Written because the below quote made me laugh out loud and immediately start brainstorming. Spoilers through Edolas.
Thanks go to le. etoile for reassuring me I didn't botch my characterizations.
Gray's opinion of Lucy: newcomer to the guild. Pretty damn cute. Possesses some skill. More naïve than she appears. Stellar Spirit mage. -Ch. 143, p. 7, Fairy Tail [Gemini]
1. Newcomer to the guild.
Sometimes it's hard for Gray to remember. Sometimes he just… forgets, almost casually, that Lucy hasn't even been here two years. It's surprising and suddenly oh-so-obvious when they are confronted with issues like Erza's past, where no one really knew about it but he remembered suddenly all their times as children, and Lucy wasn't there.
And it shouldn't be a big deal, isn't really, it wouldn't matter at all if he didn't forget and feel like he's known her forever. But since he does, it matters a whole lot.
Because Gray can remember that Jjuvia is new, that Gazille is new. Granted, he's got plenty of reason since they both were once his enemies – but still. Lucy is different; she feels like a constant. Once he gets used to her (and it's so fast) it becomes like she's always been there, and only when he gets slapped in the face with it does he realize.
There is so much she doesn't know. About the Guild, about him and Natsu – Lucy had to be told of Lisanna and what she means. And while they all have secrets from one another, there's just the basic knowledge that just happens after years of living together, things like how many sugars go in his coffee (six) or what the punishment is (and why it is never to be spoken of ever).
But, then – it's not like it doesn't go both ways. Gray feels unconsciously that he must work overtime to fix this, so he grasps any opportunity to visit her apartment, along with Natsu and Erza who he supposes must feel the same. And sometime between the first sleepover and the time she catches him using her toothbrush and toothpaste while wearing only the one sock, he thinks he's managed it a bit.
(Of course, then he learns that she's secretly been a princess all along.)
2. Pretty damn cute.
Well, she is. To deny that would be just plain… stupid. She's cute, in that kind of way where he really wants to say she's some other word ('hot' or 'attractive' or even something ridiculous like 'sultry' because honestly, cute?) but that would be lying. Lucy is cute, damn cute with her wide brown eyes and blond hair in that weird updo thing on the one side, and those blue and white stripes, her keys at her hip…
Her face fucking glows when she is happy. Gray doesn't look, necessarily, but it's sort of impossible not to at least notice, and – and, well… well, yeah. She claps her hands when she's excited, grins wide for approval, cuddles that weird little white shaky thing she claims is a dog Spirit, does a million other little things, with those big wide eyes and big wide grin, all perky and bouncy and upbeat and – even when she's upset, she doesn't glare but pouts.
She's just… so damn cute.
Not really much else Gray can add to that.
(Except to mention, once again, that this is something anyone and everyone is forced to realize. Not him specifically.)
3. Possesses some skill.
It would be a lie to say she was at Erza's, his, or even Natsu's level (which is way below his own, just so that's clear). She's not, and all of them know that very well. It's a constant thought on missions, a concern they have to account for carefully, something they rarely say outright but imply with every word.
But Gray's not stupid like Natsu is – he realizes that just because she's not equal to their power, it doesn't mean she's weak. Lucy's type of magic is new to Fairy Tail, and it's not the brute force type that most of the Guild is used to. In addition she herself never really does the fighting, so it all seems like a weak skill.
But anyone who's ever seen her wield her whip (which is admittedly a rare sight) will know that she's got to practice because she is good with that thing. Not unearthly so, like Erza with, oh, pretty much any weapon ever, but good in the way normal people are, extremely good in that way.
And then her magic is nothing to scoff at either. It's an odd idea to wrap his head around, but Gray does a little research on Spirit Mages one day, just out of curiosity, and he's pretty surprised at what he turns up. First of all, each summons requires quite a lot of magic, and drains her more the longer she keeps it going. Her Spirits are of varying strengths and specialties themselves, some of them much stronger than Lucy could ever be – but it takes a different sort of strength to hold them in check. There's always the possibility that they could turn on her or it could simply not be the day of week that their contract allows summons for, and Lucy will be stuck unless they feel like helping her out. So the work of making the contracts and choosing which spirit to summon and keeping up that summons is actually really complicated.
Plus, he's got to factor in the Celestial Spirit Keys. They all look really goofy so Gray is inclined to look down on them. But there are only twelve of them in the whole world, and Lucy has nine. They're like the ultimate Spirits and she's got most of them, and to top that off they're all pretty much devoted to her from what Gray's seen. Well, except that mermaid one. Still, though – that's got to mean something, when even Loke is completely and utterly willing to do anything at all for Lucy.
And, as close as it may be, Lucy always manages to get the job done. She even defeated Bixlow when Gray couldn't. That stings enough that he has to remind himself several times that Lucy summoning Loke is just her style of fighting, not cheating, and it's proof positive that she shouldn't be taken too lightly. Gray keeps that in mind, and accordingly every time he deals with Lucy he is serious on a level he reserves only for the most important people.
(And then there's that look on her face sometimes, and it's not scary so much as a gentle soft smile, but it shivers Gray down to his bones and he knows: this woman is dangerous.)
4. More naïve than she appears.
It's certainly a surprise, especially given the clothes she wears and the casually vain way she assumes she can seduce people into things (which would be more annoying if it didn't frequently work), but her reaction when he finally kisses her makes it clear enough.
They've been flirting for a long time, and Gray wouldn't have thought it possible from the way she acts and the advice she's given Levy about Gazille (a conversation that made him and Natsu first laugh, then somehow redden and blanch simultaneously once they realized the girls were serious, then stick their fingers in their ears and shout 'lalala' until Lucy kicked them out of her apartment). But the way she turns red all the way to her ears and lets out this nervous little 'eep!' noise is plenty of proof.
It's also so fucking adorable that Gray doesn't let go of her until the air is absolutely necessary for survival, and that's when he learns that Lucy looks better ravished than any other way. When she, still blushing dangerously, snuggles up close to him without any idea of what the feel of her pressed all against him is doing, he learns that even when ravished she's still got no clue, whatever she might say, and prays he's got the fortitude for this.
(When she casually exposes their relationship in the middle of the crowded guild, Gray realizes just how far her naïveté extends – either that or she wants him to die at the hands of jealous male guild members.)
5. Stellar Spirit mage.
They've been dating for exactly twelve months and one day when Gray finally takes this particular fact to heart, and only then because his only alternative is a gruesome death.
He'd thought it was a normal day at first. But when he arrives at the guild, still a bit sleepy and looking forward to his coffee, all the tables in the place have been cleared away and stacked up against the far wall. Guild members cower behind the bar, and the moment he walks in the door he's met with cries to flee from several men, at least until Cana accidentally-on-purpose drops her tankard on their heads. Natsu keeps yelling anyway, but Erza casually pulls out a dagger and that's the end of that.
Standing in the center of the room are Lucy and Jjuvia. Gray pales immediately, because nothing has been able to stop the latter from attempting to assassinate his girlfriend since she'd become his girlfriend. If they're cooperating, he has to be in Edolas again or something but he has no time to worry about that now because Lucy isn't even saying hello, just turning and sticking a gold key into Jjuvia's stomach.
"I'm sorry," she whispers to the water girl, and Jjuvia cries fat wet tears, but nods sharply. Then Lucy twists her wrist, and out bursts a mermaid wielding a vase of water.
Normally Aquarius is angry at the world. That's bad enough. But this time she's angry at Gray specifically, and only the fact that he's an ice mage is enough to save him for the next several minutes, as she flings her power about and shrieks, "She finally listened and got a boyfriend, how could you dare to be a terrible one?"
Finally, scowling worse than ever, she says, "Che! Maybe you should learn something from my boyfriend."
And off she goes, but his reprieve lasts only for a moment before Lucy cries out, "Open! Gate of the Scorpion!"
Gray spends the next ten minutes dodging bullets (more like cannonballs) and the ice avalanches they set off, too winded to retort to the lecture he's being given on what a boyfriend should be like. Of course, then come the others, all furious and disappearing the moment it seems he might have the advantage or is even recovering his pace.
Gray fights his way through gold key after gold key, and by the time Lucy finishes up with the Gate of the Lion, his clothes are covered in holes, he's bleeding in several places, has wool caught in his teeth, and he thinks he has less hair than he used to.
"What the hell, man?" Gray shrieks at his old friend as he gets into a defensive position once more. "I don't even know what I did!"
Loke bares his teeth and actually growls, already firing off a first blast of deadly light. "What did I tell you when you started dating Lucy? If you ever made her cry –"
He doesn't finish the threat, in favor of attempting to carry it out instead. Gray is strong, incredibly strong, but Lucy's gotten strong too if she can summon these guys one after the other like this, and Loke is her strongest Spirit of all, and furious for god only knows what reason. So it's an incredible relief when Lucy finally snaps, "Loke! That's enough!"
Loke clearly doesn't want to leave, but grumpily fades away, glaring at Gray all the while. Exhausted, wounded, utterly confused, and still craving coffee, Gray flops to the floor as Lucy, also looking exhausted, picks her way over to him.
"What … was … that, Lucy?" he pants. "What did he … mean about crying?"
Lucy just smiles down at him in that way that's always hit him right there in the chest. Then she yanks out her Flueve d'étoiles and snaps it toward him with a crack! that Gray barely dodges in time.
"Yesterday was our anniversary, you idiot! How dare you forget it?" She shouts, murder and possibly tears in her eyes.
Gray is not an idiot. "Aaaaaaaaah, I'm sorry!" he screams, rolling out of the way of her whip as it cracks again and again. "I love you, I'm sorry, don't kill me, don'tkillme!"
In the background, the long-forgotten Jjuvia lets out a wail like she's dying and the heavens begin pouring down rain outside, but Gray doesn't much care because Lucy has just dropped the whip. She comes closer, step by step, and finally kneels before him, trembling a little.
"Do… do you really mean that?" she asks in a soft voice. It would be absolutely charming, but for the fact that her keys are clinking menacingly on her belt entirely on their own.
"What? Yes! Yes, anything!" Gray babbles. "I really, really, really love you!"
Lucy grins like anything at that and leans over to kiss him. Actually, more than leaning over, she practically flattens him to the floor amid the wreckage, and Gray maybe loses his head for reasons other than fear.
Eventually, she stands up, taking deep breaths and straightening her shirt. Her Heartfilia upbringing is evident in the graceful way she ignores the wolf-whistles from the bar. Lucy smiles down at him, then leaves the guild after giving him a wink that has a very clear meaning.
Gray rushes after, but Erza catches him by the back of the shirt and sternly informs him that he's not going anywhere until he cleans up after himself, motioning at the ice, bullet-holes, and other carnage scattered across the room. Natsu leans over her shoulder and, laughing, suggests Gray find some pants before a certain something bursts out of his underwear, Happy contributing the always-helpful "Aye!" of affirmation.
Said certain something doesn't calm until several hours later, after Gray cleans everything up and rushes over to Lucy's apartment. When he gets there she's having tea with Loke, and smiles at him perfectly casually while Loke wraps an arm over her shoulders and looks at Gray.
"What's the rush?" Lucy asks innocently.
(Once he's realized that she and her Spirits are willing to utterly destroy him for only something like that, Gray decides that he's going to love her forever and never make her cry again – for self-preservation reasons only, of course.)