Sorry this took so long to get out! To make up for it, it's super long. In fact, it's the length of the first two chapters (including author's notes) combined and then some. Not all of it is from Juvia and Natsu's point of view though, sorry! I had to add the rest to fit the prompt...
Thank you, everyone who reviewed! Your comments (and screaming) seriously make my day!
So... there will be more side ships showing up in this from Unconventional Beauty - and at least two are extremely crackshippy. And they're ones that I haven't revealed yet in Unconventional... You have been forewarned.
Day 3: Jealous
Disclaimer: I do not own Fairy Tail.
Juvia hummed to herself as she placed the lid on the final box of lunches she had made, and then she stacked it on top of the others, for a total of ten. She wiped her forehead with her arm, and smiled down at her work. All that was left to do was tie them! Glancing around her kitchen, she felt a drop of sweat slide down the back of her neck. Okay… maybe she still needed to clean up, too. She'd gotten a little carried away with her cooking! But she couldn't help it – she was just too excited!
Her clock chimed the hour softly, and Juvia's eyes drifted towards it. It was a plain clock - a far different one that had hung there when Natsu had shown up unexpectedly that one day and tried to make her tea. In fact, it was because of him that Juvia had needed to go out and purchase this one. When Gajeel had come to fix her stove and kettle (under Erza's ever vigilant watch), he'd suddenly clubbed it, stating that he couldn't work in peace with Gray's creepy face staring at him the whole time. So Juvia had wailed but had ultimately been forced to buy another one. She simply hadn't the time as of late to paint her beloved Gray-sama's face on it yet, or so she kept telling herself. It had been nonstop jobs and fishing trips ever since she'd purchased it.
In fact, her production rate of Gray-sama paraphernalia had fallen drastically as of late due to that very same reason. Her room was still cluttered with all of the dolls, and she still occasionally made food with Gray's face on them - but she hadn't made a new doll in some time. Nor did she always have the energy to do more than prepare her food in an unadorned/unarranged manner. She'd even been contemplating taking down a poster or two to make more room for photographs of the fish she'd caught so far.
To her great surprise, she'd come to love fishing, especially with Natsu. The activity was calming; sitting beside a pool of water in the forest, or beside the ocean. With no sounds around them except for the water, and the birds. Happy and Natsu barely said a word after they showed her how to cast her pole and bait a hook. It was a bit odd for Juvia at first. Silence wasn't something she usually associated with the pair. But their quiet companionship was something she'd come to treasure after the few trips she'd taken with them. Seeing their happy faces whenever she said yes to their invitations made something warm blossom inside her chest.
She did cause an explosion of water that first day, though. Upon request. Happy had been super excited as one of his fondest dreams literally came true as fish fell from the air all around him. It had taken coordination between her and Natsu to pry the Exceed away from the pile of fish long enough to pack everything up for their return to the guild. Mirajane had then fried the fish for them, and Juvia was certain that it was the best thing she'd ever tasted.
Suddenly, Juvia paled when she realized the time. She only had an hour before she was supposed to meet Natsu and Happy at the guild! Juvia hurriedly tied up the lunch boxes she made, and then rushed to her dresser to pick out her outfit for the day. There was no time to worry about cleaning up the kitchen! She still needed to shower, brush her teeth, get dressed...
The dishes could wait until she got home.
As Juvia made her way down from Fairy Hills to the guild, the first morning rays of sunlight touched the world around her, illuminating it in soft pinks and golds. A smile worked it's way onto Juvia's face - she couldn't help but be reminded of Natsu.
The guild was already open for business, though it was quite empty save for the sole exception of Mirajane who was sitting behind the bar reading a book. She glanced up as Juvia entered, and then smiled brightly. "Good morning, Juvia!" she called out. "Are you heading out on an early job? And oh, my... that's quite a large package you've got there!"
"Good morning, Mirajane." Juvia returned the barmaid's smile, making her way to the bar. She pulled up a stool and set her wrapped boxes on the floor next to her. "Natsu-san, Happy, and Juvia have plans to go fishing today, and Juvia thought it would be nice if we had a picnic, too!"
Mirajane's smile widened. Carefully setting the book down, she propped her elbows on the countertop and place her head in her hands. Leaning forward, Mirajane commented, "It seems like you're going on a lot of fishing trips with Natsu, lately, doesn't it?"
Something in the back of Juvia's mind (instincts perhaps, left over from her time in Phantom Lord) started ringing alarm bells. Very loud ones. "Juvia likes fishing," she defended herself, not sure why her old internal danger warning system was going haywire.
"Oh?" Mirajane tilted her head to the side a little. "Isn't it because of a certain dragon slayer...?"
Staring at her, Juvia mimicked the other woman's head tilt. "Juvia isn't sure what Mirajane is trying to say? If it's about Natsu-san, yes, Juvia likes fishing with him?"
"But do you like Natsu?"
Bewildered by the line of questioning, Juvia huffed out, "Of course Juvia likes Natsu-san! Juvia likes all of her nakama! "How absurd; does Mirajane think Juvia is using Natsu-san only for his fishing pole?" Juvia paused as Mirajane's eyes began to twinkle in mischief. ...Wait. Had Mirajane... had she meant like in a different sense? Her face burned as she realized just how what she had said had been misconstrued by Mirajane, and she could feel the heat of her own rising blush as it swept through her entire body.
"There's smoke coming out of your ears, dear," Mirajane helpfully pointed out.
"Juvia...! Juvia...!" The water mage attempted to articulate her thoughts, to no avail, flailing her arms madly in protest. "It's not... like that! Juvia has her beloved Gray-sama!" With a sniff, she drew her arms in and crossed them over her chest. "Juvia and Natsu-san are friends, that is all. And Juvia spends time with Happy on these fishing trips, too. They aren't romantic in the slightest!"
"Okay, okay!" Mirajane conceded. She stood up. "Is there anything I can get you while you wait for Natsu?"
Juvia nodded weakly. "Just some water will be great. Thank you."
Mirajane hummed. Conspiratorially, she leaned close to Juvia's face, her hand up to block their conversation. "You might want to take care of that crimson face of yours before your dragon slayer and Happy see it!"
"He's not Juvia's dragon slayer!"
The water mage let out a shriek of surprise at the voice behind her. Slowly, she turned her head, only to see her cheerful, pink haired friend. He was carrying a large box stamped with the logo of a popular brewery. "Yo, Juvia!" he greeted. "Sorry I didn't say hello right away - I was in the back room getting something for Mira!"
"Hello, Natsu-san," Juvia managed, somehow.
Natsu grinned at her, all fangs and warmth. "Hold on a couple of minutes, and then we can get going! Hey, Mira!" His attention moved to the barmaid. "Where do you want this thing?"
"In the kitchen, please. If you don't mind."
"Got it!" Whistling, Natsu strode into the guild's kitchen. "Is on the counter fine?"
Juvia whipped towards Mirajane, her expression as dark and fierce as a storm on the high seas. "Mirajane," she gritted out.
"Oh... did I forget to mention that he arrived a little earlier?" The demon mage tapped her finger against her upper lip, for all appearances deep in thought. "Whoopsie! I guess I did!"
Before Juvia could say anything in response, Natsu reemerged from the kitchen. "Alright, now are you ready to go, Juvia?!" Suddenly, he froze and sniffed the air. "Wait... what's that? It smells delicious!"
Flushing at the compliment, Juvia wrung her hands a little. "Um... Juvia thought it would be good if she brought a picnic lunch, so Natsu-san and Happy and Juvia could fish for longer..."
Natsu's face went slack, as he stared at her in utter dumbfoundment. At that moment, Juvia looked like a literal angel to him, with a halo of light and sheer goodness pouring off of her - the kind of being that Zentopia often preached about and he had never quite bought into before now. "You... you seriously did that? For me? And Happy?" The idea boggled his mind. Lisanna had used to cook for him on occasion before her 'death', though she hadn't had the opportunity to since her return. Mirajane and Elfman had sent off Lisanna and Natsu with lunches before, and he'd been subjected to Erza's cooking experiments on more than one notable occasion, but this was the first time someone had really cooked for him these past couple of years. Lucy didn't really count because he stole her food; she had never cooked for him specifically. But here sat Juvia - with a huge package of food. That she'd made. For him. And for Happy.
It boggled his mind, and scrambled all his cognitive functions relegated to speech. So he just stared at her in silence, hoping to communicate his gratitude through sheer force of will if his vocal cords weren't going to cooperate with him.
If anything, Juvia's blush deepened. "Should Juvia... not have done that?" She hung her head. "Juvia is sorry if she is being a bother..." There was nothing the rain woman hated more than being an annoyance. It had haunted her throughout her childhood, and into her adult life. Dread swept through her. She didn't know what she would do if Natsu found her annoying, or a bother. In the back of her mind, however, a little voice whispered that she'd never felt this way in regards to her Gray-sama.
The dragon slayer was quick to protest the notion, his hands held up to chest level and waving frantically. "No, you're not a bother at all, Juvia! I'm just... I'm really happy you cooked for us! Thank you!" He glanced at the large pile of boxed lunches, his eyes bulging in their sockets. "And there's a lot of it, holy crap!"
"Juvia remembered that Natsu-san eats a lot so... Juvia took the precaution of making extras..." she sheepishly confessed, pleased and embarrassed and relieved all at once by Natsu's enthusiastic and positive response.
"Thank you so much!" Natsu exclaimed. "I remember last time I tried your cooking it was delicious!"
Juvia's face went blank. "...The... last time...?"
"I think it was right around the time you joined the guild?" Natsu thought about it for a moment. "Yeah... it was before! When the ice idiot and I were rebuilding the guild hall, a lunchbox appeared out of nowhere right after we said we were hungry! It was really tasty, even if Erza is the one who ate most of it. You made it, though, right?"
Gaping, Juvia nodded. "Yes, Juvia did. But... how did Natsu-san know it was Juvia?"
"Well... at the time I didn't know," he admitted. "But when I thought back on it later, it seemed fairly obvious. I mean... it was Gray's face. And it smelled like you. Also, it was delivered in a jet of water. Bit of dead giveaway right there. Also, I think I tried your Gray-buns a while back. Those were fantastic!" Not only had they tasted good, getting a chance to wreck Gray's face was always a treat in and of itself.
The water mage blinked back tears of happiness that were beginning to form in the corners of her eyes. She couldn't believe that Natsu remembered back that far! And moreover, that he really liked her cooking that much, even though it was so long ago! To her embarrassment, her skills at the time hadn't been all that great. Juvia had spent a lot of time and effort since then polishing and expanding her cooking abilities. "Juvia has been practicing a lot!" she suddenly blurted out. "So these... these are probably a lot better!"
Natsu let out an inarticulate screech of pure joy.
Watching the proceedings, Mirajane had to restrain a giggle. It seemed as if the pair had entirely forgotten her presence, and she was in no hurry to remind them. They probably didn't realize it, but they were being positively adorable!
Juvia glanced around the mostly empty guild hall. "So, Natsu-san? Where's Happy?"
"Oh, yeah. I forgot to tell you. I'm sorry, Juvia," Natsu apologized, "but Happy canceled last second on the fishing trip. So he won't be coming along this time."
Her face fell, though she did her best to hold back her disappointment. "Oh."
"Yeah, he said he was really sorry, but a job just for him and Lisanna came up and he couldn't turn it down." Natsu shrugged. "I think he wanted to spend some time with Lis. Plus, he was muttering something about how if he played his cards right, he'd get double or even triple the amount of fish it paid. I don't think we wanna get involved in whatever Ponzi scheme that blue fuzzball's got going on anyway."
Sweat rolled down Juvia's face. "So Natsu-san is just going to abandon Happy to his fate?"
"Nah!" Natsu waved his hand in dismissal of the notion. "He and Lis can handle themselves. If he needs me, I'll step in. ...Unless he pisses off Erza. Then he's on his own. No, wait! If he does make her mad, that'll give her a legitimate reason to fight me! Change of plans... let's hope Happy pisses her off. And don't worry about the extra lunchboxes... I will be more than happy to take care of Happy's portion!"
A snort of laughter at Natsu came out of Juvia's mouth before she could stop it. But Natsu just grinned back at her. "Should we get going, then?" she suggested.
"Yeah!" Picking up their picnic supplies, with one arm, he grabbed Juvia's hand. "I already set up the fishing stuff! Let's go!"
"Sure!" she laughed. "Bye Mira!"
Mirajane did not appear to notice either of them as Natsu dragged a (completely willing) Juvia out the guild doors. "Double or even triple, is it?" she muttered under her breath. "You had better not be trying to con me you little..."
"Good morning!" Lucy called as she entered the guild hall. A chorus of replies met her ears, and she waved at everyone. Glancing around, she couldn't see her pink haired partner anywhere. But she did spot Gray at the bar, so the blonde made her way over there. "Hey, Gray!" she greeted, pulling up the stool beside him.
"Hey, Lucy!" The topless ice make mage grinned at her. "How goes it?"
"Fine. By the way, where are your clothes?"
Gray cursed and began looking for his missing articles of clothing, which now included his pants as well. Once they were back on his person, he sighed heavily. "One of these days, I've gotta ask Lyon how he managed to kick that habit. I'm tired of being arrested for public indecency..."
A droplet of sweat ran down the back of Lucy's head. "Did you spend the night in lockup again?"
"Thankfully no." He took a swig from his beer. "But it was a near thing. I'm lucky it was locals - at least they understand that I can't help it. So what's up with you? Just hanging out at the guild today, or do you have something planned?"
"Well I was hoping to take a job with Natsu, but I didn't see him when I came in," Lucy confided in her friend. "Do you know if he's busy today or not?"
"Hmm... I don't know. I don't keep Flame Brain's schedule," Gray said. "Not that he hasn't tried to get me to do that before," he muttered into his mug.
Mirajane paused as she passed them, laden trays in both arms perfectly balanced. "Sorry, I couldn't help overhearing," she interrupted. "Natsu and Juvia went fishing together early this morning." An eerie smile passed over her face. "They were being so adorable, too!"
Lucy could only blink in surprise as Mirajane departed to deliver her load of drinks. "O-oh," Lucy stuttered. "I didn't... realize they were going today." Disappointment sank into her body, and it felt like all of her previous energy had been drained.
Tilting his head, Gray peered at the blonde. "Lucy, is everything alright?" he asked. "You don't look so good."
"No, I'm fine," she insisted.
Not convinced in the slightest, in order to defuse the tension Gray joked, "Don't tell me you're jealous of Juvia or something!"
Lucy's shoulders spasmed in what could only be a flinch. "Of course not!" the celestial mage protested, forcing a smile on her face. "That's ridiculous! Why would I be jealous of Juvia for spending time with Natsu?"
Gray nearly spat out his drink at her words and unnatural smile. "Wha...? Wait, are you? Really?" There was no possible way that could be it. Right? That was just... weird.
"I'm not jealous!" she shouted, gaining the nearby attention of several other guild members. Lucy shrank in her seat. "I'm not jealous," she insisted in a much quieter tone, her cheeks reddening.
"You are! You so are!"
Seeing that denial wouldn't get her anywhere with Gray, Lucy abruptly switched tactics to get him to drop the issue. "What about you, I don't see you getting jealous!"
Her friend gave her a funny look. "Why would I?" he asked. "Juvia's just a friend."
"Oh, really? Because you got super jealous when Lyon expressed an interest in Juvia," Lucy informed him smugly. "Every time he did, actually."
Gray spluttered incoherently. "Th-that's different, and you know it!"
"Is it really?"
"Yeah, and... and wait a second." Gray paused for a moment, . "Is Natsu?" he asked. "Interested in Juvia, I mean?"
Lucy's face went slack. "Um... I don't actually know," she admitted. "They are going fishing together a lot lately. I see them together a lot outside of it, too. I mean... they've always been on friendly terms, but they never really hung out just the two of them until recently. Didn't they go to a lure store together, the other day?"
That sounded vaguely familiar to Gray as well. "That's true." Pensive, Gray thought over the issue. "I don't think we'll ever be able to decipher just what goes on in Charcoal Head's brain - assuming there's one in there." He grinned briefly as Lucy gave him a light punch to his arm. "But... it seems a fair guess." He fiddled with his beer mug, contemplating his past behavior. Was he giving this whole thing too much thought? Probably, but then Gray liked to think things through; his magic required it of him, after all. "I think I'd be fine if Natsu and Juvia were interested in each other, though," Gray finally said, shocking Lucy. Though he undersold it a bit - in reality, he was more than okay with it. He would be perfectly content to shove the two into a broom closet if it came down to that.
The celestial mage raised an eyebrow at him. "Are you sure about that? Again, I remember how you behaved with her and Lyon. Heck, you literally snatched her out of his arms during the GMG's."
A weak chuckle escaped Gray. "Yeah, that's true! I did do that, didn't I? I just... it's different with Natsu, compared to Lyon. I mean... Lyon is like a brother to me, but at the same time I was his rival for a long time, and there was so much bad blood between us for so long... It was also pretty clear that his attentions were unwanted, and made her uncomfortable. I didn't like seeing that." He sighed heavily. "I hate to admit it - I guess I just don't quite trust him with the happiness of one of my closest friends. Which Juvia is. Natsu..." Gray trailed off, his gaze distant. "Natsu and I have definitely have had our differences, and we butt heads all the time. But he's one of the best people I know. And if he were, hypothetically, interested in Juvia... and if she returned his affections... I would be happy for them."
His friend gave him a lopsided grin. "Geez, when did you get so mature?" Lucy asked playfully. "Well... except for your stripping habit, anyway. While we're on that topic... where did your clothes go this time?"
Gray glanced down at his once again bare chest. "Are you kidding me?" he muttered. "When did that happen...?"
"Beats me. One second they were there, and then the next, they weren't." Lucy frowned slightly, contemplating her hands while Gray plucked his shirt up from under his bar stool. "You know... you were right."
The ice make mage abruptly turned and stared at Lucy. "I was?" he asked cautiously, not entirely positive that this wasn't a trap of some sort. "About what?"
Lucy sighed. "I have to admit that I'm a little jealous of Juvia. Not much!" she was quick to add. "Just a little bit. And not because of romantic feelings towards Natsu or anything like that, before you get the wrong idea!"
Her teammate eyed her suspiciously. "...Then you have romantic feelings for Juvia...?" he offered, leaning away from her slightly.
A wise decision on his part, as Lucy attempted to smack him upside his head, succeeding only in swiping at thin air. "I don't have any romantic feelings for either of them!"
Gray returned to his previous position. "Alright... so what's up?"
"It's just... you know!" Gray stared at her blankly. "I... Look... Natsu was my first human friend. He brought me to Fairy Tail in the first place, and he's been my best friend ever since. I'm a little jealous of him spending more time with Juvia these days, is all."
"So you... want to go fishing with him?" her companion asked, a little confused. "You could just tell him that, you know."
Lucy waved her hand in an emphatic no. "No way - Mavis, no. Don't let Natsu know this, but I really, really hate fishing. Like... I can't stand it. Everything about it. I hate it. If Juvia wants to go fishing with him, power to her. But no. No more fishing for me. Juvia taking over that is like the best thing that's happened to me all year." She paused, and glowered at Gray. "Stop laughing!" Lucy hissed at him, as he doubled over in mirth. "It's not funny!"
"It totally is!"
Gray wiped away a tear from his eye while Lucy pouted. "I'm still not sure I understand what the problem is, then, if you're fine with Juvia going fishing with him."
Groaning, Lucy placed her head in her hands. "I don't know!" she whined. "That's the problem!" Lucy was silent for a moment. Then she sat up straight, pushing her hair back from her face. "I guess... maybe I just miss my best friend. I miss spending one-on-one time with him." Lucy paused, and then snorted. "And Happy, too, of course."
That elicited an identical snort from Gray as well. "Of course." Now that it occurred to him, he might have seen the ubiquitous blue cat around the guild earlier, getting a lecture from Mirajane. Had he not gone with Natsu and Juvia? ...Interesting. He would file that tidbit away for later analysis.
"So, what about you, Gray?" Lucy prodded. "Anything going on in your love life lately, or is it as dead as mine?"
Caught off guard, Gray practically jumped out of his seat at the question. "What? Me? Uh... no. I mean, yes. I - UGH."
"Oh ho?" A devious glimmer shone in Lucy's eyes, the exact same one that Mirajane and Erza got sometimes that never failed to scare the piss out of Gray (literally, when he was younger). "There is someone then? Spill!"
"There's nothing to spill," Gray insisted, trying not to sweat.
Lucy's eyes narrowed. "Don't you give me that, Gray Fullbuster. I know you well enough by this point to tell when you're hiding something."
Gray sighed heavily. There was no way he was getting out of this, was there? Dammit - he should have been prepared for something like this. Normally, he was pretty good at hiding it when he was upset; no matter what Lucy believed. Still... she had trusted him just now with her own feelings, hadn't she? After some prodding on his part. He glanced around the guild for potential eavesdroppers. Talking to Lucy about personal topics was one thing - broadcasting them to the guild was another entirely. The greatest suspects would be Cana, Mirajane, the dragon slayers, and worst of all of them was Happy, he deduced. Cana was in the middle of a job with Wendy, so neither was present today. Natsu was out fishing, obviously. Happy was nowhere in evidence, strangely enough. Maybe he was with Lisanna, or maybe Mirajane had him on an errand or something? Speaking of - the white haired woman was off serving high tea upstairs to the Rajinshuu. Laxus looked like he would rather be anywhere other than where he currently was, but Freed and Evergreen seemed pleased with their current activity. Gray didn't see Bickslow at all. Odd. Could just be the angle, though.
And then there was Gajeel... sitting down the bar from them, but clearly not paying any attention to the pair whatsoever. In fact, he was glaring into his mug and growling under his breath. Gray thought he heard him say, "Did that witch really have to hit me in the head so fucking hard? All I wanted was her sword. Just a little taste, nothing major! Fucking stingy."
What in the world had Gajeel done? On second thought, it was probably best to just leave him alone.
Feeling it safe to discuss, Gray turned back to Lucy. "Okay, you've got me. Not a word of this to anyone, though." She nodded excitedly, motioning for him to continue. "So... you remember that job Gramps had for me a while back? I met her then - sort of. I mean... I already knew her but not that well. We got to talking, and we just... we really hit it off."
Lucy grinned at him. "That's awesome, Gray! Congratulations!"
He shook his head. "Thanks, but it's pretty hopeless. For starters... I have no idea what she thinks of me. And her family... good Mavis her family. She's got a ton of brothers and a sister and they are terrifying all on their own. But her dad... now, he is a monster..."
Natsu watched as Juvia pulled out the lunches and began to lay them out on a large, checkered picnic cloth she'd brought with. "They smell great, Juvia!" he exclaimed. "I can't wait to taste them!" He was pretty sure he was drooling, but at this point he didn't really care.
She smiled at his enthusiasm. "Just another minute, Natsu-san... oh."
"What is it?" Natsu asked, worried.
Juvia's face was downcast. "Juvia forgot drinks... oh, how could Juvia forget those!" she lamented. "Now we won't have anything to wash it all down with!"
Alarmed, Natsu waved to get her attention. "No big deal, we can always drink the pond water, right?" Juvia gaped at him in abject horror at the suggestion. "That was a joke," he said lightly. "I don't do that." Much.
A sigh of relief emanated from the water woman. "Oh thank goodness. Stagnant water has all sorts of bad bacteria in it - you should never drink it. Juvia would suggest not making this joke to Wendy-chan. She would... not take it well."
All color drained from Natsu's face at the prospect of a Wendy-lecture. "Got it." That still left the question of drinks, however. An idea suddenly popped into Natsu's head. "Hold on, I think I know what we can do!" He leapt to his feet. "Hold on a second right there, okay? I'll be right back!"
Curious, Juvia nodded. "Juvia will finish up here, then." Though she wasn't sure what else she could do - it was more or less ready to go.
As Natsu tromped through the forest, he peered around the foliage, looking for one species of tree in particular.
So far, he and Juvia had had a slow day at the pond. He'd managed to catch two little fish, but he had thrown them back. The only keeper was a spawning female that Juvia caught - which they also returned to the pond. Maybe this hadn't been such a great idea, he wondered. Had it really been worth the trouble of bribing and sending Happy off with Lisanna? At this rate, he wouldn't even have fish to pay his buddy with!
His little deception about Happy's absence made Natsu feel pretty bad - though nothing he'd said had been false. When Juvia had looked so disappointed at hearing the Exceed wouldn't be joining them, it had been a stab to his gut. The dragon slayer supposed he could have just told Juvia that he'd just wanted to spend time together just the two of them... but he wasn't particularly comfortable saying that to himself, let alone her.
Natsu felt... weird around Juvia lately. Not weird bad. Weird good. He wasn't an idiot, regardless of the others' general opinion of him, so he had a basic idea about what was going on with him. Didn't mean he had to accept it. Or like it.
Except... he really did like it, if he was being honest with himself.
Fishing with Juvia was a joy. She seemed to get the activity in a way that Lisanna and Lucy never had - that it was less about catching dinner, and more about taking the time to quietly enjoy your surroundings; for silent contemplation and peaceful companionship. Natsu needed these things in his life, to muffle his more compulsive, loud side. He was able to get them through fishing - it was pretty much the only thing that calmed his usual restlessness. This time was for him cathartic, and healing.
With Juvia there, it added to the peacefullness, somehow. If he had to guess, Natsu would say that her magic probably had something to do with it. But he also believed that it was her personality. She could be as bubbly and talkative as the brook, or the endless calm of the deep. To Natsu, she was the drum of rain on the windowsill - a steady beat that could lull a person to sleep.
It was obvious too, to Natsu, that Juvia possessed a kindness unending for her friends and family. Juvia loved with an intensity he'd only seen in himself before now. She was talented at a great many things - her mastery over her magic, her delicious cooking, her handicrafts skills the likes of which rivaled a professional seamstress (or at least Natsu thought so). As far as Natsu could tell, Juvia didn't see herself in the same light that Natsu did. Her self-confidence wasn't the greatest, though she was improving.
More than anything, Natsu just wanted the opportunity to get to know her even better.
Soon, he found what he was looking for. After picking four large, weirdly shaped fruits from a small tree buckling under the weight of its own offspring, Natsu turned and dashed back towards where he'd left Juvia.
"Juvia!" he called out, when she came into sight. "Look what I found!"
Looking up from the food spread, Juvia smiled brightly. "Welcome back! What are those, Natsu-san?"
Natsu skidded to a stop next to the picnic, his heart suddenly hammering and his face flushed far more than either should be from such a short run. Was he coming down with something? "Waterfruit! I'm surprised you haven't seen them before. They're mostly liquid inside, and they taste pretty good." He set them down, before placing himself firmly in front of the food. "It looks tasty!" And pretty. It was very pretty too. Natsu had never really thought of food as pretty before, but there was just no other way to describe the lunchboxes he was looking at.
"Thank you!" Juvia beamed. "And thank you for bringing the fruit! Go ahead and dig in!"
Not needing to be told twice, Natsu did so.
Only to pause, a few bites in.
"Is... is something wrong, Natsu-san?" Juvia questioned, waving a hand in front of his face. "Your eyes are glazed over."
Tears suddenly began gushing out of Natsu's eyes, coursing in veritable rivers down his face. Juvia let out a squeak of alarm.
"It's delicious!" Natsu blubbered. "It's so good! You're really, really good at cooking! I could eat this forever!" He was already beginning to plot how he might be able to manage that. The only real concern was getting around Erza's watchdog abilities. How was Gray able to turn his nose up at what was clearly the food of the gods? Burning jealousy swept through Natsu at the thought of Gray getting this kind of food offered to him all the time, only for it to be rejected.
Juvia watched, incredulous, as Natsu began to shovel in his food at lightning speed. "Is it... is it really?" she faintly wondered. Delicately, she took a bite of her own. It didn't taste any different than usual to her. In fact, she might've overdone it on the salt. Was it the copious amount of peppers she used on Natsu's boxes that were causing this reaction in him?
Regardless... it made her very, very happy.
Juvia laughed, her merriment bubbling over inside of her. Like she almost always did around Natsu, she felt warm. "Hey, Natsu-san... do you remember that one time when Juvia accidentally hooked Happy when casting?"
He nodded. "Yeah!" he said around the food. "And then he went whoosh!" Natsu demonstrated the arc in which Happy had flown with his chopsticks. "Straight into the lake. And then that monster fish tried to eat him!"
"And then he cried when you roasted it..." Juvia recalled fondly.
Natsu grinned. "He complained all the way home. That fish was ugly, but it tasted really good. Nothing compared to this, though!"
"Now if only Gray-sama would react to Juvia's cooking like this..." Juvia mumbled wistfully. For once, though, she wasn't able to imagine the same expressions Natsu was displaying on Gray.
"Like I've said a million times before," Natsu stated, gesturing emphatically with his chopsticks. "Ice Princess is a fucking MORON."
Later that night, when they returned to the guild, Juvia discovered that Gray and Lucy had gone on a job together with the Raijinshuu and Laxus. They wouldn't be returning for a couple of days.
Juvia didn't feel the least bit jealous.
The scene with Gray and Lucy will probably be making a reappearance in Gray's side story for Unconventional Beauty, but more from Gray's point of view. This was supposed to go into way more depth with Gray and his mystery girl, and it was going to be super angsty - but I decided to save it for Gray's story. This story is Natsu and Juvia's, after all!
Let me know what you think!