It was an abnormally hot day in the middle of June. The sun blazed above Magnolia and the pavements sizzled as did all the mages that called the town home. Instead of just lazing around the guild, most of the members of the Fairy Tail guild took the day off to head to the guild sponsored pool. The guys strung out a volleyball net on one end of the pool while most of the girls were at the other floating around on inner tubes and playfully splashing each other with water. Lucy was in the water with Wendy attempting to teach her how to swim while Erza watched from the edge of the pool with mild amusement. Natsu was at the other end trying to “help” set up the volleyball net.
“Dammit, Salamander!” Gajeel growled as he struggled to get the ends of the rope tied to the pole. “We were doing fine until you showed up!”
Natsu huffed and pulled the net in the opposite direction. “You guys are doing all wrong! I know what I’m doing!”
Loke, Elfman, Freed, Cana, Mirajane and a couple other guild members who had gathered all sighed in unison.
Gray sat back in a folding chair under a beach umbrella, stripped down to his swim trunks, watching the scene unfold while sipping lemonade. He would definitely join in later…especially if Natsu began to get ahead in points. Just as he was thinking about getting up to refill his cup someone was handing him another one from his left.
“Gray-Sama looked like he could use another,” said the perky voice of Juvia.
He glanced up at her. He was unused to seeing her revealing so much skin. She was quite voluptuous and the two piece swimsuit only served to emphasize her body. She stood smiling, holding her trademark umbrella in one hand while she offered Gray a drink with the other.
The ice mage took the cup and looked away. “Thank you,” he mumbled.
“Are you going to be swimming Gray-Sama?” she asked, twirling her large pink accessory.
“Would it be a burden to ask Gray-Sama to watch my umbrella while I’m in the pool?”
He reached up and allowed her to place the umbrella in his hand without a word. She smiled a shy smile before walking away. There was a bounce in her step that had not been there before. “Thank you Gray-Sama!”
Gray watched her go with a small smile. Since her arrival at the guild she had begun to grow on everyone, himself included. All the girls greeted her with waves as she came over and hopped into the water with a fervor that rivaled Natsu’s. Juvia came up to the surface moments later with a big gasp of air and a wide smile on her face. Water was where she was most comfortable-after all, she was a water mage.
Gray had not been fond of her when she first joined his guild; she had stood on the side of the opposition in a war and had even battled him, but since her original guild had been disbanded she had become a completely different person. She was always smiling, especially for him. Juvia went out of her way to help and protect the fellow members of Fairy Tail and to prove her loyalty. She showed nothing but a kind spirit and a fighting resolve to be the best she could be. While her clinginess to him was a little annoying, Gray couldn’t help but feel a bit of admiration at how hard she tried every day.
Gray watched as she twirled around in the water, a pleasant smile on her face as she dove under again and resurfaced. She noticed him watching her and waved enthusiastically at him. He gave a small wave back. He could see the pink on her face even from the distance in which he was sitting away and could only chuckle to himself. Did she really get flustered so easily?
She was something to watch in the water he had to admit. Using her magic, she could manipulate the water into small waves and splashes she was using to tease Wendy and Lucy, who both turned around to playfully smack water at her. The water mage wasn’t hard on the eyes either he had to admit; she was curvy and definitely had the body of a mature woman.
Gray noticed not for the first time that it seemed like every outfit Juvia owned was some sort of blue. Even her two piece she was wearing was a dark navy blue with lighter blue ruffles adorning it. Her long hair was blue, as were her eyes.
“Does she wear any other color…?” he chuckled under his breath.
“We need another player!” he heard Natsu yelled from the volleyball end of the pool. “Gray! Get over here so I can beat you!”
Gray sipped his lemonade lazily. “Not now loud mouth. I’m thinking. Ask someone else.”
Mirajane looked down to the opposite end of the pool. “Hey Juvia, would you like to join us?”
The water mage glanced over at Gray for a second before nodding and swiftly diving under the water. In only a couple of seconds she had reached the other end and was popping up next to Mirajane. Juvia spun around to face Gray’s direction and waved enthusiastically.
“I shall win this one for you Gray-Sama!” she called over with zeal.
By the time the sun was setting, all the volleyball players were out of breath and climbing out of the pool. Lucy and Erza had to drag Natsu out.
“No! I can win it!” he panted.
Lucy hit him over the head. “You idiot. The game is over, and you lost!”
Erza chuckled as they released him to let him fall flat on his face. “There was no way you could compete with Juvia,” she said, glancing at the woman who was now climbing out of the pool. “She was obviously in her element.”
Gray walked around the pool to where his friends were climbing out, Juvia’s umbrella in hand along with a lemonade. As the blue haired mage climbed out he offered her the beverage.
“I thought I might return the favor.”
Juvia’s face and the tips of her ears turned red as she accepted the cup. “Thank you Gray-Sama.” After she gulped down most of the lemonade she began to slightly bounce up and down and she was back to smiling. “Did you see Gray-Sama? I won for you!”
“I did.” He then flashed a wicked grin and Natsu who was still lying on his back. “You sure know how to lose, loser.”
Natsu went to retort but only groaned with exhaustion. “Another time,” he muttered.
“I never knew you were good at volleyball,” Gray commented.
In that moment Juvia’s smile slipped from her face and her eyes dropped to the ground. “I used to play back when Phantom Lord…”
It was obvious that Juvia still had feelings for her old team mates, most of which had been taken into custody after their defeat at the hands of Fairy Tail. The only ones who hadn’t been arrested were Juvia and Gajeel.
Gray sighed. He felt a bit guilty for making her frown like that. Pretty girls shouldn’t frown, he thought to himself. Wait, does that mean-
“I’ll walk you home,” Gray offered. Anything to stop that train of thought.
Juvia perked up instantly. “Really? Juvia gets to walk home with Gray-Sama!” And just like that she was back to smiling.
Lucy helped Natsu up. “I’m going to walk this idiot home. See you guys tomorrow!”
Erza too excused herself. “I really do wish it’s not so hot tomorrow,” she sighed as she began walking away. “I’m looking forward to going on jobs again.”
Juvia linked arms with Gray and beamed up at him with a light pink tint on her cheeks. She looked away shyly. “Juvia is looking forward to cooler weather as well. Cooler weather means more missions with Gray-Sama.”
Gray couldn’t help but smile a little. “It’s getting dark. Let’s get you home.”
Flip. Flop. Flip. Flop. Flip. Flop.
The night was relatively quiet except the sound of Juvia’s shoes hitting between Juvia’s feet and the pavement. She still had not unhooked her arm from Gray’s and the ice mage doubted she ever would unless forced. The sun had finally set and the stars had emerged above them on the black canvas that was the sky. The air finally had lost some of the heat from the day, making way for the cool chill of summer night air.
“Juvia is glad the sun went down. It’s so much cooler now.”
Arm in arm the two continued to wind their way through Magnolia on their way to the dorm building that Juvia lived in on the outskirts of town.
Gray glanced down at Juvia as they left the town behind for a quieter trail up the hill to the dorm. She was smiling again and gazing around as the buildings slowly fell behind them and were replaced with a meadow of all grass. Crickets chirped all around them. Despite the night the world around them was wide awake.
“The night is so beautiful here,” she said. She let out a breath. “It’s like a whole different world.”
Say something! You sound lame. Gray thought to himself.
“So you used to play volleyball back when you were with Phantom Lord? I guess you liked your old guild huh?”
Not that! Remembering her guild earlier made her upset you dunce!
Juvia’s smile turned sad. “They were family. Just like Fairy Tail is to Gray-Sama,” she replied quietly.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to upset you,” Gray apologized. He rubbed the back of his neck awkwardly. “I suck at small talk and I-“
“It’s alright. Juvia likes to remember them sometimes,” she said. “But…”
Juvia looked up at him. They were halfway up the walkway to the building. The water mage stopped walking and unhooked her arm from his. He looked down at her, catching her dark eyes with his. She place her hand on her chest and closed her eyes. “Juvia is happy that she came to Fairy Tail. Here Juvia was able to meet Gray-Sama, and Natsu, and Lucy, and Erza, and all the others. They are all like family. Juvia feels….welcome here. And warm.”
Gray felt heat flood his face. Has she always been so…mature? I always just thought she was clingy…but…
“Of course Juvia miss Phantom Lord,” she continued. “But they aren’t…coming back .Juvia still has memories of them and of course there is still Gajeel-kun. But Juvia would rather continue making new, happy memories of helping people and having fun with Gray-Sama.”
“Juvia realizes that Phantom Lord and Fairy Tail used to not get along…and Juvia is glad that despite the fact that Gray-Sama and Juvia once fought each other on opposite sides…that Gray-Sama still is friends with Juvia.”
Juvia turned to continue walking up the path and upon seeing her begin to move away Gray reached out and grabbed her wrist.
She turned around, slightly startled by the sudden movement, but not opposed to the contact. Gray on the other hand glanced down at his hold on her before releasing her quickly. His mind was a mess on contradictions. He had grabbed ahold of her without thinking. Moved by her words he felt the need to hold her in place, to keep her with him. But he was puzzled as to why he felt she needed to stay. Did he want her to stay with him? If so, what did that mean?
“Gray-Sama?” Her tone was innocent but not dumb. She knew he was churning something over in his mind but what she did not know. “Is something-“
“I’m glad you came to this guild,” Gray said hurriedly. “I’m glad we’re friends and not enemies. I’m glad that we’re friends.”
Juvia beamed at him and without much thought flung her arms around him causing him to grunt in surprise. “Thank you Gray-Sama!”
He glanced down at her and the delighted smile she had tugging on her mouth made him smile too. It was infectious and for the first time in a long while he felt his stomach flutter.
Aw, hell with it.
“Juvia, would you…like to go to dinner with me sometime?”
Her eyes were large like saucers as she looked up at the older mage. “Eh?”
Gray gave a small chuckle. That wasn’t exactly the response he had expected. It was…cute.
“I’m asking you to dinner, Juvia.”
Her face flushed scarlet and she seemed to look everywhere but in his eyes. She had pinned over him since she had first fought against him and now her dream of going on a date with Gray was finally coming true. He stood before her not as a fellow guild member, not as a mage, but rather a man. A man that was interested in her no less.
“Juvia thought Gray-Sama would never ask,” she replied quietly.
Gray offered her his hand, and once she took it began leading her up the hill to her dorm. As they were walking he heard her say something, but couldn’t quite make out her mumble.
“Juvia asked…what made Gray-Sama change his mind?” she asked. “About going out with Juvia.”
With a glance up at the stars above, the answer rolled easily from his mouth.