Hi friends! New to this Fairy Tail show but I think it's pretty awesome! Still plugging through episodes but I just wrote this little one shot for fun in the mean time. I love all the characters, but Natsu is probably my fav, and I do like the Natsu/Lucy pairing because it is sweet!

Well here she blows:

"It's going to take a long time to forgive you for this one, Natsu," Gray said, kicking at a pebble in his path and stuffing his hands deeply into his pockets.

"Seriously, Natsu! We were so close to getting home before you screwed up," Lucy said, shifting the bag over her shoulder. After the 30 mile walk, the few pieces of clothing and food rations left in her pack felt like bricks. Her body ached from head to toe. Lucy would quite literally strangle the fire wizard if she weren't so utterly exhausted.

"I hate to agree, but this walk has been less than desirable," Erza added. The huge cart of luggage behind her creaked as it rolled over roots and stones.

"Come on guys, lighten up. I said I'm sorry, like, a bajillion times, and we're almost back now!" Natsu said. "You all are being a bunch of pansies!"

"No, Natsu, I think we deserved a break after that mission!" Lucy raged.

"Agreed," Gray said while Erza nodded to show her sentiment to the situation.

"If it weren't for you, we could be on a nice train right now. This walk has been brutal on my feet, and I just want be in my bathtub" Lucy wept, her emotions fluctuating from livid to remorseful. "We might have even been back by this time! I could have been sleeping in my bed if we had just caught that train!" Lucy yelled, shaking her fists. The pink haired wizard shrank from her outburst.

Erza, Gray, Natsu, Lucy and Happy, were traveling towards Magnolia. Three weeks prior, the 5 wizards had accepted a mission far to the North, in the rural snowy mountains of Fiore. It was a high paying job, and for good reason. Though relatively standard, the work had been long and relentless, with frigid and stormy conditions to boot. Having the foresight of these circumstances, Carla and Wendy had smartly chosen a more simple mission in Magnolia rather than joining the rag tag bunch for this one.

While the successful completion was worth the pay, the team had still endured a near month of hell. Needless to say, they all were exhausted and anxious to get home.

The team had only just descended victorious from the snowy peak earlier that day, coming into a small village at the base of the mountains. The area was impoverished, and made of mostly goat farmers, but there did exist a single set of tracks by which a train could pass. Unfortunately, being so secluded, the town only harbored transportation to outside cities, including Magnolia, once a week. By coincidence, they had been lucky enough to arrive in the village on "train day" as the locals called it.

The site of the steaming engine had nearly brought the haggard members to their knees in grace until, or course, they realized they were one short. Natsu had gone missing (later found amongst an open market simply littered with food carts). In look for him, the train had departed without the guild members.

"It was an accident, I swear! Happy and I were starving!" Natsu argued.

"Don't drag me into it!" Happy said, his paws raised in protest.

"I bet you planned this, flame brain! You and your damn motion sickness! If you didn't want to ride the train, you could have walked by yourself, and not dragged us into it! UGH! " Gray said.

"That's a bunch of bull-" Natsu began but his sentence was tersely cut by Lucy.

"Just stop-I seriously could kill you right now," Lucy groaned while Erza just shook her head in obvious disappointment of the pink haired wizard.

"Tch-whatever," Natsu resigned. Sure he was a tough dude, but he had been getting it from all angles since they had decided to walk rather than stay a weeks time in the tiny hay-scented town. He honestly had not caused the delay on purpose, and it wasn't like he was guiltless for prolonging the journey. They had all worked their butts off on the mission and deserved a break.

Natsu's shoulders sagged and he let out a sad sigh, a metaphorical rain cloud forming above his head.

"Cheer up Natsu, I don't mind the walk" Happy said quietly, realizing the dragon slayer had had enough.

"Thanks, little buddy,"

"Um, what's that sound?" Lucy asked, stopping in her tracks and turning towards the brush and trees surrounding the meandering path they had been following for the past 35 miles.

Natsu sniffed the air cautiously. He could smell pine, and cedar, the squirrels, and the dirt of the forest, but he also picked up a retched, unfamiliar scent.

"Smells kind of strange," Natsu said, scrunching his nose at the foulness.

They all fell silent, listening intently. It sounded like a gigantic animal charging in the distance, breaking branches, and pummeling shrubs in its path.

"Whatever it is, it's getting closer," Erza said, a sword materializing in her hands from the ether world.

Natsu and Gray followed Erza's suit and sank into fighting positions, knees bent and ready for attack.

"Am I the only one with the strong urge to run?" Lucy, asked her knees quaking. The now distinct sounds of a bounding beast growing in intensity.

"Nope!" Happy said, grabbing onto Lucy's shoulder, his feathered wings quivering in fear.

"Here it comes!" Erza yelled, just as the beast broke into the clearing and skidded to a stop, its enormous size shadowing the footpath on which they stood.

"The HELL is that?!" Gray said.

"I don't know, but it sure is UHG-ley!" Natsu said, grimacing as the scent of mildew, and rot met his nose with full intensity.

The beast was a four legged, amphibian type creature. Its four eyes rolled in its head, and its long tail whipped back and forth with each movement. An elongated snout housed sharp, gnashing teeth. A single webbed sail ran down the animals back, but was retracted, and pressed close to its body. It's massive hind and fore claws dug into the forest floor as it suddenly lunged.

"Get out of the way!" Erza shouted, as the beast made no hesitation in its attack. The giant lizard was out for blood, its massive jaws snapping shut over the spot Gray had been standing seconds earlier.

Ducking and dodging the animal's aggressive advances, the team was rapidly pushed farther along the path, which opened to a beautiful clearing. The babbling river banked with grassy flowers and thick, low growing ground cover was the perfect stage for their impromptu brawl. They danced and dodged in a semi coordinated manor, moving into the open space, becoming separated as the creature herded them out of the wood.

"Lucy, look out!" Happy cried as the huge beast lunged towards the blond haired girl.

"Why is it always ME!" Lucy shrieked. There was no dodging the attack and it was far too late to implement her celestial magic. Lucy's heels teetered at the edge of the river bank she had been backed against.

"Lucy!" Natsu yelled, leaping forward just in time to tackle the blonde unceremoniously out of harms way. The two tumbled onto the nearby grass in a jumble of arms and legs. Lucy groaned as the air was knocked out of her by Natsu's rough interception.

"You okay Luce?" Natsu asked after untangling himself, and noting her stunned appearance.

"Oh sure..I'm perfectly fine..." Lucy said dazedly, her eyes spinning as the salmon haired boy released her and stood to face the wicked beast who had since set its eyes on Gray and Erza. A huge grin suddenly split Natsu's face. He was clearly enthralled by the challenge. Leave it to Natsu to welcome a fight after nearly 8 hours on the road.

"Hey guys leave some action for me!" Natsu called with ignited fists, leaping back into action, finally moving to the offense against the thing.

The late afternoon sun set an orange glow to the epic scene as the 4 beings engaged in a deadly dance. Sparks flew as Erza pointed blows struck steely scales and ice sheets coated the once vibrant flowery undergrowth. Flames lit the sky in red and yellow plumes.

"Are you sure you're alright, Lucy?" Happy asked while she sat up, rubbing her ribs. Lucy watched Natsu, Erza, and Gray gracefully strike blows to the terrible creature.

"Yeah I think so," Lucy said. She winced as the creature bellowed a roar, causing birds to startle from the surrounding trees. "That thing is giving those three a pretty fair fight!" She said.

"Uh huh," Happy trembled as the beast used its plated scales to deflect an ice attack fired by Gray. The beast then preceded to contort its giant mouth, spitting pressured green slime towards Erza and Natsu, who skidded out of harms way with ease.

"Whatever that thing is, it's gross!" Lucy said, grimacing at the steaming pits the green mucus left in its wake.

"Is that all you got, ugly!?" Natsu galled, hurling flames at the creature who roared in anger. It again used its plated tail to shield the attack.

Lucy slowly made her way to her feet, moving her hands to the key's that dangled at her belt "Might as well join in the fray-ah!" Lucy had to somersault out of the way as the beast suddenly decided she was on the menu again, ignoring Gray and Erza as its jaws searched for flesh.

"A little help here!" Lucy hollered as the beast made fast attempts to make her dinner. Lucy rolled and lunged to avoid the creatures gaping mouth, each of its strikes coming closer to the mark.

"Don't worry Lucy, I'm gonna poach this oversized crocodile," Natsu leaped onto the creature's back, and dug his hands under the plated scales, igniting his flames to sear the vulnerable skin beneath. The beast roared in pain and fury, turning its attention to Natsu.

"Natsu, don't let your guard down!" Erza yelled in caution as the beast thrashed and bucked, trying to throw Natsu to the ground. The fire parasite, however, had found the weak spot and shimmied closer to the creatures neck, again shooting heat under the protective scaly layer.

"Natsu!" Lucy cried as she now frantically dodge the creatures stamping feet as it tried to throw the fire wizard. Erza leapt to the rescue, snatching Lucy just before she was smashed.

Gray ran to join his team members, briefly checking to make sure Erza and Lucy were still unscathed. He looked to Natsu who almost comically rode the beast like a plastic bull at a country night club.

"Stop dicking around with your food, Natsu!"

"Shut it, freeze pop!" Natsu managed to yell.

Despite mocking his flame counterpart, Gray followed Natsu's suit and jumped onto the creature's hind leg, shooting sharp shards of ice against the grain of its scales. A few sank deeply into flesh. The beast cried out in a new fury, thrashing wildly. Gray and Natsu were forced to abandon ship as the giant lizard suddenly dropped to the ground and began to roll, hoping to use its massive body weight to crush its victims.

Gray leapt safely away, but Natsu fumbled. He was still wearing his backpack after all. The extra weight had left him unbalanced. He was caught in the shoulder by one of the massive claws on the lizard's fore foot. He tumbled to the ground, scuffing his face and hands. Without time to waste, Natsu scrambled to his feet, dislodging the pack and using it as a projectile to toss at the creature, distracting it as he tried to make up missed ground. Only momentarily interested by the luggage, the beast was able to rapidly advance.

Natsu made to dodge, but the beast was too quick. Its taloned claw wrapped around the dragon slayer. The creature clutched Natsu close to its body, leaning back to rest on its hind legs.

"Let me go!" Natsu yelled, arms pinned at his sides. The beast did not let Natsu go, rather, it turned towards the river, bent its four legs and dove, dragging Natsu along with it.

"Natsu, no!" Erza yelled, sweat beading down her face in disbelief. They had underestimated the creature, a dire mistake.

"Natsu!" Lucy and Happy both shouted in unison as the scaled tail disappeared below the surface of the roiling current. Natsu's angry yell was immediately cut by the plunge, leaving an eerie quiet only broken by the thrashing waves against the shore.

"Damnit, fire head!" Gray said, running to the edge of the water and forming his hands to summon his characteristic ice maker magic.

"Gray, what are you doing!" Erza said angrily, moving forward to survey the water.

"Freezing the water so that thing can't get away!"

"Natsu is in there with it, you idiot!" Erza yelled furiously. "Are you trying to kill him?!" Gray immediately lowered his hands, the blue glow subsiding. A panicked look crossed his face. "Well we gotta go in after him!" Gray said, skillfully ripping off his shirt and pants in one fluid motion and preparing to dive.

"Wait!" Erza yelled. Throwing her hand in front of Gray, just as a geyser of hot water shot from the river, broiling droplets pelting down upon the shore. Happy and Lucy frantically dodged the rain while Gray and Erza used their magic to disperse the offending moisture.

The water continued to bubble and boil, but neither Natsu, nor the monster returned to the surface.

"You think he's gonna get away from that thing on his own?" Gray asked in a low tone.

"Well, he is going to try, and unless you want to get boiled like a dumpling, I think we better let him," Erza said, though her crouched and ready position told the crew she yearned to dive in after the lovable pink haired nut, just as much as the rest of them.

"Natsu, please be okay," Lucy said. Her heart was racing in her chest. She ran to the river's edge and scanned the water for any sign of her friend.

Natsu's ears popped with the pressure change as the terrible beast dragged him deeper and deeper underwater. Though it was hazy in the murky depths, Natsu could just make out the webbing between the creatures toes and the way the monster's tail moved effortlessly to propel through the current.

'Must be a water creature,' Natsu thought fleetingly as he continued to struggle against the massive claws that gripped him. He summoned his powers, igniting fire around his body 'Time to bust outta here!'

The river grew hot as Natsu's flames licked his skin. The creature responded to the change in temperature, shrieking in pain, and stopping its downward decent.

'Not today, buddy, I'm fired up now,' Natsu cranked the heat a few degrees higher. The creature thrashed furiously, yet still maintained its death grip on the Fairy Tail Wizard.

'Stubborn bastard, huh?' Natsu thought, keeping his inner monolog light as to distract from the growing discomfort of his hungry lungs. With a final burst of dragon slayer magic, the beast could take no more.

Natsu knew he was in the clear, but was not prepared when the taloned claw holding him suddenly clenched, vise like. The grip did not last long, but Natsu could feel the cartilage of his ribs creak under the sudden pressure. The remaining air in his lungs was forced out in a stream of bubbles, and a cry of pain.

Just as quickly as it happened, Natsu was released, the creature withdrawing its blistered appendage with a frustrated screech, and retreating into the nearby darkness.

Natsu was left floundering, his lungs completely deflated by the monster's parting gift. His body screamed to stabilize, the negative pressure in his chest roared for equilibrium. Natsu could not help but involuntarily inhale, his chest muscles recoiling like a spring. The river rushed down his throat, filling his nose and lungs. Natsu choked and coughed futilely, but only more water sloshed down his windpipe. A surge of fear swept over Natsu as his chest truly began to burn.

In the corner of his vision, Natsu saw a flash of scales. The beast was circling the fire mage, patient for it's pray to stop moving, to die. A deep rooted chill took hold of him as the cold water swirled. 'I've got to end this!' Natsu thought.

In a last attempt to deter the monster, he ignited his flames even further, heat energy pouring from his body and boiling the river. The beast roared in anger as it realized defeat. As if to dispel its disappointing meal, the creature whipped its tail to make painful contact with the Fairy Tail wizard, slamming Natsu, and knocking him into a large boulder that sat on the river bed.

Natsu was dazed from the blow, his rapid heartbeat pounding in his ears. He sank to rest on the sludgy bottom of the river, all buoyancy taken by his water logged airway. The terrifying thought of impending death crossed his mind as the edges of his vision began to dim. He had gone too long without air. The ripping pain in his chest was unbearable. He was going to drown in this stupid river not even 5 miles from Magnolia. And even worse, at the hands-well claws-of this dumb animal!

'That ain't how I'm going out!' Natsu thought, a surge of anger and magic power rippling through his body. Adrenalin pumped through his veins. With his remaining effort, Natsu gathered his strength and powerfully kicked off from the submerged boulder to propel himself towards the surface.

He swam mightily, the water slowly becoming brighter as he ascended closer to the sun. Brighter and brighter and darker and -wait! Natsu's mind staggered as he realized the paradox of the dimming light. It was his vision! He was losing a hold on consciousness.

The panic began to build. This claustrophobic suffocation really was going to be his end.

'Dammit,' Natsu thought as he slipped into oblivion.

"There's no way! I'm not standing here any more!" Gray said, ready to leap into the water. It had been damn near 3 minutes and Gray was at wits end. So were Happy and Lucy. Erza had slowly looked to lose her composure too, her faith in the fire mage waning with each passing second. The water, continued to bubble in heat, however, giving her hope that Natsu was somewhere down there giving that beast hell.

"Wait, I know what to do! I'm so stupid, why didn't I think of this sooner..." Lucy suddenly exclaimed, sweeping her hand to her belt to brush against the familiar keys, easily selecting the desired one by touch. She had been so focused on letting Natsu duke it out that she hadn't even thought of her own ability to help.

"Open: Gate of the Water Bearer, Aquarius!" Lucy yelled, swinging the key in a characteristic pattern, golden magic swirling around her. The water zodiac appeared from the spirit realm in a cloud of smoke, that slowly dissipated to reveal the blue haired zodiac, a bored look on her face, that crossed with annoyance at the site of the busty blonde.

Gray stood with his mouth open and a worried expression, glancing between the wide river and the mermaid like spirit.

Before Aquarius had a chance to voice her protests at the summons, Lucy burst with a crying plea, "Aquarius! I need your help! My friend is trapped underwater and he can't get to the surface!"

"You call me for a trivial thing like that?" The water maiden asked with disinterest. "Please, I'm not a life guard."

"I called you for help, not your attitude!" Lucy said angrily.

"Please, the situation is becoming dire!" Erza chimed in, her voice ringing with serious determination. The blue haired girl glanced her way in consideration. With a final snort of indignation, Aquarius resigned to the task at hand, and dove beneath the current.

Gray, Erza, and Lucy held their breath with the spirit. Happy had nearly fainted from worry. "Hurry!" He squealed in anticipation, his blue fur standing on end.

A minute seemed like an hour, but finally, two figures emerged from the river. Aquarius used a tendril of water to dump Natsu onto the grass with a thud.

Oblivious to the state of her recent downing rescue, Aquarius ranted at her celestial wizard. "Now don't summon me again, blondey, I'm having a week getaway with my boyfriend, and if you interrupt us, so help me, I'll.."

"Not now Aquarius, please just go." Lucy dismissed the spirit, rushing to her drenched guild mate.

Gray was already beside Natsu, both hands firmly on his shoulders, shaking the pink haired wizard "Come on Natsu, wake up, flame-brain!"

On the surface, Gray seemed characteristic in the manhandling of his co-wizard, but Lucy could see the distress in his jerking motions. Even to Gray, Natsu's appearance was frightening. Other than Gray's hands on Natsu, the boy was still as stone. His lips were tinted blue, his face flaccid and bloodless.

He looked dead.

Lucy could feel her throat tighten and nausea well in her gut as she approached Natsu. He had been underwater for so long. What if he was dead. She couldn't bear the thought. She swallowed thickly and quickly dropped to her knees, carelessly bruising them as she became numb with worry.

"Natsu!" Happy wailed. He dug his claws into the white pants his friend was wearing and sobbed against Natsu's thigh. All the while Gray continued to yell obscenities and roughly jostle their unconscious teammate.

"Grey, stop! It's not working!" Lucy shouted. The way Natsu's limp body moved passively under Gray's actions was increasing the sickness in her stomach.

"She's right! Gray. Step back!" Erza said. Reluctantly, Gray moved away, leaving Natsu's form still once more. Gray pursed his lips unable to believe that his childhood rival was not bouncing back. He always bounced back.

Lucy gave him a sympathetic glance before leaning forward and gently grabbing Natsu's shoulders. She turned the limp wizard from his side to his back. Natsu's head lolled aimlessly.

"He's not breathing!" Lucy practically choked on the words. With Natsu on his back, the absence of breath was obvious-he lay completely still.

She placed trembling fingers to Natsu's throat, pressing her fingertips deeply into the groove of his neck.

"Well!?" Gray said impatiently.

"I can't- there's-nothing-" Lucy stuttered. Natsu lay ashen and cold below her. Fear began to sink to her core, threatening to overcome the small ounce of hope she clung to.

"Goddammit, Natsu," Gray mumbled, watching as Lucy determinedly took action. She piled her hands onto Natsu's chest and leaned over the fire mage to initiate compressions.

Happy retracted his claws from Natsu's pants and cuddled against his forearm, trembling in fear and shock. He couldn't bear the thought of losing his best friend, yet the possibility was more tangible than it had ever been. Happy reeled as he tried to rationalize the situation. Sure, Natsu had been critically injured before, but never had Natsu stopped breathing.

The celestial wizard bore forcefully down onto Natsu's sternum, but however hard she pushed, Lucy could feel Natsu's solid rib cage resisting with might. It made sense that Natsu would be so built. It was the only explanation of how he survived the many beatings he so often took. Each of her compressions barely moved his ribs. If she couldn't collapse his sternum, the CPR was useless. Lucy's arms were trembling after only 10 compressions.

A sob escaped her, as she started to lose control. She couldn't do it. They were running out of time, and each second Natsu drifted further away. Lucy could feel tears begin to run down her face as she desperately threw her body weight into Natsu's chest.

"Lucy.." Gray said in concern, but Erza interrupted the ice wizard.

"You're not pushing hard enough!" Erza stated bluntly, and firmly relieved Lucy of her position. Lucy, stricken by emotion, allowed her trembling body to be moved aside by the scarlet haired women. Gray placed an icy hand on Lucy's shoulder, providing a lifeline of comfort. He was not far from being out of control himself, and giving Lucy support kept him just a little bit closer to sanity.

Magic swirled around Erza as the powerful women bent over Natsu, her hands folded perfectly in the center of his chest. She pooled her magic into her shoulders and arms as she pressed into Natsu.

It took 3 forceful compressions before the group could hear a sickening series of loud cracks, Natsu's ribs finally breaking under the weight. Erza remained stoic, her only falter being the deepening crease of her brow. Lucy and Gray, however, both winced at the sound. Happy cried quietly, but would not take his paws away from Natsu's hand, gripping it fervently.

Erza paused in her actions to tip Natsu's chin back, exposing the vulnerable skin of his neck, just barely visible above the dragon scale warmer that had miraculously stayed in place during the ordeal. She pinched the bridge of his nose and pursed her lips over Natsu's, blowing air forcefully down his throat. The dragon slayer's chest rose minutely and fell with each artificial breath.

After Erza had completed nearly three series of strictly orchestrated press, blow, pause, Gray was at wits end. "Damnit, why isn't it working!"

Erza had paused again, to breath for Natsu when Gray stepped in, tired of watching his friend lay lifelessly on the ground.

"Breath, you damn idiot!" Gray yelled, bringing his fist down onto Natsu's stomach without mercy, embedding his knuckles deeply into the dragon slayer's diaphragm.

"Gray!" Erza yelled, but immediately gasped when Natsu gagged, water spilling from his mouth and running down his chin and neck.

"Natsu!" Lucy said, pushing aside Grey and Erza who were stunned by their teammate's sudden signs of life.

She leaned forward and grabbed the fire wizard firmly, turning him onto his side while he began to expel water from his lungs. Her trembling seemed to subside as she filled with purpose again. She could still feel a crushing anxiety gripping her chest, but Natsu wasn't dead. She repeated this to herself over and over again while stoking Natsu's arm, tears rushing down her face more so than before.

"That's it Natsu," Erza said thankfully, using her knees to support Natsu from rolling to his back again. His frame shook from wracking coughs as he purged his lungs of the river water. His body fought agonizingly between ridding itself of the foreign liquid and inhaling shallow, strangled breaths.

The terrible retching, and gasping continue on for what seemed like an eternity as they all sat on edge. Gray's knuckles went white as he clenched his fists. The small amount of pain caused by the nails cutting into his palm kept him grounded.

Finally, the flow of water from Natsu's lips began to stem, and the fire dragon was able to take full, desperate breaths. Lucy and Erza both worked to ease Natsu onto his back once more. Lucy gently rested Natsu's head in her lap and continued to stroke his shoulders, unable to keep nervous hands still. His chest seemed to expand impossibly with each breath, as if to try and inhale the entire atmosphere.

Gray unfolded his knees from under himself and plopped onto his butt, running a shaky hand through his hair, never taking his eyes off Natsu. The pale mage had yet to open his eyes. Water droplets fell from his salmon hair with each cough that intermittently caught in his throat and shook his body.

"Is he going to be okay?" Happy asked, shaking Natsu's hand.

"I think he will be fine," Erza said, though her voice was still laced with worry. Natsu groaned as if in response.

"You hear that flame-brain? You're gonna make it." Gray said threateningly.

Natsu could hear the voices of his comrades swirling around him, calling his name, but as he surfaced closer to awareness, his thoughts began reeling in a panicked rush. Last he remembered, he had been trapped underwater. Natsu's heart clenched at the thought and he took a deep inhale. He could feel air-not water- inflate his lungs. Thank the gods.

Natsu grimaced, his brow furrowing as he took shaky inhales, and simply processed each sense as his mind calmed, realizing he was no longer in imminent danger.

First off, he was soaking wet; from the river of course, and he was cold; well that was also understandable. A strong earthy smell hung in the air; he was laying on grass as far as he could tell, and he was quite winded; he had nearly drowned. His chest felt like it had been beaten with a hammer; that thing had squeezed him pretty hard he guessed, and his friends sounded like they were at a funeral; over him?

Natsu groaned subconsciously. Taking it all in piece by piece was giving him a headache, and he was exhausted. A part of him wanted to fall asleep. A large part. That would be a reasonable thing to do, he was already lying down after all. The other part, however, wanted to figure out what the hell had happened. Somehow he had been dragged out of the river-he didn't remember that part. All he remembered was the crushing terror and fading world, but perhaps he had felt a sturdy hand cuffing the back of his vest and pulling him back towards the light. It was all a blur.

Gritting his teeth, Natsu finally resolved to peel open his eyes. He was blearily greeted by the image of his guild members surrounding him.

"Hey, he's waking up!" Happy exclaimed grabbing at Natsu in disbelief. Natsu closed his eyes again and scrunched his face, clutching at his abdomen fitfully. It also felt like he'd been punched in the gut.

Happy's words echoed in his head painfully. His brain hurt. Every sensation was intensified and pulsing throughout his body. He was short of breath and nauseous as hell, not to mention the unbelievable pain that ripped through his ribcage with every slight movement. But he was alive, and that was fantastic.

Acting on pure instinct, Natsu did the only thing he could do when he was down-he got back up, words forming at his lips without cognizant thought.

" 'm okay," Natsu slurred. His throat was sore.

"Natsu?" Lucy said in concern, as the dragon slayer squirmed away from her and rolled himself gracelessly onto his stomach. Happy reluctantly released his death grip to let Natsu sit up. With what looked like all his strength, Natsu propped himself onto his hands and knees, grabbing his chest again as his broken ribs shifted with the movement. He groaned.

Gray gently took hold of Natsu's shoulder in a steadying manner, as the fire mage swayed. Gray ducked his head and used his raven bangs to shadow his eyes, hiding the concern he could not wipe clean from his features.

"Take it easy, you pyro, you just came back from the dead," Gray said, trying to act casual but failing miserably.

"Oh Natsu, I'm so glad you're okay," Lucy cried, hugging herself around the middle and trying to regain composure.

Natsu grimaced as he worked to lean back onto his heels, raising himself to level with Erza who had also placed a steadying hand onto his other shoulder.

"What happened, I-" Natsu began to ask until he suddenly gasped and crumpled slightly forward as a stab of agony ripped through his torso.

"Natsu, I'm so sorry, I had to break your ribs to keep your heart beating." Erza lamented, tears springing to her eyes, matching Lucy. "You were in trouble, and it was all I could do..." Erza trailed off, her grip tightening on the shoulder in her grasp.

Natsu was still foggy, but he could feel the blatant cloud of concern that hung in the atmosphere. In his mind, if he was still breathing there was no need for further worry!

"S'okay, Erza, 'm fine?" Natsu said, an awkward smile playing on his lips, hoping to reassure her. He couldn't help but open his mouth, drawing more glorious air into his lungs while keeping his arm firmly around his torso in support.

His eyes flicked to Gray and then Lucy-he lingered on the devastated expression written on her face and the tear tracks streaking her cheeks. Had he caused that? Dammit, he hated to see her cry!

"No more crying if it's over me, got it?" Natsu gasped out-that had been a lot of words- he realized, already out of breath- again.

"I'm not, you dumby" Lucy said angrily as a few more tears escaped against her will.

Natsu wanted to tell her to stop, and that she was being ridiculous, but he could barely catch his breath and suddenly was overwhelmed by a wave of nausea. They all winced as Natsu promptly curled forward further, doubling onto his hands once more, and vomited a large amount river water onto the grass.

"Oh Natsu," Happy said, dismayed.

Natsu cringed as the involuntary heaves jostled his broken rib cage. Stars danced in his vision and the world spun in dizzying circles.

Unable to fight the sudden spell of vertigo, the fire wizard crumpled back to the grass. Lucy caught his head and shoulders and lay them over her knees tenderly.

"Stop trying to play the hero, Natsu," Gray scolded, watching his friend gasp and struggle. "You're such an idiot"

"What'd'ya mean...I AM the hero," Natsu said breathlessly, his eyes appearing glossy and vague. Laying still slowly dispersed the nauseating dizziness and left a high pitched ringing in his ears.

"More like damsel in distress," Lucy chimed in, a small smile finally gracing her lips. She stroked Natsu's still dripping hair, pulling the water droplets away and scattering them to the grass.

"Aw come on- I beat that oversized lizard no problem," Natsu rasped, finding he had enough breath to tolerate that sentence better than before.

"No problem? You might not remember, but Lucy had to summon Aquarius to drag your ass out of the river," Gray said.

"Still beat it, though,"

"You nearly died trying!" Gray said, feeling his temper flare. "You are so goddamn thick,"

"You would have missed me," Natsu said, cheeky as ever though his face was pale and dark circles rimmed his eyes. At those words Gray actually froze. Erza and Lucy both looked to each other, letting Natsu's flippant remark sink in.

There was silence for a few long seconds before Gray replied.

"Yeah," Gray said, completely serious, his anger vanishing, "I would have,"

"Hah, Gray's gone slushy," Natsu laughed at his own ice pun before triggering an ungraceful coughing fit. He finally composed himself but realized the group had remained stoic, and trained on him.

"What?" Natsu said obliviously, his eyebrows furrowing.

"Natsu, we all would have missed you," Erza said.

"Yeah, that's what I just said-" Natsu began, still blind to the sudden tears welling in Lucy's eyes and the deepening frown across Gray's lips.

"No you idiot, we really thought we lost you," Gray practically yelled. "You weren't even breathing you know, you didn't have a pulse. Do you realize how much stress you put us through!?"

"Gray," Erza said calmly, trying to douse his sudden explosion.

"What Gray is trying to say," Lucy choked, "Is that you really scared us. I-we-thought we were losing a friend today,"

Natsu wearily glanced between his guild mates and studied their features carefully. "Not breathing huh?" Natsu considered the information, his mood slowly changing to match those around him. Had it really been that bad? All he remembered was passing out in the river and then waking up on land-feeling crummy-but more or less intact.

"If you had been under water any longer, I don't think we would have been this lucky." Erza said, again accenting the precarious situation Natsu's life had been in mere minutes earlier. He reflected on this momentarily but was drawn from his thoughts by the small impact of Happy collapsing over his stomach.

"I thought I was gonna be all alone!" Happy wailed.

"Listen buddy, I'm fine, nothing's the matter anymore," Natsu said, stroking Happy's blue fur which was quickly becoming damp from rubbing himself against Natsu's drenched clothing. Natsu paused again, frowning and thinking. If it had been anyone else in his situation he would have been beside himself.

Nothing is worse than thinking you have lost a friend. The image of Gray, lifeless on the ground, appeared in his mind's eye, then Erza, and finally Lucy. He shivered and blanched at just the thought. What if it had been Happy instead of him? He could not stand it. In all honesty, he would never have wanted to be in his friends' shoes at that moment. He would always choose to take the hit, rather than watch someone he loved get hurt. Perhaps that was why he always lived so recklessly. He was overwhelmed with empathy.

"I'm sorry for worrying you all...And thanks for saving me Lucy," Natsu added tipping his head towards the blond wizard, finally humbled.

"Of course," Lucy said, stunned that Natsu had used his brain enough to remember to thank her. With that, a sudden warmth swelled in her heart and finally dispersed the lingering shards of fear. She smiled genuinely and leaned forward, planting a kiss on Natsu's forehead.

Natsu blushed deeply as Lucy's soft lips brushed his forehead. Her hair had become disheveled in the fight and she had to tuck her golden locks behind her ears to keep it from falling into Natsu's eyes.

Erza smiled knowingly at the exchange and winked at Natsu who blushed even harder. Gray tried to ignore the two, looking up at the sky until Lucy had pulled back, her own cheeks pink with color.

"She loooves you," Happy said in a wobbly voice, only just able to stop his crying. Lucy didn't deny it, she just kept smiling brightly.

"We all do!" She said, squeezing Natsu's shoulders fondly.

Gray cleared his throat, "I'm only going to say this once, bone head, and don't get used to it-I'm glad you're okay. I don't want to think about what it would have been like if you weren't with us,"

"Never thought I'd see the day," Natsu shook his head in disbelief at Gray's sentimental words. "Careful, you might accidentally melt your frozen hear," Natsu said mischievously.

"My heart's not frozen, you squinty-eyed bastard!"

"Dopey-eyed popsicle" Natsu said without much malice, closing his eyes momentarily in fatigue. He could have laid there all afternoon.

"Natsu-" Lucy said hesitantly, "I'm sorry for earlier,"

"Hm?" Natsu hummed in question, unable to recall a reason for her sudden apology.

"I'm also sorry, Natsu," Erza piped in, bowing regretfully towards her pink haired guild mate.

"Me too," Gray sighed.

"What are you talking about?" Natsu asked trying his brain. He could barely remember the days earlier events after the excitement of the battle.

"We were kind of being a bunch of jerks earlier since we left that village. I was pissed at you, but I definitely dragged it out," Gray said

Lucy nodded in agreement with Gray "I was really hard on you too, even though I knew you didn't make us miss the train on purpose,"

"None of us accepted your apologies, which is not how friends are supposed to work," Erza said, the deep disappointment in herself displayed in her tone. They were all thinking the same thought: If that day had been their last with the fire mage, they would have all harbored regret. They looked expectantly to Natsu as he considered their words.

Honestly, Natsu was shocked at their sincere apologies. It all came back to him instantly of course, the somber walk, constant berating, and continual complaints from his travel companions, but never in a million years would he have expected an apology. He would have laughed if he weren't scared of the agony his chest might feel, so he settled for a wide grin.

"I forgive you guys, I deserved it anyway, right?" Natsu said with a toothy smile. He was so grateful for his friends, he wouldn't change a thing. And they were grateful for him. That's what a guild is supposed to be, after all.

"Well, now that that's settled, what do you say we get back to the guild so Wendy can heal you up!" Erza said jovially, contrasting the serious situation. "We're almost home!"

End :)