Juvia had never been so academic.
She put the pen to her lips.
Why was this so difficult?
What rhymed with 'Gray-sama'?
Juvia glanced back down at her first draft and then, in a burst of irritation, snatched it and tore it in half.
She couldn't write. The words just refused to direct themselves from her mind and her pen.
She knew exactly how she felt but she had no idea how to say it.
This time it had been a love poem, yesterday she had written a small avalanche of tear-smudged love letters (she had gotten a little worked up).
Juvia took out a fresh sheet and hastily scribbled:
I'm sorry, but these are my feelings-
Juvia cringed. Ugh. Such an awkward beginning.
I have admired you for some time now, as more than a close friend. I have come to realize that I love you and you alone. If you gave me the chance, I'm sure I could-
Juvia stopped again.
Now it just sounded needy.
And, if the past was any indication, Gray paid next to no attention to her when she was needy or clingy.
In fact, he had seemed to like her more when they had still been enemies.
Juvia slammed her hand onto the paper. "Levy-san!"
Levy grinned. "What're you writing there?"
"Oh!" Levy's impish smile was out. "It's not a love letter is it?"
Is this girl psychic?
"N-no!" Juvia went bright red and almost tripped over the bench as she retreated away.
"It's okay, it's okay!" Levy laughed. "Every girl should write love letters!"
Even to love that will go unrequited?
There it was again. The voice in the back of her mind that told her the solid truth.
Gray would never feel the same way.
Even if he could bring himself to like her, her feelings were already too far ahead for that.
And he would only end up hurting her with his disinterest.
"What about you?" Juvia asked.
"Huh?" Levy blinked.
"Do you write love letters, Levy-san?"
"What? Me? Er, well…"
"She sure does!" Droy sang. "To me!"
"Dream on!" Jet snapped. "Levy-san would only write love letters to me!"
Levy laughed a little uneasily as her team fought. "It's a little difficult for me to have admirers with these guys around."
"Oh?" Juvia regained a bit of her mischievousness. "Juvia thought for sure she'd be able to help you with your love poems. Juvia knows lots of things that rhyme with 'iron'."
Levy went red. "W-what? I… don't know what you're talking about!"
"Really? Juvia thinks everyone in the guild does."
"I-I have to go!" Levy sped out of the hall and, Juvia's keen eyes spotted the sullen iron dragon slayer's eyes following her closely.
The world was divided, Juvia thought.
Some people thought they might be in love.
She saw Natsu relating a joke to Lucy, who laughed and seeing her delight made Natsu's face light up.
Some didn't know they were in love yet.
Juvia caught sight of Bisca and Alzack talking quietly with each other, their faces close like conspirators. Alzack softly stroked Bisca's hand.
And some knew. Some had known for a long time.
Fairy Tail's doors opened.
"Hey guys," Gray walked in and Juvia's heart skipped and her mouth went dry. She clutched the letter to her chest and bit her lip. "The annoying people are here."
"We know that," Natsu said. "Cos you're here, Gray."
"What's that?" Gray snapped.
"Bring it!" Natsu yelled.
"Wait!" Lucy sighed. "Who's here?"
"Lyon and his band of idiots."
"Lamia Scale?" Lucy frowned. "What do they want?"
"Heck if I know." Gray folded his hands behind his head and glanced at Juvia. "You okay?"
"Y-yes!" Juvia nodded violently, going pink.
"What's that you have?" He peered at the crumpled remains of Juvia's love letter.
"N-nothing, I mean, I-"
"Hey Gray," Marco yelled from the table across the room. "Didn't you say you had a date today?"
Juvia's heart twisted.
"Ooh!" Natsu wheedled.
"It's not a date!" Gray snapped. "This girl just sent a request into the guild, asking for someone to show her around town. And I could use the money so-"
"Gray's got a date! Gray's got a date!" Natsu sang.
"It's not a date!"
"A date is MAN!" Elfman punched the wall.
"It's not a date and that doesn't even make any sense!"
"I remember my first date." Cana mused.
"IT'S NOT A DATE!"
"Of course it's not," Lyon Bastia said, walking down the guild steps towards them. "No one in their right mind would want to date Gray."
"I don't wanna hear that coming from you!" Gray turned on him, but Lyon was no longer listening.
His eyes were trained on Juvia.
"J-Juvia-chan," He stuttered. "Hi."
"Hello," Juvia looked away, taking a small step back.
"You look as beautiful as ever."
Juvia blushed yet again. "Oh, er-"
"Read between the lines, Lyon, she doesn't wanna talk to you!" Gray took a menacing step forward.
"He lllllikes you!" Happy sang as he flew by.
Yes, but not the right one. Juvia thought bitterly.
"I can speak to my Juvia-chan whenever I-!"
"She's not yours, idiot!"
"Er, er!" Juvia waved her hands wildly as the two ice mages got closer and closer, glaring hatefully at each other.
"Fight, fight!" Natsu chanted.
"Take him out, Gray!" Elfman yelled.
"You can do it, Lyon-sama!" Cried Sherry Blendy, who had followed Lyon in from the street.
"Let's do this!" Gray snarled, ripping off- well- everything.
"Ah!" Juvia squeaked.
"Gray," Cana said.
"Not now, Cana."
Gray looked down and his eyes widened. "Ah! What the-?"
"Don't know where to look!" Lucy cried.
"Stripping pervert!" Natsu taunted.
"You're next, stupid!"
Everyone paused in their chaos and looked up to see a cute little brunette with a pink bow in her hair beaming down at them.
"I'm here about my request."
"Oh!" Everyone said. "Gray's date."
"She's not my date!" Gray turned on them. "For the trillionth time!"
The girl blushed prettily. "Sorry to disturb you when you're…changing."
Gray went red and grabbed his clothes. "I'll be out in a second." He muttered, fleeing to the corner.
"That gives you and I some more time together." Lyon turned to Juvia, eyes shining.
"Er, yes," Juvia said, glancing at Gray. "Just…excuse me for a moment."
Juvia was now in what she liked to call: Stalking Mode.
"Any places you'd recommend?" The brunette, who had introduced herself as 'Olivia', asked as she and Gray walked down the high street.
"Er, not really." Gray muttered, hands behind his head. "Anywhere is good."
Juvia peered out from behind a barrel. "Grey-sama!" She sniffed. "Why doesn't he ever walk with Juvia like that?"
"I just moved here from the other side of Fiore," Olivia was saying.
No one cares! Juvia thought.
"I don't really have anyone to rely on since I left home,"
That's your problem!
"And I was really hoping to make some friends at the guild."
Make them somewhere else!
Gray looked at Olivia's down-turned face and sighed. "C'mon, I'll show you my favourite place."
Juvia was still clutching her love letter, but her grip almost tore it in two at this. "Juvia does not like where this is going!"
Gray stood out on the edge of the hill and pointed down to where the river snaked past them in the valley and followed its course behind the town and out into the horizon.
"It's beautiful." Olivia said quietly.
"Yeah." Gray murmured.
Juvia, hiding behind a rock, was all too tempted to give Olivia an even better view of the river by pushing her into it.
"So, what's it like in the guild? Do you have any special friends?"
Gray snorted. "Well, there's that idiot Natsu. We've known each other so long we're kinda forced to be together. And his annoying cat Happy. And Lucy and Erza, the girls on my team."
"Are the girls pretty?"
"Are either of them your girlfriend?"
Gray started. "W-what? No! They're…well, they're more like sisters."
"Do you have a girlfriend?"
"What a waste!" Olivia laughed. "What about girls you like?"
By now, Juvia was so still that, to any other onlooker, she might appear frozen.
"I'm…I don't really…"
"Come on! Are there any girls you like? Even a little, teeny, tiny bit?"
"No!" Gray burst out. "I could never see any of the girls in the guild as anything more than friends!"
"Okay, okay," Olivia giggled. "I was just teasing you."
Juvia unfurled her hand and looked at her crumpled, torn love letter.
I'm sorry but these are my feelings.
She curled her hand over the words and wondered what to do with them.
She was so stupid.
And she was tired.
It had only just hit Juvia how tiring it was to love someone.
All she had ever done was give the one she loved everything. Wasn't that what lovers were supposed to do?
And she had been rejected and hurt and humiliated again and again and again.
And she was tired of getting back up.
When would she get anything back?
Anything at all.
A smile, a look free from wariness or mild disgust.
And, even if he could come to love her, would he ever love her enough to close up all the hurt?
It was so odd how it happened.
Juvia just fell out of love.
Just like that.
Maybe it was an instinctive reaction.
The body wants to keep itself safe, so it takes necessary precautions to protect itself.
So maybe she fell out of love with Gray because she wanted to protect herself.
Because she needed to.
So she didn't wear away into nothing at all.
Juvia stood up.
"Juvia!" Gray exclaimed when he saw her. "What are you doing here?"
But Juvia was only half listening.
She was thinking about herself and the things that she wanted to do.
"You're that girl from the guild!" Olivia was saying. "I recognize you-"
"Hello," Juvia said politely. "It's nice to meet you. I'm Juvia." She then looked at Gray and her heart did not skip. She smiled. "This is for you." She said, handing him the torn love letter. "None of its true anymore, so it's okay if you read it and you can think what you like. Juvia doesn't- no- I, I don't care anymore." She laughed a little. "I just don't care, Gray. I'm free."
And she left them standing there as she walked off towards the town, because she thought that she might want to walk around and catch her breath before she went home and dreamt of someone who wasn't Gray.
The very next day, Mirajane jumped as Gray burst into the guild unnaturally early.
"Mira-chan," Gray ran down the stairs. His shirt was unbuttoned and he looked terrible. There were dark circles under his eyes. "Where's Juvia? Have you seen Juvia anywhere?"
"Er, no." Mirajane blinked.
"I just…I can't find her anywhere."
"Why do you need to find her?"
"Because…because I-!" Gray broke himself off and there was a pause that lasted so long that Mirajane put down the glass she was cleaning so her arm didn't get tired.
"I'm glad, Gray."
He looked up, surprised. "What?"
"You've finally realized," Mirajane smiled mildly. "I knew you would. You're a little bit dull though."
Gray debated about whether to feign confusion or not, then he just smiled a little.
"I know." He said. "And now it's too late."
"You think so?" Mirajane began cleaning the glass again. "I personally think it's never too late. Lisanna coming back taught me that no matter how lost something seems, it can come back."
Gray opened his hand and the broken love letter blossomed like a flower in front of them both.
"I need to find her." He said simply.
"She's probably in her favourite place."
"What? Where's that?" Gray demanded.
"You know, Gray, that hill at the top of the town when you can see the river running below."
Juvia heard his footsteps, but didn't turn around.
"Juvia," He began, but she cut him off.
"Juvia- I- was surprised to learn that this was your favourite place too." Juvia spread her hand to indicate the valley's river. "Who'd have thought?"
"If you'd actually ever talked to me, we might have known sooner."
"I never thought you were serious."
Juvia turned on him. "What could be more serious than falling in love?"
"Falling out of it."
Juvia looked away.
Gray came to sit beside her and they both watched the sun rise over the valley for a while.
"You're too cold sometimes," Juvia said. "Like ice."
"I know. And you're too open with your feelings. Like water."
"You want to know something?"
"The river reminded me of you."
Juvia took a deep breath. "And if you had said that to me at this same time yesterday, I would have just about died of happiness. I don't love you anymore."
"I don't believe you."
"People don't just fall out of love, Juvia. They don't. It's not that simple."
"What would you know?" Juvia shouted, leaping to her feet. "How the hell would you know the first thing about love?"
"Because you showed me!"
Juvia stared at him.
"It's strange," Gray said quietly. "Now we're in completely opposite positions to how we were. You've become me and I've become you."
"I hope not." Juvia said.
"It's true," Gray held up her torn letter. "Can I keep this?"
"If you want."
"Yes, I want to."
Juvia watched him fold up the letter and put it in his pocket. "You'll lose that when you strip." She commented.
Gray went red. "I-I won't! Anyway, even if I do, I know every word."
Juvia had to turn away from him.
He was right about one thing.
It was impossible to fall completely out of love in a moment.
Gray reached over and took her hand and she didn't have time to pull away.
"That Lyon pisses me off," He said.
"I get so jealous."
That shut her up, but she still couldn't look at him.
"What is it?"
"I like when you say my name without the 'sama'."
"Gray," Juvia said. "Gray."
"Would you want to come here again this evening? Seeing as it's our favourite place."
"Maybe we could eat before, to stop us getting hungry?"
"And maybe we could eat dinner together, in that little café by the craft shop?"
"What is it, Gray?"
"Maybe you could fall in love with me again?"
"I don't think so."
"Not even if I do this?" He lifted her chin and kissed her gently.
Her eyes flickered shut until they drew apart and rested a hand on his arm.
"Well," She said. "Maybe if you fall in love with me twice as much as I love you, I could think about it."
Gray touched her shoulders softly. "I don't foresee that being a problem." He said.
Juvia glanced out towards the valley and saw that the sun had already risen the very highest it could go for now, but Juvia knew that it would rise even higher towards the end of the day. So high and hot that it would turn all ice into water.