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One Week of Danger

Chapter Text

It was a warm summer morning and the sun snuggled into the white clouds while the blue sky yawned above the mountain tops. A small river dashed down from between the stony cracks until it melted with the glittery ocean. Some birds began their cheerful songs and woke the city from its deep slumber. A girl stirred in her sleep when the spicy smell of fresh coffee tickled her nostrils; her blond hair was as messy just like the blanket which lay crumbled beside her bed. Melanie yawned, squinted her eyes and scrambled to her feet in order to get some breakfast, but –

"What a terrible introduction," Lucy Heartfilia grumbled to herself as she scrapped first paragraph of her new novel. She rubbed her sore temples to soothe the growing symptoms of a headache. It felt like there was a mental war in her head, a fight against the blankness of the white sheet in front of her. Deciding to let her laziness win, she put away her trusty quill and parchment. Maybe early mornings just weren't her time to write, not that she was in the mood anyway. Besides, maybe she shouldn't try to describe the opposite of the weather which was currently conquering Magnolia.

In an attempt to brighten her mood, the blonde woman lay down on her wooden floor and popped her head up with one arm. Lazily, Lucy sipped at her morning coffee – she would be nothing without it – before turning her attention to the next page of the Weekly Sorcerer.

It was quiet in her apartment since her friends weren't present ... at least she hoped. They just came back from a job yesterday and everybody was exhausted. They spent two weeks of chasing a particular elusive group of bandits. Even Natsu and his seemingly never-ending source of energy was probably still in bed. Usually, they would already be here and trash her place. Gray would be stripping, Happy would eat all of her food, Erza would dive through her closet and Natsu would probably set things on fire while laughing like a maniac.

Lucy often wondered what she did to deserve this. The bad and the good things.

Sure, she hated how they invaded her private space, but she loved them too much to be angry for long. She really did love Fairy Tail after all. Yes, they were crazy and she would definitely vote for them if there was a competition for the craziest guilt, but their flaws are what made them more like a real family.

Something on the page of the magazine caught her attention. Plue stopped dancing and wobbled to her side, when she started to read the article. "Your weekly horoscope, huh?"

Find out what will happen to you in the next week based on your zodiac sign. It includes your job, friends, style and love life. From experience we know that Miss Mystic is always right with her predictions.

" Yeah, right," Lucy muttered, but her gaze kept shifting back to the article with interest. Her brown eyes were glued to the words 'love life', reminding her of Aquarius insistant teasing about not having a boyfriend. Maybe Aquarius would be less cranky, if Lucy would finally find her special someone. Probably not, her spirit was quite beastly either way.

"Well let's see ... cancer, cancer ... cancer! Here it is," Lucy exclaimed in joy when she found her horoscope. She always wondered if a person had something in common with their zodiac sign, at least most people claimed there was a connection. Maybe personality wise? The image of the spirit with scissors popped into her head and she shivered. Should she start to end her sentences with 'shrimp'?

Lucy shook her head to get rid of the ridiculous image which formed in her mind.

Actually, this stuff was considered to be a type of celestial magic, but Layla had taught Lucy that horoscopes had nothing to do with the pure magic of the stars. That's why she never believed the concept of horoscopes and despised those wanna-be wizards who pretended that they know something about celestial magic. They clearly did not.

Moreover, she knew for a fact that prediction has little to do with the zodiac. Cana, for example, uses card magic for this purpose. Lucy felt like those fortune-tellers who use the zodiac for their predictions were just scamming people. The spirits are living beings and it still makes her mad how people think they could just think they are some shining stellar constellations. They've probably never even met a spirit in person.

Still, Lucy could not deny the curiosity that crept into her mind.

"Puuun~" The little spirit interrupted her thoughts when he pointed at the horoscope with his wobbly paw. Plue watched his friend with worry, when he saw how the blonde clutched the innocent paper in her hands.

Lucy sighed. Unlike Natsu, she could not understand her spirit's language, but she knew that he tried to calm her down. She observed the offending magazine in her hands and a cheeky smile lit up her face. "Maybe I should just give this a try? It's not like that could hurt."

The little doggy spirit looked at her with excitement and nodded his head.

"Aww~ you're so cute!" She giggled to herself and turned to face her horoscope.

Cancer the Crab: X791, September the 5th

Job

Do your thing! Your unusual ideas can be the cornerstone for you success. But your annoying colleagues could get in the way. Later this week, Uranus and Neptune will cause breakdown and misunderstandings. You need to face the chaos.

"Basically, it says that my ideas are weird and that my team is annoying." Lucy rolled her eyes and silently agreed with the annoying part. "Breakdown and misunderstandings, huh? Natsu and the others cause destruction all the time, duh. That's why I am always late with my rent. What about the chaos though?"

Lucy groaned at the image of more destruction. Why it is that her team always had to wreck at least city while on a job? It was like an unspoken law and they made sure would never be broken. They may look innocent, but don't let them fool you! They are like cute little kittens who turn into wild lions when you turn your back on them.

Okay, Happy was technically a cat and Natsu was more of a dragon but that's not the issue here.

The pink-haired magician was the most destructive, most dense, most idiotic and the most kind person Lucy had ever met. He was her best friend and he meant the world to her. A worried frown sat on her lips as soon as she thought back to their latest job. Recently, Natsu and Lucy had some trouble with their relationship and she really started to be bothered by it. Lucy had a hunch that he was hiding something important from her and Natsu was not one to have many secrets. The fact that he won't tell her made her uneasy and a weird feeling bubbles in her stomach every time she caught that intense look in his eyes.

Why was he always staring at her that way? She couldn't for the life of her figure out what it meant, but she was determined to find out for the sake of their friendship. Lucy didn't want to loose him.

"Now here comes the interesting part," she mumbled while her eyes drifted to the romance section of the horoscope. She pushed her worry about Natsu away for now, Lucy was more of an optimistic person anyway. Maybe she would be lucky enough and meet the love of her life during the next week, if the article was to be trusted.

Romance

The cosmos ignites your love and interesting encounters wait for you. If the object of your affections neglects you, Mars tells you to make him jealous.

Venus it the cause of your flirty mood, but don't carry it too far. For you could break a heart. If you are able to pass the emotional roller coaster, you will float on cloud nine with your one true love!

Yes, she would meet the love of her life! Life was amazing! In your face Aquarius, she would get a boyfriend this week. Whether this was the truth or not, just reading the encouragement gave her motivation. "Who will it be? What do you think, Plue?"

Not really expecting a coherent answer from the adorable spirit, she let the words sink in and started to guess what the detailed prediction for her love life could mean. Who would she encounter? A mess of pink hair accompanied by a large grin filled her mind and her cheeks warmed up involuntarily. Quickly, she tried to supress the image of her best friend, but that didn't drain her face of the tomato red colour. No, she couldn't think of him that way … what was wrong with her?

Trying to get her mind off these traitorous thoughts, Lucy reread the text and she had to laugh because it reminded her of Mirajane's attempts to get Natsu and her together. She briefly remembered him dancing goofily on a table, wiggling his ass back and forth. Save to say, all of Mira's attempts to manipulate her into a relationship with him failed terribly. Nevertheless, she was fond of the memories.

Lucy's stomach was filled with that warm and fuzzy feeling as if thousand little blue cats had a party in there. Thanks to that white-haired demon, she once even imagined him in her daydreams. How awkward can it possibly get? If he knew what was occupied her mind that day, Natsu would probably declare her the weirdest person on the planet.

She almost got a heart attack when the dragon slayer wanted to meet her in private. Then, she got another heart attack because he just wanted to use Virgo to dig a hole next to a tree. What's wrong with him? How can someone be this dense? From then on, she was certain that he didn't posess a single romantic bone. That's when Lucy gave up on the entire thing.

Natsu plus romance equals a big permanent question mark in his mind.

"Puuunpu! Puuuu pun Pu?" Plue jumped up and down excitedly and she stared at him in question. Not for the first time, the celestial wizard wished that she could understand her spirit.

"Can you show me what you mean?" The blonde questioned and the shivering spirit walked over to a brown cartbord box. He pointed at it and pulled at the sleeve of her red shirt. Curiously, she opened it only to find a pink lollipop. Oh, that's what he wanted.

Lucy rolled her eyes and with a small grunt she handled the sticky thread to him, resulting with a puddle of drool on her beloved rose coloured carpet. Great, who needs friends when she had her spirits messing up her apartment, too.

Tilting her head, she looked at the love part for the millionth time this morning. She had to admit ... it was intriguing.

"I will unintentionally break a heart?" Lucy didn't like the ring that the second part had to it. That sounded like a lot of troubleand knowing herself, there would be no happy ending. Something with the floating-on-cloud-nine-thing would go wrong, it was just too good to be true.

Style

Not too flashy, your good mood has enough force of attraction.

Avoid the color red and do not match it up with pink.

"Too bad, I'm wearing red right now!" The blonde grinned and plucked at her ruby red top which complimented her womanly figure or so the male population of Magnolia thought.

Lucky Day

Sunday

"That's pretty random ... "Lucy pondered and rubbed her chin in thought. How did an author determine something like a that?

Of course, the author of this horoscope could've used magic instead of just making things up. It was possible since this was a magazine for wizards by wizards. Still for all she knew, the author could just close his eyes and play eeny-meeny-miny-moe with the days of the week. That's what Frank, the guy who tried to predict the weather, did all the time. No wonder he wasn't that accurate. His chance was fifty-fifty, but he still managed to fail. Poor Frank, Lucy could almost imagine all the hate he recieved.

Good luck~ Miss Anje Marie Mystic

"Why thank you Miss Mystic," she muttered with a healthy amount of irritation lacing her voice. "All in all my week consists out of breakdown, misunderstandings, chaos, heartbreak and potential love. The last one only happens if I don't screw it all up. Not to forget the cherry on top, I'm not allowed to wear pink and red! Who does the author think she is, deciding what's going to happen to me next week?"

Whoever this Miss Mystic person was, she was going to get it. Lucy was determined to prove that this was all just a scam and she wouldn't fall for it.

"Okay, Miss Mystic." Lucy stood up and held the magazine, which she would flush down the toilet later, above her head. Plue imitated her totally heroic pose and she was dead serious when she yelled, "In the next week I will prove that your horoscope is completely wrong!"

"Oi, Lucy! Why are ya screaming like that? It's still early."

Her head whipped around and brown met onyx. There, in her comfortable bed sat a very sleepy looking dragon slayer and his blue companion. Natsu looked like he had just been rudely ripped from dreamland and his pink bangs were sticking in every direction. She would've found it adorable, if she wasn't so shocked right now. How could she not notice him sleeping in her bed? For once, Lucy had been fairly sure she had been alone.

"Natsu, how long have you been here?" Lucy tried to ask with a calm voice, barely concealing her anger. Natsu immidiately picked up on the dangerous aura that surrounded the furious woman.

"Since yesterday?" Slightly shivering from memories of Lucy's kicks, he tied to avoid looking at her. "C-come on, don't gimme that look. I thought you noticed s-since ... Lucy? ... W-what are you – AH!"

Happy swallowed when her foot collided with Natsu's head. Internally very grateful, that Lucy was too kind to kick him as well.

"Aye, Lucy is mean!"

"Who gave you the permission to break into my house?" He should have known better than to mess with her in the morning. Lucy glared angrily at the dragon slayer. She cursed the people in the guild for never actually teaching Natsu about personal space. Not to mention the difference between women and men. "You can't just sneak into any woman's bed!"

"You are not just any woman, you are Lucy." He grinned brightly like it was the most natural thing in the world to say. His cheeks were dusted with a barely noticable rose colour and he scratched his cheek in embarrassment.

Her heart stopped at that moment and she felt like melting to a small insignificant puddle of adoration. A small blush covered her cheeks, when she couldn't help but return the smile. Seriously, this guy was impossible sometimes.

"Are you listening to me?" Natsu crocked his head to one side and poked her rosy cheeks. "I said that you snore."

And there he goes again, ruining the moment. She knew the peace was too good to be true. One of her eyebrows started to twitch dangerously and her face went even redder than before, if that was even possible. Her eyes were on fire when she started to yell at the dragon slayer, "You're the one who snores like a drunk sailor. I never snored before, I'm the quietest person alive!"

"Whoa, she's gone wild!"

"Lucy is scary," the cheeky feline chimed in, earning himself a pretty nasty glare. It wasn't enough to stop him from riling her up further though."And she's kinda delusional."

Deciding to ignore the woman's angry fit, Natsu quickly peeled himself off the bed and made his way towards the kitchen, planning on raiding her fridge. Once Lucy noticed his intentions, she desperately tried to hold him back. As fate would have it though, she slipped on the puddle of drool which Plue caused earlier and landed on her butt.

Groaning, Lucy picked herself up from the floor while she ignored the barely supressed snickers coming from her two friends. She limped over to her mirror in order to fix her messed up hair and clothes, but what she saw made her freeze. Her spirit's pink lollipop stuck to her red shirt like glue and no matter how hard she tried, she couldn't get it off. Lucy was so focused on her reflection that she did not even notice the loud crashing sounds which came from her kitchen.

Avoid the color red and do not match it up with pink.

"This is just a coincidence." She laughed nervously and finally managed to prie the sticky thread from her shirt. "Just my imagination."

Chapter Text

The first day of the week started out pretty normal. The depressing weather disappeared with a forceful breeze and now the sun tried to roast the people on the streets. There wasn't even a cloud in the sky. It was as if someone took a paint brush, dipped it in a brilliant blue and went wild on the canvas.

Our favorite blonde wizard was currently gazing contently our of a window, the train's movements gently rocking her from side to side. Even though they just came back the day before, trouble hardly waits which is why her team was already on their way to their next client. Yes, it was a new job request. She didn't mind much though because she really needed the money. What can you do if your landlady is a money-loving hag?

Natsu groaned. His head leaned on the window still opposite of her and the wind caused by the moving train ruffled his already messy hair. Sadly, it did nothing to soothe his motion sickness. His cheeks looked like big green balloons and some drool dripped from his mouth onto the floor, forming a small puddle to their feet. Lucy would have felt pity for him, if the dragon slayer wouldn't have barged into her house this morning and eaten all of her food again. She was still grumpy about it. Hasn't anybody told him that when you eat before you ride a train the motion sickness gets worse? People probably did, but this was Natsu and he wouldn't care anyway.

"That's just gross." Gray shivered when he lifted his food out of the drool puddle. He shook it, but somehow the drool wouldn't come off. He touched the glibber and wiped it on Natsu's shirt with disgust. "Look what you did to my new shoes, you drooling bastard!"

Natsu tried to protest, but was only able to lift one finger before his hand fell limply back on his lap. Lucy couldn't supress her giggle. She was always amazed how the all-too-powerful dragon slayer was defeated by simple means of transportation. He wasn't even able to talk back to Gray anymore.

Lost in the world of motion sickness and annoyance, Natsu suddenly had a great idea how to get back at Gray. Gathering all his strength, he let himself fall to the side so that he landed on the ice wizard's lap. Mission accomplished!

"What the heck?" Gray got really angry and tried to lift Natsu, not so gently, from his lap to save his new jeans. "This is so not okay, man. You're a real piece of work."

"Gray, stop insulting him when he can't even defend himself. You should be ashamed of yourself. Did I not tell you to stop fighting?" The intimidating voice of Erza rang through their compartment as clear as if she spoke through a megaphone. The ice-make wizard flinched and suddenly slung his arm around the dragon slayer's shoulder.

"We weren't fighting, Erza, that was just your imagination. We are best buddies, right Natsu?"

Unfortunately for Gray, his 'best friend' saw this as an awesome opportunity to puke onto his rival for revenge. The smell made Lucy want to faint. Great, now they had to deal with that for the rest of the train ride.

"You did that on purpose, didn't you?" Gray yelled, grabbed Natsu's neck and started to shake him violently. It'd have probably ended in a fight, if Erza's steely gaze didn't hold him in check. "Great, now you owe me a pair of pants too. Just my luck, sitting next to the puking machine."

"At least he has a reason to take of his clothes now," Happy giggled behind his paws, recieving a bitter glare from Natsu's recent victim. He crawled over to Lucy with tears in his eyes, "Lucy, he wants to eat me!"

"That's it! I've had enough of you two!" Erza's expression made it clear that she would take no bullshit from anyone at this point. "Lucy!"

"Ehh?" Said woman turned to her seat neighbor, wondering why the harsh voice was directed at her of all people. It was not like she got into a fight or something. Happy, being a very loyal creature and everything, flew away from Lucy as fast as he could so that he would be spared. One of them had to take care of her fish after all.

"You will swap places with Gray."

Gray didn't know how he should feel about the situation. For one he was relieved to be out of Natsu's puke range, but on the other hand he made two really scary woman angry with him. Why did every woman in the guild had to such a beast, he swore they were related to demons. Not that he would voice such thoughts aloud, he valued his life too much for that.

"B-but I didn't do anything," Lucy whined, but quickly shut up when the atmosphere around her red haired friend got darker. She gulped nervously, waiting for Erza to reconsider her order.

"..."

"Okay," Lucy groaned and did as she was told without another question. As soon as she settled next to the sickly dragon slayer, she let her mind drift off. Somehow the taunting words from the horoscope were the first thing her wanderign thoughts traveled to. Maybe she got reminded because one sentence eerily fit this situation.

But your annoying colleagues could get in the way.

Psch! So what if one thing that Miss Mystic said was right, it's not like the rest will be. Besides she already knew that her team could be annoying sometimes, but she wasn't really bothered by it anymore. Well, most of the time.

Lucy sighed and tried to fix a rebellious strand of her silky hair. Natsu, who just noticed that it was no longer Gray sitting next to him, engulfed her in a very sudden, desperate hug for comfort. She was suprised at first, but she coudln't bring herself to push him away. A small smile made its way to her lips as she watched him taking deep breaths to steady himself. Natsu's hot breath blew against her neck, making her skin tingle and a familiar warmth rose to her cheeks when he snuggled closer to her. Her heart started to pound in her chest – no he wasn't adorable at all!

...Okay, he was.

The blonde started to gently stoke his hair and after a while, his breathing became even and he fell asleep. Lucy just stared at his relaxed face and wondered how such a destructive person could look so innocent.

"Erza, Gray! Lucy is a pervert because she is staring at Natsu with that creepy face," Happy's teasing voice ended her little moment.

"Shut up, stupid cat!" Lucy hissed through gritted teeth, but was unable to move since she was still enveloped by a passed out dragon slayer with an iron grip. Considering that he was somewhere in dreamland, it was amazing that his hold on her was so strong. Or maybe it was her lack in upper body strenght, because no matter how hard she tried, every attempt to escape just made him hold her tighter than before.

Happy grinned mischievously.

Reluctantly, the celestial wizard decided to punish him later. Instead of fruitlessly attempting to scold the feline, she turned her attention to Erza who seemed a lot less hostile that before. "Where are we heading exactly?"

"Our client lives in Hosenka Town. If my calculations are indeed correct, we should arrive in two hours."

"Isn't that the spa place?" Gray raised an eyebrow at his conscious companions.

Erza nodded her head. "Yes it is, but we are not there to relax this time. Our client is worried about an attack from a dark guild, who are supposedly planning to to ruin the annual festival held there. We have to be on guard. Mira told me that the client would likely reveal more information about the job when we arrive there."

"So Mira gave you the job request?"Lucy asked suspiciously, somehow she always had a bad feeling when Mira asked them to go on specific jobs. When the take-over wizard asks for something it's either a) highly embarrassing for the her, b) some matchmaking plan or c) a really, really dangerous job request.

"Yes she did. Do you have a problem with that?"

"No, not at all." Lucy flinched under Erza's threatening glare and attempted to smile reassuringly. She needed to calm down, after all no matter how difficult the job was, it was worth it. She needed that rent money badly. "So, how much is the reward?"

"Let's see ..." Titania mumbled and rummaged through her mountain of luggage for a small piece of paper. After a few minutes that had her companions questioning why she always insisted on carrying an army load of things, Erza found it. "It says the reward is 7.000.000 Jewel. That's not bad at all."

Say what? Not bad? That's astronomic! Lucy's jaw dropped to the ground and Happy's joined hers. The blue cat was already imagining mountains of fish and seafood that he could buy with his cut.

"Wow that's a lot of money for one dark guild and a security job." Gray frowned and rested his head on one arm. "Something is seriously off about this request."

"That's probably why Mira asked us to go on this mission," Erza concluded. "I hope that we get more information from the client. By the way, he is the mayor of the city and owns a lot of money. I wouldn't be surprised if he would offer such high rewards for simple jobs, but my experience tells me something is off as well."

Contemplating silence filled the train compartment.

"...Who cares! Seriously? It's seven million Jewel, that's my rent for who knows how long!" Lucy laughed giddily at the prospect of not having to pay her rent for a long time. If she could only stop her team from destroying half the city again. "Just please, could you try to keep yourselves in check? It's my favorite spa and rebuilding it would leave us jewel-less again."

"We will try our best not to dissappoint you, right Gray?"

"Hmm, sure thing." He still looked deep in thought, but looked up and smiled reassuringly at her.

She knew something was wrong with this mission. She had the same foreboding feeling that Erza and Gray had, but she did not feel like worrying right now. Instead she enjoyed the warmth that radiated from the dragon slayer and fell into a light comfortable sleep.

~~~

If the weather was a guy, she would kick him between the legs for what she was going through right now. It was raining again – no it was like someone got ten million buckets of muddy water and tried to empty them all over the walking wizards. Lucy would use Horologium to hide, but his time already ran out. So there she was, trying to shield herself from mother natures wrath; her clothes clung to her like a second skin. She tried to soothe her violent shivering by rubbing her arms, but the warmth went away quickl and she felt even colder than before.

And not for the first time she felt jealous of her teammates. Erza used her magic to conjure a raincoat, Gray didn't mind the cold like always, Natsu was his own heater and Happy enjoyed cuddling into his scarf.

As if sensing her misery, onyx eyes examine her shivering form.

"Hey Lucy, what's the hold up? Are you cold again?"

No, duh. Her teeth just enjoyed to chatter … or that's what she would have replied if her teeth weren't chattering.

"Why are you always freezing? Jeez, you need some awesome fire magic like me!" He grinned happily at the very unhappy blonde. She apprechiated his attept to lighten her mood.

"No way, ice magic is way better. It makes you resistant against any weather." Gray dropped into their one-sided conversation, trying to comfort her and pester the fire wizard in equal measures. He stepped closer to Lucy and draped an arm over her shoulders. "So what do you say? Wanna learn some ice-make make magic? I don't mind teachin you, Lucy."

Suddenly the rain intensified, if that was even possible for no apparent reason. Lucy was sure there was something wrong with the weather today. This wasn't normal.

"No way, ice magic sucks! It makes you a perverted stipper like him."

"Take that back, you flaming moron!"

"What if I don't, ice bastard?"

"You pickin' a fight, pink guy?"

"And what if I am? Everyone knows fire is better than ice, right Lucy?"

"Like hell it is!"

At this point, they were already throwing punches at eachother and Lucy glanced nervously at Erza for help, who conveniently seemed to take interest in the surrounding nature. Meanwhile, the blonde felt colder than ever before and let out a sneeze which interrupted the two fighting rivals. Their heads snapped to their almost forgotten friend.

"Lucy, tell him I'm right!"

"Do I hear you fighting?" Finally, Erza came to her rescue and finally decided to intervene. Due to Erza's intimidating presence they stopped their fight and went all buddy-buddy. "Besides, re-quip magic is the best. I'm sure Lucy knows that as well. I could teach you some great things that will improve your skills, of you want me to. I'll warn you though, I won't go easy on you."

That was the last straw for the poor woman.

"I don't wanna learn you guys' magic, I just want warmth!" Lucy panted heavily after her outburst and her friends stared at her.

Natsu sighed and walked in front of the pretty blonde. Lucy noted curiously that he was embarrassed about something because he avoided her interrogating gaze. Why would he be flustered about something? He was not seriously concerned because she blew up at them, right? She does that all the time … or was it because she did not say that his magic was better?

"So that's all?" His nochalant question startled her and his face was just inches from hers, his hot breath fanning across her face. There was this look again; the one she could not decipher, the one that made her think something was off about him.

She nodded dumbly.

"Okay then." Natsu ran a hand through his salmon hair, shaking some lost raindrops away. The embarrassed frown on his face combined with the intense look in his eyes made her cheeks warm up. Damn, he really rocked that wild guy look. "Hop on!"

She almost bit her tongue in suprise. "What?"

"Do you got rainwater in your ears? Hop on!" Natsu removed his jacket and gestured for her to get on his back. "I always thought you were the smart one, Lucy. You're getting weirder every day."

Muttering protests beneath her breath, she carefully climbed onto his back and hooked her legs around his waist. Her face flushed pink when she laced her arms around his neck tightly. Her cheek was next to his and she could feel the tones muscles on his back with every movement.

Natsu laughed when he heard her mutter silent curses and bent down to retrieve his black jacket. Lucy watched when he draped the cloth over both of them, his arms slipping into the sleeves before he pulled the zipper up. The celestial mage could not help but feel a tingling senation rise in ger belly when she thought of their close proximity. It was worse than on the train because this time there literally not even a breath of air separating them.

They were like a sandwich. Jacket – Lucy – Natsu – jacket and with Happy on top. It probably looked pretty hilarious, judging by the amused glaces they received from the rest of their team.

"Alright, let's go!" Lucy could feel the excited grin spread onto his face by the way his warm cheek pressed against hers. Her heart felt like leaping out of her chest when his scalding hands gripped her tights. When he started walking, she buried her head in his scarf, trying to supress the squeal that treathened to escape her lips.

"I accept your challenge, may the better team win!" Erza suddenly challenged them, voice brimming with confidence not to be out-done. The sandwich just looked startled at their friend. So did Gray. "Gray, hop on my back."

"Eh? Me?" Gray pointed a finger to himself in disbelief. "You can't be serious..."

"..."

"Ow – okay, stop! I'll climb on by myself," he grumbled while slowly climing on her back. Not only was he in for what was most likely going to be an incredibly terrifying piggibag ride, but his pride took a heavy blow as well. Gray wished that they could at least switch roles.

"Being carried by Erza, now Gray really turned into an ice princess, right Happy?" Natsu snickered evilly.

"Aye, sir. Lucy, can we borrow a dress from you?"

"Definitely not."

After a good hour ride on Natsu's back, parts of her body were coming back to life after being almost frozen to death. Embarassment long forgotten, Lucy let out a content yawn and enjoyed their closeness.

"Natsu?" She whispered tiredly into his neck while inhaling the scent from his scarf. It smelled like fire, ginger and adventure just like Natsu.

"Huh?"

"Maybe fire magic is the best after all." Lucy could not see the radiant smile that spread across his face, in the background she heard an irritated noise from the ice wizard. She let out a chuckle before adding very quietly:"Thanks for keeping me warm, Natsu."

"Always." And for a second she swore that his grip on her legs tightened.

While Lucy was in that sleepy state, she thought about what had been bugging her all day. According to that horoscope she was supposed to meet her soon-to-be boyfriend this week, but the only thing that came close to a romantic encounter was her dense best friend being himself...

If you are able to pass the emotional roller coaster, you will float on cloud nine with your one true love!

Please, let him be good looking. Maybe he is a powerful wizard? He could be rich or even a famous actor. What would she do if she already knows him? That would definitely make things easier when it comes to breaking the ice. She would just have to keep her eyes open and perhaps she will find her one true love during the mission … not that she would believe the stupid horoscope. After all she wanted to prove that it's wrong, not the opposite, right? She didn't even know anymore.

"Lucy, what are you thinking about?"

The woman yelped in fright when she found something blue that reeked of fish very, very close to her face. Happy. She forgot that he slept next to her in Natsu's scarf earlier.

She shrugged. "It's n-nothing."

"But your face was all scrunched up like an old geezer!"The exceed snickered and hid in the white scarf which surrounded both of them. Lucy tried to grab him, but he was skilled in evading her violent outbursts so she failed to smack him.

"Come back here stupid cat," she screamed while the rest of her team laughed. Except for Natsu who flinched a little, her screaming probably hurt his sensitive ears. She apologized to him in her mind. Far from giving up her pursuit on the cat, she lifted her hands from his neck, balled them into fists and tried to reach Happy for the third time that day.

"Natsu ~ Why are you carrying Lucy?" The cat teased again, flying like a gossip hungry vulture above them.

He looked to the side, avoiding his friends eyes. "I owe her for the train ride..."

She wasn't supposed to feel disappointed by his answer. Still, somehow her spirits sunk after hearing that he carried her just because he felt indebted to her. Lucy felt like an idiot for thinking it meant anything else. Before any more negative thought threatened to drain her energy, she desperately searched for a distraction. Luckily, the universe meant it good with her for once.

"Everybody, look! There it is, Hosenka Town." She pointed ahead of them, hoping that her diversion would work. "I mean, we can still use the hot springs, can't we?"

Gray, Natsu and Happy paled visibly – did she say something wrong?

"Of course, we can," Erza grinned with sparkles in her eyes. Everybody sighed in relief and cheered. "Ehh – Of course it's not to show you my new bikini, Lucy. We need to survey the whole area, including the bathing areas."

"Of course not." Lucy sweat dropped.

~~~

Hosenka was famous for its oriental styled buildings, just asmuch as it was for similar themed food and entertainment. It was actually one of Fiore's oldest cities, but the ancient cultural heritage was long gone since the rich son of the Pandera family decided to built a high-class resort on the same place. Still, some places were the same, just renovated and changed for entertainment and tourism.

Small light lacrimas hovered in the air and their rainbow glow drew funny patterns across the lively streets. Happy bumped into one of them and it burst into hundret little sparkles, which rained down on their little group. The miscievous cat continued to interntionally fly into them, finding enjoment in their destruction. Even Lucy though it was cute until some people who were preparing for the festival got angry at them, shooting warning glances at the group.

The spicy smell of cinnamon hung in the air and mingled with steamy aroma of bathing minerals.

"Ugh, why do they have to use strong stuff, my nose is burning!" The dragon slayer sneezed and it resulted in a little explosion with fire and all. The explosice sneeze made Lucy worry what would happen when he actually got sick. The city wouldn't survive it, she was sure.

"Natsu, we made a promise to Lucy, remember? You can't just blow up the street like that!" Being the stict and determined mother hen, Titania hit the poor guy on his head. "Let's just find a shelter for tonight, we shall meet our client tomorrow."

Before Natsu could argue in his defense or worse – let out another explosive sneeze, Gray froze his nose in an attempt to protect it from the spicy smell. The salmon haired mage wasn't amused, but didn't comment when he felt Lucy's hazel eyes pierce through him in warning. Instead he gaped like a fish to get oxygen in his lungs. Several passerby shot him a look of pity.

They arrived at a average looking hotel called Cosmos Inn; not too fancy but it wasn't shabby either. Wait, something was familiar with that name. Didn't the horoscope mention something?

The cosmos ignites your love...

"Hahaha, I think I'm getting paranoid." Lucy shook her head and laughed openly. Her friends started at her worriedly, but she didn't want to explain so she just waved them off. Let them think what they wanted.

"Let's just get a room already," the dark-haired wizard said and draped an arm over Lucy's shoulders. In her mind, that somehow came out wrong. She knew he didn't mean it, but to any stranger the words would imply certain things. The fact that Gray had unconsciously stripped off his clothes again, didn't help his case.

"Eep!" Lucy shrieked and put some distance between them. "Gray, put your clothes back on. We are in public."

He looked down in shock, his boxers with a heart-shaped ice pattern was the only piece of cloth in sight.

"Damn, when did that happen?"

"Put your pants on," Erza demanded before she rammed her elbow in his face. Wow, Erza sure didn't waste time or hold back. Poor Gray, he just had bad luck with women. Natsu would have laughed his ass off, but he and Happy were at the food shop for a quick snack.

Lucy felt pity for her beat-up friend, started to lift him from the ground as gently as possible and dragged him to the reception. The young secretary at the counter smiled at her politely when she looked up from her computer lacrima.

"A room for two, is it?" The woman winked at Lucy suggestively, already checking for available rooms. "We have a 35% discount for such lovely couples as yourselves and the rooms we offer with the deal are quite luxurious, if I do say so myself."

The blonde stuttered out words to deny the receptionist's suggestions, but was unable to form a coherent sentence.

"Are you two not together?"

"Of course, we are. I am her boyfriend, she just isn't used to people calling us out yet. I just confessed yesterday, you know?" Smelling a good deal, Gray threw a charming smile at the now giggling secretary. Meanwhile, he stepped on Lucy's food, to prevent her from saying something. Even if she wanted to, she couldn't. Gray's words made her speechless.

Somewhere in the background, rain started to pour down violently and a stone pillar crumbled to dust. Weird.

"Well then, you have free access to the hot springs … " And so the woman started to talk about the resort and the benefits of their spontaneous couple discount deal.

Lucy glared at her 'boyfriend'. "What is the meaning of this?"

"Hey, don't get angry. We get a discount plus I don't wanna be in a room with the snoring idiot or the scary woman. So please Lucy, just play along for the moment, okay?"

"Fine," she whispered back, a bit calmer now.

"...and that will be 10.000 Jewel for the time of your stay." The ignored secretary smiled and Gray handled her the money. "Oh, are those two friends of yours?"

She gestured to a dumbfounded looking Erza next to Natsu and Happy, who just came back from their snack. Erza raised an eyebrow while the dragon slayer seemed … displeased. Maybe he ate something wrong, wouldn't be the first time.

"Y-yeah, they are o-our friends," Lucy stammered. She did not feel comfortable with the way Natsu was staring at her, an emotion she could not identify swam in his eyes apart from the dissappointment. The life seemed to get sucked out of him, leaving his face pale when Happy chirped his infamous line.

"They llllllike each other!"

Lucy looked at Gray who was perfectly at ease with an arm draped over her shoulder. She couldn't help but sigh at his calm persona. We he felt her look he grinned down at her and flicked her nose. No, Gray and here were just friends who had a stong connection due to being the more sane ones in the group. They had more than a couple of private jokes on behalf of their team mates and shared moments of agony when the people around them went crazy.

A low growl emitted from beside them and Lucy felt the scorching heat before they saw Natsu light his fists. What was his deal now?

"Oi, ice bastard! I still have to get you back for the ice you shoved in my nose earlier!"

"Oh yeah? But you didn't complain about it before."

"Huh? What does it matter, I care now – Ow, Erza! What the hell?!"

"We would like to have a room, too." The scarlet haired woman leaned onto the counter casually, dragging a protesting fire wizard along with her and ignoring the tense atmosphere in the room. Dicount hunter, your name is Erza Scarlet. She handed the receptionist the right amount of money for another 'couple's room'.

"Of course, you are a couple too right? That's so great, a double date vacation. I wish my boyfriend would do something like that," the overly excited woman said dreamily, typed something into her computer lacrima before turning her attention back to them. "Here are your keys, enjoy your stay at the Cosmos Inn!"

Chapter Text

Yawning widely, Lucy stretched her exhausted muscles and shifted in her comfy bed. Not willing to greet the sun yet, she pulled the soft cushion over her head. A bad foreboding feeling told her that it was better not to open her eyes and just stay in bed for now. Still, in the state between being awake and dreaming, Lucy was barely aware of her surroundings and didn't even notice the load rapping on the door. She opened her bleary eyes slowly and regretted it immediately when the sun glared in her face full force.

Then there was another loud sting of knocks on their door, followed by a tired grown from her teammate.

"Gray?" Lucy mumbled tiredly and couldn't suppress a tiny chuckle when she saw his sleeping position. He was half on the bed and half on the ground, his hair looked like some animal died there.

"Hm?" His voice was muffled by the comforter. "What?"

"Can you open the door?" She sighed and turned away from him. "I'm too sleepy."

The knocking got even more insitant. Apparently Gray went back to sleep again so he didn't hear it. Whoever was outside decided that they've waited long enough and with a loud burst the door was out of its frame.

"Stand up! It's time to meet the client." Erza must've been a drill instructor in another life, she sure got the essencials down.

"Oi, can you be quiet? My hangover is killing me and you are like and 11 on the noise scale right now." Gray dared to groan, not caring for the consequences of his words and clutched his head in agony. "I need you to be a 5 or less."

Lucy was sure, that Erza would have retaliated with severe punishment, but suprisingly not a sound was heard in return. Erza's, Happy's and Natsu's jaws dropped to the ground simultaneously when they saw the mess that unfolded itself in front of them.

"What did you two do?" Erza yelled on top of her lungs and the two sleepy magicians sat up from their positions as if lighting struck them. Suddenly, wide-awake. At first Lucy didn't really get what her friend was referring to … until the last bit of her sleepiness wore off.

Spears of ice were stuck in the walls, a cushion was frozen as well, half of the room was still underwater, the window was shattered, one corner of the room was filled with some soft-pink-cotton-stuff, the bed sheets were ripped apart, a defect lamp hung limply from the ceiling, clouds of dust polluted the air and coated what was left of the furniture. It looked like a scene straight up from either a horror or a drunk orgy movie.

Not only was the freaking room torn to pieces, Gray and Lucy looked as if they'd been on a battlefield as well.

"Look we can explain," the ice wizard stammered while sweat was forming on his forehead. "Right, Lucy?"

"Looks like you had a fight," Natsu grumbled annoyed and glared at Gray. When he turned to Lucy, he started to pout like a little kid. "Lucy, you should have invited me, I'm your partner after all!"

"We d-didn't have a fight," she tried to explain but the anxiety got the better of her. At that moment the blonde woman felt a very intense stare bore into her head and she looked up into intense onyx eyes. Natsu didn't look very happy with her answer. She gulped and her mouth went dry. Since when does Natsu look so scary?

"Did you do something indecent to her, Gray? I want an explanation!" Erza used her most frightening stare to intimidate them. Oh, they were thinking that Gray and her … Realization struck Lucy and she vehemently shook her head. They didn't do anything like that!

"Uh … well … " She tried to find words to describe the odd incident, but before she could utter another word her black haired friend clamped a hand over her mouth.

"There were tons of … gigantic fish monsters who tried to attack us, but we were able to defeat them before any harm could be done to other hotel guests. You should thank us," Gray said confidently as if he really believed his own lie and Lucy regretted to let him talk.

"Aw, why didn't you save some fish for me?" Happy pouted. "Lucy, you are so mean!"

"That's what you're worried about?!" the blonde managed to yell through the hand on her mouth.

"Alright then, where are these fish monsters now?" Erza raised an eyebrow inquiringly.

"Um … we disposed of them … they are … we donated them to some … people who were hungry?" Lucy shrunk under the redhead's annoyed look and let out a breath of air. She had never been a good liar and would probably never be. So she decided to tell them the truth about what happened in the room. After all, she didn't want to start any rumors or her being in bed with Gray. Taking a deep breath, she recounted yesterday's events.

It all started the evening before, when a certain fire magician suggested that they should go out and have some fun. What seemed like a nice plan ended in one of the local bars and a lot of alcohol. She remembered faintly how Natsu carried her back to the hotel and they all went to their respective rooms.

So far that didn't sound too bad, but the problem lay somewhere else. Lucy had never been much of a drinker because it heightens her emotions too much. Out of simple friendship could turn love, out of discomfort could turn despair and out of fright could turn panic. The latter had been triggered by her greatest fear – a hairy spider which was as big as a plate.

From the moment she spotted the monster, it turned into an all-out war between the insect and the two magicians. Spirits were called and ice was flung in every direction until they finally got the beast.

"A spider...really, Lucy? You're afraid of spiders?" Natsu teased and raised an eyebrow, apparently he got over his grumpy mood. "You could have just called me and I'd have burned it."

"That's not the point." She panicked and looked around hectically. Damn, how could they do something like this to an innocent hotel room. She wasn't even the destructive type – this mission was definitely not starting well. "What do we do? Where do we sleep now?"

"You're gonna sleep in our room, duh." He crossed his arms over his chest, red covering his cheeks and avoided her curious glance. He seemed to be suspiciously happy about something. "I'd rather not have you alone with that perverted stripper anyway."

"Oi!"

"Really? We can sleep in your room?" Lucy grinned happily and looked at Erza for confirmation. Good thing the re-quip wizard already burned all her rage off by lecturing Gray, so she was in a better mood and agreed.

~~~

After a belated breakfast, they headed out of the Cosmos Inn in order to find their client. Today the rainy clouds were replaced with the glaring sun yet again, but the humid temperatures caused mysterious fog to appear which Natsu did not trust. His mood wasn't anywhere close to his usual cheerfulness because he was bothered by something again.

Earlier, Lucy snapped at Gray for invading her personal bubble by rolling half-naked to her side of the bed and snoring into her ear most of the night. Gray tried to defend himself against the violent blonde by stating that he couldn't control his body when he sleeps.

Lucy was satisfied with the explanation, but Natsu strangely wasn't. Not at all. He was irritated by the newly found closeness of his partner and Gray. For some unknown reason it irritated him so much that he started to chew on his lips and repeatedly ground his teeth together. In a nutshell, he felt restless.

"Are we there yet?" Natsu whined annoyed and slumped his shoulders like a little kid who didn't get his favorite candy.

He balled his hands into fists when Lucy didn't answer him. Oh yeah...she answered Gray but not him. She got a room with Gray but not him. She looked at Gray but not him. It's okay when Gray started a fight but not him. Always not him.

Natsu sighed. Maybe he was over-reacting. It wasn't Lucy's or Gray's fault that he felt this way, he didn't even underszand himself anymore. The lack of action didn't become him well. If the pink-haired magician lacked action, he started to think and that was clearly a negative thing. That's why Igneel taught him a simple technique to get his thoughts in order.

Gray had droopy eyes. Only jerks have droopy eyes, meaning Gray was a jerk.

This would mean that he didn't like Gray at the moment – then again he almost never did – and this method worked well when he wanted to sort out his simple emotions. It worked on food, too. Fire chicken smells good. What smells good tastes good. Thus fire chicken tastes good. As easy as breathing, right?

Unfortunately, it doesn't work on celestial magicians or it's just Lucy who is weird. She was so weird that his mind boycotted any rational thought that could explain her. For example... Lucy smells really good. What smells good tastes good. Thus meaning Lucy tastes good?

Maybe he should try it one day, but she would probably hit him. That reminded him... "I'm hungry … like without food for a week hungry!"

"You just ate six roasted chicken for breakfast," Lucy scolded exasperated and pulled at his ear, trying to teach him a lesson

"So what? That's two less than normal." Natsu raised and eyebrow as if that was the most obvious thing in the world. "You're weird, Lucy."

"Aye, sir!" Happy sat down on his shoulder and stuck out his tongue at the clearly annoyed woman.

"Shut your trap, cat. You almost ate as many fish," Lucy grumbled almost inaudibly. "If you both continue to suck food in like black holes, there won't be any money left to pay my rent … and you're calling me weird."

"Aye!"

"Of all the times, you agree with me now." She rolled her eyes and turned towards their destination.

Their little group stood in front of a large mansion that cast a shadow over all the buildings that were next to it. It looked intimidating to say the least and clearly showed the extravagant orient style like the rest of the city. A bunch of gold statues framed the narrow stone path which lead to the grand wooden doors.

"Show offs," Gray commented dryly when they approached the grand door. "At least we know why they pay so many jewel for a simple security job."

"Whoa! The house is big!" Natsu's eyes were about to fall out of their sockets. Two servants opened the gate and lead them to their client. Erza who was silently enduring her companions antics, reminded them to look professional in front of their client. Meaning: no fire, ice, fighting, spirits popping out, blunt comments or begging for fish.

Lucy was excited to meet their client because the only thing she looked forward to was the possibility that she'd find her true love. The mighty horoscope foretold that she was supposed to have interesting encounters, so maybe their client was her new love?... or maybe not.

"Whoa, he is big too," the pink-haired idiot exclaimed, unaware that he already broke one of Erza's rules of behavior. She glared at him to make it clear that he wasn't supposed to do the talking, effectively shutting him up. Still, even Lucy was a bit astounded by the volume of the man in front of them, who's proportions rivaled that of an elephant . Her lovely dream of her new love burst into thousand pieces … he sort of resembled Duke Everloo. Wrong yet again, Miss Mystic.

"Pleased to meet you, wizards from Fairy Tail, I'm glad that you could make it in time," their client greeted them with an authoritative and deep voice while his gray mustache kept moving up and down. "I'm Duke Pandera and since over a decade I manage the finances of Hosenka Town. You probably know from the job description that a dark guild threatens to attack the citizens and some very important business relations of mine at the festival. Your priority will be to guard those important people and to destroy the dark guild."

"Could you tell us more about the dark guild?" Erza asked curiously.

"Certainly ..." Duke Pandera rested his head on his hands and some sorrow lines redefined his face. "Their name is Chaos Hunter and they formed about a year ago. I don't know much about their leader, but they seem to prefer wearing black robes. Nobody has ever seen their faces because they always disappear so quickly, almost like phantoms. Their headquarter is must be somewhere close to the city I reckon, but those are just the rumors. I'm sorry but that's all I know so far."

"Thank you, sir. That already helps us a lot." The celestial magician smiled at their client before asking the question that burned on her tongue ever since she heard about the mission. "Why do you offer such a high sum for this job? I mean, we're not complaining about 7.000.000 Jewel but ..."

"Aye, that's a lot of money. Also why do you think they will attack at the festival?" Happy asked from Natsu's shoulder.

Duke Pandera sighed and adjusted his red tie nervously. "At first, Chaos Hunter only targeted families of lower rank with less money, but a few weeks ago on another festival even my daughter Urania and my son Nathan were kidnapped by them. I don't know if they're alive or not, but if you can destroy this guild I will certainly know. Please help me get my children back."

"Of course we'll help you, that's why were here," Lucy replied reassuringly and showed him a thumbs up. Lucy felt a shiver run down her spine when he mentioned the guilds name, but for a very different reason. Internally, she was having an hysterical fit. Her companions noticed her weird behavior, but didn't comment on it.

Later this week, Uranus and Neptune will cause breakdown and you'll need to face the chaos.

Miss Mystic couldn't have possibly predicted that, too. Chaos Hunter, Urania and Nathan are totally different names. There couldn't be a connection or it would really start to get creepy.

~~~

Until now their little trip had been anything but relaxing, even though they were in a town that was build just for that purpose. She envied the people who only came here to enjoy the festival and were able to soak their sore muscles in the warm, herbal hotsprings. Maybe they'd get the chance to enjoy the party, if they could find the dark guild soon enough. Lucy sighed and took a sip from her strawberry milkshake while looking at the thoughtful faces of her friends.

In the beginning, she thought that the rapid weather changes came from being unlucky. Instead, she spotted Juvia in a nearby bush observing them or rather her beloved Gray-sama. She wondered why the water wizard didn't just ask them to bring her along. It would be easier for both of all of them.

"Any ideas of how to find Chaos Hunter?" The ice alchemist threw the question at the group, minus Natsuwho left earlier in a rush to find the dark guild by himself. The rest of them were in the middle of a strategy meeting in a small local cafe at the center of Hosenka Town. "Or how we should work on this job?"

Distant yelling made them flinch in four of them were pretending they didn't know Natsu who the cause of the ruckus, running around shouting that 'Chaos Hunter' shouldn't be such cowards and come to fight him. For him it was the obvious way to approach a problem – take it head on.

"I think we should definitely make sure the people at the festival are safe, so we can't leave all at the same time," Erza said seriously and everybody nodded. "Moreover, I want to find out more information about this guild before engaging in a battle with them."

"I can do that!" Happy pointed to himself proudly. "I can fly around town and ask if anybody has heard something."

"Great idea! We're counting on you," she replied cheerfully and the exceed was glad to be helpful. "Maybe we should form groups. One group to detect Chaos Hunter and the other to protect the city. It would be the most reasonable choice."

"I'll go with the detecting group because I might have an idea where they could hide," Lucy mumbled to herself and caught everybody's curiosity. She felt as if she was forgetting something about this city, but maybe a trip to the library could freshen her memory up. "In order to disappear quickly in a mass of people without getting noticed you need either extremely good knowledge of the area or a trick of sorts. Moreover, their hideout wasn't supposed to be far away. I need to go to the library to check it out, I can tell you tomorrow what I found out, okay?"

"Cool, but you can't find them alone," Gray stated although his voice was muffled by the shirt he was about to pull over his head. "I'll help you out with the fighting. It's more exciting than protecting people anyway."

Somehow a little rain cloud started to form above Lucy's head, but she managed to avoid it by shifting her chair to the side. She tried to tell Juvia with her eyes to stop, but said girl just yelled something that sounded like 'love rival'.

"Great, Lucy! That saves us a lot of time." Nodding in approval, Erza pressed the blonde to her plated chest and Lucy's face paled from the pain. "I'll be in the protecting team because I don't really trust Natsu and Gray together with the city. Not to mention the way you wrecked your hotel room Lucy, I'm starting to worry you're not much better than them. Now that that's settled, any objections?"

Lucy looked for Natsu and found him staring angrily at them. His fists were clenched and his jaw was set. He looked positively dangerous, like a volcano close to an eruption and she had never seen him like that before. She could practically feel the air around them spike a few degree when his glare shifted to her.

"Did I do something to you?" He asked in a low voice that made goosebumps form on her skin. Damn, this was not the right moment to feel attracted to him. Can you even feel frightened and attracted at the same time?

"What are you talking about, Natsu?" She gulped and tried to avoid his intense gaze. Erza, Happy and Gray were dead silent.

"We are a team, Lucy." His voice was close to a growl and the piled up frustration was close to bubbling over. "We're always doing things together. You, Happy and me."

Lucy gaped like a fish out of water. "But Erza and Gray are part of our team too and we hang out all the time. It never bothered you before?"

"Well, it bothers me now. You've been ignoring me since yesterday and I don't know why," Natsu admitted angrily and a few passerby stared at them weirdly. "I don't want you to go and fight that dark guild without me and that's final."

"Oi, Natsu don't say stuff you'll regret – "Gray tried to pacify him by putting an arm on his shoulder, but Natsu shrugged it off.

"Shut up, Gray! I just don't want her to get hurt, that's all!"

"You don't get to tell me what I can do and what I can't," she screamed back with tears forming in her eyes. She didn't even knew why he was going berserk. "I can take care of myself and you know that. I know I'm not as strong as you, but you don't have to rub it in."

"L- Lucy … I didn't ..."

"No! Just leave me alone, Natsu."

Not wanting everyone to see her cry, she ran away. Anywhere was better than staying with the fire breathing idiot. How could he say something like that? Since yesterday, he had been acting weird. Scratch that, Natsu's been acting weird and over-protective even before this mission started.

Lucy hated to fight with him and it always made her feel like crap. He knows her insecurities and should know which line he shouldn't cross. That's the problem with people you care the most about, they can also rip your heart out and wound it like no one else. On the other hand he was Natsu Dragneel, the epitome of idiocy. Let's just say he's not known for his tactfulness.

Crying in a dark corner would feel great by now and she was getting sick of all the town people staring at her like she was an attraction. How exciting, a crying girl. Everybody should come and watch.

If you are able to pass the emotional roller coaster, you will float on cloud nine with your one true love!

Troublesome collegues. Check. Emotional roller-coaster. Check. One true love. Quit joking. If she could see Miss Mystic now, she would kick her hard.

Chapter Text

Thick white clouds of steam rose from the bubbling hot springs and the smell of healing herbs hung in the air. Small drops of water dripped from her golden hair into the bath, causing small ripples to disturb the glassy surface.

She sighed and tried to relax her stiffened shoulders. Crying always made Lucy feel drained and the lump in her throat only disappeared when she solved her issues. Sleep was also a thing she was missing recently. Not only were her thoughts stuck in a roundabout about their fight, but her two male friends snored like beasts. Sensing her distress, Erza suggested that they should test the hot springs and have a heart to heart.

"Look at my new bikini, Lucy. What do you thing?" Erza beamed and used her magic to change into her skimpy, crimson two piece. Internally, Lucy felt like laughing out loud. The red head always wanted to be girly, but she was only regarded as warrior woman. What a waste, she could easily be a model for bikinis. She was adorable in her own special way.

Avoid the color red.

At least her friend got to wear her favorite color. Miss Mystics horoscope started to give her the creeps. Most of the stuff that woman predicted in that horrible article was right, so Lucy decided to try to follow some of her advices … at least for now.

"It looks gorgeous, Erza." She smiled encouragingly and clapped her hands together. Somehow, the enthusiasm was missing, nor did the smile reach her eyes. "You should show me the shop were you bought it."

Erza sighed and raised an eyebrow. "You're still angry with him, aren't you?"

"Of course, I am." Lucy pouted and crossed her arms over her chest stubbornly. Since their fight yesterday, she hadn't talked to him. Not even a single word, even though he tried to persuade her to forgive him. Natsu bought her favorite food for dinner. He let her have his bed with some convincing from the warrior woman.

Heck, he didn't even make a sound when she started to write her novel, but she just didn't feel like forgiving him yet. The woman just couldn't understand where his anger came from at all and why it was directed at her of all people.

"Natsu is a jerk and you know it. Did you hear what he was saying? I know I'm not the first choice when it comes to combat, but how am I supposed to prove myself if you guys never give me a chance. I know he probably didn't mean for it to sound that way; it still hurts to hear it though. For someone who has a hard time understanding his feelings, he sure does know how to hurt mine."

"Actually, I think that Natsu understands feelings far too well," Erza said calmly and her eyes grew soft. She patted her friend's shoulder and leaned back against a rock,closing her eyes. "You know how his foster father left him when he was a kid, right? He loved him very much."

"I know that, but what does it have to do with our fight?" Lucy asked, slightly pacified by the calm and collected aura of her friend.

"He didn't know how to deal with the pain from that memory nor did anybody teach him how to be more perceptive with others," the red haired magician explained slowly and the blonde started to see a new side to him which explained some of his character traits. "If he fears that something that he loves will be taken away from him or … in this case, when he gets the feeling that someone is leaving him behind, he doesn't know how to deal with it and gets frustrated. His childish side comes through because that's the only way he knows how to deal with it. Do you see what I mean?"

"I guess so..." Lucy answered deep in thought. "When I was little and somebody wanted to take my lollipop, I always clung to it and cried until they let me be. If another kid tried to take it away, I always stole it back or just hid it so nobody would find it. Is it the same?"

"Yes and in our case you are the lollipop." Erza giggled behind her hand and the blonde wizard groaned at the comparison – she always wanted to be a sugary thread. "That's the only way I can explain it. He feared that the lollipop he loves so much would leave him behind for someone else. That idiot should know better, but I guess some fears just stick with you. Natsu still is a child in some ways."

"H-he l-loves?" She blushed a deep crimson and sunk deeper into the bath to hide it, making small bubbles with her mouth. Love in the way best friends love each other. That must be what Erza meant, so there was no need for her to panic.

Her friend watched her in amusement, but looked doubtful after a while. "You're one of the smartest people in Fairy Tail and you can't even figure that one out?"

"I already told Mira, there is nothing to find out. We're just good friends – nothing more," Lucy stuttered and was suddenly very interested in how her hair looked in the water. The strands swam around like weird octopus tentacles. On a different train of thought, she looked gratefully at her friend. "Thank you, Erza! I really mean it, I'm so glad that you are my friend."

"Really?"

She clapped her hands together and nodded to herself confidently. Erza felt a rush of happiness, she secretly always longed for some real girltalk and being able to give relationship advice to her friends.

"He's angry because when I go with Gray instead of him, all the money will be with us and he can't buy food."

Erza looked perplexed and her jar fell to the ground. "Seriously, I don't think – "

"Gosh, I should have known. He loves food over everything, but it's kinda dramatic to go this crazy over food. Ahhh, I'm so relieved."

"Lucy, that's not what I..."

But her protests were ignored when the now relaxed celestial wizard made her way out of the hot spring and dried herself with a white cotton towel. Lucy waved at her friend in the bath and yelled something about going to the library.

Erza knew that Natsu was incredibly dense and probably didn't even realize that he liked Lucy more than best friends should, but at least he was his usual self and just acted on instinct. On the other hand, she just couldn't believe the scene that had just happened a few moments ago. Has Lucy accidentally fried her brain or got kidnapped by aliens? Most of the time Lucy was one of the first people to notice when love was in the air ...

~~~

The city was bustling with people who prepared for the festival. More light lacrimas than at the first day were hovering in the air and illuminating the streets beautifully. He could smell various delicious kinds of food like roasted chicken, cotton candy, ice cream, sandwiches, orientally spiced vegetables and many more. But all of it didn't matter because he was in a bad mood. Natsu groaned sulkily when he wandered down a path and watched the busy people.

It was one of the worst days in his life and he could summarize the reasons in three sentences. They haven't found a hint about the guilt called Chaos Hunter. Happy was nowhere to be seen. Lucy was still angry with him. Great, just great.

Just when the fire wizard walked around a street corner, he spotted a familiar golden head. Speak of the devil. At first, Natsu wanted to talk to her, but decided against it. Lucy seemed deep in thought and he knew that she didn't want to talk to him right now. Instead, he decided to follow her like a ninja. Just to make sure she was safe, of course.

Natsu tumbled over a few boxes, ran into a few people who dropped their newly bought food and accidentally destroyed a booth full of cotton candy in which he dove because she turned around. He was getting a hang of the ninja-thing. Many angry people yelled after him to pay for the stuff, but he was too occupied with his secret mission to notice.

Lucy stopped to talk with some people, but he was too far away to hear their conversation. An elderly woman pointed to a building and the blonde woman nodded thankfully. In order to follow her unnoticed, Natsu hid behind several people who gave him weird looks in response. She halted in front of a shop that was crammed to the brim with books. Urg, books. He never understood why she seemed to like them so much. They're boring as hell.

Natsu was so busy thinking that he didn't notice the guy at the library counter at first, who started to flirt with his best friend. He looked definitely ugly in Natsu's books and was ogling at the neckline of Lucy's lavender colored silk kimono. What a creepy bastard … and she didn't even notice. It was like she was a danger magnet for these things. Natsu watched their conversation attentively, not even noticing the barrel of apples that started to burn beneath his hands.

"Hey what the hell are you doing? You gotta pay for that, mister!" The booth vendor yelled in fright and pointed at his burned goods, but his pleas were ignored. Natsu was leaning over another barrel – almost falling over – in order to get a better look.

He couldn't believe his eyes, that bastard had the nerve to touch her arm and Lucy looked far from comfortable with that. A pretty blush formed on her cheeks, but he presumed it was out of anger. She seemed to struggle with getting the unwanted hands off her arm and he saw her disapproving frown. Natsu imagined several ways to break that guys bones, if he were to harm even a hair on her head.

Okay.

To hell with self control. He couldn't let this happen. The irritated dragon slayer kicked the barrel away, stomped over to the shop and kicked the door open. Lucy and the shop assistant looked shocked at the intruder who was still covered in pink cotton candy, but Natsu didn't care. Instead he walked right to the boy and ripped his hand from Lucy's arm.

The dragon slayer's keen nose picked off an odd scent from the guy and he didn't like it one bit.

"What do you think you're doing?" He growled and the guy held up his hands in a defensive pose, his glasses were almost falling from his nose. "Don't touch her or I'll burn you to a crisp!"

A shocked silence ensued.

Natsu turned around to check whether Lucy was okay, but he didn't see the grateful expression he hoped for. For all it was worth, she resembled Erza when she was about to scold someone for their rash behavoir.

"Natsu ..." It came out more like an exhasperated sigh. Her slender fingers pinched the bridge of her nose before she crossed her arms in front of her chest. "What the hell do you think you're doing? Verde was just going to show me around the library, he wasn't attacking me."

"It didn't look that way to me," Natsu muttered and shot a warning glare over his shoulder at the guy. "I don't like him, he smells funny."

"He was just showing me the way to the books I'm searching for," Lucy replied, her patience wearing thin. "He's been nothing but kind so far. A little grabby maybe, but kind."

"I don't care what he was or wasn't doing. There is something fishy about him and I don't like you being near him."

"Look Natsu, I don't really have the nerve to deal with your over-protectiveness right now. Just let me do my job and get the information we need."

"Fine." Natsu frowned and turned to leave, but not before shooting Veru or whatever his name was another nasty glare. It was all his fault. At least Lucy was talking to him again, though it seemed as if she still hadn't forgiven him. When he stepped outside the dusty library, an angry mob of shop vendors, who formed an alliance against booth violating dragon slayers, waited for him. Great … his day just got better.

"There he is! that's the man who burned my apples!" The gray haired vendor from before yelled and pointed the stick of his broom at Natsu.

"Why is he covered in pink?" A brown haired woman asked curiously, gesturing to the cotton candy that hung from his clothes.

"That's because he fell into my cotton candy machine and destroyed it," another vendor explained sadly and pointed to his booth to prove it.

"Get him!"

Holy crap. He could either beat them up which would be a great stress relief or run. Natsu decided to make a run for it because he didn't want to get into trouble with the women on his team, even more than he already was. While running the fire wizard came to the conclusion that he had to clear things up with Lucy and apologize. Even if he didn't feel responsible at all, he wanted to end their fight once and for all.

~~~

Finally, after six hours he was able to get rid of the violent vendor mob with only a few scratches. Who knew that brooms could hurt that much, he could certainly learn a couple of tricks from the vendors. The soon-to-be purple bruises that littered his body ached when he dragged himself through the doors of the Cosmos Inn.

"And where do you think you're going?"

"Non of your business, ice freak." Natsu gritted his teeth and fought the urge to start a fight with Gray just for the sake of it. It wasn't the worst idea since the action that provided would surely distract him from his crappy day. "I need to talk to Lucy. She's still angry at me."

"Yeah, you ain't gonna do nothing before I've had my chance to beat some sense into your tiny brain." Gray grabbed the surprised dragon slayer by his shoulders and started to drag him off to a secluded area. Curious what the usually composed man had planned, Natsu let himself get dragged along. Even found the lack of ususal protest from his rival shocking, but decided not to comment on it.

They arrived at the roof top of the Inn which was covered in ruby-red tiles. A breeze of fresh evening air ruffled their hair, when Gray unceremonously dropped Natsu on the roof and sat next to him. For a while, they just enjoyed the silence neither willing to start the conversation that was bound to happen.

"What's wrong with you lately? And don't tell me that bullshit about wanting to protect her, you know damn well that she can handle herself." He risked a glance towards the fire wizard next to him, not disappointed when he saw the uncomfortable expression on his face. Looks like he was right on the mark.

"I don't know what you're talking about," Natsu muttered, trying his best not to have this conversation with Gray of all people.

The raven-haired man rolled his eyes, questioning why he volunteered to do this in the first place. Helping Lucy, right. He'd just somehow have to get the stubborn idiot to comply. "Don't lie to me. You know exactly what I'm talking about."

"Okay, fine. Yes, I know she can take care of herself just fine. Still, I'm just worried about her that's all," Natsu reluctantly admitted, feeling dread rise in his stomach. When his rival didn't reply, the fire wizard sighed and continued. " … I don't know what I'm feeling, but I'm just so moody lately. I just want to be with her and have fun like we usually do. We are partners after all, aren't we?"

"Yes, you are. It's natural that you worry about her safety that's what friends do. But you also have to trust her, just like she trusts you." Gray watched the clouds lazily drift by and ran a hand through his hair. Was he really just explaining something this basic to Natsu? He should know this. "That's what partners do."

"That still doesn't explain why I'm feeling this crappy all the time," the fire wizard argued impatiently. He didn't want to admit it, but what the ice bastard said made sense. He has been over-reacting and Lucy didn't deserve it. Natsu trusted her with his life, she was his partner. "It's like everything she does has some kind of weird effect on me. Lucy's weirdness is probably contagious."

Genuine surprise stunned Gray into silence, he didn't expect Natsu to open up to him this much nor was he prepared for the indirect confession his pal just dropped. Some things were suddenly starting to make sense, including the dragon slayers odd behavior. He briefly wondered whether someone in the guild sarificed themselves and told this clueless bastard about romantic relationships already. It certainly didn't seem that way.

"You know about the birds and the bees, right Natsu?" Sweat ran down his neck, he really would rather be anywhere but here right now.

The look he received from Natsu was priceless. Cheeks flushed with a brilliant red, the dragon slayer punched his arm lightly. "Of course, I do!"

"That's great. Really great."

"Can we please stop this now? You're giving me the creeps."

"I thought you'd never ask. I already feel your stupidity rub off on me."

"You already were stupid before, stupid."

"Just go and apologize to Lucy."

"Yeah, you don't have to tell me."

~~~

With a creaking sound, he opened the wooden door to their collective room and carefully peaked into it. The first thing he saw were scattered books, maps and pages that were adored with Lucy's elegant scribbles. His eyes searched for the blonde magician and he smiled when found her in a weird sleeping position.

Lucy lay on the ground between all those books, a writing feather in her right hand and her slender body curled up into a ball. Her face held a blissful expression that wouldn't be there if she knew that she accidentally splattered her blue ink all over a book in her sleep. Small amounts of it were still on her fingers. Not many people knew it, but when she was motivated, Lucy was a really hard worker. Natsu knew that she had the tendency to over-work herself sometimes, so he wasn't too fond of all those books she reads.

Slowly, he approached her sleeping form and lifted her up in his arms without waking her. Natsu's breath hitched when her head fell against his neck and he almost felt her soft lips on his skin, but he composed himself and carried her over to their bed.

Yes, their bed.

Since it was originally his bed and he just gave it to her temporarily to make up, he still considered it his bed though … making it theirs? When he put her down on the white cotton comforter, she buried her face into the cushion and mumbled something. Slowly, his hand drifted towards her face on its own accord. He just liked the feeling of Lucy's soft skin. She sighed in her sleep when his finger brushed the small sorrow wrinkle between her eyebrows away. Lucy was almost cute when she was asleep.

"Yooooo guys," Gray yelled drunkenly as he burst through the door with Erza and Happy in tow. Startled, Natsu withdrew his hand and looked at the group, hoping that they didn't see him. All the companioship he felt towards Gray earlier was instantly erased. How did that bastard manage to get drunk in just twenty minutes? "Where have ya been? There was such a cool bar with a lot of free booze and hot girls. You should have seen that, man!"

"Oi, don't come barging in here like that," Natsu yelled loudly and threw a book at his rival. "Some people are sleeping."

"Then don't yell, you moron!" Gray grabbed the book and chucked it right back at Natsu's head who then grabbed a cushion. So another pillow fight – the better word would be war – started. Even the poor cat was hit by a pillow which knocked him unconscious.

"Cut it out you two or you'll wake Lucy!" Erza yelled above all the noise and pointed a dozen swords at the two rivals who were sweating bullets by now.

"It's too late fore that," Lucy answered groggily and rubbed her sleepy eyes. She yawned widely before she pointed an accusing finger at the ice alchemist. She was only sort of awake. "You should consider Juvia's feelings and don't hang out with hot girls or … I'll … Crap, I forgot what I was saying. See? That's what happens when you don't let me sleep."

"Juvia is here?" Gray's eyes budged out of their sockets and he was unconsciously stripping again. "Since when?"

Outside, rain started to pour in waterfalls and the whole group gulped anxiously.

"Anyhow … Happy what did you find out by asking the citizens?" Erza demanded from the dizzy cat.

"Many people ran away from me when I asked them about Chaos Hunter, but I met some people from wealthier families who said that their children have been kidnapped. Also, I heard that the people in the dark guild are using strange magic," Happy told them after he regained his senses.

"Hmmm that's weird … why only the rich people?" Lucy murmured to herself while Erza slapped Gray for not listening to them. He used his magic to make an ice block to cool his new wound and hid in another corner of the room.

"Lucy, what did you find in the library? I must be something since our room looks like half of the library is inside … by the way you'll return all of this and clean it up," the red haired woman added with a sour tone in her voice. She was getting annoyed by all the mess they caused.

"Yes ma'am." Lucy saluted obediently and then started to tell them what she found out in her research.

Do your thing! Your unusual ideas can be the cornerstone for you success.

Lucy hated to admit it, but following her instinct was the right decision. The key to solve the riddle of the dark guild's location was the architecture of the city itself because even if one can't see it, the cultural heritage of Hosenka Town was tremendous. Sadly, the Duke of Pandera decided to create a modernized city for tourism and many believe that the old buildings disappeared completely. But they didn't. Because of the high water level, they had to build the new city on top of the old buildings after flattening them and use magic to keep the stones together.

"Underground tunnels?" Natsu didn't really listen to the entire explanation, but this was what registered in his mind.

Lucy sighed and studied some of the maps she had drawn from the information. "More like an underground labyrinth. It could take ages to find the right path and even longer to find something specific in there."

"It's not like we can't handle some stupid tunnels," he scoffed and rolled his eyes.

"Very well, then I believe we should search for the entrance to the old city tomorrow," Erza said seriously, before letting out a yawn and changing into a pajama with her magic. "I think Gray, Juvia, Happy and I should stay in the city. We need more people to protect the citizens and Natsu's fire is useful in dark underground tunnels." Secretly, she winked at Lucy who groaned in response. They still hadn't made up yet and it was awkward. Thanks, Erza.

"So we'll be going with Juvia? Where is she?" Gray questioned and the two girls smiled knowingly.

The weather suddenly calmed down and Lucy had to giggle. Juvia was so predictable, unlike the actual weather or her life.

She was far to exhausted to register that there was another person in her bed. Only when what she thought was a warm but hard pillow started to speak, her eyes went wide with realization. Right, they didn't move from their position when they had discussed about their mission earlier.

"Lucy, are you awake?" Natsu mumbled, just a few inches from her face and his onyx eyes squinted to see her in the dark.

"Yeah," she whispered back. All anger from the day and the previous was washed away by the serenity of the night. The moonlight bathed the room in a silver light and they could only hear some crickets chirp. It was really hard not to feel peaceful. And after her heart to heart with Erza, she wasn't even that angry with him anymore.

Venus it the cause of your flirty mood, but don't carry it too far. For you could break a heart.

The shop assistant was called Verde not Venus, but it still scared her. Was it just another coincidence? She was indeed flirting with him, but it didn't hurt anybody, right? If in some insane parallel universe, Natsu had feelings for her, the horoscope would be kind of accurate.

"I'm sorry." His honest eyes captured hers and Lucy couldn't look away even if she wanted too. Damn those puppy dog eyes, he mastered them perfectly. Natsu rarely apologized for something, so that was a plus. "I didn't mean what I said, it was dumb. Honestly, I just wanted to spend time with my partner and it felt like you've been ignoring me. That doesn't make it okay, of course. I just want you to know that I trust you, Lucy."

"Thanks for saying that, Natsu. I forgive you and I'm sorry that I over-reacted too. I should have considered your feelings as well, you just wanted to help me after all," she mumbled into his chest, trying to hide the tears that threatened to escape her from him. She was just so happy and relieved. Going with her instinct, she gave into her urge to hug the adorable idiot. Even the lump in her throat disappeared. Hugging Natsu was the best medicine.

"Yeah, you should have."

Lucy could practically hear the smile in his voice so she punched his arm lightly in response. She knew he was just teasing her, it was their usual banter that she missed so much. "But it's okay as long as we don't have another fight."

She nodded and buried her face deeper in his chest without thinking whether it was a normal thing to do for best friends or not. His warm hands drew patterns and circles across her back. The familiar scent of fire and ginger soothing her back into her sleepy state. Somehow, it always felt safe in his arms, so protected and loved. Scratch the last one, her mind got out of control there.

It pained Lucy to admit it, but her feelings for the dragon slayer will probably never be returned. She gave up a long time ago. Instead of causing confusion and more fights between them, she asked the question that burned on her tongue. Hopefully, her voice won't break.

"So … still best friends?"

"… Sure."

Lucy felt her mood drop with only one word and wondered why. Everything was good now. They were friends again. Their fight was over. Why does she still feel depressed?

But she put the thought aside and concentrated on going back to sleep, barely registering that Natsu's arms tightened around her.

After a while, her breathing went even and he signed audibly. Of course, they were just friends. It was always like that and it will always be like that. But how could he continue to be her best friend, if he had these thoughts about her. Even now, the way he could feel her curves when she breathed, could see her beautiful face from close up and feel her soft skin against the exposed parts of his. It felt so right.

But the longer his thoughts lingered on her body, the more he wanted her to be his. Only his.

His train of thought was lost when she moved those lush lips of hers, mumbling something in her sleep. Natsu fought hard with the urge to steal a kiss. A small kiss was allowed. Just one tiny peck. Carefully, he closed the distance between their faces and stopped a few inches in front of her face, closing his eyes. No, he wouldn't. With a sigh he leant back and dropped his chin on the crown of her head.

"Man, you've got it bad!" Gray grinned wickedly at him from the sofa he was ordered to sleep on. He had watched the whole scene in amusement and thought it would be fun to anger the dragon slayer by interrupting him. Mission accomplished.

"Screw you, Gray!" Natsu was furious and glared at the ice alchemist from his position. Couldn't he have waited for a moment before ruining the mood? Annoying bastard. The fire dragon slayer would have started a fight, but he was comfortable in his position and didn't want to wake Lucy. "I'll kill you tomorrow."

"Try if you dare, Romeo." He winked before passing out on the sofa and starting his own song of the night. He'd always been pass-out drunk.

Natsu rolled his eyes but had a small smile on his lips. He'd simply enjoy the moment with her in his arms.

"Good night, weirdo."

Chapter Text

Lucy felt really warm and comfortable, so she snuggled deeper into the soft pillow in front of her. A breathing pillow. Since when do pillows have muscles? With that question on her mind, she slowly opened her eyes and blinked at the sight of a familiar and very well-built chest. How the hell did he get in her bed again?

Natsu's strong arms were wrapped tightly around her and pressed her body so closely to his, making her feel his chest rise with every breath. He mumbled something in his sleep, smiling at whatever it was. At that moment, Lucy thought he looked she found him snoring away in the guild for the first time, the celestial mage had been surprised by his innocent and childlike dragon slayer always surrounded himself with his friends, one would rarely find him on his own, which made her wonder if he ever felt lonely. It was really hard to picture him in his and Happy's small cottage without the cat around.

Suddenly, one of his legs wiggled itself between hers, unconsciously seeking for the warmth of her body. All in all, it was a very compromising position. His smooth, muscled skin rubbed against her sensitive upper tighs and a shiver ran down her was not adorable nor was it innocent, but it made her stomach somersault and a tingly sensation warmed her entire body. Damn, hormones.

"Stupid fire breather," she hissed. "Intruding my bed again..."

Lucy tried to escape the cage of his arms, but every time she got a part of her body free Natsu held her even tighter. It was almost like a reflex. How Annoying. Like a dragon protecting its golden treasure. She giggled at the thought; it would definitely suit him. Still, she wanted to get out before any of the others woke up and saw them like this.

The curvy blonde was antagonized for a few seconds until she gave up reluctantly, deciding that it was rather comfortable. She closed her eyes again and took deep breaths to calm herself. Natsu was still sleeping, meaning he wasn't intentionally trapping her. He wasn't even aware of their position or what he was doing, so she shouldn't be mad.

Nice and warm. Being in his arms was as if someone wrapped her up in a blanket of just the happiest feelings. She was almost back in her own dreamland.

Then Lucy heard him sigh in his sleep, when suddenly his hand traveled down to grope her butt. Her eyes snapped open. What the hell? Even in his sleep, he knew how to ruin a moment. That perverted dragon slayer! Enough was enough. Unceremoniously, she clawed herself out of his embrace and harshly slapped his wandering hand away. Natsu who just registered that he wasn't dreaming anymore, opened his eyes in confusion.

He gulped in fright, when he saw an expression on his partner's face that promised pain.

"Intruder!" Lucy yelled. He probably didn't even know what he did wrong. She didn't really care though and wasn't willing to reign in her anger. "Get out of my room!"

The dragon slayer flinched, sensitive ears not liking the shrill sound of Lucy's angry voice. She kicked the unsuspecting wizard out of her bed and Natsu crashed into a small table. Apparently, the table wasn't used to the amount of weight since it immediately broke in two pieces, one of them hitting a lamp which fell on Gray, rudely waking him up.

"Holy shit what's happening?" The ice-make wizard panicked and threw the lamp away like it was a time bomb about to explode. He was oblivious to the fight that was about to ensue between his team mates and shot a glance at Erza who was still sleeping to his great relief. She'd kill anyone who dared to wake her.

Natsu rubbed his eyes and yawned. "G'morning to you too, Lucy. What's got you all fired up this early?"

"Don't go all 'good morning' on me!" She balled her hands to fists and stomped her feet on the messy bed. "What are you doing in my bedroom?"

"We are in a hotel remember? This is our room, too. So could you please keep it down," Gray answered instead and rubbed his temples in order to soothe his growing headache. "My head feels like exploding!"

"What the stripper said is right, you know? It's our room," Natsu added.

"No shit Sherlock. That's still no reason to sneak into my bed," Lucy fumed and glared at both of them. At Gray for butting in and at Natsu for obvious reasons. Of course, the one time those two agreed with eachother was when they argued against her. "How would you like if I'd sneak into you bedroom, drool on your shirt and snore in you ear, huh? You could at least… "

"You should cut down the drinking, bastard." Natsu rolled his eyes and looked at his rival, ignoring Lucy's angry rant. It was too early to deal with her antics and his brain was still too fuzzy from having her so close to him. No matter how much she yelled at him, it wouldn't shake the happy feelings bubbling in his stomach. That reminded him, he was kinda hungry. "All that whiskey makes you smell worse then an alley drunk."

"Are you my mom?" Gray stood up from the couch that he slept on and threw a squishy pillow at him. "And who are ya callin' a bastard, fire freak."

"Wanna start a fight, ice cream?" Natsu chucked it right back at him. Bullseye, it laded right in his face.

His rival smirked evilly and got himself two more pillows. "You're gonna lose, punk!"

" … and don't ignore me when I'm talking to you and don't start a fight in the morning!" Lucy finally exploded, successfully waking Happy. "I could kill you two just about now."

"Lucy? Can I have your pillows?" Eagerly, Natsu turned around to face her, but she was still very busy with her angry rant. Thinking she finally got his attention back, she continued scolding him but he just pouted in return. The fire wizard really needed those pillows to win the fight. "Lucy, did you hear me?"

"I'm not deaf! No Natsu, you can't have my pillows because they are mine just like the bed." The blonde woman crossed her arms like a stubborn child. "I won't support your stupid pillow fight! You know how well that went last time!"

Erza put her own pillow over her ears.

"Jeez, you're so mean. No need to get all worked up …" Natsu tried to calm her down because she started to seriously annoy him. He rubbed his ear because her voice continued to reach higher octaves. At this pace, she'd set up a world record. Moreover, he was puzzled over the reason she threw such a fit. Usually, he found himself on the end of her rage, receiving a well-aimed kick or two but that was about it. She never went into a tirade like this.

All he remembered from earlier was that he had a really nice dream, Lucy was in his arms and then he got flung out of bed by the blonde beast.

"No need to get worked up? You were the one who grabbed my butt!" Lucy shrieked and pointed an accusing finger at the stunned boy.

Erza turned to the other side.

"I didn't do that, I would remember something like that," Natsu replied sheepishly and tried to hide his blush. Slowly but surely, the faint memory of something soft and round beneath his fingertips resurfaced. Opps, so he didn't dream that part after all. A brilliant blush threatened to conquer his cheeks and he did everything to avoid her accusing glare.

"Keep it down you two," Gray whisper-yelled, really getting pissed now. They should try waking up with a murder hangover and listen to their bickering. It's painful. Not to mention what would happen if they made Erza mad in the morning. Summoning Satan from hell would be more pleasant. "You'll wake her."

Erza's eyebrow twitched in annoyance.

Lucy made a pacifying gesture towards Gray, before she turned back to continue arguing with Natsu. "It's all your fault! Pervert!"

"I'm not a pervert."

"Are too."

"Not."

"Too."

"They're having a lover's quarrel," Happy giggled behind his paws which earned him two embarrassed and one smug face. "Natsu and Lucy are sitting in a tree. K-i-s-s-i-n-g!"

"We're not!" they yelled in unison.

"Shut up already our this hote room will be the last thing you see before I send you to hell!" Erza stood up from her make shift bed on the floor and the room went quiet all of a sudden. A dozen swords were pointed at the four and they gulped in sync. Natsu and Gray were sweating bullets while Happy hid behind Lucy, willing to offer her as a sacrifice to save his fur. "Now, get dressed and shower. It will throw a bad light on Fairy Tail, if you show up in this sorry state. If you have so much energy left to establish a war zone in our hotel room, you aren't working hard enough. Today we'll concentrate on the mission. Only the mission. And Natsu ..."

"Y-Yes, ma'am?" he squeaked and tried to hide behind one of the table pieces, dreading his possible punishment.

"If you ever and I really mean ever touch Lucy's butt against her will again, I will punish you so hard you won't ever be able to use your hands again," she growled and stared daggers at him. For a moment tough, he thought he saw the hint of a smirk, but it was gone so fast he wasn't sure if he really saw it. That woman was the devil.

~~~

For most of the morning, Lucy was trying not to think about her perverted best friend. However, every time their eyes met, questions sprouted in her mind like a disease. Why did she feel so comfortable in his arms? Lately, they have been hugging more often and they even had one argument that was borderline serious. They never argued this much. Just what was wrong with their relationship? It just couldn't possibly be that he liked her in a romantic way, he was way to immature for that. Or could it be? She'd have to find it out.

They were on their way to the library again in order to find an entrance to the underground labyrinth. Lucy avoided talking to the whining dragon slayer and focused all of her attention on the people around them. She shouldn't be thinking about Natsu and his issues, but rather about finding her one true love like Miss Mystic suggested.

If you are able to pass the emotional roller coaster, you will float on cloud nine with your one true love!

One true love … that sounded too good to be true. Not that the poser magician was right, but it was worth a try since there have been a few coincidences that hit too close to home to simply write them off. Nevertheless, Lucy had to be consequent with her silent treatment or Natsu would never learn. Still, the tense silence which hung in the air between them grew as the minutes ticked by.

"Lucy? Are you still angry?"

Natsu touched her arm gently and she turned her gaze on him for the first time since hours. His voice sounded annoyed, but the sadness in his eyes was undeniable. Images of his face close to hers and his body flashed behind her eyes and overwhelmed her mind. She couldn't help the dreamy look on her face and the pink hue that coloured her cheeks.

Damn, she sure was blushing a lot these days. If the curvy woman didn't know better, one would think she was actually turning into a living, breathing tomato. She couldn't help the giddy feeling though. That was until the memory of him groping her behind returned. Internally, she relived her rage.

"Lucy? I don't want to fight with you again. Please forgive me?"

She would stay strong. No, she had to stay strong and resist the urge to cuddle him to death … Oh, curse him and his puppy dog eyes, it made the dork look sweeter than a pile of candy and made her melt inside.

"Please?"

Oh, to hell with it.

"It's okay, just stop making that adorable face! It's so cute," she squealed and threw her arms around his neck, rubbing her cheek against his in a rush of affection. When she regained her senses, Lucy leaped back with a shy grin and scratched the back of her head. Where did that come from?

"I'm not cute, dragons can't be cute. They're dangerous and intimidating," he replied and furrowed his eyebrows, a usual sign that he was being serious. Lucy groaned and rolled her eyes. Of course, he always had to be as manly as possible and compare himself to a dragon. Sometimes she wondered whether he considered himself more dragon than human.

"Sure, that's what I wanted to say." Lucy laughed and punched his arm. "You're very intimidating and dangerous just like a dragon."

"Glad you see it my way!" He grinned proudly, not registering the sarcasm. Then a thought seemed to cross his mind – holy hell, yes a thought – it was scary to witness.

Out of nowhere, Natsu threw an arm over her shoulder and leaned closer to her face. His nose was now inches from her own and she felt herself getting lost in his charcoal eyes which glowed with a teasing light that made her shiver. His warm breath fanned across her face, making her breath hitch in her throat. Breathe, Lucy!

"But I'm more like a fire dragon," he said huskily. Oh good lord have mercy on her, that sounded just so unlike Natsu. It sounded almost – she dared to even think the word in connection with that dork – sexy. How could he go from adorable idiot to smoldering in just a moment? She was getting a whiplash from the back and forth.

"S-so? W-what's the difference?" Lucy stuttered and tried to hide her flushed face from his gaze. With the arm around her shoulder, he pulled her even closer to him and ruffled her hair affectionately.

"I'm hot, duh." He laughed out loud like a maniac and Lucy joined in, ignoring the way his chest vibrated against her body when he laughed. They gained some odd looks from the passerby around them.

Natsu wore his broad signature grin that could light up the entire world and made her forget about the new weirdy attractive side to him. Maybe he has a multiple personality issue, but he'd have told her about that. This other side of her best friend made her nervous and sometimes it even frightened her. It felt like there was a ticking clock which limited the time they'd spent together. A world without her best friend would be scary.

"Jeez, this is so boring. Let's do something else," Natsu grumbled as he watched the pretty blonde grab jet another book. Books are lame. How could she even read so fast? She was already skimming what felt like the one hundredth book while he needed an hour for five pages. They weren't even about food! Besides, the library smelled bad. He couldn't quite place it, but it was very unpleasant.

Well, their trip to this place had two good points still. First off, they could spend some undisturbed quality time together. Even if he didn't like reading, it was quite relaxing to watch Lucy work. The dragon slayer also really enjoyed watching her excitement over the stack of history volumes, it made him content to see her this happy. Secondly, that annoying librarian from yesterday wasn't on the clock today. Not that Natsu would let him come even a few metres close to his partner again, he'd do everything to protect her from that creep.

"Erza will kill us if we don't work hard. You heard her this morning and I'm so close to figuring this our. Just a few more books and I'm certain we'll find the entrance," she mumbled absentmindedly while adjusting her magic glasses. "You can go and look around if you're bored. I will find it faster without you nagging all the time anyway."

"You're mean," he grumbled and threw his book on a table.

There was nothing interesting in the store except one thing … his glance fell on the girl next to him. To kill some time, Natsu put his head on his hands and started to watch the blond wizard curiously. Lucy was lost in the story of the novel in her hands and didn't even acknowledge his existance at the moment. The warm glow of a candle cast a mysterious but beautiful light on her face and made her silky hair shimmer golden with every slight movement of her head. His stomach twisted and warmed up when he thought about touching it.

Her brows were furrowed in concentration and she bit her plump lips. Every now and then she wrinkled her nose, most likely when something important was written on the pages. Natsu never noticed before, but she looked really cute when she was puzzled over something. His cheeks warmed up, but he didn't look away to hide it.

Lately, Lucy looked like that more often. The fire wizard knew something was bothering her ever since this week started, but from her behavior he could tell that she wasn't ready to talk about it yet. Still, it worried him when she kept quiet about something.

"C-could you stop t-that?" Her embarrassed voice shook him out of his thoughts and he blinked dumbfounded.

"What?"

"Quit staring, it's distracting me." Uncomfortably, she shuffled in her seat hid her face behind a book.

"How so? I'm not doing anything." He chuckled and she threw him a glare over the pages. It should be illegal to be this adorable. Natsu leaned closer to her and took the book out of her hands to get a better look at her flustered face, meeting resistance in the progress. He was a lot stronger than Lucy, so all her efforts went to waste.

"Y-you're staring at me … with that weird look ..." she fumbled with her words while pointing an accusing finger at him. Pride rose in his chest when he figured out that he was the reason that she had that cute look on her face. "Just do something else, okay?"

The dragon slayer rolled his eyes. Nevertheless, he stood up to occupy himself but not before ruffling her hair affectionately, earning a shocked squeal from her. Natsu didn't really want to leave her sitting alone, but he knew from experience that if he continued to annoy her, she'd explode. That wasn't a pretty thing to witness, if this morning was any indication.

After wandering about the packed book shelves for what seemed like an eternity, the unpleasant scent intensified gradually. It was familiar to his nose. The faint smell of blood. Natsu followed it until he reached a small shelf which was loaded with dust. The smell was now almost unbearable and he pinched his nose in disgust. Something must have happened in this crazy shop and he doubted that somebody had a papercut.

"Can you come over here? I think I found something." Although he didn't really want her anywhere near this horrid smell, they had to investigate it.

The wooden floor creaked beneath her annoyed footsteps, assuming it was just another one of his attempts to get her attention, before she found him sniffing at a red book. Seriously, sometimes he wasn't much different from a dog. A golden retriever to be specific. Loyal, overly cheerful, clingy and intelligence wise challenged. What sane person walked around sniffing at books? A red book and his pink hair.

Avoid the color red and don't match it up with pink.

Should she be worried? Was something bad about to happen? When Natsu noticed her watching him, he motioned for her to come closer.

"Since we've entered the library, there was this nasty smell but I didn't pay any attention to it 'till now. It's coming from this shelf," he mumbled absentmindedly. "It reeks of blood, probably about five hours old but I couldn't find even one drop."

Lucy furrowed her brows and contemplated his words. "You know, in many mystery stories there are secret passages in libraries. For instance, if you were to pull a certain book out, the shelf moves away and reveals a hidden path through which the murderer could escape or hide his victims."

"You're sayin' there is a super-secret path behind the wall?"

She nodded in approval.

"You're so smart." Natsu patted her shoulder proudly while beaming his one-hundred-watt grin, leaving her dazed. He turning his attention back to the old shelf, the perfect plan forming in his mind. Finally, there was going to be some action. "Let's do this. Here I go!"

Lucy's jaw dropped to the floor as soon as her brain processed what he was going to do. Of course, the idiot wouldn't waste any time simply trying to find the secret lock. – "Roar of the fire dragon!" – No, the fire dragon slayer did what he could do best; he burned the entire shelf to a crisp while laughing maniacally. She balled her hands to fists and a vein popped on her forehead. He was the only person on the planet who would think it's smart to start a fire in a library.

"Lucy, look you were right. There is a path! We found it! Erza will be so proud of us and we didn't even need all those books you've read," Natsu exclaimed giddily and showed her a thumbs up when he turned around for praise. Lucy stood there motionless. "Oi, you alright? Lucy? What's wrong?"

"..."

"Uhm … Lucy?"

"Natsu," she hissed and one of her eyebrows twitched in annoyance.

"Yes?"

"Are you out of your mind?! Those books were probably centuries old, they have historical value. Can you even imagine how much they are worth? I don't even want to imagine the Jewels you carelessly burned. You burned about eighty of them in one go," she yelled and performed a well-aimed kick to his side. Perplexed, he lost balance and fell to the ground in an ungraceful heap. "Do you even think about getting a reward at all? How I'm gonna survive without my rent money, huh? I will have to live on the streets if this continues. You can be so thick-headed! Sometimes I wonder if you even have a brain!"

Now Natsu was the speechless one and the remaining pieces of wood continued to burn in the background, spreading the fire to the remaining furniture. Most things in the library were easily flameable, soon turning the place into an inferno of burned books that put even the fire's of hell to shame.

Seeing the dangerous situation they were in, Lucy post-phoned the scolding for later and wondered how to keep the fire under control. After all, she learned early on that Natsu couldn't eat his own flames. Well, she had one option. A frightening one. Realizing that there was no water nearby, Lucy had to do the most dangerous thing ever: Spit on the golden key of her most violent spirit.

"Open gate of the water bearer, Aquarius!"

Brilliant gold light further illuminated the burning room as the stongest spirit she owned appeared. Her blue scaled tail snapped from side to side like a whip and Lucy could already feel the deadly glare bore into her head. "Tell me you didn't summon me from your own spit, wench."

"I-I d-d-didn't?" Lucy stuttered nervously, cold sweat breaking out on her forehead. This was it, her life was officially over and done for.

"Tch don't lie to me, stupid girl. I've had it with you. I was on a date with Scorpio," Aquarius spat angrily, nearly causing the girl's soul to leave her body. "What did I say about calling me when I'm on a date?"

"Y-you'll d-drown m-me to d-death?"

"If you remember, you should know better than to provoke me. Die a painful death in your own shitty spit!" Aquarius howled and a tidal wave swept over the shop, drowning the rest of the books and two innocent wizards.

The world turned upside down in front of Lucy's eyes, several objects were colliding with her body and she felt the urge to puke. It was like being inside of a gigantic washing machine. It was hard to keep track of her whereabouts but she did her best to hold her breath and just wait it out. The celestail wizard prayed that she'd come out of this alive. After a while, the steady flow of violent water weakened and she regained a safe place on the floor. Completely soaked from head to toe, it was no wonder her teeth started to shatter. If that keeps happening, Lucy'd get sick sooner or later.

"Don't freaking call me for the next two months. I'm on vacation with my boyfriend!"

There it was again, the endless mean spirited teasing. Lucy let out the breath she unknowingly held when her lunatic spirit vanished back to her own realm. Cautiously, her eyes scanned the obviously destroyed room to find the cause for all her troubles. She found him laying upside down not a few feet from her, spitting out a small fountain of water from his mouth.

"Hmmm Lucy?" Natsu smirked, a teasing glint sparkled in his charcoal eyes when he walked over to help her on her feet. "Someone told me once that those books have historical value, not to mention they are worth a great deal of money. She also told me that her rent money was very important, but I can't remember who that was. Mysterious, isn't it?"

"I don't have a clue who you're talking about, but she must have been a smart person," the celestial wizard growled, but a small guilty smiled tugged at her lips. "At least the fire is out. Sorry about the mess."

"It's not a big deal, we do that all the time." Natsu laughed out loud and threw an arm over her shoulder. "Let's go and find some dark guild creeps to beat up!"

Lucy sighed comfortably when her shivering ceased due to his warmth as they walked towards the hidden path's entrance. Her relief was short lived though. As soon as they stepped into the black tunnel, a shiver ran down her spine and spread through her whole body and it was not due to being soaked this time. It wasn't pleasant. Her skin felt as if thousand icy needles poked her. Lucy had the unnerving feeling in her gut that they should turn around and get the hell out of that place.

Natsu pulled her closer to him when they spotted the origin of the heavy scent. Sprinkles of ruby red blood covered the cold stones on either side of the tunnel. They gasped simultaneously and stayed rooted on the spot. Still, they had to push forward. After all, it was their job to investigate it.

"Lucy?"

"Hmm?"

"We skipped lunch, so I'm kinda hungry. Did you bring food?" Natsu asked casually and on cue his stomach grumbled loudly. Seriously, he was the only person she knew who was concerned about his meal in a situation like that. This time though, she was glad for the distraction.

Chapter Text

"What the hell is this place?" Lucy stopped walking and looked at yet another dark stone wall. They have walked for what felt like an eternity, not to mention that the stupid tunnels had roughly around thousand dead ends. It was a frustrating search to say the least. Time was just a concept down here, but she estimated that it must already be past midnight. Even her previously soaked clothes were dry by now. That's one good thing that came out of their adventure.

Her sore legs ached with fatigue, her shoulders slumped forward and she bet that weights pulled at her eyelids. It made her want to bang her head against the next wall. Maybe that's how the blood got there in the first place; someone must have been just as annoyed. If this continued, they would never find their way through labyrinth.

"I thought you would know since you read all those smart-ass books." Natsu's panting got heavier and he clutched his side. Lucy knew that using his fire magic to light their path this entire time must have exhausted him. The lack of food and his earlier stunt in the library only added to the fatigue, it took a toll on his body despite his reputation as a powerhouse. She noticed that he tried to hide his fatigue to keep the mood light and prevent her from feeling anxious. Lucy was grateful, but also concerned.

Still, he didn't complain so she would neither.

"Yeah, this place was supposed to be an ancient city, but don't you think it's strange?"

"What is?"

"We haven't seen anything that resembles historical infrastructure so far. If this really is an underground city, not matter how old, there should be ruins of buildings or at least some signs that people lived here. All we've seen are those stupid stone walls and – something I find very comforting – a lot of blood."

Lucy tried to soothe the goosebumps on her arms, chocolate eyes never leaving their suspicious surroundings. The only sound that echoed in the darkness was the continuous dripping of water. It must be raining outside or maybe Juvia threw another fit about Gray. Wow, suddenly Lucy was glad to be far away from the rest of her team in some creepy underground tunnel. The blonde woman wondered if someone noticed their disappearance yet and whether Erza was already forming a search group.

More than once, her hand itched to grab a key and call a spirit for protection. Lucy wasn't certain where they were and what they were doing, but one thing was as clear as glass. If she would be a dark guild member in search for a hideout, this would definitely be her first choice. Dark, creepy and hidden away – it fullfilled all the cliché criteria.

A warm feeling around her neck broke her train of thought and she looked at the culprit in surprise. Her hands felt the rough texture before her nose caught the comforting smell of charcoal and ginger. Lucy , she peeked at Natsu from beneath her eyelashes.

"What? Don't give me that look!" He spluttered embarrassed and avoided her eyes. "You were shivering from the cold and I don't need it right now. If you don't want it just say so, weirdo."

"What's with the tsundere* attitude all of a sudden?!" Lucy broke into a fit of giggles, but calmed herself when she sensed his annoyance. Her eyes widened when she saw the small blush on his cheeks. What's with him? Normally, he would have denied it or at least tried to argue with her, stating that being a writer made her loose her sense of reality or something. Could it be ... "Thanks, Natsu. I will protect your scarf until you take it back."

"Don't mention it," he replied while taking her hand in his and dragging her along. For a moment, she stared at their intertwined hands in amazement, but smiled when she felt his warmth transfer to her body. A cold breeze brought shivers to Lucy's warmed up skin but she didn't even realize it, being too occupied by thoughts about her weird-behaving best friend.

Not too flashy, your good mood has enough force of attraction.

She hadn't been in a good mood lately and had acted rather cranky, she admitted to herself. In that case her force of attraction must be zero. Strangely, Lucy wasn't happy about Miss Mystic being wrong, but felt strong disappointment. Did that mean she wasn't attractive in the eyes of guys? Or a person others liked to hang around? It would explain why she never had a boyfriend.

However, that prediction seemed to fit Natsu as if the horoscope was made for him. He always sensed her emotions and tried to cheer her up to distract her from her fears. No matter how irrational or unfounded they were. Moreover, he was passionate about everything and could make her comfortable in the most awkward situations with his light-hearted comments. If that wasn't attractive to the people around him, she wouldn't know what would. Jeez, it even made her consider Natsu a good boyfriend … a long time ago.

Still, he didn't show interest in her whatsoever and Lucy wasn't too sure she wanted to destroy their friendship by forcing an answer out of him. The way they were now was enough, right? Besides, it wasn't like she was certain of her feelings, so maybe she just confused 'real love' with 'love' for family or friends. Lucy was certain though that once Natsu matured enough, whoever he fell in love with sure was a lucky woman.

A quiet snicker shook her out of her world of thoughts. Startled, Lucy looked at the pink-haired dork next to her who crouched in front of something greenish.

"Natsu? What are you doing?" Keeping her guard up, she peeked over his shoulder and what she saw made her want to face palm. It'll take a while before he'd mature, if it would ever happen at all. "Don't tell me you just ate those, you idiot. They could be poisonous or even deadly and you just shove them in your mouth?! Didn't you learn from the other mission that eating random crap isn't healthy? Seriously, what am I gonna do with you?"

"Wuuuchy, you wand swome twoo?" Natsu tried to ask, his mouth full of sickly green mushrooms which he picked up from the ground. "Weey aree reelly deelicuuus."

"No, I don't want to eat stupid mushrooms from a creepy cave," she yelled and hit his left hand with her right one, thereby eliminating the left-over 'food'. Why again was she thinking so seriously about him again? Perhaps Lucy was wrong and he didn't try to lift the mood rather than he was just being plain stupid. Pointing to the cobblestone floor in front of them in the manner of a mother scolding her child, the celestial wizard enounciated each word carefully: "Spit it out!"

"Don't worry about me." He beamed and squeezed her hand lightly. "My tummy can take a lot, besides I would die from starvation before the poison would affect me."

"I'm not worried about you, idiot. I just don't want to be left alone in a place like this with a dark guild waiting to ambush me." She put a hand to her chin, pretending to be deep in thought, a dark aura surrounding her. A chuckle escaped her lips when she saw that her odd antics caused her best friend to break out in a sweat. "Oh, but maybe it wouldn't be so bad if you dropped dead. There would be less damage on our missions and I could get more money. I changed my mind, you can eat all the crap you like! When we get home I'll even make you some mushroom stew. Sounds good?"

"You are so cold, it's like your heart is made of ice," he complained, but still didn't let go of her hand. "That's not something you say to your partner. Besides, now that you've already revealed your plan to me, I won't fall for your trap easily."

"Please, you would still fall for that. Don't pretend like you can resist free food," Lucy muttered before breaking out in laughter. Really, she couldn't be angry with him for long and at the very least, he didn't show any symptoms of food poisoning.

It's been a while since he felt content to that extend. Natsu was excited that they were close to discover those shady dark guild people because he hated waiting and not doing anything above everything else. The adrenaline rush from earlier had already worn off, leaving him anxious to continue their adventure and spending more quality time with his favorite friend.

The dragon slayer shot a glace at the beautiful woman beside him who was the very cause for his recent mood swings. Slender fingers were intertwined with his, leaving him marveling at how soft her skin was. His eyes wandered from their linked hands all up to the half-exposed skin of her neck. Internally, Natsu tried to deny the overwhelming pleasure he got from seeing her with his scarf. It just felt right.

Suddenly, Lucy stiffened next to him and she halted in her tracks.

"What's wrong?"

"We may be making a huge mistake here," she mumbled while her eyes fixated on something ahead of them. Natsu followed her gaze and when he realized what she meant by that, a growl escaped his lips. He narrowed his eyes at the unwelcome person and squeezed Lucy's hand to reassure her.

"Well, well, well what do we have here. Don't tell me you two are lost," teased a deep, arrogant sounding voice. A few footsteps echoed in the hall and a tall man stepped into the light which Natsu's magic provided. "Shall I help you find your way back?"

The creep had thick dark green hair that shimmered eerily in the orange light of the fire. His piercing blue eyes were hidden behind a rimless set of glasses and he was dressed in a business-like suit with a black tie and everything. Who the hell was he? The way that bastard smirked at him as if he was superior, his high and mighty attitude and general appearance rubbed Natsu the wrong way. That wasn't the only thing that pissed the dragon slayer off though, it was the familiar smell coming from the man. It was as if he took a bath in a tub filled to the brim with blood.

Lucy gasped. "Verde?! Is that you?"

"Fancy meeting you here, my lady." Verde tilted the edge of his silky black top hat in a formal way of greeting while he cracked a lopsided smile. Natsu clicked his tongue in response. "What brings you to such an unusual place?"

"Uhm … I j-just wanted to look for the b-book you recommended to me but I – we got lost," she stuttered nervously. Natsu could clearly see the guilt on her face. Well, they destroyed most of the guy's property after all. He didn't knew why she was embarrassed though. The fire wizard just knew that he definitely didn't like the blush that was spreading on her face. Not at all.

"Actually, we've been looking for a dark guild named Chaos Hunter and discovered this labyrinth by accident. By the way, have you seen some suspicious people around? That would help our search a lot."

There is a suspicious person right in front of her, didn't she realize that? Did Lucy hit her head when Aquarius tried to drown them? Natsu groaned and looked at his fidgety friend in disbelief. Verde noticed his irritation and smiled smugly.

"Suspicious people? Well that very much depends on what you consider suspicious, Lucy." He winked at her and extended one of his white-gloved hands towards her. Lucy quirked an eyebrow at Natsu who almost crushed her hand in his, anger seeping from his body. The oblivious woman gazed back and forth between the two men before realization hit her like an avalanche of bricks."If you hadn't met me at the wrong time in the wrong place, we could have talked about books some more. I really like your taste, you know? It's a pity."

"What are you talking about? You don't mean you are – "

"You're correct, little bookworm. Not only am I a member of Chaos Hunter, I'm their leader. My name is Verde Vendetta and it's a pleasure to meet you."

"Bastard! Stop talkin' all high-and-mighty" the dragon slayer snapped, his patience at its limit. Who did that guy think he was, pretending to be nice and tricking his partner. Natsu knew from the start that there was something fishy about him. "Either you tell us the way out or the way to the rest of your comrades. Your choice."

"Thank you very much, but I had something different in mind. I'm not in the mood to play tourguide; I have something much more pleasant planned for today." Verde grinned evilly. He tilted his now green glowing hand an inch to the left and pointed his index finger at the celestial wizard. "Subject Matter: Attract!"

In the blink of an eye, Lucy was ripped from his side and landed in the arms of the green-haired magician. For an instant, the blonde woman was too shocked to struggle and just stared at him, bewilderment reflecting in her eyes. Dammit, how did that happen while he was around? What kind of magic was that bastard using?

It didn't matter, Natsu would burn him and his stupid looking hat to ashes. Just when he was about to charge at Verde, realization hit him like lightning. He could hurt Lucy with his attack. He couldn't lift a finger against this guy as long as she was in that creep's hands. Crap, that's what the man was planning on.

"Seems like he finally understood his situation. He's not the brightest fellow, huh?" Verde taunted and closed the distance to Lucy's face, almost touching her frowning lips. Fear and anger overwhelmed Natsu, if he dared to touch his partner he swore he'd break every bone in that miserable guy's body as slowly and agonizing as possible.

"Lucy, what are you doing? Kick that guy's butt, so I can beat him to a pulp!" Natsu yelled confidently. His precious partner was no push-over, this Verdu guy would be on the floor and clutching his balls in a second, he was sure. "What are you waiting for?"

"I … can't … move … ," Lucy managed to hiss between heavy breaths while trying to struggle against her captor's ion grip. "It's … some kind … of … numbing magic."

Verde watched her amused, before he poked a nerve on her neck to make her fall unconscious. Lucy's body visibly relaxed and her head slumped over the green-haired man's shoulder. She looked so vulnerable that the urge to kill the librarian grew even stronger, if that was possible.

"You cowardly bastard, let go of her and fight me head on!" Natsu growled, his fists already clad in dangerous flames. Another breeze which almost knocked the top hat from his opponent's head, carried a familiar scent to his nose. Only that it was a lot stronger this time. It was the smell of expensive perfume, Hosenka's famous oriental spices and herbs mixed with … blood?! Natsu felt nauseous and secretly sniffed the air again to be sure. What in the world were they doing in this cave?

"If you do something to her, I'll kill you personally."

"And here we go again with the empty threats." Verde rolled his eyes and tried to suppress a yawn. Natsu, thinking that his opponent left an opening, leaped forward to free his partner. Sadly, the strange wizard was a lot faster than he looked and easily dodged his attack. "Hold your horses, was that supposed to be an attack? How simple minded. However, since you're so intent on rescuing her, why don't we play a little game? If you can find her within twenty-four hours, I may consider letting her go. If not … well, it's not gonna be pleasant but we'll cross that bridge when we get there.Sounds good?"

"'Sounds good' my ass," Natsu snapped and readied himself for another attack. His opponent dodged easily, making the fire wizard's frustration level rise off limits. "Give her back to me now and fight me like a man!"

"Pardon me, but I don't think you have a ay in the matter." The leader of Chaos Hunter chuckled and threw Lucy over his shoulder like a sandbag. He wasted a last glance towards the dragon slayer before he retreated a few steps, half of his body passing through a wall. Was he a ghost or what? Natsu ran towards the wall in an attempt to follow the creep, but the latter was faster.

The only thing that was left was the sound of the bastards stupid voice, echoing in the ominous hallway. "You should hurry though because I tend to get bored. When that happens I can't guarantee the safety of the lady. Good luck, you surely need it."

~~~

Lucy was aware of exactly three things when she woke up. Number one being her ringing skull and number two the knowledge that she had in fact been kidnapped by the handsome librarian. However, those two were easily over-shadowed by the third thing which was the very dominant smell of blood covering her surroundings. Natsu must have smelled it from miles away, but he didn't say a word. Preparing for the worst, she hesitantly opened her eyes.

The room was plunged in darkness, but a fireplace opposite of her still provided dim, flickering light. It was decorated sparsely with only three armchairs, a bookshelf and a table with some papers scattered about. Lucy could identify them as some sort of advertisement for the upcoming festival. Strangely, there was no indication from where the intense scent came from.

She assumed that Verde dragged her to the end of the labyrinth, considering this room was part of a house in the historical city. Brown eyes snapped to the only exit of the room, a large door that had probably seen better days. The celestial wizard listened for any indication that the librarian placed guards in front of it and heard nothing. Verde sure was confident that she wouldn't be able to make a break for it.

Trying to come up with a plan to escape, Lucy checked whether her keys were still by her side and let out a relieved breath when she saw them strapped to her leather belt. Unfortunately, she noticed that her hands were tied behind her back with sturdy iron chains. With shaking fingertips she tried to grab one of her keys, hoping that one of her spirits would feel her distress and open the damn gate by themselves. Nothing of the sort happened. Figures.

Coincidentally, every time Lucy had been kidnapped or happened to be in grave danger, her spirits loved to vanish back into their world.

"Come on, anyone of you'll do! Just help me get out of here already," she rambled desperately, for once regretting her poor choice of learning celestial magic. Magic with its own will can be a pain in the butt sometimes. "Please guys, don't leave me hanging. If I die then we'll lose our contract and you might get a new owner who's way more annoying than I am. Did I just call myself annoying? Nevermind that. Can't you sense the danger? I don't care who it is, just pop open a gate!"

Lucy honestly didn't expect her pleas to reach them. That's why she was startked when one of the keys on her hip started to glow. A small 'poof' sound could be heard and in front of her stood the only spirit she really didn't need right now. Plue gurgled happily when he spotted her and stumbled over his white feet when he wobbled over to her side. This was just fantastic.

"It's worth a try …" She sighed in self-pity, trying to regard the doggy spirit with a serious stare. Maybe he's got some abilities that she had yet to discover, some hidden potential. In her mind, the little spirit transformed into a gigantic dog-like monster with huge fangs which could shoot deadly beams from his mouth. A dreamy grin crept on her face. Thank you, over-imaginative writer mind. "Plue, I have the feeling you might turn out to be my trump card. Please free me from these chains , my hero!"

Plue nodded proudly and crossed his tiny arms over his chest, then shiny sparkles started to surround his body. He took a few steps back and then rammed his body against her shackles. Consequently, the spirit fell back to the ground with tears appearing in the corner of his eyes. Lucy's hopes, if there ever were any, were crushed.

"It's okay, at least you tried which makes you better than any of my other spirits." Another 'poof' sound could be heard and he vanished into thin air.

What were her options? She was somewhere below ground in the hideout of a wanted dark guild. It was freaking cold, her hands hurt from the shackles and she had no clue where her friends might be. It was definitely not the first time she'd been kidnapped or captured, but not knowing anything about the enemy except that he loved books and delightful afternoon conversations was indeed new.

"A penny for your thoughts." The sudden presence next to her startled Lucy and she turned towards the voice. Verde leaned against the wall next to her, twirling his hat in his gloved hands as if they were friends having small talk. When she didn't answer immediately, he grew impatient and crouched down next to her. Lucy took the time to study his face some more. He was definitely a handsome fellow, with smooth features like that he could easily be a model and the mischievous glint in his eyes could make any girl swoon.

Venus is the cause of your flirty mood, but don't carry it too far.

If she took Miss Mysic seriously, then 'Venus' would refer to Verde. After all, they did flirt quite a bit when they first met and he even asked her out when they discovered they both had a soft spot for mystery novels. Hell, she even considered going out with him before he put her into shackles in his underground dungeon. Of course, in a sea of guys she managed to find the psychopath.

Is that what was meant by 'don't carry it too far'? It was simply impossible that the stupid horoscope was this accurate. A blush crept on her cheeks and her heart skipped a beat when he grasped her chin softly in one of his big hands to get a better read on her face. Despite his obvious evilness, it was hard not to feel attracted to him. She was only human after all and he had always been kind to her, except for the kidnapping part. Lucy was determined not to fall for his charms again, not keen on developing a case of Stockholm syndrome.

"An answer would be very kind," he said with his melodic voice, tilting his head quizzically. "For a conversation you need two people, otherwise it would be a monologue."

She shook her head in order to put her thoughts back into a straight order.

"I was thinking about the blood we saw on our way here and why everything down here smells like it," Lucy replied honestly. "It's not like you're piling corpses in the room next door, right?"

Lucy laughed hysterically, fearing that her answer might be too close to the truth.

The mysterious wizard joined her laughter, turned around and gestured at the only exit from the room. Two shadowy figures appeared in the wooden door frame and dragged a large bag behind them. From the sound of it, they were absorbed in an argument and Lucy caught stings of words like 'not again', 'too easy' and 'stinky dead person'. She gulped and prepared herself for the cruel answer to her previous question. What the celestial wizard thought was a bag bore a striking resemblance to a person with long blond hair. Deep red liquid was dripping from her stomach and formed a small puddle in front of the fireplace, flames dancing in the reflection.

They had actually killed someone. Probably one of the people who were reported missing. Hold on, did that actually mean every missing person was already dead? There were at least fifty reports. Lucy didn't want to believe it, it was just to cruel. These people had a family waiting for them at home, worrying about their loved ones everyday.

"Ah ~ Nathan and Urania, you're back earlier than I thought," Verde greeted them cheerfully and strolled over with a spring in his step. Gloved fingers pushed his rimless glasses higher up on his aristocratic nose as he bent down to examine the corpse of the woman. "My, oh my, what did you do to her? That wound looks nasty, you could have been a bit nicer to the lady. I ordered you to kill her, but that doesn't mean you have to go all out."

Later this week, Uranus and Neptune will cause breakdown and misunderstandings.

"She was a vile one, scratched my beautiful face with her ugly nails. I don't like peasants touching me," the black-haired woman called Urania whined and put a hand over her face. There was a small red streak on her left cheek, being the only reminder of the dead woman's stuggle for death. Otherwise, not a hair was out of place."Commoners shouldn't even be allowed to be within my breathing distance."

"You're my sister and I love you, but try not to be a baby. You should have stayed at the Pandera mansion if you hate living like a commoner so much." Nathan sighed and rubbed his temples. "If you don't stop nagging, I'll get a headache."

No kidding, Lucy's headache was close to become a permanent disease. Not only did those names ring a bell in her head, they were way too similar to two planets of the solar system. She had to avert her eyes when they threw the body into the fire where it incinerated to ashes. A sickly sweet smelling smoke oozed into the room and Lucy had to cough violently. Handsome kidnapper or not, she had to get out of there before she ended like the girl in the fire.

Silently praying that the woman was now in a better place, Lucy vowed to take this dark guild down.

*tsundere: is a japanese character development process that describes a person who is initially cold and even hostile towards another person before gradually showing his or her warm side over time.

Chapter Text

Fists clenched and teeth gritted, Natsu stormed through an endless stream of dark tunnels in search for his beloved partner. It had been a long time since somebody managed to anger him to the point of blunt hatred. And for that person to be somebody he only met twice was even more of a surprise. The only few times he remembered being this angry was when Jellal almost sacrificed Erza in the Tower of Heaven and when Edola's soldiers dragged Lucy away into a dark prison cell.

There were probably a few more instances, but he was too occupied to recount them now.

The dark aura of doom which seemed to surround him since that seaweed headed guy appeared, thickened as the minutes ticked by. Deep inside his heart, the dragon slayer knew that the anger he felt right now was different to what he usually felt when someone threatened to harm his friends. Maybe it was because it was his partner who was kidnapped. Slowly he came to the realization that what he felt for Lucy was very different from what he felt for his other friends.

Lucy was his favorite person.

Having her ripped from his side like this, made it painfully obvious how much he missed having her around. Even when she constantly complained about everything or scolded him for his immature behavior with that stern voice, Natsu couldn't imagine living without her. Being with her has become as natural as breathing for him.

The constant smell of blood only spurred Natsu's need to find her as soon as possible. Gray was right, he had to trust Lucy and was sure that as soon as the librarian turned his back he'd deal with the wrath of the celestial wizard. He still worried for her though, hopefully she still had her keys. That Verda or whatever his name was didn't know what was coming for him.

Natsu rounded a corner, hoping that he finally found the right path when something fluffy collided with his face. Screaming in shock, he lost his footing on the slippery ground and landed on his butt.

"Natsuuu ~ I missed you so much!" A familiar high-pitched voice squealed and hugged his face even tighter. "Where have you been?"

"Happy? I've been underground the entire time. It's good to see you buddy." Surprised but pleased by the arrival of his blue cat, he pried the feline off his face. Quickly scanning his friend for injuries, Natsu was relieved to find none."Where are the others? What happened?"

"Since Lucy and you were taking your sweet time, we got worried and went to the library. Erza was really angry when she saw the mess in there." Natsu flinched. There was a lot of pain in the future if the warrior woman got his hands on him. "Then we found the hidden entrance and followed the path, but we got separated somehow and ..." Happy tried to explain while hysterically flapping his tiny arms. " … then I met you."

"Okay, calm down. They can take care of themselves. More importantly, Lucy got kidnapped by the leader of the dark guild – he's a really shitty piece of work by the way – and we need to find her!" The dragon-slayer felt a lot calmer now that one of his friends was by his side. He never really liked to be alone, even though he could handle almost any enemy by himself, it just wasn't as much fun. "Once we've beaten him, we can get out of this place and all go home together."

"Aye, sir!"

Together with Happy, the fire dragon slayer continued his search only to stumble upon a room that looked like a grande cage. Stalactites were hanging from the ceiling, looming over the array of abandoned buildings. Flickering candles were scattered across the space and threw ghostly shadows on the angular stone walls. So Lucy wasn't wrong at all, there was an old city underneath the popular tourism spot. Occupying the center of the cave were two people who looked as if they were ready for battle. Natsu only recognized one of them and sort of wished he didn't.

"Erza! Where did you come from?" Natsu greeted her, more scared than happy. Said woman turned around with a glare that made him freeze in his place. Oh crap, she was still angry about the library incident and Natsu wished that he could sink into the ground and disappear. Maybe … just maybe, if he acted fast enough he could outrun the demon until he found another complicated tunnel system to get lost in.

"You," Erza shoutet and pointed a well-sharpened sword at him. Yep, she definitely wanted to kill him. Natsu flinched and took a step back, eying her weapon cautiously. "I will deal with you when we get out of this. For now, I will have to deal with this guy." The breath the fire wizard unconsciously held rushed out of his mouth. Erza turned back to her opponent who had observed their short reuinion with disinterest. "Who are you and what do you have to do with Chaos Hunter? Answer truthfully or you will be sorry."

"Tch. Could you quiet down a bit? I'm gonna get a headache from all that shouting," the man answered and rubbed his temples. Light brown bangs fell into his face when he cocked his head to the side and lazily opened one eye. "My name is Nathan and yes, I'm a member of Chaos Hunter. Are you satisfied?"

"You are Duke Pandera's son." Erza couldn't trust her ears, shock evident on her face."We were tasked to rescue you by our client!"

The conversation was totally lost on Natsu, he just stared at them in confusion.

"Oh, really? That was to be expected from that lying old geezer. If you're here to rescue me, you're clearly wasing your time." Nathan yawned and let himself fall to the ground in a more relaxed position. He used one of his hands to support his head. The red-haired woman quirked an eyebrow, wondering why the person who they were supposed to save was a member of the guild that supposedly kidnapped him. There had to be a misunderstanding.

"Hm, you don't seem eager to fight." Erza's gaze traveled between Nathan and the path behind him which lead deeper into the elaborate undergound city. "Would you kindly let us pass or do I need to use force? We need to find the rest of your guild and hand them over to the government."

Nathan smirked and blew some brown strands out of his face. "Sorry, but no can do. Our guild master ordered me not to let anyone pass. After all, he wants some private time with your blonde friend. Ah ~ it's such a pain though, all I wanted was some peace and quiet."

Natsu hissed angrily and he lit the flames on his hands. He'd burn that bastard to a crisp, if he did something to Lucy. The fire wizard stepped forward, ready to attack the brunet man."Where the hell is she? What are you doing with her!? Tell me or you'll regret it!"

Erza held him back just in time, struggling quite a bit against the heat that leaked from his fists but fixing him with calm eyes. The warrior woman's gaze silently warned him to calm down. He didn't want to cool down, he wanted to have Lucy save and sound in his arms. The dragon slayer struggled violently against her iron grasp, but unfortunately his childhood friend was stronger than him. Quietly and almost imperceptibly, she motioned her head towards the door behind Nathan and Natsu nodded in response.

"Leave him to me and find Lucy, okay?" Erza smiled confidently. "When I'm finished with him, I'll go look for Gray and Juvia."

Without wasting a second, the furious woman let her friend go and charged at the surprised brunet who barely dodged her attack. Meanwhile, Natsu ran towards the exit at the other end of the cave with his blue cat flying behind him. Impatiently, he kicked the door out of its angles while Happy watched him with worry. Of course, he had often witnessed his companion's fits of anger but this time it was different. Natsu seemed really on edge.

"Maybe I can pick up her scent!" Sniffing the air, the fire magician tried his best to pick up the trace of her familiar smell. Suprisingly and much to his liking, Lucy never used perfume. She smelled of books, ink, sunshine and her favorite lemon tea. He'd never admit it to anyone, but Natsu found her smell incredibly comforting. After running a few more corridors, he finally caught a wiff of lime. "Happy, I found it!"

"Good boy." Happy giggled behind his paws, secretly hoping to loosen his friend up a little.

"I'm not a dog!" Natsu yelled angrily and shot a glare at his partner, but the distraction only lasted for a second. His focus was on finding Lucy. He would find her. It was only a matter of time. This Verto guy could already start digging his grave.

~~~

A blonde woman groaned when she tried to wriggle out of her uncomfortable shackles. She had been trying to get rid of them for hours but all she got from that were some nasty red marks on her wrists. Her frustration reached its peak when she kicked an innocent stone towards her captor who was currently relaxing on a leather couch and reading a book. An eyebrow arched, Lucy watched him calmly turning over a page.

"Oh, did you finally realize that escaping is futile?" Verde's charming voice broke through the tense silence and he looked up from his book. "Or are you simply bored? I could read my book to you, if you'd like."

Lucy looked up to him with a smile that didn't reach her eyes. Maybe she could get out of this mess by using her charms, it was her specialty after all. Although her friends always told her that they didn't work, she was pretty confident in them. Verde seemed interested in her from the start, so this should be a piece of cake. Yeah, let's get this show on the road!

Leaning forward, Lucy offered Verde a nice view of her delicious cleavage thereby also showing off the rest of her womanly figure. On the edges of her brown eyes, tears started to form and the tiny bit of embarrassment she felt tinted her creamy cheeks pink. She gave herself an internal pat on her shoulder for her superb acting skills. Lucy's lower lip trembled before she started to stutter in a sickly sweet voice: "C-could you f-free my wrists, m-mister? It hurts, it hurts s-so m-much. P-please, mister!"

"Now that's how you should behave in front of your master." His pearly white teeth glistened in the dim light of the fire-place, making him look like a feral beast. She performed a victory dance in her head, men were so predictable. Her charms finally worked. "It's sad really, but you look really ugly when you play that act. I don't know why but it gives me the creeps."

The word 'ugly' was like an unpleasant arrow shot straight through her chest. Verde pretended to shudder and judging by his face he wasn't pleased by her performance. Jerk, couldn't he pull himself together for the sake of chivalry? Lucy glared at him. Why did her womanly charms never work? It's not like she was a bad catch or something.

The cosmos ignites your love and interesting encounters wait for you.

Lucy couldn't deny that her encounters were interesting, but Miss Mystic forgot to tell about the handsome yet psychopatic leader of a dark guild. It didn't ignite her love at all, more like her urge to flee. Stupid woman, everything was her fault. Natsu should just hurry up and save the day, before the blond would go insane and rage quit the mission.

"Oh, look how fast time passes when you're enjoying yourself." Verde glanced at the small clock on his table, his piercing blue eyes half-lidded. It was already half-past ten and he let out a yawn. "I'd love to take a nap, but it seems your friends are more trouble than they are worth. I'll go and take care of the trash. Behave until I get back, my little bookworm."

She felt insulted. As soon the curvy woman used her charms, the man wanted to find excuses to leave the room. Okay, he was now so-scratched from her imaginary potential boyfriend list. Well, technichally she had already crossed him out as soon as he knocked her out. Lucy felt like sticking her tongue out at him, so that was exactly what she did. Verde chuckled quietly at her childish behavior and tipped his top-hat in farewell.

Now that the celestial wizard was alone, she felt a huge weight fall from her shoulders. It was time to develop an amazing plan to escape since she couldn't just sit around while her friends were fighting. A small 'poof' shook her out of her thoughts and she found herself eye to eye with the most useless spirit ever. Plue came back. A round of cheers, please.

"Plue, I really appreciate that you want to keep me company." Lucy sighed and forced herself to smile at the quivering little thing. "But I need help from some of my stronger spirits like Loke … or wait, I have a better idea. Having Virgo around would be great. Could you get her for me?"

"Puuun!" Plue seemed like he didn't understand and she felt like smashing her head against the cold stone bricks. Where did all these masochistic thoughts come from? Oh right, her teammates and spirits were morons. To her surprise, the little doggy spirit pulled out a small silver key out of nowhere. It was the key to her shackles. Lucy's eyes went wide, she could hug Plue to death right now.

"Oh my gosh, you're amazing! I'm sorry I ever doubted you, I take everything back!" The celestial wizard exclaimed happily and as soon as she was free, she embraced the small hero. Plue really saved her day. "Thanks a lot, you're a real lifesaver."

After the spirit returned to its own realm, Lucy decided that she should scout the area at first. She must be far enough inside the tunnel system to find houses and such. It was now her mission to find the kidnapped people from the town's rich families … if they weren't also members of Chaos Hunter. Even if they were, she'd have to check because there was still the chance they needed help.

The blonde woman needed a while before her eyes adjusted to the darkness in the alleys and she really started to miss Natsu. His body was warm and his flames brought light into the darkness. Sometimes, Lucy envied him for his unique magic. At least she still had his scarf with her, the familiar smell that clung was her only source of comfort right now. She reminded herself to thank him again later. Natsu sure was something ... Why was she thinking about him at a time like this? Argh, this was all so frustrating that Lucy almost wanted to rip her hair out.

If you are able pass the emotional roller coaster, you'll float on cloud nine with your one true love!

Stupid horoscope. It could be a little more specific. The curvy blonde was an emotional person, but seemed far away from stepping out of that sort of roller coaster unscratched ... so maybe finding her prince charming was out of the question anyway.

While her mind was occupied with fighting against the obvious truth of the horoscope, Lucy ran down another alley and stopped when she heard a quiet whimper. For a second her heart stopped in her chest and she clutched Natsu's scarf for comfort. Slowly, Lucy approached the door of what looked like the remains of a big old mansion, but she could barely make it out in the dark. With a scary creaking sound, the door opened and revealed a dimly lit hall filled with people.

There were around twenty in total, all between the age of ten and fifteen, their hands were tied behind their backs and their mouths were gagged with black cloths. Some of them looked already half-dead with their clothes in tatters and bruises covering their faces. But the scariest thing was the smell. It was the smell of death and it brought tears to Lucy's eyes, reminding her of the girl in the fire.

Overcoming the urge to puke with sheer willpower, she ran over to one of the older girls and tried to free her. The girl breathed heavily and her eyes widened in panic. Shaking her head, the girl took a few steps back, trying to get as much distance to Lucy as possible.

"Don't worry, I won't hurt you. I promise," Lucy said softly, trying to calm the hysteric girl. "I'm Lucy from Fairy Tail. What's your name?"

"I-I'm M-Mary, Mary Ferrera. D-did you come h-here to s-save us?" Mary stuttered shyly and came a step closer to the celestial wizard after receiving a nod as answer. Probably feeling a bit more comfortable now, she decided to tell Lucy her story. "One second I was having dinner with my family and then I was suddenly in this dark creepy room. They said I would never be able to get back home ... that we would never get back home. Many of the others died, so many of them. My sister was one of them, she told them she'd go instead of me. And than t-they … j-just f-fell … g-ground … "

Mary broke out in tears and Lucy tried her best to comprehend what the girl was trying to tell her. After the girls sobs calmed down, she carefully tried to pry for more information. "Do you know why the dark guild is doing this? And why they want to attack the festival?"

"Y-yes, I've overheard them talk about it once," Mary answered bitterly and wiped her tears away. "Their leader, that green-haired guy, is not a wizard. He has no magic at all. That's why when he visits us, he's sucking our life-energy out of our bodies and transfers it to himself. B-because of h-him my sister had to d-die!"

Lucy was shocked beyond words. She witnessed Verde's magic with her own eyes, but to think it wasn't his own … Of course, one of the first things you learn is that if you use too much magic, you die. Stealing people's energy would definitely increase ones own magic power, but to go to such an extend. Since many people of royal status learn some basic magic for self-defense, kidnapping them first made sense as well.

The pieces of the puzzle fit perfectly together and slowly it transformed into a picture. One picture she didn't like.

The Hosenka festival was an event that attracted tourists from all over Fiore. With so many people gathered in one place, it would almost be like an infinite source of magic. He'd be one of the most powerful wizards in history and nearly invincible. To be this twisted and sacrifice human life. She wouldn't forgive Chaos Hunter.

~~~

The longer he ran, the stronger her scent got and it gave him hope. He grew impatient though, as soon as the librarian's spicy and bloody odor got almost to much to handle for his sensitive nose. That guy seriously needed a bath. Natsu's steps echoed louder when the path grew wider and connected with a large hall that was the size of a cathedral. Here, the scent was stronger again and he was on alert for any kind of enemy. The sound of clapping came from above and he snapped his head in the general direction. Bingo.

"I must compliment you for coming this far. It seems your friends have intercepted my most loyal guards, but it's only a matter of time until they meet their end as well. Meanwhile, I hope you can cure my boredom."

Green hair, an arrogant smirk on his lips, super fancy clothes and those pristine white gloves on his hands. Yes, it was without a dounbt Vetere (or whatever his name was). Natsu didn't waste a second. "Oi, you freaky bastard! Where is Lucy?"

"Oh, you mean your blonde treasure? She's alive and kicking," that jerk replied mockingly and licked his lips. "I've got her all chained up and ready to entertain me when I come back later."

Lively images of a helpless and chained down blonde wizard appeared in his head, making him loose concentration for a second. Natsu couldn't decided whether he was just worried or angry. Probably both. He knew the librarian was just trying to provoke him, but sadly it was working like a charm. Talking about Lucy as if she was an object made him livid. She was his partner and not some from of entertainment or treasure to keep.

The green-haired man enjoyed watching the display of emotions on his opponents face, deciding to add more fuel to the fire. "Lucy was so beautiful when she begged me to free her, the poor thing. I've seen her blush though, I'm sure she'll come around sooner or later."

"You disgusting pig!" The comment drove Natsu over the edge. Nobody was allowed to treat her this way and talk as if they knew her. Especially not this creep. Deciding he had enough talking for one day, the dragon slayer did what he did best. Burn the guy until only the ashes remained. Fists clad in fire, Natsu broke into a furious sprint and started his attack.

Bending his knees, he quickly jumped high in the air and shifted his weight for a powerful kick. The dragon slayer aimed for seaweed head's face, but was met with air and a quiet chuckle from his left when his kick was supposed to impact. After a brief landing, Natsu expertly turned to his left and aimed for the solar plexus with his right fist. Expecting a block, the dragon slayer simultaneously angled his left foot for another kick. All his efforts were in vain when the librarian continued to dodge his attacks. You'd think a nerd would have less stamina than that.

"Stop dodging my attacks, Vertania!" Natsu panted heavily and clutched his side. The jerk had been able to get two hits in, one on his side the other on his jaw leaving a small trail of blood leaking from the fire wizards mouth. While Natsu used a lot of his magic for jumping, kicking and boxing; the guy evaded all of his attacks without wasting any energy at all.

"Are you retarded?" The green-haied man seemed dumbfounded for a second. "My name is Verde. It's only five letters to remember."

Not listening to the guy talk about something as irrelevant as his stupid name, Natsu finally managed to hit his target. He cheered for himself when his opponent flew straight into a solid wall, broke it and landed in the room of a house. The dust started to settle and he could see the jerk lying on his face, eating dirt. Ha, served him right. He might have been a speedy bugger, but his defense seriously needed work.

Approaching footsteps made Natsu perk up and the familiar comforting scent that reached his nose sent a giddy feeling through his body.

"Natsu ~ Happy ~ I'm so glad you're alright." Lucy smiled brilliantly at them when she appeared in the building in which he just created a new entrance. The sound of her voice was music to his ers. Seeing her beautiful smile made him feel warm inside and a small blush snuck on his cheeks. It was a good thing that nobody noticed it. Natsu's eyes searched her body for injuries and growled when he spotted the angry red marks on her wrists. He'd make him pay for that.

"Kyaaaaaa!" The celestial wizard had been running towards them with outstretched arms, only to trip over a stone and land on top of the jerk who was about to stand up. With a painful sound both of them landed on the ground, seaweed face cushioning Lucy's fall. At least that creep was good for something. Natsu couldn't decide whether he was amused by his partner or perplexed by her comedic timing. Verde seemed disoriented and his face paled visibly under the weight.

"Wow, Lucy insta KO-ed him." Natsu laughed his typical boisterous laugh, visibly happy and relieved to have his favorite person back. "Good job!"

"Aye, Lucy crushed him with her weight!" Happy snickered behind his paws, but flinched when he felt her glare bore into him. Good news, Lucy was safe. Bad news, she was already angry at them. A dark aura surrounded her when she walked towards the duo and they shivered. Happy quickly spread his wings and flew to safety.

"Damn cat! Get down here so I can give you a piece of my mind," Lucy screamed and tried to catch the flying feline. Natsu just watched and tried to keep himself in the background for self-preservation. "I've had it with men and their opinions. I'm not fat nor am I ugly, so shut up!"

Maybe she ate something wrong … Natsu deducted, but kept the thought to himself. She was unusually grumpy and irritated. Giving up on punishing Happy, the blonde woman turned towards him and caught his stare with her chocolate eyes. He detected worry, sadness and anger in them. "Natsu, I can't give you the details right now, but you have to trust me. We have to be fast and beat this guy or else many lives are in danger."

"Sure, I'm all fired up!" He wiped some blood from the corner of his lip and positioned himself slightly in front of Lucy. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw her pull one of her keys from her belt and Happy flew above them munching on a fish. Where did he get that? It didn't matter right now, they had an ass to kick.

Natsu narrowed his eyes at the figure who stood in the shadow of the building. Verde brushed some imaginary dust from his shoulders before taking a step closer to them. "My, my what a cute couple you are. Unfortunately, it takes a lot more than that to crush me in battle."

Chapter Text

Although they all seemed to be in some kind of trouble, Juvia was beyond excited. She was finally alone with her beloved Gray-sama. She'd rather have been alone with him in one of those hotel rooms, but dark tunnels were fine as well. It was like a scenario from one of those romance novels she borrowed from her love-rival sometimes. At first ,Juvia didn't really get why her love-rival enjoyed reading those tacky stories, but when she replaced the heroes with her Gray-sama it all made sense.

Shyly, the water wizard peeked at the love of her live and admired his well-built figure with a deep blush forming on her cheeks. Other people always complained about his stripping habit, but she loved it to pieces. Everything about her Gray-sama was perfect.

"Are you okay, Juvia?" The ice wizard inquired curiously when he felt her stare. For the girl it was as if he asked her to marry him, judging by her happy expression. She could already hear the wedding bells and their little army of babies swarming around them.

"Juvia feels great because she's finally on a date with Gray-sama." The girl zoned out completely and Gray suddenly felt uncomfortable. How in the world was this a date? Of course, water wizard didn't notice his confusion and continued to ramble. "And one day, Juvia and Gray-sama will marry and have a lot of babies. About thirty or forty and they'll live happily ever after. Juvia is so excited!"

"What did she just slip in the conversation?!" Gray muttered beneath his breath and sweat dropped. The girl took the silence as positive reaction and immediately latched unto his arm in glee. "O-oi, w-what are you d-doing?! L-let go!"

"Juvia will never let go of her Gray-sama! Not even when her life depends on it, nothing will ever separate us."

"Seriously, woman. We've got other things to worry about right now," Gray grumbled and avoided looking into her devoted blue eyes. He desperately tried to pry her off. "Listen to me and let go!"

"S-sorry!" Hit by a sudden wave of self-consciousness, Juvia jumped away from him as if she had been stung by a bee. Oh no, Juvia mentally scolded herself. It was hard for her to hold back on her feelings, but she really didn't want to make him feel uncomfortable. The way he stuttered, he must've been grossed out by her. The water wizard hung her head in shame and tried to avoid his curious gaze.

"Um … Juvia? What's wrong with you?" If she would have looked up at that moment, Juvia would have seen a very confused but flustered Gray.

It started with a quiet sniff and a little trembling on her side, when suddenly a waterfall of emotion crashed down on the blue-haired girl. Streams of water poured from her eyes, partially liquefying her body. "J-juvia is s-sorry Gray-sama! She shouldn't have forced her feelings on him! Juvia apologizes deeply for her behavior!"

"E-ehhhh?" Gray was in a panic now. He didn't know how to deal with girls, especially crying ones. Not that he'd never seen one of them cry, it just always tugged painfully at his chest. Deep down he knew it was somehow his fault that she suddenly broke down. It was always some guys fault when girls cried, at least that's what Mira bashed into his skull – he meant taught him.

"Now Gray-sama hates J-juvia!"

Said guy nervously shifted his feet on the ground, searching for a way to comfort the sobbing girl. "Please, stop crying."

His desperate demands seemed to only amplify her tears which now started to flood the small tunnel they were in. Awkwardly, the ice wizard flailed his arms in the air, trying to keep himself from drowning. Seriously, all the girls in Fairy Tail are lunatics. As soon as they got a tad bit emotional, they turn into death traps.

Gray mustered all his strength to swim against Juvia's torrent of tears, clutching her in his arms when he finally reached her. "Stop crying already, stupid woman. I don't hate you."

Slowly but surely, loud sobs made room for quiet sniffles. Her warm breath on his naked chest sent shivers down his spine. Gray mentally scolded himself for getting turned on by a defenceless woman. What kind of creeper was he? And he thought Natsu was creepy for feeling up a sleeping Lucy. He felt Juvia's head move from his chest, suppressing another shiver when her soft hair ticked his skin. Faint hope swam in those stormy sea eyes when she stared up into his eyes. Guilt nagged at his heart when he noticed that they were red and puffy from all the crying. Damn him.

"S-sorry for breaking down like that." Juvia laughed weakly and wiped some of the remaining tears away. "Now she looks like a mess in front of Gray-sama."

"Hmpf. You look fine to me," Gray dismissed her worries, a small smile playing on his lips. He was relieved that he was able to calm her down. The water wizard was a force to be reconed with and he didn't like when she was upset, even when she went overboard like this.

Juvia flushed deep red when she noticed the position they were in. It was just like in one of her dreams and she never wanted to wake up again. A question bubbled up in her stomach, waiting to be asked. "Gray-sama doesn't hate Juvia?"

"Of course, I don't!" The ice magician replied hurriedly, wanting to prevent another outbreak. He wouldn't survive another one, nor did he want to feel that helpless again. "In fact I –"

An impatient sigh interrupted what he was about to say, bringing him back to the reality of their situation.

"If you wanted to infiltrate our headquarters successfully, you should at least try to stay quiet. Although, I shouldn't expect something out of lowly commoners such as yourselves." A woman with black, silky hair shot an annoyed gaze at the couple before her. For a second her grey eyes lingered on Gray before her face scrunched up as if she'd seen a super nasty spider. "Although it's beneath me to mingle with peasants, I will honour you with my precious name. Bow to Urania Pandera!"

"Like hell I will bow to you!" Gray yelled with a raised fist.

Juvia felt anger course through her veins with rapid speed. How dare she?! How dare this stupid woman interrupt and insult her beloved was this a tactic to appeal to him? Is this what they called a love-hate relationship? Like in those stories when the lead characters first hate each other and then fall in love. Maybe that woman was a tsundere. An image of the woman together with Gray popped into Juvia's imaginative mind. A dark aura manifested itself around the blue haired wizard, prompting Gray to let go of her in fear.

"Love rival!" She barked the word with as much hate as she could muster. Her water boiling at high temperatue, she launched herself at the surprised Urania, leaving Gray's mouth hanging open.

Alright, women were scary creatures. He backed into a corner and tried not to bring any attention to himself as the other two continued to scratch, bite and pull at each others hair. At least the interruption prevented him from spilling something stupid. He almost admitted … no, let's not go there. Hoping to be left alone, Gray watched the fight unfold letting his thoughts drift to his other friends.

Before the ice wizard could even worry, a group of weirdly dressed henchmen rounded a corner. Good, that was just the distraction he needed. Easy opponents were the best to let off some steam. He smirked and the air surrounding him dropped a few degree.

~~~

Natsu gritted his teeth while the blonde woman next to him tried to catch her breath. That bastard was a lot stronger than he looked and his magic was weird as well. It almost seemed unstable. One second the guy could launch a boulder at you and the next he'd almost vanish into thin air, hiding behind a building. Once he went into hiding for a couple of minutes, they were almost unable to find him. He didn't have magic energy around his presence.

The worst of it though, was that Lucy was peeved at him because of something. And here Natsu was thinking they were over their contant arguing. At first he thought that she was simply angry at Verda guy, but the glares were all directed at him.

A sudden spark of magic to his left grabbed his attention – just in the nick of time, he tackled Lucy out of the way before a gigantic boulder could squash her. Unfortunately for him, Natsu wasn't fast enough so the rock created a deep gash on his leg. Natsu hissed in pain, but the only thing that mattered was that his partner was safe. It was a close call.

Relief washed through him when he felt her soft body in his arms. She was safe. He allowed himself a victorious smile while he tightened his hold on her protectively.

"What the hell are you doing, you idiot?!" Lucy yelled from underneath him and tried to push him off. "Seriously! Why did you just do that?!"

What was her problem now? Not wanting to release her yet, the dragon slayer kept his arms around her and pulled both of them into a sitting position. He winced when his leg scraped against the floor. Mentally exhausted, Natsu rested his forehead against hers. Saving her came naturally to him as well as worrying about her safety. After a few calming breaths, he was finally willing to put up with whatever the girl had to throw at him now … of all times.

"Natsu, I can take care of myself! I was perfectly fine on my own!"

"Like hell you were. You were about to be turned into a pile of Lucy goo," he growled, trying but failing to keep the anger out of his voice. Her chocolate eyes grew darker and he knew where this was heading. Natsu silenced her by clamping his hand over her mouth. "Look, this bastard is still around! This is not the right place to start a fight about this. You can yell at me all you want later."

She licked his hand. Ew. That weirdo.

"Since when are you the reasonable one? And I was perfectly fine!" Lucy protested and glared at him from beneath her dark lashes, her cheeks flushed red with anger. If they weren't in a fight right now, he might have enjoyed this look more than he would like to admit. She puffed up her cheeks cutely and waved a golden key in front of his face. "Look, I was about to call Taurus to chop that rock into pieces before it could hit me."

"Tch, fine." Natsu grunted and unconsciously tightened his grip around her again. "I'll remember that next time a boulder is about to squish you."

Natsu had enough of their bickering, it was affecting his mood negatively and he needed to concentrate on the fight. He hated to admit it, but they needed to come up with a plan to win against this Veria guy. He was a slippery bastard, if only he'd hold still for a moment and let himself get hit with one of their attacks. Natsu was sure that that'd knock him out, seeing that the librarian's defense was seriously lacking. That was the reason he always dissappeared before trying to hit them with another attack.

A painful smack to the head delivered by his partner brought the dragon slayer back to reality.

"What was that for?"

"Let go of me already!" Lucy complained, although a huge blush adorned her cheeks. He snickered and pinched her cheeks with his hands, before complying. When she wasn't trying hard to be, the blonde wizard could almost be too cute. Not that he'd ever tell her. Her ego was like a balloon poked by a needle, one compliment and it would blow up.

Natsu sighed and slowly stood up. He really needed to stop thinking about her and concentrate.

"Hey Lucy? You said that if this guy wins many lives are in danger. What did you mean?" Happy asked out of nowhere as he hovered over the couple, for once not bothering to sneak a 'they like each other' comment in.

"Well, the thing is ..." Lucy seemed to struggle with a way to compress their problem in a nutshell. Meanwhile, Natsu scanned their surroundings. He didn't sense anything at all and that seaweed bastard didn't seem to plan on attacking anytime soon. "All this time, Chaos Hunter captured people and wizards to drain their magical energy. They harness this power in order for Verde to become an incredibly powerful mage. In fact, they plan on draining the whole city tomorrow at the festival."

"Why would they do such a thing?" Happy's eyes grew wider as he listened to her explanation. The image of master's greenish face during the Phantom Lord incident popped into his head. "Don't people die when their magic is completely gone?"

"Yeah, that's right." Lucy nodded and fingered with the scaly scarf around her neck. "As for the reason they do this. Verde has no magic power himself. I don't know about his past, but he must've wanted to be a wizard all his life. Being jealous of magic power is not really uncommon, you know? Only ten percent of the people in Earthland are able to learn magic."

"You're very interesting indeed, my little bookworm." Verde's smooth voice interrupted their conversation, three pairs of eyes zoning in on his dark silhouette that was surrounded by a green glow. Natsu instantly growled out of reflex and stepped closer to his partner. He didn't like how that pansy looked at Lucy at all.

"I don't know how you broke free by yourself or acquired all this information, but I must say I'm impressed. I hate to burst your bubble though, it's already too late. I've absorbed enough magic energy to supply an entire power plant. It's useless to stop me, so I'll give you a once in a lifetime offer: Join me and I promise I won't harm you or your friends."

The silence that followed settled heavily on Natsu's chest. He could barely contain his rage. How dare this bastard! Lucy was clearly on his side and the dragon slayer failed to understand how that wasn't obvious. At this point the only thing holding him in place, and preventing him from mutilating that guy, was his instinct to stay with Lucy. That reminded him … Why didn't she say anything? Was she seriously considering that guys offer?

Natsu never felt this self-conscious before. Did she want to leave him? Did she like this creepy dude? Or maybe she was still angry at him? Still, he wouldn't let her fall for this guy's charade. It was obviously a ploy to make them give up. Guys like him never kept their end of the bargin."Lucy, tell him that you won't join –"

"That's it!" Surprising both men, Lucy yelled excitedly and pointed in seaweed head's general direction. "That gem around his neck!"

Natsu was confused and saw the same bewilderment on that pansy's face. A weight lifted from his chest and Natsu cracked a grin. Lucy had ignored that bastard's speech completely. She had probably been to wrapped up in her thoughts to care about what that guy said. Never was he happier for her incredible skill to ignore people when she didn't want to be interrupted. Pure satisfaction made his smile become even wider.

"Nastu? Are you listening to me?" Lucy raised an eyebrow at him, her arms crossed beneath her chest. Natsu gulped, trying to keep his eyes in check. Damn her and her perfect body. "We've gotta destroy that green glowing gem around his neck. I believe that's where he stores all the magic he absorbed. Without that, he'll be completely defenseless."

Oh, that guy was so dead. "You're amazing, Lucy."

Natsu's breath hitched in his throat when he saw the look she gave him in return. There was his partner in all her glory, sporting a mischievous grin that made his heart skip a beat. Yes, there were scratches and bruises all over her body, but to him she couldn't be more beautiful. Her determined eyes almost looked golden in the dim light, promising never-ending adventure and fun. Against all odds, Lucy was positively glowing and all of a sudden he knew exactly why he felt so conflicted around her lately.

He was in love with her.

This weird woman made him feel things he never felt before and it scared him slightly. He'd need to figure out what to do with this information later. Right now was not the time. He had a bad guy to beat.

Natsu's attention was quickly diverted though as soon as there was an unpleasant noise from his opponent. If possible, the dragon slayer's evil smile became even wider when he watched Verdini's eyes narrow. Seems like his partner's observation was spot on, as always. Now that he knew a way to beat the guy, Natsu wouldn't hesitate to do so. Finally, all that rage had a purpose. With little effort, the fire wizard clad his fists in flames and charged at his enemy-turned-victim. He'd show that guy not to mess with Lucy. Ever.

~~~

Hot air made it even harder for her to breathe and the exhaustion from the day was nagging at her body. Lucy's muscles ached for a break and she winced when another stone tore her skin open. Jeez, after that she had to make sure that she wouldn't get any scars. Her previous euphoria caused by the discovery of Verde's weakness during his boring villainous monologue was short lived.

One would think that after exposing his secret, the guy would have been easier to beat. There was no such luck, but not that she expected any else after this week. Paranoia and anxiety were the only constant the stupid horoscope brought her. To hell with interesting encounters and all that true love stuff.

You need to face the chaos.

Duh, guess what Lucy was doing right now. The stellar mage knew from the beginning that Miss Mystic's was a fraud, the predictions being all over the place and vague. So why was she angry about that right now? Maybe because one fact was glaring right at her matter how much she tried to suppress it. That ever growing attraction toward her best friend, Lucy was beyond the point of denying it.

That damn dragon slayer and his damn evil smirk.

Although it was directed at her opponent, it sent pleasant shivers down her spine. Natsu, that idiot was dead bent on beating Verde. She sensed earlier that his temper was at its limits like a volcano about to erupt. And god, how she loved that expression. Mind slightly hazy, Lucy watched Natsu fight with her former captor. She still paid enough attention to dodge the flying objects that came from frequent small explosions.

Scorpio was at her side, readily shooting whirlwinds of sand to wherever she pointed at. Mainly in order to make dodging harder for Verde and drawing his attention away from Natsu. Her other side was flanked by Saggitarius who she happily allowed target practice with the librarian. The constant rain of arrows and sand blasts caught Verde off guard a number of times, allowing Natsu to get a few hits in. Lucy waited for an opportunity to use her fleuve d'etoile to immobilize him, so they could get that freaky necklace off.

"Subject Matter: Reject!" Verde shouted, a glowing green orb shot from his hand and directly at her team mate. Lucy suddenly saw everything in slow motion. Natsu dodged the dangerous magic and it whizzed right past him, only to collide with an extra large boulder. The explosion that followed after sent a rain of stone across the large room they were in. Her spirits tried to reach her, but they were to slow.

Quickly, she grabbed Happy by the tail and crouched down to shield him from the blonde woman winced when she felt hard material scratch her skin and tear her clothes. Seriously, why was it always her clothes?

"Dammit, Lucy! Don't you care about getting hurt?" She heard Natsu yell from where he was standing. When it felt safe, Lucy snapped her head up to see him stare disapprovingly at her. "You should try to avoid the rocks."

"What do you thing I'm doing? When something explodes you think I would just stand there and be like 'come at me debris'?!" She yelled back exasperatedly. It's not like she wanted to get hurt. What's with him and his over-protectiveness anyway. "No way, I'd be under my couch at best. Sheesh!"

"Why your couch?"

"Because Lucy is a weirdo," Happy answered in her stead, giggling into his paws.

"That's it, alley cat. You can protect yourself from now on," she said through clenched teeth, about to drop the cheeky feline on the floor. The cat protested and wiggled himself back into the safety of her arms. Lucy sighed but let it slide. Sometimes it was best to stay sane one of the group. Also, she wouldn't want Happy to get hurt just because he made her angry. "Just concentrate on the fight, Natsu."

The warning didn't come a second too late. Verde who used the distraction to his advantage was about to land a direct hit on the dragon slayer. Snapping out of his stupor, the pink-haired wizard punched his opponent right in the face. A sick crunching sound confirmed the solid hit, blood painting red dots on the floor.

What she didn't expect though was that Verde was still standing, a gloved hand resting on Natsu's chest. Slowly, but surely the foreign hand went through the tanned chest and it was as if someone pressed a pause button on the entire world.

"Seems like I got you in the end." Verde laughed whole-heartedly. What she once thought was an attractive, musical laugh made her sick to her stomach now. "The magic I gained lets me reject and attract matter. Right now, I'm rejecting your skin which is why my hand passed through so easily. You know, I could rip your heart out in front of her and when she's crying over your death, I will be there to comfort her."

No way.

Venus is the cause for your flirty mood, but don't carry it too far. For you could break a heart.

Was all of this her fault? Should she have told someone about the horoscope? Pure horror was the dominant emotion right now. If she would've never talked to Verde or flirted with him, would they even be in this situation? There was no way Lucy could have known that Miss Mysic literally meant ripping someone's heart out.

Natsu's eyes seemed to narrow into slits. He seemed to be positively livid, but unable to move a muscle courtesy of Verde's numbing magic.

"I have to commend you though. You seem to be more concerned about your precious friend than your own safety." Verde tilted his top head with his other hand as if to greet someone. "Is that love or stupidity, I wonder?"

Fear took over her body, but she would never allow her partner to die. She needed to be strong now and save Natsu. Shaking herself out of her stupor, Lucy pulled her fleuve d'etoile from her hip.

"Don't you dare touch him!" In one swift movement, the whip from the spirit world expanded and wrapped itself around Verde's leg. Skilfully, she flicked her wrist thereby throwing Chaos Hunter's leader off balance. Furious brown eyes watched in satisfaction as the man desperately tried to free himself from her whip. It felt good to give him a taste of his own medicine.

"That's my girl!" Natsu yelled proudly. His girl? There was probably no deeper meaning to his spontaneous shout, but for a second there her heart stopped. Of course, Natsu wasted no time and used the opening. "Crimson Lotus: Fire Dragons Fist!"

Brilliant flames engulfed him as he repeatedly punched his target. The dragon slayer pulled his right hand a little farther back for his final strike. And boy did that one blow. Lucy watched in awe as his fist collided with the gem, breaking it in tiny little pieces. The might of the punch pushed Verde through deep into the ground, a scream tearing through his lips at the pain. Cracks adorned the floor around the crater and in between the rubble lay their now unconscious opponent.

After checking whether Verde was really out cold, Natsu extinguished his flames and let himself fall to the ground. It was over.

Lucy crawled over to his side. Lazily, his charcoal eyes watched her every movement, a small smile on his lips. From close up, the blond woman could do nothing but frown. Natsu was a mess. There were bruises and scratches all over his body. Blood oozed from one nasty gash on his leg and his chest area didn't look any better. Although she wasn't one to talk since she probably didn't look any better, all those wounds made her angry.

"Always telling me to be careful. I swear, one day you're gonna loose an arm or two. Why don't you take care of you body for a change?"

Lucy made no efforts to hide her frustration as she tried to tend to his injuries. Not really having another option, she ripped the bottom of her shirt to wrap his injured leg. She would definitely charge him for the shirt later. Careful not to hurt him, the courageous woman dressed his wound and continued to mutter curses beneath her breath.

Lost in her own world of thoughs, the stellar mage was surprised when she felt two warm arms snake around her waist. For the first time in days, Lucy allowed herself to relax and forget about her worries. His familiar scent comforted her and she leaned her head against his chest. Natsu leaned closer and his mouth was right at her ear. His voice was nothing more than a whisper, but it sent another round of tingles and butterflies through her body.

"Because there are much more important things to lose, you weirdo."

Shocked, Lucy looked up in time to see his bright, familiar grin directed at her. The honesty of his smile was simply overwhelming her.

The celestial wizard raised an eyebrow in mild disbelief but couldn't help the smile creeping on her face. Seriously, she was the author out of the two. She was the one who was supposed to have a way with words. But as stupid and corny as it may sound, Natsu always managed to take her breath away with one little sentence.

"You really are an idiot."

Chapter Text

After their battle, matters resolved in a fast pace. It always surprised her how quickly those magic council officials arrived, swarming a crime scene like bees. Especially since you never see them fight or catch criminals on their own. Those lazy bums, they really should stop complaining about Fairy Tail and do their own work. After the officials scratched what was left of Verde from the concrete, Lucy quickly informed them of his victims' location. A curt nod was all the gratitude she got.

Jeez, a simple smile and thanks never killed anybody.

Together with the officials from the council, they led Mary and the rest of the remaining children out of the dungeons. Medics arrived at the scene and tended to the injured. Thinking about how they got them made Lucy's blood boild. How could those people be this cruel? Chaos Hunter had scarred those children for life. She prayed that their families were able to help overcome their trauma. Still, the blonde briefly wished Wendy came along on the mission. Her unique magic would help the physical healing process a lot.

Finally, the rest of her team joined them. Gray had created a gigantic cage of ice which was filled with unconscious dark guild members. Served them right for trying to kill people. Despite their cruelty, Lucy felt the need to bring Urania and Nathan to their father. It was their mission after all and Duke Pandera had seemed to be incredibly concerned about their well-being. It was his right to see them before they were imprisoned in the deep, dark dungeons of Era.

After a lot of convincing on her part, Lucy felt the exhaustion settle in as they headed for the grand Pandera mansion. Not only did they just fight a dark guild, but the celestial wizard had struggled with that stupid horoscope for an entire week. Not to mention Natsu's weird mood swings.

Creepily enough, everything but one aspect of that stupid article came true. Why didn't the most important part – the only positive one – come true? Would she ever find the love of her life? Come on, Lucy even admitted defeat to that damned Miss Mystic. She could cut her some slack.

The celestial wizard dragged her feet on the ground, her only wish right now: soaking in one of those wonderful hot springs. From time to time, she felt Natsu glance at her worriedly. But every time he opened his mouth to ask what's wrong, she just shook her head tiredly. With an annoyed roll of his onyx eyes, the dragon slayer slung an arm around her hip to support her weight and pulled her closer towards his warmth.

The blond turned into a tomato.

Not that she wasn't used to it yet, but his recent need for physical contact was still embarrassing. Especially under the eagle eyes of their team. Well, Natsu was always invaded her personal space, so it wasn't an usual sight. This amount of contact was a new achievement though. Faintly, the blonde could hear Gray and Happy whisper something before grinning creepily at her. She had no doubt it was about their new found closeness.

"Alley cat," Lucy hissed and tried to grab the blue feline. Yeah, tried … because a certain pink-haired clingy person held her back, not letting her escape his supportive hold. "Come on, Natsu, just let me hit him this once."

Her companion just shook his head and continued to drag her with him. Ever since their last fight he practically attached himself to her side. Lucy wouldn't even be surprised if he whipped out some permanent glue. Not that she minded though. The fire magician was warm and his small gestures made her feel as if she floated on a cloud.

If you are able to pass the emotional roller coaster, you will float on cloud nine with your one true love!

Wait, what did she just think? Was she insane? No, no, no! This was all wrong. It couldn't be – Luckily, Lucy's thoughts were interrupted.

Seeing it for the second time, the massive building was still impressive with those golden statues shimmering in the light of the afternoon sun. In front of the huge and prideful entrance stood a small, voluptuous figure with mustache. A big man and his big mansion. It was almost funny. Nervously, Duke Pandera tapped his feet on the ground while glancing at his golden pocket watch. Chewing on his lips, the wrinkles on his forehead seemed to deepen with concern. The man's head whipped up as soon as he spotted the intruders on his property, his expression softened almost unnoticeably.

"Nathan? Urania? Is it truly you?"

Lucy understood the brief confusion that was evident on their client's face. After all, they sported some fashionable bruises and cuts. While Nathan was just an unrecognizable heap of blue and purple, Urania apparently became partially bold. Juvia and Erza did quite a number on them.

"Father, you won't believe how those imbeciles treated me." Urania swung the remains of her black hair over her shoulder, trying to keep a scandalized expression. Lucy sighed, there were some people who never learned their lesson. "How could those commoners even dream to lay a hand on me. Please father, they must be punished."

His mustache bounced as he wobbled with surprisingly energetic steps towards the pair. Duke Pandera graced them with a critical observation of their appearance and scrunched his broad nose. Wow, that relief and happiness lasted long. Lucy felt strongly reminded of her own father. Natsu seemed to notice her reaction and shooed those glum thoughts away by holding her tighter. His concern made her smile shyly.

Happy snickered behind his paws, probably withholding some comment.

"About time you showed up. Nathan, you missed many hours of your studies. As my only son and heir of the Pandera family, I expect that you will get back to your work immediately. And you, Urania ..." Duke Pandera talked himself into a frenzy. "Your fiancé was extremely worried when you suddenly vanished. His father was not far from severing our business connection. In the future, you will know how to behave yourselves! Have I made myself clear?"

One of the government lackeys cleared his throat, effectively gaining the ungrateful father's attention. "Sir, I must inform you that this meeting here is simply to pay our respects. Nathan and Urania Pandera have been found guilty by the following charges: actively joining an unofficial guild, promoting violence against an official guild, several cases of kidnapping and they are prime suspects in seven cases of murder. As follows, they will be judged by the righteous power of the magic council in Era."

Silence settled over them like a blanket.

"That's how it is, old geezer. Denying everything would be even more of a pain and you know how I hate to get headaches," Nathan muttered as he watched his father's reaction through half-lidded eyes. "And don't pretend you didn't suspect anything. With that stict hold you had over us, it was more likely that we ran away than being kidnapped. You just couldn't deal with the fact that your precious children would rather join a dark guild than to spend one more hour at your beg and call. You were lying about us, so you wouldn't have to face the disgrace we brought to your name."

For one moment, Lucy swore she saw a flicker of realization and despair in their client's eyes. In the upper class, showing weakness was a no-go so it didn't shock her when the pale man just nodded in resignation. His demeanor was back to business. "Out of my sight, I don't wish to lay my eyes upon you ever again."

The odd reaction created a rainbow of emotions in their faces. While Gray and Erza wanted to protest, Natsu was not far from raining a mountain of insults at the man and Juvia just looked sad. Urania and Nathan smiled for the first time. They must have really hated their old life, if they would rather stay in a prison cell. Then again, if your life already was a prison what difference did it make? Although she despised the way they went about their life, Lucy could emphatize with the siblings.

Thinking back to her childhood in the Heartfilia mansion, she thought there wasn't that much of a difference between them.

~~~

After treating their own injuries, the group of wizards decided to stay the night in order to 'make sure the festival would go smoothly'. At least, that's what Lucy and Gray came up with to convince the warrior woman. It didn't take much effort and so the magicians were currently strolling along the colorfully illuminated streets. Stopping a few times, only to grab a snack or look for interesting items they could bring back to the guild as suvenirs. Erza was the only one missing, having to re-negotiate their reward with the major.

The festival was in full swing and the place was filled to the brim with people, happiness radiating from their faces. A grumbling sound came from his stomach. His hunger was burning holes into tummy and having food all around him didn't help. Natsu had to wait though until Erza got back with their reward.

It smelled of delicious food and spices, children dragged their parents towards booths and one could hear laughter coming from local pubs. Floating calmly, the glowing lacrima threw dancing lights around the streets and also on the face of a very angry celestial mage. A silky dark blue yukata that was covered in constellations flowed around Lucy's form like a waterfall as she tried to keep pace with her partner.

"Can you believe that guy, Natsu?"

He tried to stifle a laugh. All of her previous pity for that poor excuse of a father must have vanished into thin air after that particular conversation. Natsu watched as his partner stomp her feet on the ground, puffing her cheeks up in anger. Actually, the dragon slayer would have been fuming about it himself, if he didn't enjoy Lucy's expression that much.

"How could that old jerk just cut our reward in half? We did everything he asked from us," she grumbled and balled her hands into fists, before shaking them at the sky for some reason. Lucy always had awkward reactions like that. "How is it our fault that he can't control his children? Or that they had enough of being goody-goody and doing everything he wants them to?"

"Come on, Lucy, it's still 3.500.000 Jewel. That means everyone get about 700.000 Jewel," Gray reasoned with her, trying to lift the mood. The ice wizard lifted one of his hands to ruffle her hair, earning him a glare from Juvia. "That amount is still enough to pay your rent for a couple of months."

Natsu wasn't that bothered by his rival's friendly affection towards the blonde anymore. The epiphany during his fight with Verde gave him back the reign over his emotions, now that he knew where they were coming from and why. Natsu still wasn't sure whether he wanted Lucy to know about his feelings. But he'd have to tread carefully from now, if he ever wanted her to return them. Getting angry at Gray over a simple gesture and getting her angry at himself, wasn't worth it. He decided to trust her long ago, so he would.

"Gray-sama, Juvia wants comfort too!" Oh, but Juvia draping herself all over the ice wizard still helped a bit.

"Natsu ~ How much fish can we buy with that?" Happy flew around is head, eyes getting big and dreamy. "It'll be fish-wonderland."

Gray's calculation seemed to calm the blonde down considerably. Though Natsu knew she wouldn't stop complaining any time soon. That's just who she was. Huffing, Lucy crossed her arms. "It still doesn't make it right."

Suddenly, an ominous dark aura disturbed their friendly banter and the group turned towards the culprit. A demon, there were no other words to describe it. Scarlet hair waved dangerously around its head, eyes narrowing into slits as it searched for a speck of guilt in their faces. Natsu felt the sudden urge to grab Lucy and run very, very, very far away. He gulped when a glint of silver alerted him towards the dozen swords pointed at them from behind the demon.

They needed to escape now.

"3.500.000 Jewel, you say? 700.000 each? Are you really confident about your calculation?" Erza Scarlet pinned Gray down with her gaze, sporting an eery grin on her face. Holy crap! And the pink-haired man thought she was scary when she wasn't laughing. His eye started to twitch nervously and he wasn't the only one. "Lucy, why don't you do me the favor and read this out for everyone."

"Me?! A-alright," Lucy squeaked, but accepted the paper that was thrust in her direction. "Dear wizards of Fairy Tail, a-although the city of Hosenka d-deeply expresses their gratitude t-towards Fairy Tail, we m-must charge t-them for the damaged property resulting from their involvement."

Oh, crap and he thought they could avoid that topic. Leave it to Erza to ruin the festival.

"The accumulated amout is 3.496.700 Jewel for destroying the following property; the local library which contained ancient books, parts of the historic underground city, a hotel room and some pillars in the hotel lobby. We also received several complains from shop vendors, a cake store and locals about your general behavior. Moreover, some lend books still haven't been returned to our library. We will subtract the amount from you pay-check. Yours faithfully, John Dawn Substitute Mayor of Hosenka."

Crickets chirped. Natsu scratched his head in embarrassment when his growling tummy cut the silence. "Uuh ... is it bad?"

"Stupid, of course it's bad!" Lucy yelled and whacked his head. A thought must have entered her mind because she suddenly started counting something on her fingers. Then the blonde woman sighed in defeat, probably cursing that substitute mayor. "That would leave us with only 3.300 Jewel, meaning 550 Jewel per person. That's not even enough to feed your bottomless pit, Natsu."

"Exactly, I can't even afford a piece of strawberry cake," Erza snapped and Natsu had almost forgotten that she was still there. Women were scary. Seriously. And if you ignore them when they're angry, they get even more frightening. Knowing what was about to come – who wouldn't if a dozen swords were pointed at you – he decided to act upon his urges and run. Natsu briefly looked at Gray and a silent understanding passed between them. Everybody for themselves.

The pink-haired man grabbed the soft hand of his partner and bolted in a random direction, his wide black jacket billowing behind him. Surprised at the sudden movement, Lucy stumbled a few times before falling into pace with him. Involuntarily, a huge grin spread across his face. This was fun. It reminded him of the time he first met Lucy in Hargeon. Natsu also liked the feeling of their hands together, it was strangely soothing. Gray and Juvia probably headed in the opposite direction. Happy used his wings to fly away.

After an hour of playing cat and mouse, they were finally able to shake the demon off their trail. Breathing heavily, Natsu took in their surroundings and noticed that they had somehow ended up in the forest. One could still see the city in the distance and hear the noise, but it was a lot less stuffy. Thankfully. His nose could only take so much of that spicy smell. The dragon slayer took a deep breath and gasped when the familiar scent of lemon tea and books reached his nostrils.

He was alone with Lucy.

"Oh my god, I thought you would never stop running." She sent a half-hearted glare his way and dusted some invisible dust from her silky yukata. The moon bathed her figure in silvery light, making her features all the more soft and inviting. A warm night breeze brushed against her hair and swept a bout of alluring aroma towards him. Natsu caught himself openly staring at her, but hoped that she wouldn't notice. Her uncomfortable shifting told him otherwise.

"N-Natsu? I think we need to talk," she said softly and took a step towards him. Immediately his heart rate increased. "About … you know ..."

Er … should he? Lucy was in a weird mood again. Natsu hated when she was so cautious around him. He knew that look in her eyes … something was definitely up.

She stared at his profile, debating whether or not to say the words that she carefully prepared in her mind. Somehow it seemed easier when you imagine the conversation in your head, but only because you can decide the outcome. Her stories were also easier to handle because she could control her characters, solve the conflict and create a perfect happy-end.

However, the concept didn't apply to reality.

Why did he act so different around her? Why did his fuse seem to get shorter every day? Why was he suddenly so over-protective? Was he jealous of Verde and Gray? It was possible. Why did he always touch her? Why did he say all those sweet things to her? Why did he always save her? Why did he care so much? It could also just be friendship, right?

"N-Natsu? I think we need to talk about … you know ..." Dammit, stuttering didn't help her cause at all.

Now that Lucy had time to think about her feelings, she found that she had reached her limit. Being incredibly stubborn didn't help her cause. Feelings are not something you should bottle up inside forever and ever, it won't solve your issues. The blonde woman was determined to get some answers out of the dragon slayer. Rest in pieces pride, her mind was already made up. If Lucy couldn't prove how wrong the horoscope is, she would prove just the opposite.

If you are able to pass the emotional roller coaster, you will float on cloud nine with your one true love!

The only part that didn't come true … yet. Lucy saw his clenched first which were an obvious sign that he was still bothered by something, if you couldn't tell by the heat his body was radiating. No, she wouldn't back off now. It was supposed to be her lucky day, right?

"What's wrong, Natsu. You've been acting weird for a while now. I'm tired of hearing excuses. I'm your best friend, right? You can tell me what's bothering you!"

"..."

Lucy was stubborn and just because he decided to play mute didn't mean she would give up. She laid a hand on his arm to let him know that she was there for him; she just wanted an explanation that's all.

"Nothing is wrong. Why would you think something is wrong?" Lucy didn't know whether it was genuine confusion or if he was just acting the part. But fine, if he insisted on being difficult, two could play that game.

"Okay, then let me give you some ideas. Usually, you don't care who I share a room with or if someone flirts with me," Lucy challenged and raised an eyebrow. When Natsu turned towards her to meet her eyes, she saw the flicker of realization and something else in his. Still, his lips stayed glued together. The dragon slayer made a face as if she was torturing him. Her heart sunk and her voice grew quiet, "I don't think we've ever had so many fights with each other in just one week."

"Lucy ..." Natsu's eyes were wide as he lifted his arms almost pleadingly. He took a deep breath to steady himself. "I … I didn't know why back then, but I had these weird feelings and I didn't know how to handle them. Then you became angry at how I was acting and it scared me because I thought you wouldn't want to spend time with me anymore. I was afraid that you were gonna leave me."

Weird feelings? The truth was a real shell-shocker and probably hard to admit for him. Lucy was glad that he finally answered her, but her shock was soon gone and replaced by disappointment.

"You idiot, why would I ever want to leave you? I would never do that," she countered angrily. Really, the girl was livid by now. She didn't even care anymore. Her honor as partner was at stake. "We're partners and we've always been together. Don't you trust me?"

"Of course I do! I just didn't trust myself," Natsu growled back. "When you picked a room with Gray over me and when that seaweed head kidnapped you he –"

"So you were jealous!" Lucy yelled, not knowing if she should be happy or angry. Bulls-eye. It effectively turned him into a stone statue. Something clicked in Lucy's mind, the pieces of the puzzle finally clicked together. For the first time, everything made sense. She had a hard time believing it though. "Really? You were jealous?"

"Shut up, noisy weirdo!" Natsu chose to stare at anything but her, a pink tint covering his cheeks. It was no where close to a confession and she wouldn't let him off that easily. Both of them may be new to romance, but she wanted clarity.

"You shut up, stupid dragon!"

Natsu rolled his eyes and frowned. "What else do you want from me?"

"You don't have any reason to be jealous because I like you!" Lucy almost screamed it at him, otherwise her bravery might have left her completely. He just blinked dumbly at her, confusion and shock written all over his face.

Great, now she felt like slapping herself. Her waterworks had a rough time ahead. Maybe Virgo could dig her a hole to hide in. Or even better, she'd call Aquarius to drown herself. The blonde woman's only sliver of hope was to learn some memory deleting magic and erase those three words from Natsu's mind. Permanently.

Unconsciously, both of them had moved closer to each other during their argument. Just now, Lucy noticed that they were in breathing distance. When she wanted to step back though, two warm arms had already trapped her.

Natsu stared seriously into her warm brown eyes, but strangely his surprise did not ebb away. Instead, he realized that no matter how hard he tried, he'd always be stunned into amazement by this stupidly beautiful woman. Even though he had only put a name to his feelings yesterday, Natsu had felt this way for a long time. It just completely eluded him that she felt the same. He was the luckiest man alive.

"You could've said so earlier."

Determined, Natsu pushed her against a nearby oak tree and crushed his lips to her soft ones. She tasted like sunshine, lime and mint, it left him craving more of her. His chest was pressed tightly against hers – not allowing any space between them.

When the wheels in her head started to turn again, Lucy felt a kind of joy that overshadowed every other emotion. She leant into the kiss, wishing she could always stay like this.

Her breath was stuck in her throat when a low growl rumbled through his chest, making it vibrate against her soft skin. His warm fingertips trailed up her tights, gripping them tightly when he pushed her further up the tree trunk. Natsu had always learned things based on instinct and right now, Lucy knew his emotions were guiding his actions. It sent chills down her spine because his hands ignited a fire; every little cell in her body was burning with anticipation. She felt like exploding from the twirling emotions that raged inside of her body and it made her want more of him.

Love. It was the best feeling in the world.

Slowly, she opened her eyes half-way only to meet his scorching onyx stare that was coated with desire. She had never imagined her innocent almost child-like Natsu could look this passionate when he was not in a battle. His ragged breath blew across her face and she inhaled his masculine scent like a drug addict while planting quick kisses along his jar. Lucy already felt addicted to his touch, his every movement and most certainly him.

"I love you, Lucy."

Then his lips met hers again with the passion of a raging fire and she returned the favor eagerly. Feverishly, one of his hands hands trailed around her back in need to feel more of her skin, but he controlled himself as to not undress her in a cold forest. He didn't want to make her sick.

Her own hands entangled themselves in his ridiculously pink hair to pull him even closer to her. A soft moan escaped her lips and it made him smirk into their kiss, before she could break apart due to the lack of oxygen. A short trail of saliva connected them as their ragged breaths broke the silence. However, Natsu only allowed her to rest for a few seconds before his lips were moving against hers again, this time they deepened the kiss.

Lucky Day: Sunday.

Lucky day? Heck yeah it was! That creepy horoscope had her worried over nothing. It was Natsu. It had been him all this time. How could she have been this blind? Lucy admitted, she had been scared out of her mind to loose their friendship in case she ever confessed her feelings. Still, she should have known that nothing could get between them. She realized through Natsu's earlier words that he had held the same kind of fear for a long time. Lucy resolved to quell his fears as soon as possible.

With a happy smile on her slightly swollen lips, she slowly pulled her head back to get a good look at his face. Natsu threw her a puzzled look when she brought both of her hands to frame his face.

"I love you, too."

The brilliant grin she received in return could possibly cure any disease in the world, it was just that bright. If this is what it felt like to float on cloud nine, she'd never want it to stop ever.

Chapter Text

It was a warm summer morning and the sun snuggled into the white clouds while the blue sky yawned above the mountain tops. A small river dashed down from between the stony cracks until it melted with the glittery ocean. Some birds began their cheerful songs and woke the city from its deep slumber. A mischievous barmaid polished a freshly cleaned glass with expertise one could only gain from years of working in the field.

Welcoming her first guests, Mirajane Strauss listened to their troubles and didn't waste a chance to poke her fellow guild members for fresh pieces of gossip. She was the guild's self-appointed matchmaker, after all. Lisanna watched her sister suspiciously, the woman was far to giddy for her own good. In fact, Mira had been acting rather strange this entire week. It was almost as if the barmaid was waiting for something major to happen. She was plotting something and Lisanna was determined to find out what it was.

"You've been awfully chipper lately. Care to tell me why?"

"Aw ~ Why do you always assume the worst of me?" Mira pouted at her younger sibling, stetting down the polished glass on the counter. "Can't I just be in a good mood?"

"There is a difference in simply being in a good mood and being the kind of hyperactive maniac you've been this past week," Lisanna muttered, pinching the bridge of her nose. Luckily, she had the patience of a saint when it came to her beloved sister. "What did you do, Mira?"

"You'll see soon enough," the barmaid whispered into her ear conspiringly. That bit of information made Lisanna dread the future. She prayed for the poor soul who was on the receiving end of the demon's schemes. Reluctantly, the white-haired woman let go of the topic and settled down on one of the bar stools in defeat.

People drifted in and out of the guild hall as the hours slowly ticked by. Mondays usually meant business since new job requests kept flooding in, leaving the stationary members to bustle around the place and accommodate potential clients and messengers alike. It was also the day many returned from their missions, telling tales about discovering a particular interesting area of Fiore and bragging about their achievements in battle. The latter often spurred a contest trying to decide who's mission was the most dangerous, often leading to arguments that ended in a full out guild brawl.

This was Fairy Tail after all. They were notorious for destruction.

Mira's and Lisanna's heads snapped to the front door when loud yelling announced the arrival of Fairy Tail's most notorious team of wizards. The two of them couldn't help but smile at the group, it's been a bit quiet during their absense but it seemed they were quickly trying to remedy that.

Lucy was pulling Natsu's ear, scolding him for something he was surely guilty of eventhough he tried to protest. Happy was flying above them, munching on a fish with a dreamy expression. Gray was currently struggeling to pry Juvia off his arm which proved to be fruitless. The water wizard didn't seem to listen to him, mumbling something about marriage and babies. Erza was already busily scanning the room for any wizard who acted out of line during her absence. She made a pitstop on quite a few tables in order to lecture their current inhabitans on proper behavior in the guild.

Yes, it was definetly Monday.

While Natsu and Gray joined the ongoing brawl fists first, Lucy quickly tried to walk towards the bar, dodging flying chairs and bottles on her way. In the past she always sported some bruises after carelessly walking around the guild, but she has gotten used to their violent ways. Sighing exhaustedly, the celestial wizard plopped down on the chair beside Lisanna.

"Are you okay? You don't look so good, Lucy." And it was true, there were barely visible purple bags beneath her eyes. It looked as if the woman didn't have a good night's sleep for a while.

"Just peachy," the blonde muttered in response, resting her head on the polished counter in front of her. "Thanks for worring though, Lisanna."

Despite having resolved the tension between her and Natsu, Lucy couldn't stop thinking about the horoscope after their confession. It kept her up all night and not even the fire wizards warmth beside her could lull her into dreamland. She just didn't want to give into Miss Mystic's predictions. Lucy had to admit that they were strangely accurate, but she didn't feel comfortable with the thought that her decision's weren't her own.

As if eavesdropping on her thoughs, a white-haired barmaid slid into view and put down a steaming mug of coffee in front of her blonde friend. Lucy gratefully accepted, mumbling a small thanks and took a sip from the hot beverage. It was liquid heaven and she felt her sore muscles relax in response. Flipping a coin in her mind, she decided to share her troubles with the siblings.

"Do you believe in fate, Mira?" Lucy took another sip from her coffee and looked up to the barmaid in curiousity.

"Why ever would you ask that question, Lucy?" She raised a perfect white eyebrow, shooting her sister a meaningful glance. Lisanna groaned in realization. Poor Lucy, so she was the one Mira's plans revolved around. "Honestly, I only believe in fate as a means to an end."

"Huh? How so?"

"I'll explain myself, if you tell me why you asked that question first."

Lucy noticed the odd glint in her blue eyes but shrugged it off, deciding there would be no harm in telling.

"Before I went on the last job, I've read last weeks issue of the Weeky Sorcerer. There was a section about horoscopes and since I didn't have anything better to do, I read mine. Usually, I don't believe in these kind of things. It's odd to hear about contellations being the cause for people falling in love and things alike, when you know most of them personally. Believe me when I say, Cancer is not a romantic guy. This entire week has been strange though, everything in that horoscope came true."

Saying these things out loud made Lucy realize two things. One being Mira's odd comment about fate being a 'means to an end'. Number two being the fact that Mira regularly worked for the Weeky Sorcerer. Of course, the beautiful woman mainly posed for sexy photoshoots. However, that didn't rule out the possibility of her sweet-talking an editor into adjusting certain parts of the magazine.

As if the barmaid sensed her thoughts, she pulled out last weeks issue of the offending paper and fumbled with the pages until she found what she was looking for. Mira sensed the anger radiating of her friend, so she was extra careful when handing over the last piece of evidence. Taking a sip of her own beverage, the matchmaker thought the only thing missing to make this moment perfect would be some popcorn. She was truly evil.

In a hurry, the celestial wizard reread the horoscope, sucking in a calming breath when here eyes found the name. Miss Mystic aka. Anje Marie. It was an anagram. If you rearrange the letters it clearly spelled out Mirajane. For someone who constantly read buried her head in novels, Lucy felt disappointmed that she didn't figure this out sooner. There was still something that didn't make sense.

"How did you write this and make it hit so close to home?" The frustrated blonde was torn between admiration and irritation towards her meddling friend. "I'm serious, some of it really creeped me out!"

"You forget, I'm the one who hands out the requests. I knew exactly where you're going and who you're going with." Mira giggled behind her hand when she saw Lucy's stunned and her sister's accusing expression. A job well done. "Cana and her cards helped with a few details. As for the rest, I have lots of time on my hands on simply observing everyone. I could tell something was different about your relationship with Natsu recently. So, I decided to give you a secret little push. You'd have brushed me off, if I told you there was something going between you two love birds."

"The horoscope felt so real though. It couldn't just have been my imagination," Lucy argued.

"Our minds are pretty adaptive to our circumstances. Horoscope work similarily to the Placebo effect. You just need a tiny spark of belief and your mind will automatically attribute meaning to the words," Mira explained proudly, she really did her research before jumping into her matchmaking plan. "For example, if your horoscope says you'll be unlucky and the next day you accidentally drop a cup of tea, you'd think back to what the horoscope said. It usually helps that most descriptions in yours were very vague and of course that fact I know you well, Lucy."

"I can't believe you went through all this trouble." Lucy shook her head in mild disbelief and Lisanna patted her shoulder in comfort. "All of that to get Natsu and me together …"

"Aw ~ No need to thank me, I'm always glad to help!"Mira squealed excitedly while the blonde fought the urge to strangle her. "Did it work though?"

"Did what work?"

"Don't play coy with me, Lucy. You know exactly what I mean." The barmaid sounded friendly, but the stellar wizard could detect some dangerous undertones. An ominous aura started to surround the white haired demon, no one stood between her and juicy gossip. "Spill, I want all the details."

Before Lucy could stutter out an answer, a blurr of pink and fire whizzed past her and slammed into the counter next to her. Hoping he didn't hurt his head too bad, she helped Natsu on her feet. He really just saved her from a conversation she wasn't ready for, her cheeks were already reddening just thinking about the questioning she'd have had to endure from the Stauss siblings.

"Hey Lucy, sorry for almost crushing into you. That was a close one," Natsu apologized and rubbed the back of his head sheepishly. He looked at Lucy from behind salmon coloured bangs and poked one of cheeks when he noticed their red-ness. "What are you guys doing?"

"Nothing in particular, just having some good old girl talk." Lisanna giggled behind her hand, resembling her sister in that moment. "Were were just asking Lucy about you two. You've sure been dancing around each other for a while."

"Dancing? But we haven't danced at all, except for that one time at that ball?" Lucy slapped her hand against her forehead. He might have become more mature in some ways, but he sure had a long way to with that level of denseness.

"No, Natsu. What Lisanna means is that you two looked like you were in love with each other," the barmaid explained calmly, knowing from experience that patience and rewording were the only options to get through his thick skull. "And we were wondering, if you've already confessed?"

"Oh, that's what you meant. You could've just said so," Natsu replied annoyed and turned to leave. Before he joined the fight again though, the dragon slayer pecked his girlfriends cheek and smiled at her. "Have fun with your girl talk, Lucy. Let's meet later and decide which job we're gonna go on next, okay?"

Mirajane and Lisanna squealed in delight, much to Lucy's chargrin. She was sure they would have the time of their life, interrogating her later.

"S-sure," Lucy stuttered, trying her best to control her flustered expression but it was futile.

Two very intense stares bore holes into the back of her head and the blonde wizard mentally prepared herself for the onslaught of questions. Lucy still wasn't sure whether she would forgive Mira yet. She did cause her a lot of worry and stress during the last week after all. In the end, it all worked out in her favour. Moreover, the blonde woman couldn't deny the happiness that spread through her whenever she thought of her new boyfriend.

In your face, Aquarius. She finally found a boyfriend.

Having the damn horoscope figured out, the celestial wizard felt incredibly content for the first time since last week. Mira may have successfully tricked her into believing into fate for a little while, but she wasn't unhappy about the push it gave her towards recognizing her feelings for Natsu. Lucy was in charge of her own future and she was looking forward to it now.

Next week, she would definitely flush the damn thing down her toilet tough.