Note: Oh my goodness, I'm a Grary writer! Finally! This is my first fluffy Gray x Mary bit, but I feel so honored to join the ranks of Grary shippers…I hope I shall not disappoint!
Disclaimer: Scarlet does not own HM or Rapunzel. She does, however, own the buckets of fluff found in this fic. XD
Prince Charming Doesn't Wear Tights
The library had always stood as a refuge for Gray. Inside, no hammers or fires could be found and no furious words could be spoken—all that could be found was blissful silence and a gentle smile.
No, strike that—it wasn't merely a gentle smile, but a gentle girl.
After a long day's toil, all he needed was to simply walk inside the library door and he'd be greeted with the serenity he craved.
Today was not one of those days.
"Mary, Mary! Read us another one, please?"
The librarian chuckled as Stu and May tugged on the fringe of her dress impatiently. "Another one?" Mary grinned mischievously. "But that's no fun. Wouldn't you rather go home and do chores?"
"Chores?!" Stu gasped, wrinkling his nose in disgust. "But I don't wanna help Elli clean the kitchen!"
"And the animal stables are smelly!" May piped in.
The completely serious look on their young faces was enough to make Mary giggle. "Well, then, I suppose I'll just have to read you another story, now won't I?" Mary decided, seating herself down behind the counter. "Hm, which one should I read today?"
Mary pushed up her glasses and picked up a book from a pile of recently read stories. Holding it in her lap almost reverently, she ran her fingers over the book's failing spine. "You know," she smiled, "this is an old book. My mother read it to me when I was your age. I--"
Mary's sentence was interrupted by the sound of the door opening. A dark silhouette stood in the doorway, his hat dripping water and his jacket soaked. His scowling eyes peeked at Mary from under the brim of his hat, and he spoke gruffly, "What are they doing here?"
"Goodness, Gray, is it raining outside?" Mary said, blinking her blue eyes in surprise. "I didn't even notice the weather this morning, I suppose I've been too preoccupied lately--"
"What are they doing here?" Gray repeated, turning his gaze on the two innocent children.
"Oh, May and Stu?" she answered. "Barley and Ellen both needed some time off, and Carter has been working much more now that Cliff's gone. So, I thought that I'd watch the children for the day. Actually, we're about to begin reading. Care to join us?"
In reality, Gray wanted nothing more than to tell those meddling kids to scram and leave him and Mary alone. It had been a trying day; Gray's hands were still sore from this morning's burns, and the sound of blacksmithing metal still rang through his ears. His grandfather's constant nit-picking hadn't helped matters, either. All he wanted was some peace and quiet, and he couldn't even have that in the library today. In the library, where it's supposed to be quiet, for Goddess's sakes!
But of course, saying all that would be rude, and as much as Gray would love to let out an unrated stream of anger, he bit his tongue and mumbled something that sounded like a "why not."
"Come and sit down then," Mary suggested, gesturing to the floor where the children were seated.
He eyed the small space skeptically. "You have got to be kidding me."
Stu and May scooted over as the young man awkwardly sat down criss-cross-applesauce between them. "Kinda squished," he remarked as Stu's knee poked him in the side.
"Are we all comfortable?" Mary asked, and May and Stu nodded. Gray groaned, and nodded begrudgingly as well.
"Could you start, please?" May begged, her eyes shining.
"Alright then." Mary cleared her throat and opened the book to a yellowed page wrought with age. Her fingers traced over the words as she read aloud: "Once upon the time, in a land far, far away, there lived a beautiful princess with hair as golden as the sun."
"Why golden?" Gray interrupted, earning a loud "shhhh!" from May and Stu. "Since when does beautiful mean blonde?"
Mary looked up from the story and shrugged. "That's how it goes," she explained. "I don't really know why, though…I suppose it wouldn't matter if her hair were red or brown."
"Or black," Gray added.
"Yes, or black," she smiled. "But for the purpose of this story, let's stay with blonde, shall we? Now where was I…"
"Hair as golden as the sun," the three listeners spoke simultaneously.
"Ah, yes," Mary nodded, putting her finger on the page. "Thank you. Her hair grew so long and so lovely that no other woman's beauty could compare with her own."
"Someone has an ego," Gray muttered to himself.
"The princess dwelled in a tall, tall tower guarded by a wicked witch. Every day, she'd gaze out of the window and dream of life outside the tower walls. And as she dreamed, she would sing."
"Wait a minute," Gray interjected again. "How does she know any songs when she's been locked up in a tower her whole life?"
"Oh…I never thought of that, either," Mary admitted.
May let out a little whine at the story being halted once again, and Stu said loudly, "MAR-Y! Gray didn't raise his hand before talking!"
"Hey, what are you saying?" Gray retorted. "I'm an adult, you little twerp. I can talk when I want to."
"Don't you 'nuh-uh' me! I'm twice your size for crying out loud, you little tattletale--"
The librarian grinned despite herself. "Calm down, children, or I'll put you both in time-out," Mary teased. "Gray, Stu's right; you should raise your hand."
"Ah, ah, ah!" Mary silenced him with a wave of her hand. "Be a good little boy, Gray. Will you play nice?"
"…Just read the book," he glowered.
"Mary likes me better, Mary likes me better," Stu whispered, sticking his tongue out at poor Gray.
"Keep telling yourself that when she goes with me to the Starry Night Festival and you're stuck with an early bed-time," he worded back.
"Boys! Please!" Mary exasperated.
Gray and Stu hung their heads in shame, and Gray mumbled, "He started it."
"I don't care who started it. I'm finishing it." The librarian turned once again to the book, and said in an agitated, yet amused voice, "Her voice echoed across the hills and plains, the wind carrying the gorgeous and enticing melody. And that was when he heard it. Prince Charming."
"Who names their kid--?"
Mary glanced up reprovingly and with a sigh Gray raised his hand. "Yes, Gray?" she asked him sweetly.
"Who names their kid Charming?" Gray inquired. "I mean, what do they want him to be, a pansy? The prince of pink and pretty?"
"But I like pink…" May moaned.
"Yes, Gray, why don't you like pink?" Mary accused him, clearly enjoying his discomfort.
He rubbed his temples and said, "For a guy, it's different. It's just…I mean…wait a second, is he wearing tights?"
Everyone glanced at the cover, where Gray was pointing to a prince dressed in a frilly regal outfit complete with said tights.
"It was part of the fashion at the time, Gray," Mary explained.
"But that's...a guy just...why don't you just start reading again?" he sighed in defeat.
"Gladly," Mary obliged. "He said to himself, 'I must find the owner of such a beautiful voice. Truly, she must be a gem among women.' And he rode his horse towards the origin of the music—Oh, goodness, Gray, what now?" she asked with a groan, seeing the blacksmith's hand waving frantically in the back.
"That's pretty shallow of him, don't you think?" Gray commented. "To think that being a great singer makes one woman better than a girl who can't carry a tune. Charming's a jerk. He can keep his pansy name."
"Is that all you want to say?" she asked him.
"Yeah. I think so."
"Good." For probably the fifth time, Mary resumed reading the fairy tale. "Upon reaching the princess's tower, Prince Charming hid in the bushes to see the singer whom he had heard from miles away. If possible, her beauty exceeded the loveliness of her voice. And then as he started to approach her, a loud cackle was heard as the wicked witch came to the tower and called, 'Rapunzel, Rapunzel, let down your hair, so that I may climb the golden stair.' And the silky golden hair was hung out of the window so that the witch could climb to the top of the tower. Once the witch had left, Prince Charming thought of a daring plan."
She paused, expecting some sort of outburst. To her shock and (to her surprise) dismay, no one had dared to raise their hand this round. Gray stared at her expectantly seated between the two children, and Mary stifled a giggle. How ridiculous he looked, a full-grown man squeezed between a couple of six year olds!
"Something funny?" he asked as May and Stu began to show signs of impatience.
"Oh, no, not at all!" she insisted, blushing. "Alright then…The prince came to the bottom of the tower and called out in a loud voice, 'Rapunzel, Rapunzel, let down your hair, so that I may climb the golden stair!' And Rapunzel did so. To her surprise, the handsome youth appeared in her window instead of the ugly witch. They fell in love at first sight, and Prince Charming swore to make her his queen. 'But dearest,' Rapunzel reminded him, 'the witch shall not let me free. And there is no way for me to leave this tower.' But Prince Charming promised to return with a rope ladder, so that he and his love could be wed."
"They just met, and now they're going to get married?" Gray criticized. "Geez."
For once, no one bothered to remind him to raise his hand.
"Once the prince had left, a dreadful thing happened. The wicked witch returned to Rapunzel's tower, and without thinking, the princess commented, 'It's so much easier to lift Prince Charming than you, dear witch.' And in her rage, the witch cut off Rapunzel's fair hair and plotted to destroy the prince."
"What happens?" May gasped in fear, clinging to Gray in panic. "She didn't hurt him, did she?"
"It's a fairy tale. Everything ends happily ever after. Duh," Stu said, rolling his eyes.
"Let her finish!" Gray growled.
"Th-thank you, Gray," Mary began slowly, shaking her head at Gray's ironic remark. "The cunning witch hung Rapunzel's hair from the tower, and the unsuspecting prince, assuming it was his love at the top, climbed it with the rope ladder in hand. But alas! His Rapunzel was not there to welcome him, but a furious witch. She grabbed him and prepared to kill him with the very knife that had cut Rapunzel's hair, but the Prince moved faster. He whipped about, sending the witch stumbling towards the window where she tumbled to her destruction."
A sigh escaped from May's lips as she laid her head on Gray's lap in relief.
"The prince found Rapunzel tied and hidden behind her bed, and after freeing her he whisked her off to his palace where they were wed. And they all lived happily ever after."
The book closed, and Mary wiped the sweat from her brow. Truly, she had never been so exhausted merely reading a story. She brushed a strand of her hair from her face and placed the book back on the counter. "Whew. That certainly took longer than I expected."
"I told you it would end happily ever after," Stu told May proudly. "You're just a chicken."
"I—I wasn't scared," May protested weakly, sitting up. "Tell him I wasn't scared, Gray!"
"…Stu, leave May alone," Gray mumbled, pushing May off him as he stood up. "Don't you two have to be going home or something?"
"Gray's right," Mary agreed. "Barley and Ellen will be worried about you two."
The pouts on the kids' faces almost caused even Mary's resolve to crumble, but Gray, who didn't falter so easily, began to push them towards the door.
"But we want to hear another!" Stu insisted.
"I want Mary to read Snow White!" May added. "Pretty pretty please with a cherry on top?"
"I don't like cherries," Gray retorted, opening the door. "And Mary's read enough for one day."
As they turned to the librarian imploringly, she shook her head. "I'm sorry, but you really do have to go home now. Maybe we'll read again tomorrow?"
"No," Gray interjected swiftly. "No, she won't be reading again tomorrow. In fact, get your grandparents to read to you—that's their job."
"Don't be so rude, Gray," Mary chided him, turning her gaze to the children. "Oh, I almost forgot, Stu: Elli said to tell you that she's baking cookies tonight."
"Cookies?!" they exclaimed.
No further prodding was necessary as the two friends sped out the door.
"That…was fast," Gray commented, scratching his head in surprise.
"Never underestimate the power of sugar," she explained as she got up from behind the counter and approached him. "In fact, I could read you Hansel and Gretel and tell you all about that—"
"I'll pass," Gray decided hurriedly.
Mary giggled. "I'm surprised you lasted that long…I thought May and Stu were going to drive you up a wall."
He shrugged. "I…I don't know. I don't have a way with kids like you do…"
"So I have a way with kids?" Mary laughed. "Reading them stories and giving them sugar is just keeping them happy. It has nothing to do with raising them."
"Still. That counts for something."
A light blush lit up Mary's cheeks at the compliment, and she bit her lip. "So…why did you come today?"
"Peace and quiet," Gray replied.
"Well, that can't be your reason," Mary chuckled. "If it was, you'd have left long before now. Really, why'd you stay?"
Of course, the answer to that question wasn't as simple as Mary thought. The blacksmith pulled down his hat over his eyes and muttered, "I…well, I wanted to see…"
"I'm sorry, could you speak up? I can't hear you."
Gray put his hands in his pockets and looked down. "I just wanted to…well, I…"
"I...I'd never heard the story of Rapunzel before!" he blurted out, his face beet-red from lying so blatantly.
God, he was such an idiot.
Mary blinked, adjusting her glasses. "Oh…really?"
"Yeah," he answered, mentally kicking himself. Idiot, idiot, idiot.
"Well, you know, I didn't tell the true story," Mary admitted, playing with her braid. "The real one is far more…well, it's not proper for children. My mother made this version for me when I was a child."
"So how does the real one end?" Gray questioned, curious. "Does Rapunzel die or something?"
"Gray Smith, are you asking me to spoil the ending of a fairy tale for you?" Mary gasped in mock horror.
"Come on, Mary, what is it--?"
A large tome was thrust into the blacksmith's hands, and he blinked as he saw the title.
"The Brother's Grimm?" he read aloud, raising his eyebrows.
"It's a collection of fairy tales," she explained. "You'll find the true version in there, as well as many other stories."
"There's a lot," he commented as he weighed the heavy book in his hand. "Have you read them all?"
"Are they any good?"
"Well, I think so."
Gray pocketed the volume under his arm and glanced out the doorway. "The rain's stopped," he noticed.
"Oh my, it has." The librarian placed her hands behind her back as she stared out the door as well. "You know, I like rainy days."
"Oh, I get to snuggle up behind the counter, read a good book, and spend some time with friends," she replied. "Like you."
Mary couldn't see it, but under his hat Gray's ears were burning red in embarrassment.
"I…like that, too," the blacksmith agreed softly. "Spending time with you."
He squeezed her hand gently, and as brief as the connection lasted, it was enough to cause Mary's ears to turn as red as Gray's.
And fairy tale endings are not merely meant for the blonde and beautiful. Not all princes are suave and daring. Not everyone can carry a tune, and not all princes are willing to brave the terrors of a witch to save their damsel. And indeed, not all princesses are damsels just as not all princes are heroes.
Sometimes, Prince Charming wears a worn-out UMA hat for a crown.
Sometimes, his princess dwells in a tower filled with books rather than witches.
And sometimes, just sometimes, a ride into the sunset is merely walking home and being sure to jump in every puddle along the way.
Sometimes that's all a "happily ever after" needs to be.