Boy it has been a while hasn't it?! I'm sorry. This is literally the first break I've had for a while. I tried my best with this. I just want you all to know that I'm not the world's best at writing fight scenes so... This chapter doesn't have the battle. That is all in the next one and depending on how much detail I manage to put in it, the battle could last two chapters. I just wanted to warn you so that you don't expect much from me because I have read some badass battle scenes by other authors so don't go expecting one of those.

Anyway, I worked hard on this chapter! There is some fluff in here because the next chapter won't have much so you need to take it in now. Have fun reading this!

Chapter 24

Lucy woke the next morning earlier than usual. Her heart was full of a sense of determination as she slid out from underneath Natsu's arm and her blankets. She grabbed an outfit to wear which allowed her to move freely and stay comfortable. She was turning to go to the bathroom when she saw Natsu lift his head up. "Luce?" he called out, blinking in the morning light. Lucy went back over to him with her clothes in her arms and said, "I'm going to shower Natsu. Go back to sleep." His head fell back onto her pillow and his breathing evened out. Lucy sat at the edge of the bed and ran her fingers through his hair before standing and heading to the bathroom to shower.

When she came out, Natsu was sitting on the edge of her bed fully clothed and looking at her with a tiny smile on his face. Lucy sat next to him and slipped her hand into his. "Natsu I'm sorry." She said suddenly. Natsu looked at her with immense confusion on his face. "What? Lucy are you alright?" he asked. She looked at him and then down to their joined hands. "I know you like jumping right into things and I keep making us wait for stuff. Like leaving the mansion, getting married, facing my father. I don't want to hold you back I just don't want people to go sacrificing themselves for me when we don't know everything yet." She elaborated. Natsu laughed and nudged her shoulder to make her look up at him. "Lucy that's just who you are! You like to make a plan and I like to tackle the problem head on. I love you and I don't want to change a thing about you ok? It's not holding me back it's just your way of protecting me. Don't worry about being yourself around me Luce." Lucy grinned and kissed him before standing. "I think somebody deserves bacon!" she declared. Natsu shot up. "Bacon! Yes!" he shouted. Lucy giggled and said, "I was talking about me silly!" Natsu pouted then got a mischievous glint in his eyes.

Lucy shrieked as Natsu pounced on her and began to tickle her. "S-s-sto-op! Na-tsu!" she cried. "Not until I get bacon!" Natsu demanded, laughing at her facial expressions. "Ok! Ok!" Lucy gave in and Natsu stopped tickling her. She had fallen back onto her bed and Natsu lay down next to her while she got her breath back and stopped laughing. When she had she mock glared at him and he sent her one of his famous grins. How can you not be happy under that smile? Lucy sighed and got up. "I'm gonna make breakfast ok?"

After eating, the two headed to the guild. The entire guild was waiting and that included… "Gildarts!" Natsu let go of Lucy to run and greet his father figure. Of course this meant launching a flaming punch towards the man's head. Lucy watched with horror as he was smacked down and made a dent in the pavement. "N-Natsu?" she asked as she bent down next to him. He lifted his head and grinned at her while she helped him up. Gildarts looked between the two and asked, "Natsu who is this?" If it was possible his smile grew bigger. "This is Lucy! She's my fiancée!" he proclaimed proudly. Gildarts, who had been smiling, gaped at the boy, no, man in front of him. "F-Fiancée? Natsu you're getting married? WHY DID NO ONE TELL ME THIS?" he shouted, looking at the other guild members. Makarov came through the crowd chuckling. "Gildarts you just got back. Besides, I would have told you… at some point." The old man said.

The next thing she knew, Lucy was being crushed in an embrace with Natsu as Gildarts pulled both of them against his chest. "I'm so happy for you two! Natsu! You must take care of her and don't ever make her cry!" Gildarts said sternly. He let go of them and Lucy couldn't help but smile at the banter between the two of them. Natsu obviously loved Gildarts and the man seemed very fond of Natsu as well.

Makarov cleared his throat to gain the attention of the distracted guild members. "Alright brats! It's time!" This simple declaration was met with a rousing cheer as the two teams split off and began the trek towards their targets.

Lucy was walking between Gildarts and Natsu both of whom were regarding her with different gazes. "Alright spill." She said. "Why are you two staring at me?" Gildarts looked rather sheepish while Natsu kept looking at her. "Are you ok Luce?" Natsu asked. She sighed. "You're going to laugh at me but it isn't what you think. I'm still not sure I want to use my mother's spirits. They are very strong but… they betrayed me and in this battle I have to trust everyone who is on my side." Lucy explained. Natsu nodded. "Lucy it's your decision who you let help you but if it comes down to your life or trusting those spirits please… trust your spirits." He said. Lucy nodded. Then she looked at Gildarts. "And you?" she asked. Gildarts shrugged. "I just wanted to know more about the girl that got Natsu to settle down." Lucy laughed. "I'm sure somebody will fill you in when this is over. The short story is I helped Natsu save a man's life and he wouldn't leave me alone until I joined his guild. One thing led to another and I fell for him and somehow he fell for me too. And here we are!" she told him. Natsu pouted. "What do you mean I wouldn't leave you alone?! I could tell you were in trouble and I wanted to help you!" he said in his own defense.

Lucy puffed out her cheeks in mock frustration. "Natsu you put yourself in danger for me! I would have found a way out without you helping. I'm glad you did but you didn't go along with the plan to not be seen around me!" she argued. Natsu crossed his arms over his chest and said, "That's because you were lonely! Besides I just wanted you to see the guild so you'd want to join!" Lucy rolled her eyes. "Yeah but then when I got my father to agree about Wendy you made Mira stay behind so you could come. Admit it; you love danger." She said pointing at him. Natsu stayed quiet for a moment with conflicting emotions crossing his face. Finally he burst. "That's just because I loved you! I just wanted to be around you!" Lucy stopped walking and gaped at him while Gildarts began to laugh. Lucy's gaze softened at the embarrassed looking Natsu. "You loved me way back then?" she asked quietly. Natsu looked away from her, still rather embarrassed by his outburst in front of half of his guild. Lucy stepped around him and gently uncrossed his arms so she could hug him and snuggled herself against his chest. "I was really happy it was you that came that day." She admitted. "And I always looked forward to your visits. I was really lonely and I'm really glad you got me to join FairyTail."

Natsu wrapped his arms around her and held her. He smiled softly at her words. "You two are adorable!" Levy squealed. Natsu looked at the rest of the fight group and his ears picked up on the comments. Gajeel was looking at him with a smirk and Gildarts was still laughing. Natsu was embarrassed so he swung Lucy up in his arms and dashed ahead of him. "Natsu?! What are you… Oh." Lucy saw the red on his cheeks and realized that he must be embarrassed about admitting as much as he had in front of the guild. He wasn't very into PDA which was good for her because she also got embarrassed rather easily. So instead of being angry with him for taking off, she tightened her grip on him and kissed his cheek. Natsu couldn't help but smile at her and he strengthened his grip on her as he picked up his pace.

They stopped as they saw a lone man on the street ahead of them. Natsu placed Lucy on her feet and stood in front of her. "Father." Lucy said, her voice hard. Jude Heartfilia was standing tall and stoic on the path in front of them. "He said you'd be coming. Lucy we need to talk. I'll admit that forcing you into a marriage against your will was a bad idea. I just… I felt you were pulling away and after losing Layla…" Jude's solid exterior crumbled and a tear slipped down his cheeks. "I can't lose you Lucy. You're all I have left of her. Please come home Lucy. I'm sorry about all of it just please come home." Jude said. Lucy slipped her hand into Natsu's and he realized it was shaking. He gave it a squeeze and was about to tell the man to shove it when Lucy spoke.

"You're sorry? I could forgive you for arranging a marriage with Sting but he was the son of a known gang lord!" she exclaimed. "But it was going to be fine! You wouldn't have been married long Lucy! Just long enough to determine whether or not Jiemma's gang killed your mother. Then we would have had the marriage dissolved." Jude explained. "When I disagreed you turned me over to Samuel! Father he tortured me and if Natsu and Laxus hadn't saved me I would have died!" she yelled at him. "You've killed and hurt so many people Father! Why would I ever come back?!"

Jude stared at her with an open mouth. "H-he tortured you?" he asked. Now Lucy was confused but she knew it could all be a game. She just rolled her eyes and lifted her shirt so her father could see the scar from a gash across her stomach. Jude shook his head. "No. No the deal was that he would tell you the rest of our plan and make sure you agreed. He wasn't supposed to hurt you. I will admit that there is blood on my hands but that's because they all said that these people were connected with Layla's death and I just want to avenge her!" Jude said. "Samuel nearly… killed you? I don't understand he has always been so loyal." Jude began to frown and twist his hands. Lucy took a step forward and Natsu tensed. "Father look at me." She said. "Samuel wasn't supposed to hurt me? You didn't order that?" she asked. Jude looked into her eyes. "No he was just supposed to tell you why you were to marry Sting." He said.

Lucy's eyes teared up. "Natsu he isn't lying. I know my father and he isn't lying. I knew it. This is all Ivan's fault." Natsu trusted Lucy's judgment but he still kept a close watch as Lucy reached out and took her father's hand. "Daddy… Samuel was being loyal but not to you. He works for Ivan. He always has. And Ivan's gang never disbanded. They just went underground. Daddy… I think Samuel was the one who killed Mama. See ever since I ran away I've been trying to figure all this out and it all points to Ivan." She said. Jude shook his head. "Lucy it can't be Ivan. When I called him after the funeral, he was so sad. And then he said it couldn't have been an accident. He said he would find whoever it was that killed the girl we loved. Then he contacted me about a year ago and said he had come close but he needed money and resources. I said I would help him. Lucy it just can't be him."

Lucy felt tears make tracks down her face. "Daddy he was using you." Jude looked at his daughter and knew. He knew she was right. She was telling the truth. "Oh my god…" he said. Lucy wrapped her arms around him and he held her right back. "I'm so sorry Lucy!" Mr. Heartfilia said as they both cried. "It's ok Daddy. This wasn't your fault." Natsu was glad that Lucy could have her father back. He knew what it was like to not have a father around. He tensed when he sensed a dark magic presence.

"How touching. A father and daughter reunited." An oily voice said from behind them. Lucy pulled away from her father's embrace to glare at the man behind her father. "Ivan." She spat. "Oh so you know who I am? That's good. After all, when this is over you'll be coming with me." He said with a grin. Then he lunged forward and sent a stream of dark magic towards them. Lucy didn't have time to summon her spirits but she didn't have to. Natsu jumped in front of them and sent his own stream of fire at the magic, effectively blocking it. "Oho! So you have a knight in shining armor do you? This should be fun." Natsu popped his knuckles. "You don't know who you're messing with." He growled. Ivan laughed. "Well then let's see what you've got boy!" he cried.

Alrighty! So a few things... I love Gildarts. I think he makes a great father and I think that's how Natsu sees him. I feel like Natsu had Igneel and that Gildarts kind of replaced that void when Natsu joined FairyTail. And I also liked how Lucy's father tried to make it up to her but couldn't because of the seven year time gap. A lot of FanFictions make Jude a bad guy but I wanted him to have redemption so that's why I took this angle on the story. To me, Layla was his life and when she died a big part of him died with her. He's a guy so he isn't sure how to raise Lucy but she's all he has. He tries to take her back but that isn't how you get through to a girl. So now he is coming clean and getting the only family he has back.

I hope you all enjoy this chapter.

See ya next time!

CC22