Author's note: I don't know. Here's a thing.
"You can do this."
"I can do this."
"You've been practicing for weeks and no one knows their routine better than you."
"No one knows their routine better than you."
She smiled when he elbowed her playfully her in the side. Jellal had always been a rallying point for her. For better or worse, most of her self-confidence began with him. The announcer's voice cut through the intimacy of the moment, and doubled her anxiety. Jellal smiled over at her and grabbed her hand. She wished they weren't too old to get away with public handholding, but at twelve their friends had started to tease.
"I believe in you," he said as he pulled her up. The hallway was dimly lit and stacked all around with waiting props. "Even if you get scared. I know you can handle it, Erza."
Erza closed her eyes and took a deep breath. Instead of clearing her head, though, Jellal's lips brushed over her cheek and sent every last one of her thoughts crashing into one another like train cars. Jellal stared at her with swiftly reddening cheeks when all she could do was blink in surprise.
Her coach appeared and dragged her away from... did that count as a kiss?
She didn't advance that day and fell from the brackets quickly. Erza's coach declared her uncharacteristically distracted – even for a child with severe performance anxiety. Jellal felt terrible for having such rotten timing.
Erza swished her legs in the pool water. The night hung thickly around them and kept her hair sticking to her shoulders in thick ropes. She'd hiked her skirt up out of the water and a mostly empty bottle was tucked between her thighs.
"Did you have a happy birthday?" Jellal asked quietly from behind her.
"I did." Details aside, she wasn't lying. She hadn't expected the party – and if Simon's reaction was used in any way to judge, it could be said he hadn't expected a party either. "Could I maybe ask one more birthday favor?"
"More favors on a day of surprise favors?" Jellal feigned offense before breaking out into a soft laugh. Erza liked to think of it as her private laugh. "Anything." That was always his answer.
"Can we do confessions?" she asked, not looking at him. Erza didn't have to look at him to know he'd tilt his head just so to the right and raise one eyebrow. She knew exactly what he'd say.
"Confessions? We haven't done confessions in –"
"Yeah, a while, I know. But I have one." She finally looked over at him. His surprised expression had already melted away.
Jellal sighed. He slid from the edge of the patio chair and joined her poolside. His thigh pressed against hers and he took the bottle from her hands.
"I wasn't sad when Simon broke up with me tonight."
"You weren't happy so I think it's for the best."
"How do you know I'm not happy?" Erza picked at the edge of her dress. She'd forgotten how easily Jellal could read her. She always forgot.
"You wore your hair up a lot this year. That's something you do when you're stressed out. The only time I saw it down for more than a couple days at a time was during the winter holiday when the Mikazuchi's were away. And you started reading romance novels again."
"Excuse me, but ho –"
"You used to leave them all over the place when your parents got divorced. It's clearly something you do when you're trying to escape. I don't judge you, Erza, we all have things we do to pass the time. But it's obvious you aren't happy."
"He's not a bad guy, he's just not what I want."
"So you know what you want then?" He posed the question casually and touched the damp tendrils of hair that stuck to her back. His fingertips grazed her skin with a familiarity that made every bit of her tingle.
Erza swayed to the left and fell into his side. Jellal's hand flattened on her back. When she turned toward him his lips were set in a smile. The same smile that sometimes kept her up at night. Answering his question with words felt like shouting an aria.
"I have a confession," Jellal whispered.
"I haven't had enough to drink tonight to justify kissing you right now but I really want to." He leaned into her and pressed his forehead against hers. Erza's fingertips brushed his cheek before settling on his neck.
And here they'd found themselves at the crossroads. The messy tangle of lines and boundaries that always nudged the edges of their conversations. So far they'd managed to stay just this side of friendship. He'd had a girlfriend for a while and then she'd had Simon. It seemed like the universe refused to line up for them.
Now, though? Now Erza was tired of thinking about it.
"Me neither," she breathed before tilting her head and kissing him.
It felt like everything happened in an hour long blink. One instant she was kissing him, then he was kissing her, then they were in the water and his hands found her hips, and then his belt was digging into her thighs.
Erza clung to him and willingly lost herself in the moment. Her hands tugged at his shirt in an attempt to pull it off. With Jellal's help the shirt and her dress landed on the deck in a wet heap. The warm pool water soaked through the lace of her bra and fingers slid under the strap across her back. Erza grasped the buckle of his belt and when she struggled with the fold of leather, Jellal's hand closed around her wrist.
"What are we doing," he rasped.
Erza blinked several times.
"I mean, don't misunderstand, I want..." Jellal trailed off and his cheeks turned a bright shade of pink. She smiled and wrapped her arms around his neck. Erza kissed his jaw and then his lips – the ease with which she fell into kissing him at her leisure didn't surprise her. His mouth moved against hers in the same steady rhythm he'd been vibrating since she'd known him.
"I get it," she said against his lips. "We'll get it right."
"Wait!" he called. Erza turned to see him bobbing through the crowd. Of course he'd come at the very last minute. The hand that grasped her arm was damp with sweat.
"Why are you here?" she asked sharply. "I thought you'd said all you had to say."
"Erza," Jellal pleaded. "I made a mistake."
Erza groaned and twisted away.
"No, no! Listen to me, please. Erza, please. I know I'm terrible at this." He shut his eyes and focused on the words. "I didn't understand you earlier and I'm sorry. I say all the dumbest things, and everything I do has always been at the worst moment possible, and I don't know why you keep me around."
"I love you."
"Oh, damn it, Jellal," Erza grabbed handfuls of his shirt and pulled him down to her level. "You a terrible sense of timing," she murmured before kissing him forcefully. His fingers grasped her hair and the feel of it would be what she missed most. "If you'd been here twenty minutes ago I could've gotten a different flight."
"Work on that while I'm gone, okay?" Erza kissed the apple of his cheek and left him in the terminal.
Two years was a long time to put someone on hold.
The police lights were a relief. Erza stepped from her violated vehicle and crossed her arms over her chest. Window glass glittered on the blacktop and the officer's shoes crunched as he approached. She couldn't see him properly until he moved from the beam of the headlights.
"Jellal?" She blushed in the moonlight. "I heard you had a badge now, but I didn't expect to see you so soon!"
"They said your name over the radio and I couldn't resist." He pointed at the shattered window and stripped dashboard. "Break in?"
"Yeah. I just need a police report for the insurance claim."
Jellal stood closer to her than she thought he might've had he been in a uniform. His hair was damp and Erza realized he was dressed to go home.
"Did you call a wrecker?" He asked, touching the frayed edges of her braid.
"I did." Her heart raced, and when he didn't kiss her right there in the parking lot it was an even bigger disappointment than finding her car broken into in the first place. Of course it had been a while. They'd never been good with phone calls.
The tow truck driver took her keys and left her alone again with Jellal. He grabbed her hand and kissed her knuckles.
"I'll write you a police report in the morning."
"You're assuming to see me in the morning?" she asked with a grin. He was standing too close again.
"It's been long enough, Erza." Their stops and starts had always been abrupt. "I assume to see you every morning from now on."
Jellal opened the car door for her and she squeezed his hand before sliding into the passenger seat.
"I'm glad you had your radio on," she said quietly.
"It was pretty good timing."