Jestro could hear Alice Squire’s voice faintly from a tablet as he squeezed through the crowd waiting to get into the castle for the Royal Ball.
“Scuze’ me! Sorry about that. Coming through!” He’d repeat as he pushed through the bodies.
Finally he got to the front, where a squire bot was guarding the entrance to the castle. When Jestro attempted to go in he was stopped by the squire bot.
“Nobody gets in yet except the guests of honor and their dates,” the bot told him.
“Yeah I’m one of the dates,” he said. “and I’m probably a little late so I should really be getting in there.”
“Are you sure?” The squire bot squinted at him.
“Yeah I’m sure!” Jestro was getting impatient.
Clay came up from behind the Squire bot. He offered a hand to Jestro. The squire bot stepped aside as the two made their way inside. Once in the light of the castle Clay took a look at Jestro. His eyebrows went up.
“You look…” Clay started.
“Kind of odd, I know.”
Jestro knew how he must have looked. Instead of his usual Jester’s hat, he wore one that covered his head fully except for his face and came down to his neck. The point at the end of his hat, instead of going sideways, went down and were tipped with bells. He also wore a light blue undershirt, a darker blue bow tie, a dark purple vest, and dark purple pants. In addition to his usual lipstick, he wore eyeliner and heavy blush.
Lance had picked it out for him as he said it looked more formal but still looked like something for a Jester. Jestro had taken this to mean it was still kind of silly.
Clay on the other hand wore a light turquoise jacket ending in blue cuffs. He too wore a dark blue bow tie. His light blue undershirt had ruffles under the neck, and his pants were dark blue.
“You look good Jestro,” Clay assured him. “but I’m glad you still look so you.”
“Thanks Clay.” Jestro’s face heated up, a smile creeping across his face. Until he remembered what Lance had said.
Don’t get too flattered, Jestro told himself. You’re only here so Clay doesn’t break any hearts.
“Wow both of you have outfits based on cool colors.” Lance appeared behind the two of them. “It’s almost as if someone planned for your outfits to be together, you’re welcome.”
At that moment they heard the crowd cheer.
“I think they’re letting the crowd in.” Macy approached them. “We should probably get ready.”
Jestro followed Clay’s lead as the Nexo Knights and their dates made their way to the dance floor.
“Why do we have to be here first anyway?” Asked Jestro.
“Before the crowd starts to dance the guests of honor dance one song with their partners.” Macy replied.
“Everyone is going to watch us dance?” Jestro asked, his voice showing slight panic.
People started moving in gathering around them. As Jestro looked around, he saw many eyes specifically on him and Clay. King Halbert started to speak to the crowd, but Jestro didn’t pay attention to what he was saying.
“Clay,” Jestro was whispering. “I don’t know… how to dance.”
“Just grab my hand with yours, grab my shoulder with the other, and follow my lead.” Clay whispered back.
“Don’t worry,” Clay gave him a warm smile. “You’ll be fine.”
When the music started Jestro did as Clay had told him. He tried to follow Clay’s footsteps, and to his surprise found that he could keep up. Now the music was loud enough that if he wasn’t too loud, Jestro could speak to Clay without anyone else hearing.
“Hey, I think I’m getting the hang of this,” Jestro said.
Clay winced as Jestro accidentally stepped on his foot.
“Oh no, I’m sorry!” Jestro almost stopped in his tracks but Clay kept them moving.
“It’s fine, it’s an easy mistake.”
“I see why you brought me now. I’m a mess, who would get jealous of me?” Jestro said quietly.
“What do you mean?” Clay’s eyebrows furrowed.
“Lance told me why you invited me,” Jestro said. “Because nobody believes you’d actually like me that way. Then all those people who wanted to go with you aren’t heartbroken.”
“It makes sense,” Jestro continued. “I mean why else would you go with me? Why else would anyone want to go with me?”
Before Clay could finish, the song was done. All the Nexo Knights stopped dancing and fell into graceful poses with their dates. Clay pulled it off beautifully, but Jestro had been caught off guard. One wrong step and he tripped.
In a second, Clay caught Jestro’s hand, stopping him from falling to the floor. Jestro’s face flushed in embarrassment.
I must look like the biggest fool in the kingdom, he thought. Dancing next to the kingdom’s savior and I trip over my own feet.
“I’m sorry Clay.” Jestro couldn’t even look at Clay’s face as he was pulled up. “I-“
Suddenly Clay’s lips were pressed against Jestro’s. He could feel the eyes of everyone in the room on them. When Clay pulled away, Jestro could only stare at at him in shock.
“Don’t be sorry.” Clay gave him a look that seemed to contain all the warmth and kindness in the world.
The day before…
“Well the truth is…” Clay took a deep breath. “The truth is that I love Jestro.”
Macy’s eyes widened. “Are you serious?”
“I didn’t realize it until all the insanity before the Ball was announced. Everyone was asking me to go and making such a big deal about it and I was wondering what I should do. Then he just popped into my head.” Blush crept across Clay’s face. “And when I thought about taking him it just felt so right! I realized that that feeling had always been there but I had never noticed it before.”
“Wow,” Macy looked shocked. “That’s really why?”
“Yes that’s part of it,” Clay admitted. “But there’s also the fact that, well after what happened everyone has been treating him like a criminal. I thought if I took him to something nice and showed everyone else, and him, that I care about him, that I trust him, maybe things would get better.”
Macy was silent for a moment. When she spoke, her voice was softer.
“Clay, I’m sorry,” she sighed. “our reaction was just awful. You were trying to do something amazing and sweet, and what we said was the exact opposite of what you two needed. You really did do the right thing.”
Back in the present…
Silence reigned for almost a full minute before it was broken by the music starting up again.
“Everyone is now free to dance, and Nexo knights, you are now free to do whatever you please.” The queen said.
Slowly, the crowd moved in around them, dancing with their partners. Axl darted to the food table, and Macy and Aaron went to sit down, while Lance, Clay, and Jestro all continued to dance.
Jestro was positively beaming. He couldn’t believe what just happened.
Clay just kissed me! He thought, his heart almost bursting with joy. He does care about me!
For a while that happiness stayed with him. For a while he actually was just enjoying himself, enjoying being there dancing with the most wonderful man in the world.
But then a thought crept into his head. The trip, his outfit, what everyone thought about him, what he had done. Jestro’s face fell, his heart twisting itself it knots.
“Jestro?” Clay’s voice cut into Jestro’s thoughts. “Is something wrong?”
“I… I need some space.” Jestro stepped away from Clay.
Jestro ran through the people, Clay following behind him. When he reached the doors, Jestro went through them, leaving the ballroom and entering a castle hallway. He slumped against the wall, clutching at his own face with both hands. The doors opened and Clay came through them.
“What’s wrong? What happened?” Clay asked.
“Why would you do that?” Jestro asked. “It don’t get it! Why would you do that with me?”
“I’m sorry, I didn’t know it would make you uncomfortable.”
“Don’t apologize for that, it was wonderful,” Jestro smiled as he remembered the kiss, but then his face fell. “but it doesn’t make sense! The savior of the kingdom, and the person who tried to destroy it. What are people going to think!”
“Jestro don’t call yourself the person who tried to destroy the kingdom.”
“But I am!” Jestro averted his eyes from Clay’s face. “Nobody can deny it.”
“But it wasn’t your fault. You were manipulated by Monstrux. I know how hard it is to resist him. He manipulated you, my mother, even me! And even after he lost control of me, I was still corrupted by him. I even tried to kill you!”
“And who would’ve missed me?” Tears welled up in Jestro’s eyes. “I was manipulated my Monstrux, the second time! When I first found that book of monsters, I betrayed all of you on my own! Even before that I was a failure, I was completely useless. The only thing I was good at was being bad!”
“Jestro,” Clay put his hand on Jestro’s shoulder. “If I had killed you, and my friends had turned me back to my normal self, I would have regretted it. I would never have stopped regretting it. I could destroy Monstrux but never could I, in my right mind, do the same to you, because you’re better than him. You chose to stop being evil, and you saved me! You’re not evil, and you’re not useless, and I don’t care what anyone says, I love you.”
Jestro sniffed, then he looked at Clay. “How do I know you’re not just saying that.”
“Trust me,” Clay said. “I’m being honest.”
Then once again, Clay kissed Jestro. This time, Jestro kissed him back. Clay’s arms wrapped around him. When they stopped, Jestro hugged Clay and put his head on Clay’s shoulder, tears rolling off his cheeks.
It took a while for Jestro to stop crying. The two of them stayed there for a minute embracing each other. When Jestro lifted his head Clay finally spoke.
“You think you can go back in there?” He asked.
“Ye-Yeah.” Jestro smiled, wiping the remainder of tears out of his eyes.
The two of them re-entered the Ballroom arm in arm. Now Jestro didn’t mind that people were staring. When they started dancing again, he just focused on Clay face, on their hands clasped together.
“You’re the most wonderful person I’ve ever met,” Jestro said.