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Erza burst through the front doors of the Metropolitan Police Service headquarters, late. The moment that she'd collapsed into bed, it had been time to get up. She'd had a real fright when she looked in the mirror and discovered she was covered in her own blood, the stares of onlookers on her way home making a little more sense in hindsight. After washing it all off, eating breakfast, throwing up breakfast, and dragging her weary legs out of her apartment, she'd fallen behind schedule and was now dreading her meeting with the Chief Inspector. Erza didn't even make it to the safety of her desk before one of her co-workers, Alzack Connell, intercepted her.

"Scarlet, boss wants to see you."

Erza sighed and trudged away from the bullpen and towards the huge austere doors of the Chief Inspector's office. She raised her hand to knock but a harsh voice from inside beat her to it.

"Enter."

Erza straightened her shoulders, lifted her chin, brushed the hair out of her eyes, and strode inside. She stopped in front of the large wooden desk and stood to attention.

"You wanted to see me, Sir?"

The Chief Inspector didn't react immediately. He continued to lean back in his chair, his fingers stroking the fur coat draped over his shoulders. His blue eyes slowly scanned the room, passing over Erza without making contact. Erza continued to stand to attention, staring intently in his direction, stubbornly refusing to budge.

Chief Inspector Laxus Dreyar was a dangerous man, aggressive, dogged, and intelligent, a very scary mixture of qualities. He was physically intimidating as well, his bulky muscular frame developed over years of amateur rugby. She'd heard stories about what he'd done to a poor constable who asked about the jagged lightning bolt scar that ran down over his right eye, there was no doubt he knew how to put those muscles to good use.

The silence continued to stretch, Laxus was playing one of his favourite games, 'pretend Erza doesn't exist'. Erza didn't make a sound, doing her best to play one of her least favourite games, 'don't give Laxus the satisfaction of letting it get to you'. Finally, Laxus leaned forward and rifled through his paperwork.

"Scarlet!"

"Sir?"

"I've got a message from a station in the East End that you have a suspect in the Salamander case detained there."

"Yes Sir."

"Where is your report?"

"I haven't written it yet."

"Hmm." Laxus tutted under his breath and flicked through some more papers. Erza didn't bite. She was way too tired to get into another yelling match with the Chief Inspector.

"It says here you've arrested Bora of Prominence, are you absolutely sure you want to proceed with this? He has some powerful allies, your head will be on the line."

Erza didn't blink. "The law will prosecute the guilty, I have faith in the process."

"It's not the process I'm worried about, it's your detective work." Laxus didn't bother looking up.

Erza's eyes narrowed but she kept calm. "When you allow me to return to my desk I'll be able to write up the report and you can judge my detective work for yourself."

"Mhmm."

They were back to silence as Laxus continued leafing through papers.

"Is that all, Sir?"

"No, there was one other thing."

A muscle above Erza's eye twitched as Laxus declined to immediately elaborate.

"Oh, here we are." Laxus pulled out a sheet of paper and pushed it across the desk. "You're to be assigned a junior detective out of the academy."

"WHAT!?"

Laxus didn't bother hiding his smirk, having finally gotten a reaction out of Erza. "You're to be assigned a junior detective—"

"I heard what you said! I've specifically stated that I'm not interested in taking on a—"

"I don't care what you've specifically stated. We have a class of graduates that need to be integrated into the police force, and I think that someone with such an outstanding record like yourself would be an excellent role model."

Erza bit back a retort, she really didn't have a leg to stand on here. She hated working with others, but what could she argue? That she didn't have an outstanding record? Erza glanced down at the list of names, various attributes graded across the page, their graduating marks.

"Fine." Erza spat finally, all pretence of coolness abandoned. "I'll take…Gray Fullbuster."

Laxus sneered derisively. "You thought you'd walk in here late and take the top of the class for yourself?"

Erza grimaced. Fullbuster was the one name on the sheet she'd recognised, there were plenty of rumours about the super rookie that had aced the academy.

"Okay then…" Erza scanned through the list again. "Max Alors."

"Taken."

"Warren Rocko."

"Taken."

"Reedus Jonah!"

"Taken."

Erza scanned further down the list, growing increasingly frustrated by the low scores she might be taking on.

"Nab Losaro!"

"…Taken."

Erza felt like pulling her hair out. "Who on this list is not taken then?"

Laxus' smirk widened. "Natsu Dragneel."

Erza's brow furrowed, she didn't remember reading that name. "I can't find him."

"Check the back."

Erza groaned as she turned the page over and saw the one name listed there. 'D in deduction, F in interrogation, F in case reports, C in teamwork, D in investigation, A in fitness…great, I've got a complete blockhead!'

"You're giving me the bottom of the class?" Erza hissed. "How did this guy even pass the academy with these grades?"

Laxus shrugged. "Superintendent took a liking to the kid, said grades aren't everything."

Erza scowled, the fact that this kid, this 'Natsu', was going to be a policeman, let alone a detective, cheapened the position for the rest of them. It cheapened it for her.

"I would think it goes without saying…" Laxus cut across Erza's internal ranting, "...such a special recruit needs a special detective to partner with them. I'll be monitoring Natsu's progress carefully to make sure you're…ah…nurturing his boundless potential."

Erza's knuckles whitened as her grip on the paper started to tear it.

"And, naturally, I'll be monitoring your work closely as well. It would be such a shame to lose our first female detective because she couldn't keep up with the normal responsibilities of a policeman."

It took all of Erza's mental discipline to swallow the hundreds of obscenities she dearly wanted to throw at Laxus.

"Don't worry, I would never let you down", Erza replied icily, "the first Chief Inspector in history to have a female detective in his division." This was the one piece of ammunition she had, the fact that her continued employment was a constant embarrassment to him.

Sparks flew behind Laxus' eyes, but he returned to his paperwork and didn't look at her again. "Junior Detective Dragneel is waiting for you at your desk. Dismissed."

OoOoO

Pink. His hair was pink. Erza had tentatively walked back to her desk, imagining the mouth-breathing grunt that awaited her. Pink hair was the absolute last thing she'd been expecting. 'Kids these days…'

Erza didn't approach him right away, instead, she stopped and observed him waiting for her from a distance. Spiky pink hair, tanned skin, dark eyes, sharp teeth, 'he's way too distinctive for undercover work', Erza thought bitterly. Natsu was leaning back in his chair casually, smiling widely like he didn't have a care in the world. 'Unprofessional, oblivious, unlikely to notice clues at a crime scene'.

Erza shook her head and walked over to the desk, approaching Natsu from behind. She sat down carefully next to him, waiting, hoping, he would notice her presence. Much to her disappointment, he didn't.

"Ahem." Erza coughed, finally.

Natsu jumped.

"Oh! I didn't see you there! I thought I smelled something different..."

Erza raised an eyebrow.

"Not like that! I mean— I'm really good with scents and—"

"I'm Detective Inspector Erza Scarlet. Justice is not a frivolous thing and I expect your attitude to reflect that. Wipe that gormless look off your face and introduce yourself."

Natsu gulped nervously and scratched the back of his head.

"Uh, I'm Natsu, I like—"

"Wrong! You're a representative of the law now, a barrier between the people and the state. How you conduct yourself, and how you introduce yourself, are vital to the strength of that barrier!"

"Oh! Okay…I'm Junior Detective Natsu, I like—"

"Dragneel. Junior Detective Natsu Dragneel."

"Sorry! I'm Junior Detective Natsu Dragneel, I like—"

"Okay, that's enough of that." Erza cut across swiftly. "This isn't a social club. We're here to solve crimes and bring the perpetrators to justice. To do that with maximum efficiency, I expect you to follow every single one of my commands without question, do you understand me?"

"Yes!" Natsu squeaked, his back straightening slightly.

"Good. Now sit quietly while I write up my report for the Chief."

Erza began the monotonous task of detailing her ordeal with the Salamander, but found it difficult to concentrate. True to his word, Natsu was sitting quietly, but he was constantly fidgeting, unable to sit still for longer than a few seconds. To her even greater annoyance, he also kept craning his neck to read what she was writing.

"Dragneel!"

"Y-yeah?"

"Stop moving."

"But I'm bored!"

'What is this child!?' Erza thought in bewilderment, her incredulous stare going completely unnoticed by a pouting Natsu.

"Your boredom is none of my concern." Erza began lecturing. "We're detectives with the Metropolitan Police Service. We see our work through right until the end, no matter how tiring or difficult or—"

"Scarlet." Alzack reappeared at Erza's desk. "Chief says you're off the Salamander case, it's being reassigned to a different detective."

Erza's pen exploded in her fist, ink saturating the papers on her desk.

"Why?" She hissed venomously.

Alzack shrugged his shoulders, unfazed by Erza's dangerous temper. His half-open eyes stared dully from behind his long black hair. "He said something about it being too difficult for you."

Erza went to stand but Alzack calmly put his hand on her shoulder and forced her back down into her chair.

"Don't. Just don't. Be thankful that you're still working on cases. Laxus has had me running errands and organising rosters ever since that incident with my wife at the staff party. Eventually, more women will join the workforce and he'll be forced to change with the times, keep your head down until then."

Erza nodded slowly, Alzack's words cooling her down. He straightened up, dropped a folder on her desk, and walked away.

"Your new case, chosen personally by the Chief...Sorry in advance."

Erza opened the folder tentatively, Natsu trying to catch a glimpse from over her shoulder. There were two letters inside.

Chief Inspector Dreyar,

A body was discovered on Buck's Row in the early hours of this morning by a passing cart driver. From what we understand she was just a local prostitute, not an uncommon occurrence, but due to the particularly gruesome state of her corpse I believe it's better if we hand this over to Scotland Yard. We have the doctor's report, and the officers that were first on the scene, waiting at our station in Whitechapel.

-Constable Edwards

Erza groaned, the mere mention of Whitechapel causing her head to throb. She shuffled the pages and began reading the second note.

Scarlet,

I'm assigning you to this extremely important case! Leave no stone unturned, no bystander unchecked, no house unsearched! Why, the notorious Salamander is NOTHING compared to the death of this random prostitute!

When I was thinking about which of my trusted detectives to give this vital case to, your face kept appearing in my mind every time I read the words, 'prostitute', 'corpse', and 'gruesome'. It was uncanny! And since you seemed to have so much fun staying up late in Whitechapel last night, well, it's a perfect fit.

I hope to see some immediate progress in this great prostitute mystery!

-Chief Inspector Dreyar

Erza snapped the extremely sarcastic file closed and set it away from Natsu. 'He doesn't need to get caught up in this', she thought with a mix of sadness and jealousy. This kid would have it all so easy, made a detective with abysmal grades, clearly no ambition to move up the ranks, he'd probably avoid Laxus' wrath due to his laidback attitude. She had no business ruining an easy life for him.

"Where are we going?" Natsu asked innocently.

Erza sighed deeply, her headache intensifying.

"Whitechapel."


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