Okay okay. I finished those two hipster punkies fast. Because I thought, the last picture was not the best “ending” for our beloved JM-Month. So take that babes ;)
You know, this month was reeeaalllyy great, but all the time I felt as if something is lacking in my style… I was lightly uncomfortable while drawing all the stuff… And I think I know what the reason was. Maybe. So I will try to go with the “lighter” shading… or so I think. Gna. I am unhappy ;_; buhuuuu. ~
Ok so I just started Gypsy and can I just say, this bitch Jean is crazy like a total sociopath…but at the same time I don’t want anything bad to happen to her ever, and I love her and I want her and the hot barista with the accent to run away and fall in love? That’s normal for me to say right??
El loves denim; jean shorts in the summer, or dungarees. In the autumn and winter she wears straight-leg Levi’s with Jonathan’s old jacket (which she decks out in patches from all over the place—her collection grows and grows; flowers from Nancy, ufo patches from Max, other little bits and bobs-she even has some pins; it’s a pretty wild jacket).
( Los Angeles is Jeremy Knox’s frown of concern whenever Jean pushes himself to the point of strain, the delighted grin when Jean surprises him. It’s cat fur being one more reason to stop wearing black.
Los Angeles is joining a starting line including but not limited to a kitchen witch, a seer, and a werewolf. It’s Jean never once being asked to confirm or deny who or what he is.
Los Angeles takes some getting used to.)
(Urban Fantasy!AU) for Lilly, @crazy-like-a-f0x (it’s not letting me tag you properly, i’m sorry!) for @aftgexchange‘s Summer Exchange
It comes to Jean in flashes, after.
The realization–Kengo Moriyama is dead. Riko’s hands on his neck, slamming his face into the floor, again, again, again. The white hot bite of a knife. The way his fingers slip on the keys of his cellphone typing out a single message to Renee. Renee. Her face hovering over his, voice gentle, firm, impossible, as she hefts him to his feet.
What he remembers most clearly is the panic in his chest as she guided him outside into the night, into Minyard’s car. The way he protested, begged, half-conscious from pain.
They have it–I can’t–still in there, please–can’t leave, please, Renee–
Renee disappeared from his side for hours, for seconds. When she returned there was a birdcage with no door cradled in her arms; inside was a snow white dove.
Jean clutched it to his aching ribs and sobbed.
Two weeks after Jean flees the Nest, Kevin makes a deal with Jeremy Knox. Three weeks after Jean flees the Nest, Jean is recovering in his bed at Abby’s house. He watches the Trojans lose against the Ravens, watches Knox announce their treason on national television.
Knox says, I spoke to Jean earlier this week, says, He just won’t be back in black, says, I think we have a lot to learn from each other.
Knox says, Next year is going to be amazing, and the world believes him.
Jean sleeps, and he dreams of darkness.
He dreams of birds with burning wings, of glinting knives, of cages submerged in water.
Jean wakes up gasping. The dove at his bedside is thrashing in its cage.
He doesn’t go back to sleep.
Jeremy Knox picks him up from LAX at four in the morning on a Sunday, looking sleep heavy and bundled up in a USC sweatshirt that has seen better days. He’s holding two to-go mugs, the steam swirling in the morning air, and his face lights up when he sees Jean approaching.
“Jean Moreau,” Knox greets, sounding fond for reasons Jean can’t fathom. Jean is reminded of the times he’d had Knox as a mark–the way he was an absolute nightmare to defend against paired with the way he’d smile and seek Jean out at the end of each match. He’s never understood Jeremy Knox, and he doesn’t think that’ll change now that they’re on the same team.
(Not for the first time Jean thinks he’s made a mistake in coming to LA, but there’s nothing to be done about it now.)
“Knox,” is all Jean says, and follows his new captain out of the terminal.
“It’s good to have you here,” Knox says as they walk through the parking lot; Jean can’t find it in him to agree with him. “I brought you a drink,” he continues, nonplused by Jean’s silence, offering out a cup. Jean takes it automatically, then eyes it warily.
“What is it?”
“Just try it,” Knox says instead of answering, smiling vaguely and rubbing sleep from his eyes, “I think you’ll like it.”
Jean concedes without argument, absurdly figuring Jeremy Knox is near the bottom of the list of people who would willingly poison him.
It’s black tea. Strong but slightly sweet, cut with milk. It’s good, but more than that it’s familiar. A memory is there, edging at the back of his brain–salty air, the smell of baking bread, the sound of his mother humming along to the radio.
Jean is jolted from the memory as they reach Knox’s parking spot. He drives a rusting pickup truck. This, in itself, isn’t out of the ordinary. What’s out of the ordinary is the small cat peering up at Jean from the passenger’s seat.
“Cleo,” Knox scolds as he stores Jean’s bags. He climbs into the truck and reaches across the bench seat to scoop the animal into his arms. “We talked about this,” he mutters exasperatedly into her fur before letting her squirm away into the center seat, curling up against Knox’s thigh. She’s a tiny thing, dusty brown and striped, with large yellow eyes that stare back at Jean with an unnerving intelligence.
“Jean, this is Cleo. Cleo, Jean,” Knox introduces cheerfully when they’re settled, pulling out onto the freeway before abruptly frowning. “Shit. I hope you don’t mind cats.”
Knox confirms Jean’s growing suspicions unprompted a few weeks later.
“She’s my familiar,” Knox says, running a hand through mussed hair that’d be the same color as Cleo’s fur if not lightened by the sun.
They’re the only two members of the team occupying the USC dorms over the summer, so the weeks leading up to the admission have been filled with getting to know both L.A. and Jeremy Knox–whether Jean likes it to not. The captain’s optimism is almost as overwhelming as his work ethic, and Jean is beginning to understand that once Knox sets his mind to something he doesn’t give up. Jean doesn’t know if he’s relieved or annoyed that this seems to be applied to him as well; Knox hasn’t left him alone, or even seemed like he really wanted to.
“Familiars are more or less supposed to act as guide and protector,” Knox explains between bites of pancake. They’re at a small diner around the block from the dorms, grabbing an early breakfast after their morning run. Jean tends to startle awake from nightmares before the sun even rises these days, and Knox is a naturally early riser (“I grew up on a farm–can’t shake the habit,” he’d explained). This combination had led to an unexpected amount of diner breakfasts with his captain “She mostly just helps with my anxiety, though.”
They’d left Cleo behind, napping in a sunspot on the living room floor. She’d barely twitched her tail when Knox passed a soft hand over her spine in goodbye before they’d left.
“Have you always had her?” Jean finds himself asking, and Knox visibly perks up at his contribution.
“Nah, I wish. I was eleven, I think?” He hums thoughtfully into his cup of tea. “She was just a kitten back then. She found me when I needed her–that’s usually how it works.”
Jean thinks its a bit absurd that a stray cat wandering into his life could have offered Knox any sort of guidance–but he’s not about to tell him that.
To Jean’s surprise, it’s Alvarez who corrects him on his assumption.
“She’s not a cat,” Alvarez snorts into her water bottle when they’re both on the bench, throwing him a judging stare. Her and Laila had come up to L.A. for the weekend, and the four of them had found their way to the practice courts. Jean is still begrudgingly under no-contact restriction, but he’d gotten in a good workout nonetheless. “Seriously, Moreau, haven’t had much exposure to magic, huh?”
Jean levels her a blank stare before turning back to watch Laila and Jeremy where they’re locked in a stalemate of shots and saves across the court. “You could say that.”
Alvarez hums, consideringly. “Okay, let me amend my previous statement: she’s not just a cat. I think the best way to put it is that she’s an extension of Jeremy? Like picture the universe reaching inside of him and taking out a part of his soul–it’s that part that manifested as Cleo.”
Jean doesn’t know what kind of expression is on his face–blank shock? Terror? It must not be too bad because Alvarez just laughs with a levity Jean can’t mirror.
“I know, weird right?” she grins at him, rolling her eyes. “From what I understand, Cleo is basically our beloved captain–plus some wisdom from the universe.” She shrugs. “I’ve kind of just accepted it at this point.”
The apartment he shares with Knox is covered in plants. They’re lined on every windowsill, clustered in corners on the floor and the table. Knox cares for them all meticulously, watering them each at different intervals with differing amounts, talking quietly all the while. They seem to bloom a little brighter once he’s spoken to them. Knox seems to glow a little brighter once he’s spoken to them.
“You have to give them enough attention,” Knox explains when he catches Jean staring at him over the top of his book. “If they don’t know you believe in them, how can you expect them to grow?”
Jean doesn’t know what he expected his move to the Trojans to be like, but it wasn’t this. It wasn’t an apartment filled with plants and sunlight. It wasn’t cups upon cups of tea, each somehow (magically? Jean really doesn’t know) always whichever kind Jean hadn’t known he’d wanted, but did. It wasn’t becoming familiar with Jeremy Knox, with his kindness, or the way that he often laughs at nothing in particular at all–it just happens sometimes, like all the light inside him bubbles over.
Jean didn’t expect these things, but he refuses to dwell on them long enough to discover if he minds.
“He’s a kitchen witch,” Jean admits to Renee a few months later, a declaration that’s met first with silence on the other end of their routine Skype call, and then– “What!”
A muffled bark of laughter and a scramble of feet. Onscreen Renee sighs, but it sounds amused, and suddenly Allison Reynolds is budging into frame.
“Sorry to interrupt,” the dealer says, sounding anything but. The smile on her face is near-predatory. “Did you just say that Jeremy Knox, USC’s patented Sunshine Boy, is, in fact, a kitchen witch?”
His roommate had never come out and said as much, but Jean had put together the pieces. He quirks an eyebrow at Renee and nods in confirmation.
Reynolds practically cacklesat that, whipping out her phone. “Oh my god, Kevin’s going to die. It’s all his domestic fantasies come to life.” She stands, typing furiously as she walks offscreen. Jean hears a door shut, laughter fading, and then he and Renee are alone.
“You know,” Renee says after a moment, circumventing the tension that Kevin’s name tends to bring, “I had thought he’d be a werewolf. The Trojans always seemed to run like pack.”
“It was… unexpected,” Jean concedes. “Alvarez is the actual werewolf. There are others on the team as well, but Jeremy is still their alpha.” He sounds confused even to this own ears. (To be fair, it was very nontraditional. Alvarez’s explanation to Jean on the matter when she and Laila were on campus in July had consisted of a brusque, “It doesn’t matter that he’s not a wolf, Moreau, he’s our chosen alpha. We’re living in progressive times here, please.”)
“So he’s Jeremy, now?”
Of course that’s what Renee chose to parse from that explanation. She’s smiling at him, far too knowing, and Jean huffs. “You’re reaching, Walker.”
Renee hums thoughtfully, and it’s something that Jean appreciates: she listens, and when she chooses to reply each word has been fully considered. When she finally speaks it’s with a genuine smile.
“Los Angeles sounds like a wonderful place.”
Los Angeles is many things. Jean has been here six months, and that’s about all he’s been able to solidly conclude.
Los Angeles is no-contact play until mid-July as prescribed by the team physician, months longer than would have been allowed at the Nest. It’s weekly appointments with his therapist stipulated in his contract.
Los Angeles is Jeremy Knox’s frown of concern whenever Jean pushes himself to the point of strain, the delighted grin when Jean surprises him. It’s a shared apartment on the eighth floor, one that’s lined with large windows and filled with plants. It’s cat fur being one more reason to stop wearing black.
Los Angeles is joining a starting line including but not limited to a kitchen witch, a seer, and a werewolf. It’s Jean never once being asked to confirm or deny who or what he is.
Los Angeles takes some getting used to.
Jeremy gives him a cactus for Halloween.
He leaves it on Jean’s side table for him to find when he wakes up from his post-class, pre-practice nap (Because that’s a thing he does now. Naps.). It’s a tiny thing, maybe an inch and a half across, in a blue painted pot. He put a bow on it and everything. Jean squints at it and goes to find his roommate.
Jeremy is entrenched in his thesis work, glasses on, chewing distractedly on a pen–he barely notices Jean approaching until Jean sticks the plant practically under his nose.
“What is this?”
Jeremy blinks up at him owlishly. “A… cactus?” the confusion clears and he frowns. “Wait, don’t you like it?”
Jean sighs and sits on the other end of the couch. “Yes, I–thank you. I meant, why?”
Jeremy just blinks again. “It’s Samhain,” he says, as if that should be obvious.
“It’s Halloween!” Jeremy chirps, smiling now.
Jean frowns; he doesn’t think Jeremy is understanding his point. “Yes, but… do people usually give each other gifts on Halloween?” Not that Jean’s celebrated it, but from the way Laila and Alvarez had talked, it seemed like a children’s holiday–or an excuse to dress up in costume and party.
Jeremy leans back on the couch and looks across at Jean. “Not everybody… but we do in my family,” he shrugs. “It’s a bigger deal for some of them, but it’s not like I can really drop by to celebrate so–I dunno. Thought it’d be nice to celebrate with you too.” He smiles at Jean, backlit by the setting sun coming through the window, and he–Jean could swear he was glowing, radiating light.
Jean shakes his head, looking at the cactus in his lap instead. He cups his hands carefully around the pot. “Thank you,” he says, and Jeremy hums happily, turning back to his work.
Jean manages to make it until January without anyone finding out about him, which, honestly, is better than he’d let himself hope. But better doesn’t stop the panic that rises when Jeremy (because yes, he’s Jeremy now) stumbles into their bedroom unawares, back early from errands, breaking off his rant about grocery lines mid-sentence as he notices Jean on the floor.
Cradling a birdcage.
“Jean?” Jeremy asks cautiously, head tipped to the side in curiosity. His eyes are locked on the cage. “Is that–a bird?”
Jean’s mouth is suddenly dry, and he finds himself floundering for words. His grip on the cage goes white-knuckled.
“It’s a dove,” he manages, finally. Obviously. He wants to run but he’s frozen.
“A dove,” Jeremy repeats, leaning against the doorframe to their bedroom. He looks a bit bewildered, considering; Jean finds himself distracted by how Jeremy hasn’t tried to come any closer after finding him. Suddenly Jeremy straightens, a small grin growing on his face.
“Jean Moreau, have you been hiding a familiar?”
It’s said innocently, half in jest. Jean thinks he could take it as an out, thinks that might have been Jeremy’s intention. Jean knows his roommate well enough now to know that if Jean wanted to keep this secret, he could.
Which is why it’s all the more strange and terrifying that he finds himself spilling the truth.
What he was was human. A cloverhand with the ability to see the fae, to see magic. To his family, this made him valuable. It made him a bartering piece.
What he became was collateral. A prisoner to the game and to the Nest, kept pet to the self-proclaimed Raven King. He was both guard and whipping boy. They broke him, again, again, and still they demanded more. They tore the soul from his body, trapped it in a cage. To instill obedience, they said. Perfect loyalty in a perfect court.
What he is is a gallowglass. Soulless. Even freedom couldn’t change that.
It’s awkward afterward. Of course it is. Jeremy is frozen in the doorway, wide-eyed, hands clutched tight to his sleeves. Jean can’t blame him, because now Jeremy knows. Not everything, no details, but enough. He knows that Jean is soulless, because his soul is sitting in a cage on his lap in the middle of their bedroom.
“Okay,” Jeremy says finally, snapping out of his daze. “Okay.” Jean braces himself for judgement, and–
“This calls for tea.”
Jeremy flees the room for the kitchen, Cleo close on his heels. Jean blinks.
A result of living with a kitchen witch is the way the teakettle water seems to boil in no time at all as Jeremy flits around their small dining area, pulling herbs from various jars on various shelves, pinching and rolling them into two identical teabags.
“Do you want a cup?” Jeremy asks belatedly, distractedly when Jean stumbles into the kitchen after him. He doesn’t wait for Jean to answer before continuing, shaking his head. “No, of course I’ll make you a cup. Tea always makes things better.”
Jeremy doesn’t look at him until they’re seated across from each other at their tiny kitchen table, knees almost knocking, their steaming, sweet-smelling mugs in hand.
“Okay,” Jeremy starts, taking a big breath. He holds it. Exhales. “Jean.”
Fuck, this is really happening. “Yes?”
“In the cage. That dove is your soul?”
Jean nods, staring down into his tea.
“Okay,” Jeremy repeats, then frowns. “Jean?”
“Please don’t tell me you’ve been hiding your soul stuffed under your bed in some box.”
Jean opens his mouth to defend himself, then closes it again because that is exactly what he has been doing.
“Jean,” Jeremy cries, looking stricken. The teakettle begins to heat unbidden, sensing his distress. “The poor thing could’ve suffocated!”
Jean sighs. “It’s not a real bird, Jeremy, it doesn’t need–“
“Damn right it’s not a bird, Jean. That’s your soul! You’ve been keeping your soul stuffed under the bed!” Jeremy exclaims disbelievingly, surprisingly fierce.
Jean frowns. What is there to say? Once more, the perplexity of Jeremy Knox rears its head. It doesn’t take much to get him riled up–but it’s only ever defensive, on behalf of other people. He has no issue standing toe to toe with Jean, but only ever does it for the sake of protecting Jean from himself. So Jean just lowers his eyes and says nothing.
Seeing this, Jeremy deflates.
“Drink your tea, okay? It’ll get cold,” Jeremy says, voice gone gentle. His knee nudges Jean’s under the table.
Neither speaks again until their cups are near-empty.
“Why-” Jeremy starts, then snaps his mouth shut. He says instead, “Can I ask you something? You don’t have to answer if you don’t want to.”
Jean is wary of what his question could be, but nods anyway.
“You said you got your soul back once Renee got you out of the Nest. You have it with you here, now. If that’s true, why haven’t you… put it back?” Jean is already shaking his head even as Jeremy continues, “I don’t really know how it works, but…”
“I can’t. I’ve tried,” Jean says.
The look on Jeremy’s face is all kinds of devastating, honestly, and Jean isn’t good with sympathy, never having been shown it; he looks away.
“There has to be a way,” Jeremy insists, but Jean just shakes his head again. He keeps his eyes on the row of succulents Jeremy has lined along the kitchen window instead of the kitchen witch himself.
“I’ve tried. Renee has tried,” Jean emphasizes, both of them knowing what a strong witch Renee Walker was known to be. He frowns, frustrated. “There are ways to make a gallowglass, but they can’t be unmade. It’s faerie magic–what’s done can’t simply be undone.”
“Faerie magic,” Jeremy mutters to himself, staring into his tea.
Jean waits for him to reach a verdict: at best, Jean is expecting to be asked to leave, to switch rooms. At worst, he’s expecting to be kicked off the team. The dread is just settling in his stomach when a fluffy bundle pounces into his lap. It turns in a neat circle once, curling up before settling in to nap.
“Cleo,” Jeremy scolds, but he’s half-hiding a smile behind the rim of his mug. The tension is broken and the dread lifts from Jean’s shoulders.
“It’s okay.” Jean surprises himself saying it, because it is. But then a thought strikes him. “Is-is it okay?”
Cleo is Jeremy’s familiar, an extension of himself. His mind makes the connections unbidden, the way it had all those month ago when Alvarez had spelled it out for him. Jeremy to Cleo to Jean to the dove. The cat is a part of Jeremy’s soul, warm and grounding and tucked against Jean’s stomach.
“Of course it’s okay,” Jeremy murmurs. “It’s you.” He’s looking at Jean with clear eyes, fiddling with a teaspoon. Something warm settles in Jean’s chest, a knot loosening as Jeremy smiles at him, gathering his mug and heading to the counter to fix another cup.
Of course, he says. It’s you.
As easy as that.
(“Don’t put it back in the dark,” Jeremy says that night, voice gentle as the touch at Jean’s elbow, anchoring him to their room, to this moment. Jean puts the cage on the dresser instead.
Much later, when nightmares more vicious than usual shatter him awake, Jean hears a dull thump and the patter of feet before Cleo is curling up on the bed next to him. She butts her head against his stomach, and Jean focuses on the way her tiny chest rises and falls with each breath as his shaking slowly subsides.
He lowers a hand to her head, gentles it down her back, and lets the quiet rumble of her purring piece him back to the present.)
Having his soul on display is… incredibly distracting. Which is to say that for the week following Jean can hardly keep his eyes off it when they’re in the same room. He’s self-conscious of it at first, before he notices Jeremy having a similar problem.
Cleo is the giveaway, of course. She’d been obviously curious the first couple days, but a few firm looks from Jeremy had kept her at a distance. Then Jean had come home from class on a Thursday to find Cleo on his dresser, budged right up to the cage and napping in the sunlight.
“She thinks it’s lovely,” Jeremy explains later when they’ve both settled into their beds. Tucked to Jeremy’s stomach, Cleo shifts in protest, letting out a soft chirping rumble. Jeremy rolls his eyes. “The loveliest thing,” he corrects. “I would say, ‘Her words, not mine,’ but I don’t think that excuse works in our case.”
Jeremy grins at him from across the space between their beds. The bedside lamp could be playing tricks on him, but Jean thinks he sees a flush dusting Jeremy’s cheeks.
From the cage across the room there is a soft flutter of wings.
The thing is, Jeremy talks to the dove.
Jean doesn’t think he’s meant to find out, but he does. It’s an eerie reversal of the night Jeremy saw the dove, but this time it’s Jean almost walking into their room unannounced. He stops himself just in time when he hears Jeremy’s voice.
He’s sitting on the end of Jean’s bed, next to the birdcage… talking. Just talking, almost in the way he does with his plants.
He’s saying, I really want to win this season, for all of us, and I can’t imagine what this year would have been without him, you know?, and I wish you could tell me how to open this cage–I think that would make Jean very happy.
The moment feels soft. Fragile. Jean leaves quietly, before Jeremy can finish, and before he can hear any more.
They’re finishing some late night homework in the living room when Jeremy brings up the idea. Jean is laid across the couch with a lit reading, Cleo curled up by his knee, and Jeremy is sprawled across the floor surrounded by thesis work.
“Hey, what are you doing for Spring Break?” Jeremy asks out of the blue, and Jean cranes his head back to stare at him.
“You think I have plans?” Jean replies, turning back to his book. On the floor, Jeremy huffs a laugh, fidgets. Silence. Then–
“What if you visited Renee? I mentioned it to her, she’d love to see you.”
Jean files away those bits of information, that Jeremy and Renee talk, and that Jeremy and Renee talk about him.
“Okay,” is all he says, and Jeremy looks satisfied, turning back to his work. “I’ll text her.”
It’s no surprise to either of them when he’s on a flight to North Dakota two weeks later.
It’s a good week–Jean is surprised by how good. It’s relaxing, just Renee, Stephanie, and him. He gets daily updates from Laila and Alvarez on their trip to Arizona to see Laila’s family, and the Trojan group chat is as active as ever with everyone sharing whatever outlandish thing they’d done that week. The only oddity is Jeremy–or rather the lack of him.
It’s been complete radio silence from the captain since he’d said goodbye to Jean at the airport drop-off. At first Jean isn’t concerned; Jeremy hadn’t talked about his Spring Break plans, but Jean figures he’s plenty busy spending time with his family. But it’s still weird. Regardless of if Jean replies, Jeremy constantly blows up his phone with Snaps or texts or random links to pictures of cute dogs.
On Wednesday, Jean is watching a movie with Renee in the living room when he gets a text from Alvarez.
8:42 P.M.: have u talked to jer??? we havent heard from him all week
8:43 P.M.: and hes not answering his phone
8:43 P.M.: and like… now that im checking i cant feel him through the pack link?
8:44 P.M.: NOT IN A “HES DEAD” KINDA WAY
8:44 P.M: its just kinda fuzzy. like theres a blur where he should be
Jean feels cold all over, and then the dread start to pool disproportionately in the pit of his stomach. There’s no reason to be worried, Jean assures himself, Jeremy is just busy. And for some reason he’s blocking the pack link. It’s coincidence.
He pulls up Jeremy’s contact and presses call. Jean finds himself holding his breath, but the call doesn’t even ring, just goes straight to voicemail. Jeremy’s cheery answering recording chatters across the line, and Jean hangs up without leaving a message. There is a knot in his chest, tightening with each passing moment. His phone buzzes as Alvarez sends him another message.
8:45 P.M.: were lowkey freaking out jean
8:46 P.M.: jeremy doesnt do this kinda shit
“Jean?” Renee asks, and Jean jumps at her voice. From the open doorway to Jean’s guest room across the room the rattling of metal can be heard. The dove must be agitated, Jean observes absently. “Jean, are you alright?”
“Alvarez texted,” he says, and a small part of him is surprised at how blank he sounds. “No one’s heard from Jeremy all break. His phone is dead, or off. They’re worried. She said–Alvarez can’t feel him over the pack bond.” His phone buzzes again.
8:49 P.M.: ANSWER YOUR PHONE MOREAU
8:51 P.M.: I haven’t heard from him. His phone went straight to voicemail.
When Jean looks up he expects worry from Renee–surprise, or words of assurance. She is fond of Jeremy Knox (who isn’t?). And when he looks over, the worry is there. But the surprise is suspiciously absent. The shock of that freezes him.
“What?” he chokes. “What do you know?”
Renee takes a deep breath and frowns, folding her hands in her lap as she turns to face Jean head on.
“He didn’t want you to find out,” she starts, and Jean stares at her.
“What did he do, Renee?” Jean repeats, a hollow desperation clawing at his insides like it hadn’t in months. “Where is he?”
“He didn’t say exactly where, but I assumed…”
“If Alvarez can’t feel him, he’s probably in the Summer Court.”
The dread from before spills over; Jean’s world narrows to a point. He knows firsthand the cruelty of the faerie courts. Even the Summer Court, the most benevolent of them all, is the last place Jean would send Jeremy, and yet he’s gone, unasked, on Jean’s behalf. It’s suicide.
Renee is speaking to him again, but Jean can’t understand her. His phone is buzzing incessantly on his lap. Laila is calling him. He fumbles with it, but manages to answer.
“Jean! What the hell, where have you–“
“I know where he is.”
“Oh thank god, where is he?”
Jean swallows and closes his eyes. “The Summer Court. He–planned it, or something. With Renee, I don’t know. He’s seeking audience with the Faerie Queen.” As soon as he says it he knows it’s true.
He hears Alvarez yelling over the line, and Laila is asking more questions Jean doesn’t know the answer to. As for one, as for why, well. There’s really only one reason it could be.
“He’s–so stupid.” Jean scrubs a hand over his eyes. He’s trembling. “He’s doing it for me, the fucking idiot, if I’d known I would have never…”
Never left California. Never let Jeremy risk this.
Beside him, Renee shifts and says softly, “Don’t you think that’s why he didn’t tell you?”
Jean digs his fingers into his thigh, grounding himself. “Stupid,” he repeats.
“Jeremy has the monopoly on stupidity, Jean,” Laila says, sounding calmer now despite her worry. “We knew that. He cares too much.”
Jean huffs a laugh, a slight choked thing.
“What do we do now?” he asks. Laila is quiet for a while.
“We trust that he knew what he was doing. We trust him. And we wait.”
Renee tells him that the conversation with Jeremy went something like this:
“Hey Renee–would it be okay if Jean came and stayed with you for Spring Break?”
“Of course, he’s always welcome. But, Jeremy–can I ask why you’re the one asking, not him? Is everything okay?”
“Oh, yeah, sorry–didn’t mean to worry you. Jean’s doing really well actually. He seems… happier lately.”
“That’s good. Then why do you need to get him out of California?”
Of course Renee saw right through him. Jeremy was quiet for a long moment, then continued.
“There’s something I need to do. And I don’t think that Jean would approve of me doing it.”
“Will he be safe if you do it?”
“If I do it right, I think it’ll really help him. I just… need some answers.”
“And what about you?”
“He won’t like it much if you get hurt, Jeremy.”
“Oh!” Jeremy had laughed. “Well I hope it doesn’t come to that.”
Jean gets the call four days later.
It’s been six hours since he landed in L.A. It’s been forty-five minutes since a door appeared on the dove’s cage; Jean hasn’t been able to take his eyes off it. He hasn’t dared open it, merely brought it with him to the couch where they’ve been ever since.
The callerID flashes as his phone begins to buzz. Jean answers on the first ring.
“Knox,” Jean says, and he doesn’t want to imagine what he sounds like. Awed, angry, concerned, fond. Jeremy had done it. Somehow, he had.
“Jean,” Jeremy says, his voice warm, tired. Jean could collapse under the weight of it.
“You’re back then.” His fingers clutch at the phone, and he wills his voice to remain steady.
Jean wants to ask him, wants to say, What have you done? What did you give them? Nothing comes without a price. What comes out is: “Where are you?” Somehow that feels more important at the moment.
“Um… about an hour outside Fresno? I think. I’m looking for where I left the truck.”
Jean doesn’t reply, and the silence hangs on the line.
“Jean, I’m–“ Jeremy starts, and Jean cuts him off because he can’t hear apologies from Jeremy right now. Not about this.
“Is Cleo with you?” There’s a moment, and then Jeremy laughs. Jean can hear his exhaustion, but it still warms him to his core.
(He could have been dead, he could have been gone, but he’s here, he’s on the other end of the line– )
“Yeah, she’s here.” A soft of sort relief settles over Jean’s bones. “She’s missed you.”
There are many things that Jean wants to say in that moment.
(I missed her, too.
You’re such a fucking idiot.
Please tell me you’re alright.
I never expected anything like you.)
What he says is: “Come home.”
The first thing Jean does when Jeremy walks through the door is hand him a cup of tea. Jeremy blinks at him, then at the cup, eyes lidded with sleep. He takes it, smiling, and Jean can finally breathe again.
At his feet there is Cleo, rubbing up against his calf, butting her head against him, meowing impatiently until he picks her up. She settles instantly, tucked in the crook of his arm.
“What did you give them?” Jean asks, because in the end that’s what it comes down to. But Jeremy just shakes his head, dismissive.
“Did it work?” he counters, eyes wide, and Jean gestures to the living room.
“Go see for yourself.” Jeremy does.
“There’s a door,” he says, quietly, knelt in front of the cage. He looks up at Jean, elated. “There’s actually a door!”
“Did you think there wouldn’t be?” Jean asks, sitting on the couch; Cleo jumps out of his arms to curl up on a cushion. Jean knows if there was even a chance he hadn’t succeeded, Jeremy wouldn’t have come back.
Jeremy moves to sit next to him, the cage between them. “Well no, but… they weren’t very specific with the how of it. Just that it would.”
“Jeremy,” Jean says after a moment on silence. “Faeries only work in equal exchange. What did you give them?”
“Nothing.” Jeremy looks suddenly frustrated, shifting to face him. “Nothing, Jean, I didn’t give them anything because there was nothing to exchange. It’s your soul. It’s yours.” Jeremy breathes deeply to calm himself down, and slumps back against the couch. “I just reminded them who they were dealing with.”
Jean is still, blinking at Jeremy’s vehemence. Then the wording strikes him.
“Who–who they’re dealing with?” Jean looks at the boy next to him, eyes glinting, practically alight in his frustration, in the name of protecting Jean. “Who are they dealing with?”
Immediately Jeremy’s eyes widen and he looks away. “I…” He chews his lip then sighs a long breath, resigned. “I never really told you, did I…? What I am.”
“You’re a witch. A kitchen witch,” Jean says, but Jeremy is shaking his head. Jean frowns, not understanding. “But you have a familiar. And the tea, and your plants…” he trails off, watching Jeremy carefully.
“My gram,” Jeremy starts, staring resolutely across the room. “My great, great, great grandmother–was a cloverhand. Like you.” He pauses, lets that sink in. “She caught the eye of one of the daoine sídhe, the fae. He was disguised as human, under glamour probably, but she saw through him instantly. She chose to let him court her, met him every step of the way… and eventually she became one of them.
“He wasn’t the Summer King at the time, but… A couple hundred years later, and he was. And she is Queen. And all of this is to say,” Jeremy takes a deep breath, finally looking at Jean. “That I have faerie blood, and a claim to the Court if I ever wanted it.” Jean’s eyes widen at that, and Jeremy quickly continues, hands held placatingly. “I don’t! I don’t want that, I already have the Trojan Court.”
Jean is silent as his brain scrambles to process this new information. Jeremy isn’t a witch–he’d never been a witch, Jean had just assumed. Jeremy is part fae, with a claim to the Summer Court. He’d used that influence to give Jean a chance.
When Jean doesn’t say anything Jeremy begins to fidget nervously. “Look, you’re probably freaking out, or like–like reading too much into it? But honestly I didn’t do anything, I just told them what they should already fucking know, because it’s your soul, Jean, like what the fuck–“
“Jeremy,” Jean tries to interrupt before the other boy can get too worked up–he was well on his way already.
“Yeah?” Jeremy is looking at him, nervous, and Jean wants to ask him why. Jean wants a lot of things lately, more than he’d ever thought possible–he wonders when that happened.
“Thank you,” is what he says instead.
And Jeremy smiles.
Jean doesn’t open the cage that night, or the night after that, or anytime in the week following. When he finally does it feels almost… too normal. It’s after practice on a Friday; they have no game that weekend, so there’s two days free to themselves. It’s a novel concept, one he never could have foreseen a year ago.
Jeremy is napping on the couch, Cleo snoozing on his stomach. Jean had left them out there to do some work at his desk, but found himself too distracted to get much done. His eyes keep straying to the cage on his desk, on the door and the dove behind it.
Almost before he realizes it he’s crossed the room, fingers twisting the latch; the door springs free. The dove is watching him cautiously, wings fluttering. Jean reaches inside, his hands gently cupped around its wings as he pulls it from the cage. His heart is pounding in his ears. The dove is shaking in his hands, warm and vividly alive. He brings it to his chest and presses it close.
One moment the dove is there, the next Jean’s palms are pressed empty to his chest. He’s notices he’s gasping, knees trembling. It feels like the first breath of air you take when you step outside in winter, like falling back asleep in the morning when there’s nothing to call you out of bed. Jean feels overwhelmed, he feels light, he feels… happy.
“Jean?” he hears Jeremy call sleepily from the living room, and then padded footsteps approach. “I’m sorry,” Jeremy says, rubbing sleepily at his eyes, “I fell asleep in the middle of our conversation, didn’t I? Thesis is just kicking my ass, and with playoffs coming up…” he trails off, noticing the sight in front of him: Jean shaking, the cage open and empty in front of him.
“You did it,” Jeremy whispers, eyes wide. “You did it!” he cheers, rushing forward, throwing an arm across his shoulders, and then Jean is turning into him, hands gripping at his waist and they’re hugging, gripping each other tight. Jeremy is laughing in his ear, and Jean–