A/N: If you haven't read the latest chapter of the manga, please avoid reading this if you don't want small spoilers. In any case, enjoy this hastily written oneshot *cough* peace offering *cough* to make up for not having updated Facades. I have good reasons (that I won't rant on here) and I apologize *on my hands and knees* for being such a horrible author. Forgive me! TT_TT Hopefully, this little fic will make up for it.
"Where is Jellal?"
It is the first time Erza Scarlet truly experiences fear. What did Tataros want with Jellal? Phantom fingers claw at her heart, clenching and pulling, shredding it to pieces. Perhaps for a moment it had stopped beating altogether. It is the sensation one has when falling down an endless abyss, the sensation of having one's stomach in one's mouth.
She struggles again. The shackles cut painfully into her wrists. Titania is bound two inches too high to the ceiling, forcing her to stand on her toes. She is not only without armour, but deprived of any form of clothing at the mercy of a demon. Never has Erza felt so bare, so naked and so vulnerable in her life.
Undoubtedly, she is more afraid for the Crime Sorciere mage than she is for herself. The next words that Kyouka whispers would replay in her mind for days to come.
"I know the two of you are intimately involved."
Erza is taken aback, and she forgets how to breathe. Her mind is whirling. The memories come flooding in.
…A beautiful boy with a peculiar red tattoo -the same dark shade as her hair- and the warmth of his smile, the kindness in his eyes. His hair is the colour of the sea and the sky.
"Scarlet. Erza Scarlet. That way I'll never forget your name."
…The strong gales from Niravana is enough to sweep her off her feet. Tears roll down his face at the news of what he had done. Of having killed his best friend and caused suffering to others.
…The carriage doors echo as they are closed tightly shut and the sound of the troops marching fade into the distance.
"It was the colour of your hair." The softness in his eyes makes her tremble.
…She remembers sobbing upon that hill, so much that she is afraid her heart will never stop bleeding. It is the day she comes to terms with the fact that she loves him with all her soul. The scarlet haired knight knew it would hurt when she let him go, but not this much. There is an empty hole in her chest that she cannot fill. She voices her sorrows to the world.
…The intensity of his gaze is almost too much to bear. Before she knows it, her walls have crumbled and she is crying because of him. Again.
"I thought I'd never see you again."
…She can feel her eyelids growing heavy, and the exhilarating sensation of his warm hands cradling her face and his light breath mingling with hers and the strands of blue teasing her forehead and his lips achingly soft against her mouth -but it ends all too soon and he pushes her aside. It feels like she is drenched in cold water.
Kyouka lifts an eyebrow.
The cold steel of the demon's talons trace her chin, and Erza's eyes grow wide. Bad mistake. Kyouka smirks as the expression on the redhead's face affirm what she already knows. All the better to use to her advantage.
"W-why do you want Jellal?" Erza curses herself inwardly for stuttering. In all her glory, Titania is but a simple creature when taken from the safe walls of her armour and swords. Kyouka ignores her question and the redhead is blinded by the pain that follows quickly after.
"Where is he? Tell me."
Scarlet cannot think straight. Not with the hot, white pain that clouds her vision.
"My magic allows me to alter a person's sensations. Your sensation of pain is now at its most sensitive."
The bare knight heaves and pants like a drowning man gasping for air. Sweat rolls down her skin as though her entire body is weeping. Erza almost scoffs right there an then. Her sensation of pain was at its most sensitive years ago. Losing Jellal was a pain she'd silently endured for months.
Titania refuses to show that she is afraid.
The demon approaches like a prowling tiger. "Tell me."
"I. Don't Know." Erza grits her teeth. Somewhere in the deep recesses of her mind, she is pleading that this is all a nightmare. Kyouka swipes a talon across her naked belly. The flawless light beige of her skin is stained by the colour of her hair. She stains the cell walls with her screams.
Blood is pumping in her ears. She gasps for air as the tendrils of pain delve deep into her soul. The knight has no armour to protect herself, no sword to protect the emotions kept so safely hidden inside. Tears fall from her eyes by the bucketfuls. I'm not crying. I can't be crying.
This is humiliation at its finest.
The demon's voice is proud and threatening, smooth and cunning, pure evil. "To release the seal on face, we had intended to kill all the former council members. But we eventually found out the names of the three that actually seal it."
Erza's throat is too dry to utter a sound as Kyouka roughly grabs a fistful of hair, and yanks her head upwards.
"Two are already dead. The only one remaining…"
"C-Could it be…" her voice trembles, and so does her heart. Kyouka lifts the redhead's chin with two razor sharp talons.
"If Jellal dies, we can release the seal on face."
The next series of events pass by in a blur. Erza faintly remembers being offered a chance to save Mira in exchange for Jellal's whereabouts. There was blinding pain everywhere. She pleaded and begged, but to no avail. The demon was relentless as she sought to slowly break Titania, physically and mentally, piece by piece. By the end of it all, Erza Scarlet is no different from a doll tied to a string.
There is no saviour.
Kyouka grows bored. The angry wounds and trails of crimson across her prisoner's body has become as interesting as watching paint dry. The broken body, half dead and half alive, has lost its ability to even utter a sound. Erza can feel her life draining into the gutter.
For a long while, there is no more pain.
The small prison cell is dimly lit by the flickering candles and the musty air is permeated by the scent of sweat and blood. Titania's suffering has been embedded into every crack between each stone, every dent in the ugly walls.
The demon silently encircles Erza, contemplating and pondering. She speaks.
"From what I have been told, Jellal Fernandes is merely a childhood friend of yours that fell into the deep abysses of insanity. He was obssessed with the notion of freedom, of paradise. He had tried to kill you countless times and even murdered one of your close friends-"
"-That wasn't him."
Kyouka roughly yanks her head back. "Let me finish," she growls, "He was put in prison after your little Nirvana incident and sentenced to execution a year after. The rest is left somewhat unconfirmed, but my question is: Why go so far to protect a man that made you suffer? I can see your eyes tremble in fear for him whenever I mention his name. I never thought he would mean so much to you."
For a while, there is only the shaky breathing of the prisoner in chains. Erza closes her eyes and takes a moment to calm herself, before confidently lifting her head and looking Kyouka straight in the eyes.
"I don't care what Jellal did in the past." She spits out the blood in her mouth. "He was a victim of evil, possessed and framed for doing things he had never done. The Jellal I know is gentle and kind, and he would never even think of harming his friends in any way. He is now suffering and atoning for sins he did not commit, and I only hope he will finally be able to attain happiness when his work is done. You'll never be able to release Face, because you'll never be able to kill him. Jellal is stronger than you could ever be, you bitch."
"And what if I do kill him?" Kyouka remains strangely calm.
"You won't because I'll be right by his side to protect him."
The stone ground is cold beneath her feet. Erza tenses, preparing for the oncoming barrage of pain that will result from her pride. Perhaps she shouldn't have talked so much. No, I don't regret saying a single thing.
Then Kyouka erupts in laughter. Yes, it is evil and sinister but with a tinge of amusement. Erza is too exhausted to feel confused.
"This…" the demon clutches her stomach, gasping for air, "This is almost too good to be true."
"…What?" Erza's voice is barely a whisper.
The clanking of metal against the stone ground echoes within the walls. It takes all she has not to break out sobbing when the familiar sensation of a sharpened talon traces her torso. Kyouka bends near and murmurs, "Why don't you make yourself useful and call for him?"
A small wound the size of a papercut is drawn above her navel. A familiar pain shoots up her spine as she arches her back and lets out a cry.
"Come on, I haven't got all day." Kyouka seems to stand back for a few seconds, and Erza almost believes that her torture is over. Then a talon is pierced deep into the side of her torso and roughly pulled out.
The scarlet haired knight explodes in the most agonising scream that has ever left her lips.
Her ability to breathe is no more. The scarlet haired woman can no longer feel the binds around her wrists and ankles, but the excruciating sensation that claws at her belly threatens to swallow her whole. Her entire being and soul is trembling like it did so many years ago. It is almost uncanny how similar her current predicament is to the time she had been tortured as a child in the Tower of Heaven. And there was only one boy who had come to save her.
Despair forces her to hang her head. At this point Titania is sobbing because she just can't take it anymore. The torture is too much to bear. Erza forces her lips apart with all her strength.
She whimpers. Like a beaten dog.
It is softer than the whisper of a butterfly's wings, yet she knows he is the only one who can hear her. She had heard his voice on Tenroujima Island, when there seemed to be no hope against Asuma. The blue haired man had been her knight in shining armour. He always had been. Now, when she needs him most, Erza prays he would come to save her one last time.
Kyouka gives a sound of satisfaction and her footsteps draw nearer to the wooden door opposite. The scarlet haired mage can feel herself falling asleep, or perhaps falling unconscious. She has forgotten where she is, who she is and why she is here. She summons her last strand of strength to look the demon in the eyes one last time.
The door moans as Kyouka steps outside and with a click of her talons, the candles are immediately snuffed out. The only light comes from outside the slightly ajar prison door. Erza can see the full form of her torturer, and wonders how she had even survived the first few minutes.
"I see now." The demon passes a glance over her shoulder, looking like she won the lottery. "You're in love with him."
The world turns dark.
It is a Sunday morning when Titania finally comes to. Her lids are heavy as stone and there is a comfortable weight over her body. A blanket? She can feel the gentle light settling around her and the beautiful taste of fresh air, but she cannot open her eyes. Her mouth is dry. Her body is too exhausted to move. Then she hears the sound of a soul trembling.
Again, she cannot bring herself to move. But she hears the sound now, louder and more hauntingly beautiful. A voice in her head tells her that she has heard it before, years and years ago. Questions come and disappear as fast as the wind before she just has to know, and her eyelids slowly but prettily flutter open. What she sees breaks her heart. All. Over. Again.
There is an unmistakable tuft of blue hair -a lovely, special shade- and she almost cries at the sight of his head buried in his hands, his elbows planted on his knees, his shoulders hunched over and his entire body shaking. It takes a while before the redhead realizes he is crying.
Slowly, she notices the rest of her surroundings and Erza faintly comes to the conclusion that she is in an infirmary. The walls are a calm white, the wooden floorboards are polished and a window is slightly open above her head. The slivers of sunlight that dance upon her skin feel like a gift from God. The remainder of the room that she can see is plain and typical - a distant table with a steaming tray of warm food, a mahogany cabinet and a door with a golden handle on the other side of the room.
The man she loves so unconditionally sits on a low stool beside her, too wrapped up in his sorrow to notice that she is awake.
Erza lifts a weary hand and is only just able to place her fingers on his arm. Jellal becomes deathly quiet. Then he takes his trembling hands away from his face and looks at her in disbelief. To her, his eyes are melting gold.
Her lips turn upwards and an effort to smile. Even smiling hurts.
Hurriedly, the blue haired man comes to his senses and returns with a glass of water from the tray. It spills a little to the side as he sits on the edge of the bed and quickly helps her up. Her bones are screaming and her muscles are groaning, but the sensation of his hand cradling her face and the other holding her chin up makes her forget how to think. Suddenly unwanted memories come to mind, of talons tracing her chin and pain, pain, pain everywhere makes her jolt. The glass falls out of her slender fingers and rolls off the bed, smashing into a thousand smithereens on the ground. At the same time, she snaps out of his hold like she has been burned and stares hauntingly into her lap, into empty space. Her arms are curled around herself, and fear creeps into her heart because there is no armour, only the thin layer of a satin white dress.
Jellal's hand is left in mid-air.
His touch is unwelcome. And it hurts more than it should.
"I-I'm sorry. I should leave." He grits his teeth and kneels down to pick up the pieces, silently placing them onto a washcloth. Erza, lying back and propped up on her pillows, watches as he drops it into a bin and returns to her side. She has calmed down by now. His eyes are anywhere but on her.
"I'll tell the others you're awake." He says, bending over to shift the pillows to a more comfortable position, "Don't try to get up while I'm gone, you've only just -"
"Don't go." Her fingers are weakly wrenched around his sleeve. He is wearing a white, button-less long sleeved shirt and black pants. It has been a long time since she'd seen him wear something so ordinary, so plain. She also notices that he is more handsome up close. Realising she has been holding his gaze for a second too long, Erza frantically looks away.
"You don't have to leave."
Jellal's eyes grow wider by a fraction, but it is enough to make him sit beside her on the bed again. He looks down at the pale fingers wrapped around his wrist and hesitantly entwines them with his.
"I will stay as long as you need me." At that, Erza relaxes and leans back. His voice is deep and reassuring, soft and gentle -she could listen to him talk all day. He is handsomer than before and his gaze even more piercing. His jawline is strong and defined, his shoulders broad and lips left slightly apart. The scarlet haired mage quickly closes her eyes. She is afraid she might accidentally kiss him.
Her fingers shyly caress his. "I knew you'd come to save me. You always do."
How does she know I…? Jellal coughs awkwardly and swallows the knot in his throat. A lot is left unsaid, but they both understand. Neither want to talk about it. He looks away.
"I had to. You called for me. And…and when I saw what they did to you I lost it." His voice is cracking. His eyes are rimmed with red. "Natsu was there. He figured it all out and helped me to find you. That kid almost demolished the entire fortress."
The redhead laughs. It is like the tinkling of wind chimes. "It's nothing out of the ordinary."
"Your friends were there too. We managed to save Mira just in time before the entire building collapsed, and brought the two of you to the nearest town. The community was so kind and offered us all a place to stay."
Jellal takes a deep breath. The next time he speaks, it all comes out in a rush.
"…I'm sorry. It was all my fault. I-I never thought they would torture you for information on me. I should have been there to protect you. I don't…I don't know how to make it up to you, Erza. I never knew I was one of the seals, I promise! I know that is no excuse to let you get hurt so badly and I don't have the courage to ask for your forgiveness but-"
"It's okay." Erza smiles. "None of it was your fault, Jellal."
He should have expected this. The red haired girl -no, woman -had always been so kind and forgiving. It would have been a sin to expect otherwise.
Erza revels in the scent of life and fresh air.
For a long moment, there is only the sound of breathing and the light breeze overhead. Erza's eyes remain closed as she feels phantom binds around her wrists and ankles. It is hazy, but she remembers being freed of her restraints and hastily wrapped up in a cloak before being carried through the raging battlefield. A few thoughts briefly pass her mind.
He risked his life to save me.
And also, He saw me naked.
Jellal watches as her cheeks turn bright red and her lower lip curls inwards. She has been holding her breath a little too long and he wonders what she's thinking about. He chuckles, a comforting baritone, and is oblivious to her cheeks that turn a shade darker.
The sensation of his fingers playfully caressing hers makes her heart beat twice as fast.
She feels herself smiling like an idiot. "How long have I been asleep?"
"Three days. The doctor said it would take at least a week."
"Well then it must be because you've been beside me all this time." She has a voice like an angel. Jellal can feel his heart skip a beat.
"You know me inside and out, don't you?" His voice lowers a pitch. "Miss Scarlet."
The atmosphere is suddenly electric.
Erza swears her heart nearly stopped beating altogether. He had given her that name. It made her feel like she belonged to him and no one else. She loses her line of thought when he shifts himself slightly closer and snakes his other arm around her waist, resting his forehead against hers. He is so close their noses are touching. Erza scrunches her closed eyes.
Don't kiss him. Don't kiss him. Don't kiss him.
"I wouldn't be here if it weren't for you." He murmurs. Erza doesn't know whether or not she is breathing. She places her other hand shyly upon his chest. His heart is beating faster than hers.
"I wouldn't either." She whispers. Jellal can't seem to remember anything before now. Not the Tower of Heaven, not Nirvana, not Crime Sorciere, not the Grand Magic Games, not Tataros, nothing. All he can think about is the way she is melting in his arms this very moment. All rational thought is thrown out the adjacent window.
She is so beautiful. Her long silky curtain of scarlet hair and her warm, chocolate brown eyes. The curve of her jaw and the contour of her nose and the softness of her pale red lips.
It is a while before he realizes he is already kissing her.
Kindly, gently, tenderly. With all that he is.
His mouth is moving against hers for longer than he should, but what the heck it felt amazing. He wants this to last for an eternity.
The scent of vanilla and strawberries makes him dizzy and he knows he should being taking a breath by now. She is soft and warm and he can feel her smiling against his lips. His whole being feels like it is on fire. What really makes him lose control is the fact that she is kissing him back and her fingers are threading through his hair and her nose is touching his cheek as she changes the angle of their kiss and…
"Ah! I-I'm sorry! I didn't mean to, um…"
They break apart instantly. Wendy stands at the open door, face redder than a tomato. Had they been so caught up in their little moment that they failed to notice someone coming in?
The young dragon slayer had nearly stumbled over herself when she saw Jellal and the redhead…doing things she shouldn't even be thinking of at the age of twelve. Wendy takes in their blushing faces, their wide eyes and tangled mops of hair. She can feel the blood flooding to her cheeks when she notices that Erza - Erza - still has her arms wrapped around Jellal's neck and that the blue haired man has his hands where they shouldn't be. They are breathing heavily, almost as though they'd just been in battle.
She really shouldn't have decided to check up on someone she thought of as an older sister. The continue to stare.
"I-I just heard noises and…and I thought Erza was awake s-so…" Wendy wrenches her hands in the sides of her dress as Jellal's mouth falls open, "I-I-I didn't mean to interrupt! I'm sorry!" The dark blue haired girl quickly bows. She is thankful she hadn't decided to bring Carla along, or else she might've seen what seemed like the two lovebirds eating each other alive.
"I should just…leave." The door whips closed and Wendy is gone in a second. It is so quick it almost feels like none of it happened.
Once the sound of hurried footsteps in the distance fades completely, Jellal and Erza finally turn to face each other. She smooths out the imaginary creases in her hospital dress and awkwardly adjusts the straps threatening to slip off her shoulders.
"So." She begins. Her toes curl inwards at the amusement dancing in his eyes. The redhead frantically averts her gaze to the far wall, away from his charming features softened by the sunlight. He had always been too good looking for his own good, Erza thinks, especially when he was looking at her like she was the only girl in the entire world. She also tries not to think that she had been making out with Jellal just minutes ago. Wendy's interruption was a bit of an ordeal to recover from so quickly. No doubt it would be awkward meeting her again.
She can still feel the tingling sensation of his lips on hers.
"That was unexpected." He chuckles. The way he ruffles his hair in embarrassment almost makes her want to kiss him again.
The room is quiet-not suffocating and awkward, but a calm and peaceful quiet. The kind when two lovers are simply relishing each other's company. Birds chirp sweetly from outside the window and Erza sighs as she listens to the wonderful sound of children laughing and playing, the breeze is like a mother's embrace and the sunshine is pure gold. Jellal opens his mouth and then closes it, as though wanting to say something but not knowing how to say it. His eyebrows are furrowed and his gaze hard.
Erza is taken aback by the sudden intensity in his gaze. "What's wrong?"
This time, Jellal looks at her, really looks at her. She is the embodiment of beauty and the blue haired man wonders how he'd managed to keep his distance all this time.
"All I want is for you to be happy. I've caused you so much suffering and yet you forgive me like it's all nothing. I don't deserve someone like you, Erza. The only way I can make it up to you is to make sure you have all that you need and want. I'd do anything for your happiness."
He is serious, but for some reason, the bluenette feels like he already knows her answer.
"I'm happiest when I'm with you," the redhead shyly replies. "Just being with you is enough."
Jellal cannot feel more joyful as he takes her hand - she lets him - and gently kisses her knuckles. He is delighted at the ability to reduce Titania, queen of the fairies, to a blushing, stuttering pile of jelly. He knows he is the only one. Erza holds in her breath at the sincerity of his smile.
"Erza, I don't think Scarlet fits anymore," He murmurs into the back of her hand, gaze fixed only and only on her. "How about Fernandes?"
The scarlet haired woman almost rolls off the bed.
She swears her heart is about to beat right out of her chest. She fumbles with her fingers and hastily tucks some hair behind her ear. The room temperature has suddenly risen. She knows she's blushing and her eyes should not be fixed on her lap, but her mind has gone completely haywire and she has forgotten how to speak. Jellal chuckles when her features contort into the cutest expression he has ever seen. Who knew she could be so innocent yet enticing?
"Um…okay." She feels like crying. The pure joy that fills her heart is almost too much to bear, before she realizes a few traitorous tears have already sneaked their way down both cheeks. How could she have known a few days ago that she would finally, finally be together with her childhood love? She feels elated, like she is flying and soaring over the rooftops. She wants to tell the world that she loves him with all her soul. Jellal carefully puts his arms around her in an embrace.
"Let's start over again," The blue haired mage says with a tone that he only uses with her, "and hopefully get married someday." Slowly and steadily, their foreheads touch again and they look at each other from under their lashes. Just how much time had they wasted? If only they had known how it felt to be together like this.
They are smiling and crying and before they know it, laughing too. There would be no more holding back, no more unanswered questions and bottled up feelings. He would love her with all that he had and she would do the same. Words left unspoken but conveyed through their eyes alone.
She remembers the blue haired boy from the Tower. She remembers the man who was possessed and she remembers the man who willingly went to prison for crimes he did not commit. She remembers his piercing gaze on the beach and his soft eyes when he had saved her from the dragons. And she will forever remember today.
"I love you." They don't know who says it first, but all that matters is that once again Jellal's lips are against hers - this time with more passion - and that her body is fitting perfectly into his arms like she was made just for him.
It is the first time Erza Scarlet truly experiences happiness.
If only she'd known that the next day, she would be mercilessly showered with gifts for her not-yet-born 'baby' by the entire guild and have a guilty Wendy constantly apologizing to her.
Rumours could often go out of control. Happy never again saw the light of day.
A/N: Thank you for reading!