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"Definitely just a cold."

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Jester sniffles softly, wiping her nose on her sleeve. Mama put her down for a nap about an hour ago, but she hasn’t been able to get any rest. Not when her nose is stuffy and her throat aches. All she wants is her mom. With a grumpy noise, she climbs out of bed and walks clumsily to her bedroom door. 

When she creaks open her door, Bluud whips to look at her from where he sits at the top of the stairs. He softens, seeing her wrapped in a too big blanket, her nose red. “I want mama,” Jester declares. 

Bluud smiles and walks over to her, “She’s downstairs.” Bluud bends down and scoops her up. Jester hums happily and leans on Bluud’s shoulder as he settles her on his hip. She cuddles against his broad shoulders, smiling happily at the contact. Once Jester is settled, Bluud carries her down the winding staircase and into the main room. 

Marion is sitting at a table in front of the stage wearing a light pink dressing down and her hair done up in curlers. She is playing Solitaire. “Miss Marion,” Bluud says to get her attention. Marion looks up and smiles, rising as she sees her daughter. 

“Hello, little one,” Marion says, stroking Jester’s hair. Jester whiles a little and leans her head into her mother’s hand. Marion looks up at Bluud with a frown. 

“She’s sick,” Bluud explains. “I don’t think she has a fever, but it’s hard to tell with her skin.” 

Marion nods and gently takes her daughter from Bluud’s arms. Jester immediately curls into Marion’s arms, pressing her forehead to Marion’s neck. “Do you feel hot, sweetheart?” 

Jester shakes her head, “I don’t think so. My head hurts and it’s hard to breathe.” Marion makes a sympathetic noise and rocks Jester gently. 

She looks to Bluud, “Cancel my clients tonight.” 

“Mama,” Jester tries to protest. She’s a big girl and her mama has to work. All she wanted was a hug, she didn't mean to make her mama stay with her.

Marion just kisses her head, “Don’t worry about it, sapphire. Come on, let’s get you back upstairs.” Jester feels her mama squeeze her tight for a second and then she begins to walk upstairs. “How long have you been feeling sick, darling?” Marion asks softly.

Jester shrugs and buries her head into Marion’s shoulder, her growing in horns jabbing Marion a little bit. “Since last night.”

Marion stops on the steps and looks at Jester, “Why didn’t you say something?” 

Jester shrugs and avoids Marion’s eye. “You have to work and-and it’s important.” In the past few months Marion has been spending more and more time working and more often than not, Jester has gone to sleep without seeing her mother. 

Marion keeps walking up the stairs, but not before kissing in between Jester’s horns. There’s an icky feeling in Jester’s stomach at her mother’s silence that has nothing to do with her being sick. Jester can’t help but feel as though she’s done something wrong.

Moments later, Jester is being set down on her mother’s soft bedspread and her mother kneels down in front of her. Jester keeps her eyes fixed on her lap.

Marion takes Jester’s small hands in her, her mother’s rings warm against her skin. “Look at me, sapphire,” Marion urges. Jester looks up to find her mother’s eyes filled with tears. “My work is not more important than you, okay?” Jester leans into Marion’s hand as she touches Jester’s cheek. “You are the most important thing in the world to me and I am so sorry that I ever made you feel like that wasn't true.” 

Jester leans forward and wraps her arms around her mama’s neck. “Don’t cry,” she says softly. “I love you, mama.” 

“I love you so much, sweetheart.” Marion holds her for a little bit, pressing a few kisses to the side of her head. “Now, I’m going to go downstairs to get some medicine. I’ll be right back.” 

Jester pouts, “Medicine?” 

Marion chuckles and tucks a strand of hair behind Jester’s ear. “How about I get us some ice cream too?” 

“Peanut butter?” 

“Of course.” 

“Mama?” Jester asks quietly. “Can you also get the stuff for my horns?” 

“They’re hurting?” Marion asks. Jester nods and accepts another kiss on the head. “Okay. I’ll be right back.” 

When Marion returns, she finds Jester fast asleep on her bed, curled up on her side. Jester has always been tiny for her age, a fact that stressed Marion out when the girl was born. And right now she looks impossibly small. Marion promised herself that when she became a mother that her child would always feel loved and always know that she is cared for. 

And Jester hiding the fact that she is sick isn’t the biggest deal in the world, but to Marion it feels like evidence that the voice in her head was right, that she’s not cut out to be a mother. Just as Marion starts to spiral, Jester stirs, blinking up at her sleepily. 

And Jester smiles her childish, toothy smile and she looks at Marion like she’s the most wonderful person in the world. Marion does her best to return the smile as she sits on the edge of the bed. 

“Sit up, sapphire,” Marion instructs gently. “I have the ointment for your horns.” 

Jester does as she is asked and Marion spends the next few minutes gently massaging ointment into Jester’s scalp and the base of her horns. Jester preens at the affection, soaking it up like a sponge, making Marion feel even more guilty. 

After the ointment is all gone and Marion has braided Jester’s hair back, Marion gets up and pours Jester a teaspoon of medicine. Just as she expected, Jester groans and protests as Marion makes her drink all of it. But as soon as Marion presents her with a bowl of peanut butter ice cream, Jester grins and nestles into Marion’s side.

“What do you think, darling? Do you want me to read to you?” Marion asks once their ice cream bowls are empty and sitting on the bedside table. Jester is sniffing miserably, but she’s yawning and rubbing her eyes. It should be easy to get her to sleep from here.

“Can you sing?” Jester asks. 

“Of course.” Marion lays back in bed, cradling Jester to her chest. Marion is known for singing a good many songs and she’s even had songs composed for her. But the ones she sings to Jester are the most special of all. When she was pregnant, Marion had a lot of time on her hands since she couldn’t work. She used that time to write and compose her daughter dozens of lullabies. Over the years Jester has picked out a few favorites. 

As Marion begins to sing, she rubs Jester’s back. Jester curls up on Marion’s chest. It’s something she’s done since she was a baby. Marion thinks it has something to do with the vibrations in her chest as she sings. 

The lullaby works like a charm; within a few minutes Jester is snoring softly against her chest. There’s a soft knock on the door and Marion waves her hand to open in. She finds Bluud on the other side. In his hand he’s holding Jester’s prized stuffed animal: a pink and purple dragon turtle. It looks comically small in his large hands.

“I...uh, I figured she would want this,” Bluud says nervously. Marion beckons him in with a soft smile. It’s sweet how much the minotaur has come to care about Jester. “Is she feeling any better?” 

Marion sighs, “We’ll see when she wakes up. I gave her some medicine and a good helping of ice cream. It’s definitely just a cold though, so we don’t have to worry.” Bluud nods as he gently lifts Jester’s arm and tucks the dragon turtle under it. Jester immediately squeezes it to her chest, eliciting cooing noise from both adults 

“Any problem cancelling on my clients?” Marion asks.

“A little, nothing I couldn’t handle,” Bluud replies, his voice protective. “He won’t bother you.” 

Marion smiles, “Have I ever told you that you’re the best?” 

Bluud chuckles, “Once or twice. I’ll let you get some rest. Goodnight, Ms. Marion.” Then he leans down and touches Jester’s hair affectionately. “Goodnight, Ms. Jester. I hope you feel better in the morning.” 

“Goodnight, Bluud,” Marion replies softly.