Hello, people! Nightlingbolt here! Welcome to my longest (currently published) story to date, Canis Majoris, with credit for the title and summary going to MadmanTobz! You may know him for his Teen Titans fanfiction, but apparently, he's a huge supporter of NatsuErza. No surprise considering he ships Naruto and Tayuya for some inane reason (I don't really care for it not because she's dead, but because I have this crazy theory that Tayuya was Minato and Kushina's first child, whom Orochimaru had abducted after the Kyuubi attack and raised as his own, hoping to use her bloodline to its full potential, and why am I coming up with Naruto theories? I stopped reading that crap a long time ago!).

Anyway, for those of you who don't really get it, Canis Majoris is supposed to reference the love triangle between Jellal, Erza, and Natsu (Jellal is the star, Erza is the color red, or scarlet, and Natsu is the flame surrounding the star). I don't really get it myself, but then again, my high school sucked in terms of education. I'll leave it there and let you enjoy the story before I go off on a tangent.

I own Trust Magic, and the OC at the end, though I won't say anything more about that now. Anything else is property of Hiro Mashima.

After the whole incident with Grimoire Heart on Tenrou Island, life had pretty much returned to normal at Fairy Tail. Well, as normal as can be for them.

In light of the war, Makarov had decided to choose three of the eight participants to become S-Class mages. The first was Cana, as Gildarts had reported her using Fairy Glitter. It did nothing to her opponent, but that didn't matter to Makarov, as it had been a sign that she was approved by Master Mavis Vermillion himself to become an S-Class mage. The second was Juvia, whom despite having only recently joined from Phantom Lord, had already demonstrated the qualities of a Fairy Tail mage in an exemplary fashion.

The last, and most obvious choice, was Natsu, the guild's resident firebreather. It was Natsu who had first taken up the call to drive Grimoire Heart away from their guild's holy land. Without his unflappable courage, all might have been lost, and for that, Makarov was grateful. The pink-haired Dragon Slayer had grown so much in the last year. Makarov attributed that to his need to prove himself to Erza.

The Salamander and Titania had always been the closest of friends. He still remembered the time he got Macao to disguise himself as Natsu while he, in turn, had disguised himself as Erza with every intention of barging in on the Magic Council with one solitary purpose in mind: protect Erza.

Natsu wasn't the type to do that sort of thing for just anyone. Sure, he probably would have done the same for Lucy, Lisanna, or even Gray (though Makarov was certain Natsu would never admit that out loud), but all that was at stake was a fight, and even the action-minded Natsu would have waited if it were anyone else.

But when it came to Erza, Natsu took no chances.

A knock on his office door interrupted the Titan's musings. Erza, he supposed. He was expecting the scarlet-haired mage because he had information regarding the fate of a certain former Wizard Saint. "Enter!" he called.

The door opened, and sure enough, it was the Requip mage as he expected. She looked disgruntled, as if she was called away from a slice of her favorite strawberry cake. "Mirajane said you had something important to tell me?" she asked curtly.

Yup, he definitely called her away from her cake.

Clearing his throat, Makarov said, "I received a message from the Magic Council yesterday."

Erza raised an eyebrow. What did a message from the Council have to do with her? "And?" she prompted, not wanting to be kept apart from her oh-so-delicious strawberry cake any longer than she had to.

Makarov spoke in a grave voice, and he spoke words Erza had dreaded hearing. "It concerns the fate of Jellal Fernandes."

Erza's heart stopped. Suddenly, cake didn't seem very important.

"Jellal…" she breathed, barely a whisper. "Jellal…"

"Jellal?" a new voice roared in a mixture of anger and concern. The door flung wide open, and in burst Natsu Dragneel, his gentle features much firmer having heard the name that brought his Titania so much pain.

'Wait, MY Titania? Erza doesn't belong to anyone! Argh, focus, Natsu!' the Dragon Slayer mentally scolded himself.

Makarov gave a soft smile. Of course. Natsu had been the one to save Erza during that incident in the Tower of Heaven (Juvia had a long-winded way of explaining things). He would want to hear about Jellal's fate as well. Clearing his throat again, Makarov began to explain.

"After Ultear Milkovich confessed to brainwashing and manipulating Jellal, the Council has given him a full psychiatric evaluation, following which, they have determined that Jellal was indeed not in control of his actions concerning the Tower of Heaven. However, being a former member of the Ten Wizard Saints, they are understandably reluctant to let him walk around unchecked. Now before I continue, are either of you familiar with Trust Magic?" Both mages shook their heads, just about the reaction Makarov expected.

"Trust Magic is a magic taught only to high-ranking members of the Magic Council, meaning even I have no knowledge of its practice. However, the theory should be sufficient for my purposes.

"You see, Trust Magic is a high-leveled magic used only on criminals whom the Council has granted parole. In essence, it binds the criminal's magic to the caster, giving him full control of the criminal's power."

"I don't get it," said Natsu.

"Well, Natsu, let's say you were to cast Trust Magic on Erza," said Makarov, almost failing to notice Erza's blush. Almost. "Depending on how much you trust Erza to use her magic, you could limit her to half power, or leave her entirely powerless. Also, Trust Magic allows you to set boundaries in which the victim – that's still Erza – could inhabit. You could keep her in the same city as you, or just within sight. Do you understand now, Natsu?"

"I do," said Natsu. "And I don't like it!"

Makarov sighed. "Unfortunately, that is not up to you or I to decide," he said. "Now then, Jellal will be released to the custody of Fairy Tail. Lahar of the Fourth Custody Enforcement Unit will also be joining Fairy Tail as a temporary member, as he will be the one to cast Trust on Jellal. Jellal will be given enough magic to go on basic jobs within Magnolia, and will not be permitted to leave the city unaccompanied by Lahar himself. However, I am only willing to go through with this as long as Erza feels comfortable having Jellal around. And now I ask you, Erza Scarlet, will you allow Jellal Fernandes to join this guild?"

Erza smiled at her Master. "Yes," she said. "I have no objections whatsoever to Jellal joining Fairy Tail."

"You're lying," Natsu growled.

"Excuse me?" said Erza, taken aback.

"I can smell your fear. I can hear your doubt in your voice. You can't keep anything from me, Erza," said Natsu. Erza could only sigh in reply. He was right. Natsu always did have a way of seeing to her true heart.

"You're afraid, Erza. And it's okay. I won't judge you for it. Hell, I'm afraid, too," said Natsu. "I'm afraid for you. I… I just don't want Jellal to hurt you again."

Erza was touched by Natsu's devotion. But then, any Fairy Tail mage would defend his nakama with his life. It was an unspoken promise that bound them all together, on and off the battlefield. "I know," she said simply. "With everyone's support, I have no reason to be afraid."

Natsu gave a cocky grin. "All right!" he exclaimed. "Bring on Jellal! If he wants to hurt Erza again, he has to go through me!"

Erza smiled. "That's fine, as long as you're not counting on another Etherion boost," she said.

"Bah! That Etherion was just extra baggage!" said Natsu.

"Those sound like fighting words, Natsu," said Erza, drawing her sword.

"So what if they are?" replied Natsu.

Erza just smiled and charged the pink-haired boy. As long as she had Natsu's support, Erza felt like she could take on every dark guild on the continent.

"I'll send my reply to the Council," said Makarov. "In the meantime, take it outside. A new guild building isn't exactly in this month's budget."

It never ceased to amaze him that those two considered violence the answer to all life's problems.

The ensuing battle didn't go as it normally would. Granted, Natsu had learned to put up a fight, but to him, Erza seemed distracted. Her blows were wild and uncoordinated, allowing for easy dodges and blocks on his part.

Natsu guessed it was the whole Jellal thing that was shaking Erza up. And honestly, he couldn't blame her. Jellal had been the source of Erza's suffering for almost nine years. Some was intentional, some was not. But none of it was his fault. And that's what scared Natsu.

He saw an opening and ignited his fist, ready to deliver a decisive blow. But just before he made contact, he stopped it mere inches from her temple.

"Well, go on! Finish it!" Erza prompted.

"No," Natsu said firmly. "You weren't totally focused on the battle." Erza glared at him in response.

"Well, that's my own fault, isn't it?" she said harshly. "If you're not willing to capitalize on my mistakes, there's no reason for you to be able to defeat me!"

"Well, maybe I don't want to win just because you fucked up!" said Natsu. "Maybe it means more to me to fight an opponent at their absolute best!"

Erza scoffed. "I make no excuses for my shortcomings, and I would appreciate it if you did not attempt to excuse them for me!" she said.

"There are no excuses, only reasons," said Natsu. "I was just as distracted as you, so I'm willing to bet I know the reason you were so out of it." In a much kinder tone, he added, "This whole Jellal thing is really screwin' with your head, huh?"

Erza sighed. Briefly, she wondered if she was the only one who ever saw this insightful side of the Salamander. "Yeah… it is," she admitted.

Natsu gave a dry laugh. "It's funny," he said. "Gray and I live our lives in fear of you, yet Jellal brings that same fear out in you."

"Fear is a weakness I would know nothing about!" Erza growled. Natsu only laughed at this, but this time it was a genuine laugh.

"You didn't fight Gildarts when you made S-Class, did you?" he asked.

Erza raised an eyebrow. "What does that have to do with anything?" she asked.

"When I fought Gildarts during the S-Class Trial, he was going to let me pass without defeating him. But that wasn't enough for me. No, I had to see the job through to the end. But then… he unleashed his true power. I thought I knew just how powerful he was. Turns out I didn't know shit. It was… the first time I ever felt fear.

"After that, I took a moment to reflect upon all the battles I've been in, and to my surprise, I'd felt fear like that before. Fear for Gramps. Fear for Lucy. Fear for you. And I can say without exaggeration that that was the worst fear I've ever felt."

For some reason, Erza blushed. She never knew she warranted such a reaction in Natsu.

"Gildarts told me one other thing," Natsu continued. "It's something I've always held close to my heart, but it's always worth repeating: Everyone in Fairy Tail is the same. We come from different places, we have different creeds, but at the end of the day, we're all family. And the day after tomorrow, Jellal is going to be a part of that family. A guy who tried to kill us is joining our family. That IS a scary thought, isn't it?"

Erza smiled. "Yeah. It is," she said. "Jellal's not like that anymore, though."

"He was never like that," Natsu said firmly. "Not when he can help it."

"Still… it is kind of scary for me," said Erza timidly.

"There ya go!" said Natsu simply, reaching over to hug the Titania. Erza was taken aback by this gesture, but she returned the hug anyway.

"Let your fear empower you, but don't let it control you. Because that's not the Erza Scarlet my heart knows!" said Natsu. He hoped Erza got what he was saying, because God knows he didn't. Dragon Slayers live for the moment, you know?

Meanwhile, Erza's mind was already making sense of Natsu's words. It was true. Natsu fought with the fear of losing his loved ones, and in a sense, so did she. She feared and feared for Jellal all at once, and now that he was joining Fairy Tail, she had to face that fear head-on and accept him like she would any other Fairy Tail mage. She said goodbye to Natsu and headed home to prepare herself for the next two days.

There was no turning back now.

Natsu was woken two mornings later to a loud banging on his door. Groaning, he checked his alarm clock; five AM, Too early to get up, yet too late to go back to bed. Sighing, the Dragon Slayer put on his pants and went to answer the door.

When Natsu opened the door, he saw the last thing he ever expected to see; a trembling Titania. Her hair was a mess, shadows under her eyes suggested a sleepless night, and she hadn't thought to Requip into street clothes, instead wearing her sword-pattern pajamas.

"Erza?" he gasped in a mixture of shock and worry. The scarlet-haired mage in question flung herself at the Salamander in a desperate hug.

"I can't do it, Natsu!" she sobbed. "I just can't! Natsu, I'm scared! I don't want him here! I don't-"

"Erza, get a hold of yourself!" yelled a panicked Happy, apparently attracted by the commotion, as he leapt up, a fish in hand, and smacked Erza across the backside of her head.

This seemed to snap Erza out of her stupor, for she broke away from Natsu, turned her head to face the blue Exceed, and spoke.

"Happy… why did you hit me in the head with a fish?" she asked dangerously.

Happy trembled. "Well, you… seemed like you were going crazy, and I…"

This did not sit well with Erza. She gave a loud roar and lunged at Happy, but Natsu managed to intercept the blow. He looked at Erza, then at Happy, and said, "Happy… I think it's early enough that the big fish are out now. See if you can catch one for Charle!"

"Aye, sir!" said Happy, his eyes big with the prospect of a big fish for the female Exceed. He happily flew off towards the lake, leaving the two mages alone to talk.

"First of all, clean yourself up. You look like hell," said Natsu.

"Well, I highly doubt your shower will help me get any cleaner," said Erza indignantly.

"It's either this or go all the way back to yours and get cleaned up," argued Natsu. "Besides, Lucy was just in here yesterday to clean up."

Erza felt more at ease knowing that Lucy had taken it upon herself to clean up after Natsu. "Where's your shower?" she asked with a smile.

"Can I go first?" Natsu asked. "I figure I can use your turn to whip us up some breakfast.

About twenty minutes later, Erza came out of Natsu's shower dressed in the white blouse and blue skirt she usually wore with her armor. Natsu was at the stove, cooking up what appeared to be omelets for himself and Erza. To her surprise, Natsu hadn't burnt either of them.

Natsu felt Erza's stare on him. "What? Surprised I can cook?" he asked. "Maybe you were expecting strawberry Pop-Tarts, huh?"

Erza laughed. "It's not that, Natsu," she said. "It's just that I expected you to, well… burn your food."

It was Natsu's turn to laugh. "Yeah, everyone says that when I cook for them," he said. "I can't stand burnt food."

"I would've thought being raised by a Fire Dragon would mean you'd be used to such a thing," countered Erza.

"I'm used to it, but if you burn something, it loses all its flavor. You gotta eat it before the fire comes out," said Natsu.

"Goes out," corrected Erza.

"What'd I say?" asked Natsu. "Hope you like fish omelets!"

"…Fish omelets," repeated Erza dubiously.

"Yeah, Happy catches a lot of fish, and it doesn't stay fresh that long, so I've had to get creative with how we get rid of it," said Natsu. "This, as you may have already guessed, is a typical breakfast for me and Happy. Lunch is a fish sandwich, and dinner is just plain sushi."

Erza took a moment to absorb all this information. "I suppose if you can stand it, a fish omelet doesn't sound too bad," she said. She took a tentative bite, only to have her taste buds light up in delight. "This is… delicious!" she exclaimed. "You HAVE to give me this recipe!"

"Sure, I have it written down somewhere," replied Natsu. He took notice of Erza's hair being slightly duller than normal. "Sorry I didn't have any of that fancy-schmancy hair stuff you use," he said.

"Actually, I was more surprised than anything," said Erza. "Then am I to understand that your hair is naturally this bright of a pink?"

"Well, not entirely," said Natsu. "I go to a place downtown for a trim every couple of weeks and just get highlights every other time. They last for quite a while, actually." His faced turned serious, meaning he was done with polite conversation. It was time to tackle the elephant in the room.

"All right, I've spilled my guts," said Natsu. "Now it's your turn."

Erza froze, her fork halfway to her mouth. "What are you talking about?" she said defensively.

"Look, Erza. I'm not nearly as smart as you, but I know for a fact that when someone comes banging on my door screaming 'I can't do it! I can't do it!', something's wrong!" said Natsu, his voice a little louder than he intended.

When Erza said nothing, Natsu spoke again. "You're having second thoughts about Jellal coming, right?" he said in the kindest voice he could, but still kept the sternness that implied he would not take any bullshit.

"Yes," Erza whispered quietly. "I… had a nightmare about him."

"What happened?" asked Natsu angrily.

Erza sighed. She didn't want to say anything at all, but the rational part of her said that she would feel better if she just spilled her guts. Unfortunately for her, that rational part of her made a hell of a lot of sense.

"We were at the guild's bar, just having a normal conversation. For some reason, the guild was empty except for us, but I didn't pay it any mind. We talked about Bisca and Alzack's relationship, how it was nice to drink without worrying about Cana for once… Oh, Natsu, it felt like he'd been at Fairy Tail for years!

"I blanked out for a few seconds, and suddenly, we were at the Tower of Heaven. We were both wearing the clothes we wore during that incident, and I had my swords at Jellal's throat, ready to kill. My thoughts were jumbled; there were two voices in my head, one saying to kill him, and the other saying to spare him."

"What did you do?"

"...I spared him…" Erza looked down at her omelet with shame.

"After that, he cast a Bind Snake on me. I tried to resist, but the pain it inflicted was just too strong. He said I was to be the sacrifice meant to revive Zeref, and just before he started the ritual, told me he loved me."

"And then what happened?" Natsu prompted.

"I-"Here, Erza hesitated. 'I called out for you, but no matter how loud I was, no matter how many times I said your name… you wouldn't come. And as the Etherion overtook my vision, I started to cry." "I woke up."

"You woke up," Natsu repeated, his voice dangerously low.

"Of course," replied Erza. "Everyone wakes from a nightmare eventually."

"Erza," Natsu growled as he stood up. "Remember that I can smell your fear. There was more to that nightmare than you're letting on, and it's pissing me off!"

Now Erza rose to her feet. "I'm sorry, Natsu, but I honestly have no idea what you want from me!" she shouted.

"I want to help you, Erza!" Natsu yelled. "But more importantly, I want you to trust me enough to let me help you!"

Nobody spoke for a while after that. The tension between the knight and the dragon was palpable. Both parties wanted to say something, but neither wanted to make things worse. Finally, Natsu spoke.

"You know what? I see where this is going." He sighed. "I didn't mean to trample on your feelings like that. You have your reasons for not telling me everything, and I respect that. I don't like waiting, but if it means that much to you, I'll wait for a thousand years if that's how long it'll take you to tell me. Until you want my help, I won't give it."

"Natsu…" Erza began, but Natsu held up a hand.

"Don't force yourself, Erza," he said. "I promise to always protect you, as you always protect me. Nobody doesn't need saving." He yawned. "Shit, why didn't I put on any coffee?"

"Could it be because you don't own a coffee maker?" Erza ventured.

Natsu looked around. "Oh, right!" he exclaimed. "Lucy threw out my coffeemaker! She said the last thing I needed in the morning is caffeine. Stupid, huh?" He flashed his trademark grin at Erza. "Oh well! Mira's coffee's the best anyway!"

Erza couldn't help but smile back. This was the Natsu she loved, the one that would always protect her, come hell, high water, winter storms…

Or Jellal.

It was indeed a cold morning at Fairy Tail. The guild building officially opened in half an hour, but already, Makarov, Mirajane, Gildarts, Natsu, and of course, Erza – were awaiting the carriage that would deliver the Magic Council's prisoner, Jellal Fernandes, and his jailer, Lahar.

As the carriage came into view, Erza muttered to herself, "This is it," so that no one else could hear. No one that is, except for Natsu with his exceptional hearing. Natsu wanted to take a firm hold of her shoulder and reassure her that everything would be fine, but he also understood her need to keep a brave façade.

Natsu compared what Erza must have been feeling at that moment to how he imagined he would feel if he were about to face Igneel again. It was a feeling he knew would surface one day, and he thought he felt it now that Erza was feeling it.

It was a feeling of fear, yet it was two distinct feelings either way. Erza feared Jellal, while Natsu feared for Erza's safety. He had never regarded Erza as someone to worry about until he met Jellal Fernandes.

Natsu was simple, maybe a little naïve, but he was by no means stupid. He knew "Siegrain" had ordered Erza's arrest after the Lullaby mission. Granted, he never knew until he realized there was a connection to Erza, but as they say, hindsight is 20/20.

The carriage pulled up, and two Rune Knights exited, followed by a black-haired young man with glasses that Natsu remembered as Lahar, dressed in street clothes. With him was Jellal himself, wearing heavy metal cuffs, and at the sight of him, Natsu noticed Erza's scent get stronger. Fear, he told himself.

It was all he could do to surpress a growl.

Lahar unlocked the cuffs around Jellal's hands, and the former Wizard Saint massaged his wrists gently. "You are dismissed, gentlemen," he said. The knights saluted and climbed back into the carriage, which rolled away at a steady pace.

"Welcome to the two of you," said Makarov seriously, but with a certain warmth.

"Thank you, Master Makarov," said Lahar.

"There are several rules to be followed, even for those who are only here on a temporary basis, by which I mean you, Lahar," he said. "By the way, how long did the Council decide on Jellal's probation?"

"Jellal and Ultear had infiltrated the Council for five years," said Lahar. "We believe an equal amount of time is appropriate to gauge whether Jellal can be trusted among society."

"Then I'll be looking forward to the next five years," said Makarov. "Now then, the first and most important rule of Fairy Tail, and really, the only rule anyone here seems to follow, for that matter…" Lahar and Jellal laughed politely at Makarov's attempt at humor.

"…Is that we are a family. Every single person in this guild, including the two of you, is your family, whether you like it or not. I expect you to treat them as such, and if you bring harm to any, and I mean ANY member, you will immediately be expelled. Don't look so smug, Lahar! Just because you're doing the work of the Council doesn't mean you're exempt from the laws of Fairy Tail!"

Lahar was shocked. "What did I do!' he asked.

Makarov chuckled. "Nothing, my boy!" he said cheerfully. "Just making sure you were paying attention."

Lahar frowned, adjusting his glasses as he spoke. "All due respect, Master, but what do you take me for? First and foremost, my duty is Jellal's rehabilitation, and I do not intend to jeopardize that goal by picking fights with idiotic guild members!"

Makarov only frowned at Lahar's words. "I do hope in time, you'll come to see Jellal as less of a duty and more of a friend," he said. "The same goes for everyone else." He didn't wait for Lahar's reply before continuing.

"Now, I will repeat the terms of Jellal's release so that everyone understands them more clearly. Jellal and Lahar will be provided an apartment in Magnolia with the next five years' worth of rent paid for in full. Lahar, through use of the Trust Magic approved by the Magic Council, will have full control and regulation of Jellal's magical power. Also, Jellal will be magically restricted to the town of Magnolia unless supervised by Lahar, in which case, he cannot be more than fifty yards away from him at any time. Meals and utilities are not covered by the Council, so you will have to accept jobs in order to pay for everything. This is to ensure that Jellal learns to build a working relationship with Lahar, and also prove that he can be trusted to function in everyday society. Jellal, do you have any questions regarding this arrangement?"

"No," said Jellal simply. Makarov smiled. This was a bright boy right here.

"Jellal Fernandes, I will now perform the Trust Magic that will bind you to me for the next five years," said Lahar. "Hold out your palm." Jellal obeyed. Careful to select a vein, Lahar pressed his fingertip to his hand.

A red magic circle appeared on Jellal's palm. Both men screamed in pain as the binding occurred. After a minute, Lahar withdrew his hand from Jellal's, and they both fell over panting. Erza and Natsu rushed over to support Jellal, and Mirajane and Gildarts did the same for Lahar.

"If that's everything, then welcome to Fairy Tail, you two!" said Makarov, giving one of his trademark grins.

"Time for breakfast!" said Mirajane cheerfully. "The first week's meals are free for both of you."

"Thank you," said Lahar politely, speaking for his charge as he was helped into the guild's building. Meanwhile, Jellal broke away from the S-Class mages supporting him and made eye contact with Erza.

"My name's Jellal Fernandes," he said with a smile. "I just joined this guild. I hope we can be friends."

In that one instant, Erza's fears all melted away. They had no place in her mind with what she instinctively knew Jellal was proposing – that they take this chance to start over again and put their sad past behind them. She smiled warmly as she replied. "I am Erza Scarlet. It's not easy to forget my name, because it matches my hair."

"Natsu Dragneel," the rose-haired boy introduced himself with a gruff voice and a scowl. He put his right middle and index fingers just underneath his eyes and pointed them at Jellal, giving the universal sign for "I'm watching you." Jellal's smile faltered for a second, but he managed to replace it.

Erza may have been willing to move on, but Natsu sure as hell wasn't.

It had been a week and a half, and already, Jellal seemed to integrate into Fairy Tail pretty well. Makarov and the Council had decided that it was best to inform everyone of his and Lahar's relationship as prisoner and jailer.

There was an uproar at first, but once Erza vouched for Jellal as her childhood friend, everyone was just as friendly to him. Unfortunately for Lahar, the same could not be said about him. The rowdier members regarded him as little more than a military dog, and to others, he was just an outsider looking in.

He did, however, form friendships with Fried and Levy on the basis of a shared interest in runes, so in Natsu's eyes, he didn't really have it that bad.

But what worried Natsu the most was the newly restored relationship between Erza and Jellal. It was just as Erza described her nightmare the morning of Jellal's arrival. They were sitting at the bar talking about this and that, but Natsu couldn't hear them, lost in his own thoughts.

Of course, Mirajane was there as usual, and besides, there was no way they'd all find themselves in the Tower just like that, but that didn't give Natsu any comfort, which he found odd. He had seen for himself that Jellal was not a threat. He never said or did a thing to hurt anyone. Hell, he even stayed out of the brawls Fairy Tail was famous for.

So why did Natsu still feel anger towards Jellal?

"You liiiiiiike him!" Happy trilled. Natsu ignored his partner's comment at first. People called him oblivious, but given Happy's weird obsession with romance, he had some idea of what it meant to like somebody as more than a friend.

"What?" exclaimed Erza. "No I don't!"

"Happy, you really shouldn't say such things in the presence of a lady," said Jellal, whom Natsu just noticed was blushing. And just then, it hit the Salamander like a ton of bricks.

He didn't hate Jellal. He hated what he meant to Erza. And it was something he wanted to mean to the Titania.


Natsu barely registered having smashed the table he was sitting at with a flaming fist.

"Natsu!" yelled Gray, who had been hit by a piece of the table. "You're gonna pay for that, squinty-eyes!"

Natsu didn't respond, which started to worry everyone.

"Okay, seriously! What's wrong with you?" Gray shouted at his rival. "You don't just smash pieces of table into someone and then not say anything!"

"Shut up," Natsu growled lowly and dangerously. This shut Gray up, as he realized the Dragon Slayer wasn't in the mood to pick a fight. Without another word, Natsu stalked off, eager to cool himself off before he did something he would soon regret.

"Natsu? Did I say something wrong?" asked a panicking Happy. "Natsu!" Jellal calmed the blue Exceed down.

"I'll go talk to him," said Jellal. He then stood up to leave.

"Jellal, I think Natsu will listen to me more than he will to you," said Erza.

"No, Erza," said Jellal. "I've been avoiding this talk long enough. It's time I set the record straight." Without waiting for a reply, Jellal strode off to find the Fire mage.

Erza was shocked at Natsu's outburst. Usually, whenever Natsu was upset, he just yelled at everyone and challenged the offender to a fight. But he was working hard to control his fury, and that's what scared her. She was afraid that the table was just the tip of the iceberg and that he would snap even worse.

Suddenly, her mind made the connection. Happy was teasing her and Jellal about their relationship just before Natsu broke the table. That must have meant he was jealous of Jellal, which could only mean one thing.

"He loves you," said Mirajane, simply and bluntly.

"Excuse me?" replied Erza, not quite ready to believe the truth of the barmaid's words.

"Natsu feels the same way about you that you do about him," Mirajane said slowly, as if Erza didn't quite understand what she was saying.

Erza sighed heavily. There was no secret that could be kept from the eyes and ears of the Demon Mirajane. "When did you figure it out?" she asked.

"When you and the others came back from the Tower of Heaven," said Mirajane. "I remember Lucy saying you had changed somehow, after which you stole a glance at Natsu. Your cheeks were a healthy red, and your eyes practically radiated adoration, almost as if you saw him in a new light. Plus Gajeel told me what he heard you tell Natsu after you escaped Evergreen's spell."

Erza flinched. "I didn't say anything!" Erza defended herself.

"Quote: 'If you wanted to do naughty things to me, all you had to do was ask. However, I will not be taken advantage of!' Unquote," said Mirajane

Erza blushed furiously at this statement. "You know Gajeel just likes to cause trouble!" said Erza defiantly.

"Gajeel quoted Master as a witness," said Mirajane with a triumphant smirk.

"All right, so what if I did say something to that effect?" seethed Erza.

"You would know better than me," said Mirajane. "So you may as well talk."

Erza sighed. "I honestly don't know when I stopped loving Jellal and started loving Natsu," she said. "Maybe it was the Tower, maybe it was after Oracion Seis… hell, it could've been after my arrest."

"I can see that," said Mirajane. "I think a small part of him knew that that was just a show of force for the Council. After all, he'd been arrested for much worse than you had. Of course, the part that sought to protect you won out in the end."

"I don't think so," said Erza. "I was arrested for destroying the meeting hall for the guild masters, something Natsu and Gray had a hand in as well. I think that Natsu just wasn't content to let me take all the responsibility. For his efforts, we had both ended up spending the night in jail." She sighed wistfully. "And what a night it was."

"Ooh, did you two do anything that night?" asked Mirajane mischievously.

"Of course not! Not with guards right outside our cell!" exclaimed Erza. "I said that because it was then that I realized Natsu would go to Hell and back for me if I ever needed him to." Erza sighed again. "And ultimately, I did."

Mirajane knew what Erza was getting at, but decided to let the topic die. "So what are you going to say when he gets back?" she asked.

Erza smiled. "Actually, this time I'll let him make the first move," she said. Mirajane only gave a sad smile.

Hopefully, it was the one they both wanted.

Meanwhile, Jellal had tracked Natsu back to his little cottage. The Dragon Slayer hadn't bothered to lock his door, but Jellal did the polite thing and knocked on the door. When he received no response, he opened the door to find Natsu sulking in the corner like a child.

"What do you want, oh great and mighty Jellal-sama?" Natsu spat, his voice heavy with sarcasm.

"We need to talk," said Jellal. "About Erza."

"What's to talk about?" said Natsu. "She obviously likes you. Any idiot can see that!"


"Though I have no idea why she likes you!" Natsu yelled. "For as long as you've known each other, all you've ever done is cause her pain! I wonder if she's some kind of masochist or something, coming back to you only to get her heart broken and her world shattered!

"Natsu…!" Jellal was starting to get angry, but he was determined to solve this without violence.

"But that's what you do, isn't it, Jellal?" yelled Natsu, knocking over the coffee table as he spoke. "You lure Erza into your web of lies with your charming smile and your polite demeanor, and then, just when I think she's fixed herself, you break her into even smaller pieces than before! That stupid bitch! Can't she see that she destroys herself loving you? She has destroyed herself! She-"

Natsu didn't have time to finish his rant before Jellal punched him in the face. "That's enough, Natsu!" he shouted. "I know you hate me, and I'm with you in that it's totally justified, but I will not stand by and let you talk about Erza like that.

Natsu rubbed the cheek Jellal had hit. He honestly hadn't expected Jellal to hit that hard, not even two weeks out of prison. His own words finally registered in his mind. "Sorry," he said. "I didn't have any right to say those things, even if I do hate you. But I don't.

Jellal gaped. "You… don't?"

"No," said Natsu. "I just hate what you are to Erza. Pain. Nightmares. Suffering. And apparently, the guy she likes."

"Natsu," said Jellal. "I do indeed love Erza. As much as I'd love to be able to hold her in my arms, whisper sweet nothings into her ear… I can't do that."

"No one's stopping you," said Natsu.

"I'm stopping me!" said Jellal. "I want to be the one to take away Erza's pain, but the fact is, I'm the source of that pain! Do you… do you know what it feels like to look in the mirror every day and see a monster?"

It was Natsu's turn to punch Jellal. "You're not a monster, Jellal! Don't ever say that about yourself again!" he yelled. "None of that was your fault and you know it! This is a new chapter in your life, and Erza deserves a place in it! You're free now, Jellal! Freedom means never looking back, always going forward, giving hell to anyone who would stop you! I don't know much, but I know that's the real Jellal Fernandes that Ultear suppressed for eight long years!"

As Jellal absorbed Natsu's words, he realized the truth in them. "You're right, Natsu," he said. "But Erza won't exactly have the place you're thinking of in my new life."

"What's that supposed to mean?" asked Natsu.

"During my imprisonment, I thought long and hard about what true freedom is. Eventually, I came to realize that even if your body wears chains, as long as your spirit is with someone you love, you'll always be free, in a sense. You live to know that someone you care about is happy, living their life without burdening themselves with your fate… a fate I still can't believe I avoided."

"What happened to that when you were calling yourself a monster?" Natsu asked.

"I'm getting to that, Natsu," said Jellal. "It was then that I made a decision. I would entrust Erza's future to the one man I know can make her smile, the way I used to. Someone who can give her hope I can promise but never deliver. Someone like… you."

Natsu could only stare with an open mouth after Jellal said that last word. "Me?" he asked, obviously unsure of himself.

"Of course," said Jellal. "You do love her, don't you?" he asked expectantly.

Natsu knew there was a word for what he felt for Erza, but he never imagined it was love. But right there, in that moment, everything made perfect sense. "I do," said Natsu.

"And she loves you, Natsu," said Jellal. "We both know, in our hearts, you would never hurt her like I did. Yes, she and I have started fresh, but there would always be that hint of fear in her heart should I pursue my feelings." He sighed. "But there's no reason for Erza to fear you."

"So, where does that leave you?" asked Natsu, not willing to believe Jellal would throw away his own happiness for him.

"I'll find someone, Natsu. Don't even worry about it," said Jellal with a smile. "After all, the world wasn't built in a day."

"Six days by my count," said Natsu. "You'd better hurry." Jellal could only laugh at this.

"Come on," said Jellal. "I bet Erza's waiting for you back at the guild." With that, Natsu made his way out the door, ready to face his destiny.

Back at the guild, Erza waited with a worried expression. It had just dawned on her that Natsu and Jellal could really hurt each other, and with how impulsive Natsu could be, things were bound to end badly.

Erza hated when her friends fought. And she especially hated it when they fought because of her. Sure, she didn't love Jellal in the same way she loved Natsu, but she loved both of them enough to not want them to kill each other. Natsu was the jealous type, Natsu had a short fuse, and Jellal's magic was currently restricted, which could only mean…

No. Natsu wouldn't do that. Not even in blind fury. She just had to believe in her Salamander's good heart, and things would work out just fine.

When Natsu and Jellal walked through the guild doors, unharmed but for the punches they threw at each other, a wave of relief washed over her. She noticed Jellal whispering something to Natsu and his ensuing blush, but whatever Jellal had wanted, he was obviously going to get. Natsu nervously made his way over to where Erza was.

"Hi," said Natsu sheepishly.

"Hello," replied Erza in a calm and collected manner, not giving anything away.

"Uh, so! Isn't it almost time to pay Lucy's rent?" he asked.

"What are you talking about? Our last job was enough for Lucy to pay her rent this month and next without worry," said Erza.

"Oh," said Natsu dejectedly. "Well… I know! Happy's been making great progress with Charle!"

"All that's changed is that she doesn't call him 'Tomcat' anymore," said Erza. "And speaking of progress, isn't it time we made some?"

"What are you-?" At this point, a frustrated Jellal smacked Natsu in the back of the head. "Ask her or I will!" he hissed.

"Ask me what?" asked Erza, though she had a feeling she already knew.

"Well, uh, yeah… Erza… did you want to go to dinner or see a movie or something?" he asked.

Erza knew this was coming, but it still didn't stop the blush from spreading through her cheeks. "You mean like… a date?" she said.

"Yeah!" said Natsu hastily. "I mean, only if you want to… DONTKILLME!" he exclaimed flinching.

Erza took Natsu's face in her hands. "Why would I do that?" she asked. She then proceeded to lock lips with Natsu for a few seconds, but what a few seconds they were. She pulled away and said "I would love to go on a date with you, Natsu."

Natsu's face lit up at those words. "So when do you want me to pick you up?" he asked.

"Why wait?" said Erza. "But let's debate where to go away from prying eyes." With a satisfied smile on her face, Erza led Natsu by the hand away from the cheering guild members.

Mirajane watched the scene unfolding before her. Those two were perfect for each other in every way. Though now she wouldn't be able to tell Erza about her… indiscretion with Natsu.

Oh well. No sense ruining such a beautiful relationship.

The next day, Jellal sat down the bar from Natsu and Erza. Despite being a couple for only a day, they were already feeding each other strawberry cake. It was actually kind of cute in a way.

Erza accidentally got some frosting on Natsu's cheek and proceeded to lick it off, causing the Dragon Slayer to blush. For a brief moment, Jellal considered that, if not for Ultear's intervention, that could have been his cheek she was licking frosting off of, but he shrugged it off.

"Hey new guy!" said a female voice, causing Jellal to jump. He turned around and saw a dark-skinned girl with silver hair, a year or two younger than him, phase through the floor.

"Don't DO that!" he screamed. The girl giggled.

"Sorry," she said. "But I always use my Density magic to sneak up on new members. I like to think of it as my own personal hazing ritual."

"Well, I'm not exactly "new" anymore," said Jellal. "I've been here for almost two weeks now."

"I've been away all last month on a bodyguard mission for some carpenters, so if I haven't met you, you're new to me!" said the girl as she stuck out her tongue. "Say, you're that guy, aren't you?"

Jellal tensed up. "What guy?" he said nervously.

"That Council guy," said the girl. "You left for some reason."

"I deceived the Council into firing a weapon powerful enough to revive a dark mage that wasn't really dead, thereby singlehandedly causing the entire Magic Council to disband!" Jellal blurted out.

The girl blinked. "Sorry, I don't really follow the news," she said. Jellal's palm instantly connected with his forehead.

"I know what's going on in the world, but I don't really give it any thought," explained the girl. "People argue about this and that, paint opposing views as evil and/or dangerous, and the world just destroys itself a little more every day. Life always works out eventually, you know? It's not always the way you want it to work out, but we learn from it, we move on with our lives, and we're all stronger person, culture, whatever because of it. Besides," she added with a grin. "If Master let you join, you must have some good in you somewhere!"

Jellal liked this girls way of thinking. She was so positive, so upbeat, that he couldn't help but smile at her. "By the way," she said. "My name's Sortea."

"Sortea," he repeated. He liked the way it sounded on his lips. From what he knew about languages, it meant "luck." Jellal decided he could use a little luck in his life.

"Yep!" she said. "Hey, I'm going to pick out a job. Wanna come?"

"I… can't leave Magnolia without my jailer," he said timidly.

"Then he'll come with us! The more, the merrier, right?" said Sortea.

"In that case, let me find Lahar, and we'll meet you over by the job board." As he left to find Lahar, a single thought crossed Jellal's mind.

Suddenly, his life just got a little brighter.

And that be that! I was going to put this up without the last scene, but I figured Jellal deserved a nice epilogue as long as he wasn't getting Erza. Besides, I want to feature his daughter at some point in either ABCs or It Takes A Guild, so it becomes somewhat necessary to introduce an OC for him to procreate with. And I might as well emphasize that I'm not in the habit of pairing OCs with canon characters, so, spoiler alert, Jellal ends up a widower.

Well, I should get to rewriting Cheat and Guilt to reflect these new developments. I guess I'll work on the J prompt first, and then rewrite them as soon as I'm done with that. Until then, peace and love from Nightlingbolt!