(Fairy Tail x Rise of the Guardians Crossover)
Lucy was exhausted and it was barely even noon. She weaved around the empty seats of the theatre hall until she made it to the front row, taking a place next to Levy who gave her a weary smile and a copy of the script. The stage was bright and alive with chaotic hubbub, but the seating area was in complete darkness, as if a show were going on, which made Lucy relax a little. Levy was sitting alone, chewing on her fingernail as she read through the script.
"How's it going?" she whispered to Levy.
She was met with a strained laugh. "Ah, not great… I mean, better than I expected, honestly… but not great." She motioned to the stage and Lucy followed her gesture.
Natsu and Gray were butting heads already which was never a good sign. And Erza was far too enraptured in her own part to even try and break them up. Another not so good sign.
Why on Earthland had they agreed to this job?
It was Lucy's understanding that Team Natsu had agreed to never, repeat never, return to the Onibus play house. Sure, it'd been kind of fun putting on a play and it'd been a… little bit of a success… but it'd also ended in more damages than they could pay for with the job money. Not to mention that the theatre owner was a little… hard to work with.
But apparently everyone else had forgotten how poorly their little excursion into playmaking had gone the past time, because when the Onibus theatre's owner came knocking at their guild door once again… everyone jumped on board. And she meant everyone.
Quite literally everyone from Fairy Tail had come along for this ride. Maybe it was because the theatre was on its last leg financially and they wanted to save it. Or maybe it was because he'd written a completely original play in a Hail Mary sort of attempt to avoid bankruptcy. Or maybe it was even because everyone in Fairy Tail had nothing better to do. Who knew. But Lucy was positive it wasn't going to turn out well.
Regardless, they were trying their best.
The play that Rabian, the owner, had written was… odd. The general concept wasn't terrible. In short, there was a secret guild called The Guardians made up of the mythological figures that children around the world believed in, that protected and nurtured the sense of adventure and magical potential that the children had. There was an evil figure who was trying to defeat them and send fear and trepidation into the children's hearts, and the Guardians had to defeat him. That, and the main character, Jack Frost, was struggling with his own demons and the fact that an increasing number of children didn't belive in him. It was simple enough. A good vs. evil sort of plot with just enough of a personal and magical twist that it could work. That being said, Rabian wasn't exactly the best with the written word, and so, Levy and Lucy had been assigned to revise the script.
They made the speech more believable, the morals a little subtler, and added in just enough details that when they sat back from their work, they both had a smile on their faces.
That'd been step one: edit the play. Step two was figuring out roles and how they were actually going to pull it off. Casting had been rather quick and a little haphazard. The main character in the play was Jack Frost, a deity who supposedly conjured ice and snow every year. The part was practically made for Gray. However, Gray had made it very clear that while he would participate, he did not want the main role.
Another thing made well-known from the start was that yes, Natsu was one thousand percent on board to be the main character. And so, Natsu became Jack Frost. The other members of the Guardian guild were the Easter Bunny, Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy, and the Sandman. Lucy had believed in all of these fairy tale beings growing up aside from the Tooth Fairy. She looked forward to presents under the tree and eggs hidden around the Heartfilia mansion growing up. And she remembered when she was small, her mother telling her that the Sandman would come and bring her wonderful dreams when she couldn't sleep. The Tooth Fairy had apparently gone against her father's belief that all money should be earned through hard work, and so she'd never been taught to believe in such a being. However, the idea that when someone lost a tooth that a fairy came in the middle of the night, collected it, and left behind a gold coin was a little fantastical and she liked the idea.
Erza had volunteered to be Santa Claus, whose name was 'North' in this play. It was the second largest role and while she wouldn't ever admit out loud that she loved acting on stage, the sparkle in her eyes let everyone know exactly how excited she was. She would also be the 'head honcho' of sorts, which fit her rather well.
The Sandman had little to no lines and was small and quiet. Wendy had sheepishly volunteered and there hadn't been any objections. Gray had shrugged and accepted when someone pointed out that the Easter Bunny and Jack Frost had rivalry, just like he and Natsu did, so he should play the part of 'Bunny'.
The only Guardian left had been the Tooth Fairy. Juvia had volunteered the instant the scripts were handed out for this role. Apparently she had heard or noticed or read or something, that the Tooth Fairy and Jack Frost perhaps hinted towards liking one another in the play. Gray had originally been a shoe in for the role of Jack and so she'd happily become the Tooth Fairy. However, this had been before Gray made it clear he didn't want the main role… and then she was, in a way, stuck with it.
The dark mage, 'Pitch', who was the evil character threatening all that was good and well in the world went unanimously to Gajeel. He 'gihi'd' at the thought of being a villain and while no one had seen it coming, he perhaps was one of the more 'on-board' members of the play.
There was one human non-mage in the play: a boy named Jammie. Romeo had surprisingly, or perhaps not surprisingly, taken that one. Lucy remembered the worried tone in his voice when Macao, his father, had gone missing not long after she'd joined Fairy Tail. He'd been crying, saying that the kids he played with said his father should get a 'real' job or stop 'playing around' being a mage in a guild. It was a struggle that many children faced who wanted to join a guild when they grew up: the reality that the life of a mage was rough, and not very glorious. Whether it was because many looked upon the occupation as a lower class sort of excuse, solely there for the purpose of helping those who couldn't get tasks done on their own, or the fact that yes, it was sometimes quite literally a dirty and unthankful job, the fact was that kids did face a struggle sometimes when their parents or relatives were mages, and they too, wanted to become one. So it was no surprise that Romeo identified with the character of Jammie, who was one of the many children the Guardians wished to protect and nurture, instilling them with the will to conjure the magic within them.
The rest of the roles were smaller and not as important. The Man in the Moon was a wise and overseeing figure, that went to Makarov. The yetis helped North in all of the toy-delivering endeavors that Santa Claus always went on. Jet, Droy, and Elfman were assigned these roles, and Laki had pitched in to use her wood-make magic to create a veritable army of wooden yetis that would be painted and left in the back of the stage, or near the wings, to give off the illusion that there were more people than there actually were. And last but not least… the roles of the elves, which is what had Lucy so tired so early in the day.
No one was sure how to pull off creating tiny somewhat helpless characters that would be ambling around the stage at random, sometimes holding things. It was more for effect than anything else. Lucy wasn't sure who it was that had suggested Plue play an elf, but one thing snowballed into another and before Lucy knew it, she was chatting with Loke, sending him to talk to the Spirit King in hopes of summoning a few extra Canis Minors for the part. She'd thought it was a long shot for him to agree. However, as it turned out the Spirit King thought it was a hilarious idea and had gladly agreed to send a handful of little bumbling spirits to Earthland whose keys hadn't been found or purchased yet.
All of the parts were filled within the first half hour of the script being revised. Next was on to the actual practice, and figuring out how they would visually be able to pull it off. Mira and Lisanna had volunteered to create costumes, and Lucy didn't have any doubt in her mind that it would be beautiful in the end. Cana, Laki, Max, Macao, Wakaba, Evergreen, Fried, Bixlow, and everyone else who didn't have a specific job were all sent to begin making the set, start figuring out lighting and timing, and all of the other technical details. The entire group would also be working with and helped by the on-site design staff of the Onibus theatre which was rather small but quite talented.
Laxus had been dragged along on this job. His Raijin posse had been curious about the Onibus play house, and surprisingly had jumped on board –albeit some more than others…. Lucy spotted Evergreen leaning against a giant wooden yeti in the back instead of painting it—however Laxus hadn't been sold. He'd been camping out in the 'audience' with Levy while Lucy made the deal with the Canis Minors… but when she came back she noticed he was gone. Er, not gone but… on stage… with a script in his hand and barking out orders to everyone else.
"Wait… is Laxus directing?" Lucy whispered to Levy.
Levy nodded. "I think he was just about having an aneurism trying to watch all of them figure things out on their own and the bickering was getting too much for him to handle. Makarov didn't like his poor attitude towards it and told him that if he was going to pick apart what everyone was doing, he should be the director… And one thing sorta led to another… Although he's doing a decent job."
Laxus snapped his fingers and pointed for Natsu to move to his spot, away from Gray, and surprisingly… he listened.
Lucy raised an eyebrow. Impressive…
It seemed everything had been taken care of, then. Special magical effects were hardly needed. Only four characters had any impressive displays of magic. Gajeel could take care of his shadow magic with… well, his own Iron-Shadow dragon magic. The Tooth Fairy had little smaller fairies that were supposed to be around or following her wherever she went, which Juvia had no problem creating with her water. Wendy as the Sandman would conjure sand to create pictures. Max was assigned to sit off stage and use his own magic to give the illusion that Wendy was controlling the sand herself.
And finally, Natsu as Jack Frost would be using ice magic… It was at this time that once again everyone began asking Gray if he was sure he didn't want to play Jack Frost. He was persistent. And Natsu was offended that everyone was trying to 'sabotage his moment of awesomeness' as the main character. Long story short, Gray said he could use his own magic while playing Bunny, sending it in Natsu's direction and giving off the illusion of him casting the magic himself. Similar to the Wendy-Max situation. Lucy wasn't sure if Gray was going to be able to pull off playing his own part and also using magic to help Natsu play his… but she hoped it'd work out.
And so that'd left them with the task of memorizing lines and understanding the play. The first order of business was simply to act it out. Everyone was given a script and the first rehearsal had officially gotten underway. They were reading their lines and blocking out their movements as best they could.
Lucy flipped through the script's pages until she found where they were. Apparently they'd just gotten to the part where Jack Frost was kidnapped and brought to the North Pole to meet the Guardians.
It was the first scene where both Natsu and Gray would be interacting… Oh, so that's why they were already fighting.
Lucy traced her finger down to where Natsu as Jack was following a shadow that'd suddenly appeared in a darkened alleyway. Natsu was pretending to look around up on stage, and Laxus as director was playing his part.
He snapped his fingers, following the stage direction written in the script and pointed toward the far side of the stage. "The shadow went in the alleyway. Investigate."
Natsu looked a little peeved being told what to do, but played his part and went over where Laxus pointed. "Wait… there isn't a box. It says here I jump on a box to look into the alley…"
"Just pretend, Flame Brain," Gray snapped.
"Oh, I'm sorry for actually taking this seriously," Natsu droned, lip curling.
Gray's eyebrow twitched and next thing Lucy knew he'd cast a spell. "Ice Make: Box!"
Out of thin air a huge cubical hunk of ice plummeted to the ground, conking Natsu on the head on its way down before tipping once, and coming to a halt with a 'thud'. Gray looked very proud of himself.
"Ow, why you-"
"You have your box, get on top of it," Laxus ordered.
Natsu flinched, whether because of Laxus' volume or because he was touching the tender spot on his head where the ice had hit him, Lucy didn't know. He mumbled and grumbled angrily to himself as he clambered on top of the ice. He made a face. "It's so cold… guys are you sure this Jack dude can't be a fire mage? I mean, it's so much better and it makes way more sense!"
"Because someone with the last name Frost definitely uses fire…" Gray rolled his eyes.
"No. The good awesome guys always use fire. Plus, I could make some seriously cool pyrotechnics for this thing I mean-" He reared back, ready to show off what would undoubtedly be an over-the-top Fire Dragon Roar.
Luckily Laxus cut in with a, "Natsu!" which distracted him enough that only a small puff of smoke left his lips. Lucy knew for a fact that the one thing this show didn't need was pyrotechnics. It wouldn't save the theatre house… it'd send it to an early grave.
Natsu again grumbled angrily to himself, sending squinty-eyed glares towards Gray and Laxus alike. "Fine, fine, whatever…" He looked back down at his script. "So something knocks over some stuff… oooh." He sarcastically pretended to be afraid before jumping back off of Gray's ice cube.
Gray stepped forward, taking his cue. Laxus nodded approvingly. "Hello, mate," Gray said from behind Natsu. He whirled around to look at Gray. "Been a long time. Blizzard of 68, I believe? Easter Sunday?" Gray took another step forward and Natsu straightened, looking down at his script.
"Bunny? You're not still mad about that, are ya?" Lucy had no idea what had apparently happened in the 'blizzard of 68' and neither did anyone else but just the thought of causing Gray's character some sort of hardship made Natsu smirk haughtily at him. Lucy pinched the bridge of her nose. It was so perfect that their characters had a very volatile sort of relationship just like they did in real life that she wasn't sure if it was irony or destiny.
"Yes," Gray answered simply, reaching behind himself and pretending to pull out something akin to a weapon. It would be a boomerang in the final version of the play. At least Gray knew how to fake using props that weren't ready yet. "But this is about something else… Fellas!"
There was a beat of silence where everyone stood still and waited for something to happen. But nothing did. "Fellas!" Gray repeated, a little louder.
Laxus huffed. "C'mon, that's your cue, yetis. Let's go!" He motioned to someone off stage and in came Jet and Droy, looking embarrassed.
Levy sunk a little in her seat next to Lucy, apparently embarrassed for them. Lucy exchanged a smile with her.
Jet and Droy grabbed Natsu by the arms. "Hey!" Natsu yelled. It'd been a little too believable for Natsu's subpar acting and Lucy wondered if he'd even known that that was his line, or if that was simply his natural reaction. Droy made a few garbled grumbling noises not unlike those of a yeti. "Let go of me! What the-" Lucy followed along with the script. The "yetis" were supposed to shove Jack into a bag and kidnap him.
"Oh please tell me we actually have a sack to shove him into," Gray said with a chortle.
Natsu gave him a glare and Laxus shook his head. "Just pretend."
"Oh but I don't think I can," Gray replied. "I mean… it's just sort of hard to imagine, y'know? I think I might need some real life experience on this one to be able to pretend." He nodded seriously, a twinkle in his eye.
Laxus looked then as if he might either throw down the script and quit, or turn and punch someone in the face. Luckily Mira had the situation covered, as she always did, and Lucy spotted her arm poke out from off stage, holding out a large sack made out of what appeared to be scrap material. Man, the 'costume department' was on top of it. He took it graciously and chucked it across the stage to Gray.
The struggle to get Natsu into the bag was a long one. He said it was ridiculous they were doing this… Gray looked like he was having a blast… and around ten minutes, five bruises, and many curses later, Natsu was successfully in the bag, flailing around and yelling aimlessly. The only casualty in this battle had been Jet's hat which had been singed to ashes, but everyone had agreed that perhaps it was for the better. Levy had whispered under her breath that she was glad that monstrosity of a fashion statement was gone, and Lucy sort of agreed with her.
Laxus sighed. "Alright, so you guys have some magic sphere that when you smash it a 'magic portal' appears stage left." He pointed, addressing the 'yetis'.
Droy and Jet both struggled to lift the flailing Natsu and hobbled over toward stage left. They looked back at Gray and motioned him toward the portal, as the script prompted.
Gray turned back to his script and resumed his part. "Me? Not on your nelly. See you back at the headquarters."
Laxus nodded again. "So Bunny stamps his foot twice-" Gray stomped twice. "And another portal appears… Which I'm sure just means you exit stage right. And you three, stage left, through the other 'portal'," he said, motioning towards Jet and Droy.
Gray nodded and slipped off the stage, as did the 'yetis', carrying Natsu in his bag, who yelled as he was being carted off.
"Alright, that's the end of a scene so lights should go dark. There should be a quick set change, and then next, lights come on center stage to reveal North's Library. We're gonna need pretty much everyone for this scene."
There was a hustle then and the sound of scuffling feet filled the room as everyone referred to their scripts and took their places. This would be the scene where all of the Guardian members met Jack for the first time. Gray came back on stage, along with Erza who was standing straight and tall, ready to play her part, Wendy who appeared apprehensive but excited, and Juvia, who was staying a little too close to Gray for comfort.
Elfman, Jet, and Droy, all playing the parts of yetis also came out on stage and stood a little to the side, as not to take away any attention from the main characters. Lucy had to admit she was impressed so far with what she'd seen script-reading wise. Sure, they were making comments and having little errors in between lines, but so far everyone had taken their cues and read their bits of dialogue very well. Sure, no one in Fairy Tail was a trained actor or anything, but she knew how seriously they all took jobs, and they would all be trying their best in the end.
"Okay, once the lights come on we should have everyone in place, awaiting 'Jack's' arrival from the portal," Laxus stated. Lucy also noted how well Laxus was doing in the role of a director. Sure, he didn't have any experience and sure he was most definitely not the type she thought would be into directing plays… but he was keeping everything under control and everyone reigned in rather well. His booming voice certainly didn't hurt, anyway, and also helped set the scenes even with no props or scenery.
Juvia was the first to have a line. She waved her arm up into the air, conjuring a myriad of tennis ball-sized blobs of water. With another flick of her wrist the blobs transformed to resemble tiny fairies, all hovering around her. Lucy was impressed. She also didn't miss the quick glance Juvia gave Gray, almost looking as if she were searching for some hint that he was impressed. She cleared her throat, looking back down to her script and delivering her first line.
"Hargeon Town! Upper incisor! 421 Southeast Main Street! Come on!" As the Tooth Fairy she was to order around her littler fairies to go and collect the teeth that had been lost. Lucy watched as one of Juvia's water fairies flew off the stage as if it'd taken the order. There was a yelp and a splash and next thing Lucy knew Max was poking his head out onto stage, his hair matted and wet, sticking to his forehead.
"Hey, watch it, will you?" he snapped.
"Sorry," Juvia apologized quickly. Of course Max would be just off stage, after all he would be the one filling in for Wendy's sand magic. Max's head disappeared back into the wing and the scene continued.
And by continued, Lucy meant the sack containing Natsu was sort of unceremoniously thrown out onto the stage, as if coming through the portal. He let out a yelp and an 'ow' and Gray snickered to himself on the other side of the stage. The sack rolled and flopped and everyone watched it as it lazily made its way toward center stage, Natsu struggling for all he was worth to get it open. Eventually he succeeded, poking his head out and angrily shoving it aside.
Erza snapped into her character. "He's here."
Juvia turned to another one of her water fairies. "Clover Town. We've got a trampoline mishap at 1340 Ginger Lane-"
"Quiet," Erza said.
"-canine, lateral, and center incisor. Ouch!" Juvia finished. The water fairy zoomed off stage just as the other had, this time a little farther back in hopes of avoiding Max.
Erza cleared her throat loudly, getting everyone's attention. Gray, Juvia, Wendy and Erza all looked down at Natsu who was dusting himself off. He sat up, flipping to the next page in his script to catch up.
"Hey, there he is! Jack Frost!" Erza announced, holding out her arms to welcome him.
Wendy took a step forward, giving him a smile. It was Max's first time to shine. A trail of sand snaked its way from off stage and across the floor before undulating into the air above Wendy's head and making the shape of a small snowflake: the Sandman's version of welcoming Jack Frost. Lucy again had to admit she was impressed. Max had done it perfectly.
"Wow, you've gotta be kidding me…," Natsu read his line. Elfman reached over and lifted Natsu to his feet. "Hey, hey. Woah, put me down!" Natsu yelled. Elfman plopped him onto his feet.
"I hope the yetis treated you well?" Erza asked, smiling.
Natsu made a loud scoffing sound. "Oh, yeah. I love being shoved in a sack and tossed through a magic portal." That was the most convincing line Natsu had read so far… although it was probably because he was feeling exactly how Jack Frost would've been feeling, having actually been shoved in a sack and all… "Next time be a little gentler, too, okay?" he snapped at Jet and Droy. "Do you know how many paper cuts I got being thrown around in there with this thing?" He shook his script at them before sucking on the end of one of his fingers.
Erza paid his adlib no mind. "Oh, good! That was my idea!" She seemed not to have noticed his sarcasm. There was a beat of silence before Erza continued, motioning over to Gray and officially beginning the introductions. "You know Bunny, obviously."
"Obviously," Natsu snapped, glaring at Gray who glared right back. Gray crossed his arms before ducking suddenly. Something had whizzed by his face… And then another, and another. Juvia's little water fairies were zooming all around him, hovering, apparently examining him closely.
"No, no, they're supposed to be around Jack," Laxus corrected, snapping his fingers and pointing to Natsu.
Juvia looked a little defeated but with a wave of her hand they moved to flit around Natsu, who flinched away from them, swatting at them like bees.
"And the Tooth Fairy?" Erza asked.
Juvia made her way over to Natsu. "Hello, Jack. I've heard a lot about you. And your teeth."
Natsu's eyes bugged and again Lucy commended his acting. "My- my what?" Although then again he hadn't looked at his script and his reaction had seemed so genuine… so maybe he wasn't actually acting, but again had happened to get the line correct.
"Open up! Are they really as white as they say?" Juvia trailed off, looking off to the side at Gray, and then at Laxus. "A-Are we sure we don't want Gray-sama to play this role?" It was clear that she wished to be getting as close to Gray as she was having to Natsu, in this play.
"Hey," Natsu snapped, offended.
"Yes, we're sure," Laxus droned.
Juvia looked disappointed, but continued nonetheless. "Um… Yes! And so sharp! Oh, they really do sparkle like freshly fallen snow." She trailed off again. "Really, this seems more like Gray-sama-"
"Keep it moving," Laxus interrupted.
Juvia sighed. "Alright." Her water fairies moved around Natsu excitedly and she quickly shook herself, as if she'd realized exactly how odd and a little creepy that she'd sounded, talking about someone's teeth after having just met them. "Girls, pull yourselves together," she hissed at them and she composed herself, moving back away from Natsu and a little closer to Gray than she had been before.
"And Sandman…" Erza continued. Wendy pretended to be sleeping and Erza nudged her. "Sandy, Sandy! Wake up!" Wendy pretended to wake up and gave Natsu a smile.
"Yo, I gotta question," Natsu said, raising his hand. "Shouldn't she be a Sandwoman… or a Sandgirl? I mean…"
Laxus gave him a look then that easily got across the point that not only was he not going to answer that question, but if Natsu asked it again, or another question like it, there was a good chance that he'd smack him so hard with his script, he'd have to read his lines off his own face.
Needless to say, Natsu delivered his next line quickly. "Hey! Ho! Anyone wanna tell me why I'm here?" he asked. Everyone was introducing themselves but nothing had yet been said about why he'd been kidnapped.
Wendy stepped forward again and Max's second time to shine arose. The sand again rose above her head and a myriad of images were conjured, one after the other, so quickly that no one ever had a hope to decipher what it all meant. Wendy looked hopeful after the sand stopped moving.
Natsu gave her a smile. "That's not really helping. But thanks anyway." His attention moved up to Erza and the others. "I musta done something really bad to get you four together…" Natsu turned around and walked away from them slowly, pondering to himself. He held a finger up suddenly. "Wait, am I on the naughty list?"
Erza laughed. "On the naughty list? You hold the record!" There was a pause in her line then and a look of disdain crossed her face. Yes, had Santa –or 'North' in this case—been real, Natsu would undoubtedly hold the record on the naughty list. It was as if in that moment all of the destruction that Natsu had caused on jobs over the years flashed before Erza's eyes and she somehow connected with her character on a deeper level. She shook her head a second later and continued. "But no matter, we will overlook it; now we have wiped the slate clean."
Natsu raised an eyebrow. "How come?"
Gray turned to Erza. "Ah, good question." He sounded bitter.
"How come?" Erza asked. "I'll tell you, 'how come'! Because now… you are joining the Guardians!"
Laxus nodded. "Alright, that would be the cue for the 'celebration' to start. So yetis will light torches to carry," he said, nodding back to Jet, Droy, and Elfman, "banners or streamers will probably come down on the walls and music will played by the elves… Oh-" Laxus turned to look out into the audience, squinting and holding a hand up in hopes of blocking the bright stage lights. He still couldn't see. "Is Lucy out there?"
"Yeah, I'm right here," Lucy called back.
"Oh good. Any news on the… Canis Minors?"
"Yup. It's been approved. Oberon will send some the day before the play and we'll have them until the performances are over."
Laxus sent her a thumbs up and turned back to his actors. "Alright, and then those little guys will be our 'elves' and they'll be creating the music. Juvia, a couple of your fairies will try to put a necklace on Natsu and he'll brush it off." Juvia sent a few of her fairies over in Natsu's direction and again he swatted at them as if they were bugs. "Then Erza gives her line."
"This is the best part!" Erza said, sounding excited.
"Which is cue for a group of elves to come out. Also a cue for you, Elfman, to direct Natsu to the middle of the room, where an elf will present him with special shoes." Laxus turned to Jet and Droy. "Both of you will give Erza her book and the guild stamp, getting ready to have Jack join. Erza will open the book and prepare to read… and then when the chaos becomes too much for Jack he-"
With a crack like lightning there was a frosty explosion that appeared to come from the ground underneath Natsu, freezing the stage around him solid and sending a burst of frigid air out across the stage. Everyone froze for a moment, shocked.
Gray smiled smugly. "Ah, was that good?"
Any doubts Lucy had had that Gray wouldn't be able to make it appear as if Natsu had cast the magic, or doubts on whether he'd be able to do that and perform his own part went out the window. It'd been impressive, and it'd been his first shot at it on top of things. Juvia gave him a round of applause.
Natsu glared at Gray. "First of all, I'm supposed to hit the ground with my staff to create that spell." He looked back to Laxus. "But I don't have one of those." The decision to keep the staff, a large stick which could easily be used as a weapon either on purpose or accidentally, away from Natsu had been an easy one. In fact, it'd been one of the first things that'd come up. Natsu had gotten the part, and someone had said he wouldn't get his staff until dress rehearsal for everyone's well-being. Laxus gave him a shrug. "And second of all," he said, huffing. "It would've been so much cooler had it been fire."
Laxus ignored him completely. "Yes, Gray, that was perfect. It needs to be a big enough gust of wind to snuff out the torches, so I think that will do-" He turned to Natsu who was again starting to rear back as if he were going to perform a fire attack that would show them how much 'cooler' it would be if the magic was fire, "-and don't you even think about it."
Natsu deflated and delivered his line with the attitude of a scorned toddler. "What makes you think I want to be a Guardian?"
Erza gave of a few bouts of fake laughter before stopping and staring him down. "Of course you do! Music!"
"And the elves will start again…" Laxus narrated.
"No music!" Natsu retorted.
"And then everything stops again…" Laxus continued.
"Look, this is all very flattering but um… you don't want me. Your guild's all hard work and deadlines, and I'm snowballs and fun times. I'm not a Guardian."
Lucy raised an eyebrow at the script she had in her hands. She herself hadn't seen Natsu working out as the part of Jack simply because of their stark differences in magic, but now that she actually looked at the character… they were a lot alike. They were all about the fun times and not taking things too seriously. Perhaps Jack was the perfect character for Natsu to play. Gray was a little too reserved to play such a playful rebel. Not that he wasn't fun… he just wasn't as laid back as Natsu was.
"Yeah, that's exactly what I said!" Gray replied.
Juvia stepped forward. "Jack… I don't think you understand what it is we do…"She stepped towards the back of the stage.
"Alright, then the spotlight will turn to the back wall where there should be a map of the region, with little lights on it." Laxus nodded for them to continue.
"Each of those lights is a child," Juvia nodded.
Natsu drifted toward the back wall and Juvia, and Erza moved to his side. "A child who believes in, and relies on us. And good or bad, naughty or nice, we protect them." There was a moment before Erza huffed and shot a glare over her shoulder. "Tooth… fingers out of his mouth."
During Erza's moment of more serious speech Juvia was supposed to have begun examining Natsu's teeth again, unable to help herself. However, her hands were in Gray's mouth. She looked like a deer caught in the headlights.
Laxus pinched the bridge of his nose. "Natsu… not Gray."
"Right," she said, sounding disappointed. She moved over to Natsu. "Oh, sorry. They're beautiful," she said, referring to Jack's teeth. Natsu still looked a little repulsed by the idea of someone being so obsessed with his teeth, even if that person was a fictional tooth fairy.
"Okay, no more wishy-washy!" Erza stated, breaking the silence and the tension in the air. "Pitch is out there doing who knows what!"
Natsu snorted. "Pitch? You mean the Boogeyman? The Dark Mage?"
Lucy and Levy had had a hard time trying to decide exactly how scary to make this 'Pitch' character. He was supposedly the fabled Boogeyman that took many forms amongst children. Whether it be a monster in their closet, the basement, or what Lucy had personally believed in as a child: the monster under the bed, Pitch took many forms. They decided to make him this mythical scary being, but also a dark mage, something to be taken a little more seriously.
"Yes!" Erza nodded. "When Pitch threatens us, he threatens them as well," she said, motioning back towards where the map would've been, indicating the children.
"All the reason to recruit someone more qualified!" Natsu replied.
"Recruit?" Erza asked. "You think we recruit? No, you were chosen like we were all chosen. By the Man in the Moon."
Natsu turned to look at her. "What?"
"Last night, Jack. He chose you," Juvia said quietly.
"Maybe," Gray added, still not convinced.
"The Man in the Moon. He talks to you?" Natsu exchanged looks with them all.
"We should have some sort of moon now up near the top of the stage, indicating night time. Gramps will be playing the Man in the Moon, although it's just a regular moon now… I think."
"You see, you cannot decline. It is destiny," Erza nodded.
"But why wouldn't he tell me that himself?" Natsu mumbled to himself. "After three hundred years this is his answer? To spend eternity like you guys, cooped up in some guild thinking of… of new ways to bribe kids? No no, that's not for me. No offense." He turned to leave and Gray stepped forward.
"How is that not offensive?"
Everyone else feigned shock at Natsu's decision not to stay. Gray turned from Natsu back to the others. "You know what I think? I think we just dodged a bullet. I mean, what's this clown know about bringing magic and joy to children, anyway?"
Natsu turned back around, peeved. "Uh, you ever hear of a snow day? I know it's no hard-boiled egg, but kids like my magic." Natsu smiled at his low-key burn, even if it was only to Gray's character.
Gray turned back to Natsu. "But none of 'em believe in you." He leaned closer to Natsu so that they were only a foot or so apart. "Do they? You see, you're invisible. It's like you don't even exist."
Juvia gave a little gasp. "Bunny! Enough!" She made a disgruntled sound having said something so harsh to Gray. "Sorry, Gray-sama," she whispered under her breath.
"No, the kangaroo's right," Natsu said.
"The- the what? What'd you call me? I am not a kangaroo, mate," he hissed at Natsu.
"Oh, and this whole time I thought you were. If you're not a kangaroo, what are you?" Natsu asked.
And with a dead serious expression Gray replied, "I'm a bunny. The Easter Bunny. People believe in me."
There was a pregnant silence. It was supposed to be a harsh moment then, Gray having deeply insulted Natsu's character by saying that no one believed in him. However, their faces now mere inches apart, it appeared too much for Natsu. He burst out into peals of laughter, clutching his stomach and collapsing into a pile. "Oh my god, dude," he gasped. "The way you said that-" He wheezed. "How could you say that with a straight face?" Natsu composed himself for a split second, long enough to impersonate Gray. "'I'm a bunny' he says," Natsu roared, rolling onto his back and guffawing unashamedly. "There's no way I'mma be able to keep a straight face while he says that…."
Gray looked a bit disgruntled, having realized how ridiculous it did sound, especially without any costumes. There were a couple chuckles from Wendy and Laxus but nothing that lasted too long. Erza actually looked peeved by Natsu's break of character. She cleared her throat, moving onto her next line. "Jack. Walk with me."
The collective sound of turning pages fluttered across the room as everyone prepared for what would be the next scene change. Natsu somehow managed to reign in his guffaws long enough to at least get to his feet, wiping a tear away from his eye and ignoring Gray's heated glares.
"Alright, so then Jack will follow North into what is supposed to be an elevator down to the factory floor. There'll be a stationary 'elevator' somewhere, so all other lights will dim, leaving the spotlight on the elevator."
Natsu and Erza grouped together near the center of the stage and everyone else dispersed.
"It's nothing personal, North. What you all do in a guild, it's just, it's not my thing," he admitted.
"The Man in the Moon says it is your thing," Erza huffed. "We will see!"
Laxus cut in again. "So during their short "elevator" trip we will have changed out the backdrop so now center stage should resembled the factory floor of Santa's-"
"North's," Erza corrected. She had a very self-important smirk on her face and Lucy swore she hadn't seen Erza have better posture in her life. Man, she may have been the iron-clad Titania of Fairy Tail but she did relish in the more… frilly things in life. Such as acting in a play. Lucy just hoped the crippling bout of stage fright that'd hit Erza hard the first time they'd tried to put on a play didn't plague her again this time. Although, it did seem that the character of North fit her much better than that of a prince. After all, North was in charge of everything and kept everyone in-check, but also had a heart beneath all of the orders and seriousness.
Laxus gave her a slightly confused look but nodded. "Right, it should resemble the factory floor of North's workshop… Anyway, North should be leading Jack across the factory and up towards her office."
One of the finer points of the Onibus theatre was the fact that it had an upper level on one side of the stage. Its uses were practically endless. Maybe it was the balcony in Romeo and Juliet or even just the upstairs portion of an apartment, but it had endless possibilities and would serve as the perfect place for North's Library. There was really only one important scene in the library, and it was coming up.
Erza began stalking across the stage and Natsu hurried to follow her, scrambling to read his line. "Slow down, wouldja? I've been trying to bust in here for years; I want a good look."
"What do you mean, "bust in"?" Erza asked, looking over her shoulder.
"Oh, don't worry, I never got past the yetis." Elfman was back on stage after this comment, sending Natsu a glare and making a rather intimidating growl while pounding his fist into his palm. It was clear that there was some sort of history between the two. Natsu sent him a wave. "Oh, hey Phil."
"Keep up, Jack! Keep up!" Erza reprimanded, walking a little faster.
"They should be passing by several yetis making toys and we should still have some elves around, tinkering with things. For now, just pretend," Laxus ordered.
Natsu looked back to his script again. He was supposed to pretend to dodge a toy plane that flew in his direction. He did so, overacting so much that Lucy swore his head nearly touched the ground when he bent over backwards to avoid it. He looked very proud of his feat when he straightened up again and Lucy had the distinct impression that he was comparing himself to a ninja in his head. "Woah," Natsu breathed. "I always thought the elves made the toys."
Erza turned back over her shoulder, holding a hand up to her mouth and whispering. "We just let them believe that."
"At which time we should see a few elves tripping over the toys, maybe trying to eat things they shouldn't…" Laxus trailed off. "Why do I get the feeling we won't even have to train the little spirits for their roles…" he muttered to himself and Lucy snickered. It was true, the Canis Minors typically wandered around at their own leisure, wobbling and falling of their own accord. And while she didn't know if other dog spirits liked to put random things in their mouths… Plue sure did.
"Very nice! Keep up the good work!" Erza continued without missing a beat, nodding towards where the elves would have been. She turned then, going back towards the back of stage right where the staircase began toward the upper level.
"We'll have another yeti working on toys over there…" Laxus said, pointing toward the staircase. "He should be painting robots."
Erza nodded, looking to where the yeti would be. "I don't like it. Paint it red," she ordered. "Step it up, everybody!" Yes, Erza was definitely born to play this role. She rounded the corner of the staircase and began her ascent, followed by Natsu. Once they reached the top, Laxus cut in with the narrative again.
"We've reached the North's office scene so all lights on the factory floor will dim and attention will be on you two."
Erza looked back to her script before taking in a quick breath. Lucy read the cues on the script and saw that there would be toys, cakes and cookies, and a Christmas tree in her office. There wasn't a doubt in her mind that Erza had gotten excited by the prospect of cake.
"D-D-Do we happen to have props for this scene yet?" Erza asked, trying to keep her composure.
"No, just pretend."
Erza slouched and wasn't quite able to keep the defeated tone out of her voice. She pretended to offer Natsu a sweet. "Fruit cake?"
"Ah, no thanks," he replied.
The stage was completely empty now aside from Laxus, everyone knowing they had a little break while Natsu and Erza's characters had a chat. However, Lucy spotted movement near the left side of the stage. Or… maybe she was just seeing things.
"Now we get down to the tacks of brass!" Erza delivered her next line.
"Tacks of brass?" Natsu asked under his breath.
"With that, we should hear the door to North's office slam shut-"
The movement that Lucy had seen on stage had indeed been real as a loud crash echoed around the auditorium and Cana came tumbling out from off stage, her bottle of alcohol shattering as she fell. She landed face-first on the floor and for a very long moment, no one was quite sure what to do. Levy snorted and Lucy watched as both Erza and Natsu exchanged a look, unsure of whether they should stay where they were… or continue the play… or go down and help Cana…
Laxus put his hand to his forehead, whispering something incoherently to himself before saying, "What are you doing?"
Cana rolled over onto her back before somehow managing to sit upright. She hiccupped. "Whu-what am I doing?" She frowned. "I should be asking you that." She sloppily pointed to her broken bottle and the mess it'd made. "What -hic- do you think yer doin' goin' and smashin' my liquor."
"You tripped," Laxus said, jaw clenched and composure somehow still retained. Lucy was surprised he was sticking with this.
"Just becuz you went and put a friggin log in my way. O'course I'm gonna step on it… and it's gonna roll… and I'm gonna roll… and then I'm gonna fall." She glared up at him, wavering as she tried to focus her eyes.
Laxus stomped off to the side of the stage, bent over, and returned with a cord from one of the lights. "Is this what you're talking about?"
"It's a cable, Cana… it's always been there; I didn't put it there… and it's so small. Pull yourself together." Lucy didn't miss the very slight amount of amusement in his voice.
"Small?" Cana scoffed. "That thing's massive. I couldn't've avoided it if I tried." She looked satisfied with her answer. As if daring Laxus to challenge her judgement.
And for the second time in less than a half an hour Mira came to the rescue. Laxus had tossed the cable back down and any hint of amusement he'd had a moment ago was gone; rather, he looked like he was going to get an ulcer. Mira sashayed out from backstage, carrying a broom. She patted Laxus sympathetically on the back and with a smile said, "Don't worry; I can take care of this. You all keep doing your thing."
And in a blur of white hair and good intentions, Mira had swept up the mess and was gently carting Cana back off stage by the elbow. Lucy didn't miss the heated glare Cana gave the wires on the floor.
"Right, where were we…" Laxus trailed off. "Oh, yes the doors close and Erza should back Natsu up to a wall, questioning him. Natsu should act intimidated."
There was a slam and Lucy looked up to see Erza had indeed backed Natsu into a wall. He was doing all he could to get away from her, in fact. Erza's face was serious and downright scary; she was still taking her role very seriously. And Lucy didn't know a single person who wouldn't have been scared stiff having her look at them like that.
"Act intimidated?" Natsu echoed. "N-No problem there."
Erza didn't miss a beat. "Who are you, Jack Frost? What is your center?"
Natsu flipped the page of his script and hurriedly found his line. Lucy swore she could hear his papers ruffling as he held them, his hand shaking from nerves caused by Erza. "U-Um… My center?" he read.
"If the Man in the Moon chose you to join us in our guild as a Guardian, you must have something very special inside." Natsu blinked but didn't answer her. "Hmm?" Natsu still didn't have an answer.
"When he doesn't reply, Erza goes and gets a nesting doll from her shelf that looks like herself. It should have a serious look on its face," Laxus said.
Erza backed away from Natsu, pretending to grab something. Natsu visibly relaxed and let out a sigh of relief. Erza pretended to hand the doll to him. "Here, this is how you see me, correct? Very strict, intimidating… but if you get to know me a little… Well, go on…"
"Natsu opens the doll," Laxus narrated. "The next one looks like Erza but it is joyful."
"You're… jolly?" Natsu asked.
"Ah, but not just jolly…"
"Natsu opens the next doll. It has a darker expression."
"I am also mysterious…"
"Opens the doll again to find one that is yelling."
"And fearless, willing to fight for what I believe in and those I wish to protect…"
"The next one is smiling."
"And caring," Erza said softly. "And at my center…"
"The smallest doll is that of a baby."
"There's a tiny wooden baby?" Natsu questioned.
"Look closer. What do you see?" Erza asked, looking into his face.
Natsu frowned. "You have big eyes?"
Erza laughed. "Yes! Very big eyes! Because they are full! Full of wonder and adventure! That is my center. It is what I was born with. Eyes that have always seen the wonder in everything and everyone."
"Erza should then raise her hands and simultaneously the lights on the Christmas tree will be plugged in, along with several toy trains and other little trinkets coming to life in her office. A toy airplane should be one of the things turned on, carried by a balloon, and it should float back out toward center stage. Erza and Natsu follow it back through her office doors."
"Eyes that see lights in the trees and magic in the air!" Erza said, leading Natsu back out towards the railing of the balcony.
"And the lights will come back on on the factory floor," Laxus instructed.
Erza gestured out to where the factory would be. "This magic is what I put into the world, and what I protect in children. The will and strength to believe in themselves and fight for those they wish to protect. That is what makes me a Guardian. It is my center; my heart. What is yours?"
Natsu slouched. "I don't know."
Without any direction from Laxus, Natsu looked into his palm where the small wooden baby prop would be. Erza reached forward and closed his hand around it. They met gazes and she gave him a knowing nod.
Lucy wasn't quite sure what'd happened. Maybe it was the seriousness or sincerity of the scene, or maybe both Erza and Natsu had gotten into a rhythm with Laxus' cue direction, or maybe it'd just hit close to home, but everything had suddenly melted away. No, there were no props or scenery or costumes yet and they were flying by the seat of their pants, reading through the script for the very first time, but Lucy had been pulled into it as if it'd been a well-rehearsed professional play. No one had broken character, no one had interrupted, and everyone watching –or at least she and Laxus and Levy—were utterly quiet, eyes glued to the two in the balcony.
Lucy had definitely had her reservations about putting on yet another play in Onibus, with little to no time to prepare or rehearse, with all the pressure in the world on the shoulders of mages who didn't know hardly anything about acting. However, in that moment… she wondered if maybe they could pull it off. They were Fairy Tail, after all. They always took the odds stacked against them and turned it to their favor.
There were a few beats of silence where Natsu and Erza, or rather, Jack and North, had a very special moment before the quiet was broken. Gray jogged back out on stage, taking his cue and quickly climbed halfway up the staircase before calling out, "We have a problem, mate! Trouble at the Tooth Palace!"
There was one final split second of silence where everyone shook the trance that'd been put over them in the heat of the moment of the scene, before Natsu whirled around to look at Gray. "Hey man! We were having a moment! Why'd you interrupt? Learn to read a room, you Ice Bastard!"
Gray looked taken aback. "What? I'm reading my line! Interrupting is literally what I'm supposed to do! And you're the Ice Bastard now, anyway, Mr. Frost. I'm just a "bunny"," he mocked, trying to regain some of his dignity from earlier.
"Why I oughta-" Natsu went flying towards Gray and a full-blown brawl immediately broke out.
Laxus stepped forward, as if prepared to break up the fight but yet another crash echoed out across the stage and this time Cana had had so much momentum in her fall that she slid all the way out to center stage before flopping to a halt, her bottle only half-broken this time. "Who keep's puttin' things in my way?" she growled, her speech muffled by the stage floor.
"You've got to be kidding me," Laxus muttered. "Who gave her another bottle?" he bellowed.
The stage erupted into chaos then, people flooding onto stage from the wings, trying to help but ultimately just either getting sucked into the escalating battle between Natsu and Gray or tripping and slipping over one another in the puddle Cana's alcohol had left.
Lucy watched the calamity unfurl and decided she took back what she'd said about things maybe working out. No, this was what she had expected all along. She just hadn't waited long enough, apparently. This was what it looked like if Fairy Tail tried to put on a play. Sure, it was just the very first run-through, but still…
"How long do we have to prepare this?" Lucy asked Levy quietly.
"Oh, there's no way…"
Levy sighed. "Well, crazier things have happened, right?"
She wasn't wrong, especially as far as their guild was concerned, but Lucy still had her overwhelming doubts. A week to pull together an insanely complicated play, with their reputation and the life of the theatre on the line? Mavis help them.