Author: Majesta Moniet PM
A collection of Post-Clockwork Princess oneshots. #5: He was always having to teach her things. But maybe he was the one who had learned the most.Rated: Fiction M - English - Romance - Jem C. & Tessa G. - Chapters: 5 - Words: 5,704 - Reviews: 64 - Favs: 63 - Follows: 61 - Updated: 02-14-13 - Published: 03-03-12 - id: 7891567
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
On An Eve
"Stop mothering me." Will huffed and attempted to wrench his arm free but only managed a sideways stumble into a stool. "You're not my mother."
"No," Jem replied wryly, "I'm not."
"Bloody right you're not. Too bloody broad-shouldered to be anyone's bloody mother. And too bloody hairy."
Sighing, Jem steadied his parabatai and eyed the number of empty glasses overturned on the table where Will had been sitting. Just considering the amount of alcohol they must have consumed left Jem feeling a little bit ill. "Do you have any money?"
"I don't have to pay."
"Do you have any money?"
"We could just glamour and walk out and not—what the devil!"
Ignoring his loud protests, Jem searched Will's pockets, checking first his jacket and then his waistcoat. Finally, he found some notes tucked in a breast pocket. Jem tossed them on the table and then began steering Will toward the door.
"Oh, that was very generous of you, James. The wench will likely think I'm the heir to some upstart industrial fortune. That I own half the sheep in Yorkshire, and I can just throw my money around as I please. Or worse, she'll think I'm in love with her."
"Or,"—Jem stopped to shoulder open the door, exposing them both to icy blast of cold air—"she'll think you were just too drunk to realize you overcompensated. Which you nearly were."
"Women never think that. They prefer us wealthy and besotted."
As they stepped out of the public house and into the slush of the streets, Will stopped short. The ale-induced flush of his cheeks was heightened by the brisk December night air. Jem noted the way his bright eyes sluggishly looked about them in perplexity.
"Where are we going?"
"Rubbish. I don't want to go home."
Another stiff breeze cut mercilessly through the material of Jem's jacket, and he regretted not coming in the coach. "Well, I do."
"Of course you do." This time Will successfully shrugged off Jem's hand and swayed on his own two feet. "You'll be going home to a beautiful woman waiting for you. To Tessa."
His wife's name sounded like reverent curse on Will's lips, and Jem wondered if they had had another one of their heated disagreements and if that was the reason Will was out drinking alone on Christmas Eve. Sometimes keeping the peace between the two of them was rather like separating two angry cats vying for the same saucer of milk.
"She'll be waiting for you, too," Jem assured him. "She nearly insisted on coming with me to retrieve you." He smiled at the memory of her adamant expression as she declared her willingness to assist him in the search. "But she's been feeling so ill lately, I thought it better that she avoid being out in this."
"Yes." Will sounded distracted as he began shuffling in the direction of the Institute. Jem fell in step beside him. "You were right, of course. You're always right."
"Tomorrow, when you're sober, I'll remind you that you said that."
Will did not scoff or grin as Jem would have expected him to in this state. Instead, he looked grave as he watched the muddy road pass beneath his boots. "It was the right thing to do."
They walked for a while in silence. Every once in a while Jem had to give Will a nudge in the right direction or steady him on his feet, but they made steady progress. They were a street down from the Institute and passing by the darkened storefront of a watchmaker when Will suddenly stopped.
"All that time you loved her and you never told me. Why not?"
It takes Jem but a moment to pick up the loose thread of a conversation they had months ago—and a day he was never likely to forget. "I wish you wouldn't take it as a slight against you or our friendship that I didn't say anything. It wasn't faith in you that I lacked."
"Why then?" His eyes were dark with hurt thinly veiled by irritation. "How are you and I to be one, to be parabatai, if you hide such things from me?"
He supposed Will wasn't sober enough to appreciate the irony of such a statement coming from someone who'd kept a life-threatening secret for years. "Because as certain as I was of my affections, I was decidedly less confident in them amounting to anything," he said evenly. "It seemed absurd to even consider making such a declaration when I knew there wasn't a chance I could rightfully act on it. It was easier to keep it to myself." The trapped, hopeless feeling, which he hadn't experienced since Tessa's acceptance of his proposal, returned to him now only as an echo of a painful memory. "In the end I was glad to be proven wrong, of course."
Will regarded him quietly. He was probably beginning to sober up. No one could remain intoxicatedfor long in this cold. "You won't keep something like that from me again, will you?"
He looked so solemn; Jem had to bite the inside of his lip to keep his smile from showing. "You want to know a secret, then?"
"I think Tessa may be with child."
Will's eyes widened. "But she…"
"I know." Jem reclaimed his arm and began moving them forward again. "She hasn't said anything to me about it because she's worried it won't be true. I think she's waiting to see one of the Brothers for confirmation. But the symptoms are all there. And you mustn't let her know I've caught on."
"Jem I—" Will's hand gripped his shoulder, halting their progress once more. They stood, facing one another on the side of the deserted street. Jem was tired, his fingers had begun to go numb, and his face stung from the abusive whip of the wind. And yet all of that mattered very little as he witnessed the change that overcame his parabatai. It was rare, even now after the curse had been dismissed as false, for Will to be unguarded with his true feelings. So watching his initial astonishment turn to quiet wonder was something of a novel experience for Jem, who couldn't help but feel a similar emotion swell in his own chest.
"Jem, I'm,"—Will shook his head—"I'm so happy for you. For both of you." Some shadow of emotion flickered across his face, but it was gone too quickly for Jem to make out. Then Will was giving a small grin. "You'll be a good father."
Jem's own smile was strained. "If I live to be a father."
Will's hand tightened around his shoulder. "You will."
He sounded so certain. It almost made Jem feel better.
"Come on." He clapped Will on his raised arm. "If we take much longer, Tessa really will come out looking for us both."
Will watched him a moment longer and then nodded his agreement. "You're right. Again." Together they started off down the street.
AN: First off, thank you to the beautiful and talented Justine for pre-reading this oneshot. This particular installment is a conglomeration of several prompts I've received from various people. So thank you for the inspiration!
For those of you waiting for a KtNB update...I am so sorry about the delay. The chapter is in the editing process, so I'm writing short stories like these to keep myself occupied in the meantime. Hopefully I'll be able to update soon.