Big brown eyes blinked slowly, her vision blurring before everything came into focus. Her hand slammed angrily in the general direction of the noise that penetrated the silence- a loud, ringing alarm clock. She groaned and squeezed her eyes shut as the sunlight from her open window filtered into her dark cave of a room. Whining like a two year old and grumbling Lucy Heartfilia dragged herself out of her bed, eyes still half closed, straw colored hair a tangled mass. Her feet hit the floor softly and she hissed before pulling them back onto her cozy bed. The floor was cold. She pouted and gingerly dropped her feet back onto the hardwood surface, sighing as she stood and stretched, pink night shirt slipping up to reveal a taut and toned ple stomach which gurgled in hunger.
She moaned again- she wasn't really much of a morning person and she had no clue what had possessed her to set her alarm clock for four o'clock in the morning. Really, what had come over her? Blinking and bringing her hands up to rub tiredly at her eyes, Lucy glanced at her bedside table, where her alarm clock had been dented and knocked over. The glistening dragon figuring caught her eye, along with the set of light weights that she knew she had bought weeks ago.
Right. That was why she had woken up so early. So she could train, because she wanted to be stronger. She had been waking up at the same time almost every morning and yet she still had to remind herself nine times out of ten why she was even awake in the first place. Lucy moaned loudly in exasperation- why was it that bettering herself was always so much work? Despite her complaining she made her way slowly over to her dresser, pulling out clean undergarments- one of her favorite matching sets- and what she figured could pass for training clothes.
A dark blue tank-top (she would have picked her favorite pink one but she had neglected to do the laundry in the last few days) and a short pair of spandex-like shorts. She snagged a towel that was folded on her desk and ambled towards the bathroom, ready to take a relaxing bath and wake herself up. Stripping out of her bed clothes which were thrown unceremoniously into a heap on the ground and stepping into the bath she cranked the handle up to the hottest it would go and practically moaned as the scalding rays relaxed her and fog flooded her senses.
She returned from the bathroom at four thirty-eight, clean and awake enough to strap herself into the ten pound weights and pull her hair up into a bun to keep it off the back of her neck. She snagged her whip, key ring and belt before snatching a banana from a bowl of fruit on her table and leaving her apartment, keys jangling merrily as she stepped out into the slightly chilly air of Magnolia.
The sun hadn't yet risen, the moon still slowly receding and she could see the tiniest bit of sunlight peeking up from the horizon. She hummed to herself as she wandered around, leisurely walking towards the edge of the urban area- where she knew there would be a few empty fields and forest clearings. It was practically a ghost-town, the only people out and about at this time were a few drunken stragglers stumbling their way home and older fisherman, ready to set out for the open waters.
She found a large and empty field with short grass and large boulder near the edge bordering woods- tall enough that she would have to leap or climb her way up it should she want to be on top of it. She continued humming as she forced her legs and arms to move, the new set of weights were chafing against her arms uncomfortably and she was sure that the skin underneath would be red and tender if she didn't bandage her forearms at some point. The ones on her legs didn't chafe as much but they were a nuisance as she constantly tried to adjust their position while walking.
She knew that eventually they would feel natural and like a part of her- as the five pound weights had- but if she was being honest at this point it felt almost like her feet had been turned into rock. Her balance was constantly being compromised and she had to stop herself from falling on multiple occasions. She made a mental note not to walk so close to the water's edge while heading to the guild, lest she lose her balance and fall into the icy waves.
She made her way into the center of the field, her legs and shoes growing wet as the dew from the grass brushed against her. She sifted through her gold and silver keys, gripping the one she wanted and summoning Capricorn. Her spirit bowed and murmured a soft 'Lucy-sama' as a greeting and she beamed at him.
"Hi, Capricorn," She said cheerily. "I changed out my weights set this morning, so you might have to take it easy on me."
She smiled sheepishly and motioned towards the heavy weight that were strapped to her arms. Capricorn glanced at them with disapproval, his mouth twisting into a slight frown. He opened said mouth to say something but was abruptly cut off by a voice on top of the boulder.
"You shouldn't have changed weights so soon, Blondie," The voice said, a spiky yellow cropping of hair visible.
Lucy wanted to throw her hands in the air in exasperation. She had been regularly searching out new fields and clearings for the entirety of her training, going as far to try to sneak off towards a secluded field but to no avail. Ever since the first day Laxus Dreyar had found her training he had made a habit of watching her morning routine- no matter where she did it.
Disregarding his advice for a question of her own she turned and glared at him with as much intensity as she could muster up, "How do you keep finding me?"
She heard the deep rumble of his laughter- like distant thunder (she laughed at herself for that pun) as he slowly stood on top of the boulder, overlooking the clearing like a lion would his herd. She coughed loudly and sneered at him, prompting him to answer. He casually stepped off the edge of the rock, landing as gracefully as he fell and walking towards her.
"There's no point in trying to hide everyday, you might as well settle down here," He motioned to the large clearing, grey-blue eyes challenging.
"You didn't answer my question," She hissed through clenched teeth. "How did you find me?"
Lucy prided herself in being a rather well-rounded mage with good manners and a friendly smile. Being from a previously rich and influential family she learned to hide her distaste with a disarming smile and if she could not do that to simply turn away or change the subject. Laxus Dreyar, however, managed to basically throw every piece of knowledge involving that sort of etiquette she owned away when he opened his stupid mouth. She had barely exchanged three sentenced with him and already she felt like attacking him. The man currently playing the victim role in her homicidal fantasies just smirked slyly at her and tapped a finger to his nose. What a condescending ass.
"Anyways, Blondie-" He started.
"Don't call me that," She snarled back, brown eyes shining with her anger.
"Anyways, Blondie, you shouldn't have changed your weights so soon," He repeated his earlier advice, giving her a smug smirk as if she should fall on her knees and kiss his shoes for such 'helpful' advice.
"And why not?" She retorted, crossing her arms over her chest. "The man I bought them said they could easily improve my speed and agility in a month- it's already been almost a month and I'm just now switching to the second set," She said, glowering.
Capricorn watched the exchange silently, wondering if perhaps he should interfere, before deciding against it. It seemed as if the blonde who had watched Lucy-sama train for the past weeks could easily explain to her why she shouldn't yet switch to the new weights.
Laxus feigned an over-exaggerated sigh and rolled his eyes, "Yeah, well you said that guy was just trying to win a race- you're trying to increase all of your skills which means that you can't just run around a field and expect to see results when actually fighting. Yeah, you might be able to run away faster," He snickered, "But, you haven't jumped, climbed, swam- any of that. The other weights should be an extra extension of your body by the time you move up to the set you're currently wearing. They should be an added part of your body weight, everything you do with them should be as easy as you do without them."
Lucy glowered at him, annoyed and slightly confused, "Why are you even helping me, Laxus?"
He smirked at her, smug as a cat that caught the mouse. Her glare turned frostier as she huffed and crossed her arms in front of her chest, not missing the way his eyes followed the movement. Pig.
"Well, Blondie, I happen to like being right, and I happen to like annoying you and it seems that I'm succeeding at doing both, even at the expense of helping you do whatever it is," He waved his hand dismissively, "that you're trying to do."
Begrudgingly she conceded that he was right about the weights thing. As much as she hated to admit it Laxus was far better trained and far more superior than her, and even if it was thrown in an insulting manner she figured she should take to heart any advice he gave. Letting out a long, defeat-admitting sigh she began to unstrap the weights.
"What are you doing, Lucy-sama?" Capricorn interrupted.
"I'm taking off the weights, we'll do training without them today and I'll come back tomorrow with the five pound ones instead of ten."
Capricorn shook his broad head and shrugged his shoulders, "It might be best to simply do the training with them on today, if nothing else it will show you how much longer you still need to adjust to the last set before moving on."
Lucy stared at him, her mind blank. He wanted her to train with these? After he had just agreed that they were much too heavy for her? She cursed herself mentally and threw a silent temper tantrum whilst Capricorn outlined the plans for that morning. Laxus leapt up onto the rock in a single bound- once again reminding her how far she was from becoming an S-class mage- and reclined back, watching her sweat her ass off with amusement as the sun slowly rose and he bathed in its warm rays.
Half-way through Capricorn's merciless 'stamina' training, Lucy's legs were trembling with exhaustion, her chest heaving with the effort to breathe. She felt like she was training for the first time, almost three weeks ago. Who knew an extra twenty pounds could make so much of a difference? Forcing herself to continue on, Lucy breathes out an exhausted "fifteen" as she passes the lap marker which was actually just a stick shoved into the ground.
Her legs were on fire, and her arms felt like they would fall off as she pumped them but she continued on nonetheless. She would make it to thirty, she was halfway there already and really, thirty laps shouldn't have been that much. Yesterday she had been doing fifty in the beginning of the training session and fifty at the end. She knew her stamina was increasing quickly and she flushed with pride every time Capricorn told her so but now she just felt worthless.
She had only done thirty laps at the beginning of this session which she knew meant Capricorn was going easy on her, especially since the entire morning he had only made her do light exercise. Instead of the hundred sit ups he had been forcing her to do he only made her do fifty. She frowned, pushing herself harder as her abs burned and sweat dripped down her face. Her arms felt to weak to try to wipe away the perspiration so she didn't bother.
"That's twenty-one." Laxus called out from his perch on top of the giant boulder.
She was too tired to sneer at him so she sent him a frost glare, and hissed angrily as she stumbled.
"You might as well just give up," His tone was condescending as his lips curled into a smirk. "You look like you might pass out."
She tried to block him out as she passed the marker again. Twenty-one. She only had nice more to go. Nine more and she could rest her limbs. With that thought in mind she forced herself to continue.
Nine more. Only nine more. You can do it. She encouraged herself, sweat cascading over her eyes and forcing her to blink rapidly.
"C'mon, at this rate you'll die before you even finish your laps. It's okay if you can't do it, not like I expected you to finish anyways. Neither did Capricorn for that matter, I'm sure," Laxus jeered from above her as she passed him, her anger spiking.
She expected Capricorn to interrupt, to defend himself against Laxus and give her words of encouragement but when she looked over the smartly dressed spirit was still his face impassive. Lucy's anger rose, did Capricorn really not believe she could do it?
She snarled, "Twenty-three," with conviction.
She would prove them wrong, she would prove everyone wrong. Suddenly it wasn't about Capricorn and Laxus not believing she could run thirty laps with an extra forty pounds. It was about the entire guild, the way Natsu and Gray were always ready to jump in and defend her before she had the chance to really do anything. The way Erza got angry whenever Lucy was caught in the crossfire of guild brawls- like she couldn't handle a few drunk members throwing around chairs. She remembered the look on her ex-teammates faces when she said she too wanted to try out for the S-class trials on Tenrou Island, the doubting looks they had given her.
She closed her eyes, frustrated tears slipping through her closed lids and mixing with the salty sweat that poured down her face. Her breath was ragged, her throat burned along with every muscle in her body. Her arms and legs were screaming at her, her entire body was begging her to stop but the only thing she could see was her teammates laughing with Lisanna Strauss as they easily took down bandits, the white-haired girl standing her ground in the guild brawls, chuckling as she easily deflected a stray table without the help of an overly concerned Erza.
Lucy shook her head, trying to shake away the vines of envy that were wrapping around her mind and blinked her eyes open.
"-Ondie. Oi, Blondie!" She heard the blonde man snap as she passed the marker again.
"What?" She snapped, his voice bringing her back to the present, away from green-tinted memories and anger.
"Are you gonna stop or what?" He asked, raising a blonde brow in question.
"Wh-" She asked, confused and trying to remember what number she was on.
Laxus thunderous laughter filled the silence as he shook his head, "You're past forty, sweetheart." He managed to get out between laughs, tacking on the nickname with mocking disdain.
Lucy skidded to a stop, at a loss. She had ran an extra seventeen laps? "N-no I'm not?"
"You ran forty-two laps, Lucy-sama." Capricorn's deep, monotonous voice replied, as he stepped towards her.
"I did?" She asked, desperately trying to figure out how she had run an extra nine laps without collapsing.
Laxus shook his head and snorted but resumed lounging on the stone beneath him, mumbling under his breath.
"I think that's probably enough for to-" Capricorn's sentence was cut short as Lucy promptly collapsed from exhaustion and a moment later, the spirit also disappeared.
Frowning, Laxus stared at the ground below him- more specifically the sprawled out form of an unconscious blonde girl. Logically, he should leave her there to carry herself back when she woke up, weary and aching. However a small part of him wondered if he should carry her to her house, if nothing else than to score some points with her and maybe get closer to getting in her pants, so to speak.
With a valid excuse (he assured himself it wasn't an excuse) he stepped off the edge of the rock, landing with grace probably not associated with someone like him and scooped the tired doe-eyed girl into his arms. He wrinkled his nose at the smell of sweat and dirt and the sticky feeling of her damp skin on his but nonetheless began the trek back to her house, sticking to shadows and alleyways.
Lucy woke up in her bed. Under normal circumstances it wouldn't be so odd, because she slept in her bed, so it made sense that she would wake up in her bed. However, she distinctly remembered waking up and training. She could smell the sweat on her body and even worse, she could feel the gross sticky feeling of it after it had dried. Her muscles ached and her arms and legs still had ten pound weights attached to them.
Lucy frowned- she certainly did not remember coming home or collapsing in her bed. She stared at her ceiling for a long moment before turning to her clock- 11:53.
"Oh," She murmured, before, "OH!"
She leapt out of bed and then promptly fell face first onto her floor as her legs gave way underneath her like jelly. She remembered now- remembered collapsing onto the ground from exhaustion after running forty-two laps. Horrified she realized that Laxus must have carried her back, there was simply no other explanation. Her eyes widened as her cheeks flamed in embarrassment. She would have scrambled up off the floor to check if he was still lurking around her house but her useless arms and legs weren't having it. They intended for her to lay there on the cold floor until they deemed fit.
Lucy admitted that she didn't much mind the plan, she felt like her entire body was one big rock- to heavy to try to move and unwilling to do so. She kicked her feet around blindly until she snagged her blanket and reached an arm back to throw it over herself before succumbing once again to the welcoming darkness.
"Lucy!" Someone screamed out, rushing to her dazed figure, wrapped up in a blanket on her floor.
"Huh- Wh-" Said blonde shook her head, and blinked her bleary brown eyes, groaning.
She reluctantly flipped herself onto her back and looked up, wincing against the harsh brightness of her light as she stared at the figures taking shape. "Er...za?"
She scrunched her eyebrows together in confusion and stared a long while at the redhead staring down at her with confusion and horror.
"Lucy! You look like you've been through a tornado, what happened to you?" The brown-eyed girl cried as she dropped to her knees to feel the sleepy girl's forehead and cheeks.
"What're you doing on the floor Lucy?" Natsu asked, scratching at his cheek and staring at her from above.
She stared at the pink-haired boy, still feeling tired, " 'm sleeping, dork," She replied, her voice rough from sleepiness. She brushed off Erza's concerned touches and rolled back onto her stomach, face against her hard floor. "Go 'way," She mumbled, closing her eyes and drifting back into sleep.
"Lucy! You can't sleep now, we have to know what happened to you? Who did this? I'll kill them!" Natsu vowed, Lucy predicted that he was probably holding his fist up in some sort of stupid looking pose.
"I did," She grumbled, relenting and kicking off the sheets as she forced herself to sit up.
"You did this to yourself?" Gray asked, raising a dark eyebrow as he stared inquisitively at her.
Lucy bobbed her head in a nod as she began unstrapping the weights on her arms, her muscles aching and joints creaking as she struggled to do so. She untied the lacing and began undoing each button carefully- personally she would have preferred velcro but she supposed that with the heavy amount of extra weight she would eventually have velcro would give way and fall off.
She let the ten pound weight fall to the ground with a loud thump and stared at her arm. The skin was peeling and raw, a few spots had a little bit of dry blood on them so she gingerly stroked the skin, frowning. She repeated the process to her other arm, trying to ignore her ex-teammates while they stared open-mouthed at her.
"You should go see Wendy so she can heal you," Erza said, obviously concerned.
Lucy sighed and shook her head. Did her former teammates really think she was incapable of dealing with a little bit of chafing? This kind of minor injury didn't warrant any kind of healing, she just needed to bandage her forearms the next time she wore her weights. She frowned and looked up at Natsu and Gray, who were bobbing their heads in agreement to Erza's statement.
"It was really irresponsible for you to let yourself get hurt like that," Erza continued, shaking her head as Lucy began undoing the weights in her legs- revealing similar chafing.
"C'mon, we'll take you to Wendy to get you healed up and then you should rest some." Gray murmured, offering up his hand.
Lucy's frown deepened and she turned away, forcing herself to stand up on her own, even though her legs were wobbling. Natsu rushed forward, grabbing a hold of her and she pulled away, internally disgusted. She wasn't a doll- why couldn't her friends see that? She was more than capable of sustaining injuries and dealing with a little overworked muscles.
"I'm not going to Wendy's, guys. I'm perfectly fine," She muttered, forcing Natsu's overprotective touch off of her and gingerly walking towards her kitchen.
Said pink-haired shared a concerned frown with his two team members before they followed her, hovering like mother ducks. Lucy groaned as she sat on her couch, an apple in her hand. She stretched her sore muscles, moaning in relief.
"Lucy you're injured, you have to," Gray pointed out, authoritative and concerned.
"Yea, we don't want you walking around hurt, you could cause yourself more damage," Erza added, frowning deeply and staring at Lucy's red arms and legs.
Natsu shook his head, "You shouldn't leave yourself injured Lucy."
Lucy's temper rose with each comment and she suddenly snapped the book she had pulled out to read shut, her eyebrows drawn together and an unhappy look on her face. Her brown eyes darkened with anger as she stood up abruptly, tossing her book onto the couch as she walked towards the door.
"Look guys, I really need to take a bath, so if that's all you came here for...," She held the door open and stared at them pointedly.
"Oh," Erza said softly, eyes looking hurt.
Lucy almost wanted to apologize to her downtrodden friends but then she remembered that they had come into her house- while she was sleeping- and woke her up only to insinuate that she was too weak to deal with a few chafing burns.
Gray walked reluctantly to the door, followed by Erza and finally Natsu who shot her a sad look of confusion. Lucy forced herself to look away as they walked out of her house and stood at the doorway.
"I guess we'll see you at the guild tomorrow?" Natsu asked, his voice softer, seemingly understanding for once the auras around him.
Lucy nodded curtly, still not looking at the trio, "Maybe," She murmured softly, before shutting the front door with a quiet click.
Breathing out a long sigh she didn't know she had been holding Lucy made her way to the bathroom, carelessly stripping off her clothes as she did so and fantasizing how good the scalding water was going to feel on her aching muscles.