(just count the days.)
Summary: Natsu searches for Igneel one last time. He doesn't come back and Gray doesn't know how to forget.
His bed has not felt that same warmth in (what feels like) centuries. The linen is cold and no longer comforting.
Even as he lies in it-for days, maybe-it is still not warm.
His hollow eyes close, and he sleeps like he's dead.
The room is a cacophony of laughter and shouts when he hears from beside him:
"Let's set the world on fire."
Gray shakes his head, but there's no hiding the amusement in his eyes. His chin rests lazily against his palm, half filled glass finding its way to his lips.
He grins, a crooked smile.
"You're drunk, Natsu." Gray accuses.
"So are you."
The look he has in his eyes seems like an adventure.
(and maybe he's a little drunk, too.)
"Shut up, Lucy," Gray grinds out, jaw clenched.
It is just the two of them in the guild that morning. Or maybe there are others. It's far too quiet to tell.
And he doesn't really care.
"I'm just saying, what if."
He ignores her, burying the tightly wound bundle of her own questions and "what if's" deep, deep down and counts the days.
Like he's insane.
(and maybe he is.)
"Will you ever stop looking for him?" voice as quiet as a whisper.
He doesn't reply right away, and Gray begins to worry that she somehow offended him.
But then: "Never."
And he sounds so sure.
"Never sure is a long time."
"Well, if you were gone, I'd never stop looking for you."
He feels warm.
Everyone is worried.
Fine. I'm fine.
Or so he says.
And now he's talking.
But to whom? Who is he talking to?
It's incoherent and often frantic, like murmuring in a dream.
(other than that, their days are silent)
He blinks— and what.
Because that was definitely not a question.
There was no joke, no "just kidding" in Natsu's eyes.
It wasn't a question.
He holds his hand, there is no ring on his finger, but he says yes anyway.
Gray's arms wind around his neck, "You're crazy."
A laugh in response.
"Then we can be crazy together!"
(and he really, really doesn't mind.)
An empty grave.
He sits there, day after day, and talks to him.
He tells him tales of his days, about his life at the guild: i miss you, i miss you, i miss you.
But it is just an empty grave.
There is no him.
(but he talks to him—it— anyway.)
"How can you be so sure?"
Fists balled up, shaking hard, nails biting into his skin so hard he's almost sure he's bleeding.
That doesn't matter right now, though.
"He's gone, Gray."
Then she goes silent.
"No he's not, he's—"
He's handed his most precious scarf. A scarf he would never take off for the world. His voice dies in his throat, disappearing in the most constricting way.
He holds the scarf in his hands like a lifeline. He screams.
(everybody dies a little that day.)
"Wait for me." Natsu whispers, dark eyes cast down.
"Forever." he voice wavers. Shaky.
Do you have to go? He wants to say. He doesn't, not when the answer is so clear already.
Instead, his lips curve into a smile.
Natsu grins—the one she knows and loves so well (well, she loves all of them, but this one especially) and comments:
"Forever sure is a long time."
Gray laughs, painfully, but he laughs. It hurts.
"It is, isn't it?"
—and then they're worlds apart.