Lucy is surprised to have been chosen as part of the team for the Grand Magic Games. She wasn't exactly a heavy hitter on her own, unlike other members of the guild. But Erza reassures her that the Master had chosen them for the cohesiveness of their teamwork, and that the Grand Magic Games would require more skills than just brute force. It's clear that helping Fairy Tail rise from the bottom ranked guild in Fiore to the top was about more than just pride for all of them, it was a way to repay and redeem those of their guild who had never given up on the Tenrou Island group; those who had spent seven long years searching and waiting for them to come home.
She's shocked when Gray crashes out of the first round of the Games. Because if there is anyone who has both the combat skills and the cool analytical ability to be a serious contender in the Games, it was Gray. But as a guild, they had collectively underestimated the skills of their enemies and the extent of the vicious lengths they would go to target members of Fairy Tail.
Gray brushes brusquely past her and the rest of the team after the round is called, eyes icy and turbulent. She can read the frustration and tension in every line of his body, but he refuses to meet her eyes, stalking off towards the stadium exit in stormy silence. Her first instinct is to run after him, but her name is called for the next battle round, and Lucy readies herself for her shot.
The fight with Flare does not go how she expects it to. She knows for sure she had that red-headed bitch on the ropes with her Urano Metria spell with Gemini, but the spell had dissipated before the final crescendo, leaving her disoriented and trembling on the ground. It takes her a sluggish while to realize that Raven Tail has somehow cheated, and combined with the knowledge that Flare had also held little Asuka hostage during the match, Lucy has to bite back sobs of frustration. The boos of the crowd are deafening and humiliating. It is Natsu who walks onto the arena floor and picks her up.
"Hey now. No crying," he tells her gently, pulling her to her feet. "You were amazing. Zero points? Sounds great to me. This is our chance to make an epic comeback."
The ever-present confidence in his voice, the absolute certainty in his eyes grounds her, and Lucy puts her faith in her best friend. He has never led her wrong.
"Yeah. I'm all fired up now," she tells him through her tears, and Natsu grins back at her.
At the end of the first day, Lucy parts ways with Natsu and Erza, who are both headed to the local bar Fairy Tail has taken up residence in, no doubt to drown their sorrows in a long night of raucous drinking with the rest of their guild. Lucy wants nothing more than to take a long, hot bath, nurse her wounds, and wallow in the silence and solitude of their empty hotel room. Except she opens the door to find a sullen Gray perched on the edge of the balcony, scowling out at the city of Crocus. The first thing she notices is that his left hand is a bloody mess, and as she takes it to inspect his torn knuckles, she doesn't miss his quick wince as he yanks his fist out of her grasp.
"It's nothing. I'm fine."
Lucy raises a skeptical eyebrow.
Gray glares at her, then relents at the sight of her dirt and tear-smudged face, his own features softening. "I punched a wall," he admits sheepishly.
Lucy only sighs, and leads him inside the room without a word, motioning for him to sit on the couch. She finds the first aid kit and gets to work patching him up. Gray allows her to fuss over him, watching her in silence for a few moments before he speaks.
"I'm sorry I wasn't there, during your match. I needed to get out of that stadium for a bit." He looks at her apologetically.
Lucy only shrugs and dabs at his knuckle with alcohol. "You didn't miss much. Only my absolute humiliation in front of the world."
"Raven Tail cheated, Luce. It's pretty clear they're targeting Fairy Tail and they're playing dirty to do it. You would have kicked that girl's ass if things hadn't gone down the way they did. Don't beat yourself up about it."
Lucy looks up at him, startled. "You saw my match?"
Gray nods at the high-definition lacrima screen in the corner of the room. "I may not have been there in person but you know I wouldn't have missed it."
Lucy bites her lip and focuses on bandaging his fist in precise layers. "I'm embarrassed you saw that."
The touch of gentle fingers on her chin forces her to lift her face to meet his.
"You are one of the strongest wizards I know," Gray tells her fiercely. "I know you often don't think that of yourself, but you need to believe it. You have reservoirs of strength others don't have, and some of the most amazing magic I've seen. Remember that we're Fairy Tail wizards – when we get knocked down, we get back up and punch back."
Lucy reaches up and clasps his fingers in acknowledgment. His eyes are so intense, his face so close, Lucy could move her own face only a few inches and meet his lips. She takes in how Gray's eyes flicker down to her own lips, the way he swallows hard. Her own body heats up abruptly in response, a flush creeping downwards from her face and across her clavicle, something in her chest flaring to life with the flutter of wings. She finds herself wondering what his lips would feel like against her own, how it would feel to finally sink her fingers into that silky raven hair, how those corded muscles would feel wrapped around her soft curves.
It is Gray who clears his throat and Lucy shakes herself out of her stupor with a jolt.
"Thanks," she manages to stutter. "It means a lot to hear that from you. Here you are cheering me up when I should be doing that for you."
Gray smirks. "There's no need. I'm feeling better already. And trust me, I plan on paying Raven Tail back ten-fold after what they did to both of us."
Lucy climbs to her feet, attempting to collect herself. "Let me change, and we should probably head down to the bar. The others are probably wondering where we are." She points to his newly bandaged hand. "Try not to punch anything else."
Gray cocks an eyebrow at her. "No promises."
On her way into the bathroom, Lucy pokes her head out. "Hey, Gray?"
"You know it goes both ways, right?"
He looks inquisitively at her.
"I believe in you, too."
They share a smile before Lucy ducks away.
When they finally make it to the bar, they are greeted with a rowdy cheer by all their guildmates save Juvia, who narrows her eyes at Lucy and zeros in on Gray at her side. Lucy shudders to think what wild scenario Juvia has concocted up in the twisted corridors of her mind, although she can still feel the imprint of Gray's fingers cradled around her chin and the lingering discomfit of how close her body came to betraying her earlier. Okay, so maybe not that wild. Lucy hastens to put some distance between herself and Gray, heading over to join Erza and Cana. It's been a long, exhausting day.
Things are finally starting to look up for Fairy Tail after Erza, Laxus and Cana's decisive victories bolster spirits and restore hope. Lucy enters the Naval Battle on day four with steely determination to redeem her earlier loss in the tournament. She is able to hold her own, thanks to a lucky break where Juvia loses both her head and strategic upper hand after seeing Gray's appalled reaction in the stands to the attack she had named after him. Then it's just Lucy and Sabertooth's Minerva, squaring off across the expanse of a dense, blue-green sphere.
One minute into the fight, Lucy knows she is hopelessly outclassed in power. But she remembers the unquestionable faith both Natsu and Gray have in her, and she grits her teeth against Minerva's assault. If she can't outpower or outmaneuver her way out of this match, then she can sure as hell outlast her opponent. She is a Fairy Tail wizard, after all, and she does not give up. She will fight until her last breath. What Lucy isn't prepared for, however, is the depth of Minerva's cruelty. The Sabertooth wizard draws out the match, prolonging the time she has to inflict damage on Lucy, and Lucy knows the older woman is relishing every second. Lucy tries to lean into the blows and kicks raining down upon her, praying the last vestiges of her magic power will provide some remaining protection to her exposed body. Of course this match just had to be in water, fought in bikinis. The organizers of this tournament were a bunch of pervy old men. She would kill to have some of Erza's armor right now.
She can taste the blood pooling in her mouth, hear a sharp crack in her ribs, haziness spreading across her vision as her face takes a full frontal punch. Dimly, she's aware of Minerva squeezing tightly against her windpipe as she fights to breathe, holding her at what feels like a great height. Lucy glances downwards out of a swollen eye and knows that if Minerva doesn't kill her first, the fall surely would. Black spots are starting to encroach on the edges of her vision.
When Minerva finally lets her go, dropping her like a discarded trophy, Lucy feels like she is in freefall for a long, agonizing moment, watching with detached interest as the ground rushes up towards her. But then there are two sets of strong arms around her, two bodies taking the brunt of the impact and cushioning her fall. Her two boys, there for her as always.
In the stands, Natsu, Gray, Erza and Wendy had watched the battle in growing horror, frozen in helplessness. Before Minerva had even let go of Lucy, dangling her over the arena like a rag doll, Natsu and Gray had leaped instinctively over the railing and hit the dirt of the arena floor at a dead run, the rage incandescent on Natsu's face, dread and terror reflected on Gray's. They catch her right before she hits the ground in a feat of synchronized athleticism, wordlessly trusting the other, implicit understanding sparking between them in an instant.
Lucy has just enough consciousness left to hear Gray calling her name in a panic, her head cradled in his arms, Natsu on the other side of her bellowing in fury. Darkness overtakes her.
When she wakes, it is to the worried faces of all her friends crowded over her. She is safe in the infirmary ward with Porlyusica fussing over her, bandaged up, bruised and battered, but very much alive. Even the members of team B are in here, Juvia looking chastened, Mirajane smiling cheerfully, Laxus and Gajeel stone-faced in anger. She hears the gentle warmth in Natsu's chuckle, sees the pride on Erza's face, the sheer relief in Gray's eyes as he bends over her.
"You gave me quite a scare," he says, voice low, fingers tenderly brushing a strand of hair off her face. Lucy can only smile weakly back at him. Happy returns her celestial keys and she hugs them gratefully to her chest, eyes closing once more.
It is late when she wakes up again in a groggy daze, the windowless infirmary room dark and still, illuminated faintly by the clock lacrima on the wall beside the door, which reads close to midnight. She can hear Elfman snoring softly in the adjacent bed through the curtain drawn between them to give some semblance of privacy. Something nudges against her right side, and she glances down to see Gray's tousled head planted face down on her blankets. The rest of him is perched on the edge of a chair, long legs folded under him, one hand clenched tightly around her own. A part of Lucy isn't surprised to see him here, and that thing in her chest that she's starting to associate with him pulses deeply. She works to extricate her hand from his death grip without disturbing him, but he wakes anyway, shifting with a grunt and lifting his head in time to see her shaking off the pins and needles in her hand.
"How are you feeling?" he asks immediately, placing a cool hand over her forehead. Lucy leans into his touch.
"Beaten up," she admits. "Pride took another thrashing. But I'll live. Really woozy for some reason." She rubs her eyes blearily.
"I think Porlyusica gave you something to help you sleep." Gray smiles quietly at her.
Lucy finds his fingers once more, and he circles them around hers, less tightly this time. "I'm really sorry, Gray. I screwed up. I couldn't beat her."
The remorse and self-pity creep over her, and chasing their heels, the bone-deep exhaustion.
"Stop that. You're being ridiculous."
Even in the dim light, Lucy knows he's frowning at her. He opens his mouth to say more, but seems to catch himself as Lucy yawns, fighting to keep her eyes open.
"You did good, Luce," is all he says, pressing a soft kiss onto the back of her hand.
"It's late. You should go back to the hotel," she chides, already knowing he probably wouldn't. Gray mumbles something that sounds like "later," but Lucy is sliding over to the side of the small bed, tugging his hand forward onto the covers.
"If you're going to stay, don't sleep on the chair," she murmurs sleepily, and she feels only a brief hesitation before the bed dips under his weight and he settles himself on top of the covers next to her, carefully arranging his limbs so they aren't in contact with hers. But the bed is small, and Lucy presses herself into his chest, needing the comfort and solace he offered tonight. In the darkness, it was easier to silence the chorus of sorrow and uncertainty and fear that have been her constant companions, and simply listen to the quiet spaces of her heart.
Tonight, Gray is warm and solid beneath her skin, his heartbeat a steady cadence against her cheek, a safe harbor against the outside world. She selfishly takes what he is offering. She feels him shift and drape an arm around her, and Lucy presses her nose against the soft cotton of his shirt and breathes in, letting his familiar scent lull her to sleep.
"I'm not going to let anything hurt you," she thinks she hears him whisper, but her eyes have already closed.
In the morning, Lucy cracks open her crusty eyes to find Porlyusica bustling around the room, Elfman propped up on the adjacent bed, the curtain drawn open between them. There is an empty indent beside her. The sheets smell woodsy and masculine, a trace of sharp ice magic lingering in the air by her head. Gray, Lucy thinks immediately, and glances around her in confusion, momentarily disoriented. By the bedside table, there is a perfect replica of one of her celestial gate keys carved in ice, the intricate detailing and curlicues taking her breath away. And because Gray knows her, has always known her, she understands immediately what he wanted to remind her of – the strength of her power lying dormant within her; that this, too, was part of the process of finding her feet again. That she wasn't out for the count yet, not even close. Lucy curls her fingers around the icy key and smiles.
Across from her, Elfman gives her a wide, knowing grin. "He had to leave to rejoin the team. But he stayed the entire night to watch over you. When are you two finally going to man up?"
Whatever magic Porlyusica and Wendy used to heal her worked wonders, because Lucy feels well enough on the whole to be discharged in the afternoon. She's still a bit shaky and low on magic energy, but she's ready to rejoin her guildmates and see the rest of the Games through. There's a fire in her belly.
She chooses to take a meandering route back to the hotel, wanting to soak in some of the celebratory atmosphere of Crocus. It is purely by accident that, crossing past a tucked-away alleyway, she chances upon Juvia, the water mage's distinctive hat and hair catching Lucy's eye. She is about to call out a greeting when she realizes Juvia is deep in conversation with none other than Gray Fullbuster, that messy head of raven hair and white coat unmistakable. Something about the way they're standing, leaning towards each other, speaking in low voices, Gray's eyes singularly focused on the woman in front of him, stops Lucy in her tracks. She's too far away to overhear their conversation but even from this distance she knows exactly how the full focus of that indigo gaze feels. The moment between the two feels private and intimate, and Lucy feels like an unwelcome intruder. She stands there uncertainly, torn between wanting to give them their privacy but unable to will her feet to move away. Something inside her begins to ache, creeping through her limbs and catching in her throat. That thing in her chest, lodged solidly beneath her breastbone, begins to throb dully.
It's only when Juvia reaches out a hand to cup Gray's cheek, and his own hand lifts up to wrap around hers, that Lucy feels the splinter. The dam inside her, painstakingly constructed over weeks and months, ruptures irrevocably, flooding her with a torrent of bewildering emotion. It feels like someone has lodged a knife blade deep into her chest and twisted, fissures spreading icy fingers across her entire body, her heartbeat loud in her ears as if it is trying to beat its way out of her chest. She can't seem to remember how to breathe. She thinks she chokes out a gasp, and Gray lifts his head at the sound, but Lucy's feet have remembered how to move, carrying her swiftly away.
She ducks into an alleyway of her own a few blocks over and leans against the brick wall, trying to collect herself with slow, deep breaths, in and out. What the hell is wrong with her? Lucy is honestly puzzled by her initial, gut-reaction to the scene she just witnessed, and her first reaction is anger at herself. Don't jump to conclusions, she lectures herself. You don't know what they were talking about.
Nevertheless, it was hard to ignore the way Gray was looking at Juvia, intent and unwavering, as if nothing else in the world existed. Maybe he's finally accepting her affections. You were the one who told him to be honest with her, who told him what a nice girl Juvia was, practically told him to go for it. Why do you feel this way right now? It's not like you have any sort of claim on him.
But the answer to her question had always been right there, lurking just underneath the surface of her emotions. Not even buried deep enough to be locked away, just deep enough to be constantly pushed aside by denial and self-doubt and confusion, and all the other emotions she had been dealing with in the past few months. Because she did have a claim to Gray. Because he was looking at Juvia the way that Lucy had come to think of as reserved solely for her. As much as she insisted to herself that Gray was only a friend, defined by lines and boundaries she arbitrarily drew around him, he had obviously become much more than that, the bond between them budding and bursting and sinking roots deep into her heart. Those lines were incontrovertibly blurred, now.
To her credit, Juvia had always been honest and upfront about her feelings towards the ice mage, whereas Lucy had spent her time dancing around her feelings, thrusting them away and trying to shove them into a neatly labeled box because she didn't want to deal with anything messy she didn't fully understand or have room for. God, how deep in denial had she been?
She remembers something Gray once said to her: that it was the everyday, mundane things you did for someone day in and out, that really mattered in the end. Had he been trying to tell her that all along? She thinks of everything they have gone through together in the past year, all the moments when he was there to pick her up or she was there to let him know he wasn't alone; a simple touch, a quick smile, a commiserating glance. The way he could lift her spirits with just a look. The wordless, unspoken understanding between them that just felt natural, felt right.
Lucy shakes with the weight of her realization, the depths of her true feelings. All those excuses she had been feeding herself – that she didn't want to ruin the friendship she had with Gray, that she didn't know what she wanted, didn't want to hurt Natsu's feelings, that she would follow Gray's lead – seem completely insubstantial now. A part of her had always known that Gray felt strongly about her, but had never really acted on his feelings probably due to the same reasons she had given herself. For fuck's sake, Gemini had practically spelled it out for her, what seems like a lifetime ago. Perhaps he had gotten tired of waiting for her to figure things out. Perhaps Juvia had finally broken down his walls. Being with Juvia was easier, less complicated, compared to all the baggage she brought to the table. Sure, he had stayed with her last night, but she had been injured; perhaps it was friendly concern.
Lucy fumbles in her pocket and takes out the beautiful ice key Gray had crafted for her only this morning, starting to melt a little in the daylight. She traces its contours, feeling unbidden tears prick at her eyes. She had always assumed she and Gray had time to spare; time to figure out their feelings and how to navigate a brand new reality together. She was starting to realize, with a sudden, creeping sense of foreboding, that perhaps time was running out. She had come to assume that he would be there, as he always was, whenever she needed him. What a selfish jerk I've been, Lucy realizes in horror. Gray deserves to be happy, no matter the cost to me.
In the alleyway, Lucy sinks to her knees and lets her tears fall. The ultimate irony would be if she had finally figured out what she wanted, only to be too late. Gray has done so much to help her heal her heart – she wasn't sure if he would be the one to shatter it again.
Lucy wanders the streets of Crocus for hours, trying to quell the tremors in her heart and tumult in her brain. One thing is clear: she needs to speak with Gray, truthfully, barriers down. If her heart breaks in the process, then so be it. At least she is finally being honest with herself, and him. She's been broken before; she knows she'll pick up the pieces eventually.
When she finally dries her eyes and musters up the courage to enter Bar Sun, it's to the raucous roar of her guildmates, most of whom are several pints in and ecstatic to see her out of the infirmary. Her eyes find Gray immediately, in the back having some sort of drinking contest with Natsu, and both of them come over and give her great, overbearing hugs that nearly knock her over.
"Welcome back, Lucy!" Natsu shouts, shoving a tumbler of wine into her hand. Gray's grin is the same one she's always known, the look he's giving her familiar and warm, and there is nothing out of the ordinary about his interaction with her. All the same, her stomach flutters, anxious and tied in knots. Lucy glances around, but Juvia is nowhere to be seen.
There is a rousing cheer as everyone toasts her and Elfman, also back from the infirmary and halfway through guzzling down an entire keg, and everything is loud, chaotic, jovial. Levy comes over to greet her and Wendy takes her hand. Lucy feels herself finally start to loosen up, start to sink into the comforting unruliness of her guild. She can find a time to talk to Gray later, she tells herself. They can find a quieter time after all this.
Except, as plans tend to go with this guild, she should have known better. Because, you know, dragons attack.
When royal soldiers take her and Yukino hostage, forcibly dragging her away from her friends, Lucy has a sudden premonition of impending disaster. She knows, with inexplicable certainty, that she cannot be stuck in the palace dungeons. But with scores of soldiers surrounding them and their magic nullified by the Eclipse Gate, resistance seems futile.
"Lucy!" Gray yells frantically, as she reaches out towards him in desperation. But her way is barred by soldiers, two of whom point spears at Gray. She can see the icy fury sweep across his face.
"Sit tight," he calls across to her, steel in his voice. "We're going to come get you, I promise."
She and Yukino are only in their cell for a few hours before Natsu, the Exceed trio and Mirajane come to jailbreak them. She should have known Makarov would send a rescue team. Warmth blossoms inside her.
"Thank you for coming," she tells Natsu, gratefully grasping his arm. "Where's Gray?" she blurts before she can stop herself.
Natsu smiles at her, as if it were obvious. "Winning the Games for us!"
"Who took your place on the team?" Lucy asks.
"Juvia." Natsu shrugs. "Wouldn't have been my first choice, but I trust the First Master knows what she's doing. She had this whole strategy worked out about who had to be on the team for us to win."
A wave of acrid emotion washes over Lucy: disappointment, jealousy, longing. She pushes them away with an effort. There are much bigger things at stake right now. She can feel it in her gut: something momentous is about to go down and they needed to be ready.
She just couldn't have imagined in her wildest dreams that the bearer of apocalyptic tidings would be herself. Lucy has seen a lot of crazy shit during her time with Fairy Tail that pushed the boundaries of belief, but cradling her own future self as she lies dying is the most surreal experience of her life.
Happy's choked plea for Lucy to live rips her to shreds. While the cat teased her mercilessly, she never realized the depth of his affection for her until now, as he stands sobbing over her prone form. Even though it's not really her own body lying there, it is her at the same time; it's witnessing a future version of her own self die, and all the possibilities of that version of her life die alongside. As Future Lucy takes a last, shuddering breath, all Lucy can think about is: Did she ever tell Gray how she felt? Did she ever find happiness?
She watches the life leave her own brown eyes, and there is a shocked numbness in her heart. Happy crawls into her lap, stunned, and she lifts him in her arms and buries her face into his soft blue fur, feeling his small paws come around her.
Yet another loss, another gaping hole punched through the fabric of her life. When does it end? How much can a heart take?
When Natsu launches himself in a crazed fury at this future version of Rogue, this man who murdered her with cruel deliberation, he screams at her to leave. Somehow she stumbles to her feet, Happy pulling at her insistently, and forces herself to move. Her first instinct is to carry Future Lucy's body, wanting to protect her at all costs, even in death, but she understands her immediate priority is to get herself to the Eclipse Gate. She makes a promise to herself that she will come back for her. All of a sudden, there is a fierce resolve burning through her chest, its raging white light cleansing any other thoughts or emotions from her body: she is going to protect the future of her loved ones, even if it kills her. She is going to make what time she has left count.
She is not going to let her own sacrifice be in vain.
When the first dragon roars its way out of the Eclipse Gate an hour later, Lucy realizes the nightmare is only beginning. As she pours all of her magic energy into closing the gate, hands gripping Yukino's tightly, she digs deep, deeper than she ever has before, and finds a reservoir of strength she didn't know she had. Gray was right, all along. You came back stronger from heartbreak and loss, even if you aren't quite the same person you started out as. She now had the strength to save her family.
The gate slams shut with the force of their combined magic, closing off the portal. Lucy plants her feet, a spark of pride flashing through her, melting through her exhaustion. She had done it. There were still dragons loose and madness unleashed upon the city, but she'd given them all a fighting chance, and she knew that was all they needed. Lucy spares a thought for Gray and Natsu. Wherever they are, she prays they all make it out of this alive. There are words she needs to say, and tonight, she is fighting for the time to say them.
The night is long, and full of terrors and bloodshed. It is nearly daybreak before Lucy sees Gray.
The last of the dragons has finally vanished, dissipating in a shower of light. Lucy takes the measure of her companions, all of them bruised and bloodied, standing around blinking in shock, hardly believing they have survived and won. There is still work to be done though, and Colonel Arcadios is the first to rouse them out of their stupor. Parts of the capital are still burning, there are citizens trapped in the rubble, pockets of the city left to check for survivors and any leftover dragon threat. Arcadios barks out commands to his soldiers.
Lucy doesn't hear any of that though, because clambering over a destroyed wall is Gray, blood-streaked and weary, an ugly cut on his side encased over with ice, and her heart stops. Juvia and Lyon trail slowly behind, but Lucy hardly notices them.
"Gray," she exhales sharply, a piercing wave of relief crashing over her, and before she is conscious of her own movements, her feet are propelling her towards him in a sprint.
Gray opens his arms instinctively, and Lucy throws herself into them. She grips him tightly, arms trembling around his bare torso, feeling the hard planes of his chest, breathing in his scent, reassuring herself that he was whole and alive. She feels him murmur her name, press his face into her hair. It isn't until she's in his arms that the full realization of how worried she's been over him, how terrified she's been of losing him, hits her.
"Hey," he pulls away slightly, swiping gently at the wetness on Lucy's cheeks with a calloused thumb. "I can't tell you how happy I am to see you."
"I'm so glad you're okay," Lucy whispers, and takes a deep, shuddering breath. "There were so many dragons, the city was in chaos and there was no way to find you, I tried not to worry – I knew you could handle it–"
Gray smiles down at her tenderly, and Lucy's heart jackhammers in her chest. "I'm okay. See? I'm so much better now that I've seen you."
He's not quite subtle enough to hide the quick flinch as Lucy tightens her arms further around his injured side, and she pulls away in horror. "Oh my god, I'm so sorry – you're hurt!"
Gray shakes his head and allows her to pull away slightly, but keeps an arm looped securely around her waist. "A scratch. Nothing you can't nurse me back from."
His grin is light and teasing, and Lucy gives him a disbelieving look before finally glancing up to see the gazes of some of their guildmates directed their way: Natsu giving them a look she can't quite decipher, Juvia shocked, eyes practically bulging out of her head, Lyon smug, Happy fluttering overhead with an ear-to-ear grin.
"It's about time! You looooove him–" Happy sing songs.
Lucy flushes bright red and has the presence of mind to growl, "Shut it, cat, before I sock you with my whip."
She hears Gray chuckle beside her, and he slides his hand down from her waist to boldly grab her hand. She stills, startled, and feels him twine his fingers around hers. She curls her own fingers around his, tight.
Princess Hisui has begun issuing orders, asking for the assistance of every able-bodied wizard to help with search and rescue. She directs pairs of wizards to different quadrants of the city to join up with her soldiers and they disperse. Natsu and Happy take off in a southwesterly direction, not before Natsu glances meaningfully at Lucy and Gray's entwined hands, and a gleeful Lyon drags a hostile Juvia along in the opposite direction.
Gray nudges her, and they set off towards their assigned quadrant. He keeps tight hold of her hand the entire way, her smaller one completely encased in his larger, calloused one, and Lucy wants nothing more than to hold onto him for as long as she can. Knowing that they nearly lost each other has knocked something loose between them, shattered that unspoken wall they had in place, and now there was nothing between them but bare skin and barely restrained intent. Gray strokes a thumb across her knuckles and Lucy looks up to meet his dark eyes, bright with unspoken resolve, and she smiles shyly back. He bends towards her, lips grazing across her forehead, leaving trails of fire in their wake. Bruised and battered as they are, Lucy longs to pull him into a secluded nook and figure out exactly where those trails of fire go.
Entering a deserted courtyard, Gray tugs her to a sudden stop and turns to face her.
"Luce," he begins, leveling that familiar, intense gaze upon her. "We need to talk, and I don't want to wait any longer before some other calamity occurs."
Lucy swallows, and nods in assent. "I agree. I've been meaning to talk to you for a while now too."
Gray studies her for a moment, then takes deep breath.
"I love you," he says without preamble. "I have for a while now. I think I might have died a few hours ago. It was this weird sensation – like time had somehow flipped on its head, and I could clearly see what was going to happen to me, but then it didn't. I can't explain it. All I know is, in that moment as I saw myself falling, all I could think about was you."
Gray's eyes blaze into her, and he takes a step closer. "I thought about how I wished I had told you how I felt. I thought about all the times I had held back, afraid that you didn't feel the same way, afraid of ruining our friendship, hell – afraid of Natsu. I nearly lost you, I nearly lost myself, and I nearly lost the chance at whatever future we might have had. So I'm done with holding back. If there is any chance at all that you might feel the same way, or even if you don't, I needed you to know."
Lucy chokes out a sob at his words, heart thunderous in her ears, those wingbeats in her chest bursting to life with a roar and taking flight, soaring up and up and up. She didn't realize how much she had wanted to hear those words until he said them. It's as if the last piece of her slots into place. So many times she had learned to mend her broken heart, patch up the pieces as best she could and throw up walls, afraid to let anyone in, but Gray had been there all along, carving out a space inside her heart this entire time. She had finally found her feet, could stand on her own with her own strength, but Gray made her better, tougher, more grounded. He helped her to her feet when she fell; he pushed her farther when she didn't think she could walk anymore. When she was lost and alone, he held her hand and led her out of the darkness. He was her person.
In the moment, Gray stands in front of her, uncertain but patient, nervous but composed, waiting for her to catch her breath. She's waited long enough to tell him.
"Something similar happened to me, too. And I thought the very same things you did. I do feel the same way," she tells him at last, with all the conviction in the world. "I love you, and I am going to fight for that future with you. I never want to lose you."
She watches as Gray's entire being lights up, relief and exhilaration and joy suffusing every corner of his body, and the smile he gives her is so bright and luminous it nearly blinds her. He pulls her into his arms, burying his face in her hair.
"Is this real?" he questions in wonder, voice muffled, and Lucy throws her arms around him.
"Yes," she whispers. "This is real."
Gray spends several moments simply breathing her in, and Lucy closes her eyes, feeling the strength of him against her body, reassuring herself once more of his solidness, his realness.
"You have no idea how incredibly happy you make me," he murmurs against the crown of her head.
Lucy tightens her arms around him, but a thought nags at her and she pushes herself away slightly to look up at him. "Can I ask you something?"
"Anything," he says gently, sensing the beat of hesitation.
"I saw you with Juvia, the afternoon I was discharged. You were talking, and it looked…intimate. I was afraid to disturb you," she bites her lip uneasily. "If there is any chance that you have feelings for her, too – that you could be happy with her–"
Gray's eyes sharpen in sudden realization. "Fuck, Luce, what are you saying? I pulled Juvia aside that day to finally be honest with her. I told her that I wasn't interested, that my heart already belonged to someone else. I encouraged her to give Lyon a chance. I'm so sorry if you misinterpreted that." He rests his forehead lightly against hers, and his eyes are beseeching, filled with yearning. "Luce, don't you know it's only ever been you? Please forgive me if I hurt you in any way."
He wipes away an unbidden tear from the corner of her eye with a gentle finger, and Lucy laughs at her own absurdity. "There's nothing to forgive. I've been such an idiot."
Gray huffs a quiet laugh of his own. "We've both been idiots."
And just like that, she and Gray have taken a flying leap off that precipice, together, finally ready to see where it takes them. Lucy thinks of all the time they've wasted, all the close calls and near misses, every mission they've been on where either she or Gray could have not returned from. There have been growing feelings between the two of them since the beginning, a seed planted the first day she joined Fairy Tail, nurtured slowly over their subsequent adventures, spreading tendrils through every aspect of her life, until it had irrevocably burst into full bloom, taking root in her heart.
Gray had been telling her every day, in his own way, of the depth of his feelings for her. She just had to listen. They really had been such idiots – scared to act over the uncertainty of reciprocal feelings, over the fear of ruining the bond between them, when in front of them there was the breathtaking possibility of deepening that bond and taking it to exhilarating new places. Lucy is done with the self-doubts and uncertainties. For once in her life she wants to be selfish, wants to put her own needs above others; wants to find out what that glint in Gray's eyes means and where those heated touches might lead.
It is nearly dawn, the sky lightening with the faintest hint of pink creeping along its eastern edges, but the night is still cool and dark in their little corner of the city. Moonlight splashes across Gray's chiseled features, turning his hair a light silvery grey, and Lucy's breath catches in her throat.
She turns her face up towards his. Kiss me, she thinks. I need you to kiss me.
And amongst the rubble and wreckage of a ruined city, underneath a star-strewn sky, after months of aching loss and heartache, he finally does. He kisses her like she is everything he's ever wanted, like he will never let go, and Lucy returns it with her whole being, every fiber of her alight with desire and hope and love. Gray cups a hand around her face, his other arm drawing her tighter against him, mouth moving slowly over hers, drinking her in with a quiet urgency. Gray tastes like a winter's night, crisp and woodsy and masculine, and a hint of something else, something uniquely Gray and completely intoxicating. This kiss is everything Lucy has dreamed of and more, so much better in reality than all those late nights of fantasizing. She thinks she could get lost in him forever.
Time stands still as they lose themselves in this first taste of each other. Lucy sinks her fingers through his hair, every bit as soft and silky as she's imagined, tugging herself even closer, her left hand caressing the guild mark on his chest, his bare skin scorching against hers. Lucy opens her mouth wider for him, feeling him sink deeper, tongue stroking with deliberation against hers, and Gray groans against her lips, long and low. He pulls away excruciatingly slowly, and presses open-mouthed kisses against her neck, her ear, her forehead.
"I've been thinking about doing that to you for months," he admits, flashing that trademark smirk at her. "But as much as I'd like to continue ravishing you senseless, I think we probably have to finish up the job we were sent to do and go save some lives."
"Sounds like a plan," Lucy says, pressing her own kiss against the corner of his mouth. "I'll take you up on that offer later."
She watches his eyes heat up and laughs, tugging him after her towards their destination. "Come on, let's go be Fairy Tail wizards."
She made a promise to herself. Afterwards, she goes back for Future Lucy. But there is only an empty space in the place she left her body, the flagstone floor cold and unforgiving.
She must have disappeared with the dragons. She must have gone back to her own time. She was alive, because she had saved herself.
Lucy lets out a sob of relief. Standing beside her, Gray squeezes her hand.
Lucy sends a quick prayer out into the universe. Wherever you are, I hope you found each other. And if you traveled down a different path, I hope you found your happiness. I hope you found your strength.
Thank you for lending me yours.
The king ends up throwing them a celebratory ball, with all the wizards of the Grand Magic Games in attendance. After the darkness of the past few days, the light and levity of the occasion loosens up something in everyone, with food and drink flowing in abundance and laughter ringing out loud and often.
Lucy drinks and eats her fill, kicks up her heels and busts out some moves on the dance floor with Erza and Cana. When a slow ballad comes on, Lucy is surprised to be approached by Lyon Vastia, who gives her a courtly bow and asks if she wants to dance. She accepts and takes his outstretched hand, letting him lead her into a slow waltz.
Across the room, Gray raises an eyebrow at her and she smiles and shrugs. He grimaces in response and she blows him a kiss. In a few moments, she sees him lead Wendy onto the dance floor, and her heart squeezes in tenderness.
"So," Lyon says with a cheeky smirk. "You and Gray, eh?"
Lucy blinks up at him innocently. "Whatever do you mean?"
Lyon chuckles. "A blind bat could see you guys making eyes at each other across the room. He's barely taken his eyes off you tonight. So how long has this been going on?"
"Why do I feel like you're fishing for an angle?" Lucy hides her grin. "And I'm pretty sure I can guess what that angle is." She nods in the direction of Juvia, currently peeking out behind a column at Gray and directing her ire towards poor Wendy.
Lyon's gaze softens when it falls on Juvia, and he sighs. "The heart wants what it wants."
"I know the truth of that," Lucy says, seeing the look on his face, and puts a hand on his arm. "Just – be patient with her. I think her heart might be broken right now, and it takes some time to put back together. You're a good man, Lyon. She's lucky to have you." She looks back at Juvia and her face falls. "I'm just so sorry to be hurting her right now. I feel awful that I'm the cause of her pain."
"You always did have a bleeding heart, Lucy." Lyon looks at her contemplatively. "If Juvia truly cares about Gray, she'd want what was best for him. You and Gray deserve to figure out for yourselves what you can become. And I'm truly happy for you guys. I will admit a part of that is because it does open the door for me with Juvia, but it's also because Gray is my little brother. He deserves every happiness in the world, and I can see it all over his face when he looks at you. There's been so much darkness in his life from what he's been through, but you bring him into the light."
Lucy smiles at Lyon, moved by his words, and he raises a warning eyebrow at her. "And if you ever tell him I called him that, I will freeze you."
Lucy laughs, just as Gray appears by their side and cuts in with a not-so-subtle cough. "Think it's time you quit hogging my girl, Lyon. There's only one ice mage who should be charming her tonight, and it's certainly not you."
Lyon sneers at Gray good-naturedly, and presses a chaste kiss to the back of Lucy's hand.
"Take care of him for me, will you?" he says, low in her ear before he steps away, and Lucy nods, still smiling. Gray slips one hand around her waist and slides into the dance with a lithe ease.
"What did he say that was so funny?"
"None of your business. And hogging your girl?!" Lucy glares at him in mock outrage. "Are you jealous?"
"Yes," Gray replies serenely. "Can you blame me? You're the most beautiful girl here tonight, and I pretty much want you all to myself."
Lucy blushes at his frankness, then steps on his toe intentionally. "Just so we're clear, I'm not a possession. I'm my own person."
"Of course," Gray says easily. "I'll just be yours, then."
Lucy rolls her eyes at his corniness, but can't quite keep her blush down. "I always thought you were this cool and aloof ice wizard. Who knew that was all just an act? You're actually all soft and squishy inside."
Gray winks at her. "What can I say, my weakness is stubborn celestial wizards. Don't tell anyone, okay? I've got a reputation to maintain."
Lucy giggles at him, and he smiles back at her, skating his fingertips along her lower back and sending sparks of electricity up her spine.
"I meant to tell you this earlier, but you look gorgeous tonight, Luce."
Lucy looks him over appreciatively in return, noting how the fitted navy formalwear managed to cling to his lean, muscled frame. "You don't clean up so bad yourself, Fullbuster. It's amazing what wearing clothes can do sometimes, hm?"
Gray tugs her closer into his body. "Mmm. I can't wait to get back to Magnolia."
"Well, for starters, I live alone. You live alone." He waggles his eyebrows at her. "Crocus is nice and all, but this sharing a room thing with the whole team is such a cockblocker. I can't wait to show you exactly why my stripping habit comes in really handy."
Lucy chokes on her ready retort, and Gray's grin grows larger as he observes the blush spread down across her chest. He leans in close and kisses her ear.
"Relax," he whispers, eyes twinkling. "Don't worry, I'll be a good boy."
Something in Lucy feels unchained tonight, buoyant and happy and sexy. It's a strange, new feeling for her.
"What if I don't want you to be good?" she asks boldly, watching his beautiful indigo eyes darken, pupils constricting immediately.
"You should be careful what you wish for, Lucy," Gray says, voice dipping deep and husky, fingers digging into her waist. Lucy has always loved his voice, smoky and silky smooth, but when it sounds like this, wrapped around her name, it does something dangerous to her insides. Lucy shivers, and is about to tease him some more, when a hand on her arm interrupts them.
"Hey guys. Is it okay if I steal Lucy away for a dance?" Natsu glances at them both earnestly, surprising the two of them. The band has finished its slow ballad and transitions effortlessly into another smooth, jazzy number.
"Of course." Gray smiles in welcome at Natsu, and gives his shoulder a brief squeeze as he moves away. "I'm gonna go hunt down some food. Take as long as you need."
Lucy doesn't miss the quick look they exchange, silent but speaking volumes. While she's not sure exactly what they were communicating, she has a pretty good guess what it was about, at least. Lucy takes Natsu's hand and gives him a sunny smile.
"All hail King Natsu," she jokes.
Natsu grins at her sheepishly. "Yeah, I have a feeling Makarov is going to give me an earful for that stunt."
Lucy giggles. "Only you could pull something that crazy off."
"It's been a crazy couple of days, huh?"
"Yeah," Lucy nods, then hesitates. There are things she wants to say to her best friend, but in the moment she doesn't know how to start.
"Are you happy?" Natsu blurts out, beating her to the punch, a frown marring his normally cheerful features. "I just – does he make you happy?"
Lucy is startled for only a second. "Yes," she answers truthfully, looking him in the eye. "Gray makes me very happy."
Natsu studies her for a long moment.
"I want to apologize," Lucy begins, apprehensive about his silence. "For not talking to you about it. I think it took us both a while to figure out what was going on. Please know that we would never want to hurt you. We both love you."
Natsu chuckles, breaking the tension, his face open and sincere. "Aw Lucy, I know that. Don't be sorry about that, I can handle it. What's important to me is that you're happy. And that he's happy, too. As much of a pain in the ass Ice Brains can be, we kinda grew up together. I guess that makes him my brother." Natsu scratches his head. "But Lucy – if he ever makes you cry, I'm going to kick his ass like you wouldn't believe."
"He might," Lucy states honestly. "But sometimes that's what happens in a relationship. I think Gray and I both just want the chance to figure out where this goes."
Natsu mulls her words over. "Try not to make him cry, either," he finally says. "I really don't want to have to comfort that idiot."
Lucy laughs, and throws her arms around him. She feels her heart swell with affection and gratitude. Natsu had the most expansive heart of anyone she knew, and he would place the happiness of his friends before his own.
"I'll do my best," she whispers against his neck. "Thank you for understanding, Natsu. I love you."
He grins down at her fondly. "I love you too." He furrows his brow and asks as an afterthought, "Does this mean you won't go on jobs with me and Happy anymore?"
If she didn't know him so well, she would have missed the note of vulnerability in his voice.
"Don't be silly. I will always go on jobs with you. I will always be a part of Team Natsu," she reassures him wholeheartedly. "You will always be my best friend, and nothing will ever change that."
Natsu beams at her, wide and elated, and gives her a jubilant twirl across the dance floor. Lucy laughs in exuberance. She lets the lights, the colors, the sheer joy of being alive, and the love for the two most important men in her life fill her to bursting. She hasn't felt this happy in a long, long time.
But life is like this: a twisting road of mountains and valleys, the bitter hand-in-hand with the sweet.
On the way home to Magnolia from Crocus, finally leaving the Grand Magic Games behind them, surrounded by friendly bickering in their luxury carriage, Gray glances out the window and freezes.
An old woman standing in the middle of the road catches his attention, a niggling thread of familiarity and unease tugging at his mind. Maybe it's the way she carries herself, or the slant of her eyes, but something about her doesn't feel right. His chest hurts. He rubs it absently, circling the phantom spot where a spear of magic light pierced the specter of him that died. It isn't until the old woman turns her face up into the sunlight that it hits Gray.
He doesn't know how, or why, but he knows it with a searing, fundamental certainty. The woman standing behind them is Ultear, and she was responsible for whatever weird premonition or twist of time that had happened to them, and this was the price she had paid. She had saved them all. She had saved him, just like her mother had.
"Stop the carriage right now!" Gray yells, standing up, startling the entire carriage into silence.
"What's going on?" Erza inquires urgently.
But the old woman has seen him through the window and has shaken her head with a rueful smile. Perched beside him, Lucy peers at Gray's face and sees his tear-filled eyes, the way he grits his teeth and clenches his fists as he continues to look out the window while the carriage moves swiftly forward.
"Never mind," he mutters, sitting back down. "It's nothing."
Lucy sits beside him quietly, watching him struggle with some internal conflict, swiping angrily at his tears. She leans her shoulder against his, and he wraps an arm around her, presses his face against the crown of her head, gulping in shaky breaths. She takes his hand and lifts it to her lips, brushing them across his knuckles.
She knows the words will come, later.
In her apartment, curtains open and the full moon shining through, creating shifting patterns on her bedspread, they lie curled up together, face to face. Gray tells her of Ultear, of what had happened during the battle, of the sacrifice she made. Lucy hears the splinter in his voice, the flood of grief he is trying desperately to hold back, and she strokes his hair.
"First Ur, now her daughter. They both sacrificed themselves to save my life, and I can't understand why. Ultear had finally turned her life around, she had found her life's work, she was searching for redemption, and to throw it all away? I never wanted this, I've never done anything to warrant saving; I would have given my life to save either one of them." Gray's voice breaks, and his eyes are full of anguish, pleading with her for answers neither one of them have.
Lucy strokes her thumb across his cheekbone, feeling the wetness beneath. "I know you would. Ultear saved all of us. She saved the kingdom," she reminds him. "Don't ever forget that you were the one who turned her heart around and showed her the goodness inside herself. She chose to use that goodness to help people. She and Ur saved you because they loved you, they wanted you to find happiness. They believed in you."
Gray grits his teeth. "There is so much guilt, Luce. I don't know how I live knowing they both sacrificed their lives to save me."
Lucy cups his face and looks him in the eye. "Gray, it was her choice to make. It was her sacrifice to make. The same goes for Ur. You can't bear the responsibility for their choices. You live the way you taught me to: with pain and heartbreak but always moving forward, always carrying the light of both of them with you, wherever you go. Someone very wise once said to me that loss breaks you into pieces, but when you put yourself back together again, it makes you stronger."
Gray gives her a tiny, wry smile, and Lucy returns it.
"All you can do now is to honor their sacrifice and their faith in you. Do your best to make sure it wasn't wasted and work towards making this world we live in a better place. Isn't that why we joined Fairy Tail? Isn't that what we try to do every day – help as many people as we can?"
Gray exhales sharply. "Yeah. You're right."
He is silent for a few minutes, thinking over her words, before he pulls her close to rest his forehead against hers. "Thank you for always believing in me, even when I lose faith in myself." He reaches out, fingers grazing across her lips. "You are the light in my darkness."
Lucy parts her lips at his touch, eyes fluttering briefly shut. She remembers that night she was pressed against the floor, broken in agony over the loss of her father, swimming in darkness. He picked her up and gave her his light to hold onto.
"It's what we do for each other," Lucy tells him, fiercely, resolutely.
Gray smiles at her softly. "Without Ultear, I wouldn't be here tonight, with you. So I owe her."
"We both do."
Gray is studying her carefully, indigo eyes dark with unspoken emotion, and suddenly Lucy feels unexpectedly shy under his gaze.
"Do you – do you want to stay tonight?" she asks.
"I was hoping to."
There is a glint in Gray's eyes, a promise of something more. It sends a frisson of heat curling in Lucy's belly. She realizes belatedly Gray is clad only in his boxers, and wonders when he had shed his clothing and why she barely even noticed anymore. His bare skin, smooth and muscular and lying so close to her, only fuels the heat inside her, pooling it between her thighs. They've shared sleeping arrangements numerous times before, usually with Natsu snoring away on the other side of them, but being together tonight held such a different meaning, the air suffused with breathless expectation. They look at each other for a long, quiet moment, faces inches apart, breathing each other in.
Gray reaches out and trails long fingers across her cheek and down her neck, light caresses leaving imprints of fire against her skin, sending shivers across Lucy's entire body. She watches his pupils constrict in response, and he finally brings his head forward slowly and touches his lips to hers, almost reverently. His lips are cool and soft, and he starts the kiss off leisurely, coaxing her lips open with excruciating deliberateness. Lucy sighs into his mouth and tilts her head back to give him more access, her limbs loose and pliant beneath him. She brushes her tongue against his, and it's as if she ignites a fuse, stoking the ever present flames between them into a roar. Gray groans into her mouth and tightens his fingers in her hair, licking into her mouth possessively, the other hand stroking down her arm, across her stomach and to her thigh, reaching boldly around to cup her bottom. She is burning up from the inside out, she wants more, so much more. Lucy sinks her fingers into his thick hair and rakes her other hand down his bare chest, pressing herself even closer against the hard planes of his body, moving her mouth desperately against his. He tastes cool and heady and intoxicating; she wants to sink even deeper and never come up. When she nips his bottom lip, Gray growls and grips her bottom more firmly, pressing her decisively against the protruding hardness in his boxers. In her haze, it takes Lucy a while to realize what that hardness is, and as they finally come up for air, she looks at him wide-eyed.
He immediately pulls away in concern. "Fuck, Luce. I got carried away. Was this too much?"
"What?" she asks dumbly, trying to clear the fog blanketing her brain, slow her racing heart. For an ice mage, Gray certainly was skillful in playing with fire. She finally catches the slight anxiety in his eyes and strokes his cheek in reassurance.
"God, no. I want to keep doing this over and over again with you."
At Gray's answering smirk, she blushes shyly. "But do you think – could we take this slow? A lot of this is new to me."
Gray smiles at her tenderly, his eyes soft and warm. "We can take this at whatever pace you want, however long you want. I'm not going anywhere."
He presses a kiss to her neck and Lucy turns her head to meet his lips, communicating everything she isn't able to articulate into the kiss. Her gratitude. Her trust. Her love.
Gray pulls away slowly, brow furrowing as a thought occurs to him. "We should probably take some precautions though. You know Flame Brain and his sidekick are going to barge their merry way into your apartment at some point, and I don't exactly relish giving them a show."
Lucy grins at him wickedly. "You never used to mind sharing a bed with him."
"No way in hell that's happening again," Gray retorts in indignation. "There are some things that are now reserved for my eyes only." He leers at her chest teasingly and Lucy swats at him.
"Behave yourself," she reproves, and he rubs his nose quickly against hers.
"Maybe I can ice the window shut," Gray muses.
"He's just going to come in through the fireplace," Lucy points out.
"I'll ice that shut too."
Lucy bursts into laughter, the image of Gray fastidiously icing over every entry point to her apartment sending her into spasms of mirth. Gray joins her laughter, and soon they're not even sure what they're laughing about, simply reveling in the release and delight it brings. They laugh until their stomachs hurt and tears leak from their eyes, their shared joy lifting the shadows from their hearts, casting them both into warmth and light.
After they fall quiet, Lucy rests her forehead against his shoulder, and he reaches around to tuck her more comfortably against the crook of his neck, one leg twining around hers. A sense of hushed serenity engulfs Lucy.
In the silence, lulled by the warmth and solidity of Gray around her, the even rise and fall of his breath beneath her palms, Lucy feels her heart slowly unfurl, like the pages of a book with the ending unwritten, a web of infinite paths spreading out before her. She doesn't know where those paths will lead or even which ones she will tread, but there is one thing she does know: that together, with Gray beside her, whatever winding path they choose to take will be the right one. There will be more adventures, more close calls, more tough decisions, more joy and heartbreak along the way. There will be loss and pain. But Lucy knows with a certainty that it is the moments they steal together, those quiet moments in between, the mundane and everyday acts of love, that give her the strength to face whatever tomorrow will bring.
Gray yawns, settling himself down around her, pulling the comforter more tightly up against them and turning into the curve of her body. Drowsy and content within the cocoon of his arms, Lucy savors this moment, grateful for the long road that finally led them here, before sleep overcomes her too.