Title: What We Should Be
Fandom: Animanga – Fairy Tail
Summary: They have three years; it was more than enough.
Warning: Randomly made past about these two, slight-OOC-ness and, of course, Fairy Tail members (they have to be included in the warning).
A/N: A very, very late Christmas fic for shiny_pichu (LJ), who wished for a GrayxLoke fic. I've tried my best, I'm sorry if it's not up to what you want.
Disclaimer: Me, own Fairy Tail? Trying to be funny, are you?
They met for the first time when Gray was 15, and Loke had just joined Fairy Tail.
Or to be precise, only their eyes met. They were actually busy with something else when it happened.
Loke wondered about that half-naked brat who kept causing chaos with the pink-haired brat in the guild he just joined, and Gray thought it was weird to see a new grown man to bring non-member, non-magical females into the Guild hall.
Gray stopped brawling with Natsu and Loke paused in his flirting with the girls.
"Oi, Gray! Where are you looking at?"
"Loke, who are you staring at?"
Their answer was simultaneous. "… Nothing."
"… Who is that brat?"
Macao looked up from his newspaper at Loke, who was staring at the kids at the bar. "Which one? The whole group consists of brats, you know."
"The black-haired one."
"… You mean Cana? Oit oit, just because she's sexy at her age does not mean-"
"I'm talking about the half-naked, male one, Macao."
"Oh. I thought… That's Gray. A brat, indeed. Why?"
Loke continued to stare at the boy, who was being reprimanded by Cana for losing his clothes, again.
"It's weird to see someone stripping so casually at his age, that's all."
"That's his weird quirk. You haven't seen the rest yet."
'I'm sure the rest does not flaunt their way-too-young-yet-flawless abs the way he does…'
Loke felt his ears turned red at that thought and shook his head hard, and Macao thankfully just ignored that.
The older man probably thought it was his weird quirk. Damn.
"Gray, who are you looking at?"
The young ice mage turned to the girl drinking beside him, before looking back to the previous direction he was looking at.
"That new guy," he inclined his head towards Loke, who was surrounded by girls he knew were not members, "What was he doing with those girls? They're not even from the guild."
Cana put on a thoughtful expression. "Maybe he's not comfortable going out with our girls. Remember what happened with Erza?"
"That's not really what I have in mind, but I supposed so…"
'That guy's weird. There are guys around here he can talk with. And he has been here for almost a month, but he only talks with me twice. What's so interesting about the girls that he pays more attention to them than to me-'
Gray flushed and immediately squashed that thought, quickly decided to pick a fight with Natsu to distract himself. Cana just shook her head, not understanding the thought of her childhood friend.
"I wonder what's going on inside that head of his," Cana wondered loudly.
Mira only smirked, and Lisanna laughed. Erza shook her head, watching Gray and Natsu dragged Elfman into their fight, before saying enough was enough and proceed to stop the trio.
It was still a fairly normal day in Fairy Tail.
"Doing a job with him?"
Gray and Loke turned to each other before looking back to the miniature old man in front of him.
Makarov only smiled at them. "Yes, and no, you did not hear me wrongly. There's a special job I got from a client and I could not think of anyone else to do it except both of you."
"… Why him?"
Gray ignored the snickers around them as he noticed how they keep asking the same thing at the same time. If the same annoyance plagued the man beside him, Loke did not show it on his face.
The 16-years-old blinked, before sighing. The Master was known for his eccentricness, but this was too much.
"Jii-san, I need to know why I need to work with Loke for this job, because I surely do not want girls chasing us or, should I rephrase it, girls-chasing to happen while we're working."
Oooh… That got a reaction from him, the ice mage thought at the change of expression on the man's face.
"Excuse me, Master, but I would like to know the reason too. It would be difficult for me to do a job if we have to run from authorities because there's an underage exhibitionist with me."
"… For your information, I've turned 16 a few weeks ago," Gray growled, ignoring the exhibitionist part. The other was there when the girls surprised him with a birthday party that ended with the second floor almost collapsing on them.
Loke replied almost easily, voice full of venom. "Oh really? I'm sorry, seeing how you fight with Natsu all the time, it's easy to forget that that party was for your 16th birthday, not sixth."
Half of the guild groaned when the younger mage visibly bristled at that. Natsu was out sulking after another fight with Happy, but to think someone else could pick a fight with Gray was astounding on its own.
"Both of you, stop it. Loke, I don't want to start provoking him, and Gray, Loke is not Natsu, so stop picking a fight. I want both of you to finish this job, without anyone chasing after me for various stuff, got it?"
Loke sighed miserably in resignation, and Gray figured doing puppy-like eyes won't work with the elder.
"And no bribing others to do it for you."
He knew them way too well. They were, after all, his children.
Loke was amazed.
Despite what happened between them a few days before starting this job, Gray's action and attitude were way beyond his expectations of the younger.
Both of them agreed that as long as Gray tried to control his tendency to strip, Loke would refrain from flirting with girls they meet during the mission. And it was working very well, since Gray had successfully fulfilled his part of the deal.
And it was not just that about that. The Gray who he was currently working with was very much different from the Gray he had been watching at the guild. There was no Gray who picked up fights as often as he walks, but a calm and collected one, who Loke could openly admit impressed him.
"I know what you're thinking about. You're surprised that I have not once picked a fight with you since we started this job, isn't it?"
Loke was startled out from his mind, and turned to the boy leaning on the railing beside him, facing outside.
"It's not like I want to pick a fight, you know? It just that Natsu always manages to make me feel irritated. There's no Natsu around, so I won't waste my energy picking up a fight."
Loke did not say anything to that. He was still reorganising his thought about the boy beside him.
Not waiting for a response, Gray continued. "Do you know that the S-class Trial Exam will start soon?"
"Yeah, I heard about it."
"You are not going to give it a try?"
I don't think I can do it without Master noticing what I really am… "Nah, I don't think I'm impressable enough for that. We have to have Master's approval as well, right?"
"Yeah…" Gray answered, head on his folded arms, looking out absent-mindedly. "Ah… At the rate I'm going this year, I guess I won't be a candidate this year."
Loke wondered why. From what he heard from other mages Gray had been doing a great job this year. His reputation in doing missions was almost clean and satisfactory, apart from reports of his… stripping reputation. Still, others had their quirks too, and that did not seem to stop Master from giving them his approval.
Speaking of which… "Why are you not giving it a try, Gray? Your magic is strong enough to gain you a position as a candidate. And I'm sure Master knows that."
"Magic-wise, yes. But Jii-san said I'm not ready for other reasons."
The taller mage blinked. "There are other requirements as well?" He pushed further when the boy did not answer. "Surely you have tried to change his mind?"
"Nah, there's no use. Besides, I do not want to give it a try until both Jii-san and I know I'm ready. And I'm well aware I'm not ready."
It was rare to hear a teenage boy talked about himself like then. The Gray who Loke always watched fighting at the guild was totally gone from his mind now. "Why?"
"Because I have yet to cast my darkness away."
Loke stared at the boy for a minute. Gray looked up after he heard nothing, and laughed when he saw the concerned expression.
"Hey, what's with the face?" Gray smiled. "It's true, though. And until I've done that, I will not give the Trial a try."
He did not know this boy. The boy beside him was definitely not the boy he watched almost everyday since he joined Fairy Tail. "... So what are you going to do during this year's Trial?"
"Don't know. Maybe pick a fight with Natsu. He always starts sulking after the candidates were announced and he was not one of them, and it's annoying because the temperature will rise up and I hate it. Or maybe do some minor jobs while waiting for the result. Or maybe if Cana asks me to be her partner—"
Everything else the boy said was unheard by the Spirit, as what he said earlier keep echoing in his head.
"Because I have yet to cast my darkness away."
'Cast my darkness away, huh?'
Guess he would not be a candidate for the Trial anytime soon. He did not even have the courage to face his darkness, let alone to cast it away.
It only served to make him to respect Gray even more than he thought possible.
"I'll be your partner when you get selected as a candidate."
Gray looked up at him, with utter puzzlement on his matured face. "Huh?"
Loke grinned, noticing that the young mage no longer had to look up that much after he hit a growth spurt earlier that year. They were almost at the same height by now. Of course, Gray gloated over the fact with Natsu, who surprisingly, did not seem to gain any height over Gray.
"What? Is it that weird to hear me said that?"
Another year had passed since the last time they talked about the S-class Trial during a mission. Things had changed a lot in the guild; Lisanna's death triggered most of it. But the members took it deep into their hearts and continued their lives as normally as possible.
"No... That's just random. You, suddenly want to be my partner. What triggers it?"
"Nothing. I was jut thinking that the Trial is coming soon and since it's obvious that Natsu is going to have Happy as his partner, you might as well be prepared."
He wanted to know this boy better. Not just as a fellow guild member, but as someone more. Whatever that 'more' is. "When you are ready, and if you want it, I can be your partner. Or maybe you do not want me to?"
Gray had a serious look on his face. Admittedly, it unnerved him for a while. Maybe his skill was not good enough after all?
Then, the ice mage grinned. "That settled it! Now I don't have to worry about finding a partner when I'm ready to go for it." The grin then turned into a gentler smile. "Thanks, really. I really appreciate it, Loke."
Loke smiled. "Whenever you are ready, Gray, I'll be there."
No matter how long it would take, no matter what would happen in the future. No matter how far apart he knew they would sure to be; he would be there when Gray finally ready to step up the ladder.
"Not that I expect to be one this year too..."
The Spirit gave a smaller smile at that. Guess Gray had to overcome his burden first.
But that was fine. He was patient when it came to waiting.
Another year passed since their promise. Gray did not get selected as a candidate for the last Trial, as he had expected. And to his silent giddiness, so did Natsu.
Others only shook their heads over his childishness, but they also knew that Gray would throw himself off a mountain if Natsu ever get chosen before him. Better be safe.
More changes happened in Fairy Tail. People were finally getting used to Mirajane and Elfman's new personalities. Laxus' attitude kept getting worse, and Mystogan's sleeping magic was getting stronger too, to their annoyance.
Along with the guild, Gray too, changed; he grew up, his and Natsu's magic grew stronger, making their fights and the guild messier than the last.
The one thing that did not change however, he thought, was Loke.
He still looked the same as the day he arrived at Fairy Tail; same height, same face, same appearance, same attitude with girls.
Until Lucy Heartphilia arrived in Magnolia Town and joined them. The changes happened so fast that Gray did not know what to think of it.
As he watched how Loke practically left Lucy in the dust, he wondered if he was going to like these changes.
Gray came back with Natsu, Happy, Erza and Lucy from his sudden mission to Galuna Island with a permanent scar on his forehead. Loke did not know what to think of it. And, despite the mood everyone was currently in, there was a lighter air around him too, as if a heavy burden had been lifted from him.
Granted, no else but him noticed. Given their situation and condition after being suddenly attacked by another guild, it was understandable.
"I wonder what else Gray got from that Galuna Island mission, apart from that scar," Makarov murmured from beside him, looking all thoughtful and un-Makarov-like.
Of course the Master would notice the scar. But Loke did not like it that the small Master noticed something that he did not see.
He continued to stare at Gray's forlorn back. He did not notice another thing: how Makarov was looking at him with a concerned face.
Being so worried for Gray, Loke had almost forgotten about his own condition.
Something was bothering Lucy badly; she was actually vicious when she told both Gray and Natsu to shut up about their pillow fight.
But what actually bothered Gray was that something about Loke was the reason why Lucy acted like that.
He, just like the rest of their newly-made team, wondered what was it about Lucy that made the other mage avoided her like a plague. And asking was a no-no way to deal with Loke. He sealed his mouth shut no matter how much Gray interrogated him.
'Wait, why would I even care about this?' The ice mage sat straight right up at the thought, before letting his head fall onto the counter once more.
Maybe it felt weird for him. He used to think he knew Loke quite well; from the way he fights, down to the way he flirts with girls. But now, Gray was not even sure if he even knew that guy in the first place. Loke had been quite unapproachable for the last few days. He looked sick and pale too, now that he thought about it.
Gray sighed and lifted his drink. "Why can't he just talk to me about it? It's not like I'm going to tell Lucy ab-"
"Gray! Have you seen Loke?"
His hand stopped short as he stared at the usually gentle mage. The ice mage took in the worried expression, and he suddenly had a bad feeling. "... No. What happened, Mira?"
"Loke, he suddenly just decided to leave Fairy Tail!"
The glass crashed down to the ground.
"So you're like a grown-up cat then?"
Well, not exactly... "That's right."
Talking to Natsu and Happy was a good distraction to stop himself from looking at Gray. He could almost guess what kind of expression the ice mage wore.
"... Is it okay for you to carry on as what you have been doing up until now?"
Loke looked at Gray for a few moments, trying to gauge his reaction before answering. "I'm afraid those days are long over, now that Lucy is my owner..."
He quickly turned to his new owner with a bright, flirty smile and carried her away bridal-style.
It was easier to think about what would happen now than what should have happened in the future. And he could no stand looking at Gray's slightly concerned, betrayed face.
Lucy told him everything about Loke and his past with Karen Lilica during the celebration of accepting Wendy into Fairy Tail. Everything; from Karen and her actions, down to his close relationship with fellow Spirit Aries, and not once Gray interrupted her. It only made him realise that he had known that guy for three years, yet nothing about that guy himself.
Way to make him feel bitter on a supposedly happy day.
"Why are you telling me all these?"
Lucy shrugged. "I don't know. Just a feeling, I guess." She narrowed her eyes, in a way that was almost similar to Erza when she was about to interrogate someone in a very nasty manner. Gray almost, almost shrinked away from her when those eyes suddenly turned soft. "You look like you care, if that makes sense."
It seemed that Lucy had learned something valuable from the guild, after all. Still, damn women and their sharp intuition.
He was not supposed to feel like this.
Why was he feeling guilty? Now, of all times? He had a new owner now, one who showed how much she cared not just for the spirits under contract with her, but for other spirits as well. He should be damn proud to be able work under Lucy. So why...
Leo looked up at the towering female spirit beside him. "Aries, did you just... knock me down with your wool?"
The shy spirit bowed low and apologised. "I—I'm sorry! It's just that you were spacing out a—and..."
Aries smiled sheepishly. "Yes, you did. And very unlike you too. Thinking about someone?"
"A certain friend of Lucy-sama?"
The Lion Spirit turned to his friend sharply he could feel his neck snapping in protest. "Wh—What are you talking about?"
The horned girl only giggled at his reaction. "It's too obvious. Shouldn't you go and talk with him?"
"... There's nothing to talk about. He is well aware of my place and situation."
Leo could feel her stare on him for a minute, before he heard a small sigh. "Knowing and understanding are two different things. You should know that, Leo."
"What else can I say to him? Rub more salt to the wound and tell him that he had to find someone else to—"
He stopped short when a dainty hand smacked him gently on his cheek. "Stellar spirit mages are not the only ones who take promises seriously. We do too, as the ones who gain our power from promises we made. No matter with who we make that promise with. Isn't that right?"
"Lucy-sama will be in great shock when she hears about it, but won't she be disappointed if she finds out that you are about to break a promise because of your contract with her?"
"... That was the most I've heard from you since the first time I met you, Aries."
Leo received another playful slap for that. Aries whined for a bit, before smiling gently to him. "Go, before Gray-san gets too worried over nothing. It's not like you have to worry about using Lucy-sama's magic."
He smiled and gave her a quick hug. "Thanks. I owe you one."
She hugged him back. "You owe me nothing, Leo. Think of this as an advice from a friend, and because you have helped me so many times before."
As he waved to Aries while opening a gate, Loke made up his mind, and not just about his promise to Gray.
For once, Gray was at his own house rather than invading Lucy's.
"Stupid me, getting all worked up by that bastard's insult. Now I have to take a rest before getting another job. The time's short as it is now, and I can't afford to have an injury, too," he grumbled, as he tried to bandage his own chest awkwardly.
He blinked when a pair of familiar hands suddenly took the roll from him and expertly winded the rest of the bandage around him. He looked up at the intruder. "Loke?"
"Shesh, just a few weeks not seeing you and you've turned reckless. Where's the Gray I know from before?"
He turned his head to the side and answered bitterly. "Gone. Fairy Tail has stronger members coming in this year, and I won't let this year goes by without me trying to be a candidate."
The Spirit carefully finished his work, a hand unconsciously lingered on the bandaged chest. If Gray noticed it, he did not response to it. He spoke with a low, worried voice. "You never act like this before. What's the sudden change?"
"... Don't know."
"It's frustrating, okay?" The ice mage turned to his friend angrily. "Natsu is stronger now; everyone is getting stronger. There's Juvia and Gajeel, and if not because she is still too new and too young, I'm sure Wendy will be a candidate this year. The Raijin squad is finally taking their position seriously in Fairy Tail, and I'm sure at least one of them will be a candidate. Levy's skill shot up through the roof this year, I'm not surprised she will get chosen as well. And Cana... Will always be there as a candidate." He ruffled his hair in irritation. "Everyone seems to have become stronger, yet I'm... I'm still the same."
Loke grabbed his wrist in an attempt to calm him down. He did not like seeing the mage like this. "You've changed too, Gray. Everyone can see that."
"What would you know? You were not there half of the year, busy running from Lucy, and then left to be her Spirit. What would you know what exactly happened to me?" Gray ignored the flinch. "And not only that, my supposed-to-be partner left me hanging without even telling me the truth about himself. I feel like an idiot, waiting for a promise from someone who I don't even know about. And I thought," he looked down, refused to let Loke see his face like this, "I thought, there's a special bond between us, with that promise and all."
Gray's words should have hurt, he knew and it did. It hurt to see the normally collected Gray being so frustrated with something that was out of his control. But that last sentence...
"Stellar spirit mages are not the only ones who take promises seriously. We do too, as the ones who gain our power from promises we made. No matter with who we make that promise with. Isn't that right?"
He was going to change that, and everything that had happened between them. That was what he promised himself.
Gray, on the other hand, had calmed down and blushed slightly at his sudden outburst. "Why are you here, by the way? Are you sure it's okay to come out on your own? Lucy's magic—"
He was cut short when he was pulled into a tight hug, almost borderlining painful on his injured chest. He flushed deeper. "Lo—Loke?"
"You don't have to worry about Lucy. I used my own magic to come out, and since I'm fully recovered and can go back to the Stellar plane at any time, I won't be in pain any time soon." He tightened his hug, careful not to hurt the mage in his arms further. "I'm sorry, Gray."
"What... What for?"
The Lion pulled away slowly, still holding Gray. He felt satisfised that the other did not seem to have the need to push him. "For hiding so many things from you. For making a promise that I know will be hard to fulfill on my part. For leaving without thinking about your feeling at all. For saying those words that made it seemed as if I only care about Lucy and never about you. And lastly, for this."
Trying not to think about the consequences, Loke kissed the ice mage fully on his lips.
"You don't have to apologise for the last part, you know."
Loke looked down at the young man's head which was resting on his chest. "I don't?"
Gray's head looked up to grin at him. "Nope. I never felt so damned giddy like this since the last time Cana forced a barrel on me."
"That's not a good comparison," the mage laughed as the Spirit wrinkled his nose at the image.
"You still, however, have to apologise for another thing," the black-haired teen sat up, much to Loke's displeasure.
Gray turned around and straddled the older man on his hips. Loke would have growled in pleasure if not his head was suddenly whacked so hard the world was spinning around him. "What was that for?"
"For using all those sappy words on me! What do you think I am, a girl like those you flirt with everyday?"
"Of course not! You strip naked almost everyday, Gray, of course I know you're not a girl!" He received another whack on his head.
"So you think those sappy words will work on me, huh?"
"Well, you did say they made you feel giddy..."
"I'm talking about the other thing, you idiot, not those words. They freaked me out!"
"Yet you like them," Loke grinned as Gray flustered. He took the opportunity to push the mage down, and suddenly their position was reversed. "Now, shall we continue..." his fingers trailed down the bandaged chest, almost reaching the waistband of the boxers before he was kicked off the bed.
"Hell no! You are not to touch me anywhere below my waist until the Trial is well and over!"
"What! Gray, you can't do that! That has to be weeks away!"
"I sooo can do that, and as my partner, you will abide by that rule!"
"Gray! You don't mean it!"
"I damn well mean it, or you won't be touching me at all!"
"Are you sure Lucy would be fine?"
They were walking back from the guild. Loke had decided to stay with Gray during the duration of the Trial, since Lucy would not be calling him anytime soon.
And being Gray's partner had its own perks. Like how no one cared how he was with him all the time and living at Gray's house.
"She'll be fine. There are other Spirits who are capable of protecting her when I'm with you. And besides," he moved closer to his partner, and after making sure no one was around, gave a quick peck on the other's lips. "Now that she knows I'm close with you she definitely won't mind me meeting you once in a while."
Gray grinned. "Not that she knows how close we truly are."
"Of course, we can be closer than we are now, if we walk faster to your house," the Spirit indicated the gap between them, which would allow only Happy to walk between them.
Gray shook his head. Nevertheless, he quickly followed the other's footsteps.
Three years; that was how long they had with each other. If they could wait for three years, surely a few more would not be a problem for Gray and Loke to understand and be with each other.
"Loke! What did I tell you about touching me?"
Except for someone's libido, perhaps.
A/N: And it's done! I had to change a major part of the story when I realised I made a mistake. Thank goodness it was easy to mend and can still follow through with what I planned with these two.
shiny_pichu, I hope you enjoy this gift as much as I enjoyed writing it.
Thank you for reading, and comments are well appreciated.