A/N: I really didn't plan on writing a Fairy Tail fic in between We Are Young and the upcoming Dance AU. But I was cleaning up my hard drive and I found this half-finished fic I started last December 2013 (yes! two years ago! i totally forgot about it weee!) and I think it's a cute thing. So I decided to finish it.
I remember that this was originally inspired by a little scene from Rise of the Guardians: when Jack Frost tried to comfort Baby Tooth from the cold and he felt bad because being an ice spirit, he couldn't make her feel warmer. I thought it'd be a nice fit for Gray.
So this is it. Gray and Juvia on a short mission with just the two of them, mishaps lead to Gray lending her his coat, and he slowly realizes that he quite likes the look.
It's set roughly in between GMG and Tartaros. Let's pretend there's a greater time gap between those two arcs.
Warmth, Flowers and Petrichor
Gray, during normal missions, was used to seeing Lucy walk towards the team cheering "Good job today, guys! We did great!" while trying to keep her chest area covered with shreds of what was left of her latest blouse, her shorts clinging to her hips for dear life. Heck he was used to Erza drawing both him and Natsu to her chest even if what covered her chest were only mere (and falling) bandages after they completed a job, saying that they achieved success through teamwork.
What he really wasn't used to was Juvia greeting him with her sweet-as-sugar smile saying "Gray-sama! Juvia was worried, but of course Juvia knew that Gray-sama would win!" as she tried to hike her dress down because it was torn and they barely covered her thighs, while her usual long sleeves were also torn, her high collar having lost some buttons, leaving a very exposed cleavage in clear view.
Gray stared as she sat in the snow, shivering like a weak puppy (which she isn't, because she was strong - REALLY STRONG - he's been in the receiving end of that strength once so he knew). She had discarded her usual thigh-highs, he noted, probably because they were damaged too much, and just retained her beat-up brown boots.
"Y-Yeah, thanks." He gulped, before clearing his throat and asking, "...Are you alright?"
'Of course she isn't, wow Gray really damned stupid now SHE'S SHIVERING.' he thought, but Juvia (because she was Juvia) simply nodded at him, even while she hugged herself, trying to keep warm.
"Juvia beat the enemy and got the target." the young woman said, lifting a small satchel, probably containing the item that was the purpose of their supposedly simple retrieval mission.
The job description stated that the thief was a group of mages who caused magical blizzards, fought in cold temperature and used ice magic for stealing. Team Natsu decided to take the job, but before the trip, Natsu backed out because he had some kind of thing called Dragon Pox and for some reason Lucy caught it too (Cana had loudly stated that that's what they get from making out too much, but the two denied the accusation fervently), Wendy had to help Porlyusica do something about it, and Erza was out of town (Gray didn't understand everything that Mira was babbling about, but he did catch the name 'Jellal' and just shut up about it). Gray was about to ask around the guild for someone willing to come with him, and he should've known that Juvia would be the first one to volunteer. Gray had no problems working with Juvia when she promises to work seriously as the situation calls for it, so he simply agreed. The loot would be bigger if there were only two of them, anyway.
The bunch of thieves weren't the strongest lot, but they were tricky to fight. It would've been a piece of cake if Natsu came, but he wasn't there. There were four enemies - Gray and Juvia took two each - he just had to trust her when they got separated by a big annoying blizzard that came from their annoying opponents. It was hard to see anything and he could only hear her ragged breathing, attack calls and the tell-tale sounds of splashing water while he heard her opponents' cocky laughter which later turned to groans of frustration and then screams of defeat. When he beat his share and the annoying blizzard stopped, he quickly ran around to look for his partner.
And this was how he found her.
He let out a smile as she proudly showcased the proof of their successful mission. "Great. Is it really that? Did you check?" he asked, crouching beside her as she opened the satchel with shaking hands.
"It matches the description..." Juvia said, then sneezed.
The blizzard may have cleared, but there was still ice and snow everywhere. Gray looked at the woman again, "Damn, they got you good. Can you stand?"
She nodded. She stood up weakly, almost stumbled, but he gripped her arms and held her steady. "Thank you, Gray-sama."
"Are you hurt?"
"It's nothing too bad. Juvia is fine, although... Juvia's clothes..."
"Yeah. You must be cold."
She nodded again shyly, trying to get her dress to look decent, but it was useless. "Juvia is so sorry. Juvia must look horrible."
"No shit, it's fine, okay? You did good. We've done our job."
They stood there awkwardly for a few moments, facing each other in the snow, the satchel slung across Gray's shoulders while Juvia looked down at her worn-out boots. She was shivering.
Finally, he pat her head and made a suggestion: "Hey, why don't you go do that hot water thing you do? To help you warm up."
She shook her head tiredly. "Juvia tried, but Juvia doesn't have much magic left." She was rubbing her almost-bare arms to fight the cold. "Juvia is sorry for running out of-"
"No, it's fine. We did great." Gray could see her point, though. Juvia had been using her magic to keep herself warm for what must be several hours now. While he absolutely had no problem with the freezing temperature, he knew that Juvia can still feel cold. "But we have to get out of here fast or we'll freeze."
Juvia noted that he was using 'we', but she knew that the primary concern was her. "Juvia is sorry for being so weak; Juvia promised to not be a burden to Gray-sama and yet...-"
"I told you, we're good. Anyone would freeze in this weather, so we really have to get outta here now."
She smiled at him, probably recognizing his efforts to make her feel better. "Hai." Juvia nodded, then blew on her hands and rubbed them together, before pressing them to her face.
"Is that effective?" he asked.
She shrugged, repeating the action and this time rubbing her arms instead. "It's better than nothing..."
Gray did the same, then pressed his hands on both of her cheeks. Juvia stiffened at his sudden touch, cheeks quickly flaring red. Gray quickly tried to look away. "W-What? I'm doing this to k-keep you warm..."
Blushing, the water mage stared as her partner took her hands in his, pressed them together and blew on them, then rubbed his hands against hers. "G-Gray-sama-..."
"Oi, don't space out. We have to get you warm, or it'll be bad. You don't want to be sick, do 'ya?"
Juvia saw that her companion was serious, so she tried her best not to blush and to just simply follow orders. "H-Hai!"
"Great, keep doing that. Let's go." with that, Gray pulled his companion close by her shoulders. Juvia found herself pressed against her long-time crush's bare chest. Her cheeks flared up and she stumbled as Gray started walking. "Hey, you stopped."
"G-Gomen!" she squeaked out, then continued blowing on her hands and rubbing them together, trying to walk in the same pace as her companion's.
They have only walked a few steps forward when Juvia sneezed again. She mumbled her apologies, and Gray instinctively rubbed her arm.
If there was one thing that Gray didn't like about being an Ice Mage, it's that his body temperature was naturally cold. It was not cold to the point that one would touch him and think of a dead body, but it was just that... it lacked the usual warmth of normal bodies. He knew that Juvia just wasn't saying it - but he was sure that his body isn't as warm as she would have wanted at the moment.
"I'm just making you cold, am I?" he asked, just to have something to talk about as they continued walking, huddled closely together. "Sorry I can only make you cold."
Juvia shook her head. "N-No, Gray-sama is... well, it's not all that warm, but Gray-sama isn't-" - a sneeze - "...c-cold."
He rolled his eyes - like hell he isn't cold, even when he didn't have a shirt on, even if he had discarded his coat shortly after the fights began and he didn't even try to look for-
Yeah. That's right, Gray thought. His clothes. His clothes weren't damaged or torn like hers were, they were just... discarded due to his mighty stripping habit. Gone.
He stopped walking, causing his companion to look up at him. "G-Gray-sama?"
He drew away from her and looked towards the direction they came from. "Wait here."
"Just... keep doing your blowing thing and keep yourself warm. I'll be back soon."
With that, Juvia was left standing alone in the middle of the snowy landscape, staring after the ice mage's back. She looked around warily, gripping the satchel that he left with her. They really shouldn't have gone to search the enemy empty-handed. They shouldn't have left their baggage in the hotel. Well, granted they only meant to gather some info and they didn't expect the hunt to escalate so quickly and to lead them away from the nearby town, but Juvia was starting to regret the fact that she didn't argue with Gray when he said that they didn't need to bring anything if they were just walking around asking locals. Yes, it was Gray's decision and Juvia never had the heart to argue with Gray, but she should have... brought an extra set of clothes at least. Gray-sama was kind, she was sure he would understand... it was just her being so eager (too eager, really) to please him. Juvia basically adored Gray with all of her being but she was sure that he wouldn't mind her thinking about herself for once.
Contrary to popular belief, sometimes Juvia thought that she was being stupid, willing to do everything just to look nice in the eyes of Gray-sama - but all that vanishes when he actually notices her and tells her that "yeah, it's nice", because she thinks that Gray was worth it. Gray will always be worth it. Juvia believes her love to be as strong as that.
But right then, she was shivering, alone, clutching the bag that carried the valuable item that was the target of their job... and she was tired. Juvia had been in tough situations, but she rarely ever had trouble with snow and the cold. She was feeling colder by the second, and she looked down and hugged herself tighter. She could run towards the town, it couldn't be that far... but how could she dare leave her beloved Gray-sama?
"Oi!" - the familiar voice snapped her out of her thoughts, and she looked up to see a familiar figure in the distance, running towards her. "Juvia!"
He was clutching a familiar item in his arms, and Juvia must be too tired and beaten, as she didn't realize what it was until it was draped across her shoulders. Juvia looked down at the white knee-length coat that Gray was trying to wrap her up with. "C'mon, wear it properly. It's cold from the snow but it'll get warmer in no time."
"B-But this is-... Gray-sama's-"
He frowned, noting that she was blushing a furious shade of red again. "I don't need it as much as you do."
It didn't help that she was both shivering and fumbling as he helped her into too-long sleeves, but he did his best to at least get her in the coat properly. She was too busy trying to roll up the sleeves quickly so she could help him button up the coat, and she was apologizing and saying all sorts of things about how kind he is, but Gray just tried to focus on the task at hand. After he finished buttoning up the coat, he started patting the snowflakes away from it, while Juvia just stood there, still blushing, staring at his face.
"D-Don't look at me like that."
"A-Ah! Juvia's... J-Juvia is so sorry-"
He was tired of her apologizing for just... looking at him, really. So he simply shrugged and put an arm around her shoulders again and they started walking. "Let's just go."
Juvia didn't speak the rest of the way. She was too busy trying to stand and walk straight as Gray held her against him, his coat snug around her. It was all too much - Gray knew that in a normal situation, she would have fainted. She tended to faint whenever he did so much as thank her for greeting him a good day.
They reached the town a few minutes later, and they were finally able to let go of each other. There was still snow around, but it felt warmer, with people bustling around them, torches and fires burning on the stalls, streetlights bringing in extra heat... It was almost sunset. They were lucky that they reached the town before night fell.
By the time they were in town, Juvia had recovered enough of her strength and was able to walk properly on her own. As soon as she felt better, she had started unbuttoning the coat. "Juvia is very thankful to Gray-sama for lending Juvia a coat... Here-"
"H-Hey no wait what are you doing-"
"Gray-sama needs his coat back-"
"I don't! Well I do, but you're cold-"
She was smiling her bright smile at him. "Juvia will be alright now, Gray-sama! Juvia can warm up by herself now."
By Mavis, she was really taking it off-!
Gray gaped. "Hey, wait, no-... That's not the point-"
She blinked up at him.
"-errr, your clothes are ruined."
She didn't seem to understand his point.
Gray wasn't kidding that one time when he said that he had seen his fair share of naked female bodies, but while the ice mage knew that him getting accustomed to such a sight was basically because his female nakama have a knack of getting their clothes damaged and torn during battle, it didn't mean that he thought that every other male in the planet was welcome to enjoy the view.
He didn't make it obvious, but he knew that some guys sometimes watch fights and read the Sorcerer not for Erza or Mira's magic and abilities, but for their daring outfits. Sometimes he saw the looks sent towards Lucy and Cana when they went on a mission - Lucy with her midriff-baring numbers, Cana with her infamous bikini tops... but he very well couldn't tell them to change, he respected them and looked at their talents instead of their choices of wardrobe. If they were comfortable parading around in those clothes, then he really didn't have much of a say in it. He never worried much about Levy and Bisca, since they were usually long-range fighters. Lisanna didn't really take that many missions, Laki mostly did construction jobs and didn't do much fighting, while Wendy wore reasonable dresses and mostly suffered minor wardrobe malfunctions.
Then there was Juvia, and the farthest that Gray saw of her clothes mishaps was her coat missing, her collar torn with two shoulders and one leg bare - she always wore those thick winter clothes, complete with hat and stockings and high boots, sometimes even with gloves - so besides beach days, she kept herself pretty much very conservatively covered up. All those layers ought to provide much protection. Not to mention her water powers are really handy in keeping her wardrobe in tact even against direct attacks...
So while Gray was used to sending minute glares towards those nasty guys eyeing Erza, Lucy and Cana when they were in such a state, he never really found an opportunity to do the same for Juvia, since she hasn't been stuck in such situation.
Except now, when she had started to slide off the coat. The bare shoulders and exposed cleavage were enough to turn some heads their way.
Juvia seemed to be thinking hard about what was so wrong with giving him back his coat - maybe she thought that her dress was still mostly intact. Gray had to agree, because it was nothing compared to Lucy in her bath towel (suddenly Gemini was everyone's favorite spirit), or Cana walking around looking for whoever stole her bikini top (spoiler: it was Bacchus) - because this was Juvia. Juvia was... not like other girls. He doesn't think that the others were all the same, really. Well... ugh.
Okay, Gray was struggling here, but that was it - Juvia was different. She was... uh... sweet? And nice? Not that the others aren't so - Lucy can be pretty sweet and Cana had her moments, Erza was generally kind-… But Juvia was on another level of politeness at most times.
As he was thinking of what to tell the young woman in front of him and how to convince her to keep the coat on, Juvia seemed to interpret his silence as something else.
She looked down. "Juvia is sorry for making Gray-sama mad! Juvia will wear the coat if Gray-sama says so-"
Gray quickly cut her off. "No, I'm not mad. Just... Just keep it on until we go back to the hotel, will you?" The water mage nodded, biting her lip. "I'm really not mad."
"I was just thinking, I swear." Gray tried to smile as he cocked his head to the direction of their employer's house. "Let's just go ahead and finish this job."
It was easy business - they got the item and were handed their job's reward. Their client was very pleased with the quick work (he expected them to take at least a day) and offered them to stay for dinner, but both the mages politely declined and said that they still have to make preparations to go home. The truth was that Gray knew that Juvia needed to change into her own clothes as soon as possible. No doubt she appreciated wearing his coat, but it must be uncomfortable wearing her ruined dress underneath that.
It really was a peaceful mission when Gray and Natsu weren't on the same team. By the time they went back to the hotel, Juvia meekly watched her beloved Gray-sama split their earnings as they sat on one of the two beds in the hotel room.
As soon as he finished, he asked her where she wanted to get dinner, and Juvia, being Juvia, only blushingly exclaimed that anywhere Gray-sama wishes to dine would be fine. Gray scratched his head and told her to go dress up properly before they eat out.
Gray watched as she slid off his coat and nodded politely at him before walking towards the shower.
He wanted to punch himself right then and there, because he actually stared. Dammit.
She sang while she took her shower and Gray could only smile lightly and shake his head in amusement as he walked around the room and got things sorted out. He took out the portable communication lacrima they took with them (since winning the GMG almost all Fairy Tail teams had one to make communication with the guild easier). Mira was happy to hear that they finished the job early and mostly unharmed. Cana was behind their barmaid, most probably drunk as she raised her beer mug and told Gray that drinks were on him when he gets back.
"How's Juvia?" Mira asked.
"She's taking a shower before we go get dinner."
With that, Cana, Mira and even Levy, Wendy and Evergreen had all peered at him and asked him where they're going to get the dinner and how they're going together, the usual nosy women stuff (Gray was pretty sure Cana screamed at him to GO GENTLE and other stuff he didn't hear because Evergreen had covered Wendy's ears and Levy was shouting about Cana being "too much"). Gray shouted back at them all to shut up and stop thinking about stupid stuff before he cut the connection because the girls were shouting right back at him (threats, really - IF YOU HURT JUVIA- What the hell? Were they always this noisy? Dammit just let Natsu take over instead!).
It was more than enough that he couldn't quite get the image of Juvia sitting on his bed and taking off his coat, leaving her in that torn outfit (suggestively torn, WAIT NO WHAT-) off his stupid head - why did those girls have to go... imply more stuff?
"Gray-sama, Juvia is done with the shower! There's still hot water-... Gray-sama?"
He quickly put down the lacrima back in his bag and looked back at his partner. To his relief, she was wearing a bathrobe. "Yeah, what?"
"G-Gray-sama looked really angry..."
"No, it's just Cana and the others being annoying and stuff. I just reported back to Mira, she's glad that we're fine. I told 'em we'll be back by tomorrow."
"What were you sayin' again?"
"There's still hot water..."
"That's great!" he mentally cringed because he sounded too cheerful to be completely innocent. "I-I'm gonna go take a bath. Go think of where you wanna eat while I'm at it. The city map is on my bag, just get it from there."
Gray dumped a shit ton of ice on the tub. He needed a cold bath.
As he dipped himself in the freezing tub, he tried hard not to think of his partner, warm against his coat, then slipping it off to reveal attractive shoulders and if he would look down just a bit-...
"Crap." he mumbled. "Get it out of your head, Gray. This is Juvia." and he could hear her still humming in their hotel room, and it made things all the more difficult.
'What's wrong, anyway?' he thought. This was normal. He's not dense like Natsu, or an all-out pervert like those Pegasus guys, and he knew an attractive woman when he sees one. The problem is that they never really made him think of them that much before... well, before this.
He blamed it on the coat. Stupid coat. There was just something about a girl wearing your clothes that makes guys... want to do things.
'Things? Like... what? Holy shit, shut up Gray.'
He'd lent his shirts to Cana before. More than his shirts, he once woke up to her wearing his boxers. Sometimes she barged in topless and drunk in his flat because it was the nearest place she knew and she would shamelessly strip, go through his closet, grab a shirt, wear it, and pass out on his couch. Nothing eventful happened ever, he even helped her take off her strappy sandals and eased her to a more comfortable position complete with his fluffiest pillow and his best blanket like any decent human being would. He had lent Erza and Lucy his jacket once or twice, too. Lucy more often than Erza because of her knack for wardrobe malfunction. One time he camped out on a mission with no one else but Erza, he offered her his coat to use as a blanket while she slept. Man, she looked pretty cute sleeping like that but that was it, Gray knew. She was cute.
They were all cute, dammit.
But he knew them better than all those other outsiders who only oggle at them like they were nothing but pieces of meat, and maybe that's why Lucy wearing that short dress wasn't "flirting", Erza's cocktail dress' high slit wasn't "provocative", Cana stripping down in his bedroom wasn't "asking for it" - because he knew they weren't like that, so he didn't have to blush and stutter and drool... Yeah, okay they were baring some silky smooth skin... well, he didn't mind. It didn't affect him. He didn't see them that way.
'MAYBE IT REALLY WAS THE STUPID BLOODY COAT.' - he insisted.
The lie didn't get too far, though, because Gray knew exactly what was the problem here. The issue with this one however, is because it was Juvia, and he was affected.
That was it. It boiled down to one simple fact: he minded.
And Gray wasn't stupid - he knew what that meant.
She was sitting on his bed beside his luggage, going through a map of the city that she obediently got from his bag. Juvia was wearing a sleeveless blue and white dress, something he remembered seeing her in before back when they were in the Grand Magic Games.
"Find anything good?" he asked, rummaging through his bag for a fresh set of clothes.
The young woman shook her head, looking up at him. "Juvia is not familiar with these restaurants."
He held out a hand and she gave him the map. Gray looked through it for a while before shrugging. "Let's just walk around the town square and eat wherever."
"Hai!" she answered enthusiastically, then she picked up Gray's now neatly-folded coat and held it up to him. "Juvia wants to thank Gray-sama for lending Juvia his coat. It was really kind of Gray-sama."
He simply pat her head. "Told you, it was nothing. Just put it there, I'll go get dressed."
Juvia waited patiently as Gray went back to the bathroom to change. It didn't take too long, and when he was done, he grabbed his coat, slung it on his arm and they went out to grab some dinner.
It was when Gray and Juvia exited the inn and Gray started putting on his coat that he noticed that Juvia was not wearing anything on top her sleeveless dress despite the cold weather.
"Uh, you're not cold anymore?" he asked.
She shrugged. "Juvia's coat was ruined on the job."
"You don't have another one?"
She shook her head. Yeah, that was expected, Gray thought - they both packed lightly and he didn't bring an extra coat himself. "It's okay, Juvia has enough magic now to keep warm."
Gray inwardly cursed his luck as he slipped off his coat again and then handed it to her.
She blinked up at him. "E-Eh?"
He took initiative and draped the coat on her shoulders instead. "Just wear it. Save your magic. You're still recovering, aren't you?"
"-will survive without a coat." he finished.
He hated to do this, but he felt like he had to. He pulled a string that he knew would get her: "Don't you like my coat?"
It worked, because Juvia quickly grabbed the item and started to wear it. "Juvia LOVES Gray-sama's coat very much!"
He nodded approvingly, helping her in the too-long sleeves again. This time they left the coat unbuttoned as they walked across the town and looked for a place to eat.
Dinner was… normal, he'd say. It was warmer inside the restaurant so Juvia took the coat off as they ate. There was small talk, mostly their plan for the trip home. They'll have to wake up early the next day to catch the train back to Magnolia. Gray asked Juvia if she had any stops she wanted to make on the way back to the guild, to which she said she had none… After that, it was talk about the town they were in, some shops they stopped by, how the mission went… Gray was not talkative so he let Juvia do most of the talking and just watched her as she did so.
After dinner, Juvia slipped the coat on without being prompted. As they walked back to their inn, she yawned, obviously tired and sleepy from the day travelling, walking, running and fighting. The yawn was infectious, as Gray found himself doing the same, and without thinking too hard about it, Gray offered her his arm to latch on. It surprised him when she clung to him without her usual blushes and squeals. Maybe she was really tired, just silently burying her face in his arm like this...
As soon as they got to their room, Gray excused himself to go to the bathroom. He didn't wait for a reply as Juvia already sat sleepily on one of the beds and grabbed one of the pillows.
It was when he returned that he found her already fast asleep in her bed, her boots obviously kicked off haphazardly on the floor, her hat almost falling off from where she laid it hastily in the bedside table. She was still wearing his coat by one sleeve. She must have passed out in the middle of taking it off. Gray just smiled as he walked towards her bed, unfolded her blanket and draped it over her sleeping form.
He then took off his shirt and headed for his other bed. He tossed the covers over himself, laid comfortably on his side and breathed out a relieved sigh, finally happy to relax after a long day.
If he fell asleep watching his companion sleeping peacefully on the other bed, he didn't think too much about it.
The guild was rowdy and loud as always when they got back, although it looks like Natsu and Lucy were still out of commission and Erza was not back yet. They gave a quick report to Mira before Juvia was pulled away by Levy, who had a job-related question about water magic. Gray slumped down on the bar and said thanks when Mira served him a glass of water as he requested. Cana took a seat beside him, mug of beer in hand, sly smile on face.
"Soooo..." the brunette started, poking the raven-head on the shoulder.
"Go away, Cana." Gray said, almost pleading. He knew what she was about to say.
"How did it go?" - as expected. He knew the brunette damn well.
"I already told Mira. The job's done, it paid well. We're fine."
"Oh, of course you're fine." Cana grinned. "That coat that Juvia's wearin'… it's not hers, is it?"
"How d'you know?"
Cana snorted. "That's yours, I've borrowed it."
Gray brushed her off. "Nah, maybe we buy from the same shop."
"Nice try, Gray." Mira chimed in. "Really, though. How was it? Anything interesting happen?"
"Yeah." Gray answered, glaring at both girls. "We went to the town. We finished the job. Her coat was ruined during the job so I let her use mine. As you can see, she rocks the look and wears it better than me. We had dinner because we were hungry. We slept. We took the train back. We're here. The end."
"Wow." Cana nodded solemnly, accepting his answer. She knew she wasn't getting any more from him than that. "Sounds like you had a great time."
"Whatever." he shrugged.
"Alright, last question: d'you like her?"
He paused for a moment before answering. "I am not going to answer that because whatever I say, you'll twist it in a way that will embarrass or annoy me or both. I'm not gonna fight a battle on your territory."
Cana rolled her eyes. "Smartass."
Mira pouted. "Killjoy."
He was about to tell the other girls to go away again when Cana said, "Hey, Juvia."
"Hello, Cana-san." Juvia, who was now standing in front of them, backpack slung on her shoulders, replied pleasantly. Then she turned to Gray and offered his coat back. "Juvia wants to thank Gray-sama for the coat. It was a great help."
"Yeah, anytime." Gray said, mustering up a smile back as he tucked his coat under his arm. He couldn't help but notice that it was a lot warmer than usual.
"Um, so Juvia will get going now… Levy-san told Juvia we can walk home together, Juvia's helping Levy-san with… research."
"Okay. Good luck with that." Gray nodded. "Take care on your way."
The water mage then bowed deeply. "Juvia is very happy going on a job with Gray-sama! Juvia hopes Juvia can go on more jobs with Gray-sama!"
Cana and Mira exchanged pleased knowing looks, and when Gray just stared at the water mage, Cana elbowed the raven-head, mouthing, 'Reply!'
"Uh, yeah, sure." Gray said. Juvia looked up at him with a big smile on her face that he couldn't help but return. "You did great on this one. It'll be nice, going together again."
"Hai!" Juvia beamed. He held out a fist and she gingerly bumped hers against it. From a distance, they heard Levy calling out for Juvia, so the water mage stepped back, said her goodbyes to Mira and Cana, and then left with her fellow bluenette.
"Not bad." Cana said.
"Good job, Gray." Mira followed.
"Psh." he snorted, standing up. "How're my teammates, anyway? Any news?"
"Wendy said that Lucy's doing fine now, they're still waiting for Natsu to fully recover. They made Happy stay over Alzack's and Bisca to help babysit Asuka-chan because they're still not sure if Exceeds can catch whatever it is Natsu and Lucy caught. Erza said she's extending her leave by a day or two."
"Huh." Gray grinned a bit. "She's having fun in her… vacation?"
Mira giggled. "Let's give her that."
"Yeah, I bet the more time she spends with Jellal, the better her mood will be when she comes back." Cana said, not bothering to be subtle.
"I guess I'll go solo for a while longer." Gray said, wearing his coat and pausing at the unexpected warmth of the cloth against his skin, and the unfamiliar scent that came with it. It smelled a bit like the soap from the inn they stayed at, a hint of something floral that must be perfume, and strangely enough… petrichor.
'Of course.' he thought. 'Of course it'll smell like Juvia. She's been wearing it since last night.'
Dismissing the thought, he picked up his bags and announced that he was going home. Cana and Mira saw him off happily, but before he left, he turned towards the barmaid again. "Hey, Mira..."
"Yes?" Mira said, accommodating smile in place.
"Tomorrow… err… maybe save one or two simple two-man jobs for me? Short-term ones?"
Cana grinned behind her mug and Mira just smiled and nodded. "Sure, Gray."
"Thanks." he said, then seeing their sly expressions, he snapped, a blush creeping into his face. "Stop giving me that look!"
They giggled as he stomped outside, heading for his flat. His pace slowed after a few blocks as he calmed down.
Strangely enough, rather than taking his coat off as per his usual habit, he found himself pulling it closer to himself, despite not really being bothered by the cool and windy Magnolia weather. He liked the warmth, and the smell of rain that ironically accompanied it.
For today, he'll rest up.
Tomorrow, he'll take another two-man job - and he already had a partner in mind.
. finis .
A/N: I live for the Fairy Tail boys being huge feminists, man. It always endeared me to them that while they can blush and stutter at the sight of their sexy female colleagues, they never shamed them for their wardrobe choice.