Thanks so much for reading! This is an A/U story with a revised M. rating (from Chapter 13 onward). [Nalu, Gajevy.]

Enjoy! Beta: xSteleAliniax, quite-a-riot and ShanaHollows (yes, I had immense help!) Love you all!

Chapter 1: Love and Lucy

Lucy Heartfilia burst through the doors to Fairy Tail's guildhall, her disgruntled frown slipping into a wide smile when she saw all the bustling patrons inside. She could hardly believe she was finally here.

Macao and Wakaba yelled a fond hello from what she was learning was their usual table. Although there was a boisterous argument in the corner between mages she hadn't had a chance to meet yet, it was her best friend, Levy McGarden, who drew her full attention. It would have been hard to miss her, all wild blue hair and a loud voice that belied how tiny her best friend of seven years and counting really was. Levy gave a frantic wave from across the bar.

"Lucy! Come over here!" she shouted, patting the seat of a vacant chair next to her.

"That's exactly what I was doing," Lucy muttered, making her way towards the petite blue-haired girl.

"So…how did it go? Your first date?" Levy demanded as soon as Lucy slid onto the dark mahogany leather chair. Lucy tried to make shushing noises, but too late. Levy's blabbering caught the sharp ears of the resident barkeep, Mirajane Strauss, and the interest of Cana Alberona, the semi-functioning alcoholic of the group.

"Lucy! You went on a date?" Mirajane asked, her blue eyes wide with shock.

The blonde sent a scorching look at Levy, who shrugged, not the least bit contrite.

"It's not even a big deal," Lucy tried to pitch her voice low to avoid attracting even more attention.

"You've only been in Fairy Tail for what? Two weeks? I thought you would be too busy right now to think of dating," Mirajane said, not unkindly. That was the thing about Mira—from her big blue eyes, to her white flowing hair, to her model figure and soft voice—she was the epitome of beauty and grace as far as Lucy was concerned. Mira was nice to absolutely everyone.

"Well, it just sort of happened. I was working at the bookstore with Levy yesterday morning and this cute guy came in and asked me out."

"Tell us everything!" Levy demanded.

"Did he bring you flowers?" Mira asked with hearts in her eyes.

"Did he bring you chocolate?" Levy leaned in closer, wanting to hear every detail.

"Did he bring you wine?" Cana piped up, all of a sudden looking interested.

"No, no and no," Lucy shook her head to emphasize how very 'no' it all was. Cana half-turned away in her stool, seeming to lose interest in the conversation.

Lucy gave a heavy sigh and crossed her legs to get into a more comfortable position on her chair. "It was an absolute disaster. He showed up almost thirty minutes late, then he flirted with the waitress when she came to take our order and I'm certain he went back after our date to ask her out."

Dan Straight had seemed like such a sweet guy, too. His red hair and striking violet-hued eyes had instantly caught her attention. When their eyes had met, Dan had strode up to her, exuding confidence, telling her how beautiful she was and how he was "enchanted by her bright smile." She had practically swooned at his flattery. She wasn't used to men, in any sense of the word.

Lucy was newly eighteen and finally independent – away from her father's house, the school and previous guild he had chosen for her, but most importantly, his rules. Freedom. She was giddy with it. She'd finally joined the guild that she had been dreaming of ever since she was a little girl.

Lucy didn't miss the private tutors her father, Jude Heartfilia had foisted upon her. She had been homeschooled by tutors ever since she could remember, even when her mother had been alive.

It had seemed liked a lifetime before she finally convinced her father, at the age of eleven, to let her join a real guild. Jude had selected Mermaid Heel, as it was the only all-girls guild in Fiore.

Initially, she had been frustrated at her father's lack of confidence in letting her choose a guild to learn her magic. Now, she couldn't bring herself to resent his choice. She had met Levy there, as well as other girls such as Juvia Lockser, who, in spite of being a tad peculiar, was a dear friend. But she needed to be at Fairy Tail. She couldn't explain it to anyone, not even to herself, but somehow she felt fated to end up there. So as soon as she and Levy had graduated high school, they packed their belongings and moved to Magnolia.

That had been a mere thirteen days ago and although she still felt like she was fighting to keep her head above water, floundering to keep the million new names straight, striving to balance guild jobs with being a bookstore employee, she wouldn't trade it for anything. She hadn't even fully unpacked her apartment yet, but she knew she was where she belonged.

It was just a lot to take in.

In any case, a lifetime shortage of male attention had made her accept a date with the first guy who asked her out. All it had taken was a few compliments and she had been putty in his well-manicured hands.

"I really shouldn't be surprised. Dan and I hardly spoke before he was asking me out." Lucy shook her head as if to dispel the bad date from memory. "It doesn't matter. I have lots of work to do. I'm still settling into my new apartment and I have to take on more jobs if I'm going to pay my rent. The bookstore is great, but it can only supplement my income. I really have to go on more missions. I honestly don't have time for romance right now."

"Pshhh…you don't need to date," Cana agreed, suddenly back in the conversation. She chugged back the ever-present barrel of beer she had hooked between her legs. A tiny bit of beer dribbled down her chin, but she quickly swiped her mouth to stop its descent, licking her hand greedily.

"Yes, you do have a lot on your plate right now," Mira agreed sweetly.

"Maybe there's a job we can go on together?" Levy suggested.

Lucy smiled at the offer. Levy's solid-script magic complemented her celestial spirit magic nicely. Levy was always well-prepared for a mission: from mapping terrain, to knowing where the inns were, to assessing the enemy and strategizing a plan to defeat them. Levy was the absolute best person to have your back, as far as she was concerned.

"I'd love that!" Lucy pulled the bookworm into a huge hug which Levy instantly returned.

"What's going on?" A new voice came from behind her, but she knew who it was. The skin on her neck prickled, as if icy breath blew on sun-kissed skin. She released Levy and turned around slowly, a smile spreading across her face.

"Hello, Gray," Lucy said, a slight shiver shooting through her body just by looking at the man.

Gray Fullbuster was easily the most beautiful man Lucy had ever seen. Tall with broad shoulders, gorgeous sapphire blue eyes, and a toned body that made her want to kneel and give thanks to whichever god or goddess had given Gray a stripping habit. Gray claimed he was cursed, but almost every woman—and not too few of the men—at Fairy Tail thanked their lucky stars when the shirt and pants came flying off.

She and Levy had met Gray their very first day at Fairy Tail and so far, they'd seen him strip eight times. Yes, she was keeping count. She was journaling it...for posterity's sake. Someone had to. She was doing the gods' work. She only knew the Celestial King, but she felt confident that any deity would bless her keeping a standing record of Gray Fullbuster's stripping habits. Such diligence would surely earn her a place amongst the stars someday.

"Lucy went on her first date!" Mira gushed, clasping her hands together and dancing in place with excitement.

Lucy was reluctantly pulled from her Gray-induced reverie and suppressed the urge to roll her eyes. I guess they're not big on privacy at Fairy Tail.

"Oh really? First date? How'd that go?" Gray raised one eyebrow at her.

Lucy cringed self-consciously and let her gaze fall to the floor, feeling a telltale blush flare on her cheeks. "It was awful. He almost stood me up, and when he did finally get there, he seemed much more interested in the waitress than he was in me. Nothing more exciting than being a third wheel on your own date."

Her eyes darted up to meet Gray's stunning blue ones, hoping she didn't sound pathetic.

Gray's mouth twisted like he had just tasted something sour. "Pfft, guy sounds like a total asswipe. You're better off without him."

"I think so, too."

In the handful of days since she and Levy had arrived at Fairy Tail, she'd come to know Gray quite well. From his low-key voice to his calm demeanor, he seemed comfortable in every social situation. He seemed to go out of his way to make sure her and Levy were adjusting to Fairy Tail all right; always stopping to talk to them and share a story and a smile.

"Lucy and I are going on a job tomorrow, Gray. Would you like to come?" Levy asked out of the blue. Lucy shot her friend a suspicious look. What was Levy playing at? The bluenette gave her a cheerful wink back.

Gray seemed oblivious to this exchange. He scratched the back of his neck, his voice sounding regretful. "I'd love to, but Erza and I are going out tomorrow."

Erza was a requip wizard that Lucy had only met a handful of times. She was beautiful and terrifying, with a no-nonsense voice and impressive array of deadly weapons at her disposal. If Gray had promised to go on a job with Erza, there was no way he was getting out of it.

Lucy suppressed a disappointed sigh. She had been hopeful that Gray might come with them.

"Why don't you and Levy go to the request board and pick a mission?" Mira suggested.

"Great idea, Mira. Can I also get a pomegranate and berry smoothie, please?" Lucy asked.

"I'd love a cup of tea," Levy requested.

"Did you want your usual, Gray?" Mira asked.

"Nah, think I'll have a cup of tea today, too," Gray answered, leaving Lucy to wonder what was his 'usual'.

"Coming right up!" Mira trilled in her mellifluous voice, with an inquisitive brow in Gray's direction, then disappeared through the swinging double doors into the kitchen.

The two girls made their way to the request board: a huge wooden board with every job that was available to wizards like them pinned to it. There was an upstairs portion of the guild that had a request board with harder jobs, meant for S-Class wizards, but they weren't at that level yet. The blonde and the bluenette hadn't had a lot of opportunities to practice their magic at Mermaid Heel on unsupervised missions. Lucy gave an inward groan. She had a long way to go before she would be considered for S-class trials.

"I'm glad that we can pick our own jobs now," Levy gave a happy sigh. At Mermaid Heel, jobs were assigned to members and you had to be 15 or older to go on a job.

Lucy looked at her right hand, loving the bird-like symbol of Fairy Tail. She much preferred it over the stylized M wrapped in a heart that Mermaid Heel used.

Her thoughts drifted to that fateful day when she first met Levy seven years ago:

She had just arrived at Mermaid Heel and been taken to a small room where a black-haired woman had told her she would give her the Mermaid Heel guild mark. Lucy had been scared that the mark would hurt, even after the woman reassured her it wouldn't. In her experience, grownups seldom told the truth about pain. The doctor always told her it would only pinch when she got a shot, but that wasn't true at all. She pinched herself plenty of times and it didn't cause her eyes to well up the way a needle being jabbed into her arm did.

The woman had explained the mark was put on by magic, that's why it wouldn't hurt. That put her a little at ease. She practiced her own magic quite a bit and the only time it hurt was when Aquarius scolded her, but that was a different type of hurt. The woman said she could pick any colour she wanted, which made Lucy happy.

It wasn't often she was allowed to choose things.

She took a long time looking at all the colours. Finally, she had selected a pretty aquamarine and asked for the guild mark to be put on her foot. It was true, there was no pain. It felt like a damp piece of cloth was being pressed to her skin. Amazed, she trilled out a happy "thank you!" and bounded out of the room, almost knocking over a tiny blue-haired girl in her haste.

"I'm so sorry!" Lucy exclaimed. The then unfamiliar blue-haired girl had been at least four inches shorter than her and was carrying a stack of books. The top two or three seemed ready to fall over when the blunette deftly reached up with her other hand and steadied the pile.

"Happens all the time," a soft, musical voice assured her from behind the stack, a pair of bright brown eyes peeking up at her.

"I'm Lucy! I'm new here! See?" Lucy came around to the side of the pixie-sized girl, sticking out her left leg and bending her foot to show off her guild mark proudly.

Levy had taken one look at her mark and started laughing, almost dropping the books. She barely managed to place them upright on the floor. Lucy stood frozen, wondering why this strange girl was laughing at her.

"You joined Mermaid Heel and put the guild mark on your actual heel?" Levy spluttered out.

Lucy had experienced a hot sizzle of embarrassment and under normal circumstances, she would have made a haughty reply befitting of a Heartfilia: this nosey little upstart girl was making fun of her! But seeing Levy bent over laughing, something had cracked inside her. She found herself giggling alongside the tiny girl, offering to help carry her books.

From then on, they'd been inseparable and Levy had been pushing her from that very first day not to make the obvious choices. She had seemed pleased when she'd picked her right hand for her Fairy Tail guild mark in a soft pink colour.

Lucy smiled fondly at the memory, rubbing the guild mark on her hand as she watched her friend scrutinize the board with intensity.

This girl (nosey little upstart or not), she thought, has definitely been good for me.

After studying the board a bit longer, Levy came up with the perfect job for them: Finding a missing artifact.

"We can do the research together this afternoon and head out first thing in the morning, Lu-chan!"

"Sounds good to me." Lucy would've happily agreed to anything; she trusted Levy's judgement. Lucy unpinned the job and walked back to the bar, noticing her smoothie and Levy's hot tea already waiting for them.

"We'll take this one, Mira," she said, handing it over. Mira was far more than a barmaid. She was Makarov's right-hand woman and Gray had once casually mentioned that she was an S-class wizard who used take-over magic, which Lucy had never seen before, but was intensely curious about.

"Great choice, ladies," Mira chirped happily as she read the job and went to put their names in the mission book.

As Lucy, Levy and Gray sipped their drinks, Gray started telling them about a job where Erza had insisted that he freeze a robbery suspect in a block of ice with only his head not encased.

"That must've for him?" Lucy remarked with a smirk, cocking her head to the side in what she hoped was a coquettish manner.

"Not to worry, Erza started pulling out all these knives and swords and said she would carve him out 'like she was ice sculpting' if he didn't start talking," Gray said with a small grin back at her. Lucy felt her face get warm. Maybe she wasn't so bad at this whole flirting thing...

Levy nearly choked on her tea. Lucy reached over to pound her back a few times.

"I bet he started talking pretty fast!" Levy managed to squeak out.

Gray chuckled and started unbuttoning his shirt. "Yup, he sure did, especially when Erza said she was horrid at ice sculpting and hoped she wouldn't make too many mistakes that 'might lead to fatality'."

They all shared a good laugh at that. But the merriment caught and tangled on Lucy's lips, sputtering out into a soft gasp when Gray's shirt went fluttering to the floor. She bit her lip to keep an appreciative sigh from escaping.

Nine times she had seen those broad shoulders, muscular arms, and perfectly toned abs. She studied the dark blue guild mark on his right pectoral and resisted a strong urge to trace the outline of it with her fingertips.

"Gray, you lost your shirt," Romeo called out helpfully, not noticing Cana, Levy and Lucy all glaring daggers at him. Gray looked down at himself and muttered something under his breath that sounded like 'son of a bitch', but Lucy wasn't too sure, her hearing muted while her eyes tried to memorize every glorious inch of contoured muscle before he found his shirt and once again deprived them of the heavenly body that was Gray Fullbuster shirtless.

To see those delicious muscles hidden was an affront to the gods, she was certain. In the distance, Lucy thought that she heard funeral march music playing faintly below the soft sobs of women everywhere crying out to the skies: 'why? Oh why?'

They finished their drinks quickly after that (the girls' mouths inexplicably dry), the two best friends exiting the guild and walking out into the late afternoon sunshine soon after.

The job turned out to be child's play. Levy and Lucy had worked well together at Mermaid Heel and both felt like their magic was getting better with practice.

After a couple of months, they fell into a routine. They went on jobs to pay their rent (they lived in the same apartment complex), and worked at the bookstore together (mainly for the employee discount and because Levy could read on the job when things were slow).

Levy also somehow got herself declared leader of her own team, named Team Shadow Gear, along with two guys named Jet and Droy, who fawned all over her. Levy seemed oblivious to all of this and Lucy didn't want her to feel uncomfortable with her team, so she didn't say much. It was obvious that neither boy was Levy's type and she figured with a bit of time, they'd outgrow their crush and move onto more willing girls.

Lucy was happy to finally be settled into Fairy Tail. She had friends, rent money, and most importantly, the freedom to do whatever she wanted. The only thing bothering her was her lackluster love life. Despite her protests that she was 'too busy,' Lucy kept meeting (and subsequently getting asked out by) seemingly charming, handsome men who turned out to be total asswipes.

One week later...

Lucy ground her teeth in frustration and stomped angrily towards her apartment building. She crossed the street and kicked a defenseless rock out of her way. The rock flew several feet in front her and she angled her way toward it so she could abuse it again. As she moved to kick it, she caught sight of her scowling face in the reflection of a flower shop—flowers that she hadn't gotten again on a date. Not that she cared, of course.

She looked totally adorable. Her shiny blonde hair was pulled back into twin pigtails, tied off with green ribbon that matched her green midriff top. She wore a brown mini skirt that showed off her legs. Her makeup was flawless—eyeshadow and mascara to accentuate her big brown eyes, pale pink lip gloss to make her lips took puffy and kissable. She glared at her reflection and tried to find fault in her outfit or face. Finding nothing, her anger only increased. What a waste of her soon-to-be legendary cuteness!

"Why do I keep dating such idiots?" she mumbled out loud, kicking the rock once more for good measure. She decided against going straight home. She needed Levy. If there was any cure for a bad date, it was venting to her best friend. The sun was setting, which meant the library was probably already closed for the day, so she headed for Fairy Tail. She marched her way up to the guild doors.

If one more pretty boy tries to talk to me, I'm going to kick his ass all the way to Blue Pegasus!

"Man…" came a deep voice from behind her.

Lucy hadn't realized she'd moved until her foot connected with something very human, very shirtless, and feeling very much like it was bestowed upon womankind by the heavens in order to bring piercing light to their drab days.

"Gray!" she shrieked, watching in horror as Gray's body hit the stone guild wall with a resounding thud! She tried to move to go to him when her arm was suddenly seized in a vicelike grip.

"Lucy!" Levy had materialized beside her, stricken eyes darting back and forth from Gray to Lucy, unsure who needed her help first.

"Gray! I'm...I'm so sorry!" Lucy called, trying to make her voice heard above the ruckus of the noisy guild.

Gray didn't get up off the ground, but he did half-heartedly wave her off before the other members of their guild swarmed around him, cutting off her view.

"Lucy!" Levy shouted again, gripping Lucy's elbow tighter and pulling hard so that the blonde was hauled down to her friend's eye level.

Dazed, Lucy stared into her best friend's huge caramel eyes. "Levy, I didn't mean it! I was in a bad mood. I came from this absolutely horrid date. He made me so angry, but I didn't mean to take it out on anyone else!"

Levy's expression grew softer. "Let's go sit down, you can tell me all about this date." Levy loosened her grip on Lucy's arm, but didn't let go as she tugged the blonde toward the bar stools at the back of the guild.

Mira stood polishing glasses as she always did when a brawl broke out in Fairy Tail. Lucy had previously thought it would've been nice if Mira intervened and stopped the fights the way Erza always did, but at the moment, she appreciated the non-judgment. She reached up and wrapped her own hand around Levy's. Levy tossed back a reassuring smile over her shoulder as they made their way to their seats.

"Get her something strong but sweet, Mira," Levy said sternly.

"Aye, sir! One Purple Oasis, coming up!" The bartender gave a jaunty salute and began rummaging around for several bottles and a shaker, carefully measuring each ingredient with the precision of a chemist.

Lucy's brow furrowed. She had no idea what a Purple Oasis was, and she wasn't a big drinker, but she figured she must have looked pretty out of it if Levy thought she needed alcohol.

"Gray. I need to apologize to Gray," she said, running her hands through her hair in frustration. She started repeatedly banging her forehead against the stone countertop of the bar.

It stung and she knew she probably looked like an idiot, but she felt like an idiot, so it seemed appropriate.

Levy, however, was alarmed by her best friend's self-flagellation... She hoped Lucy would stop soon.

"You will apologize to him, Lu-chan. Of course you will. But let the others take care of him right now. In the meantime, why don't you tell me what happened?" The script wizard asked, her voice full of concern.

"This date I had, it was the worst one yet," she replied glumly, her head now resting on her arms folded on the countertop. She hardly noticed when Mira discreetly placed a glass of frosted purple liquid in front of her.

"What happened?" Levy repeated as she nudged Lucy's drink a bit closer.

The blonde didn't even bother raising her head, finding it easier to talk into her encaged arms. "It started off well, he took me to this nice restaurant and pulled out my chair for me. We ordered red wine and we were getting along. He seemed so cultured and witty. Then he asked what I did for a living…"

"So? Why was that so bad?"

"Levy, have you ever been on a date?" Lucy lifted her head to look at her friend. They both knew it was a rhetorical question. Levy hadn't dated anyone ever, in spite of Jet and Droy constantly hitting on her.

"Magic isn't as common as you might think. We've been surrounded by it all our lives: gone to schools that taught us how to use our magic, been around other mages, gone on missions. But normal people? They lead regular lives. Most haven't met a wizard before and they certainly haven't seen magic in action," Lucy paused and took a big gulp of her purple drink for courage. It was sweet on her tongue yet caused a pleasant burning sensation down her throat as she swallowed. She braced one elbow on the counter and put her hand on her forehead as she talked.

"He…didn't believe me when I said I was a celestial mage. My magic is rare, even among wizards, but to assume I would lie about something like that?" Her face went dark. "When I said I didn't care what he believed, he tried to rip my keys off my skirt."

"He did what?" Levy hissed. "How dare he? What did you do?"

"I slapped his hand away, hard. Then I stood up and told him the date was over." Lucy could feel her face heating with anger and took another large swallow of her frosted drink.

"Oh wow. I don't blame you, Lu! I would've done the same thing." Levy put her hand on her friend's back, rubbing in small circles.

"But wait, there's more!" The celestial mage barked out a bitter laugh and took another fortifying swig before she added, "As I was walking out, he came running up after me. I thought it might be to apologize. Stupid me. He said that I should prove what I am by summoning one of my spirits."

She drained her drink. In one fluid motion, Mira placed a fresh one in front of her and deftly snatched up the empty glass.

Levy's expression darkened, but she knew Lucy's spirits would always protect her. "You should have summoned Leo! Leo would've loved to kick that guy's ass. Or Taurus! He would've shit his pants, Lu!"

"My. Spirits. Are. Not. Parlor. Tricks!" She ground out each word, furious. How dare anyone try to grab her keys and then demand she summon her friends for the sake of amusement?

The blunette looked contrite. "You're right, Lu-chan. I'm sorry."

"What is this person's name? I shall seek out vengeance from any who have harmed you," Erza declared sternly from right behind them, causing both girls to practically leap out of their stools in shock.

Levy let out a small, terrified squeak and a hand flew up to cover her heart. "Erza! When did you get here?"

"I heard the whole thing. It's not my problem if the two of you are exceptionally unobservant," The requip wizard said blandly, seeming not to notice that she had frightened both girls.

Lucy could feel her heart pounding inside her chest. She took another sip of her drink to see if it would help calm her. It seemed to, so she took an even deeper swallow. Erza was impressive, but scary as hell.

"The two of you need more exercise," Erza demanded in her bossy voice. "I have experience as a personal trainer and will see to your fitness routine myself. We shall start at dawn tomorrow."

We shall? Lucy tried to frame a polite refusal, but nobody refused Erza 'The Titania' Scarlet. Sighing inwardly, she tasted her drink and decided to negotiate.

"Dawn is a little early for us," she replied as Levy nodded her head in agreement. "How about 10am?"

The redhead considered for a moment, then nodded. "Agreed. Now tell me the name of the scoundrel who disrespected you, Lucy. I shall have his head on a pike by dawn, now that I have a free morning."

Erza's calm yet deadly expression frightened Lucy so much that she started shaking. "Urr…his name? Umm…his name is…" she was drawing a blank. What in the name of Gray's holy abs was that completely forgettable other guy's name?

Not that she wanted Erza to kill the nameless bastard.


She stared down at her beverage.

What the heck was in this drink?

"Boy, you have one hell of a kick!" Gray said as he sidled up to the bar. Lucy turned to him, glowing with gratitude. She'd never been happier to see someone in her entire life. Gray was rubbing his stomach absentmindedly (her newly lubricated subconscious urged her to offer her tummy rub services) but other than that, he didn't look injured.

"I'm so sorry, Gray! I had no intentions of hurting anyone. I…" she fumbled, her mind fuzzy as she trailed off.

"Nah, don't even worry about it. Erza's done way more damage when we've trained...even when we're not training, come to think about it," Gray replied, leaving the blonde to wonder if she should feel relieved or insulted by that statement.

"Indeed I have. You're none the worse for wear?" The Titania queried, scanning Gray up and down. Gray scoffed at her stare and then started unbuttoning his dark blue shirt.

"I'm good, honestly." Gray shrugged both the comment and his shirt off, but for once Lucy barely noticed.

Barely. And his chest is bare.

She let out a soft giggle at her own joke then bit her cheek to stifle herself, just in case Gray thought she wasn't sincere in her apology. Out of the corner of her eye, the blonde thought she spotted Mira whisking Gray's shirt behind the bar, but when she blinked again, the take-over wizard was merely wiping down the counter.

"I'm sure Lucy would be more than happy to buy you a drink to make it up to you," Levy chimed in, causing Lucy to stare flabbergasted at her friend. So that's what the little minx was up to by asking Gray to go on jobs with them! She should've known her secret crush on Gray couldn't stay a secret from her best friend. Levy knew her too well.

"If our newest addition to Fairy Tail is determined to make it up to me, I could probably stomach a drink."

Oh, I bet you could stomach all sorts of things with that six-pack, Lucy bit her cheek to keep the words from coming out.

She felt suddenly tongue-tied with all that magnificent half-naked Grayness right next to her. She was definitely in a Gray area and the drinks certainly weren't helping. Or were they? She took another sip, just to be sure.

Her voice cracked in a low pant, which she immediately overcompensated for by pitching her tone far too high. "I'd love to buy you a drink, Gray!"

Too shrill!

She cleared her throat, chugged a large swallow of drink, and started again. "It's the least I can do. In fact, why don't I get a round for all of us?"

There. Now she had included everyone and wasn't singling out Gray. Hahaha, take that, Levy!

Lucy raised her glass to cheers and then realized no one else had ordered a drink yet. She mumbled incoherently and took another sip for herself.

Where's Cana when you need her?

Erza gave a short nod and took the stool beside Levy, ordering red wine. Gray ordered his usual beer. Levy decided she wanted to try Lucy's drink so she ordered a Purple Oasis.

Lucy—who could've sworn she had barely touched her drink—looked down in confusion to find her glass empty. She tried to order water but was vetoed by the group, ending up with another glass of sweet, sweet purple loveliness. After Mira served their drinks, Lucy and Levy basked for several moments in reverent silence as they let their eyes feast upon Gray, who sat—awkward and quiet—blushing and sipping his beer.

Gray had just started making alarming, nonsensical noises about finding his lost shirt when Levy spoke up, effectively derailing his efforts.

"Oh hey, did I tell you guys? Juvia's coming to Fairy Tail next month!"

Lucy smiled brightly at the news, but the requip and ice mages were confused. The redhead and the noirette exchanged looks and shrugged at each other.

"Who's Juvia?" they asked in unison.

Levy perched on the edge of her seat as if about to share a great secret. Her voice started out as a conspiratorial whisper, but got progressively louder as she continued. "Juvia is one of our best friends from Mermaid Heel. She's a water mage and very powerful, but she's also one of the sweetest girls you'll ever meet! She's kind of shy and a bit odd, but once you get to know her, I'm sure you'll love her!"

Lucy raised one eyebrow at her friend and then noticed Levy's drink was gone, which explained her sudden effusiveness. Levy was even more of a lightweight than she was.

"I look forward to meeting her," Erza said sincerely.

"Yeah, she sounds nice," Gray replied diplomatically, no doubt wondering what 'a bit odd' meant. Lucy caught his gaze and exchanged a look that wordlessly said she'd explain later. His easy smile back made her brain feel gooey...or was that the effect of the alcohol?

Levy leaned back on her stool, but seeing as it was backless, she almost fell off. Erza raised a quick hand to steady the tipsy bluenette. The small girl raised her fresh drink to Erza, with a jubilant "Cheers!" who reluctantly touched her wine glass to Levy's frosted one.

Levy made a small face at Erza's lack of enthusiasm and turned and clinked glasses with Lucy, who had somehow acquired another full drink. The blonde took a cautious sip. Levy sucked back two-thirds of hers in a single swallow maneuver worthy of Cana.

A soft grin slid up Levy's face as the alcohol made its way through her system, her eyes half-closed. If she were a cat, she'd be purring. "You know, Lu…I've been thinking. And what I think I've been that...I think, is that you're dating the wrong type of guys."

Oh brother, here comes Sage Levy.

"Really? Thanks for the status report, Captain Obvious."

"No, I think you're thinking of going on dates, but I think you should be dating a different type of guy," Levy stressed, as if that cleared up anything. Maybe if Lucy hadn't had three...or was it four? purpley drink thingies, her mind wouldn't be so mushy. She was having trouble focusing; everyone seemed a bit hazy. Levy didn't seem to be in better shape: Erza was keeping one hand on her back to make sure she didn't topple over.

"I don't understand," Lucy confessed thickly. Her words seemed to be coming out far slower than usual.

Levy daintily took another sip of her drink, rattling around the ice cubes in her glass, and pointedly looked from Lucy to Gray's exposed abs.

"You should be dating mages."

A/N:. I extend my heartfelt thanks to my dear friend, xSteleAliniax who not only beta-reads my stories, but cattle-prods and encourages me. Have you read her amazing story, Twist of Fate? It's a fantastic vampire A/U. So yummy.

quite-a-riot made this story far more interesting and way funnier. She helped make so many scenes hilarious with her personal blend of wit, zest and satire. Passive Aggressive Post Its is her story, and I implore everyone to read it. It's about Natsu and Lucy being able to transfer notesand more ;) between their skin. It's amazing and I want to gush about it all the time.

And because I can't stop making recommendations, please read ShanaHollows. Her stories are incredible and fun to read.

These authors are incredibly talented, wonderfully kind people who mentored and helped me immeasurably. Their skills are off-the-charts and they get all my thanks and love. They made me better; any flaws or faults spotted in this story are entirely my own.

Finally, thank you, dear reader, for trying out a new fic. You are the brilliance of a thousand dying suns.

Also, I'm Canadian (that's why words like favourite are spelled with a 'u'.) The drinking age is 18 where I live. In my fic, everyone would be legal drinking age.

Please Read, Review and Follow!

Until next week's thrilling instalment,