"What?!" a shocked Alzack and Bisca cried upon hearing the unfortunate revelation unceremoniously bestowed unto them by the queen of drinking herself, Cana Alberona. Luckily for them, despite how unintentionally loud the two had gotten, Fairy Tail was, practically by default, a loud and lively guild, which made the conversation they were having with the card carrying mage just one of many in a sea of loud conversations and crazy antics. Unless someone deliberately tried to listen in on their conversation, Cana's unexpectedly nonchalant verbal reveal and Alzack and Bisca's sudden cry of surprise would've almost been impossible to discern.
Cana decided to guzzle down the last of her drink before answering the married couple's question. After letting out a refreshing "Ah," she set down her fourth barrel of beer of the day onto her lap, laid her arms on the barrel, propped her chin on her arms, smirked at the gun-toting mages, and answered, "Yeah, Juvia confessed her love to Gray and Gray shot her down." She playfully punched Alzack on the shoulder and added, "Sorry I sunk your ship."
Alzack and Bisca quickly looked at each other in shock. They just couldn't believe what they were hearing. Alzack turned his attention back to Cana. "W-when did this happen?" he asked, obviously wanting all of the details.
"It was during the Great Banquet in Crocus," a voice answered behind them. Alzack and Bisca quickly turned around to find that the voice belonged to Mirajane Strauss, her usual sweet and innocent smile gracing her features as she casually carried a brown, circular serving tray under her arm, apparently coming back from delivering fellow guild member's order.
"What?!" Alzack and Bisca cried. "That long ago?!"
Mirajane nodded, that smile of hers showing no signs of leaving her face anytime soon. Despite that though, she was noticeably surprised by the Connells' reactions. "Yes. You two didn't know?" she asked.
Bisca shook her head. "N-no, we didn't!"
"Really?" Mirajane asked. "Strange, I thought everybody in the guild knew about that."
Alzack's jaw dropped the moment he heard what Mirajane had just said. "E-e-everybody?" he uncontrollably stuttered.
Mirajane nodded, a sympathetic smile replacing the previous one on her face. "Yes."
Upon being enlightened by this newfound information, Alzack released a comically horrified gasp, slowly dropped his shoulders, hung his head, turned around, took a few dispirited steps away from the group, stopped, slowly crouched down, wrapped his arms around his knees, and repeatedly muttered, "Everybody knew except for us," to himself over and over again while repeatedly drawing circles on the floor with his finger.
Bisca quickly rushed to her husband's side to console him as best she could. "Come on Al, don't be like that," she said, placing a hand on one of Alzack's shoulders and soothingly stroking it. "When you really think about it, it's our own fault to begin with." Bisca let out a small, guilty laugh. "We've been so busy taking care of Asuka that we haven't been taking enough time to properly keep tabs on everyone." She then gave his shoulder a comforting pat. "It's okay Al, it happens, and until Asuka's old enough to take care of herself, it's probably going keep happening whether we like it or not." She gently grabbed her husband's chin and forced him to look at her as she gave him a reassuring wink. "Cheer up! If that's the reason, then there's nothing to be ashamed of!"
Alzack took a moment to let his wife's words sink in, and once he did, his expression softened as he gave her a small, understandably sad, and disappointed smile. "Yeah," he said softly, giving her a little nod, "you're right. If we're going to be out of the loop, we might as well be doing something worthwhile." He gently took Bisca's hand off of his chin. "Sorry."
Bisca chuckled. "For what?" she asked.
Alzack, red-faced, looked away and sheepishly scratched the back of his head. "You know, for getting all moody and stuff." He stopped scratching his head and looked at the ground, shamefaced. "As a husband and a father, I should be stronger than this."
"Oh Al," Bisca said, placing her hand into her husband's hair and ruffling it up a bit, "you may not be the strongest mage in this guild, but believe me, you're plenty strong!" She took a moment to stop messing with his hair to think it over. "Actually, when you think about it, I'm actually pretty lucky. Your mood swings are usually few and far between." She let out a proud and hearty laugh. "What can I say?" She gave him a playful wink. "I really know how to pick my targets."
Alzack chuckled and gave her a small smile as they both looked deep into each others' eyes. "Yeah."
"Aw," Mirajane said. "Look at you two, whispering sweet nothings to each other. And in the middle of the guild too!"
"GAH!" Bisca and Alzack cried, the two quickly standing straight up and blushing furiously. They had honestly forgotten the fact that Mirajane and, when Alzack peered from the corner of his eye, Cana were still there, watching the two of them as they had unintentionally transitioned from asking the two about Fairy Tail's resident ice and water mages to having a romantic moment together, and in public no less. They desperately hoped and prayed that no one other else had witnessed (or even glimpsed) their little spectacle.
Cana laughed. "Aw, come on! Keep going! Don't mind us! I kind of want to see how gun-slingers hit their marks!" She gave them both a playful smirk. "If you know what I mean!"
Alzack could only blush harder as he kept his eyes and head down, not even daring to look either Cana or Mirajane in the eye, while Bisca looked up and had her eyes glued onto the guild's ceiling, her blush easily giving Alzack's a run for its money. She desperately tried to find a way to change the subject, to divert the attention away from them. "S-so," she began, inwardly cursing herself for her uncontrollable stuttering, "y-you said that Gray rejected Juvia's feelings for him back at the Great Banquet?"
Mirajane giggled, and, deciding to show the married couple a little mercy this time around, answered, "Yes."
"R-really?" Alzack asked, trying his best to recompose himself and get back into the conversation. It had been some time since the Great Banquet and neither Juvia nor Gray had shown any noticeable signs of change since then. "I didn't notice."
Mirajane nodded. "Yes. Despite what happened, everything's still the same as always," she said cheerfully.
"Mira!" a random guild member cried. "Another round please!"
Mirajane looked towards the direction of the voice and flashed her signature, heartwarming smile in that direction. "Sure, coming right up!" She turned back to give Cana and the Connells a wave goodbye before heading off to resume her job.
A few moments after Mirajane left, Cana got off her table and said, "Well, I'll be leaving you two lovebirds alone."
"Huh?" Bisca asked, raising an eyebrow in surprise at Cana's sudden change of heart. Sure, Cana could've possibly been joking before, but still, it seemed so sudden. "Why?"
Cana indicated towards the four barrels of beer she had already emptied that day. "I'm still not satisfied," she matter-of-factly answered. She gave the two a mischievous wink and added, "And besides, I can't exactly go ask Mirajane to get me another barrel with her being so busy and all, right?" As she then began her search for yet another barrel of beer, she raised one of her hands up into the air, gave the married couple a small, nonchalant wave goodbye, and said in a singsong voice, "You two behave, alright?"
"Hey! Not so loud!" Alzack hissed, though with Fairy Tail's usual shenanigans surrounding them, Alzack had every reason to believe she hadn't heard a single word he had said, and even if she had, she sure was having a hoot not showing it.
Alzack let out an exasperated sigh before taking a seat on the bench of a vacated table as Bisca stood where she was, deep in thought. Alzack, upon looking at his wife, noticed that whatever she was thinking about was obviously bothering her, asked, "You alright?"
Bisca, taken out of her train of thought by her husband's voice, blinked twice, took one look at the concerned look on her husband's face, and quickly shook her head as she held up her hands and gave him a small, reassuring smile. "Don't worry, I'm fine." Her smile was then replaced with a solemn frown. "It's just," she crossed her arms and looked long and hard at the ground for a moment before continuing, "is this really alright?"
Alzack curiously tilted his head to the side. "What do you mean?"
"Well," Bisca explained as she gently held her chin in thought, "Gray rejected Juvia's love for him ever since the day of the Great Banquet, right?"
Alzack nodded. "Yeah."
"But," Bisca continued, now looking at her husband, "like Mirajane said, nothing's changed."
Alzack nodded. "Yeah. I see what you mean." He leaned forward, propping his elbows against the tops of his knees as he looked long and hard at the ground. "Despite what's happened, Juvia and Gray haven't changed a bit. Juvia's still doing her usual crazy antics and Gray is still reacting to her crazy antics with the same amount of… of…," he snapped his fingers a few times before finally turning to his wife, using his facial expression to silently ask her to help him find the best term to describe the way Gray reacts to Juvia's crazy acts of affection.
"Craziness?" Bisca suggested.
Alzack thought it over for a bit before slowly nodding his head and saying, "Yeah. That works."
"Really?" Bisca asked, mildly surprised that such a simple answer could have possibly eluded her husband so easily.
Alzack nodded. "Yeah. It's definitely better than what I had in mind."
Bisca raised an eyebrow in surprise. "Really?" She gave him an amused smirk. "What was it?"
Alzack sighed, before answering, "Eccentric negativity."
Bisca couldn't help but laugh at her husband's own eccentricity. "What?!"
Alzack blushed a bit as he scratched the back of his head. "Yeah, yeah, I know."
Bisca shook her head as she tried in vain to stifle her own laughter. "No, no! That's good! That's perfect!" She gave him the thumbs up, but without a straight face to back it up, it was hard for him to take it seriously.
Nevertheless, Alzack waited patiently for his wife to finish her uncontrollable fit of laughter before continuing with his point. "Anyway," Alzack said after most of her laughter had died down, "the point is, Juvia and Gray haven't changed at all since Gray's rejection."
Bisca nodded. "Yeah."
"And the question I'm asking -"
"The question WE'RE asking."
"R-right, the question WE'RE asking… is if that's okay or not."
Bisca nodded solemnly. "Yeah." They both looked long and hard at the ground for a moment, before Bisca asked, "IS it really okay?"
Alzack shrugged. "Well…-"
"Wait," Bisca interrupted, giving her husband an apologetic look as she raised her hand up to silence him. "Let me rephrase that." She took a moment to find the right words to better emphasize her point. "Can…," she began slowly, "can nothing bad come out of this?"
Alzack pondered over Bisca's words for a bit before asking, "What do you mean?"
"Well…," she said, tilting her head slightly to the side, trying once again to find the right words to convey her worries. "Based on what we know, is Juvia…," she gave Alzack an uncomfortable look, "in denial?"
"Is Juvia in denial?" Alzack repeated softly to himself. He crossed his arms as he looked down at the ground and considered Bisca's theory for a little bit. He looked back at Bisca with a confused look on his face, and asked, "What do you mean by that?"
"Well…," she explained, "maybe Gray's rejection hit her a bit too hard? Maybe instead of accepting what had happened, she's trying her best to pretend that it DIDN'T happen, which would explain why she hasn't changed despite what happened?"
Alzack took a moment to consider his wife's words before slowly nodding his head and saying, "Yeah, I can see where you're going with that." He crossed his arms and took a moment to contemplate something else. "And since this is Juvia we're talking about," he said, "there's a big chance this could all end REALLY badly."
"I know right? I mean, Gray doesn't exactly like it when Juvia does all of those crazy things for him."
Alzack nodded. "Yeah, and what if Gray was dead serious about his rejection? I mean, what if he REALLY hates Juvia's overzealous affections for him? What if Juvia's crazy antics REALLY tick Gray off? What if… what if," his eyes widened in horror, "what if one of Juvia's antics goes too far?"
Bisca's eyes widened just as much as her husband's. "What do you mean?"
"What if Juvia performs an antic so crazy, so over-the-top, that Gray finally loses it? What if he gets so angry-it's-not-even-funny-anymore angry? What if he yells at Juvia?" He then released a horrified gasp. "What if that's enough to drive Juvia off the deep end?"
Bisca took a moment to consider the possibility. "You mean like… a crazy Juvia?"
A pause. "A CRAZIER Juvia," they both rectified.
Bisca thought the idea over. "Man, could you imagine what a crazier Juvia would be like?" she whispered gravely.
Alzack nodded with the same amount of seriousness. "Yeah, it'd probably be bad. Like…," he struggled to find the right words, "like… like…," his eyes widened in horror as his mind came up with the perfect way to describe just how crazy Juvia could get if she was pushed too far, "Phantom Lord bad." The two of them shivered at the thought.
"We can't possibly let that happen!" Bisca cried.
"I know! We have to stop it before it's too late!" Alzack hissed.
"Yeah, but how?" Bisca asked urgently.
At that very moment, the doors to the guild burst open. "Gray-sama!" a familiar blue-haired water mage cried as she entered the building.
While most of the other members of the guild quickly resumed their activities after realizing that the one who had entered Fairy Tail's not-so-humble abode was none other than Juvia herself, Alzack and Bisca's attention stayed horrifyingly glued to the former Phantom Lord mage as she eagerly looked around the guild in search for her precious "Gray-sama".
"Gray-sama!" Juvia continued calling out as she continued to look for the said person. She had what appeared to be a freshly baked pie in her hands. "Gray-sama!" Eventually, her search led her right in front of the paranoid gun slingers. "Oh!" she cried, realizing that Bisca and Alzack were both staring at her. "Mr. and Mrs. Connell!" she gave each of her fellow guild members a respectful bow. "Good morning!" She gave them both a cheerful smile. "May I ask how you two are doing today?"
Both Bisca and Alzack took a moment to recover from their petrified states before they could properly acknowledge Juvia's heartfelt hello. "Hello to you too Juvia," Bisca said, doing her best to return the favor. "We're doing just fine, thank you."
"But," Alzack said, standing up and trying his best to follow his wife's example, "we'd be doing a lot better if you'd stop calling us that. We're friends, right? Call us by our first names."
Juvia blushed as she averted her eyes away from the married couple. "J-Juvia's sorry." She started fidgeting nervously. "It's just that… things have changed since the last time Juvia has referred to you two in such a way, haven't they?" Realizing that what she had just said could've been interpreted the wrong way, Juvia quickly looked back at Bisca and Alzack, embarrassment and dismay extremely evident on her face, as she frantically added, "T-that's not to say that Juvia doesn't consider the Connells as good friends anymore!" She averted her gaze once more to the ground. "I-it's just that the Connells are now the parents of a beautiful little girl, not to mention the fact that the last time Juvia had a REAL talk with the Connells, the Connells were seven years younger than they are now, s-so…."
Just then, Juvia felt a hand comfortingly squeeze her shoulder. Juvia turned to see that the hand belonged to Bisca, who had made her way to Juvia's side to ease Juvia's anxieties. "Don't worry. We understand." She turned to her husband. "Don't we Al?"
Alzack smiled and placed his hands on his hips. "Yeah," he said with a nod. "It's sad, but no matter how powerful we are, we're all completely powerless against the enemy called time. As much as we'd like to insist that nothing's changed, many things obviously have." He gave Juvia an apologetic grin. "It must be a bit awkward for all the members who came back from Tenrou Island. Sorry."
"Right," Bisca said. "Now that we have all of that out of the way," she turned her attention back at Juvia and gave her a cheerful smile, "let's make one thing perfectly clear." She placed her other hand on Juvia's other shoulder and looked Juvia dead in the eye. "Despite all the changes, you can still call us by our first names, alright?" Juvia looked like she was about to protest, but Bisca stopped her just in time by gently placing a finger on Juvia's lips and saying, "We insist." She topped it all off with one last sincere smile.
Juvia stared at Bisca in awe for a moment, before finally relenting. "Alright then," she said, giving the Connells a small smile, "if Bisca and Alzack insist, then Juvia will do her best to respect their wishes."
Bisca smile grew even wider. "Thank you," she whispered.
"So," Alzack said as he walked up to the two female mages, arms crossed as he was eyeing the seemingly freshly made pie resting in Juvia's hands, "what's that you've got there?"
Juvia looked at the pie in her hands and blushed. "Oh, this?" She raised the pie up a little bit higher to give Bisca and Alzack a better look at it. "This is a pie Juvia made specifically for Gray-sama!" she gushed. Upon taking a closer look, Bisca and Alzack realized that the top of the pie was decorated in such a way that whatever ingredients Juvia had used to decorate the surface was decorated in such a way as to resemble Gray's face. "Juvia made it out of blueberries, so whenever Gray-sama takes a bite, he'll think of Juvia and Juvia's love for him!" She turned her head in every which way in order to spot the person the pie was intended for. "Do Alzack and Bisca know where he is?"
Alzack and Bisca looked at each other apprehensively. In just one sentence, Juvia had just reminded the two of what they had just been discussing to each other mere minutes ago. What were they going to do now?
"Well," Alzack and Bisca thought, "as far as we know, Gray hasn't arrived yet, so at least we have some time until-"
Just then, the doors of the guild opened to allow a certain ice mage passage into the building of the guild he belonged to. Juvia's head turned around just in time to witness Gray's very first steps into Fairy Tail for the day, her heart beating faster and faster at the mere sight of just how cool Gray looked by just walking into the building. It certainly helped that she perceived the entire scene in slow motion in her mind.
"Gray-sam-" Juvia cried out, only for Bisca to quickly cover Juvia's mouth with her hand from behind her.
"J-Juvia," Bisca quickly whispered into Juvia's ear as Juvia somewhat struggled to get Bisca's hand off of her mouth. "I-I just remembered, I need to talk to you about something! Something very important! Something so important, it just can't wait!"
Juvia stopped struggling for a moment to ask, in a muffled voice, "R-really?" She had never really had a conversation like that before, so she didn't really know how to respond to such a request. "About what?"
"I'll tell you when we get there."
Juvia's eyes grew wide. "'G-get there'?"
Bisca's mind raced furiously in an attempt to cover up her blunder. "B-by 'get there' I meant…," she looked frantically around the guild for somewhere private for her and Juvia to talk; when she finally spotted an empty spot in the corner to have their conversation, Bisca started to push the somewhat reluctant and completely surprised Juvia in that direction and continued, "over there, in the corner!"
"Hey!" Alzack whispered before Bisca and Juvia got too far. "What are you doing?!"
Bisca stopped walking and pushing Juvia to look at her husband and answer, "We can't jump to any conclusions! We need to get the details before we do anything drastic!"
"W-what are Alzack and Bisca talking about?" a confused Juvia asked under Bisca's hand.
"Don't worry Juvia, I'll explain everything. You have my word." Bisca pointed towards Gray, who was making his way to the guild's bar. "Go over there and make some small talk with Gray," she instructed Alzack. "Find out what really happened. I'll be doing the same thing with Juvia."
Alzack looked back to see that Gray had taken a seat at the bar and was asking Kinana for a drink. Alzack looked back to his wife and nodded, understanding her plan. "What do we do after that?"
"If we can fix it, we'll fix it, but for now, the main priority is that we find out what really happened at the Great Banquet."
Alzack nodded and gave his wife the thumbs up. "Right." He began making his way towards Gray, who had just been given his drink.
"Bisca, what's going on?" Juvia asked. Bisca then released Juvia's mouth from the confines of her hand and proceeded to push Juvia towards the empty corner of the guild.
"I gave you my word, right?" Bisca said, trying to keep her voice cheerful and optimistic despite the possible drama that she and Alzack feared could happen if everything went terribly wrong. "I'll definitely tell you, once we get to that corner! Now come on Juvia," she said as she noticed that Juvia was still somewhat fighting her, "move those feet! The faster we get there, the faster I'll fill you in!"
After a moment's hesitation, Juvia eventually complied. It was Bisca after all. What had she to fear?
Author's Note: Well, what do you guys think? Did I manage to keep everyone in character?