Zelda rubbed her eyes as she walked down the stairs of the Moorland house and headed for the kitchen. The sleeves of Justin’s pyjama top (worn for a completely innocent reason, Zelda’s pyjamas had been dirtied in a midnight pantry raid) brushed her cheeks, making her smile. But her smile died when she came to the kitchen. She’d just been coming here to get a glass of water, and at first she thought that Justin had had the same idea. But then she saw the bottle, and smelled the booze.
“Justin, it’s six o’clock in the morning, you’re not having vodka!” said Zelda, picking up her pace despite the long pyjama pants threatening to trip her up. She snatched the bottle and glass away from him. Justin looked like a guilty puppy.
“Sorry,” said Justin, running a hand through his unruly black hair. “Couldn’t sleep.”
“That’s no reason to drink,” said Zelda, pulling herself onto the kitchen counter to sit in front of him. She wrapped her arms around Justin and kissed his forehead, being a little taller than him sitting like this.
“Yes it is,” said Justin. “When you’re sad or you can’t sleep, you drink. Right?”
“And who taught you that stupid rule?” asked Zelda. Justin averted his eyes. “Justin…”
“TV,” said Justin. Zelda sighed. “Well, it’s not like anyone else has been in this situation.”
“They might have,” said Zelda. “Have you asked your dad?”
“No,” said Justin. “I don’t want to worry him.”
“And you think drinking won’t?” asked Zelda. “Justin, it’s better to get help than to just throw yourself away like this.”
“I’m not throwing myself away,” said Justin. “I just want to sleep.”
“Look, I don’t know much about alcohol, but I’m pretty sure that it’ll only make the nightmares worse,” said Zelda. “And then you’ll wake up with a hangover, and nobody wants that.”
“Then what do you propose I do?” asked Justin. “Sleeping with you doesn’t help, though I know you want it to. I want it to work too, but… it just makes me think that I’m hurting you instead.”
“Well, you haven’t woken up in the middle of the night and thought I was the enemy yet,” said Zelda.
“But I’m worried that I will,” said Justin. “It’s only a matter of time. Before you know it, I’ll be taking a barge back out to the oil rig in the middle of the night.”
“Then talk to someone else involved,” said Zelda.
“Yeah, because the druids will know exactly what’s going on,” said Justin. “I’m sure a Soul Rider or druid has ever been in my situation.”
“Look, when Tony Stark-“
“Seriously?” said Justin, sounding amused by the idea.
“Hear me out,” said Zelda. “When Tony Stark was getting nightmares after the battle with Loki, he started talking to Bruce about it.”
“Wasn’t he asleep at the end of the movie?” asked Justin.
“That was only the first one,” said Zelda.
“No, I’m pretty sure that he only talked to Bruce about what happened to turn him into Iron Man,” said Justin.
“Look, not all of us have watched those movies a billion times like Louisa has,” said Zelda. “My point is that he talked to people who understood what he’d been through and who wouldn’t question him every few words.”
“Because he was asleep,” said Justin.
“But even just talking about it helped,” said Zelda. “In fact, you don’t even have to talk to anyone. Just get a diary and write it down, or vlog about it, or even just talk to a tape recorder or your horse.”
“You really think that will help?” asked Justin.
“Yes,” said Zelda. “But right now, I know something else that might help. A jumping course was built specifically for you, after all. Want to try it out?”
“Will Jasper even be awake right now?” asked Justin.
“He will be by the time we get there if we ride,” said Zelda. “Come on, I’ll get Phantom and you can get your horse.”
After getting dressed and finally getting her glass of water, Zelda and Justin headed out from Moorland Stables towards Golden Hills Valley. Justin looked distinctly less troubled on horseback, which Zelda was glad to see. He’d even been himself enough to insist that they eat breakfast before heading out, and to worry that one banana muffin was not enough for breakfast. But his desire to ride had eventually won out, and Zelda absolutely refused to tell her boyfriend that she was hungry again now. But her stomach growled.
“Ha, I told you that one muffin wouldn’t be enough,” said Justin with a laugh.
“I’m sure your non-evil grandfather will have some food in the house,” said Zelda. “He’s been cooking more since he’s been giving the Baroness lessons.”
“That’s really gross,” said Justin.
“But it’s cute,” Zelda cooed.
“But it’s my grandfather on mum’s side and my grandmother on dad’s side,” said Justin. “Surely that’s illegal.”
“Nope, just completely adorable,” said Zelda. “And you brought them together.”
“I did?” asked Justin.
“Yep! Your grandmother felt guilty for keeping you in the dark, and Jasper felt guilty for pushing you away for so long that you felt you had to do anything to get to know your family, so they comforted each other,” said Zelda.
“And are they happy?” asked Justin.
“I didn’t think it was possible for them to smile,” said Zelda. “But they’ve been so happy lately. They’re in love, and it looks good on them.”
“I guess that does make me feel a little better,” said Justin. He seemed a little nervous, though, as they rode through the iron gates and into Golden Hills Valley.
But any nerves fell away as soon as Justin saw the big grin on Jasper’s face.
“Justin, hello! And hello to you too, Zelda,” said Jasper, unable to stop grinning as he greeted the two.
“Hi, Jasper,” said Zelda. “I told Justin about the jumping course you made for him, and he said that he wanted to try it.”
“Well, be my guest,” said Jasper, turning to his grandson. “Give it a go, and I’ll keep time.”
“Thanks,” said Justin, riding to the starting line.
“Hey Jasper, do you have any of those pumpkin scones?” asked Zelda.
“They’re in the kitchen, you’re welcome to get some,” said Jasper.
As Justin rode the track, Zelda sat on the front porch steps and ate some hot, buttery pumpkin scones. Jasper was a surprisingly good cook. Zelda waved to her boyfriend, and Justin waved back but had to quickly refocus on the track so that he wouldn’t run into a jump.
“Very good,” said Jasper, applauding as Justin slowed his horse to a stop at the end of the track. “I will admit, I imagined that you’d be a little younger when you rode the track, but at last you’ve finally ridden it now.”
“Did you really build this track just for me?” asked Justin.
“Yes,” said Jasper. “Back before my stupidity pushed you away. But don’t worry, I have moved past that now.”
“I’m glad,” said Justin. “I’m glad that we can finally get to know each other now.”
“You guys do that,” said Zelda. “I’ll just be raiding Jasper’s pantry.”
“I’d prefer if you didn’t,” said Jasper. “I have a very important lady coming over later.”
“Oh, good, that means that Justin will have a chance to spend time with his non-evil grandparents,” said Zelda.
“That wasn’t originally the plan, but it is now,” said Jasper, smiling.
“Can Zelda stay too?” asked Justin.
“Rats, I was going to spend the day with Jack,” said Zelda.
“Of course she can,” said Jasper. “If I am allowed to have a lady over, you are too.”
“Thanks,” said Justin.
While they waited for the Baroness to arrive for morning tea, Justin chatted to his grandfather about growing up and what his interests were. Zelda sat with them at first, then took Phantom for a ride until she saw the Baroness riding towards the gates on a fancy light grey Andalusian.
“She’s here,” said Zelda, leaving Phantom to graze near the pumpkins.
“Oh, well let me just gussy up a little,” said Jasper, getting up and attempting to clean up the kitchen.
“I’ll take care of this,” said Zelda. “You just freshen up a little for your lady.”
Jasper greeted his new lady friend with a kiss, which Justin looked appalled at but Zelda cooed over.
“Oh, our grandson is here,” said the Baroness as she walked into the tiny kitchen/dining room and saw Justin sitting at the kitchen table with Zelda.
“Yeah,” said Justin, giving her a wave and a smile. “I thought I’d come visit my grandfather.”
“Well, this just makes morning tea a lot better,” said the Baroness. She sat down at the table, and Justin and Zelda got up to help serve the tea and various cakes and scones that Jasper had cooked up. Then, they all sat down to enjoy Jasper’s creations, and so that Justin and his grandparents could catch up on missed time. Zelda held Justin’s hand the whole time, reassuring him that she was there for him. And that it would all be okay.