiac keys, isn't it?"
The celestial mage nodded mutely, staring as the symbol for Libra flashed at her teasingly in the midday light.
"Do you want it?"
Lucy couldn't bring herself to say no, but she felt selfish when she said, "…Kind of…"
Natsu chuckled and stood up, handing her the funnel cake. "Don't lie to me, Luce," he told her seriously. "I can tell you want it more than kind of."
Lucy grinned sheepishly at him and he helped her to her feet. "You got me there," she admitted. She hadn't expected to see one of the twelve keys here when she'd been searching for the two she didn't have for months and months. It was kind of funny to see one here when she'd least been expecting it—but she supposed that that was just how things happened.
"Hello, there, young sir!" the game's proctor smiled a too-big smile at him. "Welcome! The object of the game is to—"
"I get the idea," Natsu cut him off with a confident smirk that made him look so cool that Lucy was afraid other girls would start to notice. "I just have to hold all that weight up for thirty seconds for the key, right?"
Natsu was gesturing to the largest of the dumbbells and pointing with his other hand towards the golden key that Lucy coveted. The tiny man's eyes widened like saucers as he looked incredulously at the fire dragonslayer.
"Y-you want to go for the Grand Prize?"
"Yeah. What's the big deal?" Natsu shrugged his shoulders nonchalantly, as if lifting a thousand pounds was something he did every day.
"No one's ever succeeded, you know. That key's been there for three years."
"Well, I'm about to take it down," Natsu took off Igneel's scarf and draped it around Lucy's neck. "Hold on to that for me, Luce."
She flushed and nodded as the pink-haired man started stretching. The game's overseer began to advertise what Natsu was going to attempt and even some of the people running other games started to pay attention to him. A small crowd had gathered and Natsu rolled his shoulders one final time and stepped over to the weights. Lucy was standing nearby, by the proctor, and she realized that the bar was reinforced with a few magic runes—that answered her unspoken query about why the bar hadn't snapped in half.
"Time starts as soon as the weight is above your head," the man told Natsu and whoever else that was listening. "You have to keep it up for thirty seconds or more, but no less, in order to win the your choice of the Grand Prizes. Are you ready?"
"Just be ready to time me," said Natsu told the man, flashing another confident grin in Lucy's direction. She gave him two thumbs up, smiling at him. The funnel cake had long been forgotten somewhere—perhaps back on the bench—but she wasn't thinking about it and even if she was she couldn't have cared less.
Natsu discarded his vest, draping it over one of the dumbbells that wasn't of interest to him, and stretched his shoulders one more time. Lucy watched his muscles ripple under the skin and felt the blood rush to her face again. His strong, callused fingers closed around the reinforced bar and she watched as his back seemed to expand when he took a preparatory breath. And then—he lifted. The bar with a thousand pounds of weight lifted over his head with what seemed like ease, almost, and he even turned to face the man.
"Start counting," Natsu told the astonished man, and when the proctor didn't even begin, Lucy stepped in.
"One," she started, looking around at the other watchers for assistance, "two, three, four…"
"Five!" The crowd began enthusiastically, only too eager to take part. "Six! Seven!"
At that point, the game's overseer regained his composure and joined in when everyone shouted, "Seven! Eight! Nine! Ten!"
Lucy fell silent after fifteen, eyes watching Natsu as he kept his confident smirk on his face. Despite all his strength, though, his arms were shaking violently by the time that twenty seconds was called. And if he hadn't been a mage, Lucy had no doubt he'd probably have already dropped the weights. Mages tended to not only be stronger, but have much more endurance than non-mages.
"Twenty-three!" the number erupted around her as she watched the sweat start to pour. The dragonslayer had already been sweating, but now it was more noticeable. The exertion of holding so much weight above his head was taking its toll, but he only had six more seconds…"
"Count down from five!" the game's overseer roared over the loud crowd somehow, and they did.
"Five! Four! Three!"
Natsu's knees were shaking, but he was two seconds away and Lucy knew he wouldn't give up.
Lucy hadn't realized that she'd been holding her breath until she tried to gather enough to shout out with the rest of the crowd. She hurriedly sucked in some air and cried out, "One!" with more heart than half of the crowd put together.
"Time!" the man called, and Natsu let out a sigh. He looked spent but despite that, he slowly lowered the dumbbell to the ground. He stretched again and the game's overseer walked over to him to shake his hand. "Congratulations! Of course, I shouldn't have expected any less from a member of Fairy Tail!"
Lucy reached into the bag slung over her shoulder and pulled out Natsu's bottle of water, heading over to him and unscrewing the lid as she went.
"Here you go, Natsu," she said, offering him the bottle.
"Thanks, Luce," he sounded sincerely grateful as he took the plastic bottle from her hands and placed it to his lips. The man who was running the game had left for a few moments but now returned, waiting patiently until the pink-haired dragonslayer handed the celestial mage the bottle.
"May I offer you congratulations again? It's the first time I've seen anyone hold that weight for more than ten seconds! Here—you really deserve this!" The man placed Libra's key in Natsu's hand, but hesitated and said, "Are you sure you wouldn't like the money, though? I'm not sure that a celestial key is for you…"
"It's not for me," Natsu said, wrapping his fingers around the key, "but I'm sure it's what I want."
"As you wish," the tall, thin man just shrugged, then put on his huge smile and grabbed Natsu's wrist, raising it in the air. The onlookers cheered loudly and Lucy was proud of Natsu. His success not only got him some attention, but it would bring the name of Fairy Tail out even stronger than before. It would regain some of the dignity that the guild had lost in the seven years that their strongest had been missing.
After a while the crowd dispersed and Natsu pulled his vest back on but made no move to take his scarf back. And in all the tumult, the reason Natsu had done all of that had slipped into the back of Lucy's mind.
The duo decided to start heading back to the inn so they could make sure they had everything for the train ride home and then they would have to head over to the station to catch the two o'clock train back to Magnolia. On the way out of the park, Lucy ended up with a unicorn plush that Natsu won by knocking all of the bottles over with a ball. There was a random exclamation on Natsu's behalf that Plue was a narwhal after the pink-haired young man saw a poster advertising a lachrima film about narwhals. And Lucy, though she'd affectionately considered Plue as a doggy…actually kind of agreed with Natsu.
All too soon, the two Fairy Tail mages were back in Magnolia and walking towards Lucy's home. They were laughing and chatting like nothing remotely romantic had gone on at all, and it kind of hurt the celestial mage, but she hadn't expected it to be meant for romantic purposes so it was easier than it should have been to push that hurt away.
"Why are you following me to my house?" Lucy asked, feigning annoyance with Natsu. They were, in fact, already right outside the apartment building, standing just a few feet from the edge of the canal that the blonde always walked home on. Natsu chuckled and dropped an arm across her shoulder, pulling her just a little closer as he dropped his bag and reached a hand in his pocket.
"You've been forgetting something, Luce," he said, amusement lighting up his dark eyes as he dangled something shiny and gold in front of her face. Lucy squealed.
"Libra's key!" she managed and, instead of taking the item from him, she lunged at him. The young blonde woman tackled him in a hug and squealed, "Thank you, thank you, thank you!"
Natsu laughed a kind of gravelly laugh and said, "Happy birthday, Luce."
Lucy gasped and looked up at him in astonishment, then asked in a small voice, "You knew?"
"Of course I knew, Luce. What kind of guy would I be if I forgot my favorite girl's birthday?"
Even if he didn't mean it that way, her cheeks flooded red. And she decided that he'd been awfully nice and a bit un-Natsu-ish for the last few days, so maybe he did mean it that way. And if he didn't, she'd be damned if she let him go now.
So Lucy Heartfilia, the one who was always shy when it came to relationships, took Natsu Dragneel's face in her hands and brought herself up to his height in order to kiss him soundly and the dragonslayer didn't hesitate in the least to drop his hands to her hips and kiss her back. And Lucy thought that this was everything she thought it would be—and more. His mouth was hot and his lips were a little dry and cracked but she didn't really care because they moistened up quick enough and his hands at her waist were the only things keeping her on her feet and she was all right with that.
When the blonde finally had to pull away to breathe, the pink-haired man whose arms she was in started chuckling.
"I thought you'd never pick up on it, Luce," he told her softly, tugging an end of the scarf that was still around her neck. The color rushed to her cheeks like it hadn't even done when she kissed him and she looked at him defiantly.
"I was thinking the same thing," she told him as haughtily as she could muster.
He saw right through her act and chuckled again, linking his fingers together with hers as he picked up both of their bags with one hand and led the way into Lucy's apartment to put her things away. And an hour later, they headed to the guild.
When they entered, they were still hand-in-hand and the familiar white-scaled scarf was still around Lucy's neck instead of Natsu's and there was a new golden key on her key-ring…and everything was just as perfect as she could have hoped for.
Lucy felt like this had been her best birthday yet.
I think I went quite a bit over the 5000 words…hahaha. It was 7,405 before I started to add this author's note and the dividers.
This is for a mini-contest-thingy by FireDragonNatsu. And I kind of liked it. It was really fun to write.
Also. When I was typing about biscuits on the train ride to Nibelheim (that's a name taken from a Final Fantasy game [maybe FFVII?] because I couldn't think of anything)…I immediately thought of "I made biscuits and they tasted like Christmas!" – if you're reading, you know who you are, but this is kind of a shout-out to you.
Thanks so much for reading, guys, and I hope you enjoyed!
Also, random fact: It's 11:22 PM here as I'm actually finishing this chapter…and I have to get up early tomorrow for an Academic Team tournament. (Quiz Bowl, Scholar Bowl; kind of like Jeopardy, only there are teams). FUN. xD
EDIT: I'm posting this at 7 PM the next day. My team placed fourth! The last trophy place, but it's the first time we've won one since I've been on the team. YAY!