"Bisca," Juvia said once Bisca was done leading her into the intended isolated corner, "what's wrong? Is something the matter?" All of a sudden, Juvia let out a dramatic gasp, blushed, and widened her eyes as she placed a hand over her mouth in shock. "Don't tell Juvia… that there is trouble in paradise!"
Bisca raised an eyebrow in surprise. "What? No. Of course not. Why would there be?"
"N-No reason!" Juvia cried, her blush increasing in hue as she realized that her wild, uncontrollable imagination had made her say something so insensitive. She fidgeted awkwardly. "Juvia is sorry. Juvia said something without thinking."
Bisca gave Juvia an amused grin. "Nah, don't be. It's what I expect from you at this point."
Juvia gasped. "What does Bisca mean by that?!"
Bisca winced and raised her hands up in an attempt to calm the water mage down. "N-Nothing!" When Juvia didn't look convinced, Bisca's mind raced frantically to devise a more detailed explanation. "I-It's just that, I know you always mean well, so whenever you say something rude or insensitive, I expect it's because you said it without thinking, that's all." She laughed in the hopes that her laughter would calm Juvia's nerves a bit. "After all, Juvia is Juvia, right?" She laughed again for good measure.
After what seemed like an eternity of awkward laughter for Bisca, Juvia, to Bisca's relief, giggled and nodded her head in agreement. "Right, of course!" She flashed Bisca a small, modest smile. "And Bisca will always be Bisca!"
"Huh?" Bisca asked, wondering what exactly Juvia meant by that.
Juvia giggled. "Juvia realizes that if Bisca ever had a problem, she would face it head on; so even if there was trouble in paradise, Bisca definitely wouldn't run away from it! Bisca would definitely confront Alzack about it until the problem was solved!"
Bisca gasped before smiling at Juvia contently. She then gave Juvia a confident smirk, gave her the thumbs up, and gave her a playful wink for good measure. "You got that right sister! Looks like you're learning!"
Juvia nodded happily. "Of course! What friend would Juvia be if Juvia did not understand everybody?"
Bisca noticeably winced, but luckily for her, Juvia didn't seem to notice, at least, not immediately. "A bad one?" she asked uneasily.
Juvia quickly and firmly nodded. "Indeed! If Juvia ever found out that Juvia was a bad friend to her friends, Juvia would not be able to forgive herself!" She then noticed the uneasy look on Bisca's face, which Bisca attempted in vain to hide behind her hat, which she held the brim of using her fingers and had pulled down, only succeeding in covering the top half of her face. "Bisca," Juvia asked, "are you okay? Is something wrong?"
Bisca slowly lifted her hat to fully reveal the look of uneasiness. "Kind of," she answered quietly. She then clasped her hands together and forced herself to look at them as she shook them nervously. "How do I explain this?" she murmured to herself. Thankfully for her, Juvia was a patient person, so no matter how long it took for Bisca to come up with a proper segue into the topic she had originally planned to discuss with her about, Juvia patiently awaited her.
Once Bisca had finally settled on her first course of action, she took a deep breath, faced Juvia with a determined look on her face, and said, "Okay." She placed her hands on Juvia's shoulders and gave them a firm squeeze, much to Juvia's surprise. "Juvia," Bisca began, looking directly at Juvia, showing absolutely no sign of backing down, "I'm going to shoot completely straight with you, alright?"
Juvia merely blinked in confusion, but gave a quick nod to signal that she understood. "Yes," she said, "of course."
Bisca nodded firmly. "Okay then." She took one last deep breath to calm her nerves. She had come this far, no point in turning back now. She once against looked straight at Juvia and asked, "Did you confess your feelings to Gray back at the Great Banquet?"
Juvia's eyes widened in surprise. That was what all this was about? It hardly seemed worthy of such an intense discussion, especially with someone who hadn't had any real impact on her and Gray's relationship. Juvia simply nodded. "Yes."
Bisca nodded. One hurdle down, another one to go. "And did Gray reject your feelings after you did?"
Juvia nodded. "Y-Yes, he did."
"And you're still trying to win his heart, even when he made it perfectly clear that he wasn't interested in you?" Bisca asked. Immediately after saying that, she immediately regretted how inconsiderately she had phrased it, but she realized that the time for apologies had long since passed. She was diving into very personal territory and she was determined to get answers. Backing down now would've only given Juvia a chance to back down herself. She needed answers, and if what she and Alzack feared was definitely possible, then these answers would be crucial for preventing such a possibility from becoming a reality.
Much to Bisca's surprise, Juvia blushed innocently and let out a hearty laugh. "Of course!" she said, raising her hand up to gently remove Bisca's hands off of her shoulders.
Bisca was shocked, and simply blinked to express her confusion. "B-But… his rejection -"
Juvia sighed dreamily as she looked down at the pie in her hands. "Gray-sama's rejection was just a front," she explained gently, though her enthusiasm obviously showed at points. She looked happily back at Bisca, and despite the obviously shocked expression plastered on her face, Juvia either didn't notice or chose to ignore it, as her demeanor showed no signs of weakening. "That's one of the many traits that makes Gray-sama so dreamy!" she gushed. "Despite how cool and handsome he is on the outside, Gray-sama is so shy about opening up!" She looked back down at her pie, her expression softening immensely at the thought of what praise her Gray-sama might bestow upon her once he received the handmade, edible sign of her love for him. She was so busy admiring her token of affection however, that she didn't notice that Bisca had averted her eyes to the ground, her eyes effectively being hidden behind the brim of her cowgirl hat, and had clenched her fists and jaw in frustration. "But Juvia isn't worried. Juvia knows that if Juvia keeps on trying, Gray-sama will finally open up about his feelings towards Juvia, and -"
"This isn't funny Juvia," Bisca muttered.
Juvia gasped and turned her attention back to Bisca, startled by her words and the tone she chose to express them. "Huh?"
Bisca kept her head down as she shook her head disapprovingly. "Just because Gray said something you didn't like," she raised her head to show Juvia a look that clearly expressed how disappointed and angry she was at the water mage, "doesn't mean you can pretend like it never happened!"
Juvia took a step back, and why wouldn't she? The intensity Bisca was displaying was at a level Juvia had never seen the sniper reach before, and whether Bisca realized it or not, her anger and passion were commanding her to slowly make her way closer and closer towards Juvia, taking angry step after angry step towards her intimidated guild member. "B-Bisca?"
"Part of loving someone is respecting that person's feelings!" Bisca cried. Despite Juvia lowering her head and hiding her eyes behind her bangs and visibly shaking from Bisca's verbal assault, Bisca was too angry and disappointed to care. She continued her tirade because, quite frankly, she felt that Juvia needed to hear it. "If Gray's not interested in you, than if you truly love him, you'd respect his feelings and stop doing… doing…," she looked at the pie in Juvia's hands, ripped it out of Juvia's grasp, and lifted it up to her face, "this!" Bisca took a few minutes to catch her breath before she continued on her rant. "It would be one thing if you were ignoring Gray's feelings, but this…," she said, shaking the pie in her hands angrily, "this isn't just ignoring Gray's feelings, this is just plain disrespecting them! Just because reality hurts, it doesn't mean you can just… just…," Bisca had become so angry that she was beginning to lose her ability to remember words, "run away into that happy little delusion of yours where everything goes your way!" Bisca was beginning to pant heavily. Ranting really took a lot out of her.
She looked back at Juvia, who hadn't moved a muscle the moment she had begun her verbal tirade. As much as Bisca hated to admit it, the very sight of Juvia's pathetic state immediately made her regret what she had just done. On the one hand, she felt that this was something Juvia absolutely needed to hear; on the other hand, she may have gone too far. She still loved Juvia, and in hindsight, that rant really had turned ugly, a type of ugly that Bisca often hated and despised whenever she saw someone reach that level of ugliness. It was bad enough that she loathed herself for reaching that type of ugliness, but the irony of it only added salt to the wound.
Bisca's expression softened the moment she had successfully managed to recompose herself. Taking a moment to let some time pass before she spoke again, she averted her eyes towards the ground and sheepishly shuffled her feet. "I'm sorry Juvia," she quietly said, desperately hoping that Juvia was not shutting her off, which she would completely understand if she did. "It's just…," Bisca sighed as she remorsefully rubbed the back of her neck, "Alzack and I… we were rooting for you, you know?" Despite a lack of response, Bisca continued to explain herself as best she could. "You and Gray… well," she smiled fondly at the memories of watching Gray and Juvia interact from afar with Alzack, "we just thought you two looked so cute together… and maybe that was because we saw a lot of ourselves in you two. I mean sure, you both had your bad points, but we really liked your good points, you know? Sure, Gray could be a little bit more open about his feelings, but he's always a pretty reliable guy, and despite your delusions, you always seemed like such a strong and compassionate person." She sighed. "I guess we just thought you were stronger than this is all," she admitted quietly. When she still received no response from Juvia, Bisca looked back at her and found that Juvia was quivering uncontrollably. "Juvia?" Bisca asked, raising her hand to reach out to her, but stopping midway, as if debating on whether she should touch Juvia or not.
Juvia sniffed loudly. "Juvia knows," Juvia softly whimpered. She raised her head to reveal that she had been silently crying this entire time. "Juvia knows," she repeated, though it was muffled by the fact that she was trying her best to stifle her own sobs, though a hiccup did unintentionally escape her lips. "Juvia knows that her precious Gray-sama doesn't love her. Juvia knows that she shouldn't continue doing these things. Juvia knows… Juvia knows…." Juvia shook her head and brought her hands up to her face to wipe away her own tears, but it was no use, the tears were constantly being replaced with new ones each and every time Juvia wiped one away.
Bisca stepped forward to help Juvia clean herself up. Once she felt that the worst was behind them (thought Juvia was still sniffing, sobbing, hiccupping, and shedding tears, it was at a much lesser rate than before), she gently placed a hand on one of Juvia's shoulders and gave it a comforting squeeze. "What is it Juvia? What else do you also know?" When Juvia seemed to hesitate, Bisca smiled kindly, and said, "Come on Juvia. I know I was a little harsh before, but I was only trying to help!" Still nothing. "You can tell me, can't you? We're friends, aren't we?"
Realizing that Bisca was right, Juvia did her best to fight her bodily impulses and finish the thought she had attempted mere moments ago to convey to Bisca. "Juvia knows…," Juvia whimpered, "Juvia knows… that Juvia's feelings for Gray-sama were doomed from the start! That Juvia was nothing more than a hopeless suitor towards her Gray-sama!" Juvia once again began to cry uncontrollably, her attempt to control and cover her whimpers and sobs being to simply cover her face with her hands and hope that her intense feelings would eventually subside.
Bisca's eyes widened in surprise at the unexpected revelation Juvia bestowed upon her. Did she hear that right? Did Juvia just admit that she always secretly knew that Gray would never love her? No, that couldn't be! This was Juvia! Surely she had somehow heard her wrong! "Juvia," Bisca said softly, "what do you mean? Did I really just hear you right? Did you really just say that you always knew that your feelings for Gray were… doomed from the start?"
Juvia sadly nodded. "From the moment Juvia fell in love with Gray-sama, Juvia always knew that her love for Gray-sama would never be returned! That Juvia's love for her precious Gray-sama was completely hopeless!"
Bisca's mouth hung agape with disbelief. So she really did hear her right… and yet, despite that, she just couldn't believe it. Shaking her head to release herself from her own stupor, Bisca hesitated, before quietly asking, "H-How?" It was probably insensitive of her to ask, but she had to know. The Juvia she had grown accustomed to and the Juvia standing before her now were two completely different people! She needed to know what linked the two Juvias together.
Juvia gulped down a sob, before explaining, "Even before Juvia joined Fairy Tail, Juvia had boyfriends, but each and every one of them left Juvia for one reason or another."
"But that doesn't mean Gray would've!" Bisca argued. "Look, I may not know who those other guys were, but Gray's not like those other guys! You know that, right?"
Juvia nodded before continuing on with her explanation. "But even when Juvia joined Fairy Tail, Juvia noticed. Juvia noticed it right away." Tears were once again forming at the corner of Juvia's eyes and Bisca could hear her try to subtly stifle her sobs. Whatever she was about to say, it apparently hurt her very much.
Bisca carefully wrapped Juvia in a one-armed embrace while using one of her hands to comfortingly rub Juvia's shoulder. "It's okay," she whispered tenderly. "Take all the time you need. I'm not in any rush."
Juvia nodded to show that she understood and although she was grateful for Bisca for being patient with her, Juvia wanted to show her gratitude by quickly recomposing herself and resuming her explanation. Once she had succeeded in performing this very task somewhat, she wiped the last, remaining, unshed tears from her eyes, and continued on from where she had left off. "Juvia noticed…," another sniff, "Juvia noticed the way Gray-sama talked with other girls besides Juvia, and because of that," another sniff, "Juvia knows that she is nowhere close to Gray-sama's heart."
Bisca gulped and licked her lips nervously. "I… I still don't completely understand. What other girls are you talking about? I mean… Gray's not exactly a social butterfly, you know? I mean, as far as I know, Gray seems to spend all of his time either here or on a job, so…."
Juvia nodded. "Yes. Juvia knows." Juvia gulped nervously. "In truth, Juvia is ashamed to admit this, but," she looked at Bisca, her eyes filled with sadness, guilt, and shame, "the women Juvia was referring to… was her own precious guild mates!"
Bisca released a small gasp as he eyes widened in unadulterated surprise. "W-Wait, what?"
Juvia nodded, lowering her head in shame. "Juvia has seen the way Gray-sama talks with Lucy. Juvia has seen the way Gray-sama talks with Erza. Juvia has seen the way Gray-sama talks with Wendy. Juvia has seen the way Gray-sama talks with Cana. Juvia has even noticed the way Gray-sama talks with Bisca!" Juvia shook her head. "When Juvia compares the way Gray-sama talks with her to the way he talks with everyone else… Juvia realizes just how far away from Gray-sama's heart Juvia really is!"
Bisca nodded understandingly, though she was slowly starting to realize just how serious Juvia's insecurities were. "I-It's true that he's a little awkward with you compared to everyone else," Bisca said, trying to be as gentle as she could while saying this, "but you have to admit… it's kind of your own fault. I mean…," Bisca winced at the thought, "you're always admiring him from afar, you know? And whenever you do have the courage to approach him, it's always with some crazy declaration of your love. You've never really had a normal conversation with him, you know?"
Juvia nodded. "Yes, Bisca has a point," she admitted. "But," she shook her head again, "even if that were not the case," Juvia once again restrained a sob that had almost succeeded from escaping her lips, "Juvia knows that Gray-sama would never love somebody as ugly as Juvia."
"What?!" Bisca cried incredulously. "Juvia! That has got to be the most ridiculous thing you've said! How could you say something like that about yourself?! You're beautiful!"
Juvia simply shook her head. "Not on the outside," Juvia clarified. She placed both of her hands over her heart. "On the inside. Juvia is ugly for harboring such feelings of jealousy towards her precious friends, even though they have been nothing but kind to her." Juvia shook her head in self-disdain once again. "Juvia knows that her precious Gray-sama would never love somebody who harbors such ugly thoughts and feelings towards her own friends!"
Bisca winced uncomfortably. So that was what Juvia had meant. Bisca rubbed the back of her neck anxiously. Things just got much more complicated. Outer beauty was one thing; inner beauty, however, was a completely different ball game. Bisca took a deep breath. With how touchy the current subject was, she would have to choose her words carefully. "Juvia," she said gently, "I understand why you're ashamed for having these thoughts and feelings, but you shouldn't beat yourself up about it. It's perfectly normal! Everyone goes through them at least once in their lives!"
Juvia shook her head again. "Bisca is only saying such a thing to make Juvia feel better!" she argued. "Bisca would never think such thoughts and feel such ugly emotions for Juvia! No one in Fairy Tail would!"
"Juvia, that's not true, not in the slightest!" Bisca countered. "I mean, sure, none of us have ever really felt jealous when another girl talks with Gray, but that's only because none of us are interested in him the way you are!" When Juvia still didn't seem convinced, Bisca pointed at Jet and Droy, who were eating at a table all to themselves. "Look at Jet and Droy! They're always jealous when someone else it talking to Levy!"
Juvia sheepishly followed Bisca's finger to see her two fellow guild mates cheerfully stuffing their faces with food (Droy especially). "Even towards their own friends?" she asked quietly.
Bisca nodded. "In spades! Have you seen the way they look at Gajeel?!" She laughed heartily. "They always look so livid!" She stopped laughing to soothingly rub Juvia's shoulder. "Look, Juvia, everyone has an ugly thought or an ugly feeling every once in a while, that's just a part of being alive, just like how figuring out how to deal with those negative thoughts and feelings are a part of being alive."
"But," Juvia whispered, "no matter how hard Juvia tries, she can never rid herself of such thoughts and emotions."
Bisca laughed cheerfully and brought Juvia closer to her, giving her a light embrace, much to Juvia's surprise. "Hey, I never said that it was easy! Haven't you been paying attention around here? No matter how many negative emotions, thoughts, or habits we all have, we never truly seem to rid ourselves of them, you know? I mean, no one around here really seems to change, right? Nab's always hanging out at the request board, Natsu and Gray are always fighting with each other, Vijeeter is always dancing, Reedus is always painting… the list goes on and on! Sure, it can get pretty annoying and tiring from time to time, but everyone here accepts everyone for who they are flaws and all, you know that! And it's not just Fairy Tail, it's just a part of being somebody's friend in general, you know?" When Juvia still didn't seem convinced, Bisca gently asked, "And you know what another part of being someone's friend is?" She turned Juvia around to look at her face to face. "It's helping each other deal with these thoughts and emotions. Juvia, if something's wrong, you know you can always come to us, right? I mean, we're all friends here, aren't we?"
After a moment of awestruck silence, Juvia smiled, nodded, and answered, "Yes," before adding, "but there are certainly times when Juvia feels that she does not deserve such amazing friends."
Bisca chuckled and nodded in agreement. "Yeah." She gazed thoughtfully at the guild members minding their own business in front of her. "Sometimes, this place and the people who are a part of it seem too good to be true." She turned back to Juvia, smiled, and gave her a playful wink. "Right?"
Juvia returned Bisca's gestures with a smile and a nod of her own. "Indeed."
They both turned to watch the guild once more. Despite all of the hardships and despite all of the insanity, they had to admit, this guild had done wonders for them, from Juvia, who turned from being a lonely and bitter rain-woman to a woman who treasures the very concept of love itself, to Bisca, who turned from being a no-good common crook calling herself Moulin Rouge to a married woman with a beautiful daughter and an amazing husband. True, with how often they saw their fellow guild members and how much of a pain they could be at times, they would often forget how lucky they were to be surrounded by so many friends, so many amazing people, but it happened, but just like Bisca had said, friends helped each other out, and Bisca had just reminded Juvia of all of the amazing people she could lean on for support, no matter how many times her heart would decide to chew her out and no matter how many times she would feel helpless whenever it did.
Juvia sighed thoughtfully. "This guild is a lot of fun, isn't it?"
Bisca nodded in agreement. "Yeah, it really is." She looked down at the pie in her hands before turning back to Juvia. "So," she said, Juvia turning back to her to give Bisca her full attention, "you know what you have to do," she held out Juvia's pie to her, "right?"
Juvia looked down at the pie with a melancholic expression replacing the content smile that had been on her face mere moments before. She nodded. "Yes," she said, "but Juvia must sadly admit that Juvia might never stop loving Gray-sama."
Bisca smiled and nodded understandingly. "Of course. No one's telling you to stop loving Gray! Heck, you can love Gray as much as you want! It's just that, if he doesn't love you back, you have to respect his personal space a little bit more."
Juvia sighed. "Still…."
Bisca reached for Juvia's shoulder and squeezed it compassionately. "I know it's going to be hard for you, after all, Gray was the one who finally showed you the light, the one who cleared your dark and gloomy skies, the one who led you out of a dark tunnel and showed you the first rays of light to hit your face, but if Gray doesn't feel the same way about you then, well… you need to let him go."
Juvia nodded. "Juvia understands," she said, taking her pie off of Bisca's hands and looking down at it affectionately. This was going to be hard, so hard. Not once since she first met her precious Gray-sama had she ever NOT thought about spending the rest of her life with him, starting a family, and growing old together; but Bisca was right, if she continued to do this, she'd be disrespecting Gray's feelings, and after all he had done for her, respecting his feelings was the least she could do. She looked back at Bisca. "So," she said, "how do you suggest Juvia does this?"
Bisca held her chin as she thought the whole situation over. Once she finally devised a plan that she felt would tie up all loose ends and leave everyone satisfied with absolutely no regrets, she snapped her fingers, smiled confidently, and cried, "I've got it! Go up to Gray, give him your pie, and tell him that you love him again!"
Juvia blinked a few times in confusion. "W-What?"
Bisca nodded enthusiastically. "Go up to Gray, give him your pie, and tell him that you love him again!" she repeated. When Juvia still looked confused, Bisca explained, "Look, for all we know, Gray probably is playing hard to get -"
Juvia's eyes lit up immensely. "He is?!"
Bisca quickly shook her head and raised her hands up to calm Juvia down. "No, we don't know yet, but that's why you should confess your feelings to him again! To make doubly sure that he doesn't love you; and better yet, if he does say he doesn't love you, ask him why he doesn't love you! If Gray tries to walk away without giving you an explanation, then run after him, catch him, and force him into giving you a proper explanation for why he doesn't love you! You may be respecting his feelings by leaving him behind, but he has to respect your feelings by giving you a proper explanation for why he doesn't love you! Then, after you get your explanation, accept the rejection, tell him that you'll respect his feelings and leave him alone a little bit more, but that you'll always love him regardless, and then, BAM, you head your separate ways and just be friends slash guild members." Bisca smiled proudly to herself for coming up with such a great plan. "What a great plan," she complimented to herself.
Juvia thought it over for a minute before smiling at Bisca and nodding her head in agreement. "Yes, it certainly is."
Author's Note #1: I've read somewhere that, according to a databook, Juvia surprisingly feels that she is a hopeless suitor to Gray, despite her efforts. Poor thing. :(
Author's Note #2: I hope you all enjoyed this chapter! Sadly, since my break is almost over, I won't be updating in quite a while, which is sad, considering the fact that I planned to make this a four-shot. Oh well, gives you all something to look forward to, right? ;)