note: Well, because I gave you guys a really sad one-shot yesterday, I came back with a happy one today!
note2: I'm posting this today because it was Family's Prom Marathon Day (FYI, Family is a TV channel in where I live). They even showed HSM3! My childhood! I've actually written this some time ago.
note3: I'm too young to attend prom this year—only a sophomore—and no senior asked me *shrug* so here's to two more years into the future.
disclaimer: Do you think Mashima-san would really write about prom?
summary: Prom came too early for her—and too easy. Of course Natsu wouldn't just ask her to prom because he wanted to.
Imagine her annoyance when, on a simple walk back to her locker to get some heavy math books that she'd rather not carry, she found a huge crowd of people—almost making the whole hallway heavily congested—all buzzing and talking that their words sounded nothing more than what bees sound like.
Imagine her surprise when, at the sight of her, all talk halted into dead silence, and the crowd parted in the middle, seeming to give her way.
Imagine her utter shock when she saw the big, bold letters on her locker, spelling out the four-letter-one-question-mark sentence for everyone to see. She could only manage to gape and stare as the boy previously standing beside her locker—waiting, maybe nervously, twiddling his thumbs, clenching and unclenching his fists—made his way towards her, a single red rose in hand. The scream was just clawing its way up her throat when he held out the flower to her and, with an expectant shine in his eyes, asked her that damned question.
All words were lost on her as she tried not to faint.
Natsu Dragneel just asked her to prom.
"I know this is unexpected buuuttt will you go to prom with me?"
"I don't even know you!"
The noise in the cafe momentarily silenced at the exclamation, the clinking of the mugs and the chatter of the parishioners being replaced with questioning gazes and curious looks. With a sheepish smile, she sank back to her comfy chair, hiding her face behind her chilled cup of iced cappuccino.
"I just told you my name," the pink-haired boy sitting across her said, rolling his eyes, "Natsu Dragneel, remember?"
"I know that!" she couldn't help but screech (when she saw him preparing to open his mouth, a retort hanging on his lips), earning herself a few looks. Her cheeks pinked in embarrassment. "I mean," she started again, keeping control of her voice, "I know you, but we don't even talk to each other."
"But, aren't we talking right now?" he asked, eyebrows scrunched, tilting his head to the side in confusion.
"No, technically, we are talking but—" she struggled to explain, but found it as difficult as talking to a 3-year old, "—I mean, okay, we're talking right now but—we don't—talk—ugghhh we're not even friends!"
"But we know each other," he said, a smug grin on his face (because he knew he had outsmarted her in this argument, using her own words against her), "And besides, you said yes!"
Her face exploded into dark hues of red in anger. "How could I not, in front of so many people?!" she exclaimed, fists clenching, "If I didn't, I would have come off as a bitch!" The looks bore deep holes into the back of her head, but she found that she suddenly didn't care in favor of giving this idiot a piece of her mind.
"W-well—" Natsu seemed at a loss for words at first, rubbing the back of his neck. It wasn't long before he assumed his usual cheerful disposition. "You already said yes! No backsies!"
An argument was on the brink of commencing—intense glares and determined stares battling it out—when she relented with a sigh, conceding—defeated. "Why did you even ask me?" she all but muttered, pouting, "We're not even on the same grade."
"Because I knew you wouldn't say no," at her narrowed eyes, he caught himself, "—at least, not if I pressured you."
"No," she said, shaking her head, "What I mean is, why did you ask me? I'm assuming it's not because you like me or anything."
His dark eyes widened, and he chuckled nervously, as if he was caught right in the act. "Guess you wouldn't believe that lie now, huh?" he said, and yet his movements were still twitchy, like there was more nervousness in him than necessary. She couldn't help but raise a fine eyebrow at his odd actions. Before she could call him out on it, though, he went back to his normal, jovial self. "See, I had a bet with Ice Princess." Well, wasn't that cliché. "Whoever brings the more beautiful girl to prom wins."
She almost choked. "What?" she said, trying to regain some dignity and failing, "S-seriously?"
His grin turned joking, and she regretted ever believing him. "Actually, the bet was if I could actually get a date for prom, so, really, I could take any girl I want."
A tight smile curled her lips, wry and humorless. "Good luck with that, because, suddenly, I don't want to help you."
She grabbed her bag and got up to leave, but a hand halted her, freezing her in place. "No, I didn't mean it that way!" he exclaimed, almost sounding panicked (although she wouldn't know), "I chose you, okay?" His turned his head to the side, gaze embarrassed (and for some reason, her heart fluttered). "I thought you were nice, so..."
She picked up the unspoken words within the unfinished sentence, and, with a conceding sigh, sat down again. There was just something in the way he seemed to beg her (or just something in him, really) that forced her to stay.
Didn't mean she couldn't be stubborn though.
She crossed her arms in front of her chest, pouting. "I should get something out of this."
His grin widened. "Trust me, you will."
"I don't see what the problem is, Lu-chan."
She found herself groaning in frustration as her best friend, yet again, failed to see her point in this argument. What's worse was that she thought this was all a marvelous idea. "Levy," she said, keeping herself patient and her voice calm, but all that disappeared when she continued, "we don't even have interactions with each other, and then he asks me?!" Her fists clenched, eyes lighting up with rage. "Ugh, the nerve!"
The blue-haired girl gave her a patronizing stare, shrugging her shoulders lightly. "You've had a crush on him since the first day of school, right?"
She sputtered at that. "What?! No, I don't!"
But Levy continued on as if she hasn't heard her. "Prom's the chance to show him something to gape at—a chance to give him more reason to like you!"
Her eyebrows dipped down, a helpless expression on her face. "We're practically strangers, Levy!" A frown tugged at her lips. "I don't think I can go through with this."
The moment her best friend gave her a knowing look, she tensed in her spot, thinking maybe the predator would be dumb enough to go away and leave her alone if she stayed still—but Levy was no predator, and she certainly wasn't dumb. "Is that really the reason, Lu-chan?" she said, an unusual softness overcoming her tone, "Because you're strangers?"
She stayed silent for moments, thoughtful and pensive. That hadn't been a problem before, she knew. Before some dates, you and your date would have been strangers. She'd seen Natsu at school for years, and there had been a few hellos in the past when they crossed paths in the hallways, so they weren't complete strangers.
Deep inside she knew it wasn't the reason, but if it wasn't, she didn't know what was.
The familiar, jubilant voice brought her steps to an abrupt stop, every muscle in her body reacting instinctively to the greeting by freezing. It's been like that since the past week and she was starting to hate it. It was bad enough that a word from him made her stop whatever she was doing and drop whatever she was holding, but why—why must her heart pound against her chest so loudly?
He slowed to a jog when he finally caught up to her, bright grin filling up the bottom half of his face as usual (and she thought to herself that she hated that grin—no, she didn't, she loved it—because it did strange things to her). Choosing it was best to ignore him, she walked ahead, books securely held to her chest.
But Natsu, being the stubborn guy he was, followed her through the hallway, even with her hurried steps and fast paces. Clearly, he didn't understand the (silent) meaning of "I sorta don't want to talk to you right now because I don't know exactly how I'm feeling."
"Why are you chasing me?!" she shouted over her shoulder.
The pink-haired boy glared at her. "Because you're running away!"
She didn't know when he managed to close the distance between them, but it wasn't long before he caught her wrist and pulled her closer to him, causing her to stumble towards him. She almost fell into his chest, but he steadied her with his arms before she did. Her cheeks flushed.
Damn it damn it damn it!
In an attempt to regain some dignity, she pushed him away from her, silently wishing he didn't notice the healthy red hue her face has taken. "No, Natsu," she said, shaking her head, "Why have you been hanging around me a lot for the past few days?" You never did before remained unspoken, hanging in the air between them.
Natsu seemed to ponder over it for seconds on end, but merely gave her a shrug in response. "You're my date to prom, right?" he said, as if it was an obvious fact and an even more obvious reason, "So, we have to make Gray believe that."
She felt something break within her, bitter disappointment spreading through her system, and she fought the urge to cry, biting her lip.
Wanting to be as far away from Natsu as humanly possible, she turned around and dashed away without a word, hearing his confused calls of her name yet ignoring them.
She found the reason why she was so hellbent on refusing to be Natsu's date.
Because she had liked him for a long time, and she had bottled those feelings up successfully until now.
Because when he asked her, it rekindled the hope inside her.
Because Natsu was just using her, and she knew that after this—this unexplainable, complicated thing they had going on—everything would go back to normal as if nothing happened.
The news about her and Natsu going to prom together spread through the school like wildfire, rapidly growing and uncontrollable. She didn't mind it much before, when only her, Natsu and Levy (and maybe a huge part of juniors and seniors present during the question) knew about it, but now that practically the whole school did...
Two of the most popular people, going to prom together. Must be their fairy tale-like love story. What would their reactions be when they find out this is all a hoax, all just because of some stupid, stupid bet? And now, even more people are gonna be watching when Natsu drops her like a sack of potatoes.
For a moment, her body froze up, thinking it was Natsu, but she told herself that it was the voice of someone else—familiar, yet very different from the pink-haired boy's.
She turned to look at the person, but there was a stiffness in her smile that she couldn't get rid of (it wasn't because of the person, no). "Hey, Lok—"
"Will you be my prom date?"
Taken aback—yet not surprised at all (those repeated questions for a date would've led up to this)—the smile dropped from her lips, the color draining from her face just as fast.
What was she supposed to say? No? Because she already had a prom date?
But Natsu wasn't even serious. He was only using her to win a bet.
Loke's eyes were shining—with some arrogance and flirtatious glints, she knew—but she could see the sincerity in them as they looked at her expectantly. He really liked her, and he really wanted her to go with him. He wasn't using her. He wasn't playing.
If she went with Loke, she knew she wouldn't get hurt. There would be no heartache after, or every time she saw him.
She would be safe—and actually wanted.
I chose you, okay? I thought you were nice so...
Her eyes widened at the memory, becoming vividly clear momentarily for her to see the same, pure sincerity written on Natsu's bashful, reddening face.
And she wondered, it was why she agreed in the first place.
Giving the orange-haired boy an apologetic smile, she said, "Sorry, Loke, I can't." She hoped she made the right choice. "I already said yes to Natsu."
It may only be for this time, but Natsu picked her among others, and maybe that was enough.
Her feet had been running through the courtyard, the fast and steady rhythmic pattern echoing and bouncing off stone walls, when she heard a faraway voice, making her briefly shift her gaze to the direction from where it came from—then promptly do a double-take and send her steps screeching to a stop.
It was Loke, standing in the middle of the open, and in front him was a person with a mop of pink hair.
She couldn't see the face—only his back faced her—but the rumpled white uniform shirt with rolled-up sleeves and the pink spikes of gravity-defying hair were enough signs for her to know exactly who it was (who else in the world had pink hair?).
Unconsciously, her blood froze, anxious, but her intention had been finding him and talking to him in the first place, so there was no reason to react that way. She cursed the reflex.
"Why did you ask Lucy?" she heard Loke ask, and she instantly hid behind a pillar, ears sharp and listening (eavesdropping, a voice in her said).
Natsu didn't say anything, and the two seemed to be locked in an intense staring match, neither cracking under the pressure of the gaze of the other.
Loke sighed, sounding with a mix of resignation and frustration. "You know, I could just get you another girl, if you're just going to use Lucy anyway." Even from where she was, she could feel the intensity in every edge of the orange-haired boy's face, serious and warning.
There was a long moment of charged silence again, the air heavy and tense, but at the end of those few seconds, Loke gave another sigh, this time light. A small, almost regretful smile graced his lips. "... It's not just about showing up Gray, is it?"
The gasp couldn't help but escape her parted mouth at the thought of Natsu taking her to prom not just because of Gray's bet. And maybe because he actually wanted her to be there—with him.
Too bad she couldn't see his face for confirmation.
Natsu's expression seemed to have been something else besides hostility and anger because the bespectacled boy merely smirked at him, soft around the edges. "Well, take care of Lucy." With that cryptic remark, he gave him a final wave before running off.
Mind reeling with confusion and bafflement, she walked away with slower, lighter paces, her hopes unwillingly rising again.
He stood in front of the large double-door entranceway, feeling small in comparison (the intimidation did not help in calming him down). Knocking on the wooden door nervously, he dropped his gaze to the things at his hands (so that it could give him an excuse not to look at her in the eye—he felt guilt flood him, and contrary to popular belief, yes, he knew the feeling).
When he heard the sound of a door swinging open, he started speaking.
"Okay, Luce, if you're going to prom, I have your corsage, but if you're not, I brought movies and popcorn, because if you're not going, I'm staying—"
He looked up, and his jaw went slack.
There was a smug smile on her face (probably for being able to get that kind of reaction from him—but, right now, he found that he didn't care if he was openly staring at her), and she planted her hands on her hips (fuck, calm yourself—why is she so hot right now?—it—it—why is it so hot right now—not her—well, yes, her—shit). "Wouldn't this dress be wasted if we had Movie Night?"
He felt his mouth going dry and Mr. Heartfilia's stare boring holes through his head (not that he really cared right now).
She was beautiful.
Six hours into the night—and into the dusk of another day—of eating the wonderful food and hanging out with friends (in formal wear), the lights dimmed inside the room to a soft glow and every couple gathered in the large space at the center, already swaying to the slow, gentle music playing in the background.
It was the last dance for the night, and it was meant to be shared with the one most special to you—to her, anyways.
She had been dreaming about prom like any other girl since her childhood, and this—she dreamed of this part especially, when her date (which she promised to make sure really liked her—debatable) would offer his hand to her like a prince, and she would take it just as graciously, and they would waltz the night away.
Well, none of those came true.
He must've seen the shimmering glaze of longing in her eyes because, from beside her, Natsu scrunched his eyebrows, confused and questioning. "Do you want to dance?"
Yes, a thousand times yes! "I'll dance if you do. It's okay if you don't want to."
Natsu laughed, and she was about to glare at him (a little, no real anger behind it) because he wasn't taking her seriously, but all thoughts flew out of her head when he took her hand, grip firm yet gentle, starting to pull her off her seat and to the middle. "C'mon, Luce," he said, grinning a bit, "It's not just my night." They made their way to the center, and he looked back at her with the softest smile she has seen on him. "It's your night, too."
Amidst the dancing couples—she saw a few subtle pairs near the corners, like Erza resting her head on Jellal's shoulder as they swayed, or Gray pulling Juvia to his chest tighter than normal—she felt her face heat up under the lights and her body grow anxious, unsure of what to do with her hands and where to stare. Thankfully—yet not so thankfully—Natsu took her other hand and placed it on one of his shoulders, the other one already resting comfortably on the other shoulder, yet keeping his hands at his sides. She laughed at how stiff his posture was, and seeing how nervous he was, too, hers ebbed away and dissipated into the air, just as easy as that. Grabbing his hands, she guided them to her hips, where they settled uneasily on, as if he was afraid of touching her (he probably was). They kept a modest space between them, but they were still so close to each other, the distance seeming so small she thought she could hear his heartbeat.
It seemed so perfect, that moment, like the world just stopped in a very cliché way but she didn't care because it was just the two of them—like there was him, and that was all that mattered.
But at the thought of tomorrow and painful normalcy, tauntingly looming in her head, her step faltered. Tomorrow, everything would disappear like the dream it has always been, and she would be forced to wake up to the cold, unforgiving, unfulfilling reality of Natsu never looking her way again.
Then I've got nothing more to lose.
As their bodies started to follow the others and moved to the music, she asked the taboo question, voice solemn and quiet and afraid of breaking what moment they have now. "Why did you ask me to prom, Natsu?"
Moments passed when no words filled the silence (that it was starting to suffocate her), and she bit her lip unconsciously because maybe she shouldn't have said that but her mouth moved on its own—
A shift in Natsu's stance broke her train of thoughts, her eyes straying upward to meet his. He looked away instantly, and she understood the silence, barely being able to hold back a blossoming smile.
Natsu was embarrassed—like blushing embarrassed. How cute.
"I—" he started, then searched his mind again for the words that got stuck in his throat, "I meant it when I said you were nice." His lips pursed—as if he was holding back a sentence he didn't want to say—but he seemed to concede with a sigh of defeat (against who or what, she didn't know). "You were...more than nice, actually. We may seem like strangers to you, but I—" His gaze returned to her face, and there was something unexplainable reflected in his eyes. "—I've noticed you. A lot."
She did, too. She noticed him a lot.
"Remember that first day of school of your first year? When I accidentally kicked that soccer ball right at your head? Though, judging from how hard it hit you, I wouldn't be surprised if you didn't. I mean, you were out cold for, like, a few hours." A laugh came from him, slightly awkward and shaky. "Anyway, I've had a pretty bad record my first year of high school, and that would've totally gotten me suspended if you complained—but you didn't."
Why didn't she?
She vaguely remembered a pair of arms carrying her through the hallways and into the nurse's office and a pair of really worried eyes looking down at her when she awoke.
A feeling (that had long been suppressed, and had long wanted to break free) rose in her chest, and she shivered involuntarily. (She'd been pretty awkward around him after that—they never did talk again until months after—until now.)
She hadn't realized until then that the voice had stopped telling the story, and instead, Natsu chose to stare at her with that same worry in her memory and her chest felt like exploding (no!). "You cold?"
Vehemently—and too quickly—she shook her head. "No, please continue."
Regarding her with one last suspicious narrow of his eyes, he picked off where he left. "Right. Where was I? Oh, yeah! You not complaining. Why didn't you, anyway? If I was hit square in the head with a soccer ball, I would've made sure the guy got in trouble."
"But you were sorry," she said, and then, to her surprise, the pink in his cheeks intensified that it was almost like the color of his hair. She never thought she'd see him like that—so, so flustered (then again, she never thought of a lot of things, and they happened anyway). Her shoulders shrugged, nonchalant. "And you looked like you were in too much trouble already, so you didn't need me whining about a little knock on the head."
"But you treated me lunch." His face twisted in bewilderment—eyebrows furrowed, eyes narrowed, mouth pulled in a peculiar smile as if he didn't understand but it amused him greatly (or she amused him greatly).
"I did, didn't I?" she mused aloud, a little disbelieving herself.
"Yeah, you were weird." She punched him on the shoulder for that and he winced a bit (but she knew that light attack wouldn't hurt him).
"But that's what interested me," he said after, and she immediately stopped (swaying, moving, breathing). "You were nice and you were weird, then I found out that you were smart and you were friendly, too. Everyday I would find your smiles—you always smiled—and they would have this weird effect on me that would make me smile, too."
"Ice Princess had been teasing me about it," he said, a small, reminiscing grin on his face, "saying that I've been going soft and that I had a crush on you. Of course I said that I didn't, and I've been convincing myself pretty damn well that I really didn't."
His gaze suddenly took a darker edge, and it made them stop altogether. "But then, the year after, there was a time when you didn't come to school for 3 days. People said you were probably just sick, but I overheard Levy saying that you also weren't at home." He probably didn't notice, but his grip on her unconsciously tightened, an evidence in his eyes of a cold anger still seething beneath his skin. "When Erza received the note from Raven Tail, I just kinda got a little crazy then."
The anger disappeared, but what replaced it was immense satisfaction, yet somehow looking twisted and manic (but it was weird, because she would never have associated those words with Natsu). "You probably don't know because you were unconscious that time, but I did manage to singlehandedly take you back." The grin that broke out on his face was far from cheery. "Raven Tail never really was the same after that."
She gulped at the sheer weight of what he just told her. All this time of playing hide and seek, Natsu has been noticing her as much as she has been noticing him (and so much more, considering he rushed to Raven Tail High and beat the crap out of her captors to save her). "But...why now?" she found herself asking. "Why didn't you tell me this before?"
Natsu's lower lip stuck up. "Because I was a pussy," he admitted, grudgingly. "Everyday I would get this courage to talk to you and all that would disappear the moment I'm 5 feet away from you. But then there's the bet—"
"So, basically, right now, you're just being forced to?" she asked, not being able to keep the sharp, accusing tone from seeping into the sentence. Of course. It always came down to the bet.
"No, no!" Natsu shook his head vehemently. "It's actually giving me confidence right now. Like, now, I can manage to say that I like you."
"Like?" The question came out as uncertain as how certain Natsu was with his statement. "As in like as a friend or—?"
"Like-like, Lucy." He rolled his eyes, an amused smile quirking the corners of his lips. "I wouldn't keep track of you all these years if I didn't." The light in his eyes grew brighter, more teasing. "And to think I, the infamously dense Natsu Dragneel, am the one lecturing you about this."
She chuckled at the irony of it all. "Well, turns out you're not so dense."
The smile evolved into a grin. "That's the trick."
"Pffft, well you're a damn good act—"
A muffled squeal of surprise escaped her mouth when Natsu suddenly kissed her, short and light but still enough to have her knees buckling under her dress and her heart feeling like it could pound through her chest. "Wha—why'd you do that?!"
"Because I felt like doing it." There was a challenging half-smirk forming on his lips and she cursed inwardly because it got to her and he knew it. Her cheeks flamed a furious red shade and it was so not helping her case.
And to think she couldn't like this boy even more...
Her eyelids closing shut and a smile playing on her lips, she stood on tiptoes and pressed her lips to his again, gentle and warm like him and the times her heart felt things she hadn't felt before—how he made her feel.
He had made her like him more than she did all those years, and there was nothing she regretted—not the heartbreak, not the excruciating wait, no nothing.
This night was a night of change, and she couldn't have been happier.
"Gray, thanks for that bet."
"You know, that bet with Natsu about prom?"
"What? I never had a bet with Natsu."
note: Clever, clever Natsu.
note2: Like most of my one-shots, I don't know what happened here. I wrote it in varying levels of literacy—well, I don't think literacy's the right word. Never mind.
note3: Reviews are like cookies and I like cookies.