*shields head from flying objects* I'm so so so so sorry! I deserve to be hung for how long it's taken me to update this. I have no excuse other than my brain sucks.

Chapter 24

I listened to Natsu groan as he picked up the last plate and finished washing it, handing it to Happy to dry. "Why couldn't we just throw them out?" he complained as he wiped his hands off on his pants.

"Because, that's a waste of money and just plain lazy," I answered, putting away the last of the stuff I'd used to make us dinner.

We'd been home for several hours now and the sun was already starting to set. I lit a few candles that I had bought on the way here and the place had a cute cottage glow to it. It smelled like citrus and cranberries and I wondered how strong that had to smell to someone like Natsu.

"Are we finished now?" Happy asked, looking exhausted.

I laughed lightly and shook my head. "You guys… you'd think I'd just made you run a marathon or something. All you did was clean the dishes from one meal."

"We don't do dishes," Natsu grumbled and plopped down on the single sofa against the wall. The same sofa I'd slept on when I'd first come over.

"I noticed…" I remarked, rolling my eyes. "But, since you did such a good job," my tone lightened and I smiled at the pair, "How about we go out for some ice cream?"

Immediately their faces brightened and their bodies perked up. "Fish ice cream!" Happy exclaimed and I cringed.

"That sounds disgusting."

"It's good! You gotta try it!" he said and both him and Natsu stood up and ran out the front door.

"Wait for me!" I cried and followed them, laughing as I shut the door behind us.

A little while later, the three of us walked side by side back towards the small cottage, each one of us licking our own cone of ice cream. Our pace was leisurely, enjoying the cool night air and the clear starry sky.

"I don't want to go on any jobs for a while," Natsu said, gently grabbing my hand and letting our arms swing above Happy's head who was walking quietly between us, enjoying his treat.

I took a bite from my ice cream and nodded. "Yea I agree. No jobs for a while. But I might have to do a few small ones here and there so I can pay my rent."

I felt Natsu's hand tighten and when I glanced to the side, his eyes were narrowed and his lips were curled into a pout. What the heck was up with him? I knew he didn't want to be separated from me yet but he had to know that eventually I would have to leave. It's not like we lived together.

I just shrugged and kept walking, enjoying the night and when we finally made it back, Happy made some lame excuse and left, winking as he disappeared out the front door.

"Subtle," I said, snorting through my small laugh.

"What?" Natsu asked as he finished off the last of his ice cream with a large bite.

I just shook my head and took a seat on the sofa, watching Natsu disappear into his bedroom. He emerged less than a minute later, shirtless and wearing just a pair of worn grey baggy sweats that hung so loosely on his hips that I would swear if just a light breeze touched them they would fall off.

"What are those?" I asked, my eyes glued to his taut stomach. The tantalizing V of muscle that led to his groin was begging me to stare at it and I followed it all the way to the small patch of hair that peeked out over the waistband.

Natsu stopped and looked down at himself. "What?"

"Those…" I said, pointing to the sexiest article of clothing I'd ever seen him wear.

Natsu shrugged and walked over to me, plopping down and lounging back with his arms crossed casually behind his head. "These are my favorite pants. You don't like them?"

My eyes moved over his body, drinking in his smooth, rounded pecs, his muscled stomach and slender hips reclining so easily beside me. Did I like them? Oh hell yes I liked them.

"They look… comfortable," I finally said and coughed, tearing my gaze away.

"What should we do tonight?" Natsu asked.

I slumped back beside him, resting my head on the back of the sofa. "I should probably be getting my stuff ready to go back home tomorrow."

Natsu crossed his arms over his chest, a frown marring his handsome face. "Do you have to?" he complained and sat back, leaning into the corner of the couch.

"You know I don't like putting stuff off till the last minute," I answered, trying to concentrate on anything but his body.

"But, you don't have to put it off till the last minute. You can just… not… do it, at all."

My eyes widened and my mouth fell open. Was he really asking what I thought he was asking? "Natsu, what do you mean?"

He smiled nervously and scratched the back of his head. "Well, I just thought maybe… you could. I don't know. Why don't you just stay here?" he finally blurted out as he stared at the floor in front of him.

An incredulous smile lit up my face and I just stared at him for a few moments. He just asked me to move in with him. I couldn't believe it. Natsu had really just asked me to move in with him. Did he even realize what he'd really asked for? Did I fully realize what he was asking for?

"Are you asking me to move in here with you?" I asked stupidly, almost not believing it.

He shrugged nonchalantly but I could tell he was nervous. "Yea, I guess. I mean, why not? We spend all our time together anyway."

"Yea that's true," I said. "But that doesn't necessarily mean we should live together."

Natsu ran a hand through his hair, ruffling it and then said, "I just don't want you to leave, ever."

My heart thudded a quick rhythm inside my chest. He could say the most romantic things sometimes. And he didn't even realize it which made it even more romantic.

I took a deep breath and closed my eyes. What should I do? What should I say? Did I want to live with Natsu? It was an awfully big step in our relationship. I mean, neither of us had even dated other people before and now here we were, thinking of getting this serious with each other. What if it didn't work out and we started to hate each other? What would it do to our friendship? What would happen at the guild?

"Lucy, what's wrong?" he asked, his brows knitted in concern as he stared at me.

"Nothing's wrong. I just, I'm not sure what to say," I answered. "Don't you think it's a little fast? What if you hate living with me? What if I can't stand how messy you are? I don't want to ruin what we have already."

Natsu smiled, catching me completely off guard. "Is that all you're worried about?"

"All I'm worried about?" I repeated, "Those are big things."

"Not to us," he said. "I know I won't hate living with you. Why do you think I spend so much time at your place? And you already can't stand how messy I am but you like me enough that it doesn't bother you that much, I don't think… plus, I'll try to be better if you remind me. And there's no way we can ruin what we have. Nothing can ever change how I feel about you. We've been through so much already. I doubt something so minor could change that."

I groaned and rubbed at my temples. Well shit… what could I possibly say to that? Plus, I had to admit, a large part of me was dying to say yes. It was exciting to think about moving things to the next level. It may be fast and it may be reckless but, what part of our relationship hadn't been? We don't live the easiest of lives and if our last adventure taught me anything, it was that everyday needed to be lived to its fullest.

I smiled slowly and crawled on top of him, straddling his lap. My arms wrapped around his shoulders and I leaned towards him. "Alright then. Let's give it a try," I said and gently pressed my lips against his.

Suddenly Natsu whooped with happiness and grabbed me tighter, pulling me flush against his body. "You won't regret it, I promise," he said and practically smashed his mouth against mine, kissing me excitedly and then pulling back. "I can't wait to tell Happy."

I grimaced. I'd forgotten about Happy. Moving in with Natsu meant I was moving in with Happy too. Not that I didn't love the little Exceed more than life itself but he was yet another obstacle to add to this scenario.

I sat back slightly on Natsu's lap and looked into his face. "You think he'll be ok with it?" I asked, gently running my fingers through his thick hair.

Natsu nodded and leaned back, apparently enjoying the feeling of my fingers since his eyes closed and a satisfied smile overcame his face. "I'm sure he will. He's nearly as close to you as he is to me."

I nodded and shifted around a little, wiggling on Natsu's lap. My fingers continued to play with Natsu's hair and I leaned forward, pressing my lips lightly against his forehead. "Alright then. I'll tell my landlady in the morning," I said and then added, "But you have to promise me something."

Natsu looked up at me, a warm smile stretching over his face. "What?"

I leaned back and let my gaze drift over his body, admiring his muscular chest and abs and then his lean hips. "You have to promise that you will wear these pants every… single… night," I said, kissing him between each word to add emphasis.

He laughed when I broke away, his hands lightly grasping my hips. "Why? Do you like them?" he asked, his eyes alight with humor.

I let my hands drift over his torso, tracing every muscle. "Mmm, I do," I said and leaned forward, capturing his mouth. My tongue slipped between his lips and my stomach flipped inside my gut when he groaned loudly and deepened the kiss. I could feel him getting excited already beneath me and his hands became more possessive as they ran up my back then down, cupping my backside. His touch always made me feel so desirable, like he couldn't get enough of me. I loved that about him. And I loved how I felt exactly the same way. Touching him was like the most potent aphrodisiac, making my insides churn with lust. "Natsu," I moaned, breaking away for a brief second and then kissing along his jaw. "Do you think we'll ever leave your house though?"

His hands smoothed along my sides, his neck arching back into the cushions of the couch as I kissed a trail along his throat. "What do you mean?" he mumbled, his voice coming out raspy and sexy as hell. "…And it's our house now."

Our house… for some reason, the sound of that made me all fuzzy inside. I liked the idea of sharing the place together, of having something we could call our own and take care of together. But at the moment, all those warm fuzzies were rapidly converting to licks of heat. I wanted him… bad. "I mean," I said, grinding my ass over his arousal, "that we might never leave because we'll be too busy doing this."

His eyes registered understanding and a wicked grin curved over his face. "I don't mind," he said and then slipped his hand beneath my shorts. "We'll just send Happy out once in a while to get us food."

'Leave it to him to think about food,' I thought to myself but then gasped when his other hand slid up my shirt and lightly pinched my tightening nipple. I mumbled his name, my eyes rolling back inside my lids as he continued to play with my breasts, teasing the tips till they were hard and erect. I could feel his other hand curving around my ass, the tips of his fingers sliding south till they slipped between the folds of my cleft from behind.

My body trembled and I hissed between clenched teeth when he rimmed my entrance with the tip of a finger, coating himself in my juices. "You're already wet," he groaned, slipping the digit slowly inside to the knuckle.

"It's those pants," I mumbled, barely conscious of what I was saying as I started to ride his delving finger. I was lost to what he was doing to me, my thoughts centered on his hands.

"That's it?" he asked, rolling my nipple between his thumb and index finger. "Just my pants?"

I nodded and then whimpered when he pulled away, his hands slipping out of my clothing. "Wh- what?" I asked, confused. Why did he stop? My body screamed for more, aching at the sudden loss.

He leaned back, folding his arms behind his head and turned his head to the side. "You only care about my pants. You don't care about me," he said and I stared at him helplessly.

"No!" I said and grabbed a fistful of his hair, jerking his head back to face me. "It's you. It's your body in the pants." There, that should satisfy him… right?

"Oh so you only like me for my body then," he said, huffing but grinning slightly as he peeked at me.

"Yup, just your body," I answered, obviously sarcastic and then began kissing his neck and chest.

He chuckled and grabbed the sides of my face, kissing me firmly and pulling away. "I love you," he said before capturing my mouth swiftly again in a hard kiss.

My body stiffened, my lips unmoving against his. "W-what did you just say?" I asked, pulling away slowly.

He blinked and looked at me, his head quirked to the side. "I said I love you," he answered matter-of-factly and kissed me again.

This time I yanked my face away and grabbed the sides of his till he was looking at me. His eyes registered confusion and I stared at him for a moment, completely astounded by his sudden announcement. Warmth spread through my chest and my heart started to pound a quick rhythm. It was just like Natsu to just throw it out there in such a way, so like him to assume I'd already know and it just made me love him even more. There would never be any guessing with him, no wondering what he was really thinking. It was always right out there and if it wasn't, all I'd have to do is ask and he would tell me. That was just the type of guy that he was and I couldn't imagine anything better.

"I love you too, Natsu." My words were a whisper as I leaned in and pressed my lips to his again.

It wasn't what I had envisioned as my first 'I love you', but it was perfect all the same because it was Natsu. And as we gave ourselves to each other, I knew it would never be the same again. Everything had changed - me, him, life. And I couldn't have asked for more.

The End

Wow! I can't believe it. I finally finished it! I think my brain was purposely blocking itself over this because I didn't want it to end. But, there we have it. The end. I hope you all enjoyed it and thank you all for staying with me through all of this.

Let me know what you thought and share with me your NaLu love! I really enjoy hearing what people have to say about my favorite couple. You can send stuff to me here or on my Tumblr page.

Bye bye!