Natsu lay on the bed, staring at the cream colored ceiling, sulking away. Disappointment loomed over him like a cloud, making him feel annoyed in the stomach. It had been a year since he had returned from his training and the guild had been restored, with the battle with Zeref impeding upon them. Natsu was aware that things wouldn' t remain the same after that terrible experience with Tartaros. He himself knew that something in him had changed. Fairy Tail had won a losing battle, barely surviving against Zeref' s most powerful demons.

It had been a nightmare through and through. With the scars fresh from the battle, Natsu had left his family behind. He knew Lucy wouldn' t be happy. But it was a decision he had to take for the sake of protecting his family. For protecting Lucy.

He couldn' t stand the thought of staying away from Lucy. If he wasn' t by her side, he couldn 't assure her safety. He wouldn' t have any way to find out about how she was doing. He wasn 't doubting her capabilities when he had these thoughts in his mind. He knew Lucy could protect herself and she was plenty strong. She had grown stronger over her time in Fairy Tail, and although she would put herself down repeatedly by comparing herself to the other members, Natsu knew her real capacity. She was smart, a quick-thinker and powerful.

Quite frankly, Natsu had been amazed to see her progress. It was exhilarating and endearing at the same time. From one spirit, she could summon two, saved them single handedly from Tartaros, enhanced her powers to requip to a Star Dress and improved so much. Her growth has always been a proud experience for him, for a precious friend to rise to the top. He knew she didn't have a magical past. She had no mentor, no help from outside. She was the one who made herself. She stood up for herself. She inspired him, and made him push himself more.

No doubt, Lucy had become stronger over the past year. But somehow, a feeling of bitterness bubbled within him.

He had noticed the change in his feelings this morning when Lucy was cleaning her apartment.

Being raised in the proper and prim Heartfilia household, Lucy was quite the hygiene freak. The covers of the sofa and blankets would be washed, the carpets cleaned, shelves dust free, the bath tub scrubbed along with the tiles on the wall, all the floors wiped clean, kitchen scrubbed and the windows gleaned till they sparkled.

Aware of how much Lucy liked a clean atmosphere, Natsu didn't dare to interfere in her work.

Except on the times when Lucy would call him, and politely ask him to move the sofa or bed so she could clean that area with the lacrima powered vacuum cleaner.

Natsu always felt good to be of use, despite his passive complaints, and absolutely adored it when Lucy would brighten up and say "Thanks Natsu!" on better days, Lucy would bake cookies and shared it with his as a treat.

This became a regular habit as Lucy would wait for Natsu to arrive and ask him to move the furniture so she could clean.

Natsu had never been entrusted with cleaning jobs because everyone knew that he was terrible at it, as he was capable of destroying anything at hand, even by accident.

Besides this, Natsu would help her carry the groceries from the shopping district till her kitchen. He would help her get the jar on the top shelf (where he and Happy would place various items simply to pester her) and open it for her when it was too tightly shut by using his magic. He would help her if she needed to fix something small, like loose screw on the desk or chair.

He was happy that Lucy depended on him. It gave him a sense of contentment to be truly relied upon when anyone needed help.

Sure, the Dragon slayer had been on countless jobs, saving people everytime, but this brought him joy of some other sort. He tried not to think too much into it as it muddled his brain.

But today, everything was different.

When Lucy went grocery shopping, she would whine and ask him to help her carry them. This time, she held all four of the big bags by herself, all the way up the stairs.

She could easily reach the top shelf of the kitchen and opened the honey jar herself.

For the first time, she lifted the furniture all by herself, cleaned the spot and returned it back it's place, casually, by tapping on some power from the Taurus Star Dress.

Natsu stared at Lucy, beginning to notice a few changes in her appearance. Besides her long silky golden hair, her height had increased and her muscles looks stronger than before. And of course, she looked even more irresistible than before. Being well aware of her appeal, she held herself with much more confidence than before. And Natsu was totally liked it.

But what Natsu didn't like was this: He had missed on all the progress Lucy made in the past year.

"Hey Natsu, are you feeling okay?" Lucy, who kept looking up from her book now and then, tried to gauge out what the dragon slayer was up to. He had never been this silent when he was in her house, especially when Lucy was trying to read a book.

"Huh?" Natsu grunted from over the bed.

"You've been sulking there since lunch time, is there a problem?" Lucy leaned forward, eyes showing concern.

"There she goes again with that cute face." Natsu grumbled in his head. He turned his back on her and faced the window. "Not really, what makes you think so?" Natsu tried hiding the bitterness in his voice, but in vain.

"Because you haven't tried to convince me to stop reading as you usually do." Lucy said, but with a playful smile this time.

"Isn't that good for you? I won't bother you anymore." Natsu rolled his eyes.

There was silence. Natsu cursed in his head instantly regretting what he said. He quickly got up to explain and jumped at Lucy in close proximity to him.

"You've never bothered me, Natsu." Lucy's eyes bore into his with great seriousness. "Why did you think that way?"

Natsu found himself at a loss for words, "Because... because you stopped relying on me."

"What?" Lucy frowned, tilting her head in confusion.

"You stopped asking me to help you," Natsu pointed out.

After a few moments of realization, Lucy laughed, pressing her palm to her head. Shame washed over him for being honest. He scurried from the bed, reaching for the door.

"Wait-Natsu!" Lucy grabbed his hand.

Natsu waited giving her an annoyed look, and she slowly let go of his hand, "Look, Natsu, if I'm not asking for your help in lifting my groceries or furniture, it doesn't mean that you bother me."

She looked at the floor, blushing slightly, "In fact, I always thought that when I was asking favors from you, you were kinda mad and thought that I was being such a burden,"

Natsu opened his mouth to protest, but Lucy looked at him and said, "I want you to rely on me."

Natsu stared, surprised by her sentiment. All along, she was trying to prove herself. She was showing him her progress. Coarse happiness flooded through his veins, Unable to meet his intense stare, Lucy looked at her feet, rubbing her arm and looking abashed.

Natsu felt heat rise to his cheeks. He huffed, "What are you saying, you weirdo," He flicked Lucy's forehead slightly.

"Ow! What was that for!?" Lucy yelled angrily.

He patted her head softly, "You don't have to prove anything. I'm always relying on you," Natsu smiled.

Lucy's grasp on the key to his heart was even stronger now.

a/n: im back with the nalu feels. inspired by the latest ft episode where lucy SLAYED IT. the queen we all stan.

the other queen i stan is CelestialLoverxx. this fic is dedicated to my dearest friend Raina! HAP-HAP-HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO YOU! its been a great adventure with you here on . FT brought us together and I'll be forever grateful 33

I wrote this quickly to make it on time for your bday so I'm sorry if it isn't that up to the mark.