A/N: PLease give this a chance. Pleathe. And leave me reviews and let me know what you think.


The heat felt all too familiar. She didn't want to be imagining things, but there was no mistaking it; he was back. And though she should've expected it, he did say he would be back in a year, she didn't really think he'd hold up that end of his promise. Everyone was gone and she was only starting to get used to it, a whole year afterwards; so he was part of the group she was used to just being… gone.

Didn't mean she didn't hurt over it. She did. But she had just started to accept that they were all gone. But here he was, standing down there, grinning up at her as if nothing had happened. She wanted to laugh, because that was so typical of him, but she also wanted to punch him real hard in the face for all the anguish that he had caused her.

Her hands still crossed in front of her chest, her feeling of horror at her almost nude state fades. She lowers her gaze and sighs softly before turning around and leaving.

Natsu is surprised at her reaction. He watches her leave, confused. There was so much he couldn't understand. He'd visited her apartment first, only to find that it was empty. It had been empty for quite a while, he could tell. He'd gone to the guildhall to see that it was never rebuilt, and it annoyed him that nobody bothered to leave a note of change of address. So when he'd heard of the Grand Magic Games, he had decided to pay a visit, sure he'd find everyone there along with some answers. But he couldn't find anyone and now all he had were more questions.

Had she moved out of Magnolia?

Where on Earthland had Fairy Tail relocated to?

Why couldn't he catch the scent of any of his other guildmates?

He is reminded of his situation when hears the clanking of metal armours and heavy footsteps. He looks around and spots the Royal Guard, and really, that was the last of his worries. Using the dust he'd kicked up as cover, he separates out Lucy's distinct scent and follows.

He spots her blonde head a couple of metres from the gate of the Domus Flau, and he starts to break into a run but slows down as he nears her. She's talking to someone he recognises, but it was not one of his guildmates. Sting. That makes him frown.

As he walks towards them, Sting looks up meeting his eyes immediately, a frown on his face that mirrored his own.

Lucy walks out of the Domus Flau, coughing from all the smoke she'd had to inhale on her way out. The idiot really just melted the whole arena, she muses. No doubt that his powers had grown exponentially. She snorts at the thought, at least that meant he really was off training this last one year.

As she finally inhales a lungful of clean air, she pauses her brisk walk, her hands going on her knees as she tries to catch a breath. As if on cue, Virgo appears with a clean pair of clothes. Lucy thanks her, ignoring Virgo's comment about Lucy's state making her want to be punished.

Just as she slips into the overcoat, she hears a familiar voice. "Lucy!"

She buttons up the powder blue coat before turning to wave. "Hey, Sting!"

"I heard about the...fire…" he says, breathing a sigh of relief before engulfing her in a hug. "Damn, I leave for an hour and… chaos ," he says, incredulously, his eyes taking in the sigh of the partially melted Domus Flau.

"I'm okay," she says, reassuringly as he takes a step back.

"Where are the others?" he asks, nose up trying to catch a whiff of the rest of his guildmates.

"I was sure they were behind me," she says, frowning, starting to worry a little bit.

Sensing her worry, he gives her friendly bump on the soldier. "Hey, we're Sabretooth. I'm sure they're okay."

She gives him a small smile, but sighs knowingly as he frowns suddenly and inhales deeply. "Is that…"

She looks at his face when he stops mid-sentence to see that he was looking over her shoulder with a frown. She already knows who he's looking at and she really doesn't want to turn around right now. It gives her a mild headache, but she does, to see Natsu stomping towards them with a scowl on his face.

Boy, there was so much catching up to do and she wasn't sure if she was looking forward to that.

"Natsu, Fairy Tail is gone. Master disbanded it the day after you left."

"No way. I don't believe it. This prank's pretty stupid. It's not gonna work on me."

Then she had looked exasperated and pulled down the collar of her jacket to show him her Sabretooth guildmark. His eyes had darted to her hand to see that the pink guildmark that once adorned it was no longer there.

"They're gone, Natsu," she says sadly. He doesn't miss the way Sting scooted a tiny bit closer to her and she leans into him. He looks away irritated.

Now, they're sat in a cafe at Crocus, grabbing a bite; well, Lucy was. The Dragon Slayers just had a feast; Natsu was chewing on his last chicken wing and Sting was finishing up his milkshake.

Natsu sits across Lucy at the table, with Happy perched on his shoulder, and Sting is sitting right beside her, much to Natsu's chagrin. Why is he even here.

Lucy stares uncomfortably at Natsu, the only noise being the unnecessarily loud slurping of the coffee milkshake that Sting was having, gaze fixed coolly on Natsu. Natsu on the other hand, had his eyes trained on Lucy's collarbone, where he could see the Sabretooth guildmark, blue in colour. He hated it.

Grunting, he looks away again, still wracked by disbelief. It was hard to wrap his head around the idea that the place he had called home was just not there anymore. Too much had changed for his liking and he was determined that things went back to the way they were.

"Natsu?" says Lucy finally, unable to take the building tension.

"I'm… just surprised," he says in a clipped tone.

Lucy nods but then feels heat rush to her cheeks when Sting places a hand on her thigh under the table. She freezes for a second before swatting his hand away lightly.

Natsu looks up at that, eyes narrowing when he hears Lucy's heartbeat pick up a little. Her cheeks are flushed pink and Sting makes a loud slurping noise as he takes a final sip and dramatically slams the empty glass on the table.

"You guys good to go?" he asks, eyeing Natsu, who was now sitting in front of a multitude of empty dishes and then at Lucy, who'd had her regular vanilla milkshake and sandwich.

"Yeah, I'm done," says Lucy and Natsu merely nods.

Ten minutes later, as they head out of the cafe, Natsu tells them he is staying at an inn down the road. Lucy, being who she was, insisted that she stay with him at the Sabretooth inn. The blond guildmaster reluctantly agrees seeing that she just wanted everything to be normal.

"Oh, come on, Sting . Natsu's my friend," she'd said.

"Fine. But no burning down anything," Sting had warned.

As the three of them walk towards the inn so Natsu could get his stuff, Sting in the middle, he slips a hand around Lucy's waist. She looks up at him curiously and is apprehensive when she sees a mischievous smile on his face. Sting's hand slips under shirt and he grazes the skin of her hip with his thumb, making her face red again as she turns to glare at him.

Natsu, once again senses her increased habit and looks to see that her face was pink. He stops in front of a wooden building, practically coming apart at the seams before clearing his throat.

"I'll be down in a minute," he says, before looking up at the sky to call to Happy, who joins him as they enter the inn.

Once Natsu's out of earshot and they were alone on the pavement, Lucy turns to Sting annoyed, resting her hands on her hips.

"What is wrong with you!" she hisses at Sting. "You've never done that before!"

"I'm sorry, I was just messing with you," holding both his hands up sheepishly.

She huffs. " Bad. Timing. "

"I couldn't help myself," Sting says mulishly. "I just wanted to piss him off somehow."

"Piss him off…?" questions Lucy, blinking in confusion before she remembers Dragon Slayers' super hearing. " Sting! " she swats at his hand annoyedly. "How do you even know he'd get mad?"

"Once again…" says Sting, pointing to his ear. She scowls at him, raising her hands to smack him again, making him laugh before he gets serious and catches both of Lucy's hands. "Are you okay, though? I know this can't be easy for you…"

She sighs and her hands drop to her side as Sting lets go of them. "I… am okay."


"I will be okay. It's strange that's all," she mutters.

Sting stares at her for a few seconds, but relents with a sigh. "Fine. But you'll tell me if-"

"-if something's wrong? Of course, I will," she says, shrugging.

"Alright then," says Sting, shoving his hands in his pocket. "I gotta go back to the Domus Flau to meet the organisers and other guildmasters to see how we're gonna proceed with the Games. I can't believe Natsu got away with it," he says with a grimace.

"I can," Lucy chuckles. "And what they want a meeting for? I doubt you can continue, the arena is…"

"I know, but I suppose this is a formality. They still gotta declare a winner," says Sting. "Well, I'll be off then."

Lucy nods and as he starts to walk away, after a second of hesitation she calls, "Hey, will I be seeing you tonight?"

Sting stops in his tracks and his hand rubs the back of his neck nervously. "Lucy… Hey, I'm not complaining, but are you sure? I mean I would understand if you… Well, he's back…"

Lucy purses her lips. "He made his choice. Loud and clear when he left with nothing but a note."

Sting sighs. "If you're sure."

"I am," she says, stubbornly.

"Fine. I guess, I'll see you tonight then."

"You will."

"Okay, then."


And as he walks away, she feels an odd sense of satisfaction, even if it was only because she still felt like she had some control over some choices of her life. Maybe she didn't have control over people she considered family abandoning her. Maybe not over the guy she had been practically in love with and was sure he felt the same way till he up and left. But this… this had been her choice. As had been joining Sabretooth.

Her thought train was broken when she heard Natsu's footsteps as he emerged from the rundown inn with a gigantic, loaded backpack, Happy right on his tail.

"Sting had some guild business to attend to," explains Lucy, snapping out of it. "You ready to go?"

"Yep," Natsu nods as he falls into step next to her. The two walk towards the inn Sabretooth was being housed. As they walk, Natsu's quiet as Happy narrates their adventure. He occasionally shoots a look at Lucy, who has a small smile on her lips as she listens to Happy, even laughing once in a while.

To say Natsu was perturbed would be an understatement. Lucy had not gone into the details, only that had left the morning after the guild was disbanded and that she had no idea where they went. Not even Levy, Erza or Gray. When she spoke about it, it left an uneasy feeling in his gut because he had been counting on Erza and Gray to stick around with Lucy after he left; the strongest team in Fairy Tail. Lucy clearly didn't want to talk about it more, and he let it go, deciding that he would get her talking later.

Despite the resolve, the sinking feeling didn't go away.

The inn Sabretooth was at was nothing like the luxurious building he'd seen the last time he'd practically burned the place down. It was still elegant, but a lot simpler. Happy was still yapping away to Lucy, and for once, Natsu was thankful because he was at a loss for words; he didn't know what to say to her because despite her normal demeanour, there was something off. Like she was hiding something from him, a strange distance between them that he couldn't quite fathom.

His thoughts come to a halt when he hears the lock to Lucy's door click open. He follows her in and the first thing that strikes him as odd is that he could smell an entirely different scent than that of Lucy's in the suite. It's almost everywhere.

They are teammates, he reasons. And he's the guildmaster. He's bound to drop by often.

She shows him to the couch, while promising Happy that she'd get him some fresh fish from the market tomorrow. Excited, Happy announces that he'd scour the city for the best of fish and flies out of the room, leaving Natsu and Lucy alone in the suite. His bag thunks on the floor and she cocks her head at him, unsure of what to say to her once best friend.

What now? Was all she could wonder, because honestly, there was nothing left to do. The guild was gone. Natsu couldn't stay with her forever, but she couldn't just ask him to get out of her life again either. Despite everything, he was still her friend, and she… cared.

"Luce?" he asks unsurely, as he sits on the couch, watching her watch him unseeingly for some time.

"Hm?" she says, her eyes coming back into focus and looks at him questioningly.

"How… Have you been?" he asks unsurely, fidgeting nervously with his hands.

"Uhh… Good," she lies, her mind going back to that first two weeks that he'd left; the frequent visits to the pub so she could just forget what the emblem on her hand reminded her, but not really having the heart to remove it despite her mind constantly screaming "Abandoned!" on repeat every time she looked at the pink symbol. Her hand absent-mindedly touches the golden chainlinks of the necklace on her neck, the cold metal is grounding her, as she stops herself from spiralling.

Her answer only makes his uneasiness grow as he watches her absent-mindedly touch a necklace around her neck, that didn't used to be there before. The necklace is long and he can't see the pendant as it disappears into her shirt, nestling between her breasts. The thought has his cheeks flaming and he shakes his head.

The sun had already set and Lucy muttered something about taking a shower, leaving Natsu to his thoughts.

A/N: After Natsu returns from a year of training, Natsu struggles to come terms with changes he couldn't have possibly imagined. Fairy Tail is gone, Lucy has joined Sabretooth and he'd never have dreamt of it, but she also has a new "friend" - Sting; the two are more or less in a 'no-strings attached' relationship.