Oh, shoot me in the head now! I so don't need to start another story, but this simply wouldn't leave me. So here we are. I hope you all enjoy it as much as I did writing it.

Prologue

Above, the black expanse peppered with zillions of stars glinted and twinkled. Together their pure light shined on the three figures in cream cloaks. Sisters' three they were, faces hidden in the shadows of hoods. They stood evenly apart around their large onyx stone cauldron, silent, peering into the motionless silver water. An eerie calm flittered over them, the breeze that had been swaying the towering dark woods not but minutes before hushed, as if holding its breath.

"A new end," one sister laughed with glee, leaning forward her pale hands grasped the edges of the cauldron as her voice echoed in the clearing.

Her sister to the right added with a tearful voice, "A new beginning," turning slightly away as if unable to bare the sight.

"New players..." the last muttered emotionless, arms crossed before her, "Soon all will be ready."

"The cycle goes on, a never-ending story," in unison they spoke, their voices creating a chilling, beautiful harmony, "Time. It ebbs and flows."

The first sister pulled back, clapping her hands together in excitement. "Not as a river."

"But waves crashing against golden sands," moaned the second, brining her closed fist up to cover her shadowed mouth.

"Same. Never different, and yet, always changing." The last one didn't move other than her long pale fingers tapping against her bicep.

"But what is this?" The three spoke as one again. The emotionless sister whispered shocked leaning in as the cheerful sister's arms fell to her side, her voice fearful, and the sad one titled her head up, starlight revealing the upward turn of her lips. "Unknowns? Players with positions never seen before in this never-ending story?"

Breaking the order the three had kept for as long as they could remember, the third sister spoke softly, still stunned, "What will their existence bring?"

"Who dares to toy with our waters?" the first one screeched.

Third sister shook her head as she replied, "Fluke? Ripples of past cycles converging..."

"Impossible," first hissed, "Eternities watched, never ripples cause this!" She turned to the third waving her hand angrily at the silver waters. Shrugging, the third sister stepped closer to the waters, another first in ages while the second remained silent, her closed lip smile growing as she stared up at the stars.

In the silver waters, images flickered, shifting and changing before the middle of the blurred images focused on a train traveling through a snowy mountain pass, white steam billowing up and trailing in the night air as it sped on its tracks. Closer and closer the image drew upon the tiny red train. When the top of the section in the middle of the train took up the entire image, the top decayed, flaking ambers fluttering away to reveal the five sleeping souls in the passenger car.

The second sister finally looked at the silver waters along with the other two, mouth parting as she took in the five souls and whispered the first word that came to her, "Fairies?" Her gaze fell on a woman with armor and scarlet hair who rested with her shoulder against the window, head bent and drool trickling down her chin. Next to her a young shirtless man with black hair and his arms crossed, slept, head lulled back against the bench. Across from them, another man sprawled, taking up most of the bench. His mop of unruly pink hair lying on the lap of a blonde woman who had shifted in her sleep, her head resting back on the man's stomach. A ball of blue fur curled on the man's chest, snuggling between the woman's arm and breasts.

"No... Humans?" the first mumbled confused.

"No. Mixed-breeds," third corrected.

"Mixed-breeds?" hissing with frustration, the first sister grasped the sides of the cauldron with a twisted sneer.

Nodding to herself, the third looked at the blonde woman and pink-haired man. "Yes. Both of them, and maybe those as well..." Her hidden eyes went to the two across from them. "Maybe more... definitely more."

"How? Blood never survived mixing before!"

"Humans," third answered her sister smoothly, "The newest race. Few cycles old and weakest of all, and yet... can blend the boundaries between the fractions, interesting."

Her sister 'humfed', straightened and crossed her arms, grumbling, "A mess, I say. Bring the shattering, they will."

"Perhaps..." She casually shrugged one shoulder, lost in ponderings. "Time holds the answers."

For a few minutes there was only silence. As the wind started caressing the dark forest around them all three were unmoving, contemplating what would happen next.

The second sister finally spoke up, "Hope." Her sisters jerked, their attention going to her, both startled by the wishful tone of her voice. More so when the second sister took her hood down, peering up at the stars with her milky white eyes, bloody tears streaking down sunken cheeks, and her lips pulled back in a toothy jagged smile. "Bring hope, they will."

~~~~.~-~.~~~

Chapter 1

Bittersweet Memories

"No! Lucy, stop!"

His voice echoed - a distant, weak sound in the gloomy underground passage below the palace. He ran. Body heavy, as if moving through a massive four foot snow drift, but feeling none of the wounds or bruises on his battered flesh, covered by what little remained of his torn, shredded, and dirty one-sleeved shirt and pants. His sandaled feet pounding on the brick as he ran and yet his footfalls were silent. His hand was out, reaching for her. Always reaching for her retreating back. No matter how fast he ran he never got tired, but at the same time he never got closer. No, the distance between them grew, stretching until she was but a speck.

"Please... No! Stop! Lucy, the shadows..."

The shadows. They stirred at the end. At the end of the seemingly endless passage. Shadows lurking for her. How long? How long had he been chasing after her? How long did he have until he couldn't save her anymore? How long before future Rogue's shadows consumed her - like they had countless other times he had dreamed this nightmare?

Soon.

The river of blood on the ceiling always started oozing down the rounded sides of the passage when the end and his greatest fear were nearing. First it began with little drips. Drip, drip, drop. Just like that damn phrase Juvia repeated over and over when depressed over Gray.

It was doing that now. Drip, bloody drip, damn fucking drop.

"No. No. No."

He shook his head, matted grimy hair flopping- eyes stinging and yet the tears wouldn't fall. Not yet. Never till the end.

"Stop... please... Just stop."

The drips steadily increased, filling the creases between bricks and snaking down the walls.

"Lucy!"

Clenching his outstretched hand, he pulled it back and ran faster. The distance increased. He could barely see her. The blood was nearing the edges of the floor.

"I can't... I-I can't. Not again."

Blood crept closer to him, slinking, slithering. He couldn't close his eyes as it inched towards him. He could only whimper as it began to pool beneath his sandaled feet. His whimpering grew when the warmth lapped and licked at his bare skin. Sticky warmth, squeezing between his toes and making a slurping sucking sound. His head swirled with the overwhelming metallic stench that blasted him.

He jerked to a stop. Frozen. Staring at his blood stained feet. His fists clenched, shaking at his sides. Afraid to continue. Scared to find what he always did after this point. He didn't have the strength left anymore. To reach that dark shadowed corner. To discover her laying there around the wall. Her body cold and lifeless. Dull chocolate eyes staring back unseeing. Never to glint with amusement at him. Never to flare with ire at him. Never to...

His legs trembled, suddenly so weak. He gave in. Falling, blood splashed up onto his face and chest as he dropped to his hands and knees.

"No more... please. N-No more," the wretched sob tore from his throat.

There was no reprieve for him for even as those agony teeming words lingered in the air, he found himself numbly struggling back to his feet. Some force dragging him forward against his will. Forcing him to see yet again what he had come to fear the most.

Lucy's death.

.~-~.

"No... S-Stop..." Natsu's voice ripped from his throat.

Rough and gritty, the sound dominated the tranquil passenger cabin and woke two of the four companions traveling with him.

Erza jumped to her feet, drawing her sword. She searched the room with a cold gaze that was more from being rudely woken than her trying to be threatening. Next to her Gray's head had snapped up. At first his eyes were clouded from sleep. Then noticing the red-head with a pointy sword, he recoiled, sliding as far as possible away from her. Seeing nothing (other than a startled Gray), Erza frowned and wiped the drool from her chin. She slid her sword back into the sheath at her hip with a 'shink' and sat down.

The ice mage relaxed, though still cautious of the re-quip mage, keeping the space between them.

"Wha-" He was cut off when Natsu's strangled mumbling came again, this time with three jarring shudders that woke Happy who had been sleeping on his chest.

They both watched as Happy tumbled to the floor. He landed on his head with a startled yelp. The sound was piercing and Lucy's eyes snapped open, blinking a dozen times, and scowled in confusion from it. If Gray and Erza had not been worried at the time - watching as Natsu whimpered words as if in pain and twitching - then they would have certainly taken great pleasure in teasing their blonde friend for her sleeping position. But they remained silent, troubled expressions darkening their faces.

"Owie," Happy whined as he sat on the floor, rubbing his head.

Lucy yawned. She brought her hand that rested on her friend's chest up to her mouth, only for him to shudder again. Her cheeks flushed, comprehending her position and swiftly sat up. The embarrassment, however, gave way to her concern when Natsu's whimpering growls filled the room. She stared down at him, hand hesitant to touch the sweaty mop of pink hair.

"Is he... having a nightmare?" Erza asked. Her brow furrowed more, never once thinking her energetic happy friend had nightmares.

Happy climbed up from the floor and onto the dragon slayer's stomach. Sitting down with a sad huff, he continued to rub his head. "Aye."

Lucy merely nodded, weaving her fingers through his hair. Uncertain if she should wake him. Normally, if they were anywhere else other than a train or moving vehicle, she would have. But what was worse? Him awake dealing with motion sickness? Or him dealing with a nightmare that would pass?

"I didn't know the flame-brain could even have them." Gray scratched the side of his head as he peered sideways at the two across from him. With another round of distressed noises from the dragon slayer, his gut clenched.

"Just because he's happy-go-lucky and brushes things off doesn't mean something can't trouble him, Gray." The blonde shot him a small glare making his eyes widen before she returned her concerned gaze to the man in her lap.

"S-Sorry." He grimaced and looked away, but found himself glancing back at Natsu, adding, "I guess you're right."

"How often does he have nightmares?" Erza's frown was the only change in her demeanor at Lucy's rebuttal, knowing she should have known better as well.

The Exceed stopped rubbing his head and sighed, "From time to time... but since..." He exchanged a miserable knowing look with Lucy. After a few seconds he flinched, his gaze back to his suffering friend as the blonde mage paled, her eyes going to the window. "Since the games they have increased."

Seeing the interactions between the two, Erza nodded towards the two across from them with a raised brow and he shrugged, not knowing anything. She pushed for more, asking, "Since the games. Why? Was his fight with future Rogue that horribly mismatched?"

Neither Lucy or Happy answered right away. Nor moved, their bodies stiff and faces ashen - or the cat's would have if he didn't have blue fur.

Happy suddenly started to cry, covering his face with his arms as he leaned forward into Natsu's chest. Barely, they heard him mumble, "I-I can't, Lucy."

Lucy's free hand, not stroking Natsu's hair, went to the trembling blue cat's head. Gently she rubbed his fur and yet didn't look from the dark window as she replied softly, "It's okay, Happ-"

Her voice cracked. Lip trembling, she closed her eyes taking a deep breath. She opened them. Muddy brown shimmered with untold secrets as she watched the passing masses of trees unseeing. This exchange and the sorrowful expression on Lucy's face made the red-head and ice mage fidget. Both realized then that something else must have happened during the rescue mission back during the games.

"What I'm about to tell you, you can't tell anyone else," Lucy started quietly, "Only those from the Rescue Team and Master know and we all felt it best not to make it common knowledge."

"Of course," Erza accepted easily.

Gray squirmed uncomfortably before nodding.

Lucy sighed wearily, refusing to meet either of their worried gazes. "The Rescue Team sort of... got lost, you can say. It was like a maze in the underground passages and dungeons under the stupid palace." She snorted, nose wrinkling. Then her lips pressed into a thin line. "In those passages we... we ran into me. A me who came from the future, just like Rogue."

Gray and Erza's mouths dropped open, eyes widening in disbelief. Before they could start asking questions, though, she continued, her eyes dull and distant as if recalling something that hurt to think about, "She... I... came back to change a future where everyone had died from ten thousand dragons and help us any way she- I could." Giving another sigh, this time seeped with misery she finally managed to look at them. "In the end that turned out to be diving in front of me and saving my life from a sudden attack from future Rogue who wanted to keep me from closing the Eclipse gate and stopping his plans."

Lucy's eyes started to water, but she refused to give into the tears just yet. "Wendy, Carla, Happy, Natsu and me. We watched her die. It had been... painful. I-" She closed her eyes, a few tears rolling down her cheek. She shook her head. "I have no words to describe how terrible it had been."

They sat in stunned silence.

Or as silent as a train could be as it clickity-clacked down the track, swaying and rocking gently, and snow flaked wind whistled outside the window. Happy's sniffles and Natsu's mixture of mumbling cries and whimpering growls punctured the stillness. This chorus of sounds generating a thick atmosphere that weighed down on them. The three human friends looked to their suffering companion, none of them able to keep their eyes from tearing up. To mirror the words Happy said that day to a dying blonde mage - Lucy was Lucy. It mattered not that she was from another time or place. The knowledge alone that not everyone made it through the battle that day, especially a version of Lucy, stirred a deep ache in their hearts.

Lucy, wiped away the tears, head bent and blonde bangs shielding her upper face.

Gray swallowed, covering his face with a shaky hand and rested his head back on the bench, unable to imagine the idea of two Lucy's - let alone Lucy dying! The mere thought upset him. But to see her die... His Adam's apple bobbed, hand pressing into his eyes to stop from crying. Unimaginable, that's what it was. She was a friend. No, she was a good friend. A close friend. She may not be as rough around the edges like the rest of Fairy Tail's members, but the sensible and realistic blonde had an undeniable place among them. And if something were to ever happen, everyone would feel it.

His hand rubbed the rest of his face and came to rest limply in his lap as he lifted his head to study Natsu, taking in the hard creases of his pained scowl.

At the same time, Gray knew his relationship with the Celestial Spirit mage wasn't anything compared to his volatile flame-brained friend's, or even that of Happy's. The three had an unshakable bond that all of Fairy Tail envied. Natsu, with his cheerful childish nature and almost insane resolve to fight and protect what he cherished, and Happy, so much like his foster father, and yet different as he teased and joked, with enough cynical thoughts to balance the duo out. Both of them fed off of Lucy's kind heart that gave past enemies the benefit of the doubt, and a strong moral compass that even stirred Natsu into action when he otherwise couldn't be bothered. Their personalities were all so varied. At times astounding everyone how they got along so well - but then, Gray mused - they were all children at heart. Lucy may yell and rant about all the crap her two partners did from time to time, in the end she enjoyed their antics and more often than not joined in.

Gray smiled faintly, watching as Lucy started to stroke the bridge of Natsu's nose and forehead with the back of her fingers - an action he had seen her do a few times to ease his motion sickness and at times almost unknowingly doing it.

For Lucy to die like that in front of the idiot, the unwanted thought entered his mind.His smile fell. His thoughts conflicted. That had to be rough.

The ice mage wasn't blind. While all three were close, there was something special between Lucy and Natsu. First of all, the dragon slayer had brought her back from a job. He brought someone back? Not just any someone, but a girl? That was unheard of! There were times when members brought people back to the guild to join or just hang out, but Natsu had never had been one such member. Outside of the time he spent at the guild, he stuck to himself and Happy. Even on jobs he tended to make more enemies rather than friends (what with his destructive nature and domineering attitude). It was better for everyone if he interacted with as few people as possible.

In short, Natsu bringing Lucy had been huge! Unprecedented.

Then there was her personality.

Gray still wondered how the flaming idiot managed to get Lucy to follow him and Happy. The Celestial mage was intelligent, composed and far too sensible to follow random belligerent strangers like the Salamander around... And did he have to point out how at odds this was with any other personality in the guild? The only girl who came close was Levy, and yet, there was a confident and sweet air around Lucy that was distinctly, Lucy.

Or that blush she has when teased...

His frown deepened. Now I'm starting to sound like I like her or something. He glanced around the cabin. If not for the company with him he would have snorted at himself.

Pushing that troublesome thought away, his gaze fell back on the Celestial mage and dragon slayer in her lap as her fingers gently calmed him. There was a reason Gray never tried to get closer to the pretty blonde. Besides being the only person Natsu ever brought to the guild, Lucy was the only human partner he had willing accepted onto his team. And he had been the one to seek her out! More than that, she was changing him. Even Gray had noticed Natsu's more perverted side rearing its head. Really... that whole hot springs incident before the games had shocked him. Not only had Natsu tried to sneak a peek on the girls bathing, but the dense dragon slayer had been the one to suggest it!

Gray flushed a little, averting his eyes to the floral patterned carpet.

And it's been a long time since he's been out searching for Igneel.

But if Gray was being honest with himself, all this wasn't the final motivation that kept him away from the pretty blonde. In fact, he would almost enjoy the rival it would no doubt spark, fighting for her attention and a deeper relationship. Hell, he had even started at the beginning. No, what kept him back was something far more embarrassing for him to admit even to himself.

The ice mage feared what Natsu would do to him. It was common knowledge that nothing riled the dragon slayer up more than someone threatening Lucy. Or if someone attempted to hurt her. And god forbid, make her cry! Taking into consideration how easily he was to rile to begin with, that was amazing.

After the Phantom Lord incident, any and all subtle advances Gray had made towards Lucy lessened drastically. Natsu was just too protective of her after that, grumbling and growling at any guys who leered too long at her shapely body. All the while Lucy was innocently oblivious as to why guys never dared to ask her out. Who knew dragon slayers could be... well... much like dragons when something or someone they cared about was threatened? It was almost comedic... if he hadn't been on the receiving end once.

Once, he snorted at the thought. That was all it took. But that once had been enough. More than enough.

Gray shuddered, recalling that time he had teased Lucy a little too much about intimacy for the dragon slayer's tastes. Absentmindedly, he rubbed his neck, remembering Natsu's fingers. The strength that had been in his rival's grip -without magic!- and that dark glint in his eyes along with the beastly snarl. Another shudder chilled him as he glanced at the pink-haired man. Without words the dragon slayer had gotten his point across. A silent deadly warning the likes of which the ice mage had never seen or felt from anyone before. And to have it all happen after Natsu dragged him without warning from the guild doors, pinning his back to the building where no one, especially Lucy could see? Yeah, if you wouldn't feel fear from that, then you were insane.

Insane to ignore those swirling, madding emotions that had been in those onyx eyes. Gray swallowed, arm falling back into a crossed position. That look had burned Gray with their intensity. And any and all doubt about Natsu's attraction towards Lucy had disappeared after that. As did anything that could remotely be seen as 'advances' by the dragon slayer.

This had been after the S-Class exams. Gray could only imagine how bad the dragon slayers protectiveness had grown with the Infinity Clock fiasco. Yeah... Gray was so never going to touch Lucy or try anything ever again. He didn't want to die. While hot, Lucy was not worth gaining the ire of a pissed off dragon slayer.

This protectiveness for the pretty blonde hadn't gone unnoticed by others in the guild either. In fact, he was almost positive everyone in the guild -including that old hag in the woods who hated humans- had running bets on when the two would realize their feelings and act - or who would make the first move.

But... if seeing her death didn't make his flame-brained friend act on his obvious attractions, then what would? Well, there goes my wager.

While they fought and taunted each other, Gray in reality, respected him and knew Natsu wasn't as dense as people thought he was (though never would he willingly admit that out loud). He had betted that it would be Natsu to make the first move. Now it seemed there was something keeping his friend-rival from doing so. Gray grimaced at where his thoughts had drifted to, wondering what was wrong with him. How could he be thinking about a bet now of all times? It wasn't right.

As Gray became lost in his rambling guilt filled thoughts, Erza remained still, unmoving as she examined both Lucy and Natsu with her critical gray gaze. Her arms crossed at her chest. Her face had softened after the shock, a sad smile playing on her lips. She too, had realized there was a strong bond between the three. But it hadn't been until that first night at the beach when they went to train for the games and hearing Lucy's story about Natsu and Happy breaking into her home all the time that she started to question whether there was more between the two young mages. After that she began to notice certain interactions that only confirmed this 'more-ness'. Then during a talk with Mira and Cana during the games, she discovered the bets and that she was probably the last person to recognize the two had unspoken feelings for each other.

Mentally Erza scoffed at herself. Then moved, rubbing the back of her neck. How was I so blind? Even Happy was betting. She evoked her shock at seeing the Exceed's name in Mira's book of wagers, and more so that he had Lucy making the first move. Folding her arm back, she shook her head slightly. None of that mattered right now, what did was that Natsu was obviously suffering and probably would for some time. Though for now, his whimpers had quieted with Lucy's tender touch.

The re-quip sighed, breaking the silence. "I can see why he would have nightmares... that is..." Unable to find the word her voice trailed off.

Lucy nodded slowly, understanding. "Horrible... And wrong. Not just watching but holding myself as I died?" She shivered as the memory took over her mind.

Their cabin plunged into a heavy hush, none of them noticing how Natsu had stopped making a sound or moving as they become lost in their own thoughts.

Happy sniffled a few minutes, wiping his snotty nose on his blue arm. "Y-You were brave, Lucy."

The blonde's head came up a little, blinking at the cat. Her hand caressing the dragon slayers forehead and nose ceased for a second before continuing.

"Comforting us and telling us to protect the future..." his throat constricted, voice catching, "Even though it had to be painful... all that blood as you talked." He hiccupped, fat tears dropping off his chin and onto Natsu's shirt. "B-But... don't do that again."

Gray and Erza stiffened and blanched with the new detail of her death , but were eased along with the Exceed as Lucy gave him a bittersweet smile and wiped away his tears with her other hand before setting her hand on his head. "Aye, sir," she teased lightly, using his own phrase. His round wide gleaming eyes blinked, then a huge toothy smile stretched his lips up and a hiccup-snort-chuckle escaped his small body.

"Promise?" a weak voice said. They all jolted, gaze going to the pink-haired man. "Please, Luce..." He lay there, seemingly still asleep until he opened one eye half-way to look up at her.

Her hand stopped as she stared down at him. Then gave one small nod. He sulked.

"No, say it." His one eye narrowed in spite of the green hue his face started to take on. "No matter what... you won't..." His throat stopped working and his one eye went to the ceiling.

"Natsu." Lucy's frowned at him. "You know I can't promise that. If you..." She flushed, cheeks puffing out and she jerked her gaze to the window. "Or any my friends are in danger I won't just watch and let them die."

He opened his mouth to say something - then thought better of it. His jaw clenched, muscles twitching in his cheeks.

He glanced back to her with his one onyx eye when she sighed. "But I will promise to do everything I can to live for my friends as well as protect them." She met his eye, smiling slightly.

As the two continued to stare at each other, Erza and Gray felt as if they were somewhat intruding on what was a touching moment between the two partners but brushed it off as they exchanged a knowing look. Their lips twitched up, before staring out the window (in Erza's case) and head resting back against the bench, looking up at the ceiling (in Gray's). Happy grinned like a fool, for once not taunting them with his usually 'They liiiiiiike each other' though the temptation was strong.

Blushing somewhat, Natsu huffed and closed his one eye. "Whatever, weirdo."

Her cheeks puffed out again, but she merely rolled her eyes, deciding not to comment on his clear taunt. Instead she propped her elbow up on the arm of the bench and rested her chin on her open palm.

Again, the cabin they shared became quiet. Wind whistled outside of the window. Metal wheels grinding on the track along with the rattling, swaying of the train car. Ratta-tat-tat. Ratta-tat-tat. And clickity-clack, clickity-clack. Outside, the night stars twinkled, peeking through towering dark trees and gray clouds spitting snow. In spite of the tranquility, none of them felt tired anymore. Of course they knew it would be logical for them to try, they did have a job to do once they arrived at their destination, but turbulent thoughts and messy emotions weren't easy villains to vanquish.

Natsu's groan pierced the hush, "Luce, can you do... that weird thing again?"

Her brow rose, head tilting to look at him as her cheek rested on her palm. "Weird thing?" She then smiled. "You mean this?" Shifting her head from her arm, she started to gently rub his forehead and the bridge of his nose like before.

Instantly he felt himself relax, the tense scowl easing as he concentrated solely on the motion, his face turning less green. "Uh-hu." He sighed. "You've done this... before."

She nodded though she knew he couldn't see it and smiled at him. "Yeah, I wasn't sure at first if it would work to help motion sickness but I guess it does..."

"What would you normally use it for?" Erza asked curiosity coloring her voice as one brow tweaked up.

Lucy grinned at a distant memory. "A man who was one of my mother's few friends and the only one who came to visit from time to time would do this to me whenever I was upset and crying. I asked him once after my mother had collapsed from her illness, what he was doing. He told me, 'I'm just smoothing the wrinkles before your face freezes with them, we can't have that, you'll mare this pretty face.'" She laughed softly. It drawled out and vanished into a sigh.

Natsu had opened one eye, watching the emotions play on her face. The sadness in that one sigh, though, really hit him, wishing he could do something to make her smile once more. Unfortunately his normally quick thoughts were sluggish from the motion sickness.

Gray saved him from putting too much effort into thinking. "What happened to him?"

"I wish I knew," she mumbled before glancing at him and Erza. "My memories around my mother's death are jumbled, but I think he was there..." Frowning, she tapped her chin with her other hand. "No, I'm sure he was." With a small shrug, she let her arm rest on Natsu's chest. "Then he just vanished without saying anything to anyone and I hadn't thought about him in years."

Erza nodded. "Understandable. All the pain and troubles you went through after... and you probably wanted to forget at first anything connected to your mother."

Lucy's lips pursed and whispered, "Yeah..."

Then a memory crossed her thoughts. A man, tall, muscular with wild, unkempt black hair and the most vivid blue eyes that sparkled with mischievousness bend over her as he teased her about something or other. A handsome man - one who had the lady servants swooning over him. But it was those wide open smirks, his canines sharper and larger than normal, and nose wrinkled, that had captivated her as a child. She recalled the warmth that bloomed in her chest whenever he flashed her one. Nothing was wrong, or ever would be when he smirked at her like that. In fact, she was fairly certain he was her first crush. This though, wasn't what made her flush. No, what caused her cheeks to redden and her to cough awkwardly to clear her throat was that this man from her memories and his smirk reminded her an awful lot of the man currently using her lap as a pillow. Her partner. Her best friend.

Natsu blinked as their eyes met. "What?"

"Ehehe..." She chuckled nervously, looking back out the window. "Nothing much. I ah, just realized that if you dyed your hair black and had blue eyes you would look sort of like him." Sort of? Try a lot, Lucy. She mentally slapped at herself. "In a way, your personalities were also similar too. He didn't smile or laugh as much, but when he did there was an ease that made everyone want to join him. He had a way of making everything better even when you thought the world was falling apart around you."

"You liiiiiked him," Happy giggled from where he sat on Natsu's stomach. Lucy blushed again, and shot the cat a glare.

"That's interesting," Erza noted, having also catching onto Lucy's wishful tone she had used when talking about the unknown man. "How old was he?"

Lucy blinked, glancing at the red-head. The fingers of her hand resting on Natsu unknowingly started to tap his shoulder as her eyes clouded in thought. He watched them for a few seconds, then back to her, her face pinched in concentration. "It's hard to guess his age because he never seemed to age, really, but if I had to guess he had been around our age." All of them knowing she meant the age they looked and not their actual age from the time gap. Another memory crossed her mind and she laughed suddenly and said, "I asked him once if he found his true love-" With their amused curious looks she added hastily, "What?! I was obsessed with such stories and that of princes and princesses..." She flushed, cheeks puffing out. "It's perfectly normal, little girl thing."

Gray chuckled. It was hard not to find the blonde mage adorable at times like this. "Sure, Lucy."

"Aye! What did he say?" Happy shifted, lying on his stomach, resting his head on his folded arms.

Lucy smiled at him. "He said that he found her, but she was sleeping from a spell a handful of crazy dragons had put on her and he hoped the spell would lift soon so he could see her again." Her warm brown eyes twinkled with the memory. "I promptly told him he was being silly, everyone knew such spells didn't lift on their own... a prince had to kiss the princess for that to happen."

Natsu snorted while Gray and Happy chuckled and Erza smiled at her.

"What? You guys can't tell me you never heard the story of Sleeping Beauty?" That made them all quiet down and look awkwardly from one another. They shook their heads. "Wha... really?"

"None of us really had much of a normal childhood, Lucy," Gray pointed out.

Erza nodded with a small frown, arms once more crossed. "The only fairy tales I heard growing up came from an old man who had been a member of Fairy Tail... of course all were about the guild."

Lucy 's questioning gaze went to Happy who shrugged, only to ask the dragon slayer, "What about you, Natsu?"

"Hum?" he mumbled, either sleepy or pretending to be. Lucy suspected was the latter. "Igneel told me..." He yawned. "A few." His brow creased suddenly, stiffening.

"What is it?" Lucy worried over the possibility of him throwing up on her.

He relaxed, shaking his head slightly. His brow still furrowed in thought. "No... it wasn't Igneel. I think... it was a woman." The train pitched harder than usual around a corner and he moaned. Once his stomach eased, he sighed, "I can't remember..."

Erza shifted, closed fist coming to her mouth in thought. "That's odd for you."

Gray snorted. "Yeah, given how boastful you are about your damn memory, flame-brain."

Natsu shrugged, face relaxing and yet a slight frown still graced his lips. It was obvious that the ice mage's comment bugged the dragon slayer, as well as the fact that he couldn't remember, so they let it go.

Erza changed the subject back to the mystery man in Lucy's past. "So what was your mother's friend's name?"

Lucy flushed a little. "Uh..." She chuckled. "I can't remember his real name. I just know I couldn't pronounce it well and had called him Mr. Sallie since... forever."

They all shared a laugh that ended with Natsu groaning in pain, turning on his side so that he faced Lucy. Happy whined about Natsu being mean, after roughly rolling off his friend -only to yawn and curl up between the back of the bench and his body. A pink rue sprinkled Lucy's cheeks as she changed arms to continue stroking his forehead and bridge of his nose. She ignored Gray and Erza's amused grins as she stared out the window and blurred scenery.

Erza shifted, her own gaze moving to the window too as Gray reached his arms up into the air next to her in a stretch. "I suggest we try to get some more sleep. Our stop comes in a few hours, just before dawn and we'll only be at the inn long enough to drop our stuff off before we seek the employer for this job."

Lucy and Gray agreed. The ice mage rested his head back on the bench. "Man, it's good to be back doing jobs."

"The games had been stressful," Lucy added, "And it feels like it's been ages since we've done a job... three weeks since the end of the games? A month including the games themselves?"

Erza gave a small nod. "Don't forget the three wasted months spend in your spirits' realm."

Lucy stiffened, catching the red-head's sideways glare. Luckily for her, Erza let it go. Her head tipping forward as she closed her eyes. The Celestial Spirit mage sighed in relief, looking down to find Natsu watching her with a startling intensity. She blushed and yet smiled softly as she quickly looked back out the window. After a few minutes he gave up on his thoughts. His onyx eyes closed, another frown tugging his lips down - still puzzled about his fuzzy memories and the woman who told him fairy tales as a child as he let Lucy lull him into sleep with her soft tiny fingers caressing away his ills.

~~~~.~-~.~~~~

Thanks for reading!

So I'm going to be writing the whole story out before I post another chapter (or maybe half of it), but I wanted to get this out to see how much interest there was. Reviews are always appreciated. I can't become a better writer without input!