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It's Always Been You

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     It had been years since Jellalhad last set foot in Edolas, and he honestly wasn’t sure what he’d been expecting to find on the other side. Some part of him though must have hoped to find that his father. No, it had been a long time since he had been able to think of that man as a relation - that the King had changed in the time that he had been away. He should have known better, after all, he was still finding Anima spread across Earthland, and that was how he had managed to return the first place, but somehow he had found himself utterly unprepared for the state of his homeland. Everywhere he looked in the city, magic had become an even more cherished commodity and more than once he had witnessed fights breaking out over people trying to purchase lacrimas, and it took all his willpower to stop himself from trying to intervene.

Magic…

   He would be lying if he said that he didn’t love it, that he didn’t want to hold onto it as long as possible, it was part of the reason he had been so happy to stay in Earthland for so long. That world was saturated with magic, and it had allowed his own to blossom to levels that he would never have been able to achieve in Edolas. But…His eyes were sad as he gazed out over the city, having retreated to one of the rooftops that he had used as a child to hide out with Lily when life in the palace became too much or to watch stars on quiet nights. I would throw it away in an instant if I could only get Edolas back to how it was.

    The King had loved this country once, but he had become fixated on the wrong thing, and a part of Jellal wondered if he would be able to bring back the father he had been so proud to follow when he was a child if he got rid of the magic that Faust was so fixated on.

    But how…He had learned the hard way that words were not enough to get through to the King, or to those who followed him blindly, sharing his desperate desire to keep Edolas supplied with magic. His hand crept up to knead at his cloak, able to feel the raised skin of the scar that lay beneath despite the thick material. The debate had turned ugly, but he hadn’t been able to bring himself to back down, desperate to at least be heard and he had been caught by surprise when the blade had slid into his shoulder, the pain shocking him out of his anger. It had been at that moment, glancing around at the unsympathetic faces, and realising that his father didn’t care in the slightest that his son had been wounded right in front of him, that he had realised two things. One, that he no longer had a place in the court and two, that if he wanted to save Edolas and Earthland, he was going to have to do it on his own, with his own two hands.

     That was the day that he had fled, leaving a note for Lily who was the only one who had made any attempt to support his stance. Fleeing not only his home but his county and world, all in the hope that he would be able to find a way to save it. It wasn’t a decision that he could regret. After all, he had long since lost count of the number of anima he had managed to close, stopping Edolas from absorbing Earthland’s magic and he had found a home and a family with Fairy Tail even if he had never really got to know them. I let myself forget, even if it was just for a little while, why I was there and what I need to do. It was why he had come back alone. He might not be able to do anything.  After all, nothing had really changed, but he had to try because he would never be able to live with himself if Edolas fell apart without having tried his best to hold it together.

“There has to be a way…”

“You’re still saying that?”  The cold voice made him start, and turned slowly, cursing himself for getting distracted enough to allow someone to sneak up on him and trying to ignore the pang in his chest as he found himself staring down the blade of a familiar spear. Ten Commandments…The scar on his shoulder was itching and fought the urge to grab it as he slowly raised his eyes to look at the spear’s owner, and the one who had inflicted the scar years before.

“Erza…” He whispered, tensing as he felt the spear nicking the side of his neck, but he made no move to pull back, well aware that she wouldn’t hesitate to strike him down if she thought he was trying to escape or attack. His heart was pounding in his chest as he stared at her, watching as the scarlet hair that her counterpart was named for dance in the wind and he longed to reach out and brush his fingers through it, feeling a pang as his thoughts drifted to Earthland’s Erza. It hadn’t just been the fact that he was a reflection of Earthland’s Jellal who had hurt her so much that had made him hide his face, and stay distant from her. It had been the fact that his heart had long been given to the woman stood in front of him, staring at him with cold eyes.

    It had been a short while after Lily had rescued him, and he’d been forced to follow his father as the King visited the army, particularly focusing on the divisions designed to control the use of magic in Edolas. Jellal had been bored out of his mind, and wondering why on earth it was necessary to use force to control magic. At that point, he hadn’t understood the extent of his father’s growing madness, and he had just been plotting his escape when he had spotted the girl, clearly around his own age sparring with one of the Captains. And his mouth had dropped open as he watched the ease with which she had blocked and dodged the attacks, her scarlet hair fanning out around her as she seemed to dance through the fight, her spear changing swiftly in her hands and he had found himself utterly mesmerised by the sight.

“Prince Jellal this is Erza Knightwalker, she’s just joined the second division.” His interest hadn’t gone unnoticed, and their guide had led him across once the practice spar had ended, introducing to the girl, and despite her cool politeness when she realised who he was, he had realised that he was in love as they briefly shook hands before he was pulled away to continue the tour.

    For the next couple of years, he had watched as she rose through the ranks, trying to put himself in her path, even though he had long since realised that she didn’t see him as anything more than the man she might one day have to serve. He had never managed to bridge the gap between them, and when she had been the one to attack him that fateful day in the palace he had tried to convince himself to abandon the dream that it could ever be bridged. And he had thought that he had succeeded, that his interest had flowed out along with the blood that he had lost that day, but now that she was in front of him again he realised that nothing had changed.

“I…”

“Don’t…” Her blank expression shifted for a moment, and his breath caught she glanced away for a moment with a conflicted expression. “Nothing has changed…” Her hands tightened around the shaft of the spear, and when she looked up, her expression was even once more and there was a smirk playing around her lips. “You should have stayed away if your views haven’t changed. Edolas still needs magic, and the King is doing everything he can to ensure we have it. I won’t let anyone, not even a Prince damage that.”

    It was similar to what she had said to him back then, and he sighed in defeat. So nothing has changed… Somehow realising that she was still exactly the same hurt more than the realisation that Edolas was slowly still falling apart around him, and a small part of him wondered if that was how the Earthland Erza felt when faced with her Jellal. Mirror images indeed. It was too painful to think about that, and so he forced himself to focus on his Erza, trying to ignore the way the spear was pressing harder than ever against the side of his throat, as though she was contemplating whether to just end it all.

“So what now?”

    She tensed at his question, a dangerous glint in her eyes and for a moment he thought that really might be it. His staffs were still strapped to his back, and he knew that he wouldn’t get to them in time, even if he could bring himself to fight her, let alone hurt her. Even that day when she had stabbed him, he hadn’t thought once about lashing out at her in retaliation, and he resigned himself to the fact that he wouldn’t be able to do it now either. He was shocked when a moment later she growled under her breath before pulling the spear away from his neck, and he found himself unable to move even though he was no longer in danger of being stabbed, staring at her with wide eyes.

“Go…”

“Erza…”

“I said go,” She snarled, pointing her spear at him once more, and he could see the magic beginning to swirl around its length in response to her anger, and he held up his hands. “Go back to wherever you’ve been hiding all this time. Make a life for yourself there, because the next time I face you, it won’t matter that you’re the Crown Prince. I will kill you.”

    He could hear the steel underneath her words, and he knew that she meant every word, but the pain of that realisation was mitigated by the fact that it was the first time he had ever known her to falter or heard that cold tone thaw for even a split second. It was that which gave him the courage to do something that he knew could get him killed, darting across the distance between them before she could manage to block him and seizing her by the shoulders. Their eyes met for a split second before he pressed his lips against her, trying without words to convey the feelings he had carried since the day he had first met her, and for the briefest second, he felt her respond with just the faintest brush of her tongue against his. Then he was being shoved violently away, and he was forced to lunge back as her spear rent the air where he had been a moment before.

“Next time, I will end this…” He promised as he dodged her blade, trying not to focus on the angry snarl on her face and reaching out to brush his fingers against her arm. “Use the time to think about the future you want,” he added softly, using the brief hesitation that met his words to retreat, glancing back at her one last time and imprinting her surprisingly open expression on his memory before he leapt off the roof, disappearing into the crowds on the street below to stop her from following.

I’ve already made my choice Erza, what will yours be?

****

Three years later:

    The memory of that encounter… and that unexpected kiss had been playing on her mind ever since Jellal had kept the promise he had made that day, ending the Edolas she had been fighting so hard to cling to, removing what little magic had remained and taking the throne. She had felt it, the words hanging heavy and unanswered between them when he had gently refused her plea to be punished for her role in nearly bringing the country to its knees, and the flicker of fear that had been visible in his eyes when he had offered her a position at his side. A chance to make amends for what she had done, and a chance to stand with him…

    And it was those words that had her standing there, leaning against the wall and watching over the new King as he laboured alongside the Fairies that she had hunted so long as they worked to rebuild one of the many buildings that had been damaged in the fighting. He looked so at home as he chatted with anyone that stopped to talk with him, a smile that she hadn’t seen since he had been very young playing on his lips, and for the first time she found herself actually considering what he had asked her to think about three years ago.

What future do I want?

  In the immediate aftermath of the battle, she hadn’t even been able to think about it. Sure that she would be punished for her crimes and since then she had been too busy helping to rebuild the country and protecting the New King to think about. No, she admitted to herself with a sigh, she had been busy frantically trying to avoid thinking about it because thinking about it opened up a world of terrifying thoughts and the hopes and dreams that she had long since abandoned.

“Do I dare offer a jewel for them?” Erza jumped, startled to find Jellal standing right in front of her, a hint of mischief dancing in his eyes as he studied her and she swallowed nervously as she realised that this was the closest they had been since that day and it took her a moment to get her voice to work.

“Pardon?”

“Your thoughts,” Jellal explained with a small smile as he took a half step forward. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen you look so serious, not even when you were begging me to banish you.” There was no missing the hurt that flashed across his face as he mentioned her request, and when she found herself reaching out without thought to comfort him, she realised that some part of her had already made her choice and she felt herself turning bright red.

“I…” This won’t do…Everything might have changed, but she was still Erza Knightwalker, still a Captain in the army, and her future lay in her own hands now. Taking a deep breath, she gathered her courage and this time she was the one to close the distance between them, and she finally smiled up at him as she caught the way dark eyes had widened as he caught on to what was happening. She didn’t give him a chance to speak, leaning up and capturing his lips in a heated kiss, feeling her cheeks colouring when his hands crept up to cradle her cheeks as he deepened it. They were both breathless when they parted, Jellal resting his forehead against hers and it took her a moment to get her voice to work, wanting to make sure that there was no room for doubts. “I’ve made my choice, what’s yours?”

“I think you know,” he breathed softly, kissing the end of the nose and ignoring the irritated huff that met the action, smirking slightly as he recaptured her lips. “It’s always been you,” he added when he pulled away, pulling her against him in a tight hug and as her arms crept up to return the embrace, she felt a proper smile creeping across her face.

This is a future I can live with…