A/N: I don't knowwww just an idea that popped in my head. Based on the dividers you can read whichever ship you want! I considered making this a series but I liked the idea of contrasting how each of the ships had different things to work through; sort of like, how the same event impacted all of them differently.
They'll be unrelated parallel arcs unless I mention otherwise! I've never tried something like this, so I would REALLY appreciate if you could tell me what you think at the end :)
Prologue: Changing Minds
Juvia steps out of the little guildhall, and looks at the clouds above, sighing. Of course it was raining. She starts to walk down the rough path and down the hill, as the cloud follows her, staying strictly straight over her head. She is still not used to the dilapidated shack and the surrounding farmland being all that was left of Fairy Tail. She didn't mind of course, she just wasn't used to it.
She walks to Fairy Hills, lost in thought. She's been doing that a lot lately, head up in the clouds as she comes to terms with the fact that she's lost seven years of her life but it feels like only a week ago that she'd seen the Black Dragon in the sky as he descended upon her and her teammates. Technically, for her, it's really only been a week. They'd come back from Tenrou Island only last week, and she was one of the many who hadn't been able to process the idea that seven years were lost in the blink of an eye.
Technically no time had passed for her; it was not like she'd lost years of her life or anything. But she still feels like she has missed so much. Like the hatching of the little eggs that the bird was nesting over on her windowsill. She'd been really looking forward to that but the nest was empty. The waffles place she used to love so much was gone, replaced by an automobile shop. She had so many unopened letters; letters that she'd put off opening because she was afraid that they would prove that though she hadn't lost years of her own life and she'd lost years in the lives of others.
There would be so much to make up for.
Gray stands quietly at the entrance of the guildhall, watching Juvia walk away, a cloud literally hanging over her head. It had not dissipated for all of the seven days they'd been back. She's lost in thought, as she is often these days. She's not spoken to anyone much since their return, and would often be gazing out of the small windows of the guild, lost in thought. He wouldn't admit it, but he's worried about her; it wasn't like her.
Not that he'd actively noticed it or anything, but she wasn't around as much anymore. Around him . He's half tempted to follow her, but purses his lips as he decides that maybe it was a good thing. Maybe she's finally understood that her pursuit of Gray was pointless, and that she had been in a one-sided relationship all along.
He supposes that that's a good thing. It ought to be.
Then why does that thought leave a bitter taste in his tongue and an uneasiness that he can't seem to quell in his gut?
She trudges uphill towards Fairy Hills and through the gates, not stopping till she inserts her key in the lock to her room and is within the safe confines of her home. She kicks off her boots and throws her blue hat down. She catches sight of the piles of letters sitting on the kitchen island, and stares for a few seconds. She knows the letter on top is the one from her aunt. Her mother's sister, a sweet old lady living in Bosco. She hasn't met her since the day she'd left to join Phantom Lord, but her aunt wrote her letters often, and Juvia had only started responding when she'd joined Fairy Tail, finally having something to say that she knew her aunt would be proud of. And now, for seven years, she hasn't.
She considers going to visit. She knows her auntie must worried sick; she hopes she's okay, and mentally starts to go through the trains that left Magnolia to Bosco. The consideration turns into a solid plan. Tomorrow, she shall visit Aunt Ivana.
She goes into the bathroom and runs the water in her tub before opening the cabinet hanging above the sink and brings out the hair rollers. She watches herself as she starts threading her fingers through her hair and stops abruptly, hands dropping to the side as she stares at the rollers set beside the sink.
How mundane, she thinks, before putting the rollers back in the cabinet. She twists her hair into a knot on top of her head and slips into her bath, watching the steam rise. There is so much on her mind right now, that she wishes it would stop. She wanted to stop thinking for a couple of seconds.
Taking a deep breath, she lets her body disintegrate to become one with the water in the tub. It's quiet for some time.
When she puts herself back together, she grimaces at the thoughts rushing back, and stands up, grabbing a towel. Wrapping herself in it, she takes the second door in the bathroom, the one that lead straight into her bedroom.
The moment she enters the bedroom, she winces at the sight that lay before her. The cushions, the action figures, the plushie toys.
She hasn't thought about him in a while, she realises with surprise, as she slips on her underwear and nightclothes. She thinks back to how she'd almost died for him, how she'd been terrified for him when Meredy was so close to killing him. It still gave her chills, but now, all the times she remembers the times he'd pushed her away creeps into her mind. It makes her wonder about the time she'd spent in pursuit of him, and though not exactly embarrassed, she can't help herself from seeing a parallel to her current predicament.
She'd been stuck… rather, suspended , on one thing as the world had passed her by.
As she slips into the bed, for the first time since she's arrived at Fairy Tail, she takes the life-sized cushion with Gray's face off of her bed and falls asleep. She still loves him, of course she does. You can't un-love someone in the blink of an eye; that would be easy. But she does know now that she needs to move on with her life, focus on other things.
Clarity is an amazing thing.
"You know you want to see her," Ultear hisses, before elbowing Jellal really hard in the ribs, making him flinch. "It's been seven years. It's completely normal that you want to see her."
"I don't know what you're talking about," Jellal mumbles, taking another swig of the whiskey. "And that hurt ."
"Fine. Then tell me why we're here, in this shoddy club in Magnolia, out in the open," she says scowling, settling her elbows on the countertop of the bar, head hung low so as to prevent the cowl falling off her head.
"I- need to see Master Makarov," he mutters, sitting stiffly, allowing his eyes to continuously measure his surrounding, to ensure no one's noticed them. It's surprising no one has; two hooded figures right by the countertop aren't exactly subtle.
"You're right," he says, as he downs the rest of his whiskey. "It's too dangerous, we should go."
He can't see her, but he knows Ultear was rolling her eyes at him as she hops off the barstool. "So now you're ready to go, all powered up on liquid courage," she says mockingly, before muttering a low, "Coward."
The comment doesn't ruffle his feathers in the least bit. Maybe it was the liquid courage but he had a good feeling.
Ultear and Jellal walk up to the farmhouse that was now the Fairy Tail guild, still trying to wrap their mind around what it had become. They did have to see Master Makarov; they had important news to relay to him, but one person was enough. Ultear was supposed to handle this but Jellal had tagged along for reasons that they both knew.
As they head closer to the building, Jellal excuses himself to walk in the direction of Fairy Hills, leaving Ultear to shake her head with amusement as she entered the musty building.
Jellal could see the wooden building on the hilltop as he pointedly made his way up the hill, and his heart beat faster. Erza. When he gets to the gate, he realizes he didn't know which room was Erza's, but when he finally gets to the door and looks up, he sees her. She's standing at the window, eyes closed as she leans into the breeze, her scarlet hair whipping around her face. He stares at her from where he stood, throat dry because suddenly he doesn't know what he wants to say to her. Well, he does, but… nerves were an annoying thing. While he's stuck in an internal conflict, Erza opens her eyes and they meet his eyes. They widen for a fraction of a second and she's gone. Jellal stands there nervously, shifting on his feet wondering, what now.
The door in front of him flies open, and there she is, staring at him wide eyed. She's slightly out of breath as she looks up at him, stepping out of the door before closing it behind her, and says his name in the softest of whispers. "Jellal."
"Erza," he breathes. "You were gone too long."
She doesn't say anything, but sighs softly as she leans forward, forehead against his chest as he holds her, head tucked under her chin. This feels right to both of them, but Erza… Erza is scared to say anything because she was afraid of scaring him away. This was good. She would take what she got because she didn't want to drive him away.
Jellal on the other hand tries to put his thoughts together, ready to tell her. It was a miracle she was even hear. He thinks of the last seven years, worrying about her, thinking of how he'd never see her again and all the regrets… Oh, the regrets. It had been foolishness to think he would have all the time in the world. He had been kidding himself; they had no time, not in the kind of jobs they did.
He pulls back, just a little, to look at her face. She's looking up at him questioningly, a hint of apprehension on her face. His hands cradle her face and almost immediately, her own warm hands coming up to touch his as she closes her eyes. Pushing all his thoughts to the back of his head, he leans down to touch her lips with his own, a quiet question.
Her eyes fly open and she stares at him, only for a moment, before her arms go around his neck and she tilts her head up to catch his lips with her own. His hands slid down her back, coming to a rest around her waist as he pulls her closer. They're testy with each other at first, but she nips at his lower lip first and he gives her access with a hiss as he himself takes to explore her mouth.
It just felt right.
It seems like an eternity has passed, and he is kissing her hard as she seeks the support of the wooden door, her fingers now tangled in his silky blue hair. They both draw back, breathing heavily, looking a little disoriented as they take in the sight of each other, hair messy, lips swollen and eyes glazed over.
"I…" starts Jellal, before closing his eyes and inhaling deeply. When he opens his eyes, they reflect a steely determination that has Erza waiting with bated breath. "I love you."
Erza is shocked (but not surprised) at his confession; she'd been so sure that Jellal would never think that time was good enough. Her heart is hammering out of her chest as her hand rests on his cheek, her thumb tracing the tattoo under his eye.
"I know," she whispers. "I love you too."
Lucy lay awake in her bed, staring at the ceiling. It's been a week but she still hasn't found the courage to call her father yet. She'd been gone seven years, without a trace, without a goodbye. He must be so angry. So worried. Once again, she tells herself that the next day, she would meet him. She'll go to Love and Lucky, and meet him in person, and apologise.
It's a familiar resolve; she makes this resolution every night, but the sun would rise and she'd dread the meeting again. But it's okay. For now, for this night, she sought comfort in knowing she'll see her father the next day. She'd lost seven years with him. Seven years had passed for her father while she'd been stuck in a state of suspension for seven years of his life.
She turns to her side, facing the open window to stare at the stars, closing her eyes as she feels a soft breeze caress her face. She breathes in deeply before shivering a little bit. She's tempted to close the window, but she's hopeful. Maybe he'll come tonight.
He hasn't come home since they'd returned from Tenrou Island. Not since he'd kissed her below the deck of the ship they'd returned in. It had taken her by surprise, but she'd leaned in as her eyes fluttered shut and she'd kissed him back. And then they both drew back for air, his eyes clouded with a multitude of emotions she couldn't fully comprehend. She could see her reflection in them, and she was mirroring his look exactly. He looked like he was about to say something, when Gray came downstairs to say that they were almost at Hargeon.
Lucy wonders if she had imagined the knowing look Gray had given to Natsu before he went back upstairs. Natsu looks just a tad bit sheepish when he turns back towards her, opens his mouth to say something and changes his mind.
"Land ahoy!" he'd said instead, and left, after a half-hearted chuckle, cheeks flushed, leaving her with her fingers on her lips, slightly awestruck.
They hadn't talked about it, though they saw each other every day since then. Through the day, everything was okay. They spoke just like before, went on jobs just like before - only one, actually, since their return, given what'd been dubbed as 'The Descent of Fairy Tail' - goofed off almost like before. But something had changed.
He seems a little wary of her, and she knew why. She was wary of him too. Not scared, just careful… testing.
And when dusk came, he didn't offer to walk her home anymore. Nor did he just show up at her house, out of the blue. He didn't slink into her room in the middle of the night to slip into bed and lay next to her either.
She shivers again. It's been a week.
He's not coming.
Slowly, she gets out of her bed and heads to window, about to close it when she sees him standing under the streetlight, staring up at the window, now startled to see her there. He runs a hand through his hair, clearly frustrated over something. They stare at each other for a few moments before she sighs and steps back. She debates over whether or not to close the window, she almost does it, but can't go through with it. Not when she knows he's standing right below.
She turns and heads to her bed desolately, rubbing her arm tiredly. She sits down and lets herself fall sidewards, sighing as her head hits the pillow. Seconds later, she hears him come in and slip into bed behind her, hand sliding over her waist, pulling her close.
She starts to turn. "Natsu-"
"Shh," he whispers in the dark, and plants a soft kiss on her neck, and she feels the heat rush to her face. "We'll talk later, Luce," he says before resting his forehead against her shoulder blade and dozing off.
She smiles just a little, before snuggling closer to him and closes her eyes.
Yeah, we'll talk later.
A/N: SOOO? please tell me what you think, i'm nervous about this one (i'm always nervous when publishing, but with this one makes me ESPECIALLY nervous because it's got a structure of narration that i've never tried). And don't worry, all these ships will be endgame eventually; I just want Gray to pine a little first... :P