Disclaimer: I do not own the Fairy Tail series or any of the characters.
Summary: It's tax season in Fiore, and Lucy needs to concentrate. What Lucy does NOT need is a distraction. But some things, like death and taxes, are simply unavoidable. Especially with friends like hers.
Lucy had never done taxes before.
Teenaged daughters of wealthy families weren't really expected to concern themselves with such things. That's what the family's accountants were for. And yes, that word was plural.
Lucy was determined that she could defeat this challenge by herself. The forms looked daunting at first glance, but her finances were actually pretty straightforward. Adding up the receipts from the jobs she had done was a little depressing, since it drove home just how often the rewards had been reduced or revoked due to massive property damage. But she could do this! This wasn't so bad!
Subtract this number from the total on line 200... multiply by...
Meticulously, she chiseled away at her rough copy with a pencil. There was nothing to it! It just took patience, careful reading, some basic math, and the ability to follow directions.
Actually, that explained the aura of frantic insanity within the Fairy Tail guild hall lately. The ability to follow directions was not a trait commonly found there. Most of the guild lacked even the slightest capacity to behave in any way that might cause them to be mistaken for mature, rational, fully-functioning adults.
Master Makarov hadn't come out of his office in three days. Every now and then, sobbing could be heard through the locked door.
Levy was making a fortune doing other people's taxes for them.
Cana wasn't willing to pay Levy's astronomical fees, but she wasn't about to do any work that might cut into her drinking time, either. Instead, she had talked Romeo into believing that her forms were part of some sort of Fairy Tail entrance exam. The six-year-old boy had happily accepted the challenge. Cana, delighted but thoroughly baffled, was still trying to figure out how he'd gotten her a pretty substantial refund.
When Macao found out what Cana had tricked his son into doing, he was only upset that he hadn't thought of it first.
Just yesterday, Lucy had watched in horrified awe as Natsu had done his taxes. At first, he had simply glared at the forms, refusing to go near the table they were laying on. After about twenty minutes of this, he charged forwards with a violent scream and scribbled frantically. He managed to get about halfway through the first page (which only asked for his name, his address, and other basic information) before the stress overwhelmed him and the forms burst into flames. Hastily putting them out, he skipped to the final page, wrote a big zero, and slammed the forms into an envelope. He didn't stop hyperventilating until it had been taken out of the building.
Still, that was slightly better than Happy, who had done his taxes in crayon. And substituted drawings of different kinds of fish in place of actual numbers. He'd spent all day on it, humming contentedly to himself.
Lucy had decided that this sort of environment probably wasn't conducive to actually getting anything done. Determined to avoid the madness, she had chosen to stay home today, in the comfort of her nice, quiet, peaceful apartment. Alone.
Sighing, she put down her pencil and rubbed her temples for a moment. Then she turned to face the window (not the door, no, never the door), where Natsu was making his grand entrance.
"I'm certain I told you I wanted to be alone today to get this done," Lucy commented. "I'm pretty sure I made you repeat that information back to me, too, so don't try to pretend you didn't hear me say it. Why are you here?"
Natsu tugged at his scarf, looking unusually sheepish.
"I wasn't going to come here," he answered. "But then I didn't have a choice. I kinda... well, you see..."
Lucy aimed a sceptical frown at him. At times like this, she longed for the ability to raise one eyebrow on its own, just so that her expression could better demonstrate the extent of her displeasure. She picked her pencil up again and began tapping the eraser end impatiently on the table top. The rapid staccato made Natsu squirm as Lucy waited for his explanation, deeply unimpressed.
"My house burnt down," Natsu finally announced.
Lucy dropped her pencil in shock.
"Oh no," she murmured, dismayed. "Oh Natsu, I'm so sorry!"
"It's okay," he said, shrugging. "I saved all the important stuff."
"I'm glad," Lucy said. He was being so brave about it! She couldn't imagine losing her home like that. She was sure she'd be bawling if it happened to her. "Is there anything you need?"
"Well, I was kinda hoping I could stay with you until I build a new house," he replied, grinning winsomely at her.
Inwardly, she flinched at the idea, but how could she say no? If their roles had been reversed, she knew he wouldn't hesitate to take her in. In fact, in such a situation, he would probably bring her home with him by force, whether she liked it or not.
"Of course," she told him kindly. "Stay as long as you need to."
"Great!" For someone who had just lost his home, Natsu seemed awfully chipper. "I really need a place to keep my stuff. I was worried it would get rained on."
Lucy had a sudden image in her mind of what her apartment was going to look like with Natsu's possessions scattered everywhere. She forced herself to take a calming breath. It's not forever, I can live with some clutter for a while. It's just until he has a house again. It's not forever.
Still, she wasn't being entirely selfless when she asked, "Is there anything I can do to help speed up the construction?"
"Nah," he said, sauntering across the room. "I'm getting pretty good at rebuilding it now. Lots of practice."
Lucy felt her eyelid twitch. "Your house has burnt down before?" she asked carefully.
"Oh, loads of times," he confirmed cheerfully, disappearing into her kitchen. "I don't know how this keeps happening."
Lucy closed her eyes and massaged her temples again. She could hear cupboard doors slamming and cutlery rattling. Something clattered on the floor.
Just business as usual.
"Lucy, the milk's gone!"
It hadn't been five minutes ago.
She opened her eyes and got to her feet, summoning her courage while she prepared to rescue her kitchen. As she stood there, her gaze landed on her half-finished taxes. An idea was forming. A smile started to grow. Slowly, she flipped back to the first page.
Picking up her pencil, she found the section that asked for her marital status. Erasing the X she had marked beside "Single", she sketched a faint mark in the box next to "Common Law" instead. It was just a joke, and she would change it back later, but a girly part of her brain was doing a giggly little dance in her head. Because maybe she was starting to like him a little. Or not. She wasn't sure. Suffice it to say, she wasn't opposed to the idea. He might be a bit of an idiot, but he was a lovable one.
But the minor thrill aside, it was mostly just for a laugh — a joke to help her keep her sanity. Sometimes, a good sense of humour would serve you better than all the courage in the world.
Chuckling wryly at herself, she headed into the kitchen to control the chaos.
A while later, Lucy looked around her apartment and scowled. How did this keep happening? And how did they keep getting in? She was certain the door was locked.
"Gray, stop reading that and put some clothes on!" she demanded, snatching her manuscript out of the half-naked ice mage's hands.
"Erza, leave my underwear drawer alone. Buy your own if you're so fascinated!"
Red-faced, Erza slammed the drawer shut.
"Happy, I'm going to get you de-clawed if you don't stop scratching up my furniture."
The exceed, unlike Erza, did not even glance in her direction.
"And Natsu!" Lucy yelled, "I smell smoke and it had better be my imagination! And why is my fridge empty? I just bought groceries yesterday!"
Lucy collapsed into her chair, exhausted, and surveyed the mess before her. Her tax papers, which had been neatly organized not long ago, were now scattered haphazardly across the table. Some of the pages had dusty feline footprints on them.
Sighing, Lucy began to gather them up.
"Whoa!" crash! "Oh crap."
Lucy froze and dropped the pages back onto the table top. She didn't even want to know what that noise was.
"It's okay, I'm alright!" came a shout from somewhere out of sight.
For a moment, Lucy stared straight ahead at the wall. An unenlightened bystander might have been fooled by her calm facade, unaware that she was valiantly battling the urge to strangle her friends. Instead of committing violence, and demonstrating extraordinary restraint, she picked up her pencil and changed her answer from "Common Law" back to "Single".
On the line for "Dependants", she wrote in "4".
Then she buried her head in her arms on the tabletop, and groaned in despair.
A/N: It's amazing, the everyday things that can suddenly lead to inspiration. I never thought I'd wind up writing a fic about taxes. Am I the first? I've never seen this topic used in any of my favourite fandoms.