A/N: I didn't intend for this to be this long but here we are... I really appreciate everyone's support! I know the characters are a little out of character, but for the drama of it all, they must be. I felt like Lucy's abandonment issues were so easily glossed over in the series, so I'm sort of trying to deal with that too here. I hope you'll give this a chance till the end! I really hope the narration, pacing and the build-up makes sense.


Sting rolls off of Lucy and the two of them breathe heavily, sweaty from their… nightly exercise. Well, it was evening now, but… that's what everyone (who knew) called it now. Nightly exercise.In all of the technical sense, it was very accurate.

He glances at her sideways, watching her stare at the ceiling with a little frown. "You okay?"

"Yeah," she murmurs.

"Lucy…" he says, knowingly. "I know it's bothering you…"

She groans and sits up in the bed, pulling the sheet over herself, crossing her arms to hold it in place as she leans against the headboard. "You're so stubborn!" she says indignantly. "Let it go already!"

Sting gets up as well, sitting shoulder-to-shoulder with her. He doesn't say anything but just stares at her intensely, till she grunts. Then, she looks at him with a scowl.

" Fine. Of course it's bothering me. I don't know what to do now. What am I supposed to tell him? What are we supposed to do? I can't kick him out, he's my friend and-"

" Friend, " chortles Sting. "Come on, Lucy, you need to get real-"

"Yes. Friend ," repeats Lucy, glaring at him, before huffing. "We go back to Zinnia tomorrow, and then what? Will he join Sabretooth? Will he just… take off again? I mean, I wouldn't put that beyond him seeing as he's done that before and-"

" Or ," says Sting, cutting her off by bumping her shoulder lightly. "You could just… Talk to him," he suggests.

"And say what? Hey, Natsu, I don't know what to do now that you're here, what are your plans? Do you want me to go with you or…?"

" Would you go with him if he asks?" asks Sting, watching her intently.

"Huh?" blinks Lucy in confusion, and when Sting says nothing, she understands. "Oh. I… Don't know."

And then she starts to feel guilty. She shouldn't even be considering leaving behind the people who were actually there for her in her time of need. Her hand goes to the gold chain around her neck again and she starts to play with it till Sting holds her fidgeting hand and tells her quietly.

"I would understand if you went, you know?"

She gives him a small smile. "I know. But why should I… Honestly, this is not me being bitter, or petty. It's just… why should I drop everything and leave when…" she trails, away with a small shake of her head. "It doesn't matter anymore. It's going to work out just fine. Natsu always finds a way. I know he'll be fine without me," she mutters.

Sting doesn't look convinced but doesn't challenge her either. "By the way, where does he think you are?"

"Uh… I don't know? He wasn't in the room when I got out of the shower," she says, frowning a little and wondering again where he could possibly have gone.

A couple of hours later a tired Sting, an annoyed Lucy and an extremely energetic Natsu are walking out of the palace grounds, followed by a group of guards escorting them out. Once they're at the gate, a guard tells them, "You're lucky Princess Hisui is kind."

" And she's my friend!" says Natsu cheekily, earning a sharp smack on the back of his head from Lucy.

"I don't know how you do it, Natsu-san," sighs Sting as he leads them back to the guild. "You destroyed the Domus Flau and vandalised the royal palace in the same day and all you get is being banned from the palace!"

"That's a bummer, isn't it?" Natsu frowns. "Well, I'll make sure they'll lift that soon enough," says Natsu confidently, and Happy agrees with an 'Aye, sir!'

"Oh, no you won't!" says Lucy sharply, stopping and crossing her arms, glaring at Natsu. "One of the reasons you got away was because Sting vouched for you! So, no you will do nothing of the kind," she snaps.

Natsu looks at her wide-eyed, both his hands up. " Hey, I was only kidding!"

"Like I believe that!" Lucy replies with a scowl on her face. Then pointing her finger at his chest, and bringing her face closer, she continues. "You will stay away from the palace, forever , you hear me! You can't just do what you want, Natsu! It's reckless and irresponsible!" she says angrily, and continues, "People. Get. Hurt," each word punctuated by a jab in his chest.

Natsu stares at her, very nervous now and feels sweat build up around his neck and loosens his scarf nervously. Happy is quiet as well, silent for once in his life. Lucy is still very close to him and he can see his own reflection in the brown pools of her rapidly watering eyes. He watches her face soften the second Sting tugs at her elbow, almost as if she snapped back to the present.

She draws back suddenly and blinks away her tears, standing right in front of Sting. Rubbing her face with her hand, she inhales deeply. "You need to be more careful, Natsu…" she says softly this time.

Sting places a careful hand on her shoulder. "Lucy…?"

She steps away and shakes her head. "There are some errands I need to run. I'll see you back at the inn," she says abruptly and turns on her heel, walking away with a wave, leaving Natsu and Sting to stand there awkwardly. Natsu stares after her and looks at Happy, who is equally confused and then at Sting, who looks a little embarrassed. "Jeez, what was that about?" he asks Sting, because it hasn't escaped him how he calmed her down. Something had definitely changed a lot more than he thought it did.

Sting respected Natsu; a lot. But to think he was this dense. He couldn't be sure if Natsu-san was dense on purpose or if he was really just that blissfully ignorant of things. He opens his mouth to say something but decides against it; if Lucy wanted him to know or even understand what happened, she should tell him herself and he should talk to her. It wasn't his story to tell.

"Uh, I don't know," lies Sting and when he sees a determined Natsu about to follow her, he lays a friendly, but firm hand on his shoulder, holding him back. "I would leave her alone, if I were you. She needs space."

Natsu scowls at him, but relents, arms crossed tightly against his chest. The two of them start to walk towards the inn in silence, both of them lost in thought.

If Sting was being honest with himself, he didn't really mind Natsu much but he was definitely worried for Lucy. He remembers what she'd been like the first couple of weeks, always wanting to lay in bed or just getting drunk. He hadn't been doing so well himself back then, as he was still recovering from Weisslogia's death; his second death rather. He'd had to deal with the "knowledge" of having had to kill Weisslogia for years, only to feel relieved that he hadn't really killed his adoptive father. And then, he'd watched him die. It had all been too much. But hey, if he wasn't busy getting piss drunk himself, he never would've been as close to Lucy as he is today.

But he most definitely didn't want to see her go back to that. He shoots a sideways glance at Natsu and he can see the genuine concern on his face. He is tempted to ask him why he'd left but keeps his mouth shut. Once again, not the conversation he needed to be having. He just wants Lucy to be okay. She's changed for the better this last year, and seems better adjusted; he didn't think he would be able to stand by and watch that unravel.

Lucy walks the still bustling streets of Crocus quietly. She loves that about this big city; the city never slept, and for that she was thankful. It helps her to collect her thoughts, the low hum of the busy markets, the chatter of the people and the fresh scent of flowers.

She was upset with herself for snapping like that. She doesn't want to think about the implications of that, but there was no denying it.

She's still upset at what he did.

Still hasn't entirely forgiven it.

She still felt abandoned.

It frustrates her. She was supposed to be moving on, and yet she is still stuck where she was a year ago. To top this off, she wishes she could just be angry at him (and them) and get it over with. But she also felt guilt for her anger; everyone had a right to grieve what they had lost, and they had all lost so much.

He had watched his father die . He had the right to leave.

Yes, but... a note?

Shut up!

He could've said goodbye in person.

Maybe it was too hard for him.

Or maybe he just didn't care enough.

You know that's not true.

I don't know, actually.

You're being selfish.

Selfish!? I.. I destroyed Aquarius's key. To SAVE them. Tears fill her eyes. I lost so much of my magic, permanently.

They don't know that! You never told them any of that!

I tried to reach out... I tried.

Maybe you didn't try hard enough.


The voices were back. It'd been a never ending nightmare back then, and so far she had managed to constantly rationalise her feelings to and fro in what was apparently a delicate balance because here he was and just like that, the voices were back.

She halts her walking in front of a bar and stares up at the entrance, licking her lips nervously. She could smell the alcohol from where she stood. Her mouth cinches into a thin line as she feels her head starts to throb.

I loved him.

Her eyes tear up.

And he just… left me.

She wipes her tears and despite knowing she should head back to the inn, she found herself walking into the bar.

Natsu is wide awake, lying on the couch, on the armrest of which Happy is asleep, as he stares at the ceiling. It's been a while since he'd come back to the room at the inn, and he's starting to get worried. Errands , she had said. He should've followed her. Stupid Sting.

His mind wanders as he thinks back to the events of the day. Fairy Tail was really gone. He had really thought that Lucy would be a lot more excited to see him, but she seems so wary around him. Tired. It hurt him that she seemed to trust Sting more now; he hasn't missed the concerned glances Sting kept throwing her way all day, or how close they were. The uneasy feeling from the evening returns, and deepens when he thinks about how she hasn't mentioned a single one of their old guild members.

His thoughts are interrupted when he smells her and he sits up alert. He frowns; something's different. He's already at the door when he hears Sting's voice from below.

"Lucy, have you been drinking again?"

Giggle. "I'm sorry…" Hic. "Were you up waiting for me?" Hic.

A sigh.

"Aw no, are you mad? I swear it was supposed to be one." Hic. "And then I got mad." Hic. "So I got another one. And another." Hic. "I'm sorry, Sting. I can make it up to you if you like." Giggle.

"Whoa, Lucy… No. Put that down. You need to go to bed."


"M'kay," a slurred reply. "Sorry."

The voices get closer.

"You just need some sleep now okay?"

They round the corner and Natsu sees Sting holding Lucy up on one side as he walks her towards her bedroom. Natsu hurries to lend his support as he takes her on the other side.

"Oh, look." Hic. "It's Natsu… Back after whoooole year. HI Natsu. How have you been?" Sting winces and Natsu just murmurs that he's been okay.

She continues to babble all the way into her room and into the bed. Natsu backs off once she's in bed but Sting is still talking to her and when he starts to change her clothes, Natsu starts to protest.

" Hey man, what'd ya think you're doin'!"

"It's okay, Natsu-san, I've done this before," is all Sting says as he grabs a baggy grey t-shirt from her dresser and pulls it over her head as she holds her hands up for him.

Five minutes later she's all dressed up in her pajamas and lying in bed, drowsily when the two guys walk out of the room.

"You'll handle it from here?" asks Sting, looking at Natsu, a little tense and agitated.

Natsu nods. He runs a hand through his blond hair, and opens his mouth to say something but shakes his head, changing his mind.

"Well, okay, good," is all he says instead before leaving the room.

Once the door shuts, Natsu walks to the bedroom again and he stands in the doorway, watching her. She's not asleep. Instead, she is staring at the ceiling, a little lost, her hands playing with the golden chain around her neck. He stands there till her eyes flicker over to him and she starts to sit up, before groaning, a hand clutching her head.

Natsu walks over to her instead, looking at her worryingly. "Luce…"

"Natsu…" she says.

He sits next to her, watching her as she stares back, and he sees the sadness in her eyes. "What aren't you telling me?" he says softly.

Lucy giggles in response. "So much, silly."

He is a little taken aback at her response. What else don't I know? He brushes the hair out of her face, tucking the gold strands behind her ear, tempted to ask her more. But he doesn't. Maybe he's afraid, or maybe he wants to have this conversation when she's sober. He would definitely ask her, but now wasn't the time.

"I am sleepy…" she murmurs, as if on cue.

"Then go to sleep," he says,

"Maybe I will," she sighs, allowing her eyes to droop as she relaxes completely. "Don't leave again, 'kay?"

"I… I won't."

A/N: WOW. That was... kind of corny, huh? I didn't even proofread because I was worried I'll scrap it. And I know I'm painting Natsu as sort of, dumb, but that's only for now. Please remember that he has no idea what happened. Yes the Aquarius thing will come up soon... And the other guild members will appear too. Soon-ish.

Let me know what you guys think, please? It helps me navigate the story in a better way.

Also, I feel like I should clarify that while there will be angst, it won't be from a love triangle. I originally wanted to write it as Lucy/Sting being in an actual relationship when Natsu showed up, but I didn't want hurt bb Sting. I liked the idea of him being protective because of a platonic friendship more than being jealous over a romantic rival. As for the 'f*** buddies' angle, it was just something I wanted to throw in to piss off Natsu further and also to give Lucy somewhat of a coping mechanism so she wouldn't feel like shit. It may not make sense, I get it, but um, it be like that in this fic, I suppose. Pls don't hate me.