It’s too warm…
It was in the small touches that he realised he was fond of the blue tiefling. The occasional brushing of their shoulders in his dome. The way she would gently grasp his hands each of the many times he fell unconscious. And he fell unconscious alot. Even after so long, he still didn’t know how could be so cheery each and every day. She’d seen so much evil and horror. She’d been through alot. And although what she’d gone through wasn’t nearly as bad as what he’d been subjected to, she still found the strength to continue smiling. Hearing of her singing during their capture by Lorenzo both surprised Caleb, and didn’t.
She was much stronger than him after all.
She was his friend, as hard as it was for him to accept that. No matter how dour he was, no matter how he shut himself off, Jester always managed to pry a small smile from him. It took him a while before he convinced himself he genuinely cared for her, like the rest of the Nein. But there was something… else. Caleb himself was only mildly aware of the way his eyes would turn to her of all people, in a room filled with everyone else. How his legs would move to her, almost without prompting, whenever she was nearby.
She had a magnetic personality. That must be it.
Caleb never directly claimed to be clever. It was always Nott that insisted on his intelligence. But it was a shock to himself that he only began noticing that his emotions were changing. It all clicked at once, like a puzzle he’d been subconsciously working on for months without realising. And it was subtle. It had been so long since he felt this strange sensation, he couldn’t really put his finger on it. Scouring books came up with nothing. He even cast the occasional ‘Detect Magic’, with no result. He knew this feeling before. It was similar to the insidious ‘Charm’ spell he’d fallen under. But there were no suggestions in his mind. No voices whispering promises. The only suggestions he could hear were his own. ‘Maybe Jester would like this.’,’I wonder if she could give me a hand with this…’,’I should go see her.’.
It took him longer than he’d admit to shake off such thoughts. Surely he couldn’t think… that way about his friend. They were teammates, and those kinds of thoughts disrupted the group dynamic. He kept insisting to himself. But no matter how much he continued to rationalise and refuse to believe it, he still found the entirety of his attention always drawn to her. Walking down into the Xhorhaus kitchen, he’d notice her voice before any others.
‘Nonsense. She’s the loudest of the group.’
His heart would leap when she looked around the group and her eyes would land on him, giving him a huge toothy smile.
‘She loves all her friends. The fact that she smiles at you doesn’t mean anything.’
He’d find himself leaning in as she told one of her outrageous stories. The way she was so enthusiastic, so energetic about the smallest thing was… enjoyable to watch. Her arms flailing around, her tail whipping back and forth… It all seemed to captivate him if he wasn’t too careful. Each and every little act of hers that he seemed entranced by, Caleb would attempt to rationalise. But it didn’t stop him.
It’s getting colder…
All it took was another little touch. That was all it took. He was still wounded from the captured Vollstrecker and was more than ready to go home and sleep the whole day off. But she had taken his hands in hers and offered her ear as his friend. If he was less in control of his emotions, he would have cried. Any denial in him died with her touch. He knew of his fondness for her. But it had grown to something more. He felt the way she held his hands. Delicately, like he was something fragile that could be broken with a touch. If only she knew how right that was. He loved her. It wasn’t something he could hide from any longer.
But he could never say it. Would never say it. Caleb Widogast was many things. A torturer, a murderer, a liar, a thief. A coward. It was true that he couldn’t hide his feelings from himself anymore, but he could still hide them from the rest of his friends. They didn’t need to know. He knew how they’d react. They’d be happy for him, instead of scorning and hating him like he deserved. He didn’t deserve these feelings.
But it didn’t stop him from hoping. Hoping that Jester’s touch would linger a little longer. That her gaze would rest on him for a few more moments. Even in his darkest moments, alone in his room, he could almost hear her footsteps as she would barge into his room and demand him to be happy. But these were his fantasies. ‘You’ve left the asylum, but you’re still as delusional as you ever were.’.
But for him, it was worth any price to keep that ray of hope alive. He would give his everything for her. And he would, in time.
What’s so warm?
Running his hand across his chest, Caleb could feel his hand come away sticky and warm. Something red was coating his hand. ‘Did I spill strawberry on myself again?’. Caleb let out a hoarse laugh, before more ‘strawberry’ splattered out of his mouth. His vision was blurred and out-of-focus, but still he searched for her. ‘We were supposed to use that for the filling. Oh, she’ll be so mad.’.
It was only a few seconds of looking, but it felt like an eternity. There was nothing but plain stone ceiling. ‘Must have hit my head pretty badly. Can’t… see properly…”. He could hear rushed footsteps and anguished voices, but they were hard to make out. But there, amongst all of the noise, he could hear her. She was crouched over him, blinking tears out of her eyes. She looked so sad. Why did she look so sad? He’d only tripped and fallen over.
She clutched the symbol of her Traveller desperately, saying something that he couldn’t quite focus on. Behind her, he could see Caduceus standing nearby, with Nott barely holding herself back. ‘I only fell. Did I hurt myself?’. Glancing down at his chest, he could now see the problem. ‘Oh.’ There was a huge gash across the front of his chest, carving through his jacket and skin. His flesh was rent and blood was pooling on his chest, trickling down his sides.
“Still… pretty… squishy, eh?” He thought maybe a joke would stop her crying. He needed her to stop crying. Jester was sad enough as is. She didn’t deserve any more. He tried to reach for her face, to wipe away the tears forming, but he couldn’t. His arms held no strength and they collapsed back down.
He couldn’t feel the blood now. Its warmth had faded. Now it just felt cold. Like the onset of winter, with the gentle frost on the dawn grass. He could feel his life being leached from him, the warmth fleeing into the air. But not all of it was cold. His hand was still warm. Looking down, he could see a small blue hand intertwined with his. His heart jumped, causing a small spout of blood to shoot out of his wound.
“-ay Caleb! We’ll heal you, get you up, and you can tell us all about those boring books you’ve been reading! I’ll even let you borrow some of mine.” He slowly tuned into her voice. He gave her a soft smile as his eyelids dropped imperceptibly. She was struggling to speak through the emotions. He made her feel like this. The pangs of guilt almost overpowered the pain. Almost.
He could feel it. The encroaching cold. Darkness caressed the back of his mind, luring him to sleep. Promising the end of his suffering. No more anguish. He tightened his grip of her hand ever so slightly, as much as his failing body would let him.
“It’s… all… in the… little touches… blaubeere…” Each word felt like climbing a mountain, straining him more and more. Until all strength left him. His body relaxed, his breath released like one long sigh of relief.
And darkness claimed him.