So, I don't know if any of you have heard, but the reason I haven't updated Adherence is because I haven't heard back from my beta. She has the next two chapters, but she's just so busy with her college life that she hasn't had time to edit them and then send them back. I totally understand her, because I, too, feel a little overwhelmed with all the work I have to do. To be honest, I'm surprised I had enough time to sit down and write this one out!

Anyway. Also, I received word the other day that my fic, Smoke and Peaches, has been plagiarized. I'm not handing out the name of the perpetrator, but I'm doing everything I can to make sure that they take responsibility for stealing and lying. Understandably, though, I was a little upset by this incident... So, guys, please don't steal my stuff. I have no problem if you'd like to reference it, or even use some of my ideas, but at least ask me first... And definitely don't just copy and paste my words.

Other than that, enjoy!

Inspired by the recent chapter 355. Because Lucy totally should have been the one washing Natsu's back.


Plan H


"Dammit, why does Erza hit so hard?" Natsu whined as he cradled his swollen cheek with one hand. With his other, he nursed the bruise right above his left eye that would surely, by tomorrow morning, form into a lump of epic proportions.

Erza had certainly shown him no mercy. She'd returned what he'd—accidentally—given her, and tenfold at that. No one had stepped in to help him or, better yet, restrain her either. Some friends of his, he scoffed to himself as he sunk further into the steamy water. Where before the water had been relaxing and soothing to his over-strained muscles and the minor scrapes he'd taken in that scuffle with the flying, one-eyed, bird-thing, it was now mildly irritating to his skin. He needed an ice pack or something…

"Well, she wouldn't have hit you so hard if you hadn't hit her first," Lucy snorted at him from her spot across the way. The blonde was watching him warily, leering at him with careful, brown, doe-eyes to make sure that he stayed put on "his side" of the hot spring.

After Erza's skillfully handed-out beatdown, everyone else—including the raging redhead herself—had taken their leave. Gray had taken the opportunity to leave when the one-sided slaughter had first started; claimed that he didn't want to somehow get caught up in the massacre like he always managed to do. Not that Lucy blamed him… The only reason that she had stayed was because she had been worried that Erza might go a little bit overboard.

Surprisingly, though, the swordswoman had calmed herself sooner than expected and left to go get dressed. Which was how Natsu and Lucy found themselves now.

Together in the hot spring. Alone. Their other friends nowhere to be found—and thankfully, Warrod, too. Neither Lucy or Natsu were sure that they could stand one more of that geezer's tasteless jokes. Anyway, since Lucy hadn't had time to scrub herself clean, she hadn't wanted to leave the spring right away. Her hair and skin needed proper time and care, and if she went a day without bathing or showering…that meant at least a week of make-up time to get her hair back to the way it used to be.

It was one of the only reasons why she sometimes loathed going on missions. And it was also one of the only reasons why she was still in the hot spring, with only Natsu and his miffed ego for company.

"Oi, it's not like I meant to hit her or anything," the fire dragonslayer grumbled, making Lucy blink and draw herself back into the awkward small-talk they were having. "She just happened to be right in front of me." He glanced down at the murky water, the floating leaves, and the berries that sailed comfortably on; and then he glared at his own reflection.

It was a good thing that the hot spring supposedly rejuvenated and restored one's beauty, because his face was gonna need it. Both of his cheeks were swollen, he had multiple lumps on his crown, and the underside of his chin felt bruised. Massively bruised. To the point that he thought he had a bone contusion.

Lucy, watching his facial expressions change from afar, sighed. "You got off easy," she told him. "Normally, you wouldn't even be able to walk."

To that, Natsu only slumped deeper into the spring and folded his toned arms across his chest, which looked even broader without his overcoat. His eyes narrowed even further as he tightened his arms, intentionally—or unintentionally—flexing. "She stomped all over my back… I don't know if I can even turn around now," he griped. And as though he was trying to prove his point, he swiveled his hips and then jerked with a wince. "I think she broke my spine…"

"If she broke your spine, you'd be at a hospital by now, Natsu." Lucy rolled her eyes.

And even though she was sure she sounded nonchalant, her insides were in utter turmoil. Her eyes had snagged on the rigid grooves of muscle that layered all over her partner's body; specifically the hard ropes of his abdomen, his sharply-cut shoulder blades, and his perfectly taut biceps. Natsu's body was worthy of drooling-admiration; and even though he probably didn't see it himself, there were plenty of girls who stopped to ogle his ripped torso when she and Natsu took strolls down the street. Lucy, especially, knew that temptation well, and was constantly berating herself for staring whenever he was conveniently rid of his overcoat.

Like she was doing now.

And Natsu noticed. His pink brows lifted upon making eye-contact. "What?" he prompted. Then his curious expression fell flat and he grumbled, "I got dirt on my back, don't I?" as he jerked a thumb to his tanned back.

Yanking herself back—and making sure to cover her breasts to the best of her ability—Lucy spluttered. "What? Uh, yeah… Yeah, some dirt," she quickly covered. Her face suddenly felt much too hot, and she didn't know if it was because of the muggy fog, or because she was blushing up to the roots of her hair. She wished it to be the former; but if it wasn't, she hoped to Mavis that the air was clogged with enough steam that Natsu couldn't see her flaming cheeks.

"Can you get it for me?"

The celestial spirit mage gawked, brown eyes darting to meet his green ones, which belied utter sincerity. Get it…for him, he said. As in, wash his back for him?

"What?" Her voice cracked.

Surely he didn't mean he wanted her to wash his back for him… He'd fervently pushed Erza away just a half hour earlier—though, that may have been because he'd simply feared her brute strength. Yeah, Lucy thought as she tried to calm herself with a long exhale, he wasn't implying that he wanted her to wash his back…

"Can you wash my back for me?"

…Or maybe he was. In which case, Lucy found herself peddling backwards as fast as her legs could carry her through the sloshing water. "No!" she shouted, continuing to blindly backtrack.

She would have gone all the way to the edge of the hot spring where she could hide behind a massive, moss-covered rock, but her footing on the slick, uneven rocks in the bottom of the pool was unsteady at best, and she found herself slipping. The blonde took the fall as gracefully as she could manage, though her legs and arms still flailed and made resounding slapping noises when they collided with the water.

"Oi, why not, Luce?" Natsu laughed, watching her with amusement as she flung her head up and spluttered at him. Her cheeks were rosy, the prettiest color of pink, he noted.

"Why not?" echoed Lucy. "We're naked, Natsu!" she exclaimed as though he didn't already know so. "I am not giving you a free peek at my naked body." Finalizing her answer, she crossed her arms over her massive chest in order to protect herself from his penetrating gaze that roved over her without pause or remorse. It was unnerving how intently he was studying her. "A-and stop…staring at me like that. I'll throw another bucket."

Her warning fell on deaf ears, however, as her dragonslayer partner merely fixed her with that adorable, confused look of his that never failed to make her heart flutter. Her heart was already racing when he snorted, "What? It's not like I haven't seen you naked before. I've seen you naked plenty of times, Lucy, so there's nothing to be embarrassed about."

As he'd already said earlier. And as Gray had nonchalantly put it, the novelty of seeing her in the nude had worn off a long while ago. Lucy had mixed feelings about that—she didn't know whether to be relieved, or insulted.

"How many times have you seen me naked?" the celestial spirit mage cried before she could tell herself to keep her mouth shut.

And, to her horror, Natsu actually held up both hands, slowly lifting one finger after another. One, two, three, four, five…six…seven… And then it finally hit her that he was daring to count the times that he'd either walked in on her, or seen her bare skin. His fingers just kept ticking up, and he didn't even seemed fazed as he kept counting, mouthing the numbers to himself.

"Stop counting, you pervert!" screeched the mortified blonde.

Natsu, again, let that befuddled expression pass over his face again while his hands dropped back into the water with a splash. His green eyes drooped as his pink brows lowered, and his lips pursed. "What? You asked me how many times…" he pointed out blandly, shrugging one shoulder.

Lucy was so confusing, he thought with a grimace. First, she yelled at him when he didn't answer her questions, and then she yelled at him for giving her an answer. What did she want from him? Damn, he had to wonder: were all girls so painfully complicated, or was this just a weird, Lucy-thing…? Well, either way, he couldn't win. Somehow, someway, he always managed to be wrong.

"You're not supposed to answer questions like that, you moron!" Lucy's face was even redder, from what Natsu could see.

Why was she so angry with him? It wasn't his fault that she happened to be naked so often when he was around. Well, at least it wasn't his fault for the majority of the instances, he thought… Or was it? Accidentally walking in on her while she was changing…did that count as his fault? No, he decided with a shake of his head and a sigh. And it certainly wasn't his fault that Zirconis had stripped her to her birthday suit and sent her flying into him back a month or so ago… That had been pure luck. For him, though—not necessarily for her.

"C'mon, Luce," he drawled in a coaxing manner, "I can't turn my hips, cuz Erza broke my back…" Guilt-tripping her was a little underhanded, he supposed, but seeing her nose scrunch in that cute way it did when she was irritated was worth it.

"She didn't break your back," she insisted.

A mere moment passed and he ran his tongue over his sharp teeth contemplatively. "…So is that a yes?"

Lucy blinked. He really was serious. Why on Earthland was he so persistent? What made her different from Erza, despite the obvious differences in physical strength and monstrous temper? He wasn't asking her because he viewed her differently than he did Erza… And he wasn't asking her because he actually wanted her to wash his back…

Was he?

The blonde nibbled on her plump, shell-pink lips as her eyes roamed shamelessly over the contours of her partner's delectable body. To be able to feel his supple skin beneath her own two palms… She'd be a liar if she told herself that she hadn't thought about doing just that. But the only reason she wanted to run her hands all over his back, and his chest, and drag her fingers across the rigid expanses of sinewy muscle was to satisfy her innate curiosity. Nothing more, nothing less.

Right?

So…why did the thought of touching him in such a way set her blood on fire? In reaction to the phantom sensation of his hot skin against hers, her hands curled into fists bridged across her breasts. Maybe…she wanted to explore his body more than she gave herself credit for. Okay, fine, she decided as her eyes tracked a stray bead of water that trailed down his washboard abdomen; she definitely wanted to explore his body.

But he was her partner, her friend, her nakama… Not her boyfriend, or her lover…

"Oi, Lucy?" Natsu's voice penetrated her inner monologue, and her doubts, with concern that had her meeting his gaze again. Shamrock-green eyes were wide and worried. "Hey, you okay? You got all quiet and you look…" He trailed off as his hands rose out of the water, palms down.

"I'm fine," Lucy assured him quickly. "Yeah, I'm fine." She was just having feelings that she was unequivocally not supposed to be having for her partner. No big deal. "Turn around," she commanded, closing her eyes.

"Eh? Why?"

"Because I'm going to wash your back now, you idiot."

Mavis, what was she getting herself into?

Natsu kept his back to Lucy, allowing her the privacy she obviously desired—even though he'd literally seen everything she had to offer on more than one occasion. He'd never understand why she was so embarrassed about being naked. She had an amazing body—even better than Erza's, in his opinion—and nudity had never been a big issue in Fairy Tail; they had strip-poker every Tuesday night. The only person Natsu ever yelled at for stripping was Gray, and that was because the fire dragonslayer did not want to be constantly seeing that freak's naked ass.

Besides that… Natsu found that he kind of liked seeing Lucy like this. She really was beautiful—plump and thin at the same time, just the right amount of curves and lean muscle. And he knew he wasn't the only person who saw just how absolutely gorgeous she was—the stares she received when they walked down the straight never ceased to make him bristle.

He'd thought that there could never be anything more awful than knowing that people were gawking lewdly at his best friend. He'd been very, very wrong.

Just listening to the sounds of the sloshing spring water as she waded closer to him was absolutely torturous. He could just imagine it—the swing of her flared hips, the swish of her thighs, the bounce of her breasts… His whole body was growing tighter with each passing second. And it only got worse when she came close enough that he could hear her uneven breathing and her erratic heartbeat—she was nervous.

So was he. He couldn't believe he was actually doing this.

"Okay, you stay facing that way. If you turn around, I swear I'll slap you with another bucket," she promised in a breathy voice right next to his ear.

"I won't peek," the dragonslayer confirmed after swallowing.

Was that his voice? So scratchy and dry? Had to be something in the air… Or those weird berries that were floating around in the water. But that was instantly pushed to the back of his mind when he felt the first stroke of a warm, soapy, washcloth across the tight muscles of his back. He couldn't help but straighten his spine in response, which, of course, made the muscles along his shoulder blades ripple. And he dearly hoped that was why Lucy had a sudden intake of breath…

"So…" he began, hoping to ease the suddenly very tense air around the two of them. "You never told me what happened to those treasure-hunter guys."

"Oh, them…" Lucy's hands still for a moment before lavishing his back again with the cloth. She couldn't help but ogle the perfect tan, and the simply astounding toned-quality his shoulders and waist had. And it didn't help that his skin basically felt like velvet over steel. This had been a very bad idea, she decided. "Wendy and I could have taken them if we'd been a little more prepared, but, Flare showed up just in time. We gave those jerks what they deserved," she replied, hoping that he hadn't noticed her elongated pause.

"…They didn't hurt you?" Natsu asked.

Lucy dragged the washcloth down his back again, shaking her head even though he couldn't see her. "No," she answered. "Well, I mean, one of them nicked my hair, but I'll live." And she might have received some bruises, but he didn't need to know that. She didn't want to worry him needlessly. "Besides that," the celestial spirit mage continued, "your back looks fine to me."

Better than fine. His back was a glorious masterpiece that had been carved throughout years of training and hard work. It didn't even looked bruised.

That idiot, she thought. Sometimes, he blew such minor injuries out of proportion. But when he fought an enemy, he became this fierce, unstoppable force of nature—not even a missing limb, or a pierced heart, could keep him down. All part of the Natsu Dragneel charm, she hummed to herself, inspecting the flawless, searing skin that continuously contracted under the palm of her hand.

"Mmm, yeah, feels good," he said, and rolled a shoulder experimentally. "Yep! Feels good as new."

Just like Gray had promised him. Hot springs and girls really did work wonders… At first, when Gray had told him that girls had magic healing powers when they scrubbed backs in a hot spring, the dragonslayer had been skeptical. After all, Lucy was just Lucy. She wasn't a healer, didn't have Wendy's powers. But, boy, had he been wrong!

"Thanks, Luce," he called over his shoulder with a grin. "Here, lemme wash your hair for you."

Surprised, the blonde reeled back again, and even screeched when Natsu craned his neck over his shoulder to look at her with a grin. Her voice broke thee octaves, she was sure, but he—with his über sensitive hearing—didn't even seem to mind.

"Hey!" Lucy clapped her hands over her chest. "I said no peeking, Natsu!"

"Not like I haven't seen you naked before," he retorted smartly, holding out an inviting hand to her.

"You shouldn't be saying that so nonchalantly!" She glared at him, her cheeks stinging. And, from such a short distance, she was sure that he could see the redness that was spreading up to the tips of her ears. But that wasn't why he was staring at her, she knew. His eyes were glued to her breasts that she had mashed against her hands. "Natsu! For the love of—Natsu, turn around! I can wash my hair by myself, and on my side of the hot spring!"

That, of course, didn't deter the stubborn, fire-eating moron, who just simply lunged for her. He didn't really care that he was naked—she'd seen him already, so there was no point in being embarrassed about it, he thought. But she, apparently, cared very much. With another shriek, the blonde stumbled backwards, flopping into the hot water.

When she resurfaced, coughing and rambling at him like a panicked cat, he simply snatched her arm and pulled her upright. "Hey, it's only fair, right? You wash my back, I wash your hair." She squealed at him as he led her to the shallower part of the spring. Ignoring the way she tried to hide her exposed body from his line of sight, he sat her down in front of him, caging her with his longer, more muscular legs.

The blonde still squeaked like a small animal. "Natsu!" She sounded like a mouse or something… Or, at least the way he imagined mice could talk.

"Oi, stay still! I don't wanna get soap in your eyes," he muttered as he grabbed the same soap that she'd used to lather his back.

The last person he'd given a bath was Happy, and the Exceed had complained for hours on end because Natsu had accidentally gotten soap into his furry companion's eyes. Where Happy had only complained, Lucy would be more viable to smack him for it, considering that she'd threatened to do so twice already. It didn't help that there was a bucket within arm's reach, either.

Well, Natsu huffed to himself, he was going to do it. It was the least he could do—he knew Lucy cared a lot about her hair. He knew how much time she put into taking care of it, and how much money she spent on ridiculous hair-care-products that really didn't do anything. So, he knew that having her hair nicked, as she'd said, probably irked her more than she wanted him to know. Besides, a little part of him was curious about what it was like to wash her hair.

He'd dried her hair before—on multiple occasions, actually—but he'd never washed it for her. Mostly because she tended to throw things at his face if he ever set foot in her bathroom.

Now was his chance, he realized, as he tentatively ran his large, calloused hands through her hair. "Er, I don't really know how to wash a girl's hair, so…" he forewarned. It couldn't be that much different from washing his own, though. Her hair was just longer, and silkier, and smelled better. And it made him want to run his fingers through it constantly.

Smoothing his hands over her head again, he eased the soap through her blonde hair. And from over the top of her head, he could see the way that she squeezed her elbows. Was he hurting her? He hoped not… He was being as gentle as he could; he was being more careful than that one time when he'd held a baby. Once he'd worked the lather into a bubbly, foamy mess, he began digging his thick fingers into the soapy locks that were congealed on the top of her head.

"Let me know if it's too rough, 'kay?" he told her as he massaged her scalp thoroughly.

The nod she gave back was hesitant. "…Okay." But by the way that her shoulders relaxed, he could tell that she was being soothed, not irritated. And if that didn't give him a confidence boost, the tiniest, ghost of a smile that flashed across her perfect lips most certainly did.

Mavis, she had the smile of an angel. Well, at least, he thought she had the smile of an angel. Considering the fact that he'd never seen an angel, he didn't know if he could compare an angel to Lucy. But, in his mind, all angels had Lucy's smile. And her voice. And her skin. And her hair. And her…everything.

"…You okay, Natsu?" Lucy probed when she felt him slowly come to a sure stop.

"Huh?" His fingers began working again. "Oh, yeah… I'm just thinking… You know, you're really pretty when you smile, Luce."

The celestial spirit mage blinked at that, completely and utterly blindsided by his random compliment. He thought…that she was pretty? Well, she'd been told that she was pretty plenty of times—from strangers, from friends… But, never from Natsu; everyone assumed he was too dense to actually take the time to compliment a girl. So the fact that he was now… It was absolutely exhilarating.

…Maybe this had been a good idea after all, she thought, as she laughed back, "Thanks, Natsu…"

"Ne, ne, what's going on?" Happy asked fervently. "Have they kissed yet? Have they?"

"No," Gray mumbled back, "now shut up! Natsu will hear us…" The ice-make mage crouched lower from his spot in the bushes, peering through the gnarled braches at his two teammates soaking in the hot spring. For a while, it had looked like Natsu was going to make a move…but then he'd sad Lucy down and started washing her hair. Why the hell, Gray had hissed, was he washing her hair? "This ain't going according to plan at all…" he muttered, upset at his friends' lack of compliance.

The plan had been for the two of them to be left alone in the hot spring, with Natsu installed with the idea that his wounds would heal if his back was washed by a girl, so that they would finally succumb to the sexual tension and just kiss. For months now, Lucy and Natsu had been signaling their attraction to one another, and neither Erza, or Gray, could find themselves standing it any longer. So…they'd come up with various plans in order to help the two dense idiots finally confess.

…So far, Erza and Gray were on plan H; H for hot spring. Needless to say, Natsu and Lucy hadn't been very cooperative.

"Well," Erza sighed dejectedly, "I guess we're moving onto plan I."

"…What's I stand for?" asked Happy, staring up at the swordswoman curiously.

The smile she gave in reply sent shivers down the flying cat's spine, and her voice was low. "…Isolation."


Omake


"Hey, Natsu…" Lucy murmured as her dragonslayer partner continued to scrub her hair. His hands were really talented—so firm, but soft, and warm, too. She'd have to have him wash her hair more often if this was how good it felt. It was like she was at a salon, or a spa.

"Hmm?"

"What did you put in my hair? It doesn't smell like my shampoo." Her shampoo smelled like flowers. Whatever he was using smelled…well, she didn't know what it smelled liked. It smelled clean, but it definitely didn't smell like flowers.

The hands on her head paused. And after a small beat of silence, he asked, "…Was I supposed to use your shampoo?"

At that, her lips pursed and her eyes narrowed. His voice was pitchier than normal, meaning he was nervous about something. Naturally, that made her suspicious—he'd done something wrong; she could feel it. "…Yes…" the blonde replied warily.

"…Oh," was all that Natsu said.

"…Natsu…" Lucy began, a sinking feeling in her stomach. "What did you put in my hair…?"

Behind her, she felt Natsu almost flinch at her tone. She could just picture the sheepish look on his face when he mumbled, "Um…soap?"

"Soap? You put soap in my hair?"

There went the moment that she thought they'd been having.

"Yeah?"

"Why on Earthland would you do that?" she demanded hotly, jerking around to face him. Her nudity was the furthest thing from her mind as she glowered up at the fire dragonslayer behind her, who was holding a bar of soap in his left hand.

Those hands of his came flying up to defend himself, soap slipping from his fist into the spring water. "I use soap on my hair and it always turns out fine, see?" he said, reaching up to finger a lock of his own fringe, turned a darker pink by the water. His hair was very soft, Lucy knew, but that didn't soothe her anger. In fact, it just served to fuel it.

"Natsu, girls' hair is different from boys' hair!"

"…Really?" He sounded perplexed.

"Really!" the celestial spirit mage echoed.

"…Oh, well… Sorry?"

Lucy sighed, hanging her soapy head. She'd been right before. This had been a bad idea.


Viola! Cute NaLu goodness for all of you! I hope you enjoyed it! Please leave a review, and please, guys, don't plagiarize. Plagiarizing hurts people's feelings. Ta-ta for now!