Of all the things they'd endured, horrors and terrors aplenty, all the pain and wounds she'd never seen anything like the Tartaros Demons. She'd have nightmares forever. It had been a fairly clean death but there is a dark thought of why that is that makes her gag and clench in disgust. Death isn't even a novel concept in their line of work, familiar even. Sure Fairy Tail had been fairly lucky in that department but they'd slain all manner of monsters and how many people had they beaten black and blue. Natsu in particular has a penchant for violence she has strangely come to rely on. Watching a head explode is on a whole new level entirely.

Lucy noticed (it'd been glaringly obvious actually) that those people had been different than anything she'd ever known. They weren't even really human anymore if they ever were to begin with. They are something else. Something dark and terrifying. Even in the moments following the absolute hardest decision she'd ever had to make all she can see, hear, taste and feel is Jackal and his hand covering that small horrible face and then it's just gone. She gasps and sobs, cant breath to settle the bile swimming. Knows there isn't anything there but feels like she's covered in blood. Lucy is weak. So very weak and tired. Would he end her the same way she had wondered as his screaming began anew. One palm out and that gleeful mad grin half hidden because he so enjoys causing pain and she just can't understand it.

It's like Natsu's fire, warmth to the point of it being unbearable but she feels strong and he will not hurt anyone else so long as she has even a drop of magic power left. There were more coming she knows seeings as the crash landing had been anything but subtle but she couldn't care about that now. Every shred of leant power she pours into the spell and she'd begged the stars to let this be the end of him She'd never really wanted to kill before and her sick rose again as she collapsed to the rubble strewn ground.

She has nothing left now save the strange magical hum from the symbol scrawled across her clavicle. Later she'd admire it in the mirror and break down completely. It's a haunting reminder of what she's done and why she'd had to do it. The final link to her mermaid spirit. Even when she'd sensed movement around her Lucy just didn't have the strength anymore to give and had been ashamed of her weakness anew. All she could hope for in those moments was that Jackal is dead dead this time and the thought is like a dark mark on her soul now.

It's astonishing and relief is all that keeps her awake when Gajeel appears at just the right moment. She'd closed her eyes on the gathering enemies, refusing to watch her own end but they pop open to hazily focus on the Iron Dragon. She had been tapped out and grieving and traumatized because she'd watched someone explode another persons head and it is all she can see but she hears fine now and the voices are oh so sweet. A broken smile cracks dried lips when Natsu says her name.

He'd come back for her later and she'd been nothing but a crumpled shell coated in grime and rubble. He had called her name and sounded so distraught and she knows catastrophe had befallen them but she cant speak, see or hear anything anymore. A numb so vast is all that remained. Home is of little comfort but she'd tried for days to turn it off but then Natsu is gone followed by all the rest and still all she knows is fear and gore that hadn't been there but should have been and her nightmares fill in her imaginings nightly. Magic has lost its innocence and wonder and she cannot stomach jobs so she trains until no nightmares plague her exhausted sleep. Writing pays for an empty life she had barely scraped together and she barely ever sleeps anymore. Lucy fades till she's so lost she doesn't even know who she is anymore.

He comes back for her again in another place filled with dark memories that dance but now seem so tame in comparison to what she's seen. Honestly she isn't interested in what he has to say and she's resentful but she's also tired so she decides to be kind. Lucy is nervous to allow him into her space again because she knows he cannot, will not respect her boundaries but despite everything that has happened she does love them still. Even angry and abandoned as she is. The nightmares somehow take a backseat as he impulsively ruins her carefully crafted life in Crocus. It doesn't even seem to matter to him that he'd done it.

She is angry, furious; burning in rage so hot even he will feel the heat of it. Her magic is a screaming maelstrom around them, fury personified in swirling waves of golden power he doesn't dare to touch. Happy shakes silently on his shoulder with wide eyes as she screams in languages, so many languages, some of them dead and none of them anything they have any hope of understanding but convey so much better her agony. When the storm fizzles out Lucy is panting and her skin glows with remnants of power. Natsu just watches her with shocked eyes and Happy is carefully peeking from his scarf refuge he'd found when the heat had become unbearable.

She'd caused an impressive amount of damage to nature, a savage crater surrounded by the burned remains of trees. Its destruction that shames her even as she locks her jaw and stalks away from them and their quiet wide eyes. Her head pounds with exhaustion from the massive use of power, more then she'd dared to use since that day. They probably couldn't understand a lick of what she'd yelled and even she doesn't remember all that had spewed in her fury.

When she stops moving it is because the sobs are so great her entire body is convulsing. The loss of control reminds her too much of what has happened, how magic can destroy so very easily. She feels tainted by the darkness and finds herself afraid of what she has become. Warmth pierces the haze and she is tumbled against warm skin with an iron grip around her body. Furry ears tickles her throat when Happy nuzzles into her, both grips only tightening when she flinches away. Her name rumbles from Natsu's chest but her fluttering hands silence anything else he might say.

Its takes considerable time for her to calm, for embarrassed shame to have her tugging firmly against their embrace. Both sets of eyes track her in the oddly intense way of animals and she just wants to go home but she doesn't have one anymore. She doesn't speak for the remainder of the day no matter how persistent they are, how confused and concerned they seem by her behavior.

Really it's not much of a surprise when the boar charges her. Lucky Lucy indeed. Of course she needn't have worried with Natsu around but to both their misfortune it's his method that causes an issue. One palm out and curling towards her as flames lick at his fingers. Her terrified screeching sends the poor boar fleeing and poor Natsu looks utterly stricken. She wants to feel guilty for how she'd pathetically scuttled away from him as one image superseded the other. How hurt had shone clearly in dark eyes. Lucy is too busy hyperventilating to care as much as she should. In the end it's not the worst day of her life but it's right up there and silence evolves into not even being able to look at her companions.

When the nightmare comes like she'd known it would its worse because it's so fresh again. The hand and the cruel laughter and that muffled boom. Gasping she bolts upright and bile rises impossibly fast. She heaves to the side and it leaves her trembling in her sleeping bag while trying to draw air into starved lungs. There is a brilliant flash of light that snags her attention and when she turns Natsu is a pyre of flames.

"That's it. I tried to give you time so you'd talk to me on your own but enough. Tell me what the hell is going on." Lucy's throat burns acridly and she's shivering as sweat cools on her skin so she only shakes her head in response. Dark eyes flash red and his snarl is savage.

"Not an option Luce. Your going to tell me what is going on. Why you are so pale all the time, why you don't seem to smile anymore, why you literally exploded earlier and started screaming but never anything I could understand followed by tears that ripped my heart out. I know I kinda dragged you along with this and I guess your right to be mad at me for not stopping to ask what you wanted but that isn't all this is. I regretted leaving you from the second we did it and it's clear we missed something big and it's killing me Lucy. I know I fucked up but I'm begging you, just talk to me!" It's a pained roar by the end but she only continues to stare at his flames, indecisive. She really doesn't want to tell him, not really, but he'd push the issue forever in this mood and her anger is spent. Despite appearances Natsu is clever and animalistic in equal measure and far from innocent like most would believe but she doesn't want to darken him with her own horrors.

"Please Natsu."

"So she does speak. I was beginning to worry you'd hurt yourself earlier." It's wry humor meant to put her at ease but she can't.

"I can't."

"Sure ya can. C'mon Luce. I fucked up and I think i'll regret it forever. You can get your revenge but please, talk to me! What's going on?" Tears bubble and run as he holds her eyes. She has no idea where Happy has gone.

"I can't sleep."

"What'cha mean?" Its a small comfort that he doesn't brush her off. Saying it aloud it sounds so childish.

"From before. From Tartaros." His eyes flash and darken but the fire banks and he steps closer to her tentatively, remember her flinch she knows and guilt is bitter in her mouth.

"Tartaros?"

"Yeah. I'm sure we all have nightmares from it."

"Aye, but that's not all this is right?" How he knows she'll never understand but he does. He knows her better than anyone else ever has.

"No. We all had lost so much and so many bad things happened and I dream about them all but...there is one." His warmth relaxes her cramped muscles when he pulls her from the sleeping bag and the puddle of sick beside it to bundle her in his lap atop his own bag across the fire. She doesn't flinch, really was never afraid of him anyway, but snuggles instead. It's silent encouragement when warm palms stroke down her spine. "You were all gone, trapped in that strange goo and I was losing. I'd already lost and one of them, she looked like a little girl and she wanted to hurt me before I died. I honestly thought she was going to kill me but...you remember Jackal?"

Likely he'd never forget and his rumbling growl is answer enough."He'd come back somehow, used his curse magic and enjoyed the pain he caused. He was mad and power drunk and I was scared because if I died that meant everyone else would die too. I didn't have anything left to fight with and when he reached out towards me the little one laughed in delight. Like my pain was some sick game to them. Then his fingers curled and he just...blew her head off."

Its silent as he stops breathing altogether, stunned. "Neither of us were expecting it. She was still laughing when he covered her face. It wasn't even messy. I suppose with the heat and force of it everything just kind of incinerated from her neck up. When her body fell it just kinda toppled over and I toppled with it since she had been holding onto me."

"Fuck." It's a wheeze of breath and he looks decidedly green when she peeks at him through her lashes. "Fuck Luce."

"I was lucky. I should have been covered in gore but there wasn't anything left. But I see his hand reaching towards me in my dreams and I can't sleep."

"Lucy. Oh Lucy." He's nuzzling and making these adorable distressed noises as tears leak from his clenched eyes. "We left you. I left you after you'd just...god's I'm so sorry Luce."

"You didn't know. No one did. There is more, so much more and I feel smothered all the time but that one haunts me the most. I'd never actually wanted someone dead before that." Loosing the words is painful and she shakes in the confines of his arms but she's finally gotten it out and is somewhat relieved. Natsu is urging her down as soon as she yawns, firmly wrapped in him and warmed into relaxing. Happy appears and burrows into her stomach to purr loudly, the vibrations lulling her instantly.

"I'm here now Luce. No nightmares can get you with me here."

"That's not really how that works Natsu."

"Shhh. Is too. Go to sleep weirdo, we'll talk more tomorrow."