"Dammit, Gray! We've been out here all day and nothing new has come out yet," an armed, pink-haired man snarled to his raven-haired partner who merely rolled his eyes, but he has to admit that his boss was right. They had been out since dawn that morning, hoping to get a new piece for the famous Fairy Tail Zoo, a zoo for the rarest of creatures, ones that were revived from death or thought to have dies out hundreds of years ago. The zoo itself was almost never open to the public, but the private customers who visited did so in order to approve funding to the company's research facilities of the strange creatures. The zoo's reputation was always very high, especially amongst mages, but it became much more private when the Dragneel family, a family of half-dragons, made a partnership with the eldest member of the Dreyar family and started to take better care and do more research on the magic of these animals instead of just showing them off. Despite the fact that it was an even partnership, Natsu Dragneel had mostly relinquished all business decisions that didn't concern the placement or welfare of his animals or employees over to Makarov Dreyar, who, with the backing of the Dragneels, now had enough supplies to make the zoo one of the seven wonders of the world (if they would ever count us!).
Gray sighed, rubbing his temples with one hand while gripping his tranquillizer gun loosely in his other. "I know, I know! But we have to get something! We did promise new material to the Blue Pegasus Corp." Natsu muttered a few curse words under his breath as he stumbled into a new clearing. Gray, hearing sudden silence from his partner and fearing that he had shot himself with the sedative gun again, called out to him, following his footsteps carefully. "Natsu! Oi, Flame-Bra-Mphh!" A warm hand slapped over Gray's mouth.
"Shh!" Natsu hissed, a nervously excited tone coloring his previously annoyed voice. "Don't talk, don't move. Just look!" Natsu pointed over to the stream only a few feet away from the other edge of the clearing and Gray felt his mouth drop open. Gray vaguely realized that Natsu had let go of his as he leaned forward in the thinning brush, hoping to get a better look at the small animal. The yellowish-white, cat-like cub, not too small, but obviously not fully grown as she only went up to about Natsu's knee. Despite the fact that she was leaning over the lake, laying on her stomach and pawing playfully, Gray could clearly see the bright red star in the center of her forehead and the continuation of such design all down her back, wrapping around her tail and coloring the tip the same bright red.
Unable to stop themselves, Gray and Natsu began to creep closer to the small fledgling, attempting to be as silent as possible in their steps, although they did notice that the little thing was rather deeply absorbed in her playing. When they were only a few feet away from it, the duo sat down, keeping well-trained eyes on their surroundings as well as their new target.
"Any idea on what it is? I've never seen anything like it," Natsu muttered in wonder, opening his pack next to him and shuffling around quietly as Gray took out his phone. "Call Erza."
"Already on it- Hey Erza! I just sent you a picture- yeah, that one. Can you tell me what it is?" Gray hummed into his phone softly, holding back a laugh as the cub nearly fell into the water. He had to admit that he was surprised at this animal's lack of awareness. Usually, wild, rare animals had highly acute senses, but this one seemed content in his or her own little world. Just then, Gray heard his other partner's voice ringing in his ears.
"Gray! Are you still there? Are you okay?" Erza called, sounding unnaturally panicked.
Gray chuckled softly. "Yeah, we're fine. This little thing's just too damn cute-"
"Gray, get you and Natsu back now! That's a female dimidum!" Gray stayed silent and Erza sighed on the other end, realizing that he had no clue what that was. "They travel in packs! Females are guarded continuously as they are pack leaders. The few males there have been recorded about are known to be vicious, especially in animal form!"
Gray whispered a hurried agreement and turned toward his boss, already fumbling for his gun. He reached for Natsu, vaguely registering the fact that he was eating and watching the girl with an amused smile. Gray nearly stopped himself, having not seen such a kind smile on the 21 year-old's face in quite a few years, but as soon as his hand grasped his boss's arm, his other hand came in contact with the floor and a small crunch was heard. Both boys froze as the cub's ears and nose twitched for a moment before it slowly stood, stretched, and turned, blinking wide, down doe-eyes at the two in interest.
"We have to get out of here, man," Gray whispered, still rooted in his spot as the other two locked eyes. "This is the female, but the males are going to be here soon. They're vicious and won't go down without a fight-"
"I want her," Natsu murmured, slipping his hand from Gray's grasp rather easily and reaching into the bag at his feet. There, he pulled out a grape, splitting it in half before slowly, ever so slowly, reaching his hand outwards, stopping only when his hand was fully extended. Gray looked around him for a moment, but sensed no motion and returned his attention to the little girl. He knew it was pointless to try and stop Natsu: once he wanted something, he would keep going until he had it, and if they argued now, the cub would run and Natsu would just chase after it.
The cub sniffed loudly, a tiny, pink tongue slipping out to run along its lips. C-cu-cute~ the boys inwardly stuttered, watching as she slowly stepped forward, eyes darting from the food to the boys nervously, then around to the surroundings. When she deemed it safe, she stumbled a few more steps forward, stopping again when she was within Natsu's reach.
Gray was rather surprised that Natsu didn't make a grab for her as she began to sniff around his hand curiously. In many of their past expeditions, once the animal was subdued or in range, Natsu or one of the others would immediately bag in and take off, not wanting to risk it getting away, but now, it seemed as though Natsu was actually having fun with this! Gray held back a laugh as the little cub's nose twitched slightly and she took a step back, eyeing the food warily. Natsu sighed and pulled his hand away again, only to bring it back out with a tiny piece of beef jerky. The cub's eyes lit up and she immediately pounced onto him, knocking him backward and grasping the meat in her sharp teeth. Gray reached for the cub, hoping that she hadn't hurt his boss (though he'd never tell him that), but Natsu just chuckled.
"O-oi! Ice-pric-princess! It- it tickles!" Natsu howled with laughter as the cat-like animal pawed at him, trying to get more meat. It meowed softly and the high-pitched whine drew Natsu out of his hysterics. "You want more?" Natsu cooed, sitting up slowly. The cub's eyes grew wide once more, backing off of Natsu's chest and sitting obediently next to him, excitedly waiting for the next little meal.
Gray went to say something about Natsu being a pansy when a low snarl from behind the two forced them to stand up, Natsu quickly grabbing the confused and frightened cub protectively into his arms. "Told you so," Gray muttered as he watched to two larger versions of the cub in front of them warily. The one on the right was pure black, obviously meant to blend into the night while the one to the left was yellow, a small, dull yellow scar crossing over his right eye. Both came easily up to Gray and Natsu's hips. Gray's hand slowly reached down to the gun, but another growl made him freeze. The black one's eyes were locked in on Gray's hand, watching him very carefully. The muscles on both of the large cats rolled menacingly as they clashed their teeth loudly. "Put her down, Natsu, and they might leave us alone."
Natsu shook his head quickly, glancing down at the rather cutely worried face of his new friend. Her nose twitched again and her forehead scrunched, obviously unhappy with the situation. "I'm not letting her go. I want her and she's obviously okay with me, not to mention that she's hungry. I can obviously take better care of her than these mutts-"
Yet another growl cut him off, this time, from the blonde one. Natsu's grip tightened on the little fur ball in his arms, making her squirm. The small move did not go unnoticed by the older blonde whose eyes narrowed for a split second before he dashed forward, one claw reaching to slash at Natsu's cheek while the other shoved him backwards from his chest. It all happened so quick that neither boy really noticed until they heard the painful whimper coming from the scarred one's jaw. From his mouth, being clutched by the back of her neck, hung the star-studded cub.
Natsu snarled, evidently unhappy with being caught off guard and sliced, not to mention having his new prize ripped from his grip, literally! Steam began to flare up on the now-dying grass around him as Natsu stood, glaring down at the two larger animals. Gray once again went for his gun, but the living shadow stepped forward, a clear warning not to move. "Natsu, let it go. They're not handing her over any time soon." Natsu narrowed his eyes, but made no move to answer.
There was utter silence for a few moments before Natsu smirked. "The older ones understand us just fine, Gray. They've lived around civilization. The younger one hasn't." The black one's eyes sparkled in amusement as they flashed to the golden ones, but that split second was plenty of time for Gray to snag his gun, shooting quickly at both of the older ones, forcing the yellow one to drop Natsu's newest reward. She hit the ground with a small thump, but before Natsu could grasp her, she turned and began pawing nervously at her older friends, using her teeth to remove the darts from both of them. She went and began to nudge the two, earning a small growl from the black one, but it didn't seem the slightest bit threatening as he nudged her back. The little one's worry quickly disappeared, looking up at Natsu with slight anger.
He sighed, almost as though he understood and plopped down onto the ground. "Pinky!" Gray hissed, beginning to drag Natsu towards where they came from. It was going to start getting dark soon and they needed to get to the car before they got lost. "We are leaving. She obviously doesn't want to leave the-"
Gray stopped dragging the boy when he heard laughing and turned around, barely stifling laughter of his own. Amused, dark blue eyes met frustrated brown ones as the little thing latched its teeth onto Natsu's baggy white pants, dragging backwards in an attempt to keep him in place. "And it looks like she doesn't want me to leave," Natsu smirked over his shoulder. Gray rolled his eyes as Natsu opened his arms, waiting for the cub to come to him, surprising the raven-haired mage and business partner once more at the extreme kindness. The cub stepped forward once, but turned around nervously to see her two friends getting up slowly and staggering back down. "They'll be okay, I promise. Will you come with me, please?"
The whitish cub let out a happy meow and pounced on Natsu, curling into his warm chest as he stood, beginning to follow Gray back to the car. Gray took out his phone as they climbed into the vehicle, attaching it to the car's phone as he began to drive on a semi-hidden path back to their home, the Fairy Tail Zoo's main facility.
Hey, it's a strange story sort of and the plot line will be less rushed later, but I really wanted to get this out there. More details about each character will be put out in later chapters, but I needed to put this out. For those of you who read Lucy Begins Again, it is not cancelled or anything, I'm just in a minor writers block for that story, but I'm almost done with the next chapter, so don't worry. For those of you who have The Clans, that is on pause for the moment in order for me to continue with school, this story, LBA, and my new one-shots collection that I'll be putting out soon that will be all one shots, but if like enough, will become full-blown stories.
I hope you like! PM me if you have pressing, give-away questions! And please don't forget to review. Oh, and I always forget to mention this, but please keep in mind that I, in fact, do not own Fairy Tail...*Dammit!*
~The Infamous Smile of Mona Lisa