A/N: First fic since coming back from that hiatus of sorts! Also my first Fairy Tail fic, and it's just a silly, fluffy one-shot to get myself started writing fics for this series. Also, note that this occurs before the Edolas Arc.
Hope you all enjoy! Reviews are very appreciated :)
Warning - language
It was a cool evening in the season of spring; the wind blowing gently, letting leaves and flower petals dance though the air illuminated by the bright light from the moon. Magnolia Town was filled with peace that day – though the normal ruckus that always occurred in the Fairy Tail guild building was a given – and now that it was coming to an end, two members of this infamous guild found themselves keeping each other company for the evening.
They were an unlikely duo, to those that knew them, and to those that didn't they were regarded with a sort of wary awe. One with bright pink hair and telltale features that brought back memories of all the stories that were heard about him, most of which were about the many things he'd destroyed while out doing jobs, and the other a girl made of a multitude of blues, from her hair to her clothing, who was known even now – though almost like a passing thought that was insignificant after everything she'd done to prove herself – as a former member of the now disbanded dark guild known as Phantom Lord.
They weren't usually ones to hang out with one another, in fact they barely even spoke, but they'd still found themselves accompanying each other to the restaurant where they sat now, at the bar.
"So, Juvia, are you fitting in alright these days?" Natsu asked, voice loud and boisterous as usual. He was excited because his team, along with the girl he was with right now, were going on a very dangerous job in a couple of days. So why not celebrate with his new friend?
"O-Oh, uhm, yes." Juvia nodded, looking nervous in the face of the other's spirit, before she shyly added, "Juvia loves it at Fairy Tail, it's very warm and sunny."
He grinned and slapped a hand onto her shoulder, jerking her forward with the action. "Great! And you betcha! Fairy Tail is the best guild out there." He grabbed his drink and downed it without hesitation before holding it out to the bartender for a refill. Instead of drinking that one too though, he pushed it into Juvia's hand. "Drink up!"
She did so, slowly and while making an odd face at the taste. Once she finished all of the contents – Natsu watching intently as if this was some sort of important and transfixing game; his enthusiasm causing such a reaction – there was a loud cheer and then her companion was calling for more drinks.
At some point in the evening, the topic of conversation had been drawn to the members of Fairy Tail specifically, and after talking about the current S-Class mages, Juvia had burst out with a happy statement that held even more exuberance than she'd started speaking with earlier (after a few more drinks had settled her apparent nerves).
"Gray-sama is really strong! You are his rival, yes?"
Natsu slapped his emptied glass on the counter a little too roughly before he responded. "Uh-huh! He's no match against me though." He added a familiar toothy, cocky grin to go with his words toward the end. Even though their matches almost always ended in draws, both participants insisted, to other people but especially to each other, that they were the stronger one.
"Juvia disagrees!" She replied quickly, and with a raised voice that was filled with passion. "Gray-sama is powerful and kind, and with his abilities he could be a match with anyone and win! Juvia believes this with her whole heart!"
Natsu blinked, taken aback, and there was a long, quiet pause. Every second that went by in silence, Juvia's pale face became more and more red and her tumbler shook in her grasp. As far as simple conversations went, Natsu had never heard her speak like that, with so much fervour in her tone. It dawned on him, rather belatedly all things considered, that she only seemed to even come close to that amount of passion when it involved something to do with one person in particular.
And then further realization hit him, spurring him to speak.
"Heh. You like Gray."
The statement was blunt, said without much emotion, and the suddenness of it made Juvia startle and start to stutter. "N-No! I mean, yes! I mean, that isn't what Juvia was trying to say earlier, Juvia s-simply wanted to explain that Gray-sama is- He-"
The male laughed, interrupting her rambling without a care. "Why're you gettin' so flustered for? It's no big deal." He shrugged his shoulders as if to emphasize the point, though he was doing just what she was currently; avoiding eye contact.
A slow pause, bashful in regards to the turn in conversation. "You aren't... upset with Juvia?"
That earned her a completely baffled look. "What? Why would I be? I don't even care, it's not like it's any of my business if someone likes that stupid droopy eyes," Natsu replied, and his voice was more muffled toward the end as the lower half of his face shifted under his scarf. He crossed his arms, then grunted and reached out for his glass, looking uncomfortable thanks to his inability to sit still.
"Natsu-san, you..?" Juvia began in a whisper, curious, but then she shook her head. What was she thinking? Was she trying to find more rivals in love? Silly Juvia, this wasn't what this conversation had figured out anyway. She just hoped that Natsu wouldn't go and tell the object of her affections how she felt before she was ready to do so herself.
Convinced that his reaction only seemed to be due to the topic at hand, nothing too deep beyond the fact that Natsu didn't talk about romance and all that nor did he really talk about Gray amiably on a frequent basis, that she was aware of, Juvia smiled gently and attempted to change the subject, to the gratitude of her male counterpart.
Call it perfect timing, or simply say speak of the devil, because just as they were starting to pick up a new topic of conversation – based on where Happy was and what he was doing instead of being by his closest friend's side as he usually was – they found themselves no longer alone.
"Oi, what're you two doing here?"
The sudden sound of a familiar low drawl made them both jump in surprise before spinning on their stools to face the two new people who had arrived. It was Gray with Lucy at his side, and both of them looked as of they hadn't expected to see them here, which was a mutual feeling for the rest of the group as well.
"Gray! Lucy!" Natsu beamed cheerfully at seeing his friends, swaying back and forth a little on his seat as if moving in time to silent music. The water mage wasn't so happy to see them, or to be more specific, one of the two that had shown up, mainly when she was accompanying her precious person.
"Juvia wonders what Gray-sama and Lucy-san were doing all alone together," she demanded loudly, and Natsu immediately switched to nodding along seriously, as if this was an important matter at hand, though he bit his lip to keep from cracking up.
"We were just taking a walk!" Lucy began, appearing almost hesitant as she watched Juvia with nervous brown eyes. It wasn't uncalled for when a lot of her speech was taken the wrong way and increasingly made her into a stronger 'rival in love'. "Gray stopped by in case Natsu was around and causing trouble like he usually is."
"Looks like it was a good thing we took a walk then. You'd better stop drinking and head home, flaming idiot, or you'll make even more of a fool of yourself."
Both of the intoxicated members of their group looked severely disappointed, but Gray didn't seem like he was going to just leave anytime soon or let them be, and besides, Natsu didn't mind leaving now, at least according to the only part of his brain that seemed to be working under the influence of alcohol.
He took one last swig of his drink and burped loudly, a flame bursting forth from between his lips.
"Hiiieeee!" Lucy screeched and swiftly hid behind Juvia. The only response she got from the one responsible was a rumbling laugh as he clutched at his stomach and slapped his knee. If he got enjoyment out of that, who knows what other destructive behaviour he'd get up to in order to have more fun? Not that he didn't already do this when he was sober...
"Come on, idiot." Gray sighed and pulled Natsu off of his chair by the front of his vest, shoving him none-too-gently toward the open entrance.
Lucy watched this all while nodding her head. "I-I'll just stay here, with Juvia, where it's safe!"
The other girl didn't look too pleased about this for a moment, but brightened when Gray commented that he'd prefer that, because he didn't want either of them being on their own at this time in case something happened, no matter if one of them was very strong on her own and the other had powerful stellar spirits at her command.
"Byeeee Juviaaaa! You're really cool, you know that?" Natsu accentuated his depart with a stumble, twirling about on one foot before miraculously keeping his balance and continuing on his way as if nothing had happened.
Gray turned to Juvia, who looked momentarily surprised at Natsu's odd, but kind words. "Sorry that you had to put up with him." He jabbed a thumb backward at their retreating friend before grinning at her and Lucy. "I'd better go with him otherwise I think he might fall into the water and drown or something. See you two around."
"Bye, Gray-sama! Take care! My well wishes will watch over and protect you on your way!"
He gave her one last confused look before turning his back to them and leaving to follow after Natsu.
It was a surprise to see that he'd in fact gotten pretty far, even in his intoxicated state. Gray had to lengthen and quicken his stride, but once they were within hearing distance of each other he slowed and opted to calling after the other to get him to stop walking so fast.
"Hey, Natsu, wait up."
"Whas wrong, Gray, can't keep up?" He tossed a carefree grin over his shoulder that was quickly returned as his partner in this walk home caught up to him without difficulty.
"You wish," he replied, and then frowned at him. "Where are you going anyway? Your place is in the other direction, dumbass."
Natsu gave him a look that made it seem almost like he was being the slow and dense one. Apparently so, if his next words were anything to go by. "Your apartment, duh. And who ya callin' dumbass, dumbass?"
A blink, and then Gray shook his head. There was no use arguing, he knew, because the dragon slayer wouldn't take no for an answer and would probably end up sneaking in through the window while he was sleeping to try and scare him shitless in retaliation. Or something along those lines.
Been there, done that. They had known each other for a number of years, since they were pretty young, after all.
Gray was about to ask why he had to come along, why it had to be his place that they were going to (especially when he knew that by tomorrow the entire contents of his fridge and cupboards would be completely wiped out thanks to someone's ferocious appetite), but he stopped when the other spoke first.
"You never come over. Neither does Lucy." He sounded like he was sulking, and it was simultaneously endearing and laughable to Gray. "So that means I just gotta go find you guys at the guild or at your houses, but Lucy kicks me out a lot anyway."
"No one wants to go to your place because it's so messy." It was indeed more of a wild animal's nest than a human's home, what with clothes and miscellaneous objects strewn about over practically every surface, even in the bathroom. Not that his place was the epitome of cleanliness or neatness, but he at least swept up after himself and maintained a somewhat decent level of organization.
Natsu shook his head, wobbling in dizziness after. Maybe he shouldn't do that again. "Erza comes sometimes! And Mirajane, too!" He sounded like a child trying to make someone believe a fantastical story.
"Really?" He was suitably sceptical, but then again maybe they did so to scold Natsu for his horrid living conditions or to help him clean up on occasion. Gray paused, and then added, "What about Juvia? Your new best buddy?"
He wasn't entirely sure why he asked that, or why he phrased it that way and spoke in a miffed manner, but he didn't have to worry about getting a strange reaction because Natsu, in his current state, didn't appear to notice anything.
"Huuuh? Oh, her, nope. I like her, she's family now, but she talks too much about-" and here he waved an ambiguous hand before continuing. "-and it bugs me."
Gray raised an eyebrow. "Talks too much about what?"
"You, duh, you stupid ice head." Natsu was making a scrunched up and unhappy face for a moment before grinning lopsidedly while tilting his head to look at Gray. "She really lllllllikes you~" He burst into giggles afterwards at himself and his imitation of Happy's familiar statement that included a clumsily slurred rolling of his tongue.
As if he'd used too much of his concentration on speaking, there was another stumble made, but this time it didn't look like he was going to regain his balance on his own. Thinking fast, Gray stepped closer and caught him around the waist, holding him up before he could fall forward onto his face. Knowing Natsu, he probably would have just stayed on the ground and fallen asleep there in a matter of minutes.
"Jeez, you know you can't handle alcohol well, and that's without even including the fact that you use your fire dragon slayer magic." Gray was, admittedly, waiting for the one time Natsu would maybe drink too much or at the wrong time and spontaneously combust in a shower of flames. It wasn't too farfetched when the young man ate fire and tended to spew it when he was angry or simply riled up.
Natsu scoffed, as if the idea was preposterous, and brushed the comment off. "Whatever, Gray, not gonna stop me! I'm the great Salamander! Don't hafta worry!" Even though he said this, he was leaning heavily on the ice mage who accompanied him, almost putting flaw in his invincible and completely self-sufficient theory.
"Yeah, yeah," he muttered in response, rolling his eyes.
It wasn't too hard to hold him, what with Natsu not being against this and therefore following along without a fight. Gray kept his hold tight though, because it would be a pain if he had to pick him up off the street, and let him sling an arm around his shoulders companionably. Not that this whole situation wasn't kind of – no, make that really – weird, since they hardly ever, if ever, acted this friendly before (unless when they pretended in front of Erza counted), but he couldn't find it in himself to complain or find fault with what was going on.
Well, except maybe for the fact that it seemed like babysitting duty had become his role today.
That last comment was still bugging him, and though he'd been suitably distracted by Natsu's near-fall, Gray still felt awash with confusion while his cheeks felt abnormally warm currently. Was it due to what he'd said, about Juvia liking him or whatever?
"You two must have really gotten chummy if you swapped details on your love interests," he started, bringing back the subject. "And besides, I already knew. It's kinda hard not to notice when she's... well, herself."
"What, really? I had noooo idea."
Gray snorted, highly amused. "Somehow that doesn't surprise me."
"S'not like I like anyone so how'm I supposed t'know?" His nose scrunched, and his free hand that had been hanging loosely at his side rose up so he could scratch his cheek. "I mean. Like anyone like, like in that way. Or something. Since I like all of my friends, but not like that."
"I got it the first time, idiot."
While he could have brought up the topic of Lisanna, Gray thoughtfully and knowingly opted not to. He, like the rest of the members of Fairy Tail, knew that she was still a soft topic to bring up around Natsu, even after these couple of years. It wasn't as if he knew exactly what their relationship had been anyway, so it could end up being a pointless thing to bring up in the first place. Then there was Lucy... but there didn't seem to be anything going on between them, romantically at least, so he just chose to leave it at that.
Why was he curious about it anyway? It's not like it concerned him or anything; he didn't even hold any care in his mind about romance, at present.
The quiet that had fallen upon them was almost unnatural. He hadn't replied to his jeering like he usually did, and because of the unusual nature of this, Gray stopped walking. It was abrupt, but he'd have to stop soon anyway since his apartment was a mere few metres ahead of where they were standing currently. What confused him though was that Natsu startled, head snapping up as he pulled away from Gray and stepped forward. He only caught a glimpse of the expression on his face, but it made him frown nonetheless.
"Natsu? What's up?" He asked, even as he tossed his keys at him without a warning to the other.
Natsu caught them as they arced over his head, pausing with his hand still raised as they clicked and jingled against each other. There was a beat, and then he shrugged, moving to unlock the door. "Whatever, s'not important."
And with that Natsu was walking, unsteadily, into his apartment, expertly manoeuvring around the messes. Gray's apartment wasn't as bad as his, after all, so perhaps he'd garnered skill in the art of walking through self-made hazard zones. The one who owned the place watched him go, waiting to see where he would end up, and was hardly taken aback by the fact that he headed straight to the bed and collapsed onto it without a moment of pause or consideration.
Gray followed him, but stopped in the doorway, pulling off his shirt and pants in quick, practised moves. He tossed them into the corner of the room where a basket was barely visible beneath many other articles of clothing. He put his hands on his hips and watched Natsu, sprawled out on his stomach, seeming to be asleep even though it clearly must be hard to breath with his face pressed into the covers like that.
"Are you sleeping already?"
There was an incoherent reply, and it made him chuckle softly.
"I'd have thought you'd clean out my fridge first," he drawled, entertained, but immediately regretted the words when Natsu's head popped up, looking as if a light bulb had gone off inside his mind. "I was kidding! Damn, by they time you're done I won't have any food left."
He didn't really have to worry though, because when the dragon slayer stood and tried to take a step toward the door, he halted, arms out like he was trying to keep his balance. He took another, still with his arms out comically, and continued this until he stopped just before Gray.
Natsu leaned forward, eyes half-lidded. He looked almost like he was about to pass out, so Gray, without really thinking of what else could be a possible outcome of this situation, moved to hold him so he wouldn't go crashing to the floor, possibly taking him with him. But he wasn't going to sleep, not yet at least, and neither was he trying to finish his journey to the kitchen, and that became quickly apparent when he rested his hands heavily on Gray's broad shoulders, continuing to lean forward until their noses bumped into each other. What he was going to do became clear, just a moment too late, because suddenly everything was still as Natsu kissed him, right on the mouth.
They stood there, still in that position, for a few moments, neither moving as their lips stayed connected, before one of their minds seemed to come to its senses.
Gray pulled away, wide dark eyes staring straight back into Natsu's own, seeing his own shocked image reflected in his onyx gaze. He stood there with his mouth open, and he blinked, mind slowly processing what had happened. His hand rose, nearing the other's face before he quickly pulled it away...
... And then promptly punched Natsu straight in the jaw.
It sent him backward, and, losing his balance, he ended up falling onto his behind on the floor. With palms resting against the wood and his head bowed so that his dishevelled hair covered his face, he didn't react to the punch and simply sat there, which was actually pretty disconcerting.
"W-What the fuck, Natsu?"
Gray stood there observing Natsu as he rubbed the back of his hand over his mouth, hating the fact that for some stupid reason or another, his heart was pounding and his face felt like it was on fire. Well, maybe the last was due to the affects of kissing the Salamander, but he immediately stopped that train of thought when it made him remember the feeling of his lips on his.
It was then that Natsu started laughing, high and almost obnoxiously, head thrown back.
"I kissed the great Gray-sama before Juvia did! Ha! Isn't that hilarious? And she's the one you'd like!"
"What?" That hadn't made much sense, or at least, the final part hadn't. It could be just a mistake on Natsu's part because his logic was obviously inherently flawed at the moment, but he felt as if this was actually something he meant to say, something that was actually truthful to his thoughts.
His head fell forward again so that Gray couldn't see his expression, and lolled from one side to the other. When he spoke, he couldn't tell just what kind of look was on his face and relied solely on his tone of voice to judge how he felt about his own words.
"It's not like you'd like me obviously, and Juvia's probably your type or whatever. She's kinda cute, like Levy and Mirajane." It was said without any enthusiasm; dull and simply put.
For a reason he couldn't quite explain, what Natsu had said made him a lot angrier than was probably warranted. The fury bloomed straight in his chest and gave rise to an outburst that he hadn't really been expecting from himself.
"I can like whoever the hell I want!" He snapped, and hurried to continue after speaking the previous statement, "Not that I would like an idiot like you but-" Wait, that wasn't what he'd meant to say, damn it, Gray, clear your head and get the point across. "I don't like her. Juvia's a friend, and besides, I hardly even know her yet, so don't go saying she's my type and that I can't like certain people, dumbass."
"It's true though, isn't it?"
And the way he spoke coupled with the expression on Natsu's face as he tilted his head up to regard him made Gray halt in his tracks. He looked far too serious for someone who was supposed to be drunk, and he felt suddenly ill at ease and hesitant over responding. He knew exactly what part of what he'd said Natsu was referring to, but how was he supposed to answer?
Needing something to do as his mind whirred and clutched around for responses, he reached out a hand and waited for the other to take it. When he did, he pulled him up onto his feet with ease, not letting go even after this was done, to Natsu's obvious surprise.
"I'd appreciate it if an idiot like you doesn't think he knows how I feel. Not in this case, because, naturally, idiots are wrong." He spoke slowly, carefully, and his voice was low and soft. It wasn't uncharacteristic of him normally on occasion, but considering the person he was talking to it sort of was. Gray let go of his hand then, and turned away before he clambered into his bed, sliding to the far side near the wall in order to make room. He stayed facing it even as he spoke up again. "What're you waiting for? Go to sleep already, or you're gonna have an even worse headache in the morning, and I'm the one who has to deal with you."
He felt him move to climb under the covers after a few moments, not as haphazardly as he had earlier, and Gray waited for him to appear to be settled before he spoke, loudly and with finality, before the other could start to say something or question anything he'd said or done.
"Just shut up and sleep, alright?" He felt that his cheeks were still abhorrently flushed, so he buried his head under the blanket even though this fact couldn't be seen already, voice becoming muffled in the process. "Night, Natsu."
Natsu curled up behind him, and his presence there was almost comforting. They didn't sleep in the same bed whenever they were at each other's places, one usually sleeping on the floor on a spare mattress, but Gray couldn't find any reason to really say anything about it to change their sleeping arrangements.
"Good night," was the soft, content reply.
Of course, Gray wasn't really sure why he'd done and said everything he had that night, but what he did know was that he wouldn't take back any of it even if he could – especially the punch, admittedly. His feelings, romantic or otherwise, for Natsu were a messy cloud that had no name, no label that he could easily use and be on his way and think about other things, but he'd figure them out sooner or later. Until then, he hoped things wouldn't get messed up between him and his rival, who was also more importantly his best friend.
He smiled to himself a little, and slowly drifted off into slumber.
The next day, Gray was prepared for Natsu to say or do something in regards to what had happened last night, but everything seemed the same, as if nothing had actually happened and he was just imagining it. He surely hoped that wasn't the case, because if so that had been one strange dream.
They hadn't started fighting yet even though they'd had the entire morning – getting up, eating, heading to the guild where they currently resided – which was deemed some sort of miracle by Lucy and Levy, who sat together and whispered behind their hands about them even when they were still in hearing distance. In the meantime, Gray and Natsu simply stood next to each other as they waited for Erza, who had gone to talk to Makarov about the job, to return, and Juvia to arrive.
Everything was calm, or it was, until a few minutes after a complete silence – unbefitting of them – fell between the two rivals who'd previously been exchanging words here and there. It was like the calm before a storm.
And then Natsu suddenly turned and punched Gray.
It was uncalled for to anyone simply observing – though really it wouldn't be the first time a fight had broken out between them for no reason whatsoever – since Gray hadn't even said anything to the other. But as he stumbled back and stared at Natsu while holding the side of his face, he knew that the pink-haired male had done it as pay back for when he'd done the same last night.
"That's for yesterday. Now we're even about the punching, but you still owe me something else."
Something else..? Something he hadn't reciprocated in kind like he'd done with the more violent action. Something Natsu had done to him but he hadn't... Oh.
He hadn't returned the kiss or given him another, nor had he given any real indication of his feelings.
Gray felt himself flush and he quickly tried to cover up his flustered response by glaring haughtily at Natsu. "In your dreams, flame-brain. I... I ain't doing it until you can beat me in a fight!"
It was the closest to an admittance of his mutual feelings that he'd gotten, even to himself, though simply agreeing to kiss him again once wasn't exactly a proper declaration of liking him back. However, either way, Natsu hadn't even seemed to realize this. He was too much of a hot-head for that, apparently.
"What? I beat you all the time!" Natsu stomped a foot down heavily, getting fired up. "Come on, right here, right now. Fight me, you bastard!"
There was barely a moment left for deliberation before they were running, careening straight at each other and throwing punches and kicks. Those in the immediate vicinity hurried to move to other tables to avoid the flurry of attacks as they made a path through the guild hall. At least they hadn't started using magic... Yet.
They were wrestling on the ground now, and Gray had Natsu pinned beneath him. He sat on Natsu's stomach, knees spread and on top of his wrists, smartly keeping the dragon slayer from being able to move them.
Thanks to his obvious advantage, his voice was filled with confidence. "Give up yet?"
"N-Never!" He panted, straining determinedly against the other's hold on his arms.
Gray grinned and put his hands together, a fist and an open palm signature of his Ice Make magic. Natsu's eyes widened and he struggled even more. That wasn't fair; they'd only been fighting physically so far which was why he hadn't used his magic either! There were tell-tale gasps and spoken words from the other guild members, some calling Gray out on cheating and others cheering him on, but soon the sounds were muffled.
The ice mage had spoken something or other that Natsu had missed, but the next thing he knew there was a wall, almost like a dome, that came up around them, encasing both males inside. It made him confused, because it wasn't some sort of attack and nor would it really be able to keep him out if he used his own magic. However, Gray's next move explained just what his motives behind this were.
With a smirk, he leaned down, hands now placed on either side of Natsu's head on the floor, and pressed his lips roughly against his. It was a short, slow kiss, but it served its purpose – at least, Gray hoped – in letting the receiver know how he felt in regards to the first kiss they'd shared and Natsu's apparent feelings toward him.
"Satisfied?" He asked, tauntingly, after he moved back and away.
Natsu grinned easily, a bright and sunny smile that lit up his entire face. It made warmth bloom in Gray's chest, a sort of happiness at being the cause of that welcomed expression.
Instead of answering though, Natsu used the strength of his upper body to push up and against him, shoving him backwards until they were rolling, heading straight at the curved, thick wall of the ice dome. He punched it as soon as he was close enough, fist enveloped in flames, and then they were out in the open once more, their fight continuing on.
Lucy, a safe distance away in the background, heaved a hopeless sigh that made her seem like an old woman watching her grandchildren. "Those two will never change."
"Maybe," Mirajane replied from beside her, smiling sweetly and regarding the two boys with a fond, almost knowing gaze.
Things didn't change that much in the guild, neither did they change that much between Natsu and Gray at the most basic levels of their bond, but perhaps that was for the best, because otherwise life in Fairy Tail just wouldn't be the same.
Because who said love couldn't belong between two people who were in a strange, violent, and chaotic relationship?