Rating: T for themes
Chapter Rating: T for themes
Fond attachment, devotion, or love
Lucy stood there, waiting, watching, but by herself. The gown she was in was truly made to stand out for the occasion. The light pink fit against her skin, making her seem more like a porcelain doll than a real girl. The length was down to the floor, a train behind her. Her hands gloved in a deep red silk, lightly rubbed at her bare arms, shivering from the cold. The corset made it hard to breathe, which made it harder to get warm as well. Over all, the dress was formfitting, but it made sure to keep a few secrets. Like her legs. Her legs were covered by the silk fabric, and they were hidden even as she danced. At least they were warm.
Lucy was the center of attention, but she was alone. So very alone at the dance that was for her, to find her a match. As if she would be able to fall in love with someone in an instant. She knew that only happened in fairy tales, and she certainly was not in a fairy tale.
Her eyes wandered, looking around the room for something to catch her eyes. But there was nothing of interest. Just females in large ballroom dresses, so unlike her own slim dress, dancing with men in fancy suits. Must it be so cold in the ball room?
“Miss Lucy,” she looked in front of her to see a man holding his hand out. “May I have this dance?”
Lucy closed her eyes, internally grimacing. She wanted to say no, she truly did. But she didn’t get her way very often, and when she did, it was usually something simple, like an extra hour of writing time. So, when she opened her eyes, she smiled and curtsied. “Of course.”
The man took her hand and led her out to the dance floor. “It is very lovely to see you all grown up.”
“Thank you sir…” She realized then she didn’t know his name.
“My name is Capricorn. I was a good friend of your mother’s.” Lucy’s eyes widened in joy and the man in front of her laughed. “We have met before, when you were younger. Layla had me tutor you in some of your dancing lessons.”
“I remember.” A soft smile was on Lucy’s face as she danced with the man.
“Before the dance ends — I just wanted to say happy birthday, and that I hope, even through this ‘suitor’s ball’ your father is putting up, that you will find happiness.”
“Thank you sir Capricorn, it means a lot to hear that. I will surely enjoy my birthday, knowing my mother’s friends are still as kind as ever.” Lucy did a light curtsy when the music ended, before another man came over to ask her for a dance.
She accepted again and was led to a different spot on the floor. This time the man was more her age. A little bit older most likely. He was handsome enough, but he didn’t have that spark. And on top of that, his hands wandered. They wandered to places they should not have gone, and Lucy carefully grabbed his arm and put it in a more respectable position each time it had moved.
“Lucy, you look absolutely delightful tonight.” She scowled at his familiar tone and he tutted. “Lucy, Lucy, a scowl is not a good look on you my dear.”
“Please sir,” she emphasized the use of a formality, “I would greatly appreciate it if you would not act so familiar with me.”
“But we are to be married.”
“I beg your pardon?” Lucy took a step away from him, not caring about propriety any longer. “I do not remember agreeing to such a thing. Besides, I do not even know you.”
“Dan Straight at your service.”
Lucy grimaced when he took her back in his arms, but made no further move. She frowned when his hand shifted again before the music ended and someone else stepped in to ask her for a dance. She immediately agreed, a sigh of relief escaping when she looked up to see a familiar face.
“Gajeel.” She relaxed into his arms leaning against him.
“You looked like you could use saving, bunny girl.”
“Yes, thank you.”
“Well, thank the shrimp. She’s the one who noticed your perfect expressionless face getting all moody.” Lucy rolled her eyes at his antics. Of course it was Levy who had noticed. Gajeel slowly walked them over to the food bar, and Lucy hugged the blue haired girl who stood there.
“Thank you so much Levy.”
“Of course, Lu.” Lucy was about to tease her friend about sending her lover to save her when she was called.
“Young miss Heartfilia?” She turned around, the loose hairs around her face swaying from the motion. Very few people called her that, and she saw a man that she couldn’t remember having seen before in anything besides a single picture her mother had. And she was certain she would remember him. After all, his hair was a very deep red, as though he had dyed it with blood. She knew of one other person who had such red hair, and the female knight was watching Lucy closely, her eyes narrowed in suspicion. Lucy waved her over as she responded to the man.
“I apologize for the intrusion, but I would just like to give you this.” The man held out a ring. It was one similar to the one her mother had always worn and she looked up in wonder. The ring held a moonstone set inside of a dragon’s open mouth. When she took off her right glove and slipped the ring on, the silver making it shimmered and the dragon scales seemed to burn. They were red in the candlelight, but she knew that they were truly just shaped out of the metal. The scales went around the entire band of the ring, and Lucy raised her other hand to her mouth when she saw they spelled something out in very small letters. It was a simple ‘starling.’ The same thing her mother, and not one other person, used to call her.
“Thank you, sir. May I ask, are you Igneel?” When the man in front of her nodded, she quickly wrapped her arm around his middle before pulling away. “My mother said to give you a hug if I ever saw you. Oh,” Lucy’s eyes flashed with a quick realization. “Would you mind waiting here a moment? She had something that I must give to you.” The man nodded again and Lucy took off at a run. Quite a feat in the three inch heels she was wearing. Even Erza looked impressed.
Lucy ran to her mother’s room, noticing it was exactly how it had been before she had died. Lucy pursed her lips as she looked around, searching for the little package that her mother had for the man downstairs. When she found it, she gripped the small box in her hand before bringing it up to her lips. “He’s here mom. You were right, and now, I will complete your final wish.”
Running back to Igneel, she carefully opened the box, pulling out the unique fire opal. “My mother and I found this when we were exploring the river one time. I told her that it reminded me of your hair in the picture she had of you guys. She told me to grab it and said that we would give it to you together.” Lucy looked down at the stone she presented to him. “We never did get to do that, but I hope you will accept it from me now.”
“Of course, young miss Heartfilia.” He said taking the stone from her hands.
“Please, just call me Lucy.”
“As you wish.” Then he turned, but Lucy hugged him again, and this time, he hugged her back, careful not to drop the stone. “Is everything all right child?”
“Thank you.” She said.
“For what dear?”
“For being my mother’s friend, and for coming here today, just to give this to me.” There were tears in her eyes, and Igneel smiled at her.
“Of course. Now that I am done presenting the gift to you, I am certain your father will be over here to make me leave any moment.” With that, he lightly pushed Lucy back into Erza’s awaiting arms. He turned, once again, and called out. “Come on boy.”
“I’m not a dog, dad.”
“With the way you’re eating, it would seem you are a pig.” Lucy looked over from where the boy’s voice came from. He passed by her quickly, his familiar pink hair catching her attention.
There was only one word she could think of, “dragon?”
The boy stopped and turned around. “Princess?”
“Boy, what are you talking about? Just because she is an heiress does not mean she is a princess.” Igneel was confused at the way the two in front of him were looking at each other. But Lucy was completely focused on the boy, and she stepped out of Erza’s arms to inspect him more thoroughly.
“Natsu?” She asked hesitantly, and his green eyes widened. It was as though the entire world was made up of only them and when the boy spoke next, she was certain it was him.
“Luce, is it really you?” Lucy didn’t have any time to answer, as suddenly, her father came up to them.
“What are you still doing here, Igneel?” Lucy’s father sounded furious and she turned to look at him.
“We were just leaving. I apologize.”
“Wait!” Lucy’s sharp but quiet cry rang out around them. “Can they not stay? Please, father?” She begged her father and he snarled. They had moved out into the foyer.
“No, these people are not meant to be associating with our type.”
“Wait.” Lucy said again, but this time in a commanding tone and her father looked at her.
“What?” He asked, clearly annoyed.
“This is my suitor’s ball right?” She waited for a nod, gulping as she continued. “And I can marry anyone that is here of my choosing correct?” Another nod and this time Natsu stepped forward.
“Luce, don’t.” His voice was low, and Lucy could barely hear it.
She licked her lips, her breathing becoming uneven. She was nearly shaking, but she turned to look at Natsu, seeing him gave her courage. “Then I choose him.”
“What? You can’t—”
“Sir Heartfilia, she actually can.” Lucy’s heart beat faster when Capricorn put his hand on her shoulder, and she smiled thankfully. “You said she could marry anyone who was here, and he is here.”
“Luce—” Lucy looked at Natsu and she could see the look of sadness in his eyes. “Don’t do this. You deserve better than me.”
“See darling? Even the boy knows you deserve better.” Lucy’s father berated her and she took a step towards Natsu, but he backed away.
“I’m sorry. But I can’t.” As he said that, he turned and ran. Lucy could feel her heart pounding and she rounded on her father.
“Deserve better? No. I don’t even deserve him! He is the best friend I have ever had and you took that from me. You take everything! You don’t see what you are doing, do you father? You take, and take, and take. But you never, ever give! Mother would be ashamed of you.” There was a loud sound in the foyer and everyone there looked at the girl who was then on the floor.
Lucy’s father didn’t even have the decency to look ashamed. “Do not speak like that of your mother. In fact, do not mention her again.”
There was a red mark on her face and Lucy took off, running the same way Natsu had, but with a different destination in mind.
It had been two years since Natsu had seen Lucy. He had never known her last name when they played together as children. It was pure luck the two had even known each other to begin with, as their social status would have normally kept them apart from each other.
The day they met, Natsu’s father had gone out to buy supplies for his shop, and the boy had snuck outside. Igneel never really let him do anything fun in the shop, making him take orders and then give them to the people they were for when they were done. He never got to play with the fire or anything.
So, he had decided to disappear for a few hours. He had run into the center their workshop was in, and had accidentally ran into a woman. She looked down at him while he was on his back dazed, and then a younger version of the woman entered his view. All he could think at the time, when her hair was framing her face, was that she was a princess. She had to be. Only a princess could be that beautiful. “Are you okay sir?”
Natsu sat up and looked around him for whoever she was talking to, because it sure as hell wouldn’t have been his scrawny ass. The young girl giggled before speaking again. “I was talking to you.” Her hand landed on his shoulder and Natsu jumped up.
“Me?” When she nodded, he doubled over in laughter. “That’s a good one princess! I am barely seven, there ain’t no way I’m a sir!”
The girl giggled again. “Well, I’m no princess either.”
“Yes, you are. You have to be?”
“I do?” She asked, tilting her head, the blonde hair once again framing her face. The woman at this point bent down to their level.
“Okay, you two, let’s get out of the street shall we?” She had one of their hands each and the two kept sneaking peeks at each other. “Here we go.” They had walked over to a meadow area, where there weren’t many people. “Now you two can talk.”
The little girl nodded to the woman before releasing her hand and grabbing Natsu’s, dragging him away from the woman and then pulled him down onto the grass. “I’m Lucy! Today is my birthday.”
“Happy birthday, how old are you?” Lucy seemed to think about it.
“This many,” she held up a whole hand.
“Yup!” Then she held up seven fingers. “You’re this many right?” Natsu nodded. “Now, why am I a princess?” Lucy tilted her head again and Natsu decided he liked the curious gaze she gave him.
“You’re pretty.” Her eyebrows scrunched together in confusion and she looked at him intensely before he spoke again. “But you’re so weird.”
“I am not!” She giggled, tackling him. “Take it back!”
“No. Oh gosh, you’re so heavy.” Natsu loved teasing this girl already.
“All right. Is that the best you got?”
“You’re a big stupid…” she drawled on until she clicked her fingers. “Dragon!”
“You’re a big stupid dragon! My big stupid dragon!” She hugged him tight and he smiled, blushing.
“Whatever, but that means you’re my captive princess.”
“Nope.” She said it quite plainly, and when Natsu went to explain that that was how it worked, she cut him off. “You will be my protector. A dragon protects the princess from all those stupid guys who are useless and only want the princess for her status. The dragon wants the princess because he likes the princess.” Even at such a young age, Lucy already had an idea of what would happen because of her social status.
When she was done explaining, she looked at him earnestly and the two burst out into a fit of laughter. “Whatever ya say Luce.”
She smiled at him then. A big, bright, and captivating smile that took his breath away. “I like that. My mom calls me ‘starling.’ But you’ve given me two nicknames in one day.” She hugged him. “Thank you.”
“For what?” Natsu was confused when she pulled away with tears in the corners of her eyes.
“For being my friend.”
“Of course I’d be your friend ya weirdo.” He dragged her back into a hug before lightly whispering to himself, “but you probably have a lot of ‘em.”
“No. You’re the only one.” He looked at her confused. “My only friend.” She clarified.
“Lucy dear,” her mother called, seemingly coming back from somewhere. “We have to get back.”
“All right! But can we come back tomorrow mom? I wanna see Natsu again!” Natsu was shocked that she wanted to see him again.
“Of course dear. Will that be all right with your parents?” She was asking Natsu, and he looked up at the older version of Lucy. He nodded and she smiled again. “Then we will see you here tomorrow. Does morning work?” He nodded and watched as the woman went to grab her daughter’s hand. But Lucy shot out of reach, running at Natsu. She tackled him in a hug again and whispered another thank you before running back to her mother.
Natsu watched them leave as he sat there before walking back to the workshop. “Hey dad?”
“What’s up boy?”
“Can I go to the meadow in the morning?” Igneel turned around to see Natsu blushing and he laughed.
“Whatcha wanna go there for boy? Met a girl have ya?” The blush grew and Igneel laughed even harder. “You have! I was kidding, but you have! My little boy’s met a girl!”
“Hey! She called me sir!” A twinkle lit in Igneel’s eyes and he grinned mischievously at his son.
“Oh, was this little girl blonde?” Natsu nodded. “Oh my, her mother was in here. Needed a ring I had given her back when we were younger fixed.”
“You knew her mom?”
“Know, and yes. Layla is a sweet woman. She was the one who set me up with your mother. She and I grew up together. Maybe you can do that with her daughter.”
Natsu smiled. “Hey dad?”
“I wanna make her something special. But I want to give it to her on her birthday when she’s older.”
“Like what?” Natsu looked around at the different things his father was working on, landing on the most recent order, the ring.
“Something like the ring I gave Layla?” Natsu nodded. “When would you want to give it to her?”
Natsu began mumbling to himself. “She’s five now. I want her to be able to keep it forever, so it has to be after she’s done growing. Hmm, when she’s sixteen? No, eighteen. Yeah! When she’s eighteen dad!”
“All right, my boy. Now, what are you gonna put on it?”
Natsu remembered when he began making the ring. Her mother had died two years after the day they first met, when Lucy turned seven. She was supposed to meet him that day, but when she didn’t show up he went to her, only to find out the terrible news. He held her close after hearing what happened, and after that, she didn’t really like her birthday. So, in honor of her mother’s death he decided to add the word ‘starling’ to her ring.
It was on the night of her sixteenth birthday that her father found out where she would sneak off to nearly every day. He forbade Lucy from seeing Natsu any more. Natsu still tried to come and see her, but she had been pulled further into the house. Sometimes, he would see her walking in the garden, but before he could walk over to her, there would be someone who dragged her back into the house.
He missed the nights where they used to lay outside and look at the stars, even though he hated it. He missed just having her by his side. Natsu knew that there was no way he could get her ring size. So, when his father devised a plan, he listened. The only problem was that Lucy wouldn’t know that the ring was a gift from Natsu, but he hoped she would figure it out.
On the inside of the band, there was an engraving, and Natsu really hoped she would see it. It said, ‘to my princess of the stars.’ It was scrawled in his horrid handwriting, but he hoped she would be able to read it.
So when Natsu’s father had asked him if he wanted to come along to present the gift to her, he had said yes. But he didn’t realize how hard it would be to see his best friend go from one man’s arm to another. He wanted to work up the courage to ask her for a dance before he was kicked out, but instead, he stood by the food bar.
There was a small blue haired woman standing near the wall at the food bar, and beside her stood a tall brute of a man with long black hair. Natsu hadn’t meant to eavesdrop, but he heard Lucy’s name and couldn’t help himself.
“Poor Lucy, she has to deal with all those creeps trying to touch her.”
“True, bunny girl would be a lot happier if that salamander of hers showed up.”
“Gajeel! Don’t call Natsu that! She wasn’t in good spirits before she was thrown into the dress, her father even made Virgo stitch up the slit she had in the side. Said it was inappropriate for a young lady to show that much skin. Ha, if he would have listened to her, then he would have known what she planned to do anyway.”
“Yeah, yeah. Do you really think she can make it on her own though Lev? I mean she was raised like a fuckin’ princess!”
Another girl stepped over to them, in full armor and joined their conversation. “She’ll have us looking after her. She wants to go on her own, but we aren’t letting her. Besides, I’m certain Gray would absolutely hate to watch her drown in this place. He’d probably break her father’s nose if she had to stay here too much longer.”
“Yeah, well that stripper needs to mind his own business. I don’t care if those two are going at it!” Natsu’s teeth clenched at that, not quite certain what that meant. But the girl in armor hit the taller man over the head, hard.
“You know he thinks of her as a younger sis- That man will lose his ability to reproduce if he does not stop hurting Lucy’s honor like that.” Natsu followed the red-head’s line of sight. He saw that a man had swept Lucy into his arms and they had stilled from dancing. From the scowl on her face, the blonde really wanted to punch him in the face. His hands were wandering, and Natsu made a fist as she had to physically push him off of her.
“Gajeel,” the little blue one said. “Go, you are the only male here, you have to go ask her to dance, then get her over here.”
“Nah man! I don’t want to get beaten by her father!”
“She isn’t doing her escape yet you idiot!”
“Oh, okay then.” With that, the brute pushed off the wall and walked out to the dance floor. He ignored the women who threw themselves at him, making a beeline for Lucy. When Lucy leaned against the man, jealousy had flared up inside of him.
Lucy grimaced when she fell again. Huffing, she yanked off her heels and then yanked at the seam Virgo had sewn up, tearing it up to her waist. She had accidentally ripped the dress too, but she didn’t care. She wanted out, and even though things didn’t go as planned, she was still out. Sure, she had probably lost any respect Natsu had for her after not being able to fight back all those years. But she wasn’t stupid.
She ripped her left glove off, switching the ring from her right hand to her left hand. She took the rings that she had worn before and moved them to the other hand. Leaving only Natsu’s ring on her left hand. Yes, she knew Natsu had made it. She could tell by the way each scale on the dragon looked like a star; how the word princess overlapped the word starling. She could tell by the way the moonstone was placed in the dragon’s mouth, carefully holding it, as though it were something precious.
He created it for her, and she loved it. She stood up again, taking the heels with her as she ran again. She might need shoes in the future after all. The red gloves were tucked into the bodice of her dress. She would sell as much as she could, get the money, then leave. She wouldn’t stay in that hell hole her father called a home. It hadn’t been a home since her mother had gotten sick. It had lost all of it’s meaning to her the moment he told her that she couldn’t see Natsu. Because at that point, Natsu had been her home. He was the one taking care of her, making sure she was okay. Not her damn father.
Tears slipped down her cheeks and she wiped at them angrily. She would not cry over something so stupid. Lucy had reached the lake and she sat down at the edge. She touched the water with her hand and watched the stars in the sky ripple. She smiled sadly and leaned back, tears flowing freely from her eyes. Laying down to look up at the sky, she didn’t even bother with removing the tears again, knowing they would only be continuing. Her left side felt cold, although it was probably because the last time she had watched the stars, Natsu was with her, and the ghost of his figure surrounded her, leaving her with nothing more than a false sense of security.
“You had the same idea I did it seems.” Lucy looked up at the voice, confused. She knew he had run off into the forest. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to startle you.” Lucy said nothing, afraid she would break down. “Come on, what’s the matter?”
“I—” She took a deep breath in, trying to calm herself as she got out her next sentence. “I’m sorry Natsu. I hadn’t meant to push you into anything, and I didn’t mean to make you so—” She couldn’t finish the sentence, because she had no idea where it was heading. So instead she just mumbled a bunch of apologies to the man standing behind her.
“What happened?” She felt a soft trace over her right cheek. Over the cut from her father’s ring. For some reason he had used his left hand, instead of his right when he had slapped her. He must have had something in his right hand that was important. Lucy’s face scrunched together in concentration and Natsu rubbed his thumb over the wrinkles forming in her forehead.
“I don’t know. I’m uncertain of that myself.” Natsu frowned at her, sitting on her left side.
“Well, what happened after I left then?” Lucy’s eyes shifted and she shook her head. Natsu deepened his frown, not liking that Lucy wasn’t telling him. “Luce?”
“I—” She licked her lips before looking away from him and at the water. “I yelled at him. I told him that he was wrong, and all he did was take, and then I told him that my mom would have been ashamed of him.”
“What do you mean you told him he was wrong?” He understood the rest, but wrong about what? That was too vague for something that Lucy would have said.
She bit her lip, one of her many nervous tics, before she spoke again. “I told him that he was wrong about you not deserving me.” Natsu tried to cut in, but Lucy put her hand up, silencing him. “I told him that if anything, I didn’t deserve you.” She turned to face him. “I’m so sorry I couldn’t fight back for the past two years. But I’m done being the submissive little girl that was broken after her mother’s death. I’m done with that, and I wish I would have realized sooner how much more fun it is when we are together. I wish I would have realized before that meeting you, changed my life in a way that I didn’t know it could. I’m so sorry, for everything my father has put you and your father through. I tried everything I could to stop him from taking the shop from you guys. I tried to do everything I could, but it wasn’t enough. It never is.”
It seemed she was talking about something else then. But all Natsu could think about, was how beautiful this girl was. “Hey Natsu?” She said looking up at him.
“For what Luce?” She tackled him in a hug, gripping tightly, as though he would push her away.
“For being my best friend. And for being my dragon, even without realizing it.”