AN: We're trying out our hands with a Fairy Tail fanfiction! We ask that you please give it a chance; it just might be a whole lot more interesting than you think. ;) Please read and review: if you find something completely, utterly fascinating in any chapter, let us know then and there - that tells us we're on the right track of keeping your interest and that we aren't straying too far!

Special Notes: Natsu is a tad bit OOC in this. It's all explained in due time, and you'll find that somewhere, deep down, he's still the lovable Natsu you all know and love. We also give some of the other characters quite a bit of grief (we aren't going to say what or why, but trust us - you will like it!), and you will witness character development - be it emotional, physical, romantic or a switch from good to evil or evil to good. It's really a mixture of genres, we're not sticking with just romance, or just adventure, or just horror, or just angst - it's a boiling pot. A few OCs will pop up much later on, but not anytime soon. We're sticking with the familiar and branching off of it into our own plot. If you want insight on what's to come, check the reviews. ;) Please enjoy!

Disclaimer: If we owned Fairy Tail … there would probably be a lot more angst and a lot less screaming about comrades.

Under the Flames

A Fairy Tail Fanfiction by Kitty & Foxy

Chapter One: Meeting by Chance

Clack, clack, clack.

Sparse clouds dotted the horizon line where the sky met the ocean's blue, salty waters. Fishing boats spread out along the smooth curvatures of the beach as high noon rose, the unseen rays of sunlight illuminating the ocean's eternal field of sparkling jewels. The homes around the town were constructed of a white and light brown masonry with wood finishing, giving it a unique, somehow antique appearance.

Clack, clack, clack. The sound of wooden sandals hitting the paved stone road continued onward, noticed mostly by their owner rather than those passing by. Those who passed were more interested in the owner's other features than the sounds of sandals.

A man selling fish in a stall to the right, a woman with her children to the left, and a line of businesses with their homes above the shop windows sprawled down the street. Quite a very homey, elegant town, where folks flourished in the seafaring trade and went about their own businesses. How rare it was to find a scenario like this that lasted.

Turning, the sound of clacking wood against stone temporarily stopped, and the owner looked out over a railing towards the ocean and expansive town below. The salty smells of the ocean wafted into his nose, the breeze brushing his short locks of hair and rippling his clothes. The scent of the fish and other sea creatures near him provoked his sense of hunger, causing his stomach to quench and tie into a knot and forcing him to hunch over ever so slightly. Understandable … he hadn't eaten in nearly a week. Used to a travelling life, he adapted to instinctive survival techniques, including fasting. But when he was surrounded by the scents of ready food …

Frowning, he continued on down the street, the knots in his stomach not forgotten. The stench of the food mingled with his own scent, which his nose twitched at. Not eaten in a week, but not bathed for nearly three times as long as that. Can't avoid it, then. I'll have to earn enough to eat, stock up on food, and find somewhere to rest. He would've rather camped, but being in a town meant that there wouldn't be good campsites nearby – the train was out of the question. And, needing to restock on some items, it became unavoidable.

Then where is a good place to set up here …? He wondered, and continued down the street, ignoring further looks from the townsfolk. Clack, clack, clack.

The Port City of Hargeon. A town that could barely hold her interest, save that it was a stop along the path to her true destination. After becoming lost within the town for the third time, she reluctantly turned to a nearby family to ask for directions.

"Excuse me, I'm looking for a magic shop in this town, and I'm afraid I'm lost …" she chuckled nervously, scratching the back of her head of blonde hair. "Could you give me directions?"

"Certainly, dear," the wife spoke up with a soft smile, pointing down the street from whence they were headed from. "Go down this road three blocks, turn down the street to the left. It will be the last shop on the right side of that block."

"Ah, thank you!" She answered with a smile, and hurried on her way. I should hurry if I expect to look around all the magic shops in this town and catch the train! She knew that her journey as a mage also meant that she needed to check everywhere she could for keys she could wield if she were to become powerful. As an aspiring celestial mage, sporting an outfit in white and blue with a whip dangling at her side, and aiming for a position in the guild known as Fairy Tail, Lucy Heartfilia felt the young, naïve dedication towards her dreams lead her every footstep down the path.

"Damn it! I can't believe that old man!" Lucy gritted her teeth as she stormed down the walkway, a single new silver key clanking against the others on her ring as her hips swayed in the hurried haste, Lucy trying to contain her anger as to not scare those around her. "My sex appeal is worth only a discount of 1,000 jewels? Granted, I'm not exotic, but he should really have better taste than that! Cheapskate! How annoying they are …!"

The silent rant continued on for a few more minutes, until the noise of a crowd reached her ears. She turned her head, finding that she had been walking down the main street and reached a wide plaza where a crowd was gathered. The reason remained unknown to her, until two girls slightly younger than herself clambered by, their whispers reaching Lucy's ears as they hurried on to join the crowd. "It seems a famous mage arrived in our town!" "No way, seriously?" "Yes! Fiona said it was Salamander!"

"Salamander?" Lucy mouthed the word on her own lips, looking at the growing crowd with a raised eyebrow. That name … it sounds familiar. Realization hit her, and her mouth opened and her eyes grew wide in excitement. Her hands raised up to her face in an expression of her sudden joy. "Salamander! Could he be the mage that can use fire magic not sold in shops?" Indeed, as a mage yet to be formerly admitted into any group or guild, the only kind of magic she witnessed was usually that in shops. "He's here? In this town?"

The name of Salamander belonged to a rogue mage whose whereabouts and doings were mysterious enough to catch the media's attention. He received a bundle of fame when he aided a prestige family in clearing the infestations that plagued their home, and since then, he was the mysterious mage that everyone wanted to find for themselves. She did initially think it odd that he would publically arrive in a town such as this, but … maybe he finished a job and somehow revealed himself! Nonetheless, she went ahead to join the crowd, if only to see what was going on.

"Aaah, thank you, young man! These will sell very well in the shop, I just know it!" Exclaimed the old man, holding the panels gingerly, admiring them. "You covered everything I put on the list, too, and you've done them far better than I expected anyone could!"

He should've been used to this reaction by now, but the praise still felt embarrassing. Nonetheless, he forced out a grin, giving a silent chuckle as to appear normal.

"Just a moment, I will get you some payment. Will 7,000 jewels cover the costs?" The shop owner asked a little nervously, as if it might not be enough or even near the asking price, but the younger one frowned. Using his hand, he picked up the pen resting on the pad in front of him, quickly writing: [I only asked for 5,000.]

"You deserve better than that, sir. For this quality, and for five pieces, definitely more." He nodded firmly. "You're getting it whether you want it or not."

Deciding not to argue and reasoning that having a bit of spare change would save him the hassle of waiting a day in the next town over, he gave a nod and an expression of gratitude. The man left into the back room, and came back with a small pouch, pulling out enough pieces to be the equivalent of 7,000 jewels. He watched the young man pull out his own pouch, and carefully pocket them. "I have to ask, and I hope you'll forgive me for inquiring … but just how can you make such masterpieces with … well …" the shop keeper's eyes trailed down to the most noticeable feature, and the younger man clearly understood the inquisition. In response, he slid his foot out from his sandal, balancing on the other leg, and showing off a high level of dexterity, used his freed foot to pick up the pen on the counter and wrote in neatly done "hand" writing: [With my feet.]

The shop keeper stared in shock for a split moment, but then burst out laughing. "Ingenious, ingenious!" He continued to laugh as the younger traveler slid his foot back into his wooden sandal. "Good luck to you, sir. Thanks again!" The shop keeper waved as the younger man walked out of the smile after giving a polite bow. The smell of the salted air struck his senses once again, his stomach knotting ever more. Now that his stomach knew they had the means to get food, it wanted it. Now. Not willing to argue, he headed down the street towards the main street, looking around for a good place to purchase food, supplies, and eventually a night's sleep.

Suddenly, voices shrieked behind him: "Oh my god, it's Salamander!" "Salamander, really?" "Let's go see him!"

The young traveler, startled, nearly jumped out of skin, spun his head around to see a group of girls running in his direction. He quickly stepped off to the side, and with confused and surprised eyes, watched them tear past him down the street. Salamander …? He wondered, blinking once or twice. The dragon Salamander? But that wouldn't be possible. The dragon's stench would have permeated his nose the moment he got near the town if he were eyes narrowed slightly, frowning. Maybe I should go investigate … trying to not appear hurried or suspicious, he walked down the street in the direction that the girls were headed.

A wave of blue, spiked hair; a charming grin; romantic, soft charcoal-colored eyes; a strange tattoo over his right eyebrow; a series of rings on his fingers, a magical, violet cloak with golden trim, imitating cheesy poses and repeating corny pickup lines …

The traveler's eyebrow visibly twitched at the mere sight of this guy. He briefly wondered if this man was the main attraction of the crowd, but seeing as how this man had the eyes of nearly every girl in the crowd … he could only confirm that this man was the "Salamander" they spoke of. Where are his credentials? He looks like a womanizer … his eyebrow continued to twitch. He's using magic, but not the kind he should be using. His acute senses not only included scent of objects, but the scent of magic. … What a rip-off …

Meanwhile, also in the crowd, Lucy Heartfilia also caught a glimpse of the man, but her reaction was quite different. In a sudden light, he appeared romantic, charming, witty, and kind … Her eyes felt wide and her face felt flushed as her heart began to pound within her chest. A-aah … w-why am I getting excited like this? She felt worried by her reaction. It wasn't foreign, but it … it didn't usually happen like this. She couldn't pry her eyes off of the man before her. H-hey, what is happening to me? Her heart began to throb evermore, and she felt her vision become biased towards the man called "Salamander." The throbbing became twice as excited when he glanced in her direction with a charming smile, and she felt a rush in her blood as she started to feel faint. Aaah, she recognized it as a form of love, a love at first sight – is it because he's a famous mage? I'm standing near a famous mage, and he's looking at me …! Is that why my heart is beating so fast? Before she knew it, she was wooing over this man like all the other girls around her, declaring her love and keeping her eyes trained on him.

Yet, as she started inching closer to him, a young man with a large pack had shoved his way in (the traveler had grown fed up with the charmer's activities) and promptly held up a notepad in front of the blue haired man, to which she couldn't see the writing, but could see the frustrated expression on the new man's face. She felt like she should be angry … but then … Wait, what is this? The rush had stopped , yet she was still glancing at the charmer. What? She blinked.

Meanwhile, the traveler shoved the note in the new man's face, temporarily stunning all the other women surrounding them both. The note read: [Are you really Salamander?]

'Salamander' seemed caught off-guard, as if no one had ever asked him that question before. He raised his hand, quickly regaining his composure. "I am Salamander, young man! Do you not recognize me?" His red ruby ring shined in the sunlight, clearly in sight for all to see. The women around him regained their blind admiration for 'Salamander.'

The newcomer suddenly had a pen between his teeth and skillfully wrote something new on the paper, showing it to the center of attention. [I think you're a liar.] And started to walk away before several of the women who had seen the message had the gall to grab him and start shouting. "Salamander is an amazing mage! How dare you question his legitimacy!" "Yeah, who do you think you are?" One woman even tried to kick him in the leg, and soon a few had joined in on the attempted beating. The newcomer just stared at them with an incredulous look. Are they joking? He wondered, and secretly hoped so. But he knew they were under the influence of the man's magic, so so long as they were in his presence, they would act like stupid, lovesick fools. "Go and apologize to him!" One female shouted at him.

"Oh, leave him as he is," the charmer spoke, now claiming to be the hero of this situation. The rest of the women were snarling at the newcomer, but Lucy now held an incredulous look as well. The charmer Salamander continued: "He didn't mean any harm at all." He quickly snatched the notepad from the newcomer's hand (which he clearly didn't like) and signed it. "Here's my signature, take it."

The newcomer snatched the notepad back, and quickly ripped off the page and crumpled it in his fist. It was enough to earn him a light beating from the nearby women, shouting about how ungrateful he is and how wonderful Salamander was to be so kind to a rude boy like him. The newcomer was soon knocked to the ground, but the women had turned their attention back to the charmer, who was preparing to take his leave. "Well then, I have some business to take care of at the port, so we shall part here." All the women around him began to protest, but he insisted. Snapping his fingers and offering a playboy smile, he spoke "Red Carpet" and out came a purple stream of smoke from his magical circle, upon which he rose up into the sky. He stopped for a moment to declare a party would be held on his ship and that all the women there were invited. The women began to squeal in glee and head in the direction that the charmer left, leaving Lucy and the newcomer, sitting on his bum, in an opened area in the plaza.

Lucy took a good look at the newcomer, curious about him (but not in the way she had been when she saw the charmer). He had caused an interruption that broke the charmer's spell on her, and she was curious about his reaction, although it had been much what other men would have done. The newcomer appeared to be in his late teens, sporting a deep red coat with white trimming atop of black clothes with gold trim; his chest slightly visible, revealing several scars. Wooden sandals were strapped onto his feet and he carried a large pack on his back, including what appeared to be a tent, a sleeping bag, and another bag, presumably with necessities, indicating that he was a traveler from a great distance. A scaly scarf was tossed about his neck, and his head was covered with spiky, rose-colored hair. She approached him closer, and noted more finite features, such as emerald eyes, sharp features, and that – for some reason – he seemed a little … lopsided … she could only see him from his right side at that moment.

"He's quite terrible, isn't he?" Lucy chuckled lightly, approaching the newcomer. The newcomer turned to look at her, a rather … blank expression on his face. Lucy grew a little nervous. "T-thank you, your interruption broke his charm's grip on me … here, let me help you up." She offered her right hand down, but he continued to stare up at her, this time a small frown on his face. He started to lift up his left arm instead, awkwardly holding it out to meet her hand, turning it to gain a grip and pull himself up. It was when he was standing that she fully realized why he didn't use the right arm. H-he's completely missing an arm …! She felt stunned and taken aback by the appearance of a missing right arm, which he tried to hide with the long red coat (but the sleeve dangled emptily, and there was no sign of an arm hiding in the jacket). He offered her a friendly, toothy smile, but then crouched over a little, using his only arm to hold his stomach a little and wince.

Lucy, worried, asked "Are you alright? Did those girls beat you that badly?" Why isn't he answering? I haven't heard him speak at all … Maybe he had the flu or something and didn't want to talk?

The newcomer shook his head with a voiceless chuckle as he bent down to pick the notepad off the ground. He used his teeth and pen once more to write a message. [No, I'm hungry.] He decided to add another note, which she patiently waited for. [Know anywhere good to eat?]

Lucy had seen a restaurant on her way into the town, so she took the stranger there and asked for a booth where they could sit. She was hungry as well, and he didn't seem to mind much about having company. On the way there, she explained she wasn't from the town and didn't know her way around, but she could help him find somewhere to eat. Once they sat down, Lucy felt the awkward, heavy silence once more, and chuckled nervously. This is bad, I should probably start the conversation … "S-so, I guess I haven't introduced myself. My name is Lucy, it's nice to meet you. What's your name?"

Out came the notepad again, in which he wrote a quick answer and pushed in her direction. He apparently was quite skilled at writing upside down, as he didn't even flip the notebook around when he pushed it towards her. Why does he keep using the notebook? She wondered. Her curiosity was getting the better of her. [I am Natsu. It's nice to meet you, too.]

"A-ah, umm … this is probably rude, but …" she started to stutter, but spoke up louder. "Why do you keep using the notebook? Is your throat sore and you just don't want to talk?"

'Natsu' didn't appear to be offended, as he quickly scribbled down another answer to her. [An accident rendered me mute. Forced me to resort to writing everything.] He's mute? That explains it … he doesn't seem too happy about not being able to talk … he does seem like he'd be more of the expressive type with words … but she decided not to push any further. She didn't want to be rude.

"Well, please order whatever you want to, I'll pay for you." She smiled kindly.

Natsu raised an eyebrow. [I have my own money.] His speed at writing was so quick that it barely extended the conversations to the point where it became awkward.

"Please, let me do this. You saved me from falling for a disgusting creature, it's the least I can do," she defended, waving her arms defensively. "Y-you see, that 'Salamander' guy was using a magic called 'Charm.' Probably one of those rings he was wearing. It's an attraction magic, making a person fall in love with the user. But it's a forbidden magic now, as the items were banned … going so far as to get one of those rings, what a repulsive bastard." She glared, noticing that Natsu seemed to just be observing her and her reactions. Well, seeing as how he couldn't talk, it was understandable … but it kind of felt like talking to herself. It's not his fault he's mute. Still, she felt like quite the chatterbox. "But since you interfered, the charm wore off. Thanks again. Oh, even though I don't look like it, I'm actually a mage. That's how I know this stuff …" She chuckled nervously, then noticed that he had written something new on the notepad.

[Do you belong to a guild?] He asked, patiently waiting for an answer.

"A-ah, I haven't joined a guild yet," she frowned, scratching her face. Why did she feel nervous? Before she could continue, the waitress had come around, and took their orders. "A guild is sort of like an agency for mages that offers out jobs and information … Mages aren't considered full-fledged until they work for a guild. Otherwise, they're either freelancers or trainees." He was patiently listening, but the look he held … it seemed intense. Although, I think that's his natural look … it's creepy … she tried to shrug it off. "There's so many guilds in the world, but joining a popular guild is tough." She started to take on a partially dreamy appearance. "There's this one guild I wish I could join, and apparently they have a lot of amazing mages! But joining that guild is going to be so hard … aaah, sorry, I'm not boring you, am I? I mean, you probably don't understand stuff from a mage's world, right? Sorry, I am boring you … " she sighed in defeat.

[No.] Came the answer, but she gave him a partial glare. He continued to write. [I know about mages, but not much about guilds. I am fairly new to this part of the world.]

"That's right, you're a traveler or something like that, right? What brings you around here?" She asked with a smile, interested in Natsu's original whereabouts. It wasn't everyday you came across a traveler missing an arm and a voice.

[Research.] He replied. [The details are too long to explain.]

"That must be intensive research, I mean … you look like you've been through several wars or something," she chuckled lightly, missing the quick flash of emotion on his face. "What's the basic research? Historical, magical, theoretical?"

[Magical.] He answered, but didn't seem keen on revealing much more than that.

"Oh, so do you practice magic?" She inquired, further intrigued.

[A little. But I do not belong to a guild.]

"Aah, maybe you should consider joining one! Or looking into one at least," she grew excited once more. "I mean, I know exactly which guild I want to get into, but everyone has different tastes. There might be one out there that can help you with your own research!"

[Perhaps.] Came the answer. Natsu didn't seem to mind much that she was doing most of the conversation. He seemed okay with it, at least. Yes, he had that … intensive, blank stare, but that was just part of how he appeared. Perhaps the scars and other attributes, such as a missing arm, didn't help … but he seemed nice enough.

"So what are you doing in this town? I don't know enough about it, but it doesn't really seem like the kind of place you'd research magic in." She inquired, curious once more.

[Passing through. Just need supplies, food, and a bath.] He answered, and unfortunately that last word made her sense of smell kick in, and she suddenly realized that the other reeked. She couldn't help but hold her nose a little, and Natsu grinned sheepishly, writing [Sorry].

"No no no, it's okay, it's not that bad …" she tried to lie, but it wasn't very effective. She quickly changed topic, and soon she was back to talking about guilds. Their meal eventually came, and they took a bit of silence to eat.

He's not very well-mannered when it comes to eating … Lucy felt a sweat drop roll down her side, but she didn't want to bring it up, because each ill manner could be explained. Lack of silverware? Because he only had one hand to work with. Coughing up the food a little and chewing with his mouth open at times? Because she could see part of the scars hidden under that scarf on his neck, and if he lost his ability to speak in an accident, chances were that his throat and esophagus were harmed as well (thus making it harder to eat). In a way, she felt bad … but she also felt disgusted.

The meal ended and Lucy continued to insist on paying, to which Natsu wrote [I don't feel like I have done anything at all.] She countered it, and after they left the restaurant, the two decided to part ways, Natsu needing to shop for supplies, Lucy needing to move on to the next town.

Still, he wasn't all that bad … although a little scary, she admitted, he seemed offensive in personality. Maybe if he could talk, he would be more aggressive than he was … it would be hard to be fully expressive without a voice, after all. Deciding to push it out of her mind, as she doubted she would meet him again, she continued down the street, deciding she would go and purchase a train ticket to the next town over.

On her way to the train station, she found a quaint little park where she decided to rest for a while on the bench, flipping through a magazine she just bought. It was the Weekly Sorcerer. The Weekly Sorcerer, a magic specialty magazine, held all the up-to-date material on the local guilds, including the one she desperately wanted to join: Fairy Tail.

In fact, right on the sixth page, was an article about how Fairy Tail destroyed something … again. "Really … Fairy Tail destroyed something again? 'Destroyed the Devon Thief Family, but an additional seven houses were destroyed' … really, they go overboard sometimes, don't they?" But that just added to the charm she could see from Fairy Tail. She turned the page, and smiled. "Aaah, it's a Mira Jane model spread!" Mira Jane was a famous mage from fairy tail that often posed for the Weekly Sorcerer.

She continued to flip through the pages, losing herself in though. "I wonder how one joins Fairy Tail … is it by application? Whatever it is, it's probably tough to get in …" She sighed, dropping the magazine down onto her bosom. "Really, Fairy Tail is the coolest mage guild out there!" She said with a blush, beginning to giggle to herself.

"Oh? So you're interested in joining Fairy Tail?"

She jumped at the new voice, turning to see … "S-Salamander?" The imposter! What was he doing here? Why did he just jump out of the bushes? This was creepy …

"I can help you join Fairy Tail," he offered slyly, holding up his ring.

"That won't work on me, sleaze. I understand how your affection magic works, therefore it doesn't have any effect over me." She declared, pointing at the ring.

"Oh, you're quite sharp. I knew you were a mage when our eyes first met." He claimed, striking another prosperous pose. "It's alright, so long as you attend the party."

"Why would I attend your party?" She hmphed, folding her arms. "You're nothing but a pervert."

"Perverted? Me?" he squeaked, but quickly regained his composure.

"Then why do you get all the girls using that charm? It's quite pathetic." She scolded.

"I do that for the air of a celebrity. Nothing more." He laughed. "Well, if you come to the party, I can help you join Fairy Tail."

"Huh? Seriously?" Her jaw dropped, and so did her guard. Did he seriously just offer that?

"I don't belong to a guild myself, but I can put in good words of mages seeking to join guilds. What do you say? I can put in a word to the Fairy Tail's master, and you should get in, no problem." He gave a thumbs up charm.

"Really?" She grinned, suddenly falling for the charm again. "Then it seems like it'll be a wonderful party!"

"Good! I hope to see you there, young lady!" He declared, and he soon took off on his "red carpet" magic once more in the direction of the harbor.

"Heheh," she laughed evilly as he flew away. "All I have to do is go along with that idiot for now, and then my chances for getting into Fairy Tail will skyrocket …!" She grinned and started chuckling as she headed back to her hotel room where she was staying, deciding she would stay another night for the sake of Fairy Tail. Little did she realize that soon, she would witness the real Salamander's work, and discover a deeper truth to the young man she had met earlier that day.