(C&C welcome. Not to mention needed)
Don't Worry (I Got This)
By Angela Jewell
Bleary eyed and half-asleep, Lucy shifted uncomfortably on her bed, annoyed to find an unexpected weight suddenly crushing her chest. Fed up, confused, and unable to move, her eyes snapped open and she sat up with a jerk, attempting to shove the thing away with both arms outstretched.
Natsu, still firmly attached to her middle, merely frowned, and groggily opened his eyes. "Too early. Not getting up," he mumbled tiredly, then grinning against her shoulder, tightened his grip and snuggled closer against her side.
Lucy sat frozen, mouth agape, eyes impossibly wide; after a moment, color returned to her cheeks as reality came crashing down around her. "Natsu!" she screamed, shoving him so hard he went flying across the room. "What in the world do you think you're doing?!"
"Huh?" Pushing himself up against the wall, Natsu slowly straightened – unfazed by the rude awakening as his eyes quickly scanned the room. "Why, what's wrong? Are we under attack?"
"Yes!" She insisted as she covered her ample bosom with both arms. "I am, by a fire-breathing pervert, no less! How dare you crawl into bed with me, Natsu. You have your own house and bed, sleep there!"
"Eh? Pervert?" he repeated, running a hand through his hair, honestly puzzled. "What are you talking about, Lucy? You weren't complaining last night." To emphasize his point, his eyes slowly took her in.
Following the direction of his gaze, Lucy froze – horrified to find herself practically naked. She was wearing Natsu's old black waistcoat, a lacy pair of panties, and nothing else. If she'd had the good sense to draw breath, she would've screamed; instead, panicked, she quickly drew up the sheet and wound it around her body like armor, attempting to preserve what little modesty she had left.
To her chagrin, Natsu actually laughed. "Oooh, are we going toga now?" he asked her, his eyes dancing merrily as he took in her latest outfit. "Cool! I wanna play. Quick, throw me a sheet!"
"No, we're not going TOGA!" Lucy shrieked, as she threw a pillow directly at his head. She couldn't figure him out – figure this – whatever it was – out. Why in the world had she woken up half-naked next to Natsu? It couldn't be the obvious . . . there was no way she'd ever get that drunk. So a dream then? A spell? Take-over? Had she been transported to another Edolas while she slept?!
"You're acting weird, Lucy," Natsu told her as he jumped to his feet, tossing the abused pillow idly in the air as he approached. "Weirder than usual anyway. What's wrong? Do you have a fever or something?"
The spirit mage frowned, seriously considering the possibility. It's not like she had any good theories to consider, after all, and hallucinating . . . that could happen with fevers, right? Before she had time to ponder further, Natsu had crawled back onto the bed and was placing a gentle hand against her forehead, his brow wrinkled in worry.
"Hmm. Feels fine," he told her, his voice soft.
He was looking at her with such concentration, Lucy couldn't help but blush, unused to seeing such tenderness and concern from the juvenile, clueless Natsu; and certainly not from the close confines of her bed. And though her first instinct was to push him away, far and fast, something inexplicable kept holding her back. It was ridiculous, really, but it was like his touch was igniting something familiar within her – something both wonderful and terrifying – and the warm way he was looking at her only intensified the feeling.
There wasn't a flame in sight, yet somehow, it felt like she was being engulfed.
"That's weird," Natsu told her, a smile tugging at the corner of his lips. "You're getting warm now, Lucy . . . you're blushing like crazy."
"N-no I'm not!" she insisted as she quickly pulled away, desperate to put some distance between the two of them, but Natsu simply leaned back on his heels, looking amused at her sudden bout of shyness. "And stop looking at me like that!" she demanded, though it sounded more like a plea.
"Like what," he asked, all innocence, though the smile remained firmly in place.
Turning her head away, Lucy puffed out her cheeks and swore off talking altogether, maybe forever; determined not to give him any more material to bait her with. In retaliation, Natsu poked her cheek lightly with his fingertip, over and over, and frowned in disappointment when she failed to respond in the way he expected.
"Ahh, jeez, you are acting weird," he whined as he crossed his arms dejectedly. "I don't get it, Lucy. Are you mad at me or something?"
After a moment, Lucy sighed and slowly shook her head. "No," she said at last, and then more firmly, "No, Natsu, I'm not mad at you." At least not yet, she thought to herself as she silently gathered her thoughts, trying to decide how best to ask what desperately needed to be asked. She didn't feel any different, not in the way she expected she should; but inexperience and uncertainty (and the way he kept looking at her) made her hesitant to rule it out completely. After all, he was clad only in boxers while she wore his clothes – that wasn't something she could just explain away. She had to hear the truth from his own lips, whatever it may be.
Gathering her courage, Lucy to turned to face him fully. "N-Natsu," she began, uncertainly, nervously. "L-last night, did, did we. . ." Unable to form the words, instead she gestured vaguely between the two of them, praying he didn't choose that moment to be dense.
Natsu stared at her blankly for a moment, and then, realization dawning, grinned proudly. "Yup, sure did. Why?" he added slyly. "Wanna go again?"
For the second time that morning, Natsu found himself suddenly flying across the room.
All heads shot up in surprise as the door to their guild was violently kicked open, and seconds later Natsu stalked in, pulling an angry, protesting Lucy behind him. Not wasting time on ceremony, he strode up to the bar counter where their Master was seated and quickly shoved Lucy before him.
"Quick, Ji-chan, fix her," he said, and looked at him expectantly.
Mirajane, sensing discord, wandered over to see what the commotion was all about. "My, what seems to be the trouble, Natsu? You two aren't fighting again, are you?"
"No. Lucy's just lost her mind," he informed her, before turning his attention back to the Master. "So hurry up and fix her, Ji-chan. We had plans today!"
"Oh?" The Master glanced up from his drink, and extending an arm lazily, wound it around Lucy's body to pat her lightly on the rump; Lucy immediately stiffened, and let out a small squeak of surprise. "Hmm, seems fine to me," he replied, and promptly returned to his drink.
"What? That's it?!" Natsu yelled as he angrily stomped his feet. "Don't just feel her up, gramps, look her over properly! I don't know what's going on, but I'm telling you, she ain't right!"
"But Natsu," Happy interjected. "Lucy's always been crazy."
"I am not crazy!" Lucy snapped, tired of being treated like some sort of invalid. Turning to Mirajane, she insisted in a voice that was perfectly calm, "I'm fine, Mira, really I am. It-it's not like something happened between me and Natsu last night. I mean, him and me? Together? No way! Hahaha."
Natsu, staring at her like she'd grown a second head, turned back to the Master and gave him a searing look. "See?" he said, tilting his head in her direction. "Crazy."
"Yeah, but can you blame her?" Gray cut in, smirking and nude, as he leaned up against the counter beside them. "Waking up next to your ugly mug every morning, I'm surprised she lasted as long as she did!"
"Can it, frost-face," Natsu warned, not in the mood.
"Make me, flame-brain!"
As Natsu proceeded to do just that, Lucy ignored them both, her own thoughts heavily occupied. Every morning, he'd said – just what had Gray meant by that?! Was it possible? Had Natsu finally done it? Had he completely taken over her home?!
Incensed by the thought, Lucy lifted her head to glare at the fire mage, watching through narrowed eyes as he continued trading blows with Gray. In all honestly, she should've seen this coming. His own house was a veritable pigsty, so it's no wonder he'd try and permanently weasel his way into hers. In a lot of ways, he practically lived there already. And them staying together – it wasn't too much of a stretch. In fact, her mind was already filling in the blanks – Natsu, burning down his house like the destructive idiot he was, forced to crash with her while repairs were made, joking about last night to get back at her for drunkenly slandering him at the guild. . .
Funny how she'd forgotten.
But now, it all made sense, like a puzzle whose pieces had finally come together. "Well," she muttered to herself, already feeling loads better now that the mystery had been solved. "In the very least, he better be helping with the rent."
Having overheard, Natsu paused in his brawl just long enough to stop and glower at her. "Of course I help with the rent," he shot back, sounding annoyed. "Why wouldn't I?"
"Well now, this is interesting," the guild master said as he gleefully rubbed his hands and jumped quickly to his feet. At his sudden show of interest, all squabbling suddenly ceased and every curious eye turned in his direction – though his attention was fixed solely on the pretty, young, spirit mage. "Now then, Lucy, tell me . . . what's the last thing you remember? Anything will do."
Lucy frowned, unsure what he was asking, why he was asking, but never one to question the master, dutifully did as she was bid. "Um, well," she began thoughtfully. "I guess I remember waking up this morning? Natsu being a jerk, coming to the guild, being called crazy without good reason . . . why are you asking?" she asked at last, curious and confused, and unable to hold it in any longer. "Because I happen to know for a fact that Natsu hit his head this morning and is spewing utter nonsense!"
"Hey!" Natsu protested, even as he rubbed his head in remembered pain.
"I'm sure he is," Makarov agreed with a wink, before adding more seriously, "but there is something I'm curious about . . . care to humor an old man and try to remember just a bit further back? What's the last thing you remember, Lucy?"
Realizing he wasn't about to let this thing drop anytime soon, the spirit mage sighed, but grudgingly did as he asked. If it would stop all these ridiculous accusations once and for all, she'd gladly comply a hundred times over. Furrowing her brow, she closed her eyes and concentrated, thinking hard. "The last thing I remember. . ."
. . .A crumbling building, a song on her lips, fighting Zeref, Natsu's tears. . .
As the images came to her, she quietly relayed what she was seeing, so caught up in the memories and images dancing behind closed eyes, she didn't see the worried way her friends were watching her, didn't see the concerned look on all their faces. Before long, the rest of the guild had wandered over, leaving Lucy standing in the midst of a very large, confused group of mages. When she was done reminiscing, she opened her eyes and gave a bright smile, determined to show them she was fine, that absolutely nothing was wrong.
"So, how'd I do?" she asked them, "Pass, fail, or. . ." the smile quickly died on her lips. The guild was never quiet, it was always full of cheering and laughter, of shouting and fighting; yet for some reason, the entire place had gone still.
"Dammit," Natsu cursed as he punched the counter with his fist.
"Lucy, that – that was years ago," Levy told her, giving voice to what they were all thinking. "Is that really as far back as you remember? Nothing else?"
Blinking slowly, Lucy shook her head, the blood draining from her face. "I think that's everything," she told her. "The grand magic games, being captured, the Eclipse project. . ." She paused then and put a hand to her head, struggling to make sense of what she was saying; the implications of what this could possibly mean. "But how is this even possible – people don't just wake up with amnesia – they don't just wake up with years worth of memories suddenly gone!"
"Actually," Erza replied confidently, emerging from the masses. "I think I know what's going on here."
"Really?!" cried Natsu and Happy, looking hopeful.
Erza nodded solemnly. "It would appear Lucy was recently brought back from the dead," she informed them. "Once Jellal returns, we can ask him how to go about retrieving her memories – having experienced something similar, I'm certain he'll be able to help. As for you," she added, turning to Wendy, leveling a gaze filled with disapproval at the young mage. "In the future I hope you'll communicate something of such importance a bit sooner – if you insist on using your healing power in such a way, you need to let us know so we can avoid this sort of confusion."
Wendy's eyes went huge as she began to panic. "Eh?! But-but I didn't—"
"Of course you didn't," Charle returned sharply, speaking with a confidence only Erza could hope to equal. "That spell requires an immense amount of power, Erza-san . . . if Wendy had attempted it, she would've been completely drained and unable to move. Not to mention yesterday she spent the entire day at the guild."
"Besides, I think I'd remember dying," Lucy was quick to add, "definitely, I'd remember dying!"
"Is that so?" Erza replied, frowning slightly. "Well then. I'm afraid that leaves only one viable option."
Every head in the room turned to stare at Natsu.
Erza sighed heavily as she put a comforting hand on Lucy's shoulder. "Natsu must have fried all of your brain-cells," she explained sadly. "His fiery passion was too great to be contained. I am sorry for your loss."
Lucy and Natsu's jaws dropped in tandem as everyone around them nodded knowingly, silently agreeing with Erza's assessment.
"Becoming lost in fiery passion is MANLY. . ."
"Yup, yup. Sounds like Natsu," Happy agreed.
"Hey, wait a minute!" Natsu protested, quickly jumping to his own defense. "Don't blame this on ME! I didn't do anything, she just woke like this!" Then, turning to Happy, he pointed accusingly, "And whose side are you on anyway?!"
Lifting one paw into the air, Happy replied, "Truth! Justice!" and then grinned at Charle, who still didn't look impressed.
"Traitor," Natsu grumbled as he smacked the cat smartly across the head.
"I've been thinking . . . isn't it much more likely this is a spell?" Lisanna remarked, taking it upon herself to be the sole voice of reason in the room. After all, somebody had to do it. "I mean, they've already been married for a year, so why else would it only start happening now?"
It was a good question – but to her surprise, the entire guild suddenly went quiet, and it took all of five seconds for the silver-haired mage to realize why. Covering her mouth with her hand, she gasped in horror and glanced quickly at Lucy, silently trying to gauge her reaction, to see if she'd heard, if she understood. And understood she did.
Lucy was pale.
Lucy was biting her lip, and looked like someone had just run over her dog.
Nobody said a word. It was as if they were suddenly standing in the middle of a minefield, and the slightest breath could set the whole thing off. To their relief, finally, the blonde mage slowly lifted her head to look at Lisanna, brown eyes dark and imploring as she asked, very quietly, "Sorry, but could you repeat what you said just now? About me and Natsu? That we're, we're—"
Happy giggled cutely. "Look, Natsu! Lucy can't even say it!"
"You're not helping," Natsu muttered darkly.
Ignoring them both, Lisanna moved towards her, suddenly racked with guilt. "Oh Lucy, I'm so sorry," she told her, the words spilling from her mouth in a rush, "I didn't mean to tell you like that! Are you okay? Do you want to sit down?"
Faced with the bitter and ridiculous truth, suddenly, Lucy didn't have the strength to say anything . . . it felt like the world was crumbling around her, like she was back at Crocus, stuck in a nightmare she couldn't quite wake from. . .
But sitting down, yes, that sounded good.
Needing no further encouragement, Lucy fell down in her chair, feeling numb and overwhelmed as she attempted to wrap her mind around everything she'd been told. Losing two years of her life was bad enough, but now, to actually find herself married – and to Natsu of all people?! It felt like the room would never stop spinning!
"Poor Lu-chan," Levy sighed, "I think she's in shock."
"Married to Natsu, wouldn't YOU be?"
"Now, Cana, that isn't very nice," Mirajane gently chastised.
Natsu ignored them all, looking troubled himself as he watched Lucy closely. She was much too pale for his liking, and her eyes had an empty, glazed look about them he wasn't used to seeing – a look he never wanted to see on her ever again. With newfound resolve, he leaned forward quickly and looked her straight in the eye, suddenly very serious. "Hey," he began, his voice soft with concern. "Is it really that bad? Being married to me, I mean?"
At the sound of his voice, Lucy blinked slowly, surprised to see the dragon slayer hovering over her, his face impossibly close, dark eyes focused completely on her. The intensity of his gaze was so strong that Lucy couldn't hold it for long – soon, her own gaze drifted lower, towards his lips, and once settled there couldn't be moved for anything.
All of a sudden she couldn't shake the thought. . .
. . .She had kissed those lips. Technically, those lips belonged to her. . .
Blushing like mad at the very idea, Lucy quickly shook her head, trying desperately to rid herself of such perverted thoughts. She'd been married barely a minute now, and already she was thinking of Natsu in that way! What was wrong with her?! "D-don't be stupid," she said at last, trying to keep her voice light as she tore her eyes away. "I'm just surprised, is all . . . not every day you wake up and find yourself married, you know. How would YOU feel if you suddenly woke up and found yourself married to Erza, or, or to Cana?!"
Natsu furrowed his brow, giving it serious thought. "Don't know," he replied at last, puzzled. "Confused? They're already married, so how could they be married to me too?"
For a second, Lucy simply stared at him, positive she'd heard wrong. Clearly, he was joking – Erza and Cana, both of them married? There had to be some sort of law in the universe that prevented such a thing! But just as she was about to laugh, to congratulate Natsu on his funny little gag, she caught sight of Erza out of the corner of her eye – blushing so brightly she feared her head might explode. For a minute there, she even thought she saw mini-Jellal's dancing around her head.
"Wait a minute – is it true?" she asked, directing her question towards Cana now, hesitant to believe in something so insane. "Both of you, married? For real?!"
Cana took another swig from her barrel of sake before wiping her mouth with the back of her hand. "Well, everyone else was doing it," she defended, "So I thought, hell, why not? Worse decision of my life," she added casually.
Wakaba laughed good-naturedly. "Well what d'ya expect when you marry a bigger drunkard than yourself?"
"Oh, shut up," Cana grumbled.
"Well, Juvia and Gray are happily married!" The water mage declared as she grabbed a hold of Gray's arm, giving a possessive tug as she shot a warning glare in Lucy's direction. "So don't go getting any ideas, Lucy-san," she warned her.
Lucy laughed weakly. "Don't worry, no ideas here," she replied, though secretly she wondered if there were any single people left in the guild. In any case, everyone looked happy, and that was the important thing – seeing them grinning, laughing, and joking with one another again, Lucy couldn't help but smile; the first genuine one of the day. She glanced around, searching for any other little Asuka-chan's she might've missed, only to unexpectedly turn her smile on Natsu, who wasted no time in smiling right back, all teeth and warmth and joy.
Then, next thing she knew, his hand was in hers and he was pulling her towards the door, the bounce back in his step. "Alright then, Lucy, let's go! If we leave now, we can still make our reservations!" Too surprised to protest, Lucy allowed herself be dragged along – only to watch helplessly as Erza materialized right in front of them, knocking Natsu to the floor with a perfectly placed punch.
"WHAT do you think you're doing?" Erza demanded as she loomed over him ominously. "You can't just take her – we don't even know what's wrong with her yet!"
From his position on the ground, Natsu glared up at Erza. "Yes I can! She just has a bit of memory loss –give it some time and I'm sure it'll come back!"
"Have you finally fried what's left of your brain?" Gray snapped angrily. "We're not talking about a cold here, you idiot. If this is some sort of spell, we need to know what's causing it before you go dragging her across the country!"
"Gray's right," Master Makarov announced as he hopped down from the counter to stand before his children. "Like Lisanna suggested, this is most definitely the work of a spell, and a complicated one at that . . . I'm afraid, Natsu, that it can't be solved with simply wishing and waiting."
"You can't know that for sure," Natsu insisted stubbornly as he climbed to his feet. "Lucy's always running into things – I bet she just hit her head and forgot to tell us! At least check her head for some kinda bump first, maybe all she needs is a cold compress and some healing from Wendy!"
Makarov grunted as he turned to Lucy, disregarding Natsu's outburst completely. "Tell me, child . . . don't you find it strange that two years have passed yet you never even noticed? In these two years, Wendy and Romeo have both grown quite a bit, Droy is back to his regular weight, and we're back in our original guild. With the sort of amnesia you're suffering, you should have noticed all these things and much more besides . . . why do you think you didn't?"
Lucy stared at him in astonishment, mouth slightly agape. He was right, of course. Now that she looked closely – everyone was different. Levy and Lisanna's hair had grown longer, Laki was sporting a cute pixie cut, Reedus was a happy looking beach-ball again, and even Natsu looked older – broader in the shoulders, taller, his jaw stronger.
Everything he mentioned, she should have noticed.
Why hadn't she noticed?
"Because of the spell," she breathed at last, the answer coming to her in a moment of clarity. "It's messing with my memory, making everything seem normal even though it isn't."
Master Makarov nodded gravely. "To manipulate your memories in such a way is the mark of extremely powerful magic . . . if I'm right, this spell was outlawed long before many of you were even born."
"Does that mean you recognize the spell, Master?" Levy was quick to ask.
"I do," he said as he met the expectant eyes of his guild, though his expression darkened as he turned to Lucy and Natsu respectively. "I believe what we're dealing with here is a terribly advanced form of memory manipulation, a charm known as ECHO."
"ECHO?" Natsu repeated slowly, testing the way the unfamiliar word felt on his lips. "What kind of spell is that? Like the magic Mest used? Or those lame ass rings that were banned?"
"I'm afraid not," the Master replied, though he wished it were something so simple. "This is very old, powerful magic, Natsu. Even if you saw it, chances are good you would never recognize it."
"That's right. I remember reading about this in one of my books," Lucy replied softly, trying to pull every detail she could from her memory. "Like regular charms, they're supposed to grow weaker with awareness, but these can take the form of any object, not just rings, and the memory it manipulates changes from person-to-person. If I remember correctly, it all depends on what they're thinking of awhile touching the charmed object – an idea, an object, a memory – whatever it is, it's forgotten. Is that right, Master?"
"'Fraid so," he told her, and then chuckling, added, "In fact, as a young boy, I had a friend who got a charmed pebble stuck in his shoe once. Since he was thinking of the number eight at the time, he lost all memory of that particular number – boy, was it a hoot!"
"Yeah, reeeal funny," Natsu piped in.
Makarov smashed him with his giant magical fist and continued on, undaunted. "In this instance the charm was intentional of course, nothing more than a harmless prank. But if his brother hadn't come forward in the end, he would've lost all conscious memory of that number, and everything associated with it. And well, you know what that means," he finished sadly, looking at Lucy.
"Well I don't," Natsu complained as he carefully peeled himself off the floor. "Now that she knows about it, shouldn't the effects wear off soon? All it needs is awareness, right? Hell, I'm aware. I'm VERY aware."
"Aye! Me too," Happy chimed in. "Lucy must be slow."
Lucy glared at the stupid blue cat, and resisted the urge to drop kick him. "It doesn't work that way," she snapped back defensively, "it's not enough just knowing something's wrong, you need an awareness of the charm itself. With the rings, it's easy . . . that magic has a solid form . . . you can see it. Even if you don't notice it right away, it's still something tangible. You made me aware just by being loud, Natsu. But this – it could have been anything! A leaf. A book. A bug. A shoe. A glass—"
"—we get it," Natsu said, cutting her off. "So we just gotta find this thing, right? Fine. Let's get started."
Lucy stared at him like he'd lost his mind, and considering the gung-ho way he was approaching this, maybe he had. "Natsu," she replied slowly, incredulously. "Are you sure you understand how impossible this is? The charm could be anything – literally, anything. Where would we even start? And if we DO find it, how will we even know it's the object we're looking for?"
Natsu shrugged. "We just will," he insisted, and Lucy wanted to strangle him.
"My memory's not going to return just because we want it to, Natsu!"
"Well what do you WANT us to do then, huh?" he asked, giving her a dark look usually reserved for battle. "Say, 'oh well – it's just two years, no big deal?' Like HELL! This is our life we're talking about here, Lucy – I'm not giving up and neither are you! I don't care if we gotta turn over every damn rock and twig in Fiore in order to do it, but we're gonna find this stupid charm and we're gonna get your memory back!"
Saying it like that was absolutely crazy . . . but even so, Lucy couldn't help but stare at him in wonder, her face flushed to high-hell, heart and mind racing.
How did he do it? How could he make something so impossible seem possible again? How could he be so single-minded and confident when everything inside her screamed that they would fail? Even as Lucy asked herself this, she couldn't help but smile. She may have forgotten the last two years, but Natsu hadn't changed a bit.
"Okay then," she said, choosing to believe, in that ridiculous moment, that he could actually pull this off. After all, if anyone could do it, it was Natsu. "So, where do we start?"
Cana quietly handed Lucy a beer. "Start here," she told her. "You're going to need it."
Almost immediately, Mirajane took the mug from Lucy's hands and put it back on the counter, just as Natsu turned to the spirit mage, that familiar, manic look back in his eyes.
"Anywhere!" he said as he took her hand and grinned at Happy who was flying above them, anxious to be going as well. "I'm all fired up!"
END OF CHAPTER ONE
A/N: I had originally planned to make this a one-shot, but as you can see, failed miserably. The good news is it'll only be around 3 chapters long, so hopefully the wait between updates won't be too painful. All the same I apologize for posting before finishing the story: I started this for a contest and had to post now since the deadline was today.
Thanks to my amazing friends/beta-readers for their wonderful suggestions and advice: Lisa, Jenny, and Julie! Love you guys!
(Tumblr ID: i-turned-the-emperor-to-dust)