Author’s Note: I know… where have I been? No worries I am
back to write for all of you! Let the swashbuckling adventuress continue!
Seas of Change
came to the door late in the afternoon; at least Juvia assumed it was
afternoon. The cabin Loke had set her up in had no portholes or windows. She
shifted on the bed, busy pulling her hair back as the knocker entered without
her permission. Then again there wasn’t much she could do to stop that. They
were his rooms too.
again I have failed to catch you in a state of indecency.” Loke lamented,
adjusting his glasses. “Perhaps that’s for the best. I’ve been sent to fetch
finished tying the ribbon holding her hair in the high ponytail before she turned
to him. He was one to jest, but Loke had gladly bunked elsewhere while Juvia
used his rooms and he had been gentleman for the most part. Gajeel hadn’t been
too keen on her staying in his rooms but there truly was nowhere else for her
to go. The kitchens were off limits so long as the cannons risked crashing
through the floor, and most of the other men bunked together or the cabins had
been destroyed in the battle.
closed the door and gave her a once over. “You can’t wear that dress.”
wrong with Juvia’s dress?”
shifted toward a small chest in the corner of the room where he kept his own
clothing, flipping the lid open and rummaging through it. Juvia’s hands crimped
the red fabric of her gown. It seemed decent enough to her.
is wrong, but we are about to dock in Torenju and we’ll all be leaving the
ship.” He answered honestly. “No one likes to mess with Gray more than I do,
but not at the risk of your safety.”
surfaced shortly after with a pair of wide legged beige pants and a white
shirt, tossing them onto the bed. “Torenju is a pirate city. A lady in a gown
in this town is not truly a lady.”
that any different than being on a ship full of pirates?”
all pirates are gentlemen.” He responded. “Let’s not risk you drawing the
attention of the wrong people.”
moved to retort—she had heard of what a rake Loke could be and his taste for
fine women—but chose not to. If anyone knew the attention she could garner in
Torenju, it would be him. For the most part, the men on Gray’s ship were more
talk than action and had simply been rude. No one had tried to sully her. The
caution with which Loke chose how to present her garnered a familiar fear in
the pit of her stomach. She had been convinced that the men of the Frozen Banshee were as terrible as the
pirates she had read about in Crocus; if they were afraid of her being in
Torenju, what was the rest of the pirate world like?
took his hands and messed up the perfectly pulled back ponytail Juvia had
slaved over. Once he was satisfied he stepped back. “I think the captain would
consider that acceptable.”
captain asked you to prepare me?”
so many words.” He shrugged.
could feel her cheeks flushing. There had been so much silence between them
since the kiss on the navigational deck that she had nearly forgotten the
jittery feeling that resided with the mention of his name. He was insufferably
difficult and that drew her attention more than she liked to admit. The problem was that there was nothing else
she could do about it. For all his distance, he had made it a point to leave
someone in charge of keeping her safe.
collected the clothing Loke had offered, the fact that she would be leaving the
ship finally dawning on her.
could be free.
stomach knotted at the prospect, a mixture of guilt and excitement.
do we dock?”
day trip to Torenju had been rigorous; Loke and Natsu had not pushed the ship
hard enough and Gray took over without a wink of sleep. He directed his crew
and the boat they rode on through two long nights and days, listening to every
creak the wood made. Any wrong move could send the cannons through the floor;
any storm could lead them to a resting place far colder than ice. The
responsibility weighed heavy on him.
port of Torenju came into sight just after dawn, a dark splotch against the
brilliance of the sea. He had never been so relieved to see the damn place in
his life. His crew was safe. His ship sailed strong and faithful. For another
day he had managed to keep them safe.
Torneju was notoriously dangerous but Gray had earned his place among
the bar fights, brothels and politics. His crew was safe to cause whatever
ruckus they wanted; he was safe to stick
is nose wherever he pleased.
was the problem.
deciding to head to Torenju, it hadn’t taken him long for his mind to register
the biggest obstacle in bunking there for an extended period of time. Juvia was
not safe. By whatever power continue to pull him toward her, Gray had
begrudgingly spent most of his long hours at the wheel devising a way to get
her off the ship and someplace the rogues and rakes of Torenju couldn’t get to
her. If he could keep her hidden, all the better.
only been a few hours before he slowed the ship into the harbor that he had
worked out a solution. The solution stood at the end of the dock, an eyepatch
still over one eye and a selection of swords at her side.
message said you’d taken hull damage. I’ve never seen the Banshee like this!” she hollered from below, taking hold of the
ropes the crew threw.
let out a breath.
were few people he trusted that were outside his crew. Erza Scarlet, captain of
the Titania, was one of them. Natsu
took hold of the wheel so Gray could leave his post to greet her; Gajeel took
over the deck, shouting directions to anyone close enough to tie the ship down
and get the goods they would be trading for the repairs onto the deck and to
the trademaster. The deckhands threw the anchors and the ship came to a
on the deck before he made it down the stairwell.
isn’t the damage you told me about.”
why I said we needed to meet on your ship.”
eyes scanned the deck, arms crossed. “You can’t possibly call this is a ship.
It’s kindling for a fire. Then again what should I expect—you’re still hunting
better than avoiding them.”
vendetta will get you and your crew killed.”
groaned, removing his hat to run a hand through his hair. “Nice to see you
head smiled. “I never said I wasn’t happy to see you. I just don’t want to see
you or your crew in pieces.”
they laughed; Erza reached for his hand and they took one another by the wrist,
a greeting that symbolized trust and allegiance. Their hold was firm, index and
middle fingers touching the pulse of the other’s hand above their pirate
brandings. Gray settled his blue, feathered hat back on his head once they let
many of your crew are staying with us on the Titania?”
crew will find someplace to pass out drunk. They aren’t the favor I’m calling
watched him. “A captive?”
turned her toward the doorway that led to the lower deck; men shuffled in and
out with the trade goods and the possessions they didn’t care to risks stolen
by the repairmen. It was a pirate harbor—and pirates code did not protect a
ship from ransacking in the port. Loke appeared in the center of the men,
drawing out without Juvia in tow as he had expected. The man had given her his
quarters, and it had taken more willpower than Gray wanted to admit to keep
himself from ensuring Loke didn’t share them as he had threatened. The fact
that it mattered to him bothered him. He could feel the heat of his irritation
causing his clothes to feel unbearable.
woman, Gray?” Erza sounded surprised.
Gray watched Juvia come onto the deck, dressed
in the plainest clothing Loke could find, and barefoot. Not the safest way to
walk around Torenju’s pier and a step more than he had intended when he had
given the direction to prepare her to leave the ship, but it was still
relieving. If he squinted, the strange yearn to kiss her disappeared. Erza set
a hand on his shoulder, glancing toward him with a knowing smile that made him
“I thought women were unlucky on
“You’re on my ship.”
He groaned. “A ship full of women
is better than a tavern room for her.”
“What makes her so important?”
It was a simple enough question,
but Gray turned from her and chose not to answer. Simple as it was, he wasn’t
even sure he knew the answer. Or maybe he did, and he wasn’t ready to admit it.
He wasn’t keeping Juvia for the ransom money. The idea that he would let her go
once they could land in Crocus was slowly beginning to form as an excuse rather
than the answer. The memory of kissing her on the deck was still burned into
his memory, clinging to the forefront of his mind and refusing to be dismissed.
He’d liked it. He knew that.
So why couldn’t he just leave it at
was full and bright and Juvia allowed herself to be momentarily distracted by
the warmth. She would see land for the first time in months—be able to step
surefooted on the ground and not the wooden confines of a ship. Her skin
prickled at the thought. Would she even know how to go from her sea legs to
walking on land?
makes her so important?”
lowered her gaze from the sun and back toward the ship; she did not recognize
the feminine voice. The woman she saw stood close to Gray and was very pretty
and obviously confident. She lifted a hand to Gray’s arm when he did not answer
her question, smiling at him in with a familiarity that spiked a slew of
emotions within Juvia. This woman was beautiful and exotic. She was strong in a
way Juvia could see and feel.
made no motion to answer the question, instead closing his eyes and crossing
his arms in a way that showed defiance. Whatever the answer was, he would not
be sharing. The woman gave him a knowing smile before turning back toward
Juvia, hands on her hips.
pretty girl like this shouldn’t be in rags, Gray. Maybe you should let me keep
her, we’d take good care of her.”
first time, the idea of leaving the ship frightened her instead of brought
excitement. Was that how Gray dealt with what he felt was a mistake? Pass it
along to someone else? Or maybe this woman was more to him than what Juvia
could have ever hoped to be… either scenario erupted a tension deep which
constricted her heart.
“Juvia is not something to be passed
woman nodded, extending a hand toward the man at her side. “Of course not, but
Gray has no idea how to take care of a woman—at least if he does, I have yet to
never heard a truer statement, Captain Scarlet.” Loke appeared beside Juvia,
hand resting on the small of her back to push her forward. “You came to escort
her yourself? And here I was hoping to visit with the lovely ladies of your
Gray’s voice came in a low warning.
in question lifted his hands in feigned distress. Loke tumbled forward as
Gajeel lumbered by, a hand slamming into the back of his head. “It’s better that way. Lady Luck’s in better
hands with Erza.”
Levy’s been asking for you.” Erza hinted. “Perhaps you should come with me.”
could not help herself; her gaze moved from Gray and Erza toward Gajeel. Who
was this Levy person? He had never mentioned anyone special to him before. The
agitated face he made was enough to confirm this person was special in a way he
didn’t feel like discussing. Much like her own feelings for Gray. Gray, who was
standing beside a beautiful woman he was very familiar with.
tension came again, and Juvia realized it was jealousy.
see her later. There’s too much to do here and Ice Dick needs a break. Take
seemed more than delighted with the opportunity to drag Gray along with her.
She took hold of him by the neck of his coat and reached without warning for
Juvia’s hand before turning on her heel and heading off the ship. Gray and
Juvia stumbled their way down the railing that led to the dock, trying to right
themselves. It took a few moments but Juvia finally managed to turn herself
around and for the first time was able to see exactly what kind of city Torenju
on the ground in drunken heaps against dirty buildings; they were next to
barrels, they were lying half way into the streets. Woman with ample sized
bosoms walked the street with their skirts hiked high, preening toward any man
that seemed halfway conscious. They turned to Gray and giggled, telling him to
be sure to meet them at a place called The Red Lantern later that night. He
didn’t tell them no. Juvia could feel herself simmering.
was no place on Torenju that appeared inviting—nor was there anyone who seemed
the slightest bit decent. There was depravity left and right, broken glass and
the sound of bar fights, a stench of hardworking, unwashed men and mold. She
found her nose wrinkling.
it was Erza, turning toward the younger girl. “When we get to my ship, lets get
you into something more suitable for a woman.”
her a weapon too.” Gray’s eyes were focused on the few men walking the expanse
of the harbor, shoulder taught as if he expected someone to jump out toward him
at any moment.
watched as he shifted from walking behind Erza to beside her, standing tall and
adjusting the direction of his hat; the feather moved from the back to left
side. Erza seemed to understand the body language Juvia could not decipher; she
quickened their pace and pointed out her ship. It was two docks down, a large
and awkwardly beautiful and menacing creation. The ship was a deep mahogany
with gold lettering, blood red sails—orante mermaids and wingless angels
decorated the wooden balustrades that wrapped around the ship. It was elegant
the Titania.” Her voice was proud,
eyes glossing over as a mother’s would over something magnificent done by her
felt Gray’s hand on her back before she realized he had moved to direct her
back toward the ship she had been slowly moving away from. He didn’t say
anything, and Juvia felt that was for the best—the chill that had run up her
spine and through her limbs would have kept her lips dumb in response. He
pushed her forward as Erza led the way up toward the main deck that filled
through with feminine voices. These were
people she did not know nor trust, and she felt herself melding back into Gray.
He was the only thing she knew at this point.
had she begun to trust him enough that in her moment of fear all she wanted was
for him to comfort her?
women of Erza’s crew scooped Juvia up as if she were doll to play with—they
were all smiles and friendly banter as they pulled her from Gray and throughout
the ship. Erza gave them the direct to get Juvia dressed and to supply her with
a weapon, but to keep her in the extra cabin on deck as she was Gray’s charge
and not their own. He had watched Lucy calm Juvia in a way that had taken weeks
for anyone to do with her on his own ship, and found himself watching where she
had gone long after she had disappeared below the deck.
didn’t tell me Grimoire Heart was here.” He turned to Erza, his fists
doesn’t change anything. You still needed to dock, and we still needed to
transfer Juvia here.” She answered, the friendliness her face held before
disappearing. “There is a lot we need to talk about. The girls will take care
of her; lets meet with Jellal.”
name filtered between both them, dropped like ice over a flame.
meet with Jellal.”