Hello everyone! This is something a bit different this time, as this started off as a request by 'epsilon fan' an unregistered reviewer of 'To Riddle Alone'.
They asked for a Jess/Epsilon fic, but since they didn't have an account, I had no way of replying. I feel quite bad about that, since I knew I wanted to try the request, but that it would be a few months before I finished anything (looking now, it's been six months), and couldn't tell them that I would do the request, but not to expect it for quite a while.
So, all I can hope is that they check back and find this fic! At present, it is a one-shot, from an older Jess, reflecting on things mainly. I originally started a different fic, but it got too unwieldy and I hit a few snags, so I started this one instead. I would like to finish the other idea, which would take place before this one, so that may well be posted separately, or I'll make this one a two/three shot (the other idea was fairly long haha). I'll have to finish it first, though.
Anyway, enough babble. I hope this is still in character, and it isn't too boring for you guys - it's very calm compared to TRA, but I hope you enjoy it.
Disclaimer: All characters (other than a few referenced names) and settings belong to Christine Morton-Shaw.
THERE ARE TWO MEMBERS IN THE CHATROOM: AVRIL
AVRIL: Soooo, come on then! How was the holiday? Details!
JESS: Oh, no, I'm not falling for that. Not after the dirt you dug up on Haley's honeymoon, of all things, was spread to everyone we knew within ten minutes of them getting home.
AVRIL: Hey, I only told you and Baz!
JESS: And Charlie, and Trace, and Liz, and about twenty other people. Everyone else found out through word of mouth. And thanks, by the way, I did not want to know just how 'busy' Haley was on her honeymoon! I think I'm mentally scarred.
AVRIL: Oh, man up. I'm sure you and the boyfriend were just as bad.
JESS: No comment.
AVRIL: You bore.
JESS: Proud of it. Give it up, Avril, if I can keep my mouth shut throughout one of my Mum's famous interrogations, you stand no chance.
AVRIL: Your Mum asked for holiday details?!
AVRIL: Thank God for that. What was she asking?
JESS: Oh, where I'd been til three in the morning, why I couldn't walk straight and why I thought there was a giant purple ant-eater in the living room.
AVRIL: What- wait...wasn't that when we were fourteen?
JESS: Yep. And my ability to tune people out has only improved since then.
AVRIL: Even me?
JESS: Especially you.
AVRIL: sigh Fine then. How was Greece itself then? Or did you only see the airport and the hotel room walls for the whole two weeks?
JESS: It was lovely, actually. Gorgeous country; and we got to see the old ruins. Loads of history there.
AVRIL: You go there for a romantic trip away, with no parents there to put you in separate hotel rooms, and you go sightseeing?
JESS: You make it sound so boring.
AVRIL: Yeah, there's a reason for that. It is! Just wandering round some crumbling old wrecks...YAWN!
JESS: Well, we enjoyed ourselves. I had to remind him of this thing called dinner a few times though; he would have stayed there quite happily all night if I'd let him.
AVRIL: A real romantic, then.
JESS: Oh, shush. It was good though, really. I didn't want to leave.
AVRIL: Well, that's the main thing I guess. Why you didn't want to go to Vegas though, I'll never know...
JESS: Of course you won't. You've been in love with the place since Haley's hen week.
AVRIL: I've never remembered less of a place before...I think I'm in love...
JESS: With the bars.
AVRIL: What else? Anyway, I'm off – going out with the gang tonight.
JESS: Alright. Say hi to everyone for me!
AVRIL: Will do. Well, I'll tell them you said to drink your share of shots for you; it's the same thing. Talk to you later! Xxx
AVRIL has left the chat room.
Laughing, I signed out, closed my laptop, and nearly dropped it when a hand landed silently on my shoulder.
When I'd finished yelling and had peeled myself off the ceiling, I sagged back in the rocking chair, groaning.
"Make some noise before you do that, please," I whispered as my partner rescued the laptop from sliding off my knee, deposited it on one of the many counters scattered about the kitchen and came back to sit on the arm of my chair.
"I apologise," he said, even though I could hear him grinning, and could feel the curve of his lips when he kissed the top of my head. "I'll try to remember in the future,"
I patted his knee vaguely, which wasn't as easy as it sounds since he was currently only semi-tangible.
"Thank you. I'll have to throw a cushion through you each time you forget otherwise. Or stick a bell on you. Would that even work?"
"Only until the sound grew annoying."
"Half a day, then."
"Most likely. How was Avril?" He asked, nodding at the laptop.
"Being a perv, as usual. I told her we went to see the sights in Greece, and she called us boring," I said, grinning.
Evidently following my train of thought – or maybe just lifting it straight from my head, I'd never asked if he could or not – he laughed as well.
"Well, I suppose we can forgive her that, if all she thinks we saw were 'crumbling old wrecks'."
"I really don't know why you bother asking me for the details when you can quote the conversation word-for-word," I said, sighing and leaning against his side, smiling at the memory and the strange feel of him; like resting against a wall of water cushioning stone.
It had been a bit odd, sure, to walk around the maze of waist-high remains of Kameiros, only to have the walls spring back into place, fill out to new bricks again, and for the quiet ruin to burst into life as a thriving city.
We didn't go back in time or anything. If I focused, I could still see the other tourists strolling around, and the old, weather-worn bricks lying back on the ground. It was like the images I'd seen in the cottage window, showing me Sebastian's life after he gave up on the riddles and Martha died; only this time we were inside them.
The citizens swarming around us didn't seem to see us at all. We were free to walk around, gawking at everything (well, okay, I was the only one gawking, but Epsilon was looking around as though he was seeing an old home again for the first time in years. Maybe he was).
So our sight-seeing had featured a bit more than old ruins, not that Avril needed to know that, or would believe me if I told her. After all, she (and nearly everyone else) believed Epsilon was a normal guy from the mainland I'd met at uni (which in itself was a shocker. Guess I got tired of homeschooling), and that we'd been inseparable ever since.
I'd conveniently 'discovered' Epsilon's cottage right around the time I wanted to move in permanently (he had no complaints). After a few conversations with my parents and a couple of months of 'restoration work', which was actually done in an afternoon when my dear, perfectly normal, mortal 'boyfriend' (it was very weird to describe him as such) got bored, I'd ferried my belongings the half-mile to the cottage and officially moved in.
I could tell Mum though. Out of my whole family, she was the only one who knew who Epsilon really was. Even when he was being 'human' – or had a physical body and dressed and spoke like this side of the 21st century, anyway – he looked like himself. It was the same stern, noble face I'd seen in this cottage and the cavern.
It had a tendency to soften now, though, and I could pin an age on him for the first time. Odd how the features hadn't changed, but for some reason now I could say he looked in his late twenties – only a couple of years older than me – instead of thinking he could be anything from twenty to fifty, like before.
It was only when his voice roused me that I realised I'd been staring into space, my eyelids slowly drooping.
Shaking my head, I sat up straight and stretched, not having to worry about upsetting his balance even though he was leaning against me.
"Just lazy; it's the heat. Besides, dinner at the Big House tonight. Mum'll kill me if I'm late; I meant to be helping her with the last of these bloody lasagne dishes she's making for tomorrow."
It had taken me a few years before the Greet had stopped making me feel twitchy. For the first few years I'd been unable to relax for the whole week leading up to the party. I'd spend the whole day itself as a nervous wreck, utterly distracted, darting to look over the beach every five minutes, scanning for swans or a woman with long hair, listening for my name on the breeze. The kids had started to think I was as mad as old Dad, running everywhere. I just lacked the cameras and tripods draped all over myself.
Now, I could relax a bit more. It still wasn't my favourite time of year, but I could tolerate sitting down and not obsessively looking for swans or grey stones. I'd nearly throttled Epsilon one year though (well, I'd tried, and had fallen straight through him. And he says he isn't a ghost!).
He'd left one of his usual Lumic clues in the sand, just beside the most distant fire. Well, I'd gone into full-blown panic mode before I'd translated the damn thing and realised it was just another clue on getting more information about the Beings. Apparently, he'd not realised what day it was when he left the clue. He'd seemed sincere when he apologised, but I could have sworn I heard him laughing as I left the cottage. That might have been because I'd fallen through him and into the corner of the big kitchen table, and was limping as I attempted a dignified retreat, though.
I dodged that very table as I stood, glancing around for my key into the Big House. Like Epsilon's jars of incense, it had a habit of travelling around the cottage (now renovated slightly, to accommodate a bathroom and an actual bed. We kept the hammock though), and I found it hung on the kitchen sink's tap.
"You ready?" I asked as he stood.
It was strange, watching him go from 'Being' to 'human'. He would do that fading in-and-out thing, then just keep fading in, looking more real and solid until he actually seemed to touch the floor. His eyes would change into normal brown irises, instead of the whole eyes having that odd, multifaceted effect.
When the change completed, he nodded and we headed for the door.
It was strange how normal these evenings had become; Mum and Dad would make dinner, we'd eat, then spend the rest of the night sat together, me and Mum chattering away, Dad watching the T.V. and complaining at the football. Epsilon would politely pretend to watch as well until Dad had forgotten him, then break into a bottle of gin with the by now truly ancient Mrs. Shilling.
He was the only person who could get away with calling her Bridie, oddly enough, and they would sit and talk for hours except for when Mrs. Shilling was telling Dad off for being too loud; or sniffing at old Domino, or me and Mum when we got too giggly over our bottle of wine.
It had been – still was, really – utterly bizarre to see my two worlds meshing together in the one room. For years I'd had a sort of...paranoia that if my family met Epsilon for real, without Cimul/Yolandë getting involved obviously, something catastrophic (or at least dramatic) would happen.
Nope. Dad and Epsilon shook hands, Epsilon spun some cover story about his name and family, and Dad thoroughly embarrassed me by coming over all protective of his 'little girl' having a boyfriend. Mum nearly gave the game away though; she leapt a foot when she saw Epsilon and spilled her coffee all over the hall floor. I don't think the whites around her irises vanished until hours after Epsilon had left (supposedly to a room he was renting in the village, the liar).
It's still difficult, keeping such a big secret from most of my family, especially now that Epsilon is an even bigger part of my life. I manage, though. I don't think they could cope if I told them. Or rather, they wouldn't believe me.
No. Things are far simpler like this. Everyone's happy now, and more importantly, we're safe. Nothing, not Cimul or swans or affairs or impossible, fantastical tales has threatened the stability of my family for years now. I want to keep it that way, and so does Epsilon.
I didn't notice it much at the time, other than his apparently short temper, but looking back he was so stressed during those first few weeks I was on the island. I much prefer him like this; calm, relaxed...happy. It seems odd, using such simple words to describe someone like Epsilon – the most complicated man/person/Being I know – but he is. He's utterly content with this quieter life; no life-threatening myths trying to destroy anything, all the time he could want to drive me up the wall, or carve more of his little 'new-old' sculptures or utensils.
A few of them have found their way out of the cottage and into the Big House. There's the statue in the hallway of a very familiar woman standing next to a giant eagle, ringed with sea shells. Epsilon's excuse was Dad nattering on about his missed photo opportunity on one visit. Two weeks later, Mum and Dad's anniversary rolls around and Epsilon turns up with this.
The detail is amazing; he even captured Mum's admittedly creepy tranquil stare and the pattern of lines on skin of the eagle's taloned feet.
My family greets us loudly as we let ourselves in; Dad looking slightly wild-eyed and fending off Mum brandishing a tea-towel even as they both smile and say hello. Just shows what trying to steal a bite of lasagne gets you in this house.
I can't help smiling as we sit down for dinner. It's a mad house and a mad family (in more ways than one), but I honestly wouldn't change it. If someone; Epsilon or even Agapetos himself, offered to turn time back to when we were packing up to move to Lume, and gave me the chance to stop the move, I wouldn't. Every second of terror I felt in those first few weeks was worth it.
If it hadn't been for that, I wouldn't have the family I do now. I'd probably still say I hated my parents. I'd still be smoking and drinking and getting high as often as I could. I wouldn't have grown up anywhere near as well; with the way things were going with my parents, I might well have ran away. If I'd done that, god knows where I'd be now. The whole mess with Cimul and Epsilon may have nearly given me heart failure, but it gave me the kick in the head I needed to get my priorities straight.
Epsilon said something to me a while back; just an offhand comment (or as offhand as a near-omniscient Being gets, anyway) that made me smile.
'Family first' he said.
I didn't say anything at the time, but it stuck with me. I don't know if it's a quote, or just something he said off the top of his head in a conversation I don't even remember.
He's right though, as usual. That's the important thing; it's what I should have valued from the start, and I am so glad that I learnt it in time to fix things with Mum and Dad before I wrecked our relationship for good.