Part 1: Just A Game
"A what?" I stared blankly at the blond girl in front of me like she was speaking another language and watched with hidden amusement as she glared at me. Lucy Heartfilia, the sole most easy to irritate mage in the guild (besides Gray).
"A party! You know, the kind that a bunch of people get together and celebrate something!" I watched her become quickly carried away by her explanation. I leaned against my home's doorway, waiting for her to finish.
"Yeah, he knows what a party is." The dark haired Gray yawned, receiving a glare from the flustered blond. "Looking for a fight?"
"Nope." She laughed awkwardly, stepping closer to me.
"Don't even try to drag me in. That's between you two." I sighed. "Besides, I don't feel like paying damages on my house."
"Imposter. The Natsu I know is a destroyer of houses." Gray taunted.
"Well this imposter, as you say, has to live here." I growled, receiving a shrug in return.
"Natsu!" Happy flew down to use looking excited. "Did you know there's going to be a party at the guild tonight?!"
"Yes, I did." I grinned as Lucy pressed a palm to her face a if realizing I tricked her into giving an explanation. "Lucy here." I jabbed my thumb in her direction, "was just about to give me the details."
"Yep, a very extravagant explanation full of unrelated details." Gray muttered sarcastically.
She glared an him again then sighed. "Anyway, it's pretty much going to be you, me, Happy, Wendy, Carla, Levy, and Gray." She counted them off on her fingers, "and probably Levy and knowing Gajeel would follow..."
"What, pray tell, are we celebrating?" I yawned as she trailed off. I was getting hungry(and tired) waiting outside. I had food on the table getting cold.
"Our last job's success and lack of damage to any buildings." Lucy sighed.
"Did we really not destroy anything?" That's hard to believe, but then again the job was just to escort this time around and it went pretty smoothly. But I guess there really wasn't much interesting about that job anyway.
"Shocking" Happy added with a nod from both of us. "But I heard we were playing a cool game too."
"Yeah, Truth or Dare." Gray added, catching my attention. There would be a lot of fun in that idea.
Truth or Dare? "I'm in." Plus there's always free food whenever there's a guild(or group) party. I felt a bit pumped, it'll be good to get out of the house for a while. I didn't even care that Gray would be there. "What time should I be there?" I'd have to leave extra early so not to be late.
"Hmm, maybe around 9, It's an all-night party." Lucy replied while searching her mind. "Yeah, around 9."
"Okay, is that all?" My food is getting cold.
"Huh? Oh, yeah. Be sure he's not late Happy." She waved to the Exceed as she started to walk back towards the guild. "Don't forget!"
"Yeah, don't forget Happy." I know I might. "Now finally I can eat my food." I sighed as I let Happy in and closed the door behind me as I retreated back into my house.
"You need to remember too." Happy sighed as he floated into the kitchen. I couldn't do much but sigh in defeat. He was right after all.
I stepped through the hallway towards the kitchen, passing the photos I'd hung to liven up the space. I stopped at the last one for a moment.
I had found it in Lucy's room one day. One of me and Gray(with his clothes on for once) actually getting along. We had been sitting on the docks, the sun half set and casting a light orange glow on our bodies. I was smiling and talking about something excitedly and Gray was smiling contently, leaning back on his hands. Both of out legs dipped into the darkening water.
"I can't remember what it was called." I sighed, "What ever it was tasted like heaven."
"What was it?" Gray asked. I glared at him lightly. Did he really just ask that? This guy...
"I'm telling you that I don't know!" I said dipping my legs into the water. "It was sweet but not too sweet. It also had some kind of spice to it but it didn't taste weird at all."
"What is some kind of chocolate with peppers in it or something?" He asked, dipping his legs into the water after rolling up his pant legs. I shook my head. "That the only thing I could think of."
I turned to him a bit, "It didn't have any chocolate on it at all. It was a kind of taffy or gel of sorts."
"I dunno then." I watched Gray's expression twist to deep thought as he leaned back onto his hands. "Maybe next time you visit wherever that sweet was then you'll have to bring me along to try it."
"I will!" I felt light, going into details about the little cafe I had visited, a soft smile tugging at Gray's lips.
"Have you found a house yet Natsu?" Gray asked, pushing his dark bangs out of his eyes after the wind moved them.
"Yeah, it's close to here actually." I grinned. "I don't have to pay rent since I paid it off with the last job and it has a lot of space!" I was really happy I bought the place when I did since there were so many people interested in it. "If you need a place to stay let me know. It's got three bedrooms."
"Hmm, maybe I'll take up that offer if I ever get kicked out of my place." He joked.
"Natsu? The food's getting cold!" Happy called from the kitchen, breaking me out of my flashback.
"Yeah, I know." I gave one last passing glance at the picture before entering the kitchen to eat my food and prepare something for Happy.
After we finished, I cleaned up and plopped unceremoniously onto the couch in the main living room, staring at the ceiling that seem needlessly high. I had picked this house for how cheap it was at the time and it's distance from the docks where I often liked to hang out and feel the cool wind waft off the water. But when I take a careful look around, there was too much space for just one person and a cat.
I frowned at the thought and rolled to my side. I had at least 5 hours before the party so a nap was in order seeing as it would be an all-night party(not that I didn't have the energy for it). I close my eyes, trying to concentrate on something quiet. But the house was too silent, all except for the lone sound of the clock I could hear from my bedroom upstairs.
The simple, slow rhythm was soothing. And the next conscious thought I had was wrapped in irritation.
"Natsu! Wake up!" I could hear Happy calling me, his tiny paws shaking my arm. "You'll be late for the party if you don't!"
That's right. The party.
I sat up and stretched. "What time is it?" I asked through a yawn.
"8 o'clock. We have to leave soon." I blinked the fog out of my eyes as I stood to go wash up, being rushed by Happy at every turn. "Hurry hurry!"
"Damnit Happy! I'm not going to be late." I grumbled past my toothbrush. I waved him off and rinsed my mouth from the toothpaste. "I can get there in fifteen minutes! We still have a little over a half hour."
I watched him sigh and float away, sitting on the edge of the stair's railing. Honestly, he was such a worry wart. I splashed my face with cold water, then reached for the towel, which was missing. With a sigh, I turned around and just used the bath towel(even though it was still damp from that morning's shower.
"Now we can leave." I motioned for him to follow as I slipped on my shoes and reached for my keys. "Come on, before I leave you behind." I said as the Exceed sped out of the doorway to not be left behind and locked in.
We were almost a block away when he took off ahead of me. I didn't feel like running to catch up to him so I just kept my pace the way it was. I couldn't imagine why he suddenly took off.
Though I found out soon after.
I approached the doors a bit cautiously before opening it to darkness. "Huh...Hello?!" I entered, closing the door behind me.
Not even a moment later all the light's flicked on revealing the group who all cried, "Surprise!" at the top of their lungs, making me nearly have a heart attack. I put a hand to my chest to make sure my heart was beating and took a breath.
"What the hell you guys! Trying to kill me?" I was slightly irritated now. I hated surprises.
"Happy Birthday!" They chanted as I approached them. I froze for a moment.
"Eh?" My birthday? "Is it really?"
"Yeah, did you forget your own birthday?" Mirajane laughed, making me blush.
"Yes, actually..." I scratched at my neck and joined her laughter.
I glanced around to see who all was there; Gray, Lucy, Happy, Mira, Elfman, Gajeel, Levy(who was on Gajeel's lap at the moment), Wendy, Carla, and Erza. I was a bit shocked. But in all honesty I think this would be better than last year since I won't be alone this time around.
"Natsu, here!" Wendy bounced over to me with a box wrapped in red wrapping. "It's from me and Carla!" I ruffled her long blue hair and moved to sit closer to where everyone sat and found myself next to a stack of variously colored boxes.
I opened the one in my hands first. It was a little dragon statue, a red dragon wrapped around a glass ball filled with water. I thanked her and moved to the next one; one from Elfman.
"A real man needs these!" He said proudly as I lifted the lid before quickly closing it again, trying to keep from blushing.
"Erm...thank you..." I said awkwardly as Gray pestered me to know what it was. I just handed him the box and he took a peek, closing it quickly like I had, a deep blush forming in his cheeks.
"I don't see you ever getting into a situation to be using these..." He coughed. Everyone looked at Gray and me with curiosity which we waved off with a 'you'd be better off not knowing' and they gave up.
"Open mine next!" Mira passed me a small envelope. I hoped it was less embarrassing than Elfman's which thankfully it was just some picture's she'd taken to add to my collection that seemed to grow a lot this past year. I nodded to her in thanks, unwrapping the rest of my gifts without much awkwardness.
I had gotten a watch from Lucy(according to her I was always late for things). Gajeel and Levy gave me a necklace they made using mixed skills. It was a small skull with a sword piercing through it and a dragon curled around the blade. A faint ring of runes suggested that it would hold to any fire I muster up. Happy gave me some lures for fishing. Finally, Erza gave me a dagger(just one of many I'd gotten from her).
I thanked everyone and we started to move a couple tables to get ready for the game. "By the way Natsu, how old are you now?" Lucy asked as I pushed the last table into place.
"Huh? 18. At least I think so." I didn't remember my birth year since I couldn't remember much before Igneel. "Yeah, I'm 18 today." I'll just stick with that.
"Our Natsu's finally an adult." Mira cooed as her and Erza teamed up on me, pinching my cheeks. Everyone laughed, sitting in a circle for the game.
"Yeah so stop doing that!" I sat down in my space. "It hurts."
"Sorry, I couldn't help it." Mira said with a sigh as she set a bottle in the center her hand ready to spin it. "Is everyone familiar with the rules of Truth or Dare?"
A united "Yes" echoed around the large room as she spun the bottle and signified the start of a lot of embarrassment.
The game was pretty innocent at first through slowly became more revealing. I was thankful that the bottle had only landed on me twice so far. This game was beginning to become dangerous.
After Gray's turn, he spun the bottle and it landed on Lucy.
"Eh?! This'll suck.." She whined.
"Lucy, Truth or Dare?" He asked.
A moment of hesitation. "Truth."
"Is it true that you have a crush on Loke?" That hit a sensitive topic.
"I'd like to hear this one." Loke's voice echoed around before he materialized next to Lucy, who didn't even bat an eye. She had become used to her spirits appearing without her heed for a while now. The celestial stared at Lucy closely. "Well."
"Why d-did you have to ask t-that?!" She stumbled on her words before finally answering. "...yes..." I almost couldn't hear it, even with my high level of hearing. She quickly grabbed the bottle, spinning it.
It landed on Gajeel who immediately answered, "Dare." This should be good.
"Okay then..." Lucy glance at Levy who was holding onto his arm. "Kiss Levy."
Silence ensued. Lucy surely had a death wish. But surprisingly, he did. Blush flowing red into both of their cheeks as he spun the bottle around with it landing on me.
"Shit!" I cursed aloud. "Just when I thought my luck would help me."
"Truth or Dare?" Gajeel asked, his gaze daring me to choose.
I spent the good part of five quick minutes before answering with, "Truth?"
"Are you straight?"
No one even dared breathe just staring at the iron slayer with mixtures of shock and awe.
"Are you straight?" he asked again, snapping my out of my shock for a moment.
What? How the hell am I supposed to answer that?! "Why do you even ask?" I muttered, blush rising to my face. Seriously, I didn't think I'd have to deal with this today.
"I've heard stories of how close you were to someone called Lisanna but I've also noticed how you don't really seem drawn to any of the women you've been around." The unspoken hint of my possible attraction to guys hidden behind his tone.
"That's because they aren't really the type I'm looking for." I answered slowly.
"So you like the guy type?" Gajeel was getting glares from Mira from across the circle while I was getting curious stares from the others.
"No. I didn't say that..." I never thought about it. "I don't know." I was getting confused and it must've shown since I heard Gray questioning Gajeel's sanity.
"What the hell? That's hitting way too personal." Gray shouted. The shock of his shouts brought me out of my thoughts for a moment, my heart quickening.
"Then how about you answer the question." Gajeel stared coolly into Gray's irritated glare. "Are you straight?"
Although, Gray didn't spare much thought. "Not a bit. I'm about as straight as this sorry excuse of a circle we're sitting in and it's not like I've been hiding it."
I jerked my head up, staring at Gray in a surprise. Even if he hadn't been hiding it...I didn't know this little fact. He seemed to sense my gaze and gave me a quick smile. I quickly looked away. "That's enough then...I'm satisfied with that answer." Although the unspoken for now hung in the air. Gajeel sighed, motioning for me to spin the bottle next.
"Gray, you can spin it for me, since you answered the question." I moved the bottle towards him which he accepted with a nod. He took his turn while I retreated into my thoughts. I knew I didn't need to answer the question anymore but it struck me with self-curiosity. Especially since I've never really considered the idea yet it made my current crush make the slightest but more sense.
I didn't mind girls at all. I liked them plenty but never felt any sort of sexual attraction to them. They were soft and could give the best advice out of anyone I knew but on the other hand they were fragile and easily emotional. On the male side, I had caught myself sometimes checking out some random guys on jobs with our group when Lucy would point them out. It was especially bad when Levy tagged along for the smaller jobs.
I sighed and glanced at Gray absentmindedly. A question hanging in my mind...when he stood up for me...did he speak the truth? Or did he lie for my sake.
My heart beat quicker. Why though? No. I knew why but...I also knew the risk there would be if I chased the feeling. My eyes traced his features, carefully mapping each feature and detail, each muscle that was a little big bigger than the rest, each scar that should never have graced the porcelain skin that should never have been tainted.
I watched the ice wizard closely, only looking away when he felt my gaze, glancing around to find who was boring holes into his head. Each time I averted my eyes away, my heart slowly returned to normal. It was a strange feeling but also one I had grown familiar with. The next time I glanced up, Gray was staring at me. Staring hard at me. I had the urge to yell 'What?!' but I didn't, watching as he stood and moved over towards me and noting the creeping warmth in my cheeks.
H-huh? He knelt down in front of me, gently pressing a hand to my cheek the way one would a lover. Blush crept in harsh through my cheeks. Why was he getting so close?! I felt my heart skip a beat as he tipped my head up and leaned in slowly. The distance between us closing torturously slow until we finally met in the middle, the scent of freshly fallen snow and pine filling my senses.
I didn't know what was going on from then on, only able to tell the taste of mint and the surprising warmth of his tongue as it explored my mouth. I couldn't think, my head had begun spinning now as I slowly started to kiss back. Quickly that we weren't alone, surrounded by gawking onlookers (a few of which had nosebleeds).
Whatever. I don't care that it's Gray who's kissing me or that we are in the guild, it feels good. I found a strange sense of satisfaction from the kiss and my hands found themselves holding onto his (surprisingly still on) shirt tightly, feeling him slip a cool hand under the hem my shirt. He rested his palm on my side, rubbing his thumb over my skin. The chill of his touch making me moan a little. The feeling being my only lifeline to reality. Or fantasy.
But then he pulled away, taking that little world with him. Both of us panting and blushing. I blinked a few times, trying to figure out what had just happened. Gray just sat back and smiled, moving back to his seat. I opened my mouth to speak but promptly shut it again, now knowing what to say. I couldn't think right, my mind was still in a daze, barely hearing the group chattering around me as I tried to clear my head.
"That's a real man's kiss!" Elfman exclaimed, his low voice echoing around the large guild hall.
"I didn't expect you to kiss him like that!" Lucy's shocked voice cried, joined by Mira, "He's blushing..."
"Of course he is...a kiss by the one who's supposed to be his friend and rival..." Wendy giggled.
"That or it was his first kiss." Loke added throwing the room into silence. Feeling their stares as I blushed harder. The harsh redness of my cheek proving that what he said was true. "How innocent." That was no where near innocent.
I brought my knees up to my chest, resting my chin on them. Missing the coolness I just had. I had become addicted at a taste of what I wanted and I watched him spin the bottle as the game continued. That simple action made my mood darken. Gray had just kissed me on a dare. I just got my hopes up for nothing. How depressing. But...
The sweetness and scent he had was entrancing. I didn't think that, since he was an ice mage, his lips wouldn't be that soft or as warm as they were. My side still burning from his touch despite how cold his hand had been. Lost in my thoughts as I relived the memory, putting it into a spot in my mind where I could never forget it. Even as I did so, I wanted more. I wanted to be selfish and pull him away. I wanted to...no, I can't let myself get carried into a fantasy, not in the guild hall at least.
But apparently I already had when I was shook out of my thoughts when I was hit on my back...hard.
"Ow! What the hell?!" I whined, trying to rub where it now throbbed. I looked up to see the whole group staring at me. "W-what?!" Had I spaced out that much?
"Are you okay Natsu?" Lucy asked, concern waving over her features. Huh?
"Y-yeah..." Did I look weird or something? "Why?"
"We've been calling your name for the past ten minutes." Mira said.
"Oh...really?" Now I've done it. "Sorry, sorry! Haha!" I tried to play it off, scratching my neck. "I might be a little tired!"
"That's understandable, it is almost 3 already." Loke added with a light yawn before stretching himself out beside Lucy, propping himself up on his elbows. "But maybe you're just preoccupied."
"What do you mean?" I didn't even need to ask. He knew I was thinking about Gray's kiss and how my heart was still a beat off since then.
"Answer me this..." He pulled himself back up and moved to me, whispering in my ear so only I could hear(though I bet Gajeel and Wendy could with their heightened hearing). "Do you like Gray?"
No... would have been my first answer on any other day. I found myself turned to Loke, feeling a blush crawl into my cheeks. "Would it be bad if I did?"
I didn't hate Gray at all. If I was seriously asked about it I'd have to say that I liked him.
I thought back to the earlier question about my sexuality and wanted to hit myself for over-thinking it. I could've just said no, but what would that have done? Gray was already thought of as gay (I'd even name-called him so a few times). Would I be treated any different if I decided I was?
I decided not to chance it too roughly, but I felt Loke was safe. I felt I chose right when he led me away so we could talk in private, but still within visibility of the others. "So you do like Gray?" I felt his eyes on me, watching my movements closely for any visual cues. I nodded.
"What kind of like?" He asked, making me look up.
What kind of like? Was there a different way to like someone?
"Do you want to date him?" He asked.
"I-I don't know." I stammered. "I only just thought about these things." It was true. "But..."
"But what?" Loke's amused expression quickly changed to worry and concern.
"I'm sure I like him that way I just..." I muttered, my voice barely audible. Loke just stood there a moment as if in thought.
"Okay then...If he asked you out, would you say yes?" He asked. The simple question making my heart flutter once again. But I nodded. "Then what's the problem?"
"I don't think I'd be able to switch out of the 'friend mode.'" I admitted. "We've been fighting for so long that...it'd be hard to suddenly become l-lovers."
Loke let a smile pass over his features as he watched me fussing. I knew that every inch of visible skin had to be red at this point. That, I could not deny. Loke sighed as I found myself in a loose headlock. "That's what you are worrying about?"
I struggled lightly against his hold, wanting to be released. "So what if it is? So what if I fell in love with my best friend and will probably never tell him how I feel?!" My voice was rising steadily, the last words catching the attention of the others. Luckily, they only seemed to catch the part of me being in love with someone as they all (except Gray and Gajeel) bombarded me with questions.
"Natsu's in love?!" Lucy cried with a mix of shock and excitement.
"With who though? Someone from the guild?" Levy questioned lightly. I decided to only answer the vague questions and nodded at her answer. She squealed in excitement, as she proceeded to list of possible names. Noticing with light amusement that Gray wasn't mentioned.
Erza joined in, listing those that Levy didn't name before an angered voice shouted from where they'd been sitting. "Hey you idiots! If he wanted to tell you he would have! Stop pestering him on his birthday!" Gray had an irritated expression across his face. Note to self: thank Gray later. I shot him a thankful smile and watched happily as he blushed. Maybe I didn't have anything to worry about.
I tried to escape from everyone and make my way to the door. Either way I look at it, what I said about being tired was true. So right now, I just want to go home and sleep. There were many objections to me leaving my own birthday party early but they would have to live with it. I had already said they could party without me.
"I'll come too!" Happy cried, sitting next to a disgruntled Carla, who was trying to make sure Happy didn't follow.
"You stay here with everyone for a while, I'm just going to go home and sleep." I grinned, it wasn't a lie. Thankfully he didn't argue after I said this and just returned to trying to get Carla to talk to him. Which, surprisingly, she did. I gave her a silent thanks as I picked up the bag holding my presents and the small cake and moved towards the door.
A/N: Thanks for Reading!
Did you guess what Elfman gave Natsu?
No? Take a guess it may (or may not) surprise you.
Please leave a review if you liked this! I enjoy hearing about what you think!~