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Title: Don't Miss This Chance

Summary: post-Tartaros slight AU. Gray accompanies Wendy to Lamia Scale, and Lyon takes the chance to tell him something he needed to hear. (Gray, Lyon)

Notes: I was trying and utterly failing to write actual Lyoray. I'm really bad at romance? I just can't do it? So have 4K of meandering gen angst instead.

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They had gotten off easy, compared to what could have occurred, but the sudden emergence of the Face obelisks in the middle of Margaret Town had left the better part of the downtown district in ruins. The rubble that had rained down after Face's destruction by the dragons had only added to the damage. Lamia Scale had been lucky to get off with just a hole in the roof of the guild hall.

Cleanup efforts were proceeding as well as could be expected. Jura's magic would have been a big help, but he had left immediately to help get the remnants of the Magic Council and Rune Knights under control with the other Wizard Saints.

That left Lyon as the strongest active wizard in Lamia Scale and the most well-known one. Being in the spotlight was natural for him, and Lyon took pride in his deserved fame, but having the other wizards and the townspeople always looking to him, for answers and just for stability, was heavier than he had expected.

He sighed, shoulders slumping a little, as he was finally able to duck out of sight for a moment. More than using his Ice Make to help clear the rubble, having to constantly put on a calm, reassuring facade in the face of everyone's worries and troubles, day in and day out, wore on him.

The sounds of approaching footsteps made him straighten quickly. Fortunately, it was only Yuka, shooting Lyon a sympathetic look.

"Lyon-sama, please come to the guild hall as soon as possible," Yuka said, after exchanging a nod in greeting.

"The guild hall? Why? Did something happen?" Lyon asked, already moving back toward the main street. He waved and smiled absently to the passing townspeople who called out to him, but didn't stop. If Yuka said, "as soon as possible," there had to be a reason.

Falling in half a step behind him, Yuka pursed his lips and admitted, "No... not exactly. We received some visitors... from Fairy Tail. And I think that if you wait too long, you might miss your chance."

The chance for what, he didn't say. His expression was troubled, and perhaps he wasn't sure himself. But Lyon trusted his old comrade's instincts, and sped up his stride.

~.~.~

Yuka had been right. One of their visitors was already trying to leave when they arrived — the one Lyon would have wanted to see the most.

"You should at least stay the night," Sherry was insisting, as they stepped into one of the guild hall's backrooms. "We have spare beds set up here. You can head out in the morning..."

"No, there's no point," Gray said, a sharp edge to his tone. "I only came to make sure Wendy and Carla got here safely, so I'm going to head out."

"At least stay until Lyon gets here," Sherry pressed, but if anything that seemed to make Gray more determined to leave. His jaw clenched, and he appeared about to protest.

"I'm here," Lyon cut in, nodding gratefully to Sherry, who sighed silently in relief as Gray's attention turned to him.

Gray looked away just as quickly, avoiding Lyon's gaze. He didn't seem to be injured, most likely healed by Wendy in the week or so since the Tartaros incident — but that was about the only good thing to say about his state. His posture was tense to the point of being brittle, and his expression was strained and shadowed. Even someone who didn't know him well would have been able to tell that Gray was at the end of his rope, emotionally.

"What happened?" Lyon asked, looking first at Gray and then, when it became obvious he wouldn't answer, to Sherry.

She hesitated, making something in Lyon's gut clench. "Fairy Tail... has disbanded," Sherry said finally. Her expression twisted sympathetically as Gray flinched a little. "Gray brought Wendy and Carla here because they're going to stay with Sherria for a while, and maybe even join Lamia Scale." She added, "Ah, they've already left. Wendy was... not doing well, so Sherria took her home."

"So I'm going to be leaving too," Gray said flatly. "I only came because of them."

Lyon didn't answer right away, instead just watching his junior student for a moment, while Sherry quietly slipped out the room. He didn't believe Gray or his excuses. Gray was certainly kind and considerate of his guildmates, but there were probably any number of others who could have gone with the Sky Dragon girl.

If Gray had come, it must have been because, on some level, he wanted to see Lyon — and even his half-hearted attempts to leave as quickly as possible meant that there was something he equally wanted from Lyon, yet was afraid to bring up.

Fairy Tail was gone... It was hard to believe, but Lyon shoved aside his own confusion and uncertainty. What mattered was that Gray had just lost his family again, in a certain sense, and that meant... Lyon was the closest he had left.

'So that's why,' Lyon realized. He wanted to sigh — or reach out and embrace Gray because it just wasn't fair. It wasn't fair for Gray to go through this three times. But no matter how hurt he was, Gray wouldn't accept any comfort that easily.

"Gray," he said quietly, "what are you going to do now?"

"...It's got nothing to do with you," Gray muttered.

"So you don't know," Lyon surmised. "Then stay here, at least for a little while. If you don't have a destination, anywhere is fine while you think, right?"

"I'm not joining your guild!" Gray flared up suddenly, pinning Lyon with a sharp glare.

"Of course not," Lyon agreed, meeting his gaze without backing down — but also without attacking. "I'm not callous enough to suggest you replace your family so easily. I suppose I worded that incorrectly... Gray, stay with me for a while."

Something about his words made Gray flinch again. It made Lyon suspect that there was something more to it than just the guild disbanding. Had something happened during the battles with Tartaros...? No, to begin with, why had Fairy Tail disbanded? Why did the members accept that?

But Lyon couldn't ask Gray that, not when he looked like he was about to break down or bolt at any moment.

What was he scared of? What did he need to hear? Why had he wanted to see Lyon, but also wanted to avoid him?

Lyon took a gamble. "I'm not going anywhere," he said, firmly. "I won't disappear, I promise."

"You..." Gray stared at him in shock, before breaking into a scowl. "L-like I care! Of course you're not, you're too annoying to get rid of that easily!"

"Annoying? I think you mean I'm far too skilled," Lyon said, keeping his tone light as he crossed his arms and tilted up his chin haughtily.

Gray scoffed at their familiar insults, a fraction of the tension in his posture easing. It was enough that Lyon felt safe reaching out and clasping a hand over his shoulder — Gray didn't try to shrug him off, perhaps even leaning into the touch a little.

Neither of them brought it up again, but Gray silently followed Lyon home. He was out as soon as he hit the guest bed, in the heavy, motionless sleep of the truly exhausted. Coming to check on him later, Lyon watched Gray's sleeping form for a long time with a sense of worry he couldn't pin down.

Yuka had thought he might miss his chance. Lyon only hoped he'd be able to figure out — his chance to do what?

~.~.~

Once convinced to stay, Gray seemed to lose some of his urgency to leave. "I'm going to check on Wendy, to make sure she's settling in okay," he made an excuse at breakfast.

"Let's see if Sherria is at the guild today," Lyon suggested. "If she took the day off, you should let them sort it out by themselves first. Sherria cares about your sky girl a lot, she won't let her down."

"...Yeah," Gray agreed.

Sherria wasn't at the guild, confirmed by Sherry to be taking the day off to stay with Wendy. "There isn't anyone left who needs healing urgently," Sherry added. "So it should be alright. I'm sure they'll want to get to work soon, take her mind of things, but for now..."

"It's hard for Wendy," Gray spoke up. "It's not just... the guild. Grandine, the dragon who raised her, is gone now too. It turned out... the dragons could only appear for a short time as their last act. They're all gone. It was just like with Cait Shelter, too."

Sherry covered her mouth in sympathy, while Gray's expression darkened. The part about the dragons was new to Lyon, and he blurted out the next thing without thinking.

"How is Salamander taking it?" he asked. "He was always going on about finding his dragon."

It was the wrong thing to mention. Gray scowled, bitter and miserable. "Who knows?" he said, his voice clipped. "Natsu took off before anyone could even talk to him. I don't think he even knows about the guild. He barely left a note, said he was going to train. Lucy was in tears, that flame for brains idiot..."

It absolutely wasn't fair. It wasn't fair at all.

Lyon forced himself to nod as if this was just some passing mention he didn't care about. "Alright. Then let's get to work," he said, firmly dismissing the subject. "Just so you know, Gray — you'll be working for food and lodging. No slacking off."

"As if I'd want your charity anyway," Gray shot back. "Bring it on. I can pull my weight — and yours too, since you're probably too busy showing off to do any real work."

"Work for two? I'll hold you to that," Lyon said, smirking.

If nothing else, the work took Gray's mind off things, and his static Ice Make was certainly useful, perhaps even more so than Lyon's dynamic animals. But it also gave Lyon time to realize something — they were being followed. Constantly, there was a shadow hanging in the background.

Well, in all honestly, this matter was something Lyon had wondered about but didn't want to chance Gray's reaction by asking. Making sure Gray was occupied reinforcing the partially collapsed roof of an inn, Lyon slipped away from the worksite and circled around to behind their tail.

"Juvia-chan," he called out quietly.

The girl, peeking out at Gray from behind a corner, flinched and froze in surprise. Slowly, she turned to look at Lyon, standing behind her.

"L-Lyon-sama..." she muttered, cringing.

"I thought it might be you, Juvia-chan," Lyon said. "I was worried about where you had gone, if you weren't with Gray... Is there a reason why you're following him from afar? You could both use support right now. Wouldn't it be better to be next to him?"

To his alarm, Juvia's eyes welled up with tears. "J-Juvia doesn't have the right to be next to Gray-sama," she cried. "J-Juvia did s-something terrible to Gray-sama! Juvia doesn't have the right to love Gray-sama anymore!"

"S-something terrible? To Gray?" Lyon repeated, his mind going blank as he tried to understand what she meant. But no, it had to be a misunderstanding. Juvia adored Gray, to Lyon's frustration during the Grand Magic Games.

Juvia only shook her head, refusing to elaborate. Her shoulders heaved with barely suppressed sobs.

"Juvia... If you think you've done something you need to apologize for, then tell Gray directly," Lyon said. "Following him around like this won't help either of you. Otherwise... you might miss your chance." That seemed to finally convince her, as Juvia drew a sharp breath and stopped crying. "Come by my place after we're done. You can apologize to Gray then... But I'm sure he'll forgive you. He's that kind of person."

He'd forgiven Lyon, after all, for nearly killing him and trying to revive his childhood nightmare. Whatever Juvia thought she had done couldn't possibly match up to that.

~.~.~

Catching sight of her waiting for them by the gates, late that evening, Gray stopped short, and his expression twisted in consternation. He only now realized that he'd forgotten about her, just assuming she'd gone with one of the other girls. Given Juvia's fixation on him, Gray should have known to check on her, and he mentally berated himself for letting himself act so self-centered and thoughtless.

Lyon sighed, easily reading his train of thought. Reaching out, he clasped Gray's shoulder and gave an encouraging squeeze before stepping away to give them some space. His eyes met Juvia's for a moment, encouraging her too.

"Juvia, are you alright?" Gray started. "Do you have a place to—"

"G-Gray-sama," Juvia cut him off, her voice wavering. She drew a shaky breath and suddenly bowed deeply, as if baring her neck for an executioner's blade. "Juvia is the one who killed that necromancer! It's because of Juvia that Gray-sama's father..."

Her words cut off in another sob. Gray had gone completely still, but Lyon couldn't imagine his expression or his reaction. What Juvia had said...

Necromancer? Gray's father?

What was she talking about? There was something terrible piecing together in the back of his mind, no matter how Lyon tried to deny it. It couldn't be. That was too farfetched. Something like that... couldn't actually happen... It couldn't be that unfair— No, unfair wasn't enough to even to cover it. This was just too much.

Gray didn't respond, only letting out a quiet, choked sound.

"Juvia— Juvia doesn't have the right to love Gray-sama anymore!" Juvia pressed on, her shoulders and her back shaking with sobs. "Please forgive Juvia, Gray-sama!"

That plea seemed to finally startle Gray into action. In a few angry steps, he closed the distance between them and hauled Juvia upright with a tight grip on her collar. "You..." Gray gritted out, trembling with heavy emotion.

He looked ready to lash out, but Juvia didn't flinch, only looking up at him with tears streaming down her cheeks.

Finally, after a tense moment, Gray's shoulders slumped and he lowered his head, the anger draining out of him. "...No," he said quietly. "It's not your fault. You don't have anything to apologize for. ...Thank you. For..."

"Gray-sama..." Juvia murmured, her expression brightening like dawn over the horizon. She smiled tentatively, looking ready to reach out for him as usual.

Watching Gray's weary back, Lyon frowned.

"Juvia," he called out, making his way back over to them, "you can stay at the guild tonight. Let's talk more in the morning. It's been a long day."

"Oh, but... Juvia would like to..." she began to protest.

"It's been a long day, Juvia-chan," Lyon repeated, his smile strained. "Let's talk tomorrow."

She departed unwillingly, glancing toward Gray all the while. But Gray remained silent and still, as if he didn't even notice what was happening around him. Stepping up to him, Lyon carefully put a hand on his back and urged him toward the gates.

"Let's go inside," he said quietly, although there was no response. As they stepped into the dark, empty house, Lyon asked, "Do you want to say anything about it?"

"...No," Gray muttered. He turned to look at Lyon rebelliously, as if daring him to try to drag the answers out of him.

Lyon didn't rise to the bait, though one eyebrow twitched a little at the challenge. Well, the childishness was better than nothing... "Okay," he said evenly. Then, trying another angle, "Thank you, for being so kind to Juvia-chan. She needed to hear that."

"I know that," Gray shot back irritably. "I'm not some kind of asshole, you know. I wouldn't blame her for... It was my fault she had to in the first place." The last part was added under his breath, and it took an effort of will for Lyon not to saying anything. "A-anyway, don't act like you've got to look out for her. Juvia's my comrade. ...Was my comrade..."

'It's a minefield,' Lyon thought, with mixed frustration and sadness. There were simply too many verbal mines to even attempt to navigate. What was he supposed to say? How could he even begin to help?

"Yes, yes, you're a good boy," Lyon said patronisingly, reaching out to ruffle Gray's hair — earning a scowl in return. Letting his hand be knocked away, he settled it on Gray's shoulder instead. His mocking smile slipped away slowly, and he said, in a more serious tone, "But I think you need to hear it too — you don't have anything to apologize for. It wasn't your fault."

Gray went completely still, but Lyon wasn't surprised when he was violently pushed away in the next moment. "You—! You don't even know what happened! You can't tell me that!" Gray yelled.

"I know you," Lyon corrected him firmly. "I know it was a messed up, crazy situation — demons, dragons, the end of magic... necromancy. I know that no one has any right to pile expectations on you. I know you did everything you could..."

"Shut up!" Gray shouted, but the anger in his voice was quickly giving way to misery. "Shut up... I didn't... I couldn't..." He trailed off, ducking his head. But it was clear that he was crying.

Silently, Lyon guided him over to the couch and sat next to him, arm around Gray's shoulders. He didn't comment when, after a few moments, Gray leaned into him. Fine tremors shook his body as Lyon carefully rubbed Gray's shoulder, pulling him a little closer. The only sound in the dark living room was his stifled sobs.

"...'m sorry... I'm sorry... I'm sorry..." Gray began to whisper, barely audible.

"It's not your fault," Lyon repeated quietly. "No one blames you. It's not your fault..."

He wondered if Gray believed him — could believe Lyon, of all people. The words felt bitter in his mouth, when he had once shouted the exact opposite at Gray, blaming him for Ur's death. 'I should have said it before,' Lyon realized, biting his cheek in consternation. 'I should have said it after Galuna, at Oracion Seis. I should have swallowed my pride...'

Instead, he had settled for just falling into an easy, distant truce with Gray. During the Oracion Seis incident, after Tenrou, after the Grand Magic Games... he had plenty of chances, and he let them all pass by to maintain his pride and the status quo between them.

"It's not your fault," Lyon repeated, his voice thick, and hoped Gray would believe him one day.

He didn't move, even for a long while after Gray fell silent and his breathing evened out in sleep, letting Gray's warm weight rest against his side.

~.~.~

Gray woke up on the couch, staring up at the ceiling. There was a crick in his neck and his eyes were crusted over with dried tears, but he felt at least a little better. Someone — Lyon — had taken off his boots and needlessly draped a thin blanket over him.

It was still early, the morning light barely filtering through the windows. Turning over on his side, Gray pulled the blanket up over his chin and closed his eyes. The slightly rough wool sheet, the couch, the room all smelled like Lyon. Thinking that made Gray feel like Natsu — pushing down the small twinge in his chest at the reminder of his absent rival — but it was true. Lyon's presence was everywhere around him, and he could just make out the quiet sounds of Lyon moving about in the kitchen. It was... grounding. Comforting, even.

Lyon said he wasn't going anywhere, that he wouldn't disappear. Whether that was true... It didn't matter if he was strong — Fairy Tail had been strong too, and Ur as well. But maybe it was alright to believe him, a little. After all, Lyon had already left once, after Brago. He had just come back afterwards. So maybe...

Sighing, Gray burrowed deeper into the cocoon of blanket and cushions. He wanted to rest a little longer, without thinking about anything.

The next time he woke up, it was to Lyon shaking his shoulder gently. "Breakfast is ready," Lyon said, stepping back as Gray sat up. "Wash up and come to the table."

"When did you become such a mother hen?" Gray grumbled, but he wasn't stubborn or spiteful enough to deny that Lyon was right about the basics of hygiene.

"Bathroom's down the hall," Lyon called back, making Gray grumble under his breath some more.

Still, washing his face woke him up, and he felt a little more like himself when he made his way to the small kitchen table. Lyon had already set out the sparse meal, and they dug in without formality. "We should go to the guild today," Lyon said to fill the silence, without expecting a response. "Wendy should be there, and Juvia-chan will be waiting too. You were pretty useful with the cleanup yesterday, so if you don't have any other plans, we could use your help again..."

"I'm going to Isvan," Gray said, cutting off Lyon's rambling. It was too abrupt, he realized, and he added awkwardly, "I need to go to Isvan... alone. There's..." He trailed off, unsure how to put into words without explaining everything that he couldn't bring himself to say.

"I understand," Lyon said calmly. "You should still stop by the guild first. But Sherria and I will look after Wendy and Carla, and I'll talk to Juvia." To keep her from trying to follow Gray, and about what she wanted to do in the future.

That had been another weight on Gray's mind, and he sighed in relief. "Thanks," he said quietly.

"Do you have any plans after that?" Lyon asked, though he could already guess the answer. "If not, you should come back—" 'here,' he was going to say, but what if that made Gray think Lyon was pressing him to join Lamia Scale again? Trying to hide the pause, Lyon blurted out without thinking, "—to me."

'You should come back to me.'

...That wasn't quite right either. He hadn't intended to say that.

The words seemed to echo between them as Gray and Lyon stared at each other with stunned and increasingly blank expressions. A red blush was spreading across Gray's cheeks, and Lyon could feel himself flushing as well.

"My house!" he blurted out, jumping to his feet. "I meant you should come back here, to my house! You can stay here until you decide what to do. That's all!"

"R-right! I-I'll do that!" Gray agreed quickly, looking somewhere far to the side of Lyon.

"Good! Good," Lyon said firmly. To avoid any further conversation, he started gathering up the dishes — luckily, they had already been almost done, and Gray too busied himself finishing off his food, gaze squarely on his plate. The awkward silence followed Lyon as he fled to the sink, interrupted only by the clinking of plates and utensils.

Finally, Gray crept up hesitantly with his plate. But even after slipping it into the sink, he lingered uncertainly at the edge of the kitchen.

"Um... Lyon," he called out. "Thanks. I mean it."

Glancing over his shoulder, Lyon smiled at him. "No problem," he said lightly. Turning away to dry off his hands, he added quietly, to himself, "I'm the one who should be thanking you."

"Huh? For what?" Gray wondered, overhearing.

How could he even begin to answer? For setting him straight at Galuna and for forgiving him when Gray had every right to be angry, for giving him the push to become who he was now, for letting him become his comrade, his friend, his family again — for everything.

Lyon only shook his head, still smiling. "I'll tell you when you get back," he said.

It was alright, to wait a little longer. Gray would come back, now, when he was ready, and Lyon would be there, as long as he needed a place to return to. They had another chance, and they wouldn't waste it. Neither of them would have to be alone, as long as they had this — their small family that had been torn apart and put back together again.

~.~.~

It's so warm, these feelings...

~.~.~