Chapter XII

Empty shell

By Neko Erza

"What do you mean, you're not sure he'll wake up?" Loke asked stunned. "He has to!"

"His body is severely damaged and I don't know if he'll wake up from this coma. The trauma he sustained was immense. And if it's true that his soul is damaged… then I'm not sure the ice mage is even still in there."

"So... he's an empty shell?" The celestial spirit said, his look a mixture of disbelief, disgust, anger and shock.

"I don't know. To be honest I've never encountered a mangled soul. I didn't even know it was possible." Porlyusica admitted. "I would like to speak with the seith mage about that."

"I'll go get him." Makarov nodded and left through the door.

Loke had sat down next to Gray again, firmly holding one hand in the other as if trying to withhold himself from doing something impulsive or stupid. But Lucy could still see the seething rage simmer within, trying to get out.

"I just wish… there was something more that we could do." The blonde shuddered out.

"We can't do more than this, than try to heal his physical wounds." The healer said. "The mental damage is the one thing he has to beat entirely on his own. And I'm afraid it's the mental damage that's the most dangerous and difficult to heal."

"And the physical wounds are already almost impossible to heal." Loke laughed joylessly.

"Yes, I'm afraid you're right." Porlyusica sighed. "Especially the broken back and leg worry me."

"Does he have any other broken bones?" Lucy asked, although she could already guess the answer to that.

"Yes. He has a few cracked ribs. I'll have to check for splinters, because those can be very dangerous if they are near his lungs. Other than that he also has some broken fingers, a broken nose and his hip is dislocated."

"How long…" Erza whispered. "How long do you think he had to endure this? Because they left the guild two weeks ago and…"

Porlyusica nodded sadly. "I suspect it started not long after they left. Some of these wounds look like they're that old. One of his ribs has been broken for quite a while now."

Erza clenched her fists and gritted her teeth. "Two whole weeks of torture? Natsu… I still can't believe it… I can't believe there even exists magic that could make someone do this."

"Dragon slaying magic, especially the magic involved during the mating, is one of a kind." Porlyusica explained while she installed machines to keep track of Gray's heart rate.

"It's dark and dangerous." Loke growled as he stood back up. He didn't seem to know what to do with himself.

Porlyusica shook her head. "It's actually a very pure magic, but extremely labile. Feelings of uncertainty, doubt or shame easily tip the scale."

Loke looked like he wanted to say something but at the last moment decided not to spit his venom. He clenched and unclenched his hands into fist as he paced through the room. Lucy couldn't help but be reminded of a caged lion pacing inside his prison.

"Now I know why all our dragon slayer's left." Mira whispered. Lucy nodded, they should have suspected something was up. All the dragon slayer's suddenly leaving, looking jumpy.

A moment later the master entered the infirmary again, closely followed by the tall figure of Bixlow and his floating dolls.

"Good, I need you to tell me exactly what you've seen." Porlyusica said as she turned to the soul mage.

"I- I'm not sure if I'll be able to explain." Bixlow said, still looking slightly pale. It was weird seeing the normally boisterous mage like this. The fact that he wasn't wearing his visor was a big change too. "It's hard to understand if you're not a seith mage and if you've never seen a soul."

"Still, I'd like to hear. When did you notice his soul was missing?"

"I was pretty shocked when Master said Gray's heart was still beating. I couldn't see him breathe or move the slightest bit and with that amount of wounds…" The man shook his head. "After a while I thought Master must have been mistaken, that he couldn't be alive, so I wanted to check for myself."


"Corpses don't have a soul. So if I were to see Gray's soul I'd be certain he was alive but what I saw…" The little colour that was left on his face drained immediately. "A part had been completely ripped away."

"There really is a part missing? It's not just torn?"

"No, missing…" Bixlow turned to Gray's motionless body, but his gaze wasn't fixed on his body but on the thing others couldn't see. "It looks like it was violently ripped apart and taken away. He's not complete anymore."

Lucy shivered at those last words, Bixlow hadn't said 'it' but 'he'. Did that mean it wasn't just Gray's soul that wasn't complete, but Gray himself?

"Have you got an idea where it could be?" Porlyusica asked, but Bixlow shook his head. "Have you ever seen something like it?"

"No." The seith mage said sternly. "And I hope I never have to see it again. It's… revolting, sick... I don't have words for it."

"Can you see whether Gray's still in there or not, Bixlow?" Erza asked carefully, but the soul mage shook his head again.

"I don't know whether you can still... be there, if only half a soul remains."

The room went silent as everybody stared at Gray. Then Porlyusica spoke again. "Maybe you can."

The group looked at her expectantly. "How?" Loke asked with a tinge of skepticism but also hope to his voice. Anything was better than having to wonder whether Gray was still there or not. Even in the horrible scenario of the ice mage being gone, Loke'd rather know right away and not waste time with idle hope.

"Figure eyes." Bixlow mumbled as he ran his fingers over the black figure that decorated his face.

"Figure eyes, the soul take over?" Erza asked. "How might that work?"

"If I take over his soul… or whatever's left of it…" Bixlow muttered. "With Figure Eyes I get access to someone's mind and am able to see whatever he's seeing. It's a vital part in controlling someone with this technique. If Gray isn't in there… I'll know." His brow creased, making the black figure on his face look contorted. "But I've never tried this piece of magic on someone unconscious before, let alone someone with a mangled soul."

"Try it, Bixlow!" Loke said, his voice suddenly filled with anger. The spirit had been a ticking time bomb ever since he saw Gray and it looked like he was finally reaching his limit.

"Why don't you try to calm down, Loke?" The soul mage bit back, stepping closer to the spirit, the dolls threateningly floated around the lion's head. Everybody seemed to be on an edge with everything that had happened today, but the celestial spirit seemed to be affected the most.

"Bixlow has a point, Loke." Lucy said carefully, wiping away a tear from her cheek. "Yelling and being angry won't do Gray any good."

"Neither will crying." He said as he looked at her moist eyes. It was the first time Loke had been so crude with Lucy, his master, and it shocked her.

"Loke, enough!" Erza suddenly said sternly. "This is already hard enough without you making everyone nervous."

The spirit glared at her, but didn't seem to dare say something back. He crossed his arms before his chest and gloomily went to stand in a corner. He was seething and needed something to vent his anger soon. He looked ready to explode.

Now that Loke was relatively calm, or at least quiet, everybody turned back to Bixlow. He nodded. "I'll try, but I can't promise it will work." The man's eyes glowed an acid green as he stepped over to the raven. "I need somebody to hold open his eyes."

Lucy stepped forward and gently opened Gray's eyes. His irises, which normally were a stormy greyish-blue, now looked hazy and dull, almost as if he was blind. His eyes stayed open by themselves, like he was nothing more than a rag doll.

Or a corps. Lucy thought grimly.

Bixlow took a deep breath, leaned over the raven and looked into the hazy eyes, "Figure eyes."

The eyes burned even a brighter green, but in the next few seconds a lot of things happened at once.

The five floating dolls fell to ground with a loud thud, Bixlow let out a scream and stumbled backwards, grabbing his head between his hands and Gray's body gave a violent jerk and closed his eyes again before going completely motionless once more.

Everybody looked at the seith mage with big shocked eyes. The man was screaming at the top of his lungs in pure desperation.

"Get away from me!" He screamed. "Not again, not again!"

His eyes focused on something the rest couldn't see and they dilated in terror. "No! No! STOP! Ur, don't do it! Deliora! Get away from me!"

His screams changed every other second, like he was reliving parts of his worst memories, or more precisely: Gray's worst memories. Erza and Loke grabbed Bixlow's arms, trying to calm him down, but he threw them off immediately. He crawled away into a corner and curled into a little ball. "Get away, not again… not again…"

The others looked at each other not knowing what to do. Suddenly Porlyusica stepped forward and forced a potion down Bixlow's throat. He instantly went silent and the green seeped out of his eyes. His breathing still heavy, he looked up. Even though he was back to himself, the panic could still be seen on his face.

"The potion takes his magic away for a few minutes. That way he can get out of the soul take over." Porlyusica explained.

"What was that, Bixlow?" Lucy gasped shocked. "Was that…?"

"Gray." Bixlow nodded breathless. "He's in there all right." He got up on shaky legs and looked at the motionless ice mage on the bed. Sweat glanced on the Soul mage's forehead and he felt like throwing up. "I don't know what's happened to him but… whatever it is, it's horrible. I've never felt… so much fear and desperation." He looked at the raven. It was hard to believe that that motionlessness could hide so much inner turmoil. "He's going through all that right now."

"That's not a normal coma." Porlyusica said. Apparently there were quite a lot of things she didn't know about the dragon mating season either.

"When I get my hands on him…" Loke said through gritted teeth.

Natsu panted heavily and rested his back against a tree. He tried to remember and comprehend what had just happened.

He had been walking through the forest when suddenly his head started throbbing uncontrollably. His vision went black and it felt like part of his mind got attacked and then invaded.

Natsu shook his head to try and clear his mind, as black dots still specked his vision. He didn't know what just happened, all he knew was that it had something to do with Gray.

Just thinking about the raven made the mental shard of ice that pierced his heart spread another wave of cold through his body, but still his face was covered in sweat. He shook his head again to get the last of the haziness away before he shuffled to a nearby stream. He fell to his knees next to it and splashed water over his face.

When he opened his eyes again he saw his own reflection in the water. A soft gleam of the dragon scales was still there and didn't seem to want to vanish. He looked away, unable to watch himself for very long. He crawled back to his feet and started walking again.

He had made up his mind in the last few hours; he was going to resume his search for Igneel. If anyone could help him with the mess he left behind, it was his foster dad.

If only he knew where to start. Igneel disappeared seven years ago.

well, actually fourteen. Natsu thought bitterly as he remembered their lost seven years. He had always believed in finding his father again, but now that he really, desperately needed him he saw it was almost as hopeless as hoping that Gray would ever forgive him.

"Now I want you all to leave." Porlyusica suddenly said sternly. "I need to treat the wounds on his legs and I'll have to take his pants off for that."

To the woman's surprise the Fairy Tail members all got a small smile on their faces. "Yeah, because we've never seen Gray Fullbuster naked." Loke chuckled softly, but the joy was missing in his voice.

Although it was good to have at least this little of the tension lifted, Porlyusica shook her head. "Still, I want you to leave."

"Do as she says." Makarov said softly. Erza and Lucy helped pick up Bixlow's dolls and then left, but Loke remained on his spot.

"Master…" The spirit started, but Makarov put up his hand to silence him.

"You can stay."

"Makarov, I'm not sure that's a good idea." Porlyusica said. There obviously was a reason she didn't want any other people in the room.

"If I gotta leave, I'm going after Natsu." Loke threatened, crossing his arms in front of his chest.

"That's what I thought. It's okay, Porlyusica. He's Gray's best friend." Makarov nodded.

"Okay, okay." The pink haired healer sighed. "But it's hard nursing someone when there are all annoying humans around."

"Technically, I'm not human." Loke smirked.

"Well, you're an even more annoying spirit."

"You're a very charming lady, you know that?" Loke said sarcastically.

"And from what I've heard, you're supposed to be the most charming member of Fairy Tail, but honestly I haven't seen a lot of that since I came here." Porlyusica countered.

"Being charming won't help Gray get better."

"Will you two stop?" Makarov interrupted although he thought the pinkette woman had a point; Loke was anything but charming or pleasant when one of his nakama was in danger. This was the first time he truly saw the temper that belonged to the Lion Spirit. "Porlyusica, you wanted to tell us something?"

"Yes, and it's far from pleasant."

"Has anything we found out today been?" Loke shrugged.

"I'm just saying, I've warned you." The woman said shaking her head.

"What have you found?" Makarov asked, although he thought he already knew what was coming.

"It already crossed my mind the moment it turned out that this was a dragon mating, but by now I'm actually fairly certain." Porlyusica explained and let out a deep sigh. "I think the dragon slayer acted on the… purpose of the season."

The master nodded sadly, but Loke just stood there with a puzzled look on his face. His gaze shifted between the master and the healer.

"What do you mean? I don't…" But he fell silent as he made the click. "He didn't… did Natsu…?" The colour drained from his face. He had trouble getting the words over his lips, but finally managed to spit them out, "Did Gray… get raped?"

"It would surprise me if he wasn't. The slayer who did this was obviously a very emotional one and that probably makes him the most dangerous kind of dragon slayer. When I treated his wounds on his lower stomach and back earlier, I found some distinct bruises that leave little else explanation than rape. Obviously, I didn't want to say this with all the people in the room, so I hope you'll keep this quiet."

"Of course I'm not going to tell anybody." The spirit said affronted. "It… would crush his pride."

Porlyusica nodded and turned to the raven, finally starting on treating the last physical wounds, removing the last piece of clothing.

"Do you think he can hear us?" Lucy asked as she looked down at the ice mage. His wounds were now all either bandaged or stitched. The machines beeped with every slow heartbeat.

It was almost morning again and nobody had come back from their search for Natsu yet.

Loke shrugged, resting his chin on his own bandaged hands. After finding out Natsu had raped Gray, he couldn't hold in his anger any longer. He had punched the wall over and over again, until his knuckles were all bloody. But at least now he had calmed down somewhat.

"Did something happen when we left the room earlier, Loke? You look paler." Lucy said worried.

The spirit shook his head and gave her a little forced smile. Of course he hadn't told her about what else happened to Gray. "No, I'm just… exhausted."

The blonde didn't look entirely convinced, so Loke decided to change the subject. "Has somebody found Natsu yet?" The way he said the slayer's name was full of hate.

Lucy shook her head. "No, no one has come back yet. We can't find him anywhere."

"We should tell them about what kind of scum he is." Loke growled. Makarov had asked not to mention the part where Natsu was the attacker yet.

"We'll wait a little longer." The master said softly, but stern. "I want to be absolutely sure it was him."

"You're still doubting that, ji-san?" Loke asked dumbfounded. "He burned his initials into Gray's back!"

"I know. It's idle hope of me to think that it's not him; but first I want to see him and talk to him. I want to know just what brought him to this and it would be easier for everyone to accept what has happened when they can see him showing remorse."

"He ran. You really think he's feeling remorse? He's a coward!" Loke roared.

"He took the trouble of putting fresh clothes on him… isn't that some sign of remorse?" Lucy asked with a little voice.

"Well those clothes did nothing good, did they? It only made his wounds worse."

"He might not have known that."

"I can't believe you guys are defending him!"

"We're NOT defending his actions! It's just hard to admit that one of our own nakama did this!" Lucy suddenly yelled, before breaking into sobs. "We all know it was Natsu, but… I just can't believe it. I don't want to believe it!"

Loke's anger left his expression as he stepped over to his master and wrapped his arms around her. Everybody deals with a situation in their own way and he had been blinded to see that this was just the rest trying to cope with what happened. They had let him rage, so he should let them do it their own way.

"I'm sorry for being such an ass, I'm just… so furious." He apologized as he hugged the blonde close to him.

"I know." Lucy sobbed. "I just wish there was more that we could do. Fairy Tail without Gray and Natsu… is that even Fairy Tail?"

The girl had a point. Fairy Tail was notorious for their destruction and more than half of it was done by the duo. They are, or better said were, a constant factor within the guild. None of them wanted to think about what it would feel like knowing they could never have that again.

But the thought was momentarily interrupted as Mira sneaked back into the room. "Master?"

"Yes, what is it, Mirajane?" He sounded immensely tired, but still he managed a small smile. "Did somebody come back? Did they find Natsu?"

The girl shook her head. "Gajeel is back."

End of chapter XII

I know this chapter had a lot of Loke, but I really think he's the type to react this strongly. He'd do anything when his friends are being wronged, like what happened to Aries. And I just absolutely love the pair of Gray and Loke, both as friends and lovers. Of course for this story it's just friendship, after all it's a Natsu x Gray story.

Thank you very much for reading and please let me know what you think. I'll try to update as soon as possible. The problem is that the internet connection really sucks at the place I stay for my internship, this chapter was actually already finished a few days ago but I just couldn't upload it. I'll also try to react to your reviews but it might take a little longer.