Domestic Bliss

Some homes are found, some homes are made.


I. Hair

The tiny bells that hung on their door chimed as Gray came in. He closed the door behind him and set the grocery bags in his arms on the table. His dark eyes quickly scanned the living room. The house was well kept, and with the bright little ornaments she had taken to hanging around, made for a very quaint picture. For ten seconds he stood in the same spot very quietly, as though waiting for something to happen. There was something missing, and that something was a blue haired girl greeting him with a bone-crushing hug. His blood ran cold.

"Ice Make; Lance!"

The weapon materialized in his hands. "Juvia!" he shouted frantically, racing to her bedroom. He fumbled with the knob, and upon finding that it was locked, banged on the door. He heard a muffled whimper in response. He kicked down her door and rushed in, his lance ready to fly through the heart of whatever threat had invaded their home.

To his horror, Juvia lay crumpled on the floor. Her eyes screwed shut, face contorted into a look of utmost pain. She was thrashing wildly about…

…As she struggled to remove the hairbrush tangled in her curls.

Gray sweatdropped. He became conscious of what he must have looked like, and, embarrassed, threw the lance out of her room. He winced as he heard it break into tiny pieces and made a mental note to clean up that mess earlier, lest someone slip on it. Luckily for him, she seemed a bit too distracted to even notice what he was doing.

He awkwardly knelt beside her and tapped her on the shoulder. She opened her tear-filled blue eyes and stared at him like game caught in a hunter's trap. It seemed she had been like that for quite some time, for she was still in her pajama pants. The tank she wore to sleep had ridden up to expose her stomach, and Gray hastily tugged it down.

"This is really embarrassing. Juvia must look so silly right now," she said, breaking the silence.

"It's…fine. Can't you just turn into water or something? So that the thing slips out?" he suggested.

"Juvia tried that! This is the special brush she bought when they stopped over at the town with the man-eating oysters. It clamped really hard on her curls and neutralizes magic. It's like there's something chewing on her hair."

"That would actually make a pretty good weapon," Gray said thoughtfully, scratching his chin. She whined in response.

"Juvia supposes she'll just have to cut it again," she sighed dejectedly. They lived far from the city, and the tiny village that they lived in had no store that sold magical hair growth serum. She pushed herself up and walked to her drawer, taking out a pair of scissors. She pulled her hair to the front of her face, but her large brush was in the way, and she couldn't get a hold of the strands she was supposed to cleave. She glanced back at him and flushed. "Ah, Gray-sama?"

"Yeah?" he replied, forgetting to chastise her for forgetting to not call him 'sama.'

"Juvia is really sorry about this, but could Gray-sama cut it for her? She can't reach it from the back," she said, eyes glued to the floor.

A part of him was really flattered that she trusted him enough with a pair of scissors anywhere near her hair, and the other half was completely terrified. "Are you sure you want me to do this? There is a ninety-nine percent chance I will screw up."

She giggled. "It's alright! Juvia doesn't really expect anything on Cancer-san's level, of course. Juvia is confident that Gray-sama won't mess up as badly as he thinks he will. Besides, it's not like he'll accidentally make Juvia bald or anything, right?" An image of her standing next to Jura of Lamia Scale with an equally shiny head suddenly appeared in her mind. Her expression sobered, but she schooled it into her cheery smile once more.

"If you're sure," he replied uneasily, taking the scissors from her hands.

Satisfied, she returned to her place on the floor and sat with her back turned to him. The brush was lodged pretty firmly just below the nape of her neck. If he were to cut it neatly, her hair would fall at her chin. He didn't think she'd look too bad, as she'd worn short hair before. He inched a little closer and took a section of hair in his hands.

Juvia's naturally wavy tresses had been the envy of many girls at the guild. Now that he was actually touching it, it turned out to be pleasantly soft and light. The color was fascinating. The shade of blue wasn't as light as Levy's or as dark as Wendy's. It was the color of a clear sky without a sun, the kind that allowed one to lie on the grass and stare at the clouds for hours on end without their eyes tiring. Waves, oceans, waterfalls and storms –the way her hair cascaded down her pale shoulders was an ode to her element. He absentmindedly began to twirl a lock of blue curls in his fingers, his callouses brushing lightly against her bare flesh. The scissors were on the floor.

"Gray-sama?" She spoke in a tiny voice that pulled him from his daze. Juvia had turned her head to half-face him. Even in its untamed state, her hair framed her features so nicely.

"Do you really want to cut it?"

"Well, no, but Juvia doesn't really have a choice. She's been at this for too long and it doesn't seem very practical to spend so much time just to salvage hair."

"I like your hair." Juvia's mouth fell open. He looked away, wondering what made him blurt that out. It was turning out to be a rather awkward morning. "If you want it at this length, I don't mind helping you get it out. I have a better viewpoint from here, anyway. If you want."

A wide smile spread from the corners of her lips to her dark blue eyes as she registered what he had said. "If Gray-sama's okay with it, then Juvia would appreciate it very much."

The process of untangling each strand caught between the teeth of the brush was tedious, but Gray honestly did not mind at all. His fingers were careful not to pull too hard or break off any pieces. The water mage was very still and unusually quiet. She shivered or inhaled sharply every time his skin touched hers, but she was proud of herself for remaining conscious the entire time

"Alright, the damn thing's out," he said after almost half an hour later. He stood up and placed the brush and the pair of scissors on her bedside table.

She ran her hand through the mess and began pulling the matted balls apart manually. "Thank you so much, Gray-sama," she chirped. "Juvia will never cut her hair again. If she could, she wouldn't touch it at all, just so Gray-sama's fingerprints could stay there forever."

"Don't say creepy things like that," he exclaimed, but the discomfort did not last as long as it usually did. Juvia was gazing at him with so tenderly that it made his face heat up. He only shook his head in resignation before ruffling her hair. His fingers combed through her locks, relishing in the texture, as they fell to his side. "You can go ahead and start breakfast. I'll try to do something about your, er. The door. Sorry about that."

"Hm?" she mumbled, snapping out of her dreamlike state. "Oh, it's fine! We can fix that after we eat. Did Gray-sama remember to get the basil leaves, because Juvia was thinking –eep!"

"Shit, I was supposed to mop that up, I'm sorry!"

II. Quiet

'Ran some errands in town, will be back before lunch. Gray-sama looked so cute sleeping, Juvia couldn't bear to wake him.'

Juvia was the kind of girl who wrote in neat cursive and dotted her 'i's' with hearts. The note was left on the kitchen table, sticking out from under his coffee mug. He'd just gotten up, as he was still clad in his boxers, rubbing at his tired eyes. He'd pushed himself hard at training yesterday, and as soon as dinner was cleaned up he marched straight to his room and collapsed on his bed. It was incomprehensible how Juvia still managed to be up and about. They had sparred, and when the water mage got serious, she was a formidable opponent.

He scrambled two eggs with milk, placed it between two slices of bread, and that was breakfast. As he ate, he noticed how quiet that morning actually was. Even the forest behind them was devoid of any chirping birds, any rustling leaves, any gurgling brooks. It made him hyper-aware of the screeching sound his chair made as he pushed it back.

The house was entirely his for that morning, so he was free to bask in the peace. This didn't happen often. While Juvia usually didn't say much around other people, if she felt comfortable enough around you, she was a chatterbox that could not be shut. She could go on for hours about the most random topic before jumping to some other obscurely related thing. Sometimes she'd even burst into song. Gray didn't mind really mind. She was interesting to talk to, and hell, she had a pretty fine voice in his opinion. However, the prospect of some alone time seemed like a welcome idea. He could do anything he wanted.

He leaned back and blew his bangs out of his eyes. What did he want to do?

He could go back to sleep, but that seemed unproductive as he was wide awake. He could go train, but he was still pretty spent and it only made sense to rest up so that he could train more efficiently later. He could clean, but Juvia had apparently already covered that before she left. She was sort of a neat-freak. He tried going outside and enjoying the soothing calm of nature, but after a while he got restless. Thus, the ice-make mage ended up retreating back to his bed and staring at the ceiling.

The silence was becoming disconcerting. The only thing he could hear was this faint buzzing, and he was sure that it was only something his mind had come up with to mess with him. He then realized that he never had much tranquility in his life to begin with. He'd spent most of his life with the noisiest, most obnoxious guild on the planet, and when he wasn't there he was usually on missions with people who never failed to stir up a ruckus. And from even before he became a part of Fairy Tail, Ur and Lyon were wild company themselves. Perhaps that was why he was never bothered much by Juvia's incessant babbling. Noise was a part of everything he had called home. Even the subtlest sounds such as breaths, heartbeats, and footsteps, were reminders that he was not alone.

Once he got closer to the village, there was an explosion of sound -wheels being dragged on roads, vendors yelling out their prices, products tumbling and cracking, dogs barking at cats who hissed at them from trees, children laughing. He kept walking and sure enough, there was a blue haired girl by one of the fruit stalls. She was juggling a couple of bags in her arms as she tried haggling with the merchant. She spotted him walking towards her out of the corner of her eye and immediately directed all of her attention to him.

"Gray-sama," she said in surprise, "what are you doing here?"

He took the bags from her. "It was too damn quiet," he said.

III. Bloom

The sweltering heat of the sun had him itching to take his boxers off, but he didn't think it would be very considerate if he were to prance around so indecently. Juvia was the one who insisted that they not waste the perfect weather indoors, which was ironic because she was currently inside as he waited on the patio.

The pair worked freelance missions. The old lady from the last one had really taken a liking to Juvia, and so in addition to the monetary reward, gave her a box of flower seeds. The image of an iridescent garden delighted the water mage, and so when they got back that morning, she immediately wanted to get a start on it.

When she finally came out, she had changed out of her usual attire into an old shirt and a faded pair of denim shorts, with her hair piled lazily atop her head. She held a large shovel while cradling the box of seeds in her other arm.

"Let me do that," Gray said, reaching out for the shovel. The bruises from the "gentleman's etiquette" lessons Erza had given him and Natsu when they were younger had taken weeks to heal. She smiled at him and shook her head.

"This is Juvia's project! Gray-sama shouldn't have to work on it. Besides, Juvia wants the garden to be her gift to him when the flowers finally grow." She began to dig into the dirt. She seemed so focused and determined, so Gray just went in to fix a pitcher of lemonade for the both of them.

She was almost done digging her trench by the time he returned. Juvia was really a lot stronger than she looked. Her azure eyes had a determined look in them as she pushed away a large pile of dirt. The bangs that usually shielded her forehead were clipped away, and strands stuck to the sides of her face. There were a few beads of sweat running down her neck, and he unconsciously began to watch them disappear into her shirt.

Gray was no expert, but he knew that fancier sorts of flowers needed more than just sunshine and rain. She'd have to tend to them probably every day, and it would be a while before any hint of green would sprout from the ground. Even then, there wasn't even a guarantee that anything would grow at all, taking into account numerous factors like the type of soil, how dependent they were on different types of climate, weather conditions, and all other sorts of things that were out of her control.

Juvia, however, was the type of girl who did some things simply out of love. He had no doubt that she would have the patience the task needed. A warm sensation washed over him, making his toes curl slightly.

The shovel was discarded, and she began putting the seeds into the ground, dividing them into different sections for each kind. She stretched her arms above her head, making her shirt rise a bit to expose a patch of flesh. He set the pitcher down and went to help her fill the holes.

She stopped to stare at him for a while, but he pretended to be too focused to notice.

"I think we should work on it together. I mean, we both live here, don't we?" he said, still avoiding her gaze. This is our home.

Red crept from her neck to her cheeks, and she looked away as well to hide the wide smile that had plastered itself onto her face. "Of course, Gray-sama."

As they patted the dirt to make a neat, smooth layer, his hand brushed over hers and lingered a bit longer than they should have, but neither said anything about it.

Months later, the flowers did bloom beautifully. Peonies, blue bells, violets, carnations –pastels and jewel tones that brightened up the side of their rickety home, and people who passed would stop to admire the beautiful garden. It was a shame he wasn't around to see it.

IV. Demons

The sky was a cloudless, pale ice blue. The world was empty, veiled by a vast sheet of winter that he knew deep down was eternal. He trudged his way through the knee-deep snow. A trail of red spatters marked his path. Despite the chill that sunk its talons into his tailbone and clawed its way up his spine, he followed it. It was meant specifically for him. Each blot got progressively bigger until he reached puddles of blood that flowed out into a frozen lake.

And the wind whispered, "E.N.D."

There were three bodies, each with coal black hair, laid out at the center of the glade: two women and a man in between. Their eyes were closed. He couldn't save them. He never could save anyone. And yet the fool tried every single time.

And the wind hissed, "E.N.D."

He slid his feet across the ice to check if it would support his weight each time he took a step. He would drag their dead weight to the shore across, dig them the graves they deserved, and lay by their side until he too was blanketed by white. When the shorthaired woman was finally within reach, he slipped, and landed on his knees. He looked down and through the misted glass-like barrier, saw that he was standing above a sleeping water mage.

"Juvia! Juvia, open your eyes!" he shouted, pounding relentlessly on the ice, but she would not wake. Her lips were so, so pale.

The foggy vapor began to clear. There were more bodies: Lyon, Natsu, Erza, Cana, Lucy, Wendy, the old man, everyone he had selfishly dared to love. Their faces were pressed up against the ice, trapped underneath. They were doomed because of him, and he couldn't save them. He was on all fours, striking the ice until his knuckles bled, but it would not break.

Something began to crack. He looked up and saw that ruptures were beginning to form from the corners of the man's mouth up to his hairline. The crevices spread all throughout his face, until it shattered and caved in completely.

And the wind howled, "E.N.D."

From the whole grotesquely marring the man's face, a great white demon arose. It swiped the bodies in one gesture and gnawed off their heads. It crunched on the skulls loudly, as if to mock him, before devouring the rest of their parts whole. It roared with laughter at the sight of him sprawled on the banks, too paralyzed with fear to run away. He opened his mouth, trying to wake the lifeless forms underneath, to warn them, to ask them to save him or drag him down with them below.

No sound would escape his lips despite the sensation of white-hot daggers being poured down his throat. The beast grabbed him in one hand. It held him tightly enough for him to feel his ribs being crushed into powder. He was being lowered into the mouth.

And the wind screamed –"Gray-sama!"

Gray's eyes opened very suddenly, wide and bulging with fear. He pushed off the hands resting on his shoulders and bolted out of his bed, but instead fell to the floor. Even in the complete night of the room, it was apparent that his entire body was shaking. The fallen sheets had tangled around him, and he bunched some of the fabric in his curled fists, squeezing with every ragged breath. The creaking sound of his open door made him rigid with paranoia, and then he buried his face in his hands.

Their faces, the air, Delioria, all looked and felt so real. It couldn't possibly be called a simple nightmare. It felt too much like a dreadful memory he had failed to flush out of his system, so it broke through his windows and forced him to drown until he could no longer breathe.

He felt her kneel beside him. She laid her hand lightly between his shoulder blades and ran it slowly but firmly up and down his spine, before rubbing soothing circles on his bare flesh. His trembling began to subside at her touch. Her other hand cupped his cheek, bringing it to face her. Her thumb brushed away the train of tears running down the side of his face. He crumbled into her arms and wept like a child.

"I couldn't save them," he rasped between heaving sobs. "I was too scared, I was too fucking weak." She held him even tighter.

He buried his face into her hair, trying to memorize how warm she felt. That night, he needed Juvia to be the only one that existed in the darkness. There were no such things as ghosts, he wasn't afraid of monsters, but demons were a suffocating reality. They nested in scars and dined on fears, and he had plenty of both to offer. Juvia would die before she let that consume him. That was another thing he was afraid of.

But that night, with her azure eyes leaking, the crescendo of rain threatened the shadows into retreat. The burningly bright sensation of love washed over him, and for a while he was not afraid of anything.

She led him back into the comfort of his bed and spread the blanket over him. She placed a lingering kiss on his forehead, brushing her fingers against his temple as he dropped his head onto his pillow. Before she could make a move to return to her own room, he grabbed her arm, and she understood. She crawled into his bed and threw the covers over their heads. They lay on their sides, and he could feel her chest rise and fall against his back. She had an arm draped protectively over him, and the fingers traced the contours of his muscles.

"Thank you," he whispered, and she ghosted her lips over the crook of his neck.

He drifted off into dreamless slumber.

The next night, she tried to sneak into his bed again, this time wearing sheer baby doll lingerie. He angrily kicked her out and locked his door.

V. Dancing

Living in that hut was strictly for business. They were on a mission to gather information about Zeref's most dangerous creation, and become powerful enough to destroy it completely. There was no room for any gallivanting, merry-making, or time wasting. However, a simple Christmas Eve dinner wouldn't hurt. The few decorations she had hung were nice touches, and Gray particularly was proud of the Christmas mini cactus they had improvised.

He'd grown up at Fairy Tail, and Christmas wasn't a tradition he was willing to let go of just yet. Also, Juvia had only experienced a handful of holiday celebrations in her life, and Gray didn't think it was fair to deprive her of any more just because they were away from the guild. And besides, her Christmas cookies were amazing. The entire three-course meal was good, no doubt, but it was a few minutes to midnight and he was still munching on the gingerbread fairies she made.

Two wrapped boxes were placed on either side of the cactus at the center of their dining table. They watched as the clock finally struck twelve, and he opened his mouth to speak, but Juvia beat him to it.

"Merry Christmas, Gray-sama!" she squealed excitedly, like a child bursting to say something after being told to be quiet. She had such an eager look on her face that he couldn't help but laugh in high spirits.

"Merry Christmas," he replied with a grin. He pushed the smaller, rectangular box towards her. Her gift to him was a bit bigger, and it made him anxious in an irrational way he could not comprehend. When they were both holding their respective gifts, he said, "Okay, one, two, three, go!"

They began to tear through the paper, and she got to hers first. Her mouth fell open slightly as she lifted it from the paper that cushioned it. It was a necklace with a silver chain and a crystal butterfly pendant. The piece was beautifully crafted. Gray didn't usually spend much on gifts, but he put a little more effort into this one. She was the only one he was getting a present for that year, anyway.

"I figured you liked butterflies," he said, shrugging nonchalantly, but he was anticipating her reaction from out of the corner of his eye.

"It's beautiful," she told him earnestly. She lifted her hair and clasped it around her neck. It rested against her pale collarbone and suited her perfectly. "Juvia loves it. Thank you, Gray-sama." She smiled at him, and why the fuck did his legs feel like gelatin.

"You're welcome," he said, and he didn't even notice that his smile was too wide. He continued to tear through the paper his until finally the bubble wrap was gone. It was a lacrima music player. Mira used to have an older model when they were younger, and Gray had accidentally broken one of the stereos. He blamed it on Natsu, and to that day, he had never felt guiltier than he did the moment he saw Natsu's shaking, bruised body.

"It's a bit silly, and Juvia was thinking about getting more clothes, but then she remembered Gray-sama saying that he didn't like it when it was too quiet in the house. He can play any song he wants, new ones are automatically put into the library," she babbled nervously. "Does he like it?" When he didn't reply, she her mind went into overdrive, wondering if she could get it exchanged for something else –

An upbeat swing began to play. Close your eyes, and I'll kiss you! Tomorrow I'll miss you…

He laughed, and he was genuinely glowing with joy. He didn't have much cause to laugh, those days, but her gift was just so thoughtful and so fitting. He loved music. Very few people knew that, and she was the only one who did anything with that information.

He pushed back his seat and began to dance around the house, belting out the song without a care if he hit the notes or not. He was just so deliriously happy, and he let the rhythm wash away every inhibition and fear in his body just for a while.

Juvia too, was laughing, with her eyes closed and her head tipped back. "Juvia hasn't seen Gray-sama dance since his battle with Cancer-san," she giggled, hiding her mouth with her hands.

The memory made him shiver. He mock scowled at her, "Never bring that up again." He pulled her up and she yelped in surprise.

"Juvia doesn't know how to dance!" she told him.

"It's easy! It's just moving. But with more feeling," he told her with a grin. To demonstrate, he walked across the room, but in an exaggerated, jumpy manner. He gestured for her to follow. She imitated him, and she looked like a penguin with an egg between its legs. "You're doing great!"

She stuck her tongue out at him, and he took her by the hand, leading her to sway around, before suddenly twirling her. Her skirt flowed out around her, her hair whipped his face, and as the music came to an abrupt halt, she crashed into his chest. She was staring up at him with her lapis lazuli eyes, biting her lip, and would someone kindly remind this fool how to breathe.

Kiss me, out of the bearded barley…

Well shit, her hands were on his shoulders anyway. He cautiously placed his hands on her waist, and they began to sway from side to side. She was staring determinedly at the floor, and he was tall enough to see over her head so he could pretend there was something immensely interesting on their kitchen wall, but he couldn't block out how light her hands felt, the sound of her breaths, the lavender scent of her hair.

The music was fading, and they had stopped moving for quite some time, but somehow she was standing closer than she had a minute ago, and Gray was beginning to wonder if maybe, it wouldn't be so bad if he…

At the sound of a fiddle, the pair jumped apart, and the wisp of silver lining disappeared.

"Juvia knows this song!" she said suddenly, and he raised his eyebrows, because he was familiar enough with the girl in front of him to know that she only listened to two types of music; classical, and heavy metal.

Come on Eileen!

She began to bob her head, closing her eyes as she sang. She did the weird Egyptian dance, and Gray could only stare, because she looked like a total freak. A few seconds later, he joined her. They leaned against each other and began to can-can. Finally they dissolved into jumps, screaming the song into each other's faces.

It was two in the morning, and they were loud and uncool and jumping on the couch. Until the sun rose, they could pretend that the world outside didn't exist.

VI. Light

They couldn't even make it to the door. His muscles were sore and pulled taut, and walking on his blisters felt like walking on a road of broken glass. The sun was dipping into the horizon and it was about time for them to start on dinner, but she just sighed and let herself fall onto the grass. He followed suit.

Too tired to be hungry, too tired to fall asleep, and so they lay on their backs and watched the fiery sky bleed to black. His open palm glided over the blades of grass before meeting her skin. He didn't hold her hand, but allowed the back of his index finger to run over her flesh. Her rapid heartbeat began to calm.

As the velvet sky darkened, the stars appeared. He'd before seen how they emerged, like something bubbling out of the water and breaking its surface. They just slowly, quietly faded in until their flickering lights became too bright to ignore.

"That's Cassiopeia," he heard her say. He turned his head and she was pointing up at the sky. "And beside her is Cepheus." She taught him the constellations and asterisms, their stories and how people used them to map out directions. When she finished each one, he'd point to another one nearby and she patiently explained.

"It's cool when you think about it. The stars could be thousands of miles away from each other but from here they seem so close. And they make art. They tell stories together. It's cool," he rambled thoughtlessly.

"Like a guild?" She was looking at him intently from under her thick lashes, and he'd been there so many times. Now he'd look back.

"Like a family," he said softly, sounding less like a grown man and more like a child lost in the dark. She squeezed his forearm and he returned the gesture.

"Juvia misses them too."

They lay on their sides, and he caught a lock of her hair between his fingers. They missed the star that shot over their heads. The night seemed to illuminate her pale skin, high lighting the soft contours of her face. Her azure eyes shone so brightly. He looked at her like he was a dying man and she was the last sunset he'd ever see.

"I've been with them almost my entire life. They guided me and kept me from the darkness for so long. Without them…I don't know anymore. I'm on this path but I don't know where to turn."

She turned away and her back was on the ground again. "See that star, Gray-sama? The brightest one in Ursa Minor?"

"Yeah, I see it."

"That's Polaris. It's the North Star. It's almost always constant. Before, when people were lost, they used it to find their way, like a compass," she told him. Polaris twinkled dutifully above. He found comfort in realizing that no matter how scattered his family was, they would always under the same sky.

"So when you're lost, Gray-sama, just look for the light, and you'll find your way home."

His stomach rumbled, and she burst out laughing. His face flushed and he grinned apologetically. Before he could stop her, she'd already gotten up and was dusting of her skirt. "Juvia will go heat up some late dinner," she said, chuckling slightly. She walked back inside, leaving the door open for him, and he watched her go.

He looked up at the North Star and wondered if it was not, perhaps, there in their kitchen, taking out their Tupperware. Gray smiled lazily, the wind blowing about his dark hair.

"I think I found it."

VII. Sweet

As soon as he opened his bedroom door, he was met by the distinct smell of vanilla. He let his heavy eyelids fall as he inhaled the saccharine scent of it being mixed in with other sweets. His senses led him to the kitchen, where Juvia was busy at work.

"Morning," he said with a yawn, stretching his arms over his head. His black hair was sticking out at odd angles and there was a bit of dried drool at the corner of his mouth. It was only after scratched his chest that he noticed he was clad in only his boxers. He swore half-heartedly.

"Good morning, Gray-sama!" she chirped, unfazed by his state of undress. She too was still in her nightgown, with an apron thrown over it. Her hair was up and her bangs were neatly pinned away from her face, to avoid getting any strands in the batter she was mixing.

He leaned over her shoulder, making sure to breathe lightly in her ear and taking satisfaction in the slight tremble in her body. "Watcha making?"

"Caramade Franks!" she replied, a tad louder than necessary. "Juvia found the recipe in the book she bought last week."

At the mention of the pastry, Gray's mouth started to water. He walked over to the pantry and sought out the spare apron, despite not having any clothes on. She glanced at him from her peripheral vision as he tied the string around his back. She was willing herself to resist the oncoming nosebleed, for the coppery taste of blood didn't sound compatible with the rest of the flavors. Nor was it hygienic, for that matter

"Okay, what can I do?" She was staring at him with her eyes bulging a little, and he was sure she was remembering the incident at her birthday, when he had tried baking her a cake. There were still scorch marks on the kitchen tiles. He added hastily, "I won't go anywhere near the oven! I can't fuck up mixing things, right? With your supervision, of course."

It was physically impossible to say no when he smiled at her like that. "Alright, Gray-sama can go do the custard filling. The measurements are on the page, all he has to do is read the instructions."

"Awesome," he grinned, and happily set to work. Determined to impress, he spent a while making sure that he got the exact amount of the ingredients. He measured and re-measured the sugar, and when he wasn't satisfied, he would pour it back into the bag and start again, holding the cup to eye level and inspecting it thoroughly. He wasn't aware that Juvia was struggling to contain her laughter.

"Gray-sama can put all of them here when he's done," she said, handing him a bowl.

"Okay, I'm done," he said proudly. He showed her the perfectly measured ingredients he lined up on the counter. His area was a mess of sugar, egg-shells, and spilled milk, but he looked so pleased with himself, like a four year old presenting an uncommissioned crayon mural on the walls of a house. She beamed at him and poked his cheek, smearing a bit of flour on his face.

The process of whisking began. As he mixed the ingredients in, he watched Juvia knead the pastry dough. Before he could look away, she raised her head and met his gaze. There was a small, teasing smirk on her lips, and he didn't think he'd ever seen Juvia smirk before. His intestines were knotting themselves into bows.

"Not bad, Gray-sama," she said in amusement.

"Hm? Oh, yeah, of course. I could probably open my own bakeshop or something," he boasted, trying to regain a bit of his bravado. To demonstrate, he increased the speed of his whisking. He was trained in the art of stealth and strength, physically conditioned to perfection. This custard was no match for him.

"Ah, not so fast, Gray-sama, or else it will –" The thick cream flew from the bowl, spattering the walls, the table, and Juvia's face. She wiped a small portion of it off with her finger and sucked on it, tasting the custard. Gray was a step away from cardiac arrest.

"Shit, shit, I'm so sorry Juvia, I'll get you a towel," he said, panicking slightly as she continued to stare at him with blank eyes. To his immense surprise, she smiled angelically at him.

And then she took a fistful of the spilled sugar and sprinkled it over his head.

"It wasn't sweet enough," she told him. She was giggling at his dumbstruck expression, biting her lip. He needed a response.

Obviously, the mature thing to do was throw flour at her.

The war began. She cracked an egg on his shoulder and he grabbed her from behind. He caged her in his arms and smeared more of the custard in her hair. She shrieked at him, struggling to get out but laughing all the same. They continued to grapple until she slipped and pulled him down with her. The result was him landing on top of her, with his face buried in her neck and his limbs on either side of her body.

He tried pulling himself up, but the moment he saw her face they both froze. Gray despaired, wondering why lately there had been an inappropriate lack of distance between them. It wasn't doing much for his crumbling sanity.

She was covered in powder; her hair was sticky and matted. She was a complete mess, but she was looking up at him from under her thick lashes, mouth parted slightly, and he didn't notice himself slowly leaning forward. Her eyes fluttered closed, because she already knew what was going to happen.

When their lips were a centimeter apart, he jerked himself away and stood. He offered his hand out to her, and immediately regretted it when she took it to hoist herself up. It burned when her skin touched his.

"It was an accident," he breathed, and she nodded very enthusiastically in reply. "Sorry about the mess. Maybe I really shouldn't be allowed in the kitchen."

"It's…fine," she said, swallowing hard. She was looking at the ground, and Gray could see that her hands were trembling. "Gray-sama can go get the mop and clean up, Juvia will finish the custard."


"Okay." Neither of them moved, until Juvia cleared her throat.

"Right, um, I should. I should go now," he rambled, stepping past her with his heart hammering in his chest.

Once he stepped outside of the house, he sat by the doorsteps and cradled his head in his hands. They were beyond the point of turning back. The walls were crumbling down, and he had nowhere to hide anymore. It was a really, really bad time to be thinking about this, but it hit him like a train, like chugging down a bottle of vodka, like being at the other end of Natsu's punches.

This was the brink of his insanity, because all he could think about was her hair, her eyes, her fucking legs in those goddamn shorts, her voice, how awesome she was at baking. Her kindness and her bravery, the way she was fully capable of destroying whoever she wanted in the blink of an eye but she'd never let it be that easy because she never gave up on people. The way she'd done what he couldn't. Because she was good. Because she was warm.

And so he loved her.

A/N: I haven't written anything in so long huhuhuhuuuuu. This is such a dorky fic but eh.

Thank you for taking the time to read this, and I hope you enjoyed. Please feel free to tell me whatever you thought about this fic, whether good or bad, through a review!