Author's Note: Trying to get back into the swing of writing after a break. If you're waiting on a request from me, I appreciate your patience.
The face of his phone lit up with a name that drew a visceral reaction. Jellal's lip curled and he tapped his pen against the edge of his textbook. He didn't know what reason Erza's sister could possibly have for calling him but when the vibrating stopped and the phone face went dark again, he felt a stab of guilt. What if it had been important? Jellal anxiously tapped his pen three more times. If it was urgent, Erza would call him herself... right?
His chest filled with relief when the voice mail notification chimed. Eileen's voice was softer than he'd ever heard it. She still grated on his nerves but her tone was informative with none of the sarcasm he was used to.
"Erza had a hard time in the meeting with the attorneys today. Things won't be finalized for another month or so but it's over and that's what's important." Eileen paused and sighed. Static crackled and Jellal only caught the tail end of her message. "...so I don't know. Not that I need to say so to you, but be gentle with her. Maybe... maybe that last part was for me. Forget it said it." The voice mail ended abruptly.
Jellal pursed his lips and stared at the screen. He didn't need to hear all of Eileen's words to extrapolate what happened. Their mother's estate had been decided and Erza wasn't happy about the divisions. He suspected that meant their estranged father had shown up for the proceedings – and his payout. Classwork forgotten, Jellal crossed his room to stare out the window. Rain pelted the glass in fat droplets. Not a hard, stinging rain but a deluge all the same. Like a slow but steady wolf trot the rainy season had impressive stamina. Clouds hung low and dark and he squinted at the blur of red that slowly crossed the front walk.
He – somewhat dangerously – took the stairs two at a time on the way down. His mother glared at him from near the kettle already starting to steam. Jellal sheepishly grinned and slipped into the front hallway. His mother could always be counted on for two things: tea and a watchful eye. Even though he was well into his second year of university she still had a distinct expression reserved for questionable choices.
When he opened the front door Erza peered up at him from a fringe of wet hair. She clutched the strap of her messenger bag and her lips were set in a grim line. Though she hadn't bothered with a jacket, her rain boots left imprints on the door mat. Jellal stepped aside and Erza joined him in the hallway. Wordlessly she handed off her bag. He watched as she removed the boots, noting that at least her socks were dry. Erza tucked her hair behind an ear and let her eyes slide over the entire hallway before settling on him again.
"I should've brought a coat," she whispered. "I'm sorry."
Jellal let her bag fall to the floor and pulled her against him. Erza's arms slid around his middle and clutched at the back of his shirt. He wasn't sure if it was the rain water or tears but he felt the damp seep through to his chest.
"Eileen called," he offered softly tidying her mess of hair with gentle fingers. "I didn't speak to her but she left a message. I'm sorry about today."
Erza didn't answer him. After a moment she inched back and sniffled. Jellal slung her bag over his shoulder, took her hand, and led her through the house. The kitchen was now dark but upstairs in his room he found the still-hot tea on a tray and a text message from his mother. She was on a graveyard shift at the hospital and wouldn't be back until late the following morning. Of course he'd known that already but his mother always anticipated his excellence in distraction. Erza's family troubles weren't exactly a secret.
"You can shower if you want," Jellal said emptying her bag and arranging the wet canvas over the back of his desk chair. For the first time Erza smiled, however small, and nudged aside his abandoned books to sit on the edge of the bed that faced the window.
"Your mom would be disappointed if we had cold tea."
"She would," he agreed. Erza poured cups of tea in her usual way. Jellal watched with unashamed interest. Erza could deny her semblance to Eileen and their mother all day long but her upbringing never shone through more than when she handled a tea service. There was a graceful formality in the way she delicately held her cup and brought it to her lips. She caught him staring and one eyebrow shot up curiously. Jellal cleared his throat, effectively shattering the silence, and sipped his tea loudly.
"I don't think I can ever reach a place inside of me where I don't hate him," Erza finally said.
"Did someone say you had to?"
"No. Eileen looked like she wanted to tear his throat out with her bare hands..." she trailed off and gazed out at the rain. "She remembers him more than I do. Most of my anger is on behalf of mom."
"He doesn't deserve any of her things," she whispered harshly. Jellal didn't remember very much about Erza's father. His memories were more of the aftermath. Eileen's anger. Erza's tears. Their mother's desperate scramble to pick up the pieces and carry on.
Jellal gathered the tea service and left her alone to return the tray to the kitchen. When he rejoined her, the room had fallen mostly dark except for the dim bedside lamp. Erza was stretched out across his bed watching the rain splash against the window glass. Her clothes were still wet but after the long day even her dry socks were beginning to bunch loosely around her legs. Thunder rolled in the distance and she finally looked at him. When her expression didn't change, he stuffed his hands in his pockets and smiled for her.
Erza slid her arm out to the empty space beside her and pat the mattress. He didn't hesitate. She took his hand and inspected each and every one of his fingers before shifting onto her side. The room was silent but for the rain as she slid her body over his and straddled his waist. Damp ropes of red hair slipped from the collar of her shirt when she pulled it over her head. They cascaded over her shoulders and blurred his vision the way trails of rain obscured his windows. He'd always loved her hair. She pushed his shirt up and over, tossing it aside. Tips of scarlet brushed his chest when she leaned down.
She never said a word before kissing him and the rain blissfully muted all sound. Her skin was cool beneath the wet clothes but he eagerly warmed it with his palms. Erza melted into him and when she finally smiled it came with a gasp and fluttering eyelids.
When he pulled the blanket over her shoulders, Erza's arm slid across his hip. The steady breaths of sleep fanned over his neck and chest. He couldn't fix her problems for her – though not for a lack of wishing – but she sought him out all the same. Erza always slept better during the rainy season. It was his favorite.