"I am seriously starting to regret taking this job with you guys!" Lucy wails.

She was currently on a job with Team Natsu. The job seemed simple enough on paper. They just needed to find a rare crystal in a forest. Sounds easy right? Well, the client forgot to mention that this forest has weird clearings that need to be crossed in order to get to the crystal, and giant killer eagles that attack you when you're in the clearings!

That's why Lucy was currently running for her life, heading for the tree-line. She dares to look over her shoulder and instantly regrets it when she sees one of those eagles swooping down towards her.

Before it can grab her, Natsu kicks it with his fire dragon's claw and then scoops Lucy up in his arms bridal style and they leap into the tree-line as another eagle swoops by, just missing them.

Natsu looks down and sees Lucy breathing heavily with her face buried in his scarf.

"Lucy are you okay?" He asks her softly.

At the sound of his voice Lucy turns to look at his face and blushes.

"Y-yeah I'm fine." She replies softly.

As her fear began to fade a new feeling was arising. Well it wasn't entirely new. She'd felt this before. A warm feeling in her chest and butterflies in her stomach. She felt like this whenever she was close to Natsu. And she knew what it meant, she had felt it before whenever a cute guy got close to her. But Natsu wasn't a potential boyfriend? That ship had sailed after she got all dressed up to meet him in the park to dig for holes instead of a date.

He clearly doesn't think about her in that way. And even if he did, she never would have known from the look on his face.

So she shouldn't think of him that way either. He could be really annoying sometimes. Breaking into her apartment, wrecking her plans. And yet, sometimes at night with her head on the pillow she could feel him sneaking in.

He was like some mythical thing. And not because he was created as a demon, was taught dragon slayer magic and time traveled 400 years to be with her now. To be with her now...

As she looks at him she wishes she could know what he's thinking.

There's one prize I'd cheat to win.

"Oooo Lucy's blushing!" Happy teases pulling Lucy from her thoughts. "I think she's in lo-"

"Shut it cat!" Lucy retorts before Happy can finish.

"I agree with Lucy. Now is not the time for jokes." Erza says seriously as Natsu sets Lucy down. "We have one more clearing to cross before we can reach the willow tree that holds the crystal."

"Another one!?" Lucy exclaims. "We can't find some other way around?"

"Unfortunately we can't." Erza says. "Our only option is to run for it and fight too if need be."

Lucy looks past the tree-line to see the large willow tree on the other side. It would be a long, dangerous sprint. She takes in a shaky breath then exhales when she feels a warm hand slide into hers.

She turns to see Natsu smiling at her. But not with that goofy grin he usually wore. This time, he was smiling at her softly with an endearing look on his face, as if he was looking at something precious. Her heart was pounding and she could feel a blush creeping up her cheeks.

"Don't worry Lucy. I won't let any of those birds hurt you." He promises.

Lucy smiles back at him.

"Thanks Natsu." Lucy says.

"Alright now let's go fry up some chicken!" Natsu shouts and runs into the clearing.

"Natsu wait!" Wendy shouts after him.

"That idiot! We were supposed to come up with a plan together first!" Gray exclaims.

"Well it's too late for that now!" Erza says with a frustrated sigh before drawing her sword and following him.

Lucy figures that Natsu's plan was to draw all of the attention to himself, so that the rest of them could sneak past. And that would have been a good plan if they weren't in an open clearing. There was nowhere to hide and now they were all spread out. And there were more birds this time too!

What's worse is that these birds were quicker. Lucy knows that if she slows down to summon a spirit, she'd surely get picked up and carried away! And she was definitely having a few close calls right now.

I thought Natsu said he would protect me? She thinks to herself as another bird swoops low.

Lucy was almost at the willow though. Just right through those branches and then she'd be safe!

But she was so focused on getting there that she didn't see the branch hanging down from one of the other trees in her path! And as soon as she made it there, she smacked her head on the branch and everything went black.

When Lucy awoke, she was laying under the willow tree all alone, her companions nowhere to be found.

As she rose to sit up she found that her head was in no pain from getting hit, like she had never hit it in the first place. And the killer birds were nowhere to be found either.

She gently brushes the leaves off of the long purple skirts of her corseted dress as she tries to remember what she was doing out here in the woods.

"Did you rest well Princess?" A familiar voice asks and Lucy smiles.

"Virgo!" She exclaims, happy to see her face.

Suddenly her memories of how she wound up in this situation came flooding back to her. She, Princess Lucy Heartfilia of the kingdom of Fiore was betrothed to a man she did not love by her father who cared little for her happiness. So she ran away with the help of her most trusted maid Virgo, to a place where she knew she would be safe. The territory that was home to the man she truly loved. Thinking of him made her chest feel warm, yet she could not picture his face at the moment. Nor his name.

"Wait for the signal and I'll meet you after dark."

Those were the instructions he gave Virgo. She waited for the signal. A dragon flew over the castle, casting a dark shadow over it to give she and Virgo cover as they escaped.

And now it was dark. She was in the place. But her man was nowhere to be found.

"Have we made across the border to the Dragon's Forest yet Virgo?" Lucy asks eagerly.

"We should have, if that is the Dragon's Roar River." Virgo says, pointing at the rushing white-water river that was behind them.

Lucy couldn't begin to think of how they managed to cross it. But she wasn't as interested in figuring that out as she was about another matter.

"If we're really in the forest then he should have known I'm here and come by now. Unless I was napping for a shorter time than I thought..." Lucy says.

"Hmm...well it could be the second river further up ahead?" Virgo says and looks ahead. "Perhaps we should continue to move inward onto his territory, just to be sure we're in the right place."

"I agree." Lucy says and brings herself to stand, brushing the dirt off of her skirts.

Then fear grips her heart as she hears horses whinnying nearby, followed by men's voices shouting.

"No..." She mutters as she turns to see a carriage followed by a group of soldiers crossing a bridge over the river.

A few of the soldiers ahead of the carriage began to approach with their spears drawn.

"There's the princess! King Jude, we found her and the traitorous maid!" The soldiers shout as Lucy and Virgo turn to run away.

As Lucy desperately hiked up her skirts to run away, she regrets not changing into a different outfit. These large skirts definitely weren't made for running away from danger in the woods. But once she and Virgo had discovered what her father's plans for her were, there was no time to change. They had to leave immediately to get to the one person Lucy knew could protect her. And as the soldiers surround her and Virgo, and her father approaches them, Lucy hopes that he'll come soon.

"Daughter, have you gone mad!" Lucy's father, King Jude exclaims.

"I could ask you the same thing!" Lucy bravely retorts.

She may be surrounded by soldiers and facing the man who had been controlling her life since she was a child. But if he was going to lock her away in the castle and force her to marry a man she didn't love, then she won't succumb to that fate without a fight.

"You're saying I'm the one at fault!" Jude exclaims. "You snuck out of the castle on the night of the ball being held to announce your engagement because you trust in the counsel of some lunatic maid over that of your own father! And now I find you here with that maid trespassing on dragon's territory! And you think I'm the one who's mad!"

The anger behind his words made tears sting at the corners of Lucy's eyes, but she wouldn't back down from this fight. She couldn't. There was too much at stake.

"What kind of father would ignore the happiness of his own daughter and make such a huge decision for her without even asking her what she thinks!" Lucy exclaims.

"Because a father knows what's good for his daughter!" Jude replies. "And a good daughter would obey her father and do what's best for her kingdom!"

"It's not what's best for the kingdom! It's what's best for you!" Lucy retorts. "The royal families you wish to make alliances with only care about their own wealth! They don't care about the citizens of their own kingdoms much less ours! I could never marry someone like that!" Lucy shouts.

"What the hell are you all doing in my forest!" A voice shouts from somewhere in the trees.

Gasps of fear erupted amongst the soldiers while Jude's face pales. Virgo cracks a small smile and a look of relief washes over Lucy's features as the figure of a man drops down from the trees.

This was no ordinary man though. Even though he wore the typical noble attire for a human man, he also had large maroon dragon wings sprouting from his back, and two matching horns pointing up from the spiky pink hair on his head. He even had matching maroon scales on the sides of his face and trailing down his neck. Most people were terrified when they looked into his bright reptilian green eyes. But Lucy felt something very different. She felt warmth, and love.

"Natsu..." she sighs in joy and relief.

"Lucy." Natsu replies with the same warmth in his voice.

The warmth in his voice makes warmth flood through her chest. No matter what world they were in, Natsu would always be her knight in shining armor.

He holds out his arms for her and she moves to go to him but her father grabs her arm and yanks her back.

"Hey! Let me go!" Lucy protests and tries to yank her arm back but her father only pulls harder "Ouch!" She yelps.

Upon seeing his damsel in distress Natsu's soft demeanor immediately changes into something more reminiscent of the beast he resembles.

"Get off of her!" Natsu roars.

He charges forward at an inhuman speed, right past the guards and yanks Jude's hand off of Lucy's arm, not caring to be gentle with him at all, causing him some pain as he takes Lucy into his arms and hugs her.

"Are you alright?" Natsu asks her softly. "Did he hurt your arm?"

"Just a bit when he grabbed it. But I'll be alright now that you're here." Lucy replies and rests her head under his chin, taking comfort in the warmth his body provided.

Natsu holds her in his arms and gives her a light squeeze as he rests his cheek on top of her head.

"You're safe with me. I won't let anyone hurt you. I promise." Natsu swears and presses a light kiss to her forehead.

"And yet you dare hurt me, her father?" Jude asks Natsu angrily, making him frown. "The King that your father is loyal to!"

"The Dragon King Igneel doesn't swear loyalty to humans. He's only loyal to his friends, and mine. And you're no friend of his." Natsu growls back.

"But I made a deal with him! I let the dragons live in this forest in peace without any humans trespassing on your land and give you the noble title of Count to represent the dragons in our kingdom and in return the dragons protect us from invaders. We have an agreement, your father is loyal to me, and therefore as his son you should show me some respect!" Jude declares.

Natsu can't help but smirk and laugh.

"What's so funny?" Jude asks.

"You clearly misunderstood the purpose of the deal." Natsu says. "The only reason my father protects your kingdom instead of burning it to the ground is because your daughter lives in it."

Lucy smiles as Natsu gently nuzzles his face against her head before continuing.

"I'm half-dragon half-human. Igneel fell in love with a human woman and through some source of magic they found he was able to have a child with her but she died giving birth to me. So I stayed with my father's people, the dragons. They were the only ones that accepted me. The humans all thought of me as a monster and when I was a kid they would chase me away when I would go into their towns looking for desserts and other treats I could smell from the outskirts of town. And because of the death of my mother my father is very protective of me so he'd burn down any village that treated me poorly. Then one day we came to Fiore and it was the same story as the other kingdoms. I got chased out of the markets and somehow wound up in the palace gardens to hide. Then that's when I met Lucy. The first human I'd ever met who wasn't afraid of me. And to this day, the only human who's treated me with kindness. That's why Igneel agreed to protect Fiore. Because it's where my new best friend Lucy lived."

"So the only reason Fiore isn't ashes right now is because King Igneel wanted you to be able to have play dates with my daughter?" Jude asks.

"Yep." Natsu replies. "If we burned the place down then my Princess would cry. And I can't have that." Natsu says.

"Your princess?" Jude asks. "You think she belongs to you?"

"She doesn't belong to anybody she's a person not an object!" Natsu retorts.

"That's where you're wrong! I'm her father so she belongs to me!" Jude replies.

"Not anymore!" Lucy shouts back, finding her courage now that she was with Natsu. "Count Natsu Dragneel and I are in love and he won't let you take me away from him to marry me off to someone else!"

"He was going to do what?!" Natsu exclaims and growls at Jude.

"He was going to sell me off like a brood mare to some horrible prince so I came here to run away with you so we can be together!" Lucy explains.

"I'll never let my daughter marry a monster!" Jude yells.

"Natsu's not a monster! But you are!" Lucy retorts.

Jude smirks and nods his head.

Then a loud smacking noise comes from behind them and Lucy and Natsu turn around to see that one of the guards slapped Virgo in the face.

"Virgo! No!" Lucy exclaims and turns back to her father. "Why would you hurt her?"

"Because I can't hurt you at the moment. So your dear little treasonous maid will bear the punishment for your disobedience instead." Jude explains.

"You're disgusting!" Lucy replies reflexively but then regrets it when Virgo gets hit again.

Natsu frowns as he notices Lucy starting to cry so he turns to the soldiers with a frown.

"Virgo duck!" Natsu shouts before breathing fire at the soldiers.

They scream as the flames hit them and Virgo gets free of them. Lucy runs over to hug her.

"Virgo I'm so sorry!" Lucy apologizes.

"It's alright princess! It wasn't your fault!"Virgo says.

Natsu smiles as Lucy embraces her friend. Happy that she wasn't crying anymore. Then he grimaces as he feels a shooting pain in his side.

He turns and sees Jude holding the sword that just stabbed him.

Virgo gasps when she opens her eyes and sees what happens. Then Lucy turns and her heart shatters.

"Natsu! No!" She wails.

"Don't worry Lucy I'm fine." Natsu says and grabs the sword in his hand and pulls it out of the wound with no pain whatsoever.

The look on Jude's face was priceless.

"I'm half-dragon. You should've aimed for my head if you wanted me dead you moron." Natsu says.

Lucy giggles at the fact that Natsu called her father a moron.

Jude brings the sword up to swing at his head and Natsu just plucks it from his hands and throws it away, hitting some poor soldier in the helmet and knocking them out.

Virgo and Lucy get grabbed by soldiers again so Natsu breathes fire to get them free. But while he's doing that a few more soldiers stab him in his back and stomach.

"Shit will you guys just quit that it feels weird!" Natsu exclaims and fired up his fist to take them down and that's when one soldier gets a lucky stab in Natsu's chest too.

"Princess you and Natsu need to get out of here!" Virgo urges. "He's strong but he's also outnumbered!"

"I know but what about you?" Lucy asks. "My father will kill you for helping me, I can't just leave you here!"

"Don't worry! I'll be fine." Virgo says as she picks up a sword and grins.

Lucy smiles, feeling reassured that Virgo would be able to handle herself and she runs over to Natsu.

"Natsu!" Lucy says as she runs towards him and he takes her into his arms. "Let's get out of here!"

"I was thinking the same thing." Natsu says.

And the next thing Lucy knows she's being lifted into the air with Natsu.

As they fly over the trees, away from the willow tree and deeper into dragon territory Natsu notices that Lucy is surprisingly unafraid.

"I thought you were scared of heights?" Natsu asks.

"I can't see how high up I am if I'm only looking at you." Lucy replies.

Natsu can't help but kiss her.

When they finally land at the Dragon King's den, Igneel is there to greet them.

"Greetings great dragon." Lucy says and curtseys for him.

"Lucy! How lovely it is to see you again!" Igneel greets. "I had a hunch that you were the reason Natsu was out today but I had no idea he would be bringing you to our den."

"Natsu why have you brought her he-Natsu?" Igneel asks.

Lucy turns around and gasps. She hadn't noticed before because it was dark but now that they were under the light of the moon…there were red stains on his clothing and he looked paler than usual.

"Natsu your wounds! I thought you said they weren't serious?" Lucy exclaims as she runs over to him to inspect his injuries closer.

"I lied so you wouldn't worry over me until we were safe. If I had said something sooner then you would have panicked and it would've slowed us down and then we would've never gotten out of there." Natsu admits and Lucy cups his cheek and Natsu leans into her touch.

"Who did this to my son?" Igneel growls.

"My father and his goons." Lucy answers with gritted teeth, her rising anger matching that of the great fire dragon behind her.

"And why would they dare do such a horrific thing to betray me?" Igneel demands.

"Because I was protecting Lucy." Natsu says hoarsely and groans as Lucy sets him down into a more comfortable position on the ground. "King Jude was being cruel to her, he was going to try to take her away from me and give her away to someone else so he could expand his fortune. So Lucy fled here to find me so we could be together, but the King and his soldiers caught up to us and we had to fight our way out."

Igneel watches with concern as Lucy tears off strips of her dress fabric to soak up the blood on Natsu's wounds. But there were multiple wounds, and she only had two hands.

"Then they will pay for this!" Igneel declares. "I'll burn them all!"

"No! Please spare Fiore!" Lucy urges. "The citizens have done nothing wrong. Please don't let them suffer just because of their King's wrongdoings!" Lucy begs.

"I understand." Igneel says. "And I agree with you. I apologize for being quick to jump to violence but after losing Natsu's mother, all I've ever wanted is for my son to be safe. And when you have powers like mine that allow you to burn away anything that troubles you well, it's easy for that to become the default response. But after Natsu met you I realized that there are other humans like his mother that don't see dragons as monsters that need to be slain."

"I've never seen your son as a monster. I met him after my mother died from illness and he brought such joy into my life by being my friend. And now he's grown into the man I love. When I'm with him, I know I'm home. Anywhere else is hollow. And so with your permission I'd like to take his hand, wreck my father's plans, and make Natsu my man." Lucy says and smiles at him and Natsu smiles back.

A look of pure joy spread over the dragon's features and he looks at the lovers before him.

"Oh Lucy I know how much my son cares for you. He's already told me of his intentions to make you his mate so yes of course I approve!" Igneel says. "But first we should really treat Natsu's wounds."

Lucy gasps. She was so caught up in the euphoria of being able to marry the man of her dreams that she completely forgot he was bleeding internally.

"Oh my goodness! I completely forgot! Natsu I'm so sorry you must be in so much pain right now!" Lucy rambles and Natsu can't help but smile at how cute she looks when she was worried over him.

"It's not that bad actually. I've had worse." Natsu says with a shrug.

"In this tower over here is where Natsu lives." Igneel says and gestures his head towards an old stone tower on the edge of the clearing. "You'll find some medicine in there that the dragon Grandeeney made to heal any wounds that a dragon or half-dragon might sustain."

"Thank you. I'll take care of him right away." Lucy says and puts his arm around her shoulder and leads him inside.

As Lucy and Natsu sat on his bed together, Lucy takes note of how amazing this healing dragon's powers must be. This medicine was a miracle. His wounds had stopped bleeding the instant she put the bandage with the magic salve over them.

But other thoughts were crossing her mind. As she dresses his wounds in the dark room lit only by candle light, Lucy can't help but feel a bit aroused. He was shirtless and her hands were all over his muscular torso, and she couldn't help but take note of the strength those muscles conveyed. She wonders if he feels anything either.

The silence starts to feel deafening so Lucy decided to ask a question that's been on her mind for awhile.

"Natsu, now that we're betrothed I think I should ask you, how do dragons get married?" Lucy asks.

"They don't." Natsu says simply.

"Oh..." Lucy asks unsure of how to respond. "But I thought you told me once that dragons mate for life."

"They do. Just not in the way humans do. Dragons don't really have an official ceremony or anything like humans do." Natsu explains. "When two of them decide they want to become a couple they just…mate."

"I see." Lucy says as she dresses the gash on his left pectoral.

The tension that was already starting to build between them had now fully crept it's way into Lucy's mind as Natsu mentioned mating. She had been thinking about doing this with Natsu for a long time. She does want to marry him after all, so she already found him attractive. But now, she had run away from her home, and the rules that came with it. She and Natsu had already promised themselves to each other with words, why not follow through with actions as well?

"Well, weddings take a long time to plan." Lucy begins to explain as she gently lets her fingers trail down his torso after setting the dressing. "And even if we were to have a wedding, it would probably be just your father's clan anyway, since my father would sooner plot your murder than hand me over to you as a bride. He may even be plotting something to steal me away from you sooner rather than later. So instead of waiting for a wedding…" Lucy says, moving her gaze up to look into his eyes. "I think that we should just get married now. The dragon way."

Natsu takes in a deep breath when he realizes what she's asking. What she's offering him. And Lucy could tell by the tent forming in his pants and his breaths becoming heavier that his primal instincts were starting to awaken. But Natsu kept himself in check. Sure he's had these thoughts about Lucy before but only when he was alone, leaving him to deal with those urges on his own. But now she was right here and moving closer to him, with dilated pupils and his brain was screaming at him to just tear off her dress and claim her now. But he holds back. Because this wasn't just some fantasy, this was real. This was Lucy, the love of his life and before he accepts her offer he has to be sure it's what she wants.

"Lucy are you sure that's what you want?" He asks.

"Yes I'm sure." Lucy says "We are in dragon's land after all. And I'll be living with your father and his clan. So I want to do things their way."

Natsu's arousal builds even more as she takes his hand and places it at the top of the corset that was keeping her ample chest confined while her other hand slowly trails down his abdomen.

"I love you Natsu. And I want you to claim me, if you want me too." Lucy says.

Natsu searches her face for any sign of unease or reluctance, but he only finds the same emotions he was feeling for her. Lust and love. And as she places her hand over the bulge in his pants, all doubt leaves his mind and he lets his primal urges take over as he cups her cheek to speak to her.

"Lucy my love you are the most beautiful woman I've ever known. Of course I want to claim you as my mate." Natsu declares before tugging at the bow on her corset.

Lucy gasps as she feels the garment loosen before Natsu seals his mouth to hers in a passionate kiss as she unbuckles his belt and they proceed to undress each other, and make love not long after.

That morning when Lucy woke up she was still naked in bed. She follows the sunlight streaming in from the balcony, and sees her clothes scattered on the floor.

Lucy felt goosebumps form on her skin as she remembered the warmth of Natsu's touch from the night before. His hands hands were strong and felt rough against her soft skin, just like the parts of his body that had scales, and the contrast felt divine. He caressed every part of her body with his hands, and then re-traced his path with his mouth which had only aroused her more and encouraged her to explore his body as well, wanting to know him as intimately as he knew her as they consummated their love and became one.

Her father couldn't marry her off to anyone now. Natsu had claimed her for himself last night, and she loved every minute of it. She was his, and he was hers. Mates. And Count and Countess to the human kingdom, and prince and princess among the dragons.

And right now her Prince was standing on the balcony, still naked as well. They were deep in the woods after all, it's not like any passers by would see them. But then he turns around when he hears her stirring in bed.

"Good morning my princess." Natsu says and smiles.

"Good morning my prince." Lucy says and smiles warmly back at him.

He comes over to her and leans down to place a gentle kiss to her lips.

"Did you sleep well?" Natsu asks.

"Yeah. I slept great." Lucy says. "The bed was so warm with you in it."

"Well duh, fire dragon." Natsu reminds her and Lucy giggles and kisses him again.

Then Natsu's expression turns serious.

"Before you woke up, my father talked with me. He still wants revenge for what your father attempted to do to me, and what he attempted to do to you too." Natsu says.

"Oh…" Lucy says.

She looks down at the blanket in-between them as she tries to think. On one hand she certainly agreed that something needed to be done about her father. But on the other hand, he was her father.

"What does he want to do?" Lucy asks.

"He wants to remove your dad from power." Natsu starts. "And let you take his place."

Lucy perks up and looks at Natsu who was smiling with pride.

"So I'd be Queen of Fiore?" Lucy asks.

"Yep. And we don't have to kill your dad. We can just lock him up in the dungeon or something." Natsu explains.

"Then you'd be my King?" Lucy asks.

"King Consort, since you're the one with the power but yeah." Natsu says with a shrug.

"That sounds great." Lucy says. "Except…You and your father like to travel sometimes, go to other lands to train together…If I'm Queen then I won't be able to come with you."

Lucy looks away sadly but then Natsu cups her chin in his fingers and tilts her head towards him.

"You'll never be alone again." Natsu says and gently cups her cheek. "You're the love of my life, and I promise we'll always be together Lucy."

He leans forward and kisses her.

Lucy closes her eyes and melts into the kiss.

When her eyes flutter open she sees Natsu's face and smiles warmly.

"Oh Natsu…" she sighs dreamily.

Natsu frowns at her.

"Uh, Luce you're looking at me funny. Are you okay?" He asks her with a frown.

"Hmm…" Lucy hums in confusion. "Of course I am! I'm with you my…" She explains until she notices his horns are missing, and that there are no scales on his body either.

She reaches forward and feels the blankets and realizes she's no longer naked in the expensive large bed she was in before, but wearing her pajamas while in a bed at the infirmary in Magnolia!

"My…what?" Natsu asks, wanting her to finish her sentence.

"My…idiot!" Lucy shouts and kicks him in the stomach with her foot.

"Ouch!" Natsu yelps and doubles over in pain.

"Yep! She's fine!" Happy says cheerfully from the other side of Lucy's bed. "You really had us going there for a second Lucy, I was worried that that bump on your head might have made you go crazy!"

Lucy reaches up and feels that there are bandages wrapped around her forehead. And she winces slightly in pain as she touches the injured spot and remembers reality. She must have hit her head pretty hard in order to have envisioned Natsu as some sort of romantic Prince.

"Honestly, I'm not too sure I'm entirely sane." Lucy says.

"That would explain why you kicked me." Natsu grumbles.

"Want me to do it again?" Lucy growls and Natsu yelps in fear.

"Nope! I learned my lesson, please don't hurt me again!" Natsu pleads.

"Maybe I should still go get Porlyusica?" Happy suggests. "I mean, she's mad at you now, but when she woke up she was looking at you like she was in love." Happy teases.

Lucy frowns at Happy but at the same time can't help but blush as she remembers how she felt about the Natsu she met in her dream. I mean there were obviously some differences between the two of them. But now that she thought about it...there were a lot of similarities too. The Natsu from her dream may have been more obviously romantic but most of what he was saying to her and the way he was looking at her...the real Natsu did all of that too. And she loved him for it.

And then it hit her...did she love Natsu?

"I'm sorry Lucy." Natsu says softly and looks into his lap. "I said I'd protect you and you got hurt."

"Well, you said you wouldn't let the birds hurt me. And I got hit by a willow branch. So you didn't break your promise. You've never broken any promise to me." Lucy assures him.

Ever since they met in Hargeon, he had been the major catalyst for the events in her life. Both good and bad. And this job was no different.

Life was a willow and it bent right to your wind.

"I know but still, you got hurt because I was so busy keeping those birds away from you that I didn't notice that damn branch." Natsu pouts.

"It's not your fault. I should have been watching where I was going." Lucy says.

"If I was with you you wouldn't have had to worry about that. I shouldn't have left you alone. I know that ever since Tartaros you get upset when I do that." Natsu says and Lucy's heart skips a beat.

So he really did notice how his year long absence had affected her...Who would have known? Certainly not Lucy. He really paid attention to her feelings like that?

"And I don't like it when you're sad. It makes me feel weird, like I want to fix it and make you happy again as soon as I can. It's easy when I can just punch whatever's bothering you until it goes away. But it's different when I'm the one that hurt you. It makes me feel worse because I never want to be the cause of your pain. I want to be the one that takes it away, or even better prevents you from getting hurt in the first place. All I want is to keep you safe and make you happy. But I failed..."

The more that you say, the less I know.

She couldn't believe what she was hearing. Only the lovers in the books she reads say things like this. Maybe he wasn't as dense as she thought? Did he know what love was? Did he love her?

"Instead of fighting for you I should have just been with you. I made a mistake and you got hurt. But I won't make it again. I'll be more mindful of you the next time we're on a job." Natsu says. "I swear I'll protect you next time."

"Natsu...we've been doing jobs together for years. Nothing ever goes the way it's supposed to." Lucy says and holds out her hand for Natsu. "And I wouldn't have it any other way."

Wherever you stray, I follow.

Natsu smiles and it warms Lucy's heart as he takes her hand.

"Promise that tomorrow you'll wreck my plans again by taking me on some wild adventure?" Lucy asks.

"You bet!" Natsu says and flashes her his signature goofy grin.

That's my man.