hi hi hi!

please enjoy thing chapter, I've been so excited for this moment!

casually posting this before I get ready for work,, I ran it through Grammarly but lemme know if there are any spelling errors that are too annoying oooor if there's a scene that maybe could've used a little more explaining?


"What's wrong?" He took the note as she handed it to him, Gray quickly reading it over.

His dad was called away on a job they expected to last a little over two weeks, Mika accompanying him in hopes of getting the job done faster.

"They'll miss Juvia's birthday dinner." She sighed, leaning forward on the counter with a pout.

"Mom still ordered the sushi," He said, trying to comfort her. "It won't be all that bad without them here, hm? We can have our own fun."

"Juvia's only a little upset; we've been together every year," She sighed with a small smile. "But Juvia likes the idea of spending the night with Gray-sama."

"Yeah," He cleared his throat, stepping back into the living room. "Let's watch some movies? While we wait for the food to come."

Once they both changed into something more comfortable, Juvia cozied up to his side on the couch and started their movie marathon.

He let her pick a string of cheezy romances that always made her emotional, Gray suffering at the hands of the over-the-top dialogue.

The sushi delivery shortly stole their attention, continuing with their meal on the couch.

Gray felt his nerves unwind, feeling a bit more peaceful every time she laughed. He tried to remind himself that she was his family, and there was no reason to be so stiff around her. He should at least try his best to make her birthday memorable.

She rested her head on his shoulder, his arm wrapped around her own. He didn't mind Juvia cuddling up to him, his thoughts occupied by the corny movie scenes.

The night continued without his anxiety interrupting them, Gray almost forgetting his personal ban on enjoying the time he spent with the mermaid.

"Happy birthday, Juvia." Gray carefully carried her cake out of the kitchen, setting it down on the coffee table. He scoffed and shook his head with a smile as she silently squealed. She clapped her hands as he began to sing for her, his face incredibly red throughout the song.

She eagerly blew out her candles, Gray cutting them both a slice as they sat under the dim dining room lights.

It was a comfortable silence, both head over heels for Ur's baking skills. The cake was always soft and fluffy, the cream in between whipped and light. The strawberries were never tart, just sweet enough to pair with the vanilla dessert.

Gray watched every time she closed her eyes to savor the flavor of her bite, his heart squeezing and skipping an uncomfortable beat. He started at her empty hand across the table, imagining taking it in his own to hold as they sat in comfort. He wanted to thread his fingers between hers and rub his thumb against the center of her palm. He hid his melancholy grimace with another bite of cake.

He began to chew slowly as their eyes met, his anxiety building with the spread of her gentle smile.

"Juvia has had a wonderful time tonight, Gray-sama," She began, finishing her cake as she spoke. "Even if Mama and Papa couldn't be here."

"Of course, yeah, I'm glad you did," He nodded his head, stuffing his mouth with his last bite.

"Anything for you." He wanted to say.

"Let me put away the cake, and I guess I'll meet you upstairs." He said as he stood up, avoiding the sweet look she offered him.

"Juvia actually wanted to talk to Gray-sama before going upstairs." She said, following him as he went into the kitchen. "Juvia…wants to ask for something else this year."

"Something else?" He felt his stomach swirl as she nodded, taking a small step closer to him. He took in a deep breath, almost wanting to hold it in to keep from absorbing her scent.

"This year…this year, well, Juvia…" Her fingers toyed together nervously, a blush rushing up her features. "Juvia wants a real kiss this year."

"A what?" He heard his heart pounding in his ears as he watched her lips reform the last words she spoke.

"A real kiss, Gray-sama."

He looked for any sign of doubt in her eyes, hoping it was a joke, hoping she wasn't really asking him to cross that boundary.

"Absolutely not." He didn't want to show his panic, pushing past her and moving to pace in the living room.

He never thought she would ever…it was never anything more than puppy love between them. She should've moved on at some point, wasn't he doing a good job at pushing her away? Just why in the world would she…

"Gray-sama can't argue, right? It's Juvia's birthday, isn't it?" Her lips twisted into a frustrated frown as she entered the room with him.

"Just because it's your birthday," He almost laughed, an overwhelming feeling crawling through his body, trying his best not to explode. "Doesn't mean that we—"

"Juvia…! Juvia can't keep running in circles with Gray-sama! You treat Juvia so well sometimes…and sometimes it's like you barely care about her!"

He flinched as she stomped her foot, afraid to parallel her anger with his own. He couldn't let her see what truly lay underneath his surface, the beast inside clawing to bare its fangs.

"Juvia doesn't want to play this game anymore… We're not little kids anymore."

~000~

"...fine." He grit out, Juvia looking up to catch his annoyed expression and clenched fists. "I'll come to your room…in ten minutes."

Juvia felt her heart sink as he turned away and disappeared into the kitchen, wondering if this was the right choice for their relationship.

"Juvia knows nothing would ever change if she doesn't…"

Her feet felt heavy as she eventually climbed the stairs, retreating to her bedroom to get ready to receive her gift.

~000~

Was she even in her right mind? What did Juvia even know about kissing? What did he know about kissing? They never knew anything more than a peck on the cheek, what was about to happen?

He threw himself back on his bed with a groan, rubbing a hand on his face, trying to summon some mental clarity.

This was too soon…hell, it wasn't even supposed to happen. He never wanted it to happen…

Why? Because if it did, then he'd have to face everything he never wanted to unearth. They wouldn't survive this; what would come of their relationship? Things could never go back to the way they were and he hated that idea the most.

He clicked his teeth, tears almost welling in his eyes. Goddammit.

Gray began to sit up, raising a brow as his bedroom door began to open.

"Juvia…" His throat felt tight as she walked in, softly closing the door behind her. "Where'd you get that shirt?"

"Cana gave it to Juvia…she said to wear it tonight." His curtains were open, the moonlight bouncing off the pale skin of her thighs. The shirt ended just above them, the cloth loose and oversized. It was plain white, just an old shirt of his, one he probably tossed off at some point. But it was thick with his scent…something smothering and mixing with her own…something making that damned wolf in his blood howl to have her in his hold.

"Don't we usually do this in your room?" He asked as she walked forward, her hands behind her back.

"Juvia wanted to do it in Gray-sama's room." The air hummed with silence as she stood in front of him, swinging on her heels slightly. "That's okay, right?"

~000~

Juvia wondered if Gray could hear the heavy beat of his heart, the wolf sprite taking her hand in his, a sigh forcing its way past his lips.

His hand glided along her thigh, the mermaid gasping, feeling goosebumps rise on her skin. He helped her sit on his lap, their eyes locked in an unknowing gaze.

"Is this what you really want?" He asked in a whisper, hiding his cringe as she nodded.

His hands held her steady, resting carefully on her hips. It seemed like time couldn't move any faster, slowing itself down as they attempted to close the distance between them.

Their heads tilted, eyes slowly closing as the tips of their noses brushed together. She wrapped her arms carefully around his neck, their lips so close to colliding.

She closed the gap, knowing his hesitation couldn't overcome itself.

Gray's kisses were different compared to his sprite counterpart. They were always so impassioned, so tempting, so delirious. She lost herself within them each time he visited her, feeling his warmth inside and out.

His kiss was soft and tentative, unsure of what to do next. His lips were slow and briefly hesitant, wondering what else to do but pucker. Still, he didn't pull away as fast as she assumed he would.

It was a tentative press of their lips; but not what Juvia meant by a real kiss. She knew he was aware of what she wanted; the one thing they'd never be able to take back.

Gray always acted tough and hid his sweetness, somewhat letting his guard down when Juvia could get away with what she wanted. It was easy for him to rationalize his behavior in the moment since it wasn't really a display of his true feelings. It was him begrudgingly giving into her excessive wants.

She waited for him to be the first one to make the next move, Gray's lips almost tight and uneasy.

Juvia was impatient, not caring if Gray would question just where she learned to kiss. She leaned into his body, pulling away for a moment as she parted her lips.

He felt her tongue nudge his bottom lip, sweeping carefully along it. He relaxed his jaw, succeeding in following her lead. Knowing Juvia, she probably did a ton of research from those erotic books Erza thinks no one knows about.

His hand subconsciously slid up her back, Juvia breathing in as he pushed her close. The kiss deepened with their parted lips, the feeling of her lip between his almost nostalgic. The longer they held each other, it filtered into his mind that there was no going back. His hand fell to her bare thigh, a gentle moan vibrating against him when he cupped her skin.

He felt something click, suddenly aware of how close she was, how her body smelled and felt against his. He could hear her soft gasps whenever his fingers moved, the slight tightening of her arms around him.

They took the next step simultaneously, Juvia falling into their usual rhythm, the wolf subconsciously guiding his other half.

Gray felt a wave of hot frost wash over him at the feeling of her tongue in his mouth. He groaned, wondering why they hadn't done this sooner. She felt so perfect, so right. Juvia chased his lips and mimicked his movements, whispering his name as they parted to catch their breath.

"Gray-sama…" He looked at her reddened cheeks, a slight plump his lips gave hers. Her eyes fluttered, drooping and eyeing his lips.

A quiet snarl fueled his hidden desire, Gray taking advantage of the opportunity to let his desires surface. He took hold of her waist, flipping her onto the bed.

Juvia mewled into his kiss, desperation for more taking hold of them both. He threaded his fingers in her hair, wanting to memorize how every part of her felt in this moment.

Her back arched, their breaths growing more and more ragged.

Gray didn't feel his ears pop out, or notice the growing cold emitting from his body. His lips were so cold that she felt warm, snowflakes melting against her tongue.

"You're so warm…" He said, his hands running underneath the shirt she wore. His lips fell to the crook of her neck, hands appreciating the swell of her breasts.

His teeth nipped at her skin, wanting to mark her wherever he could. The pads of his fingers burned her skin, his shirt falling to lie on the floor at some point.

Gray looked down at Juvia as he licked his lips, watching her chest rise and fall, her hands reaching out for him.

The sprite twined their fingers together, feeling his teeth poke out, a soft smile gracing her lips.

"Gray-sama…"

Her glow in the moonlight made him pause, her sweet smile and the smell of her beating heart twisting his own.

The sight of her reaching out for him made his reality snap back into place, made him realize that his best friend lay bare in her white, lace set.

He shook his head, feeling that exhausting sense of dread and anxiety overwhelm his heart.

"We have to stop." He climbed off of her, his tail brushing against her leg. "I…I can't…"

"But—" She sat forward as he began to pace around the room, his panic setting in. "Gray-sama, Juvia—"

"No!" He smacked her hand away before she could touch him, grimacing as their eyes met. She nursed her hand, tears beginning to well in her wide eyes.

"Just…Just go back to your room. We're done here, okay?" He turned away from her. "Put some clothes on and go to bed. You got your present, right?"

"You're the worst." Her voice rang through the air as the door slammed shut behind her.

~000~

Gray woke up with a bleak stare toward his ceiling, feeling the weight of his emotions swirl around in the air above him.

He didn't bother asking himself what he did or how he felt, just wanting to escape from it. From everything. He crossed a line.

He took advantage of her. His girl, the one person he desperately wanted to protect in this whole world. All he should've done was give her one half-assed peck on the lips and left…instead he…

It was that damn wolf, those damn urges of his. He stayed away, knowing that even the slightest amount of temptation would drag him to a place that couldn't be forgiven. She wouldn't forgive him.

He got dressed as fast as he could, rushing through his house to ensure they wouldn't run into each other. He was thankful they didn't share the same classroom; it'd be easier dodging her during breaks.

She'd probably want to talk about it, but he had nothing he wanted to say. Silence would be enough.

His desk never felt more comfortable, off on the other end of the room, away from the door. He laid his head and ignored Natsu and Gajeel when they showed up.

"What's the matter? Cat got yer tongue?" Natsu poked at him, Gajeel minding his business in his own seat. "You're always so gloomy, droopy eyes."

He sat up only when the bell rang, Natsu quirking a brow when he didn't acknowledge him with his own snarky comment. He shot a look over to his cousin, Gajeel shrugging his shoulders.

Class proceeded as usual, Gray doing his best to take notes, not paying attention to any external factors. Natsu was clearly worried by the number of times he looked back over his shoulder, but he didn't want to engage. There weren't words to express how he was feeling, nor did he want to attempt to share them.

Their breaks went undisturbed by the girls, Natsu and Gajeel getting up to go see them instead of the reverse where they usually came to bother them.

He got up as soon as the lunch bell rang, planning to run off and spend his time alone or with Ultear.

He heard Natsu call after him, Gray cursing under his breath when Lucy caught him by the arm.

"Gray? Natsu said you weren't feeling alright, are you okay?" He turned to face her, his lip twisting slightly at the light blue beginning to seep onto her skin.

"Just fine, I have somewhere to be, okay? So I'll catch you later."

"Is Juvia sick? She's not here, we were just worried." She asked before he could get very far, Gray stopping sharply on his heel.

"What?"

"We know she usually starts her period around now and my mom let me know your parents—"

"I didn't know she wasn't here," He said, feeling his heart begin to race. "We didn't run into each other this morning."

"Should I have Virgo check on her? She can make sure Juvia's okay," Lucy frowned a bit as he shook his head, Gray groaning as he held his face.

"I think she's just throwing a fit. We fought last night."

"Is that why you're acting so weird?" Natsu showed up behind them, their friends gathering with worried expressions. "We can tell when you're upset, Gray."

"Honestly, it's none of your business," He glared at the fire dragon, feeling a headache come on. "Juvia's fine and I'm fine, okay?"

Lucy grumbled as he turned down the end of the hall, Natsu rubbing a comforting hand against her back.

"He's always moody, but I don't like how he's lying to us." Lucy sighed as she leaned into Natsu's hold.

"I think you should still send Virgo to check on her," Levy said, absentmindedly twining her fingers with Gajeel's. "We all know how bad her cramps can get. She might have a fever and there's no one to take care of her."

"She still hasn't answered any of my texts," Erza stared down at her phone as they began to walk. "It's not raining either. We'd know if Juvia was just upset because they had a little spat."

Cana was half a step behind them, twirling the reverse Lovers card in one hand. "I'm sure they'll be okay, it might take a couple weeks."

~000~

Gray felt guilt well in his stomach, unsure of what to do. How was he supposed to face Juvia after last night; did any of that even matter when she might be feeling sick? She always had the worst fevers, and cramps that could get so bad she might throw up. He winced, imagining her in pain, calling out his name for comfort.

"Fuck!" He ran back into his classroom, grabbing his bag and making a beeline for the stairs. He couldn't abandon her when she needed him.

He raced home, lifting himself into the air to fly as fast as he could. There weren't any rainclouds even remotely closeby, which made him worry even more. Even the smallest tear rolling down her cheek would cause a string of random clouds to appear around their home.

"Juvia!" Gray shouted as he ran into their house, rushing up the stairs. He grabbed at the handle of her door, and rushed forward without thinking, reeling as a big thud rang out. He fell back, reeling as the world spun around him.

"What the…" He groaned as he sat up, holding his head and looking at the solid mass of water hidden behind her door. He stood up and poked it with his finger, watching the water ripple from the center. Gray tried to freeze the surface, watching his ice melt before it could even stretch from the center. It didn't feel hot, but his magic couldn't do anything, no matter how many times he tried.

"Juvia?" He could see through the waves, somewhat roughly, like looking through the surface of a lake. He could see her lying in bed, curled in her blanket and facing away from him. He couldn't be sure if she was shivering or not, the water also blocking out his sense of smell.

"Juvia, come on, let me in," He said, knocking on the wall. "Come on, we need to talk."

He waited, knowing she could probably hear him.

"Juvia? Seriously," He knocked again, watching her shuffle slightly, but do nothing to acknowledge his presence." You're sick! Let me…Let me in please."

"Juvia told me she doesn't want to talk to you, Gray." He jumped at the voice resonating behind him, turning to see Lucy's spirit standing behind him.

"Virgo," His eyes narrowed, looking back at the door before turning to her. "What do you mean, is she okay?"

"She has a high fever and she's thrown up everything I've given her to eat," Her monotone expression showed the slightest bit of worry it could. "Lucy-hime asked me to check on her."

"And she said she doesn't want to see me?" The words felt tight in his throat as she nodded her head, clenching his fist at his side.

"But…but she's sick…" He choked up, groaning as he fell into a crouch.

"She'll let you in when she feels like it," A small gust of wind and the scent of fading stardust let him know she left, an angry growl vibrating through his teeth.

"If that's how you want to act, fine!" He slammed his bedroom door closed, sinking to the ground again as he hid his face in his hands.

~000~

If she was going to block him out, he wouldn't even try talking to her. He'd leave every day and come back home, that damned water wall still mocking him. She didn't send a text or call, Virgo popping up every so often to let him know how she was feeling.

Her fever stayed consistent, lowering steadily throughout the week. She didn't throw up anymore, other than the first day, keeping down light meals like soup and soft breads. Her cramps worsened for a couple days, the pain he wished he could help manage.

He went to bed, tired after hours of staring at her door all night. She didn't want to see him all week, trickling into the next. Even with all the pain she felt, she didn't want him by her side.

Everyone tried to make him feel better, letting them know Juvia was kindly updating them on her condition. Which did nothing but make him feel more sour.

Isn't this what he wanted? To live their lives apart, without interfering in each other's lives? He gave her a reason to move on, he should be happy.

He woke up late one Friday morning, happy the school was closed for minor renovations that day. He took his time rolling out of bed, yawning with shut eyes as he went to wash up in the bathroom.

Gray sighed, the depressive weight of his anxiety sitting carefully on his shoulders.

Two fucking weeks…now he really understood how Lucy felt when Natsu dodged her. He felt so heartsick, so confused and worried. He shouldn't have slapped her hand away that night, but what was he supposed to do? Things were about to go a lot farther than either of them would have been ready for; Juvia couldn't understand these things.

He looked into the mirror with another heavy sigh before leaving the bathroom, feeling his stomach turn as he walked past Juvia's closed door.

He prioritized making himself something to eat, knowing today wouldn't be any different. The house was too quiet, his food tasting bland without anyone to share it with. No matter what he made, even if it was slightly burned, Juvia ate it without hesitation. She always offered to do the dishes afterward, Gray reluctantly stepped in to help dry them; he couldn't relax if she was doing chores without any help. And then, they'd sit on the couch to watch a little television, his parents on either side enjoying the peaceful atmosphere. If it was a lazy afternoon, he'd want to train with Ur, Juvia more than happy to accompany him. She always clung to his arm as they walked around the neighborhood, Gray indifferent to her soft and sweet hums.

The memories trapped within their house-made him click his tongue, unable to channel the correct emotional response.

Gray walked back upstairs after some time, the late afternoon peaking through the curtains. He stared at the handle of her door, hiding his hope and covering it with frustration as he twisted it open.

"...Juvia?" His heart stopped; why was she on the floor?

Her water wall had fallen, finally giving him access to her bedroom. He stepped in for the first time in a while, his knees almost ready to give out.

Her skin was pale, her hair strewn about, her blankets pulled down and caught underneath her leg.

He swallowed dryly, almost laughing in disbelief.

"What're you doing? You fall out of bed?" He chuckled with a strained expression, time passing at a snail's pace as he knelt at her side. Gray brushed aside her hair, Juvia's expression blank as if she were asleep. She lost her usual glow, her breath barely above a quiet whisper. He turned her over carefully, grimacing as her hand fell limply against her carpet. He pressed an ear to her chest, his own heart racing at her near-silent pulse.

"What's the matter? Virgo said you were doing a lot better," His bottom lip began to quiver, Gray reaching for her hand. "Why are you...so cold?"

He untangled her from her sheets, noticing a few white flakes fall from around her ankles. He examined her foot, holding in a gasp as he picked her up in one quick, panicked motion.

"You used too much magic, didn't you? My god, you know you shouldn't be doing that when you're...you're sick!" He scolded her, rushing down the stairs and toward his backyard. "Dammit, Juvia!"

Juvia's magic was generally strong and on par with his own strength, but like mother like daughter. There was a reason his dad always worried about Mizuno when she got sick; her magic reserves fell drastically. She'd basically go through bouts of magic depletion, the recovery a little more manageable. While Juvia rarely got as sick, it was still too dangerous for her to use any amount of magic while on bedrest. And, of course, his selfish ass forgot about it to the point where her scales were beginning to shed.

"Natsu!" Gray shouted at his window, knowing the dragon was goofing around in there. "Natsu, get over here!"

"Oh, all of a sudden. I was just about to go see Luce, you know…" The window slid open as he rolled his eyes, tilting his head curiously as he laid his eyes on the two down below. "What the—what's wrong with Juvia? She looks—"

"She's fucking sick! Just get down here, I need you to fly us to the closest beach!" He held back the tears welling in his eyes to the best of his ability. While he was a fast flyer, no one was better than a dragon to cross long distances. "I need to put her in the ocean before she dries out!"

Natsu jumped down and out without needing to hear another word, fire gathering around his body. Gray got out of the way as his lizard form filled up most of their yard, flying them onto his back as they quickly took off, in an effort not to waste any more time.

He kept his head low, and Juvia close as the wind whipped around them, hoping she wasn't too uncomfortable.

"It won't be long now; just hang in there, Juvia…"

Natsu planted his feet in the shallow, cold ocean, feeling Gray slide down his back.

He carefully laid her into the sea, the knots in his stomach tightening as he watched her slowly dissolve into the current. Natsu shrunk to stand by his side, Gray clutching her hand as the rest of her drifted off.

"She gonna be okay?"

"I've never seen it get this bad," He shrugged tiredly. "We always made sure to bring her as soon as she felt even a little dry…She was so cold, Natsu…"

They walked in silence onto the shore, sitting behind the high-tide shoreline.

Natsu kicked together a small pile of sand, watching the sun set as Gray bowed his head into his lap.

"You know, man, I don't really understand you," Natsu started as he laid back, hands folded behind his head. "You're putting yourself through all this pain when it seems kind of unnecessary. Why can't you admit your feelings for her?"

"Not everything's gonna work out the way you think it will. It's more complicated than you think." He spat, turning to glare at the dragon. "Just because you have your own happy relationship- doesn't mean I have to follow suit."

"You're lying to yourself, and it's unhealthy," He let out an oof as Gray threw a snowball in his face. "Don't try to play it off, Gray; you know I'm right."

"Don't talk like you know everything! It's not the same; it just fucking is what it is!" Natsu's nostrils flared with smoke as Gray turned away again. "Juvia and I are not you and Lucy. I can't be with her, regardless of how I feel."

"...You just don't…" He took a deep breath in, glaring into the sand as he spoke. "There's this disgusting possessive voice in my head, telling me all these things and making me want things…Juvia thinks she loves me, but she doesn't understand who I really am. I'm just…not good enough for her."

It was silent for the next few moments before Natsu burst out with laughter, clutching his stomach as he wiped away a comical tear.

"Dude, really?" Gray nodded skeptically, Natsu lucky that he didn't have the energy to start a real fight. "That's exactly why I was avoiding Lucy."

"Yeah well," The sprite tried to think of a viable come back. "Urgh, whatever, this isn't something I want to talk about."

"I love her so much that I hurt her, that I went crazy for loving her," He smiled solemnly, punching Gray lightly on the arm. "I almost got lost in that feeling, and all I did was try to push away those thoughts before they exploded in my face. I had to get my ass dropped in a fucking volcano just to try and begin reassembling myself. It's not smart to try and keep your feelings under a rock, Gray."

"Juvia loves you so much that she wouldn't think for a second you could hurt her, even with all those crazy thoughts. The more you fight them, the more they'll consume you. You just need to find a balance with that other half of yourself."

"She loves me too much," He whispered, not bothering to hide his tears this time. "I've already hurt her so much; what am I supposed to do now?"

"I think about what I did all the time, but Luce still forgave me; she does every day to make me feel better. You just have to be honest with her."

~000~

Natsu left some time before it got dark, Gray more than capable of getting them home on his own. They had a lot to talk about now, which he definitely wanted to do in private.

It would probably be a while before she was ready to resurface; Gray lying back in the sand to get as much rest as possible.

~000~

Juvia let out a sharp gasp as she woke up, sitting forward on the edge of the shore. She caught her breath as her panic settled, confusion moving in to replace it.

"When did Juvia…" She tried to think back, remembering feeling extremely thirsty when she woke up, before falling asleep again at some point.

"Juvia must've…" She looked across the empty beach, the low light from the moon illuminating the one figure waiting on the sand.

She stood up, adjusting to her body again as she walked on the uneven surface. Her nerves burned the closer she got to them, watching his tail gently swing back and forth.

"Gray," The wolf let out a yip, Juvia watching as he stood on all fours. He reached halfway up her bicep, whining as she avoided his step toward her.

"Juvia just wants to go home," He let out a stifled grunt but didn't push for anything else, turning around to let her take a seat.

She carefully wrapped her arms around his neck, and made herself comfortable as he started into a light jog, closing her eyes as the wind raced against them.

It felt like hours had passed before they were skidding to a halt, the sun rising slightly over the horizon. Juvia was quick to get off him, making a beeline for the door before her name was called out,.

"Really, Juvia? I know you're mad at him, but me?"

She turned around to see those icy blue eyes staring at her, his ears drooped and tail wagging slowly between his legs. His feet were trapped in a glob of water, keeping him from following close behind.

"I missed you, can't I have a hug?" His puppy dog eyes were always her weakness but Juvia stood her ground.

"I don't think—"

"I just want to tell you something before I go," He reached his arms out, hoping she would step in.

"Go where?" She asked, walking slowly toward him.

"It's almost time for me to go," He shrugged with a small smile. "But I'll always be here, we'll both be."

"I don't really feel like hugging you," She pouted, crossing her arms as she dropped her weight onto one hip. "Gray knows what Gray-sama did."

"Yeah… he's a real jerk," He grumbled, falling into a crouch, his finger poking at a pebble on the ground. "I'm sorry you got hurt. I never would've…I guess that doesn't really matter. It's hard when we're all separated like this."

"Juvia appreciates it," She turned on her heel and started into the house again. "She'll see you in the morning, Gray-sama."

"See you,"

Juvia climbed into bed, squeezing one of the many Gray-plushies she'd made close to her chest. She hid under her blanket, finding herself too stimulated to sleep.

She hadn't realized how overwhelming it would be to see Gray again, to hear his voice…even if he wasn't in his usual state of mind.

She wanted to run into his hug, to melt in his arms and let go of everything she'd been holding back. Gray's apology soothed her heart, but she still needed to have a real conversation with him.

What was going to happen? Where would things go?

She asked herself every day she was cooped up in her room, wondering if it was better in the end to just give up.

But Juvia knew that even for as stubborn as he was, Gray was her soulmate. She'd never find someone she could love more than him, he was the only one for her.

She could see through his indifference and anger, Gray more scared and confused than anything else. She wanted to show him that he didn't need to be afraid of his feelings, but in the end…

She shut her eyes tightly in an attempt to settle her overthinking, hoping the rest of the day would feel more comfortable.

~000~

Juvia woke up, groggy with her hair sticking to her face, finally feeling a bit more like herself. Rejuvenating in the ocean helped clear her mind and wash away her stress, waking up with a clear head for the first time in a while.

Her body didn't ache; she really overdid things by keeping that wall up. Gray deserved to get scared, but maybe not at the expense of her health. She should be more careful from now on.

She rolled over to face her window, forgetting she went to bed just before the sun came up.

"Jeez… it's almost dinner time." Virgo had been diligently taking care of her meals thus far, so Juvia never had to go downstairs. But she missed being able to eat with someone else, wondering if Gray sat by his lonesome every night.

"That thought makes Juvia's stomach turn." She frowned as she climbed out of bed. All she could imagine was him sitting at the table, teary-eyed as he ate over a bowl of plain rice.

She rushed around and changed her day-old pajamas before stepping out to wash the sleep off her face.

The lights were off on the second floor, her nose catching the smell of sweet curry traveling up the stairs. He must've been cooking, but Gray hated sweet curry. It was her favorite to eat after she got sick.

Her lips twisted into an excited smile, her fingertips buzzing with adrenaline. Gray could be so sweet sometimes, but she needed to prioritize their talk first.

She eventually went downstairs after cleaning up, walking slowly toward the kitchen where she heard plates clattering.

Juvia slid open the door, blood rushing upward as she met the midnight blue eyes of her first love.

"Juvia…" He moved across the kitchen before she could process it, bringing her close to him for a hug.

"Gray-sama…" His name felt airy on her tongue, her heart skipping a beat as he tightened his hold on her.

It wasn't a squeeze that took the air out of her, but something so desperate and warm. He held her like she was delicate, pouring out the pent-up feelings that resided in his heart.

"I'm so sorry," He spoke through a choked sob, his nose brushing against her nape. "I'm so sorry, Juvia."

She swallowed him in her strength, feeling her own tears well into her eyes. She'd never felt so much through his hold before.

"I shouldn't've smacked your hand away that night…or told you to leave. I was…I was scared…but that's no excuse."

"Juvia understands," She shook her head, leaning against his shoulder. "Gray-sama has always been afraid to go that far. Juvia pushed Gray-sama into it."

"I was happy to use your birthday wish as an excuse," Juvia felt him let out a shaky sigh. "I wanted to…well, it would've been better if we had more of a talk that night."

"Gray-sama says that like he never enjoys talking about our relationship," Her lips formed into a pout as he laughed, pulling away enough to meet her eyes. "Well? Juvia's right, isn't she?"

"I think I was scared of the unspoken, and I didn't want to hear anything that would change our relationship. You won't believe who talked some sense into me, but I don't plan to run away from you anymore."

The world seemed to move in slow motion as Gray carefully tilted his head, Juvia closing her eyes as he came in for a kiss.

It was soft and proper, her bottom lip snatched between his as he kissed her. She couldn't feel his hesitation, Gray sure of himself as he let a hand tangle in the hair at the base of her neck.

It didn't take long for his tongue to slide against hers, Juvia mewling against his moan. Her body felt hot as his frost melted against her lips, the two growing with desperation.

He slowly walked them toward a wall, Juvia's arms wrapped around his neck. He deepened their kiss, their pants growing every time they parted for air. Juvia shivered as he growled, his sharper canines nipping at her bottom lip.

"Juvia…" His forehead rested against hers, his eyes still their same shade. She looked at him curiously as his hands fell to her hips, wondering if he knew.

"I can't believe you were with my wolf all this time," He chuckled as she hid her embarrassment, looking away as he kissed her cheek. "All this time, him?"

"G-Gray was very persistent. And Gray-sama's wolf fed…fed her desires."

"I love you," He whispered, catching her chin between his forefinger and thumb. She felt her water begin to boil as he looked into her eyes with a kind smile. "I've loved you all my life, Juvia. And I'm so sorry that it took me this long to say. I never want to get that close to losing you ever again. You're my life, and I'll protect you until the end of it."

"Gray-sama…" Her throat felt tight as he gingerly brushed her hair behind her ear. The sky rumbled as she let a flurry of tears fall down her face, Gray letting his own spill in an attempt to wipe hers away.

"Juvia…Juvia…" She hiccupped, her words unable to find themselves as she sobbed into his chest.

"I know…I know… it's okay,"


Sometimes I feel like I overdo the whole pessimistic Gray who can't face his feelings for Juvia because he doesn't want to hurt her with his darkness but like that's literally so on-brand for him, let me know if you ever get tired of it!

He's such a tsundere tho so idk if I'll ever stop lmao

I think there are 3-4 chapters left? There are just a couple loose ends to tie before the end!

I don't want to rush the situation between Gajeel and Levy, so we'll finally get into it next chapter! I think I've been putting it off since I've never focused so directly on their pair before