One Trick Pony
SEPTEMBER 8TH — CONFESSION
"One Trick Pony”
“So, what are you doing for the talent contest?” Mira asked amiably as she dropped a match in Natsu’s mug of whiskey, lighting it aflame. He was just reaching for the handle when her words sunk in.
“Talent contest? What talent contest?”
“Oh, you haven’t heard? Makarov started it when Gajeel and Gray were arguing about the other being a one trick pony.” He cocked his head to the side in confusion.
“Someone who only has one real talent,” she explained. “Anyway, Makarov brought up the idea of a contest, and half the Guild was up for the idea. It’s happening at the end of the week.”
“What? That’s three days away!” Gajeel, who’d been sitting nearby, looked up with a chuckle.
“Should be easy fer ya...if ya ain’t a one trick pony.” Natsu growled as he slid off the barstool and clenched his fists.
“I’m no one trick pony! I got loads of talent that I’ll shove up your ass come the end of the week!”
“Might wanna retire that insult,” Macao suggested from a side table. Natsu exhaled twin streams of smoke from his nose as he glared daggers at Gajeel.
“Such as?” Gajeel rolled his wrist expectantly, leaning comfortably against the bar and raising his chin to grin nastily. Natsu’s fists shook for a few seconds before he spun away on his heel.
“Chht! I don’t need to prove anything to you! You’ll see.”
He grabbed a random mission at the board and flashed it at Mira before heading through the doors. He barely looked at the paper until he reached the edge of town — he only wanted a way out of failing to protest his status as a one trick pony. He kicked open the door to his house and grabbed his travel pack as he scanned the request. It was just clearing some wolves from a farm over in Onibus — it’d take a day and a half to get there and back, not much time at all. He could leave Happy at Wendy’s place (not that the cat was rushing to go anywhere, being close to Charla and all) and just rush through it. Hopefully, inspiration would strike somewhere along the way.
He opened the door to see Lucy coming up the path and he raised his eyebrows. Lucy rarely came over unless she wanted to spring one of her surprise cleaning sessions on him (which she rarely did lately, having realized Natsu and Happy spent more time at her apartment than their house) and so her reasoning was a mystery to him. Peering closer, he noticed she was oddly fidgety, her hands fisting and relaxing in the loose fabric of her white top as she stared fixedly at one foot going in front of the other. And — was she blushing a little?
“You weren’t at the Guild,” she began uneasily, scuffing her heel in the dirt. His eyebrows rose higher.
“Yeah, cuz I was here. What’s up?”
“...Where’s Happy?” she said after a little pause, looking over his shoulder. He folded his arms across his chest.
“He’s with Charla… Did you want to talk to him or something?”
“No! No,” she repeated in a calmer voice, raising her head. “Natsu, what I wanted to say was—wait, you’re leaving?”
“Just for a couple of days. It’s a short mission.”
“Why didn’t you tell us?”
“I...wanted to do one alone.” To come up with a talent I can shove in Redfox’s face. “We’ll still do missions together. I’d hate to leave you and the team,” he said with a grin. For some reason, that made Lucy blush harder. “So, you’re gonna say something?”
“No, I...it can wait,” she said after a moment, clearing her throat. “...Yeah, it can wait. Good luck on your mission.” The last bit came out in a jumble as she turned and stiffly started back up the path. A second passed before she started muttering angrily to herself. His eyebrows went up to his hairline.
That was...weird. Even by Lucy standards.
The mission passed without a hitch — in fact, it was rather boring. He just waved his flaming fists and the wolves scattered with tails between their legs. Okay, he added some growls in there too, just for his own pleasure. Even so, he wished he’d picked a more interesting time waster.
The first thing he did when he returned to Magnolia was make a beeline for Lucy’s apartment. He still had his backpack and everything, but it was just habitual by that point. He scaled the wall and jiggled her window open before rolling onto her bed. He swung his pack off his shoulders and tossed it in the corner—
—where it narrowly missed Lucy, fresh from the bathroom with a towel barely covering her privates.
They stared wide-eyed at each other until the pack hit the ground, and the sound of his pots and bandages hitting the ground startled her into motion. She let out a wildly ear-piercing scream and fled back into the bathroom, slamming the door shut. Aside from his now bleeding ears, the situation wasn’t unusual. The unusual part came where she followed it up with muttering that had an odd cadence, like she was arguing with herself. He smirked at the sound, then open-mouthed horror dawned on his face and he fisted his hands in his hair.
“AUUGH I WAS SUPPOSED TO COME UP WITH A PLAN AND I DIDN’T STUPID GAJEEL’S GONNA THINK I AM A ONE TRICK PONY!”
He heard the bathroom door open, but he already dove through the window again, sprinting through the streets and back to his home. He noted Lucy cleaned the place when he kicked the door open but stood to admire it for two seconds before tossing everything out of place again, wildly searching for anything he could display as a talent.
Happy flew in thirty minutes later, when there was no floor to be spoken of, only dashed possessions and upended furniture. He let out a huge sigh when he saw Natsu’s legs poking out from a pile of Phantom Lord rubble. “What’s going on?”
“Happy...” Natsu let out a pitiful groan. “I’m a one trick pony.”
“I don’t have anything to do for the talent content.”
“Well, you can swallow a whole boar’s leg,” he pointed out.
“Don’t think that’s a worthwhile talent.” Happy shrugged and let his pack down on what was once their couch. “Wait, are you gonna be in it?”
“Yeah! Me and Charla’ve been practicing our boke and tsukkomi routine.” Natsu let out a defeated breath. “It’s tomorrow. What’re you gonna do?”
“Well, I’m not staying home for Gajeel to think I quit. I’m gonna show...and hopefully bullshit something on the spot.”
The morning of the talent show had the Guild even louder than usual. It made it easier for Natsu to hide in the back of the crowd and let the others take center stage. Makarov headed off the affairs with a half-full mug of beer, then Gray was the first one up. And would you look at that, the Ice-prick could spin some damn plates.
“You call that a talent?” Natsu muttered, folding his arms across his chest. Though he was being petulant and he knew it; Gray was balancing plates on his nose, chin, elbows, and toe. It was also a whole lot better than the load of nothing Natsu brought to the table.
Next up was Gajeel who, of course, took up a guitar. Then again, without his raucous singing behind it, he actually knew how to play. He caught Natsu’s eye as he finished and gave him a huge shit-eating grin. The line continued: Macao baked; Wakaba was uncannily flexible; Romeo juggled; Mira threw eight darts at the bull’s-eye blindfolded; Erza...could recite all principalities of Fiore holy shit; Nab could stand completely still for fifteen minutes because of course; Laki could spray paint; and the waiting members quickly diminished until Natsu realized he was the last one to go. Happy and Charla, the ones before him, had barely flown off-stage before Gajeel shouted up:
“Oi, Dragneel, get yer ass up there!”
All eyes fell on Natsu as he was rehearsing his invisibility routine. He sunk into his scarf and made sure to flash Gajeel both fingers as he trotted through the crowd. He hopped the few stairs to the stage and met the eyes of the entire Guild. “Well, get on with it!” Gramps called from the back, waving his mug in the air. Natsu crossed his arms tight enough to cut off circulation and turned his head away from them.
“Fullbuster, ya smell that?” Gajeel called.
“Yeah, smells kinda like horse ass.”
“Nah, that’s the stench of a one trick pony!”
Laughs began to rise and the tips of Natsu’s ears burned. “I ain’t no damn one trick pony!” he yelled back, clenching his fists.
“Well then, do something!" Gajeel retorted. Natsu growled but made no moves. His ears twitched at the sound of someone else coming onstage, and he turned to see Lucy standing at the other end. He was surprised she didn’t perform for the contest, show-off that she was. Moreover, she was standing straight with her fists clenched at her sides, even with a red blush taking over her face.
“What are you doing?” he said in confusion, turning to face her. Her eyes bugged and she looked away, seemingly with second thoughts, then she clapped her cheeks and whipped her head back to face him.
“I love you, you stupid firebreather!”
The silence that followed was deafening, except he maybe heard a “Really, Lu-chan…?” somewhere from the back. The words bounced around his skull before realigning, and when he finally understood, a grin split his face.
“You love me, Lucy!” he said with a wild laugh, rushing forward to lift her in the air by her waist. She screamed unhappily as he spun her around. He eventually stopped when she started pulling his hair, and he held her tight against his body as he purred into the crown of her head. She fisted the side of his neck before gently grasping his shoulders.
“You’re not...upset?” she whispered.
“Why would I be? Do I look? I’m happy, so happy!” He knew he was babbling a little but couldn’t be bothered to care. He pulled away from her long enough to appreciate her small, relieved smile before pressing his lips against hers. She made a noise of surprise, then one of pleasure, which quickly turned to giggles when he pulled away and rubbed his face into her neck, her hair, trying to map together “Lucy’s scent” and “my love” in his mind. My best friend, the most important human in my world, and she loves me! The thought made him purr all over again, and he missed Levy’s coy words:
“Well, he’s not exactly a one trick pony. It takes talent to be that affectionate.”