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and my hands dripped with myrrh

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I slept but my heart was awake.

Listen! My beloved is knocking:

“Open to me, my sister, my darling,

my dove, my flawless one.

My head is drenched with dew,

my hair with the dampness of the night.”

Song of Songs 5:2 (NIV)


Late Andalusian evening finds them somewhere in the countryside hills. The Cat’s Cradle is nearby, but still far enough away to grant them blessed seclusion as they bask in the sunset light. Reclined on elbows, spread on an unfurled blanket, bodies sore and spent from the day’s training. They both have forearms thrown up to shade their eyes from the warm waning rays of day. There’s no room for blindness here, in the tranquility of another’s silent presence.

They’re just lying, and breathing. And feeling some new now-easy closeness, with slowly beating hearts.

And drinking.

Not someone else’s half-drunk warm beer, not cheap shots of liquor from a ferry bar. Not the strong, tart, pure-grape tiny sips of sacramental wine. No, white wine, sharing a bottle, something light and sweet. Fruity and smooth. Ava can’t tell what all the different flavors are, and doesn’t care. She’s not an experienced drinker, let alone a sommelier. That doesn’t matter. She watched a documentary on it, once, and at least half of what the so-called experts in the movie said had to have been categorical bullshit, anyway. (“I smell a freshly-opened can of tennis balls.” What the fuck.)

The wine tastes light and fresh as she drinks, again and again, and that’s all she needs to notice.

That’s all she can notice. That’s all she can notice when her gaze, the entirety of her attention, is drawn to the way Beatrice’s hand wraps around the neck of the bottle as they pass it back and forth, stealing swigs, sharing muted half-smiles. She’s too distracted by the droplets that slip from the corner of Beatrice’s mouth, quickly wiped away, fingertips on her chin. So dainty, so proper. But her cheeks are flushed, and her eyes, brown-glowing-honey in the rich but fading light, are hazed. And it’s so ludicrous and unexpected to see that it almost makes her laugh out loud. Badass Beatrice can’t hold her booze.

For the record, neither can Ava.

Everything feels off about this, everything feels unreal. This should be weird, right? She’s drunk. She feels drunk, they’re drunk, and that’s probably not cool, and the others probably won’t be happy (oh man, Mother Superion, the shame) when they stumble back to Cat’s Cradle. But Ava doesn’t question the situation, because she also feels safe, free, in this weird space. Even though she can still feel the Halo between her shoulder blades (it’s become less and less strange every day). Everything feels just fine as Beatrice drains the bottle and places it aside in silence.

And the world lurches as Beatrice lies back, adjusting her position to lightly rest her head in the crook where Ava’s shoulder meets her chest. Her breath hitches at the contact, still reeling at the fact that she can feel it.

Because Beatrice’s head is nestled right at the spot where the numbness began, a life ago. Just at her collarbone. Everything below, useless. A detached stranger, a cage.

But now, Ava can feel. She can feel and she can move to touch. If Beatrice gets to be in her space, she wants to touch, too. Especially seeing more of Beatrice’s skin than she’s ever seen. She’s not in her habit, or training clothes. She’s just in ordinary clothes, the ones Ava has seen her in before - those loose-legged pants (but tight at the waist) and collared shirt, buttoned to the very top button, and a thought bubbles into Ava’s mind unbidden and from out of nowhere: those are too many buttons. Way too many buttons.

But at least her arms are bare, this time. Just creamy skin from bicep to wrist, palm to fingertips, and Ava wants to touch it. This seems like the perfect strange place to do it. So she does. Brushes her fingers against the inside of Beatrice’s forearm, earning a quick inhale and raising goosebumps before Beatrice relaxes against her again. The sensation rocks Ava: firm, sinewy muscle juxtaposed with the softest skin.

Ava’s own skin still is a stranger. Anyone else’s is beyond strange. In the wine daze, Beatrice’s feels closer than strange, as she traces a thumb up a visible line of vasculature.

And Beatrice lets her. Even though Ava knows she’s not comfortable in her own skin, either. It’s odd, that there’s comfort in the shared discomfort.

There’s also a sudden need to say something. They must have been talking about something before, chatting as they passed the bottle. What were they talking about? Why can’t Ava remember? She’s not that hammered. Her head is swimming. But she needs to speak so she croaks out what pops into her head.

“Hey.”

(That’s all that pops into her head. Poetic tongue of the ages right here. Jesus.)

Beatrice tears her gaze from Ava’s hand on her forearm to Ava’s eyes. It’s like some shock jolts through. Ava feels the Halo spark and whir, just in the smallest way. And Beatrice feels it too - Ava can tell because she shivers, blinks suddenly-darkened, suddenly-restless eyes, before raising an eyebrow and replying.

“Ava.”

At least she’s not the only one at a loss of wit, here. The sound of her name in whatever tone Beatrice just used drains her blood.

The lack of words doesn’t matter anyway. Because in this fucking weird place, in their fucking weird drunk state, her hands are on Beatrice’s face. Beatrice’s hands are on her neck. And Ava is tasting the wine again, but this time on Beatrice’s lips. Like how they used to feed (or basically force-feed) her the bread dipped in communion wine for Eucharist at St. Michael’s - but this is a much more pleasurable form of intinction.

The sudden kiss is searing, stripping her bones, and the way Beatrice curls into her body is just barely within endurance. Ava feels drunk, she is drunk, she feels greedy, she is greedy. So she curls right back, chest to chest, hips to hips, feeling the tangling of legs, the tangling of fingers in hair, continuing the nonsensical kiss. Because if this is gone too far already, what’s just a little more?

Ava’s answer comes in the form of Beatrice’s tongue. Good God. Good God? Definitely good, at least. Great. Incredible. She’s whirled up in it, ripped entirely from her mooring, making out with Sister Photographic Memory in the middle of His creation. Beatrice’s open mouth against hers, frenzied, hungry, is pretty goddamn bold from someone who’s taken some pretty serious vows of chastity, from someone who couldn’t even directly articulate her attraction to women, like, less than five minutes ago. It’s wrong. It’s wrong but it feels amazing. Ava’s body thrums as Beatrice catches her lower lip between her teeth. And if there’s one thing Ava didn’t expect to come from this already-bizarre second chance at life, it would be to have an actual nun’s tongue in her mouth - but here she is, with an actual fucking nun’s tongue, Beatrice’s tongue, in her mouth, making her downright weak, making her melt.

(A fucking nun. Interesting concept. Ava throbs, full-body, and groans into Beatrice’s mouth. Someone pass her the holy water.)

The sun’s dipping down beneath the horizon. Purple twilight replaces the golden-red sunset. Neither really notices the backdrop. There’s too much else to be caught up in - hands roaming, mouths working, bodies pressing, sighs escaping. Would it be a sin to touch Beatrice’s ass? Because if so, Ava might be sinning, just a little bit. Just a venial sin. She’s being respectful. And Beatrice doesn’t seem to mind. She’s just bringing her hips closer with each of Ava’s desperate, fumbling grabs, grinding against Ava’s thigh, grinding against Ava’s thigh, what the fuck? Shouldn’t Beatrice be like, struggling with this, not eagerly getting herself off on Ava’s leg? But who cares about what the fuck, though, as Beatrice’s hand slips up Ava’s shirt, callused palm skimming across her stomach, to her ribs, and finally to cup her breast, creeping under the wire of Ava’s bra. Ava gasps, Beatrice gasps. It’s amazing, it’s harrowing, it’s not enough. More. There’s always more. They need more room to work.

Ava tugs futilely at Beatrice’s infuriatingly-puzzling shirt, wanting to just say fuck your buttons, wanting to rip them apart. Beatrice must sense this impending destruction of property, because she swats Ava’s hand away and starts undoing them herself, methodical, nimble-fingered. Ava takes advantage of the chance to wrestle her own shirt over her head and extract herself from her bra with much less elegance. At least they’re both equally-graceless as they kick out of shoes and pants and everything else until they’re both strewn naked on the blanket.

Just a few seconds of bodies apart. Just long enough for each to sweep their eyes over the other’s body, taking in as much as they can before they’re swept up in it all again. And Beatrice’s body takes Ava’s breath, along with another hulking chunk of her level-headedness and sanity. Lean, strong, sculpted by years and years of physical training, and Ava realizes there was a lot of niceness hiding under that habit. Small, taut breasts, with dark nipples, already hard with both exposure to the cooling air and with arousal. Slender, smooth, muscular stomach. The thatch of dark hair between her legs, shapely thighs. It’s overpowering, another’s completely naked flesh, freely-offered.

Ava’s body takes over the response - mouth and lips and tongue travel to Beatrice’s neck as she moves her hands to feel Beatrice’s breasts, thumb circling a sensitive nipple, and the clipped, breathless, helpless moan that Beatrice lets out into Ava’s ear is the least godly sound that’s come from her mouth since Ava set foot in Cat’s Cradle.

More hands, more mouth, more skin. Beatrice traces the Halo mark with her fingertips, raising what feels like sparks beneath, making Ava twitch with each one. Ava’s soaked, she’s pulsing. Her still-unfamiliar body has reached an uncharted limit of patience and is now demanding, demanding something. The Halo feels warm with every rapid beat of her heart. And Beatrice is suddenly on top of her, so fluidly that Ava didn’t even have an inkling of the motion until the motion is done. Ava should be used to it already, from their constant sparring practice.

This isn’t sparring practice. Sparring practice is a normal thing.

Beatrice’s mouth devouring hers again is a pretty clear reminder of that.

It’s not long before Beatrice’s lips abandon Ava’s (with no lack of protest) in favor of her neck, across her collarbone, down the bone between her breasts. Ava, panting, tensing, at the mercy of her body’s yearning and recklessness, digs her fingers into Beatrice’s lithe back before she moves too far out of reach, cradling Ava’s thighs in her arms. And Ava’s legs are already twitching, even before Beatrice’s tongue circles her navel once in a preview imitation of what it would do a bit lower. Her body craves the experience of a mouth right where she needs it, Beatrice’s mouth. Is on the inside of her thigh, right thigh, left thigh, right again…

Fuck.” Ava grunts and arches as Beatrice’s tongue finally glides along her, circles her clit. Ava expects Beatrice to scold her (language) but she doesn’t, just smirks and continues, repeating that motion with her tongue over and over until Ava is nearly bucking.

And then she adds two fingers, working in seamless tandem with her mouth.

And Ava wonders how the fuck she knows what she’s doing. This isn’t in any single catechism. But then, she remembers, I became skilled at many things, and then oh-

She feels herself building, body shrieking, skin pricking and scorching. No, this isn’t what she wants. How she wants to finish. There’s a way for more.

“Beatrice,” she chokes out, squeezing her eyes shut against the sensation, managing to weave her fingers in the loosened strands of Beatrice’s low bun. “Stop.” Breathless, urgent, earnest. Beatrice listens, looks up, eyes searching, hand pausing. “You, too.” Ava beckons her back up with a nod. Beatrice obeys, but leaves her fingers buried, coming up to kiss her deep, and Ava shudders with pleasure at the hinted taste of herself, what Beatrice tasted on her body. In the midst of the kiss, Beatrice places one knee on either side of Ava’s thigh, leaning over her, and resumes working her fingers.

Finally in a position to not be outdone, Ava cups Beatrice between the legs, absolutely shocked at how wet she finds her, nearly dripping, and there was no way she hasn’t been worked up for a while now. Beatrice whimpers at the touch, and it breaks Ava. Ava’s fingers slip inside of her, drawing out a desperate moan, and Ava is more broken. She starts riding Ava’s fingers as she thrusts into her, creating a regularity, a rhythm, with their breathing and writhing and gasping, together, feeding and building. Ava’s thumb finds Beatrice’s clit, rubbing it as she grinds, and Ava sees Beatrice’s eyes roll back. The sight is ruinous.

Ava’s body needs touch. She needs touch. Need is unfamiliar, she is unfamiliar. Her heart tears for it, but she feels safe. Because Beatrice needs it too, with how she leans as much of her body she can into Ava’s with every motion of this, shivering at every skin-to-skin, deprived for so long by her vows, by herself, by everything that brought her pain. Ava is her body, she is both of her hands, and her hands need this, to be dripping, to be pleasing, to be drawing out and moving in, to be something to be felt. This is learning herself and her hands, this is learning whatever woman she is now. One hand between Beatrice’s legs, the other on her cheek. She is her body’s needs, she is learning her body, and she is Beatrice’s body, and how Beatrice is looking at her through all of the twilight haze, full of sharpness, full of care, full of uncertainty, but full of trust. How Beatrice looks at her. All of these perfect sensations, all in this weird, weird space. And she needs Beatrice.

And somehow, Beatrice comes first, shuddering, arching, still quiet, stoic, but decidedly undone on any number of levels.

“Oh, Ava, fuck.”

And Ava’s not sure what does it - the seldom-uttered fuck, or how Beatrice is clenching around her fingers, or how Beatrice is focused enough to work all the more fervently on Ava throughout her climax - but she’s losing herself in it too, and the world lurches again and the scenery fades, but the waves tearing through her body don’t.

The last she hears echoing from her lips is a name, and the need for it, dripping off of her.


Ava wakes as she comes or comes as she wakes. She’s not sure. All she knows is that she comes to in her room in the Cat’s Cradle, alone in her bed, gripping her sheets in tight fists and holding her breath as the aftershocks subside. The Halo was glowing while she came. She can tell by how the skin feels at its mark.

And she laughs at herself.

A fucking wet dream. In a convent. About an OCS sister, a very devout and closeted OCS sister. Ava, get a hold of it. Jesus Christ. (He’s probably run very, very far away by now.)

So a weird wet dream, then. Check off that particular box. Second life, new body, new sensations across eighty percent of her body. Second puberty. It makes sense. And what are some weird wet dreams in the face of everything else? She’ll take it over the humiliating awfulness of her first time through.

It doesn’t faze her, not really. There are still so many things Ava is figuring out. She had planned to live the hell out of this life. Swim, eat, kiss, dance, make love. To someone. And if figuring out attraction is part of that, who cares? And it’s not like they don’t have more important things to figure out, like the whole fucking Adriel thing, maybe.

She’s still turned on. Her body craves more. She needs touch, another’s touch. Her own will have to do. Another new activity, then. With a sigh, Ava slips her hand between her legs, feeling herself wet from her orgasm and from renewed arousal. She’s not used to the action yet, so she just does what feels right to her body, replicates anything Beatrice did in the dream. In just a moment, she’s coming again, with a surge of the Halo, a choking, half-bitten moan, and a whisper of a name. (She doesn’t expect her heart to stop pounding enough to flutter, but it does.)

And she collapses, drained, unbound, unburdened.

(And maybe, admittedly, honestly, just a tiny bit confused.)

Lying there, staring at the ceiling, dazed and dizzy, she considers how she should probably go to confession. This place is getting to her, these nuns are getting to her. (One nun is getting to her.)

Bless me Father for I have sinned, let’s skip to it, there’s this nun, and I...

Okay, no. On second thought, some things should absolutely be left discreet.