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marshmallows

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Standing on the deck in the cold night, Yasha holds up her mug for Caduceus as he passes by her, and watches him drop something in the steaming water. A speckled, brown sphere, like a little bead. Nothing happens for a second or two, but a gasp from Jester starts a ripple of astonished sounds around the huddled circle of friends, and the bead in Yasha’s cup starts to swirl and bubble.

The steam takes on a rich, sweet smell as the liquid darkens and then—pop...pop, pop, pop—a mass of little marshmallows bursts into existence.

Beside her, Jester lets out a squeal. “Caduceus!”

“It’s hot chocolate,” he says in that humble but pleased tone of his, as he settles into place between Veth and Fjord and drops the last bead into his own cup. “When we went to get- I just had to buy it. I bought a bunch of them.  I got some tea, too, but—”

“This is the most amazing thing you’ve ever done!” Jester says, voice cracking like she might cry.

“Only for when we do really good stuff, okay?" He takes a sip. "It’s got a little fizz to it....”

Delighted laughter warms the air and some of them start to drink, but Yasha is still watching the marshmallows, mouth agape.  She has to agree with Jester.  “It changes, it keeps going!  And then all the-the marshmallows—!”

Caduceus nods with a wide smile.  “And there’s a bunch of different flavors. I got a variety pack.”

Hearing that, Yasha dives in immediately and ends up draining half her cup before realizing she should probably slow down. There’s something salty and a little buttery intermingled with the rich chocolate, and the way the warmth spreads through her chest is like heaven.

“This is delicious!” she exclaims, and Jester, barely lowering her mug from her lips, says, “Let’s fight Avantika every day!”

Fjord groans, and Jester giggles at him.

“Well, let’s not,” Caduceus says with a chuckle of his own.  “But, yeah...enjoy, everyone.”

“Thank you very much, Caduceus, this was very...thoughtful,” Caleb says quietly, and his sentiment is echoed around the entire circle.

The conversation continues, mellow but happy.  Yasha takes another sip, trying to savor each unique taste as they blend together, and when she looks up from her mug, she finds a pair of blue eyes looking back at her from across the circle.

Beau holds her gaze just long enough for Yasha to wonder who will break first—just long enough for those damn butterflies to start careening around and making Yasha feel a little weightless—then she looks away, with a smile tucked at the corner of her mouth like a secret.

Yasha releases the breath she’d held for those few seconds, sending steam from her mug swirling erratically in the cold air.  Fuck.  It takes nothing for her to feel like this these days, like she doesn’t even have enough control over herself to swallow properly, let alone to tear her eyes away from Beau.  Not when she’s grinning casually like that, tossing banter around with Fjord.  All Yasha can do is smile too, and hope she isn’t being hopelessly obvious.

That’s about when she notices that Beau is still shivering.

They had all changed into dry clothes before reconvening on the deck for Caduceus’ drinks, but Beau’s shoulders are hunched up almost to her earlobes and she’s clutching her mug tightly in both hands, only taking tiny sips as if to make the source of warmth last as long as possible.  She’s clearly enjoying herself, but the shudders crashing over her in waves are hard to miss.

And it makes sense that, out of all of them, she would be the one still battling with the lingering effects of the frigid water.  She was out there without any protection, and she has no padding on her shredded little body whatsoever.  

Gods.  Fuck.  Stop thinking about that.

Certain she’s blushing now, Yasha hides behind taking another sip of her hot chocolate and forces herself to look anywhere else, but...that longing is back.  Bad.  Beau needs something, she’s uncomfortable, and Yasha just wants to fix it for her.  And she could.  It would be easy, actually.  And this time the fact that Beau needs something is kind of Yasha’s fault, because she’s the one who dragged her under the surface to begin with, so she’d have at least half of an excuse.  But she would have to walk straight across the open space, or around behind Veth and Caleb to get to her, and it would be so obvious, and Yasha kind of wants to sink through the wooden deck just thinking about it.

Goddammit, the shnuggles have got her heart racing again.

And then, right on cue, Jester’s voice cuts through and pulls Yasha’s attention back to the laughter and conversation.

“Beau!” she says.

Beau looks over to where Jester stands beside Yasha.  “Yeah?”

“What kind do you have?”

She looks confused about context for a split second before.... “Oh, the drink, yeah,” she says, looking down into her mug.  “I think it’s like a...salted caramel or something.”

“Ooh, can I try it?”

“Yeah, sure.”  And she walks across the circle to stand in front of Jester.  Which is also right in front of Yasha.

Fuck.

“Here,” Beau starts to hand over the mug before yanking it back.  “Don’t drink all of it!”

“I won’t I won’t!” Jester says, laughing, and Yasha can’t help but smile despite the way her whole heart feels like fluttery butterfly wings.  Beau doesn’t ever quite relinquish her hold on the cup but Jester puts her hands around it and takes as much of a drink as Beau will let her.  “Mmmmmm,” she says when she lets go, “That’s so yummy!”

“What’d you get?” Beau asks.

“Strawberry!” Jester replies, sounding like she might burst from the decadence of it all.

Beau holds out a hand.  “Gimme a taste.”

Jester’s grin turns unmistakably mischievous, then she wordlessly hands Beau her mug and puts her hands over her mouth.

Beau looks into it for a second.  Blinks.  “The fuck!”

“I drank it already,” Jester says through her fingers, and then giggles.

Yasha laughs too, and Beau glances up at her before handing the mug back to Jester.

“What a rip-off,” she grumbles, but Yasha can see the endearment hiding in her eyes.

Veth calls out to Jester then, pulling attention away in the same moment that Yasha watches another shiver roll down Beau’s spine, and she just..sort of...does it, before she has a chance to talk herself out of it.

She takes a step forward, into Beau’s space, and Beau—half turned away—looks around in surprise as Yasha lays a hand on her back.

“You’re cold,” she murmurs.

Observation, explanation, justification...whatever it is, Beau’s face softens immediately.  “Oh, yeah I am.  A little.”  A brief pause, then she shifts so she’s leaning into Yasha’s body—not fully, just enough that her shoulder presses lightly against Yasha’s ribs.  She sounds almost shy when she speaks.  “Thanks, Yasha.”

“No problem.”

The voices and laughter of their friends fill the air around them, but Yasha feels suddenly like she and Beau are in a bubble, somehow.  A bubble filling with silence that grows more conspicuous with every second.  Beau cradles her mug in front of her chin, takes a sip at the same time Yasha does.  Yasha shifts her hand to Beau’s arm, rubs it a couple times, then lets it rest there because she doesn’t know what else to do with it.  She should say something.  The trouble is, her mind is blank.

But Beau speaks up, only loud enough for Yasha to hear.  “What kind did you get?”

“Of the...of the drink?”

“Yeah.”

“Oh, I think it’s...you said yours was caramel, right?”

“Mhm.”

“I think mine is....”  She pauses to take a sip, just to make sure.  “Yeah, I think...I think mine is the same.”

“Oh really?”

“Yeah it’s-it’s a little...like a little salty, you know?”

“Yeah, yeah, it’s good,” Beau says.  “It’s good it’s like...I was gonna ask to try yours but if they’re—”

“If they’re they same, then—”

“—no point, yeah—”

“—there’s...yeah.”

They’re both laughing quietly by now, and Yasha feels like she might die, but she also hasn’t been this full in a very long time.  The hot chocolate isn’t the only warmth spreading through her chest.

Beau seems to turn her attention back to the jovial atmosphere around them at that point, and Yasha tries to follow suit.  She can’t, really, but she tries.  At one point she accidentally catches someone looking at her—Jester, who wiggles her eyebrows impishly, and Yasha can feel herself blushing as she looks away, biting her lip.  She chuckles under her breath, she can’t help it, and whether Beau caught any of the interaction or not, she leans just a little bit heavier into Yasha’s side at the sound.

After another minute or two, once Beau has stopped shivering, she turns her head in Yasha’s direction.

“Hey Yasha, c’mere,” she mutters, and taps her on the arm as she steps around her.

Something about the simple gesture makes Yasha’s heart skip a beat, but she shakes her head at herself and follows Beau down the stairs to the main deck.  She’s pretty sure she can feel Jester’s eyes boring into her back.

“Help me grab some of these,” Beau says, holding up a couple of the colorful paper tubes that lay scattered across the deck.  “I wanna set them off, y’know, to celebrate our victory or whatever.”

“Oh!  Yes, that’s a very good idea.”

After a few moments of fumbling with their mugs and the unwieldy fireworks, they settle on an arrangement with Beau gathering them from the deck and stacking them in Yasha’s free arm.  Yasha follows her around, and every time Beau turns back to her and meets her eyes, she thinks she might drop everything she’s holding.

“Hey, did you see those dope-ass flips I was doing while you were pulling me out on the water?”

Beau sets a green firework on top of the pile and doesn’t immediately turn away this time, taking a sip of her hot chocolate instead, and Yasha blinks a few times.  “Uh...no, I don’t think...I mean, you were behind me, and way above me, and also I was very, uh, focused, on....”

“Oh man, it was so sick,” Beau says, her eyes lighting up.  She leans over to pick up another firework, but instead of handing it to Yasha, she starts waving it around in animated gestures.  She talks in a whirlwind of excitement and Yasha can’t keep herself from smiling.  “There was this big chunk of ice, like floating ice, and it made a perfect ramp and we were heading right towards it, so I—and Veth was there too, obviously—we like...aimed it just right, and when we hit it we totally skated on the top and it launched us so fucking high, and like, I did this awesome double-backflip and fucking nailed the landing, and—”

She goes on like this, continuing to pick up fireworks as she talks.  Yasha mostly just nods a lot, woahs when Beau takes a breath, and it’s silly and she thinks they both know it but it feels special all the same.  Like it doesn’t matter to Yasha what Beau is saying as long as she’s saying it to her, and it doesn’t matter to Beau how Yasha reacts as long as she’s there, listening.  There’s an ease to it that Yasha finds herself hoping they’ll be able to find together more often.

Eventually, Beau huffs a sigh.  “Okay, I think that’s plenty for now,” she says, looking at the pile stacked precariously in Yasha’s arm.  Yasha thinks she catches just a trace of self-consciousness in the smile on Beau’s face in the moment before she turns on her heel.  It’s very, very cute.  “We can pick up the rest later, c’mon.”

Yasha follows Beau, holding her mug carefully on top of the stack of fireworks to keep them steady, back up the stairs to the bow of the ship where their friends still stand.

“Whatcha guys doing?” Veth calls out, and Jester, not exactly light on innuendo, says, “Yeah, you came back reeeeeally quick!”

Beau ignores the implication and raises the one firework in her hand.  “It’s a celebration, isn’t it?” she says, and is met with a whoop from Jester.  “Also, I just have too fuckin’ many.”

A couple of laughs follow as they head to the railing, and Fjord says, “Nobody made you buy them, you know.”  Beau just tucks the firework under her arm and gives him a finger.

As carefully as she can, Yasha bends down and dumps the fireworks onto the deck, and Beau deftly snatches up the ones that try to roll away.  Kneeling beside each other, breath clouding the cold air, they prop each of the fireworks up against the railing, and the quiet around them—punctuated only by the voices of their friends in the background—is comfortable this time.  Beau keeps reaching for the same firework that Yasha does and brushing their hands together, and Yasha is pretty sure it’s on purpose, and they both keep their smiles to themselves.

“Alright, here goes,” Beau says when they’ve finished, and strikes her flint to light the first fuse.

Holding both of their warm mugs, one in each hand, Yasha follows Beau a few steps back as a hissing sound chases the spark up the fuse, out of sight beneath the paper casing.  A burst of light illuminates the deck and the rocket streaks off into the sky with a piercing whistle, and a moment passes, then two.  Then there’s a sudden bang, and a flash of purple lights up the mist that hangs low in the air.

Their friends cheer behind them and a smile pulls at Yasha’s lips, but she hears Beau mutter, “Oh, well...shit.”

“What is it?” Yasha asks, looking down at her.  She’s surprised to see a disappointed expression on her face.

“I wasn’t thinking about the fog.  Kinda ruins it.”

Yasha thinks for a moment.  “What if...what if you lit a few of them at a time?  Then we could, you know, see what sorts of-of colors they make when they go off together.  You never know, it could be pretty.”

Beau shrugs.  “Yeah, alright.  Let’s try it.”

Yasha hangs back this time while Beau moves forward again, and she manages to ignite three fuses before hopping up and jogging back to her place beside Yasha.  She turns to watch just as they shoot off, one after the other, into the air.

Blue, gold, pink—scattered across the sky, fading and blending together.  Yasha hears Jester “ooooh” in delight, and she looks back down at Beau.  This time, there’s a smile on her face.

But before Yasha can say anything to her, there’s a clatter of footsteps, and they both turn to see Jester and Veth dashing over.

“I wanna light ‘em!” Veth yells.

“No no, me! Me!” Jester says, laughing.

Veth reaches them first, but rather than put up any resistance, Beau lets her snatch the flint out of her hand.  “You can fight over it,” she says with a laugh of her own.

From across the deck, Yasha hears Caduceus say, “I uh...I don’t know if this is going...to...okay.” Fjord says, “I can’t see how this could end poorly at all,” and Caleb responds, “Actually, you know she is very good with things that explode.”

“Do all of them, do all of them!” Jester says, leaning over Veth.

“And let half of them blow up in my face?

Beau just catches Yasha’s gaze, and they both shake their heads.

It takes a few moments for a number of fireworks to be selected, but with a sure hand, Veth lights four fuses and then she and Jester dash back, a few steps away from where Yasha stands with Beau.  For a third time, rockets whistle into the air and light up the fog with a dazzling radiance of color.

“You were right, Yasha, this is pretty cool,” says Beau, turning to look at her.

The colors splash across her face, twinkle in her eyes, and...gods, Yasha’s mouth is suddenly dry.  It’s a beautiful moment, a perfect moment, and Yasha knows that Beau knows.  The understanding is suspended, heavy, between their locked eyes, and there’s no hiding it.

But...it’s not the right moment.  Everyone would be watching.  And Yasha wants to talk first, needs to.  They can’t do that here.

Not yet.  Soon.  Yasha blinks, and it’s enough to break the tension.

Well, it's not the moment, but it’s still a moment, and Yasha thinks it would be a shame to let it go entirely to waste.  They’re here, together.  Beau’s here, and Yasha wants to believe they both know what this thing between them is.  She thinks they do, but just in case....

She smiles—a little hesitant, perhaps, but she means it—and then holds up Beau’s hot chocolate, a handful of little marshmallows still bouncing around in the few sips that remain.  Beau smiles back, gentle understanding in her eyes.  She accepts the mug, and Yasha doesn’t let herself wait.  She reaches for Beau’s free hand with hers.  Holding the drink has warmed up her skin and she feels Beau thread her cold fingers between Yasha's own.

Hand in hand, they watch the last of the fireworks light up the sky, and it’s enough, for now.