Frozen Hearts Things were finally calming down in Magnolia and another catastrophic crisis had been averted for the time being. The war with Tartaros had ended and the city was beginning to have a renewed sense of vitality to it. The citizens were rebuilding their homes and businesses were open once more. Many were still dealing with the fallout of the events that transpired, especially for Fairy Tail and the magic counsel. Appointing the nine new council members was a heavy decision for all of Fiore to make. In addition to that, Master Makarov had announced that the guild hall would not be rebuilding. All the Fairies were instructed to spread their wings. The news was unexpected, to say the least. It left many of the guild members homeless. With the guild disbanding, Fairy Hills would also be closing as well. They were left to gather their things and move out in a hurry. For those with nowhere to go, they were forced to take shelter at a local inn until arrangements could be made otherwise. Without the guild hall's request board, they had to find more creative ways to get jobs for an income. In order to save on money, Juvia had been sharing a room at the inn with Levy. They were getting along well and had decided to help each other with their rather lacking love lives. It had been a week since Juvia came back from visiting the grave of Gray's parents. They had learned the news of the guild disbanding soon after arriving in Magnolia and decided to part ways from there. “So, how's it going?” Levy asked as she flipped through the pages of yet another book. Their room at the inn was filled with an odd arrangement of books and handmade Gray memorabilia. Even though the guild was gone, Levy had been trying to find some sort of clue as to where Zeref may have gone with the Book of E.N.D. She wanted to be of help to her friends and studying was the best way she knew how. Juvia sighed and fell back on her bed with her arms spread wide. “You told me to stay away from my darling Gray until he came looking for me, but it's excruciatingly painful. I don't like avoiding him or hiding out in this room all the time. What if he starts to think I don't love him anymore?” she asked. Levy set her book down and turned in the seat to face her friend. “I really don't think you have to worry about that,” she stated warmly, “Gray knows you care about him, especially after everything that happened. I think you just need to give him some time to realize how he feels. After that whole Eclipse dragon thing, he said he was going to be more straight with you, but he never really said no, now did he? Plus, the two of you were going on tons of jobs together without all the others before the guild disbanded and they weren't all from you asking him, so I think you'll be all right.” She stood up and walked across the wooden floor to sit down on the bed beside Juvia. Levy gave her a pat on the shoulder and smiled down at her anxious roommate. “You really think so?” Juvia asked up at Levy, meeting her cheerful gaze. Levy smiled brightly and gave Juvia a slight punch in the arm. “I know so! Plus, didn't his dad call you his girlfriend? You'll be fine.” Juvia's face began to turn crimson as she recalled the fight with Keyes from Tartaros and Silver Fullbuster's voice running through her head. “He did, but my beloved has never. He's never even told me he loves me. I've also not been able to forgive myself for killing his father. He thanked me with tears running down his beautiful face, but it's hard for me to forgive myself for taking his father away from him after they had finally reunited.” She curled up on her side and hugged a large Gray-doll close to her chest. There was a knock at the door and the two girls' eyes met. Neither had been expecting company. Levy jumped up from the bed and made her way across the room. “Who is it?” she called out as she reached for the knob. “It's Gray. Is Juvia there?” came a familiar male voice. A jolt of electricity ran through Juvia's body and she stared helplessly at Levy. Her heart raced and she hugged the doll even closer, panicking. Levy smiled back at her and opened the door just a crack to see the black-haired man standing in front of her. He had managed to put on a shirt for once and for that, Levy was thankful. A smirk crossed her lips and she shook her head at him. “Sorry Gray, she's gone out. Can I take a message for you?” she asked, knowing full well that Juvia was just across the room out of sight. “Ah,” he scratched the back of his head, “nah. I just thought she might be here. I haven't really seen her since we got back last week.” He rocked back on his heels and Levy could see there was something bothering him. “Normally she's just . . . always around, ya’ know? It's kind of weird that I can't find her anywhere.” She smiled at him. “Sorry. I really don't know where she went. I'll tell her you stopped by though. I would let you in, but the room is kind of a mess right now. The books are piled up everywhere.” Levy shrugged. “No, no. It's fine. Thanks anyway. I'm staying down the street for a few days, in case she asks. After that, I figured I'd leave to go work on better mastering this Ice Demon-Slayer magic.” Gray waved at Levy solemnly and headed down the hall to leave. Levy shut the door with a smug grin on her face before turning to face a bright-eyed Juvia, sitting up on her bed. She walked back across the little room with her hands on her hips, feeling quite proud of herself. Juvia had become a shade of red all over her body and Levy couldn't help but let out a small chuckle at the sight. “See!” she exclaimed, “If you give it a little time, he'll come to you. If you're always by his side, then he'll start to feel lonely when you're suddenly not there.” “Is that working for you and Gajeel?” Juvia asked. This time it was Levy's turn to get embarrassed. Her heart started to pound in her chest and her body tingled all over. She still hadn't told anyone about how she gave Gajeel air during that battle against Tartaros, having completely forgotten about her Solid Script magic. It was too much. In addition to that, it didn't seem like Gajeel even realized how he received the air. He had been starting to lose consciousness at the time and hasn't mentioned it once. She was both disappointed and relieved by this. “The boys in our guild are a bunch of idiots,” she mumbled. “What?" “Nothing. For now, we need come up with what to do next. Gray said he was leaving in a few days and so we don't have a lot of time.” Levy sat down at the desk she had been working at earlier and pulled out a pen and a blank piece of paper. “We need to come up with a plan and I have a few ideas.” Juvia climbed off the bed and walked over to the desk, standing beside her. Together, they spent the next couple of hours coming up with a plan. *** Afterwards, Gray had stopped by a few more times over the course of the next couple of days. Each time, without managing to meet Juvia. He was becoming visibly frustrated by this. Everyone he passed by could see how upset he was. It was finally the day he had decided to leave. He didn't want to lose to Natsu, who according to Lucy, had left nearly two weeks ago on a year-long training mission. He had to prove he was stronger and stop E.N.D. He couldn't do that without having a better understanding of the power his father had given him. However, he really wanted to talk to Juvia first. She's obviously avoiding me, but I don't get why; he thought to himself as he approached her door one last time. If she wasn't there this time, he would just leave a note for her. It felt strange leaving for an unknown length of time without saying goodbye to her first. It wasn't like she had to see him off, but for some reason he felt like he couldn't leave until he said goodbye to her. Gray knocked on the door with the letter in hand. He was prepared to hand it over to Levy or slide it under the door, but to his amazement, Juvia stood before him. She looked different. Her wavy blue hair had been pulled together in a pair of low hanging pigtails. The usual hat she wore was gone. Her clothes seemed new. She had on a cute white sundress with waves of blue water printed on it. Had she always looked this cute, or was his mind messed up since he hadn't seen her in a while? Gray stood there dumbstruck, too surprised to move. He didn't honestly expect her to answer the door and now he wasn't sure what to say. “Oh, Gray, hello.” she said softly. Her eyes looked past his shoulder, as if she were expecting someone else. She wouldn't meet his gaze. “Do need something? I'm kind of in a hurry.” she told him, while chewing on her bottom lip. This was weird. There was no doubt about it now, she had been avoiding him; but why? Neurons began to fire in his brain as he regained his senses. Juvia had taken a step forward as if to go around him and Gray slammed his hand against the door frame to block her path. She gasped in surprise and he narrowed his eyes at her. “You've been avoiding me.” he stated simply, annoyed. “N-no, I haven't. I've just been busy. Didn't Levy tell you that?” Her manner of speaking was strange too. Something was not right. Why was she avoiding him? “She did, but I don't believe it. You've been so busy that you can't even spare a few minutes? I'm leaving today and I haven't been able to speak to you since we came back.” Gray told her angrily. He didn't want to get mad at her, but this was frustrating. His brows furrowed and he narrowed his gaze at her. Juvia chewed on her lip some more as she spoke. “I'm sorry Gray, but I really have to go. Can we talk later?” she asked as she pushed passed him. Gray caught her by the wrist to stop her yet again. “Where are you going that's so important?” He nearly yelled it. It had been more than a week since they last spoke and now, she was just running off somewhere. He was losing his composure. “I have a date,” she told him point blank. It was the first time Juvia met Gray's eyes since she answered the door. For some reason it felt like he had been stabbed in the chest with an icicle. There was a sharp pain and he felt his body go cold. His grip on her wrist loosened and she pulled herself free. “I'm sorry, I really have to go.” she repeated before hurrying down the hall. She had a date. What kind of joke was that? Gray had this strange feeling in his chest as he watched her run by in awe. Did he just get rejected – by Juvia? What is going on? I came here to say goodbye and she just blew me off. Gray punched the wall in frustration. Little bits of ice shot off in every direction and he ran his hands through his hair trying to calm down. “What's the point? If she's really done obsessing over me then good! It sure makes my life a hell of a lot easier.” he grumbled to himself angrily as he walked down the hallway towards the exit. Having her always cling to him was a pain. He didn’t have to worry about it anymore. She would be someone else’s problem. Gray felt a little bit better outside and decided to pick up the last few items he needed before taking off on his trip. He wasn't sure how long he would be gone, so it was a good idea to stock up while he could. Travel would at least be easy without Natsu around and for that, he was grateful. Gray stopped by his place to grab his bag and supplies before hitting the shops. It was helping take his mind off Juvia a little bit, but he still didn't understand how she could go from constantly fawning over him to just avoiding him for a date with someone else. Gray sighed as he walked into the market to buy some food for the trip. As he made his way down an aisle, a familiar head of blue hair walked past the window. He spun around doing a double-take and hurried over to the window. Juvia crossed the road to some outdoor seating at a restaurant across the street. Already seated there was Gajeel who stood up to greet her. He pulled out a chair for her and they both took a seat. Gray's face was pressed to the glass of the window as he watched his guild mates laughing together. Her date was with Gajeel – really? He was stunned. Juvia and Gajeel were former guild mates of the Phantom Lord guild, which meant they knew each other longer than anyone else. This was weird. Was Juvia's date seriously with Gajeel? How could she suddenly like Gajeel now? Gray suddenly had the overwhelming desire to know what they were talking about. He had never really been a nosy person; but for some reason, he couldn't let this go. All he had wanted was to say goodbye to Juvia before he left, and she blew him off for a date with Gajeel. That hard-headed dragon wasn't much better than Natsu. He left his basket sitting in the aisle and walked outside. He couldn't hear their conversation from across the street, but they looked like they were enjoying themselves. This was irritating. How was she just having fun like that? Just as he was approaching the fence surrounding the patio they were seated at; another familiar face approached their table. Gray ducked out of sight as Juvia stood up and hugged his oldest friend and rival, Lyon. Now what was going on? He peeked up over the railing to watch as Juvia waved goodbye to Gajeel and started walking away with Lyon. Why Lyon? His fellow ice user had always showed a sort of affection for Juvia, but did that mean she had begun to reciprocate it as well and what of her date with Gajeel? Gray stuck low to the ground, making his way around the fence and followed Juvia and Lyon. Was her date not actually with Gajeel at all, but Lyon? He caught his reflection in a window and came to a stop. “What the hell am I doing?” he asked himself. Have I seriously resorted to stalking? Gray stood up and started to walk away. He shook his head at how pathetic he was being. When did I become this sort of person? I have stuff to get before I leave. I don't have time for this nonsense. *** The sun was beginning to set, and Gray dropped his bags on the ground as he took a seat by the canal. He had given up on following Juvia and finished the rest of his shopping. Everything was ready to go now, but Gray still couldn't quite bring himself to leave. Today had been a mess. He picked up a rock that lay beside him and tossed it into the river. “Why am I even still here? It's not like I have to say goodbye to Juvia. I've been running around for the last week and for what?” He sighed. Maybe I should just go. Juvia doesn't want to see me anyway. “Gray!” He turned around quickly, hoping to see Juvia, but instead it was just Levy. “You're still here?” she asked as she came to a stop beside him. “I thought you would have left by now.” Gray shook his head and watched as she sat down beside him. “I dunno… I just couldn't bring myself to leave yet.” Levy rested her hand on his shoulder and gave him a sympathetic smile. “Have you seen Juvia?” she asked. He shrugged off her hand. “Yeah, but she was too busy running off with other guys to talk to me for five minutes.” he told her bitterly. “Why do you seem so upset about that? I thought you didn't really care about Juvia.” Gray sat there staring out at the water. Why was he so bothered by it? Was it just loneliness from her no longer being all over him? He sighed. “It's not that I don't care about her. Of course I care; we're friends and guild mates.” Levy rolled her eyes. “Is that really it Gray? You've been giving her mixed signals forever. You said you were gonna start being straight with her. You keep sending her mixed signals. It’s unfair of you to be upset now that she seems to be moving on.” “I know, I know,” he interjected. “What’s that saying? You don’t know what you have until it’s gone? I just wish I could talk to her.” He picked up another rock and threw it into the water. “Weeeeell, since you seem so desperate, I suppose I could be obliged to fill you in on where you can find her.” She teased. His eyebrows raised in surprise and he turned his head to her. Levy smirked and pointed to the bridge down the street. There stood Juvia alone in the middle of the bridge. She was facing away from them, towards the sunset. “Go get her,” she nudged him in the arm with her elbow. *** Juvia watched the boats travel down the canal and waved at the men on them. They waved and smiled back at her. Today had been hard. Playing hard-to-get was exhausting. Levy’s plan seemed to work at first. She could still feel the warmth around her wrist where Gray had grabbed it. She had even seen him watching her while she was with Gajeel and Lyon, but then he disappeared shortly after that. The rest of the day, she just wandered around aimlessly, biding her time. Levy instructed her that under no circumstances should she go looking for him. It was torture. She had been deprived of her beloved for so long already and if things didn’t go well, he would leave with her only being able to see him for that brief minute earlier in the day. “Juvia.” The sound of her name made her heart skip a beat. The tips of her fingers and toes began to tingle and her cheeks began to burn. She turned her head to see the man she loved approaching. Her love for him had caused the rainclouds that plagued her, her entire life, to disappear. No one would ever be more important to her than this man, and now he was standing beside her. “I’m glad I found you,” he said slightly out of breath. “Were you running?” she asked, surprised. “Just a little,” he replied. Gray rested his left hand on the bridge railing and leaned to his side. “Um, how was your date?” he asked hesitantly. She pursed her lips and took a step towards him. “It hasn’t started yet.” Relief swept over him as he realized that her date was not with either Gajeel or Lyon. But then, who was it going to be with? He cocked his brow and stared at her in confusion. “Then why were you in such a hurry to leave earlier? We could have talked back at the inn.” Juvia turned away from him and turned back to the sunset. She set both hands on the railing and leaned over the edge slightly. “I had other things to do first. What did you want to talk about?” she asked him, still not looking in his direction. Gray felt a lump in his throat. She looked beautiful, standing there in the golden evening light. Had she always been this beautiful? Juvia looked over her shoulder at him. A lock of blue hair seemed to come loose from her pigtails and was stuck to the side of her face. He reached out and tucked it behind her ear. Her cheek was soft and warm. He felt a shiver run down his spine and he was left speechless, just staring at her in the sunset. “Come with me.” His voice cracked. Juvia stared at him confused. “Go with you where?” Gray cleared his throat. “The guild is disbanded, but E.N.D. still needs to be stopped. Come with me. We’ll search together and train.” His eyes searched hers for some sort of answer, but she just turned away from him again. “Is that it?” she asked curtly. Gray felt like he had been punched in the gut. Of course that was it. He was asking her to be with her. Why now, of all times, was she being cold to him. “So, you won’t come with me?” he asked dejectedly. She didn’t respond. He inhaled deeply and grabbed her by the elbow, pulling her into him. Juvia stared up at him, startled. “What are you doing?” Gray shook his head and tried to clear his thoughts. “Don’t go on that date,” he told her. This was hard. She had been laying her emotions bare for all to see this entire time. It shouldn’t be this hard for him to tell her how he feels. “Come with me. I don’t mean just for training. Juvia, I want us to be together. No one has ever been there for me as much as you have. I don’t think I could ever find someone as important to me as you, if I spent the rest of my life searching.” Juvia swallowed nervously. Her whole body felt like it was on fire. She could have been trapped in the middle of one of Natsu’s fire attacked and not known it. “Are you… are you saying what I think you’re saying?” she asked timidly. Gray cupped his hands around her cheeks and pulled her face in close to his. “Juvia, I love you,” he whispered before pulling her in the rest of the way for a kiss. Her lips were soft, and she smelled like flowers. His heart was racing, and his hands trembled as he entangled his fingers in her hair. Time seemed to stand still. He had no idea how long they stood there like that on the bridge. It felt like an eternity. When they finally pulled apart for a breath of air, Juvia gasped. “Did I die?” she asked. “If you did, then so did I,” he laughed. Gray caressed her cheek. “Come with me,” he repeated. Juvia nodded quickly in approval. Tears streaked down her face. She had never been this happy before in her entire life. “Yes.” They stood there wrapped in each other’s arms until the sun had completely gone done. “Are you ready to go?” he asked. She nodded. As they walked down the cobblestone street, hand-in-hand, he worked up the nerve to ask her who the date was supposed to be with. Juvia smiled proudly up at him and squeezed his hand tight. “You,” she smirked. Gray stared down at her confused. She watched as all the puzzle pieces slowly stared to fit into place in his head. He scowled. “That’s playing dirty,” he chided her. Gray leaned in close and kissed the top of her head.