» chapter one

» in which natsu thrashes a lion

Natsu had been breaking into Lucy's apartment long enough to recognize the sounds and scents of it: spices and smoke, for instance, meant that she was just enough done with his favorite chicken soup and he was right on time; nose-tingling lavender and off-kilter humming meant she was enjoying a forty five minute-long bath and he had just enough time to read her latest manuscripts; on that note, drying ink and weary sighing meant she'd just finished another story, but if she gave a dreamy sigh instead, it was some gooey lovey-dovey spiel and he should steer clear. The day after a long mission in a nearby farming town, however, he found something he hadn't encountered for a while; rightly so, the artificial citrus and new clothing scent threw him off until he saw Lucy dancing around her bedroom.

"Natsu!" she said with a wide smile, clapping her hands together excitedly. He raised his eyebrows, curiosity piqued: usually she wasted no time in berating him for using the window. Today she was wearing a dress just white enough to be new that curved her body like a second skin as well as lots of jewelry and makeup.

"Why're you wearing so much crap?" Her eyebrow twitched but she didn't let his comment damper her mood.

"I'm going on a date."

Oh, okay.

"A date?" he repeated as she dabbed her cheek with something red.

"Yes, a date. That's what girls do."

"Yeah, but…you never have dates." This time she frowned, giving him a cross look.

"What's that supposed to mean?"

"It means you never have dates? I thought I was pretty clear?"

"B-Because I wasn't on the market!" she protested. "Not because I couldn't get one!"

"I didn't say you couldn't," he said, putting his hands up in surrender. She simply huffed and turned back to her mirror. Her going on a date sucked—that much he could remember from the few she usually had. He couldn't follow her, even if the restaurant had the best food, and she always had the window locked until she returned, and even when she did return—most likely late into the night—all she could do was gush about how perfect her date was, best case scenario. Worst case scenario, she groused and huffed about it and randomly snapped on him the next few days. Suffice it to say, the whole situation wasn't good on Natsu's end.

"Well, anyway, I'll be heading out," she said, straightening and fluffing her hair. It was down, he noticed, and fixed into lots of wild curls. He wanted to make a joke like she glued a bunch of screws onto her head, but it…worked with her. He actually found himself going speechless for a couple of seconds before bringing his mind back to earth. Uh, what? he wondered. I've seen Lucy go on dates lots of times—why is it different now?

"Who're you going with?" he asked without really thinking. He expected one of the typical, forgettable names—Julius, Ethan, Mick, something like that—but that night, Lucy was full of surprises:

"It's with Loki."

"Loki," he repeated. "Like, our Loki."


"Flirty, lion-head, glasses-wearing, your Spirit?"

"I think we already confirmed that it's that Loki."

"But…oi, Lucy," he said when she tried to sweep past him. She turned with a curious eyebrow raised. "You've been pushing him off for…since forever, so why're you going out with him now?"

"I'm not trying to be rude…really, I'm not…but why is it your business?"

"Well, it's not, but… I wanna know," he said. She sighed, debating it for a moment.

"There was…something in Sorcerer's Weekly." He wrinkled his nose in distaste.

"That stupid magazine you read every month, with the Perfect Guy test and all?"

"It's not stupid! And that's not the point!" She took a deep breath, closed her eyes, then opened them with an annoyed look. "I'm going to be late. I promised to meet him at 8Island. Just ask Mira and she'll tell you."

"What?" She continued glaring at him and he relented. It was never good to pester Lucy when she had a date waiting anyway…even if it was Loki.

"And one more thing?"

"Yeah?" He was feeling a little sulky, but Mira would surely shed some light on the situation.

"Get out of my house!"

"Can I borrow your Sorcerer's Weekly?"

"Why?" Mirajane asked, an amused smile on her face. "An interest?"

"Yeah, kinda. Lucy mentioned something to me and I wanna check it out." Her smile grew to creepy levels.

"I think I know what you're talking about," she said, reaching under the counter. He perked up immediately.

"Really? Ah thank you! It's been messin' with my brain all night!" She handed the issue over, already on the accursed page, and went to deliver drinks to a table.

"I hope you find it…enlightening," she said cryptically, winking an eye. He stared blankly before bringing his attention to the magazine. Meanwhile, the gears in Natsu's head started turning.

I don't see the problem, was the first thing he thought, scanning the page. It was an article, and the cover photo was him and Lucy on a bench near the canal. He was sleeping on her shoulder and she was looking at him, but that was really it. "I don't get it… What's wrong here?"

"Depends on how ya see it," Cana commented, leaning in to scan the article. "Ya might see it normal, but some normal guy'd see a girl and her boyfriend."

"Her…what? That's crazy!" Among other things. "Lucy's my best friend."

"Uh-huh," Cana said, skeptical. He turned the page and found an entire article, like a solid two and a half pages, on Fairy Tail's "star couple," about how they kept their relationship professional until they were "behind closed doors," and a line he didn't quite get about if he was a dragon "down there" too. (Ridiculous; he wasn't actually a dragon. What kind of idiot wrote that?) That was as far as his skimming went.

"Ooh," he breathed, "I get it now."

"Hmm?" she hummed, a drunken smile on her face. "What do you get?"

"Lucy went on a date 'cause she doesn't want people to think we are together." He understood, but he didn't like it—what exactly was wrong with him that she'd rather be seen with Loki? She got all dressed up for him too, makeup and jewelry… He didn't like that crap anyway, but it looked like she put in three times the effort just for that lion than every day with Natsu. "Isn't that it?'

Before Cana could respond Natsu pushed away from the bar, catching Lucy's scent just outside the door. She came in giggling, and Lucy didn't giggle often, but he quickly saw what was so funny: Loki. He was in his normal, human clothes, and he had his arm around her shoulders, talking to her with a grin on his face. If Natsu cared enough, he would've listened closer, but as it was he watched them from the weak perspective of a normal person as they went to a booth, still laughing over whatever he was saying.

"Oi, Salamander," Gajeel said as he passed, "if ya stare at 'em any harder, they'll catch on fire." He blinked in surprise; he was so absorbed in watching them that he hadn't caught Gajeel's scent right behind, and Gajeel had a scent to turn all noses. Nobody else smelled like bar food and scrapyard steel.

"Hey, Gajeel, can I ask a question." Gajeel stopped mid-step, turning towards him.


"If Levy went on a date with, I dunno, Gray, would it piss you off?"

"She wouldn't," he said with extreme conviction.

"Okay. Hypothetically."

"Hypothetically," he repeated with a scowl (well, he was always scowling, but still), "yes, I'd be pissed off to Hell. Why?" He stopped, looked back at Lucy and Loki, then turned to Natsu with a smirk. "Ooh, I get it. I didn't think ya had the brains to be jealous, but life's full of surprises."

"Wha—I'm not jealous," he said, but Gajeel was already walking off to Levy's table. He crossed his arms over his chest with a groan; why was everybody misunderstanding him? Was he speaking another language now?

"Oi, Gray," Natsu called, dodging past the midmorning bar crowd to Gray's table. He was slowly freezing a glass of vodka with a look while Juvia worked on burning a hole in his back from behind a column twelve feet away. Gray looked up, already poised for an insult, then blinked in surprise.

"Gray," he repeated. "Not stripper, Ice Prick, Snow Queen?"

"I don't have time. Look, can—you—understand—what—I—am—saying?"

"About as well as I usually can."

"Great," he sighed. "I thought I was cursed in my sleep or something."

"What the hell's wrong with you now? —Aside from the usual."

"Lucy's—I don't know. All I know is that that—" he looked at Lucy and Loki again, who were still laughing it up and having a ball, "is bothering the hell outta me."

"So she's with Loki," he said, looking over his shoulder. "Interesting."

"More like annoying."

"Oh. I get it." Gray melted the ice around his cup with a swipe of his finger and took a quick drink, licking his lips, and continued: "You're jealous that it's Loki and not you."

"Not me what? I mean, it's a one-time thing—all her dates are. She hangs out with some stupid guy for a night and it's back to us hanging out the next morning."

"But obviously that's not the case here," he pointed out. Natsu seethed quietly. "They do have more chemistry than some one-night stand from the street, so it makes sense that they'd have a good connection. It might even be longstanding." Whereas it was chilly before, Gray's drink abruptly came to a boil, and he shoved it away so quickly it spilled all over the table. "Hey, flames-for-brains, watch yourself!"

"What's so great about Loki anyway?" he complained, ignoring the barb. "How come she'd rather be seen with him than me?"

"Ask her that, and leave me alone before you scorch me."

"Fine, whatever." He walked off, feeling like he was coiled tighter than a triple knot. Never, ever had Lucy's love life (or what little of it she had) bothered him as much as now: usually, her dates were nothing more than a minor inconvenience, but now it felt damn near personal. She chose Loki over him, or at least superficially, and more than insulting, it was hurtful. Even if they weren't together together, they were still pretty close after a year of NDEs and friendship, so what was wrong with the rest of Magnolia knowing how close they were?

"Natsu." He noticed that a request paper was shoved into his face—how long had it been there? Lucy pulled her hand back with a frown. "Are you okay?'

"Perfect," he said without really thinking about it. "A job?"

"Yeah. It's the kind of punch-up stuff that you like, and the reward's high enough that when you destroy the town—which you always do—there'll still be enough for me to pay rent!" She hugged the paper to her chest and spun on the spot, giddy as always with the prospect of rent money. The usual sight gave him his first genuine smile all day. "Where's Happy?" she asked, calming down a bit.

"He's still on his solo mission with Charla, but Erza and Ice Prick are still—"

"Oh no," she interrupted, putting her hands out to stop him. "The reward's not big enough to cover the damage from them too."

"So just us?" The prospect was more than a little enticing.

"Just the two… Loki's coming too," she said after a moment. That stupid lion showed up as if she summoned him, throwing his arm around Lucy's shoulders with his usual coy smirk.

"This is gonna be the first mission we've done together in a while, huh, Natsu?" he said amicably. Yeah, Natsu sort of remembered doing a couple of missions with him after he joined, but his mind was a little too jumbled to focus on the memory.

"I guess…"

"I'm gonna go run this by Mira." Lucy stood on her toes to kiss Loki briefly before going towards the bar. Loki smiled a moment before grimacing, shrugging his hoodie from his shoulders.

"Natsu, you're cooking me."

"What?" He realized that, again, his magic was getting the better of him, this time leaving scorch marks in the ground from the heat, and he received enough lectures from the Master to know how much he hated those. "Oh. Sorry." This mission is going to suck, he thought, watching Loki go over to the bar. Lucy bumped into his chest as she turned and they both started laughing again. Then he held his arm out and said something along the lines of "You first, Princess," at which she blushed and smiled instead of rolling her eyes as usual. Yup, it's gonna suck ass, he added petulantly. He needed someone else, a fourth person, but who? No matter how much Loki was starting to piss him off, he couldn't stand a mission with Gajeel, and she was really adamant on not taking Gray and Erza, so…

"Wendy!" he said, catching her at a table with Romeo. She gave him a surprised smile before he continued, "Are you busy? Can you go on a mission with Lucy and me?"

"You usually go on missions with your team," she said.

"Well not this time. Just—please, Wendy?"

"O-Okay, Natsu," she relented. "I'll go. But why?"

"That's why." He not-so-subtly glared daggers at Loki. Wendy followed his gaze, her mouth making a little "o."

"But I thought you were friends with Loki?"

"It's not, ugh, the problem isn't me being friends with him—we are friends—but if I have to watch them being all lovey-dovey and sit through a train ride, my brains are gonna melt."

"Too late!" Gajeel was happy to intercede from across the hall. Of course, Natsu had to insult him back, and that escalated into the usual fight. Also of course, Erza broke up the fight as soon as she returned from her latest mission, which involved several deep claw marks in her armor and a suspicious purple stain on her cheek. All in all, everything was normal, everything except one person: Natsu himself. He shouldn't have been as bothered he was, but the fact was that the entire day was really starting to piss him off. It pissed him off as he went to sleep that night and it pissed him off as the—ugh—the four of them set off towards the train station.

It was a joke, it used to be a damn joke. And the joke wasn't even going around the whole Guild—it was mostly with Cana and Mira, the usual suspects, and maybe with the Master on a drinking day, but it wasn't a thing, not really. Special events like VALENTINE'S DAY, or the Christmas party some months ago, they went out of their way to pin up Natsu and Lucy as their "star couple"—at least, that's what he thought they called them. Lucy always flushed and denied it with all the anger of a Forest Vulcan, but for Natsu, it was whatever.

Why exactly did Lucy hate that word being used on them?

For Natsu, a couple just meant "being together." Kissing and alone time was there too, sure, but the basis of it was the same, wasn't it? "Being with the person you care about most?" There was no one else that he would sleep in the same bed with, or know the scents of their home so perfectly, or bear with their awful mood swings (Erza's mood swings? Hell on earth), stand side by side with through every last fight, and fight for down to his last breath and drop of blood.

Suffice it to say, then, that her not wanting to be seen as such, going so far as to pick Loki over him (not that he had any real problem with Loki; had it been anyone, even like Jet, his complaints still stand), was…confusing, among a lot of other things. He liked to believe that he was the strongest around (except Erza and Gildarts, but that had yet to be decided until their next fight), but something about the whole situation made him feel really…weak. Not just because he was on a train either. He wished he could ask someone about it, but he wasn't quite in the mood to bear with their "You're jealous!" spiel, because if he did admit that he was, then they would make a show out of them "being in love." Which he wasn't—that much he was sure about. Mostly.

"Ugh, Natsu," Lucy complained. Natsu tried to focus past his squinting and saw her disgruntled expression from down below. Had he fallen on her lap? It was hard to tell anything at the peak of his motion sickness. Up was down, inside-out was to the left, and Happy might've been pink, for all he could tell.

"S…Sorr…" He wanted to ask where Loki was, but considering that he could barely get one word out, he gave up.

"I'm envious of Wendy right now," she sighed, resting a hand just behind his ear. He tensed from the contact at first, expecting her to knock him out to avoid his whining like Erza, but she left it there anyway, and he guessed that she did it unconsciously. "Loki's entertaining her so she doesn't get too sick, and I'm here with you about to puke on my legs. Don't, by the way—this is a brand-new Heart Kreuz skirt."

My stomach doesn't discriminate, he wanted to say, but it came out more like an "Euurrrgh."

"I expected you to say that," she said dryly. "But I'm used to it anyway." He couldn't tell if it was good used or bad used—probably the second one, since he always threw up on her clothes. He closed his eyes and let out a short whine as the train ascended a hill, leaving his already-shaken stomach behind. He stopped a second later when, to his surprise, her fingers started moving in his hair. She pulled a little, twisted it a bit, rubbed little circles in his head, and kept it up. He looked back at her but, again, she looked distracted. Well, if nothing else, it was a nice distraction.

At least, it started out as just a nice distraction.

With his body calmed by Lucy's incredible fingers he could focus more on the sounds, and by the tensing of her muscles, so could she. A nearby pair of girls were giggling and talking about them, "Lucy of Fairy Tail" and "the Salamander" having a "lovely tryst in the middle of a train." He had no idea what in hell a "tryst" was, but by Lucy's growing anxiety, she knew all too well.

"You're fine now, so you can get off me," she muttered, pushing him away and towards the window. His head bumped against it with a weak thud and he turned back towards her to see her forcefully engaging in a conversation with Loki about "how absolutely enchanting giggle giggle their date was," a wide smile on her face. Natsu could tell it was fake, and so should Loki, but the passengers didn't know the difference and started gossiping about the new sight, the word "threesome" bouncing around a lot. Seriously, were they even speaking English anymore? He could only afford maybe a couple minutes more of focus before a sharp curve left him reeling, then he promptly received a painful thwacking for throwing up on Lucy's shirt. But hey, he missed her skirt.

By the time the train reached the station of their destination, a sleepy waterside village called Harmonia, he was damn near ready to kiss the rusted metal station floor, which he was about to do before Lucy choked him off with his scarf. "We're going to report in to the client," Lucy told him. "You can go get started on the Vulcans in the meantime."

"I'll help," Loki added before Natsu could even get a word in. A previously ideal picture of smashing Vulcans' faces in was ruined by Loki's perfect lion-y glow. He had a brief image of his fist making close friends with Loki's perfect face and internally blanched. Sure, he was resenting the guy, but he wasn't seriously going to fight him over Lucy, who wasn't really his to begin with. She could date whoever she wanted…even if it was a guy that flirted with anything that breathed.

"You're going too?" she asked, then turned to Wendy. "You should come with me then, so when the inevitable repair bills get sent over, you won't take the blame."

"No, Lucy-san—"

"It's okay, really. At least one of them is a responsible adult that can keep themselves in check," she said with a pointed look in their direction. Natsu wasn't a mind reader or anything, but he guessed that she meant that look for Loki. "The forest is supposed to be towards the south of the village," she said, pointing to the left of them where the crosshatched road stretched between rows of plain houses. "Follow that road and you'll reach it."

"This should just take a minute," Natsu told her, his fists already lit in anticipation of crushing monster faces. He was already going down the road as fast as Erza demolishing strawberry cake. Sure, Loki was right on his tail in his black-suited, lion-headed glory, but even that couldn't damper Natsu's mood. The last few missions they had taken involved rescuing cats, retrieving stolen items, blah blah blah—this was the first fighting mission he'd had in a long time, and lion or no lion, he was going to have a ball.

One step onto the pine needled forest floor led into him being yanked up by his jacket with the meaty hand of a Forest Vulcan. It was mottled green and brown in cover, serving as perfect camouflage to the untrained eye, but Natsu could smell its stink from a mile away.

"What's up, ugly?" he grinned, causing the Vulcan to tilt its head to the side in confusion. "Meet Righty." He slammed his fist into its face, and a second later its leafy body exploded in flames. It howled in pain and dropped him to the ground, running and ducking through the thick cover of trees and bushes with a ringing call. Soon the stink of Vulcan was everywhere, and one was coming up just behind him.

"Regulus Impact!" Natsu shielded his eyes from the burning golden glow as Loki crept behind him, knocking a Vulcan flat on its back with a weakening gurgle. He sighed as he rubbed his ringed fist. "At least give me time to catch up," he said.

"I did. Mostly." He turned as a ring of large ugly behemoths circled them, standing back-to-back with the spirit. No matter his personal troubles, Loki was still a guild-mate and longtime friend, someone he could always trust to have his back in a battle.

"On three?" Loki asked, giving him an over-the-shoulder smirk. Natsu returned it, finally feeling normal for the first time since the whole situation began.

"Three!" they exclaimed in unison before rushing into the fray. Nothing mattered anymore, nothing but the pounding of his heart and the sound of his breath in his ears and the tingling of his fire as it ran across his skin and scorched through a horde of Vulcans. Their pained cries, even, meant less than his own roars resounding through his head. Oh, he missed the rush of battle, and even if it was with a bunch of Vulcans, it was better than lying around the Guild hall waiting for screw-all to happen.

"Natsu!" Loki called all of a sudden. Natsu didn't hear him at first, too busy on a certain Vulcan that had just a bit more dodging ability than the others, then he noticed a rumbling laugh behind him. He whirled around, fists ready, but inadvertently bared himself for the dodgy one, which immediately seized his shoulders and forced itself inside of him.

"GET OUT!" he roared, spinning in a wild circle and spewing flames as he went. The other Vulcans succumbed and Loki scattered to avoid the blaze, but that Vulcan's terrible laughter was bouncing around his skull. He watched his fist raise, not of his own accord, then it pounded against his chest, surely fracturing a rib. He gasped, losing his breath, which was when his foot came up and smashed the other, causing him to hit the ground. The Vulcan continued like that, using Natsu's own body against him until he was a mess of bruises and scratches and pain. Even if he had control over his magic, his muscle alone was enough to break bone.

"Lion Brilliance!" Suddenly Loki's light, all-consuming and so damn bright, filled Natsu's corneas and seared his retinas. Better, the Vulcan shrieked in pain, momentarily deafening him to the world before it left his body in a puff of magic. He couldn't tell what happened to it right off the bat, but by Loki's calmed expression, it wasn't a threat anymore. "That was the last of them, I believe. Are you okay?"

"A little banged up," he admitted, "but I wish there were more." He pushed himself to his feet, feeling just a bit unsteady, but it would pass. Loki exhaled with a smile, like he expected that.

"I knew you'd say that," he confirmed.

"'course! I'm always fired up!"

"Of course," he echoed with a laugh, then grimaced. "Not everyone can be like you though." He pulled his collar loose and Natsu noticed a burgeoning bruise on his neck the rough size of a Vulcan fist that really would hurt by morning.

"Wendy can patch that up, easy."

"I'd rather see Lucy play nurse." He got a dreamy look on his face. "That'd be a lot more interesting. You know, I'm surprised she said yes to go out with me," he said while Natsu was still trying to find his tongue. "I always thought you two were an item, but you haven't even gotten jealous like I thought you would."

Suddenly it was too much to bear: Sorcerer's Weekly, Lucy and Loki, the "jealous" comments. He realized now that he wasn't jealous—no, that was a nice word for it. What he felt was a burn so intense it felt hot even to him, like he would burst into flames at any moment and take half of Fiore with him. He felt jealous, sure, if one was to skimp on certain details, but only because Loki was taking what was rightfully his. Nobody stole from a dragon; no one, not unless they wanted to get torched where they stood.

"Loki," he managed through a growl, "I'm going to kill you."

Loki might've tried to get a word in, but he couldn't speak past Natsu's fist as it buried itself into his mouth, launching him back as a projectile strong enough to shear dozens of trees. The pain within his own body no longer mattered—his focus was only on the one that had desecrated his property. He continued through the forest like a force of the gods themselves, his sandals lighting a trace of orange-gold flames and arms leaving scorched bruises upon every tree and leaf to mark his trail. By the time he found Loki he was just waking up, a surefire red bruise just beginning to form in the center of his annoyingly perfect face.

"Na—" he started, only to receive another punch crossing the side of his face. His cheek swelled with the beginnings of another bruise and his head snapped to the side so suddenly his glasses flew into the dirt. He took them up in his other fist and they melted from his body heat alone before his arm reached his face.

"Lucy is mine," he hissed, decking Loki again. He hadn't gone full out like that in a while, and not against anyone except Gray, who (as he wouldn't admit out loud) was just as strong as him. Loki was strong, but he couldn't fight back an angry dragon. He didn't have any intention of stopping, hitting him left and right, left and right, until he was sure that Loki had learned the right lesson—


Strong, large hands clamped around Natsu's arms like rope, effectively pinning him and shoving him into the ground. He growled and thrashed and spit angry fire until he heard another shout: "Loki!"

Oh Mavis, was all he could think, his heart finally slowing, his head clearing the red fog of his vision.

"Loki, are you alright?" Lucy knelt by his side in the dirt, shaking a shoulder. Her big doe eyes were full of concern and her hair was a little mussed from running. Meanwhile, Taurus kept a tight grip on Natsu, keeping his head down where earthworms could wiggle up his nose.

"Lucy-san, please make room," Wendy said, out of breath, as her little feet came into view. Lucy stood to allow her at Loki's side. She didn't use magic at first, instead making careful presses to his skin. A small pool of blood was building at the base of his head and for a terrifying second, Natsu feared he had done the irreversible. Then Wendy sighed and dropped her hands in her lap. "He has the usual injuries from one of the Guild's fights."

"Oh," Lucy exhaled. Natsu let out a long breath too. Perhaps he still managed to restrain himself subconsciously, because it felt like he was putting all his weight behind those punches. "Natsu, what the hell were you doing?" she snapped, turning her infamous anger on him. He winced and retreated into himself. "Natsu!" she repeated in her usual Get out of my apartment! tone of voice.

"I, uh, sorry. I wasn't thinking." Which wasn't a lie. He was acting completely on instinct.

"You never think!"

"Okay, uh, well, you're right, but—but I really wasn't thinking. Ow," he winced, feeling his injuries catch up to him as the adrenaline faded. Wendy was already working on Loki with her magic, leaving him with all of his burning Vulcan pain. He didn't feel so weird until that Vulcan possessed him—maybe that had something to do with it? Vulcans were total perverts, after all: most likely it screwed with the first female on his mind, Lucy, and made him totally flip at the thought of her.

"You deserve it," she said, but she had sunk back into her usual half-teasing, half-tired chiding that he got every mission. He smirked, which grew into a grin as she pouted. "Taurus, you can go, he's fine now."

"Are you sure, Lucy?" he asked.

"Pretty sure, yeah." Taurus didn't even end off with a weird comment before he returned to the Spirit World, which made Natsu the most uneasy about the entire situation. Slowly Loki returned to his senses, blinking wildly before he sat straight up.

"Natsu!" he exclaimed before regaining his bearings. "…What just happened?" he said, completely baffled.

"That's what I'm wondering," Lucy sighed. Me too, the man in question thought. "Are you okay?"

"Hmm." He waved his fingers over his face and his sunglasses reappeared—of damn course they did. "Hey, I've taken worse beatings before."

"Good," she smiled, getting to her feet and dusting off her skirt. "Since the Vulcans are obviously dealt with, as well as thirty percent of the forest," she said with a sharp look, "let's go and collect what's left of the reward."

"You're the boss," Loki smirked, already back to normal. It was always like that at the Guild when they had little fights, or a "Natsu/Gray" fight (which had actually become a name for serious/not-serious fights within the building): they'd fight, then after they dusted themselves off and licked their wounds they were back to normal. But this time, it was just Loki, because only Natsu knew that his problem wasn't as superficial as "his fists itched." He probably didn't even recall what Natsu said, and he couldn't blame the lion—he had come at him pretty hard at first, and the back of his blazer was still wet with blood from his head.

"Natsu?" Wendy asked, grasping his arm worriedly. He relaxed under her grip—she was like family, after all, being a fellow Fairy Tail wizard and Dragon Slayer. "Something is wrong—I can feel it."

"Ugh… I can't talk about it."

"Please, Natsu? We're not best friends, not like you and Erza-san and Gray-san and Lucy-san, but—"

"It's not that I don't want to talk about it, I really can't. I don't even know what my deal is here. It's just… Loki said something earlier and I lost it. That's it. Happens between me and Gray all the time," he said offhandedly, trying to justify himself. Except it wasn't like between him and Gray, not by a long fucking shot.

"…Okay," she said after a while, letting it go. He followed her towards Lucy, who rightfully went to talk his ear off, but some part of him was secretly happy she had begun to ignore Loki in favor of him, even if it wasn't the kind of attention he really wanted.

Author's Drabble - This is something...new for me, and by "something" I'm referring to a story NaLu-centric. For me it's always been plot characters/character relationships, I guess, but this is different. Writing primarily NaLu one-shots have been more of writing exercises to me lately because I can actually put those out on a much better time schedule than a lot of my usual stuff, but I like trying new things, so here goes. And please leave reviews you guys, I like reading reviews. They feel a lot more personal than just clicking the follow button. C'mon, even if it's just one word.