Heated Nights and Dark Shadows

by: Princess Cherry Blossom

Chapter 1: Bad Decisions

Lucy sighed desperately before taking another sip of her vodka- cranberry. It was quite unusual for her to be drinking alcohol. Frankly, it was quite unusual for anybody, except maybe for Cana, to be drinking alcohol so early in the afternoon, but she couldn't help it. She needed it.

She glanced over her shoulder to see her guild- mates acting like their usual selves, picking up random fights, laughing, singing…; the usual craziness that would only grow as the day passed and climax by the end of the evening, with everyone passed out under the tables. With a heavy sigh, she turned back to face Mirajane on the other side of the bar, who was washing up with a recognizable, bright smile on her face.

"Lucy?" The silver- haired mage called her attention. "What's wrong?"

The spirit mage shifted her gaze at the call of her name and took another sip of her drink before answering. "Everything's wrong! Erza's on an S-rank mission, Gray went on a solo mission… Happy's with Carla, since she's sick..." She buried her face into her hands. "At this rate, there's no way I'll make my rent…"

"Aren't you forgetting someone?" Mira asked confusedly. "What about Natsu-kun?"

Lucy looked over her shoulder and immediately spotted the fire-mage on one of the tables, exhaling a small amount of fire and gaining attention from their fellow guild- mates as always.

"Does he look like he's in any mood to work?" The blonde asked rhetorically and heard Mira let out an amused chuckle.

Sure, it would be easy to forget all the nasty money trouble she's been having and join the others into another restless night of partying for no reason, but… Just the thought of her landlady was enough to make her skin crawl!

She finished the rest of her drink in one sip, just to make the scary images in her head go away.

"I think I'm gonna need a refill." She exclaimed and Mira chuckled nervously in response. Well, getting drunk was one way of handling the situation… Probably not the wisest, but still the only one she could think of at the moment.

"Oi, Lucy!" She immediately recognized the loud voice that came from behind her. She didn't even have to turn around, as her partner was already clinging onto her with the usual grin plastered on his face. "Why the long face?"

Lucy felt an angry vein pop out on her forehead at the question. He even had the nerve to ask? She sighed, composing herself, before granting him with a response.

"In case you haven't noticed." She started calmly. "We haven't been on a job for almost a month now! All of our team members are absent and the month is almost over!" Her tone was growing. "I have absolutely no idea how to make my rent! And all you seem to be doing is goofing around…"

"Okay, okay, I get it!" Natsu squeaked in a tiny voice, and stormed off to the pin- board, only to return seconds later, with a paper in his hands.

"Here, how's this sound?" He panted, waving the piece of paper in front of her face.

"You just grabbed the first thing you could find!" She protested.

"Wrong. I checked the most important thing!" He replied with a recognizable, devious grin. "Look at the prize."

Lucy felt her eyes widen at the sight. 1 million Jewels? That was… that was…

"Wait a minute." She said thoughtfully, narrowing her eyebrows as she quickly read the actual job description. "The job is to take down a brothel!"

"So?" Natsu shrugged. "We just take out the bad guys and end up with all the prize money for ourselves!" He explained simply. "Think about it, Luce. It's just the two of us going. That's 500,000 each!"

500,000 Jewels… That's more than 7 rents… She wouldn't have to worry about rent money for more than half a year!

"Now that that's settled." He grabbed the paper from her hands and handed it to Mira. "Let's meet up in an hour in front of the guild! See ya then!"

And with that, he disappeared again. Lucy took one last sip before getting off her chair. Finally, an actual job!

Still, was this ok? Taking down an entire brothel, just the two of them? The prize money wouldn't be so enormous if the job was as easy as Natsu just described…. Would they really be okay without Erza and Gray?

Lucy reminded herself she should probably just stay grateful for opportunity to earn the much needed cash. After all, up until a few minutes ago, her only solution to her financial struggles was to drown herself in alcohol…

"Well, I guess I'm off…" She exclaimed unsurely.

Mira nodded in response. "Good luck!" She smiled brightly.

"Thanks." Lucy smiled back. "Something tells me… we're going to need it."

"Come on, Natsu." The blonde mage whined in frustration. "We haven't got all day!"

"I can't help it…" He mumbled out, accepting the hand she offered to help him get out of the vehicle.

Needless to say, the Salamander hadn't exactly experienced the ride of his life in the carriage for the last few hours, as the two mages traveled to their job location. And as Natsu let his motion sickness get the better of him even on solid ground, Lucy was busy looking around.

It was definitely smaller than Magnolia, but that wasn't the only difference; it seemed unnaturally empty for that part of the day. Lucy couldn't help but fidget at the sight of the tiny, dark streets and corners as they made their way to the location stated on the job description.

Finally, they seemed to have arrived and much to their surprise, it was an old, seemingly abandoned house. What was even stranger was the sign, right above the aged wooden door, that said "Hingaro's Potion Magic".

"Hm, it seems like we're here." Lucy exclaimed unsurely, checking the address again.

Natsu's eyes narrowed in confusion. "Are you sure we have the right place?" He turned to face her. "This is an old potion shop."

"Well, this was the address on the job description…"

"Can I help you two youngsters?" An old man suddenly appeared behind the wooden door, making the two partners jump back in surprise. Lucy's shock was quickly replaced by a sudden feeling of sympathy as she took a better look at the man before them. He was pale and long-faced, and his eyes bore such loneliness and sorrow, she was taken aback by the mere sight.

Lucy forced her mind to focus on the question directed at them. "Uh, yeah. We're here for a job, it said…"

"Wait, you two are mages?" The old man's expression lit up slightly at the realization.

"So you called for us?" Natsu reasoned, joining the conversation. "Well, no need to waste any more time. Just point to the direction of this brothel and we'll take care of it."

"I'm afraid…" The old man mumbled out solemnly. "It won't be nearly as easy. If you would follow me…" He trailed off, slowly disappearing behind the door.

The two mages glanced at each other in confusion before joining the man inside the small shop. The room they entered seemed as neglected as the entire shop did from the outside; one would never assume someone actually lived there, let alone ran a business.

"Hm, I've hardly left my room since my daughter's been gone." The man explained, as if hearing their thoughts. "There've hardly been any customers…"

"S-so, your daughter…?" Lucy started quietly, uncertain how to finish her question.

The old potion- maker sighed heavily. "She, along with many other girls from the town, has been taken to the brothel and forced to…"

Lucy felt her face fall. The poor man… To have his daughter taken away from him was horrible in its own way, but this… "Hingaro-san…" She started weakly. "What did you mean just now, when you said it won't be as easy…?"

"The man who runs the brothel is a despicable, but terrifying mage." The potion maker stated, his expression turning dark as he described the villain. "He used to be a member of a dark guild, but came to our town about a year ago."

"He started taking young girls away from their families by force." He continued. "There was nothing we could do about it, really..."

Natsu frowned in confusion. "How come you're only calling for help now?"

"He threatened us with the lives of our daughters." The old man answered quietly, as if being ashamed of his own words. "He claimed he'd know if we notified anyone or tried anything by ourselves."

"I sent the ad about the job through a friend who was headed for Magnolia." He explained further. "That's how that fiend didn't find out."

"And why exactly can't we charge in there?" The fire- mage inquired.

"Nobody knows of his mysterious powers." Hingaro replied. "He is said to be one of the strongest mages from his former guild. To defeat him, you must first learn about his abilities…-"

"And how do you suppose we do that? You just said nobody knows!"

"Natsu! Let the man talk!" Lucy hissed at him, though she was also curious about what the old man had in mind.

"I still don't get why we can't just handle things the way we usually do!" Natsu countered and the spirit mage could only sigh in frustration. Strategizing really wasn't Natsu's way of handling missions…

"I've worked out a plan that just might work." Hingaro finally managed to answer. "It requires something a bit drastic but…" He looked at the two mages with uncertainty, as if he was afraid of sharing his idea.

"Go on." Lucy encouraged him with a smile. "We're here to help you."

He sighed, before speaking again. "You'd have to… infiltrate the brothel…" He swallowed hard. "As a prostitute."

Lucy blinked. D-did he just say…? "Err… What?!"

"Only by working there, you'd be able to gather info and…-"

"You want her to work as a prostitute?!" Natsu suddenly barked. Lucy titled her head to look at him and was taken aback by his enraged expression. An angry vein popped out on his forehead and Lucy swore she had never seen the fire-mage so angry outside of battle.

"N-Natsu…" She touched his hand lightly, trying to calm him, though she herself was still pretty shaken up by the bold request.

"L-let me explain!" Hingaro's voice came out almost feminine, though you could hardly blame him. Natsu's glare was deadly enough to kill. "Y-you wouldn't actually have to become a prostitute."

Lucy frowned in confusion. She glanced at Natsu, who was wearing a similar expression.

Hingaro took a deep breath as the anxiety in the room seemed to have dropped. "You're a mage, right?" He started again, fixating his gaze on Lucy who nodded in response. "It'd be easy enough for you to knock out the, ehm… customer."

"Knock him out?" She repeated thoughtfully. "But what would happen when…-"

"I'm a potion maker, remember?" He cut her off quickly, rushing over to the wooden table nearby and taking a bottle out of one of the drawers. "You'd only need to make them drink this. And when they wake up, they wouldn't have a doubt about you…"

"Your partner would come occasionally, as a customer, and then you would exchange the info you've gathered." Hingaro explained further.

Silence crawled in the air and Lucy cold practically sense Natsu's anger from beside her. She sighed and decided to analyze their situation. The plan this old man had just suggested seemed to make sense, but the idea of living in a brothel… Working as a prostitute, even if it was just pretending… It was enough to make her skin crawl!

Still, Natsu simply barging in there was too dangerous. If only Gray and Erza were here…

"No." A low voice broke her train of thoughts.

"Natsu…" She turned to him instantly. He was wearing a dark, serious expression, and Lucy couldn't believe how differently he was acting than his usual self. Sure, she was shocked and slightly offended by this plan too, but she never expected him to react this way. Why exactly was he so furious? It was her who was supposed to the dirty work, after all.

"I-I'm begging you." The old potion-maker said desperately. "I can try to gather more money as a reward… I'll gather as much as I can, just… Please try…" Lucy felt her heart sink at the sight of the sobbing man. "Please, try to save my daughter."

"Natsu…" Lucy whispered, but the fire- mage stood silent, even though his expression had softened slightly.

"Hinago-san, would you give us a moment?" She asked softly, And Natsu immediately shifted his gaze at her.

"Lucy, no…"

"Could we use your room?" She ignored her partner.

"Certainly!" Hingaro replied urgently. "Take your time, please…"

"Thank you." Lucy smiled at him, as Natsu went ahead murmuring something in the process. As he entered the room Hingaro gestured at, Lucy turned around one last time before entering herself. "He'll come around."

"No way in hell!" Natsu barked at his partner furiously. Lucy was absolutely positive she had never had such a heated discussion with the fire- mage. Well, at the very least, the roles were reversed and she was the one yelling at him. "Just forget about this stupid mission! We'll find another job!"

"Quitting like that would only make the guild look bad!" She countered quickly. "Don't you care about that anymore?!"

"This is different! He basically tricked us with the job description!" Natsu raised his tone again. "It never mentioned anything about you becoming a prostitute!"

"I'm not going to become a prostitute! I'm just going to pretend to…-"

"NO way in hell!" Natsu repeated in rage. "The only way we're doing this is if we charge in there right away and…-"

"We can't!" Lucy cried out in frustration. She was pretty sure Hingaro could hear them; hell, the whole neighborhood could probably hear them loud and clear, but she couldn't bring herself to care at the moment. "This guy is really dangerous! I have to find out more about him before…-"

"I can't let you do that!" The dragon- slayer protested firmly. "It's way too dangerous, and…-"

"Oh! So that's what this is!" She couldn't believe this! Is that how much he trusted her? "You think I couldn't handle it! You think I'm too weak…"

"I never said…"

"Now look here!" She cut him off quickly. "I might not contribute as much Erza, or Gray, or you, but that doesn't give you the right to…-"

She was silenced as Natsu suddenly grabbed her wrist to get her attention. "It's not…" His eyes softened and his hold on her loosened. "It's not like that." His voice was low, almost a whisper, and Lucy felt something stir inside her stomach. The way he was looking at her made her want to melt beneath his feet. What was happening to her? This was Natsu, after all... Since when did he get so... so...

"I just can't stand the thought of it… I…" He spoke again, his gaze dropping. "I don't want you around those… Those…"

"Natsu." Lucy cut him off in a far gentler voice then earlier. "I can do this. Really." She placed her hand over his which made him look up. "Besides, we can't just leave those poor girls, right?" She gave him a small smile, but noticed the fire mage's eyes held a new king of sadness, something she wasn't quite used to seeing.

Natsu removed his hand from her wrist and slowly sat himself on the bed behind them. He let out one deep sigh before he finally spoke.

"I guess… We could give it a shot." Lucy's eyes widened in disbelief. Did she hear that right? "But." He continued, raising his tone a bit. "If anything happens, I want you to send one of your spirits for me and I'll barge in there right away."

Lucy felt her lips curve upwards and nodded in response. She knew Natsu was protective of all of his fellow guild members, and that he would probably act this way about any other female from their guild, but still... The way he just looked at her, and how he touched her, even if it was for a few mere moments... She could still feel her heart pounding.

The celestial spirit mage let out a deep breath and forced her mind to shove those strange thoughts away. They had more important business to attend to, after all.

„Alright, now that that's settled, you go tell Hingaro-san we're accepting his offer and I'll start getting ready." She told him. „I have a job interview ahead of me, remember?" She explained after catching his confused look.

Natsu's expression turned dark as he wordlessly got off the bed and walked towards the door. Grabbing the door- handle, he stopped his actions for a moment. „I'll wait for you outside." He muttered sourly and left the room, leaving her confused and slightly taken aback by the coldness in his voice.

Natsu dragged his feet outside of the small potion shopdefeatedly and slumped down to the ground with an exhausted sigh. The breeze was lightly caressing his skin and making his rosy bangs tickle his forehead. His surroundings might have been relaxing, but on the inside, the dragon- slayer was anything but at ease.

Inwardly, he blamed himself for being stupid enough to get stuck in this mess. He knew it was all his fault. Served him right for lacking the habit of actually reading a job description for once… Any other job would have been a better choice!

If the situation wasn't as delicate, he would've barged into that brothel and kicked this idiot owner's ass s long time ago. Unfortunately, it wasn't that simple.

It's not like he was afraid of marching into a battlefield without Erza or that ice- brain Gray. He almost laughed at the thought. As if.

Still, if something were to go wrong, who's to say this creep wouldn't stick to his threats and actually kill those innocent girls? It wasn't like him to think things through like that, but he wasn't willing to take that kind of a risk.

But just the idea of Lucy working there, surrounded by some pathetic, horny low- lives was enough to make him sick to his stomach.

"Shit." He muttered under his breath as the rage he felt before started boiling inside him again. He had absolutely no idea how he was going to survive the coming days…

A large part of him still wanted to grab Lucy and drag her back home if that's what it took to get this stupid plan out of her head. But he couldn't do that. He knew leaving those girls would be wrong. If he did that, he wouldn't deserve to call himself a mage, let alone return to Fairy Tail.

"Natsu?" His partner's low voice came from behind him. Realizing it was time to put this plan in motion, the fire mage sighed before turning around. As soon as he saw what she looked like, however, his eyes nearly bulged out of its sockets

The red dress she was wearing revealed more skin than Natsu could ever imagine. Sure, Lucy wasn't exactly known for dressing conservatively, but still… Her low- cut dress was letting just about anyone see that enticing valley of skin between her breasts and it was barely covering her legs, so most of her creamy thighs were revealed as well.

Natsu found it more difficult to tare his gaze off of her than he expected. His eyes motioned from her exposed cleavage to her long, bare legs…

"Natsu…?" She called his attention again, and the fire- mage somehow forced himself to look at anything else except the barely-clad girl in front of him.

"W-why are you dressed like that?" He stuttered, trying to fight the urge to look at her again.

"Huh?" The blonde mage blinked in confusion, and Natsu frowned. He wasn't exactly trilled to see that she was completely oblivious to what she looked like.

"Oh, well…" She started, finally realizing what her companion was asking. "We want them to hire me as a prostitute, right?" She inquired and Natsu felt something kick inside his stomach at that word. "I can't really go dressed like a nun."

You don't have to go dressed like a Saturday night stripper either, Natsu thought bitterly, but reminded himself it wasn't her he was actually mad at, before saying something he'd later regret.

"Well, let's get going." Lucy exclaimed calmly, and Natsu snapped out of his ragging thoughts.

The two partners walked in silence, as the sun was lowly setting over the horizon. Natsu took a deep breath as he tried to remember how he ended up accepting this whole idea in the first place.

After a while, Lucy suddenly stopped her tracks and turned to him with a serious expression. "Come by the brothel tomorrow evening so we can exchange info." She started and he nodded in response. "I should go on by myself now, it shouldn't be very far from here."

"They can't see us together." She reminded him, just as the fire- mage opened his mouth to protest.

Natsu unconsciously clenched his fists as he watched her slowly distance herself. Was he really supposed to let her go by herself, dressed like that?

"See you tomorrow." She gave him one last smile, before turning around and hurrying down the road, not giving him a chance to protest.

Natsu groaned in defeat, before heading back to the potion shop. As much as he trusted Lucy's skills, and he really did, he just couldn't shake this irritable, angsty feeling that had gotten under his skin off.

Letting out one last sigh, he finally let his mind wander off, as nothing good could come out of worrying and mopping around.

Little did he know what dangers and challenges lay ahead of him, but even more so ahead of the celestial spirit mage, who was walking into a place of her darkest nightmares.

To be continued…

A/N: Well, how was it? Would you be interested in reading more? I'm still new to writing FT fanfics, so please do share your thoughts!

Thanks for reading, everyone!