Summary: That day turned out to be a lucky one after all.
Author's Note: I think my Naruto muse is all tapped out (due to how much I hate the latest chapters), so I decided to write my Valentine's Day dedication for the Fairy Tail fandom. This would be my first attempt at FT fanfiction, so please go easy on me, k? :) Following are Erza/Gray vignettes, based off actual scenes in the manga with my obtusely obvious insertions. XD Happy Vday.
Disclaimer: My name is not Hiro Mashima, and I do not own Fairy Tail, or the song quoted (very minimally) below, which belongs to Something Corporate.
I'm slipping in between
You and your big dreams
It's always you
In my big dreams
"Brilliant luck you'll be having today," a twelve-year-old Kana Alberona announced as she flipped the last card face up. She had never dealt cards that showed luck any better than this. Sure, she'd predicted bits and pieces of good fortune for people, but they were pretty minor, and didn't yell "Lucky bastard!" in the same glaring, obvious way that this set did. There was a confident smile on her face as she looked over at the boy sitting across from her, as if waiting for a "Wow, that's amazing, Kana; how could you have known that I hit the lottery for 857,917,034,285 jewels?" or something of the like.
Much to her disappointment, she was met with a scoff and a reply that was much less than the stellar, awed praise she was anticipating. "What's that supposed to mean?" Gray demanded, crossing his arms over his bare, twelve-year-old chest in obstinacy. There was a scowl on his face as he continued, "This day's been nothing but bad luck since it started."
And that was the understatement of the year, as far as Gray Fullbuster was concerned.
Walking to Fairy Tail that morning he realized that somewhere along the way he had stripped (purely unconscious force of habit, he swears!), and in trying to find a shortcut with fewer people to stare at his naked (and rather scrawny, as Kana liked to put it) form, he jumped a fence and found himself chin-high stuck in a ditch.
As if this mishap weren't enough, Gray remembered he'd left his wallet in the pair of pants he'd divested himself of earlier, and realized he was basically incapable of buying himself lunch, much less a whole new outfit to regain at least some of his dignity.
So, sure. If all that added up to a day of "brilliant luck", then Kana wasn't a complete faker.
Not the case here though. So Gray insisted, without hesitation, "Do it over!"
Kana's expression hardened to match the stubborn scowl on his face. "It won't make a difference," she said in defense of her magic, "It'll be the same no matter how many times I do it, or how many times you make me. I can't help it if your day's been rotten so far. Maybe your lucky charm hasn't come along yet. Don't blame me or my cards for your troubles."
The soft scuffle of footsteps drew the pair's attention away from the argument and towards the girl who just entered. She was young, perhaps their age; her red hair just barely grazed her shoulders, and was unkempt, if anything. Her dress – if one could call it that despite its current state of dishevelment – was torn and tattered everywhere. Her eyes – well, eye, really, since a patch was pulled over one of them – were the color of honey, but not quite as soft or warm. There was a hardness in them but a fragility at the same time, that made Kana think of bronze-colored glass, the kind used for beer bottles: seemingly invulnerable, secretly otherwise.
A hush came upon the room and Kana somehow found the words to break the new silence. She turned to Gray and began, "So, about that do-over…"
He didn't turn to look at her; his eyes were still fixated, with a rather puzzled, irritated look, on the new girl. Instead of facing her to answer, he mumbled something that sounded like, "Never mind."
"She's always on her own."
Gray looked up at Kana and (from the corners of his eyes, since he didn't want to risk gawking and being unable to look away, like the first time) followed her gaze to the corner, where the new girl was sitting. From where he was he could only see her short red hair, falling just past her shoulders, and her slight frame dressed in silver armor. He scoffed as he averted his gaze. "Why don't you go talk to her then, if you're that worried?" he asked.
"I tried!" Kana answered with (not-so-mild) exasperation. She looked at him with a Gray-I-swear-I-give-up-on-all-of-this expression on her face as she continued, "She just ignored me." She paused for a moment and leaned in closer to him, her voice now no louder than a whisper. She told him quietly (as if afraid the girl would hear them, although they were very easily out of earshot), "I don't think she likes me. I don't think she likes anyone, actually. Maybe she doesn't even want to be here."
This time, Gray unabashedly looked back at the girl sitting in the corner. He raised an eyebrow. She stopped being 'just another newbie' to him. She was a mystery now, a puzzle that was calling out (to him, he imagined) to be solved. And from the looks of things, she looked like she was going to be quite the challenge to work out.
… Which was fine by him, because Gray Fullbuster loved challenges (or at least, getting past them).
With a newly resolute grin on his face, he pushed himself up off his seat and made his way towards her. "Heh, a little newbie who doesn't even say hi to me, the great Gray-sama? We can't be having that," he said with his signature smirk and strut as he walked towards her. She looked so frail, to be perfectly honest. Maybe this puzzle was going to be easier to solve than he had suspected – not that that made him want to figure her out any less.
He lifted his chin (he'd heard that it could intimidate people if done correctly) and stopped when he stood right next to her. Closer to her he noticed the hard expression in her eyes, and the tense line her mouth formed – she knew he was there. She had, without words, acknowledged his presence; albeit it was a negative sort of acknowledgement, but seriously, Gray didn't think that it mattered right now. What mattered was breaking this shell, figuring out this riddle without words.
… And she ignored him.
He scowled. What irritated him most wasn't the fact that he failed to get her to answer him (just as miserably as Kana had failed, although that probably added to his annoyance); it was the fact that she was trying to ignore him. He'd seen her face; she'd noticed him, although she had done so in the subtlest way she could have managed. She'd willed herself not to look, not even to level him with her stare (which, from what Kana had told him, seemed to be quite probable). Without thinking he kicked the chair she was sitting on, knocking her over along with the table she was sitting at, as he yelled, "Are you listening to me, armor girl?"
Only then did she look up at him.
And Gray had to pretend it didn't completely jar him. Because it did, incredibly – her eyes wore a mixture of annoyance and exasperation, as if she'd been bullied a million times and she was no stranger to this, but she didn't like it nonetheless. "What was that for?" she asked, her voice dangerously low.
"This is a mages' guild," he answered defiantly, his hands on his hips, and he went on, "You don't go around wearing armor." Seriously, did she think Fairy Tail was a mercenary guild or something? Mages didn't wear armor. They wore their souls on their sleeves, and they didn't need armor. They didn't need protection.
Nonchalantly she pushed herself up off the ground and commented, "Why don't you look at yourself before telling other people how to dress? Is this a perverts' guild?" consequently causing Gray to look down at himself and realize that sometime prior to their riveting conversation, he'd stripped without knowing it. Again. As the chuckles from the other guild members arose, he knew there was only one word to describe him now.
"Don't worry about me," she assured him, the same tight, stern curve on her lips.
"What's up with Gray, anyway? It's such a sad, pathetic color."
"OH YEAH? Well, what's up with Erza…?"
"… You tell me."
"… I got nothing."
"I didn't think so."
"Got your ass kicked by Erza again, huh, Gray?"
"You sure are persistent… got a crush on her or something?"
"Pfft," he mumbled as he kicked at the pebble that was in his way. The road moved alongside the riverbank, away from the guild – he didn't exactly want to be there right now and get picked on by the people who not only found it rather amusing that he was always getting beaten up, but also thought that such ownage equated to a crush. That was stupid, and didn't make a whole lot of sense. "Those creeps don't know anything," he muttered under his breath.
Losing to her the first time… it was disbelief at first. Maybe back then he could still pass it off as beginner's luck. After all, it was unheard of that a newbie could take on the Gray Fullbuster and defeat him with minimal effort. So he called for a rematch.
And he lost, a second time, a third time, a fourth time… he soon lost count (only because it hurt his pride even more to keep counting). It felt like his heart was burning and it ripped apart his delicate ego too much to say. And yet he couldn't stop coming back. He couldn't stop challenging her. Sometimes he felt it didn't even matter whether he won or lost, so long as he could keep coming back to fight her. She was his rival now – no, it was more than any mere rivalry. It was an obsession.
… That was hardly infatuation, though. Sure, she was the only girl able to completely destroy him when it came to fighting (whether with words or with magic). Sure, she was (kind of) pretty (if you liked that sort of thing). But he doubted that he could ever see her as anything more (or less) than a rival. She just wasn't normal to him; she didn't smile, didn't cry, and didn't wear any expression but that same stern, humorless line of her lips.
Which is probably why he felt he could beat her. He thought – or rather, he knew – that people who completely cut themselves from their emotions could never be strong.
He stopped when he saw a familiar figure down by the riverbank – red hair, slight frame, silver armor. He felt a smile form on his lips despite himself as he raced down the hill towards the river, announcing, "Erza! Today is the day I'm going to beat you!"
And she looked up at him with tears in her eyes.
"Oh… so it's you again," she said, her voice shaking just a little (probably from the remnants of her previous sobbing), but she struggled to keep it even as she brushed away the tears as if they were just something that got into her eye. She managed a confident smirk (Gray never figured out how) before she asked, "You never learn, do you?"
"Why…" he began, all of a sudden at a loss for words. "Why are you always alone?"
She shrugged, and there was a sad smile on her face which felt familiar, natural, as if it had always been there – but it was the first time Gray had ever seen her wear it. "I prefer being alone," she explained as the wind whipped her short red hair around her face. She didn't look up at him as she continued, "Being with other people makes me uncomfortable."
"Then why were you alone here, crying?" he demanded, and she could form no answer.
That day he stopped challenging Erza.
She was always wearing armor around her heart.
Six years later Gray still felt the same way – and it was only then that he realized how lucky he had been that first day.
Author's Note: Happy Valentine's Day to whoever reads this. :) Thank you for putting up with me, haha.