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L o u d e r T h a n W o r d s

"Come live in my heart, and pay no rent."
~ Samuel Lover

A loud knocking at her door woke her up. Lucy sat up and stretched languidly, raising her thin arms over her head and arching her back. She hadn't even realized she had fallen asleep. Judging by the light filtering in through the window, she'd been napping for at least a couple of hours since she curled up with a book on the couch around five after a short bath, though her hair was still a bit damp where she'd been laying on it.

Her latest job ended earlier that day and it had been unbearably hot. When she had reached her cool apartment, her long blond hair was clinging annoyingly to her sweaty neck and she promptly stripped and sank into her cool bath with Plue.

She had almost forgotten what woke her up when she heard the knocking again, harder this time so that she was slightly worried that the door would break in.

"I'm coming, I'm coming!" Lucy called, hoping to placate whoever it was. From the insistent and obnoxious rapping she considered Natsu for a second, but waved the thought away. Natsu didn't knock. He didn't even use the door.

She opened the door and was surprised to find Gray standing there. It was one of those rare moments when he was fully clothed. He didn't usually use the door either.

"Gray?" she said hesitantly. "Why are you here? And, why did you use the door?"

"I came to check your apartment and," he said, shooting her a confused glance as he stepped in, "haven't you been yelling at us to knock like normal, civil people?"

"Yeah," she said, still feeling hesitant. She was caught off guard, and she didn't really know how to react, so she just followed him as he started inspecting her apartment. "I just didn't expect you guys to ever actually listen."

"Well, I listened. Be grateful," he said, leaning to look under her bed. She had no idea what he expected to find under there.

"What are you looking for?" she asked, standing behind him as he pulled out boxes of storage she stashed under the bed to keep her apartment from becoming too cluttered. One was completely full of stuffed animals. He pulled one out and looked from it to her and back with a raised eyebrow. They were from her childhood and she had been too sentimental to leave them behind. The one he was holding up was a plump, purple hippopotamus. She lunged forward and snatched Helga the hippo away from him. "Hey, don't judge! These are personal things!"

Gray smirked at her and pinched her nose, "You're definitely one of a kind, Lucy."

"What's that supposed to mean?" she pouted, rubbing her nose and returning her precious stuffed animals under the bed.

He shrugged his shoulders and went back to searching, "It means what it means. I doubt there's anyone else like you in this world."

"I understand that, but was that supposed to be a compliment or insult," she asked, trailing him around her rooms again. He wondered into the bathroom, opening her cupboard doors and inspecting every item within as if one of them could possibly be an explosive.

"It's how you take it," he said vaguely.

Lucy frowned and crossed her arms, "Judging by your vague responses, I'm lead to believe it's an insult."

He paused in his rummaging to look at her. It wasn't one of those short looks meant to convey a meaning or read a response, but a long, measuring one. Gray's eyes trailed over every inch of her face, her skin feeling warm beneath his searching gaze, before he seemed satisfied and looked away.

"There's nothing wrong with being unique," Gray said, refocusing on the cupboard. When he finished searching the shelves, he left the doors swinging open and looked around her bath. Lucy hurried forward to shut the door, hating that he was leaving her apartment disorderly in his wake.

"So, it's a compliment, then?" she asked.

He sighed, "You're reading too much into one phrase. Forget I said it."

Lucy huffed, but decided to let the matter drop, remembering that he hadn't answered her question. "Fine, but you still didn't answer. What are you searching for?"

"Anything suspicious," he said simply.

She waited for more of an answer, but seeing that he didn't intend to say anything more on the subject she pressed, "Like what? And, why?"

"Well, I was at the guild and the flamehead was complaining about how you always yell when he comes over to play with you," Gray explained. She scowled remembering that Natsu and Happy had been waiting for her when she had finished her bath and had emerged in only her towel. They both jumped at her and insisted that she play with them and she had turned bright red and expelled them from her apartment with yelling and threats of violence. "And, I was struck by how easy it was to sneak into your apartment and I decided to search for any signs that anyone else had broken in."

Lucy was touched. Then she yelped, "Wait a minute! You mean someone else might have snuck into my apartment?"

"Possibly," Gray said, continuing his search. Lucy followed him again as he swept through the rooms of her home, wringing her hands and feeling more fretful than before.

They ended back up in the main room. Gray clapped his hands together in a self satisfied way and said, "Well, it looks pretty clean. Nothing seems out of the ordinary."

"That's a relief," Lucy said. Gray sank into the couch and reclined back on the cushions. At some point in the apartment inspection he had lost his shirt and shoes. "I'll get you something to drink."

Lucy returned with soda for him and a bottle of water for herself. She slid the can into his hand and plopped down beside him on the couch, close enough that their shoulders touched. He opened the can and emptied about half the can in one swig. She laughed at him, turning to face him. "Thank you, Gray."

"No problem," he said, taking a much small drink this time before placing his can down on the side table. His more subdued company was a welcome change from Natsu and Happy. She loved them to death, but they always left her apartment in ruins before she kicked them out.

They settled into a companionable silence, during which he kept glancing over at her like he was going to say something and then changing his mind and looking away.

Finally she asked, "Is there another reason that you came over here?"

He sent her another one of those searching looks that made her feel too aware of her skin. "You really want to know?"

"Yes?" she said, raising her eyebrows questionably. If Natsu were here he would have said something along the lines of I asked you, didn't I? Of course I want to know, you exhibitionist! Then, they would start fighting. They were always fighting.

"Okay, well…I came over here to tell you…that…well…you know….when I first met you…those big brown eyes…when we go on jobs…pink, lacy underwear…and-and, so smart, found where the grave was…I…well…I," Gray said, struggling with forming actual full sentences. Lucy watched on with stunned silence, not sure what to make of the disjointed fragments.

"What?" she asked.

"Well, screw it," he said viciously. "Give me your water bottle."

Still stunned, she handed the bottle over to him with wide brown eyes. He took it and flung it over his shoulder. It crashed into her bookshelf and knocked a few of them off. Lucy gasped and raised her hand to gesture at what he had done, but he caught her wrist and pulled her closer on the couch before putting his arms on either side of her, framing her head.

"Gray! What are you doing?" Lucy asked, her face bright red at his close proximity.

He smirked down at her and she felt lightheaded, "I'm going to kiss you."

She squeaked, frozen in place as he leaned in and pressed his lips to hers. Her first instinct was to shove him away, but when she put his hands on his chest she was pleasantly surprised. Lucy had known since she'd met him that he was well muscled because it was more often that his shirt was off then it was on. What she hadn't expected was for it to feel so…nice.

In all the times that he'd been shirtless in her presence, she had never been embarrassed, but at that moment, with his skin pressed against her and under her fingers, her cheeks remained flushed. Lucy liked the roughness of his chest as she ran her finger pads across his cool skin.

He smiled against her lips and tilted her face up to deepen the kiss. Instead of pushing him away, she was pulling him closer and closer. His hands were in her hair, now completely dry in the time it took to look over all her rooms, and her fingers had moved to his back and neck.

When his tongue slipped into her mouth, she pulled back with a gasp. They both panted.

"That...," Lucy said, still struggling to catch her breath, "…that…I don't even know."

Gray laughed breathlessly, "Good don't even know or bad don't even know?"

Normally, as an aspiring author, Lucy put a lot of stock into words. With the right words, a person could persuade, manipulate, describe…anything. Words were a magic of their own. But, at the moment, she knew that words couldn't capture what she was thinking and feeling at the moment.

So, like Gray, she decided to talk with her actions, "Well, screw it."

Then, she pushed him back against the arm of the couch and kissed him within an inch of his life.

When she pulled away to look down at him with an alluring smile, he affectionately pinched her nose again, "Yep, one of a kind."