Note: Guess what! You are in for a mega-fluff ride. Oh, yes, you are. Filled with clichés, cuteness, and canon fangirl…ism. I think this idea is just too funny and too cute to pass up, so…hopefully, you'll enjoy this as much as I enjoy writing it. Or you'll smack me upside the head for writing so much fluff. Ha.
Another note: In future chapters, they will be different people's POVs. But I'll only have one POV per chapter, and I'll be sure to mark it so you know who's talking.
Disclaimer: I own nothing. So you can't sue me.
Happily Ever After
Chapter One: Once Upon a Time
As Told by the Librarian:
Once upon a time. You've heard the words often enough. They've been the prelude to countless tales filled with damsels, princes, and happy endings. There's excitement, romance, and villainous plots packed between the pages of a fairy tale, and--if you're lucky--a hint of magic.
Compare that to the dull, uneventful life of Mineral Town.
Actually, compare that to my life.
I was the girl reading those exciting stories, the girl waiting in her library for opportunity to open itself up to her like the pages of a book. I was the girl who dreamt of fantasy, but was jaded by reality. I was…well, I was Mary.
And sometimes, I wondered if that was enough.
"Closing time, Gray."
The blacksmith groaned, closing his book and shoving it into the nearest shelf. "Why do you always have to be so punctual? Would it kill you to let people sit here a few minutes longer?"
I smiled, dangling the key from my fingers leisurely. "You want to sit in this stuffy place on a hot summer's day? It must be a pretty good book, then."
"It's…interesting," he said at length, shrugging. "Some fairy tale thing."
"The Brother's Grimm?"
"Something like that."
I giggled, earning a reproachful look from the blacksmith. "What's so funny?" he demanded.
"Which story was your favorite, Gray: Cinderella and her pumpkin carriage or Snow White and her little dwarf friends?"
"…Are you making fun of me?"
His indignant expression caused me to laugh even harder, and as he became more and more flustered I attempted to stifle my giggles. Standing up, he exclaimed, "You are making fun of me!"
"N-no, Gray, I—haha! No, I most certainly am not making fun of you," I insisted with a mock gasp. "How could you say such a thing?"
"…You smart ass librarian," he glowered, shoving past me towards the door. His fingers closed about the knob, and as he attempted to turn it, all he succeeded in doing was wasting about five minutes trying to open the closed thing. Amused, I watched on as he finally kicked it, and muttered darkly, "Damn door."
"Gray?" I jingled the keys. "You might need these."
"And you didn't unlock the door before now because…?"
Laughing once again, I placed it in the keyhole, turning it and opening the door wide. The blacksmith stared at me for a moment before starting forward, his hands in his pockets. He turned to me again, and cocking his head, asked, "You coming?"
My fingers toyed with my braid as I absently looked away, avoiding eye-contact. Down the path, I could see the figure of a blonde young woman coming into view, and I found myself stammering. "Well, actually, now that I think of it—I have to, uh, organize something, so--"
"What is it with women always changing their minds?" Gray groaned, pulling down his hat over his eyes. "Do you want me to wait for you?"
"Oh, no, I'll be fine!" I insisted, inwardly panicking as I saw the farmgirl perk up at the sight of the blacksmith. "Listen, I'm just going to go inside—"
A comical expression of surprise flashed across the blacksmith's face as the young woman leaped forward, embracing him in a large hug. Squeezing her arms around him, she exclaimed, "Oh, Gray, where have you been all day?"
"What the hell are you doing on my back?" he complained, pulling away her hands. "I've been in the library, alright?"
"The library?" A sneer made its way across her lips. "But it's so…boring in there. There's just a lot of books, and it's dusty, and then there's that mousy little—oh, hi, Mary!"
Supposing that I should be grateful she noticed I was there at all, I pretended that I was happy to see her as well.
We're marvelous pretenders, Claire and I.
"How is the farm doing?" Gray asked, fortunately changing the subject.
"Oh, it's going just fine," Claire smiled. "Actually, I harvested some crops today—and oh, Gray, guess what?!"
She rummaged through her rucksack while Gray and I watched on, a bit puzzled and curious all at the same time. With a little squeal of delight, she pulled free a lump of shiny rock and held it forward, beaming. "Silver ore! I found it in the mine. Thought you could use it for something."
Gray took it from her cautiously, failing to disguise the pleased expression on his face. "Well, uh…thank you. I could definitely use this."
"I thought you'd say that," she grinned. Her blue eyes flickered from Gray to me, and suddenly her voice got a bit deeper as she said, "Don't you have somewhere to be going, Mary? Won't your mother be worried if you stay out too late?"
I bit my lip, and decided to return her subtle insult with a little smile. "Now that you mention it, Claire, I do have some work to be done. If you'll excuse me, I have to be getting back to the library."
"Do you need any help in there, Mary--?"
"I'm sure Mary's a big girl, Gray," Claire interrupted, waving away his concerns. "She can handle herself. Are you on your way to the Inn?"
Gray cast her a dubious glance as she put her arm around his shoulder, and he shrugged it off. "That's the plan. Go home, hang out with the guys, and get to bed."
"Oh, that's so droll," Claire groaned, hands on her hips. "You need to liven up, Gray—let's go get some drinks and chill out for a while."
"I don't want—"
"Gray, you might as well," I shrugged, causing him to stare at me in confusion. "You're not going to do much else tonight, am I right?"
"Well—" Gray paused, and as he saw Claire's smile, sighed. "Ah, hell. Fine. But are you sure you're alright on your own, Mary?"
"I'll be fine," I assured him, opening the library door once again. "Really, go have fun."
His eyes lingered on for a moment before saying, "When you're done with whatever it is you're doing, you can always come on by the Inn and join us. It's not like we'll mind."
Claire's horrified expression clearly said that she did mind, but Gray's question was surprisingly sincere. I found myself blushing a bit, fumbling with the knob.
"Oh, I—I don't know. I'm not much for drinking and all—"
"Then it's settled. Come on, Gray. Let's go before the best seats are taken," Claire insisted, tugging the blacksmith by the arm. He remained impassive, his blue eyes narrowing at me skeptically.
"If you're sure," he relented finally, "then you don't have to come. But if you change your mind, I'll be waiting, alright?"
I nodded, my mouth dry.
"Gray! Come on!" The farmer's shrill voice pierced the air, causing Gray to visibly wince. Her grip became stronger as she dragged Gray along—which I would have found amusing had it not been for the fact that Claire was the one doing the dragging.
Though the shocked expression on his face was priceless, regardless.
I retreated into my library, eyeing the shelves fondly. Stacked with countless tomes, they held the weight of an entire world—a world full of witches, princesses, knights, and other wondrous beings. Closing the door behind me, I crossed over to where Gray had shelved the fairy tale and pulled it free cautiously. A layer of dust from the wood below scattered about me, causing my throat to constrict in a series of coughing fits. Covering my mouth, I backed up, and to my chagrin, tripped over a three-legged stool and fell on my rump.
At least Gray wasn't there to see that.
Strike that—at least Claire wasn't there to see that.
I adjusted my glasses, stood up, and smoothed out the creases in my dress. I looked about the room again—a small space with four walls, plenty of unsociable books, and unreachable worlds.
And it struck me that…it was a very lonely place.
Biting my lip, I picked up the fallen book form the floor and held it to the light, squinting to make out the aged printing. "Once upon a time," I murmured, smiling sadly.
Once upon a time. That's how they all begin. How all the journeys begin. They don't begin in libraries, and they don't begin in a blacksmith's shop, and they don't begin in a farm.
They begin in a land far, far away.
And little did I know, that was where my journey would begin as well.