Chapter 1: The Grand Ball
He’s a dangerous leering striking figure of confusion and sharp hits, and to her absolute shock, Kagura finds herself unstable in the midst of a battle. Not the first time ever, and the memory of Erza’s emotional appeal is a fresh lesson, but it still fills her with an embarrassed rage that this ridiculously sloshed panther is besting the controlled grace of her blade, even hampered by that flashy purple suitjacket. Granted, her feet are far more unsteady than usual, and she can’t quite seem to pin down where the ceiling is, and why exactly were they fighting in the first place? But it’s still unlike her to lose. At anything. So she snarls in frustration when his palm lands another hit, this time to her stomach, knocking the wind out of her, and she’s about to launch into an ill-considered attack, this time just pure rage and no calculation, when suddenly a set of triangular black marks is the majority of her field of vision and tequila-scented breath gusts across her face-
“Now, now, my lady, it seems you can’t handle your white wine?” And his hand is infinitely gentler when wrapped around her waist, and white-hot static fills her head as she realizes he’s holding her up -
The room shakes and a few heads turn as people lose their balance and fall to the floor, dragged down by the crushing weight. Someone wonders if it’s gravity magic, and Yukino recognizes the feel of it. Across the room, Risley gets a wide-eyed look- why is Kagura using Gravity Change in the palace, during a silly brawl? Such a misuse of her magic was very unlike her- was it the alcohol? She hadn’t thought her master had gotten that drunk. She tries to locate Kagura across the room, but gets sidetracked by a spirited uppercut from a pink-haired girl.
Bacchus makes a ridiculous O-shaped face as his body is crushed into the floor, and Kagura can’t help but harbor a suspicion that he’s grinning , even as she definitely hears the pop of one of his shoulders dislocating from the pressure. She lifts her sheathed blade, ready to deal a blow to wipe whatever that silly expression is off this unsettling man’s face, when her ear catches a sound from the battle around her- someone whimpering. And she comes to her senses, her head whipping around to take in the scene around her. How could she! Unleashing Gravity Change in a room like this, with these people, loads of innocents caught in the width of the magic circle. She let this ridiculous man’s game get to her and warp her goals! Shame fills her head again, but this of a different kind, and the fiery drive lessens a bit. Her sword arm gentles.
So, of course, he trips her and pins her down with a palm on her ass.
“Victory is certain when your soul is WILD!!-”
The echo sounds from across the ballroom, “FOUR!!”
The hand lifts from her ass and she knows she’s blushing red to the tips of her ears, but she prepares to say something courteous about a good fight and exit the room- she never intended to do anything with Yukino’s life debt other than offer the girl membership at Mermaid Heel, and this whole brawl was only worthwhile if people were having fun- and here she was, taking her opponent way too seriously. Something about him made her lose sight of her goals, and that frustrated her to no end. She starts to rise to her knees, and is stopped by a strong slender hand, - suddenly familiar -, on her shoulder, sliding down to her collarbone.
“You’re a pleasure, Missssss Kagura” comes the slurred voice, hot breath, and she flinches as a lip grazes her ear. Control. It’s fine, he’s just an annoying drunkard, keep your cool.
She remains silent. Barely. And is once again caught off guard as the hand on her collarbone exerts effortless pressure and her body is swung around to face him, off balance, the Drunken Falcon lounging haphazardly in a deep stance and somehow still controlling her movements despite an apparent lack of control of his own. He stares at her for a moment, and his weight shifts ever so slightly. She watches him list to the side, gently, gently, ever so slowly- then pop ! His shoulder relocated by way of his hand on the floor. She looks down, flinching slightly for the pain she must have caused him.
“Fight me sober”
The words catch her off guard. As do the ones that slip out of her mouth, fairly unannounced as they bypass her inhibitions- “I’ll do just fine fighting you drunk”
His eyes widen comically, impossibly large. “ohHOOO my lady, you don’t have to ask me twice, I’d crush you drunk anyti- ”
The slap surprises both of them, it seems, but Kagura regains her balance and feels slightly better having managed to hit him once- until the force of her slap apparently whirls him around, impossibly, to his arms wrapped around her waist, his sweaty forehead pressed against hers, and those annoying marks filling her field of vision, how did we get here? again? , and this time she gets a better feel for the true strength of his hands at close range, as her chest is pressed against his for just a crushing moment-
“Fight me drunk, and I’ll fight you sober, eh? Sounds WILD!” and he lifts his chin to howl and as the echo starts to sound she incredulously watches herself bite his exposed throat.
The howl cuts off in a whimper and he releases her, quite suddenly. Is he blushing ? It’s probably just the lingering glow of his drinking. She steps back, fights the urge to bow politely and ends up doing it anyway, then walks away, keeping her eyes straight forward even as she desperately searches for an exit to be her salvation, hoping desperately that absolutely nobody saw the weirdest fight of her life.
Bacchus drops to his knees and watches the most intimidating woman he’s ever met stalk away. For a moment, grateful that she seemed too wrapped up in her decision to end their duel to notice that she actually had the advantage over him- and what a pleasure! To fight her- all grace and whirling perfection, clean perfect strikes and no wasted energy, a focus like nobody else in the world. That’s the kind of fighting he’ll never be able to do. So of course he couldn’t resist the chance to test out how well he could hold his own against her. And now he knew the answer. He would never be able to beat her, in a million years, no matter the training, no matter the blood alcohol level. She was in a class of her own, and even when handicapped, she was utter perfection. So of course he had to try again. Just another little taste of those piercing eyes.
“Until next time, Miss Kagura”
Chapter 2: Erza-nee
The dance of their blades is as fierce and deadly beautiful as it was when the sun rose this morning, but this time Erza calls a break when they come to a standstill, bodies pressed together and muscles silently groaning against the pressure of their interlocked katanas. Kagura is privately a little relieved at the break, even as she expresses a respectful desire to begin again as soon as possible. Training with Erza is amazing, and she will never tire of the opportunity to match blades with the Queen of the Fairies, but she also secretly greatly enjoys the time Erza occasionally spends doting on her as an older sister, and she was beginning to worry they wouldn’t get to spend any time just talking during this visit.
“So, Kagu-chan, have you had any new recruits to Mermaid Heel recently?” Erza smiles in her disarming manner, even as she brashly uses the nickname Kagura most definitely did not approve the use of.
Kagura blushes and hides her face as she strips down her sweat-soaked training gear. “Well, there’s one girl who professes to have an affinity for magic that can read and alter people’s emotions-”
“Oh really? That could be very formidable.” Erza has already Requipped into a swimsuit and slips off the dock into the cooling waters of Mermaid Heel’s bay as she talks.
“But lots of the new recruits since the Grand Magic Games have professed to have special magic abilities that just don’t exist, or aren’t all they’re cracked up to be,” Kagura explains as she finishes changing into her more modest swimsuit and slips into the waters beside her ‘sister’. “It seems many people have the impression the won’t be admitted to our guild unless they have exceptional powers.”
Erza nods sagely. “You have proven yourselves to be steadfast and loyal comrades, I can imagine anybody would want to join your guild. Still, lying about one’s abilities is a foolish trick. Do they mean to start a relationship with mistrust?” Her eyes flash.
Noticing Erza heating up a bit, Kagura hastily diverts the topic: “I imagine you’ve had many new recruits to Fairy Tail since the games?”
Erza frowns. “Come to think of it, I haven’t been at the guild in a while, so I don’t know… Magnolia is a small country town, so we don’t get new members that often, but I hadn’t thought of how the Games would affect that.”
“What is this job you’ve been out on for a while?” Kagura hesitates for a moment, looking down, “I mean, I was surprised you wanted to stop by here, but I figured you must be on a job in the area-”
“Oh! Well the actual request is a bit far away, but there’s no time pressure on it, so I figured I’d visit people along the way, get back in contact with people I missed during the Tenrou gap, and of course I had to come see you, my little sister!”
Kagura blushes and open her mouth, but Erza barrels forward- “After all, what kind of big sister would I be if I stopped for chance meetings like Bacchus and Jura but not to spend time with my dearest baby sister!” She grins big and grabs her adopted sister’s hand to tug her towards a beach a little ways from the guild’s dock.
Bacchus. Kagura blushes even higher as she follows Erza, thinking about that one fight after the games- tensions were high and people were happy to blow off steam, so it had probably been nothing, but she couldn’t quite let go of something about that strange fight with a stranger man. She wanted to write off his behavior as drunken foolishness, but her natural caution told her that, when fighting drunk, he was anything but foolish, and so she couldn’t quite figure out what to make of his behavior towards her. The gentle hands, the polite address, the exposed neck- she couldn’t quite help but feel like he had been shy around her. Was that the word? She couldn’t place it.
So, slightly against her better judgment, she asks Erza, as they lay their bodies out on the sand to dry in the afternoon sun. “Bacchus… what do you think of him?”
To Kagura’s surprise, Erza’s face contorts into an odd expression in reaction to her question- like a mix of guilt and confusion. Was this what it looked like when the Fairy Queen was embarrassed?
“Ah… yeah, him. Well, he’s. Certainly a formidable opponent.” She clears her throat. “I wouldn’t exactly call him a comrade or friend.” She pauses and glances away.
Kagura is amazed. What had Bacchus done to make Erza so uncomfortable? Thinking of her own encounter with him, she wasn’t totally surprised that this was the reaction he could cause in someone else- but Erza? The immovable Titania?
Erza hums a little, then seems to make a decision. “Okay, well. Estimating him as an opponent, he’s very formidable. But I can’t explain to you what I think of him as a person unless I tell you a little of our past. So. This is a very personal opinion.”
Kagura begins to get an inkling feeling about where this is going, and nods silently, more than a little bit excited to get to hear about Erza’s private life, even on the topic of the man that so confounded her a few months ago.
“Well. I met him on a job years ago, when we were both hired to retrieve a certain magical object. He was- not rude, exactly, but he didn’t seem to understand the idea of working together, even when we figured out we had the same client. He was a bit more… outspoken at that time, and he wasn’t shy about the fact that he was interested in competing with me. And at one point, I was annoyed enough at his interference with my plans that I got off track and decided to fight him to get him out of the way- and I won.” Erza stops here, and Kagura is puzzled- this didn’t sound like the end of a personal story that would embarrass her sister.
“And? Is that-”
“And he got the treasure later that day!” Erza seems suddenly quite heated. “Even though I knocked him out cold, and left his comrades tied up in a basement, when I finally got to where it should have been a few hours later, the amulet was gone, and my client contacted me to say the job was cancelled and I wouldn’t get any reward. And then when I met him later at the bar, because that’s what the bet had been-”
“Wait, there was a bet?”
“-he won the drinking contest, which I should have figured, but I was caught up in fighting spirit and then I slept with him and we hadn’t spoken to or seen each other since. Until the Games.”
A moment of silence.
“You slept with him ?! Why didn’t you tell me that part first, ohmygod”
“Well it was the last part, I couldn’t well tell you that without telling you why.”
“You didn’t tell me why!”
“Weren’t you paying attention? I lost the drinking contest. And the bet had been that if I lost the fight, I would kiss him.”
“What?! Why- wait didn’t you say you won the fight?”
“No, no, I said I lost. The drunk fighting contest!”
“I thought it was a drinking contest!”
“Yes, we drank an amount I set, and then we fought to the first blood drawn, and he tripped me and I cut my lip on a table corner, oh I was so defeated-”
“You evened your odds to fight him? Did you want to lose?”
“Wait, and at what point did you bet on a kiss? What would you have won? And why-”
“Listen, I just thought he was interesting and a good fighter and I wanted to see him in his element so I would have probably gone to the bar even if I had been the one to find the amulet-”
“You made so many bets, I’m losing track-”
“And then he was a really good kisser, and he’s got that weird charm, and one thing led to another and he’s surprisingly agile and energetic at sex even when drunk-”
“Ohmygod too much information-”
“I think he’s attracted to strong women, but something about our chemistry wasn’t quite right. Don’t get me wrong, it was really good sex and I doubt he was unimpressed with my spirit-”
“-but at the end of the day, I lost to him, twice! And I’m not really his type, anyway. So it was a one-off thing. But I’ve always felt slightly off my guard around him- I can’t tell if he thinks the sex was a win or a loss, and if I won then we’re even since I won the sober fight, but if he thinks he won then we’re even more imbalanced, so I just generally feel uneasy around him.”
Kagura, blushing quite heavily now, starts to tell Erza that sex isn’t inherently a contest, and then thinks better of it and opts for the safer “what do you mean you’re not his type?” She would imagine that the buxom Fairy Queen is just about everyone’s type, although perhaps her strong personality would be a turnoff for some.
Erza hums noncommittally. “Well, didn’t you meet him at the Games? I think it’d be obvious-”
Kagura tries to play it cool around the rushing in her ears. What was obvious? Was Erza implying-
“-he’s into brunettes.”
Chapter 3: Quatro Cerberus
We’re not that different, eh Erza-nee? Kagura hopes the rising red in her cheeks can be chalked up to the shot she just downed, rather than the unbidden images flashing through her mind’s eye of Bacchus buckass-naked, those skilled fingers digging into Erza’s skin. She shakes her head to clear the images and the rising haze of the quickly-downed alcohol. How did Bacchus get her wrapped around his finger like this? Until today, she would have sworn to high heavens that gambling wasn’t her style, and yet here she is, walking willingly into a bet she didn’t even set up- ‘fight me drunk, I’ll fight you sober, eh?’ . Was it because the cost of losing was so low? That wouldn’t usually matter to her. What happened to bring her to this moment, two more whiskey shots away from fighting Bacchus in front of his entire guild?
Maybe it was Milliana’s fault. The catgirl had been the one to suggest visiting the local bar in the town they were staying the night at on their way home after completing a job. Risley hadn’t protested, and Kagura was feeling magnanimous since the two had worked so hard on this latest mission, seemingly because they wanted to prove themselves to her to some extent. So, in appreciation of their hard work, she took them to a bar. And that’s where the trouble started.
When Milliana suggested Kagura try a shot of the local specialty liquor known as “Falcon’s Cry”, she had at first been against it- she was planning on being the sober guardian for the girls for the evening. But when Risley looked at her with such faith, all big eyes and “don’t underestimate Kagura’s drinking abilities!”, of course Kagura couldn’t just let her down and say she preferred mixed drinks. And what could go wrong, anyways? The inn they were staying at was only two blocks away, and she had her sword at her side. So she took a shot.
And loved it. And took another, with Milliana cheering her on. Though it burned, the drink was surprisingly refreshing, and gave her the feeling of all her senses being amplified. After two shots, she felt like everything around her was exciting and tantalizing in a way it hadn’t been before, and she could take on the whole world just for the fun of it. And of course Milliana took advantage of her temporary excitability to lure her into dancing- and that was how she ran into Bacchus. Eyes closed, hips swinging, sweat beading on her bare torso (her jacket had been abandoned at the bar), and a wild grin on her face, she felt a cool and firm hand press into her back, familiar? , and of course she, laughing, said the worst possible thing, “If you don’t take your hands off me, I’ll have to cut them off.”
It was at the “ohHOOOO my lady-” that she recognized the telltale slurring musical voice, and a slight amount of panic set in. She whirled around to face Bacchus as he continued, “-those are fighting words. Have you finally come around to make good on that challenge?”
Trying to regain a little composure, she took stock of the situation. He was alone. But he didn’t seem to be isolated in the territory- in fact, a couple people nearby had turned to glance at him when he spoke, and seemed to welcome his presence. Suddenly, she remembered the drink she had been so pleasantly energized by- Falcon’s Cry. Named after a local legend. How could she have forgotten this town was Quatro Cerberus’s home? Feeling as though she was setting her foot down a path to certain doom, she opened her mouth, and once more had the curious sensation of watching words fly straight out her mouth without stopping by her brain to ask permission.
“I don’t make promises I can’t keep.” Did she make a promise at all? She was pretty sure she had never actually agreed to fight him. Had she? The memory was foggy, mostly hard hits and flush and those hands and feeling inexpressibly weak .
He laughed, a wild boisterous cackle that set her skin prickling. How was she always caught off guard by him? “Then how about this, Missssss Kagura-” he leaned into her face, and when did his hand get to be behind her neck? “Tomorrow afternoon, I’ll be clean as a peach and you’ll be three shots into your hard drink of choice, and we’ll see who can keep their body off the ground the longest.”
“Hmmmmmmm-” She blatantly stalled, this wasn’t fair, how was she supposed to think when she didn’t know where her teammates were and she knew this was probably a bad idea but wasn’t totally sure why and his fingertips were drifting into her hairline, what if he had a secret talent for mind control and that’s why his hand is there, everything had gotten so out of control so quickly and she isn’t used to this- is this a fight? Is he winning?
Suddenly, his face wasn’t quite so close to hers and his hand slid down to her shoulder and he was making a curious expression and did she only just notice how pink his cheeks are? Surely he was already drunk, so why was she only seeing the blush then? And it occurred to her- ‘ who says “clean as a peach”?’ She giggled. “Okay.”
His eyebrows arched so nicely, and he was laughing again, and this time his hands were on his hips and her head was a little clearer and she got an odd sense of premonition as he added: “And if you win-”
She suddenly recognized the expression that had been on his face- is he flustered ? She did it! Beat him at his game!’ Now that she guessed what he wanted- and then it dawned on her that she had just put a kiss as the prize for her win, and she was suddenly scrambling to figure out how to rescue this, fuck she jumped the gun and now everything’s gone terribly wrong-
“A mighty prize, my lady- what could possibly be a worthy equivalent if I win?” Bacchus seemed to recover well, though he wasn’t quite as lecherous about it as she might have expected. Was he giving her an out? Why? Did he catch that she didn’t mean to say that? She didn’t want to think about it too hard.
She tried for a haughty expression, but felt it didn’t come out quite right. “If you win, you can demand a rematch. Since you seem to be so interested in fighting me.”
So no, it isn’t the threat of what would happen if she lost that bothers Kagura as she downs her final shot to prepare for her fight with a stone-cold sober Bacchus on Quatro Puppy’s training grounds. It’s the threat of what would happen if she won . And she isn’t accustomed to being uncomfortable with the idea of winning, and she isn’t totally sure how to get into the right headspace for this battle. She wants it to be a fair test of skill, but how could it be when the idea of winning and then kissing him , in front of his entire guild -
Kagura indulges in a few centering breaths. Okay. My goal is to win. It doesn’t matter what happens after that. During the fight, I have one aim, and that is to get my enemy’s body on the ground. Finish the fight, put a foot on his back- an unbidden memory of marble against her cheek and an oddly familiar hand pressed into her ass - she breathes out a little too quickly. There’s nothing for it. Let’s get started.
And when he settles into a low stance and she dashes towards him and he strikes her sword arm, quick as lightning, all thought is out the window. A white rage fills behind her eyes and she’s determined to break down this goofy man who dares suggest his flailing palms are worth more than her steady blade.
The only problem is she can’t seem to gain her balance. Every motion of her body feels at once sluggish and unusually forceful, and her head is like a heavy dead weight dragging on her neck and shoulders. Why has she never thought to train drunk before? This is a weakness she hadn’t accounted for- what would have happened if someone had attacked the girls on their way back to the inn? Would I have been able to protect them? Granted, she’s still landing hits right now, but this match is taking a lot more of her energy than usual just to focus on keeping up, and she has been mostly on the defensive ever since that first strike. It seems like he’s always one step ahead of her- where she’s usually quick and decisive, she’s now stuttering and impulsive, and he’s still a well-trained martial artist. He’s not as creative and hard-hitting as his drunken self, but even sober, the Falcon is a keen menace in close combat.
When he sweeps her leg with a strike into her calf and she almost careens into the ground, she decides to take a page from his book and use the force to swing her leg around and send her body into a spinning strike. This time she catches him off guard, her sheathed sword thudding into the muscle at the junction of his neck and shoulder with a solid force that brings him down to one knee. She almost crows with delight- this is the closest she’s gotten to bringing him down yet! But her celebration doesn’t last long, as he channels that force into a body roll that ends with him behind her, and a painful strike just to the right of her spine takes her by surprise.
From there on, she tries to ignore the grin on his face and pay attention to his movements, learning from the fluidity and constant movement that he exhibits. It does make a considerable difference in the effect of the alcohol- now, her lack of stability and balance allows her to put her full body into every movement, so her technique bends rather than breaks. But, although she’s now figuring out how to use the alcohol to her advantage, that puts her in his territory. And in drunken fighting, he reigns supreme. She’s holding her own a bit better, and isn’t on the defensive as much, but she’s still a novice at the style of body movement she has to use just to keep up with him, and he’s a pro at it. She’s tiring fast, and he’s barely breaking a sweat.
Finally, she gets too frustrated with the imbalance of experience, and loses her control for a moment, throwing her energy into a charging run at him, ready to swing a strike directly across his ribcage- if a broken rib won’t bring him down, what will? And before she quite knows what’s happened, she’s flat on the ground, sword arm crushed beneath her, a ringing in her ears and pain blossoming in her shoulder blade and kneecaps. Distantly, she hears the howl go up, and the pressure on her lower back, of his knee and a hand -‘ familiar ’- shifts as he joins in.
A low voice next to her ear- “Impressive as always, Miss Kagura”, and then his cool fingers on her shoulder and elbow, helping her up. She can’t quite believe it- I don’t have to kiss him? Did I actually lose? And the way the world is still violently spinning doesn’t help her sense of reality. She finds a focus point in a row of black triangles and stares at it as a musical voice drifts through her consciousness
“I’ll take that rematch on your turf, my lady. It would only be fair- and I’ve always wanted an opportunity to stay in a girls’ dorm,” he says, this last more to his cheering audience of Quatro Cerberus guild members than to her, and the brief break from his attention helps her to gain her bearings a little more. Everything’s fine. She doesn’t have to kiss him, and losing a match to a formidable S-Class mage was a respectable and predictable reality, and certainly a good thing for his guild’s morale. She can’t seem to stop herself from smiling and staring at her opponent, but being this drunk was unusual for her and bound to produce unpredictable results.
She decides to make her escape gracefully before those unpredictable results cause her unfortunate consequences, but to her surprise she finds herself surrounded by joyous Quatro Cerberus members, complimenting her on her form and ‘will you show us your Gravity Change’ and ‘take that rematch with me instead’ and ‘I’d like to fight you, Lady Kagura!’ She replies to their attention with an enthusiasm and friendliness uncommon to her, and Risley and Milliana, who had been watching with the crowd, soak in her moment of fame a little bit too. And before she knows it, time has passed and she’s lost sight of Bacchus and Risley looks tired and they head back to the inn.
Later, as they go to sleep, Risley asks into the quiet room, “by the way, Kagura, I never caught- what were your stakes if you won?”
After a moment of silence, Milliana giggles. “You saw how dazed she was from the drink- she’s probably out cold now. It must have been something about the guild calling themselves Quatro Puppy again.”
In the dark, Kagura winces as quietly as possible.
Chapter 4: Mermaid Heel
Three weeks pass before Bacchus shows up at her door. She’s surprised, of course, given that he had sent absolutely no warning of his arrival, but somehow it didn’t feel totally unexpected to find the bizarrely-armored man snoring on her doorstep at dawn when she steps out of the house for her morning swim and exercise. After a moment of deliberation, she stoops to scoop him up and drape his form over her shoulders- he’s surprisingly light -and carries him inside.
After dumping him on the couch, she looks up from arranging his legs and pulling up a throw blanket to see him staring at her through heavy-lidded eyes. She pauses a moment, then finishes pulling up the blanket, studiously avoiding his gaze, and then sits on the floor next to him. When she meets his eyes again, it’s with a question: “what’s your business here?”
His familiar lopsided grin slides into place, jolting in her the realization that she’d missed it while his lips had been in a more somber arrangement. “Miss Kagura, have you forgotten already?”
“You know, I had to ask several people in town for directions before anyone would point me to your house. At one point I was chased off of someone’s yard.”
Kagura stands up. “I’m going for a swim.”
“Is that an invitation?”
She breathes out heavily as she shuts the door behind her, and begins a rhythmic breathing exercise as she jogs down the street towards the bay. Was it a mistake to leave that wild card alone in her house? She could hear Milliana’s voice- that man is weird and gross but also hilarious -and, yeah, you’re not wrong Milli , but something gives her the feeling he’s not that kind of weird and gross? He seems like someone with honor, oddly. She can’t imagine him stealing from her or breaking her things. Her cheeks color and she falters over a step as she thinks- but I could imagine him looking through all my stuff . She felt suddenly a bit exposed- she didn’t have much, and her place was fairly unassuming, but some of the random trinkets and useful tools had a lot of personal significance to her, and the idea of him turning over her mother’s tea set in his long, gentle fingers set her heart rate a little faster than she had expected.
What had she been thinking? It wasn’t normal for strangers to show up on your doorstep, and it certainly wasn’t the regular reaction to subsequently leave them alone in your house. Still, she trusted him, for some reason, and so she tried to set the matter from her mind and sink herself into the routine of her exercise.
It’s twenty minutes into her laps by the training dock that she notices a familiar dark-haired, purple-armored figure sitting on the edge of the wooden structure, feet dangling in the water. She swims up to him and rests her elbows on the dock next to his legs, breathing hard.
“It took me a while to find your keys.”
“Well I couldn’t have just left it unlocked, and I didn’t know how long you would be out. What kind of decent human only has one bottle of blackberry liqueur in their house?”
Kagura rolls her eyes. Of course she needn’t have deliberated over what he would touch- he had gone straight to the kitchen to look for her alcohol. “I don’t generally prepare for a vast amount of alcohol consumption in my home. Why are you here?”
Bacchus’ grin grows wider. “Our rematch, my lady.”
Kagura looks away sharply, hoping he wouldn’t catch the blush that suddenly rose to her cheeks. She hadn’t forgotten, but she had been hoping that he had- she was trying to minimize the memory of the time she dared the Drunken Falcon to kiss her and had been reassuring herself that the whole thing had probably blown over in his memory. Evidently not. She nods coolly, still looking away. “Of course. Do you have terms? Other than the conditions of a win, which I assume are the same as last time.”
“I’d love to see you drunk again-”
Her head whips around and she opens her mouth, thinking desperately of anything relevant to say that would discourage him-
“But since this is on your home turf, I’d rather see you in your element. Fight me sober,” he says, leaning ridiculously far over to place the tip of his nose against her arm, “and this time, we’ll switch the bet. If you win, you get a rematch.”
“And if you win-” Kagura tries to butt in, a sinking feeling in her stomach
“-a kiss, of course.” He leans back. “It would only be fair.”
“And will you be drunk?”
Those arched eyebrows. “Do you want me to be?”
“This rematch is under your set conditions. I’ll compete to win under any odds.” Kagura launches herself back into the waters, and the conversation is over. She tries to steady the beating of her heart.
The match is held later that day, on the training dock. Some Mermaid Heel members and a surprising number of townsfolk show up- apparently, Bacchus had spent all his preparatory time running his mouth around town about how he was going to fight the Mermaid Ace, and now they had an audience of many many spectators, most cheering on their local guild’s legendary swordswoman and many curious about the man who fought so outlandishly in the Grand Magic Games.
He begins the fight apparently fairly sober, and Kagura pretty much has him on the ropes from the start, with solid hits to his torso and thigh muscles that he’s not fast enough to dodge. She isn’t surprised when he pauses after a few minutes of dancing to her tune to take a drink from the gourd at his side. In the spirit of the fight, she doesn’t use that moment of weakness to totally crush him. It’s unlike her to take the enjoyment of the spectators into account, but there’s something about his wildly performative nature that gets to her- she feels like it would almost be a disservice to his performance to cut him off, even though he’s wide open as he brandishes his gourd and tilts his head back and- suddenly she notices the way a trail of liquid is tracing the outline of his jaw, dripping down his neck- her hands stiffen around her blade. She must not forget her purpose in this. To win.
The fight is more brutal after that, and both of them are pushed fairly close to the limits of what they are prepared to endure in a regular duel. Kagura steels herself through sharp blows to the solar plexus, determined not to go down just because she left her midsection open for a second, and takes the opportunity to swing at Bacchus’ arm, hoping to disable one of those fiendish snapping palms, but he wriggles away, somehow, and she’s reminded that he has the advantage in tight-range combat, so she uses a light spinning blow (which catches him across the back) to put some space between them, suddenly sees an opening, takes it, and he whoops a laugh as he goes down. She places a foot on the small of his back, gently, and holds her sword in an outstretched arm to mark the moment of victory. The crowd roars.
She doesn’t know why he’s in her house for dinner that evening, but something about it feels right. She hadn’t said anything when he followed her home after the match, and she stepped in the shower without a word or forethought. While she rinses away the sweat and checked over her body for injuries, she briefly entertains the thought of what she would do if he barged into the bathroom, but feels strangely unconcerned that he would do any such thing. Her intuition is proven correct when she steps back out into the living room, in a simple t-shirt and sweatpants, and finds him kneeling in front of her fireplace, hastily putting a trinket -a large seashell- back in its place and looking slightly abashed.
She considers admonishing him for touching her things without permission, but something about that feels too stilted, so she just motions towards the bathroom. “You’re welcome to shower if you like, there’s extra towels in the cabinet.” She glances down at her own legs, remembering his conspicuous lack of luggage. The clothes he was currently wearing were probably drenched with sweat. “I suppose some of my sweats might fit you, feel free to look. I’m making noodle soup.” And with that she moves to the kitchen, trying not to think too hard about the fact that she just invited basically a stranger to dig through her closet.
After a moment, with no more instructions forthcoming, Bacchus gets up and ventures to the bathroom. As he removes his armor in front of her mirror, he has the strange realization that this was the first time he’d undressed in a woman’s house without the intention of having sex with her. There was something truly fascinating about Kagura. Of course, she was an incredible fighting machine, and he had known that since the moment he first saw her. But walking through her house today, and seeing her in her habitat, swimming in the ocean, walking through her guild and town, had made him think of what she must have been like as a child- was there ever a time she had laughed carelessly? Her bond with her guildmates was so strong, and her bond with the land and sea as well, and he wondered who she was that would welcome a drunken stranger so lovingly into her own home and yet walk with the pride of a warrior in her shoulders. As the shower soothes his worn muscles, he entertains a wild fantasy of continuing this game of bets and rematches into eternity- could he reach old age and still have this fierce but calm goddess daring him for a kiss? He lets out a quiet laugh at the absurdity of it.
In the kitchen, Kagura is chopping vegetables and watching water boil when she hears the shower turn off. Suddenly nervous, she recalls an echo of an image- Bacchus ass-naked, body pressed against a voluptuous woman, sweat dripping down his spine -and shakes her head to dispel it. The man is a guest in her home, the least she can do is not entertain lewd fantasies about him just because he’s naked in her bathroom.
She almost drops the knife when long fingers - familiar - wrap around her wrist and a low, musical voice rolls in her ear, “I’ll take that over, Miss Kagura.”
The sun is riding low against the ocean when the two sit down to eat. To Bacchus’ delighted surprise, Kagura reveals a hidden bottle of whiskey and pours a glass for them both. They are halfway through the meal when he brings it up-
“Miss Kagura. What are the conditions of your rematch?”
She is silent for a moment, which he thinks is possibly the longest moment of his life. This seems to happen every time they talk (though it’s only been a few times), and Bacchus has the strange feeling that very important aspects of his life hang in the balance while Kagura thinks over what she wants to say. Finally: “I haven’t claimed a rematch”
Kagura is stunned by his quiet tone. She’s never heard him this subdued before, and something about his unassuming attitude bothers her. Although she had just been intending to answer his question, her unease moves her to add: “mostly because I haven’t thought of my terms yet.”
He grins impossibly wide at her. “You’re a wonderful cook.”
She’s caught a little off-guard by the non-sequitur. “I aim to succeed in all endeavours I pursue. Cooking is an essential aspect of both survival and home life. It would be foolish to neglect the culinary arts as an important facet of one’s training in the interest of-”
His boisterous laugh, like clamoring bells, cuts her off. “You’re wise as always, Miss Kagura. Unfortunately, all my training in the culinary arts has gone towards the art of mixing liquid fun, and the most I can do food-wise is chop vegetables.”
“These carrots are well-sliced,” Kagura says.
Bacchus takes an odd satisfaction from her admission, like a Queen’s touch on her knight’s shoulder. “My thanks.”
“You can mix drinks?”
A raised brow. “Did you know there’s a liquor named after me.”
“Yes.” Kagura determinedly doesn’t think about the feeling of his cool fingers on her sweat-soaked bare skin.
“...yes, I mix drinks. It’s something fun to do for the dogs while I’m home between missions… and sometimes girls come by the guild to ask me to mix at the local bar, who am I to say no?”
Kagura sips the last of her soup, and Bacchus thinks he catches a grin. As she gets up to wash her dishes, Bacchus hastily slurps down the last of his soup and follows her lead. “You’re welcome to sleep on my couch tonight, if you need a place to stay. I assume you’ll be continuing on your mission, whatever that is, tomorrow. I’ll let you know in the morning what the conditions of our rematch are, and for now let’s say the win is the same and it’ll be on neutral territory- neither of our guilds.” She turns to face him as she places her bowl on the drying rack. “Goodnight, Bacchus.”
Chapter 5: Magnolia
On the train to Magnolia five days later, Bacchus mulls over the words Kagura said to him that night after their match. Two things had struck him at the time- that it was the first time he’d heard her say his name, and that he wouldn’t mind hearing her say it many more times. He wasn’t quite sure where to place either of those facts, but Rocker had put up quite a howl when Bacchus had told the dogs how his trip had gone (he hadn’t had the heart to tell Kagura his mission had been to see her ), especially when he described that dinner. Rocker insisted that Kagura was setting her sights on him as a catch, and that she wanted him to settle down and eat noodle soup by the seaside until he died, but Bacchus brushed him off as exaggerating her intent- she had seemed friendly, sure, but she honestly didn’t seem like the kind of woman who wanted to “settle” a partner. And in any case, he wasn’t the type for settling, and she would know that!
Now, he wonders if the allure of that “Goodnight, Bacchus” was really more his fantasy than hers. Was he actually the settling type? It seemed absurd, he was twenty eight and had never gotten an itch to settle with any of the girls he slept with. Sure, some of them he wanted to see more than once, but mostly that was because of really good sex, not because of compliments over carrots and seaside sunsets. What was it about Kagura that brought, unbidden, thoughts of asking her about the histories of those seashells on her mantel and the beautiful tea set he had seen high on a kitchen shelf? Why did he feel the need to fold her sweatpants so carefully when he left them on her living room couch? He had always lived his guild’s motto of a wild and free soul , and it wasn’t exactly that he wanted Kagura to tame or trap him- he couldn’t imagine coming home to the same house every night -but, somehow, something about her had an incredible draw.
An incredible draw that had him standing under a giant oak tree in the middle of Magnolia, surrounded by cheering members of Fairy Tail and curious citizens of Magnolia, facing off against one of the most brilliant swordsmasters in Fiore, hoping against hope that he could win a rematch. At worst, if he lost, he would be at the mercy of Erza for a day. But if he won, he would have another chance to see Kagura. So of course he was drunk as fuck and ready to rumble.
And he won.
Granted, it wasn’t an easy win, and he almost lost when Kagura had him knocked down to all fours and desperately out of breath, but Fairy Tail was a lenient judge and a supportive audience, so they cheered as he got back up, rather than calling it her win, and he took her down in an inventive volley of strikes that at one point had him wrapped around her torso like a snake. She was the clear superior when it came to endurance, and they were almost evenly matched for speed, but he had the advantage of being able to make many repeated strikes in close range. Since there was no need to incapacitate the opponent, he had many options for taking her down, whereas she had fewer approaches as long as she stuck to her weapon, which she invariably did. His weapon was optimized for playful, performative sparring. Hers was for incapacitating and killing.
There’s an afterparty at Fairy Tail, at which both Kagura and Bacchus are showered with boisterous praise. Cana challenges him to a drinking contest and Natsu to a fight, but before he can get started on either, the beautiful Mirajane whisks him away with a flirtatious mention of his famed talent for mixology, and before he knows what’s happening, he’s making mixed drinks for the entire guild while half of its members engage in a brawl.
He’s enjoying providing the already-well-inebriated Cana with samples of all of his favorite mixes when Kagura and Erza make it over to the bar. He can’t help but shiver a little as two of the most dangerous women in the world saunter their tipsy asses towards him- he hasn’t forgotten the time Erza slept with him, though he has tried to play it cool the past couple times they’ve met. Given that he never wanted to have the ire of the wretchedly fierce Titania brought down upon him, he figures it would have been a better idea to just take his kiss and run, but he had been young and brash and now he knows what the Fairy Queen looks like naked and flushed and sweaty, nails digging into his back, and he can only hope that absolutely no members of Fairy Tail find out and murder him in his sleep.
So of course, the first (slightly slurred) words out of Erza’s mouth when she reaches the bar are “so Kagu-chan wants to know about that time you fucked me into the mattress-”
“Erza!-” Kagura is blushing fiercely, and Bacchus is, for a moment, fairly certain that her bright red cheeks will be the very last sight of his life on this mortal earth. And then the roaring in his ears passes and Fairy Tail seems to have not noticed the death sentence that just fell from Erza’s lips, and Cana is giggling.
“Erza, the look on his face. You really got him. I think he may have just seen the souls of his ancestors!”
“Erza, please- hey let’s go ask Natsu about a place to stay?” Kagura is tugging on Erza’s sleeve, blushing up a storm, and looking anywhere but the bar in front of her. Erza pays her absolutely no mind as she leans forward, placing her elbows on the bar.
“I was a good sexual experience, no? But Kagu-chan doesn’t believe me when I say we never hooked up again because you’re more interested in brunettes.” Suddenly she grabbed the collar of his shoulder armor and dragged his body forward, fire blazing in her eyes. “ What is the truth. Tell me. ”
Bacchus laughed, letting his body flow with Erza’s movements. Ah, a memory. “Easy, Erza… You were and are, indeed, a formidable woman, and yes, perhaps I do have a certain attraction to women with… more traditional looks, but I’m not one to be picky when it comes to things like that, beauty is beauty.”
Erza releases him and sits herself at the bar, finally releasing the desperate Kagura as well. “Ah, you speak wisely. Women and people of all hair colors and styles can have beauty of spirit, mind, and body… after all, beauty is both multifaceted and evaluated in the eye of the beholder. One might say the possibilities for taste are infinite,” she continues, now thoroughly ensconced in her own philosophical musings enough that she wouldn’t pay attention to anyone or anything else for a while.
Kagura almost heaves a sigh of relief when she finally finds a quiet corner to sit in. A young-looking girl with periwinkle hair is sitting at this table reading a book, in the company of a small black cat with oddly human eyes- and other people seem to be respecting her space. She looks up when Kagura sits down, but when Kagura makes no move to make conversation, she seems slightly relieved, and goes back to reading. Kagura takes a moment to breathe, and then gathers her bearings- it seems that Erza is well occupied at the bar, though Bacchus doesn’t appear to be there anymore.
She thinks over what she had been talking about with Erza and her friends Natsu and Lucy, before Erza had gotten drunk and got the idea in her head that Kagura wanted to have sex with Bacchus and Erza ought to help arrange that. Erza had offered Kagura to stay in her room, and Kagura had wondered if they could find a place for Bacchus to stay for free- she felt odd making him pay for a room at an inn by himself, just because she had closer friends in this town than he. After all, she had chosen Magnolia as the grounds of their match, and it didn’t sit right with her to make him cough up jewels or sleep outside. Unfortunately, though Erza had the room to host two guests, she didn’t feel comfortable bringing Bacchus into the all-female Fairy Hills dorm, and Natsu had suggested Lucy’s house and Lucy had yelled at him and then Mira offered them drinks and Natsu elbowed Gray on accident and it had all gone downhill from there.
So Kagura still didn’t have a clear answer- where could Bacchus stay? Part of her felt she was being silly- it wasn’t really her business where he slept at night, and he could surely fend for himself. Maybe he even had friends in this guild who lived outside the men-restricted Fairy Hill and would be willing to house him. But mostly, she felt responsible, and an odd feeling of being alone with him in Magnolia made her want to at least ensure she knew where he was.
And, speak of the devil , a gentle hand presses into her shoulder - familiar - as Bacchus himself flops into the bench seat next to her. “That Cana is really a tough one,” he slurs, then grins impossibly wide and lopsided, and raises a hand in the air, twirling a swimsuit top on one finger, “but I won! My soul will always be WILD!”
And his childlike glee is infectious and Kagura can’t help but echo- “FOUR!” and then immediately feel self-conscious, though she wasn’t the only one in the guild who echoed the call.
Bacchus leans in close to her face, his eyes comically large, and touches the tip of his nose to the tip of hers while he slurs out “you’re really something, you know?”
Kagura can’t remember what it feels like to not have all the blood rushing to her face. “Do you have a place to sleep tonight?”
A light cough comes from the girl across the table, but Kagura is more in tune with the expression on Bacchus’ face- again, curiously, he seems to be flustered ? He gulps and draws back and then tips his upper body over backwards behind the bench, knuckles dragging on the floor and acres of smooth tanned skin stretched out over his extended ribcage. Kagura tries not to stare. “I mean, I might stay with Erza-nee. Erza. But if you have to pay for a hotel room-” She drifts off, not totally sure what she means to say, and is almost more grateful than confused when he cackles and rolls the rest of his body onto the floor.
“I’ll find a place to stay, Miss Kagura.” He giggles and launches his body through the air, all impossibly coiled power, landing crouched on the table in front of her. A single drifting thought enters her mind that she may have said something she didn’t mean, as he leans his face in close to hers once more, and little black triangles fill her vision and his hot breath gusts against her closed eyes as he reminds her, “I’m a big boy.”
Kagura feels like the entire world is spinning, though she’s sure she really hasn’t drunk that much, but Bacchus’ wild rough laughter is surrounding her and she can’t quite remember what she’s said and before she knows what she’s doing, she’s stood up from the table and is stalking towards the door, beating her escape from that daunting something in his gaze. She can’t help but feel like she’s done this before, and a memory of that first fight with him comes back unbidden, only this time, somehow, she has the sneaking feeling that it wasn’t a fight at all, despite her shame over taking it too seriously, that they were actually flirting -
Almost predictably, as soon as she makes it out the door, a strong hand - familiar - pressed into her back guides her whirling into his chest and it’s him and he’s holding her pressed flush against him right next to the guild doors and he’s saying something and how did they get here -
“-my conditions? Miss Kagura?” His expression is serious, in a ridiculous, goofy way, and she almost wants to slap him for being such a contradiction.
Right. The rematch. “Tell me, then.”
His grin cracks, wide and bright as the sun - that doesn’t make sense? Clean as a peach - “Fight me drunk, and I’ll fight you sober.”
“And if I win?”
“And if you win?”
It isn’t until Kagura’s tucked safely in bed next to Erza and drifting into sleep that she realizes she’d once more agreed to the same conditions she had that first time in a bar. Daring him to a kiss, with the only threat against her loss being another fight. She buries her head in blankets and tries not to think about how his lips would feel against hers.
Chapter 6: The Ocean
Kagura almost doesn’t question it when Bacchus slides onto the train after her when she heads back to Mermaid Tail the next day after their Magnolia rematch, but after a few stops pass, a thought strikes her- “isn’t Quatro Puppy the other direction?”
Bacchus stares at her for a moment, the morning sun illuminating the structure of his face - familiar -, then rejoins, “Fighting words, Miss Kagura. We have a rematch, don’t we?”
Kagura stares back. “What, now? Are you following me home?”
His eyes widen and he suddenly looks slightly like a child whose hand has been caught with a hand in the cookie jar and is trying to play it cool. Or a man with his hand on a seashell. “Did we not agree to that?”
Kagura’s mouth twitches into an unbidden smile and she looks down, back to the book the blue-haired girl- Levy -had loaned her. After a moment, very very softly, and not totally sure why, she says “you’re welcome there.”
If she had looked up at that moment, she would have seen an incredibly vulnerable expression in the eyes of the man next to her. But her head stays down, and he looks out the window, and they pass the rest of the train ride in silence.
This time, before returning to her house, they take a walk on the beach nearby, enjoying the afternoon sun. It only takes a few minutes of Kagura wading her way out into the waters to realize that Bacchus’ fidgeting at the edge of the waves means something significant, and she calls out her suspicion: “you can’t swim?”
One hand scratches at the back of his head, sheepishly, his head to the side. “I suppose it’s a blind spot in my training… I’ve never considered it that important.” Until now , he doesn’t add.
Kagura’s expression doesn’t shift from its usual calm seriousness, but as she wades her way back towards his lone figure on the sand, he can’t help but feel like she’s something predatory.
“Come, I’ll teach you.”
“Now? I’m not really-”
“Just the basics. You won’t be a well-rounded mage unless you at least start.”
And he’s cowed by her admonishment, and her hand is grasping his, and he feels oddly safe following in the footsteps of the determined goddess before him, despite the grasping cold unfamiliar waters climbing steadily up his body.
Kagura is glad for the ocean breeze cooling the heat in her cheeks, and gives herself a moment to face away from him as he follows her into the ocean, his hand in hers. His hand - how did she arrive at a place where this annoying, confusing, rowdy brat of a man- this dangerous, leering, drunk falcon -could reduce her to trembling with a touch of his hand? Somehow he always had a knack for throwing her off balance, and at first it had been the alcohol, and then his fighting skill, but now here she was on her own home turf, sober and literally holding his life in her hands, and she’d never felt so overwhelmed. She’d never actually touched his hand before, and now she was pulling him out into the ocean with the distant realization that she was following an instinct to teach him to swim until he could do so as well as her. To hold his hand until he could pull her along, to keep holding even after that- and suddenly she finds herself giggling as the sea floor dips away from her feet and she’s floating and laughing and he’s standing in water up to his armpits and holding her hand and looking utterly comical and utterly beautiful.
A wave pushes her closer to him and she says “come” and he does, pushing off the sand with his feet and drifting toward her and promptly sinking and flailing, but she’s there, still giggling, a smile on her face that makes him feel blessed with a secret. She tells him to copy her motions, and her hand isn’t touching his anymore, but now he has the dubious glory of permission to stare unceasingly at her body and so it’s with a slight blush that he copies the motions of her arms and legs and finds himself bouyant in the water.
Kagura teaches Bacchus to tread water and float on his back for the next hour. It’s with the late afternoon sun glaring into their eyes that she heeds their unfed stomachs and calls the end of the lesson. They walk back to her house, shivering slightly in the breeze, and when they reach, Kagura walks straight to the shower without a word. Or a closed door.
So Bacchus, of course, follows her. Sits with his back against the wall next to the open door to the bathroom, facing into the setting sunlight from her bedroom window. “You know, I was very flattered when you copied my movements during our first rematch.”
The answer takes a moment to come. “My intention was not flattery.”
He laughs very softly, wishing wistfully that he had at least a little bit of alcohol to help him weather this battle. But he wanted to do their rematch in the morning, and it wouldn’t do to present her with a hungover foe. So here he is, at a loss for how to tell this blazing princess of the blade, naked a few feet away from him, that he was honored by her interest in him?
Her voice cuts through the shower spray once more. “It seems that inebriation is an area of fighting conditions I had, until then, vastly neglected. Which was an oversight not to be excused- so I sought to remedy it. And who better to learn from than the master?” The shower turns off, and Bacchus isn’t sure how to process the fact that this formidable woman had just acknowledged him as the master in his field, and then her bare legs move past him and he knows there’s probably a towel but he doesn’t dare look up and so it’s not until she’s boiling water in the kitchen that he enters the bathroom and notices she’s left out, folded, the same sweats he wore the last time.
Over dinner, Bacchus asks Kagura how she came to join Mermaid Heel. To the surprise of both of them, she replies by instead telling him the story of the seashell she keeps on her fireplace mantel- a shell her older brother brought home for her one day, and told her that if she blew it like a horn, he would always come find her by the sound. It had been a silly thing, made sillier by the fact that the shell actually made a terrible horn, its greatest sound more a whisper than a bugle call. Though that was a bittersweet thing, now that her brother’s ears were beyond the veil of death.
As they clean up their plates, Bacchus tries to thank her for her vulnerability, but she cuts him off and tells him to get rest to prepare for their rematch tomorrow. Teasingly, he suggests that telling him to get well-rested while he sleeps on the couch is a bit of a contradiction, and to both of their surprise and her own consternation, the words out of her mouth almost immediately in response are “then sleep in my bed.”
Kagura almost immediately wants to slap herself- at what point would she stop accidentally coming on to this man? She couldn’t find a way to brush this off, but she really didn’t mean to suggest they should hook up the night before a rematch- at the very least, that would be terribly unprofessional, and if he actually followed through- she certainly would have no idea what to do! She wasn’t interested in a one-night stand at all-
“Don’t get me wrong, I’d-”
“I’m fine with the couch, really, Miss Kagura-”
“-rather fight you a hundred times than fuck you just once, actually-”
“I’d be a horrible guest if I made you sleep on the couch, I- what?”
Blood rushes to her already screaming head. “What?”
“Goodnight!” And she turns tail and flees to her room, hoping irrationally that if she just sleeps like it’s nothing, he’ll dismiss that entire conversation as a fluke. Maybe he didn’t even actually hear her? Her heart rate settles after a few moments of silence, and she almost groans at her own lack of insight- of course he would take it to mean she was offering to trade places with him! What kind of person would suggest a stranger sleep in their own bed right before they were to duel the next day? She picks up faint rustling in the living room, and satisfied that he’s ignored her odd words, she puts her best effort towards settling her body into sleep.
Chapter 7: The Beach
“Why did you pick me, to fight with?” five tequila shots in this time, Kagura has given up on trying to censor the words flowing out of her mouth. She tries to utilize the techniques she picked up from him the last time, leaning into her body’s unsteady movements rather than trying to stop them, but something about him still has her off-balance, and she can tell from the start this won’t be a match easily won.
“We were matching.” His movements are like a blur (not to mention her vision is getting blurry), and he gets in five strikes before she dodges.
“...are you serious?” Her first dash and swing is a complete miss, but she manages to shift away from his range before he retaliates.
“Royal Purple and gold accents! I figured we’d make a pretty picture.” His strikes land high, on her shoulders and arms- aiming to deaden her nerves?
She blushes. “That dress didn’t really suit me.”
“You should have said so at the time! I would have gladly taken it off you-”
“S-Shut up!” Her blade flashes, clumsily, and she stumbles forward from the force of the overdone swing.
“ohHOOO, Miss Kagura, are you-” a palm strikes into the back of her upper thigh, gently, but just enough to send her stumbling further, “-sensitive to teasing?”
“No! I am a master of the katana, I’ll ha- do you know how long I trained this blade?” She knows she isn’t quite saying what she means, but she doesn’t care , she’s just heated -
“It’s really that I saw you fighting with Erza and thought I was watching two goddesses rumble,” he redirects her swing with one palm and strikes her hip with the other, doubling her over, “given my ego, I had to try you-”
“OH, what am I, Erza’s sloppy seconds?” Never mind that didn’t quite make sense - clean as a peach? -, she was irrationally incensed that he was only interested in her in comparison to Erza-
“Hardly, Miss Kagura. You’re in a league of your own.” His flurry of strikes sends her sprawling on her back, but she’s still propped on her elbows, and there’s no audience on this beach anyways, so she ignores the rules and hurls herself at him, blade upraised in a showy overhead telegraph, a snarl on her lips.
And he laughs as he ducks past her swing and places a hand in the small of her back and shoves and she’s on her knees now, but wants nothing more than to wipe that silly grin off his face, and oh isn’t this a familiar rage-
“In fact, I might go so far as to say that the first time I fought you-” a swing, a flurry of strikes, “it was because I wanted to see what those capable hands of yours could do when not gripping that sword-” At this, Kagura yells and lunges, swinging low at his legs, he jumps nimbly over the swing and aims to land with a foot on her back, she evades just barely and stumbles back, out of his close range.
“The second time, it was because I wanted-” to kiss those flushed cheeks, but he can’t quite say it, it would probably be the perfect thing to throw her off balance but somehow he can’t bear the honesty, “to best you in front of my guild,” he says instead, and easily dodges her impassioned thrust. “The third time-”
“Shut the fuck up -” and her shoulder slams into his torso, her hands are still gripping her sword in a ready position but she’s not using it anymore, and he wasn’t quite prepared for this so he loses some breath but then he’s laughing as he wheezes- she’s out of control!
She’s glorious! A scream of rage and her elbow thuds into his ribcage, and they’re brawling , and he finally digs into the part of his fighting that wasn’t built for performance. With no audience and an opponent who is truly letting loose, he sets free the movements built from years of street fighting, scrapping over food and loose change in the years before his sensei picked him up and gave him a format to funnel his fury. Here, on this sand before these vast waters, against a beautiful woman with wildness in her eyes, Bacchus returns to his childhood and knees her in the gut .
She’s on all fours and he lands a kick to her side but she rolls up and grabs his bicep to pull him into an uppercut and they’re both out of their element and also both so alive and it flows out of his mouth like honey from a jar, “I fought you that once because I thought maybe, if I got your attention, you’d let me fight you forever. A hundred times, right?”
And she freezes and he slams her body into the ground and his shins press into the backs of her knees, his ankles locked over hers, and she can feel his hips pressed against her ass and his forearms buckling her shoulders as his elbows twist and suddenly his fingers, those long delicate powerful fingers, are drifting up the sides of her neck and it’s all she can do to disguise a whimper as a wheeze.
And then his hot breath is tickling the hairs on the back of her neck and she can’t hold back the moan when his lips make contact with that sensitive skin and he’s biting and almost in a daze, she realizes that he’s lessened the pressure on her shoulders, so she wrenches herself around and digs an elbow into his side. Neither of them can ever recall quite how it happens, but there’s a flurry of movement and suddenly she’s sitting heavy on his hips with one hand on his stomach and the other on this throat, pushing his head back down into the sand.
She feels him swallow against her palm, and presses harder, and something in the back of her mind notices that the way his body appears to be crushed against the ground isn’t totally in sync with the places she’s actually touching him, but she can’t quite bring herself to care. She knows this probably isn’t a fair win, and if she was allowed to get up again then surely he is as well, but something in her is not allowing her to give up this fight.
She almost misses the quiet rasp- “You win.”
For a moment, nothing happens.
Then, her hand is slipping down his throat and she lifts the Gravity Change she hadn’t really intended to cast, and his head tilts down to look at her and she can see he’s been in pain oh fuck -
And then he’s laughing, loud and clear and clamoring bells and she blushes at the obvious joy in his voice- who is this happy to lose a fight? He slowly props himself up on his elbows, wincing, and she hastily rises to her knees to ease the pressure off his hips, and then promptly blushes- off his hips , where she had been sitting - and he leans forward and presses the tip of his nose into her belly and mumbles something she doesn’t hear.
She suppresses a squeak and swings a leg around, away from that warm breath, coming to his side to help him stand. They make their way back to her house mostly in silence, with his arm slung over her shoulders for support, though they’re both breathing heavy from the exertion and the pain setting in. Their only conversation consists of Kagura worrying over his potential injury from Gravity Change, and Bacchus laughingly assuring her that, though her magic skill easily bested him, he’s definitely endured worse and didn’t even have any broken bones- “did you go easy on me to preserve my pretty figure, Miss Kagura?” In response to which she clams into an embarrassed silence for the rest of the walk.
Back at her house, they both collapse onto her couch and just breathe together for a while, Bacchus sprawled sideways with his head over the armrest and one leg behind Kagura, seated with her head leaned back over the top of the couch and her hands resting on her knees. Their breaths sync into a steady matched rhythm and Kagura begins to drift into a trance-like meditative state when his voice, lilting and unusually soft, breaks over her ears.
“Are you planning to take your prize, my lady?” It takes her a moment to locate in her still-tipsy mind what exactly he’s talking about, and when she does, she opens her eyes and tilts up her head to find him gazing at her steadily, an odd expression on his face. Shy ? She hesitates a moment, and then feels herself sliding towards a certain reality, a sensation as though there would be no turning back from this moment but she couldn’t quite pause herself long enough to consider all the options and make the right choice based on the circumstances in this instance, and maybe it’s the booze and maybe it’s the faint blush on those tattooed cheeks but she’s somehow certain that there’s nothing else she could have done, as she watches her body climb over languidly and place a soft kiss on his lips.
He remains completely still at first, and she indulges in the pleasant surprise of his soft lips pressed against hers for a moment, then draws back and takes in his expression and, on impulse - familiar -, kisses him again. And this time he’s moving. His legs come up to wrap over the backs of hers, firm but gentle, and those long, sensual fingers are against her face, moving into her hair, and after a moment she’s surprised to find his teeth gently pressing against her lip, then a flick of his tongue- she whimpers, wholly under his power, and thinks for a moment, oddly, about the fact that the tip of his nose was pressed into her cheek and those familiar black marks would be her entire range of vision if she opened her eyes right now- and then his fingers press into her neck and he bites her lip and moans into her mouth and she doesn’t think at all.
Chapter 8: Epilogue
It’s two more weeks before the two actually have sex. That day she kisses him, they make out for a while and then take a nap together, tangled up on that couch, and Kagura goes to the guild in the evening to get a job request and greet her friends (who notice she’s a little loopy), and when she gets back to her house, he’s left a note asking her to stop by his guild sometime. She sulks for a few days, at first because she’s sure that he just wanted to hook up with her all along, and now that they’ve kissed, he’s gotten what he wanted and he’s uninterested in her. After Risley cajoles her into coughing up what she’s so glum about, she realizes that’s kind of silly- who would be just after a kiss? And in any case, he left her with a standing invitation- he probably just wasn’t expecting to stay in her town for more than one night.
So then Kagura sulks that he didn’t want to spend more time with her, and worries that he got the wrong idea about the whole “I’d rather fight you than fuck you” thing… after all, it’s not that she wouldn’t want to have sex with him- more that she would rather see him a hundred times than just once , and they had a good rhythm going with the rematches, and she didn’t want that to end just because she became a fling. Risley tells her those ideas are silly as well, and Kagura doesn’t quite know what to think, but she finally resolves that probably the only way to find out what he’s actually thinking is to go visit him, as requested. Then she spends a couple more days determinedly not visiting him, just out of spite.
When she finally shows up at Quatro Cerberus, a week after the beach fight, she’s given a surprisingly warm reception- apparently many of his guildmates had a vested interest in her presence, and a couple of them even go so far as to ask her what took so long to visit, and she’s stuttering through an answer when he shows up, in all his characteristic drunken glory.
“What’s this, Miss Kagura? Come back for another taste?”
“I- well I intended to-”
“I must warn you, if you want to interest me in a match of skills, you must have something of high value to offer.”
“Those are fighting words , Miss Kagura-” and he laughs uproariously, swings around to address his guildmates, “our souls will always be WILD!”
“FOUR!!” comes the echo, rocketing through the guild, and Kagura is almost swept away in the joy of it, but she’s annoyed by the way he’s acting- oddly distant - with her, so she addresses his back as she stands up, gathering her things to leave.
“Fine. A duel, and if I win, the price is your future.” She tried not to think too hard about what she meant, and was glad to see that the odd phrasing at least caught his attention. “I’ll give you five days to think about what you want from me in return. Meet me in Magnolia.” She sweeps out of the guild, calmly, with stunned gazes following her out.
At the train station, she lets out her breath and places her head in her hands. At least she had enough wits about her to propose Magnolia, since it was nearby the job she was headed to, that she figured would take a couple of days. But “your future”? She had a sudden, silly vision of telling hazy future children “ah yes, I won your father’s hand in a duel, when he bet on his future and lost,” and almost laughed aloud. Yes, that would be one solution. How would he react if she told him that her plans for his future were to spend the rest of his days chopping carrots in her kitchen? Honestly, the idea had its appeal, but she couldn’t truly entertain pursuing this conversation with him in that way. She just wanted to ask him what he wanted. That was all. So, maybe it was futile to try and figure out what she’d ask for if she won- that would be counting chickens before they hatched, as it were. For now, just focus on the job ahead of you.
Five days later, they meet in Magnolia, and rematch under the oak tree. Same as last time, they’re at the peak of their abilities- she’s sober and he’s drunk and Fairy Tail and Magnolia is their cheering audience (there’s even a small festival beforehand!). Just before the match begins, Bacchus tells Kagura that if he wins, he wants a hundred rematches.
She’s thrown right the hell off her game, and he wins in 3 minutes.
Kagura books a shared room at an inn for them that evening.
He arrives there after partying thoroughly at Fairy Tail into the late hours, and discovers her gently getting drunk on shitty white wine and using Gravity Change to press flowers she’d collected around town. Neither of them says a word, and it takes him 10 seconds to get her pressed against a wall, moaning into his ear as he obscenely licks her neck. His hips grind into hers and she picks up a leg to wrap around his back and she could swear his hands are everywhere , fingers pressing into her skin like hot blades of pleasure.
They get to naked on the bed, her breathing hotly into the pillows, his hips grinding into her ass reminiscent of their fight on the beach - when he won? -, and she’s just as undone but this time the heat is pleasure instead of rage - though, is it different? -, when he asks her, lips dragging against her ear, what she would have done with his future.
“Married you,” she says, giggling hoarsely, and doesn’t even bother to worry about what she’s gotten herself into this time. It seems she can never say the right thing around him when it counts, but somehow that talent for unintentional blunder has gotten her this far and that doesn’t seem to be a bad thing, so she decides she might as well roll with her own errant mouth’s choices.
But maybe this is the time she’s actually fucked it up- he leans back and pauses, and she wonders if marriage is usually considered a mood-dropping topic - probably -, but also still can’t quite bring herself to care.
“Miss Kagura, I-”
“But I didn’t win, so don’t worry about it.”
“I think you can call me Kagura.”
“It’s the least I could do for the first person to kiss me, you know? It’s just weird if you keep the honorific.”
She turns her head, starting to actually be bothered by his silence as the heady arousal begins to clear and her newfound flirty attitude drops, and is he shaking? But she can’t quite see his eyes and his hands appear to be covering his face. She props herself up on her elbow to get a better range of movement, and finally gets a good look at his face to discover-
“Are you crying ?”
“Hey, I didn’t-”
“N-no it’s- I’m fine, just give me a second,” and he breathes out and she wriggles out from underneath him and grabs his hands and he lets her move them away from his face to reveal tear streaks and the biggest shit-eating grin on his face, tosses his head back and howls laughter.
Kagura is utterly confused and exasperated, as per usual. “Bacchus. What the fuck?”
“I’m changing my stakes.”
“I want a hundred years.”
“I just thought a hundred rematches was the most I could do to keep dragging you back into my life. I should have thrown that fight!”
She slaps his bare chest, lightly. “I’d never forgive you! How rude.”
And he’s laughing again, bells and a sunrise, and pulling her tightly into an embrace and kissing her over and over and she drags him back down to the bed and isn’t it odd that the press of his hands into her back is more familiar from their fights than any kind of gentle caress? But it seems fitting and she isn’t sure how but somehow she thinks they might be headed toward the future where those hands are in hers every step of the way, and that’s unpredictable and glorious and wild and she of course she has to crow out “our souls will always be WILD!”
“FOUR!!” comes his response and the neighbors yell at them to shut up and they laugh and kiss and have sex ‘til the sunrise in an inn in Magnolia that night and they both know there’ll be a hundred times after and they’re neither of them planning to settle down anytime soon, and there will be a hundred fights, too, and none of their best-laid plans will come true- and they couldn’t have bet on a better future than the one they’re building now.