As Juvia sat down gracefully in her chair, her eyes still glued to the man that had just rejected her a second ago, her heart finally sank.
'I'm going to honestly say no to stuff I don't like from now on.'
Those words echoed in her head endlessly. She'd easily brushed it off, her head filled to the brim with bubbles of nothing but love for the man. She'd retorted quickly with a remark from the heart. 'I love it when you toy with Juvia's affection Gray-sama!' she'd squealed. It wasn't untrue, she did somehow find the way he was playing hard-to-get rather enticing. However sometimes she wished he wouldn't toy with her love. As far as she could tell he saw it as a game, and she wished more than anything for once he'd take her seriously.
Of course what had really stung was the moment she'd finally gotten up the courage to say those four words she'd practiced over and over again. 'I love you, Gray-sama'. She'd said it, lunged for a hug and received nothing but air. He'd turned quickly, sauntering away with nothing more than an, 'I don't.'
She'd been able to brush it off, just as she always did when he reacted coldly to her heartfelt gestures. She'd swooned over him as he walked away before making it back to her table, where her real feelings began seep in. Never had he ever rejected her so plainly. It hurt.
"Gray-sama wouldn't hurt Juvia," she whispered to herself, her hands clenching onto the fabric of her dress in her lap as she stared blankly down at the platter of food in front of her. Gray had always been there for her, always, the most prominent example when he had stepped into the line of fire to protect her. How long ago had that been? Yesterday? He wouldn't risk his own safety one day, then the next turn right around and shun her, would he?
She had a lot of 'what ifs' and they began to scare her. She believed Gray would always be there for her. Sure he played with her emotions, sure he was distant, but it was all part of the tough guy persona. Juvia had always believed that one day, after the months turned to years of her fawning after him, he'd finally give in and tell her how he really felt. But that answer had come a bit sooner, and hadn't been the one she'd hoped for.
"He was kidding, Juvia," she again whispered. Surely it was some kind of noncommittal statement, not one he really meant. It was how he was; he would say something hurtful, but not really mean it. But Juvia couldn't help the sinking feeling in her stomach that this time he'd been serious.
As her thoughts churned over and over in her head and her heart began beating faster and faster, her eyes prickling, a sharp sound brought her back to reality. She blinked rapidly to conceal any hint of her sadness before glancing over to her left, the loud sound being that of the chair next to her scraping on the floor as it was pulled out.
"Lyon-sama?" she breathed in question as he heavily dropped into the seat, sending a charismatic smile her way.
"Hey," he replied, nodding toward her untouched plate, "You should eat; the food's really good." She glanced back down at her plate, anything but hungry, and nodded. "Y'know I heard all that," he nearly whispered as she reached forward for her fork. She froze, her eyes widening. She didn't bother turning, she could predict the look on his face. She wasn't completely oblivious to his undying love for her; undoubtedly he'd take that as a win, and again make a move.
But instead he leaned back in his seat and let out a loud chuckle. Her head whipped toward him, her eyes narrowing. Did he think this was funny? The man she considered to be her better half had just told her he didn't like her. Her entire world felt like it was on the brink of collapsing. And here he was, laughing. As much as she liked Lyon, mainly because of his relation to Gray, she began to feel a sense of hatred toward him as he grinned over at her. Her hands clenched into fists.
"Y'know it's ironic, Juvia," he cooed, all sense of humor draining from his voice, "I just stood over there and promised to myself that I'd be done trying to get you," he sighed, clumsily gesturing over his shoulder. He ran a hand through his silvery hair. Juvia didn't miss the pained look in his eyes.
She couldn't deny that she'd felt a bit like a princess when he'd swept her off her feet. He flattered her helplessly just as she'd flattered Gray. They were the same, in a way. She would devote her entire life to Gray, whether he liked her or not, and she assumed Lyon would do the same to her. She could tell that the promise he'd made to himself was not one he'd keep, with the extremely torn look on his face. She couldn't blame him, she'd just been shot down by the one she loved and yet she'd still do anything to get him to recognize her.
They were both helpless, strung along by someone who didn't reciprocate their feelings. It was horrible, painful, and degrading, and yet Juvia knew she wouldn't trade it for the world. If she was so much like Lyon, he must be going through the exact same thing.
He was trying to act like he didn't care, she could tell. The way he was stiffly leaning in his chair, trying to look nonchalant. The way his eyes were darting around the room as if he had better things and people to look at, but his gaze always came back to her. He was elated, and she knew it.
"Not even a minute after I made that promise, aloud I might add, I heard Gray, y'know, finally tell you how he feels," Lyon sighed, his jaw clenching and unclenching as he leaned forward on his knees. His pained look turned worried. "Are you alright, Juvia?"
She wasn't sure what to make of him. One minute she could tell he was ecstatic, the next he looked sad, and now he was asking with the most concentrated amount of sincerity that she could imagine if she was alright. Should she trust him and tell him how she felt? Or should she tell him to go away?
"I'm fine," she said quietly, deciding against both and telling what she knew they'd both know to be a complete and utter lie.
Lyon pursed his lips before reaching out and grabbing one of her hands. His skin was ice-cold, just like Gray's. She allowed him to turn her hand over in his, his eyes still holding just as much concern as a moment ago. "If it makes you feel any better, I could've told you he was an ass a long time ago," he said, smiling brightly when the corner of her mouth twitched in amusement.
She wanted to lash out at him and tell him Gray was perfect. She believed it wholeheartedly. But something about his tone of voice and his presence and the feel of his hand on hers made her stay quiet, the streaks of anger she expected to feel because of the insult at Gray never firing up.
Juvia shook her head, "Gray-sama meant well. He'll come around eventually."
Lyon's smile turned down in an instant, his eyebrows knitting together in frustration. "When are you going to give up on him? You're wasting your time, Juiva! You could be with-". He stopped himself short, his face contorting; she could tell he'd bitten his tongue to stop himself.
She again waited for the slashes of anger. She didn't take it well when someone criticized her obsession with Gray, but again they didn't come. Something about Lyon calmed her, even if he was saying things she didn't want to hear, or admit that they were true. "I thought you said you promised yourself," she said.
Lyon looked down at the floor, "Yeah, well, I think we both knew that wasn't going to last long."
Juvia sighed, gently removing her hand from his grasp and brushing out a wrinkle in her dress. The loud sounds of the partygoers around them had increased and in a way she was grateful. No one would hear this conversation. It would be off the record, only between Lyon and herself. Everyone was so happy, celebrating their victory, while they were wallowing together at a table in the middle of the room that everyone seemed to overlook.
"I'm just saying, Juvia; when you finally realize that it would benefit you more to be with someone who cares for you more than anyone else, rather than with a man who obviously doesn't give the light of day about you, let me know." Lyon stared at her carefully and she began to glare back. She wasn't angry, but frustrated with him. If he was in such a similar predicament with her as she was with Gray, he should understand that no matter the roadblock, she would keep going after the one she truly loved.
"He cares," she snapped, "Gray-sama cares for Juvia. He's protected her many times."
Lyon held his hands up in defense, "Yes, yes, I'm sure he does. But how long do you expect it to be before he tells you? How long have you known him? Months? How long are you willing to wait? Are you willing to wait and hope until you're both old and grey? Or would you rather take the better road and find happiness now?"
Juvia gritted her teeth. "I don't care how long I have to wait. Juvia loves Gray-sama and if it takes forever for him to realize he feels the same, then she'll wait."
Lyon growled to himself before reaching forward and grabbing both of her hands. "Juvia, make the better decision, for your own sake. I'm right here, right now, and I always will be. He won't."
Her eyes began narrowing and his words began slowing. She stared him down until he'd stopped, taking a deep breath and blurting out something that went completely against what he'd been pitching before. "If nothing else, just to show him what he's missing."
Juvia cocked an eyebrow in surprise, her eyes brightening as she swept his face for some sort of humor, but couldn't find any. Show Gray what he was missing, by being with Lyon? She'd heard of it before. Lots of girls and guys alike used jealousy to get their lover to realize how they felt about them. Her gaze swept to the far side of the room where Gray was sitting, eating his own meal and chattering away with Erza. He looked as if nothing had happened.
She looked back to Lyon's hopeful face. It was worth a try, surely. Anything was worth a try at this point. Gray had flat out told her that he didn't care, and so she was willing to try anything to turn that no into a yes, even if it meant dating his long-time rival, the man that loved her just as much as she loved Gray. Her heart began to flutter in her chest at the possibilities. If it worked, Gray would get jealous, confront her, and finally tell her how he felt. She knew that he loved her, she just knew it, and she'd do anything to entice the confession out of him.
Just as she'd opened her mouth, her mind high on the thoughts of the future, she stopped. What was she doing? This was Lyon.
They were alike. They were both helplessly in love with someone who wasn't in love with them. They would both do anything for the other, even if it meant losing something of their own. As much as she wanted to get Gray, she realized how wrong it would be. She would be stringing along Lyon, only to use him to get what she wanted. If Gray did that to her she knew she'd be devastated.
She closed her open mouth slowly, giving him a sympathetic smile and gently pulling her hands from his grasp. She shook her head, "I'm sorry, Lyon. I can't do that to you."
She watched his expression circle from disappointed, to confused, and then finally to a bit of understanding mixed with defeat. She watched silently as he stood up from his chair, taking a deep breath and glancing back down to her. "Just know I'm always here if you change your mind… about anything." With that he gave her a nod and walked off to join the rest of the celebrating crowd.
She smiled at his retreating figure and nodded to herself. She understood that better than anyone, as she knew she'd always be there for Gray if he ever changed his mind. Her eyes swept back to the man she idolized and she swallowed. Indeed she'd always be there, in the background, waiting for the day he'd finally realize exactly how perfect they were for one another, even if that day was eternities away.