ENTITLED: Some Half-Remembered Face
FANDOM: Fairy Tail
SETTING: Post time skip.
DISCLAIMER: I do not own Fairy Tail, but I took liberties with the universe's mythology anyway. Whatcha gonna do.
NOTES: Oh my GOD, what am I even doing here?!
NOTES1: Basically I promised someone I would do NaNoWriMo this year because I am an IDIOT and think that I can do everything. Double major? What double major! So that totally failed. Enjoy my penance.
NOTES2: If y'all only knew the lazy thievery I go through to make up my titles.
SUMMARY: When a tricky new mission requires Lucy to use the spirit world as a portal to the afterlife, she learns that a millennium-old legend may be real enough to destroy more world than one. To make matters worse, she's seriously behind on her rent, everyone's suddenly shacking up, and Loki won't stop hitting on her. — Lucy/Loke
I loved you in the morning, our kisses deep and warm,
your hair upon the pillow like a sleepy golden storm,
yes many loved before us, I know that we are not new,
in city and in forest they smiled like me and you,
but let's not talk of love or chains and things we can't untie,
your eyes are soft with sorrow,
Hey, that's no way to say goodbye.
—"Hey, That's No Way To Say Goodbye", Leonard Cohen
Lucy stared at the hole in her wall, and wondered how much it was going to cost her. It was not quite dawn, and almost dark enough for her to pretend that the hole was, in fact, not there. Of course it wasn't there. Of course!
It was totally there.
Lucy buried her face in her pillow, and tried not to wail. Wailing would wake up her landlord, who would come upstairs to complain, "Lucy Heartfilia, can't you keep your misery a little quieter!?" and then, the discovery would be made. The hole was too big to be hidden with a picture frame. It was more like the wall had been decimated, honestly.
Freaking Natsu. What was the point of having friends when all they did was inadvertently ruin your life/eat all your food?!
Lucy sat up. Tears trembled at the lower edges of her eyes, then abated, as she calmly realized that her life was just impossible.
Ergo, she just could not be expected to deal with this shit.
What a relief, Lucy thought, as she hastily began throwing her clothes into her rucksack. It was nice to be able to deal things rationally, and discover their logical conclusion. Bag in tow, Lucy threw one leg over her windowsill, and ducked out into the cool morning air, reflecting on her amazing problem solving skills.
"So, you fell."
"It really hurts," Lucy whimpered.
"You were injured as a result of your efforts to skirt around the law," Erza summarized, and then folded her arms, "I see no problem here."
"Yeah, seriously," Natsu agreed. It was something of a miracle that Lucy was able to understand him, considering the enormous drumstick he seemed to be forcing down his throat. But then, she'd had extensive practice. Natsu choked on his breakfast, recovered, and then continued to lecture, "You should really just pay your rent like a responsible citizen, Lucy. Learn to pull your weight!" He said this as if his words would somehow set a blazing fire of motivation alight in her heart.
"Natsu! You're so cool!" Happy applauded.
Lucy could only gasp in deep outrage. The nerve of these people!
"You were the one who had to show off your stupid fire farts," Gray snapped, less in Lucy's defense and more in opportunity to pick on Natsu, "Why don't you pay her rent?"
"But I give Lucy all my money already!" Natsu whined, "If I don't, she won't stop whining about how much she needs new clothes!"
The look Erza sent Lucy was pitiless. Buoyed by the twangs of pain her ankle was still broadcasting, Lucy rallied herself to give a fairly good defense. "Do you KNOW how many clothes I go through? Every mission! Every time! Somebody burns my top off!"
"I know," Gray agreed, and was then thankful that the conversation did not pause. Happy, who missed nothing, shot him a sly look.
"Every time!" Lucy screamed, "I buy something new, it gets trashed! I have a member's card at every store in Fiore! It's impossible! I am not being frivolous! I buy all my clothes on sale! What am I supposed to do, wear over sized value-pack T-shirts for the rest of my life!?"
"No," Gray said immediately. He and Natsu exchanged a look. It occurred to both of them to wonder exactly how many men were sponsoring Lucy's outfits.
"Very well," Erza conceded, thinking of her own twelve well-stocked closets, "I suppose since you were able to put all your belongings into one bag, I must owe you some pity."
Lucy's reply was a brave little sniffle.
"If you put a bandage on that, it'll be fine," Erza added, indicating the scratch on Lucy's ankle. Lucy, who did not appreciate her wound being treated as a minor inconvenience rather than the horror it was, quietly seethed.
"Have you checked the mission board yet?" Gray asked, "A bunch of new ones came in today. If you do a couple solo, even if they're easy ones, you should be set."
"Screw that! Let's take the hardest one they've got and split it!" Natsu yelled. Gray bared his teeth.
"Why the hell are you acting like I would ever want to do anything with you again?!"
"I was talking about me and Lucy. And Happy. Also Erza. Maybe Gajeel? Gajeel's cool."
"Shut the fuck up," Gajeel growled from the back of the hall. Natsu waved.
"I cannot go with you on this expedition," Erza spoke up, her expression grave, "My apologies."
Lucy, who had long ago decided that Natsu and Gray were useless morons (and Happy was a cat), immediately gave up on the dangerous mission plan.
"What?! Why!" demanded Natsu, who could not accept that Erza might have a life outside of their little circle.
Gray, who harbored similar sentiments, leered as he asked, "You got a date or something?"
For a second Lucy thought Erza would blush, but the older girl forced it back with admirable determination. She replied, "Something like that. I've decided, I'm going to have sex," without a trace of compromise in her voice.
"Aye!" Happy said sagely.
It was difficult to say who had the reddest face.
"There is a time when every girl must give her flower away," Erza said, with absolute solemnity.
"I can't believe you just said that," said Natsu, which in itself, indicated quite a lot.
Lucy was deeply offended. "I'm your best friend!" she cried, and stared at Erza with great, imploring eyes, "Your BEST FRIEND! How could you have hidden this from me?!"
"Because you're a virgin and your advice is worthless," Erza explained kindly. Lucy died a million tortured deaths.
"I must applaud you," Juvia chimed in from below the table, "And I can only hope to follow in your noble example, Erza-sama."
"Stop licking my leg," Natsu grumbled. Juvia squeaked at her error. Gray hastily moved back from the table. Lucy, who still felt she had been severely short-changed with regards to her best-friend-privileges, attempted to rally herself.
"Do you need my help getting ready? I can buy some magazines!"
"Thank you," Erza said graciously, "But I am confident of my biological functionality."
Lucy let her head slam down into the table, and realized that without Erza around to keep them in line, it was simply inevitable that Gray and Natsu would beginning brawling, and in so doing, take out several important buildings, which she would then also be obligated to pay for.
With this terrifying thought serving as her primary motivator, Lucy marched up to the mission board, randomly seized a flier, and shot out of the guild with her bag thrown over one shoulder before anyone thought to stop her. Hovering safely above the hormonal chaos Lucy was now rushing past, Happy waved farewell.
Once she'd reached a suitable distance from the guild, Lucy thought to look at the flier. It was, as always, completely sketchy. "Lots of money!", and "Come to Fair's Borough! We need your help! SOS! Send a really good mage!" were the sort of phrases she imagined to have been penned by illiterate conmen.
Lucy considered her options, and ultimately concluded that, at the very least, her landlord wouldn't know where she was going. She therefore dedicated herself to a fairly enjoyable train ride (no barfing Natsu to deal with), a refreshing change of scenery, and an evening spent alone at an inn where, doubtless, there would be no holes in the walls.
Upon arriving at her location, Lucy set up a time and meeting place for her mission's requestor, took a very thorough bath, and wandered out an hour later feeling extremely satisfied, and determined to make some progress on her novel.
"Oh my GOD!" Lucy shrieked. She had been preparing to throw herself onto her bed, but now whirled around, with her hand flat against her stuttering chest. "How did you get out?"
Loke beamed at her, "Well, I missed you, so I thought I'd come play. Where are we?"
"At an inn," Lucy said faintly, "In Fair's Borough. I took a mission. Just me."
"So we're all alone?"
Lucy narrowed her eyes at him suspiciously, and tugged her robe a little more tightly around herself. "No, I am all alone, and you are going back to the astral plane. As in, right now."
"I like your earrings," Loke said. He reached out to touch one gently, his palm grazing against her cheek. Lucy's spine jolted straight, and she blushed deeply. Loke grinned. Lucy stared furiously at his neck. She had initially supposed it would be a safer place to look than his face, but found her supposition to be false the longer she took in the view. Loke had a very nice neck. Lucy had a sudden, powerful image of her walking up to him, tugging the collar of his shirt just slightly out of the way, putting her mouth against that hot, smooth skin, and nipping into his tan.
Wait. Something was horribly wrong here. Had she gone crazy? (Lucy restrained herself from nervous giggling, and considered it a small victory.) She had a flash of insight—obviously, the environment and circumstances were at fault! She absolutely could not be held accountable for—
Hadn't he just said something?
"What?" Lucy mumbled faintly. She felt unbearably hot, almost a cramped sort of heat. It was painful to hold still, and yet she had the sense that she was swaying on the edge of some secret cliff. A single move could send her plunging over.
"Are they new?" Loke repeated. Lucy stared at him, her mouth a little open. His hand moved from her ear to her jaw and neck, cooler than she would have thought. She cringed away even as she leaned into it. And Loke was grinning at her, the most delighted, knowing grin she had ever seen.
"Hey," he practically purred, "Did you just check me out?"
Lucy made a sort of incredulous spiting noise. "Wha—WHAT? No. I mean, no. No. Not at all. Ew. What? No." She laughed breezily. It sounded like a drowning raven.
"Oh no, please," Loke brought his face a little closer to hers, still smirking, "Go ahead."
Lucy suddenly realized that she had sort of failed to move away from Loke during his stupid, distracting, seduction-thing act, which was pretty severely undermining her whole I Am Totally Unaffected argument. So that was just splendid. As a result of her realization, Lucy wrenched herself a little too violently away, and almost fell backwards over her bed. She managed to turn the moment into what she hoped was a slightly more dignified sprawl, painfully aware of how the motion had caused her robe to shift almost indecently open. She glared up at him through her eyelashes.
"I wasn't checking you out," she said, as evenly as she could.
"Okay," Loke agreed absently, now shoving his hands in his pockets as he looked down at her. His tongue pressed against the inside of one cheek, pushing it outwards. The longer he looked at her, the deeper Lucy blushed. She couldn't quite bring herself to kick him out.
"What?" she demanded, and looked determinedly into his face. Her hands twisted anxiously into the duvet below her.
Slowly, Loke bent down towards her, hands still safely restrained in his pockets. "You're very beautiful," he said, "Did you know that?"
Lucy swallowed, "Thanks," she squeaked.
"And I really wish," he continued in a low voice, "That you would let me show you what I could do to you." He looked at her carefully as he said it, gauging her every reaction. Lucy was certain he didn't have much to assess. She didn't think she'd ever been so frozen. After a second of this, he smiled a little sadly. "But I guess you won't," he said, "So I should probably go now."
She'd half expected him to kiss her hand or forehead before leaving, but Loke made no efforts to touch her again, only smiled briefly in farewell, then winked out of sight. For several seconds after he had gone, Lucy held her position on the bed, propped up by her trembling elbows, before she collapsed backwards. Her heart was beating almost impossibly fast, and she felt jittery all over.
Lucy shrieked, and dove backwards to shove her face into a pillow. Oh, this was so not good. So bad. What had she been thinking?! Why hadn't she thrown him back into the astral plain?! How the hell was she supposed to summon him now?!
A little part of her mind whispered that maybe she wouldn't have to; maybe he would seek her out first.
The thought of him doing so made her stiffen with horror, and she mentally assembled a dozen barricades between herself and the astral plane. She had a feeling Loke could probably break through them if he really wanted to, but hopefully their presence would send a message.
Replaying the scene in her head filled her with only more horror. She had sounded…like an idiot. Like a drooling bimbo. Had she seriously checked him out? And then gotten caught? Why! What was wrong with her?!
It had to be the stress, Lucy reasoned. Obviously, in her mentally compromised state, she had spaced out at an extremely inopportune moment, thereby giving completely the wrong impression. Of course she wasn't thinking about necking with Loke! Or doing anything else with Loke. It was Loke, he was—
Why had she fallen back onto the bed!?
Lucy burned with mortification.
It was decided, then.
She would just have to never, ever call on him again.
Comfortably settled on the matter, Lucy pulled out her notebook, and began working on her novel. She wrote, His long, clever fingers snuck their wicked way into the hem of her skirt, before she remembered that she was supposed to be writing about robots.
The next morning, she realized that she was going to have to summon Loke after all, because there was a human standing before her whose continued existence went beyond offensive.
"A GIRL?" the mayor bellowed upon their meeting at the town's courthouse, "I DON'T HAVE TIME FOR PROSTITUTES, A MAGE WILL BE HERE WITHIN THE HOUR."
Lucy took a deep breath, and reminded herself that not everyone could be expected to understand her cutting-edge fashion sense. "I'm the mage," she said, in her most well bred, politely smothering voice, "My name's Lucy Heartfilia, from Fairy Tail?"
"IMBECILE," the mayor roared, "OF COURSE I KNEW THAT, I WAS MAKING AN EXTREMELY OBVIOUS JOKE TO BREAK THE ICE! YOU'RE RATHER SLOW, AREN'T YOU?"
He again screamed with maniacal laughter. Lucy's rising fury was somewhat tempered by her amazement that someone so horrid had not yet been killed by his doubtlessly justified neighbors. "Okay, well…Ha. Anyways, I was wondering if we could go over the details of your request, the flier was pretty vague—"
"VAGUE?" the mayor repeated, "PERHAPS IF YOUR BRAIN WAS AS WELL FORMED AS YOUR ASS, IT WOULDN'T BE SO VAGUE!" Then, quicker than she would have believed, the man zipped behind Lucy to give her aforementioned behind an appreciative squeeze.
Lucy was rendered temporarily breathless with fury. And then she did the only thing a young woman in such a situation could be expected to do: she slammed her foot into his kneecap as hard as she could.
"EXQUISITE," the mayor concluded from the ground. Tears streamed from his eyes, and he clutched protectively at a leg he would likely have difficulty walking on for some while, "ALTHOUGH POINTS MUST BE DOCKED FOR YOUR DATED ATTIRE. WOMEN WEAR THONGS! ONLY GRADE SCHOOLERS WEAR PANTIES ANYMORE!"
"You are despicable," Lucy snarled, "Where is your secretary? Because there is absolutely no way I am going to be able to talk to you for…this thing! And I am not stupid! I am extremely well-read! Your stupid advertisement is all question marks and censor bars!"
"YOU SHOULD TALK LESS," the mayor bellowed back at her, "YOU WOULD BE MUCH MORE ATTRACTIVE."
With a final, snarling scream of exasperation, Lucy stormed away from her employer, intent on finding someone more reasonable to speak with.
"I bet there is no mission and the townspeople put in a fake request just so someone would come here, meet that guy, and inevitably kill him."
"You're probably right!" Lucy snapped, and then spun around, "How did you get out?"
"It took a while," Loke conceded. When she looked more carefully, Lucy realized that he did indeed look quite exhausted. Loke continued, "But I don't think I've ever sensed that much bloodlust from you. I got worried. I thought maybe you were being attacked."
"I was!" she shrieked, "I was just—flagrantly—sexually harassed! I was—You can sense my emotions?!"
"Well," Loke looked at her as if this was extremely obvious, "Our souls are tied together."
Lucy opened her mouth, closed it, and then whispered in a horrified little voice, "Does that apply for this side of the gate too?"
Loke smiled enigmatically. Which is to say, he smiled in a way that was unmistakably suggestive. Lucy squawked, "Stop spying on me!"
"Oh come on, Lucy, even if I couldn't feel it, it was completely obvious—"
"Nope!" Lucy smashed her hands over her ears and picked up her pace. She was now walking down the street so quickly, it may as well have been a run, "No! We are not talking about this! Ever!"
Loke laughed. A couple girls on the street were caught by the sound of it, and looked over appreciatively. Lucy experienced a sudden jolt of anger. Anger at him, of course, for deceiving all these perfectly nice young woman into believing that he was of amicable ways and noble intentions!
"If it makes you feel better," Loke offered, "You're so moody that I usually don't have a clue what's going on."
"Thanks," Lucy hissed poisonously. She picked up her pace, and by the time she'd reached the town hall, sensed that Loke was no longer with her. Well, good! Lucy stuck her nose in the air, gave a little sniff, and proceeded magnificently to the nearest desk she saw. A neat young woman with a smart, short haircut looked up as she approached.
"Hello. My name is Lucy Heartfilia. I'm from Fairy Tail, I came here because of your flier? I was hoping you could tell me what the problem was. The flier wasn't very specific."
"Oh…" the woman trailed off, "May I see?"
Lucy pulled the flier out of her bag and handed it over obligingly. The young receptionist scanned it with poorly concealed revulsion.
"Oh, of course. He would call in a mage."
Lucy knew instinctively that the disdainful "he" must have been the mayor. "I'm sorry?" Lucy coughed. Her already frayed nerves were threatening to give out.
"Oh, no," the receptionist looked up, "How rude of me, no. I'm sorry. It's just, there's no way a mage can do anything about our problem. In fact, you should probably leave immediately. I'm sorry you came all this way for nothing. If you tell me the inn you stayed at, I'll arrange to have your bill covered."
"Oh," Lucy replied, at a complete loss, "I mean, are you sure? I'm a pretty versatile mage. Can you at least tell me about the problem?"
The receptionist hesitated for a moment, and then indicated that Lucy should lean in closer. "It might be nothing, but—a thousand years ago, there was a terrible plague. I'm sure you've heard of it, the Magi's Mark?"
"What?!" Lucy squawked, in an incredibly inelegant fashion, "You mean that's real?"
"I don't know," the receptionist looked nervous, as though she expected at any moment for her supervisor to appear and scream at her for divulging what Lucy assumed to be fairly confidential information. "The truth is, it could just be a coincidence. We've only had three victims so far. This all started about a week ago. Nobody's died yet, but they're only getting sicker, and the disease, you know—it grows stronger, the more magic there is. It's dangerous for you to be here—what we really need is an apothecary."
"Well," Lucy admitted reluctantly, "If you're sure there's nothing I can do…"
"Thank you for coming so far," the receptionist replied, even more firm than she was polite. Feeling thoroughly beaten, Lucy managed a meek smile, and shuffled outside. Walking along in the bright sunshine, she surveyed the town once again. It didn't look like anything was wrong. It was just another bright, cheerful morning in an ordinary little town. The people looked busy, but friendly, the streets were clean, and the plants cared for.
All at once, Lucy felt incredibly stupid. What had she been thinking, just jumping in like that? Was she really so desperate? Now she was out for even more money, considering what she'd spent on travel. At least nobody had ripped up her new shorts.
"You should get out of here."
"Thanks, I heard," Lucy grumbled. She shot Loke a cool look, "Should I install a cat-door for you?"
He ignored her, "I'm serious, Lucy. If it is the Magi's Mark, neither of us should be here. You've never seen anything like it. It's wrong to call it an illness, it's more like a parasite. It sucks up a person's energy until it kills them. It starts with your magic, and then it starts working on your life."
"You know about this?" Lucy asked, incredulously. There was a degree of intensity to Loke's face she had rarely seen before, and when he grabbed her shoulders, she knew he was nothing less than absolutely serious.
"It's a horrible, slow way to die. It's like a month of suffocation. You fight until you can't stand to anymore, and even then, it drags your beaten husk through another age of suffering. You lose everything. In the end, you can't see or hear or feel. You're just alone, in the dark, dying slower than you can imagine. That can't happen to you. Promise me, you'll leave."
"Wait," Lucy said, staring at him, "How can you tell me all this, and then expect me to just leave these people to it?!"
"You can't do anything!" Loke snapped, "Lucy, please."
She studied him for a long moment, examining the wide-open earnestness of his face. He looked afraid, she realized. Truly afraid. She wrapped one of her hands gently around his wrist, and wondered why his skin even bothered to be warm.
"I'm sorry," she said, then closed her eyes, and pushed.
"Don't!" Loke snapped at once, his grip on her tightening, "Lucy!"
She shoved at his will, grappling against his mind. She dragged him, kicking and screaming, to the door between worlds, and forced it shut. She snapped all the locks in place. Only then, with a great, shuddering sigh, did she open her eyes and continue walking down the street, her shoulders set and her chin up.
There had to be something she could do. There just had to.