AUTHOR'S NOTE: though this story represents a kind of a love triangle, the main pairing still remains Natsu X Erza ;)
CAUTION: I might be slightly cruel to Gray in this story, but it doesn't mean I don't like him. I am pretty sure that Gray has some deep feeling for Erza, but I think he's too afraid to ever tell her about them.
Chapter 1: I… Win?
"I… win?" Natsu said surprised as he stared at Gray lying on the floor near a large hole in the guild bar's wall. The ice mage was trying to stand up, but was failing miserably. His skin was burned in several places, and his abdomen, back and arms were bruised all over. However, Natsu was not in a better shape from what it looked like on the outside, though he at least stood on his two feet firmly.
"Tch… you wish, fireball!" Gray grunted holding onto the wall for support, finally showing signs of standing up. "I'm not done yet!" and he winced holding his side.
"Gray, please… That's enough… Look at your injuries!" Lucy shouted in concern, knowing that Gray would probably just ignore her. And he did.
"Oh? So you're still gonna fight?" Natsu said with a broad smile. "Good! It's been a while since I've been this fired up!"
"I… I can't lose…" Gray uttered with determination.
"Juvia can't watch!" the water mage covered her face with her hands.
"Just stop it you two!" Mirajane screamed almost crying. "This has gone far enough! The fact that Master and Erza are not around doesn't allow you to…"
"Here I come!" shouted Gray launching an attack on Natsu. "Ice-Make Lance!"
"Fire Dragon's Brilliant Flame!" and Natsu's flames cut Grays lances in mid-flight. The ice fell to the ground and disappeared. "My turn, Gray!" the fire mage said ready for action. But his friend was no longer standing on his own two feet. Gray was kneeling and panting heavily. The ice mage understood that he could no longer put up much of a fight.
"So I lose, huh?" he thought, but still managed one last spell, "Ice-Make Shield!"
"Juvia will protect Gray-sama!" and the water mage jumped in front of Gray.
"Juvia, don't!" the ice mage shouted.
"Fire Dragon's Iron Fist!"
"Water Dome!" Juvia yelled with dtermination.
The guild was filled with bright light, everyone including Mira and Lucy had to cover their eyes with their hands and hold onto something in order not to be blown away by the massive amout of energy created by the three powerful mages' spells. Levy held onto Gajeel who didn't seem to be that much affected by the explosion, the same goes for Elfman. In a few seconds, however, the apocalypse ceased. As the steam wore off and the guild members were able to clear their eyesight they saw Gray lying on the ground with the coughing Juvia in his arms, and near them was Natsu also on the floor staring at the ceiling with a serious expression on his face.
"Juvia interfered," he spoke flatly, "you know what that means, Gray…" no 'popsicle' or other childishly offensive names this time. The Fire Dragon Slayer was dead serious.
The ice mage grunted, gritted his teeth and balled his fists. "Yeah," was the simple reply.
"Oh, God! What's going on? I have never seen these two fight like that! It all started as usual, but ended like…" Lucy tried to hold back her tears looking at her wretched teammates, she even felt sorry for Juvia ending up in the middle of it all.
Suddenly Natsu jumped up to his feet and strolled towards the dark-haired ice mage, but Juvia was already on her two defending the boy she loved.
"Juvia will not let you hurt Gray-sama anymore, even if you call yourself his friend!" she spoke fiercely, but Natsu didn't even look at the water mage as he walked past her to his wounded teammate. "Wait! What are you…?" but she never had the need to ask the full question, as the whole guild gasped and then let out a huge sigh of relief seeing Natsu offer Gray his hand.
"Oi, get up already, popsicle," the pink-haired boy suggested in his usual friendly manner. "Don't tell me I just kicked your lights out," he teased to make his friend stand up.
"You wish, torch," Gray answered, though his tone didn't seem as light-hearted as Natsu's. The ice mage took his friend's hand and stood up on shaky legs, but soon steadied himself. And so the two stood facing each other, the entire guild fell silent and no one dared to utter a word.
"Gray," Natsu began seriously again, "you lost."
"Yeah… I know," was the sad answer.
"You know, if Juvia hadn't interfered, then maybe…"
"That's enough, Natsu," Gray cut the Fire Dragon Slayer short. "We both know how the fight would have ended. Juvia has nothing to do with it." The ice mage commented shortly, then gathered his clothes, for he stripped during the fight as usual, and made for the exit.
"Gray-sama, w-wait! Let Juvia help you treat your wounds!" the water mage hurried after the dark-haired mage.
Gray didn't show any signs of either objection or approval, and as Juvia caught up with him and the two were already near the threshold of the entrance to the guild bar they heard Natsu's voice again.
"It's not worth it, Gray."
And within seconds the ice mage's fist hit the fire mage's face. It was no hard punch, Natsu didn't fall or anything, nor did he even try to defend himself, but everyone in the guild were so quiet that the sound of knuckles connecting with cheekbone almost exploded in the air. Lucy, Mira and Levy covered their mouths with their palms, Cana and Bisca frowned, while the guys were relatively calm, because even if the fight between the two old rivals really did get out of hand it was still a male business and they had to settle it on their own.
"For you… maybe," Gray hissed and turned around to leave once again, adding only: "But it has always been worth it for me," and with that the ice-mage left without ever minding to turn around, Juvia following him.
After seeing Gray off the entire guild stared at Natsu, who was whipping blood from the corner of his mouth. He didn't look at anybody and no one could see his concerned eyes.
"Now that I won… what should I do?"