A/N: Sorry for the delay. I was meaning to post this earlier, but my laptop was being a jackass. I'm getting a new one that should be shipped here in a day or two…oh, and guess what? It's yellow! :D Anyway, here's some more Gray x Mary goodness.
I knew mistakes were inevitable, that everyone was bound to mess up one way or another many times in their lives, but I always found suffering in my mistakes. Perhaps that was what compelled me to make them time and time again: the pressure and fear of the suffering. Each mistake brought doubt, fear, resentment, guilt, negativity; sometimes a combination of them all.
Why, then, did I enjoy and indulge in this mistake? That instead of being swept away by the crashing tide of bitterness, the purity of the ocean of my conscience permeated the impurity, and the deeper I pushed the knife, the happier I grew?
I knew he was too good for me; that he was better than me in more ways than one, without even having to know him. I'd already figured out his skills that surpassed my flaws: he was more determined than I was, as a first; even though he spoke poorly of himself, I could hear the hopeful struggle beneath the surface of his frustrated tirades. Second: he was stronger, both emotionally and physically—that was obvious. And he was much better looking, as well. I thought back to all the times he'd gazed at my face, studied me with those hard, intense eyes, and hated what he probably thought about what he saw.
This was wrong, my dream book's fairytale ending was impossible, and the pain of predicted disappointment in the end was inevitable.
But I was just so incredibly happy, so naïvely gleeful that I could have the opportunity to spend my day with him, so glad that I was able to make myself oblivious to human reality, that I continued on with living a lie I was aware I'd created, waking up bright and early Monday morning and bounding down the stairs of my home.
"Morning, Mary," my father, Basil, greeted me. He was seated at the dining table, a book about wildlife in his hands, no plate in front of him.
"Morning. What, are we picking berries to eat today?" I teased at his lack of appetite.
He chuckled in reply, putting the book down for the first time and looking over at me. "You're in a good mood today," he observed.
My face turned bright red. I hadn't noticed, myself.
"Are you excited about our outing?" he guessed, smiling obliviously.
It was now or never. I only wished the opportunity hadn't come so early, my face turning an even brighter shade.
"About that…Dad…" I sat down slowly across from him. "Do you know the boy who works as apprentice at the blacksmith's?" I felt silly calling him a boy, but he was far from even appearing like a man. But I felt even sillier and awkward talking to my dad about this, of all people—yet I was also grateful; if my mother were here, I would die of embarrassment. Her questions would be endless, personal, and there was no way I could lie myself out of them. I could painfully imagine it now… "Mary? Ooh, the boy at the blacksmith's? He's a cute one. Do you think he's cute?" And then my inevitable blush, burning ruby in response…
I let the imagined scene in my head fade away, but the colour on my cheeks remained.
"The blacksmith's?" My father looked cryptic. "Oh, Saibara's boy…you mean Gray?" He continued on, as if I'd answered his question already. "Serious kid…doesn't talk much anymore…a quiet one…" My father appraised him absentmindedly, his voice fading into a mumble. Suspicion suddenly dripped in his voice as he asked the very question I wished he hadn't: "Why?"
The word rang in my ears. Why? It taunted me.
"Um…w-well," I stuttered, which was a dead giveaway, "I, um, invited him to our family outing today." There. I refrained from holding my breath with relief and anticipation of his response.
My father's face was insultingly bemused, but fortunately, calm. "Did you?" he said, not sounding angry or upset, really, but in a tone that didn't fit. "How'd you manage to do that?"
I frowned, wondering if he was mocking the boy I found so intriguing. "What do you mean, how did I manage to do that? I asked him if he wanted to come, and he accepted," I answered briskly, and for some reason, defensively. Why was I getting the nagging feeling my parent didn't approve of Gray?
…Gray. That was the first time I'd ever referred to him using his name. It seemed to suit him in a nondescript, explanation-void way. Gray…and Mary, I couldn't help but tack onto the end. I'd never admit it to anyone, but…
I liked the way that sounded, our names together. Gray and Mary…Mary and Gray.
"I know, I know. No need to get snappy with me. He 's just, well, really quiet, and not too many people in town really know him too well. I'm surprised that you—" He silenced quickly, and I averted extra attention to when he was cut off.
"What about me?" I stared into his eyes until I could force it out of him; I didn't do it often, but it was easy to get things out of my father that way.
"Well…you can be a bit…shy, at times," he murmured quickly, and suddenly he was staring down at the back cover of his book, more interested in it than he should have been.
That was nothing new. I could tell, myself, that I wasn't the most extroverted person ever. But what was he implying? "Go on," I urged, and an instinctive stirring inside of me gave me the feeling that I already knew what he was going to say.
"It's just that…usually…opposites attract, you know? Like the saying."
My jaw nearly dropped. I wanted to get the words out, but I was muted, and my protest came out as a soundless squawk.
He rambled on quickly, still looking at the book. "I mean, if you have two magnets, and you put the north end and the south end together, they go together. But north and north—south and south—it repels." He hesitated, something he didn't do very often.
I looked down into my lap to keep him from seeing whatever expression was on my face, not that he would be looking up anytime soon. "W-we're not, not attracted, Dad," I sputtered, mortified. "We're just…friends, if barely. We had a nice talk at the library, and I didn't want to ruin his Monday plans by closing, so I asked if he wanted to come. That's it." I bit back the impulse that wished otherwise.
My father seemed surprised, but luckily, the topic at hand simpered. It had escalated way further than I had expected it to.
"Well…your mother should be back soon. You should go get some breakfast before we leave." His tone was twisted a bit with awkwardness, but normal otherwise.
Grateful for an escape, I noticed I had gradually risen an inch or two from my seat already, and turned red. I slid away from the table, searching for the milk and cereal.
At that instant, my mother Anna, the town gossip, burst into the room, and the silent atmosphere vanished in her presence. Her mouth had already been moving by the time she walked inside and sat down beside my father. I mumbled a greeting when I thought I heard my name being mentioned, and then she was off again, scolding my dad about his empty stomach, and how it would catch up to him later in the day.
I could actually comprehend one of her sentences. "So, Mary, I heard you invited Saibara's grandson to our outing today," my mother began, in a tone she used whenever she was hungry for information.
My stomach fell rapidly, my cereal tasting like a carpet. Where and how had she heard that? My father couldn't have informed her in the minimal time she'd spent here since she arrived home, but then again, who knew where she'd been earlier this morning. News got around too quickly in this small town.
I fell into a coughing fit, stalling my response."…Um, yes," I replied, purposely listlessly as my throat cleared. I could see this becoming a popular subject to pester me with, and for a split instant I regretted ever inviting Gray.
She was clearly not satisfied with my apparent uncaring attitude. "I've never seen you talk with him before, though."
I refrained from rolling my eyes. "He comes to the library, Mother," I said in a berating tone. She was so prying, so curious that sometimes it felt as if the role of mother and daughter had altered, I in her place.
"How often?" she asked instantly.
I bit my tongue, extracting a half-truth. "'Everyday' might set her off. "Quite often," I offered nonchalantly.
She gave up, finally, disheartened by my lack of cooperation on her part. "He's a nice boy," she finished dejectedly. "A little shy, though."
"That's what I said," I thought I heard my father mumble in the background, and shot him a look.
She had given up now, but I knew, as a fact, that I could not evade my own mother—or father—forever. Much less the ones I had.
I gulped down my cereal before standing up to rinse it in the sink.
"Excited, Mary?" my mother asked me.
"Mm-hmm," I murmured, surprised I had made it through the whole calm charade. More than you'd know.
I turned the faucet and was drenched by a blast of uncontrolled, freezing cold water. The noise penetrated my mother's constant one, and completely blocked out my father's protective one.
Then there was a quick knock on the door, and my heart. My parents glanced at each other meaningfully and to my horror, my mother swept over and answered it.
When the door opened, I couldn't see Gray's face, but I could only imagine it as my mother smiled hugely and said, "Hiiiii, Gray! You look nice! Are you excited? We were just talking about you. We should be ready to leave soon—Mary, are you ready?"
"Y-yes," I stammered, meaning to pull away slightly from the sink but ending up tripping and sending my spoon sailing across the room.
Everyone stared at it as it clattered to the floor. I groaned.
We exchanged our hellos, and after that, it felt oddly like we were in the library again, but without the books to quell the awkwardness. We didn't say another word to each other, though my lips were brimming with questions and observations and small talk. I glanced at him occasionally from the corner of my eye, and I did mean to say something, but it was just that my throat still felt muted, and either my mother or father kept shooting looks behind their shoulder at us, and I was unnerved.
We were almost at our spot on Mother's Hill, just passing the Goddess Pond, when my hand brushed against Gray's. My heart sank when he pulled away and tugged at his hat, and then my throat decided to unclog.
"Sorry," I murmured automatically.
"What? Oh…" He looked at my hand for an instant, and I blushed, reaching up to adjust my glasses.
"Do you come here often?" I nearly smacked myself. I hadn't intended it to come out like that. It was probably the worst pick-up line invented, next to the one related to the weather. I would deserve two smacks if I even mentioned the weather, I promised myself.
He seemed to take my question seriously and looked up at his surroundings. "Not really. My grandfather—he comes to the hot springs sometimes, though."
"Do you go with him?"
He shot me a disgusted look—not disgusted at me, but at my question. I got another urge to hit myself and my cheeks tightened against my teeth. "Right," I said stupidly.
We had arrived now, and my father and mother finally extracted themselves from us to examine flowers and the like, and Gray and I were adult supervision-free. It was all a matter of now-what.
"So…" We hadn't stopped walking, and we were heading for the mountain peak now, my legs robotic. I didn't know if my parents were watching, but probably not, since they hadn't said anything. "My father said you were a blacksmith."
"Yeah," he grunted. I waited for him to go on, but he didn't.
"What do you do?" I fiddled with the hem of my dress. "I have a book about blacksmithing, and I've read it but I'm still not very…" I trailed off, hoping he would fill in the blanks.
"We make tools, mainly. You know, farm tools. We upgrade them. And do pretty much anything related to a hot forge. Oh, and we make…jewellery." I could hear the blush in his voice.
"Jewellery?" I tried to imagine Gray making a delicate, tiny necklace, and failed.
"Well, I'm learning to. It's…hard. That's what my grandfather keeps pissing me off—bugging me about. I can do everything else, upgrade stuff, but just not that." I thought he would be giving me another rant, but instead, he continued on with describing his job. "I'm my grandfather's apprentice, by the way." Been there, done that…
He was watching me carefully, so I nodded in acknowledgment. "I moved in with him here when my parents left." Been there, done…wait, what?
"Your parents left?" I echoed, shocked.
"Yeah. A few years ago." He didn't elaborate.
"Um…I'm sorry." I really hated myself at the moment. Wasn't there anymore I could say? I didn't think we were close enough that I could ask him more about it, and I didn't know if this was the right time to ask at all. The nose of his hat blocked his face as he stared downward, so I couldn't tell what was going on past it.
I suddenly felt horrible for inviting him to our outing, where I would be with my own parents, who were still together and hadn't left me. He must have felt awful. I was such an idiot. Idiot, idiot, idiot…
"…Watch your step, Mary…"
I hadn't registered the first three words of his sentence, being so absorbed in his voice whenever he said my name, that I also didn't notice we were right at the edge of the mountaintop.
I would've been embarrassed by how shrill and high my voice had gone, but the fear I felt surpassed it. Looking down into the hundreds of feet below me, I could feel dizziness wrap around me and pull me in like a magnet. I tried to resist it, and in such an attempt, my ankle twisted, and I stumbled forward in exaggeration when I once again saw the deep, vast valley of rocks just below the mountain terraces. My legs slipped like jelly and soon the surface was falling over my head—or possibly, the other way around.
I waited for my impending doom, for my heart to stop beating as I plunged into an abyss, but it stopped for a different reason.
I could swear my heartbeat stopped because, one, I had just fallen off a mountaintop, and two, because Gray had reached out and grabbed me by the arm.
I had read about this happening in books all too many times, but it was much more horrifying in reality. I told myself not to look down, and tried to distract myself with my ankle, which burned with pain, and my arm, which felt like it was being stretched against the rocks.
"Mary!" Gray shouted, and I winced at how scared he sounded. "Close your eyes—don't worry—I'll get you up," he promised.
I knew he was trying to soothe me, but I still couldn't hear his words for what they meant. They were just words to me, bouncing off my ears as they reached them. And I couldn't close my eyes—they were wide open and exposed in horror.
It was scary, just a tad bit, knowing I could've died five seconds ago.
"Give me your other arm," he demanded, his voice laced with mutual panic. I stared up at the spinning clouds, trying to obey. My other hand, which had been used to grip at the crumbling outer rock, dangled limply in an attempt to be raised.
The instant my hand left the rocks, I felt like I had just let go of the handles of my bike, as it gripped nothing but thin air. Danger thrummed in my veins and vertigo in my head; my feet jerked uselessly as they dangled off my body. Gravity, accompanied by an extra dose of fear, forced me to my demise; I could feel my arm weigh down, Gray's hand slipping past my wrist, and to…my hand.
Even when I was about to die, I could still feel embarrassment, and the greatest blush unfurled across my face. I was grateful no one could see it as I subconsciously tightened my grip around his hand. I held my breath, and the invisible walls around me were penetrated by a loud voice.
"Give me your other arm, dammit!" Gray shouted at me, and I was so startled that my unoccupied arm shot up automatically. I wasn't sure where it had landed or reached, but I felt another strong, rough hand grab my wrist and yank so hard it could have been dislocated.
My body heaved over the edge of the mountain like a fish being reeled into a boat; the process was rushed, and in no way gentle. The rocks scraped against my side, and my ankle exploded with pain as it touched against a strange platform…
The surface. My body flopped heavily against the surface, and my withheld breath exploded into bursts as I panted and gasped for the air that had been there the whole time. Funny, I had suffocated on air.
I blinked a few times. My cheek pressed against the hard, rocky ground. I glanced around at the little space my eyes were exposed to, and my peripheral vision showed me, sideways, a figure crouching protectively over me. "Gray?" I choked in a scraggly, uneven voice.
"Are you okay?" He wasn't wearing his hat for some reason, and though his bangs rained down his forehead, I could see his hard eyes staring into mine and nothing else.
"My ankle," I gasped, the pain spreading like poison. "It hurts."
He looked horrified, still. "I'm sorry."
I couldn't even ask why he was sorry, how he could've possibly, even for an instant believed my falling off a mountain was his fault, because my conscience slipped. I awoke to being shaken by the shoulders a few seconds later, and Gray's touch made my head spin.
"Don't fall asleep on me," he snapped. Then his tone went softer as he asked, "Do you want me to get your parents?"
"No!" I exclaimed, but my voice shrank as I realized how much yelling hurt my throat at the moment. "Please, please don't. They'll hate you."
He went quiet, and I noticed how deceiving that sounded. "It wasn't your fault," I assured him in a scratchy whisper, "but they'll still blame you. I know they will."
"But you're hurt," he pointed out, seeming torn between what I wanted and some other, second option.
"Don't," I begged him.
"Why do you care?" He heaved a sigh, and his hand, which was still pressed against my burning wrist, sank down. "It doesn't matter if they hate me. They probably already do."
"What are you talking…" I was cut off by my own low groan, and something stung on my cheek. A warm liquid slithered down past my chin and onto the ground.
"You're bleeding," Gray informed me quietly.
"No, it's just a small cut."
I couldn't stand how lost he looked right now. "Okay," I gave up, "you can get my parents. But tell them that I fell, okay? On the ground. Over there." I pointed as far away from the mountain as I could. "I saw a flower I thought my dad would like, and I ran over to it, and I fell." I could feel his eyes on me, watching me. "There was never a mountain. We were never near a mountain. We were just off the trail…over there." I looked over in the direction, too tired to point this time. "You can use your imagination for how I got hurt." I saw him wince, and I regretted saying it. "Okay, Gray?"
I could hear his breath hitch, and he suddenly pulled away from me. My muscles throbbed where he had dragged me to safety. "Okay."
He was crouching there still, and I blinked. "Gray…?"
"I don't want to leave you."
The words felt like a lifeline to me. "Come on," I groaned, ruining the moment, my ankle tearing up.
He gave me a small, worried smile, before breaking off into a sprint before he could even grow erect. I watched his figure gradually shrink and then disappear down the trail, and then my mind disappeared all at once.
I dreamed about falling off the edge of the world.
A/N: I apologize for throwing Mary off a mountain. XD I hope that wasn't terribly out of character.