I have to warn you guys, since this one will be pretty dark; angst, violence, rape... know what to expect! I hope you like it, though.
The sentence I used as the title is from J.R.R Tolkien and I thought it would fit the story well.
Dragon mating season
By Neko Erza
"Natsu, pay attention! This is very important." Igneel roared as the pinkette got distracted by a fleeing rabbit. The little boy quickly sat down again before his foster father.
"Why do I need to know this stuff, Igneel?" Natsu pouted as he would rather play with the rabbit than quietly sit down and listen.
"It will be very important and you're old enough to know now." The dragon said with a strict voice as he lay down again. "Mating season is something very special and important for dragon."
"But I'm not a real dragon." The boy said with a questioningly look on his face.
"It's equally important for a person with dragon slayer magic, my boy. Maybe even more, since the chance is big your mate won't be a dragonslayer, which will make it more difficult."
"What do you mean?" The boy asked as he scooted a little closer to his parent.
"They won't understand the rollercoaster of emotions and impulses that will run through your body when it's the season. Although our mates are a choice of fate, so the love will be mutual. The stars choose for us." The dragon added the last part with a smile.
"The stars? It sounds too complicated. I don't want to mate with someone." Natsu said with a tiny blush on his cheeks.
The dragon let out a deep roaring chuckle. "You say that now, but finding your mate will probably be the most important thing you will ever do."
"But how will I know who is my mate, will they know and tell me?" The little pinkette climbed up his father's paw, cuddling against his warm body.
"No, they won't know it or tell you. During the mating season our body will go into a state of utter response to our mate. The moment your flesh touches theirs will ignite a flood of emotion within you and you'll instantly know it's your mate. Things might be a bit easier, since it's possible that if you already knew her, you'd already be in love." The dragon smiled to the small boy cradled against him.
"Will they be in love?"
"They might already be in love with you, yes." Igneel said with an encouraging smile. Natsu thought about it for a second, this way mating season didn't sound that bad at all.
"It doesn't sound that bad anymore…" The boy said with a small smile. Suddenly another question popped up in his head. "Will she feel something? I mean, I'll know when the emotions and spark will tell me, but how will my mate experience it?"
"Good question. Your mate will love you back and will respond with their own set of emotions. It won't be the same thing as yours, but it's similar. They will also temporarily lose their physical strength and I've heard that when a dragon slayer's mate is also a mage, they won't be able to use magic against you during the season."
"That's weird." Natsu mumbled.
"It's probably to prevent accidents. But it will also be an indicator that she is your mate indeed." The dragon chuckled.
"How long is the season?"
"It's about two weeks. But once you've encountered your mate and marked them as such, the influence of the "Now, I think it's time for you to go to sleep."
The dragon carefully rubbed his big cheek against the boy's head and Natsu cuddled closer, getting ready to sleep. After a minute of silence the boy turned his head up again and whispered.
The boy kept silent for another few seconds, thinking of what was bothering him. "What if my mate doesn't love me back?"
Igneel thought about it for a second. It was very rare for mates to not fall in love with the dragon or slayer, in his long life he had only seen it once and heard of it from someone else. And from both experiences the rejecting mate's mental state was damaged and body was badly wounded since the one who activated the mating went mad with sadness and fury. These emotions pushed the dragon into a rage which could only be ended with the blood of their unwilling counterpart. Telling this news to the young boy would give him an aversion of the season. "It's very, very rare for a mate to not have mutual love, so you shouldn't worry about it."
The little boy thought about it for a second, but decided to not ask further. He nuzzled back onto the warm dragon skin and closed his eyes waiting for sleep to wash over him.
Everything went silent around them, only a lonely owl cried out from the nearby woods. Igneel looked at the peaceful sleeping face of his adoptive son and smiled, but it vanished pretty fast again. The dragon looked up at the dark sky and the twinkling stars.
"Please keep this boy safe. His inner flame of emotion is the biggest one I've experienced in my long life and he deserves a good mate. He would do anything for the one he loves and that person would be loved for rest of eternity." Igneel prayed to the stars. "If this boy were to be rejected by his true love, that flame of emotion could very well end up as an inferno of rage and anger." He paused for a second and thought about the strong feelings the little pinkette already showed at this age. "If Natsu isn't accepted by his fated partner… I dread for the mate's life."
The dragon stared at the stars a bit longer, as if waiting of hoping for some kind of sign. After a few moments the dragon lay down and closed his eyes.
In his arm the small boy who was supposed to be sleeping, was very much awake. The last few minutes that weren't meant for his ears made the uncertainty he had about mating season return with full force.
Natsu opened his eyes and stared at the ceiling. The dream returned every year and it always left him with an uneasy feeling. It actually was a memory of one of the last days he had spent with his father and it made the missing only worse.
The dream always plagued him on the first night of dragon mating season, and with it the uncertainty of finding a mate came all back again. So ever since he had felt the mating ritual kick in a few years back, he always ran for it during the two week mating season. He would spend the two weeks going out on a trip or a mission with Happy, avoiding every female as much as he could.
He let out a deep sigh and kicked the smothering covers off his body, waking Happy in the process. The little blue cat mumbled something about still being tired and curled up into a little ball again.
"Come on, Happy!" The dragon slayer said, a bit more cheerful now he was out of bed. "Let's go on a fishing trip, just the two of us."
The cat sleepily looked up and blinked a few times and let out a big yawn. "Natsu, I told you already, I'm going on a trip with Carla and Wendy."
Natsu's fragile cheerfulness vanished immediately. "Oh, right."
"Why don't you go with Lucy?" Happy asked as he lay back down.
Natsu didn't tell Happy that the whole trip was to get away from the women. "You know how she reacts to fish; she thinks they're 'icky'. She always freaks out."
When he didn't get a response from the little cat, he looked around and saw he had already fallen back to sleep. Natsu let out an annoyed sigh. He had anticipated on leaving with Happy, so he didn't have a backup plan. His other option was to go on a solo mission, but that meant going to the guild, risking the chance that he'd touch one of the girls and he didn't want to risk being mated.
"Just a quick visit to see if there are any good missions." He whispered to himself before he grabbed his scarf and tugged it on.
He took a quick glance around the doors of the guild, but saw that there weren't that many people this early. He saw Cana sitting at a table with Macao and Wakaba, but she was already busy emptying a beer barrel to notice him. From behind the counter Mira waved and smiled at him but she was busy serving customers. On a nearby table sat Gray with Bixlow and Loke. The tree men raised their hands as a greeting, Bixlow adding his typical tongue-rolling action.
Natsu quickly went to the request board and scanned through the missions. After a long search Natsu had to admit defeat since there weren't any suitable jobs. Most were too big to go alone, needed a long train ride or weren't fitted for his magic.
"What's up, flame brain?" Gray greeted as he casually strolled Natsu's way. In the short time it took to get from the table to the request board the ice mage had lost his coat. "Looking for a job?"
"Gee, what made you think that? Since I'm standing before the job requests?" The dragon slayer sarcastically answered.
"Someone's in a good mood." Gray mumbled equally sarcastic. "I just wanted to say the team isn't complete. Erza and Lucy left for one last night. And isn't Happy going on a trip with Wendy?"
"Yeah, I know, but I need some time off." The pinkette sighed.
"Ah, I looked on the board earlier, but as far as I read there isn't really a relaxing one on there." Gray tapped his finger against the board.
"Yeah, I saw. I actually planned to go fishing with Happy, but that's not going to happen now."
"Well, good luck with it, flame brain." The ice mage started to walk off again.
Natsu looked at the requests one last time, then walked after the raven. "Oi, stripper. Why don't you go on a fishing trip with me?"
"Oh come on, I don't want to go alone." Natsu said annoyed. He didn't want to spend time around Magnolia, where the chance of running into women was way too big and other than Gray, Natsu wouldn't know who to ask. And for some reason the thought of going on a trip with the ice mage seemed really enjoyable.
"I was planning to go to the Mountain Hakobe lake." Natsu said, knowing the raven loved the place. Gray stopped and looked back.
The raven thought about it for a second and decided it would be a great opportunity to go to the place again. He hadn't been there in ages. "It is a great fishing spot indeed."
"So you're coming?"
"Yeah, yeah." The raven sighed, not understanding why he'd agreed on a trip with the dragon slayer. "When do you want to leave?"
"Today. I'll go grab my stuff and meet you here at the guild in an hour, okay?"
A few hours later the two mages sat by the lake, their fishing rods lazily swung out before them. The lake is located at the base of the snowy mountain, so every once in a while there was a chilly breeze that passed by, neither of them were bothered by it though. Gray had even lost his shirt again.
"I'll have to admit, I'm glad I did come with you, Natsu." The ice mage mentioned after a while. "This really is a nice spot."
"I know. Happy and I come here a few times a year; he says the fish here taste the best." The dragon slayer chuckled. Just then Natsu felt a light tug on his fishing rod, so he quickly sat up and tried to haul the fish in. Just before Natsu could pull it on shore, the fish freed himself from the hook and swam off with the bait. "Dammit."
Gray chuckled. "We won't be tasting the fish if you keep doing that."
"Shut up, like you're such an amazing fisher, perverted stripper."
"I'm not saying that. But at least I did catch one already, matchstick." The ice mage pointed to a frozen fish a few meters away.
"That was pure luck." Natsu mumbled annoyed, Gray chuckled but didn't bother to drag the arguing any further, since that would only end up in one of their usual fights.
The two remained in silence a bit longer, listening to the rustling sounds of the trees and lake. The raven mage leaned back against a tree and closed his eyes, enjoying the cool breeze fondling his skin. The pinkette pulled up his legs and rested his chin on his knees, a bit tired of the restless night due to the dream. Only remembering it brought back an uneasy feeling and the warm feeling in his stomach that he always felt during the season. He tried to ignore it, which mostly did the trick to forget it. This time though the more he tried to ignore it the harder the warmth in his body welled up. He shifted his body so his forehead rested against his knees and he closed his eyes. He could feel every vein in his head throb, making it hard to think clear.
"Natsu, are you okay?" Gray's voice sounded beside the dragon slayer a few minutes later.
Natsu snapped his head up and looked at the ice mage. He hadn't noticed that his body was covered with a thin sheen of sweat and his breathing had become ragged. His eyes had trouble focusing on the raven beside him, so he blinked a couple of times to get the blur away.
"Hey, are you okay?" Gray asked again, sitting up from his leaning position.
Finally Natsu's head became a little clearer again and he slowly nodded. "Uh… Yeah, I'm fine."
The raven raised an eyebrow as he looked at the dragon slayer with a doubting look. "You sure didn't look like it."
"Well, I am now." Natsu grunted, brushing away the few sweat drops on his face. He could still feel Gray's eyes on him, which gave him an uneasy feeling. He turned around and yelled. "I'm fine!"
"Okay, okay, you're fine." Gray shook his head at the sudden outburst. He leaned back against the tree and adjusted his fishing rod. He had a gloomy expression on his face.
Natsu looked at him and felt a spike of guilt, the ice mage had looked genuinely concerned. The pinkette took a few deep breaths, clearing his mind. "I'm sorry."
Gray looked at him with a blank expression. "It's okay."
"I'm always pissed when you're around." Gray said with a cocky grin. Natsu had to chuckle at that comment and all the tenseness between them vanished. "You did look jumpy all day."
"Hmm…" Natsu just hummed. He hadn't expected anyone to notice it, but the effects of the season were too hard to hide sometimes.
"Care to tell me why?" Gray asked, wondering why his teammate who never seemed to have a care in the world behaved like this.
"It's just-" Natsu stopped, doubting if he should tell his rival or not. After a few seconds of pondering he decided it was best just to explain it, maybe he could even help with getting his mind off of things. "Dragon mating season started today."
"Dragon mating season? Are you serious?" The ice mage snickered with a surprised look on his face. "And you're affected by it too?"
"Yes. It's really annoying." The fire mage said with a grimace.
"So that's why you wanted to get out of the guild, so badly you even asked me to join you?" Gray asked, his crooked grin never leaving his face.
"Yes, even that badly." Natsu chuckled. Then his face got less joyful. "It's just that… I don't want to risk getting mated with one of the girls, so I avoid them."
"What? You mean you don't get to choose your own mate?" Gray asked surprised. He had to admit that he knew practically nothing about dragons or dragon slayers, let alone their mating habits.
"No. They are chosen by fate and the bond can't be broken." Natsu explained.
"Glad I'm not a dragon slayer. What if you end up with someone you don't even like?"
"The dragon slayer will always love their mate." Natsu whispered. "When we touch during mating season, all the emotions will well up in our bodies."
"And the mate?"
The question brought back all the uncertainty Natsu felt and he thought about what Igneel had prayed about. "The chance is big they are already in love if the slayer and them already know each other. But there's also a chance that they don't have mutual feelings."
"That must suck." Gray commented. Natsu was glad he didn't ask about the possible consequences for that mate. "This does explain why Gajeel left in a hurry yesterday and refused to take Levi with him." The ice mage said with a smile.
"Yeah, he'll probably feel it too."
"Although I think these two would make perfect mates." The ice mage continued. "What about Laxus? He's a second generation, right? Does he feel the influences of the mating season?"
"I have no idea to be honest." Natsu said, surprised that he had never wondered that himself.
"What about Wendy? Is it the same for female dragon slayers?" Gray asked, genuinely interested.
"I'm not sure, I'll ask her when she's a bit older. She's still too young to experience mating season, I think."
"I hope so, she is too young indeed." Gray nodded then chuckled. "Poor Doranbalt."
The ice mage looked at the dragon layer who sat about a meter and half away. He still looked a bit shaky, his body still gleaming with a small sheen of sweat.
"Say, Natsu. Why don't you go and find your mate? Gajeel too, he just left with Lilly."
Natsu thought about it for a second. "It's just… frightening I guess. Our mates are for life, so it's a big responsibility. I'm not sure I'm ready for that yet."
"It does sound pretty serious."
The two went silent again. Natsu could still feel the annoying warmth in his body and wondered why it wouldn't just go away like it always did. About an hour passed like that, then Natsu felt a painful sting in his head.
"Ouch." He flinched as he grabbed his head. Gray immediately turned his way.
"Are you okay?"
"Yeah, it happens often during the season." He said as he rubbed the pain away.
Gray crawled up from the ground and dusted some pieces of grass off his pants. Then he walked over to the dragon slayer.
"You seem awfully pale, you know."
"The first day of the season is the worst, tomorrow will normally be a lot better." The pinkette explained. Still the ice mage crouched before him and looked at his face.
"If it gets worse, I'm bringing you to a doctor."
"That's not necessary."
"Maybe you have a fever." Gray lifted his hand to feel his forehead.
"I'm the fire dragon slayer, I always have a fever." Natsu said annoyed as he smacked the hand away.
To his great surprise and shock, the minute their bodies touched a spike that felt like hot liquid shot from the spot where they had touched through his whole body. His whole vision went pale, except for the ice mage's face, which was clearer than ever. The lingering warmth he had felt before exploded and spread through his whole body, warming every last cell, feeling like his body was thrown into a blissful inferno.
Everything that wasn't Gray seemed to disappear for a few moments, his whole body filled with his being. Every possible emotion surged through his body; happiness, lust, angst, bliss, fear, confusion, anger, mischief, embarrassment, confidence and finally it stuck on one. Love. Pure and utter love for the being in front of him.
Gray had felt the shock too, which made him retract his hand quickly. The same pulse of heath went through his body, dizzying his head which was only used to cold. The flood of emotions Natsu had felt didn't occur inside the ice mage's body.
"Ouch, what the hell was that?" He asked surprised, then looked up at the dragon slayer. The latter was staring at him with big dilated eyes and his mouth opened in surprise. The look of the dragon slayer made him feel weird inside and he wondered what the hell that pulse had done to him.
Natsu shook his head as if to clear his mind then looked up at the ice mage again, who still crouched before him. He leaned in closer, which made Gray uncomfortable. The pinkette scanned his body from top to bottom. "You are my mate."
Gray's eyes went big with surprise. "What? You're kidding."
"No!" Natsu said, grabbing Gray's hand with his. The touch made another pulse go through his body, caressing his very soul. "You are my mate, Gray!"
"But I'm a guy!" The raven rambled, getting extremely nervous. He tried to pull his hand away, but was stopped by Natsu's firm grip. Somehow he couldn't find the strength to pull it away, no matter how much he tried.
"I don't care you're a guy." Natsu said with a big smile on his face, not taking his eyes off of Gray for one second.
"We can't stand each other."
"That might have been the case, but now…" Natsu let his eyes roam over every inch of Gray's body, finally letting go of his hand.
Gray quickly stood up and walked away. "The season is just messing with your head, Natsu."
"No, it's not!" The dragon slayer yelled, suddenly feeling angry. "Gray, you're my mate."
The ice mage turned around and walked towards his stuff, ignoring the dragon slayer. He didn't understand one bit of what happened the last few minutes.
Natsu jumped up. "I love you, Gray!"
Gray's whole body froze. The words needed some time to sink in and they had a devastating impact. He slowly turned around and looked at the dragon slayer. He had trouble making the slightest sound, but finally managed to whisper.
"I don't love you."
Those few words crashed in on Natsu, like no fight had ever done. The blissful warmth that had surged through his body before slowly changed. Instead the warmth turned into a burning that felt like it would turn him to ashes from the inside out and for a second everything went black before his eyes. Grief and disbelieve started seeping into him, along an uncontrollable anger and fury that threatened to take over his whole being.
When Natsu opened his eyes again, Gray couldn't find any trace left of the Natsu he knew.
End of chapter 1