A/N: decided to write some more of this story. Don't expect anything, just be happy there's a new chapter! Also, Natsu is an unreliable narrator, only take his words at face value.
She's still in utter shock and disbelief. Just a few seconds ago, there was a fully aflame Natsu standing in front of her, red scales glowing with fire engulfing him. And now he's there in front of her, acting like it's the most mundane thing in the world to him. Natsu climbs out of the window, and he looks just like a regular human boy again.
"I ..." she starts. Her words are stuck in her throat. Lucy can't seem to form anything intelligible right now.
From the moment she met Natsu, she had been completely convinced that Natsu was lying his ass off—he wasn't a dragon. A dragon was never in her castle, never once protected her. At least, that's what she's been telling herself all this time.
"Can you breathe?" Natsu asks this time.
"Aye, I took her away from the battle, but she must have lost her mind or somethin', because she came runnin' right back at yah," says Happy.
Lucy's eyes stare at the floor, the shiny marbled floor that should have been covered in scales, but there's not a speck of dirt to be spotted. They all vanished into thin air. Scales that were covering Natsu's skin.
"Scales ..." Lucy says mindlessly. "There were scales."
"I think you're right Happy, she does seem a little weird. Maybe she hit her head?" Natsu approaches Lucy in concern, stretching out his hand to be able to check her head, but Lucy jerks away from his touch.
"Scales!" she shrieks out, startled. "Y-you were on fire!"
Natsu stands there, looking a bit dumbfounded and unsure of what to do. "Ehh, yeah—that's kind of what I do, you know? Fire? Protect this place from humans?"
Lucy pokes her index finger into Natsu's bare chest. It feels hot to the touch, but not literally flaming hot. He seems to be okay and not burnt.
"But you were on fire. And covered in scales!"
Happy rolls his eyes at Lucy. "Natsu, I think you really did break her."
"I didn't do anything!" Natsu protests. "We should check her head though."
"My head is fine!" say Lucy with a hiss. "Can we all talk about what happened just now? Natsu was on fire—like an actual ball of flame kind of fire. Is he supposed to do that!?"
"I'm a dragon, duh. What do you think dragons do, start a campfire and throw torches at people? No, we breathe and live in fire!" says Natsu.
"But … but ..." Lucy really doesn't know how to formulate her thoughts. She settles on something more simple; "But why?"
"Why what?" Natsu asks, confused.
"Why do you look like this, but can do things like that?"
"Ah." Natsu shuffles on the spot a bit, seeming unsure of himself all of the sudden, which is uncharacteristic of him. "I don't know … I mean, dragons have their human counterparts and all, although none of them look as human as I do, I guess you could mistake me for an actual human?"
"Well of course—that's what I thought this entire time!" says Lucy. Even though, in the back of her mind, she knew something wasn't right. After all, she could breathe normally around Natsu, which meant something was different about him. Lucy had chalked it up to simply being immune to Natsu, like building a resistance over the years, that was her best explanation so far. Anything else besides accepting the fact that Natsu was an actual dragon.
"But I already told you—I'm a dragon!" Natsu huffs this time.
"Well yeah, you didn't look like one to me." Lucy swallows her words. "Until now," she adds. "Sort of—I mean you were still humanly shaped, not all lizard-like with wings and all. You were simply more … hot."
"Hehe, she thinks you're hot," Happy gleefully joins the conversation.
Natsu forcefully places both his hands on Lucy's shoulders, looking into her eyes with his emerald and serious eyes. "I. Am. A. Dragon." He then coughs a little and looks away from her. "A half one, that is."
"Half?" Lucy's ears perks up. He's half a dragon?
He removes his hands from her shoulders and starts scratching his cheek. "Uhm, yeah, half blood they called me back home. They didn't much like me." Natsu is suddenly all sheepish. The way this boy can change his mood from happy, to serious, to bashful—it's boggles Lucy's mind, along with all the other new information she's getting.
So, Natsu is half dragon, or a 'half blood' as he said. That explains why he looks like a regular boy, but can … set himself on fire and grow scales. Makes perfect sense. Lucy is not going to question this logic anymore, it'll simply hurt her head.
Lucy looks at Natsu, biting down on her lips, wondering what to say and ask, when there's so many things she wants to ask, but seems to be unable to really formulate her thoughts. Things like, where did Natsu come from? How come he ended up as a slave? Who was his father and mother? Did he really grow up with other dragons? Why does he say that the others didn't like him?
Happy interrupts Lucy's thinking process by speaking up. "I like you, Natsu," he says.
Natsu smiles at Happy. "You better damn well like me."
"What do we do with the hole in the wall?" Happy points to the large gap that was left behind when Natsu knocked one of the knights out of the castle.
The gears in Lucy's mind starts working again, and she turns to the open gap. "No problem, I can fix it." She gracefully flicks her wrist—a movement she's done way too many times now, mostly because she was cleaning up after Happy—and says the words, "Redarcto!"
The broken pieces of rubble and stone slowly float up into the air, and gravitate towards each other, forming a cohesive front, until the bricks starts connecting each other. It all fits in snugly, and the wall has been completely restored again.
"Wow!" both Natsu and Happy exclaim.
"Lucy, you're good at this," says Natsu, easily impressed.
"I just hope I won't have to do this again," Lucy says with a sigh. "Kind of tired cleaning up after you guys."
"What do you mean by that!" Natsu snaps. "We are always cleaning up after you—remember the hair incident?"
"Something which you won't stop reminding me of," says Lucy with a loud sigh. "Can we just keep the castle in one piece?"
"Why, I figured you'd want to break free by now," Happy mumbles.
Happy's comment makes Lucy turn quiet for a few seconds. To break free, that's something that has definitely plagued her mind one too many times. However, at the moment, her burning desire to know more about Natsu and Happy is overtaking her wish to break free. These are far more pressing matters to discuss.
But then the tree in the middle of the room finally catches Lucy's attention. Their carved names have been destroyed by the grappling hook. Lucy quickly casts the same spell she did before. The bark of the tree restores itself in a few seconds, but then Lucy realizes that their names are gone as well. She had restored the tree to its original state … oops.
"Great going, Lucy, you really fixed it," says Happy.
Lucy glares at Happy. "Well, we can always carve our names back in again, you two know how to spell your names now at least."
"I can definitely spell Natsu!" boasts Natsu, like it's a feat deserving of a medal.
However, before any carving can start, Lucy decides to ask something that's been on the tip of her tongue. "Natsu," Lucy calls him, spurring Natsu to look her in the eye. "What do you mean, they didn't like you?"
"Ahh, that," he says with a loud and fake laugh. "Nothing! No need to worry about it."
"When you say 'they', do you mean other dragons?" Lucy is unfazed by Natsu deflecting her question.
"Hm, yeah, of course. There were dragons everywhere. They come in packs, you know. Like a big family."
"Where's your family then?" Lucy asks.
Natsu's face immediately turns grim and dark, and Lucy realizes with a pang in her heart, that she's asked a question that she shouldn't be asking. The boy immediately covers up his emotions with a big and wide grin on his face.
"Happy is my family!" he says.
"Aye!" Happy agrees.
Lucy tries to smile. "Right," she says. No more prodding for right now. To lighten up the mood, she pokes Natsu's chest again with her finger. "You won't spontaneously burst into flames, right?"
Natsu proudly shows his open chest. "Of course not—I can control my own fire like it's second nature."
"It is your second nature, you doofus," says Happy.
Natsu ignores Happy, and then he shows Lucy his outstretched hand, palm up. Within a second, a small gust of wind gathers and it swiftly turns into a small flame, dancing on top of the palm of his hand. It sways back and forth, and Lucy can't avert her eyes from it, it's so entrancing! It doesn't seem to be burning him at all. Natsu throws the flame into his other hand, and starts to juggle it, trying to impress Lucy with his skills.
"I can do a whoooole lot of things," he says with a toothy grin.
Lucy comes up with an idea. "—what about scorching our names into the tree, can you do that?"
Natsu stands still to ponder this question for a bit, his eyebrows furrowing pensively, but then he happily nods his head. "Of course I can!"
He turns towards the tree while raising his index finger. A small flame shoots from his finger, it seems small, but very strong. He walks towards the trunk, and start to write the names, the flame scorching off the bark, leaving a black residue behind. Lucy is paying close attention to see if he isn't misspelling anything, but when Natsu wraps it up and shows his work, all three names are written perfectly.
And it doesn't even look that bad.
Lucy gives Natsu a small pat on his back. "Good job! You didn't get our names wrong, I'm impressed."
Natsu rubs his nose and lets out a small giggle from excitement from being complimented. "Hehe, thanks Luce!" He looks rather adorable when he acts like this, and Lucy can't help but smile in return. "Oh right—I saw something," Natsu suddenly changes his tone.
"Hm, you saw something?"
"Yeah, that." Natsu points his finger at Lucy's chest.
Lucy's eyes travel down, until she sees the top of her dress had come undone in the commotion, revealing quite a bit of her busty breasts. Lucy's cheeks turn vivid red, and she can feel her entire body fill up with embarrassment.
"Y-you … pervert!" Lucy smacks Natsu's finger away, covers up her chest with her arm, and makes a mad dash out of the library.
Lucy has refused to leave her room that day. A combination of feeling mortified, and angry at Natsu for being as dimwitted as he is. He may be a dragon, but he has absolutely no tact, or manners for that matter.
Which of course, reminds Lucy of why that is—Natsu and Happy have repeatedly told her that they are slaves. Slaves don't learn how to read, and they are certainly taught no manners. Natsu behaves very much like a child still, and that's most likely because he never had any parents to guide him. He did mention his father (a dragon!), but Lucy can only imagine they weren't together for very long, most likely separated at one point. After that, he has been living in this castle for as long as she has, which means another seven years of no parental figure to raise him.
At least Lucy had her mother and father—it makes her miss them even more.
Thinking about Natsu's past like that, Lucy is slowly starting to realize she may have acted a bit over the top at his comment. Maybe he simply doesn't know it's wrong to stare at a lady's bosom like that. Lucy recalls the many romance books she's read in her library, and pretty much all of them sexualized a woman's breasts. In one of them, there was quite a bit of fondling too, and it made Lucy's ears red and she refused to read any further. But she knows one thing for sure; men staring at breasts are perverts who are lusting after sex.
But Natsu isn't like regular men, is he? No, he's completely different … and a dragon to boot.
Lucy doesn't want to admit that Natsu looked kind of cool before. She still had this idea in her mind of what a dragon should look like, and that her dragon was kind and sweet—not someone who stared at her chest. Her illusion that there was somehow still a hidden dragon in the castle that wasn't Natsu, has been shattered by now. It's just her, a princess, a flying cat, and a half dragon boy in the castle. That would definitely make one hell of a wacky romance plot for the novels she's read.
It's dinnertime, and Lucy gets her meal sent up to the dumbwaiter as usual. She walks up to retrieve the meal, noticing there's another origami piece among the food. It's a very detailed bird with a long tail, resembling a phoenix. Lucy smiles to herself, she'll never get tired of receiving these. The remainder of her days trapped in this castle always feel a little more bearable when she sees someone made the effort to give her something nice. That someone was Natsu.
Okay, she was probably way out of line for calling him a pervert.
Lucy picks up the bird to add it to her collection, and notices there's something written on the paper, on its left wing. It's a single word.
That's Natsu's terrible handwriting alright, and now Lucy feels guilty as hell that Natsu is apologizing for something he probably didn't even know was a bad thing to do.
She'll have to make it up to him, somehow.
It's taken her more than a week, but Lucy finally manages to complete her quest. She's been acting secretive as much as she can, knowing that Happy is all too, well, happy about following her in invisible mode, which would ruin the surprise she had in store. Because Lucy had an idea. For the two people that had been living in her castle and taking care of her for so long, she decided they needed a gift, to show them how much she appreciates them.
Not like they had a choice or anything, they were forced to do this thankless job. Lucy certainly had it rough, not having had any interaction for seven years with another human being. And true, it has probably driven her a tiny bit insane, and her social skills have been harmed—but that's nothing compared to being forced to work as a slave and protect some silly princess who has been cursed.
Natsu and Happy were probably very young when they were forced to do this, so Lucy wants to show them she's thankful from the bottom of her heart. Even if they like to tease her and make fun of her, they did take care of her and protect her. Time to give something back.
She's been reading books about magic non-stop, specifically, protection magic. While taking down barriers was a magic way above her level, creating barriers herself was a little easier. She had to do quite a lot of reading, which meant she had to ignore Natsu and Happy a little bit (they were starting to notice that she wasn't giving them much attention).
"Lucy, are you mad at us?" asks Happy.
Lucy is pulled from her thoughts, and quickly hides whatever was in her hands into a small chest on the table. She sits up straight and flashes him a smile.
"No, I'm not, why would I be?"
Happy looks a bit sad as he hangs his head down. "You haven't read me a story anymore in over a week."
Well, Lucy was a bit busy studying barrier magic. "Oh, I was just … busy."
"Oh," says Happy dejected.
"And uhm, I have a little surprise for you and Natsu."
"Really!?" Happy exclaims.
Lucy nods. "Yes, if you can call Natsu to meet me in the library with you, then I can reveal the surprise."
"I love surprises! Is it fish? I want it to be fish." Happy quickly exits the library, leaving Lucy alone.
She opens the small chest and takes out two golden talismans. It took her a while to get the shapes right with some clever use of magic, but it's not perfect or anything. She hopes they'll like it, and is actually a bit nervous presenting them this. Maybe they won't like it? Her stomach feels jittery all over.
Soon Natsu bursts through the doors of the library, creating quite an entrance for himself. His wild pink hair flies about as he rushes over to where Lucy is.
"Lucy!" he yells, then comes to a dead stop right in front of her. "You're not mad at us!?" he asks with a huge grin on his face.
He's so close to her that it's making Lucy feel even more embarrassed.
"No, I'm not ..." she trails off. "But instead, I have a surprise for you."
"Huh? A surprise?" Natsu looks genuinely confused.
Lucy sticks out both of her hands, holding a talisman in each, and handing them over to Natsu and Happy.
"Here, I made this for you, a gift. As a thank you for taking care of me all this time."
Natsu inspects the golden talisman in his hand, Lucy had tried hard to shape it into a sun, simply a large circle with little triangles decorating the edge. It's because Natsu reminds her of the warm sun shining on her face ... and of course, also because he was a blazing ball of flames himself, she found it fitting. Happy's talisman was shaped into a fish, or at least, Lucy tried her best to make a fish shape, it was kind of hard.
Both Natsu and Happy look at their respective gifts, they remain silent for a while, until Happy turns to Natsu with tears in his eyes.
"This is the first time I've ever gotten a gift in my life," he says while sobbing.
Natsu matches Happy's sobbing with his own, and he eagerly nods his head up and down with teary eyes. "Me too, me too!" he agrees. "I have no idea what this is, but I'll treasure it nonetheless! Thanks Lucy!"
Lucy hadn't quite expected such an extreme reaction, so she giggles in response at their child like innocence. "It's a talisman, you're supposed to keep it with you, and it should hopefully protect you from any harmful intentions."
Both Natsu and Happy collectively 'oooh' at Lucy's explanation.
Natsu holds up his talisman in the air. "So people can't hurt me with this?"
"I think so, I'm still a novice at magic, but I think I got the enchantment right. Why don't you give it a try?"
Natsu then looks at Happy, and then takes a swing at him, landing a blow on top of his head.
"Owee! That hurt, why did you hit me?!" yells Happy.
"Lucy said to test it! It didn't work though."
Lucy is also disappointed that the talisman didn't protect Happy from Natsu, but perhaps it will only work if the intent to harm is very obvious, not just a slap between friends. Or maybe that is just wishful thinking. Either way, it didn't work, but they're still happy with their presents, that's all that counts.
"Why is it shaped like one of your hair bows, Lucy?" asks Happy.
"It's a fish ..." Lucy sighs.
"Don't look like a fish to me."
"Well if you've got any complaints, you can give it back."
Happy hugs his talisman protectively. "No, it's mine."
Lucy smiles at Happy; he really likes it, no matter the shape.
"Oh, oh! I think mine is the sun, right?" Natsu asks eagerly, dangling the talisman in Lucy's face.
Well, at least someone got it right. "Yes, good guess, Natsu. I'm sorry I couldn't make you a dragon or anything, my magic isn't that advanced yet." Lucy isn't even sure if the drawings of the dragons she saw in her books are even accurate, not when Natsu doesn't look anything like one.
"That's okay, leave the dragon stuff to me."Natsu flashes her another warm smile, giving her a warm fizzle in her stomach. "We didn't get you anything in return though ..."
Lucy wants to point out that seven years of origami counts as several gifts, or that taking care of her and preparing her meals every day is a huge feat within itself, but Lucy remains silent. Instead, she thinks of something else, something more interesting.
"How about you both give me a kiss on my cheek?" she asks innocently. Lucy still craves human touch, even though she's been hanging out with Natsu and Happy for a few months now, she still wants that something to connect with people.
"Uhh, okay," Natsu says, a bit confused.
Happy is the first to jump up and give her a smooch on her right cheek. "There you go!"
Lucy smiles shyly at Happy, then faces Natsu, waiting for him.
Natsu shrugs, leans in closer, causing his pink hair to brush against her ear, then plants his lips on her left cheek. Lucy can feel her whole face heat up and her body shivers at his touch. She wasn't prepared for getting such a sensory overload from a simple kiss on her cheek. It's making her heart race stupidly fast.
Natsu pulls back, looking her in the eye as he retreats. His emerald eyes are mesmerizing, Lucy feels her breath get stuck in her throat, like he's cast a spell on her. When Natsu is a safe distance away from her, her heart calms down and her face stops glowing red hot.
Happy is staring at her with a knowing smirk on his face, and Lucy doesn't quite like the look he's giving her.
"Hey," Natsu says, trying to get her attention. "You just got a dragon's kiss!" he exclaims with a chuckle.
Lucy's fingers caress the spot Natsu just kissed, and she snorts in response.
"Are you saying you cursed me?"
"Well, no, but it's sort of funny. I wonder why your curse is called like that."
"I don't know ... I don't even know why I got cursed in the first place." Lucy sighs.
"Me neither—you're a real nice person Lucy. Only one other person has been this nice to us since we've been here."
That kind of breaks her heart again.
"Say Natsu ... you say you're slaves, right?"
"Why don't you run away? I mean, clearly, you're very strong, and I haven't seen you lose against a knight yet—what is stopping you from reaching freedom? You could leave this place today and there is no one to stop you."
Natsu awkwardly shifts his gaze away. These questions have been burning away in her mind ever since. Why would Natsu stay and take care of some princess, he could just leave and do whatever he wants. Even though Lucy secretly wishes they'd stay and protect her.
"That's not true Lucy," says Happy. "Only I can leave, Natsu can't."
Lucy looks at Natsu, wondering what Happy means by this. "You can't leave?"
Natsu shrugs as if it's no big deal. "Much like how you can't leave the second floor, I can't leave the castle's perimeters." Natsu makes a hand gesture as if he's pushing against an invisible wall.
Ah, there is barrier for Natsu as well apparently. Makes sense. Maybe that's why she could never really get a clear shot of the dragon when he was fighting outside—he simply couldn't go very far due to the barrier in place.
"Oh ... I'm sorry," she says, unsure of anything else to say.
"Don't be, once this is over, he promised he'd send me home," says Natsu with a smile.
Lucy doesn't know who 'he' is, but if Natsu is someone's slave, she doubts that they'll let him go for free like that. She is unsure whether or not to break the news to Natsu, wondering if it's better to let him live in this blissful delusion that he gets to go home at the end. She decides it's best to let sleeping dogs lie, and instead focuses on something else.
"So Natsu, what is your home like? I've never really been anywhere besides my own castle in the city, and this one here, so I'd love to hear your stories." Lucy sits down in front of the open fireplace, and pats down her hand on the carpet next to her.
Natsu and Happy join her, gathering around the fireplace, each playing with their new talisman. Natsu looks eager to start talking about his home, so at least he doesn't look down or anything for being stuck here with her.
"I'd like to hear more stories too," says Happy.
"Didn't you say Natsu found you when you were an egg?" Lucy recalls.
"Aye, but shortly thereafter Natsu already left his home, so I've never seen it."
Natsu nods his head. "Before Happy, I lived with my father, probably the strongest dragon alive! Every day we'd play and hunt, we had loads of fun pulling pranks on the other dragons too."
Lucy listens to every word he says, she's immensely curious about Natsu, the dragon boy. She's so curious in fact, she forgot to ask him his age!
"Wait, how old are you Natsu?" Lucy asks, interrupting him.
Natsu counts his fingers, deep in thought. He eventually holds up eight fingers.
"...You are eight?" Lucy drawls.
"—Teen! Eighteen. I'm pretty sure. I think. Yeah, probably."
Natsu may have issues with counting as well, Lucy notes she should probably teach him simple math tasks after his reading is under control. "Alright, alright, continue."
Natsu shifts his body closer to Lucy. "Right, so, my home was mostly a cave, just me and my dad. There were a lot of open fields with flowers, you'd probably like it there."
"I probably would, yes," she giggles. But then she remembers something Natsu said before, something about the others not liking him. "Did you have any friends?"
Natsu shakes his head. "Dad was my friend, and after that, Happy became my best friend. The others didn't really like having me around much … oh, but that lady liked me!"
"Hm, what lady? Was she a dragon too?"
"No, she wasn't. She's just like my mom was, like you are—human. I don't really know how she got there, but she visited me from time to time. Real nice. She had blonde hair like you, Lucy."
Lucy strokes her hair. "Is that so?" She smiles to herself. "Was she as pretty as me?"
Natsu gives her a weird look. "What a weird question to ask, you're not pretty."
Like a knife stabbing her heart.
"You don't have to say it like that, you jerk!" she yells, her self confidence shot to hell. She scoots away from Natsu, putting distance between them. What an asshole thing to say to her!
"It's okay Lucy, I think you're as pretty as a fish," says Happy.
"That … that comparison doesn't cheer me up, Happy." Lucy hugs her own arms.
"Anyway, the others uhm, I'm not quite sure what they were planning, but I guess they didn't want me around anymore, and sort of banished me. The lady took me in instead."
"What, banished you? What do you mean?" Lucy asks, her previous anger and hurt totally forgotten.
"Locked me out and threw away the key?" says Natsu matter-of-factly.
"They can't just do that," she mumbles.
"Well, they did. But baldie promised he'd bring me back if I follow his orders, so it's okay, I'll go home one day and introduce Happy to my dad."
"How old were you when you got separated from your dad?" she asks.
"About ..." Natsu counts on his fingers again. "About six, I think. Probably."
Ouch, that's pretty young, to be taken from his father like that. Lucy hopes he gets to meet his family again, but that doesn't seem to be happening anytime soon, not with her curse still active, and Lucy has no confidence in this bald guy they keep mentioning. She doubts he'd let them go just like that. It's probably best if she doesn't question this any further.
"Okay, thanks for sharing it with me. How about we get back to teaching you how to read?" asks Lucy.
Natsu groans out loud. "But I already know the alphabet!"
"The next step is being able to read the actual words, Natsu. No skipping on this one."
Natsu grumbles something under his breath, but he does get up to grab a book they've been using to read from the shelf, and brings it back to Lucy so they can start again.
As Natsu starts to try and read the pages, Lucy is staring at Natsu, wondering about all of the things he's not telling her about his life. Even though Natsu is quite a simpleton, his circumstances sure are interesting. That comment about her not bring pretty still hurts through, coming from the only boy around, so she kind of wanted to know his opinion. Now she wishes she hadn't said anything.
Happy comes to see her in her room that night before she heads off to sleep.
"You know, years ago back when we first moved into this castle, Natsu was always nervous about being seen by you. Orders and all." Happy starts to smirk. "But he always tried to catch a glimpse of you, even when he thought I didn't notice, he'd be staring at you."
"Aw, that's creepy but sweet, thanks for telling me." Lucy feels a bit better about that stupid pretty comment now.
Happy starts to walk away, throwing his head back to say one last thing.
"He still does it, you know. Just pay attention next time."
Happy leaves a blushing Lucy behind.
With that warning in mind, Lucy pays closer attention to her surroundings since then. When she thinks she's alone, she casually scans the room, the windows, the doors, wondering if perhaps Natsu is there, watching.
When she takes a bath, she's extra careful about not showing anything private, and that the door is locked. She uses way more soap than necessary, to create a foam of bubbles that cover her like a cloak. But she isn't convinced Natsu spies on her in the bathroom, no, she would have noticed it by now. Perhaps he has some manners after all.
The times she does notice, is usually during times she does something mundane. Previously, she would have chalked it up to being in an old and enchanted castle, figuring those sounds are part of the whole package. But since Happy told her to pay attention, she had started to spot a pattern in the noises, the rustling of clothes, the creaking of wood. When she's brushing her hair, she's pretty sure Natsu is outside her room, watching. He doesn't stay there for a long time, probably just a quick glimpse, and disappears like he was never even there. She wouldn't even have noticed it before, not until she heard the soft creak of wooden panels being walked on.
Other times is when she's dusting her room, or when she's singing to herself—Natsu stays behind a bit longer when she sings.
At first, the thought creeped her out, being watched like this, but Lucy finds out she's actually quite comfortable with it. It's probably because she hasn't really had any contact with anyone for seven years, that she doesn't mind the fact that even when she thinks she's alone, Natsu is actually still nearby, checking in on her. It's sort of comforting, actually. Happy used to do it when he was invisible, but now he doesn't bother going invisible anymore, and will happily follow her along throughout her day.
But Natsu? Natsu is still pretending no one notices him being sneaky, and Lucy kind of finds this adorable. His actions make up for his tactless words.
Especially when he keeps sending her beautiful origami during meals.
She gets especially happy when she sees the talisman around Natsu's neck.
Time passes uneventfully, but Natsu does pass a few milestones. His reading has improved immensely, he can now read most sentences without any assistance, and is on his way to finishing up a book together with Lucy.
One day, he greets her with a bunch of notes in a small chest. Lucy recognizes them; they are all the heart shaped notes she's written to him over the years. The fact he kept each and every one of them makes her heart clench up in a good way.
"You kept them all?"
"Well, yeah, why would I throw them away?" Natsu sits down in front of the fireplace and picks out one of the notes from the chest. "You said they were questions, right? Well, I think I can answer them now."
Lucy sits down next to him, looking at the note in his hand. "You sure you can do this?" she jokes.
"Of course!" Natsu unfolds the heart shaped note. "What colour are your ...s ...scales." Natsu turns to look at Lucy with a broad smile. "I don't know, they usually change colours between red, orange, and bright yellow, like a flame."
This is a question she had asked years ago, back when she was eleven, still in awe about the dragon that never showed its face. To have finally gotten a direct answer on her question, it satisfied an itch she's had for years.
Natsu grabs the next note. "Did you h-hatch from an egg?" He chuckles. "Lucy, I don't even know myself, but I think my dad said I came from my mom's belly."
It seems Natsu's mother was a human, and his father a dragon, and what resulted of that combination was a half dragon named Natsu. That's as much as she figured out so far.
"Do you get lonely as well?" Natsu pauses, and Lucy feels a little silly and shy for asking him such a question, it's a little embarrassing. "I had Happy, I wasn't that lonely, but ..." His eyes shift over to look at Lucy.
"But what?" asks Lucy as she stared back into his eyes.
"I just kinda ... felt your loneliness too, Happy as well." Natsu looks a little sad as he says this.
"Well, you had your orders, don't let me see you, I understand why you couldn't talk to me, so don't feel bad." Really, she doesn't blame them for this, not one bit, she's just glad they're talking to her now.
"I wanted to though! I wanted to talk to you so bad … I did a few times, actually," Natsu confesses hesitantly. "In your sleep, that is. Nothing creepy!"
Lucy giggles at him. "You sure you still don't do it?" she teases.
Natsu's ears start to turn a dark shade of red. "No ..." he lies. "A-anyways, next question. Uhm, are you a lady dragon or a boy dragon?" Natsu shyly turns away from Lucy. "Pretty sure I'm a boy dragon, I don't have the kind of chest you have."
Lucy quickly covers her chest with her arms. "Don't say it like that!" she hisses at him.
"Hey, I'm just answering your questions! And, the next one is ... thank you for the rose, it's very lovely." Natsu's blush spreads from his ears to his cheeks. "Ah, that wasn't a question, haha, of course." He rummages through the chest to get the next one.
"When can I see my daddy?" Both Natsu and Lucy remain silent, the mood suddenly shifting. "Maybe I should stop reading these ..." Natsu mumbles, his blush rapidly disappearing.
Lucy reaches over to grab the chest. "No, it's okay. Let me pick one out for you." Lucy looks through the various notes she's written over the years, some childish, some serious, and some wishful, until she picks one that she likes and hands it over to Natsu.
"When I sing, do you listen?" Natsu reads from the note. He coughs loudly and bashfully looks away. "Maybe," he says.
Lucy presses herself up against the side of Natsu's warm body, unable to keep herself from smiling. "I would sometimes sing, just for you, hoping you'd hear me," she admits.
"Yeah, I heard you," he says softly.
Her body grows warmer the longer she sits against Natsu—honestly, he's like a heating element himself. But it's not just the warmth of his body that envelopes her, there's a warmth around her heart as well. She casts her eyes down to her lap, and asks a question that wasn't on a note.
"You don't think I'm pretty?" Lucy doesn't know whether or not she's going to regret asking this, but it definitely made her sad to hear Natsu say otherwise.
"Things are pretty," Natsu mumbles. "You're not a thing."
"Oh." Well, that makes sense. It's a simple explanation, that Natsu can only consider objects as pretty, not humans, or something. That doesn't answer whether or not he … you know, thinks she's pretty. But perhaps she'll find that one out at a later date, explaining to Natsu right now what she actually means seems kind of futile.
Lucy points at the chest. "One more?" she asks.
"Sure … but can we skip the embarrassing ones?" Natsu pleads.
Lucy grabs another note from the pile, a big grin on her face. "Oh I don't kn-kn—"
Her heart raises an alarm as her throat starts to close up. Seeing the panicked look on Lucy's face, Natsu immediately jumps into action.
"Crap, I wasn't paying attention! I'll get him, hang in there Lucy."
Lucy breathing gets harsher by the second, and she watches helplessly as Natsu's skin starts to turn a deep red, turning into brilliant shiny scales. He moves until he sits in the window sill of the library, looking down. He gives Lucy one last look, before jumping out the window to defend Lucy's life. Outside she can hear a commotion, and she hopes Natsu will deal with it swiftly.
She is just about to run as far away from the library as she can, when she hears the person outside speak up.
"You there, I heard there was a dragon protecting this castle."
"Yes, and he's about to kick your ass far, far away from here," she hears Natsu say.
"My name is Gray Fullbuster, and I am sick and tired of dragons ruling this land, prepare to die!"