I had a really hard time coming up with a title for this story and Instead of You was the best I could come up with :p

This takes place after the Grand Magic Games

Anywho, I got inspiration from the story Lovely Monster by Cervella, give it a read ;D

And after I wrote this, I realized the fluff in this chapter isn't exactly original, but it's not meant to copy anything :P

Reviews, favorites, follows, and even views are greatly appreciated ;D

I obviously don't own Fairy Tail since this is a fanfiction website :P

Anyway, enjoy!

The blonde watched his chest move up and down with his uneven breathing.

His usual fiery, silky, salmon colored hair was bristly. Instead of it being wild and energetic like his personality, it was flat and calm. It looked like hair that belonged to a corpse.

But that was not the only thing that made him look… dead. His skin, usually sporting a fair tan, was snow white. Dark circles sat underneath his closed eyes, making it look like he hadn't slept for ages.

Why did this have to happen? She thought, fighting back the tears that threatened to overflow. For if she did… she didn't know if she would be able to stop.

Lucy hated seeing the dragon slayer like this. And she hated seeing her two other guild mates unconscious and ill like Natsu. Though, they didn't seem to be in as bad a condition as Natsu.

That was probably because the fire dragon slayer meant the most to her, and she couldn't imagine life without him. But Juvia and Levy would probably think it was more saddening to them to not know what was happening to Gray and Gajeel.

Lucy turned around on her wooden stool to look behind her and see how the other two victims were doing.

There, on a white bed, laid the iron dragon slayer. His skin had a greenish-black hue, like it was rotting, and it was wrinkled, especially around the iron piercings on his face. That was the only thing that she saw that was different about Gajeel… ever since the incident.

When the celestial mage looked up at Levy's sad face, Lucy saw she was just as sad about Gajeel as she was about Natsu. But that was to be expected.

The blonde moved back to her previous position, and gave another worried look to Natsu before glancing up to the other bed in front of her.

There, laid a half-naked Gray, but he didn't seem any different. Yet, the same thing that happened to Natsu and Gajeel happened to him.

Juvia was sobbing and apologizing to her Gray-sama and saying she wished it was her on the infirmary bed instead of him.

Lucy looked back down at Natsu, and she knew she couldn't keep her dam up to block the tears any more. She felt the same things that the water mage was vocalizing, but for different reasons.

After all, it was her fault this happened to specifically these three… Right?

...Wasn't it?

Natsu's angry yells echoed across the guild hall and had every person inside it eavesdrop on the conversation of Team Natsu, Gajeel, Levy, and Juvia.

It was normal for the fire dragon slayer to shout at Gray, but the dispute was about a… peculiar subject, for those two any way.

Lucy, sitting between Levy and oddly, Juvia, shrunk back in her seat, for she did not like the subject of their quarrel, especially since Natsu was the target of the weird fight.

She looked across the table to see Erza enjoying her strawberry cake, ignoring everything around her. The blonde slumped in her wooden chair. Apparently she couldn't count on Erza…

Ugh! She had no way out of this!

She was so distressed, she looked over at Happy. Maybe he could do something. But of course, like Erza, he was eating his fish without a care in the world. She sighed.

Maybe I could go home? Lucy mentally wondered.

"If a girl was desperate enough to date a loser like you, you wouldn't even know if she were going to kiss you! Even if she right out said she would!"

And there was yet another one of the insults Gray had thrown at Natsu that fine afternoon, and it made Lucy slump further into her chair. The conversation was going in the exact direction she didn't want it to go.

Crud, too late to leave now. She thought miserably. Lucy couldn't leave now because Gray was pressuring Natsu with the love subject, and of course, everyone thought her and the fire mage were an item.

She ignored the little voice in her head that told her she wished it was true.

So, if she left at that moment, people were going to know she was leaving because she found their fight… embarrassing.

With that reasoning, and the fact that Erza was oblivious to her surroundings, she knew she was going to have to deal with this unusual argument.

"I would too ice prick!"

"Does he even know what a date is?" Gajeel joined in, both him and Gray ignored Natsu's retort. They both chuckled at the question, and the fire dragon slayer's obvious anger.

"I bet he doesn't know what se-"

"Gray-sama!" The ice wizard cut off and looked over to the water mage, who was looking extremely flustered. "Don't talk about such a delicate subject!"

Gray didn't have a chance to respond as Natsu instead spoke next.

"I know what all those things are!" He crossed his arms and was suddenly very fascinated in the wooden table in front of him. Gray and Gajeel were smirking triumphantly.

Lucy felt her eyes widen. It was weird to see Natsu step down from a fight, and it was weird he wasn't just calling Gray many names like usual. The only conclusion the blonde had was that Natsu didn't like the topic and was trying to get away from it.

"I don't see how you're much different," Natsu said with his own smirk, bringing his green eyes from the table up to make eye contact with Gray and Gajeel who were losing their victorious grins. "You can't even tell that Juvia over here pours her heart out to you every day."

Well, Lucy was incorrect on Natsu stepping out of the fight, but she was correct about him wanting to get out of being the target of the insults and claims. It was clear he was purposefully getting everyone's attention off of him and moving it to his current enemies. Strange, Lucy thought, I wonder why?

"And Gajeel," he went on with a growing smile, "It's obvious you like Levy and she likes you so stop being a wimp and kiss her already."

All separate conversations ceased. The whole guild was silent, and they were all thinking the same thing.

Natsu- the dense boy oblivious to the opposite gender - noticed attraction between two people, and he scolded them for not acting on it.

No one saw that one coming.

"Lu?" The said blonde looked over to her madly blushing best friend. "Am I that obvious?'

Oh Levy, I hope you know you just admitted you liked Gajeel, Lucy thought with a mental laugh.

She was about to reply to her embarrassed friend, but the iron dragon slayer's next words froze her.

"What about you Salamander? I don't see you making out with bunny girl!"

This was exactly why Lucy had been at unease throughout the boy's bickering, and why she had wanted either Erza to interfere like usual or go home.

She was too busy freaking out over what Gajeel said to tell him not to call her bunny girl.

"What the hell are you talking about iron face?"

The guild members listening in on the group's conversation visibly relaxed. Natsu, apparently, was just as dense as they thought, but only with his own matters.

Lucy felt her heart twist. It was yet another reason why she had wanted them to not fight about this topic. She didn't want Natsu and her to be brought into it because she didn't want to find out if Natsu didn't like her like she liked him.

After the Grand Magic Games, she realized and admitted to herself that she liked the fire dragon slayer. When they bought the old guild hall back, she tried to find signs of him liking her in return. They were finally able to go on normal, well-paying jobs again, so she figured that she could see differences from before the seven year gap and now.

She didn't find any.

After a little while, she gave up. And not wanting to hurt herself with the small hope Natsu would like her, she ignored her feelings for him. But maybe she would finally know.

"Either you're just an idiot like I thought you were, or you're pretending you don't know what I'm talking about to hide the fact you're a wimp." Gajeel's voice snapped Lucy out of her thought.

"I ain't a wimp!" Natsu exploded in rage, jumping on top of the bar table and throwing a fire covered fist into Gajeel's face. The iron dragon slayer flew across the room and crashed into a faraway table.

Unfortunately, this caught the scarlet-haired woman's attention.

A demonic aura surrounded her. Gajeel, despite trying to look tough, stopped advancing towards Natsu who quickly jumped off the table and rid his hand of the flame.

A few moments passed. Erza's threatening aura died down before she said she was going to finish her cake, and that she didn't want to see any more fighting.

Once she was absorbed in her cake again Natsu, with a smug smirk, said, "If I'm acting, then so are you."

Everyone stared at Natsu in shock because of they couldn't figure out if that was a confession to liking Lucy, or if he said that to once again put Gajeel in the spotlight. If it was because of the second reason, it worked.

Everyone's eyes turned to Gajeel, and he merely copied Natsu's earlier statement.

"I ain't a wimp!" Instead of throwing a punch like the fire dragon slayer had, he yanked an unsuspecting Levy out of her seat with the back of her shirt and gave her a hug...If you were to call it that. His bulky arm only clamped around her shoulders. Not even a second passed before he let go.

The only sound was Mirajane's squeal of joy at the nearby bar, and Jet and Droy cries and pouts.

Levy seemed slightly upset that the hug was so short-lived, yet an atmosphere of bliss surrounded her as she knew that for Gajeel to just do that meant a lot.

Lucy didn't have time to feel happy for her blue-haired friend, for she knew what was coming. Natsu would be Natsu. She knew for a fact he would see it as a challenge, and he would do anything to best it.

Even though she was moving as fast as she could to get to the guild doors, she could only stand up from her seat before Natsu put his hands on her hips.

She wanted to move, but she couldn't bring herself to.

Lucy thought that he would do what Gajeel did and give her a small hug, but he didn't do anything else. He was a frozen statue. She peeked over her shoulder to see Natsu's face slightly red. Was he blushing?

This time, she didn't ignore the little voice in her head that told her he looked cute when he blushed.

She felt warmth envelope her body, and she knew it was joy. What he was doing wasn't a lot, but it was just enough proof that Natsu possibly liked her.

A blush appeared on her face.

Natsu had been looking at the ground throughout the whole ordeal, but when he felt Lucy shift, he had looked up to find her big doe eyes looking back up at him. A cherry-red blush brightened her cheeks. He felt his own face get a little hotter.

The pyromancer looked over to his left to see Gajeel out of his supposed embrace, snickering. He seemed to have forgotten that his hug with Levy had been just as awkward.

The reminder of why Natsu was doing this in the first place and the iron dragon slayer's laughter gave him the determination he needed. He would not lose to him!

With that, he leaned down toward the blonde girl's face. Her eyes only had enough time to widen before his lips pecked her cheek.

In a flash, he was five steps away from Lucy. His face was facing the ceiling to hide the remainder of his blush.

"There," he muttered, arms crossed.

A thump echoed through building as did Elfman's shouts at Mira to wake up.

Silence and tension was palpable and thick in the air.

Lucy didn't like it. It was the exact opposite of her adoptive home. It was the opposite of Natsu, yet he was the source of it.

Noticing this, Lucy turned around to face the doors that would open up to the town of Magnolia. She took three steps toward them before stopping and crossing her arms. Her hair collapsed around her face.

She hadn't known at the time, but walking to that spot had been a big mistake. It was why Gray, Gajeel, and Natsu specifically got attacked.

Footsteps sounded behind her, and they led the person they belonged to in front of Lucy. She glanced up to see Levy, face still adorned with a blush, looking at her with worry.

Lucy looked up at her fully, "I'm fine Levy, don't worry." She was surprised when her voice shook.


Both Lucy and Levy looked up the pink haired boy, who was awkwardly rubbing his neck.

"If I did something, I'm sorry. So, uh, don't cry or anything."

The blonde blinked once, then twice.

"Eh?" She asked dumbly.

"Well, uh, it sounded like you were going to cry." Ah, so he thought the shakiness in her voice was a sign of crying. Truthfully, she didn't know why her voice had been unsteady. The only feeling she was able to recognize within herself was confusion, nothing else.

Had that been a confession from Natsu? Or did he do that merely because he was challenged by Gajeel to do so?

Those questions were the only reason she had stomped off. She realized now, that it was childish of her, and she had caused needless concern.

"Oh! No, no, no! Not at all! And you didn't do anything, I was just-ah-being stupid!"

Natsu visibly relaxed, "Ah, okay. Well that's good." Everyone understood the hidden message though. He had secretly said, I hate seeing you cry.

After a few moments of quiet, Lucy looked over to the table she had been sitting at to see Gray glaring at the wood. The fact that the ice mage had been quiet for such a long time and was now staring at a piece of furniture was a curious thing, and it made the celestial spirit mage wonder what was on his mind.

As if Gajeel was also, I dare say, concerned over the stripper, the man covered in piercings beckoned him over to him.

Gray slowly stood up and walked over to iron dragon slayer before walking with Gajeel over to their location.

"Well Salamander, guess you're not a total wimp."

"Hey I did it, didn't I!? And I did more than you!"

Lucy wisely chose to ignore them and, again, looked over at Gray and saw that when the dragon slayers started talking about that, he had resumed his gloomy state. Lucy grinned. So that was what it was about.

She glumly realized that Mirajane had infected her with the desire to match up everybody and interfere with their love lives.

She was about to tease him and pressure him into hugging Juvia, but oddly, the water mage chose that moment to walk over. Lucy found it slightly strange she was smiling since she had been, she suddenly noticed, staring at Gray.

Lucy had been looking at Gray with a sly smile, yet Juvia seemed completely calm and not enraged.

"Juvia wishes to apologize to Lucy."

The blue haired girl never failed to surprise her. "What for?"

She regretted asking once the sweet smile on the girl's face turned into a mischievous one.

"Juvia realizes Lucy is not a love rival of Gray-sama, for she likes Natsu."

Lucy didn't want to deny it because it was the truth, but the salmon haired boy was standing right behind her. So she decided the best option was to tell Juvia she didn't like him, but she opened her mouth to form the words and nothing came out.

Instead of responding, she turned around and was thankful to see that Natsu was still arguing with Gajeel.

She couldn't help but smile.

But that small smile was so brief. As she looked back, she realized how she wished it had lasted longer.

The happening, at the time, had been tortuous, and she had wanted it to go away as soon as possible.

If she could have went back to that event in time, she would have appreciated that occasion more. She would have enjoyed Natsu displaying his affection to her more. As she looked back at it, she realized that that moment of embarrassment, fun, arguing, and goofy love… would have been much better than what happened next.

The ceiling above the group of six broke down. Instinctively, Natsu pushed Lucy onto the ground and covered her with his body to shelter her from the falling wood. Gajeel did the same with Levy, and Gray did so with Juvia.

Once the ceiling stopped crumbling down, everyone in the guild looked over to the person floating over the debris.

It was clearly a woman, with how the sleek black robe showed off her lean figure. The long, droopy sleeves and hood of the clothing hid her hands and face from view. Her feet were concealed as well.

Lucy thought she looked like a ghost that went out to scare people on Halloween for pure fun.

A dark cackle erupted from the woman, and everyone grew more tense.

The celestial mage swore that the lady said, "This was going to be fun" when her mad laughter ceased.

Master Makarov was the first to move. He walked four steps before stopping.

"Ah, Makie!" The mysterious lady said in a sing-song voice.

Makarov raised an eyebrow at her, but he was just as apprehensive, if not more.

"Who are you?"

Everyone cringed as she lifted her face to only show her cracked lips moving in the manner of a pout before turning into a crazed smile.

"Surely you recognize me Makie? People call me Plague for some odd reason."

Makarov's eyes widened considerably, and the guild members were surprised to see him stiffen.

The woman known as Plague seemed to notice that as she then laughed.

"Ah, so you do know me. That is good. Master Jose hired me to come here, so surely you know what is to come…"

Her stark white hand was finally shown as it went to her mouth to cover it and muffle her laughter.

No one knew if the Master's eyes could widen further.

In an instance, he grew to the size of a giant.

"Leave now!" His voice vibrated the walls of the guild.

"Sorry, but when I get payed to do something. I always finish it though I'm sure you already know."

Makarov threw his large fist downward to crush her, but it went through her as if she really were a ghost. He recalled his stretched arm back to him to prepare for another attack.

But he couldn't move fast enough, no one could.

He could only take a step forward, reach a hand out, and shout no as the crazy woman moved.

In the blink of an eye, the woman faced the six people still by the guild doors and spread her arms out in an arc. A substance formed between her two hands that resembled green slime. A dangerous magic aura emitted from it.

Then the mysterious green energy rocketed forward. It split up into three individual circles and changed colors. The one heading towards Gray was greyish-white, the circle heading towards Natsu was a blood-red, and the the one moving towards Gajeel retained its grotesque green but gained a black hue.

The boys thought it was an attack meant to do harm, so they stood protectively in front of the girls.

Master Makarov stretched his hand out towards the spheres and shouted, "Get out of the way!" But it was too late.

The three didn't expect the weird circles to turn into lightning and go into their bodies.

With a pain filled scream, they curled in on themselves. They yelled and groaned in agony as they clutched their stomachs.

A look of pure fear decorated Makarov's face. Determination and anger then replaced it, and he slammed his already stretched arm into Plague.

It merely went through her body again.

"Enjoy yourselves now," she said nonchalantly before flying through the hole she had made earlier.

The panicked cries of Lucy, Levy, and Juvia echoed through the fearful guild hall.

The boys had fallen to unconsciousness moments after being hit by the weird magic, and Makarov had yelled at everyone to get them to the infirmary immediately.

The Master, once they were put on the beds, examined them. He told everyone that they would have to wait for them to wake up before they could do anything. Wendy offered to heal them, but Makarov told her it probably wouldn't work. Wendy, trusting the Master's judgement, decided to try and heal them when they woke up.

During the hours of waiting for them to wake up, a lot of people lingered a bit before leaving. Erza, Wendy, Carla, Pantherlily, and Happy were the last to leave besides the solid script, celestial, and water mages. Though, Happy had left because the scary redhead and the iron dragon slayer's cat had forced him as he couldn't stop crying over Natsu. Erza and Pantherlily tried to convince Lucy, Juvia, and Levy to come with them to preoccupy them too. Erza even offered to stay and watch the unconscious boys. But the girls had been more stubborn then the blue cat and were the only ones to stay by their sides the whole time.

Throughout the anxious hours, Levy and Lucy had noticed how Natsu and Gajeel were… changing. Gray looked the same, but they were just as worried about him as they were about the dragon slayers.

Lucy felt that if she hadn't stood up and moved to that spot in front of the guild doors, the woman known as Plague wouldn't of hit them specifically.

She knew she was being silly and selfish.

There was no real way to determine who she would've hit. And if they hadn't of stood there, someone would else would have been hit. She felt horrible that the thought of someone other than Natsu being hit made her a little happier.

After recalling the events of that day, she finally felt her dam break down. She had been keeping it up for five hours, but it was five hours too long.

She sobbed into her hands. Lucy wasn't even disgusted when snot combined with her tears in one big mess within her palms.

She hadn't been crying for very long before a voice stopped her tears completely.

"Lu-chan?" She heard Levy's concerned voice, but it hadn't been the voice that stopped her tears. The blue haired women were too far away to hear it.

Lucy, strangely, ignored Levy, and instead crouched down next to Natsu. Doing so let the blonde's best friend see Natsu clutch at the comforter of the bed, and his mouth move to utter weak whispers. Levy called Juvia, who saw that too, and they both walked over.

Being that close to the fire dragon slayer let them hear what he had been saying.

"Don't cry Lucy."

Despite the situation, Levy couldn't help but say aw and tease the celestial mage.

Lucy grinned and stroked his currently pale face after carelessly wiping her hand on her shirt. She was surprised to find that she didn't need to cry anymore.

"Oh, Natsu." She mumbled with a weak smile.

The fire mage leaned into her hand before he finally opened his eyes.

Well, was it good, bad, or what?

I don't think anyone's out of character, but sorry if they are :P

Well anyway, I really hope you guys liked it and are excited for future chapters like I am :P