Lucy couldn't breathe. She looked up at the blood red sky and she laughed. It was a desperate pathetic sound but since she couldn't get enough air into her lungs it came out as a high wheezing cough. Her left leg was trapped underneath a pile of rubble and she could feel the rock bite into her skin. Her hair was a mess, her clothes were torn and every single part of her body hurt.
She was covered in bruises, welts and scratches. Two of her fingers were broken and blood was leaking into her eyes from her temple. She was pretty sure that her left shoulder was dislocated. There was no humor in this situation but she didn't know what else to do but since she was Lucy of Fairy Tail. The Light of the Fairies, they called her. She did the only thing she could do, she smiled and laughed in the face of absolute pain and despair.
She was weak. She thought to herself in what was probably her last moments. Thinking back to the first time she met Natsu in Hargeon, she was a naïve, sheltered rich girl, running from her responsibilities and her life desperate for adventure and for a family. She had been so under prepared for everything that happened since joining Team Natsu it was a wonder she wasn't dead yet.
There had been many times in the early days of their adventures that she had wondered why the hell Natsu was so determined to keep her around? He had to constantly protect her but at the same time she ignored the thoughts of getting stronger in favor of having fun and being soothed by the words of her friends. None of them wanted to hurt her feelings and they told her that she didn't need to change or train. They loved her just the way she was and she appreciated the sentiment.
However looking back on her life now she knew that she had been foolish. Lucy had been eighteen years old, yearning for a better life. Instead she found herself in the middle of a war by the time she turned twenty and her best friend/boyfriend/lover/partner was actually a demon.
A demon who had been born over 400 years ago and died and had been brought back from the dead by his crazy brother. The crazy brother who was actually known as the Dark Wizard and the most evil guy on the planet. She didn't like to think too deeply on the status of her relationship with Natsu.
It was just too confusing. There was so much between them she didn't know what to call them most times but now here she was in the middle of a war that they just couldn't win, dying.
She couldn't move. She tried to twitch her toes or move her fingers at least and she just couldn't. She had no magic power left and no energy to even try to twitch her fingers anymore. She didn't know what happened to Natsu. He was facing off against his brother, she knew that much.
She could feel the heat from his flames all the way out here but she didn't know if he was winning or losing. However even though she had faith in him, she was sure that even if he did win by the time he returned to her side she would be long gone.
She could hear the sounds of battle all around her. It sort of reminded her of the time they were fighting against the dragons after the grand magic games but at the same time that felt like a lifetime ago. All their adventures seemed like a lifetime ago.
She was cold and at the back of her mind her subconscious was screaming at her that being cold was a very bad thing. Lucy however couldn't bring herself to care. She knew that her shoddy patchwork stitches was not going to hold.
She was bleeding out and this time she had no idea where Wendy was stationed currently. Even if the girl had managed to make it to her she doubted that she would have the energy to heal anyone else.
Everyone had wounds. Most of the time they were all so bloody and beaten to hell she wondered where they found the strength to pick themselves up and keep going. Then again they were Fairy Tail, picking themselves up after being beaten to hell and back was kind of what they were famous for.
Making their enemies pause and wonder how the hell they were still standing and if they really were human was something they were all proud of being able to do. They were all in some ways monsters but as hard as they fought, they each found themselves lagging. There was only so far you can push yourself, and her body no longer had the strength to scream in protest. No, she was just numb now.
She held her keys tightly in her hands. She had Yukino's keys as well. Saber's celestial mage had fallen in the first wave. Her death had sent Sting into a rage that wiped out a good chunk of their army but it didn't change the fact that she was gone.
Sting had brought Yukino's keys to her, saying that it was too dangerous to leave them lying around during the war. Lucy could at least open their gate and allow them to take vengeance for their fallen master.
She understood wanting to give the keys to someone who would be able to protect them and she knew that it was a really bad idea to have any of the golden keys lying around. It had already been proven that celestial magic could be used to meddle with time if combined with dark magic. They didn't need anyone trying anything else.
Then there was the fact that giving her keys would mean that all the keys would be gathered in the same place, held by the same mage, something like that had never happened in the history of Stellar magic but all those things still left a bitter taste in her mouth.
Lucy hadn't wanted to hold all the gold keys like this. She didn't want to make a contract with her friends spirits. They loved her as much as she loved them and it wasn't fair that she was gone. It wasn't right that the world lost one of the few celestial mages that cared about their spirits.
Her magic was rare enough and the amount of people that used it lessened every generation. To find not one but two celestial mages who cared for their spirits in the same generation was a miracle. The fact that this war had killed one of the few people that understood her feelings towards her spirits drove Lucy into a murderous rage.
However in the end, all their rage, frustration and desperation hadn't changed the fact this cursed war had ended a lot of innocent lives. Lucy opened their gates and allowed them to take their revenge. It had been the least that she could to ease their pain. She was probably the only celestial mage who ever held the entire zodiac even though she could no longer summon Aquarius.
Lucy had been the weakest member of Team Natsu. No matter how much she tried and how far she had come in her journey as a mage, she just had not taken her training seriously enough. She hadn't had enough time. She only trained properly once she lost Aquarius and she still had so much so learn. There was a time that she hadn't known where to start since there was just so much. It made her want to smack her younger self who was so opposed to training because she didn't want to put in the hard work.
She had been naïve thinking that adventures would be fun and that she didn't have to train to keep out of the real danger. Then again if she had known that there was going to be a war maybe she would have trained harder. Hell, if she had known half of what she knew now, she would have trained harder.
Things had been so much simpler back when she was just another run away rich girl who yearned for adventures. In her heart, she knew she wouldn't have traded this life for anything or anyone. She had made mistakes and this was just another lesson that she had learned far too late in life.
Lucy could feel her spirits and they were mourning for her. They were crying out in rage and pain, telling her to hold on a little longer but she didn't have the strength left. She sent them a pulse of warmth, letting them know she loved them and thanking them for fighting beside her in this godforsaken war. She ignored the burning sensation coming from Loke's key as he tried to force his gate open to her side. Finally she just closed her eyes because she was so damned tired.
Natsu was injured, tired, running low on magic power and he couldn't beat his brother. They lost so many people. There was so much damage and destruction and amongst the ruins of the city he could still sense it. Amongst the fighting and the death and amongst it all he could still smell her blood and there was too much of it.
Lucy was dying and he was stuck here fighting this monster that made him a demon and he still couldn't win. He needed to go to her but he was stuck here, facing his own flesh and blood and seeing only madness in his eyes. Natsu was getting his ass kicked losing the one fight he was supposed to be winning, the one fight that was supposed to determine the fate of world. This was the fight that he had been brought back from the bloody dead to win and he just couldn't do it.
He roared a sound filled with pain and desperation because he knew that if she died then he would die as well. For him there was no living without her. There was no future for him without her and there was no way in hell that he could win without her. She was his strength and as her heart beat started to slow so did his attacks. He was going to die with her because there was no way in hell that he would come out of this without her. Lucy was his heart and soul and without her, he was nothing.
He cursed those twelve assholes that beat them all to hell and back. He cursed his brother and that damned black bastard of a dragon. There were just too many of them to deal with at the same time. They couldn't beat them all, not in an ambush like this. They weren't ready, none of them had a plan, hell he didn't know if they would ever be ready for a full on war.
They had managed to defeat more than anyone thought possible but it didn't matter because as Natsu was losing against their leader. Zeref got more and more enraged as Natsu slowed down. He was meant to kill him so why wouldn't he fight back and end this war. Natsu was supposed to win because he had more to lose. Zeref wanted to die, immortality was a curse. He wanted it to end and Natsu was supposed to be his salvation.
"Luce." Natsu whispered her name as a prayer.
Zeref blasted Natsu with as much power as he could when he uttered the name of that blonde woman. He didn't really care about anyone anymore. He had emotions however they all, almost always ended up dead before he could blink. He didn't feel anything for any other human besides passing fondness.
Natsu on the other hand without the girl, he was willing to lay down and die. Then again taking in his injuries and the amount of magic he had left he wasn't ready for the final battle. The time had come but Natsu had been too uninformed of the reality of the situation. He had been planning this day for over four hundred years and Natsu was ignorant of his purpose. This meant that he wasn't ready.
Zeref was powerful enough to do this because if the blonde died then it seemed like his little brother was prepared to die as well just so that he didn't have to live without her. It sickened him. It drove him to the edge of his madness but he didn't care. Natsu would end his suffering and if the blonde woman was so bloody important then he would give him what he wanted. Natsu could think of it as his blessing or a wedding present for all he cared.
He picked up his little brother by the hair, "You aren't ready. You and the girl get one do over and if you cannot kill me when I'll burn this world to ash while the blonde watches in a fucking cage. You will die knowing that she will live with me haunting her every step if you cannot do better."
His eyes widened as he threatened Lucy. Natsu felt his fists clench ready to knock out his teeth for disrespecting her like that. Natsu didn't get what he was talking about and he didn't care. He just wanted him away from Lucy but before he could do anything or even think of something to say, there was another explosion. His vision went black and his ears hurt. Natsu fell and instead of the dirt of the burning city he hit the wooden floor of his home.
When he opened his eyes he found himself staring at his ceiling in his home. The one he shared with Happy, who was curled up on the sofa sleeping. Natsu grabbed his scarf and went outside. The sun was shining and there were no traces of the war. The air smelled clean, no dust or fire or death in the air. He could even hear the sounds of people in the town and they sounded happy and safe. The city had been evacuated before the first wave when the war started.
Natsu looked at his hands and noticed that it was smaller than he remembered and less scarred. He was also a little shorter than he used to be.
'What the bloody hell just happened?' he thought to himself.
He went inside and saw the calendar and map. He used the map to mark any supposed sightings of Igneel and to keep track of the months. It was the year x782 that was two years before he even met Lucy. A few weeks before Lisanna's supposed death as well.
That would mean when Zeref said something about a do over he sent him back in time. Natsu knew very little about time magic except for the little bit he saw when he fought Ultear for like five minutes. He was sure that Zeref mentioned Lucy as well so maybe he sent her back as well. Her heart was still beating, slowly but she had still been alive before Zeref did whatever he did and he woke up here.
That meant she was back at the manor waiting for him to bring her home. At least he hoped that was where she was since she hadn't run away yet. If he woke up in his home then that had to where she woke up. He left a note for Happy saying that there was something he need to check out and that he should stay with Lisanna for a couple of days until he was back. Then he went to go get Lucy.
Lucy woke up on silk sheets and she immediately knew something was wrong. She hadn't felt comfort like this since she had left the manor. The one that her father had lost before his death so waking up in her old bedroom that was the size of her flat was confusing. The last thing she remembered was lying in the rubble, bleeding to death so this couldn't be real. At least that was what her mind was telling her.
She looked at her calendar on the wall and realized that in this year according to that calendar she was sixteen years old. This was the year that her father tried to set her up with a betrothal. She had stayed, trying to give it chance trying to make him understand that this wasn't the life she wanted. However once he signed the contract she ran that had been six months before her eighteenth birthday.
In retaliation the Jurnelle family made it their mission to destroy her father and eventually succeeded. In a way, she knew that the family would take offence. Since she had technically never spoke out against the contract and then ran away and disgracing their family.
Apparently the bride running away to a mage rather than marry a rich snob meant to the upper society that something must be wrong with him. If a Lady chose an 'uncouth' lifestyle rather than marry him, his reputation had been dragged through the mud along with hers.
Lucy picked up the ring of keys on the dresser next to her. There were thirteen golden keys, the first thing her mind registered was that she had Aquarius back. Her eyes widened and tears pooled in her eyes unable to believe what she was seeing but these keys should be with their masters.
If this was the past then she shouldn't have these keys. She had gotten most of these keys years from now when she had joined Fairy Tail. Karen and Angel and wherever Yukino's keys were before she found them while she was napping on Tenrou Island should still be in those places with those masters.
Lucy always thought that if she hadn't been trapped on the Island for seven years then she probably would have found all the gold keys on her own. Yukino told her once that none of the keys that she had were given to her.
Unlike Lucy who inherited several golden keys from her mother Yukino had found them on her own. She never said where so she assumed that she either bought some of them or got them as a reward. That had been the ways that she found her keys but now they were all here with her. She didn't know how that was possible, hell she didn't know she got here in the first place.
Loke forced open his gate and hugged her tightly. He was muttering about how scared they all were that she was going to die. Her spirits could feel her dying and none of them could help her. It was a terrifying experience so be able to feel the life force of their mistress drain out of her as they were stuck in the spirit world.
Loke cursed himself for not being able to help her more. He also thanked the higher powers of the universe that celestial spirits were not affected by time travel easily and that he and the rest of her spirits were able to keep their memories.
He smiled at her reassuringly, pulling himself out of his dark thoughts before she could scold him for thinking like that and said, "I came to give you some answers. We don't know everything but we do have some information. Zeref did this. The King could feel his magic send your soul back and so he ensured that we would come with you. He sent you and someone else back in time, merging the two of you with your younger bodies."
Lucy's jaw actually dropped. She didn't know something like that was even possible. Ultear could manipulate time but this was more than normal time magic. This dealt with soul magic as well. Soul magic was a branch of magic that was even rarer than lost magic. There were almost no books on it and there were very little on the planet that even wanted to read about soul magic.
It was something that no one liked to dig too deeply into, death was one thing and so was necromancy but the soul? That was something that no human truly understood and no one wanted to a mistake with that magic. She was pretty sure that there were no mistakes with this magic. Either it worked or you killed your very soul and no one knew what would happen if that happened.
Then again Zeref spent most of his life researching life and death so it made sense that he would study that branch of magic. To remove a persons soul from the body was one thing but to move that soul through time and merge it with the soul that already exists? She didn't even want to think about how that was even possible or the amount of magic it would take to do something like that.
Loke on the other hand, ignored her dumbstruck expression and continued with his explanation, "Due to the time travel and the fact that celestial magic has always been given more leeway when it comes to time magic our history has been changed. Karen died two weeks earlier before I could force open my gate and threaten her but she faced Angel in battle and lost her life.
Rune Knights arrested Angel afterwards but she managed to escape however they already took her keys breaking their contract to her. The keys that they confiscated were lost when the prison transport vehicle was attacked. Angel's allies freed her and lost her keys in the process and the other three keys that Yukino found were spread out in the world. They had not been contracted for a long time. Angel will probably learn different magic earlier now and Yukino will either learn a different kind of magic or not become a mage at all. I never joined Fairy Tail as Loke so that changes some stuff as well."
Lucy nodded as she slowly came to understand what happened and how she still had all the keys. Since she was in the past Aquarius's key had never been destroyed so she had a second chance with the spirit. All that aside it didn't change the fact that she was stuck in the past with no idea what to do. The consequences of time travel on this scale were immense and she didn't even want to think of all the ways that things could go wrong if she messed up something.
"Who was the other person he sent back?" she asked and Loke shook his head. The lion spirit didn't know as he was probably more concerned about his mistress who had been bleeding to death at the time. The fact was, they knew because they were her spirits. The other person that had been sent back was not connected to them.
Lucy changed her clothes and for a moment she had butterflies in her stomach, her father was still alive but he was also still a bitter bastard and she didn't know what to do or even if she should interfere with the time line however she already knew that her just coming here had already changed things, Loke spent three years as a mage and now he would never go on the jobs that he went on and Loke was a close friend of Gray and now they wouldn't be partners either so she didn't know how that would change the timeline.
The other problem was that she didn't know who else knew of the future that they came from they could be an enemy who would use the knowledge to hurt her family or an ally that didn't now that she had come back as well so they might change things without telling her, honestly she didn't think that anything was going to happen the way, then again nothing ever happens the same way twice.
She was so lost in her thoughts she didn't even realize that she was in the dining room, her father might join her for breakfast, he would want to tell her about the marriage proposals and the prospective grooms that he wanted her to meet in the coming months but she wasn't sure when that conversation actually happened and she had no idea how she was supposed to respond to his demands this time even though a part of her really just wanted to punch him in the face for acting like a bastard.
"Lucy." The scream of a male's voice sounded throughout the dining room and her father looked at her darkly but Lucy had no idea what was happening until the ceiling caved in. She had been so lost in her thoughts that she hadn't really registered the chaos that was taking place in front of her.
"Pardon the intrusion." Said the pink haired, fire mage who had just burst into her old home through the roof, screaming her name with a grin on his face like nothing unusual was happening, her jaw dropped and she was pretty sure that her father may or may not have had a heart attack.
"Yo, Luce are you hurt? Are you alright? Do you remember?" he asked the questions in rapid fire, ignoring the dust and ruined furniture in the dining room.
Natsu even ignored the shocked maids who had dropped various cleaning supplies, trays full of food and the many other servants who had come running into the room from outside. They both ignored sound of her father trying to breathe through the dust and the horror that he was probably feeling. She wondered if he would faint for a brief moment and felt a little guilty for enjoying his suffering. Then again, at this point in time he was still a jerk so she thought he deserved it.
"Natsu." She whispered and then she cried, tears falling rapidly down her cheeks.
Lucy had been on the verge of death one moment and then supposedly back in time the next. Years before she met her family and Natsu and her team. She had been so scared and so unsure of everything that was happening. Lucy thought that was alone again with just her spirits for company and then he burst through her roof of all places.
As soon as she saw him she just knew that everything was going to be alright. Natsu would make everything better because it was him that ended up in the past with her. She knew that everything would work put eventually because they were together again and there was nothing that they couldn't do. Natsu was always the one that she turned to when shit hit the fan and everything seemed hopeless.
As long as he was with her then she knew that she was going to be alright. Natsu had been the person who brought her to the guild. He stood by her no matter what people said or even when she had felt low about herself. Natsu was always there and now even in this situation where she didn't know which was up or down he had still come for her.
"Hey, its alright, I'm here now. I came to bring you home." He replied and her father lost his shit. She was honestly surprised that he kept it together for this long.
"What is the meaning of this?" he shouted and Lucy hugged him too.
She was tired of being angry at him for being a jerk and it all just came pouring out. Honestly once she introduced Natsu she just couldn't stop talking so she told him about running away, Phantom Lord, Tenrou Island, Tartaros and the war which finally led them all here. When she was done she collapsed ignoring the horror that she could see in her fathers eyes as she continued to explain her story. It was just too much for her and telling everything to her father had wrung her out. Everything that had gone on today had driven her to the very edge of her patience. She could feel the blood pounding in her ears just before the blackness embraced her.
Natsu hadn't been surprised when she fainted. He simply caught her around her waist, hoisted her into a princess carry and followed Jude into his study. He placed Lucy on the sofa underneath the huge windows and for a moment, she looked like a princess from a story who was simply sleeping. Lucy was stressed and tired and losing her shit so he decided to let her sleep and he would talk to her father.
He could see the frown lines on her face and for another moment he was shocked at how young she looked. Then again, unlike most of the other guild members he had never seen Lucy when she had been younger. Her eyes were the same but her face was youthful. It was shocking to see the difference that time had made for them.
"There is no way all that was a lie. I know my daughter and I know when she lies. As far-fetched as her story is, I know it's the truth. Besides she has more keys now even I can see that and I can sense the magic in her. She didn't have that much of a presence yesterday." Said Jude as he poured himself a glass of whiskey.
Natsu waited for him to say something else, to decide if he was going to be an enemy or an ally. He didn't really care what Jude thought or said but if he tried to keep Lucy here he would burn this place to the ground.
However he didn't want it to come to that, Lucy cared for her father. She had mourned for him when he died so he knew that leaving on a good note would mean a lot to her. He hoped her father learned from everything that Lucy told him. Natsu didn't want to fight him on whether or not Lucy was going to be leaving this place or not. He wanted the man to give them both his blessing. He knew how much that would mean to her.
"I wanted her to be happy you know, that's why I did everything I did. I thought that if I gave her everything money could buy she would be happy but I failed. I couldn't bear to look at her either. It hurt so much to see Layla and know that she was gone. However, I hurt her far more than I realized. I won't stand in the way of her happiness and I will help you and your guild. If it is to be her home then I will protect it. I can start working on the Magic Council, I have enough clout to enter politics."
Natsu realized that he had been dismissed so he took Lucy to her room and waited her to wake up. Lucy woke up curled around Natsu and for a moment she forgot everything just enjoying being in his arms. She knew his warmth instinctively however being in his arms had become a haven for her. She always knew when he held her that she was safe, that she was home so waking up like this. It was a good way to wake up after everything that they had just gone through.
Lucy could still taste the smoke filled air as she took her dying breaths. The war may not be here but it haunted her thoughts and her memories. She doubted that either of them could pretend that it hadn't happened. She didn't think that she could just walk into the guild and pretend to not know any of them. Thanks to the time travel, she technically hadn't met them yet. She wasn't their nakama and it hurt.
After nearly dying beside them in what seemed to be like yesterday, Lucy didn't think she had it in her to pretend like she didn't know them. She shook her head and put those thoughts out of her head. She had more pressing matters to attend to right now. She could figure out what they were going to do later.
"What happened with my Father?" she asked and he explained but Lucy couldn't go with him.
As shocked as she was with her fathers easy acceptance of everything that she told him in a mini panic because everyone knew she couldn't lie to save her life. She never believed that he would try to protect her but she couldn't just run away again with so little warning.
"You have to go back to the guild Natsu and I need to stay here at least for a few weeks. I need to get to know him again. I can't lose this chance. I won't take long. I just want to spend a little time with him."
He didn't like it. Natsu never liked being away from her for long but he understood. She wanted to let her father know that she loved him and try to repair their relationship even a little. It was something that she hadn't bothered to do before she left. Both times she left this house she left without saying goodbye, instead she left with silence and then harsh words. Then he was gone before she could repair the relationship that they shared. It was only fair that he give her this time.
"In a few weeks, Mira, Elfman and Lisanna are going to go on that S-class mission. I think we should go and save her."
Lucy bit her lip, "That will change the timeline Natsu, in a big way."
She had to warn him of the dangers of messing with time. It wasn't that she didn't want to help but they couldn't ignore the danger that came with messing with time. On the other hand since she had so many gold keys already she knew that technically time had already been changed. Loke never joined the guild, Angel and her magic even things with her father. Everything was different already so why couldn't they save their friends a whole lot of pain?
"I know, but Zeref said we get one chance to change the timeline and that means getting strong enough to fight the war. Mira lost two years of magical training when Lisanna died. When she got her sister back she still wasn't an active mage. Powerful as Mira was she could have been better and during the war she wasn't strong enough. Hell even during the fight with Tartaros, she could have done better. Lisanna lost years as well and Elfman was terrified of his powers as well. When they thought Lisanna died their magic came to a standstill."
Lucy saw his point as well. They needed powerful mages and they all needed a lot of training but they also had a lot of time. They didn't have to worry about Alvarez until both the Etherion cannon and FACE were destroyed and even then the last time they had about a year and a half before the country was ready to go to war. However just because they had time didn't mean that they shouldn't be training.
"We'll meet in Clover Town in two weeks. That's when they fought the beast and Lisanna went to Edolas. That gives me time to be with my dad as well." Said Lucy and Natsu nodded.
"We can make a real plan afterwards for now we'll work with a two week time limit. Don't tell anyone anything. We don't need more people knowing things and changing things without us knowing. The more we change, the less control we have over everything that happens so lets try and keep this between us for now."
Natsu nodded and got ready to leave but before he left, he grabbed her by the hand and kissed her. He had wanted to do that for so bloody long there was no way he wasn't going to do it now not after how many times he had nearly lost her. Technically she had been bleeding to death and he was forced to hear her heart beat slowing down until she was nearly dead. He was going to have nightmares for years.
He left her standing in the doorway if her home, blushing ten kinds shades of red as he called out, "I'll be back for what's mine."
She smiled to herself. If she was supposed to be his then he was hers but then again maybe they always belonged to each other and they were only now admitting it.