The only things running through Lucy's stiff body was chilling blood, and shock.
"Lucy?" Gray's voice held disbelief as he sat up on the bed. He looked like he'd seen a ghost judging by how pale his face went.
"Lucy-san!" Juvia was now sitting on her knees next to him, hands over her mouth as if she were the one shocked.
The blonde's eyes darted back to her naked boyfriend, who was now making a move to stand up. She could see the panic that had replaced the lust previously in his eyes. He took a step to her, and her feet reacted.
She took a step away from him. Then another.
Before she knew it she was ignoring the calls from the two wizards as she ran away from the scene. In her hurry she didn't even bother grabbing her purse or her groceries. They held no importance to her in that moment.
She just kept running. She passed through the apartment complex, not even dealing with the elevator. She took the stairs two steps at a time until she burst through the doors which led outside.
She didn't know where to go. She didn't know where was safe.
Home? No, he was sure to go there to find her.
The guild? No, she didn't want anyone to see the tears that were now flowing from her watery eyes.
The forest? Yes! She would be safe there!
Wind caused her hair to fly behind her and her eyes to sting. Her legs carried her to the outskirts of Magnolia, until dirt and twigs were under her feet. Even then, she kept running. Only when her lungs burned and her foot caught on a rock did she finally stop.
Well, more like fell face-first into a pile of dead leaves.
Lucy didn't care. It didn't matter that her clothes were now dirty, or that her cries were echoing in the large forest. Nothing mattered anymore, because she was heartbroken.
She curled herself into a ball, letting the sobs rack her body. She felt so low, so weak, so pathetic. She hadn't felt this beaten down since she first ran away from home. The feeling was not missed.
"Why!?" Lucy found herself screaming to no one.
She knew she was undignified at that moment, but it's not like anyone could see her anyways. She was all alone. No one ventured this far into the forest.
Her manicured nails dug into the soil. Right now she didn't want to be pretty. She wanted to be as ugly as she felt. It didn't make sense to her.
"Why, Gray?" Then she choked on her saliva, causing a fit of coughing.
Lucy didn't know what she did wrong. She thought Gray was happy with her. Was he not? Questions started piling up in her mind, and she had no answers for them.
Why would Gray do this? Was she not good enough? Not satisfying enough? What did Juvia have that she didn't?
"Juvia," the name tasted like bile on her tongue. She knew deep down that the water mage was her friend, but that only made the pain more intense.
What had Lucy ever done to the water mage to deserve this? Sure she was dating Gray, and Juvia opening declared her love for him, but he never seemed interested before... Why now?
A pang in her heart caused her to wince.
'What if that wasn't the first time?'
What if he'd been doing things with Juvia all along? What if he'd been seeing her before Lucy started dating him? What if Lucy was the other woman?
The thought carried more grief than she could imagine. Lucy didn't think her heart could take it anymore. Her hands clutched at her shirt, over her beating organ hidden in her chest. Pain was all she felt. She was alone, and a small part of her wondered if this was her punishment for choosing the safe choice. Clearly he wasn't safe at all.
She punched the ground. It was an impulsive action, one with no thoughts attached to it. Unfortunately for her, it did nothing to settle her heartbreak. The only thing to occur was a stabbing pain shooting through her knuckles.
At least now she hurt physically as well. This pain was something she could deal with, the emotional pain was unbearable.
She screamed again, causing some nearby birds to scatter. She didn't care. Part of her knew she might have been taking this to far, but she was lost. She had never dealt with something like this before, so she had no idea how she was supposed to react. Everything in her told her to let it all out, to expel the rage boiling under her skin. So that's what she was doing.
Lucy was about to let out another bellow of rage, but a twig snapped behind her, causing her to choke up.
"Well hello, pretty woman!"
Lucy shivered, recognizing that voice. For some odd reason, they all had the same creepy voice.
She lifted her head up, confirming her beliefs. In front of her stood a Gorian, also known as a forest vulcan. It looked like a giant ape on steroids, with a purple body and green fur. Five pinks hearts were lined on each of its massive arms, giving it an overall weird look.
She quickly rose to her feet, not wanting such a simple creature to take her out. She had just been so proud of herself for defeating a group of bandits by herself, this thing was nothing compared to them.
On instincts, her hands flew to her side, only to grasp her hip. "What the?" She spoke with a raspy voice, dry from all her crying.
Her key pouch that was normally on her belt was gone. She had all of two seconds to be confused before she realized she had put them in her purse earlier today. She hadn't been expecting to leave town, so there was no reason to keep them within reach. Now she felt stupid for allowing such a simple mistake to pass by her.
Her hands grabbed at the whip she kept on her other side, just to gasp again. The clasp that held her weapon secure to her belt was undone, and her whip was nowhere to be seen. It must have opened during her run.
She had two options. Fight or flight.
As much as she wanted to prove herself tough against this pervy ape, she wasn't feeling up for a fight.
With fast reflexes, she grabbed a large rock -the one she tripped on- and threw it at the beast. It hit his face, causing the creature to cry out in pain. Lucy wasted no time enjoying her small victory as she ran away from the ape.
With a newfound purpose -escaping the vulcan- she ran harder than she had in days. Even when she couldn't hear his raging screams she still kept her fast pace. Trees and bushes seemed to blur in her peripheral vision as she sprinted through the forest.
She had no intentions on stopping until she made it out of the wooded area, but the problem was she didn't even know where she was. She'd gone to far without mapping out her course, so her chances of finding an easy escape were dwindling away with ever pounding footstep she took.
The only thing to stop her this time around, was the full-on collision with a shadowy figure that emerged in front of her. She had no time to stop herself, so the impact was painful.
A yelp escaped her lips as she braced for the fall that never came. When she finally opened her brown eyes, she saw she was being suspended about a foot above the ground. "Huh?" She blinked in confusion. That's when she felt it.
Large hands were wrapped around her waist, and she was now being pulled up. Panic set in as she started to struggle against her captor. "Let go of me you creepy ape!"
She twisted and wiggled, but she was securely in its grip. She wouldn't go down easily though. If the thing wanted her, it would have to break every bone in her body before she gave up.
Using her free foot, she kicked backwards, nailing her target's legs with a harsh contact.
"Fuck!" Her captor yelled, but it was not the voice of the vulcan. In fact, she recognized that voice better than any other voice.
"Natsu?" Lucy asked, finally glancing behind her to see the pink haired man wincing in pain.
"Why'd you kick me Luce?" He released her in favor of soothing his left shin.
The blonde could already see a bruise forming on the tan skin, and guilt flooded her. "Oh my gosh! I'm so sorry! I thought you were a vulcan!"
"Why would you think that?" His dark green eyes flitted up at her with a questioning look.
"One was just chasing me," she said before frowning.
The dragon slayer looked in the direction she was running from, but he saw nothing. "Well, looks like you got away." He stood when the sharp pain in his shin became a dull thud. "Why're you running anyways? Why didn't you just call one of your spirits?"
Lucy sighed, "I left them at-" Pain struck her as she remembered what she had witnessed not that long ago between Gray and Juvia. The memory was still fresh, and it cut like a serrated blade. "D-doesn't... m-matter," tears lined her eyes again as she fell apart.
"Whoa, why're you crying?" Natsu put his hands on her arms, hoping to stabilize her. He hated seeing Lucy cry. It was one of the worse feelings he ever felt.
She didn't respond. Instead she let her knees buckle to drop to the ground, though she never made it. Once again, Natsu was there to catch her. He pulled her into a tight hug, supporting her weight.
When she made no move against him, he picked her up with his arms wrapped around her back and the other under her knees. "It looks like you got hurt," he said, observing her small cuts on her arms and legs. Her dirty clothes was a clear sign that her journey was not resistance-free. "I'm gonna take you to my house to get you cleaned up."
She didn't say anything. She just nodded, resting her head against his chest. Natsu felt a tightening in his heart from how close she was to him, but he forced himself to push it aside. Lucy needed help, and this was no time to get caught up in his feelings. Besides... There was always the problem of-
"You weren't that far away you know," Natsu said, trying to keep himself out of his mind. "I could hear some commotion so I decided to check it out." The dragon slayer spoke casually, hoping it would bring Lucy out of her sadness. She was silently crying, her tears staining his exposed chest and the trim of his vest.
"Who knew I'd run into you?" He didn't expect a reply, and wasn't upset when he met none. She was being abnormally quiet, so he sighed. He wished she'd tell him what was wrong. He was pretty sure this wasn't all because of a vulcan attack. Lucy had fought a few before, and she'd never reacted like this. Something else was going on, and that made him anxious.
The fire dragon slayer continued to walk in silence, carrying Lucy close to his body until he reached the house he shared with Happy. It was a bit difficult opening the door while carrying the blonde, but he managed. Just like when he left, the house was still empty when he returned.
Lucy immediately felt the rise in temperature once they entered. It was so warm compared to the late autumn air outside. It felt comforting, relaxing. It felt the opposite of her emotions which held pain and embarrassment.
She felt safe in Natsu's house. Gray wouldn't think to look here for her. He probably went to her apartment, or maybe the guild. That is, if he even went looking for her. He seemed pretty occupied. Lucy was thankful Gray didn't have Natsu's sense of smell, so there was no way he could track her down to the forest. Yeah, this place was safe.
The pink haired man went to the couch and gently placed Lucy on it. He helped her get into a sitting position, since it seemed she lost some strength from crying. He just wished he had a bed so she could properly rest, but he still hadn't gotten around to buying one yet. He figured she'd like the couch rather than the old hammock he used for sleeping.
"I'll go get you something to drink," Natsu walked to the kitchen where he fetched a glass to fill with water. Before returning to her, he ran a towel under warm water to help clean her up. It took awhile for the dragon slayer to find the clean cup and towel, since he had poor housekeeping skills.
Natsu took a seat on the left side of the blonde. She thanked him when he handed her the water and towel. He was surprised that she drank the whole glass without a break. She set it down on the floor since he didn't have a table nearby.
He watched quietly as she wiped the dirt from her face and arms. When she moved to clean her thighs he had to look away. It was to hard for him, being this close to Lucy and not tell her how he truly felt.
He hadn't been alone with her in the past few months. They used to spend entire days together, now he was lucky if he got to talk to her at the guild. Sure they still went on missions together, but it was always with Gray and Erza. Even then, he noticed the way she was pulling away from him. Ever since-
"Thank you," Lucy's soft voice resonated in his ears.
He glanced over to her. She wore no smile, but her face was free from tears. Her pale hand was holding out the dirty towel. Most of the dirt was gone from her body, but her clothes were still messy. He'd offer to let her borrow some of his, but he didn't want to make her uncomfortable. Besides, most of his clothes hadn't been washed for a while.
He grinned at her, the way he always did. "No problem, Luce," he discarded the towel on the floor, next to a pile of dumbbells and a large, rusty gear. He realized he'd have to clean up soon, the place was getting a little out of control.
The blonde didn't respond to his smile like she normally did. Usually her cheeks would turn pink, but they were just as pale as ever.
He realized it was odd that she'd be around this area in the first place. He was sure she said she had plans, and Lucy never willingly went into the woods unless it was for a mission or to take a shortcut to the next town. "Wanna talk about what you were doin' in the forest?"
"No, not really," she said, her voice laced with sadness.
She had been so happy earlier when he saw her at the guild. Now she was so lifeless, dull. Natsu hated seeing her like this. What was worse was she didn't seem to want his help. He might actually be able to do something to make her happy again, but she wouldn't give him a chance.
She obviously wasn't in the mood to talk about her problems, but maybe she'd be willing to talk about something else? He had to try. She was his best friend, and he just wanted to see her smile.
"That's fine," he finally answered. Without much thought, he placed his right hand on her left shoulder. He met her troubled gaze with a half-smile, "let's talk about something else than?"
She nodded, a half-smile of her own surfaced on her face. "I'd like that, Natsu."
The duo begin to talk about her last mission. She laughed, saying Loke almost didn't show up again because he was about to go on a date with Aries. Natsu asked where celestial spirits even go on dates, to which Lucy just shrugged her shoulders. They'd both been to the celestial world a few times and there weren't typical restaurants or other places normal people would deem suitable for a date.
That's when Natsu blurted out that his idea of a good date would just be to hang out. It didn't matter what they did, as long as they were together. Before Lucy could comment, he added that food had to be involved though, which made her giggle. Of course Natsu would have to drag food into it.
His blushing face was enough to make her change the subject out of fear. She was hurting, and letting her emotions and unrequited feelings get the better of her wasn't going to help anyone. She was supposed to be over her pesky feelings for him, and seeing the pink tint on his tanned cheeks was making her heart throb for a whole other reason.
Changing the subject back to her mission, she told Natsu about how she sulked for a bit that her spirits each took out two men, while she only took out one. Virgo had requested punishment in hopes to lift Lucy's spirit. The blonde had denied the request, saying how crazy her celestial friends were.
Natsu congratulated her on a job well down regardless, saying he was proud of her for coming so far. He told her about the first time he tried to take on a mission. He had lied and said he could read what the job was asking for, but Mira called his bluff.
Lucy commented about how she heard Mira used to be a lot tougher, to which Natsu said she was really mean to him. He likes the white-haired lady now a lot more than back then, because at least now she's nice to him.
Natsu said he had broken down in front of everyone, swearing that he knew how to read, but nothing on the paper made sense to him.
That had resulted in a crash course on reading, taught by the fearsome Erza. Lucy laughed as he told her about how strict she was, and how he kept trying to runaway, only to have the redhead drag him back by his hair and force him to learn. It took three full days for her to teach him.
It had paid off though, and before he knew it he was taking jobs left and right. Of course they weren't extreme jobs like they do today, but they were still fun for an adventurous child. That was before he found Happy's egg. After adding the blue exceed to the mix, he had to take on even more jobs so they could build a house together... The house they were currently in.
Lucy's smile had returned, forgetting about her earlier problems, and just enjoying the time spent talking with her best friend. He was so passionate when he talked, and she fought hard to resist the urge to blush when he made direct eye contact. His infectious grin was heartwarming. She was having a great time being in the company of the dragon slayer and his silly behavior.
All good things must come to an end though.
The conversation took a dark turn when Natsu mentioned the first mission he took with a partner.
"Master thought it'd be good for me an' Gray to partner up, since we were always fighting each other," Natsu said, not noticing the way Lucy's eye twitched at the mention of the ice-make wizard. "He thought we could get over our differences by working as a team."
The pink haired man laughed as he recalled a memory.
"It turned out horribly. We spent the whole time arguing, and I had to split the reward with him even though I did most of the work," Natsu sighed, "well I guess he did some of the work, but still. I think he just- Hey! Why're you crying again?"
Natsu panicked. Lucy had just been laughing with him, and now her cheeks were stained with those droplets of tears. She was crying again, and somehow he was the cause. He didn't know what he did, and he cringed knowing she was probably upset at him now.
He couldn't stand to see those big brown eyes filled with so much sadness, especially if he was to blame. He wanted to provide her with comfort, but he couldn't do much if she wouldn't tell him what was wrong. All he wanted was her to feel better, to be the happy Lucy he loved so much.
He didn't want to upset her more, but he didn't know what else to do. Natsu wrapped his arms around her, pulling her into a warm hug. Lucy shook in his arms, but she didn't try to push him away. In fact her hands gripped his vest, clinging to him like a lifeline.
The dragon slayer felt so close to her. It was like her body was melting against him. He felt his body heating up as urges started surfacing. Natsu tried to ignore the small voice in the back of his head, but he was desperate, and maybe, just maybe, it really could help...
Slowly, he leaned in towards her. She saw it coming, because her eyes never left his. His warm, chapped lips pressed against her cheek so gently that she swore he never kissed her at all.
It was brief, and before she knew it he was pulling away. She had expected him to do something else. Kiss her somewhere else...
It was only then that she realized she really wanted him to kiss her. Letting herself give up control, she reacted on her inner desires. She didn't give him time to put enough distance between them before her lips sought out his. She put enough force behind it to show it was no accident that their lips met.
The dragon slayer's eyes widened, shocked by her impulsive action. He made no effort to move though, honestly he didn't want to. This was what he truly wanted, Lucy's touch.
He watched as Lucy's own eyes fluttered closed, and she cupped his cheeks. She made no effort to part from his lips, and he was thankful for that. In that moment, everything felt right.
Her natural scent filled the air around him. Usually she was doused in smells from her body wash or shampoo, but through the sweating she did from running, and the dirt dulling the perfumes, she smelt like Lucy. That was his favorite smell of all time.
Natsu kissed Lucy back. He shouldn't have been so surprised by his own eagerness to return the kiss, but he was. She was his everything, even if she had no idea about his feelings. He relished in the soothing affects her lips had on his own.
There was always the chance of her regretting the kiss. If she changed her mind and stopped then Natsu could always blame his actions on hormones, even it that would be a lie.
She roughened the kiss, her fingers sliding to his neck to unwind the white, scaly scarf until it landed behind him. She then slipped her fingers through his pink hair and tugged him closer. Natsu was always there for her when she needed a shoulder to cry on, and she tried to show him how thankful she was in that kiss.
He seemed to have received the message, because a growl rumbled in his throat as his tongue darted out to taste her lips. They were sweet but somewhat salty from her tears. Lucy immediately opened her mouth, inviting the dragon slayer to explore her cavern. He wasted no time, tasting every delicious bit of her mouth.
His head was spinning. 'This has to be a dream...' He was in denial, since he never thought he'd get to kiss her.
Their tongues danced. He'd never kissed someone before, so he was unsure if he was doing it right. Then Lucy let out a small moan, and his doubts were erased. She liked whatever he was doing, so he didn't stop.
His hands brushed against her shoulders before he gripped them. She was so soft, even with the bits of dirt she missed still clinging to her skin. Lucy's own hands were still intertwined in his pink strands, straining to get him even closer. It seemed impossible though, considering his nose was digging into her cheek and vice versa. He wasn't complaining though, even if his nose was filled with the scent of tears.
Natsu loved every bit of this, but he knew what it was. She was just sad and looking for an outlet. He just happened to be available. It pained him to think she could be doing this with anyone else, but he still didn't stop.
He hated seeing Lucy cry, and if this was how he could comfort her, then he was more than willing to help. He'd be lying if he said he wasn't thrilled this was happening. She was the most beautiful person in the world to him, inside and out. He... He loved her. He wanted her, but he knew he couldn't actually have her.
She was Lucy, and he didn't deserve someone like her. Someone who was filled with so much light was not meant for a destructive, loud, and dangerous guy like him.
Summoning all of his inner strength, he pulled away from her heavenly lips. He took in a sharp breath, letting the oxygen fill his neglected lungs. He hadn't realized how intense kissing could be.
"Why'd you stop?" Lucy asked, her own breathing labored as well.
"I," he didn't want to stop, but he knew... This could ruin their friendship, and it was better to end whatever was going on now, before it was too late. Lucy was to important to him. He didn't want to risk everything just for a few minutes of pleasure.
"You don't really want this, Luce," as if to solidify his point, Natsu added with a heavy heart, "you don't want me."
"Actually," Lucy started, her hands sliding down his hair until they landed on the nape of his neck. "I do," she said, pulling him back into a sweet kiss.