Sometimes Gray wished he didn't have anxiety, but then he never would have met most of the friends he has. Life was a constant battle of give and take, but if anxiety was the cost of getting to be with them, then he wouldn't change it for the world.
Except for right now. You can have the assholes back, Life. I sure as hell don't need them.
Gray's phone buzzed insistently in his pocket, the noise constant as he rapidly took notes of the Professor's every word. The clicks of the keyboards throughout the auditorium like classroom were an almost soothing normalcy in Gray's life. Wake up, go to class, take notes, go to work, do homework, hang out with dumbasses until an hour before "wake up" and repeat.
A tap on his shoulder broke his concentration, the momentary peace gone. He turned his head slightly, fingers still flying against the keys as he eyed the trio behind him. He'd seen them before, usually with few others, but there was always one that grabbed his attention.
Too bad that's not who wants to talk to me.
The preppy blond, Sting if he remembers correctly, was staring at him with one eyebrow raised comically high. "You sir, are a dirty bastard," he whispered, "doing something like that in class, have you no shame?" The corner of his lip had pulled up into a smirk, and if the sound if his voice hadn't grabbed their attention, what he said next would have. "Although I've never met anyone with the gall to use a vibrator in class-"
Gray choked on his spit, the sound getting the attention of at least half of the two hundreds students in the room and the professor himself. Gray waved them off quickly, and the class started up again without issue.
Once his heart had stopped racing, he glanced at the trio again, noticing that two hands were placed tightly over Sting's mouth, while their pairs kept him in his seat. The people on both sides of him were whisper shouting at him, so Gray left them to it.
Class ended in a few minutes anyways.
As the professor stopped talking, a gentler tap gained his attention. He didn't even have time to turn before a smooth voice blurted, "I am so sorry about my dumbass cousin." Vibrant green eyes met his own, and Gray froze.
This was the member of their group that always stood out to him. Their fluffy pink hair stuck out in all directions, yet it still somehow framed their soft features and helped to contrast against their usually black clothing.
Ah, fuck. I zoned out.
"-no self control and Rouge's already drug him out of here so he wouldn't say anything else and I'm sure it was just your phone and even if it isn't I'm going to tell them that because it's none of our business and-"
Watching the surprisingly nervous pinkette panic had somewhat brought him back to himself, but only somewhat. "Yep. Phone. Nothing else."
"Of course!" They nearly shouted, "You're not that kind of person. I mean, I don't know you so I don't really know you're not that kind of a person, but you probably aren't so-" they never seemed to take a breath. One of their hands was absentmindedly tugging at the hem of their tank top as the other gestured frantically with their words.
Gray was quick to put his phone on the desk, and the noise becoming jarring enough to startle the other's beautiful voice into silence.
I almost regret making them go quiet.
In in less than a minute, it had vibrated violently enough to fall off of the desk with a clatter. The laugh that bubbled up in their throat set off Gray's own laughter.
When the silence became prominent the second time, it had changed.
"Again," they whispered, "I am so sorry about that." They ran a hand through the back of their hair and their eyes seemed to find the phone on the floor most interesting than anything else.
"It's okay," Gray mumbled, "I mean, it was a rude thing to say and the attention nearly killed me, but you're not responsible for his actions, um. I never did get your name?"
Red stretched across their lightly freckled cheeks as they stumbled over themselves, "Oh. Um. Natsu Dragneel." They outstretched their hand awkwardly, and Gray returned the gesture. "Gray, right?"
He knows my name.
He had to have nodded while distracted. If he hadn't, Natsu's blinding smile wouldn't have stretched across like it did.
"Good to know! I'll stop holding you up now since you seem to be a busy person."
Gray snorted, "Not really."
"Well, your phone is still going off, so sorry for assuming."
"Shit!" Gray scrambled for the, true to Natsu's word, still buzzing phone, as the pinkette walked away.
Shit-Fuck-God-Damn-it- I'm gonna lose my chance.
Natsu paused at the doorway to send another bright smile his way, "See you around, Gray!"
And Gray's heart melted.
I'm too gay for this shit.
"Took you long enough," Sting shouted as he finally spotted Natsu. "You give him your number?"
Did I- you mean to tell me this asshole did this just to get me to talk to Gray? Actually, why am I surprised?
He mentally shrugged. It's not like it wasn't something I've wanted to do anyways.
Natsu looked Sting dead in the eyes, "No," they muttered, but before either of the others could yell at him, they continued, "I left it on a note card and slipped it in with his stuff, because I'm a fucking coward."
"No you're not," Rogue said in unison with Sting's "Damn right you are." The couple glared at one another before Rogue finally smacked his idiot boyfriend upside the head. "Ignore this dumbass."
The pinkette's lips curved upwards, "I always do."
Suck it fucker.
"You're late fuckass!" Gray heard Lyon shout.
I'd have to be deaf not to.
As usual, the table in the back had been taken over by his friends, and since it was Friday, they were all there. Lyon, Loke, Erza, Levy, Lucy, Cana, Freed, and surprisingly, Freed's boyfriend, Laxus. He didn't normally show up.
Gray was quickly pulled into a cafeteria seat, that had been smashed between his brother and Erza, who raised an eyebrow. "In all the years that I've known you, you've never been late to anything. What happened?"
"I got held up for a minute is all," he responded. She gave him the look, and Gray almost died on the spot. "Really, Erza! It was just a small mishap and I stayed behind for a few minutes!" She didn't look like she believed him, but she didn't pry again.
Thank fuck. That would have been embarrassing to try to explain. Who would even come up with that in the first place?
"Oh. Oh." Gray's attention was brought away from his thoughts as Loke launched himself into his face. The redhead's eyes were less than an inch from his own, and Gray had to resist every instinct that said to smack his brother's boyfriend. "I know that look."
"What look, Loke?"
"You always have the same look in your eye when you talk or think about the little pastel goth you've been crushing on since Freshman year." Gray felt his face alight, and if the shit eating grin was anything to go by, he'd given himself away. "You gonna spill, or do I have to make you?"
The distinctive smack of Gray's palm against Loke's face echoed throughout the back of the cafeteria, but no one paid it any mind. They were too well known for being insane. The redhead's face hit the table with a louder clatter, and everyone but Lyon burst out laughing.
"Loke!" His brother was at their resident prankster's side in an instant, "As happy as I am you finally grew a spine, Gray, why my boyfriend?"
"Because your boyfriend's being a dick," Gray said flatly.
Just let me eat in peace, damnit.
Before he could stop it, Cana reached across the table and snatched his bag. Lyon's protests died on his lips as he watched her ruffle through his bag, intent on who knows what. After a few minutes, she pulled out an index card covered in beautiful pink calligraphy and promptly burst into laughter.
What the fuck is that? Gray wondered, so he asked, "What the fuck is that?"
Cana handed the card to Erza, who kept it out of Gray's grasp as she read it, "You didn't tell us the guy you liked was just as awkward as you, Gray."
Consequences be damned. Gray reached up and snatched the index card from Erza's fingers before diving under the table. He read the words three or four times before the finally sunk in, and he remained frozen in place once they did.
Hey! In case you couldn't tell, I'm really fucking awkward. Again, I am so sorry for what Sting said, and you don't have to, but we're having a Halloween party thing tonight if you'd like to come. Your friends are welcome too!
Oddly enough, his name was written in neat print instead of the fancy calligraphy, almost as if he was unused to writing it that way, and beneath it was a phone number.
A hand clamped down on his shoulder, "If you're done staring at it like a love sick fool," Erza whispered, "I put the number into your phone and sent hello before your brother could send anything."
I take back everything I said earlier, Life. Erza is a fucking blessing.
You can still take back the rest of them though.
She handed him his phone back, glaring at their more inappropriate friends in the process. The phone buzzed in Gray's hand, and he nearly dropped it.
Natsu had already replied.
Hi! I'm glad you found the notecard.
It was short and simple, but Gray could hear the soft yet excited voice playing in his mind.
"The fuck are you staring at it for! Answer!"
Gray is coming to the party.
The phrase bounced around in Natsu's head continuously as they helped string up the last of the decorations. Natsu was putting them up as they waited for layers of liquid latex to dry, careful not to drip any onto the carpet.
Natsu cut the sections that needed to be cut and applied the last of the fake blood as the silence was interrupted with the crash of the door slamming open. "We're here!"
No shit, Sherlock.
"We brought food!" Rogue called out, "I'm leaving it on the counter!"
This party's going to be a nightmare. The guy that I like and my family in one place? What could go wrong. Natsu rapped their fist on the wooden counter a few times, hoping that they hadn't just jinxed everything.
The bass beat of Spooky Scary Skeletons shook the ground as they stood outside the most Halloween Festive house Gray had ever seen, and the sudden bout of nervousness that slammed into him nearly knocked him over. He tugged at the skirt of his Sailor Moon cosplay-costume thing.
Please let this go right for once.
He nearly jumped out of his skin when his brother slung his arm across his shoulders. Lyon's false teeth glinted in the moonlight, and the fake yellow contacts would have been creepy if he didn't distinctly remember this dumbass crying while trying to put them in. "This is your chance. Don't fuck it up."
Thanks for all of your support, brother dearest.
Loke almost slung his makeup covered arm on top of Lyon's but the sharp glare Gray pointed at him was enough. "If you get paint in my wig, I will castrate you." The zombie backed off without much more of a warning.
And then they were inside. The decorations outside didn't compare to the inside, and they spent a good while staring at it all.
"Damn," Erza muttered, and the other were inclined to agree.
"Welcome!" A voice shouted, and from around the corner came the jackass who started everything. To Sting's credit, the costume was amazing. Photo realistic scales had been drawn on his arms and appeared to be sinking into them. He had a headband with ornately painted horns attached, and his nails had been sharpened to look like talons. "Lovely costumes, by the way."
Who did the scales?
"Like what you see?" Sting asked, and several of his friends tensed as if he was going to jump them, "Natsu did them," he continued, and his friends relaxed, "Wait until you see their costume."
The blonde lead them through the house and closer to the music, and that's when they realized that there weren't actually that many people. Gray spotted a flash of pink in the back corner and promptly froze in place.
Holy fucking shit.
The longer he stared, the more things he noticed about the costume, and if the barely held in snickers from the others were any indication, he was probably gaping like a fish.
"You going to stand there or go talk to him, lover boy?" The voice was unfamiliar, but that didn't matter. He flipped them the bird without looking, continuing to try and process what he was seeing.
Heeled crimson thigh high boots hugged Natsu's legs, what little would have been bare skin was covered with wide fishnet leggings and stretching into what looked like leather bikini bottoms. A sliver of their toned stomach was visible between it and the black boned corset that matched their boots in color. Silk gloves stretched up Natsu's arms almost delicately, and their usual scarf had been replaced with a solid black choker. It all contrasted well with the soft pink hair that framed their face and blood red eyes that could only be achieved with colored contacts.
And that was only half of it.
That makeup had to have been done professionally, Gray thought, and then he remembered what Sting had said. Or maybe not. Holy shit.
The black horns that protruded from Natsu's skull were attached seamlessly and appeared so realistic that they looked, well, real. The tail that seemed to swing gently as they walked and the leathery wings that attached firmly to their shoulder blades were the same way. The skin that was visible had been altered to look like scales in places, fake blood around them to make them look like they were tearing through the skin.
The same scales that Sting has.
"I wish I had that much makeup skill," he heard Lucy mutter, and he pat her shoulder gently.
"I don't think there's anyone else on the planet with that level of skill."
I'm too gay to deal with this.
"I'll repeat myself," it was the same voice from earlier. Gray turned to look at him, but nearly choked out of shock. The other member of their trio, Rogue his brain supplied, was in a short pink dress and absolutely covered with glitter. Small fairy wings were attached to his back, and he looked horribly out of place. Small bubblegum colored kitten heels clicked as he shifted from side to side, "You gonna stand there or go talk to them , lover boy?"
Natsu looked up and caught his eyes for the briefest of moments before realizing, and their smile could light an entire room. Holy shit.
And are those fangs or their real teeth?
At the moment it didn't matter, because the pinkette was running across the room towards him.
WHY ARE YOU RUNNING IN TALL-ASS STILETTOS YOU DUMBASS?
To his utter surprise, Natsu didn't so much as stumble. The second Natsu was in front of him, their hands slapped down on his shoulders and their eyes seemed to swallow up every detail of him. "I fucking love it," they whispered. "Sailor Moon is a fuckin' boss." He ran his hands through the wig, careful to not let it snag, "And this wig is in fantastic condition."
Gray fought to keep the heat off his cheeks, the close proximity to Natsu throwing him off kilter. He turned away just in time to see his brother elbowed Loke in the stomach. "Hey," he whispered, "what happens when two bottoms get together?"
A choked noise escaped Natsu's lips, "Excuse me?"
"Well," Lyon said, "You're dressed as a Succubus." He made an elaborate gesture to the costume in response to the pinkette's blank look.
"Uh-huh," Natsu murmured. They snapped with both hands as they made them into finger guns. "Hold that thought." They spun around with a flourish and were quickly enveloped in the small crowd of people dancing.
Lyon and Loke began snickering, and Gray turned to glare at the duo, "What the hell is wrong with you two?"
"You're a gray-ace, Gray," Loke countered, "It could happen!" The smug look on his face vanished as he looked past Gray. "Oh."
Natsu was barreling towards them, an ace flag tied around their neck like a cape. As they stopped next to Gray, their lips quirked upwards.
"Natsu," Sting interrupted, "don't you fucking dare."
An airy chuckle escaped Natsu's lips, "You needed to better Ace-sess the situation." Groans escaped the lips of all but Gray and Natsu themselves, who were too busy laughing to care.
"I'm Gray-ace," Gray shouted the moment they made eye contact, and they both burst into laughter again.
"God damnit," Loke hissed, "I can't believe I missed that opportunity!" The zombified redhead dropped to his knees with a dramatic shout of frustration, and Lyon pat his head sympathetically.
"It's alright, my dearest. They're just to perfect for each other." One of Lyon's wolf ears fell off as he dropped to the floor beside Loke, "We'll never match quite as well."
"I think your dramatics make up for your lack of pun making," Lucy slurred. Her false fangs nearly fell to the floor, being saved only by Erza's lucky catch.
"Maybe next time you should get the good ones instead of the cheap ones," Erza said as she handed them back.
"Not all of us have the time or patience to hand make angel wings, Erza," Lucy retorted.
"Those are hand made?" Natsu was practically vibrating with excitement as they examined them carefully. Each feather had been stitched in with care, and it showed in the small details.
They're so fucking cute.
As Erza spoke with Natsu, Cana slung an arm around his shoulder, "You are in deep," she whispered. She shoved the comically large witch hat back up, as it kept falling into her eyes, "you know I know a way you could win 'em over." One of Gray's eyebrows shot up, and Cana burst out laughing, "I dare you to go down there, on the floor and out drama your ridiculous brother."
Gray just gave her a flat look as she laughed harder than necessary. No thanks.
"So," Natsu's voice nearly made him jump out of his skin, "Sorry, I didn't mean to startle you." Gray waved off the apology, curious about what was coming, "When we meet new people, we usually play strip Cards Against Humanity as a big group. You in?"
As he watched the eyes of both their friend groups light up, Gray only had one thought go through his mind.
What could possibly go wrong?
Note the sarcasm.