So in all my free time, like seriously so much free time now that I'm off work for six months, I'm kicking out little stories here and there cause there's not much else I can do right now so in between writing new chapters for my other story, I'll have other things cropping up as well.
"N-Natsu...?" Lucy's voice seemed to echo around the hall, everyone around them had fallen silent, disbelief resounding loudly through each and every person. She lunged forwards in time to catch the stumbling dragon slayer who had taken a few tentative steps towards her. Together they fell to their knees, Natsu's laboured breathing tickled her throat where his head rested.
For a moment, through bleary eyes of forming tears all she could see was red, one side of his hair soaked in the foul liquid, his face dotted with flecks of red, even his precious scarf was stained with the metallic scented ooze. She didn't need to look at the rest of him to know there was more... too much more.
She'd seen it with her own eyes, clear as day, the shaft of earth that had meant to impale her had instead pierced Natsu, she'd watched from the ground where she'd been pushed to, out of the way, with her mouth open in soundless cry.
And no matter how much she wished it, she just couldn't wake up from the nightmare.
His body shook as gargled coughs wracked his body, she clutched him tighter, hoping she could in some way ease his pain, her eyes squeezed shut, trying her hardest to stop the tears from flowing, but when she felt the warmth of his blood on the arm that was wrapped around his back, a choked sob of despair broke through her tightly sealed lips and the tears flowed freely.
"Shit..." Voice strained, his body trembled. "You ok Lucy?" She laughed humourlessly, hardly believing that even now he was worried about her.
"Idiot, you should be worried about yourself first." She scolded, not really putting any heart into it. She stroked a hand through his tangled hair, ignoring the stickiness of the blood.
"It kind of hurts..." he whispered, "but don't tell Gray I said that." He tried to laugh but all that it did was make him cough and specks of blood dotted the corner of his mouth. "Sorry Lucy I'm getting blood on you."
"I don't care about that," She sobbed, "why?"
"Why did you do it, you could have just let me... you could..." She couldn't say the words, Natsu and dying just didn't sit in the same sentence.
He didn't answer right away, but he smiled serenely. One of his arms, which had been lying limp by his side came up to wrap around her waist, his hand clutching at her shirt as he desperately held on.
"...Protect you... always..." His breathing was growing more and more shallow, his body growing weaker.
"How are you supposed to protect me if you ... don't die ok, we can find Wendy and she'll heal you up as good as new." She pleaded, her hold tightened when his body started to grow heavier, she couldn't pretend that he wasn't growing colder by the second; she couldn't ignore the way he was relying completely on her to sit upright, almost lying across her lap.
He tried to smile but it came across as more of a grimace, Lucy clung to him desperately, dread seeping in at every angle.
"I'm sorry Lucy..." He mumbled before falling completely limp against her. Every thought in her head ceased, her mouth fell open in a soundless cry and tears flowed down across her cheeks. She continued to clutch on to him, her arms wrapped around his neck as she cradled his head, she buried her nose in his hair, his campfire scent was tainted with the metallic smell of his blood and it was just another stab to her already breaking heart.
"Don't say you're sorry like you're giving up, idiot." She mumbled into his hair, rocking his body along with hers.
She couldn't even begin to imagine a future without him there, no more barging into her room, sneaking into her bed at night, dragging her on missions, causing chaos wherever he goes... it was wrong, all so wrong, it should be her, she should be the one in his position right now, his life was worth so much more then hers.
"You still need to find Igneel, and you promised we'd go on loads more adventures together... what do I do... Natsu... what do I do?!" She cried. Behind her she heard the choked cries of their teammates, Gray cursed, Erza turned away and rubbed at her eyes and Happy... oh Happy.
"It's all my fault." She muttered. She felt numb, her hold on Natsu wouldn't loosen but right now she felt like there was nothing left for her to feel because Natsu took it all with him, he had taken her future, her hopes and dreams with him... she couldn't bring herself to feel a damn thing.
In the distance she heard a disturbance, rushed words of desperation and pleas, a small yet gentle voice that was familiar but she couldn't think, she couldn't do anything at all but gently stroke Natsu's hair.
"Lucy...Lucy..." Someone was calling her name but she couldn't respond but when someone tried to pull Natsu out of her grasp she only tightened her hold.
"Let him go Lucy." A deep timbre that was familiar to her said in to her ear, cold hands clutching at her arms prying them away from Natsu's body allowing Natsu to get pulled away from her. She heard more talking while Gray held her back, one arm wrapped around her shoulders to hold her steady.
"It's all my fault, he's dead and it's my fault... all my fault..." She mumbled over and over.
"He's not dead yet." Someone said, that gentle and refreshing voice but Lucy was shaking her head, ignoring her words completely.
"He was cold, he said sorry... blood, so much blood..." She broke down again, sobs breaking free and her body trembling. "He's gone!" She screamed. The arm across her shoulders tightened, fingers digging into the flesh of her arm. "He's gone." She said again, her voice broken.
"Gray do something about Lucy, she too distraught." Erza's stern voice broke into her numb mind and Lucy began to struggle.
"What do you want me to do... shit..." A hand was clasped over her mouth and nose blocking them so she couldn't breathe. She struggled harder but he was too strong and before long her vision began to grow hazy as her lungs burned for oxygen. Her struggles weakened and she felt herself grow limp against Gray, his grip on her mouth loosened but it was too late, darkness was already clouding her mind and before long she fell blissfully into unconsciousness.
When Lucy came to she had almost forgotten everything, blissfully unaware and groggy, She stared up that ceiling long enough to realize that she was in the guild infirmary but the longer she stared the more the memories flooded in. Almost dying, Natsu taking the hit instead, impaled right before her eyes in place of her, all the blood, his coldness, Natsu's death...
She pressed the heel of her palms into her eyes, the sting of tears hurting, she pressed hard desperate to keep them in but it proved impossible and the warmth of her tears trickled out the sides and got lost in her tangled hair, soaking it. Quietly she sobbed, her body aching from the shafts of pain that cut through her, breaking what was left of her heart further into little pieces.
Natsu was gone, his warmth gone, his sunny and bright grin gone, his child-like innocence gone, his brave stupidity and hot-headedness gone... everything gone and with him he'd taken her future because she'd never imagined one without him.
Everything was dull, grey, she felt lifeless and couldn't find the will to get up, she had no right... she should have be the one that died, she'd been distracted, her mind on other things and because of it the world had lost such a vibrant character.
She'd lost someone precious to her.
She threw the covers off and sat up, the room was empty and she wasn't too surprised, everyone was probably mourning. On shaky legs she stood up and left the room, from down the hallway she could hear the guild hall, chatter and noise but it all just sounded like a meaningless buzz to her, unable to distinguish one voice from another.
Silently she walked down the stairs unnoticed, she didn't want to be here, a constant reminder of the liveliest member missing, over in a corner she spotted Gray with his head in his hands, a concerned Juvia sitting by his side, her hands hovering over him but never quite touching him. Erza sat at the bar, a plate of her favourite cake in front of her but despite it she still looked grim.
Happy was missing.
She wanted to leave unnoticed, to head home and hide under her covers until she felt like she could face the world again though right now she felt like that would never happen. But of course nothing ever went her way and it all it took was for Mira to look up, worry in her open blue eyes, to notice Lucy against the wall.
"Lucy you're awake."
Everyone fell silent, all eyes turned to face her but she refused to meet anyone's eyes, silently biting her lip and looking at the floor.
A barstool scarped across the floor and Lucy flinched, the clank of metal armor letting her know who was heading her way.
"Lucy..." Her stern voice was uncharacteristically soft, gentle, as if she was afraid to scare the blonde. "How are you feeling?" She asked. Lucy wanted to laugh, she didn't know how she felt, numb to any and all emotion except the pain in her heart. She shook her head, refusing to answer the question, she wrapped her arms around her torso, closing herself off from her comrade. "Natsu, he..."
"No!" Lucy snapped, she still refused to meet her eyes, afraid they'll see the glimmer in them of more tears. "I don't want to hear." Her voice cracked at the end but at this point she didn't care, she was just desperate to escape.
"But Lucy, Natsu's..."
"I'm going home." She quickly interrupted. "I'm sorry for the trouble." She dashed past Erza before she could be stopped, all eyes still locked on her making her feel uncomfortable, even when she heard Gray call her name, seeing him stand from the corner of her eye, she didn't stop.
She burst through the guild doors into the street, the sunshine beat down on her reminding her of the warmth she had lost, it was almost as if it were mocking her.
She broke out into a run, wanting to reach the safety of her apartment, to lock herself away so she could mourn in solitude.
By the time she reached her door, she was sobbing, gasping for air, she fumbled with her keys as she struggled to open her doors but once it was open she fell through into her empty apartment and once her door was closed behind her she fell to the floor, curled into a small ball and broke down into choked and desperate cries.
She wasn't all that clear how much time had passed since she collapsed on the floor but she finally found a small amount of energy to get up and run a bath, though she had been wiped clean there was still spots of blood on her skin and in her hair, her clothes, which had been her favourite were stained red, they went straight into the bin.
She settled into the bath, wishing she could enjoy the steaming sting of the burning water but she still couldn't bring up any feeling, she even felt numb to the burning water. She scrubbed furiously at her skin, and even when she was thoroughly clean she continued to scrub hoping to score away the guilt and sadness.
Her skin was red and raw and it was exhaustion that made her stop and sink back into the grimy water. She sat there, hugging her legs to her chest, for the longest time just staring at the wall blankly, the water had gone cold but it didn't bother her in the slightest.
Sighing she stood up and showered herself down before stepping out, she walked past the towel hanging up on the rail and out into her room, not caring for the cold biting into her skin, or the Goosebumps that littered her body. Still wet and completely naked she climbed into her bed and buried herself under the duvet, hidden from the world.
She'd probably catch a cold.
Not once did she leave her house since she got home a week ago, she alternated between lying in the bed, sleep alluding her too afraid of the nightmares to settle, to sitting at her desk staring at blank sheets of paper and no inspiration, sometimes she'd go to the kitchen, hunger biting at her empty stomach but then her appetite would vanish and she leave without touching a thing. She tried to read, she tried to write, she tried to tidy, to eat or drink but she couldn't do anything because each time she'd look over at the window expecting to find him at her window, sneaking in once again and then she'd remember and the pain would flare up and she'd break down again.
Daily someone came knocking, Erza, Levy, Gray, Wendy, pleading at her to open the door but Lucy couldn't face them, too much guilt simmering inside.
Even when the loneliness settled in she refused to answer their calls. She knew of loneliness, lived in a big house neglected by her father and forced to play by herself with no friends but this loneliness was very different, it was heartbreaking and she wasn't sure she'd recover. Even if weeks or months down the line she was able to face the world again, this kind of loneliness would never disappear because no one could ever replace Natsu.
She missed him desperately, his fiery personality, his hot-headed and impulsive nature, his denseness, his smile, his salmon coloured locks, even the way he barged into her apartment through the window, there was never a boring moment and she never felt lonely.
It was another week later when Erza began hammering at her door, Lucy was curled up on her bed facing the window, hoping desperately that his face would appear on the other side.
"Lucy I demand you open this door immediately!"
"No, this had gone on too long Lucy needs to listen to what we have to say."
Lucy sighed, she knew Erza didn't like to be kept waiting and the redhead and been surprisingly patient with her up until now.
She forced herself out of bed, grabbed a dressing gown and threw it around her body, on the way to the door she caught sight of herself in the mirror and grimaced, her hair was a state, her face pale, heavy dark circles under her red eyes from sleepless nights and intermittent crying. Damn it she looked terrible.
She unlocked the door and the argument between Erza and Gray on the other side ceased immediately. She took a deep breath before opening the door coming face to face with two equally surprised faces, both of them grimaced at her appearance, guilt shadowed in Gray's eyes and sympathy in Erza's. She hated it but she forced a smile on her face and invited them in.
Hesitantly they followed her in, she offered them a seat, some tea and biscuits and they thanked her, she still had her forced smile in place as she went through the motions of social etiquette.
No one said anything as they sat around the table, each sipping on their tea, Gray sat staring at his tea, his brow furrowed.
"Lucy," Erza finally broke the stilted silence, "it's time you listened to us, you've been hiding away and I understand your feelings but I fear you're under a misconception."
"What are you talking about; it's not really something I could misunderstand, Natsu... he's dead." She snapped, dropping her hands on the table sharply, the china rattling dangerously from the impact.
"He's not dead." Erza took a sip of her tea, unfazed by Lucy's show of anger, she had said it so casually as if mentioning the weather that it took Lucy a moment to grasp the meaning of the words.
"You're lying, he died, he was in my arms, cold and not breathing, he said he was sorry..." she gritted her teeth really not wanting to remember, fresh waves of sadness sweeping at her mercilessly.
"I assure he is very much alive, still unconscious, but alive."
"It's true Lucy." Gray added, backing Erza up.
"If this is some kind of joke, it's not very funny."
"I am very serious, we would have told you sooner but you wouldn't talk to us, you wouldn't let us in."
"...How?" She could hardly bring herself to believe them, there was no way, she had watched the life leave him.
"Wendy had finished her battle in time to find us, she healed Natsu enough to keep him alive long enough for us to get him to Porlyusica, she's been taking care of him and he's healing. He's getting stronger by the day."
"Did you honestly think Natsu would just up and die on us, he's too stubborn for that." Gray said, he was holding his cup between his hands and swirling his tea absent-mindedly.
She tried to think back to that day, but everything was a blur of red mingled with pink, broken sobs and muted voice, she'd been so numb she'd blocked it all out.
"I... I can't remember..."
"You were hysterical, Gray had to incapacitate you so that you wouldn't injure yourself and so that Wendy could concentrate without worrying about you."
At the end of the table Gray flinched, Lucy looked at him curiously, unsure as to why his face was shadowed by guilt.
"Lucy..." He started, his teeth gritted. "I'm sorry." His head was lowered shielding his eyes from her.
Lucy tilted her head, recalling the events before everything went black, she'd been too distraught to think clearly, Natsu had been taken away from her and she'd been muttering uselessly, and then there was a hand over her airways, stopping her from breathing long enough to knock her out.
Oh so that had been Gray, his manner had been cold but under the circumstances she could understand.
"Don't worry about it, you did what you had to, I was beyond help at that point, I know, so don't eat yourself up over it." Gray seemed to sag under her forgiveness. He stopped swirling his tea and downed the entire thing before finally looking up and meeting her eyes.
"You should really visit him, I'm sure he's waiting for you." Lucy frowned, she still wasn't sure she believed them, the last thing she had seen was his death, it was too much to take in and after two weeks of mourning his death was it ok for her to suddenly believe he was alive this entire time.
"I need time..." She started, "I'm still not sure what to believe."
"Please Erza give me time." Erza frowned, her displeasure clear on her face, she opened her mouth to protest but Gray held up his hand.
"Maybe she's right it's a lot to find out in one morning and after what she saw it's gonna be hard for her to believe straight away." Gray looked over at Lucy and smiled sadly. "We'll give you what you want, but please don't make him wait much longer; he's probably wandering why his partner hasn't visited him even once."
Erza and Gray left a little while after leaving her to her thoughts, she looked around her lonely room and wrapped her arms around her body as she forced herself to think about what her teammates had told her.
Natsu wasn't dead.
After spending so long believing he was gone it was hard to suddenly believe otherwise, as much as she wanted to, she was scared of the rising hope in her chest, filling her with warmth she thought she'd never feel again. It was a dangerous feeling, hope was such too much like a doubled edge knife; it could make everything better or only make her feel worse.
There was only one way to find out if they were telling the truth, she would have to pay a visit to Porlyusica, she would have to see him with her own eyes.
She jumped up, a burst of renewing energy pushing her on, but as she walked past the mirror again she froze in horror, she was a mess, it was enough that she'd let Erza and Gray see her like this but Natsu... no he'd be disappointed in her to see she'd stopped taking care of herself.
She ran into the bathroom and jumped into the shower, suddenly very eager to feel clean again.
She cleaned, shaved, worked through her hair thoroughly with shampoo and conditioner so that it was back to its silky smoothness and not a tangle in sight; she scrubbed her face and brushed her teeth, twice. She applied cream, sprayed herself with a light scent she knew Natsu had a fondness for, she applied some make up doing her best to cover the dark circles under her eyes though there wasn't much she could do about the slight shallowness of her cheeks and narrowness of her chin where she'd lost some weight from her lack of appetite, it wasn't too bad but to anyone else that hadn't seen in her in two weeks it'd be glaringly obvious.
She dressed, picking out something subdued rather than her usual attire, a knee length floral skirt and a light pink chiffon blouse, she pulled out some white ballerina pumps she rarely used in favour for her durable brown boots she often wore on missions. And although was she kind of on a mission, she wanted to look her best for him.
She realised quickly that her hope had risen to quite a dangerous level, almost completely believing him to be alive, she'd be thoroughly crushed if she turned up and there was no Natsu.
Maybe if she believed hard enough it would be enough.
She took a look in the same mirror as before and looked at herself from different angles; she looked almost as good as new except for the lingering sadness in her chocolate eyes and the obvious weight loss.
Lucy picked up her keys and purse but before she could open the door she froze, realising that this would be the first time in two weeks she'd stepped outside, suddenly she felt nervous, scared almost which was ridiculous, she was Lucy of Fairy Tail, her team was one of the strongest in the guild and her partner was Natsu Dragneel.
She'd been a coward for far too long, hiding beneath her duvet, from her friends, from the world and from reality, Natsu would be greatly disappointed in her if he knew how she'd been handling his apparent death.
She reached for the handle and threw the door open and before she could talk herself out of it she stepped out and locked the door behind her. She took a tentative step out on to the street, people walked by, completely unaware what kind of grief she'd been dealing with because they'd been getting on with life, they had no idea what kind of trauma she had had to deal with because Natsu had died in her arms.
And he had died, she was sure of it, he breathing had stopped, he'd gone cold and limp, and for a moment his magical presence had vanished from her world.
Shaking her head she turned towards the outskirts of Magnolia where the forest stretched out, if she went one way it would take her to Natsu and Happy's little hut but she took the other path that would take her to the healer's cottage, distanced far from civilisation.
Her pace quickened until she was running, her heart thumping rapidly as if coming back to life after so long asleep, it had been so long since she had felt this burst of excited adrenaline and she had forgotten that she was supposed to remain balanced instead of lunging head first into the wrong side of hope.
What if they were all wrong and he was dead? What if she got there and he was already gone? What if... so many what if's!
She crashed through the trees until she fell into the clearing that housed Porlyusica's little cottage, hesitantly and with her heart in her throat she stumbled closer.
Halfway to the door she stopped short, alarmed when the door suddenly swung open and in the doorway staring at her with the biggest grin she'd ever seen was her pink haired dragon slayer.
She didn't know whether she was seeing things, whether she could believe her eyes, it could all be a hallucination created by her sad desperation.
He was heavily patched up, bandages covering all of his torso and his right arm, one wrapped around his head with a gauze pressed to his temple. He looked pale and he'd dropped some weight just like her, briefly his eyes scanned over her form, a disapproving look in his eyes as he made a similar assessment as her, but the silly grin never left his face.
"Natsu-san! You haven't been awake very long you shouldn't be out bed!" A panicked Wendy came up behind Natsu and tried to pull him back but Natsu gently shook her off, assuring her he was fine, his eyes never leaving Lucy's. That was when Wendy looked over and gasped in surprise before smiling.
"Lucy-san you finally came, I was worried when Erza mentioned no one had seen you for two weeks." Lucy nodded her head uselessly her own eyes never leaving him.
"I... I'm sorry... I..." And then the tears broke free, she dropped her head in her hands and sobbed, her body shaking from the force of her cries. A gasp escaped her when she was suddenly yanked into a familiarly warm embrace, one she thought she'd never feel again.
"Why are you crying?" He asked her, his deeper tone right by her ear.
"You died, you died in my arms." She whimpered burying her face into the crook of his neck, she inhaled his campfire scent, never realising how much she missed it. His hold tightened and she felt his shuddering breath.
"I'm sorry," He muttered, "I'm sorry you had to witness something like that but I'm alive so there's no need to cry anymore right?"
"Idiot!" She snapped, closing her arms around his torso. "I spent two weeks thinking you were dead, I was a mess! And now you're alive, all this time you were alive... I'm too happy to stop crying."
"I'm really sorry, Lucy, really I am."
"I know but I'm sorry too, if it wasn't for me you wouldn't have been in this situation."
"We're partners, and we protect each other no matter what, if you were even in that kind of trouble again and I do it again in heart beat." Her face heated up.
"Don't be stupid if something like this was to happen again I would never forgive you."
"Then I better make sure I don't almost die again." He laughed, so carefree like always but being with him like was almost like the last two weeks had never happened. Before either them could say anything Natsu stomach grumbled so loudly it surprised Lucy.
Lucy pulled away with a gasp, her face flushed a deep red, he tilted his head and looked at her curiously but she averted her gaze with a nervous laugh.
"Y-you should eat something, you've lost weight." She muttered.
"Then you should eat something too, cause you've definitely lost weight."
"I didn't have much appetite." She defended.
"Then how about now?"
"... I'm famished." She admitted, her own stomach grumbling.
"Then let's eat." He cheered, he grabbed her hand and began pulling her towards the hut. "Happy caught me loads of fish for when I woke up, I'll share it with you." She followed behind, slave to his whims, she could believe it, he was here, back in her life and as she looked around she realised that world had colour again, everything was back to how it should be.
But maybe she could change it just a little.
She pulled Natsu to a stop and he looked over his shoulder in confusion, she was looking at the ground, her face red with embarrassment.
Lucy swallowed her nervousness and closed the distance between them, standing up on tiptoes she pressed her lips against his, she was surprised by her boldness but after spending so long thinking she'd lost him she figured it was time to stop procrastinating and dancing around her feelings. She pulled away and glanced shyly up at Natsu whose face was comical.
Completely red, his mouth hung open in surprise, his eyes bulging and his brows so high up that they disappeared under his bangs.
She buried her fingers in between his, linking their hands, she pulled him down so that they were eye level.
"Don't ever do something as stupid as die on me again, you understand." He nodded mutely.
"I can't promise I won't protect you though." He quickly added.
"Fine just don't be so reckless otherwise the next time I'm following you."
"Don't be stupid!" He snapped.
"Then don't die." She smiled sweetly up at him. "Simple."
He grumbled something unintelligible in response and she allowed herself to giggle, she kissed his cheek before dashing past him into the hut. "Come on, I'm starving."
Natsu took a moment to touch his cheek, his face heated but then he remembered that she just kissed him on the mouth and his entire face burned up.
Only Lucy could make him feel this weird on the inside.
"Save some fish for me." He yelled, running back into the room, letting the door slam closed behind him.