Juvia felt light-headed. Her eyes were closed, and she was lying on something soft. The last thing she remembered, was a giant explosion, and Gray screaming her name. What had happened after that? Darkness was all she could recall, along with something cold. But the cold had come after. Minutes after, or had it been hours? Juvia wasn't sure. She opened her eyes, and they were slow to adjust to the faint glow coming from a hanging lantern within the tent. Was she back at the camp? Where was everyone else? She could hear talking, but it seemed distant. She looked around. There was a chair beside her cot. Who had been sitting there, and where had they gone? The covers were pulled over her, and she was all tucked in, except for her arms, which were only covered, although sparingly, with the torn material from her dress's sleeves. The bruises and abrasions that she was sporting earlier from the battles however, were no longer visible. It seemed Wendy had already been to see her. Juvia sighed, and sat up slowly, her head still slightly dizzy.
"Gray…" she said in a small voice to the empty tent around her. What had happened to him? Was he alright? A fear struck at her. Did he get caught up in the explosion, too? They had been fighting a large demon, when a huge blast from behind them took out the entire structure they had been fighting in. Bricks and rocks flew from every angle, and Juvia could remember something heavy hitting her. That had been when Gray had yelled.
She got up as quickly as she could, and exited the tent, paying no mind to her still torn clothes. Outside, the sun was setting, and she could see a mixture of wounded and recovering mages scattered around several make-shift tents, engrossed in anxious conversations. All the magic guilds from Fiore and nearby continents had gathered together for what was known as the Dragon King festival. They had joined forces to battle the remnants of Zeref's demons, and the dragons who had waged war against the humans. Juvia's head swiveled around, trying to spot a friendly face among the crowd. That's when she saw a high, pink ponytail to her left.
"Meredy!" she called, walking hurriedly over to her old friend, who, at the sight of Juvia, broke out in a relieved smile.
"Juvia! Are you alright?" she asked, rushing over to meet her.
Juvia nodded as another voice made her turn.
"Juvia, are you ok? You should be in bed. You need your rest," Lyon said, eyeing her in concern.
"I'm fine she assured him, before asking restlessly, "where's Gray? Is he hurt? Did he make it back? What happened to him?"
"Calm down," Meredy said, her hand on Juvia's shoulder, as she tried to steady her. "He's not hurt. He's the one who carried you back here. He was in your tent with you for hours," she said, placing particular emphasis on her last sentence, before adding, "you were in bad shape, you know?"
So, Gray was uninjured, and he had saved her. "Thank goodness, " she said, smiling warmly in relief. "Where is he, then?" she said, looking around once more, hoping to spot the spiky black hair of the man she loved.
"He left," Lyon informed her, a grim look on his face.
Juvia's eyes were wide, and her heart was pounding. "What?! Where did he go?"
"He, and the rest of Natsu's team went to Zeref's location," Meredy replied solemnly, looking down at Juvia's clenched hands, which she knew were shaking.
"We're all hoping this will be the final battle. The other demons and dragons have either been defeated, or fled. We think those that retreated might end up regrouping and launching another attack, so the rest of us are preparing to meet them head on if they try to interfere. We think if we can just deal with Zeref, though, this will all be over."
Juvia's head was spinning now. And Gray and the others had gone to meet up with Zeref? What if something horrible happens? She had seen Zeref's powers firsthand. She'd never encountered magic like it before. It stank of death. She shivered, and her eyes stung with tears. She blinked them back furiously. How could he have just left her like that? What if the worst happens? What if-
"Juvia?" Meredy interrupted Juvia's frantic thoughts.
She looked up at the pink-haired woman before her. Her eyes were fixed on Juvia's hand.
"What's that?" she asked, pointing downwards.
"Hmmm?" Juvia said, perplexed, and also looking down at her right hand. She lifted it up, and stared. There, on one of her fingers, sat a stunningly beautiful ring. Juvia hadn't even realized it was there. Where had it come from? When had it been put on her? She examined it. It was so clear in color, she could nearly see all the way through it's glass-like exterior.
"Is that a diamond?!" Meredy asked in amazement as Lyon eyed the ring too, a scowl on his face.
Juvia looked even more closely at the ring, the setting sun's light hitting the sharp edges of the large, and intricately carved figure that sat on top of the band.
Lyon grunted, "ice."
The two women looked up at him.
"Huh?" Meredy said, as Lyon chewed on the inside of his cheek in an irritated way.
"It's ice-make. Ice make, ring." he clarified, as the two girls looked on in wide-eyed surprise at him, and then at each other.
Meredy smiled widely at Juvia as realization hit the both of them.
Juvia's heart was soaring, as her eyes fell on the ring again. "Gray…" she said affectionately. So, that must have been the cold feeling she had recalled. He had made this for her while she had been asleep.
"Does this mean…" Meredy trailed off excitedly.
"It means," Juvia started, a tender look on her face as she gazed at the ring, "Gray will come back, no matter what. This is a promise that there's more to come," she concluded stoutly, her eyes brimming with tears.
Meredy smiled at her, and nodded in agreement, before a sudden look of doubt appeared on her face. "But… won't it melt?" she asked worriedly.
Lyon glowered at the ring again before replying. "Not necessarily."
"What do you mean?" Meredy asked, confused. But Juvia felt like she already knew the answer.
"You can encase many things in ice, including your will," he explained in some trepidation.
As a tear ran down her cheek, Juvia clutched her hand that bore the ice ring close to her chest, and said confidently, "this ring symbolizes Gray and Juvia's love. It'll never melt."
"Momma! He did it again! We had to run as fast as we could, because I couldn't find where he had thrown them," a seven year old girl said in an out-of-breath voice as a door slammed shut.
"I didn't mean to," said her twin brother defensively.
"You never mean to," said the girl in aggravation.
Juvia walked into the sitting room, and smiled down at the dark-haired, pig-tailed girl, who was pouting disapprovingly at the boy next to her, who was completely naked, except for his underwear, and a knitted black cap that sat on top of his blue-haired head.
"What did momma say about fighting in the town, Gwen?" Juvia asked her daughter knowingly, but without any heat.
Gwen adopted a sheepish look. "I know... but it would have all been ok if Luke hadn't stripped as usual," she said, shooting a sideway's glance of irritation at her brother.
Luke looked unfazed.
Juvia sighed, and studied Luke, her eyebrow raised in amusement. "How many shirts have you lost so far?" she asked calmly, crouching down to her children's level.
Luke didn't answer right away. He seemed in serious contemplation, before replying, "eight… or maybe eleven."
Gwen shook her head in disgust. "What I don't get, is how you always manage to keep your hat on the whole time."
"I like my hat," he said simply, as he crossed his arms over his bare chest.
Juvia cupped Gwen and Luke's faces affectionately in her hands, barely concealing a giggle as she was still quite amused. It amazed her daily how much they both could remind her so much of her husband. Although Gray always insisted that they were far more like her.
The twins looked at her in wide-eyed innocence, before Juvia stood up again, her stance now business-like.
"Well, mamma wants you both to go inside, and wash up. And make sure you get dressed, before you catch a cold," Juvia added, patting Luke on the shoulder as he ran past.
"A Fullbuster doesn't catch colds," Luke assured her, as the two children laughed. They ran around her, and into their bedroom.
Juvia smiled after them. Just as their feet disappeared beyond the door frame, the front door opened once more.
"Hey," Gray said, waltzing in, and placing a large, heavy satchel onto the couch.
"Welcome home, darling," Juvia said happily, her eyes beaming, as she greeted him with a kiss.
He returned the favor, pulling her close to him, his arm around her waist, the kiss deepening, as Juvia ran her fingers through his hair.
They broke apart slightly, so Gray could stare into his wife's eyes. "Now this is worth coming home to," he said, grinning.
Suddenly, a small rumble of bare feet running on the hardwood floor captured the couple's attention, and they both turned.
"Papa! Look what I did today!" Gwen's voice shouted excitedly, as the kids reentered the room at the sound of their father's arrival. Luke was still bare-chested.
Gwen ran up to her father, and held out her hand. In it was a blocky piece of ice in the shape of a heart. Her blue eye's looked up at him expectantly. Clearly, she had been dying to show him this.
Gray, gently separating himself from Juvia's embrace, smiled broadly and took it. "Now that's a fine piece of craftsmanship," he said fondly, stroking his stubbled chin in an appraising sort of way. "I'd expect nothing less from one of my apprentices," he added, before lifting her up and giving her a big kiss on the cheek. She giggled happily in his arms.
"Papa, watch this," Luke said, drawing his father's eye, as his entire body turned into water, and then slowly but surely solidified. It looked like he was made of crystal, but he was clearly covered entirely in ice. "I can hold this shape for a lot longer now," Luke said proudly, as he returned to his normal state.
"Great job, kid," Gray said encouragingly, still smiling, as he lifted his son up in his other hand. He examined Luke's appearance. "Now, here's a fun question, where's your shirt?"
Juvia replied in Luke's stead. "Strewn somewhere over an awning in the shopping district no doubt," and her accusing glare was focused on her husband.
"Oh," Gray said, a little guiltily.
"Your papa is very lucky Gwen wasn't the one who picked up this habit," Juvia added to the twins.
Gwen and Luke looked perplexed by the implication, but a look of terror flashed through Gray's eyes at the thought of what might have been.
"Yeah," he agreed, putting the kids down, and scratching his head embarrassedly. "That would have been a problem."
"Luke," Juvia said, turning to the kids. "I want you to finish getting dressed, and then, could you two please set the table? Dinner will be ready soon, and momma made chocolate ice cream for dessert," she directed as the kid's expressions became even more excited.
"Ice cream, ice cream, ice cream!" the twins chanted happily.
Gray and Juvia made their way into the bedroom, all the while chuckling at the twin's over-exuberance.
"So, how did the mission go?" Juvia asked once they were alone.
"Piece of cake," Gray said lazily, throwing his boots, pants, and shirt off with unconscious ease. He then turned back to Juvia, who was smiling fondly at him, and took her hand in his own. He looked down at the ice-cold ring pressing into his palm.
"You never wear the one I bought," he said, fingering it with a small frown on his face.
"Not true, Juvia wears it every day," she said, pulling out a thin chain from within the front of her dress. There was a white gold diamond ring dangling from it.
"Yeah, but I mean, on your finger," he clarified.
"But… Juvia likes this one more, because Gray made it especially for Juvia," she said, gazing at it and blushing.
Gray sighed, and eyed her sentimentally. "Doesn't your finger get frozen, though?" he asked her seriously.
Juvia raised an eyebrow at him, and a flirtatious grin spread over her face. "Now, how could Juvia be married to an ice mage all this time if she couldn't stand the cold, Gray-sama?" she purred, putting her arms around his neck.
Gray took note of his old nickname that Juvia only used nowadays when she was feeling particularly frisky.
Their noses touching, he grinned impishly back.
"You know just as well as I do that you melted me a long time ago," he said as he pulled her into another kiss.
A/N: *Phew* I made it! I have to admit, this was challenging, but in a good way. I've been wanting to write a story about Gray and Juvia's relationship progressing subtly for a while now. This turned out MUCH differently from my original plans thanks to the prompts, but they also helped me to fill in the blanks that I was struggling with in the first place. As you may have noticed, I didn't do a story/chapter about the actual moment that they get together. I feel like I've already done (and probably will continue to do in the future) several stories like that, that I wanted to use these prompts to focus on the before and after instead. ^^
Anyway, if you stuck with me through all seven days and/or took the time to fav/leave a review, it's much appreciated! ^-^ So, thanks for reading, and I truly hope you enjoyed my contribution to Gruvia week. ^_^