EDIT 4/13/14: I have made some changes to all the chapters (1-7) from when I originally posted because in re-reading to prepare for chapter 8 I noticed some plot discrepancies. For the most part these are minor changes, but it does fix a few small continuity errors. I have, however, left author's notes primarily the same.

I shouldn't do this, but I've got an idea briefly jotted down and I can't fall asleep very easily in my dorm because I freeze my ass off…so yeah. I'm typing it.

This is the first chapter of my newest idea. It's a GaLe fic, which is different…especially since this is going to be more than two little connected oneshots like my GaLe So Wrong, So Right. And as with all of my first chapters, THIS CHAPTER IS RATHER SHORT. And considering that I'm in uni now, I might keep updates for this one shorter.

It's also really early in the morning so forgive any fail and let me go back and fix it later. XD

Anyway, please enjoy Blood and Iron, chapter 1.

Levy McGarden stood in front of the request board, blatantly ignoring the riot going on behind her in the guild even though Nab from beside her had been hit with a flying chair and joined in the fray. She found that the best time to search for a job was while her old team was busy with surviving a free-for-all, because she could pick out jobs that she'd be able to handle alone—not that she didn't like her teammates, because they were still some of her very best friends, but they were just so much older now and not as fun as they used to be.

So the blue-haired solid script mage perused the board with her keen eyes and was soon dismayed when she realized that there wasn't really anything meant for her branch of magic alone. She found it rather irritating that she couldn't even go out on a job without dragging someone along with her. All Levy wanted to do was take a fairly simple job, like helping at the library or something, just so she could manage to pay her rent at Fairy Hills. Was that too much to ask?

Natsu's easily recognizable voice roared something at Gray in the background, but Levy was still valiantly staring at the jobs on the board, tongue in her cheek. She knew she was being stubborn, but she just really wanted to do a solo job. It had been weeks since she'd been able to go it alone, and she missed it.

"Finding anything you'd like to take?" a sweet voice said from just over Levy's right shoulder, and she turned slightly to look at the lovely Mirajane.

"No," the bookworm grudgingly admitted, running a hand through her hair exasperatedly. The only one she'd finally spotted, tucked under a request for the retrieval of a wedding ring from a deep sea cave near Hargeon, was a request to walk a four hundred seventy-three pound dog for a measly one thousand jewel. That would only pay one hundredth of a month's rent!

"That's too bad," Mira frowned concernedly, her gaze turning to the board as well. "Rent's due rather soon, isn't it?"

"I've still got two weeks," Levy told the white-haired woman quickly, "I just wish I could get a few jobs at around seventy thousand apiece. I could pay rent and buy groceries and books."

The light, bell-like laugh of the eldest Strauss sibling rang in the air as she laid a gentle, delicate hand on the solid script mage's shoulder. "I'm sure you'll find something you can take before the time's up!"

I hope so, Levy thought inwardly, but outwardly she simply nodded. Mira seemed satisfied for the time being and she glided through the mess of the room to return to her post at the bar, ready to pour all the drinks when everyone got tired out from their incessant fighting. The blue-haired woman shook her head lightly as Erza's cake flew across the room and hit Lucy in the back of the head. The blonde was going to get really angry about that—it was her slight vanity at work.

With one last look at the request board, Levy sighed and made her way around the edge of the room to slip onto a barstool near Mira almost unnoticed.

Sitting at the bar still didn't help, and in a few moments the dejected solid script mage's feelings began to lift as she pummeled Mickey backwards with a well-placed baseball bat in the air. The wall she used really helped when Visitar tried to speed toward her, and in quick succession she wrote soap and sent it to the floor. Everyone in the area started to slip and slide, effectively missing Levy if they had been trying to attack her.

Oh, yes. Venting some of her frustrations on her fight-happy nakama felt much better than sulking would have.

She couldn't help but notice that Natsu had purposely gone over to the darkest corner in the guild to drag the iron dragonslayer into the battle by any means necessary—he tried pulling on Gajeel's foot, and an iron rod came out of the shadows and drilled him in the chin and then the fire dragonslayer attempted bribing him with a piece of aluminum (Levy wasn't even sure how much iron was in aluminum, if any at all—she'd have to look it up)…but to no avail. What finally got Gajeel irritated enough to join in was Macao flying across the room and right into his head.

With a little sigh and a grin, the bookworm slid away from the fray and picked her bag up, hitching it upon her shoulders firmly. As much as pummeling her family helped relieve her sour mood, she decided that reading and editing the chapter manuscript tucked away in her bag would help calm her down a bit more. She inched her way to the door, making sure to duck the flying underwear that certainly belonged to Gray and, when she reached the exit, she glanced back. Jet and Droy were trying to sneak up on Gajeel while he was busy with Elfman, so the blue-haired solid script mage smirked a little deviously and wrote iron in the air, sending it flying and pinning her teammates to the ground right as the iron dragonslayer turned around.

Spying the two under the iron, he looked up, his red eyes searching for the shrimp that had to be responsible for this. He spied her at the door and she waggled her fingers at him, smiling, before disappearing. Gajeel smirked and lifted the word in one hand, contemplating it briefly before taking a bite and glaring Jet and Droy down in a menacing manner.

Meanwhile, Levy was making her way to Fairy Hills, walking quickly with her head down. Despite everything she'd just done—brawled with her friends and helped Gajeel against her own Shadowgear teammates—she still itched to find a job she could handle alone.

"I'll check again tomorrow," the bluenette finally decided firmly, nodding to herself.

Fairy Hills came into view shortly after and within fifteen minutes, Levy was in her comfy pajamas with a cup of hot cocoa sitting on the coffee table next to her as she snuggled into her armchair with a blanket, a red pen, and Lu-chan's newest chapter. It was the one where the servant girl was finally going to meet the prince, and Levy had been waiting for it for weeks. And even if that idea—the servant girl and a prince—wasn't original, the way her blonde best friend had started writing it made the solid script mage eager for more.

"Let's see…" Levy mused aloud to herself, flipping the chapter's title page aside to find her eyes graced with Lu-chan's elegant handwriting. The scribbles on the page and the tiny, cramped notes jotted in the margins always made the blue-haired girl grin because it let her know that Lucy was really serious about her writing—so serious that she repeatedly went back and edited or changed her own story chapters before she'd even let her trusted 'editor' see them.

She was going to make a fantastic author one day!

Levy grinned to herself and then read the story through once for her own pleasure before taking her red pen in hand and going at it again.

Lucy liked for Levy to be extremely critical in her edits, but it was kind of hard when the blonde was pretty near perfection as it was. There was one part where she had accidentally used a semicolon when it should have been a comma, one time she used then instead of than, four misspelled words, and one really confusingly worded sentence in an entire ten-page chapter. That was pretty damn perfect, as far as the bookworm was concerned. And as far as the story's plot itself…oh, mercy, Levy wanted the next installment already, never mind the fact that she had only just finished this one!

Levy picked up a nearby purple pen and then started to re-read the chapter again, this time adding a few minor suggestions here and there for Lucy to take or leave as she chose. Lu-chan was actually really excited when Levy suggested something, although the bluenette was never quite sure why. She didn't really leave much input, and she didn't think it would be very useful anyway.

After this second read-through, she nibbled idly on the end of the pen and just read through it a third and fourth time, incorporating some of her suggestions and edits to see how it read. If one of her edits didn't make sense, she would take her green pen and go back over them, but fortunately she didn't have to do that this time.

"That should be it!" she observed aloud, stretching her arms above her head as her shoulders cracked from sitting in one position for almost two hours.

And no matter what she did for the next three hours, be it showering, cooking a late-ish eight o'clock supper, talking to Laki for a moment in the hall, or even reading one of the books she'd borrowed from Lu-chan, she couldn't keep her mind from straying to thoughts of how the prince had actually seemed like such a colossal jerk in his introductory scene…and then how the servant girl, Nora, had seen him secretly passing a basket of bread to a poor kid from the street.

The solid script mage wanted to know why Prince Ian was hiding that side of himself in his day-to-day palace life, and why he'd disguised himself as a peasant himself when he'd passed off the bucket of food. But she'd have to wait, because her blonde author friend would wait until she had the chapter nearly perfect before letting Levy set eyes on it. There was no denying that Lu-chan was really protective of her works, and really a closet perfectionist, so Levy would just have to wait.

Sometimes the petite bluenette wished she was as impulsive as Natsu so she could sneak in through Lu-chan's window and read the unfinished manuscripts like he and Erza and Gray…but Levy respected Lucy's thoughts on her story and let her write it at her own pace and she waited as patiently as possible…all of which were extremely hard to do. Levy really didn't understand why Lucy wasn't already an author like she'd been aspiring to be for years. She never thought her stories were good enough, though, and she held them back.

And here her blue-haired best female friend was fidgeting, desiring nothing more than the continuation of the story—all the way until its completion.

So Levy was secretly a bit impatient…but she didn't usually let it show around the author. She didn't want Lu-chan to feel pressured to write anything in a hurry because she knew if a chapter or even a paragraph was rushed, it could throw off the flow of an entire story.

The solid script mage sighed then, flicking off the lights and dragging herself to her bed by the light of the lamp she had on her bedside table. The book she had borrowed from Lucy that she had been unable to concentrate on earlier lay on the edge of her bed, and with one glance at it Levy knew she wouldn't be able to concentrate on anything but the possible love story of Ian and Nora blossoming in her mind.

And sure enough, when she dreamt they were all about the forbidden love story of the prince and the servant girl.

Bag slung over her shoulder, Levy walked toward Fairy Tail the next morning at her own pace, head dancing with Lucy's characters and her dreams about them. Lu-chan really knew how to get characters stuck in someone's head, and that was a fact.

"…know what we're going to do!" a woman's almost hysterical voice broke Levy's trance, and she peered carefully around the next corner, spotting a couple and a young daughter conversing. Well, the man and woman were conversing and the child was merely looking back and forth between them. Levy wasn't certain what was happening, but she hoped it wasn't some couple's spat over custody issues because she didn't like the idea of the little girl being in the middle of it.

"I can't believe they sprung this trip on me so quickly!" the man groaned, and Levy noticed by their state of dress that they were likely very wealthy citizens.

"And we can't take Lizzie with us…" the woman frowned, her face contorted in a kind of pained expression. The little girl's hand clutched her mother's pea coat as she clutched her stuffed cat to her chest.

Knowing that it wasn't a custody spat and just an issue of finding a babysitter made Levy feel a bit better, and so she stepped onto the street and headed toward the family. She had to go by them to get to Fairy Tail, and taking any other route would be a ridiculously long detour. So she decided that it wouldn't hurt to just casually walk by as if nothing was out-of-the-ordinary despite the fact that she had never seen this family on this street in her entire life.

"That's why we've filled out this—hey, miss!"

The wealthy man cut off in mid-sentence, spying the bluenette walking up the sidewalk. She looked up a bit timidly just to check and make sure that he was talking to her, and then she straightened up a little more.

"Yes? Is there something I can help you with?" she opted to be polite—or as polite as she was capable of at the moment.

"You're from Fairy Tail, aren't you?!" the woman piped up, stepping forward in an instant and looking her over. "Yes! You're the solid script mage that helps at the library sometimes, aren't you? L…Levy, right? Levy McGarden?"

Oh, wow. Levy hadn't expected this rich and well-dressed woman to even recognize her from her volunteer work, let alone to recall her name. Levy couldn't even place the wealthy woman or her husband among the people that visited the library regularly, so she felt kind of bad. The woman at least had to be a regular to the library if she recognized the Fairy Tail mage that assisted there sometimes, right?

"Yes, that's me," she said slowly, unsure of where that would get her.

"Perfect!" the man's blue eyes twinkled and his voice held a sound of relief. "You see, we're running late—in fact, if we don't leave in five minutes we'll miss our train—so can you please, please take care of our Elizabeth for three days? We've got the request right here, so you can give it to your master to accept it officially, since I know you have certain channels to go through. Or even someone else at your guild, as long as they're trustworthy."

He was babbling and when he stopped for breath, his wife pitched in.

"You see, my husband was called away on business suddenly and I'm his assistant so I have to go along to help…but they told us that we weren't allowed to bring Elizabeth to the conference with us! It's really hard to find babysitters on short notice, but there's also the fact that we're afraid someone might want to kidnap her because of our position."

"We're rather high in the business world," the man chipped in rather unnecessarily. "I don't want them to use my daughter as ransom to get me to do something against my own business. I don't want Lizzie to be in that kind of danger in the first place…" he grimaced at the very thought.

"So, Miss McGarden, please take care of her for at least as long as it takes for someone else to take up the job! We're begging you! We'll pay 500,000 jewels!"

500,000 jewels?! Do they really have that kind of cash to just throw around like that? I couldn't take that much even if I did accept the job myself!

"Please!" the father added his plea to his wife's. The child was just looking at Levy curiously, and the bluenette felt rather put on the spot in this situation. If she refused, she'd inconvenience the rich couple, who seemed nice enough, when they were already running late. If she accepted, she could potentially lose her chance to take jobs to get her rent. If she succeeded, though, she'd have plenty to last for four months of rent and groceries…or three months of rent, groceries and new books.

"I—um—I'll take the request to the guild," Levy finally said, coming to her decision as quickly as she could because she didn't like the silence that had stretched after mention of 500,000 jewels, "And I'll take care of her, at least for a bit—"

She never finished her sentence because the brunette woman flung herself at Levy, hugging her tightly for a moment. "Thank you so much! I promise we'll pay you whatever you need, okay? Just…thank you so much! You've been a huge help! Here's the request paper," she motioned for her husband to hand it over as she reached for her young daughter's hand. The girl was probably no more than four years old. "And this is Elizabeth. Elizabeth, this big sister will be taking care of you for a few days, okay?"

The young girl, who had her mother's reddish-brown eyes and her father's hair, which was similar in color to Levy's own, nodded a little shyly as her mother gave her a huge kiss on the cheek and a quick hug. Her father did the same after passing the backpack that undoubtedly held the child's clothes over to Levy. He muttered a few extra things to her quietly, to which she nodded a few times. He proceeded to stand back up and ask her if she'd be a big girl, to which she replied with a soft, "yes",

"We'll be back in just a couple of days, all right, sweetheart?" he asked her, and she nodded again. The two wealthy business owners stood up then, the man grabbing their two suitcases, and both profusely thanked Levy again before promptly disappearing up the alley and leaving Levy McGarden of Fairy Tail with their daughter.

Now, it would have helped if Levy had known the basics of babysitting.

But then…if she asked Lucy for help, that was still 250,000 jewels for each of them, which would pay a good three months of Lucy's rent and leave her about enough for groceries…if you didn't count the fact that Natsu ate all of them when he snuck in…and 250,000 jewels was definitely enough for two months of her rent and some groceries. Levy was probably better with kids, anyway, so it would be a good idea to ask her.

First, though…Levy had to get to know her charge a bit better. The only problem was that she didn't even know where to begin.

THIS CHAPTER IS SHORT. Yes, I know. I'm not usually a GaLe writer, and this chapter really only has a couple of GaLe hints. Real stuff starts to happen next chapter, though, so please be patient.


Thank you and good night. It's 12:30 in the morning, I'm exhausted, and guess what?

It's my fucking 19th birthday.