This is, like so many other stories, originally a songfic. However, songfics are against the site rules so I chose to take out the lyrics and make this a fic just inspired by the song that originally took residence between paragraphs.
So, allow me to re-introduce I Won't Let Go, inspired by the amazing The Last Night, by Skillet, in my once-songfic-Skillet-series.
His blonde best friend was sinking, sinking, sinking. She was falling even deeper into her own despair and she hadn't even realized it yet…but he had, and it scared him. The bags under her eyes looked darker and larger each day, and even though the season was only getting hotter, her sleeves kept getting longer. The beautiful girl who had once been so cheerful and happy, with color and excitement flooding her cheeks was now pale and wan and weak-looking.
This Lucy Heartfilia was a frightful parody of the old Lucy.
This wasn't his Lucy—this wasn't the Lucy that Natsu Dragneel had fallen for.
She was timid and shy and more than anything, she was fearful of everything. Lucy had never been so timid. She was like a little mouse, or a nervous kitten, creeping around as if hoping that no one would notice her.
What had happened to the Lucy who reveled in being the center of attention? The Lucy who was glamorous and seductive and always fashionable was gone, replaced with a dark-clad pariah who shunned all human contact as though it would be the death of her.
Natsu hated it—she was blaming herself for something that wasn't her fault at all, and it was killing her. The dragonslayer hated to think like that…but it was true.
And the pink-haired young man knew that the situation was worse than he had earlier surmised when she showed up at his door in the middle of the night, looking shy and tugging her sleeves down as she asked if she could come in. Wouldn't his Lucy just have burst into his home, or at the very least knocked and then just opened the door? She'd been coming to his house in retaliation for as often as he and Happy showed up at hers for a year now, and she tended to just walk right in. But now…this was the new Lucy, the even weirder Lucy…the Lucy that scared him.
"Luce? Is something wrong?"
Of course something's wrong, Natsu scolded himself lightly. Everything was wrong—what had happened to the Lucy he fell for? The ever-bright and cheerful girl he'd first brought to the guild roughly nine years ago now, if he took into account the seven years in which they'd been suspended in time on Tenrou Island, was gone, and he desperately wanted her back.
She hesitated, and he took the time to notice that without her makeup she was even paler than normal, and a deathly pallor was beginning to fall over her normally healthily porcelain complexion.
"I…I think I need to leave Fairy Tail," she told him softly. Oh, how she wished he would buy it, and she was counting on his reputable denseness and yet instinctively she knew that he wouldn't accept some kind of confession like that without a reason. A good reason…and she didn't think she had a good enough excuse. Unconsciously, she tugged at her sleeves once more.
"…Luce…?" his eyes were filled with the disbelief she had expected and her eyes were already welling up with the tears she'd been fighting for so long. She hated herself for this, and for letting him get hurt on their last mission, and she just hated living in general now because every waking moment was a reminder. Every single day was a reminder that she had nearly failed him—a reminder of the bleeding mass on the floor that had been Natsu before she and Erza and Gray had arrived to help. And she blamed herself.
"I-it's just that everyone e-else is so much stronger than I am, and I feel like I hold everyone back, and I've learned so much and think it's enough to help me keep moving forward—"
"You love it here, Luce," Natsu said quietly—almost dangerously. "I'm not going to listen to you try to convince yourself to leave us."
This was tearing him apart on the inside. He didn't want to acknowledge the truth that was right before him. Natsu couldn't bear to think about Lucy leaving Fairy Tail—no, he couldn't even consider the fact that she was going to leave him. Just when he was coming to terms with the idea that he could not live without her…she comes up with this? Couldn't she see that right now was when she needed all of them more than ever?
Lucy Heartfilia was in a downward spiral. She was going down…down…down…and she just couldn't make things right on her own. The maelstrom of her darkest emotions was swallowing her whole and refusing to spit her back out.
"It's not that I don't like it!" she said quickly. She tried to avert her gaze, attempting in vain to hide the beginnings of tears. "You said it yourself—I love it here! But it's just…"
"You don't just love it, Luce," Natsu said before Lucy could gather her thoughts. This wasn't like him, acting all forward like this, but he just had to make her see what was wrong and he definitely couldn't lose her to anything. "It's more than that. You need it. Don't pretend that I'm wrong when I say you're letting undeserved guilt eat away at you from the inside, because you know it's true. That's why you need us now more than ever."
He hated what was next on his tongue, but he continued anyway, reaching for her hand as he did so. She flinched away slightly but he already had her wrist grasped firmly but gently in his own hand. He pulled her sleeve up with his free hand to reveal what he had desperately hoped he wouldn't find but somehow had known he would and while both of them stared at the pink puckered scars and the old mostly healed white ones and the freshly scabbed over new wounds, he spoke again.
"You need us to save you from yourself, Luce."
She yanked her arm away, a sob wracking her body violently for a split second before she composed herself enough to feebly force out, "I'm fine, Natsu. I-I'm cat-sitting for one of my neighbors. I…I've got to go."
Natsu's fingers grasped air, reaching out toward the quickly departing blonde celestial mage as dread filled his heart. His Lucy had so blatantly lied to him when he knew that she wasn't cat-sitting—she didn't even smell like she'd been near a cat, aside from the Exceeds of the guild, and she'd only been around them rarely in the last week or so.
"Dammit!" Natsu cursed, hitting the doorframe hard and splintering the wood, though he couldn't have cared less just then. Round little drops of blood beaded up across his knuckles, small slivers of wood partially embedded in the skin, but he was indifferent to the pain; he could hardly feel it. His mind was with the blonde who had fled from his home after falsely telling him she was fine. He knew she wasn't and it was killing him.
The dragonslayer had been standing in the same spot for ten or fifteen minutes before he finally started to move. He glanced back into the house momentarily, watching the blue Exceed that still slept. After assuring himself that Happy would be perfectly safe, the dragonslayer bolted out of his house.
He didn't like leaving her alone right now.
Lucy…maybe he'd seen it a little wrong, after all? Maybe she'd needed to be closer to him over the last month, since he'd been injured on that mission, rather than keeping a distance? She had seemed a little timid around him, so Natsu had decided to give her some space, but maybe that was all a mistake. It probably only made her think that he wanted nothing to do with her, which was the grossest misconception he could possibly think of.
He wanted everything to do with her. And Natsu would do everything within his power to show her that he needed her just as much as he knew she needed him.
Natsu would make a point of being there when she needed him most from now on, no matter where he was or where she was. If Lucy was in trouble a hundred miles away, he'd be damned if he didn't get to her in order to help.
Since Wendy had revitalized him and healed him up after the misfortune that had befallen them on the last job a month ago, Lucy had been avoiding him and when they actually had contact, it was timid and almost scared on her behalf. It was as if she thought he would blame her and retaliate somehow…but why would he? Why would he do anything to her for the injury that had been inflicted upon him when it hadn't been her fault at all? It didn't matter that Lucy thought differently; he didn't blame her, so she shouldn't blame herself.
Natsu had stayed away from her apartment for the last month to give her some space, but now he realized with sudden clarity just what it was she did in that solitude.
She definitely needed someone to intervene, or the spiral downwards in which she was caught would destroy her completely—if it didn't take her life, it would still change her from the Lucy that everyone in Fairy Tail knew and loved. And Natsu couldn't bear to have that change on his conscience because it would be his fault.
And he loved her.
It was unprecedented, and Natsu wasn't entirely sure how it had happened, but he'd finally come to terms with it in the last month after talking to Gajeel, of all people, and suddenly he wasn't scared anymore. Natsu wasn't scared of rejection or anything anymore, because now he knew that she needed to know how he felt. Maybe she'd pull out of this funk if she knew that someone loved her for her, even if she didn't reciprocate his feelings.
Natsu would be everything she needed if only she'd let him.
What was running through her mind right now?! Natsu couldn't help but wonder, even though he had a feeling he knew.
She'd be thinking of anyone who ever blamed her for something, or she'd be reminiscing on those who thought she was worthless and couldn't do anything right. Most importantly, though, she'd be wallowing in self-loathing because she hated herself for letting him get hurt—and for the thousandth time in his mind, Natsu vehemently denied that it was her fault. He had been foolish and had rushed ahead of everyone and this time he nearly paid the ultimate price. Or what most people thought was the ultimate price—Natsu knew that if Lucy were to fade away now it would feel a thousand times worse than even the most bloody and gruesome of deaths.
"Nothing's your fault, Luce," Natsu growled under his breath, trying to force his way through the unusually thick nighttime traffic. There had been a big sale in the market district and it was just ending, so everyone was heading home, and it made his journey more difficult than it needed to be. It frustrated him, because he needed to get to Lucy now, but he couldn't just yet.
Fighting through those crowds wouldn't be very prudent and would likely get him arrested by the Royal Guards or some such nonsense, so he'd have to deal with the crush of people like all the other shoppers did.
And oh, how he hated it right now.
Lucy Heartfilia was slamming the door of her apartment even as her fiery-spirited nakama was pushing his way through the crowds in an attempt to reach her. She turned the lock carefully, trying the door to make sure it locked, and then let the sobs wrack her body.
"I'm not okay," she choked out, admitting it for the first time.
And she knew something had gone wrong somewhere in her mind, but she couldn't pinpoint just what it was. The scars on her wrists would never have been there if everything was okay. The one shrink she'd been tricked into going to by Levy had tried to reason with her and that was one of the things the blasted woman insisted on preaching; you're fine, Lucy. There's nothing wrong with you! It's just a little bump in the road; you'll get over it in no time at all!
But if that was true, then why was Lucy still getting worse?
Yes, Lucy understood that she was getting worse, but she was in too deep to be able to stop it alone. The celestial mage needed outside help, and not the type of help offered by some useless optimistic shrink who tried to force rainbows and unicorns down her throat. Life wasn't all good and shiny and nice like childhood innocence could make people believe, and Lucy didn't appreciate that therapist treating her like a misbehaving child.
You'll get over it in no time at all!
Yeah, right. If Lucy could get over this…this monster inside of her, then she wouldn't be in this predicament. She wouldn't have the shiny metal blade in her hand and she wouldn't have her sleeve rolled up. The sharp edge of the razor wouldn't be pressed to her skin and she wouldn't be losing an epic battle in her mind for dominance over her actions.
If she was going to be okay, she wouldn't be spiraling down, down, down.
You're fine, Lucy.
Her apartment was getting nearer, but for some reason the shoppers seemed to thicken and damn it all if he wasn't actually in a hurry to get to Lucy's for once!
What kind of torment was she going through? Everyone was treating her like nothing had happened when they could all see that there was something eating away at her inside; could it be that she had wanted someone to notice? Could it be that she was just waiting for someone to come and save her from herself? That's exactly what Natsu had told his blonde friend she needed them for, and they'd all failed for a month!
Natsu felt horrible. He felt like a filthy hypocrite and he needed to find her and apologize and do whatever he could to salvage what was left of the old Lucy before this new Lucy completely took over and ruined the happy and cheerful girl he had first met in Hargeon all those years ago.
Finally—Natsu was on her street. The cobbled path had never seemed as long as it did now when he was pushing his way roughly through the people. He forgot common courtesy, he forgot to be even a little bit polite—the only thing on his mind was getting to her.
He had to get to Lucy.
You won't be alone anymore, Luce! Natsu wanted to tell her, to shout it up the street to make sure she heard him coming and to make sure she knew that she wasn't alone so she didn't do anything rash. The dragonslayer, however, had been taught well by the celestial mage and didn't shout it out where anyone could hear or where he may wake up neighbors that were already sleeping. No; Natsu just fought his way up the street, her house growing nearer and nearer. He could only see one light in her apartment on, but at least he knew she was home. And best of all, he didn't smell blood.
Nothing had happened. He would be in time if he could just get to the damn window through all of these people—!
"Lucy!" Natsu was breathless, so it didn't come out loud enough for her to hear. She hadn't even heard him open the window, but there he was, and he had a clear view into the bathroom where she sat, shaking, on the floor.
At first, he thought he might really have been too late, but then he heard the sob and saw her hand shaking—both of her hands were shaking. Her whole body was trembling, as though she was fighting off some terrible force that was threatening to overtake her completely—which, Natsu conceded, she probably was.
It was the shining razor blade that caught the dragonslayer's attention most completely. There was a depression in her once fair skin where the blade was pressing down, but there was not yet enough pressure to slice through the skin. The knuckles of the fingers that gripped the blade were white, white as Mirajane's hair, and suddenly Natsu knew that Lucy understood that something was wrong. The blonde was making some kind of conscious effort, however feeble, to stop herself from causing her body any more harm than she had already done. And she was struggling valiantly, but it looked like she was close to losing.
This time, Natsu spoke louder, more firmly, and definitely closer to the blonde. He hadn't dared to speak until his fingers were tight around her wrist and had begun to pull the blade away from the pale, pale flesh of her other wrist. The girl hiccupped in fright, not daring to raise her eyes to meet his.
"G-go away," she said softly, but she couldn't muster the appropriate amount of venom in her normally sweet tones. She just sounded bitter, which just didn't suit her at all.
"No," Natsu stated firmly, kneeling down in front of her on the bathroom floor and knocking all the other blades around her away. The collection of various razor blades scattered with a sound akin to shattering glass, and another hiccup escaped her lips as the fingers of the hand still within the pink-haired man's grasp loosened. The blade she had gripped tumbled through the air, clattering to the floor with a sound that seemed to echo in the quiet apartment. Natsu took no chances and knocked it away too…but he didn't release her wrist as he originally intended. He couldn't bring himself to let go of her.
The word was kind of unexpected.
"I don't want you to run away, Luce," he told her quite honestly. "Fairy Tail wouldn't be the same. But more importantly—to me, at least—I wouldn't be the same. I can't let you go, Luce."
"Nat…su…?" Lucy's voice was timid and shy as she turned up to her longtime best friend. The look he bestowed upon her now was so tender that she thought she had died and gone to heaven or that she was dreaming a very, very sweet dream.
"I don't blame you for anything, Luce," he said first, and she opened her mouth to protest, but he cut her off. "I don't blame you at all. It was my fault because I went ahead. So please, Lucy, just stop hurting yourself like this! What would happen if you cut too deep, or bled too much, and no one got to you in time? I couldn't stand that, Luce. To live with your family is one thing…but what would I do if I didn't have the person I love there, too?"
Her big brown eyes grew even bigger, still shimmering with tears. She was so vulnerable, but so much more Lucy than he remembered her being for the last few weeks. It was refreshing and maybe he'd been right. Maybe confessing to her was exactly what she needed.
"L-love? The person you…love?"
"Lucy, you're not ever going to be alone anymore," Natsu said softly. "You never were alone…but you felt like you were and that's almost the same thing. So I'm promising you right now that I'll never let you be alone again. Okay? I'll always be here—if you'll let me. I love you, Luce. So much. I didn't even realize how much until you started avoiding me and I asked Gajeel about why my stomach was acting all weird and why I couldn't think of anything but you and why I couldn't concentrate—"
"Promise again," Lucy interrupted suddenly. Somehow, the hand that Natsu had held by the wrist had shifted and their fingers were entwined, but neither noticed.
"I'll never leave you, Luce."
She was crying freely again but it was okay because she had Natsu to lean on. And so he wrapped her comfortingly in his arms, pulling her tightly against him to soothe her, and she clutched his vest in both hands, her nose buried in the crook of his neck. He felt the hot, wet, and salty tears sliding down his neck or soaking into Igneel's scarf, but Natsu was fine with it.
He loved her. Anything was fine with him.
And when she choked out, "I-I love y-you, t-too, Natsu," he knew that it was all worthwhile.