Officer Natsu Dragneel was faced with the biggest crime of the day and he was not prepared. The other officers had decided that due to a woeful turn of events, they had had their metallic testicles removed, therefore delegating Natsu with the foreboding task ahead of him. Still, his dad (a.k.a. the greatest man in the world!) had taught him never to back down from a challenge, and so he raised his head high, straightened his back, and said the words that would surely mark his tombstone:
“Sorry, Lieutenant Scarlet, b-but someone ate your strawberry donut.”
Yes, it was a slow work day . . . so what?
“What,” Erza said flatly from behind her desk, raising her head from the menial paperwork that even she had been given. “I believe I misheard you, Dragneel.”
“Um, I said that someone ate your d-donut.” Internally Natsu was writing his will, trying to bequeath his meager possessions to his cat and ensure that Gray Fullbuster wouldn’t be able to step three feet onto his plot. She stood and slowly walked towards him, the badges on her ample chest gleaming in her office’s light. He swallowed and leaned back as she got in his face, her dark eyes scanning his expression, and he feared that she was committing it to memory as her next casualty. Then, all too soon, she pulled away, a loose lock of red hair smacking him in the cheek as she did so.
“That’s a pity,” was all she said. She was awfully stiff as she rebuffed him too, which completely threw him off. Erza had no reason to restrain herself and took full advantage of that whenever anyone slipped up, so he couldn’t understand why she would stay her hand that time. He also hated to ask for a beating, but it was just too weird to pass up.
“That, uh, that’s it? You’re not going to yell or pitch a fit or . . . anything?”
“No,” she said in the same monotone, resuming her paperwork. “Bye.”
“Scar—well, uh, bye.” He stepped outside of the office and shut it with a dumbfounded expression. And Erza wasn’t the only one acting stilted either, he realized: all of his fellow officers were kind of stiff around him like an embarrassing text circulated behind his back. He ran through his mental idiot meter and thought that Well, I haven’t done anything particularly stupid in the last six months, so that explanation wasn’t going to cut it. He crossed his arms over his chest and sighed. “I’m probably just paranoid.”
“Been knew that, Dragneel,” said the most annoying partner in the world, slapping Natsu on the shoulder blade. He jumped, more from the surprise from the impact, and rounded on Fullbuster.
“Oi, what’re you doing touchin’ me like that? You got a death wish, Fullbuster?”
“I think you do, going to bug Erza like that,” he countered, hands on his hips.
“At least I didn’t leave my pair at home, Ice-Prick.”
“At least my brains aren’t ash, moron.” Natsu suppressed a smile—at least Gray was acting normal, although he kept looking Natsu up and down like his shirt was inside-out, and though he was ninety percent sure it wasn’t, he was certain that had it been Gray wouldn’t have missed an opportunity to point it out and make him look even more pea-brained. “And anyway, there’s a job for us straight from Colonel Laxus—Shirotsume, cat burglar, nothing major.”
“These criminals need to step up their game. I’m lookin’ for a real fight out here!”
“No criminal is psycho enough to be on your level, Dragneel,” he sighed, pushing Natsu away. He sneered at the insult and shoved Gray back, effectively regressing them into preschoolers as they pushed and shoved and called each other ridiculous names. He felt normal until they reached the lobby, where the officers milling around in there gave him weird side-eye eye looks.
“Okay, Fullbuster, tell me what bites?”
“What are you talking about, flame-brain?”
“Why’s everybody lookin’ at me like the newest catch of the day? Did I forget to flush or something?”
“Well, you’re notorious for that,” said Gray with a grimace, “but no.”
“Then what’s the issue?”
His mouth briefly skewed into a harsh line, then his expression eased as he clapped a hand on Natsu’s shoulders. “Don’t worry about it—you know these guys are pretty damn strange.”
“Yeah, you don’t need to tell me twice. Let’s roll already, Fullbuster—I’m fired up and ready to bust a bastard.”
Natsu was twenty-two years old and, from what he was constantly told, very young-looking. His father, Igneel, the ex-Colonel of the Magnolia Police Force, had bright red hair, and his mother was blonde—one way or another that equated to him having salmon-colored hair that was the cause of so, so much ridicule as a kid. Maybe that was why he became an officer, so he could give a ticket and/or slap handcuffs on anyone that crossed him again. He was loud and obnoxious and loved a good fight now and again which only Gray could measure up to—it was the reason they became friends back in middle school, when Natsu stole Gray’s everyday ice cream sandwiches and they started whaling on each other.
He lived in his apartment alone because why not—well, he wasn’t exactly alone. His cat, Happy, whose fur had been permanently tainted blue due to a highly unfortunate accident that both of them were reluctant to reflect upon, also lived with him, and although he wasn’t a sparkling conversationalist, he was ten times better than Fullbuster. Well, there was also his cousin Gajeel—accountant with thirty piercings, always fun at family events—and his little niece Wendy, who was always pleasantly embarrassed when he pulled up at the middle school with sirens ringing and with the mic as well for good measure.
He was single, although completely by choice. The women in his life were either taken or completely psychotic, which he guessed made him immune to all things sexual. The others made a running gag out of it on the many nights that they went out on group dates to somewhere fancy like bowling and Natsu was left at home sleeping, simply to be subjected to the detailed rendition by Fullbuster in the morning. He didn’t mind being alone however—his old man didn’t take that arrow to the knee until he was thirty, and they were pretty happy together.
Natsu was the one riding shotgun, since the most frequent complaint given towards his partnership was He drives like a homicidal maniac! He didn’t refute the claim, just wished it came less harsh. Gray still drove like a bitch in his opinion. He had two basic rules: stoplights mean speed up, and green lights mean take-the-fuck-off. Except he didn’t jump curbs, which somehow made him the better choice for driver—not that either choice was better when their sirens were whirling and cars gave them all the berth they needed.
“What do ya think we got today?” Natsu asked, leaning out the window. “Male or female?”
“Eh . . .” Gray rolled a shoulder, eyes still on the road. “Female.”
“Double D,” he answered a little quicker.
“And you’re confident about that?”
“Pretty much,” he said in the same stilted tone. Gray wasn’t the most expressive bro around, hence his most popular nickname “Ice-Man,” but he more often than not gave complete sentences, so Natsu couldn’t figure out why he, of all people, had the same affliction as every other bastard at the department. He was starting to think that he forgot to flush the toilet for the third time that week—it was really the only thing he could’ve imagined he’d done to get such cold scorn. He had been feeling awfully tired as of late, like he slept two hours rather than nine, so it was possible that he was lacking in more mental departments than on a customary day.
They passed through the city limits of Shirotsume and Natsu gawked slightly at how serene things were. He had lived in a huge city all his life, the kind of huge where saying “Hello” to another bystander at a crosswalk got you a suspicious glare and anxious hands grabbing at their wallets and purses, so a small backwater town was more than a simple change of pace for him.
“Fullbuster, Dragneel, it’s Scarlet on the line,” Erza said over the radio. “The culprit was last sighted on Bluebird Lane three miles southeast of your location.”
“Got it.” The sirens came on and Natsu felt the pre-conviction adrenaline rush that he absolutely lived for. The second closest thing to that feeling was a rumble in the breakroom, and even those were generally lackluster, held over the last cinnamon roll and most frequently ending in some bastard crunching it underfoot. Even real chases had become stale, the one-time crooks abounding over the frequency he used to see only two years ago, up-and-coming syndicates like Twilight Ogre or Grimoire Heart that were a blast and three quarters to bust.
“Oi, Fullbuster.” He didn’t like to kick a dead horse, or in that case bludgeon a melted popsicle, which honestly sounded a lot less stupid in his head, but he had to do it. Usually, him and Gray would throw around some usual petty banter to warm up for the fight or just because.
“Seriously. What did I do?”
“I’m telling you, you’re just being paranoid.”
“I know when I’m being paranoid and this isn’t one of those times, Fullbuster. I feel like I’m an alien out here. What the hell is going on?” Gray simply sighed, keeping his eyes straight as they swerved onto a small residential-store street. Natsu sighed just before catching a wisp of blonde in the corner of his eye. He gestured for Gray to stop the car but was out of it before the wheels stopped rolling, his shoes skidding a bit across the gravel before he regained his bearings and took off in her direction, gun hand swinging at his side. He ducked into an alleyway so thin he had to inch between the buildings and cursed at it; with the limited space, he had no maneuverability.
“Hey cutie, love the dye job,” a sensual voice called from above. Natsu tilted his head back as much as he could to see a blonde beauty waving at him from the roof. Her tits were shaking from side to side in her barely-done button-down and, hell, Natsu had to take a second to just appreciate. (He was an idiot, sure, but he was a man first.)
“Wanna see it better? Come closer and let me give you a good look.”
“No thanks—I see plenty from up here.” She blew him a kiss before disappearing. He smirked—it looked like he would get a good chase for once. He sidled to the other end of the space, which opened into a wider backstreet with a canal on one end and the blonde at the other. He had barely undone the straps of his S&W when a gentle click hummed through his ears, just as the call from the Reaper himself. He raised his eyes slowly to see her standing much closer, not but a hair’s breadth away from his nose, and the cold metal lips of her SIG Sauer kissing the underside of his chin. He grinned at her beneath his narrowed eyes, tilting his head a fraction backwards.
“Thanks, you’ve just reminded me to shave.”
“I think I can help with that, but I have to warn you, I give one hell of a shaving cut.” She attempted to pull the trigger before Natsu forced his palm into her chest, shoving her backwards, but to her credit she kept her grip on the pistol. Her glossy pink lips pulled into a sneer as she regained her footing, hiking boots skidding slightly on the dry gravel. Before Natsu could properly take aim on her she turned tail and jumped up to a fire escape, scaling it with the agility of his pet cat.
“Damn!” he hissed as she vanished again. “Gray, where the hell are you?” he growled into his walkie-talkie as he grabbed the ladder, pulling himself up to the rusted metal steps. He received garbled static in response and decided ‘to hell with that icepick bastard’ and kept the chase up himself. He reached the roof of the building at nearly the same time as his mouse, tailing her as she scooted along a narrow board to a neighboring building whose roof was full of A/C units. She immediately took position behind one, and as Natsu stepped onto the roof he met the cold gaze of her gun. He threw himself into a roll just as a bullet shot through the previous space that held his head.
“This would be a lot easier if you just sat still, Dragneel,” said that woman from across the roof. He smirked as he turned off the safety of his pistol.
“That’s the one thing I can’t do, ma’am.” He waited a few breaths before leaning out and taking aim, instantly meeting the eyes of the other.
“Bang-bang.” She fired again, nicking the side of his face as he was a beat too slow in dodging. He wiped the blood from his cheek onto his sleeve and paused before ducking and rolling towards the next cover. He looked up and met those brown depths once more, quickly switched to the darker depths of her gun. “You’re good,” she praised, “but you’ve got a long way to go before you’re on my level.”
“I’d have to have a huge fall from grace to be on a criminal’s level.” She raised her eyebrows, then his catch of the day laughed.
“Criminal?” She tutted and dropped her gun in the miniscule amount of space between them. He snorted and went for his cuffs—
“Where are my handcuffs?” he demanded, feeling his fingers clasp on air. She smirked, punctuated with a careless flip of her blonde locks.
“I just borrowed them. Here, you can have them back.” She was fast, Natsu could give her credit for that. She grabbed his wrists with practiced precision, and within the same movement she had them crossed and bound with his cuffs. He looked up with an angry growl and found her expression completely serious. “Natsu Dragneel, the Salamander, you’re under arrest for three counts of arson and human endangerment.”
“Ooh . . . I see. You’re fucking kidding me.” She stood and holstered her gun, crossing her arms over his chest.
“No, I’m as serious as a heart attack. Did you think your many signings went overlooked?”
“I’ve got no idea what you’re talking about. All I know for sure is that when my partner shows, you’re dead.”
“Your ex-friends have actually been working on this capture for a while.” He flashed back to how off everybody was acting and gritted his teeth.
“You’re lying!” He made to leap at her, and he was just a breath away from that pretty face when strong arms clamped around his waist, pulling him backwards and into another body.
“Give it up,” said Gray with more world-weariness than Natsu had ever heard from him. He didn’t want to believe that his friends . . . the last people he thought he could trust in the world . . .
“Yo, Ice Prick, get his crazy bitch already.” He waited for Gray to release him but he didn’t, and his exasperation and fear grew each second. “Gray, quit messing around. Gray!”
“Take him away,” the woman sighed with a pitied shake of her head. Gray released Natsu to the ground where he immediately sunk to his knees, fervently studying the patterns of bird doo on the gravel. It was a dream, it had to be—it was a freaking nightmare and he’d wake up in the break room with Sharpie drawings on his face for the second time that month. He couldn’t have been an arsonist, it made zero fucking sense. He was a cop, a hero. . .
“Let’s go, Dragneel,” Gray said. “Don’t make me force you.”
“. . . No need,” whispered Natsu, getting to his feet. “I’m coming.”