It seemed as though he had felt it as soon as he stepped through the doors of the guild. His body had tensed immediately and his black eyes had narrowed, shifting from one corner of the room to the other before they landed on the cause of the disturbance.
Lucy was crying.
She sat hunched in a far table in the guild, her shoulders low, her head dipped so her chin rested on her chest. One would almost think she was sleeping if it wasn't for the minute trembling that racked her body and the sporadic heaving of her chest as she struggled to breathe between her soft sobs.
His hands fisted at his sides and he could feel his palms heat in his anger.
Who dare make his partner cry?
Striding toward her purposefully, Natsu didn't even blink an eye when Gray threw an insult his way, only continuing on his narrow path to his friend.
When he settled his weight beside her, her blond head snapped up and her brown eyes widened, swimming with unshed tears. When her eyes connected with his intent ones, she gave him a weak smile and wiped the evidence of her despair from her cheeks.
"Natsu," she murmured, her small smile dimming slightly when he didn't return it. "What's wrong?"
His intelligent eyes narrowed further, a frown pulling at his lips. "I should be asking you that question. Why are you crying?"
Blunt as usual, Lucy thought with a small laugh. Turning her eyes from his knowing gaze, she hugged herself a little tighter. "Nothing. Just something stupid. Don't worry about it."
She started when he placed a heated palm on her shoulder and turned to look at him. His eyes were tender when they met hers. She had never seen him look at her like this. Whenever this look had overcome his features, it was usually directed at Happy or Erza or, in a blue moon, Gray. But never had that look been directed towards her. That look of patient understanding and affection. It made her lips tremble with the fight to hold back her tears.
"Tell me what happened, Lucy," he said quietly, his eyes never leaving hers. "I can't fix it if I don't know what's wrong."
Biting her lip, she closed her eyes. "You're going to think it's stupid," she whispered. His hand on her shoulder tightened and her eyes opened when he gave a tug on it. Her eyes widened when he bumped his forehead against hers gently, their faces barely a breath apart. His own eyes were closed and that understanding smile was still playing on his lips.
"Anything that would make you cry would never be stupid to me, Lucy."
Her breath hitched and a sob escaped without her consent. Clutching his vest in shaking fists, Lucy finally let the damn holding all her pain, her anger out and sobbed openly against his bare chest. He said nothing, only wrapped his arms around her in return and placed a cheek against the crown of her head, patiently waiting.
When he eyes met those of a concerned Mira, he shook his head minutely and staved off her questions for another time. Nodding in response, she went back to work behind the bar, but not without one last concerned glance at the broken blond in his arms.
"N-Natsu," Lucy sobbed. "I didn't want…to bu-burden you with my p-petty problems."
Running a hand along her hunched back, he chuckled at her. "None of your problems are petty to me. We're partners, aren't we?" When she nodded against him and finally began to quiet down, he tried again. "Tell me what happened, Lucy."
Pulling back, she wiped a hand under her eyes to rid her cheeks of the tears and couldn't meet his gaze. "My boyfriend broke up with me," she whispered. Holding her breath, she waited. His expression never changed.
Looking up at him in surprise, she sighed and couldn't stop the shameful blush that colored her cheeks. "He left me for another woman."
Natsu clenched his fist and felt his pupils shrink to the size of needle points. Gritting his teeth, he got to his feet stiffly. "Where is he?"
Lucy looked up at him in trepidation and reached up to grab one of his clenched fists. "Don't, Natsu. He's not worth it!"
His enraged eyes met her pleading ones and he couldn't keep the snarl from lifting his lip. "He cheated on you, Lucy! That's unforgivable! No real man cheats on a woman!"
Standing to her feet, Lucy sent a desperate glance to Mira, but the mage was no help, her own feature twisted in a rare scowl. Turning her pleading gaze to the other members of the guild, she saw all the faces mirroring that of Natsu and Mira. None of them looked like they would try to persuade Natsu to calm down. In fact, they all looked like they would begin a lynch mob.
She turned her attention back to her partner and in a desperate attempt to calm him, she wrapped her arms around his waist from behind, burying her face in between his shoulder blades.
"Natsu, please," she whispered. The fact that he was so enraged on her behalf made her feel loved and cherished, but she always hated seeing him fight. Even if it was against a cheating bastard of a human. "Please, don't do this."
Turning in her arms, Natsu tipped up her chin so her eyes met his. His face was still a mask of repressed rage, but his eyes had softened slightly. "Lucy, we're a family. This whole guild is a family. And if one of us is hurt or insulted, that means all of us are hurt or insulted. This bastard not only hurt you, he hurt all of us. Don't ask me not to be angry, to not defend you. It goes against everything this guild stands for. We're a family!"
Looking around, Lucy saw everyone nod in agreement to his words. Closing her eyes on a wave of tears, she bowed her head dejectedly. Nodding her head, she stepped back from him.
Natsu watched as she wrapped her arms around herself and refused to meet his eyes. Sighing, he slung an arm around her shoulders. When she looked up at him, he gave her a wide grin, though there was a slight feral edge to it. "Don't worry, Lucy. I promise not to kill him!"
Chuckling, Lucy nodded and gave him a small grin. "Okay, Natsu. I trust you."
Several hours later, a young man was walking down the street, his arm around a very buxom brunette that he couldn't quite remember the name of when he felt a shiver of apprehension slide down his spine. Stiffening, he turned to chance a look behind him and froze.
Standing not far from the womanizer and his girl, stood a figure of a man. His stance was rigidly controlled but an observer could tell he was holding onto his control by a thin thread. Striding towards the frozen man, Natsu's eyes were narrowed and dark, making the man gulp in fear.
He stopped a few feet from the man and reached toward him, fisting his silk shirt in a rough fist and lifted him clear off his feet. Not against showing off, Natsu made his fire flare around his entire body and made his eyes glow with a deadly intent.
As the man shivered and pleaded in his grip, Natsu never let up on his glower and simply waited for the man to grow silent. When he finally did, he brought the other man close to his face and hissed harshly, "If I ever hear that you approached or even looked at Lucy, I will make it my personal mission to burn you until there is nothing but a pile of ashes. Do I make myself clear?"
Stunned, the other man could only nod mutely, sweat pouring from his forehead and his lips trembling.
"Just..p-please don't hurt me," he whispered. Sneering in disgust, Natsu dropped him at his feet. Turning his back on the womanizer, he paused as he was about to walk away.
Why not? He thought before whirling soundlessly on his feet and landing a solid punch on the unsuspecting man's chin, sending him flying a hundred yards away and landing in an unconscious heap of limbs. Cracking his knuckles, Natsu grinned in triumph and turned to head back to Fairy Tail to tell everyone that he'd dealt with Lucy's problem.
(AN: I'm not entirely sure where this came from or why I even wrote it, but it just happened. I know it's not the best thing ever, but I've always loved Natsu and Lucy's friendship more than anything in the show, so I thought I would write about that and give the romance a little bit of rest, you know? Well, that's all. I hope you enjoyed it!)