To Save the Future

"Now we've really done it, guys."

Lucy groaned as she slid down the stone wall of the cell. It wasn't the same one that she and Yukino had occupied previously, but it may as well have been. It was equally unpleasant and a horrible draft drifted up from the the cracks in the floor.

Natsu growled, curling his fists around the bars of the cell in a failed attempt at melting them. "LET US OUT OF HERE ARKADIOS!" he bellowed. Lucy was afraid he would resort to chewing on the bars.

"Give it a rest, will ya, Natsu?" Lucy scolded him. There was no way they were getting out unless Fairy Tail won the games, so there was no point in wasting energy. "This is a magic muting cell. Your fire isn't going to work."

"What's that matter?" Natsu snapped, casting her a glance that made her stomach boil in anger. "We freakin' helped save his ass—"

"—language!" Carla interjected.

"—from those stupid executioners," he continued unfazed, "only for him to turn around and throw us all back into prison again?"

"I'm sorry," Yukino whispered from the corner floor of the cell. She was so quiet, it was easy to forget that she was still there with them. "Though I agree with whatever Arkadios deems necessary for the best of the kingdom, I do regret that he has gone about locking you all up." Her lip quivered. "You do not deserve this."

"Oh, don't worry," Wendy tried for a cheerful smile but it was clear that she was just as frightened. "We know it's not your fault, Yukino. It's just bad luck is all."

Mira sat on the floor beside the other white haired girl. "Yeah! So don't beat yourself up over it, okay? We're gonna get through this."

Yukino smiled, but it was small and looked forced. Lucy frowned, glancing back to Natsu who had yet to calm down in his efforts at ripping the bars down. Not only was he straining himself to pull them apart, but he was trying to squeeze his body through the dangerously narrow gaps in the bars.

"Natsu!" Lucy surged forward, wrapping her arms around his middle to pull him back which stimulated a great sense of deja vu. He grunted, starting to fight against her when she yelled out, "think of Happy and Wendy!" He paused, muscles becoming rigid against her arms. "You're scaring them more than they already are!" She tried to keep her emotions in check but her voice still managed to crack.

Natsu let go of the bars. Lucy released her hold on him and he turned to look at her in the face. Reaching down, he used his thumb to wipe away the tear forming at the crease of her eye before moving on to where Happy was cowering in Wendy's lap with tears in his eyes. Carla and Lily watched solemnly off to the side.

"I'm sorry, guys," he apologized. Natsu offered a soft smile and ruffled Wendy's hair playfully as he sat beside her. Happy vaulted into his lap, nestling his face into Natsu's scarf as he cried against his stomach. "Ah, what's wrong little buddy?"

Happy looked up at him, snot dripping down his cheeks. "Natsu? We're not going to die are we?"

If the cell could have become even more tense, it did. Mira sat with her arm looped around Yukino's neck in a sisterly way, the two of them watching curiously. Wendy had tears brimming in her eyes, which Carla wiped away with her paw. Even Lily was eagerly awaiting a response.

Lucy watched Natsu closely as he rubbed the back of his neck. He looked troubled, and that wasn't a good sign. He was usually so confident and positive, so the sudden solemness of his behavior was off-putting.

"Of course we're not going to die, little buddy." Natsu tried to cover up his brief hesitation with a cheerful smile but he wasn't fooling anyone. "Something just smells off. Whatever they're trying to do with that Eclipse doesn't set well with me."

"How did it smell, Natsu?" Mira asked.

Natsu's smiled faded slowly. "Old. Musky. Powerful."

His gaze fell on Lucy and judging by his eyes, she knew what he neglecting to say out loud.

It smelled evil too.

The first problem was when the ground began to shake.

Lucy tightened her grip around Wendy, who had been sleeping next to her. The small girl was trembling uncontrollably, burrowing herself into Lucy's chest as best she could. "What's happening?" Wendy whimpered.

"Why's the earth shaking?" Yukino asked, sitting up on her knees. She kept her palms on the floor to keep herself from falling over.

"If we knew, we would tell you child!" Carla exclaimed. The poor cat staggered across the floor only to collapse only a few feet short from Wendy.

"Natsu?" Happy cried.

Natsu dragged himself across the floor to the barred door which wasn't that far from where he had bedded down for the night. "They opened it," he muttered darkly.

"The Eclipse?" Lily demanded.

Lucy sat up, keeping Wendy close to her chest as she caressed her head comfortingly. "There's so much power! It's insane!"

"That's not the Eclipse." The earth's shaking intensified, but Natsu stood up as if there was no problem at all. Lucy's eyes widened in horror. It couldn't be what he was implying could it?

"What do you mean?" Mira asked. "What could it be."

"There's no fooling my nose." Natsu growled as he attempted to destroy the bars again. "Those are dragons. And the guards have left us here to die."

"You said we wouldn't die—"

Happy's words were cut short as the entire side of the cell crumbled. Previously, Lucy had thought that the dungeon was ground level, but it seemed as though they were in some sort of isolated tower above the main part of the castle.

Yukino toppled over the edge followed by Mira, both too disoriented to do anything to save themselves.

"Mira! Yukino!" Lucy screamed, tears becoming a torrent down her face. She hugged Wendy and Carla harder to reassure herself they were still there.

"Mira!" Natsu dove forward, his upper body leaning over the edge of the crumbling rock. Lucy knew that they were gone before he sat back on his heels with tears beading in his eyes. His tears never got to fall though, because suddenly his eyes were round with horrified wonder.

"Natsu?" Lucy screamed over the terrible screeching outside, as if the crumbling tower wasn't enough. Happy clung to her waist from behind, his tears making her back wet.

He didn't reply, but Lucy got her answer. Through the gaping hole in the wall, she saw what Crocus had become; the bloodred sky, the fires, the smoke. And the dragons. "Thousands," she muttered to herself as she watched the menacing creatures raid the city below. She tasted the salt of tears on her tongue.

Lily tugged on her arm urgently. "We need to get out of here now."

Lucy nodded. Lily was right. They were sitting ducks here and they couldn't afford another attack where they were utterly vulnerable. "Come on, Wendy," she whispered hoarsely, helping Wendy to her feet. "We need to get out of here."

Wendy nodded, wiping away her tears. It pained Lucy to see the small Dragon Slayer in such a state. Lucy had watched Wendy grow into a strong, confident young lady over the course of a few months, but looking at her now, she resembled the timid Cait Shelter wizard she used to be.

"Natsu," Lucy called again, and this time the pink haired boy broke from his stupor.

"Lucy," he blinked, tearing his gaze away from the red skies. His eyes roamed her face and then settled on Wendy. "Carla, carry Wendy. Lily, get Lucy. C'mon, Happy. We're flying out of here."

Lucy didn't want to let Wendy go—she had become a safety blanket for Lucy as much as Lucy had been for Wendy. But she relinquished her hold. Then she was suddenly in the air, securely held by a giant black Exceed. "Are you alright?" Lily asked.

Lucy nodded, but tears rolled down her cheeks as she stared at the ground as they flew. Somewhere below them, Yukino and Mira laid lifeless.

It was hard to see through her tears, but Lucy strained her eyes to see ahead. The sky seemed even more red outside and the air was heavily tainted with smoke. Her eyes burned from the smell of sulfur. Carla and Wendy were not too far ahead with Happy and Natsu leading the pack. Despite the fact the she was shaking violently and her heart pounded in fear, Lucy felt a small sense of relief knowing that Natsu was leading them.

If anyone could lead them to safety, it would be him.

Looking to the sky again, one disturbing thought crossed her mind; they had witnessed and experienced the proof of the dragon's presence, so why hadn't they seen any in the sky?

And worse, where were their other friends at Fairy Tail?

The closer they got to the edge of the city, the more nervous Lucy became. Nothing had bothered them thus far, so it had to be a matter of time before something bad happened. They were less than a hundred yards from potential safety when Lucy felt herself falling towards the earth.

It took her another second to realize that she, along with the others, had been slapped from the sky by a dragon's claw. She knew she was going to die. As she plummeted, she finally understood the meaning of life flashing before my eyes because a swarm of memories with her friends surfaced.

She wondered what Heaven would be like. She wondered if any of their other friends were dead yet. She wondered if her dad would be happy to see her after so long.

And then, she hit the ground.

The first thing she noticed was that she wasn't dead, which was truly remarkable by the way.

There was no evidence of anything to have broken her fall considering she was lying on a pile of boulders with no buildings or trees in sight, which meant Horologium must of saved her life. The thought made her eyes water in anger.

Why? Why did she have to survive?

Why did she get to be alive while Mira and Yukino were dead back at the palace and Wendy and the others were separated from her, probably dying themselves? Why couldn't she die, and be with them? Why was she always the one being left behind?

It was selfish, she knew, to want to die while she was alive when so many others lost their lives without consent at all. What would Mira think if she heard her say words like this?

Pushing herself up, Lucy ignored the flaming pain in her side. "Wendy? Carla? Happy? Lily?" She hesitated. "Natsu?"

A crumbling behind her brought her attention to the castle a distance away. The remaining part of the tower that had held their cell fell to the earth. And above it...a giant swarm of dragons were coming in her direction.

The multitude of them blew fire in various directions, but the one in front targeted Lucy. Rearing it's head, it released a gust of flame that roared in her direction. If falling from the sky and living had been luck, then her luck was about to run out. On the bright side, at least she'd get her wish, though when faced with death she wasn't as fond of the idea as before.

The flame closed in, the solar wind flapping her pigtails that were miraculously still intact. She braced herself for the searing of her flesh, but it never came. "Sorry, Lucy," Natsu's familiar voice greeted, and Lucy opened her eyes.

He was alone. And it pained her heart to know that the others were gone now, too.

Natsu wiped his mouth on his arm from consuming the flames. "Cocky lizards." He steeled himself, anger flashing in his eyes. "Listen up, ugly! You just picked a fight with the wrong guy! I'm Natsu Dragneel of the Fairy Tail guild. I'm a dragon slayer." He punched one fist into his other hand. "And I'm here to do just that."

"Natsu," Lucy whimpered. She didn't want to try, but she couldn't help herself. The loss was too much.

"Stay back, Lucy," he said, and Lucy caught how his voice cracked slightly. "Things aren't going to be pretty."

He jumped at the dragon before she could stop him, but what could they really do? They would be dragon chow if they didn't fight, so it was worth trying to go out fighting. She grabbed at her keys. "T-t-t-aurus!" she stuttered, holding the key forward. Nothing happened.

She fished around for another key. "V-v-virgo!"

Likewise, nothing happened. She was too weak. And it probably wasn't safe for a portal from Earthland to the Celestial World to take place. She was a sitting duck, left to watch Natsu. Tears leaked down her eyes further. "Natsu!"

He ran straight ahead at the dragon fearlessly. That idiot! He was going to get himself killed!

"Natsu!" she ran at him, hoping to intercept him and push him to the side. He may not see it since he's overly confident, but that dragon was toying with him. The moment he got too close, it was going to swallow him up!

"Lucy?" She saw him mouth her name as she got closer. His eyes widened suddenly, and then he was running toward her, effectively making her stop in her tracks, dumbfounded which in retrospect was a bad idea.

He jumped the last few feet, using his body as a shield as he wrapped his arms around her head and torso. The impact came next and Lucy instantly knew she was an idiot. She had left herself open to attack, and now Natsu was risking his butt to save her again.

Lucy wasn't sure how far they were thrown, but they tumbled and rolled a long distance before coming to an eery halt. Then they teetered over some sort of edge and they were falling again.

The first thing she noticed, once again, was that she wasn't dead. Yippee.

Her body hurt, her throat was dry, and it felt like she hadn't gone to the bathroom in days. How long had she been out? Much longer than the first time.

Lucy shifted only to find herself stuck. Jerking herself away, she found Natsu's form below her. His skin was grey and his muscles stiff. His body was cold to the touch and dried blood decorated a hulking wound on his head.

Tears prickled Lucy's eyes as she slapped both of her hands over her mouth to stop her screams. "No, no, no, no, no, no, no…." she whispered, reaching her palms toward him. She cupped his lifeless face in her hands, willing him to open his eyes and flash her one of his stupid grins.

Anything for that grin. She'd trade her soul if it meant he'd come back.

"Natsu," she said firmly, swallowing her tears. "Come on," her voice broke, "we have...we have adventures to go on, right?"

He remained motionless, just as she knew he would. Wetness dribbled down her face and onto his close, soaking his tattered jacket. "Please," she cried, resting her face to his chest. "You can't leave me too, Natsu. I'm sorry for everything mean I've ever said. I'm sorry for getting angry when you and H-happy burst into my apartment. I'm sorry for yelling all of the time. I'm just...so sorry." She wheezed into his stiff form. Her lungs hurt from breathing in so much smoke.

"If you would just open your eyes," she gulped, "I promise to be a better friend. Because you were always the best friend I could have." Lucy squeezed her eyes tighter and sat up so she could look at his face. "I never told you, but I loved your smile. It always made me feel better. And, and, I know I acted like I hated it when you would drag me along on your and Happy's fishing trips but I really loved being with you guys, Natsu. Please don't leave me."

Her eyes settled on his scarf; the scarf that had meant so much to him, given to him by his father, was caked in blood around the fringes. Carefully, Lucy scooped up the scarf and held it to her face and cried into it. It still smelled like him despite how dirty it was and that only made her cry harder.

It wasn't fair. Of them all, Natsu had survived so much only to be struck down by the very creatures he had admired all of his life. It wasn't—

A hollow groaning startled Lucy so bad she nearly peed herself, compliments of being passed out for a few days. She hadn't noticed, but they had ended up back at the castle. The ground was cracked, the castle was totalled, and fires were burning everywhere but it was definitely the castle. And there stood the Eclipse in all of it's painful glory.

She wanted to burn it. Destroy it. If it hadn't existed, this wouldn't have happened. Who in their right mind wouldn't know that a time machine was a bad—

Time machine….

Lucy hated herself for the idea, but it seemed like the only choice. Wiping her tears a final time, Lucy folded Natsu's scarf and set it on his chest tenderly.

"I'll see you soon, Natsu," she vowed. "I'm going to save your future."

Steeling herself, Lucy approached the Gate.

...

12/12/16