A Love That Wants to Live

Chapter 22

Lucy started laughing so hard that tears streamed down her face and only laughed harder when Laxus frowned at her.

"Mind letting me in on whatever is so funny?" He finally asked.

She grinned, "Only that it seems like the only people who do know what the actual job is are locked outside our door. Do you think they all know or just Freed?"

Laxus sat there, a little stunned for a moment. Lucy was right, he had locked the others out in his annoyance with Bickslow and they needed the other three in there to discuss the job and their strategy. He slumped into his seat for a moment before standing and opening the door to go search for his missing team members.

"Where are you going?" Lucy called.

"Gotta get the others in here. We need to discuss this whole thing after all," Laxus replied. "You stay here. I don't need to find them only to find that you've wandered off as well."

Lucy nodded as Laxus closed the door gently behind him.

He found his team a few moments later sitting in the couch section. He watched them for a moment, wondering if they were discussing his behavior from earlier. He really didn't want to closer for fear that they were and his hearing would pick it up. He knew, however, that he was going to have to if he wanted to get them to come back to the room with him. Before he could make the conscious decision to walk toward them, however, Freed looked up and noticed him standing there.

"Laxus-Sama," Freed called, waving the big man toward him. "We should discuss the job."

Laxus nodded, "That's actually why I'm here. Lucy and I realize we have no idea what the job even is. If you guys wouldn't mind, we would like you all to come back to the carriage with me and we can sit and discuss it there in private."

The three stood nodding.

"Only if you promise not to go all Hulk on us again," Bickslow teased, earning glares from the other three.

Lucy was surprised at how quickly Laxus returned, the remaining members in tow. She had been certain that it would take a lot longer than it did to find and convince them to come back to the carriage with him. Here they were, however. Evergreen took a seat beside Lucy while the boys sat across from them.

"So what exactly is this job we're going on?" Lucy asked after everyone had gotten settled in.

Freed and Bickslow shifted, sharing an uncomfortable look.

"Well, see, people in the village we're going to have been disappearing and the mayor has asked someone to investigate it," Bickslow stated after a moment.

"That doesn't sound so bad," She replied, smiling.

"What's the catch?" Laxus growled, noticing their fidgeting.

Freed sighed, "There might not be one. We just thought it was a good thing to bring both Evergreen and Lucy along because the description actually says that women have been going missing. We thought with two, our chances of actually finding something might be higher."

Lucy and Evergreen shared an annoyed look. Once again they were going to have to be bait. Lucy was really tired of always being the bait, it got old really quick. She sighed, looking back out the window.

"So I take it we'll be talking to the mayor when we get there to find out just what is going on," Lucy sighed. "Other than the fact that women are disappearing."

Freed nodded, "Right. Hopefully he'll be able to give us more information than that."

The group fell silent, each of them lost in their own thoughts for the remainder of the short journey. Soon they were pulling into the station and they looked up in surprise. Lucy was surprised at how much time had passed.

Laxus sighed and stretched as they pulled into the station. Even with Wendy's magic pills he would still rather be walking than using any form of transportation. He studied his group for a moment before assigning Evergreen and Bickslow the job of securing them rooms while Freed, Lucy, and himself went to talk to the mayor. Normally he would have told Lucy to go with the other two, not wanting any creepy mayor to be around his girlfriend, but with the way he was feeling today it might be a good idea to have her gentle touch in case his temper frayed.

Freed was a great diplomat and could usually handle such things himself, since Laxus tended to be short and direct when he talked to people. Laxus had a feeling that this time they would need a woman's gentleness in this talk and he always let his instinct guide him when it came to his jobs.

He allowed Freed to lead the way through the town, knowing the small green-haired man would know where to go. He wordlessly slipped his hand into Lucy's, keeping her tucked firmly beside him as he noticed how few women were about and how some of the men were eyeing her. He wanted to electrocute every single one of them for leering at her, but he restrained himself, knowing that it would just make things bad for them later when they needed the villagers cooperation. Instead he wrapped his coat tightly around her, causing her to look up in surprise.

"Keep it on," He said out of the corner of his mouth, barely nodding in the direction of those that were eyeing her.

Lucy looked around and noticed, for the first time, how many men were openly staring at her like she was a piece of meat. She hoped that Evergreen wasn't having the same problem back at the hotel. She was going to shrug out of the coat before remembering what she was wearing and pulled the coat closer around her body. Perhaps a mini-skirt that didn't even reach her knees and a halter top that opened in the back was not the best outfit choice for today.

She was thankful when they finally reached the Mayor's home and were allowed inside. At least in there the amount of men that were ogling her was reduced to the butler, the mayor, and the mayor's assistant. She could live with that, though, judging by the look on his face, she was sure that Laxus was going to be able to. Even with his coat wrapped around her she still looked hot, especially to men who haven't seen a beautiful woman in quite some time.

"Thank you all for coming out," The Mayor said, shaking their hands. "It means a lot to all of us. We just cannot function with our beloved womenfolk gone."

"Mr..." Freed trailed off, unsure of what to call the short, stocky man in front of them.

"Oh, just call me Marketh," The man answered with a wave of his hand. "There's no need to be formal when you lovely trio are going to stop these kidnappings."

"Actually, there's two more of us," Laxus replied as they sat. "They are securing our rooms right now, but I'm sure you'll meet them at a later date."

"Of course, of course."

"Marketh, then. Could you possibly tell us more about what's going on here?" Freed asked politely. "I understand that the women of the town are being abducted, but by what? or whom? When? And when did these kidnappings start? These are things we need to know in order to start our investigation."

"It started about a month ago and it started with my wife. The day was a normal one, work, playing with her and our children, dinner, a nice movie, then we sent the children to bed and had some alone time. Later, Amrine got up, to use the bathroom or get something to drink I assume, but she never came back to bed. She was just gone. Every night since then another girl has disappeared. All in the middle of the night. All with no warning. We've tried everything from watching to see where they go to barring them in their rooms - somehow they manage to escape and give us the slip. We're desperate now."

"You mentioned children," Lucy said after a moment. "Where are they now?"

Marketh hung his head, sadly, "I had the misfortune of having three daughters. They're all gone too. Whatever it is, it doesn't discriminate by age or looks. Almost every girl from the youngest baby to the oldest crone has been taken."

Laxus jaw tightened. More than anything he wanted to grab Evergreen and Lucy and run. He wanted to get them out of this town, but he knew that wasn't possible. They had a job to do now and just because he was worried they would be next didn't mean that he could up and leave these people now. He could feel Freed's eyes on him and he knew the Rune Mage was worried that Laxus would do exactly what he was thinking of doing.

The conversation flowed around him but he quit paying attention, knowing that the two with him would fill him in on any details he missed. He was pondering the best way to go about this. Thinking was not Laxus's strong suit, though, and he couldn't figure out how a person could manage to just vanish like the women here seem to have done. Lucy's hand felt warm and small in his own and he worried that she would be taken before they figured it out. Looking down at the beautiful girl he knew that if she was taken he would move Heaven and Earthland to find her.

The realization that Freed had probably chosen this job for just that reason hit him and rage boiled through him. He understood the risks of taking Lucy out on any job with the Thunder Legion and he accepted them. He did not accept that his girlfriend could, and probably would, be used as bait. As soon as they had left the mayor's home he whirled, still keeping a tight grip on Lucy's hand, and glared at the Rune Mage.

"You knew, didn't you?" He demanded as they walked.

"Knew what?" Freed and Lucy asked at the same time.

Laxus looked between the two before turning back to Freed.

"You knew that Lucy and Evergreen could be potentially used as bait to draw this thing out. You knew that could happen when you took the quest. That's why you've been so tight lipped about the whole thing."

Freed sighed and looked between the couple, Laxus's face containing the barely control rage he felt and Lucy's expressing sympathy and understanding.

"Yes," Freed finally answered. "I knew that it was a possibility, Laxus. If this thing is really kidnapping women then Lucy and Evergreen are our best chance at finding it. You know this, you just don't want to accept it."

Lucy could feel Laxus trembling beside her and she was worried for a moment. Then Laxus sighed and seemed to let go of his anger. She exhaled and only then realized that she'd been holding her breath.

"You're right, Freed. I just don't like the idea," Laxus said.

Freed nodded, wondering if it hadn't been Lucy that was potentially in danger if Laxus would have cared nearly as much. He kept that thought to himself however, knowing how thin the ice he was on was now.

Lucy came to his rescue, "Lax, don't worry. Besides, Natsu has been eyeing this job for days. If we hadn't taken it then I'm sure he would have and I would be here anyway."

Freed shot her a grateful look and Lucy winked at him. She wasn't sure how much of what she had said was true, but she knew that she needed to calm her boyfriend down before they reached the hotel. Thankfully, the words seemed to do the trick and he calmed even further, almost back to his normal self.

Lucy just hoped there were no more surprises in store for them.

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