It had been a long mission. Natsu, Lucy and Happy were making their way back towards Magnolia, they had just completed what was supposed to be an easy mission until the ridiculous jiggle butt gang showed up.
Natsu was in a bad mood. Seeing the way those freaks treated Lucy had got him all fired up.
Lucy didn't really care too much; she had been treated worse in her life. But what she did care about was Natsu, it did give her a strange warm feeling in her chest whenever he did the whole 'protecting her honour' thing.
They were still quite a distance away from Magnolia but they would reach it by nightfall, but they had to pass through another quite large town before they'd get there. This particular town was one of their favourite places to go. A few months earlier Natsu, Lucy, Wendy, Happy and Charles had saved the towns children from some sort of goblin like monster that was rounding up all the kids. As a result of saving the children whenever they entered the town they would be assaulted by all of the grateful and happy children.
And this time was no exception.
As soon as the two mages and the Exceed entered the town they were almost immediately ambushed by about twenty or more small children shouting and hollering for their heroes.
Instantly Natsu and Lucy started smiling. Lucy was quick to kneel down and start chatting with the kids who ran up to her whilst Natsu began playing with another group of kids, picking them up and throwing them into the air and catching them and stuff like that. The parents of the happy children had gathered around as well, all with warm smiles on their faces as they watched their children play with the heroic wizards.
The kids were finally ushered along by their parents after about twenty minutes, Natsu and Lucy were a bit disappointed as they both secretly loved kids; a secret that wasn't exactly well hidden.
"You're surprisingly good with kids." Lucy stated warmly, a small smile gracing her lips.
Natsu chuckled heartily. "You keep telling me I basically am a kid." Natsu responded happily. "And you're just as good as I am." He added sincerely.
Lucy blushed and smiled at the comment.
The wizards were about to continue on their journey home when Natsu suddenly paused. Lifting his nose into the air he took in a deep whiff to analyse the area.
"What is it?" Lucy asked curiously, she had always envied Natsu's advanced senses of smell and hearing.
"I smell something interesting." He answered cryptically. Slowly he began to wonder throughout the town, diligently following his nose. Lucy and Happy followed him silently, they both knew that he was most likely smelling food or danger… that did seem to be how it always turned out.
After walking for a few minutes along the twisting streets they came to a small alley way nestled in between a flower shop and a bakery. Natsu began to walk down the alley way, confident that this was where his nose had been leading him when he was suddenly stopped by the florist.
"I wouldn't go down there if I were you." The rather rotund elderly woman warned frantically. "A demon lives down there!"
"A DEMON?" Lucy and Happy cried in unison.
"Natsu come back, please?" Lucy begged.
"It's not a demon." Natsu replied quickly, he kept edging down the dark alley. Lucy couldn't figure out why he had such a sad look in his eyes.
What she didn't know was that dragon slayer wasn't just following his nose but his ears as well, he could hear the faint sound of a child crying softly and sniffling.
As he continued his way down the alley with Lucy gripping on to his shirt tightly and Happy hovering just above her he came across a large cardboard box.
"Is someone crying?" Lucy asked tentatively as she finally heard what her best friend had been hearing.
"You two stay here a second." Natsu intoned quietly. He edged forward slowly until he could see what was inside the box, what he saw almost broke his heart.
Inside the box was a small girl, only about four or five years old. She had long bright red hair that was actually only a few shades darker than Natsu's hair making it appear to be almost pinkish. Tear tracks flowed all the way down her face from her large green sullen eyes, her pink lips hid her fangs well but Natsu could still see them.
Suddenly the girl looked up at gasped at the sight of Natsu's face.
"Please go away." She whispered sadly. "I don't want to hurt anyone." She added as fresh tears started to pool in her eyes.
"Now why would you hurt me?" Natsu asked as sweetly as he could, flashing her a warm smile.
"I'm a demon." The girl managed to croak out. "I can't help it!"
"But you're not a demon are you?" Natsu responded, his voice still held nothing but kindness.
"I don't know what I am…" The girl added.
"I do." Natsu stated confidently, earning the girls full attention. "I'm guessing you have a great sense of smell? And you can hear things that normal people shouldn't be able to?" He enquired softly. The girl nodded her head slowly.
"How did you know that?" The girl asked meekly.
Natsu smiled widely, showing her his own fangs which caught the girls attention immediately. "Coz you're the same as me." He answered proudly. "You're a dragon!"
Behind him Lucy and Happy both gasped. The girl in the box suddenly stiffened again, she hadn't noticed that there were other people outside of her 'house'.
"Oh don't mind them." Natsu said happily. "My name is Natsu Dragneel." He said happily. "And these are my friends Lucy Heartfelia and Happy." He ushered the exceed and the celestial mage over to him so that the girl could see them.
"Hello there." Lucy said warmly, her heart ached at the sight of the poor girl. Happy just waved and smiled.
"We won't hurt you." Natsu said warmly as he offered the girl his hand. "Maybe I can help you?"
"Help me how?" The girl asked quietly, staring intently at the dragon-slayers offered hand.
"You're scared and confused about you're powers right?" He asked softly, causing the girl to nod. "Well then who better to teach you about them than someone who has the same powers?"
The girl suddenly brightened. "You would do that?" She shouted happily. Natsu nodded warmly, Lucy was still watching everything go down, she noticed a strange pang in her chest as she watched Natsu and this child.
"Of course I would!" He answered merrily. Suddenly the girl burst from the box and embraced the fire dragon-slayer, wrapping her arms around his neck. This was the first time they could get a proper look at her. She was obviously only about five years old even if she did speak with a mind that could have been quite a bit older. She was quite tall for her age but she was absolutely tiny, pretty much nothing but skin and bone. He clothes consisted of nothing but an oversized men's t shirt that she must have pulled out of the trash somewhere, it was in tatters and barely holding together.
"First things first, you need some food and some clothes." Lucy stated confidently, suddenly feeling the urge to become very motherly. The small girl beamed at Lucy with her big green eyes and her mouth started to water and the thought of food.
As the four of them began to make their way towards the exit of the alley way the small girls hand darted up to grab Natsu's hand. He looked down at her meek looking face and smiled at her which in turn made her smile in response.
"We never asked you your name?" Natsu stated suddenly.
The girl shrugged. "I don't have one." She answered as if it was nothing. The two eighteen year olds tried to act as if it was nothing but inside their hearts cracked into a thousand pieces.
"Is there a name you like?" Lucy asked warmly. The girl merely shrugged again.
"Ashley." Natsu stated. "A pretty name for a pretty girl." He said warmly.
The girl beamed at him.
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A few hours later and Ashley looked like an almost entirely different kid. She smiled widely and strutted along the dirt road leading away from town in her new clothes. A nice dark red dress that suited her hair, and new red sandals. Lucy had even had her spirit Cancer give her a hair cut but Ashley said she still wanted it long.
She had eaten almost as much as Natsu had and had been very grateful throughout the entire day.
"I can't wait to see where you live!" Ashley squealed with joy. Natsu, Lucy and Happy had been telling her about the guild and Magnolia and now the girl was excited to say the least. She was so excited that she forgot to look where she was going and accidentally tripped on a tree root and fell. As she fell a strange bolt of red lightning shot from one of her finger tips and struck the offending tree. "I'm sorry!" Ashley squealed in fright. "I didn't mean to do it!" She sounded absolutely terrified.
Thinking quickly Natsu smiled at the girl and summoned up a large fire ball in his right hand. Smirking he through the fireball at the tree, smashing it into pieces. Ashley looked at him in awe.
"Where we come from a little damage is nothing." Natsu said reassuringly.
"Trust me; Natsu does more damage than anyone. So it's ok." Lucy stated happily, earning a friendly nudge from the pink haired man.
Ashley smiled again.
Natsu suddenly looked as if to be in deep thought.
"What's up?" Lucy asked curiously.
"I'm trying to figure out which dragon her powers come from." He said slowly. Both of the girls looked at him as if waiting for an answer.
"Natsu memorised everything he could on dragons." Happy stated proudly.
"Red lightning…" Natsu mumbled to himself. "It's obviously not the thunder dragon… it must be a second or third generation dragon… red lighting…" He continued to mumble to himself. Suddenly he snapped his fingers in triumph. "Red lightning!" He cheered. "That's the symbol of the Vengeance Dragon!" He shouted happily.
"That doesn't sound too friendly." Ashley stated sadly, Lucy looked at the poor girl and had the overwhelming urge to hold her; so she leant down and hugged the poor girl.
"Actually you're wrong!" Natsu added happily, earning the attention of the two girls. "The Vengeance Dragon is the guardian of Justice! And she's supposedly really powerful!"
Lucy breathed a sigh of relief as she felt young girl loosen her hold on Lucy's shirt. "Really?" Ashley asked excitedly. Natsu nodded.
And just like that everyone was in a great mood again.
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It was very late in the afternoon when they finally made it back to Magnolia. The decided it would be best to go directly to the guild hall to introduce everyone to Ashley, Natsu was exceedingly excited but couldn't quite figure out why.
They could hear the ruckus from the guild hall from down the street but as soon as they entered the iconic building everything fell silent as all eyes locked onto them.
Everyone in the guild hall stared at Lucy, Natsu, Happy and Ashley.
Erza was the first one to say anything. "Welcome back." She stated merrily, obviously just a little bit drunk. "Good mission?"
"Easy!" Natsu cheered. Erza kept looking at him as if waiting for him to spill the beans. "Right well this is Ashley." He said happily, finally addressing the elephant in the room.
"And you brought a child home because?" Grey asked condescendingly. Natsu felt steam building in his head at his rivals words but he controlled himself for Ashley's sake.
"She's homeless and needs our help." Lucy answered for him. "Well actually she needs Natsu's help." She clarified.
"What can he help with that we can't?" Erza asked as politely as she could.
"She's a dragon slayer." Natsu answered casually. Everyone in the guild hall blanched. Images of Natsu burning down the guild hall and Gajeel threatening to beat everyone up flashed through their minds, but at the same time images of the sweet and caring Wendy did as well. "She doesn't know how to control her magic so I need to teach her." The way he spoke left no room for questions, he was going to do this and the guild members knew it could be dangerous to stand in his way when he's this determined.
"That is very kind of you." Came the voice of Master Makerov from his place on the bar. "I'm proud of you Natsu, you too Lucy."
"I didn't really do anything." Lucy said with a slight blush.
"On the contrary, you two may have just saved this young girls life. And I'm charging you two with looking after her." He answered, his eyes were closed so that the guild members couldn't see how proud he truly was.
"Is leaving Natsu in charge of raising a little girl really such a great idea?" Grey asked suddenly. Surprisingly it was Gajeel who slammed a fist into his head to silence him.
"Dragon-slayers are born with parental instincts you dim-whit." Gajeel practically yelled at the barely conscious ice wizard. "And who better to raise a Dragon-slayer than another Dragon-slayer?"
Natsu, Gajeel and Wendy all knew that the answer to that question was an actual Dragon but they all decided not to mention that.
After that things progressed how they normally did. Natsu was quick to introduce Ashley to Wendy and Gajeel so that she'd know that there were more dragon-slayers around should she need it. After that both Natsu and Lucy introduced her to everyone else.
After a couple of hours it was clear that Ashley was exhausted, it had been a big day for the little girl who obviously just needed a good sleep.
After saying their good nights Natsu picked the sleeping girl up onto his hip as he and Lucy left the guild hall leaving Happy to party on with the rest of the guild.
Mirajane and Levy noticed the three leaving and couldn't help but giggle to themselves.
"They look like a real family don't they?" Mirajane asked with hearts in her eyes.
"They sure do." Levy answered happily. "Maybe this'll help see what they really are to each other."
"We can only hope so." Mirajane added with a light hearted chuckle.
"Nonsense!" Erza suddenly yelled from beside them. "This situation calls for a battle strategy! We must ensure victory!"
"This isn't a battle Erza." Levy said, trying to calm the red head down and failing miserably.
"Everything is a battle in the end!" Erza responded loudly.
"If nothing else it could be fun." Cana suddenly added from the other side of Levy.
"Let operation Natsu-Lucy-Together commence!" Erza screeched loudly and proudly.
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"Where do you think she should sleep?" Natsu asked as he and Lucy made their way towards her house.
"She can have my bed for tonight and I'll sleep on the couch." Lucy answered thoughtfully. "And then tomorrow we'll sort out something permanent." She added happily, secretly loving the idea of Ashley staying permanently.
"Sounds ok but…" Natsu said but trailed off sadly.
"What's the matter Natsu?" Lucy asked sweetly as she placed a soft hand on his forearm.
He looked at her and spoke honestly. "I just have this feeling that I shouldn't leave her." He stated. "I guess Gajeel was right when he said we had strong parental instincts."
Lucy giggled to herself and looked at the dragon slayer beside her. She couldn't remember when he had become a man. She had known him for two years now and he wasn't the same as he was when they first met. He was still loud and very gun-ho but he was also even more caring these days and he'd matured a hell of a lot. Lucy couldn't help but stare at his sometimes, especially after she would catch him staring at her; she would blush every time.
"Then stay at mine tonight." She said happily. "My couch is big enough for the both of us." It wouldn't have been the first time these two had slept together, and I don't mean sex!
Natsu grinned. "Sweet, thanks Luce." He said before innocently kissing her on the cheek and smiling inwardly at the intense blush that covered her face.
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Future chapters should be longer hopefully!
Thank you for reading and giving me a go!