The third time Beau sees Dairon she receives her first mission: a corrupt businessman running an antiques store in the Pentamarket as a front for smuggling dangerous magical items.
The concept is simple. Case the storefront, intercept contraband on its way into the city, and destroy the warehouse where the goods are kept.
Oh, and go alone.
It’s harder to convince the group than it is to convince Beau. She’s been alone before and she figures she’ll be alone again. Alone is inevitable, and this is her training. If Dairon says she needs to go alone, if this is some kind of test or the next obnoxious thing she has to do to learn more cool shit, then okay, sign her up.
It’s Caleb, in the end, who tells her to go. They couldn’t have stopped her anyway. Stopping her implies their group is more than just convenient and sets a precedent he’s understandably uncomfortable with.
But that doesn’t stop Jester from following her to their room when she goes to get her things.
“You are sure you will be alright?” Jester asks as Beau shoves her few possessions into her pack.
“Yeah, I mean, what’s the worst that could happen?”
“They could stab you a bunch, shoot you in the face with arrows, blow you up with magic spells, feed you to a giant sewer spider-”
“Did you prepare these ahead of time?” Beau asks, raising a playful eyebrow in Jester’s direction.
“No, but last time you went with your weird friend I had to do so many healing spells on you after! And now you will be gone much longer than one night and you will have no cleric!”
Beau throws her pack over her shoulder and takes Jester’s hands in her own, “My weird friend knows what she’s doing, like, really fucking knows what she’s doing. I’m sure she wouldn’t have brought this to me if she thought I would just die immediately. It’s a waste of resources! Besides, they will probably have a cleric and someone keeping an eye on me to make sure I do what I’m supposed to.”
Jester pouts, “You promise you will come back?”
Beau rolls her eyes, “Promise.”
Jester frowns, but nods her head and takes her hands from Beau, “Okay then.”
There’s something in the way she says it that makes a shiver run down Beau’s spine, but she hardly has time to think about it before Dairon is appearing in the doorway and telling her it’s time to go.
And boy do they go.
It takes four days to figure out how the packages are being marked and almost two more to get her hands on one. The others that are casing the place with her as “back-up” are no help because, y’know, of course not, and Dairon bails for something “more important” almost as soon as Beau is in place.
But hey, she’s good at what she does.
On the fourteenth day she finally gets into the warehouse. It’s full of useless junk but there’s also a basement full of dangerous, powerful artifacts. She knocks out the guards and drags them outside.
The whole place burns like a dream, and when it’s out, the monks are there to repossess everything in borrowed crownsguard uniforms. It feels a little pointless. All that power moving from one institution to another.
She’s less bitter a few hours later, after her private session with Dairon.
“We are not so much an organization as an ongoing agreement. That… cleansing…. was first come first serve. Each member will take what they collected back to their own corner of the world. It will be dispersed, if you will, by others who share our same feelings about power and greed,” the expositor explains during one of Beau’s breaks lying face down in the dirt.
“And you trust them to do that?” Beau asks, the muscles in her face working just well enough to make words.
“Not all of them, and some I don’t particularly know, but it isn’t necessarily about trust. You must go to a lot of effort to become one of us, and someone else always knows everything there is to know about you. If someone were to…. defy the agreement, it wouldn’t be long before multiple people came to assassinate you while you slept. Plus, those artifacts are going to exist whether we like it or not. They’re less of a threat spread out over the continent instead of in one place. When you cannot destroy, minimize.”
Beau returns to the inn that night covered in bruises and grinning. It’s late, going on three in the morning, and the common room is empty. The candles in the hall are still burning but under the doors everything is dark.
Beau creeps into the room she’d been sharing with Jester before she left. She hopes it still is. There’s no way for her to check with the innkeeper if her friends are still-
Jester, dressed in only her slip and wrapped in the blanket off her bed, is fast asleep in the frame of the window, head tilted against the glass, tail wrapped around her ankles. It’s amazing she hasn’t fallen off the windowsill, but Beau assumes the Traveler might have something to do with that.
Beau drops her bag at the foot of the bed and goes to the window.
The moonlight falling over Jester’s face lights up her skin and makes her freckles look like stars. Beau reaches out to brush Jester’s hair away from her face and stops when she feels how warm Jester’s skin is. How warm it always is.
Something in her chest loosens. She hadn’t had much time to wonder what the others were up to. There had always been a new package or employee to examine, or blueprints to memorize. She spent most of her free time trying to figure out what the more senior monks were doing or theorizing about what Dairon would teach her next. Now, watching Jester sleep…
Gods, she’s exhausted.
Who wouldn’t be, after 14 straight days of hypervigilance and physical labor?
Beau gently shifts Jester around until she can pick her up and carry her to her bed. Jester stirs awake as Beau wraps an arm around her back. She leans into Beau instinctually, blinking in confusion as sleep leaves her, and then smiles wider than Beau has ever seen.
“You kept your promise,” she whispers.
“Yes, I did,” Beau grunts as she lifts Jester out of the window.
“I was waiting for you,” Jester mumbles, snuggling into Beau’s chest.
“Watch the horns!” Beau hisses.
Beau shakes her head and dumps Jester onto her bed.
“Wait, wait, I have to tell you all about the things that happened while you were gone!” Jester squeaks, grabbing Beau’s hand and pulling her down next to her. Beau sighs and sits on the edge of the bed.
“Aren’t you tired?” she asks.
“Well, yes, but I want to talk to you more. Why? Are you tired?”
“It is okay, I talk very fast. So. First we had to get Caleb into the snooty district so everyone went down into the sewers except for me and I went in by myself with Frumpkin as a mouse and found the dirty books shop Caleb likes, Chastity’s Nook, which is the funniest name I have ever heard for real, and then I found an entrance to the sewer and put Frumpkin in and then he went and found Caleb-”
Beau watches Jester with a small smile on her face. The warm feeling is in her chest again. Her head is sluggish and heavy, her eyes trying their damndest to stay closed whenever she blinks. She’s processing maybe every other word that Jester says, but it’s not totally making any sense, and she’s still working on what Jester said before, that she’d stayed up waiting for her, and is that why Jester had been in the window? Why she fell asleep there?
She reaches out absentmindedly and fixes Jester’s sleeve where it’s gotten tucked into the ties.
Beau blinks rapidly and tries to refocus, “uh-huh?”
“Are you… listening?” Jester asks, sitting up so that they’re face to face.
“Yeah, yeah… you stayed up waiting for me?”
“Well, yes, but that was like, five minutes ago. I have said so many other interesting things since then!”
“Did you stay up every night? I never said when I was coming back, I mean, I didn’t even know,” Beau says, pulling Jester’s blanket back over her shoulder where it slid off.
“Well… I guess I did,” Jester says, taking Beau’s hand in hers.
“Why?” Beau asks, stroking Jester’s wrist.
“I was lonely in the room all by myself,” Jester says, eyes carefully tracking Beau’s hands.
“What about the others?”
Jester shakes her head, “It just… it was not the same. Nott offered to stay here with me but that just felt… strange and then they all wanted to have a sleepover to fix it but it felt like maybe… maybe…”
“It had to be me?”
Jester shrugs, “We have always been roommates.”
“I missed all of you while I was out there. I wasn’t even very far away, just…” Beau waves her hand vaguely, “I don’t know. In a direction. But I still missed you. Especially you, and I didn’t really notice until I came in and saw you asleep in the window and it kinda punched me in the face but hey, that’s how feelings work, right? I walked in and saw you and it felt like… I was coming back to something. Back home, maybe.”
“Wow. That is the most feelings I have ever heard you have since we met,” Jester says in surprise.
“I’m tired,” Beau explains, lifting her free hand to Jester’s face, “And I really want to kiss you”
Jester laughs, “Yes, I think I would like that.”
Beau grins and leans forward, pressing her lips against Jester’s. It’s soft and warm, warmer than anyone else she’s ever kissed, and she can feel Jester’s hands sliding beneath her robes without hesitation.
They kiss again and again, Beau’s other hand cupping the back of Jester’s head, the first dropping down to the small of her back, until Jester suddenly throws the blanket off and crawls onto Beau’s lap, pushing her down onto the mattress.
Beau’s back hits the bed and she groans loudly as a dull pain spreads out from her spine.
Immediately, Jester sits up, “Beau! Are you hurt?!”
Beau laughs softly, “No, just… sore?”
Jester raises an eyebrow and purses her lips.
“I… I saw my weird friend before I came back. Training session. I have a few bruises?”
Jester shakes her head and runs her hands down Beau’s face, cups her chin, kisses her again. Beau sighs and tangles her fingers in Jester’s hair, letting the warmth and gentle touches sink into her skin.
Jester moves from Beau’s mouth to her neck and there’s a sudden pulse, like something rippling across Beau’s skin where Jester’s lips have touched. The next kiss lands somewhere just below her collarbone, and then Jester’s hands are stroking her sides and the ripples of energy are coming at her from every direction, slow, calming, and soft. The pain dulls until it’s just a gentle stiffness in her joints and muscles.
“I’m all out of healing,” Jester says.
“Come here,” Beau says, pulling her back up the bed. Jester slips under the blankets and throws them over Beau as well. Beau who is slightly distracted wrapping Jester in her arms and wriggling as close as she possibly can, eyes fluttering closed as they kiss again, quieter this time, slow and lazy, Jester’s hands stroking her back in soothing circles until her breath evens out and…
Jester nuzzles Beau’s cheek affectionately, lips brushing against lips as Jester tries not to laugh too loudly.
“Oh man, I am going to tell everyone you fell asleep while we were making out!” she whispers, “You are never going to live down something this cute!”
Beau, leagues and leagues from the land of conscious thought, only sighs in her sleep and snuggles closer.