Disclaimer: I do not own Fairy Tail or any of the characters.
"Salamander!" the dark haired, heavily pierced dragon slayer called to the pink haired one further up the dirt path surrounded by trees. The larger of the two ran towards the other, his dark furred, scarred exceed flying close behind.
Natsu took a single look at Gajeel and shifted his body to a fighting stance. By the look on Gajeel's face, he meant business.
"You ready, Happy?" Natsu asked the blue exceed standing next to him.
"Aye, sir!" Happy replied. Then he spied the exceed behind the burly dragon slayer. "Uh, Natsu, I don't think I can take Pantherlilly."
"What're you talking about?" Natsu exclaimed, practically panting flames in anticipation for the fight. "You're twice the cat he is!"
Finally, Gajeel and Pantherlilly slowed and came to a stop in front of the other two. Taking in Natsu's stance, he cocked a single eyebrow.
"What's the matter with you?" Gajeel scoffed as the two exceed greeted each other warmly on the ground.
Confused, Natsu allowed his flames to abruptly die out in his open mouth, though he remained poised and ready for action. "What'd ya mean what's the matter with me? You're the one that ran up here shouting at me like you were gonna kill me!"
"I wasn't gonna kill you dumbass! I was coming up here to talk to you about that job you're about to go on."
"What about it?" Happy piped in.
Looking down at the blue exceed and back at Natsu, Gajeel said simply, "We want in."
Finally, Natsu dropped out of his stance, his jaw dropping with it. "What do you mean you want in? You're not replacing Lucy!"
"What are you yammering on about? I'm not replacing that weak Bunny Girl!"
Pantherlilly chose that moment to sprout his wings again, seeing a fight about to break out between the two dragon slayers. He shot up into the air at Natsu's eye level, though he only hit Gajeel at the neck.
"What he means," he said, gesturing towards Gajeel, "is that we need the money, and there are so few jobs that our best option is to team up with someone from the guild and split the reward."
"But we need this money, too," Natsu grumbles.
"Yeah, well Mirajane told us that you took the flyer that had the largest amount of money on it," Gajeel snapped past Pantherlilly's wing. "And while we were on Tenrou Island for seven years some bastard stole all of our money and busted up our place."
Ever the voice of reason, Pantherlilly added, "Natsu-san, surely there's enough money there for you to split it with us. Please, we have no money for food."
Natsu thought back to the flyer he plucked off the request board.
7,500 Jewel Reward
Transport package discreetly from Cassidyville to Magnolia Town.
That was a lot of jewels, but to split the profit with this hard-headed dragon slayer…
"We accept!" Happy said, shooting into the air beside Pantherlilly.
"WHAT?!" Natsu couldn't believe what he was hearing. Flames spurted out of his mouth hotter than before.
"Natsu, we have plenty that we can spare," Happy explained. "We at least have our house, even if it needs a little touching up. All we need is a few thousand to get our savings back and be able to buy enough food to last until the next good job comes around.
"Besides, I've never seen a transport mission with this high of a reward. Sounds to me like there's a catch."
"That doesn't mean anything!" Natsu protested.
"But, Natsu, don't you remember the Everlue Mansion?" Happy innocently asked.
"Stop being so—" Pantherlilly quickly placed a paw over Gajeel's mouth to silence him.
"Let's get going," the scarred exceed said.
Not paying any mind to the spluttering dragon slayer, Gajeel stepped around him, snatched the flyer that was sticking out of Natsu's small pack, and started walking down the path. Pantherlilly nodded to Natsu and shrugged apologetically before abandoning his wings to walk alongside the dragon slayer in front.
"Aw, c'mon Natsu," Happy said pleadingly. "You two are so powerful when you work together."
"Yeah, and last time we worked together was supposed to be just that!" Natsu yelled, "the last time! Did you forget that he hurt our nakama?"
Dropping to the ground, Happy sighed and shook his head. "No, I didn't."
"We can't forgive him for what he's done. Remember that." Natsu stomped away, panting angry red flames. "Let's just get this over with."
Looking less than enthused, the blue exceed trudged behind, muttering dejectedly, "Aye, sir."
"I don't see why you didn't just partner up with Levy," Natsu growled at Gajeel as they strode through the shady forest path. They'd been walking for two tense hours. Both exceed had wisely chose to stay a few paces back to avoid the sharp tongues of the arguing mages.
"She went with Droy and Jet on a mission," Gajeel replied, spearing Natsu with a sideways glance. "Where's Lucy?"
"That's none of your business!"
Behind the two quarreling dragon slayers, both exceeds trailed. They exchanged whispers among themselves.
"I thought that Gajeel hated Natsu," Happy murmured, sidestepping a fallen twig. "Why does he want to work with him now?"
Sighing, Pantherlilly answered, "Gajeel has a hard time fitting into Fairy Tail from time to time, but it's been getting better. There are just a few people that have yet to accept him, and the worst one is—"
"Natsu," Happy finished for him. Now he understood why Gajeel was being so much more patient with Natsu than normal. Looking up he saw that despite Natsu spitting insults and questions at him, Gajeel would only give a dirty look, answer, and keep walking.
"Exactly. The truth of the matter was that there was another flyer on the request board that would've been more than sufficient to get money for food and water for the next week or so, but after Mirajane told him about the request Natsu took, he chose to try and make right with the other dragon slayer."
Happy suddenly beamed. "So, Gajeel really does have a soft spot."
"Shhh," Pantherlilly said with a small smile. "Don't let him hear you say that. He'll do anything to prove you wrong."
"I can't wait until Natsu finds out!" Grinning from ear to ear, Happy looked up at the two dragon slayers. They were both so different in appearance. Gajeel was tall and broad with long, pitch black hair and multiple piercing accenting his harsh face, but Natsu had a warm face with pink hair and a small body to match, though he certainly had muscle to spare. Still, in personality they had more in common than they might think: a fiery temper, an unwillingness to give up, a protective side for those they cared about, a soft spot that they weren't quick to show off, and a sadness and emptiness inside them for the parents they had lost.
Why can't they just see what I see? Happy thought to himself solemnly. He watched as Natsu turned to Gajeel again to bark another insult at him.
"What makes you think that you're even wanted h—" Natsu's sentence was cut off by a massive, violent coughing fit that shook his shoulders.
"Are you alright Natsu-san?" Pantherlilly asked.
"Fine," he managed to wheeze out as his coughing got more and more violent.
Worriedly, Happy rushed over to Natsu whose face was buried in his elbow in an effort to stifle the coughs. Happy tugged at Natsu's pant leg.
"Natsu, you don't sound okay," he said.
"I'm…okay, Happy…really," Natsu managed around his hacks.
Pantherlilly had come closer to Natsu, trailing right behind his heels. The exceed looked at Gajeel and saw that even his pierced features were twitching into a worried expression.
"Hey, Salamander," Gajeel finally said, "take it easy." He reached out and patted his temporary partner on the back once.
That was all it took for Natsu to fall to his knees, his entire body shaking with the force of his coughs.
"Natsu!" Happy was there at Natsu's side, trying to look Natsu in the face, but the mage had his face in his hands as his coughs got louder.
"Natsu-san, a person does not fall down from a single pat on the back," Pantherlilly said, coming to stand beside Happy. "What is wrong with you?"
"N…nothing," Natsu hacked his answer. "Gajeel…just hit me…too hard."
At this, Gajeel narrowed his eyes at the kneeling mage. "What the hell is the matter with you? You never admit I knocked you down, and I didn't even hit you as hard as I could."
Gajeel knelt down to wrap his hand around Natsu's slender wrist. He yanked, urging the boy up, but instead of helping Natsu up, the force of Gajeel's tug made the pink haired dragon slayer sway and then collapse onto his side.
"Natsu!" they all yelled.
I know that the first chapter is a little slow at first and leaves off at a major cliffhanger, but what can you do on the introductory chapter? Anyways, I thought that there just weren't enough stories with these two as a pair, so I thought I'd take a little time away from my other fanfiction to do some work on this. And I apologize ahead of time for not updating regularly. =_= But I'd still appreciate reviews! Warning for the next chapter: lots and lots of blood.