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Blue J had always been excitable. Red Jack would tell them stories of when they were a young child and they would flail their arms rapidly whenever they saw a cute animal, and as when they were a little older they would come and find him, bouncing with energy when they came across a plant they had only ever seen in books.

This was a constant that remained as they grew older, they still had that same energy to them, but it began to take different forms. They would bounce up and down on the balls of their feet as they tried to keep their excitement in, but normally they got so enthusiastic that their energy was hard to contain. Normally Blue J would end up pacing around the room, almost skipping as they spoke about what they had found in the woods that day.

‘And then I saw this really cool snail-’ they said as their voice increased in volume along with their enthusiasm, their entire face seeming to light up, ‘Like, it was the absolute best, it had all these patterns I didn’t even know you could get on snails!’

Red Jack just smiled fondly at his child’s enthusiasm. His children normally had some personality to them- of course not all Red Jacks were carbon copies of each other- but Blue J had such an unparalleled enthusiasm when they spoke about their interests, which truly was something he had never come across in any version of himself. Still, that was something that he could think about later, they were still far too young. Yet there was something that settled warmly in his chest at the idea that after all these incarnations maybe, just maybe, this time could be different.

 

When they met Benjamin, Blue J tried to hold back at first. They knew their enthusiasm could come on rather strong, particularly when they met new people. Benjamin was someone they really liked, and they were desperate not to drive him away. So they sat on their hands, and smiled at snails, and tried their absolute best to be utterly appropriate and reserved around Benjamin.

Of course they later realised that such a definition of ‘appropriate’ was absolute nonsense, but they tried their best to keep it up. But one day it made its own way out, as these things always do.

The two of them were out in the woods, Blue J already bursting with energy they always seemed to have when they were outdoors- they didn’t know what caused it, they just knew that this was the environment where they belonged. Blue J had run on ahead a little to scope out the trees- they were looking for one which would be easy enough for Benjamin to climb, and would have enough room for the both of them to sit comfortably. They heard a shout from behind them, ‘Blue! Come and look at this!’

They turned to see Benjamin crouched over something at the edge of a bush and wandered over to join him to see what he had found.

It was a bird, and in her nest there were a whole bunch of tiny baby birds, pieces of cracked shell scattered around.

‘How old do you think they are?’ Benjamin asked, and he already had his notebook out, writing down about the birds he had found.

‘They can’t be more than a couple of days old,’ Blue J peered at the birds- they were so tiny. Birds this young in the wild were rare, and Blue J couldn't believe Benjamin had had the luck to come across them. ‘They’re goldfinches I think, see if you look at this little yellow part here,’ they indicated it to Benjamin who scribbled something in his book. They bounced a little in excitement as they spoke, telling Benjamin of how these birds normally lived in the wild. ‘You know this is really unusual,’ they said, ‘they don’t normally lay eggs at this time of year, it tends to be later on, this is really early. There’s a whole bunch of things that could have caused that.’

Despite what they had feared, Benjamin seemed fascinated in what they had to say, and they relaxed, letting themself open up around him for the first time. Benjamin didn’t care that they were bouncing around in happiness at the sight of the birds, if anything he seemed fondly amused by Blue J’s excitement.

From that moment on, they stopped sitting on their hands and forcing themself to stand still, Benjamin didn’t seem to mind, he was actually interested in what Blue J had to say. That was nice, not being ignored, or told they were talking too much about things no-one cared about. Benjamin was just happy to learn about the birds.

 

Blue J had been incredibly excited to tell Throndir about the flower fox they had befriended, it was so cute and they wanted to show it to everyone. So they ran out after him as they saw him heading off to meet Samot. They wanted to meet Samot too- Benjamin had told them Samot was a god, and Blue J was amazed that such a person would come to their community of all places.

They caught up with Throndir, who thought that the fox was just as cute as Blue J did, even if he was a little confused about how it was made out of flowers. Blue J didn’t think there was anything confusing about that, it was just how the fox was. Everything today had been going well, and they thought that maybe they finally had the confidence to tell him about their gender.

They had told Benjamin ages ago, lying on the floor of the den one night. Blue J had confessed that they weren’t really sure what their gender was- all they knew was that they definitely weren’t a boy- and that they were trying to figure things out. Benjamin had been nothing but supportive to them, and had been almost as enthusiastic as Blue J when they told him about their new pronouns a couple of months later.

They hoped Throndir would have the same reaction- he had no reason not to be supportive, but there was still that twisting feeling of anxiety in their stomach as they reassured him that what they were about to tell him wasn’t a big deal. Even though it was, it really really was. They shifted nervously from foot to foot, their fingers fidgeting as they tried to play off their nerves.

Luckily Throndir was totally fine with it, and though they reacted like they were just proud to be considered the ranger, there was a deep sense of relief that this was alright. They were going to be alright.

 

Blue J had never worn a skirt before, but now that they had one, they were pretty sure they were never going to wear another item of clothing again. Benjamin had given it to them as a gift, for being brave enough to talk to Throndir and then Red Jack about their new pronouns.

‘I know it wasn’t easy,’ he had said to them as he handed Blue J a parcel tied in string, ‘and I thought you might like this, as a coming out present I suppose.’ He continued to ramble as Blue J excitedly ripped open the parcel open to hold up the skirt- ‘I don’t know if that’s making too big a deal of it, it can just be a normal present if you want, you know, not for anything in particular. And don’t worry if you don’t like it, I just thought you didn’t have anything like this and it might be something-’

He was cut off by Blue J embracing him in a hug, and as they pulled away he could see their eyes were shining a little with hints of tears.

‘Shut up, it’s perfect!’ they said with a grin breaking out across their face, as they examined the item in closer detail. ‘Turn around a second, I’m not gonna wait till later to get a chance to wear this thing.’

Benjamin did so, and smiled to himself a little, for he hadn’t been sure if it was too much, if he was overstepping at all, if Blue J even wanted to wear a skirt. But Blue J loved it, the bright smile on their face made him so happy. He wanted to make Blue J smile like that forever.

‘Benjamin, look!’ He turned around to see Blue J had put the skirt on, and he almost breathed a sigh of relief that it fitted them. He had made it with the help of Rosana, and he would have hated to have sewn the skirt the wrong size. Blue J twirled a little in the skirt, smiling at how it billowed out as they did that.

‘It’s so perfect! Thank you, thank you, thank you!’ they repeated over and over as they continued to twirl around excitedly, the skirt swishing around their legs. ‘Oh look it even has pockets!’

 

Two days later the initial excitement of the skirt had still not worn off. Blue J had shown it to everyone they knew.

‘Look what Benjamin made me!’ they had told everyone, for they were still amazed that he would go to all that time and effort to sew something for them.

It was a wonderful skirt: dark blue in colour, it was long enough that they wouldn’t get cold and loose enough that they could run through the woods without it getting in the way. The wool was slightly textured, and they had taken to running their fingers over it as they thought, the rough texture comforting on their skin. The thick leather waistband also had several loops where they could keep tools, which was very useful- Benjamin truly had thought of everything.

Blue J was a little worried that Throndir might make them change for when they went out into the woods hunting- which they knew was a silly fear, they had seen hunters in skirts before, why would it be any different when it was them- but when they asked him nervously if they could keep the skirt on for the day, he just smiled and told them of course they could.

‘I’m glad you’ve found something that you’re that happy wearing,’ he said gesturing to their grin that had not gone away the entire time they had been wearing the skirt. `When I was your age- maybe a bit older- and I went to Velas for the first time, I bought this lovely formal cloak that I refused to take off for weeks on end. It was the first time I felt like my clothing was properly reflecting who I was. I know how you feel.’

It took a few moments for what Throndir was implying to click in Blue J’s head, they had never been the best at understanding subtlety and hidden meanings, but when it dawned on them what he was saying- ‘Oh, oh, you’re?’ they cursed their lack of tact, they didn’t know how to ask in a way that wasn’t invasive and prying but they also wanted to make sure they hadn’t misread the conversation.

‘Yep,’ Throndir said, cutting in before they had to figure out how to phrase it. ‘There’s a lot more of us here than you’d think here at the Last University, you’re not alone in this.’ Blue J felt a warmth fill their chest at those words. It was similar to the feeling when Throndir had accepted them, but this was better. He understood, he knew.

They didn’t know what to say, so they just picked their bow up from where it hung on the wall and got ready to head out, ‘Shall we go?’ they asked, bouncing on their feet, excited to head out into the woods, and feeling some kind of newfound connection to Throndir over what they had in common.

 

Benjamin had always been happy to listen to Blue J’s excited ramblings about nature, and sometimes they felt bad that he had to sit through all this stuff he probably didn’t care about. They both had a lot to say about the Last University and the people in it- notably whatever weird thing their parents were up to that week- but Blue J noticed that Benjamin never seemed to talk to them about the magic they were always reading about.

‘So what’s that about?’ they asked one day, gesturing to the book that Benjamin was reading, an old thing.

‘Oh it’s just some stuff on protective enchantments- you can do some really amazing things with them, some of this stuff is so simple but it just never occured to me to try it. I don’t want to bore you with it though, don’t worry about it’ But as he said that, Blue J recognised the look on his face as one they had worn themself so many times.

‘How many times have you listened to me tell you about trees Ben, if you want to explain it to me go ahead. I can’t promise I’ll understand any of the technical stuff but if it makes you happy..’ they trailed off, tilting their head a little.

‘Okay then,’ Benjamin said, shutting his book with a snap, and started gesturing to Blue J ‘So, before we get to that stuff, I should go over the basics of protection spells.’

As they had suspected, they didn’t entirely understand everything Benjamin was telling them, but they found they didn’t mind. They way his face lit up as he showed them how to expand the range of a spell was more important than understanding every word. And when Blue J stopped him to ask him to go over part of it that they hadn’t entirely understood, he was happy to go over it again and again until they understood the concept. Benjamin had said that casting spells took a long time to learn and that they shouldn’t rush into it- and Blue J was reminded of the less than ideal effects of some of Benjamin’s earlier spells- but if they wanted to keep learning he could teach them some basics that might help them out in the woods. They had never really considered learning magic before, it was Benjamin’s thing, and they hadn’t had much interest in it. But they liked being taught by Benjamin, who was clearly enjoying it too, and having a couple of spells up their sleeve that could help them as the ranger couldn’t be a bad thing.

They took some more time to chat after Blue J’s mind started drifting more and more and they started to fidget where they were sitting.

‘It’s fine, we can always come back to it tomorrow if you want,’ Benjamin reassured them when they apologised. ‘We’ve got plenty of other things to talk about, if you want to call it a day with the magic?’

Blue J was thankful that he understood, some of their teachers hadn’t been so accommodating, but this was Benjamin, of course he was. So their topic of conversation reverted back to Samot and Samol, who they had been discussing for days on end at this point. It still felt like something out of a storybook, the strange man who had turned up for a few nights, played the best music either of them had ever heard and then gave his life to Samot. Benjamin had been through a whole conversation with him without knowing he was a god, and Blue J would not stop bugging him for details of what the old man had been like in person.

By the time they left to go back to their own rooms it was darker than either of them had expected; clearly they had been talking for far longer than they had realised.

‘My mum’s going to be so mad at me,’ Benjamin said with a laugh as he walked Blue J back to their room. ‘Anyway, magic lesson two tomorrow?’ He said with a grin so wide that Blue J had to smile in return.

‘Of course,’ they said, ‘how about magic lessons in return for me teaching you how to hunt?’

‘With a bow? I should never be trusted with one of those things.’

As he left, Blue J gave him a brief hug, and the pair continued to shout back and forth until Benjamin was out of view. When he opened the door, Red Jack was sitting in an armchair, reading a book and they instantly felt a wave of guilt at the idea that he had been waiting up for them to return. But when they told him they had been with Benjamin, all he said was, ‘He was the one who gave you that skirt right?’ And Blue J beamed at the reminder of the wonderful gift. ‘He make you happy?’

‘The happiest.’