Marian stopped short when she saw her sister-in-law sitting on the front steps of her home. “Jaenelle. Why didn’t you go in?”
Even assuming Lucivar had locked the house with his Dark Grey—which he wouldn’t, since it would keep Marian out as well—Jaenelle could easily break the lock, should she so choose.
Jaenelle stood with a muted smile and kissed Marian’s cheek. “It was a nice day. I preferred it out here.”
“Well, if you’re feeling ready, follow me in. The biscuits I made this morning should have cooled enough. We can take some tea.”
“Sounds perfect,” Jaenelle said, and followed Marian inside.
Jaenelle saved Marian’s life and sanity and sense of wholeness, to a certain extent, and Marian, no matter how many times she was told to, could never completely forget that. They were sisters, but Jaenelle was also her Queen, always, and sometimes, Witch. It made it a little hard to poke gently when Jaenelle clearly needed some poking. Marian, nonetheless, made herself do it, because Jaenelle deserved that much from her.
First, though, she served tea and biscuits with rosehip butter. She looked over to make sure that Ladvarian was keeping watch over Daemonar—Jaenelle had possessed the good sense to bring the Sceltie along—before asking, “Is everything all right?”
Jaenelle took a tiny bite, chewing and swallowing slowly. “You’ll think it foolish.”
She didn’t say it with any shame, particularly, just a weariness that Marian hated to see in her. “You were one of the first people to see something not foolish in who I am and what I do. If I could return the favor, I would be grateful.”
Jaenelle took another bite, a sip, then said, “Daemon—he does not ask for much.”
Marian shook her head. “Lucivar neither.”
“But you-- You provide…comforts.”
Marian tilted his head. “You have always been the only thing Daemonar needed.” Her heart ached even as she said it, knowing it was true, knowing that the truth sometimes burned through Lucivar.
Jaenelle was quiet for a long couple of moments, and Marian let the silence reign, sensing the younger woman simply needed time. Finally, Jaenelle admitted, “He likes ginger cookies. I want to make them, but every time I try it’s horrible, they’re burnt or taste only of flour or not cooked through or—“
Marian smiled then. “You want me to teach you to make ginger cookies?”
Jaenelle all-but shrugged. “I should count myself lucky if I could do one-tenth the arts you manage.”
“We’ll start with the cookies.”
Jaenelle was a healer. By definition, she was used to brewing. Marian told her, “This isn’t that different.”
“Logically, no,” Jaenelle agreed. “And yet, five batches of disaster say something different.”
Marian pulled ingredients from the shelves by heart. Lucivar and Daemon had similar tastes in cookies. “What do you think of when you’re making them?”
“That is the problem, then.”
“There’s measurements and—“
“What do you think of when you’re brewing?”
Jaenelle tilted her head. “The people who need it, the properties inherent, the care I hold for those I heal.”
Marian just looked at Jaenelle. Jaenelle made a considering expression. “So…less about the mechanics, more about what the cookies mean?”
“People are good at the skills that mean something to them, I find.”
“True,” Jaenelle granted. “I still think you should help me with the measuring and the timing.”
The cookies came out perfectly—crisp and spicy and sweet.
“You cheated,” Jaenelle accused. “You used Hearth Magic.”
Marian laughed. “I did no such thing.”
“But.” Jaenelle took a second bite of the test cookie. “These are delicious.”
“What were you thinking about?”
Jaenelle blushed, and for a second, Marian was certain her Queen wasn’t going to answer. Then she spoke up: “The way you put care into every little thing you do for all of us. The way we’re more of a family than ever with you around, and that was why I came to you, not Mrs. Beale.”
“Oh.” Marian had been expecting something a little more along the lines of how much Jaenelle loved her husband.
“Oh,” Jaenelle echoed with a soft smile. She stole another cookie. “By the time I’m done with these, we might have to make another batch.”
“We?” Marian asked. “You can do it on your own.”