After that crazy surge of magical power that had struck me in the midst of our last job and left me gasping for breath, I kind of guessed that there was something wrong with me. I was probably lucky that none of the others had been nearby when it had happened, so I didn't have to struggle through some bogus excuse. I wouldn't have known where to begin! And this wasn't one of those helpful surges of power, like when you seem to be down for the count but suddenly you get a boost and can go on. No, it was nothing like the energy I'd felt when I'd helped to save Loke. It was different. This was as though I had lost control of my magical power and it was the excess. It kind of built inside me, so I knew that something was starting, and then it all just released at once, like some kind of explosion. And it hurt. Worse than destroying the lachrima of the Thunder Palace when they had body link magic on them. Even worse than being brutally beaten by the master of Oración Seis. And if I didn't know why or how it was happening, what could I tell the others?

So I kept quiet once we got back, trying to research it on my own.

The second attack came as I prepared to get out of a nice, relaxing bath. I started to stand and was suddenly engulfed in my magical power, the feeling almost suffocating me. This was how the tension built, and just as had happened the first time, the explosive force of the release caused me to fall back into my warm water, shrieking in agony. I had no doubt that I'd woken my neighbors, and I thought that even Natsu might have heard me.

Even as the pain subsided, I noticed a dozen or so scratches across my legs and arms and stomach, oozing just enough blood that it colored the water a very, very light pink. With my legs shaking, I stood and managed to climb out, rushing to dry myself off and get rid of my minor injuries with a magic salve. I got dressed in my pajamas and drained the water, rinsing out the tub. I was rushing just in case a neighbor came to check up on me or my frantic teammates from Fairy Tail burst through the doors.

Natsu was there just seconds after I had managed to climb into my bed, and he was asking what was wrong just as frantically as I had pictured.

"It's nothing," I told him, and I cursed my shaking voice as I did so, "I just had a nightmare, is all."

"Are you sure?" Natsu asked concernedly. "You sounded like you were hurt, Luce!"

"I-it was just a part of my nightmare," I dismissed his concern. He reluctantly relented, but remained sitting on the edge of my bed, even after I had turned my back on him.

It broke my heart to lie to him like that, straight to his face, but I didn't want to worry him until I knew what was wrong with me. I cared about Natsu, so much. As more than just a nakama. I just couldn't worry him without knowing what was really going on inside of me. He meant too much to me for that.

And then, a week later when I found the information that I had been looking for, I knew I couldn't tell anyone. None of my nakama could know, none of the friends I had made in Fairy Tail for the year and a half that I had been there. It was just something I couldn't say. And it's not as if I wanted to hide things from them, but I couldn't burden them with the knowledge. It would be too cruel. And for the same reasons, I also knew I couldn't stay there.

I had been researching avidly for the last month, searching and searching for the answer to what was happening to me. I'd looked through medical texts, but none of them had what I'd been looking for. And then I started pouring through magic histories, and I found some books on magical illnesses and ailments. I'd gone through perhaps fifty or more, my special glasses speeding up the process considerably, but it still took ages. And I finally found it, when I'd all but given up all hope of discovering the reason. I still kind of wish I'd remained blissfully ignorant, so I wouldn't have the urge to leave.

The passage I had found went something like this:

"Magical Overflow: this is a deadly affliction for any mage to have. Magical Overflow stems from the mage delving deep within themselves and unlocking their hidden reserves of magical power, and thus releasing it. After the mage uses this power, he or she will lose control of it and for the next several months have recurring bursts of their power. The first time will have been the weakest, and from then on the strength behind the magical explosions that rack the mage's body will increase, capable of causing dizziness and minor scratches. As time wears on, these injuries will become more serious. With each day, week, and month that passes, the powerful influx of magic will become more and more capable of harming not only the affected, but those around them. Towards the end, the mage's Magical Overflow will become fatal, not only to the mage but to anyone around him or her. This end is around one year from the appearance of the ailment, or in one single, rare case, two years. Rune and Celestial mages tend to succumb earlier, their bodies weaker than that of another type of mage. Whatever the time span, nearly every single mage to contract this condition will deteriorate under the pressure. There is no known cure for Magical Overflow, and no escaping its end. The inevitable result is death."

At first, I sat and stared blankly at the book in front of me. I was going to die? When I was still only eighteen years old, my life was already flashing before my eyes. What of my future - or the future I had dreamed of? Would everything I had done come to nothing in the end? For some strange reason, I could not draw my gaze away from the word death. What did everything in life mean, then, if even I could be dead in less than a year? It said celestial mages were more susceptible to it, after all. Would my life have any meaning at all, other than to cause grief and pain to those I'd become so close to here in Magnolia?

Never, in all my eighteen, almost nineteen years, had I expected to have death shoved in my face so early. And to think, that after I'd worked so hard to be a strong mage that everyone could count on, it would be that same magical power that would be the end of me! These wild fluctuations of magic that swirled around me, causing such pain as had never been felt by me before now! Dying would probably be the only way to end all the pain that they caused, and the attacks were only going to get worse from here on out. Would I desperately desire to die before the end came? To just end my life and make it all go away? Could I really be so weak as to want to snuff my young life out even a little earlier, just so that I could be free from pain and suffering?

Death. It had always seemed so far away, a fact of life, yet still so distant. But now the word just left a bitter taste in my mouth, a rancid pestilence that would poison me from the inside out. And I couldn't even open my mouth to say it out loud. Death. How hard a word was it to say, for someone as literate and scholarly as I myself was? Apparently it was so much harder, now that it was fast approaching me; an inevitable fate from which I could find no solace. He was coming for me - Death himself would be at my doorstep sometime in this next year. The thought numbed me inside.

And then I thought about my friends, and the warmth tried to come back, but then faltered. What would they do when I told them? They would, undoubtedly, try to find a cure. They'd run themselves ragged, nearly pushing themselves to death, just so I wouldn't have to be the one to die. I couldn't do that to them. I couldn't let them know, so in effect, I had to let them go.

I couldn't let them watch me waste away and die in front of them, knowing they could do nothing.

So, even though it pained me to do so, I packed a single suitcase with clothes, hooking my keys and my whip on my belt like usual. I packed nothing else. I picked up my finally completed novel and took it with me to the post office, asking them to wait three days and then deliver it to Levy-chan at the Fairy Tail dorms. I paid them all that they asked for and then made my way to where the owner of my apartment lived. I told her that I wouldn't be needing the rooms anymore and also asked for him to wait those three days and then donate everything in it to the girl's dorm belonging to Fairy Tail. I paid the kindly woman my last month of rent plus some and left before she could protest.

I found my way onto the first train out of Magnolia, aiming to get as far away from there as I possibly could.

"I'm sorry," I said softly into the air, closing my eyes and resisting the urge to look back.

Tears fell silently down my cheeks.

It had been three days since anyone had seen Lucy Heartfilia, and her teammates sat dejectedly at a table. She hadn't been in her apartment at all in the last three days—at least when they had checked—and no one they had asked had seen her. Mirajane even confirmed that Lucy had not, in fact, accepted a job on her own to be able to pay her rent (which would be due, Erza had recalled, any day now).

A shout from right outside got their attention and the doors burst open to reveal a panting, sweaty, and exhausted Levy McGarden. She continued sprinting, tripping at the table of Team Natsu but catching herself just in time on the edge of it.

"I have terrible news!" the blue haired girl wailed, looking at the team whose table she'd run into. Everyone present in the guild was shocked at her actions, but most especially at the tears that were absolutely pouring down her cheeks. Then the girl slumped to the ground, sobbing into her hands as the rest of the guild sank deeper into their shock. She didn't even look like she was making an attempt to stop crying, and they would soon figure out why.

"What is it, Levy?" Mirajane had come out from behind the bar with just one glance at the distraught girl's face and had gone to kneel beside her where she had dropped.

"I g-got something in the mail today, right?" she said, her eyes wide and wet as she looked first at Mira, then to the team to which Lucy belonged. "And then a whole bunch of clothes and furniture got donated to the dorm! It's horrible!"

"What's wrong with that…?" Gray asked, very confused as to why Levy was crying over something like that.

"The thing in the mail was the finished story, and the donated stuff was all hers, too! They said she moved out of her apartment and told them to give everything in it to Fairy Tail's dorms! The nice old lady who owned the place said she seemed troubled when she came to tell her that…I think she left!" The girl fell against Mira, sobbing, as the guild tried to puzzle through what she had just said. Something about someone leaving? Who?

"Who left?" Mira asked calmly, stroking Levy's hair to try to calm the girl down. "Whose stuff was it?"

"Lu-chan!" Levy wailed, giving the guild its biggest shock of the day. "It was all of Lu-chan's things, and it was her story, and I think she left! She didn't…she didn't even say goodbye…"

Team Natsu all sat frozen in their seats, as did the rest of the guild. And then the heat started rising and everyone turned their attention to Natsu. It looked like he was going to sit there, silently seething, but everyone knew that wasn't going to happen. They expected him to go into a rage and start lighting things on fire or destroying everything in his path. That was typical Natsu behavior, after all.

In a split second, he was on his feet. The table was splintered beneath his fist as he looked from Happy, to Gray, to Erza.

"What are we waiting for?" he asked them. "Let's go bring her back!"

The team seemed to come back to life.

This is the start to my new NaLu. It should be shorter than those that will follow.

Most of this is written out in advance, but it's not quite complete yet. Unless I decide to leave it off where I've stopped writing for a while, but I don't think I will. Look for it to be five to ten chapters, I'd think. Maybe a bit longer, though I doubt it.

If you'd like to, R&R, but I don't require that. Haha.

Thanks for reading!

~Amanda

a/n: The title might not be very important until over halfway through…haha.