Natsu swallowed thickly as he carefully flipped himself over in his hammock. The word kept repeating itself, manifesting in his mind, becoming a mantra.
How many times had someone called him that? How many people saw him and the first thing they thought of was monster ?
This was all new to him. Never had he let these comments get to him or worry him before- he had always believed that they were wrong. And if he knew they were wrong, and he thought differently of himself, then the words wouldn't bother him... right?
But the thing was, the words did bother him.
He didn't want innocent people to think of him as a monster. He only wanted to help them, he would never hurt them, so why would they call him that?
Did he look scary? He never thought so. He did have salmon- it’s not pink -hair after all and he was told on a regular basis, via ice dick, that it wasn't a super threatening thing.
Well... he did have really sharp teeth. That would be a little unsettling to people who saw him, he supposed. His eyes were also pretty slanted too, and he was told many times that if looks could kill, his enemies would be dead with one measly glance.
Did he do things that scared people? With this question, he sank more into his hammock, his eyebrows furrowing in thought.
He had never really thought of himself like this. He hadn't thought of any of his actions like this, either. Whenever he knocked down a building or set himself on fire or even just fought, he never really gave much concern to the people around him.
When they saw him taking down a building, did they see him trying to protect them from dark mages or a beast, or did they see him doing it for fun? Because he could and there was nothing they could do to stop him?
His eyes darkened as he looked to his wall, his hands curling into fists as a memory played in his mind.
Natsu wiped his mouth with the back of his hand, his eyes watching the dark mage in case he decided to get back up. When he didn't, he let out a small sigh, glancing to the right where a civilian was with her daughter, both huddled together.
The woman watched him approach with wide, fearful eyes and the dragon slayer knew to be careful. Civilians were always a bit fearful when they first saw dark mages in action, and even more so when they are in the crossfire.
"Are you both alright?" He asked as he stepped in front of them, reaching out a hand to help the woman up. However, instead of taking it like others, she flinched away and only then did he realize how much she trembled.
"St-Stay away from u-us!" She shrieked, her arms tightening around her daughter as his eyes widened. "M-Monster." She muttered, repeating the word over and over as she clung to the young girl in her arms.
He was so startled, he didn't even realize when he stepped back away from them, his eyes still frozen to them both. His mind had gone blank as he watched Erza come and pick them both up off the ground, herding them to someplace else.
After a moment, he left to find his partners.
It was a moment he remembered well. It had only happened a few weeks prior to this moment, but it had been a recurring theme in his thoughts.
Maybe.... maybe he really was a monster.
If that woman had thought it, surely more must've stumbled upon the same conclusion as well. Who was to say that his own guildmates had thought it, even. But they were his family, they knew he would never hurt someone for malicious purposes.
Dread swirled in his gut and he curled up slightly.
He didn't want to hurt anyone- he didn't want to scare them…
Why couldn't they see that?
Did... did Lucy think of him as one? Was she afraid of him? Did she think he was unstable or that he would someday hurt any of them- hurt her?
This thought alone was enough to cloud every other thought. If Lucy believed him to be a monster, then he must really be one.
Lucy was his entire life- he didn't remember times anymore that he didn't have his faithful partner by his side. Happy had revealed the same thing to him many months ago.
Natsu knew that he was dense, everyone had told him at least three times since he's met any of them, but he definitely wasn't stupid. He had things figured out about himself and Lucy, coming to the conclusion long ago that he loved her. Like, romantically.
If she thought of him as some kind of monster, he really didn't know what he'd do.
The sound of his front door opening jarred him from his thoughts, the male lifting his head from his hammock. He cursed to himself quietly as he heard her gentle footsteps- so light and airy as though she were trying to be as quiet as she could.
Briefly, he glanced to the clock that hung just above his trunk of clothes across his room. It was almost 2 in the morning, and absently he wondered why she had there.
The door to his room opened and he heard her quiet breathing. He sat up slightly, barely making out her silhouette in the dark of the room. His mind whirled and for a moment the two just stared at each other in silence.
"Luce?" Natsu finally tried after a long minute. This seemed to snap her out of her reverie, and he could see her smile weakly to him.
"Is Happy with you?" The blonde asked quietly, her eyes scanning his room as he shook his head.
"Uh, no." He responded. "Carla accepted his fish or something and he went to go sleep over at her house with Wendy." The way she smiled made his heart thump in his chest, but it slipped from her lips almost as quickly as it came.
"Do you have a minute to talk?" She then asked, averting her eyes from his and he felt concern well within him. The sorrowful undertone was easy to miss- Lucy was a very good actress, if he was being honest- but nothing got past him when it came to her.
"Yeah, of course." He said, tossing his blanket off his body and carefully getting out of his hammock. "Why are you up so late, uh... early?"
"I could ask you the same thing." She said as he began to lead her out to his living room so they could sit on his couch. The blonde was looking around with a silent appreciation on her face for how clean it was. He and Happy had made a habit now of cleaning his home weekly because of how happy it made Lucy.
"Just thinking." He responded with a shrug in regards to the implied question said earlier. She nodded feebly and rounded his couch to sit down on it as Natsu decided silently to turn his lamp on. He summoned a flame to his finger and lit the wick so they at least had a little bit of light to see with.
"About what?" She then asked, the male looked to her with a raised eyebrow. "That's not usually a... normal thing for you to do."
"Yeah," He agreed, swallowing. "I know." He set the lamp on the coffee table, running a hand through his hair. "Something's been on my mind for a little while and it kinda just," He struggled for a moment to find the right words. "Got to me."
"I know how you feel." She said quietly. "I couldn't sleep at all today. I just kept thinking about everything that's happened this past year." Natsu nodded his agreement.
It had been a long year for everyone. The guild had gotten back together, they defeated Zeref; him and Lucy had nearly died; they worked on restoring their friendship; the guild chose a new master, Gray; Jellal got his freedom and he had joined up with Fairy Tail along with the rest of Crime Sorciere; Gajeel and Levy even got engaged; and so much more.
"So many things had happened," She continued quietly, but this time with an edge of amusement. "It's kinda hard to keep up with it all." Natsu nodded mutely, his eyes meeting her chocolate ones. He could see something in them that made his heart seize in his chest- she only ever got that look on her face when she was about to say something important.
"I never told you what happened while we were fighting against Tartarus." She said, smoothing out the invisible wrinkles in her pink, plaid pajama pants. "I haven't really told anyone about what happened and I should've." She averted her gaze. "I shouldn't have kept it all to myself because it just wasn't the right thing to do."
Natsu was silent as she took a moment to gather her thoughts. Without thinking, he reached out and grabbed her hand, her fingers tightening around his with a grateful squeeze.
For the past two years, since Tartarus had been obliterated, this was one of the questions that had been on everyone's minds. No one knew how she saved them, and they surely had asked- but she never told any of them.
And finally, after all this time, she was telling him.
"I summoned the Celestial Spirit King." She revealed solemnly, making his eyes widen in shock, his mouth dropping open. "It was the only way I could save everyone."
"Holy..." He muttered, using his other hand to habitually run through his hair. "How?" Her eyes seemed to darken, and he knew that the answer was not a good one. She obviously was not proud of herself for summoning the King, no matter how amazing that accomplishment was. So something awful must've happened- and Natsu was almost afraid to hear what that was.
"That was the first day I was able to summon three spirits." She told him slowly, as if thinking carefully of her next words. "Loke and Virgo were fighting with me and I summoned Aquarius." She ran her thumb over his knuckles. "Jackal took out Loke and Virgo, and I thought he had done the same to Aquarius. However, just as he was about to blow up my face, she knocked him back." A joyless smile stretched upon her lips and her eyes seemed to cloud over for a moment.
Natsu knew her inner turmoil well. He had been faced with it a lot in the past years. It related a lot to a scar. It faded over the years, became less apparent in your life, but it was always there to remind you in your weakest moment.
"She told me," She started again. "To summon the Spirit King. He doesn't have a key, so of course I was confused." She paused before looking up to him. "Then she told me that I had to destroy a golden key in order to summon him, and I destroyed her’s. Aquarius’s key."
Natsu felt his breath leave him as she said this, his mouth dropping open.
Destroying a key, at least to Lucy, was the equivalent of killing a spirit.
Back when they were merely teenagers, having only been friends for a few months, Natsu had asked her this question. He was curious back then, having wanted to know her thoughts on the matter.
He must've made quite the expression, because Lucy was suddenly giggling, scooting closer to him.
"It's okay Natsu," She said with the smallest of smiles. "You really don't have to say anything, I just wanted you to know first." He nodded weakly, sighing to himself.
"How have you been dealing with that all on your own?" He found himself asking, his mind still a little numb.
"I don't know really." She responded, looking down to their hands. "I think I've just been keeping myself distracted. I did other things to cope, like how you took off to go train for a year. That was your way of coping with everything." He took another shaky breath when he realized something more.
"I left you for that entire year right after you sacrificed Aquarius?" He asked in a small breath. She shrugged and he groaned and closed his eyes, it was no wonder she was so upset.
Never did it make so much sense before.
Did he have no regard for anyone else's feelings? He left her when she needed him the most, not even thinking of how much she was hurting- how much she may have needed him.
Of course, he didn't regret his time spent training. He knew now that he had the power to protect her and Happy and the rest of the guild. But did he ever stop to think that maybe his power could actually hurt them? He could very well just suddenly become the monster they think he is.
Or rather... he'd just realize he's the monster they already know he is.
He pulled his hand back from the blonde without thinking, suddenly afraid that he would accidentally hurt her. The look on her face flickered with confusion and he scooted back the slightest bit.
"Natsu?" She started, but the pink haired male shook his head, biting down on his bottom lip.
"Lucy," He said, his voice hoarse and gravelly. "Be honest with me, okay?" She nodded. "Do you think that I'm a monster?"
Almost immediately, she was shaking her head.
"No. Of course I don't think you're a monster." She said, sounding as if the idea itself was ridiculous. "Why on Earthland would you ever think that?"
Natsu felt relief swirl through his entire being, and he let out a small breath he hadn't realized he had been holding. He looked down to his hands that were curled into fists at his lap. He relaxed his fingers and cleared his throat.
"I'm kinda scary looking." He said, sounding uncharacteristically timid and quiet. "People are afraid of me, they say that I'm one." He looked up to meet her uneasy gaze. "And I left you, right when you needed me."
"Oh Natsu." She murmured. "That doesn't make you a monster. None of that makes you a monster." She shook her head, once again scooting closer to him so that there was very little room between them. The male didn't even realize how much his heart was pounding, his gaze staying solely on Lucy.
"You are not scary looking," She said firmly. "Sure, there are people who are afraid of you. But you have to understand that that's normal, okay? Non-magical people are going to be afraid of those with that kind of power, and even more so if they get caught in a battle between two wizards, you know?" He nodded again, still not fully convinced. She seemed to sense this and sighed quietly, setting a hand over his heart and effectively making him go completely still. He knew his heart was drumming against his skin, but her words was enough to drown out the noise.
"You're not a monster because monsters are evil." She said, her voice sure. "You are the single kindest, most loyal person I have ever met. You're funny and goofy, you're strong and competitive and you never say the right thing, but that's what makes you so perfect." He set one of his hands over her small one, his heart burning with so much love for the woman in front of him at that moment. "I know for a fact that you aren't a monster, and everyone in the guild can tell you the same thing." His eyes started to sting and she smiled at him. "I love you. And even if you were a monster, I wouldn't stop loving you."
Her words took the longest moment to process and her mouth dropped open and she blinked rapidly for a few seconds. Natsu felt the shock wear off almost as quickly as it came and suddenly he was leaning forward, capturing her lips with his own.
It was the single greatest feeling in the entire world. Absolutely nothing compared to the feel of her surprisingly soft lips against his own.
For a panicked moment, she was stiff, making Natsu think that he had misread the moment. Just as he was about to pull away and face a slap, she sunk into the kiss, pressing harder against his lips with passion he had no idea she had for him.
His mind had gone blank from that moment on, and the fact that Natsu had no idea what he was doing was thrown out of the window. He did like to learn on the fly, after all. He lifted his hand to cup her cheek, tentatively moving his lips against hers. She seemed to like this, her own hand coming up to rest on the back of his neck.
Natsu was the first to draw back after the need for oxygen became too great. He didn't know when his eyes had closed in the whole ordeal, but he found himself opening them to meet her lazy grin. A strange new joy rose within him, and the want to slam his lips against hers for a second time was almost too much. However, she looked rather tired after having the two very emotionally taxing talks and then having, in his opinion, the most amazing kiss in the entire world.
"Um... I love you too?" He said lamely, the woman silent for a moment before she burst into hysterical laughter. He could feel his cheeks heat up, but he joined her in her laughter, grinning as she tried to control herself.
"S-Sorry," She said between giggles. "You're just so awkward and it's the best thing ever."
"You said it yourself earlier. I never say the right thing." She rolled her eyes and he wound his arms around her midsection, pulling her flush up against his chest. She squeaked at the action, and he could feel her heart pounding against her chest- and he knew she could feel his.
"But seriously." He said, placing his forehead against hers. "I love you." The way she practically melted made his heart leap in his chest and she leaned forward to peck his lips with her own.
"I love you too." She said quietly, as if she were telling him a secret. All hints of bashfulness and awkwardness was gone, and Natsu was beyond happy that she was saying it to him . "I love you so much."
Again, he kissed her with as much passion as he had for her, reveling the way they had finally crossed the line from friends to lovers.
As he began to kiss her jaw and down her throat, he thought that as long as she didn't think of him as a monster, he was content with who he was.