A/N: Just another short story. I just had to get the idea on paper. It would be fun to see Gray and Natsu communicate like this :)
Disclaimer: I do not own Fairy Tail.
The Fire Dragon Slayer put down his spicy liquid to turn his head towards a certain Ice Mage. His head was placed lazily in his hands as he eyed his long-term rival. Natsu mumbled a simple 'what do ya want stripper', not really in the mood to talk to somebody. His usual cheery grin was missing, which put Gray to worry for his friend, not that he would ever admit that.
The question came sort of out of the blue for the other teenager. Natsu narrowed his eyebrows, clenched his fist tightly and grabbed Gray at the hem of his shirt, which was surprisingly not missing this time. Gray was ready to fight him, a mischievous look made his way towards Natsu.
Provoking his friend was something he loved to do since the age of 11. Ever since the two met at a very young age, Gray loved to challenge Natsu, being just as competitive as the Ice Mage was, Natsu reacted just the way Gray wanted him to. The thrill of the fight, the rush of the adrenaline running through his veins, the dirty looks the two gave eachother, neither the two could ever get enough of it. Both were energetic, especially the Fire Mage and both needed to release some tension once in a while.
But this time, as much as Natsu wanted to punch the Ice Mage in the gut, he just couldn't do it. His thoughts were clouded. For the first time in his life, he let go of Gray, while breathing out a heavy sigh. The look in the Dragon Slayer's eyes turned back to what it was before Gray arrived as he put his right-hand in his salmon-coloured locks. The fingers of his left-hand took the glass with the fire whiskey. With just one gulp he emptied the glass. The spicy liquid ran down his throat, making him feel just a little better.
Gray watched his friend in awe. Never, ever had he seen Natsu in such a state. Perhaps that time when Lisanna died, but that was years ago. The fire clown was 15 back then, still at the beginning of life. It devastated Natsu that one of his closest friends died. He was lost, knew how it felt to lose someone. He had lost Igneel after all. Gray knew that feeling too, to lose someone. Ur, his beloved teacher, died when he was just a small kid. His parents were killed at the hand of that damn demon. Fairy Tail was a new beginning for both of them. Not that they would ever admit it, but the tension that they would release on one another once in a while, was something they both needed.
The desire to fight wasn't as strong for Gray as for Natsu. Fighting was Natsu's way of communicating. It was his way of life. He was oblivious to the world outside of the battlefield and that worried the Ice Mage sometimes. The pink-haired idiot was as dense as a brick. He didn't consider someone's feelings sometimes. Not that he would ever meant to hurt someone. No, not at all. The guild members were his family. The passion he felt to protect the other members was something to be proud of, to respect the Dragon Slayer. But the fact was, that Natsu was a little too open-minded. He always dared to speak his thoughts. The son of Igneel was straightforward, never feared the thoughts at the back of his mind. He never meant to insult anyone, but sometimes he did.
So, when Gray saw Natsu mumbling and cursing things to himself, he felt the need to help him. This wasn't the time to fight. It was time to talk. And since he got so frustrated after asking about Lucy, he figured she was the one who made the class clown like this.
"What did you say to Lucy to put you in a state like this?" Gray blurted out, tilting his head a little to the side.
Expecting an explosion of pent-up emotions, he held his hand in front of his face, but instead nothing happened. Gray heard another heavy sigh that had escaped from Natsu's lungs. Slowly, Gray put his hand back, to see that Natsu hadn't moved an inch to beat the crap out of him.
Instead, a miracle happened. Natsu talked. Natsu actually talked, seriously talked to Gray about his feelings.
"It happened on our last mission. It was supposed to be a quicky. The bunch of brats we had to beat were nothing more than tiny little insects. I didn't enjoy the fight. They were far too weak! But there were many. Perhaps too many. I can't really remember. All I know, is that at one point, I lost Lucy out of my sight. Happy was flying, encouraging me from above. I shouted he had to go and look for the blonde and he did, but couldn't find her. I wasn't really worried. I knew Lucy could handle herself. She is a capable wizard after all, but then.. When I was finally done with the last guy, I heard a scream. It was her. It was Lucy... and she was in danger. Sure, I burned the bloke almost to a crisp and saved her, but the guy was nothing, absolutely nothing. I don't know why she couldn't handle him. I was furious, fed up with the fact that such a capable wizard wasn't even able to save herself. I always save her ass. But then I shouted at her, called her weak, set the entire forest on fire because I was so angry, but then I regretted my mistake..."
Natsu ordered another fire whiskey from the lovely Take-Over Mage Mirajane, before he continued. Gray said nothing, too afraid Natsu would regret the words he said to him. Twirling his drink, Natsu continued.
"I was already fed-up with myself before we got on that mission. I was walking around with some strange kind of energy I couldn't comprehend. Normally I would set that energy free during a fight in the guild, but that didn't work. The strange thing is, Lucy is the one who caused it. Every time I get near her, I would have this feeling that I can't understand. I never felt something like that in my life..."
Gray chuckled. Was that the problem Natsu was walking around with? He knew that some day like this would come, but it came a bit out of the blue, though. Natsu had his share with girls over the last few years. The fire mage was much more grown-up, in his own way that is. Still a little naive at times, but he knew his way around. But the fact remained that the fire-breather was a little too straightforward and the fact remained that he didn't like to be confused. Things he could not understand didn't concern him or he just plainly ignored them. Natsu didn't bother with things like love. He had his needs, sure, but love was too confusing. For such an open-minded guy like Natsu, it was strange that love was his least concern. Normally he would have jumped up and shouted out what he thought of somebody. But his feelings for Lucy, the lovely Stellar Mage, were foreign to him.
Natsu was normally conscious of his body temperature, controlling it whenever he liked. But when he was with Lucy, his temperature would drop or increase without further explanation. His palms felt sweaty. His heartbeat thumping uncontrollably, beating against his throat, ready to jump out.
For once in his life, the Fire Dragon Slayer was not in control. He didn't like it. He detested it.
"Have you ever heard of the thing called love, hot-head?" Gray asked, almost innocently. A playful chuckle played on his lips. Secretly, he liked the way Natsu was acting. It put him out of worry. It showed that even Natsu could feel things like love.
The fire mage snorted, not bothering to look up to his long-term rival.
"Yes, I am aware of this foreign thing called love. Though, I don't know how it feels, so why bother asking me?"
"Are you sure you never felt it before?"
"Of course I am sure. Igneel once said that when I have the feeling I am not in control, that some girl is causing me some strange kind of energy, it means I must be in lo-..."
Natsu's onyx eyes widened as he snapped out of his rambling. His hands went up to his salmon-coloured locks, causing it to look like a mess. His jaw dropped to the ground, almost literally. Something clicked in his mind. Something finally made sense. It was as if a gap was finally filled. Natsu felt a strange desire, a desire to run to his best female friend. He no longer felt to avoid her.
Gray smiled, knowingly. All Natsu needed was a small push in the right direction. And he had given him that. Though, Natsu would be too oblivious to notice that the stripper had helped him. Gray was glad for that, because he would never admit he wanted to help his rival (best buddy).
With that, Natsu got up, saluted to Gray and stormed off in the direction of the exit. His cheery grin was back on his face, which made Gray smile just a little.
Natsu and Gray were rivals since day one, but deep inside they were best buddies too. They were family, nakama more precisely. Gray knew for a while now that Natsu had feelings for the stellar mage. All he had to do now, was to figure his feelings out for a certain Water Mage. Gray sighed.
Love was complicated, but worth it.