"Natsu!" Lucy admonished with exasperation after he'd goosed her. Now that he had the go ahead, he couldn't stop touching her. Or stop wanting to kiss her. It was hard to remember that he was trying to space out the kisses. He could smell her strawberry lip gloss and it was like her pink lips were begging him to kiss her.

With a soft growl he pulled her back against him and kissed the side of her neck. He heard her breath hitch in her throat and pressed the kiss harder against her skin, closing his eyes. Natsu had already kissed her earlier that morning in the pond, but she was so irresistible he couldn't help himself.

He knew that slowing out his hundred kisses wouldn't really extend her life, but he started to panic anyway, his heart beating a mile a minute, when he realized that he was already almost halfway through his kisses.

"Natsu?" Lucy asked breathlessly. She squirmed a little in his tightening grip, but didn't try to break away. She seemed to sense the change in him, reaching up to thread her fingers in his hair. He squeezed his eyes shut tighter and snuggled his face deeper into the curve of her neck, willing the tears to go away. His muscles were tense and restless, his instinct to fight what was causing him distress confused by a nonphysical enemy.

He didn't want to let her go. Not ever. If he could stand like this for the rest of his life, with her reassuringly solid and real body close in his arms, he would be happy. So, he clung to her, trying to soothe his own stupid fears that she would disappear once he stepped back.

"Natsu," she said again, her voice breaking this time. He could smell her tears, but she was the one who was comforting him, "It's okay, Natsu."

He listened to her quiet hums and focused on relaxing his body. Slowly, his grip loosened as his heart rate calmed down. Lucy turned in his arms when she had the space to and pressed her face into his chest, continuing to hum.

"I'm sorry," he said. He was supposed to be her courage. The strong one. The support. This wasn't like him. He had never felt as vulnerable as he did these past few months. It was terrifying. Lucy leaned her head back and looked up at him.

"Don't be," she said, taking his face in her hands. She traced her thumbs over his cheekbones, her heart in her eyes as she met his gaze, "I love you so much."

Then, she kissed him softly and sweetly and Natsu was struck by how something could be both wonderful and painful. How he could feel broken and whole at the same time. Life was stupid.

"I love you, too," he said.

Life was so stupid.

#44 Irresistible & #45 Vulnerable

(Man, emotions and feelings can be so unbearably big sometimes. I like exploring Natsu's more vulnerable side, since we don't really see it that much. He's actually pretty reserved.)