Tastes of Love. (V-day Special)
“Something special?”, - Gray halted after hearing her words.
He was walking lazily on a narrow path that went through the trees and led to a low hill, with a happy and slightly flustered Juvia walking right beside him.
“I thought you said you didn’t want anything special and us just being together would be enough?”
“Juvia meant that Gray-sama didn’t have to do anything special, but she didn’t say she wouldn’t!”, - she beamed. Gray kept from rolling his eyes, but his shoulders fell slightly.
“Great,” – he thought to himself, - “now I feel like a jerk…”
“But Gray-sama shouldn’t feel bad about it,” – Juvia added, while fidgeting with a strand of her hair.
“Huh? Read my mind?”,- he thought.
“Juvia’s actually been meaning to do this for a while and Valentine’s Day just seemed like the perfect opportunity.”
She was keeping her eyes low, and it looked like her cheeks turned a shade brighter.
“Opportunity for what?” – wondered Gray.
“Ah! We’re here!”
Before Gray could ask, Juvia leaped forward and turned around to face him, ready to present her surprise.
They were now standing right on top of the hill, and it took him a second to realize that the soft orang-y glow wasn’t coming from the sky. The sun had already set, and the day was coming to it’s end, so when Juvia suggested going for a stroll before calling it a night, he certainly wasn’t expecting any surprises. They had spent the whole day together, and Juvia showed no signs of preparing anything for later.
“This woman…. Is really good at hiding things”, - Gray couldn’t help but think back to the days he met the “closed-book” Juvia, when her face was unreadable, and no inner thoughts or emotions could be detected. It was amazing to see she retained those skills, but Gray didn’t like the idea of being so easily deceived by her.
“Ta-da!!” - Juvia stretched both her hands out, drawing his attention to the heart-patterned blanket spread over the grass, with large throw pillows forming a border, and a few small heart-shaped ones lying here and there. There was a single tree standing in the field, all covered with romantic ornaments, and light garlands, lighting up the scene perfectly. Amid all the white and red, there was a small basket set on the blanket.
“A picnic?” – figured Gray.
“Not just any picnic”, - she corrected, -“Gray-sama and Juvia’s first picnic as a couple!!!”
Now that they were officially dating, Juvia was excited to start crossing things off the list of their firsts as a couple: first walk as a couple, first sunset as a couple, first mission as a couple… Thankfully, Gray took the initiative and took care of their first kiss as a couple.
“Does Gray-sama like it? Juvia tried to keep it simple.”
“Nothing is ever simple with you…” – Gray smiled faintly, “But isn’t it too late for a picnic? We did have dinner already”, - he noted, straitening.
“Well… This is not a traditional picnic”, - Juvia tilted slightly to the side.
“Of course it’s not,” –he mumbled sarcastically, widening his smile, -“Wait, what do you mean?”
She registered the question, parted her lips, but after a few seconds, there was still no sound from her.
“Hey, what is it? You cold?” –Gray stepped forward.
When he reached her, Juvia suddenly took his hand in hers, and looked directly at him. Her beautiful blue eyes were so piercing, Gray swallowed, unsure what caused the sudden mood change.
“Juvia …”, - she started slowly, as if carefully choosing her words, -“Juvia really loves you very much, Gray-sama. She… Really wants to let him know how he makes her feel…”
That was an odd thing to say even for her. Juvia has been making her feelings abundantly clear from day one.
“Juvia knows that the path to a mans heart is through his stomach so she’s decided to use that and show Gray-sama her feelings through taste!”
Gray stood still. There was a slight lull followed by rapid blinking and confusion, until he finally squeezed out a “what now?”.
“But first! Do you trust Juvia?”
“That’s a stupid question.”
“Juvia needs Gray-sama to say it.” –she insisted.
“Yes, of course, I trust you, Juvia.” – he breathed out slightly annoyed.
“Wonderful! Then would you please mind putting this on?”,- she said stretching out a white silky piece of cloth.
“A blind fold?”
“To heighten Gray-sama’s senses!”
“Oh, like that restaurant where you eat in the dark.”- Gray inferred. They had been to a place like that before, and it was actually an interesting experience.
“Hm… Okay, but just for a little while.”
As soon as Gray tied the cloth around his eyes, Juvia opened the basket, and took out everything she had prepared for the late evening.
Gray heard a lot of metal clinking around, some glass, some plastic, - all of it laid out carefully onto the thick cloth. With his vision gone, his other senses were elevated. He could tell it was a warm night, there was a weak breeze carrying the smell of grass and flowers. He also noticed he was getting a bit tired from walking, and the blanket probably seemed a lot softer than it actually was.
“So how is this gonna work again?”
“There’s no need to be nervous, Gray-sama” –she chuckled.
“I’m not,” – he lied.
He heard her close the basket, and shift towards him carrying on some movements with her hands.
“Will I be able to guess what it is?”
“Gray-sama can certainly try,” – she sounded very excited about the idea. “Juvia will start with something simple then.”
He heard the sound of wrapping paper, and then she placed something heavy and long in his hands.
“This is what Juvia remembers our first meal together like”, - she said and urged him to take a bite.
Gray recognized the shape almost immediately, though it was a lot smaller, than it should’ve been, the smell was all too familiar, and when he bit a piece off, he smiled satisfied that his guess was correct.
“Caramade Franks” – he said, and Juvia cheered.
Somehow, right then the taste of something so familiar felt very comforting. It was one of his favorite foods, and eating it with a person he cared for deeply right beside him was soothing. It made him relax, and he breathed out. This must be how she felt back then. Even though she was nervous, being the newcomer, and didn’t know what to expect, casually grabbing a meal with someone you like can really put you at ease.
“Next one,” – Gray said, after finishing the half-portion sandwich.
“This was the very first mission Master told Gray-sama to take alone with Juvia”, - she brought a fork to his lips.
Gray thought about taking the cutlery out of her hands, but this wasn’t the first time she tried to feed him, so he accepted the offer. It was light, not too sweet, juicy, very soft, and there was cream too. It was a simple dessert, definitely. Being blindfolded really changed the experience of eating food. Gray thought that this was somehow a safe dessert.
“Is that… Sponge cake?”
“Yes! Gray-sama is really good at this!”
He remembered that mission well. They had to walk for quite some time; Juvia had short hair, and for a substantial amount of time, she was walking with her eyes closed, letting the sun warm her shoulders. He didn’t like that he was assigned a task, but he actually enjoyed completing the mission. Juvia was very easy to work with and she quickly proved to be a reliable partner. She was still a bit shy, fidgeting with her gloves a lot, blushing, and looking down.
“That was a good mission,” – Gray said, tilting his head back, - “You just joined the guild.”
“Juvia was so happy to be alone with Gray-sama, but she was still a bit nervous”, - he heard the smile in her voice.
“Really? I couldn’t tell. You were asking a lot of questions,” – he teased.
“Only because she really wanted to know,” – she chuckled.
“Next?”, - he adjusted himself.
This was fun. Gray was becoming more intrigued.
“Does Gray-sama remember the Fantasia Parade?”
“Right! We were on a float together,” – he nodded.
This time he felt a drinking straw touch his lips. He took a sip, and felt a sizzling sensation pour down his throat. He tasted berries, and something cold. The taste was so unexpected, and the way it kept lingering, Gray could only think that this must be what excitement tasted like.
“Bluberry… Ice Cream…and something else,” – he couldn’t quite register.
“Amazing, Gray-sama! This was a bluberry ice cream soda shake!”
“Hah, close enough”
They talked a bit about their preparations, the costumes, how Juvia was excited to be his princess for the occasion.
“We should do that again sometime,” – he said, tightening the blindfold, that was beginning to loosen.
“Definitely! Um…”, - she reached for the next dish, -“Does Gray-sama remember our very first meeting?”
She was talking about the very first time she saw him, during the battle between Fairy Tail and Phantom Lord. After Juvia fed him another spoon, Gray felt a punching feeling that went straight to his gut. The flavor was so rich and thick it made his mouth water. It was cold on the outside, but hot on the inside, and the flavor kept dancing around. It was consuming, hard to determine, there seemed to be so much happening at the same time he didn’t even realize that he had already swallowed it. Even then, the difference in temperature, the flavor, jumping between sweet and slightly stinging kept tickling his tongue.
“Chocolate volcano with ice cream and raspberry sauce” –Juvia smiled, when Gray failed to guess what it was. “This next one Juvia felt a lot during her time right after she joined.”
Gray was intrigued, and after this failed attempt, he was determined to guess correctly.
As soon as Juvia let go of the spoon, Gray tasted liquid that was incredibly bitter, sour, salty and spicy. It was disgusting.
“Oh, God, what is that!?”, - he tried to wipe his tongue.
“Hot lemon juice with salt and spices. This is what Juvia felt like when Gray-sama was alone with Lucy-san.”
Gray stopped spitting and exhaled heavily.
“Ah,”- he thought to himself, - “So this isn’t going to be just the happy things. All right then. Bring it.”
The next experience on Juvia’s list was the times he has comforted her. They were her Gray-breads. Soft, squishy, freshly baked, warm, comforting and they felt like home. Seeing him every day was vanilla cheesecake. “Very girly,” – Gray thought. The time she noticed he was wearing her hand-made scarf – was milk chocolate.
“Caramel ice cream and salty pretzel is our unison raid?” –Gray asked.
“Two things, that are so very different from each other, yet go perfectly together! Isn’t it delicious?”,- she explained.
Though Juvia couldn’t see his eyes, she could tell he was staring.
“What?…” - she asked quietly.
“… How long were you planning this?” – he asked, but she brushed off the question and offered the next dish.
She proceeded to more complicated feelings, and after a while Gray gave up trying to guess the flavour. The time he showed her his vulnerable side, living with him, training with him, when they officially started dating, when her feelings were accepted, their first kiss, him trusting her, - all those were very unusual combinations of taste and yet they explained everything so well. Days living with him did vaguely remind him of hot chocolate with marshmallows, but somehow cozier. The time she realised she was important to him tasted like blueberry and orange parfait. But it wasn’t only the good times. Juvia gave him a piece of thick and hard flavourless gum to mimic how she was waiting for him, when he left to infiltrate the Avatars. But the two that stuck out the most, was unsurprisingly – her happiest and most horrible memories. The time Gray had died in front of her tasted so awful, he almost chocked trying to spit out the goo. It was bitter, salty and tasted like metal. But the time he took her rain away, was like a breath of fresh air. It was cool water, so refreshing and liberating, so perfect and fulfilling. Juvia timed it very well too, so that he could wash down the dirty flavors. Gray grabbed the bottle and chugged it down in a matter of seconds. He didn’t even notice how parched he was. It was one of those moments when you realize that if you could live underwater – you would. The desire to cover yourself from head to toe in this feeling and never let go. How could she make water taste so incredible?!
“This is the last one, Gray-sama.”, -she said after a while.
If Gray weren’t blindfolded, he’d see that Juvia had run out of items in her basket. She moved to sit closer, and Gray could feel the heat coming off her body.
“So far, Juvia has been talking about the things we’ve already done…”
“So many things have happened…”
“Mm,” – she hummed in agreement, - “But there are still so many things out there that are waiting for us, and Juvia hopes …”, - she was beginning to stammer again, - “She, ah… She will do everything in her power to stay at Gray-sama’s side.. and.. She hopes Gray-sama would stay with Juvia too… So..”
Gray wasn’t sure where this was going, Juvia’s voice changed slightly, but he couldn’t tell if she was becoming more excited, or sadder.
“This is what Juvia hopes her and Gray-sama’s future would be like.”
“Out future?”, - Gray wondered, - “Oh, probably something sweet. Maybe caramel? Or something liquid? Maybe the taste…”
“….Of her lips?…”
Juvia placed the softest kiss on his lips, Gray couldn’t tell for a while what was happening. Her lips were so gentle and warm. Gray pushed slightly forward, kissing her back. He reached for the back of her head, and pulled Juvia closer, urging her to part her lips. He traced the bottom of her lip with his tongue, and heard her suppress a moan. This taste he knew very well. It was his Juvia, and that’s how she would always stay. Always smiling, always beautiful, always warm and forever his. He squeezed her shoulder, and then he felt her pull on the blindfold as their lips parted. It took him a moment to adjust to the light, but once he was able to see, he saw her smiling and blushing hard, straitening a strand of her hair.
She looked up at him and gave him her warmest smile:
“Happy Valentine’s Day, Gray-sama.”
It was getting darker, and the wind was picking up. Gray sat silently, watching Juvia tidy up. He kept staring at the blindfold. He traced the silk with his thumbs, looked around the setting, the pillows, the lights, and something heavy was starting to form inside his chest.
“I could never do this…” – he mumbled barely above a whisper.
“Huh?” – Juvia asked.
“This,” – he drew his hand around him,- “All this is… so out of my league. How do you even come up with stuff like this.”
“Did…”, - she stopped what she was doing, -“Did Juvia do something to upset Gray-sama?”
“No, I’m talking about me… Even flame-head did something sappy… And that metal-ass with his stupid song…”
Juvia was looking at Gray, not fully understanding what he was talking about.
Gray sighed, and slowly inhaled.
“Gray-sama looks guilty” – Juvia suddenly stated.
He shot his head up: “Why would I be guilty?”
“Juvia’s not sure…”, - she was looking into his eyes, and she saw something, - “Did Gray-sama like the evening?”
“Of course I did.”
There it was again.
“Does Gray-sama…. Feel guilty…. Because he enjoyed it?…”, - she trailed.
Gray pondered over her suggestion, and it didn’t make sense… until it did. He was feeling guilty. Juvia was always there for him, whenever he needed someone, whenever he felt down, whenever he needed to share something he wouldn’t have shared with any of his other friends. Juvia talked so much about what he did for her, he couldn’t help but think of all the things she did for him, and how she made him feel. He told her he was grateful, and he wouldn’t mind saying it another fifty times, but… Will he ever be able to show her his feelings, the way others do?
Gray starred at the blanket, and not raising his head said:
“I just don’t think I’m cut out for thi-
“That’s not it!” – she cut him off.
“Eh?”-Gray trailed, surprised by her tone.
Juvia’s eyes were wide open, and then for some reason she started smiling…and then laughing. She was laughing so much tears began forming in the corner of her eyes.
“Love doesn’t have to be big gestures or proclamations, Gray-sama,” – she said gently, and smiled wider when Gray teasingly cringed at the L-word. “Sometimes it doesn’t even have to be words”, - she turned her gaze to the band on Gray-s underwear that visible now that he had stripped his pants of, and it read in bold “G X J”. He blushed, and quickly threw a pillow on himself to cover the label.
“It’s the little things too….Juvia never wanted any of the big things… If Gray-sama wants to be the kind of guy that buys a 1000 roses than Juvia will happily accept them, but if he doesn’t – then that’s okay too.”
Gray was listening carefully.
“The only thing Juvia really ever needed is for Gray-sama to be here… To be with her.”, - which was exactly what she said when Gray asked if she wanted to do something for Valentine’s.
“It might not seem like a big deal, just being with a person,” – she lowered her eyes, and faintly pulled her brows together, -“… but it is to Juvia. She never thought…that she would have someone special in her life, so… she knew that, if by some chance that were to ever happen, she would be nothing but happy. She would be so grateful, so much she’d celebrate everyday she got to spend with that person.”
“Is that why you keep throwing us ridiculous anniversaries?” – Gray asked.
“Yes!” – she beamed.
Gray smirked, and looked up at the starry sky.
“You make it really easy.”
“Juvia isn’t here to make your life harder…She’s here to make it happier,”- she said simply.
“So is Juvia!”
“Then I guess…”, - he slowly turned to face her, - “ If we’re both happy…”
“Then everything is wonderful!” – Juvia finished cheerfully, -“Just do what your heart tells you, Gray-sama.”
Gray smiled gently, and slowly shifted his gaze from her eyes to her lips, which she didn’t leave unnoticed.
“Mm, I think it’s telling me to do something right now,” – Gray leaned in, - “What should I do?”
“The heart never lies, so Gray-sama should definitely do it,” – she said matter-of-factly, and he chuckled.
He pulled her in, and placed a slow and soft kiss on her lips, pushing slightly harder, after she laced her fingers with his. In that moment, time always stood still for both him and her. It was just the two of them; there were no worries, no fear, no doubts… And for some reason they both knew. No matter what lied ahead, this feeling would always be the same. It really was the taste of their future.
“Maybe someday we could have a real picnic?” – Gray asked.
“Juvia would like that.”, - she said softly, and laid her head on his shoulder, as they stayed to watch the starry sky.