the first time gray sees him, it’s with a faint sense of recognition. and then he realises, that no, he isn’t going insane, it’s because he’s seen him around the campus. it is slightly hard to camouflage a head of bright pink hair, especially in a sea of dark colours.
so, yes, while it is technically not his first time seeing this particular figure, he’s also got no business being this concerned over it. but he’s always been good at lying to himself, so he will absolutely not admit to himself that the reason why he’s so worked up about this particular person is the fact that he is impossibly cute.
right now, gray stands in line at the campus coffee shop, a bag slung over his shoulder. it is late september, and the air is slightly chillier than usual. the segue into october and the winter months is slow but easily noticeable. however, gray is better than most people at handling the cold, so while he does notice the slight chill in the air, it’s not enough for him to lose his head.
the line moves forward.
it’s late afternoon, and a thursday, so while the coffee shop could be crowded, it isn’t, but gray supposes it’s probably because the last classes of the day aren’t quite done yet.
the line moves forward again.
gray focuses on his phone in the meantime, and he gets lost in the lives of his friends for a while, choosing to ignore the distinctive (read: cute ) barista. until very quickly, he is the next customer. he looks up and the barista immediately locks eyes with him.
it’s obvious that he’s tired but his eyes still light up for some unfathomable reason (who in their right mind would be happy after working for so long? certainly not gray, that’s for sure) and he speaks up, “what can i get for you today?”
gray isn’t so mesmerised that he forgets his usual order, but instead rattles it off as usual. what he does slip up on, is his name (for some goddamn reason) but he somehow chokes it out, and because gray is a believer in fair play, he sneaks a look at the ( cute , the voice at the back of his mind supplies unhelpfully. gray tells it to fuck right off) barista’s nametag. it’s clearly made of metal, but for some reason there’s a piece of paper stuck on it with clear tape, and it reads harry potter .
gray doesn’t really care for j.k. rowling, but he can definitely say that the barista in front of him is most definitely not named harry potter.
and it seems that he forgot that he was only supposed to be glancing, because he’s fully staring, and the barista calls him out on it. “it was a bet and i lost,” he clarifies and gray immediately wonders if the pink hair is part of the bet as well, and his eyes must have either strayed to his head, or the boy is very good at gauging expressions, because the barista follows it up with, “the hair is a personal choice. the fact that it pisses off a lot of the professors here is just a plus.”
gray snorts – he can’t help himself.
“you can take a seat,” the barista adds. “i’ll call you in five minutes, tops.”
gray nods, and walks off to the closest armchair he sees. he loses himself in the lives of his friends again on his phone again. and this time when the barista calls his name, he is prepared, and collects his drink as quickly as possible.
it’s the last day of september, and gray wants something sugary, something that’s sure to give him a sugar rush. it’s been a couple of days since he’s gone to the campus coffee shop, and try as he might, he can’t quite get the peculiar barista out of his mind. so he decides to indulge himself.
this time, he’s determined to find out the boy’s name.
however, it’s a bright-eyed, chipper girl who takes his order instead, and gray feels – disappointed , his mind says, but gray shoves the thought down as far as he can – like he’s failed in his small personal quest. but after he pays and finds a seat, the voice that calls his name is the familiar deep voice of that particular barista.
“did you miss me?” the barista asks with a sly grin.
he’s right, but gray doesn’t spend too much time thinking on it. instead, his first act of business is figuring out his barista’s name. his eyes stray to the nametag, and he’s more than confused when it just says arthur dent .
“uhhhh,” gray begins, eloquently. “did you lose another bet?”
the barista grins and shakes his head, pink hair falling into his eyes rather adorably. he blows on it, and answers, “it’s a...personal choice.”
for a second, gray feels shocked. is he actually flirting, or has gray.exe stopped working?
he decides to take the plunge. “you already know my name, so i feel like it’s only fair that i know yours too,” he says, smoothly.
“and where’s the fun in that?” the barista answers, winking at him.
sirens go off in gray’s head. mayday, mayday, houston? houston, are you there?
“uhhh, yeah, sure,” gray stumbles through his words. “sure,” he repeats, for added measure.
the barista merely grins at him, and hands him his drink. without further ado, gray promptly whirls on his feet and starts walking.
john watson . that’s what his nametag reads today, and it prompts gray to ask, "why not sherlock?"
the barista's wearing a short sleeved shirt underneath his apron today, and it has him slightly in awe because the boy has tattoos running up and down his right arm. not as many as that it would look like a sleeve but enough to look pretty. from this angle, all he can see are small moons and suns and stars and something with a tail curling around his elbow. “john is underappreciated,” is all he offers, and gray leaves, even more confused.
gray makes it a habit to stop by after his classes for the day is done, and some days he’ll see the barista – “i’m your favourite barista, right?” he asks gray one day, and gray answers, “sure, why not?” – and some days he won’t, and eventually they talk of their classes, and schedules, and gray is pleasantly surprised to know that his new friend is an environmental sciences major.
it’s a new name every time he comes in, and gray is only slightly disappointed that he has yet to know the cute (he’ll admit it this time) barista’s name. he and gray are similar in height and build, with the only glaring difference being their hair.
one day, his nametag reads lisbeth salander , and when gray looks up in confusion, the barista shrugs and says, pointing to his blonde co-worker, “lucy told me to do it.” lucy looks at them, unimpressed.
another time, it’s primrose everdeen , and all the barista says, “she deserved better.” gray nods in agreement.
the next day, it says frodo baggins , and gray asks him who he was supposed to be. however, he gets an affronted look, and the barista softly utters, “are you telling me you don’t know who frodo is?”
gray shakes his head. the barista sighs, and adds, “i had more faith in you.”
“you cannot spend the whole of your second year cooped up inside this room,” cana says. she’s his oldest friend, and while they aren’t roommates, she spends most of her time in gray’s room. gray wonders if it’s because she knows he doesn’t exactly like spending time outside.
“you know i didn’t exactly have the best grades in first year,” gray puts his pen down and closes his laptop. he swivels on his chair and turns to face cana, who’s currently lying face down on his bed. “i gotta work hard to make up for it, cana.”
“that doesn’t mean you have to waste away inside this stuffy room,” cana says, gesturing wildly around the room. “let loose once in a while, what’s the harm?”
“last time you said that, i had to carry you back on foot, all the way from the other side of campus. i’m pretty sure i threw out my back that day.”
“nonsense! so it happened once, what are the odds of it happening again?”
“considering it’s you we’re talking – highly likely.” gray gets up from his chair and starts to push cana off the bed. “now if you want me to go out with you to this very awful party, i would suggest you leave me alone so i can finish my workload.”
cana tumbles over, and gets up smoothly as though it hadn’t happened. she walks backward to the door, saluting gray as she passes him. “yes sir, mr. gray!”
“cana, watch out, you’ll cra-”
cana crashes into the wall, and gray looks on in exasperation.
“do i really have to?”
“don’t you dare back out now, you coward.”
gray groans, and lets cana pull him out of his apartment. the breeze is cool enough to fully wake him up, and the rabid manner in which cana keeps jostling him makes him want to pull his hair in frustration. “you know, i am not above whining to get my way,” he informs her.
“and i’m not above dragging you by your hair. keep moving, hotshot.”
all too soon, they’re knocking at the door of the party. gray sees a blonde girl jump out of a window, with a blue-haired girl hot on her trails. belatedly, he realises that the blonde is lucy from the coffee shop.
“this is gray,” cana suddenly speaks, startling him. “he’s my friend. don’t bite him,” she adds, winking at the man by the door.
“sure,” the man drawls. “i’ll try my best.”
gray looks on, eyes wide. he glances questioningly at cana, as if to ask what the fuck cana , and cana merely smiles toothily at him. he wonders, not for the first time that night, whether cana is already drunk.
she probably is.
they make their way inside, and the smell of sweat and cheap beer and perfume is strong even to make him gag, but thankfully, cana pulls him into the kitchen and pushes a solo cup (cliche, but gray isn’t going to mention it) into his hands, and gray says, “fuck it,” and tries to down the whole cup in one go. he tries but he chokes halfway, and cana whoops from beside him.
he somehow sputters through his drink, and when he looks around, he sees cana already chatting with people she knows. he feels like an abandoned koala, waiting for something to emerge so that he can attach himself to it.
maybe the alcohol is kicking in already.
gray is definitely tipsy when he catches sight of pink hair. and since he’s tipsy, he thinks it’s just his imagination. and it isn’t proved wrong until the pink hair actually bobs up to him. he puts out a hand to catch it, because it looks so soft and bubblegum-like that he must absolutely know if it feels the same. and it does. it feels super-soft.
he still thinks its his imagination, because who in the fuck would have actual pink hair?
he pulls on the hair, and he’s startled when there’s a face suddenly in his personal bubble. the face is cute, boyish even. “gray, please let go of my hair,” the boy pleads. gray reluctantly lets go, pouting.
“oh wow, you are super drunk, aren’t you?” the boy asks.
gray doesn’t answer, just stumbles a bit, and shoots him a look, as if to ask, does this answer your question?
the boy laughs, and holds gray’s wrist as he pulls him into the kitchen again. the boy looks familiar, and gray can’t shake the feeling that he’s seen him before.
the boy pushes a glass ( a glass! ) into his hands, full of clear liquid, saying, “drink, you’ll feel better.”
gray narrows his eyes – or at least, he tries to. he has absolutely no clue if it’s working – and asks, “are you trying to get me drunk?”
the boy laughs loudly, and grins at him brightly. “oh trust me,” he says, “you’re plenty drunk as it is. it’s just water, now drink up.”
gray frowns, and decides to trust him. and just like before, he chokes halfway.
unlike cana though, his new friend yelps and starts frantically rubbing his back all the while squealing, “are you okay? you should have gone slower! it’s not a shot, for fuck’s sake!”
gray giggles, and waves his around in an attempt to calm him down. “im…fine!”
the boy looks at him with wide eyes, and gray pinches his cheeks. his eyes grow impossibly wider.
“alright, who did you come with,” he asks, gently pulling gray’s hands off his face. “let me go find them.”
“cana,” gray chokes out, and promptly starts to gag. his new friend grabs him by the shoulder, seemingly knowing what was coming, and shoves him toward the kitchen sink. gray throws up in a matter of minutes.
cana’s face comes into view, along with her cackling. he’s sure the cackling is directed towards him. and unfortunately, it’s the last thing he experiences before he passes out.
cana is the one who tells him exactly what he was upto the night before, and she does it exactly two minutes after he’s just woken up. he mouth still feels stale, and cana nearly loses her shit recalling his misadventures. who would have known , she says, that you were actually a party animal underneath all that?
gray escapes the instant cana has her back turned, and hurries quickly into his room. he brushes his teeth and slips on a comfy sweater and his sneakers before he rushes out of his room.
“you’re lucky you had natsu with y-”
“yeah, nats– holy shit don’t tell me you forgot about him! tall, pink hair, tattoos? i’m actually low-key disappointed in you right now.”
“his name’s natsu? that’s...cool.”
cana looks at him with an unamused stare.”you know what? i don’t even wanna know.” she turns around to the sink and starts rinsing her cup. “you do you, my dumbass friend. you do you.”
gray slams the door open to the coffee shop. lucky for him, there’s absolutely no one in there. not even natsu.
a small blonde head suddenly pops out from under the counter and waves cheerily at him. gray weakly waves back and slowly exits the coffee shop. and promptly walks into someone.
books clatter to the ground, and gray drops to the ground immediately, muttering apologies as he hurriedly picks up each book. “i’m so sorry, i wasn’t paying attent-”
he’s interrupted by a tan hand coming into his view. he knows that hand. it has little constellations over the wrists. there’s no way he’s ever going to forget those.
“hi,” natsu says. “how’s your hangover?”
gray shakes his head. “i don’t really get hangovers.”
natsu chuckles. “cana must be really envious of you, then,” he answers, and it causes gray to groan loudly. “i know, she never shuts up about it!”
they stand up straight, and gray blurts out, “it’s natsu, right?”
the pink-haired boy laughs. “natsu dragneel, at your service,” he says, and does a little bow. “i was going to be gandalf today anyway,” he adds. his arm goes up above his head and he scratches his neck rather adorably. “so, uh,” he begins. “what would you say to getting coffee? i mean you’re already here, and i need to go in – i mean,you don’t have to, but i would love to keep talking to you, which is why–”
“sure,” gray interrupts, deciding to save natsu from further embarrassment. “i’d love that, actually.”
he beams at gray, and gray feels himself returning it, when a loud bang catches them both off-guard. “natsu! come help me already!” lucy’s head appears in the doorway, and disappears as quickly as it had appeared.
they look at each other, and gray walks forward into the shop, still carrying natsu’s books. natsu follows him, and leaves to go into the back of the shop. he comes back out quickly, wrapping a dark brown apron around himself. “the usual?” he asks, eyebrows raised.
“the usual,” gray confirms, and smiles softly.