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Smoke in the Hand: A 5+1 of Jacob Kowalski

Chapter Text

The sound of rain had lulled Jacob to sleep. He couldn’t get the window to shut all the way, so he left it open the scant few inches, stuffed with newspaper to keep the damp and chill out.

“I’ll let you say goodbye,” a woman’s voice had said. The queen with a golden crown.

Jacob’s sleeping mind didn’t give him much. Just shadows of people, two darker forms, one brown as a leather shoe and one grey like a stone building; them and the golden angel that he had been dreaming about for three days straight.

The sensation of sadness was a weight on his chest. Even in sleep, sorrow was a frequent friend.

“I’ll come with you!” his angel had said.

She stepped closer to him, her voice soft and sweet. Her inner light literally shone and blotted out almost all of the odd smoky shadows wavering at the edges of his vision. They were on the stairs, the four of them. Like they were getting off a subway ride he couldn’t remember taking.

“We’ll go somewhere-we’ll go anywhere,” she stammers, ”I ain’t never gonna find anyone like-”
“There’s loads like me,” Jacob interrupted her, his voice as watery as the rain falling just beyond the safety of the subway entrance.
“No,” the angel gave Jacob a heartbroken smile. He could finally see some of her. Her eyes were bluer than the sky after a summer storm. Bright blue. Not like Mildred’s; deeper, different. This dame was strength and moxie. All light, hope, and everything beautiful in two eyes that even sapphires would be jealous of.
“No... There’s only one like you.” She said it like she could hear his thoughts.

Maybe angels could read minds? He wouldn’t mind-heh-her doing it. So long as she kept smiling at him like he was something special. Her smile spread just that little bit wider, even as he could see the tears gathering in her beautiful blue eyes.

“I gotta go.” He said and walked backward. Away from them, away from the friends he had fought for.
The three of them smiled at him. Or at least they did as best they could; they were as heartbroken as Jacob was and it made him feel just a little bit better.

Jacob still didn’t quite get to see the features of the dove grey woman or the leather-brown man. They were both little more than vague people-like shapes in his memory, but Jacob wanted to cling to them all the same. His golden angel he wanted to remember the most. The one with the blue eyes he had finally remembered. With a small sigh, Jacob looked up to the sky. For a moment all he saw was the grey-blue clouds streaked rosy red with the breaking dawn.

The Kiss. Their kiss. The angel and him-he didn’t see it coming.

The rain that made everything start to waver around the edges also made him close his eyes. If there were tears with the rain, no one would be the wiser. But then, the rain had stopped for a moment and Jacob knew it was her. She had an umbrella in one hand, shielding them both from the rain. With her free hand, the angel stroked Jacob’s face tenderly. Jacob took a deep breath, willing himself to keep his eyes shut. He couldn’t grab at her, keep her close, but by God did he want to. She smelled like home, honey-sweet perfume, and just a little bit like attic dust. He wanted to bottle the scent, keep it close to his heart. Her lips brushed across his and it felt like being kissed by lightning itself.

It was simply... Magical.

And then there was nothing but the sound of rain and Jacob was awake again in his own little apartment.

Awake. Alone.

* — * — * — * — * — * — * — * — * — * — * — * — * — * — * — * — * — * — * — * — * — *

Mildred hurried towards him, her blond curls bouncing. Her breath was a cloud dancing past her unpainted lips.
“Hiya. Millie,” Jacob smiled, wanting to feel the blossom of warmth when she pressed her lips to his.
He wanted it to.
“You look swell.” There wasn’t anything, not even a ping. It didn’t feel like love anymore when he kissed her.
“Thanks!” Mildred beamed at him. “Didja get the bank loan?” she asked, grabbing one of his hands in both of hers.

It was almost two weeks until Christmas and Jacob had been having the strange, lonely, sweet dreams for five days straight now. The same amount of time he had been avoiding Millie.

“No,” Jacob admitted. Just that one word and he saw whatever it was he thought they had finish shattering like a window.
Millie’s smile fell like a dropped egg and her grasp went limp on his hand.
“You,” she swallowed, her brow furrowing. “You didn’t?”
“No,” he repeated. “But, I’m gonna keep trying, Millie,” he tried to assure her. “I just need some collateral and the bank will give me the loan.”
“I don’t wanna be a canner’s wife, Jacob,” Millie frowned at him. “And you’re not gonna be a baker. This was your last chance.” She shook her head sadly. “You promised…”
Jacob let her slide her hand away. He wasn’t sure what to say. “Millie…” he started. Trying was better than empty air.
“I guess I better give you this back,” Millie said. She slid the ring he had given her off her finger and held it out. “Maybe it’ll help you with your collateral.”
“Millie,” Jacob tried again. “I-you can’t just-”
“G’bye, Jacob,” Millie turned away. “Good luck to ya.” She sniffled and hurried away.

As if on cue, what should have been snow spat in a pathetic drizzle.

For a moment, Jacob wished he had an umbrella or that the rain would wash all of his loneliness away. Because now, every time it rains, Jacob remembers a pair of sad eyes and a kiss that makes his lips tingle like static, like magic.

Chapter Text

Jacob knew something was wrong. Not wrong. Off. He wasn’t supposed to be there...
Wherever ‘there’ actually is.

It took a moment for his dream-self to realize where he is. There was debris everywhere. The air was cold, colder than just December in the subway. Deeper, to the bone. And the cold was coming from the wall behind him, not ripping down the stairwell in a gust of scarf-stealing wind.

“It’s Credence, isn’t it?” Jacob said to someone, something behind him.
There were people standing on the subway platform, holding weapons. An angel was standing up there, too, holding a briefcase. He couldn’t see her face, but he could see the warm golden light shining from her like the sun. Everything was choked with black smoke, but there’s no fire raging. There was no soot burning his lungs and it was still freezing behind him.

Jacob was scared.

Why was he on the tracks? What if a train came through? His heart was beating a wild rhythm in his chest. He was so damn scared, for him, for his friends.
Wait. What friends?
He couldn’t look away from the people on the platform, but he knew just on the edge of his vision there were two more people he was also trying to protect. Friends. But who? Who?

“I’m Jacob,” he had said to whoever was behind him. “Nice to meetcha.”
“Move,” one of the men above him commanded. The guy kicked out at the smoke that was crawling across the ground. fruitlessly.
“Nah,” Jacob shot back with confidence. He knew he was standing between an innocent and certain death. He wasn’t moving while he was still breathing.

The cold fluctuated, growing stronger for a moment, as one of the people he stood against raised her weapon. The smoke swallowed his vision for a moment, leaving nothing but the faint glow of the angel on the platform. It retreated, and for a moment he saw a flash of a large green bird-thing. Another flicker of memory, one after the other: a smiling face with soft blue eyes, falling rain, and the scream of something with too many wings. A hole in the ceiling of the subway, the city half torn to ribbons by some monster. Then he was back standing in the subway, heart pounding fiercely in his chest.

‘Why?’ he asked himself. ‘What is going on?’
His dreaming mind didn’t answer.
“Just take my hand, buddy,” Jacob had said. He was trying to sound friendly, calm.
Like he was back in Europe trying to coax a kid from a corner of a bomb-ravaged building.
“Take my hand.”
The cloud of smoke had pulled back. It was just barely dancing at the edge of his vision. He thought it might have been a good sign.
“You doin’ okay down there, honey?” It was a woman’s voice that had asked the question.
It was the angel. The one that looked like home and light.
“Better than I was in France.” He felt the golden woman smile, still couldn’t see her face. He remembered cocoa, music playing faintly. He remembered feeling dizzy with fever and wonder, his neck hurting.

“Destroy it!”
The woman who had given the command was tall, dark, fierce. She was dressed like a queen, but Jacob wasn’t bowing to her. They were talking about whatever was behind him. Whoever. He hadn’t moved, had no intention moving. Jacob knew that. The golden angel had been scared for him, for them all. Even without being able to recall her face, he had known her thoughts.

“Over my cooling corpse,” Jacob had said. “Youse can kill me if you want the kid.” He had meant it. He wouldn’t have said it if he didn’t mean it.
A flash, the cry of -- it was a bird -- the thing with too many wings.
‘Who names a bird Frank?’ his mind wondered.

A snake the size of a room had darted across his vision, a flash of a dark room and a teapot clutched in small hands. And then Jacob was back standing on the platform behind a man. The man spun around with his weapon drawn, only to be clocked by Jacob’s solid right cross that sent him sprawling.
“What a bonehead,” Jacob heard himself say as he handed off the weapon to the angel. “Ain’t no one better than anyone else.”
“Your hand, honey!” The angel had rubbed a soft hand over his knuckles. She was still barely more than a golden glow in human form, but he hadn’t been frightened.
“Eh. He deserved it,” Jacob had shrugged. “But I ain’t sorry.”
And he still wasn’t. But why?
The angel had his hand clasped in hers and the bad guy, whoever he was, was chained on the floor with a white glowing rope.

The world tilted for a moment, the sound of rain and the smell of perfume swirling across his sleeping mind.

Jacob looked over when there was a scream from near the tracks.
The rail-thin boy, he was the source.
A terrible noise was escaping out of his open mouth. His scream was cloaked in billowing smoke, black and red like hellfire. The howl of agony went on for way too long for the kid’s poor lungs.
It echoed, distorted.

His dreaming mind stretched the wail of the boy unnaturally, like an air raid siren as visions of a smoke-choked bar and a grizzled man that was barely as tall as his knee flickered in the darkness. The pointed-eared crooner singing at the microphone bore the scream as well, more black smoke pouring from her mouth to swirl around him.

The black blotted out everything, the whole place. A strudel went floating past him, making itself in mid-air. A snippet of a song played, layering over the scream with the laughter of women, with a man calling his name until everything suddenly stopped. The cloud of darkness hovered over a section of the unbroken roof, like a storm cloud. The kid fell back into someone’s arms, deathly pale and barely breathing.

‘Credence,’ he remembered. ‘This is Credence.’
“This,” his nameless friend gathered up the smoke with a wave of his hand. “This you can kill.”
“Is he going to be okay?” some guy had asked the other person, woman? The other one who wasn’t clear, an angel like the golden one, but softer, dove grey to the other’s gold.
“Is he going to live?”
“I don’t know.”

‘Credence,’ his mind whispered. ‘You saved Credence.’

* — * — * — * — * — * — * — * — * — * — * — * — * — * — * — * — * — * — * — * — * — *

Jacob Kowalski woke up on the 9th of December feeling like he was missing something. It was a Thursday, not quite yet dawn. He woke up with the echoes of dream keeping his heart and mind racing.

“I’m Jacob, Credence, Jacob Kowalski. Nice to meetcha.” He’s afraid, doesn’t quite remember why.
Jacob stares at the wall of the subway tunnel, willing himself to remember.
A woman bumps into him and he barely registers it.
“Just take my hand, buddy,” he had said. “See?” Jacob says to the boy behind him. “...just waiting for you to get yourself back. You can do it,” his tone was cajoling, gentle. His memory is fragmented. There’s more there, but he can’t get past the headache to pull it together.
“You’re doing so well,” a woman’s voice had said.
There was arguing, flashes like a hundred camera lights going off, or fireworks of red, white, and blue.
“Hey, buddy!” Jacob snapped from just behind the man who nearly killed them all.


There was a man in a black suit to his left, Jacob noticed. Too well-fed to be the boy. But who was Credence? Who was the angel?

“What is going on?!” Jacob asked himself aloud.

Chapter Text

This dream wasn’t lonely. It was crowded. But for once there wasn’t rain!

There was dust floating around everywhere. And jewels dripping off some weird little fuzzy, duck-billed butterball of a creature. More rocks shining, half of them the size of quarters and more than he’d ever seen in his whole life. A line of dancing cops threaten to shoot them for a second, then popped into rubies and diamonds that rained down onto the sidewalk like snow. Jacob turns, trying to figure out where he’s at.

Christmas trees and shining baubles dance by Jacob, jingling a Christmas tune merrily. A conga line of colanders wearing blond wigs follow and Jacob blinks and he’s standing in an attic. Boxes of dishes are everywhere and the weirdest looking monkey is staring straight at him. It’s not his friend, but it’s friendly. And now it’s holding onto him like a frightened toddler.

He looks around: again, his angel is there, taking cover behind a box. She’s turned a colander into a makeshift helmet. And the dove grey lady is there, and the leather brown man.
The man has a wide smile, Jacob suddenly knows, and freckles. He’s the one that has a suitcase just like Jacob’s. Or maybe Jacob’s is just like his? His dreaming mind can’t quite figure that conundrum out.

“So what’s it doing now?” The dove grey woman is whispering. Her hair is dark, a cute bob that looks nice on her. Her coat is grey, Jacob finally realizes.
“It’s babysitting,” the leather brown man answers.
They’re talking about the funny monkey thing, Jacob knows. Jacob blinks again and he’s feeding cows with the leather brown man beside him.

“I’m...I’m dreaming right?” Jacob hears himself say. “Yeah...I’m tired. I never went to the bank.”
Another blink and he’s watching a silver egg hatch. He’s in the bank vault, the leather brown man beside him. Cops raise their guns and another blink and he’s on the sidewalk.
“This is all just some big nightmare, right?” Jacob says.
“For the both of us, Mr. Kowalski,” the dove grey woman replies.

Jacob rears his head back, suddenly feeling like his throat is on fire, dizzy with fever for a moment as dishes, silverware, and glasses fly out of nowhere and make a table. And then a strudel is baking in mid-air, smelling like heaven, before him.
“Well, sit down, Mr. Scamander,” one of the women says, “we’re not going to poison you.”
‘Newt, his name is Newt Scamander and he’s my friend,’ Jacob realizes.

Another blink and it’s dust and moonlight across a wooden floor and a massive blue snake thing that screeches as the golden angel knocks a jingle ball across the floor. There’s madness and broken crockery. A flash of bright blue eyes blinking like streetlights.

A race for a cockroach and three the size of him circle around him, whispering “Roach in teapot! Roach in teapot!”
“Teapot!” someone yells.
Jacob has a roach in his fist, a regular sized one and he flings it towards the teapot.
Then the big blue snake with wings shrinks in mid-air to just a little thing; it dives into a teapot that the grey woman is holding and disappears under the lid.
“Occamies…” Newt says breathlessly. “Choranaptyxic. They also shrink to fit the available space.”

To Jacob’s sleeping mind, this makes perfect sense.
To Jacob’s waking mind, he wonders if he’s starting to lose his damn marbles.

Chapter Text

Jacob takes himself to the Central Park Zoo by accident one cold February afternoon. He leaves Henry in charge for a few hours so he can get some fresh air.

The bakery is going great, no small thanks to the occamy shells that Newt left him. He remembers Newt, but can’t quite picture the two women who were a part of his world. He knows where his ideas come from now, from the magical world he saw in the suitcase. But who were his other two friends? And whatever happened to Credence?

The strange dreams still come to him every night. And even more frequently after the new year.
It seems the shine of occamy shells triggered the memory of the disaster at the bank that no one but him seems to remember. Jacob can’t seem to mind with ten grand worth of occamy shells making his bakery a reality.

That slightly sunny Monday morning, Jacob wanders the city. He gets onto a subway train with no particular destination and ends up at Central Park. He goes to the rhinoceros cages, frowning as they seem too small for such interesting creatures.
‘They should have space’, he thinks, ‘like in Newt’s magical menagerie.’

There’s a woman there, in a grey coat, looking sad. She’s got a half-eaten hot dog with extra mustard in one hand.
“Mind if I join ya?” Jacob finds himself asking.
The woman seems startled but nods a yes and Jacob sits. The silence is thick. He can sense the woman glancing at him from time to time. After a few minutes of awkward silence, Jacob speaks.
“Ya know, I heard that back in the day, there was a giant escape of the animals from this zoo,” Jacob says to her, staring forward at the rhino’s enclosure. “Probably before our time, but yeah,” he nods, “The Herald had a story about a mass escape of animals from the zoo.”
“Oh?” the woman isn’t looking at him but instead stares over at the frozen-over lake where a couple of kids are skating in the winter sunshine.
Jacob puffs out a breath, pretending for a moment the cloud is like dragon smoke.
“My cousin swore it was true. Joseph Clarke was his name.”
The woman nods again, taking a bite of her hot dog.

His neck itches and he raises a hand to scratch at it. And then he gets it.

“Can I ask ya something?” Jacob turns on the bench and stares at her.
The woman licks some stray mustard off her top lip and nods at him again.
“You’re Tina, aren’t you?”
She’s shocked enough to drop the last of her poor hot dog and Jacob’s sorry for that because it’s probably the only thing she’s bothered to eat today.
“You-I-we, that is-I don’t-” She can’t seem to get a full sentence out.
Jacob shakes his head and huffs a laugh. “That’s gotta be the weirdest ‘yes’ I ever heard, Tina.”
She fumbles for words a moment longer, then just sighs. “I don’t know what to do here, Jacob,” she says.
“I don’t know you,” Jacob says, staring back at the rhinos. He knows that he could have a wand at his head in a second. “Not quite yet.” He looks down at the ground, shaking his head as his neck gives another twinge. “But I’m gonna.”
“I don’t understand,” Tina says. She hasn’t drawn her wand yet, but she knows she should. “It should have worked.”
Jacob lets out a huff of warm breath that clouds upwards, more just a breath than any true chuckle. “That makes the both of us. Not understanding, that is.”
“What do you remember?” Tina asks gently.
“Newt. His case. A teapot. An angel that kissed me,” Jacob rattles off. He rubs his hands together to warm them.
Tina is silent, waiting for him to continue.
“The subway and Credence. Hey,” Jacob glances over at her, “is he doing okay?”
Tina nods once but doesn’t offer any further information.
“And Newt?”
Another wordless nod.
“Good, good.” Jacob shoves his hands into his coat pockets. “That’s good.”
There is another beat of heavy silence between the two of them.
“I’ve gotta remember everyone, everything, I think, first,” Jacob says. “Then it’ll be okay.”
“You’re not supposed to remember,” Tina says. “I don’t know what happened, but you’re not supposed to remember.”
“I wasn’t supposed to survive the war neither, and I did that, too,” Jacob says.
Tina frowns but can’t think of a good response.

They sit in relative silence for a long moment, their breath fogging up from their lips. Laughter from the children skating and the stomp of a chilly rhino are the only noises.
“It was good to see ya, Tina,” Jacob finally stands from the bench. “Come by the bakery sometime. I’ll feed ya.”
“I can’t,” Tina says in a small voice. “There are laws and-”
“I don’t make a flying strudel,” Jacob cuts in over her objection, “but I make a darn good plum-filled monkey-thing.”
“Demiguise,” Tina smiles as she corrects him. “It’s a demiguise.”
Jacobs scratches his neck again, trying to chase away the odd twinge of pain that keeps coming.
“Yeah, that,” Jacob offers his hand to shake and Tina gives his hand a strong squeeze and a single shake.
“There really is no one quite like you, Mr. Kowalski,” Tina says as she lets his hand go.
It sounds too much like a goodbye that makes his chest hurt.
“I’ll see ya around, Tina,” Jacob turns away and heads back toward the subway.

He has some baking to do; a strudel he has to try and remember.

Chapter Text

It’s a false spring in late February, warm weather coaxing early flowers out of the ground for three whole days it’s almost hot out. Despite the heat, Jacob Kowalski would give his left leg for a good cup of hot cocoa, though. He’s tried everything to make a cup that will soothe his craving. Every time he’s tried, it ends up too sweet or too thick or just missing something. Cinnamon, vanilla, bourbon, butter: he’s tried it all! He puts the finishing touches onto another cup, this time with whipped vanilla cream on top, and takes a sip.

“Nope,” he declares after that first hearty sip. “Good, but not magical.”
He wonders if the angel he’s still dreaming about, the kiss in the rain if they have something to do with his craving for cocoa.
Jacob heads downstairs, to the bakery, to grab himself a good hearty cookie from the day’s leftovers. He doesn’t bother to turn on a light, making his way downstairs by memory alone.

It’s only been a few months in the shop and he knows every nook and cranny better than he ever did his dinky little flat. And none of the sinks drip-drip-drip endlessly when he’s trying to sleep.
He walks around the corner and in the gathering twilight, he sees a woman standing outside the shop. She’s wearing a bright pink coat, but with the streetlights and setting sun behind her, he can’t make out her face through the glass.

“Didja need something, miss?” he calls out.
The woman startles and immediately turns away, heading down the block.
“No, wait!” Jacob nearly drops the mug of cocoa in his haste to open the door. He sees her turn the corner into the alleyway next to Fogler Shoes and he hurries after her.

But when he turns the corner, there’s nothing in the dead-end alley but newspapers and trash.
There’s a sweet scent of perfume that reminds him of cocoa and strudel.
And were Jacob a betting man, he’d bet that was his angel.
The walk back to the bakery is chilly with the gathering darkness. It seems the false spring is over.

Chapter Text

It’s the end of March and Kowalski’s Baked Goods is already halfway out of the red with how busy they’ve been. It’s a bright but chilly day and there’s still a gaggle of gawkers gathered outside the bakery window to stare at today’s puff pastry butterflies and raisin-eyed bread dragon.

“Say, where do you get your ideas from, Mr. Kowalski?” one woman is asking as she picks up another loaf of bread and a trio of plum and apricot filled demiguise.

Jacob wonders if he’d be carted off to the loony bin if he said they were creatures he had met in a suitcase. That he chased an occamy around an attic and caught it with a cockroach in a teapot. That the so-called fruit filled monkey would probably bite the daylights out of someone for calling it such. That the bread-stick-bugs were based on a temperamental bowtruckle named Pickett.

“I don’t know,” Jacob says cheerfully, “I don’t know-they just come!”
She nods at the answer and fumbles one of the loaves she’s just bought.
“Here you go,” he hands her an extra cookie for the little tyke at her knee, with a wink for him. “Don’t forget this-enjoy!” Jacob nearly trips over a stack of trays left sticking out from a rack and looks over his shoulder to call one of the boys. He sees Henry first. “Hey, Henry, storage, all right?” He points at the nearly empty rack. “Thanks, pal,” he hands off the keys and lets his employee handle it. He still gets a little zing every time he thinks about the fact that he has employees.

The bell over the door has been going nuts today, but it’s always polite to greet customers as they come in. So the next little tinkle of the bell has Jacob looking up towards the door almost reflexively.

And the whole world stops on a dime.

There’s the gal in pink. The one that he would bet his whole bakery on that was outside a few weeks ago. It’s his angel. He can smell her perfume as she approaches the counter, almost timidly.
His neck gives a familiar twinge and he raises a hand to rub at it.

There’s a split second where it almost hurts. And then he remembers everything, Newt, Tina, Credence. The bank, the suitcase of wonders; he remembers the cocoa and the subway and that crazy adventure at the zoo, and he finally, finally remembers-

“Queenie,” Jacob says on an overwhelmed exhale. She nods and looks like she’s about to laugh, or perhaps cry. He’s not sure which. “Well, there you are,” Jacob says after a beat too long of silence. “There you are.”
“Here I am,” Queenie replies with a watery laugh.
“James, mind the front!” Jacob calls over his shoulder. The answering ‘yes, boss,’ barely registers. He drinks in the sight of Queenie, starstruck that she actually is here.
“I hear you make a good plum and apricot filled monkey-thing,” Queenie finally says. “Tina says, I mean.”
“I do.” Jacob isn’t sure what he wants to do first, but a kiss is somewhere in the top three. “C’mon,” he finally moves around the counter and offers her a hand. “I wanna show ya everything.”
“Okay,” she beams at him and he smiles right back.
‘This,’ Jacob thinks with her hand warm in his, ‘this was what was missing.’
He glances over his shoulder and is sure that his face is gonna stick on a smile for the rest of his life. Queenie smiles back immediately.
‘Her. That smile.’ His heart swells in his chest and he’s sure that today is second best only to the day he met her.
“You always say the sweetest things, Jacob,” Queenie says to him as they head back toward the ovens.
“I’ve been lookin’ for ya, Queenie. Everywhere.” Jacob pauses in the middle of the chaos of cookies and bread and his staff to take both her hands and just stare at her for a second. “I’ve missed your smile,” he finally says. “And the rest of ya, of course,” he’s blushing now, a flicker of memory of his first glance at her slim form changing.
Her laugh is bright and loud and brings the attention of all three of his employees when she leans forward to kiss him, still smiling.
“I’ve missed you, too,” Queenie says as they finally pull apart just far enough to see each other’s face. “So. Show me everything!” She links arms with him and beams a cheeky grin over at the baker boy that staring. She winks and he blushes scarlet, immediately returning his gaze to the bread dough he had been kneading.
“So, these are our ovens,” Jacob says with a sweep of one arm. He tucks her arm into his and has no intention of letting her get away again. “And boy, do we keep ‘em busy!”
Queenie can’t stop smiling as Jacob describes the bakery, the gratitude he has towards Newt, and how much he’s missed her by turns.
‘That smile,’ Jacob thinks again, fondly.