Chapter Eleven

Disclaimer: I don't own Fairy Tail or any of its characters.

"Mom…" A young voice called. There was no response. "Mom," the young voice tried again, the tone a little louder and more impatient. Still nothing. "Mom!"

Lucy jerked in her seat and whipped her head toward the voice. Her eleven year old daughter stood staring at her with a concerned frown on her pretty face and her hands on her developing hips. Lucy smiled sheepishly and got up from her seat by the window that she had been perched in for the last few hours.

"Sorry, Maki. I was distracted," Lucy said with a small blush. Maki shook her head, her light blond hair that she had put in pig tails swaying gently at the movement.

"Geez, Mom. Staring out the window isn't going to bring them back any faster. You have to calm down or you'll get worked up again."

Lucy looked down at her daughter for a moment, simply looking. She would definitely be a beauty when she grew up, the signs were already obvious. She had taken after Lucy with her blond hair and brown eyes but her face was all Natsu. She didn't take after either of them in temperament, thankfully. Maki was a very calm, patient child, very unlike her older brother Kei, who was turning more and more into a miniature Natsu with every passing day. Lucy always thought that Maki took after her grandmother who, from what Lucy could remember, had always been a gentle, kind woman. Nothing like Lucy herself, who was prone to fits of irritability and irrationality. Maki did, however, take after Lucy in her love to read and write. At the age of ten she had already tried her hand at writing creatively and was talking of following in her mother's footsteps and becoming a published author.

Sighing, Lucy laid a hand on Maki's blond head and gave her a gentle smile. "I know, sweetie. I just…" Lucy bit her lip and looked out the window once again. "They were supposed to be back this morning and it's already sunset…What could be keeping them?"

Maki studied her mother's face and disliked the worry she saw in it. Even at thirty five, Lucy was as pretty as ever. She had let her blond hair grow out a little since Maki had gotten older, the blond strands now reaching the middle of her back with a few grey strands brought on by her boys mixed in. Laugh lines had begun to bracket her mouth and the crease between her brows had grown more pronounced ever since Natsu had taken the two boys out on their first official mission.

Taking a breath, Maki stepped forward and wrapped an arm around her mother's waist. "They'll be fine, Mom. Dad would never let anything happen to them and you know it. And even Dad said Haru and Kei would be stronger than him in a few years."

Lucy let out a breath and hugged her daughter close to her side. "I know, sweetie. I know that in my head, but my heart…it won't settle until our boys are home."

Maki nodded and stepped back. "Ami wanted me to come over to her house for a few hours, is that okay?"

At the mention of Gray and Juvia's daughter and Maki's best friend, Lucy's face brightened a little. "Yeah, that's fine. Just be back by dinner time. And make sure—"

"That Uncle Gray walks me back, I know, Mom," Maki finished for Lucy. Her mother grinned and nodded. Maki bit her lip, a habit she had picked up from her mother over the years, and was hesitant to leave. "Don't worry about them, Mom. I'm sure they're fine. The Dragoneel boys never lose." With those parting words and a quick hug, Maki was on her way, leaving Lucy alone with her thoughts and her worries.

Natsu had promised her it was an easy enough mission, where there wouldn't be a big threat but exciting enough that the boys wouldn't think that Natsu was going easy on them. It had been Hell convincing them to even let Natsu go with them. Being fifteen and fourteen respectively, Haru and Kei were convinced that they were more than old enough to be going on missions on their own. It had only been Laxus's rule that any mages below the age of eighteen had to be accompanied by an older mage that had stopped the boys from going off on their own.

With a sigh, Lucy sat back down at her earlier perch in front of the window at the guild, the usual noise of the other mages falling on deaf ears as she scanned the road for sign of her boys.

As the sun began to dip over the horizon, Lucy was brought back to a memory that brought a smile on her face of a similar sunset many years ago…

Fourteen Years Ago

Lucy hissed in a breath, her back bowing and her hand reaching out to grab the first thing she could, which just happened to be Natsu's shoulder. Under her white knuckled grip, Natsu's shoulder was solid warmth that Lucy instinctively sought.

Next to her, her boyfriend looked anxiously at her face and reached up to clasp her hand in his. Seeing her face contorted in so much pain made him anxious and caused him to snap at Porlyusica.

"She's in pain! Is there nothing else you can do to make this go faster?"

The pink haired healer glared at the anxious young father with a sneer. "Do you want me to deliver this baby or not? If so, shut up and stay out of my way."

"Natsu," Lucy murmured weakly once the contraction had passed once more. "Let her do her job, okay? I'll be fine. Women give birth to babies all the time."

Natsu gripped her hand and brought her knuckles to his lips. "I just hate seeing you in so much pain."

She smiled up at him weakly. Though her face was covered in sweat and her cheeks were pale, she had never looked so beautiful to Natsu. "I love you so much."

She squeezed his hand. "I love you too."

Looking down at her, in so much pain and giving birth to his child, Natsu fell all the more in love with her. They had been through so much; would continue to stay together through the growth of their two children. It was impossible to remember how his life had been before Lucy had ever entered it. She was his everything, had given him everything that had he ever desired and some things he didn't even know he had wanted. He would be lost without her and it suddenly struck him that she might not know just how much she meant to him. "Marry me," he blurted out. Lucy froze for a moment and her brown eyes were alert when they looked up at him.

"What?" she asked, her voice breathless.

"Marry me," he repeated firmly."I love you. Marry me."

The painful pull in her lower back signaled the beginning of another contraction and Lucy's voice was strained when she answered him. "Don't you think it's a little late for that?"

Natsu frowned in confusion. "What do you mean?"

As the pain reached its peak, Lucy cried out. "You did it backwards…you're supposed to…ask me to marry you…first and…then start a family, idiot!"

Natsu laughed, squeezing Lucy's sweaty, hand. "That doesn't matter, silly. As long as we're together, who cares what order we go in?"

Lucy smiled a little. Even to this day Natsu was spontaneously romantic and silly at the same time and it still caught Lucy off guard. They had been married two months after Kei was born. It had been a loud and excited ceremony, as any event was when the entire guild was invited. Natsu and Lucy had said their vows, kissed and then had a big party that had lasted for three days.

Four years later Lucy had become pregnant with Maki. She could still remember the wonder on Natsu's face when he'd held his daughter for the first time. Ever since that day, Maki had been the apple of his eye. She could do no wrong as far as her father was concerned.

Haru grew up to be the protective, warm older brother that Lucy had always known he would be. When Kei had been born, Natsu had been afraid that Haru would be jealous of the baby getting all the attention, but from the moment he had seen Kei, Haru had been viciously protective of him. When he was a toddler, anyone who wanted to play with Kei had to be approved by Haru first. And when Maki was born both little boys had made a pact to keep anyone from ever harming their baby sister, which was the reason that Maki had been told to stay back for that mission. That and Maki had never been one for violence anyway. Thankfully, Maki wasn't a fire mage like her brothers and father was. Instead she had inherited some of Lucy's spirits when she had first shown signs of being a Spirit Mage. Surprisingly, even Aquarius adored the little girl, listening to her much more than she ever had Lucy, claiming that Maki had 'more common sense' than Lucy possessed.

Just as Lucy was preparing to spend another sleepless night alone in her and Natsu's bed, she caught sight of something coming up the road. As soon as she caught sight of two identical heads of pink hair accompanied by a dirty blond head, she shot up out of her chair and sprinted toward the guild doors. Throwing them open, she cried out in delight, "You're back!"

Jerking in surprise, the three most precious men in her life looked up at her. On the left, Haru had an arm wrapped around his younger brother's shoulders with Natsu on the very right, also supporting Kei's weight.

When he caught sight of her, Kei's whole face brightened and he straightened away from his brother's support. Grinning up at her, he waved at her. "Hey, Mom! We're back!"

Pressing a hand to her trembling mouth, Lucy shook her head and laughed. "Thank god," she whispered to herself. Meeting them in the middle, she immediately went to her youngest boy's side, looking him over critically.

"What's wrong? Are you hurt?" she asked. Kei opened his mouth to reply, but Haru beat him to it.

"No, he's just an idiot and when we were fighting the mage, he got himself knocked down a big hill. He's got a banged up knee, but nothing serious. He's been whining this whole way back about how much it hurts like a baby, though/"

Kei looked up at his brother as if betrayed. "Haru! You made me sound like a stupid kid!"

"Sorry to tell you this, son," Natsu interrupted, slapping a hand to his son's shoulder. "But you are a stupid kid." Both Haru and Natsu erupted into laughter as Kei began to do a perfect imitation of his father's famous pout.

Shaking her head, Lucy slapped Haru's chest with the back of her hand. "Haru, stop upsetting your brother," she demanded half heartedly.

Haru chuckled a little and then leaned forward to wrap his strong arms around his mother's waist, hoisting her into the air. Even though he was only fifteen, he was already considerably taller than both Natsu and Lucy. With his dirty blond hair and beautiful red eyes, he was very popular with the opposite sex. But, just like his adoptive father, he didn't notice all the attention he garnered with his looks and instead was more focused on family and training. To that day, he adored his mother and would do anything if she so much as asked.

Kei took more after his mother, except for the bright pink hair that simply wouldn't be tamed and his fire mage abilities. Fortunately, Kei was not a Dragon Slayer, only a simply fire mage, though that didn't stop him from continually challenging his father and brother to fights to prove his worth. Even on his worst day, Kei was better than the best fire mage in Magnolia.

In his arms, Lucy squealed a little. "Haru, put me down this instant! I'm too old for this."

Setting his mother down, Haru laughed and kissed her cheek. "Good to see you too, Ma."

"Don't say you're getting old, Lucy," Natsu said from Kei's side, looking down at his wife with a wide grin. "That would mean I'm getting old too."

Lucy smiled up at him for a moment, her eyes checking him for injuries before settling on the beautiful sight of his smile she had missed for the last three days. The years had been very kind to her husband, the only sign of the passage of time being the slight outline of laugh lines around his mouth and the beginnings of crow's feet at the corner's of his dark eyes. Throughout the years that they had been together, Natsu's smile had never changed and Lucy didn't know where she would be without that smile to set her nerves at ease and to make her appreciate all that she had gained.

Seeing how his parents were looking at each other, Haru wrapped his arm around his younger brother's shoulders with a grin as he led him inside. "Come on, Kei. Let's go show Mira your 'battle wound'."

Kei blushed and protested. "Haru, don't tell her I fell down a hill, that would be so embarrassing." The doors shut behind them, cutting off Haru's deep laugh.
Once their children were gone, Natsu wordlessly opened his arms. Lucy immediately walked into them and sighed at the feeling of being wrapped in her husband's familiar warmth. "I'm glad you're home," she whispered.

Natsu smiled and squeezed her a little. "I love our boys, but I missed my wife."

Pulling back so she could look at him, she grinned at him cheekily. "Really now? I thought they would be enough of a handful to keep you distracted."

"Oh, they were. But the nights were lonely," he murmured as he bent down to kiss his wife's smiling mouth. Though she had opened her mouth to retort, Natsu quickly distracted her by deepening the kiss and sending her thoughts scattering away. "I missed you too, Lucy. It's really good to be home again."

Lucy pulled back enough to whisper against his lips. "Maybe that will teach you to go on missions without me."

Natsu nodded with mocking seriousness. "I have learned my lesson very well. What do I get as a reward?"

Lucy laughed and kissed his mouth one more time before pulling away completely. "You get to help me make dinner for your children, Mr. Dragoneel."

Natsu sighed, his shoulders slumping when she left his arms. "If I must."

She winked at him over her shoulder as she started heading back to the guild. "And if you help me with dinner instead of eating all the ingredients, I just might have a surprise for you tonight."

He perked up at that and grinned at her wickedly. "That just might be worth it then." With a hopeful expression, he trailed after the love of his life to gather their children for the night.

They were far from done when it came to raising their children or living their life together and Natsu knew he was looking forward to every minute of it. And to think this all started with one mission…

(AN: Well, that's it folks! It has been such a fantastic ride getting to this point. I don't think I've ever enjoyed writing a story as much as I have this one. I hope I did the last chapter justice and I really hope you enjoyed the ride. Thank you so much for those of you that stuck it out all the way to the end. You guys were the reason this story was even possible. I adore you all! Thank you for everything.)