Her hazel eyes don’t shift from Jayne’s face, but she knows precisely where her son is at every moment. She can’t believe she’s got him back, at least for a little while, until she heals this man he’s suddenly calling a friend. She tears a large, thick leaf in half, allowing a heavy green syrup to ooze out, and collects it in a small bowl. This will help more than the ointment they’ve been smearing all over him, and smell better too. She applies it with strong, steady fingers, but Jayne remains asleep. The fragrance of it is still hanging in the air when Zoe walks in. “Sorry,” she says, stopping uncertainly at the doorway. “May I come in?”
Esme only nods, watching Zoe look down at Jayne. There’s a little bit of guilt there, though she can’t figure out what for, and there’s a lot of relief; she’s sure Zoe’s had to look at fallen comrades before, but most of them probably wouldn’t have still been breathing. She knows that any moment now, Zoe will catch her eye. “Thank you,” Zoe says before walking out again. Behind her, she hears her son sigh, and she finally realizes why he’s been so uncharacteristically silent.
She finishes tending to Jayne and turns to face her son. “In love?” she asks, smiling a little at how absurd it is that her baby boy thinks he’s grown up enough for this.
She sobers up quickly at the longing on his face. “I want to marry her.” For certain he’s grown up. She would have more likely bet her money on the little one, the girl who nods knowingly when he speaks of the ship. But it’s not for her to say who he should love. Not when he’s the only boy she’s got left.
She smiles brightly at him and changes the subject. “Hungry?” His nod is so eager that she laughs. “Who does the cooking when you’re up there?” she asks, curious about how he lives everyday life.
“We take turns. Jayne there’s the only one who’s any good at it.”
“You let the only decent cook get cut up and poisoned?” she asks, cuffing him affectionately. “I knew I should never have dropped you on your head when you were a baby.”
“Did it seem like a good idea at the time?” he asks, straightfaced, and she follows him out of the room, laughing, reminded of why she loves him so.
Continue: Part 13/21