They both lived on the top floor of the building, except he had lived there his whole life whereas she had only moved in the day before.
Gray had never seen her before. So imagine his surprise when he sleepily made his way to the elevator and she was already standing there. Weird. That elevator had been empty at this time in the morning since he started going to school.
Her hair was a shocking shade of red and her finger was pressed on the button that ordered the elevator to hold open the doors. He quietly thanked her as he stepped inside, after walking quicker than he was used to and not meeting her expectant stare.
Their first meeting was as awkward as first meetings could get.
At first, the silence didn't bother him. He was used to the quiet. But after a few floors, it was starting to eat away at him. Should he say something? He had no idea. Social interaction was not one of Gray Fullbuster's strong points.
She stood there, looking up at the numbers slowly going down while he silently cursed himself for not knowing what to do in this situation. Finally, when the doors opened after what seemed like hours, he felt like he could breathe.
Until they stepped out at the same time and forced themselves into an even tighter situation.
He felt his cheeks warm before stepping back and nodding at her to go ahead. She nods back with a small smile and walks away without looking back. He sighs as he watches her retreating form.
Everything is going to be different now, isn't it?
A week later, she introduced herself.
"Erza," she says. "Erza Scarlet. Like my hair, I know," she quips before he could even comment on the fact. He swallows the comment down instead. He thought it was a funny coincidence that they both had names that depicted colors.
They make small talk as the smooth notes of easy listening pours through the elevator speakers. She asks him his name and extends her hand for him to take as he introduces himself. He notices how her hands could be so soft yet so calloused at the same time. She explains it was due to her array of sport activities and wears them like badges of honor.
Gray can't help but admire her quiet confidence but as he opens his mouth to speak again, the elevator doors open and she gestures for him to step out first this time. He does so reluctantly. He's too flustered to even remember what he was going to say in the first place so he manages a quick goodbye before rushing to the back door where his bicycle was kept.
When he steps out again, she's already gone.
"Ever wonder who chooses the music in elevators?" He stares at her, the question turning in his head.
"Not really, no."
"They should really get better songs."
He silently agrees.
It's been a whole month since Erza first stepped foot into the elevator. Gray's just glad that his mornings aren't quite so uneventful anymore. She always manages to find something to talk about during the minute they spend in the metal box.
It's Wednesday of her third week there and she wheedles his life story out of him. About his half brother who lives with his mother and his grandpa who he stays with. Life is crazy, apparently, when the time for a family reunion comes. His half brother is constantly seeking to best him, while Gray falls into it every single time. Erza smiles, knowing what it's like to be in a big family, after all the foster homes she had lived in in the past.
On some days he walks her to her bus stop then rides his bike the rest of the way to his own school. And as the days pass by her smiles grow warmer and he meets her eyes more often. On the days when she has to rush to the bus stop, she turns around mid-step and waves to him.
He waves back until the lobby doors close behind her.
"You've got a stain on your shirt," she says as they both get home from school. It's Friday and Gray has lost all his energy to care. He has half a mind to just strip right there in front of her but gets it out of his system as soon as the thought enters his brain.
He just looks down at the stain and stares at it, wondering if he had been walking around with it the whole day. She chuckles and hands him a small towel. "It's clean," she promises him. He takes it and the smell of her fabric softener wafts in the air around him. He thanks her and tells her he'll wash it before giving it back.
She takes the towel from him when he's unable to remove the stain and wets it with water from her bottle. He hopes it isn't obvious how affected he is by the close proximity. Her scent invades his space even more and he's almost afraid to breathe.
Little by little, Erza Scarlet has crawled her way into the boy's life.
He has absolutely no problem with it. (Okay, maybe he does, a little.)
"I-is that... cheesecake?"
He stops. His forkful of cake halfway between its container and his mouth. He chews and swallows his piece before extending the cake to her.
"Want some?" he asks, arching his eyebrow.
"N-no, no, that would be incredibly rude of me," she says, all the while staring at the delicacy in front of her.
He just chuckles and shoves another forkful into her open mouth, before the drool starts to drip from her lips. Her eyes widen in shock before she carefully chews the cake with a smile.
"Gray, I believe you've just found my weakness."
After months of their morning and afternoon routine, he finds her waiting for him at the front steps of their building.
"Why aren't you inside?" He asks, unnerved at the somber look on her face.
She just shrugs and says, "Waiting for you, I guess." His eyebrows furrow as he helps her up off the steps and leads them to the well-worn elevator. Once they're inside, he figures that there's something she wants to tell him. He can almost feel it, radiating off her and her uneasiness. Just as he's about to ask what's wrong, she cuts him off.
"I got asked to my prom," by someone who looks a lot like you, she fails to mention.
"Oh. Well. That's nice?" he says, not sure how to answer. Isn't he supposed to be happy for her? Then why does his chest feel unusually constricted?
"I guess," she says for the second time in the span of this single conversation. She just doesn't know. She should be flattered but she accepted the invitation with the feeling like it just wasn't right. Maybe she was hoping the boy standing beside her could shed some light on it but she was getting nothing.
She doesn't even know what she wanted from him.
At least, not yet.
He doesn't see her on her prom night.
He's been out all day trying to get his mind off of her but he resigns himself to a night of imagining how much fun she's having with that other guy. He doesn't know why his blood boils. Or why he wants to crash their party and take her with him. Or maybe he does know why but he just can't bring himself to acknowledge the reason.
That maybe he happens to like the redhead, in more ways than one. He liked her rough and tough exterior coupled with her softer moments. He liked the feel of her calloused hands when she tousled his hair or when the backs of their hands happened to brush as they walked together. Maybe he liked the fact that she could very well pulverize him if he ever stepped out of line.
And maybe he was being stupid. Like, immensely stupid.
Because maybe their friendship only really existed in this closed space. This hunk of metal. Maybe he was being delusional, thinking that they might have something more some day.
His mind goes blank when he sees her running straight towards the closing elevator doors. Their hands shoot out to hold them open at the same time and she just stares at him, her chest heaving as she tries to gather her breath. They both let the doors close as she steps inside, still staring him straight in the eye. He knows it's impossible but he really hopes she can't hear the thoughts running rampant in his head.
Her hair is falling out of the bun on top of her head. The sweat on her face smudges her makeup. Her dress is crumpled and it looks like she had forgone her shoes.
And yet she still looks beautiful.
The thought surprises him even though he knows it really shouldn't anymore. He watches her bow her head, breaking their eye contact. She ran all the way here, in the middle of the dance, thanking God that she didn't quit the track team. But she was so focused on getting there that she completely forgot to plan what she was going to say. Though in the end, he manages to get through to her and interrupts her thoughts.
"What are you doing here?" He asks, genuinely confused and genuinely hoping that she'll give him an answer he wants to hear.
She clears her throat before answering, still looking for a way to explain. Her voice starts out shaky but she steels herself. "I-I was at the prom and I was about to dance with the guy I went with but I realized, he wasn't even the one I wanted to dance with, you know? So I told him I wasn't feeling so good and well... I ran here."
Gray was at a loss. What was happening right now? "W-what are you saying?"
She smiles at him like she has a secret and steps closer, dropping her voice to a whisper, "It means, Fullbuster, that I want to dance with you."
She laughs at his expression, eyes wide and mouth hanging open. I guess it's time to take initiative. The redhead takes the boy's hands which were slightly clammy and she likes to think it was because she made him nervous when she's around. She keeps her hold on one hand while placing the other at her waist and she leads the dance as they sway to the familiar music pouring into the small space.
He didn't even notice her pressing the button that would lead them straight to the top of the building. He's once again surprised when the doors open and a cool burst of night air greets them. She's uncharacteristically light this evening. Like a great burden had been lifted from her shoulders. Which is kind of true.
She spins out onto the rooftop, keeping hold of his hand. They dance under the canopy of stars and above city lights and they keep dancing long after the elevator doors had closed.