Author's Note: For Jelulz based on the following prompt -
"Imagine Person B working the dunking booth at a festival. Person A keeps buying tickets to dunk them and they hit the target nearly every time."
This isn't overly Halloween-ish but I tried! Happy Halloween!
Jellal swung his feet lightly and watched the crowds of people passing by. He was grateful for the mild weather. October wasn't always so warm, especially by the time the Halloween carnival rolled around, and if it had been any cooler the dunking booth would've been a study in poor judgement. He figured most of the afternoon would be spent at the mercy of ex-girlfriends. His athletics coach had assumed as much and that's how he'd ended up sitting on a rigged ledge with feet dangling over a water tank.
"Better you than me, Fernandes. I don't think I'd ever put myself over a tub of cold water where my ex-wives could get at me," his coach had said. The man had a terrible reputation as a womanizer and Jellal didn't think his nickname of The Lion was one whispered with fondness.
Jellal grinned when he spotted the Agria sisters. Sorano smiled back at him in her shrewd way, but Yukino had no such guile – her smile was innocent as always.
"Did you come to finally put me in my place, Sorano?" He laughed and leaned forward on his knees.
"As much as I'd like to show my sweet sister how guys like you should be treated, Jellal, I'm afraid that's not on the docket today."
"I'm shocked!" He clapped his hand over his chest mockingly. "Have you decided to forgive me, then?"
Sorano laughed loud enough to resound even within the plastic walls of the tank decorated with pumpkins and bats. "No, but by the end of the day you'll certainly have my pity."
"Pity?" Jellal tilted his head to the side in confusion.
"I did try for one of your tickets, but someone beat me to them."
He frowned. "What do you mean someone beat you to them?"
"I mean someone else bought your whole roll of tickets. Every last one was gone." She shrugged exaggeratedly. "I guess you're a popular guy." Sorano looped her arm through Yukino's and smirked wickedly at him before directing her sister away.
Jellal's head was a mess of anticipation and horror. Someone had bought all his tickets? All of them? He couldn't remember pissing anyone off so thoroughly in recent history.
"Hey, big brother!" Meredy called to him from the counter in front of the booth. "I heard a funny rumor." Her face barely concealed the laughter threatening to spill out.
"We were looking forward to this rare opportunity but we've been robbed, apparently." Ultear, a partner in crime since middle school, also struggled to keep her humor under control.
"I heard," Jellal deadpanned. "It's not really funny. Who bought all the tickets?"
Ultear shrugged in an attempt at nonchalance, but Meredy burst into giggles. "We thought it would be best if you found out organically."
"Oh, come on, Ultear, that's –"
"Jellal!" A familiar voice sliced through the sounds of Meredy's laughter and the din of the crowd. His stomach sank right down to his toes.
"Oh, no," he whispered. Ultear and Meredy moved from the counter, and Ultear at least had the decency to wave at him.
Erza Scarlet stood behind a red line of chalk clutching a bulky handful of ticket ropes. Her face was set in a scowl and Jellal visibly cringed. She held out her hand for the softball and a smirking Gray Fullbuster placed one in her palm. Erza tested its weight lightly before handing her wad of tickets to Meredy, who ripped off a single ticket and handed it to Gray – his own sister actively betraying him stung a little.
"This is for stealing, and ruining, my collection of red crayons in kindergarten." Erza's face remained cool as she changed her stance to aim for the target arm.
"Hey! I didn't – I mean, that wasn't my fault! And anyway you stole m –" He didn't have time to finish his defense, which Jellal thought to be incredibly unfair, before the ledge he perched on swung downward. The water was much colder than he'd anticipated. When he finally resurfaced and climbed back up to the righted ledge, he shivered in the breeze that had been pleasant only a minute before.
Erza traded another ticket for the softball and granted him no recovery time. "This is for the time you spilled red fruit punch on my yellow birthday dress."
"No! I was pushed, I –" The ledge gave way again and Jellal tumbled into the water. Out of the tank once more, Jellal vowed not to speak to Ultear for a month. Her laughter was unforgivable.
"And this is for the time you pushed me into the mud when we played community soccer!"
"Now hold on there, I was just –" Jellal caught a mouthful of tank water. Erza's accusations were outrageously biased and she still had a seemingly endless string of tickets. This time when he climbed out of the water, he held out a hand in surrender. "Erza! Do you seriously have a list of twelve years worth of imagined wrongs?"
Erza's response was to hold out her hand for the softball while Meredy surrendered another ticket. "This is for the time you tangled your dirty hands in my hair and somehow got gum all in it."
"Erza," he pleaded. "Listen to me, that gu –" Jellal thought to himself that the water seemed to be getting warmer with every plunge.
"This one's for the time you stole my lunch and ruined my lunch box."
"I swear to god, Erza, I was o –"
The next few rounds Jellal didn't bother to defend himself as Erza wasn't acknowledging anything he said anyway. A glance at the sky before he toppled into the water confirmed that the afternoon would soon be over and his coach would liberate him from this torture chamber.
"And this –" Erza's voice had taken on an angrier tone. "This is for Simon."
"Are you fucking serious?" He shouted leaning forward to plant his hands on the plastic wall of the tank. The Halloween appliques still clung to the wet surface and he hated them. "Erza, you have no idea –"
She pitched the softball at the target arm and he fell face forward into the water. When he shook the droplets from his hair this time Erza wasn't anywhere to be seen. Meredy stood to the side of the dunk tank clutching a fluffy towel embroidered with the school's logo, and Ultear held the hatch open.
"It looks like you've been granted a stay of execution, Jellal." Ultear said as she helped him from the booth. "Erza gave her tickets to Meredy and stalked off. I guess she'd gotten everything out of her system. What was all that about anyway?"
Jellal accepted the towel and did his best to dry off despite his wet clothes. He didn't answer Ultear, and offered nothing but a wave and a promise to find them later when he'd changed into something dry. Meredy handed him the tickets with a sympathetic smile.
Never in his life had he been more grateful for school-issued sweat clothes and dry socks. It felt like even during the quick sprint from the dunk tank to the locker rooms the temperature had dropped ten degrees. Never again would he volunteer for such a horrible thing – even if the proceeds benefitted the athletics department.
The sky was purple with twilight when he found his way back to the carnival grounds. He made a quick visit to the ticket counter and finally found Erza sitting alone at a picnic table poking at a paper bowl of something fried and dusted with confectioners' sugar.
"Hey," he said quietly sliding onto the bench across from her.
Erza glanced up at him before fixing her stare back on her food.
"Are you gonna eat that? Because I'm starving." She didn't look at him as she shoved the bowl toward him. "Thanks, I spent all day trying to avoid being drowned by this crazy chick with a handful of tickets."
She finally looked at him and frowned. "I'm not crazy."
"Really? Because all that shit you just said to me felt pretty nuts. We're not great friends, Erza, but I had no idea you'd been harboring so much anger towards me."
Erza picked at the surface of the table. "It's not anger," she said quietly enough that he barely heard her.
"No? Then what's your deal? I honestly thought you knew about the Simon thing. I can understand the rest of it, but Simon? He was stalking you."
She sighed and ran a hand through her hair. "I know. Sorry about that one, it just kind of slipped out. I just thought after everything with him blew over you'd… I mean, I thought we'd –"
Jellal tossed the empty paper bowl into the garbage barrel at the end of the table. "Erza, look, everything you dunked me for just now is only valid if you don't understand my intent… or maybe it's still valid and I'm not nearly as smooth as I think I am."
Erza grimaced. "It's the ladder."
"I never meant to ruin your yellow dress. Someone hit me from behind and I tripped. I was trying to say Happy Birthday to you and everything just went wrong. I'm sorry." Jellal watched her lips twitch into a miniscule smile. "I only pushed you on the soccer field because the mud puddle you missed would've twisted your ankle. I know that because I tripped into it before the game and damn near face planted."
She finally grinned and bit her lip.
"And I didn't put that gum in your hair. Fullbuster did, and I was only trying to get it out before it got all stuck together. I guess I still had some sticky stuff on my hands from the candy we had that day." He smiled at the memory. "That was a Halloween too, do you remember?"
Jellal took a deep breath. "And I'm sorry about your lunchbox but I'm pretty sure that asshole Sawyer put some crickets in it to scare you. The crayons were –"
"I know about the crayons, Jellal. Gray told me about that ages ago. I just wanted a good intro."
His eyes grew wide and his face felt stupidly hot. "I'm gonna kick that guy's ass."
Erza laughed. "It's cute. I didn't know you drew me a Valentine's Day card with the crayons."
"Yeah, well, it got ruined."
"You should've given it to me anyway." She sighed and folded her arms on the tabletop. "I'm sorry for today. You just really frustrate me."
"Is there something else I did that I'm not aware of? Because now is the time to tell me. Don't wait until next year because I'm never getting in that booth again. Ever."
She stared at him for a long moment. "You really don't get it, do you?" Her face betrayed a significant amount of disappointment. "I like you, Jellal."
He frowned and blinked. "So you bought all my tickets, sent me flailing into frigid water, and brought up every stupid thing I've ever done… because you like me?"
"I thought maybe it would fit our trend of mishaps."
"Why on earth didn't you say so sooner? I feel like we could've avoided a whole lot of misunderstandings."
Erza's cheeks turned a bright pink in the dwindling light. She shrugged and stared at the surface of the table. Jellal sighed and moved to her side of the table.
"I think maybe we're even now," he said quietly.
"Jellal –" Without really thinking he cut her off with a quick kiss. It was an impulsive move and he felt guilty for not letting her finish. "What was that for?"
"Because I like you too. I have for a really long time but I just…"
"Never said anything?" Erza nudged his side with her elbow.
"I tried to return your unused tickets and get your cash back, by the way. They wouldn't do it. I'm sorry you wasted your money."
"It wasn't a waste," she murmured before pulling him into a kiss of her own. "I'll let you buy me dinner, though. I think it'll make up for the lunchbox incident since you didn't actually know there were crickets."
He chuckled and touched the strands of her hair that fluttered in the breeze. "I think that's fair."