“Natsu, do you have to go to work this morning?” the blonde woman mumbled as she leaned on the kitchen island, blinking the burning sleepiness from her eyes. It pained her soul to even be awake at this hour. At her feet, Plue whined, shivering as he curled up by her left ankle.
Across the counter, her boyfriend of two years slurped his coffee, looking as weary as she felt. His onyx eyes were baggy, pink hair drooping over his face. “I wish I didn’t, but the gang has had their hands full with this arsonist on the loose. Jellal and Erza haven’t made any arrests, and our department is now working with the MPD.” He took another slow sip, looking more lively now that he had some hot caffeine. “Tin can and ice princess have had their hands full without me and Laxus, so it’s all of us on duty until further notice.”
Lucy frowned, leaning her weight to one side and resting her head on her right hand. “Magnolia Police? Wow, Makarov is that concerned?” She said, eyes slowly dropping against her will.
Natsu shrugged, gulping down every last drop of his beverage. “Seems so. It’s only a matter of time before this guy hits something bigger than a closed store. What a loser.” He turned, placing his cup in the sink as Lucy specified to him since day one. How she kept her apartment so tidy was a mystery to him.
“I would have thought it was you, since you are a pyromaniac.” The woman teased, her head slipping lower down her arm. Natsu chuckled, turning to raise his brows at her. “Hey, I may have had a hand in that stuff when I was younger. But did Erza and Makarov beat the ever living crap outta me.”
Lucy giggled, closing her eyes just for a moment. “Yeah, and you joined the fire department once you straightened out. Blah, blah, blah.” she mimicked how he first told this story to her over their first date. She didn’t see Natsu near her, but she knew he was there.
“You make it hard to leave, Lucy.” He muttered softly in her ear. Lucy hummed, unphased. “Well, you make it hard to get any sleep.” Her counter was met with a low chuckle, sultry and rough. “I got time, Luuucy.” He purred.
She quickly slapped her right palm to his face, eyes opening to watch his pouted expression. “Go to work.” She snapped playfully, fighting back a yawn. Natsu sighed, shrugging. “I don’t want to leave when I got all this here waiting for me.” Still, he scooped her up in his arms, Lucy not protesting as he carried her back to her bedroom.
“Well, I can’t wait. You keep invading my privacy, so I need some peace and quiet.” Lucy snorted haughtily, keeping a smirk on her face as he toed the door open. Natsu didn’t say anything until she had snuggled back into the sheets, watching her happily sigh as she found a comfortable spot.
“I think you should move in with me, Lucy. Then I wouldn’t have to invade here all the time.” He muttered softly, eyes tender as she opened one chocolate eye to watch him. “Mmmm…but my place…is always cleaner. You and Happy are hardly home. You live here or the fire house.”
Her eyes languidly blinked as Natsu sighed in defeat. “Aye. I’ll keep asking till you say yes, then.” Lucy hummed, rolling over as he reached the door. “Love you, Natsu. Stay safe.” Her pink haired lover paused at the door, glancing over his shoulder and tugging at the scarf his father had given him, a cocky grin showing his fanged teeth. “Love you, Lucy. Sleep well.”
It had only been four hours since he left when they got a call reporting that a sudden fire had sprung up in an apartment complex. “Oi, flame idiot! Let’s roll!” Gray called, pulling up his suit leggings. Natsu turned from the breakfast line, half of his cheeks stuffed.
“Alright! I’m all fired up!” he bellowed, dropping his plate and fork and dashed down the hall after his friend. The trucks sirens rang out in his ears as he slipped on his slacks and clambered in the back beside Gajeel, fumbling with his boots as the house door slammed open.
“What district?” He managed to shout over Laxus blaring the horn as the squad plowed out of the fire house. Gajeel shrugged, slapping his helmet on with practiced efficiency. Gray, however, looked back over his seat. “District 31. It was that arsonist. He struck a populated building this time.”
Natsu paused in strapping his O2 tank on his back, thinking carefully. District 31 huh? Something about that made him feel uneasy.
He didn’t really get it until they pulled up to their destination.
Lucy woke feeling like she had swallowed a cotton ball. The air reeked of ash and smoke, and her body was unbearably hot. Plue whimpered beside her, persistently nudging her with his nose.
“Plue? S-Stop it.” She coughed, opening her eyes to a nightmare. Her entire bedroom was filled with dark smoke. It curled like deathly fingers around her and her belongings, and suddenly Lucy was very much awake.
She bolted out of bed, Plue in her arms as she dashed to her door and peeked out. She couldn’t see two feet in front of her, but she was pretty sure the flickering glow from behind her apartment door was something to be very, very afraid of. Taking a glance out of her window, Lucy gasped in horror at the pure raging flames that licked at the glass.
Air became scarcer by the breath, and frantically she shifted through elementary school knowledge, and the fire dance they made her class perform. Was it stop, drop, and roll? No, she wasn’t on fire. Plue snorted and shivered, and Lucy did the first thing that came to mind. She knelt low, savoring the fresher air towards the carpet, and carefully crawled to her bathroom, one task on her mind.
The tiled room was hardly better, but Lucy made due as she tucked a towel under the door and flicked on the fan. In moments, the air was remarkably cleaner, and she had enough air to properly think. Plue yipped at the door, keeping his beady eyes on the threat of smoke slowly seeping in. Frantically, Lucy tried to recall where her phone was. Her heart sunk like a brick when her mind reminded her it was conveniently plugged in by her microwave…and of little help to her.
Still, over the soft hiss of the fan, Lucy could make out sirens in the distance. Out of everything, she remembered Natsu and Gray casually discussing techniques to stay alive in the event of a fire as they played Xbox. Rule number one: Don’t panic. Two: Stay put if trapped.
Rules after that escaped her as Plue whimpered. Shakily tying another towel over her nose and mouth, Lucy beckoned Plue back into her arms. She curled around him, praying help came fast. She was starting to doubt Natsu’s advice in favor of panicking and attempting to brave the flames.
Seeing the familiar building coated in smoke and flames nearly sent Natsu in a frenzy. Familiar faces were behind the police tape, none of them the face he sought. If anything, he was glad Gray caught on quickly. He was the only one stopping him from barreling in the building without his gear. “Oh shit.” The black haired man cursed upon recognizing where they were and its importance to his comrade.
Erza was barking orders to the public as Jellal was hunched over this frazzled old lady, carefully jotting down everything she said with a stony face. Natsu steeled himself up, stomping over to the pair and watched as recognition dawned on the woman’s face. Oh yes, she had seen him visit Lucy’s many times. She knew exactly who he was.
Surprising even himself, distracting himself from the idea that Lucy could still be inside the burning building, he professionally asked with as much calmness as he could scrape up, “How many are still in there?” Jellal watched him with an awed face as the landlady moved her gaze up the building.
“I managed to get the bottom ten apartments out, but the fire spread too quickly after that. There are still four floors, but three of them are inhabited at the moment. Flair of apartment eleven, Lucy of apartment twelve, and Orpheus of apartment thirteen.”
Natsu’s face was grim, but he remained poised as he nodded. Without another word, he turned to Erza, his eyes steeled and burning. “Get this guy and put him away for life, Erza.” He snapped before turning to the squad.
The guys were watching him warily, Laxus even holding off his commanding remarks. “I’m going to apartment twelve.” He said with no room for argument. Not even Erza dared to speak as the pink haired male lead the way into the building once geared up.
Lucy slowly opened her eyes when Plue slipped from her grasp. Her makeshift blockade only helped for a few moments before the fire undoubtedly made it into her apartment. She slumped down, her back against the sink cabinets, her breathing slow and labored.
The lights flickered before dying, leaving them in a heated darkness filled with smog. Plue whined and scratched at the door. Lucy croaked out what was supposed to be his name, but her throat refused to obey. The room swam in her vision, the eerie glow visible through the cracks of the door. Natsu…help me.
Plue began to yelp at the door, pawing and scratching frantically. Lucy’s mind was hazy, but she could have sworn she heard yelling and a crash of things from her kitchen. Wait…was that thunder?
Plue scampered out of the way as her bathroom door was slammed open, knocked off its hinges from the well powered kick. More smoke poured in like a landslide, but the figure that stomped through the door was much more pleasing to see even if she lacked any strength in her body. She couldn’t even send a greeting smile.
The figure hurried over, gloved hands reaching out to inspect her, rough breathing sounding through his mask. It was like he ran up twelve flights of stairs for crying out loud. The headlamp was blinding and she had little drive to squint at him. “Lucy!? Lucy, answer me.”
That was funny, this person sounded like Natsu. Natsu pinching his nose and speaking. Her eyes couldn’t focus on his goggled ones. Brown orbs drifted to a point beyond his head, meandering between focused and hazed. She didn’t notice a second figure scoop up a barking Plue.
“Ugh, little rat dog. Can’t your girl get something more practical? Like a fish?” That voice? Laxus? Her eyes slowly moved to take in the second figure, the smoke making him blend in besides the obnoxious headlamp that moved with every turn of his head.
“Lucy, focus. Can you walk?” Natsu pressed, ignoring Laxus completely. Lucy blinked in a daze, her throat and lungs taking that opportunity to try and kill her from coughing up everything she needed to breathe. Natsu pulled her to sit up, his large hand patting her back as his free hand reached for something strapped to his side. The blonde closed her eyes, ready to take a nap, when he shoved something over her mouth and nose. Wrinkling her nose in distaste, Natsu didn’t chuckle or do anything he would normally do as he strapped the second mask to her.
Breathing in, she was nearly in tears at the clean and fresher air she was given. Natsu didn’t even wait to see if she was coherent again. Nope. He just scooped her up easily as he did this morning, letting her rest her head on his shoulder.
She couldn’t really grasp her situation until they moved through her apartment and to the hall. Her belongings were in flames, literally. Her beloved writing desk crackled and fell apart, the manuscripts long gone to the hungry fire. Her TV and movies were aflame, everything of hers was burning away before her very eyes.
She had enough sense to cry, her eyes burning enough to make it seem like it was smoke irritation. Once they got to the hallway, Lucy was glad she stayed. The carpet was on fire, the banister was on fire, the walls were on fire! The pair of firefighters kept her and Plue safely away from anything with flames, navigating easily through the flights of stairs they had sprinted up. Hell, they were walking on flames like it was nothing.
Lucy involuntarily sucked in a deep breath when her body got up to speed with the fresh air supply. Her lover’s fingers tightened around her arm and legs, pulling her closer to his chest. “I got you, Lucy. You’re safe.”
She wanted to tell him she wasn’t scared, not when she was with him. She wanted to tell him she was so happy to see him. She wanted to tell him she loved him. Still, her eye lids became too heavy for her. The shifting of his steps lulled her to sleep, knowing she was in good hands.
Unknown to Lucy, her losing consciousness made Nastu all the more feral. A flight later, he tried to get her to respond, but was met with silence. “Lucy? Hey. Lucy?!” He shouted over the stomping of their boots. Laxus looked over his shoulder, cradling the shivering Plue closer as the fire grew. “Calm down, idiot. She’s breathing still.”
Every fiber of his body screamed to stop and wake her up; to get her to talk to him and assure him that she was fine. Her hair was sooty and plastered to her cheeks, her flushed skin dirty and her breathing shallow. Only two flights to go.
The second floor was ablaze, nothing recognizable from when they first entered. Natsu never realized how terrifying and powerful fires could be when he was the one setting them. Now, as a fire fighter, he got a first hand look at the terror it created in a seemingly elegant way.
His first training in a mock house fire was the day he vowed never to cast another fire. That was also the day he met Lucy. She had looked so surprised as Levy introduced them, remarking how strange his hair was. He had laughed when she slapped her hand over her mouth in horror at her statement, instantly feeling drawn to her and her humor. He wanted to be someone who could protect from that day on.
The inferno lashed at them as they descended the final stairs to the grand hallway. Plue yelped in fear as Laxus barreled through a particularly nasty flare of pyre. Pulling Lucy closer and curling his upper body to shield her as best he could, he followed suit. The smoke parted as he hobbled along.
Sunlight blinded him as he carried Lucy out of the smoldering building, his pack slapping his back as he picked up his pace. Laxus seemed to pull back once he was free from the debris zone, but Natsu powered past him, eyes locked on the ambulance parked a fair distance away. Outside, he could see the head paramedic, but what surprised him was his little sister stepping around the van, eyes locked on him knowingly. She even had a stretcher ready.
Laying Lucy on the stretcher, he carefully removed her mask to allow Wendy to put on a much more stable one from the ambulance. Her chest rose and fell rhythmically, her dull eyes opening as Laxus brought a frantic Plue over. The Nikora squirmed out of the blonde fireman’s grasp, Wendy taking the animal from him when he was about to just drop the pet. Tenderly, she placed Plue beside Lucy, the tiny dog curling up under her left arm. Lucy’s lips curved slightly, her right hand slowly moving to pat the pup’s head. His white fur was nearly coal colored now.
The blue haired paramedic waited for the blonde to comfort the dog before taking Lucy’s right hand and gently placing an IV drip in. If Lucy felt the pinch, she didn’t show it as she tiredly looked to Natsu as he removed his helmet and goggles.
“I…knew you’d…find me.” She whispered softly as he leaned in, taking her left hand in his. “Weirdo, I’ll find you anywhere, burning building or not.” He attempted to sound light, but his voice was worn from screaming her name when searching for her and kicking down nearly all her doors. He hadn’t been his most collected self, but Laxus never commented. After all, he would have been the same if it had been Mirajane.
Lucy blinked slowly, eyes drifting to the building being devoured in flames, and other fighters opening valves of water on the inferno. Natsu followed her gaze before watching her eyes water, his gloved hand moving to cradle her cheek. “All…my letters…gone. Mama’s writing desk…” She whimpered. Natsu pursed his lips, leaning in to rest his head on hers. “Lucy, shhh, it’s gonna be fine. You are the important thing. I’d rather save you than some writing desk.”
She regarded him with a sniffle, squeezing his hand. “I…guess I’m…moving in with you n’ Happy.” The last word wheezed out, and she shook with coughs she tried to hold back. Natsu hovered over her like a worried mother until she stopped, her breathing labored. “Stop talking now, Lucy. Rest. We’ll talk about this later, okay?”
He turned to look at the building that was once Lucy’s home. “I got a fire to fight.” he remarked. Lucy huffed, smiling weakly. “Be careful.” Natsu grinned, cracking his knuckles and placing his helmet on his head. “Relax Lucy. I already dashed through a burning building for today. I’m not gonna do anything too rash after that.”