Most missions that Lucy went on were dangerous and screamed 'Natsu chose this!'. She primarily knew because it involved at least one of them getting (seriously) injured without fail. That or there was a lot of physical activity involved; not usually her strong point. The few times that Lucy got to choose a mission, which meant she managed to get to the board first, she tried to compromise between high pay, level of danger, and excitement for Natsu's sake. Lucy would try to find the less dangerous job and argued that one of them was still injured or they had just done a life-threatening mission and needed a break. There was normally a squabble involved in order to convince Natsu to go since he would always deny being injured or worn out. This was one of those times.

The job in and of itself had no level of danger. It also was just outside of Magnolia, which Lucy used in her favor. Nearby meant not taking any form of transportation other than their own two legs. Lucy also promised to give a little more than half of the reward to Natsu as opposed to their usual fifty-fifty. She also tried pleading that she was looking forward to completing the job because it seemed really fun. She even dared boast that they could finish it effortlessly and be home fairly fast. This would give them the option to do another mission of a different caliber if Natsu wanted to go out again that quickly.

They left town early in the morning to get as far as possible with as much light as they could get. Lucy tried to not stop for rest as much as possible until her legs became almost useless. She tried not to take too much stuff because she knew carrying a lot would just weigh her down. Plus, she didn't want to listen to Natsu complaining about her being weak or Happy's jabs about how slow she was.

They camped somewhat outside of town after it was too dark to walk without falling somewhere and breaking a leg. Lucy could see the lights in the distance, but figured that by the time they found a hotel in the dark, everyone would be full or not open. Or she would end up wasting jewels for half of the night being over for however much it would cost. Thankfully it wasn't too cold out. Not like she had to worry about that with her own pyromaniac around. It was just too bad he couldn't heat up a decent bath for her aching muscles at the nearby stream. She managed a quick wash-up before hurrying to the roaring fire Natsu had going.

The night was uneventful, as was the morning. Lucy made sure to get a lot of water from the stream for the day so she didn't have to buy any in town. They made it to their location by mid-morning. As Lucy had ensured, the job was easy and they had finished early that afternoon. Which was good because her appetite had oddly gone down since around noon. She had a little food at dinner, but mainly watched Natsu eat. No, scratch that; gorge himself on the local fare. She explained her loss of appetite when Natsu prodded that she eat more.

Lucy was not feeling like an all-night trek back home just to save their reward jewels...even if Natsu could make a fire to light the whole way. She was feeling worse the longer she sat upright. "Natsu...can we stay somewhere tonight instead of camping again?"

One of his brows rose as he looked up from a plate. "Hah? Why?"

She couldn't stand keeping her head up anymore and rested it on the table. She didn't really care this second if there was something food-related touching her bangs. "I'm...not feeling...up to the walk..." She didn't have to worry about him not being able to hear her muffled mumble; Natsu could hear a pin drop through all the noise in the restaurant.

Natsu put his food down and stared at his partner's head. In the whole span that he'd known her, Natsu couldn't remember ever seeing Lucy lay her head on the table just because she was feeling bad. He was pretty sure some of the food that he'd splattered her way was currently under her forehead too and yet she wasn't freaking out about it. He knew it must be bad and thus gave in without an argument. "Sure. Do we have enough to pay for the rooms?"

Lucy's tired head attempted to calculate what she had on hand. After a few seconds, she gave up and hoped all was well. "If not, we'll just have to make do I guess..."

Natsu's brows went up. Lucy usually hated him taking up her apartment whenever she found him loitering without 'properly' coming in...whatever that meant. To hear how little she cared about them sharing a room worried him a little. He looked over to Happy and shared a silent, questioning glance.

Happy took a few steps across the table and put a paw under Lucy's bangs. "You don't seem to have a fever..." He announced. "Do you have a stomach ache?"

"Yea, kinda..."

Happy looked to Natsu. Both tried to figure out what she'd eaten or where because they hadn't had much too eat since they left the campsite. But Natsu always well-cooked every meal they caught; almost too much most times. And why weren't either of them sick? Not like Natsu was ever ill; the fire raging in his body usually kept him healthy.

Lucy put down the cash for their meal as they stood to leave. Her stomach rolled once and she leaned on the table, taking slow breaths to calm down.

Natsu had watched his partner's face, carefully taking in every detail . When she straightened, he placed a hand on her arm. "Hey...are you even gonna make it to the hotel? Do I have to carry you again?"

She brushed him off and headed for the door. "No. I'll make it. I just need a good night's sleep...maybe..." She managed to give him a warning look as they headed outside. "Just don't rush me, okay?"

Natsu tried not to sigh as he easily kept in step, hands clasping behind his head. "Un. But by the time we get there at the speed you're going, all the rooms will be gone."

Lucy glared at him. Oh, how she'd love to be well enough to punch him for that! She would just have to wait until she was better, which she hoped would be soon! This sudden illness was really knocking her flat and at this rate they weren't going anywhere fast. Plus, the walking that they were doing was only making retching seem like a good idea the more they kept going. Lucy weakly proclaimed that the first hotel they found was where they were stopping...price be damned! She didn't even listen to Natsu's comments after that.

Lucy had concentrated so much on keeping her legs moving and her stomach down that she had barely heard Natsu send Happy off to find out how much farther they had. 'You're almost there...keep breathing...slow breaths...you're almost there. There will be a room and a nice soft bed to sleep whatever this is out of your system...' Sheer will got her far, but failed in the end. All the breathing in the world didn't keep her heart rate normal, nor the stomach cramps in check. Her stomach ominously clenched, heart rate speeding up drastically. Without thinking of anything other than being out of the public eye, Lucy frantically took off for the alley mere steps away, hoping she made it.

Natsu had kept an eagle eye on his companion the whole trudge, worried about her pale countenance and how slow she was going. He wondered if carrying her would get her to the hotel faster. She was not looking in good shape; all the more reason he was stunned when she suddenly took off in a dead run. "Lucy? Hey!" He quickly followed suit and rounded the corner, finding her bracing herself with one hand on the alley wall and the other clutching at the fabric around her stomach. "What are -"

"D – don't...l – lo -" She couldn't manage anymore as dinner came up. She didn't have time to be mortified that Natsu was standing in front of her watching the whole thing. Her stomach muscles hurt in their haste to empty everything. Lucy flinched as her back attempted to help...as if those muscles would even do any good! The world disappeared as she struggled to breathe, trying to control her body and stop the contractions that had gone out of control and started just as one ended. She didn't even have time to worry about the pain in her gut.

Natsu stood in front of Lucy silently, hiding her from the public eye as much as he could. He knew that she wouldn't like someone to see her like this. He listened for anyone that stopped in front of the alley because of the noise. A few that did quickly rushed on with a glare form him. His attention turned back to Lucy when shuddering breaths hit his distracted ears.

After long minutes, Lucy forced control and clenched her teeth against yet another urge. She had long lost the ability to hold her head up and the brick cut into her forehead. Her legs trembled and finally gave out. She crashed to the ground, barely feeling the pain or hearing the splash. She was almost sick again, but tried to put it out of her mind.

Natsu kneeled before Lucy, trying not to inhale too sharply as he neared the mess her knees were in. A hand lightly touched her shoulder, not too sure what he should say. He waited for her to move before doing anything. "Feeling better?" He quietly trod.

"...Yea..." She actually was. Ten times more than before they left the restaurant. Her legs were still shaking, but she needed to get out of here while she still could.

"Let me help you." His hands went under her arms, easily pulling her slight form to stand. He deftly read her movements, adjusting to her speed. He waited a moment while she acclimated to standing before wrapping one of her arms over his shoulder, gently grasping her wrist.

"No, Natsu...I smell and I don't wanna puke on you again..."

"Hmph! Who cares about a little puke? We'll just need to clean up when we get to the hotel."

She didn't have the energy to push him away nor walk by herself right now. She gratefully slumped against him as they went down the street, trying to ignore any eyes. She felt bad for anyone that would stumble upon the alley and just the thought made her blush. She concentrated on their journey, feeling Natsu move in time with her. Lucy gave a weak smile. "Thanks Natsu..."

He flashed her a smile. His ears picked up the flapping of wings and he looked up. "Happy, down here!"

Happy dove and covered his nose with a paw when he neared. He quickly assessed the situation, becoming very concerned at Lucy's physical dishevelment and the few spots he saw bleeding. "Lucy, are you okay?"

Natsu kept walking and answered for her. "She's fine. How much farther?"

"Five more buildings ahead. I already got us a room set up. We just need to hurry there and pay."

"A room?" Lucy sighed as best she could when Happy nodded. She wasn't in the mood to worry about vanity with the way she looked and it wasn't like the pair hadn't ever shacked up in one room due to lack of funds or hotel mishaps. Not counting all the times that Natsu snuck into her room and stole her bed... It might end up working out better with Natsu being in the same room if this happened again. With as bad as she felt, she feared it would.

The pair forked over the jewels and headed to the room. Lucy was thankful it wasn't as expensive as she feared. She stared at the bed longingly, but wasn't happy at the thought of soiling the sheets. She needed a shower, but didn't have the energy to do so. With all the walking they did after the 'stunt' in the alley, she wasn't feeling so well again. She resisted a groan.

What was wrong with her body? Why was she feeling so violently ill all afternoon? As best as she could, Lucy traced their steps back through the day up until they left Magnolia. The food she ate since their arrival for the job was in a reputable restaurant. The breakfast they had after camping Lucy had gotten from Mira, so that food was also safe. "Oh...ooohhhh...oh no!" Lucy groaned as the pieces came together.

Natsu's brows furrowed. "Lucy? Are you gonna puke again?"

"River water..."

His head tilted. "Hah? River water?"

"It was...the river water that I drank...that made me sick..." Her free hand clutched at her stomach. Her heart rate started going up again. She tried to take slow breaths and pulled the arm Natsu still held onto. "Natsu...let go! Let me go!"

Natsu only complied at the sheer urgency in Lucy's voice. He stood there as she made a beeline to the open doorway leading to the bathroom. Lucy attempted to close the door, but Natsu easily heard the horrible noises coming from his friend.

"Lucy..."

Natsu looked to Happy's worried visage floating near him. He shared Happy's look, totally at a loss as what to do. He didn't know any doctors in this city or he would've already gone himself or sent Happy. Happy could've flown back to Magnolia for Wendy to heal Lucy, but it was a day's travel one-way and who knew where Wendy would be by the time Happy got there. Even if Happy used Max Speed, he could only use it so much and it drained his magic a bit. Happy probably wouldn't be able to use it to Magnolia and back again with Wendy. Even if Charle came with... Natsu sighed. All they could do was check in with the hotel staff and get someone there as soon as possible.