~If The Sky Should Fall~
The goodbyes are left in the things they never said.
Prologue – Departure
…For some reason, I think I already knew. I felt a strange uneasiness the entire time.
I just didn't want to admit it. What could possibly happen? We were Fairy Tail's strongest team, after all. There shouldn't have been any need to worry.
On that day, when he left, he was laughing and smiling as we said goodbye. It should have been reassuring.
Yet still… No matter how many times I tried telling myself, it lingered at the back of my mind and wouldn't go away.
The feeling that Gray wasn't coming home.
The pale blue sky was dotted with fluffy white clouds that drifted lazily from side to side, as if in no apparent hurry with regards to the world and its events below. Although the season was in transition from late autumn to early winter, weak rays of sunlight still shone, illuminating the open and bustling train station. Shrill whistles blew with uncanny synchronization, blending with the indistinct chatter of would-be passengers and those who awaited them.
On one particular station platform, four people and one flying cat stood (and floated) in the middle of the crowd, anticipating the arrival of the train. However, only one of them was prepared for a journey, a large brown bag slung over his shoulder.
"Are you sure that's all you need, Gray?" The scarlet-haired woman in armor spoke, fixing the bag that she had deemed inadequate with a solemn stare. "If you're planning on staying out there for a month, I'm fairly certain you will need more than that."
"Not everyone brings a whole cart with stuff like you do, Erza," Gray responded lightly with a small laugh. "Besides, you make it sound like I'll be in the middle of nowhere. There's a whole town nearby, seriously. This is fine."
A wry smile curved Erza's lips. "I suppose you would know better than I."
Golden hair fluttered as the resident celestial spirit mage launched herself forward to squeeze Gray briefly in a tight hug. "Isvan, huh?" Lucy mused, backing away and tapping a finger to her cheek. "It's supposed to be getting pretty cold up there this time of the year. Not that it'll probably matter to you," she added teasingly. "Still, take care of yourself, okay? Don't go getting sick or anything."
A certain Dragon Slayer chuckled mockingly at that. "Ha, who d'you think you're talking to, Lucy?" Natsu reached over to punch Gray lightly in the shoulder. "Besides, I heard idiots don't get colds. So you've got ice and an idiot. It's like a double immune thing!"
"Who're you calling an idiot?" Gray retorted, smacking the back of Natsu's head. "You're a bigger idiot than I'll ever be, so I should be the one saying that to you."
"What was that, droopy eyed popsicle?!"
"You heard me, squinty eyed ashtray!"
"Boys." The S-class mage's crisp voice stopped the impending brawl before it even began, and the two recipients of Erza's wrath gulped in unison.
Suddenly, a sharp whistle pierced the air, and all five of the Fairy Tail mages looked up as a green train stamped with Magnolia's crest pulled sluggishly into the station, rolling to a smooth stop in front of them. Steam hissed out from the top, billowing into a small cloud that soon dissipated.
"I guess this is it then." Adjusting the strap of his bag, Gray glanced at his friends, an air of awkwardness permeating the atmosphere. He had never been one for sappy, sentimental goodbyes, although this was far from one so far. At least there was no sobbing going on. Erza stepped closer, and without warning wrapped an arm around Gray's neck, slamming his head into her armored chest in what was obviously supposed to be a warm embrace. "Ow- dammit Erza!" Lucy, Natsu, and Happy winced at the audible clanging sound on impact, having all experienced Erza's special displays of affection before.
Oblivious to the ice mage's pain, Erza released Gray, clapping a hand onto his back and making him flinch at the feeling of a metal glove digging between his shoulder blades. "One month, no later," she said in a stern tone, brown eyes intently meeting dark blue. "Good luck with your training."
"Y-yeah, thanks." His white coat rippled as he turned and walked away, waving a hand. The remainder of the team watched Gray present his ticket to the porter, then his silhouette as he made his way through the train carriage and stopped at a seat in the middle, where he was still visible through the window. Happy flew up to the glass, shoving the window upward and open, and Gray poked his head out, rubbing the blue cat behind his ears.
"See you soon, Gray!" Happy chirped, rolling in midair at the pleasant sensation of being rubbed. He flew back down to the group that had clustered under the window, landing softly on Natsu's pink locks.
"Hurry up and come back!" Natsu called, cupping a hand to his mouth.
Gray leaned out the window, resting his arms on the sill. The silver necklace with a sword on its chain that never left Gray's neck swung down gently with a tiny tinkle. "What, are you actually going to miss me?" he asked, smirking lightly.
"As if!" Grinning brightly in response, Natsu raised his fist, and Gray bumped it. "I mean it as in hurry up so I can punch your smug face again. It'll be boring at the guild now."
"There're tons of other people you could fight with, you know."
"…I'll fight whoever I want whenever I want!"
"Keep telling yourself that," Gray sighed, and he looked over to his left. "Lucy? What's wrong? 'You've got a weird look on your face."
"Hm?" Lucy jolted in shock at the sudden acknowledgement, blinking back to awareness. "Ah, no, nothing. It's just…"
"…No, never mind." The blonde smiled and clasped her hands together. "I'm sure it's nothing. We'll miss you, Gray."
"No I won't!"
"Natsu, read the atmosphere…"
The train whistle blew once again, signaling its readiness for departure. Gray glanced over his shoulder and then back to his friends. A small, fond smile was just faintly visible in his expression. "Alright, see you guys. Don't do anything stupid. I'll be home before you know it."
"Send a message if there's any trouble." Erza crossed her arms, looking up at the window. "And remember that you can always come back."
"I'm not a kid, Erza…" Gray waved through the window again before pulling back in order to close it. He abruptly stopped when something tugged at his neck, preventing him from moving. Frowning in confusion, Gray pulled harder as the train engine roared to life, emanating a rumbling sensation under his feet. His eyes widened when he realized it was his necklace that had stopped him, somehow caught on an inconveniently placed hook outside the train window. But it was too late as with a soft sound, the chain suddenly snapped and the necklace plummeted downward. "Oh shit!"
It never touched the ground, as the necklace fell onto Natsu's waiting hand. But the train was already beginning to slowly move.
"Oi, Natsu! Hurry up and throw it!" Gray shouted, holding out his hand. Natsu swung his arm back, paused, and then lowered it. "Hey! Did you hear me, flame-brain?"
Staring for a moment at the silver chain in his hand, Natsu suddenly grinned and tightened his grip on it. "You'll get this back when you're back!" he yelled, waving the necklace in the air. It glinted mischievously in the sunlight.
Happy tilted his head to the side. "Natsu, that's kind of mean."
"Think of it as an incentive then, Gray," Erza said loudly, giving a slight smile.
They were still able to make out the ice mage's sigh of exasperation. "Flame bastard, if you lose that, I'll kick your ass when I come back!"
Lucy snatched the necklace from Natsu's hand, holding it more securely. "We'll keep it safe for you!" she called. "We promise!"
Gray waved one last time before vanishing from the window for good. The rest of Fairy Tail's strongest team watched as the train began to pick up speed, moving faster and faster and farther and farther until it was just a speck in the distance, puffing out clouds of steam against the sky.
"So you promise too, okay?" Lucy whispered quietly. She squeezed the necklace so tightly that the sword pendant was imprinted into her palm. And as she loosened her grip, the mark faded back to nothingness.
...That was the last time we saw Gray.
A/N: Well, I promised a Gray-centric multi-chapter story that's totally mine, and here it is. I honestly have no idea how long this will get or how long it will take to update or finish, but I hope any readers will stick around with me to the end, and I'll make it as enjoyable as I can. I think I'm really going to enjoy writing this too.
The Dream of Sleeping Beauty will still be updated and most likely even finished before the next chapter of this story is posted, but I just really wanted to get the prologue up first. …And maybe because I wanted to start a story on the first day of the new year. Happy new year to everyone!
By the way, there is no romance in this story. Absolutely none. Maybe there are hints if you want to see them (because I definitely have my biases too), but please believe me when I say that none of them are intentional. This is a purely friendship story.
Thank you for reading so far!