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Yasha.”

Yasha rolls over and buries her face into her pillow, grumbling. She’s tired. Gustav had been riding them extra hard this morning – a 5AM wakeup to practice for a 7PM show seemed excessive, but hey, there’s a reason Yasha is only a bouncer. Well. Technically, she’s just a student intern, but from the way Gustav utilises her, she’s effectively a bouncer. It doesn’t hurt that even at seventeen, she’s towering over people three times her age. Molly keeps laughing at the way punks take one look at her standing in front of the circus tent and then just walk away.

“For the love of – Yasha, wake up!”

Yasha grips the pillow tighter. No. Go away. Time for sleep.

“Damnit.”

Something clinks loudly against her window. Yasha grumpily opens her eyes and rolls over in the bed, peering blearily out into the courtyard. She’s on the second story, and she’s unfortunately in eyeline with the streetlamp across the street.

Another clink.

Yasha gives a wordless snarl and gets out of bed. She pads over to the window and shoves the glass up, just in time to get a rock to the forehead.

“Ow,” she says, reaching up to rub the new wound.

“Oh shit,” says a familiar voice from down on the street. “Oh no, I’m so sorry, Yasha why did you –”

“Beau?” Yasha says, squinting down.

Beau is standing outside Gustav’s house, dressed in sweats and looking distantly wild-eyed and sleepless. She isn’t wearing a jacket, and the thick lines of her forearms are clearly visible against her loose tank top. Her sockless feet are shoved into a pair of battered sneakers.

“What are you doing there?”

Beau makes a sharp gesture to the ground. “Come down!”

“I need sleep,” Yasha says.

“I need help,” Beau whisper-yells. Yasha glances automatically over to the other side of the room, where Molly is curled up on his own bed. He stirs, but doesn’t wake up, which is to be expected. He could sleep through getting stabbed.

Yasha makes a ‘settle down’ motion with her hands, and then turns around to find something warmer than her pyjamas. Molly keeps stealing her comfortable sweatshirts, so she’s quickly running out of options that are both practical and soft. After a few seconds of silent contemplation, she just pulls on a dark hoodie and cargo pants, pulling up her spare pair of combat boots over the cuffs. She decides against leaving a note for Molly – if worst comes to worst, she’ll just text him. Assuming she needs help.

It’s quick work getting out of the house. Gustav doesn’t mind if any of his wards need to take late-night jaunts through the neighbourhood, though he does generally ask that they just keep out of jail. Yasha doesn’t have a good feeling about this situation, but she’s holding out hope that it won’t involve police arrest. With all the fighting on her record, it’s going to take a miracle for her to graduate anyway.

Beau is still downstairs just outside the glare of the streetlamp, shifting antsily from side to side. When she sees Yasha come out the front door, she lets out a gusty sigh of relief.

“Thank god,” she says, grabbing onto Yasha’s forearm and tugging her deeper into the shadows. “I need your help.”

Yasha arches her eyebrow at her and says nothing. It’s better, she’s found, if she just waits for Beau to say what she wants to say. Whenever she gets involved in their conversations, they derail.

“Okay,” Beau says, voice coming out in a rush. “So you know I have a crush on Jester, right?”

Yasha had not known that Beau has a crush on Jester, but looking back, it isn’t too surprising. Yasha just nods. It’s very difficult not to have a crush on their bubbly friend. Yasha has definitely had to look herself in the mirror very hard sometimes and try to discern what her true feelings for Jester were. (Friendship. Very, very close friendship). Still, it had taken her a while to come to that conclusion. Jester had a way of…muddying the waters somewhat. It was her smile.

“And I’ve been trying to get over it,” Beau keeps talking. Yasha nods along. “Because she’s straight, right? And I don’t want her to be uncomfortable over it – she’s my best friend, I don’t want things to be weird. But like. I was in a fight with my Dad, and stole some of his wine and kind of – I’m still pretty drunk at the moment, to be honest.”

Ah, that was why Beau was swaying slightly. Now that Yasha’s waking up properly, she can definitely smell the alcohol on her breath.

“And so I was really drunk,” Beau stresses. “And really stupid, and I had my phone –”

Oh boy. “You called her?”

“Texted,” Beau says, miserably.

Yasha gives her a comforting pat on the back.

Inexplicably, this seems to energise Beau. “That’s why I need your help!”

Yasha tilts her head to one side and blinks slowly.

Beau takes a deep breath. “IneedyoutohelpmebreakintoJester’shouseanddeletemytextmessage.”

“Could you repeat that?” Yasha says.

“I need,” Beau says, looking like she’s swallowing glass. “You to help me break into Jester’s house and delete my text message.”

Yasha purses her lips. “Me,” she says.

Beau nods enthusiastically.

“Wouldn’t Molly be a better person for this?” Yasha says.

Beau’s eyes turn wide and horrified. “Molly can never know.”

Well, that answers one question.

“What about Nott? She’s good with the – sneaky things. I’ve seen her pick locks.”

“She showed me how,” Beau says. “And Nott is – she’s busy.”

Yasha frowns. Of all the people in their tightly-knit friendship group, Yasha is perhaps the least suited to stealth – well, aside from Caduceus, but even though he was a good head taller than Yasha, he made up for it by being a gentle and calming presence. Yasha just likes to hit things.

“Jester’s place is –” Yasha pauses, trying to think of a diplomatic way to say what she’s thinking. Words have never been her strong suit, and the uncertainty of the situation isn’t helping matters.

Beau waves her hand dismissively through the air. “I’ve snuck in there a hundred times. I know how to get past the guards.”

“…then why do you need –”

Beau grabs onto Yasha’s wrists and stares up into her eyes. There’s a desperate look on her face that Yasha hasn’t seen for a very long time. “Moral support.”

“Okay,” Yasha says, trying not to show how bewildered this whole thing is making her.

Beau lets out a relieved breath, spine melting into something far less tense. “Okay,” she says, shoulders slumping. She’s still obviously quite drunk. “Okay, thank you.”

Yasha tries to give her an encouraging smile. “So – how are we going to get over there? Jester’s place is in Nicodranas, and Gustav isn’t going to lend me his car this late…”

“I borrowed my Dad’s,” Beau says.

Oh boy.

“Did you drive while drunk?”

“Yasha,” Beau says, sounding amused as she stumbles over to where a familiar-looking truck is parked just out of sight. “I’ve done so much worse than drink driving. So much worse.”

Yasha gently but firmly shoves Beau away from the driver’s seat. She hates driving, but she isn’t about to get into a car crash because Beau can’t concentrate on someone’s blinkers. Beau grumbles a bit, but ultimately just walks around to the other side and climbs into the passenger’s seat.

“Spoilsport,” she says, tongue sticking out between her teeth. Yasha rolls her eyes and pulls away from the curb.

The only reason Beau isn’t dead is because Jester has a very strict sleeping schedule.

She wakes up at 6AM like a monster, but that requires her to go to sleep no later than 9. Beau’s drunken rampage had started at around 10:30PM, and she had sent the offending chain of texts by 12.

It is now 1.46AM, which gives Beau and Yasha a window of a few hours to pull off this ‘heist’. Looking at the ornately decorated outside of the Lavish Chateau, Yasha isn’t feeling too good about their chances of success.

“My fingerprint is in Jester’s phone,” Beau is saying. “So all I have to do is get into her room and –”

“Beau,” Yasha says, trying not to stare. “I’m pretty sure Ophelia Mardun just walked out into the parking lot.”

Beau isn’t listening. “Can you stay in the car while I go in?”

“No,” Yasha says.

“But –!”

“You’re drunk,” Yasha says. “And upset. I’m coming with you.”

“I’m so stupid,” Beau says, slumping down into the passenger seat. She kicks her sneakers up onto the dashboard and closes her eyes. “I can’t believe I did that. I know she’s got a crush on Fjord. I know that she’s not interested in girls. Or in people like me, anyway.”

Yasha frowns. “What do you mean, people like you?”

Beau gives a bitter laugh, sweeping a hand across her body to encompass all of her. “I’m such a catch,” she says. “Criminal mastermind extraordinaire. Gets into fights with her teachers on a regular basis. Rich girl with daddy issues.”

“You’re not giving yourself enough credit,” Yasha says.

“I think I’m giving myself exactly as much credit as I deserve,” Beau says. “A good person wouldn’t send their best friend a drunk text in the middle of the night telling them they like them.”

“A good person would care,” Yasha says. “You care.”

“About me,” Beau says

“And about Jester,” Yasha says. “You’re worried that this would hurt her.”

“I’m not talking about this,” Beau says. She tries to open the door, but her coordination is still a little off, and she ends up somehow braining herself in the forehead. Muttering curses, she kicks at the handle a few times before it lets.

Yasha sighs and follows her. Being in Beau’s father’s car is always an exercise in anxiety, especially with how blasé Beau is about such a luxurious model. Yasha almost had a panic attack the first time Beau drove into a tree.

(of course, that might have also been because Beau had driven into a tree).

“Okay,” Yasha says slowly, when they’re both safely out of the car and Beau’s not about to get run over standing next to the passenger car door and glaring at the sky. “What do we do now?”

Beau gives her a kind of fuzzy look.

Yasha doesn’t know what she was expecting, really.

“Is Jester’s mother performing tonight?”

“Her shows stop around 12.30,” Beau says. “She’s generally…entertains guests after that. Jester’s room is on the other side of the building from where she works.”

“And you’ve done this before,” Yasha says, just to be sure.

“Oh yeah,” Beau says. “Loads of times.” She wilts slightly under Yasha’s stare. “Okay, so – maybe the last time we snuck out was to go get our tattoos” – Yasha winces – “and Marian might be…a little less understanding about my presence than before.”

“Mhm,” Yasha says.

“They were totally worth it though,” Beau says, reaching behind her back to poke at the lines of the tattoo peeking out from her shirt. Yasha tries not to stare too obviously. The week after their little impromptu drunken night of rebellion, Beau had acted allergic to shirts, which had done absolutely nothing for Yasha’s peace of mind.

Neither Molly nor Yasha had been invited, on account of being out of the country for a show. Yasha wonders sometimes what she would have gotten, if –

It doesn’t matter.

“Yes, it’s very nice,” Yasha says. “But we still need to get into the building.”

Beau purses her lips and squints up at the Lavish Chateau. She starts leaning drunkenly forward, but is stopped by Yasha’s arm on her shoulder. Yasha really isn’t the person to help with this kind of thing. She kind of wishes she had woken up Molly, despite Beau’s vehement insistence against doing so.

“Okay, so here’s the game plan,” Beau says. “You act as a distraction, and I parkour up to Jester’s window and jimmy it open.”

“…okay, I’m following you so far.”

“And then when I text you the signal, that means you can stop being the distraction and act as the getaway driver.”

“Foolproof,” Yasha deadpans.

Right?”

Yasha sighs, then starts to roll up the sleeves of her hoodie.

“Okay,” she says, walking forward.

“Whoa, whoa, whoa – you’re not going to start a barfight at Jester’s place!” Beau says, running out in front of her and waving her arms around to stop her.

Yasha stares at her blankly. “You said ‘distraction’.”

“That doesn’t mean hitting people!” Beau says. She pauses. “That doesn’t always mean hitting people!”

“I don’t follow.”

“Don’t hit anyone Jester considers a friend,” Beau says.

“That’s everyone but Lorenzo,” Yasha says.

“Well, if you see Lorenzo, feel free to hit him,” Beau says, her shoulders hunching slightly. “Actually, if you see Lorenzo, you call me. You don’t go to him on your own. Not after last time.”

“We are fine now, Beau,” Yasha says.

“If you see Lorenzo, you call me.”

Yasha shrugs and doesn’t say anything. As much as being around Lorenzo makes her skin crawl, she’s not going to put Beau – or anyone else, really – in that situation. It isn’t worth it, not when she’s fully capable of hitting back this time.

Beau takes her silence as – well, not as agreement, because Yasha is stubborn – but as a truce. Yasha lets her. It’s easier that way.

“He won’t be here though,” Beau says. “He knows the Ruby of the Sea isn’t happy with how he basically kidnapped her daughter last year. If he shows his face even a block from the Lavish Chateau, he’s going to lose teeth.”

“He has such a lovely smile, though,” Yasha says. There are goosebumps crawling up the skin of her arm. For once, she’s glad she’s wearing long sleeves.

“Don’t talk to me,” Beau says. “Just – go and distract the bodyguards, without getting anyone to call the police. Don’t think I don’t know you’re on your last warning.”

Yasha shrugs again. These things happen, and she’s got a bit of a temper. Maybe if Zuala had –

Well, maybe if Zuala was still here, things would be different. Yasha’s learned to live with the hurt of it, though, learned to breathe through the pain. She gives Beau an encouraging pat on the shoulder and walks towards the front entrance, mind whirling. Distraction. Distraction. She’s not allowed to hit people, but what can she use as a –

Oh.

Beau watches Yasha leave, feeling something uncurling in the pit of her stomach. She hates talking about Lorenzo. Hates even thinking about him, especially around Yasha or Jester or Fjord.

After a few seconds, Yasha turns and is out of Beau’s sight. The Lavish Chateau is a blurred mess of light against Beau’s swollen eyes, and she tries to scrub it away a few times before giving up. She goes around to the other side, where it’s a little darker and a little danker and a little less guarded. Beau stops at the brick wall holding up the garbage bin, feeling bile crawl its way through her throat.

Jester. Of-fucking-course.

You’re useless, her father spits, and she’s standing in the room with him and waiting for the next blow to her pride. No one could ever love someone like you –

He’s right, is the fucking thing. He’s right, and the knowledge of it burns far worse than any cheap alcohol. Not that Beau indulged much in cheap alcohol – the stuff she’s on right now comes straight from his prized cellars, thousands of dollars of liquid poured into her stomach and across the floor. She’s going to regret a lot of things about tonight, but the dark satisfaction that curls deep in her ribcage tells her she isn’t going to regret that.

Jester, though – Jester is sunshine, and starlight, and a world away from the skeletal remains of Beau’s family. Every time Beau is around Jester, her heart can’t quite beat properly and her smile feels so much easier. It’s the easiest thing in the world, having a crush on Jester. Easier than breathing. Easier than drinking, sometimes.

Her phone buzzes. >go.

“Okay,” Beau says, cracking her neck. She rubs her hands together and braces herself against the garbage bin, before taking a running jump at the opposite wall and letting her reflexes do the rest.

She hadn’t been lying when she told Yasha this wasn’t the first time she’s broken into the Lavish Chateau. Nott the Brave might be the best thief either of them knew, but Beau was definitely the best at scoping out a place and jabbing at its weak points. She’s done this hundreds of times over the years, leaped from wall to wall until she feels like she’s flying. Up, up – keep going, keep going

Beau is drunk, but she’s done this drunk before, as well. She’s done this with a tattoo burning at the base of her skull and alcohol doing nothing to dull the throb. Her limbs move on instinct, catching on the brick and mortar and she keeps climbing and climbing and climbing.

This time, though, Jester isn’t at her window to greet her. This time, Jester is asleep in her bed, unknowing of the possibly danger that Beau presents. Beau is very good at being dangerous. She’s worked very hard at not being dangerous to Jester, but that seems all moot, now. All Jester needs to do is unlock her phone, and –

The sudden tenseness is almost enough to knock Beau off her perch. She’s managed to grab onto the ledge with both her hands, legs kicking out to try and boost her off. Beau flails for a few seconds as gravity takes hold, but then she flexes her abdominal muscles to steady herself. Don’t blow this, she thinks, and lifts herself up using only her arms.

Pushing at the window yields no results, which is both reassuring and frustrating. Beau grits her teeth and moves so that she’s half-sitting on the narrow ledge, using her leg and back to wedge herself in. She reaches into her pocket and takes out a set of lockpicks Nott had gifted to her, fumbling with the smaller tools. Even sober, she’s never been very good at this sort of thing. It takes her a few tries and a lot more noise than she would consider safe, but eventually she manages to get the lack to snick open.

“Fuck,” Beau breathes, relieved. She swings the window open, and then trips and falls into the room.

Beau lands with a resounding thud. She picks herself up almost immediately, heart hammering a drum through her chest. Closing her eyes, she takes in three easy breathes: in and out, in and out, in and out. Only then does she gather up enough courage to look around.

Jester’s room has always been somewhere safe for Beau. Even now, even when she’s here to do something horrible, she feels the tenseness of her shoulders relaxing into something so much less scary. She walks across the plush carpet and feels sick and calm in equal measure.

Jester is sleeping on a bed covered in soft toys. It’s always a little disconcerting, trying to find her face amidst the collection of googly-eyes and stitched sparkles. There are unicorns and monkeys and birds and mermaids and mermaid unicorns and it’s all a bit overwhelming. The rest of her room looks like Marian hadn’t known how to say “no” to seven-year-old Jester. The wallpaper is neon pink and coloured with swirling lollipops. There’s a symbol of her weird high school cult painted high in the corner of her room. Clothing covers the floor in waves of silk and frills and lace.

As always, Jester’s phone is connected to the charger at her desk. Beau picks it up, the keychains clicking against each other. Jester had been so happy when Beau had bought her this case. It’s striped pink and white, with closed eyelashes painted onto the back and a unicorn horn sticking out from the top. Beau runs her hands over the case, and then presses her thumb to the home button.

There they are. The incriminating texts.

Beau closes her eyes to stave off a wave of nausea that threatens to overwhelm her. She’s still drunk, and she’s still tired, but mostly she just frightened. That’s all Beau’s ever really been – a coward. Her father is right. She’ll never get anyone to love her like this.

She jabs her thumb down hard against the screen. Are you sure you want to delete this message? Yes/no.

Yes.

Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes.

There are twelve messages in total, all rambling and confused and full of spelling errors that make Beau want to cringe. Even if – even if – she wants to someday confess, she won’t do it like this. Faceless. Impersonal. So, so scared.

Please love me, the texts scream. Please, please, just fucking love me.

Pathetic.

“I understand why you wanted to get rid of them, but I thought they were really sweet.”

Beau almost has a heart attack. She whirls around, phone still in her hand. Jester is sitting up on her bed, dressed in her nightgown, impossibly beautiful with her hair mussed and her fangs showing.

Beau makes a dying kind of noise.

“I think we should talk about this,” Jester says.

Why are you awake?”

Jester shrugs. She’s hugging one of her unicorn soft toys, forearm muscles bulging.

“I couldn’t get to sleep,” she says. “I was reading Tusk Love on my phone when – well, I got your texts. I thought about replying after the first one, but they kept coming, so I waited for you to be finished. And then I realised you would probably rather talk about this in person.”

Beau groans, burying her face into her hands.

“I’m sorry that you couldn’t tell me,” Jester says. She doesn’t make any move to come closer, which Beau is inexplicably thankful for. “And I’m sorry that…” she hesitates.

“You don’t feel that way,” Beau finishes for her, stomach dropping. She knew that. She knew that, but – but it still –

Jester looks away. “You are my best friend in the whole entire world,” she says. “I don’t know what I’d do without you.”

“It’s just a stupid crush,” Beau blurts out, desperate. “It’ll go away –”

“Your feels are not stupid!” Jester says, straighten up. There’s a fire in her eyes that Beau doesn’t quite know how to categorise. “Even – even if I don’t – it doesn’t matter! You’re my best friend, and your feelings are not stupid, no matter what they are.”

“I didn’t want you to know,” Beau says. Her voice is choked. “I thought if I just – if I just didn’t think about it – I’ve known you my whole life, Jessie, I don’t –”

Jester jumps out of her bed and runs to hug Beau. Beau curled into those strong arms, feeling safe and secure and everything her family has never made her feet. Maybe this is what started it in the first place – this warm feeling, fluttering just below her ribcage. Beau hasn’t ever felt taken-care-of in her whole life, not once. Not until she met Jester.

“I’m sorry I don’t like girls,” Jester says, muffled into Beau’s neck. “Not like that. But if I did, you –”

“I wouldn’t want you to change anything about yourself,” Beau says. She isn’t crying, but it’s a close thing. “Not ever. Not for me, not for Fjord –”

Jester lets out a wet laugh.

“I was really drunk,” Beau says. “And I wasn’t really thinking clearly when I texted you. Goddamn, why were you awake?”

Jester pulls away and scrubs at one of her eyes with the sleeve of her nightdress. “You’ve been acting strange lately,” she says. “I was trying to think of what to say.”

Beau blinks at her, taken aback.

“I was worried,” Jester adds.

“I’m sorry,” Beau says.

Jester shakes her head. “You don’t need to apologise to me, Beau –”

Something crashes downstairs. Very loudly.

Jester pulls back further and frowns towards the door. “What…?”

Beau straightens up. “Oh shit, Yasha.”

Yasha is regretting so many things right now. Just. So many things.

She doesn’t know if it’s a good thing or a bad thing that the people out the front tonight aren’t ones she knows. It means she’s less likely to be identified to the police – ha, because she’s so inconspicuous – but it also means that they’ll be more likely to actually call the cops. Ah, well. It isn’t like she has much choice in the matter.

Distraction, distraction…couldn’t Beau have been a little more forthcoming about how much of a distraction was needed. Yasha has her own ideas about how much is too much, but, as Molly likes to tell her, she’s often wrong. Well, he doesn’t say wrong, just that her perception of restraint was just a little off. ‘Normal people’ didn’t, after all, try to stab someone over spilled milk.

(In Yasha’s defence, it wasn’t just over spilled milk. That was only the catalyst).

Yasha has a few options available at the moment. The first is to just set off a car alarm. It isn’t that hard – she’s no stranger to hotwiring cars, and that means she knows exactly how to set one off. That’d definitely attract attention. She doesn’t want it focused on the carpark, though, so that’s only a last resort. Loudly jumping someone – same thing. What Yasha needs to do is go in the bar and start a ruckus. One that doesn’t involve hitting people.

Beau really couldn’t have picked a worse accomplice.

Yasha walks over to the entrance and studies the outside. There isn’t much of a line – it’s too fancy of a place for that – but by no means is it empty. There are people loitering around outside, checking their phones or mingling or walking back to their cars. It isn’t late, but it’s still pretty late.

“Hi,” Yasha says. She hates this part.

The bouncer gives her a long, dead stare.

“I forgot my keys inside,” she says.

“Your keys,” the bouncer says, slowly.

Yasha tries to smile. She’s not very good at it. “Yeah – I was here earlier. Tyral –”

“I don’t remember you,” the bouncer says.

Yasha keeps smiling. “I was here earlier. When someone else was on duty.”

“Really,” the bouncer says, unimpressed. Yasha kind of wants to hit him. She restrains herself.

“If you could just let me in, I forgot my keys at the bar –”

“What do they look like?”

“House keys,” Yasha says. “It has a keychain – little pressed flowers in resin.”

The bouncer turns to his partner and doesn’t say anything. His partner goes inside and closes the door.

“This is a very private establishment,” the bouncer says. “With a lot of high end clients –”

“Yes,” Yasha says. “I just need my keys, and I’ll be on my way.”

The bouncer sighs and holds up his hand. “Do you have any ID?”

Yasha angles her body slightly to the side, so that she’s blocking the camera. A woman walks out of the entrance and towards the carpark, jewellery glittering in the street lights. Yasha leans forward as subtly as she can and pushes the man forward into her path.

Excuse me,” the woman says, stumbling back. Her purse is clutched tightly in one hand, the rings on her fingers pointed and sharp.

The bouncer glares at Yasha, and then turns to apologise to the woman. Yasha takes advantage of his momentary lack of lapse of attention to trip him. He falls like a professional, quickly angling his body away from the woman, but he isn’t fast enough and catches them both to the ground.

The woman kicks his shins with her heels and stands up, free hand shoving around her purse. A moment later, she takes out a knife and points it at him.

“Don’t even think about it,” she hisses.

“Ma’am – I wasn’t –”

Yasha takes her opportunity to slip inside.

The Lavish Chateau hasn’t changed since her last visit. It looks quite different at night, with people crowded around the table and alcohol flowing freely from the bar. Yasha’s only ever really seen it during the day, during setup, with Jester around to soothe the ruffled feathers their unsanctioned presence creates. Yasha tries to blend, but she isn’t dressed for this kind of thing. She hurriedly makes her way to the back.

A glance behind her shows the bouncer entering, red-faced and angry. His eyes scour the crowd. Yasha ducks into the stairwell.

An unknown presence in the club isn’t going to go over well. Security is going to be looking for an intruder that has nothing to do with Jester, or Beau. Now Yasha just has to stay unseen until she gets the signal. Yasha takes out her phone and text Beau to start.

Now for a little game of hide-and-seek.

The security guard is calling over his colleagues, trying to keep things as subtle and low-key as possible. No need to let the paying customers know the riffraff is inside with them. The security guard’s partner comes back from around the bar, shaking his head. He hadn’t been able to find Yasha’s imaginary keys, then. Not a surprise. They’re in her pocket, after all.

Yasha takes a few seconds to rub her fingers along the resin teardrops. There are seven of them, seven different flowers, running along a chain. It had been a bracelet, when she was younger. After – well, after, Molly had taken the links and re-made them into something she would never lose.

The security guards are starting to scatter away from the front door. Yasha turns and hurries up the stairs.

Yasha is here?” Jester says.

“I needed someone to be my distraction!” Beau says. “But she promised me she wouldn’t start a fight!”

Jester grabs one of her robes and pulls it on over her nightgown, and then carefully selects her mermaid-unicorn blush and squeezes it tight. Her face is a perfect mask of innocent misunderstanding.

“You stay here,” she says, in her little-girl-voice that never fails to get people to melt. “I’ll go get Yasha.”

“You don’t even know what she did,” Beau protests.

“Yasha wouldn’t hurt anyone,” Jester says, with confidence that Beau definitely doesn’t feel. “And besides, Mama isn’t very happy with you at the moment, so I don’t think having you around will help very much.”

“Ouch,” Beau says, weakly.

“I will be back in a few minutes,” Jester says. She takes her phone out of Beau’s limp grasp. “I’ll text her to come and see me.”

“I’m such an idiot,” Beau says, rubbing her hand across her face. “Fuck, she’s on her last warning.”

“No one will call the police,” Jester says. “Not here.”

“That isn’t what I meant,” Beau says.

“I’ll find her,” Jester says, and leaves.

Beau pulls out her own phone, which is barely clinging onto its last threads of life.

>get out of here

>everything’s fine

>jester’s coming for you

>where are you?

Beau grits her teeth and slumps down into the seat by Jester’s desk. She doesn’t need this. She doesn’t need this. She’s going to wake up, and everything is going to be one horrible nightmare that she can just forget. God, Jester knowing – Jester knowing how Beau feels about her? This is the worst-case-scenario come to life. And now Yasha is doing who-knows-what around the Lavish Chateau. This whole night is just an ever-spiralling series of disasters that Beau can’t quite seem to fix.

Yasha doesn’t text back.

“Motherfucker,” Beau says, getting up from the desk and beginning to pace around the room. She doesn’t even know why she was fighting with her father in the first place – well, she knows why, but she doesn’t know why tonight. A comment about her friends, probably. That comes up often enough. Her lack of ambition. He rough edges. Her inability to talk to people without swearing. Her inability to talk to people, period. Her family has an ever-expanding list of things that Beau cannot do. It had ended in screaming, and breaking things, and going down to the cellar and locking herself in.

She should have called Jester. She should have called someone.

Fuck.

There’s a light knock on the door, and Beau freezes in place. From here, whoever opens the door will have a clear line of sight to Jester’s open window, and the desk. Beau grits her teeth and holds her breath and slinks over to the cupboard.

“Jester?” Marian calls softly. Beau manages to squeeze behind the door and between the cupboard before it fully opens up, effectively trapping her. “Jester, is everything okay?”

Footsteps. Beau clamps her hands over her mouth even harder. Be still.

“One of our security people told me – oh,” Marian says. Beau can just imagine her frown. “Oh, you’re not here. Where –”

Mama,” Jester says.

Beau very carefully and very quietly lets out a sigh of relief.

“Jester, my sapphire, what are you doing up so late?”

“I heard something downstairs,” Jester says. “And I wanted to make sure everything was okay.”

“Just one of the lighting fixtures breaking,” Marian says. “I came to check on you. Someone tried to break into the Chateau.”

“I haven’t seen anyone here,” Jester says. She’s good. If Beau hadn’t been listening for it, she wouldn’t have known she was lying.

Marian is also, unfortunately, very good at reading her daughter. She lets out a small breath of disappointment. “Jester.”

“I promise, Mama, everything is fine,” Jester says. “I’m right here, see? And no one is hurt. You should go back to your show.”

“I’ll tell security that they can stop looking for their mysterious person,” Marian says. She sounds very tired. “Please, my sapphire, next time you want friends to come over – just ask.”

“This way is much more fun,” Jester says.

“I suppose,” Marian says. “Goodnight, Beauregard.”

Beau closes her eyes and silently swears. “Goodnight, Ms Lavorre.”

More footsteps. Marian is leaving Jester’s room. “Goodnight, Yasha.”

Yasha’s voice, when it comes, it very small and embarrassed. “Goodnight, Ms Lavorre.”

Marian mutters something under her breath and then leaves. Beau very slowly creaks the door away from her, so that she’s got a gap to slip out into the room. Jester is standing in the doorway, looking vaguely guilty, with Yasha emerging out from one of the closets in the hallway. Her shoulders are hunched, and there’s a bloody gas along the side of her face.

“What did you do?” Beau says. “You broke the lighting?”

Yasha glares at her feet. “You said I couldn’t hit anybody.”

“You broke the lighting?”

Jester ushers Yasha into the room properly, and then closes the door. “Both of you should stay here tonight. I don’t think my Mama would be very impressed if you break your necks trying to climb out my window.”

“Okay,” Yasha says, and then goes to curl up on the floor next to Jester’s bed.

“You can’t be serious,” Beau says.

“Go to sleep, Beau. We’ll talk about this more in the morning.”

“My bed is big enough to share,” Jester says. “You don’t have to sleep on the floor.”

“I’m good,” Yasha says.

Beau hesitates. “Are you sure you want to be sleeping next to me? I mean…?”

“You’re my best friend,” Jester says, shrugging off her robe and tossing it over her desk chair. She jumps into her bed and scrambles under the covers, holding out her sheets. “Of course you can sleep next to me.”

Beau closes her eyes and tells herself that she doesn’t want to cry.

“Okay,” she says. If her voice sounds a little choked up, neither of her friends mention it. “Goodnight.”

“Goodnight, Beau,” Jester says, giving her a hug and then rolling onto her side.

“You owe me,” Yasha grumbles into the floorboards.

Beau glances over the side of the bed. “How did you even get up to the roof, anyway?”

“You owe me.”

emperor’s new groove > beau

>yasha says you did WHAT

DAMMIT YASHA<

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