This story takes places nearly right after Wendy and Charle join the group - Before Edolas and all that glory.

Pairings are Natsu/Lucy and Gajeel/Levy, but there's not going to be much in the way of romance.

Sorry, but there's going to be a disctinct lack of Natsu in the first two chapters. The only FT members you'll see are Lucy, Mirajane, Levy, and Gajeel.

Chapter 1 - Altivian City Request

"This sucks!"

Lucy plopped down on her usual stool at the bar, looking completely despondent. Her suitcase was lazily thrown down next to her, and had made a rather loud crashing noise when it hit the floor due to the force. Mirajane smiled at the blonde despite the bad mood she was obviously in.

"Something wrong, Lucy?" she asked gently.

"Ugh!" Lucy's forehead met the bar counter. "I missed my train, damn it! I was supposed to be on a mission with the rest of my team by now!"

"They didn't wait for you?"

"Apparently, Gray and Natsu got into a fight, caused property damage to a bunch of stores, and got on the train as soon as they saw the owners coming. Hell, I guess even Natsu has a limit to how much he'll pay for his own destruction, considering he'd have rather taken transportation than meet with the proprietors and discuss how the windows and walls were going to be fixed." Lucy sighed heavily. "They got on the first train they could find – Which wasn't the right train, mind you. They were supposed to wait for me and get on the 12:30 one! But nooo, they just had to break stuff and get on an earlier one just to skip out on paying! Waaaaah, I knew I shouldn't have left the job information with them! I can't even remember which town we were supposed to be going to!"

Mirajane continued smiling at her friend throughout her rant, though whether it was from sympathy or amusement was pretty ambiguous. "I guess that's what happens when Erza is out on an S-Class mission…" she pondered aloud. Lucy appeared not to have heard her.

"I'm dead…" she muttered. "Or worse, evicted. My rent is due and that mission was supposed to pay for it."

"Why not go on a solo mission?" Mirajane offered. "I'm sure there's something up there for you that'll help."

"Already checked. Nothing pays enough; and the ones that do are way out of my league."

"How about tagging along with me and Gajeel, then?" Lucy perked up at the sound of her best friend's voice. Levy came up and sat down beside her. The bluenette flashed her a grin. "If you need rent money that bad, we'll be more than happy to help! Right, Gajeel?"

A gruff snort came from behind them. Lucy wasn't sure, but it didn't sound like the Iron Dragonslayer was too into the idea.

"Do we have to bring Bunny Girl along? Two is more than enough for this stupid mission," Gajeel growled. Lucy rolled her eyes. She was right. Levy pouted.

"She's my best friend, Gajeel, and she needs help! Deal with it!" the tiny girl huffed. "At any rate, it doesn't matter. If you don't want her company, then I don't want yours. Either she comes with us, or you stay behind. Your choice."

Lucy had to stifle a laugh at how easily Gajeel changed his mind. His face couldn't have gotten any more surprised than it was right then. He stuttered around his words, trying to form a sentence. Finally, he just snorted and folded his arms. "Do what you want. I don't care." Levy stuck her tongue out at him.

"Ignore him, Lu-chan," she said with a wink. "He's just jealous that I prefer your company."

"I am not!" the iron-eater protested. Levy giggled. Lucy did too. Teasing Gajeel was fun.

"So, Levy-chan," Lucy began, turning back to her friend and away from the flustered dragon. "What's the mission you guys are going on?" Levy pulled a sheet of paper out of nowhere, and placed it on the bar. Lucy picked it up and began reading.





Reward: 600,000 J

Lucy eyed the request strangely. "Whoever wrote this sure has a… unique way of asking for help… And setting an IQ level for a mission? What kind of person does that?" Levy shrugged.

"It's probably because it's a find-and-rescue mission of sorts," she theorized. "You'd have to look through databases, newspaper articles… Instincts come into play… You'd need to be a pretty good tracker, too. Basically, your investigative skills have to be outstanding. I guess the person who sent the request out thinks that the smarter a person is, the better they'll be at finding someone."

"Then why is Gajeel coming along?" Lucy sniggered.

"Hey! Back off, Bunny Girl!" Gajeel snapped angrily. "In case you've forgotten, I've got a dragon's nose like that idiot Pinky. Tracking is something I'm good at."

"Plus, Gajeel's better company than people give him credit for," Levy added with a smile.

"Oh, is he now…?"

"Shut up."

"We were originally going to split the reward into half, but thirds will be just fine!" Levy explained, ignoring Gajeel. "What do you say, Lu-chan? Wanna come? I'm sure between us two girls, we'll be able to pull this off! Who else is as book-smart as us?"

"True…" A smile slowly made its way across Lucy's lips. "Alright, Levy-chan. I'll come along with you guys."

"Really? Thanks, Lu-chan!"

"What are you thanking me for? I'm the one who needed help!"

"Just don't weigh us down."

"Be nice, Gajeel!"

"Yeah, listen to your girlfriend, Gajeel!"


"Stupid bunny…"

Mirajane chuckled. She had no doubt that these three would get along swimmingly during this mission.

Lucy quickly found that her life was a lot easier when she wasn't looking after a completely motion sick Dragonslayer. Gajeel had a bout of it too, but he was holding up much better than Natsu usually did; at least, he was quieter than the rosette was. Gajeel probably didn't want to look like a weakling in front of them. If it weren't for the amount of sweat coming from his pores, Lucy never would've guessed that the iron-eater was motion sick at all.

"Alright, it looks like we're getting off at Altivian City…" Levy said. "It's right after the stop in Castello Town."

"We're actually going to see a city?" Lucy echoed, brown eyes widening.

"Yeah? So what?" Gajeel asked while simultaneously resisting the urge to puke. "Never been to a city before?"

"No, not really…" Lucy shook her head. She leaned on the seat's armrest and casually gazed out of the train car's window. "I mean, I've seen busy towns and everything, but I can't imagine what kind of crowds a city might have…"

"Well, Altivian City isn't much bigger than Hargeon, to tell you the truth, Lu-chan," Levy explained. "And the population is the same. Only a couple thousand people more."

"Really? Aww. I was looking forward to a big city adventure."

"We're not here so you can lazy around and go on a shopping binge, Bunny," Gajeel barked. It was hard to be threatening when you were glued to one spot. "This is work."

"I know, I know!" Lucy snapped. "Keep your trousers on. I'm not even thinking about shopping right now. I'm in the red Jewel-wise as it is."

"But we can at least window shop, right?" Levy pouted. "I especially want to see what kinds of bookstores they have!"

"Oooh, you're right, Levy-chan! Great idea!" Gajeel groaned, from both the conversation and the train ride.

"Women… They're all the same…"

Once the trio was off the train and in Altivian City, Gajeel was calmer and less grumpy – Which wasn't saying much considering his base personality, but it was definitely an improvement.

"So, where do we go from here?" he demanded. Currently, they were walking around the area aimlessly, and with no clue where to go. Gajeel wasn't a fan of meandering around inanely, especially when they didn't know a thing about where they were.

"Umm…" Levy looked at the sheet of paper again. "We have to find the home of a Mister and Missus Isdona. It says here that they live on the outer edges of the city."

"It kinda feels like we're in the middle of the city at the moment…" Lucy pointed out, sweating a little.

"Great. We're here for a few minutes and we're already lost."

"No, we're not!" Levy insisted. "Let's just ask somebody to give us directions!" Not wanting to admit she was wrong, the small bluenette began turning her head in a multitude of directions, looking for a trustworthy person to ask. She stopped when she came across a person in a very official-looking purple outfit. "Aha!" she cried, taking off in the person's direction.

"Levy-chan, wait up!" Lucy cried, running after her best friend. Gajeel tch'd, following at a much slower pace.

"Pardon me, sir!" Levy exclaimed. "Are you by any chance familiar with this area?"

"Of course I am, little girl," the man replied. "It's my job to know the place, as a guard."

"Oh! A guard! Great!" Levy smiled, completely ignoring the 'little girl' comment. "Do you think you could tell me where the Isdona household is? We know it's not in the center of the city, but…" The guard blanched.

"You're looking for that couple?" he asked slowly. "Why?"

"Is something wrong?" Lucy asked. "We just wanted to meet with them because of the job listing in our guild. It says they need help finding a person."

"We're from the guild Fairy Tail," Levy said. The guard sighed.

"Those two are one weird couple, I'll tell ya…" he muttered. "But if you're really looking for them, then you don't have to go far. They're not at home at the moment."

"How the hell would you know that?" Gajeel questioned him. The purple-clad guard pointed down the street.

"Their shops are over here," he explained. "They run them during the day. They're the reason why I'm posted here."

"Why are you posted here?" Lucy frowned. "It seems like a quiet enough street, even for a city…"

"I'm here to make sure no innocent bystanders get hurt."

"That still doesn't answer my-"

A loud crash interrupted the conversation.

The Fairy Tail trio, along with the guard and many other pedestrians, turned to the source of the noise. A red-haired man and white-haired woman were standing directly outside of two opposite stores – One a restaurant, the other a bookstore. Beside the man, there was a pool of water and broken glass, presumably from a pitcher than had broken.

"What did you say, Ervana!?" the man yelled. "Say that again! I dare ya!" The woman spat on the ground.

"I said, dear, that your customers obviously aren't very educated if they keep wanting to eat at your place! Either that, or they don't have any taste buds left! I've had your food! They'd be better off eating paper!"

"Well if that's what ya think, then why don't ya give 'em one of your books!? They can eat that instead! It's not like there's anything worth reading in that store, anyway, ya fruity bulb!"

"Fruity!? You're the one whose head looks like a strawberry, you old man!"

"Old!? Younger than you, at least, ya white-haired granny!"

And then, objects started flying through the air.

Many people were ducking for cover if they were around either of the buildings. The ones out of range of the attacks were watching them, placing bets, or ignoring them all together.

Lucy, Levy, and Gajeel were all staring at the scene with open mouths. The guard sighed.

"Looks like they're at it again…" he murmured.

"Wha- Wha- Wha-!?" Levy stuttered with wide eyes. She and Lucy were literally shaking from fear and surprise.

"The hell is up with those two?" Gajeel asked incredulously, raising one brow in curiosity. The guard shrugged.

"Cobalt and Ervana are always like this," he began. "They fight like they're hated rivals, even though they're married. Ervana runs a bookstore and Cobalt runs a restaurant. They both think they're better than each other. They tend to argue over who's more popular, who has a better income…"

"And they still get customers?" Lucy gawked.

"Everyone in the city knows that these aren't their real personalities. The Isdonas are actually very nice people. They're just very centered on their businesses."

"You mean…"

"Those are the people who we have to meet with?"

"Great. Because we can't just get normal clients."

"If you need to meet with them soon, I'd go talk to them now," the guard suggested. "They're not going to stop if no one interrupts."

"But isn't that your job?" Lucy asked skeptically. "To break them up?"

"Nope. My job is to make sure other people don't get hurt. I'm not going anywhere near that mess if no one's in danger. I wish you three luck." With a soldier-esque salute, the guard took off in the opposite direction. Levy and Lucy felt horrified.

"Wh-Wh-What do we do, Lu-chan…?" Levy whimpered.

"I don't know, Levy-chan… I don't want to get on their bad sides by interrupting or anything…"

"How are we supposed to talk to them if they won't stop throwing inanimate objects at each other!?"

"Oi! You two!" Gajeel yelled. When Levy and Lucy looked away from each other, they saw the Iron Dragonslayer approaching the fighting couple. The girls gaped.

"He's going up to them that easily!?" they chimed. The man and woman, known now as Cobalt and Ervana, paused mid-throw. Their expressions instantly changed.

"Oh, are you a customer?" Ervana asked gleefully. "Wonderful!" She dashed up to Gajeel and grabbed his arm. "Come in, come in! I have a wonderful selection of novels to look at!" Gajeel grimaced.

"No, lady," he replied gruffly. "That's not what I-"

"Are ya crazy, woman!?" Cobalt walked up to them and began wagging his index finger at his wife. "Does he look like the reading type to you!? He's obviously looking for some good eats!"

"Hey, now-"

"Then he'd better not go to your place!" Ervana snapped back. Sparks flew between husband and wife. Gajeel growled in frustration.

"Umm-! Excuse me!" Lucy perked up as she and Levy approached the scene. Cobalt and Ervana's attentions were immediately diverted again.

"Ah, what a pair of nice-lookin' young ladies!" Cobalt cried happily. He smiled widely at them. "What can I do ya for, girls? Need some sustenance?"

"You dolt!" Ervana barked. "These are obviously educated young women looking for a good book to read!"

"Actually, miss-"

"Oh? How can you be sure?"

"I just am! You can tell by the way they carry themselves that they're not like most of the people who go into that sorry excuse for a restaurant!"

"What was that!?"

"Oi!" Gajeel yelled. The couple stopped their bickering again, and looked to the muscled teen in oddity. "We're not looking for books or food! We're here responding to your request!"

"Request?" Cobalt echoed.

"Y-Yes," Levy continued. "You filed for a missing persons retrieval? The job was posted in our guild." The couple's faces softened instantly. Ervana released her grip on Gajeel.

"I see…" she mused. "And you three are mages?"

"Yes," Lucy answered, holding up her hand. "We're from Fairy Tail."

"That notorious guild…" Cobalt mulled over. He folded his arms. "I thought we put down we wanted smart people working this job."

"What!?" the mage trio cried in outrage. Cobalt laughed heartily.

"Bahahaha! Got'cha!" he chortled in clear amusement. "I was joking with ya, no worries. Geez, you people sure are uptight. Aren't you guys supposed to be fun-loving? Have a sense of humor!"

"Asshole…" Gajeel muttered. Levy jabbed him in the gut with her elbow.

"Do you think we could go somewhere and talk about what it is you want us to do exactly?" Lucy asked.

"Of course, of course!" Cobalt went around the three and put his arms over their shoulders. "Step right this way! We'll discuss it in my restaurant!"

"Nonsense!" Ervana huffed. "In a busy place like that? There's no privacy or quiet! We'll go to my bookstore!"

"Ha! So you admit that my place is busy!"

"Uh, actually, could we discuss the details in your home?" Lucy offered. "That's most private, don't you think?"

"Oh, you're right, dear," Ervana said. "That's a good idea."

"You'll have to wait a few hours, though," Cobalt added. "We can't just leave our stores like this in the middle of the day."

"That's okay, we'll wait." Levy smiled at the pair. "I'm sure we can find something to do in the meantime."

"You must come see my bookstore, then!" Ervana exclaimed, gray eyes shining. "I have a large and diverse selection to choose from at Ervana's Nirvana!"

"Ya damn airhead!" Cobalt yelled. "Eating is the best way to pass the time! Why don't you three come by The Iron Skillet for a bite?"

"Stop trying to woo them with the promise of good food! Whatever you serve in that place obviously isn't fit for mice, nevermind humans!"

"At least my customers have a sense of humor! They laugh when I tell them about your cooking!"

"What was that!?"

Lucy, Levy, and Gajeel sweated. Between the three of them, there was only one thing going through their minds.

We'd better be getting extra Jewels for having to put up with this…

Cobalt and Ervana are hella' fun to write.

Reviews are appreciated.