As the sun passed across the middle of the bright blue sky and began to dip towards the horizon, the small blue bird alighted on a slender branch overlooking a window in Porlyusica's cottage. In the window, a simple looking kitchen with wooden cabinets and counters and cooking utensils rested alongside shining metal pots and pans. All seemed peaceful in the room.

The little bird tittered, annoyed that the eventful cottage he'd left that morning had become dreary and quiet, and made to fly off to a different part of the forest. He'd been hoping for a bit more excitement before he traveled to his usual feeding grounds. After all, the nice witch said that there was never a dull moment when these humans were around…

"Achoo!"

Whoosh!

A brilliant red flame suddenly burst out of the window, nearly singeing off the bird's tail feathers. It flapped up to a higher branch, squawking indignantly before peering back down into the window that raised voices now boomed through.

This will be interesting, the little bird thought with an excited shuffle of his feet. Very interesting after all…

~NGGNNGGNNGGNNGGN~

"Achoo!"

Whoosh!

A brilliant red flame suddenly flew at Gajeel. He barely had time to dive to the ground before the blaze shot over him and out the kitchen window behind him.

"What the hell, Natsu?" was his muffled shout into the floor. He lifted his head slowly, his eyes watering when smoke surged into his face.

"Shut up and help me put out the fire!" Natsu tried to stumble over to the kitchen counter where the blaze had clung and spread, but with each step, he fumbled, staggering and tripping over his own unsteady feet.

With a swift roll of his eyes, Gajeel leapt up, kicking off the cold wooden floor, and tackled Natsu to the ground, twisting so that the pink haired mage's fall was cushioned with his nakama's body. The fire mage's head drooped weakly on Gajeel's chest, the air beaten from his lungs, and Gajeel smirked triumphantly down at him, hiding his worry for the shaky boy lying against his body.

"Stay down," he said, his voice gruff as he gently but quickly laid the young mage down on his back. He took a moment to briefly glance over Natsu's trembling body, checking that he was okay, saying, "Just try not to sneeze again, will ya?"

Bounding up off the floor, Gajeel rushed over to the flames, snatching a dishcloth along the way. He tossed the cloth onto the blaze before he vaulted himself onto the counter, stomping out the flames little by little.

When all that was left was a grungy haze of ash and smoke, Gajeel hurried back to his partner's side. Natsu still laid there, eyes closed, panting quietly, but his tremors had, much to Gajeel's relief, begun to subside.

Gingerly, the raven haired mage picked up his partner, cradling him in his sturdy arms. Unlike before, Natsu allowed this contact as he'd grown accustomed to it since that morning's emotional scene. There was no struggle. In fact, Natsu's body relaxed just enough for Gajeel to notice, though he did nothing but hide his tentative smile and said nothing.

Instead, he grumbled, more venomous than he actually felt, "What was that, Salamander?"

Poking one eye open groggily, Natsu grumbled back, "I told you, call me Natsu. Salamander is too stuffy coming from you."

"Alright, Natsu," Gajeel replied, now hiding his smile very poorly, "what was that?" He carried the limp boy against his chest and into the main room, passing the soup dish that Natsu had just polished off before the flames had run rampant.

Hearing his name coming from Gajeel made Natsu blush just enough for him to bury his face in the other's chest after replying, "It feels like my magic is going out of control. I can't stop my flames when I sneeze 'cause of it."

"This happened before?" Gajeel longed to tighten his grip around Natsu, drawing his now thankfully warm body against him, but he restrained himself, still worried the boy in his hands would draw back at any provocation.

"Just once or twice when I was sick. It was when I was with Igneel." More aware of his words, Natsu's voice became more hushed as he spoke of his dragon father. "He said I just need to let it take its course. He said I was strong. I'd make it through, just like a real dragon."

Gajeel stared down at the boy, awestruck that his partner would open up to him so. It brought a smile to his face, briefly brightening his hard features, but he was forced to hide it all too soon as he laid Natsu down on his cot face-up, revealing the mage's eyes.

"The witch didn't say anything about sneezin'," Gajeel muttered curiously, brushing aside his out of the ordinary emotions. He raised his eyebrows, his mind flipping through his conversation with Porlyusica that morning. "Why the hell are you sneezin' then?"

Natsu gave a tired shrug in response, looking as confused as the metal dragon slayer standing over him felt.

"Hm." As Gajeel mulled over the possibilities, his gaze turned to the world outside the window. The wind picked up, blowing through the surrounding trees and shrubbery.

It's not the poisoning, he told himself, his brow furrowing. Cold maybe?

He reached out to lightly touch his pale hand to Natsu's forehead. The boy in the cot stiffened at the unexpected touch, and he shivered at the feel of the metal pierced through Gajeel's knuckles. Out of a strange whim, foreign to Natsu, he shut his eyes and pressed his flesh against that of the other mage's hand, relishing the touch that was both warm from his partner's flesh and cool from the iron bolted to him.

But Gajeel took no notice, his eyes still fixated outside the window. Instead he grunted, frustrated.

Can't be a cold. No fever. Then what the hell…?

Outside the wind began to pick up, and the plants billowed in the surrounding clearing. Beneath the window just barely in sight, small flowers, petite, a soft blue with long stems, swirl in the wind, their vibrant yellow pollen visibly dancing in the gust.

Natsu's nose began to twitch.

Realizing what was about to happen, the fire mage reached out to grasp Gajeel's shirt in his fist. Ignoring the surprised look Gajeel speared at him, he used the metal dragon slayer to hoist himself quickly to his feet, but the white sheet he had laid on a second before had caught on his ankle, causing him to stumble into Gajeel's waiting arms.

Natsu sucked in a breath, ready to blow out a vivid blaze when he sneezed.

Gajeel's mind slowed the world to a crawl. He saw Natsu rear his head back, heard the sharp intake of breath, felt his body tense in a vain attempt to stop himself.

Ideas flew through the raven haired boy's mind. The flames would hit him, and he could take the blow. He had many times before. But could he contain the entirety of the inferno before it spread to the flammable parts of the cottage around them?

Suddenly, an instinct took over, something Gajeel had seen done before. He only had time to think, If Natsu can do it…

Then his lips crashed down on Natsu's.

Flames billowed out from between the fire mage's lips but were caught in the eager embrace of Gajeel's. Entrapped, the vivid array of bright red and orange and yellow lingered on Gajeel's lips where they warmed his flesh almost painfully. They began slinking around the side of his face, up his cheek and set jaw, but something happened that stopped them in their tracks.

They were sucked back. The metal dragon slayer was consuming flames nearly as wild as a fire dragon's blaze.

Gradually, the flames dissipated, sucked into the Gajeel's mouth and down his throat. It felt alien to the pierced boy. Warmth spread through his body more and more the further down fire trickled down his throat. An uncomfortable burning sensation enveloped his tongue so briefly he had no time to flinch before it faded into an odd, but somehow playful tingling, almost as if the flames were alive and dancing within him.

But what caught his attention most had nothing to do with his blazing target.

Natsu's lips—they were so soft, so warm. They tasted of familiar and were oh so comforting.

Suddenly, Gajeel was sucking on nothing but air and Natsu's soft lips. Both dragon slayers' eyes snapped open, neither one of them seeing that the other's eyes were closed.

With a gasp, Gajeel shot back first, his dark locks falling in his face, his appearance now disheveled. What just happened? he thought disbelievingly.

Taken aback himself, Natsu managed in a whisper, "What was that?"

Shaking himself, Gajeel hesitantly met the smaller boy's eyes and answered, "Allergies. Ya must be allergic to some flower out th—"

"No," Natsu interjected, this time more certainly. "What did you just do?"

Gajeel opened his mouth to answer, but then thought and strode over to the windows.

The fire mage sat up and watched his progress expectantly but quickly realized he was receiving no reply.

Smoke began leaking out of the confused fire mage's nostrils and puffed out warningly with each breath. "Hey, lead head! I'm talkin' to you!"

Said "lead head" angled is head around to glance sideways at the boy in the cot. Uncertainty tainted his eyes and blurred his thoughts until they were not but a muddle of questions directed at his own mind and senses.

What did I just do? he wondered dazedly to himself.

"I ate your fire," he instead tossed over his shoulder nonchalantly. "I figured even you coulda seen as much."

What did I really do?

The smoke began to thin, leaving only a haze wafting in front of Natsu's face up to the ceiling. His harsh expression softened, becoming more confused than anything. "Well…yeah, but you…I mean ya just…"

Gajeel snapped around, his face set in a cold yet angered expression. "WHAT?!" He hoped it was enough to disguise the fierce blush that rested on his cheeks as rage.

It was. Natsu shrank back into the cot, his simmering inner blaze now completely dimmed, his smoke vanished into the now chilled air. Looking as though he'd just swallowed something sour, Natsu lowered his gaze, hiding his mournful expression.

"Just thinking maybe it would be better if I laid down in the back room," the pink haired mage offered pitifully. "The window in there is jammed shut anyway."

Not for a second did Gajeel's face lose its false wrath as he stared at the forlorn mage sitting across from him.

Why am I lying?

"Then get your ass in there and stop whinin' to me," the metal mage vehemently snapped. He spun around, his dark locks swishing against his broad shoulders that were tensed with finality and a dare to Natsu to question him. Without another word he stomped over to the window on the side of the room opposite Natsu.

He heard the boy stand and slowly make his way past. Natsu brushed so close to his skin that Gajeel could feel his returning warmth. It took every ounce of self control for the burly mage not to spin around and wrap his partner in a warm and apologetic embrace.

Why don't I just tell him? the metal dragon slayer thought.

Though Gajeel could not see, Natsu twisted around at the entrance to the hallway, staring despondently as his partner set about closing a rather stubborn window. His shoulders were still tense, his body on edge, ready to snap back a retort to anything Natsu dared to say. At a loss, Natsu turned around, disappearing down the hallway.

Why don't I just tell him? the fire mage thought.

When he finally felt Natsu's presence fade away down the hall, Gajeel finally allowed his muscles to relax and his features to soften into a regretful, sorrowful, and confused grimace. The window shut with a resounding clang of metal on metal, and he somberly lowered his head to rest on the cool glass, one hand supporting him, the other falling limply to his side.

With a sigh, he whispered, "Why?"

Natsu opened the door to the back room, lifting his features now that Gajeel could not witness the dull pain pulsing within his wide green eyes. Why?

"Why couldn't I just…"

…tell him…

"…how soft…"

…how strong…

"…and bold…"

…and sweet his lips were?

Natsu shut the door behind him, numb even to the chilled floorboards beneath his feet as he trudged over to the bed. He fell and turned so that he landed on the mattress face-up, staring at the ceiling unseeing.

Under his breath, he muttered, almost in a dream he was so lost in thought, "Why couldn't I just tell him…"

"…that I loved how his lips felt?" Gajeel said, his breath fogging the glass as he shut his eyes tight. "Why couldn't I just ask him…"

"…to kiss me again?"

Both boys, though separate, fought back the same rueful tears.

I am so sorry that this chapter took so long! I've been busy with college exams and other stuff…but I'm back baby! =^.^= I hope this chapter doesn't disappoint. I know it's not as focused as usual, and yes, it is still quite fluffy, but I will get to other stuff later on for those readers who prefer action and so on and so forth. As for lemons…I've never written one and only had one reader request something of the sort. If I get enough requests, I will most likely attempt a steamy chapter or two. Tell me what you think! Thanks for staying so far!

P.S. If lemons are included they will not affect the main plot, nor will they rush the fluffiness. =^.^=