Note: My first three-shot, a fluff/angst combo. And for the record, my opinion on Graire vs Grary remains unchanged. (cough, cough, Go Grary, cough cough) Uses some in-game scenes, and some I invented. Whoo.
Disclaimer: Not mine.
Dedicated to Jean Cooper, as a thank-you for her wonderful indulgement in my Riclaire and Grary obsessions. I owe you. XD
Fashioned in Gold
Part One: The Loved
It all happened so fast--I don't know what to think. I don't know whether I should scream, cry, laugh, or all three.
Well, I suppose for starters, I can smile.
All I have to do is bring the image of a shy blacksmith to mind, his hat tipped over his bashfully downcast eyes. I want to steal that hat from atop his head, to ruffle his ginger brown locks with my fingers, to see his cheeks blush red at my touch.
The thing is, I never knew that he, too, wanted that.
Not until now.
Our first meeting was brief, to say the least. I had stumbled in Saibara's shop accidentally—I had been aiming to find the Supermarket, and during my first Spring, I still got lost around town—and wound up stepping into a particularly heated argument as well. I remember hearing shouting as the quarrel reached a fever pitch; Saibara's voice remained level, but it was Gray who couldn't control his rage.
"What the hell do you know, anyway?" Gray snapped. "Just because I mess up once doesn't mean you can take over the whole damn project!"
"Just because you don't get your way doesn't mean you have to whine about it like a petulant child," Saibara admonished him calmly. "Watch your tongue. I don't want to hear you scaring off the customers. See here, there was a young lady present. You should apologize."
I blushed at his reference and shook my head. "Uh, no, I just—"
"Why the hell should I apologize?!" Gray shouted. "She's the one who barged in!"
"I—I'm sorry?" I blinked. "Wait, how is this my fault—?"
"Gray. Control your temper," Saibara warned, no longer composed. "You're embarrassing yourself."
"Don't tell me what to do!" Gray growled. Starting towards the door, he shoved me roughly as he pushed the door open and stomped off into the distance. The door swung on its hinges, having been unsuccessfully slammed, and I stared at where he had left blankly. What had just happened? Had I…done something wrong?
"…Please excuse my grandson. He is overly ambitious, and lacks courtesy. And common sense, for that matter," Saibara sighed. Crossing his arms, he groaned. "Perhaps I've pushed him too far this time…"
I shook my head. "Look, whatever happened is—um, well, it'll be okay," I comforted him lamely. He gave me an incredulous look. Silence. "Um…well, why I'm here, could tell me where the Supermarket is?" I asked hopefully.
And I went.
Of course, with my fabulous sense of direction, I found myself at the front door of the Inn instead. After conversing with Doug and realizing that once again I had made a mistake, I turned to go---when I heard the sound of cursing overhead.
Knowing that perhaps what I was doing was both foolish and stupid, especially in the light of what had happened during Saibara's and Gray's little skirmish, I climbed the stairs anyhow. Human nature to be curious, I suppose.
Pacing the floor of the room, I saw a distraught young man—the same man from the blacksmith's shop--walking back and forth, berating himself.
"So stupid…Me and my damn mouth…Why couldn't I have shut up for once? Why do I always…?" But his words broke off as he paused, his blue eyes widening as they drank in the sight of me standing in the hallway.
My breath caught in my throat, and I began to stammer unintelligibly. "I—heh, I obviously took a wrong turn, so, um—sorry for bothering you. Again." I twirled a strand of hair nervously as I turned to go. Great going, Claire. It's not enough to get yelled at by a complete stranger once; it has to happen again, less than thirty minutes later.
But I had braced myself for nothing.
"You're the girl from the shop," he stated, causing me to stop in my descent. His cheeks reddened as I turned to face him head-on. "You…look, sometimes…I know I can come off as rude. And I was just…not you, but him…he just can make me get so…look, I didn't mean to yell. At you, anyway." His words came out softly, each one slowly building on the other to create some sort of unorthodox apology. I raised my eyebrows and cocked my head at him, a little confused by his change in behavior. His hands tightened into fists, and he exasperated, "Damn it. I'm making no sense, am I?"
"No, I think…I think I understand," I replied, my expression relaxing into that of a smile. "And I'm not mad at you or anything, either. Sometimes you need to vent, right?" I extended my hand. "I don't think we've officially met, Mr. Blacksmith. I'm Claire. The new farmgirl from down the way."
"Gray," he nodded gruffly, shaking with more force than my manicured hands were accustomed to. "Gray Smith."
And that's how it began.
By "it," I guess I mean a lot of things. Morning talks as Gray walked to work. Afternoons in the library—with him as well as Mary. Evenings at the bar. At first, I clung to him for the sake of having someone to talk to. I didn't know many people, and of the people I did know, Gray was the best listener. When my crops failed, he would just nod as I rambled on and on about how I should have done this and should have done that—he never reprimanded me or heaped advice I didn't need or want. When I bought my first chicken, he let me talk about how nervous I was that I'd forget to feed it daily. When I said I wanted to enter the cooking contest, he didn't laugh—but he did suggest I ask Ann about how it all worked.
Long story short, we talked. A lot.
Don't get me wrong, I listened to Gray, too. But he was a man of few words—when he spoke, it was simple, to the point, and blunt. He could say the same thing in one sentence that I had just said in twenty. And the thing about that was it made you really listen to every word he said.
So, when he asked me to the Fireworks Festival, I was completely struck dumb.
Now, I knew that I was on good terms with Gray. I had figured that out early on. What I didn't get was why he was choosing me over Mary, whom he had known for years. Other people may say it was due to her looks or shyness—but if you knew Gray, you'd know he doesn't judge people by that kind of standard. No, something set me apart from her. What it was, I didn't know. In fact, I may never know.
But he chose me. And in the end, that was enough.
"Hey, Gray," I smiled, waiting inside the doorway to Saibara's shop. "Are you ready to head to the library?"
He laid down his tools, wiped his brow, and looked up at me with a strained expression. "Claire…I'd rather not go to the library today," he said finally.
"Why?" I pried. "You love the library. We go every week."
Gray opened his mouth to speak, then sighed. "I just—I'd rather not. Maybe we could go somewhere else instead? Like the Inn."
"Oh…okay," I shrugged. "Whatever you want to do is fine."
That was the second time I saw the change. Actually, it was an uncomfortable feeling…knowing that Gray was tipping his scales of attention from Mary to me. His quiet nature did nothing to ease the awkwardness, either—I became very conscious of the fact that Gray was, well, noticing me more.
Not that he ignored me before, you understand. But before, he'd give me no more than a glance in the street, a simple curt nod when I said hello, a little "hey" when I walked in to the blacksmith shop. But now he was staring at me to the point that when I turned to him, he would glance away in embarrassment. I don't know…it was a little strange.
And yet…I liked it.
No, I craved it. The desire for mere conversation was long gone, and a hunger for affection had replaced it. I wanted to faint whenever he said my name; I wanted to make him say it forever. I wanted to hear him laugh, I wanted to make him smile, I wanted to see him cry. I wanted…so much.
So much that it hurt inside.
I saw Gray at my door, looking more and more uncomfortable with each word he spoke. "Tonight is the Starry Night Festival, and…I want to…I want to share it with you. If that's okay."
My heart fluttered within my chest. "With me?" I whispered. Surely he would have drawn the line here. The most romantic festival of the year—the one reserved exclusively for lovers—couldn't use the "best friends" excuse for going together. People would talk. We'd no longer be seen as friends, but as girlfriend and boyfriend.
He nodded. "I said you, didn't I?" was his gruff reply.
"I…I'll be there," I nodded, unable to hide the radiant smile spreading across my lips.
And I was. Now, normally, it doesn't take much to get me talking. I'll ramble and ramble until someone finally says quite sharply that they just don't care. But that night, under the starlit sky with Gray's hand in my own, suddenly I had no words to say. My cheeks were tinted a faint pink, and I bit my lip as I stole a glance at my silent companion.
For a while, he simply stood there, an impassive figure with his mind swirling with unspoken thoughts. Then, taking in a small breath, he began to speak. "I have something I need to say, Claire."
"Y-You do?" I stammered, both from my anxiety and the cold.
He nodded, his hat dipping somewhat over his eyes. "I—I know that I'm not…the nicest guy out there. I know that I can be hard to talk to. And when it comes to love, I'm still a little confused. But I hope that…that you're okay with that. Because I have nothing else to give you. And Claire, I want to give you so much. So, so much. Because I think, for the first time in my life, I truly know what it means to fall in love."
He squeezed his eyes shut, little puffs of breath piercing the frigid air. The feeling in my hand went numb as he gripped it fiercely, the weight of the words he had spoken piling on his shoulders one by one until he began to regret ever saying them.
Staring at him, I found that I wasn't able to smile, to speak—I was crying. Crying. Crystalline teardrops froze upon my cheek, and I couldn't stop them from flowing.
"Claire…? Did I say something wrong—damn it, Claire, why did I have to make you cry?" he exclaimed, worry creasing his brow. "Don't cry…please, don't cry. Whatever I did, I'm sorry. I'm sorry…I'm such a damn idiot. I'm sorry, Claire…please, don't cry."
A sob broke free from my throat as I threw my arms around him, making him flinch at my touch. His hat fell onto the blanket of snow at the impact of my embrace, and I cried. "Gray, I'm so happy. Don't apologize…I'm happy, happier than I've ever been. You've given me enough. You've given me everything I've ever wanted and more. Thank you…thank you."
He stroked my hair gently, letting me soak his jacket with my tears. The stars shone that night—they shone so beautifully that it was hard to believe that anything could ever compare with their glory. But I barely remember anything about that night—only the faint scent of newly forged metal that clung to Gray's jacket and the tears that were shed, the confessions of love that were shared.
Nothing was the same after that night. Nothing could reverse what had happened; nothing could make us only friends once again. We had transcended that—we had escaped to the realm where only lovers and couples were welcome.
It was only a few weeks later when I found something shining upon my doorstep. My hands clasped around a tiny heart, carved in gold and forged with just enough flaws to prove that its creator was Gray. In italics, I found a simple phrase etched upon it:
Forever and always, my heart belongs to you.
I clutched it to my chest and smiled. No…he was wrong. It wasn't his heart that belonged to me; he had captured my own, and I knew he'd never let it go.
And that is why, tonight, I had done the unthinkable. I had walked to his room in the Inn, I had closed the door, and I had held forth a blue treasure that could possibly be worth more than all the laughter, tears, and gold in the world.
And he had accepted it.
It's only a week away. A week. I don't know if I can wait that long. I don't know if I can bear all the preparations and wedding lace and ceremony. I want to run into the church in my overalls and tennis shoes, with Gray still in his sweaty work clothes, and drag Carter out of the confessional long enough for Gray and I to say I do.
But I suppose waiting seven days will be worth it in the end. Isn't it enough, that I get to receive my happily ever after, my perfect ending?
After all, what is seven long days compared to forever?
--Part One: The Loved, Claire