A/N: This chapter was largely untouched save for the tense change, but it should be a good refresher for what comes next.
Disclaimer: I do not own Fairy Tail, Hiro Mashima does. I also do not own any of the songs used at the beginning and end of the chapters.
The rain of this season,
The water of this rain,
The droplets of water,
They're searching for you.
This desire to meet,
This desire is old.
My story completes only through you.
Friday, October 15th, X792.
The second Plue bursts through the doors, Cobra knows something is wrong.
"Puuun!" the spirit wails to anyone who will listen. "Puun! Puun, puuun!"
"What is it?" Cobra asks sharply. The Guild falls into a hush. It isn't often that Lucy lets the Canis Minor roam around on its own. In fact, she never lets Plue out of sight. Cobra exchanges a look with Midnight. The reflector mage is already on his feet and ready to go. That's the nice thing about Midnight; he just understands.
"Puun!" Plue waves his hands animatedly. "Puun, puuun!"
"Should we get him a chalkboard?" Mira asks. Cobra shakes his head. "Takes too long to spell. We need something faster."
Kinana perks up. "Words! Plue, does this have to do with Lucy?"
Plue nods vehemently.
"Is Luce in trouble?" Natsu demands from his corner where he has Gray still locked in a semi-loose chokehold. The Ice Mage is too concerned with the situation at hand to break free. Plue nods again.
"What kind?" Erza presses. "New enemy? Was it a Guild?" Plue shakes his head. "Old enemy from a Guild?"
Plue pauses. "Puun."
"Half right," Cobra says. "That's all I need to know. Which way?"
Plue bolts for the doors and waves his little paw. He will lead them there, then. Cobra clears the room in three quick strides, Midnight on his heels, and turns abruptly. "The rest of you stay here. We can't have a stampede out on the streets. Salamander and Stripper go hunt down the amnesiac. Emo prince, little dragon, you're with me. I-"
Cobra's hand suddenly lashes out to grab the door frame to keep himself from stumbling. There are absolutely no words to describe the sudden wave of terror and pain that hits him. Little Erik from the Tower dominates his thoughts right now and little Erik knows that when someone is in this much pain it means he's next and he needs to hide and run away and make himself as small as possible so no one knows he exists because if he doesn't exist then no one can hurt him. But little Erik from the Tower was dead and all that is left is Cobra, and the only thing Cobra knows to do is fight until the threat is eliminated.
"What the fuck is that?" Laxus mutters from the second floor. Cobra's eye swivels up and pins him with the most serious gaze he can muster. "You can feel it?"
"Feels like the night of the Dragon Festival," Sting says. Beside him, pale as the napkin he is gripping, Rogue nods in slow agreement. Cobra furrows his brow. While he hadn't been all too involved with the main mess during the Festival, he's heard a lot of things about it from the others - their souls, to be exact - and, out of respect for Rogue, Cobra never pries for details (he is cruel, but even he has his limits). What he does know, however, is that the Shadow Slayer is too close to the incident for his liking, and if this is some freak recurrence then Rogue won't be able to stay rational and Cobra needs rational.
"Change of plans," Cobra says shortly. "Rogue, you're staying here and running base. Laxus, Wendy, let's go."
"I can handle it," Rogue says coldly. "Do not treat me like I am a child."
"Fine, you wanna be treated like an adult? Fine. You're still a traumatized mess no matter how hard you try to play it off and I don't need to be dealing with you having a panic attack in the corner when we might be facing off against your evil twin again. Happy?" Rogue purses his lips but says nothing. Cobra nods. "Right. We're wasting time, let's go."
Saturday, October 16th, X792.
Laxus offers to lightning-teleport them there individually but Cobra declines on the grounds of practicality. If the deluded freak (as Future Rogue has been christened in the thirty seconds after they'd exited the Guild) is present then leaving one person behind to grab the rest is tantamount to suicide. Jogging is slower, but safer.
"Cobra," Laxus says quietly as he catches up to him. "Lucy."
"What about her?"
"There's a chance she may have walked into this," Laxus says.
"I know. She's fought him once before, she'll do it again." Cobra shakes his head. "I don't hear her anywhere near this, though."
"Doesn't mean she's not involved." Cobra turns his head fully, pinning his fellow second-gen with a chilling glare. "Do you think I can't tell my girlfriend's soul apart from the millions out there?"
"Have you ever heard her soul in genuine distress?" Laxus challenges. Cobra grinds his teeth sharply and speeds up.
"Guys!" Wendy shouts. "Look!" She points to the sky. A soft, radiant golden shimmer soars towards the sky in a thin column. Cobra stands still, frozen in place by the anguish and acceptance that pulses from the epicentre, each wave filling his chest with lead. His three teammates stand by in silence. To a degree, Laxus and Wendy can feel what he is feeling. Not the exact emotions, but their heightened senses can probably pick up on the general sentiment and are thus paralyzed by it. Midnight can't feel any of it, but he silently waits for them to get their bearings.
"What the fuck," Laxus says, rubbing his chest. "That was messed up."
Wendy wipes at her eyes. "It was so sad," she says softly. "It felt like a goodbye."
"Death," Midnight murmurs. Lucy, Midnight thinks. Laxus's comments from before ring in Cobra's head. What is it Wendy was always saying? N equals two, time to think it through? Cobra doesn't exactly have the necessary time to think through the statistics behind Lucy meeting the deluded freak for a second time and dying, but he does have his ears and his ears never lie.
He hears Lucy, Mest, and then nothing.
Wendy gets there first. Cobra catches up to her just as she starts inspecting the surrounding area for any clues. "I smell Future Rogue," she reports. "And Lucy and Mest."
"Except they're all gone," Laxus says. "Let's assume the golden light was Rogue leaving. Why would Mest grab Lucy and run?"
"Rogue travels by shadows," Midnight replies. "Not him. And Lucy could have been injured."
"No blood, no sign of a struggle," Wendy says. She jerks back suddenly, as if she'd just been hit. "But...during the festival...that same gold was how the future travellers...went back."
"So you're saying Rogue went back?" Cobra asks. "Why would he come here for two minutes and leave?"
"To take Lucy. Mest might have been collateral," Midnight puts out. This time it's Laxus who disagrees. "No. Lucy and Mest's trails are fresher."
"And there was a secondary pulse in the air. That's Mest's teleportation," Wendy says. "I've seen him do it so many times I know."
"If they went back to the Guild then they would have sent a messenger to tell us," Laxus says. Cobra nods absentmindedly. His mind is racing with plans and thoughts of Lucy. He can't concentrate if he's panicking over her so he pushes those feelings down with the semi-reassuring fact that Mest is with her and she'll be okay with a partner and focuses on planning. He is good at that.
"Laxus, go back to the Guild and give them a brief update. Split them up into squadrons, you know best how, then meet us at Lucy's place. Mest lives in the same complex so they might have gone there," Cobra orders. Laxus gives a short nod and disappears with a booming clap. Cobra turns to Wendy. "You have medical supplies?"
"Some in my bag." She touches the drawstrings. "I can stock up at Lucy and Mest's. I keep some extra stuff there."
"Good. Get what you can when we get there. Midnight, do a sweep, top to bottom of both their rooms."
"What will you be doing?"
His sole eye hardens. "Tracking Lucy."
Saturday, October 16th, X792.
"I sent out five four-man cells and sent an alert to the other Guilds. Nothing specific, just that two of our members were missing and to be on the lookout." Laxus says. Cobra feels his eyes on the back of his head. "I told Rogue's team to head in the opposite direction of the scene. They won't be able to get his scent. Oh, and I separated Natsu, Gray, and Erza."
Cobra snorts. "Least we won't have to worry about the entire town being leveled in this mess. Go do something useful."
"Fuck you, too," Laxus calls as he goes to go join Wendy in the bathroom. Cobra closes his eye again, focusing on Lucy. Because he knows her soul best it'll be easier to get a general distance using her as a reference.
Tracking isn't as oversimplified as it is in those shitty movies Lucy likes watching. It's a lot more like cell towers. He sends out a ping, he'll get a subconscious ping back, and he'll work from there. Back during the Oracion Séis' glory days it was slightly more precise because he would use the Séis as the 'third tower' and pin down a closer location. Whoever was nearest got the pleasure of executing the job and the person. Using Mest as a 'third tower' will be useless because of how close he is to Lucy, so Cobra will have to settle for being less accurate.
Cobra searches deep in his soul for the bit of Lucy he'll use as the tag to find her. He visualizes little ribbons of his soul magic, silky and flowing, twirling as they search for her. Lucy, are you there? He asks with each meter the ribbons flew past. Answer me. Lucy, are you there?
Erik. There. So quiet he can barely hear it, but it's there. He focuses his magic in that direction, stretching the ribbons further and further and further and-
Erik. That's his ping. The gentle bounce of her magic. Cobra bites his cheek and concentrates on the one ribbon that's registered Lucy. He's done the distance calculations before. This is no different. So you tell yourself.
"Got her," he snaps. I'm coming, Lucy.
"Where?" Midnight asks. Laxus raises an eyebrow. "Where have you been?"
"Checking the floor plans for any safe rooms they could have gone to."
"How did you wake up Hilda at this time of night for that?"
"I didn't." Midnight's dark lips curl up wickedly. "Who needs permission if she's never going to know?"
"If I did my math right, they're about ten kilometers East," Cobra says. Laxus starts. "That's the woods. Why would they go to the woods?"
"Granny Porly," Wendy breathes. Her brown eyes shine in horror. "Someone's hurt."
Cobra's heart seizes momentarily before he straightens up and exhales sharply. There are a thousand reasons they could have gone to Porlyusica's other than treatment and even if someone is hurt (but nobody is, he stresses) then they're in good hands. Losing his shit now won't save Lucy so he rotates his wrists and waits for them to crack and the tension to release. Calm, calm, calm, calm as an innocent fawn. Sorano used to love repeating that before missions.
"Then we book it," Laxus says gravely. "I'll call off the search when we get confirmation." He pulls his phone and scrolls through his contacts, tapping one and pressing the device to his ears. "Kinana, it's Laxus. Cobra did a trace and we think they're at Granny Porly's. Keep that bit quiet, we don't need a mob at her place. Do me a favour and prep the infirmary. If anyone asks just say it's a precaution."
Wendy perks up. "Tell her to get four milligrams of ativan ready in case Lucy needs sedation. And get some IV's prepped. And-"
"Imagine you're getting ready for me returning from an S-class and throw in ativan," Laxus deadpans and hung up. Wendy looks the closest to annoyed as she's ever come.
"Let's get to Dragon Granny's," Cobra sighs. "This century would be preferable."
Eastern Magnolia Forest, Fiore.
Saturday, October 16th, X792.
Cobra hates the woods. There are a million too many sounds to focus on and trying to tune them out is a lot like trying to plug a giant hole in a tank with matchsticks. It's easier now that he has something to focus all of his attention on but that doesn't mean he won't gripe about it.
"Is it possible to get West Nile out here?" Laxus slaps his neck yet again. "Wendy? Is it?"
"Maybe. I'd have to check the health department's findings for this term, but I doubt it. We would have heard it on the news." Laxus looks more disturbed than relieved at the news. "There is a vaccine for this, yeah?"
Wendy remains silent and steps over yet another thick root. If the situation were anything else, then Cobra might have laughed at the unease that spread across the normally stoic man's face. "Wendy?" Laxus calls again. "Hey, wait, is there? Wendy?"
"We should be there in another five minutes," Midnight tells Cobra. "Are you getting anything?"
The poison dragon slayer tilts his head. "Lucy's out. She's either asleep or sedated and I'm not getting anything."
"Have you tried Mest?" Cobra shakes his head. "If I lose Lucy we're screwed."
"We know where they are."
"We made a logical conclusion," Cobra corrects. "In reality, she could be anywhere in the same area. I lose Lucy, I lose my trace. Who knows if she'll ping back the second time."
"You have to give it a try," Midnight says. "It's a risk we have to take."
Cobra smiles grimly and points ahead. "Nope. Porly's ahoy."
It's always so odd dropping by the hermit-lady's house the few times he's been. Compared to the various modern structures of Magnolia that he's grown accustomed to, the odd shack Porlyusica resides in sticks out like a sore thumb in his mind. Not that he has any room to talk given that he vividly remembers living in a giant blue crystal-tower-thing at one point.
"There's a barrier," Laxus points out. He taps the barrier with his foot and watches as a ripple of purple runes flash in response. Cobra resists the urge to growl in frustration. Runes are a weak spot for him. He can't understand anything about them because that's always been more of Racer's thing. He regrets never taking him up on those rune dissolving lessons.
"I've been around Freed long enough to know a thing or two," Laxus offers. He nudges his foot again. "Those look a lot like your basic 'you can't come in' runes." He lifts his hand and hits the barrier in front of his face several times, watching carefully. "These are, uh...privacy ones. I have something similar. You can't listen in no matter what."
"How did I find Lucy, then?"
"Your connection must be pretty strong. I'm guessing you can't hear Granny or Mest?" At Cobra's nod, Laxus continues, "That's why. Lucy might be weak here because of this but you can still get a feel for her."
"Can you break these?" Midnight asks. Laxus clickes his tongue. "Nope. Not gonna try, either. Because.. " he hovers his index finger a little off the barrier and swings it around while mouthing something. Eventually, he pokes a spot and sighs when the runes grow a dark purple in response. "Because I was right. You mess up in the code and you mess up the runes. They'll default to intruder and set off booby traps."
"Paranoid bitch," Cobra hisses.
"And well within reason," Porlyusica sneers as she opens the front door. "So annoying brats like you learn to leave me alone. Wendy, get in and go to the back. Don't start anything until I get in."
Wendy's gone before the instructions are finished. Cobra crosses his arms and rises to his full 6'1. "And us?"
"Unless you can behave and avoid interrogating the Council boy then you're all staying out here," Porlyusica grouches. "No need to worry. Everyone is physically fine. Mostly."
"Who got hurt?" Cobra rotates his wrists. Calm, calm, calm, calm as an innocent fawn. Don't be Lucy, don't be Lucy, don't be Lucy, don't be Lucy-
"The blonde and the Council boy are both fine," Porlyusica says. Relief sweeps through his chest just as the exhaustion from his search sets into his bones and turns them into metal weights. He's...tired. Worried. Tired and worried.
"Then who's hurt?" Midnight wonders. "You said that mostly everyone was physically fine. If Lucy and Mest are okay, who isn't?"
Pity clouds Porlyusica's eyes and she steps back to hold her door open for them. "You'd better come in. This...this is going to take a bit."
Cobra crosses the barrier, and he can hear everything.
For the first time in a long time, he wishes he can't.
There is no one in between us,
Only you and I are here.
Tell me, then, why is there distance between us?
A/N: Cobra and Laxus are my favourite squabbling duo to write for. The second gen slayers really have me hooked. I also enjoy chase scenes, if this chapter hasn't made it obvious.
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