The new year was right around the corner, soon they’d be in the year 1920. Jean could remember the last time she had a New Year’s kiss, oh so many years ago, and she wasn’t sure if she’d ever have anything like it again. Quietly she walked through the grounds as people hunkered down for the evening. There were a few folks in the mess hall but many had already begun to make their way back to their tents and wagons. She hadn’t eaten yet and there were slim pickings but she wasn’t exactly hungry.
It was cold here, colder than she imagined it would be but she always loved the winter time and just cause she wasn’t home didn’t mean she felt different. After getting some food shoveled onto the plate she saw her two options. A man who she saw swallowing swords seemed the unsavory option so she chose the other one. Sitting in front of the stranger she offered him a smile. “You like eating late or did something run behind?” She asked him. Who needed introductions first? They’d get to it eventually.
He’d been running around helping to prep things for the move. It had taken him longer than planned, but thankfully there was food left when he was done. Fitz had thanked Delia with a sweet kiss on the cheek before taking a seat, joined shortly after by the cat tamer she’d seen around. She smelled like them.
With a smile he gestured to the empty seat as she sat. “Busy, busy. There’s so much t’do before the party starts.” He mused. “Don’t want to try to prep for the move when everyone’s pissed.” Fitz still had his accent, even with all the time he’d lived in France, his French was poor and his accent was still that lower class English. Not quite as bad as cockney, but definitely lazier than those who’d had proper jobs, status.
She offered him a smile, curious as to where that accent came from. Seemed like this traveling group had a large number of people who weren’t from America and it fascinated her. “The names Jean. You do a lot of roustabout work here or do you do something else?” She wondered out loud. She hadn’t seen much as far as the shows went save for the gun show for a bit once. Really she should have spent the month catching those acts instead of moping around the grounds.
She picked at her food as she thought about if she was even supposed to be there. What if she had just sucked it up and stayed at home. Would she be happy then? Probably not.
Fitz nodded. “Yea, work some of the games and food joints during showtime. But otherwise I’m just a helping hand.” He said with a smile. “It’s nice t’meet y’ Jean. I’m Fitz.” He introduced himself. “I watched y’help out a bit- since the cats got locked up. Y’were real passionate talkin about them at the meeting.” He leaned in, placing a hand on her arm. “Good for you for sticking up for them. Not letting the other make ‘em out t’be monsters.” While the big cats were predators and he didn’t doubt they’d eat him any chance they got. He still felt a bit of a kinship with them, even if his preferred form was ‘prey’.
She offered him a smile before shoveling some food into her mouth. Once she swallowed she finally replied. “Yeah you’re right. Awfully sweet of you to say so. Turns out a lot of folks round here don’t quite agree with you.” She said and pulled a note out of her jacket that she’d gotten on Christmas Eve. Opening it she pushed the letter across the table to show to Fitz. In big black bold letters it read GO HOME with no signature or indication of who might not want her here.
“I don’t suppose this is your handwriting or someone you know around here.” She asked, sighing as she looked down at the words that had haunted her the last few days.
Fitz wrinkles his nose and picked up the letter, crumpling it in his fist. “Bollocks to them.” He said, tossing the letter over his shoulder. “Whoever it is. We’ve all been judged at one point or another. But this is a safe place and no one can force you out.” He paused a moment t and shrugged. “Well, no one but Kristoph, and he doesn’t seem too keen on kicking anyone out just because.”
He took a drink of his water and ate some more food before he shook his head. “Never fun to be run out of somewhere. Definitely shouldn’t happen in Zion.”
It was nice to know she wasn’t alone here, it was all still so new to her and she didn’t have any long time friends to fall back on. “Thank you.” She said honestly and looked him over again. She’d seen him around, mostly round a certain fellow. They weren’t obvious or anything but she could see the way they looked at each other. She remembered when Elizabeth looked at her that way.
“Can I ask you a personal question? You can say no.” She’d heard somewhere they were brothers but they didn’t look anything alike.
Fitz gasped, hand to chest in a dramatic feign of social indignation at the question. “A personal question. Why I never.” He couldn’t keep a straight face for long and broke into laughter. “Of course, love, I’m an open book- well at least most of my chapters are.” He leaned in as if sharing a secret. “Some are a bit more private and not for polite society.” Fitz winked at her.
She giggled at his comment and shook her head. “Don’t you worry, I ain’t been apart of polite society in a long while.” She teased and folded her hands in front of her. She regarded him straight on. “Folks around here say you and that other man are brothers, but I have a sneaking suspicion that it’s not true. Something more is going on there.” She didn’t want to outright say it but she would if he didn’t get the point.
He chuckled and shrugged slightly. “Brothers of circumstance. Brothers of choice. Mates, in a few ways.” Fitz replied. “Passport says I’m just as much a Du Terte as he is.” Which was false, he’d not used Killian in years. “An’, perhaps, if things were different, I would be.” With as long as they’d been together, had he been a woman, there would be no way they’d not be wed by that point.
“What more could be goin’ on?” He inquired. “We’re close is all.” As if that explained those nights by the fire he laid curled next to Ben as the other man lovingly played with his hair. “Just don’t look too close. Otherwise… well y’might see somethin’ a bit out of place.” Like one bed in the wagon meant for two.
She smiled at the witty way he spoke and curtailed around telling the truth. “I had a close friend once. She meant the world to me.” That was all she was going to speak on it because how could she say more? She could tell him that they weren’t close anymore because Jean killed her, or talk about how her father helped her cover it up.
Her family had looked for her for years and it broke her heart that she couldn’t tell them, and that she was responsible. “Not anymore, though. Now I’m old and ain’t many pretty ladies trying to get close to me no more.”
Fitz rolled his eyes slightly. “Love, you’re far from a spinster.” He waved his hand as if it casting the idea aside. “You’re gorgeous. I’m sure there’s many more factors at play and you’ll find someone eventually.” He placed a hand on hers. “You should have seen Ben in the beginning. Didn’t know what he wanted. And now… we’re brothers.”
“Flattery will get you everywhere.” She teased, though it was only a light jest. The older she got the more validation she felt she needed. Still, didn’t seem to be any less successful in swindling men out of their coin by batting her eyelashes at them.
Brothers, suppose that was all any of them could call each other; brothers, sisters, friends. All she ever wanted was a companion but who knew when she’d find that. “Well, you seem happy and I admire that.” She replied though she tried to hide the sadness under those words.
“Took a long while to find it. Even longer to realize we had it. Then… well, let’s just say the road was a bloody mess until we found our footing here.” Fitz finished his meal and pushed the plate out of the way to lean on the table a bit. “And trust, one nice thing about this place is every month we’re someplace new. A bit of a fresh start each time and new people. You never know what pretty thing will enter your show once it’s back.” He winked at her. “Just have to keep yourself open.
Fitz knew how to play her fiddle, so to speak. Hearing him say the things he said gave her hope, more than she’d deigned to have since she’d been traveling with them. “I like you, Fitz. What do you say we call each other friends?” She didn’t usually just ask for friendship but she liked the way he thought and someone like that was good to keep around.
He let out a laugh. “Why just call each other friends?” Fitz asked with a cheeky smile. “When we can be friends.”
She offered him her hand to give it a firm shake. Something her daddy always taught her was that a firm handshake showed you were worthy of listening to. “Deal.” She replied.