Things were going decidedly Not Well.
Lucy and Rogue were tasked with talking to the families of the missing children, which would have been extraordinarily sad and depressing in on itself, but was made even more uncomfortable by Rogue's shadowy presence. Lucy took it upon herself to do most of the talking while Rogue mostly lingered along the sidelines, but it wasn't exactly a pleasant experience.
"Please," a mother sobbed, her husband holding her close, "please bring my little boy home. He's only four."
Lucy felt ill.
She and Rogue visited half a dozen distraught parents and siblings before she felt to tired to continue.
"Let's go back," she told Rogue tiredly. He nodded somberly in reply and they headed to the inn.
"Did you find anything?" Sting asked as soon as they stepped through the doors, eager and bright-eyed.
To her surprise, Rogue was the first to answer. "All the children were taken at night from their homes. Their parents did not discover the kidnappings until the morning after."
Sting bared his teeth. "Sneaky bastards," he scowled.
Rogue tilted his head minisculely. "Go rest," he murmured to Lucy, so low she almost missed it.
She blinked and opened her mouth to question him, but Rogue had already turned his attention back to Sting.
Eyebrows slightly raised, Lucy exited the room and walked into the hallway, squinting down the dimly lit halls.
They had rented three rooms with two beds each- she and Erza would share one, Natsu and Gray the other, and Sting and Rogue would occupy the final room. At least, that was the plan.
She found her and Erza's room and unlocked the door with the small iron key from her pocket, and walked in on Erza dragging an unconscious Natsu onto one of the beds.
"Um," she said.
"Ah, Lucy," Erza greeted cordially, hefting Natsu up and dropping him on the cot. "I see you've returned. Did you discover any information?
"Um. Yes?" she replied, eyeing Natsu's prone form with some suspicion. "Rogue is debriefing Sting in their room."
Erza followed Lucy's gaze. "Ah, I apologize," she said sincerely. "Natsu and Gray got into a fight, and I had to break it up." She glanced at Natsu again. "With force," she added, a bit unnecessarily.
"I see," Lucy replied slowly. "So... does that mean I'm sharing a room with Gray instead?"
"Please do," the knight replied. "I should stay with Natsu, so he doesn't attempt to start a fight with Gray again. Ah, here's the key." Erza passed her a small key. The metal felt suspiciously warm.
In Lucy's opinion, it didn't seem like Natsu was in a condition to attempt anything, much less start a fight. Instead of voicing this, she responded with a simple, "Okay," grabbed her pajamas, and walked, almost robotically, out the door.
She went next door to Gray's room, unlocked it, and peered inside. The lights were off, and she could see was a tuft of spiky hair peeking out from under the covers. Lucy squinted. It was too dark to make out the color.
She heard a faint murmuring of voices from the room where she had left Rogue and Sting, and shrugged. She didn't want to wake Gray or disturb Sting and Rogue out of some strange paranoia that the sleeping figure was somehow not Gray, so she shuffled to the bed quietly. There was a dozing kitten on top of the blankets, and when she gently cupped her hands around it to shift it aside to make room for herself, it raised its head and let out a sleepy,"Mrrp?" Lucy cooed with delight.
After some careful coordination, she slipped under the covers, the kitten a comforting warmth against her chest, and slept.
Lucy woke up refreshed and mood only mildly dampened the her thoughts of the kidnapped children that they had been hired to rescue.
It got significantly worse about three seconds later.
"Uh," Sting said, staring. He was shirtless.
A couple of the buttons on the her pajama top had come undone, and Sting had a generous eyeful of her cleavage and a glimpse of the cute, lacy bra she had been wearing.
Lucy shrieked. Loudly.
Approximately two and half seconds later, Erza burst through the door, eyes blazing with righteous fury.
"Gray, what did you do to Lucy?!" Erza roared, and paused. The mop of blond, tousled hair was decidedly not Gray's. Sting paled.
"Master Sting," the knight said with deceptive calmness. "What do you think you are doing?"
"I don't-" Sting glanced between Lucy and Erza with increasing confusion- "know?"
"Erza, wait!" Lucy blurted. "It's nothing! It's just a misunderstanding!" 'Please leave or I'll die of embarrassment!' she didn't say. She hastily buttoned her shirt.
"Please!" she yelped.
Erza sent one final death glare towards Sting and slowly retreated out to the hallway, the door swinging ominously shut.
There were several long moments of silence before Sting spoke up. "What are you doing here?" he hissed. "You almost got me killed!"
"Shouldn't the master of a guild be stronger than that?" Lucy shot back, equally as frazzled. "And besides, this is Gray's room!"
"What would you be doing in Gray's room?" Sting argued, struggling out of bed and hunting for a shirt. Lucy caught a lavish view of his backside as he leaned down to swipe his shirt ('It's a crop top,' Lucy thought dazedly) off the ground.
"I was going to sleep with him!" Lucy yelled, and promptly choked.
Sting whipped his head around, wide-eyed, and said, "What the fu-"
"Not like that!" she wailed. She scrambled to grab her neatly folded clothes from where she had left them on the floor and bolted. With great haste.
Rogue had barely gotten three sentences out when he was interrupted by a very pale, very frightened looking Gray.
"Hey," he said weakly, "I'm just gonna... stay here and hide from Erza for a bit," and promptly collapsed, face first, onto one of the beds.
"...What?" Sting said.
Rogue huffed, irritated, and turned away from Sting, striding to the other bed.
"Wait, what?" Sting yelped. "Are you... Are you kicking me out?"
Rogue eyed him with a completely neutral expression and said, "Yes."
Sting gaped at his partner for a few more moments. Rogue ignored him.
"Okay," Sting said. "I see how it is."
"If you do," Rogue replied drily, "then leave."
Gray mumbled something into the pillow.
With a great amount of effort, Gray lifted his head and said, "I have the key to the room." The ice mage fumbled for the key, eventually finding it and tossing weakly to Sting. It didn't even make it off the bed.
Sting grabbed the key, and
, with as much dignity as he could muster, left the room with his head held high.
Rogue watched the door swing shut with disinterest.
Gray grunted as he rolled on his back. "What did you and Lucy find out today?" he asked tiredly.
AN: So. It's been a while. I've actually started moving over to AO3 and I've already published more stories over there lol. If you wanna check it out, my username is 0shadow_panther0
on another note
i got my first flame and honestly im laughing too hard to be mad? it basically said "congrats! you won the award for the worst story ever!" and im laughing bc it was commented on ch 4 and its like jokes on you buddy you just read through like 7k words of shit and there was? no constructive criticism? at all? so anyway thats all i have to say. see you in six months for the next chapter lol