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“Molly, why do your hands shake?”

He’s not surprised by Jester’s approach; the girl’s abundance of life and enthusiasm isn’t exactly subtle as she skips through the ground floor of the Nestled Nook, saying hello to (or nosing about in the business of) the various patrons nursing their drinks at this hour. But the question, posed after a nod and a greeting shared between the two Tieflings, does throw him for a bit of a loop.

“Hm? Come again?”

“Your hands, they go like this.” She demonstrates. “Are you cold?”

He squints at her, but not unkindly, for her peculiar observation. “No, I’m fine.”

“I could get you a blanket if—“

“Honestly. Thank you, but I’m perfectly comfortable.”

“If you say so.” She sighs with the faintest little puff of air, taking the stool next to him. “It’s just that, I notice your hands do that a lot. All the time, really. Like even when you were telling fortunes. Are you nervous?”

Oh, now that’s a curious guess. He pivots on his seat to face her full on. “Nervous? Of what?”

“Well, I don’t know. Maybe you’ve got performance anxiety?”

“Heh. And you think I’m performing right now?”

“Maybe? I can never be too sure.”

He shakes his head. “You really do have an active imagination, you know that?”

“Oh yes, I’ve always had a very good imagination,” she confirms with a sharp yet innocent grin. “I should show you my sketch book sometime, then you’d really see my imagination at work.”

“I think I’ve seen enough of your creative processes to get the point.”

“I never get sick of showing it off. Oh— maybe that’s it! Are you sick?”

He snorts, flashing a wry smile that rivals hers. “Well now. I’ve openly confessed to being strange, but sick’s another level of insult. Not that it isn’t totally accurate, but—“

“No, no, silly, that’s not how I meant it. Like, are you ill? Is that why your hands shake? I can heal you, if you want.”

Gently, he takes her dainty hands in his and pats them. “Don’t worry, love. I’m not ill. A few left over nicks and bruises from that last fight, but none the worse for wear at the moment.” Miraculously.

“Then if you’re not ill, and you’re not scared, and you’re not cold, what is it?”

“Why do you care to know so much?”

“Well... I don’t know.” She pulls away. “I just thought we could talk about something besides zombies and devil toads for a little bit. And... you did almost die, you know. I want to be sure you’re okay. That’s what friends do, right?”

“Hm. That they do.” He straightens his posture, a gesture of confidence (for her sake, not his). “Jester, I promise you, I am perfectly fine, and you don’t have to worry about my shaking hands or me dying or anything like that. All right?”

“...Okay.”

“Okay. Now why don’t you go and, I don’t know, braid some more hair. I’m sure Caleb isn’t the only one who could do with an upgrade to their looks.”

“Hmm... I could braid your hair.” Her eyes sparkle with childish delight.

“Hah. Maybe later. I might take you up on that after this drink loosens me up.”

“Promise?”

“Maybe.”

His lack of commitment earns him a suspicious pout from the girl, but— to his surprise— she respects the answer enough to not fight it. Instead, she hops off her stool, lips already smoothing from a frown to a neutral smile, and turns away with a swish of her tail and nary a word.

But he isn’t done quite yet.

“...Say, Jester.”

She stops only a few steps out, turning back with widening eyes. “Yes?”

“C’mere.” Obediently, the girl trots again to her seat and leans in at his clandestine command. “Now this is a story for the two of us, you understand? Just you and me. You think you can keep it on the down-low?”

“Ooh! Yes! I am very good at keeping secrets, don’t worry. Go ahead. Is this about your hands?”

“Yes, it’s about the hands. So, once upon a time...”

He gives her some BS story about his troupe happening across a cruel and downright horrible sorcerer who harnessed the power of storms, about how he and this sorcerer got into a tussle, and how he got zapped so full up with lightning that the power still faintly crackles and sizzles under his skin. It’s a certifiably unreasonable tale, but he uses all the best, beautiful words he knows to draw the girl into his literary portrait.

He could tell her if he wanted to— tell her that his hands shake for much less heroic reasons. But he’s not looking for judgment, and certainly not for pity. Besides, he knows Jester’s type, has seen her familiars in many a crowd. All his new compatriots seem to have a fondness for gossip, but Jester’s his favorite one to watch when the words come out. She’s the hook-line-and-sinker type. She’s got an addiction, consuming stories much in the way he throws back every drink or drug worth his coin, with eager smiles and reckless abandon. It doesn’t matter if he’s spinning the most fantastic lies into his story. Just like him, Jester’s simply searching for the next distraction— the next high.

He doesn’t mind helping with that.