Chapter 2: Shelter
"If...everyone will stay safe, then it would be a good thing..."
We stood there for a while. Sting and Rogue watching my movements as I switched my standing positions. I could feel their eyes as if they were piercing into my very soul.
"This is your answer?" I nodded. Sting may have said some terrible things but at least I could say what was on my mind in this topic. But I hated how easily the stinging behind my eyes started. How easily I could cry. I wanted to leave. Thankful that I was able to express my opinion but I wanted to go back to the comfort that was Happy.
I lifted a hand rubbing at my trembling lips, hoping the action hid them. I could feel it coming. If the stinging behind my eyes was anything to go by. I didn't want to break here. Not in front of Sting and Rogue. No. I didn't want to show any weakness. I vowed to myself that the next time we met, I'd be a little bit stronger. Strong enough that mere cruel words wouldn't shake me. I didn't want to be someone that would cry my way out of anything.
"Can I go now?" I asked, feeling a small crack in my voice. Great. Just freaking great.
"No, there's one more thing." Rogue said softly, a kindness in his tone made me look up. "Have you gotten better at taking life-force?"
"Eh?" He was worried about whether or not I had gotten better at taking life-force? "Er...no...I just can't do more than that." It may be a vampire's instinct to take life-force, in old stories it is said that vampires sucked the blood of the living when in reality it was far different. Real vampires could take life-force by touch. For me though, it was a bit more complicated than that. The only way I was able to take life-force was by direct contact with my lips. Strange isn't it? It's a bit complicated.
"In that case you should be practicing." Sting growled. "When was the last time you took life-force?"
"Um...maybe two days ago." I replied with a touch of worry, "But...there's no way I can practice." There's no humans here and I haven't felt the symptoms of withdrawal yet. I had decided long ago that I'd only take life-force when I absolutely couldn't take it anymore. Plus, with the regular meals, I didn't need to take anything extra for the littlest bit longer. Maybe it was the human side of me that made me feel guilty about taking someone's life-force.
"You're a bastard," Sting began. "But that doesn't change the fact that we're part of the same clan."
Rogue looked at Sting for a moment, slight confusion before it clicked what the blond was saying. The raven haired male grinned, "It's our responsibility to teach you. So that's why, we will give you some of our life-force."
"What?" I was stunned. When I was younger, my Father would share his life force, but that was before I could hunt for myself. Now I could get it just fine. Why would these two be so concerned when all that changed was my method.
While my thoughts remained in disarray, Rogue pulled down the collar of my shirt, just past my collarbone. I swallowed. He was so close. Although my hunger was mostly sated now, I wouldn't be able to say anything about tomorrow. I was starting to feel dizzy. My movements shaky and I felt as if someone turned the temperature up in the room. I knew with these familiar feelings that my eye color had changed. During hunting, my eyes changed from dark olive to gold. A bright gold that looked as if a fire burned within. This change only occurred when hunting, when my human half was enveloped by my vampire side.
I stood there in a daze, as if I'd been placed in a spell. "Good boy...come." I barely heard Rogue's voice. The sound echoing through my mind. I rolled to my toes, gaining height to reach the taller male. I felt as if the air had become rich and heavy, fragrant like a luscious garden. I wrapped my arms around Rogue lightly, as if embracing him.
It smelled so nice, this must be what Rogue's life-force smelled like. It was sweet and now that I'd gotten a taste, I knew I wouldn't be forgetting it. I took a deep breath of the scent and pressed up against his neck, rubbing gingerly. Rogue laughed from the ticklish sensation and I chuckled in return. What a wonderful feeling. But I couldn't help but feel how strange it was that I'd changed so effortlessly.
I let Rogue's name slip from my lips with a low purr before letting them make contact against the male's neck. I didn't need to bare fangs since I didn't have any. From the spot that I was touching, I could feel myself slowly gaining something satisfying flowing throughout my body. The life-force made me feel drunk. Almost as if I'd chugged a great amount of alcohol.
I clung closely to the male, pressing lightly against him as if asking for more. It was completely different from life-force he'd gotten before. I couldn't believe how eager I was for more. It took another minute for me to gain back enough of my senses to move away from him, slumping against the wall next to me while trying to catch my breath. Rogue leaned on Sting for support, a pink flush coloring his cheeks.
"Is that enough?" Sting asked with a soft tone mixed with awe, "Those with mixed blood must have small appetites. His teasing tone made my cheeks turn red.
"Well I'm sorry for having a small appetite." I returned playfully. In actuality, the amount I had taken was slightly overwhelming. Far more than I'd usually take. When I'm hunting, Happy puts up a barrier to hide while I'm taking life-force, but I don't have enough strength for it to last very long. So I usually end up taking the bare minimum. That's why I was so surprised by the amount I'd gotten. I felt high off the feeling. Sweet, rich, and undeniably addicting. "Rogue..."
It took the raven haired male a moment to realize I was speaking to him, "What is it?"
"Thank you." I slurred, "I'll be fine for a while longer."
Sting chuckled, "Next time we meet, I'll give you some of mine." I just nodded. I didn't want to become a trouble. "You'd be wrong if you think it bothers me. A bastard with a small appetite? This is nothing." Although his words were harsh, the tone of his voice was soft. A moment of kindness from the usually hot-tempered blond. This must be another reason why the clan adores him.
"Thank you." I repeated and Rogue shook his head.
"There's no need to thank us." He replied with a rare smile.
"It's our responsibility to protect the clan." Sting interrupted. "That is all."
"I know. I just wanted to say it." I smiled lightly, "You are the only ones who actually say I'm part of the clan."
Rogue and Sting shared a glance, a sad smile crawling into their features. The expression made them seem far different from before. After a moment, they moved from their place, as if telling me to take my leave. I wonder how many times I've watched them walk away. It hurt to think that they might only ever walk away from me. But I was happy either way. The little bit of intimate contact was a big improvement. They may lead the clan, but it was nice to see that they could show some compassion, even to someone like me who seemed to be worlds apart.
I stood shakily from my seat, putting an arm on the wall for support. "Okay...time to go..." I said to myself, as if cheering myself on. I decided to summon Happy when I got back to the abandoned building. Especially since that gossipy cat wanted all the details from the meeting.
So that's what I did. As soon as I wandered into the building, I cast my arm out, flooding the room in a violet light. The sheer brightness blinding me for a moment before Happy jumped into my chest, snuggling in.
"Hey, I'm glad to see you too buddy." I chuckled, the littlest things the blue cat did were so cute that I never wanted him to go back. "Oh! Do you remember Lisanna?"
"Of course, your bride to be." Happy teased. I felt blush heating my cheeks.
"We aren't like that!" I could deny it all I wanted but this stubborn cat was sure to never let me live this down.
"Whatever you say." Happy grinned, "Why do you as anyway, it hasn't been that long since we left her family." He was right, only mere months have passed. I had wanted to find a place to live on my own. Even though Mira, the eldest sibling, had insisted that I could stay as long as I liked. All the Strauss siblings had tried to stop me. Even Makarov, the head of the guild where they stayed.
FairyTail. A shelter of sorts where all kinds of creatures stayed. Werewolves, Vampires, Anima, even humans all living with one another. A family for each other when they had no one else. I was grateful to Makarov for inviting me in. I surely was in some deep hell before he came along. I remember the shocked faces and shouts of denial. This family was compassionate. Once someone was taken in, regardless of race or if they were an enemy, that person was family. Even if I'd been pure-blooded, they would have still taken me in. For the longest time I'd thought it was only because he was half human until he met Erza and Lucy, two full-blooded vampires that needed to stay. Even Gajeel and Wendy, who were also half human were accepted. It was heartwarming in any case, that they were kind to the young me who'd lost my way.
For three years...from just a few days after my Father killed himself and I couldn't bring myself to do anything, just sitting around in a daze, the ones who worried and visited were not those of the clan but rather those from FairyTail. The mix-match clan whose head happened to be acquainted with my Father and the Strauss who lived next door at the time.
When I'd been young. I just froze, becoming a doll of myself, unwilling to move. It was on one particularly dark day that I'd heard the kind voice of the old man.
"Are you alright, Natsu?"
I didn't reply. Rather, I couldn't reply. I was thankful that he'd sensed this, patting my shoulder gently. After a moment I nodded weakly.
"Don't lie." A girl's voice said, "Hey! You don't have to act tough!"
The adults watched quietly over me. Letting me sort through my issues under my own power. But this girl would have none of it. We were still kids. At the time, I was 14 and she was 13. The closeness in age might have been what made her reach out to me.
"Your mom and dad are gone!" She stood in front of me, her small hands on my shoulders. "How can you say that you're okay? It's okay to cry you know." I was stunned. This small girl was scolding me? For not crying? I wanted to laugh, but the stinging behind my eyes made that idea fly out the window. Another girl walked over, a shy boy in tow.
The boy shouted, "Lisanna! How can you say such things!"
"Because we lost our parents too Elfman!" The girl, Lisanna shouted back.
I looked up at her, her short white hair in a bob and her eyes bluer than I'd ever seen the sky be. Hearing that she had no parents either, I didn't know what to do except watch the unfolding fight between the two siblings. It was amusing to watch the eldest try and separate the two.
"By the way, Natsu." The little old man spoke up from beside me, "What do you think? This might have been part of fate's plan." I just stared at the tiny man. "What do you think about coming to live with us?"
"What?" I had been genuinely surprised. This man had been very kind already, but he wasn't obligated to do that much. I had wanted to turn away from the reality that I had no living relatives. Was this just a dream to escape the truth? At the time, that's what I thought it was.
"Do you have anyone else that would be able to take you in?" I stayed silent. "I thought so. But you know, you're not the only one in the world who is of mixed blood."
"What?!" I turned sharply to face the tiny old man, "There are others like me?"
"Of course!" Lisanna shouted from above her brother, who was pinned below her, she ran over and grabbed my arm, "You didn't think you were the only one in the world now did you?"
The man chuckled at that, "The world is a vast place, my boy!"
At that moment, I could feel the tears leaking past my eyes. One fell, then two until I was sobbing. I didn't know why I couldn't cry until then, but the tears kept pouring out. I settled my head between my knees, feeling as if a great weight had been lifted.
"There, there, Natsu. You've been very brave." The old man smiled, running a comforting hand through my hair, "I'm Makarov, but you can call me Gramps along with all my other brats."
"Hey Natsu, come live with us!" Lisanna grinned, taking my hand and pulling me to my feet. After all that, I couldn't find any reason to refuse. I was still too young to live on my own and couldn't take life-force from humans by himself. The sheer joy that crossed Lisanna's expression when I nodded was all it took for me to want to stay.
"Somehow, I have the feeling that Lisanna will visit today." I thought aloud, pulling away from the memory with a smile, "Maybe I should do some cleaning..."
Although I lived in an abandoned building and cleaning didn't make much difference, I wanted to prove that I could at least make a guest feel welcome. But at that exact moment I heard a voice speak from the hall, it seemed like I wouldn't have a chance to clean. "Whoa, what a dump...hey Natsu!"
I turned to face the doorway and sighed in contempt, "You're insulting my living space you know." I could hear the girl pushing what sounded like chair out of the way before there was a bang and a cry of pain, "Lisanna! Are you okay?"
Holding Happy in one arm, I moved towards the noises and came across a rather...hilarious...sight. The girl had tripped and fallen over, laying half upside-down on one of the chairs I'd moved from my room. "Now, how did you manage that?" I put a hand to my mouth, trying to hide my laughter.
"Hey you! Come help me!" Lisanna whined, she had gotten herself stuck also. I let my laughter go and set Happy down before moving to lift the girl from her awkward position. As soon as she was back on her feet, Lisanna went back to the chair and leaned over it, reaching for something behind it. After a moment, she managed to lift it over the back and let it fall onto her shoulder,
I watched her with amusement, taking in her features. I never could quite understand why she kept her silver hair so short or why she insisted on wearing clothes that showed as much of her pale skin as her sister would allow. Her eyes flickered to me, their color still as bright a blue as it had been when we were younger. She smiled sadly, moving over and pulling me into a hug.
"Hey, haven't you had enough?"
"Living by yourself? You can come back to live with us you know." She pulled away, running a hand through my hair. I sighed heavily. We've had this same conversation a number of times already. Every time, I'd say that I was fine and turn Lisanna down. But this time I wouldn't be able to smile and answer in the same way. "This is enough right? Please come back."
"Lisanna, will you come help me if I really need it?" I grinned, "I want to do as much as I can. I'm not that fragile little boy anymore." At least not around you...
"Oh well, I thought I'd try." She groaned, "You're so stubborn. I'd rather get Erza to help me bring you home by force but..."
"I'd be mad at you for doing something like that."
"I know, I know, that's why I haven't done it yet." Lisanna frowned, "You should praise me for controlling myself."
"Yeah, yeah. Good job." I grinned, patting her head. "Good girl."
"You don't sound like you mean it," She pouted.
"I mean it." I denied playfully.
"Okay, I got it." She laughed, "I won't say anything else."
I grinned, reaching out to ruffle her short hair. It was the same way I pet her when she turned into a beast. Her silver fur and bright eyes almost mesmerizing. The form was incredibly beautiful and I had time and time again felt such safety from it.
"If I decide that it's impossible for you to be alone then...I'm coming to take you back." Lisanna let a confident smile slip over her expression. "So...don't push yourself too hard."
I laughed, "Okay, Thanks Lisanna." But I won't be going back anytime soon. Lisanna is so kind, my pride as a male made it embarrassing for me to be so dependent on her. But, if she truly thought I couldn't live on my own...no, I won't go back. I didn't want to be a burden regardless of how much they try to convince me otherwise. I couldn't go back.
I shivered as a breeze blew through the building. I couldn't stay here anymore, not with winter rolling in. It was already freezing at night and I was still half human, my mortality being shown time and time again as soon as night fell. I didn't many belongings, only what Lisanna brought for me; some clothes, Happy's fish and toys...not much at all. It would be easy to pack it all up but the problem was where I would move to. I crossed my arms in thought, watching as Lisanna gossiped with Happy.
Would a more popular spot be better? It would be convenient. It was difficult coming back here each time I took life-force. It may be nothing for a full vampire, but for me it was hard work. This building is out of the way and pretty far from having a bustling neighborhood. By the time I would step inside, I'd be too exhausted to move. There was a little house I'd been eyeing for a while. But still this building was comfortable. Even if I just laid around all day, no one would find me. With a bitter smile, I went around the room I'd been using and gathered my belongings.
"Oh, are you coming home?!" Lisanna perked up. I could almost see her wolf ears twitching in excitement.
"No, but I am moving." The house was on the edge of downtown, tucked into a little suburban area with nice people that kept to themselves. It was small with blue tiles and white window boarders. The garden around it was mostly unkept but that wouldn't take long to fix. It was a cozy little house. At the time, when I had first moved out, I had chosen this abandoned building over that place. I had told myself that I'd move into that house when the time called for it...apparently...now was that time.
"Oh? Where to?" She asked.
"A little place, not to far from FairyTail actually." I replied, "I've been watching it for a while."
"Well, let's go check it out then!" Lisanna grinned, "If it doesn't check out you can come back to my place."
"Your place? Did you move out of Mira's." I raised an eyebrow at her, "I'd never had guessed that Mira would let you leave."
"Yup! Well...it's still close to home but it's mine!" She pulled me towards the door, "But that's why you can stay over whenever you want! Now lets go look at that house!" She smiled brightly, and looked adorable as she did so. I smiled back, letting her drag me out of the building hand-in-hand.