“Oh, hello, my dearest husband who has been waiting for me at hoooome!” Ringing throughout the grand foyer, her voice trilled on the last word, the large wooden door rumbling closed behind her. She loved this door: dark ebony, with detailed carvings of vine and assorted flowers forming ornamental panels (and a few hidden dicks just for good measure). It was lovely, and intimidating, and very fitting for their dramatic, gothic manor in the woods, in her opinion.
(And surprisingly sturdy too—it’d been over 350 years since she’d had it commissioned, and it had yet to need restoring.)
Heels clicking on the marble tile of the entryway, it was not long before she heard the reply magically make its way to her ear, a warm Zemnian accent coloring the words.
Hallo, liebling. I’m in the conservatory, just finishing up dinner. Meet me if you’d like.
She removed her coat and handed it to where she knew the nearest Unseen Servant was waiting, stopping only briefly to make sure it actually started making its way to the cloak room off the hall. “Caleb, you still had words left, was there nothing else you had to say to me?” Her admonishing words were undercut completely by the playful tone of her voice.
Another Message, this one beginning with a fond huff of laughter. I can hear your eyebrows waggling. There’s many things I could have said, ja. Most importantly, I love you, and I’m glad you’re home. A momentary pause. Poop.
She gave a great laugh as her heart swelled at his words. It was just a little thing, she knew that, but it reminded her of how he just got her, you know? If there was one thing she was sure about regarding Caleb, it was that he knew her like no one else did.
And that he loved her, too, obviously. There was no hiding how much he loved her. But it was the understanding, the seeing and being seen, that really mattered to her.
(It hadn’t always been that way. Despite her nearly 400 years, she remembered being young and enamored with an idea of love that was more sweeping grand gestures and breathless declarations and less what she knew love to actually be now. Don’t get her wrong, she loved grand gestures as much as the next child of the night, but she eventually realized that just because promises were made loudly didn’t make them real.)
Jester began making her way towards the conservatory, which functioned as their casual dining room. Another part of the manor that she adored: the large glass walls and domed ceiling, stuffed to the brim with magically preserved plant life, allowed for the most beautiful view of the night sky she’d ever seen this side of Wildemount. Thanks to the permanent nighttime spell placed carefully over their home by Caleb—and she could see in her mind’s eye, clear as the stars shining above, Caleb with his hands on his hips, standing in front of their new home under the freshly manifested darkness, telling her you’ve got to hand it to the Kryn, that is a very handy spell—she was able to enjoy the room in comfort, no matter the time of day.
She mainly used it as a makeshift studio when she didn’t feel like using her actual studio. She’d plop down in a cushioned chair and sketch for hours at a time, sometimes for the Traveler, sometimes for improving her technique, and sometimes when she was so moved by something she simply couldn’t hold in the inspiration. The soft glow of the enchanted strings of lights above created a warm atmosphere that she found conducive to creativity. Frumpkin seemed to prefer it too; if he wasn't with Caleb, he was almost certainly loafing in her lap or wound around her feet as she sat.
As she entered the room she could see that Frumpkin was currently having his cake and eating it too: a spot under the cozy lights and pets from Caleb, who was sitting at one of the tables with some dinner and a book.
“Ah, there you are,” he greeted her with affection, cheeks dimpled and copper hair shining under the lights. “I was beginning to wonder if you had gotten lost.”
“Oh, well, you know, these hallways and corridors are so mysterious and winding, I wouldn’t be surprised if I did one of these days.” She threw her hand up to her forehead, palm facing outwards as she cocked her leg in a very damsel-esque fashion. “Not to mention how dangerous this place can be...oh, who knows what lurks in the shadows...hmm, Caleb?” She gave him a smile, flashing a bit of fang and arching an eyebrow.
He merely chuckled at her, thoroughly endeared, at least by her accounts. “My mistake, Schatz, I forgot. How absolutely foolish of me.”
She sighed melodramatically, and made her way over to grip the back of his chair and lean over him in what she hoped was an appropriately flirtatious manner. “That's alright, I suppose. After all, you do have me to look after you, and I am very strong.” She subtly flexed her bicep where it rested at his eye level.
It elicited exactly the reaction she was looking for: Caleb’s eyes snapped to her arm, and he swallowed as if his mouth was suddenly dry. “Ja, you are. You know I am so very grateful you are here to defend me against the horrors of the night.”
“Mhmm, you are certainly very welcome.” She glanced around the room, as if searching the shadows for hidden beasts. The look she then gave him was theatrical in its concern. “And who knows? Something dangerous might be stalking the halls right this very moment. They might...,” she leaned her face close to his, playfulness swiftly replaced by a predatory sultriness, “even be in this room.”
Before he could say anything back, she gripped his chin firmly (but not too hard, she’d made that mistake before!) and gave him a big, smacking kiss, greatly at-odds with the sensual, romantic tone she’d (hopefully) been cultivating. And gods, even when it was nothing serious...there was nothing like kissing him.
Flushed and pleased with herself, she laughed as she began to pull away from Caleb, but he made a grab for her waist. Of course, there was no way he was quicker than her, and if she’d wanted to be freed, she would have been in an instant; as it was, she had absolutely no qualms to her excellent kisser of a husband pulling her into his lap, arms settling around her waist in a comfortably familiar position. “That being the case then, Schatz, I think you’d better stay close to me—I’m terribly frightened.”
“Caleb, don’t worry, I just said I’d protect you! Are you doubting my heroic prowess?” She shimmied her shoulders for emphasis, violet eyes glinting with mischief.
Instead of replying right away, Caleb’s expression turned pensive, and after a few seconds he gave a thoughtful hum, head cocked to the side slightly. “You're in an awfully...theatrical mood tonight. Is something going on?”
Jester, who prided herself on not being sensitive to the cold, felt the temperature drop suddenly. Oh. Okay.
She’d thought it was just a bit of fun, pretending to be dark and seductive and mysterious, but maybe, you know, maybe she was coming off as weird or something? Lightning fast, she thought back on the last five minutes—maybe the signs had been there all along, and she was just too wrapped up in her...whatever, her act, to notice them? Oh man. She could feel her mood deflating, and felt a subtle sense of awkwardness start to creep in; apparently, you were never too old to make a fool of yourself.
At her slightly wounded look, he quickly tightened his grip on her waist, reassuring in the face of her self doubt. “Not that I’m complaining, Schatzi, or making fun of you,” he said, and smiled wryly at her. “I mean, I’m a wizard, you know how dramatic we are. Primadonnas, the lot of us.” She looked down and chuckled. His fingers found her chin and gently raised her head up to meet his gaze. “I just want to make sure everything is alright with you.”
And there it was again, within his piercing blue eyes, that feeling of being known. It occurred to her that she’d lived for many years, and would likely live for many more; still, she couldn’t recall another period of time in which she consistently felt such gratitude, for the chance to love and be loved like this. After all, before he was her lover, he was one of her very best friends, and that connection had only become stronger with time.
She remembered a conversation on a ship, decades ago now it had to be (and geez, Jester knew she was a vampire but when did she get so old!), and telling Beau that she was a really good liar. She was sure that was still true: though she supposed having the unlimited time she had meant ample opportunities for personal growth, she was self aware enough to know that she probably still relied on misdirection more than she should, at least when it came to her own emotions.
But! If there was one person in the world who made her feel like her emotions were always important, who made her feel like she didn’t have to hide, that she herself was nothing to hide, to be locked away, out of sight—
Well. It was Caleb. He had a near-uncanny ability to peer beneath the surface, to search the seemingly calm waters for signs of struggle, ready to throw out a lifeline.
(And she could read him too—she could tell the difference between his deep in thought quiet and I probably need to get out of my head quiet, knew exactly when to push against his tendency to self-isolate and when to give him the space he needed. The desire to not burden others, it seemed, was a trait they both shared.)
Jester couldn’t help herself from leaning in and resting her forehead against his, a whispered “yes, I’m alright, Caleb” floating between them. He hummed in assent, seemingly knowing that there was truly no need to press the issue further.
She pulled back and gave him a grateful smile, before rolling her shoulders and slipping back into character. “Well, you know, the moons are full tonight and I suppose I was struck by the ambience of...um, everything...on my way home. Does one really need a reason to indulge in...the darkness?”
A few beats of silence passed as Caleb studied her face, eyes squinting a little. She could see his clockwork mind running through all of the possibilities for her behavior tonight that didn’t involve her hiding her feelings. She prayed to the Traveller that he would not guess the true, exceedingly silly (even for her) reason. It was just that Taeral’s Tomes had had a really great buy-one-get-one deal last week, okay, and she was finally able to get her hands on the latest installment of the Dancing in the Darkness series which has just been flying off the shelves lately—
She was plucked from her thoughts by the corners of Caleb’s mouth turning up in a decidedly smirk-y fashion. “You’ve been reading those gothic romance novels again, haven’t you?”
"I don't know what you're talking about, Caleb." She tried her best to project an air of haughty indifference, but she knew it was no use.
His smile turned impish. "Oh, really? Because it's alright if you are, Jester. It's a perfectly respectable gen-"
“Yes, alright, I have been reading gothic romance again!” Caleb threw his head back and gave a great, big laugh. The noise echoed throughout the large room, and she couldn’t even be mad; even when it was at her expense, she loved hearing that sound. “I know, okay, I can’t help that The Raven’s Court is so good and, and mysterious and cool!”
Still giggling, Jester promptly leaned her face close again and shut Caleb up with another kiss in order to avoid the lighthearted ribbing she knew was coming. This one was slow and gentle, a soothing counterpoint to Jester’s excitable energy. She cupped his face in her hands, and his lips moved softly against hers, day-old stubble scratching enticingly against her cheeks. And...there was...ah.
She hadn’t noticed it before, but by the Traveller, he smelled good tonight.
When she finally pulled away, shaking her head to clear the haze threatening her senses, she glanced around and suddenly remembered the scene she had walked into. “Oh, Caleb! Wait, I’m so sorry, I completely interrupted your dinner, you were still eating—” she rambled, gearing up to remove herself from Caleb’s lap.
“Nein, Jester, I do not need to finish, I am full.” He brushed an errant piece of hair behind her ear before moving to rest his hand on her cheek, a sparkle to his eye. “It has been so long, though, and I would love a dance,” he said, raising his other hand and making a series of gestures, fingers twisting through the air.
Soft music began to filter throughout the room, a mellow instrumental of strings with light percussion. It reminded her of dimly lit dance halls, the intimacy of holding someone close and knowing you were the other’s entire world, at least for that moment.
In short, perfect for swaying around the room with someone she loved very much.
Jester slid off Caleb’s lap and held out her own hand to pull him up out of his seat. She did not let go after he stood, but instead shifted their grip to one more suitable for dancing. They maneuvered to a cleared area (or as clear as space inside a stuffed magical conservatory could get, at least); his arm returned to her waist while her’s found its home around his shoulders.
While they began with a concerted effort to actually dance, it wasn’t long before it gentled into a soft circular sway.
At one point, the music picked up pace slightly and Jester saw her opportunity. One moment she was resting her head on Caleb’s shoulder, humming along with the music (she didn’t recognize the tune, but hey, everything sounded better with a little harmony, right?); the next, she was whipping Caleb’s arm out to the side, sending him into a spin.
“Scheiße, Jester, gods—!” Her grip on his hand remained ironclad, ensuring he wouldn’t spin away from her. Like Caleb’s laugh from before, her cackle rang off the domed glass ceiling.
As quick as it came, his spin reached its terminus, and Jester, more gently this time, tugged his arm to pull him back to her. She took the lead now, though more informally as she snaked both of her arms around his waist. Caleb’s nose scrunched adorably as he attempted to blow a renegade lock of hair out of his eyes.
“Well, no one can say that you do not surprise me anymore, liebe.”
With the energy settled once more, she and Caleb were content to quietly keep swaying, Jester’s cheek to his chest. His chin rested on top of her head, mindful of her horns. Gods, he was so warm. She could hear Caleb’s heart beating in his chest, the steady drumming a reminder of how he was so very alive, so different from her in that aspect. Everything about Caleb was alive, though she was sure he’d disagree with that statement.
It might’ve been said that the quiet was interrupted by Caleb, but that would imply that there would ever be a time in which she wouldn’t want to hear what he had to say.
“You know, if my memory is correct—”
She snorted, a sound that was extremely elegant and charming, thank you very much. “When is it not, Caleb—”
“—it has, ah, been a while since you last...ate.” She couldn’t see his face, but she imagined his eyes twinkling on the last word and his eyebrows rising comically (or what passed as “comical” for Caleb), reveling in their (admittedly pretty lame) private joke.
She and Caleb had danced literally and figuratively many times over the years, but this one was one of her favorites. “I’m not sure what you mean. You know I don’t eat food, Caleb,” she replied, smiling coyly.
She could not have felt less coy. It had been a while since she’d fed, and while the dancing had been absolutely wonderful, it did make it progressively harder to ignore the thirst, her fangs having begun to press gently against her bottom lip.
Caleb did not seem to notice her struggling, continuing to sway with her head pressed against him, shifting almost imperceptibly to be closer to his neck.
“I’m just saying, I know it gets hard for you, being hungry, you know, I cannot imagine it feels good.”
Even though he could not see them, she waggled her eyebrows, probably the hardest she had ever waggled them in her life. “Are you offering to help me feel good, Caleb?”
“ Ja, you pervert, you know what I mean.”
She pretended to consider the offer, her head rising off his chest so he could see her faux-thoughtful expression in full. “Hmm, I don’t know...what’s in it for me? Besides of course giving an exceptional hickey to a very beautiful wizard.”
Caleb good-naturedly rolled his eyes, though his blush betrayed him. He pulled her in closer as she continued to guide them in gentle circles around the floor. “There is that, yes. There is also the matter that it provides you with the nourishment you need to sustain yourself and your strength.”
At that he actually moved to dip her, guiding her down until he was supporting a not insignificant amount of her weight. “And as you alluded to earlier, I’m quite weak, and in need of your protection.”
His smirk would have been annoying had it not looked so handsome on his face.
She pulled herself up out of the maneuver, spinning on the ball of her foot to drop him into a dip, at a speed much greater than how he did with her. Caleb gave a surprised huff, eyes wide and hands clutching at her arms.
“Yes, you are like a little string bean, Caleb.” Now she was the one smirking. “Weren’t you just saying something about how grateful you were that I’m here to protect you?” She leaned in and ran her nose along the smooth line of Caleb’s neck, the scent of him absolutely delicious.
“Uh, ja, certainly.” He swallowed as his face flushed the loveliest shade of pink. “How about we take this somewhere more comfortable?”
She laughed as she helped him stand up. “I didn’t know you knew detect thoughts, Caleb.”
He righted himself, smoothing out the rumples in his loose cardigan. “I don’t need a spell to know that what we’re about to do would go much more smoothly with a bed.”
Apparently it was her turn to be flustered. “And what exactly are we about to do, hmm?”
Caleb gave her a sly smile but said nothing as he reached for her and kissed her deeply, arms wrapping around her waist once more to pull her to him. Gosh, it made her breathless, made her head spin with how much she wanted him, needed him right now.
He pulled away after several moments, tilting his face up slightly to press a kiss on her forehead. “How about we just see where this dark, stormy night takes us, ja?”
Surprising him for the third time that night, she used her unnatural speed and strength to scoop him up off the floor, carrying him like newlyweds crossing the threshold. “Sounds like an excellent idea to me." Caleb's sharp intake of breath from the continued manhandling absolutely did not go unnoticed—interesting. "I have to say right now, though, I think I already know where I want it to go.”
Her fangs glinted white in the moonlight as she sped them out and towards the bedroom, laughing the whole way there.