Disclaimer: Copyright Trollshima.
Meredy is Ultear's baby girl while Jellal is her confused teenage son who likes Hatsune Miku or something. IDK, I just love these three.
All That Must Be Said
It was uncommon for Ultear to ask anything of him, even when they were partners in crime with a whole lot of evil on their minds. No, usually if she wanted something she just took.
Jellal had once made the mistake of telling her that good manners would take her places. Just that once, after a few too many drinks (she had excellent taste, even if it did drain half of their budget) one evening. But he had been forced to sport a black eye for days following that incident and swore to never say anything like that to her ever again.
Or anything at all when she was drunk.
Or in a bad mood.
So it came as an odd surprise when she did ask for his assistance for – in her own words – "a favour." Not that he saw her bizarre request as a "favour" at all given the nature of it. In fact it was utterly horrifying, and something he wanted no part in.
A "favour" was a comrade making sure she didn't burn Meredy's dinner. A "favour" was pretending not to notice when she shifted almost all of Defeated Dark Guild of the Day's cash. A "favour" may even count one busting the other out of a "max security prison" (or so the Magic Council called it, not that it was working out very well for them) with ease when it was their fault in the first place you'd ended up there.
It was certainly not what she was asking.
"Are you drunk?" he stupidly inquired. Because no way in all of Earthland was he going to take her seriously or comply with her wishes if she wasn't sober. Not that he would do it even if she was.
He expected a thwack over the head for that one. But one look at her face – downtrodden, sad, and, above all else, desperate – told him she was wholly sincere.
Jellal sighed. "Are you sure?"
"Please," she whispered, the sound barely travelling above the crackling camp fire.
"I don't know how I'm going to do it," he said in one last attempt to stray her from this mad idea.
"I know you can use fire magic."
As far as he was aware, most guilds used a harmless magic to apply the mark to their members skin – except maybe the odd, extremely cruel dark guild. They'd been hunting them down long enough by now to have seen plenty of things he'd rather forget. It was a dirty job that their little trio had taken on (but if it made her proud, wherever she was, and brought him even just one step closer to her, he'd keep going). He assumed it would be just as easy to remove it.
"Ultear you have done so much already. For me, and for her," he nodded in the direction of Meredy, who lay snoozing on the other side of the cave they had taken up for the night. "You do not have to do this."
It was hard, being firm with her when it was so often the other way around. But he tried because he would be lost without her and her solid presence. Yet it was hard to argue with her. And honestly, he could not blame her for wanting to do this. He understood better than anyone the need to never forget their sins, and the need to brand them into their own skin.
(If she wanted him dead, he'd be gone in a heartbeat.)
But Ultear was ridiculously stubborn, never letting in her ways once she had set her eyes on something.
"Just do it," she scowled as she sat in front of him and let her long cloak fall from her shoulders. His eye didn't fail to catch the way she kept it firmly in her grasp. She gripped the fabric so tight Jellal thought the bone of her knuckles would prod through the skin.
"At least take something for the pain–"
"Jellal!" she interjected fiercely.
"Alright, alright," he sighed in defeat as his eyes cast over the strange tangle of lines that Grimoire Heart had used as their guild mark covering the curves of her back.
"I don't want it on me. I'm not with them anymore and I can't change if it is there holding me back, saying that I'm still one of them," Ultear spoke softly. He could not see much of her face clearly, but Jellal was sure determination was burning in her eyes, fierce as it always was when she latched onto a thought.
His hand hesitated for one more moment before he let the familiar heat surge through his palms. She shudders and shakes as the flames, (soft, small, and not very powerful) graze her skin but she made no sound. He reasoned her tolerance for pain had hardened after years of one tragedy after another.
One hand clawed into the dirt floor while she placed the other close to her mouth, biting down on her knuckles. Her eyes are trained, watchful and motherly, on Meredy who slumbered blissfully unaware. Jellal wondered how on earth she was going to explain the scar that would be left behind with a believe able excuse that wouldn't upset the younger girl too much.
He has met many persistent bastards, but Ultear certainly now has the greatest endurance of anyone Jellal has ever met, knocking Natsu Dragneel down into second place with ease.
A trickle of sweat ran down the side of his face, he was probably more terrified than she was. There was no going back once he had begun. Not that he even had a real choice to begin with, the damn woman made sure of that.
As he worked, Jellal reached forward with his free hand and grasped hers tightly. Her fingers in an instant interlocked with his, abandoning the dirt for the comfort of another. The fierce grip encouraged him to hurry up and let it be over with but he still took care to keep the flame steady and within his control so as not to risk hurting her further and unnecessarily, or letting the burn get too deep. They both knew from experience that playing with fire was no easy game.
After marking out a large X shape that blocked the old brand from sight, he stopped, grimacing at her charred skin and bit back the urge to vomit because not only did it look awful, but it was his hand that had made the coarse mess on her skin.
"Water," she murmured, voice laced with discomfort and fragility, dry and tired. The sole word brought him back to reality and he nodded. Jellal raised a canister to her lips and she hurriedly gulped down the liquid before he moved to carefully begin treating the wound.
"Stop," she told him after he'd made sure it was clean and dabbed over an ointment she'd picked up from goodness knows where (preparedness was another quality he mentally added to the growing list of things to respect her for). "I can fix the rest myself."
He stared at her baffled until she smirked. "Arc of Time now works on people, remember?"
"You're not going to try and heal it fully right now, are you?" he said wondering just how many more ridiculous ideas she would get. "Do you even know if it can work on yourself?"
"Of course it will, Jellal. I know exactly what I am capable of," she scoffed. She was trying to mask the agony she was in but he could see her wince even as she turned from his direction in a poor attempt to hide this brief moment of visible vulnerability.
He moved to her belongings and pulled out a half-full bottle of whisky. Or half empty, as she would say.
"You are crazy," Jellal muttered. He unscrewed the cap and held the drink in front of her. "But at least take something first."
She sighed irritably but accepted nonetheless.
He sat against the wall of the cave, turned away from Ultear as she went ahead with her plan, in order to try and get some sleep (and forget about this entire ordeal) before she dragged him out at the crack of dawn to go onwards to their next targets. It would not be the first time she had done so.
He ignored the low hum of magic energy, the sound of fire and smell of burning. Approximately ten minutes later (and ten hours too soon for his liking), Ultear's voice called out to him in a whisper.
"What do you want now?" he grated, not bothering to move or even open his eyes.
"I have one more small favour I need of you."
"Fine," he drawled. "Just nothing that causes physical harm."
"I want you to put the guild mark on me," she practically ordered.
"I just burnt it off, you madwoman!" He almost yelled, frustration and fatigue bringing on a headache that showed no signs of receding. He was tired and had enough of her and her favours for one night.
"Will you be quiet? If you wake her up I'll hand you back over to the Council myself," she threatened, pointing her finger as if she were his impatient mother scolding her noisy child. Thankfully, Meredy had turned into a heavy sleeper at some point, a far cry from her younger years in Grimoire Heart. "I mean our guild mark, you idiot. The one for Crime Sorcière."
Well that made more sense.
"Okay," he agreed. "But only if I get to sleep after this."
"Deal," she said smiling and rolling her eyes at the childishness of it all. But he was good. Much too good for the world she had forced upon him. Jellal had done unreasonable things for her, she contemplated as he gently drew over the new scar on her back. They were similar and bickered, but she was grateful for their friendship: open, honest and forgiving. In front of him she openly wept for her mother, Gray and everyone else she had hurt (he would be one of the very few who would see her in such as state, something she protected her surrogate daughter from a side she would never let Meredy see); she watched him sob and long for the girl he loved so dearly but believed he could never have.
"It's done," he said quietly as his touch faded.
"Thank you," she whispered back softly.
Despite not facing each other, Ultear could sense the smile in his voice as he spoke back, "No, thank you."
And that was all that needed to be said.
extra: I do have better things to do than write nonsense and re-watch Ao no Exorcist in the very early hours of the morning. I just choose not to do them.
But that big mark on Ultear's back is scary because I found it hard to tell if it was a scar or apart of Crime Sorcière's guild mark.