On to chapter 2

--

There was something very wrong with this situation.

Gray had just stumbled out of Claire's house, and he was more than just confused.

Well, for one thing, he'd been naked (and so had Claire, he noted blushing madly). That was something to be concerned over. They'd also been in the same bed together and they both seemed to not recall what had happened last night.

He checked his watch and moaned in dismay, to top it all off he was late for work. He wouldn't hear the end of it from his grandfather.

The autumn breeze ruffled his hair and his ears felt unusually cold. He felt his head, and immediately realized something very important was missing. My hat…my hat…Things couldn't get any better, he must have left it at Claire's. His hat, his favorite hat, his security blanket of a hat! How could he have forgotten it? He would have preferred forgetting his pants (ok not really) than his hat. Torn, he stood in the middle of the cobblestone walkway. Return for his hat and be even later for work? Go to work and face having Claire return it for him? They both seemed like a death sentence.

Begrudgingly he shuffled to the blacksmith's shop, his grandfather's wrath overpowering the need for his headgear. Gray opened the door and walked in, he was greeted by his grandfather's angry stare.

"You're late." Saibara was less than impressed by his grandson's tardiness.

"Uh…yeah, sorry."

Angered by Gray's lack of response and his less than convincing apology Saibara decided it was lecture time.

"Just because you go drinking late at night doesn't mean you're allowed to be late for work Gray! Where's your motivation, at this rate I'll drop dead before you become an accomplished blacksmith!"

Gray rolled his eyes and immediately regretted it; he was met with angrier words and meaner glares. Saibara even started shaking his finger at him, he was in deep shit.

"All right, all right. I said I was sorry! Why don't you cut me some slack for once in your life."

"Slack…you want me to cut you slack?" Saibara growled angrily, his furry eyebrows knitting together. "When I was your age working as an apprentice, slack didn't even exist!"

'There he goes again.' Gray thought, annoyed as he picked up his tools and began working but he immediately regretted it, as he remembered he was upgrading a tool that belonged to Claire. He quickly switched his priorities and began work on Barley's tools instead. A grumbling Saibara settled in at his desk by the front of the store, leaving his grandson alone with his thoughts. Gray let out a troubled sigh, glanced at Claire's partially upgraded tool and frowned, what the hell was he going to do?


Looking out the window Claire noted that the Harvest Sprites were up bright and early. She watched them work from her window, unwilling to go out and help them. In fact, she was unwilling to do much of anything except for walk around her house and worry over a certain hat on her table. Why Gray was so in love with this ratty old thing she had no idea, it wasn't even a nice hat anyway, what the hell was UMA supposed to mean.

She became quite fed up with herself, why did her thoughts keep drifting back to Gray. She had to stop thinking about him, she had to get her mind occupied. Half an hour later Claire found herself helping the Harvest Sprites water and harvest her crops and tend to her animals. In truth, she was still thinking about him, but she was busy and only the occasional thought popped into her head.

After a few hours of back breaking work Claire and the Sprites had finally finished. The seven colorfully dressed, elf eared gnome like creatures had certainly grown on her and she found herself constantly buying bags of flour to give to them.

With work done her mind began to wander again, and it wandered to a certain person she was trying to not think about.

"Claire?" She looked down, Chef looked back, worry knitted into his tiny face. "What's wrong? You look upset!"

And with that the six others gathered around with worried looks and questions.

"Claire's upset?"

"Who made you sad?"

"What happened?"

"Don't worry! We'll always be your friends!"

"Is it because of us?"

"Do you need a hug Claire?"

How overwhelming, yet, touching. They were all so sweet.

"Don't worry guys! I'm fine, do I really look that sad to you?" She put on a bright gleaming smile. "See? I'm alright, and the days work is done too, you should all go home and get some rest!"

After much reassurance and smiles the seven Sprites reluctantly bade her farewell and left her farm. But as soon as she was alone her thoughts immediately dashed back to what had happened that morning and of the hat and its owner. She couldn't beat around the bush all day so she grabbed his hat from her table and left for the inn.


"Oh…h-hi Ann." Cliff blushed madly as Ann walked down the stairs.

"Hey you guys!" She smiled broadly at the two people sitting at the table. Gray chewed on his toothpick and resisted the urge to slap Cliff, who had gone silent, in the head. Why the hell did he say hi to her and then say nothing afterwards, Ann always ended up chatting his ear off instead.

"Whoa, whoa, whoa! Wait a sec!" Ann paused in front of the two and looked intently at Gray. "There's something totally wrong with this picture."

Stroking her chin she grinned.

"Oh Gray, I knew you'd grow out of that hat at some point. I'm so proud of you! So proud in fact, dinners on the house!" She clapped her hands and made such a scene everyone else in the inn turned to look. Gray sunk into his chair, how embarrassing, people were actually congratulating him.

"Gray! I had no idea how handsome you looked without that old hat!" Manna laughed while Duke ruffled his hair. How well did he know these guys again?

At that moment Claire walked into the inn, his hat in her hands.

"Claire guess what! Gray's finally outgrown his hat!" Ann laughed and slung her arm over Claire's shoulder. "I think you should go over and congratulate the man."

"He…outgrew his hat?" Claire smiled weakly and gripped the hat in question tightly as Ann dragged her over to where Cliff and Gray were sitting.

"H-hey there Cliff…Gray…I actually have something that belongs to you. It's sort of, sort of your hat." She proffered the cap to Gray.

"What the- Why the hell do you have his hat Claire?" Ann said, a little too loudly.

Gray took the hat quickly and put it on, giving Ann an annoyed look. "None of your business Ann. Claire, I actually need to talk to you."

"W-well! Excuse me for being curious, and you know what, dinner's not on the house anymore!" Ann huffed angrily and walked away from the table.

"I actually can't talk right now Gray…" Claire had already started leaving the table, but Gray caught her arm and pulled her up the stairs.

"It's important."

Cliff sighed as he sat alone at the table, he was feeling a little more than ignored.

--

I just love Cliff, he's so cute!