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i'm turning out the lights (to remember how to see)

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Jester pauses in front of the door. She rocks back and forth on her heels, trying to decide whether or not this is a good idea. But... if she doesn't tell him, it would be like lying, and she hates lying to her friends when it's not for a prank.

Because of the late hour, the coast is clear for her to push the door open and creep in. Unfortunately, before she's made it more than a few steps towards one of the dark shapes lying on top of a bed, a floorboard creaks under her foot.

In the grey tones of her darkvision, Jester sees Caduceus's ear flick and his face moves a bit. She takes a chance, and whispers, "it's just me, sorry!"

Cad visibly calms, his shape deflating in a funny way as he breathes in in relief. Jester puts a hand on her chest as if it will calm her racing heart.

"Well, hey," he says slowly and way too loudly. "What are you doing here?"

She puts a finger up to her lips and hisses, "Shh! I have to tell Fjord something, but it's a secret!"

"Alright," Caduceus says, clearly bemused. He gestures over to the other bed, eyes half-closing again.

She tiptoes over carefully, which is almost certainly unnecessary given she'll be waking him anyway, but much funnier.

"Fjord," she whispers, poking him in the shoulder. "Fjord. Hey."

He lets out a small scream and jerks awake. His black-and-white-streaked hair is messy, flopping all over his face and spilling into his eyes. He blinks several times, clearly groggy. "What! What?"

Jester giggles and crinkles her nose. "Is this how you react when Caduceus wakes you up in the morning?"

He groans again. "Sometimes I wake him up, I'll have you know. Why are you waking me up at Caleb only knows what hour?"

Jester bites her lip and makes her face somber again. "I have something to tell you," she says. "I really, really, can’t wait. Can you come into the hall?"

Fjord squints at her, and his expression quickly softens when he sees how serious she is. "Yes, sure, you can always talk to me," he says. Throwing back the covers, he climbs out of bed in a few moments, and glances over to where Caduceus is doing a poor job of pretending to be asleep.

"Sorry, Cad," Fjord says sheepishly, "I figured you were already awake. I'll be back soon."

Caduceus begins to snore. It is very clear that he's faking, because being in the same room as it doesn't make Jester shove her hands over her ears.

She sticks her tongue out at Caduceus even though she knows he can't see her and pulls Fjord out the door, taking care once again not to tread too hard on creaky boards. "How do you stand his snoring?" She whispers as she shuts the door. "It's super super loud. I would be awake all night."

Fjord flushes a darker green and rubs his neck. "I don't know," he admits, an embarrassed tone creeping into his voice. "It's kind of soothing, actually?"

Jester tilts her head. A few things she's seen in the past weeks come together to form an interesting picture. She gasps, forgetting to be quiet.

"Fjord! Do you have a crush on Caduceus!?" she whisper-shouts, just barely remembering to keep it down in the middle of her sentence. How is it she’s just seen this now? How much has she missed?

He flushes an even darker color and waves his hands around a bit. "No! Maybe! I don't know! Can you–keep it down a bit, please–"

Jester starts to giggle and then slaps her hands over her mouth as she doubles over in silent laughter.

Through her amusement, she can see Fjord trying to cover his involuntary smile with a frown. As she straightens up, though, his face does a funny thing and he manages to look serious for a moment.

"Jester," he begins, "I know that you, um, have maybe harbored some affection for me for a while, and I don't want to hu–"

"No! Fjord!" Jester exclaims. "Don't you see! That's what I came here to tell you!" She beams at him.

He looks extremely confused.

"I finally figured it out," she says, still beaming. "I thought I liked you for a reeally long time, but I was never sure, you know?"

She doesn't wait for him to respond before she barrels on. "But I don't think I ever had a crush on you at all. I think I maybe just thought I should because you're so cool and a guy who saved my life a bunch of times!"

Jester can't really read Fjord's face anymore, although she's been glancing at it occasionally during her confession. He still looks confused, mostly, although he's a bit unreadable at the best of times.

"Anyway, I was just thinking about it, and I realized I feel the same about you as all our other friends! And I was worried that wasn't ok, but if you like Caduceus then that's fine and I don't have to worry about you liking me I guess!" Jester lets out in a rush.

Fjord blinks. There's a pause as Jester stops for breath, and to format the next bit coherently when she hasn't even really let herself think about it.

"And—and I don't know if it's because I hadn't been out a lot before I met you all, or because I'm not– I can't– feel that way? Because if I never liked you, then I never liked anyone, and I'm not a kid and that's pretty weird?" Jester twists her hands together aggressively, trying to stay calm. She's never admitted to anyone before, not even her Mama, that something might be wrong with her.

“Sexy stuff is different, too, and I’m not really sure how I feel about it now because I thought thinking people looked nice meant that I wanted to date and have sex with them, but I guess that’s not how it works and! I don’t know!”

"Okay, uh, wow. That's a lot to take in. Alright." Fjord responds to her panic entirely unhelpfully by beginning to mirror it, alarm starting to show in his eyes.

“I’m sure it’s fine--you don’t have to worry about me,” Jester backtracks quickly, willing her eyes to stop tearing up. Fjord hesitantly reaches out to place a warm hand on her shoulder.

"Jester, it’s okay," he says earnestly. Jester looks at him a moment longer and then bursts into tears as she grabs him into a proper hug. He returns it immediately, making a muffled complaint about her strength that Jester chooses to ignore.

Eventually, he speaks up, a bit hesitantly. “It’s not-- I won’t say I’ve ever heard of anyone not having those feelings, but plenty of people never marry. I knew a few sailors who went to sea partially because they wanted to escape having to settle down with a partner.” He clears his throat. “And, you know, uh, we-I’ll support you no matter what.”

Jester nods into his shoulder and they just stand there hugging in the hallway for a while, and it's simply wonderful. She’s definitely going to claim more Fjord-hugs in the near future.

"Okay," she says after a while, stepping back reluctantly and smoothing out her nightgown. She tries to brush away her tears out of her friend’s sight, noticing him doing the same. "Seriously though,” she says, switching tracks determinedly, “you have a crush on Caduceus? I need all of the details now!!"

A look of panic crashes over Fjord's face, and he's back on the other side of the door before Jester has time to blink. "Fjord!"

Throwing caution, the door to the boy's room, and a spell slot to the wind, Jester forces her way in and tackles Fjord from behind, casting dimension door the moment they collide. The last thing she sees before the scenery shifts around them and they fall to the common room floor together is Cad’s surprised face.

Jester rolls off Fjord quickly, and gets to her feet to stare disapprovingly down at him where he lies groaning softly. Rather than open his eyes or get up, Fjord chooses to sigh dramatically and let his limbs fall beside him.

“You’ve killed me,” he says theatrically, proving the contrary. When she doesn’t respond, he cracks one eye open to see her expression and somehow shrinks into the floorboards further in fear. Jester pouts and breaks her righteous pose to offer him a hand up. He takes it a bit sheepishly.

“You aren’t getting away that easily,” she says. Fjord resigns himself to his fate, and nods.

“Let’s sit down if this is going to be a proper conversation,” he says. He pops into the kitchen to grab whatever snacks are left from the last time someone went shopping. Jester plops herself down on the common room loveseat to wait.

The tiefling takes the minute of reprieve to collect herself a bit and whisper under her breath to the Traveler.

“Hey, Traveler, I don’t know if you’re listening, but if you heard that I hope you don’t think I’m weird,” Jester prays. After a few seconds, she feels the tattoo underneath her nightgown give a quick pulse of warmth, and hugs herself in relief.

Fjord returns relatively quickly with a half-eaten package of biscuits. “All I could find,” he shrugs at her disappointment.

Jester grabs one as soon as he sits down, though, and talks as she chews because nobody’s around to tell her to mind her manners. “So,” she swallows, “when did you start liking him?”

Fjord is blushing already as he rubs the back of his neck. “Well… I actually don’t know,” he admits. “I haven’t had… feelings… for a lot of people, really, and I didn’t know I liked men until I got close to Caduceus.”

Jester tilts her head curiously. “How many people have you liked?” she asks, veering off topic. Fjord pauses and brings a hand up to count off on his fingers. He’s deep in thought as he puts up three fingers, one after the other.

“Huh, that's not a lot.”

Fjord takes a biscuit of his own. “Yeah, I hadn't really thought about it until now...” He trails off a bit uncomfortably, lowering his hand.

“Well, anyway, when are you going to tell him?” Jester drags her consonants as she plows ahead, moving on from the sensitive topic. She’s already picturing half a dozen ways Fjord could confess his love- maybe under the tree in the back garden, or by baking something for Caduceus...

“Uh, I’m not?” Fjord shoves half a biscuit in his mouth, breaking Jester’s train of thought. “I don’t think he’s interested.”

Jester begins to protest, but Fjord cuts her off. “Actually… he’s said a couple times that relationships aren’t his thing,” her friend says, as a thought occurs to him. “I figured he was just being really faithful to the Wildmother and didn’t want to make anyone else settle down with him… but maybe he’s like you?”

“Oh,” Jester says. She frowns. “But then you two can’t get together and have sex and get married and have kids!”

“Woah!” Fjord flushes deep, deep green, holding his hands up. “That’s thinking way too far ahead. And I wouldn’t force anyone, especially someone I… loved... to return feelings for me that they didn’t have.”

He looks closely at Jester, who’s trying to pretend that nibbling the last bits of her biscuit away is the most important task in the world. “Jes… if someone asked you, would you go out with them even if you didn’t love them back?”

She looks down. “I mean… I’d at least try,” she mumbles. “It wouldn’t be fair to them to just turn them down. And, like, who knows, maybe I can love people, I just haven’t met anyone that I could yet!”

Fjord looks sad for some reason, which is dumb. She’s supposed to make her friends smile, not frown, and anyway they should be talking about the very important matter of his crush on Caduceus instead of her problems. When Fjord offers her his hand, though, she takes it and snuggles a bit closer.

“I know, uh, your mom doesn’t really turn down clients much?” He ventures. “But- and it took me a while to learn this- it’s okay to reject someone, even if it hurts them. You don’t have to force yourself into bad situations for other people.” Fjord winces as he remembers something. “Avantika was, uh… a lesson for me in a lot of ways, and Caduceus helped me realize that.”

Jester sticks her tongue out at the mention of her old nemesis. Even if her new realization in regards to her relationship with Fjord means they were never actually competing for him, she was still a nasty woman, and Jester is glad she’s gone.

“Also, we have met, like, a shit ton of people,” he points out, and echoes some of the thoughts she had before coming to talk to him earlier. “If you were going to meet some special person that you fell in love with at first sight, there’s a fair chance it should’ve happened already.”

“Okay,” Jester says eventually. “I’ll try to keep that in mind.” Her tattoo warms against her skin again for the briefest of moments, and she smiles at the reminder that the Traveler doesn’t care who she does or doesn’t like.

Fjord yawns, and looks a bit embarrassed about it, but it makes Jester conscious of the late hour. As far as she can tell it’s only a few hours away from morning, and she’s gotten almost no sleep tonight between thinking about and talking to Fjord. She yawns too, involuntarily, and grins at Fjord tiredly. She wants to know so much more about him and Caduceus, but they’ve been talking about really hard stuff for a while, and...

“We should go to sleep, huh.”

Fjord agrees and they get up, Jester grabbing the biscuits to toss back into the kitchen.

As they head back up the stairs to scavenge what sleep they can, Jester speaks up again. “Thanks, Fjord, for listening to me, and for the advice.” Fjord pauses as they reach the top of the stairs and stand only a few feet away from the door to his room.

“You’re welcome, Jes,” he replies, and they smile at each other before she walks on to her and Beau’s room.

“I still think you should tell Caduceus!” She calls in a stage whisper over her shoulder, and is rewarded when she hears the firbolg in question ask Fjord, “Tell me what?” before their door closes and she has to smother her giggles again.

Jester eases her door open and tiptoes in, trying to avoid getting Beau up any earlier than she wants to. The floor creaks a bit in an act of ultimate betrayal, but Beau doesn’t seem to hear so Jester relaxes.

As she collapses in her own bed again, she really does try to think about her and Fjord’s conversation more, but finds her tired mind drifting off to sleep almost immediately and decides not to fight it. They can talk more tomorrow, after all.