Lucy Heartfilia huffed irritably, a vein pulsing on her brow and her arms crossed beneath her chest.

She grumpily shuffled along the cobblestone path, kicking loose pebbles into the canal and glaring at the weeds that poked through the gaps in the stone. Plue padded behind her loyally, every now and then letting out a tiny whine.

When Lucy turned around to scold the dog, Plue widened his eyes.

"Pu-puuun..." the silver spirit whimpered. He lifted himself on his hind legs, waving his front paws in the air, begging to be picked up. "Puuuuun!"

Unable to resist Plue's pleading eyes, Lucy sighed and picked up the dog, stretching her arms out in front of her while Plue happily flailed in her hands.

"I can't say no to you," she commented offhandedly, pulling Plue inwards and hugging him to her chest. "Even when I'm having a bad day, you're just too cute to resist."

And a bad day indeed. A recently botched mission (caused by none other than the idiot duo Natsu and Gray) had essentially cost the celestial mage almost her entire share of the reward. The fire and ice mages had set fire to and subsequently froze the holy church in a tiny village on the coast, slightly south of Hargeon. Erza, magnificent and powerful as she was, was of little help preventing the situation, finding that beating the two up had been a far more effective method for making the two feel sorry.

Very, very sorry.

Unfortunately, apologies didn't cover the cost of rebuilding a church, so the over half of the reward money had gone into reconstructing the holy building, and there went half of Lucy's reward money.

'I'll have to take a solo job later to hold up my rent,' the blond thought somberly, quietly mourning the loss of her precious, rare free-time. She shoved her face into Plue's warm, plush body and shook her head vigorously, much to the dismay of the little dog. 'Think positively!' she exclaimed inwardly. 'It's only one mission! I can definitely do it!'

"I'm gonna do it!" Lucy cheered, raising Plue above her head and twirling.

"You're gonna do what?"

Lucy froze mid-twirl.

Slowly craning her head to catch a glance of the speaker, she managed an articulate "...uh."

First she saw a shoulder, followed by vest edged by a mass of gray fur that led to a pale neck and a mess of blond hair, then more fur and the other shoulder, with a white guild mark starkly stamped on his bicep.

'Oh.'

"Well?" asked the white dragon slayer. "What are you going to do that's so important that you needed to shout it out to the world?"

Lucy was vaguely aware that, sometime between her not saying anything like an idiot, her staring like an idiot, and Sting waiting for the person who seemed a lot like an idiot to answer, Plue had taken the lull of activity as an opportunity to drop down onto her shoulder and scrambled up to find a new perch in her hair.

She slowly lowered her arms back to her sides.

"Well I was going to- I mean that- I was doing the thing-" Lucy stammered- Sting raised an eyebrow- "Nothing," she finished awkwardly, feeling embarrassed beyond measure. "I wasn't going to do anything."

Sting blinked. "Fascinating."

Lucy flushed redder than Erza's infamous hair.

"W-why are you here anyway," the celestial Mage sputtered, more accusingly than questioningly. "Isn't Sabertooth's guild on the other side of Fiore?"

"We're based in Crocus," Sting confirmed. "My partners and I are here to negotiate a bit with

Master Makarov."

"There's more of you?" Lucy asked, aghast. Then- "Wait- negotiations? Negotiating about what? And why you?"

"It's a... peace treaty of sorts," he explained, sniffing haughtily, "since our guilds started off on a sour note. And it's me because I'm Sabertooth's new-"

"MASTER!"

A red, winged blur suddenly flew inches from Lucy's face, colliding violently with the dragon slayer's head and sending him sprawling onto the edge of the sidewalk, inches from the canal.

Lucy froze. 'Oh.'

"Ah," she said intelligently, still staring at the space that was formerly occupied by the new master of Sabertooth guild. She blinked, once, twice, and tilted her head. "That was unexpected."

The sound of footsteps put Lucy on alert, before any words were spoken, she already knew who was behind her.

And she dreaded it.

"Sting."

Lucy stiffened.

She turned slowly, trying to even out her shaky breathing, before meeting eyes with the shadow dragon slayer.

Rogue paused, eyes widening the tiniest bit, piercing crimson burning into warm brown, and opened his mouth. No sound came out, so he closed it, swallowed, and tried again.

"Heartfilia," he said raspily. (Lucy knew that this wasn't the same Rogue that had tried to kill her, tried and succeeded, but it didn't stop the fear that turned her blood to ice.)

She managed a slow, hesitant nod in return, desperately willing her hands to stop trembling.

"Oi, Lector," Sting mumbled, holding his bruised head, oblivious to the tension just meters away. "The hell were you doing, pulling a stunt like that?" He sat up slowly, muttering curses as one hand shot out to steady him, grabbing the edge of the curb where sidewalk turned to water.

"Sorry Sting-kun," Lector replied mournfully. "But you ran away so quickly! I had to go full speed to catch up with you."

Lector headbutted Sting's arm, roughly nuzzling the crook of his arm. The inner elbow. One of the weakest parts of the arm.

Stings arm buckled at the ticklish sensation, and with a loud, violent string of profanities, his arm gave out from underneath him and he dropped and rolled-

-straight into the canal.

The resulting SPLASH pulled Lucy out of her daze, and with a jerk, she turned back to the white dragon slayer. Or, more accurately, the bubbles and ripples that were left by the dragon slayer.

A few tense seconds passed and Sting failed to resurface.

"...Does he know how to swim?" she asked slowly.

Rogue crossed his arms, eyeing the patch of water critically.

"To my knowledge, no."

"...Are you going to help him?" Lucy said, mildly concerned about Sting's teammate's unresponsiveness.

Rogue turned his gaze from the water to her, his unnatural eyes bright and sharp, and Lucy flinched away, taking a step back and pivoting back to the canal.

Sinking to her knees, Lucy plunged her hand into the clear water, key firmly in her grasp. A golden light shone for a brief moment before the water parted and a figure emerged.

Lucy clasped her hands together. "Aquarius!" she chirped, smiling shakily. "Would you please do me a favor?"

The water spirit glared, lips turning down in a scowl. "What."

Lucy plowed on hastily. "Well someone fell into the canal and he's possible drowning so it would help me a great deal if you could pull him back up...?"

The mermaid bared her teeth in response. "Do I look like a lifeguard to you?" Aquarius snarled.

The spirit lifted a hand and a pillar of water raised, towering a good ten feet about Lucy's head.

The summoner squeaked, and, preparing for a blast of water, scrambled back and braced herself.

However, when no attack came, Lucy cautiously peeked out, and to her surprise, she saw Sting, suspended in a massive bubble in the water, looking thoroughly confused.

"Well?" Aquarius said tightly.

Lucy blinked and shot back and her feet.

"Thank you, Aquarius!" she said, nervous laughter peppering her words.

The blond reached in and grabbed Sting by the wrists and, with a mighty heave, pulled him free of the water with a pop!

The pair landed on the unforgiving ground, Sting sputtering and dripping and Lucy getting getting sprayed with water from both pulling the white dragon slayer out and the dragon slayer himself.

"Ahaha..." Lucy giggled tentatively. "Thanks," she said again. "I guess you can... Go back to the Spirit World...?"

"Wait." Aquarius' cold voice halted Lucy in her tracks. "What is he doing here?"

The spirit turned her stare to Rogue, gaze cold and lips pulling into a snarl.

The water spirit's eyes held even with Rogue's, her gaze steady even as the dark mage flinched away.

Lucy's expression turned on a dime, turning to from mildly fearful companionship (or whatever the hell her relationship with the water bearer was like) to full out apprehension and genuine edginess. "It's nothing." Lucy's voice quavered.

"He tried to kill you and it's nothing?" Aquarius spat. "Do you remember the things he did?"

"Hey!" Sting snarled, unsteadily stumbling to feet, still disoriented from his bout in the water but conscious enough to know exactly what the two were discussing, and he didn't like it one bit. "Don't talk about Rogue like that! The things that monster did, that wasn't Rogue." He gritted his teeth. "It was never Rogue."

The shadow dragon slayer flinched again at his teammate's words, his hands curling into fists, and his head down turned. "Sting." Rogue's words cut through the tension like an arrow through the air.

"What?" Sting growled. "You're my partner, I can't just stand here and let them call that thing yo-"

"That's enough." Rogue's voice cracked.

He turned stiffly to Lucy. (She didn't flinch, and she was proud of how she kept her gaze steady and strong.) For a moment, Rogue didn't say anything, only stared.

"I'm sorry."

And as Lucy attempted to process what the hell just happened, Rogue bowed, every muscle drawn taut, and stalked away.

Aquarius stared at his retreating back, teeth gritted, and disappeared in a burst of light.

Sting exhaled sharply. "Shit," he muttered.

Omake!

(Warning: the following interactions should not be considered canon in any way, shape, or form.)

"Where's Frosch?" Lucy questioned. Lector was there, so obviously the dragon slayer duo had decided to bring their feline counterparts, but the pink and green Exceed was nowhere to be seen.

"We sent him to go check in our hotel," Sting said absently, intently staring at Lucy's endowments.

She hastily crossed her arms over her chest.

"You sent a cat to check in?"

"Frosch isn't a cat," Rogue interrupted. "He's an Exceed."

Lucy stared. "Right."

A/N-

Well.

This is not an update.

I looked through this and my high school self decided that my middle school writing style was rather terrible, and, as a result, started to rewrite the whole thing.

At least it's canon now.

On the other hand, I finally started writing/planning a new fic that's basically "Lucy travels through different fairy tales and falls in love with the strangest people." So basically reverse harem.

yay