A/N: I just wanted to create a heartwarming, fluffy, smutty story that soothes our anxious hearts - so there will be no big plot twists or love rivals. Full disclosure, this is my first ever story, so I look forward to your feedback.

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Still with his arms around her waist, Natsu and Lucy arrived at her apartment.

She opened the door and he let her go so she could enter first. It seemed like he wanted to keep touching her for as long as possible. Lucy was intrigued, but couldn't really complain, as she had been hoping for this development for quite some time.

About an hour ago the master came to their table asking Levy and she to answer a request by the royal family in Crocus. They found some ancient papers that needed translation and a portal connected to them to investigate. They were to leave the next day at 10h30. Being well known solid script and celestial mages, it was not a surprise that they were now being summoned by the royal family. The women were not only experts in their fields, but also two of the most intelligent mages in Fiori.

_Flashback_

"What do they want with Lucy again?" Natsu asked furiously, slamming a hand on the table. Lucy, Happy, Gray, Gejeel, Levy, Erza and Juvia, who were with them, jumped on their seats.

"They just want her and Levy's help, Natsu." The master calmly explained. "They are asking nicely and willing to pay. Even though I told them it would not be necessary, you know, being their royal subjects and all" This part of the explanation was directed to the whole group who seemed surprised at the mention of not getting paid. The master turned to Natsu. "But they insisted - probably in light of any trauma that may still linger from last time. Not to mention, this would be good publicity for our guild".

At that, Erza gravely nodded.

"Last time they threw her in a dungeon to try to bully her into cooperating with them." Natsu said.

"Do you think I forgot, Natsut?" The master looked at the young man gravely, and Natsu felt himself cowering a bit. "I would never have agreed with this if I thought there was the slight risk.

"They apologized and I don't think they would make the same mistake twice, Natsu". Interjected Erza. "Not now that the whole of Fiori knows what they are doing. These types of missions are pretty public, as you know".

"I will go with her then." Natsu said, still determined and reaching out to put an arm around her shoulders. Gajeel looked up hopefully. He had a serious expression throughout the interaction in front of him. He didn't seem eager to have his mate leave his side any less than Natsu did.

"Well, they insisted that only Levy and Lucy were to come. They don't want distractions and the job is supposed to last only a week, at most. Also" here Marakov faced Natsu with a serious expression. "You were expressly requested to not go to Crocus. They remember what you did to the castle last time you were there".

Lucy remembered the burning words across the castle tower all those years ago and smiled with the memory. She put a hand on Natsu's arm.

"Hey" She said softly, looking up at him. "Nothing bad will happen, I promise. I want to go, I want the money, I want the challenge and, most importantly, I am now curious about this portal".

"Yes, I am already looking forward to seeing these mysterious papers!" Explained Levy from Gajeel's side. "Don't worry, you protective dragon, nothing is going to happen to me or Lu-chan".

"Nothing at all. Levy and I will give them a run for their money before they tried anything".

"You bet" said Levy, giving Lucy a high five.

Smiling, Lucy turned to Natsu. He could see the excitement of the call for adventure shining in her eyes. "I really appreciate you wanting to protect me, and you always do". Lucy put a hand in his face. "But I need to do this". She smiled at Levy, who grinned at her.

She missed the way Erza, Gray and Juvia looked at each other at how she and Natsu were casually touching each other. Those three had been harboring suspicions that they might have already been together for a while now.

But she did see Gajeel looking at her, Levy and Natsu with concern in his eyes. He took a deep breath and said "I know it will be ok. They will need more than their whole army to take you down, Shrimp, especially if Bunny Girl is with you."

Levy gave him a warm smile and an instant later he had her on his shoulder. She thought she heard him saying something to Levy, but before she could process whatever that was, he was saying out loud. "Well… you need to pack right? I'm gonna help you. Bunny girl, Salamander, we will meet you tomorrow at 10h15 at the train station".

Before any of them could understand what happened, he left with Levy in his arms. They could still hear the echo of Levy's laughter, when Natsu took Lucy's hands on his.

"I trust you too, you know? I'm just worried"

"I know. Everything will be ok, and I will come back as soon as I can."

Natsu gave her a small smile, and she could see his strain in letting her go. "Ok, mission accepted Grandpa. Happy, meet us later, I will help Lucy pack".

He proceeded to pull her on her feet, circle her waist and guide her out of the guild.

_End flashback_

She went straight to her dressing table to get rid of the make up, jewelry and hair tie. Part of her brain started planning her luggage, the other part was thinking about the food she would prepare for him in her absence. And another part was thinking about her partner.

Natsu and her still haven't spoken a word since leaving the guild. What was going through his mind? He was sitting on her bed looking at her fixedly, with furrowed eyebrows, like someone trying to solve a hard puzzle. She was still reeling at how he touched her and only stopped by the time they arrived. Would that maybe mean that he was going to miss her more than just as a friend? For a while now she had the feeling things were changing, he has been even more physical with her than before, touching and reaching out more often and, on occasion, more intimately.

She has been fighting to keep herself in check and not let any misinterpretation go to her head… she didn't want to hope in vain. She knew she had feelings for him for a very long time now.

She also knew he didn't care about romance, for lack of a better word. Not that he didn't have the ability to feel deeply. Or the occasional tendency to oggle or touch her naked flesh, for that matter - which used to make her want to kick him (she would often indulge in this wish). He was one of the most passionate people she knew, which was one of the many reasons she loved him. But she was perfectly aware that the idea of caring more than as a friend or family, was still not something he could grasp.

She hoped he would eventually develop these feelings - even if they were not directed to her, just for his ownsake if nothing else. At this point she let go of a great sigh; she didn't like thinking that... she decided a long time ago to deal with that, if and when that happens.

But now, she couldn't help but feel the spark of hope blossoming. Yeah… keeping her heart still and hope away was already a lost fight. She couldn't help herself and her agile brain... Afterall, what changed within him to touch her as he had for the last few months? why would he be so upset that she would go without him now? This was the first time she witnessed him reacting to anything like this.

Yes, he was still traumatized by the last time the royalty expressed interest in a celestial mage skills. To be honest, she would still be cautious when in Crocus, because the memories of her imprisonment, her future self death and of 7 big aggressive dragons roaming the skies were still very fresh, even if they had taken place about 5 years ago.

Still, it didn't justify him touching her like that or the intense look in his eyes. Something changed, and she was looking forward to whatever it was.

Meanwhile, Natsu was sitting on her bed and watching her as she made herself comfortable. He was surprised by the intensity of feelings going through his body and a bit confused too.

He was worried about her answering a summons by the royal family only with Levy by her side. Levy was strong… Hell, Lucy was strong! She had her spirits! But he wanted to be by her side himself. If anything happened to her, he would burn the whole city of Crocus down. And he wasn't sure he really forgave the royal family for arresting Lucy all those years ago. A part of his brain was trying to decide the best way to warn everyone of the risks of hurting Lucy.

He was increasingly overwhelmed by how much he was going to miss her. Ok, it was just one week, but they haven't spent all that time apart in the past few years.

Natsu never had a big sense of personal space, much less with Lucy. He always loved her smell and had always been amused and intrigued by her weirdness and kindness, so he had been drawn to her from the first. And as the years went by, to his delight, she stopped feeling so easily flustered by his actions.

At this point he suppressed a chuckle. Lucy looked over her shoulder with her eyebrows raised in question. He shook his head, still with a smile on his face, and she turned back to the mirror, raising a shoulder in resignation to the fact her best friend would burst in random fits of laughter.

He had finally won her over. He was now able to sleep with her in her bed, hug her shoulders when they walked together or were sitting together, and occasionally bring his face very close to hers. You know… things that felt natural when he was with her. Why couldn't she understand that? Why were there all these rumors that they were together in the Guild, as if it were a secret? Of course they were together. They were partners and best friends and they belonged together. Why would they make such a big deal out of it? Wasn't it obvious?

Suddenly it occurred to Natsu that maybe it wasn't obvious to her. Startled for a moment, he soon relaxed. Well... He would have to take matters in his own hands, then, if that were the case. The nagging thought of maybe physically marking her as his, to make sure that others would know she was taken, that they would have to face his wrath were she hurt in any form, was also swirling around his mind - he didn't know where this was coming from, but it made absolute sense to him and surprised him that he had not thought of this before.

Now, he heard Gajeel whispering on Levy's ears, right before hoisting her on his shoulder and leaving the guild:

"I'm gonna fuck you for one week's worth then. Be prepared".

Natsu found it disturbing that one of his childhood friends, the tiny Levy, was in an actual relationship with the iron dragon slayer. He knew Gajeel would die for her... Hell, he even tried to once... And he made her happy. But it was still almost revolting. He would never let Levy know he felt this protective of her, because he was afraid she might retaliate. She was as fierce as was every lady in Fairy Tail. Why should they be so scary? Jeez..

Natsu had been hearing about sex since he could remember, and it had always been something in which he wasn't really interested. He knew what physical attraction was and thoroughly enjoyed the view and feel of the female body, but for the life of him, he didn't understand the relation of these feelings with sex.

People called him dense. He knew he wasn't. Uninterested was closer to the truth… he already had someone who belonged to him, what else was there? It was better this way, anyway... He was able to get away with ogling Lucy, or even copping a feel freely, most of the time. The other times were met with a kick to the gut that made him flinch just by remembering it.

He always felt connected to Lucy. He knew it at a profound level, just like he knew Fairy Tale was his family, Erza was scary and Happy loved fish, that they belonged together. And he was also very much attracted to her. He never, however, made the connection between this attraction and sex. That is, until now, at least. What Gajeel said, what he had been feeling and thinking, and what he had always heard about sex suddenly started to be pieced together in his mind.

Maybe he could try a few things he heard, if she would let him. Things that could make him bear her absence easier later, he hoped. Or maybe he just really just wanted to touch her again, smell her and even taste her, if he were so lucky, and he was tired of pretending otherwise. He so hoped she would let him.

So, true to form, still silently, he stood up and approached her. She had her back to him, looking at herself in her mirror and letting her hair down. He incircled her waist and pulled her hair out of the way, so he could fit his face in the crook of the right side of her neck.

She tensed for a moment and gasped. When she realized he was just hugging her, she whispered his name very softly and relaxed. He felt a thrill down his body with the sound and inhaled deeply.

"What are you doing?" she asked shaken.

"Smelling you", he answered, still breathing down her neck. "Maybe, if I have my weekly quota of Lucy smells now, your leaving will be easier". Her heart melted a bit with the sweet confession.