The boat rocks unsteady under Jester’s feet, tilting over the waves like a drunken sailor. She takes in a deep breath, holding it and staring up at the wide blue sky above, the crashing waves a distant hum as she leans against the railing heavily. Up ahead, the faint outline of an island flickers like a mirage against the tense heat and sea spray. Jester’s whole body vibrates at the idea that they’re so close to it already, after only a handful of days at sea. It’s exciting, of course , and it’s going to be fun, obviously , but.
It’s Travelercon. She has every right to be nervous.
Breathe in. Creaking of the ship. Waves crash. Somewhere, the murmurmed voices of her friends. Breathe out. Metal clanging against wood as Caduceus makes tea. Waves crash. Breathe in.
Jester tenses and jumps, spinning away from the railing and plastering on a wide toothy grin.
Beau raises an eyebrow sceptically. “You okay?”
“Yeah!” Jester half turns back to the ocean, sweeping one arm out over the railing. “We’re almost at Travelercon, Beau! I’m more than okay. I’m… I’m amaze-tastic!”
As soon as the sentence leaves her mouth, Jester knows it’s a horrible lie. She fidgets with the hem of her dress to avoid looking Beau directly, and instead casts her gaze out to the horizon again. Her breath stutters, only a little. Thankfully, Beau comments on neither events and Jester feels the warm weight of her settle against the railing too, her own body heating slightly from the proximity.
“I’m a little nervous,” Beau admits, softly. When Jester looks up at her, Beau is looking out into the distance, towards the small speck of land. The tiefling moves a little closer, just enough so their arms are pressed up against each other. The contact settles something in her, though she doesn’t really know why.
“Why are you nervous, Beau?” Jester lowers her tone to match Beau’s, her tail winding habitually around the monk’s leg.
Beau shrugs, and the movement doesn’t jostle Jester like it normally does. Something about the way Beau is carrying herself now is careful, measured, and endlessly soft. It makes Jester warm .
Still looking towards the horizon, Beau smiles wryly. “Well, my friend won’t tell me what she’s so worried about, for one.”
When Beau moves her gaze to glance at Jester, the tiefling looks down sheepishly.
“Sorry.” Jester bites down on her lip. “I just… I guess Travelercon’s making me nervous, is all. I’m excited, of course, but… “
“Hey, exciting things can be scary too.” Beau shifts to wrap an arm around Jester, the warm weight of it settling across her shoulders like a blanket. Jester curls in close, breathing in the smell of salt spray and leather.
“I just. I thought it would be different, maybe.”
Beau hums, fingers curling gently around Jester’s bicep.
“Like, what if there are loads of people there and they’re all like me! What if they talk to the Traveler all the time, and they can do really cool stuff, and they are like so much better than me at drawing dicks? That’s my thing !”
“Hey, hey.” Beau steps away, and Jester finds herself missing the contact immensely. With both of her hands on Jester’s shoulders, Beau stares at Jester with an intensity in her eyes that makes Jester’s heart constrict. “No one’s better than you, Jester Lavorre. Especially when it comes to drawing dicks. You’re like. The greatest. You’re Jester freaking Lavorre and the Traveler would be - no offense, dumb to throw you away like that.”
The moment hangs, as Beau with her blue eyes stares at Jester with a level of determination and passion that steals her breath. A dark blush begins to crawl up the side of Beau’s neck, and Jester can’t help but track it with her eyes, wondering if the stirring in her stomach is from the lunch they had earlier. Maybe the fluttering in her chest is too.
Beau clears her throat and looks away, the moment broken. Jester stops herself from feeling disappointed and turns back to look out at the ocean.
Jester notices then, the two tea cups on the railing. “Beau! Is that for me?”
Beau lifts up the cups. “What, these?” She drinks out of one. “Nah, they’re both for me.”
“I’m kidding, Jes. Of course one’s for you. Might be a little cold, now, though.”
As Beau holds the tea out for Jester to take, Jester can’t help but notice in that moment just how perfectly the fading sunlight frames the strong line of her jaw, and her sweeping cheekbones. The blue in her eyes seem so much brighter, now, especially looking at Jester. The same deep, warm, something flutters in Jester’s stomach as her fingers brush over Beau’s to take the tea cup.
Beau grins that special grin saved just for Jester, when it’s the two of them and her teeth show and her eyes crinkle in real happiness. The flutter in her chest turns into a storm, and Jester panics, eyes wide.
“Um!” Jester starts backing away, hoping desperately that the flush on her cheeks is in her head and not on her face. “I think I heard Caduceus call for me downstairs! I’ll see you later, Beau! I have to go now bye!”
Not her finest moment, maybe.
There’s not much room to think about it , after.
The Ball-Eater arrives on the shores of the island sometime in the middle of the night, and by morning they’re deep in the middle of the woods trekking towards the towering volcano at the center of the island.
By the afternoon, they’ve killed more plants and creatures and weird plant-creatures than Jester cares to keep track of, and then not long after that they arrive at the volcano.
One thing after another; they’re the first to arrive at Travelercon, and then Jester is swamped with preparation work, obviously.
That’s the reason why she can’t spare a moment to really think about why Beau looked so graceful punching through the guts of a fish, or how, when Beau caught an arrow before it hit Jester, the tiefling couldn’t stop replaying the moment in her mind. Of course Jester was swamped with work. She had to - to set up streamers! And rearrange the chairs already put out. And talk to the Traveler about Sprinkle.
It’s not like she’s avoiding thinking about Beau, not at all.
Jester’s just studiously not thinking. But only because she’s busy.
Jester’s pacing in her room, when Nott pops her head in.
“Oh!” Nott’s ears flatten against her head, and Jester wonders briefly if Nott was expecting someone else to be in here.
“What’s up, Nott?” A wide smile plasters onto Jester’s face.
“Ah.” Wide yellow eyes flicker around the room nervously. “Just wanted to… check in on you! See how the planning was going.”
It’s obviously a lie, but Jester goes along with it anyway. “It’s going pretty great, actually! The Traveler and I are going to put some finishing touches on the dick monuments later, and then we’ll be all set!”
“Cool, cool.” Nott eyes scan the room again, and the Jester’s curiosity only grows. With that last look, Nott’s gaze meets hers. “Well. Good luck. Bye!”
Jester lunges forward. “Nott, wait!”
The goblin pauses in the doorway, the door halfway closed as her hand clamps firmly on the knob. “Ah! What?”
“Um…” Why did Jester stop Nott from leaving? She bites on the inside of her cheek to stop from blurting out that her stomach feels like it’s been in knots since yesterday, when Beau talked to her. “I have to ask you a question.”
Nott’s ears flicker, and she creeps back into the room, shutting the door behind her. “I’m listening.”
“I think… I think I maybe have a problem,” Jester admits, sinking down onto the plush bed behind her.
“What kind of a problem?”
“Well. It’s kind of. Like.” Jester holds her tail and lets it nervously wind around her hands like rope. “Maybe. A romantic. Type of a thing. Maybe.”
“Wait, what!” Nott shoots forward until she’s an inch away from Jester, her clawed hands resting heavy on the tiefling’s knees. “Who?”
“Jeez, Nott,” Jester giggles, nervous.
Nott clears her throat and backs away, but only an inch. “Sorry. Who might this mystery romance be about?”
“Um. Well. It could be anyone, I think. I mean I’ve had crushes on many people before - like tons. Fjord included! But maybe, this time, I think that I like. Beau. Maybe.”
There’s a prolonged silence where Jester stares at her tail, which has wound itself multiple times around her wrists, binding them together. Nott stays silent through it all, which worries Jester more than anything. It’s awkward and after a minute or so Jester is tempted to just run, but Nott starts talking again.
“Beau?” Her voice is higher than before, though Jester can’t place why. “Why Beau?”
“I mean. She’s not that great. She’s abrasive and she’s very rude and not that good looking -“
Jester shoots up, eyes wide and brows furrowed deeply. “Nott! Beau is none of those things and you know it! She’s super kind and very nice and very very good-looking.”
Nott’s eyes shine more brightly than before as she replies, “But Beau? Really? Who would have a crush on her?”
Jester pouts. “It would be very easy, I think, to fall in love with Beau!” After a beat of charged silence: “Obviously.”
Nott stares at her, an indiscernible look in her eyes.
Jester backtracks quickly. “I’m not in love with Beau. Obviously, Nott!”
A prolonged silence.
“Not that I couldn’t be! She’s just very pretty and very strong and when the sunlight frames her face, she looks very dashing like straight from a storybook and -” Jester pauses to take a deep breath, furiously ignoring the growing heat in her cheeks. “When she tells me stories, sometimes, she gets all soft and squishy like. Like a blanket, you know? And - and Beau gives the best hugs, and she always hugs me when I’m sad and maybe when she is sad too but that’s okay because we cheer each other up! But what I mean is Beau is just very attractive and I like it when she talks to me, that’s all.”
Nott’s expression is, somehow, worse than five seconds ago. Jester’s cheeks feel like hot coal and fire, and she knows her tail is lashing around agitatedly.
She clears her throat. “Just. Factually. Obviously.” A beat. “I’m not in love with her, though.”
Jester frowns and stares down at her hands, her tail long unwound from them. Her palms feel strangely empty, even when Nott places her hands in them. Green hands pat at her consolingly, before Nott speaks up again.
“Beau is a good person. You are too. I think she’s a good person to have a crush on.”
Jester sits on her bed in silence as Nott creeps back out of her room.
Jester isn’t naive, or dumb, not by a long shot. She knows things. Many many different things that most people don’t know about, in fact.
Sometimes though, especially when she thinks about Beau, Jester feels like there’s something that she’s missing.
Flipping through Tusk Love again, Jester groans. There’s nothing in there to help her, no matter how hard she looks. It’s easy for Guinevere and Oskar, to just meet and fall in love and save the world and each other. It’s so frustratingly simple but there’s still something that feels misplaced whenever Jester reads through it now - her once favorite book. She tosses it aside.
When did love become so difficult? All the stories growing up were about handsome boys who were obviously the True Love and princesses who maybe Jester drew as herself when illustrating in the margins. And in those stories, they just fell in love, no questions asked. For the longest time, Jester thought that it would be like that too, but after the conversation with Nott…
Tusk Love seems to have lost it’s love.
Jester sighs and reaches down to search around in her haversack, pulling out her worn sketchbook and her inks.
She starts doodling little events from the day: Nott deftly disabling the Tripwire trap in the underground tunnels, Frumpkin as an octopus wrapped around Caleb’s head, the vine-tree monsters facing off against Fjord, Caduceus, and Yasha, Beau spinning in the air to deliver the final blow to one of the bigger ones, Beau dressed in the Traveler’s green cloak, Beau smiling softly in the lantern light, Beau, Beau, Beau.
Jester closes her sketchbook hurriedly and takes in a deep breath, rolls over onto her back to stare up at the stone ceiling.
“Traveler, what do I do?”
The bells in her horns jingle lightly as a cool draft breezes into the room. The Traveler appears, hovering over the bed.
“Is this about Tusk Love?” He picks up the book. “It could use a more dicks, in my opinion.”
“No, silly!” Jester flops over onto her stomach. “I mean, you’re right, it could use more dicks though.”
“What’s wrong my little sapphire?” He hovers closer, setting Tusk Love aside.
“It’s… it’s about Tusk Love, technically? But not really. Maybe it’s more about romance, in general, technically, but Tusk Love is part of it, so.”
The Traveler just hums.
Sighing, Jester shakes her head to hear the bells jingle again and flips over so she’s on her back and looking up at the textured ceiling. “I think, maybe, that - on maybe a second thought, Tusk Love isn’t a very good love story. I mean, it is a good story, but maybe it’s not real? I’m not sure, because I was talking to Nott earlier and she was saying a lot of things that had me wondering… And she’s married, you know! So she has to know a lot more than maybe Oskar and Guinevere do. Maybe they don’t even know a lot at all!” Jester sighs again and her bangs flutter with the force of it. “I’m just. A little confused, maybe. On what everything is… On what love is, maybe.”
The Traveler takes a while to respond, but Jester knows to be patient for him because he thinks a lot about what to say. When he does begin speaking, Jester tilts her head towards him because his tone is more serious than she’s used to.
“I’m not very versed in romance, I will admit. But -“ A green spectral hand brushes her bangs to one side. “I do know that love comes in many forms in many different ways to everyone, and that love looks different from person to person. You know what love is.” His hand cups her cheek. “You love your mother, and she loves you. Just as I love you. Romantic love is similar. It’s something you have to feel, and feelings are always messy and hard to understand.”
Jester leans into his hand, smiling.
“What’s got you so worked up over Tusk Love in particular? Besides the lack of dicks, of course.”
“Well.” Her tail starts flicking nervously on the bedspread as her whole body flushes with warmth. “I might have a crush.”
“On that Fjord character?”
“Um.” The bedspread bunches where Jester’s hands are digging into the fabric, nervously pulling out loose threads. “Someone else, now.”
One thread pulled out. Two. Thre - “It’s Beau.”
There’s a brief pause where Jester can just feel the surprise of her friend, and she pulls out four more threads, each in quick succession.
A hand over hers stops her from pulling out another thread. “Jester.”
She looks up, and swears that she can see the glint of his smile and warm gaze before his visage shifts back into the familiar unknowable shadowed face. “She’s very funny. You picked well.”
Jester laughs then, full of relief and happiness like weights have been lifted off of her chest. It feels lighter to breathe and she surges up, wrapping her arms tight around the Traveler.
“I’m proud of you,” He whispers into her hair.
When they pull away, Jester scrubs at a few stray tears that fell from her crinkle-happy eyes. She grins at the Traveler. “Thank you, for helping me.”
“Anything for you, my sapphire.” He pauses, only briefly and his head tilts in a way that Jester knows means that he has a question. “Is this a… recent development?”
Jester thinks back to the their talk on the Ball-Eater, just before arriving on the island, and how warm she felt at seeing Beau in the sunlight. How seeing her like that reminded her of that stormy night out at sea, and how saying ‘I love you’ to Beau felt right - feels right. She thinks back to the cathedral in Rexxentrum, and the heart-pounding fear that coursed through her the minute Beau fell. She thinks back to all those little moments since she’s known Beau - little memories full of joy and love and warmth .
“It’s a recent realization.” Jester replies. The words feel right in her mouth, to say them out loud. Something light fills her stomach, something big and beautiful.
“I’m very glad for you.” The Traveler grins, patting her head. “Sleep, now. You’ve got a long day ahead of you.”
Jester nods, and once the room is dark again, drifts off to dreams of blue eyes and warm smiles and that big overwhelming feeling in the center of her stomach.
The only time Jester gets to finally talk to Beau, alone, is back on the Ball-Eater. And this time Jester really was actually trying to talk to her, rather than avoid her altogether. But as soon as the convention started up, Jester became actually busy, and then Beau seemed to have disappeared for a bit.
So their talk had to wait until the Ball Eater, unfortunately.
It’s storming, the first night on the ship, and the bright fireworks over the volcano are barely visible through the rain and dark clouds. Jester finds Beau, this time, leaning over the railing with her head tilted towards the sky, eyes closed and her body relaxed. It makes Jester want to draw so badly, but she pushes forward to stand next to Beau at the bow of the ship.
They both stand there for a while, quiet as the rain splashes softly over the canvas of the ship’s sails and onto the wooden floorboards. It reminds Jester of that day on the Ball-Eater, during the storm when everyone was so disjointed and lost. Beau, came up to her then. Jester moves closer to Beau, swaying towards her body warmth as they stare up into the rainclouds.
“Familiar, huh?” Jester startles at Beau’s voice, glancing back down to find that her blue eyes are already fondly staring at her.
Jester smiles and nods towards the sky. “It’s not that bad, this time.”
Beau huffs a laugh, her eyes intense with something Jester can’t name. “No, I guess not.” She shifts and Jester can’t help but track the movement closely with her eyes. Beau lifts up her arm, and Jester falls into the space under it without hesitation. The warmth and butterflies come back full force, and Jester leans in closer.
“How was Travelercon?” Beau whispers against the top of her head. Even though she’s being soft and quiet where Jester’s pressed up against her, the rain seems to lessen to allow Beau’s voice to carry through. Jester thinks she sees the slight shimmer of a green cloak above their heads.
“You were there, silly.”
“Yeah, but how was it for you, I mean. I had fun, but I know you were nervous before…”
“Oh.” The warmth spreads from her head to her toes, and she looks up to find Beau with a fond smile on her face. “It was perfect.” Jester squeezes her arms tighter around Beau’s waist. “Thank you.”
“For what? You did all the planning and shit. I just walked around with pamphlets.”
“Pamphlet-Hander Out-er is a very important job, Beau. It’s like the second most important job.”
“Right, of course, how could I forget. I’m deeply sorry, Miss Lavorre, the slip up will not happen again.”
Jester sticks her tongue out at Beau playfully and the two share a large smile.
“Hey, Jes?” Beau’s eyes dart off to the side - a tell Jester knows now means Beau’s nervous about something.
Jester squeezes tighter in response.
“I’m -“ When Beau looks back at Jester, her eyes are filled with such an intensity and devotion that Jester’s throat chokes up a little with the overwhelming feeling of being loved. “I’m so proud of you.”
Beau’s cheeks redden prettily, and Jester can’t help but admire the dark splotches against her high cheekbones, contrasting her blue eyes so very attractively. Jester feels her tail begin to lash behind her and her heartbeat quickens.
This moment is perfect to Jester, even if it’s not quite what every story told her it would be. Romantic evenings were usually under the stars, on a tall hill somewhere, or saved for when Oskar was near death. The stars are barely visible tonight and Beau is whole and warm under Jester’s palms. This moment is perfect.
Jester slowly moves her hand to cup Beau’s cheek, eyes never leaving Beau’s. There’s nothing but love and warmth and that fluttering in her stomach when she leans in, and then Beau closes the distance between them. Their arms wrap tight around each other and Jester feels in that moment, exactly how she thought she would.
She feels love. She feels loved.
Beau kisses her, and Jester giggles against her lips.
They break apart, breathless and grinning wildly.
“This is way better than Tusk Love.”
Somewhere above them, green magic shimmers against the backdrop of rain, as they stay in the circle of each other’s arms.