She could feel him slowly dying as he laid there in her arms. The war was over but they paid a heavy price. Her tears kept falling onto his face while begging him to just please be ok. She couldn't take the agony of losing her mate. It felt like her soul was ripping while her mate mark slowly faded.
"Please don't cry Lucy. You have to keep living. Know that I'll always be watching over you. So please keep your light."
"How can you ask that of me Natsu?! You're the love of my life. How do you expect me to keep living without you by my side?"
"You do it for Layla and Igneel." Natsu reaches up his hand to hold her cheek with what little remaining strength he has left. Lucy grabs onto his hand and leans her cheek further into his touch.
"They need their dad. They love you and look up to you. Please don't leave us."
Natsu just softly smiles up at her while blood continues to pool around him. Lucy frantically looks around for Wendy but she can't see anyone.
"I love them too. Thank you for giving me a family. Thank you for making me strong. Let them know that I'll always be watching over all of you and will forever be in your hearts. I can't wait to watch them grow up. You're such a great mom and a wonderful mate. Please live Luce."
Lucy slowly leans her head down and presses one last gentle kiss to his lips as the rest of her mate mark fades away. Natsu's hand falls limp and his lungs no longer draw in air. Lucy turns her head to the sky and lets out a roar of anguish.
Gajeel finds Lucy a bit later slumped over Natsu crying. He sends a shot of magic up in the air to alert the others of his location. Lucy and Natsu were the last of the members to be found. Even though Gajeel puts on an iron front for everyone, he has always had a soft spot for Lucy. And seeing her crying over her dead mate damn near broke his heart. He slowly moves next to Lucy and wraps his arms around her.
"Come on Bunny. We need to get your wounds looked at and cleaned up."
"I'M NOT LEAVING HIM!"
"We're not going to leave him alone out here. The others are on their way and they'll help take his body back to the guild to be laid with the others. You need to get back to your rascals as well. They've been asking about you. They know something is wrong and can feel your pain and sadness. Let's go."
Gajeel scoops Lucy up into his arms as she continues to struggle to stay with Natsu. Gajeel turns his arms into iron to hold her in place as Bixslow and Laxus round the corner. They falter in their steps as they take in the scene before their eyes. Laxus then moves forward, clapping Bixslow on the shoulder.
"C'mon man. Help me get him back to the guild."
Together they lift Natsu and slowly carry him back to the guild. Lucy finally succumbs to her pain and exhaustion. Gajeel shifts her into a more comfortable position and follows the trio back to the guild. He knows Lucy is about to go through a rough time and silently vows to help her and the little rascals through what's to come next. He looks down and sees tears still silently streaming down Lucy's face in her sleep.
Cobra was waiting outside for the final fairies to make it back to the guild. It was also a slight reprieve from the somber mood inside of the guildhall. His daughter was asleep on his shoulder and he focused on her soul. Cobra suddenly whips his head up as he hears one of his favorite souls in turmoil. The usual harmonious melody is now a cacophony of instruments out of tune being played by a toddler. Slowly he sees three heads pop up over the horizon. Dread fills his stomach as he sees the additional bodies being carried and listens to the souls of the three men.
"Take him around back where the others are located. Don't take him through the guild. The kids are awake and they shouldn't have to see their dad like this."
Bixslow and Laxus nod before heading to the side of the guild to lay Natsu with the other fallen members. As soon as they're out of sight, Layla and Igneel burst through the front doors. The twins immediately lock eyes onto their mom being carried by Uncle Gajeel. Kinana quickly follows, profusely apologizing.
"I'm so sorry. They got away from me once they smelled their parents. There was no holding them back."
Cobra wraps his arm around Kinana's waist. "It's ok. At least they only saw her and not their dad. Not yet at least." They look over to see Gajeel kneeling on the ground so the twins could get a better view of their mother.
"Mom! Where's dad?! Why isn't she waking up Uncle Gaj? Is she ok? Where's dad?! Why is there blood everywhere? WHERE'S DAD?!" Gajeel looks up at Layla as fire licks up her arms and the temperature rises.
"Your mom is fine. She just passed out from exhaustion. Let's get her up to the infirmary where your Aunt Wendy can tend to her and the three of you can get some rest." Gajeel starts to stand and walk towards the doors when another scream stops him in his tracks.
"WHERE'S DAD?! Why won't you answer me?! I can feel something is wrong. I can feel a part of us missing. If you don't tell us where dad is RIGHT NOW I WILL HEAT UP YOUR PIERCINGS!"
Gajeel's back stiffens. He takes a deep breath and his shoulders slump. He slowly turns around to look at the twins and can see them barely holding their tears back. A look of anger passes over Layla as Igneel wraps his arms around her shoulder to provide support.
"Just tell us Uncle Gajeel. We know that something big happened or else we wouldn't be feeling like this. Please. We can't take not knowing the truth. We won't break. We're Dragneels. We're the strongest there is around. So please."
Gajeel sighed and opened his mouth to speak. Except, no words came out. How do you tell kids their dad is dead? How do you tell them the man they've looked up to for the past eight years is no longer going to kick open the guild doors with a smile when he comes back from a mission. Luckily for him, someone is able to tell them the devastating news.
"Your dad protected your mom. He made sure she was able to come home to you. Know that your dad protected all of us. But this came at a great price."
Cobra takes a deep breath to continue while looking at the silent tears falling down the twins' faces. He saw what happened from Lucy's soul and knew that Natsu gave everything he had in order for the rest of them to live.
"Your dad died a hero, kids."
Everyone looked over to see Lucy moving out of Gajeel's arms and went closer to her children.
"He wants you to know that he loves you and will always be watching you. He'll always be a part of you in your hearts."
Lucy laid her hands on their chest as she spoke. The tears had stopped or simply dried up. Lucy wondered if she even had any tears left in her body. All Lucy knew was that she had to be strong for the twins. They were her everything now. Natsu was right, she had to keep living for their sake.
Both Layla and Igneel threw themselves into Lucy's arms and cried. Lucy slowly rocked them back and forth while whispering about how much she and their dad loved them both. The onlookers felt their hearts break at the scene and knew they would do everything they could to be there for the small family of three.