Author's Note: This is a mishmash of various breakup AU's I found on tumblr. The length of it kind of got away from me.

Erza's tradition of getting quietly drunk, alone in her apartment on New Year's Eve was broken three years after she started it. She saw it as something of a penance that she both dreaded and anticipated with a brutal sense of self-loathing. In the past, her view of the holiday had always been one of new beginnings and resolutions. Now, though, she found herself unable to see the future as anything but empty. Jellal had probably moved on by now, and she couldn't hold it against him.

Erza gulped the remainder of the bitter red wine and stared at herself in the mirror. The glittering dress Kagura loaned her clashed with everything she felt inside.

It'll be fun! Kagura had said. You can't just come home after being away for so long and start a new job without having a little fun first! Erza's protests went ignored and when she'd woken up on the morning of New Year's Eve there'd been a dress – the very same one that she now wore – hanging in the closet of the guest bedroom she currently occupied. Erza sighed deeply and reached for the wine glass again before remembering it was empty.

The party itself wasn't what made her so nervous – it was the potential guest list. Erza and Jellal had been together long enough to amass a crowd of mutual friends, Kagura being one of them. Erza never asked about him once she'd moved to Magnolia after their breakup and Kagura didn't offer information; something Erza had been initially grateful for. Now that she was back in Crocus, however, she wondered. Aggressively wondered. How was he doing? Had he finally been promoted? He certainly deserved it for working as hard as he did. The question that gnawed at her the most was whether or not he still cared about her. Erza didn't feel like she had any right to those answers, though. So she didn't pester Kagura about it.

She'd had her reasons for leaving and at the time they'd felt like good ones. Once she'd found herself living a new life in a new town, however, Erza realized her reasons weren't reasons at all but the result of a vicious spiral of unfortunate events and personal insecurities. She accepted that she still loved Jellal but stayed away because the mess she'd left behind was too overwhelming in those first few weeks. Months turned into years and Erza's sense of self-doubt only compounded. The knowledge she'd have to face him eventually stuck in the back of her mind, but she hoped by that time she'd have the security blanket of her new job and apartment to fall into.

"Knock, knock!" Kagura peeked in the guest room with a wide grin. "Oh, wow! That looks perfect on you!" She rushed over and touched the strap of the dress. "I don't have the legs for it. I think this dress was created for you specifically."

Erza turned to face her friend. "Thanks for loaning it to me, but you didn't have to. I wouldn't have minded staying in."

"You wouldn't have minded staying in?" Kagura repeated dryly. "Does that translate to being alone and drinking that bitter wine that brings even me to tears?" Erza glanced down at her painted nails for only a second before Kagura tugged on her hair as she began to brush it. "Be still, please."

"This just isn't my favorite holiday."


"I don't know," Erza lied. "I haven't been feeling very festive lately."

"I don't understand. You landed the job you've been working toward forever, finally moved back to the city, and scored a sweet apartment – only a couple floors down from yours truly, by the way." Kagura twisted strands of Erza's hair into a complicated knot and began inserting pins. "You can't tell your best friend why you've been so mopey since you got back?"

"It's nothing, I promise." Erza fidgeted as Kagura finished her hair and sat on the edge of the guest bed smiling sadly.

"Erza, listen. I've known you a long time, so long that I can read you like a book. Please tell me what's wrong."

Erza sniffled and felt hot tears leaking down her cheeks. Her mascara would likely be ruined and somehow such a little thing inflamed her frustration. "I made a really selfish decision once, Kagura."

"Is this about Jellal?" Erza joined her friend on the bed and Kagura wrapped an arm around her shoulder. "You can ask me about him, you know," she said softly.

"I can't open that can of messy worms. Not now." Erza ran her fingers over the sparkling fabric of her borrowed dress. "Will he be there tonight?"

"I honestly don't know." Kagura sighed. "But I can tell you that it's Meredy's party so I know he's been invited. There's something else you should know, too."

"Please don't tell me anything. I'd rather just take the hits as they come." She glanced over at Kagura who pursed her lips in consternation. For the first time all day, Erza laughed. "Don't look at me like that! I promise I'll be fine. I'm just a melancholy drunk."

"Well, that's an improvement, I suppose. You used to be an angry one." Kagura stood and pulled Erza to her feet.

"I lost some of my fire in Magnolia." Erza grinned and slipped her feet into the heels Kagura had left with the dress. "Their booze is a lot more casual out there."

"Uh, huh." Kagura reached out to tidy a few stray hairs. "Well, let me get a look at you." She wiped the smudges of mascara from under Erza's eyes. "Gorgeous. I'm so happy you're back, Erza."

"I am, too." It wasn't a lie, really. She was happy to be back in the city she thought of as home, but the ghost of her relationship with Jellal would take some time to handle.

Meredy's apartment hadn't changed at all since Erza had been in it last. Three years wasn't an excessive amount of time, but the consistency hurt a little bit. She remembered the Christmas party she'd attended with Jellal the winter before she'd left him. He'd kissed her under the sprig of mistletoe hanging in the wide doorway that led to the kitchen. That had been just weeks before things began to unravel.

Erza pinched the bridge of her nose to try and expel the memories. She wouldn't last very long in public if she spiraled down that rabbit hole. Kagura pressed a glass of white wine into her hand and took her by the arm. Erza allowed herself to be led around the apartment in familiar circles of friends and began to think that perhaps making an appearance hadn't been so bad of an idea.

"I'm going to get another glass of whatever wine this is," Kagura said in her ear. "Want a refill?"

She passed off her empty glass and nodded. "Sure. I'll just be over here." Erza attempted to carry on awkwardly with the conversation but Kagura seemed to be dragging her feet. She politely excused herself and wandered on the edge of the crowd just observing. There was a commotion near the front door and Erza heard a familiar laugh that made every inch of her skin prickle with a cold sweat.

Erza would know Ultear's laugh anywhere. She inched closer to the front room and caught glimpse of the messy blue hair that she used to run her fingers through late into the night. Her hands shook and her heart thumped painfully in her chest. Jellal had arrived with Ultear on his arm and there was no obvious escape route. Erza ducked around the side of a bookshelf as Meredy showed her new guests to the bedroom that served as a coat closet.

When the group of three passed by again on their way out to the main party, Erza thought she caught a whiff of Jellal's cologne. Her eyes slid shut and she dug her fingernails into her palms. She'd recognize that scent anywhere as the bottle had been a gift from her. There would be no stopping the wave of unwanted emotion now. The coat room was the only private space besides the bathroom and Erza had spent enough time sobbing on the edge of a bathtub.

She slipped into the bedroom and dug around in the piles of coats for her own. Inside the left pocket was her phone, and Erza breathed a shaky sigh when she found it. There was a box of tissues on the bedside table and she helped herself to a handful. Fat tears wet her cheeks and she swiped angrily at them with the tissues. She should've known better than to come here. It was still too soon to even be in the same home as Jellal. Her safety net hadn't been installed yet!

Despite all that she still opened the photo album on her phone and started to flip through the pictures of them together she'd saved. The indulgence was nonsensical. Why would looking at pictures of Jellal and herself in happier times make her feel better about catching a glimpse of him at a party?

The photograph she'd been looking for was near the end of the album. It wasn't actually of them but a group of their friends – Erza and Jellal were only in the background and though she didn't remember the flash of the camera she wouldn't ever forget the moment. Simon's birthday party had been in full swing, and Jellal was half-drunk but he'd pulled her aside to tell her that he loved her. It wasn't the first time he'd said such a thing, but on this occasion they'd been arguing for the past week and his sincerity touched her. The fight had seemed ridiculous at the time, but the subject matter turned out to be the wedge between them later.

Erza brushed her fingers over the screen of her phone. Jellal's hands were on her face and he stood so close. The shirt he'd been wearing that day was another gift from her. He was a scientist and didn't always have the cognitive space for wardrobe decisions. They'd never lived together but he had no complaints when she started keeping tabs on his clothes for him. Droplets of tears fell on the glass and distorted the image.

She had to get out of this apartment.

Kagura's place wasn't home but for the time being it was close enough. Her own apartment wouldn't be ready for another week. She had a spare key and didn't think Kagura would pitch a fit if she left the party early. Erza grabbed her coat and took several deep breaths in preparation for leaving the privacy of the bedroom.

The party carried on as if she'd never left. No one noticed her disappearance except for Kagura who appeared at her side the moment she stepped into the main hall.

"Where have you b –" Kagura eyed her carefully and pursed her lips. "Erza, I'm sorry. I didn't know it would be this hard for you."

"I think I'm just going to head back. Is that okay? I can go alone."

"Are you sure? I can go with you…"

Erza smiled sadly and embraced her closest friend. "Please, don't. I know you want to stay. I already called a cab and will be fine." It was the second lie she'd told Kagura that night.

"Will you be alright? And I don't mean just your safety."

"I just need some space. This was going to happen eventually." Erza wiped her tears that had smudged on Kagura's cheek.

"I'll be home by one. We can talk then if you want." Kagura embraced her one last time and Erza made her way through the crowd. She didn't have a clue where Jellal had gone to but if she could just make it to the front door without any distractions it wouldn't matter.

"Erza!" Lucy's voice rang out above the din of the party. "Erza is that really you?"

Her teeth sank deeper into her lip and she managed a smile before turning to greet Lucy. "Hey! It's nice to see you, Lucy!"

Lucy was quite pie-eyed and her champagne sloshed in the flute. Erza was glad it was nearly empty. "I didn't know you were already back in town! Kagura is so stingy with information!"

"Oh, I'm just early. I wanted to settle in before starting work." Erza tucked a strand of hair behind her ear and tried not to glance around as wildly as she felt inside.

"We need to have lunch sometime soon! I miss you!" Lucy's cheerfulness would've been contagious in any other situation.

"Of course! Just text me whenever, my number hasn't changed." Her eyes swept the room once more and… there. The tattoo on the side of his face was absolutely unmistakable. Erza thought she'd jump out of her skin when he turned and was suddenly looking right at her. Lucy was speaking about something and there were people all around her but the only thing Erza could see was Jellal. She couldn't look away. She didn't want to look away.

"Erza?" Lucy waved her hand drunkenly in front of Erza's face. "Are you okay?"

"Hm?" She tore her eyes away from Jellal. "Yeah…" Erza didn't need to find him again to know he would approach her.

"Did you just get here? Please tell me you're not leaving already! It's not even midnight!"

"Listen, Lucy, it was great to see you but I need to get going. My head is pounding and I guess I'm still a little out of it from being sick last week." Erza was starting to lose count of her lies.

"Oh no! Don't let me keep you here; I've had too many drinks. I'll for sure text you and we can get together." Lucy squeezed her arm and Erza did her best to smile without betraying her panic. She'd spent too long in this entry way already.

"Sure thing." She waved and didn't spare the room another glance before dashing out the front door. As fast as she could move in heels, Erza fled Meredy's apartment building. She welcomed the chill for about a minute before donning her coat wishing she'd actually called the cab. To her relief – and disappointment – Jellal didn't follow her. She was alone on the sidewalk.

The walk back to Kagura's building was only a few blocks but Erza's heels made the trek painful. By the time she reached the front steps a light snow had begun to fall. The building wasn't as large as Meredy's but Erza thought it much more comfortable. She was looking forward to making her new home here and having her best friend close by. If tonight was any indication of what readjusting was going to be like, then it would be nice to be near Kagura.

Back in the guest bedroom she would stay in for another week, Erza caught a second glimpse of herself in the sparkly dress Kagura had thought perfect for a New Year's Eve countdown. She couldn't argue with the logic and decided she really did like the way it fit her. Perhaps her friend would be willing to part with it for the right bribe.

Now that she was alone, the panic of the evening didn't feel as urgent and though she didn't regret leaving the party, Erza felt lonely. Her thoughts began to drift backward to the spring nearly three years prior. It had been unseasonably cold and winter lingered oppressively. None of the trees had bloomed that year and she remembered the trip out of Crocus being dismally barren.

Even in the face of past sadness, Erza opted out of more alcohol and curled up on the window seat to watch the snow fall lightly to the street. As midnight drew near, she moved to a spot in front of the living room clock. The hands ticked slowly around the face and the New Year felt ominous in front of her.

In the final minute, Kagura burst through the front door and smiled breathlessly. She left her coat on the sofa and joined Erza in front of the clock.

"Tell me you didn't leave because of me." Erza said taking her friend's hand.

"I'd be lying." Kagura winked. "You're my very best friend and you're hurting. My place is here."

Erza tilted her head to rest on Kagura's shoulder and together they watched the last seconds pass. When the clocked chimed, Erza sighed.

The cold air felt much nicer on the roof than it had on the street. Erza thought maybe this had something to do with the tradeoff of slippers for heels, and a thick sweatshirt for the more fashionable pea coat. It also helped that the small gazebo was covered and screened in. Kagura, having had a lot more to drink, flopped into bed after ringing in the New Year. Erza hadn't been quite ready for sleep yet, and sought out the peaceful silence of the garden.

The screened panels of the gazebo blocked an otherwise unobstructed view of the sky, but there was only one constellation Erza cared to see. Ursa Major had always been Jellal's favorite and she could see it perfectly from the north side of the gazebo. The collection of stars reminded her of him in a way that was more beautiful than painful.

"I'm sorry, Jellal," she whispered into the night. Her breath came out in a puff of warm air. "I'd change it if I could."

"You'd change what?"

A voice behind her set her hair on end. Erza spun around and gasped in embarrassment. Jellal stood in the doorway of the gazebo with his hands in his trouser pockets. His shirt was undone at the collar and he didn't even have a jacket. He took a step toward her and Erza backed into the railing. He stopped and sighed.

"Are you afraid of me?"

She shook her head, unable to speak.

"Kagura said you'd be up here, but I didn't mean to disturb you."

"No, it's fine." Erza's fingers clenched in the fabric of her sweatshirt. She hadn't considered the possibility of running into him in Kagura's building. "What are you doing here? How did you even get her to talk to you? She was pretty sloshed when I left her a little while ago."

"I may have rang her doorbell a few hundred times."

"You didn't answer my first question."

He smiled softly. "I live here, Erza."

The way her name fell from his lips prodded at the bruises on her heart. "I don't understand."

"Kagura didn't tell you? I live on the fourth floor."

Erza's mind reeled. She vaguely remembered Kagura trying to tell her something before the party, but it hadn't seemed important at the time. Jellal lived in this building. The building in which she'd just signed a yearlong lease. Jellal occupied the very same floor she'd been staying on for the past few days. And she hadn't even noticed.

"No she didn't mention it. I've been back in town for a couple of days now and I haven't seen you."

"I'm on winter break and haven't been out much."

"Winter break?"

He chuckled. "Yes, it's not completely unheard of."

Erza shook her head. "I'm sorry if I'm being dense. I just wasn't expecting to see you up here. I can go."

"I'd like it if you didn't. I came all the way up here to see you. It would be a shame if you left so soon." He sat on one of the benches and smiled wistfully. "You look lovely tonight, by the way. That dress suits you."

She felt herself blushing furiously, and realized too late that she'd sat too close to him. He was definitely wearing the cologne she'd bought for him years before. "Uh, thank you. It's a loaner from Kagura. She said she doesn't have the legs for it." Erza cringed internally. What a stupid thing to say. But Jellal only continued to smile at her.

"She's right. But I've always been partial to your legs anyway."

Erza blinked rapidly in confusion. Was he… hitting on her? She cleared her throat and tried to maintain composure. "How is your work going? I admit I'm surprised you've taken a vacation." She glanced down at her hands. "You never used to take vacations. Does this mean you got that promotion?"

It was Jellal's turn to appear confused. "Didn't you know? I quit the lab two weeks after you left, Erza. I couldn't stay there."

"But –"

"I never wanted the promotion. It was only more work and stress for me." His smile fell into a grimace. "I'd already lost you, and showing up every morning just made me resentful of the whole place."

Erza's brows furrowed. "I had no idea."

"That's because you never asked. We never talked about it." For the first time since he'd appeared in the gazebo his eyes left hers to stare out at the few stars that were visible from the inside of the screens. "I work at the university now. The hours are better, and I feel like it's added at least ten years to my life span."

"I see. That's wonderful, Jellal. I'm glad you've found something that makes you happy."

"I didn't say I was happy. It's just a better place for me."

"You're not happy?"

Jellal ignored her question. "Tell me about you. I asked around at Meredy's party and I heard you've taken a position back here in Crocus."

"Yes, I have. It's exactly what I've wanted to be doing since college. No more paper pushing and can work directly with the kids. It's… nice. I'm excited about starting."

"You deserve it, Erza. I'm proud of you."

All of the air flew out of her lungs. "You shouldn't be."

"And why's that?"

"Jellal –" She twisted her fingers together nervously. "There's some things…"

"Erza," he whispered as he pried her hands apart and took them in his. "Erza, please tell me what happened. I've been trying to figure it out for three years and I still don't get it. Why did you leave?"

For what seemed like the hundredth time that evening a tear escaped her eye but this time she didn't bother to wipe it away. "Did you know," she began with tremulously. "That I was pregnant back then?"

Jellal's eyes widened and he squeezed her hands. "What?"

"I wasn't too far along, only about six weeks or so."

"Erza," he breathed. "Why didn't you ever tell me?" He glanced down at her body covered by the sweatshirt. "Did you… I mean –"

"Everything was such a mess back then, Jellal. You were working twelve and sixteen hour days, and I was so miserable. Sometimes it felt like we'd never get ourselves together." Tears were falling freely now and landed on Jellal's hands that still clasped hers.

"I meant to tell you. I had this whole plan and I was trying to convince myself that we'd make it work." She looked up at him and tried to smile. "I loved you and I thought that would be enough to make all the external stressors okay. But it wasn't okay. I overheard you taking to Ultear about that promotion and I assumed you wanted it. I knew it would be more work for you and I decided to wait until you told me about it yourself."

"Erza –"

"Please let me finish. I know you're probably very angry with me right now, but I need you to let me finish before you say anything. I don't want there to be anymore false assumptions between us."

Jellal reached out to swipe the tears from her chin before nodding.

"Anyway, you never said anything to me and I started to panic. I didn't know how to tell you I wanted to quit my job and I sure as hell didn't know how to explain that I'd fucked up my birth control pills and gotten myself pregnant. In my mind you didn't tell me about what was happening at the lab because you and I just didn't want the same things." Erza sniffled in the chill. "I really did mean to tell you but I ended up losing it anyway."

He leaned closer to her. "You lost what?"

"The baby. Our baby. I lost it." A choking sob escaped her throat as she met his eyes. "The doctor told me it happens and nothing can be done but I know it was stress. I buckled under the pressure of everything and lost the baby because of it." Erza shook her head and gave up on trying to control her tears. "I'm so sorry."

Jellal pulled her against him and his body felt warm despite him not wearing a coat. "Why didn't you tell me any of this? You shouldn't have had to handle all of that alone."

"I couldn't tell you after that. I felt like I'd done everything wrong and blamed myself completely for the miscarriage."

"I'm not going to scold you, Erza, because I think you've been hard enough on yourself – but you have to know that's not true at all. How could you think even for a second that having a family with you wouldn't be something I wanted?" His tone betrayed the hurt he felt at her confession.

"I wasn't in a good place, Jellal. I took it all on myself, and it wasn't the right thing to do. I think even back then, I knew that but still. When I got the job offer in Magnolia I took it without hesitation. By the time I told you I was leaving, I was already gone." She looked up at him and found not anger or condemnation, but a brokenhearted understanding. "I'm sorry I ruined everything."

"I'm sorry, too. I knew something was up with you but I didn't have the energy to ask. It was incredibly selfish, I know. I should've asked. I should've explained to you what was going on. Maybe… maybe things would've been different."

Erza slumped over into his chest and exhaled heavily. For the first time in three years she felt unburdened. Secrets were weighty things.

"I guess we're still a mess, huh? Three years apart and still don't have ourselves together."

Jellal broke the mood with a light laugh. "Is it a we?"

"I –" Erza's face burned. "I mean, I'm not assuming anything. That was just –"

"I'm mostly teasing."


He grasped her shoulders and turned her to face him. "Erza, I'm not going to lie to you. I tried to move on. It was a horrible failure but I tried. I still love you. I haven't stopped loving you since I saw you last."

Erza could only stare at him agape.

"When I saw you tonight it was like… it was like a car crash. You looked so beautiful and so sad." He peeled the cold strands of hair from her face. "You took my breath away."

"I'm sorry for leaving."

"The party or three years ago?"


Jellal placed his warm hands on her cheeks and touched his forehead to hers. "Come home with me."


"Yes, Erza, now. It's freezing out here, and very late." He pulled back a fraction and looked into her eyes. "Unless you would rather not. I'd understand. No pressure."

Erza didn't need time to think about it. Now that she'd found him again, and emptied her heart of sorrow, she couldn't let him go so quickly. "Let's go, then."

Jellal smiled and stood. Erza took his arm and followed him from the gazebo and through the short path back to the stairwell. Everything was now covered in a blanket of snow, and her slippers were starting to dampen. The trip down to the top floor of the building was quick and Erza was glad to be inside the heated portion of the building again. They stepped into the elevator and though her heart pounded, she allowed her hand to stray down Jellal's arm. When her palm slid against his and she threaded their fingers, he pressed his cheek to the top of her head.

He hadn't been lying when he said he lived on the same floor as Kagura and as Erza passed the door of her friend's unit she pulled her phone from the front pocket of the sweatshirt to send a short message regarding her whereabouts. She didn't think Kagura would mind too much.

Jellal's apartment was nearly the same layout as the ones across the hall, and as she followed him inside he tossed his keys in a basket near the door. Erza pulled off her wet slippers and hung the sweatshirt on a hook next to his coats. Her hair had been thoroughly disheveled by the removal of the sweatshirt and what remained of the knot Kagura had carefully pinned hours before hung formlessly on the back of her head. Erza sighed and began to dig for the pins.

"Let me help you," Jellal said quietly. His hands covered hers and he methodically removed the pins one by one. He ran his fingers through her hair and Erza closed her eyes in satisfaction. "I think that's all of them."

Jellal took the handful of pins and placed them on the kitchen counter and as he turned to make his way further into the apartment, Erza grabbed his sleeve.

"Jellal," she whispered. He allowed her to pull him into her personal space. "I know you said there was no pressure, and I realize that we still have a lot of things to talk about but –" It took her a moment to notice that even though she'd stopped pulling on his sleeve, Jellal hadn't ever stopped moving toward her. Her back pressed against the archway that led to the living room and she looked up at him to find his eyes dark and ardent.

"What is it, Erza?" He asked voice low and rough. "What do you need from me?"

"I still love you, too. And… and…" She found herself distracted by his intense gaze. "And maybe we can talk tomorrow."

Jellal's hand settled on the side of her neck and she felt his fingers slid into her hair. His cheek brushed hers as he leaned closer. "We can talk all day tomorrow, Erza. What do you want right now?"

Erza exhaled a shaky breath and clutched the front of his rumpled dress shirt. "Maybe it's a bad idea but I want you to kiss me," she finally managed to say. "I need you to kiss me, Jellal."

Even though his voice had been laced with raw sexuality and his eyes felt like they'd burn through her, the way his lips dragged slowly over her cheek and brushed over hers felt hesitant. He kissed her slowly as if he were afraid she'd shove him away at any second. When he pulled back, Erza found him looking down at her not with the same fire but with a question. He studied her for only the briefest of seconds before crushing his mouth against hers.

Jellal's kisses changed from methodical to something desperate. Erza felt his fingertips brushing over her shoulders, down her arms and finally clutching her waist tightly. When there was no more space left between them his mouth dropped to her neck. He kissed her softly once but then his tongue flicked out to taste her. Erza's eyes fluttered shut at the sensation and her lips parted in a quiet gasp.

"Jellal," she whispered as her hands slid beneath the tails of his untucked shirt. His chest was warm and she could feel his heart racing.

"I missed you so much, Erza." His breath on the wet skin of her neck sent a shiver down her spine. "Please tell me you're really here and I'm not just passed out on Meredy's couch after too many shots."

Erza laughed breathily. "Want me to pinch you?"

Jellal's hand at her waist traveled further down to the edge of her dress. His fingers toyed with the hem and her thigh. "You feel real enough." She felt him smile and kiss her neck, her ear, and her cheek. "I like this dress so much I almost hate to take it off of you."

"I don't think Kagura will want it back once it's been on your floor all night." Erza tilted her head to the side and smiled. Her fingers cautiously began to release the remaining buttons of his shirt and when he met her eyes again she didn't break contact as she pushed it off his shoulders. Now that half his clothes were gone Erza wanted to touch him but a small nagging voice in her head stopped her. "Is this safe, Jellal? Is this okay?"

His eyes softened and both his hands cupped her face once more. He kissed her forehead and lingered there as Erza gathered her thoughts.

"Are you going to wake up in the morning and realize what you've done and regret me?"

"Is that what you're worried about?" Jellal asked gently. "Nothing you've told me tonight could make me love you less. You came back when you could."

Erza had no words to reply. She kissed him fiercely and made no more protests. His bedroom was dark and she didn't see exactly where on the floor the dress pooled at her feet. There was only a single stripe of moonlight across his bed and when she fell into his pillows it cut across her belly. Erza tugged his belt free and waited as he kicked off the last half of his clothes.

The floodgate of pent up feelings broke and Erza squeezed her eyes shut as he stretched out over her. He kissed her ever so softly on the lips before moving to her neck and down to her breasts. When he reached the moonlight that painted her stomach, Jellal paused. He hid his face briefly before kissing her there, too. It had been a loss three years in her past, but the knowledge was new for Jellal and she would allow him his grief.

When he slid inside her, he exhaled harshly. His whispered words were distorted by fervent kisses but Erza heard them all the same. "I love you," he murmured. "No more running away, Erza. We do this together now."

She wrapped her legs around him tightly and grasped at his hair. The short strands were as soft as she remembered.

"All I want is you," his last words came out in a rush as his thumb brought her to the climax of pleasure she hadn't dared trying to reach since she'd left him. All of her frayed ends felt as though they'd been brushed, straightened, and woven back together.

In the tranquil silence after he'd dropped off into sleep, Erza pressed her nose to his collarbone and inhaled his scent. She decided if all he wanted was her, she would give him nothing less.