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All That Glitters

By Fugue

Romance / Drama

Blurb

Most people, upon seeing his face in Forbes, debonair suit, slicked-back completely natural hair, and brooding expression, assumed that Natsu Dragneel was a generic pretty boy who'd always had a net worth greater than the amount of diaper changes he had as a newborn, and maybe he fibbed a bit of that in interviews, but his money wasn't a silver and gold-encrusted spoon shoved into his waiting mouth. He worked for it just as his father did, and just as his father's father did before him. That was one of the Dragneel family mottos: "Handouts don't exist. If one wants, one earns." He took that message from his father to heart, and the effect it had on him stuck in a way that was only visible to those closest to him—his brother, for instance, or Fullbuster, a.k.a. Ice Prick, a.k.a. Pervy Popsicle, a.k.a. his best friend—and was perceived the opposite way by the media and, consequently, the people at home. It also didn't help that he didn't show for many public displays like any new store or park openings, but he found the whole process tedious and would much rather stay at home and watch anime reruns with his cat.

All That Glitters

Most people, upon seeing his face in Forbes, debonair suit, slicked-back completely natural hair, and brooding expression, assumed that Natsu Dragneel was a generic pretty boy who’d always had a net worth greater than the amount of diaper changes he had as a newborn, and maybe he fibbed a bit of that in interviews, but his money wasn’t a silver and gold-encrusted spoon shoved into his waiting mouth. He worked for it just as his father did, and just as his father’s father did before him. That was one of the Dragneel family mottos: “Handouts don’t exist. If one wants, one earns.”

He took that message from his father to heart, and the effect it had on him stuck in a way that was only visible to those closest to him—his brother, for instance, or Fullbuster, a.k.a. Ice Prick, a.k.a. Pervy Popsicle, a.k.a. his best friend—and was perceived the opposite way by the media and, consequently, the people at home. It also didn’t help that he didn’t show for many public displays like any new store or park openings, but he found the whole process tedious and would much rather stay at home and watch anime reruns.

He was also only twenty-four years old, and it showed very well around his close friends.

“Aww! You cheated, you droopy-eyed bastard!” Natsu complained, knocking away the Monopoly game board and sinking into the soft cushions of his couch to sulk. Gray scowled as he went to pick up every game piece.

“You do this every time we play, Natsu. Grow up already.”

“Stop cheating and I will.” Natsu’s house wasn’t that big, simply because he didn’t see the point of getting a humungous mansion with twenty thousand rooms that he could get lost in for no real reason, but it wasn’t without its charming décor, courtesy of his friend Erza. It was soft-spoken yet classy and sophisticated, three things that he was not but other people appreciated it so he let it be despite his extreme lust for a life-sized dragon figure in his living room.

“How’s business?” Gray asked as he finally collected the last few pieces and dumped them back in the box. Natsu snorted through his nose as he checked his iPhone.

“Still super successful. How ’bout yours?” Gray had a weird fetish for ice and things ice-related, hence the nicknames. He owned ice rinks and sold ice sculptures, frozen desserts, and snow gear. Natsu doubted that the weird ventures would’ve been half as popular if Gray didn’t advertise them himself with his sculpted, shirtless body, the same body he was currently displaying with his open blazer. Suffice it to say, his buyer demographic was eighty percent female, twenty percent male. (He shuddered to think of any sane-minded human being that would want to have sex with that bastard.)

“Still popular,” he said haughtily, sitting on the couch opposite to Natsu.

“Yeah? What’s your net worth then?” he challenged, raising his eyebrows. Gray scowled, refusing to answer.

“You think you’re so cool while you sit here hiding from the world… I don’t think more than twelve people know what you even look like.”

“What’s it matter? I run the business, keep Dad’s good name intact, make money. Does my face being plastered on the news matter?”

“It makes you look more human.”

“Well then, call me a dragon.”

“You and your dragon fetish,” he sighed. Natsu snorted as he pointed accusingly at Gray.

“You’re one to talk, Ice-Prick, Stripper, and Stalker Magnet!” He paled at the last one. Both momentarily flashed on images of the blue-haired lunatic that spent mornings, evenings, and nights begging for a date outside of Gray’s house.

“That’s a low blow.”

“I cut deep.”

“That reminds me.” Gray took out his phone and loaded an article, showing it to Natsu. “FEMME FATALE STRIKES AGAIN—LISANNA STRAUSS FOUND DEAD.”

“Isn’t that the heiress that sells cat toys/sex toys?” he asked, taking Gray’s phone and squinting at the small text.

“You’re missing the point, ash-for-brains.” Now, compared to Gray’s frozen kink, Natsu’s love of fire was completely normal. It was life-bringing and could roast meat to absolute perfection. “Femme fatale? You know, the one that’s been putting every rich guy in Fiore out of their misery?”

“Eh? I never heard of her.”

“You should try taking your head outta your ass and maybe you’ll notice.”

“Wha—what did you just say to me, Frozen Freak?” he growled, grabbing Gray by the necklace. He didn’t even flinch at the attack and pushed Natsu away.

“We’re friends, alright? so I feel the need to warn your incompetent ass that you better up your security to max for the next few weeks. She’s in Magnolia now, meaning all of us are targets.”

“My security is A-1. You should worry about yourself,” he glowered. Gray held his glare before sighing, dropping his hands to his jean-clad knees.

“Police Chief Scarlet’s looking for her, and you know how she gets when she has a hot one,” he continued. “So you don’t have long to worry, or whatever the hell it is you do when a normal human being would worry. Just keep four eyes out for her, alright?”

“So, does she leave notes or something?” he asked, if for nothing else than to ease Gray. Natsu knew he was carefree, but he had good reason. His household security was maintained by Levy McGarden technologically, who was the biggest egghead he knew, and the brawn was handled by Gajeel Redfox, an old family friend with more bolts in his head than brains, but he knew what he was doing when it came to knocking heads.

“Well, nobody’s lived to tell the tale,” he said, “but Erza did get some details from found footage. She knocks out all of the security cameras beforehand somehow, then she goes straight for the kill.” He demonstrated by making a slicing motion at his throat with his hand. “After that, she takes what she can and bails.”

“Really? That’s it? Sounds like a regular cat burglar to me.”

“Maybe, but she’s as good at robbing as you with eating.” Well damn, she was a professional. “She wears dark clothes to blend, but a hidden camera picked up blonde hair,” he added.

“It’s not a wig?”

“I don’t see why she’d wear a blonde wig to be stealthy, so I guess not.”

“Am I really supposed to be scared of a little Catwoman wannabe? Pretty sure I can handle her myself. These muscles ain’t just for looking pretty, Fullbuster,” he said, rolling up his sleeves and popping his old basketball muscles. Gray snorted as he stood to collect his things

“Yeah, but your brain is, apparently.”

“Oi, Fullbuster!” he called as Gray headed to the door. He held up a hand in a small wave.

“Just keep an eye out for yourself, is all I’m saying, otherwise I’ll end up putting an emergency call out to your brother, and you know how I hate talking to him.” Natsu didn’t blame him, honestly—Zeref Dragneel was a mortician and adequately the gloomiest person one could talk to. Natsu had heard that he was nicer around his long-time girlfriend Mavis, but he’d never seen the two together, so he wouldn’t know.

“Don’t worry so much about me, Ice Princess, you’ll give yourself grey hairs, and while it’ll be unsightly and I’ll give you all seven circles of Hell for it, heaven knows that even those won’t repel your legions of horny teen girls.”

“Just do it,” he said, and shut the door behind him as he left. Natsu pouted but thought about Gray’s words. They had an odd relationship that majorly consisted of cheesy back-and-forths and halfhearted death threats, but when either got serious about the other’s life, it wasn’t for nothing. He sent a text to Levy and Gajeel to make sure they had things under control, to which Levy responded cheerfully as always and Gajeel told him ‘shove it’ which was Metalheadanese for ‘yes,’ so Natsu let it slide.

“Just Fullbuster being paranoid,” he muttered, running a hand through his spiky hair before standing. He still felt slightly uneasy despite himself, so he decided to go out and clear his mind. He checked the latest movie showings as he padded, barefoot, across the beige carpeting of his place to his master bedroom, fixed with a four-poster bed set with the softest crimson sheets because who didn’t love a comforter that snuggled you back? and several posters and canvas paintings of dragons, because they reminded him of better times.

“Daddy, Daddy, I’m gonna be a dragon when I grow up!” Natsu said, running into Igneel’s arms. He chuckled, mussing his son’s hair as he sat on the porch.

“What makes you say that!” Natsu held up the picture book he had been reading, smiling brilliantly with his missing three teeth.

“Dragons in this book are so big and scary but they are strong too and they protect people! I’m gonna be a dragon and protect you and Mama!”

“Daddy, tell him he’s crazy,” Zeref complained, staring at the two with his large, dark eyes. Igneel shifted Natsu to one leg to pull Zeref onto his lap as well.

“Well, your brother is unique,” he said, tickling Natsu’s side and causing him to giggle, “but he’s a surprising little squirt. If he wants to be a dragon, he can be one—I believe he can.”

“See! See!” Natsu said, poking Zeref in the eyes. Igneel held them apart as they regressed into a slap fight.

“You two, calm down already,” he laughed. “C’mon, my arms are getting tired…”

Natsu slapped his cheeks to return himself to the present. With a tired sigh he went rooting through his closet, tossing outfit after outfit on the ground, which wasn’t saying much when his non-formal wear was t-shirts and jeans worn to an inch of their lives. He found his old Fairy Tail Track Stars sweatshirt and grimaced, because he hadn’t run track since he graduated high school and he couldn’t remember why he did it in the first place—it made him sweaty and gross and he pulled so many muscles.

He chose a red hoodie that could hide his signature pink hair and a decent-looking pair of blue jeans and sneakers. He decided to watch a superhero movie because why not, he was in a superhero mood, and it was pretty necessary when he was about to face off against Selina Kyle herself.

::..:: ::..:: ::.::

champagne, cocaine,

gasoline

and most things in-between

::..:: ::..:: ::..::

The Selina Kyle in question had a name: Lucy Heartfilia. And though she wasn’t a buxom broad with a feline fetish, she was a young lady with a serious bone to pick with some old high school mates of hers.

She laid sprawled on her plush couch, long legs bare for the world to see as she idled on her iPad as the evening news murmured on her T.V. She only wore a tank top that strained for life on her chest and her polka-dot panties because hell, it was her house and she could lie there as naked as the day she was born if she wanted, but it was actually a bit cold with the A/C being iffy so she took what she could get.

“I j-just didn’t see this coming,” Mirajane, the older sister of the now-deceased Lisanna, whimpered, silent tears running down her pale cheeks as she spoke to the reporter. “We’d heard of the robber, took our precautions, but in the end, she…”

“I took her pretty white head off,” Lucy finished with a sly smirk, waving her hand airily. “And it serves the bitch right.”

The news switched to Police Chief Scarlet standing at a podium, her lovely red hair pulled into a tight bun as she stood with a posture as rigid as the stick in her ass. “This is the third heinous crime committed by the criminal in the last six weeks,” she recapped listeners, as if they needed the reminder at all. “Though we have assiduously been tracing any and all clues, we have progressed very little in the case. We ask that you, the people of Fiore, send us any information that even has a slim chance of leading us to this villain that we may quickly deal with her and allow the citizens to sleep more soundly—”

She muted the broadcast after that with a scowl. Heinous? Oh, if they knew the truth, they wouldn’t say that. Pretty Mirajane was sobbing about her sister knowing that in middle school and high school, the both of them spent many lunchtimes horribly slandering the names of many, many students on the stalls and walls of the girls’ restrooms. It sounded cheap and childish at first, then the whispers passed on outside of the estrogen haven, from girls to boys and even to staff, shunning many supposed sluts, prostitutes, strippers, and even worse rumors spread across innocent females. Most left the school; most left the city; some left the world of the living. Lucy wanted her retribution, and though it started with the younger wretch, it was going to end with Mirajane.

Her inside man sent her the plans of Mirajane’s mansion in the hills just as she asked. (Mirajane was in cosmetics and fashion and generally made a fortune—figures.) Thanks to her photographic memory, she had it down in a few seconds flat and immediately deleted the file from her iPad, changing the channel to Fiore’s Next Top Model. The latest features were her favorites: Ren Akatsuki, Hibiki Lates, and Eve Tearm.

Her phone suddenly buzzed against her thigh and she answered impatiently. “Yes, hello?”

“Ya could be a little nicer, ya know,” Cana slurred on the other end.

“Drunk again? It’s only two in the afternoon, Cana.”

“Two’s mah happy hour, didn’t ya know? But uh, I gotta good deal fer ya.”

“Hmm? What would that be?” Cana hiccupped and gulped down what had to be her thirteenth shot that afternoon.

“Word from the bird’s that rich boy Dragnard’s gotta nice chunk a change in his place.”

“Dragnard… You mean that Forbes guy, Natsu Dragneel?” She had the issue rolled into the couch cushions and pulled it free. He was on the second page, all slicked-back pink spikes and midnight back suit to match his dark, pensive eyes. All in all, he looked like a generic millionaire heartthrob and an easy mark, but she never found anything of special interest in his home to steal.

“Yup, ’im. He’s got a new little statue in his place shaped like a dragon. Twelve pounds of pure ruby—it’ll sell for a pretty penny, eh, Luce?”

“Mm, it’s no doubt interesting, but I already had plans.”

“Trust me, I had an eye on this guy for a while. He’s about as slow as a guy could get. He’s an easy mark.”

“Cana, I don’t hurt the innocent—you should know that.”

“Well, check his files—yer bound to find some dirt. An’ ’sides, I need some more booze money.” Yup, Cana had zero ulterior motives.

“I’ll get back to you.” She hung up and, using her iPad, started her usual hacking process. It took her no more than fifteen seconds to pull up all information she could on Natsu Dragneel. Twenty-four years old, summa cum laude graduate of Ishval University (who knew?), the son of Igneel Dragneel and some street whore—yup, back story of the year. He wasn’t nearly as much of a failure as his maternal side would dictate, however, having taken his father’s stocks and multiplied them with an amazing streak of good luck. He then started business in culinary, grocery, construction, hotels, and security, expanding once every few months or so—a true Bruce Wayne entrepreneur, she saw. She stuck her tongue out as she went further into his records.

Apparently, he attended Fairy Tail Academy as well, and all six years she was surprised to see. Passable student, nobody remarkable, but he did suffer four suspensions and detentions for repeated offenses committed with fellow student Gray Fullbuster. He was also an MVP on the basketball team and one of the fastest on the track team, which was funny because she remembered that kid Jet holding the record. She pulled up his old yearbook photo and yeah, that was more accurate. She recognized the weird hair and goofy grin for sure. They shared English class the last four years, which she remembered with excruciating detail due to the fact she sat between him and Gray and was therefore always caught in the crossfire. Spitballs, paper balls, erasers, pencils, and even rocks… Those were not her favorite years. The dragon would be…compensation.

She decided yeah, what the hell, and emailed her inside man for his floor plans. The response was ‘Yeah, I got them on hand Lu-chan, don’t worry.’ She set her iPad aside and stood, then she pushed the couch forward to reveal the loose floorboard where she kept her weapons. She opened the pack of her utility belt and put in the basics: her bump keys, glass cutter (for regular glass) and a plain hammer (for tempered glass—it couldn’t be cut cleanly so why even try?), a switchblade, and her SW99. Then she let it all be and went back to watch The Bourne Identity reruns.

By the time the movie was over it was one in the morning, she was dressed, had the plans memorized, and she had her arsenal on hand. She stepped out of her apartment with no worries. Her floor only had two other tenants, and while the woman spent the nights binge-drinking until dawn (probably with Cana), the other was a family of four that slept soundly without knowing what their neighbor did as the sun set. Even the security that was supposed to watch footage slept in his seat, so she was safe. She headed outside and unlocked her car. She glanced around briefly but she lived in a generally quiet neighborhood with a couple of parks and an ice cream shop that had long since closed; sure that no one was watching, she sunk into the driver’s seat, started the engine, and headed towards her mark.

Natsu lived just as majority of rich people did: a big, secluded house amidst a very expansive plot of land. She wondered why they lived as they did, as it just made it so ridiculously easy to kill them and the bodies hard to find afterwards. She parked a block down and walked the rest of the way, carefully staying from the sight of streetlamps and in hedges. She reached the beginning of the land and, of course, there was a large wrought-iron gate barring entry. She paced from side to side and found no footholds, not even a tree to climb to jump over. She went to the electronic lock holding the gate together and, holding her breath, typed a random code in and hit ‘Enter.’ The little screen said that it was offline and she sighed in relief. She grabbed a hold and pulled with all of her strength, and when there was enough space she slipped through onto the driveway.

Reaching the front door, she tried using her bump key. Apparently the guy didn’t have common sense enough to safeguard the lock, because it opened almost immediately. She slipped inside and shut it quietly behind her, then she moved to assess her surroundings. Pretty average rich guy’s main room: carbon copy of an Italian furniture magazine. She didn’t have an exact location on the dragon statue, but she narrowed it down to the usual three places—either his basement, an art room, or worst-case scenario, the bedroom, which would bring her to confrontation faster than she wanted. She didn’t even want to kill him, just take his stuff and go.

She passed through the hallway to the basement door, descending into the cold room and flicking the light on. She saw some rotting boxes of memories on the concrete floor but not much more at first glance. She allowed herself six seconds more of searching and found a cat food bowl (did he even have a cat?) and a used condom lying forgotten in the corner that made her walk away.

She went to two possible display rooms next. The first was on ground level and was easier, but it only held some canvas paintings and a couple of armchairs. She gritted her teeth as she faced the spiral staircase to the second level where the prince himself slept. Keeping a tight hold on her gun just in case there was a trap waiting, she crawled up the polished wooden steps to the carpeted ground of the second floor.

She spotted the door at the end of the hallway and moved with purpose, testing the knob to find it was locked. She tried the bump key again and felt it catch on something. She instantly froze, expecting an alarm to begin blaring or some sort of trap to set off, but nothing happened for a solid twenty seconds. Still, she stayed alive as she turned the key, unlocking it, and pushed the door open.

The room held a few slightly-dusty podiums with each holding a silver model car, a framed photo turned face-down, and—bingo—the dragon statue. She picked it up and groaned internally at the size—it was about six inches from snout to tail, smaller than expected, but the shape of it wouldn’t be easy to conceal, especially if it caught any sort of light. The ruby still glimmered faintly from the small window’s light as she set it in a slot on her utility belt, fastening it to ensure it wouldn’t fall and smash. She shut the door behind her and made her way back down the hall. On the way, she stopped and pressed her ear to the closed bedroom door. Obnoxious male snoring? Check.

She headed back downstairs faster now that she had what she wanted, and because she had only been guaranteed twenty minutes of security downtime by her inside man/techno-wiz. She did not want to stick around to see what kind of traps that guy had set—

Lucy gasped as she felt a subtle shift in the flooring beneath her boot. She had no time to recoil as a hidden panel in the ceiling opened, allowing chains to drop free and clamp around her wrists, hoisting her a few inches above the ground. She lifted her knees, attempting to reach the spare lock pick hidden in her boots with her teeth, but just as she was close to grabbing it a new set of chains came free and gripped her ankles tightly, suspending her in a defenseless fetal positon a few feet above the wood. She gritted her teeth as the lights came on, followed by a deep man’s chuckle.

“I don’t know why Gray was worried for me,” he said, coming into her limited field of vision shaking his head. He was wearing black pajamas with red trim that actually accented the weird bubblegum-pink of his hair. “You were too easy to catch, huh, Catwoman?”

“Fuck you,” Lucy growled, pulling feebly at the chains. He sighed as he walked a slow circle around you. “I thought I had all traps disabled.”

“Yeah, you’re gonna explain to me how you did that exactly. But this right here? This is pressure-based and not electronic. Downside was that I had to take a guess at your weight. I might’ve overcompensated your tits, but can you blame me?” That explained why it only activated now—the statue on her added ten pounds. “The trap upstairs wasn’t disabled either, and it woke me from a pretty damn good dream, and as you can tell, I’m not happy about that at all. Now, I think I’ll be taking this back—” Reaching for the statue still pinned to her hip, Natsu froze as Lucy’s inside man/techno-wiz/bestie cocked a gun at the back of his head and flicked the safety off.

“I wouldn’t move if I were you, Natsu.”

::..:: ::..:: ::..::

10% luck

20% skill

15% concentrated power of will

::..:: ::..:: ::..::

Natsu actually did not expect his mousetrap to catch the prey so damn quickly because why the hell would that cat burglar be out for him? He had actually had the dragon statue for a while but apparently one idiot that he knew let it slip to the public and he had to take precautions. Even so, he didn’t expect there to be a rat among him, and especially not tiny little Levy McGarden of all people.

“Step away from Lu-chan,” Levy said, nudging his skull with the loaded gun. He held his hands up and moved away because head Kevlar hadn’t been invented yet and he was pretty sure his brains were only good inside of his skull. Levy scowled at him as she went to pick the locks of the chains with her gun still aimed.

“You missed a spot, Levy,” his personal criminal told her.

“I actually didn’t know about this one so don’t blame me.”

“So, I see you two are acquainted,” Natsu said dryly, slowly sinking into a chair.

“Of course. This isn’t the first time I took a job to help Lucy out,” Levy said. Natsu raised his eyebrows as her legs were freed and her boots hit the ground. She was pretty cute, and not like Levy-is-tiny cute or his niece Wendy cute, but…hot. Her long blonde hair was shiny and looked silky smooth like her pale skin, and the passionate anger in her dark eyes made him want to do so many things to her. He never considered himself an avid romantic, maybe because he only ever seemed to attract crazy women, and when he thought about it Lucy was a murderer and thief so she still didn’t count, but she was…hot.

“Really. I’m surprised.”

“You should be grateful I’m not blowing holes in your skull right now, Natsu Dragneel,” she hissed. Something about that tone of voice and diction was familiar and he raised his eyebrows.

“Do I know you?”

“No, you don’t.” Levy freed both her arms and she hit the ground lightly, pointing at him accusingly. “And if you want to stay alive you won’t say a word of this to Chief Scarlet.”

“Well shit, I can go report you and get killed, or I can keep my mouth shut and let who knows how many others get killed instead. If you did have as much research on me as you look like you did, you know what I’ll do.” Lucy sighed and shook her head.

“You just love making things hard, don’t you? Always have.” Levy pulled the trigger and Natsu pushed himself up, taking the bullet straight to his Kevlar-encased chest. She didn’t even flinched—at least they didn’t take him for too dumb to wear gunfight protection—and fired again. He dodged, overturning the chair and coffee table in the process, and ducked behind his makeshift shield. He did have a gun because Erza thought it to be a damn travesty for him to not know how to shoot, but it was upstairs.

In his nightstand.

Between him and two crazy broads.

“Don’t tell me you’re trying to sit this out, Dragneel,” Lucy reprimanded, launching to his side faster than he could move. He lashed out with his elbow reflexively and caught her in her cheek, causing her to recoil briefly from the pain. He took the opportunity to grab her, coiling his arms around her to press her body into his as he stood.

“Don’t shoot,” he warned Levy immediately, “or else you’ll shoot her.”

“That’s cheap,” Levy said, gritting her teeth as she lowered her gun. Lucy’s small fists pounded against his sides but otherwise she was completely immobilized.

“Let go of me, idiot!”

“Nope, not until Erza comes.” He and Levy moved in a slow circle, her trying to get a good angle on his head and him trying to keep Lucy between them. He tightened his grip on her and felt—no way, was that a gun on her belt? He tried to subtly lower his hand to it, but it didn’t help that the holster was pinned to her big ass.

“Wha—did you just grope me?” Lucy hissed.

“Not on purpose!” Levy’s nostrils flared as she raised her gun to a spot several inches from Natsu.

“To hell with this!” She pulled the trigger and Natsu heard something shatter behind him—that expensive imported vase Erza lent him. Oh, she was going to kill him if Levy destroyed the stuff she handpicked.

“No, no, stop!” he pleaded, which was a big mistake. Levy gave a little smirk as she aimed at a Reedus Jonah original painting.

“Oops,” she said as she blew a hole in the center. “Now, unless you want me to ruin the rest of your house—”

Natsu used the opportunity to raise the gun he pilfered at her. Levy dodged his bullet and it instead burned a hole in his wall, but at least it didn’t break anything that would cause Erza to break him. He kept a tight grip on Lucy with one arm, which was a lot harder than it sounded because she was as slippery as a greased pig, and he shuffled back towards a window, giving him a good view of the red and blue flashes on the dark horizon. “If I were you, I’d made a clean escape before Erza gets here and roasts your ass on a spit,” Natsu warned. “She’ll do it, seriously.”

“Not without Lu-chan,” Levy said, gripping the gun with both hands and taking careful aim at Natsu. He moved Lucy up to cover himself, thinking Levy was trying to disable him, but he was dead wrong.

She pulled the trigger and shot Lucy in the lung.

Natsu, shocked beyond belief, dropped her and her gun just as the sound of police sirens filled the air. Levy rushed forward while he was still stunned and grabbed Lucy up with surprising strength. Natsu met her eyes and saw them lose focus, saw blood pulse from the wound with each beat of her heart, and…the bitch smiled at him. With a shaky hand, she put two fingers to her forehead in a salute and Levy took off with her through the backdoor, which lead to the forest right behind his house. Even Erza couldn’t catch them there.

“Freeze!” said an officer as his door was kicked open. He didn’t even turn to look and fell to his knees. He felt Gray’s cold arm go around his shoulders and pull him up into a chair.

“Natsu, you okay? Did they shoot you?” he asked. He shook Natsu’s shoulders when he didn’t respond, then he decked him in the face. The bloody nose helped focus his brain.

“She was shot in the lung… She’ll die out there,” he muttered, the adrenaline wearing out of his system and making him feel exhausted.

“That’s…a good thing, Natsu.”

“I didn’t want to see somebody get shot in front of me, Fullbuster!” He was still thinking about her though, those brown eyes losing their light and closing forever, that warm skin that he felt going cold as her heart stopped…

Moron, yeah. He was a moron and an idiot for choosing the worst possible moment and worst possible person to fall in love with.

::..:: ::..:: ::..::

never mind i’ll find someone like you

i wish nothing but the best for you

::..:: ::..:: ::..::

Levy dragged Lucy past Natsu’s to their safe house just at the edge of Magnolia Forest. Inside, Lucy took the squib from under her shirt and tossed it, revealing the bullet partially stuck between her topmost ribs. She dropped down onto her bed with her nails digging into her palms from the pain as Levy grabbed her first-aid kit.

“You weren’t…weren’t supposed to shoot…so close,” Lucy hissed through her teeth as Levy slowly pulled the bullet free. The squib prevented it from fully going in and puncturing her lung, but it still hurt like an absolute bitch. It would’ve completely blocked the bullet and spurted fake blood from a distance (not that it would fool an experienced hunter like Erza, but it would catch the unbeknownst and dimwitted like Natsu by surprise) if Levy chose to shoot from a distance, but at that range it was a loss.

“I didn’t have a choice!” she said as she wiped the fake blood and real blood with a washcloth.

“You…You did.” Levy cleaned the injury before threading a needle and sowing the hole up. Lucy groaned at the burn. She had been knifed before but never shot, and if that was what being half-shot felt like, she didn’t ever want to feel a bullet fully pass through her skin. She lost consciousness a few times from the pain until Levy forced her to sit up with her back to the headrest, handing her a couple of pills and a glass of water. Lucy gulped down the pills and drank the water gratefully.

“The deed is done,” Levy said, wiping her hands on a towel. “I hope I don’t have to do that again, it’s gross,” she added, sticking her little tongue out.

“Do we still have it? I’d hate to have taken a bullet for nothing.”

“Of course.” She held up the dragon statue from a set-up table and Lucy sighed in relief. She took the dragon statue and thought ‘Hey, this is actually well-detailed.’ The scales were carved into the ruby, probably through bloody effort, and she could feel the little individual teeth. She turned it over and gasped in surprise: there was a small note stuck in a small notch at the bottom.

“Lucy?” Lucy took the note out and unfurled it carefully. There, scrunched-up in her hand, was the bastard’s business card.

“Why did he give me this?” she wondered with a grimace, holding it closer. She realized why: there was his (work) phone number plus his email address. She smirked and handed it to a very curious Levy. “That idiot. Is he for real?”

“I mean, even Catwoman fell for Batman,” Levy said, scanning the card. “Who’s to say that Natsu didn’t fall for you?”

“I’m a thief and a killer on the news, Levy, I don’t see why he would.”

“The dangerous ones are the sexiest,” she said distractedly.

“Is that the theme of the latest book you’re reading?” She got the answer when Levy’s cheeks turned pink and she turned away.

“No, I met one…a dangerous guy, I mean.” She covered her face with her small hands as Lucy giggled.

“Ooh? Who’s the guy?”

“He works for Natsu as security—G-Gajeel. He’s always really rough with the others but he always stops to pat me on the head and calls me…” Her voice faded into nothingness.

“Levy? Call you what?”

“Shrimp, okay?” she said louder.

“Aww! It’s so cute for you!”

“Let’s go before the sun rises, okay?” she said, quickly changing the subject as she rose with her laptop bag. Lucy still giggled as she followed, but she kept Natsu’s business card on hand.

::..:: ::..:: ::..::

i hear jerusalem’s bells a-ringing

roman calvary choir’s singing

be my mirror my sword and shield

my missionaries in a foreign field

::..:: ::..:: ::..::

“Gajeel? Open up, dude. I got pizza.”

“Go away, Dragneel,” Gajeel growled from inside his apartment. Natsu sighed and scratched his head, feeling the pizza box grow colder in his other hand.

“It’s your favorite: the scrap metal special!” There was a crash and then a loud bang as Gajeel threw what sounded like his couch at the door. “Yo, Gajeel, if you don’t open up right this second I’ll one-punch your door out! I really will too—I’ve been practicing!”

“Ya break it, I’ll force that repair bill up yer tight ass!”

“I can afford it. C’mon, I haven’t seen you all week! We’re cousins, man—the least you can do is open your door for me!” He heard shuffling and then the deadbolt slid back. Natsu beamed as Gajeel opened the door, even more haggard than usual, but his mood went south as he took the pizza box, shoved him onto his butt, and slammed the door shut again.

“Good pizza,” he conceded. Natsu rolled the sleeves of his jacket up and cracked his knuckles.

“Ooh, I’m fired up now. I’m gonna—”

“Oi, oi, oi!” Gajeel’s neighbor, a bulky-looking man with spiky blond hair and a scar sealing one eye, stuck his head out the door. “If you don’t shut up and let me nap I’ll shut you up myself!”

“I’ll do it for you, Laxus-san!” said another man’s voice from inside the room, but the Laxus guy shut the door before Natsu could hear the rest. He sighed and tried the—ugh—easy approach and knocked gently on Gajeel’s door.

“Look, I know you and Levy had a little thing or whatever you wanna call it, but the fact is that she was just here to mess with all of us—case closed. If she did like you—and I can’t understand why the hell anybody would like you—then she was faking. I’m sorry.” Gajeel didn’t reply but Natsu could tell he was listening. “I know we’re not all buddy-buddy, but if there’s anyone you can talk to, it’s me, right? Sure as hell not your deadbeat dad.”

“I’ll talk to Lily, thanks,” Gajeel grumbled.

“Your cat? Come on, dude, does a cat really rank higher than me?”

“Yup. Hurts?”

“Yeah, it does. Oof.”

“Good. That’s the surface of how I feel.” Natsu blinked and backed away.

“Fine, fine. But you got me number, so call me if you wanna talk anytime—you know, except when I’m taking a shit, not really in a talking mood then.” He heard Gajeel throw something else at the door and—did it meow? Did he just throw his cat at the door? “Okay, okay, jeez, I’m going.”

He headed downstairs and to the parking lot, then he hung back in the lobby because two morons were out there arguing. Both were the same kind of bulky as him and Gray, and while one had pale blond hair and a scar the other had really dark hair like Zeref but looked slightly more intimidating. He didn’t get a very good view of them until their walking-bickering took them closer to the apartment, and when he saw their faces he groaned.

“You two? Really?” Natsu sighed, walking outside. Sting’s expression lightened considerably upon seeing him while Rogue still sulked.

“Natsu, hey! What are you doing here?”

“You first.”

“Well Rogue wanted to see Gajeel and make sure he was okay after—well, you know,” Sting explained. “But I haven’t seen you, what, since university? You didn’t tell me you made it so big!”

“I didn’t want to call.”

“What? Why not?”

“That prank you and your damn Sabertooth frat boys did? Yeah, my hair didn’t grow back for a few months. Thanks.”

“Wow, um…sorry, I guess?” he chuckled awkwardly, scratching his neck. Natsu didn’t respond to that.

“Why were you arguing?”

“Sting said it would be a waste of time to come here,” Rogue answered.

“Well, he’s not wrong. Good luck trying to get him to open up—I know I didn’t have any.” He went to his car and had just unlocked the door when his business phone rang. He checked the Caller I.D. and noticed that it was an unfamiliar number. “Hello, Natsu Dragneel speaking.”

“I had a feeling it would be you speaking, so skip the introductions,” Catwoman replied. He sucked in a breath and couldn’t quite hide it from her, because she laughed. “What, did you think I was dead?”

“S…Sorta, yeah.” He sat in his car and shut the door for privacy. “I mean, you were shot in the chest.”

“Partly.”

“Partly?”

“I had a backup plan.”

“It looked like it failed,” he said deprecatingly. “What if it had?”

“Well, if Scarlet caught me, she would’ve done a lot worse.” That, Natsu could agree on.

“You know I could still call you in, get this number traced—”

“You can try, but I’m using a prepaid phone that I’ll dump as soon as this call is over.”

“That reminds me—why exactly did you call me?”

“Well, you’re the one who gave me your card, so you tell me.”

“Right, okay, I was just messing around. I want my statue back.”

“I didn’t think you were gonna call for a date,” she said sardonically.

“I want my statue back, and I’ll pay you what it’s worth.” She paused. “It’s something important to me and I don’t want it out in some pawn shop somewhere. Please.”

“You’ve caused me more trouble than you can fix with a few dollars,” she said with a smile in her voice. “I’ll need something better than that, Dragneel.”

“I had a feeling you’d say that, so I’ve got something else to offer.”

“I’m listening.” Natsu leaned back in the car seat with a grin.

“You give me my dragon, I give you the money, and I don’t tell Chief Erza who you really are, Lucy Heartfilia.” Suddenly there was a lot of interference on her end as she presumably dropped the phone. When she returned she was breathless with shock.

“You remember,” she gasped.

“Actually, I didn’t. I was talking to Gray about what happened a few days ago and he mentioned how similar you sounded to that angry girl that used to sit between us. I would’ve made the connection earlier, but I forgot your name—I thought it was Luigi or something like that. So that’s the deal now—sounds good to you?”

“Why not just rat me out now?” she grumbled. He was glad she couldn’t see his blush as he sunk down in the seat.

“I, uh, wanted to give you a chance…”

“Oh? Why’s that?”

“I wanted to.”

“Mm…” She seemed to gather an explanation from his silence because she laughed. “Hmm, okay. How about 8Island, tomorrow at noon? You bring the cash, I bring the statue, we both walk out with our heads still on our shoulders?”

“D…Deal.”

::..:: ::..:: ::..::

sometimes the only payoff

for having any faith

is when it’s tested again and again

everyday

::..:: ::..:: ::..::

Lucy was pleasantly surprised to note that Natsu seemed more than a little tongue-tied around her. She could kind of figure why, but it was just going to be a detriment for him. She made a point of doing her makeup extra well and picking out her best black dress, and she also made an emergency appointment with her hairdresser Cancer to make sure her hair was perfect too. By the time she was dressed it was twenty minutes passed noon—just enough to make him antsy. She left her apartment and caught view of her neighbor leaving as well in similarly-suave attire.

“Going on another date with Erza?” she asked Jellal. He nodded with a slightly bashful look.

“What about you? You’re certainly dressed for the part.”

“Not as much a date as one-sided torture,” she clarified. He made a face that said he’d heard that line before—probably from Erza.

“Good…luck with that.” She waved as he headed outside towards the bus stop. She went to her car and slid in, grimacing at the parking ticket left from that night, and headed onto the street. 8Island was just a couple of blocks down, and she actually went there often because it had really great food. She parked next to a car she recognized as Natsu’s and checked her makeup one more time before heading inside. Natsu was at a booth in the far back, his hoodie pulled back enough to show just a hint of that odd pink hair that was mussed from his hands running through it back and forth, back and forth. She laughed a little to herself as she greeted the waitresses Evergreen and Yukino before headed down to the booth sliding in opposite to him and tapping her nails against the counter to catch his attention.

“Huh?” he gasped, his head jerking up. His eyes went all around before focusing on her and his body slumped. “Oh, right, forgot I was here.”

“Didn’t get enough sleep?” she teased.

“Not really,” he muttered, rubbing his face. It took him three seconds to notice how she looked and the fatigue instantly left him as his whole entire body went rigid. “L-Lucy, what are you wearing?” he croaked, his face turning the same pink as his hair.

“Clothes,” she answered plainly. “Did you expect me to come here naked?” He turned red. “Sorry, sweetheart, but that’s not a free show.”

“You—”

“Me,” she mused with a cunning smirk, flicking a loose curl from her eyes. Natsu gripped the edge of the table in a vise grip, his knuckles turning white from exertion. His eyes were about to pop out of his skull.

“You were late.”

“I know.”

You gave the time, so how were you late?”

“A girl has to get prepared.” He took a few deep breaths before he managed to pry his hands from the table and grab a hiking backpack from the seat next to him.

“Two thousand,” he said, dropping it on the table. Lucy smirked as she unzipped it and saw the collection of stacks inside. She took one out at random and flipped through, examining each bill until she was satisfied.

“Seems legit,” she said. “I also applaud you for not writing a bogus check.”

“I’ve seen movies,” he said rather smugly. The expression he made was actually a little endearing.

“And there’s no tracking device or otherwise sewn into the lining, Mr. Movie Man?”

“Hey, run it under a metal detector if you think so.”

“Humph. I just might.” She took off her purse and slid it across the table. He looked between the leather bag and her with confusion. “The bag holds my…affectations.”

“Affec…what?”

“My belongings.”

“Uh, don’t you remember the deal? I don’t want your makeup and tamp—”

“My part of the deal, dipshit,” she hissed, wondering how he outsmarted her in the first place, and he genuinely looked astounded as well. He undid the clasp and looked inside her bag with a gasp, and that grin he made… She was surprised at how her heart skipped, he looked so boyishly cute.

“My dragon!” he exclaimed, taking it up and holding it to his chest like it was his lifeline. Lucy could’ve just took her money and left, but she was curious.

“Why do you like that dragon so much?”

“Dragons mean a lot to me,” he said in a quieter voice than usual. “They’re big and strong enough to protect all their friends.”

“But they’re also notorious for holding princesses captive,” she added. “Are you going to do that to me, Dragneel?”

“Mm…” He flushed again, looking away. “I think you’re too strong for anyone to hold down.”

“Not true,” she corrected. “There was Father holding me down, then Mama, then these bastards back in high school—”

“What? Who?”

“Do you really think that I would kill for no purpose other than self-satisfaction? Do I look that crazy? Everyone that I’ve killed, I’ve done it for a reason,” she said in a hard voice, flattening her palms against the table. “You and Gray existed in your own little bubble, and you’ve never noticed what went on around you. People like pretty Lisanna and pretty Mira and pretty Minerva and sons of bitches like Sieg, Midnight, Hughes, did nothing but ruin others’ lives and steal and connive and didn’t deserve to breathe.” Natsu stared, wide-eyed and aghast at the subject.

“Batman,” he muttered.

“What?”

“No, you’re more like the antithesis of Batman. You kill for justice, except Batman doesn’t kill, but same-difference. So, why not become a police officer? Why be a renegade?” he asked.

“I play by my own rules, which I sure as hell couldn’t do under Chief Scarlet’s iron boot,” Lucy said. Natsu worked his mouth as he thought about that.

“Then why don’t you put the word out that you’re a good guy?”

“The public isn’t very fond of me anyway.”

“I could put in a good word for you,” he proposed. She raised an eyebrow as she nestled her head in a hand.

“For me?”

“Yeah.”

“You know, your little crush is so adorable. You’re like a twelve-year-old.” Natsu’s face was like a T.V., changing maybe twelve difference colors before it settled on puce.

“C-Crush? I don’t—I’d never—I can’t—”

“You can’t? The heart wants what it wants, Natsu Dragneel,” she continued. He ducked his head as he stood, slipping the dragon in his hoodie’s pockets and attempting to make a run for it. She caught his wrist to stop him but was instead dragged with him, the backpack roughly clapping against her heels as he swept through the door and outside. “Why’re you running, Natsu?”

“Just go you have your money so just go,” he muttered so quickly she barely understood him as he took his car keys out. He broke from her grip and did in fact run to his car, and sadly Lucy couldn’t match the pace with the backpack and her high heels, but thankfully he was so disheveled he did more fumbling with his keys. She tossed the backpack into her trunk before coming up behind him just as he managed to open the door. She grabbed his shoulder and he turned reflexively, which was when she caught his lips in a kiss. He went rigid under her, mouth open in shock, until she pulled away, tugging one of his pink spikes lightly.

“Call that a bonus,” she smirked. “Later, Dragneel.” She slid into her car and turned in on, relishing Natsu’s bewildered expression as she reversed and pulled out of the parking lot.

::..:: ::..:: ::..::

why does it feel so good but hurt so bad

Whoa, my mind keeps saying “Run as fast as you can”

I say I’m done but then you pull me back

::..:: ::..:: ::..::

Natsu was still standing there like a complete moron as her red car disappeared into the flood of afternoon traffic. He licked his lips and he could taste her lip gloss—strawberries, wow—and he could still smell her perfume in the air. He slowly sunk into the driver’s seat, still stunned, and made to start the car when he realized he dropped his keys again. He took them up and started the car, but even then he had to sit for a minute because he was way too distracted to drive.

That was my first kiss…

…I don’t regret it. Or regret meeting her.

He wished he hadn’t thrown those rocks at her back in school.

His phone rang. He answered it without really thinking, expecting Gray to tear him a new one for that movie they were supposed to see at twelve thirty, Deadpool because that movie was still so fucking awesome. Instead, he heard her voice.

“Hi.” He looked at the number on the caller I.D. even though she’d change it right after the call.

“You know, I really didn’t mean to get you caught in the crossfire in school. I feel bad about it.”

“Yes, I’m sure you do.” She still sounded terribly amused by it all, but at least it wasn’t flat out rejection.

“And I…can I ask a favor?”

“You want another kiss?”

“Um, no, well, ah…” He pinched himself to get focused. “Can you ask Levy to call Gajeel? He’s pretty pitiful mopin’ about her.”

“So the Tin Man has a heart,” she mused. “Levy was going to call anyway. They’re really a cute couple, you know.”

“Not really. Ironsides’ all rough ‘n’ tough and has more nuts and bolts than a machine. Levy’s so small I think he might break her back with a hug.”

“I told her as much, but she’s committed. It’s so charming.” She paused for a moment, then she came back with that gratingly-sexy coy tone. “We can talk more tonight at your place, over dinner maybe? I already know where you live.” He found her sense of humor more grating, less sexy.

“Mm…”

“Is that a yes, Natsu?” His mind wandered to her long hair, large doe eyes, and strawberry lips, and although his every instinct was alight with warnings, his brain and heart were, as always, slower to the uptake, and his mouth moved before he did.

“Yes, of course, that’s a yes.”

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