Jellal lay on the ground, defeated. He wasn't really mindful of the scorched floor searing through his clothes or how uncomfortable he was right now. He was too tired. This might just have been the toughest battle of his life, and he was exhausted, all his magic power completely drained. The Orecion Seis lay defeated behind him as well, and he could hear Erik bickering with Racer. He stared at the sky, tinted with wisps of dissipating smoke. The battlefield noises were reduced to a hum now, or maybe he'd just gotten used to all the screaming and clanking. But as he watched, the summer blue sky had parted to reveal a starry sky, and as he watched a meteor came hurtling through the gap, so big it could crush all of Magnolia and the surrounding towns, while simultaneously causing tremors across the kingdom.

He sits up quickly, his exhaustion forgotten as he stares at the meteor, worry seeping in. He was too low on magic to do anything about it and it seemed like everyone on the battlefield had sensed the impending doom. The fighting had ceased, and everyone looked up at the meteor, descending quickly. Determined, he started to stand up, hoping to find remnants of at least some of his heavenly body magic. But before he could feel the familiar sensation of sharp tingling in his fingers, his eye caught sight of a glowing figure, shooting up into the sky, engulfed in gold. Everyone had started to point at it, as the pointed light shot head-on towards the meteor.

Who in their right mind... Jellal started to wonder when he heard Erik. "It's Erza, loverboy," he said in a half-hearted teasing tone, as he stared gravely at the figure.

Erza?

Of course, it's Erza. It always is.

He stood up frustrated, squinting hard to see that she wasn't even wearing her armour and was armed with just a katana. As she speeded towards the meteor, he could hear her screaming, or rather, roaring. The volume building as she went higher up. He wasn't about to, didn't want to, stand there and watch her collide with a celestial body almost hundred times her size. There was no way she'd make it. He willed the magic to come, almost desperate now, as Erza got closer and closer to the meteor, but nothing... not a drop of magic left in his body.

Dammit.

"I have a fiancee."

I really said that to her. She'll never know now...

Dammit.

There was a blinding light, followed by a thunderous sound and then, the battlefield erupted into cheers. He held his breath, waiting for his vision to clear just in time to see thousands of chunks of what was once the meteor raining down the sky. Among them, he saw Erza. She seemed alright, but still had her katana out and was pointedly falling in a specific direction. She was alright, which was a relief, but that didn't matter anymore; he just wanted to get to her. Ensure for himself that she was okay. As he ran in the direction he had seen her land, his mind forgot about the battle raging around him, even if temporarily.

"...Scarlet. Just like your hair. Now I'll never forget it!..." and he never did. He had been surprised to find that she had still kept the name that he had given her; he hadn't dwelled on it too much back when he was obsessing over the Tower of Heaven, but that was only because it had been ensured that he never thought about anything except Zeref. But after the Nirvana incident, he had had plenty of time to think in his prison cell, until Ultear broke him out. He had so much time that all he did was think about the past.

How she had kept that name he'd given her despite everything he had done.

How she had believed him at the Tower of Heaven right before he had nearly killed her. That particular thought still haunted him some times, because what if he had.

It never ceased to amaze him how quickly she had forgiven him despite it when they met again during the Nirvana incident, how she had looked at him warmly with kind eyes, no bitterness in her voice as she tried to console him about having killed one of their friends. The glow of the sunset on her face when he'd let his guard down and almost kissed her, redemption and atonement all but forgotten. It had taken a lot to draw back, to push her away and lie to her face when was looking at him like... that... but he'd done it.

A difficult choice, but he'd made it. It was the right thing to do because Erza deserved better. He had to redeem himself; he didn't deserve the forgiveness she had so quickly given him. So what he had done... was... the right thing to do. It was the only way. He was so convinced that it was the right thing to do, that he hadn't regretted that decision until now...

Erza...

Until now, when he finally spots her, on the ground, with a scarlet haired woman towering over her with a sword to her neck. "Stop smiling!" she screams. "Why are you smiling!"

He runs faster, just in time to see blue movement on the floor; Wendy. She looked terribly injured and he's torn on who to assist, but Erza makes the decision for him when she picks herself off the floor to kick the woman in the face, and he heaves a sigh of relief before he starts to tiptoe towards Wendy, hiding behind the rubble. When he was only a couple of meters away from her, Wendy was already looking at him, cheek resting on the floor, looking pale and bruised.

She must have heard me coming.

He's about to get to her when he sees Erza's katana materialize in the hand of the red-haired woman, who was breathing heavily now, eyes downcast.

He stops breathing altogether, and he can almost hear his own heartbeat.

Of course it couldn't have been that simple. It never once.

Once again, in a span of a couple of minutes, he was fearing for Erza's life. All their 'almost' moments were flashing before his eyes for the third time that day, and his mind went back to that evening on the cliff. His quest for atonement felt quite silly now, and possibly even a way to avoid something that scared him.

I should've kissed her, He thought again, for possibly the hundredth time that day. I should've told her when I had the chance. I should've, and now I can't.

He stood there feeling helpless and angry, wishing there was something he could do but he was all out of magic power. And just then, he feels a surge of magic power. He looks up see Wendy smiling weakly at him, and he's about to cast the most powerful spell he had could think of, channeling himself at the woman, who was still swaying indecisively on her feet. The energy had built in his hands and as an inky blue glow appeared at his fist, he was stunned when the woman drove the sword through herself.

"How pathetic. The most powerful woman wizard in the empire can't even bring herself to kill her own daughter," she murmured, a strangely soft smile on her face.

Daughter?

And then it clicked. He was lost in trying to process this realization to hear how the rest of the conversation went, but he snapped out of it when he heard a thud; the woman, Erza's mother, had hit the floor. Erza lay where she was, not moving, staring at the sky.

"Wendy!" came an exclamation, and Jellal was glad to see Carla arrive on the scene, landing right next to little Wendy's face. Jellal met her eyes and nodded at her with a small smile, which she returned, and then practically ran over to Erza.

He knelt behind her head, cradling her startled face and pulling her onto his lap. "Jellal..." she whispered, staring at him, her brown eyes a mix of emotions he had never seen before.

His fingers gently pry open the tie that bound her hair so tightly. Her hair fans across his thighs as he feels her relax and he just stares at her pale face; she looked so tired. He didn't say much, just combed through her silky hair, trying to gather his thoughts, trying to reach a decision. He can feel her gaze on him, soft and questioning. His eyes went to her left hand, limp and lifeless, twisted at an awkward ankle and her neck was still bleeding a little bit from where the woman - her mother - had cut her. He ripped the corner of his cloak, ignoring Erza's weak protest and held it against the gash.

The weight of the entire day hit him like a ton of bricks as he felt the fabric of his cloak soak in warm blood. He had almost lost her today. She would have never known how much he loved her, what she meant to him. Or about the role she'd played in pulling him out of the darkness that had enveloped his life for so long. How much her forgiveness had meant to him, that she could still look at him with wide, warm brown eyes, welcoming him after everything he'd done. That he sought atonement only so he could be at least a little worthy of the light she'd brought into his life.

She would've never known.

He leans down, his eyes meeting hers and smiles just a little as Erza's eyes widen a little bit. She cranes her neck in anticipation and as their lips meet, he wonders if he's imagining the tiny little explosions in his mind's eyes. Her lips are surprisingly soft and he feels silly now, for having waited this long.

"Stop trying to get yourself killed, Scarlet," he says, drawing back and feeling just a little smug when he sees Titania, Queen of the Fairies, blushing and blinking furiously almost as if embarrassed to meet his gaze. "I need you here."

Atonement can wait. Erza is all that matters. What use was atonement if Erza wasn't around?


THERE OMG MY FIRST FT FIC. thoughts?