A/N: I do not own Fairy Tail
Chapter One – Dutch Courage
"Are you sure about this Lucy?" I asked.
"Yes. I'm telling you Erza, this will work. Trust me. I've got a boyfriend remember," was Lucy's confident reply.
"Which you got after kissing him senseless on New Year's Eve after downing an entire bottle of vodka amongst several other alcoholic drinks," our brunette friend added.
"I don't want to hear any comments about alcohol from you, Cana," Lucy replied.
"Just saying. Even you needed some Dutch courage to get Natsu," Cana took an easy swig from a bottle. I don't know how she got away with drinking on school property but she managed it.
"Exactly. Confessing is never easy. In any case, you've never done it sober or otherwise so just shut up."
"Umm, aren't you guys supposed to be helping me?" I interrupted before it could turn into an argument.
"Sorry, Erza. Do you want a drink?"
I felt my patience draw thin, "Actually, Lucy is right. Shut up, Cana."
"Fine. I'll shut up!" She was sulking now but I had bigger worries.
"Are you sure you don't want me to read the letter before you give it to him?" Lucy asked me earnestly. I felt a flutter of panic.
"What? Ah, no thanks. It's too embarrassing." It really was. Just thinking about what I'd written in my confession letter made me blush. We were standing behind one of the columns that supported the arched roof of the outdoor path that ran between the main school building and the gym. It was really convenient when trying to get between the two buildings in the rain. It was also a good place for watching what was happening on the playing fields without being seen. "He's there. What do I do?"
"Calm down. Now just walk over and hand it to him okay," Lucy placed a hand on my arm. She was so steady and calm. A complete role reversal for how our friendship normally was.
"I feel like some bad manga character. He's going to reject it for sure. That's how it always goes."
"He won't reject you. You're a beautiful, intelligent, young woman with loads of good qualities. All of which he knows since you've been best friends since forever."
"Yeah, best friends, not a couple," I could hardly imagine what it would be like. How we were now, only ten, no, a million times better?
"Well, you have to start somewhere. Natsu and I used to be just friends and now look at us. Do you want to take your relationship to the next level or not?"
Did I? Yes. Unequivocally yes. "Okay. I'm going."
I thought about walking over to my secret crush but my feet had other ideas and seemed to have welded themselves to the ground.
"To get there will require some movement on your part. Left foot, right foot. Repeat. In case you were unsure how it works," Cana said when I didn't move.
"Your sarcasm is not helpful Cana but… I think I will have that drink."
"That's my girl!" She thrust the bottle at me.
"Damn. What is this?" I nearly choked as the strong liquor slid down my throat.
"Ask me no questions, I'll tell you no lies. It's liquid courage. Now go get your man!"
I'd just stuck my head under the water faucet outside the gym but I didn't need to look up to recognise the voice. Standing up, I shook the water from hair and reached for my towel to dry my face. "Hey, Erza. What's up?"
"Not much. How was practice today?"
"It was good. Are you okay? You sound kind of funny," I gave her a good once over. She looked a little flushed. "You're not feeling sick right? I can walk you home if you just wait a bit."
"Uh no! I'm fine. I'm going out with Lucy and Cana. I just wanted to… umm…"
Awkward Erza. That wasn't something I could remember seeing much in all the time I'd known her. Which was saying something considering I'd known her since we were seven. Ten years. Through all the crazy ups and downs we were still best friends. It would be great to say I knew everything about her but that would be a lie. She was a woman. And women, as everyone knows, are ridiculously complicated. I think I'd been fourteen when I gave up trying to understand her and decided to just go with it. Even so, this was new. I waited a few moments to see if she would say anything but she didn't and the silence stretched on till I had no choice but to try and fill it.
"Is this about the student council work?"
"What? Oh yeah. I think maybe we should get everyone together next week for an extra meeting. Graduation and prom are coming up fast. We have to make sure we have everything ready."
I reached out and gently brushed her hair behind one ear so I could see her chocolate brown eyes. "Don't worry about it Erza. You've thought of everything. Prom will be amazing and graduation will go smoothly. You're the very best student council president. Plus you've got me and everyone else to support you so don't stress."
Her face flared up instantly. She really didn't know how to take a compliment.
"I wasn't really stressing. Anyway that wasn't… I mean, thanks. Have a good weekend," she made to leave.
Evasive. Something else was going on. I grabbed her arm, "Can't we hang out? It's Friday. Let's go somewhere."
"What? Obviously. Lucy, Natsu, Gajeel, the whole gang. Let's mix it up." Was it my imagination or did her face fall just a little bit?
"It's okay. I'm already going out with Lucy and Cana remember?"
"Ah. Some girly thing. Got it. See you tomorrow at the dojo?"
"Maybe. I'll probably sleepover at Lucy's or Cana's so…"
"Alright. I'll let sensei know. Have a good time and relax alright." Impulsively, I pulled her into a tight hug. For a moment she was stiff then she relaxed into my grip and hugged me back. She felt good and right in my arms. Everyone thought we were going out or at least having casual sex but really we were just comfortable around each other in a nice friends-since-forever kind of way. Anyway even if I wanted that, which I didn't, Erza wasn't the kind of girl for a casual hook up.
"You smell good," I murmured in her ear and she jerked back like I'd burned her. Whoa, good feeling gone. Before I could think of anything to say she whirled around and stalked off. Women. Don't try and understand, just go with it.
"He hugged you! That means yes right? You're going out now, right? Ne, Erza? Oh my god, please don't cry!" Lucy immediately embraced me.
"I'm not crying. There just something in my eye," not even Cana dared contradict me.
"He can't have said no. What happened?" Cana asked as Lucy rubbed my back.
"I couldn't ask him."
"Nani?" Both of them just stared at me.
I stepped out of Lucy's embrace and started pacing, "I couldn't do it okay! He was just looking at me with his beautiful eyes… He thought I was red because I was coming down with a cold or something. He doesn't see me romantically at all!"
"For fucks sake. Give me the damn letter," Cana snatched the offending envelope from me and strode off.
"Ah, Cana! What are you doing?" I hastened after her, Lucy trailing in our wake.
"What you don't have the guts to do. I, on the other hand, have Dutch courage down to a fine art."
Five minutes later…
"I can't believe you just did that," I said.
We were standing in the hallway on the third floor of the main building, not far from our homeroom.
"It's in his locker now. Safely locked away. You can't get it back," Cana cheerfully rattled Jellal's lock.
"How can you be so smug? You've just ruined everything. I'll wait here and take it back before he can read it." Panic was welling up inside me yet again.
"I'm siding with Cana on this one. It's done now. He'll have to come get his books once he's finished changing. Less than an hour from now he'll know exactly how you feel. Isn't this a good thing?" Lucy pulled me into a one arm embrace.
"I'm not ready!"
"You know, you're not like this in any other part of your life. Where is brave, fearless, kickass Erza?" Cana asked.
"She's about to kick your ass unless we get that damn letter back. I wrote such utter rubbish!"
"Erza, love is about putting yourself out there. Even if it doesn't work out, you'll only regret it more if you don't at least try."
"Wow Cana, that was pretty deep for you," Lucy looked impressed.
"Thanks. Now I say let's go back to my house. My father is away, as usual, so we can drink wine, order pizza and watch some girly chick flick while we wait for Jellal to call," Cana waved her bottle at us and started sauntering down the hall.
"You think he'll call me?" I asked, feeling hopeful.
Cana looked back over her shoulder, "Oh honey, he'd be an idiot not to."