Disclaimer: I do not own Fairy Tail

Ch. 4: I'm Starting to Have Second Thought Here

When Lucy finally awakened, it was to a familiar sight. Cast in the soft glow of the first rays of the sun was a sparsely decorated room filled with the barest necessities. Decorating the small area was the snug bed she lay in, a desk, and a few stumps that served as seating. Only the large bookshelf filled to capacity and the various barrels loaded to the brim with pungent herbs aided in giving the plain room any character.

Still, despite the rather boring décor, Lucy felt warmth flood her and an unconscious smile formed on her lips. Rising gingerly, she breathed in the nostalgic scent of medicine that hung in the air, a smell that made her think of an irritable old lady and a shy girl with the sweetest smile. She turned to the open window, closing her eyes as she felt a gentle breeze brush past her face. It had been a long time since she'd been so at peace and while a bit fatigued, Lucy felt more relaxed than she could remember being since waking up in the past.

Staring down at the right hand she was still unused to seeing, Lucy couldn't help wondering if that was an after effect of the magical merge. She could feel her magic humming within her, peaceful as a cloudless summer sky, a stark contrast to the raging storm it had been the last time she was conscious. A sigh escaped her as she thought back to all that had happened since she first woke up in Hargeon. Nothing was going as she had planned.

Trying to find some semblance of order, she mentally shifted through her memories only to find herself becoming more disoriented the deeper she went. Where before she had carried all the memories of her experiences in the future with only brief recollections of the 'recent past' popping up, it now felt as if two sets of memories were being crammed into her brain, meshing together is some places while becoming disjointed at others.

For instance, she could remember the angry crease of her father's eyes as he berated her for wasting her time studying Celestial magic, blond hair slicked back and mustache quaking with the force of his yells. Yet at the same time she also recalled a scraggly man dressed in rags, tangled hair and untrimmed beard darkened with oil and dirt, begging her for money.

Lucy brought a hand up to massage her forehead, feeling the beginnings of a headache start to form. Her mind was at war with itself, memories fighting with one another each time she tried to bring a detailed recollection to the surface of her thoughts. At times they contradicted, at others they worked in tandem and for a heart stopping moment, she couldn't tell the past from the present from the future.

Was her father the power obsessed money grubber or the poor man who had lost both fortune and home?

Was she a lonely princess locked away in an empty mansion or an outgoing woman surrounded by friends who loved her?

Was she a seventeen year old runaway heiress or was she a wandering twenty seven year old struggling to survive in a post-apocalyptic world?

Before a full-fledged anxiety attack could form, one last memory burst through the haze, soothing the ache that had been stabbing into her skull like a cooling balm to a burn.

It was of a conversation she had once shared with Natsu when they'd been stranded in the parallel world of Edolas. In a rare bout of philosophical thought, she'd questioned why it was that they and their counterparts were so different. Was it the change in environment, the political unrest, the way they'd been raised? For Lucy it was disconcerting to watch the other blonde saunter around the guild. She hadn't seen Lucy Ashley as a counterpart. If anything, the girl had been a completely different person, a stranger who happened to be wearing her skin.

Natsu had shrugged at the question, not finding an issue with the situation once he'd gotten over his initial disappointment at seeing how cowardly Edo-Natsu was. "I don't know," he'd replied, "does it really matter?"

Lucy had pouted at his disinterest, "Not really, I suppose. I just thought it was an interesting thought. What is it that makes me 'Lucy' and you 'Natsu'? To the people of Edolas and our friends on Earthland, the answers must be vastly different."

At her response the Dragonslayer scratched his chin thoughtfully, "I guess I can kind of see your point but I don't know," Natsu said with another shrug, "for me Lucy is Lucy. Whether we're in another world or another time, that won't change. The same goes for me or any of our other friends."

The blonde mage tilted her head at her answer, "Even if they're not anything alike? I don't know, Natsu." She threw a wary look at Lucy Ashley, "We may look the same but inside we're completely different."

Natsu shook his head, "I don't think so. You might not see it but I can tell that you are alike."

"In what way?" she asked, frustrated that she couldn't see what he so easily did.

"In here," he replied with a smirk as he raised a hand to his chest over where his heart rested.

Lucy raised a brow. "Our chests? Way to be a prev, Natsu. Besides, we already established that she and I have the same figure," she mumbled crossly.

The rose haired boy flushed the color of his hair. "No, stupid! I meant the heart, the heart! Geez Lucy, get you head out of the gutter."

Lucy blushed a fiery crimson, "R-right! I knew that!" Clearing her throat to push past the awkwardness she continued, ignoring the way her companion snickered at her expense having gotten over his own embarrassment. "Anyways, I guess you are right on one thing. I don't see it. What if you end up being completely wrong and it turns out that we shouldn't have trusted her?"

Finished laughing, Natsu waved off her doubt with a grin, "Eh, you'll see it in time, trust me. So don't worry, everything will work out in the end." The blonde simply huffed and left the conversation at that.

But Natsu had been right about everything. She'd seen it for herself when Lucy Ashley and the rest of the Edolas Fairy Tail guild rose to fight against the Royal Army in spite of their earlier hesitance at joining the war.

Lucy couldn't help laughing at the old memory, earlier panic ebbing away, "Lucy is Lucy, huh?"

Like a magic spell, the words ceased swirling tempest of thoughts as she decided to take a leaf out of Natsu's book for once and go with the flow. Nothing good would come out of worrying aimlessly. It was almost as if the recollection was her brain's way of telling her to stop overthinking things!

She is Lucy Heartfilia. Daughter of Jude and Layla Heartfilia, a soon to be Fairy Tail mage, and she was here to save her friends, her family from a terrible future. These were facts that would never change and as long as she didn't forget them, everything else would fall into place eventually.

Past Lucy or future Lucy it didn't matter, just like Earthland Lucy and Edolas Lucy hadn't mattered, because whatever the case, Lucy is Lucy.

"It's about time you woke up, girl," a gruff voice said, breaking the tranquil atmosphere.

Interrupted from her reflection, Lucy turned to the entrance of the quaint tree house and took in the sight of a slim, pink haired woman. At the open doorway stood Porlyusica, Fairy Tail's, somewhat, resident healer with trademark frown in place carrying a basket of freshly picked apples.

The Celestial mage's heart warmed at the old woman's appearance and she resisted the urge to smile as a rush of fond reminiscences flooded her briefly. As much as the lady liked to act prickly, Lucy knew that Porlyusica cared for each member of the guild. However much the old woman liked to grumble about hating humans, it never stopped her from healing all their wounds and easing their pain. Even if she was grouchy while doing it.

"How are you feeling?" Porlyusica continued, eyeing the girl oddly when she failed to respond.

Lucy smiled sheepishly, "I feel much better, thank you. I take it you're the one who helped me, Miss…?"

"Porlyusica." She placed the basket down on a table before settling into a seat by Lucy's bedside. "You should consider yourself lucky that those brats brought you to me as soon as they did."

"Brats…?" Lucy murmured though she knew the answer. Who else could it be?

"The pink haired punk and the strange blue feline," the healer clarified.

Does she even know their names? Lucy wondered, exasperated. She resisted the urge to sweat-drop and instead nodded slowly. "Where exactly is this?" she asked, looking about the peculiar room in faux curiosity.

"You're in my home. It's located in the forest east of Magnolia," she answered, eyes narrowing into a glare, "because I don't like to be bothered by humans."

Lucy gave a weak laugh, "I'm, uh, sorry?"

Porlyusica sat back with a "humph", "As you should be. You should also tell that to those two fools when they come back. Mavis only knows how long it's been since I've seen such pathetic blubbering."

Lucy wilted guiltily, "You're right. I must've worried..."

"Never mind that," Porlyusica said impatiently, waving away the girl's sentimentality, "More importantly, there's something I'm curious about regarding your condition."

"My…condition?" Lucy questioned, resisting the urge to tense, knowing the old woman was watching her every move with suspicious eyes.

"In all my years as a healer, I've seen my fair share of patients," the healer continued, crossing her arms. "As such, I've come across several cases of mages suffering from magical shock. It's not really all that uncommon."

"What causes it?" Lucy asked, wanting to confirm her suspicions.

"When a mage's magical core becomes tainted with malignant magic, their body ends up rejecting the foreign power," the old woman explained. "This usually happens when fools delve in curse magic," Porlyusica's lip curled in disgust and Lucy twitched at the thinly veiled insult, "but I've never, in all my experience, seen a case as severe as yours. That kind of reaction could only be brought about by the darkest of magic, one that I've unfortunately become rather attuned to. So tell me, girl," the healer's eyes became sharp enough to cut flesh, "what were you thinking when you decided to try your hand at Zeref's magic?"

Lucy, who had been listening attentively, flinched visibly at the question, eyes widening in shock as she stared into the woman's accusing eyes, "I…I…" Words failed her as her heart climbed to her throat, beating so rapidly it made her chest hurt, and the headache she'd just staved off came back with a vengeance.

What could she possibly say to make the healer understand? Whether she told Porlyusica the truth or fabricated something, Lucy knew the old woman would never accept it and even without taking that into account, the blonde didn't want to tell anyone about she'd done or the many things she'd lost along the way. There was no telling what would happen if people knew that she'd come from the future, how much it would change the events to come, and that was a risk she wasn't willing to take.

Most importantly, though, it was her secret to bear. Whatever punishment may come of it and however hard it may be to endure, it was hers alone.

A minute ticked by in silence as the two women stared at one another and Lucy was seriously starting to consider jumping out the window to escape the conversation all together. Luckily, however, the blonde was prevented from carrying out her plan when the door to the house slammed open as two familiar figures announced their arrival.

"We're back!" they shouted boisterously.

Porlyusica shot up from her chair at the noise, throwing an apple as hard as she could at the Dragonslayer and Exceed, "How many times do have I told you idiots to stop your blasted shouting! I may be old but I'm not deaf!"

"Ow!'' Natsu cried as the fruit knocked him on the head, "What's the big de – "

"Lucy!" Happy shouted, noticing that the blonde was awake. He flew at the girl excitedly to catch her in a hug.

"Happy!" Lucy greeted equally as exuberant as she cuddled the blue feline to her chest, cherishing the closeness she'd missed so desperately. Feeling dampness on her shirt, she tightened her hold, "I'm sorry I worried you," she murmured softly.

Happy only shook his head, unable to speak through his tears. A warm hand came to rest on Lucy's head and she looked up to Natsu smirking at her past anxious eyes, "It's about time you woke up, weirdo."

Lucy shoved his hand off playfully. "Like I could help it, jerk," she replied, glad to see the tightness in his gaze ease at the response.

Porylusica shook her head in exasperation at the party's display, furtively stepping out of the house to give the trio some privacy. Lucy tried to ignore the way the healer's gaze lingered on her before she left, as if to say their conversation was far from over.

Unnerved, the blonde swiftly turned her attention back to the boys before her. "Thank you, you two, for bringing me here. I don't know what I would have done without you."

Natsu looked away, bringing up a hand to scratch the back of his head, "S'not a big deal. It's not like we could just leave you there. Not when you were obviously in pain."

"Still," Lucy argued, "not everyone would have known the right person to bring me to or have bothered staying around until I woke up. So thank you, I really appreciate it."

Natsu shrugged, "Like I said, s'not a big deal. And we waited around so we could bring you to Magnolia once you woke up."

The Celestial mage raised an eyebrow, feeling her blood pump faster in anticipation, "Why?"

Happy pulled away from her embrace, he swiped a paw to his eyes to dry the last of his tears and Lucy had to admire his ability to bounce back. He looked up at her with a large grin, "To bring you to Fairy Tail, of course!"

Lucy suppressed an answering smile, opting for a puzzled look instead, "To…Fairy Tail? What are you talking about, cat?"

"Guess we never mentioned it, huh?" Natsu replied instead. He twisted so that the red emblem tattooed to his shoulder was visible to the blonde. Taking the hint, Happy pulled the green knapsack on his back aside to show his own white mark. "We're both mages of Fairy Tail!" they said proudly in unison.

Lucy stared at them blankly for a moment before promptly smacking Natsu on the arm.

"Ow!" he yelped, "What the heck was that for, woman!?"

"You didn't think I would have liked to know that when I was gushing to you about the guild at the diner?" She glared at him in irritation.

Natsu combed a hand through his hair sheepishly, "Might've slipped my mind? Besides, Happy didn't say anything either and I don't see you hitting him!"

"He can't help that he's a forgetful cat," Lucy said, snuggling the feline in her arms.

"Aye," Happy purred, gazing up at Natsu cutely with wide and innocent eyes.

The Dragonslayer pouted, "That is so unfair."

Lucy only stuck her tongue out at him in answer inwardly marveling at how easy with was to fall into old habits, like a puzzle piece sliding into place. The Dragonslayer rolled his eyes but was unable to keep from smiling, "Real mature there Lucy."

The blonde blinked in surprise, "You…you actually remember my name?"

"Wha-," Natsu began, staring at her as if she'd sprouted a mushroom from her head, "What do you take me for Lucy, an idiot? Of course I remember your name!"

Raising placating hands, she shrugged, "I don't know, you're just so forgetful I thought it might've slipped your mind," she teased. Honestly though, Lucy was a bit shocked. Originally, it had taken a good week or two for her to get Natsu to quit calling her Luigi of all things.

Thinking back on it now, though, she couldn't recall Natsu being quite so friendly after their first meeting before. It wasn't that the boy had been mean or anything; he just hadn't been very sociable past their initial introductions. The Dragonslayer hadn't really warmed up to her until after the fiasco with Duke Everlue that had eventually ended up solidifying their partnership.

Happy giggled while Natsu crossed his arms huffily, "Hmph. See if I ever do anything nice for you again."

"Aw, don't be like that Natsu," Happy cajoled, "We still have to take Lucy to Fairy Tail, remember?"

"I don't know, Happy," he replied, giving the blonde a side eyed glare, "do we really want someone like Lucy to be our guild-mate? I'm starting to have second thoughts here."

Now it was Lucy's turn to pout, "Come on, you know I'm only kidding right? Please take me to your guild, pretty please."

He gazed into her large brown eyes for a moment longer before using both hands to ruffle her hair, much to the blonde's annoyance, "Alright, alright. Just stop giving me that creepy look. Makes me feel like I kicked a puppy or something," he muttered. "We'll leave for the guild as soon as you're up for it."

Happy cheered as Lucy threw back her covers, "Then what are we waiting for?" she said excitedly, "Let's go!"

Natsu gripped a shoulder to steady her as she tried to wobble out of bed, "Hold it there, speedy. You've been out of it for days. You sure you're ready to head out right now? We don't mind waiting if you need some more rest."

"Yeah," Happy continued, subdued, "You were in pretty bad shape, Lucy. Maybe you should take it easy for a bit longer?"

"I'm grateful for your concern but I'm fine, really. A little tired from resting in bed for so long, sure, but that's nothing some exercise won't fix so just let me get…changed," Lucy trailed off as she looked down at the unfamiliar set of pajamas she was wearing before looking sharply back up at the two. "My suitcase!" she cried, "it had everything I owned in it!"

The blonde patted herself down at the realization, hopelessly searching for a familiar set of keys. She paled when a specific key came to mind, remembering the sound of metal clattering on wood as it slipped out of her hand.

"Oh. My. God," Lucy whispered in horror, hands clutched to her head in desperation, "how could I lose it!"

Alarmed, Natsu sprang to reassure her while Happy flew outside, "Oi, oi. Calm down, Lucy. If this is about your stuff, we've got you covered."

Lucy shook her head, "It, it's not that," she replied, too distraught to be ashamed of the tears that were starting to form, "Aquarius…"

The key to her beloved spirit could be at the bottom of the ocean for all she knew!

Natsu could only stare at her in confusion, unsure of what she was talking about while Happy flew back into house, straining to carry a hot pink suitcase, "I-I've got it," he panted out.

Lucy rushed to meet the feline, taking the luggage from him with shaking hands. There was an infinitesimally small chance but maybe, just maybe… She popped the latch open and rifled through the contents, throwing clothes everywhere. But not matter how hard she searched, the familiar shine of metal was nowhere to be found. "No…" she whimpered past the lump in her throat.

Too busy feeling sorry for herself, Lucy almost missed the sound of a metallic jingling as Natsu held her key ring in front of her, "Is this what you're lookin' for?"

"Yes!" She snatched it from him and shifted through the keys hurriedly, feeling her heart drop when she found one was missing.

"Oh!" Happy cried upon seeing the keys in her hands, "That reminds me…" He rummaged in his rucksack for a bit before pulling out a golden key with two blue wavelike symbols at the handle, "This is yours too, right?"

Lucy gingerly took it from him, feeling the metal warm at her touch, "How did you…?" she murmured in astonishment.

"It's a funny story," Natsu snickered, ignoring Happy's muttered, "More like scary…"

Shifting his scarf away from his face, the Dragonslayer continued, "While you were asleep we were super bored so we tried to help the Old Lady out around the house. But she got mad at us and told us to stop pestering her."

"So we decided to go to Hargeon!" the Exceed cut in.

"Yeah, we thought that maybe we could track down your stuff since you didn't have anything on you. I managed to follow your scent back to this inn but," Natsu grumbled, "the lady there was convinced I was trying to steal your stuff!"

Happy sniggered, "You should have seen the way he had to grovel for her to finally be convinced. It was hilarious!"

"Shut up, Happy," Natsu hissed, mortified.

Lucy blinked at the admission, making a mental note to send a letter to - Sofie-san, was it? - to reassure the kind woman. "But this wasn't with my other stuff, right?" she said, holding up Aquarius' key.

Happy shook his head, "Nope, it wasn't. But when we walked past the harbor on our way back, this fish lady suddenly popped up out of the ocean!" the Exceed flailed around as he explained. "She swam up to us and threw that key at me saying," he dropped his voice and plastered on a condescending sneer in a fairy accurate impression of the mermaid, "'You better tell that stupid broad that if she drops my key one more time, I'll drown her!' and then she disappeared!" Happy shuddered at the remembrance.

Natsu howled in laughter, "Should've seen how scared Happy was of her! I swear he almost cried!"

"Stupid Natsu! I-I wasn't scared and I didn't cry!" the feline yelled.

Lucy watched their antics with an amused smile. As the argument died down she sprang forward to grab Happy and Natsu in a bone crushing hug, "I can't even begin to thank the two of you enough. For, for everything!" she cried grateful beyond words because, really, who would do all this for someone who was virtually a complete stranger? "Thank you, thank you, thank you!"

"Alright, alright, already," Natsu wheezed out, patting her back for mercy. When she let go, he and Happy took great gulps of air. "We get it."

'You don't,' she disagreed but held her tongue. They may not understand now but maybe they would eventually.




A few hours later the trio was finally ready to make their way to Magnolia. Natsu shifted impatiently as he and Happy waited for Lucy to finish speaking with Porlyusica. "Took you long enough," he huffed out as the blonde jogged to them.

"Sorry for the hold up. I just wanted thank her at least one more time," Lucy replied, relieved when it seemed as if he hadn't overheard their conversation. She mulled over their talk as they started their hike to Magnolia.

"I can't give you the answer you want," Lucy told the old healer bluntly.

Porlyusica paused in her sweeping, bristling at the girl's impudence, instantly on guard, "Oh, really. Are yoru reasons so shameful that you can't admit them aloud?"

Lucy shook her head, "No, but they are something I can't readily tell anyone."

The pink haired woman scoffed at the answer, "Nothing but excuses from an ignorant mage dabbling in magic better left alone."

"Maybe," Lucy conceded, "but despite what you think, I can't say I regret it." Seeing the healer's severe expression the blonde sighed, stiff shoulders slumping as resignation filled her. "Look, if you had the chance to save everyone that you've ever loved wouldn't you take it, no matter the consequences? I would, no matter what."

Whatever the healer saw in the young girl, whether it was determination or grief Lucy didn't really know, seemed to strike a chord in Porlyusica and her strict expression relaxed the slightest bit, a drop of melancholy bleeding into red eyes. "Hmph, just like everyone else in that insufferable guild," she muttered before sighing loudly, "I get it, girl, so just get out of here already and let this old woman be."

"Thank you for everything Porlyusica-san."

Rather than respond, the healer shooed her away with a broom, watching the girl walk away with her companions, lost in thought.

"We made it!" Happy cried out pulling Lucy away from her musing. She lifted her gaze and felt her breath leave her at the nostalgic view.

Magnolia had always been a beautiful town filled with stunningly crafted stone buildings and lush plant life. When she'd first seen it Lucy had been shocked speechless at the size of it and on top of the hustle and busy of city life, it had been a completely new experience for the rather sheltered girl she'd been. For someone who was used to the sparsely populated Heartfilia estate, it had admittedly taken some time getting used to.

Now, however, it was home and just the sight of it in the distance had her heart soaring in joy. Even though it was still too far away to see the guild, just the thought that it was there had her running to the town, much to the surprise of her companions.

"Hey!" Natsu called out.

"Race you there," she yelled back breathlessly as he and Happy complained about her head start.

As she ran, the blonde stubbornly blinked away the vision of a town razed to the ground, blackened with soot and ash as a hollow wind blew through its empty and broken streets, echoing like the roar of a dragon.

Lucy fought hard to keep the smile on her face but it proved difficult when the next breath she took tasted of smoke and death.




Taking in the sights with all the excitement of a tourist was surprisingly easy for Lucy and more genuine than she had expected it to be. There was just something about taking in the town she'd missed for so long that made it seem almost as if she were seeing it for the very first time.

The smell of bread fresh of the oven from a nearby bakery, a lively fiddle playing a jaunty tune that had people dancing merrily in the park, couples passing by in the gondola that leisurely drifted down the canal. Lucy eagerly soaked in the vibrant ambiance, energized by how alive the city was. She smiled at old shops and restaurants she used to frequent, gave an excited squeal upon seeing her favorite bookstore that had inevitably closed, and shyly greeted people she recognized would become neighbors and friends.

"So what you think?" Natsu asked as they headed further in, "Me and Happy spend most of our time at the guild and we don't really spend much time in town since we live in the forest an' all but it's pretty nice, right? The people are friendly, at least."

"Nice? It's amazing! I've never seen a town as beautiful as this." And that was the truth. Hargeon was magnificent with its picturesque harbor and Crocus may be gorgeous with it blooming flowers but nothing would ever beat the welcoming atmosphere and beauty of Magnolia in her eyes.

Natsu grinned at her awed look, "Then get ready to be even more amazed 'cause we've just made it the best part of Magnolia, Fairy Tail!" He tugged her hand, leading her to a familiar building before letting go to properly enjoy her speechless wonder beside a flying Happy.

As if in a trace she stood before the two story structure, placing a trembling hand on sun warmed stone. It was different from the last guildhall she remember seeing, much simpler in design than the grand building they'd built after Phantom Lord yet better quality then the old shack Twilight Ogre had forced them into. The white stone walls glowed warmly in the afternoon light, contrasting nicely with the bright red shingles and green windows. A bit simple in design perhaps but welcome nonetheless.

'I'm finally home.'

Taking the silence as a sign of admiration, Natsu ushered her to the entrance, "What're you waiting for? Let's go in!"

Slamming the door open, he and Happy bellowed out their standard greeting. Their yells were swallowed up by the din inside, lost in the rush of activity. Lucy trailed after Natsu and Happy slowly, taking in the animated air and merry mages inside with hungry eyes.

Walking in to see Gray parading around in his underwear, to Cana glugging down a barrel of ale, and to Jet and Droy competing for Levy's attention as the rest of the guild dissolved into a flurry of flying fists and magic, sent such a rush of emotion into Lucy that she doubled over.

"Lucy?" Happy called out in worry.

The blonde closed her stinging eyes tightly. It was just too much to take in at once. Sadness and joy mixed together to make her chest ache in a way that was both bitter and sweet in equal measure.

Natsu placed a warm hand on her trembling shoulder, "You okay there, Lucy?" He grew distressed as the slightest hint of salt reached his nose, "Oi…"

Before he could question her further she sprang up, clutching her stomach as laughter burst out from her, cringe worthily fake in her ears and tinged with the slightest bit of hysteria. "This…this is what Fairy Tale's like? Haha…wha-what in Earthland?" she panted out as her fit passed, gaze roaming over the pandemonium that was the norm for the boisterous guild.

Natsu grinned, "Yup. Crazy as hell but home all the same. Here," he said pushing her toward the bar, "come meet Mira and Gramps!" he motioned to where Mirajane and Makarov appeared to be in deep discussion.

"I don't know, Natsu," she disagreed, taking in the serious look on the Master's face and the frantic way Mira was gesticulating while speaking with the old man, "they seem pretty bu – "

Abruptly, Natsu let go of her to rush forward with Happy close behind, "What do you mean Romeo is missing!?" he cried, startling the pair out of their conversation.

Lucy halted in her tracks, bewildered. She tried to recall a memory of this happening but nothing came to mind which only served to sharpen the sudden spike of worry that shot through her.

"Natsu…Happy…" Mira murmured as the boy and feline came to a halt before her and the Master.

Makarov, on the other hand, cast him a stern look, "Lower you voice, brat. We don't want to send everyone in the guildhall into a panic just yet."

Natsu growled, ready to throw a fit when a comforting hand settled on his back, 'calm down' it seemed to say. The Dragonslayer took a deep before facing the old man, "What happened to Romeo while we were away? There's no way Macao would've let him roam off on his own. Guy's fiercely protective of the little tyke."

"A day or so before you left for Hargeon, Macao took on a monster extermination request over on Mt. Hakobe," Mira explained after giving the Master a meaningful glare. "He told everyone that it would only take him three days but it's been almost two weeks now and there's still no sign of him. Romeo was really starting to worry once four day passed he's been pleading with the Master ever since to send someone to look for him," she finished, blue eyes downcast. Mira understood the Master's reasoning for refusing the young boy's request but that didn't mean she agreed with it. What was if with men and their pride? Couldn't they see that someone's life was much more important?

"Gramps," Natsu began, leveling the old man with dark eyes. "It's about time we go looking for him, isn't it?"

The Master didn't answer, merely closing his own eyes in thought trying his best to remain calm. What little Lucy could see of him from behind Natsu, however, betrayed his worry. Tiny fists were clenched so tightly, blue veins stood out on wizened white skin.

"Mirajane," his gravelly voice said at last, "you're absolutely sure that he didn't return home last night?"

The barmaid nodded, "I stopped by their home this morning to take Romeo to school in place of Macao. When he didn't answer the door, I thought he might still be sleeping. But when I went to check his room, he wasn't in bed and the sheets were cold," she cut herself off with a sob, "h-he must've gone after Macao!"

For a brief moment boundless regret fill the Master's features further aging his wrinkled face, but as soon as it appeared it was gone replaced with purpose, "Then we've no time to waste. We must form a search party at once!"

The old man wasted no time in expanding to twice his size, immediately commanding the attention of every person in the guild-hall. He succinctly explained the situation to all of Fairy Tail in a booming voice.

Amidst growing buzz and commotion, confusion settled over the Lucy as she wondered why exactly this was happening. In the early days of her time in Fairy Tail she could vaguely remember a time Romeo had argued with the Master and how cross the little boy had been with the old man, even going as far to punch the Master in the face Still, the little boy had never made any indication that he would go out looking for his father if no one else was willing and the dispute had eventually led to her, Natsu and Happy going on mini adventure to Mt. Hakobe.

As Lucy thought about what she'd done differently to prompt this distressing outcome, a growing pit formed in her stomach and she paled as realization struck.

Before, the three of them had arrived at the guild days earlier and had witnessed the events Mira had described first hand, which is why they had been able to handle the problem so swiftly. Their quick response, in turn, prevented the boy from even considering going off on his own. Because Romeo admired the Dragonslayer immensely and trusted wholeheartedly in Natsu's strength there was no need to worry, for his 'older brother' would surely bring his daddy back home.

Now, however, everything was different. Natsu and Happy had wasted days waiting for her to recover, completely derailing the timeline of events. Macao hadn't been missing for a week, he'd been gone for nearly two, and there was too much stubbornness in Romeo to stand around doing nothing for that long no matter what the Master said.

So without the Dragonslayer around to ensure that Macao returned and faced with the Master's seemingly unconcerned countenance, left with no other options Romeo had decided to venture out on his own.

When she pictured the tiny boy shivering in the cold, charging headlong into the violent snowstorms of Mt. Hakobe, terror gripped her heart so tightly she wouldn't be surprised if it never beat again.

'This is all my fault' she thought with complete and utter horror.

Less than a week into her return and already she was screwing everything up.





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