Brows furrowed, stomach in knots, I waited. I remained perched on her windowsill for moments just wondering if I would be able to pull off another day like this – another day hopelessly in denial. Her scent overwhelmed me in the most wonderful way possible. It lulled and calmed my unnerved senses; but it also made me restless. How could I sit here, plain as day, and deny what I knew was happening? How I knew I felt? Every inhalation of her scent was just another breath of sweet torture. I could feel my canines aching in want. My instincts pulsed through my body and I felt my fists clen…

"Natsu!" I looked up, a sincerely shocked expression plastered on my face. "What have I told you about climbing in through my window? Why can't you just use the door? How many times do I have to….."

She droned on and on, but I really just couldn't bring myself to mind. I threw a grin on my face and cut into her rambling, "Good to see ya, too, Lucy!"

The great thing about Lucy was that no matter what sort of torment I seemed to be going through on the inside, she always snapped me out of it – in one way or another. It did occur to me that I may not get off so easily this time.

I hopped off the ledge of her window and quickly made myself comfortable on her couch. As I landed comfortably on the cushion, a sudden rush of air flooded Lucy's scent to my nostrils. My eyes widened as I felt a warmth spread through my chest. I inhaled quickly and turned my head, hoping Lucy wouldn't notice.

"Hey, are you feeling ok?" she questioned, bending slightly and tilting her head in an attempt to look at me closer.

" 'Course!" I smirked, not missing a beat. "Never better."

"Well, if you say so…" she shrugged, "Why are you here anyways?" she raised an eyebrow and pulled a face. She's probably trying to seem annoyed, but I know her better than that.

"Actually, I grabbed us a mission from the guild!" I reached into my pocket and showcased the flyer reading, "Bring back my artifact – 450,000J"

"Wow, not a bad find, Natsu! It doesn't even look that hard."

Hearing her praise made a wave of that strange warmth surge through me again. I reveled in it, yet knowingly feared it. I wanted to purr, but I wanted to run away. What if I hurt her? I couldn't possibly live with myself knowing…

"Yo, Natsu, you're scaring me again."

It was then that I realized I had been staring – straight into her eyes – I could feel the tense expression I wore and forced the crease between my eyebrows to go lax.

I gave a nervous laugh, "Sorry, Luce."

The ride into the city was smooth, considering Lucy let me lay in her lap for most of the ride. As soon as I felt the train come to a halt, I jumped to my feet, invigorated by the thought of getting off this satanic train.

"Let's gooooooooooo!" I pumped my fists and turned back to see if Lucy was following, sparks of flames escaping my mouth.

We followed our employer's directions, trailing all the way to his small, old-style cottage on the edge of town. Lucy, being the more polite of the two of us, gently tapped on the door.

"A-ah… ahem… come in!"

Lucy turned her head just enough to be able to see me over her shoulder and shoot me a glance that said, "what". My eyes widened slightly and I shrugged. Lucy simply sighed and pushed the door open, revealing a short, older man with a genuine smile and a white beard that told of age. A closer glance exposed the worry behind his smile; I could smell the anxiety wafting around him.

"Thank you… so much… for accepting this job." The man started. "My name is Pachy and I'd be happy to set some tea if you'd like..?"

"That won't be necessary, sir." Lucy offered a small and honest smile. She could no-doubt feel the troubles this man was dealing with – even without a dragon's senses. Another alluring characteristic of Lucy, I thought, smiling to myself as I unconsciously stepped closer to her.

"We're just here to get some info on this job so we can get it done as quickly as possible for you." Lucy continued.

Old man Pachy gave another earnest, yet pained, smile and began.

"Alright… The artifact that I need you to retrieve is named 'Fortune's Eye'. It's a small orb that can guide its owner to happiness." Pachy's sad smile faltered for a moment and he sighed before continuing, "This orb is a family heirloom that I passed to my only daughter when she moved away… She was killed just recently; bandits found out she had the orb and they took it by force." By the end, Pachy's voice had cracked and he looked away.

I felt Lucy tense up. She reached out for him, placing her hand gingerly on the man's back in an effort to comfort him.

Pachy shook his head, "Please, take out this group and bring the Eye back to me." He looked at the two mages with a mixture of determination and sadness.

Walking down the wide, dirt road, Lucy and I made our way deep into the forest – where the bandits were supposedly set up. It was easy enough to smell the distraught air around Lucy. Given how my instincts had tied my emotions to hers, I felt myself grow somewhat troubled.

The road was almost eerie; there was a dense forest bordering the path on either side, with no other travelers or signs of life in the area. This only encouraged me to stay alert. With my mate so open and exposed, I couldn't afford to be caught off guard. My train of thought was slightly derailed when I noticed her step closer to me as we walked.

She must be scared, I thought. I puffed my chest out and smirked at the thought.

"Hey, Natsu?"

I quickly looked at her.

"Are you sure we shouldn't have brought Erza and Gray with us?"

I snorted, "No way! I can take this whole gang by myself if I have to!" My mouth spurted flames as I spoke, my excitement also shown by a huge, fang-bearing grin.

Lucy gave a quiet laugh from beside me, a smile fighting to show through, but she looked down, and that worried me.

"Lucy." I almost whispered.

Her gaze immediately shifted back to me.

"I'll take care of you."

I meant the words too much to be embarrassed by them.

A shocked expression slipped across her features for only a split second before being replaced by a genuine smile and a soft tinge of pink on her cheeks. I felt my breath catch as I offered a grin back.

That's it, I thought, I'm going to have to tell her. Thinking a little more, I realized I wasn't exactly the best with words.

I'll show her. I decided. Soon.

I could sense that Lucy's stress from before had mostly dissipated. This, in turn, calmed me.

As we continued down the road, another scent, far less alluring than Lucy's, entered my system. I didn't want to startle Lucy, so instead, my eyes darted around us: into the trees, ahead and down the road. The smell soon became more potent, too potent to ignore.

"Lucy." I tugged her elbow, stepping in front of her protectively and growled, "Stay behind me."