"Come on Natsu, at least steer your vomit away from me!" Lucy cried out, watching the sick dragonslayer destroy yet another pair of shoes. She was seriously considering starting putting plastic bags on her feet if Natsu couldn't gain control over his flow anytime soon.

"Luuushi..." Happy said with a groggy voice, barely keeping his eyes open. The exceed had used up almost all his magic powers this mission, making him unusually tired - and unexpectedly cuddly towards a certain celestial mage.

"Come here Happy." Lucy patted on her lap, letting the blue cat curl up into a purring ball of blue fur. The low frequent rumbling actually helped her calm down too. She would just have to deal with his shredding and the dirty shoes later - it's not as if she could do anything now anyways.

Natsu himself was laying on the bench opposite to his best friends, watching them regain lost energy and magical power from the exhausting mission. It was sweet watching them both being calm like this. Of course he truly didn't mind their friendly bickering. Happy felt comfortable enough with Lucy to show all sides of him to her, both the emotional and the snarky part.

He remembered how loud and reductant Lucy was in the past, with her big and crazy reactions to almost everything that happened. Shouting every time Gray stripped or kicking Natsu out of her apartment. She never wavered. Once again, he didn't actually mind that part, in fact, he really liked it. She had courage to be herself no matter who she was encountering, and her cute reactions often made the enemies favour her. However, she had gotten a lot calmer and sweeter the last two years. It must be that thing they call growing up, huh?

While in the middle of his thoughts, the train started moving extra much, making the salmon haired boy hurl up a mix of whatever he had eaten before boarding the hell-transportation. He really hoped Wendy could learn a new anti motion sickness-spell soon - life hadn't been too kind since that Troia spell stopped working on him.

"Finally!" Natsu kissed the ground in delight of finally leaving the train, being back in their hometown. Lucy ignored him, as usual, and took care of their baggage. After all the years she had known him, he was still just as embarrassing to be out in public with. How hadn't he picked up on social cues yet? Happy was still asleep in her arms, so after struggling for a bit she finally kicked some sense in Natsu, somehow without waking the cat.

"Come on and help with the bags you moron!" She scolded quietly, not wanting to disturb the sweet little animal who conveniently used her left boob as a pillow. "You don't want to wake Happy, right? He deserves some rest, you know."

Natsu obliged to the blonde's orders. She was helping him nurse Happy back to full health after all. Grabbing the baggage, they soon headed back to Lucy's apartment. The sun had started setting and he really craved that soft bed of hers.

Shortly after Lucy had met Natsu, she noticed a certainly odd behaviour with him. Usually when walking back from missions with the entire Team Natsu, the air was filled with discussions. Natsu and Gray bickering in the background, Erza talking strategies with Lucy and Wendy, Happy and Carla talking about fishes or something, and then the occasional bickering between Lucy and Happy.

When it was only Natsu, Lucy and Happy though, it was as if a switch had flipped. They rarely spoke, only leaving the sounds of Happy's purring and Natsu and Lucy's footsteps in the air. It was never uncomfortable though. They already knew what the other thought, and even if they didn't know, they never felt the need to rush any conversations. This happened more and more frequently after the Alvarez Empire arc, when Natsu had said those words to her. "We'll be together forever, right?" Not any huge words, not anything complicated - just, the truth. Why would they need to talk all the time when they had forever in front of them. Everything would come in time. Lucy had decided to believe that.

"Hey, Lucy…"

… Did she jinx herself?

"Can we stay at your place? And can you make us some food, pleaaaase?"

Nevermind.

"Whatever, you guys just do what you want anyways."

When they stepped into the apartment Lucy immediately went into the bedroom, carefully dropping off the knocked out exceed on the foot of the bed.

"I'm taking a quick shower, get the meat out of the freezer and defrost it while I'm gone, will you?" Lucy didn't bother doing that stuff herself - Natsu knew her kitchen almost better than she did, he could figure it out.

Once she was in the shower she finally relaxed. A bath would undeniably be better, but right now she was more focused on getting all the dirt off her body. The mission they had gone on was fairy easy for Lucy and Natsu - the only one who had a hard time was Happy. The bandits had some type of flying ability, and the only way to defeat them was to get close. Therefore, Happy had to switch between them while they regenerated their powers. Lucy had gotten a bit worried when she saw Happy's fur getting wet from sweat, but the exceed had just shaken her off, staying strong to the end of the mission. Lucy couldn't help but admire him. If only Carla saw these heroic moments, maybe they would have gotten further in their relationship by now.

That reminded her of how protective Natsu could be. He hated it when Carla was rude to Happy. He didn't show it, but Lucy saw. His twitching legs and furrowed eyebrows were of course bug clues.

Yet he still was very supportive. Every time Happy felt down because of Carla's cold behaviour, Natsu cheered him on, giving him money to buy an extra nice fish for Happy to give away. Lucy really had to give them better gift ideas though, once they had tried giving Carla a live eel instead, and she had ended up transforming into a human to run away faster. Who knew she was afraid of eel? And who knew she was that fast in her human form.

Lucy chuckled for herself at the memory. Yeah, she should definitely tell Happy to give her flowers or tea or something. She could at least spare Carla the terror of any other horrible sea creature.

After a quick round of shampoo, conditioner and body soap, she finally got out of the shower. She tried running a brush through her hair in an attempt to sort out the knots, but she quickly gave up. She would just have to brush it out when it dried.

When she left the bathroom, only dressed in a towel, she was met by a nice smell and the sound of sizzling coming from the kitchen.

"So, what are we having?" Lucy asked, secretly happy with getting a meal cooked for her. She would say that she was glad that it was free for a change, but she did buy the groceries with her own money after all.

"Curry 'n rice," Natsu answered, tongue sticking out of his mouth as he concentrated.

"Sounds nice. I'll put on some clothes, then I'll take over. You can take a bath or something while I finish it," Lucy offered, once again not waiting for an answer before going into her bedroom where her wardrobe stood. She picked out a thin crop top and a pair of shorts in a soft material, before heading back into the kitchen.

"Now shoo," the blonde said, dragging Natsu away from the bubbling pot.

"Wait! I didn't turn on the stoves!"

Lucy grunted loudly.

"Whatever, I'll fix it. You stink, here's a towel, the opened medicines are to the left on the sink."

Who knew the fire dragon slayer had such a passion for cooking? Lucy was pretty sure that was something only she knew about. Team Natsu never really had dinner the same way at Lucy's. The only possible person who could have known about his cooking skills would be Lisanna, but to be frank, he didn't really have enough control over his fire back when they played house.
Happy knew about this skill of course, but then again, how could he not know about it? They lived together for god's sake.

As the clock struck 10pm Natsu finally left the bathroom, dressed in only a pair of checkered pajama pants.

"Do you know where my t-shirt is?" He asked, lifting one of the pillows that laid on the couch.

"Oh yeah, it's in the washer. Seriously, if you keep leaving your sleepover clothes here then you at least have to learn to wash them regularly!" Lucy scolded half heartedly, blushing slightly at the sight of her half naked best friend. It's not as if she was immune to his muscular torso.

"Whatever, it's not as if you ever come close enough to smell it anyways," Natsu murmured as he made his way over to the table.

"Do I need to remind you that I also use the couch that I accidentally happen to OWN. If your clothes smell, then the couch will smell too. You seriously have to break your habit of sneaking in," she groaned, knowing that her words had no effect whatsoever. "Nevermind that for now, did you see if Happy has woken up?"

"Nopfe, he'f ftill refting," Natsu grunted, mouth full of hot curry.

"I'll cut up some fish for him later then, hopefully he'll get his energy back after a good meal."

Lucy pondered for a second, wondering if she maybe should wake him up anyways. He never liked missing meals and then having to eat alone. Lucy sometimes wondered if it was because he was unaccustomed to being alone, seeing it as he always had the guild or Natsu around.

The mage decided to let him sleep on for now. Happy could wake one of them up if he wanted a snack in the middle of the night. It was already late enough for Lucy, so she sat down, finally digging in on the homemade food.

"Delicious!" She beamed, letting out a satisfied sigh before continuing letting the hot curry warm her up from the inside. Nothing tastes as good as a newly cooked meal after a long mission.

Natsu watched as the female in front of him made a happy little dance before digging in. He had already eaten his portion of the food - almost four times the amount that Lucy had on her plate, and sat now and just watched as Lucy regained energy and warmth.

This was one of his favourite moments of the week. After many days sleeping in tents, constantly being on alert and never even getting the chance to clean themselves up, the smell and familiarity of Lucy's apartment really made him feel safe. Sure, he might be a bit barbaric on missions, itching after someone to fight, not really caring about living conditions while he actually was on the mission, but getting back to this smell always made him shocked by how tense he had been the last week.

Finding this type of ritual of sleeping the first night after a mission with Lucy, brought a sense of relaxation he didn't know his body or mind possessed. Just coming home, chatting with Happy or starting cooking while Lucy took a bath or shower, and then himself taking a shower either while Lucy finishes or starts the food, or just after the meal.

There was still one problem in Natsu's opinion though. He still slept on the couch. After all these years she still wouldn't let them share bed unless she was drunk or if he snuck in during the night.

While Lucy's apartment smelled great, there was just something else he felt when he shared bed with her. Sometimes he got a boner, he was not going to lie, she is very attractive after all, but most of the time he felt something else. It could be called love, but for some reason that just didn't sit right with Natsu. Love was great, no doubt, he had felt it lots of times, to his father, to his guildmates and to material things, but sleeping with Lucy was… Comforting. The combination of the sound of her soft breathing and her steady heart, and her cool skin against his hot, and then that special smell that he only could smell when they got really close. All this made him feel… Safe. Happy. Reassured. Content. If family could be an emotion, that is what he felt.

Even better was it when Happy curled up in the middle of them, making Natsu able to smell and hear him too. Sometimes, when Natsu felt bold and cuddled really close to her, Happy would lay above their heads or close to Lucy's belly. That's when he truly slept the best.

Natsu knew that he wouldn't exchange these two people for the world.

"Ya done?" He grinned, watching Lucy swallow the last forkful of food.

"Yep, that meal was exactly what I needed!" She purred, patting her belly. Natsu stood up and started putting away their plates.

"We'll wash them tomorrow," he croaked, filling the pots with water so that they would be easier to clean the next morning. Lucy just agreed as she began cutting up that fish she had promised Happy. When she was done Natsu had already removed all the dishes from the table.

"Let's go to bed now," Lucy suggested, a big yawn escaping her lips.

A small part of Natsu didn't want to go to sleep just yet. His wounds were itching and he didn't look forward to leaving Lucy's presence. With Happy in Lucy's bed he didn't have anyone to cuddle with.

So, Natsu did what anyone would do in his situation. He took the lead, grabbing Lucy's wrist on the way to her bed, only to gently fall into it and pull Lucy closer, wrapping his arms around her.

"N-Natsu… Hey... " The mage was blushing furiously at his actions. Not that this was the first time he had done so, in fact, it happened more and more regularly nowadays.

She didn't dislike sleeping in the same bed as Natsu. Quite the opposite to be honest. When she was cold she found herself cuddling up closer to his chest, feeling safe inside his muscular arms. When it was hot outside they actually kept a good distance - but they always touched in one way or another. Legs tangled together, feet touching, or Lucy's personal favourite - hand holding.

She vividly remembered that hot summer night in June, shortly after her birthday, when Natsu had climbed into her bed again. Natsu didn't understand why she kept turning away and moving from him - he didn't understand how unpleasant the summer heat was for normal people. He was a fire dragon slayer after all. In the end they just laid in bed, back to back. Natsu really wanted to turn the other way and hold his best friend close, but he knew that she was uncomfortable in the heat.

Lucy didn't know if it was her or Natsu who had grabbed the other's hand in the middle of the night, but she remembered how important she felt that morning. He had respected her boundaries and still found a way to hold her close. It was heartwarming. Except the part when she saw that Happy had woken up early and raided her fridge in hope to find some yummy fishes. They ate breakfast at the guild that morning.

However, keeping that night in mind, Lucy finally gave in to Natsu's demands.

"At least let us get under the covers first," she mumbled, squeezing out of Natsu's bear hug. She pulled Natsu to his feet as well and then crawled under her bedsheets. Natsu stood beside her bed, pouting in disappointment. Lucy giggled for herself before lifting up one side of the blanket, inviting him into bed. Natsu immediately lit up, jumping into bed with her, almost giving in to the temptation to cuddle up in her arms and sleep on those soft, squishy boobies. Once again, who could blame him for wanting to do that - not only would it be soft, warm and comfortable, but he would also be able to hear and feel the beat of her heart.

Of course, he didn't do that. Natsu wasn't a pervert (sometimes he wondered if he was though), but ever since Lucy showed up in his life his hormones had been acting up a bit. He had once felt a similar way for Lisanna, but nothing really blossomed on that part. Now he found himself accidentally seeing or feeling the curves of Lucy's (sometimes naked) body and he actually got a boner from it. He had heard Gray and Loke talk about relieving themselves if the tension got too bad, but he only tried it once. He felt bad about it later though because he had thought some nasty thoughts about Lucy, so he never tried it again.

No, Natsu wasn't actually a pervert. He could go almost a month without thinking about Lucy in a non-platonic way, but one week every month Lucy smelled different. Wondering about this odd occasion, he had actually asked Levy about it. She had gotten all flustered and thought he meant that Lucy and the other girls smelled period blood, but then he explained that that wasn't it. It came almost a week before that, and only from Lucy too. Levy explained that it possibly had something to do with her ovulation - the perfect time to impregnate a woman. This time Natsu had gotten flustered instead. He didn't want to impregnate Lucy! Not then anyways. Not now either. He was far too young to have kids, and besides, it was his best friend they were talking about.

No, Natsu wasn't a pervert. He never acted on these thoughts. He knew that Lucy wanted her lines between friends, best friends and lovers to be clear. Natsu didn't mind being all over the place. He could easily bleed over all the lines, just them being them was enough for him. But Lucy wanted them to stay as best friends - not because she didn't want to be with Natsu, but she just wasn't ready to take that step yet. And Natsu respected that. He wasn't sure of course if she ever wanted to have a romantic relationship with him - how could he be? But he had faith in that they both would come around some day and show the world that relationships doesn't need to be complicated - they just needed to be happy together, and if kissing, cuddling, chatting or raw sex was the source of it, then so be it. In Natsu's opinion anyways. Lucy still wanted things a bit more traditional, but it was clear that as long as they made each other happy it didn't really matter if they had ever gone on a real date or not. They didn't mind being more than friends, less than lovers.

Now, since Natsu respected Lucy, he didn't use her chest as his pillow - even if it tempted him to, but instead he laid down beside her, faces facing, and he did the one thing he had never done before.

As Natsu settled down beside Lucy, they had locked eyes. Lucy's big brown eyes were dazy of tiredness, and her lips were turned upwards in a little smile. Natsu had a crooked smirk on his lips, still happy with his accomplishment of sleeping in her bed. As they gazed into each other's eyes they somehow found themself moving a tiny bit closer. Natsu lifted his head up slightly and gave Lucy a light peck on her lips. The kiss was short, Lucy had barely felt Natsu's dry, chapped lips against hers before it was over. She just smiled though, not feeling as frustrated as she probably could have felt.

"Goodnight Natsu," she said as a light blush danced on her cheeks.

"Goodnight Luce," Natsu whispered back. They both closed their eyes but still felt their hearts flutter as their hands reached each other.

Yeah. There was no need to rush this family. They understood each other perfectly fine, and after all, they were going to stay together forever, right?