Author's Note: This is an angsty mess. I hope it makes sense. If not? Sorry I tried.
The boxes made her lonely. Seeing them stacked in the corner of the once-full living room hurt. The room wasn't empty, it just wasn't full anymore. Erza left her teacup in the sink and decided she didn't want to be home when he came by to gather the last of them. There'd been a lot of Too Much and Not Enough in the last few months. Too many hasty decisions, too little discussion of the reasoning behind them, but watching him untangle and carry the last of the cords that once bound them together for so long from the house would be unbearable.
And then there was the issue of the cast. He didn't need to see it on her. There'd be questions and she was not up for the way his eyes would prod at her. At nine, those eyes had been a refuge. They were the only eyes that really saw her and cared about what happened to her. At thirteen, his gaze had been the only safe place to be. At seventeen they'd smiled at her from the other side of a threshold she'd readily crossed – and Erza hadn't looked back until three months ago when she wondered if she was worth anything at all with out him.
She worked through lunch to keep her mind occupied. Kagura brought her a sandwich but only half of it ended up in her stomach, the other half was shoved off the edge of her desk and into the trash. Erza's anxiety climbed as the office slowly emptied and the shadows began to crawl mercilessly across the carpeted floor. Kagura glanced in the garbage can before wishing her a good evening. Erza didn't return the smile.
Her phone buzzed at seven-thirty. She should've looked at the face of her phone before rushing through to unlock it and open the message, but her arm hurt. It was long past time for a pain pill. Erza thought her stomach would fall right out of her body and squelch against the berber carpet when she saw the message.
Running late. I'm sorry.
Her brain screamed for distraction. Her heart thudded a lonely cadence. The pain in her arm ruled over both. Erza stopped for takeout on her way home to kill more time. Maybe he'd be gone by the time she arrived and the messy goodbye could be avoided.
No such luck. His black sedan was parked on the curb – not the driveway, but the curb. Yet another reminder that he didn't live there anymore. As the garage door inched upward, Erza felt as if she might cry. She didn't, though. Instead she took several deep breaths and snatched the plastic bag of food from the passenger seat. The sooner she dealt with him, the sooner she could cry pitifully over her fried rice alone before passing out in an opioid induced haze.
Her good arm carried the weight of her dinner and messenger bag, and she fumbled the kitchen door knob. The door swung open and her heart broke for the umpteenth time. Jellal was crouched near the cat's food dish and he spoke softly as the ball of black fluff circled him. Lily had always been partial to Jellal. He stood smoothly and slid his hands into his pockets before turning to face her. His eyes settled on the cast immediately.
"It's nothing," Erza bit out. She struggled as gracefully as she could to get the messenger bag, and her dinner to the kitchen counter without jostling her arm too much. The pain had returned full throttle but it now hurt less than the gathering sadness in her chest. She could feel his eyes on her. "Did you get your boxes?"
"I– no. No, I just got here a moment ago."
Erza spun around and he pinned her with a look so honest, the concern sliced right through her.
"I'm fine, Jellal," she whispered. He said nothing. Millions of I'm fine's came rushing back. This one was as much of a lie as the others, except this particular injury was her fault. Erza sighed and crossed the kitchen to the sink and dug through the basket of pill bottles. To her dismay the child-proof lid foiled her attempt at competency and she nearly dropped the bottle. His voice behind her was soft.
"Here," he muttered. "Let me." Jellal pried the bottle from her fingers and opened it easily. He took her hand and shook out two blue pills. Erza didn't stop him when he plucked a glass from the cabinet and filled it with water. His mouth slowly fell into a frown as she took the glass and swallowed the pills. "What happened, Erza?"
"I, uh –" she turned away from as best she could in such close quarters and stared at the wet ring the glass left on the counter. "I was running last week and tripped into a pot hole or something in that new park on West. It's not a big deal, really. A smooth break." Erza didn't need to look at him to feel his empathy. He'd always been keenly aware of her emotions. "Lucy took me to the ER and they had to do surgery because the bone wouldn't reduce without sliding. I'll have a pin for another few weeks." She was babbling now.
"It's fine, really. I have these pills and I can do most things on my own." She finally glanced at him and tried to smile but could only manage a grimace. "It won't hurt in a few minutes."
Jellal only watched her and Erza felt her eyes begin to sting. She blinked rapidly and swiped under her eyes quickly.
"Um, there's some of your things in the laundry room that I didn't put in the last box." She shoved off the counter and kicked her heels into the carpeted hallway. The laundry room was dark but she didn't need light to see where she'd stacked his shirts. Why hadn't she put them in the boxes? Why had she told herself all day the boxes were the last when she knew damn well they weren't? So many lies.
"Thanks," he said in the same cautious tone as he took the shirts from her. "Erza, listen, if you need anything, it doesn't matter what it is, please call me." His eyes fell to the cast and he frowned. "I can't believe –" Jellal pursed his lips and left her in the hallway. She leaned against the wall and listened to the sound of shuffling cardboard. Erza smeared more tears from her face and joined him in the living room. Lily was perched on the back of the couch and pawed at her better arm.
"I'm sorry for not telling you." Erza's voice could barely be heard over the sound of Jellal's rummaging. "I just... I didn't think you'd... care." Another lie.
He stiffened and planted his hands on his hips. She watched him raise his face to the ceiling before turning around. "Erza, I have always cared. Just because we're not– I mean, just because things are different now doesn't mean I don't care." Jellal's face seemed to crumple. "How could you even think that?"
She wanted to scream at him that she didn't really think that at all! She'd only wanted to see how much Erza Scarlet was worth without Jellal Fernandes! She'd just needed to know if she could exist on her own! Her questions had been answered, of course. Erza could exist but that's all she could do – exist. She missed him terribly but didn't know how to fix what she'd broken. Instead of any of that she only said, "I'm sorry."
"Erza, what happened? How did we go from our life to... this?" His eyes locked onto the new tears that dripped from her chin and he seemed to crumble further. "I never wanted to make you cry. I never wanted to see that terrified look on your face again." Jellal snatched a box from the top of the stack. "And now I'm the reason it's there."
Lily was pawing insistently at her arm now and stretched up to poke at her shoulder. Erza clumsily took him into her arms and let her tears dampen his black fur. He shoved his head under her chin and purred roughly.
She watched Jellal carry the box out to his car and stuff it in the trunk. He didn't look at her when he returned for another, and another. Erza's heart began to race painfully and her thoughts started to slosh together. What a terrible time for her pain pills to finally kick in.
"Jellal," she called when he picked up the last box. "I know I already said I was sorry but I am."
"You have nothing to be sorry for," he said, still not looking at her.
"Not for that." Erza shook her head and felt a little dizzy. "I mean, I'm sorry for not saying I'm sorry for the right thing."
Jellal sighed and set the box aside on an arm chair. "You're high on pain pills, Erza. You should go to bed." Lily struggled free of her arms and nimbly perched on the edge of Jellal's box.
"I'm not high, Jellal. I'm... I'm terrible without you." She sighed and swayed into the couch cushions. Jellal sat too far away but still brushed a fringe of hair from her eyes. He peered at her and she smiled for the first time in what felt like ages.
"You never could handle opiates, love," he whispered with a sad grin.
"I told you I wanted space because I was afraid we were melting into one person," she blurted. Jellal's eyebrows shot up.
"Melting into one person?"
"You're so... you're so good, Jellal. And I'm like a – a barnacle. I hang off you and don't contribute anything."
Jellal blinked and sat back against the arm of the couch, boxes seemingly forgotten. "What?"
"It's true," she groaned. "You were always rescuing me when my dad would –" Erza sighed heavily.
"Listen, we don't have to talk about that." Jellal took her hands in his. "And you aren't my barnacle. That's the most ridiculous thing you've ever said to me besides the whole thing about me not caring about your broken arm. Maybe we should talk about this tomorrow when you're not loopy."
"I want to say it now, though." Erza squeezed his hands as tightly as she could but he easily freed himself.
"Let's get you to bed, okay?" Suddenly bed sounded amazing. Erza let him pull her to her feet and into his side. She waved at Lily who was still swishing his tail haughtily from his spot on the box. Jellal guided her down the hallway to their bedroom and tried to keep her from settling on the wrong arm. He stood but Erza's arm shot out to snag the sleeve of his shirt.
"Don't go," she murmured.
"Stay and count the stars with me." The words came out in a breath but he froze. Even with her syrupy, oozing thoughts Erza could feel his surprise... and indecision. She would let him have that. If he wanted to leave, he should.
"Okay," he finally whispered. "I'll stay." Erza's fingers slid from his sleeve and fell into the sheets. She felt his lips press against her forehead and he disappeared briefly back down the hall. When he returned his keys clanked on the side table and he deposited Lily on the edge of the bed. The mattress dipped and he brushed her fingers that poked from the cast with his own, and stayed.
"I should go home," she said in a worried tone.
"Is it safe?" he asked casually. His words were always light but Erza knew the hardness in his eyes when he asked if her house was safe.
"Just stay and count the stars with me." He offered her a hand and smiled. Erza glanced backwards into his dark room and the hallway beyond before taking his hand, and following him out on to the roof.