(AN: You voted for it, and so I deliver...Hope you enjoy it!)

The Strength It Takes

Disclaimer: Don't own Fairy Tail or any of its characters...


Lucy screamed out in alarm as she watched her partner collapse and remain still. Getting to her feet, she sprinted toward him, skidding to a stop next to him and reaching forward to roll him onto his back. His face was slack and his eyes closed, but he was breathing and alive, making her shoulders relax a fraction.

A gasp was torn from her as she was pulled from her partner. She felt a strong, warm arm wrap around her waist just under her breasts and bring her back against a hard chest. Her eyes were wide with shock and her mouth was opened on a silent protest as she heard a dark chuckle, making the body behind her vibrate. She had to suppress a shudder of revulsion when she felt a warm breath brush against her exposed neck.

"Well, it looks like it's just you and me, Spirit Mage." As he spoke, the dark mage used his free hand to trail his touch down her side to the hem of her blouse. When his skin touched hers, she began to struggle, her shock finally fading away.

"Let me go!" she shouted, twisting in his grip, her gaze trained in the injured Dragon Slayer all the while. She felt his grip around her tighten and she brought her hands to grip the arm around her, digging her nails into his skin.

He chuckled in her ear. "Now, now. Calm down, little one. I'll make sure we…" Lucy jerked her head violently to the side when he pressed his lips against her throat and flicked his tongue out to taste her skin, her lips lifting in a snarl. "enjoy ourselves."

"Let me go you bastard!" she screamed, clawing at his arm. But he remained unaffected by her struggles. Her booted feet kicked against his shins in an attempt to injure him, but he merely bore her abuse with amusement. Thinking quickly, she felt at her hip for her keys or even her whip, but felt only the denim of her shorts. Behind her, the dark mage smirked against her skin, seeing her instinctive movements.

"Don't worry about your keys, little one. I disposed of them. Wouldn't want any of your little spirits to ruin out fun, right?"

She did an impressive imitation of one of Natsu's growls when she felt his slimy hand brush the bared skin of her abdomen as the material of her blouse rose up with her struggles for freedom. But no matter what she did, his grip remained like iron around her waist and she could feel his free hand behind the roam across her exposed skin and along the side of her hip, seeking the expanse of bare leg that her small shorts left bare. She could feel the panic begin to make the saliva in her mouth dry up, but tried to fight it.

No! I can't…I can't panic now! I have to stay calm.

But despite her thoughts, she felt her body freeze when his hand snaked under her blouse to caress the skin just under her bra. Goosebumps broke out along her arms and legs and she bit her lip to keep herself from crying out in alarm. She could feel her pulse thrum frantically beneath the thin skin along her neck and wrists as she fought for calm.

Snarling, she jabbed her elbow back in an attempt to get him to loosen his hold, but he pinned her arms at her sides before she could by adjusting his grip on her waist. "You're a feisty one, huh? I like that," he whispered against her throat and she felt a sharp pain as he bit down, drawing blood. When she cried out in surprise, he laughed darkly and licked the blood away, making her scrunch up her face in disgust.

Thrusting her head back, she felt a surge of vicious satisfaction when she heard his curse as the back of her head connected with his face and his grip on her loosened in surprise. Surging from his hold, she stumbled forward a few feet, desperate to reach Natsu's side and find her keys, thinking that if she could just get to Natsu, she would be safe. But she didn't make it far when she felt a body crash into her back, sending her tumbling into the dirt. She cried out in surprise and barely had enough time to bring her hands out to brace her fall, her palms scrapped raw and nearly biting her tongue in half.

Dazed, she couldn't struggle as she felt the dark mage's hands grab her shoulders to flip her onto her back and press his body intimately against hers to pin her down. With his thighs on either side of her hips, he immobilized her legs and used one of his hands to cage her wrists above her head.

Snapping out of her daze of surprise and pain, she bucked her hips in an attempt to throw him off of her, but his weight simply pushed her back down. His handsome face loomed over hers, twisted into an ugly expression of fury. She turned her face away as he hissed at her, spittle flying from his lips. "You bitch. Just for that I'm going to make sure you're awake and alive when I finish off your little boyfriend. One limb at a time."

His snarl grew in viciousness when she simply laughed at him, her brown eyes hard as steel and her pretty mouth screwed up into a vicious smirk. "As if you could kill Natsu. Just you wait until he wakes up. You're going to wish you'd never run across us," she boasted, ignoring the way she cringed inside at her own cocky words. While she didn't doubt Natsu's ability to defeat this dark mage, he was currently out of commission and it was just her and their opponent.

Above her, the dark mage cocked an eyebrow and looked over at the still Dragon Slayer as if he could hear her thoughts. Turning back to the girl pinned beneath him, his smirk was back. "Be that as it may, he's not awake now to save you. So I'm going to enjoy you while I can. Think of it as a last request for a dying man," he said mockingly, and used his free hand to tease the top button on her blouse, shifting his weight onto the hand that caged her wrists and making her wince in pain at the pressure. At his words, Lucy could feel a new wave of fear and dawning panic freeze the blood in her veins.

Cursing, she focused her attention back to the dark mage with her mouth set in a grim line. It looked like Natsu wasn't going to wake up and save her any time soon. This was something Lucy would have to get out of on her own.

But as she struggled, she was more than aware that she was effectively pinned beneath the dark mage. And even if she could get one of her hands free, there wasn't anything she could use as a weapon within reach.

Her heart skipped a beat and she froze when she heard the distinct sound of fabric tearing and felt the cool air on her exposed skin.


Her eyes wide with terror, she struggled with all her might, bucking her hips and thrashing, but to no avail. She was helpless against him. Against her will, she felt her eyes begin to burn with tears when she felt his hands begin to touch her skin. Denial and fear was a bitter taste in her mouth and she squeezed her eyes shut.

Please, God. Anything but this! Someone…someone, please help me!

Above her, the dark mage smirked and claimed her lips with his. She choked and turned her head to dislodge him. He chuckled. "I love that look on your face, little one. It's getting me very…excited." To emphasize his point, he bucked his hips into hers and a sob tore from her throat.


The roar of her name made her eyes shoot open and the dark mage freeze on top of her. A brilliant smile split her face when she saw her partner's open and awake eyes. His body was encased entirely of flames and she could make out the outline of scales near his dilated, furious eyes.

"Get off of her!" Natsu roared as he reached forward to grasp the dark mage's clothing, lifting him off of Lucy's body and flinging him a good distance away.

"Natsu!" she cried in relief and sat up, clutching the remains of her blouse to cover herself. Relief made her light headed and her body began to shake with tremors.

At her voice, her partner looked down at her, his face gentling slightly. "Are you okay, Lucy?"

A few tears escaped her eyes but her smile was genuine. "I will be now," she murmured shakily. Satisfied, Natsu turned back to his opponent.

"You sick son of a bitch," he spat as the dark mage got to his feet once more, a smirk on his face and seemingly unfazed by the Dragon Slayer's fury. The dark mage laughed and flexed his hands the air around him beginning to stir with his magic.

"Did it piss you off that I was touching your girl? That I could taste of skin, her fear?" As he spoke, he licked his lips, as if remembering the taste. "She was delicious by the way."

With an animalistic roar, Natsu lunged toward his opponent, who easily danced out of his way, his mocking smile still firmly in place. Dodging an especially vicious kick, the dark mage's eyes connected with Lucy's wide eyes.

When she saw him looking at her, she couldn't help but huddle in on herself, her grip on her blouse tightening until her knuckles were white. "Remember my touch, little one. Remember my kiss, my heat, the feel of me on top of you. Remember me, little one," he called.

Lucy ducked her head and couldn't contain a shiver of revulsion that his words invoked and couldn't stop herself from reliving the feel of his hands on her body, she had to bite her lip hard enough to draw blood to keep the tears back.

At her reaction, the dark mage threw back his head and laughed. "How does it feel, Dragon Slayer?" he asked scornfully as Natsu lunged to him once again. "How does it feel to know that no matter what you do, your little girlfriend will always remember the feel of me on top of her? How does it feel to know that whenever you kiss her, she will remember the feel of my lips on her?"

With a wordless battle cry, Natsu threw himself at his enemy, his eyes enraged and his flames crackling with lightening. At the sight of him, Lucy felt more tears come to her eyes and pressed a hand to her lips to suppress her sobs. Natsu was fighting her battle. She should have never let the bastard touch her. If she had been stronger…

"Natsu," Lucy cried softly, barely above the sounds of the battle, but he could hear her nonetheless. "I'm sorry. I'm so sorry."

Natsu paused to catch his breath, making sure his gaze never left the figure of his opponent. He needed to revalute how he was going about this. Just attacking him didn't seem to be working, and the dark mage hadn't even retaliated yet. He growled deeply when he smelt the saltiness of Lucy's tears and the bitter tang to her fear.

"He had no right to touch you,Lucy," He murmured. At his voice, she lifted her head, the tears bright on her cheeks. "I will make him pay for making you cry. No one makes Lucy cry and gets away with it."

His words made a small, shaky smile form on her face and she nodded wordless.

I trust you, Natsu, she thought.

"Oh, how sweet," the dark mage interjected mockingly. "You two are so cute together."

"Shut up you bastard," Natsu growled, bracing his body for his next attack. "I'll make you regret ever having laid a hand on her."

The dark made grinned. "Wow, your little girlfriend said almost the exact thing to me. Let's see if you can back it up, Dragon Slayer."

A vicious smirk twisted Natsu's face and his eyes darkened in anticipation. "Bring it on."

With a battle cry, the two mages clashed violently, a bright light and soundless explosion quickly following the clashing of the magic. Lucy gasped and shielded her eyes from the glare of it. When the light finally faded, only one figure stood in the rubble and she held her breath as she waited for the dust to clear to identify which mage was the victor.

Once the dust finally dissipated, she felt a surge of relief when she saw the telltale pink of her partner's hair as he turned toward her.
"Natsu," she breathed. At her voice, a grin brightened his bloody and weary face.

"Told you I would win," he said, chuckling a little. She gasped as he swayed dangerously where he stood, making her jump to her feet and rush toward him. She caught his weight just as his knees buckled and wrapped his arm around her shoulders. Blinking dazedly at her, he frowned in concern.

"Are you okay, Lucy?" he asked, his voice weak as his exhaustion finally got the better of him. She sighed and gave him a small smile.

"Yeah, Natsu. I'll be just fine. As long as you're with me."

At her words, he grinned again as he struggled to stay conscious. "I'll always…be there for you, Luce."

She struggled a little under his weight and gently prodded Happy with her foot. At her nudging, the blue exceed groaned and blinked open his eyes. When he caught sight of the two wounded partners, he shot up, his wings appearing to keep him floating level with their gaze.

"Are you guys okay?" he asked frantically. His frown got worse as he saw Natsu's fight to stay conscious and Lucy's torn blouse and bruised skin and he had to fight back tears.

"Happy, can you find us some help? I'm not sure how much longer Natsu can stay conscious and I can't summon any of my spirits anymore."

But as she spoke, she heard a sound beside her and her eyes widened when they caught sight Loke, who had popped up beside her. When his eyes caught sight of the pair, his face contorted in shock.

"Lucy! What the hell happened?" he asked frantically, taking an alarmed step toward them. She smiled at him, despite the tears that ran steadily from her dark eyes. Her blouse hung in tatters on her torso, blood and dirt marring her bared skin. Natsu hung almost lifelessly next to her, his face a mass of bloody bruises and his eyes slowly loosing the fight to stay open, his ragged breathing alarmingly loud and shallow.

"Loke, help Natsu…He's hurt badly," she whispered as the added weight of her unconscious partner finally made her knees buckle and they tumbled to the ground. As she lost consciousness, the strain of the battle on her magic and her emotional turmoil finally taking its toll on her, she could hear Loke's furious curse and Happy's cry of alarm.

"…dark mage…barely alive..."


When Lucy came to, it was to the low murmur of voices around her and the feel of a soft bed beneath her. Struggling to emerge from the last recesses of sleep from her mind, she couldn't stop the groan that left her as she shifted, causing every muscle in her body weep in pain. At her movements, the voices around her stopped before becoming clearer.

"Lucy? Lucy, are you awake?"

Erza? She tried to talk, but her body wouldn't obey her and it only came out as a gust of air and a small moan. Where am I? What happened? Her eyelids seemed to be glued shut.

"Lucy, listen to me." Gray? "You're safe now. You and Natsu are back at the guild. You're safe."

Natsu…Is Natsu okay?

At her thoughts, she shifted restlessly, desperately wanting her body to listen to her wishes and speak her thoughts.

"Natsu…" she moaned, her fingers clenching the soft sheets under her. "Natsu…hurt…"

"Natsu is fine, Lucy." Erza again. She felt a warm hand reach and clasp one of her fisted hands. "He's a little beat up, but we gave him a little fire and he's healing up fine."

Lucy felt the tension leave her body. But at the mention of Natsu, she felt the memories that hung in the back of her mind rush forward with dazzling clarity. She whimpered and thrashed, her hand turning and clutching desperately at the comforting touch.

The dark mage…he…almost…

"Remember me, little one. Remember me."

She cried out when she felt the bed underneath her dip under the weight of another body, her muscles tensing.

"Lucy," Erza whispered, clutching the distraught blond's hand firmly. "Lucy, you're safe now. No one can hurt you here. Just get some more rest. We'll be here when you wake up again."

Lucy felt tears sting her eyes and a sob tore from her throat, her grip on Erza's hand tightening almost to the point of pain, but she stopped thrashing and felt her muscles relax slightly.

"Get some rest, Lucy," Gray spoke softly from beside her. "We won't let anything happen to you. You're safe with us…"

Lucy finally succumbed to the pull of sleep as his words registered.

Safe? No, I'm not safe. I'll never be safe from the memory of him.

"Remember my touch, little one. Remember me…"

Natsu…please…help me…

(AN: I have been playing with the idea of this kind of story ever since I wrote Bitterness, but I like this plot better and I feel it can be better. I don't think it will be very long, probably no more than 10 chapters tops, but who knows? It all depends on the response I get to be honest...hint, hint, wink, wink...I hope you enjoyed it! PLEASE give me some feedback! Thanks for reading! I adore you all!)