Like probing a missing tooth with his tongue, Kaeya could not help himself. After the day was done, the night had fallen, and all others were asleep, he would stay awake, fingers itching for the fabric covering his eye before taking it off. The wound was clean, of course - how could it be anything else with both Barbara and Jean having tended to him? Slowly, he draws his fingers over it, though he draws the line at exploring the empty space.
He’s not quite that morbid yet. Reaching for his brush, Kaeya fights back a scowl as he misses his target the first time. A second allows him to capture the elusive object, and he sets to brushing his hair out in slow, deliberate strokes.
Jean had not asked him to leave her home. The offer was implicit - he was free to stay as long as he wished, and Jean would not complain. Kaeya closes his eyes, hums to himself as he relishes in that. Unconditional love and acceptance. Kaeya nods as he makes his decision, wraps his eye back up, settles into his bed for the last night.
He would not overstay his welcome as he had with - Kaeya’s mind skitters from the name, and he closes his eyes, tosses the blanket over his head and forces sleep upon his body.
“Good morning, Jean,” Kaeya greets mildly as he brushes his hair, silk-smooth in the morning sunlight as it peers through the curtains. Jean smiles at him in the mirror, pads closer and takes the brush from unresisting fingers. Running her fingers through the soft strands, Jean gives him another smile as she brushes his hair.
Kaeya closes his eyes with a pleased sigh, tilts his head to her so she can further tend to him.
“What are your plans today?” She asks, and Kaeya hums, low in his throat.
“Down the road of Ordo Favonius headquarters, the home of the witch-crone is being sold. She’s asking for unusual trinkets of value to receive it from her.” Kaeya answers smoothly, as he always does when she asks. “I thought I would take my chances with the competition - it’s quite the handsome place, and it’s steeped in decades of old magic and alchemy.” Jean hums softly, ties his hair for him.
“Will you be careful?” she asks.
It is their little game. Kaeya will always promise his safety, yet rarely does he do so. And Jean would scold him without heat, aware that he was simply unable to judge his own limits accurately.
Damn that poison. Damn the Abyss Order.
“As careful as my Grand Master desires,” Kaeya replies dutifully, and Jean looks at him through the mirror. He appears sincere enough, but Jean knows him, and so she twists the brush around, lightly smacks the top of his head to his mildly wounded squeak.
“My most loyal knight,” she sighs, bends down to place a delicate kiss against the top of his head. “Do not put yourself at risk for a home.” Kaeya gives a happy little noise, and she smiles down at him. The sparkling iris is soft with pleasure, the unfathomable blue swimming with his loyalty to her.
“As my Grand Master orders,” Kaeya says, looking punch-drunk happy. “I’ll stop by the bank as well today,” He says, flows to his feet in a single, fluid motion. “Is there anything you need of me aside from remaining in one piece?” he asks, and she chuckles fondly.
“Come back home when you’re done. I expect to see you here for breakfast now and again.” Kaeya catches her hand at that announcement, takes the brush from it to press his lips against her palm.
“Always, my Grand Master,” he tells her, closes his eyes in feline pleasure as Jean chuckles, runs her thumb over his cheek.
“Good,” she says softly, kisses the top of his head once more, hand slipping free as she does.
The witch-crone is staring at him with an intensity beyond that of the others. It takes all of his will not to twitch towards the makeshift eyepatch he wore, fingers shifting on his arm. She dismisses the others, pierces him with her gimlet eyes.
“You. Come closer.” Kaeya’s Vision hisses, viciously displeased at this unworthy one’s audacity to give him orders. He smiles sweetly instead, obeys the command and stops short of her being able to touch him. The woman eyes him up and down, hands on her cane and tapping a rhythm with her foot as she does. “You lost an eye. That’s a powerful tool in your arsenal,” the old woman notes, and Kaeya doesn’t rise to the bait, watches in silence until she sighs and speaks again.
“You came for the house?”
“I came to try to complete the challenge,” Kaeya corrects. “As I understand it, the house is contingent upon that.” The crone eyes him up and down.
Kaeya snorts at that. “What would a woman like yourself desire money for? You clearly have your own ways of making it, or the house would have been sold by now.” The crone’s smile is twisted in a farcical amusement.
“Clever… very clever.” After a long moment of consideration, she hums. “Yes, you’ll do, Khaenri'ah boy.” Kaeya doesn’t - quite - stiffen from shock, but he knows the old woman can tell. “Your eyes are so unique - do you think I wouldn’t recognize where they are from?” Her chuckle is old and weathered, and Kaeya only just stifles his panic at the words.
“You will gather me the core of a Cryo Regisvine, the sprouts of a Ley Line Tree, and an Oceanid’s heart. Hurry, now,” The old crone says with a smile. Kaeya blinks in stunned disbelief at being dismissed, but he turns on his heel and walks away as quickly as he dares, contemplates his options.
His Vision hisses irritably, but Kaeya pats it with a fingertip, soothing his Vision’s wounded, furious pride with a light reminder of their goal.
It would take time to track down all of these beasts, let alone challenge them and win, so Kaeya takes deep breaths, slowly pushes the air out between his teeth and contemplates himself without holding back. He is not as weak as he was before the clarity of the Abyss Order’s poison had infected him, but neither was he strong enough to do this on his own.
“Sabbatical?” Jean asks him, shortly after Varka had given him reluctant permission to go. “Will you write?”
Jean knows better than to ask him if he is sure. Kaeya smiles lightly at her, touches her shoulder.
“If you desire it, my Grand Master,” he says fondly. For Jean, of course, he would write her. Would any other express such concern over his well-being as she had? “Weekly, if I can. Monthly if I cannot.” Jean’s shoulders loosen in relief, and she holds his hand within her own.
“Thank you. You know I worry.” Jean’s softness makes him melt just a little bit, her warmth like the soft break of spring against his soul.
“I know. I’ll write, I promise, my Grand Master.” He smiles at her, and she wrinkles her nose like an annoyed puppy. “I’ll return to you in hopefully better condition than I left.” Jean smacks his arm lightly.
“You better!” She scolds, and he laughs again, soft as dandelions.
To My Grand Master,
Dandelion Tights (this one is half-torn and smudged by a clearly embarrassed reader)
My Eternal Frustration,
I’m Running Out Of Things To Call You,
You're Very Lucky You're On The Other Side of Mond, Kaeya,
And on they go. Letters exchanged and sent, loved and treasured. Sometimes, Jean looks at them, the pile of neatly penned missives, and wonders to herself;
Why had Diluc thrown such loyalty away?