I'm sorry for not uploading for (eh, how many months was it? Five? Six?) a LONG time. I was immensely busy from December till mid April of this year because I had two sets of exams. I finally got around to finishing up the next chapter, and this is more than 4500 words so I tried making it slightly longer to compensate for the absence.
I (FINALLY SWEET LORD, FINALLY) have a long term break so I hope I can update my chapters a bit more regularly. Thanks for everyone who has reviewed or followed this story in recent months.
As you can see, I changed the name and summary of the story. I wasn't happy with the old ones.
Also I just wanted to mention that the story is nearing its end, I'm guessing I'll have about four or five more chapters.
Lucy cocked an eyebrow. The impressiveness of the action was somewhat dampened by the tangled mess of bed sheets and blonde strands of hair that was cocooning my roommate as she glared at me from the bed.
"Gray," she said finally. "It's 5AM. Can you please save your melodrama for say, four hours later?"
Understanding and considerate as always, I shook my head. I was perched in my usual position on the window ledge, my arms crossed over my chest in the general posture of defiance. Obviously I had to wake Lucy up (courtesy the pillow I had to hit her repeatedly with to accomplish said task) immediately after I entered our tiny apartment that night. I wasn't planning on disclosing my useless conversation with Alzack the Hair to her for fear of being castrated directly to purgatory, but the only option I'd left myself was staying away from Lucy permanently.
I had been very resolute about my rather noble and honorable decision to leave Lucy on the slow walk back to the pizzeria. After all, very few ghosts have been as great I am.
You cannot judge me, I am dead, and therefore above all judgement.
No, I mean literally above it. Look at me floating away. Poof.
But even as I battled a snoring, sweaty Lucy Heartfilia awake, all it took was one look at the person I was so bravely planning on leaving alone for the rest of whatever the hell was the remainder of my ghostliness and I felt small parts of me screaming in agony.
By the time I'd announced my grand decision making skills, I think both Lucy and I knew I wasn't going to budge an inch.
"No," I replied, trying to be as dark and brooding as an eternally seventeen year old ghost can be. "I don't want to hurt you."
Lucy snorted. "Bullshit, Fullbuster. What novel were you reading?"
She snorted for a second time. The nerve.
"I'm sure you are," she yawned out at last, her dark brown eyes fluttering shut underneath the golden storm that was her hair. "But after breakfast, right?"
"Lucy," I interrupted, trying to sound as logical as she did when she was reducing me to a nervous wreck. Quite evidently, the same trick does not work on the female species. "You can't do mediator. I can't do ghost. I think I should leave this place, like I should have five months ago."
Now, Lucy opened her eyes again and sat up properly, wildly pushing the hair out of her face.
She had a very nice face.
"Gray." She struggled to free herself as she flipped on the bedside lamp. "When I first met you, I didn't know you, alright? If you think you can leave now and expect me to pretend like we never became friends, then you're very wrong because I'm going to stalk you and drag you back."
"You know, taking into consideration that I'm the ghost and you're, well, not, it really should be the other way around."
Lucy narrowed her eyes at me, the way she remembered to do at least thrice a week. "What I mean is, you're not leaving and you know it, Fullbuster." She paused and then added, "And for what it's worth, I can totally do mediator. You suck at doing ghost."
"That is a sick joke and I am hurt, Heartfilia." But I had to bite down hard on my cheek to prevent the grin from escaping.
Lucy sighed, having given up on trying to claw her way out of the appalling mess she had managed to get herself in just by remaining in a state of rest. "Where would you go? What exactly did you plan before you woke me up so rudely?"
I opened my mouth and then shut it again. "Piper's," I mumbled. "I guess."
"You hate that place."
"It's got a casino," I protested weakly. "The continental borders of Fiore was my plan B."
Lucy Heartfilia smiled then and my dead heart was ripped apart by the beauty of it and the pain which followed the realization that it didn't matter how beautiful she was to me because it didn't, it couldn't, because, because, because. Always the pain.
"I can't believe you woke up at 5AM to be melodramatic," she remarked. "But then again, it's exactly what you'd do."
"What if I actually left?" I demanded finally, my own anger at myself rising to the surface. She heard it too, because the words tumbled out harsher than I expected. "I keep telling you I don't want to hurt you, but you keep brushing it off. I'm not kidding around, Luce." I was slightly surprised at how pleading my voice became all of a sudden. "It's—it's the most logical plan I could come up with, okay?"
Lucy sat there in her little cocoon of sheets and pillows and pajamas, looking younger and more innocent than I'd ever seen her. Then: "Come here," she said.
"Get me out of this."
A tad annoyed that she was averting the question, I stepped down and crossed the creaky wooden floor anyway. Helping her out of that seemed to be asking too much of a ghost, but I sank down on the edge of the bed and reached out to tug at the corners of a blanket when Lucy wrapped her arms around me—or rather the nest of bed sheets. I was engulfed in a sudden warmth.
The air stilled.
She rested her forehead in my hair, speaking into it. "Do you want to leave?"
If I had been human, I would have been blushing furiously as I answered. "Um…right—right now?"
Her laugh reverberated through me, breaking through the sudden silence that enveloped the room. "Gray, do you want to leave this place?"
"Well, no, of course not, but—" My words trailed off as she kissed my left temple, her lips lingering as she said, "Then don't."
My eyes shut at the feeling.
"Don't leave, Gray." She tightened her arms around me. "Please."
I didn't need to breathe, but that uneven ragged sound in the room was definitely me struggling to remember how to inhale and exhale. "Okay."
As abruptly as she'd embraced me, she let me go, and kicked away the mess on the bed herself. "Good. That was what you wanted to hear, right?"
No. Yes. What?
"I don't like you much."
Lucy grinned. "Neither do I. Now if you'll excuse me, goodnight."
But as she turned to flip off the light, I caught the gleam of moisture at the corner of her eye
I'm not sure how one should react when one has a laundry basket thrown at oneself followed by an avalanche of steaming hot towels.
Steaming, because dear Hot Eye spent an hour dunking all the hotel towels in boiling water and then another hour launching them on everyone who entered the penthouse suite on the top floor of Piper's.
Luckily, I was dead, and the laundry basket did not crack my skull.
Not so fortunately, Lucy wasn't dead and she shrieked in the most feminine way she could as hot towels cascaded down her face.
"Are you okay?" I asked between helpless fits of laughter.
She clawed the towel off from her red face and gave me a poisonous look. "I'm leaving."
"Aw come on. Meet my peeps!"
Lucy crossed her arms as I dodged another hot towel attack. In the chaos that Hot Eye and his pals had created, no one noticed that a human had slipped into our neighborhood ectoplasmic hangout.
"When I said I wanted to talk to Mavis, I didn't mean I wanted to pay a visit to this ridiculous hotel."
"Ah," I said, ducking as another basket flew towards us and crashed against the hotel walls. "But this is where the magic happens."
Lucy was not impressed.
I did not why Hot Eye had started a hot towel revolution and neither did I care enough to ask. It had been a very abrupt decision for me to ask Lucy to enter Piper's, and I realized now that like all abrupt decisions made by me, this too was a tragic mistake.
Mostly because Happy—the infernal cat I'd dropped off at this suite—seemed to recognize Lucy. It glided out of one of the spilt laundry baskets and pressed against Lucy's legs. The view was blocked out by two or three ghostly granddads who stepped forward to join the hot towel revolution, and as usual I was stranded in this mess of a room.
Only this time, I didn't have to go hunting Mavis because she found me instead. I was less than thrilled to see Zeref slinking behind her.
"Hey mate," I told him cheerfully. "Piss off, would you?"
A number of colorful ghostly profanities later, Mavis and I took cover behind the makeshift bar counter to talk.
"I take it things went quite well with Lucy?" Mavis said immediately as we crouched in an attempt to step away from the madness. "And all your moping around was worth it?"
I glanced over the glass counter to see Lucy grudgingly pet Happy and having an animated conversation with a kid. A dead kid, obviously.
"I didn't mope around," I said in indignation. "That's not very manly."
Mavis laughed for a little too long at my response and that offended me further.
"Listen," I finally interrupted. "Lucy said she wanted to meet you, but I had to talk to you first. It's important."
Mavis sobered up a bit and nodded, brushing silver strands of hair out of her eyes. "I'm sure it is. What do you need?"
I explained my sob story to her as hastily as possible, stealing quick looks at Lucy every few seconds to make sure she wasn't already searching for Mavis or I. "So basically," I finished. "I need to—to terminate this energy line between us. Alzack is a bitch. I don't know what to do. Help, please."
Mavis had been biting her lip throughout the conversation. Now she released it slowly, sighing almost in resignation. "Gray, do you know what an energy link is?"
Mavis sighed again, rubbing at her temples. "When people—die," she winced slightly. "They disintegrate, correct? Gradually, of course, but give it a century and it'll be dust."
"Okay, graphic, but please go on."
Mavis gave me a dirty glare so similar to Lucy's, it was almost unnerving. "When people—can't disintegrate, some part of them is left like a shadow, you know? Like an imprint. Us," she added. "We're the 'some part.'"
"And there's no bloody explanation," I pointed out. "Yay."
"Well," Mavis ignored me. "When the living are able to connect with a spirit, an imprint, there needs to be something there to link them. Something which matches. I think…that's why we just know which mediator we're supposed to go to, you know?" Mavis fumbled to explain. "That something is an energy line. It makes us—well accessible to whatever part of the disintegration we were supposed to move on to when we're, well, ready."
"How do you know this?"
"You're not the only one who stalked mediators. My mother did, too." Mavis said quietly. "She tried explaining it to me." She looked back over her shoulder at Lucy. "I think I finally get it."
"Go on," I urged. "What happens with this link?"
"What happens with all links?" Mavis said simply. "It connects you across a line. But the longer the living are in contact with a spirit, the more their energies connect and get mixed up. It becomes tangled, at a point. Think of it as a net. It isn't like a line anymore—when one end weakens, it weakens everything it's joined to. Energies aren't meant to be toyed with."
Around us the din rose, making it uncomfortably noisy, but there was strange ringing in my ears. "So…" I cleared my throat. "So how do you break it?"
Mavis's eyebrows pulled together. "Gray," she said at last. "I don't know. How could I—" She broke off, her emerald eyes widening.
"What?" I asked impatiently. "Mavis, what is it?"
"Gray, you arse," she murmured in a low voice. "The sisters! The girl who told you about this. Why didn't you ask her?"
"She didn't—what will psychics—what?"
"Strauss," she recalled. "That's the name, right? Did it ever occur to you to ask them how to severe an energy connection?"
"Did it ever occur to you, Gray," Lucy interrupted as I jerked my head up to see her leaning over the counter looking at us. "That it would be nice to include me in a conversation which seems to involve me entirely?"
"Luce," I started, but Mavis cut me off. "My apologies, Lucy." She grinned up at her, falling into an easy character at once while I struggled to wipe the worry off my face. "Come join us."
Much to my irritation, Lucy shook her head instead. "No, I really need to talk to you alone, Mavis. Do you mind?" This question, of course, wasn't politely aimed at me, but Mavis, who agreed.
I watched them with mild annoyance as Lucy and Mavis disappeared in the crowd.
I didn't move, staring aimlessly at Hot Eye's tantrums as I waited for them to return, and it wasn't until a good fifteen minutes till I realized that Lucy hadn't flinched even once since she entered a room full of dead people.
Maybe she was better at doing mediator than she realized.
Clearly, I believed one in the morning was the ideal time to have a nice psychic chat.
Breaking into the Strauss residence had become second nature to me. Then again, being potentially unseen, it probably wasn't that huge an achievement.
I landed softly on the carpeted floor of the library adjoining the hallway as I slipped through the window. I felt like there was a huge weight on my chest, a feeling I had almost always these days. But, as I looked around the familiar walls that had watched me as I had shuddered and cried in a corner trying to understand what had become of me three years ago, I realized some part of me liked to have something to actually focus on.
Some purpose. I don't think I'd ever really wrapped my mind around the idea of simply being. Just being, with no purpose, for possibly all of eternity.
The logical decision, which I kept coming back to, was obviously to just leave the apartment. All I had to do was choose to not hover around Lucy Heartfilia and I wouldn't be breaking into houses at 1AM.
However, it seemed humans alone weren't the most selfish creatures to exist. And doing this meant losing purpose all over again, and I didn't think I could stay sane if that happened once more. There was no escape from death.
I stood there for a few minutes, deliberating and wondering how exactly to call Mirajane Strauss, when I heard a soft rustle.
I stepped forward, peering around a cabinet to catch a flash of pale ankles and the hem of a nightgown.
Sighing in relief, I walked out into the main hallway, trying to decide how to get Mirajane's attention in the least creepiest manner.
As she walked into the kitchen, I caught sight of a candle. It took a clumsy minute to fumble for matchsticks. When I finally struck it and lit the candle, she was already walking out with a glass of water.
The sudden glow illuminated a wide eyed girl with short pixie white hair, staring in bewilderment at, what I presume, would appear to her as a floating candle. She froze in the orange glow, fingers clutching the glass.
It was Lisanna, not her sister. And she didn't drop the glass.
In fact, she grinned and set it down carefully on a counter. "Spirit?" she addressed the flame cheerfully.
"Yes," I said, but of course she couldn't hear me. I tilted the candle between my fingers so a bit of wax dripped on the floor by way of response.
"Mira's not here."
I was mildly in awe of how calm the people of this house were with hovering candles and ghosts. "But I can help you."
"How can you, if you can't hear me," I muttered, already annoyed at hearing Mira wasn't there. She was probably away using psychic riddles to scare the shit out of people in corners of the country which had missed out on the pleasure of meeting a Strauss.
As if she did hear me, however, Lisanna glanced back at the dark staircases once and then said, "Come." She paused. "If you want to."
I followed her into the library, holding the candle carefully, and set it down on the long wooden desk as Lisanna sat down. I noticed she was no longer wearing her hideous blue flip flops. As I stood in front of her, she grabbed a piece of paper and a fountain pen from a drawer and pushed it towards the light.
Raising an eyebrow, I took them. The simplest form of communication had never occurred to me before. In the dim glow, I scratched out a few words on the paper, my handwriting lopsided and uneven with lack of use.
I'm Gray. I came here with your friend, Lucy.
Lisanna read the words and bit her lip. Nodding in recognition, she looked up, and for a moment, looked directly into my eyes. I flinched, a bit unsettled at her piercing eyes in the candlelight. "Hello, Gray," she mumbled. "My sister told you about the energy link didn't she?"
I reached out and wrote: Yes. The ink splattered a bit as I pressed the nib too hard.
"How much do you know about it?"
"And—help me out here, I'm sorry, but…why do you care?" Lisanna looked genuinely puzzled as her eyebrows pulled together and crossed her arms. "I mean, there have other ghosts inhabiting the same place as a human, but they've never cared about energy lines."
I stared at her for a very long time, and found myself unable to fathom anything from her expression. She had a very blank, and yet mildly intimidating look to her young face. It aged her.
And have any of these humans ever survived?
Lisanna's eyes hardened. "I'm not sure," she said in clipped tones. I ran my hands through my hair, knowing the real answer would be a resounding no.
Seeing she wasn't saying anything else, I wrote down again in frustration.
If I don't—I paused, unsure of what to write—move on, will the energy link matter?
Lisanna was shaking her head even before I turned the paper towards her. "It's a link, Gray, all it does is bind you. But disturb it by trying to break it and it rips you apart."
I winced. What do I do?
"…does Lucy mean a lot to you?"
"Oh." Lisanna clasped her hands together until her knuckles went white. "Oh, that's why you're worried about it?"
She paused. It was a strangely intricate process, the simple action of pausing, when Lisanna Strauss did it. Her eyes were fixated on the piece of paper. She didn't blink. Her jaw was taut, lips turned down at the corners.
Then in an abrupt instant, it fell away and she finally looked up once several aeons had passed us by.
"I don't know how to put it gently, Gray," she said at last, addressing a point above my shoulder. "But as you asked, yes, if you sever the connection, Lucy might die along with you." She said it bluntly, putting the words out there in the pregnant space between us as if she didn't just utter the words dead and Lucy in the same sentence.
Then again, she wasn't a coward like me.
I scrambled for the paper, hurriedly splashing ink onto it. I won't sever it. I won't move on. Besides, I'm already dead.
"Death," Lisanna repeated. "Actual death. Not this smudge of an existence. You're just a remain of your human life, Gray." This time, she looked at me, and her voice was soft. "Are you happy, like this? I know you're thinking about Lucy, but have you thought about your situation?"
"How the fuck can I be happy like this?" I snarled suddenly, forgetting about the pen and paper. But Lisanna's calm composure as she brutally voiced things I already knew was beginning to consume with an overwhelming frustration. "I'm a ghost. Am I happy?"
I was standing up before I realized it. Suddenly, the candlelight flickered frightfully hard and then blew out, leaving us in the dark. To my horror, as I fought my rage back down, I heard the shattering crunch of glass breaking.
Lisanna's head snapped up and she rushed outside the library without looking towards me. I kicked a chair in anger, and then followed her to see the glass of water she had kept on the counter now in a mess on the floor.
I remembered thinking I should stay and help her clear up what I had clearly caused with my misplaced ectoplasmic wrath.
But Lisanna stepped delicately over the broken glass and looked over her shoulder before I could do anything. "Leave," she said coldly. "Please," she hissed.
I resisted the temptation of slamming the door behind me.
It was four in the morning when I returned from the cemetery. I'd sat there the whole night, my feet up on my own gravestone and my back against a tree, trying to tell myself that if Lucy died when I died, it couldn't be that bad, and then doubling over with guilt when I realized I was effectively murdering a girl who I happened to be desperately in love with.
And then, of course, there was always the option of never moving on and just hang around the neighbourhood as Lucy grew older and eventually died. While I would still remain as a floating pain in the arse.
The worst part was that there was nowhere I could get any advice about a situation as screwed up as this. Because in general, a ghost said boo and the human phoned a ghostbuster and we scooched away to a new residence.
On less general days, the ghost made out with the human.
When I finally dragged myself back to the pizzeria, my head felt as it would implode. This was why I had to blink twice before I made out the small figure of Lucy perched on the steps in front of Belle's Corner, huddled up in her jumper with the hood drawn over her face. She was hunched in a very miserable position.
It was too early for Igneel to come downstairs and the first glow of sunlight had just brushed the pizzeria. I went and sat down silently next to Lucy.
"I'm betting the dirt's more comfortable than the bed?" I said lightly. "Tell me you were waiting for me, that'll make this more romantic."
Lucy half lifted her head once when she heard my voice, but didn't look up. Keeping it dramatic, as always. I sighed. "Okay, what's wrong?"
When she still didn't stir, I let out an exasperated groan. "Hey, Luce, I had a really long night. Mind telling me why you're even up at this time?" I waited for a response, but Lucy just sucked in a breath and kept quiet. For some reason, this irritated me. "Fine. I'm going upstairs. Join me when you're done with—whatever it is you're doing."
I ran my fingers through my hair, walking past her to push open the door and find the stairs to the second floor. As I reached the banisters, I heard footsteps and stepped back to let a dark haired girl rush past me. I noticed she was holding her heels in her arms, and she made her way in stockings to the pizzeria door and left. She was followed by Ickle Dragneel who had a serious case of bed head.
He made his way outside too, glancing once at Lucy and calling a cab for the girl.
I shook my head, leaping up the stairs three at a time.
I pushed open the unlocked door to my—our—flat, glancing around swiftly to notice that the place seemed to have spontaneously combusted in the short while that it had been in the absence of my supervision. The bed, as always, was unmade. But there was something off; I realized the desk was empty and the single closet with Lucy's belongings was hanging open, the hangers and clothes strewn in a mess on the floor.
Half of her stuff was still inside, and the rest of it seemed to be angrily piled up on the floor.
Huh. Lucy didn't seem like someone who cared for spring cleaning.
My ears perked at the sounds of yelling and I looked up so quickly that I would have cracked my neck had I been human. I waded through the mess to the window and fought the rusty latch open.
It was Ickle Dragneel—quite unsurprising, as he was the only one who'd start destroying everyone else's day before the sun even fully rose—and he was standing next to Lucy.
"—are you crying?" I heard him exclaim.
"Leave me alone, Natsu!"
"Well, you're sniveling all over my pizzeria—"
"It's your father's—"
"What, did you get stood up or something—geez, it's fucking four or something in the morning."
"Can you please just leave?" I suddenly heard Lucy's voice crack and I couldn't stay mad at her anymore. In fact, I hadn't been half as mad at her as I was at myself.
I rushed downstairs, blood boiling at the thought of Natsu mocking Luce—my Luce.
I stepped outside into the warmth of the sun, wondering if it would be really worth it to strange Ickle Dragneel to death. I grabbed the corner of his sleeve and pushed him aside roughly.
He let out a shocked cry and stumbled back, looking frantically at Lucy, who lifted her head at the noise, mirroring his surprise.
I didn't look at Natsu, mostly because I didn't want to. Instead, I wrapped my fingers around Lucy's arm and tugged, expecting her to resist. But she let me pull her to her feet. She let me lead her inside. She let me seethe in silence at Natsu as we walked up the stairs. She let me lock the door behind us, wrap my arms around her and crush her to my chest.
She cried into the crook of my neck as I kissed her hair, not speaking. I was confused, but my worry overshadowed it. I rubbed my thumb over one of her hands, like I always did to calm her down.
"Luce," I finally said, speaking gently.
She sighed, not letting go. "My mother called."
I raised an eyebrow. "Uh—what did she want? What did she say?"
"She wants to visit me."
I carefully disentangled myself from her and then gestured for her to sit somewhere. She plopped down on her own clothes.
"You never told me much about her."
"Well," Lucy spat with all the venom one could infuse into their speech. "There's not much to tell about someone who is defined by their monthly income. You need digits to describe them, don't you?"
I was taken aback at the bitterness in her voice. I imagined my own mother, pulling on my human memories, with slightly nauseating difficulty. I remembered the concept of her, if not exactly what she looked or sounded like. But I remembered her warmth, her laugh, her badly knitted Christmas scarves. With piercing nostalgia, I recalled her obsession with scented candles, her eternally half-burnt cakes, and her distaste for our ginger bobtail who had loved her endlessly in return.
"…Gray? You okay?"
I blinked. "Yeah. Sorry. What did you say?"
Lucy narrowed her eyes at me, and then looked down. "I said I'm leaving."
Ba dum tss
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