He didn't know why he kept doing this to himself. Sure, it wasn't actually his idea, but when Erza Scarlet asks you to accompany her, it's wise to just accept her request, even if it is just a request.
He was still unsure of what her main objective was as sitting on a park bench under the scorching July sun really wasn't enough of a clue. She hadn't really spoken to him of anything important yet, and his patience was running out almost as fast as he was sweating.
"Gray, are you mad at me?"
Erza's question came as a surprise to him, not so much because of its absurdity, but more because of its potential importance. Perhaps Erza was finally getting to the point of this whole misery inducing outing.
"What would I be mad at you about?" He would've answered with a yes, but he doubted Erza was referring to making him sit outside in the heat with her.
"Our last job." Erza clarified. "We screwed up because of me. I miscalculated our attack plan."
If he could have froze the whole park at that moment, he would have. She brought him out there in his most hated season just to ask him if he blamed their failure on her? She didn't even sound ashamed of herself. Her tone was completely neutral!
"I'm not mad at you." Gray replied. He figured that the faster he explained why Erza shouldn't blame herself, the faster he could go home and get out of this heat. "It was a mistake, Erza. People make them all the time."
"I know that, but you could still be mad at me about it."
Why did it have to be him? Couldn't she have had this conversation with Lucy? She was much better than he was at these kind of talks.
"Well, I'm not." He didn't mean for it to come out so bluntly, but this really wasn't his thing. "And I'm sure Natsu and Lucy aren't mad at you either."
"I hope not."
Was the conversation over? Could he go home yet? He waited a few seconds, but Erza kept silent. He thought it would be rude to just get up and walk away, but he didn't want to sound annoyed by asking her if she was done. So, being the thoughtful guy he was, Gray opted to stay seated and wait for Erza to dismiss him.
As he waited for Erza to say something, Gray observed the park around them. It was a typical summer scene with the sunny weather and blooming flowers that most people enjoyed. Gray, on the other hand, was never quite fond of it. Maybe it was because he was an ice mage, or maybe it was because he was originally from the north, but whatever the reason, wintertime and the cold temperatures were always his preferences. And even though he had lived in Fiore for over ten years already, he never did adapt to its warmer seasons.
"You don't seem very upset that we didn't complete the job." Erza finally spoke up. "You haven't said anything about it at all."
So they weren't finished. Maybe he should just be rude and walk away, though on second thought, this was Erza he was talking to. A little more sweat couldn't hurt, right?
"I don't really care, Erza." He answered in all honesty. He didn't usually reveal his true feelings like this, but for some reason he felt it necessary. "What happened in the past will stay in the past and nothing will change it, so moping about it is just a waste of time."
For the first time in their conversation, Gray finally looked up at who he was talking to. Erza was staring at him, though with an expression he couldn't comprehend.
"What's the look for?" Gray asked.
Erza laughed. "Nothing, it's just that I never thought you would be the one to tell me something like that."
"Is that an insult?"
"Not exactly." Erza responded. "Do you actually believe it though? Because I feel everyone says that, but no one actually internalizes it."
She thought no one internalized it? He did, didn't he? It took some time, but he did eventually realize that the past was not changeable, no matter how much he regretted it. Of course, he had to learn it the hard way. He still never truly forgave himself for causing his master's death, but he had stopped wondering what would have happened if he had acted differently.
"Why are you making ice cubes?"
Gray suddenly looked down at the ground and saw the dozens of small ice cubes scattered around, though most had already melted due to the heat. Was he that hot that he had been unconsciously created ice cubes this whole time?
"Uh, I guess this heat is really getting to me." Gray said awkwardly as he tried to take the opportunity to finally close the discussion. "I think I'm gonna start heading home."
"I think I will too." Erza said, much to his satisfaction. "And thank you, Gray. I appreciate you coming here with me and sharing your thoughts."
"Not a problem." His shirt drenched with sweat, however, wanted to say otherwise.
Despite his eagerness to get home, Gray stayed seated as Erza stood up.
"I'll see you tomorrow, Gray." Erza said as she began to walk away. "And you really shouldn't just leave those ice cubes there. Melt them or something."
Melt them? Gray thought to himself as he examined his ice cubes littering the ground. I can only make ice. I can't melt it.
He considered just leaving them there, as they would probably all melt by the morning anyway, but he didn't want to risk the chance of Erza finding out, even if it was a slim chance.
Gray let out a frustrated sigh as he began to pick up the remaining ice cubes. Their cold air was actually quite refreshing considering the uncomfortable weather he was just forced to sit in. He was just about to collect the last few when something underneath them caught his eye.
Gray dropped to the ground and pushed the last few ice cubes aside. Much to his surprise, a perfectly frozen snowflake was lying on the ground. He picked it up carefully, so as not to break it, as it looked rather delicate. He examined its intricate design, and after much thought, Gray concluded that he had never seen such a design before. Thus, he couldn't have made it.
But, then who did?
Gray stood up and looked around, the frozen snowflake still in his hand. The sun had already begun to set, and the chilly, nighttime air was already starting to blow. The park had emptied since Erza left, and he was the only one in sight.
Gray looked back down at the snowflake. He couldn't come up with any explanation for where it came from other than that he had accidentally made it along with the ice cubes. He wanted to believe that, but its unfamiliar design left a major plot hole.
As he began to walk away from the park and in the direction of his house, Gray tried to recall any memory of the snowflake's appearance. Nothing came up, and Gray figured he'd just have to believe in his flawed explanation.
It was just a snowflake after all, and every snowflake was different, right? So he accidentally made one with a new design, it wasn't that big of a deal.
Gray continued to stare at the snowflake in his hand until it eventually melted. It was then that he began to stop thinking about it, instead thinking about how awful it was that he had almost five more months until winter, and soon, the snowflake's existence melted away from his mind as well.