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Nailed It

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Sebastian had been sitting cross-legged on the floor in front of the fire for the past half-hour, staring at the battered red cape that they'd recovered from the simulacrum of his dead mother. Pluto wasn't entirely sure what Sebastian was looking for -- the cape had probably seen better years -- but he must have found something because he gingerly straightened up from his hunch, his eyebrows nearly touching his goggles.

"Oh, wow, okay," he said.

"What's up?" Veo asked, wandering over and eying both Sebastian and the cape.

"This cape. I've heard of something like this before, but it's my first time seeing one in person, so to speak," Sebastian began, standing up and shaking out the cape. Sure enough, it was still battered and a red color, but otherwise looked unremarkable. Pluto had seen better back home, but there was a lot more finery back in Caspia compared to this place.

"This is called a Cape of the Mountebank. Once a day, the person wearing it can sort of step backwards into it--" he ignored Veo's skeptical look. "--and teleport up to five hundred feet away in a direction of their choosing."

Pluto gaped. Veo blinked.

"Okay, so discovering that," Sebastian said, looking up from the cape at the two of them. "I have the ability to Thunder Step."

"Can I try it?" The question was out of Pluto's mouth before he could stop himself.

Red eyes focused on him. "Do you want to teleport?"

Veo looked curious, tilting her head at Pluto. "Yeah."

Pluto glanced at Veo before turning back to Sebastian. "Is that okay?"

Veo shrugged. "I can move really quickly already. It's not that I can teleport--"

Sebastian seemed to have warmed up to the idea with how smoothly he cut in. "But you're so fast." He looked at Pluto again. "You might look really cool with a red cape on."

Veo's ears perked up. "Is it Caspia colors?" She eyed the cape still in Sebastian's hands.

"I mean, it's not," Sebastian replied easily. To be fair, Sebastian had met him when his armor was still pristine, and his old cloak hadn't been ripped to pieces by rats. Pluto was a little surprised that he'd remembered. "You're blue, right? Your stuff's blue?"

Pluto's sigh wasn't entirely fake. As much as he would've liked for the cape to be Caspian blue, he was going to have to make the sacrifice to wear something red. And, really, it was a sound tactical decision. There were a few generals of his dad's that had worn red sometimes so that if they'd been hit during a battle, their men wouldn't see them bleed.

(Of course, if they'd been hit during a battle, that usually meant that things had gone really badly, and that general wasn't going to be fighting anymore battles afterwards.)

Sebastian held up the cape. "Are you willing to wear a red cape?" He even shook it a little, as if Pluto had considered not taking it.

"I'll be honest," Pluto began. "I mean, your dad made my armor right now. I really lost a lot of my--" He stopped, and then frowned. "And I'm wearing, like, boots I found off a gnome that I murdered? So..."

Sebastian held it out. "Here you go."

"Thank you." Pluto smiled a little as he put it on. "I really appreciate it."

Veo hummed. "Nice."

Sebastian looked him up and down. "It looks quite dashing on you, actually."

Pluto wasn't sure what it was about that comment -- the way Sebastian said it, what he said, or just a certain something in the look in his eyes -- but it made Pluto really stop and think about everything he was wearing in that moment.

He started chuckling as the moment of realization struck. (He definitely didn't giggle, because House Jackson men don't giggle, no matter what anybody in House Jones might claim.)

"I'm wearing a lot of your mom's old stuff right now."

Veo started laughing too.

Sebastian just grinned, and it transformed his face. All the frown lines from being serious all the time and not having any friends disappeared. His red eyes, which might have freaked out Pluto a little bit right when they first met, brightened like rubies in the light of the hearth fire. It was like years were shaved off in the blink of an eye. For a moment, Pluto could see more of the unearthly elven beauty in Sebastian's features.

That devastating grin faded to a smile as Sebastian said, "You're wearing armor made by my dad, my mom's glasses, and my mom's old cloak."

It took a second for the importance to dawn, which made Pluto's chuckle disappear.

Oh, wow.

That was it. Right there.

The gifts from both parents to show their acceptance--

Oh, man.

He needed to figure out what was going on.

Should he say something? But what?

Veo grinned, nudging him with a paw. "Getting more Drakkenheim by the day!"

Pluto grinned back because he needed to play it cool, and Veo's grins were infectious.

No big deal. He just needed to ask, because he didn't want this to become a Thing between them where Sebastian felt awkward about putting himself out there--

"I'm, uh," he began.

Play it cool, play it cool.

"Am I part of the family?" Pluto asked. "Am I part of the Crowes?"

He kept smiling and told himself that he didn't sound like he wanted the answer to be yes. He was playing it cool. He was doing Just Fine.

Sebastian reached out to rest his hand on Pluto's right pauldron.

That devastating grin reappeared.

And then he said, "No."

All three of them burst into laughter.

Nailed it, Pluto thought with a brittle sense of satisfaction. When he could stop chuckling -- again, not giggling, House Jackson didn't giggle -- he managed a quiet, easy, "Noted" as Sebastian turned his attention to the really creepy wand that the simulacrum had had on her as well.

Hours later, inside a room made of obsidian, surrounded by the wisps of destroyed shadows, Pluto cradled Sebastian's head in his hands and carefully poured a healing potion down his throat.

"Are you--" he started to ask, but that was a dumb question. Obviously, Sebastian wasn't doing so hot. He had been screaming his head off before he'd been ripped to pieces by the demon dog thing.

Pluto tried for reassuring instead. "You don't have to be afraid anymore." Yeah, he was totally making it way more dramatic than it needed to be, but he felt the situation warranted it. "It's okay. It's okay. Shhh."

As red eyes fluttered open, looking up at him in dazed gratitude by the light of the blazing driftglobe, Pluto didn't realize that maybe it was possible Sebastian's answer might have changed.