Jester giggles at the man who just got nailed in the eye by one of Luc’s toy bolts, still snug in her mama’s tight embrace. Veth cheerfully strides past him into the storeroom already praising her son. An underground crime base might not be a good home, but there’s enough family here to still light a warm fire in her heart.
Mama soon lets her go and tells her, “Luc has been a tiny terror for everyone in this bar.”
“Good for him, they deserve it.”
She grins, and Jester can already guess one man she must be thinking of.
“Yes, my dear?”
Get it together, Jester. She inhales, tries to recall the exact phrasing she came up with an hour ago for this question, and says all in one go, “If, you know, someone you were seeing told you they loved you and you didn't say it back right away, would it be because you didn't feel the same way? Or would it be maybe because you felt, like, a little embarrassed, or because maybe, like, you just weren't sure of your feelings? Or do you think it could be that you just weren't into them?”
Mama fixes a bemused gaze on her, looking like she’s working on parsing what her daughter just said. She cringes a little, already feeling her cheeks start to warm.
“I think,” she eventually begins, “that it depends a lot on the person. It could be one of those things, or it could be two, or all, or none. People have strange reasons for what they say sometimes, my sapphire. I know that I have told others that I loved them for many different reasons in the past.”
Jester chews her lip, tracing random loops on the surface of the table. “Yeah, yeah.”
“If it has not been very long, then I think you should give them a little bit of time. Not too much time—you deserve an answer, after all. But a little bit of time. Sometimes that’s all it takes.”
“Okay. Okay, that makes sense.” It did take her some time, too, after all.
Mama’s hand lays itself on top of Jester’s and stills her aimless finger-scribbling. Her mother’s smile is warm, her brow gently furrowed. “If I may ask, my darling. Who are you so worried about?”
Jester glances aside, biting her lip again and trying to summon up the courage for a mother-daughter talk about Fjord. “Um.”
“Is it your half-orc friend, or the human man with the books strapped on him?”
Wait. She blinks up at her mama, confused.
Mama raises an eyebrow and sits back a little. “Oh, so not that man?” she says wryly.
“Caleb?” asks Jester, and it comes out almost as high-pitched as a tea kettle. “Why were you thinking of Caleb, Mama?”
Her mother’s gaze is that of her poker face when meeting a potential client. She rests a hand on her cheek, finger tapping against her cheekbone as she studies Jester thoughtfully. “Do you really want to know?”
The laden tone warns Jester to falter, but she barrels ahead without care to say, “Yes, of course I do!”
Mama still considers her with a carefully concealed expression.
Jester frowns, pulling her hand from hers to lean back in her seat and cross her arms instead. Still watching her mother with impatience.
Caleb? she thinks again. Mama thinks that I—or he—that I could be asking about him—or about us—
She recalls Caleb's plain, boring sitting room without a stained-glass window, sitting next to him on his couch with the crackle of the fireplace suffusing the air. He held the book between them to show off the illustrations as he translated, and they sat so close Jester almost felt the warmth of his shoulder on her cheek and the vibration of his gentle, mellow voice in his chest.
He wanted to read that story to her. He wanted to tell her about his mother and his childhood. The story was so sweet, and his smiles felt like they were for her.
Just for her.
Oh man, her entire face feels like it's on fire.
“I did not see a lot,” says Mama slowly. “But it did seem like—”
“Oh man,” Jester cries out loud and buries her face in her hands.
After a moment, she feels her mama's hand begin to card through her hair and tuck strands behind her ears.
“No wonder you always told me to stay away from it,” she mumbles eventually.
Mama gently removes her hands from her face, and Jester looks up with a twisted pout at her sympathetic expression as she cradles her hands. “Oh, my sapphire. I would ask what mess you’ve gotten yourself into, but I think I prefer this over the past week.”
Jester laughs a little humorlessly. “Yeah. I didn’t think he liked me, Mama. Or... I don’t know. I wasn’t sure.”
“So you’ve been worried about both of them,” Mama guesses.
“Maybe? I mean, I was—I asked because I’m kind of dating Fjord and I told him I loved him last night.” She groans, squeezing her eyes shut. “Oh, what am I supposed to do now?”
Her mother’s thumb strokes over the backs of her hands. “You don’t have to make a decision right now.”
“But I have to soon.”
“Probably. What do you feel?”
Jester’s frown twists again. She likes Fjord, but she doesn’t know what the future looks like with him. She likes Caleb—and maybe he likes her back—but she doesn’t know if that future will last. Or if he will want to like her back. At least she knows Fjord does. “Confused. Conflicted. I don’t want to hurt anyone, Mama.”
“Of course not,” she replies. “But sometimes we cannot help it, not if we want to be true to ourselves. Take care of yourself, my Jester. You already worry plenty enough for all the other people you love.”
She nods, staring down at the table.
Mama tucks a hand beneath her chin and raises her face to smile reassuringly at her, then caresses her cheek. “It will be okay. I’ve seen you grow so much. I’m confident you will figure it out.”
Jester smiles weakly in return, trying to absorb the warmth of her words. “Thanks, Mama.”
18 notes · View notes