Disclaimer: I do not own Fairy Tail or anything associated with it.

A/N: The original idea for this fic was inspired by Wacko12's own Beginning of END.

warning(s): AU. Genderswapped Natsu. END!Natsu. Possible instances of OOCness. Mentions as well as instances of violence/blood/gore, etc. Swearing. Obviously END's backstory will also be different to what it is in canon.

Enjoy!


The Dust Settles


Two hours after Natsumi woke up, the entirety of Team Natsu had eventually broken off. Each member going off and doing their own thing to keep occupied. The meeting hall was big enough to comfortably house all of them—including the rune knights that were currently detaining them. As well as the rest of the guild masters who were curious as to what Fairy Tail's punishment would be.

Having had her fill of food and with nothing better to do at the moment, Natsumi chose to go and take a seat on one of the couches, sighing as she sunk into the cushions. Moving her blade from strapped around her back to her front as she laid on the couch, throwing her feet onto the coffee table with a loud crash attracting the attention of everyone. Causing Erza to shake her head at Natsumi's ignorance.

Her eyes fell to the sword, Apocalypse, still held firmly in her hands. The demonic being within her—END or whatever—made it sound important. Like it was something she should definitely remember and protect. So, why didn't she?

Did it maybe have something to do with that Asher guy who reminded her so much of Gray? She wondered as she examined the sword, inspecting every inch, nook, and cranny, hoping that it would trigger a memory or something.

She was pulled from her reverie when a weight settled on the couch beside her, just a few inches away from her. She turned her head around, curious as to who it was. She slightly blushed when she saw who it was.

"Sheesh, a guy can't get a break..." the irate looking ice mage muttered. Both oblivious to Natsumi's stare and the fact he was even sitting beside her at all. In the time it took him to walk over, he had stripped to just a pair of boxers as he randomly discarded his clothes along the way.

Natsumi bit her lip, suppressing the urge to lash out with some kind of scathing remark, as usual, it was either that or...or what exactly? Should she be acting the same around him? Or was now maybe the time to start changing things? To show him what she felt, instead of hiding behind taunts and punches.

Before she could come to a proper decision, Gray noticed her beside him, confused as to why she was actually quiet for once.

"You alright there, Flamebrain?" Her heart skipped a beat upon hearing the others velvet-like voice directed at her. She wasn't aware she flinched, causing a crease of worry to appear on Gray's brow.

"Natsumi?" Gray asked, worried that Natsumi was still drained from the attack earlier.

"Yeah, sorry about that, Ice princess." The insult from Natsumi came a few seconds later. It was a bit more forced than usual as she gave it through gritted teeth, almost feeling uncomfortable to trade the same insults they have for years.

"Did Erza scold you or something again?" she asked, making him arch a brow at her, confused as to what she meant until she nudged to his clothes, or lack thereof. Which caused him to freak out a bit more, realizing he was wearing less than he thought.

"I understand your reluctance and uncertainty on how to react to him, but still, he is your friend. Just be as you were up until now. We can decide where to go from there once your memories are sorted out," the demonic entity spoke up in her mind.

It did little to reassure her. However, she felt her eyes drifting-between his lack of clothes. Feeling the sudden craving to satisfy feelings she had kept under wraps so far. Drinking in the sight of pale skin, taut muscles, and a very familiar navy blue Fairy Tail crest emblazoned on his chest.

"Remind me again, how this stripping habit of his began?" the demonic entity inside her head asked amusedly, finding this equal parts hilarious and tantalizing.

"Say, uh, Gray..." Natsumi began, needing to derail her train of thought. Her palms felt unusually clammy as she took great care to gently rest the blackened sheathed sword down beside her. Her rival looked at her, one brow arched and leaned forward way too casually with his forearms rested against his knees.

"About what happened with Lullaby, I just-" 'I wanted to make sure you were okay,' Natsumi asked, unable to say the last part as she internalized it. She was so used to being upfront and violent with him she found it all too hard to be real with him. Why were the words so hard to get out? Why was she suddenly unable to say exactly what she meant, something she had never had an issue with before?

"I really did mean it. You saved me, Natsumi," Gray said. His deep blue eyes seemed to darken a little more while he looked down at his hands, feeling almost inadequate. He always viewed himself as her equal, and now he's the one left in the dust. He smiled, the barest hints of sincerity lighting up his face as the corners tilted into a half-smirk.

"I guess even a flamebrain like you isn't so worthless when push comes to shove, eh?" he asked with a lilt of humor in his voice as he looked up at her, that damned half-smirk wrecking hell upon Natsumi's head. Something just felt lighter inside her hearing Gray laugh. It was soothing, calming.

"You might want to cover him up. Others are starting to stare," The entity said from within her mind. Natsumi was confused until her head shot towards Gray, finally picking up on its hint. Sure enough, when Natsumi glanced up she saw a few of the female staff practically drooling at Gray's state of dress—or rather lack thereof—as he continued to sit there, oblivious to all the attention he was receiving. A low growl rumbled from back in her throat as she looked at all the women staring at Gray as if he was a slab of meat.

"Hm? What is it? What's wrong?" Gray asked, curious about his friend's sudden spike in hostility, confused as to why she would growl here of all places. He turned his head to follow her gaze when he felt something being settled onto his shoulders. It was a shirt.

"Where'd you get this?" he questioned curiously, eyeing his pink-haired teammate suspiciously, not recalling her to ever be one to pack unnecessarily. She shrugged, fighting off a deep scarlet blush as she stared at him, simply waiting for him to put it on.

"Does it matter? Just put it on, stupid stripper," she hissed, refusing to even make proper eye contact. She didn't really trust herself at the moment, feeling too confused, too conflicted, unsure as to what she was supposed, or should, do.

"Will it even fit? It looks like it'd be too tight..." Gray grumbled. At this point, Natsumi was ready to throttle him, completely aggravated by the fact he was completely oblivious to the attention he was drawing.

He stood up, pulling what appeared to be a tight black tee over his head, snugly hugging his defined muscles as he sat back down, the shirt not helping in the slightest. At least it hid his bare flesh and muscles, which did make some girls get back to work and stop staring at him, while others still stared, making Natsumi almost growl once more.

"There. Happy now you stupid amoeba brain?" Gray asked rhetorically as he put his hands behind his head, lounging back on the couch beside the pinkette. Natsumi snuck a quick peek, relieved to see the black T-shirt now covering his abs and torso from prying eyes. He was still in his boxers, but maybe people would believe they were shorts. It wouldn't be the first time it had happened either.

As silence settled between them, Gray found a sudden interest in his silver necklace and began fiddling with it, almost bored from the lack of action.

Natsumi turned her attention forward, seeing Lucy and Erza both off to the side, involved with their own separate conversations. Erza was holding a plate with what she assumed was a piece of Strawberry cake in one hand, nodding along vigorously at something Master Bob said at the same time.

Master Bob was an elderly man with an unusual knack for cross-dressing. He often wore his usual purple spaghetti-strapped shirt with a gold and fuchsia hooped necklace. A pair of pink and purple vertical striped shorts covered his lower half, and he also wore make-up on his face; red blush, and lipstick.

Lucy herself was smiling, giving the occasional comment or two to her own conversation with Master Makarov and Quatro Cerberus' guild master, Goldmine.

Natsumi didn't know a whole lot about him, just that he used to be a part of their guild, before something made him decide to break off and start-up Quatro Cerberus. He was a slim looking guy with a plain black T-shirt and pants, donning the trademark spiked collar of his guild and an old-school style warlock hat with the same spikes above the brim of the hat as well, which only went to emphasize just how Wild he was.

"He's staring at you," the entity said, making Natsumi blink. She turned her head and almost instantly locked eyes with Gray, dark onyx locking with deep navy blue. 'W-what am I supposed to say?' she thought, flustered as she continued to stare directly into his eyes, feeling something weird build up in her chest.

"Um...what is it?" Natsumi asked, flustered from the direct eye contact, feeling something almost consuming her body as she almost began to lose herself in his eyes. Gray didn't say anything, which partly made Natsumi worry even more. It was unusual for him to stay so quiet, especially around her. Then again, even she wasn't sure what to say after her little tete-a-tete with the entity now dwelling in her head.

"You look kind of pissed, stripper, something on your mind?" Natsumi asked, worried that something was wrong, or that someone did something. Which in turn made a weird urge to beat someone up build inside of her.

"I'm always pissed when I'm around you," Gray's rebuttal came instantly, only it still felt off for some reason; even with his usual cocky grin slipping across his face, it felt almost fake as they dissipated back into silence.

The nice moment was interrupted somewhat by the rushing footsteps of the rune knights. They scrambled into the banquet hall while lining up in rows. The same rune knight who came into the room before stepped out of line, announcing the arrival of the council member.

"You!?" Erza said as her eyes widened almost as if she saw a ghost. It came off more as a snarl as she continued to glare hard at the replica of her old 'friend' and fellow slave. A man-boy with light blue hair came into Natsumi's line of sight. She frowned, grabbing onto the sword hilt again and holding it close while she stood. Gray followed suit, albeit reluctantly, watching the tense exchange between Titania and the council member.

"Long time no see, Erza," Siegrain said. He had a calm smile on his face, matching how relaxed his body posture was. The opposite of Erza, Gray thought as he noticed just how tense she was. Her hand on the hilt of her sword, clenching it hard as she glared at him.

'Do they know each other?' Gray wondered. Erza never mentioned it if she did, but it seemed more than obvious that they did since he addressed her by name.

Gray barely noticed the sudden rush of warmth when Natsumi's shoulder brushed against his, the dragon slayer sticking somewhat closer to him than usual. A hard glare settled on her features as she stared ahead at the light blue-haired male. Her fingers flexed around the sword just before she strapped it onto her back. He wanted to ask what was wrong, and why she looked so much more hostile all of a sudden but she was suddenly out of arms to reach before he could fully process things.

'Natsumi... just what is happening to you?' Gray thought. Even though they were thought of as rivals, they were still friends and Gray still deeply cared for the other. He just couldn't always say it right, even though he would like to think they both understood what the other meant.

"Quite the impressive feat, Fairy Tail," Siegrain commented coolly, walking over to said mage. His hands remained tucked in his pockets as he eventually tore his gaze from where he and Erza were locked in a stare down. His eyes settled over each member of Team Natsumi before finally landing on the pink-haired girl herself. His eyes flicked down to her sword then back to her face almost immediately. He ignored the looks of awe from the other guild masters and staff still lingering around the banquet hall. Some of the women were even drooling a little, their looks of lust suddenly intensifying-

"Dammit, he did it again!" The entity suddenly hissed. Natsumi's head whipped to the side, abruptly breaking her staring contest with Siegrain, eyes turning wide and scowling.

"Gray, your clothes!" She yelled somewhat waspishly at her raven-haired team member watching him flail a bit. 'Didn't we just solve this!?' Natsumi thought in aggravation, throwing a very demonic looking glare towards each and every female drooling over Gray making them flinch.

While Siegrain simply observed their interactions with a hint of amusement before his eyes glued to Natsumi, flitting between the sword strapped to the pinkettes back and her raven companion whom she was busy scolding at the moment. Erza noticed this and frowned.

"Congratulations on your victory over Lullaby, Natsumi Dragneel," Siegrain commented, drawing the pinkette's attention back towards him. She offered a slight quirk of the lips as she looked at him, unsure as to why she was solely addressed since everyone helped as well, she just made the final blow.

"On behalf of the council, we thank you for your assistance in preventing Eisenwald's schemes from coming to fruition." Gray scowled, feeling like this guy was somehow bad news, trusting Erza's instincts and intuition as she was usually right. He put his hands in his pocket, not wanting to accidentally let something out that they didn't want to. As rarely would a member of the council be so young unless they were both intelligent and strong.

"However, as things stand we are unable to overlook the property damage caused by you and your team, both at Onibana station as well as Clover Town," he continued, making Makarov sigh as his hopes of them overlooking the 'slight' damage—for them, anyways—was quickly lost.

"I'm sure you understand?" he inquired, his gaze not faltering. He looked perfectly at ease, even with Erza glaring at him from off to the side as he was surrounded by some of Fairy Tail's strongest, his arrogance almost coming off in waves as he continued on. He didn't sound mean or vindictive, but something in his voice put Natsumi on guard.

Natsumi could tell right away that this bluenette guy was strong and, if push came to shove, he could even give someone like Erza a run for her money. The redhead of the team knew it too, which was probably why she was suddenly so tense. It would take even Makarov stepping in to stand a chance.

Yet, with Natsumi's newest development perhaps he wouldn't have to if it came down to it. Gray wasn't weak by any means, but he wasn't quite at S-class level yet. Natsumi didn't save him only for this bastard to come in and mess him up in Lullaby's stead.

"You are Siegrain, correct?" Makarov said, speaking up for the first time and breaking the tension in the air. "I've heard a great deal about you, they say your work in finding and bringing in members of dark guilds is nearly unsurpassed. I trust that is why they sent you then, to see if Zeref's demon is truly destroyed?" He queried as he looked at the official before him, wanting to know exactly why he was here to make sure all his children would be safe.

"Yes. I am here on behalf of the council to verify the claims of Lullaby's destruction by the one called Natsumi Dragneel. As well as assess the total costs of damages done unto Clover town by the combined team of Natsumi Dragneel, Erza Scarlet, Gray Fullbuster...and Lucy Heartfillia," Siegrain replied with a smile as he turned towards the small man making Makarov's face pale before he sighed. It was most likely necessary damage when it was his life, and all the others on the line.

"Huh...ME TOO!?" The blonde shouted, beyond shocked she was included in the group of accused since she herself made no damages whatsoever.

"Eyewitness reports claim you to be on the scene that occurred at Onibana Station where a blonde celestial wizard and red-haired armor-clad wizard were seen battling against members of Eisenwald," Siegrain clarified. "Those same reports also claim you all to have driven a magical vehicle recklessly, thereby endangering a few common citizens along the way," he said, making Lucy's jaw drop in shock, confused as to where they got such accounts, as she thought everyone was too busy getting to safety to even remember her.

"Now you're just grasping at straws!" Gray hollered, pushing forward against Natsumi's arm as she tried to hold him back, knowing in her heart that he was just trying to protect his guildmates, even if they were correct.

Siegrain's eyes opened, looking directly into Gray's own deep blue ones. "There's no need to be so harsh, Gray Fullbuster. After all, I'm on Fairy Tail's side." Gray opened his mouth to retort before he was knocked right in the back of the head, courtesy of an irate Erza. The armor-clad mage dragged him back and scolded him some more as openly arguing with not just a council official, but one of the nine themselves could only lead to more charges and problems.

Siegrain's eyes shifted back onto Natsumi. "I admit, however, I was also curious to meet the one who supposedly killed one of Zeref's feared demons. Quite an immeasurable feat, surely, since not even any wizard saint to date has ever boasted of such an accomplishment. I even suggested rewarding you for such victory, however, there were some members of the council who expressed 'reservations' about such a thing," Siegrain calmly said, mirth shining in his eyes before looking back over at Gray. "It is fortunate none of you were hurt in the battle," he said with the same calm smile on his face making anger burst through Gray's whole body, too many double negatives in his statement, especially since the council didn't hold Fairy Tail in such high regard as the citizens of Fiore did.

"Tch! Yeah, I bet that would've been a real inconvenience to some of you guys..." Gray hissed through clenched teeth, looking on guard as he stared at Siegrain, almost preparing himself for an attack.

Natsumi stopped him, her warm hand grabbing onto his colder one. She gripped it while tugging him forward, freeing him from Erza's rough hold and allowing him to topple into her. His cheeks were immediately tinged with a soft pink at the close contact. Averting his eyes, Gray felt the fight drain out of him.

"I would appreciate it if you didn't antagonize my guild members," Makarov's voice cut through the air while looking pointedly at Siegrain. He shrugged, seeming reluctant to tear his eyes away from Natsumi's direction, continuing to look at the sword on her back.

"My apologies," Siegrain said. "As I said, I am only here to both assess damages and make sure whether or not Lullaby was actually destroyed. That being said, some are speculating over some of the credit going to that sword of hers," Siegrain added, his eyes flitted up to meet Gray's again, curious to see his reaction to such a statement. Trying to see whether the connection was true, or simply speculation.

"Given Fairy Tail's known 'destructive tendencies', they worry over someone with the power to destroy a creation of The Great Zeref being involved with the guild," he said, making Makarov squint at him, surprised to see a member of the council refer to Zeref as "The Great Zeref", rather than simply "The Black Wizard Zeref".

'I should catch back up with Yajima... and ask him about Siegrain, for further information,' Makarov concluded as he continued to look at the man, swearing he heard admiration in his voice when speaking of Zeref.

A small tremor suddenly traveled up the ice mage's spine, memories of his encounter with a different demon playing back through his mind. Wordlessly he leaned closer to Natsumi for comfort almost instinctively, not even aware he subconsciously made such a move.

"If I may..." Siegrain started to say, his fingers already reaching for the demonic looking blade. Hoping to even confiscate it for further investigation, but before his fingers could brush against it, Natsumi's own hand appeared and smacked his away, making a loud clap sound echo around the room.

"Don't touch it," she said in a low, dangerous tone. Her voice mixed with that of the entity she encountered internally, who was glaring at Siegrain from within Natsumi's mind. The surrounding people all took a step back, Siegrain and Makarov included, looking with varying levels of surprise at such a dark reaction. Only Gray was seemingly unaffected, feeling the slayer pull him even closer, blinking curiously at the change in her voice. A look of worry flitted across his face.

Lucy was shivering while holding onto Happy. "W-what was that just now...?" she whispered to the equally frightened feline. "S-she sounded like...like..."

'A demon,' Erza thought as she examined Natsumi, worried for her longtime friend and ally as she continued to almost hug Gray, something so unlike their usual interaction.

Siegrain blinked, managing to recover more quickly, holding his hands up in a defensive gesture while he shrugged. "Again, my apologies," he said, looking momentarily between Natsumi and the shielded Gray while also taking in the reactions of her teammates and Guild master for further consideration.

"Could you at least take the sword out of its sheath so that I may have a better look at it?" he inquired. "I won't touch it, but the more I can report back to the council then the better for everyone."

Natsumi eyed him warily, taking a small look around. Seeing the rest of her team look at her with equal looks of curiosity. Then, her eyes finally fell on Gray. The ice mage was still loosely wrapped in her arms. She blushed a bit, immediately pulling herself away mumbling a small apology. Earlier they had all voiced both their concerns and questions regarding where the blade had come from and for what purpose. After hearing a council member take such an interest in it, well they were even more curious than before.

"Heh, he thinks he's backed us into a corner now, does he? Go on, try and remove the blade." The entity's voice spoke into her mind, urging her on. Nodding, Natsumi shifted the sword holding it forward for all to see, gripping onto the handle and moving to pull the blade out. Only now did a few of them notice the change in the decoration of the chains, before they only went up to the edge of the sheath, but now they looked like they were locked and secured tightly, keeping the blade itself from being drawn.

"It's...locked?" Lucy commented as she looked at it in shock, an eerie feeling rushing up her spine as she took a step back, finding the sword too scary, spooky, and mysterious.

"But, how can that be?" Erza questioned. "We all saw Natsumi draw it out earlier, back when she saved Gray-" The words became clumped in Titania's throat. She didn't like this, not one bit. She didn't like the aura of this strange new sword, and the dark feeling it gave off or how it seemed connected to Gray of all people. This would only further the council's suspicions of her teammate.

Even with the sword still in its sheath, there was an unmistakably powerful aura of danger enveloping it. It was enough to make the other occupants of the room keep their distance. From where he stood beside Natsumi, Gray could have sworn he saw tendrils of raw demonic looking energy coming off it. He didn't dare voice this, however, playing it off as a trick of the light or such as he didn't want Natsumi to get into more trouble than she already was, rather deciding to question her about it later.

Makarov and Siegrain studied the weapon with great detail, the old master's brows knit together in concern as though trying to pinpoint the weapon's origin point just from looking at it.

Siegrain as well, trying to decipher which era or signature it had on it, hoping to locate it in a certain period of time so that he could learn it's restrictions and powers, to either take it for himself or be able to defend himself against it.

What the elderly master failed to notice that Siegrain did, was the reaction of a certain ice mage. The deep navy blue orbs were staring down at the sword, a soft sheen of sweat appearing on his brow. He was looking apprehensively at the blade. There was a soft glint of pain in his eyes, forcing him to turn them to a different corner of the room. The blade itself emitted a strong demonic magical presence equal to—and possibly greater than—any other relic associated with Zeref in Siegrains experience, making him curious as to where this blunderhead came upon such a thing,

"What's it say?" Lucy whispered suddenly, noticing the glowing blood red letters that were scrawled on the edge. Before anyone could respond, it was Gray who answered her question.

"Animae damnatorum et abiit ad banum convolutae damnatorum.

Omnes, qui spirant, videte, ut hoc sacro herba parvo usque animabus vestris.

Sempitérna cláritas, et peccati per sacrificium ex amore nascitur, In praelatis."

The others stared at him in confusion, Natsumi included.

"You can read what that sword says?" Siegrain asked slowly, eyeing the ice mage with an odd look of greed, wanting to almost tear the knowledge out of the ice mage's brain as he crushed his skull between his hands.

"You mean you can't? Thought you were an expert of some kind," Gray quipped, unable to resist the jab to the other man's ego, only succeeding in making the other frown before his eyes slid back onto Natsumi who pulled the sword away, knowing how dangerous it would be if they looked at it for any longer.

"In any case, I believe I've gotten all the information I require to make a sufficient report," Siegrain concluded. He spared one last smirk in Erza's direction, the latter bristling.

"We will send a representative over in a few days with our final say on the matter, but for now, you are all free to go," he concluded, taking his leave as he turned around, the rune knights parting during his approach as he exited the building. Let it be said that all Fairy Tail Mages let out a collective sigh of relief at his departure, having found his presence equally disturbing and frightening.

~x~

When Siegrain walked back outside he was greeted by none other than Ultear. The dark-haired woman was sitting up in a nearby tree. He made his way over, casually leaning against the trunk while smirking.

"You look pleased," Ultear commented. "I take it that it was everything you hoped for then?" she asked as she looked at him.

"And more," Siegrain added, sneering. "There's definitely some kind of connection between that sword and the ice mage though," Siegrain said holding his chin in thought, "I'm still not exactly sure what. Still, Blunderhead seems more protective of him as well, which makes getting him alone presumably more difficult than I had wagered," he concluded, making Ultear look at him curiously. This whole situation seemed more and more relevant than she had initially thought.

"Oh? Did you have something planned for Gray Fullbuster?" Ultear questioned, curious as to what he could possibly have in mind for the disciple of her dearly departed mother.

"If that something is essential to resurrecting Zeref, then yes. It's a shame, though. Here I was thinking what a lovely sacrifice dear Erza would have made instead." Siegrain smiled, seeing the group of Fairy Tail mages leave the building, laughing and blissfully unaware of his presence, or so he thought.

"That isn't of importance, though. If the key to bringing back Zeref involves that sword, then I will just have to rip it from that troublesome dragon slayer's cold, dead hands," he said calmly with an almost deranged look on his face, making Ultear smile as she nodded her head in agreement.

'I must inform Master Hades as soon as possible,' she thought as silence overtook them, watching Fairy Tail's departure.

No one noticed a certain pinkette's gaze snap towards the tree just a few yards away, staring intently at two figures hidden in the shadows. Her grip on the Apocalypse tightened.


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