They were traveling in the woods, where exactly, Meredy was not really sure, but at that moment, it was the least of her worries.
"We should be at the rendezvous point in about three miles," Jellal said, walking ahead of her. Dusk was already settling in, and their main source of light was his hand set aflame with magic, which illuminated the immediate surroundings just enough.
With their pace, they should be there in less than an hour, and normally, Meredy did not really mind. It was in the nature of their guild to travel by foot, after all, and after many years of exploring the lands, she had gotten used to it. For the past weeks however, she noticed that she grew tired easily, and although Jellal never said anything about it, she knew he ultimately observed it as well.
"Let's take a rest for a while," he declared, guiding her to a more grassy area where they could catch their breaths. Meredy silently thanked him, knowing that he allowed it for her sake. Jellal's keen observational skills were included in the things that she found wondrous about him, aside from his vast repertoire of magic, of course, because even if she tried to conceal her fatigue, Jellal would notice it every time, even back in the days when Ultear was still with them.
She helped him gather some branches which subsequently became campfire with a flick of a finger from Jellal, literally. They sat in silence for the next few moments. It was usually like that in his presence, and she learned to appreciate it because it gave her the opportunity to share whatever was on her mind, no matter how mundane or extraneous she thought it was for him, because he would always be willing to listen. Perhaps Jellal thought it was also one way of keeping their sanity intact, because they did not really come in contact with people most of the time. Besides, they were pretty much family already.
However, it was one of the very few times wherein Meredy was at loss for words, and it was Jellal who was speaking more than usual.
"How is your stomachache?"
"It's fine," she said almost immediately. Although it was already dark, she saw how it made him raise a curious eyebrow. "It must be something I ate yesterday."
He only looked at her in silence, before gazing at the blazing fire in front of them, seemingly in deep contemplation.
"I...I ate some berries while you weren't looking," she added. It was a lie, but she hoped it would convince him to drop the whole issue. Because she knew he would point out that they pretty much ate the same meal the previous day, yet nothing was wrong with him.
"I see." He let out an exasperated sigh. "I hope you learned your lesson, then."
She only mumbled a sound that she knew was something familiar already to Jellal, and that was she already understood whatever he was lecturing to her, before they fell into silence once more.
She had been feeling pretty sick for the past weeks. In worse times, she had been puking out at certain times of the day, which she managed to hide from Jellal for the first few times. The previous day was the fourth, and was also the time Jellal caught her, which she managed to excuse as a case of food poisoning. At that moment, she felt the familiar yet unpleasant sensation down her throat, and it took much of her willpower to push it down.
"You still haven't told me about your last solo mission," Jellal said, breaking the silence the second time. While he changed the topic already, it did not lessen her uneasiness. "The specifics, in particular."
She bit her lip nervously. Normally, she would have debriefed it to Jellal as soon as they met; however, the mission already ended several weeks ago, probably five already. Meredy tried to avoid his gaze, which she knew was already saying that he was aware she was hiding something.
"It's as I said before, the mission was a failure, because the dark mage managed to get away." She still avoided his eyes. "I'm sorry Jellal, I truly am."
"And as I also said before, it does not matter to me whether you managed to capture him or not, because in the end, you were still able to gather important coordinates about the dark guild." Jellal sighed deeply, elbows leaning on his knees as he clasped his palms together. "Meredy, if you are worried about me being upset because you failed the mission, don't be, because I'm not. I know how difficult our goals are, and what matters most to me in the end is that you are safe and sound, because it means that you have another day to try again, another chance to live our lives better."
Meredy widened her eyes briefly at his words, and seeing his face, he was probably as surprised as she was considering the length of his speech. Usually, he was a quiet man, and judging from his outburst, she knew it meant that she was already frustrating him with her secrecy.
The corners of her eyes were starting to water. The bitter taste was up her throat again, yet she mustered everything within her to gulp it down.
She had no intentions of saying it to Jellal, not even to anyone. It was a grave mistake, foolishness in her part. She was quiet for the past days for a reason; she had been trying to keep her mind off the incident, because she hoped by the time they met with their guildmates, she would no longer think about it especially knowing Erik's capacity of hearing one's inner thoughts. If worse came to worst, she even thought of bribing him, just so he would keep him mouth shut.
But the effects of the incident had on her body definitely laughed scornfully at her intentions.
"I'm sorry Jellal, I made a mistake." Her vision was already blurred and she ducked her head, trying to shield her eyes with her hair.
"I already said that it doesn't matter-"
"No, Jellal. You don't understand. I was too selfish, too stupid..."
She already knew there was no escaping it, so she finally confessed, telling him exactly what she had been hiding from the past days. The barrier on her feelings broke down completely, the concealed emotions flowing out violently like strong waves.
She need not look at him nor cast Sensory Link to know what he felt towards her. Shock to the core, followed by extreme disappointment. Yet she could not blame him.
In shame, she covered her face, sobbing disgracefully at her sin.
"I'm sorry, Jellal, I'm sorry..."
She did not know how long she had been crying out, but eventually she felt a warm hand caressing the top of her head. She removed a hand from her tear-drenched face and saw Jellal with a solemn look. Without thinking twice, she immediately clung to his figure as if her own life depending on it. It took a few seconds before she felt him embrace back, his other hand patting her head soothingly.
Despite the hushes that went out from his mouth, Meredy continued whispering her apologies even as the fire died out.
A/N: I told myself that I should try to finish my other stories first before creating a new story, but alas, I am my own enemy. This started out as an idea which I drew on tumblr and it became a full-fledged story in my mind. Hopefully I'll be able to put them all into words.