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Falling

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Their everyday had taken an exhausting routine ever since they had fled the Vatican, barely alive. Fighting off or hiding from the wraiths that now followed them constantly, then finding a more or less safe, often shady accommodation and rest just enough to survive the same thing the next day, and repeat. Beatrice knew she could endure much, often beyond what she should. But even she was reaching her limits, she thought dejectedly when she made her way to the seedy kitchen of the desolated inn they were staying at for the night. She stopped dead in her tracks when she made out the profile of Ava in the shadows. The halo bearer's face, usually so alive and alert, was deep in thought. Her shoulders were sagged and she leaned onto the old wooden cabinet as if all the weight of the world rested on her.

Beatrice hesitated. The wave of emotion swapping over her whenever she was around the girl that was in so many ways her opposite was even more complicated these days than it had been before the Vatican. She supposed it was her lack of energy. Ava's presence still warmed her heart at every stupid little pun or unbridled joy at something mundane like the ice-cuber maker they had found at their last hotel and which had lit up Ava's face like a child's on Christmas day. But the fluttering and anxious recognition of this fluttering the girl caused in her were also increasingly hard to push away as she had found herself doing since quite some time now.

These flutters that dared to breach her carefully built walls, just as Ava had breached twenty feet of ancient stone.

But Beatrice chided herself inwardly. Ava was her friend. And right now she obviously needed someone. Her.

Determined she stepped into the shadows of the kitchen but spoke up softly, as not to startle the girl.

“Ava?“

Ava twitched despite her efforts and looked at her with wide eyes. Beatrice raised her hands in a calming gesture.

“It's alright... it's just me.“

Ava visibly relaxed though to Beatrice's worry the wariness and sadness about her did not dissapear. Her eyes briefly fixed on the nun's open hair, a rare sight, then they flickered away.

“Oh. Hey. Can't sleep either, huh?“

“No.“ Beatrice smiled and stepped closer to her, close enough for comfort, if Ava wanted it, and leaving her ample space at the same time if she wanted her to stay away.

To her shock Ava did not burst into conversation as she was prone to do but gave her a tired smile before her eyes drifted far away again. Beatrice was alarmed.

“Are you alright?“ she asked gently, her brow furrowing in worry.

Ava sighed and still wouldn't look at her.

“Yeah... I mean.. no? No. Not really.“

Beatrice couldn't bear the helplessness in her voice. Almost in instinct she slowly put her hand on Ava's shoulder, squeezing it gently.

“This won't go on forever. We will find a way to fight Adriel. We will find help.“
In truth Beatrice had no cause so far to to believe that, but she had to. She had to have faith, if for the both of them. Ava smiled briefly, her hand brushing over Beatrice's on her shoulder. Beatrice ignored the spark that went through her as usual when Ava touched her decisively.

“That's not it.“

“What then? Whatever worries you, you don't have to face it alone. We're with you.“

At that Ava squeezed her hand back strongly, desperately. Her brown, warm eyes finally locked with hers and they looked lost and afraid.

“If Adriel is not an angel... if he is the devil or – whatever he is, he is something evil. What if the halo chose me because of that? What if it chose me because I'm...selfish, and self centred and always run from things? It would explain so much... why it chose someone like me, who has never trained, who doesn't even – who is not sure if she believes in God?“

Oh lord. Beatrice's heart throbbed painfully hearing the words echoed back at her she had once said to Ava. In this moment she cursed herself for them.

She reached out her other hand and grasped both of Ava's arms, pulling her close, staring deeply into her eyes.

“You are not evil, Ava,” she declared fiercly. “You're nothing like him. The halo that's in you was in Shannon before. She was a good, strong person. She fought bravely and selflessly for all of her sisters. It wasn't easy for her and she had doubts, just like the rest of us. But she was a good person. Just like you. Unlike her you weren't prepared for any of this. You were bound to a bed all your life, mistreated by nuns who hid their evil behind God's name. Of course you ran. You wanted to live. But despite all of that you stayed with us. You faced twenty feet of ancient stone and you were willing to give up your life for all of us, without a second thought. So whatever he is and whatever it is that you carry in your back, it doesn't matter, because that was all you. And that is all that matters to... me.“

Breathless after her impassioned speech, Beatrice realised too late how close their faces had become. Ava's mouth had went slack and her big, beautiful eyes looked at her widely, shimmering with tears. The next second Ava flung herself at her, wrapping her arms around her closely and pressing her face and wet lips into her neck. Beatrice's whole body exploded with sensations but this time she didn't hesitate. She hugged her back just as closely, burying one hand in her hair and pressing her eyes shut. Both of their heavy breathing, mixed with soft sobs by Ava, filled the silent kitchen and Beatrice did not know how long they stood there wrapped up in each other, so close, closer than she had ever been to another living being. Ava was warm, so warm, and fragile, and strong, and Beatrice allowed herself to marvel at her, to find comfort in her herself and desperately hoped she could provide some of it to her as well.

Finally, Ava squeezed her one more time before she loosened their embrace just enough so she could look at her. Her eyes and cheeks were wet with tears but the warmth and spark was back in them and Beatrice's heart jumped when they gazed at her gratefully.

Thank you,“ Ava whispered breathlessly and then she stood on her toes and pressed a kiss to Beatrice's cheek and Beatrice's heart stopped. Ava's lips lingered on her skin, so close to her mouth, hot, moist and so soft and Beatrice was sure that they had ignited something in her for she felt heat shooting into her face and into her whole body, felt as warm as she never had before in her life.

And still she froze, completely overwhelmed by the sensation, and Ava, sensing it, abruptly let go of her, looking at her in horror.

“Oh! Oh, I'm sorry! I didn't mean to, I just wanted to, it was so nice what you said and I -“

Nervously she tried to take a step back where they were pressed to the cabinet... and fell right through it, dissapearing with a shriek. That ended Beatrice's shock immediately.

“Ava! Are you alright? Can you hear me?“ She pressed her hands to the hardened wood frantically, as if she could somehow will herself through it. For a terrifying second she didn't hear anything.

Then, hollow through the wall, came a mumble.

“I'm here. Sorry. I just... fell, I didn't do it on purpose.“

Beatrice smiled in relief, and pressed herself close to the dirty cabinet, not minding the unidentifiable streaks on it, not even noticing them.

“It's alright. Can you get back out?“

Ava mumbled something unintelligible.

“What?“

Silence.

“It's alright, Ava,“ Beatrice assured softly. “I just... I'm not used to physical touch. You just startled me, that's all. I.. I liked it. Very much.“

She was sure she felt heat on her cheeks, and desperately thought on what else to say that didn't reveal anything further, when she thought she heard a shuffle behind the cabinet.

“Really?“ Ava's voice sounded soft, vulnerable.

“Really,“ Beatrice replied, with all the warmth and conviction that she had in her.

For another moment nothing happened and Beatrice thought her breaths sounded way to loud in the now lonely, dark kitchen. Then Ava popped out of the wall again, crashing into her and knocking their foreheads together.

“Oh my god, I'm sorry!“ Ava exclaimed, her hand grasping Beatrice's forehead before she tried to withdraw it just as quickly, but Beatrice grasped her wrist and halted her.

“It's alright.“ She smiled warmly, not caring anymore, just happy to see Ava's face again, worried, but alive, so much more alive than when she had found her.

“It's alright. Shh-sh.“

Their eyes locked and they quieted, standing close, Ava's hands on her face and Beatrice's covering them.

Then Beatrice lowered her gaze to Ava's lips, she couldn't help it. And then, as if in a trance, she slowly leaned forward, hesitating briefly with a shuddering breath, before pressing her lips onto Ava's wet cheek reverently. Her skin was soft and rosy beneath her kiss and Beatrice's heart became a hummingbird in her chest. She drew back, her lips lingering on Ava's skin, making a wet sound when they left her, as though as unwilling to break the contact as Beatrice herself.

And then she was left breathless at the beaming wide smile on Ava's face that greeted her, so warm it seemed she brightened the entire room, chasing away the cold night.

And Beatrice felt herself smile back, shyly but warm.

“Wow,“ Ava laughed quietly, her eyes fluttering to the floor, bouncing on her feet.

Beatrice laughed as well, though nervousness crept into it and she was no longer able to look into Ava's eyes. Yet she also felt something else, something like pride and a wild, unconstrained joy.

It was all too much and not enough and she took a sharp breath to regain some sort of control.

“I should.. I should probably head back. Try to catch some sleep. You should too. You need to rest.“

Ava smiled again and exploded into speech.

“Yeah totally,“ she nodded, still smiling wide. “I might just – phaze back into the cabinet, it's actually nicer than my room!“

Beatrice laughed again and they smiled at each other, turning quiet and content.

“Good night, Ava,“ Beatrice whispered tenderly and she thought her name sounded like a prayer.

“Good night, Beatrice,“ Ava replied just as softly.

Beatrice nodded at her once more, smiling, and then she forced her feet to turn around, walking stiffly back up to the stairs leading to their sorry excuse for a room, willing herself not to look back. She felt Ava's eyes on her, following her, but they didn't feel suspecting, or judging, trying to find something sinful in her as Beatrice usually feared when she felt the weight of a gaze on her.

They just felt warm.