A/N: And thus, here is my last submission for Jerza week 2015 - Being that today's prompt is AU, as per popular demand, please find below yet another addition to my long-running The-Tower-of-Heaven-Kids-Managed-to-Escape-and-Jellal-was-never-evil AU. Only this time there's angst involved.
Sorry I wasn't more active but this was as much as my schedule allowed me. I hope you enjoyed!
It was a bad idea in the first place. Really, who in their right mind would take jobs at Mt. Hakobe in the peak of winter? Certainly not Erza Scarlet and Jellal Fernandes, seventeen-year-old S-Class prodigies of Fairy Tail.
… or would they?
They blamed it on the job… or rather, they blamed it on the Vulcans that had snatched a couple of children from a remote mountain village, thus causing their desperate parents to appeal to all Wizard Guilds in the surrounding area to help them find them as soon as possible. Given their own history, Erza and Jellal were never able to resist snatching every single child-abduction-related job they could off the board.
Anyway, the job itself hadn't been the actual problem. The Vulcans had been defeated and the children had been rescued within a day of them taking the notice from the board. The village had been ecstatic with the news and after a night being waited on hand and foot while a blizzard fell outside, they'd been sent on their way home in a dog-pulled-sled due to all of the roads being buried under several feet of snow. Everything seemed set up for their victorious return to the guild… until they were unfortunate enough to accidentally enter territory that local ferocious creatures by the name of Blizzardverns considered their own, causing an entirely unforeseen confrontation with the draconian beasts.
They barely had the chance to leave the sled and send both the driver and dogs away to safety before the Blizzardverns started attacking. Not only were they vicious, but also they outnumbered them at least three to one. Usually, that would have not been a problem – they took S-Class jobs every other week. More than once, they had defeated and captured entire dark guilds with five of six times their number. As such, they could handle being outnumbered.
The thing was, snow was an unusual and treacherous setting. It took only a step in the wrong direction for the ground to start collapsing under their feet – everything happened so fast that Jellal didn't even have the time to react and Meteor them out of there. They just fell and fell, down into the unknown cave underneath, and Jellal was unlucky enough that he did so a tad too close to the icy wall, covered with sharp edges that stuck out like blades.
Erza landed sideways on her left shoulder and immediately felt something crack – a sound that was followed by blinding pain between the middle of her chest and the shoulder that had hit the floor. It must have been at least a minute that she spent on the floor, unable to react due to the pain, only vaguely hearing Jellal calling her name. By the time she was able to open her eyes, she saw him leaning over her, relief washing over his face as he saw her rising. Another minute must have passed before she realized that his skin was looking a bit ashen, but she wrote it down as a result of the scare… it wasn't until she finally managed to sit up, arm clutched against her chest, and he hugged her, that realized his paleness had nothing to do with having been frightened.
There was blood in the snow behind him. A lot of blood… and it wasn't hers.
Her words appeared to set something in motion and as soon as she said them, he started slumping in her arms. She held him up with her good arm and even the bad one, despite the horrific pain it caused her. As she struggled to lay him down on the ground, his hand brushed his side, where the wound was located, and came up covered with blood. "Oh…" he mumbled. "I didn't think it was this bad…"
She snapped into action almost immediately, emptying her requip space of every piece of cloth she owned in order to use it to stop the bleeding. Nothing seemed to work. When it looked like it might, the blood would just seep through the cloth and the wound would start bleeding all over again – it was just so deep…
She wasn't sure how much time passed before she finally managed to get it mostly under control. An hour? Two? By then, Jellal was already in a sorry state, struggling to stay conscious, and she didn't know what more to do in order to help him.
"Don't fall asleep," Erza commanded, still applying pressure on the wound.
"I'm tired," he mumbled blearily. "'Can barely… keep my eyes open…"
"Don't you dare close them now!" she said immediately.
He could only groan. "Erza…"
He did, at least for about half a minute. "It's bad, isn't it?" he asked at some point.
"Don't be silly. It's barely even bleeding anymore," she said, a tad too quickly.
He wasn't dumb. "Yeah, but… it bled a lot and it just wouldn't stop… that's bad… blood's supposed to stay in, not… out." In the back of his mind, he knew it only took losing forty percent of one's blood supply to go into shock… only a little more to die. He felt weak, so very weak, but he didn't think he had reached the point of shock yet… not that he must be that far off, though.
"Words of a true genius," she said, trying desperately to lighten the mood.
"Erza," he pressed on, his tone serious.
"Don't worry about it! They can fix it at the hospital!"
"How'll we get there?" he asked. "I… I don't think I can walk, Erza… I can barely feel my body anymore."
"So I'll carry you. Problem solved!"
"I'm pretty heavy," he pointed out.
"I'm pretty strong."
"Erza…" he said "… maybe you should just… go."
"We are… as soon as I figure some things out, we're getting out of here." Things, she thought, such as figuring out how to safely move her critically-injured boyfriend without re-opening his wound and letting him bleed to death in that snow-covered wasteland…
He shook his head almost immediately. "Not us. You."
She blinked. "What? What are you saying?!"
"I'm saying you should go on your own," he said in a weak mumble.
She stared at him for a long time without a word. It must have been at least a minute before she spoke. "You want me to… to leave you behind?" she asked in a whisper, so full of disbelief that it hurt.
Jellal looked away. "Your shoulder is hurt – you can barely lift up your arm… you wouldn't be able to carry me like that."
"I would. I will!"
"Erza, you need…"
"No. You need to stop sprouting nonsense!" she shouted at him.
"It is not nonsense, Erza!" he replied. It was a miracle he was even managing to argue back, really – he was sure that if it wasn't his determination to keep Erza safe, even in such a pitiful manner, he would have passed out ages ago. "Say you are able to carry me – you'll be struggling all the way down! What if there's another blizzard? If you were on your own, you might make it through, but if you had me to slow you down…"
"Then neither of us would make it," she finished for him, no realization whatsoever in her voice. "And if that's the case, then so be it!"
"H-how can you say that?" he asked in horror. "Are you out of your mind? You have a chance… an actual chance and…"
"And so do you! You're alive, aren't you? If I go without you, I'll be leaving you to die all on your own! Could you do that if our roles were reversed?"
His look was that of horror. "Erza…"
"You wouldn't! I know you – you would never be able to do that…and neither would I because I love you! I would rather die buried under snow while trying to get you home than make it there on my own by leaving you behind!"
He didn't know what to say – what could he possibly use as an argument when she was so completely right? He would never leave her behind, no matter how much she begged if the tables were turned! So, how could he ask that of her? Knowing that was excruciating because at the same time, the thought of her dying for him… it was unbearable. He closed his eyes with a sigh. "I just wish you could be safe."
"I will be. Both of us will," she said. "We made it through hell all those years ago at that place. We fought and we won our freedom. We won't just die like this. It wouldn't be right… not when there's still so much for us to do."
"Life isn't always fair…" he mumbled sadly.
"No. I don't accept that," Erza refused. "Life is what we make of it – and do you know what it will be for is? Life is going to be us making it down this mountain together. Life is going to be you making S-Class this year and then congratulating the others when it's their turn. Life," she said, putting even more emphasis in the word than before, "is going to be us getting married and having babies and then grandbabies! And life is not going to end until seventy… no, eighty years from now when we are both legends and have done everything we were supposed to ever do together except moving on to the next life… which we will do… together, at the same minute of the same hour of the same day because if we do it a moment sooner, it will hurt too much! I won't take anything less than that. I will fight, kicking and screaming until my last breath if anyone tries to take that away from us."
It was jarring, seeing tears falling freely down her cheeks at the same time as a look of the strongest type of determination shone in her eyes. He knew the odds of her words becoming true were slim… well, part of them, at least, but by the gods, he so wanted that picture of a life she has painted to become true…
"You really want all of th…"
As soon as the sound reached her ears, Erza was on her feet. "Did you hear that?"
"I… I think so…" he whispered. Could he be imagining it?
And then… again. "Erza! Jellal!"
"It's Simon!" Erza said, recognizing the voice that time. She looked up, towards the hole through which they had fallen, and cupped the only hand she could lift high enough to reach her face by her mouth. "Simon! We're here! Simon!" she shouted back.
Someone appeared above, at the edge of the opening above. Only it wasn't Simon – it was Ultear. "There you two are! Are you alright?" she called down.
"No! Jellal needs help! Hurry!"
From the top, she saw Ultear giving her a nod before disappearing, likely to get Simon. Erza closed her eyes and took a breath of relief. They were going to make it. Thank Mavis…
Her eyes looked back down on Jellal, only to see that he seemed to be dangerously close to unconsciousness and, instantly, she was back on her knees by his side. "Hey! Stay awake! Simon and Ultear are here for us! We're safe. Didn't I tell you we would be?"
This time, he seemed to be having a harder time responding but something in her sentence got enough of his attention to get a word out of him. "We must be… dreaming… Simon hates Ultear," he mumbled.
Even in his drowsiness, he was right… sort of. Maybe the word 'hate' was exaggerating it, but Simon had been presenting a pronounced dislike for the time-mage for years. It wasn't even rational, in the way that she had actually done something to offend him; he just plain didn't like her for reasons unknown and it was often joked that she must have done something horrid to him in another life. Ultear didn't seem particularly bothered by the younger boy's dislike – one might even say that it amused her, to the point that she took great pleasure in using his own distaste to push his buttons with her presence alone. The fact that they seemed to have put their differences aside to help them was… touching, to say the least. "Well, they still came for us. We'll be fine. You hear me? We'll be just fine."
He smiled, eyes nearly closed. "That's nice…"
She looked up to find the source of her name and found Simon rushing towards her from the depths of the cave, likely having teleported there. Ultear was not far behind.
Their friend was quick to reach them, kneeling by the other side of Jellal's injured body. "Thank goodness… what happened to him?"
"We fell. He cut his side on the way down. He… he's lost a lot of blood," Erza explained quickly.
"No wonder he looks pale as a sheet. My, my," Ultear said, the last part directed to Jellal, kneeling by Erza's side. "The trouble you find yourself in… Honestly, kid."
"Not… on purpose," he managed to argue.
"Of course not," she said, patting his head absently before turning to Simon, no sign of the usual scorn she presented in return to his dislike. "He needs a hospital now. In state he's in, you should take him on his own – the less cargo, the less bumpy the ride will be, right? You can come back for us once you've handed him over to the doctors."
He nodded without question – that was just how grim the situation was.
Erza squeezed Jellal's hand, but by then he could hardly feel it at all. "We'll be right after you. Don't die!"
"I'll try," he said weakly. "Sounds like I have a lot to look forward to if I don't."
"You're an idiot if you've only realized that now."
His only response was a smile and by then Simon was trying to maneuver him carefully so he could hold him securely during the teleportation without moving him so much that his wound would re-open. "Brace yourself," Simon warned him.
And then, a moment later, they were gone, leaving Erza and Ultear alone in the cave. On the stretch of ground on which Jellal has been lying down, the bloodstain was more visible than ever. Erza couldn't help but stare at it.
"Mavis… he must have lost like a third of his blood supply," Ultear said to herself when she spotted it, and, unable to face it, used her magic to cause snow to form over the blood, covering it.
Erza still didn't tear her eyes away from that particular spot.
"Hey, you alright?" the older girl asked her, concerned. "You guys fell from over there, right? Did you break anything?"
She didn't respond – she felt like she physically could not speak. That if she uttered a word, everything would come apart.
"Hey," Ultear said again, taking a seat on the ground by Erza's side. She saw the look on her face and immediately knew that it wasn't her body that had received the worst damage. "Hey, listen… he's at the hospital now for sure, so… whatever it is that you're holding in, you can let it go… He's not here to see it anymore."
Erza turned to the older girl and held her breath.
"Come on, Erza. You don't have to be strong all the time. You're only human."
And so, even if she desperately didn't want to, Erza let go. Her body was rocked with spasm-like sobbing and before she knew it, the older girl had one arm around her. Every bit of fear that she had put aside for the last hour for the sake of keeping Jellal alive came out in a flood of tears, as did the horror at the fact that he must have actually thought he was going to die, if his attempt to get her to leave him behind was anything to go by.
Ultear didn't say a thing – she just let her cry because, by the gods, it was plain to see that she needed it. Erza was so into it that she didn't even notice it when Simon appeared again midway through her breakdown and seemed stunned by the sight of Ultear actually providing someone with comfort, as if up until then he hadn't thought her capable of compassion. He was quickly and silently told to take a hike through a single look from her – a look that also promised retaliation if he dared to ever mention what he had just seen to anyone, especially Erza herself.
When he returned, ten minutes later, Erza's eyes were still red, but she seemed to have composed herself again.
"She okay?" he managed to ask of the time-mage when Erza wasn't listening.
Ultear only raised an eyebrow. "Of course. Why wouldn't she be?"
It was as if nothing had happened and nothing had changed. Except, perhaps, his opinion of her.
It turned out to be Erza's collarbone that was fractured (and not thoroughly broken) rather than the arms of the shoulder itself. The doctors gave her something for the pain and put her arm on a sling, sending her back to the waiting room when they were done, so she could wait for news from Jellal, who was still being cared for somewhere in the depths of the restricted areas of the hospital.
Simon and Ultear explained to her how they had come across them while they waited – it seemed like the driver of the sled who had been taking them home had contacted the guild shortly after the attack by the Blizzardverns. Despite their faith on the couple's abilities, Ultear, being very familiar with the dangers that loomed in that particular area of Mt. Hakobe – given that it was her mother's favorite training field nowadays – had been quick to call for a rescue mission, which the Master had immediately approved. Ultear was put on the lead due to her familiarity with the location and Simon, both due to his closeness with Erza and Jellal and his handy affinity with teleportation magic, had offered to put their differences aside and join the impromptu mission as support. Thankfully, the mission had been a quick one with them finding them after less than an hour and the rest of the story was one that he was already aware of.
The hospital waiting room was a revolving door of concerned guild members in the few hours that it took for the doctors to come back with news. The Master stayed the whole time and the others came and went. Wallu and Sho didn't quite know what to do with themselves, Millianna was a flood of tears and even Kagura, who had never made an effort to hide her dislike of Jellal, seemed slightly concerned. By the time the doctors allowed anyone in, only Erza and the Master were let through.
Jellal has been very lucky, they had said – the cold had slowed the blood flow just enough for the loss not to reach critical levels. The blood transfusions he had received and the two weeks of rest prescribed would make him good as new, aside from the nasty scar he would have on his side from then on – of course, he wouldn't be leaving the hospital until at least twenty-four hours after waking up, which should take some time, given that his body was in desperate need of rest.
Erza was allowed to stay the whole time, likely due to the Master pulling strings with the nurses, so, for more than a day, she waited for him to wake up at his bedside.
It was near midnight of the day after he'd arrived when he finally started to stir and his eyes opened. At first, he seemed unfocused, blinking repeatedly so that his eyes could get used to wakefulness, and then he started looking around, trying to place himself… that was, until his eyes fell on her.
"Hey," he said softly.
"Hey," she responded.
For a while, they didn't say anything else, just looked at each other. And then, Jellal spoke.
"So we made it home?"
"Almost. We're at the hospital."
"Ah… I figured that much," he said before hesitating for a moment. "Are you okay? You sound…" He wasn't able to finish his sentence as, before he could, he found her heading to him and leaning down, giving him an awkward, one-armed hug.
"Don't scare me like that ever again," she demanded against his ear.
"Oh," he mumbled, his voice muffled by her beautiful hair. "I feel like I should say again that it wasn't on purp…"
"Never again!" she insisted, pulling back just enough to glare at him.
He lifted up his arms in defeat. "Alright. I promise I'll try. Really hard."
She glared some more but then, after a few seconds, conceded, sitting on the edge of his bed and then pulling her legs up onto the mattress, leaning back so that she was resting alongside him.
"Is your arm broken?" he asked her, spotting her sling as she maneuvered herself onto his side.
She shook her head. "Fractured collarbone," she explained. "I'll have to wear the sling while it heals."
He made a face. "That must suck."
"It could be worse," she said, before looking at him with something akin to fear in her eyes. "You nearly died."
"But I didn't," he pointed out.
"But you could have," she insisted. And that scared her. So much.
"All of us can. It's the only sure thing we have after we're born – that one day we'll die," he pointed out. "It sucks that life can't go on forever, but it's also what makes us want to enjoy it while we can… even when we hope it will last for another seventy or eighty years."
She blushed. "You remember that."
He nodded. "You meant it, didn't you? All that you said about the future. You weren't just saying it because I might be dying, right?"
The redhead shot him a glare. "I wouldn't have said it if I didn't mean it!"
He smiled. "I'm glad. Means we're on the same page."
Erza blushed incredibly red, because, in that case, being on the same page… well, it entailed a lot: marriage, babies, a life together… so much. All when they hadn't even reached certain… er, milestones in what came to intimacy… God, it was so like them, doing everything all backwards.
And she didn't even know just how backwards it really was until she heard him chuckling to himself.
"What is it?" she asked, turning to face him.
"Nothing. Something silly just crossed my mind."
"What?" the redhead questioned.
He shook his head. "Forget it."
She frowned. "Just say it."
He blushed, starting to get embarrassed. "It's really silly."
"Alright. I… I just thought that… well… You said you wanted to marry me one day and… er, I just said I wanted the same… If… if you think of it, that kind of makes us already engaged, doesn't it?"
She blinked and then just looked at him in silence for what seemed like a very long time. At some point, he seemed to grow self-conscious and looked away.
"I told you it was silly," he mumbled, almost sounding like a child.
"Is it?" she found herself asking. Because, embarrassed as it made her, he kind of has a point there – he knew she wanted to marry him someday, she knew he wanted to marry her someday… likely, that wouldn't happen for years, but the mutual knowledge of each other's intentions sort of defeated the purpose of having to ask asking the question eventually. It was a huge step and at the same time not at all, because they had taken it without even noticing – such a realization was… stunning.
Her answer seemed to startle him and he stared for a while. "I… should I start thinking of getting you a ring?"
She hesitated that time, mostly because she still needed some time to let is all settle between themselves before telling everyone about the current status of their relationship, which a ring would most certainly do. Given the circumstances in which the new development had happened, it still felt to intimate, too… theirs to share with others just yet. "Maybe not until after the S-Class trials," she said. It was her way of saying 'yes' and at the same time 'no', because those were still months and months away and that would give them plenty of time to let their relationship grow into its brand new shoes.
She feared his reaction for the fraction of second before it came – and, when it did, she saw her fears were completely unfounded because he just smiled and kissed her cheek since, just like everything else, they were exactly on the same sentence of the same page.
"Have I mentioned how glad I am that I didn't die?" he asked her.
She smiled. "No. But that makes two of us."
A/N: Please write as much feedback as you please bellow!