The Last Cake
AKA: Freed and Juvia's Support Group For The Hopelessly In Love
The Guild was mostly empty that evening as Freed wandered in. Mirajane was behind the bar, taking the moment of calm to dust down the shelves and polish the glasses. Bisca and Alzack were tucked away in a corner, having a romantic meal out without their daughter for once. Reedus, Nab, and Vijeeter were having a quiet drink at the bar. Aside from that the only other person at the Guild was a very quiet looking Juvia, who sat alone at the back.
Despite the emptiness, he ordered a drink. If it didn't liven up by the time he could always go home. He spared another glance at Juvia. After how he treated her when she first joined, he never really knew how to act around her so he wouldn't call them close in any terms. But looking at her then, he could tell that she wasn't her usual self.
"What's up with her?" he asked Mira, as she set his drink down in front of him.
Mira looked at her sympathetically. "Gray took a mission."
Gray had taken missions before and, even the ones where she had not been able to continue her stalking, had never left Juvia so melancholy so Freed waited for Mira to continue.
"He's escorting a young lady to a ball, as a date."
"I know. And he told Juvia in no uncertain terms she wasn't to follow, poor dear."
Freed looked back over at Juvia. She really did look miserable. And he would bet that the puddles on the floor weren't from where Mira had been mopping.
"You should talk to her," Mira said softly, breaking him out of his thoughts.
"Talk to her."
"I can't do that."
"I… I-" He tortured her. He made her feel unwelcome. He really doubted that she would want to talk to him of all people right now.
"What's the worst that could happen? Go on."
Freed would have tried arguing but there was a spark in her eyes that was pure Satan Soul and how could he argue with that? His chair scraped across the floor as he stood and made his way over to Juvia. She looked even more miserable up close.
"Uh… Um… Is it okay for me to join you?"
Juvia gave a small nod from where her face was planted against the table.
"Um… So how are you?" Freed cringed. He was not good at this.
"Gray-sama doesn't want Juvia," she sobbed.
"I-I'm sure that's not true. He just wants to complete his mission to the best of his best ability."
Immediately Freed could tell this was the wrong thing to say. It probably had something to do with telling the girl that her crush, mission or no mission, was trying to have the best possible date with another girl.
Juvia wailed. Across the room Mira shot Freed a dirty look. He begged for help with his eyes. She just gazed at him sternly and nodded at Juvia, as if that would tell him exactly how to fix this. He grit his teeth and awkwardly patted Juvia on the shoulder. The fact that this actually stopped her crying could more or less be put down to her complete surprise at the action.
She blinked up at him.
"Give it time," he tried, "I'm sure you'll be able to win him over eventually."
Juvia beamed at this and for a moment Freed was blindsided by the warmth that bubbled up inside him at making his guildmate happy. It wasn't the same as the interactions with the Thunder God Tribe (and especially different to what he felt the few times he managed to get Laxus to smile) but it did in its own way feel familiar. It reminded him a bit of how he felt after his fight with Mira, like a shard of long held loneliness and pain melting away.
"You really think so?" she asked.
"If he's smart then one day he'll see what he has."
"Juvia won't lose to any Love Rival!" she said determinedly.
"In the meantime, we should have some cake. It's on me."
"Cake?" asked Juvia in confusion.
"Sometimes, when the ones we love don't see us clearly, cake is the best thing to heal the pain." With that, Freed stood and made his way over to the bar to order a couple of cakes. He could feel Juvia's eyes on his back as tried to ignore Mira's teasing insinuations.
When Freed sat back down Juvia was looking at him with a serious expression. "Does Freed also have a Love Rival?" she asked eventually. He could hear the way she was trying to carefully word her sentence so not to upset him. It was surprisingly… endearing.
"Only invisibility," he admitted, which is more than he had ever done on the subject before.
Juvia nodded as if what he said made sense, which in a way it probably did. Despite the fact that Juvia loved loudly and Freed loved silently, they both had problems being truly seen by the ones they loved. Gray knew Juvia liked him but you only had to see them interact to know that he thought it was a shallow, passing thing born out of gratefulness. And maybe that's what it had been to begin with but eventually it had transformed into something true and lasting.
"May Juvia ask who Freed-sama likes?"
Freed blushed red at the honorific. He had no idea where it came from and he certainly didn't deserve it. "I-I-" he stuttered. He wasn't sure what he was going to say but he was cut off by Mira arriving with the cakes.
He could tell exactly what she was thinking by the glint in her eye and the delight in her voice as she served the deserts.
Or rather the desert. Singular.
"I'm afraid that there was only one cake left. I hope you don't mind sharing."
'Meddling, little matchmaker', Freed thought. There were so many reasons that he and Juvia would never work out, such as them both being hopelessly in love with other people and the fact that Freed didn't even swing that way. Freed however held his tongue and said nothing because, despite everything, he liked the easy friendship and comradeship that was taking root between himself and the water mage.
"Thank you," he said tersely, trying to let Mira know that he knew exactly what she was trying to do. Not to mention the fact that he knew it was highly likely there was more cake in the kitchen.
Mira tittered. "Enjoy your dessert," she smiled, floating back off to the bar.
"She really is a demon," Freed muttered under his breath, before turning back to his companion. Juvia was holding a fork out to him with a gentile smile. "You can have the first bite," he offered, taking the utensil.
Juvia hummed as she took a mouthful of the chocolate cake. "It's delicious. Juvia really likes it."
Freed nodded and took his own bite. They ate in companionable silence. Finally Freed took a steadying breath. "It's Laxus," he admitted. He's grateful for the breath because it's the first time he's admitted that out loud and he finds he can't breathe as he waits for Juvia's reaction.
She blinks in confusion before her eyes widen in surprise as she realises he's answering her earlier question. She reaches across the table and squeezes his hand in reassurance. "Laxus will see Freed-sama too. Juvia is sure of it."
Freed swallowed the lump in his throat. He wasn't sure why he felt so relieved. He barely knew Juvia so it didn't make sense that her reaction could hold so much weight to him. It did though and another shard of pain and loneliness melted away inside.
Whilst he was trying to think of something to say, Juvia grinned up at him with a sly look. "Freed-sama has great taste. Juvia approves."
Freed's face burned. He stuffed a large mouthful of cake in his face in order not to respond to that.
Juvia laughed. It was bright and happy and far from what it had been when he had entered the guild. The topic mostly shifted from love to missions and hobbies ("mostly" because both those things happened to coincide with who they loved) and soon they had been chatting for hours without realising the time flying by. Freed had even forgotten his initial plan to only have one drink and then leave if it didn't liven up. He'd been enjoying Juvia's company so much he hadn't even realised other guildmates coming and going.
It came as a surprise when Mira interrupted them to inform them she was closing up.
"Huh?" Freed said, looking around at the empty room. "I didn't realise it was so late. I apologise if we've kept you."
"Juvia too," his friend(?) agreed.
"That's okay. I didn't want to interrupt."
Freed nodded in thanks. "I'll see you tomorrow, Mira."
"Goodnight, Mira," Juvia waved as they made their exit.
The pair lingered just outside the Guild a moment, reluctant to part ways just yet. "Would you mind if I walked you home?" Freed found himself asking.
"Juvia would love that," she said and, after a moment's hesitation, took Freed's arm and guided them down the road.
"I enjoyed tonight," Freed admitted. "It was nice talking to someone about L-Laxus."
"Juvia enjoyed herself too. She is happy to have found a Love Ally after so many Love Rivals."
Freed having grown used to Juvia's peculiarities over the evening didn't even blink at the strange term. "Would you like to do this again sometime?" he asked.
Juvia nodded excitedly. "Juvia would like that very much. Freed-sama is very kind."
Guilt gnawed in Freed's stomach. "I'm not. I hurt you. And said cruel things. I-"
"Juvia forgives you. Freed-sama thought he was doing best for Fairy Tail. Freed-sama has learnt his lesson. Juvia hurt this Guild too but now she loves it. Freed-sama is the same so he should forgive himself."
Freed's eyes watered and wondered how once upon a time he had hated this girl. "Thank you."
Juvia nodded. They walked together in silence until they came to Fairy Hills.
"I'll see you again soon."
"Juvia will buy the cake next time," she told him, before making her way inside.
Freed smiled, before heading off to his own home.
Juvia was in a good mood as she walked into the Guild. She had gone a mission with Gray-sama and he had complained about the Love Rival that took him on a date. He'd even complemented her on her magic.
The Guild was relatively quiet that day, missing the rowdier members. However Juvia quickly noticed her Love Ally sitting at the back on the table they had shared a few nights before. Like she had back then, he looked depressed.
Her Love Ally needed help!
She went to the bar and ordered a pair of drinks and cake from Kinana and went over to join Freed, setting down the drink in front of him.
"For you, Freed-sama."
"Thank you, Juvia."
"There is also cake on the way. Juvia feels her Love Ally needs comfort."
Freed gave a small smile. "It's okay. I'm just being stupid."
Juvia shook her head. "Juvia will listen, no matter what."
"It's not a big deal. I just…" He trailed off. Juvia silently encouraged him to continue. "I thought we were going on a mission together. Alone," he added after a moment because that was the important part. Juvia could understand that. He probably had thought that Laxus had wanted to spend time with just him, without Ever and Bixlow. It would have made him feel special, like whenever she went out on a mission with Gray-sama.
"There was someone else?" asked Juvia. Freed nodded. "A Love Rival?" she asked gently.
Freed hesitated. "Maybe."
"If you want, Juvia will warn them off."
Freed gave a grateful smile but shook his head. "It's okay. It's probably nothing. But if it is something, they're a good person and Laxus deserves to be happy."
Juvia sniffled. "Freed-sama is a good person."
"I'm not that good."
"Freed-sama is. Juvia would have throttled her Love Rival."
Freed laughed. Juvia smiled at her Love Ally as Kinnana made her way over with a couple of chocolate cakes, which the pair made quick work of.
"Can Juvia ask Freed-sama's opinion on something?"
From her dress pockets Juvia pulled out two sets of dark blue jewels, one pair slightly greyer in tone. "Juvia is making a plushie of Gray-sama. Which do you think matches Gray-sama's eyes more?"
Freed looked the jewels over in his hands and Juvia waits as he examines them. "These ones," he said handing Juvia the darker pair. "But they don't really reflect as much as the other pair."
Juvia sighed. She had thought the same herself. Neither pair were perfect. "Juvia will have to find a better set."
"I'm sure something will turn up. How is it going aside from the eyes?"
"Juvia is almost done. Juvia has even made a miniature necklace."
"You'll show me when it's finished?"
Juvia nodded with a wide smile. No one had ever expressed as much interest before. Having a Love Ally was the best.
Freed's name was called across the room. The pair looked over at Evergreen and Bixlow who had walked in.
"I'm going over to them, do you want to join us?" Freed offered.
"Juvia is good. Juvia is going to remind her Love Rival that Gray-sama will be hers."
Freed laughed. "Okay. I'll see you again soon."
Juvia waved goodbye. She stayed long enough to see Evergreen and Bixlow question her Love Ally, looking over in her direction, before heading off to Lucy's house.