A/N: Hello, hello again friends! It's been forever. Like, 7 months. Anyway, I hope you all are ready for the next twist in the story hehe. And this one's a doozy!

Hope you enjoy, and don't get too mad at me for being gone for so long!

The weeks passed by like seconds, and sooner rather than later it was the day before Christmas Eve. With Lucy's life being constantly taken over by customers, working more hours, and trying to go on impromptu lunch dates with Natsu in between, she barely had enough time to wrap presents or get into the Christmas spirit at all. It seemed like it was just a normal day coming up where she would work for another day and have her days off like always but have another day added to it. Retail would really kill one's Christmas cheer, and that was one of thankfully only a few things that Lucy disliked about the holidays.

Customers were even more rude than normal since they were in a rush to get their gifts for whomever they were searching for, and Juvia's store was no exception. One woman even yelled at Cana because they didn't have a certain incense in stock, and Cana barely batted an eye when the woman said she would never come back in the store again.

"Don't let the door hit you on your way out," Lucy muttered under her breath after the customer finished her yelling and stomped out. When the woman looked her way, Lucy merely fake smiled and waved, hoping that she would stay true to her word of never coming back.

"Are Lucy and Cana ready to close the store?" Juvia asked innocently, eyeing a customer still wandering around even though it had been ten minutes since she had told them that they were closing in five minutes.

"You betcha. I'm ready to get outta here and take two shots. One for that customer and one for me. God knows she needs one," Cana said with a smirk, and Lucy laughed along with her friend. Even Juvia joined in despite her sadness over losing a customer.

"Don't worry about her, Juv. She was a real witch," Lucy said with a grin, softly rubbing Juvia's back with her fingertips. She knew that her boss' depression would beat her up about losing someone, no matter how rude the person was or not. Thankfully they were doing well this month even with cruel people running amok, so Lucy knew that Juvia's depression wouldn't hit her as hard this time. Still, she wanted to be there for her friend and boss no matter what, and even if her depression wasn't as bad as last time, it was still bad.

"Juvia wouldn't know what she would do without Lucy," Juvia said, wiping a tear from underneath her eye with a sniffle. Embracing her friend and employee, Juvia wrapped her arms around Lucy and smiled softly.

"You're welcome, Juvia. Anytime," Lucy replied, squeezing her friend tight. She knew that this hug would be cherished for a while and that Juvia needed as many hugs and gentle touches as possible because of her past. Even raising a hand to high-five the woman could be a trigger to her because of her PTSD and depression, and Lucy did not want to bring back memories of pain for her. Juvia had been nothing but kind to her for the entire time of her employment, and Lucy wanted to relay that feeling back to her friend.

"Alright, store's closed. Let's get to work!" Cana called, and Lucy and Juvia broke away from the hug. Giving each other a quick smile, the two parted to clean up.

Once work was over, Lucy said her goodbyes and headed home, stopping by to grab a coffee over at the shop that she and Natsu went to on their first date. Happy memories flooded her mind as Laki and Yukino asked her how her boyfriend was, and Lucy was elated to tell them that he was doing well. The three chatted for a little while before Lucy left, pushing a large tip in the jar and wishing them a happy holiday.

Finally home at last, she fell onto her bed for a few minutes to relax her aching feet. If only retail didn't kill her feet as much as she knew they would…

Still, this was time for wrapping presents, not complaining about her feet! She only had today and tomorrow to wrap some gifts, and since none of her roommates were home that meant she could finish up the task in the living room. As Lucy opened up her drawer of gifts, she reminisced over what she bought for each person. A subscription to a fancy snack box that Gajeel would have delivered to his work every week so he would be able to eat something other than chips each day. A handcrafted book cover for Levy. A bottle of scotch for Cana, and an incense burner she made herself for Juvia. Gray was being gifted with an ice cream maker so he could make his favorite treat within thirty seconds.

And Natsu…

Lucy bought Natsu a dragon plush from one of her favorite stores. She knew it wasn't much, but she hoped he'd appreciate it more than if she bought him a huge gift or something like that. She made sure that everyone's gifts were equal in value, and Natsu's plush was no exception. It was a rare one that was sold when Lucy was a child, and she always wanted one but never was able to have one since her father persisted that dragons were for boys.

Placing it into the box with a card on it, she wrapped it with nimble fingers and cursed her father once more. If he hadn't placed a gender binary when she was a child, maybe she could have enjoyed things like rolling around in the dirt and whatever else she enjoyed. It didn't matter what gender a person was-they should be able to be who they wanted to be and find joy in what they did.

But things were what they were, she thought with a sigh, and there was nothing she could to do change it. Even if she wished to do so, Lucy didn't have the power to change the past. She could, however, alter the future to what she wanted. She could let her kids know that there were no rules on who they preferred to date, who they loved, and how they dressed or presented themselves. As long as they were kind and not in jail or a drug dealer, the door would always be open to them. And that was that.

Shaking her sigh off, a smile replaced it on her face. It was a time of joy, not a time of sorrow or looking back on past regrets. Even though he was a jerk in multiple ways to multiple people, it was almost Christmas. She could forgive her father for just one night.

Before Lucy knew it, the day had gone by and she was waking up on Christmas Eve. Thankfully she had wrapped all of her presents up with care last night, placing them under the tree along with everyone else's. With a yawn, Lucy's feet hit the floor and she took her medicine quickly and headed to the restroom to take a shower. On her way across the hall, she heard a Christmas song playing on the radio. Smiling, she walked into the bathroom and sung along with the song as she washed her hair in the shower.

Once out, she began to make her breakfast as she hummed to the tune of 'All I Want for Christmas is You'. Lucy turned around and put her food on a plate and began to eat quickly. She needed to get to work as soon as possible! Christmas Eve was one of the biggest days of the year, if not the biggest. Retail stopped for no man.

Fortunately, people were pretty good at getting their Christmas gifts early. Most people who got their presents late were men who shopped for their wives or just normal shoppers in general, which Lucy could handle. The day continued without a hitch, and Lucy was finishing up her closing duties rather than later.

"Juvia couldn't have handled this without you, Lucy!" Juvia smiled at her friend as they closed up the shop together along with Cana.

"You were the one who dealt with that rude guy, Juv," Lucy replied nonchalantly, circling to turn the store's sign from 'open' to 'closed'.

"But Lucy was the one who talked that customer into buying a more expensive crystal for his wife," Juvia retorted with another grin, embracing her employee. Juvia was a hugger, Lucy had realized, but it was quite nice to have positive affirmation that she did well at her job. Her last boss barely even told her that she did well at the end of the night, but Juvia was so encouraging that it sometimes overwhelmed her. Lucy wasn't used to receiving this amount of praise, but she'd rather that than the latter.

"Merry Christmas, Lucy," Juvia called from where her car was parked, and Lucy wished the same to her. They would see each other tomorrow, as none of the group were close enough to their families to have Christmas with them-or even had families. Sometimes Christmas could be a sad occasion for those without family, but Lucy vowed to herself to make this holiday the best one she had ever had the pleasure of hosting. Since she was the only person motivated enough to decorate after working overtime, she was going to make their apartment look full of cheer.

After stopping by the coffee shop down the road to buy everyone their favorite holiday drink and tipping Laki and Yukino quite handsomely, Lucy drove home and began her adornment of their home. Although small, Lucy knew how to make the living room appear just a bit bigger so everyone felt like they were welcome. Fortunately the presents were already placed under the tree, so Lucy didn't have to do much in that regard. As she rolled up her sleeves, she began to embellish every door, chair, and light fixture in the place. With a snicker, she hung up a few select pieces of mistletoe she had picked up from the store. She knew there was going to be a lot of kissing in general, but why not try to make it a little more embarrassing for the couples around her?

Hours flew by, and soon everyone was home from their jobs. Natsu had awoken from his normal slumber as he had the day off tomorrow, and Gajeel had begun cooking the Christmas ham along with Lucy in the kitchen.

Lucy giggled girlishly as Natsu gave her a kiss on the cheek under the mistletoe, and she turned her head to kiss him full on the mouth. The Christmas ham could wait-this was really what the holiday was all about!

"Merry Christmas, Luce," Natsu wished his girlfriend when they broke apart, and Lucy bopped him on the nose softly.

"I know you were just giving me a kiss so you could grab a piece of the ham," she teased, but the blush on her face stayed as bright as when he first kissed her. Wow, could that boy kiss!

"Nah, I wanted to kiss you. The ham was just a bonus," Natsu replied as he popped the meat into his mouth, enjoying the buttery flavor and slight brown sugar taste.

Lucy turned away with the slight flush still on her face while she continued aiding Gajeel's cooking. She knew that he didn't know how to make the brine just right or how to cook the meat to the perfect temperature so it was neither undercooked nor overcooked. And thankfully, she did. Someone had to make sure that the boys that stayed here knew how to cook other than Gajeel, and if it had to be her, then so be it.

"Food's done," Gajeel said with a grunt about forty-five minutes later after Lucy had reset the kitchen timer twice. Mouthwatering, she pulled the ham out of the oven and set it on the table along with the potatoes, carrots, and other miscellaneous delicacies that she, Gajeel, and the rest of the crew had prepared earlier that evening.

Levy grinned as she popped the champagne, pouring the beverage into glasses and handing one to Gajeel. He kissed her on the cheek, and she giggled softly before turning his face toward hers.

"Merry Christmas, Gajeel." Levy pressed a gift into his hands, whispering into his ear to have him open it later.

"Alright everyone," Lucy announced as her friends turned toward her expectantly, eager to what she had to say. "It's been a great year for us. You all are my family, and I love you guys more than life itself. And it's Christmas. So let's eat, drink, and be merry!"

"Yes," a voice said behind the group as he stepped into the tight circle of friends with a smirk on his face. "Let's hear what Lucy has to say. I'm sure she has an awful lot to tell about being part of a family."

"What the hell did you just say about Lucy?" Natsu stepped up to the man, snarling as he glared into his eyes.

But the eyes he found staring back at him looked...just a little like Lucy's. There was still much cruelness there, but the shade was not unlike his girlfriend's.

"Dad." Lucy's voice was flat but slightly shaky. Anxiety rose in her stomach up to her neck as she slowly walked toward her father. "What are you doing here?"

"Oh my dear, you cannot be serious! You responded to all of my letters. As cruel and vicious as your replies, I did not think that you would be this way to your own father," Lucy's father replied, a crude smile on his lips and a glint in his eye.

"It's not like you gave me any reason to be kind to you, dad," Lucy spat, but her eyes were downcast. Flashbacks hit her fast and hard-celebrating her birthday on her own at three, her mother dying, and the glaring eyes of her father as she left the house when she turned sixteen years old. Tears dripped down her face as she faced the man who had given her too many reasons to leave her home.

"Don't cry, my dear. I've only come to take you back to where you belong. Do you really think you belong here, in this dump?" Gesturing around the apartment, Lucy's father snidely grinned. "Besides, Sting is waiting for you. I'm sure he'd love to see his new pet dressed nicely for him instead of dressed in...whatever it is you're wearing. You belong home, and more importantly, you belong as Sting Eucliffe's wife."

The final straw in Natsu snapped, and he grabbed Jude by the collar. No one, not even Gray or Gajeel, dared stop him. Instead, his friends stood behind him to back him up just in case things got ugly. Smashing him into the closest wall, Natsu's chest heaved up and down as he bared his teeth.

"Listen to me, you piece of shit. Lucy doesn't belong to that asshole. Lucy doesn't belong to you. Lucy doesn't belong to anybody! She's her own person, and she's the most goddamn beautiful person I've ever known in my life, no matter what she's wearing or how she acts. She belongs here, in Magnolia, and she wants to be by my side. Got that?"

Once finished, Natsu released Jude and let him clean himself up. After Jude straightened up, he wiped the blood off his mouth and let his self-satisfied smirk free once more.

"And who might you be?" Jude asked, staring Natsu straight in the eyes.

Without a moment's hesitation, Natsu opened his mouth and responded.

"I'm her fiance."

A/N: Aaaaaand here comes the fake engaged trope folks! This should be interesting. I hope you all enjoyed, and please let me know what you thought of it! I will be updating more often, but now that I'm full-time at my job and have about twenty other things taking up my time, I'm guessing it will be around once a month.

Please don't forget to review, follow the story, follow me, or whatever else tickles your fancy. I would appreciate it!

'Til next time!

Love, Auds :)