She was angry. Very, very angry from the looks of it. His Captain hadn't spoken to him in days and her frigid silence was starting to grate. He hadn't meant to upset her and in truth the situation couldn't be helped. Jellal suspected she'd taken his orders as an insult when he hadn't intended them that way at all. She would have to be dealt with eventually but for now he knew the best course of action was to let her cool off. They hadn't clashed in quite a while and not at all since the dynamic had shifted. That particular change probably also had a hand in her anger. Jellal sighed and continued to stare at the snow that piled on the window ledge.

He found the courtyard empty save his Captain. She handled her spear with a terrifying grace. If she caught him life might very well be forfeit. He watched her practice technique and the snow puffing up around her footfalls only made the imagery more appealing to him. The weather was cold but her skin glistened with sweat in the moonlight. Jellal pulled his scarf up around his mouth to hide his smile.

"I know you're there," she spoke only loud enough for him to hear her. Perhaps she wouldn't flay him after all? The king stepped from his hiding spot and clasped his hands behind his back.

"You've found me out, Captain. It's good to know your observational skills are so honed. I feel confident in my choice of personal guard."

Captain Knightwalker made a derogatory sound in the back of her throat and plunged the butt of her spear into the snow covered ground.

"You'll forgive me if I do not accept such hollow compliments."

"I do not speak hollow words, Captain," he said stepping out into the courtyard. "Surely you know that by now."

"Your actions have said enough, Your Majesty."

"By actions do you mean orders?"

She shrugged. "Your words spark action. They are almost always one in the same." Captain Knightwalker turned away from him and selected a new weapon from the rack.

"I see. Erza –" She whirled around and tossed a staff harshly in his direction. He caught it without flinching. Her smile was sharp.

"I'm exhausted of talking."

Jellal nodded. He should've known better than to entreat her with words. His cloak was flung aside and he tested the staff's weight and design. It wasn't unlike the ones he'd employed in Earthland but this one was devoid of magic. He'd have to rely on his own inherent skill.

She flew at him before he was fully ready and his parry was pathetic. He didn't take long to recover, though, and the language of pole-arms came back to him fluently. Her earlier grin fell into a frustrated purse of lips but Jellal found no pleasure in it. The Captain retreated somewhat and began to circle him.

"Why did you deny me the assignment?"

Jellal breathed a laugh. "I had a feeling this was the source of your ire."

"Tell me. Do you think me so dulled and ineffective now that you've been between my legs? Have I been pastured?"

"That is the most ridiculous thing you've ever said to me, Captain. I'm insulted you think me so blatantly misogynistic."

"Am I a treasured toy now, Your Highness? Do you fear me breaking with too much use?"

"Erza –" It was the second time he'd addressed her by her first name and the word seemed to anger her further. Without warning she launched herself at him, but this round Jellal was prepared for the assault. He deflected her spear and disarmed her quickly. The Captain's shock at his skill was palpable when he pinned her beneath him in the snow. "Have you loosed all your barbs, Erza?"

She struggled against him. "Since when do you spar without me? That was a dirty move."

Jellal chuckled. "Am I to ask your permission for such things?" He brushed a clump of damp hair from her face. "I would ask if it pleased you."

"You humiliated me." Erza stated plainly. She no longer fought against him but her resignation hurt worse.

"How so? There is no precedent for members of my King's Guard to serve in the field. Should I have sent you outside of the law? My court would see it as not only favoritism but a sign of military weakness."

"I am –"

"The best. I know. But you cannot be the only. Do you not trust the soldiers you've vetted and trained yourself to handle rural vagabond rebels?" Jellal peered into her eyes searchingly. "Or have you grown board of life at court?" Of me? His true question went unasked.

Finally she softened. Her fingers tidied the edges of his collar and she brushed the melting snow from his hair. "I haven't grown tired of you, Your Grace. That is a needless concern. And it isn't your disdain that I fear."

"What in the whole of this world does the mighty Captain Knightwalker fear? It must be a truly menacing force."

"Have you ever wondered why there are no other female officers of my rank? The task of being taken seriously is daunting. Our... status is hardly a secret."

"Ah, so it's public opinion, then. A ferocious beast."

"You mock me?" For the first time she looked hurt.

Jellal smiled and lightly kissed the scar that snaked across her nose. It was his favorite part of her. "I would never mock you, love. I only find it hard to believe that you care what anyone thinks of you or your choices."

"I do care but only so far as it extends to my abilities. Those who have always disliked me will only dislike me more. When I am denied assignments that surely would've been mine in the past I'll be seen not only as incapable but a favorite play-thing of the king. A status I earned by worming my way into your bed."

"You wish to be sent out into the field to prove a point to those who already dislike you? And forgive me, Captain, but the idea of you worming your way into my bed is laughable. The cajoling on my part to get you there and to convince you to stay was nothing short of a royal edict."

"You aren't helping," she protested with a scowl.

"There's only two solutions to this problem that I can see."

"The first?"

"You accept that as the Captain of my King's Guard your place is by my side at all times."

"And the second?"

Jellal curled the sweaty strand of hair around his finger. "That you resign your post and return to active duty in the military. Of course, I'd allow you to select your own replacement. There's none I trust more than you."

"There is no one else qualified," she said haughtily.

"Is that your decision then?"

The Captain toyed with the collar of his shirt. "I suppose."

Jellal smiled and kissed her swiftly. The snow was finally soaking through to his back. He stood and pulled Erza to her feet and into his chest. "There is a third option, Captain."

"Do tell, Your Grace."

He leaned down to press his lips to the spot just behind her ear. "You could resign both positions and become my Queen," he whispered.

Captain Knightwalker laughed out loud and pushed him lightly away. "You'll have to make much more enticing efforts to convince me to take that job, Jellal."

She left him alone in the courtyard with only a smirk and the crook of her finger. Perhaps she'd rejected him this time, but he didn't mind trying harder. The use of his first name was a good start.