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Disclaimer: As always Fairy Tail and its amazing characters don't belong to me, I'm just borrowing them.
Lucy shivered as she darted up the steps to the guild, pulling her scarf tighter around her neck as she paused to glance up at the rapidly darkening sky with a worried frown. It had been threatening to snow all day, and it looked as though it was finally deciding to get on with it and she shivered again at the thought of it before opening the door and slipping inside. At once she was engulfed with a wave of warm air, and she automatically looked around in search of Natsu knowing that the Dragon-slayer must be contributing to the warmth and hoping that his presence would be able to drive out the chill still lingering in her bones.
Sure enough there he was sitting at their usual table with Gray and the others, but the tables around them that were usually avoided in case of the Fire mage starting a fight were full of mages, all of whom had clearly gravitated towards his heat. She giggled as she caught the disgruntled expression on his face that told her that he was fully aware of what they were doing, beginning to remove her scarf and gloves as she headed in his direction, idly musing that he should probably start charging them all for using his heat at the moment. Perhaps she would suggest it when he was in a better mood, as it would mean he would have more food money and would stop raiding her fridge quite as often. As if that would work…She thought with amusement, well aware that he had come to pester her more than once even when he had plenty of Jewels and food at home…not that she could really bring herself to mind.
"Can I have a hot chocolate please!" She called to Mira as the Take-over mage bustled past humming happily under her breath, her usual tray of alcoholic drinks replaced with steaming mugs of cocoa, and Lucy sniffed the air appreciatively knowing from experience that Mira's cocoa wasn't to be missed…it was one of the few good things about this sudden cold weather…one of the very few good things she amended as another shiver went through her despite the warmth of the room, and she began to regret taking off her gloves as she plunged her hands into her pockets. How Gray could actually enjoy weather like this was completely beyond her.
"Of course!" Mira replied cheerfully, and the Celestial mage offered her a warm smile of thanks before speeding up as she headed for Natsu, completely focused on getting warmed up.
"Hey Lucy," Natsu grinned brightly at her as she finally reached them, all traces of irritation disappearing from his expression as he shifted aside to make room for her, ignoring Gray's irritated grumble with the ease of long practice as he bumped into the Ice mage with slightly more force than was necessary. Gratefully Lucy slid into the space he'd made, sharing a long-suffering look with Wendy as the Dragon-slayer began to bicker with Gray who'd just dumped a load of ice cubes into Natsu's cocoa. Shaking her head at their immaturity she began to remove her coat, finally feeling warm enough to shed it now that she was so close to Natsu's burning heat.
"You look really cold," Wendy commented sympathetically as she took Lucy's red cheeks and reddened nose, although it was clear that the older girl was already starting to warm up again. They had both been caught unawares by the sudden cold snap, and they'd been forced to spend the previous day shopping for winter gear as both of their wardrobes had been dominated by summer wear. It had been a fun trip, especially as the boys had begged off since they had no need to wrap up for the cold and so they'd been able to spend as long as they wanted in the shops and stopped for lunch in a small café…although her purse was now woefully empty which meant that she would need to work soon...although hopefully she would be able to hold off until the weather improved somewhat.
"It's getting colder out there," Lucy replied as she glanced towards the window with a small shudder, she had very nearly decided not to come into the guild today as it had been so cold. But looking at the gathering clouds she was glad she had made the effort, it was definitely a better idea to get snowed in at the guild rather than at home on her own, especially as her heating seemed ill-equipped to deal with the current temperatures. "I think it's going to snow soon," she added with a sigh, whilst she had got better at dealing with snow due to their frequent jobs in the mountainous areas it still remained her least favourite type of weather, although she tried to avoid mentioning that around Gray as the Ice mage tended to get a little bit defensive about it.
Beside her Natsu had perked up immediately at her words, completely forgetting his argument with Gray as he sat up straight, glancing hopefully towards the window for a long moment before nearly sending her flying as he shot up off the bench, heading across to peer outside as Happy let out an exasperated sigh.
"You had to mention snow," Gray grumbled softly, but there was no sign of the usual irritation he had when complaining about Natsu, and instead there was a fond smile playing on his lips as he watched Mira scolding a sheepish looking Natsu for nearly bowling her over in his haste to reach the window. The Dragon-slayer apologies before heading on his way, winding up almost plastered against the window as he peered outside, a childishly hopeful expression on his face and Wendy tilted her head in confusion as she studied him for a moment before turning back to the Ice mage.
"Shouldn't I have mentioned it?" Lucy asked in confusion, unable to remember Natsu acting like this around snow on any of their jobs…although they had been working then, whereas at the moment they had nothing more on their plates than staying warm, although she wasn't convinced that was explanation enough for his excitement. On the others side of the table Erza finally glanced up from the slice of cake she was carefully demolishing, a soft smile on her lips as she glanced towards Natsu before turning back to the confused Celestial mage.
"Natsu really loves it when it snows in Magnolia," she explained softly, exchanging a glance with Gray. Neither of them had ever been able to forget what had happened when they were younger, and they had both been overwhelmingly relieved by the fact that the Dragon-slayer had never clung onto the bad bits, instead focusing purely on the fun.
"He's just a big kid," Gray grumbled as he watched Natsu who was shifting from one side of the window to another, as though hoping the slightly different view would offer him a glimpse of snow, and Lucy quirked an eyebrow at him as she caught the fondness in his voice. "As soon as it starts to settle he'll want to be out there playing in it," he added with a put on sigh, and across the table Erza laughed softly at his actions.
"As though you'd ever try and stop him."
"Erza," Gray protested, a hint of colour entering his cheeks as he looked away from her knowing look and Lucy glanced between them, still no closer to really understanding what was going on. It made sense in a way for her best friend to be so excited by snow, after all he really was a kid at heart, but it seemed as though there was something more to what they were saying.
"Aye…and he's never going to settle now unless it does snow," Happy added wearily, pointing to where the Dragon-slayer was now moving from window to window, paying no mind to the people that were calling out for him to settle down or get out of the way.
"Oh," Lucy muttered, wincing as Kinana was forced to dodge out of Natsu's path, the idiot completely oblivious to the fact that he had nearly made her drop the tray of drinks she was carrying. Shaking her head as she turned her attention back to Gray and Erza, determined to try and get a proper answer out of the pair of them as she didn't like the feeling that she didn't understand something about Natsu. "But… why is he so fixated on it? I mean I know he's a childish idiot, but…"
"There was an incident when we were kids…" Gray muttered as he glanced down, his hands clenching against the table. Whilst his and Natsu's friendship had changed completely since back then, he still felt uncomfortable thinking back to that time, and even after all this time he didn't feel as though he'd deserved the forgiveness that the Dragon-slayer had so easily given him for his part in the sorry affair. Well aware that making some snowballs wasn't enough to make up for the harsh words he'd said to the Fire mage. Seeing that he was becoming overwhelmed Erza quietly cleared her throat, drawing Lucy and Wendy's attention before continuing the story, although she couldn't keep the guilt out of her voice as she spoke.
"We didn't know that Natsu had never played in the snow before, and we got mad at him when he accidently melted the snowman that Lisanna was building, not realizing that he couldn't control his magic enough at that point…"
"What happened?" Lucy asked softly.
"Natsu took off into the hills," Gray whispered as he found his voice once more, his expression strained as he lifted his head to search out Natsu, wanting to make sure that he wasn't close enough to hear as he didn't want to drag up bad memories when he was so excited about the prospect of snow. Thankfully the Fire mage was still by the windows, although it was clear that his excitement was dimming somewhat as it became clear that he was going to have to wait a while longer for snow, and Gray felt his lips twitch slightly before he turned back to look at Lucy. "The idiot planned to try and burn through his magic so that he could play in the snow with us…but instead he ended up badly injured with complete magical exhaustion…He nearly died from hypothermia."
"Gray was the one that found him and brought him home, and when he finally woke up he explained about his magic and that he hadn't played in the snow before," Erza took over once more, giving the Ice mage a chance to regain control over his emotions, well aware that he had never forgotten how close they'd come to losing the Dragon-slayer back then. "It was after that, that Gray learnt how to make snowballs that could resist Natsu's natural heat long enough for him to play in the snow…and Natsu has never looked back."
"But he doesn't melt the snow now…" Wendy said with a confused frown, recalling how Natsu had, had to deliberately call up some flames to melt a path for them the last time they had been up in the mountains for a job.
"No," Erza replied with a smile, and there was a hint of pride in her voice as she explained softly. "He's learnt to manipulate his own temperature so that he doesn't melt the snow. Although he still insists on using Gray's snowballs whenever it snows here." She shot Gray a teasing smile as she said that, well aware that the protests he spouted whenever Natsu demanded that he play in the snow with him were all for show, and that he would probably never be able to deny the Dragon-slayer anything when it came to snow.
"He's just an idiot," Gray muttered glancing off to the side with a scowl, colour spreading across his cheeks as he realised that the others were watching him with amusement as well, and he spluttered when Lucy giggled at him before teasing him gently.
"That's so sweet…"
Natsu had eventually drifted back to join them, looking somewhat despondent and they had carefully guided the conversation back onto other topics, moving onto silly memories from their jobs in an attempt to cheer him up. However, it was clear that his focus was elsewhere and Lucy was really beginning to regret predicting that it was going to snow, hating to see that expression on his face even though she'd had no idea that he was going to react like this. She also really wanted to see what he was like when it snowed now…and to see how Gray was going to act, as she had a feeling that in his own way the Ice mage was just as excited as her idiotic best-friend, and from the look on Wendy's face the younger girl also wanted to see what they were going to do.
It was nearly an hour later that Lucy noticed that the sky outside had darkened even more, and she frowned, wanting to go and check what the weather was doing but not wanting to risk getting Natsu overexcited again. Thankfully the problem was solved a few minutes later when the doors slammed open, and an excited Romeo burst inside with a massive grin on his face.
"It's snowing!" Romeo cried out excitedly, and they could all see the white dusting his parka although it disappeared rapidly as he dashed towards them, the warmth of the guildhall too much for it to endure. Natsu's head had shot up at his abrupt arrival, but the moment the words were out of the boy's mouth he was up and moving towards the door with bright eyes, only to find himself being jerked to a halt after a couple of steps and he glanced down to find that Erza had grabbed him.
"Natsu you have to wait for it to settle," Erza scolded as she held onto the Dragon-slayer, tightening her grip when he struggled to worm free, amused that snow was enough to make him actually risk her anger for once. Not that she would be able to scold him when he had such a childishly excited expression on his face, and she glanced briefly across at Gray who was shaking his head at the Fire mage's antics.
"But…" Natsu protested as he glanced towards the door, it had been ages since it had snowed in Magnolia, and he wanted to make the most of it…especially as they didn't have anything else on at the moment, so he didn't need to focus on anything but having fun.
"It looks pretty heavy so you probably won't have to wait for long," Mira had moved to join them, taking pity on the Dragon-slayer and she was rewarded by his face brightening even as he finally stopped fighting against Erza, allowing her to pull him back down onto the bench. Erza silently mouthing a thanks to the Take-over mage who waved it off with a smile, shooting a knowing look at Gray before bustling away to resume her work.
"Natsu-nii are you going to play in the snow later?" Romeo asked brightly as he stopped by the edge of the table, he didn't understand the Fire mage's obsession with snow, but it worked out for him as it meant that he always had someone to play with.
"Yeah!" Natsu replied with a bright grin, and with a happy laugh the smaller boy ran off to beg Mira for a hot chocolate so that he could warm up whilst they waited for the snow to settle. Lucy and Erza sharing fond looks, as they knew how close the pair were, although the latter didn't miss the slightly jealous expression that flashed across Gray's face…well aware that the Ice mage was protective over the times he played in the snow with Natsu.
"Perhaps we'll all have a snowball fight for old times' sake," she commented softly, glancing across at Lucy and Wendy who both nodded eagerly and if possible Natsu's excitement seemed to increase tenfold, and he reached out eagerly to nudge Gray earning himself a half-hearted glare.
"Watch it Flamebrain!"
"We're going to play in the snow!" Natsu replied blithely, seemingly unconcerned by the annoyance in the Ice mage's voice, although a hint of uncertainty entered his voice as he asked softly. "You're going to come right…?"
"Maybe," Gray muttered, and to Lucy's surprise the Fire mage didn't seem in the least bit fazed by the lukewarm response, despite what the others had said about his obsession with using the snowballs that Gray made. Instead there was a contented expression as he settled back in his seat to wait, seemingly a lot more patient that he had been earlier and she shook her head, wondering if she would ever truly understand him.
Natsu managed to last nearly half an hour before he slipped away, avoiding Erza's attempts to hold him in place this time and darting across to the window, and the entire guild heard the triumphant whoop that the Fire mage released at whatever view met his eyes.
"Gray!" Natsu shouted as he darted back to join them, practically bouncing as he reached them, a broad grin on his face and his eyes brighter than before.
"What do you want Flamebrain!" Gray asked carelessly, but the others could see the gleam in his eyes as he took another sip of his drink and the hint of a smile playing around his lips. Natsu clearly didn't see them though as his expression fell for a moment and he shifted uneasily, glancing between the door and the Ice mage, and Lucy had to fight the urge to giggle at that antics, especially as Erza had already lost the fight and turned away to try and hide her grin.
"Grrraaayyyy!" Natsu whined as he finally turned back to focus properly on the Ice mage, and with a put upon sigh Gray set aside his drink and raised his head to study the Fire mage, swallowing hard as he found himself faced with Natsu's pleading gaze…if he had, had any intention of actually refusing to go and play in the snow he would have screwed as there was no way he could resist eyes like that. "Gray?" Natsu asked, sounding hopeful as he caught the softening in the dark eyes and Gray finally lost his battle, smiling up at the idiot before rising his feet and shaking his head fondly. In all honesty he hoped this part of the Dragon-slayer never changed.
"Fine…" No sooner were the words out of his mouth than he found his hand seized, and with a startled cry he was tugged in the direction of the door by the over enthusiastic Fire mage. A quick glance at the others showed that he wasn't going to get any help from that quarter, as the three girls were rolling around in their seats laughing at his plight, and he barely had enough time to shoot them a dark glare before he was pulled out of the guild.
It was nearly ten minutes later that the girls with Romeo in turn made their way outside, all of them wrapped up tightly against the cold, although Lucy had started shivering the moment they had stepped outside the door…the Exceeds had steadfastly refused to go out in the cold again, although they had promised to have hot drinks ready for them when they finally made it back inside. The world outside had been transformed, a thick layer of snow covering everything, with more falling from the sky by the moment.
"It's so pretty," Wendy whispered as she stared around with wide eyes, and Lucy had to agree with her, even though she would have preferred it being a little bit warmer. However, their appreciation of the scenery was interrupted a moment later when they found themselves being attacked with a barrage of snowballs, yelping Lucy and Wendy dived for cover behind Erza who was looking around with a somewhat dangerous expression on her face. Romeo had been knocked to the ground, but he had a bright grin on his face as he frantically began to scoop up snow.
A warm laugh gave their attackers away, and they glanced up as the onslaught ended to see Gray and Natsu approaching, both of them grinning like idiots as they tossed snowballs from one hand to the other, although they froze as they caught the dangerous expression on Erza's face.
"This is war!" She declared softly, her dangerous expression morphing into a smile that was terrifying in its own way and they exchanged alarmed looks before nodding in agreement.
"Romeo you're with us!" Gray shouted, and the younger boy paused in his efforts before nodding and scrambling to his feet before tearing across to join him. "You're going down!" The Ice mage added as he glanced back at Erza, allowing his magic to spark around his hands, waiting until her eyes narrowed in comprehension before seizing hold of Natsu and Romeo and dragging them away to prepare…well aware that the Requip mage always went for broke even in games like this.
Leaving Natsu as watch out as they trusted his senses to pick up on any sneak attacks, Gray and Romeo set about making a large stockpile of snowballs, although the Ice mage was careful to create a separate pile of the ice-reinforced snowballs for Natsu, even though the Dragon-slayer might have to resort to making his own if Erza got as carried away as she had last time. Every now and then he could feel the Fire mage's eyes on him, and he would look up and offer him a warm reassuring smile, well aware of how precious this was for Natsu. Of course it was during one of those times when they were both somewhat distracted that the girl's launched their attack, and the three of them were forced to scramble for cover as Wendy dropped on them from above, inadvertently bolting into the open and finding themselves under attack from a waiting Lucy and Erza.
"Gray!" Natsu shouted around a mouthful of snow, glowering at a giggling Lucy and wondering when she had become such a good shot, barely managing to dart aside as Erza's attention shifted to him as well. However, the flash of Ice magic told him that Gray had got the message, and a pair of shrieks told him that Gray and Romeo had launched a counterattack of their own. Ignoring the snowball that hit his shoulder he changed course, following the Ice mage's scent, yelping in alarm as he dragged down behind what appeared to be a hastily erected snow barrier only to find his team grinning at him.
"I think we underestimated them," Gray muttered grumpily.
"Yeah, Lucy is a better shot than I expected," Natsu grumbled as he rubbed at his face, before his face broke out in a grin. He was well aware that it was foolish for him to still be so obsessed at playing in the snow, and it meant a lot that the others seemed so happy to indulge him…especially the Ice mage who was currently returning his grin.
"But Natsu-nii and Gray-nii will win, right?" Romeo interrupted them a moment later with a hopeful expression and the teens shared a brief look, before glancing back at him with matching grins, and Natsu's voice were warm as he added softly.
"Only with your help."
"With Erza on their team, it might just come down to brute strength," Gray pointed out with a sigh, and Natsu winced, well aware of just how difficult it could be to get the drop on Erza at the best of times let alone when she was feeling competitive. "We should probably focus on the other two to start off, and then gang up at her at the end."
"Oh really?" They both paled as her voice rang out from behind them, before scrambling to try and cover Romeo as snowballs rained down on them once more, only this time they had no way of escape. Gray had begun to think they were going to be defeated before they even got the chance to retaliate, but a moment later the air around them heated up rapidly diffusing the onslaught, but surprisingly leaving the snow beneath and behind them untouched, and he smirked as he glanced across at Natsu and caught the determination in the Dragon-slayer's face. Nodding, he brought his hands together, letting his magic seep out into the snow around them.
"Really," he shouted back, blue light filling the air around them, and it had barely cleared before the three of them were scrabbling for the snowballs he had made. There was no organisation to their attack, just sheer stubbornness and a determination not to be outdone by the girls, and they charged with a roar, flinging their snowballs as fast as they could and causing Erza and the others to scatter underneath the frenzied attack. The thing that made him smile the most though was the happy grin on Natsu's face, that never faltered once, even when he took repeated snowballs to the face.
Their snowball fight lasted for nearly an hour in total, and in the end it was mutually decided to call a truce, although Erza had looked somewhat reluctant to accept that. However, one look at a shivering Wendy and Lucy soon convinced her that it was time to head back, and she privately had to admit that she was looking for to a hot drink and changing into some dry clothes as the snow had got everywhere. Still it had been worth it she thought as she glanced across at a cheerful Natsu who was chatting away with Gray and Romeo, re-enacting part of their fight if the wild hand gestures were anything to go by and she shook her head fondly, unable to believe that they had got to this point from that fiasco years ago.
Lucy couldn't keep the bright smile of her face, even as she tried to burrow further into her coat. There hadn't been many opportunities to enjoy snow when she was younger, and there had been no one around for her to play with. She might even come to share Natsu's enthusiasm if this was going to become a tradition, and her smile grew as she glanced across at her best-friend, eyes widening as she caught him scooping up snow and making a new snowball, looking up he winked at her and she held her tongue, hoping that she wasn't the intended target. However, a moment later his attention shifted to Gray who'd moved ahead to talk to Wendy, and she had to bite back a giggle as she realised that the Ice mage was the target, watching as Natsu took careful aim and flung the snowball.
"Oi!" Gray bellowed indignantly, wiping the snow of his face as he whirled around to glare at Natsu who was smiling brightly at him even as he danced out of reach. There was no sign of weariness in the happy face, and Gray didn't have the heart to try and drag him back inside just yet. "Oh bring it on Flamebrain!" He taunted, waving for the others to go inside before reaching down and scooping up another handful of snow, rapidly shaping it into a ball and tossing it at the Dragon-slayer, unsurprised when Natsu nimbly dodged out of the way with a laugh and familiar threat.
"You're going down Ice Princess!"