Lucy stared out of the window.
The sunlight was warm on her skin, and she inhaled the sweet scent of an exceedingly long summer. The days were slowly becoming shorter, and soon the chill of autumn would be upon them.
Natsu's getting married today.
Why did that thought make her stomach sink and her heart ache? She had always cared about him—always wanted what was best for him. So why this impending sadness? This feeling that made her want to cry?
"Heya, Luce," came the familiar voice of Natsu's best friend.
"Happy, what are you doing here? You should be with Natsu," she chastised him, crossing her arms over her chest protectively.
He looked up at her, his expression solemn as he studied her body language. He had become much more astute during his time in their world. Lucy had to wonder if that was his Eksheed gift—an ability to read people's emotions from the subtle—and often not-so-subtle—body language.
"You ok, Lucy?" he eyed her cautiously, his gaze flickering behind her. He studied the sea of ivory and lace. The girls squealed behind Lucy, ooh-ing and ahh-ing as the bride's dress rustled with movement.
Lucy's eyes danced over the city. People were pouring into the town, their dresses fancy and suits starched. The nuptials were practically celebrities, and the drawing crowd was overwhelming. Lucy wanted to vomit.
"I'm fine," she answered sweetly, a smile twisting her lips upward, "Why do you ask?"
He said nothing for a moment, choosing his words wisely, "It's what was meant to happen. You know that."
Tears rimmed her eyes as she brushed a curl from her face. Sitting through the makeup and hair made her remember her stiff childhood and the courtesies owed to her as a budding noble. She knelt down so that she was nearly eye level with Happy. Again she smiled.
"I know, Happy. I know," she sighed.
"Do you?" he asked carefully. "It's not the end of the world."
She laughed sadly, "Feels like it sometimes."
"I don't know what it's like to be with the one I care about," he looked away, a blue paw patting her hand. He blinked furiously, and she knew he was thinking about Charle. "But at least someone else does."
Lucy sniffed, pulling the cat into a hug. She thought she felt him shudder, "Thank you for being such a loyal friend to Natsu. He is lucky to have you."
"To have both of us, Lucy," Happy told her, straightening his black jacket, suddenly distracted by his tie. How they had made a hole for his tail in those tailored pants, she would never know. Did that require extra tailor training? she wondered to herself.
With another sigh, Lucy straightened, brushing her hair back. "OK, Happy, the bride needs to get ready. We need just a little more time. You can report to Natsu—"
"I'm not here because of that—" he began to protest, but she raised a neatly manicured hand, eyeing his warily.
"He fears his beloved will run, as she may or may not have threatened to do," she shook her head to quiet her friend, "You can tell him that I will make sure that this wedding turns out….as it was meant to be."
Happy stood tall, a hint of a smile on his lips. His whiskers twitched and he nodded his head quickly. "As you say, Lucy."
His eyes flickered to the bride's dress one more time before meeting Lucy's chocolate gaze. They said nothing for some time, as if a silent conversation was occurring between them. The other women were staring with mute curiosity, and Lucy could feel Erza's knowing smile at her back.
"Aye." His magnificent white wings sprung forth without tearing the fabric of his jacket—another tailoring masterpiece she considered. In a few seconds, her friend was gone and her message on his lips to give to Natsu.
"Ladies, let's get ready, please!" Lisanna clapped her hands together, a radiant smile on her face as she held the ivory dress up for all to see. The women continued to coo about the beauty of the dress, and Lucy couldn't help but feel the color was perfect against Lisanna's skin. Much more so than it could ever be against Lucy's flesh.
Buttons were secured and clasps closed. Hair was coifed, curled and sprayed and makeup was perfectly applied to fresh faces. Levy, Erza, and Juvia looked uncomfortable in their attire, but Lucy wore hers well. Her body was accustomed to such fine evening wear, and she could easily walk on the tall peep-toed heels. Mirajane was another exception, her body perfectly encased in her maid's dress. She looked like the model who had graced many a magazine cover.
Flowers were distributed, and the veil was placed over the bride's face. It was short and delicate, hiding her features perfectly.
"You all look so lovely!" Lisanna told them, her smile full of genuine encouragement. "Now let's get everyone out there. Natsu's waiting to become an honest man. Finally!"
Lucy couldn't help but feel an ebbing sadness at those words. Natsu was waiting. Waiting for the woman he had devoted his heart to. And what a lucky woman that was.
The women were ushered out of the building, an elaborate carriage awaiting them. Two white steeds were pulling the carriage, their hair neatly brushed and plaited. The driver was stoic and poised, his eyes ahead. Lucy smiled as she saw him quickly glance toward the bride, his eyes lingering on one of the bride's maids for a few moments before he returned to his stony pose at the front of the carriage-reigns in hand.
Lucy cried out as her heel twisted in the cobblestone, and Erza was at her side, offering an arm of assistance.
"Thank you," Lucy gratefully replied.
"Think nothing of it. It's the least I can do." Just like Happy, Erza's expression held an air of sadness that made Lucy want to burst into tears.
"Not you, too!" she angrily whispered under her breath as the red head ushered her into the cabin.
"I can't help it," Erza gruffly muttered softly, staring out the carriage window as tears glistened in her eyes.
"Why is everyone feeling so sad for me?" Lucy wondered aloud.
"It's not that we feel sorry for you," Levy nudged her with a bony shoulder, her blue hair in messy wisps around her face and her stomach showing the swell of pregnancy. "It's that we feel sorry for us, Lu-chan! Our lives have changed so much."
Levy smiled, her hand falling onto her stomach. Lucy's eyes followed the movement, settling on the golden band with the black stones in the ring on Levy's left hand. Years ago, Lucy would have sworn off the possibility that Gajeel and Levy would have been in the running for Fairy Tail Couple. Everyone had been quite surprised when the dragon slayer had strode into the guild hall after a long mission, grabbing Levy by the shoulders and pulling her into a passionate kiss. In fact, it took a solid five minutes for the sheer shock to wear off and someone to say something. Unfortunately, that person was Makarov, and he had simply told them to "get a room".
And they did.
And now Levy was carrying the result of that suggestion. Lucy had never been so happy for anyone in her entire life. Levy deserved Gajeel's adoration—and he had no intention of letting her out of his sight. That fact was evident in the way he had managed to pose as their carriage driver. Lucy only hoped he knew what he was doing, or they may not make it to the ceremony.
She leaned back in her seat, her hands clasping the fabric on her lap. The other girls chattered happily, discussing how they thought Natsu would react. Lucy stared out the window, a small smile on her face. Natsu was not the emotional type. In fact, he was so dense, she doubted he would do anything but stand there and smile stupidly. She'd have to make sure things went smoothly, or the Wedding of the Century—as the tabloids were calling it—would turn out to be an utter failure.
The carriage carried them without a hitch, and Lucy said a silent prayer of thanks as she carefully climbed down the steps. She stared up at the tower that housed the hundreds of people who had filed into Magnolia. She could see the Eksheed flying in circles above, a few stopped to stare at the women exiting the carriage. Some swooped lower to get a better look. Lucy squinted, shielding her eyes as she spotted the one-winged cat. She felt her heart flutter as she recognized the bow on another's tail. Did Happy know she had come?
"And in we go, ladies," Mirajane gestured, her matronly nature clipped as she tried to hold her nerves together. Lucy grinned, obeying the pale-haired woman.
As if on cue, the music began to play. The haunting melody carried out of the closed doors, making them anxious and excited. Lucy wanted to vomit—she had no time to digest what was about to happen. Instead, they were walking right into the ceremony. She pulled her flowers closer to her chest, her eyes boring into Levy's head in front of her. The girl turned around, smiled, and winked at Lucy, who felt somewhat better. Levy had a way of calming Lucy, and she felt slightly sad that their lives were changing so quickly.
The doors opened wide and people turned to see the maids, their necks craning to catch a glimpse of the bride, who was at the end of the line. Lucy glanced down the aisle, and her heart raced as she saw Natsu standing there. Happy was at his side, beaming at the women.
Her feet carried her toward the altar, and Lucy pushed away the urge to throw her flowers and run to Natsu. To throw her arms around his neck and beg him to run away with her; to run away from this stiff ceremony with all these people they didn't know. But, Natsu would not do any of that, she knew. His mind was set, and his heart was taken. He stared at the ivory dress and the woman wearing it as she slowly approached. The maids shuffled off to the side one-by-one. Lucy watched Natsu, noticing the sheen of sweat on his lip and the pallor of his skin. She could almost swear that his hands were shaking.
The men at his side were grinning and murmuring inappropriate comments under their breath, Lucy knew. But she also knew they did it in hopes of calming his nerves. It was rare that Natsu—who had braved dragons and sorcerers—would show any signs of fear.
Right now, Natsu was scared shitless.
Lucy pushed her selfish feelings away as his hands reached for the veil. The slight tremor became more evident as he struggled to lift the dainty veil from his bride's face. In a move of impatience, the bride pushed his hands away, throwing the fabric over her shoulders, much to the amusement of the onlookers. A soft chuckle from the crowd only served to make Natsu more nervous.
"Stupid idiot," Lucy muttered under her breath, closing her eyes momentarily.
"Sorry," she heard him reply. "It's not as easy to move as it looks. Erm, it looked nice, though!"
The ceremony continued and Lucy heard none of it, her mind in a faraway place. A place where they were young again. Where they were careless and free to fight monsters without repercussions. When they could barely make ends meet and had no one else to worry about but their friends and themselves. Today, those days were lost to their pasts. They were adults who had responsibilities and their lives would forever be changed from the events of this day and every day that came after.
Lucy wondered if this was the natural progression of life. Their friends were moving away, falling in love, and starting families. They've lost loved ones and gained new friends. The sadness from earlier was encroaching on her heart once again. It wasn't a desolate feeling, but one of melancholy. She dwelt a little longer, before she heard Natsu's deep baritone cut into her thoughts.
"Luce?" he asked her softly. His brow was drawn together as he studied her face. She wondered how much she had missed.
Natsu wiped sweat off of his face with his sleeve. She felt sorry for him—he hadn't wanted all of this pomp, either. His face was turning an odd shade of green. "Um, you were supposed to answer that part."
Lucy glanced at Makarov who chuckled as he rocked on his heels. "Getting cold feet, my dear?"
Lucy felt her cheeks flood with color as the hall fell deadly silent. She looked at Natsu, the veil tickling her shoulders. He was still a few inches taller—even with her heels—and his hair was slowly becoming messy from his incessant habit of running his hand through it. Lucy looked at Happy who gestured for her to say something—say anything.
Her eyes went back to her groom and her fears suddenly washed away. It was apparent that he, too, suffered the same anxieties that she had. Today would be the end of their adventures as individuals. No longer would he be able to rush into battle without a worry in sight. He would now have to answer to someone. He would have someone to mourn the outcome of any poor decision-making on his part. That pressure was overwhelming, she could tell.
She smiled up at him, her hand reaching up to cup his cheek. His eyes grew wide and she inhaled deeply, opening her heart and mind to the future that would await them. With that, her lips parted.
"I do, idiot."
Today, she told herself, we will start living the rest of our lives.
It was another adventure altogether.