"Master!" Lucy greeted as she shut the office door cautiously. "You called for me?"

"So you're finally here. Good." Sitting behind his large wooden desk that held a relatively large lacrima, Master Makarov smiled. "Let me replay Gildarts' message first and then we can talk."

With a soft click, the larcima glowed and a familiar face appeared in the crystal. "Yo, sixth master. No sign of Tar..."

Makarov pressed the side of the lacrima with a glowing finger. "Let's forward to the relevant part." The speeding images of shifted to Gildarts holding up a small box. "There!"

"... the package I'm sending. I was going to send it to the council headquarters for research and classification but then I remembered that we have a Celestial Spirit mage in the guild now." Gildarts grinned. "You've got to give her the cube, old man."

Makarov pushed a small black cube forward. "Who does he think he is, calling me old?"

Lucy took the box gingerly, gasping at the ice cold surface. A little bigger than her palm but heavy with liquid sloshing around inside, the box could have held anything.

"...and there I was right in the middle of a meteor shower," Gildarts said with a wistful smile. "Dodging those things while the ground was being torn apart all around it, I've never witnessed something so wonderful!"

Torn between exasperation and disbelief, Lucy glanced down at the cube with a better idea of why she'd been called. The cube could only hold one thing.

"Anyway, when it was all over, I noticed something emitting bursts of magic. You know what I found?" He paused dramatically before he exclaimed, "A celestial key."

Filled with excitement, Lucy pulled the cube closer.

"That was burning hot," Gildarts grouched and held up a bandaged hand. "Couldn't make out it's design before I sealed it. If I remember correctly, it's been a while since a new celestial key appeared on Earthland."

"Ages," Lucy muttered absently and traced her fingers over the cube.

"Fairy Tail will get tons of good press for this new key," Gildarts said. "See, it's a good thing that I didn't stay as guild master."

Makarov huffed and paused the lacrima again with a swift tap. "At least he's thinking about the guild in his own way."

"How am I ever going to repay him?" Lucy asked. "A new key is priceless."

"The best way you can repay Gildarts is to use that key. As it's owner you decide when, what or even if the magical community gets to learn about the key." Makarov said, "Besides, the Council wouldn't have paid or credited Gildarts for finding it."

Lucy glanced down at the cube. "I'll do my best, Master."

"Good." With a smug smile, Makarov added, "The Council will be irritated but they can't interfere. With the amount of keys you have, you're more of an expert than any of them."


"No need to worry about those grumpy people, child. Just take your new key," Makarov said and glanced at his office door. "Before you team decided to break my door with their curiosity."

As though a switch had been flipped, muffled bickering filled the office.

Lucy opened the door with a quick slam. Her team, all trying to eavesdrop at the door, fell back in a tangle of limbs. "I'll be going now, Master."

Makarov waved her away with a smile as she closed the door.

From amidst the tangle, Natsu said, "What did the old man want? Did he give you an awesome mission?"

"A super-difficult awesome mission?" Happy echoed from somewhere in the pile.

"You can't go anywhere without us," Gray said seriously. "We're a team."

With a puff of magic and multiple pained yelps, Erza freed herself from the tangle. "Whatever mission Master gave you, I would be the best choice if you can only take one person." She glared down when the others protested loudly. "Don't forget that I'm the team's only S-ranked mage."

Rather than being cowed into silence, both Gray and Natsu argued even more fiercely.

"Master didn't give me a mission." Waiting till they had all untangled themselves, Lucy walked away with a devious smile. "He gave me a package from Gildarts."

When they registered her words, they followed and yelled an enthusiastic jumble of questions at her.

"No, it's really not a mission," Lucy grinned and led them out of the guild building to their usual outdoor table, "Not a weapon or an exotic fish. And not a book."

"Then what?" Natsu flailed his arms in excitement.

"Enough with the suspense already." Gray tugged his shirt up and sat opposite her, "Tell us."

"A celestial key." Lucy said, full with excitement as she placed the cube on the table. "The first new key to appear on Earthland in my lifetime. Much longer than that actually. I'll be the first person to ever use this key."

"Awesome!" Natsu grinned. "You finally got a dragon spirit, haven't you?"

Gray threw his pants over his shoulder. "What do you mean, new key?"

Erza smacked Gray's shoulder and dumped his clothes on the table. "And how did Gildarts find it?"

After recounting Gildarts' lacrima message, Lucy said, "I'll need to study the key's design to figure out which constellation it represents. Usually the designs are obvious but this key could represent one of the historical constellations from older star charts or even a..."

Her team stared at her blankly.

"To use the key and summon a celestial spirit I need to know the spirit's name!"

"Okay." Gray nodded and looked down at the cube. "Aren't you going to open it?"

"I don't, I mean, it's a big occasion. A new key and... " Lucy shielded the cube from view. "And Wendy isn't here."

"Cana said they'd be at the orphanage for the entire weekend," Gray said.

"I'll go get Carla and Wendy," Happy rose up into the air.

"Don't!" Lucy said. "They rarely get to spend time together. And I probably won't be able to summon anything, anyway."

Natsu frowned. "Why not?"

"I might not be able to figure out which spirit the key summons."

"You will. You're the brains of the team," Erza said, making the others nod. "There's no puzzle you can't solve if you put your mind to it."

Lucy blushed and looked down at the cube. "It's the first new key in ages."

"If you want some celebration," Erza said thoughtfully. "We could get some strawberry cake or have a guild party."

Knowing that both options could -and most probably would- end in violence, Lucy said, "No celebrations unless I want to tell the world about this new key."

"You really want to open that, don't you?" Happy said, his eyes fixed intently on the cube.

"I can't open it in front of you all if Wendy isn't here," Lucy said firmly even as she toyed with the cube. "Then it wouldn't be a team thing."

"But... "

"Don't fret." With a visible burst of magic, Erza changed from her everyday armour into a white blouse under a snug tan vest and matching pants that ballooned at her thighs but ended tucked into black boots. A patterned ascot around her neck, an artfully tilted black beret on her head and a matching megaphone in her hand completed the ensemble. "Director Erza has the perfect solution."

Lucy shared an amused look with both boys sitting opposite her. "When did you get this outfit?"

"Why did you get this outfit?" Gray said over Natsu's snickers.

With another tug of magic, a small lacrima replaced the megaphone in Erza's hand. "Needed something to go with my recording lacrima."

Lucy straightened with realization.

Erza nodded. "If we record the moment you open the cube, then Wendy and Carla won't miss out."

"It's not the same." Looking at her teammates' barely hidden curiousity, Lucy relented. "But, all right. Let's look at the key together now. But only look, no talks of summoning until Wendy's back."

Natsu and Happy whooped in delight, Gray grinned and Erza smiled as she sat down beside Lucy with the recording lacrima in her hands.

Lucy dug her nails into the shallow grooves on the cube's side till it got a hold of her magic pulled. With a click and a hiss of vapour, the cube opened.

"Sparkly!" Happy said as the cube vanished.

Lucy couldn't help but agree as she picked the silver key.

The key's design started simple with a white opalescent flame decorating that key's head. But the key's blade ended in the most intricate design she'd ever seen on a celestial spirit's key- a pair of folded wings with layers of etched feathers fanned over each other like a stack of cards. Listing possible constellations, Lucy tilted the key and admired the iridescent white shine of the detailed feathers and the flame design.

"Even without a constellation marking on it, the wings should narrow things down," Gray said. "You'll find out which spirit's key this is in no time."

Natsu said, "Dragons have wings."

Lucy mentally discounted the constellation Draco, since it depicted a wingless serpentine dragon.

"Lots of creatures have wings, you moron," Gray retorted. "Like birds! And insects! Do dragons even have feathered wings?"

"Wendy said Grandine does." Natsu ginned smugly. "And there's a flame design on top."

"Lucy?" Erza said.

"I know which spirit this key calls," Lucy whispered.

Happy cheered. "Then you can use the key and summon your new spirit."

Burning rubble around her. Desperate screams of terror. A piercing screech, harsh and unforgiving, from the monstrous creature in the sky. Eclair's smile as she disappeared.

"Lucy," Erza's voice dropped in concern as she pried Lucy's hand open to expose the key. "What's wrong?"

"With a flame design and bird wings, it can only be," Lucy's voice shook at the onslaught of memories. "Gate of the Firebird key, Phoenix."

"Oh Lucy," Erza wiped Lucy's cheeks, wrapped an arm around her and pulled her into a hug.

"I," Lucy struggled to speak past the lump in her throat. "Sorry."

"What are you apologizing for?" Erza said softly. "It's only been three months since we came back from Veronica."

"I thought I had moved on. But it feels like it just happened all over again. And Eclair..." Lucy blinked back her tears. "If that happens with just it's name, how can I ever use the key?"

Erza rubbed slow soothing circles on her back. "Then don't use the key."

"It's a new key, it deserves better than to be ignored just because I can't just forget what happened."

"No one, not even this new spirit, would ever ask you to forget what happened. Especially when the painful memories are all we have left." Erza patted Lucy's head. "I'm sorry. Even though you were in pain, you were forced to hide it away. You couldn't unburden yourself to me because I'm the one who..."

It took a moment for Lucy to decipher Erza's unspoken words. "I never blamed you for her death. You had to stop that monster. Eclair knew and accepted what would happen."

"I should have been a better friend even when I feared that you blamed me." Erza said firmly after a long moment of silence. "You shouldn't have had to rely on unloading your pain in letters to your mother."

"I couldn't," Lucy said in embarrassment. "I couldn't bear to think about it and I couldn't even write about it to mama. The words never came out."

"Then I won't push you to talk now. When the words finally want to come out, I'll do my best to help you just like you've always helped me."

Lucy looked up into Erza's sincere eyes and nodded.

"Lucy! Are you all right?" Wendy said as Carla deposited her beside their table.

"What are you doing here?" Lucy asked as she wiped her eyes and moved away from Erza.

"Happy said there was an emergency and you were hurt," Wendy said unsurely, her eyes lingering on Lucy's face in concern. "So I told Cana I had to come back."

"Happy?" Lucy said and looked around. "Oh, did I scare those three away?"

"Those boys are useless in front of tears." Erza said simply as she requipped back into armour. "Especially when they can't hit the real source of the tears."

Lucy snorted before she could help herself and blinked away the blurriness in her eyes.

Carla frowned as she stared between them silently.

"Lucy?" Wendy asked in worry.

"I'm fi..." Lucy paused and shook her head wryly. "I just remembered some sad memories."

Eyes soft with understanding, Wendy moved forward and hugged Lucy. "You always hugged away my sad memories."

Lucy smiled as she patted Wendy's hair. "You know, I'll feel even better when we make sure the others aren't causing any problems. "

Erza nodded. "Then we better go check on them."

With the new key safely stowed away in her belt pouch, Erza's light chatter with Carla and Wendy's tight hold on her hand, Lucy felt a bit more like herself as they entered the guild building.

Happy zoomed towards them and waved a mission request in Lucy's face. "I got an awesome mission for us."

"You weren't even here, stupid cat." Gray fiddled with the waistband of his boxers. "I'm found the mission."

Natsu growled in irritation, his hands glowing with magic. "Getting a mission was my idea."

Erza glared at them menacingly. "Are you two starting a fight in front of me?"


"Off course not." Both boys yelped simultaneously and half-hugged each other with terrified smiles.

"Idiots," Carla muttered as she landed on Lucy's shoulders.

"And Lucy probably wants to rest, anyway!" Erza said.

The warmth of their concern pushed away the lingering sadness. "Actually, a mission sounds good."

Everyone turned to look at her.

"Really?" Happy asked cautiously.

Lucy nodded with a wide smile. "Definitely."

"All right team," Erza clapped her hands with determination. "Pack up and meet at the train station in an hour. We're going on a mission."

After the usual team shenanigans on the train- Gray stripping, Natsu sick and nauseous until Erza knocked him out and Wendy dozing at her side with both exceeds on her lap- Lucy felt like she had made the right choice by agreeing to the mission.

The mission would be the perfect way to keep her unhappy thoughts away.

Or it would have been, if Team Natsu's horrible luck hadn't struck again. Instead of a simple mission, they ended up separated and facing off against opponents from another dark guild intent on killing them.

Low on magic and trying to come up with a strategy for victory, Lucy couldn't help comparing the feathers of her opponent's winged monsters to the detailed feathers on the new key. They key that she didn't want to think about, especially in the middle of battle.

"Is this really the time to get distracted?" The woman smirked. She knocked Lucy's whip away and threw her through a tree with a powerful blast of magic.

Pain overwhelmed her senses as Lucy landed on the rough ground with a key clutched tight. Before she could get back up, a heavy weight pressed down on her chest and numerous claws dug into her skin of her limbs keeping her still.

"You destroyed many of my birdies, more than anyone ever has. But I can make more. Much more." the woman teased as the number of claws digging into Lucy's skin multiplied. "That's the power difference between us."

"Hey, is this really the time to get distracted?" Lucy grinned. "Get her, Virgo!"

The earth exploded upwards in a shower of dirt and rock. Long chains encircled the woman and tossed her high up into the air where waiting earth debris spun wildly before enveloping her in a tight sphere of rock. Heavier chains, glowing bright with magic, covered the entire rock sphere and squeezed.

The creatures that had been holding onto Lucy disappeared in a puff of magic and feathers.

"Good job, Virgo," Lucy said and grimaced in pain as she sat up and examined the numerous bleeding slices on her arm and legs. "I should have come up with something that didn't involved being a monster's chew toy."

"Princess, let me treat your wounds." Without waiting for an answer, Virgo knelt beside her with a newly materialized pouch. After minutes of meticulous stitching, ointment-smearing and bandaging, she said, "Done. Now you can punish me."

Lucy huffed and moved to stand.

Virgo caught her before she fell. "I shall carry you back to your team-mates, Princess."

"I don't have enough magic to keep you here for long," Lucy confessed in worry.

"I won't leave you here by yourself," Virgo said and deftly shifted her grip. Placing one arm under Lucy's legs and the other supporting her back, Virgo stood with a satisfied nod. "There! Just like Leo taught me."

Cheeks burning with embarrassment, Lucy said, "What is that idiot teaching you?"

"Am I not doing the 'Princess Carry' properly?" Virgo asked in genuine confusion. "Maybe I need to practice some more."

"That's not it," Lucy sighed. "Never mind. Just take me to the others, please."

Virgo ran, the floating rock sphere following them easily. She jumped over a large pit and landed hard on the other side. "Apologies for the rough landing, Princess."

"It's okay," Lucy said, biting back a whimper as the pain in her wounds spiked. "I'm the one who should be apologizing for making you carry me."

"What's wrong with me helping you?"

"You already helped with the fight," Lucy said, wincing as she leaned against Virgo. "Now I'm just..."

"But Princess, who else would help you if I don't? The others are injured from the battle."

Lucy slumped at the reminder of her injured spirits. "I hope they'll be all right."

"Our new healer will fix them."

"Healer?" Lucy asked curiously.

Virgo nodded but didn't elaborate as they entered a new area where large chunks of sparkling ice dotted the battered terrain. "There," Virgo said, carefully moving around patches of ice and upturned chunks of the ground.

In the centre of a destroyed clearing, Wendy stood close to a battered Gray with her eyes closed in concentration and her hands glowing over a large gash down his back.

Gray raised his hand in greeting.

Lucy nodded back and shot a glance at the ice pillar holding two unconscious people. "Nice ice sculpture."

Gray snorted. "Nice rock sculpture."

Virgo knelt and gently lowered Lucy down to the ground.

"Thank you Virgo," Lucy said. "For everything."

"I'm glad to be of service, Princess." Virgo placed a small pouch in Lucy's lap and waved her arms. The chained earth sphere landed and crumpled, leaving behind an unconscious woman. "I'll be leaving now so you'll have to punish me later."

"Why do we always meet dark guilds on our missions?" Lucy asked.

Carla looked around with narrowed eyes. "Bad luck. Lots of it."

The glow around Wendy's arms flickered and vanished. She opened her eyes and lowered her trembling hands. "I don't have enough magic to heal anything else."

"I feel much better already," Gray said with a reassuring smile. "And I can bandage the rest."

"Virgo left some bandages," Lucy said, holding up a small pouch.

"Lucy! When did you get here?" Wendy asked, her eyes widening as she noticed Lucy's bandaged limbs. She raised her arms, which glowed with a weak flickering light. "I'll..."

"Sit down and rest," Lucy said firmly. "Virgo already bandaged my wounds."

"But..." Wendy protested.

"Don't overexert yourself."

"Exactly," Carla said in exasperation as she hovered beside Wendy. "Sit and rest. We'll have to deal with the most trouble-prone people of the team soon."

"Fine. But I'll be the lookout. Since I'm not healing, I won't miss anything this time."

After a short staring contest with Wendy, Carla sighed. "As long as you sit down."

They all turned as a loud explosion in the distance caused the ground beneath them to shudder.

"Natsu?" Lucy ventured.

Gray nodded. "Natsu."

"There are people coming towards us," Wendy said, eyes fixed away from the explosion. "At least ten of them."

"Damn it." Gray stumbled to his feet and stood in front of them with his arms raised in his Ice-Make stance.

Lucy grabbed her whip and extended it with a flick.

A group of men, clad in off-white hats and garish coloured robes bearing the ankh symbol of the council, marched into the clearing.

"Rune Knights?" Gray didn't shift from his stance.

"Gray Fullbuster," A tall bespectacled man, dressed in a long blue jacket that framed the council's symbol on his shirt, emerged from within the group. "We're here to apprehend the members of the Dark Guild..."

"Yeah, yeah," Gray sighed in relief as he sat back down. "Just get on with it already, Lahar."

Lahar directed his knights towards the three unconscious mages. "Why are you lot always in the thick of things?"

"We're just making your job easier," Gray said. "How many criminals have you captured because of us?"

Ignoring Gray, Lahar turned to Lucy and Wendy, "We'll be happy to help you and your entire team get back into town."

Gray groaned. "We're being taken in for questioning, aren't we?"

"Not when you're injured." Lahar stared at him blandly. "Shouldn't you be well-versed in my procedure after catching all those criminals for me?"

"Fine," Gray said and turned back to Wendy and Lucy. "Come on you two, I'll carry you out of here."

Lucy stared. "You're going to carry both of us all the way back to town?"

"Of course."

"When there are so many other people who'd help with that?"

Gray frowned. "They're suspicious. What if they try something?"

"Right now, you're the most suspicious one of all," Lucy said. "At least they're dressed."

Gray looked down and cursed. "Where did my clothes go?"

"Idiot," Lucy chorused along with Carla.

After being escorted by the Rune Knights back into their hotel room and being checked over by the town's physician, Lucy sat up long after Wendy, Carla and Gray had succumbed to sleep. Her ever growing concern vanished the moment Lahar brought back the rest of her team.

A heavily bruised Natsu snored even as he was moved from the stretcher to the bed with Happy sleeping on his chest.

Erza walked in with a relieved smile, looking tired but content. She went around the room, checking on everyone carefully before heading straight for Lucy's bed.

Lucy scooted over till they were both seated against the headboard.

"Are you all right?" Erza whispered softly.

Lucy nodded. "You?"

"Better than the rest of you. How was your fight?"

They traded stories of their individual battles, talked about the rest of the team and even discussed Lahar's timely arrival before Erza called it a night.

With nothing to keep her distracted, Lucy's thoughts went back to the new key. As she admired the key's iridescent feathers in the dim hotel room, Lucy resolved to let the spirit decide if it wanted a new owner. A better owner, one who didn't associate it's name with death.

Careful not to disturb her sleeping team-mates, Lucy grabbed her crutches and hobbled out to an empty clearing.

Lucy took a deep fortifying breath, pushed back the dark memories and channelled her magic into the key. "I am linked to the path to the world of Celestial Spirits, now! O spirit, answer my call and pass through the gate! Open the gate of the Firebird, Phoenix!"

With a musical trill, a large pillar of white flame burst into existence in front of her.

Not wanting to lose her resolve, Lucy glanced down at her feet. "I..."

The light from the flames vanished and a gentle voice interrupted her, "I don't want to be anyone else's spirit."

Stunned more at the familiar soft-spoken voice than the words, Lucy looked up. "Eclair?"

Though all the gold she'd worn before- the earrings, bangles and even the embroidered edge of her red sari- were now silver, Eclair's kind brown eyes were still the same. "Hello, Lucy."

"How are you..." The words stuck in her throat. Lucy curled her fingers around Eclair's arm. "How?"

"The Celestial Spirit King made me an offer just before I moved on. I think it was because I knew you," Eclair smiled. "I didn't even give him a chance explain before I accepted."

Letting her crutches fall, Lucy stumbled forward wrapped Eclair in a tight hug.

"Don't cry," Eclair said.

Lucy sniffled. "Why? Why did you become a spirit?"

"Because we're friends and I wanted to help you... was I wrong?"

"What about your family? Didn't you want to meet them after all these years?"

Eclair shrugged. "My memories never really came back. At the end, all I had were glimpses of life near the destruction of the Fire Village."

"Even so," Lucy protested. "I don't know if stellar spirits can..."

"Meet the dead? No, at least, I can't." Eclair said, "It's for the best. I can't face my village or my parents until I make up for my failure with the phoenix stone."

"It wasn't your fault."

"If I had done a better job, phoenix would never have been resurrected," Eclair said, her voice solemn. "I am partly responsible for the death and destruction it caused."

Lucy opened her mouth to disagree.

"Really Lucy, I don't regret my choice to become a celestial spirit. Your celestial spirit." Eclair said with a sincere smile. "And all of your friends have been so kind to me."

"Friends?" Lucy repeated in confusion and gasped when her remaining keys buzzed. "My spirits. They knew?"

Eclair nodded. "They took care of me and Momon."


"I couldn't bring him along because he doesn't have a key or gate. But all the Nicoras are keeping him company in the Spirit World."

The image of the Momon surrounded by Plue and the rest of the Nicoras distracted Lucy's train of thought.

"None of your spirits could tell you about me because of the rules," Eclair said as she directed Lucy to sit on the lone boulder in the area. "Besides, I wanted to tell you about this myself."

"Did you choose Phoenix?" Lucy grimaced as she settled down. "I mean..."

"I had a few choices for which empty constellation I could represent. But I chose Phoenix," Eclair said. "I wanted to show the world what a real Phoenix is supposed to be. And with my new magic, I can."

"Your magic?" Lucy asked curiously.

"Would you like to see it?"

Lucy nodded wordlessly.

"This is showier than I'd like but it does the job." White flames ignited around her arms with a hiss and danced across her skin. With an elegant twist of her hand and a jingle of her silver bangles, the white flames raced forward and enveloped Lucy in a deep soothing warmth.

The sting of her bandaged wounds, the dark bruises littered on her exposed skin and even the pain from her broken ankle disappeared as the soothing warmth sank into Lucy's muscles. She tugged off a bandage and gaped at the unblemished skin. "Amazing."

"I'm not a combat spirit but you can call me whenever you need help."

Lucy flexed her leg as she stood. "With all the danger the team ends up in, I'll probably be calling on you a lot when Wendy is worn out."

"I'm glad. I can finally repay you," Eclair said. "For everything that you gave me in those last few days."

"Friends don't owe each other anything. But," Lucy pulled Eclair into another hug. "I'm really happy you're here."

"Should I heal the rest of your team too? They look pretty banged up."

"My team?" Lucy leaned back in confusion.

Eclair motioned to a spot behind Lucy.

"You guys."

Erza stepped forward and away from the rest of the team.

"Thank you for taking care of Lucy," Eclair said before Erza could speak. "We made the best choices we could to prevent an even greater tragedy on that day. And though it was painful, things have been resolved for the better now, don't you think?"

Erza bowed. "It has."

As though a dam had broken, the rest of Team Natsu surged forward. Somewhere between multiple group hugs and bursts of healing white flames, Lucy finally let her friends' laughter drown out the fading screeches from her memories.

A/N: Out of everyone in the manga, Lucy creates really strong bonds with people. So I'd like to think if Eclair had a chance, she'd definitely come back just for Lucy.