Note: I have to say, Gray x Claire has been a pretty popular pairing. I like it, myself. However, I got to thinking, what happens to poor little Mary? Just so you know: lots of description in here. REVIEW!

Disclaimer: Don't own Harvest Moon.

For Just One Night

"Gray, will you come outside with me for a moment?"

The blacksmith nodded, a puzzled expression upon his face as Mary whispered her request. As far as he could tell, it had been a pleasant evening. It was the end of New Year's Eve, and the party had continued till nightfall, with drinking and dancing and laughter. Normally, Gray wouldn't enjoy something so loud and spontaneous, but today had been different. Today, he had had the time of his life.

Mary led the way out of the plaza resignedly, the breeze playing with her long silky black braid. Her lips were closed tight, as if holding in some inner words she longed to say, but dare not. In fact, she should not have to say them. She was no fool. She could tell what Gray's thoughts had been all evening. When he said, "I love you," he sounded only half-sure. He couldn't even look her in the eyes anymore.

Gray gazed skyward, sighing. Tonight had been a real eye-opener, he decided. Until now, he hadn't dared lived with any risks. He'd always been soft-spoken, careful to not let his temper leave home. Heck, he'd worn the same hat since he was three. Even his love-life was stale; he'd dated the same girl since he was 16. In fact, Mary was the only girl he'd ever dated. He glanced at the somber girl before him and took in a deep breath. Why were his emotions suddenly getting so wildly uncontrollable?

That night, as they danced, Mary could smell the scent of a woman's perfume on his shoulder; it was a perfume she'd never worn. Gray would disappear each time Mary decided to take a breather. Something had obviously been occupying his mind; he hadn't even complimented her dress, which she had worked all season to make for tonight. When he gazed at her, he didn't blush in embarrassment. He didn't hold her hands. His eyes had a glazed look to them, making him seem almost…bored.

It wasn't fair, Gray told himself over and over. It wasn't fair that his feelings had to coincide with someone else's. It wasn't his fault that his heart had moved on. After all, all good things must come to an end. What he was interested in, though, was a new beginning. A new beginning and a new love. Didn't he have the right to fall in love with whom he pleased? Should he have to fall into the same rut over and over until he was forever bound to the same monotonous consistency? Yet still…it wasn't fair that someone else had to be involved.

Oh, she'd known for a while. At least, deep down she'd known. Mary could fool herself into thinking Gray only visited Claire's ranch for free milk and eggs, and that Claire simply had an avid interest in blacksmithing. But it's impossible to completely shut out the tiny voice in your head that whispers the truth. There was something about Gray's eyes whenever he smiled around her, and a musical quality to Claire's laugh whenever Gray said something funny. Yes, they were cute together, everyone agreed. But Mary couldn't accept it. She would rather blindfold herself to the truth.

The farmgirl had seemed different to Gray from the start. It was a refreshing sort of different, a welcome change to his monotonous life. She came from another world than the other girls, with a unique personality to match. Claire loved life, and her cheerful disposition and idealism drew him to her. Unlike Mary, she was full of optimism and enthusiastic about even the dullest chores. She was also outspoken; he'd heard her arguing with Won once over a ridiculous scam he was attempting to put on her. She got Harris involved and everything. Mary would never have stood up for herself like that, Gray had to admit. And neither could he, apparently.

It had finally hit her one day in mid-winter. Without a single visitor, she had wrote in her novel diligently. A little smile was hidden in her expression as she waited in her library. The pen scrawled. Hours passed. She glanced upwards time and again to stare at the closed door, then sighed and continued to write. A knock. Mary's pulse quickened as her head snapped up to gaze at her visitor, but her hopes plummeted as she saw it was only Harris. He said hello, and how was she today? Fine, she had told him, did he happen to know where Gray was this evening? Indeed he did. In fact, he had just seen Gray and Claire at Doug's Inn sharing a meal together. Which reminded him it was late, and he should be going home for supper. He bade her good-bye, and left a stunned Mary alone in her library. Silence. She attempted to grasp her pen, but her fingers shook. Tears stung her eyes as they fell, one by one staining the page on which she had written. She buried her head in her arms and sobbed freely, no longer able to hold back the flood of emotion. He had abandoned her. On her own birthday, he had abandoned her.

The problem was, Gray was still a coward. He couldn't voice the overwhelming passion within him publicly. He had insisted that the two lovers meet in private, where he could feel safe. Of course, Claire had disapproved his secrecy, but she complied. "When will you finally tell her?" she had asked him tonight. Gray had only said, "Soon." Yes, he knew what he wanted. But his guilt outweighed his desire.

Perhaps it was all her fault that Gray no longer loved her. After all, she couldn't really blame him. Mary wasn't pretty like Popouri; she wasn't assertive like Ann; she wasn't smart like Ellie; and she wasn't as confident as Karen. She was just ugly, nerdy, book-worm Mary. It had just taken Gray a long time to realize that there were better girls out there. But still…Mary couldn't deny that his love had made her life worth something. Around him, Mary knew she was beautiful, no matter how alluring the other girls were. He was her first friend. Her first kiss. Her first love. And now, her first heartbreak.

Gray saw Mary stop and stare at the night sky. He stood still as well, and waited as she took in a deep, shaky breath. It was then he noticed where they were: Harvest Goddess Spring. He smiled as he remembered the first time he had asked Mary out, right in this very place. The guilt stabbed him again, and he tried to close out his memories. He didn't need this now. Instead, he tried to imagine Claire. It helped ease the pain somewhat, but the remorse remained.

Her deep dark eyes traced the outline of the stars, making out the constellations. There was Orion, and she could see the little dipper. Then she searched for her sign, Sagittarius. She sought for the centaur in vain, then sighed. It was no use. Instead, she fixed her eyes on the North Star: constant, unchanging, and strong. You could always fall back on it if you were lost or alone. And her heart seemed to break apart as she realized no one would ever be her North Star.

Was she shivering? Gray couldn't tell for sure, but it looked like the girl was trembling uncontrollably in the moonlight. He put his hand on her shoulder tentatively, but she shrugged it off and turned to face him. Her eyes were cold and expressionless as they stared down Gray's blue ones. The blacksmith couldn't decide if he were worried or hurt or simply indifferent. But something had changed in Mary. Something had been broken.

"I believe it's been a little over five years, hasn't it, Gray?" she spoke softly, each word being chosen with careful precision. "Yes…five years ago we were here, at the Harvest Goddess Spring. Together, holding hands, wondering what the future may bring us in the coming year." A softer look reflected in Mary's eyes as she turned away. "A lot…has changed since then. I've changed. Perhaps five years was too long a time. Perhaps it's time we moved separate ways." Mary was surprised her voice was so calm, so level and collected. But on the inside, she was collapsing.

Gray listened to her in disbelief. She was freeing him. Mary, the one person he was afraid of leaving behind, had freed him. All that "I've changed" nonsense wasn't what this was about. The woman before him understood far more than he had expected, far more than he had wanted her to. And yet, she had forgiven him. She had released him, knowing fully well the consequences.

The embrace was unexpected. In one brief moment he had swept her passionately in his arms, tears flowing down his cheeks. She found herself crying as well; tears of sorrow mixed with joy. Joy for knowing that he could now be truly happy, sorrow for knowing that she could never share in love's ecstasy. Soon it would be Claire in his arms, sharing in his tears. And Mary would sit in her library, alone and forgotten. But not tonight. She pressed herself against him even tighter in one final desperate act to remember this love before it was taken from her.

I know I'm not beautiful.

I know I'm not perfect.

I know I'm not loved.

But pretend that I am, for just one night.