It seemed like any other day. Juvia woke up at exactly 6 a.m., got out of bed, and did her morning stretches. She felt a bit different today, as though she was a bit off her routine. However, she carried on like usual. She went to the bathroom to shower and take care of her daily grooming and personal routine. After dressing and readying herself for the day, she made herself a bit of breakfast in the Fairy Hills kitchen and ate alone, as she was usually the first one up and about. She didn’t really mind. She liked the quiet and solitude. Of course, she enjoyed the company of the other girls that lived at Fairy Hills as well. They were all her friends and like family to her. The only real family she had known since her childhood. But with the loud and raucous nature of the Fairy Tail guild, a few moments of peaceful silence was welcomed, especially in the early morning hours.
But that wasn’t the only reason she liked to be up early. Being up early meant that she could be one of the first to the guild and this bettered her chances at seeing Gray-sama as soon as he showed up at the guild for the day. Some days she waited near his house on the chance that she might “meet him along the way” and join him on his walk to the guild. She tried to not do that too often as it might look a bit suspicious if she did, but Juvia just couldn’t help it. She was desperately, hopelessly, madly in love with her frosty hunk of a sweetheart, Gray Fullbuster! He was the iced apple of her eye, and then some. To say that she longed for him was a severe understatement. Some of her thoughts and fantasies of here would be deemed far too inappropriate for younger audiences. It made her blush and flushed just thinking about it.
Though as much as she showered him with her affections, Gray-sama rarely even spared her a glance. Sure they were friends. He had come to her aid many times in battle, and they had worked together well, performing Unison Raids at pivotal moments. They worked well as a team. Their magic complemented one another, as did their natures. Both had a cool and calm demeanor. Juvia knew that Gray-sama was a very guarded person with a lot of pain and torment in his past, and all she wished to do was show him the love he deserved. Alas, he shunned her attempts over and again. This never stopped her though. She kept hoping that someday….
“Someday…” she sighed woefully, looking down into the last bit of her oatmeal. But what if he never returned her feelings? What if they were to never be together and her love for him would always be unrequited? She sat for a moment, feeling that familiar feeling in the pit of her stomach. That aching sadness that haunted her for so many years and followed her wherever she went. Juvia suddenly felt cold and a blanket of darkness started to envelop her, drowning out all light and happiness around her. She could no longer feel the warmth of the sunlight streaming through the kitchen window or hear the cheerful tune of the birds chirping outside. She could no longer feel the love that emanated from the place around her from every person that lived there. It started to consume her and outside the sky started to grow dark and cloudy.
“Hey Juvia… are you okay?” a familiar voice asked, shaking her out of her dark state. Her head snapped up and she saw the innocent face of young Wendy, the sky dragonslayer. The young bluenette looked at her with great concern, her head cocked to one side. Juvia forced a smile to her lips.
“Oh hello Wendy, good morning. Yes, I’m fine thank you. I was just lost in thought,” Juvia said hurriedly. “I guess I should finish my breakfast before it gets ice cold.” She finished with a little laugh to try and reassure Wendy that she was fine. Wendy joined her in the laugh and smiled brightly, nodding.
“I’m really glad, Juvia! You looked a little sad, and I wanted to make sure you were okay,” Wendy said, smiling still.
“Oh, well I did think of something that made me a bit sad, but I’ll be fine. I promise,” the water mage reassured the young dragonslayer.
“Well if you’re ever sad and you need a friend, please don’t hesitate to come to me! I might be young and I may not have all the answers, but I’ll do whatever I can to help you, okay Juvia? I promise!” Wendy said brightly, reaching across the counter and patting Juvia’s hand.
Now Juvia was smiling sincerely, her heart warmed and all traces of sadness and cold banished from her heart. This was why she loved Fairy Tail so much. The people really were her friends, her family. There were people like young Wendy that made her feel wanted and loved. Even when Gray-sama did not…
“I better go find Carla! We were going to see about going on a few simple jobs today! Enjoy the rest of your breakfast Juvia!” Wendy said, giving a little wave and exiting the kitchen. Juvia smiled and waved back as the young girl left. She quickly finished up her oatmeal and cleaned up her dishes and then returned to her room. After gathering her things, she set off out of Fairy Hills and headed toward the guild hall.
As she walked to the guildhall she found herself deep in the thought, pondering the many aspects of her life. Her thoughts gravitated toward her childhood and the uncle that had raised her after her parents’ accident and then of her parents themselves. She had been so young when they died, but she still remembered them. They had loved her, she thought. Though all through her childhood the rain had followed her. It wasn’t until Fairy Tail that she found light and the sun… until she met Gray-sama. When she found warmth and happiness. A reason to smile and be happy. This was why she couldn’t help but love him. He had shown her a whole new world. And he didn’t even realize that. But maybe she did come on too strong. Perhaps she needed to give him some space for a change… Maybe if she gave him some space he might be more likely to willingly spent time with her. She wasn’t sure if that was true, but she had tried nearly every other approach. If anything, she was feeling a bit on the downside today and wasn’t quite up for the constant rejection. But she did hope she could show him someday… ah.. Someday. She smiled sadly to herself. Looking up, she realized she had reached the guildhall. Sighing a little, she proceeded to enter the guild, just as she usually did.
Once inside, Juvia made her way to the table she usually sat at and set down her things. She went over to the bar where Mira was already at work, serving up food and drinks to the early risers at the guild. “Good morning Juvia! Bright and early, as always!” Mira greeted her warmly, smiling genuinely. “Can I get you anything?”
Juvia smiled and gave a little nod. “A pot of herbal tea with some lemon wedges if you could, Mirajane. I would really appreciate it, thank you.”
“Coming right up!” The takeover mage disappeared behind the bar into the kitchen and Juvia returned to her seat. She pulled her latest knitting project from her bag. It had become a hobby ever since she had knitted Gray-sama a scarf as a gift for their 413th day anniversary. Currently she was working on several hats, scarves and mittens that would serve as Christmas gifts for various members of Fairy Tail. Her current project was Erza’s scarf. It was a brilliant scarlet red with delicate lines of royal purple through it. It was bold and eye catching just like the mage herself, but the material was soft, warm, and comforting, also much like Erza. She had come to quite enjoy knitting. She would work on this until Gajeel got to the guild and then she would see if he wanted to take on a job for the day. He was who she most often teamed up with these days.
Soon after Mirajane showed up with her pot of tea and lemon wedges, along with a tea cup and saucer. She included some tea biscuits to go with the tea. Juvia smiled and thanked her and Mira gave her a little wink and a friendly smile. This was a pretty regular routine, as Juvia spent quite a lot of time at the guild in the mornings. She was feeling particularly solemn and quiet this morning, however. Something about the day had her this way, for some reason.. She couldn’t really put her finger on it. Sighing and shrugging her shoulders, Juvia decided to set to work on knitting Erza’s scarf and distract herself from this strange feeling. Surely Gray would be coming along soon and this feeling would soon dissipate.
A short while later she heard a commotion at the guildhall entrance and looked up to see Natsu and Lucy along with the blue exceed, Happy. Natsu was carrying on and being loud and boisterous, as per usual. Lucy followed behind, sighing and shaking her head. She was dressed in her usual revealing clothing. Juvia tensed up a bit at the sight of her. It wasn’t that she didn’t like Lucy. She was actually quite fond of the blonde celestial mage. But someone as good looking and talented as she was automatically considered a love rival for her dear Gray-sama’s affections. Not to mention they were on the same team and often spent a great deal of time together. Juvia’s dark blue eyes narrowed a bit, and then she shook herself. The momentary jealousy passed. She had these moments, but they went as quickly as they came. Juvia was quite beautiful in her own right, but she never saw this. She always felt she paled in comparison to other girls.
She watched them for a few moments, taking in their interactions. Lucy often appeared annoyed by Natsu’s antics, and he was quick to tease and pester her. But there were those little moments when no one was watching that they had sweet exchanges. It was well known in the guild that they shared special feelings for one another. She had witnessed them risk their lives for one another time and time again. They would do anything for one another. That kind of love was rare. That was the way she felt about Gray-sama.
Even now she saw Natsu stuffing his face and watched Lucy shake her head and scold him, but then reach to wipe his mouth with a napkin, the dragonslayer captured her hand and kissed her fingers. The blonde blushed brightly and giggled, touching his nose with a finger before withdrawing her hand. Juvia sighed enviously. How badly she wanted to have such exchanges with Gray-sama… she longed for it. But if she even attempted to get close to him like that, he would just think she was being “weird” or “creepy”.
The water mage sighed again and went back to her knitting, her body stiffened as she thought of all the times that Gray-sama had called her things like that. It made her a little angry. Okay, so she was a little over the top sometimes, but she was just being HONEST with her feelings right?? Or maybe she really was just some crazy psycho stalker… She put down the scarf and stopped to pour herself a cup of tea, then squeezing in a lemon wedge. Bringing the piping hot tea to her lips, she blew on it to cool it a bit. As she coaxed the tea into cooling, she thought very seriously about something and contemplated a very serious matter that would affect her entire future. She gingerly tested to tea to see if it was cool enough to drink.
As she drank, she contemplated. Would this be in her best interest? Perhaps it would be. It might make her life in the guild easier. And she could concentrate on work more readily. This would also allow her to train and become stronger. Or perhaps she would pick up another hobby or two. There were countless possibilities.
That was it. She was going to do it. She was going to distance herself from Gray-sama… at least for now. It broke her heart to do it, but at least for the time being… she would avoid him and keep her contact with him minimal. The best thing to do would be to take on a job that would take her out of town for awhile. She hadn’t seen Gajeel yet, so she had no idea if he was really up for a long trip out of town. Juvia frowned a bit, already gathering that such would not be the case as that would be several days away from his favorite person, a certain blue haired solid script mage. The two had grown especially close in the past months and had become an official couple after the war with Alvarez. So that either meant he wouldn’t go at all, or she would be coming along with them. And as much as she liked Levy, the last thing she needed was to be the third wheel on a trip with a couple.
“Juvia go solo this time,” she murmured to herself. “The time alone might do me some good.” And with that she got up and went over to the job request board to take a look at the available jobs.
Juvia looked over the jobs for a long while until she came across one that was looking for the help of a wizard who specialized in water magic. The farmers in a small Eastern town were having trouble irrigating their fields and needed the help of a water mage to install and route a magically run water system and replenish their crops. “That sounds right up my alley!” she said brightly, taking the flier from the board and bringing over to the bar to Mira.
Mirajane noticed Juvia approaching the bar with a job flier in her hand and cocked her head curiously. “Find a job Juvia?” she asked. The water mage smiled and nodded vigorously.
“Yes I’d like to take this job please, Mirajane. Juvia will be leaving as soon as possible. Juvia must go back to Fairy Hills and pack some things first. It looks like the job should take about two weeks.” Juvia explained, pointing to the details on the flier. Mira nodded as Juvia spoke, looking at the flier then at the azured haired young woman.
“So you’re going solo on this one? Are you sure about this?” Mira asked with a note of concern. The job didn’t sound particularly dangerous, but it was for an extended period, and Juvia didn’t usually go off on her own for that long. But she nodded firmly, looking determined, her mind made up.
“Yes, Juvia will take this job alone. This is the best thing for me right now.” she said quietly, nodding again firmly. Mirajane looked at her again, noticing a far off look in Juvia’s eyes. She almost looked sad, pained. But the takeover mage didn’t want to pry. Obviously the water mage was dealing with something personal and it wasn’t Mira’s place to pry.
“Okay Juvia, sure thing,” she said with a smile. “I’ll let the requestor know that you will be on the way. Just be sure to check back in before you leave okay? I’ll have some information for you before you go.” Juvia nodded and turned to return to her table and gather her things. After gathering her things she hurried out of the guild and headed straight for Fairy Hills, not even noticing who she passed on her way out the door.
Just as he was entering the guild, a blur of blue pushed past him and hurried out onto the street. He was about to balk at the person for being in such a rush until he noticed that it was Juvia. She seemed to be in a big hurry that she hadn’t even noticed him when she went by. Usually she clung to him the moment she laid eyes on him in the morning. He was used to being smothered by her affections first thing in the morning and then repeatedly throughout the day, so long as he was within arms reach of her. It was a little tiring, but he was pretty accustomed to it.
“Huh, that’s weird. Wonder what’s up with her,” he mumbled to himself, shrugging it off as he entered the guild. As soon as he was through the door he was greeted by a fall from ol’ flame brains himself.
“HEY! ICE PRINCESS! WHAT’S WITH THAT LOOK ON YOUR FACE?!”
Gray sighed to himself. Of course Natsu was going to start with him first thing in the morning. The meathead had nothing better to do. Of course, he could be the bigger man and ignore him. He could be more mature and not play to the taunts and teases. He could … but would he?
“Listen up ash for brains, why don’t you mind your damn business for once!” he yelled back already stripping off his jacket as he walked into the guild, readying himself for a brawl, walking toward the table Natsu and Lucy were currently occupying. Natsu stood up, eyes narrowed and fists already blazing.
“Oh yeah ice prick?! You wanna make something of it?!” the dragonslayer spat at the ice wizard, amped and ready for a fight. Gray turned to the blonde wizard sitting at the table, watching the scene unfold.
“Sorry Lucy, but I’m gonna have to teach your boyfriend here some manners.” he said, cracking a smile and then turning back to Natsu. “Alright, let’s go flame boy!”
“You guyyyyys! Do you have do this EVERY morning?!? Give it a rest already!” Lucy whined, sighing and shaking her head, exasperated.
“Don’t worry Luce! I’ll show him who’s boss!” Natsu said pounding his flaming fists together. “I’m all fired up now!”
“YOU WILL DO NO SUCH THING! NOW COOL YOUR JETS!” rang out an ominous voice from the steps of the guildhall entrance. That voice belonged to none other than the Queen of the Fairies, Titania Erza Scarlet, the strongest female wizard in all of Fairy Tail, and someone that both young men feared with their very lives. Both Natsu and Gray stopped mid-fighting stance and didn’t move another muscle, their fight stopped before it could start. They knew better than to go against Erza. If they did, they would pay for it a thousand fold, and that just wasn’t worth the pain that would follow.
Natsu grumbled and returned to his table with Lucy and proceeded to recommence stuffing his face and Gray shrugged it off. “Whatever. I have better things to do than fight flame brain anyway,” he mumbled, tossing his jacket onto a nearby bench. Just then his stomach grumbled, making him fully aware of his hunger. Guess I should grab some grub.
He wandered up to the bar and slid onto a stool, picking up one of the menus that sat just beyond the bartop. He was already pretty familiar with the menu, but he browsed it for a minute anyway. As he browsed it, his mind wandered to Juvia and his brush with her this morning. He couldn’t help but be a little bothered by it. It was really out of character for her to be rushing out of the guild like that, and especially not even saying hello to him. It made him sound a little conceited, but really it just concerned him, leaving him to believe that maybe something was wrong. After a few minutes Mirajane made her way over to him.
“Morning Gray. Figure out what you want today?” she greeted him, an order pad in hand, smiling at him brightly as usual. He gave her a partial smile and nodded.
“Morning Mira. Yeah I’ll have a western omelette, bacon, potatoes and some toast. And some coffee, black. Thanks,” he read off, handing her back the menu after she had taken down his order. She smiled again and nodded.
“Alright, this should be up shortly. I’ll get you your coffee now/”
Gray sat idle for a few minutes while he waited for Mirajane to come back with his coffee, looking around the guild. He saw guild members filtering in slowly, some standing at the job board, others sidling up the bar to order food and drink like he was. Cana was already getting started on drinking for the day. Elfman was going on about being a MAN, and the O’Connells were having a family breakfast in the distance. He found himself thinking about Juvia again. It felt weird not having her there. Just then Mira resurfaced and set a coffee cup down in front of him and poured black coffee into his cup.
“There ya go! Your food will be out soon!” she said brightly, smiling at him and then turning to go back to the kitchen.
“Thanks a lot. Say, Mira..” he said, calling after her.
The white haired beauty turned back around and looked at him curiously, her head cocked to one side. “What’s up Gray?”
“It’s nothing… just,” he cleared his throat. “Just this morning, on my way in, I noticed Juvia rushing out of here really fast and she didn’t even say anything to me. It just seemed kinda weird. Do you know if she was upset about something?”
Mira’s expression grew more serious and she stepped a bit closer to Gray, lowering her voice a little. “Well, I’m not sure what’s going on with her, but it seems like something is up. She look a solo job this morning. It’s pretty far away and she’ll be gone for at least two weeks. Honestly, I was a little concerned considering she’s never really gone off like this before, but I didn’t want to pry,” Mira explained.
Gray’s brow furrowed and his mouth set into a frown. A solo job? For two weeks? That didn’t sound like Juvia at all. Something was definitely up with her. He wasn’t sure what was going on, but there must be something behind it. Since she wasn’t there for him to ask her, and he couldn’t just very well waltz into Fairy Hills, he had to look for his next best source. Then, with a stroke of luck he heard the familiar voice of Levy McGarden and where the solid script mage was, her metal head dragonslayer boyfriend wouldn’t be far behind. The Iron Dragonslayer was close friends with Juvia and might have some clue as to what was going on with her. Gray got up from his seat and made his way over to the couple.
“Oh, hey Gray! What’s up?” Levy said, greeting him warmly with a wave and a smile. He returned her smile and gave her a nod. He and Levy had known each other since they were kids and had grown up together in the guild, They had always had a good rapport.
“Morning Levy. Actually, I was hoping to talk to talk to Gajeel for a minute,” he said, looking to the iron dragonslayer. Gajeel quirked up an eyebrow and scowled at him.
“Yeah? What do you want, ice boy?” he grumbled “Bit early in the morning to be making small talk, if ya ask me.”
“ Gajeel …” said Levy, sounding exasperated.
The black haired mage sighed and rolled his eyes. “Fine, fine. What’s up?”
Gray furrowed his brow and cleared his throat. “Do you think we could talk alone?”
“Anything you got to say to me you can say in front of my woman,” Gajeel grumbled. Levy sighed and rolled her eyes, then shaking her head. She obviously didn’t take well to being called his ‘woman’.
Gray shrugged and grimaced “Alright then. Well, I was just wondering if you knew if something was up with Juvia. She left here this morning in a huge hurry and she didn’t even say anything as she passed me. And then Mira told me she took some two week solo job in some far off remote town. I thought if anyone knew what was up, it might be you.”
Levy frowned a little and tilted her head. “She seemed fine last night at dinner. We all ordered pizza last night and ate in the communal dining room. She was acting like her usual self.”
Gajeel shrugged and shook his head. “If something is bothering Rain Woman I’m not aware of it. Not that it would be any of your damn business, Ice Boy. But I better not find out you did something to upset her or you and me will be havin’ a little talk, you got that?” The dragonslayer eyed him warningly, his crimson eyes boring holes into the ice mage.
Gray scowled and waved him off. “Whatever, man. I was just asking if you knew anything, but obviously you don’t so never mind. Forget I said anything..” Gray said, scoffing as he turned away and went back to his seat at the bar.
Just as he got back, Mira brought his food and he distracted himself by eating, even though he had lost his appetite by now. If Gajeel didn’t know what was up, then there was little chance that he would find out what was going on before she took off on this two week mission. And Levy had said that Juvia had been acting perfectly normal the night before. So whatever had happened must have occurred that morning. But what was it? Did it have anything to do with him? But how could it? He hadn’t even seen her yet that day. All he knew was that he was oddly worried about her. She might drive him crazy with obsessive affections and professions of love, but he still cared about her. She was his friend, his nakama. Even beyond that, there was something…. special… about her. They had a special little something between them that he had never quite taken the time to explore.. Not yet at least. But his main concern was figuring out what the hell was going on with her now. He wasn’t sure why, but he had a really bad feeling about this situation. He ate his breakfast, still fixated on the situation.
Juvia had been packing her bags with everything she would need for a two week stay, and also packed a bit extra in case the job ran over. She tried to pack for any type of weather situation so that she might be prepared for anything to come. The water mage found herself to be a bit nervous, as this was her first big solo job. Even when she with Phantom Lord, she always worked with the Element Four, and had also worked closely with Gajeel. And she continued to work closely with Gajeel and other wizards in Fairy Tail. She wasn’t used to working on her own. But this would be good for her. And it would give her time to clear her head.
Checking over her bags again, she was fairly certain that she had everything she needed. Plenty of clothes, toiletries. The flier said that basic room and board would be provided as part of the job. That was a relief, at least. She had camped out in the wilderness when necessary, but it definitely was not her preference. Though from the job description, it sounded like the surroundings were pretty rural. That was fine with her, though. Some fresh country air would be nice. And some good hard work would be just the thing to get her mind off of the one thing that she was trying to escape from- Gray-sama.
She almost felt a little guilty thinking like that. It wasn’t as though he really did something wrong. Not directly, anyway. Juvia simply found herself at a place that she couldn’t deal with his hot and cold nature with her any longer. And while she could never seen herself not loving him, she needed some time to herself to think and reassess her life. Perhaps even come to terms with the fact that it might very well be that she and Gray-sama may never be….
Closing up her bag, she gathered her things and loaded them onto a small travel trolley and headed out the door, out and down the hill toward the road. She needed to stop back by the guild to get the job information Mirajane had mentioned earlier. After that she would head to the train station straight away and begin her journey. As she walked along the road, she thought about the job and wondered what the town would be like. She had never been to this particular area of Fiore and knew very little about it. What she did know was that some of the towns in the area were fairly knew settlements, so there were stretches of miles and miles without civilization. She hoped that she would be able to find transportation all the way to her destination.
After a short while she reached the guild and pulled her luggage trolley up behind her and into the guild, through the heavy wooden doors. Things were a lot more lively now, several members having surfaced for the day. There were people eating, drinking and socializing. She could see several of her friends partaking is merriment, talking with each other and laughing. Normally Juvia would be inclined to join them, but today, she just wanted to get the information from Mira and get out as soon as possible. She made her way through the chaos to the end of the bar and motioned to Mirajane, who was occupied with serving up drinks to other members. Thankfully, she had Lisanna close by to help her.
“Hold on Juvia! I’ll go grab the paperwork from the office and I’ll be right with you okay?” Mira called to her, giving her a little wave before exiting the bar area and going upstairs where the office area was. Juvia nodded and smiled at her. Suddenly she felt someone staring at her and a cool feeling came over her. Cool like ice… She looked up and around and then her eyes connected with his gaze. He was staring right at her.
“Gray-sama…” she whispered to herself. She wanted so much to go to him. To fling herself at him as she usually did, to profess her undying love and remind him of her eternal devotion to him. But she stayed rooted in her spot and instead broke their shared gaze and looked away. Juvia looked down at her hands, shifting her weight from one foot to the other, fidgeting nervously. She could feel him still staring at her. Why was he staring?? What was his sudden interest in her?? She saw him get up from his seat out of the corner of her eye and start to approach her.
“Hey Juvia-” he began but he was quickly cut off by Mira who suddenly resurfaced with Juvia’s paperwork. Juvia rushed over to meet Mira at the foot of the stairs, taking the paperwork from her, avoiding any further eye contact with Gray.
“There you go Juvia. If you have any further questions, your answers should either be there or you’ll have to inquire at the job site. They included a map and travel instructions. Good luck on your trip! Be safe and we’ll see you soon!” Mira said, smiling genuinely.
Juvia smiled and nodded thanking Mira then excusing herself. She grabbed a hold of her luggage trolley and rushed off toward the door, Gray calling after her again. Before she could reach the door, she was stopped by Gajeel.
“Ey, Juvia!” the iron dragonslayer grunted. “Hold up a minute!”
“Gajeel-kun, please, I must hurry to catch a train for my job! I will see you in a couple of weeks.” she said hurriedly, glancing over her shoulder, noticing Gray-sama coming in their direction.
Gajeel eyed her critically, concerned about his friend and her nervous frantic state.
“You sure you’re alright?” he asked gruffly.
“Yes, I promise, Juvia is fine. I just need some time away, and this job is the perfect opportunity, Now I’m sorry, but I really must go to catch my train!” she said perhaps a bit too loudly, her voice strained, as she was desperate to get out of there.
The dragonslayer nodded, now having more of an understanding of what was going on. He stepped aside and pushed open the door for his friend. “Alright then. Be careful, Rain Woman. Take care of yourself.”
Juvia smiled and nodded, “Thank you Gajeel-Kun. I will. I promise.”
She made her way out of Fairy Tail and headed straight away for the train station. It didn’t take her long to reach the station. Once there she purchased a ticket for a place called Ballador. It was a long trip, 8 hours by train. That gave her a good long while to think about a good number of things. At least she had escaped the guild without having to face Gray-sama.
But what she hadn’t seen was the pained look in his eyes when she left without even saying goodbye.