How I got myself into stupid situations where I ended up battling some such powerful wizard or other was beyond me, but I guess I would learn to anticipate it considering the bunch of people I associated myself with in Fairy Tail.

Somehow, during all the mayhem, and the revealing of Erza's past to us, we had all gotten separated and that resulted in my getting stuck with the very same woman who had captured me and taken me as a hostage to Phantom Lord in the first place.

To say that there were no hard feelings would be a gross lie on my part, but I was willing to work with her if it meant getting out of this mess.

I was getting pretty quickly though, after running around, yelling for Natsu and Happy, completely pissed that he had abandoned me so quickly and gone running off without so much as a battle plan.

Honestly, did all the advice I give him about what it meant to become an S-Class Wizard just go in one ear and float out the other?!

I wanted to throw something. At him, preferably.

Sometimes, Natsu was the absolute most obtuse person on earth.

Then the most horrifying noise in the world practically ruptured my eardrums. I feel to the ground, covering my ears and closing my eyes shut, feeling the screeching noise as it shuddered straight through to my bones.

When it finally ceased, I was beyond annoyed and pissed and enraged.

Especially when I felt blood dripping out of my ears and down my cheek, leaving a sticky red trail.

I opened my eyes and was met with the smirking, wannabe-self-important face of some guy with long ass hair, no apparent regard for proper clothing choice and a huge ass guitar.

So, I gave him The Stone Maiden welcome.

"HEY, JACKASS, WHAT THE HELL WAS THAT FOR?!" I screeched and winced at the sound of my own voice hurting my tender ears.

He flashed a huge grin; his long tongue flopped out of his mouth as he made an attempt to speak.

But really, it was all part of my awesome plan.

Well, maybe not the disgusting tongue—nah, he could've kept that filthy, dripping muscle to himself. I sure as hell didn't want to know where the hell it had been.

Right as he started going on a tirade I gave Juvia a significant look as I channeled magic through the stones of the cavern we were in and did my best at calling my magic towards me once it had latched onto the archway. It was a weird sort of feeling, to feel your magic almost materialize and attach to something as millions of little gold strands that only you could feel. And then mentally giving those strands a good yank? Yeah, that was freaky as hell the first time I started doing it.

It was with a rather anticlimactic crashing and booming sound that the ceiling caved in on him.

When the dust settled, I glowered at the pile of rubble, daring the stupid idiot to get up and try fighting again with my eyes.

I clucked my tongue testily when it didn't move.

"Dumbass, getting in the way of my goals," I growled, then looked around the cavern and cursed, kicking a tiny piece of rubble with my foot.

Juvia flinched.

Good, she could realize that I wasn't to be messed with.

When I couldn't find what I was looking for I grasped my hair with one hand, all while a steady stream of curses was steadily escaping from my mouth.

How the hell were we going to get out?

It was pure anticlimax.

I had been griping and driving myself nuts about how the hell to get out of the stupid caved in room, pacing a hole in the ground from all my stomping, magic practically sparking off me in my agitation.

I realized eventually that Virgo could help me tunnel out. So I took out my key and summoned my spirit, a scowl affixed to my face.

I really freaking hated summoning my spirits for help, it almost seemed like I was giving in.

While she was doing that though, Juvia had asked me why I didn't just use my fists to break through the walls—obviously having heard of my strength.

I was haughty in my reply though, "Because I don't want to waste magic unnecessarily when the chances of a battle occurring are very high."

As if I hadn't been channeling magic through my whole body in frustration. Yeah, conservation of magic my freaking ass.

I just didn't want to admit that that was both a great idea and was kind of annoyed that she would only bring that up after I had resorted to calling one of my spirits for help.

That was the old Lucy arrogance and pride. Stelliana would've beamed a stone at me for being so stupid.

We found our way out eventually, through no small amount of awkward silence.

Which then led to all of us except Natsu and Erza on a boat, watching all the colors envelop the Tower.

The waves rocked around us, violently tossing us around in the boat like ragdolls, swirling and frothing beneath us, chucking us from place to place on the boat like an awkward dance, bruising knees, palms and shoulders alike.

Something my poor motion sickness couldn't really handle.

And obviously, my first reaction to that was to turn green and flop down.

The urge to puke everything I had ever eaten in my life had never been so great.

We said goodbye to Erza's old friends—seeing as I had the nasty habit of completely knocking out or somehow getting ill during important dialogues—and then we went back to the guild.

Erza and I were at the very front of our group, with Natsu and Gray lingering a little ways behind us and Juvia was always a couple of inches from Gray in her weird stalker-way.

I was just staring at the clouds as they past overhead, recalling the first few spells Stelliana ever taught me, when I heard Gray whispering to Natsu.

"So, you have a thing for Erza?" he asked, a shuffling sound telling me that he was scurrying away form Juvia again.

My ears perked up and I looked at Erza from the corner of my eyes. When she simply continued whistling a tune and wiping down her dagger I turned my eyes back to the sky.

She couldn't hear it.

Okay, then it was time to enter Lucy Ease-Dropping Mode!

I crossed my arms and focused my eyes on the movement of the clouds and kept walking—a little exercise that Stelliana made me do to improve my balance and to keep aware of my surroundings…though she did do it while chucking junk at me.

"Why the hell would you say that, huh?" Natsu asked petulantly.

"Natsu likes Lucy, duh!" Happy chirped.

"Happy, shut up!" Natsu said, probably grabbing poor Happy and slapping his hand over the blue cat's mouth.

I had to suppress a grin.

A huge grin.

And the restless energy that was bubbling within me.

"Wait, you like that—that Lucy?!" Gray asked, bewildered.

I scowled. What the hell did that mean? Honestly, I knew that I could be scary at times, and before Natsu, I really didn't consider romance like that—but still! What the hell was so revolting about me that would cause Gray to balk like that?

Well, I guess being a Dragon Slayer kind of made me scary in and of itself. Gray likely saw me as a weird female version of Natsu.

Female version of Natsu, I certainly was not.

I, for one, was damn proud of my brain.

Not that Natsu didn't have a brain—he just wasn't in the habit of using it properly, or very often.

"So what if I do? It's not like I'm going to get buddy-buddy with a Popsicle for Brains like you," Natsu snapped.

And of course, that would be the moment when Erza heard the negative comment. And then turned around with a deadly glare.

"Did you boys say something?"

The boys were already arm in arm and giving nervous as hell grins before she even finished her question.

My eyes focused on Natsu, how it seemed as if even his pink hair was trembling.

So I took some small pity on him.

I sighed and touched Erza's arm. "It's fine Erza. They're just being boys, come on. Let's keep walking."

Because even though sometimes he pissed me off and was completely stupid, he was still Natsu. And he still made me smile.

When we finally reached Magnolia, I turned away from everyone else and set off silently, not wanting to bring attention to myself.

After all, I had to start hammering out a new plan to get Natsu.

It was kind of domestic, staying at Natsu's place and worrying about cleaning and cooking and a whole ton of shit I only ever did for myself before.

But it gave me a strange sense of purpose to do it for someone other than myself.

Not that I was about to go all willy-nilly and abandon my S-Class status to live in domestic bliss.

Hell no.

I liked caring for Natsu and Happy, but that's it.

If someone like Gray were to walk in and try and get me to show them even an ounce of the care and domestic-ness I have for Natsu, then I assure you, they'd end up tossed on the street with five foot steel pole rammed up their ass for being presumptuous.

Eventually, after tidying up as much as I could and setting down the pack that I had taken for what I had thought would be a relaxing vacation, I took a quick shower, twisted my hair up into a reasonable bun and put on a little gift that Erza had given me a bit ago.

They were gloves that covered my elbows, made in this odd black, sturdy material, with metal plates on the tops of my hands. They came with matching boots with a small heel. And what I could only describe as a black cape clasped onto my shoulders by metal spiky things.

Really, I had argued with Erza over their practicality, but she insisted that it was useful. Apparently, if you channeled some magic into it, it could protect you from small projectiles—like small stones—but it was only handed out to certain wizards, and since most people only saw it as a hindrance to movement, they usually blew it off.

I blushed when she gave me a significant look.

It made sense. My movement really didn't need to be more fluid, I mean, I summoned gauntlets and all sorts of organic and celestial armor onto my person, I really didn't think that adding a cape would limit me any more.

I looked at myself in the mirror.

Matching it with my usual mid-drift exposing top—today, it was in a dark blue color—and my black skirt.

And of course, my dragon scale Spirit key holder was around my hips as a belt.

I smirked at myself and winked.

I looked pretty damn good.

Soon enough, I found myself at the guild, nodding at the people who greeted me.

And I rolled my eyes when I saw Natsu already punching the crap out of someone, and that person popping up and saying something equally nonsensical.

Turning back around, I looked up and down the length of the bar, frowning when I didn't see Mira wiping down the counter or cleaning some miscellaneous cutlery. It was bizarre, not having the snow haired girl around.

Plus, without her soothing presence, I could only bemoan the freaking pandemonium inside the newly rebuilt guild.

Sure, it was bigger than before, and you would think that would thin out the noise levels, but no. The guild members just seemed to coalesce and concentrate into a condensed ball of noise, regardless of the amount of space they had to spread out in.

Eventually, Erza spotted me from across the room and sat down next to me, handing me a plastic cup filled with a sweet smelling, amber juice.

"You got that new order already? Claudius must be really skilled to work that fast," I noted, taking a sip of the juice and rolling the liquid in my mouth. It was probably one of Mirajane's special tonics.

Erza nodded, "He had ample time to finish it. And I see your wearing the armor I got you, is it not comfortable? This one certainly is."

I grinned at her and gave the air in front of me a quick jab, "Yeah! I really like it. I never really noticed how much I depended on magic guarding my hands from harm on a daily basis, but with this, I can feel the difference! I really appreciate it, Erza."

And right as I was about to get into a conversation about the finer details of armor, a nosy guy popped up between us, yelling about how he had found Titania.

I peeked over his shoulder to look at Erza, who was smiling knowingly. "Oh, you're already here? I must apologize for the unsightly ruckus. You're from Sorcerer Weekly, correct?"

The guy nodded enthusiastically, and I backed away a bit to avoid his flailing limbs. "Yes! My name is Jason! And no problem! This is the raw, natural experience I was looking for!"

I frowned.

Seemed like I was doing that a lot lately.

I waved to Erza over the enthusiastic guy's shoulder and turned on my heel.

But apparently, I drew too much attention to myself by doing that, because immediately, I caught the guy swerving around me and bouncing around like some hyper monster, buzzing questions left and right.

I could only deadpan, "I'm sorry. What was that?"

"Is it true?! Are you the Stone Maiden of Fairy Tail?!"

I paused and glanced at Erza once more, then gave the guy a quick jab as confirmation. "Yes. My name is Lucy. Pleasure to meet you," I murmured with as much ingrained formality as I could.

Media attention really wasn't my thing. By no means.

"Would you mind answering a few questions? Is it true that you made S-class mere weeks after joining the guild? Are you a dragon slayer? How strong are you? What's your favorite food? Would you care to go to the local barbecue place with me?"

I twitched. "Yes, I am S-class ranked. Yes I am the Celestial Dragon Slayer, I could do to get stronger, as everyone else should. My favorite food ice cream. And no thank you, I am a vegetarian. Now if you'll excuse me…"

With that dismissal, the reporter flitted over to his next victim.

I just found Natsu and settled in next to him.

And let my hand bump with his under the table, giving him a soft smile when he aimed those big eyes at me.

Sure, if being blatantly obvious about how I felt about him didn't work, then I could sure as hell work on just being…affectionate.

But what I really didn't expect was how he shrugged his shoulder and shifted his hand to hold mine under the table.

My eyes widened.

Okay, so maybe Natsu wasn't that much of an idiot.

Maybe I did have a better chance at getting through to him than I originally thought.