If Time Permits

Part VIII

It was weird the first time she noticed it. To be honest, it really shouldn't have surprised her; she had seen it a million times before in their months as friends. But this time…this time it was different.

Had his smile always looked that…beautiful?

Shaking her head, Lucy couldn't seem to tear her gaze away from that smile, the sight of it making her heart pound and heat creep up her cheeks. She watched as the waning sunlight slanting through the window made his hair burn with pink flame and made the carefree flash of teeth all that much more breath taking. She loved the way his eyes sparkled with warmth, the way they seemed to truly see her.

Had it always been this way?

"Lucy? Yo, Earth to Lucy!"

She blinked to clear her mind and felt the heat of her cheeks increase in intensity as she realized she had been gazing at her friend for the last several seconds. Looking away, she coughed to cover to embarrassment and fiddled with blanket in her lap.

Geez, how lame Lucy. Could to you be any creepier?

"Are you okay, Lucy?" Natsu asked, cocking his head to the side in concern. Chancing a look at him, she blushed even harder at just how cute he looked and had to look away again.

"Yeah." Damn was her voice really shaking that badly? She coughed again. "I'm fine. Just peachy." Peachy? Really?

She bit her lip and closed her eyes, raising one hand to press against her forehead.

Natsu searched her face, clearly not believing her blatant lie, but in a rare moment of tact, didn't comment on it. Instead, he turned back to the television in front of them, putting her strangeness from his mind. After all, it wasn't the first time that Lucy had acted strange. She was weird all the time. He had gotten used to it a long time ago.

Lucy looked down at her hands as they plucked at the threads of blanket in her lap, mentally berating herself. Just what the hell had gotten into her anyway? Since when did she think anything about Natsu was beautiful? The entire idea made her want to laugh. Nothing about Natsu was beautiful. Sure he was warm and inviting and alluring but-

Wait, alluring?

Seriously, was she sick or something?

Frowning, she pressed the back of her head against her forehead to check for a fever. Her skin was very flushed and warm but it didn't feel like a fever. But why else would she think such-

Did it ever occur to you that you might like him?

Whoa! Where did that thought come from?

Like Natsu? Her, like Natsu? The idea was ludicrous. And yet…

She chanced a look over at him from the corner of her eye just in time to catch him mid laugh, his mouth open and his eyes dancing with amusement. Her heart stuttered and the breath left her lungs.

Holy crap.

She liked him. She totally liked Natsu.

Holy freakin' crap!

With a groan she put her head in her hands, bringing up her knees to cover her face and curling in on herself. Beside her, Natsu looked at her strangely before turning back to the television but not without shooting her looks every few seconds. Of course, the distraught girl never noticed any of this, so upset was she at her sudden realization.

When did I start liking him?

Does it really matter? A voice whispered in her mind. What matters is that you do.

Oh God, what was she going to do now? How could she possible look in him the eye, knowing that she liked him? How would she be able to act normally around him like she used to?

It was simple. She couldn't. There was no way she could look at him now and ignore the way her heart sped up. There was no way she would be able ignore the way she wanted to touch him, feel him next to her at all times.

What the hell did she do now?

She jumped when she felt a warm hand on her back, her head jerking up as her wide eyes fell on Natsu's concerned face.

"Hey, Lucy. Are you okay?" he asked. She bit her lip as she tried to ignore the way the heat of his hand seeped through the material of her shirt and warmed her skin.

"I'm fine," she squeaked and winced. His frown intensified.

"Are you sure? You don't look so good. You're all flushed." Her heart skipped a beat when she felt him touch her forehead with the back of his hand, much as she herself had done earlier. But this didn't feel like a simple, friendly touch. No, this felt…hot. "You're warm," he murmured, his eyes darkening with emotion. "Are you getting sick?"

Seizing the opportunity, Lucy jerked her head in a nod. "I must be," she said quickly, leaning back away from his touch and getting to her feet, immediately missing the warmth of him. "Maybe I should head to bed early."

He searched her face for a moment, his eyes surprisingly solemn. She held her breath as she waited for his reaction. Finally, he seemed to make a decision and got to his feet with a nod.

"Okay," he said, bending down to grab his backpack where he had tossed it when they had gotten to her house after school. She sighed with relief and ignored that small part of her that felt…disappointed. Following him to the door, she shifted nervously as he turned to face her once again, a frown pinching his mouth. "Make sure you get some sleep. I can't afford to have my favorite weirdo sick!" He said this last part coupled with a bright, dazzling grin and Lucy cursed how breathless she felt at the sight of it.

Damn him!

"I'll be fine," she reassured him with a careless wave of her hand. She was eager to see him gone so she could sort through her sudden and frightening revelations. "I'll see you at school tomorrow."

He gave her another bright smile and nodded. She almost fainted when he reached forward and wrapped his arms around her, pulling her against his muscled chest. Her face erupted into a raging blush and she squeaked in surprise. She felt his chest rumble underneath her cheek as he laughed at her. With one last strong squeeze, he released her and opened the door, waving behind his shoulder as he jogged down the driveway. She watched him go with amazement. How was it possible that one hug, something that Natsu did all the time could suddenly unravel her so thoroughly?

It's not fair! Stupid boys and their stupid beautiful smiles!


(AN: I know it's been a little while and this might be a little rushed, but I had to get it our before I crashed tonight. I hope I kept them both in character since this is the first time I've written something like this where Lucy actually realizes her feelings. I'm more the type where I have Natsu do all the moves first and make her realize her feelings kind of thing. But I think this is more fun. I hope its good but be warned I have not edited it, so I'm sorry for any mistakes that I might have in it. I hope you enjoyed it. Thank you to all of you that reviewed! I adore you all! Thanks for reading)

Jane