Fjord hated getting a new foster family. It meant a new house to get used to, and a new school, with new teachers and new kids - only to be told three months later, or whatever, that he was ‘too much trouble’ with ‘too much orc blood’ or whatever the excuse was, and he’d be right back at the orphanage (in his old bed, at his old school, with the old kids who never failed to remind him that he wasn’t wanted).
At the rate he was going, he’d age out of the system before getting adopted - sometimes he thought he might prefer that, because families were bullshit if you weren’t born into them, apparently, because no one had to care about you if you weren’t their blood.
(Too much orc-blood, they say. Too many fights.)
So Fjord was hesitant to trust this new foster father - Vandren, or whatever his name was. Vandren who spoke with a slow, easy drawl; who called Fjord ‘kiddo’ and clapped him on his shoulder; who looked at him with an unreadable look on his face when Fjord called him ‘Sir’ with no prompting (because that’s what you did in a new foster home - you were polite, you were quiet, you kept your head down and prayed to anyone who would listen that this time you lasted longer than however many months you were at the last place).
“If you want to call me ‘Sir’, you can. But you can also call me Vandren. Or ‘Captain’.”
“Captain?” Fjord asked, then fought to keep the flinch from his face. You never questioned the new foster parent.
Vandren had just grinned at him. “Let me show you.”
The Tides’ Breath was a gorgeous boat, all sleek lines and smooth wood, docked at the private dock at the edge of Vandren’s home.
“She’s a bit big to be run by one man,” Vandren was saying as he showed Fjord around the boat, and Fjord drank it all in with wide-eyed wonder. “But I manage it just fine - I take her out every morning to go fishing. You ever been fishing, Fjord?”
“No, Sir, never.”
“Let’s get you settled up at the house, and this weekend I’ll take you out on the water. I warn you though - I get up mighty early. Gotta wake up before the fish do.” He chuckled the last part out, as thought it was a joke he’d been saying for years, and Fjord just nodded.
“I can get up early, Sir.”
Vandren smiled at him. “I trust you for it. I vote we have pizza for supper tonight, since it’s a special occasion, and all.” Fjord pried his eyes away from the boat to look at Vandren, and all he could do was nod. “Good lad. C’mon, let’s get you unpacked.”
Fjord followed him off the boat, up the dock and up toward the house, and he only looked back at the boat on the water once.
Fjord was almost grateful that Vandren had a list of rules for the house, and baffled that there were so few - call if he was going to be home later than eight; his chores were washing dishes and taking the garbage bin to the curb on Sunday nights, though if he wanted to make some extra money mowing the lawn and raking up leaves, he was welcome to; make sure his homework was finished and his chores taken care of before going out with his friends (Fjord had just barely managed to stop himself from laughing in Vandren’s face at that one - what friends?); and he was allowed three mental health days a month, but he and Vandren needed to talk about it, and if he couldn’t talk to Vandren, he needed to go to a counselor - “There ain’t nothing wrong with needing a little help getting your head on straight, Fjord, and if you can’t talk to me, I need you to talk to someone, okay? Don’t struggle through that on your own.”
Fjord had agreed, but he couldn't deny that the idea got his hackles up - Fjord had a social worker that he was supposed to talk to, but Bryce was overworked and underpaid and Fjord always felt guilty making trouble for them. Better to just deal with things on his own than bother them - and now Vandren, because this kindness couldn't last forever.
Fjord just had to keep his head down, and his mouth shut.
The worst part - the absolute worst part - of a new foster home was starting a new school.
Especially when he had to start in the middle of the school year.
Vandren had been right about one thing - he woke up very early, before sunrise even, and Fjord woke up early, but not that early. Which left him to get to school by himself - which was fine, really, because Fjord was a junior in high school and didn't need someone to hold his hand to get shit done. Even if he wanted someone there to hold his hand.
He was fine. He could do this.
He was fine.
(He was not fine. He wanted to throw up.)
Of course the first thing he managed to do walking through the halls trying to get to his first class of the day was knock someone over (Too tall, he was too tall, his limbs were never where they belonged-!) and he was gonna get in trouble his first day at school if he didn’t do something fast. “I’m so sorry-!”
“It’s all right - I wasn’t looking where I was going,” the boy on the floor said, sitting up.
Fjord held out his hand. “Here, lemme help you up-”
The kid looked up as he grabbed Fjord’s hand, and Fjord found himself staring into the most startlingly blue eyes he’d ever seen before in his life - the guy’s face wasn’t half bad looking, either...
Fjord tugged the kid to his feet, and forced himself to let go of his hand so he wasn’t standing in the middle of the hall on his first day of school holding a strange boy’s hand in a way that would get them both jumped.
(head down, mouth shut…)
“I, uh, I’m real sorry I knocked you down - you didn’t lose nothin’, did you?” Fjord didn’t give himself a moment to stop and question why or when he had started mimicking Vandren’s accent - if he stopped now, he’d have to explain it away in the first place, and then he was just the weird kid who mimicked accents when he was nervous and-
“Ah, no. I am fine,” the other boy tucked his hair behind his ears. “You are new here, yes?”
“How’d you know that?”
The red-head gave a quick smile (oh no) and wrapped his arms tighter around his books. “It’s two months into the school year and I’ve never seen you around before today. In addition to that-” He jerked his chin at Fjord’s schedule still in his hand. “Most everyone’s memorized their schedules by now. So, you have a pristine class schedule, and there’s not so many half-orcs at this school that anyone could mistake you for someone else.”
“By not so many you mean just plain ‘any’, huh?” Fjord sighed. Sticking out like a sore thumb again. “Well, sorry again for knocking you over, uh-”
“Caleb. Caleb Widogast.” Caleb smiled at him again, and Fjord felt like he was gonna swallow his tongue.
“I, ah, I’m Fjord.”
“Hallo, Fjord. What is your first class?” Fjord just handed over his schedule, and Caleb looked it over. “Oh - you have class with Jester. Come, this way, I’ll walk you.”
Fjord took back his schedule, wide eyed, and followed Caleb through the crowded halls of the school, only half paying attention to where he was going. “I don’t wanna make you late for class, Caleb-”
“Do not worry yourself about that. I will deliver you to Jester, and she will take care of you.”
“She is very friendly,” Caleb continued. “She can guide you around the school and introduce you to people.”
“You seem to be doing just fine on that front.”
Caleb stopped in front of a door and gave Fjord another quick, closed-mouthed smile. “Trust me, Jester is much better at it. Here you are - try to sit near the blue Tiefling.”
A blue Tiefling named Jester? What were the odds- “What?”
But Caleb had turned around and vanished into the crowd, leaving Fjord standing in front of the classroom door utterly baffled at what just happened.
When he walked into the classroom just as the second bell toned, he felt all eyes in the classroom on him - except for the blue Tiefling in the back, who was sketching in her notebook and giggling to herself.
“Are you lost?” The teacher asked, her voice sharp, and Fjord shook his head, prying his eyes away from his old friend.
“No, ma'am,” he said, still using Vandren's accent. “I, ah, I just transferred in. My name's Fjord.”
The dwarf woman stared at him for a long moment before looking at her papers. “Ah, there you are. All right, Fjord, er… there seems to be an error on my attendance sheet-”
Fjord knew what the error was. It wasn’t an error at all.
Orcs without clans, even half-orcs, don’t have a family name.
“Ah-” He coughed and cleared his throat, pitching his voice low. “No. It’s right.”
The dwarf woman stared at him for a long moment. “I see. Well, go sit next to Jester - raise your hand, Jester.”
The blue Tiefling girl’s head snapped up as her hand shot in the air. “Present, Miss Norda!”
“Yes, Jester, I’m aware- you know what, never mind. Just go sit next to her. I’m sure someone will lend you their notes if you can’t read Jester’s.”
Fjord wanted to ask her what she meant by that, but instead walked to the back of the room and took the empty desk next to Jester. She had a shockingly pink backpack, and dancing donuts on the skirt of her green dress, and he wanted to laugh. That much hadn’t changed, at least. “Of all the places to run into each other again,” He said to her, grinning as Jester practically bounced out of her seat to give him a tight hug. “Hey, Jessie.”
“Omigosh, omigosh, omigosh! Fjord!” Jester squealed in his ear as she hugged him so tight he thought a rib might crack. “I can’t believe we’re finally going to school together!”
“You two know each other?” Miss Norda asked sharply. “I’m not going to regret putting you two together, am I?”
“Not at all, ma’am,” Fjord said with his arm still around Jester’s shoulders. “It’s just been a few years since we’ve seen each other.”
“Say hello later - I have a lesson to get through and we only have so much time.”
“Sorry, Miss Norda!” Jester let Fjord go and sat back down as Fjord sat next to her.
“Fjord, why are you talking weird - this isn’t your accent at all,” Jester whispered as she moved their desks closer together.
“That’s a long story,” Fjord whispered, before making the mistake of looking down at Jester’s notes, and covering up his snort of laughter by clearing his throat. He understood what Miss Norda meant by ‘if he could read’ Jester’s notes - they were all taken in different colors of ink, ranging from dark green to eye-searingly bright neon pink. But what had really caught his attention was the doodles in the margins - Miss Norda standing on an upside down box that read “apples” as she yelled at a much taller Tiefling person shaded in sparkling purple ink, a pink haired firbolg with a cup of something hot, and the thing that had caused him to laugh in the first place: a series of alarmingly accurate-looking penises, both flaccid and erect.
He looked back up at her face to see her grinning at him, eyes glittering with delight. “My art’s gotten way better.”
“Clearly.” Fjord shook his head even as he grinned, and Miss Norda cleared her throat to begin teaching.
Jester pushed her notes closer to Fjord, helpfully pointing out the relevant information in them to what Miss Norda was talking about. “I’ll let you copy everything later,” She said as the bell for the next period rang. “Give me your schedule.”
Fjord handed the piece of paper over to her, watching as she looked at it carefully and seemed to be cross referencing it with something in her phone. “Um, Jester-”
“Oh! You have classes with my friends!” She pointed on his schedule as she seemed to be editing her phone’s calendar as she talked. “See? You have Gym with Beau - she’s kind of grumpy but really she’s super nice, trust me - and History with Caleb and Yasha - Caleb is suuuper smart, he can help you with whatever you don’t understand, and Yasha is also really nice, but she’s also kinda quiet unless Molly’s with her, so don’t be offended if she, like, monosyllables at you, that’s just her - and Chemistry with-”
“Jester, are you planning on making all your friends look after me like I’m some kid?”
She gave him a baffled look. “Uh, yeah? Friends help each other out, and you looked so lost walking into class.”
Fjord sighed. “Great…”
“Don’t worry - I just started here last year! Beau was super nice to me, and I introduced her to Caleb and Nott-”
“Nott! You have Chemistry with her.”
Fjord rubbed at his temple where his scar was. “Oh boy.”
And that was how Fjord met The Mighty Nein.
Jester had been waiting for him outside of his Sylvan Language class, rocking from her heels to her toes and back again. “Hello, Fjord!”
“Hey, Jes,” he said with a half smile. The day already felt too long, with Jester having sent out a group text to her friends to tell them to keep 'on the look out’ for him, and help him out if he needed it, which was just embarrassing even though he had ended up needing it.
“Ready for lunch?”
“Yeah - listen, Jessie, can we- I wanna explain the accent before you tell everyone that I talk completely different.”
Jester tilted her head, the jewelry connecting her horn to her earring jingling. “Fjord. You said it was a long story, so I kind of figured you didn't want it blabbed all over school.”
It was a little satisfying to know his poor lonely kid memories hadn't made Jester kinder than she was. “...thanks, Jes. You're gonna laugh at me, 'cause it's real dumb.”
She linked her arm with his as they walked. “It can't be any dumber than that time Beau broke her arm trying to impress Yasha.”
“I, uh, knocked over Caleb.”
Jester squeezed his arm. “He mentioned he had bumped into you earlier.”
“Yeah, no, that was literal.” Fjord ran his free hand through his hair as he sighed. “And… you remember that old family I was with. How I got in trouble for every little thing, my fault or not?”
Jester's normally sunny disposition darkened for a moment as she nodded. “Those fucks. I remember.”
“I'm with a new family now, but I don't… really know how he'll react if I get in trouble for fighting. He seems nice enough, but. They all do, in the beginning.”
“You wouldn't get in trouble for fighting - it's Caleb,” Jester rolled her eyes. Fjord liked the way she said Caleb's name, drawing it out to “Cay-leb”. “He said it to me himself that he ran into you because he was reading and walking.”
“I didn't know that at the time, Jes. And, well - I was all 'shit shit, I need him to not make a fuss!’ and 'shit fuck how do I make him not kick up a fuss?!’ and Vandren - my new foster father, his name's Vandren - well, people like him, he's real personable, and I guess I just started subconsciously using his accent? And by the time I realized I was doing it, Caleb and I were already having, like, a conversation and he was smiling at me. And it would've been weird if I suddenly started talking completely different, and then I'd be the weirdo who mimics accents when he's nervous, and then I used it with the teacher and now I've just dug myself into a right fucking mess of a hole.”
Jester patted his arm. “Aww, Fjord… it's okay. I will keep your secret, and you won't have to admit to Caleb that you think he's so pretty you forgot your accent.”
Fjord flushed. “I never said-”
“Fjord, you got flustered because he smiled at you. You think he's pretty.”
“... don't tell?”
Jester grinned and kissed his cheek the way she used to when they were small. “I will keep your secrets, don't worry.”
It wasn't that Fjord was baffled that Jester had so many friends, because Jester was practically the embodiment of sunshine as far as Fjord was concerned, but that Jester's friends had just accepted him being there without issue.
Maybe it was because they were all kinda weird in their own ways - Nott was a Goblin, for starters, with a penchant for petty theft; Mollymauk (“Molly to my friends, darling,” he had said with an over the top wink and a jingle of horn jewelry) was the purple Tiefling from Jester's notes who wore the most horrifying clashing of patterns and colors, and apparently had no recollection of anything before the past two years; Yasha was easily one of the tallest people in school, with hair that faded from black to white and a gorgeous case of heterochromia.
(“Uh, she's a lesbian, my dude,” Beau had said when Fjord commented on it.
“Heterochromia means her eyes are two different colors, Beauregard.”
“Oh. I knew that.”)
Caduceus was another member of Jester's friend group that Fjord recognized from her sketches: a towering, if skinny, Firbolg with a pink mohawk and a morbidly zen outlook on life whose family tended a graveyard and sold specialty tea blends on the internet.
Beauregard (“Just Beau. Only Caleb is allowed to call me Beauregard, because he's a douchenozzle.” Which made no sense to Fjord, but he wasn't about to ask about it) wore workout gear and apparently only workout gear, had a killer undercut, and apparently also studied at the Cobalt Soul, which Fjord had thought was a library, not a martial arts school, but maybe he was wrong. “I'm a lesbian, too, for the record.”
Fjord gave her a blank look before giving her a thumbs up. “Sweet.”
She narrowed her eyes at him, but then nodded as though he had passed some kind of test.
“Anyway, you guys, Fjord and I were friends when we were little but then he had to move away because his foster family were dicks,” Jester said, splitting her dessert with Fjord like they were nine years old again. He had already given her half of his fries from his lunch without thinking about it - some habits just died hard, he guessed, even if you hadn’t done them in years.
Beau and Yasha nodded, like they got it, and Fjord took a bite of sandwich to avoid talking about it.
“Anyway, I was thinking we could hang out at my place after school today!” Jester was saying, her tail swishing happily. “You can come too, can’t you, Fjord?”
Jester turned to him, violet eyes wide and guileless, and he was immediately suspicious. “What are you planning, Jessie?”
“A get together with my friends, Fjord.”
Fjord took a large bite of pastry. “...all right, I'm in.”
Jester's house was just as pretty as he remembered, and Jester had already informed Marion about Fjord's “fucking hilarious” voice issue.
Marion had hugged him tight and kissed his cheek, before telling them they had run of the den and retiring upstairs.
“Hey, Fjord, remember when you called Mama 'Maid Marion’ when we were little and thought she was a secret runaway princess?” Jester teased, elbowing him as Beau and Molly laughed, and Caleb his a grin.
Fjord lifted his nose into the air. “I stand by what I said.”
“Uh huh. Anyway, let's play truth or dare!”
“Truth or Dare? Really?” Beau asked, voice flat. “What is this, middle school?”
Jester huffed. “What better way to get to know people than truth or dare?”
“...I'm not doing this without booze.”
And so Fjord watched as sodas and booze were mixed, though Jester had straight soda and Caduceus had tea, of all things. Fjord stuck with a straight soda himself - he didn't want to do anything that would make Vandren angry or suspicious.
Fjord stuck with picking truth - that seemed safe enough when dares like 'drink this!’ and ‘backflip off the second floor balcony!’ and 'let me do your make up!’ were being thrown around.
So Fjord got questions like 'how long have you known Jester?’ and 'what's your favorite dessert?’ and ‘what’s the most embarrassing Fjord kept his truth questions tame and his dares fairly easy.
Until Jester grinned at him, and Fjord felt a prickle of dread creep down his spine. “Oh Fjoooooooord?”
“Truth or Dare!”
He looked around at the others and sighed - even Caleb had done a dare, which had involved setting a drink on fire and Caleb downing it while still ablaze. “Dare.”
The delighted look on her face told Fjord all he needed about what Jester had planned. “I dare you to kiss Caleb!”
“Oh shit, kiss dares already?” Molly murmured to Beau. “I thought she'd wait until we were way drunker than that…”
Fjord couldn't even bring himself to feel betrayed, because just because she had dared him to kiss Caleb didn't mean that everyone knew about his crush on a boy who he barely spoke five words to. “ I'm not kissing Caleb unless he's okay with me kissing him. If not, pick a different dare.”
Caduceus nodded, seeming weirdly proud of Fjord for saying that as Nott looked ready to slit his throat.
Did Nott have a crush on Caleb?
Caleb cleared his throat. “I, ah, I am all right with kissing. It's fine.”
Fjord could feel his face heat up and his heart race as he stood up and moved over to Caleb, bending down to bring their faces closer together before closing his eyes and pressing his lips to Caleb's.
Caleb's lips were chapped, and his skin warm, and Fjord gasped when he felt Caleb's tongue lick along Fjord's bottom lip before slipping into Fjord's mouth, and Fjord knew he was a goner - his kissing experience was limited to one other boy, and Caleb seemed to know what he was doing. Or, at least, had a better idea of it than Fjord.
Fjord pressed closer into the kiss, unwilling to let it end as Caleb slid a hand into Fjord's hair, though Fjord was knocked into Caleb's lap when Beau kicked at Caleb's chair.
“Caleb, stop being a thirsty bitch! The dare was just for one kiss!”
Caleb flushed, but he looked up at Fjord through his lashes and smiled. “We can continue this later, ja?”
Fjord nodded, swallowing hard.
He was so fucked.