A/N: I'm slow at posting new fanart. Srngdrgn created another "Beastly Possession" picture, an awesome and creepy picture of Beast-Natsu. fav. me/d6jai4x

Here is fanart of CHIBI BEASTY! It's perhaps the only time you'll see Beast-Natsu looking so kawaii. fav. me/d6bwyxy

If anyone wants to draw something for this story, that's totally fine by me, just let me know so I can squeal over it.

Disclaimer: Hiro Mashima...yep...he owns it. Sigh...


Chapter 24

Loss of Control

Natsu and company approached Magnolia cautiously. Gray had warned them about Gajeel's worries, that Natsu would most likely change when he entered the city. The smell was all over the town, and Natsu was already unstable.

Natsu sat in his cage with his hand to his nose, hoping that simply blocking the smell would stop things. Lucy watched him with her brow tense in worry. Natsu's face had gone weary and pale since that morning's encounter with Sting. He truly looked sick now.

"I can smell it still," Natsu muttered through his pinched nostrils.

"Keep your nose plugged," Erza told him, trying to pull the cart a little faster.

"I can smell it just breathing through my mouth." He laid down on the floor of the cage and gazed up. "This sucks. I'm gonna change again, aren't I?"

No one answered him. They glanced around to each other, wondering if there was anything they could do to help their nakama, but hours on the road discussing their approach to Magnolia had not given any of them a single clue on what they could do, besides Freed rewriting the runes to block air, and that was out of the question.

Natsu realized their silence meant he was right. "If I do, Lucy...don't look."

"Natsu." She trembled with worry for him. "You're gonna be okay."

"This is pathetic," he groaned. "I don't want you to see me this way."

"Idiot. I want to take care of you. If I could hold you, I would."

Natsu laughed weakly. "That would probably help."

Lucy looked over to Freed. He saw the silent question in her face and shook his head.

"That's a bad idea, Lucy," Freed warned.

"It could help."

"And he could change."

"I trust Natsu."

"I trust him too, but I don't trust the beast inside him."

"Lucy," Gray warned.

Her eyes remained focused on the purple runes. Natsu's head turned over, and he looked at her with weary, exhausted, depressed eyes. She had never seen such a look on his face before, like he was ready to give up. That was not the Natsu she knew.

"He needs me," she said stubbornly. "Even if all I can do is hold him, if I can help him to keep away the beast for just a few minutes..." She looked up desperately to Freed. "Please, let me be with him."

"The beast could kill you, Lucy."

"It won't." Her eyes stayed on Natsu's sickly gaze. "The beast claimed me. It won't kill me. Plus I firmly believe that if I stay with Natsu, I can keep his consciousness intact. He won't let the beast hurt me."

Freed looked away, but he frowned as they got more into the city. "Once again, I'm going against my better judgment." He pulled out his sword and used it to rewrite some of the runes. "You can enter and exit at will, but Natsu cannot leave."

"Thank you, Freed." Lucy climbed up onto the cart and passed through the purple runes. She crawled over to Natsu and sat beside him.

"I'll also try blocking fragrances from entering the cage," Freed said. "Natsu, tell me if it works. I can't smell whatever you're smelling, so this might not work at all." He began manipulating the runes while Erza continued to pull the cart.

Gray walked over to the redhead. "Let me pull some of the added weight. We should hurry. The sooner we get to the guild, the sooner Natsu gets into whatever this quarantine thing is Master has set up."

"Then quicken the pace. Freed, keep up."

Natsu moaned louder at the cart sped up and jostled more. "The smell, it's...it's less but...but it's still there." He swallowed down some acid trying to shoot up from his stomach.

Lucy grabbed Natsu's hand. He looked up at her and tried to grin.

Softly, he whispered, "I missed you. I finally get to hold you, and I'm this bad."

"You're just sick. You've taken care of me when I got sick and cheered me up by sending the rainbow sakura tree down the canal. Now it's my turn."

He smiled briefly, but his head fell to the side. "I...feel it." He shuddered and gasped. "It's...it's trying to take over. Lucy..." He looked up at her with fear making his lips tremble. "Don't let it take over me. I don't want to lose to it. I don't want to leave you alone."

Tears filled her eyes, and she grabbed him up into her arms, holding him around his back, his shoulders resting against her body, her arms wrapped around his chest as if she could squeeze him and keep him like this forever. She felt him shaking, and being this close, she heard him sniffle and gulp down the terror Natsu refused to show to anyone.

Erza glanced around at the street traffic. "We're attracting too much attention."

Suddenly, Natsu screamed in pain. He grabbed hold of Lucy. "Don't let me change. Don't let me change!"

"Natsu!" she wept.

Gray saw what Erza meant. "They're going to question. Everyone knows what Natsu looks like. If they see him change into a beast, the secret of the dragon slayers will be out."

Erza nodded. "Freed, make the runes opaque."

"Understood. Lucy, time to get out."

She squeezed Natsu closer to her. "I'm not leaving."

"For your own safety..."

She screamed, "I'm not leaving him alone!" Natsu clung to her harder. "He's terrified. I can't leave him like this. Make the cage opaque. I'll tell you if anything happens, and I'll get out if he tries to hurt me. Until then, I'm not leaving him."

Freed sighed and looked to Erza. She gave a nod to let Lucy stay. Frowning, Freed rewrote just a few runes, and the cage went totally black. They could still hear Natsu panting and moaning inside, but nobody could see who was inside the solid black square.

Inside, the light dimmed, but Lucy could still see out through the dark walls. She saw the silent looks exchanged between Gray, Erza, and Freed. They did not agree with her decision, that was obvious, but Lucy knew she had to help Natsu. Even if she could not hold him back from transforming, if she could at least comfort him through this terror, that was enough.

"Lucy..."

"I'm here, Natsu," she said, pulling him against her chest.

"I can feel it. I wanna fight it."

She stroked his hair. "Try to fight it as long as you can. I'll be right here next to you."

"Lucy...it hurts. My head. My back. Everything. It all hurts. I...I don't like this. I don't wanna change, but it hurts. It hurts to stay me. It makes me want to let go."

"No! Don't let go, Natsu. Fight it."

"I'm trying!" he screamed.

"Lucy?" Freed asked in worry.

"I'm fine. He's just..." She looked down. Natsu was scared, but she did not want to tell the others that.

"It hurts," Natsu moaned. "I wanna lie down."

She moved him to lie on the floor, and Natsu immediately curled into a fetal position.

"Stay with me. Don't let me go," he begged weakly. "Don't leave me alone with it."

Lucy bit her lip, and she laid down beside him, caressing his nose with hers. Natsu eyes opened to see her, and he smiled weakly.

"Your smell always makes me feel at ease," he whispered. "I feel safe with you around. I can relax and sleep when I'm in your bed. Even now, like this, I feel safer knowing you're here."

She smiled and caressed his face. Natsu seemed to relax a little, but suddenly his body curled up in pain.

"Gaaah! Hurts! It hurts. Don't change. Don't change... Nnngh! God, it hurts!"

Lucy hugged him against her chest. "I'm right here. Tell me what I can do."

Natsu breathed hard as he fought through the pain. "Just...hold me. Don't let me be alone." He bit his lip harder, so hard Lucy thought it might bleed.

"It's okay to cry, Natsu," she whispered. "It's just me in here. They can't see you. When you're in pain, then it's okay to cry."

He still tried to be strong, but Natsu burrowed his face down into his muffler. She felt him shiver, and his chest jolted with tears he tried to keep silent out of pride.

"Lucy..." he moaned softly. "Don't want this. Wanna fight it. I'm...I'm scared. Hold me."

"I'm not leaving you," she promised, and she kissed the top of his head.

"I hate this," he whispered in exhaustion. "I hate feeling it in the back of my head. I can feel my brain wanted to shut down and something else take over, but I don't want that. I don't want it. I won't let it. I wanna fight it. Nngh!" He flinched hard with pain, and Lucy saw his hands shaking as the nails began to turn black. "Don't want it. Hate it. Lucy..."

Lucy sniffled. There was nothing she could do except hold him as he shivered and convulsed. He fell silent for a long time, clutching at her, shaking his head back and forth in silent protest. Outside the darkened runes, she saw they were just a few blocks away from the guild.

"We're almost there, Natsu. Just hold on."

"Luuuccccy."

The hiss in the voice made her stiffen and freeze.

"Lucy?" Gray shouted in worry. When he looked back, he could see nothing but the black cage.

"Keep going," she said with a soft, steady voice aimed to keep everyone, even herself, calm. "I'm okay."

"Lucccy..." Natsu's head raised, and red eyes looked up at her sadly. "Slayer hates this. Slayer don't want this. Hates it. Hates me. Loves Lucy." The pink head dropped into her bosom again. "I love Lucy, too. I make Lucy sad. Don't want Lucy sad. How can I not make Lucy sad?"

Sobs choked up her throat. "Give me back my Natsu," she whispered tearfully.

The beast peered up at her, looking hurt. Slowly, those red eyes turned away. "I...don't know how." It slumped against her and clutched at her body. "Don't know how to make Lucy happy. Sorry, Lucy." It snuggled against her, rubbing its nose between her breasts and inhaling her scent. "Slayer sorry, and I'm sorry. Both want Lucy happy. But I can't make Lucy happy. Can only want Lucy. Can only crave Lucy. Not know other things. Sorry. I'm sorry." That face suddenly looked up again, and the red eyes faded to sage-green. "I'm sorry, Lucy. I'm not strong enough. Sorry." Then the red glowed again, and the beast grabbed her, burrowing down into her chest. "Sorry. I sorry! Sorry Lucy sad. Sorry is scary. Sorry."

Lucy numbly held around those hot shoulders, but she stared ahead. She had no clue what to think anymore. Should she hate this beast that was slowly taking away the man she loved? Should she pity it? She didn't know! All she could do was sit there, hold that body of her friend, and stroke the pink hair.

How ironic! I'm giving comfort to the creature that's terrifying Natsu so much.

It took only a few more minutes before they got to the guild hall. They pulled the whole cart through the wide doors, and Freed dropped the opaque barrier. The other guild members gathered around in curiosity, and they saw Natsu clinging to Lucy. Except...

Romeo gasped. "Natsu-nii has wings and a tail!"

"Look at his claws," Max cringed.

"Lu-chan!" Levy cried out.

"I'm fine," she said passively, not moving. In fact, Lucy was keeping a little too still, and they all saw how she was holding back her own panicking dread.

The beast looked up, and his red eyes narrowed. "Don't want Lucy to go!" Then he pulled back and looked around. "Smell. Smell is gone. Gone!"

Makarov stepped forward. "There is a barrier around the whole guild that neutralizes the feral's smell. Natsu should return to normal soon."

"No! Don't want!" the beast screamed. "Want freedom. Want Lucy. Lucy!"

She sat still and watched the creature panic. This isn't Natsu. For Natsu to come back, this beastly side that's possessing him has to go away. Go away! Give me my Natsu back.

"Luccccy!"

In soft and dire tones, she sneered, "Give back Natsu."

"No...Lucy..." The beast sank to its knees. "Make...make Lucy...happy. Protect...nakama. Wants. Instincts." The black claws grabbed at the pink hair. "Wants, instincts, desires! No! My wants! Mine! Noooo!" The beast's head dropped to the ground, growling in frustration. Slowly, the wings shrank back in and the tail retracted. When that pink head lifted up again, Natsu's green eyes were wide in terror.

"Lucy!" He flung himself at her and grabbed her tightly. "I changed, didn't I? You're still here. Why are you in this cage with me? Did it hurt you? What happened? I can't remember anything that happened."

"I'm not hurt," she assured him, holding Natsu with a sigh of relief. "I'm fine. The beast couldn't hurt me because it wasn't your instinct to hurt me. That means you still have control." She began to sob in belated emotions. "You're still in control, Natsu. You're still with me."

"I'm not going to leave you alone," he swore. Natsu took her cheeks into his hands and gave Lucy a firm kiss. "I love you, so I won't leave you. I promise, Lucy. I won't lose to that thing."

She sniffled and nodded her head. Natsu was the sort of person who would keep fighting, even when everyone else gave up hope. She leaned forward and gave him a kiss, showing him she believed him and had faith in him.

Someone in the crowd around them cleared their throat, and suddenly Lucy and Natsu realized they were visible again. Lucy blushed that everyone in the guild saw the two of them kissing, and Natsu hid down into his muffler with adorable embarrassment.

"Natsu," Makarov said impassively, "we need to take you to the basement. It's for everyone's safety."

"I understand...oww!" Suddenly, Natsu collapsed. His head landed in Lucy's lap and stayed there. "I...don't feel good."

"Lucy," Makarov said, "come out of the cage now. You've done all you can. We need to get Natsu ready for the dragon slayer coming-of-age ceremony."

She looked down to Natsu, who was looking up at her.

"I'm gonna be okay," he smiled weakly. "I could really use a nap. And food. I've been vomiting from motion sickness for a week. Food first, then nap."

Lucy still hesitated on leaving him.

"Hey," he laughed tiredly. "Trust me. I won't leave you, Lucy. Go get some rest. And a bath. You sorta smell."

She scowled at that and left the cage. Natsu chuckled weakly and sprawled out on the floor of the cage. He knew that would get her to leave, because otherwise they would have some sickly sweet farewell, and he did not want that in front of everyone.

Erza moved the cart to follow Gajeel down to the guild's basement. Gray walked up to Lucy and tapped her arm. She gave a brief smile to assure him she was okay, but she really felt like if she tried to talk, she would only sputter out tears.

"Lucy," Makarov said with tender understanding. "Go home. Get some rest."

"I'll walk you home," Gray offered.

"No," she said, stepping away from him. "I'll call out a Spirit. I...need time alone." She pulled out her keys. "Open the Gate of the Goat! Capricorn!"

The goat-man appeared and bowed genteelly. "Lucy-sama can walk home with mehhh."

With only her loyal Spirit to accompany her, Lucy left the guild. As soon as she passed through the entrance gate, she began to cry with the emotional upheaval of that day...no, the whole week! Capricorn wrapped an arm around her so she could bury her face into his suit coat, and he led her down the streets of Magnolia.

High above, unseen from the rest, a winged shadow watched all of this.

"New feral. Must kill." Balaur looked over at the wing Bisca had injured with her shotgun. "Heal, then kill. Also, girlie is back. Girlie from long ago. Girlie with good smell. Want that one. Want her! Want fuck her. Want...kill her. Taste her blood. Taste her body. Fuck and kill and eat and fuck. Want her. Heal, then get her. Get girlie. Kill new feral. Kill...everyone!"

End of Chapter 24


A/N: Natsu's experience is based on a true story. As longtime readers know, I took a hellishly long hiatus this summer. I have epilepsy, and I had a massive seizure that affected the language sectors of my brain. I knew what I wanted to write, but the words weren't there. That seizure, as terrifying as it was, inspired this chapter. The lines I wrote for Natsu were the same words I cried as I realized my brain was about to shut down, and there was nothing I could do to stop it.

When I have a seizure, I'm partially conscious through the beginning. I know it's coming, and it terrifies me to tears. I mean, I almost never cry, not even at funerals, so for me to break down into wailing sobs is humiliating. It's uncontrolled, a common occurrence with seizures; I can't stop the tears any more than I can stop my brain from shutting down or stop the convulsions from wracking my body.

During my last major seizure, I vaguely recall my husband holding me as I screamed and sobbed, "I hate this! I don't want this! I wanna fight this!" But...you can't. You really can't do anything. Neither can the person with you. No matter how I struggle with my own brain, desperately battling to hold off the coming seizure, I know the blackness will take over, I'll lose consciousness and control, and I'll wake up on the ground, aching, head throbbing, confused, and feeling like utter crap. I won't know what happened, what I did, or how much time passed.

That sort of experience—losing control, missing time, fighting my own brain and body—is what I believe Natsu would go through, so I wrote almost precisely what happens in one of my seizure episodes.

Sounds terrifying? It is!

Because I'm "uncontrolled" (my medication doesn't take away all the seizures) I'm not allowed to have a driver's license and cannot work many jobs, legally. My two seizure medications cost $600 a month, just to keep a modicum of stability. If I don't take those two pills twice a day, I honestly could die! When I have a seizure, I'm unable to function for 2-3 days, and sometimes full mental recovery can take up to two weeks, which means I can't even hold down a simple job since no employer will give three days off every other month. I can't work, I can't drive, and I can't trust my own brain and body. Epilepsy fucking sucks!

By the way, I have sworn that when I finally publish a novel, 10% of any money I make from it will go to epilepsy research, which is severely underfunded. Call it an act of self-preservation if you want, but I want to help others who have this condition even worse than I do, people who end up with permanent brain damage because of non-stop seizures that nothing we have today can cure. I'd like to make a difference in what little way I can.

Thank you for reading this long note.