The night was so still that even the dandelions outside of the window were stationary.
There had to be some sort of irony, Lisa mused, in being a woman who prioritized sleep above all else, but being subjected to the back pains that came with being hunched over a warmly lit desk near midnight. She supposed there had to be some sort of retribution for being friends with a night owl such as the current Acting Grand Master, of course.
Less of a night owl and more of a walking, half dead owl on the verge of collapse, if Lisa was to be more painfully accurate. She was beginning to regret offering her graceful services to lighten Jean’s workload.
Frowning, she reread the report laid out before her eyes, twirling her quill in the air with soft crackles of electricity keeping her mind alert enough to comprehend the situation written in cursive. She couldn’t begin to count the amount of cat reports and private affairs between the folks of Mondstadt she was given through a generous pile. Just an hour of mindlessly signing these things was giving her a headache, and Lisa felt vaguely aware that it was Jean who had to do these things day by day.
She grimaced. With her back straightened out, she signed off on yet another seal of duty, then plucked out another letter from the slowly shrinking pile. She was awake enough to comprehend the Mondstadt seal on its cover, as well as the small, uniformed writing scribbled by it. Lisa blinked her sleepiness away, finally interested for the first time that night.
The sound of the grandfather clock ticked away every syllable she read with her sleepy eyes, each tick inciting a stronger heartbeat striking in her chest.
Acting Grand Master Jean,
I have acknowledged and fulfilled your request to create an ataractic potion for your loyal knights. Though it is still in its early stages of development, I am confident that these two vials will provide sufficient data and outcomes that may help Sucrose and I obtain better results. Please send a party of your choice to conduct an indicative…
Lisa read the rest of it with lightning eyes. A calming potion from Albedo.
She was mildly offended at first that she wasn’t on the list of contenders for this sort of thing, but she remembered vaguely the promise of no more favors Jean made her after she asked her to take care of an Abyss Mage problem north of Mondstadt.
So maybe chivalry wasn’t dead after all.
It seemed as if Jean had requested the alchemist to make something similar to a sedative, and if Lisa had to guess, the request was made correlating to the low morale amongst the tight-shouldered knights. Albedo and Sucrose weren’t there yet to mass produce those things, but it was successful enough to be given to two knights for a trial run, provided it was overseen by a trustworthy individual. Lisa pressed her lips together, the gears in her head twirling as much as the elevated quill above her.
Who, in the entirety of Mondstadt, was deserving of such a heaven-sent concoction? Who was one that couldn’t be affected by the calming spurs of tea and relaxation and everything in between, no matter how much Lisa tried, and needed something much stronger to finally, finally, learn to relax?
The answer was as obvious as daylight.
She stood up, her chair squeaking enough to spur her awake even more, and she placed a delicate finger over the end of Albedo’s report. He indicated that the vials were in a package sent with his letter, a small baby blue clothed bundle to protect the glass. It only took her half a minute to find it among the piles of papers and letters set by her desk, the blue giving the impression of holding permafrost in her hands.
The paperwork she so generously told Jean she’d help her be done with today was abandoned behind her in a small gust of wind as she torpedoed herself out of the library nook, heading straight for Jean’s office. She left behind Albedo’s letter as she unwrapped the parcel as intricately as possible.
It took all of her might not to push open Jean’s doors like a maniac, opting instead to open it as lightly as she could, trying to channel her inner poise as she did so.
“Jean, darling,” she said, her voice airy and light, “You understand that Mondstadt won’t drop dead tomorrow morning with you asleep?”
As per usual, Jean’s head snapped up, her tired eyes focusing on Lisa, though they were looking almost right through her.
And as per usual, her tense shoulders slumped, she dropped her quill, and she sighed through her nose. Routine, as always, with them.
“I know,” Jean replied, her voice tinged with a slight slur. She cleared her throat of it, flipping over a document to the “done” pile. “I know,” she repeated, this time with a heavier voice, “I’m— I’m almost done. Promise. Just finishing up.”
Promises with Jean were almost always backwards. Lisa strode over with the prowess of a lion, eyes staying on Jean with intensity that was certain not per usual to their routine. Jean sensed this, almost recoiling under Lisa’s hard look. Lisa ghosted delicate fingers over Jean’s mahogany desk.
A beat of silence, produced by the ticking clock in Jean’s office.
And then Lisa smiled lazily, dragging her delicate fingers through the polished wood. Jean was pressed more into her plush chair. “Albedo sent you a gift,” she explained, hoisting a leg up to the desk to sit daintily. She held out one of the vials, the other concealed in a pocket. “Your potion request.”
Jean smiled meagerly at the sight. She took the glass vial and squinted into the nearly translucent liquid with curiosity. “I see. I’ll have to thank him soon,” she said simply, almost to herself. Her eyes gazed up to Lisa as she continued, “Is… that all you came here for?”
Lisa couldn’t help but snort at that. “Darling, I wouldn’t come waltzing all the way just to get you something as mundane as that. Those are things that you do.”
Jean’s eyebrows pumped upwards. “Okay. Then…?”
Lisa spotted the empty tea cup by her side and reached over for it. Curiously, Jean watched as she got up and refilled it with the kettle on her table, thankfully still warm to the touch by pyro. She filled it with some leftover jasmine tea. It was a classic among their tea breaks, and though Jean started making a comment about how they already had tea this morning, Lisa, there’s no need for more— Lisa shushed her by putting the cup right in front of her.
Jean’s eyes glittered in amusement. Her eyelids were obviously heavy with the burden of keeping awake, but somehow they always seemed to shine in childlike delight underneath all the strain. It made Lisa more defiant in making her try out her literal own medicine.
“Albedo wrote that he needed more time in perfecting it. Something about needing some people to try it first,” Lisa explained. Jean watched her curiously as she took the vial back, popped open the cork, and slowly poured the content into her tea. “But it’s safe to drink, don’t you worry your little head about that.” She stirred the tea gently, clinking the spoon softly against the ceramic.
Jean squinted at her. “I… deem it highly inappropriate that something as miraculous as a calming elixir would be used for an Acting Grand Master instead of a knight, don’t you think?”
“Oh, Jean,” Lisa sighed, half fondly and half exasperated, “I can guarantee that you work harder than the entire flock of knights combined. It’s nearing midnight, for gods’ sake, and you’re cooped up in here like a hilichurl in a cave.”
Lisa could practically feel Jean’s resolve breaking as she kept stirring, plastering on her best lazy grin and leaning in just a bit closer to make her point. Jean was hushed into silence, her piercing gaze looking into Lisa’s coy ones with gears turning and clicking in her head. She was still trying to find a way out of this.
Well. There was always a Plan B for a reason.
Lisa leaned in closer, but instead of scooting closer with her hips, she reigned in her chest, just enough. Maybe a little too much, honestly, considering how instantly red the poor woman got, her eyes shifting up and down like they were ricocheting around her skull. In the end, Jean managed to keep steady eye contact with her.
Lisa gave her one of her dopey smiles again. “Please, darling?” she pleaded quietly, pushing the tea to Jean, “For me?”
Jean’s willpower crumbled in one fell swoop.
“Alright, alright,” Jean relented, and she took hold of the tea and held up to her lips, blowing softly on the cup like one gulp would be enough to kill her. Lisa smiled, big and wide, and hopped off the desk to come around and put her hand on Jean’s shoulder. Once the woman was relaxed enough, Lisa unclipped her coat, dragging it off her tense back like a sweep of a blanket.
She massaged the knots in Jean’s shoulders as the woman sipped quietly, her head tilted just enough to listen intently to Lisa’s soft, pleased voice. “See! That wasn’t so hard, was it?” she teased.
Jean mumbled something in her breath, though Lisa was too distracted with watching her tight back muscles illuminated by the candlelight to understand nor care what she said. Laughing softly under her breath, she carried on the conversation with a, “Honestly, love, you work too hard. Would it kill you to want to relax every so often?”
“There’s too much work to be done, Lisa,” she replied, and Lisa bit back a remark about how it felt as if it was the thirteenth million time she said it. It always had to be work. Work, work, work. She begged the gods above that this one stupid concoction was enough to subdue her even just for a damn hour.
If it did, she was sure to remember to send Albedo and Sucrose a bouquet of flowers (granted, Dragonspine was no weather for flowers, but she’d make it work).
Lisa swerved her response with grace and poise. “Well, sweetie,” she said saccharinely, “ Albedo did send two vials. Who’s the lucky number two?”
Jean laughed under her breath then took another sip. Maybe it was her eyes playing tricks on her, but Jean did seem much more calmer. She seemed to have started melting right into her chair as Lisa pressed her palm into a spot she knew was amply sore. “I would have thought you’d want to put a second serving into my cup,” Jean said, laughing even more when Lisa struck her shoulder blade in defiance.
“I want you to relax, not accidentally sleep through the end of the world, darling.” Lisa lowered her hands to her mid-back, applying more pressure in places she remembered last to be weak points. Jean shuddered in response, leaning forward to allow her better room.
That’s when Lisa noticed that the tea cup in her hand was shaking a little. She paused her hand movements.
Jean, confused by her sudden stop, craned her neck around to watch her with half-lidded eyes. “Is something the matter?” she asked cautiously, and her voice sounded… soft. Silky. A little hoarse around the edges.
If Lisa was being honest, it sounded like her.
“Your hand’s shaking.” Lisa pulled her eyebrows together in concern. Oh, she trusted Albedo with her life when it came to alchemy, she’d like to think, but her thoughts whispered cautious tales to her, ones especially about giving Jean a potion that wasn’t even ready.
She shook the thoughts away when Jean merely blinked at her, then smiled reassuringly and raised her cup. Her hand had stopped shaking. “Your massages,” Jean said simply. At Lisa’s cocked head, she explained, “I think this tea and your massages are doing a lot more in helping me relax than you think. My hands felt like pudding for a second.”
Lisa relaxed. She smiled back at her friend and ran her hands up back Jean’s shoulder blades, letting them rest on her shoulders before giving them a tight squeeze. Jean inhaled deeply, then leaned backwards in her chair, sipping the last of her tea in blissed contentment.
Albedo was definitely getting something from her for this. Roses, strange artifacts, whatever the handsome alchemist desired, really.
She knew that Jean had a better time grounding herself when she spoke, so Lisa shared the ins and outs of her day. She spoke lightly about the overdue books she had to come collect, only two today fortunately, and the bizarre requests from citizens she had gotten over the course of the day. Jean hummed while she recounted her stories, sounding beyond lulled than any time Lisa had ever seen her. The cup had emptied a while ago, though Jean fidgeted with the tea spoon it came with to give her hands something to do.
Then Jean’s head lolled backwards, looking up at Lisa in the middle of her rehash about the young wolf boy she was teaching, and Lisa’s voice almost faltered like dandelions were in her throat.
Jean was looking at her with an adoring look on her face. As if she was taking in Lisa with everything she had, and slowly, the adoring look reached her eyes, and Lisa’s words had dwindled down to a halt.
She’d seen that admiring look in people’s eyes before. Men and women in Mondstadt who would come up to her while she was on a stroll or oddly, even when she was sorting books in the library, to tell her how beautiful she looked that day and that they hoped that they could get along a bit better. Code words, honestly she knew, for people who were enamoured and charmed.
“Why’d you stop talking?” Jean asked her, and an honest to the gods pout made its way to her face and Lisa had never been so endeared yet confused in her life. “Your voice sounds like… like a stream. Very soothing.”
“My, all those books and yet you can’t find a good analogy to save your life,” Lisa teased, hoping to ease the sudden tension in the room. It felt as if electricity was crackling around them, something that was prickly and heavy in the air. It wasn’t her, she knew that well enough, because this felt more… intense, somehow.
“I’m sorry,” Jean quickly said. Lisa almost breathed out in relief. “I was just distracted by how gorgeous you look illuminated by the moon.”
“Jean, love,” Lisa said cautiously. She slipped her hands off of Jean as subtly as she could. “Are you… feeling okay?”
“I’m feeling alright.” Jean scooted the chair out of the desk, making Lisa take a few steps backwards to watch her carefully, her eyes never leaving Jean’s, and Jean’s never leaving hers in return. “I feel great, actually. Like, really really great.”
“Is that so?”
Jean had gotten up from her chair, her eyes still on Lisa. It was then she understood why they called her the Lionfang Knight sometimes. Moving so lithely, yet with the underlying danger that there was nowhere to run anyway. “Is there a reason for that?”
Jean didn’t answer her. Instead she came closer, her ungloved hand snaking around Lisa’s waist, making Lisa’s breath catch and hold, and then spun them around so quickly that Lisa had to blink to comprehend the action that occurred. She felt the smooth edge of the desk nudge into her lower back, both of Jean’s hands holding her so steady that she felt that she could go limp and still be held so rigidly upwards.
“You look so beautiful,” Jean mumbled, her eyes nearly glowing a pale azure under the beam of the moon.
Poor Lisa didn’t know what to do other than gape at her, hands hovering up and having nowhere to put them.
“If you’re not feeling well, I’m sure Barbara and the sisters—” she began.
“I love you.”
Lisa felt so dizzy that she felt as if she got caught in a hurricane. “I see,” she said, because there was no possible way that she could force anything else out of her mouth in her current state. “Well, I love you too, Jean. You’re the closest friend I could ever hope to have.”
“No… no, you don’t seem to understand me.” The pause in which Jean took to clear her throat was enough for Lisa’s heart to jump and lodge itself directly in the base of her throat. Jean pushed a stray strand out of her face, and her voice came out hushed and absolutely breathless. “I love you, Lisa. I’m— well— I’m completely in love with you.”
If Jean’s strong hands wrapped around her waist weren’t enough to cause heart palpitations, she was sure the proximity their faces stood was going to be. All it took was one push, one push and they could—
“What is going on in here?”
Kaeya was watching them with his scrutinizing eye, holding a stack of books that Lisa was sure he meant to return.
Jean had the manners to lean away from her, her hands releasing from her waist, and Lisa was both disappointed and irritated at herself for wanting them back.
“I’m so sorry,” Jean rushed out, and it was like having a glimpse of her friend back, before the flustered look on her face morphed back to the lovestruck dumb look that Lisa wanted so badly to electrocute out.
“Well?” Kaeya asked languidly. He advanced enough to place his books on Jean’s table. “If you were about to get down to it, I’d happily lock the doors for—”
“No!” Lisa said sharply, then shook her head a little at the speed of her words. “Please, Kaeya. Stay.”
Kaeya looked between her and Jean, who was still looking at Lisa with that same puppy dog look in her eyes.
He whistled lowly.
“I didn’t think you had it in you, miss Witch of Purple Rose. Impressive, to say the least.”
Lisa inhaled sharply when Jean started dragging a finger up and down her forearm. She put her hand over Jean’s, holding and suspending it in place, and the electricity zipped through the nerves of her fingertips at the feeling of Jean’s cool knuckles. “You know I would never—”
But Kaeya merely laughed and held up his hands in meek surrender. “I know, I know. Though…” His eye glazed over to Jean, and have mercy, for Lisa wasn’t even brave enough to glance to her side. Kaeya seemed rather mirthful at the sight. “I would still suggest speaking about this with the door closed. Her little puppy dog eyes at you could scare the entire guild.”
Lisa massaged her temples, a headache knocking insistently on the back of her head.
She was reading a book on love potions, her twelfth edition in fact, and she wasn’t getting any closer to what she needed.
“Lisaaaaa,” Jean groaned, her arms constricting Lisa’s abdomen so hard that Lisa’s breath was forced out of her lungs. Lisa patted her arm, and Jean untensed. “You’ve been reading for so long, love. We should go for a stroll.”
Oh, she already knew what Jean was affected with. A specific kind of love potion created with dandelions and windwheel asters, among all the other complicated spells and hijinks that had to be put to make such an influential concoction. It was no wonder Albedo had mixed up the vials— they were created from Mondstadt native ingredients, and Lisa could only wonder why he would fail to double check or label the vials, especially with such a disastrous mixup.
She had already written to him, sending the Honorary Knight and her floaty companion for an emergency, confidential commission up in Dragonspine.
Except she knew Lumine wouldn’t be able to climb up the snowy mountain fast enough and return quite all fast enough, because there was no effective cure to date for this specific potion, except to wait it out like dandelion seeds being blown away by natural wind. Her letter was a last ditch effort.
With all that, Jean had clung to her back and side like a duckling to her mother for the past fifteen hours.
“It’s only three in the afternoon, dear,” Lisa began.
She pried Jean’s hands off of her enough to close to her book and swivel around on their shared bed (which, obviously, wasn’t her idea to stay in). Jean’s eyes twinkled when their eyes met, starstruck and full of so much artificial love that it felt as if she was staring at someone else, certainly not the Acting Grand Master, and certainly not her Jean.
Lisa gulped down the thought. “As much as I enjoy your enthusiasm for taking a break for once in your life, you only like taking them around sunset.” Because she had to desperately remind Jean that she had a routine, a routine that involved her still by her side yes, but one that came from work and being there for Mondstadt and for being Jean.
“I know,” Jean said simply, a small smile blossoming on her lips as she brought Lisa’s hands up to her lips and kissed her first knuckles. Lisa tried her hardest not to grimace. “But we could always leave early and wait for the sunset just a bit longer. I would prefer it, honestly. Especially since I could take you to the tavern. Maybe buy you some drinks, then buy you a nice dinner, and take you to the flower shop, and—”
“I think you’re taking the phrase, ‘take me out to dinner first’, a bit too seriously,” Lisa teased. She exhaled her sigh through her nose and lightly swatted Jean’s hands away from hers. Jean tucked her hands in her lap, looking so eager to please that Lisa almost laughed.
“It’s not like I have anything to do besides be with you,” Jean told her with a coy smile. “Kaeya’s doing all my paperwork, yes? That leaves all my efforts and time to be concentrated on you and that enticing smile of yours.”
“You flatter me too much,” Lisa answered, tucking the book under the pillow in front of her to be read later. The large expanse of Jean’s bed used to feel so comforting, but now it felt like the duvets and mattress never ending, just a large field consisting of her and a friend who she had to walk around like a minefield.
Thank the gods above that the love potion had no effect on libido, because that… would certainly have had an even heftier effect on her occupied sleeping arrangements with her closest friend.
“You’ll have to thank him later. He’s only doing this because of you, you know,” Lisa tittered, mostly to fill the quiet space between them and to have something else to concentrate on than Jean’s idolizing look at her.
“Oh, I will,” Jean promised. She shifted on the bed. “The fact that he’s doing all of that so we could spend more time together? He could have all the mora and things he could want for this.”
Lisa pursed her lips. Well. Close enough.
Diluc and Barbara were notified about the situation as well, just in case it got more out of hand than necessary. They couldn’t risk letting other people know about it until it was mild enough to contain it. Lisa just wanted to make sure that Jean wouldn’t be in public too often, doing things she would regret (and at that, Kaeya had opened his mouth to say “like y-?”, but Lisa was quick to zap his mouth, literally, shut). If anyone else had gotten word that Acting Grand Master Jean had transformed into a lovestruck puppy dog at the heels of their master, that was a disaster that would take months to resolve.
Kaeya was in charge of doing her paperwork and Diluc was gracious enough to do everything else, and for once, Jean had no complaints in being told to take a break from work. In any other situation, Lisa would have jumped and crackled the sky in pure joy, though this situation was less of a vacation and more of a sick leave than anything else.
After all, everything that was coming out of Jean’s mouth was reminiscent of Lisa’s own flirting, Lisa’s own confidence. But the lovestruck smile, the gleaming eyes— that was all on Jean and that stupid, stupid potion that made her act so, well, not Jean.
It was infuriating.
For so many reasons, some that Lisa knew she had to untangle, but her main focus was getting Jean back to her natural state.
“I’m sure what you were reading wasn’t important enough for you to say no to getting some tea,” Jean said confidently, holding her chin a little higher.
Lisa bit back a no, of course not, it wasn’t like I was double checking to make sure I couldn’t just zap you back to the way you were.
“You’re lucky you’re too cute to resist,” Lisa said, and the giddiness that burned in Jean’s eyes almost made her look away. Yes, she knew it was a terrible idea to be goading a lovesick, spellbound friend. But how could she resist? Flirting, more specifically flirting with Jean, was so encoded into her bloodstream that it felt more like a part of her than her own Vision. Of course, she dialed it back a little, but it wasn’t like her to stop altogether— it was much too unlike her, much too difficult to change the way she just naturally was.
At least, that’s what she kept saying to herself.
A mantra of sorts, really.
Jean got up like a broken spring on the mattress. She outstretched her hand to Lisa, chivalry never leaving a bone in her body even in an intoxicated state. Her giddy, bright smile was still plastered on her face, and Lisa didn’t know if she wanted to punch her or kiss her more like this.
“Wonderful!” Jean exclaimed. Her hand enveloped Lisa’s in an instant, tugging her gently out of the door like an overexcited child at a festival. “There is so much in Mondstadt I want to show you! We can visit the market first so I can spoil you with whatever your precious eyes lay on, then we can take a breather for some actual tea, then, oh, I could convince someone to take over library duties for you long enough for us to vacation in Liyue to—”
“Sweetie,” Lisa interrupted gracefully, her shoulder almost clipping a guard as they weaved through the front of the guild, “I accepted your offer for tea. Not an impromptu vacation in another nation.”
“Oooh, that rhymed!” Jean laughed merrily, looking over her shoulder to share an amused look.
Lisa’s jaw slackened. Perhaps, she will admit, maybe she found the situation a little funny after getting over the initial shock, but seeing Jean be humorous like this? A little more unnerving than fighting a whole dragon, that’s for sure.
“You’re right,” Jean continued, and Lisa honest to the gods swears she saw Jean pout, “there’s too little time to plan for a vacation outside of Mondstadt. We will simply have to plan ahead after I bring you to every romantic spot in this city and sweep you off your feet.”
Humorous and straightforward? Lisa was about to have a heart attack. The only thing letting her drag her feet enough to catch up to Jean’s pace was the thought of Jean emerging from the hex of the potion, remembering enough about her experiences to look absolutely mortified. Lisa’s lips quirked up a little in amusement at the mental image.
Jean, taking her small smile as a good sign, squeezed her hand and led them deeper in the city, speaking highly of the places she wanted to take Lisa for the day.
And poor Lisa could only stare at the side of her head as Jean rotated between looking outwards into the city she loved and the woman she loved for the time being.
Tea time was a sacred tradition between her and Jean— one filled with relaxation and catching up between the overworked Acting Grand Master and the passive librarian. Now, Lisa wondered if this particular affair would grant her enough patience to get through Lovesick Jean’s unworldly desires.
She didn’t digest anything Jean had to say until she knocked her shoulder against hers, jostling Lisa enough to hum and tilt her head at her companion.
“Did you hear anything I said?” Jean said in mild amusement. They were only a couple steps away from the market district. People didn’t once stop to glance at them. Lisa was mournfully torn apart from feeling relieved and frustrated that the people of Mondstadt were too used to seeing the pair together on patrol to ever pay them any notice of something being amiss.
“I hope I don’t hurt that golden heart of yours too much when I say no,” Lisa mused.
Jean only laughed. Deep and full, like Lisa had told the funniest joke in the world. “Lisa, you are much too beautiful and divine for me to be truly wounded by you.”
Lisa hummed. “I’ll keep that in mind, my knight.”
And Jean grinned, tossing her head back enough to look at her directly, her eyes so full of artificial love that Lisa’s stomach plunged like a pit. “I said that hopefully, by the end of the night, I could gain the courage to ask for the privilege of your kiss.”
“You know I could never say no to you,” Lisa blurted out. It was such a reflex to say, such a natural, flirty response that once it slipped out of her mouth, it took three quick heart beats to realize that she shouldn’t be saying things like that, not when she knew that she wouldn’t get Jean’s regular flustered averted gaze and the fidgeting of her coat that she found so endearing and so harmless from Mondstadt’s strongest knight.
So, she tried to douse out the fire with a quick, and hopefully natural, “A kiss on your cheek is something I’ve never turned down for you, have I?”
Jean didn’t seem even mildly perturbed by her innocent answer. Instead, she shrugged and sidled up closer to her side (if that was even possible), her shoulders untensed and her posture relaxed. So reposed, in fact, that it was Jean’s aura of ease and informality that was starting to make people glance curiously over to them.
“Well, yes,” Jean admitted.
Some merchants were waving at them, some calling out their sales for the day and some chattering noisily to other customers in the market. The afternoon air seemed crisp with the bustle of activity and liveliness of the city that Lisa had momentarily forgotten about their situation, until she felt Jean’s warm breath tickling the shell of her ear as the young knight leaned over to whisper something close to a promise.
“But the mere idea of truly kissing you the way lovers do is much too grand.”
And Lisa knew, she knew, that her words came from the mountains of romance novels she would check out from the library to indulge in dreams outside of her duty to Mondstadt. She knows more than anyone else that Jean was not the type to say such confident, passionate things, opting more for subtle gestures and quiet yearning. That yes, Acting Grand Master Jean, a descendant of the Gunnhildr clan, was a fan of romance novels, yet didn’t believe in the many whimsical fairytale endings to be applicable to real life.
Yet Jean’s words stirred something in her akin to a blossoming flower on a windy day.
She stayed stubborn, planting her roots in the ground to never be stirred up again. Lisa merely smiled at her companion, easy and courteous.
“Now, which novel would that line be from?” she teased, and she enjoyed thoroughly the pinpricks of pink spreading across Jean’s pretty face, to the point that Lisa could almost pretend that they were on a regular stroll on a regular day, no love potions involved whatsoever in their lives.
“None!” Jean denied, and the pink retracted nearly immediately. Lisa bit down on her tongue in disappointment. “Everything I say to you comes from my heart. Have you ever known me to be anything less than truthful?”
Lisa pretended to pause. They stopped in the middle of the market, the bustle of the diffused crowd feeling like the sound of the windy breeze around them.
“Well…” she said, mock grimacing.
Jean jostled her shoulder with hers and they laughed, like friends taking advantage of the sunny day.
She remembered that morning when Diluc found out, when he pulled her aside to ask her if she was truly okay with being with Jean to wait out the storm. “No one is forcing you to do this,” he had murmured to her, his eyes glowing with something similar to concern, “I could protect Mondstadt while she’s— like that. And you could go up to Dragonspine with Kaeya and some others knights, if you’d feel inclined, to see if—”
“Oh, your concern is so flattering,” Lisa had said sincerely. She put a hand over his forearm and smiled reassuringly. “Without me around, there’s no telling how Jean will fare. Love can make people do odd things. And besides—” She paused, tilting her head to mull over her next words. “Jean being flirty and touchy with me is the least of my concerns. I mean, how ironic would it be for me to be bothered by that? I’ll be fine, darling. It’ll only last a week at most.”
And Diluc left, glancing back at her one more time, the look on his face hesitant, as if he didn’t believe her.
He was right to, in the end.
Because what absolute irony it was, for her to feel as if she was cornered by a lion every time Jean flirted, or touched, or looked at her like that.
Lisa prayed to every Archon out there to give her the strength.
Diluc, ever the chivalrous former knight, checked up on her at least once a day.
Each time, Lisa would wave him off for being like a doting grandparent. She would tell him that she was fine, that she was watching Jean and making sure she wasn’t doing anything horribly embarrassing for her to remember in a week, and that Jean being hopelessly, madly in love with her was just being a little bit of a nuisance, not an entire problem.
And each time, Diluc would shoot her a look of doubt but leave soon after Lisa stared back at him with an equal amount of tenacity.
The day after their stroll to the market (and their visit to a picnic spot that Jean was dying to show her), Lisa convinced her enough to stay indoors at the headquarters. Jean was almost always hovering Lisa in some way, whether that was looking over her shoulder as she filed books away in their respective sections or cuddling her in their shared bed.
Sometimes, Jean would pull something out of her magic hat to surprise Lisa. There were bouquets here and there, expensive gifts imported from Liyue, and clumsy pickup lines that Lisa was certain were lines Jean overheard coming from her ranks of awkward guards.
It wasn’t a problem, per se, but it was certainly distracting.
Plus, people were starting to notice the clinginess of their Acting Grand Master. Wyratt casually brought it up one day when Jean and Lisa came back from their late afternoon stroll, noting that he had never seen them more than six feet away from each other in the past six days. Jean had opened her mouth to say something, the adoring look in her eyes revitalizing at the sound of Lisa’s name, but Lisa was quick to laugh and tell the loyal knight that “Oh, we just have a lot to catch up on.”
After the seven day benchmark, Lisa woke up in their bed feeling somewhat tired after her full cycle of sleep.
She rolled over to find Jean already looking at her, with those same puppy eyes and the same artificial love behind them that was starting to make Lisa’s stomach feel queasy.
She double checked a book about love potions that day, with Jean’s chin prompted on her shoulder as they stood in the middle of the restricted section, her eyes closed and her breathing tickling the bottom of Lisa’s ear.
Though the effects of lovesickness has been recorded to last seven days, this is only the perceptive average. Many can break the effects after a short few days, and others may break it after two or more weeks. However, there is no love potion known to Teyvat that can make a person fall in love for longer than thirty days—
She had twenty three more days, maximum, to deal with Jean’s lovesickness, if Jean’s body was stubborn enough to go the full length. Lisa knew, though, that Jean herself had always been a stubborn person, so it wasn’t out of her interest to do so.
Lisa also knew that there were etiquettes to writing requests for fellow friends and alchemists. Never writing a second letter begging for a response was one of them, but she was so close to frantically writing a PLEASE RESPOND ASAP to Albedo that she had to grit her teeth together not to.
“You know I’m truly in love with you, right?” Jean whispered in her ear.
Lisa had to stifle her shudder at the feeling. She closed the book and set it back on the shelf. She didn’t mean to ignore Jean’s words, truly she was just mulling over her response, but Jean seemed to think otherwise.
“That love potion… it only kickstarted my love for you, that’s all,” she clarified, and her arms snuck around Lisa’s waist, chin still prompted carefully on her shoulder. Lisa stiffened.
If Jean noticed how tense she had gotten, she didn’t make a comment on it. Instead, she continued, “I’ve never been this in love with someone before, and I know in my heart that this spell had worn off just hours after taking that drink. My love for you has always been here, and it’s thanks to that brew that I was finally able to break through and confront it.”
“Your words are just as sweet as honey, you know that?” Lisa murmured. She turned around to face Jean, who kept her arms loosely around Lisa’s body. Their faces were nearly touching.
“Never as sweet as you,” Jean said with a lovestruck smile.
Lisa didn’t know what to make of the pin drop feeling that erupted in her stomach.
When they heard someone approaching that particular section of the library, Lisa took that opportunity to step back from Jean, who thankfully mirrored her. Jean cleared her throat and Lisa just looked at her, watching closely to find every curve and softness of her face.
Their interruption turned out to be sweet little Ella, who came up to Lisa to inquire about being pointed to more books of linguistics.
When Lisa takes Ella’s hand to lead her to new scholar editions of the books she was looking for, she can feel Jean’s loving gaze on her, watching her every move and listening aptly to every word. She even paused midway through her explanation of a specific edition to address Jean with a, “I’d tell you not to snooze through this, cutie, but you seem to hang onto my every word like I’m talking about Vennessa.”
Jean only quipped back with a, “Your voice is as soothing as warm tea, how could I?”, to which Lisa hit her lightly with the back of a hardcover novel.
And somehow Lisa doesn’t find any of it the nuisance she tells Diluc that night.
It took another three days for Lisa to figure out her true thoughts on the matter.
It was a breezy night, one that forced her to put away her hat as she sipped distractedly on her tea on the balcony of the library. She’d finally convinced Jean to take some workload off of Kaeya’s shoulders, so she was finally relieved of her duties as Jean’s caretaker from the past week and a half to relax, wind down, and enjoy a hot drink before bed.
The warm lights and the quiet chatter below were beginning to feel like a lullaby, her legs beginning to feel like they were swaying underneath her. She closed her eyes momentarily, drinking in the wind that blew her hair back like a gentle tuck of a lover.
A dandelion tickled her nose.
She turned around to find Jean right beside her, holding out a dandelion to her like it was a sacred offering. Jean’s smile was kind, still lovestruck as always, but just as kind. She was starting to feel a little dizzy. The wind, she told herself, it’s probably because of the wind.
“I finished all of the paperwork today, can you believe it?” Jean said with a laugh.
Lisa raised a suspicious eyebrow and took a sip of her remaining drink. “I’m afraid I’ll have to say no, dear,” she replied, then brought the cup back to her lips. “Did you rush through all of it just to spend more time with me?” She hid her lazy smile behind her drink.
Jean’s lioness smile was illuminated by orange lighting covering the city. She shrugged. “Maybe.”
Lisa, affronted by her honesty, put down her cup from her lips in shock, mouth hanging open at a true loss for words. Yet Jean could only laugh goodnaturedly, lowering the dandelion between them to swing an arm over her chest to support the shaking of her shoulders. “I’m joking! I’m joking, I swear by it, Lisa.”
“You better be,” Lisa murmured half seriously, and took the second last sip of her drink. She could deal with Jean being a little love bird perched on her shoulder, but sloppily rushing through her duties? She was sure Jean would kill her once she came back to her senses if it were true.
“Can I kiss you?”
The sudden question made the feeling of the tea going down her throat feel like swallowing an arrowhead. She turned to fully look at Jean, who was looking back at her expectantly. “What?”
Jean shrugged helplessly, but she didn’t seem to look embarrassed. She never was when it came to flirting endlessly with Lisa. Kaeya had said once that their situation felt less of a love potion mishap and more of a body swap— that Jean had become the flirty Lisa, and Lisa had become the somewhat reserved pair. Lisa had only swatted away his musings, citing that she was still clearly Lisa.
But Jean, well.
“Well?” Jean asked her, shyly this time.
It was then that Lisa noticed that there was an overturning of their situation. Last week, Jean had been so ready to flirt with her, always so lovestruck and smiling at her even when Lisa discreetly rejected her advances of kisses and dates and, at one point, marriage (that day had given her enough blood pressure to fuel Diluc’s winery, she bet).
Now Jean was starting to ease. Her true personality was starting to shine through more each day, becoming less and less of the bold, lovesick fool that would find any reason to be close to Lisa.
Her Jean was coming back, especially in the way Jean’s smile wavered for the first time in days, and her eyes darted away from Lisa’s intense gaze, eyes softening at the sight of the warm city.
It overjoyed Lisa enough to lean over and kiss her on the nose.
Then she tilted her head, her dandelion still clutched close to her stomach, and repeated, “Lisa, can I kiss you?”
Lisa felt the warmth seep all throughout her chest. An aftereffect of the tea, she supposed. “I just gave you one,” she replied cheekily.
Jean exhaled softly in amusement. “You know what I mean.”
Lisa hummed. “Maybe I do know.”
Jean’s hopeful look squeezed something uncomfortable in her throat. Lisa hummed it away, in guise of her picking out the right words. “You’ll come to your senses soon, darling,” she settled on saying. She placed her tea cup on the edge of the balcony.
Jean only looked confused. “But I’ve always wanted to kiss you,” she said, and her words felt like stinging wind on skin. “I truly do not know what the problem is. Unless, of course, you don’t return my affections, but I don’t see it as a problem. If you wish for me to stop pursuing you, you know I would gladly do so. I am more than at ease to love you privately.”
Lisa closed her eyes and wished so badly that every word coming out of her mouth was true.
“Always so chivalrous,” Lisa reprimanded softly. “But that’s a conversation for when you’re not out of your mind, darling.”
Jean gave her a little smile and answered, “I’m always out of my mind around you.”
It was such a stupid thing to say that Lisa can’t help but laugh with her, the wind returning to rustle its presence around her shoulders.
The dandelion in Jean’s hand spread its seeds through Mondstadt through the help of the wind. Jean let it, her eyes tracking the white puffs with mirth in her eyes. She let go of the stem.
“I won’t stop trying to win you over if you don’t give me a straight answer, you know,” Jean said casually, as if they were speaking about the weather.
Lisa only raised her eyebrows at her, languidly leaning against the balcony to prompt her chin on a hand. “Oh?” she purred. “Too stubborn to give up, my dear knight?”
“Maybe,” Jean teased. She mirrored Lisa’s movements, leaning against the balcony to meet her eyes. The move is so calculated and so poised that Lisa briefly remembered that she was speaking to Jean, Acting Grand Master of Mondstadt, not the lovestruck lover girl laid out in front of her eyes. “But I have a feeling the reason why you haven’t given me a straight up rejection is because you don’t want me to. You like me.”
Her words were meant to be teasing. It’s obvious in the way Jean giggled a little after her serious tone of words, obvious in the way she looked at Lisa, like she already knew that Lisa would just scoff and quip back at her.
It hit her right then that Jean was right.
That she can’t bring herself to turn down Jean, because as right and good as she was and promised, she was also extremely and exceedingly selfish.
And Lisa didn’t know what to do, if next time Jean asked her again when her walls were down and she had nothing else to reject besides her own hopes that maybe Jean wouldn’t regret it the way Lisa knew she would.
It took another week for the effects to start waning. Though, as always with Jean, stubbornness had to be etched into everything she did.
She still flirted, still held out her arm for Lisa to take whenever they were out together, still hugged her from behind and whispered sweet things in her ear that would taint Lisa’s ears in a pretty pink. Lisa would flirt back, sometimes, just out of habit, and to test Jean’s reactions— if she’d grin and flirt back in her lovesick way, or clear her throat and avert her gaze in her own way.
She found that by the third week, Jean was split 50/50 in her actions, all split between the way she used to be and the unfortunate way she had to be now.
“Are you sure you don’t have a pyro vision?” Jean told her one morning. Before she could retort, Jean grinned and said, “Because you’re smoking hot!”
Another day it was, “You must have gotten your electro vision for being such an electrifying woman.”
The next day, she skidded over to Lisa and chirped, “Actually, maybe you have a hydro vision because you make me w—” and Kaeya guffawed so hard that poor Jean sat there looking between Lisa’s side eyed glare to the Cavalry Captain and Kaeya’s reddening face with her bewildered one.
Thankfully, other days were littered with dandelions and more gifts and more clumsy flirty banter.
Her pickup lines were always so stupid. So stupid, but so bold, that Lisa always had a hard time swallowing the apple sized feeling in her throat long enough to flirt back with an equally horrendous phrase that would ignite the giddiness in Jean’s face.
And sometimes, Jean would struggle to hold her hand. Like the one afternoon they were walking down away from the Cathedral after a visit with Barbara, when Jean’s knuckles had brushed against her, so gentle that it could have been mistaken for the wind. But when Lisa would glance over, she’d see the constipated scrunch of her nose and the darting eyes around the infrastructures of Mondstadt. She would take pity on the poor woman each time it happened, grabbing her hand fiercely, almost possessively, and reveling in the surprise on Jean’s face.
It was odd how Jean bounced back and forth. She knew it was a common side effect, just a sign of the love potion finally morphing out of the system, but it didn’t make it any less frustrating.
It was hard trying not to reflect the love Jean’s eyes held for her, not when she couldn’t distance herself from the situation and brush it away as Jean holding artificial love for her, not when she could see signs of the real Jean cracking through.
So sue her for dreaming and imagining that in a distant reality, the adoration held in Jean’s face as she read the knight the book she was reading was as authentic as the sun.
And maybe, just maybe, Jean was holding on so strongly to the spell because her love was always there. “My love for you has always been here,” Jean had assured her over and over when she would catch Lisa brushing up on more papers about love potions.
Her book snapped shut so suddenly that it startled her out of her own thoughts.
Jean, curled up like a cat by her side, stirred and yawned, stretching her arms right over head. She blinked sleepily at Lisa, then smiled in her dopey, lovestruck way. “You look downright gorgeous as always, Lisa,” she said dreamily.
Lisa only puffed out a laugh, gently settling her book down on the nightstand beside her. “I’m not the one who sleeps looking like an angel, Jean,” she answered simply.
“No, you do,” Jean mumbled, turning around to press her face back into Lisa’s side. Lisa laughed even harder at that, endeared by Jean’s lack of flirty response. She rubbed Jean’s back, humming lightly to herself. The poor knight had gone out on a brief commission to check out the hilichurl camp close by, only to end up being knocked over by a mitachurl.
“Just a reckless mistake,” Jean had assured her yesterday. It didn’t stop the protectiveness from engulfing her heart though.
She was lost in thought again, not knowing how much time had passed by the time Jean propped herself up on her elbows to look at Lisa lying on their pillows. There was that twinkle in Jean’s eyes again, the same ones that made Lisa hold her breath for the words Jean had not once failed to tell her.
“I love you,” Jean told her matter-of-factly. “And I’d be blessed by the honor of your kiss, Lisa Minci.”
It was the way Jean said it that made a laugh bubble in her throat. Jean laughed kindly with her. After all, it was her intention— she knew that Lisa would just keep shooting down her requests, so she settled on making it sound as melodramatic as ever, just to make Lisa laugh.
“You’re already blessed by the honor of my presence, love,” Lisa purred. She stroked Jean’s back soothingly, who leaned closer over to her with a dumb smile. “How will the Knights of Favonius react when they find out their most talented leader is a greedy woman?”
“Let them think whatever they want,” Jean declared. “Surely, I have the capabilities to fight them with my own bare hands if they ever want to take it up to me.”
Lisa laughed. Turning over their conversation, she mused, “You never did say why you were so reckless yesterday. You never had a scuffle like that in ages, honey.”
Jean’s smile dropped. She picked it back up again in a blink, though Lisa was certain she had seen the hesitancy in her eyes. “Just… a rookie mistake. As Amber had put it,” she said, her voice coming out so soft it nearly came out like a rumble.
Tilting her head, Lisa asked, “Was there a reason why?”
Jean shrugged her shoulders helplessly. Then, after a brief pause, she smiled in that minx way of hers and said, “I’ll tell you if you kiss me.”
Lisa huffed, making Jean’s laugh tinkle its way through. She kept stroking the place in between Jean’s shoulder blades almost absentmindedly. “Cutie, I’m no lawyer, but that seems like an unfair transaction if I’ve ever seen one.”
Then to her greatest surprise, Jean’s face sobered. It was like she was seeing her friend again for the first time, so proper and poised, maybe a little awkward around the edges. Lisa’s hand stopped midway down her back.
“I saw a cecilia down the hill,” Jean said mournfully. “I wanted to pick it up for you. You’ve always admired the cecilias Flora puts out in front of her store. I didn’t see the mitachurl until I was halfway down the footing of the path.”
“My brave, dumb, heroic knight,” Lisa mumbled. She started stroking Jean’s back again, but this time with the lightness of her nails. Jean shivered. “I don’t need cecilias to be happy when I have you.”
“What a suave thing to say as always, hmm?” Jean smiled weakly at her. Lisa can’t seem to place the look on her face. “I await the day your charming words match your heart, as it does with mine.”
Confused, Lisa scrunched her eyebrows at her. Her words sounded flirty, they certainly were flirty, but her tone was almost wistful.
“Anyway,” Jean said, all too quickly. She sat up so quickly that Lisa was afraid she had cracked a bone in the process. “I’m taking a handful of knights south to Wolvendom. There are reports of disturbances around the area, and I’ve taken it upon myself to see it done.”
“I see.” Lisa’s brow furrowed in confusion. “Are you leaving tonight?”
“At dawn,” Jean clarified. She cleared her throat and sat up, her shoulders clearly tensed and the way she held herself up reminiscent of her formal titles. Lisa tried her best not to frown. “I— well, I believe I should inspect the carriages.”
“Okay.” Lisa sat up on the bed. “I hope you don’t hurt yourself too bad this time,” she teased, because it always worked in getting Jean to relax.
It did. Jean’s shoulders slumped and she turned around to meet her eyes, fidgeting with the hem of her sleep shirt. “I’ll be sure to check for my blind spots,” she teased right back, and Lisa gave her what she hoped was a relieved smile.
Out of instinct, Lisa leaned forward and planted a perfect kiss on Jean’s cheek.
“A good luck kiss for my most beloved knight,” Lisa said to her.
Then Jean answered back with a “I’ll be sure to come back for more then,” her eyes sparkling with the mirth of a hundred constellations.
Lisa only laughed in return as the knight turned back around to open their closet, hunting for clothes that could be presentable enough to step outside. She cracked open the spine of her book again and settled into her covers, finding comfort in the rustling of her closest friend’s endeavors in clipping on her abhorrent amount of layers.
She felt a warm pair of lips press against her temple. The warmth spread through the rest of her body like a nice glass of wine, and she looked up curiously over her glasses.
Jean smiled at her. “I won’t be long. I’ll be back before you know it, right for tea time.”
As an afterthought, her coat coming around her shoulders, she leaned back and added, “I love you more than you could ever know.”
Lisa smiled lithely at her. “Well, don’t worry me to the grave, dear. Have fun.”
There’s something she could see in Jean’s face that twisted as those words came out of her mouth. Before Lisa could comment on it, Jean blinked and it was like the regretful glint in her eyes came away as easily as dandelions on an eyelash.
Then Jean left, leaving Lisa to be half concentrated on the contents of her book.
That next afternoon, Lisa was undoubtedly bored.
She was so used to getting roped into Jean’s shenanigans, whether that was trying to convince her not buy a million mora’s worth of heart fireworks for her or her being convinced to go out on an impromptu date, that not having Jean around felt foreign. And stale.
She finished sorting the books in the library a cumulative seven times that day, as well as ran over her mental tasks so dryly that the only thing left on the list was “add more tasks”. She was bored, and she couldn’t believe she was so bored that cleaning Jean’s office was a thing she decided on her own accord.
Lisa didn’t even know why she thought of it. Jean was by no means a neat freak, but the woman certainly did like to keep her things tidy to the best of her ability. There wasn’t a single dust speck on any surface in her office, for gods’ sake. Yet she had already taken the energy to walk all the way here (it was a short distance from library to office, sure, but distance is distance), and it would have been a shame not to do something there.
So she started sorting the books along Jean’s shelf.
In the order Lisa knew Jean liked reading her books in, and sorting the other ones into librarian-esque groups. It was easy labour, after all, when she knew how to sort books in her sleep and knew the exact kinds of books Jean liked to peruse in her personal time.
The door opened with a rattling bang, accompanied by a young voice stating, “Grand Master Jean, I have the report you requested from two nights ago about the—? Oh.”
Lisa regained her balance at the last minute, steadying herself by gripping a sturdy shelf. She turned her head around to find a flustered Amber, who grinned apologetically at her and twiddled her thumbs. There was a sheet of paper clutched underneath an elbow, her goggles hanging uselessly around her neck.
Lisa relaxed. “Amber! What can I do for you?” she said kindly, the surprise trickling into her voice.
“I’m so sorry! I totally forgot Jean had an expedition today!” Amber groaned, slapping her forehead with her palm. Lisa chuckled at her antics, then pushed herself away from the shelves and the small mountain of books piled by her side to speak with the Outrider. “I’ll come back another time! I’m sorry for bothering you— so uh, carry on?”
“If it’s a report, you can leave it at her desk,” Lisa said, pointing nonchalantly at Jean’s neat desk.
Amber gave her a weak smile and an even weaker salute, speed walking over to the desk to neatly place the scrawled report right in its center. After a moment of staring at it, Amber huffed and readjusted the paper so that it was angled right enough in her eyes. Lisa watched her in amusement.
“Say, this is the first time I’ve seen you and Master Jean apart in weeks, I think,” Amber observed with a little laugh.
Lisa tilted her head at her and blinked owlishly. “Really now? I didn’t seem to notice,” she lied dumbly. “But I guess time flies when you’re having fun,” she said as an afterthought.
Amber hummed in agreement at that, though when their eyes met, her fiery eyes glowed with something adjacent to a knowing look. The girl put her hands on her hips and huffed one last time, smiling brilliantly at Lisa. “I’m sorry about not being able to come down to the library more often too, by the way. It’s not that I don’t like hearing your stories, I do! I’m always just so darn busy all the time.”
“Oh cutie, you’re welcome at the library whenever you’re free.” Lisa smiled back at her genuinely. So busy, she mused. Just like another certain knight.
“Well, in that case, I’ll try to stop by tomorrow,” Amber promised with a thumbs up pointed her way. She bent down to adjust her paper one last time. “I think I’ve done my fair share of commissions this week, and man, I’ve only been eating chicken-mushroom skewers for as long as I can remember and I definitely need to— oh shoot!”
Her pitched hiss was paired with the sound of Jean’s inkwell clunking noisily against her desk. Amber had the reflexes to catch the bottle before it rolled off the desk completely, though the damage was done and her report and Jean’s favourite quill was coated in a fine black sheen of ink.
Lisa rushed over to her side to make sure she was okay, squeezing the Outrider’s shoulders in what she hoped was a comforting gesture. “Oh, darling, it’s alright— ink is easy to clean when you have Vision users walking around.” To make a point, she casted a lazy spell in the bottle’s general direction, causing the stained ink around it to dissipate into thin, smokey air.
She smiled down at Amber, whose remorseful expression was quelled enough for Lisa to be satisfied. She took her hands off Amber’s shoulders and slid the inkwell to the corner of the desk.
“Oh gosh,” Amber said nervously, fidgeting with a long ribbon on her belt, “I didn’t mean for that to happen!”
“I’d be more concerned if you did it on purpose,” Lisa said amusedly. “I won’t tell Jean, if that’s what you’re worried about. It’ll be our little secret.” She wasn’t supposed to be in here anyway.
She picked up Jean’s favorite quill and suppressed a frown, watching the ink drip onto the desk. She was vaguely aware of Amber babbling on, though she couldn’t concentrate when a splatter of ink dropped right into the small crevice of a slightly ajar desk drawer. She can see baby blue packaging peeking in the darkness.
It reminded her a bit of Dragonspine.
When Amber caught her gaze, she perked up. “Oh! That was something Lumine brought back last week. She was up in Dragonspine and bumped into Albedo, and he told her to give that to Jean as soon as she could. Lumine’s great, obviously, because she was down and back here in record time.” The pride in Amber’s voice for her outlandish friend made Lisa smile.
But then Amber’s words felt like jam in machine parts, because her train of thought grinded to a halt and Lisa could only stare at the offending package through the tiny crack of the drawer.
Overcome by curiosity (and let’s face it, she’d always been a nosy person), Lisa pulled the drawer open. She picked up the parcel with both her hands, and watched it unwrap before her eyes to find a vial, similar to the one Albedo had given them weeks prior. There was a small card attached to it.
Acting Grand Master Jean,
Your dearest librarian disclosed to me about our potion mix-up. I apologize tremendously, as I was researching the properties of love potions while juggling your request, which has proven to be disastrous. Fortunately, my extensive research on love alchemy has greatly assisted with this cure. Please drink this as soon as you can. I, again, would like to apologize for the mishap it may have caused.
Though I would doubt much has transpired, as your Lisa had fortunately been your object of desires. To my knowledge, love potions do not falsify romantic feelings. They only intensify them. As such, present feelings are only augmented to a modest extent.
Please take care, and do send Lisa Minci my regards.
On closer inspection of the vial, Lisa noticed that it was empty, each drop consumed and depleted.
When Jean found her waiting on the front steps of the headquarters, she only paused.
There was no flirty comment or a big, goofy smile on her face as she’d always greet Lisa with. Instead, she closed her eyes and looked up, as if she was praying to the Archons. And Lisa, ever so patient, let her, whilst fidgeting with the hems of her outfit.
Then she looked back at Lisa, nudging her head to the side to signal them to walk together.
Their stroll down the streets of Mondstadt was uncharacteristically quiet. There was no fuss coming from either of them. Jean didn’t bother to flirt with her this way, and Lisa made no effort to ask her how her day was. The tension between them was so tight that Lisa mused that the inquisitive glances being thrown their ways weren’t a figment of her imagination.
Had it not been for the situation laid before her, Lisa would have commented on the lovely way the soft glow of the Mondstadt night had settled on the eyes of her greatest friend.
After several courteous, yet terse, greetings with the people under their protection and the brief assessment of the new flowers laid out for the season, they stopped at the dock. Lisa could feel the sway of the wood beneath her, strong yet malleable. The wind was a nudging presence along the expanse of her shoulders, and she had to suppress the urge to squeeze herself in the chill. She’d always found the scenery here quite a spectacle, especially at night when the city’s warmth painted an orange blush along the mountains.
“You don’t have to.” Lisa closed her eyes for a brief moment. She let the wind whistle past her ears for one, two beats, then continued, “I already know.”
“Of the situation? Or of my apology?” Jean mused, laughing dryly. She hugged herself, though her tense shoulders made the action seem more defensive than self comforting.
Instead of directly answering, Lisa walked over to the edge of the pier and sat down, letting her legs dangle loosely over the wind-rippled water below. She looked behind her shoulder to find Jean frowning under the glow of the moon and the city, so she patted the spot beside her with a vague smile. Jean came to sit in an instant as if it was a command.
“I know you,” Lisa said. “So, naturally, I’m aware of both.”
“Was I being too obvious?” Jean said solemnly. She gave out another dry laugh, and Lisa couldn’t even bring herself to quirk her lips up at that. She could only frown. “I knew I wasn’t that good of an actress. I’m nothing akin to the performers we see so often along the roads.”
“Oh, Jean, acting definitely isn’t your strong suit,” Lisa said quietly, her eyes still drawn to the mountain skyline. Though out of the corner of her eye, she could see Jean flinch, just the tiniest bit. “But I would just be piling onto the deception if I told you that I was put off by your behaviour. I found the antidote Albedo sent.”
“That… makes much more sense.” Jean paused, the gears turning over and over in her head. “But, you know,” she went on, the ambivalent contemplation in her tone forcing Lisa to look at her in the eyes. “You are a talented potion maker, even above Albedo’s facility. You could have had as easily made it yourself.”
Lisa was dimly aware that Jean meant it as an offhand comment, a contemplative thought that was meant to let them release some of the tension in their shoulders. It worked for Jean, as she chuckled lowly to herself and drew her knees up to her chest, so much like a young child that Lisa’s heart squeezed painfully.
It squeezed and crushed further as she thought of the implications, that Lisa herself could have easily fixed the situation, that she could have done something had she not been so selfish, through and through, even subconsciously.
It was why Lisa never came into this conversation blinded by rage and betrayal, the way Amber had so worriedly thought. They were both at fault and both holding some sort of responsibility for the unkempt way they went about this— how could she ever put more on Jean’s mountain of burdens this time around?
“I just didn’t want to go back to being friends,” Jean piled on, taking her silence as a resilient sign of anger. “If I had said that I was cured and that I did not feel those things I felt when I was under that spell— it left a bad taste in my mouth. And I knew that no matter how many expeditions and accolades were bestowed upon me, I would never have the courage to tell you forthright without hiding behind a mask like that.”
Her blatant honesty made Lisa crack a wary smile. Jean locked eyes with her, holding her gaze in that determined way of hers. “It wouldn’t have lasted forever,” Lisa said simply. “It had a time limit on it, darling.”
Jean stiffened, the nightfall around them doing nothing to hinder the rising pink dusking on her cheeks. “"I— I know I just thought that maybe—” She took a deep breath to collect herself. Lisa only watched her. “—maybe if I loved you the way I've always wanted to, even without your reciprocation— just that you at least knew, just for a little while, it… it would have been enough."
When Jean hung her head, almost like Lisa had slapped her on the wrist with a ruler, it was like her heart was given clarity.
“Jean.” The seriousness in her voice made Jean snap her head up, her eyes reluctantly holding the conviction in Lisa’s. “Did you think that I liked the confident, flirty you?”
Jean only frowned. “I would like to think the answer is yes.”
It made her pause. She tilted her head at Lisa in an adoringly familiar way that it made her entire chest ache. “I don’t know, you seemed more… interested in me.” The sadness in her voice made Lisa ache more and all at once. “As if I was finally getting a glimpse of what it was like to be wanted and pursued by you.”
“My love,” Lisa said, fighting to keep the sob from rising into her voice, “I’ve always wanted you.” It was said so quietly, so uncharacteristically like her either, that she was almost sure that Jean didn’t hear it.
Yet Jean replied with a simple, “Not the way I wanted you .”
Lisa could only shake her head. She moved closer to Jean as if they were being pulled together by the relentless wind, and Jean watched, her lips pursed together and her brow furrowed to reveal her disquiet. Then Lisa took Jean’s hands in hers, pleading to the gods above that Jean could feel the words in her grasp before she could let them pass her lips.
“I need you to tell me how you feel,” Lisa said quietly, Jean’s hands shaking slightly in hers (from the cold or the unearthed emotions, she couldn’t tell even what she was feeling), “not when you were under a love spell. I need what you truly feel for me, Jean, and I promise I will never ask anything more from you.”
Jean held her gaze.
“I love you.”
And when Lisa scanned every inch of her— from her lips, to her unsure eyes, to her sweaty and shaky palms— she could only see Jean.
Only her Jean.
Lisa laughed, full and lovingly, feeling like her heart was full with true, legitimate tenderness for the first time in weeks.
And she continued to laugh, all the way until Jean shyly leaned over and Lisa closed the gap for her, their kiss so expected and unexpected in the most wonderful of ways. Gentle and kind, as her Jean always was, but persistent and steadfast and with Jean’s strong arms around her waist and Jean’s warm, floral scent and Jean’s dazed puff right in her face and Jean’s smile against hers and Jean’s warmth engulfing her the way no rush of electro could ever, ever could and it was just—
Jean, Jean, Jean.
"So did you really have a list of places you wanted to take me to sweep me off my feet?" Lisa asked her breathlessly, the pad of her thumb swiping almost shakily over Jean's bottom lip as she leaned over almost dangerously.
Jean's lips curled into a soft, loving smile, one that could only ever belong to her. "I would take you to see the stars if I could,” she said, the relief and breathlessness evident in her voice.
Lisa buried her head in the crook of Jean's neck. "How corny of you," she grumbled, though the smile couldn’t be wiped from her face even if she tried to electrocute it off. "You know it's considered lazy if you tell your lover things straight out of a book you read, especially if said lover was your librarian?"
When Jean laughed, her arms coming to hold her tightly and lovingly, breathless words of "I love you so much" warm in her hair, Lisa's heart felt like the dandelion seeds blowing into the endless night.