After a late night at the guild, the three of us ended up back at my place like always. Gray was usually the first to disappear and fall asleep. Natsu had a seemingly unending amount of energy, but he too was snoring behind me on my bed. I finished writing and slipped in between the two like normal. I don't hide my writing anymore. They don't poke or ask questions. When I realized they would be in my life more and more, I knew I had to get over it. They had long ago knocked over my box of letters, so they knew their contents. I had caught both of them snooping a time or two and used to give them quite a beating, but as we grew closer I stopped worrying. We shared everything. I still notice Gray occasionally slipping out of the living room and reading quietly before he calls it a night. And I still find Natsu putting down my journal when I come into the room after a shower.
I adjusted myself to get more comfortable. I laid on my side, leaning slightly forward toward Gray, who was laying on his back, hands behind his head. I rested on him. My movement must have roused Natsu, who turned toward me and slipped a hand onto my waist and tangled a leg with mine. I felt his warm breath behind my head as he drifted back to sleep.
Gray used to sleep on the floor or couch, mumbling about how rude Natsu was for taking my bed. But we have done so many jobs together sleeping in the same tents and hotel rooms that it is nothing to us now. It's just normal. I don't really know how the arrangement started. Whenever we turned in for the night, they would always just take their places on either side of me. I don't know if it was to keep away from each other at the beginning, to protect me, or if it was just to even out the unspoken tension that would come from me sleeping next to one and not the other. Those boys were truly competitive over everything. Whichever reason, it worked for us. There was comfort in our routine.
With my back to Natsu and his snoring, I watched the ice mage as he slept. There was no doubt that I was starting to develop feelings there. He was quiet, but so self-assured. He was a thinker, a strategist. Unlike Natsu, who was all action and emotion. Not that I doubted Gray's emotions, I knew they were there, he just showed them differently. It's why he could never make it work with Juvia. She was a pretty girl, he had said so himself to me before, but they were just too romantically different.
"You have to know Juvia has feelings for you," I said as we sat at the guild one evening while Gajeel shooby doo bopped on stage, long before Erza gave Gray a talking to about the water mage.
We sat in the far back. Most of the tables had been cleared away for the performances, so we sat on the floor reading. Natsu was with the Master, being reprimanded once again for destroying property during our latest job.
Gray sighed. "I could never be with someone who held me up on such a pedestal, who thinks I hung the moon."
"I don't think she knows that. I mean, you have never lead her on, and you do discourage her, but you have never.. put an actual stop to it."
Gray's brows furrowed as he leaned back against the wall, his chest heaved as he bent his knees up and dropped his arms on them. His head rested against the wall and then rolled my direction as I reclined against the wall as well. "I'm not.. I don't.. I'm just not that forward with my feelings.. or lack thereof. I didn't grow up like that. I never had a family. I had Ur. And Lyon. We trained. That's why Loke and I made such a good team. He was the outgoing one who made things happen."
"Kche," I grunted as I pictured the two of them picking up females. I am sure they were a force to be reckoned with. My flirtatious feline and the sultry ice mage. Mmm. Jesus, did I just moan to myself? I was suddenly embarrassed about where my mind had taken me and focused back on Gray. He smiled at me, knowing my playful distaste for Loke's womanizing. He rolled his head back forward toward the stage. "I'm just not like Juvia. I don't show my interest so publicly. Maybe that's something I need to work on now that you sent my wingman back to the celestial world for good."
We laughed. "I doubt someone with your particular.. habits will have too much trouble getting female attention." I teased him.
I watched his chest rise and fall as I remembered that evening. Underneath his quiet, observant exterior he was passionate about his friends and confident in his abilities. Watching him square off against an enemy erased any semblance of reservation. He had a cocky air to him when he fought. There was a presence about him at all times when he carried himself. I started to see how girls were so attracted to him and my lion spirit.
I felt Natsu shift behind me. Natsu was my family, my person. There was no question that I loved him. I knew he loved me as well. He had uprooted the damn rainbow sakura tree and sent it down the canal just so I could see it. He was always the first to come to my defense, as he had saved me more times than I could count. He brought me to Fairy Tail and was arguably responsible for who I am today. I owe him quite a bit for those first few months in the guild. I don't think he quite understands romantic love, but he had time to get there. The person he was turning out to be was one that had many prospects in his future.
I also loved Gray. We always had a deep, unspoken understanding. However, these days I could tell something was different, something inside me was changing. I noticed myself become more pulled towards him. We spent many easy nights together when Natsu was already asleep, reading on the couch together. He understood my feelings better than most did. Every year on the anniversary of my mother's death, he knew I wouldn't be at the guild. He would sit quietly at my house with me, not speaking, rarely moving, knowing that his company is all I needed. But yes, something was changing. Lately, his touches stirred a feeling in my stomach that only he could bring up. And it didn't help that he slept in his damn boxers.
Natsu was made of grand gestures, while Gray was made of quiet fortitude. Yes, I loved them both.
I continued to watch Gray, my feelings amplifying while I worked through them in my head. Wishing I could make him feel the same things I was feeling, wondering if he already did. Suddenly, the ice mage opened his eyes and met mine. My lips parted slightly in surprise and my breath caught, but I was so caught up in my thoughts that I didn't falter and I held his gaze.
Jesus, my feelings really couldn't have roused him, right?
I waited for him to go back to sleep but he didn't. I saw the look on his face form a question, eyebrows raising slightly, prompting me to speak, but then something changed. Steadily, his eyes intensified as he started really looking back at me. It felt like they were reaching out to me, mirroring my own feelings. I don't know how long we laid there, not moving, just looking. Seconds looking in his eyes felt like an eternity.
Eventually, sleep started to win out and my eyes started getting heavy. He seemed to realize this, his eyes shifting slightly, giving up his intense façade and softening his face. He briefly tightened his lips, then slowly blinked, and nodded, seemingly acknowledging our need to sleep. His eyes remained closed then. I wanted to reach out and touch him, but I didn't dare. I drifted off, wondering if I had just imagined the whole thing.
Morning came and I opened my eyes once again to find the spot in front of me empty. My stomach sank. Shit. Way to go, me.
Gray was usually first to wake and Natsu was always last. You had to drag him out of the bed by his scarf if there was no food to get him moving. I realized that in my sleep I had leaned back onto Natsu, my head resting against his. I laid there and welcomed the comfort. He was warm like always. I found myself gravitating to him more than once in colder weather. There was something important about being such friends that you are let into someone else's space and life this way. Sharing a bed. Touching. We could hold each other, support each other. Natsu trusted and cared for me enough that this was fine, it was normal. I was comfort, he was comfort. It was friendship. I suddenly realized that was why I couldn't reach out to Gray last night. That would have changed everything. I was the only person Gray let into his world this way, our entire dynamic would have changed if I had touched him like that. We would have crossed the boundaries from friends into the unknown.
After our brief encounter last night, I figured Gray had gone when I heard a tinkling from my kitchen. Realizing he was still here, I slipped out of Natsu's embrace and grabbed my robe as I padded out to the kitchen. Sleeping in a shirt and panties was fine when you had those boys to keep you warm, but walking around the house was another thing.
I found Gray dressed and sitting at my table eating a large breakfast. I used to be mad that they ate so much of my food, but not anymore. They made so much effort to bring us jobs and truthfully many times they do much of the work. I figured I could make the effort to keep enough food to feed all of us in the fridge. Sure, they had their own places, but this was as much our place as anything.
I realized I hadn't thought any of this through as I joined him in the kitchen. Was something different?
He looked up at my entrance. Crap. Too late.
He just slid a plate over to me as an invitation as I grabbed a drink and sat down. I noticed he was reading something. As I strained my eyes to look at it, he passed it to me.
A job flier. He had already been out and about this morning it seemed.
"It came in this morning and I thought it would be perfect. That's enough for your rent for a few months, there's no way it will take more than a few days, and should be easy in comparison to the jobs Flame Brain has been picking out recently. I grabbed it before anyone else was awake. I think Mira was saving it for you anyway, though."
I browsed the details. The job did look easy and the reward was nice. "Sure, that sounds great. I'll wake Natsu and we can eat and get out of here."
A smirk creased the ice mage's face and his blue eyes flashed with mischief, "Why don't I wake Natsu?"
I tsked at him but didn't stop him as he stood up. "Be nice," I warned as I leaned back in my chair and picked up my fork.
"It's not my fault he sleeps in," Gray called as he headed toward my room.
I set down the flier and sighed internally. Nothing had changed. I was grateful for that. I wasn't sure I was ready for that dynamic to change. Maybe I was even imagining it. I was so caught up in my own feelings I could have been projecting them.
I felt a chill, heard a crackle, then a yell. "WHAT WAS THAT FOR YOU ICE FREAK."
Natsu was awake.
"Calm down Flame Head, we have a job to do and can't wait for you to get your beauty sleep." I laughed into my drink as I heard their scuffle continue. They were truly fire and ice. Such opposites. But they inexplicably needed each other at the same time. I don't know how it came about, but those two were just as good of friends to each other as they were with me, even if they didn't show it. It just didn't help that they were overly competitive and that even the ice mage could have a hot head.
A crash brought me back from my thoughts. I sighed as I pushed myself up from the table. "IF YOU GUYS BROKE ANYTHING IT'S COMING OUT OF YOUR SHARE OF THIS JOB!" I started yelling as I went to untangle the two.
Ugh, these boys of mine.