Chapter 13 – Epilogue ~A Home to Return To~
Five months later.
It was the day before the Grand Magic Games. Crocus was able to make a complete recovery of the city just in time for the tournament to be held there for the eighth year in a row. Most of the Fairy Tail members, who had just arrived in the city to reserve their guild's inn, had already split up to tour the city. Everyone was excited to see just how much the city had changed in a year.
"Juvia needs to meet up with Lyon-sama. We promised to spend the day together~" Lyon had been away on a mission for three weeks and this would be Juvia's first time seeing him in quite some time. Needless to say, she looked very excited to see him again.
Gray put his hands together and cracked his knuckles. "Be sure to give him a good beating for me."
"Juvia will do no such thing!" Juvia stuck her tongue out at him in a playful manner before smiling and running off to find her boyfriend.
"We should be heading off as well." Lucy quickly grabbed hold of Natsu and Happy's arms.
"Did you guys already make plans?" Erza asked curiously.
"Something like that." The three team member's gaze never left Gray as they spoke in unison.
"You guys…" Gray knew what they were after.
Natsu, Lucy and Happy ran off together the same as last year. Their laughter could be heard easily through the crowd of people. Gray sighed as he watched them quickly vanish from their sight. "Those three haven't changed at all, have they?"
"I wouldn't say that." Erza smiled as she looked back at him. "They've matured in their own way since last year. Just like us."
Gray smiled back at her. "Yeah, I guess you're right."
"Are you ready for the tournament?"
At the mention of the tournament, Gray started getting excited. He started to stretch his arms just thinking about it. "You bet. I'm way more prepared than I was at this time last year. I won't look like a fool on the first day, that's for sure. What about you?"
She gave Gray a thumbs up sign with a rather enthusiastic expression. "I made sure to add new sexy outfits into my armory in case I get a battle similar to Mirajane's last year."
"I don't think you need to worry about that. You'd most likely get a normal battle."
"Do you not want to see my bunny girl outfit, Gray?"
"Don't show that to people in public!"
Erza leaned in slightly and whispered to him. "For your eyes only, huh?"
Gray had decided that Erza's bluntness to things was just as bad as Cana's. All he was able to let out was a grumble while his cheeks turned red. Erza let out a small laugh after learning her assumption was correct. She loved looking at his flustered face. Erza moved in closer to Gray's side and stood side by side with him. She rested her head against his shoulder and wrapped her arms around his.
"So, do you have any ideas on what we should do today, Gray?"
"Natsu and Lucy have gone off together and even Juvia and Lyon are taking this opportunity to have a date. Why don't we have one as well?"
"I-If you say so."
"Why do you sound so surprised?"
It wasn't so much as what she was saying that surprised him, but because of how forward she was being. In public of all places. It wasn't the only thing on his mind, though.
"I guess it's just strange thinking about how much has really changed between us in a year."
"What are you talking about? We're still the same people we were before. Now we're just closer."
Gray was surprised to hear that kind of answer from Erza. He never thought of it like that before. Her response earned her a smile from him. He smiled back at her. "Yeah, I guess you're right again."
"I'm always right."
I don't know about that…
Gray could tell he was starting to act funny. He needed a moment to cool his head and think for a while. So he thought of the first thing that came to his head.
Gray pointed off into a random direction. "Hey Erza. Is that a cake shop over there?"
"Where?!" Without even stopping to think about Gray's motives, Erza quickly ran off into the direction he pointed towards.
Forgive me Mavis for I have sinned.
Once the ice make mage saw Erza was out of his view, he pulled out a small black box from his jacket. He flipped the lid open easily with his thumb and looked at the possession sitting inside. He was pleased knowing it was safe and in one piece. He wanted to take the time to admire it once again. Looking at it always made him feel relaxed somehow.
Two weeks ago.
"What's up, Gray?" Natsu asked.
All of Team Natsu was together except for Erza. They were in the next town over by request of Gray himself. The others weren't sure of the reason behind it and Natsu had finally broken the silence.
Knowing where this conversation was heading, Gray replied. "What do you mean?"
"Did something happen?" Wendy was slightly worried for her fellow teammate. Carla floated by Wendy's side as usual, not paying mind to other people's business.
"It's not like you to ask us to go somewhere with you out of the blue." Happy added.
"They're right. I mean, you're taking us shopping." Lucy could easily tell how fidgety he was. It was dead obvious that something was making him feel anxious.
They all knew him too well. It would be strange for them not to notice when Gray couldn't even hide his own nervousness. Gray knew he had to spit it all out sooner or later and now was his chance.
He massaged the back of his neck and spoke in a quiet voice. His cheeks were turning redder by the second. "Well y-you see, there was something I wanted to buy Erza and I wanted to get your opinions on it so…"
The group came to a halt when Gray suddenly stopped in front of a shop. The others looked up at the shop sign to see where they were. It was a jewelry shop well-known for their rings.
It didn't take long for everything to make sense for Lucy.
"No way, Gray. Are you proposing to Erza?!" Lucy gasped with excitement over the news.
"Shhh, keep it down!" Gray did his best to try and calm down the now excited Lucy. "If anyone else were to hear this they would ruin everything."
"Is it true? I'm so happy for you!" Wendy was just as excited as Lucy.
Natsu was the only one confused about why everyone was so excited for him. "I don't get what the big deal is."
"Natsu, don't you get it? Proposing to someone you love is proving you want to spend the rest of your life with them! It's so romantic. I want to be proposed to one day by someone I love…"
"You better hurry and grow up already, Natsu. You don't want to keep Lucy waiting forever."
"What did you say?!" Gray's words really bothered Natsu for unknown reasons.
"Okay, that's enough, you two." Lucy sighed while trying to break the two boys apart with the help of Wendy. Happy sat back and watched as the women did all the work.
Carla muttered to herself about how troublesome the situation was. "Happy, go help them."
Once they finally made their way into the shop, Gray and the others split up and went straight to work on finding an engagement ring. After only a few minutes of searching through a display case, Gray spotted an item out of the corner of his eye and it drew him in immediately. It was a ring with a silver band that wrapped itself in knots around a sparkling, red stone.
"Old man, what kind of ring is this?"
The man behind the counter perked up when he heard someone calling to him. Though he didn't like being called an "old man", he was happy to spread his knowledge on the subject. "Oh, this one here? That design is called the sailor's knot. Sailors gave that symbol to a loved one to show they'd return to them one day. It represents the perfect love of two people that has no beginning or end. We can change the ruby in the middle to any other stone of your choice."
Gray smiled. "No, it's perfect the way it is. This is the one."
"You found one already?" Lucy was somewhat sad he found one so quickly. She was having fun looking at all the rings on display.
"That was fast!" Happy floated over to Gray to take a peek at the ring.
Wendy gasped when she spotted the ring Gray was focused on. "It's beautiful!"
Carla nodded in approval. "Not bad."
"Was there even a point to us tagging along?" Natsu felt disappointed in being brought to the neighboring town without being needed in the end.
"How was I supposed to know it would be this easy?" The employee pulled the ring out from the display case and handed it over to Gray for him to get a closer look. Gray's grin widened even further. "This is perfect for Erza."
Happy's cheeks puffed out as he tried to hold his laughter in. "Gray is totally in love."
Lucy sighed in admiration. "Erza sure is lucky to have such a doting boyfriend."
Wendy smiled cheerfully. "She has quite the catch."
Gray and Natsu were quick to respond. "Enough!"
Gray knew he picked the right ring.
It didn't matter that the ring wasn't as expensive as some of his other options or wasn't made entirely of diamonds. He knew that Erza didn't care about those kinds of things. She'd rather have something heartfelt than anything else. Not only did it match Erza's hair, but it meant something to him as well.
Gray believed that giving her this ring would show that he'd always come back to her after a mission. She was his home to return to and he hoped he could be the same for her.
Gray couldn't help but smile thinking on how she would react the first time she sees it.
"What are you waiting for, Gray?" Erza finally noticed Gray hadn't left his spot and came back to retrieve him.
He quickly closed the lid and slid the box back into his coat pocket. The last thing he wanted was for the surprise to be ruined. "Nothing.
Erza didn't think too much on why he was just standing there. She grabbed his hand and started pulling him away. She seemed rather enthusiastic. "While I wasn't able to find that cake shop, I found the perfect place for us to start our date."
"H-Hey, slow down a bit." Even though he protested, he allowed her to drag him wherever she pleased. He always would.
Even though they had only been dating for half a year now, Gray felt he was ready. He had known her for about nine years now and knew she was "the one". How much longer did he have to wait? He had already decided to stop waiting and to push forward in life. Though he still wasn't sure how he was going to pop the question.
Gray put his thoughts aside for the time being. He had all day to worry about it. For now he should focus on spending time with Erza and making her happy. Besides, he had a feeling she just might say "yes."
Author's Notes: Hopefully you enjoyed reading this story! Thanks for all the great reviews. I couldn't have stuck with this so consistently without all of the support!