Author's Note: In the process of avoiding responsibility and life in general, I watched a video on Facebook of a couple who had twins but didn't tell anyone she was pregnant with twins. They filmed a number of reactions and I was like OMG HOW CUTE and decided I could totally make a fic out of that. Somewhere along the way my brain got confused and this turned from fluff to angst.
This won't be too long but it will be multiple parts because I am a narcissist and require immediate gratification.
Erza stared at the two pink lines. They seemed to be brighter than any other color in the known universe. She paced from the tub to the sink – back and forth – and with every trip grew more anxious. Through the crack in the door, Erza could see Jellal. He sprawled across their bed, still asleep and half covered by sheets. The tattoo on his left shoulder blade drove the stake of anxiety further into her chest. The crossed rifles and stars were his unit emblem and a reminder that he wasn't exactly a free man.
"Shit," she huffed and turned back to the pregnancy test strip still resting on the edge of the sink. They hadn't planned on discussing kids at all until after his discharge – which wouldn't even be on the table for another year and a half! This was too soon! Her thoughts devolved into a throbbing chant. Not again... not again... not again...
"Hey," the sleep-rough voice startled her. In cinematic slow motion Erza felt him move from the doorway to her side and couldn't make her hand move fast enough to do anything about the completely obvious test – not that she'd ever hide something like this. They'd been through enough already. She watched his eyes fall to the plastic stick and his brows furrow in confusion. When he finally looked back up at her, Erza's face felt hot.
"It's uh –"
"I know what it is," he whispered. His gaze flit back to the terrifying pink lines again and Erza couldn't take the suspense of the moment any longer. She whirled around and left the bathroom to sit on the edge of their bed. The room was spinning like a carnival ride and she desperately wanted off. The mattress depressed beside her and his arm circled her shoulders.
"I'm sorry," Erza choked out. "I don't know how this happened." She swatted the tears she didn't realize had fallen from her cheeks and met his eyes. "I'm sorry."
"Don't apologize, Erza." His lips pressed to her forehead. "We were careful. This just..." Jellal trailed off and Erza hid her fresh tears in his neck. "I won't say that, okay? I'm sorry." His voice was soft but heavy with shared sadness. "Let's not say obvious things because they don't help."
"I wanted to be prepared. I wanted to be ready and in a position to make sure we could handle any... complications –" she stumbled over the word. It felt horribly inadequate. "But this isn't that time, Jellal! I – I –"
"We don't have to do this right now. You know that. We have options." Jellal's fingers ran through her hair but the usual comfort never came. His alarm clock tore through the quiet and he slumped beside her. "Goddamn it."
Erza sat straighter and, in attempt to compose herself, ran her palms over her cheeks before smiling at him. "This is a busy week. I should get dressed too. My classroom won't organize itself."
He continued to eye her before pulling her into a kiss. "I love you," he whispered.
"I love you too."
"We'll talk about this tonight." His face scrunched and he groaned in frustration.
"I assume that means you'll be working late?" she asked with the mildest of humor.
"Yeah." His eyes softened in apology. "This week is a mess. I've got full birds all over my ass and everything rolls downhill. I hate this shit." Erza kissed the apple of his cheek and stood. His erratic hours weren't anything new.
"Why the influx?" She pulled her nightgown over her head and tossed it in the closet hamper.
"I'm not sure. Something's coming down, though, I can feel it. The military's so predictable it's pathetic."
When Erza emerged from the closet in clothing appropriate for shuffling around a new classroom, she found Jellal staring down at his clasped hands. His shoulders were tense and he hadn't moved at all. Her heart clenched. Even though it had been her body all those years ago, he'd shared the weight of the heartbreak. Erza set aside her sandals and rejoined him on the edge of the bed. She pried his hands apart and took them in hers.
"Jellal, we're adults this time and we can handle things on our own terms." Erza tilted his chin upwards and smiled as best she could.
"But we don't know how far along you are and the decision window is so, so small." His eyes glittered with unshed tears.
"I'm only a week late, Jellal. I've been like clockwork for years. There's time." Jellal's head fell to her shoulder and his arms circled her waist.
"I'll call my doctor today, okay?" She cut him off in as light a tone as possible. "It could be a false positive anyway." He sighed against her neck and pulled back. He said nothing as he tucked a strand of her hair behind an ear. His eyes never left hers. Even though he nodded, and left the bed to dress himself, Erza knew neither of them were okay – and they both knew it wasn't a false positive.
Her dress felt scratchy and uncomfortable as she eased herself back onto the exam table. The pale pink of the walls and the unimposing floral artwork grated all over her nerves. Logically, Erza knew the waiting was normal but the silence of the room suffocated her.
As expected, Jellal hadn't made it home until very late the previous night. She'd heard him come in, slough off his gear, and shower before falling into bed beside her. His thumb had brushed over her cheek as he kissed her goodnight. They didn't discuss the possible pregnancy or any of the implications that came with it. He simply kissed her and brought a calm to the wild unrest in her mind.
They'd always been this way. Erza and Jellal shared a balance of give and take – sometimes that balance shifted more than once in the heat of any given crisis. More than once she'd been bowled over by her love and appreciation of him. There was no one else in the world for her.
The exam room door swung open and the nurse practitioner strode in. Erza's appointment had been squeezed in so her regular doctor wasn't available.
"Sorry for the wait, Miss Scarlet –"
"It's Fernandes now," she said softly. The nurse blinked and flustered.
"I'm so sorry." Her eyes flew over the pages in front of her. "It even says that right here."
"It's okay. This appointment was last minute and I haven't been in since we married."
"Well..." the nurse trailed off and glanced over the file one last time. "I was able to run your blood work myself to save us all time. It looks like you're pregnant."
Erza's lungs felt completely devoid of air. As if she had no lungs at all. She didn't think she could've produced words if her life depended on it. The nurse eyed her closely and set aside the file and papers.
"Are you alright?" She placed one hand on Erza's shoulder. "This is a progressive clinic. You know that. There's choices. You aren't very far along at all. Less than four weeks, probably."
"Um –" Erza closed her eyes and sucked in a deep breath through her nose. "I'm sorry, I just, uh – this wasn't a planned thing."
"Honestly? Most of them aren't." The nurse practitioner's eyes were kind and Erza felt on the verge of tears again.
"This isn't my first pregnancy," she whispered. "I mentioned it when I became a patient here but it's been a while." Erza focused on her twisted fingers. "I miscarried badly. There were... well there were things going on. I was sixteen. Parents were involved, it was a mess."
"Would you like to make another appointment to see the doctor to discuss this? I can set that up for you."
"I think so, yeah." Erza's head felt as if it were spinning on a wild tilt. "I think I should get home, though."
"I'll reception call you in the morning, if that's alright?"
"Yes, that's fine."
Erza slid her bag onto her shoulder and walked from the exam room to the front office to the parking lot. She couldn't quite recall the drive home or how she got from the driver's seat to the couch, but that's where Jellal found her – perched on the edge of the cushions, staring down at her knees intently. Her eyes widened in surprise when he tossed his uniform top over the back of the couch and joined her.
"It's almost nine-o-clock," he said gently. "Why are you sitting in the dark?"
"I'm pregnant," she whispered. The words shocked her to say out loud. An endless scroll of ways to tell him had been ticking through her mind since leaving the doctor's office but only the most succinct answer fell from her lips. Jellal pulled her into his side.
"Have you eaten?" he asked quietly and Erza burst into tears. Jellal said nothing more. He gathered her hair into one hand as she sobbed into his t-shirt. When she quieted into shaking breaths, he kissed her forehead.
"Sorry," she muttered brushing her fingers over his wet shoulder.
"You never have to apologize to me for having emotions, Erza. Are you okay?"
Erza bit her lip and stared hard into his eyes. "No, I'm not."
Jellal took her hand and she followed him into the kitchen. With the efficiency of a man who regularly wrangled a crowd of unruly enlisted soldiers, Jellal quickly produced two sandwiches. Erza opened her mouth to thank him but he shook his head.
"Eat first, then we'll talk. You were shaking earlier and that's not good." He pointed to their dining table and pulled out a chair. "You know how you get when you don't eat."
Erza swallowed her sandwich around the lump in her throat. His care of her had always been top notch. Making food when she was on the verge of a total breakdown was very much a Jellal thing to do.
As she chewed, her eyes darted around their apartment. It had been his before she'd joined him in the city but now there wasn't a single inch of it they didn't share. Marrying Jellal the previous year had been nothing but a formality in her mind – a way to secure spousal benefits from the military. In actuality they'd belonged to one another for much, much longer.
It was one week after Erza's tenth birthday that Jellal's dad moved into the house at the end of the block. She'd always been a shy little girl and Jellal was anything but. The very first time he spoke to her was an offer to climb the tree in her front yard and retrieve the cranky old cat who refused to come down. Erza's mother was relieved her withdrawn daughter had finally found a friend, and Jellal's father was grateful his son had a safe place to go – as a recent widower and workaholic, he traveled often. The spare bedroom down the street wasn't nearly as expensive as a nanny.
"Feel better?" Jellal's voice shattered the quiet.
"I do." Erza tried to smile but knew her effort was pitiful.
"We don't have to talk about this now," he said quietly.
"I think we do." She met his eyes squarely. Jellal leaned back in his chair and sighed.
"I –" Erza felt on the verge of losing her already tenuous nerve. "I want to try," she whispered. "I know it's not what we planned and you still have to finish your commission and all of that. But, Jellal, I want to try."
Jellal knelt in front of her and took her hands in his. He kissed her palms and gazed up at her with wide, honest eyes.
"You were right yesterday. We're adults now and we can do this on our own terms. There's no one to tell us we shouldn't or can't."
"You're okay with this?"
"I am. What happened before –" he broke off and shook his head. "It's been ten years, Erza."
"Eleven," she teased lightly with a widening smile.
"Eleven then. No, it's not what we planned but that's okay. I'm flexible." He returned her smile and Erza slid off the edge of her chair, and into his lap. She kissed him with equal parts relief and excitement. The tension that previously hung in the room began to boil into something hot.
Jellal parted his lips and her tongue darted out quickly. His hands found the bottom hem of her dress and then the waistband of her panties. Erza tugged his shirt free of his pants and tossed it aside before kicking off her panties and straddling his waist. His belt buckle gave her some resistance – but she'd had a lot of practice. His uniform pants weren't stiff with starch anymore and easily slid down over his hips. She wasted no time grasping him and guiding herself downward.
When he settled back on the rug, Erza leaned forward to kiss him again – this time with a desperate ferocity. She moved her hips in a quick, precise pattern. All of her anxiety pooled between her legs and just before she tipped over the edge, Jellal wrapped an arm around her waist and flipped their position. His covered knees, and the rubber soles of his boots gave him better leverage and before she could heave two breaths, Erza was speeding toward her climax once more.
She came with a gasp and felt his lips on her neck. He whispered her name over and over again before centering his weight on his elbows. His breath fanned over her chest and Erza touched his cheek.
"I love you, you know that?" she breathed. Jellal responded with a smile and a kiss before sighing deeply.
"Let's go to bed, then. It's been a long couple of days." Jellal dropped one last kiss on her lips before helping her to her feet. The rug had left nasty marks on her knees.
"We should probably find out what kind of flooring is best for a baby before looking at new places," he said pulling his pants back up.
"I see a lot of research in the very near future." Jellal took her hand and she followed him out of the dining room and down the hall. There was a lightness in her heart that hadn't been there since the two pink lines had slowly come into view.
The moment when she could kick off her shoes and crawl into bed just after four-o-clock was fast becoming Erza's favorite part of the day. First trimester fatigue had hit her like a train. Usually by lunch she was in desperate need of a nap, and often found herself yawning. Her class of third graders giggled about the new habit but it just couldn't be helped.
Erza sighed and stretched out under the top sheet. The days of having energy to handle a dinner that required more than one step had come to an abrupt halt and the slow cooker they'd received as a wedding gift had finally been removed from it's box. An appliance she'd side eyed a year previous was now her favorite and currently sat on low, earning it's keep on the counter.
When she opened her eyes next, Erza was no longer alone. Their apartment smelled of dinner, the sun had set, and Jellal was curled around her on top of the sheets. She sat up and yawned – feeling only slightly refreshed. Jellal stirred and rolled over to his back.
"Your naps are contagious," he muttered, yawning.
"Sorry." Erza readjusted her position and lay back down on his shoulder. "I'm so tired all the time. I don't remember being this tired before."
Jellal chuckled and curled a strand of hair around his finger. "You don't remember skipping class to nap in my bed?"
"Did I do that?"
"You did. And you kept a box of graham crackers in the side table."
"Wow. I don't remember that at all."
"I don't blame you. It's been a while and I think the way everything happened..." he trailed off but continued to curl her hair. "Memories of the early weeks got lost in the shuffle. Also the energy level at sixteen isn't the same as twenty-seven."
"We're old now, I guess."
"Not that old." Erza turned her head toward him and smiled.
"How was your day?" she asked.
"Long," he sighed. "Frustrating. The same as always, I guess."
"You have less than two years left." Erza's arm tightened around his chest. "Have you thought about what you want to do after that?"
"Besides sit on the patio and day drink?" Erza snorted and he laughed. "I'm mostly kidding but I did have lunch with Laxus today."
Erza frowned and picked at the brown cotton of his t-shirt. She'd hoped Jellal would consider less dangerous employment after his discharge. Though, it wasn't as if Laxus was facing deployment beyond a handful of city blocks. Jellal tugged lightly on her hair.
"Did I lose you?"
"No," Erza said softly. "I'm here. Just thinking."
"Erza, you don't have to hide your feelings from me. I'm not qualified to do a whole lot outside of the military."
"You have a degree in physics," she offered weakly.
"Physics directly related to military application," he added, still running his fingers through her hair. "If I wanted to do anything with a degree that old, I'd need more college. The city fire department would take me the day after I'm out. We probably can't afford a stall in money flow."
Erza sat up and chewed on her lip. She hadn't thought about any of that. Most of her thought process had been focused on trying to stop the constant comparisons to a failed pregnancy a decade prior. Jellal's arm wrapped around her shoulders as he rose into a sitting position beside her.
"Hey," he whispered. "I didn't mean to talk about this. We don't have to. It's not like I'm making the decision any time soon. You don't need this stress right now."
"I think it's important we discuss it, though." She canted her body toward him and grimaced. "We can't just ignore everything until the last minute."
"No, but there's no sense in bottlenecking, either. How about we take things one bite at a time. Priority one is making sure you're healthy and comfortable. Number two is this apartment we can't stay in."
Erza finally smiled. "According to my doctor, I'm perfectly healthy and typical. I'll have to get a different doctor, though."
"Why?" Jellal raised an eyebrow when she groaned in irritation.
"She's retiring and stopped taking on new pregnancies. I don't like the guy taking over her practice, either."
"Wow. Well you should do what makes you most comfortable. If all else fails you could see one of the military doctors on post."
"That," Erza said scooting toward the edge of the bed. "Will be a last resort. My current doctor told me two weeks ago I was about six weeks along so that puts me at almost eight weeks now. I'm not really feeling a time crunch."
"Are you sure?"
"Yeah, I called the OB on the base today anyway and unless I'm an official patient or have a referral there's a wait and a charge for the ultrasound." She sighed dramatically. "And I can't get a referral unless I become a patient of the new doctor."
"I'll call around tomorrow and see what's close. I'm trying to be calm about it." Jellal joined her on the edge of the bed and took her hand.
"Do you need a serenity prayer?" he teased.
"No, but I do think I need dinner."
Jellal laughed. "Whatever you put in that slow cooker this morning smells great."
"I hope it tastes great or you'll have to bring me a hamburger from down the street. I'm not big on forcing food down these days." Erza turned to him and leaned in to kiss the corner of his mouth. "Change out of that uniform I can't believe you napped in, and come to the kitchen."
"You just looked so inviting," he said with a grin. "I didn't even think to change."
"Only for you."
Erza relaxed into the couch cushions and smiled at the tub of ice cream. The thought crossed her mind that in a few months time she wouldn't have to worry about holding it up for herself. A pint could easily rest on the swell of her belly. She moaned audibly as a glob of cheesecake flavored ice cream melted in her mouth.
The front door opened and closed but Erza barely noticed. All her attention was focused on ice cream and swirls of graham cracker – her cravings for them seemed to be the only similarity between her current state and her previous experience. The sound of Jellal's gear falling to the tiled entry way and the rustling in their bedroom were nothing out of the ordinary but when he joined her on the couch, he radiated tension.
"You're here before sunset," she said licking the spoon.
"Yeah," he muttered. Erza glanced over at him as he ran a hand through his own hair.
"We got orders today," he said in a low voice. Erza's chest tightened and her stomach clenched. "Erza –"
"Just tell me, Jellal. Don't drag it out." Her voice was barely audible and she didn't notice the pint of ice cream chilling her fingers to an uncomfortable level.
"It's a deployment." Jellal dragged his hands over his face. "I fucking knew something was going on."
"How soon?" she whispered. Jellal turned to her but his expression was unreadable.
Erza's throat felt like it might close up and she couldn't breathe. Eight days?! "And –"
"We'll be gone until the last week of May."
"But –" Erza suddenly found her breath but her heart raced too fast to catch it. "But that's..."
"I know," he croaked out. "I fucking know. I don't know what I can do."
Erza stood abruptly and snatched the pint lid off the coffee table. She vacated the living room as quickly as possible and all but threw the tub into the freezer. Risks like these were why – exactly why – they'd wanted to wait until he wasn't a soldier before having a child. His hands slid over her shoulders as she leaned over the sink.
"Erza," he breathed. "Please don't panic. This doesn't change anything."
She spun around with a scowl. "What are you talking about, Jellal? This changes everything!" Her hands shook and she didn't know what else to do but bunch them in the front of his shirt.
"There's still time to change your mind." His expression was one of anguish.
"I can't do that," she sobbed. "I can't! I've already decided! I'm attached!" Her entire body felt like it was vibrating. Jellal's arms encircled her and brought her against him. Tears soaked his shirt. "I can't change my mind."
"Okay," he murmured into her hair. "Okay, you don't have to. I'm sorry I said it." His fingers fell into their well trained path through the strands of her hair that cascaded over the arm that held her snugly to him. He didn't speak again until shadows were crawling across the kitchen floor. "Did you find a new doctor?"
Erza sniffled and sighed. "Yes. I have an appointment in two weeks. That's the soonest she can see me." She paused and finally relaxed. "I'll have an ultrasound that day."
"I'm sorry I'll miss it." His eyes didn't waver from hers when she pulled away and reached up to touch his cheek. As terrified as she was to face a pregnancy alone, fielding Jellal's sorrow over something he couldn't control wasn't acceptable.
"It's not your fault, Jellal," Erza said with as much resolve as she could rally. "This was always a possibility. We knew it could happen and still chose to carry on. I don't blame you and I'm not upset with you." She paused and smirked. "Your General can go fuck himself, but none of that is on you. I can handle this."
"I'll call my mom," she blurted without thinking. Jellal raised an eyebrow.
"Yeah," Erza hedged. "She'll um, she'll... help me?" She watched a myriad of emotions play out on his face before he finally laughed.
"I'm sorry," he said quickly. "None of this is funny. I just... your mom?"
"I know she's a loose canon but she'll come. I know she will."
"So... what? You'll just call her on the phone?"
"Well, no." Erza cleared her throat awkwardly. "She has an email. I think that might be best for first contact." Jellal sighed and continued to eye her suspiciously. "It's the only plan I've got right now, okay? I was going to have to get in touch with her eventually anyway."
"Do you think she'll hex me for leaving you pregnant on the outskirts of a military base?"
"She might." Erza laughed when Jellal's mouth dropped open. "I'm kidding. She's a professor of a very specific type of anthropology, not a witch."
"She has a floor to ceiling oil painting of a very nude Ishtar in her living room, Erza. And I won't even go into all the vials and sachets and busts and whatever she's got laying around."
"Enthusiasm for one's line of work is very important." Erza tried to hide her growing smile when Jellal sighed again. She leaned against him again and pressed a kiss to his chest. "I need her, Jellal. She's always been so strong and I don't care where she draws it from. If I can't have you, I need her."
His eyes searched hers for a long moment before he nodded. "You'll email her tomorrow?"
"Yes. I promise."
"How soon do you think she'll come?"
"I'm not sure. If she's in the middle of a semester, she may not be out until December."
"Your mom has enough tenure for two lifetimes. If she wanted to take off and explore some half destroyed statues in India for a year, they'd let her."
"I doubt she'd give them the choice," Erza said sarcastically. "I'm sure the old men running things are just as afraid of her as you are."
"I'm not afraid of her." Jellal bristled. "She's just a little off putting."
"Knocking men off their guard is her hobby, Jellal." Erza leaned up to kiss him quickly.
"I don't doubt it," he muttered against her lips. Erza sighed glanced behind her into the sink.
"I forgot dinner again."
"We'll order in. I'd eat anything right about now." Erza nodded and ducked under his arm to dig through the drawer of menus. Jellal caught her wrist and pulled her back against his chest. "We're okay, right?"
Erza's head fell backward against his shoulder and she closed her eyes. "Yeah, we're okay." His stomach rumbled loudly against her back as he dropped a kiss on the slope of her neck. "Let's order dinner before anything else dramatic happens."
"I can't take more drama without food."
Jellal fell asleep before her that night. Erza couldn't help but lay awake and stare at the ceiling carefully planning her email to her mother. Eileen might be a highly respected professor and somewhat flighty when it came to her whims, but she was also incredibly shrewd. Erza hadn't ever been able to hide anything from Eileen and she was afraid if she didn't use the right language when breaking the news of her pregnancy and Jellal's deployment, the woman who showed up at their front door may very well have a hex bag with her.