Natsu and Gray gaped at the very much awake Lucy. They had no idea what was going on now or who to trust.
"Did you just wake her up?" Gray asked Kuro incredulously.
"In a sense, yea." He replied nonchalantly.
"But why?" Natsu asked.
Suddenly Gray got an elbow to the face from a blank-faced Lucy. Immediately after Natsu had to dodge a kick to the stomach.
"What's wrong with Lucy?" Gray asked.
"What did you do?!" Natsu pressed. The man who seemed fed up with the whole ordeal stared at the two boys. Suddenly his face lit up, seemingly having thought of something. Once again Natsu had to dodge an enhanced fist from Lucy, this time directed to his face.
"I have an idea, since this mission and my guild has become such a bother." Kuro chimed in. Gray blocked a kick then dodged Lucy's fist, eyeing Kuro angrily out of the corner of his eye.
"And what would that be?" Gray pressed.
"Give me 150% of what I'm being paid for this mission and I'll explain exactly what's going on."
"No deal Mr. Cloak-and-Dagger." Natsu shouted immediately after, getting a fist to the face after his distraction from Lucy. He was flung down the alley, tumbling for a while until he forced his body to stop.
"I guess you don't mind if Ms. Heartfilia spends the rest of her life as puppet then." Kuro shrugged before making his way down the alley. Natsu growled at the guy, getting ready to chase after him.
"Natsu, you focus on Lucy, I'll deal with the creep." Gray said as he began to take off after the cloaked man. As reluctant as he was to not chase after cloaked-guy, he was even more reluctant to leave Lucy alone, so he shouted at Gray to not mess up as the two wizards took off in a chase down the alley.
Being momentarily distracted was not in Natsu's favor because before he could even turn back around to face Lucy he got a hard kick to the back of his head and he swears he felt his brain rattle. Natsu cursed before blocking another blow from Lucy.
"Luce, you can really hit when you want to." Natsu commented off-handedly, hoping to get some sort of reaction, blank eyes met his gaze.
After dodging a few more punches, Natsu lifted his arm to block an incoming kick, only it never hit. He stared at Lucy who almost seemed frozen mid-kick now that he had the time to look at her, she seemed drenched in sweat, and with what seemed like great effort, Lucy lowered her leg and remained staring in the distance. Natsu was beyond confused but he could take what he could get so he approached Lucy carefully.
"Luce, you still in there? Can you come back to me? LUCY?!" Though Lucy didn't move her sweat almost seemed to increase and her eyebrows seemed to crease in.
Lucy's mind was covered in darkness, not in the sense of having sad thoughts but a tangible darkness placed there by someone else. When Lucy's barrier gave out she thought that was the end for her. But she could still feel herself, if that made any sense. Though she was surrounded my darkness, she wasn't gone. But she couldn't move or feel, and it took effort to think, it was a suffocating feeling.
Suddenly, Lucy heard voices, jumbling and unrecognizable at first. After a couple tries she could tell her name was mixed in. With felt like the most effort she had ever given in her life, Lucy opened her eyes. In front of her was a flame, flickering but steady, it remined her of the one before. She tried reaching for it but her arms wouldn't budge from her side. She tried again and though she barely flinched she felt her rapidly increasing heart rate. With the training she had been doing recently she focused on the core of her magic, imagining pushing it outward and around her, like her shield.
The bubble expanded around her and with great effort she could reach for the flame. When she made contact, a warmth spread through her body and the bubble pushed further outwards expanding to the corners of her mind. She felt a presence, almost as if her mother was there, but as her mind cleared completely, it began to fade slowly. A huge weight felt like it had left Lucy and a newfound tiredness spread through her and she couldn't help closing her eyes.
The next time she opened them she was staring up at Natsu's face. She reached her arm up from how he was holding her and hugged him tight.
"Luce! You're okay!" She didn't trust her voice just yet so she nodded her head.
"We should get you back to the guild, you don't look all that great." Lucy couldn't help it, she laughed a hearty sound that rang like bells in Natsu's ears, it felt nice to hear her again.
"Yea you're probably right." Her voice was a bit raspy but she could talk at least. Natsu gave her a piggy back as they began running through the street. Lucy didn't really mind, she was taking in the sights and smells and just appreciating the fact she was back to reality.
"Everything was so dark." Her raspy voice added more vulnerability to the statement then Lucy would have liked but she felt like she was about to cry from relief being back for what felt like the first time in years.
Natsu looked at her curiously, wanting to know more, but nodded his head understandingly.
They got back to the guild rather quickly and when they got through the doors Erza and Gray stood over a strange man Lucy had never seen before with the guild master slightly behind them.
"Erza!" Natsu shouted. "When did you get back?"
"Shortly after Lucy seemed to be kidnapped by this man." Erza explained. Lucy hopped off Natsu's back and stood wobbly.
"Lucy! You're okay!" Gray and Erza shouted at the same time. Lucy gave them a smile and nod before noticing someone else among her guildmates that she vaguely recognized.
"Uncle John?" Lucy questioned. He smiled fondly.
"Hello Lucy, it's been a while." Lucy nodded before turning to her supposed kidnapper who had started laughing.
"This is too rich." He stated through creepy giggles.
"You are in no place to be laughing. You are cornered with nowhere to run so you can either start giving us information, or I can guarantee your stay at Fairy Tail will not be pleasant." His eyes darted around, assessing situation.
"Are you sure you want the truth?" He asked challengingly.
"Anything but will probably end painfully for you." Erza threatened, equipping a sword. The man smiled slyly, like he knew the best secret in the world.
"To start from the beginning, I had initially infected Lucy with a dose of dark magic back when your team took out that band of thieves. Later when it proved to be too small a dose for a celestial wizard I increased it on her little mission to Hanabi with the Flame brain. It was intended to manipulate the mind little by little, but fighting it she fell into a coma, so the plan was changed and I was contracted to kidnap her. All those blackouts, the fatigue, discomfort, was all part of a contract. The one who contracted me to infect Lucy with dark magic and later kidnap her is no other than Uncle dearest over there."
"You're lying." Erza said, brandishing her sword.
"I assure you this stuff is just too perfect to make up." Kuro's Cheshire smile stretched impossibly wide as Erza dropped him back on the ground.
All eyes were now on Johnathan. Lucy was shaky and tired and just ready for the day to be over so dealing with a possibly traitorous Uncle was not exactly what she wanted to be doing.
"Is it true Uncle John?" Lucy started out softly, since no one else in the guild seemed to want to intrude for once. Though she didn't really need to hear an answer, the look on his face gave it all away.
"Yes. I hired Kuro's guild to return you to my house." He sure had a fancy way of phrasing kidnapping.
"I wanted you to rejoin the Heartfilia business, so I had begun setting up a marriage for you. Even if you didn't want to continue, if you just gave me an heir the family line wouldn't have to die with me. My health has been failing lately and while I have the greatest doctors at my disposal I fear I only have so much longer." Lucy was tired, so tired, of all of this.
"You bastard!" Natsu shouted, striding up to Johnathan before punching him in the face.
"Natsu stop." Lucy said, walking over to her uncle, Natsu's eyes fumed but he backed down, though the rest of the guild looked like they wanted to get a hit in too.
"There are still a lot of things you don't understand. Just how dad didn't understand why I ran away at first either. But you must at least understand that we are family, and this isn't right."
"It's your responsibility, as a Heartfilia, Lucy please. I didn't mean for it to get so out of hand, but we can't let our name die."
"No, keeping a name through a business with our name isn't my responsibility, or even yours. Dad understood that in the end, he was happy living life. You're his brother, you must get that, even just a little."
"You're not budging on this, are you?"
"Not even with my dying breath." Johnathan sighed, shaking his head.
"You are just like your mother. She was a splendid woman, I'm sad I never had that in my life. Can you forgive me?" Lucy looked sad for a moment.
"I'm not sure, I can try, if you can promise me to take a step back and revaluate yourself. Visit Haru, I had a feeling you did something that got on his bad side. If he can forgive you I feel like I might be able to as well." Johnathan nodded.
"He didn't like how I treated some of the workers, it's why he left to go to Hanabi." Lucy nodded.
"I still don't really understand, but I respect your decision."
"That's all I can ask." Silence dragged on for a bit after that.
"So, I'm assuming my job here is done, I came all the way out here so I expect at least 75% of the reward." Kuro's sudden voice made everyone jump. Johnathan nodded his head.
"Your job is done; your payment will be sent within a couple days."
"Like hell you're just walking out of here!" Gray suddenly butted in, reaching to grab the tied-up man.
"So sorry, I can't stay to play." Kuro called before jumping back and vanishing into smoke, Gray cursing the whole time.
"Leave it." Erza called, turning her attention back to Johnathan.
"You should go." Lucy said quietly. The man nodded, saying his goodbyes before silently leaving the surprisingly quite guild. The quite didn't last long before shouting that they should celebrate Lucy's return and breaking out into a party. Lucy smiled but found a secluded corner to sit in so she could soak everything up while the guild was partying. She had calmed down a bit when Natsu approached her.
"You said something while you came out of a coma for a bit so I'm not sure you remember, but I need to give you a proper response." Lucy felt some blood rushing to her face, yea she remembered.
"Lucy, I love you." She felt relief and warmth and such happiness in that moment.
"I love you too Natsu, and through thick and thin I promise to protect you."
"Don't steal my lines." Natsu pouted. Lucy laughed, going up to Natsu and kissing him.
"It can be both of our promises, forever and always?"
"Forever and always." Natsu agreed.
A.N: Finished! I can't believe it. Originally, I had planned on the kidnapping being successful and a rescue mission taking place and introducing Lucy's arranged marriage but I honestly did not have the energy to continue the story that far and this tied up most of the plot points I wanted to do anyway, though I wanted to bring Haru up a bit more he is an OC so I figured it didn't matter as much if he didn't get a full conclusion so to speak. I know it has been a little under 3 years for this and I'm not sure it was worth it but I can finally mark this complete. Thank you to everyone for reading. And thanks to a couple reviews in May that inspired me to finish.