After being dragged around town for what feels like hours by Lucy, she and Natsu finally make their way to the lake. Who knew being dragged around to so many stores would be so tiring? Coincidentally, they meet up with Happy on the way there. Natsu gives Happy a tired grin as the Exceed walks beside him, greeting his friend cheerfully. "Hey, Happy! What're you doing here?"

"Erza had Carla and I look around too!" Happy replies with a happy tone. "Carla went ahead to talk to Erza, but I stayed back to meet up with you and Lucy!"

Natsu and Lucy, along with Happy, arrive at the lake where they see Erza, Wendy, Gray, and Carla. Wendy and Carla look over at them as they approach, "It's Natsu-san and Lucy-san!" Wendy calls with a smile.

Erza and Gray turn their gazes over to them as Natsu's group comes to a stop. "Took you long enough, Match Stick." Gray comments, hands stuffed in his pockets.

"Now that everyone's here, let's go over what we found." Erza says, preventing Natsu from responding to Gray's comments. He settles for glaring at him instead, and Gray responds to it with a glare of his own. "Gray, Natsu," The two boys jump at the call of their names, fearing the worst. Erza glances at them before turning her attention to the blonde next to Natsu, "And Lucy, why don't you three start? Did you find anything?"

At Erza's question, Natsu tries to recall if he saw anyone suspicious looking in between Lucy dragging him around. He doesn't remember seeing anything weird, and he doesn't remember sensing any magic signatures around beside him and Lucy. So he shakes his head in response.

"Gray?" Erza prompts.

Sighing, Gray shoved his hands into his pockets. "I didn't see anything either, let alone sensed any magic around." He answers. "What about you and Wendy? You guys find anything?"

Wendy takes a step forward, "Well, I'm not exactly sure how helpful it'll be, but we did find a few legends about a water spirit living in this lake. A long time ago, the villagers would make sacrifices to the spirit to appease her. But that all stopped when the temple built for her was destroyed." She explains.

"And it seems the newer generations of the town have no idea of the spirit's existence," Erza easily continues, glancing back at the lake, "It could explain why we haven't sensed anything from here or the town."

"So our kidnapper is some ancient water spirit?" Gray questions, trying to wrap his head around everything.

"It's certainly a possibility. And considering you three didn't pick up on anything in the town, then it's highly likely that this spirit is the one responsible." Erza replies, frowning. "That being said, we should try and find a way to coax the spirit into making an appearance. From there we can try to bargain with her."

"I say we just pound her face in 'til she gives back the missing people!" Natsu exclaims, hitting his fists together.

"But… how would we even defeat her?" Wendy asks, concerned with the idea.

"Dunno!" Natsu cheerfully replies, "But we'll find a way!" He says, full of confidence as always.

"I'm not sure you guys… the odds are definitely stacked against us here…" Lucy suddenly says, making everyone look over at her. She's still standing beside Natsu, hanging off of his arm. Her gaze is pointed at the ground. "We don't even know anything about this spirit. Maybe we should just call it quits and turn back."

Natsu stares at his partner with confusion. Lucy would never suggest just giving up like this, especially since she was the one to pick the job! "What are you talking about, Lucy?" He asks. "We can't just give up!"

"I'm trying to be the voice of reason here, Natsu. Unless you want to die?" Lucy retorts, but she still doesn't look up at him.

Her response makes Natsu frown. "I dunno about you, but I think there's a big difference between being the voice of reason and completely giving up." He tells her. Natsu raises his arm, scratching the back of his head, "Geez, what's with you today, Lucy? First you're clinging to me all day, and then you're trying to distract me from the mission, and now you're telling us to give up? That isn't like you and you know it." He says.

And finally, Lucy looks up at him. She releases his arm only to move to stand in front of him. "You really want to know why I'm acting like this, Natsu Dragneel?" She inquires.

Natsu can feel everyone's eyes on him as he nods, "Duh."

Lucy places her arms around him, and she smiles. But there's something off about it. Her smile doesn't reach her eyes. It's not all big and bright, and it doesn't light up her face at all. It's small and almost… flirty? There's something else there, an emotion Natsu can't quite read. Not to mention Lucy's eyes hold none of their usual warmth in them. Instead, her gaze is calculating.

Lucy presses against him as she stands on her tiptoes. She leans in close, "Because I, Lucy Heartfilia, am in love with you." She practically purrs it, and Natsu's eyes widen, stunned. He doesn't acknowledge Wendy's gasp or Erza's sudden splutters. He definitely doesn't pay attention to Gray and Happy's sudden exclamation of "huh?!" or Carla's disapproving mumbles about it not being the right time and or place. All he focuses on is Lucy and how close her lips are to his.

And just as their lips are about to meet, Natsu catches a whiff of Lucy's scent. He grabs her by the shoulders before pushing her back. Lucy looks at him with surprise, mouth open. "Natsu?" She asks quietly.

Natsu simply glares at her, "You aren't Lucy." He declares, which seems to snap his teammates out of their stupor. Their gazes become serious as they fall on the girl in front of Natsu. "Lucy would never do any of this. So what'd you do with her? You better start talking before I burn you to a crisp for pretending to be her." He all but snarls.

Lucy continues to stare at Natsu with wide eyes, "Natsu what are you talking about? I am Lucy." She says. A sad smile suddenly tugs at her lips, "You don't have to pretend I'm some fake just because I said I'm in love with you…"

"Shut up! Where's the real Lucy?!" Natsu growls, angered.

"I suggest you start talking. We don't take kindly to one of our own being impersonated." Gray comments, narrowing his eyes at her.

Lucy gasps, as if surprised by Gray's suspicion. She looks to Erza and Wendy for help but sees the two girls staring at her with harsh gazes. She even looks at Happy and Carla, but finds the same result. She hangs her head, bangs obscuring her eyes from everyone's view.

And suddenly she starts to laugh. Natsu glares daggers at her as her shoulders shake. "Ah, well, I suppose the jig is up. I would've thought for sure that it'd take you longer to figure me out." When she looks up at Natsu and the others, she's smiling. The smile looks wrong on Lucy's face, it's too smug and… evil.

The sight of it sends a chill down Natsu's spine. It looks out of place, and he has to resist the urge to go over to Lucy's impersonator and squish her cheeks until she can't make such a smile anymore. "Allow me to introduce myself, I am the water spirit of this lake, Marina." She says, as the Lucy disguise melts away.

In her place is a woman with silver hair and sharp, golden eyes. Her light blue kimono reveals her shoulders, arms crossed over her chest.

"I take it you're responsible for the townspeople disappearing?" Erza questions, gazing hard at the woman.

The spirit's smile morphs into a smirk. "I must say, you Fairy Tail wizards are rather impressive. You're all almost as entertaining as Blondie was." She purrs, completely ignoring Erza's question.

At the mention of 'Blondie", Natsu's eyes widen as he imagines the implications of her utterance. "What'd you do to Lucy?!" He shouts, patience wearing thin. He tightly clenches his fists, hands shaking from the intensity of his emotions, "If you hurt her I'll—"

"Relax, Lover Boy, she's alive and well." The spirit replies, the smirk still on her face. "Though, I have to ask, how did you all figure me out?"

Angered by the lack of elaboration, Natsu grits out a reply, "You reek of the same funky scent of the lake over there. And everyone knows Lucy would never pass up the chance to explore an old library to do retcon with me." He snorts, still glaring.

"And that perfume stand you mentioned? I went and checked it out for myself." Gray says with a proud smirk and narrowed eyes, "It doesn't even exist."

Erza then takes a step forward, "Why were you impersonating Lucy? What's your goal?"

The spirit chuckles, "My my, you wizards sure are demanding." A fan appears in her hand, and she brings it up to cover her mouth, "But if you really must know, I just had to meet her guild mates. See, Blondie provided me with quite the entertainment, and I had to see for myself what you all were like." She says.

Erza narrows her eyes, "And now that you have?"

Marina smiles and it's nothing but sinister. "I'm going to bring all of you to my Lake of Reflections and make you my prisoners, just like her." She says, and it sends a wave of anger through Natsu.

"Like we'd let you do any of that!" He shouts before charging forward with a flaming fist.

He doesn't get very far though, for a stream of water engulfs him and he's sent to the left, right into a tree. As soon as the water is gone he sits up, drenched. "What the hell?!" He cries, annoyed. He kicks up his flames, drying himself off.

Natsu then jumps to his feet as Erza and Gray start attacking. Erza requips into her Sea Empress armor intending to slash at the spirit, while Gray uses his ice magic to create a cannon.

"I'll enchant everyone!" Wendy exclaims, before casting her defensive enchantment. She then joins the battle, with a cry of her dragon roar. Not wanting to be left out, Natsu joins Wendy, letting out a roar of his own.

They attack simultaneously, knowing that Marina can't evade all of their magic at once.

To their surprise, a wall of water appears, blocking them. All except Erza. The mage easily breaks through the wall and slices her sword through the air.

Marina catches it with her fan. She smiles at Erza before grabbing her arm and throwing her a few feet away.

"Erza!" Gray cries out in alarm, but relaxes upon seeing Erza land on her feet.

"I'm fine!" She calls in response.

Growling, Natsu rushes in once more, "Fire Dragon Iron Fist!" He feels his fire wrap around his hand and he thrusts it forward. He blinks as water engulfs his fist.

Marina giggles, "You silly boy. Don't you know that fire is useless against water?" She hums, her voice full of mockery.

Natsu narrows his eyes at her, "Yeah? Well you shouldn't underestimate the anger of a Dragon Slayer." He all but snarls, as the water around his fist begins to steam. He sees the spirit's eyes widen in shock and he moves, fist ablaze.

His punch lands, and he sends the woman staggering backwards.

She quickly collects herself, glaring at Natsu. "You'll pay for that, boy." She threatens, before raising her fan. There's an onslaught of water attacking him, sending him into tree after tree. He's barely given a chance to breathe.

"Natsu!" "Natsu-san!"

He hears the familiar sounds of battle as Wendy and Gray try attacking the spirit. Erza, meanwhile, is coming after him. When she gets close enough, she uses her sword to block the water, giving Natsu a reprise.

He slumps against the tree he was about to be slammed into, trying to catch his breath.

"Gray, Wendy, move!" Erza commands as she moves her sword horizontally through the air. The two wizards leap out of the way as the requip mage uses her magic to create a whirlpool of water, sending it right to her opponent.

With quick thinking, Gray freezes the ground beneath the spirit, trapping her.

As Erza's attack hits, the team takes a quick second to regroup. The whirlpool hits Marina, blocking her from their sight. "Did we get her?" Wendy questions, keeping her eyes on the spirit.

"We should've." Gray responds, watching the woman with narrowed eyes. "There's no way she would've been able to dodge that."

Keeping his eyes trained on her, Natsu catches a scent lingering in the air. His eyes widen, "Lucy..?" He mumbles, perking up.

But when they get a clear view of the water spirit, she's taken minor damage.

"What?!" Erza exclaims, in disbelief.

"There's no way..!" Wendy gasps, surprised.

Seeing their surprised faces, Marina chuckles. "You can attack me all you want, wizards. But you're only going to waste your power." She raises her hand, showing the light blue line around her wrist. "As long as I have this Body Link spell, my power will just be replenished by your friend's magic. You can't defeat me." She explains, sending a whole new burst of anger through Natsu.

He clenched his fists tightly, to the point that he can feel them shaking. He glares daggers at the woman, feeling his temperature rise. Blinded by his anger and worry for Lucy, he launches forward, being pushed by the flames licking his heels.

"Natsu!" Erza calls after him as he takes off.

But Natsu ignores her. He lights his fist on fire, "Fire Dragon's Crushing Fang!" And instead of clawing at Marina, he meets a wall of water. He curses, frustrated.

Marina, however, seems to be enjoying how angry he is. "My my," She purrs, holding her fan up to her mouth to cover her smile, "I didn't realize you were so in love with Blondie."

Her words catch Natsu off guard, giving her an opening to toss him away. He catches himself before he can roll any further away from his friends, sitting up to glare at her.

The spirit chuckles, "Please do continue to provide me with entertainment, wizards~."

Ever since a window of the outside world had been shown to her, Lucy has been frantic. She doesn't know what this water spirit wants, or if she plans to hurt her friends.

Scratch that, the spirit probably plans to hurt them. Lucy has been on enough jobs and fought enough people that she knows how these things go. This train of thought only makes her more determined to escape.

Her mirror image disappeared a few minutes after the viewing window did, leaving Lucy to call out for Natsu, for anyone.

As of now, she's sitting at her desk, trying to come up with a plan. She has her arms crossed, and she's deep in thought.

She looks down at her keys, wondering if she can still summon her spirits in this place. "Worth a shot." She murmurs, standing from her chair. She grabs hold of Loke's key, figuring he'd be the best spirit to start with. She holds his key out, "Open! Gate of the Lion, Leo!" She calls, feeling the familiar pull of her magic. A golden light surrounds her, and she smiles in victory.

And then suddenly it stops.

The light fades, as does Lucy's magic. "What?!" She exclaims, surprised. "Maybe it was just a fluke…" The mage mumbles, eyes glancing around the room. There's no one else here, as far as she knows. So how is her magic being cancelled like this?

She decides to try again, raising Loke's key.

She gets the same result.

Sighing, Lucy puts his key back with the others, and turns to inspect her room. Her eyes trail over to the window, and she smirks as she gets an idea. She walks over to her dresser, where she finds her hair spray bottle. "Man, I didn't realize just how much of this place got copied. But it definitely works in my favor!" She grins.

Grabbing the bottle, she walks back over to her window and with as much strength as possible, she throws the bottle at the glass.

Only for it to bounce back.

"No!" Lucy cries. She had fully expected that to work! The can rolls by her foot and she picked it up, throwing it again. The can bounces once again.

Frustrated, she grabs it, throwing it once more.

The third time it happens, the glass changes. Lucy gasps, running over to it. She's practically pressing her face against the glass, trying to figure out what's going on.

Her eyes process the images in front of her and her face turns bright red. She jumps back from the window as she sees the imposter pressing herself against Natsu.

"Because I, Lucy Heartfilia, am in love with you." She hears her voice purr and Lucy shrieks, mortified. That is not how she wanted Natsu to find out! To make matters even worse, the fake is leaning in!

But… it looks like Natsu is as well.

Lucy can't help but feel an ache in her chest. Does Natsu really not notice that Lucy is a fake? "Come on, Natsu…" She can't help but mutter, willing her partner to do something.

"Natsu?" She hears herself ask, and Lucy sees Natsu stopping the fake.

She smiles.

"You aren't Lucy."

"Yes!" Lucy can't help but cheer, smile widening. He did notice! Everyone did! She feels a bit silly for being so worried that no one would notice. But they did, and now Lucy can fully focus on finding a way out of this mirror place!

She lets the conversation taking place outside fade to the background, a newfound determination beginning to take shape. She turns her back to the window, and puts a hand on her chin. "I've got to find a way out of here, and fast." She murmurs, beginning to think.

It doesn't look like she can use her magic here, so she can't call on any of her spirits or star dresses. And when she tried to break the window, nothing happened. Briefly, she considers just using her door to walk out of here, but she quickly discards the thought.

Can't use the door if it isn't here.

Her concentration is broken however, when she hears the sounds of fighting behind her. Lucy turns around to look at the window, eyes widening as she watches her friends fight. She sees Natsu get thrown into tree after tree, Erza helping him while Wendy and Gray keep the spirit occupied.

She watches the window with rapt attention, afraid to take her eyes away for even a second. She wants nothing more than to be fighting at her friends sides, instead of being trapped in this copy of her apartment. But she can't figure out a way to escape.

She feels... useless. And she hates it.

The sounds of gasps grab her attention and she focuses on the scene playing out before her. Erza uses her magic to attack, but it seems like it has no effect on Marina.

"You can attack me all you want, wizards. But you're only going to waste your power. As long as I have this Body Link spell, my power will just be replenished by your friend's magic. You can't defeat me."

Lucy's eyes widen. Her magic is… fueling Marina's thanks to the link? Before she can think about it any longer, she feels a familiar pull on her magic, and realizes it's the Body Link.

The battle in the outside world continues, and Lucy quickly realizes this can't continue. At this rate, her friends are going to deplete their magic before they can defeat the spirit.

There has to be something that Lucy can do.

She does her best to block out the sounds of her friends fighting while she runs over everything she knows about Body Link spells.

Because of the spell, Marina can pull magic from her, which is how the spirit is refueling her magic. Lucy thinks back to when Laxus had tried to forcefully take the spot of guild master from Makarov. It seems like forever ago now.

But he had used a Body Link spell back then with the Thunder Palace.

Lucy's eyes widen as she gets an idea. A very stupid, reckless idea. One that if she survives, her friends will most definitely chew her out for it. But she's all out of options now. This may be her only chance to save herself and her friends.

She looks around at her apartment, trying to find anything she can use for her plan. With her eyes so focused on different areas of her room, she accidentally bumps into her small dresser by a window, knocking one of her frames down.

As it falls to the floor it breaks, startling her. She gasps and bends down to pick up the shards. She isn't careful enough though, and accidentally cuts her hand. Frowning at the cut, Lucy hurries to pick up the shards and places them on top of the dresser. She then grabs the frame and the picture, placing it next to the pile of glass.

"We have an opening!" She hears Erza shout and she looks over at the window, seeing Marina staring down at her hand with an odd expression. However the woman doesn't focus on it for long as she's forced back into the battle.

Lucy finds it weird though. Marina had been looking at her right hand, which was the same hand that Lucy accidentally cut.

Well, at least she knows her plan will work.

Knowing this doesn't make her feel better though, in fact, it only worries her more. It's not a comforting thought at all, and Lucy frowns. She picks up a shard of glass with trembling hands, biting her lip.

Maybe there is another way, maybe she doesn't have to do this.

But then she hears her friends screaming out Natsu's name and she whips to the window. Marina is aiming an attack right at her partner, and with Natsu in danger, Lucy doesn't hesitate to act.

She takes the glass and aims it right for her stomach.

Natsu keeps his arms raised, fully prepared for the spirit's attack. However, just as her spell is about to reach him, it stops. Carefully, Natsu peeks over his arms as the water drops to the ground with a splash, wetting the ground below the team's feet. The spirit in front of him has her eyes wide open in shock. "W-What… h-how did she…" She mutters, a hand falling to her stomach. "That fool really went that far… just to… stop me..?"

Eyes falling to her stomach, Natsu stares in confusion. Her hands are holding her stomach, but there's nothing there. She doesn't look injured to him, unless maybe it's internal?

Something doesn't feel right here.

Taking advantage of the lull of the battle, Erza is quick to act. "Gray, now!" She exclaims, and the ice make user charges forward, hand pressed to his palm. After casting his spell, he thrusts his palms out and ice forms around the stilled water spirit, trapping her arms and legs.

Shaking his head to snap himself out of it, Natsu marches right up to the spirit, eyes narrowed. "It's over. Give Lucy and the townspeople back." He demands. Erza, Wendy, and Gray stand behind him, leveling her with hard stares of their own.

However, instead of answering him, or even acknowledging him, Marina barks a laugh. "You've got guts… girl, but you're… quite stupid…" She mumbles before her body begins to glow. Preparing for a possible attack, Natsu takes a step back, fists raised to defend as he's forced to close his eyes due to the bright light.

When the glow fades, Natsu opens one eye before he gasps and drops his arms. "Where'd she go?!" He exclaims, staring at the ice hold where the water spirit once stood. The only thing left of her is her fan, which is trapped in Gray's ice still.

Walking up to him, Wendy nervously looks at the ice, "What happened..?" She questions, eyes wide. "Did we… win?"

"I believe so…" Erza answers, staring at the spot where the water spirit once stood.

Before anyone can say or do anything else, the sounds of violent water catch their attention. The group runs over to the lake, watching as a giant whirlpool starts to violently spin. "What now?!" Gray exclaims, tired from their previous battle.

"Get back!" Erza commands as she pushes everyone away from the edge of the lake.

They just manage to avoid being hit by a large wave of water thanks to Erza's quick thinking. They all stare in shock as shadows pass through the water before it pulls away, receding back into the lake. Wendy gasps, "It's the missing people!"

At that, Natsu's eyes are automatically scanning the small group of people. He hopes that she's there. His heart is beating loudly in his ears. He knows he won't relax until he's found her safe and sound. "Lucy!" He exclaims, running right over as soon as he spots her.

Natsu drops down beside the blonde once he reaches her, not hesitating to pull her into his lap. He sighs in relief while holding her, grateful that she's safe.

That is… until he feels something wet on his skin. Heart thumping with an intense fear, he pulls his arm away to scrutinize it. And then his heart promptly plummets as soon as he sees the red liquid staining his skin. With a panic that's alien to him, Natsu gathers Lucy in his arms and runs straight to Wendy, screaming her name, "WENDY!"

The girl immediately turns around at the sound of her name, looking away from the person Erza has her checking over. She gasps as she sees Lucy in Natsu's arms, her stomach bleeding. She stands up and runs over, meeting him halfway. As Natsu all but collapses in front of her, still cradling Lucy, "You gotta help her!"

Quickly nodding, Wendy falls to her knees and immediately starts to cast her strongest healing spell. Erza and Gray approach them, eyes wide as soon as they see the state Lucy is in. Knowing better than to distract Wendy, Erza and Gray take it upon themselves to check over the rest of the missing people.

The next half hour is tense as Erza and Gray try to distract themselves with the now found townspeople, directing them back to the town as soon as they wake up.

Natsu refuses to let go of Lucy the entire time Wendy is casting her spell, terrified that if he lets go of her for a second, he'll lose her. Eventually, Happy and Carla find their way over. Happy makes a home out of Natsu's hair, staring at Lucy with a mix of concern and fear. Carla sits beside Wendy, worry written all over her face.

And then finally, Wendy lets her arms drop to her sides as she relaxes. Beads of sweat roll down her forehead, and bits of her bangs are plastered to her forehead. Natsu looks at her eagerly, desperate for her verdict.

It takes a few seconds for Wendy to give him a shaky smile, but to Natsu it feels like years. "I was able to heal a bit of the worst damage, but Lucy-san's injury is pretty deep. We need to take her to an actual doctor for stitches." She eventually says.

Natsu doesn't need to be told twice.

When her eyes open, she's greeted by the morning sun. She blinks slowly, looking around the room. Her senses come back to her one by one, and she feels her head resting on something soft. As her limbs become more awake, she feels them underneath a blanket, leading her to the realization that she's in a bed.

Her eyes sweep across the room that she's in, finding it rather open safe for the table at her bedside.

Slowly, Lucy goes to sit up, but stops as her stomach stings in protest. She immediately freezes, bringing a hand to rest on it. She feels bandages underneath her shirt, and she realizes that her clothes have been changed. Being more careful and moving slower, Lucy sits up.

"Mm… Natsu… why is Lushee moving around so much?" A voice asks, and that's when Lucy notices the blue ball in her lap.

"Maybe she's hungry…" She hears Natsu mumble in response, and she finds him with his head resting on his arms by her hip. His eyes are closed, and he looks like he's sleeping.

Lucy smiles softly at the sight, and she reaches over to gently brush her hand through his hair. Her action causes Natsu to scrunch his face up and Lucy can't help but giggle.

"Natshuuu, she's giggling…" A sleepy Happy mumbles, and that combined with Lucy's ministrations in his hair forces Natsu to open his eyes.

He sits up with a yawn and Lucy sees how tired he looks. It makes her worried about him. However, once his eyes land on her, any and all signs of exhaustion on his face disappears and he grins. "Lucy!" He exclaims happily, surprising Lucy by throwing his arms around her.

Feeling her cheeks warm, Lucy can't help but melt into his embrace.

But then she feels him start to shake the slightest bit and she looks at him with confusion. She places her hand on his arm, touching it gently, "Natsu?"

"I shouldn't have left you alone," He mumbles, and because Lucy is so close to him she can both hear and feel the vibrations in his chest.

"It's okay. Everything worked out in the end." She replies softly.

Natsu pulls back to stare at her fiercely, looking upset. "It's not okay, Lucy! You got seriously hurt!" He exclaims, frowning. "You got hurt and I wasn't there to protect you!"

Lucy can't help but raise a brow, "Protect me from what, myself?" She replies, and Natsu simply looks at her in confusion. She sighs softly, "The only way I was able to escape and protect you all was to injure myself so that it would stop Marina." She explains. Natsu continues to stare at her, and Lucy lets out a nervous laugh as she looks away, "Looking back now it was a pretty reckless thing to do, huh?"

"Lucy…" Natsu mumbles, making her freeze.

"Ah, yeah?"

"What the hell were you thinking?! Why would you do something so stupid?!" He cries, making Lucy look at him incredulously.

"Me?! I think you're the last person who should be talking to me about doing stupid stuff!" Lucy can't help but retort, frowning at him.

"Yeah well it's different when I do stupid stuff!" Natsu defends.

"What?! How is it any different?!" Lucy cries, annoyed by his response.

"Because I'm me, and you're you!" Natsu tries to explain, but it only furthers Lucy's irritation.

She narrows her eyes at him, "So what?! If this is your way of saying you're stronger than I am, you don't need to sugarcoat it like that!"

"That's not what I'm trying to say, Luce!"

"Then what are you trying to say Natsu?! Why is it that you can do something reckless, but it's a problem when I do?!"

"Gah, it's because I love you!"

Lucy freezes. And she stares. And her entire face goes red. "Y-You what..?" She stammers. Did she hear him correctly?

Realizing what he said, Natsu's cheeks heat up. He sits back on the chair next to Lucy's bed, dragging a hand through his hair. He furiously ruffles his bangs as he sighs. "That's why you can't do reckless stuff like that. Because if something happened to you, Lucy, I don't know what I'd do with myself." He admits, and Lucy stares at him. If it didn't hurt so much to move then she absolutely would've smacked him.

"Natsu… you idiot!" She exclaims after a beat.

"Huh?! Why am I an idiot?!" He shouts, pouting.

"Because that's exactly how I feel when you do something reckless! Because I love you too and you wouldn't believe how worried you make me sometimes!" Lucy explains, ignoring how hot her face feels.

Definitely not how she imagined her confession going.

"Wait really?" Natsu questions, staring at her with surprise. "Oh man, I thought that whole love thing was just some trick that water lady made up." He says, which does nothing to help with Lucy's embarrassment.

She simply nods in response.

Natsu blinks at her before grinning, "That's great then!" He exclaims and Lucy resists the urge to face palm. Why oh why did she have to fall in love with a guy who knows next to nothing about romance? His face then softens as he looks at her, his eyes displaying nothing but desperation and despair. "Please Luce… you gotta stop scaring me like that." He pleads, and Lucy feels an ache in her chest.

She opens her arms, an invitation. Natsu doesn't hesitate to accept, standing from his seat and he sits on the edge of her bed. He sinks into her embrace, snaking his arms around her, hugging her close as he rests his head in the crook of her neck. She threads her fingers through his hair.

"I'm sorry Natsu, I didn't mean to make you worry." She mumbles softly.

"'s okay. It's payback for all the times I worried you." He replies, making Lucy crack a smile. "But it's thanks to you that we were able to defeat her and get the missing townspeople back."

Lucy sighs softly in relief, "So you guys found everyone?"

She feels him nod against her, "Yeah, they all came out of the lake after the water lady disappeared. Erza and Popsicle helped them get back to the town."

"Good, I'm glad." She smiles softly. "Where is everyone, by the way?"

"Probably at the hotel. A nurse kicked us out last night." Natsu explains. Though he doesn't explain why, Lucy can already imagine it's because of how loud they got. She giggles to herself.

"I take it you snuck back in?" She teases him, and she laughs when she feels him tense.


"Aye, he definitely snuck out." Happy suddenly chimes in, making Lucy look down at her lap. Happy is looking up at her, wide awake. "He looooves you~." The cat teases.

"Shut up Happy." Natsu grumbles from Lucy's neck, making the girl laugh.

"Aw, is someone embarrassed?" She teases with a smile.

Natsu's only response is his grumble and the tightening of his arms around her. He makes sure to be gentle though, not wanting to aggravate her injury.

Happy and Lucy share a look, both smiling.

And then the door to her room is being slammed open and a very angry Erza is standing in the door way. "Natsu!" She exclaims, making the dragon slayer in Lucy's arms jump up and face the requip mage with a terrified look in his eyes. "I specifically told you not to bother Lucy while she was resting! And then I wake to find that you snuck out!"

Gray, Wendy, and Carla take the time to walk into the room, seeing Lucy awake. "Lucy-san! How are you feeling?" Wendy questions, walking over to her with a smile.

"A little sore, but I'm alright." Lucy replies, meeting Wendy's smile.

"You gave us quite the scare, Lucy." Gray comments as his eyes trail over to Natsu, who's being scolded by Erza. "He refused to leave your side."

"And now he's being scolded for sneaking away." Carla sighs, standing on Lucy's bed with her arms crossed.

Lucy quietly laughs, "I'm sorry for worrying everyone."

"I'm glad to see you're awake and feeling better, Lucy." Erza says as she walks over, dragging a tied up Natsu behind her. Lucy sweat drops at the tied up Salamander before smiling at Erza.

"I'm just glad we were able to help everyone." She replies.

"Yes, it's a relief that we could help the town." Erza agrees, smiling. "However, I'm sorry we took so long to notice what was wrong." She apologizes.

Lucy immediately waves her apology away, "You don't have to apologize! It was my fault for getting myself into that mess, but it all worked out in the end!"

"Still, to make up for it, please feel free to strike me." Erza says, bending forwards.

Lucy shakes her head, wildly flailing her hands, "Really, Erza, it's okay! I'm not going to strike you!" She exclaims. 'It's been awhile since she's done that.' She thinks with a feeling of nostalgia.

Nodding, Erza straightens, "Be sure to get plenty of rest, Lucy. We'll be here for a few more days before heading back to Magnolia."


Shortly after that, her friends say goodbye, leaving Lucy in her room. She smiles and slowly lays back down, yawning. She watches the scenery outside the window, feeling calm and sleepy. With her thoughts trailing back to a certain pink haired dragon slayer, she drifts off to sleep.

And if she's woken up by the presence of someone wrapping their arms around her? Well she simply smiles and sinks into the comforting warmth before going back to sleep.

aaaaand that's a wrap! a short ( ;;; ) lil case fic because I haven't seen many fics with team natsu going on a job and uh,,, this one really ran away from me 13k later ;;;; sobs, I took many creative liberties with the body link stuff and I hope the fight scenes weren't too horrible? writing a fight scene with five characters is definitely a challenge omg, but I hope you all enjoyed the ending! this was a lot of fun to write, especially the ending :3

anyways, thank you so much for reading!

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