Author's Note: Okay so... you found this. You've dug it up from an almost grave. I'd love to delete it and start from scratch but I'm too vain to give up my reviews. This piece is under construction. I've deleted chapter two because it displeased me immensely.
Pretty please move on and don't read this until I fix it?
*The quoted definition below came from DictionaryOfObscureSorrows on tumblr.
Monachopsis - [noun] - the subtle but persistent feeling of being out of place, as maladapted to your surroundings as a seal on a beach—lumbering, clumsy, easily distracted, huddled in the company of other misfits, unable to recognize the ambient roar of your intended habitat, in which you'd be fluidly, brilliantly, effortlessly at home.
Life outside of prison took some adjustment. In both the literal and metaphorical sense. Meredy tried to be helpful by wording it as readjust, but Jellal was opposed to that terminology. The last time he'd truly been himself and not locked away was as a filthy child draped in rags screaming about rebellion and freedom. His most recent incarnation had been devoid of all memories save one. It didn't count.
It was odd knowing that Ultear had been the one at his wheel for so many years, and yet he found himself by her side once more as an ally. Of course, he wasn't sure there had actually been a time when she hadn't been an ally in his mind; such was the depth of her deception. He know why he'd forgiven her so wholeheartedly. She'd taken everything from him that had ever mattered in his shitty existence. His freedom. His friends. Erza. But she was familiar to him nonetheless. So he followed her out of the cell.
He was just a shell of a person now. Half his life wasn't even his – and during that half he'd been somewhat complicit to despicable things – and the other half was only the dim memories of a child. His head felt like a jar full of pebbles and the glass was so scuffed he thought he wouldn't ever see clearly through it again.
They were a tightly knit group of three, but Jellal often felt like an outsider. Meredy worshipped Ultear and he felt… indifferent? Indebted? Indentured? He wasn't sure, but when his memories had finally come back to him he'd been fine to stay rotting away, buried deep in a prison where he wallowed in filth and sorrow. Ultear viewed penance differently than he did. Jellal didn't allow himself creature comforts such as deeper human companionship. He didn't seek out lovers or have an equivalent of Meredy. Jellal didn't believe he deserved those things. Ultear believed that if she were to continue on her path of vanquishing dark magic, she required certain allowances.
"Did you know Meredy believes you to be asexual?" Ultear said absently as she tossed a handful of twigs into their dying fire. Jellal glanced at the bedroll in the shadows and sighed.
"What difference does it make?"
"She's curious about you. You're the only man who's ever been kind to her without asking for subservience in return."
"And my sexuality is part of that curiosity?"
"A little, yes. It's natural for her to wonder what makes you tick. What you desire. Her magic is along these lines."
"If she's so curious why does she not slap a sensory link on me?"
"I don't think that's a good idea," Ultear said dryly.
"And why is that?" Jellal prodded. He was feeling particularly nettled. "You were younger than her when you slid right into my head and began to pull strings. Are you trying to be the protective authority you never had?"
Jellal shrugged and looked away. "Sorry."
"You don't owe me any apologies, Jellal."
"What was it like?" He asked quietly, staring into the flames.
"What do you mean?"
"Being in my head. I still have a hard time… it's strange remembering it. I recall the doing but not always the why. At the time everything made sense, but now…"
"It –" Ultear paused and exhaled. "It was hard to overcome the brightness of your essence, Jellal. I didn't take you over and command you like a puppet, but instead, subverted and rerouted your natural instincts and proclivities. Things became easier when…" She cleared her throat and looked away. "Well, after –"
"After you got rid of Erza, you mean?"
"Yes. The sway she held over you at that time was… difficult to manage. I had to keep a stricter eye on Seigrain than you because even your projection was drawn to her. It stretched my control quite thin at times. He came across as more cruel than you intended, I believe."
"So the things I did and the decisions I made were technically my own."
"In a manner of speaking, yes, but not in the way you're thinking. You'd never have come up with the idea to continue the tower's construction because your priorities weren't the same as Grimoire Heart's. If left to your own devices, you'd probably have followed Erza all the way to the front gates of Fairy Tail. I twisted your childlike philosophies into a manner befitting my own interests in Zeref. Truth be told, I had no intention of sharing with Hades if I got my hands on him first. Without my interference, none of those crimes would've been committed."
"There's darkness inside us all. No one is without it. You were a strong-willed child, and it was your drive to escape and punish the men who hurt those you loved that opened the door for me."
"So love is a weakness after all." He laughed at that.
"Only if you're hell bent on making it so."
"Am I hell bent, Ultear?"
"I think you're hell bent on punishing yourself for not being stronger at a time in your life when only malicious people like me are strong. I wish you wouldn't."
"The reason I don't allow Meredy to dig into you isn't for her sake. It's for yours. I think you've had enough of that sort of thing, don't you?"
Crime Sorciere was meant to bring him peace, but he found it hadn't. And probably wouldn't. Ultear didn't offer to spare time to search the blank space in the ocean where Tenrou Island was meant to be, but he supposed that was because she knew he'd decline. Their mission was clear and it wouldn't do to derail and search for an almost lover. He suspected that his guildmates knew he didn't think her dead, but the subject was never breached.
There was… something in the back of his mind that tickled at him. The form of it was nebulous at best, and the function even less known. But it felt like Erza. Not her body or voice or anything like that. Just a feeling that threaded him to her. He didn't think he was entitled, but held fast to it all the same. He could only access it in the hazy moments between sleep and dream. Sometimes it would be the way her hair felt slipping through his fingers all those years ago. Dirty as it was, he'd still thought it lovely. Other times it would be a warm ball that lodged itself in his chest. She wasn't dead.
However ill-defined the thread was, if Erza ever reached out to him and connected the way she had when her life had been in danger, he knew he wouldn't stand to the side. He'd go to her. More than a few times over the years he caught Ultear curiously gazing at him through the fire. He guessed that she had a good idea of where his thoughts retreated at the end of the day; despite Meredy's assumptions of his sexuality.
They'd been walking for miles under a cloudless sky when it happened. Jellal fell to his knees and exhaled harshly. Meredy must have rushed to his side because he felt her fawning but didn't have the wherewithal to deflect. The dormant thread in his head suddenly felt hot and he closed his eyes in a sudden mental push. He saw a flash of green and blue before feeling a presence that was unmistakably Erza before retreating as far from the thread as possible. He knew she was alive and that was enough for now.
Two days later Ultear tossed a tabloid into his lap as he rested in the shade and smirked at him. The headline read: Lost Fairy Tail Members Recovered!
"You knew," she stated plainly.
"You did, though. You practically fainted on the road on the day they were found. Explain."
"I can't. It's… complicated." Jellal tossed aside the paper magazine and stretched his legs out in front of him. "I never thought she was dead anyway."
"So you don't know why you collapsed in the middle of the road on the same day Erza appeared back in the world?"
He sighed, and leaned back against the tree trunk. "She called to me once. When I was in prison I heard her voice, and felt her inside of me. She was in a dire situation, and I felt her. I spoke to her, as well."
"What?!" Ultear's incredulity drew a laugh from him.
"What I felt on the road the other day was like a whale breaking the surface of a placid ocean. It was incredible, and I didn't expect it."
"But it was Erza awakening? Did she speak to you?"
"No, I saw some flashes of what I assume were her surroundings, but I pulled back as quickly as I could."
"Huh." Ultear was silent for several moments. "I was inside your head for almost a decade and why is it that I never felt even a tickle of this connection?"
Jellal laughed again.
"This isn't funny, Jellal. Mental and sensory connections can be dangerous. Meredy is still figuring out the nuance of her magic and it's clear that certain uses can severely damage the human mind."
"Maybe I am crazy. It would serve me right."
Ultear huffed and stood. "You're going to describe this to Meredy and we'll see what she says."
"Because we rely on you!" She frowned. "And I'll not have you going mad before admitting the truth of things."
"And what truth is that?"
"That you're a masochist and none of what happened was your fault. You feel guilt for things I did. And –"
"I'm not going mad, Ultear."
"We'll see." She turned to go and stopped herself. "And you better behave yourself."
"Now that Fairy Tail has its strongest members back I'm sure the winner's pot for the Grand Magic Games will look quite appealing. I understand they have a significant amount of debt. If we want an inside source we'll need to make contact with them. Fairy Tail is the most likely to deign to work with us. The dark magic is festering and even if they won't feed us information, they should know about it."
"What does this have to do with my behavior?"
Ultear grinned. "Because Erza will most likely be amongst our contacts. Don't put her off with talk of whales and oceans and mental links. I'm serious, Jellal."
He laughed and pulled up his hood. "I wouldn't dream of doing any such thing." His cavalier attitude was a front. The link terrified him, and it had been many years since he'd seen her last. More for him than for her, and even though he knew he was beneath her in every way… he still hoped that she'd at least be happy to see him.
He'd been honest with her.
He'd been honest and she'd slapped him. She already thought him a brooding coward so there was no point in mentioning the mental link he suspected existed between them.
What he did next was worse than the slap. He lied. He made up the most clumsy, unbelievably ridiculous lie and tossed it out there in the open. Right away he felt like a fool. Of course she knew he was lying. The expression on her face as Crime Sorciere left the group of squirming mages on the floor of a hut told him as much. Jellal wanted to hope that one day he'd make it up to her for embarrassing her with such a lie, but that hope couldn't be realized without deviation.
Later, when Meredy and Ultear laughed at him – deservedly so - he thought that at the very least the assumptions of his sexuality could be squashed.
Dressing as Mystogan was possibly the most uncomfortable he'd been in years. The bandages and cape were excruciatingly hot and bothersome. Laxus Dreyer's constant prodding didn't help his situation. He seemed to be the only one who'd had enough contact with Mystogan to school him on proper behavior. Jellal hadn't ever thought of himself as chatty before.
"You know you're obvious as fuck, right?" Laxus drawled from behind him.
"You're staring at her like the area isn't filled with thousands of other people. Mystogan was more aloof than that."
"No one has ever accused me of lacking an aloof demeanor."
"Well, I'm telling you that you'll give yourself away if you keep eye-fucking Erza like that. You'll be lucky if she doesn't knock your teeth through the back of your head when she catches you at it." Laxus hooked his hands behind his neck and grinned salaciously. "You two got a thing or something?"
"No." Jellal pried his eyes from Erza long enough to fix Laxus with a glare. "We do not have a thing. I've just known her for a long time."
"You wondering if she's into older men now?" Laxus appeared next to him and spoke quietly into his ear. "You're pushing thirty and she's still got that hot younger body. That must be rough."
Jellal wouldn't admit that the dragon slayer had struck close to home. "It wouldn't matter if there wasn't a gap between us. Erza and I cannot be… close."
"Sure, man, whatever. Don't blow your cover by thinking with the wrong head, that's all I'm saying." Laxus returned to his chair and balanced it on two legs as he reclined into the wall. "You should know, though, that if Erza didn't kill you before - it means something. Maybe you should actually talk to her before making decisions about the two of you."
"I don't –"
"Don't top from the bottom, Mystogan. It doesn't work like that."
The other members of Team B joined them in the tunnel and conversation ceased. Jellal was grateful. It irked him that he'd not only been obvious but others around him had picked up on it so quickly and easily.
He found her in the darkness.
"I didn't think you'd be willing to speak with me alone." Jellal pulled his mask down and tried not to fidget. Even in their shadowed spot under the bridge Erza stole his breath.
"Did you assume I'd hold such an outrageous lie against you, Jellal?"
"You could've been honest with me. I'd already slapped you once that day. I do have my limits." She laughed and he couldn't stop himself from blushing.
"I'm… sorry. It's difficult for me. For so long I've been able to focus on the destruction of dark magic without distraction and now –"
"I distract you?"
Jellal sighed. "I want impossible things, it seems. Things I don't have a right to want."
"And you didn't think I had a say?" He felt utterly sheepish. "I understand that you have a mission, but don't waste your life. I missed seven years and now more than ever I value the people I care about."
"Do you know what I was thinking of when I thought that dragon would kill us all? I had regrets, Jellal. So many of them. Don't spend your life fighting the war and never enjoy the peace."
"I… I'm trying. Ultear thinks me mad." Erza laughed and he loved the sound.
"Well, maybe you are a little bit mad. Usually it's me turning men down. I'm not used to such rejection." It took him a moment to realize she was teasing him. "Let's get down to business. Tell me more about this dark magic."
The second time she called to him he was locked in a battle. Over the screams of Meredy and shouts of the members of Oracion Seis, he heard Erza's voice in his head. It wasn't the same desperate cry as before – this one was laced with an anguish and terror that clawed at him. Jellal hated himself for not being able to go to her.
The disbanding of Fairy Tail came as a shock to him. Of all the things he thought of as a constant in the world, Fairy Tail was at the top of the list. The night was clear and everyone around him slept soundly. Meredy lay to his left as she always did. Since UItear's disappearance she'd been quite clingy. Jellal couldn't sleep and so decided to test the thread. He carefully tugged on the warm spot in the back of his mind and reached out into the void.
"Erza?" He felt her gasp in surprise, and the wild wheeling of her thoughts took a moment to subside.
"Jellal? What is this? What's going on?"
"I don't know exactly. I've never tried to call to you before. Do you remember calling to me?"
"I –" Her emotions sunk into what he thought was embarrassment. "I thought maybe I was imagining things. The magic on Tenrou Island is… strange."
"I felt you a second time, as well. I heard about Tartaros and Fairy Tail. I wish I could've had more time on the river bank to speak with you."
"You have time now, though?"
"How is this happening?"
"I honestly don't know. I have only mentioned it to Ultear and Meredy and neither could explain it."
"Yes, and a little like a pull? You can't… you can't hear all my thoughts can you?"
Jellal chuckled. "No, I can't hear distinctive thoughts. It's more of a background feeling. Like voices in another room. Only things you push directly at me."
"I can't hear your other thoughts either, but I can feel twinges of things. Emotions?" His lips twitched into a half-smile. "That! I felt that. It's… nice that you hold me in such an affectionate regard. I… I feel the same."
"Perhaps it's wrong, but since I am already damned, I'd rather be with you than anywhere else."
"You've decided to be your own judge and executioner, then? You'd have the both of us punished? Because I want you beside me, as well."
"Erza –" Her sadness stabbed him. "You shouldn't –"
"Don't tell me what I should or shouldn't want. Even my guild has been taken from me, and I won't have my free will to love whom I choose stolen, too."
"I'm sorry. I know what it's like to be out of place and alone."
"You could fix that, you know." He hadn't expected her to be so persistent. Or for himself to be so tempted.
"You'd consent to keep company with criminals?"
"Why do you still question me?"
"I'm near Onibus now. Come find me." She cut off their conversation and Jellal felt out of breath. In such a short time she'd managed to figure out the manipulation of a link he'd been toying with for nearly eight years.
It took him a week to announce to Meredy that he'd be going to Onibus alone. She didn't protest.