Chapter 7: All Set

Lucy's eyes fluttered open as a lone ray of dawn light pierced through the window. She could hear light snores from above and smiled, snuggling closer against the warm skin beneath her. Unlike the last time she woke by the dragon slayer's side, the memories of the previous night were all too fresh for her to question why they were curled up against each other.

Blood rose to her cheeks as the hot images flashed before her eyes. She could hardly grasp the fact that her and Natsu did what they did, let alone that her first time happened in a brothel room, which the fire- mage technically had to pay for… It was bizarre and utmost ridiculous, but then again, it was her and Natsu.

Sleeping next to his side felt like having her own cocoon and leaving it for the cold room seemed downright cruel. She was sure she'd have no problem spending the whole day like this. What else could she possibly need?

Quickly enough, the first morning noises from the hallway reminded her of their surroundings. They might have experienced their first time in the most unlikely way to date, but that didn't mean the nasty circumstances they were under were getting resolved on their own.

Lucy wasn't exactly sure how she would open the subject of continuing their mission with the fire-mage, realizing the topic was now far more delicate than before. Natsu would surely freak out if she proposed a new strategy and she could hardly blame him. The spirit mage of all people knew exactly how their quest had gotten way out of control; she was the one who felt it on her own skin. She couldn't tell whether it was wise to open the subject at all, but did she even have a choice?

Suddenly she felt firm muscles move against her and titled her head upwards. Natsu rubbed the sleep from his eyes lazily, before letting out a long yawn and glancing down at her.

"Hey" He smiled tiredly, his voice hoarse. He couldn't suppress another yawn which made the spirit mage giggle against his skin.

"Hey yourself" She mused, resting her chin onto his chest. This was their first real conversation as… What were they again? Lucy felt too embarrassed to ask, assuming Natsu would just laugh and call her a weirdo again. Should she call him her boyfriend? Or would that be weird for a guy like him? This was Natsu after all, she had never even heard him talk about relationships or anything related to…

"Did you get some rest?" He asked suddenly, gaining back her attention, and for the better she thought. Pondering over stuff like that was the last thing that should be on her mind.

"Yeah, the best night's sleep I've had in a while" She admitted, smiling almost shyly. It was the truth, the last night had been the first in a while that she managed to sleep for hours without waking up in anxiety. The first time she actually felt safe since the mission started. "You?"

"Same" He smiled down at her, and she believed him, realizing how agonizing the last few days must have been for him as well.

Her gaze dropped from his as he lazily played with strains of her hair. "I really am sorry" She confided after a pause. "For telling you not to come and all… I just…" She trailed off, unsure of what she even wanted to say to him.

"I understand" He exclaimed suddenly, his tone rather quiet. He was avoiding her look, but Lucy could tell he was being sincere. "You don't have to talk about it if you don't want to."

"I do, I just…" Now she was the one avoiding his gaze, searching for the right reply. "I guess I just need time."

He nodded understandingly, squeezing her by the side and she smiled in response, grateful they could talk about this very delicate subject when the time was right. Still, another topic remained, one they needed to discuss far more urgently.

She was anything but confident about asking him this, dreading the fact that she was about to ruin the harmony between them. "N-Natsu?"

"Mm?" He mumbled sleepily.

"About the…"

"Mission?"

She was completely taken aback by the calmness in his voice, so much she sat up to look straight at him. "I know how you feel about it, but… I really think we should continue…"

"What good would it bring, Luce?" Natsu inquired, sitting up himself, a slightly frustrated expression already gracing his features. Lucy bit her lip, fearing where this discussion was already headed. "Neither of us was able to find anything on this owner and…"

"One more night" She cut him off, realizing there was only one way he'd agree on this. The owner was set to pick a girl for himself tonight and this was the ultimate chance they would get to see what these secret abilities of his were. Natsu didn't have to know that she could likely be the girl he chooses, but having him close to the brothel as he uncovers his secrets was the best plan they had since getting here. "I just know something big is gonna happen tonight!"

Natsu frowned in utter confusion. "What in the world makes you think that?"

"I just know it. Call it intuition or whatever." His look wasn't exactly beaming with support, and she could hardly blame him. She was sounding a bit ridiculous to herself as well. Still, he'd freak out if she told him about going to the owner on her own. "If it makes you feel better, I want you to stay really near the brothel tonight, just in case."

"Tch" He sniffed. "I would have done that even if you told me not to."

"Sooo?" Lucy mused, climbing on top of him again, resting on his chest. She smiled as his frown slowly disappeared; her fingers intervened with his hair. "We have an agreement?" She leaned towards him, lightly brushing her nose against his, their lips almost touching.

She could feel him smirk before capturing her lips into a deep kiss, quickly turning them over so he was on top.

"I'll take that as a yes" She whispered breathlessly when he pulled away, before claiming her lips again.


Natsu had been sniffing out the railway for hours when he finally picked up his targeted scent in the wind.

"That way, huh" He muttered to himself, heading down the road his nose pointed out to him. The dragon slayer wasn't exactly fulfilling his duties for their assigned mission. He was on a different kind of a quest. A personal mission of his, if you will.

Natsu thanked the heavens he was able to sniff out a single unfamiliar scent in Lucy's room. He assumed it belonged to the rotten animal that had attacked her and traced it to the railway just outside the town. The scent was so faint, for a moment he thought he had lost it, but thankfully he was able to recapture it and was now on his way to its source, and the fire mage could tell he was getting closer.

He spotted a group of tents on the horizon as the scent grew stronger. He picked up his pace and soon found himself sprinting towards the camp. His heart started racing in anticipation as he realized he was about confront him.

He crawled up against the tents, carefully studying the mixture of different aromas, focused not to lose the one he was after. The fire- mage peeked over a smaller tent to see the source of the noise he was hearing.

There they were. A dozen of low-lifers crawled up over a small fire, too busy cracking up some idiotic jokes and coughing on cheap beer to notice somebody had entered their camp.

"Honestly, the little blonde skank was one of the best fucks I've ever had!"

"You really are a pig, Sai!" One of the men laughed, but his expression quickly turned startled as an unfamiliar figure made its appearance among them. "S-Sai, uh…"

"What, wha-?"

It was him, Natsu was positive. If his previous statement wasn't enough, the very faint traces of Lucy's scent and her room's specific aroma were all the proof he needed.

Just imagining him so much as being in her presence angered him to the point where he could easily lose control. This scum actually hurt her, those disgusting hands actually touched her, almost forced her…

Before he could even plan his actions, Natsu's body started moving on its own. The fire- mage was punching the man in front of him with all the force he could muster, drawing more demonic power in every move he made. He felt the need to repeat his actions with each hit, as the images of him forcing himself on Lucy, the image of her crying inconsolably kept flashing in his mind.

He knew his immense rage was getting the better of him, he could hear the other men growling at him to stop, but none dared to join the one sided fight. The dragon slayer could feel fire rising up in his chest. He could feel his hits were getting stronger, without him actually controlling his movements.

This scum almost…

Natsu crushed his enemy with a hit so powerful, it actually catapulted him onto a tent.

As he wasn't in his reach anymore, the fire mage tried regaining his breath and contemplating the situation. He had lost control for a few seconds, which was something that had only happened to him a few times before, and back then, he stood against an enemy who actually represented a challenge for the dragon slayer.

This scum was unable to fight back, unable to dodge a single move he made. He tainted something that was sacred to him, almost did the unthinkable to the single most important girl in his life. He had a million reasons that seemed good enough to end his pathetic existence right then and there, but the human inside him prevailed over the possessive dragon instincts.

"If you ever so much as touch a girl without her consent" The fire- mage growled out, slowly approaching his victim. "Trust me I will find you" He exclaimed as he observed his terrified expression, knowing full well whatever he said to him now would leave a lasting impact. "And I guarantee you, I won't be as merciful as today."

"That goes for the rest of you scum as well" And with that, his quest for revenge was halfway done. He turned from the group in silence, as none of them dared to say a word, and made his way back to the town on the horizon. None of his revenge fueled actions could make Lucy's trauma go away, but Natsu knew he wouldn't have been able to move on if he hadn't done this.

It was time for the final showdown. This mission was long overdue.


Lucy tapped her foot anxiously. As Fumiko instructed earlier, they were supposed to gather in the kitchen where she was set to announce something important and Lucy knew very well what that something was.

She just had to be the one the owner asked for. Everything depended on it!

What if Fumiko herself helped the owner decide which girl to choose? After all, she knew them, unlike him who's never even met any of his employees. And since Fumiko wasn't exactly the stellar mage's biggest fan, maybe she picked her for the unfortunate task of pleasuring their master?

Lucy mentally slapped herself for harboring such delusional, wishful thoughts. What exactly was the point in overanalyzing? The decision had surely already been made, so she would have to find a way to work with whatever it turned out to be.

"You coming?" Yuki's muffled voice from the hallway broke her thoughts, and Lucy was grateful for it.

"Yeah" She headed to the door to join her friend. They walked through the hall together and Lucy stole a few glances at Yuki, worried about how she was handling the immense stress. The sweet girl seemed to put up a brave front, but Lucy knew she couldn't possibly be as relaxed on the inside.

The spirit mage sighed, once again inwardly praying her name is what Fumiko was about to announce.

Her train of worried thoughts was jumbled as she took the first step down the staircase, wincing from the soreness she felt in her thighs.

"Rough night?" Yuki apparently heard her.

"Uh, you could say that" Lucy blushed, remembering the very details of just how rough it was. She smiled upon the memories from last night and this morning, only to realize how weird it would be if anyone saw her smiling at a moment like this and quickly dropped her expression.

The other girls were already gathered in the kitchen and the tension was so heavy, Lucy could quite literally feel it on her skin. She looked around to see the girls tapping their foots, biting lips, breathing unsteadily, some of them barely holding off tears.

"I know it'll be me" Rin suddenly exclaimed in a tiny voice, gaining the girls attention. "I woke up with this feeling in my stomach, I just know it"

"Shh, don't think like that, okay?" Yuki tried to calm her friend and Lucy mentally applauded her for her strength and courage. The girl was quite remarkable, considering the circumstances. Lucy couldn't even begin to imagine what her poor friends were going through.

The spirit mage prayed to the heavens for the first thing to go right on this cursed mission. If only the owner picked her, if only…

"Alright, you all know why you've been summoned here." Fumiko exclaimed in an ice cold tone, gathering all the attention in the room. Lucy could feel the suspense rising up a notch. "Tonight is a very special night. One of you will get the honor of pleasuring none other than our beloved master."

A girl behind Lucy swallowed thickly, and another beside her seemed to have trouble standing straight. The stellar mage took her hand inwardly, squeezing it lightly.

She could hear heavy breathing across the room, a few sniffs here and there before looking back at Fumiko who was smirking contently. She enjoyed doing this, it was written all over her face. Lucy wondered how someone could ever get so low to enjoy bringing so much pain to others.

There was no way any of these villains involved in this crime were going to be left unpunished. No matter what happened in the next few moments, she'd make sure of it.

"The girl he asked for is" Fumiko finally stated, pausing for another intense few moments. Lucy felt the girl beside her squeeze her hand tightly.

"Hingaro Yuki"

Gasps and sights of utter relief filled the room, but Lucy's attention was focused solely on her friend. Other girls soon turned to the unfortunate redhead as well.

Yuki's expression was still, her face pale as snow. Rin wrapped an arm around her best friend, but she didn't seem to notice a thing around her, still unable to react to what she had just been told.

Unfortunately, Fumiko wasn't about to grant her time to compose herself. "You have an hour to get ready, and then I'll meet you here and escort you to the master. Understood?"

Yuki nodded hectically, unable to speak up at first. "Y-Yes, Fumiko-sama."

"Everyone else is also working tonight, start preparing yourselves."

Lucy's thoughts were in a turmoil. She couldn't have asked for a more messed up situation. The owner didn't request her, which was enough of a problem on its own, but the girl he chose was actually their employer's daughter?

Well this was just perfect. Absolutely perfect.

Should she just call Natsu and storm right into action? Was there any use in strategizing any further? In an hour, their employer's daughter was about to get who knows what by a creature they knew absolutely nothing about… There was absolutely no way out of this mess, no way…

Except there was.

Gemini

Lucy almost squeaked in excitement over her new idea, but managed to restrain herself. It was the only plan she had, and now everything depended on it.

Lucy looked around. Most of the girls had already left the kitchen for the steam bathroom, but Rin and Yuki remained at the very same spot.

"Yuki" Rin called out in tears. "Look, those were all rumors, we don't know what actually happened to those girls."

"Maybe the master let them go, maybe they've escaped…" She trailed off, having a hard time believing in her own words.

Yuki remained still, her gaze focused on nothing in particular. Lucy was startled by her blank expression, but quickly reminded herself to stay focused. Time was running out.

"Yuki, listen" Lucy carefully shook her by the shoulder. "Listen to me, Yuki, please!" She raised her tone which captured both girls attention. Rin gave her a puzzled look. "You should go and get ready, I'll help Yuki."

The girl wasted no time to protest. "No, I'll stay with her…"

"Fumiko's still pissed at you for being late a few days ago, you can't afford to let that happen again" She shot back instantly, baffled by how in the world she managed to think of that so quickly. "I'm still new so I guess she's give me a free pass. You'll see her before she has to go, ok? I'll help Yuki, just go!"

Thankfully, Rin left them unwillingly, knowing her own fate would be compromised if she stayed there longer.

"Yuki, listen" Lucy focused on the redhead again, hoping her words would reach her troubled mind. "I'm a mage, a mage from Magnolia who's come to help you." Yuki looked baffled, but said nothing. "Your father was the one who called for me and my partner. I'm not going to let anything bad happen to you and the girls, okay?"

"M-my father?" Yuki mumbled out, her expression clouded with utter confusion.

"Yes, he explained everything to us, and I've been on a mission to find out more about the master before I confront him with my partner. " She paused, letting the redhead contemplate the wave of news. "Now go to you room and leave everything to me."

"B-but, you can't possibly face him on your own!" Yuki protested, and Lucy smiled at her genuine concern.

"Don't worry about me, I'll be fine" She ensured her, and for once, believed in her own words. "Besides, I'm not on my own."

And she wasn't. Just outside, an alert figure was creeping in the woods, waiting for a sign to make his move. Natsu was long ready for action.

However, behind the door that seemed forever shut from the world, a despicable force was ready to take them on.


A/N: Yes, I know. I'm the one who's despicable. Almost a year has passed since my last update. But you know, as one of you wise reviewers said to me once, life just happens sometimes.

I appreciate every follow/fav and of course review, every single one! I really hope you're still interested in the story and that you enjoyed this chapter.

As always, your comments, tips, thoughts aka reviews = smiles on my face :D

Either way, thanks for the support!

Anyway… One more chapter to go you guys! Who's excited?

Stay awesome and I'll see you sooner than later with the FINALE of Heated Nights and Dark Shadows!

xx

Blossom