Shorter than the usual from me, I know. But I wanted to get this out after months and months of delays, and even now I'm not sure how soon I'll be able to get chapters out. Regardless, this could be the end of the brief saga of Natsu and company - leaving the recovery to another fic..if I feel like it.I don't know, and I hope you readers enjoy the next and possibly final chapter of A Falling Dragon.
The smell of bacon was far too tempting to keep Natsu in bed, but a part of him still wished to remain in the security of the blankets. He didn't want to have to face his fears again – the people, the disappointment, none of it. All he wanted was to sink into the mattress and never resurface.
A rogue hand and arm had a different view on that matter, so when said limb slunk into the blankets and took his hand, he reflexively squeezed it only to feel a gentle tug. Curious, Natsu followed the tugging and soon was face to face with the owner of the arm – a fully dressed Lucy Heartfilia.
Seeing her face in the daylight like this made him recall the events of the night before, and his face just as quickly turned red as the blonde laughed gently.
"Well good morning to you too, Natsu. Sleep well?" That was a loaded question and they both knew it, but Natsu didn't feel like responding with wit.
"Man, I haven't slept like that in a long time. Granted I never used to sleep well," Natsu explained, sitting cross-legged on his bed. "But that was definitely an exception."
"Glad to hear it. Now come on, Erza's making breakfast."
Nodding, Natsu complied and followed the celestial wizard into the relatively small kitchen to find an…interestingly dressed Erza preparing a wide range of food. This included: eggs, toast, bacon, omelets, and Natsu even spotted home fries.
It all looked good and smelled even better, so when Erza turned around she was pleasantly surprised to see a ghost of a smile on Natsu's face. Good, so he could be helped. Only question was who could help? Erza herself had yet to learn the reason for Natsu's frame of mind, and Lucy was privy to only a small part of that information.
"Good morning, Natsu. I've taken to preparing the foods I can find in your home, so why don't you go wake up Gray while Lucy helps me in here?" She was smiling pleasantly too, not revealing the inner worry she held for the pink haired friend disappearing back into the living room.
Once he was, though, Lucy turned to question Erza.
"Uhm…Erza? Why did you want my help when you have everything under control?" The celestial wizard queried, her hands clasped together below her waist.
Erza didn't waste a second in her explanation. "I needed to talk to you in private."
"O-okay. What about?" The blonde shifted her weight onto her other leg while bacon sizzled pleasantly on the range.
"We need to find out more about how Natsu is feeling. The only idea any of us have is that he's depressed, but none of us have really figured out why. That's why it falls to you to ask him; he won't get too upset if its' the girl he cares for that's asking. Understand?"
Lucy got it, but didn't like the idea of prodding too deeply, especially when she knew that Natsu was on a knifes' edge. It'd be risky, but it was something they needed to do. "I got it, Erza. I'll let you know when I find out."
Nodding, Erza plated the food. "Good. Natsu! Gray! Breakfast!"
Almost immediately afterwards, the two boys entered the small kitchen, and a few moments later, everybody was situated at the table. Mind you, it was essentially a card table, so space was at a premium, but none of them really minded. They were all friends, and they shared nearly everything with one another. A bystander could easily call them a family, and there would be no protest to that claim.
"Thanks for cooking, Erza. I didn't know you were that good of a cook." Natsu, partially resembling his former self, complimented Erza on the expertly made breakfast. It felt and tasted like home, and for once, the small apartment didn't feel so empty.
"My pleasure, Natsu. Now, with breakfast out of the way, who's up for a vacation?" Vacation?
"Hold up Erza," Gray interjected. "Did Pops really say it was okay for us to leave town for a few days?"
She nodded, her fork spearing a rogue bit of pancake. "Mmhm. I spoke with him last night before we all turned in. He said it was a good idea for the four of us to spend some time away from the guild."
Natsu, while excited about the prospect of vacation, was also wary. He was certain that there was an ulterior motive to this trip, but he couldn't quite put his finger on it.
"Erza, where are we going?" Lucy posed, her knee not-so-accidentally into Natsu's, sending the dragon mage into a state of nervousness – he was thinking about last night, and his embarrassed face reflected that. Erza noticed, and asked him if he was okay.
All he could manage was a nod, with Lucy smirking beneath her hand. She had to admit he was very easy to mess with, and while she wouldn't abuse her newfound power, it was good to see him something other than lethargic.
Her attention was taken by Erza, who was going to speak about their destination. "Well, it's more of a road trip through the kingdoms. Our first stop…" She then went on to lay the plan out, how she wanted things to go, and what their final stop would be before returning home.
Natsu didn't care – just as long he was with Lucy.