I was all enjoying all the Gajeel/Levy love and the almost canon statehood that chapter 210 gave us, when this got stuck in my head *sighs* But I've got like a cold or a sinus problem or something, and didn't want to pass it around at church (too many old people that don't recover as fast as I do) so I sat down and jotted this out real quick. I must admit, I think I gave Gajeel more credit for intelligence than he actually has. At least I did before I wrote this. Maybe I came up with an explanation that everyone's likely to accept here!

Or maybe I was just wasting time^^ The world will never know! *insert crazy laughter here*

Chapter 16: Speak Gajeel-ese

Characters: Gajeel, Lily, Levy, Charle

He was starting to think that they might not be talking about the same things. It was just a sneaking suspicion, but that scene from earlier was firmly stuck in his head, because it had been damn confusing. She brought up caring for her, right? She was his partner, of course he cared what happened to her. But then she goes on about paying attention to her. Maybe, he thought, just maybe he shouldn't have answered the way he did. But she was comparing herself to Salamander and Erza, so of course he figured she meant-

"You're an idiot," Lily said bluntly.

He looked up at the cat irritably. The fight with the grim-something heart was over, and he and Levy had ran into his cat and the white one, both of who weren't supposed to be there. "I didn't say anything," he growled.

"Yeah, but I'm betting you did something stupid," Lily said, glancing over at the blue haired bookworm talking with Charle.

"What is with everyone calling me stupid?" Gajeel bellowed, frustrated. "She's the one that's goin' on about wantin' attention," he went on in a lower voice. "Sayin' I'm more focused on Erza and Salamander. So I told her the truth, if she wants my attention she's gonna haveta get tougher and fight-"

"Two different types of attention," Lily said before he could finish.


"Which is why everyone's calling you stupid," the cat said with a sigh and a flip of his paw.

"What are you doing here, anyway?" Gajeel asked, as if only just realizing that problem.

"We came here for personal reasons. I don't trust that Mest guy."

"Oh," Gajeel said. "That's that weirdo guy with the girly, right?"

"Yes. He claims to have been Mystogun's disciple, which doesn't sound right."

"Oh, then good luck with that," Gajeel said, turning his attention back to Levy. "How is that two different types of attention? I only got one type of attention!"

"Okay..." Lily said. But his mind was rushing, and he was realizing something very important. Inwardly he cursed and sighed over how simplistic his partner was. Gajeel hadn't been lying. If you wanted his attention it had to be shown through beating the shit out of each other. Why else had he fought Lily when trying to claim him as his cat? The relationship they had now wasn't about fighting, at least, not each other.

But the difference was, Lily thought as he glanced at the little bookworm, Lily had been perfectly happy to beat the shit out of the dragon slayer. It had been fun, probably the funnest thing he'd done in a while. Levy wasn't like that. She wasn't the type to beat the guy whose attention she wanted-but-

His eyes widened. "You think she could!"

"Wh-what?" Gajeel spluttered, trying to look outraged. But there was a strange look in his eyes as he automatically glanced over at Levy. "She never takes it seriously!" he complained finally.

Lily snorted, finally seeing the problem, but unable to do anything about it. "Your rules are too screwed up," he told the dragon slayer bluntly. Then again, Gajeel had done more for the little bookworm than he did for most. He was practically throwing himself at her, telling her how it worked, etc. But Levy didn't speak Gajeel-ese.

"They worked with you," Gajeel muttered, glowering at the Exceed.

"Sure they worked with me," Lily said with a shrug. "We're a lot alike. And hell, even if you were halfway playing, I was doing a job-"

"You were playing," Gajeel said with a snort.

"I was doing my job."

"You were grinning like an idiot."

"You're one to talk." They grinned at each other. Then Gajeel gave Levy a dark look, clearly pouting over the situation. "Look, she doesn't understand that you're an idiot, she probably expects you to treat her like you like her-"

"I didn't say I didn't!"

"Which means she doesn't expect to have to beat the hell out of you to get your attention." And he seriously doubted that Gajeel realized the meaning of "like" in this subject, but he was going to ignore that fact for now. "Keep going, you've got an exam to finish, right? Deal with that problem after you've made her an S-class mage."

Gajeel scowled, crossing his arms over his chest. "This exam sucks," he said after a moment. "Pick a trail, find a grave, where the hell is the fun part? I'd rather go hunt down the rest of those grim guys."

It was so, so, soooo frustrating sometimes, Levy thought as she brought her knees up to her chest, hugging her legs. The rock she was sitting on was cold and hard, but she ignored it. One moment he's telling her that she'll never get his attention, because she's too small and weak, the next he's doing something that makes her heart pound so hard that she's positive he can hear it. That "Don't leave my side" comment? It was the most romantic thing that anyone had ever said to her since the last time he had saved her life.

Even when she was positive she should hate him, she couldn't do it. It would be easier if she could hate him, right? No, she thought before even jumping on that line of thought. It wouldn't be easier if she could hate him. Hatred was worse on the person that did the hating than the one that was hated. It gnawed at your stomach and ripped at your happiness. She couldn't hate him even after what he had done to her during the guild fights, so why was she so willing to say she did now?

Maybe it was because he wasn't doing what she wanted him to do? At least, not unless her life was in danger. The moment she got into trouble he was there, saying all the right things, doing all the stuff she secretly dreamed of a guy doing for her. But the moment they were just walking around he started acting like a big mouthed jerk that only focused on other people and fighting! She wanted some of that attention, darn it! She wanted some of that passionately stupid focus for herself!

So he wasn't the brightest guy in the guild. She didn't hold that against him! The least he could do was to not hold her size and lack of strength against her!

"Why did you pick a guy like that as your partner?"

The question took a long moment to sink in. Big brown eyes blinked a few times as she looked over at the little white Exceed standing on the rock next to her. She had a dark, disapproving expression on her face as she watched Gajeel and Lily talk.

"I-I didn't really-I mean," Levy said, trying to think of how to put it.

"You're the one that was put in the competition, you're the one that was supposed to pick the partner, right?"

"Yeah, but-" Levy looked over at Gajeel for a moment. "I didn't want, um... to lose because..." Oh she felt soooo guilty even thinking it, although she had thought it often before. Saying it aloud was even worse. "I like team Shadow Gear, but-"

"So you picked him because he could help you win," Charle summed up. "I guess that makes sense. Sure you've got to put up with him while you're at it, but it'd probably be worth it-"

"That's not true!" Levy said. "I thought Gajeel had turned into a-a sort of nice guy since joining Fairy Tail!"

"Excuses, excuses," Charle said, waving it off rudely. "He's tougher than your friends, and he offered, so you took him up on it. Nobody would blame you!"

"I would have never picked a partner because of that alone! I trust Gajeel! He's saved my life lots of times!"

"So not only is he good for brute strength, he makes a good shield to hide behind, too," Charle summed up.

"That's not it!" Levy protested. "I wanted to spend time with him!" Then she jerked, flushing brightly as she slapped her hand over her mouth. She had said that way too loudly. But something in her made her keep going. "I wanted to get to know him so I could tell everyone that-that he's not a bad guy, now. I don't want to fear him, and I really, really, really don't want to hate him. And I don't want other people in the guild to hate him, either," she said quietly.

The look of surprise on Charle's face made Levy sigh. "You weren't there for the battle with Phantom," she said. "But Gajeel was on the other side. And he did some things that made a lot of people in our guild hate him. But he's not bad. He's-he always does exactly what he wants to, says exactly what he's thinking, he's-"

"Stupid," Charle finished.

"No! Well, kind of, but not in a bad way," Levy said, flushing. "He's so strong and straightforward. I wish-I just want some of that... for myself." Oh was that an open ended statement, she admitted silently. This was so hard, darn it! And Charle's look of confusion didn't make it any easier, she thought. "But he's so focused on fighting that he never even notices me!" she complained. "Stupid Gajeel."

"Then fight him," Charle said.

"Wh-what?" Levy asked, shocked. "He'd beat me in a second!"

"Sure, in a fist fight. But there's more than one way for a mage to fight, right? I think you could take him!" The white cat glanced up as the males started to stand. "I need to go find Wendy. You can figure this out on your own," she told Levy before heading for Lily.

Levy was still so stunned by the idea of fighting Gajeel in a different way that she could only nod as the white Exceed walked away.