Lucy twirled around the grand ballroom, face kept in a pleasant smile, not too large but not too small, not too fake as to offend the man whose arm she was hovering her fingers over but not too real so that it touched her honey eyes. The classical music ended, and she curtsied to the man as he bowed to her, his name in the back of her mind but not important enough to truly remember.

This wasn't her ball after all.

Feigning faintness, Lucy scurried away from the man as quickly as polite society would allow, hollow promises of another dance tumbling from her lips before she brought up a delicate grey lace fan, covering half her face. She walked daintily but purposefully towards a group of two other girls by the refreshments, sparkling champagne glasses in each girl's hand. Both had silver white hair, an ethereal reflection of pale gold shining from the hundreds of candles hung from grand crystal chandeliers and along the walls of the room. Despite it being well past sundown the large room was well lit, yet another symbol of the status held by the people in attendance.

Lucy brushed off several more requests for dances, coming to a rest beside the shorter of the two and releasing a heavy sigh. The girls giggled as Lucy put away her fan, gracefully allowing the material to return to its flattened state and twirling the fan in between her fingers, satin gloves making it more difficult to control.

"My, my," the taller girl tittered, peeking at Lucy over the top of her glass as she took a sip, "looks like our Lucy has stolen the attention of the party." Blue eyes fluttered heavily coated lashes at Lucy, small smile enhanced with a deep red gloss, the rest of her makeup simple but impecable. A black mask with purple and silver swirls covered a slim portion of her face, silver tie disappearing into her curls. Her silver hair, while longer than other girl's, was pulled up in a large pile of ringlets, twirling strands falling around her face and at the nape of her neck, her bangs pulled back into the collection of hair on top of her head. Her dress was a deep purple, satin bodice decorated with silvery white embroidery, an ode to the tresses on her head. It fell out from her waist in a waterfall of gathered material, same plum colour constant all the way through, with only minor decorations of jewels and delicate stitching. The shoulderless dress enhanced her already noticeable curves, bust spilling a little from the tight confines of the corset. It was honestly one of her more modest outfits, but then again it wasn't her ball either.

"Well I wouldn't be bothered so much by these suitors if the belle of the ball would go out and mingle," Lucy retorted, eyeing the final girl as she gently plucked her own glass of champagne from a footman walking by, slight nod in reciprocation of the young man's subtle bow. A part of her wondered if the staff looked forward to these gatherings, or rather dreaded them the way she did.

The girl that now held the center of attention rolled her eyes at Lucy's needling, instead fixing her mask before placing her glass on the low table beside them and running her bare hand to smooth out her dress. Both were much more extravagant than the other girls', a pale blue colour making her skin glow in the candle light. Shoulderless but still with flowing sheer sleeves, the tight bodice was ribbed with ivory beading and details, silken ribbon sparkling as it decorated the tops of her sleeves in a small bow. The same ribbon was used to bind her corset in the back, large bow swaying as she moved, taking on a life of its own as she danced. The dress too was made to look like she was twirling in a clear lake, pale crystalline blue bunched on one side and trailing to the back, leaving one side of the thin material free for extensive patterns and swirling thread to decorate it fully. Each bunch of the tiers of material was held with a silver jewel, cascades of light and sparkles meant to catch the eye with each movement.

If she had been dancing, that is.

"Mira Jane, Lucy, you know I don't enjoy this much attention. The crowds, the small talk, the incessant drawl of fake pleasantries. It's all so taxing." she sighed, removing her embroidered and sparkling mask, base of light blue almost completely covered by the elaborate decorations aside from the twin slips of blue fabric hanging from the edges of the mask beside the eyes. She rolled her eyes at Lucy's fake gasp, motioning at Mira Jane with her mask as the girl tittered behind her hand again. Lucy would have blamed the girl's demeanour on the sparkling wine, but she knew that Mira Jane was always light hearted when it came to the teasing of her little sister. "I don't know why Brother insisted I use a held mask, all the other girls are allowed use of both their hands. How am I expected to dance with a gentleman and drink the champagne that makes it bearable at the same time?"

Lucy snorted quickly before snapping open her fan and covering her face, sly grin wicked and improper on the short haired girl's expression. Her sister smiled demurely and handed her another glass, Lucy continuing to fan her face until her composure returned.

"Lisanna, how unlady like, and at your own Suitor's Ball no less," Mira Jane chastised, gleeful curl of her painted lips and impish glint behind her mask contradicting her sisterly words. Lisanna took a heavy sip from her glass, pink lipstick leaving a faint smudge on the lip of the flute.

"As if you weren't a holy terror at yours, dear sister," Lisanna said sweetly, Lucy snickering behind her fan at the sister's bickering. While Lucy had no siblings of her own, she had felt a deep connection with the Strauss' after joining her father's court ten years ago. A year after her own mother's death. Now she resided under the Court of Dreyar, King Makarov a fair and kind ruler, if old and leaning towards perversion after a few beverages. "Though I suppose I must go out and try to interact, lest I end up like our dear matron, Lucy, here," she continued in a put upon sigh, spirited smile pulling her lips when Lucy snapped her fan shut.

"I am not a matron," Lucy sniffed as she looked away from the glance Mira Jane and Lisanna shared. "I am younger than Mira and only two years older than you."

"Ah yes, twenty already and still no one has stolen your eye," Mira sighed, swirling the contents of he still full glass. She tutted as she shook her head, looking sadly at Lucy as though she were a fawn that had lost it's way in the forest.

"I can say the same for you," Lucy huffed, arms itching to cross in front of her chest but propriety stopping her. Years of etiquette training may have done nothing to make her hold her tongue, but it had trained her body to behave like a lady at least. Mira shrugged a single shoulder gracefully, bright smile lighting her face.

"No man could ever hope to tame me," she said simply, looking over the rim of her glass coyly as she watched couples dance a slow waltz. "Or woman for that matter either." Lucy shook her head to herself, lip pulling between her teeth to stop from laughing as she shared a knowing look with Lisanna. For someone who invested themselves so fully in the love and courting of other's lives Mira held no desire for a relationship of her own, a fact bemoaned by men and women alike in their court.

Lisanna sighed heavily, holding the mask back up to cover her face before she spoke. "I suppose I should do a round of entertaining, or someone might mistake this for Lucy's ball again," she said teasingly, Lucy flushing when Lisanna's eyes looked pointedly at her dress.

"Is it too much? I told Virgo something subdued, but you know how she gets..." Lucy asked nervously, hand not busied with her fan smoothing and brushing at the skirt of her dress. A deep wine red shimmered in the light, sleevless like Mira Jane's. It was also made of a tight corset, metallic grey and black embroidery like climbing ivy running along the sides and bordering the sweetheart neckline. Lucy's bust split over the top to a degree she was uncomfortable with, but her most trusted maid, Virgo, had assured her it was not obscene but rather inviting. Lucy was not sure if that was quite what she desired to allude to either, but there would be no changing Virgo's mind once it was set. Layers upon layers of fabric made up the skirt, descending tiers having the fabric bunched in a soft mimicry of flowers until it brushed along the floor, the skirt a solid colour with no other decoration save for the wrapping and winding of the fabric. Soft grey gloves reached her elbows, colour matching with the ornate stitching on her corset as small black details trailing from the outer elbow to mid forearm on each glove drew the pieces together. Her mask was grey as well, rubies and black swirls decorating the the structured but silken garment. Three feather like appendages rose from the left corner of her mask, each plume a rich red. Red also painted her lips and darkened her cheeks slightly, wide eyes left undecorated save for a light extension of her eyelashes. Her golden hair was pulled back in a formal bun, soft pieces of hair left to frame her face, straightened strands tickling her jaw as she continued to inspect her attire. She hadn't wanted to upstage Lisanna, it was the younger girl's first event, after all.

"Relax Lucy, she's only teasing," Mira Jane soothed, tinkling laugh in her voice at Lucy's distress.

"You look beautiful," Lisanna assured, fingers resting gently on Lucy's wrist as she smiled warmly at her. Lucy let out a sigh of relief, chest aching from the tightness of the corset combined with her worry of offending her friend. Shooing Lisanna onto the floor, Lucy laughed and talked idly with Mira Jane for a while longer, gossipping about who was courting who, which trades had fallen and which had been established, how the gardens were doing with the heavy rains of late and if the library had restocked on any new material. Lucy swayed on her feet again, longing to go and dance with the others to the quick paced music but not wanting to dance with any of the men in attendance.

Unfortunately, Mira Jane was not the only one to notice her restlessness as she was soon approached by the man she had been dancing with a while ago, large mask obscuring half his face but still allowing his thin lips to be seen in a presumptuous smile.

"Lady Lucy," the man spoke, Lucy reminded of his age by the timbre of his voice and inwardly cringing as she recalled how his hand had attempted to wander on her back before, "may I present to you my eldest son, Daniel." He bowed to her lightly, Lucy trying her best to hide the strain in her smile as he stepped aside and revealed his son to her. The boy was much taller than her, even in her heels, a dark grey suit with a morning coat sitting below his ribs. His mask was far too busy for Lucy's taste, but she curtsied shallowly as he placed a kiss on her knuckles, Lucy having to pull her hand back with slight force when he did not release it immediately.

"It is a pleasure to meet you, Sir Daniel," Lucy said politely, fan falling open as she lifted it to hide her face again, if only so that she could drop the pretense of a smile for a short while. He reached for her hand again, Lucy passively letting him place another kiss on her knuckle before he spoke, eyes narrowed in what Lucy thought to be an attempt at seduction.

"Oh no, m'lady, the pleasure is mine," he said smoothly, pompous voice making Lucy sneak a look at Mira Jane who offered her an unhelpful smile, obviously entertained by Lucy's suffering. "May I have this dance?" Daniel asked, Lucy slowly looking back at him. She had been wishing for an excuse to join the others...

"Just one," she agreed, arm linking daintily into his elbow as he led her to the floor. A traditional foxtrot was being played by the band, Lucy letting her partner take the lead. His grip was too tight on her hand, other possessive around her waist as the pair moved through the well known steps. Lucy looked blankly over his shoulder, wishing she had passed over his offer no matter how rude it would have seemed. Perhaps she could request a break to the powder room? Men always liked to believe women worked on their faces every chance they could find, the women liking to keep their private respite a secret. Lucy's hand shot to his, dragging the larger hand back up to her waist rather than on her hip. It seemed wandering hands were a genetic trait in his family.

"Oh come on LuLu," he whispered in her ear, hand snaking to rest just above her backside and stopping Lucy from pulling away further. Lucy frowned at his name for her, such familiarity was not something she had acknowledged. "It's just a little bit, no need for such properness with me. I mean, you are coming to my chamber tonight." Lucy jerked back sharply from his chest, wet breath sending cold shivers along her skin and any lightness from the champagne snapping to clearness in a second.

"I do not like what you are insinuating," she said cooly, tugging at her hand still in his grip and pushing at his shoulder with her other. She winced as his grip grew harsher, glowering up at the condescending smile and cruel eyes, Lucy close enough to see the cold grey colour and the grease slicking back his muddy brown hair. He could have the possibility of being attractive, if his lips weren't twisted in a domineering sneer.

"Then let me be more blunt. Tonight you will be mine," he said lowly, Lucy's eyes widening at his forwardness. She took a step backward, Daniel following closely and crushing her body to to his. "I enjoy the chase when a girl denies herself," he purred into her ear. Lucy finally pulled her hand free of his grip in her outrage, glove displacing halfway down her forearm and fabric bunching around the fingers. Just as she was about to bring her palm in connection with the side of his face his body was pulled from her's.

"I do not think the lady wished to be chased," a man said, grip on Daniel's shoulder strong enough to bunch the the coat and make the taller boy wince. The stranger's face wasn't covered with a mask, not that he would have been easily lost in the crowd with his wildly loose pink hair or vibrant emerald eyes. Daniel sneered down at him, attempting to use his height to intimidate the shorter man but failing as the stranger held his gaze in a battle of will.

"Who do you presume to be?" he all but snarled, the stranger blinking calmly up at him before a dangerous grin lifted one corner of his mouth, jaw still straining from his look of challenge before.

"Who I am is not important, as right now I am simply stopping this woman from causing you embarrassment by laying your ass on this grand marble floor." Shock made Daniel's mouth gape, a satisfying glint in the other man's eyes flashing when Daniel tucked his chin in submission and shook the hand from his shoulder, slinking away into the crowd while throwing Lucy dark stares before she lost sight of him.

Lucy fixed her glove absently as she watched him slither away like the creature he was, the stranger's gentle voice drawing her attention back to him. "You okay?" he asked, tone much less formal and shoulders relaxed as he smiled at Lucy.

"Yes, thank you," she said, a faint smile pulling at her lips as the stranger ruffled his hair while chuckling lightly. "I'm Lucy," she offered after a short pause, smile growing wider when the stranger blinked at her outstretched hand.

"Nice to meet ya, Luigi," he grinned at her, brushing his lips along the glove that Daniel had kissed earlier, his hot breath erasing all thought of the other man from Lucy's memory. "My name's Natsu." He grinned at her again when she stole her hand back, fan snapping open as she glared at Natsu over the edge of the grey lace.

"It is Lucy, Sir Natsu," she sniffed, eyebrows furrowing when he continued to grin cheekily at her. She let her eyes trace over his dark black outfit, twin tails of his coat falling to his knees behind him. He wore black knee high riding boots decorated with the same golden buckles that held his coat and ran along the sides of his pants. A lighter shade of black caught the light in stitching along the lapels of his coat, collar with gold border trailing along the entire outer layer. A plain white shirt was tucked underneath, top few buttons left undone and very improper. A scar peeked out from under his raised collar, lightened skin jagged and wrapping around the right side of his neck.

"Just Natsu is fine," he dismissed, grabbing her hand and dragging her to the center of the dance floor. Lucy squeaked as Natsu pulled her to a sudden stop, hand placed lightly beneath her ribcage and other passively allowing her to rest her hand on top of his. For as forward as Natsu seemed to Lucy, she couldn't help but smile at his obvious consideration should she choose to pull away. "So Luce," he said easily, pair falling into the rhythm of the latest waltz, "what brings you to me on this fine evening?" Lucy looked at him curiously, faint smiling lifting her lips when she saw the teasing light in his eyes, dark lashes framing them that any coutress would be jealous of.

"Well I was being pursued by a giant boar and found refuge in this hall, and the belle so graciously allowed me to partake of the events during my stay," Lucy said lightly, pulling back for a twirl before Natsu pulled her close again.

"Out there in the woods, by yourself?" Natsu feigned outrage, twirling Lucy once more out of turn, the blonde unable to fight her small giggle.

"Why where else would a boar be chasing me?" she asked innocently, Natsu nodding in grave understanding.

"Ah of course, how silly of me. But why the poofy dress then?" Natsu asked, hand settling more firmly and Lucy melting into the heat on her waist.

"Well I couldn't be expected to wear my nightclothes in the woods, now can I?" Lucy retorted, fingers trailing from his shoulder to rest on his upper arm.

"Now that would just be improper," Natsu agreed, able to hold his serious expression for only a moment before breaking out into low laughter, Lucy's high chiming laugh following along shortly. The two danced in comfortable silence a while longer, Lucy humming along with the violins as they played the soft music. Natsu twirled her two times in a row as an ending, bowing to her exaggeratedly and Lucy returned it with a deep curtsy, both struggling to hold in another round of laughter. "May I?" Natsu asked, holding out his hand to her. Lucy took it with a wide smile, allowing Natsu to pull her close once more. A slower, more intimate song played, Natsu guiding Lucy languidly along the floor, no flourishing twirls of movements, rather a simple and elegant waltz that made Lucy's heart melt and clench at the same time. Natsu was gentle but firm while leading the movements, poise and discipline shining through his confidence in the steps that his rowdy grin and mischievous eyes denied. A pointed chin and strong cheekbones framed his face, nose a little turnt up and possibly crooked, although that made him all the more sincere and attractive to Lucy, sat above full lips. While he was young faint lines betrayed his ever present smile and penchant for the outdoors, or at least Lucy would guess.

And then there were his eyes.

Lucy had already established they were framed beautifully and were the clearest emerald she had ever seen, but the longer she looked up at Natsu the more details she drank in. Onyx flecks scattered in his eyes, multiple shades of green calling to her. They were so open, so completely alien in this world of politics and pleasantries, that it made Lucy feel as though they were calling to her soul. Licking her dry lips, Lucy blinked rapidly and smiled shyly at Natsu's confused grin, Lucy unsure if the same song was even playing or what step they were on.

"And what brings you to me, then, Natsu?" Lucy questioned, raspy voice making her long for a flute of wine to ease her embarrassment and wet her throat. Natsu chuckled at her voice, even if there was a dusting of pink along his ears if Lucy's eyes were not mistaken, but it was hard to tell with his vibrant hair and glow of the lights above and around them.

"Guards," he said bluntly, warm smile growing to an amused smirk at Lucy's confusion and following falter in steps. "I misplaced my invitation for the ball, and they refused to allow me in, even though I knew one of 'em," he said dryly, fingers flexing on Lucy's waist as they continued to dance. "So I snuck in," he said, impish grin lifting his lips. "Was too easy, I'll probably give some tips to Sparky before I leave. I'm thankful that prince you had there didn't make a bigger scene, would have been bad if the guards had thrown me out for defending a lady's honour," he said simply, as though it were an inevitability that had pleasantly been skirted. Lucy pouted slightly at the idea of someone defending her honour until Natsu chuckled and brushed his thumb along her hand in soothing strokes. "Oh I have no fear that he would have gotten no further, but I was more concerned about your honour as a lady of the court. Have to keep that inner fire a secret in court life, right? Good to be able to take the pricks by surprise," he explained, winking at her conspiratorially. Lucy should have been more struck by his crude language but instead she felt herself drawn more towards the strange boy. He seemed to live within his own rules, unbridled by expectations and etiquette.

It was exhilarating to Lucy.

That as well as Natsu's ability to see her so clearly while members of the court she had grown up with still believed her to be a feeble and delicate porcelain doll.

"I would not have let them throw you out," Lucy stated firmly, surprise at her outburst making Natsu's slanted eyes widen, warm smile lighting his face as he moved with her to the steady pace of the music surrounding them.

"Oh?" he asked, pink eyebrow quirking as he looked down at Lucy, leaning into her personal space. Yet unlike the time before with Daniel, Lucy did not pull away, silently thankful for the 'inviting' dress Virgo insist she wear.

"A-as you said," Lucy stuttered out, swallowing and looking away from the darkening look in his eyes, playful smile hinting at something hungrier and revealing an unusually sharp canine. "You were only defending me from that brute, so you were not in the wrong. I could not allow someone to be punished for simply helping another person," she rushed out, blushing deeper under his knowing look.

"Of course," he said, voice low and deep as he bowed his head closer to her's. Lucy allowed her hand to trail up his shoulder and back down to his mid arm, movements slow and careful. She peeked at Natsu through her lashes, lip pulling between her teeth despite all the effort her trainors had put in breaking the habit. Natsu did not seem to find it improper however, or rather he enjoyed the impropriety of it, as his breath caught in his throat and a noticeable colour spread along his ears and dusted his nose. His devilish confidence had been dashed away by a simple look from Lucy and the two continued to dance aimlessly and without thought as they looked at one another. With a cough, Natsu broke away and bowed to her, the pair late for the stop of the music and the only two who had continued dancing in the few seconds of silence before. Lucy curtsied to Natsu again, eyes kept downcast as her face heated beneath the mask.

She startled when Natsu nudged his elbow at her, pouting as he laughed at her jumpy movement. "Why do you keep looking at the ground, weirdo?" he teased, motioning for her take his arm again. Lucy sniffed as she rested her hand in the crook offered to her, pouting behind her extended fan again.

"I am not a weirdo," she mumbled to herself, looking away when Natsu leaned into her ear and teased her.

"Sure you're not."

With a huff Lucy led him to where she had last seen Mira Jane and Lisanna, choosing to ignore Natsu's comment for now. He was still snickering to himself when Lucy reached their destination, eyes finding Mira Jane standing alone by the dainty sweets. Lucy had to tug him along until he noticed the plentiful food, and then it was Lucy once more being carted behind him.

"I was wondering where you had gone off to," Mira Jane greeted, Lucy smiling as she shut her fan. Natsu was choosing to ignore the girl's conversation in favour of the bounty of sweets before him. Lucy blinked hard to make sure that he had indeed just wiped drool from the corner of his lip, and instead of being disgusted as she ought to be Lucy found it oddly endearing. He really just didn't care.

"I was dancing with Natsu here, after he rescued me from striking that Sir Daniel," Lucy explained, nibbling on a thin piece of spun sugar, waving off Mira Jane's concern when the older girl made to ask more questions.

"Ya should'a seen 'er Mir, pree' boy was goin' hav' a nashi wake up caw," Natsu interrupted, mouth stuffed with a pastry and words almost unintelligible. Lucy looked between Mira Jane and Natsu, eyebrows furrowed as Mira Jane tutted and wiped at a crumb on Natsu's cheek only for the boy to shy away from her hand with a whine.

"Do you two know each other?" Lucy questioned, Natsu answering after swallowing his mouthful of sweets.

"I used to live in this court years ago, was real close with Lisanna and her family. But my dad got sick so I had to return to his court, on the other side of the Expanse. Lis and I still write sometimes, she was the one that invited me," Natsu explained, shrugging a shoulder as though it didn't matter. Mira Jane was looking at Natsu with an amused expression, something that Lucy had learned to equate with trouble. She was unable to question the wicked gleam in her friend's eye when Natsu looked at Mira Jane and spoke. "Where is Lis anyway?"

Lucy blanched behind her fan, eyes scanning for the swirling blue dress Lisanna had been wearing. So not only had she unwillingly stolen attention from her friend at her own ball but she had also robbed Lisanna of a chance of seeing her estranged childhood friend. Lucy sighed heavily at her own guilt and looked around for a footman with a tray of champagne, lips pinching when she saw none. A gentle hand on her elbow drew Lucy's gaze to Mira Jane's kind expression, knowing look in her pretty blue eyes.

"No fear Lucy, Lisanna has otherwise been preoccupied and would most likely appreciate you entertaining Natsu while she was busy." Lucy looked at Mira Jane in question, following the older woman's gaze until she was able to see Lisanna's dress twirl around her slim figure, dancing and smiling bashfully at a taller man. Blue hair shaved on the sides and pulled into a low ponytail marked him as a knight, as did the royal insignia on the shoulder of his dressuit. Natsu looked around the room in boredom as Lucy and Mira Jane began to titter over the fledgling romance, thoughts on who the knight was and how he was able to capture the particular attention of the youngest girl not of interest to the young man. Lucy knew this as he made his opinion well known with a heavy sigh and a pointed look between Lucy and the dance floor. Lucy smiled at him brightly, excusing herself from her conversation with Mira Jane. Lucy ignored Mira Jane's knowing look as she walked towards Natsu, arm linking with his automatically and a large smile pulling at her lips in response to Natsu's beaming one, his eyes falling shut and head tilting in towards her a little.

A loud crash caught her attention though, and she halted her and Natsu's march towards the dance floor in favour of inspecting the source of the distraction. Lucy supposed she should have been surprised to see Daniel towering over a serving boy, the footman on his knees and picking up shattered glass with his gloved hands.

"Look at this! That good for nothing simpleton crashed into me and dirtied my suit! It's ruined now! This was imported especially from the West Shore, I'll have this from your pay, you clumsy swine," Daniel roared, voice drawing the attention of the other attendees surrounding him.

"I-I'm sorry, Sir, I was-wasn't watching and tripped ov-" the boy stammered out, wide eyes fearfully as he scanned the faces above him. Lucy could only imagine the terror the poor boy must be feeling, dozens of wealthy masked figures looming down on him.

"Who gave you the right to speak, slave," the incensed man seethed. Lucy was already five steps away when a black toed shoe was thrust into the footman's ribs, Daniel smirking viciously at the strangled yelp the young boy made and the sound of glass shattering once more as the dish holding the broken flutes returned to the ground with a crash.

"How dare you," Lucy cried, bending to rest a hand on the back of the abused boy to make sure he was alright. When he gave her a quick nod and tried to stammer out another apology Lucy waved off his words, instead turning and placing her body between Daniel and the serving boy. Her eyes flicked over his suit, squinting when she found the source of 'insult'. "Three drops?" she hissed, voice kept low and teeth grinding as she struggled to not add to the scene. "You trip this poor boy and he spills three drops of champagne on your sleeve and you beat him?" Lucy's hands clenched in and out of fists, glaring up at the taller man. He sniffed haughtily, fixing the diamond studded cufflinks on his suit.

"It was his own fault," Daniel defended, face impassive as he looked down on the serving boy that Natsu was helping up. "Should have known you to have poor taste, defending a mere helping boy," he spat, eyes looking over her body with such lewdity that Lucy struggled not to shrink under his cold gaze. "Such a shame, a body like that gone to waste," he sighed, hand shooting out to pull Lucy to him harshly, arm crushing her tightly against his chest. "It doesn't have to, though," he said lowly as he licked his lips suggestively. Lucy was not aware of the sharpening glare and enraged look Natsu wore behind her, as she herself was too filled with heated fury. A loud slap echoed in time with the music of the room, Daniel staggering away and holding a hand to his now red cheek.

"If you ever touch me again," Lucy warned in a cold and steady voice, eyes blazing as she stalked towards Daniel's retreating figure, "I will castrate you and cut out your slim ridden tongue to ensure that no other woman or man here will have endure your meek threats." Lucy felt a presence behind her, knowing automatically from the warmth and soothing feeling that washed over her that it was Natsu there to lend support, should she need or desire it. Lucy appreciated the gesture, though found it unneeded from the horrified and pale look Daniel now wore, shoving past Natsu and a masked woman in a rush, causing the flute of alcohol in the unknown woman's hand to spill down Natsu's front. Natsu cursed as the cold liquid bled through his clothes and onto his skin, Lucy struggling to retain her propriety. Would etiquette allow her to throw her heel at the back of Daniel's retreating figure for his rude behaviour towards Natsu? Unlikely, but Lucy found herself wishing she had taken aim before he disappeared into the crowd once more.

"You should have ripped out his tongue here and now," a sweet voice said behind Lucy, the blonde turning tiredly to look at Mira Jane, her friend watching the direction Daniel had gone with a dangerous edge in her voice.

"I know you would have, Mira," Lucy sighed, dabbing at Natsu's front with a napkin another server had brought them. The crowd had dispersed, none of them wishing to dirty their hands with actually helping, eager as they were for fresh gossip and scandal. Mira tutted motherly as she took a napkin and helped Lucy try to clean Natsu, the boy blushing brightly as both Mira Jane and Lucy leaned closely into his space and pressed their hands against his body.

"This won't do," Mira Jane sighed, pulling back and inspecting Natsu. Lucy did as well, shoulders dropping as she saw how little she had been able to help. The champagne had stained the white shirt with a pale honey colour, Lucy ripping her eyes away before she could follow a stray drop that rolled along his collar bone and beneath the soaked fabric. "We have spare shirts upstairs, and maybe we could get the the worst of the stain from the jacket upstairs too," Mira said as she played with her fingers. "Lucy," Mira Jane called, Lucy tilting her head in acknowledgment of Mira Jane's voice. "Would you help Natsu find some clothing? I have to go have a talk with the guards about a certain unwelcomed guest." Lucy nodded as Mira Jane's tone turned sharp, hellish smile playing on her red lips as she turned with a flourish disappeared into the crowd too.

Natsu looked at Lucy blankly, Lucy sighing to herself when she threaded her arm in his and led him towards the stairs leading up. The ball was being held in the Strauss' manor, but seeing as how close Lucy was with Mira Jane and her sister Lucy had been granted her own room years ago. The two walked in silence along the stone hallways as the music of the party fading to nothing behind them, neither looking at one another as Lucy led him to her suite. The only time she spoke was to ask a footman to bring a few sizes of white formal shirts to her chamber when he had a moment. The footman had bowed deeply to her, pressing a few kisses to Lucy's free hand and mumbling his thanks for her defensive of the boy earlier, which prompted Lucy to blush deeply and assure the older man that she was only doing what was right. The rest of the way to her chambers were less tense, Lucy and Natsu looking at each other from the corner of their eyes and ducking away before the other noticed. Lucy caught him once, shy giggles tumbling from her lips at his embarrassed grin.

She stopped them in front of her room, grand double doors almost reaching the ceiling, oaken wood aged but well varnished. She pushed open one of the doors, shifting from side to side as she gestured him in. Natsu let out a low whistle as he walked to the center of the room, turning in a tight circle as he looked around. He looked over at Lucy, teasing grin on his face as he folded his arms behind his back.

"Enough pink?"

Lucy snorted, looking around the room herself. A large four poster bed had sheer pink curtains floating around it and tied back with a deep coral ribbon. The deep coral colour was also seen on her large satin comforter, almost a dozen pillows of ranging white hues laid against the dark wooden headboard. Her chaise was also upholstered in a pale pink, matching the curtains on her balcony window and a plush rug thrown in the center of the room. Grey stone bordered where her floor met the walls, tapestries of stars and constellations stopping the cool air and decorating her room. Natsu threw open the doors on her large, and pink, wardrobe, hand shifting through the dozens of dresses and stocking hung there. Pulling one particularly frilly pink one out partially, Natsu laid it half over his body and posed for Lucy. "So what do you think? Am I pretty enough for ya yet?" he asked in a serious voice, Lucy covering her hand with her face as she snorted and broke into loud laughter. Behind these doors she was free to be herself, and strangely she felt no need to cage her emotions around Natsu.

"Almost as pretty as me," Lucy teased, walking towards him after slipping off her charcoal heels. She sighed as she tugged off her gloves, laying the delicate fabric on her armoire and glancing at her reflection in the mirror. With quick, deliberate movements Lucy removed her mask, black ties falling loose on the painted wood and resting against the detailed ivory that bordered the mirror.

"I don't think that's possible," Natsu whispered when Lucy turned to face him, both flushing deeply when the meaning of Natsu's words hit them. Natsu pulled at the collar of his jacket as Lucy twirled a strand of hair around her finger, large smile unable to be diminished no matter how hard she tried.

"T-thank you," she replied. Clearing her throat Lucy walked purposefully over to Natsu, the boy's face turning a deeper shade of pink than his wild hair as Lucy was once more almost pressed against his chest. "Jacket," she said simply, tugging at the still damp material.

"What?" Natsu asked, eyes growing wide and voice cracking as he looked down at Lucy. Her brow furrowed at his strange response and she tilted her head up at him. Natsu seemed to be having difficulty breathing, and his hands were splayed in the air beside his body as if he was unsure of what to do with them.

"So I can clean it?" Lucy pressed, eyebrow quirking as he swallowed thickly and nodded his head several times.

"Right, right, 'course," he muttered, fingers quickly undoing the buttons and Lucy flushed at how his knuckles brushed against her bodice, but neither moved away. Releasing the final buckle Natsu allowed Lucy to slowly push the heavy material off of his shoulders, Lucy walking behind him to help with the sleeves. Coat fully removed Lucy turned on her heel and walked into the bathroom, marble sinks and tub ready for use by the staff. Lucy bit her lip as she left Natsu standing in her chamber, heart beating quickly from the intimacy of helping him disrobe. Oh dear, she had helped a man disrobe in her sleeping room. Heat crawled along her face as she gently scrubbed with a cotton cloth at the stain, water helping soak out the sparkling wine from the black jacket. Once no more colour bled into the water or cloth Lucy was satisfied, but it seemed Natsu had grown impatient waiting alone in her room.

Lucy let the used cloth fall back into the dirtied water in the basin of the sink, looking up into the wall length mirror to see Natsu shirtless and standing behind her. Lucy let out a high squeal and quickly averted her eyes. Natsu smiled impishly at her reaction, but it soon fell to concern when Lucy laid a hand on her ribs and struggled to catch her breath.

"Hey, Luce, what's wrong," Natsu asked gently, hands hovering over her shoulders but not resting on her bare skin. Lucy shook her head to say it was nothing, not enough air having returned to her lungs to be able to speak properly. The longer Lucy was silent the more agitated Natsu became, lines of worry creasing his brow as he called her name again.

"'M fine, really Natsu," Lucy assured breathlessly, ribs aching where the corset had pinched tighter. "Just the scare made the corset tighten is all, I'll get used to it or it'll let out." Natsu's eyes narrowed at the back of her dress, lips thinning into a line as he toyed with one of the deep red ribbons there.

"Why'd you let them put you in something you can't breath in?" Natsu asked, Lucy shrugging as she leaned heavier on the sink. While Lucy herself had never passed out from a corset she was aware that it was still a common occurrence.

"Expectations," she answered dully, Natsu snorting at her answer and Lucy smiling weakly at him through the mirror. Her eyes then betrayed her mind and sank lower, taking in his bronzed chest, muscles firm and implying a life of hard work and training. So he was a knight then, for his kingdom. Trails of champagne still clung to his skin, falling along the grooves of his chest and muscled stomach, not overly bulky but still lithe and powerful. Broad shoulders narrowed into a tapered waist, tops of his stockings peeking above the band of his pants. Lucy's eyes hastily returned up to Natsu's face in the mirror when she realized they had lingered there. She opened her mouth to apologize but all of her words became stuck in her throat at the dark look Natsu wore, hunger flashing in his eyes as he allowed them to travel Lucy's body. Purposefully they traced her curves, lingering on her hips and the way her breasts spilt over her dress, following the slim column of her throat and back up to her eyes, hooded emerald enthralling her and stealing her balance.

Burning heat radiated through Lucy as Natsu pressed his hand into the small of her back, steadying her, his tongue swiping along his lower lip as he continued to watch Lucy's face.

"You dizzy?" he asked, husky voice sending another assault of pleasing shives through Lucy's nerves. She nodded mutely, grip tightening on the sink when Natsu moved fully behind her. "I'll undo you, then." His lips ghosted over the skin on the nape of her neck, Lucy pulling her lower lip between her teeth harshly and nodding once more. She felt him smile against her skin before he pulled back, fingers tugging and pulling slowly, gentle as they released her upper body from it's form. Lucy sighed as the dress slowly fell apart, Natsu's fingertips trailing over bare skin as it was revealed. Lucy raised one arm in time to pin the material to her chest before it could slip too low as the structured fabric could no longer support its own weight. Natsu continued to loosen the ribbon until the only thing stopping the top of the dress from sinking into the skirt was the pressure of her arm to her chest.

His fingertips trailed along her spine, Lucy's eyes fluttering closed from the delicate touches and sparks of heat she felt blooming along her skin. "No underdress?" Natsu whispered in her ear, eyes fiery when Lucy forced her own open to look at him through the mirror again.

"Got in the way, kept showing," Lucy gasped, both of Natsu's hands slipping under the loose material and resting on the bare skin of her waist. "Virgo didn't like it." Lucy bit her lip again as Natsu moved his hands up and down her sides, calloused fingers creating delicious friction on Lucy's soft skin. He pressed a closed lip kiss to a spot below her ear, a high noise sounding in Lucy's throat and drawing a lustful chuckle from him as he spoke.

"I should thank her, somehow, then," he purred, one hand moving forward to explore the smooth expanse of her stomach, other hand tracing her ribs on one side of her body. "Is this okay?" he asked in a deep voice, seriousness in his eyes making Lucy's breath catch again. As way of answering his question, Lucy let her arm fall and released the fabric covering her bust from him. Cold air struck her front, such an opposite to the heat on her back that it shocked Lucy more than her baring herself to what was essentially a stranger. Natsu made a noise of approval in his throat, eyes watching as her nipples tightened into hard peaks from arousal and the cold air. Swallowing hard Lucy turned in her spot to face Natsu, loose fabric of her dress slipping farther down her body so that the top was resting just below her naval. She wound her arms around his neck, fighting back her taught embarrassment and reveling in how the hard planes of his chest and body felt pressed against her smooth curves.

"Maybe you should thank me first for not wearing it," Lucy hummed, batting her lashes as she looked up at Natsu. He grinned slyly down at her before winding one arm around her back, pulling her body even more firmly against his.

"Don't worry," he breathed, head lowering so his nose brushed on the side of Lucy's. He nudged at her to tilt her chin up towards him more, smile growing as Lucy moved her head to grant him better access to her. "I will." His mouth sealed over her's much more gently than she expected, lips cautious as they moved against Lucy's. She nipped at his lip, hand moving up to tug experimentally on the fine hairs near his neck. She was rewarded with a groan and rougher kisses, Natsu's tongue prodding at the seam of her bruising lips. Tentatively Lucy allowed her mouth to open, Natsu pushing in with a dominance that made her ache in places not yet known. One arm had risen to grip the opposite shoulder along her back, pulling her to Natsu while his free hand tugged wildly at her hair until a clatter of pins bounced from her dress to the tiled floors. Natsu walked backwards, leading Lucy towards her chambers until she tripped over the bunches of material swimming around her legs. Giggling breathlessly and in shock at her own behaviour, Lucy rested her head against Natsu's chest. The smooth skin shook under her as well as Natsu too was unable to hold in his laughter at Lucy falling into him after such intensity.

Gripping her waist Natsu lifted her in a smooth motion so that her legs escaped the layers and layers of her skirt, twirling so that now Lucy's back was to her bed and Natsu's to the bathroom. She broke away, holding his hand to lead him further into her chambers, coy smile pulling at her lips as she shook her hair free of any other confining instruments. Golden curls tumbled over her shoulder, long enough to barely cover one of her breasts, and her grin grew as Natsu's eyes continually flickered from her face to her body, taking in her shapely legs and voluptuous curves, heavy breasts left to sit freely after being bound for hours by the red silk.

Her fingertips brushed along lace on her upper thighs, garter sitting low on her hips and holding up her white stockings. White silk and lace panties matched the set, giving her pale complexion more colour by comparison, though nowhere near as tanned as Natsu's olive skin. Natsu twirled Lucy with their joined hands, Lucy laughing airly as she spun for him and eyes gazing fondly at his enamours expression. Slipping from his hand she walked quickly backwards, holding eye contact as she sank onto the chaise, knees tilted and ankles wrapped.

"Like what you see?" Lucy purred seductively, mimicking what she had seen other women do and say when courting their own desire. While she thought she had done an extravagantly bad job at making her voice low and sexy, Natsu swallowed hard and his eyes continued to roam her body. Slow steps crossed the room to where she sat, an almost subconscious nod moving his head. Natsu's adam's apple bobbed sharply as Lucy reclined on the chaise, one leg stretching out along the seat and the other bending against the high back, her spine following the curve of the arm as she leant against it and lifted her arms to pull her hair from her face. "And now?"

"Fuck Luce," Natsu growled, strides longer and more powerful as he closed the distance between them. Lucy watched as one of his hands fell to the top of his thigh, rubbing at something hidden beneath the confines of his pants and stockings. Lucy flushed as it struck her what the growing object was, but her focus was thrust into Natsu's lips as he kissed her again. He knelt over her body, half on the chaise, one hand gently cupping her throat and tilting her head back for him. Lucy's hands released her golden tresses, choosing to play and tangle in Natsu's instead. His hair was softer than the spiked appearance suggested, and Natsu moaned invitingly with each tug and scrap of nails on his scalp.

Lucy trailed one hand down his neck, fingers gently following the outline of the scar on his neck before continuing on. She explored the skin on his shoulder and chest, nails digging in four long scratches down his ribs when Natsu sucked on her tongue roughly, drawing it to explore the wet heat of his own mouth. Lucy was far shyer with her tongue brushing his teeth and tasting him than she was with her hand, fingers drawing patterns into the cords of muscles shifting along his back powerfully. She nipped at his lip again when he broke away for breath, soft open mouthed kisses following his jawline and straining neck as her fingers slipped curiously under the band on his pants, palm running against the flexing muscles of his stomach.

"Lucy," Natsu moaned, hand releasing himself and groping roughly at Lucy's breast, other hand tightening it's grip on her neck in reflex. Lucy gasped against his skin, back arching further into his hands as calloused fingers twitched her nipple, squeezing and pinching one second and palming the whole breast the next. Her grip tightened in his hair and Lucy groped between their bodies until she felt something hard in her hand, massaging at it until she felt it twitch against the clothing binding it. "Holy fucking god, Lucy," Natsu hissed and groaned at the same time, hips thrusting against her curious hand. Natsu looked down at Lucy's flushed face, emerald green almost black it was so lust darkened. Rocking back onto his heels Natsu gripped the fabric covering Lucy from him and tore it down her legs, delicate stitching ripped with a loud tear.

A/N; Wooooooooo it's getting hot in here (so take off all your clothes).

This was an au I wrote fro a friend's birthday that spiraled out of control! Ahhh, it's been so long wince I wrote actual smut, guess I got carried way lol.

Any of you that follow me on tumblr will see that this one ends in a different place, and that was from me wanting to make it more even as when I had posted on tumblr originally I hadn't expected to write so much lol!

(Edit: I've corrected grammar and restructured some sentences is all so I could post on my ao3 page)