Disclaimer: I do not own Fairy Tail or any of the characters. This is a fan written fictional story using the original characters created by Hiro Mashima.
Image credit goes to MeLikeCan on Deviantart

Lucy stifled a yawn with her hand and fought the urge to lay her head on her desk. She had been reading and researching for a little over two weeks now with little sleep, but she felt so close to unraveling the answers that she was after that she couldn't stop.

Glancing at the clock on her nightstand, she saw that it was a little after 5 PM; it surprised her that she wasn't hungry at all. Her eating and sleeping schedule was all out of whack. Everyone else would be gathered in the bar and eating soon, but still, she had to figure this out before she could rest.

After a few more minutes of trying to focus on the page before her, she decided that a quick shower and a light snack might help her wake up a little. Stretching her arms over her head, she wandered into her bathroom and began peeling her clothes off and roughly throwing them in the hamper.

Standing before her bathroom mirror fully unclothed, she gingerly touched the angry looking pink scar that spread over the right side of her chest. Her eyes wandered to the fading bruises and healing lacerations along her hips, thighs, right shoulder, and just a touch of shadow still along her left jawline. She sighed and turned to step into the shower.
She immediately felt her muscles and mind begin to unwind as she came in contact with the steaming, hot water. It was a comforting feeling, like someone wrapping their arms around you in a warm hug. She briefly thought of the night three weeks ago when she woke up half dead in Natsu's warm embrace. It was amazing how such a simple thing could give so much comfort to a wounded, fearful heart. She smiled at how much her heart had grown dependent on Natsu's strength.

Her thoughts continued to linger on Natsu; he hadn't been the same since they came back from their last mission. It broke her heart to watch him, sullen and withdrawn from everyone, especially her. It was unlike him, and the worst part is she knew that it was her fault. Even with the hot water streaming down her face, she felt the tears come.

She couldn't believe that it had already been three weeks since they got back; it felt like so much longer. Time trudged on for her, especially since she spent most of it alone, researching endlessly. For the hundredth time, her thoughts lead her to the beginning of their mission; they had traveled to a city that was quite a bit farther than they were used to, which made Natsu grumpy because of the train ride. The trip started off just like any other….

| 4 Weeks Earlier |

Erza sat on the train seat next to Lucy studying a map of the area that they would be travelling through. Gray and Wendy both sat in the opposite seat. Wendy was chattering away with Charle about something or other, and Gray stared out the window with a bored look on his face.

"Lucy... Lucy! Did you hear me?"

"Oh! Sorry Erza! I was thinking about something else. What did you say?" Lucy asked reproachfully. Erza gave a patient sigh and crossed her arms. "I asked you if you thought we should bunk at the inn in town or if we should head towards the mountain pass straightaway and camp out along the way."

"Oh..uh..ha, wouldn't you like to go to the inn?"

"No, we would waste two hours of daylight if we hung around," was all that Erza said in reply.

"Right. The mountain pass it is!" Lucy said with too much enthusiasm, but she visibly wilted a bit. She should have saw that coming. She had been hoping that they could stay in town so that she could peruse a couple of old bookstores she had heard about. Leave it to Erza to get right down to business.

Lucy sighed as she continued to stare out of the window and let her mind wander.

The last couple of hours of the train ride passed quickly; they had all gotten in a pretty good nap, except Erza, who insisted on staying alert. Natsu spent most of the ride on the deck, crumpled up in a corner and nursing his motion sickness. He really was useless when it came to transportation. Happy came and went between the two places, but spent most of it with Natsu.

After they got Natsu in working order again, they stopped at a market to grab a few provisions. Lucy bought a new quill and some hard candies for later; she had hoped to finish a couple of chapters of her book during this trip. Of course, that all depended on how much down time Erza allowed them. Lucy had slipped her a new romance novel just before the trip started so that Erza would want more down time to read, which would mean everyone got more breaks. Lucy chuckled at her own cleverness.

Once they had stocked up, they took the road East out of town and towards the Kado mountain pass. Erza briefed them on their mission for the 10th time since they left Magnolia. "Ok, so, just to review, Duke Remington requested that we travel to the Eastern side of the mountains. People, livestock, supplies and food have been taken from the town, even young women have been taken. The Duke believes that there is a band of raiders that have an encampment on the Eastern side. We don't know what their goal is or why they're here, but our job is to subdue the raiders and retrieve the missing townspeople and as much of the town's missing items as we can."

Lucy listened intently and thought of the women. How horrible it would be to be helplessly ripped from your home and family for who knows what reason; she shuddered at the possibilities. Natsu glanced at her with a wicked grin on his face; Lucy jumped knowing to fear that look.

Natsu wiggled his eyebrows and held up a flaming hand. "What's the matter? You cold Luce?"

"Eeeh?! NO! Wh...why do you ask?" She was almost afraid to hear the answer.

"Oh, well. I thought if you were cold, I could try a new fire technique on you that I've been dying to practice."

Lucy immediately pulled away. "Whaaa?! You're the devil!" Natsu let out a laugh, "Let me know if you change your mind."

"Like I would!"

The group continued on this way, talking and laughing, until it grew too dark to safely walk anymore. Erza barked out orders to the group, "Wendy, Charle and Lucy, get the tent set up and the bed rolls out. Happy and Natsu, get a fire going and bring out our provisions for dinner. Gray, go find us some water and hopefully a place to bathe."

Happy asked, "What are you going to do Erza?"

"Me? I'll just be over here keeping an eye on the road and studying the map…"

"You mean reading your book," Lucy breathed.

"Did you say something Lucy?"

"What? Nothing! I didn't say anything!"

With a skeptical look pointed at Lucy, Erza retreated to edge of the clearing where they were setting up camp and turned her back to them.

It did not take them long to set up camp and have dinner. After they cleaned up from dinner, they each crawled into their bedrolls under the large canvas lean to to sleep. Erza had placed wards on the camp that made it invisible to people passing by and also alerted Erza when people were near.

Lucy lay on her back in between Natsu and Erza and listened to all the night's sounds in the woods. She fell asleep listening to the wind in the trees and thinking about the next chapter in her book.

Lucy started awake a few hours later. Her head pounded, and her body felt chilled. She couldn't remember, but she had been dreaming about something terrible. It left her with an empty, hollow feeling in her chest. She peeked around to see if she had disturbed any of her friends sleeping next to her. Everyone still seemed asleep.

She was shivering violently, and the dream left her feeling cold and empty on the inside too. She laid there for a few moments unsure of what she should do.

She got an idea but blushed at the thought of actually doing it. Natsu's temperature ran much hotter than everyone else's; he always felt warm to the touch. If she could just get close enough without him noticing, she could maybe leach a little warmth off of him. He's so oblivious he would never think anything of it.

She peeked over at Natsu and saw that he was sound asleep. She slowly wiggled her body closer to his until her side was just flush with his. She waited a moment to see if he would adjust to her close proximity and breathed a sigh of relief when he did not. She always marveled at him. Somehow his warmth and faith in people's hearts always made her own heart feel calm and full. It wasn't just the warmth that comes with being a fire mage; it was the warmth of his heart and soul resonating with those around him. He was a pillar to his friends, his family; she was amazed at how much she had grown to need him in her life, at how much she needed everyone in Fairy Tail in her life. They were now her only family.

As Lucy was lost in her thoughts, Natsu slowly opened an eye and focused it on her. He could still feel her shivering next to him. He kicked up his body heat a little bit. Within just a few moments, he could feel Lucy's shivering subside and her body begin to relax. He closed his eye when he heard her sigh at the relief his warmth provided her.

Natsu smiled to himself; he had woken up before she had due to her trembling and slight thrashing. He was on the verge of waking her up himself when she started awake. He chose not to divulge that he was awake, letting her work it out for herself but still keeping an eye on her.

At first, he didn't understand why she had scooted closer, until he felt her shivering. Cold did not affect him or Gray like it did most people. He felt a strange flutter in his stomach as her arm brushed his when she got closer to him. It almost felt like a shock went through him. It wasn't an unpleasant feeling, but it was unusual.

With that, they both drifted back to a peaceful sleep until morning.

I would love it if you would let me know what you thought. Have a beautiful day! - Cambria Jane