Disclaimer: Harvest Moon is Natsume's; I only play around in their world :)
Summary: Gray knows there's only one way to win your girl back from the town gigolo. And that's a shirtless fistfight in a thunderstorm. Beware the gratuitous blacksmithing and an excessive amount of italics.
A/N: BEWARE: Contains Growly!Gray, gratuitous blacksmithing, gratuitous fistfights, and the excessive use of italics. You have been warned. Gray also swears a little (just a little!). Forgive me :)
For Scarlet Sky's Grary challenge (i.e. Write me something Grary now!) I hope you like it, Scarlet! Longer note at the bottom! Enjoy!
I was mad. So mad I was thankful Gramps had me slaving away over the anvil, watching me with careful eyes as I pounded a red-hot piece of iron into a sickle shape, because I was in serious danger of hurting the first person I came across. And by hurt, I mean grab them by the collar and hold them up until they're level with my eyes, and then punch them until their eyes are black and their nose bleeding all over their stupid blue overalls and their so goddamn perfect hair is all tangled and torn out in chunks.
No, I don't have anyone particular in mind, thanks.
Yeah, that's a bold-faced lie, but honestly, I was mad.
The hammer pounded down on the metal with a ferocity I didn't know I had in me, and the clamped iron rang rhythmically with each blow. I didn't pay attention to the sweat dripping down my forehead and onto the anvil with a hot sizzle, nor did I bother flicking away the damp hair swinging in front of my eyes. I didn't really care; there was nothing but me and the metal and the goddamn anger welling inside me, and I didn't think I'd feel anything else for a long, long time.
Maybe I should start at the beginning.
I... Huh. I have this...thing, with Mary. I can only call it a thing because, well, I'm not that courageous a guy, and I hate labels, so we've never really progressed beyond it being a Thing between us. It's complicated. But the Thing is pretty established, and that we're both actually very happy with how this Thing is progressing. Well, I know I'm happy. Damn it, I'm happier than I've ever been before in my entire life. That's saying something. But like I said, I'm not that courageous a guy, and the thought of looking into her amber-brown eyes and working up the nerve to say, hey, I think you're the sweetest and smartest and prettiest girl I've ever known and I don't think there's anyone else out there for me gives me all kinds of nervous shakes. Hell, I can barely talk to her normally without feeling that rumbling butterfly stomach jump that always makes the blood rush to my cheeks.
You know, I never blushed before I met her. Now I do it all the time. What the hell is wrong with me?
But, in any case, Mary and I have a Thing, and even though we don't really talk about it, we both know that this Thing is getting more and more serious as the seasons roll by. Spring was fine. Hell, it was grand, even. She even kissed me. Once, and just on the cheek, but that's more than I hoped for, and it made me happier than I'd been in years. Now summer was rolling along, and the Fireworks were slowly approaching, and I was trying to steel myself to ask her to watch them with me and maybe, maybe, get up the courage to ask her on a real, serious date before it. Every day, I'd walk to the library with the lines rehearsed in my head, and every day I'd walk home at closing with another of her recommendations under my arm and a frustrated scowl. I just don't know why her smile makes me forget everything I wanted to say and turn me into a babbling idiot with nothing but old and tired observations on the weather to spout. Granted, it had been unseasonably warm this summer, but come on. I needed to come up with something better to say.
Maybe I'd do better if she wasn't so much smarter than me. It's hard to impress a girl that spends her whole day reading.
The day before, I walked into the library with a book to return and a perfect opener for the conversation. I heard the weather's going to be clear for the fireworks next week, I'd say. Then I'd ask her to watch them with me. And maybe to dinner, if I could stammer that out. I was ready.
Then I pushed open the door into the cool darkness of the library, and heard Mary laugh, "Stop it, Jack!" in her I-don't-really-want-you-to-stop voice.
She used that voice on me when I asked to read her novel.
What the hell was going on?
Startled, I paused in the doorway, the light behind me. It shone in on Mary, sitting behind the desk as usual, and Jack, the new farmer from up the road standing across from her. Jack was leaning on the desk, grinning charmingly at Mary. He had her glasses in his hand, and she was smiling while reaching over the desk, trying to take them back. She looked like she was enjoying herself.
With another guy.
Ah, I thought. That's why she had that distracted look in her eyes when I was talking to her last week. She's been thinking about someone else.
This is the point when the anger started.
"Hi, Gray!" Jack said, straightening up and grinning at me like there was nothing wrong. He swung Mary's glasses by the right earpiece, looping them in a small circle around his hand. I must have glowered at him pretty intensely, because he frowned. "Something wrong? You look...angry." He said the last part hesitatingly, like he was almost scared of me.
Good. It's always easier to scare someone into submission than to work things out normally.
My first instinct was to punch him in the face.
My second was to yell something pretty terrible involving his mother.
My third, probably more rational instinct was to growl menacingly under my breath.
Jack blanched visibly. I must have followed through with the third one, then. Mary gave me a funny look.
I forget how good she looks without her glasses. Not that she doesn't look good in them, or all the time for that matter.
"Weeeeell," Jack said, too casually, leaning away from the desk, "I'm just gonna head out then." He swung Mary's glasses toward the desk and offered them to her; she took them, all the while fixing me with a worried look. I really like that look normally – she gives me that look when I get hurt at the forge because she's there, watching me work. Why did it seem so wrong now? "See you later, Mary," Jack continued, still too casual, sidling toward me and inching around me so we hardly touched. "And thanks for your help. I'll see you tomorrow."
"See you tomorrow," she called after him, raising a hand in farewell.
Then he was gone, and I was alone with her.
I looked toward her. Her forehead was wrinkled, and her eyes had that look in them, like I'd just done something really, really stupid. I suddenly felt six feet shorter. It's not a nice feeling.
There was also a bouquet on the desk, of pink catmint. Her favorite.
What the hell was going on?
Before she could say anything, I grunted something under my breath about finishing that book I'd started yesterday and stalked to my corner (it became my corner once I made a habit of coming to the library after work, and no one else had even tried to take that high-backed leather chair from me after the first week), pulling my hat low over my eyes so she couldn't see the expression I knew was in them. I opened the book I'd left on the side table, some military history or something like that, and tried to concentrate. The words blurred and swam in front of my eyes.
I was too angry to read. That hardly ever happened.
But I had a reason, right? I mean, Mary and I have our Thing, and it's not really a secret, especially with how people gossip around here. Hell, her dad even had me go with him one morning to walk the meadows around Mother's Hill, so we could talk. Don't get me wrong, Basil is probably the most laid back guy in the entire village, but having to answer subtly probing questions about my apprenticeship at the forge and plans for the future can be pretty intimidating. And I know intimidating, believe me. Dad didn't send me here because of my stellar people skills, after all.
So why the hell was Jack in here, leaning across the desk and practically throwing himself at Mary? My Mary. And what was he thanking her for, anyway?
What the hell was going on?
"...Gray?" Mary's hesitant, soft call made me look up so quickly the hat slid off my head and onto the floor. She was standing near one of the bookcases, a short stack of unshelved books under one arm and a worried frown on her face. "Are you alright?" she asked, taking a slow step toward me. She bit her lip, one of the habits she'd picked up from her father – it meant she was thinking very hard about something. "You look angry, and I..."
"'M not angry," I replied, too quickly, and she paused to give me another worried look with her brown eyes. Damn it, why can't I say anything right? "Tired. I'm tired. It's been a long week." I didn't mention that the work keeping me at the forge was mostly orders from Jack: a new milker, freshly sharpened and alloyed tools, and a delicate silvery bracelet Gramps had been pouring over for the last three days straight. I had a sinking feeling I knew who the recipient of that last item would be.
"...take a break, then," Mary was saying as I pulled myself out of my daze. She'd put the stack of books down and was standing nearer now, one hand toying idly with her sleeve as she watched me. I nodded, not meeting her eyes. "If you're tired, you might get careless, and you know you get hurt when you're careless..."
"Yeah," I said, cutting her off. I did get hurt when I couldn't concentrate. She knew that from the first day we met. "Yeah." Sighing, I sat up and stood, running a hand through my hair. I did feel tired all of a sudden. This day was not going as planned. "I think I'm gonna just head to the inn and take a nap."
"Oh." I glanced toward her – she looked almost upset, her head turned to the side, but her eyes looking toward me. She was still toying with her sleeve. "I-I...Good idea."
"Mm." I tucked the book under my arm and headed for the door, trying very hard not to turn around and pause for a few more words with her. I was angry, and tired now, too; the talk about the weather and fireworks was all but forgotten. I know it wasn't the best reaction to finding the village gigolo suddenly throwing a lot more attention on the quiet librarian that you'd already practically claimed for your own, but I really didn't want to be around here anymore. I wanted to be somewhere where I could take my anger out on a safe target. Or hell, maybe I just wanted to find Jack and pound his face into the pavement. But that was no way to win a girl. Right?
At the door I stopped and against my better judgement, I looked back over my shoulder. Mary had followed me, and was standing a few feet away, her eyes still worried and frowning. "Gray, I..." she began, and stopped. I just shrugged, and smiled a little, to see if maybe she got less worried. I didn't want her worried about me. I wanted her happy.
"See you tomorrow," I said, and walked out the door.
It was only after that I realized I'd forgotten my hat on the library floor. I didn't feel like going back to get it.
It was also looking like rain.
I don't like rain. It makes my back hurt.
"Slow down!" Gramps said sharply, grabbing a hold of the hand that held the hammer and gripping tightly, stopping me from slamming it down onto the sickle again. He could do it too – I'm strong, stronger than most people, but Gramps never had any trouble holding me back when he wanted to. He did it without effort. Scary, considering he's got fifty years on me.
"What?" I snapped, before I could stop myself, and immediately regretted it. Glancing down, I could see very clearly why he'd stopped me: the metal was no longer a sickle shape but more close to a ring, and painfully bent. Yeah, I'd messed up this time, pretty bad. My shoulders slumped, and Gramps let go of my hand, his eyebrows screwed together in a frown.
"What the hell has gotten into you, boy?" he said, crossing both arms across his chest. He only called me boy when he was concerned; that should have consoled me. It didn't. "You've been stalking around the place for the past day like a dog on a short leash, and your concentration's been suffering." He fixed me with a long stare, and then said gruffly, "It's that librarian girl, isn't it?"
"What!?" I said, and, "Her name's Mary," followed close behind before I shut my mouth again. Gramps, surprisingly, smiled behind his beard. I was defeated. "Yeah."
"And she's been seeing the farmer lately, right?"
How the hell did the old man know these things? "Yeah," I said again, and turned away, putting the hammer down on the anvil with a soft ringing sound. The anger was leeching away from me – I pushed my hair back.
"So are you going to do something about it?" That made me look up. Gramps was still standing there with his arms crossed over his chest, but he had a gleam in his dark eyes. "Well?" he said, "are you?"
I shrugged. "What's there to do?" I said, suddenly aware of the boyish whine that'd come over my voice. "If they're gonna be happy together, then I won't stop 'em." I frowned even as I spoke. "I want her to be happy." And I meant that. I did want her to be happy. Ever since I met her, that's all I'd wanted.
"Well, if I know women, " Gramps said, in that voice he uses when he's teaching me how to work metal the right way, "what would really make her happy is for you to go over to that farmer's place and give him a piece of your mind for trying to steal away your girl." When I looked up at him, he grinned. "You've got something there between you, and everyone knows it. If that kid thinks any different, he has it coming."
I didn't even bother to put my shirt on before setting out.
It was raining, and the sky had that dull gray overcast look to it that made everything look more dangerous. I hoped it would help me out in that department. Not that I really need any help there. But it can't hurt. Can it?
The farm was quiet, and I was soaked through when I got to his door and started pounding on it with one fist. Jack's voice called, "Coming, coming!" from inside, and he opened the door with a smile, like he was expecting someone. It disappeared when he saw me instead. "Oh, hey, Gray," he said, holding the door open just a bit wider when he saw me, though his eyes lingered on my face for a moment too long. I must have been frowning. "I wasn't expecting you." He smiled again, somewhat sheepishly. "I was waiting for Mary to come by, she promised..."
Oh, that was it.
I'm not a violent guy normally, despite the rumors you hear about me being what Manna calls "rough around the edges" in high school. I don't like fighting, but when you're the tallest kid in school and you've got a habit of being surly to anyone bigger than you in the muscle department, you learn real fast. My hormones got the best of me. I grabbed him by the shirt collar and threw him to the ground with a muddy, squelching slap.
"Whoa, hey...!" Jack said, trying to roll away when I headed for him again. He wasn't successful; I picked him up by the collar again and held him there with both hands, until he was level with my face. This was starting to look familiar to me.
"You stay away from her," I growled in my lowest, most menacing voice. Thunder crashed above us, and a jagged streak of lightning illuminated the field as well as Jack, looking both confused and somewhat angry himself. I didn't blame him – I had just dragged him out of his warm cottage and thrown him on the ground, without an explanation.
"Stay away from who?" he said, his voice cracking and slightly strangled. I shook him once, and then attempted to toss him again; he twisted out of my grasp and fell on the ground, scrambling up before I could reach him again. He looked completely angry now, and didn't bother to pick up his hat from the puddle it lay in.
"Mary," I growled. He raised both eyebrows.
"Mary?" he said, almost incredulous. "Why?"
I yelled, something incoherent and growly, and launched myself at him. We landed in a puddle, and I lost track of the specifics there.
He got me good a few times, one with a punch to the jaw that almost cracked a tooth, and again with a knee to the head that made me woozy. But I tossed him a few more times and gave him a bloody nose that was almost surely broken, and he looked worse off than me. We paused, both panting in the rain, steam rising from our bodies, eying each other for the next move.
Then I heard, "Gray? Jack? What are you doing to each other?"
Well. Mary had found us.
I turned. She was standing at the entrance to the farm, holding an umbrella and a parcel and looking both shocked and confused. Her eyes slid from me to Jack and back, and she said in a voice that reminded me a whole lot of her mother, "Are you fighting?"
"He started it!" Jack said, pointing to me. I growled at him and aimed another right hook at his jaw.
I have to give him credit: I never saw it coming. But he ducked my fist and threw his own at me, and it hit me squarely in my own jaw. Fireworks burst in front of my eyes, and I fell. I just about heard someone call out, "Oh, Goddess, Gray!" before everything faded to black.
It was black for a while.
When I get knocked out (which has happened more times than I care to remember or, actually, can), I usually retreat to a quiet blackness while my body tries to repair itself. On one memorable occasion, there were colors mixed in with the blackness; I'd been drinking that night, and a playful fight with some friends got out of hand. But it was always quiet before this.
Now there was this strange, soft, slightly off-key humming infiltrating my head. I don't really like humming too much – it gets on my nerves – but for some reason this particular humming didn't bother me as much as it should have.
The humming resolved into talking.
"...be fine in a few days, but we're keeping him here in case of any more serious issues that might show themselves." That was Tim, the doctor. His professional-doctor-voice was unmistakable, even with the fuzziness in my head. From closer came the sound of another voice, soft and female. Mary. That's why the humming wasn't an annoyance this time.
"But he's going to be okay?" she asked, her voice sounding almost strained and... damp. "He's..."
"He'll be fine," Tim said, in his reassuring-doctor-voice, "Men fight a lot, and Gray can take more hits than most, in my opinion." I could hear him smiling now. "He should be awake in a few minutes, in any case, and then you can ask him yourself."
On cue, I felt the darkness fading and heard myself groan. The familiar headache I knew came with being knocked out was starting in my temples. It wasn't going to be a very pleasant night.
"There you go," Tim said, much closer now. "He's coming around. Keep this compress on his jaw, and I'll come and check on you in a bit." Fabric swished nearby, and I could hear his footsteps walking away.
I opened my eyes.
BAD IDEA, my aching head said.
I closed them again.
Then I heard the soft, scared sound of a girl sitting next to me gasping, and I opened them again.
STILL A BAD IDEAmy head continued, but I squinted through the headache and turned my head.
There she was, looking worried and scared and suddenly relieved in my blurry vision. My jaw ached suddenly; I must have smiled. She blinked at me – had she been crying? – and smiled soggily, pressing a bag of ice to my aching jaw before I could say anything.
I managed a "Hi," before the pain shut me up. She smiled again.
"Hi," she said, and inched her chair closer, so she could hold the ice to my chin without leaning over too far.
We sat like that for a while, me with the ice on my chin and her with the watery look of someone who had been out in the rain too long and that might have been crying. She stared at my right hand for a while, with a distant look, and she was chewing her lip again. I wanted to say something. I didn't know what, but I wanted to say something.
I had to know if I'd at least won her back.
She beat me to it. "Why were you fighting?" she asked, without preamble. That's Mary for you. She's a writer – she knows when not to mince words. I looked toward her, feeling suddenly very small.
"I was angry," I started, falling back to the old excuse. She frowned sadly at me. I couldn't stand up to that. "Okay. I didn't like him hangin' around you," I said, and finished, somewhat lamely, "I didn't like how he looked at you."
"How Jack looked at me?" Mary's eyes met mine, and I saw confusion. "But Jack and I..."
Here it comes. I braced myself.
"Jack and I are just friends. He wanted my help with Popuri!"
And there it was. I let out a slow breath, suddenly relieved that—WHAT?
The ice fell off my jaw as I sputtered at her. She sat back. "P-popuri?" I finally managed to get out, trying and failing to sit up and look at her. The most I could manage was leaning on my side to meet her eyes. She tilted her head to the side, her frown gone and replaced with a confused smile. She nodded.
"He likes her," she said, slowly, and then warming to the topic, "and he wants to impress her, and since we're closer than any of the other girls, he wanted to know what she thought of him. So he's been visiting me a lot lately." Her smile got steadily less confused the more she spoke. "I know I've been kind of distracted lately, but I was trying to figure out how to help Jack," and there was her shy smile back again, "and you know how I get when I'm thinking. I'm in my own world."
The rain was letting up already. It was just a light patter on the clinic roof now, and there was no lightning in sight.
It dawned on me then that I'd been a complete idiot about this entire situation.
"So," I said slowly, because I was still coming out of my Jack-induced unconciousness and the blood rushing to my cheeks didn't help the ache in my head, "so, he hasn't been... been wooing you?"
"Wooing?" She laughed again, but it was a friendly, amused kind of laugh. She laughed at me like that a lot, when I'd show up at the library with Stu in tow after an eventful day on Mother's Hill or at the beach or on Barley's farm. In my nighttime fantasies, I thought of it as my laugh. "No, not Jack! I... I'm not really his type."
That made me frown. "What's his type?"
She smiled. "Pretty. Cute. Bubbly." With another laugh, she shrugged. "Popuri."
We fell into silence again, and she readjusted the ice on my jaw so it sat better. Then, in a surprisingly bold gesture, she pushed the bangs back from my forehead. I felt my cheeks flushing again.
"Is that what you were fighting about?" she asked, her voice very quiet.
"Yeah." I wished she'd move the ice up to my cheeks – they felt like they needed the cold more.
"You were fighting over me?"
Why was she pushing this? I stuttered, "Y-yeah."
"You almost broke Jack's nose and gave him two black eyes because you thought he was trying to... to woo me away?"
I couldn't meet her eyes now, and I stared at the wall. It was a nice wall, cream-colored and kind of plain. Maybe Elli would redecorate once Tim finally got around to marrying her. If she did, there would be a lot more stuffed bears hanging around. Maye that wasn't such a good idea.
I must have been more woozy than I thought.
Her laughter made me turn around, and I saw her with her face buried in her hands, her shoulders shaking in time with the giggles. "What?" I said, frowning, "What's so funny?" She shook her head and kept on laughing, though one of her little hands did work its way down to my own big mitt and squeezed it in a way that made me lightheaded all over again.
"You don't need to worry," she said, smiling as the laughter slowed down and eventually stopped. She leaned in to me, pushed the ice pack aside, and kissed me full and sweet on the mouth. My jaw protested, and the growing bruises on my midsection hurt pretty bad, and I did get out one very muffled "ow," but at that point in time I honestly didn't really care. Bruises heal. Situations like this don't really come up every day.
Not that I'd mind, of course.
When Tim came to check on us a while later, Mary was sitting on the edge of the cot, waving one hand around excitedly while I held the other and telling me the story of how she and a bleeding and confused Jack had dragged my unconscious and heavy body all the way to the Poultry Farm before Cliff found them and took her place, throwing me over his shoulder while she sprinted ahead to the clinic. I still had the melted ice pack on my jaw, held there by my free hand – he replaced it with a fresh one, warned me not to overexert myself, and left us alone for a while longer. I could see that little smile on his face as he left though. You know, the one that just says, "I was right," and leaves it at that.
I could hear Elli laughing every time I said "Ow."
Hey, if my jaw took a little extra time to heal because of Mary, I didn't mind that either.
She's going to the fireworks with me, too.
I didn't even have to talk about the weather.
A/N: Forgive me for the sheer gratuitousness of this story. My imagination gets carried away sometimes :) Apparently, in my imagination, everyone speaks in italics and Gray likes to fight shirtless during thunderstorms. Go figure.
Okay, so this was 1) an attempt to write something Gray/Mary for Scarlet's challenge and 2) an attempt to inject more Grary into this fandom. Sorry :) I'm not entirely satisfied with it, so it might be up for a rewrite sometime in the near future. I'd appreciate any comments on what needs improving :)
I really like Mary in this one in particular. I think her impulsive, sit-on-the-bed-and-tell-you-a-story side comes from hanging out with Karen too much. Also, she's just really, really happy Gray is okay (and willing to punch some other guy in the face because he's been flirting a little too much with her).
Poor Jack. Suffice to say, he got patched up at the clinic, Popuri came to see him and wailed at Gray about being mean for a while (to which Gray patted her on the head and told her he was sorry), and then he and Gray made up with no hard feelings. They're probably even better friends now. Nothing says "best dudes forever" like knocking the other guy out, after all :) They have matching bruises now, and Jack knows to never cross Gray again.
Enough of me! Thank you for reading!