AUTHOR'S NOTE:

Hi! I was feeling awfully bored tonight, so I decided to write a super short one-shot featuring a young Natsu still living with Igneel. I wanted to portray the moment Igneel gave Natsu his famous white scarf. The whole thing ended up being super sweet and heartwarming so I think you will enjoy it!

One-Shot

Home is Where the Scarf Is

The winter that year was harsh and unforgiving, covering the rolling hills and trees of the wilderness with thick layers of white as it harassed all those brave enough to venture outdoors with its slicing currents of frigid air. The cold was particularly cruel at night. The disappearance of the sun below the distant horizon spelled doom for anyone without shelter. Darkness was often equated with cold and perhaps no one knew that better than the small child huddling in front of a weak flame fighting against the much more powerful winds. The boy was battling the climate in nothing more than trousers and a thin shirt that hung off his poorly insulated body in curtains of extra, but ultimately useless, fabric. He shifted his body as close to the flame as he could manage without touching it himself. He did this partially to soak in every ounce of flickering warmth the fire could provide, but also to the shelter the flame and hopefully prevent it from dying before his father returned.

He glanced anxiously at the final rays of sun peeking through the trees. His father had promised he'd be back by sundown with a mighty meal, but the twinge of hunger in the child's stomach paled in comparison to the frost bite he swore was creeping up along his fingers. What he really wanted was his father's warmth.

At the same time, however, the boy was stubborn. He didn't like the feeling of dependence upon another and he certainly did not enjoy feeling so vulnerable to something as simple as the elements. Despite the shivers that rocked his tiny frame and despite the constant rattling of his chattering teeth, he focused on the warmth that he did feel deep inside his belly. It felt as though it were frozen in a block of ice, but he knew he had a fire down in there somewhere. He was, after all, Igneel's son.

"Fire Dragon's Roar!" The boy said with all the vigor he had left, but his voice came out sounding more like a wheeze and instead of a stream of fire flowing from his mouth, he choked out a pathetic puff of smoke. The effort sent him into another round of hacking coughs, protests from a throat that clearly did not appreciate the freezing air he allowed into it.

With a heart heavy with failure, he hung his head and creeped even closer to the small campfire holding its own in a bed of snow. He had no choice but to sit and wait for the return of his father. Without a clock to conceptualize hours and minutes, he recorded the passage of time by watching the voyage of the sunlight as it disappeared below the horizon for the night. Only when the golden glow had completely vanished and was replaced by the silvery presence of the moon, did the boy hear the symphony of wing beats soothing the fierce winds around them.

Igneel had returned. The child tilted his head upwards to see a majestic red figure outlined against the star speckled blackness of the sky. The fire dragon slowly glided down towards the snow with its powerful wings outstretched like an angel descending from heaven, ready to bestow blessings upon those in need. When the mighty beast landed, the snow beneath its talons crinkled together in an oddly satisfying crunch.

The boy smiled, sprung to his feet and galloped through the hindering snow towards his dad, who regarded his son with a proud smile.

"You're back!" The child cheered, his voice and spirits renewed with the promise of warmth.

"Of course, Natsu. I said I would be back at sundown, didn't I?" Igneel replied as his son closed the distance between them with a giant leap and landed on his tree trunk sized leg. Natsu felt instant gratification as the heat of the dragon's fiery red scales met his skin as he clung to his father's limb. Still smiling, he scampered up Igneel's side and settled himself in a comfortable spot between two shoulder blades, soaking in the heat radiating from the King of Fire Dragons.

"It felt like you were gone forever."

"Nonsense. Regardless, it was a successful hunting trip." Igneel said, gesturing to the deer on the ground that Natsu didn't even notice him carrying.

"Great." The boy mumbled, pressing his face against the back of his dad's long neck. His focus on defrosting was paramount in comparison to any other discussion. His state of bliss was disrupted by a growl of annoyance.

"Get down from there." The dragon demanded, huffing thick clouds of smoke from his nostrils. "It's time to cook the deer and I want you to do it for practice."

"Y-yes." Natsu's teeth started rattling again the moment he began to contemplate venturing back down into the snow in his flimsy fabric boots, but there was no refusing his father. He reluctantly rolled off Igneel's back and plummeted back down onto the ground. The winds felt even colder and crueler after his body had known a few moments of warm. Igneel didn't fail to notice his son's obvious discomfort and tilted his head in a quizzing stare.

"Why are you so cold, son? As a fire dragon, you should have enough internal heat to keep you warm through even the harshest conditions. At the very least you should have been able to keep the campfire burning strong enough to ease the chill."

"T-too c-c-cold." Natsu shivered, looking up at his dad with wide eyes. Now he couldn't even feel any heat in his belly, just a solid block of ice. "I-I can't d-d-do it."

Suddenly, Igneel lowered his head to where his snout was nearly brushing against the snow and his glowing white eyes were level with the dark orbs of his son. Although Natsu appreciated the wave of heat he also felt a trickle of fear that always struck him whenever his dad got angry or serious. This time Igneel spoke in an even, yet authoritative tone that left no room for discussion.

"Listen to me, Natsu. Never say you can't do something, never. If you set yourself up to fail from the beginning then there is no chance that you might ever succeed."

"Yes, sir." The kid gulped.

"Besides, it's okay that you can't sustain a fire in these conditions. You are still young. A time will come when your flames are just as potent as mine, but until then I have a solution for these cold winter nights." Igneel lifted his upper lip in a crooked grin that displayed the razor sharp points of his teeth before he whipped his long scaly tail around towards the boy and revealed to him a small parcel he was holding in it. He dropped the package right into the hands of his son. "This is the real reason I was gone for longer than usual. I have a feeling it'll be of use to you."

"Wow, thank you!" Natsu said as he eagerly ripped the tough brown wrapping paper apart in order to see what treasure was hidden inside. His grasping fingers hit something surprisingly soft. Removing the remaining packaging, the boy was left holding a delicate scarf that seemed to glow a white more pure than the mounds of snow around them. It was long and was made of a silky material that ran through his fingers like water before tapering off into fringes that decorated the each end of the scarf. The most appealing thing about it, however, was the scaly design that mimicked the beauty of a dragon. The boy was left in a state of awe as he studied the scarf in his curious hands, allowing the protection of the material to warm his frostbitten fingers, noticing that it was nearly as comforting as resting against the scales of a real dragon.

"Well, put it on, why don't you?" Igneel chuckled at his son's reaction. "It'll help shield you from the cold, I'm sure."

Natsu nodded and wrapped the scarf around his neck. The texture felt warm and comfortable against his skin and even though the fabric was too long for his still developing stature, it fit him well. It just felt right.

"Thank you, Igneel." Natsu repeated himself. "I'm never taking it off."

That earned a hearty laugh from the dragon.

"You might regret saying that in the summer, you know. But I'm glad you like it."

Natsu returned his father's look with wide, unwavering eyes that made it clear he wasn't joking. It was always the little promises that young dragon slayer had a knack for keeping. This occasion was no exception for Natsu never did willingly take Igneel's scarf off. He wore it through the following summer that happened to be extraordinarily hot and he wore through all of his training sessions with his dad in which intense heat was a commonality. He wore the scarf after he become strong enough to keep his internal heat flowing against even the coldest of winters. He wore the scarf on the day Igneel disappeared and he wore the scarf every day since.

He wore the scarf not to keep warm or feel safe. He wore the scarf because it was a rare gift from his father. He wore the scarf become he told his dad he would. And above all else he wore that scaly white scarf every single day of his life to remind himself that Igneel would always come home.