And I need someone by my side.
Lucy didn't wake up with a smile.
She was dragged reluctantly from her dream by a sharp pain in her head. She'd fought it for a long time, but the more she fought, the more she accidentally changed the events in her lingering dream and the more she became aware that it was a dream. Groaning, she lifted one of her arms and rubbed her forehead, accepting consciousness and willing the headache to go away.
Her dream had been so nice, though she couldn't really remember the details of it. There had been warmth and an easy comfort. But, now, the events of the previous day were pushing themselves to the front of her mind. Her legs ached and she had hunger pains and she could feel the weight of Sting on her body.
The worst was the heavy, broken feeling in her chest. Lucy had never thought that heartbreak was something that could be physically felt, but she couldn't deny the pricking tension in her chest. That must be where the idea of feeling with the heart came from in the first place. This pain was the worst of them all. The hand that had been rubbing her forehead slid down to rest over her heart, Sting's hair tickling her arm on the way.
She opened her eyes finally and looked down. Sting was still sound asleep, his head nestled in her chest in a way that was way too intimate and his arms were still loosely hugging her body. Embarrassment washed over her, a blush spread slowly down her face, starting at the hairline and going down onto her bosom. She didn't even know what to do.
Typically, when she found Natsu in her bed, she would eject him with an indignant shout and more than a little violence. But, she had climbed willingly into this bed with Sting. And, Sting was different than Natsu. How would he react? Even though he seemed more human to her after the admission last night, she was still a little nervous about him. There was no doubt his strength was on a different level than her own.
"Your heart is beating really fast," Sting said, his eyes still closed. In fact, the only thing that had moved was his mouth.
"Y-you're awake?" she stammered. Damn. She was trying to ignore the funny things he was doing to her, but her voice betrayed her and now she couldn't think of anything else. She felt really warm and her stomach felt like it was on the verge of dropping. Why wasn't he getting off her? Didn't he hate Fairies?
"Mmmhm," he hummed in response, nuzzling his face deeper into her chest. That was the final straw. Finally, the right, proper feelings clicked into place within her and she moved quickly to forcibly expel him from the bed.
"LUCY KICK!" she shouted, now standing on the bed as he crashed to the floor. She ached, but her body's protests were overshadowed by the feeling of vindication.
On the floor, Sting laughed, "Did I ruffle your feathers, Fairy?"
"Don't play with me," Lucy warned, scowling darkly as she plopped back down onto the bed. God, she was starving. Now that she thought about it, they'd filled up on alcohol the night before and she hadn't eaten since breakfast yesterday morning. "Fairies don't even have feathers. And, don't call me Fairy."
"Why? I thought you were proud to be a Fairy," Sting asked, raising an eyebrow.
"I am, but I don't like the way you say Fairy. Like it is something detestable. So, I would prefer if you just didn't say Fairy at all," Lucy said.
"What should I call you, then?" he asked.
"Uh, how about my name?"
"I'll call you Cat."
Her eyebrows twitched, "No you won't."
"If you can make me stop, I will," he fixed her with a challenging look. She returned it for a few seconds before sighing and shaking her head. She was too hung over, hungry, and achy to fight with him at the moment. Not to mention how difficult it would be to explain the situation to her spirits.
"Fine. Call me Cat if you must. Let's go get something to eat, now. We didn't eat lunch or dinner yesterday," she said, waving her hands dismissively.
Sting sat up, "Whoa, whoa. What makes you think I'm going to get you food? Maybe I'm sick of you following me around like a stray. Did you ever think of that?"
"Well, you have to go back and pay your tab anyway. We might as well get food while we're there," Lucy responded. She pushed off from the bed and smoothed out her clothes. Her shirt was a little wrinkled, but aside from that you couldn't even tell that she'd slept in them.
"I still don't see why I'm getting you food?" Sting said, also standing.
"I have to go with you to make sure you pay your tab. And, I'm really hungry. I would buy my own, but I don't have money with me."
"So, that means I have to buy you food on top of already buying you alcohol?"
She opened the door and gestured for him to lead the way, "Yup. I can pay you back next time you're near Magnolia. Just stop by my apartment."
"You're annoyingly persistent," he complained, but led the way out of the hotel room nonetheless.
"So I've heard," Lucy responded as she fell into step behind him. To be honest, she was a little intrigued by the dragon slayer. He had revealed a complexity to his character last night and she couldn't help but want to know more. How had he found out about his parent's death? How had he ended up joining Sabertooth? Why did Minerva take Lector? And, that mismatch of the expression in his eyes and the words he said. She had so many questions that she wanted to know. So, she followed him.
When they entered the bar, the same barkeeper from the night before was behind the counter. He sighed in relief when he turned and saw the pair of them. He must have been worried that Sting would run off without paying.
Sting, looking impressively passive and uncaring, stepped up to the bar and dropped his money onto the counter. The barkeeper quickly snatched up the jewels and counted them, his brow wrinkling when he was done, "You've given me more than you owe…?"
"That's for lunch. We're starving, so send it out as fast as you can," Sting said.
The barkeeper nodded, smiling pleasantly since he'd been paid up front this time, and took their orders. After he'd confirmed their meals and sent the order to the cook, they settled in at one of the booths. Despite it being the afternoon, there were plenty of customers in the bar and a lot of them were already drinking. Though, she couldn't really judge them, considering she and Sting had started before lunch the day before.
Lucy turned her attention back to her dragon slayer companion. He was sprawled out in the chair across from her with an annoyed look on his face. The small scowl twisted into a smirk, "You like what you see, Cat?"
"I'm just curious," Lucy said carefully.
His eyebrows shot up, "About?"
"Do you remember what you told me last night?" she asked, leaning forward a little in her eagerness to know the answer. For the first time, she saw him look regretful. It seems he did. "I wanted to know more about that situation."
"Well, it ain't any of your business," Sting said, the scowl returning in full force.
"You made it my business when you told me about it last night," Lucy said, pointing a finger as she made her argument. "You shouldn't have said anything if you didn't want to explain."
"Yeah, I shouldn't have," he mumbled. He refused to say anything more after that, clamming up stubbornly and turning his nose up at her despite her many attempts to plead her case. When the food finally came, he turned his face heavenward and sighed, "Thank the heavens!"
"Very funny," she said, wrinkling her nose. She might have continued to press, just to be contrary, but there was a steaming plate full of food in front of her and she was ravenous. It took all of her proper upbringing to keep her from shoveling the plate down like Natsu.
Ouch, that hurt. She hoped she wouldn't get a painful little jolt like that every time she remembered, because that would get annoying real quickly. Was there some way to prevent herself from turning into an angsty teenager?
Lucy shook her head and focused on the eating her food and enjoying the rich flavors. It was all heavy food with lots of spices and sauces. A good hearty meal felt good on her empty stomach. When she finished her food and pushed her plate away, Sting eyed her warily.
"Are you going to start bugging me again now that you finished hogging down your food?" he asked.
Lucy's face registered angry shock, "I didn't hog my food down!"
"How long are you going to pout for?" Sting asked.
"I'm not pouting!"
He stopped and turned towards her, "Yes, you are. You've been pouting the whole way here. I knew you were a Fairy, but I didn't realize you were also a baby. You should be happy. You somehow wheedled me into going with you to your childhood house."
She didn't respond to him, crossing her arms and circumnavigating him. They were already on her estate, but she didn't mention it. She didn't want him to realize how much money she used to have. That usually attracted the wrong type of attention that she had no desire for, even if she didn't have really any excess money at all anymore. Most of her extra earnings went into fixing up this place.
"Are you still upset that I said you were hogging your food?" he asked, his voice not too far behind her.
Yes. But, she wasn't going to tell him that.
She ignored him until they finally reached the courtyard, hustling him along and not wanting to give him a chance to look around at things. Even so, he looked around and marveled, "You lived here?"
"Yeah. Come on, won't you?" she rushed him up the stairs. Thankful that she had remembered to grab her keys even while distressed and panicked, she found the key to the manor on her ring and unlocked the front door.
"You lived here?" Sting repeated. This time his voice held a different sort of awe.
Lucy frowned at his judgment, "It wasn't like this when I lived here. Remember…I was gone for seven years and my dad lost it before then. It sat vacant for a while."
"And, you bought it back?" Sting said. He touched one of the gilded walls and whistled low, "Must have been expensive."
"Well, my rent was taken care of for a little while, so I was able to work hard to save it," Lucy said. She smiled a little, "I had a lot of help from my friends, too."
"Hm." Sting looked over his shoulder at her, "I forgot that you're actually really old."
Lucy froze in stunned offense. Fisting her hands at her side, she yelled, "I didn't age over those seven years, so my body is still young!"
He ran his eyes over her in a way that made her shiver a little, but surprisingly didn't comment on her body remark. She forgot that not everyone was like N...her-friend-that's-name-made-her-hurt-so-she-wouldn't-think-his-name. That-one-friend would never make a girl feel uncomfortable, but not everyone was so exceptional. Sting seemed to love making her feel uncomfortable.
"So, where's this library that you promised me?" he prompted her, bored with the entry hall already.
"This way," she said, leading him up the stairs to her library. Lucy had shared her love of literature with her parents, so the library was pretty extensive. And, further, her mom had been fascinated with learning more about magic and collected all the books she could on the subject. She had a lot. Maybe even one about War God Magic that might entice a young mage to come with her and pay her train fare.
"There's way too many books," Sting said in dismay when they entered the room. She looked around and, even though she'd been there countless times before, was a bit awed herself at the amount of books. It was her favorite place. She was glad to be able to walk here and run her hands along the spines again. "It will take forever to find, even if it is here."
"No worries, I know the layout well. Er, well enough, I guess."
He gave her a blank look.
"Let's look over here first!" she called, rushing over to a bookshelf she knew had a lot of Celestial Key Magic books. Those would belong to her mom, so it would make sense for the other magic books to be nearby.
They looked for a long time.
About an hour in, she had thought Sting had found the book, because he'd shouted, "Hey, come look at this!"
But, when she looked at the book over his shoulder, she saw that it was a cat book.
"There are so many cat names I can call you…," he ran his finger over the name at the top of one of the pages, "Bombay."
It was her turn to give him a blank look.
"…Are you serious?"
Four hours in, Lucy was about to give up. The day was passing quickly and she was afraid that her guildmates might come looking for her soon. She didn't want to interrupt the party they surely were having and make them worry about her. That would be stupidly selfish of her. She also didn't want them to catch her with Sting. That would just be stupid.
But, as she had that thought, she came across a book titled Yakuma's Magic of the Eighteen Gods of War.
"Hey, Sting!" Lucy shouted. The dragon slayer looked up at her from the bookshelf he was crouched in front of. "I found something way better than that cat book!"
"What do you know," he said, taking the book from her. "Your mom actually had a book about it."
"I told you," Lucy said smugly, though she hadn't been sure at all. It had just been a hope and a way to get the dragon slayer to accompany her. "Now, maybe you can tell me more about what's going on? I could help you if you tell me, you know?"
"How about you just get whatever you came here to get so we can get out of this dump," he deferred, smirking with pleasure at her bristling. Man, this guy really got under her skin.
Not deigning his dig at her childhood home with a response, she lead the way once again up more stairs and into the attic. Up here was where a lot of the furniture and other objects had been placed. She was sure it would be in one of these drawers.
Lucy had realized that she would have to come up with a valid reason on why she had vanished without a word. She didn't want to rain on Natsu and Lisanna's parade, so she could definitely not tell them the true reason. Heck, she didn't even want the people she knew would keep it a secret to know. She wanted to look happy and supportive to everyone and just suffer in pain alone. It was bad enough that she'd confided in Sting, though she wasn't sure he recalled it.
So. Her brilliant idea had been to cover her disappearance with a secret mission. Lucy had rushed all the way to her childhood house because she wanted to give the new couple a special gift. She was so happy for them and supportive, that she wanted to show them with a gesture.
Her dad had given her mom a magic box on one of their first dates. When you pushed the button on the lid, the box would open and a magical diorama of the night sky's planets and stars would float around you. Her dad had a guild friend make it for her, because she was a Celestial Mage and he had been a hopeless romantic not unlike herself.
It was a pretty impressive little box. Even Sting stopped being annoying long enough to look impressed. She smiled smugly again and nodded her head twice. Yes. She had run to her old house to get this and had been in such an enthusiastic hurry and hadn't expected it to take so long. That's why she hadn't stopped by the guild. Because, she wanted to get the gift as soon as possible, because she was so glad and so supportive.
Levy and Mirajane might just believe her.
"So, we can leave now?" Sting asked and her frown returned with a huff.
Lucy stood in front of the guild doors. Despite all of her rehearsing and pep talking on the train after she parted ways with Sting, she was still anxious about going inside.
I've got to do this for Natsu. He's my best friend. For Natsu. For Natsu. Natsu. Natsu. She tested thinking his name over and over, wondering if she could get rid of that pesky jolt if she thought it enough. Maybe she could become desensitized.
"Natsu," she said to the door.
Lucy jumped and nearly dropped the box in her surprise. She turned to see the pink-haired dragon slayer standing just behind her. He was giving her a searching look.
"H-hey, Natsu," she greeted weakly.
"Where were you?" Natsu asked. "You didn't show up at the guild yesterday. And, you house was empty last night and this morning."
He'd looked for her multiple times? She hadn't meant to ruin their enthusiasm and fun when she ran off. She hadn't really been thinking clearly. Even now, she wanted to run away. He was standing too close. He was looking too worried. She couldn't handle it.
Forcing a smile, she pushed the box at him.
"I went and got this for you," she said quickly. She just wanted to be done with it and disappear in her apartment.
"What is this?" he asked, finally taking his penetrating eyes off of her. She felt like if he looked too hard, that he would see her unrequited feelings. She was afraid about what would happen to their team dynamic and friendship if he did. Messing that up the last thing she wanted.
"Where's Lisanna? It's for the two of you, so I want you to see it together," Lucy answered.
Natsu smiled warmly at her, "You got us a present?"
"Of course," she said, automatically returning the smile. His smile always made her smile. "You're my best friend."
He made an excited noise and then dragged her into the guild hall. Everyone stopped what they were doing and turned at the ruckus Natsu was making. He held the box up and shouted, "Hey! Everyone! Lisanna, look what Lucy got us!"
"What is it?" Lisanna asked, intrigued and moving closer. The rest of the guild followed, gathering around the three of them.
"Set it on the ground, Natsu," Lucy instructed. After he'd done so, she pointed at the button on the top of the box, "Now, push that."
The box opened and there was a collective intake of breath at the beautiful spectacle of the tiny replica stars and planets moving in the motion of the universe.
"My dad got this for my mom when they first started dating," Lucy explained. She smiled as brightly as she could at the two of them. It wasn't that hard. Even though she was anxious and jealous and sad and heartbroken, she was also actually incredibly happy for them. "Congratulations, you two."
Lisanna cried and threw her arms around Lucy, squeezing her in a tight hug that Natsu and several of the other guildmates joined until she was at the center of a giant group hug. She hadn't intended to get the box, but now she was really glad that she did.
Then, Fairy Tail partied hard.
She stumbled into bed much later that night, exhausted out of her mind. Her muscles had already been sore from running the day before…she was going to be in for a painful morning. But, it wasn't like she could slack off now.
Even though she wanted to sleep for a long, long time, she couldn't. Sting had told her that she owed him big time and that she better be prepared for when he came back around to collect his payment. She had to go on a job as soon as possible. She wouldn't put it past that jerk to come really soon.
But, as she laid there, attempting to sleep off the heartbreak seemed really tempting. Maybe she could sleep for 100 years like Rip Van Winkle. Then, her problems would be far too old to matter. She sighed and turned on her side.
Stupid Sting, stopping her from being able to wallow in her pain. She bunched some of her pillows up alongside her in the relative shape of a person. Recalling the momentary happiness and warmth of pretending like she and Sting were in love, she tried to recapture that.
"These pillows and me are in love," she whispered in the dark. "This is one of our many happy nights."
Her smile felt forced. She wasn't drunk enough and the pillows weren't human enough to pretend.
Smacking the pillow beside her, she complained, "Stupid Sting."
And, finally, she cried.
(So, I've decided to continue this! I got a lot of encouragement and the story also wouldn't leave me alone. But, ignore the manga. The chapter where Sting gave up – though I personally thought that chapter was wonderful – never happened, because it ruins my plot. So. There. Thank you all for the reviews!)