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Tides will bring me back to you

Chapter Text

 

"Ava. " Beatrice laughed quietly and pushed her hand away. "I'm not interested in your candy." 

"You need the energy!" Ava protested. 

Beatrice shushed her through her laughter. 

It was the early hours of the morning and the others were asleep in the back of the van. 

The last few weeks spent on the road hadn't been ideal, actually, it had been pretty stressful and with a definite undercurrent of fear about the forces pursuing them. 

But there were still moments about it that Ava loved. The sing alongs with Camila, staying up all night (and regretting it the next morning) with Mary while she drove. 

Even the rare moments when it was just her and Lilith awake were nice, if not a bit awkward still. 

But the times when Beatrice was driving and it was just the two of them awake? It was the best time. 

They were back in Spain at last, after taking as many detours as they could to try and make sure they weren't being followed. It was a lot more comforting because Mary had a much larger network of contacts here and they were finally going to set up in a safe house.

Ava was so ready to sleep in a proper bed. 

"You shouldn't be complaining, it's your candy. More for you isn't it?" 

"Sharing is caring isn't it?" Ava smiled. 

Beatrice rolled her eyes. "You should be sleeping." 

"Boring. I'll sleep when you sleep." 

Beatrice gave her a side eye. 

"Would you prefer me to be quiet?" Ava asked. 

Beatrice turned off the main road and hummed thoughtfully. 

"No. I enjoy your company." 

Ava grinned and threw more candy into her mouth. 

She turned back to Beatrice in time to see headlights rapidly approaching. 

It immediately felt like she was a child again. 

Ava glanced down. Beatrice's seat belt was on. 

She threw her arm across Beatrice's chest just as the van hit the drivers side. 

The van rolled and Ava could hear the confused yells behind her, the crunch of glass and metal as the van came to a sudden stop. 

They were definitely upside down. 

"Ava-" Beatrice gasped. "Ava, are you okay?" 

She was in pain. There was blood in her eyes and it hurt to blink. 

There were men getting out of the van. 

"What the fuck happened?" Mary groaned. 

Ava spotted the guns and rushed to unclip her seat belt and dropped to the floor… The roof? Being upside down was confusing. 

She could see Beatrice struggling with her seat belt as there was a scrambling of noise behind her. As much she was terrified, there was something comforting about the noise around her. 

It meant her friends were okay. 

Ava knew that ambushes were by nature, supposed to be a surprise, but this was fucked up. 

Ava didn't wait for any of the others to reply, she grabbed the sword and phased through the van, vaguely aware of Beatrice calling out her name. 

She wasn't about to let a group of assholes hurt her friends. 



--

 

Beatrice's head was pounding. 

Her ears were ringing. 

And her damn seat belt was stuck. 

"Ava wait!" She called as the other girl phased through the van towards their attackers. 

"Get the doors open Lilith!" Mary yelled behind her. 

"I'm trying." 

Beatrice tried to shift enough to pull the knife from its holster, her fingers were brushing against the tip of the handle but she couldn't get a grip on it. 

Her gaze shifted back to the fight unfolding outside. To Ava taking on half a dozen men alone. 

She just needed to get to the knife, cut the belt and get to Ava. 

There was a burst of light and Beatrice didn't need to look up to know Ava was using the halo now. She still did and was glad she did. 

Faint streaks of blue from weapons at several of the men's hips. 

"Mary! They have divinium!" Beatrice yelled and she was fully aware of the panic making its way into her voice. 

"Fuck, Lilith!" 

An angry growl and heavier slams, creaking metal. 

Beatrice strained harder and felt her fingers get a grasp on the knife and pulled it out. 

She sawed through the belt in a few quick slices and immediately reached for the door handle. Stuck. 

Beatrice glanced at the cracked windscreen and braced herself as she started to kick at the corner, willing herself to add more force with each strike. 

Ava yelled out as she was struck in the side and hit the ground. 

"Mary!" 

"I know Beatrice, we're trying!" 

When there was a gap that seemed big enough to get through, Beatrice threw herself forward herself, ignoring the pain in her ribs and the cuts she could feel as she caught herself on the glass. 

She hit the floor gracelessly and adjusting her grip on her knife as she pushed herself up ran towards the attackers. 

Her side pulsed painfully. 

Ava rolled out of the way of another attack and got to her feet. 

Beatrice threw her knife at the closest man, watching it sink into his shoulder. As she reached him she grabbed the knife to pull it out, only for him to throw his elbow back into Beatrice's side. 

The burst of white hot pain confirmed her suspicions about a possible broken rib. She tried to push past the pain and punched the man in the throat. 

A barrel of a gun connected with her head and the cry of pain she let out was involuntary, as she stumbled to the ground Beatrice saw Ava spin to her, eyes wide with fear. 

"Beatrice!"

Ava took a step towards her when Beatrice saw one of the men raise a blue blade and drive it into Ava's back. 

Beatrice tried to call out but could only wince as her own blood splattered onto the road, the copper taste was heavy in her throat. 

Ava screamed as she collapsed, the halo pulsed with energy, knocking back the man. 

Beatrice willed her limbs to move, could feel the gravel digging into the skin as she tried to drag herself to Ava's aid. 

"Bea! Ava!" Camila's voice barely broke through the haze of Beatrice's focus. 

"Grab her, we need to move." One of the men held. He threw something aside as he pulled Ava off of the ground.

Another quickly got on Ava's other side and together they dragged Ava to their van and threw her into the back. 

"Ava…" Beatrice choked out, coughing around another mouthful of blood. 

Mary sprinted past her, firing her guns at the van as it peeled away. 

Beatrice felt like she was going to throw up. 

As the van disappeared from view, Beatrice dropped her forehead to the ground and closed her eyes against the tears she could feel burning behind her eyelids. 

A hand pressed against her back. 

"Bea, Bea are you okay?"

No. 

"Did you get the plate?" Beatrice asked, she grimaced as she tried to push herself up and quickly tempered down the emotion on her face.

"Don't move, you're hurt." 

"I got the plate." Mary said. 

Beatrice lifted her head and watched Mary pick something off of the ground. Lilith walked over to Mary and took it from her, inspecting it carefully. 

"Knife handle, blade is broken." 

"It's divinium." Beatrice said. Camila helped her sit up as best as she could. Beatrice wiped the blood from her mouth. "They stabbed her with it." 

"Bea, I think you need a hospital." Camila said. 

Mary and Lilith were at their side as soon as she said that. 

"We need to go after them." Beatrice protested. 

"The van is totalled and you look… Really hurt Beatrice." Mary pointed out. 

Lilith looked in the direction that the van had disappeared down. "We'll get her back, but we all know that she will be mad if we don't get you help first." 

Beatrice dropped her gaze to the floor, taking in the broken glass and blood scattered across the tarmac. 

Her sisters didn't seem as hurt as she was and Beatrice knew that there was no level of protesting that would make them change their mind. 

They'd find Ava. They had to. 



--

 

After grabbing what they needed from the van, the group set out to find the nearest hospital. 

It was made slightly more difficult by them not knowing where they were and the fact that Beatrice was a lot more hurt than she was letting on. 

Lilith had seen the crumpled driver side door, as far as she was concerned it had been a miracle that Beatrice had even walked away from it with her life. 

Mary and Camila seemed to only have minor injuries, bruises from being flung around in the back while Lilith had walked away without injury. 

She supposed that she had her newfound abilities to thank for that.

When they got to the hospital, Camila opted to go in with Beatrice and leaving Mary and Lilith to wait outside. 

"What's our next step?" Lilith asked. 

Mary sighed and lit a cigarette. "We need to get a new vehicle for a start. Get to the safe house. We'll need to run that plate, it's the only lead we've got at the moment." 

"Those guys weren't from the Vatican." Lilith said. 

"Definitely not. This is all Vincent." 

"We need to move fast." Lilith pointed out. "Adriel wants the halo and there isn't going to be anything stopping him from taking it now." 

Mary's glanced at Lilith. "I know." 

"She's still alive." 

"Is that a statement or optimism?" 

"Statement. I can sense Ava." 

Mary raised both eyebrows as Lilith looked away. 

Lilith didn't know how to explain it, much like how she found herself at the Vatican, Lilith just knew that somewhere in the edges of her senses there was a soft pulse of energy pulling at her attention. 

She knew it was Ava. 

"We should split up." Mary decided. 

"I agree. I'll stay with Beatrice, you and Camila are much more suited for information gathering." 

"Fine. You go and find her." Mary scanned the parking lot. "I'll get us a ride." 



--

 

Beatrice saw Lilith slip through the curtain while the nurse finished off the last stitch above her eyebrow. 

"What's the diagnosis?" Lilith asked. 

"I've given her something for the pain," the nurse explained. She stepped away from Beatrice and pulled off her gloves, moving to dispose of them before turning to Lilith. "We're waiting for the x-rays and for a bed, we'd like to keep her in overnight for observation at the very least." 

Beatrice watched Lilith nod thoughtfully. 

"We thought it would be worse." Lilith admitted. 

"Your friend is a trooper, I'll give her that much. Very stubborn though."

Lilith raised an eyebrow at Beatrice. "Oh?" 

"Perhaps you can convince her that it's for her own safety."

The nurse cast another look at Beatrice before leaving them alone, as soon as she was gone, Beatrice stood up and grabbed her jacket. 

"Oh no you don't." Lilith crossed the room quickly and pushed Beatrice back down onto the bed. "You heard what she said." 

"If I was as bad as she thinks I'd already be on a ward." Beatrice pointed out. 

"You were spitting blood onto the road!" Lilith hissed. 

"And now I'm not." Beatrice said. "I've got fractured ribs and a concussion at most." 

"You're not leaving." 

Beatrice did her best to glare at her friend. "Every minute we waste here is another minute Ava gets further from us." 

"We will figure it out." Lilith said, her own glare was much more intense but Beatrice refused to wilt under it. 

"Ava-" 

"Is still alive." Lilith interrupted. "I can sense her Beatrice. She's alive." 

"For how long though?" Beatrice asked. "Until they get her to Adriel? How long will that take?" 

"Listen to me." Lilith dropped her voice to a whisper as she glanced around, conscious that the curtains around them only provided the illusion of privacy. "Mary and Camila are going ahead to the safe house. They're going to start tracking her down, but you're not going to be able to help Ava if you've got a broken rib and it punctures a lung." 

"We're drawing too much attention to ourselves by being here." Beatrice pointed out. It was a weak argument, but Lilith clearly wasn't about to back down. "What if they call the police? What do we do then?" 

"Then we adjust the plan. But until then you're not leaving this hospital." 

"Lilith-" 

"You're staying. You're being really suspicious and if you leave then that will be what draws the attention." 

Lilith dropped down into the empty seat and crossed her arms, never breaking eye contact with Beatrice. 

At this point, Beatrice wouldn't be surprised if Lilith resorted to manhandling her to make sure she stayed put. 

"We will find Ava and we will make them pay for this." Lilith said again. 

Beatrice really wanted to believe her. 



--

 

When Ava woke up, it was to a burning pain in her back. 

Ava cried out as she rolled over, falling off of whatever she had been lying on and hitting concrete hard. 

When Ava lifted her gaze, she took in her surroundings. Briefly focusing on the bars in front of her. 

"What the fuck?" She whispered. 

As Ava pushed herself to her knees, the pain in her back echoed through the rest of her body, she brought a hand up to press against the centre of the halo and grimaced as her fingers brushed against something sharp. 

When she looked down at her hand, it was streaked with blood. 

Panic flared in Ava immediately. 

The crash. 

Beatrice getting hit and dropping to the ground. 

She remembered being stabbed. 

"You're awake." 

Ava's head snapped up at the familiar voice, pulling her from her panic before it could spiral any further. 

It was replaced by anger as soon as the source of the voice stepped into view. 

"Vincent." 

 

Chapter Text

 

Vincent stood before her, regarding Ava quietly. 

"You know if you missed me so much you could have just called. This?" Ava gestured around them. "Bit excessive."

Vincent tilted his head and stepped closer to the bars that separated them. 

"You've all been hard to track down, when I got the call I almost didn't believe them." 

"Where's your friend?" Ava asked. "I would have thought he'd be here." 

She hoped that the anxiety wasn't showing on her face. The last time she'd been face to face with Adriel he hadn't exactly hesitated before trying to rip the halo from her. 

"He’s nearby. Don't worry, you'll see Adriel soon." 

Ava wondered how long she had. She had to escape before then. 

She was surprised by the lack of restraints on her though. Vincent, of all people, knew what she was capable of. 

"Why did you do it?" Ava asked. "We trusted you." 

"This was always the plan." 

"You used me." Ava grabbed the bars. "You used me to set him free and you… You killed Shannon." 

Vincent glanced away quickly. "She knew the risks." 

"Oh fuck you." Ava snapped. "You're lucky that these bars are between us." 

This time his smile was almost patronising. "You're all words and bravado." 

"Yeah? Come in here and say that."

That damn smile didn't fade and Ava felt another wave of frustration settle. She felt the halo flare as she instinctively tried to phase through the bars. 

She just wanted to slap that stupid smile off of his stupid face. 

As soon as she felt the halo activate, Ava was immediately met with a blinding pain in her back. 

Her knees buckled from underneath her as she fell to the floor, the breath knocked from her with such an intensity that she couldn't even scream out. 

"Like I said, all words." Vincent crouched so that they were level. "Divinium, even in small amounts, can be quite detrimental to you. I'd save your strength if I were you." 

The knife she'd been stabbed with. 

Was that what she could feel in her back? 

Ava lifted her head enough that they could see eye to eye. 

"I'd imagine that the halo is also what is keeping you from bleeding out. Try not to die before Adriel can see you." 

Ava took several large breaths before she felt confident enough that her words wouldn't fail her. 

"When Mary finds us… You'd better run and hide like the coward you are." She said. 

Mary was going to kill him, and Ava wasn't sure that any of the others would be able (or would want) to stop her. 

"Naive of you to think that they're going to come for you at all." 

He got to his feet and walked away, leaving Ava alone to her thoughts. 

The pain in her back didn't ebb much and Ava could definitely feel trickles of blood down her spine. 

The halo was useless. 

She didn't know what to do now. 


--

 

"This is the place?" Camila asked as Mary switched the engine off. 

Together they took a moment to observe the building in front of them, the sun had finally risen and, at least to Mary, it felt like the events of the last few hours were really beginning to set in. 

Ava, gone. Beatrice, injured. 

They were broken apart.

"Yep. One of Mother Superion's. Completely off the books." Mary got out of the car and stretched. "Not even the rest of the OCS know about it." 

It was one of six that she had been given the location of in the days after they had gone on the run. 

Camila followed her and took in the house. 

To outward eyes it looks like nothing more than your standard little holiday home, tucked away off of the main road and entirely unassuming. 

Mary just hoped that there was food. 

And power. 

She cast a glance in Camila's direction. "Come on." 

Together they grabbed their few belongings from the trunk of the car and made their way to the front door. 

There was a safe tucked away and Mary quickly punched in the code and grabbed the key. 

The first thing Mary did was flick the switch in the hallway and let out a pleased hum when the lights came on. 

"Set up what we have in the living room, I'll do a quick search and see if there's any laptops hidden away." 

"Of course." 

Mary searched each room quickly. It was a modest three bedroom. Two bathrooms and fully furnished. It was almost too nice, but Mary supposed that was part of the home's cover. 

The closet that had been turned into a miniature armoury was a nice touch.

She returned to Camila ten minutes later, a laptop she had found in one of the bedrooms tucked underneath her arm. 

Camila had already set up what equipment they did have and had survived the crash and was in the process of connecting her tablet to her laptop. 

"Here." Mary set it down and dragged a chair to sit beside Camila. 

"Thank you." Camila murmured. She pointed to the tablet as she started to inspect the laptop Mary had brought her. "Can you type the vehicle registration in there?" 

Mary complied and sat back to watch Camila work. She had to admit that she had no idea what Camila was doing, when it came to anything to do with technology, Mary was all too happy to leave that to Camila or Beatrice. 

"Do you think Bea is okay?" Camila asked. 

"I think she's stressed." Mary replied. "She had to watch the whole thing play out while she was trapped. That can't have been easy." 

Mary had never heard Beatrice sound so afraid, even when they discovered Adriel, her voice had still been carefully neutral despite the wide eyed panic on her face. 

And then there was her resistance to going to the hospital, the desperation that seemed to radiate from her. 

It was extremely unsettling. 

"Bea and Ava had gotten very close." Camila continued. 

"We all have." 

"Do you…" Camila looked up from her laptop and glanced worriedly at Mary. "Do you think we'll find her in time?" 

"I don't know." Mary admitted reluctantly. She didn't want to be the one to voice it, but to say anything else would have felt like a lie. "But we have to hope, okay? We don't give up."

"No giving up." Camila agreed. "I uh… Need to hack into some things." 

"What kind of things?" 

"Governmenty things? I need to find out where the van came from, I’m going to need some time." 

"Okay." Mary got to her feet and gave Camila's shoulder a squeeze. "I'm going to have a cigarette and see what security we’ve got. Do you want me to see if there's any tea hidden away?" 

Camila's smile was small but genuine. "Yes please." 

Mary wondered if there was coffee. 

--

 

Beatrice had always had somewhat of a stubborn streak, but Lilith couldn't think of a time where it had shone through as clearly as it had over the last few hours. 

The girl had steadfastly refused to go to sleep, Lilith knew that the only reason she hadn't tried to leave the bed once she had been moved onto the ward was because Lilith had pulled up a chair and taken up vigil. 

They hadn't spoken, both equally lost in their own thoughts but united on what they were thinking about. 

Ava. 

Lilith didn't know what Beatrice was thinking, she could only imagine that it was stemming from a source of guilt. 

Beatrice had seen everything, all Lilith knew about the crash and subsequent fight was from the sounds of her calling out to Mary as she tried to free herself. 

As for Lilith, she was trying to pull at the thread in her mind. That small warmth she could feel that she just knew was Ava and the halo. 

So long as that warmth was there, she knew Ava was alive. What Lilith didn't understand was the barrier that seemed to be blocking her from following it. 

They all had so many questions about Lilith's abilities, what it made her now, how she had been able to find her way to them back at the Vatican. 

The thread metaphor had been all she had been able to come up with, she'd followed it - followed Ava. 

If she could just do that again, they'd be able to save her. 

At some point during their introspection, Lilith found that Beatrice had dozed off and a closer inspection confirmed that it was genuine. 

Lilith didn't like feeling suspicious of her friend, but part of her couldn't shake the feeling that Beatrice would consider doing something reckless. 

She slipped from the ward quietly in search of coffee. It was unlikely that she was going to be getting any real rest anytime soon, after all. 

After finding a machine and getting a cup of what appeared to be some extremely bad coffee, Lilith found a quiet corner and retreated into it. 

When the nurse from the emergency department came onto the ward and made her way towards the front desk, Lilith shrunk further into the corner as her instincts threw a giant red flag up. 

"Jamie?" The nurse behind the desk greeted her with a confused smile. "What are you doing up here?" 

Jamie smiled. "Clocking out soon, I wanted to check on a patient I sent up here earlier?" 

"Which one?" 

"Said her name was Denise, didn’t give a last name either. Car crash, concussion and fractured ribs." 

Even from her spot, Lilith could hear the doubt in her voice. 

"She's still here, so is her friend. Neither of them have left… What's wrong?" 

Jamie shrugged. "Something seems off. She wouldn't give a last name, didn’t want to do the  paperwork and the story just didn't seem to add up." 

Lilith set her coffee aside and tried to shift closer to listen. 

"They just seem like scared kids." The other nurse dismissed. 

"You didn't hear what I heard." Jamie said. "Look, apparently a car was stolen from the parking lot not long after they got here." 

Lilith pinched the bridge of her nose. They were definitely in trouble. 

"I've already told security what I know, they checked the security footage. There was another girl that came in with her earlier, she's disappeared." 

"Shit, you think they're involved?" 

"Yeah, look. This is just a heads up. The police will probably be here soon." 

Yep. Big trouble. Beatrice was right and their time was up. 

Lilith quickly made her way back to Beatrice, slipping unnoticed past the nurses as they continued to gossip. 

She was still asleep and Lilith felt a little bad as she shook her awake. 

Beatrice only looked confused for a few seconds before she sat up. "What's happening?" 

"We need to leave, now." Lilith threw Beatrice her jacket. "Police are going to be here soon." 

"I told you!" 

"Yes yes, you were right. Now listen, I'm going to go and set up a distraction. Take the fire exit and get to the parking lot, I'll meet you there." 

"How?" Beatrice winced as she slid from the bed. 

"You let me worry about that." 

--

 

"Mary! I got something." 

Mary was at Camila's side instantly. "You don't sound super enthusiastic." 

"It's a rental. I've got the information of the guy who rented it but…" 

"But?" 

"Address looks like a shut down restaurant and it's under the name 'Jason Mendoza'." Camila frowned as she turned to Mary. 

Mary had the distinct feeling that she was missing something. 

"Okay? But that's a name at least?" 

"The name of a character from a netflix show. It's fake." 

Oh course it was. 

“Can you run the fake ID? Facial recognition and all that?”

Camila sighed. “I can try but we just don’t have that software here, I need to try and hack into the police databases and they’re harder than a record of vehicles.”

Fuck. Back up plan then.

"What's the address?" 

Camila handed Mary a slip of paper. "It's a couple of hours away, it's closer to home than it is to here." 

Mary frowned. How long had these guys been following them? 

"Okay, it's the only lead we've got so let's hit the road and-" Mary stopped as her phone began to ring, she shared a look with Camila before she pulled it out and answered it. "Lilith?" 

"We have a problem." 

Of course they did. 

"What's wrong? Is Beatrice okay?" 

"As fine as she can be. The staff suspect us and they know about the car you took, police are on their way." 

"Oh shit." 

"I'm getting Beatrice out now, are you at the safe house?" 

"Shit, yeah. Look, get out of the hospital and find somewhere to lay low. We got a lead on the van, I'll come and get you and we can go check it out." 

"Not to sound pushy, but can you hurry?" 

"I'm leaving now. Keep me updated." 

"What's happening?" Camila asked. 

"Hospital drama. Beatrice is okay, you up for a change of plans?" 

Camila nodded. "What do you need?" 

"Can you hack into security footage?”

“Depends on what type.”

“Gas stations?”

Camila grinned and waved a hand. “Child’s play.”

“Good. Comb through any gas stations within say, thirty mile radius of where the crash happened and see if you can find them." Mary said. 

Camila nodded. "I got it. You go get the others." 

Mary was already heading towards the door. "Call me the second you find anything!" 

"I will, now go!"

--


As far as distractions went, flooding the bathroom felt more like something a rebellious teen would do at school, but if it got the job done then Lilith wasn't about to complain. 

She had considered pulling the fire alarm, but to do that in a building full of the sick and injured just felt wrong on a whole other level. 

Besides, her distraction was enough for Lilith to slip out of the hospital unnoticed and she quickly found Beatrice in front of the hospital, leaning heavily against the wall. 

"I called Mary." Lilith said as she reached her. "She's on her way. She also said they got a hit on the plate." 

That got Beatrice's attention. "What did she say?" 

"That we had a lead and that we'll go investigate when she picks us up." 

"How long will she be?" 

"As soon as possible." Lilith glanced at the hospital. "Are you okay to walk? We need to put some distance between us and this place." 

Beatrice nodded. "Let's go." 


--


Ava had spent much of the morning wondering if it was just her and Vincent in the prison. Every now and again she would hear footsteps in the distance but nobody ever came into her view. 

More importantly, Ava wondered just how many abandoned prisons there were in Spain - what were the chances that she would be in the same building she had visited only a few short months ago with J.C and the others? 

That was assuming they were still in Spain. She was fairly certain that they were. 

Eventually, two men covered in tattoos appeared with a sandwich and a bottle of water, one of them kept a gun trained on her while the other opened the door to place the food down. 

The lack of a wraith possessing either of them unsettled Ava. These guys were here of their own will. 

As they locked the door back up, Ava stepped closer to the bars. 

"Hey, so… Any chance of some painkillers or something?" 

"Not a chance." 

"Seriously? Dude, I've got a knife in my back!" 

Both men started to walk away and Ava let her forehead eat against the bars. 

"Not even like, a handful of bandaids?" She called after them. 

No response. 

"For fucks sake." Ava sighed as she retreated back to her corner. 

She was starting to get tired now too and Ava couldn't be certain if it was because of her injury or a genuine exhaustion setting in. 

She couldn't let herself fall asleep. 

--

 

It took a conscious effort on Beatrice's part not to fall asleep in the backseat. 

Despite how wired her brain was, the aches and pains throughout her body were beginning to take their toll. 

After Mary and Lilith had filled each other in on everything that had developed during the few hours apart, the car had fallen into an unsteady silence. 

Beatrice couldn't help but think of the few weeks crammed together in their van. The silences back then had been rare but comfortable. 

Camila and Ava had been exceptional at small talk and holding long conversations about absolutely nothing. 

"I think this is the place." Mary said, slowing the car down as they crawled past a boarded up Greek restaurant. 

"Pull around the back." Beatrice spoke up. 

Mary glanced at her in the mirror but complied. 

As the three observed the building, Beatrice saw Mary produce a handgun and turn to offer it to Lilith. 

She leant forward to take it before Lilith could. 

"Oh no, you're staying here." Mary said. 

"No, I'm not." Beatrice replied. She slipped the magazine out and inspected it before clicking it back into place. "I understand that you're trying to help, but we're stronger together. Plus I'm a better shot than Lilith." 

"Excuse me?" Lilith raised an eyebrow.

"You heard me." 

It was as close to their usual banter that Beatrice could manage. For a moment the tension that had been around them all lifted. 

"Okay okay, reel it in you two." Mary rolled her eyes. "We'll go in through the back, keep it tight."

"Just because it looks empty, it doesn't mean that it is." Lilith nodded. 

Beatrice sincerely hoped that it wasn't empty. 

--

 

When it came to the reconnaissance side of missions, Camila would often find herself getting bored quickly. 

It was all that she was allowed to do for a while.

Memorising building layouts and gathering intel? While she was easily one of the best at gathering that information now, especially when it required a more technical approach, Camila would much rather be in the field. 

She'd gotten a taste for it now. 

But this was where she was needed. Her friends needed her to do this. 

Ava's life depended on it. 

So Camila sat and steadily combed through hours worth of security footage looking for that one tiny needle in a haystack. 

When she was about ready to start pulling her hair out, Camila's gaze spotted her golden goose. 

At a little after two in the morning, the van pulled into a gas station twenty miles from where Ava was taken. 

A young male, mid to late twenties got out, most of his face hidden underneath a baseball cap as he filled the van and paid at the pump. 

The quality of the camera was subpar at best, but one thing Camila noticed was the limp he sported as he made his way back into the van. 

It was a small detail, but it was enough for Camila to go on. 

After grabbing a screenshot of the figure, Camila turned her attention back to her other laptop, it was a little more involved but Camila knew she had a better chance of getting a clearer photo if she could get into the rental company's systems. 

She'd already gotten the information of the vehicle and which branch the vehicle had come from, so from there it was just a case of Camila getting into that branches system and sitting through their footage from the time leading up to when the van was collected. 

After spending ten minutes watching the staff work, typing on their computers, answering the phone and helping the customers who walked in, Camila was reminded of why she chose this life in the first place. 

It all just seemed very mundane. 

She sped the footage up and waited.

When a man entered the branch with a clear limp, Camila couldn't help but fist pump the air. 

The picture quality was clear enough to show off his features and it was a definite match to the fake ID he'd provided to get the van. 

She just needed to figure out a way to get into some more heavily encrypted systems to run his face and figure out who he was. 

If Camila could get into traffic cameras outside, she was fairly confident that she would be able to track him and hope that he would lead her to the rest of his group. 

She knew that she needed help, if she had been at Cat's Cradle it wouldn't have been much of an issue. They had the software she needed for facial recognition. But now she definitely needed help from someone with a lot more money and resources behind them. 

Camila reached for her phone and hesitated. 

Should she call Mary first? She'd managed to track the driver down but without any real identification it felt like useless information. 

Camila scrolled through her contacts and after taking a steadying breath, hit dial. 

It rang for several moments before she was met with a curt greeting. 

"I was wondering how long it would take to hear from one of you." 

"Jillian," Camila breathed. "We need your help." 

"I'm going to regret giving you this number aren't I?" 

Quite possibly, Camila agreed silently. 

"What is it? As you know I'm dealing with problems of my own right now." 

"We have a lot to catch you up on." Camila replied. "But long story short? Ava has been kidnapped, her life is in danger and I'm trying to get identification of the men who took her." 

Jillian was silent for several moments as she digested the information. 

After the events at the Vatican, they hadn't had much contact with Jillian. They'd spoken to Kristian though, and he'd told them what had happened to Michael and they'd responded with a brief run down of what they had encountered. 

"I can help, but this needs to go both ways. I help you get Ava back, but I need her help in return." 

Camila breathed a sigh of relief. "You know she'll help you however she can, what do you need?" 

She couldn't quite shake the feeling that she was making a deal with the devil. 

--

 

There was very little Ava could do in terms of finding a comfortable way to sit, the only position that didn't seem to send pain radiating through her body was to lie on her stomach. 

Which definitely wasn't going to happen. Even though Ava didn't particularly fancy her chances in a fight right now, lying on her stomach just felt way too much like letting her guard down. 

She wondered how the others were doing. If they had been injured in the crash. 

Ava knew that Beatrice had been, could still picture her hanging upside down from the seatbelt and bleeding from her head after getting struck with the gun. 

She felt cursed. Everybody she cared about seemed doomed to be injured or killed in car accidents. 

"What did you expect? You shouldn't even be alive in the first place." 

The familiar voice sent Ava's blood cold. 

She looked up to see Adriel standing before her. 

"Get out of my head, asshole." She managed to bite back. 

"Lost little lamb, thrown to wolves." Adriel tutted. 

"And you're the wolf, I assume?" 

Adriel smiled. 

Ava got to her feet and walked as close as she dared to the bars. She wanted to shrink, to run. 

Beatrice had once told her she was flight, not fight. 

Not anymore. Not today. 

If this was it, she was terrified, sure. But Ava refused to give him any of the satisfaction this time. 

"If you're going to do this, get it over with." Ava said defiantly. She was proud that her voice only wavered a little. 

She'd never see her friends again. She'd never sing terribly with Camila and make her laugh with equally terrible jokes. 

No more riling Mary or Lilith up with her puns or inappropriate language. 

And Beatrice. 

God, Beatrice. 

The puns they told, their secret smiles and quiet looks that felt like they held the world between them. 

Ava was glad to have met them. 

She wished they'd had more time. 

"So eager to see the other side already?" Adriel stepped closer and brought his hands up to rest against the bars. "I'm sorry to disappoint you." 

Ava's breath caught in her throat. 

--


Beatrice kept the gun raised while she held her side with her free hand. 

She was really starting to wish that they had some painkillers. 

"Place is empty." Mary confirmed. 

Lilith glanced at Beatrice and raised an eyebrow a silent "Are you okay?" 

Beatrice nodded and pressed forward as they examined each room closer. 

All that seemed to remain was a few discarded cigarettes in an ashtray. 

The disappointment was heavy in the air. 

"We knew this was a possible dead end." Lilith said quietly. 

Beatrice leant against a counter and sighed. She was right, but it didn't ease the sting of that knowledge. 

"Hopefully Camila will have turned up more." Mary said. 

Beatrice hummed as she inspected the counter, curious, she brushed her finger along the surface. 

"Whoever was here hasn't long left." She said as she held her finger up to show the others. "No dust." 

"Do you think they'll come back?" Lilith asked. 

"It's a possibility, depending on what Cam turns up, we could definitely come back and stake the place out." Mary replied.

Almost on cue, Mary's phone began to ring. She pulled her phone out and answered it, switching it to speaker. 

"Tell me you've got something Cam, we're looking at a ghost town here." Mary said. 

"Yeah… Yeah I got something." 

They all shared hopeful looks. 

"What have you found?" Lilith asked. 

"Okay so I found gas station footage but it was super blurry, so I hacked into the rental branch and got a clear shot of the guy using the Jason alias. I'm working on trying to track his movements after he left to see if we can identify the other kidnappers."

Beatrice straightened up and moved closer to Mary and Lilith. 

This could be a real lead, it was the first genuine glimmer of hope that she had felt since before the crash. 

"Go Cam!" Mary grinned. "I knew you could do it." 

"Um… There is one other thing though." 

"What?" Lilith asked dubiously. 

"So I only have limited resources. I had to make a call and get us some help." 

Mary glanced at Beatrice. "Who?" 

"Jillian. I needed her help. I… I had to make a deal with her." 

"What kind of deal?" Beatrice asked. 

There was a beat of silence that went on just long enough for Mary and Lilith to share another worried look. 

"Cam, what does she want?" Mary pressed. 

"She wants her son back."

 

Chapter Text

 

Ava was more than a little confused, apparently that much was clear from her expression. 

"All in good time little Ava." 

Okay, make that confused and pissed. 

"You see, you're not the only one who has taken something from me." Adriel explained. "And with that shard of divinium in your back, you and I both know you won't be going anywhere."

"You think I won't just pull it out?" Ava asked. 

"If you're so eager to perish, then by all means. Go ahead." He swept his arms out dramatically. 

Part of Ava wondered if he was bluffing, if it was just his way of keeping her powerless and restrained.

But then she thought back to Shannon, to how she had died. That had been because of divinium. The halo in its current state just wouldn’t heal this kind of wound fast enough.

If she pulled it out, would she be able to get away fast enough or would she just be dooming herself to dying in this cell?

It was food for thought.

“What do you mean, I’m not the only one who took something from you?” Ava asked instead.

Adriel scoffed. “I wouldn’t expect you to understand.”

Didn’t villains like to monologue their dastardly evil plans? Get with the program man.

“Try me.”

“Another time, perhaps.” Adriel stepped away. “There’s a lot of work to be done. I wouldn’t get too comfortable.”

For fucks sake. Give a girl something to work with.

“Likewise.” Ava replied. 

He wanted to be a shitty movie villain? Ava was going to make sure he had a fitting downfall. 

More importantly, she needed to figure out how she was going to get herself out of this.



--

 

Camila clearly had been hard at work while they had been gone. 

A painting lay forgotten in a corner of the room, the space it once occupied was now dedicated to finding the identities of the men that had taken Ava. Blurry photos outside a gas station, pictures taken from the security footage she had gotten from the rental branch. Even a crudely drawn map covered a decent portion of the wall.

Apparently Camila had found a sharpie and had just decided to roll with it.

Lilith was impressed though. Sometimes Camila still felt like the baby of the group but Lilith had never had a reason to doubt her potential.

The last few weeks had only proven that further.

“So we were right that the restaurant was relevant.” Mary said as she traced the map. “That was where they all met up.”

Camila nodded as she turned in her seat to face them all. She gestured to the single photo that she had of the group. “Six men, our guy with the limp seems to have been their driver. Trying to blow the pictures up ruins the quality a bit, but Jillian seemed optimistic enough that she’d be able to get us some results.”

Lilith watched as Beatrice got up slowly from her seat and walked over to join Mary’s side, observing the board intently.

She didn’t miss the way Beatrice had to hold her side as she moved.

Judging from the look of concern that flashed over Camila’s face, neither did she.

“Could they be possessed?” Camila asked.

“No.” Lilith shook her head. “I would have sensed it.”

“Men for hire then.” Mary pulled out her phone. “Better for us. I’ll reach out to my network, see if anyone knows them. Finding out who they are is pointless unless we know where to find them.”

“It’ll be faster to have your guys and Jillian working on it.” Camila agreed. She turned back to her laptops and began to type. “I’ll send you the pictures.”

“You said that Jillian wants Ava to bring her son back.” Beatrice spoke up for the first time since they had left the restaurant. She turned to face them. “What exactly does she expect Ava to do?”

It had been the question burning in Lilith’s mind for a while and there was only one conclusion that she had managed to draw.

“I would imagine that she wants to try to open the portal again and when she does, to have Ava go through to find him.” Lilith said carefully.

She had no doubts that Beatrice had already come to that conclusion herself, that they all had. But thinking it and having somebody voice it were entirely too different things.

That much was made evident by the way Beatrice’s carefully neutral expression fell for the briefest of moments. Enough for Lilith to see the fear and anger that seemed to lie just beneath the surface.

The idea of anybody going there scared Lilith, even with the gap in her memory she knew in her heart that it was a place nobody should ever go. 

But there was something in Beatrice’s expression that unnerved her further.

“No.” Beatrice shook her head. “We are not going to save Ava from Adriel just to… To send her to hell.”

Mary glanced up from her phone at Beatrice’s words and shot a quick glance in Lilith’s direction. 

Lilith remained silent, uncertain. What reassurance could she offer? 

“We’ll cross that bridge when we get to it.” Mary said eventually. “If we tell her that the deal is off then we lose her help and it wastes more time.”

“Mary’s right. We need her at the moment, Bea.” Camila agreed, her voice was gentle as she addressed Beatrice. 

Beatrice closed her eyes briefly and turned away from them, focusing her attention back to the board.

“How long until we get results?” She asked.

“Hopefully only a couple of hours. Jillian has someone she trusts working on it. She’ll send through anything she finds but promised to have them call us directly with last known locations.”

It’s hard to tell if Camila’s answer did anything to reassure Beatrice. All Lilith could see were the lines of tension in her body.

She was a string pulled taut. 

Lilith wondered how long it would be until she snapped.

 

--

 

If there was one thing Ava was good at, it was pushing limits.

Usually that was just in terms of people. Being as much of a pain as she could to annoy the nuns at the orphanage or more recently, teasing and being innapropriate around Lilith until the girl threw something at her.

But as far as Ava was concerned, pushing limits could extend to herself too.

Sure, using the halo had hurt like hell when she had woken up and okay, the lack of restraints beyond the bars made her think that Vincent and Adriel were more than a little confident that the shard in her back was enough to render it useless.

But also fuck them. She needed to know for herself how much, if anything, she was still capable of.

The memory of the pain still seemed to echo through her, and Ava could feel her anxiety rising as she braced herself against the bars as she anticipated the pain her body seemed to know was coming.

Just phase through the bars.

Her fingers flexed around the cool metal as she hesitated. 

“Fuck it.” She said to herself.

She focused on the halo and felt the familiar warmth begin to flood her veins.

It was quickly replaced with a burst of pain in the centre of the halo as it shot outwards, spreading down her arms and wrapping around her chest as everything went white.

 

--

 

“So what exactly are you doing?” Lilith asked.

She’d been exploring the house and had inevitably found Camila in what she assumed used to be a garage, hidden behind several monitors.

Camila looked up at her from behind a pile of wires and gestured to the screens. “Security feed. Handy to have but useless in here.”

Lilith frowned at the screens. “They’re blank.”

“Yeah? I had to turn them off so that I could bring them into the living room.” Her smile only felt a little bit patronising.

“Good plan.” Lilith replied. She chose to blame the lack of sleep for her own ridiculous observation.

Camila looked as though she was going to ask something but quickly snapped her mouth shut as they both heard footsteps approaching. They turned as Mary appeared in the doorway.

“Hey, what are you guys doing in here?” She frowned as she took in the room.

“Surveillance equipment.” Camila gestured to the monitors once more. “There are cameras all over the grounds of this place.”

“Moral support.” Lilith offered.

“Right… Beatrice?”

“Around here somewhere.” Lilith said. “I think she needed some time alone.”

Mary nodded and pulled out her phone. Lilith knew that she would be doing that frequently until they got any answers. “Look, I’m going to take the car and head into town. Get some gas, clothes and supplies. I’ll only be gone an hour, two tops.”

“That’s fine.” Camila replied. 

“Anything specific we need?”

“If you can get some painkillers… Strong ones, it would be appreciated.” Lilith said. 

There was very little she could do to ease Beatrice’s emotional pain, but for the physical pain? This felt like the most that she could offer her friend at the moment.

“Got it. Two hours tops, okay? If you hear anything from Jillian before i’m back-”

“We’ll call you.” Camila nodded.

They fell into a brief silence as Camila continued to work after Mary had left, it felt like an age had passed before Camila spoke again.

“I’m worried about Bea.”

“I know. I am too.”

“Have you ever seen her act like this before? I know she isn’t exactly forthcoming with her emotions but... “ Camila trailed off with a frown.

“I haven’t. And I know what you’re trying to say.” Lilith replied.

Beatrice was always the rational one, emotions under control and focused on the mission.

She was focused now, Lilith couldn’t deny that, and to an outsider she probably looked like her emotions were under control.

But things were just a little off, the axis had tipped enough for Lilith and Camila to know that the mask was barely on.

And as for rational? Lilith couldn’t be too sure.

Beatrice was injured. She needed rest and yet still fought tooth and nail against stopping even for a moment. Lilith got the feeling that if she could, Beatrice would be out there now trying to chase down the leads on her own.

“All we can do is be there for her I supposed.” Camila said eventually. “Let her know she can talk to us if she needs to.”

"It'll be easier once we have a solid lead, at the moment it just feels like we're chasing ghosts and that's what makes it frustrating." 

Camila nodded in agreement. "We just need to stay on track." 

A burst of pain burst through Lilith's chest unlike anything she had ever experienced before. 

Even the tarask impaling her barely compared. 

As her vision faded behind a burst of white, Lilith was distantly aware that she was crying out. 

Maybe she was screaming. She didn't know. 

Images flashed through her. 

Ava, gripping metal bars, knuckles white, expression twisted into a pained scream. 

Smears of dried blood clung to her skin. 

She was pale and clammy. 

The room was bathed in a flickering golden light tinged with streaks of blue. 

As she watched Ava fall to the ground, Lilith felt like she was experiencing nothing short of an out of body experience. 

Everything faded into silence. 

"Lil?" The voice was panicked, the hand on her face firm. "Lilith?" 

Lilith opened her eyes and found Camila staring down at her, eyes blown wide with fear. 

Lilith wondered when she had ended up on the floor. 

"Are you okay?" Camila asked. "What happened?" 

Lilith moved to sit up, the pain had been so brief, so intense that it's sudden absence felt stranger than its appearance. 

Camila dropped her hand from Lilith's face and moved to press it against her back to support her. 

"I… Don't know." Lilith admitted. "I saw Ava?" 

"What?!" 

Lilith recounted what she had seen, the way the room looked, how Ava had seemed and the distorted light of the halo. 

Camila was silent for several moments, sitting back on her heels as she processed the information. 

Whatever was going on, there was one thing that seemed to be certain to them both. 

The connection that she had with Ava and the halo extended so much further than just being able to sense her. 

"We need to call Mary." Camila said. 

Lilith nodded. 

"Should we tell Bea?" Camila added quietly. 

They both glanced up towards the ceiling to where they assumed Beatrice was. 

"I don't know." Lilith sighed and after a long pause added, "Probably." 

To know the extent of Ava's pain, would that be a tipping point for Beatrice? 

To keep it from her though, wouldn't that be worse? 

"We should tell Mary first." Lilith said eventually. "I don't know how to move forward with this." 

 

--

 

Beatrice hesitated by the door, cautious to make sure she kept out of view. 

She'd heard Lilith's cry of pain and by the time she'd made it to the garage, she had heard Lilith recounting her experience to Camila. 

Beatrice was frozen as she heard Lilith describe Ava and how pale she had seemed. 

Surely that was enough of a tell that they had to start acting now?

They had to be running out of time. 

"Should we tell Bea?" She heard Camila ask. 

"I don't know." 

A spike of anger made itself known in Beatrice and she quickly turned to walk away. 

They were going to keep it from her? 

Could they be hiding more? 

Why would they want to hide it from her? 

Beatrice's mind was racing with questions and for the first time in several hours, those questions weren't in direct relation to Ava. 

She hadn't missed the way the others had been looking at her, how it felt like they were walking on eggshells whenever they were in the same room. 

It was clearest in the moments she had spent with Lilith. The way that she hadn't left her side when they were in the hospital. 

Oh. 

Lilith thought she was a flight risk. 

As Beatrice reached the kitchen and pulled an ice pack from the freezer to press against her ribs, she had only one question to ask herself. 

Was Lilith right? 

 

--

 

Mary placed the bags on the backseat and got behind the wheel once more. She rubbed her eyes with one hand as she dug her phone out of her pocket. 

She scrolled through until she found the number she was looking for, it was one of the only contacts she hadn't assigned a name to, and for his reason. 

They shouldn't be talking, and while there was very little risk to Mary if they were caught, the repercussions for the other woman could be detrimental. 

It rang twice before there was an answer. 

"I told you not to call unless it was an emergency." 

Her voice was hushed and Mary could vaguely hear the telltale tap of the cane amongst hurried footsteps. 

"Mother Superion," Mary began. "believe me when I tell you this is an emergency." 

A brief pause. 

"What happened?" 

"Adriel and Vincent. They've taken Ava." 

Silence. Mary knew that Mother Superion had stopped in her tracks. 

"Taken?" 

"Lilith can still sense her and the halo. She isn't dead. We have no idea why." 

"Do you have any leads?" 

Mary cracked open a can of energy drink and took a long drink. She really didn't see herself getting any real rest for a while. 

"A couple, we're working on tracking the men who took her and hoping that gives us something to work with." 

Mary heard the briefest sigh on the other end of the line. 

"And the others?" 

"Camila is fine, Lilith is… I don't know, she's okay but we're all full of questions about what exactly is happening to her." Mary hesitated for a moment and wondered how much she should say. "Beatrice got injured when we were attacked, concussion and fractured ribs but other than that… It's just a lot of concern and worry." 

"I will see if there is any talk amongst the others. They are in the process of assigning a temporary replacement for me to oversee the Sisters still in Cat's Cradle." Mother Superion explained. "I am hoping that many of them remain loyal to our cause and protecting the halo rather than submit to Duretti's agenda." 

Here was fucking hoping. God knows they needed all the allies they could get. 

"Thank you, keep me posted?" 

"Likewise. Are you at the safehouse?" 

"Not at the moment, but we have set up operations there." 

"I trust you found the armoury okay?" 

"In the closet? Yeah." 

Mother Superion laughed. "No, not that one. There's an additional garage at the back of the property, you will find the key beneath the moss covered stone." 

Mary's phone vibrated and she pulled it from her ear to see Camila's name flash across the top of the screen. 

Oh, that couldn't be good. 

"Mother? I have to go." 

She ended the call and answered Camila's quickly. 

"What happened?" 

"It's Lilith…. And Ava." Camila replied. "Lilith had a… I don't know how to describe it." 

There was brief movement on the other line as the phone changed hands. 

"I saw Ava. Felt her pain, the halo was lit but it was different." Lilith explained.

Mary started the engine and backed out of the space. "Different how?" 

"Flickering, and I saw a blue glow." 

The divinium knife...

Was it still in her back? 

"I'm on my way." 

Fuck. Things just kept getting weirder. 

 

--

 

When Ava came to, it was the absence of pain she noticed first. 

So much so that it took a solid few moments for her to realise that she was no longer in her cell. 

No. She was back in her room at Cat's Cradle. 

And she wasn't alone. 

In the doorway was a figure that Ava had only seen once before, in her dreams. 

The concern on the girl's expression made something in Ava's chest ache. 

Shannon. 

"Am I dead?" Ava asked. 

She pulled herself off of the floor and looked around the room, she could see the sunlight filtering in through the window but couldn't feel its warmth. 

When she pressed her hand against the bed, she could feel the contact but not the softness that should have followed. 

"You're not dead." Shannon replied as she stepped further into the room. "Just unconscious." 

"Okay cool, so I'm just losing my mind?" 

Honestly, with everything that had happened over the last few hours, this was just starting to cross into the territory of absolution mind fuckery. 

The corners of Shannon's lips curled into a small smile as she glanced around the room before focusing on Ava. 

"Don't worry, it'll only be something to worry about if this starts to happen while you're awake." 

"Seeing you when conscious equals big problem. Got it, I'll keep that in mind." 

Ava pressed her hands to her face and took a deep breath. God, this was so fucked up. 

"Do you know what's going on?" Ava asked. 

"Only as much as you." 

Cool. So not much then. 

"So I don't suppose you know how the others are doing then?" 

She needed to know if they were safe. If Beatrice was okay. 

Shannon looked sympathetic. "I'm sorry." 

Ava sighed. 

"If I can reach Mary, I will." Shannon said. "It's different than you though, Ava. It's the halo that keeps us connected." 

"The halo." Ava scoffed. She sat down on the edge of the bench and ran her fingers through her hair. "The halo is useless." 

"The halo is what is keeping you from bleeding out." 

"I'm starting to get the impression that all it's doing is delaying the inevitable." 

"You're looking at it the wrong way." Shannon said. She walked closer and sat on the bed beside Ava. "Look at it as a way to buy time. If Adriel wanted the halo, he would have already taken it, right?" 

Ava nodded. "He said that I wasn't the only one who had taken something from him. Any idea what that means?" 

Shannon looked thoughtful for a few moments. "Possibly the divinium? The OCS and the Vatican have a decent supply, but there's still some out there that had been lost to time." 

Not to mention the divinium that had been running through Michael's veins. 

"Good shout, but that still doesn't explain why he's keeping me alive. There's something else, I just know it." 

"Ava." Shannon shifted off of the bed and knelt down on the ground in front of her. "We're going to figure this out. Know that I'm here with you. The halo will guide the way, have faith and don't give up." 

Don't give up on the halo? 

Maybe it was just like a damaged muscle. Maybe the divinium wasn't blocking its abilities per say, just hindering them. 

Ava wondered if she just had to train herself, teach herself to push past the pain and maybe then she could get the halo to function. 

"No giving up." Ava repeated with a nod. "Okay." 

"Okay?" 

"Yeah. Fuck Adriel, we're going to stop him." 

Shannon grinned, an almost mischievous glint in her eyes. "I can see why Mary likes you." 

Ava got to her feet, she had to assume that the others were trying to look for her but without a clear way to make contact with them and no guarantee of how long she would have with Shannon, Ava knew she had to utilise this time carefully. 

There was a tiny part of her that still wasn't completely convinced that Shannon wasn't just a pain induced hallucination. 

"Okay, we need to compare notes, tell me all the dirt on Vincent and I'll tell you what I saw when he tried to take the halo from me back at the Vatican." 

At the mention of Vincent, Shannon's grin fell. "Ugh. That bastard." 

Ava couldn’t help but laugh. "I can see why Mary liked you." 

It wasn’t the team up Ava had been expecting, but fuck, if she wasn’t glad for it.

 

 

Chapter Text

 

"Mary told us he had a past with the cartel but shit, I didn't realise it went so deep." Ava said. 

The guy was like the fucking Godfather. 

His power had certainly waned over the years and Shannon wasn't certain what had driven him underground, only that she suspected it was the discovery of Adriel's existence beneath the Vatican that had pushed him to taking the guise of a Father. 

Clearly though, he still held enough power to get a small militia of men to work for him. 

"Yeah, he's a lot more dangerous than he appears." Shannon said. "However, he has other people do his dirty work so he can hide safely in the shadows." 

"Like what he did to you…" 

"And to you." 

Ava sighed. "Okay, so safe to assume there may be more cartel members than just the two guys who bring me food." 

"You said six were there when you were kidnapped, so the current count is at least eight." 

"That's right." 

The pair had found themselves on the floor as they had each rushed through their stories, both equally unsure on how long it would be before Ava regained consciousness. 

"Can we go back to what you saw as Areala?" Shannon asked, leaning forward and resting her hands on her knees. 

"What are you thinking?" 

"You said the tarask followed him through the portal almost immediately?" 

"Yeah." 

Shannon hummed thoughtfully. 

"Aren't they attracted to the halos energy though?" Ava asked. "That was what I was told when they had me wear the vest thing when they lowkey kidnapped me." 

"They are." Shannon nodded. "But for one to immediately follow him out of the portal? It just… Seems weird." 

"What are you saying?" Ava asked, mimicking Shannon's position and leaning forward. "That the tarask was chasing Adriel before he came here?" 

Ava could feel a heaviness in her limbs, a distant pain slowly making its presence known once more. 

Well, it was nice while it lasted. 

"Possibly… I don't know." Shannon pinched the bridge of her nose. "The divinium in the walls of his tomb stopped the tarask from getting to him, maybe he's keeping it in you with the shard to hide its signature." 

“Even if i’m still trying to use it?” Ava asked. She felt a stronger pulse of pain and knew she didn’t do a good job of hiding it.

“Perhaps.” Shannon’s expression quickly grew concerned. “Are you okay?”

“Pain is back.” Ava took a grounding breath. “I think i’m waking up.”

Shannon fixed her with a serious look. “Remember what I said. I’m with you, even if you can’t see me.”

“And if I do see you, then we worry.”

“That’s right.” Shannon replied with a small smile.

 

--

 

“So…” Beatrice glanced at Mary and Camila before focusing her gaze on Lilith. “Run me through it one more time.”

She leant back against the wall and folded her arms across her chest.

Lilith met her gaze head on.

“I’m still trying to piece it all together.” Lilith said. “There was a flash and I saw her, clutching bars, the halo was flickering and I saw blue.”

Just like how she had explained it only a few minutes earlier. No mention of the pained expression or the blood. No mention of the way Lilith screamed in pain when it had happened.

They were intentionally omitting information from her.

Beatrice wasn’t sure what to do with that knowledge.

Did she call them out? They were supposed to be a team, they were supposed to trust each other.

She tried to think of reasons as to why they would keep that information from her.

Did they think she couldn’t handle it? But why? She had been through the same experiences that they had. The only thing different this time was…

Ava.

Beatrice dropped her head to the ground and figured that the others would interpret her sudden silence as her picking apart Lilith’s story.

Were they keeping Ava’s pain from her to protect her feelings?

Which led to the follow-up question of… What feelings were they trying to protect?

Did they think something was going on between her and Ava?

No. No, she couldn’t think about that now. 

The silence had already stretched on for far too long.

“The blue is divinium, isn't it?" Beatrice asked. "From the knife which means it must still be in her."

"We don't know that for sure." Mary pointed out. 

"Don't we?" Beatrice lifted her head and met Mary's gaze. "Ava is in a cell, her sword is here what else could it be?" 

If she was right, and Beatrice was certain that she was, then that meant Ava was much more injured than they had originally thought. 

The halo wasn't going to be able to heal her with the shard in her back. 

If it were to be removed she'd bleed out without some form of medical attention. 

Or a miracle.

And Beatrice was willing to bet that Adrian and Vincent were relying on that to keep Ava in line. 

More than that, the shard would also explain why Lilith saw Ava's face twisted in pain. It would be rendering the halo relatively powerless. 

They couldn't keep wasting time like this. 

"Have you heard anything from Jillian?" Mary asked, turning to Camila. 

"No, what about your guys?" 

Mary sighed. "All I've had is the confirmation that they're looking." 

Beatrice held her arms tighter to her chest as she looked to Lilith once more. "Describe the room again." 

"Walls and floors were concrete, metal bars, no window. Cot against one wall, toilet against another. Nothing identifiable." 

"Except it sounds like a prison cell." Beatrice replied. 

"It could easily be a basement too." Lilith said. "Vincent has his cartel links, they could have easily turned a basement into a holding cell." 

"But what if it isn't?"

"Are you suggesting we just start looking at prisons?" 

"Abandoned ones specifically, but yes." 

"And if it's a dead end?" 

"Then at least we can rule that out." Beatrice dropped her arms and pushed herself off of the wall. "This is the only lead that we have and I'm not comfortable just sitting here twiddling my thumbs waiting for a grieving mother and people I don't trust to do our jobs for us." 

Beatrice hadn't been aware that she was raising her voice until Mary stepped in front of her, throwing one arm out to halt her from moving any further towards Lilith. 

"Beatrice! Enough." Mary levelled her with a stern look. "You may not trust those people but I do. We have limited resources so we need their help." 

Beatrice didn't relax at Mary's words, but she did take a step back. 

"I get what you're going through Bea, I do." Mary continued quietly. "But don't assume that we aren't doing everything we can to bring her back, you have to trust us, remember?" 

Trust? 

Trust was a big word when they hadn't even told her the finer details of Lilith's vision. 

Beatrice couldn't shake the feeling that the trust between them had fractured and wondered if the others felt it too. 

"Fine. I will be looking into the prison theory." 

Mary seemed to relax, if only slightly as her shoulders dropped. "That's fine." 

Lilith and Camila were both silent. Lilith hadn't taken her eyes off of Beatrice the entire time while Camila's gaze flitted to each of them in turn. 

Beatrice stepped around Mary and left the room. It was only when she reached the top of the stairs did Beatrice take a deep breath. 

She was done with waiting around. 

Beatrice was going to follow this lead. 

Even if she had to do it alone. 

 

--

 

It felt like none of them dared to breathe until they heard a door close upstairs. 

Camila felt some of the tension ease as she let out a breath. 

"I don't feel good about that." She admitted. 

Mary dropped down onto the sofa as Lilith rested her elbows on her knees and pressed her face into her hands. 

"We can't keep it from her," Lilith said. "She's already figured out the blade is still in Ava." 

"Which means she knows Ava is injured." Mary added. "The only piece she's missing is how sick Ava looked." 

"Assuming she hasn't come to that conclusion herself." Lilith muttered. 

"Do we have to keep it from her?" Camila asked. "We're supposed to be a team, teams don't lie." 

Neither Mary or Lilith would look at her. 

"I do think we should tell her." Lilith said eventually. "But… she's already on the edge, what if this tips her over?" 

Camila sighed. 

Keeping it from Bea was their only way of protecting her. 

But it wasn't right and they all knew it. 

"I know she’s pushing us away but we should try to talk to her." Camila said. 

"Not as a group." Mary said immediately. "It'd make her feel ganged up on, we've already established that it's hard to get her to open up when we're all together." 

"I've known her for the longest." Lilith spoke up, lifting her head to finally meet Camila's gaze. "But I'm not good at getting into emotions." 

"I'm the other way around." Camila replied. 

She was pretty good at reading Beatrice's moods and had drawn some assumptions of her own as to Beatrice's history, but that was the problem. 

They were just assumptions, she knew very little about Beatrice or her life before the order. 

"And I think I might get what she's going through." Mary said, though she didn't elaborate any further. 

Though Shannon immediately came to mind. 

"So…" Lilith sighed. "Who's going to go talk to her?" 

 

--

 

Ava woke on her side. The room felt much colder than she had remembered it.

In the time she had been unconscious, someone had placed a bottle of water just inside the door of the cell. 

As Ava pushed herself upright, she was met with an unfamiliar and heavy pain in her limbs. 

It may have been from being unconscious and not moving for a while. 

But as Ava reached for the bottle of water, she couldn't help but liken the feeling to the times when she had drained the halo, to the moments when its power filled her limbs once more. 

Would the halo recharge with the divinium? 

Or was it slowly losing power, unable to recharge. 

When Ava shifted to move towards the cot, she was met with an unnerving and grizzly sight. 

A small pool of blood had gathered where she had been lying, smeared across the floor when she had moved. 

"Shit." 

 

--

 

Lilith paced outside the bathroom, she could hear faint movement on the other side of the door. 

She held the painkillers in her hand, the only olive branch that she could offer. 

Lilith knocked the door gently and heard the movement stop. 

"Beatrice? I asked Mary to get you some more painkillers." 

"Give me a moment." 

Lilith listened to the movements resume and a few seconds later, the lock on the clicked and the door opened. 

There were bandages on the counter behind Beatrice and the gauze that had been protecting the stitches above her eye now lay beside them.

"Here." 

Beatrice took them and set them on the counter. "Thank you." 

"How is the pain?" Lilith asked. "Truthfully. I've seen you holding your side when you think we aren't looking." 

"It's far from the worst pain I've known." Beatrice turned away from her, avoiding Lilith's stare in the mirror as she cleaned up the discarded bandages. "It's manageable." 

Lilith couldn't be certain if Beatrice was being entirely honest, though she didn't dare call Beatrice out on it. 

She hadn't exactly been forthcoming with the truth either.

So maybe a different approach. 

"Beatrice, how long have we known each other?" 

Beatrice met Lilith's gaze only briefly before looking away again. "A long time." 

"And I'd argue that we know each other rather well." 

"So it wouldn't be hard to assume that we're both aware when the other is lying." 

Beatrice lifted her head and caught Lilith’s eye in the mirror. "Is this your way of telling me that you were lying about what you know of Ava?" 

Much like when they'd spar, Beatrice didn't hesitate to throw her punches. 

"Not a lie, exactly. More like omitting the truth." 

"Does it make you feel better to phrase it that way?" Beatrice asked, she turned and leant against the counter. 

Beatrice had always been guarded, walls firmly up, but she had never been unkind. 

She wasn't exactly being unkind now, but she was sharp. Jagged edges keeping everyone away. 

Despite her instinct, getting defensive now would only guarantee this to turn into an argument, and while Mary was downstairs, Lilith was supposed to be working on being less confrontational. 

Plus, the brief flashes of anger Lilith had seen from Beatrice had been unnerving, she didn't want to be on the receiving end of it. 

"It doesn't." Lilith replied. "There's nothing about this that could make me feel better." 

There was a brief twitch in Beatrice's jaw as the muscles tensed. 

"How injured is she?" Beatrice asked. 

"I don't know." Lilith replied. "But there was dried blood on her face, she looked pale and clammy. She looked in pain." 

"And did you consider the fact that the reason she looked in pain in that moment was because she used the halo and the divinium is reacting against that?" 

Lilith's silence apparently spoke volumes. 

"This is why you shouldn't keep things to yourself. This is significant information to Ava's condition." 

Business as usual, a throwaway mention of the betrayal she must be feeling. 

Only focused on the mission. 

"You should make the others aware, about the divinium I mean, I assume they already know about Ava's suffering." 

She moved to brush past Lilith, who turned at the last second to catch Beatrice's wrist. 

"Look, I know you, Beatrice. I know what you're capable of, I know you're going to follow this prison theory until we get a hit on the kidnappers, but I need to know that you're going to keep a level head about this." 

Beatrice looked down at Lilith's hand until Lilith relented and let go. When their gazes met, Lilith noticed just how distant Beatrice's expression was. 

"Don't worry. I know what needs to be done." 

Beatrice's words did very little to ease Lilith's nerves. 

 

--


Ava was bored. 

She was fully aware that she was in a situation where she was actively dying and yeah, the future of life as they knew it counted on her not dying and Adriel not getting his hands on the halo… But she couldn't help it. 

It was boring!

It was too hard to string together the threads in her mind, each thought only brought more questions and without someone beside her to act as a sounding board or something to write her thoughts down so that she could try to connect them, Ava was at a loss. 

It didn't help that almost every thought she had was derailed in the face of the pain in her back. 

Except the more that she thought about it, the more it lingered in the rest of her body. Like phantom touches demanding to be heard, once she had used the halo, the aches refused to fade. 

She still didn't know if it was real or all in her head. Ever present fears that she would lose her mobility resurfacing. 

Beatrice’s voice echoed through her mind.

"And we will never leave you." 

Ava tilted her head back against the wall and closed her eyes. 

"I'm not doubting your skills here Bea, but a girl could start to get worried." Ava said quietly to herself. 

Ava thought back to the moments before the kidnappers struck, the quiet and easy conversation between them. 

The stretches of comfortable silence as Beatrice drove and how soft her expression had been as she stared at the road ahead. 

Ava wished she could be back in that moment. 

Wished she could be back with Beatrice. 

Remembering their time together brought about the single most consciously peaceful moment she had experienced since that night. 

Typical it would be interrupted by the approaching footsteps. 

She expected one of the thugs to come around the corner, she even thought it would be Adriel coming to taunt her some more.

Truthfully she shouldn’t have forgotten that Vincent was a part of this whole operation too.

“Gotta say dude, now isn’t the time.” Ava closed her eyes. “I’m not in the mood to humour your bullshit.”

“My men told me about the blood.”

Ava opened her eyes and found Vincent staring at the streaks of blood on the ground.

“Yeah. I’d apologise but also… Fuck you guys? I don’t feel bad for whoever has to clean that mess up.”

There was a bundle of clothing in his arms and Ava watched carefully as he crouched and set the bundle down on her side of the bars.

It looked like an oversized hoody and a roll of bandages.

Was he trying to be nice?

“What are you doing?” Ava asked. “I thought I was supposed to be dying in a couple of days? Why waste this stuff?”

“We need you alive until we are able to tie up loose ends. If you die it causes more problems.”

It took a considerable effort for Ava to haul herself to her feet and drag herself to the bars. There was a brief moment of satisfaction as she saw Vincent take a step back.

She needed to get what information she could from him, that way if she could see Shannon again maybe they’d have more to work with, maybe Shannon could connect to Mary and they could figure out what the fuck was going on.

“So i’ve been told. But come on man, it’s not like I have anything to do here so come on, how does keeping me alive help you guys?”

Vincent’s silence was nothing if not frustrating.

“Cause the only thing I can think of is that this chunk of divinium in my back? That was always supposed to happen, it wasn’t a happy accident. My current theory is that you guys are so fucking scared of tarasks that you’d rather keep me alive to hide where you are, but that doesn’t make sense. The tarasks will come the second the halo is out of my back.”

There was the slightest raise of Vincent’s eyebrows, but beyond that there was nothing Ava had to work with.

His phone beeped and Vincent scoffed quietly as he pulled it out to check it.

“You really don’t understand what’s going on.” He said, not bothering to look up from his phone at her. “Don’t waste your energy.”

“Oh I’m sorry that I’m only working with what i’ve picked up from this fucking cell oh great and wise one.” Ava shot back. “Would it really kill you to humour me here?”

But Vincent was already turning away from her. “I’m sure you can wait a little longer. I have business to deal with. Bandage yourself up, try not to die in the next forty eight hours.”

Very specific time frame.

But God, Ava wanted to punch that face.

 

--

 

Beatrice was firmly settled on the sofa, eyes focused on the screen as she worked. 

If the way her side ached was anything to go by, Beatrice knew that she should probably stretch her legs. 

The pain she felt was probably nothing compared to whatever Ava was going through. So Beatrice merely grit her teeth and continued to type. 

There weren't exactly a lot of abandoned prisons in the country and there was one only a couple of hours away that seemed like a good contender for where Ava was being held. 

If they didn't hear anything back from Jillian or Mary's sources, if the others weren't willing to check it out, then Beatrice would go alone. 

The living room was getting darker, neither her or Camila were willing to get up from their posts to switch the lights on. 

Speaking of Camila… 

There had been an absence of typing from Camila's little area for a while and as Beatrice finally looked over, she found the girl with her head resting on the desk. 

How long had it been since they had all slept? 

She closed the lid off the laptop and got up from the sofa, pausing for a moment as she felt the pain flare in her side once more. 

Beatrice sighed. If she moved, she hurt. If she stayed still, she hurt. 

There was no winning. 

She set the laptop on the desk and rested her palm against Camila's back, giving her a gentle shake. 

"Camila?" 

Camila stirred and shot up almost immediately. “I’m awake! I’m awake.”

“You need to get some proper rest, Camila.” Beatrice sighed.

“We all do.” Camila yawned. “But what if Jillian calls?”

“We can take it in turns.” Beatrice said. “Look, you’ve got the email alerts on, haven’t you?”

Camila nodded. 

“And I assume your phone is on. If she calls, you’ll hear it. You can get some rest and I’ll stay up and keep an eye out, I still have some research of my own to do anyway.”

Camila didn’t even attempt to hide the concern in her eyes. 

“You need to get some rest too, Bea.”

“I slept for a bit at the hospital. I’ll be okay for a few hours.”

Camila stood reluctantly, yawning again as she reached out to give Beatrice’s arm a small squeeze.

“We’re going to find her Bea, don’t lose hope.” She said. “We’ll bring her back.”

Why did it feel like the more she heard her friends say that, the more it felt like an empty promise?

All words, no actions.

It wasn’t their fault, Beatrice knew that. It was all too easy for them to be the targets of her frustrations.

“Get some rest Camila.” Beatrice said quietly. “I’ll wake you if anything comes through.”

For a moment Camila looked like there was more that she wanted to say, but she seemed to second guess herself on the matter and with a quiet sigh, made her way towards the sofa.

Beatrice took the seat at the desk and pressed her hands to her face. 

 

--

 

Lilith was on the hunt for some clean towels when she spotted Mary approaching her.

“How did it go?” Mary asked.

“Well it shouldn’t come as a surprise to you that Beatrice knows we were hiding stuff from her. I told her everything.”

Mary raised both eyebrows. “And?”

“She was… Alarmingly calm.” Lilith made her way down the hallway as Mary trailed behind her, pausing only to open cupboards to observe their contents. “She mostly called me out for keeping significant information to myself and theorised that the reason that Ava was in pain when I saw her was because the divinium was reacting against the halo."

Mary hummed thoughtfully. "That's a good shout to be fair, reckon she's right?" 

"It would make sense. I'm just hoping that Ava has worked that out for herself. If she hasn't and she keeps using the halo-" 

"She'll kill herself." Mary finished. "I hate to say it, but if we don't get any results soon we're going to have to consider following Beatrice's theory and checking out those prisons." 

"I trust Beatrice has already considered as much, I also wouldn't be surprised if she hadn't already narrowed down a list of potential locations and gathered schematics." 

Mary sighed and pinched the bridge of her nose. "If we're going to do this we're going to need to get some rest." 

"And more weapons." 

"Now that part, leave to me." Mary said. "When I spoke to Mother Superion she said there was another garage around the back with some weapons, I'll go check it out now." 

Lilith was more than willing to storm a prison to save Ava, but the whole thing felt too much like they would be walking into a trap. 

"Go get some rest." Mary said. "I'll go check in on Beatrice and Camila, try and convince them to get some sleep and see what kind of toys we've got to work with." 

"I was hoping to get a shower first." Lilith said. "If only I could find the stupid towels." 

Mary sighed as she stepped around Lilith. "Top shelf of the wardrobe in the bedroom next door to the bathroom." 

It was too much effort now. Now that Mary had mentioned rest, her body felt like lead. She was better off trying to get as much sleep as she could.

 

--

 

Mary hovered in the doorway of the living room for a few moments. 

Camila was curled up on the sofa, a soft blanket draped over her. 

At the desk, Beatrice sat, clicking through pages. The muted blue light of the screen was the only light in the room. 

"What is it?" Beatrice asked, careful to keep her voice low enough as to not disturb Camila. 

"You need to get some rest." 

"I will. I promised Camila I would keep an eye on the computer in case Jillian sends anything through." 

Mary sighed. 

She already knew it was a pointless argument. She'd give her people a couple hours to get them results. 

Then they'd have to follow Beatrice's plan. 

“I’m heading outside, apparently there’s a garage somewhere out back that is a nice little armoury.”

She saw Beatrice nod. “Okay.”

Beatrice hadn’t so much as looked in her direction. Whatever she was working on had her whole focus.

 

--



Lilith knew that she was dreaming.

At least, she was fairly certain that she was.

It had taken a few moments to place her surroundings as ArqTech as her feet carried her down sterile hallways.

Each door she passed was closed, but as she turned a corner, Lilith found an open door at the end of one corridor.

She made her way towards it, beginning to hear a hushed voice as she got closer to the doorway.

The room she entered was entirely different. Windows lined one wall, bathing the room in a warm and gentle glow. A bookcase lined another wall, the comfortable looking sofas and coffee table was such a stark contrast from the hallways that Lilith had to wonder if they were even from the same building.

It was the figure standing on the other side of the sofa inspecting a framed butterfly that held Lilith’s attention however. 

Even with the oversized grey hoody covering their body, Lilith could still see the blood beginning to seep through the material.

She could see the dim glow of the halo and the divinium shard.

“Ava?”

Ava startled, knocking the frame onto the floor as she span around. Her eyes were wide as she met Lilith’s gaze across the room and only grew more confused as they flitted to the empty space on the sofa and back to her.

“Holy shit, Lilith!”

“Am I dreaming?” Lilith asked.

Ava hurried around the sofa and the coffee table to get closer. She was grinning as she shook her head.

“Nope! I mean, kinda?” Ava frowned. “It’s confusing but holy shit how is this even happening?”

Ava looked genuinely thrilled to see her, but Lilith could still see how sickly and pale she looked. 

She definitely hadn’t missed how lethargic her movements had seemed. 

“I assume it’s to do with my abilities.” Lilith replied. “Like how I was able to get to you back at the Vatican.”

Something shifted in Ava as her shoulders dropped. “I’m guessing the divinium is stopping you from doing that now?”

She could feel the same sadness that Ava must be feeling. “I’m afraid so.”

“It’s probably for the best. They’re keeping the shard in me to hide me from something while they tie up loose ends. I don’t want you to walk into a trap.” She gasped suddenly. “Shit, Lilith. Beatrice, is she okay?” 

It brought Lilith a strange level of comfort to see that despite everything that Ava must be going through, Beatrice wasn't far from her mind. 

But Ava's question brought a new dilemma to Lilith. 

How much should she say? 

Would it do any good to tell her about the darkness that Beatrice seemed to be slipping into? 

"She suffered a concussion and a couple fractured ribs in the crash and the attack, but she's… She's very focused on trying to find you. We all are." Lilith replied. 

Ava's brows furrowed. "You're not telling me everything." 

She'd already lied to Beatrice once, she couldn't do the same to Ava. 

"Ava, I don't know how much time we're going to have. I need you to tell me as much as you can. Where are you? What do you know?" 

Ava looked as though she was about to argue, but after a tense moment she let out a long sigh and dropped onto the sofa. 

"Definitely a prison. I think I'm still in Spain. As for what I know? Not a lot." Ava pushed a hand through her hair. "Vincent and Adriel are both here but they're not giving me anything to work with. All I know for sure is that the divinium is… It's killing me slowly, the halo is keeping me alive for now. I tried to use it earlier and the pain was unlike anything I felt before."

Lilith moved towards the armchair as Ava spoke and sat down, keeping her gaze focused on Ava. 

"It knocked me out for a while, I saw Shannon, but since I woke up from that it feels like my body isn't moving properly." 

So the halo is losing power then. 

"All I've gotten from Vincent is that they're keeping me alive to tie up loose ends but he won't give me any hints about what those ends are." 

"So if we can stop them from that then we'll buy you more time?" 

"That's my guess, yeah." 

Lilith nodded. "We're trying to track down the kidnappers, they seem like our best chance at figuring out what the plan is and a way to get to you." 

"I trust you." Ava said softly. "But please, be careful? I can't lose you guys trying to save me." 

For someone who never wanted this responsibility, Ava was certainly taking on the sacrificial leader role. 

The last thing Lilith needed right now was for Ava to develop a hero complex. 

"There was another thing…" Ava met Lilith's gaze. "When I first got here, Adriel told me that I wasn't the only one who has taken something from him." 

Now that had Lilith confused. 

"What?" 

"That's all I know." Ava replied. "Now please, what aren't you telling me about Bea?" 

 

--

 

The key was exactly where Mother Superion had said it would be and as Mary lifted the garage door she was met with a glorious sight. 

Two of the walls were lined with weapons with the third solely reserved for shelves of ammunition. 

Definitely enough for a small army. 

But what Mary was really impressed with, was the car that took up most of the garage. 

It was nothing special, despite how much Mary wished she could have been greeted with the likes of a Lamborghini or something with an excessive amount of horsepower, she couldn't complain at the dated Land Rover. 

She knew it would pack a punch and it was definitely going to be handy to have as a backup. 

If it worked that is.

Mary approached the drivers side and pulled on the door, smiling when she found it unlocked. 

She checked the glove box first and when that drew up nothing she pulled down the sun visor, her smile turning to a grin as the key dropped into her lap. 

When she put it in the ignition, she was met with the painful sounds of the engine attempting to turn over. 

She couldn't win them all. 

It probably just needed the battery boosting. 

Mary got out of the car and looked around the garage, certain that there'd be something there that she could use. 

She figured she may as well try to get it running again, who knows when they might need it. 

 

--

 

Beatrice stood before the board, looking at each photo of the men responsible for kidnapping Ava. 

In her hand contained a single slip of paper, the address for a prison scrawled onto it. 

She wasn't willing to wait any longer. 

It was her fault that this happened in the first place. She should have protected Ava, so it was down to her to fix this.

Camila was fast asleep on the sofa, Lilith was asleep somewhere upstairs and Mary had disappeared outside a good fifteen minutes ago. 

She knew that doing this alone was a gamble, either she'd be killed before she could get anywhere near Ava, or she'd have the element of surprise and slip in and out undetected. 

There was a chime from the computer that pulled Beatrice from her thoughts, she crossed the room quickly and pulled up the emails. 

The sender was a throwaway account and Beatrice knew immediately what contents the email contained. 

Maybe she had to rethink her plan slightly. 

Wait. 

Camila had said that Jillian would… 

Beatrice turned towards the sofa and saw the screen of Camila's phone light up. She threw herself across the room till grab it, sliding her thumb across the screen to answer it before the ringtone had a chance to begin. 

"Jillian." 

Jillian was silent on the other line for a few seconds and it gave Beatrice the chance to make her way back to the computer and finally open up the email attachments. 

"Beatrice? Where's Camila?" 

"She's resting." Beatrice replied as she scrolled through the list. "Your email has come through." 

"I hope it helps." 

Considering whoever Jillian had gotten to do this had included last known addresses and frequented locations, Beatrice was certain she'd be okay. 

She quickly forwarded the email to her phone. 

"It will. Thank you." 

"And you won't forget our deal?" 

The deal that included letting her send Ava into hell? 

How could she forget. 

Beatrice hung up without replying and set Camila's phone down as she felt her own vibrate in her pocket. 

She turned to face the board once more as she confirmed the email had come through to her phone. 

A slight change of plans, but it wasn't anything she couldn't handle alone. 

If she could get just one of them to confirm Ava's location, maybe an idea of the layout she'd be covered. 

If she got to make them pay for taking her in the first place, well, that was a bonus. 

God, please let her friends forgive her. 

 

--

 

“Ava, what do you mean somebody else took something from him?”

Ava threw her hands up as she got to her feet. “I don’t know! What aren’t you telling me about Bea?”

She had seen the shift in Lilith’s expression when she had asked the first time and now it just felt like Lilith was dodging her questions. 

Lilith had said that she was okay, so why didn’t Ava believe her?

Ava felt so lost and confused.

She didn’t understand why Shannon hadn’t been there when she had fallen asleep. Had it been because of Lilith?

Which brought about the question of how the fuck was Lilith here?

She also didn’t understand why her mind had brought her to this room, of all places.

Was it because she had been thinking about Beatrice?

There were so many more questions but her mind had a single focus.

Beatrice.

“Is Beatrice okay?” Ava demanded, her voice coming it much harsher than she had meant for it to.

Lilith rose from her seat slowly and tilted her head down to meet Ava’s gaze.

“She’s…” Lilith sighed. “She’s acting unlike herself.”

“What does that mean?”

“It means she isn’t acting logically. She’s angry and scared and I’ve never seen her openly be that way before. She hasn’t stopped to rest, her only focus is finding you and i’m not sure what lengths she’s going to go to in order to do that.”

No. 

No, Beatrice wasn’t like that. 

Beatrice was focused and logical, she wouldn’t do anything reckless.

Would she?

“She’s pushing us away. I think she feels responsible for…”

“For me getting kidnapped.” Ava finished quietly.

The silence hung heavily between them as the look on Lilith’s face told Ava everything she needed to hear.

Fuck.

Beatrice.

The ache she could feel in her heart had nothing to do with the divinium in her back.

“This isn’t her fault.” Ava said quietly. “Please tell her I said that? Don’t let her carry that weight.”

Something in Lilith’s expression shifted, a curiosity taking hold as she regarded Ava carefully.

Ava wondered what Lilith had seen.

“I will.”

She didn’t want any of them to get hurt trying to save her, but the thought of Beatrice beating herself up? The thought of Beatrice hurt or getting hurt?

It made her feel sick.

“Tell her I miss her.”

Lilith nodded.

“And please, keep her safe.”

“I will.” Lilith replied. “I promise. But I need you to promise something in return.”

“What?”

“Don’t let those bastards win. Stay alive, we will get to you, Ava.”

Even now, Ava could hear Beatrice’s words clear as day. 

“Trust in your team.”

She had to try.

“Okay. I promise.”

There was a sudden bang at the door that had them both turn to look, Ava frowned as the door remained untouched but as she looked back at Lilith, her heart dropped as she found the girl nowhere to be seen.

She was alone again.

 

--

 

Lilith shot upright as the door slammed open, light filling the room.

Silhouetted in the doorway, she could just about make out Camila’s form.

The panicked expression only became clear when Camila flicked the light on.

"Bea's gone."

 

Chapter Text

 

"What do you mean she's gone?" 

Lilith was already throwing the covers off of herself and getting up from the bed. 

Camila looked borderline frantic. 

"She told me to get some rest and she'd keep an eye out for an email or call from Jillian, but when I woke up my phone had been moved and she was nowhere in sight."

Lilith still didn't feel entirely present in the moment, too many of her thoughts were still clouded by the dream she had experienced, of having a shared something with Ava. 

She couldn't even begin to process it, and now they had an entirely new crisis to deal with that forced her to push it all aside, at least for a few minutes until they figured out what was happening. 

Lilith followed Camila out of the room and down the stairs as Camila continued to explain what had happened. 

"The car is gone and I thought maybe Mary might have left for some reason but she would have told us and when I was searching the house I saw the lights from a building out back-" 

"That's Mary." Lilith interrupted. "Mother Superion said there was some stuff out there that could help us." 

They walked into the living room and Lilith glanced around for any kind of clue, drawing a blank. 

"When I went to sleep, my phone was on the coffee table. When I woke up it was on the desk." Camila pulled said phone out of her pocket and unlocked it. "There was a three minute call from Jillian's phone thirty minutes ago." 

They both turned towards the doorway as they heard the back door open and close, a few seconds passed before Mary appeared in the doorway, doing a double take upon seeing them. 

The way her expression shifted into something more serious immediately told Lilith that Mary had read the nervous energy in the room. 

"What's happened?" She asked. 

"Beatrice is gone." 

"Gone? What do you mean gone?" 

As Camila filled Mary in on everything, Lilith made her way over to the computer and shook the mouse, waking the screen up and bringing up an open email. 

"Do you think she's followed her prison theory?" Mary asked. 

"No." Lilith replied. "Look at this." 

Mary and Camila crowded in close to read the email, all falling silent as they studied its contents. 

"Shit, Jillian pulled through." Mary said quietly. 

"Wait," Camila gently nudged Lilith aside and made a few clicks. "Look, Beatrice forwarded the email to herself." 

That settled it then. 

Beatrice was going after the kidnappers. 

Alone and most definitely armed. 

"Shit." Mary sighed. 

Her phone chimed and both Lilith and Camila watched in silence as she pulled it out to read the message. 

"It's from one of my guys, same info. Jillian's email checks out." 

"So what do we do?" Camila asked. "Do we go after her?" 

They were about to head down another path, one Lilith wasn't sure where it would take them. 

But before they could start this, she knew she had to put the brakes on. 

"Guys, before we go any further, there's something I need to tell you." Lilith said. 

Mary and Camila both looked at her curiously, the worry they both felt was clear on their faces. 

"When I was asleep, something happened." Lilith took a deep breath as she tried to find the words to even begin to explain what she had experienced. "I saw Ava again. But it was different, she saw me too. We were connected. We spoke."

For a long moment, they both just stared at her. 

"What the fuck." Mary said. "What happened?" 

And so Lilith told them. She told them everything. 

 

--

 

Ava woke up coughing. 

She pulled herself upright as she tried to control her breathing, her chest contracted painfully with each hacking breath. 

The last few coughs felt different and she brought a hand up to cover her mouth. 

When she lowered her hand, she saw the blood glisten against her palm. 

Not good. 

She wiped her hand on her jeans. 

It was fine. She was fine. 

She had a link with Lilith. Lilith told her to trust them. 

They were going to come for her. 

She just had to stay alive. 

Lilith was going to protect Beatrice. She was going to make sure that Beatrice knew that none of this was her fault. 

Ava had to stay alive. She had to tell Beatrice herself. 

She needed to see Beatrice, alive and happy and safe. 

Ava tipped her head back against the wall and closed her eyes. 

"Shannon?" She called quietly, the taste of copper heavy on her tongue. "I don't know if you can hear me, but I could do with some reassurance right now." 

Ava supposed she should be glad that she was met with silence. 

Shannon had told her that it was time to worry when she saw her while she was awake. 

 

--  

 

"Ava's dying?" 

Camila's voice was small as she asked. 

"Yes." Lilith hated being the one to deliver this news. "We suspected as much from what I had seen before." 

"It's different to know it for sure." Camila said quietly. 

"Ava said someone else took something from Adriel?" Mary frowned. "What?" 

"I think who is the more important question. Whoever he's looking for is the only reason Ava is still alive." 

"Could it be Michael?" Camila asked. "He has divinium in his blood." 

"Michael is wherever that portal took him, as far as I'm concerned he's out of play right now." Lilith said. 

"If it's the divinium he wants then that means us, the OCS, the Vatican and any private collector out there." Mary pointed out. "No it has to be more specific. It has to be someone."

"We can't waste our energy on trying to find out who this target is." Lilith sighed. "We have our own to worry about." 

Camila shifted awkwardly from one foot to the other. "What do we do though? We're pretty sure Bea was right and Ava is in an abandoned prison, but do we go after Ava or Bea?" 

"Beatrice would want us to go after Ava." Mary said. 

"And Ava would want us to go after Beatrice." Lilith pointed out. 

"Bea sent herself the locations of the kidnappers, so she's going after them. Probably to try and verify her own information." Camila said. 

Lilith sighed. It felt like they were talking in circles and the exasperation was really wearing them down. 

"We go after Beatrice." Lilith said. "If she's going after these guys alone then what's to stop her from trying to go after Ava? To do that alone would be a deathtrap." 

She made Ava a promise. 

She had to do what she could to keep it. 

“I still don’t understand why Bea would do this.” Camila sighed. “Why would she go alone?”

Lilith thought back to her conversation with Ava, the sheer desperation on her face as she pleaded with Lilith to know what was going on with Beatrice.

Ava and Beatrice’s reactions to knowing the other wasn’t okay couldn’t have been more different, and yet both evoked a similar feeling.

She didn't know what that meant, exactly, but Lilith knew one thing for certain. 

“Because she isn’t following her brain.” Lilith replied. “She’s following her heart.”

Mary’s phone chimed again and she gave it a cursory read before sliding it into her pocket.

“And that was my other contact. Same info. Cam, find out which of the locations is the closest, chances are that will be our best bet. It’s time to gear up.”

“Small problem, Beatrice took the car.” Lilith pointed out.

Mary reached into her pocket and pulled out an unfamiliar set of keys. “About that…”

 

--

 

As the minutes ticked on, Beatrice kept her gaze focused on the front of the bar from where she had parked across the street.

Every now and again drunk people stumbled out, sometimes they’d step outside to smoke. But there had been no sign of her target just yet.

She’d tried his apartment first, but upon finding that empty, Beatrice had consulted the email once more.

Julien Heard, twenty four. He had racked up quite the debt from gambling and rumour had it that this bar had the best underground gambling ring in town.

He was one of the only kidnappers that she actually recognised.

He had been the one to pistol whip her. 

He was here. 

She just had to wait for him to leave, get him alone and find out where he took Ava.

If he fought, she’d deal with it. 

Beatrice reached for the handgun resting on the passenger seat and checked the magazine before flicking off the safety. 

She briefly regretted not bringing a hoodie with her, or anything really to obscure her face but she quickly pushed those thoughts aside.

She wanted him to see her face.

She wanted him to know that he had made a mistake by taking Ava from them. 

From her. 

A figure stepped out of the bar and it only took a brief glance for Beatrice to know it was him.

The confidence and ease in his stride sent another spark of anger down her spine. 

It was time.

As her hand found the handle of the door, Beatrice spotted movement to her right and she froze as she saw two men step from the shadows and cross the street.

Alarm bells echoed through her mind as she watched them fall into step behind Julien. 

These men were not allies.

No.

Julien turned down an alley.

No, no, no. 

Not when she was so close. 

Beatrice threw the door open and hurried out, there was nobody else on the street so she didn’t bother to tuck her gun away. She didn’t spare the bar a glance as she headed towards the alley.

She heard arguing.

“Padre sends his thanks.”

“No!”

Two gunshots in rapid succession, the flash briefly lit up the mouth of the alley as Beatrice rushed forward. 

One of the two men were slumped against the wall, clutching his stomach as red quickly spread through his shirt.

Julien was on the floor, crawling desperately for a gun only to be stopped by the other stranger stepping on his wrist, raising his own gun casually.

“Please,” He gasped. “Please, we had a deal-”

His words were lost under another gunshot and silence fell amongst the alley, if only for a moment.

“It’s nothing personal.” He lifted his gaze as he realised he wasn’t alone. “Oh?”

Beatrice raised her gun. “I needed him.”

Who was this guy?

“Did he owe you money?” He asked before shaking his head. “No, you don’t look like the sort. You’re one of them, aren’t you?”

Beatrice said nothing. 

"You are." He grinned. "Where are your friends?" 

"Where is Ava?" 

His grin faded. 

Beatrice saw his fingers twitch around the gun.

 

--

 

“So this guy is one of the kidnappers.” Mary stared at the prone body, careful not to step in the pool of blood. “The question is, who the fuck is that guy?”

They all looked at the second body slumped against the wall, head tipped forward.

“He definitely is not one of the kidnappers.” Lilith said.

Mary glanced down at the kidnapper and the gun just centimetres from his hand when she noticed a mark on his wrist. 

"There's a casing here." Lilith called from near the other body. 

"I got three here." Mary said. She crouched beside the corpse and inspected his hand closer. "And what looks like a shoe print." 

Camila was walking the length of the alley, gaze fixed on the ground as she looked for further clues. 

As Mary got to her feet, she turned to face Lilith and watched as she checked the magazine of the gun from her body. 

"Still full, he never fired." Lilith tucked it into the back of her jeans and stepped a few paces to the side. "There was another shooter." 

"Beatrice?" Mary asked. 

Lilith shook her head. "Can't be certain, but I don't think she would have been so close to this shooter." 

"So there was another guy here." Mary raised her hand to mimic a gun and aimed roughly where she thought the other dead man could have been standing. "Our kidnapper fires. Pow, he goes down."

Lilith took a few steps to the side of her body and mimicked Mary. "Second shooter fires, kidnapper goes down." 

She walked towards Mary and looked down to their kidnapper. 

"He didn't die." Mary said. "Not right away. Look, he was trying to reach for the gun."

Lilith hummed and observed the scene silently. 

"Second shooter steps on his hand to stop him." She pointed her fingers at the bloodied mess of his head and mimicked firing. "Kill shot." 

Mary could almost visualise it, but where did Beatrice come into play? 

Was she even here? 

"But there's still the matter of this third case." Lilith nudged it with her toe. 

"Uh guys?" Camila called. "I got another one over here and… Something else." 

Lilith shot a quick look at Mary and they both hurried to the end of the alley to meet Camila. 

Camila was crouched down, flashlight from her phone on and pointed to the ground. 

"Shell." Camila pointed to a flash of metal that had almost rolled under the dumpster. But it was the next thing she pointed at that head them all concerned. "Blood." 

Only a few drops, but it was enough. 

"Bea?" Camila asked. 

"Must have been." Mary nodded. 

Lilith looked at her thoughtfully. "What are you thinking?" 

"She shows up and interrupts them, maybe those two are already down. Beatrice fires, second shooter fires but he hits her…" 

"I'm going to check for blood splatter. Maybe she hit him too." Lilith said, already making her way back up the alley. 

"Check the bodies for phones too." Mary called. 

"Bea got shot?" Camila asked quietly. 

"Maybe." Mary sighed. "It doesn't look good." 

She took a couple of steps out of the alley and onto the street, eyes focused on the pavement until she finally saw more specks of red. 

That maybe was quickly turning into a yes. 

"We got more blood here." Mary called, she waited for Camila and Lilith to reach her before she continued. "Come on." 

"No more blood over there. Our shooter didn't have a phone and this is all that's left of the kidnappers." Lilith said as she held out the smashed remains of an iPhone, a single bullet hole right through the screen. 

"I'll see what I can do when we get back." Camila took it from her. 

They followed the drops of blood across the street, coming to a stop almost directly opposite the bar. 

"There's a lot more here." Lilith pointed out. "If it was Beatrice then she was standing still for this much to gather." 

They still had to make sure though. 

Mary looked across to the bar. 

"Come on." 

"Now isn't the time for drinking, Mary." Lilith sighed. 

"Funny." Mary pointed above the door. "Camera." 

There was also a very nice looking motorcycle parked out front. 

 

--

 

The pounding music of the bar had Lilith and Camila barely suppressing a frown as they caught each other's gaze. 

They let Mary take the lead as she made her way to the bar, having zero qualms about nudging people out of the way. 

Over the music, Lilith couldn’t make out what Mary said, but she did see the wide eyed fear of the bartender as he hurried off.

A few moments passed and another man showed up, he was older and carried himself in a way that had Lilith certain that he was the owner.

More words were exchanged and Lilith saw money change hands as he shot an uncertain look over Mary’s shoulder at her and Camila.

The moment felt tense as he regarded each of them before relenting with a nod, gesturing for him to follow.

They were led into his office and Lilith and Camila opted to linger by the door as he showed Mary to the TV's hanging near his desk. He quietly talked her through how to scroll through the footage and gave a quick demonstration. 

When he was done, Mary looked at him expectantly. 

"Yeah, we're gonna need the room." 

For a moment he looked extremely put out and seemed as though he was about to protest, only to think better of it as he looked at them all again. 

He didn't make eye contact as he left the room. 

"Okay," Mary clicked a few times as Lilith and Camila drew closer. "Let's see what we find." 

For a few minutes it was just a blur of people coming in and out of the bar, people smoking and on one occasion a small fight seemed to break out. 

Their eyes were glued to the screen, waiting for any sign of their friend. 

Patience was a virtue though and soon enough, an all too familiar car parked up across the street. The quality of the camera wasn't good enough for them to see inside the car, but they didn't have to. They all knew it was Beatrice. 

"That confirms it then." Lilith said. 

Mary hummed in agreement but nothing more was said. 

Together they all watched as the kidnapper stepped out of the bar and turned left, walking out of view. They watched as two men crossed the street, clearly following him.

"Two shooters." Camila sighed. "Who are they?" 

"Now that's the question." Mary replied. 

When they saw Beatrice step out of the car, it felt as though they all collectively held their breaths. 

Beatrice hadn't even bothered to try and hide the gun in her hand as she followed them. 

None of them said anything as Mary fast forwarded the footage, only slowing it to regular speed when Beatrice returned to view several minutes later. 

Lilith had to squint to try and make out the details, but only one thing really stood out to her. 

Beatrice was clutching her right arm, just above the elbow. 

Their suspicions had been right. 

"She got shot." Camila whispered. 

It sounded like her heart was breaking at the sight of their friend. 

"Shit. Bea…" Mary sighed. 

"How long ago was it?" Lilith asked. 

Mary squinted at the timestamp and lifted her head to look at the tacky neon blue clock that hung on the wall. 

"Forty minutes ago." 

"She mustn't have long left before we got here then." Lilith said. 

Mary sped up the footage again and surely enough, not more than ten minutes later, they pulled up outside the bar. 

"What do we do?" Camila asked. 

"Now we know there's at least one other person hunting down the kidnappers." Mary said. 

"But who? Why?" 

"They have to be working for Vincent. He's tying up loose ends, likely because he knows we'll be looking for them, I suppose." Lilith said. 

"Or he just doesn't want everyone linking him to this." Mary supplied. "Probably both, the snake." 

"Beatrice is going to keep going after the kidnappers, the only question is which one." Lilith replied. 

"I really hate to suggest this, but I think we need to split up." Mary stared at the screen for a long moment before turning to face them. "We got five guys being hunted by god knows how many men and Bea. We better our chances if we divide the work." 

"Bea is going to get caught in the crossfire." Camila frowned. 

Not that Beatrice seemed to care about that at the moment. 

"Exactly." Mary clicked a few more buttons and Lilith watched the footage disappear. "There, she was never here." 

"Okay, so how do we do this?" Lilith asked. 

"You and Cam take the car, both of you keep trying to call her and I'll do the same. We have to see if we can get through to her."

"What about you?" 

"I'll find another ride. Just keep me in the loop okay? I don't think we have much time." 

Lilith thought back to Ava and felt another brief stab of guilt. 

So much for her promise. 

 

--

 

Ava was leaning her side against the wall when she heard two sets of heavy footsteps approaching and craned her head to try and pick up their conversation. 

"Did you hear about Andre?" 

"Nah, what happened?" 

"So he's part of the clean up group Padre sent out to deal with the others." 

"I know that much dipshit. Get to the point." 

"He's dead." 

Ava turned her head towards the bars, they hadn't entered yet but their voices carried well enough from the doorway. 

"Oh shit, how do you know?" 

"Lukas called Padre, it was one of the guys who brought the kid here that did him in." 

"Shit." 

"Oh it gets better. Some small angry British chick showed up too." 

Ava's heart almost leapt out of her chest. 

Were they talking about Beatrice? 

Lilith isn't small. 

It had to be Beatrice. 

"Aren't two of them British? Isn't that what Padre wanted?" 

"He needs them dead, but it was just that one, still no sign of the others yet." 

Ava pushed herself to her feet, she could feel the halo beginning to burn, the divinium reacting against it. 

"One is better than none. The sooner we clean this all up the sooner we get paid and we go on with our lives. I'm sick of this mystic bullshit." 

The footsteps began again and Ava could barely breathe. 

Did Vincent and Adriel want to kill her friends before they took the halo? 

But why? That didn't make sense. 

"Lukas said that he shot her, you'll be glad to hear then." 

Her heart stopped. 

She saw the flickering light of the halo reflecting against her skin. 

The two men stepped into view and subsequently froze upon seeing her. 

As Ava braced her hand against the wall, she felt a pulse, the subsequent pain almost blinding as she cried out and felt the wall crack beneath her touch. 

Vincent was having the kidnappers killed. 

They wanted her fiends dead. 

Why was Beatrice alone? 

She was hurt?

Lilith had promised.  

Be it rage or fear, perhaps a combination of both filled her chest, demanded to be released, Ava lost all awareness of the consequences of letting it out. 

"What… What the fuck does he want with her?" Ava demanded. 

The fear in the men's eyes was palpable as she met their gazes head on, she felt the wall crack further and the edges of her vision blur with pain. 

If anything happened to Beatrice. She'd kill them. 

 

--

 

The bullet clattered into the sink, specks of red a harsh contrast to the white porcelain. 

Beatrice's hands didn't shake as she threaded the needle or when she looked at the injury in the mirror. 

She never thought she'd find herself standing shirtless in a gas station bathroom patching up a gunshot wound, but then again, how much of this could she have anticipated? 

On the counter, her phone began to vibrate, Mary's name flashed on the screen. 

Beatrice tore her gaze away and brought the needle up, letting out a slow breath as she pierced her skin. 

Pain. 

Pain was what made her a sister warrior. 

She had to remember that. 

But when would the pain end? 

Old wounds had begun to heal when she had opened up to Ava, when she let Ava hold the secret that she had kept locked away for so many years. 

She had been healing. Everything had been brighter. 

But now Ava was gone. Hurt and alone. 

Ava had trusted her. Had trusted in Beatrice's promise. 

Her fingers began to tremble. 

New wounds. 

These wounds won't heal. 

Not if she doesn't save Ava. 

Her phone began to ring again, a brief glance showed her that it was Camila this time. 

They weren't going to stop. 

But Beatrice had to stay focused on her mission. 

It was safe to assume that the other shooters were also sent by Vincent and that he was cleaning up after himself. 

Always sending other people to do his dirty work. It really showed how little value he placed in the lives of other people. 

But with that knowledge brought a new problem. 

How many people had Vincent sent to kill the kidnappers? Beatrice needed to be smart about this, she still had five kidnappers to pursue, it was just a matter of choosing the right one and getting to him first. 

Her grip slipped on the needle and Beatrice let out a quiet hiss as she pulled too tight on her stitches. 

Beatrice closed her eyes. She needed to breathe. 

She needed her hands to stop shaking. 

Everything was so tense. She was so angry. 

Beatrice was angriest at herself. 

It was an amateur mistake to get shot like this. To let one of the hitmen escape. 

Everything was slipping through her fingers. 

Lilith was calling her now. 

Beatrice sighed and checked her work. 

It was messy, it was going to leave a horrible scar and it was definitely still bleeding a bit. 

But it would do. 

She couldn't waste any more time. 

Beatrice checked her phone as the call ended and saw the voicemails light up her screen. 

It would be easier to delete them. Ignore them. 

But despite herself, Beatrice reached over with a bloodied finger, unlocked the screen and hit play. 

"Beatrice. It's Mary." Mary's voice filled the small bathroom as Beatrice moved to wash the blood from her hands. "Look, we're not mad at you for leaving, but you don't have to do this alone. I know how it feels… To be full of anger when something happens to someone you care about." 

Beatrice's hands stilled under the scalding water. 

"So just… Come back, okay? Call me." 

Beatrice grabbed a handful of paper towels and dried her hands as the next message played. 

"Hey Bea…" Camila greeted, Beatrice could hear the sound of traffic in the background. "Please call as soon as you can? I'm worried about you. I just want to make sure you're okay."

Beatrice grabbed her shirt and pulled it over her head, in the privacy of the room she allowed the quiet whimper to leave her lips as the pain from her ribs and arm radiated out. 

"Beatrice listen. I know you're hurt. We saw the alley, we know you've been shot." Lilith didn't beat around the bush. Never had, never will. "But I know you. I know you're not going to stop no matter how much we try." 

Beatrice cleaned up the surfaces as best as she could, removing all traces of blood and by extension, herself. 

"But something happened when you left and you need to know. While I was asleep, I connected to Ava." 

Beatrice froze once more and slowly turned towards the phone. 

What? 

How was that even possible?

"It was real. She saw me, we talked. Beatrice, listen. She gave me a message for you. She wanted me to tell you that this isn't your fault. To not carry this weight." 

It sounded like something Ava would say but… 

But what if this was just her friend's last ditch attempt to try and get her to come back. 

"She said to tell you that she misses you." Lilith continued. "Ava asked me to keep you safe. I just needed to make sure you knew that." 

Beatrice struggled to swallow around the lump in her throat as the call ended. 

Ava… 

Ava had made sure to get a message to Beatrice, and that realisation made her heart ache.

She picked the phone up and slipped it into her back pocket and slowly pulled her jacket back on. 

Ava. 

This was her burden to carry. It was her responsibility to bring Ava back. 

She had to get to one of the kidnappers before he got killed. 

How long would this trail of death go on for? 

More importantly, if she followed it, where would it leave her? 

Beatrice picked up her gun and tucked it into the back of her pants. 

So long as it led her to Ava, Beatrice was all too willing to walk into that darkness.

 

Chapter Text

 

The halo was still flaring erratically by the time Vincent arrived. 

Ava knew it was him approaching long before she even looked up, the single, steady footsteps had been a big giveaway. 

His men had fled pretty quickly when she had started to lose control. 

"You're being childish." 

Seriously? 

"Fuck you." 

She didn't dare take her hand off of the wall, she could feel it crumbling beneath her touch but Ava wasn't certain her legs would be able to support her otherwise. 

She forced herself to lift her head, to meet his gaze through the bars. 

The betrayal still stung. 

"I trusted you, you know." Ava said. "We all did." 

He moved closer to the bars, reaching up to lean his arms against the bars lazily. 

"I know. That was the plan." 

She felt another shock of pain and snapped her eyes shut as she forced her legs to stay steady. 

"You're going to kill yourself." Vincent said. 

"That'd be unfortunate for you, wouldn't it?" Ava asked. 

God, all she could taste was blood. 

"It would cause problems, but I'm sure we would manage." 

He was bluffing. 

Wasn't he? 

"If that were the case…" Ava drew a deep breath. "If that were the case then I'd already be dead." 

Vincent's smile was cruel. "It's convenience. All of this is by design, the only reason they left that halo in you was because of me. They would have taken it from you had I not stopped them."

"Stop." 

"They would have cast your body aside and given the halo to Lilith as intended. If not her, then it would have gone to Beatrice." 

Beatrice. 

He was wrong. 

He had to be wrong. 

Right? 

Would they have taken the halo from her? 

None of them had really liked her when she came to them. 

Vincent, Mary and Beatrice had. 

Camila had been nice too. 

Vincent had lied though. 

Mary was too straightforward to not speak her thoughts. 

Beatrice would never lie to her. 

Beatrice. 

Beatrice was hurt, somewhere.

"You don't get to talk about h - them." Ava grit her teeth. 

"Do you think they really care about you, Ava?" Vincent asked. 

He couldn't be trying to calm her down. Because if he was, he was doing a shit job of it. 

He was trying to break her. 

And what really bothered her was how much it was working. 

"They only ever cared about the halo."

"You would still have us, and we will never leave you." 

Vincent was a liar. 

Beatrice wasn't.

Ava was moving before she was aware of it, flying towards the bars. She felt the halo splutter. 

Just phase through.

That's all she had to do. 

Ava reached for his arm through the bars, fingers curling around the sleeve of his shirt. 

Her legs gave out as she slammed into the bars, collapsing to her knees heavily as Vincent leapt back. 

As Ava tipped her head forward to rest against the bars and coughed, she was met with the sight of two things. 

Blood. 

And in her hand, the black fabric of Vincent's shirt. 

Ava looked up and saw Vincent stood safely a few feet away, part of his sleeve torn and exposing an array of tattoos and-

Blue? 

Divinium. 

"What the fuck?"

Vincent looked from his arm to Ava. 

"What the fuck?" Ava said again, harsher this time. "What is going on?" 

Vincent remained silent. 

Michael's face flashed through her mind. 

"Are you sick?" 

He scoffed. "No." 

"Then why-" Ava closed her eyes to fight back a wave of nausea. "Why?" 

"It makes me whole." Vincent replied. "So that I may better serve." 

Never a straight fucking answer. 

Ava hated him. 

"Right." Ava spat a mouthful of blood onto the floor. "Because you're Adriel's little bitch boy, aren't you?" 

That got a little twitch in his jaw for her effort. 

If he wasn't going to give her a single straight answer, then Ava was going to keep up with the tried and tested method of being a nuisance. 

"Because that's all you do, isn't it?" Ava asked she threw the remnants of his sleeve towards him and curled her hands around the bars. "Hide in the shadows, following his bidding, getting others to do your dirty work…"

She felt pathetic. She knew that she looked weak as she willed her legs to move, to try and stand again. 

"You couldn't even kidnap me yourself. You had to get your little lackies to bring me here." 

Vincent tilted his head to the side and smiled again. "And now one of those 'little lackies' has injured the golden girl of the OCS. But judging from your little temper tantrum, you already know that."

Ava slid to the floor again. 

"It's funny isn't it?" Vincent began, looking at her as though she were a child. "From the moment you got here, we hadn't heard so much as a whisper from your sisters. It was like they simply… Disappeared. Of course, they were hiding." 

He crouched down to Ava's level and reached through the bars as though to touch her, Ava flinched away from his grasp and glared back at him. 

"It truly seemed as though they'd abandoned you. Left you all alone." He rose to his feet. "And now it seems Beatrice has appeared. She was always a good student. So focused. You can imagine my surprise at finding out she got injured." 

Ava managed to get a solid enough hold on the bars to drag herself to her feet.

"What did you do to her to make her fall so far?" Vincent asked. 

He may be an untrustworthy snake of a man, but his words struck true between Ava's ribs. 

Whatever Beatrice was doing, wherever she was, she was hurt. 

Again. 

And it was all Ava's fault. 

"She's going to die because of you. They all are." 

Ava snarled. "Don't you fucking touch her." 

Her knees bucked once more under the pulse of the halo. 

She wasn't sure how much more pain she could take. 

“As always you’re impulsive. You lack control You’re nothing more than a flame desperately clinging to life in a storm."

Ava forced herself to meet his gaze and did her best to channel Lilith, to be as intimidating as possible before she found her voice to reply. 

“Careful Vincent. Even the smallest of flames can decimate a forest. You know better than to underestimate me.”

Lilith would be proud.

Vincent scoffed and turned away. 

“If all goes to plan, you’ll be dead by morning.”

As Ava watched him leave, she felt powerless. 

She might not be able to stop this. 

But Ava had to believe that her family could. 

Ava closed her eyes and repeated Beatrice's words to herself, even as she felt her body sliding to the ground and everything grow fuzzy around her. 

"Trust in your team." 

Her voice cracked

She couldn't break. 

 

--

 

"It's a no on our guy, Mary." Camila sighed into the phone as they crossed the street. 

Lilith kept her attention on their surroundings as they made their way back to the car. 

This kill had been much cleaner, single gunshot wound to the head. 

Definitely a staged suicide. 

The kidnappers were dropping faster than they could get to them. 

Camila hummed to whatever Mary was saying as they reached the car, Lilith unlocked it and slipped behind the drivers seat and waited for Camila to get in and fasten her seat belt.

"How far out are you from your guys?" Camila asked. "Okay, want us to head to the last one?" 

She flashed a quick look to Lilith and nodded. 

Lilith started the engine. 

"Call me when you get there. Stay safe." Camila hung up. 

"Where is she?" Lilith asked. 

"She's getting gas, the bike she took was running on fumes but she's only a couple miles from where the twins live." Camila sighed. "We need to head to the last guys place." 

"We're running out of time." Lilith agreed. "Punch in the address?" 

"Already on it." Camila replied. "I was hoping Bea would be here." 

Lilith began to drive, She glanced at the GPS. 

She was so tired. 

"Do you think we'll make it in time?" Camila asked. 

Lilith didn't know if Camila was referring to saving one of the men, or… Everything. 

It was probably everything. 

"We have to try." Lilith replied. "We just have to-" 

The burst of white came out of nowhere. 

Ava standing in her cell, the light of the halo rippled out. 

There was so much fear in her eyes. 

So much anger. 

The walls seemed to be crumbling around her hand.

She was yelling. Screaming? 

Lilith was only distantly aware of an arm pressing hard against her chest. 

Ava was looking at someone. 

There was so much pain. 

Ava threw herself towards the bars and Lilith's vision widened. 

Vincent. 

As Ava collapsed to the floor. 

Everything faded. 

"Lilith!" 

Her hands were still on the steering wheel. 

So was one of Camila's. 

Her foot was still on the pedal. 

"Lilith! Are you with me?" Camila's voice was steady but Lilith picked up on the hint of panic. "I need you to stop!" 

They were driving so fast and as Lilith's vision finally cleared she finally realised just how fast they were going. 

She took her foot off of the gas and eased on the breaks, slowing them and pulling over. 

For a moment they just sat in silence. Camila slowly took her hand off of the steering wheel, though the arm across her chest remained as Lilith regained control over her breathing. 

"You should drive." Lilith said. 

"I will. But not until you're steady." 

"I'm fine." 

"I can feel your heartbeat, Lilith." Camila replied. "What happened? Did you see Ava?" 

"I did." Lilith opened the window to let some of the cool night air in. "Vincent was there. Ava looked so scared and angry." 

"How did she look?" 

"...Bad." Lilith sighed. "She looked like she was in a lot of pain and whatever Vincent was saying to her… It really affected her."

What had made Ava so angry? 

Was it to do with Beatrice? 

Lilith paused. 

Why had Beatrice been her first thought when it came to Ava's distress? 

Camila was slow to remove her arm and used her hand to rub over her face. 

She had promised Ava that she would protect Beatrice. 

Some job she was doing. 

All Lilith felt was guilt. 

"What if we can't save either of them?" Lilith asked. "Beatrice is shot and Ava is… Ava is losing it." 

She glanced at Camila, and while there was so much fear in her eyes, so much concern. 

But there was still that smile, that small but reassuring smile. 

"We can't lose faith now, Lilith." Camila said quietly. "We'll bring them both back, we'll get Beatrice and then we'll go get Ava and get them back together." 

Get them back together? 

There was something in Camila's tone that Lilith couldn't put her finger on. 

"Get them back together?" She asked. 

"They care about each other so much." Camila turned her head to look out of the window. "That much was clear, even before all of this. Everything is just coming to head at the worst possible time." 

It felt like she was somewhere else almost, but it was clear that Camila had been thinking about the pair a lot. 

And considering Beatrice was currently running rogue while Ava slowly killed herself, saying it was the worst possible time was certainly an understatement. 

But Lilith had to wonder, what had Camila seen between Beatrice and Ava before all of this? 

"What are you suggesting?" 

"Nothing!" Camila was quick to answer as she whipped her gaze back to Lilith, her brows furrowed. "I don't know. I just… Look how close they'd gotten to each other, they just seemed to click so suddenly even though on the surface they seem so different. You must have seen it too?" 

And she had, arguably more in the brief time the pair had been separated. 

Lilith didn't want to make assumptions as to what that meant. 

"I have." Lilith agreed softly. "But none of it will mean anything if we don't save them." 

Camila's hand reached out to cover her own and the amount of comfort the simple gesture brought surprised Lilith in ways she couldn't begin to explain. 

"Come on, I'll drive." Camila said. 

Lilith nodded and unclipped her seat belt. 

They were going to find Beatrice. 

Lilith wasn't going to be the one to tell Ava that they had lost her.

 

--

 

It was easy to blend into the crowd. 

The sirens were rapidly approaching from all directions. 

Not that there was anything they could do. 

The car still sat in the middle of the road, debris scattered all over the place. 

The flames were still burning intensely. 

As far as Mary was concerned, there was no point in trying to get a closer look at the passengers. 

She already knew who they were. 

Jackson and Scott Hunter, brothers. 

And two more kidnappers they'd failed to reach in time. 

Mary lowered her phone as she got Beatrice's voicemail once more. 

They still had one more guy left to try and find, Lilith and Camila were already on their way but considering how far away they were Mary knew that she'd get there first. 

As she turned around to make her way back to her bike, Mary froze as she saw the figure standing across the street, far enough away to see the scene before them but close enough that Mary could make out the unmistakable features of her friend.

Even from where she was standing, it was the intensity of her eyes that Mary could see clearest. 

Beatrice. 

Mary took a step forward to cross the street. 

"Bea-" 

The rush of sirens hit her, the fire engine and police car blocked her crossing and obscured her view. 

In the moment it took for the vehicles to pass, Beatrice had left. 

Fuck. 

Fuck. 

Had she done this? 

Or had she been like Mary, and arrived too late? 

Once again, Beatrice had slipped through their grasps. 

But at least there was only one more place for her to go, and Mary wasn't about to let her get away again. 

She had to call the others and let them know. 

But before she did that, Mary cast her eyes to the stars. 

"Shan? I don't know if you can hear me, but keep Ava safe, okay? Keep her safe, and if you can, tell her that I'm going to bring Beatrice back home." 

 

--

 

Ava felt like she was floating between two spaces. 

One was pain, the other was the absence of. 

She knew logically that she was slipping in and out of consciousness and without anything to ground her, nothing to focus on, all Ava could do was exist in between. 

Lost and drifting. That was a feeling Ava was more than familiar with. 

"This is bullshit man." 

Ava clung to the words, forced herself to hold on. 

"This is why Padre has contingency plans, I'm just glad to be getting out of this shit hole." 

Ah. Her lowkey roommates. 

Wait, getting out? 

Were they moving? 

Ava tried to ground herself with another deep breath, though she couldn't quite bring herself to move. 

"Silver lining man, running water. That alone makes it worth it." 

They wouldn't move for good reason. Something must have happened. 

"Okay, let's make this fast. I'll open the cell, you put the cuffs on her." 

"Why? She's barely conscious." 

"And you've seen the shit she can do, I'm not talking chances here." 

The felt the vibration of the cell door be pushed open. 

"Exactly. The cuffs aren't going to do shit." There was a pause as she heard footsteps and two hands close around one of her arms. "Just grab her other arm, will you?" 

Ava slipped again as she felt herself being moved and she opened her eyes to an empty chamber of a space, all white and clinical. 

It was like her brain couldn't even be bothered to find somewhere for her to rest. 

But at least she wasn't alone. 

Ava smiled. "Shannon."

"Ava." 

Ava sighed. "They're moving me." 

"Yeah." 

"That means something has gone wrong, with their plan, doesn't it?" 

"That's my best guess." 

"Vincent was bluffing." Ava said, unable to keep some of the pride out of her voice at being right. "He said I'd be dead by morning, but if that was the case then what's the point in moving me?" 

Did it make things more confusing? Absolutely. 

But it also meant that whatever they had intended to do hadn't gone to plan. 

They weren't going to kill her yet. 

Ava knew that the others had done something to throw a wrench in the works and she couldn't be prouder of them for that. 

This was a brief but genuine moment of relief, and Ava had every intention of basking in it. 

"I'm guessing you don't know where we're going." 

"I only know what you do." Shannon replied. 

She crossed the space and took a seat beside her. 

Ava closed her eyes. "Oh. This is nice. There's no pain, I forgot how good this felt." 

"Hey, no." Shannon grabbed her ankle and shook it hard. "I know how this feels but you can't let yourself get into this headspace Ava. You can't give up." 

"Don't worry, I'm not giving up. Not yet, I'm just enjoying the break." 

Shannon sighed. "I wish I could help you." 

" You're helping me by being here." Ava replied. "I don't suppose you know what's happening with the others?" 

As Ava opened her eyes, she saw a brief, wistful smile that faded as soon as Shannon realised Ava was looking at her. 

"Mary asked me to keep you safe." She explained. "She wanted me to tell you that she's going to bring Beatrice back." 

Ava sat up. "Bea's still alive?"

Oh, that relief just burned a little brighter in her chest. 

"She's still alive. She's trying to find you, they all are. Vincent was wrong, you're not alone and they're not giving up on you. Halo or not, they're your family."

"Our family." Ava corrected. "They're our family." 

"In this life or the next." 

Ava still didn't quite understand the gravity of those words. 

When she had said them to Beatrice, she had felt their weight, but she also knew that she had been trying to say so much more. 

She had been trying to say thank you, for everything. For standing by her side and guiding her into the path to who she was now. 

Ava knew she should ask about Vincent, the divinium in his skin. 

But there was something more pressing that Ava wanted to know. 

"Can I ask you something?" 

"Of course." 

"I get why I can see you, the halo links us. The halo links me and Adriel but the divinium is blocking that, somehow." 

Shannon flashed her a curious look. "You still haven't asked your question." 

"Why can you link with Mary? Does she know it's really you?" 

Shannon considered this for a few moments. 

"I think she does, on a level. Or that she wants to believe that it is." Shannon said. "But I think that Mary thinks it's safer to believe that I'm just a dream. It hurts less, that way."

They sat in silence for another few moments as Ava watched Shannon. She could see that longing and sadness. 

Shannon missed Mary so much. 

"As for the why… I think it's because of how close we were." Shannon said softly. "I think that is why, our relationship ran deeper than what I had with the other sisters." 

This time it was Ava's turn to turn contemplative. 

She was undoubtedly closer with Beatrice than all of the others. Beatrice was who she connected to the most, so why was it Lilith who came to her? 

Was that something to do with the halo? 

"It never happened while I was alive though." Shannon continued. "The link between me and Mary only happened when I died." 

Oh.

If she were to die, would that be enough to see Beatrice again?

"Ava." 

"Hm?" 

"What are you thinking about?" 

"I'm trying to think of plans." 

Shannon didn't seem to really believe her, but Ava was thankful that she didn't press her further. 

"Rest now, Ava." Shannon said instead. "You're safe here, in this space. So for now, just rest."

"In that case, we have some time to kill. Wanna play charades?" 

The look Shannon gave her was one of disbelief, though she quickly recovered and laughed instead. 

It may be a moment of levity, but Ava still couldn't let her thoughts drift from her earlier thoughts. 

If that was what it took to see her again… 

Would she do it?



--

 

Beatrice took a deep breath and rested her forehead against the steering wheel. 

She counted to ten. 

And let the breath out. 

It didn't help. 

The corners of her vision were blurred.  

She didn't have time for this. 

Push through the pain. 

Beatrice sat up and repeated the action again.

She leaned heavily against the door as she pushed it open. She closed the door and lifted her gaze up to the building she was parked outside of. 

It was a small apartment building, three floors tops. Jillian's contact had really gone the extra mile and pulled the documentation of the lease. 

Beatrice knew that the single light from the third floor was where she needed to be. 

Okay. 

Beatrice checked the gun and took one more deep breath. 

This time she counted to five and the blurring at the edges of her vision cleared slightly. 

Okay. 

She walked around the car and to the front of the building, as she reached up to start pressing buzzers, her gaze drifted to the door. 

The frame was splintered and damaged. 

Beatrice pressed her fingers to it tentatively and the door opened with ease. 

No. 

Her feet carried her into the building and up the stairs, she could feel her pulse pounding in her ears. 

As she reached the first floor, Beatrice could hear yelling above her. 

It only got louder as she reached the second floor, now accompanied by glasses smashing and other such crashing sounds. 

By the time Beatrice reached the third floor, she was leaning heavily on the wall as a weak attempt to conserve some energy. 

And then she heard the gunshot. 

No. 

She wasn't losing this chance too. 

Beatrice forced herself forward until she found splintered door, still half open and threw herself inside. 

It was an open spaced loft. Her gaze fell to the man on the floor, propped up against the island that divided the living room and the kitchen. 

He was bleeding and in the moment Beatrice couldn't spare him more than a passing glance. 

No, he attention was on the man across the room from her. 

Their gazes met at the same time. 

It was the shooter from the bar. 

"Oh. It's you." He said. 

They both raised their guns at each other. 

"You're efficient." Beatrice said. "It's troublesome." 

"High praise, considering what I know of you." 

The cries of the man bleeding out beside them did nothing to sway their focus. 

"Where is Vincent?" Beatrice asked. 

He smiled. "They don't pay me to spill secrets." 

"I'll make you talk." 

She was ready this time. 

Beatrice fired first, already moving herself to the side to dive behind the sofa. 

She heard her bullet impact glass and felt his gunshot tear through the sofa. 

Beatrice lifted her gun over the back of the sofa and fired again.

She scrambled out from behind the sofa and sprinted towards the shooter, closing the space before he had a chance to get another shot off. 

Beatrice raised her gun to his chest only to have him slap it away and raise his own. Beatrice wrapped her hand around his wrist and turned her body to the side as he fired. 

They were caught in a grapple. 

Beatrice span the gun in her hand to hold the barrel and shifted to bring it down on his wrist, watching as his face contorted in pain and the gun fell from his hand. 

As Beatrice moved to backhand him, to slam the gun into his head, he threw a punch that landed directly against her bullet wound, the sudden white hot pain was enough to make the gun slip from Beatrice's hand.

"You're going to have to do better than that." He sneered. 

Beatrice lifted her hands. 

She still had a knife in her boot, and there was no way Beatrice was prepared to let this guy leave. 

Beatrice moved forward, a flurry of blows being traded and blocked. 

If her thoughts weren't so focused on one goal, Beatrice would almost appreciate the level of skill he seemed to have. 

Beatrice lifted her leg and slammed her foot into his knee and used that movement to pull her knife free and bring it down into his shoulder. 

She knew that she shouldn't have enjoyed his cry of pain quite as much as she did. 

"Better enough for you?" Beatrice asked. 

She wrapped her hand around his throat despite the aching pain in her arm and let her momentum carry them forward until his back hit the window, the glass splintered from where her bullet had impacted. 

He laughed and as he wrapped his hand around her arm, he dug his thumb into the wound. 

The pain went down her spine. 

It took everything to keep her grip steady. 

"I was going to come for you next." He said. "Where's your friend?" 

The anger was taking over. She slammed him into the glass again and watched the cracks grow. 

He was taunting her, breaking her. 

"I was about to ask you the same thing." Beatrice said. 

Her voice sounded so cold and hollow it didn't even sound like her. 

"Where is Ava?" Beatrice demanded. 

He looked confused before he laughed again, mockingly. 

"You really are clueless." 

Beatrice slammed him into the window again. 

The glass shattered. 

 

--

 

Mary didn't need to check her phone to confirm if she was at the right spot or not. 

Beatrice's car was more than enough proof that she was in the right place.

She walked over to the car and frowned. 

The hood was dented, shards of glass scattered across the metal and floor surrounding it. 

She cast her gaze up to the building and found the smashed window. 

Mary made her way up to the third floor and as she reached the open door, she raised her gun ready for whatever she was going to meet on the other side. 

She could hear quiet whimpers. 

Please. 

Please, she couldn't find Beatrice like this. 

She stepped inside and was met with a trashed loft space. 

Bullet holes in the sofa, furniture tipped over. 

A man bleeding out against a counter. 

"Shit." She lowered her gun and crossed the room to kneel beside him. 

His skin was pale and sweaty, hand pressed hard against his thigh as blood flowed freely from it. 

"Are you alone?" Mary asked. 

His eyes were glossy as her looked up at her, but he managed to nod. 

"Was someone else here? Another girl?" 

Another nod. 

"Where is she?" 

"H-how the fuck should I know?" he asked. "She fucking threw that guy out of the window." 

One of the shooters, Mary assumed. 

"The girl that you kidnapped. Where did you take her?" 

He scoffed. "You're one of them, aren't you? Vincent said you would show up." 

"Just tell me where she is." 

"Fuck you." 

Mary lifted his hand to study the damage. The blood was flowing so fast. 

It was bright red. 

Beatrice wouldn't have just left him without good reason. 

Whoever she threw out of the window? That was who she was focused on.

"Fine." Mary said. She shoved his hand aside to reach into his pocket and pulled out his phone before she stood up. 

She grabbed her shotgun and turned away. 

"Where are you going? Help me! I'm going to die!" 

Mary didn't stop walking. 

"The gunshot severed your femoral artery, you died five minutes ago. You're only wasting your breath. I'd make peace with the choices you've made while you still can." 

She pulled out her phone and hit dial on Camila's name as she made her way down the stairs and back into the cool night air. 

It was Lilith who answered. 

"Anything?" 

"Too late for our guy." 

The heavy sigh on the other line said more than words could. 

"And Beatrice?" 

Mary walked back over to the car and took a moment to inspect it closer. 

There was more blood leading away from the car and further up the street, tiny shards of glass reflected under the streetlights. 

"Not with the guy, but I think she's close. I think she interrupted the shooter and I think she's taken him somewhere." Mary said. "How far away are you?" 

"Fifteen minutes, tops." 

In the not so far distance, Mary heard a gunshot. 

She focused on the direction it came from. 

"Good. Hurry." 

She hung up and began to walk. 

 

--

 

His screams echoed off of the throughout the warehouse. His head hit the wall as he threw it back in pain. 

The blood dripped from his kneecap. 

Beatrice closed her eyes for a moment before she tightened her grip on her gun. 

The metal was slick with blood and she was more than familiar with the feelings of blood loss. 

She wasn't sure how much longer she could keep going. 

"All you're doing is wasting our time." Beatrice said. "You're dragging this out when you have no reason to." 

She grabbed his face to make him look at her. 

"Tell me what you know, where did they take Ava." She pressed the gun to his other knee. "It's in your best interest to tell me everything." 

"Or what?" 

"Or I blow out your other kneecap and leave you here to die a slow, painful death." Beatrice replied. 

She had come this far, pushed herself further than she ever had before. 

Beatrice couldn't stop now. 

Not when she was this close. 

This was their chance at finding Ava. 

Beatrice took a deep breath and met the shooter's panicked stare. 

The cockiness had long since faded. 

"I thought you were supposed to be a nun, what kind of nun kills people?" 

Beatrice didn't move the gun from his knee as she kneeled beside him, forcing their gazes level. "The kind who has been tasked with protecting someone, who made a promise, not only to God, but to that person, to keep them safe."

The lines had always been slightly blurred with the OCS, to do whatever it took to protect the world, to protect the halo. 

To protect the halo bearer. 

Her mission was more than just protecting the halo, now it was about protecting Ava. 

Ava never asked for this, for all of this pain and responsibility. 

She just wanted to be free. 

"Now, I know that you were hired to take out the team who kidnapped my friend, I assume Vincent did this to tie up any loose ends and to stop us from being able to find out where she was taken. Am I right so far?" 

He nodded. 

"Okay. Now I want to know where they took her." 

"I don't know." 

"You're lying." 

Beatrice pulled the trigger. 

She closed her eyes as he screamed again. 

"You bitch!" He spat, clutching his other knee. "You fucking bitch." 

Beatrice turned away from him and swapped the gun into her left hand, just for a few moments as she wiped her bloodied hand on her pants and flexed her fingers. 

"Just tell me what you know." 

The warehouse door slid open and Beatrice found herself staring back at Mary. 

She watched Mary's gaze shift to look at the man behind her and back again.

But even then, the relief was evident in her voice. 

"...Beatrice." 

 

--

 

Beatrice held her gaze steadily. 

"Mary." 

She looked like shit. 

Pale and sweaty, not quite as rough as the guy she had just left behind but she was definitely heading in the same direction. 

There was blood dripping from her hand. 

Mary looked at the guy behind her, she recognised him from the security footage. 

His jeans were soaked with blood, the excess beginning to pool around him. 

Jesus Christ, Beatrice. 

"Bea… You need to stop this." 

Beatrice's eyes flashed with a brief look of guilt? Regret? 

It was hard to tell. 

Beatrice turned around quickly and switched the gun back into her right hand. 

"Beatrice." 

"This isn't over. Not yet." She stumbled a little as she crouched down in front of him. "Are you ready to talk now?" 

"I don't know anything." He said through gritted teeth. 

"I'll be the judge of that." 

Mary couldn't think of a time she had seen Beatrice this disconnected, even when she had first joined the OCS, there had still been some softness. 

"Where its Vincent hiding?" Beatrice asked. 

She pressed the gun to his shoulder. 

He hesitated as he shifted against the weapon. "A… A prison. He was staying there but, but one of the guys I know there told me they were moving tonight." 

Moving? 

Fuck. 

Beatrice stood up. "Moving where?" 

"I don't know, shit, I swear." 

"You said you know someone. Who?" 

"Valentine and Jonah!" 

Beatrice held out a hand. "Give me your phone." 

He threw it to her feet, she picked it up and studied it, not moving her gun from where she had pointed it at him. 

Mary didn't dare to move. 

She couldn't be certain that Beatrice wasn't found to kill him. 

"Pass code?" 

"8433."

She watched Beatrice type the code in and nod to herself before she slipped it into her pocket. 

"Even if she is still alive, you'll never find her. You may as well just cut your losses." 

Beatrice pressed the gun to his forehead. 

"Do you believe in God?" She asked. 

"N… No." 

"Interesting. I suppose that means you don't believe in the devil either." 

He shook his head. 

Beatrice leaned closer. "Then I hope that wherever your soul ends up, whoever you stand before judges you swiftly and kinder than I would." 

Holy fucking shit. 

There was very little that could shake Mary. But Beatrice's words? The way in which she said them? 

They chilled her to her core. 

Mary stepped forward. "You need to stop, this is too far." 

"Don't doubt how far I'm willing to go, Mary." Beatrice replied. 

"Believe me, I don't. I just don't want you to cross a line that you can't come back from." 

Beatrice pressed the gun harder against his head. "They drew the line when they took Ava from m- us." 

Realisation finally hit her. 

Beatrice's scorched earth campaign was so close to home it had taken seeing it in person to recognise the similarities. 

The actions were so similar to what Mary had done in her mission to find out who killed Shannon. 

For Mary to even compare the two situations was enough for her to realise that whatever Ava was to Beatrice, it was more than simple friendship. 

Mary took a chance and took a few more steps closer. 

"Bea, you're hurt, badly too, by the looks of it." 

"I'm fine." 

"Not if we don't get you patched up soon. Don't do this, this isn't you." 

"God will forgive me." 

Mary closed the rest of the distance and rested a hand on Beatrice's shoulder. "But will you forgive yourself?" 

Beatrice was silent, her stare focused on the man beneath them and all Mary could do was watch as her jaw twitched. Watch the way Beatrice's eyes closed. 

"I know the path that you're on, Bea." Mary said softly. "And I know how angry you are, but this won't change anything. Killing him won't make you feel better and it won't get us to Ava any faster."

Mary heard the door open again behind them and knew in her heart that Camila and Lilith had reached them. 

She didn't dare look. 

Didn't dare take her focus off of Beatrice. 

"Don't give in to this, for Ava's sake. For your sake. We're going through hell and we need to hold on to who we are if we're going to survive it." 

Mary could feel Beatrice shaking under her touch. 

"You don't have to do this alone." Mary whispered. "We are going to save her." 

"Please, she's as good as dead. Your all are." The shooter said. 

Beatrice's eyes snapped open to stare down at him, her fingers were slick around the trigger. 

"Beatrice!" 

The gun clicked. 

Mary's heart was trapped in he throat as she stared at the weapon. 

Had it jammed because of the amount of blood coating it? 

Was it empty? 

And if it was, had Beatrice known

His eyes were wide as he opened them. 

Mary wouldn't be surprised if he had pissed himself from fear. 

The gun slipped from Beatrice's hand as age turned her head to meet Mary's gaze. 

"I'm so tired Mary." 

Mary had never seen Beatrice cry before, but now the tears filled her eyes freely. 

Beatrice didn't resist as Mary pulled her into her arms, supporting her weight as her legs finally gave out and together they sank to the floor. 

Lilith wasted no time crossing the room and driving her fist into the shooter's face, sending him to the ground. 

As Beatrice's body shook, Mary knew that something had finally broken. 

Even her grief was silent. 

"I just want her back." Beatrice whispered into Mary's chest. 

Mary looked up to where Lilith and Camila both stood, watching them both with equal pain in their expression. 

"I know." Mary replied as she cradled Beatrice's head. "I know you do."

 

Chapter Text

 

"You've lost a lot of blood." Camila murmured as she tried to clean Beatrice's arm as best as she could. 

She could see that Beatrice had sewn it up herself, and it hadn't been a terrible job, but whatever had happened during her fight with the shooter had led to some more damage. 

It must hurt so much. 

Camila looked up to her friend, Beatrice didn't pay her any attention. 

Her head was resting against the glass, gaze tilted to look out of the window as they drove. 

In the trunk, Camila could still hear the occasional thud of the shooter as he yelled for freedom. 

Nobody acknowledged the sounds. 

Mary had already reached out to another one of her contacts, someone who could take him off their hands and make sure he couldn't cause any trouble or reach out to Vincent while all of this was going on. 

They were heading there now to drop him off. 

"Bea?" Camila spoke gently. "The bleeding isn't going to stop unless I close it up but…" 

She didn't need to finish her sentence. 

There was no way she could do a clean job while they were driving, in the dark no less. 

The only light she had was from the torch on Lilith's phone as she held it out from her spot in the passenger seat. 

It was going to be messy, it was going to leave a nasty scar. 

Camila didn't want that, she didn't want Beatrice to have more reminders of all of this. 

"Does she need blood?" Lilith asked. She turned her attention to Beatrice. "What's your blood type?" 

"O negative." 

It had been the first time Beatrice had spoken since leaving the warehouse and her voice was as quiet and fragile as ever. 

"I can teleport into a hospital." Lilith said, turning her attention back to Mary, who remained steady behind the drivers seat. "I can find blood." 

"She won't need blood." Camila interrupted. "Painkillers and rest, yes, but we have some of those back at the safe house." 

"Trust you to be a universal donor." Mary spoke up at last. 

Camila had to admit that it was fitting. 

Beatrice would give anything for her friends, blood included, if it came to it. 

"Just do what you need to do." Beatrice said. 

"Where am I heading?" Mary said. "We have to drop our friend off but…" 

She watched as Mary lifted her gaze to watch Beatrice in the mirror. 

"The prison." Beatrice said. "We need to go to the prison." 

Camila pressed a gauze to Beatrice's arm as she glanced sideways at Lilith. 

"You heard what he said, Beatrice." Mary said. "They've moved locations." 

Camila could hear the message beneath the words. 

Ava isn't going to be there. 

Beatrice's eyes closed, just for a few moments. 

"We have to try." 

"And if it's a trap?" Lilith asked. 

None of them really thought it was at this point, but it was caution that had kept them alive so far. 

But Beatrice had already gone rogue once, who was to say that she wouldn't do it again? 

Mary sighed. "Fine. But you stay in the car until we scope the place out." 

She watched Beatrice purse her lips, but she nodded regardless. 

"Lilith, can you hold the light a little closer?" Camila asked. "This is going to hurt a bit, Beatrice." 

Beatrice sighed. "It's fine." 

 

--

 

Ava clawed herself from unconsciousness into unfamiliar surroundings. 

And with it came the pain.

She let out a slow breath and braced herself to sit up. 

"Oh fuck." She groaned under her breath as she forced herself upright. 

Her entire body felt cold, right down to the bone. 

Yeah, that wasn't good. But that wasn't exactly a surprise either. 

She knew she was deteriorating quickly. 

But hey, at least they left her on a bed. One that was marginally more comfortable than the one back at the prison too. 

As Ava looked around she hummed thoughtfully. 

Her new cell was a considerable upgrade though. 

Sure, the glass wall that split the room in half and caged her in made it look like whoever designed it had taken a page out of Silence of the Lambs. 

She wondered if it was bulletproof.  

Ava got the impression that she was in some kind of basement. 

The floor was concrete, and at the far end of the room the door was ajar, she could see a small hallway and what looked like stairs going up. 

There was also a drain in the centre of the room. 

Great. 

Murder basement. 

Where the fuck was she? 

There was movement near the door and as she focused, the voices came into focus. 

"This is definitely an upgrade, thank God Padre decided to keep this place." 

Ah. 

Tweedle-dee and tweedle-dum. 

So this was Vincent's home then. 

"Agreed, our gig gets easier and easier while you have Mickey's group digging god knows where for fuck knows what while Lukas is awol." 

Ava wanted to move closer to the glass, to try and hear more clearly. 

The pain kept her from moving. 

But digging? What were they digging for? 

"Padre confirmed that the others are dead, so Lukas did his job at least. I bet that British nun got to him." 

Beatrice. 

Did Beatrice kill him? 

Ava's chest ached, and it definitely wasn't just from the pain that threatened to pull her back under. 

She wanted to sleep again. 

 

--

 

Beatrice tipped her head back against the seat and closed her eyes. 

Mary had left the engine running, but even over the faint rumbles, Beatrice could hear the beginnings of birdsong. 

The start of a new day. 

Another day without Ava. 

Her arm ached enough that she hadn't protested when Camila had insisted on putting it in a sling, at least for the time being. 

They'd told her to stay in the car while they swept the building. 

Beatrice felt useless. 

So much for finding value in her skills. 

She opened her eyes and sighed. 

They had seen her break. They had seen her toe the line into darkness and desperately pulled her back from the brink. 

Something in her had cracked, back at the Vatican. Back when the world she had come to know had shattered, when all she thought to be truth had been nothing more than lies. 

How did she even begin to wrap her thoughts around the fact that her faith was shaken on top of everything else? 

Or the knowledge that her friends had seen the crack grow over the last few days until they had inevitably captured a glimpse into her soul when she had fallen into Mary's arms back at the warehouse. 

Did she look as broken to them as she felt? 

She had never felt so weak. 

Beatrice cast her gaze out of the window to the ruins of the prison. 

Had there been trouble, she would have heard gunfire by now. 

With a wince, she drew her gun and released the magazine, letting it fall to the floor of the car with a soft thud. 

She reached into her pocket for her spare and slipped it into the gun with a satisfying click. 

Beatrice opened the car door and stepped out into the early morning air, taking only a moment to take a deep breath before she made her way towards the open gates. 

She didn't know where she was going, nor could she hear her friends. 

She simply let her feet carry her deeper into the prison, following her instincts as she passed cell after cell. 

When Beatrice finally stopped in front of an open cell, she felt her heart drop. 

The far wall was cracked and crumbling, something that could have only been achieved with something of monumental force. 

There were dark smears amongst those cracks, but Beatrice could only spare them a fleeting glance as her gaze dropped to the floor. 

To the blood that had dried into the concrete. 

There was so much of it. 

Beatrice walked into the cell, careful to step over the stains. 

There was a fluttering in her heart that confirmed her deepest fears. 

This had to be where they were keeping Ava. 

She walked to the far wall and after shifting her gun into her injured hand, reached up to press her hand to the center, where the smears rested. 

As her fingers came into contact, she knew. 

The halo had to have caused this. 

"Oh… Ava." Beatrice sighed. 

She eased her hand from the wall and turned to slide to the ground, tipping her head forward to rest it against her knees. 

"I'm sorry." 

"This isn't your fault." 

Beatrice lifted her head to see Lilith standing before her.

The sympathy in her gaze was too much to bear. 

"It may as well be." Beatrice replied. 

Would she have been able to save Ava had she disregarded her instinct and came here first? 

It was more likely that she would have been struck down in a hail of gunfire, and Beatrice knew that. 

But now she would always wonder if she could have saved her. 

Beatrice gestured to the blood. "I'm right, aren't I? She was here." 

"Yes." Lilith walked further into the room. "Even if I hadn't seen it in my dream I would know. The room is full of her." 

She glanced at the blood between them and balked. 

"I didn't mean that literally." Lilith said, a faint apology in her voice. "I meant that I can still sense the halo, its energy lingers." 

Lilith raised so many questions, she had since the moment she had walked into ArqTech that day. 

What was she now? Why did she have a connection with Ava? 

It was all connected, somehow, but Beatrice couldn't connect the dots. She only had part of the story. 

Beatrice wondered if Ava had the answers they needed. 

She heard two sets of footsteps approaching. 

"Lilith?" Mary called. "The place is clear, I'm going to get -" 

Mary and Camila appeared behind Lilith and Mary trailed off as she saw Beatrice sat against the wall. 

"Ah. Never mind." 

She watched Mary and Camila flinch at the sight of the blood, Mary stayed put while Camila moved further into the room and dropped down to sit beside Beatrice. 

Nobody seemed all that willing to break the silence. 

"What now?" Beatrice asked. "What are our options?"

Lilith folded her arms across her chest and let out a quiet sigh. "I would like to try and connect to Ava again, check on her condition, see if I can figure out where she is."

Ava had given Lilith a message for her, if Beatrice couldn't speak to her in person, then perhaps she could do the same. 

Though she wished she knew how this worked, what she would have to do to be able to connect with Ava herself. 

"I'm okay with that." Mary said. 

"I may need to stop off at a pharmacy though. Get some over the counter sleeping pills." Lilith replied. "We could also do with stocking up on more painkillers and such." 

Beatrice looked away. 

Camila's hand came to rest on her own, warm and grounding as she squeezed it tight. 

"We have those phones from the kidnapper and shooter." Camila spoke up. "If I get into them I can try and look at their most frequent locations, we might be able to find something there." 

"They're both good ideas." Mary said. "It means we'll have to go back to the safe house though." 

Beatrice didn't miss the fleeting look in her direction. 

"I'm not going to run away." Beatrice sighed. 

"I know you won't. Because you need to rest." Mary said. 

Beatrice sighed. 

At least they still seemed to trust her. 

 

--

 

Ava opened her eyes and found Vincent watching her. 

"Do you often watch people sleep?" Ava asked, sitting up with a groan. "Cause I gotta say… Creepy." 

He was still in his familiar black shirt, but apparently he had chosen not to hide his tattoos anymore, the divinium that embedded his skin glowed clearly. 

It still didn't make any sense. 

"You're sleeping a lot more." Vincent said. "Your body is failing." 

"Yeah no shit sherlock, thank you for that assessment." Ava pushed herself to her feet and closed her eyes as the room span around her. "I heard this was your place." 

The corner of Vincent's mouth quirked into the faintest smile. "Correct, some things from my past I couldn't quite let go of, and my Lord finds this villa much more suited to his needs." 

Of course he would. 

Ava was just going to brush past that little comment. She didn't want Adriel to occupy her thoughts more then necessary right now. 

"You mean when you were a murderer? Oh wait, that hasn't changed, has it?" 

"Do you pass judgment on all killers?" 

"Only the ones who have no remorse about it." 

Sister Frances flashed into her mind. 

It wasn't the same. 

She felt some remorse for what she had done. 

"You may want to reconsider those you call your sisters then, no?" Vincent asked. "They've all taken lives, and from what I've heard Beatrice has been quite ruthless. Would you cast her in the same pool as me?" 

"No." Ava replied instantly. 

"Even if she killed one of my men?" 

"Yes." 

Vincent looked intrigued. "And why is that? Why is it different?" 

There were so many reasons, especially when it came to Beatrice. 

Because Beatrice was different, she was smart and brilliant and the most badass girl Ava had ever met. 

If she had killed one of Vincent's men, then it wouldn't have been a decision she made lightly, it would have been in self defence, it would have been to protect one of the others. 

And if it wasn't because of those reasons? Then that wouldn't change a damn thing. 

"Because Beatrice is one of the most brilliant people I've ever met. You killed for power and control, you killed Shannon because she got in the way of your plan." Ava walked closer and placed her hands against the glass. "But honestly? It's different because you are scum, and Beatrice? She's not you. She's Beatrice.

Ava would stand by Beatrice no matter what she did. 

"And honestly? I just think you're scared of them." Ava shrugged, though she regretted the movement instantly as it pulled painfully at her back. "You know what Beatrice and the others are capable of. And I know that they ruined whatever plan you had last night because I'm still alive and you were scared enough to bundle me up and move me here." 

The smirk had faded, and if Ava had nothing else left, at least she could still enjoy getting under Vincent's skin. 

"And I don't know what that plan was, but I know that if they could stop that then you have no chance. They're going to find us, and I'm going to make sure I get a front row seat to whatever Mary is going to do you." 

Vincent's hands raised up and slammed the glass with enough force that Ava took a step back, startled. 

"Your Sisters?" Vincent laughed. "You think they are smart? That they are one step ahead? They are drowning Ava, as are you. You are all in a game that you do not understand. I have been doing this since you were a child. You do not even understand the stakes." 

Ava had never heard his voice so low and dangerous. 

He was intimidating, and with the thick glass between them, Ava knew there was nothing she could do about it. 

All Ava had were her words. 

"Jesus Vincent, pick a metaphor and stick to it. Are we playing a game or are we drowning?" 

It was easier than thinking about his confidence that they were going to lose this war. 

"You can hold onto your optimism, Ava. Hold onto your faith. It will not help and it will not save your friends." 

Ava opened her mouth to speak only to snap it closed as he closed his eyes and took a step back. 

"Right away my Lord." 

Ew, it sounded so slimy whenever he said that. 

Vincent opened his eyes and smiled. 

"Daddy calling?" Ava asked. "Are you up past your bedtime?" 

Honestly she didn't even know what time it was, but it was still a solid joke. And it was worth it to watch that smile fall from his face. 

"He requests that you try to stay awake. He would like to speak to you later." 

Well now Ava wanted to go to sleep just to spite him. 

But there was a tiny voice in the back of her mind that had to ask. 

What if I don't wake up? 

As Vincent turned to walk away, Ava could only sigh. 

"Can I at least get a puzzle book or something then?" She called after him. 

 

--

 

Mary didn't try to hide her yawn as she walked through the house in search of her friend. 

She eventually found Beatrice at the dining table, her gun and knife rested on the table, both still coated heavily with blood. 

Beatrice herself was in the process of freeing her arm of its sling. 

"You should probably keep that on." Mary said. 

Beatrice lifted her gaze and hummed. "Probably. But right now it doesn't serve a purpose to me." 

Mary took a seat across the table from Beatrice and set two tumblers between them. 

Beatrice raised an eyebrow when Mary placed the bottle of whiskey next to them. 

Mary almost wanted to say that Beatrice looked amused at the sight, but it was difficult as Mary had been watching the girl throw up walls rapidly since the moment they had left the warehouse. 

"What are you doing?" Beatrice asked. 

Mary reached into her jacket pocket and produced a bottle of water and a packet of painkillers. 

"Presenting you with options." Mary unscrewed the bottle and reached for one of the glasses. 

"Alcohol thins the blood." Beatrice pointed out, even as she reached out to press her fingers to the other and gave the glass a gentle push. 

Mary supposed that there was also the matter of Beatrice's status as a nun, but that had been thrown into question when they had blown up the Vatican. 

She didn't dare bring that up too, to do so would feel like kicking Beatrice while she was down. 

"After the day you've had, I wouldn't blame you for taking it." 

And Mary meant it. 

She had thought it from the moment this has all started, but as the hours stretched on and began to turn into days it only became harder to ignore. 

Now more than ever Mary was left with the realisation at how tired Beatrice looked. 

How injured she looked. 

Mary could only think of a handful of times when Beatrice had first joined the order where she had looked so beaten. 

The difference though, was that the Beatrice in front of her now looked so tired, so much older than her twenty two years. 

Mary didn't want to call Beatrice broken, but she was definitely cracked and hurting. 

Hurting from more than just her wounds. 

Mary's arms still felt heavy from the weight of Beatrice's grief. 

She filled both glasses while Beatrice reached for the bottle of water. Mary didn't miss how she avoided the painkillers. 

"Is this your way of trying to get me drunk so that I'll spill my heart out to you?" Beatrice asked with a noticeable bite to her tone. 

Mary took a sip of her own drink. "You and I both know that wouldn't work even if it was my style." 

Beatrice didn't comment, but cast her eyes downwards to the weapons on the table. 

Mary thought back to their conversations before the Vatican, to the things that she had said to Beatrice. 

She had told Beatrice that the church was more important to her than her sisters. 

How wrong she had been. 

"Beatrice." Mary began with a long sigh. "Listen, I need to apologise." 

Beatrice met her gaze, her expression was hard but their was a questioning look in her eyes that couldn't be ignored. 

She didn't speak up, so Mary continued. 

"Firstly for what I said when Shannon died, when I said you were treating her death like part of the assignment." 

She had lashed out in her pain, and Beatrice had so often been on the receiving end of that. 

"And back at the church, before we went to ArqTech." She continued so that Beatrice knew exactly what she was referring to. "When I said that the difference between us was that I cared more about my sisters than the church." 

The muscle in Beatrice's jaw tightened as she glanced away again. 

"I was wrong, Beatrice." Mary said. "Even before all of this, I was wrong. You disobeyed the orders given to you when they tried to send you away and you came back to help us. You blew up part of the Vatican to save Ava for fucks sake." 

Beatrice closed her eyes at the mention of her name. 

"And now I'm watching you kill yourself to try and get her back." 

Beatrice sighed. "I'm not… I'm not trying to get myself hurt." 

"I know you're worried and scared, but Bea, you need to keep a level head here." 

It was like a switch flipped the moment Beatrice opened her eyes to stare at Mary. 

"Like you did after Shannon died?" Beatrice asked, her voice surprisingly harsh. 

Her words threw Mary off entirely, an all too raw wound in her heart ached. 

Mary wondered how much her face betrayed because Beatrice seemed to recoil at her own words, eyes turning apologetic as she shook her head. 

"I- I'm sorry. That wasn't fair." She closed her eyes for a few seconds as she seemed to try and ground herself. "It's not the same." 

It would be easy to lash out, but Mary was trying to mend the gap between them. She forced herself to push her own pain aside for a moment. 

Beatrice was hurting, so much that she didn't seem to know how to outwardly show it. It was making her rash, sure, but underneath that all Mary could see was a girl who was utterly terrified about someone she cared about. 

And that… That was achingly familiar. 

"Isn't it?" Mary asked softly. 

Beatrice looked away and pushed a hand through her hair, every movement was weighed down with a combination of exhaustion and frustration. 

"I don't know." She admitted. 

To ask Beatrice about her feelings would be a mistake, there was too much happening at the moment, too much to process. 

And with everything that had already happened, and with what Mary knew about her friend, to ask that question would make Beatrice close off even more, especially if she asked about her feelings towards Ava. 

Beatrice needed support and more importantly, to know that she was loved. That nothing was going to change, regardless of who she was and how she felt. 

Mary set her glass aside and rose from her seat to move closer, careful not to react when Beatrice shifted back slightly.

She crouched in front of her friend and cupped Beatrice's cheek and hoped beyond hope that she would see the conviction in Mary's eyes. 

"We're going to get Ava back." 

And in a gesture that was reminiscent of the exchange Beatrice and Shannon shared during Shannon's final moments, she pressed a kiss to Beatrice's forehead. 

"And nothing has changed." 

Mary couldn't tell if Beatrice was shocked by Mary's rare display of affection or by the words she spoke, but as Mary stepped back she shook her head. 

"Everything has changed." Beatrice replied. 

"Not this." Mary gestured between them. "I'm sorry for the things that I said, but you are my sister. We're still a family and nothing is going to change that, okay?" 

"Mary…" Beatrice sighed, unshed tears formed in those eyes. 

And the thing is, Mary has known. She'd known from the first time she had met Beatrice. 

She'd known why Beatrice became a nun. 

She knew what Beatrice had buried so deep down. 

Call it a sixth sense. 

"I'm not going to ask, I'm not going to push, but whatever it is that you're feeling? You're allowed to feel it. It isn't wrong and when you're ready, you can come to me." 

It was the least she could offer right now. 

And for a moment, Mary watched the walls come down, even if it was to give her a brief glimpse of the feelings that always lay just beneath the surface. 

It was worth it to see the gratitude in Beatrice's eyes. 

Beatrice blinked and turned away. "You should get some rest." 

"I should be saying that to you." Mary got to her feet and reached over to grab her glass and downed its contents. "Camila was right, you lost a lot of blood today." 

"I don't know if I can. What if Lilith… What if she connects to Ava?" 

"I'll make you a deal, if you go and get a couple hours sleep, I'll do the same and Lilith will keep watch with Camila until we wake up. Okay?"

Beatrice looked too tired to argue and gave a small nod. "Yes. Okay." 

There was still so much left unsaid between them, there were still questions she had about what had been going through Beatrice's mind back at the warehouse. 

But Mary knew she had been lucky to be let in this much. 

And that was a start. 

 

--

 

Lilith leaned against the door frame as Camila made herself at home in her usual spot at her computer. 

She watched as Camila inspected each phone and plugged them in before setting them down on the desk and beginning to type away. 

Lilith tore her gaze away from the other girl long enough to raise the small bottle in her hand up into her line of vision. 

Sleeping pills. 

Would they even work on her? 

Lilith couldn't be certain, but it was worth a try. She was too wired to be able to fall asleep naturally. 

And even if she was able to sleep, Lilith felt it was safe to assume that she wouldn't be able to get into a deep enough sleep to stay with Ava for long. 

No, if she was going to do this then she was going to do it right. 

"Are you going to take them?" Camila asked quietly. 

"Yes. Not yet though, I want to wait until Mary comes back and see what the plan is." 

She knows that Mary is somewhere in the house talking to Beatrice. 

Lilith just hoped that it was going okay. 

Beatrice needed to stay with them. She had promised Ava that she would keep her safe and until Beatrice was resting, Lilith couldn't let herself relax. 

"Anyway," Lilith pushed off of the doorframe to drift closer, tossing the pills onto the coffee table as she did so. "What are you actually trying to do with this?" 

Camila offered her a small smile. "Best case scenario? I turn these on, go into their maps to find their most frequent or recent locations and hope that they both match up." 

"And if that doesn't work?" 

"I could probably write a virus, disguise it in a text and send it to a bunch of contacts in their phones and hope it's someone who's with Ava. If they're dumb enough to open it, boom, Trojan horse. Backdoor access, I'll steal their data." 

Lilith couldn't help but be entertained by Camila's explanation. "Why do I feel as though you're simplifying this for my sake?" 

Camila simply continued to smile as she typed away. 

Lilith knew that Camila was good with computers, that she could hack into systems easily. 

But now she was wondering just how much Camila knew about it, what she had done before joining the order.

"Do you think it will work?" Lilith asked. 

"I think that it's probably our best shot." Camila admitted. "I'm not sure what options we have if it doesn't. But hopefully we'll know more when you speak to Ava." 

"If I speak to Ava." Lilith corrected. "There's no way to know if she will be asleep at the same moment I am." 

"We'll just have to have faith." Camila said. 

Lilith found herself smiling, despite herself. "Yes. You're right." 

They both heard footsteps approach and both looked up to see Mary step into the room. 

"How is she?" Lilith asked. 

"She's… She's with us." Mary said. "That's enough for now." 

Lilith shared a quick look with Camila. That didn't sound as promising as Mary probably intended it to be. 

"I made a deal with her. Beatrice is going to go and get some rest now and I will too." 

"That's your deal?" Lilith asked. 

Mary rolled her eyes. "On the condition that you hold off on sleeping until she's awake." 

"That seems fair, it makes more sense for two of us to stay up and keep watch anyway." Camila said. 

"It's…" Mary hesitated for a moment. "I think she doesn't want to miss you before you go under. I think she'll have a message for you to pass along." 

Oh. 

Yes, that made more sense. 

But now that brought into the question the other thoughts that had been fleeting through her mind since her last talk with Ava. 

What was going on between them? 

"Does Beatrice have feelings for Ava?" Camila asked. 

Apparently, Camila didn't have an issue with voicing her questions. 

"I don't know." Mary replied quickly. 

And there was something in her eyes that made Lilith certain that there was more to it than what she was letting on. 

Whatever it was, Lilith wasn't going to push. 

"Beatrice will talk, when she's ready." Mary said. "Just… She's still our Beatrice." 

"Of course she is." Camila replied earnestly. "It's Beatrice. We love her." 

And honestly, Lilith couldn't have put it better herself. 

"What Camila said." 

"Good. I'm going to get some sleep, wake me up in a couple of hours." 

"Yes, no problem." 

 

--

 

The only thing that was helping Ava stay awake was the tremors that racked her body. 

She was just so cold. 

Ava hugged her knees closer to her chest and tucked her face against her knees. 

She didn't think it was possible to feel this cold. 

As the minutes stretched on Ava's became aware of a different type of cold. 

The type that ran directly down her spine. 

The kind of cold that only came with being watched. 

Ava sighed, but she didn't lift her head. "Either say something or fuck off." 

Adriel's chuckle echoed through the room and Ava could swear she heard it in her thoughts. 

"You've gotten braver since our first meeting." 

"It's hard to be scared of a coward who has everyone else do his bidding." 

Ava lifted her head to look at Adriel. 

It was strange to see him in such… normal clothes. 

The white henley shirt just didn't seem right, but after wearing the same robes for the best part of a thousand years, Ava supposed that a costume change was in order. 

He shrugged. "Humans. So easily swayed by the promise of money. Very few of Vincent's men required a wraith to do my bidding." 

That was… Alarming. 

"Yeah, I'm learning that Vincent has a lot of connections." 

"He has a lot of connections. Many men seek him out." 

"No worries about him trying to take your power?" 

Adriel laughed at that. "In what world could a human take power from me?" 

If Ava had anything to say about it. She would. 

Adriel laughed again. "Bold statement." 

Ava's body stilled. "Get out of my head." 

She had to be careful about where her thoughts drifted to. 

Stay focused. 

Stay grounded. 

"One of Vincent's many talents is seeing the weakness in people." 

"Okay, I'm just gonna stop you right there." Ava held a hand up. "Let me guess, that's why he fought so hard to keep me because I'm the sad broken orphan who has… had nobody to love her, ripe for the picking and manipulating into getting me into your tomb. Am I about right?" 

"I could not have said it better myself." Adriel said. 

Yeah. 

She figured as much. 

What had Vincent seen in Mary? 

Lilith? Camila? 

Beatrice? 

Ava could accept the manipulations she suffered, but the thought of any of them going through it too? 

It hurt. 

Beatrice had already been through so much. 

"Beatrice." Adriel said. 

Testing the waters. Testing her reaction. 

Her name was beautiful, but to hear it from his mouth? 

She wanted to punch him. 

"Get out of my head!" Ava yelled, her hands curled into fists. 

She had expected the flare of the halo, but even now she couldn't have prepared herself for the pain. 

Ava doubled over and pressed her forehead to her knees. 

"Fuck." 

"Ah. You're angry. She is one of the Sisters, yes? Vincent has spoken of her." 

Breathe. 

Just breathe. 

Don't think about them. 

"You're wrong though." Ava forced the words out. "I'm not broken. I am loved. And I will not be manipulated again." 

"Do you really believe that?" Adriel asked. 

She had to. 

Adriel laughed. 

Ava sighed. 

Why won't he just stay out of her head? 

The silence stretched and all Ava could think about was if he was prodding into her mind. 

What was he trying to see? 

"Tell me Ava, when you dream… Where do you go?" 

Ava stared at him and found him looking at her with a genuine curiosity. 

She could feel a cold sweat on the back of her neck. 

"What do you mean?" She asked carefully. 

This time, when Adriel spoke, his mouth didn't move. His words felt like they were reverberating through her body. 

"You know what I mean." 

Ava couldn't help the shudder that escaped her. "That's even worse than you listening to my thoughts. Would it kill you to ask permission first?" 

Adriel's smile was nothing but patronising. "When we are near like this, I can see every conscious thought that passes through your mind." 

Yeah, she'd figured that much out, asshole. 

"Charming." Adriel said. "When we first met that wasn't the case. Every feeling, every thought, I knew of it. But now something has changed, when you sleep, you disappear and I can't help but be curious as to why that is." 

"Any theories?" Ava asked. "We both know I'm not exactly in the know with the mystical bullshit." 

Adriel considered her for a moment as though assessing whether it was a bluff or if Ava truly was that stupid. 

"Are you trying to get information from me?" Adriel asked. "How quaint." 

Bastard. 

"I will tell you what I think about your little trick though." Adriel continued. "I believe that the halo tucks you away like a lost little lamb?" 

"Again with the lamb metaphors." Ava sighed. 

"Is it your predecessor?" 

Shannon's face flashed through her mind and Adriel hummed. 

"I thought as much. Do you not find it interesting, that the only sister who is trying to protect you is a ghost in your mind?" 

Breathe. 

Mind empty. 

She knew that wasn't the case. 

But she couldn't think about her friends. 

"Fuck you, you coward." 

"It's no matter, hide all you want child." 

"And you'd know all about hiding, wouldn't you?" Ava asked. "You hid the halo in Areala when you came to this world and now you're doing the exact same thing with me and why? Because you're scared of a few tarasks?" 

Adriel's face shifted, and while the amusement still seemed to linger on his features, his eyes only grew colder. 

"I am not afraid." 

"Really?" Ava scoffed. "Cause that's what it looks like from here." 

"Because of your stupidity the halo is incomplete." Adriel seethed and for the first time, Ava was almost thankful for the barrier that now separated them. "Because of you the halo is incomplete until I tie up the loose ends that you created." 

What? 

"What the fuck are you talking ab-" 

"Do not interrupt me!" 

His voice reverberated through Ava's soul. 

"I don't know what you're talking about!" Ava yelled back, her own voice shook. 

She felt like a child, cowering on the floor. 

And it was all because she lacked the energy to stand up. 

"Because of you sharing the energy so freely you have given me more work to do." Adriel stopped suddenly and took a deep breath. 

Ava could still feel his anger lingering in the air, wrapping around her like another layer of ice. 

"But no matter." He finally spoke, opening his eyes. "It has helped keep you weak, and I will relish in taking that back from her." 

From who? 

When he smiled, Ava didn't know whether to cry or try to lash out. 

"Perhaps I'll make you watch before I take the halo back and make it complete once more." 

Ava was too frozen to speak. 

Her thoughts were still. 

In this moment, Ava felt like a ghost. 

Vincent stepped into the room and observed the pair with curiosity before he stepped close to Adriel's right side. 

Ava's gaze shifted to his tattoos. 

"My Lord." Vincent said softly. "My men are waiting on your instructions." 

"Wonderful." Adriel smiled. "So Ava, go. Tuck yourself away safe and sound. Dream of your friends, dream of your beloved, because it will be the only way you will ever see them." 

And with that, he turned and walked away. 

Vincent spared her a fleeting glance before he followed. 

There was no snappy comeback now. No bravado. 

Only questions and fear. 

Fuck. 

There was so much fear. 

Ava was so cold. 

She didn't know when she began to cry, only became aware of it when she took a deep breath and found herself choking on a sob. 

But when her thoughts returned, there was only one that demanded to be heard. 

What did he mean by beloved? 

 

--

 

Mary dreamed of Shannon's room a lot. 

Most times, she would be alone and Mary would trace her fingers along the drawings that filled the walls, sit on the bed and hold the pillow to her face and inhale the scent that could have only ever belonged to Shannon. 

The mind was a complicated thing, but she was always thankful for it giving her this chance. 

She didn't want to forget. 

Sometimes, Mary was even luckier. 

Sometimes, she wasn't alone. 

This was one of those occasions. 

Shannon stood by the window, gaze cast outside. 

"Shannon." Mary breathed. 

The woman turned to her and Mary caught the brief glimpse of a smile right before she crashed into her. 

The mind could only do so much though, and while the hugs provided no sensation, Mary remembered their touches enough that if she tried really hard, it was almost like she could feel Shannon in her arms. 

Almost. 

"You're here." Shannon whispered. "I wasn't sure you'd come."

"You could never keep me away." 

These dreams didn't happen as frequently as she would like, and while Mary was always content to keep them at that, as just dreams, recent developments had led her to question. 

To believe, daresay to hope, that they more than just dreams. 

Now seemed as good a time as ever to get her answer. 

Mary drew back and took a moment to just look at Shannon, to commit every detail to memory before she finally spoke up. 

"Is Ava okay?" 

Shannon smiled faintly. "She's alive and at the moment, awake. That's why I was able to come here. To see if you were sleeping. But Mary, she is getting weaker." 

"We're doing everything we can." 

"I know you are." 

"These aren't dreams, are they?" 

"Not quite." Shannon replied apologetically. "I got your message Mary, and I am watching over her. I'm doing everything I can for her, I just wanted to make sure that you knew that." 

Mary felt her heart settle slightly. 

"Good. She shouldn't be alone." 

"That's why I can only stay for a few moments, I told her I wouldn't leave her side." Shannon replied and Mary could see the guilt in her eyes immediately. "But I also know that Ava is desperate to know how you all are." 

"All alive, we're back at the safe house." 

"Even Beatrice?" Shannon asked. "Ava overheard Vincent's henchmen talking and…"

Mary thought back to the destruction of the prison cell. 

"Even Beatrice." Mary said. "Beatrice is getting some rest and Lilith is going to sleep soon to try and see Ava." 

"Good. That's good. I -" 

Shannon stopped, her gaze shifting towards to door as worry filled her eyes. 

"Shan?" 

"It's Ava." 

Her heart would only receive a brief respite it would seem. 

As soon as Shannon said Ava's name, fear had gripped it once more. 

"Is she okay?" 

"I… I don't know." Shannon replied honestly. "I know that she's asleep now and that she's afraid." 

Their time would be cut short, but Mary had her friends to seek comfort in, right now Ava didn't even have that luxury. 

Mary stepped back. "Go, it's okay. Ava needs you." 

Shannon reached up to press her hand to Mary's cheek, and even though she couldn't feel it, Mary allowed herself to close her eyes and imagine it regardless. 

Shannon crossed the room and pulled the door open, revealing a bright, white hallway on the other side. 

She turned to look at Mary over her shoulder. 

"I'm proud of you Mary." Shannon said fondly. "You're doing well. You're leading this team." 

"It doesn't feel like it. I'm no leader." 

"Don't sell yourself short. They look up to you." 

Even in death, Shannon had her back. 

"I will see you again." Shannon declared suddenly. 

"You will." Mary agreed. "Now go. Tell Ava to be ready for Lilith." 

With one more lingering look, Shannon turned and stepped into the light. 

Her figure blurred from its intensity, but Mary still watched as another door opened revealing an equally familiar sight. 

Mother Superion's office? 

Her gaze dropped to the blurred figure that Shannon was approaching. 

Ava? 

Mary rushed towards the door. 

"Ava!" 

She stepped through the door… 




And with a jolt, shot upright, Ava's name still caught in her throat. 

Mary looked around the bedroom as her senses and mind caught up with each other. 

She was back in the safe house. 

And she needed to wake Beatrice up immediately. 

 

--

 

When Ava finally lifted her head, it was only because she had realised the pain had disappeared. 

But for all of the places for her brain to choose as a setting, Mother Superion's office wouldn't have been her first choice. 

Almost as soon as she had lifted her head, she saw Shannon step through the door in a hurry, a brief glimpse of bright white light before the door was closed behind her. 

"Ava… What happened?" 

Her expression was worried as she knelt down in front of Ava. 

"Didn't you hear?" Ava asked quietly. "Weren't you there?" 

Guilt flashed across Shannon's features. 

"I'm sorry. Mary was asleep, I wanted to try and connect to her." 

As hurt as Ava felt, it quickly faded in the face of Shannon's confession. 

"And?" 

"I succeeded." She placed her hand on Ava's knee. "They're safe, all of them. They brought Beatrice back and they're at the safe house. Lilith is going to try and connect to you once Mary and Beatrice have rested." 

Lilith. 

Thank God. 

Ava had to stay asleep, not that that was a problem. 

Staying awake was the issue now. 

And after the conversation Ava had just had, that was just the news she needed to feel a fluttering of hope once more. 

"Oh thank God." Ava sighed. "I'm still hurt you left me, but for that? You're more than forgiven." 

"What happened?" 

"Adriel paid me a visit." 

She hated even speaking his name. 

"What did he say?" 

"I don't even know where to begin." Ava sighed. 

She got to her feet and relished in the sensation once more. She began to pace around the office while Shannon got up and opted to move towards Mother Superion's desk. 

She seemed to study it curiously. 

"Why here?" Shannon asked with a hint of amusement. "I don't know about you but I certainly don't have any fond memories about this room." 

Ava stilled as she looked past Shannon as a memory broke through the chaos. 

"I wouldn't call it a fond memory. More of a… It wasn't good." Ava replied. "I was crying. Beatrice hugged me, we didn't even know each other then but I just… collapsed into her." 

It had felt so natural. 

Maybe her brain chose this place because of the comfort she gained from that hug. 

Maybe it was because she was missing Beatrice more than she could understand. 

She began to pace again. 

"Do you know where to begin yet?" Shannon asked. 

"No." Ava replied. "Everything is all over the place and I can't… I can't organise it." 

"Yes you can. Just breathe." 

Breathe.  

"He kept listening to my thoughts." Ava began slowly. "I know I don't exactly know anything but I was worried about him finding out anything. I figured it would be bad if he found out I could connect to Lilith so I just tried to keep my thoughts empty." 

"And did he?" 

"No. No, he had a question of his own." 

She glanced at Shannon who ruled her head to the side with interest. 

"Which was?" 

"Where I went when I dreamt." Ava shivered despite herself as she remembered the way in which he had spoken. "He knows that I come here with you." 

But he hadn't seemed bothered. 

What harm could come from letting her speak with ghosts? 

"Keep going." Shannon urged. "What else happened?" 

Shannon was pushing her. 

Ava knew that if she could get the thoughts out then they stood more chance of trying to piece them together. 

"He said that when he's near me he can hear every conscious thought." 

"When we are near like this." 

It was such a specific way to phrase it, and Ava was under the impression that Adriel wasn't the kind of guy to speak without purpose. 

What did he mean? 

What did it mean? 

Ava groaned and continued to pace. 

"Ava. Keep going." 

"I called him out for being a coward, for hiding the halo in Areala and me because of tarasks. He snapped. It was terrifying." 

Push through the fear. 

"The halo is incomplete." Ava said quietly. "Because of me, apparently." 

She closed her eyes and dropped her gaze to the ground. 

Because apparently, she broke everything that she touched. 

"What?" The surprise was evident in Shannon's voice and Ava looked up to be met with wide eyes. "That isn't possible." 

"According to Adriel it is." Ava pointed out. "He said that I shared the energy and now he's got to get it back. Get it back from her." 

"From who?" 

Now wasn't that the question. 

"I don't know." 

"That doesn't make sense, how could you give somebody energy from the halo? Do you remember anything?" 

Frustration prickled at the back of her neck. "No! I've only recently gotten phasing down, how am I supposed to give part of the halo to someone?" 

She paced the room again and pushed her hands into her hair.

Ava was trying to comb through her thoughts, to find any and every detail. 

In his anger Adriel had given her so much, tiny fragments that on their own just didn't make sense. 

"Did he say anything else?" Shannon pushed off of Superion's desk to intercept Ava's pacing. 

"Pretty sure he called Beatrice my beloved." Ava froze as Shannon blinked in surprise. "Sorry. Not relevant, don't really know what to do with that information either." 

She really couldn't process that right now. 

What else? 

There was more, there had to be more. 

Ava continued her pacing and she felt Shannon following her around the room. 

"He said that Vincent was good at seeing the weakness in people. Agreed with me when I called myself a sad broken orphan… He said that he was going to make me watch when he took the power back." 

There was more. 

There's always more. 

"What else Ava? Come on, you can do this." 

"That was it. Cause then Vincent came for him and -" 

Ava froze and even though there wasn't the sensation of touch, she heard the instinctual 'oof' that came with Shannon bumping into her. 

Vincent. 

Tattoos. 

Divinium. 

Ava turned to Shannon. "Adriel can communicate with Vincent through the Divinium in his skin. Michael too." 

Shannon raised an eyebrow. That wasn't new information and they both knew it. 

But it was relevant. 

Everything was. 

"And he can talk to me through the halo." Ava said. 

"That's right." 

"But now he can only get in my head if I'm awake and near him, but why?" Ava asked. "Cause it doesn't seem to matter where Vincent is, or Michael before he went through the portal. He could talk to them because they have divinium in them. So why can't he do that with me?" 

Shannon looked thoughtful as she turned to pace for a few moments. 

"Because of the shard in your back?" Shannon guessed. "We know that Lilith can sense the halo too but it's the divinium that's blocking her from teleporting to you." 

Blocking. 

Just like how she can't phase through it. 

The tarask skeleton flashed through her mind. 

Oh. 

Wait. 

Ava's thoughts very briefly shifted to every heist and mystery movie she had ever watched, to the scenes where the protagonist connected all of the dots with a triumphant cheer. 

When they took a step back from their board of clues and saw the answer staring right back at them. 

She was close to something, Ava knew she was. 

She had to be. 

Ava's mind was racing, dots desperately trying to connect. 

Like a Polaroid, slowly coming into focus. 

"Oh." She lifted her gaze to meet Shannon's watchful eye. "I think I get it." 

"What?" 

"Okay, okay." Ava pinched the bridge of her nose as she tried to organise her thoughts. "We can phase through anything except for divinium…" 

"Where are you going with this Ava? We already know that." 

"Radio frequency!" Ava threw her hands out. "Think of the halo and divinium as putting out two different frequencies. Adriel can switch between the frequencies easily, talk to Vincent through the divinium and me with the halo. But when the two are in close proximity, say… a chunk of divinium lodged in the middle of the halo -" 

"The divinium blocks the signal of the halo." Shannon finished. "We kind of already knew that too. It's a good metaphor though." 

"Right." Ava nodded. "The halo puts out a signal that attracts what?" 

"Tarasks." Shannon replied. "And the divinium is stopping them from finding you." 

He was tying up loose ends. 

She had given part of the halos power to someone. 

But how? 

How could she have done that without any of them noticing? Surely they would have noticed if one of them had suddenly started to have the power of the halo in them. 

Whoever it was, Adriel was keeping Ava alive until he got to her. 

He was scared of tarasks. He could deny it all he wanted, but she had seen his arrival on this world, he hid the halo in Areala because of them. 

Ava froze as clarity finally hit her. 

It wrapped around her and Ava felt her heart stutter as fear and realisation consumed her. 

"But what if it isn't all tarasks he's trying to keep away?" Ava asked. "What if it's just one? One specific tarask?" 

Shannon frowned, confused, but Ava could see her mind working too. She could see Shannon putting the pieces together. 

"What if this whole time, Adriel and Vincent have been working so hard to keep me away from one specific tarask." Ava shook her head. "Not even a tarask, not entirely." 

"Ava, focus." Shannon urged. 

It was the only thing that made sense. 

Everything was connected. 

They were all connected. 

"He's trying to keep me away from someone who has been to the other side. Someone who was impaled by a tarask and came back different. Someone with abilities that nobody has seen before so at a stretch, could be walking around with some of the halos energy inside of them because how else would we know?"

"Oh…" Shannon took a step back. "Ava. You're talking about…" 

"Lilith. Yeah, I'm talking about Lilith." 

Oh God. 

Adriel wanted to kill Lilith.

 

Chapter Text

 

Mother Superion walked the halls of the Vatican in silence. 

It had taken a lot of talking to convince Pope Duretti that she could be trusted. That she was on the side of the Church, that she was assisting them in tracking down Ava and the others. 

His priority, as far as Mother Superion could tell was not to stop Adriel, but to cover it up. 

To hide the truth from the public. 

To remove the people outside of the small number within the Vatican who know what really happened that night. 

Mother Superion had no intention of allowing that to happen. 

She was loyal to God, she was loyal to the Church. 

But she had dedicated herself to her girls, she had trained them, taken care of them, loved and mourned each and every one that passed through the walls of Cat's Cradle. 

She was going to protect them. 

With what little trust and freedom Mother Superion had earned, she had been working to misdirect Duretti's men. 

Nightly calls to the Sisters at the Cradle and other Churches across Europe to assist her in spreading false leads, to protect Ava and her friends as much as she was able to. 

But there were few places where Mother Superion could speak freely. She didn't trust that her room hadn't been bugged, cameras covered every hallway. 

There was no privacy. 

Almost. 

There was still one place that remained untouched since that night. 

Her feet carried her down a path she had walked almost every night since the day off Adriel's escape. 

The echoes of gunfire and fighting lingered in her mind as she made her way towards the tunnel that she knew was hastily blocked off with caution tape and warning signs of structural integrity. 

Mother Superion's movements stilled. 

She had always been careful to duck under the tape, to not disturb it should some of the guards see and suspect. 

So… Why was it torn now? 

The red flag was bright in her mind as Mother Superion tightened her fingers around the handle of her cane as she took a few steps forward. 

As she continued forward, Mother Superion listened for the silence to call back to her. 

It did not disappoint. 

Voices bounced off of the walls, reverberating back towards her until they were mere whispers in the shadows. 

The sound of metal clanging against the walls was much louder. 

As she got closer to the room in which Beatrice and Ava had blown a hole through, the noises grew louder and Mother Superion could see bright lights, floodlights, she assumed. 

Every instinct screamed to be ready. 

Mother Superion slowed her steps as she reached the room and leaned in to inspect the space. 

Considering the time of night, being met with the sight of half a dozen men dressed in construction gear and hard hats was certainly one of the last things she expected to see.

Floodlights rested in each corner of the room, with two additional ones focused on the hole leading to the catacombs below. The rubble had been cleared away and in its place stood a rope and pully system. 

Three of the men stood nearby as together, they hoisted up a large metal crate. 

Mother Superion could hear voices below, more men calling out instructions. 

None of this made sense. What were they doing at this hour? 

A man stepped in front of her from behind the wall, a hand raised as though to tell her to step back. 

"You can't be here, Sister. It isn't safe." 

Mother Superion ignored him. "What are you doing?" 

For a moment each man paused and cast a look in her direction. 

She felt a chill run down her spine. 

The man before her spoke up again. 

"We are clearing the tunnel under Direct orders from the Pope." He said. "We have been asked to remove the equipment left behind from the attack and ensure the catacombs remain structurally intact." 

Alarm bells joined the red flags in Mother Superion's mind. 

Duretti was more likely to just seal off the tunnels entirely rather than go to this much effort. 

Her gaze dropped to take in his outfit and paused. 

Besides, what kind of construction worker hid a gun on their person? 

There was so much more going on here, the men did not question her presence in a restricted area. 

They carried weapons. 

They were removing something from the tunnels. 

Or, more accurately, Adriel's tomb. 

"Mickey?" One of the other men called to the one before her, his hand went to his hip. 

She had to leave. 

Mother Superion took a step back and bowed her head in apology. 

"My apologies." She said. "I will leave you to your work." 

Her grip didn't loosen on her cane until he bowed his head too. As he turned to rejoin the others, they resumed their work and Mother Superion made a swift exit. 

She only allowed herself to exhale once she was a safe distance away. 

She had to find somewhere private immediately. 

And she had to call Mary. 

 

--

 

As Mary pushed the door to Beatrice's room open, she wasn't surprised to see Beatrice sit up instantly. 

Even if she had been sleeping, it was clearly light enough that the smallest sound had woken her. 

God, she wished that she could let Beatrice rest. 

"What is it?" Beatrice asked already throwing the covers back. "It's Ava, isn't it?" 

Mary's grip tightened on the doorframe. 

She wasn't even sure how to explain it. 

"Sort of." Mary began, her voice cracked the slightest amount. "I saw Shannon." 

Beatrice's eyes were wide as she climbed from the bed, her movements were slow as her features twisted in pain. 

"What do you mean?" 

Mary turned to leave the room as Beatrice began to follow her. The other bedroom doors were still open so Mary took it as a safe bet that Lilith and Camila were still downstairs waiting for them to wake up. 

"It felt like a dream, and it was, kind of. I think it was similar to what Lilith experiences when she saw Ava." Mary explained. "She had to leave me though." 

Again. 

"Why?" 

Mary made her way down the stairs. "I sent her a prayer asking for her to watch over Ava. She came to me because Ava was awake, Shannon left because Ava fell asleep." 

The sound of Beatrice's footsteps stopped, only for a moment before picking up again, faster than before. 

Mary knew that was because Beatrice had just realised why Mary had woken her. 

Ava was asleep. 

Lilith would be able to try and link to her. 

"What else did she say?" Beatrice asked. 

Mary skipped the last step and headed into the living room where Camila and Lilith were both still sat at the desk, their attention was on Mary as she walked in with Beatrice close on her heels. 

"What's going on?" Lilith asked. 

"I saw Shannon." 

Lilith and Camila both looked surprised, not that she could blame them. 

For Lilith to see Ava was one thing, but for Mary to see a ghost? 

Even by their standards, this was a development none of them could have expected. 

"Wait, how?" Camila asked. 

Mary didn't know what to say, how she was supposed to answer that just yet. 

For now, she had to focus on their friend. 

"She said that Ava is alive, but she's getting weaker. She's looking out for her, but we're running out of time. Shannon said that Ava was desperate to know how you all were." She turned to face Beatrice. "Specifically you. Ava overheard Vincent's henchmen talking." 

Beatrice noticeably paled. "I… Did she say what Ava heard?" 

There was fear there, Mary could see it clearly in Beatrice's eyes. 

She was scared that the story of events had been twisted. All of the kidnappers were dead and as far as Vincent and his other henchmen knew, so were the two hitmen. 

Beatrice was wondering if Ava thought she had killed some of those men.

"She didn't specify. Beatrice, it sounded like Ava wanted to make sure you were alive. That was all she cared about." 

Beatrice didn't look convinced, Mary could see it in her eyes. 

"Then we have no time to lose." Lilith said, moving from her space beside Camila to grab the box of sleeping pills from the coffee table. "These won't be of any use." 

"What do you mean?" Mary asked, reluctantly tearing her gaze from Beatrice's. 

Lilith looked annoyed that she had to explain herself. "Ava is asleep now . These can take up to an hour, we don't have that kind of time." 

"Then what do you suggest?" 

Camila gasped as Beatrice moved to stand beside Mary, her lips were pursed as she stared at Lilith. 

"Lilith…" Camila pushed her seat back to stand up. "I don't know." 

"One of you, use your ring." 

Mary frowned. "We're not going to knock you out, Lilith." 

"Look." Lilith's tone was sharp as she took a step closer. "Do you want me to link with Ava or not?" 

Of course they did. But at the cost of knocking her out? 

Lilith turned her attention to Beatrice. "We need to do it, for Ava." 

Mary cast her glance sideways and watched as Beatrice's entire body tensed up as she inhaled a sharp breath. 

The muscle in Beatrice's jaw twitched. Her expression looked pained as she gave a jerky shake of her head. 

"Please don't. Please don't ask me to do this." 

For as much as Beatrice wanted Ava back, even Mary thought that to all her to do this would be too much. 

"I'll do it." Camila interrupted softly as she stepped closer. "Do you trust me?" 

Lilith's expression softened slightly as she looked to Camila. "Of course I do." 

"Okay. You should lie down then." 

Lilith looked at Mary and Beatrice. "Does that work for you both?" 

It seemed as though they had very little option. 

"Are you sure about this?" Beatrice asked quietly. 

Something shifted in Lilith's expression, the urgency in her eyes faded entirely for a moment as she stared at Beatrice. 

In that moment Mary watched her stop being a warrior, and watched her become Lilith. 

Just Lilith. 

Just a girl who could see all of the fear and pain in the eyes of one of her closest friends. 

Lilith took a few steps forward and slowly raised her hands to rest them both on Beatrice's shoulders. 

"I'm sure, Beatrice. If we don't take this chance then we'll both regret it." Lilith said gently. "We need to take these opportunities to help bring her home." 

Mary and Camila shared a look as it became clear that Beatrice and Lilith were no longer paying any mind to them. 

"Do you have a message for her?" Lilith asked. 

Beatrice dropped her head, the seconds stretched painfully as she got lost in her thoughts. 

Everybody jumped when Mary's phone rang. Beatrice's head snapped up to look over at her. 

Mary frowned as she pulled it from her pocket and felt her heart clench when she saw the name that lit up the screen. 

She pressed the phone to her ear. "Mother Superion, this really isn't a good time." 

"With all that is happening right now there is never going to be a good time." Mother Superion replied. "This is urgent." 

Fuck. 

What now? 

"Hold on." Mary held the phone out and put it on speaker. "What is it?" 

Everybody was silent as Mother Superion described what she had seen. Each of them shared looks of growing confusion and worry as she described the men and the crate that they had been removing from the catacombs. 

When Mother Superion finished telling her story, the silence lasted for only a few seconds. 

"It has to be Vincent's men." Lilith said. 

"It's definitely not Duretti." Mary agreed. 

"But what could have been down there that is so important to send men into the Vatican for?" Camila asked. 

Beatrice sighed quietly and stepped away from Lilith's touch, but held her gaze steadily. "The tarask skeleton." 

Mary had a fleeting memory of her mentioning it while Ava had been in the wall. 

It was divinium. 

Beatrice had called it the organic source. 

There was another pause of silence. 

"What would Adriel want with that?" Mother Superion asked. 

"Tarask skeletons are made of divinium." Beatrice explained. "It could be used to make weapons." 

Lilith looked agitated again. "Guys." 

They were running out of time, Lilith needed to speak to Ava. 

"Thanks for the heads up, Superion." Mary said. "Keep out of their way, we'll take it from here." 

"What are you going to do?" Mother Superion asked. 

They hadn't thought that far ahead yet. Right now, the divinium was secondary. 

"Do you have access to a computer?" Camila asked suddenly. 

"Not immediately, no." 

"Get to one. I have an idea, we'll call you back okay?" 

Mary didn't hide her impressed grin at the authority in her voice. 

Camila was a badass. 

She chose to take Mother Superion's silence as such too. 

"I'll be waiting." 

The line went dead. 

"What is your plan?" Lilith asked immediately. 

Camila sat on the arm of the sofa. "We need to be sure that they're Vincent's men." 

"I was going to ask Ava if she knew anything." Lilith replied. 

"But we need to be prepared that she may not know. This is just to cover our bases." Camila explained. "You need to see her, Lil. Now." 

Lilith nodded and moved to take a step towards the sofa, though she caught herself quickly and turned back to Beatrice. 

"Your message?" Lilith asked. 

Beatrice took a deep breath, and as a few moments passed she released it slowly. 

"Tell her…" Beatrice's voice cracked ever so slightly. "Tell her that I haven't forgotten my promise. I'm not going to break it." 

It was clear that there were other things she wanted to say, things she was holding close to her chest as though they would keep the cracks together. 

Lilith nodded. "I will." 

They shared one more look before Lilith turned towards the sofa and lay back against it, craning her neck to look up at Camila. 

"Are you sure about this?" Camila asked. 

"Yes. Are you okay to do it?" 

Camila fidgeted with the ring and with one hand, brushed Lilith's hair away from her neck. "Yeah, I'm going to do it now, okay?" 

Lilith closed her eyes. "Okay." 

As Camila brought the ring to her neck, Beatrice turned away. 

It only took a few moments for Lilith to slip into unconsciousness. 

 

--

 

Beatrice was aware of Camila retreating back to her desk and Mary following her, but her gaze lingered on Lilith's sleeping form. 

She hated that she was jealous. 

That she felt that it should be her who connected to Ava. 

To see her, to tell her everything she wanted to say herself. 

Even Mary had been able to see Shannon. 

But when Beatrice slept, all she saw were her failures laid out before her. 

It was Mary's voice that dragged her from the darkening thoughts. 

"What exactly is it you're doing?" She asked. 

Camila typed a few commands onto her laptop. "I've finished my virus, I can send it to every contact the shooter had saved in his phone but the downside to that we'll then have to follow the lead of every device it infects and hope that one of them is wherever Ava is." 

"I'm guessing Vincent is on there." Mary said. 

"That would be too much to ask, wouldn't it?" Camila replied with only the faintest trace of amusement. 

Beatrice's mind threw her back into the warehouse. 

Gun slick with blood. 

Anger radiating through her body. 

So much pain it made her nauseous. 

The shooters desperate attempts to stop her from pulling the trigger. 

"Is there a Valentine or a Jonah listed in his contacts?" Beatrice asked. 

There was a pause as Camila scrolled through. 

"Yeah. Both of them." 

Beatrice forced herself not to look at Lilith as she walked over to join them. "When I was questioning him, he said their names. They're with Vincent." 

Camila began to type again and paused after a minute to tap away on the phone. 

"Okay. It's all ready to go. The virus is disguised as a link, but I need a message that'll entice them to open it." 

Mary rested both hands on the back of Camila's chair. "Make it sound like he's in hiding. Or, better yet, that he's been tracking us and has our location. Disguise the link as coordinates."

"Oh, I like that." Camila nodded. 

She went back to her laptop and pulled up Google maps and took the coordinates from a random hotel in Madrid. 

Beatrice watched her type out the text and held her breath as Camila's thumb hovered over the send button.

They all exhaled as the message was sent. 

"And now we wait." Mary said. 

Camila seemed to have other plans as she pulled out her own phone. "Onto the next step." 

Mary and Beatrice shared a frown. 

"Which is?" 

Camila smiled at them over her shoulder as she pressed her phone to her ear. "I call for backup." 

There was a small amount of comfort to be found in Mary's confusion. 

Camila looked back at her screens. "Hey, Jillian? I'm sorry to bother you so late but I need your help." 

Beatrice heard the faint "With what?" from Camila's phone. 

"I need to hack into the Vatican's security system." 

 

--

 

She was in the white hallway again. 

Every door was closed but Lilith's feet carried her on instinct to a door. 

Lilith recognised her surroundings instantly as she stepped into Mother Superion's office. 

Ava was sat cross legged on the desk, an act that had this been real, Mother Superion would have promptly been given extra chores for doing such a thing. 

Her gaze fixed on the far wall, her head was tilted to the side as though listening intently. 

When Lilith closed the door behind her, Ava's head snapped in her direction. 

"Lilith!" Ava exclaimed. She scrambled off of the desk and began to run towards her. "Holy shit am I glad to see-" 

She stopped suddenly and looked back to the wall and Lilith watched her shoulders sink briefly. 

"You." Ava finished softly. 

What had Ava been staring at? 

It had to have been Shannon, surely. 

"Ava, what is it?" 

Ava whipped around again, her focus was back in full force as she advanced on Lilith. 

"How did you know I was asleep?" 

"Mary told us she had seen Shannon, she told Mary." 

There was a fear in Ava's eyes as she stared at Lilith, a nervousness lingered around her. 

"Was Shannon here?" 

Ava nodded. 

Why hadn't Lilith seen her too? Did the halos connection not extend that far? 

This wasn't about her. 

"Ava, listen -" 

"No, wait. I need to go first." Ava grabbed at her arm and frowned at the lack of feeling they both felt at the contact. Ava drew her hand back. "This is important." 

"Ava I didn't exactly come here for a gossip over tea and cake." 

There was a moment of silence between them before Ava snorted.

It was a much needed moment of levity. 

"It's good to see you." Ava said sincerely. 

"You too." Lilith replied. "How are you holding up?" 

The smile faded and Ava shrugged. 

"I'm still alive." 

Even in this dream scape, Ava looked tired. She looked weak. 

Lilith couldn't bear to try and picture how Ava must look in the waking world right now. 

"Seriously though Lilith." Ava's voice grew urgent. "I don't know how much time we have and I need to make sure you hear this before everything else." 

"What is it?" Lilith asked. "What's happened?" 

When Ava took a deep breath, Lilith knew that she was in for something. 

But nothing could have prepared Lilith for the rapid speech that tumbled from Ava's lips. 

"We knew that the reason Adriel hadn't taken the halo from me was because there was something else he needed to take back first, but he came to me while Shannon was with Mary. He said the halo was incomplete because of me, that I had given a part of it away." Ava took a deep breath and barrelled on. "I was talking to Shannon and I don't know if I'm right but I think that he's keeping the shard in me so you can't sense my energy because you're the one that he wants. Because I think I've given you a part of the halo, somehow." 

Lilith stared at her. 

What? 

How? How was that possible? 

What was more alarming was how so much of Ava's words made a semblance of sense. 

"Adriel wants… Me?" Lilith asked. 

Ava nodded. 

"Because he thinks that I have part of the halo?" 

Ava hugged herself tight, though Lilith doubted the gesture brought her much comfort. 

"He said that I shared the halo's energy with someone, it makes sense to me that it would be you." Ava sighed. "If it had been… if it had been Beatrice or Cam or Mary, we would have noticed if they suddenly had abilities too." 

Lilith lifted her head to the ceiling and closed her eyes. 

"And because of what happened to me, we wouldn't have noticed because of everything else already happening." 

Ava held herself tighter. "Yeah." 

Lilith opened her eyes and met Ava's gaze. 

And God, the girl looked so scared for her. 

"Ava-" 

"You need to be careful, Lilith. He wants to kill you." 

Lilith straightened her shoulders. "I'd like to see him try." 

"Lilith!" 

"Does this raise more questions?" Lilith asked. "Of course it does. But does it change anything? No chance. I'm bringing you home, Ava." 

Ava's eyes were watery and she looked away quickly, blinking rapidly to try and hold them back. 

"I can't let you die for me." 

"Nobody is dying Ava." Lilith replied, her voice was firm. 

Ava needed someone to be strong for her right now, regardless of how terrified she felt. 

"Do I make myself clear?" 

Ava sniffed and reached up press the heels of her palm against her eyes. 

"Y-yeah." 

"Good. Now, what else did he say?" 

Ava shook her head. "Nothing of much relevance. We can come back to that if we have more time. Shannon already said you guys were okay, but really, are you? Is Beatrice okay?"

And there it was.

Beatrice was at the forefront of Ava's mind. 

She didn't doubt that Ava was worried about all of them, her desperation to warn her of Adriel to try and protect her said as much. 

But it was different when it came to Beatrice.

And Lilith wanted to ask. She desperately wanted to ask. 

But while she knew that she wasn't going to be waking up anytime soon, the same couldn't be said for Ava. 

Those types of questions, should they even be asked, could wait. 

"She's okay. She got hurt, but she's alive." 

"One of Vincent's goons said she got shot."

Lilith nodded. "She did, but she's okay Ava. Trust me." 

Ava looked relieved, but Lilith could see the follow up questions forming. 

"She gave me a message for you." 

"She did?" Ava asked hopefully. 

"Beatrice said, 'I haven't forgotten my promise. I'm not going to break it.'" 

A tear slipped down Ava's cheek. Her bottom lip quivered. 

"Thank you, Lilith." Ava whispered. She let out a slow breath. 

"Ava…" Lilith stopped herself before her curiosity got the better of her. "Listen, if we have time there's a lot that I need to answer, and we can try and figure some stuff out." 

"Right. You're right." Ava replied. "What did you need to say?" 

Lilith folded her arms across her chest. "Beatrice got a phone from one of the shooters Vincent sent after the kidnappers. Camila has written a virus and hopefully by now she's sent it to the contacts in his phone." 

"A virus?" 

Lilith walked around to lean against Mother Superion's desk. "The hope is that it'll get sent to someone wherever you are. When they open it, Camila will have access to their phone and be able to get your location." 

"Holy shit." Ava laughed quietly. "That is some serious spy shit." 

"Yes, I knew Camila was talented with computers but we would honestly be lost without her right now." 

She wondered if she had sent the virus yet.

 

--

 

Camila's phone was to her right, Jillian stood by on speaker. To her left Mother Superion waited on Mary's phone. 

Mary had hovered around for a while, but she had never been one for this kind of thing so she had drifted off to make coffee and smoke. 

Beatrice had been a much more consistent presence, and though she didn't speak, she watched everything Camila did before Mother Superion had joined the call. 

She alternated between watching Camila, and taking guard over Lilith. 

Camila wished she knew what she could say to comfort her friend. 

Beatrice had once told her that it was her skill to bring smiles to the faces of others. 

Right now, it felt as though there was nothing she could say to ease Beatrice's pain. 

All she could do was bring Ava back. 

"Jillian?" Camila spoke softly. "Thank you again for this." 

"Considering what I have seen of your work, I'm surprised you even need my help." Jillian replied, before adding in a vaguely sarcastic tone; "Not that I don't enjoy that a small group of nuns seem very insistent on making me more of an enemy to the Church." 

"We're not really nuns anymore." Beatrice said under her breath. 

Camila supposed that Beatrice was right in that regard. 

Surely Duretti would have had them excommunicated by now. 

And if Mother Superion had heard Beatrice's comment, her silence had only confirmed as much. 

"Honestly, I only really needed to use your system for a boost. I don't really have the power to support this kind of work." 

"What exactly are you trying to achieve here?" Mother Superion asked. 

Beatrice walked back over and leaned against the desk. 

"We're going to use your computer to get into the Vatican's system." Camila replied. "The equipment I have here isn't enough to get in so Jillian is is… giving me a boost, essentially." 

Beatrice raised an eyebrow and Camila hastily covered the microphone on Mary's phone. 

"I don't know how much she knows about technology." Camila whispered. "This feels easier." 

"Yes, I understand that much. But what I'm asking is why?" Mother Superion said. 

"I want to try and get those men on the security cameras, if possible. I'm not optimistic we'll see what is inside the crate, but if we can get a clear image of the men then Jillian and Mary can use their contacts to try and track them down." Camila explained. 

"That seems like a bit of a stretch." 

"Yeah." Camila agreed. "But we need to follow any possible lead." 

It was a needle in a haystack, but she had to have hope. 

"Are you both ready?" Jillian asked. 

"Yep. Mother Superion?" 

"Yes." 

Camila took a moment to check the shooter's phone, and she knew that Beatrice didn't miss her disappointed sigh when there were no new messages. 

She forced herself to focus back on the task at hand. 

"Okay." Camila cracked her knuckles. "Jillian, send Mother Superion the code." 

"Done." 

Camila grinned. "How good are you at hacking?" 

"I had a talent for it, back in the day." Jillian replied. 

"In that case. I'll race you." 

She had to find some happiness amongst all of this pain. 

And if that happiness came in the form of hacking into the Vatican, then so be it. 

 

--

 

Once they had filled each other in on the most pressing matters, the conversation shifted to get into the matters with more depth. 

Ava missed Shannon's presence, but it was a relief to have Lilith here. 

At her request, Lilith gave her as much information as she could as to what had been happening to them all. 

More specifically, more information about what had happened with Beatrice. 

She was upfront about not knowing the specific details, but she had told Ava of Beatrice splitting away from them to go after the kidnappers. How she had been injured after her first encounter.

The way each of them had tried to track her down before Mary had found her with the living shooter. 

Beatrice hadn't killed anybody. Lilith made a point to make sure Ava knew that. 

Ava had told her something similar to what she had told Vincent. 

That she didn't care whether Beatrice had killed someone. 

She was still Beatrice. 

Dream of your beloved. 

Ava hugged her knees closer to her chest and pushed his voice away. 

She was safe here. 

"So, what do you think Camila was planning to do?" 

Lilith sat on the ground with her back against the desk and regarded Ava thoughtfully. 

"Camila gets a very specific look in her eye when she's planning on hacking into something. She also told Mother Superion to get to a computer." Lilith said. "My best bet would be something along those lines." 

"Kinda makes you wonder why she became a nun if she loves hacking so much." 

Lilith hummed in agreement. 

"Maybe she hacked the FBI or something." 

"Be serious." 

"I've been serious enough, let me have this moment, please." Ava said quietly. 

Something akin to guilt flashed across Lilith's face. 

"You're right. I'm sorry." And after a moment, she added, "Perhaps a bank?" 

Ava grinned. "Secret bank account somewhere? She joined the order to hide from the feds. This is just a grizzly reboot of Sister Act." 

"That would be something." 

"Can you sing?" Ava asked. "You better start working on your musical number." 

"I can hold a note. You?" 

"You bet I can." Ava replied. "My voice was pretty much all I had back at the orphanage, annoying the nuns gave me a lot of practice." 

The thoughtful expression didn't fade from Lilith's eyes. "Ava?" 

"Yeah?" 

"Not to gloss over your childhood, truly-" 

"Hey it's fine, only so much trauma we can handle at the moment, right?" 

"...That wasn't what I meant." 

Ava's smile was soft as she tried to be reassuring. "Lilith, it's fine. What is it?" 

"Do you have any idea how I could have gotten power from the halo?" 

Before Lilith had come to her, she had spent some time trying to figure that out with Shannon. 

They hadn't really come to a solid conclusion. 

"All we really got was that it was most likely to have happened with touch." Ava said. "But you and I aren't really touchy feely with each other." 

The look of guilt returned. 

"The day the tarask…" Lilith trailed off as she glanced away. "Before that happened and I tried to take the halo from you. The halo flared." 

Her tone was apologetic, quiet. 

"But you were still human then." Ava replied. "You would have noticed, I think." 

Lilith drew her knees up to her chest and rested her chin on one of them. "You're right." 

"And you kinda already apologised for that whole time. So if you're still feeling guilty then you can drop that." 

Lilith met her gaze and offered a small smile. 

A few moments passed before she spoke again. 

"There's only one more time that I can think of." 

"Oh?" 

"When Beatrice and Mary pulled you from Adriel's tomb. My memories are… scattered from that day. But I remember when Vincent was carrying you out. I put my hand on you to steady you." 

Ava leaned forward. "Could it have come from that?" 

It was such a mundane moment. 

Could it really have changed them both so much? 

Ava hadn't even felt it. 

"I was discovering my powers that day." Lilith said. "When I approached Adriel in that courtyard, I felt nothing but raw power in my veins." 

While they were on this topic, Ava took what she figured was the next step. 

"What do you think it means for us?" 

"I think that it contributes to the connection that we have." Lilith said. "But if this is true, then Adriel wants me dead to restore the halo to its full power, then that would mean that you are not at your full potential either." 

Full potential? 

Ava didn't even want to think about that. 

Besides, Lilith wasn't going to die. 

"You levitated when you first came to Cats Cradle, do you remember?" 

She'd also blown herself back into unconsciousness after blasting Lilith and Beatrice into a wall. 

"Who needs to levitate." Ava shrugged. "I'd take friends over that any day." 

"And if it meant stopping Adriel?" 

No. 

Not up for discussion. 

"Then we'd find another way." 

She could accept her own death. 

But Ava wasn't going to let anyone else give up their lives. 

 

--

 

Beatrice sat on the coffee table as she watched the rise and fall of Lilith's chest. 

Camila's typing was rapid, and she could even hear the distant clicking of keys from Jillian's computer. 

At least she was enjoying herself.

And even though Mary looked like she was drifting off in her seat, she looked happy enough to see one of them not entirely miserable. 

"Oh!" Camila exclaimed suddenly. "I'm in!" 

"Excuse me?" 

"We're in. Sorry Jillian." 

There was a faint hum from Camila's phone as her screen filled with the live feed from the security cameras. 

Camila already had the benefit of being familiar with the camera placements and clicked through them all quickly. 

"Jillian, if you don't want to wait around, I can give you a call if we find anything." 

"Yes, hopefully I'll speak to you shortly." 

Beatrice got to her feet and made her way through the living room towards the kitchen as Camila addressed Mother Superion. 

"What time did you get to the tunnel?" 

Mother Superion's response was too quiet for Beatrice to hear as she got herself a glass of water. 

She could still hear the muffled conversation between Camila and Mother Superion amongst Mary's approaching footsteps. 

"When was the last time you ate?" 

Beatrice busied herself with drinking as she thought. 

She honestly couldn't remember. 

"I'm not hungry." 

Mary pulled a drawer open and pulled out a protein bar. She threw it onto the counter in front of Beatrice. 

"You need to eat a real meal later. Even without your injuries or the amount of painkillers you're taking. You need to keep your strength up." 

Mary was right. 

And Beatrice was self aware enough to know that her behaviour was getting increasingly self destructive. 

She had to be better. 

"I will." 

Beatrice set her glass aside and reached for the bar and tore it open. 

She took a bite that seemed to appease Mary enough. 

"Can I ask you something?" Beatrice asked. 

"Go for it." 

"Ava and Lilith can connect because of the halo, as can Ava and Shannon." 

Mary crossed her arms and looked ahead, careful to not meet Beatrice's eyes. 

"So how could me and Shannon connect?" 

Beatrice hated herself for asking. 

Shannon was still a fresh wound to Mary. To Beatrice, her question felt like she was driving a knife into it, tearing it open all over again. 

All because she was selfish. 

Beatrice nodded. 

"We were extremely close, Beatrice." Mary sighed. "I'm not about to say I know how this works, I don't know if it would work had she not had the halo, but I think it comes from the bond we had in life." 

In this life or the next. 

What Mary and Shannon had was special. That was all Beatrice knew and that had always been enough for her. 

But now she wanted to know more. 

Ava was special to her. 

Was that not enough? 

Mary was looking at her again. It was a painfully sympathetic expression. 

Beatrice had always felt exposed when she was met with that look. 

Now, more so than ever. 

Beatrice found that she didn't have the energy to be afraid about what it was Mary was seeing within her. 

"You're going to see her in person, Beatrice." Mary said. "And that will be so much better. Yeah the Shannon I saw was real. She was my Shannon, but she's gone Beatrice. This never happened while I was alive." 

"You're saying that you can only see Shannon because she is dead." 

And by that theory, Mary was telling Beatrice that to potentially see Ava in that capacity, would be to see a ghost. 

The nausea was back. 

"I am. So focus on what you're going to say to her when you're back together." 

Where would she even begin? 

How would she begin to explain the twisting web of thoughts. How all sense of duty and logic had ceased to exist in the face of having Ava ripped away from her. 

And then there were the feelings. 

Feelings that had sparked under Ava's inquisitive stare. Of being seen in a way that was entirely different from how any other had looked at her before. 

"There's more than you're telling." 

The spark was so bright that Beatrice had retreated to the safety of the shadows. 

"There's always more." 

The spark had ignited but the flames had been slow to take until Ava had spoken five words. 

Five words that had engulfed her completely. 

"What you are is beautiful." 

Beatrice was burning away. 

"Do you know what you'll say to her?" Mary asked. 

"No."

Mary reached out to give Beatrice's shoulder a soft squeeze. 

"Get to thinking then." Mary said. "Hell, I think a hug would be warranted." 

A hug. 

Ava breaking through her personal pain, her personal prison and falling into her arms. 

When she saw Ava again, Beatrice doubted that she would be able to speak. 

Her lungs were full of ash. 

"Guys?" Camila called. "Get in here." 

Beatrice set aside the rest of the protein bar and stepped out of Mary's touch to go back into the living room. 

She paused to look over at Lilith and noted the way her fingers were twitching. 

Under normal conditions, their rings would ensure unconsciousness for at least a couple of hours. 

But Lilith wasn't normal. 

She was going to wake up soon. 

"What did you find?" Mary asked, breezing past Beatrice to go straight to Camila. 

Camila gestured to the screen. "Just like Mother Superion said, these are our guys." 

The footage showed a group of men walking down all too familiar hallways. 

It was the same route that they had taken on their mission. 

"How did they even get in?" Mary asked. 

"Fake security documents, probably. Or Vincent has people on the inside already." Camila said. "Besides, if you walk into a place like you own it, people are more likely to leave you alone."

"Let's face it, they probably also killed anyone who got in their way." Mary added. "Have you sent these to Jillian?" 

"Yep." Camila began to scroll through the footage again. "Now I just want to see them leaving with this crate."

Beatrice had to admit that she wanted to see this crate for herself too. 

She could feel her brain probing at its mention, searching but ultimately coming up short. 

Beatrice watched Lilith twitch again. 

How much time did she have left with Ava? 

 

--

 

Both of them knew they were waking up. 

For Lilith, she could feel her focus slipping. Distant voices that she eventually recognised as Camila, Mary and Beatrice. 

In Ava's case, Lilith watched her slowly begin to freeze up, any movement she took resulted in pain flashing across her features. 

Time was short. 

"Okay." Ava gave a very slight nod and closed her eyes. "Antagonise Vincent, Adriel or the henchmen to try and find out if they've got the tarask skeleton." 

"I… didn't say antagonise." 

"Look, insulting these guys at any and every opportunity is all I have." Ava replied. "I'm gonna insult them." 

"Just… Be careful, Ava." Lilith said. "They may not kill you but there's nothing to say they won't make you suffer more." 

Ava cast her eyes to the ground and sighed. 

"Have you thought about a message for Beatrice?" 

"I… There's too much I want to say." Ava said quietly. 

Her curiosity was getting the better of her. 

And this was Ava, who was much easier to get talking. Who maybe, if she asked, would give some clarity to the matter. 

"Ava." Lilith began. "What is going on between you two?" 

"Nothing." Ava replied, though her tone carried some doubt. "I mean… There wasn't." 

"But?" 

"I think about her all the time." Ava said. "Even with you and Shannon, it's her voice I hear when I feel myself slipping or when I'm scared. I'm scared for you all but…" 

"She's who you think about first." 

"...Yeah." Ava sighed again, and despite the flash of pain over her face when she tips her head back to meet Lilith's inquisitive stare, Lilith found a conflicted look in those eyes. "Adriel was in my head." 

She had already told Lilith that. 

"He used the term beloved." Ava whispered. 

"And you think he was referring to Beatrice?" 

This was more than Lilith had expected to hear, and clearly Ava hadn't intended to mention it herself.

"I don't know what he saw in my head. I can't even pick apart my own thoughts on this. I don't know what it means." 

Lilith chose to push a little more. "Think about Beatrice." 

"Easy." 

"How do you feel?" 

"Scared, uncertain… But, safe." Ava looked almost embarrassed. "I want to hug her and stop her from feeling any more pain." 

"Is there more?" Lilith asked. 

Ava grew almost wistful. "There's always more." 

Camila and Mary's voices grew louder in the back of her mind, the corners of Lilith's vision shifted. 

Her time was almost up. 

When Ava doubled over and cursed under her breath, Lilith knew her hold on their dream was slipping too. 

Lilith got up and swiftly made her way across the room to Ava. 

She couldn't explain her choice to kneel in front of the younger girl, and she definitely couldn't explain why she chose to lean forward to press her forehead against Ava's. 

There was no sensation from the act. But she saw Ava close her eyes all the same. 

Maybe the act of the gesture was enough to bring some comfort to Ava. 

"Hold onto that, Ava. Whatever happens next, until we bring you home, hold onto that. Hold onto Beatrice and what you will say to her when you're reunited again." 

Ava's voice was strained. "I will."

"What is your message for her?" 

As Ava spoke, her voice shook. 

Lilith felt her consciousness slip. 

 

--

 

Ava startled awake to the sound of her prison door slamming shut. 

She groaned as she lifted her head in time to see one of her goon buddies set down a plate of food and a bottle of water. 

The sight of it made her stomach clench painfully. 

"You look like shit." He said. 

Well, duh. 

She was dying. 

"Still hotter than you." Ava replied. 

The other man lingered by the door, too preoccupied on his phone to pay her any attention. 

They were really letting their guard down around her now. The threat she posed with the halo faded with each passing hour. 

Ava's thoughts were all over the place, everything Lilith said burned into her chest. 

She hoped Lilith had gotten her message. 

But there was time to pick apart everything they had discussed later. 

Right now, Ava had dumb and dumber in her presence. 

"How did you two get stuck with babysitting duty?" She asked. 

Ava tried to push herself up, only to have her arms give out from under her. 

Fuck. 

Don't panic. 

Don't fucking panic. 

"Cause from the shit I've been hearing from you two gossips, everybody else got all the fun jobs." Ava continued. 

"Shut up." The guy in front of her said as he turned away. "They're dead, we're not. It's an easy gig." 

"Padre needs us here." The one of his phone continued. "Keeping an eye on you is just part of our job." 

"What, Vincent needs you to read him his bed time story?" Ava asked. 

He lowered his phone to glare at her. "Watch your mouth." 

"Try and fucking stop me." Ava replied. "You both call this an easy job but I think you say that because you're too cowardly to get out there and fight." 

He stormed forward, only to be stopped by the other man throwing an arm out to block him and sealed her cell once more. 

"She's trying to get a rise out of you man." 

"Yeah well, it's fucking working." 

Ava felt as though she was on the right path, that she was on the verge of getting the answer she was looking for. 

As the more agitated one opened his mouth, the phone in his hand buzzed the same instant the other henchman's phone beeped. 

He looked down at the screen. "Oh shit, it's from Lukas." 

"What?" They both crowded around the phone. "Shit, I thought he was dead." 

"Nah look. He's found those nuns have been hiding. He sent a link with coordinates and everything!" 

"We should go tell Padre before -" The calmer of the two sighed and grabbed the phone. "-you click it." 

Ava hid her smile against the ground. 

Go Camila. 

"Come on. We need to tell Padre so he can… Get a team together to check it out." 

"Yeah, right. Is the cell locked?" 

"Yep." 

"Let's go." 

Ava watched them leave and let out a steady breath. 

She may not have gotten the answers she needed, but Ava could relax a little easier knowing Camila's virus had found its target. 

Thank God for those two dumbasses. 

Alone once more, Ava had only her pain and thoughts for company. 

She really, really hoped that Beatrice got her message. 

 

--

 

"I still don't understand." Mary said. "If it's divinium they want, and I'm not even getting into why they want it. Then why not attack the cradle? Why go all the way back to the Vatican?" 

Camila was still searching through the footage. 

They had found Mother Superion head towards the tunnel and then return some time later. 

Now it was just a case of waiting for the men to finish their excavation to see the men make their return. 

"Maybe there's something else there that Adriel wants." Camila shrugged. She downed the rest of her coffee.

"They would have been identified much faster." Beatrice said. "It would have turned into a bloodbath." 

"Oh!" Camila pointed to her screen. "Here we go." 

Beatrice leaned closer to watch. 

The moment the group of men walked into frame, several led the group while others covered the back. In the centre, four men carried a metal crate, each holding a corner. 

The dots connected rapidly. 

If it was divinium that they were after, then Beatrice knew of another source within the Vatican walls. 

Camila was right. 

"Camila." Beatrice grabbed the back of her seat. "Can you get us a visual on the archives?" 

Mary cast a sidelong glance at her. "Beatrice?" 

"The shield of faith. Duretti had it sent to the Vatican." 

Had it been at the cradle, Beatrice had no doubt that Vincent's men would have gone there instead. 

Camila clicked through the various cameras until the screen turned black. 

"Um." Camila clicked through two more. "...I don't know if that's necessary. Look." 

As the men made their way down another hallway, they were joined by two more men. These two were dressed in fine suits, one carried a crate of their own. 

"I'm going to go ahead and guess they came from the archive?" Mary asked, reaching for her phone. 

"Yes." 

"I'm calling Mother Superion." 

Behind them Lilith gasped sharply and shot upright. 

Beatrice glanced at her and back to Camila, stopping her before she could scramble out of her seat. "Try and find more footage. Licence plate, proof they took the shield, anything." 

She turned to head towards Lilith, getting a hand on her shoulder to keep her on the sofa before Lilith could stand. 

Beatrice knew that if Lilith wanted to, she could have easily brushed the touch aside, but thankfully Lilith followed her silent instructions and remained still.

"Is she okay?" Camila called. 

"How do you feel?" Beatrice asked, kneeling at her feet. "How is your head? What happened?" 

She could hear Mary and Camila talking behind her, an urgency to each of their voices. 

But it all faded as Lilith looked at her with sad eyes. 

Lilith's own hand found Beatrice's shoulder. 

"This is just another twenty foot wall, Beatrice. We've made it before and we'll make it through again." Lilith said. "I'll come through the other side. It'll just be like last time." 

Beatrice's heart simultaneously cracked and combusted. 

"...Ava."

"Trust me." Lilith finished softly. And after a brief pause, nodded. "Yes, that was from Ava." 

Beatrice dropped her gaze to the floor. 

Mary was talking in hushed but frantic tones to Mother Superion. Camila was on the phone too, even though the rapid typing picked up once more. 

But now Beatrice could only think of Ava, and how she had chosen these specific words. 

And had she been there to tell Beatrice in person, Beatrice knew what her answering words would have been. 

"I do." 

In the story of Icarus, he escaped his prison and made his escape on wings made of wax and feathers. 

The allure of the sun proved too tempting however, and despite the warnings he had been given, he flew higher. 

His fingertips reached for the sun and the wax melted away. Burning feathers rained down around him as he fell into the tides below. 

The question was... 

Which of them was Icarus? 

And which of them was the sun?

 

Chapter Text

 

Even with Mary pacing the length of the room, talking intently on the phone to Mother Superion, the room somehow still managed to feel heavy with silence. 

All Lilith could do was sit on the sofa and watch her move, Camila's hand on her back was the only thing that was grounding Lilith at the moment. 

Lilith couldn't focus on the words that Mary was saying. Her mind was still trying to catch up on everything that was going on. 

She had managed to tell them everything about her conversation with Ava. What Ava had figured out, what their theories were. 

The only part Lilith had left out had been their discussion of Beatrice. 

Lilith had no intention on sharing something Ava had told her in such confidence. 

Adriel was keeping Ava alive so that he could find and kill her first, Lilith had already had time to come to terms with that. 

The others… they seemed to be taking a bit longer to process it. 

Not that Lilith could blame them, with everything that was already going on, this was just another weight on each of their shoulders. 

Lilith's gaze shifted to where Beatrice sat motionless against the wall. 

She had been silent since Lilith had passed on Ava's message. 

"Can I get you anything?" Camila asked quietly. "Water?" 

She was so concerned. Her hand hadn't so much as left its place on Lilith's back since she had sat down beside her. 

"I'm fine, Camila. You don't need to baby me." Lilith looked away from Beatrice and dropped her gaze to her knees. "You can get back to work if you need to." 

"It's not babying, Lilith. You were tranquillised and just went through some intense stuff." Camila replied, and despite everything, her tone still managed to sound amused. "This is somebody taking care of you and making sure you're alright." 

Lilith had to admit, she didn't hate the feeling. 

"You're sure?" Mary asked. 

Lilith looked back over to her as she stopped pacing. 

"Yeah, okay. Look, just be careful if you're going to stay there, you're already at risk and now…" Mary trailed off and sighed. "I know. Stay safe, Mother Superion." 

Mary ran a hand over her hair as she felt Lilith and Camila's eyes on her and turned to face them. 

"The shield is gone. The Vatican isn't even on lockdown and they won't tell her anything." Mary explained. 

"Which means that it's very likely that they've already been infiltrated." Lilith guessed. 

"Yeah." Mary folded her arms over her chest. 

"What do we do?" Camila asked. 

"Superion said not to worry about her. We can't do anything right now, our focus is Ava and Ava alone." Mary said. 

Lilith looked back over to Beatrice. 

She was listening, her gaze had followed Mary around the room and Lilith watched as Beatrice shifted, her eyes meeting Lilith's own. 

Lilith couldn't even begin to make sense of the storm of emotion behind those eyes.

She was struggling so much. 

To know that they now had to worry about protecting Lilith from Adriel, that a fragment of the halos power existed within Lilith… 

Not even taking into account how they still didn't know where Ava was, all while being so painfully aware that Ava had been getting progressively worse since all of this began. 

It was too much. 

But Lilith had to wonder if Ava's message had also had an impact on Beatrice's current mood. 

Lilith suspected it was both. 

 

--

 

All Beatrice wanted to do was cry. 

She should be thinking of plans to help them. Strategies on how to get to Ava and to best fight against Adriel, Vincent and their men. 

Anything to keep herself occupied. 

But Beatrice couldn't do any of that. 

Even if she knew where Ava was, even if she knew the layout, the numbers they were against and what firepower they had, Beatrice knew she would still be frozen. 

Adriel already had Ava and now he wanted Lilith too. 

Lilith, whose eyes had rarely left Beatrice since she had told them everything. 

Beatrice didn't acknowledge any of them, even as they all talked about Mother Superion and the Vatican. 

How were they supposed to do this? 

How was Beatrice supposed to be of any use to them? 

She was injured, unfocused. Exhausted to a point that her body didn't even feel like it could relax enough to let her sleep again. 

Beatrice was dead weight to her team. 

To be able to help protect Lilith. 

To save Ava. 

Ava had told her to trust her, that this was just another twenty foot wall. But honestly? 

Beatrice couldn't see an end to her wall. 

She was nothing more than a burden. 

"Is there any point in trying to track these guys from the Vatican, Camila?" Mary asked. 

Camila sighed. "Honestly? We know they're going back to Adriel. Whether they're able to fly back somehow or if they're driving, the amount of time it'd take to do everything? Find the van leaving the Vatican, hacking into every traffic system to follow them…"

"It's was too much." Mary finished for her. "Yeah, I thought it was a long shot." 

There was an alert tone from the desk that had even Beatrice looking over. 

When Camila left Lilith's side to walk over, she felt a small flash of hope in her chest. 

Beatrice held her breath as Camila leaned over to move her mouse across the screen and type in a few commands. 

"The virus has been activated." Camila said, letting out a small, breathless laugh. "It's downloading the data from the phone." 

Even from Camila's tone, Beatrice knew that she was surprised that her virus had worked. 

They were one step closer to finding out where Ava was. 

"How long?" Beatrice asked. 

Everybody looked over to her. It had been the first time she had spoken since Lilith had woken up. 

"I can't say for certain." Camila admitted quietly. "It's downloading but it's also using the devices mobile data to do that. As soon as it's downloaded everything onto here we'll have a whole digital footprint of everywhere the owner has been."

Mary and Lilith both moved from their spots to stand beside Camila and after a moment of apprehension, Beatrice rose to her feet too and walked over to join them. 

Camila pulled up a window and hovered her mouse over the empty bar. 

"This is the progress. When it's finished, I'll get another alert." 

"So we're stuck until then?"Lilith asked. 

"Yeah, I'm sorry." 

There was only a small hint of guilt in Camila's tone, and Beatrice felt her chest ache upon hearing it. 

She was quick to speak up again. 

"Don't be sorry." Beatrice said. "None of this would be possible without you, Camila." 

Camila looked like she was about to start crying from sheer relief. 

Beatrice couldn't look. She knew that if she saw so much as a tear, she would break herself. 

Mary reached up to rest a hand on Camila's shoulder. "Seriously, you're amazing. You should be proud of yourself. We sure as hell are."

Camila sniffed. "Hold onto that pride until I get Ava's location." 

"We have every faith in you." Lilith said

"Do you think it's safe to say this will take a few hours?" Mary asked. 

"Minimum." Camila nodded. "it hasn't even hit one percent yet so I'm going to to guess that wherever they are, reception isn't the best." 

Mary stepped away from them all. "Okay, plan of action then. We're all going to eat something and then we need to take it in turns to try and get some rest." 

She wasn't subtle in the way that she looked at both Beatrice and Camila. 

Beatrice couldn't find it in herself to try and protest. 

They were going to make sure she at least tried. 

"What about the virus?" Camila asked. 

"We'll take it in turns. Whichever one of us stays awake will watch it." Lilith said. "And if it finishes while you're asleep then we'll come get you." 

Mary had already began to head towards the kitchen, apparently satisfied enough with the current plan of action. 

Beatrice sighed and watched her go, unsure of what to do now. 

 

--

 

Ava wondered what her friends were doing. 

How had they reacted to Lilith telling them of their theory about where the fragment of the halo was? 

Were they as scared as she was? Were they all making plans of attack? 

Did they have her location yet from the virus? 

Were they on their way to her right now? 

What had Beatrice said in response to her message? 

Had Beatrice found comfort in her words? Reassured that even though they were currently apart, that somehow they would still make it through all of this together? 

Or had Ava only served to add to Beatrice's pain? Another layer of grief for her to suffocate under. 

There were too many questions for Ava to entertain with no answers to put any of them to rest. 

And with nobody but herself for company, all Ava could do was continue to ask them to herself. 

Ava sighed and shifted to sit up more securely, only to feel another stabbing pain shoot down her spine, causing her to cry out, face hitting the ground as her arms gave out under her. 

The pain radiated through her chest and arms, but all of it faded into the background in favour of the sudden, jarring numbness Ava felt in her legs. 

No. 

No, no, no. 

It took a moment for Ava to be able to focus on her breathing, to bring her hand down to press her fingers into her thigh. 

Ava could feel the touch, but barely. 

She was getting worse, and faster. 

It took a few moments, but Ava was able to move her left arm and fold it under her face. 

As the seconds stretched into minutes, Ava could feel a weight building on her back, pressing down until it felt like her chest was being crushed and breathing steadily became a conscious effort. 

It felt like her lungs were filling with fluid, an uncomfortable gurgling beneath her sternum with each inhale. 

She could taste copper. 

She felt like she was drowning. 

Ava just had to stay focused. 

She knew her friends, they weren't going to give up on their rescue mission. Ava knew that even without Lilith's promise. 

But even with that to hold onto, Ava still had to wonder just how much time she had left. 

Ava knew she should probably be scared. 

But Ava held onto what Shannon had told her when this had all started. 

It was only time to worry if she came to Ava while Ava was still conscious. 

Until then, Ava just had to focus on staying awake. 

To hope for Vincent or maybe even Adriel to pay her a visit so she could try to get some more information from them. 

She just had to focus on staying alive. 

 

--

 

Nobody really had all that much of an appetite.

They hadn't since Ava had been taken, or had all been out of necessity. 

And considering the limited options that they had left within the safe house, there was very little motivation for any of them to eat more than they needed to keep going. 

But as Lilith looked over from her spot at Camila's desk to where Beatrice sat on the sofa, half heartedly poking her fork into her cup of noodles, Lilith realised that Beatrice in particular had kept eating relatively low on her priorities. 

Lilith couldn't even remember the last time she had seen Beatrice eat. 

Neither of them had spoken, while Camila and Mary had gone to get some sleep, Lilith had taken over the watch of the download. 

It was currently sitting at twenty percent. 

To watch it brought back memories of dial up and AOL. 

It certainly inspired very similar feelings of frustration and impatience. 

Ava was sitting in a cell somewhere, dying. 

And Lilith was watching a computer download. 

If Ava were there, Lilith had no doubts that she would have a pun or two at hand. 

"You should really finish that." Lilith said softly. "If you think it's bad now, they're almost inedible when cold." 

Beatrice frowned at the cup and leaned forward on the sofa to set it down on the coffee table. 

"I'm not hungry." 

Beatrice wasn't looking at her, but it didn't stop Lilith's gaze from becoming sympathetic. "You need to try, you need the energy Beatrice. You're still injured and you've still got to try and sleep too. No doubt as soon as we get Ava's location we'll need to head out right away." 

Beatrice reached up to rub at the back of her neck and shook her head. 

"Then I will sleep in the car if that's the case." Beatrice replied sharply. 

Lilith didn't believe her. And she knew that Beatrice was entirely aware of that too. 

Because if Beatrice wasn't sleeping now, what chance did she have when they were on their way to save her. 

Since Ava had been taken, Beatrice had pushed herself far beyond her limits. She had gone so far too try and save that girl. 

"Beatrice…" Lilith sighed. 

Lilith got to her feet and made her way over to the coffee table, and much like Beatrice had only a couple of hours before, she perched on the edge of the coffee table so that she was face to face with the younger girl. 

She looked so tired, so beaten and low. 

When it came to Beatrice, there had always been a sense of pain lingering behind the surface. An emotional turmoil that she tried so hard to keep hidden from them all. 

Lilith didn't need to see the cuts and bruises to be able to see that pain now. 

Beatrice couldn't hide it anymore. 

Beatrice watched Lilith carefully, but waited for Lilith to speak. 

"We've known each other for a long time. I know we haven't always seen eye to eye, but you know that I've always tried to look out for you as best as I can, right?" 

Beatrice nodded. "Yes." 

"So do you believe me when I say that we will bring Ava back?" Lilith asked. 

Beatrice dropped her gaze to the floor. "I want to." 

Lilith made sure that her voice was firm. "I need you to trust me, Beatrice. We will get her back." 

"Even at the risk of your own life?" Beatrice asked quietly. 

And there was Beatrice's new fear, exposed just for Lilith's eyes. 

Because to go after Ava would mean Lilith will need to go head first into the lions den. 

To put herself in direct sight of Adriel. 

He didn't scare her. 

Lilith had made as much clear to him herself. 

He was nothing more than a thief. 

He had stolen the halo. He had stolen Ava. 

Adriel had stolen precious time in which Ava could have been with them. With Beatrice.

With her family. 

"To save Ava?" Lilith asked. "Yes." 

Beatrice still wasn't looking at her. But she folded her hands together in her lap as her shoulders tensed. 

"You can still sense her, can't you?" Beatrice asked, finally lifting her head and looking at Lilith with watery eyes. 

"I can." Lilith confirmed. 

It had been getting harder to focus on as time passed, she knew it was because of Ava's injuries getting worse. They all did, even if Lilith didn't speak about it often. 

"If that shard wasn't in her back, I'd teleport to her immediately." Lilith said. "I'd get her and bring her back." 

"Even if you could… It would be too dangerous. You'd have no backup." Beatrice pointed out. 

"I wouldn't fight. It would just be to save her." 

Beatrice's knuckles began to turn white with the force in which she was gripping her own hands. 

Lilith wondered what extra weights Beatrice was placing on her own shoulders, if Beatrice was looking at Lilith and seeing a choice that had to be made. 

If, that to save Ava would mean sacrificing Lilith. 

Or vice versa. 

And while Lilith had no intention of allowing herself or Ava to die, if it did come to deciding between them, then that was not something that Beatrice would have to decide. 

That was Lilith's choice to make. 

Neither of them were going to die. She wouldn't allow it.

She thought about what Ava would say, if she were there. 

"Hey," Lilith nudged Beatrice's knee with her own. "Death didn't stop me and Ava before, did it?" 

The corners of Beatrice's lips quirked for a brief moment in a smile. 

"That's something Ava would say." Beatrice said. 

Lilith nodded. "I know."

Beatrice's eyes grew fond, even though Lilith only got to see it for a moment before Beatrice looked away. 

Lilith found herself thinking back to her conversation with Ava. The way Ava's own expression shifted when Beatrice came up. 

When she had asked Ava of her feelings, she had been met with some confusion. 

Ava knew that Beatrice was important to her. That the bond they shared went above what Ava had with the rest of them, but she hadn't been able to define it. 

She thought about Beatrice all the time. 

But everything was still somewhat new to Ava. 

Lilith wondered what Beatrice would say, if she asked a similar question. 

Actually… 

No.

Lilith was going to be daring. 

"Beatrice, " Lilith began. Her tone was steady, yet firm enough to have Beatrice meeting her gaze once more. "I'm going to ask you something. And it's probably going to make you uncomfortable…"

Beatrice's expression shifted, her lips pursed as she inhaled sharply through her nose. 

It was like she already knew. 

Lilith hurried to continue. "But I want you to know that you don't have to answer it and if you do, regardless of what you say, it won't change anything." 

Before she went as far as to ask Beatrice her question, Lilith wanted to make sure that Beatrice knew that there was no obligation. 

There was a flash of fear in Beatrice's eyes as she dropped her gaze. 

Beatrice let out a long, slow breath. 

"Ask it." 

Beatrice's voice was barely above a whisper. 

"Are you sure?" Lilith asked. 

Beatrice nodded. 

"Do you have feelings for Ava?" 

Beatrice drew in a shaky breath, and Lilith waited patiently until Beatrice eventually lifted her head once more. 

"Do you know the story of Sister Melanie?" Beatrice asked quietly. 

It wasn't what Lilith had been expecting to hear, but she was going to see where this took them all the same. 

"She became the Warrior Nun during World War Two." Lilith said. 

Lilith had studied every Warrior Nun through history. Before Ava, it had been expected of her to know the entire line. 

It was part of her family legacy. 

"The day you came back to us, Camila found her story in the journal." Beatrice said. "I read it for Ava. I was aware of Sister Melanie, but I… I hadn't known her story. Who she was."

Beatrice reached up to wipe under her eye as a tear fell. 

"I am like Sister Melanie." Beatrice said. "I… I'm gay." 

Her voice cracked around the admission, her gaze was wary as she watched Lilith for her reaction. 

This was Beatrice's pain. 

"Ava… She was the first person to see to see me for who I really am. To accept me." Beatrice almost smiled at the apparent memory. "She told me not to hate myself, that who I am beautiful. She saw past everything else." 

"Ava is right." Lilith said. 

Beatrice looked surprised at her words, blinking rapidly and leaning away from her. 

Did Beatrice not believe that? 

Did Beatrice really carry so much hatred for herself? 

She knew that Beatrice carried a lot of negative feelings for herself because of the things that had happened since Ava had been taken, but Lilith had no idea that Beatrice's feelings for herself were so deeply rooted. 

Lilith leaned forward to rest her hand on Beatrice's shoulder. 

"It's hard to accept a beautiful thing sometimes." Lilith said softly. "And as I said, Ava is right. You are beautiful. All of you." 

Beatrice hadn't confirmed her feelings for Ava, but she didn't really need to. 

To have the strength to come out? 

That was so much. 

And much like Lilith had done with Ava, she moved her hand from Beatrice's shoulder to the back of her head and leaned in, pressing their foreheads together and closing her eyes as Beatrice did the same. 

"This is one burden you can let go of, Beatrice." Lilith said. "I know it will take time, but know that you are accepted. And know that you are loved."

She knew Beatrice was crying, but Lilith moved to draw back all the same, only to have Beatrice reach up to clutch at her wrist and press her forehead back against Lilith's. 

"We're going to bring Ava back, Beatrice. I promise." 

"Thank you, Lilith. For everything." 

Lilith smoothed her hand over Beatrice's hair. "I only ask one thing." 

"What is it?" 

Beatrice finally released Lilith's wrist and leaned back so that they could meet each others gaze once more. 

"Please, get some rest." Lilith said. "Whatever comes next… We need to be ready." 

As Beatrice wiped the tears from her cheeks, the love in her eyes was clear Lilith to see. 

"But you'll be on your own." 

Lilith smiled. "I'll wake Mary up, she said to only let her sleep for an hour." 

"Are you sure?" Beatrice asked. 

"Yes Beatrice. Please, try to get some sleep." 

There was still some reluctance as Beatrice got to her feet and Lilith watched her slowly leave the room. 

Lilith listened until she heard Beatrice's door close before she got up herself and walked back over to the computer. 

Forty percent. 

All Lilith could do now was wait. 

 

--

 

Beatrice sat on the bed with her back pressed against the headboard. 

Ava's sword rested on the wall to her left. 

The journal lay unopened in her lap. 

Her hands were still shaking. 

She had told Lilith. 

She had actually said the word. 

Beatrice had openly said that she was gay to her oldest friend. 

And Lilith still loved her. 

This was a burden you could let go of. 

They all knew who she was, even though Beatrice hadn't actually said as much to Camila, Beatrice suspected she had known for a while. 

But they all still loved her. 

And all they wanted was for her to love herself. 

It didn't seem like a possibility for her. 

Even so, their faith in her was reassuring. 

But Beatrice still had only one priority, and that was to get Ava back. 

With a quiet sigh, Beatrice opened the journal, looking down at the blank page after Shannon's entry. 

She wanted Ava to be able to tell her story. To share her thoughts and feelings alongside the words of all those who came before her. 

Beatrice wanted to read the between the lines of the girl that had come to mean so much to her. 

She allowed herself a moment to trace the empty page before she flicked back through until she saw familiar handwriting. 

Beatrice knew the entry word for word, but as her eyes landed on the first word, Beatrice found a sense of comfort and began to read. 

I became the warrior nun in the summer of 1942...

 

--

 

It took a long time, but Ava eventually managed to drag herself upright enough to rest her shoulder against the wall. 

They position was only slightly less uncomfortable than being on the floor, 

It didn't help the pressure on her chest, and Ava had to be careful to not let her body shift. 

She didn't want to imagine the amount of pain she'd be in if she pressed her back against the wall and pushed the shard in even deeper. 

Ava wiped the blood from her chin as she finally recovered from her most recent coughing fit. 

Her thoughts inadvertently drifted back to the orphanage. 

Unable to move. 

Alone. 

And we will never leave you. 

God. Beatrice. 

Her path had inevitably led her right back to the same point. 

Ava knew that she had to hold onto hope. 

But… 

"You're reaching the end." 

Ava didn't turn her head, but managed to glare at Adriel from the corner of her eye. 

"Get out of my fucking head." She growled. 

Adriel smiled. "You have every right to be afraid." 

"Yeah," Ava scoffed. "You'd know all about fear, wouldn't you? Running away is what got you on Earth in the first place." 

"You know nothing about how I came to be here." 

Ava closed her eyes and laughed. "You're right, don't know, don't care. But I'd be willing to guess that you stole from fire daddy and ran away so you wouldn't get grounded."

She opened her eyes and turned her head just enough to see Adriel step closer. 

"So close to death, and yet you still act so… aloof." 

Ava forced herself to grin at him, bloodied teeth and all. "What? You want me to beg? Nah, not going to happen. I'm not going to give you the satisfaction." 

"How bold." 

That was certainly one way to put it. 

"Tell me Adriel. What happens when this chunk of metal finishes me off before you get to Lilith?" Ava asked, her grin only grew at the genuine look of surprise on Adriel's face. "Because it is Lilith you want, isn't it?" 

"I have to admit, I'm impressed." Adriel said as he regarded her with interest. "How did you manage to come to that conclusion on your own?" 

Ava forced herself to focus on the pain in her chest, to not let her thoughts deviate. 

"Impaled by a tarask and now has claws? It wasn't exactly a leap." Ava replied. "Plus you're so insistent on keeping this shard in me because tarasks hone in on the halos energy and -"

"And the last thing we needed was for you to lead your friends directly to us." Adriel finished. "Honestly as much as an inconvenience you and your little group have been, I suppose I should be happy that the halo and tarask powers fell into such incapable hands." 

Oh. 

No, fuck that. 

Ava managed to lift her hand enough to give Adriel the finger. 

"How's this for incapable hands?" Ava asked. 

"Besides, sweet thing -" 

"Ew. Never call me that again." Ava interrupted. 

It was worth it just for the flash of anger on Adriel's face. 

He really hated to be interrupted. It was great. 

"The welfare of your friend is of no concern to you. In a few hours, this will all be over for all of you." Adriel said as he smiled. "I only came to advise you to make peace. Enjoy your final hours, Ava. I will be sure to visit again before you join those who came before you." 

Ava closed her eyes as she heard Adriel walk away and felt tears threatening to spill.

Final hours, huh? 

At least Ava could take comfort in the knowledge that Adriel had underestimated her friends, it sounds like he didn't even know how much Lilith was aware of her powers.

He didn't even bring up her ability to teleport. 

God, she hoped Lilith kicked his ass. 

Ava froze suddenly. 

She had heard Adriel walk away. She had listened to those steps fade. 

So why could she still sense a presence around her? 

A cold yet steady calm took over as Ava let out a slow breath and opened her eyes. 

Shannon sat in front of her, eyes filled with grief as she met Ava's gaze. 

Oh. 

Ava tried to smile reassuringly back. 

She couldn't cry. 

"This is where we start to worry, isn't it?" 

 

Chapter Text

 

The download was at ninety percent. 

Mary knew the saying, a watched pot never boils, but she truly struggled to take her eyes off of the screen. 

She'd tried to keep herself busy, checking over every weapon, reloading them all and packing them up. 

Mary wanted them to be ready. As soon as they had Ava's location, they were leaving. 

She had even found every medical supply she could. 

They had to be ready for a fight. They had to be ready to save Ava. 

Mary rubbed her eyes and sighed. 

Camila was in the kitchen, making coffee while Beatrice and Lilith slept. 

At least, she hoped they were trying to sleep. 

Mary drummed her fingers against the desk and looked at the screen again. 

Still ninety percent. 

She had to keep telling herself to be patient, even with the weight of fear pressing down on her. 

Logically, Mary knew how important it was to do everything they could to ensure that Adriel didn't get the halo. If they lost the halo, she didn't know what chance they stood of winning this war. 

But honestly? Mary didn't care. 

Because all Mary could think about was what they'd do if they lost Ava. If she died. 

They'd be lost. 

Beatrice had already known that feeling once. 

Mary didn't know what Beatrice would do if that happened. 

She really couldn't think about it. 

 

--

 

Ava kept her hand to her chest, if for no other reason than to remind herself that it was still beating. 

"That's right." Shannon said softly. "Keep breathing." 

Ava opened her eyes. "I'm definitely working on it." 

She was still sitting sideways, shoulder aching from not moving for so long. 

Shannon sat beside her, back against the wall, head tilted to the side as she watched Ava carefully. 

"I'm here, Ava. Just focus on that." 

Ava smiled. "You gonna hold my hand until it's over?" 

Shannon was more than accustomed to her behaviours by now, and even though Ava couldn't feel it, it didn't stop Shannon from reaching over all the same. 

"Thank you." 

"Of course." 

"Are you sure you don't want to play charades?" Ava asked. 

Shannon raised an eyebrow. "Ava, you can barely move." 

"Barely being the operative term here." 

"Besides, you're terrible at charades." 

"Hey!" Ava mock exclaimed. "You can't be mean to me, what if that was my dying wish?" 

"I'm dead." Shannon said. "If anything I should get the free pass here." 

They stared at each other for a moment before Ava cracked and snorted. Her heart was fond as she looked at the girl beside her. 

She was so thankful to have Shannon with her. 

"I think we would have been good friends, you know." Ava said quietly. 

"Absolutely. We would have driven Mary and Lilith crazy." 

Ava gave a small nod of agreement. "Definitely, they wouldn't have been able to kick us both off of a cliff." 

"They'd certainly try." 

"Also true. Beatrice would protect us though." 

Oh, Beatrice. 

She wasn't sure what Shannon saw on her face, or what thoughts she could pick from the depth of Ava's thoughts, but Shannon's own expression grew soft. 

"You really care about her, don't you?" 

"More than even I can begin to understand." 

Ava wished that she could live just to have more time to try and understand. 

If she tried to think about it now, Ava felt as though she would begin to cry. 

"What about eye spy?" Ava suggested. 

"There's literally only cement around us." 

"Party pooper." 

Ava was just glad that for a moment, Shannon was entertaining her. That she was letting them joke around like she wasn't walking a very fine line right now. 

But Ava was mostly just thankful that Shannon was here, that Ava wasn't alone. 

Or abandoned. 

Or forgotten. 

Silence stretched on for a few moments, long enough for Ava to hear footsteps against the stairs. 

She turned her head enough to see Vincent enter the room. 

"Oh. I spy with my little eye, something beginning with L." 

Vincent raised an eyebrow as he approached the glass. 

"Is it little bitch boy?" Shannon asked. 

"It's little bitch boy." Ava grinned. 

Vincent glared at her. 

It was never not going to be funny. 

"What will it take to break that spirit, Ava?" Vincent asked. 

"Remember Ava, he can't see or hear me. Try not to look at me, okay?" Shannon said quietly. 

Ava managed a small shrug. "I'm already dying, Vincent, what more do you want from me?" 

Vincent regarded her thoughtfully. "Tell me Ava. Camila, did you know that her first mission was the day you got the halo? The day that Shannon died?" 

Ava didn't need to look at the girl beside her to know that Shannon was glaring at him. 

"You mean the day you murdered her?" Ava asked. "Yeah, she'd mentioned it." 

Only once. But she had talked about it briefly. 

"So young," Vincent said. "One of the youngest in the Order. I imagine she must have been forged in fire since you came to join them." 

Ava was confused about where he was heading with this conversation, but Shannon had leaned forward, watching him carefully. 

Besides, Vincent rarely said anything without a point. 

And Ava doubted he was about to start wasting time now. 

"Yeah, Camila is a badass. What's your point?" 

"There was a reason why we wanted her for the order. Lilith had her family legacy, her combat skills. Beatrice, she was exceptional at so many things and had a drive with no ulterior motive." Vincent explained. "And while Camila is fearless, almost reckless. The skills she brought to the OCS were specific. Something that not even Beatrice could compare to." 

Shannon inhaled sharply. "...Ava."

Ava's jaw tensed to avoid reacting to Shannon. 

They couldn’t give anything up.

"It was her computer skills." 

 Yeah… Ava didn't like where this was going.

"And you've no doubt figured out by now that because of Lilith's new nature that she can sense the halo. That if not for that shard in your back, it would have acted as a homing beacon, allowing for Lilith to lead your sisters directly here. It would have interrupted our plans." Vincent smiled and shrugged." It's a shame really, to become part tarask and be so limited."

Shannon hummed. "It definitely feels like they don't know she can teleport."

Ava had to agree. The guy had a good poker face, but if he was talking this much then surely he would have let that information slip. 

Time to do a little test. 

"What, the claws aren't cool enough?" Ava asked. "I mean personally I'd prefer not to turn grey but you can't win them all." 

Vincent scoffed. "A true tarask can move between their world and ours. They can latch onto the halo's power and manifest their existence to that very same spot." 

"You could have just said teleport, you know." Ava replied. "Using more words doesn't make you smarter." 

Silver lining, he definitely didn't know. 

Vincent folded his arms across his chest, Ava's gaze briefly drifted to the lines of blue that illuminated his arm. 

"But I digress." He continued. "When Lilith inevitably realised that she would not be able to locate you, your sisters would begin to look for other methods. Which is where Camila comes in." 

The dread was building again in Ava's chest, as if it wasn't already hard enough to breathe. 

"Listen buddy, not trying to rush you or anything but you are quite literally boring me to death right now. What's your point here?" 

As much as Ava hated it when he looked at her as though he was addressing a child, over the last few days she had come to associate it with knowing that she had riled him up.

"My point is, I knew what Camila would try to do. You forget that I knew these girls long before you. I know their strategies, their weaknesses. So I made sure that the men I brought here would be able to beat them at their own game."

Shannon sighed under her breath as she reached up to push a hand through her hair. 

Ava knew why.

The dots were connecting rapidly, all they had to do was wait for Vincent to confirm their fears. 

"So when Valentine got his phone infected with her little virus, his phone was brought straight to me, which I handed over to one of my men." Vincent pressed both of his hands to the glass and tilted his head as he smiled, almost pitifully. "Since then, he's been working to trace the source." 

"Why are you telling me this?" Ava asked. 

"Because a team of my men have already left. They don't have the specific coordinates, but they know the area and I would rather not waste more time. I imagine they'll be there in a little over an hour." 

"You son of a bitch." Shannon spat. 

"They're going to slaughter your family. They're going to send Lilith back to where she came from and if you haven't already died by that point, then my Lord will come to send you to our maker." 

Ava couldn't breathe. 

It was a trap. 

They were in danger. 

"Ava, breathe." Shannon urged quietly. 

An hour. They only had an hour. 

How many men were they sending? 

She trusted them more than anything, Ava knew how skilled they all were. But an ambush? Did they stand a chance? 

"It's not over yet, Vincent." Ava said quietly. 

"Your time is up, Ava." Vincent replied. "But I wouldn't worry too much, I'm sure you'll see them again. In this life or the next, yes?" 

Ava felt the halo whir weakly, fuelled by her anger, the pain that followed brought more blood to her lips. 

How dare he say those words. 

Ava may not truly understand the depth of them. But she knew how important they were. 

She could respect them. 

"You're going to burn, Vincent. One way or another." Ava snapped. 

Her words had no effect on him as he stepped back. 

"Goodbye, Ava. I hope you enjoyed what little life you got to live." 

She watched him leave. 

Ava would have screamed, had she known she would be spared from further pain. 

The tears that found their way down her cheeks would have to be enough. 

"Shannon, what the fuck do we do?" Ava asked. 

"They're strong Ava, they can fight." Shannon replied. "They might already know where you are." 

Ava turned her head to focus on Shannon. 

"But what if they don't? What if they're still there, waiting and they get attacked?" 

Shannon said nothing. 

"You have to go." Ava urged. "Link with Mary. You have to warn her!" 

"I can't." Shannon replied, her voice strained, eyes full of grief. "She's not asleep." 

The tears threatened to fall faster. 

"I can't fall asleep." Ava said. "There's too much pain now." 

Ava closed her eyes as her brain struggled to think of something, anything that could help their family. 

She can link to Lilith through the bond they have with the halo. The same applies to Shannon. 

Shannon can link to Mary because of their bond, though that only happened because of the halo and the fact that Shannon died. 

Oh. 

Ava lifted her head slightly. 

Her time was almost up, Ava had pretty much made her peace with that. 

She knew that her friends were trying to save her. They hadn't given up on her. 

It wasn't their fault that they had run out of time. 

But if Ava was going to die, she wasn't going to let that happen without trying to save her family first. 

Ava took a deep breath and pressed her hand against the wall and drew upon the last bit of strength she had to move. 

Shannon watched on in confusion as Ava twisted and turned until she was facing the front of the cell. 

"Ava… What are you doing?" 

It took everything for Ava to hold herself upright, to not let herself fall back against the wall as she tried steady her breathing. 

She closed her eyes and took one more deep breath. 

When she opened them, Shannon was kneeling in front of her, her expression full of worry. 

"Ava? What are you doing?" She asked again. 

Something that Shannon really wasn't going to like. 

"Have you…" Ava let out her breath. "Have you ever seen Avatar?" 

Shannon frowned. "Weird alien cgi or the cartoon?" 

"Cartoon, obviously." 

"Oh. Then no." 

Ava knew that this was a serious moment, but that didn't stop her from letting the disappointment show clearly on her face. 

"Then this reference is one hundred percent wasted on you." Ava said. "But… best case scenario? I activate my avatar dream state." 

"One, I don't know what that means." Shannon said. "Two, what do you mean best case scenario?" 

Ava tried to smile. "You can only link with Mary because you died, right?" 

Shannon understood now. She shook her head. "Ava… Ava, no." 

"What if I was dead?" Ava asked. "Or… unconscious and mostly dead?" 

"Ava-" 

"I know it's a risk, Shannon." Ava interrupted. "But we both also know that you can't stop me." 

"There has to be another way." 

"Nah." Ava shook her head. "I've made my peace with this. But if it doesn't work…" 

"I'll keep trying to reach Mary." Shannon finished. 

Ava smiled. "Thank you Shannon, for everything." 

Shannon smiled too, she rested her hands on Ava's knees. 

Ava missed feeling the touch of others. 

"In this life or the next?" Shannon asked. 

"In this life or the next." Ava echoed. "Hey, I'll see you in my dreams." 

Before Shannon could say anything else, Ava threw herself back. 

As soon as she made contact, Ava felt the shard dig deeper into her spine. 

All of the pain Ava had felt up until this point paled in comparison, her ears rang. 

She was pretty sure she screamed. 

For the most fleeting of moments, Ava saw gold. 

And then everything turned white. 

 

--

 

Lilith sat on the edge of the bed. 

She'd left the lights off in the hopes that she would drift off, but as the minutes had stretched on it had become apparent that it wasn't going to happen. 

She may as well go back downstairs. 

Lilith got to her feet and stretched, before crossing the room towards the door. 

A pain shot through her spine with such force, her cry got caught in her throat. 

Lilith sank to her knees as she struggled to find her breath. 

Her heart constricted painfully as her vision began to blur. 

 

--

 

It was dark. 

Beatrice looked down at the sand around her shoes. 

Her feet weren't sinking the way that she was familiar with. The ground felt solid beneath her. 

Strange. 

Beatrice lifted her gaze to the sky. There was no moon that she could see but oh, there were so many stars. 

It was beautiful. 

It felt like a moment frozen in time, peaceful under any other circumstance but everything felt just off axis enough to leave Beatrice feeling more unsettled than anything else. 

The sound filtered through next, the gentle lapping of waves breaking against the shore. 

This was a dream. 

Wasn't it? 

It felt disjointed like one, but everything else made Beatrice feel as though she were wide awake. 

Beatrice looked ahead, the water dark in the distance, the horizon only noticeable thanks to the stars. 

But Beatrice's attention was on the two figures ahead of her. 

Both had their backs to Beatrice. The closest stood only a few feet away, the other stood at the edge of the water. 

Beatrice's heart caught when she looked at the second figure. 

Instinct called out to her. 

Beatrice moved forward, her footsteps silent and steady as she approached the closest figure. 

When they turned and saw Beatrice, the surprise was evident. 

Beatrice spoke first. 

"Shannon?" 

Shannon blinked, looking from Beatrice to the figure ahead and back again. 

"Beatrice…" Shannon greeted quietly. 

Beatrice didn't understand. This shouldn't be happening. 

Only Mary and Ava could see Shannon. She knew that. 

"How is this…" 

Shannon silenced her by raising her hand. 

"There's not enough time." She nodded towards the other figure. "Go." 

Beatrice still wanted to ask, she wanted to speak to her fallen friend. 

But her heart called for her to listen to Shannon's order. 

She did as she was told. Walking past Shannon and towards the water, stopping a scarce couple of feet away. 

The figure, the posture, the hair. Those alone were enough of a confirmation for Beatrice as to who this was, illuminated by an infinity of stars in front of her. 

But it was seeing the halo light up again. The glow it emitted so gentle, it was as though Beatrice was looking at a distant star burning into dust. 

Her Icarus, standing amongst an ocean of stars. 

Ava. 

"I came here the night I woke up." Ava spoke up softly. "This was where it stopped feeling like a dream. It's… Fitting. I missed the stars." 

Beatrice took the few final steps forward to join Ava at her side. 

Ava turned to face her and Beatrice did the same. 

And even though her eyes were full of tears as their eyes met, Ava looked so happy to see her. 

"...Beatrice." 

Beatrice could barely breathe. "Ava." 

"It's so fucking good to see you." Ava said. "I didn't think it'd work but… you're actually here." 

How was this happening? Beatrice had no link to the halo. She only had…

Beatrice's gaze snapped back to where Shannon stood in the distance and back to Ava. 

Mary and Shannon could link if… 

"Ava." Beatrice took a step closer, fingers twitching at her side, desperate to touch. To feel. "Are you…" 

She couldn't even bring herself to say the word. 

Ava looked sad as she glanced over to Shannon, she hummed. "Looks like the jury is still out on that one." 

Beatrice wanted to cry. "What did you do?" 

"I had to get a message to you. It was the only way." 

Beatrice lifted her left hand and reached out towards Ava, only to let it hover when Ava dropped her head and sighed. 

"You won't feel anything." Ava whispered. "We never feel touch here." 

But Ava lifted her right hand all the same. She pressed their hands together, palm against palm. 

She was right. 

There was no sensation. 

"But even if that's the case," Ava continued. "It still helps." 

Beatrice had to agree. 

She was here. She was here with Ava. 

"There's so much that I want to say." Beatrice said. 

"Me too." Ava replied. 

Beatrice knew she had to ask. 

She had to ask what Ava had done to herself. What was so important to leave her life hanging in the balance. 

God. Ava… She was here with Beatrice. 

But in a cell somewhere, she was clinging onto life. 

Beatrice's heart was breaking. 

There were only two things that Beatrice knew. 

The first was that Ava was standing before her. Tired, pale but as beautiful as Beatrice had always known her to be. 

The second was that the only reason that Mary and Shannon had ever been able to link in Mary's dreams, was because of the strength of their bond. Because of the way they felt for each other. 

A bond that remained strong even in death. 

So the fact that she was standing here, in this dreamscape with Ava meant that whatever they felt was strong enough to transcend everything else.

There was no word for it, but that realisation was enough. 

 

--

 

Lilith kept her distance. 

It had taken longer for the scenery to come into focus, but the moment she had seen Ava and Beatrice by the water. She halted her movements. 

She didn't even notice Shannon standing beside her until she spoke. 

"It's good to see you again." 

Lilith turned towards her. "You too, but… How?" 

"If I had to guess, I'd say that it was because of a last desperate halo flare." 

"What?" 

"Ava's dying, Lilith." 

Lilith looked across to where Ava stood. Watched as she lifted her hand to press it against Beatrice's. 

"And that's why Beatrice is here too." 

Shannon hummed. "You should go down there." 

"I know how important this moment is for them, they should get to enjoy it, even if it's just for a minute." 

"I know how important it is too." Shannon pointed out. "But believe me when I say, it's more important that you understand why Ava is here." 

Before Lilith could protest, Shannon began to walk forward. 

Lilith hesitated for a moment and then followed her. 

Beatrice noticed their approach first, drawing her hand back from Ava's with noticeable reluctance. 

"Ava." Shannon called. 

Ava looked over, doing a double take when she spotted Lilith. 

"Holy shit, Lilith?" 

"Ava… What did you do?" Lilith asked. 

Ava avoided both her and Beatrice's watchful gaze, looking down at the ground. 

"Vincent came to pay me a visit." She began quietly. "He knew that the text was a virus and he's had someone trace the hack. There's a team heading for you right now." 

Oh. 

Oh shit. 

"How long?" Lilith asked. 

"Less than an hour. I don't know how many. All I know is that before I came here, they didn't have your specific location because you guys hadn't finished downloading or something? But as soon as it's…" 

"They'll know exactly where we are." Lilith finished.

Beatrice and Shannon remained silent, both of them kept their eyes on Ava. 

"Ava please," Beatrice said so quietly it may as well be a whisper. "What did you do?" 

Ava met her gaze, eyes full of desperation. "I didn't have a choice. I couldn't fall asleep to try and connect to Lilith and there was no guarantee that she'd be asleep either. My time was already running out so I took a chance. I threw my back against the wall, pushed the shard further in." 

Beatrice swallowed and averted her gaze for a moment. "...Ava."

She sounded like she was going to break down. 

Ava wasn't dead yet, Lilith knew that. Even now, she could still feel the halo, regardless of how faint it was. 

And for as resigned as Ava looked, Lilith wasn't going to give up yet. 

"You said an hour right?" Lilith asked. 

Ava didn't look away from Beatrice, still waiting for her to look back. "Less than." 

Okay. 

…Okay. 

"Ten minutes." 

Ava, Beatrice and Shannon all looked at her. Their expressions were equal parts confused and devastated. 

"What?" Beatrice asked. 

"Ten minutes." Lilith said again. "That's how long we have to put a plan together so we can wake me up so that I can warn Camila and Mary and we can figure out how to wake you up so that we can save you." 

Ava sighed. "Lilith -" 

"What did I tell you in Mother Superion's office?" Lilith asked. 

Ava glanced at Beatrice and back at Lilith. "That you'd bring me home." 

"Exactly. I made that promise and you know that I'm not giving up yet. None of us are, so you're not going to give up on us, on yourself." 

 

--

 

Ava had to focus. 

But her gaze kept drifting to Beatrice. 

She took her time committing every part of her to memory. 

The curve of her jaw, the constellations of freckles across her face, the slope of her neck. 

The depth of emotions behind those eyes. 

Lilith had been right that she shouldn't give up yet. 

But the odds were stacked against them. 

So if this was to be her last stand, then Ava was going to make sure that she carried Beatrice's features with her. 

"So what's the plan, Lilith?" She asked. "Because I think that even if you knew where I was and left immediately, I don't think you'd make it before my body shuts down." 

Every time she spoke, she saw the pain in Beatrice's eyes grow. 

It hurt. 

Lilith looked conflicted as she looked at each of them before finally settling on Ava. 

"None of you are going to like what I'm thinking." 

Ava had a pretty good idea of what Lilith had in mind. 

"Will it work?" 

"Maybe." 

"Maybe?" Beatrice asked. "What is it?" 

"The shard is what is stopping me from knowing Ava's exact location." Lilith said. 

"If I can pull out the shard, Lilith can teleport to me." Ava added. 

"If you pull out the shard with the halo in its current state, you're more likely to bleed to death before Lilith can get you to safety." Shannon said. 

"The halo hasn't been able to recharge since it happened and every time I've had a flare it's weakened it more." Ava continued. She turned her head up to the stars. "There's no way to know how much power is left in it, if removing it will cause a surge and drain it completely or if there will be enough to start trying to heal me." 

"Divinium wounds take longer to heal, Ava." Beatrice sighed. "Even if you pulled it out and the halo was healing you, it still wouldn't do it fast enough before your wounds became too much." 

She was trying so hard to keep her walls up. It wasn't working. Ava could see the deep cracks, but it wasn't stopping Beatrice. 

"Which is why it's important I get to Ava as soon as the shard is out. I grab Ava and get her back to the safe house and we can give her medical attention." 

"Back to the safe house where there's men with guns coming?" Beatrice asked. 

Shannon spoke up. "Lilith has part of the halo, right? What if when they're together, that will recharge Ava? Heal her faster." 

It was all theory. 

They were grasping at straws. 

There was no way to know what would happen if Ava pulled out that shard, even if she could. 

But it was all they had. 

"Okay." Ava nodded. "So this is all under the possibility that I even wake up from this." 

"When you wake up." Beatrice was quick to correct. 

"I pull out the shard, and providing that doesn't kill me, Lilith will know where I am so she can teleport to get me."

"Yes." Lilith nodded. 

"And when I pull out the shard, Adriel will sense it too, considering the only reason he isn't in my head all of the time is because of the shard." Ava continued. "And if you teleport to me, then you'll be leaving Beatrice, Mary and Camila alone to fight." 

"We can handle ourselves, Ava." Beatrice said. 

Ava looked at her pleadingly. 

She didn't want them to handle themselves. 

She wanted them to be safe. 

"And I'll be there with you Ava." Shannon said. "Even if you can't see me when you get back, you know I'm still going to be there." 

If she got back. 

Ava was still pretty sold on this being where her dream ended. 

"So this is our plan?" Ava asked. "I'm not arguing, I just want to make sure." 

"I think it's our only option, Ava." Lilith said. "I don't like it either, but it feels like it's our only chance." 

Ava laughed. "No pressure then?" 

"Ava." 

It was the same tone that Beatrice used when she told Ava to pay attention that day at ArqTech. It was enough to bring her focus to the girl again. 

"There's too many variables, Lilith." Beatrice said. "Too many ways this can go wrong." 

Lilith nodded in agreement. "I know. But as I said, this is our only chance. Ava is running out of time." 

Beatrice turned to look at Ava. "Are you okay with this?" 

"It's either die or die trying." Ava replied. "Are you?" 

"If you all believe it's the only option, then yes. I suppose I need to be." 

"Okay." Lilith nodded. "I need to try and wake up. Shannon, any ideas?" 

"I could slap you." Shannon suggested.

"No sensation, remember." Ava pointed out. 

"It might be enough to trick her brain." Shannon said. "Like when you're half asleep and it feels like you're falling." 

"If we really wanted to trick your brain, then we can all hold you underwater so you think you're drowning." Ava offered. 

Everybody stared at her, Lilith went as far as to raise an eyebrow at her. 

"Hey!" Ava held her hands up. "Just a suggestion." 

"A horrifying one. We'll try Shannon's idea, thank you." Lilith replied. 

"That's probably for the best. I really don't think I have it in me to try that." Ava said. 

"Likewise." Beatrice agreed quietly. 

Lilith moved closer to Ava and reached around to cup the back of her head. 

"When you wake up. Get the shard out. Stay alive, because I'm coming to get you, okay? You're coming home." 

There was so much conviction in her voice, so much determination that Ava found herself nodding despite her own doubts. 

"Okay." 

Lilith brought their foreheads together. "I'll see you soon." 

Ava closed her eyes for a moment and nodded. "Until then." 

Lilith pulled back and turned to Beatrice. "When I wake up, I'll tell the others. We'll start getting ready." 

"What do I do?" Beatrice asked. 

"Help Ava." Lilith replied. She leaned in closer and whispered something that was lost to Ava's ears, though she saw the shift in Beatrice's gaze. 

"Understand?"

"I do." 

"I can give you ten minutes." 

Finally, Lilith turned to Shannon. 

"It really was good to see you again." 

Shannon smiled. "You too. I like this version of you. You'll look after them?" 

"You know I will." 

"Good." 

"Now, if you're done… Slap me." 

"With pleasure." 

Shannon drew her hand back, there was enough force behind her slap that had both Ava and Beatrice wincing. 

There was no sound, but Lilith disappeared from view all the same. 

 

--

 

"Cam!" Mary called. "Ninety nine percent!" 

Camila sprinted into the room and leaned over Mary to look at the screen. 

"Thank God." Camila sighed with relief. "Go wake the others." 

Mary slipped out of the seat and Camila was quick to drop down into it, ready to get to work the moment that download was complete. 

All sense of being careful was cast aside as Mary sprinted up the stairs. The moment she reached the top, Lilith's door opened and the woman ran out. 

They each only just managed to stop before they collided with each other. 

Lilith had that look in her eyes again, the hint of frenzy as she grabbed Mary's shoulders. 

It was the look she had when she had come out of a dream with Ava. 

"Lil, what happened?" 

"Ava's dying." She moved one hand and grabbed Mary's arm with the other and began to pull her back down the stairs. "There's an ambush on the way, they traced the hack, thirty, forty minutes tops. I have a plan but we need to be ready." 

Mary was struggling to keep up. "Beatrice -" 

"Is asleep. And with Ava. We need to wake her in ten minutes." 

"Wait, why ten minutes?" Mary asked. 

She saw Camila step out of the living room as they neared the bottom, clearly having heard the commotion if the confusion on her face was anything to go by. 

Lilith dropped her hand as soon as they reached the bottom of the stairs and stormed past Camila silently. 

"Lilith!" Mary called. "Why ten minutes?" 

Lilith grabbed one of the bags from the floor and dropped it on the table, unzipping it and pulling the assault rifle from it. 

Mary stood beside Camila as Lilith turned back to them, lifting the gun enough to release the magazine to inspect it. 

"Because Beatrice needs to help Ava to stay alive." 

 

--

 

Shannon had walked away a bit, giving them a sense of privacy. 

Ava took a step closer until her feet were submerged in the water. 

She didn't even feel that. 

It was so weird. 

"Ten minutes really isn't enough." Ava said. 

Beatrice took a step forward so that she was standing in the water too, momentarily memorised at the lack of sensations. 

"It truly isn't." Beatrice agreed. 

Ava still felt as though she had to explain herself. To make sure Beatrice knew why she had done this to herself. 

"You know," Ava began, she waited until Beatrice looked over at her. "If I did one last thing with my life, it was going to be making sure that I was giving you guys a fighting chance."

"Ava…" Beatrice's voice had taken a pleading edge as she turned to face Ava fully. "Your life isn't over yet. We all still have a chance." 

"I'm not giving up Bea. I just… I don't know if I have the strength for this." 

"Twenty feet of stone, Ava." Beatrice said. "That's what this is. I'm going to help you through it and when you come through, you'll be back there."

"That's what I'm afraid of." Ava sighed. "I know I won't be alone, Shannon will be there. But Beatrice, I don't know if I have the strength to do this." 

To pull a weapon out of her back? 

It had taken everything she had just to sit up. 

Beatrice rested her hands on Ava's shoulders. "You are Ava Silva. You do have the strength." 

"Bea…" 

"I don't want this to be our goodbye." 

The raw honesty behind Beatrice's words left Ava stunned. 

"You think I do?" Ava asked. "I want to live, Bea. So fucking much." 

"Then fight Ava." Beatrice said firmly. "We've both come too far to let it end like this." 

Ava ducked her head to look at the ground. 

"What did Lilith say to you?" She asked. 

 

--

 

Help her find her way back to herself.

That had been Lilith's words to her. 

"She told me to help you." Beatrice said. "Not that she needed to. I made you a promise, remember? I'm never leaving you." 

She saw Ava's faint smile at that, even though she didn't lift her head. 

Beatrice knew there would be no feeling, but there was only one thing she could think of to do. 

Her time must almost be up. 

Beatrice leaned forward to press their foreheads together. She heard Ava's sharp inhale 

"I've missed you." Beatrice admitted. 

Ava smiled and nodded. "I've missed you too. God, Beatrice… I didn't think I'd see you again." 

"Then imagine what this will be like when we see each other again, in the waking world." Beatrice whispered.

Beatrice closed her eyes at her own words. 

She imagined how this would feel, How Ava would feel in her arms. 

"I have so much to tell you…" Beatrice whispered. 

Ava was silent for several moments, the only sound amongst the waves were that of her quiet breathing. 

"Tell me something now." Ava requested gently. 

Beatrice thought for a moment as she thought about this girl that even when they were separated, brought so much to her, inspired her to keep pushing. Growing. 

"I don't want to only see you in my dreams." 

Ava's exhale was shaky. 

Beatrice didn't dare to open her eyes. 

"Do you want me to tell you something?" Ava asked. 

"Yes. Please." 

"It was your voice that guided me through this darkness." Ava said. "You were… are the light." 

They were a part of each other. 

The bond that was between them. 

The fact that they were here together was a testament to that. 

Beatrice opened her eyes at the same moment Ava did. Neither moved. 

"Beatrice?" 

"Yes?" 

Ava was the one to draw back, a fire in her eyes that Beatrice hadn't seen for a while. 

Her heart began to race. 

"Leave that light on, Beatrice." Ava said. "I'm coming home." 

There was so much left to say. 

"Ava-" 

 

Beatrice shot upright into Lilith's waiting arms, gasping for breath. 

"Steady, steady." Lilith said softly. "It takes a moment to feel steady again." 

Ava

"Lilith -" Beatrice cut herself off and shook her head. 

She hadn't been ready to leave. 

"I can still sense her, Beatrice." Lilith said. "She's still alive. Did she wake up before you?" 

Beatrice swallowed past the lump in her throat. "No." 

"She will. Trust her." 

"I do." 

"Good." Lilith replied. "Then I need you to get up. Our guests are due to arrive soon." 

 

--

 

Ava laughed as she stared at the space in which Beatrice had stood. 

She cast her gaze to the stars. 

Ava was going to fight. 

She was going to live. 

She wanted to know everything about Beatrice. 

Ava was going to see the stars again. 

"Will you be there when I wake up?" Ava asked. 

"I'll always be with you Ava. One way or another." 

"Happy that you're not doomed to an eternity of charades with me just yet?" 

"Oh, more than you would believe." 

Ava turned her head to grin at her. "We'll have a rematch one day. I'll make you eat your words." 

"I'll keep that in mind." Shannon rolled her eyes. "You should go back, Ava." 

"I will. But before I go… Can I ask you something?" 

"Of course." 

"In this life or the next. I get the words, but I know there's a deeper meaning to I than that. What is it?" 

"Oh Ava. Don't worry, you'll figure that out for yourself." 

"Not even a hint?" 

"Just one. It's about a feeling." Shannon said. "Now, wake up." 

Ava took a deep breath and nodded. 

"See you on the other side." 

It was time to fight back.

 

Chapter Text

 

Ava woke up with her face pressed to the floor. 

She could taste blood again, but as her surroundings came back into focus, Ava was just thankful that none of Vincent's men had come to investigate. 

Or, even worse, Vincent or Adriel. 

But no, she was alone. 

"Ava!" 

Oh. Not quite. 

"...Shannon?" 

Her voice felt so heavy as she turned her head to try and find the source of the voice. 

"I'm here Ava. You're alive." 

"But still kinda close to dying if you're here, right?" Ava asked. 

"Yes." Shannon sighed. "Are you ready to do this?" 

Ava closed her eyes and took a deep breath, after a few more moments passed, she gave her fingers an experimental twitch. 

She felt them brush against concrete. 

That was a promising start. 

"It would be so much easier if you could actually touch me." Ava mumbled. "We could skip over this whole problem and just rip the shard out." 

"I'm sorry, Ava." 

Ava gritted her teeth as she tried to push herself up onto her knees, her hands shook with the pressure, her entire body ached in protest. 

"Don't be." Ava gasped out, bracing her hands against her thighs as she managed to get herself onto her knees. "Fuck. That was a lot." 

Her stomach twisted at the thought of willingly causing herself more pain. 

But the others were counting on her. 

Any minute now, they'd be overrun with attackers. 

Ava had to at least try and see if this worked. If it did, Lilith would be on her way to save her. 

If not… She'd die. 

Ava had been expecting to die anyway, at least this way Ava could go out knowing she hadn't given up. 

That the others had fought to save her until the very end. 

"Is there anything I can do to help?" Shannon asked. 

Ava met her gaze as steadily as she could. "Can you get behind me and point me in the right direction?" 

"Of course." Shannon nodded. "I'm here Ava, and you can do this?" 

Sure. 

What was a little more pain? 

Ava reached behind her, her back twitched away from her own touch as her fingers skimmed across her shirt. 

The material was still soaked with blood, her arm ached as she raised it high enough until she found the spot the shard rested. 

It was like ice against her skin. 

Okay. 

Breathe. 

"You can do this Ava." Shannon said encouragingly. 

In a fucked up kind of way, Ava was actually kind of glad that she was still in a dangerous enough position that Shannon could be there with her. 

Her fingers curled around the shard and Ava allowed herself a moment to breathe before she attempted to pull on it. 

Bile rose up into her throat as Ava felt her muscles spasm around the metal, the fresh pain that came with the divinium cutting through her fingertips as it refused to give. 

The halo gave a thrum in protest, just as muted as Ava's own cry of pain. 

She let her hand fall away and pressed it to the ground, ignoring the blood that had been drawn from her fingertips. 

Fuck. 

"I don't know if I can do this." Ava whispered. 

She couldn't see, but it brought Ava some comfort to imagine Shannon resting her hand reassuringly against her back. 

"I know it's a lot, and there's nothing I can say to try and make this easier for you. It's not like ripping off a band-aid…" 

"No it's like ripping out a piece of metal from my spine." Ava hissed. 

"So you can't do this slowly, not with your fingertips." Shannon said. "Get a solid grip and then pull." 

Ava wiped her bloody hand on her jeans and drew as many steadying breaths as she could. 

"I might throw up, word of warning."

If there was anything in her body left to throw up, anyway. 

"Ava, no judgement. I would too if I were in your situation." 

Ava closed her eyes and reached up again, finding the shard and curling her whole hand around it. 

She felt the pressure against her palm, threatening to tear through her skin. 

Push through the pain. 

Ava tightened her grip, sucking in another sharp breath as she felt it cut into her flesh. 

She pulled. 

Ava felt the shard shift, the stuttered flare of the halo. 

"Oh, fuck!" Ava cried out. 

She pulled harder. 

 

--

 

They had all gathered in the living room, standing in front of Camila's set up. 

She'd rerouted all of the security feed directly to the living room shortly after they first arrived here. 

Now all they could do was watch and wait for the cars to approach. 

"You're all okay with the plan?" Mary asked. 

There was a long silence amongst the group, and Camila allowed herself a moment to glance at each of them. 

Mary probably looked the most put together of them all, fully ready for the battle that was coming to their doorstep. 

Lilith and Beatrice were something else entirely. 

All of them were exhausted and stressed beyond belief, but it was much clearer to see in those two. 

There was so much tension in each of their bodies, jaws locked tight the entire time Mary had spent talking them through the plan. 

It was more than understandable why though, even if it was for slightly different reasons. 

On the surface, Lilith just looked tired, and while they didn't know the limitations of her demonic abilities, Camila would assume that some of the healing properties it provided would contribute towards helping Lilith function better than the rest of them despite the lack of sleep. 

So while she didn't look as rough as the rest of them, Camila knew that there must be a storm of anxieties building beneath the surface. 

Their entire plan relied on Ava and Lilith. 

That was a lot of pressure for anybody to deal with, but to know that Lilith had to go into wherever Ava was being held captive alone, knowing that she was a target and to bring her back alive, uncertain of how much time they had to do that… 

Camila couldn't even begin to know how that must feel. 

It must feel like the weight of the word was crushing her. 

Her Atlas. 

Camila allowed herself one more fleeting glance at Lilith. 

And then there was Beatrice. 

Beatrice who already carried so much pain, Beatrice who had taken Ava's kidnapping so personally, had blamed herself for it so much that something had broken within her.

So exhausted that standing looked like it took physical effort. 

Not to mention injured to the point where sudden movements caused barely hidden winces of pain. 

Camila wasn't even sure when she last saw Beatrice eat. 

She knew deep down that Beatrice had wanted to be the one to save Ava. As much had been clear from her brief rogue moment. 

Beatrice had never been more dangerous as she had been that night. 

Which led to the question, what would happen if Lilith was too late? 

Would Beatrice blame her? 

And if she did, would she be able to forgive her? 

Camila didn't want to think of the answer to that, even if her heart filled with dread at the mere thought. 

Not that it would matter if they failed. 

If they lost Ava and the halo, they were probably as good as dead. 

"It's the best that we can do." Lilith said finally. "We'll make it work." 

Mary glanced at the weapons that covered the table and nodded to herself. 

"I'll take upstairs with the rifle, pick off as many as I can before they get into the house." 

While it wasn't the best defence, there were more opportunities for cover, choke points that they could utilise to their advantage. 

Camila has already packed up as much of her equipment as she could spare, they didn't need any of it right now. 

They just needed the surveillance.

"Beatrice?" Mary looked over at the girl. 

"The plan is fine." Beatrice replied. 

"And we're all in agreement? No holding back." 

Shoot to kill. 

Nobody argued. 

Camila caught movement on the screen from the corner of her eye. 

Two cars and a van made their way along the road leading to the house. 

A whole convoy. 

Her heart began to race. 

"Okay people." Mary announced. "Get in position." 

Beatrice was the first to move, picking up Ava's sword and sliding it over one shoulder, jaw locked. 

She picked up two pistols from the table and turned to walk away. 

"Beatrice!" Camila called after her. 

Beatrice lingered at the doorway and looked back at them. 

"In this life or the next." Camila said. 

Beatrice nodded in acknowledgement. "In this life or the next." 

Much like Beatrice, they all moved to collect their weapons, offering weak, yet reassuring smiles. 

They would get through this, together. 

 

--

 

There was only so much that they could have done to keep the mercenaries at bay. 

During the opening minutes of the attack, Beatrice had remained true to their plan, lying in wait at the top of the stairs as she counted each shot that came from within the house.

Camila from the ground floor, Mary from the master bedroom. 

Now all of the windows at the front of the house had long since been shot out, the constant gunfire had eventually faded to the occasional shot once the mercenaries had gained entrance. 

She didn't know where Vincent had found these men, but the majority of them lacked the skills that the hitmen had possessed.  

What they had in numbers, they certainly lacked in skill. 

When the men had begun to gain entrance, Mary had ordered them into position, also informing them that the mercenaries had split up with several moving to flank the house. 

This was where Beatrice found herself now, fighting off three men within the kitchen. 

Lilith was outside somewhere, and the frequent screams and bursts of orange light told Beatrice all she needed to know. 

And while injured, Beatrice knew she was still more skilled than these men. 

But she also knew that numbers had the potential to overwhelm. 

Beatrice also knew that this was exactly the dilemma she was currently in. 

Mary was at the front of the house with Camila, their frequent calling out to each other served to be Beatrice's reassurance that they were both okay. 

One of the men grabbed Beatrice's wrist as she attempted to raise her arm to fire her gun, leaving her exposed as a second man came at her from the side. 

Beatrice grabbed the arm of the one in front of her and turned so that she could shove him into the other, buying her a few moments to fire a shot at the third, striking him in the kneecap and sending him screaming in pain to the floor. 

She followed through with a swift kick to the head to render him unconscious. 

Before she had time to draw a breath, another mercenary was advancing on her, knocking the gun from her hand. 

His fist caught Beatrice in the arm, right over her gunshot wound. 

The pain made her vision blur at the edges for several seconds. 

Beatrice needed help. 

She had to ask for help. 

Beatrice pulled a knife from the holster on her chest and slashed at his arm and shoved him back, stepping away from the wall. 

The third mercenary grabbed her from behind and threw her, sending her over the kitchen table and landing with a solid thud against the ground. 

Ava's sword lay just within her reach, after having been knocked from her shoulder when the fight had just begun. 

Beatrice moved to grab the sword, only to look up when a boot came down onto the sheath. 

Plan B. 

Beatrice drew another knife from her ankle holster, gripping it tight as she prepared to attack, only to be caught off guard by a burst of light. 

Lilith appeared beside the mercenary, her left hand went towards his throat, cutting ribbons through the skin as she raised her right hand, firing three shots in quick succession at the other. 

They each hit the ground within a second of each other, leaving Lilith and Beatrice in a brief moment of silence that was swiftly broken by more gunfire from the living room. 

Lilith silently extended a hand towards Beatrice, which she accepted and allowed herself to be pulled to her feet. 

She didn't miss the quick once over that Lilith gave her, no doubt inspecting her for injuries. 

"There's more coming." Lilith said, crouching down to pick up the sword before pushing it into Beatrice's hands. "We stick together." 

Beatrice nodded. "Okay." 

There was so much to say, but no time in which to voice it. 

Instead, they both turned, back to back as footsteps approached from all directions. 

"Together, Beatrice." 

"...Together." 

 

--

 

Ava finally had a solid grip on the shard. 

It came at a cost though, the edges cut deeply into her palm and fingers, coating Ava's hand with even more blood. 

She didn't dare to attempt to adjust her hold. 

Push through the pain. 

Just another twenty feet. 

Ava knew she was hesitating. 

"You can do it, Ava." Shannon encouraged gently. "As soon as you do, Lilith will be able to come." 

"...I'm scared." Ava admitted through gritted teeth. 

"I know you are. And that's okay. But you can still do this, Ava." 

When Ava remained silent, Shannon spoke up again. 

"Think of Beatrice. Think of Lilith. Mary and Camila. Your family." 

Her family. 

"Fuck." Ava took a deep breath. "Okay." 

"Do it fast." 

Ava held her breath and ripped it out. 

Her scream sounded distant to her own ears, lost under the sound of her thundering pulse. 

Every nerve in her body went into overdrive, the pain spread through her, filling her until her body reached its limit. 

Even her body could only take so much. 

But for one blissful moment, everything stopped. 

There was no pain, no sound, nothing. 

Ava couldn't even say that she had blacked out. 

Was she paralysed again? 

Was the halo drained? 

Ava soon got her answer in the form of a sudden buzz of energy on her back, a burning pain that seemed to wake her entire body. 

She screamed again. 

Ava had felt like this before. 

It was like waking up for the first time all over again. 

Raw energy flowed through her freely. 

There was no controlling it. 

Her screams continued despite the strain on her throat, grip tightening around the shard in her hand. 

If Shannon was trying to comfort her, then her words were lost to Ava. 

She couldn't hear anything.

Ava couldn't have stopped the shock wave even if she had been in the state of mind to remember her training. 

There was a deafening crack, and between gasping breaths, Ava forced her head up just in time to see the cell wall crack and shatter. 

Oh. 

That… That had probably been really loud. 

Well, there goes the element of surprise. 

 

--

 

When Lilith felt it, she barely had time to turn to Beatrice before her legs were giving out. 

The pain was sudden, and intense as ever. 

It was the rush that followed immediately after that had Lilith feeling like she was truly seeing for the first time. 

She could see Ava, screaming in pain and covered in blood. 

She could see the halo burning brightly, flooding Ava's cell with golden light as the glass wall shattered before her. 

More than that, Lilith could feel Ava. 

The shard was gone. 

Lilith could feel her presence perfectly. 

When everything came rushing back, Lilith found herself in Beatrice's arms. 

Beatrice's gaze was fixed over Lilith's shoulder, gun trained ahead as she continued to walk backwards. 

They were back in the living room, glass crunched under Beatrice's boot with each step that she took. 

"Is she okay?" Camila called from somewhere behind Lilith. 

Beatrice's gaze dropped and met Lilith's for a moment, eyes full of concern. 

"Lilith -" 

"I know where she is." 

Beatrice could only stare back, there was the tiniest flash of hope in those eyes. 

Lilith's legs were unsteady as she eased herself from Beatrice's hold. 

Camila fired another shot, and in the distance, a cry of pain followed. 

Would they be okay without her? 

She knew that they would have to be. They were her sisters, Lilith knew they were capable. 

Ava needed her. 

But Beatrice must have seen the briefest flash of doubt though, because in the next moment, she was sliding the sword off of her shoulder and pushing it towards Lilith. 

"Go." Beatrice urged quietly. 

The sword felt unfamiliar in her hands. 

The last time she had wielded it had been to try and end Ava's life. 

Today, she would use it to save her. 

Oh, how much has changed. 

Lilith unsheathed the sword and threw its cover to the ground, taking a step back as she regarded Beatrice carefully. 

There was blood trickling down the back of her hand, a fresh split on her lip and some new bruises. 

"What are you waiting for?" Mary called. "Get going!" 

"Don't you dare die." Lilith said. 

Beatrice didn't respond to that, instead, she just let out a slow breath and nodded. 

"Bring her back to me." 

Lilith held the sword steady at her side and nodded. 

"I will." 

She focused on that burning light of energy in the back of her mind. 

She pictured Ava. 

And she teleported. 

 

--

 

The halo was out of control. 

All of her training hadn't prepared herself for this. Ava couldn't stop the flow of energy. 

It felt like her body had a mind of its own as she tried to get up. 

But more than that, it felt like Ava was floating. 

She stood up, hand shaking around the shard that she still clutched tightly. 

Ava looked down and… oh.

She was floating. 

Ava hadn't done this since she had woken up in Cat's Cradle under Beatrice and Lilith's watchful eyes. 

Beatrice. 

Beatrice. 

Two sets of footsteps hurried down the stairs, and Ava looked over in time to see tweedle dee and tweedle dum enter the room. 

They looked terrified as they both took in the scene before them. 

(not that she could fully blame them, it's not every day you see a floating girl with a spotlight coming out of her back) 

"Holy shit." One said, pulling out his gun and training it on her, the other soon followed. 

"What do we do?" 

"I don't know! Get Padre!" 

No. 

Not going to happen. 

Ava tried to move forward, covering a few feet before the halo seemed to weaken, her feet hitting the ground heavily. 

It was enough though, as Ava brought the shard up and slashed across the closest one's throat. 

She plunged the blade into the arm of the other, he screamed as the gun fell from his hand. 

Ava grabbed the side of his head and slammed it into the wall with more force than she probably should have used. 

When he hit the floor, Ava became aware of her entire body shaking. 

Adrenaline? Fear? The halo? 

All three, probably. 

There was still no sign of Lilith. 

What if they had run into trouble? What if she was hurt or too busy protecting the others? 

Ava looked up at the stairs. 

It was only a matter of time before more came. Before Vincent or Adriel came and put her down. 

The blood still dripped from her hand, from her back, leaving a trail in her wake. 

Ava knew that the halo was burning through whatever energy it had left quickly to keep her alive, even at the cost of not healing her. 

This was survival mode. 

The blood loss was becoming a problem. 

Ava braced her shoulder against the wall and began to limp up the stairs, feet dragging and catching on every other step. 

Just keep breathing. Just keep moving. 

Three men appeared at the top of the stairs, each pointing guns at her. 

For several seconds, none of them fired. 

Ava stared up at them and took another step. 

She heard the first gunshot, but felt nothing. 

When the second shot was fired, Ava felt her body recoil from the impact. 

Her hand shot up to cover where the bullet had torn through her right arm. 

Was it bad that the new pain barely even registered? Most likely. 

Beatrice had been shot too. 

It was that knowledge that caused the halo to flare. The pulse sent each of them flying back, yelling in confusion and fear. 

Ava continued to walk up the stairs, past each of them and watching as they froze when she reached them. 

"If you know what's good for you. Don't follow me." She warned. 

For once, they actually seemed to listen to her. 

(Ava wondered briefly if this was how Adriel felt, the night they freed him from his tomb. How he felt each day.) 

Was this what he thought was power? Intimidation and fear? 

Ava hated it. 

She hated all of this. She hated how she felt like a passenger in her own body right now, how she had to just keep praying that the halo would hold out long enough so that each step she took forward would not be her last. 

As Ava moved through the house, she barely acknowledged anything about it. 

She saw the extremely expensive decor, the walls filled with art. The furniture was new and modern. 

It was the kind of place that JC and his friends would have stayed in. 

It looked so normal. 

Ava wanted to burn it to the ground. 

If there were more of Vincent's men, then they stayed far away from her as she made her way through the house until she reached a grand hall. 

Ava looked up at the golden chandelier and scowled. 

But it was the flash of blue from the corner of her eye that truly caught Ava's attention. 

She turned to the source and dragged herself to the wall. 

It was the shield that she had seen that night in Jillian's lab, the shield that Beatrice had stolen and Duretti had taken back to the Vatican. 

She pressed her hand to the glass that contained it, leaving a smear of blood across it. 

"Ava." 

Her gaze snapped to the side, grip instinctively tightening around the shard in her hand as she saw Vincent standing several feet away from her. 

The sleeves of his shirt were rolled up, tattoos illuminated in brilliant blue. 

When her gaze reached Vincent's face, only one thing really stood out. 

Fear. 

He actually looked afraid of her. 

Ava turned to face him. "Vincent." 

His face dropped to the shard in her hand, the silence between them broken by drops of blood hitting white marble floor. 

"You shouldn't have done that." He said. "You won't get very far before the halo fails you. Your Sisters won't get here in time." 

Oh, how little did he know. 

Ava took one step closer, taking a deep breath through the pain. 

"You better do what you do best and run, Vincent. This flame just turned into a forest fire." 

The timing of the mocking laughter that followed was almost insulting. 

Just one moment. 

Ava just wanted one moment where she could sound cool without being interrupted like she was in a low budget action movie. 

She definitely could have done without Vincent stepping aside so that Adriel could walk out of the room behind him. 

The sword in his hand? Another unwelcome addition. 

The fact that it was made out of divinium was all the more concerning. 

Her escape plan, or lack thereof, just became that little bit more complicated. 

Come on Lilith. 

"Nice sword." Ava said. "Compensating for something?" 

It was safe to say that Ava had just found out what they had used the tarask skeleton for. 

"My sword was yet another thing that was stolen from me, I felt a new blade would be best suited to see in my new world." 

Ava took a step back. "New world? Jesus, be more predictable." 

His smile was patronising as he saw the shard in her hand. 

"So this is how you chose to end it?" Adriel asked. "Desperately trying to make a last stand?"

Ava forced a grin and hoped that the last shred of confidence she could summon to the surface was enough to hide her fear. 

"Who said anything about this being the end?" Ava shot back. 

And for once, everything seemed to align perfectly. The sudden rush of energy that ran down Ava's spine when the room was illuminated in a burst of light. 

(Now this was the low budget action movie moment she wanted.) 

Ava looked across the room as Lilith appeared, sword in one hand, claws exposed on the other. 

Her face and clothes were covered with specks of blood, and from what Ava could tell, none of it seemed to belong to Lilith. 

Ava had never felt more relieved to see Lilith than she was right now. 

God, Ava could cry.

Vincent and Adriel, however? They looked fucking shocked. 

"Oh yeah." Ava grinned. "That's a thing she can do. Surprise." 

 

--

 

The furthest Lilith had ever teleported had been to the Vatican from Jillian's lab. 

Back then, she hadn't been entirely herself, she had no recollection of what she had done since leaving the lab right up until the moment her claws had torn through Crimson's throat.

It had been instinct, she had followed the song of the halo that hummed through her senses. 

And since that night, the rare times she had used her abilities had been for much shorter distances. 

Until now. 

Lilith wasn't sure as to how far she had travelled, just that once her feet were on solid ground once more, for a few moments she was disoriented. 

The hum was much louder now. 

Lilith was aware of the silence around her though. 

And when her gaze came back into focus, the silence surprised her even more. 

A grand hall, art and antiques lined the walls. 

Ava, Vincent and Adriel stood at almost opposite sides of the room, all staring at her. 

The men, Lilith noted, looked shocked. 

(Lilith would go so far as to say that Vincent looked terrified.) 

"Oh yeah." Ava said, grinning, her voice cutting through the silence. "That's a thing she can do. Surprise." 

Surprise indeed. 

There was a small glimpse of blue in Ava's hand, most of its light hidden behind an alarming amount of blood. 

Ava was pretty much covered in blood. 

Her clothes were soaked, it flowed freely down her right arm. 

Thick droplets fell from her back and her hand. 

Concerning didn't begin to cover it. 

The sporadic flickering of light coming from the halo was even more so. 

There was no time for a fight. They could face Adriel another day. 

She had to get Ava out of here. Now. 

Adriel pointed at Ava with his sword. 

(since when did he get a sword?)

"Deal with her." He ordered, already turning his full attention to Lilith and taking two steps towards her. 

She may not want to fight, but apparently she didn't have much of a choice in the matter

Ava looked at her across the room, eyes panicked. 

"Lilith!" 

Lilith took a step forward, gearing herself up to teleport again to close the distance between them when she felt a familiar energy wrap around her chest and throw her backwards. 

Her back hit the wall, grip on Ava's sword loosening as she struggled to remain on her feet. 

Lilith shifted her attention to Adriel, his free hand still raised and pointed at her. 

He wasn't going to make this easy for them. 

She allowed herself a moment to check on Ava, watching in despair as she tried to use the halo to keep Vincent away, only to have the pulse do little more than make him stumble while he walked towards her. 

Ava wasn't going to be able to fight for long. 

 

--

 

Ava yelped when Vincent's hand closed around her throat, hard enough to bruise and cut off all air supply. 

She knew he was strong, but having him carry her drained body out of a tomb versus him lifting her off of the ground by her throat were two very different things. 

Ava could hear Lilith and Adriel fighting, the sound of metal scraping against metal, Lilith's angry shouts, things cracking and breaking as they threw each other around. 

She couldn't look though, all Ava could see was Vincent staring back at her, fingers tightening around her throat and slowly applying a crushing amount of pressure. 

Her nails drew blood as they dug into his arm. 

Ava had trusted him. 

Her family had trusted him. 

Shannon had trusted him. 

She could feel tears in the corners of her eyes as her vision began to blur at the edges. 

This one was for Shannon. 

Ava raised her right hand, divinium shard still tightly in her grasp, and Vincent had about two seconds for the realisation to dawn on his face before Ava brought it down. 

It wasn't quite close to his spine, but Ava felt it drive deep into his shoulder. 

"See how you like it, you backstabbing bastard." Ava gasped. 

His scream was agonised as he dropped her, sending Ava crashing to the ground, clutching her own throat as she drew in several deep breaths. 

Ava looked up as he twisted around, trying to find purchase on the shard in vain. 

She watched as Lilith clawed across Adriel's chest before he flicked his wrist again, sending her flying across the room, landing harshly near where the shield rested. The sword fell from her hand and skidded across, coming to a stop not too far from where Ava stood. 

It was so close. 

Her gaze locked with Adriel's. 

Instinct screamed at her to act, but she was already one step ahead of her own thoughts, body screaming in protest as she forced herself forward. 

Adriel was moving too, his own sword arching up. 

Ava stumbled as she bent to grab it, fingers curling around the hilt. 

She lifted her sword up as Adriel struck, the blades connecting with solid force. 

The shock wave that came from each of them hit Ava in her core, the force of it sent her to her knee. 

What did they say about an unstoppable force meeting an unmovable object? 

And which one was she? 

Adriel stared down at her, lips curling into a smirk despite the frustration in his gaze. 

Ava held steady as he tried to press down, the blades remained locked even as his sword inched closer to her. 

Fuck. 

Fuck, fuck, fuck. 

She felt his sword against her shoulder, and couldn't stop the whimper as it began to cut into her flesh. 

Ava knew that she shouldn't, that she had to stay focused on the demon before her, but despite herself, Ava found her gaze darting across the room to where Lilith was pulling herself to her feet.

Even if Ava were to die here, it wouldn't be the end. 

If Lilith could just get her body out, get the halo to someone else, they still stood a chance. 

Could Lilith have the halo? Considering her new nature? Or would it need to be another. 

Had Ava not broken the line, who would have been next after Lilith? 

Beatrice. 

It would have had to have been. 

The thought, as fleeting as it was, made Ava's throat constrict. 

Beatrice already carried so much weight on her shoulders, Ava couldn't let this be another burden to bear. 

No. 

Lilith got to her feet, noticing the shield before she looked across at them. 

When her eyes met Ava's, everything and nothing was said at once. 

Ava could see the plan form with sudden clarity. 

"Say goodbye, Ava Silva." Adriel said. 

Ava braced herself, planting her feet and adjusting her grip on her sword. 

Adriel opened his mouth to speak again, only to be interrupted by the sound of glass smashing, his own attention faltered as he looked to the source. 

Ava didn't dare look, she already knew that Lilith had destroyed the cabinet and was in the process of removing the shield. 

It was a tiny window, but it was all that she needed to give one final push, forcing herself to her feet with a yell of her own, raising her sword to throw Adriel's back. 

The halo gave another weak flare, it barely affected him, only sending him a step back. 

But it was enough. 

It had to be enough. 

"Goodbye Adriel!" Ava replied. 

She turned, and with everything she had, barrelled forward. 

Ava didn't dare look back, didn't even dare to think what he was doing. 

She focused on Lilith, shield in hand and running towards Ava. 

Their hands reached for the other, Ava's heart thundered in her ears as they got closer. 

Over each beat, Ava was faintly aware of Adriel yelling something, but pushed it all away as she threw herself forward. 

The moment her fingers touched Lilith's, it was a power surge that was reminiscent of Jillian's experiments. 

It left her breathless, overwhelmed. 

Alive. 

When Lilith's fingers wrapped around her hand, it felt as though the world around them shook, the aftershocks sending everything out of rhythm. 

This was it. 

She was going home. 

Beatrice. 

She was going to be free. 

Lilith's voice barely managed to cut through every thought, every sound and sensation. 

"Hold on!" 

And then there was silence. 

 

--

 

The fight was over. 

The house, much like themselves, had made it through in relatively one piece. 

Yes, some furniture was broken beyond repair and almost every window on the front of the house had been blown out, but it was still standing. 

Mary and Camila seemed to be okay, sporting a few superficial cuts and bruises. 

Beatrice had managed to walk away with only a few more injuries to add to the collection. 

She was accustomed to leaving fights with the occasional cut here and there, but Beatrice had never known herself to get hurt this consistently. 

Even Camila, as the newest member, still seemed thrown off by it as she crouched in front of Beatrice, inspecting the injury on her thigh. 

It had only been a shard of glass, and it hadn't exactly gone deep, but they both knew Beatrice had been lucky for it to miss an artery. 

She watched Camila's hands work with practiced ease as she wrapped the bandage around her thigh and fixed it in place. 

They were in the far corner of the living room, out of the way of any debris, blood and dead mercenaries. Beatrice sat against the wall and remained silent even as the adrenaline faded and the pain returned with force. 

Camila had noticed the streaks of blood on the back of the hand, and had no doubt correctly assumed that it was from her gunshot wound as she didn't draw attention to it.

It wasn't going to kill her, and Beatrice would deal with it when she was able. 

(when Lilith returned with Ava, safe and alive.) 

"There." Camila declared. "That should hold." 

"Thank you." Beatrice replied. 

"Anytime." Camila said. She leaned back on her heels and regarded Beatrice for a moment. "Just rest for a bit, me and Mary will deal with the rest." 

Mary was currently working her way through the house, checking the bodies for signs of life. 

Camila was referring to dealing with the bodies, and for once, Beatrice didn't protest. 

Beatrice wondered how many, if any, of the mercenaries had fled the fight. 

Had they all stayed and fought to the bitter end? How much loyalty could Vincent's money still buy? 

She also wondered what they were going to do with the dead. 

For now though, Beatrice didn't care enough to think about it in detail. 

Not when Lilith should be back by now. She was only supposed to find Ava and bring her back. 

It was taking too long. 

Had something happened? 

Had they sent Lilith to her death? 

Was Ava… 

She couldn't even finish the thought. 

The worry must have been showing clearly on her face, as Camila reached out to rest a hand on Beatrice's knee. 

"They'll be back, Bea." Camila said softly. "Just you wait." 

Waiting was all Beatrice could do now. 

Waiting. 

She just had to wait. 

 

--

 

Lilith knew they weren't back at the house the moment she hit the ground. 

Wherever they were, it was cold and dark. 

And they were completely alone. 

There was a tiny part of her that was almost glad there was nobody to see. 

Lilith really hadn't stuck the landing 

Though she supposed that some of that could have been blamed on not being used to taking a passenger. 

Speaking of. 

Lilith sat up in a rush and looked down at Ava. 

She was lying face down on the ground. 

"...Ava?"

Ava let out a long, but quiet groan into the ground. 

Lilith was on her knees immediately, eyes adjusting to the darkness of the room as she skimmed her hand over Ava's back. 

Even brushing the area of skin around the halo, Lilith felt her skin tingle. The hum in her ears grew louder. 

It didn't feel as intense as the moment they locked hands, however. 

No, that has been a rush that no drug could provide. 

"I think our theories are right." Ava mumbled. "I think you jump started the halo." 

At least they were on the same page. 

Lilith let out a relieved sigh, her shoulders relaxed as she finally allowed herself to breathe. 

They had escaped. Ava was alive. 

She finally looked up and took in their surroundings, frowning as she recognised where they were. 

The crypt. 

The crypt where Shannon's life had ended and Ava's new life had begun. 

They were back at the beginning. 

"Is the halo healing you?" Lilith asked. 

"I don't know." 

"Can you see Shannon?" 

"Lilith, I don't know if you've noticed, but right now all I can see is a whole lot of concrete." Ava chuckled. She was silent for a few moments before she let out a sigh. "Shannon would have told me if she was here. So… I don't know, maybe I'm not fully on death's door right now." 

Lilith studied Ava's back more closely. It was definitely still bleeding, but there was too much of it to see if she was healing. 

She didn't don't understand how they had ended up here yet, but Lilith did know one thing. 

This crypt was a safe house for them for a reason. 

There were medical supplies here. 

"I'm going to move you Ava, okay?" 

Ava gave a shaky thumbs up. 

"Oh, I can move a bit." Ava said, sounding genuinely surprised. "Good to know. That's reassuring." 

As carefully as she could, Lilith turned Ava over and sat her up without letting any pressure onto her back. 

Ava looked up at her with wide eyes, the smallest tear slipped out of the corner of her eye. 

"You saved me." 

"I told you I would." Lilith replied quietly. 

Ava smiled. "God, I could kiss you." 

"I'd really rather you didn't." 

Lilith could think of somebody else who would potentially be more willing. 

Ava glanced around. "Where are we?" 

"...The crypt, where Shannon died." 

"Ah." 

Lilith hummed. 

"Got a little lost, did you?" Ava asked, smirking. 

Lilith scowled at her. "You try teleporting with somebody during a high stress situation." 

"Why here though?" 

Lilith eased Ava into her arms and got to her feet and walked over to lay Ava down on the slab as carefully as she could. 

Ava groaned in pain, eyes scrunched closed. 

"I don't know." Lilith replied honestly. "I'm still learning how this all works, usually if I'm conscious I can just visualise where I want to go." 

"Could I have fucked it up somehow?" 

"I wouldn't use that term, but the way the last few days have gone I wouldn't rule it out. What were you thinking about when it happened?" 

"Being free and…" Ava's eyes opened as she shot up. "Beatrice! Lilith, the others -" 

Lilith settled her hands on Ava's shoulders and gently eased her back down. "Are capable fighters who can handle themselves." 

"But they're okay? Lilith, are they okay?" 

She didn't want to worry Ava more, but lying to her wasn't an option. 

"Vincent's men showed up as we expected, we were mid-fight when I sensed you." 

Lilith wondered if they were still fighting, if the others were okay. 

Was she going to be taking Ava back to a bloodbath? 

She couldn't afford to think about it right now. 

Ava had to be her priority right now. 

"We have to get back to them, we need to -" 

"And we will." Lilith interrupted. "But I really need to try and stop the bleeding, Ava. You've lost a lot of blood, you're still not healing. You're not out of the woods yet." 

Ava still didn't look convinced. 

She just wanted to go back to their family. 

"Ava…" Lilith began softly. "I made you and Beatrice a promise to bring you back safely. Let me help you." 

At Beatrice's name, Ava's entire demeanour changed. 

She let out a reluctant sigh. 

"Fine. Do what you've gotta do." Ava replied. "Just… I hope you have qualifications that go beyond watching grey's anatomy." 

Lilith rolled her eyes. "Even half dead, you're still a wise ass." 

"I know." Ava snorted. 

"I'm just going to try and stop the bleeding." Lilith said. "Camila will need to look when we get you back. She's the trained one." 

Stitches? Maybe. A blood transfusion? Lilith had no idea. She needed Camila to make those judgements. 

Ava closed her eyes and nodded. 

"Ava? If you pass out…" 

"You all have permission to do what you need to." Ava finished quietly. "Just… If I don't pull through… don't let her see." 

Beatrice. 

Of course she was talking about Beatrice. 

"Now you're being morbid." Lilith scolded softly. "Just keep talking Ava. Stay awake. As soon as I've bandaged you, we'll try again, okay?" 

"Okay." 

Lilith took a step back and took in the sight of Ava on the slab. 

Shannon had taken her last breath on that very spot, not too long ago. 

Lilith was not going to let the same fate befall Ava. 

She just had to stay conscious until they were all together again. 

 

--

 

Vincent fixed the gauze in place on his shoulder once Hugo, one of his men, had stitched up the wound. 

Ava had once again, managed to surprise him. 

While he had gotten a glimpse of her drive and determination while they had been at ArqTech, Vincent hadn't expected it to go this far. 

She had little to no training and yet they hadn't broken her. 

How had she done it? What was he missing? 

He should have spent more time observing Lilith. There were things that he had missed. 

Yes, they knew where the girls were hiding, but he had yet to receive word from any of his men that they had been taken care of. 

It was supposed to be a surprise attack, it should have been done by now. 

Unless Ava and Lilith had found a way to communicate and she had warned them. 

There was no point in sending more men there, they were going to flee into another safe house. 

This was a problem. 

Adriel had been so certain of his plan, and now the halo was lost to them once more. 

All because he wanted the thread of power Lilith had absorbed. 

"You failed me." Adriel snarled.

Vincent looked up and watched as Adriel continued to move around the hall. 

Some of his initial rage had ebbed, the shock wave that had emanated from Ava and Lilith had done considerable damage, but Adriel's subsequent outburst had only added to the destruction. 

All of that art, gone. 

"I'm sorry, my Lord." Vincent replied. "Ava has proven to be smarter than I gave her credit for, than we gave her credit for." 

Adriel all but snarled as he turned to face Vincent, eyes burning into him even from across the room. 

"And your men? Have they reported back?" 

Hugo returned to Vincent with painkillers and a bottle of water, offering a quick nod before attempting to make a hasty retreat. 

He didn't dare look towards Adriel. 

Vincent lifted his chin and took a deep breath. "No. I'm sorry, my Lord, but at this point it's safe to assume they failed." 

Adriel looked down at the ground for a beat, despite the wide berth that Hugo had given him, Vincent could only watch as Adriel flicked his wrist, bringing the man towards him. 

He took Hugo's head in his hands and twisted sharply, the snap echoed through the room. 

Vincent allowed himself a moment to watch the body hit the floor. 

He wouldn't allow himself to feel remorse. 

"You assured me that your men would be capable of serving me." Adriel sneered. "And you've all failed me, time and time again." 

"I can only apologise, my Lord." Vincent replied. "I was only trying to take some of the pressure from you." 

It was unspoken between them, but his mass possession back at the Vatican had left Adriel weakened afterwards. 

To do so again would have been too great a wish. 

But to imply weakness in Adriel? 

Vincent may as well take his own life and save him the trouble. 

"We tried it your way." Adriel said, turning away and looking at the shattered remains of the cabinet that once held his shield. "No. The thief wants a fight? I'll bring her a storm."

Vincent remained silent as he processed Adriel's statement.

"Find me more men." Adriel ordered. 

Vincent nodded. "As you wish." 

As Vincent turned to return back to his office, he found that he couldn't stop the fleeting thought as to whether the tides were still moving in their favour. 

 

--

 

Ava cried out as her back hit the ground, she heard the faint grunt from Lilith beside her and the brief clattering of the sword and shield. 

For a few moments, Ava didn't dare open her eyes. 

And then she felt cool air on her face, the smell of grass around her cutting through the perpetual smell of blood that she had become accustomed to. 

Finally, Ava felt sunlight on her skin. 

She opened her eyes. 

Blue sky. 

Clouds. 

Ava laughed, despite how much it hurt her chest to do so. 

It had only been a few days, but to Ava, it had felt like an infinity since she had known how it felt to be outside again. 

Everything still hurt, despite Lilith's best efforts. 

She had bandaged Ava up as best as she could, though even now, Ava could feel the blood seeping through. 

Based on Lilith's observations as she had helped Ava back into her shirt, the halo was still fluctuating, but its pulses were becoming more regular. 

She should heal, in time. Divinium injuries always took longer, it was just a matter of ensuring they supported Ava's body as much as they could so that it had the time it needed. 

Even knowing all of that, Ava was still reluctant to move. 

There was no adrenaline, no power surge from the halo to force her to keep going. 

If she stood, Ava was fairly sure she was going to pass out. 

Ava couldn't let that happen. 

Not until she saw -

"Are you okay?" Lilith asked. 

Ava rolled her head to the side and watched Lilith rising to her feet, dusting the dirt from her jeans. 

"I've missed the sun." 

Lilith offered a small smile before she picked up the sword and looked ahead, gaze growing intense as she scanned the area. 

It seemed to finally dawn on them just how silent it was.

Ava looked to the other side and took in the house. 

It had probably been a beautiful place, but looking at it now, with all of its shattered windows and the smouldering remains of a van and a car parked in front of it, Ava only saw a battlefield. 

"Where are the others?" Ava asked. 

"I don't know." Lilith replied. 

She slung the sword over her shoulders and leaned down to take Ava's hands in her own to help Ava to her feet. 

As soon as she was standing up, Ava felt light headed, legs buckling a little beneath her. 

Lilith caught on quickly and shifted them, pulling Ava's right arm over her shoulders to take most of her weight. 

Ava hissed as the gunshot wound in her arm pulsed painfully. 

"There were definitely bodies out here before I left." Lilith offered. 

She took one step forward when Ava made a sound of protest. 

"The shield -" 

"It can wait." Lilith said. "We find the others first." 

Beatrice. 

"Okay." Ava nodded. "Okay." 

Together, they moved slowly, Lilith taking the majority of the weight as they began to make their way up to the house. 

"You couldn't have teleported us into the kitchen or something?" Ava asked. 

She just knew that Lilith was rolling her eyes at her. 

"I will leave you on the ground." Lilith warned. 

"No you won't." Ava replied. 

"No, I won't." Lilith agreed. "It's good to have you back." 

Ava closed her eyes for a moment and smiled. "It's good to be back." 

She almost tripped over her own feet when Lilith came to an abrupt stop, Ava opened her eyes and before she could protest, she caught sight of movement coming from around the back of the house. 

It was Mary and Camila, walking towards the front of the house. From this distance, Ava couldn't make out much, she couldn't see if they were hurt, couldn't see the expressions on their faces clearly. 

None of that mattered. 

They were alive. 

But where was Beatrice? 

Camila saw them first, glancing over at them and doing a double take. 

Ava heard the gasp, albeit faintly. 

She saw Camila's mouth move. 

It looked like her name. It looked like Lilith's name. 

Mary looked over too, and before Ava knew it the pair were hurrying to meet them. 

"Ava!" Ava exclaimed again as they got closer. 

Ava grinned. "Did you miss me?" 

Even Lilith let out a quiet laugh. 

Mary was close on Camila's heels, and while she was smiling too, her gaze was more focused on watching Ava carefully. 

She was taking stock of her injuries, Ava knew that. 

Ava was doing the same to them. 

They were sporting bruises and cuts, their clothes were bloodstained and they looked tired as hell. 

But they were okay. 

For a moment, it looked like Camila was about to sprint the last chunk of distance to tackle them both into a hug. 

Ava was aware of Camila coming to a stop a few feet away from her, but Ava's attention had already shifted over her shoulder and back to the house. 

Back to the front door, to be precise. 

No, not even the door. 

But the figure standing in the doorway. 

Beatrice. 

Ava's heart skipped a beat. 

It was her. 

Ava's breath caught in her throat, and even though only Lilith, Mary and Camila could hear her, it didn't stop Ava's whisper. 

"...Bea." 

Mary and Camila each looked over their shoulders to the girl in question. 

Beatrice stepped out of the house and began a slow walk down towards them. 

She was sporting a noticeable limp, and as she got closer, Ava could see the extent of her injuries. 

Beatrice looked worse off than the others, that was for sure. 

Her gaze remained fixed on Ava, eyes almost disbelieving as she continued to move forward. 

It must be hurting her to move. 

Ava gave a light tug on her arm. 

Lilith angled her head towards her. "Ava?" 

"Please, I can do this." 

Lilith loosened her hold, and Ava took a steadying breath and took a few steps forward. 

The light-headedness was returning tenfold, her legs were unsteady beneath her. 

Ava took a few steps forward, left leg buckling beneath her. 

She felt both Mary's and Camila's hands on each of her shoulders, steadying her. 

And Ava definitely didn't miss Camila's quiet gasp upon finally seeing the state of her back. 

"Ava, you good?" Mary asked. 

Beatrice was still walking towards them, her pace had quickened. 

"I can do this." Ava said again. 

She was almost through that twenty feet of stone. 

And Beatrice was there, waiting for her on the other side. 

Home. 

 

--

 

They were all watching, but Beatrice's gaze remained on Ava. 

Beatrice wasn't moving fast enough, each step felt too drawn out. 

From the moment she had heard Camila's faint exclamation of Ava's name, everything had become white noise. 

Until she had found herself on the doorstep, Beatrice didn't dare let the hope ignite in her chest. 

Even now, as they made their way towards each other, it still didn't feel real. 

Ava was covered in blood, arm and hand hastily bandaged, and with each step that Ava took towards her, Beatrice found herself holding her breath, praying to herself that Ava wouldn't fall. 

Beatrice needed to be there to catch her if she did. 

She didn't care that the others were watching. 

They already knew how much Ava meant to her. 

So the moment Ava was close enough, Beatrice pushed the pain in her leg aside and flung herself forward, opening her arms. 

Ava did the same, and together they fell into each other's arms. 

Beatrice's arms found safety in the way that they folded around Ava's shoulders, her heart settled at the warmth of her breath against Beatrice's neck. 

Ava's gasp, as quiet and as pained as it was from the sudden pressure of Beatrice's hug, still carried so much relief in it. 

Like two galaxies colliding.

This was how stars were formed. 

Beatrice could feel the damp from Ava's shirt against her wrist, and knew instantly that it was blood. 

Ava. 

Ava was back. 

She was here. 

Beatrice shifted one hand to cradle the back of Ava's head and shifted to press her face into Ava's own neck. 

"Beatrice…" Ava sniffed. 

She could feel tears against her neck. 

Beatrice knew that Ava could feel the same against her own skin. 

"Ava... Is this a dream?" Beatrice whispered for only the two of them could hear. 

Please, please don't let it be. 

Beatrice didn't think she would survive it if it were. 

Ava shifted, grip adjusting to cling tighter to Beatrice's back. 

"I don't think so." 

It was real. 

"You made it Ava." Beatrice said, unable to stop the way in which her voice cracked. "You came home." 

The things that Ava had gone through to bring her here. 

Beatrice could only imagine the journey, physically, mentally and emotionally. 

She must be so exhausted. 

"You can rest now Ava." Beatrice said. "I've got you. It's okay." 

She felt Ava draw a shaky breath, grip loosening ever so slightly on Beatrice. "You'll be here?" 

"I won't let you be alone." 

Never again. 

It was all Ava needed to hear for her to go limp in Beatrice's arms.

 

Chapter Text

 

It was a struggle trying to figure out what kind of meal she could cook with what little food they had left. 

A surprising amount of their supplies had been destroyed in the fight as the result of stray bullets. 

Add on top of that the knowledge that most of them hadn't been eating particularly well, and in Beatrice and most likely Ava's case, not at all, and Mary found herself with the additional challenge of trying to figure out what would be easiest to stomach. 

It was safe to assume that Ava most likely hadn't eaten since the day she was kidnapped. 

That made Mary's heart ache. 

She wanted to give Ava a big spread to welcome her back, but logic eventually prevailed. 

Something more simple, for now. Just to ease her back into it. 

Maybe Ava eating would coax Beatrice into doing the same. 

She had to admit to herself that she hadn't been watching Lilith quite as closely as she had Beatrice, but Mary always knew that Camila had that part covered. 

It was still a lot to comprehend, everything that had happened over the last… Mary didn't even know how many hours. 

Time didn't matter, and the sun had once more been obscured by thick rain clouds. 

Mary sighed and turned to lean back against the counter. 

There was so much work to be done. 

She was so tired. 

But she couldn't rest yet. Not with the three girls recuperating upstairs. 

The first few hours of Ava's return had been chaotic to say the least. 

Just the act of getting Ava out of Beatrice's arms had been a mission, and if it weren't for the fact that Beatrice could barely walk, Mary knew that she would have carried Ava to the house herself. 

Mary blew out a mouthful of smoke and sighed, reaching up to rub at her eyes with her free hand. 

The whole house smelled of gunpowder and blood, she really didn't care about a bit of smoke clinging to the wallpaper now. 

It had been Lilith and Camila who had carried Ava's limp body back up to the house in the end, leaving Mary to deal with Beatrice who had surprisingly frozen in place. 

She hadn't drawn attention to the tears that streaked down her face, had just gently placed her hand on Beatrice's back to coax her into moving. 

Camila had taken charge, directing them to the dining room table and clearing it off so that Lilith could set Ava down and calling out orders for each of them. 

Lilith had teleported away just long enough to get to a hospital so that she could steal the extra supplies Camila had listed out and the two had gotten to work. 

Mary had kept Beatrice out of the room, and while Beatrice hadn't argued, there had been a look in her eyes that unsettled her. 

She knew that Beatrice understood why Mary was keeping them out of the room, a combination of giving Camila and Lilith the space to work whilst also respecting Ava's privacy as much as they could. 

That was the only reason Beatrice hadn't fought her on the matter. 

Mary only allowed Beatrice to go into the room when Camila had called for her help. 

She didn't know what Camila and Lilith had done, just that it had been enough. 

Ava was healing, albeit slowly. But she was stable. 

That was all that mattered. 

None of them had been into the dining room since, they each had enough of Ava's blood on their skin and clothes already. 

They didn't want to see the bloodied remains of her shirt, the bandages or the streaks of it across the table. 

Mary only wished that she could have done more to help, but the injuries Ava had suffered had been well out of her area of expertise. 

(She wondered if Beatrice was mad at her for keeping her away.)

The sound of footsteps crunching against glass got louder, and Mary looked up to see Camila walk into the room, sheets of cardboard tucked under one arm. 

Camila offered a tired smile. "It's not ideal, but these will be okay for a temporary measure, at least to keep the cold out." 

"I think there's some duct tape in one of these drawers." Mary replied. "I'll give you a hand in a minute." 

Out of their entire group, Mary never thought it would fall to her and Camila to help keep things moving. 

That wasn't to say that Camila wasn't extremely capable, everything that had happened since Shannon's death has only proven that she was highly skilled, so much so that Mary was quite content to consider her the ultimate wild card of the group. 

She just never thought it would come to a point where Beatrice and Lilith would need (or rather, accept) so much help and show so much vulnerability. 

"I think we have time before the rain hits." Camila said, coming up beside Mary and setting the cardboard down. She let out a quiet sigh. "I need to do something about all of this rubble too." 

There was still the unspoken question about what to do with all of the bodies, out of sight for now, but neither of them were quite ready to deal with that part yet. 

"I wouldn't worry too much about that yet." Mary sighed. She reached into her pocket for her packet of cigarettes and tried not to outwardly react upon only seeing four remaining in the box. "We can only do so much." 

Camila didn't object to Mary pulling out her lighting a cigarette in the kitchen. 

They were so far past that now. 

Hell, for a solid moment, Mary thought Camila was going to ask for one herself. 

"Mary… What do we do now?" Camila asked quietly. "We're not safe here." 

Yeah, Mary was well aware of that. 

And honestly? 

She didn't know. 

Not only did Vincent know where they were, there was also the whole situation of there being a stack of bodies no more than thirty feet from the house. 

All it would take is for one concerned local to report the gunfire from the morning to have the police sniffing around. 

They really couldn't afford for that to happen. 

"I don't know." Mary replied honestly. "I've left a message for Mother Superion to let her know that we have Ava back, I really need her to get back to us so I can figure out our next steps."

Planning had always been Beatrice's area of expertise. 

Mary took a long drag of her cigarette and used the brief silence before she exhaled to consider their options. 

"I think… At the moment, we need to focus on Ava. Ideally we need to make sure she's safe to travel before we do anything else." Mary said. "I'm relying on Vincent trying to anticipate our movements, that he would think we would have left immediately so he wouldn't bother to send more men." 

It was a gamble, for sure. 

But for now, it was all they had. 

It wasn't even as if Mary had a full picture of what had happened between Ava, Lilith, Adriel and Vincent. 

Ava had pretty much been unconscious the entire time while Lilith hadn't been in much of a state to speak as all of her focus had been redirected to helping Camila stabilise Ava as they saw the extent of her injuries. 

Adriel had a divinium sword, that was about all Mary knew at the moment. 

The sooner Ava woke up, the better. 

Mary knew that she should be scared, and yeah, she was. 

She was stressed, felt more than a little bit lost. She knew that they were exposed and outnumbered and right now, the odds were absolutely stacked against them. 

But at the same time, none of it mattered, at least for now. 

Because Ava was back with them. 

Wounded and unconscious, but alive and breathing and safe. 

And protected. 

Beatrice and Lilith had yet to leave her side, each taking up a careful watch over their fallen friend. 

(Friend didn't exactly like the correct term, it was too small when used in the context of Ava and Lilith, and definitely for Ava and Beatrice.) 

It didn't matter how exhausted Mary was, Beatrice and Lilith had earned this moment. 

She would take on the role of guardian and keep watch over them. 

Mary knew that Camila felt the same. 

Camila hugged her arms close to her chest and frowned. "We can't rule out the idea of them coming back though, can we?" 

"No." 

Mary also knew that Camila felt guilty, that it was her fault that Vincent's men had found them in the first place. 

She didn't know how to help ease that feeling. 

To tell Camila that it wasn't her fault, that they likely would have found them regardless wouldn't be enough. 

Nobody blamed her for it, Camila had worked so hard, and throughout this whole endeavour, it had been her who had found all of the information, who had thought outside the box to try everything to track Ava down.

Mary leaned over to flick the ash from her cigarette into the sink and turned to Camila, ready to at least try and offer some words of reassurance. 

Camila spoke up first, pushing off of the counter with a quiet sigh. 

"I need to go check on Ava." 

"Is there anything I can do to help?" Mary asked instead. 

Camila smiled and shook her head. "No, I just need to check her vitals." 

"Tell me what to look for and I can do it." Mary replied. "I was just going to make soup for everybody once they woke up." 

"It's easier if I just do it, Mary." Camila said, though it was clear that Camila understood what Mary was trying to do. 

It was just one more weight on Camila's shoulders.

"Can I at least make you a coffee?" Mary asked. 

Camila's expression was one of gratitude. 

"Yes, please." 

It was the least that Mary could do. 

 

--

 

As Ava slowly found herself easing back into consciousness, part of her thought that she was dead. 

There had been no dreams, no nightmares, not even the quiet space with Shannon's reassuring presence. 

It had just been an abyss of silent darkness. 

The only confirmation of her life came in the form of pain. 

Death… Being dead? 

That part didn't hurt. 

Ava knew that already. 

The next question Ava had to ask herself though, was the matter of where she was. 

She could remember the fight with Adriel and Vincent, Lilith appearing and saving her like a knight in shining armour and whisking her away. 

Falling into Beatrice's arms. 

But despite all of that, Ava was still too scared to open her eyes. 

What if it had all been a dream? 

What if, when she opened them, she found herself back in her prison? Trapped once again. 

Ava lay in silence, eyes tightly shut as she tried to ignore the aches and pains that consumed every inch of her body, the deep hunger that made her stomach twist painfully.

She didn't know how long she laid there for, unable to focus on anything beyond her own breathing. 

At least if she could feel the pain in her body, that meant that Ava knew she could potentially move. 

Eventually though, Ava heard a door open, so quietly and yet it made her heart jump all the same. 

She heard the creak of the hinges as it opened fully. 

There had been no doors like that in her prison. 

The almost silent footsteps came as even more of a surprise, so light and careful as they got closer. 

None of Vincent's men moved like that. 

Her throat threatened to clench when she felt a hand close around her wrist, lifting it from whatever it was Ava was lying on and shifting until two soft fingers pressed against the inside of her wrist.

It all felt too soft.

Too caring. 

This couldn't be her prison. 

Ava opened her eyes and was greeted with a darkened room, faint streaks of light filtered through somewhere, casting the figure who stood above her in a muted glow. 

She could recognise that dark mop of curls anywhere. 

Camila. 

Camila wasn't looking at her though, her hold remained steady on Ava's hand, although her gaze was fixed on the phone in her other hand, lips moving as she counted under her breath. 

Ava could feel tears forming in her eyes. 

She was back. 

Where were the others? 

Where was Mary? Lilith? 

Beatrice? 

The logical thing would have been to say something, to alert Camila to her consciousness. 

Even to just be patient and wait, knowing that once Camila had finished counting her pulse, she would have looked away from her phone and seen Ava staring back at her. 

But logic, Ava found, was rarely present in the way that she acted. 

Which was why as soon as Beatrice's face flashed through her mind, she shot upright. 

Or at least, she tried to. 

Because the second her body began to move, Camila noticed, and in a blink of a second, was reacting. 

Ava was vaguely aware of the phone landing somewhere near her, but was much more focused on the gentle hands on her shoulders, stopping Ava before she could get too far. 

She was thankful to be stopped, because each movement brought about a fresh flare of pain and a wave of nausea to accompany it. 

"Ava." Camila said, voice so soft and caring that Ava felt those tears threaten to spill over. "It's okay. You're okay. Try not to move too much." 

"Beatrice?" Ava whispered, her voice still threatened to crack. "Lilith?" 

The bed dipped a little beneath Camila's weight as she settled at Ava's side. 

Ava's eyes adjusted a little to the light and could finally see Camila's expression more clearly. 

She looked so tired. 

But God, no matter how tired she seemed, Camila was smiling. 

One hand moved to the back of Ava's neck, soft and reassuring. 

"They're both here." Camila whispered back. "They're right here with you. Look." 

Ava leaned into Camila's touch, just for a moment before she turned her head to her left. 

Lilith was sitting in what looked like a dining chair, head thrown back so far that there was no way it could be a comfortable position to sleep in, mouth slightly askew as she slept. 

All that covered her was what appeared to be Mary's jacket. 

In another life, Ava would have laughed at the sight, but now Ava only felt relief. 

Ava looked back at Camila, noticing the way in which Camila's eyes lingered on Lilith for just a few extra seconds before meeting Ava's gaze once more. 

Her smile was encouraging. 

Ava turned her head to the right and felt the sudden calm that settled over her. 

Because there she was. 

Beatrice. 

Partially curled in on herself in an armchair close to Ava's bedside, body angled towards Ava with her chin tucked against her chest. 

A blanket covered her partially, presumably having slipped off of her since she had fallen asleep. 

Even in the darkened room, Ava could see bandages wrapped around one arm, the cotton ball taped to the inside of her elbow on Beatrice's other arm. 

Ava didn't even realise that she was turning to reach out to Beatrice until she felt Camila still her again. 

That was when Ava noticed a bandage wrapped around the hand Camila had grabbed, the tubes taped to the back of her left hand and the inside of her own elbow. 

What the…? 

Camila reached for Ava's hand and lowered it back to the bed, giving it a soft squeeze. 

"The halo is healing you." Camila began, careful to keep her voice low, though Ava suspected that was more for the sake of their sleeping friends than for herself. "Slowly, but it is. Divinium is… Tricky." 

Ava dropped her gaze to their hands, marveling in the contact. 

"Don't need to tell me twice." Ava replied softly. 

"You were extremely dehydrated and you'd lost a lot of blood. I had done everything I could to help you until the halo started to kick in." 

"Clearly you did a good job, Camila." Ava said. She lifted her gaze to meet Camila's, surprised to see the tears there. "Thank you." 

Camila sniffed. "It was the least I could do." 

Ava studied the tubes in her arm. She was no doctor, but this looked like actual professional stuff. 

The big giveaway was what the tubes connected to. 

The coat stand, not so much, but the two bags that hung from them? 

One contained a clear liquid, the other was empty. 

But Ava could see the red straining on the inside of it. 

"Where did you get all of this from?" 

"Lilith teleported to a hospital and stole it for us." Camila replied. 

Ava frowned. "Lilith stole blood? How did she even know what my type is? I don't even know what my type is." 

Camila's gaze drifted over to Beatrice for a few seconds before she looked back at Ava. 

Ava understood the moment before Camila explained. 

"Bea is O negative. It's the universal blood type so anybody can receive it, it's why hospitals are always in demand for it." 

Ava felt the tears finally spill over. 

Beatrice had already given so much on her mission to help get Ava back, and now she's given up her blood too? 

How much could Ava take from her? 

Camila kept talking despite the guilt that was threatening to choke Ava. 

"We washed off as much of the blood that we could so that I could patch you up. Lilith changed you when nobody else was in the room. We didn't want to do anything else until you woke up." 

It was definitely a delayed response, but it was those words that really hammered in the reality of it all. 

She was home. 

Ava was really home. 

She felt her body begin to tremble as she tried to hold back her tears and surprised both of them when instead of a sob, a weak laugh escaped instead. 

Tears had begun to fall down Camila's cheeks too, but she was grinning all the same as an equally relieved laugh left her lips. 

Ava was all too happy to let herself fall forward into her as Camila moved in to hug her close. 

"I'm really glad that you're back Ava." 

It took a considerable effort to get an arm around Camila's shoulders as she buried her face into her neck. 

"Thank you, Camila. For everything." Ava murmured. "Thank you." 

Ava didn't just mean for the role in bringing her back, or even for keeping her alive when she was returned to them. 

She also meant for whatever part Camila played in taking care of herself, in taking care of the others. 

For helping to keep them safe. 

Their laughter must have been slightly too loud though, because Ava suddenly became aware of movement coming from either side of her. 

Camila must have heard it too, because Ava soon found them breaking apart, though Camila never let go of her, holding onto Ava so that she remained sat upright. 

While Ava's gaze immediately shifted to her right, she was vaguely aware of Camila's going in the opposite direction. 

The silence lingered heavily in the following seconds as they each remained focused on the other occupants of the room. 

She watched Beatrice stir, expression twisting into one of pain as she inhaled sharply, eyes opening a moment later. 

Ava held her breath. 

Beatrice's gaze flickered up, eyes widening when she saw Ava looking back at her. 

She was sitting up in an instant, still silent as her gaze flickered briefly to Camila before settling back on Ava. 

On her other side, she heard Lilith let out a quiet groan. 

"Damn, my neck." Lilith complained under her breath. "I - Oh." 

Beatrice remained silent as she stared at Ava, a faint but noticeable glint in her eyes. 

It was Ava who broke the silence first. 

"Hi." 

Beatrice inhaled as she shifted, turning fully to face them, blanket forgotten as it fell to the floor. 

"Ava…" 

Camila's thumb stroked Ava's shoulder for a moment. 

"Lilith, can you arrange the pillows so Ava can sit up please?" 

"Right… Of course." 

Ava could hear Lilith move and a few moments later felt pillows being rested against her back.

She tore her gaze away from Beatrice long enough to look up at Lilith, coming face to face with a tired but relieved smile.

"Good to see you awake." 

"You too." Ava replied. "You have drool on your shirt." 

She received a faint flick to the ear for her comment, but it made Ava grin regardless. 

"Shut up." 

Camila slowly eased Ava back until she could rest against the pillows and released her hold on Ava. 

"Are you comfortable?" Camila asked. 

"Yeah." 

"How's the pain?" 

Ava laughed despite the ache in her chest. "Still here and still shit, but believe me when I tell you it's so much more manageable." 

She should have known that the others wouldn't laugh. 

"I stole morphine." Lilith said. "Do you want morphine?" 

"No thanks Walter White." Ava replied. "Anything milder?" 

The last thing she wanted was to be out of it on pain meds. 

Camila squeezed her hand softly. "I'll bring something up. Do you feel up to eating?" 

Her stomach answered for her as it rumbled. 

"I'll let Mary know." Camila smiled. Her attention shifted to Beatrice. "I'll bring you something too." 

Ava didn't miss how it wasn't a question for Beatrice. 

Beatrice simply nodded. 

Camila's gaze flickered up to the IV bags. "I think we can take the lines out now, Lilith, can you go tell Mary that Ava is up and I'll go wash my hands and get them out, if that's okay with you, Ava?" 

"Fine by me." 

She really didn't want to look at the needles in her hand and arm any longer than necessary, considering everything she had been through, it was actually a little amusing to her that the sight made the nausea come back. 

The human brain was weird. 

"Okay. I'll be back in two minutes to get those out, then you can both rest for a bit." 

Oh. 

Camila was trying to give them time alone. 

Ava turned her focus back to Beatrice as she listened to Lilith and Camila each leave the room. 

Beatrice still seemed frozen. 

Ava didn't know what to do. 

But instinct told her to wait until the lines come out first. 

Whatever their first words were to be, Ava didn't want them to be interrupted. 

So instead, they continued to stare at each other, taking in every available inch that they could see. 

Ava knew there were still tears rolling down her cheeks, much like how Beatrice must know of the single tear that fell from the corner of her left eye. 

Even when Camila returned and pulled on a pair of gloves, they never broke eye contact. 

"You're going to feel a slight pinch, okay Ava?" Camila said. 

Ava nodded, and as she felt the brief pain, she saw Beatrice twitch, expression twisting into one of pain and sympathy. 

Camila placed fresh dressings on them and excused herself silently, closing the door behind her. 

Ava finally knew what to say. 

"This isn't a dream, Beatrice." Ava said, and then she remembered the two words that Beatrice had said to her outside of Adriel's tomb. "Trust me." 

Beatrice was out of her seat immediately, falling to her knees with a heavy and painful sounding thud as her head came down to press into the mattress, one hand landed on top of Ava's as her body was racked with sobs.

"I do." Beatrice replied, voice cracked and weak. "Ava. Ava, I'm so sorry." 

Ava couldn't have held back her own tears even if she had tried. 

She wanted to turn, she wanted to reach over with her other hand and get it onto Beatrice. 

But she didn't know how much movement her body could take, and so Ava settled for moving her hand until she could hold onto Beatrice's. 

"You have nothing to be sorry for." 

Beatrice lifted her head, cheeks stained with tears that Ava longed to wipe away. 

She looked so guilty. Devastated. 

"It's all my fault. I should have seen them coming. I should have fought harder to stop them from taking you." Beatrice dropped her head to draw a shaky breath. "I made you a promise and I broke it." 

"And we will never leave you." 

Ava felt her heart break at the pain in Beatrice's words. 

She wished she had the capacity to heal Beatrice's pain. 

This wasn't the type of pain that could be wished away though, even if it was, would it be enough? 

No. 

There was no magic way to remove emotional pain, but that didn't mean she couldn't try to help ease it. 

Because Beatrice was wrong. 

And Ava wanted for her to see that. 

"You never left me Beatrice." Ava replied, drawing her hand away from Beatrice's and after a moment of hesitation, let it come to rest on the top of Beatrice's head. "I was never alone. I had Shannon with me and you… You were always in my thoughts. My light, remember?" 

Beatrice had gone very still the moment her hand had touched her head, even the tremors from her sobs had stopped. 

Ava listened carefully as Beatrice took a deep breath, the exhale was considerably less steady. 

All she wanted was for Beatrice to look at her again. 

"Beatrice -" 

"I did things, Ava." Beatrice interrupted, voice so carefully devoid of emotion that Ava knew it was a conscious effort. "In my mission to try and find you. Things that any other person would consider monstrous. I left a wounded man to die. I tortured another and I - part of me wanted to kill him." 

Ava dared to allow herself to stroke her hand over Beatrice's hair. 

"Look at me, please?" 

It took a few seconds, but eventually Beatrice lifted her head, staring up at Ava with sad brown eyes. 

"You aren't a monster." Ava said firmly. "A monster would show no remorse for the things they did. That's not you, Beatrice." 

Beatrice's hand twisted into the blanket until her knuckles turned white. 

Her lower lip trembled. 

"It doesn't mean that I wouldn't make the exact same choices." Beatrice replied. "I would do it all again because those actions helped bring us to you." 

She took another deep breath and sighed before speaking again. 

"The night Mary stopped me, I told her that God would forgive me for what I was doing." Beatrice said softly. "She asked me if I could forgive myself. She told me not to give in for my sake. For your sake."

"And do you forgive yourself?" Ava asked. 

"I don't know. My fear is how you would perceive me when you knew." 

"There's nothing monstrous about the things you did." Ava said. "Or you, for that matter. You're Beatrice, and that's all that matters to me." 

Her hand moved down to Beatrice's cheek and Ava felt nothing but relief as she watched Beatrice relax and melt into her touch. 

Warmth soon followed when Beatrice's hand came up to rest against Ava's to hold it in place. 

It almost felt too good to be true. 

"I've missed you so much." Beatrice whispered. 

Ava sniffed and reached up with her free hand to wipe at the tears on her cheek, in the same moment she used her thumb to brush away what she could of the tears that stained Beatrice's face. 

"I'm here. You can rest now." 

"It's still not safe." 

"But for now, we are."

Beatrice closed her eyes and Ava watched some of the tension physically leave Beatrice's body. 

"We are." 

"Will you come up here?" Ava asked. "I'm starting to fear for your knees." 

Beatrice looked so small, so tired. 

She just wanted Beatrice to rest. 

Beatrice nodded, and stood. 

 

--

 

Lilith held a sheet of cardboard against the window as Camila taped it in place. 

Mary was in the middle of checking the soup, making sure it didn't burn whilst constantly checking her phone on the counter. 

She was waiting for Mother Superion to call.

How long did they wait before they took matters into their own hands? 

"So Adriel has a divinium sword." Mary said. 

"Yes, he does." Lilith replied. 

"Any idea on what he plans to do with it?" 

Camila finished taping the cardboard in place so that Lilith could finally step away. 

"Beyond kill Ava and myself? No idea." Lilith said. "I'm not sure how much Ava will be able to tell us that we don't already know, either." 

"We still need to try though." Mary sighed. 

She glanced at her phone again before turning away to retrieve a bowl for each of them. 

"Ava needs to rest." Camila said. "We all do. I'm just not sure how we can do that safely here." 

Lilith felt bad for getting the few hours of sleep that she had. 

It hadn't been her plan. 

When she had taken up watch in Ava's room, it was with the intention of giving Beatrice reassurance too. 

That her presence there, along with Ava, would be enough for her to feel safe enough to sleep at last. 

Mary and Camila had yet to rest. 

"We need Mother Superion's input before we leave." Mary said. "There's a whole lot of bodies on this property that I have no idea how we're supposed to deal with." 

Lilith folded her arms across her chest. "Drag them all back in here and torch the place."

"Not exactly good if you're trying to stay under the radar." Mary replied. "May as well just call the cops and get them to come straight here." 

"Burning the place down also means we'll have to look at leaving… Really soon." Camila added quietly. "Moving the bodies before decomposition really sets in…" 

Camila grimaced, no doubt picturing the scenario. 

"A mass grave then." Mary nodded. 

"And what about all of this?" Lilith asked. "All of the damage, all of the blood and shell casings. The garage at the back of the house that's full of weapons? Oh and you know, every fingerprint we've all left here. That's a lot of evidence." 

Mary made a face and turned away to fill each bowl with soup. 

"And that's a point in the burn the building down column." 

"There's no point in even thinking about any of that yet." Camila sighed. "We can't leave until we know Ava is safe to travel. She needs until at least tomorrow just so we can see how much the halo has done to heal her." 

Mary reached for her pack of cigarettes only to curse under her breath as she pulled the last one out, crumpling the box in her hand and tossing it aside. 

"We need a plan." She said. 

"And we will think of one." Lilith replied softly. "But Camila is right, we can't risk moving Ava until we know she is okay. But we also can't leave her and Beatrice out of this conversation. We need their input." 

"So what do you suggest?" Mary asked. 

Mary was stressed, they all were. 

But when all of them had been struggling, it had always been Mary who had pulled them from the darkness. 

Mary and Camila. 

Camila had been there when Lilith had started to connect with Ava while Mary had single-handedly put an end to Beatrice's rampage. 

They had watched over Lilith and Beatrice. 

It was only fair that Lilith attempted to extend that same kindness back to her. 

"For now, I think you should be the one to take the food up to them." Lilith said, directing her attention to Mary. "See Ava properly. Camila, will you need to check on her wounds at some point?" 

Camila nodded. "To change the bandages, mostly. I think Ava will want to shower so I'll need to accommodate for that as much as I can." 

Lilith knew that to be a fact. 

Ava loved showers, even while they had been on the run. 

"Then we do that. Mary, go take the food and check in with Ava and Beatrice. We will eat and we will allow ourselves some time to relax." Lilith turned to Camila. "If you can check Ava's condition and let us know when the likelihood of her being able to travel is, that would be great." 

Mary and Camila each nodded. 

"If Ava is able to travel and Mother Superion doesn't get back in touch with us by midnight, I suggest we make a move, even if it's to find a motel to lay low in. Does that sound okay?" Lilith finished. 

"Sounds fine to me." Camila said. 

"Sure." Mary agreed. "We give Mother Superion until midnight." 

Lilith nodded. "Good. Now go give them their food. Hopefully Ava can get Beatrice to actually eat something." 

And hopefully, when Mary entered their room, she wasn't interrupting anything too intimate. 

 

--

 

Ava didn't seem in a hurry to talk about her time in Adriel's captivity. 

And while Beatrice wanted to know, she also… didn't. 

For now, Beatrice was more than content to exist in Ava's presence. 

Beatrice sat on the edge of the bed, close to Ava's legs as she faced her. 

Her gaze drifted to the bandage wrapped around Ava's hand, to the one on her right arm. 

It was in the exact same place where Beatrice wore her own bandage. 

Ava had noticed too, as her fingers reached out and barely brushed Beatrice's arm. 

"This is where you got shot?" Ava asked. 

"Yes." 

Ava's touch inched higher, towards her face, Beatrice knew her destination and tipped her head forward until Ava's fingertips pressed against the stitches on her eyebrow. 

"And this one?" 

Beatrice closed her eyes and sighed. "The night you were taken. I was trying to get to you when one of Vincent's men struck me with the barrel of the gun." 

"I remember," Ava murmured. "The last thing I remembered seeing was you falling to the ground and covered in blood before I -" 

She trailed off. 

Before she was stabbed and taken. 

Ava sighed. "I'm so sorry Beatrice." 

"I'll heal." Beatrice replied. "All of this will heal, eventually." 

The sooner the better. 

She needed to be able to fight, to be able to protect Ava when the time came. 

Ava took a shaky breath and slowly lowered her hand back to her lap. 

Beatrice wanted to reach out to take it. 

She wanted to do so much. 

Ava shifted against the pillows and winced in pain. 

"Is it your back?" 

"Yeah." Ava groaned. "It's nowhere near as bad, but it's still super uncomfortable." 

There was a light knock at the door that tore their focus away from each other. 

"Beatrice?" Mary called. "I could really do with a hand opening this." 

"Oh." 

Beatrice eased herself from the bed, turning her back on Ava as she grimaced upon putting pressure on her leg. 

She knew her limp was noticeable as she made her way to the door and opened it. 

Mary stood before her, holding a tray in her hands. 

There were two bowls of chicken soup, two bottles of water and a packet of painkillers. 

"Thanks," Mary said. "I brought you both lunch." 

"I… I'm not really -" 

"You need to try." Mary said quietly. 

She stepped around Beatrice and smiled when she made eye contact with Ava. 

"Welcome back to the land of the living." 

Ava snorted. "Hi Mary." 

"How are you feeling?" 

Ava gave a weak shrug. "Like I got kidnapped, stabbed, bled out to within an inch of my life and got shot just for good measure. Oh, and choked. You know, the usual stuff." 

Even the way Ava spoke and interacted with the others seemed different. 

It seemed much more relaxed, lighter. 

There was a weight behind each word spoken between them, each look and touch carried it too. 

Beatrice knew why. 

There was so much to say, but was now the moment to say it? 

"Yeah, pretty standard." Mary said. "You gonna be okay with this on your lap?" 

"Oh, yeah totally." Ava nodded. She looked over to Beatrice. "You want to sit down, Beatrice?" 

"Yes… Okay." 

Beatrice had every intention of returning to her spot at the edge of Ava's bed or even to her armchair, but then Beatrice watched Ava pull one of the pillows from behind her back and set it down on the empty space beside her. 

It was a silent invitation. 

Beatrice was just thankful that Mary didn't draw attention or comment on it. 

"You should keep your leg elevated." Ava said softly. 

Beatrice didn't argue, sitting on the bed beside Ava and stretched her leg out. 

"If you're going to take the meds, do it before food." Mary instructed, setting the tray down on Ava's lap. "Camila is going to come up in a bit and give you another checkout, see how you're healing." 

"What's the plan?" Beatrice asked. 

"We're still working on it." Mary replied. "We have one ready, but we're waiting to see if Mother Superion gets back to us before we put it in motion." 

They need to act soon. 

The longer they stay here, the more risk they're at of being found. 

More than that, there was the matter of the men they had killed. 

"For now though, eat. Rest. You both need and deserve it." 

Beatrice wished that she could believe that she deserved anything. 

"Thanks Mary." Ava said. 

Mary reached out to ruffle Ava's hair. "Good to have you back." 

They both watched Mary leave the room and close the door behind herself. Ava wasted no time in opening a bottle of water and downing a third of its contents. 

"Oh my God." She groaned. "It feels like I'm in heaven." 

Beatrice watched her set the bottle down and fumble around opening the painkillers, pausing for long enough to read the instructions on the back before popping two from the sheet and into the palm of her hand. 

"Do you want some?" Ava asked. 

Beatrice shook her head. 

"But… You're in pain." 

She was always in pain. 

"It's okay, Ava." Beatrice said softly. "I'm okay." 

Ava didn't look too satisfied with the answer, but she didn't push, instead taking her medication and washing them down with more water. 

Beatrice did accept the other bottle when Ava offered it to her though, although she did hesitate when Ava handed her a spoon. 

Ava didn't miss that action either. 

"When was the last time you ate?" Ava asked quietly. 

Beatrice turned the spoon over in her hand a few times. 

"It's been hard." She admitted. "I haven't had an appetite." 

Ava made a thoughtful sound. "I understand." 

Even now, watching Ava eye her own bowl of soup, Beatrice felt no urge, no appetite. 

"Will you at least try?" Ava asked. "Even if it's just a couple of mouthfuls." 

It was such a gentle request, one that had Beatrice reaching over to take the bowl from Ava's tray and balancing it carefully in her lap. 

Ava smiled. 

As Beatrice took the first spoonful, she didn't even register the taste, her attention continued to drift to Ava, watching as she ate. 

She seemed so happy.

"Did they feed you?" Beatrice asked before she could stop herself. 

"Sometimes." Ava replied. "But towards the end the pain got so bad I couldn't even if I wanted to." 

"I… I can't even begin to imagine how much you were hurting." 

"Hey, it's okay." Ava said, pausing in her eating to give Beatrice a soft look. "It's over now." 

"I'll make Vincent pay for what he did to you." 

"Not just me, Beatrice." Ava replied. "But for all of us. He hurt us all. He hurt you ." 

Not in the same way. 

Not in the way he hurt Ava and Shannon. 

"His actions set in motion a series of events that led to this, the injuries you suffered included." Ava continued. "Don't erase the pain he caused you." 

"I wasn't." Beatrice sighed. "Losing you hurt more than any of these wounds." 

She forced herself to remain focused on her soup even though Beatrice could feel Ava's gaze burning into the side of her head. 

Beatrice felt Ava shift, just a little, but it was enough for their shoulders to press together. 

"Every time I thought you were hurt or dead, or when Vincent or his men talked about you… I lost control. My emotions got too much and the halo would flare." Ava said.

That got Beatrice to turn her head. 

Honesty was met with honesty. Always. 

That was how they worked. 

Ava looked tired again though, and Beatrice just wanted to make sure that she could finish eating before exhaustion took over. 

Beatrice leaned a little more into Ava, and ate another spoonful of soup. 

Ava smiled and did the same. 

 

--

 

Mary had already fallen asleep by the time Camila got up to go and check on Ava. 

Lilith had been the one to grab a blanket and cover Mary with it, sharing a long look with Camila. 

She knew that Lilith would stay awake now to watch over her. 

When Camila knocked on Ava's door, it was Beatrice's quiet voice that invited her inside. 

Beatrice was sitting on the bed, legs stretched out in front of her, hands on her lap and gaze fixed firmly ahead. 

She was fidgeting so much. 

Ava was… Mostly sat upright, though her head had slumped to rest on Beatrice's shoulder, fast asleep. 

The tray and two mostly empty bowls rested on the ground next to Beatrice's side of the bed. 

Beatrice didn't meet Camila's gaze until she got closer to the bed. 

"I'm sorry." Beatrice whispered. "I didn't know how to move her without hurting her." 

She looked so guilty. 

As if Ava falling asleep against her was her fault. 

"Don't apologise." Camila said. "Are you okay?" 

Beatrice's hands stopped moving as she threaded her fingers together and gave a sharp nod. 

"Yes." 

It wasn't the whole truth. 

But Camila couldn't deny that there was a much more noticeable calm around Beatrice now that Ava was back. 

At the same time though, it was like Beatrice was waiting for the penny to drop. 

For the next hurdle, the next threat. 

But there was something more there. 

And it all came down to Ava. 

Even in the few moments where Camila had gotten to see the pair interact, there was a heaviness around them. 

No. 

Anticipation. 

That was the word. 

Camila was glad. 

They both deserved it. 

Beatrice turned her head and glanced at Ava's sleeping form. 

"You're here to check on her injuries." 

Camila nodded. "Yeah." 

"...We have to wake her, don't we?" 

"I'm afraid so."

She could tell that Beatrice didn't want to, but her head tilted closer to Ava's regardless. 

"Ava?" Beatrice spoke softly. "You need to wake up." 

"...No." Ava mumbled. 

"I know you don't want to. But Camila needs to check you over, the sooner she's done, the sooner you can go back to sleep."

"I also got waterproof dressings now." Camila added. "Even if the halo hasn't healed you, you can take a shower." 

It was actually comedic, the way that Ava's eyes snapped open. 

"I can shower?" Ava asked. 

It made Beatrice smile too. 

"If you're up to it, then yeah." Camila said. 

Even if Ava couldn't stand for long, Camila had no issues with dragging the chair Lilith had slept in into the shower so that Ava could sit. 

Ava sat up and rubbed at her eyes with the heel of her palm and nodded. "Okay." 

Beatrice suddenly looked uncomfortable, already turning away from Ava to slide her legs off of the bed. 

She was almost standing when Ava's hand darted out to grab onto Beatrice's. 

"Beatrice?" Ava said quietly. 

"I should give you some privacy." Beatrice replied. 

Ava glanced at Camila, her gaze was almost pleading. 

She didn't want Beatrice to leave. 

Beatrice looked reluctant too. 

"If you're both comfortable with the idea… I could use Bea's help?" Camila suggested. "Or I could even show you how to change the dressings?" 

Beatrice didn't look at Camila, but after a few moments she turned her head to look at Ava over her shoulder. 

"It's your choice, Ava." 

Ava shook her head. "It's both of our choices. Both of us." 

Beatrice's shoulders dropped as she turned more towards Ava. 

"I want you to stay." Ava said quietly. "Don't leave. Stay." 

Beatrice turned to face Ava fully. 

Ava was still holding her hand. 

"I want to stay too." 

Camila almost wished that she wasn't in the room to witness this moment. 

It felt too private. 

She didn't want to interrupt. 

"We'll start easy first, okay?" Camila said. "Hand and arm, then back." 

Ava nodded as Beatrice slowly lowered herself back onto the bed, though she didn't return to the same position as Camila had initially found them in. 

Camila walked around to Ava's side and perched herself on the edge, setting her equipment down on Ava's lap. 

Ava seemed interested in the kit's contents. 

"...Can I?" 

Camila flicked it open and nodded. "Go ahead." 

Ava held out her right hand and began to rummage through Camila's kit while Camila set about unwrapping the bandage. 

"What's this?" Ava asked. 

"Eye wash." Beatrice replied. 

"Is this a thermometer?" 

"Yes." 

"Cool, can I take my temperature?" 

"I can do it for you." Beatrice replied. 

Camila kept her attention focused on Ava's hand as the pair talked, allowing them this moment of levity. 

When she finally got the bandage off, Camila was relieved to find that the wound on Ava's palm had mostly healed, her stitches clung to the inside of the bandage, no doubt pushed out by the halo's healing. 

Currently, all that remained was an angry scar. 

Beatrice noticed before Ava did. 

"Ava, look." 

"Oh nice." Ava said. "That was a really fucking deep cut." 

Camila was very aware of that. 

Lilith had told them about how Ava had clung to the shard, and Camila had seen the exposed muscle as she stitched it up. 

"I'll still clean and dress it, just to be on the safe side, okay?" Camila said. 

Ava nodded, attention now fixated on what Camila was doing. 

Ava's arm proved to be even better, as not even a scar remained anymore, Camila guessed that was a result of the bullets not containing any divinium. 

She knew not to get her hopes up when it came to Ava's back. 

It had been clear just from the pain Ava was in when her and Beatrice helped Ava move down the bed enough for Camila to sit behind her. 

Beatrice settled on the edge of the bed in front of Ava, hands resting gently on her shoulders to support her weight. 

"Okay?" Beatrice asked. 

Ava nodded. "...Y-yeah." 

"We won't need to take your shirt off." Camila said. "But I will need to push it up pretty high, okay?" 

"Okay." 

"Bea, if you can keep Ava steady I can take the bandage off." 

Beatrice met Camila's gaze over Ava's shoulder and nodded. 

Some blood had seeped through the bandages, not reassuring. 

Ava was quiet as Camila removed the bandages, but the apologetic look in Beatrice's eyes told Camila all that she needed to know. 

It still hurt. 

With each bit of skin that was revealed to her, Camila saw just how slowly the halo was working to fix the damage that was done. 

She met Beatrice's gaze once more. 

"Bad, huh?" Ava guessed. 

"It's healing." Camila said. "But very slowly." 

Ava's shoulders dropped a little, and Beatrice's attention was on the girl between them once more. 

"I guess it's to be expected." Ava sighed. "I don't have to see it to know it did a lot of damage." 

Camila reached for the antiseptic and rested one hand against Ava's shoulder blade. 

"This is going to hurt a bit." 

Ava laughed. "It's fine, Camila. Go for it." 

Beyond a few muttered curses, Ava didn't complain much, but it didn't stop Beatrice from offering some quiet words of encouragement all the same. 

Camila fixed a new dressing in place and rolled Ava's shirt back down. 

"There. All done." 

"Thanks Camila." Ava said. "Bet it was easier to do that when I was unconscious." 

"I'd take you conscious over any other option." Camila replied. 

Beatrice's hands remained on Ava's shoulders, her smile was small. "You handled that so well." 

Camila didn't need to see Ava's face to know she was grinning. 

Camila got to her feet and pulled off her gloves, shoving them into the waste bag with the used bandages. 

"Do you want to see if you can stand and walk?" Camila asked. "Then we can get you set up with the shower." 

Ava was already nodding. "Abso-fucking-lutely." 

 

--

 

There were clean clothes folded and waiting for her on the counter, warm towels, the room was rapidly filling with steam. 

Ava had been a little unsteady on her feet as Beatrice and Camila had helped her stand and move around, but they were all happy with her progress already. 

Camila had still placed the chair in the shower, just in case she needed it.

Beatrice placed her hand under the water and hummed, satisfied before turning back to Ava. 

"I'll be right outside if you need me." 

Ava nodded. "I uh… I won't lock the door. Just in case." 

"Okay." Beatrice said. 

They were both reluctant to part ways, even for a little while. 

There was a few seconds of lingering eye contact before Beatrice offered a smile and left the bathroom, closing the door behind her. 

There was only going to be a thin door separating them, but it immediately felt like too much. 

Ava stripped as quickly as she could and stepped under the warm spray. 

She didn't try to hold back her genuine moan of pleasure. 

Fuck, she had missed this. 

Two minutes turned into ten as Ava remained under the water long enough to feel as though she had washed all of the grime and blood from her body. 

Once the halo healed her, all physical traces of her captivity would be gone. 

It was a start. 

She took her time drying herself once she was out of the shower, brushing the knots from her hair and changing into fresh clothes. 

Ava felt like a human again. 

She stepped in front of the bathroom mirror and reached up to wipe some of the steam from the glass and found herself smiling at her reflection. 

The tiredness remained, but it was her. 

Ava dropped her head to laugh, taking a deep breath before lifting her gaze once more. 

When she looked back at her reflection, Ava was met with another pair of eyes watching her from over her shoulder. 

Adriel. 

Her panicked yelp got caught in her throat as she spun around, knocking the hairbrush to the ground as she reached back to grab the counter to steady herself. 

There was nobody there. 

Ava tried to will her heart to slow down, taking several breaths in a weak attempt to calm herself. 

She turned back around and was met with only herself in the mirror. 

It was in her head. 

It was all in her head. 

She was fine. 

She was fine. 

Ava took one more deep breath and exhaled slowly. 

She was fine. 

"Calm down idiot." Ava said to herself. 

She turned away from the mirror and opened the door. 

Beatrice was sitting on the floor, injured leg stretched out in front of her with her head resting against the wall. 

She had stayed, just like she had promised. 

Beatrice looked up at her, a look of concern evident in her eyes. 

Did Ava look panicked? 

"Are you okay?" 

Ava nodded. "Yeah. Yeah, just a little wiped out I guess." 

It wasn't a lie. 

Beatrice got to her feet slowly, using the wall to brace herself. 

"You should get some more rest." 

Beatrice looked tired too. 

Fatigue was normal after giving blood, right? 

And Beatrice was probably exhausted before that. 

Just how much blood had she given to Ava? 

Ava turned her hand over and looked at the veins along her wrist. 

Oh… 

"Ava?" 

Ava dropped her arm back to her side and focused her gaze back on Beatrice. 

"You should too." 

Beatrice looked to a closed door across the hall. "I suppose." 

That must be her room. 

Ava didn't want to be separated by a door, let alone two and a hallway. 

"Will you stay with me?" Ava asked. 

The relief practically radiated from Beatrice as she stared at Ava. 

"Yes." 

Ava nodded. "Okay." 

"Okay." 

Together, they made their way back to her room. 

Ava chanced another look at the veins on the inside of her wrist. 

Beatrice was in her veins now.

But then again, that had been the case for a while, hadn't it?

 

Chapter Text

 

The days were getting longer and more tiresome. 

It was getting increasingly harder for Mother Superion to keep tabs on everything going on outside of the Vatican walls. 

(It was getting hard to keep track of what was happening within them too) 

The likelihood that the Vatican had been compromised was looking more and more likely. 

The shield being taken seemed to be no matter of concern to anybody, Duretti himself had dismissed it as being moved to a more secure location should the Warrior Nun and her followers try to return. 

As if there was somewhere more secure than the Vatican archive. 

There was nobody within these walls that Mother Superion could trust, the danger to herself grew every day.

But she couldn't leave. Not yet. 

Her girls needed her here. 

Mother Superion passed through the halls towards her room, she knew that she needed to check in with Mary, to find out what progress they had made with finding Ava. 

She hoped they had found her, that they had gotten to her in time. 

It was a risk to make a call, there was no way to know who was listening, where was safe. 

Nowhere felt safe enough anymore. 

She was pulled from her thoughts by footsteps coming from somewhere ahead of her. Mother Superion stopped, fingers tightening around the handle of her cane as she waited for the figure to round the corner. 

It was Cardinal Augusto, a dedicated, friendly, if not slightly clueless man. 

Although Mother Superion knew that it was all an act. 

One does not become a Cardinal out of blind luck. 

"Ah, Mother Superion." He greeted. "I was hoping to find you." 

"Good evening, your eminence." Mother Superion replied. "How can I help?" 

"His Holiness has requested our presence, immediately." 

And one certainly doesn't get to be privy to the meetings about the halo by acting clueless. 

"Of course." Mother Superion nodded, already turning to return the way she came. "You don't mind if I accompany you, do I?" 

"Of course not my child." 

They began to walk side by side, matching each other's pace. 

"Do you know what he wishes to talk about?" Mother Superion asked. 

Cardinal Augusto shook his head. "Just that there have been… Developments." 

If he noticed the way that her pace quickened at that then he drew no attention to it. 

"I see." 

Throughout the rest of the walk to Duretti's office, they remained silent, only speaking up to offer acknowledgements and greetings to those that they passed. 

There was no use in trying to get more information from him, even if he did know more, it would not be spoken where there could be ears listening. 

It was already rather late though, and so everybody that they passed were all returning to their quarters for the evening. 

The Vatican would soon grow quiet. 

Duretti had very little issue in adjusting to his new role, as much was evident in the way that he sat behind his desk, looking more fitting as the godfather rather than the head of the Catholic Church.

The room has already filled, all those aware of the situation having taken their seats and talking quietly amongst themselves. 

Duretti looked up as the door was closed behind them. 

"Cardinal. Mother Superion. Good evening to you both." 

Mother Superion tilted her head in acknowledgement. "Your Grace." 

She tried not to allow her gaze to linger on the map spread across his desk for too long. 

"I thank you all for joining me at this hour." Duretti said, addressing the rest of the room. 

There was a faint chorus of responses that Mother Superion waited to end before she spoke up. 

"What news do you have?" She asked. 

"As you all know, our men have been working endlessly in their pursuit to have the halo returned to us. They have followed every lead to ensure that the thief is caught and the followers that she has corrupted are apprehended." 

Mother Superion bit her tongue. 

Ava was many things, but a thief she was not. 

"Has she been found?" One of the other Cardinals asked. 

"Not quite." Duretti replied. "Though we have received word from some very promising sources that have given us a much smaller radius in which to search." 

He pressed a finger against the map and Mother Superion allowed herself to take a step closer. 

It was a map of Spain. 

His finger was alarmingly close to the region she knew the safe house was in. 

How? 

"Where did you get this information?" Mother Superion asked. 

Duretti flashed her a fleeting look, eyebrow raised. 

"We have eyes everywhere, child." He replied. "Five girls such as themselves can only hide for so long." 

There was no way that he could know about what her girls were going through, that Ava was currently still in Adriel's clutches. 

But… 

Who could his source be? Outside of the inhabitants of that safe house, it was only herself who knew where they were. 

Unless he was possessed. 

Unless he was working with Adriel and Vincent and they had found them. 

Having the Pope in his pocket would be a devastating advantage against them. 

Mother Superion took a deep breath to steady herself. 

"What will be our next move?" She asked. 

One of the other Cardinals spoke up to answer her.

"We've sent a team to investigate the area. We have also sent word to Father Rúben to investigate Cat's Cradle and go through their books." 

She did not know who this Father Rúben was, and truthfully, she didn't care. 

Mother Superion raised an eyebrow. "Their books?" 

"The question must be raised as to how they've been able to afford to be on the run." Duretti said, his eyes remained on Mother Superion as he spoke. "Considering the sins that they have already committed it would not be out of the realm of possibility to assume that they would steal from the Church to fund their escape." 

His gaze was watchful.

He didn't trust her. 

He was looking for a reaction. 

Mother Superion would not give him one. 

"And you're hoping that if our men are unable to find them, then hopefully there is a credit card missing from the Cradle and the transactions can be tracked so we are able to find them?" Mother Superion asked. 

He smiled and gave a small nod. "Correct." 

Several of the Sisters at the cradle had gone to great lengths to help her keep Ava and the other girls safe. 

The aid that Mother Superion had been offering was coming to an end. 

She forced herself to smile back. "Wonderful. This is why you lead us, Holy Father." 

Possessed or not, she hoped for his downfall. 

She had to get a message to Mary. 

 

--

 

It was hard to sleep. 

Beatrice couldn't stop coming up with reasons why she shouldn't sleep, but her thoughts had a way of circling back to a few very specific examples. 

For starters, what if they were attacked? It was safe to assume that at least one of the others were awake and keeping watch downstairs, but Beatrice was too afraid to risk it. 

And then there was Ava herself. 

Ava who was only a few inches from her, buried under the blankets and moving every few minutes. 

She was even more restless in her sleep. 

Even in the dark, Beatrice could see every frown that pulled at Ava's lips, every furrow of her eyebrows, every moment where Ava's fingers clutched desperately at the sheets.

Beatrice sat there, legs stretched out on top of the blankets, back against the headboard and watched silently. 

She watched for any signs of pain, any signs that the dreams that haunted Ava were shifting into even darker places. 

Beatrice shivered and tucked her chin into her hoodie and continued to watch, trying in vain to push back the guilt that continued its attempts to claw its way into her heart.

She could justify her reasons for keeping watch all she wanted, but the simple fact remained that Beatrice just… Didn't want to let Ava out of her sight. 

Beatrice needed to know that she was okay, or rather, as close to okay as any of them were currently capable of. 

She hugged her arms tighter to her chest, both regretting her choice to remain above the blankets and maintaining it was for the best as Ava continued to sleep only a few inches away. 

It was the flickering light of the halo that caught Beatrice's attention first. 

Like a gasping breath, it stuttered to life. Brief, desperate flashes illuminated the room, casting half of it in light whilst Beatrice remained untouched in the shadows. 

Was the halo healing what remained of her injuries? Was that the cause of the sudden light? 

The quiet whimper that came from Ava's lips said everything. 

It was out of fear.

She was afraid. 

Her dreams were haunting her. 

Ava shifted, rolling onto her side and curling in on herself, looking smaller than Beatrice had ever seen her before. 

She shook her head, face pressing into the pillow as a whispered 'no' escaped her lips. 

Did Beatrice dare to touch? Would it even be enough to soothe the demons that plagued Ava? 

She would never know unless she tried. 

Beatrice reached out slowly, resting one hand on Ava's shoulder. 

Even through the oversized sweater that Ava was buried in, she was burning to the touch. 

"Ava…" Beatrice began, careful to keep her voice as soft as she could. "It's okay. I'm here." 

And even though Beatrice had no warmth to offer, Ava still sought her out, curling into her, hand reaching out desperately. 

It found purchase on Beatrice's hoodie, fingers curling around the material and holding on, using it as a purchase to pull herself closer until the space between them became almost non-existent. 

The halo brightened, just for a few moments, but for long enough for that glow to reach her. 

Engulfing her. 

Exposing her.

They were close enough to touch, close enough for Beatrice to be aware of every point of tension in Ava's body. 

Her head pressed into Beatrice's hip, the warmth from Ava's body threatened to burn her whole. 

(What was that she had said about Icarus and the sun?) 

She didn't dare move her hand to Ava's back, to where the halo rested. 

Only the worthy could touch the halo, and Beatrice was decidedly not worthy. 

She barely felt like she deserved to be in the same space as Ava. It was only because of Ava's gentle request and her own selfish need to know Ava was okay that kept her here. 

Ava's other hand reached out to grab at Beatrice's hoodie. 

"...Beatrice?" Her voice was weak, distant, still mostly lost in sleep. 

Beatrice's hand remained steady on her shoulder. "I'm here." 

Ava inched closer, Beatrice didn't think it was even possible to get closer. 

"Cold." 

With the intermittent light from the halo, Beatrice could see the sweat on Ava's brow and fear immediately took hold. 

Was this a fever? 

"Do you need more blankets?" 

There was the tiniest shake of Ava's head. 

"Not me. You. You're cold." 

Oh. 

Beatrice sighed. "I'm okay, Ava." 

"You'll get sick." 

"It's okay." 

When Ava released one hand in a vague attempt to push the blankets over Beatrice, her heart ached. 

Ava was barely conscious, hadn't so much as opened her eyes yet and yet here she was trying to keep Beatrice warm. 

Even asleep, Ava had so much kindness to offer. 

…She would be so sad if she realised Beatrice hadn't so much as laid down yet. 

Her muscles protested as Beatrice shuffled down the bed, her arm and leg were particularly stiff and painful as she finally lay down beside Ava. 

"Is this real?" Ava asked quietly. 

Beatrice couldn't be certain about how much of what Ava was experiencing was dream or reality, and the last thing that she wanted to do was say the wrong thing. 

"I'm real." Beatrice replied eventually. She stroked her thumb against Ava's shoulder. "Can you feel my hand? I'm here. You're here. We're real." 

The hands resumed their position of gripping Beatrice's hoodie, Ava's body curled until her forehead pressed into her chest and with it, the tension left Ava's body. The light of the halo evened out before fading all together.

Beatrice remained frozen, drowning in the burning heat that Ava gave off. 

Blanket or not, Beatrice had never felt so warm. 

She didn't dare move as Ava's breathing finally settled. 

 

--

 

Mother Superion closed the door to her room, repeating all of the information she had learned in her mind. 

She opened her desk drawer and removed the bible from within, setting it on the desk so that she could lift the false panel and retrieve her cellphone from the small space.

When it finally powered on, there were several missed calls and two voicemails waiting for her. 

She moved into the bathroom and closed the door behind her, making her way to the sink before turning on the water to fill the room with noise. 

"Mother Superion." Mary's message began. "We have her. Lilith got her back. She's alive but injured. There was a fight here though. Lots of bodies, we're still here but we don't know what to do. Call me."

Mother Superion allowed herself a moment to breathe before the next message played, to indulge upon the genuine relief that filled her heart. 

They had brought Ava back. They were all alive. 

But she had been right. 

Vincent and Adriel had found them.

The next message began. 

"It isn't safe here. It's a crime scene waiting to happen. Camila thinks Ava will be okay to travel as soon as she's had some more rest." Mary's voice had an edge to it, she was stressed. Tired. It was more than understandable. "Lilith wants to torch the place, get rid of as much evidence as we can. If we don't hear back from you by midnight we're going ahead with the plan and leaving." 

Mother Superion looked down at her phone. 

It was almost nine o'clock. 

They were most likely still there. 

Not good. They needed to leave.

It was too risky to call now, it was probably too risky to even send a text. 

The risk would always be worth it. 

She had to help them. 

Mother Superion sighed to herself and began to type. 

When she finally hit send, she deleted everything from the device before removing the sim card. 

It would be safer to destroy it, but she knew that there would be a time where she needed to reach them again.

Mother Superion decided to hide it on her person. 

She wished that she could have the chance to speak to each of them, to speak to Ava herself. 

This would have to do. 

They would need to watch over each other while she could not. 

Mother Superion whispered a prayer for each of them. 

 

--

 

Ava was in free fall. 

Flashes of blood stained hands, her prison, Vincent's men. 

Screaming. 

Levitating. 

Shannon's reassuring face. 

Bullet tearing through flesh, blade cutting into her palm. 

Lilith coming to the rescue. 

Adriel. 

Collapsing into Beatrice's arms. 

Safety. She was safe. 

This was a dream. 

She was still falling. 

Vincent, recognisable even from behind, standing in a room she didn't recognise. 

Adriel sat behind an extravagant desk and polishing his sword affectionately. 

Their words were muffled, distant, as though she were submerged under water. 

Was this a dream? 

It had to be. 

Ava couldn't move. 

She watched Adriel stop speaking, his gaze shifting the barest inch to look over Vincent's shoulder. 

His expression was searching, trying to see what was not there. 

And then those eyes met her own. 

Ava could feel the halo, or at least an echo of it, demanding to be known amongst the fear that froze her body. 

It was like he was seeing through her. 

No. 

At her. 

He was looking directly at her. 

" Ava?" 

Oh. 

That voice. 

Beatrice?

"It's okay, I'm here." 

The dream faded into darkness. 

There was no more Adriel, but the fear lingered. 

Beatrice's voice sounded so close, but just out of reach. 

It was a light to focus on. 

Ava tried to claw herself back, to find purchase into consciousness. 

There was a hand on her shoulder. Ava focused on it, and used it as a grounding point. 

She reached out, fingers finding soft material that was cold to the touch. 

"...Beatrice?" 

"I'm here." 

It was Beatrice she was holding, Ava knew that. It could only be her. 

Why was she so… 

"Cold." 

The world filtered in and out, sleep threatened to drag her back in with each pulse of her heart. 

She didn't know the words that were being spoken anymore, just that she knew it was her own and Beatrice's voice that she was hearing.

That it was Beatrice she was feeling. 

Ava sought out the contact and moved closer until eventually her forehead met that same soft material. 

When sleep claimed her once more, the fear had abated. 

It was hard to be scared when she could feel Beatrice's heart pounding against her skin.

 

--

 

Lilith had been watching the clock religiously. 

Mary was out cold on the sofa, blanket and her own jacket haphazardly thrown across her. 

There were limited options for things to do beyond cast the occasional glance at the security cameras and the time. 

"You can get some rest, you know." Camila said softly, handing Lilith a steaming mug of tea. 

"I could say the same to you." Lilith replied. "I've managed to sleep. You haven't." 

Camila offered a small smile as she took a seat at her desk. "I'm fine, Lilith." 

Lilith wanted to believe her. 

Instead, she settled for taking a sip of tea and frowned. 

"How do you still have nettle tea?" 

"I always try to keep a supply on me." Camila shrugged. She cast a brief glance at Mary. "How do you think she's doing?" 

Lilith sighed. "Much like the rest of us." 

"Hanging on by a slim emotional thread?"

"Something like that." 

"Forever questioning every choice that we make, asking yourself whether this will be the action that dooms us all?" Camila asked, laughing even though it held no humour.

By Camila's standards, that was a dark observation.  

And Lilith knew that feeling. She knew it all too well. 

She knew what it was to have regrets. 

"We don't… We don't have time to think about the what ifs, Camila." Lilith sighed, leaning forward on her seat and offering the younger girl a sympathetic smile. "We just have to keep moving."

"I know, it's just -" 

"And Vincent's men finding us? That isn't your fault." 

Camila's smile carried so much sadness. "Yes it is." 

"It got us Ava's location." Lilith said. "That would have been our only other way to find her had she not been able to remove the divinum. That would have been what saved her."

Camila looked away. "Lilith…" 

The last thing she wanted to do was make Camila cry, but it was important that Camila understood. 

"No, Camila. I mean it." Lilith continued. "Everything you've done over the last few days? None of us would have been able to do that. You're one of a kind, Camila." 

She may not be looking at her, but Lilith could still see the faint smile tugging at the corner of her lips. 

It was more genuine than the last. 

"Thank you." Camila whispered. 

Mary's phone vibrated against the coffee table, screen lighting up. 

Both of their heads snapped around to the device and back to each other. 

Camila was out of her seat first, kneeling at Mary's side, hand coming to rest on her shoulder. 

"Mary? Mary, wake up." 

Mary was awake immediately, sitting up and looking around quickly. 

"What? What is it? What time is it?" 

"It's a little after nine. Your phone just got a message." Camila replied. 

Mary sat up, turning to set her feet on the ground as Camila moved to get out of the way, inching closer to Lilith. 

They each held their breaths as they watched Mary pick it up and read the contents. 

Instead of speaking, Mary merely let out a heavy sigh and held out the phone. 

Lilith reached out to take it from her hand, Camila inched closer to read the message over her shoulder. 

S.
The Vatican is compromised. Not safe. They know where you are, men preparing to leave tonight - will be there by dawn. Burn the place, withdraw as much money as you can, do not use the credit card again. 
Run. 
Don't look back. You only have each other now. 
I have faith in you all to make it through this but you cannot reach out to me again for your own safety.
In this life or the next. 

Fuck. 

"No…" Camila whispered. 

Lilith looked up from the phone to meet Mary's gaze. 

They had to move fast. 

"We need to wake up Beatrice and Ava." Lilith said. 

Mary nodded. 

"Yeah, we do." 

Camila was the one who moved first. 

 

--

 

As Camila made her way up the stairs, she could only think of Mother Superion's message. 

The Vatican is compromised. 

You only have each other now. 

It felt like a warning and a goodbye. 

Who was compromised? Did they know that she was helping them? 

Camila could only hope and pray that she was getting out, getting somewhere safe before something happened to her. 

She knew better though. She knew Mother Superion better. 

Her mentor would stay there regardless of the danger to herself. 

It was how she hoped to keep them safe. 

Camila stopped outside Ava's room. She hadn't bothered to go to Beatrice's. 

Instinct told her that they were both inside.

Camila sighed and opened the door. 

The room was silent. 

Both were asleep, Ava curled into Beatrice beneath the blankets. Beatrice remained on top of them. 

It was the closest to relaxed that Camila had seen Beatrice in days. 

She hated being the one to have to disturb them again. 

But this was important, and they had to move fast. 

Camila took a few steps forward until she reached the bed, leaning over to rest her hand on Beatrice's shoulder. 

"Don't. Please." 

Ava's voice was barely a whisper, and yet it startled Camila all the same, hand wrenching back before she could make contact. 

She watched Ava shift slightly, head pulling back enough so that Camila could see her pleading eyes. 

"Ava…" 

"She needs to rest." 

For everything that they had been through, for everything that she had seen, Camila didn't understand why it was always Ava's quiet words that threatened to move her to tears. 

"I know." Camila replied softly. "And I'm sorry, but we need to talk. All of us." 

The pleading was replaced with confusion and fear. 

"What happened?" 

"Mother Superion. She… She sent a message." 

"Is she okay?" 

"We don't know. I think so, for the moment." 

Ava closed her eyes for a few moments, the breath she took shook. 

When she opened them, her gaze was steady. Her hand moved to rest on Beatrice's shoulder. 

"Beatrice?" Ava whispered. "Bea? Wake up." 

Beatrice stirred, from where Camila stood she couldn't see her face clearly but could see the way Ava's gaze softened. 

"Ava?" Beatrice asked quietly. "Are you okay?" 

"I'm fine. Camila is behind you. Something has happened." 

Beatrice rolled onto her back, the flash of pain in her eyes was impossible to miss, no matter how quickly she tried to hide it. 

"What happened?" 

"You need to come downstairs." 

 

--

 

Mary's phone rested in the middle of them all, but nobody wanted to touch it now. 

Ava shifted to try and get comfortable in the armchair she had been given, nursing the glass of water Camila had provided the moment she sat down. 

Everybody still seemed to be processing the contents of Mother Superion's message, though her eyes stayed on Beatrice. 

She stood across the room from Ava, leaning heavily against the wall. Her eyes were focused on the phone. 

Beatrice must have known that she was being watched though, for her gaze lifted and found Ava's. 

There was little a reassuring smile could offer, and Ava appreciated that Beatrice didn't attempt to try. 

Beatrice's expression still softened for Ava though, and that was more than enough. 

"...What do we do now?" Ava asked quietly. 

"What Mother Superion said." Mary replied. "We burn this place down. Lilith and I… We'll move the bodies inside. We need to pack up as much as we can, as many weapons and ammo as we can carry. Camila, can you -" 

"Of course." Camila interrupted. 

"I'll help too." Ava offered. 

"You need to rest." Lilith said. 

Ava grit her teeth. "I want to help. I can help." 

She couldn't sit back any longer. They needed to know that. 

They had all done so much while she lay rotting in a cell. 

Always the dead weight. 

Ava met Beatrice's watchful gaze once more. 

"Please Beatrice." Ava said. "Please." 

Beatrice glanced away for a second and nodded. "Ava is healing well. Camila confirmed it. We can both help sort through supplies." 

Ava smiled, relieved. "Thank you, I -" 

"On the condition that we stay away from the house." Beatrice interrupted firmly, eyes meeting Ava's again. "We stay in the garage and we pack up the weapons that are inside."

Ava froze, mouth snapping shut instead of protesting. 

Beatrice didn't want her to see the bodies. 

She could argue, she could point out each and every horror that she had already been witness to, and had played a part in herself. 

But Ava didn't do either of those things. 

Instead, she nodded. 

"Okay." 

Beatrice held her gaze fur a few more moments before she nodded too and turned to look at Mary. 

"What next? Where do we go?" She asked. 

Mary sighed heavily, leaning forward and dropping her gaze to the ground. 

"I don't know." Mary said. "The priority now is that we need to get out of here. I can reach out to as many of my contacts that I have left. But right now? We get out of here, we withdraw as much money as we can and put some fucking distance between this place and hole up in a motel."

"We could go to Jillian?" Lilith suggested. 

"No." Beatrice said immediately. 

Ava stared at her. 

It was the sharpest tone she had heard Beatrice take since their conversation over Sister Melanie's journal entry. 

"Not safe enough." Mary dismissed. 

Ava looked around at each of them. 

Beatrice and Camila each had their gazes fixed to the ground. 

Mary and Lilith glanced at the pair respectively, and then each other, sharing a long, silent look. 

Oh. 

It was more than that. 

There was something that they weren't telling her. 

Even as Mary began to speak again, Ava continued to watch Beatrice. 

"Vincent knows she's on her side. I can send her a message to warn her, but we need to stay away for now. We need to get moving." 

"Fine." Lilith said. "Beatrice, take the bags and show Ava to the garage." 

Beatrice nodded, but made no attempt at looking at any of them. 

And that… That worried Ava more than anything. 

 

--

 

"You never told her, did you?" Mary asked. "All those times you linked with Ava, and you never mentioned the deal with Jillian." 

Lilith adjusted her grip on the legs of the body they were carrying as they made their way through the house. 

She could hear Camila moving around in the kitchen, packing up what little they had left in terms of food. 

Lilith couldn't imagine what thoughts must be running through her mind right now. 

"No. I didn't." 

Mary let go of the man's arms, his torso hit the ground with a solid thud. 

It wasn't the first time Lilith and Mary had moved a body, and it certainly wasn't going to be last. 

Not the healthiest bonding experience, but it had become the standard for them now.

"Why not?" 

"Not sure if you noticed, Mary, but there's been some more pressing matters to deal with." 

"Don't you think -" Mary cut herself off before her voice could raise any higher. She turned away from Lilith and reached up to pinch the bridge of her nose and let out a long exhale. When she continued, her voice was much steadier. "Don't you think that she had a right to know about this?" 

Lilith bit the inside of her cheek. "Of course I do. But the mission was to get Ava home safe. We are in way over our heads, Mary." 

"I'm well aware of that." 

"Every time I connected to Ava, my priority - our priority, was to make sure she was safe. To share as much information as possible to find her and bring her home to us. Do I regret not telling her about the deal we had to make? Of course I fucking do!" Lilith snapped. "And I have to live with that regret, Mary, do you know why? Because Ava isn't an idiot. She can read people, she can read us, and she knows something is up and now it's going to be down to Beatrice to tell her that Jillian wants to use her to activate the portal again!" 

Mary finally turned back to face her, unshed tears in her eyes. 

Lilith understood too. All of the pain, all of the frustration. 

She wanted to cry too. 

Bringing Ava home was the only good thing they had experienced in days, and now they had to deal with what came next. 

"We can't take her to Jillian, Lilith." Mary whispered. "We can't do that to her. We can't let her use Ava like a fucking battery or worse…" 

Send her through the portal. 

If what lay on the other side was what they thought… If it was hell? 

If it was where Lilith had been? 

They couldn't do that. 

Lilith wouldn't allow it. 

"We will cross that bridge when we come to it." Lilith said. 

"But -" 

"Mary. For now, we don't need Jillian's help, and if we do? I will handle it." 

"What do you mean?" 

"I mean that I will handle it." 

She would make that journey herself, if it ever came to that. 

Mary looked down at the body and sighed. "You know I don't like it when you use that tone." 

"I know. But you have to trust me, okay?" 

"We've gone through too much together to not trust you." Mary replied. 

"Good." Lilith nodded. "I know things are hard, Mary. But we can't fall apart now, no in fighting. We only have each other." 

Mother Superion's message still echoed through her thoughts. 

"In this life." Mary muttered, reaching up to wipe at her eyes with her thumb. "Fuck. This is all so fucked up." 

"I know." 

Lilith allowed Mary a few moments to herself, letting the silence linger. 

"I'm crying over a corpse." Mary sighed. 

"Well… literally, yes. You are." Lilith replied. 

Despite everything, Mary snorted. "God. What a mess we're in." 

"At least we're in it together." Lilith said softly. 

Mary nudged the body with the toe of her boot. "I'd rather be sipping bloody Mary's on a beach in the Bahamas." 

It was a brief moment of levity, but one Lilith was all too happy to indulge in. 

It was what Ava would do. 

"Why a bloody Mary?" Lilith asked. "Need more of an ego boost?" 

"Fucking hell, Lilith. That was bad." Mary laughed. "And it sounds like something Ava would say." 

"Is that a bad thing? I think we could all stand to embrace a bit more of Ava's outlook, don't you?" 

"Yeah." Mary agreed softly. "Yeah we could." 

Lilith nodded. "Come on, we still have more work to do." 

 

--

 

Beatrice couldn't keep her hands from shaking. 

She kept dropping bullets, startling each time they clattered to the ground. 

Beatrice could feel Ava's eyes on her. 

Even though she could hear Ava working, the sound of guns and ammo being loaded into the bags, she knew those eyes rarely left her back. 

Part of Beatrice longed to look, to look into those eyes. She craved the comfort that they offered. 

The other part was terrified of what else she might find in those eyes. 

She was terrified of the conversation that she knew was about to come. 

Lilith had never told her. 

Ava didn't know. 

They never should have made that deal. 

She should have fought harder. They should never have agreed. 

They couldn't let Jillian use Ava. 

They had been in the garage for close to ten minutes, but Ava still hadn't asked. 

Beatrice reached for one of the pistols that lined the wall, closing her eyes and stepping back when it slipped from her grasp and hit the ground. 

Fuck. 

Fuck. 

She crouched down to pick it up, ignoring the pain in her thigh, the tremor from her leg that warned her not to push too far. 

Ava's hand came to rest against her own, stopping her before it could close around the gun. 

Beatrice hadn't even registered Ava moving, let alone coming to kneel at her side. 

Her touch was like fire against her skin. 

She wasn't worthy. 

"Beatrice…" Ava whispered.

The pull was too strong. 

She couldn't resist any longer. 

Beatrice lifted her head and met Ava's gaze. 

There was no anger, only worry. 

Beatrice closed her eyes before the tears could surface. 

"Do you want to tell me about Jillian?" Ava asked softly. 

There was no accusatory tone in her voice, it didn't even feel like an order. 

She framed it as a question, as a choice for Beatrice. 

How could Ava always be so gentle with her? 

Beatrice didn't deserve this. 

She drew her hand back, but the burning lingered, creeping into her veins and straight to her heart. 

Beatrice got to her feet, taking as many steps back as she could until her back hit the garage wall, the draft from the door did little to ease the burn of Ava's touch. 

Ava was still watching her, confused and definitely a little hurt at Beatrice's sudden retreat. 

Beatrice didn't want to do this. 

She knew that she had to. 

"I'm sorry. Ava." 

"What's going on, Beatrice?" 

Beatrice dropped her head and closed her eyes. 

"When you first went missing, we were trying everything to get a lead on the men who took you. Camila can do so much, but without her equipment…" Beatrice shook her head. "She had to ask Jillian for help." 

"And Jillian isn't exactly the type to give help without expecting something else in return." Ava replied, picking up the gun and rising to her feet, bracing her other hand against the wall to aid her. 

"No. She isn't." 

"What does she want from us?" 

"Her son." Beatrice replied. "She wants her son back." 

"...Ah." 

Beatrice nodded. 

"So she wants to hook me back up to that machine, pump me full of energy and try to open the portal." 

It wasn't a question, and Ava's voice carried a tone of quiet resignation that only served to make Beatrice's heart ache more. 

How much more could they put her through? 

Beatrice knew how much Ava hated the experiments that Jillian had done on her before she had returned to the Cradle, and yet Beatrice still didn't stop them from agreeing to this deal. 

"I think it's more than that, Ava." Beatrice said. "I think she wants you to go in. I think she wants you to find him." 

Ava didn't reply. 

It was too much. It was all too much. 

Her leg hurt so much. 

She didn't dare open her eyes as she sank to her knees. 

"I'm sorry Ava. I should have done more, we should have found another way." Beatrice said quietly. She could feel the tears slipping free and hitting the ground beneath her. "But I won't… I won't let her do that to you, I won't let her do those things to you. I promise." 

How many times had she found herself in this exact position over the years? 

On her knees and begging God for forgiveness, to not be the person that she was and wishing to understand why she was the way that she was and promising to be better.

To be useful. 

Only this time it wasn't God that she was begging for forgiveness. 

But the silence that she was met with hurt so much more. 

She heard Ava's soft footsteps grow closer, and could already picture in her mind the girl walking past her and out of the garage. 

They came to a stop in front of her. 

Beatrice held her breath and waited for the sound of the door opening. 

The sound never came.

Instead, Beatrice was met with the feeling of Ava's hand against the back of her head and after a moment, a gentle pressure guiding her head forward until it met the warm and steady weight of Ava's stomach. 

Ava's other hand came to join the back of her head, holding Beatrice in place. 

The warmth was too much. 

Beatrice was melting like wax, struggling to hold herself up amongst an ocean of tears. 

Ava hugged her tighter.

"You have nothing to be sorry for." Ava said, voice so gentle it hurt. "Do you hear me, Beatrice? Nothing." 

Beatrice opened her eyes and was met with the sight of Ava's shoes and a scattering of tear drops that stained the concrete. 

"But -" 

"Nothing." Ava repeated again. "Of course I'm going to help bring Michael back. In any way that I can. I would do that regardless of any deal that was made." 

Beatrice lifted her head as much as she could, Ava loosened her grip just enough so that their eyes could meet. 

There were tears in Ava's eyes that had yet to fall, but regardless, she smiled. 

Beatrice knew that smile was just for her. 

It helped, but still Beatrice hurt. 

"It still should have been your choice." Beatrice said. 

"Just because you made the deal, it doesn't make me bound to honour it." Ava pointed out. "When the time comes, there would be nothing to stop me from saying no. It is still my choice, and I am choosing to say yes. It is my choice to want to help." 

Beatrice had always thought herself to be good at assessing people upon meeting them. She had been confident enough to tell Ava to her face what she thought of her. 

Thoughtless and self centered.

Those had been her words to Ava. 

But Ava had gone and proved her wrong at every opportunity. 

Ava had the biggest heart. Bigger than anyone else that she had ever met. 

And now Beatrice was standing here, wishing that Ava would be selfish. 

To think about herself. 

In this moment, Beatrice felt as though she was the selfish one. 

Because Ava was willing to put herself through hell to reunite a mother with her child if and when the time came. 

And all Beatrice wanted was to hide Ava away from the world to spare her anymore pain. 

"We still shouldn't have made the deal." 

Ava's hold on Beatrice shifted, moving to her shoulders as she too dropped to her knees. 

Her eyes were sincere, almost pleading as she held Beatrice's gaze. 

"Beatrice, if it had been you who had been taken, I would have made a deal with the devil himself to bring you home." Ava whispered. "Don't blame yourself for the choices you all had to make, I definitely don't." 

Beatrice shook her head. "Don't say that." 

"Say what?" Ava asked softly. 

"That you would do that for me." 

Ava tilted her head slightly. "Why not?" 

"Because I don't deserve it." 

"Why?" 

"Because you're you." 

It was clear that Ava was trying so hard to root through the twisted web of thoughts and emotions just to understand what Beatrice was trying to say. 

"Because I have the halo?" 

"No." Beatrice said. "You're more than just the halo bearer. You deserve it because it's you.

"And what makes my life more important than yours?" Ava asked, those tears finally began to fall. "Why shouldn't I see you as someone worth moving heaven and hell for?"

Beatrice broke eye contact again, watching helplessly as a tear landed on Ava's shoe. 

"Because I'm not worthy." 

It was a damning admission. 

Ava's hands found Beatrice's cheeks, guiding her gaze back up. 

"You are to me." 

And when Beatrice cried harder, Ava tipped her head forward until their foreheads could meet and Beatrice could feel Ava's tears on her own cheeks. 

"You are to me." Ava repeated again, much softer this time. "And you are to Mary. To Lilith, Camila, Mother Superion and one day, I hope you will see yourself the way that we see you." 

"Don't hate what you are. What you are is beautiful."

Beatrice dug her nails into her palms and fought back a sob. 

"I don't know how to do that, Ava." 

"Then trust me." Ava whispered. "For now just… Just trust me." 

Beatrice gave the weakest of nods. 

"I do." 

"Good." 

Neither of them spoke again for several minutes, even their cries were silent, broken only by the faintest sound of the occasional teardrop hitting the concrete. 

"You're crying." Beatrice whispered eventually. 

She opened her eyes as Ava drew back and watched as she smiled and used her fingers to reach up and wipe away Beatrice's own tears. 

"Because you're crying. Because it hurts to see you suffering. Nobody deserves this pain, Beatrice. You don't deserve to feel this way."

Beatrice reached up with her own shaking fingers and brushed the tears from Ava's cheeks. 

When Ava's arms wrapped around her shoulders to pull her in closer, Beatrice collapsed into it. 

They had work to do.

But they could spare these few minutes. 

Beatrice needed these few minutes more than she needed air. 

Soon, the safe house would burn and they would be on the road again. 

Another journey into the unknown, unprepared for whatever battles last ahead. 

Battles that they would face together, each of them, side by side. 

They only had each other now. 

Beatrice hugged back just as tightly as Ava hugged her. 

How could one person contain so much light? 

It was like looking into the sun. 

Her sun. 

Oh, how Beatrice would gladly burn for her. 

 

Chapter Text

 

It said a lot when the music that played through the radio did very little to ease the tense silence in the car.

Mary had opted to drive, Lilith sat up front with her, who only spoke up occasionally to offer shortcuts and diversions based on the map resting on her lap.

Beatrice couldn't help but feel trapped in the middle seat, but when Ava had quietly asked if she could sit by the window, Beatrice knew that she couldn't refuse her.

It hadn't occurred to her until almost an hour into the drive that she could have given Camila the middle seat.

It hadn't felt like an option.

She wanted to be near Ava.

Camila was the only one who slept, head dropping to rest against Beatrice's shoulder not long into the drive.

They all knew that she was exhausted, that she had most likely gotten the least amount of rest over the last few days.

Camila needed this.

Beatrice looked over at Ava, traced the outline of her face as she continued to stare.

Ava kept her gaze trained on the scenery that they passed, watching the sun rise over the hills.

When Ava turned her head to look ahead, Beatrice watched the sunlight dance across her skin. She allowed herself a moment to trace the line of Ava's jaw.

She looked so beat down.

It crushed Beatrice to see.

And when Ava's gaze shifted to Beatrice, and she got to see those tired, sad puppy dog eyes, it only hurt more.

She didn't know what could be done to ease Ava's pain.

It already felt like their moment in the garage was a distant memory.

She still didn't understand how Ava had been so gentle with her.

But Ava had asked Beatrice to trust her, and trust her Beatrice would.

Ava's eyes softened as they stared at each other, her mouth opened.

Whatever Ava had been about to say was cut off by Lilith interrupting them.

"There's a gas station off the next exit." She said. "There should be an ATM too… And we can get snacks."

Beatrice watched Lilith glance at Ava in the rear view mirror, sighing quietly when Ava didn't react to her words.

Ava loved gas station snacks.

"Sounds good." Mary said. "Start looking for a motel, at least twenty miles from here."

Lilith nodded and turned her attention back to her phone. "Got it."

Beatrice looked back over at Ava, catching a brief glimpse of a weak smile before she turned her attention back to the window.

Ava reached over to rest her hand on top of Beatrice's folded ones, a quiet reassurance.

It was more than enough.

They took the exit and drove for a couple of minutes before Mary eventually pulled into the gas station, switching off the engine.

Camila startled awake, sitting upright and grabbing Beatrice's arm.

"What happened?" She asked. "Where are we?"

"We've stopped for gas." Lilith replied softly. "I'll fill up. Mary, do you want to get some cash out?"

"Yeah, on it." Mary said. She twisted to look at Ava and Beatrice in turn. "You two stay here."

Ava hummed, tilting her head so that it bumped softly against the glass.

Beatrice turned to Camila and dropped her voice, nudging Camila gently with her shoulder.

"Can you bring some things back for Ava?" Beatrice asked quietly.

Camila still looked half asleep, but smiled softly back at her, her gaze flickered briefly over her shoulder at Ava.

"Of course."

Camila knew Ava's favourite foods almost as well as Beatrice did.

Mary was already opening the car door, pulling up her hood. "Okay, keep an eye out for the cameras. We'll only be a few minutes."

One by one, they each got out until it was just Beatrice and Ava remaining.

Even though Lilith was beside the car to pump the gas, she seemed to be making a conscious effort not to look inside.

It wasn't exactly privacy, but it was going to be the closest thing to it.

"Are you okay?" Beatrice asked quietly.

"No." Ava replied. "You?"

"No."

Ava let out a weak laugh. "I hate that we're running like this."

"I know. I understand, none of us like it, but we're not in any position to be able to do anything else. Not like this."

If she wasn't injured, then maybe they could have stood more of a chance.

Ava lifted her head from the window and turned to Beatrice.

She looked so tired.

"Yeah." Ava sighed. "Nothing we can do about it right now other than stay alive."

Beatrice nodded in agreement.

She felt Ava's hand shift slightly against her own, when Beatrice glanced down at them, there was only a brief moment of hesitation before she flipped her hand over. 

Ava wasted no time in threading their fingers together.

"Do you feel bad about what we did to the safe house?" Beatrice asked.

"A little." Ava admitted. "I get that they weren't good guys and that they were trying to kill you all but…"

All of those men, forgotten in the burning remains of a building.

"I know." Beatrice said quietly. "I know."

They both watched Lilith walk away from the gas pumps towards the station itself and head inside, no doubt to find Camila.

Mary was the first to return to the car, dropping back into the driver's seat with a heavy sigh.

"The ATM is capped at three hundred." She said. "It'll be enough for a couple of days." 

"I suppose going into a bank is out of the question?" Beatrice asked.

Mary hummed. "It might be worth getting Lilith to teleport into another town tomorrow. If they're going to be tracking the card, it might throw them off our trail a bit."

"Sounds like a plan." Ava said.

When Lilith and Camila returned, Ava's hand twitched, though it remained steady even as her attention shifted to the tray of drinks in Lilith's hands.

Beatrice was more focused on the food that Camila had gathered in her arms.

"We didn't have breakfast." Camila shrugged. "Options were limited but I have muffins, protein bars, trail mix… Candy."

She began to pass them out around the group, making sure to give Ava a chocolate muffin and a bag of gummy worms.

Not exactly the most balanced breakfast, but it was still a touching gesture all the same.

Lilith handed Mary a cup and took one for herself before turning to pass the tray back to them.

"Tea for Beatrice and Camila, hot chocolate for Ava."

It was also oddly touching that Lilith was trying to ensure to minimise the amount of stimulating substances those of them in the backseat consumed.

She turned the protein bar over in her hands to cast her eyes over the ingredients.

A good idea, considering how much sugar this bar had. 

While Beatrice hadn't felt much of an appetite for several days now, she was really beginning to miss real food.

She couldn't see a real meal being a possibility in whatever motel they ended up in.

Ava split the muffin in half and silently held it out towards Beatrice.

When Beatrice accepted it, Ava smiled.

Hopefully, they would have a chance to really relax once they were at the motel.

But she didn't feel particularly confident about that.

 

--

 

"What are you thinking?" Lilith asked.

Mary cast her eyes around the parking lot as they walked together towards the reception.

Even at a glance, it was obvious that the motel was beyond run down, though with the price advertised on the flickering vacancy sign, it wasn't really a surprise.

It would do.

"That this looks like something out of a horror movie." Mary replied.

"Fitting, considering the way our lives are currently going."

Mary snorted. "True."

The door stuck as they tried to walk into the reception, the room smelled of stale cigarettes and coffee.

There wasn't even somebody at the front desk.

"Wonderful." Lilith sighed, taking the steps up to the counter and slapping her hand against the bell. "Before… Somebody gets here, what do you think? One room or two?"

"These aren't going to be big rooms." Mary pointed out. "Being together is ideal, but we still need some semblance of space."

Lilith folded her arms across her chest and hummed. "I'm guessing in your thoughts, you intend on having Beatrice and Ava share a room?"

"If that's what they want. Do you realistically see any scenario in which Beatrice would willingly be apart from Ava right now?" Mary asked.

"No." Lilith replied immediately. "Neither of them want to be apart from each other."

"None of us do." Mary sighed.

"So, you me and Camila to one room, Beatrice and Ava for the other?"

"Yeah, probably."

Lilith held out a hand. "Give me the money, I'll get the rooms. You go back to the car."

"Are you sure?" Mary asked.

"Yes. Go have a cigarette or something."

Camila had bought a carton of them for her back at the gas station, thank God.

"You don't need to tell me twice." Mary replied, she handed over a handful of notes. "See you in a few."

Mary turned to leave the reception and made her way back outside. She could see Ava leaning up against the car door, hood pulled up over her head, glancing around at the building surrounding them and picking absentmindedly at the sleeve of her hoodie.

Beatrice and Camila were still sitting inside, and while Mary couldn't see what they were doing, she couldn't imagine there was much happening in the way of conversation.

"Hey kid."

Ava stopped fidgeting and hugged her arms to her chest as Mary reached her, through the window she saw Camila and Beatrice each give a small nod in acknowledgement.

"Hey."

"What are you doing out here?" Mary asked.

She busied herself with opening her pack of cigarettes, lighting one up and taking a long drag in the time it took for Ava to reply to her.

"I needed some air." Ava replied. "It was getting too warm and stuffy in there, it was making me tired."

Mary turned to lean against the door beside Ava. "There's nothing wrong with that. You need to rest, Ava."

The look on Ava's face said that she didn't agree with that sentiment. She hugged herself tighter and looked down at her feet.

"I'd rather spare you guys from having to deal with me screaming in the backseat when I wake up from another nightmare." Ava said quietly. "Pretty sure I've kept Beatrice up with it enough already."

Even with what little she already knew of Ava's ordeal, Mary could only make assumptions as to the pain and suffering that she experienced while she was held captive.

For someone so young, she had been through so much pain.

She has suffered enough.

They all have.

"Don't avoid sleeping because you're afraid of bothering us, Ava." Mary replied. "We may not know the details of what you went through, but we know you suffered. We would never judge you or be angry at you for having nightmares because of it, and you know it doesn't Beatrice at all. She's just glad to have you back, we all are."

Ava didn't respond, she didn't even look up to meet Mary's gaze.

Mary nudged her elbow gently. "Lilith told me that you stabbed Vincent by the way, good job."

That at least earned the faintest smile from Ava.

"It's not exactly revenge for what he did to Shannon, but it was a start."

Speaking of…

"Have you…" Mary trailed off as she felt a lump in her throat.

"No." Ava sighed. "Not since I got out of the cell. But I know she's there, in the back of my head or in the halo, I'm not sure, but she's there."

Mary took a drag from her cigarette and exhaled slowly, lifting her head to watch the smoke drift and fade away.

"I'm glad she was there for you." Mary said softly.

"So am I."

Mary reached out and tentatively touched Ava's shoulder, Ava hesitated for a moment before leaning into the touch and allowing for Mary to move her arm to wrap Ava into a loose hug.

"And we're all here for you now." Mary said. "Don't forget that."

Ava let out a long sigh as she leaned into Mary's side. "I won't."

"Good."

Mary briefly considered asking Ava about Beatrice, to see how much they had opened up to each other.

Something had shifted between them, Mary had seen it first in Beatrice and again when she had watched the pair be reunited.

The way Ava had clung to Beatrice as though it had been the only thing she had ever wanted to do.

It made Mary wonder how long she had spent in that cell dreaming of doing that.

But she didn't dare ask, not when there was only a car door separating them.

And definitely not when she could see Lilith walking across the parking lot towards them.

Another time, then.

She just hoped that they were finding their way to each other.

Mary let her arm fall from Ava's shoulders as Lilith reached them.

"I'm deeply concerned about the state these rooms are going to be in." Lilith scowled, holding them with the sleeve of her jacket. "The keys are sticky, Mary. Sticky."

Mary raised an eyebrow. "Priorities, maybe? The hygiene of our rooms should be pretty low on that list."

"At the moment I am electing for it to be high on my list." Lilith replied with a scowl, holding out one of the keys. "If I hear any scratching in the walls I am sleeping in the car."

Mary snorted. "Go ahead."

She took one of the keys and fought the urge to immediately drop them.

God they were sticky.

Gross.

Ava looked between them and stepped away from the car. "Two keys?"

"Two keys, two rooms." Lilith said. "We'd be far too cramped in one. But we're next door to each other so don't worry."

Ava nodded slowly. "Okay…But what about beds?"

Mary opted not to answer and walked away from the door to go and open the trunk.

She heard the car doors open and the subsequent footsteps of Beatrice and Camila getting out.

Mary threw her cigarette to the ground to grab the largest bag and lifted it over her shoulder.

When she stepped back, Mary saw Beatrice leaning heavily against the side of the car, holding her injured arm closely to her chest.

Yeah, they all needed to get some rest.

Beatrice was getting far too good at hiding her pain.

"Beatrice," Mary called, holding out the key. "Here, can you open up one of the rooms?"

Beatrice frowned and pushed away from the car, moving closer to grab the key from Mary.

She clearly knew that Mary was trying to give her something to do that didn't involve any heavy lifting, but didn't protest as she took it from Mary's hand. 

The frown deepened.

"Why is it sticky?"

Mary sighed. "It's probably best if we never know the answer."

Beatrice's frown deepened, walking around to grab her back from the trunk and walked past. 

Ava watched her begin to walk away and hurried to grab two bags herself and follow after her. 

Mary, Lilith and Camila all watched them go, smiling to themselves the entire time.

 

--

 

Beatrice held onto the handrail as she pulled herself up the stairs.

Her leg ached so much from being in the car all morning.

"Oh, there's a vending machine." Ava pointed out, having already reached the top of the stairs. "Guess we're gonna be getting a lot of use out of that, huh?"

Her voice was lacking any lightness, it felt like more of an observation to fill the silence than anything else.

"I suppose so." Beatrice agreed.

Ava glanced out towards the parking lot for a moment and back to Beatrice, a fleeting look of uncertainty crossed her face, apparently noticing Beatrice's pain.

"Bea…"

"I'm fine, Ava." Beatrice replied. "Nothing a long shower won't help ease."

Even if standing for too long was deeply uncomfortable.

Ava slipped her hands into the pockets of her hoodie and lingered at the top of the stairs until Beatrice caught up.

"Which room is it?" Ava asked.

Beatrice glanced at the key and at the door they were closest to. "Eight. This way."

She led Ava across the walkway until they reached their door. The key stuck for a moment as she slid it into the lock but the door gave easily when she pushed it open.

Oh.

She felt Ava close behind her.

"Ew."

A succinct but fitting description.

The wallpaper was yellow and peeling, the smell of stale cigarettes lingered heavily in the air, glass doors leading onto a balcony.

There was an alarmingly large spider in the corner near the ceiling, though Beatrice's attention quickly shifted to the furniture in the room.

The tiny TV, closet, the small desk with a kettle and two chipped mugs.

The bed in the middle of the room.

One bed? 

Beatrice knew that they had shared a bed already but still…

…One bed.

(It shouldn't be a problem though, though that was assuming that Ava even wanted Beatrice to share the room with her.)

"Well… it's better than the prison cell." Ava said. "Actually, better than the murder base- Holy fuck is that a spider?"

Beatrice felt Ava's hands close around her arm and press up firmly against her back.

"Yes."

She felt Ava pull on her arm.

"Nope." Ava said. "I've dealt with a lot of shit, but this is not going to be one of them."

Frightened by a giant spider.

How… Average.

Beatrice actually found herself smiling as she turned her head enough to look at Ava.

"You're scared of spiders." Beatrice said softly.

"Eight is just… an unreasonable number of legs." Ava replied. "Also eyes. Eight of anything is just too many things to be on one creature." 

"It's a very common phobia, Ava. It's nothing to be ashamed of."

Ava's chin briefly bumped against her shoulder, Beatrice could tell that her gaze was still fixed on the spider. 

Her body was so soft against Beatrice's.

Why didn't her touches burn anymore?

"This is the part where you tell me you're not scared of spiders and you'll get rid of it for me." Ava murmured.

Beatrice let her gaze drift to the corner of the ceiling.

It hadn't moved so far.

Perhaps it was dead.

"I'm not fond of them." Beatrice replied. "I also don't think I can reach that. I can throw something, but we may need Mary or Lilith."

She could smell the smallest trace of coconut from Ava's shampoo.

Beatrice closed her eyes for a moment.

"I'm scared of wasps." Beatrice offered after a brief silence.

"Really?"

Beatrice hummed and it made her smile more when Ava laughed in her ear.

It was a genuine laugh.

Ava squeezed her arm. "Don't worry Bea, I won't tell."

"What are you two doing just standing there?" Lilith called.

Ava let go of Beatrice's arm as they each turned in the direction of Lilith's voice, watching as she made her way towards them with Mary and Camila close on her heels.

"There's a giant fucking spider in there." Ava said.

"Of course there is." Lilith sighed. She dropped the bags onto the ground and gestured for them to step aside. "I'll deal with it."

They moved out of the way as Lilith walked into the room, letting out a displeased sound when she took in her surroundings.

"Mary!" Lilith called. "Go check the other room please."

Mary rolled her eyes but walked over to the next door all the same and let herself in.

Beyond the sound of Lilith cursing over several dull thuds, this was probably the closest to normal that any of them had experienced in days.

It reminded Beatrice of their days on the road before Ava was taken.

Ava turned again to look into the room and laughed.

It really was good to hear her laugh again.

It made Beatrice smile, even though her chest ached at the thought.

Mary walked out of the adjacent room, bags deposited inside, looking unimpressed.

"It's a shit hole, but no sign of extra guests."

Camila breathed an audible sigh of relief.

Mary cast her eyes over each of them, lingering on Ava for several moments.

"I think we should get the bags inside and then all sit down and talk." Mary said.

Beatrice watched the smile fade from Ava's face.

The implication was clear.

They needed to know everything, if Ava was in a comfortable enough place to speak about it.

She was standing close enough to Ava that it only took a slight shift of her arm to brush her hand against Ava's.

Ava responded immediately by linking their pinkies together.

 

--

 

They were all crammed into one of the rooms, Mary had dragged one of the chairs in from the balcony and was currently perched quite happily in it.

Lilith had taken the chair by the desk, leaving Beatrice, Camila and Ava to fit themselves on the bed.

Camila was sat cross legged at the edge of the bed, Ava and Beatrice had their backs to the headboard with a decent amount of space between each of them.

Being on the bed meant that Beatrice could at least keep her injured leg stretched out.

It wasn't much, but if it eased Beatrice's pain then Ava was glad.

Mary had made it clear to Ava from the moment they all sat down that she shouldn't feel pressured to talk about every detail.

And once Lilith had given Ava a summary of what she had told them after each time they had connected, Ava had begun to offer what little information she had.

It got surprisingly easy after a while.

But it also put into perspective just how little she knew in terms of Adriel's plan.

Ava described the prison cell, the murder basement, what little she remembered of the building as she sought out Vincent and Adriel during her escape.

She told them of the minions that guarded her, the times with Shannon, how it felt to connect to Lilith and what she could remember of her brief conversations with Adriel and Vincent.

Nothing she offered felt like enough, they were no closer to figuring out what Adriel planned on doing.

All they knew was that Ava and Lilith were linked, and that Adriel wanted Lilith dead because of it.

And that he had a divinium sword. That part felt important too.

But Ava found that the longer she spoke, the less real her words felt.

She knew that she was having trouble processing everything that was going on, but even she was surprised at how little emotion was coming through in her voice.

Especially when she described removing the shard. The rush of power that came with it.

The pain.

The single-minded drive to just keep going, to let the halo lead her.

How, for a few moments, she levitated.

As Ava told her story, she made sure to glance at each of her friends occasionally, for no other reason than to gauge their reactions.

Mary and Lilith were equally as thoughtful, trying to connect the frayed threads of information they were being given.

Camila was nodding along intently, offering reassuring smiles whenever their eyes met.

Beatrice was different.

The only time she looked at Ava was when she described pulling the shard out, her expression twisted into pain and guilt.

After that, Beatrice kept her head down, not that it stopped Ava from knowing exactly what she was feeling.

Because Beatrice spoke volumes in the way that she moved her hands.

Her hands almost always stayed folded together when she was still and seated. When Beatrice was uncomfortable, her fingers moved, twitching and flexing.

When she was scared, or trying to ground herself, Beatrice would clench her hands so tight that her knuckles sometimes turned white and Ava was left wondering if it hurt her or not.

Ava wondered how aware Beatrice was of the actions.

When Ava mentioned levitating, Beatrice's movements stopped. Her gaze lifted to look at Lilith across the room.

Ava saw recognition in Lilith's eyes, but it was Beatrice who spoke up first.

"You did that before. When we brought you back to the cradle." Beatrice said softly.

Oh yeah, she had.

When she had woken up strapped to a bed, Lilith and Beatrice talking only a few feet away.

Ava's fingers moved to brush the inside of her own wrist.

Beatrice had tried to calm her down, and Ava had blown her and Lilith across the room.

It felt like so long ago.

"That's right." Lilith nodded. "You levitated and then phased through your restraints."

Beatrice was silent, head cast downwards as her hands clenched into fists again.

What was she thinking about?

"I have no idea how to do it on command." Ava said.

"But you're the first we've known to do it." Lilith interrupted.

"It makes me wonder if there's any other abilities the halo gives that we don't know about." Mary said quietly.

"I can keep going through the journal." Camila offered. "See if there's anything else in there."

Ava knew that they had shifted to talking about plans again, she was half listening as Mary began to talk about how much money they had, places they could grab food from in the area while Camila made a point of reminding them they had to be careful of security cameras.

She knew all of that, but it was hard to pay attention to any of it.

Ava was far too focused on Beatrice.

Because there was only one gesture that Ava had yet to translate, and it was the one Beatrice was doing right now.

Beatrice's hands were clasped together, thumb stroking across the back of her hand.

Ava couldn't tell if Beatrice was listening or not.

"How does that sound?" Mary asked.

Ava looked over to her, noticeably confused.

"...How does what sound?"

Mary rolled her eyes. "Me and Camila are going to take a quick drive around, scout out the area, try to bring back some food that doesn't come out of a can or a packet."

"Sounds fine to me." Ava said.

"I'm going to go and shower next door." Lilith added, her attention shifting to Ava. "I'll only be fifteen minutes, but my phone is on if you need me."

Ava held up her hands. "No phone, remember?"

"Pretty sure the walls are thin enough that a couple of knocks will do it." Mary pointed out. "We'll get you a new phone, Ava."

"We can't afford it." Ava shook her head. "It's fine."

It wasn't as if she needed one.

She was met with conflicting looks from Mary, Camila and Lilith, but none of them commented on it.

"We'll try to be an hour, max." Mary said.

"And we'll call if that changes." Camila added.

"Okay." Beatrice said, shifting from the bed to get to her feet, immediately turning to look at Ava. "Will you be okay if I shower too? Or wait until Lilith is done?"

"I'm sure I can survive on my own for fifteen minutes." Ava replied.

She didn't intend for it to be interpreted as harsh, Ava had even made sure to try and make her voice light and teasing.

Judging from the way Beatrice looked stricken and immediately glanced away, Ava felt like she hadn't done a very good job of it.

"Of course. I'm sorry." Beatrice replied quietly.

Ava felt her shoulders drop. "Bea…"

"It's okay." Beatrice said, she looked over to Lilith. "I trust you brought towels from the safe house?"

Lilith got to her feet. "Obviously. I'll go grab some for this room."

"Speaking of…" Camila looked around at each of them. "How are we splitting the rooms? Who sleeps where?"

Ava had wondered if this was going to come up.

If they had more money, or if the rooms were a little bigger, then Ava would have considered asking to be alone.

She'd hate being alone, but it would be better for them to have some kind of break from her.

Also, Ava couldn't imagine the five of them fitting very comfortably on a bed like this.

"I'm easy." Mary shrugged. "It'll be three of us in one room either way, so it's your call Ava, one roommate or two?"

Ava looked over to Beatrice.

"Do you wanna share with me?"

Beatrice's features softened. "If that's what you want."

"It should be both our choice." Ava replied.

The others were quiet as Beatrice and Ava held each other's gaze.

Mary cleared her throat. "Yeah… we can figure this out when we're back. Camila, you ready?"

Camila was already getting to her feet and heading towards the door. "Yep."

"I'll go get the towels." Lilith said. "I'll be back in a few minutes."

They all left the room in rapid succession, leaving Ava and Beatrice alone together.

Beatrice held Ava's gaze for a moment longer before she turned away and began to cross the room towards the bathroom.

She stopped at the desk and reached into her pocket, pulling out her phone and set it down.

"The code is 0103." Beatrice said softly. "In case you want to use it."

Ava scrambled off of the bed, taking a few steps closer so that she could get her fingers around Beatrice's wrist to stop her in her tracks.

"Beatrice, wait, please." Ava whispered. "I'm sorry."

Beatrice turned to face her fully, the tension in her body seemed to ease slightly.

"You don't have to apologise for anything."

"I do. I was…" Ava sighed. "I wasn't trying to be snappy when you asked about going to shower. I know you're looking out for me and I appreciate it, I really do."

Beatrice at least looked a little bit relieved at that, but there was some doubt.

"It's okay, Ava."

"But there's something bothering you."

Beatrice sighed and gave a small nod. "Yes. But it's nothing that you've done. I promise."

"Do you… Do you want to talk about it?"

Beatrice glanced towards the door, left slightly adjacent ready for Lilith's return. When she looked back at Ava, Ava saw the faintest tremble of Beatrice's bottom lip.

"Later." Beatrice replied. "I… I need to think."

Ava nodded and squeezed Beatrice's wrist gently. "Okay. You know I'll be here when you are."

"I know." Beatrice said softly, offering a small smile. She lifted her free hand, hesitating for a moment before allowing her fingers to brush Ava's cheek. "And I do, okay? I do want to share the room with you."

Ava smiled back and leaned slightly into her touch. "You do?"

"Yes, of course."

Okay.

Okay, that was something.

 

--

 

"So we're all in agreement that there's some… energy in there right?" Lilith asked.

She knew that there was something going on between Ava and Beatrice, even if they hadn't fully had the chance come to terms with that themselves yet.

"Yeah, it's very…" Camila trailed off and gestured frantically with both hands. "Intense but also really cautious? How?"

That was one way to put it.

Because whenever Ava and Beatrice shared those long, quiet looks, Lilith felt like she was intruding.

And judging from how quickly Mary and Camila had left the room, they had felt exactly the same.

Mary leaned against the railing and lit another cigarette.

"We all saw what Beatrice went through to bring Ava back. Lilith, you were the only one who saw Ava during that time." Mary said. "But we all saw that reunion. Whatever feelings are there between them, it's a lot. It would be in any situation, but now? How are they supposed to be able to work through those feelings?"

"It is a lot." Lilith agreed. "They're traumatised and scared and -"

"They're afraid of losing each other again." Mary finished. "Even in the emotional sense."

"So we what, just… wait?" Lilith asked.

They had been through so much recently. They had seen, done and talked about things that Lilith never would have thought possible.

But talking with Mary and Camila about whatever relationship was building between Ava and Beatrice?

She hadn't anticipated that.

"What else can we do?" Camila asked. "They'll figure it out in their own time."

Lilith glanced at the door to the pair's room.

"What if there isn't enough time?" She asked quietly.

"There will be." Camila replied firmly.

Lilith hoped so.

Mary sighed and looked over to Camila. "We should probably get going, the sooner we get back the better."

"Sure." Camila nodded. She looked at Lilith. "Shouldn't you be getting towels for Bea?"

"Yes, but I'm also trying to give them some time alone."

Mary snorted. "What are you scared of walking in on?"

"Stop whatever obscene thoughts you have going on right now." Lilith scolded. "I don't want to interrupt them when they're no doubt having a moment or at the very least, having a discussion."

"Just knock before you walk in, idiot." Mary replied. "Camila, do you want to drive or shall I?"

"I'll drive."

"Alright, let's go."

Mary began to walk away, Camila smiled and gave a small wave before turning around to follow her.

"Keep me updated, okay?" Lilith called after them.

"We will!" Camila replied. "Look after them."

Lilith watched them make their way back down the stairs and towards the car.

"I will."

She waited for them to get inside the car and drive out of the parking lot before returning to her room.

Lilith rifled through the bags until she found the one that she had stashed the towels in and pulled some out, folding them again and getting to her feet.

She walked slowly to the room next door and knocked gently.

"Come in." Ava called.

Lilith pushed the door open and found Ava sat on the edge of the bed, flicking aimlessly between static filled channels on the tiny TV.

Beatrice was pulling fresh clothes out of one of the bags.

"Towels."

Beatrice gathered her belongings under her arm and walked over to take the towels from her.

"Thank you. Have the others left?"

Lilith nodded. "They know to keep in touch."

"Good. I'll be back soon."

Even for Beatrice, her retreat into the bathroom was abrupt.

She heard the lock click into place and after a few moments, the sound of the shower running.

"You don't have to babysit me." Ava said, not bothering to look away from the TV. "You should have your alone time too."

"I know." Lilith replied. She walked further into the room to sit beside her. "I won't stay for long."

Ava gave up on switching between static filled channels and tossed the remote behind her.

"Not even the TV works."

"We can get Camila to take a look at it when she gets back." Lilith said. "How are you doing, Ava?"

"Beyond being scared and tired and super fucking confused all the time? Just peachy."

"You know that we're all here for you, right?"

"Yeah, so you all keep telling me." Ava snorted. Her head whipped around to face her. "That wasn't a dig. I.. I know we've all got each other's back."

Lilith wished that there was more that she could do, that there was something she could do to help.

It must be frustrating to constantly hear the same words of reassurance from them. 

All Lilith wanted to do was protect her. 

She didn't know how to help. 

So instead, she asked. 

"It's fine Ava. Look, is there anything that you want to talk about now? Anything that I can do to help?"

"You can't take away my fear and you can't fix tired." Ava sighed.

"...What about confusion?"

"What?"

"You said you were confused." Lilith pointed out. "What about?"

"Everything. Adriel, his plan, whatever the fuck that is. The connection we have and…" Her gaze shifted to the bathroom door. Ava ran a hand through her hair and sighed. "Yeah."

"Confused about Beatrice?"

"No… Not, not exactly." Ava replied. She sighed again. "Not in the way you think." 

"The way that I think?"

"I'm bisexual, I kinda already knew that so no confusion on that part."

Oh.

Okay.

"Good." Lilith nodded as she cleared her throat. "Good for you."

Ava raised an eyebrow. "Thank you?"

"So if it's not… that… confusing you, then what?"

Beatrice coming out to her had felt considerably less awkward for Lilith. 

Ava looked back towards the bathroom door. "There isn't time for shit like this and I… she's a nun ."

There it is.

Lilith reached out to rest a hand on Ava's shoulder, drawing it back the second she felt a spark of energy shoot down her arm.

They really could do with taking the time to figure out this connection before something happened. 

"I don't think that matters anymore, Ava."

Ava shook her head. "We can't talk about this here, Lilith. I can't do it right now."

Too much too soon.

But it was still a step in the right direction.

"Okay." Lilith said. "Whatever you need. And if you do want to talk about it -"

"I know where to find you."

"That's right." Lilith said as she got to her feet. She took her time walking to the door and lingered by it for a moment before she turned to look back at Ava. "It'll be okay, Ava."

"Yeah… We'll see."

"I'd hug you, but I don't want to risk supercharging you and blowing up the room."

Ava threw her head back and laughed. "Let's try to avoid causing severe property damage until at least tomorrow, deal?"

Lilith was just glad that she could at least make Ava smile.

"Deal."

 

--

 

The shower was terrible.

The water didn't get anywhere near the temperature she had set it to and the water pressure was nothing short of abysmal.

But it still helped.

A little, anyway.

Beatrice still had to lean most of her body weight against the tiles to alleviate the pressure on her leg, but the water eased some of the aches.

She should have brought the medical supplies into the bathroom with her. She'd have to redress the bandages on her arm and thigh.

But in the moment, it had slipped Beatrice's thoughts entirely.

She had needed to get away, just for a little while.

She'd been fine for the most part throughout the day, it was only when Ava had begun to talk in more depth about her time in captivity did Beatrice begin to slip.

It wasn't fair.

Ava was the one who suffered, but Beatrice had found herself the one fighting back tears the entire time.

Then Ava had spoken about levitating, and it had only gotten harder.

Beatrice had immediately thought back to those moments when Ava had regained consciousness in Cat's Cradle.

The confusion and fear that Ava had felt, the impressive display of power as she had activated the halo.

But that memory had only lasted for a moment.

She had been more focused on the events that had led Ava into the Cradle in the first place.

All of them in ArqTech, coming face to face with Ava for the first time.

Ava had been so scared.

And Beatrice had just drugged her.

In the moment it had felt like the right choice, and Beatrice was sure that even now, the others would stand by and justify her decision, even Ava no doubt.

But now… Beatrice just felt guilty.

How had Ava ever grown to trust them when that was her first encounter of the OCS?

Maybe she had been right not to. They were not heroes.

Beatrice had racked her brain about it for several minutes before the exhaustion had begun to take hold.

And then she cried.

She cried until her chest ached and the water ran cold.

Beatrice only stopped when the cold began to make her body ache once more.

She turned the shower off, grabbing a towel and using the wall as leverage as she dried off.

Beatrice closed her eyes and took a few stressing breaths, opening them after a while to glance down at her arm.

It definitely wasn't healing any time soon, but at least it wasn't showing any signs of infection.

A quick inspection of her leg confirmed the same.

Beatrice had to commend Camila's work.

But now, Beatrice needed bandages.

She wrapped the towel around herself and walked over to the door, unlocking it and cracking it open an inch.

"Ava?"

"Yeah?"

"In my bag, front zipper, there should be a few rolls of bandages, could you pass them to me please?"

"Oh yeah, yeah one sec."

Beatrice heard Ava move around the room and the subsequent sound of the zipper opening.

A few moments later, Ava's hand slipped through the crack in the door holding the bandages.

"These?"

"Yes, thank you." Beatrice replied as she took them.

"Do you… Need a hand?"

Not when she was like this.

Beatrice already felt too exposed under Ava's gaze. Letting her in the room when she was only wearing a towel?

Out of the question.

"I should be fine." Beatrice replied. "Thank you though."

"Yeah, no worries."

It was Ava who closed the door, her footsteps faded away until Beatrice heard the springs from the mattress creak under Ava's weight.

Beatrice sighed as she tossed the bandages into the sink and pulled the towel away to dry her hair for a few minutes before brushing and tying it up out of the way.

She made quick work of bandaging her leg and changing into black sweatpants and black t-shirt.

Her thoughts drifted to the girl on the other side of the door.

Ava just wanted to help.

Beatrice brushed her thumb over the stitches, careful not to apply too much pressure.

And Beatrice just wanted to let Ava in.

"...Ava?"

"Bea?"

"Could you give me a hand?"

She listened for the springs again and the soft footfalls of Ava getting closer.

The door opened and Ava slowly stepped inside, she looked apprehensive as she met Beatrice's gaze.

"I… It would be better if you did my arm." Beatrice explained lamely. "More secure." 

Ava looked around the room and moved further inside, picking the bandage up from the sink.

"Here or…"

"Here is fine." Beatrice replied, sitting down on the toilet seat.

Ava walked over to her and kneeled at her feet, Beatrice held out her arm and let out a quiet exhale when Ava took a gentle hold of her wrist.

Beatrice would never be able to explain the comfort she felt when Ava's thumb brushed the inside of her wrist.

Ava's gaze was fixed on the bullet wound.

"It looks painful." She said quietly.

"It is. Camila did a brilliant job of stitching it up though." Beatrice replied. "Even after I made the wound bigger by cutting the bullet out."

Ava's fingers trailed up the length of Beatrice's arm until it reached the area around the wound.

She was so careful, so gentle.

It made Beatrice's skin tingle.

It made the pain stop.

When Ava drew her hand back, Beatrice missed it immediately.

(She chose to believe that the pain returning was just a side effect of missing Ava's touch.)

The touch returned after a few moments as Ava began to carefully wrap the bandage around Beatrice's arm.

"This isn't too tight, is it?" Ava asked.

"No."

"Okay, nearly done."

"Ava?"

Ava hummed, glancing away from her work to meet Beatrice's gaze for a moment to show that she was listening.

"Do you remember the night that we met at ArqTech?"

"How could I forget? You all made memorable first impressions." Ava replied lightly. She tucked the bandage in and drew back. "There, all done."

"Thank you and I… I need to apologise for that night."

Ava looked up at her curiously, resting her hands in her lap. "Why?"

Beatrice folded her own hands together, moving her thumb slowly across her skin. She watched Ava's gaze drop to watch the gesture.

"I drugged you, that night. I didn't even second guess it. I drugged you and we brought you to the Cradle."

Ava was still looking at Beatrice's hands. "I know. It's okay, Bea."

"It isn't."

"No… I mean…" Ava shook her head and looked up to hold Beatrice's stare. "I'm not saying it was the right call to make or that it didn't kinda add to my trust issues with you guys, but I'm not angry about it. In the moment, it seemed like the right thing to do,right?"

"I told Lilith that I thought you would be a handful." Beatrice replied glumly. 

Ava snorted. "You're not wrong there. And knowing what I do now, it was probably the safer and more discreet option. I could've hurt you all."

She'd expected Ava to react this way, even if Beatrice didn't fully understand how.

"Why are you justifying my actions?" Beatrice asked. 

"Why are you looking for ways to punish yourself?" Ava shot back, even as her voice remained gentle.

Ava had a remarkable way of always being able to leave Beatrice stunned.

"I…"

Ava reached out to cover Beatrice's hands with her own.

"I forgive you, Beatrice. I told you last night that I forgive you, and I'll tell you every day that I forgive you if that's what you need to heal. But you need to forgive yourself." Ava said. "Everything that happened before? It doesn't matter now. We can't change it, all we can do is keep moving forward."

This was Beatrice's twenty feet of stone.

"Push through my own personal pain?" Beatrice asked.

"Yeah." Ava smiled. "Yeah exactly."

"What if I can't?"

"You helped me with my pain, I can help you with yours. Okay?"

"...Yes."

Ava grinned. "And you know, just don't drug me again and we'll be fine, okay Bea?"

"Okay." Beatrice replied, attempting to smile back. "I'll never do that to you again, Ava."

"I know." Ava replied simply. "Because we're different now."

She always made it sound so easy.

But she was still right.

"We are."

Ava squeezed her hand. "Is this what was bothering you earlier?"

"Yes."

"Do you feel better now?"

Beatrice nodded. "A little."

"Good." Ava replied, she glanced down at the ground. "Uh… How dirty do you think this floor is?"

"I'd rather not think about it."

Apparently that was enough to have Ava leaping to her feet. "Okay yeah, no. No more kneeling on the bathroom floor. Are you done in here or shall I leave?"

"No… No, I'm done." Beatrice said. "Did you want to shower?"

Ava glanced uncertainly at the mirror and shook her head, holding out her hand for Beatrice to take.

"I'm good."

Beatrice took Ava's hand and allowed herself to be pulled to her feet.

Ava didn't say anything else as she turned around and tugged gently on Beatrice's hand to lead her out of the room.

 

--

 

Mary could only assume that while her and Camila had been away, it had given Beatrice and Ava a chance to talk.

Beatrice seemed more relaxed, that was for sure.

Mary would consider that to be something at least.

It was definitely more than what her and Camila had learned during their drive.

They had found a gas station, a couple of bars, a handful of fast food joints and a series of signs directing them to a town about ten miles away.

It hadn't been much, but it had been enough to reassure Mary that they were as isolated as they were going to get.

They'd stopped off at a burger place on the way back and Mary had admittedly pushed the speed limit a bit just to ensure they weren't cold by the time they got to the motel.

It was greasy as hell, full of sugar and salt and she refused to accept that what little salad on each burger contributed anything to their five a day…

But damn, they were good.

They had all gathered in Ava's (and most likely, Beatrice's) room, even going so far as to sit in almost the exact same positions as earlier.

Camila had even managed to get the TV working after a few moments when Lilith had told her it wasn't working, giving them some background noise as they ate.

For once, the silence between them all actually felt comfortable rather than tense, only interrupted by the occasional slurp on a straw.

Even Beatrice was eating.

Sure, it was her half heartedly picking at fries and pretending not to notice when Ava added more to her makeshift plate.

Gotta celebrate the small victories. 

"It's no Mcdonald's, but these are some good burgers." Ava mumbled through a mouthful of beef.

"Mcdonalds is garbage, Ava." Lilith replied.

Ava glared at her. "Slander. I will fucking fight you."

"Because of Mcdonald's?"

"You're right, you're right." Ava nodded slowly. "I will McFucking fight -"

"Ava…" Mary groaned. "Chill."

But Ava had already stopped listening as beside her, Beatrice had started to laugh.

It almost felt normal.

It was nice.

"Have we decided on how to split the rooms?" Mary asked once they'd all settled down.

Beatrice reached for her drink, glancing over at Mary. "I'll share with Ava."

Which surprised absolutely no one.

"That's fine." Mary nodded. "I know we'll only be separated by one wall, but just… make sure to keep a weapon handy, just in case."

"Of course."

They all drifted into another easy silence as they finished the rest of their meal.

They lounged around for a little while afterwards, it was only when Ava and Camila each began to yawn, Mary glanced across the room to catch Lilith's eye.

Lilith nodded.

They didn't exactly have a regular sleep schedule at the moment, so it was best for them to get rest whenever it was possible.

"Okay, I'm going to unpack some things and get some rest." Mary said, getting to her feet.

Lilith got up too. "Likewise."

Camila seemed to catch on and grabbed her drink from the floor. "I could go for a nap. Ava, let me know if the TV breaks again."

"I will."

Mary looked over to Beatrice. "Bang the wall if you need anything."

Beatrice nodded, and Mary left the room with the others trailing behind.

 

--

 

For all of the motel's shortcomings, the curtains were surprisingly effective at blocking out the majority of the light.

Currently though, the room was illuminated by Ava's sword, laid out across her lap and casting Ava's form in a brilliant blue light.

It had given Beatrice more than enough light to go through her arsenal and set down a variation of weapons on the table beside the bed.

She really did have an excessive amount of knives.

She wondered if there was anything on Ava's mind as she continued to stare at the blade, but before she did, Ava sheathed it and propped it up against the wall.

"Are you okay?" Beatrice asked.

Ava hummed and slid down so that she was lying flat on the bed, staring up at the ceiling.

"Just thinking about Adriel's sword. Kinda messed up that it's almost definitely made out of tarask bone."

"I suppose so." Beatrice agreed.

"It's just all so… Weird." Ava sighed. "Also if Lilith is part tarask now, does that mean her bones will turn to divinium?"

"I… I don't think so." Beatrice replied, leaning her head back to rest against the headboard. "But at this point if that were to happen, it wouldn't surprise us."

"Probably wouldn't even make the top five of the list of weird shit to happen." Ava mumbled.

"Do I want to know what you consider to be in your top five?" Beatrice asked.

Ava yawned and stretched out, closing her eyes and turning her head to shoot Beatrice a crooked smile.

"If we live through this, I'll make sure to write you a list."

Beatrice found herself smiling back. "Okay."

Ava let her hand drop into the small space between them, palm up.

Beatrice stared at it for a moment. It seemed so inviting.

Did Ava want her to hold her hand?

She opted to take a chance and reached down to rest her hand on top of Ava's, letting out a silent exhale when Ava immediately threaded their fingers together.

"Are you gonna get some rest?" Ava asked quietly.

"Soon. Do you want the blanket?"

"Not right now."

"Okay." Beatrice replied.

Ava's fingers flexed around her own.

"...What if I have a nightmare?"

"Then I'll be here to help you through it." Beatrice said. "I'm not going anywhere Ava, Get some rest."

It didn't take long for Ava's breath to even out, but Beatrice knew that she wouldn't allow herself to drift off until she was sure that Ava was settled.

She certainly had no intention of letting go of Ava's hand.

 

--

 

Ava could hear waves crashing against rocks, she could see the sun shining down on her.

She couldn't feel its warmth.

Another dream. 

Ava looked around at her surroundings, belatedly realising that she was standing on a cliff, that there seemed to be a few more that lined the shore on either side of her.

She also realised that she was not alone.

Even if she couldn't clearly make out the figure directly ahead of her, the chill that ran down her spine told her everything she needed to know.

It was just a dream.

Just a dream.

She couldn't exactly leave, and Ava doubted that she could turn away and run.

But… She didn't want to move closer.

She didn't want him to know she was there.

(It was very likely that he did, though. And Ava knew that.)

Ava thought back to Beatrice, lying beside her and holding her hand.

Protecting her.

It gave Ava just enough courage to begin to walk forward.

"Where are we?" Ava asked as she came to a stop at his side at the cliffs edge.

He couldn't hurt her.

Not here.

She couldn't let him see her fear.

Adriel smiled.

"A Cathedral built by the tide. This will be where they remember me."

Always with the riddles. 

"...Do you wanna be a little less metaphorical and give me a straight answer for once?"

"This was where I stood the day that I decided that I would take this world for myself." Adriel explained. "Where my new world will begin."

That cleared absolutely nothing up.

"It's beautiful, isn't it?" He asked.

Ava scoffed and turned to face him. "Do you even have a concept of beauty?"

"You don't believe that I do?"

"I believe that if you say something is beautiful, it's because you're imagining the pain and suffering you plan to unleash here." Ava replied.

Dark clouds began to fill the sky, the waves crashed more aggressively into the rocks below.

The dead began to fill the pit of her stomach.

Adriel turned to face her, that sickening smile filled his face.

"You're being awfully bold."

Ava lifted her chin defiantly. "You can't hurt me here."

"Because this is a dream?" Adriel asked, taking a step closer towards her. "Are you certain of that?"

Ava took a step back, clenching her hands into fists. "You'd have done something already if you could."

She was relatively certain of that at least.

If this was anything like her dreams with Lilith, they shouldn't even be able to feel each other's touch.

Adriel hummed and turned his head to look out towards the ocean.

"So this was how you did it." He said. "You communicated through your dreams."

Ava didn't reply, she didn't want to outwardly admit it, but saw no point in denying it at this point.

He'd clearly figured it out, he probably had the moment he saw the extent of Lilith's abilities.

"You know… I wasn't aware that monsters could dream." Ava said.

It was a weak attempt to deflect and they both knew it. 

"Even monsters, as you're so eager to call me, dream."

Ava scoffed. "Wow. You really do learn something new everyday."

"And once again you managed to surprise me, Ava." Adriel said. "You have a talent for running away from death."

Ava had to agree with that. She had to be setting some kind of record for near death (and on one occasion, actual death) experiences in the span of a year.

"Maybe you're just really bad at killing." Ava shrugged. "You had plenty of chances when you had me and you fucked that up."

Adriel's jaw twitched with silent anger as he turned to face her again.

If he could, he would hurt her. 

"Do you really think you can keep running, Ava?" He asked, his voice as sharp as a razor's edge. "That I am not in pursuit of you?"

"I doubt it's you personally hunting us down." Ava replied, unable to keep her voice from shaking as she took another step back. "You'd much rather send more of Vincent's men to their deaths."

"I can sense you Ava." Adriel said. "Every moment you waste in this dream is another moment where we get closer to you."

He was bluffing. He had to be.

But Lilith could sense her and the halo when Ava had removed the shard of divinium from her back.

During that time, Adriel had only been able to get into her head when he was nearby.

What if it wasn't a bluff?

But if it were true, then what would he stand to gain from telling Ava this other than to frighten her?

Fucking mind games. 

Adriel took a few more steps forward into Ava's space. A rumble of thunder echoed through the clouds overhead.

"Tell me Ava Silva, what do you find beautiful?"

Beatrice's face flashed through her mind.

Moments in the van before her capture, singing to the radio with Camila as Lilith rolled her eyes and pretended to hate it and Beatrice and Mary smiled at them.

Shannon.

"Why?" Ava asked.

"So I can have the pleasure of making sure that you watch as I take it away from you."

Ava was pretty sure she felt her heart stop beating for a second.

"The stars." Ava replied quietly. "I find the stars beautiful."

Adriel moved closer, and as Ava continued to walk backwards she knew that she was getting closer to the edge.

"And while I don't doubt that, I know that you are lying. Your thoughts are scattered and you are not masking them well."

"Stay out of my head." Ava warned.

She wished that the halo had power here.

"Shall we see for ourselves?" Adriel asked. "Let's see your truth."

Ava didn't have time to register the ground crumbling from beneath her feet until she was falling.

 

--

 

Beatrice woke up to the feeling of an almost crushing pressure on her hand.

She blinked the sleep away quickly and propped herself up, attention immediately shifting to Ava beside her.

Her face was twisted in fear, clutching Beatrice's hand with a white knuckled force.

Any harder and Beatrice may fear for her bones.

"Ava?" Beatrice whispered, bringing her free hand around to cradle her cheek. "Ava, wake up."

She didn't miss the flickering light of the halo underneath Ava's back either.

Wherever Ava was, she must be terrified.

"Ava… Ava, please, you need to wake up."

 

--

 

The darkness around her and Adriel began to slowly take shape.

The walls formed around them, the furniture came next.

A desk, a closet, a tiny TV with a static filled screen…

The moment Ava recognised the room that they were in, Ava felt the terror threatening to freeze her body in place.

She pushed past it and spun on her heel, coming face to face with the bed that took up the majority of the room.

Beatrice.

Beatrice, fast asleep on top of the covers, one arm draped across her stomach, the other resting on the blankets beside her.

Ava wondered if they were still holding hands in the real world.

(She knew that they were, that Beatrice would never let go.)

Ava could sense Adriel step closer and flinched when he spoke into her ear.

"And the truth reveals itself." He whispered.

"Leave her out of this." Ava replied.

He stepped around her to approach the bed, regarding Beatrice with mild interest.

"And why would I do that?" Adriel asked. "When I have found your true weakness. I wonder if you are hers."

He lifted his hand, and all Ava could imagine him doing was reaching out to touch Beatrice.

She wouldn't let that happen.

"Stay away from her!" Ava screamed.

The room flashed with light.

The halo may be useless here, but this was Ava's domain now.

And Adriel would not touch Beatrice.

She has suffered enough.

"You will not touch her." Ava snapped. "And you should be thankful that I'm running, because the moment I stop, your days are numbered."

Adriel turned to face her, Beatrice's figure briefly forgotten.

"Just remember Ava…" Adriel began quietly. "I can sense you, I know you're out there. And wherever you are, I know she is there with you. That all of your friends are." 

Ava fought to keep her body from shaking. To not let tears spill from her eyes.

She was a beacon, leading him directly to her loved ones.

"So keep running, Ava. I'm sure that our paths will meet much sooner than you think."

Ava met his gaze head on.

"Fuck y-"

"Ava!"

Ava opened her eyes to a darkened room. Her heart was pounding in her chest, stomach twisting in knots and a cold sweat coating her skin.

Was this real?

Was she awake?

There was a hand on her face, a figure coming into focus above her as Ava's eyes began to adjust to the dark.

Ava wasn't fully aware of her body moving until she had grabbed a fistful of shirt and was rolling them over, the hand on her cheek fell as Ava pinned the figure to the bed beneath her and settled on top of them. 

It was then that the halo filled the room with light, and Ava found herself staring down and meeting Beatrice's wide eyed gaze.

Beatrice looked afraid, concerned… Worried.

If only she knew.

Beatrice was frozen beneath her, arms at her side.

She only blinked when something hit her cheek, and it took Ava a moment to realise that she was crying, that a tear had fallen and landed on Beatrice.

Adriel wanted to take her from Ava. 

Beatrice… 

Being near her was putting Beatrice's life at risk.

Another tear landed on Beatrice's cheek, but she made no attempt to wipe them from her face.

Beatrice's fingers began to curl into the sheets. "Ava…"

"I'm sorry." Ava replied, her words coming out in a rush as she tried to climb off of her. "Fuck, Beatrice, I'm so sorry I -"

She yelped as she fell backwards off of the bed, landing solidly on the ground, scrambling backwards until her back hit the wall.

It took Beatrice a few moments to sit up, and soon enough she was on the ground too, kneeling before Ava and regarding her with worried eyes.

"It's fine." Beatrice replied softly, clearing her throat as her voice cracked. "Ava, what is it? What happened? Was it a nightmare?"

Adriel wanted to kill Beatrice, and for no other reason than because he knew it would make Ava suffer.

"Worse." Ava said quietly, dropping her head to avoid Beatrice's eyes.

One of Beatrice's hands came to rest on her knee. "Ava…"

"He was there." Ava whispered. "We were here in this room. He's in my head, Beatrice. He… He…"

Her words failed her as the first sob escaped her chest.

Beatrice placed her other hand on Ava's shoulder. "It's okay, Ava."

Ava didn't resist as Beatrice pulled her closer, trying desperately to find comfort in the warmth that Beatrice offered.

"No it isn't." Ava cried into her neck. "He's going to find me, Beatrice. He's going to kill you. He told me that he was going to kill you ."

Beatrice was silent, it was only the feeling of her heart hammering against Ava's chest that betrayed that stillness.

She pulled Ava closer until Ava was all but sitting in her lap, Beatrice's hand moved around to press flat against the halo.

It wasn't enough to stop Ava from crying even harder, or to ease the ache that made her chest feel like it was about to explode… But it was enough to quieten the hum of the halo.

Ava felt Beatrice's head turn slightly, her face pressed into Ava's hair as she drew a deep breath and hugged Ava tighter.

"We'll figure this out, Ava." Beatrice whispered. "It'll be okay."

No.

Ava wasn't sure that it would be.

But she wanted to believe.

She believed in Beatrice.

She had to believe.

 

--

 

Mary woke at the sound of the first scream, sitting up in the bed and staring at the wall opposite her.

Lilith was already awake beside her, watching too.

"Ava?" Mary asked sleepily.

Lilith didn't look away from the wall as she nodded. "Yes."

"Nightmare?"

"Sounds like it."

She still seemed tense. Coiled and ready to teleport to the next room at a moment's notice.

There was another scream, this one was loud enough to have Camila shooting upright on the other side of Lilith, it was only because of Lilith silently grabbing her arm did she not fall from the bed.

It was unbelievably cramped with all three of them pressed together, but nobody was willing to allow one of them to sleep on the floor.

"What's happening?" Camila asked.

"Ava is having a nightmare." Mary replied.

Camila joined them in staring at the wall.

"...Are we sure?"

"Be patient." Lilith said softly. "Beatrice will alert us if there's a problem."

Or they'll hear fighting start.

There was a dull thud somewhere in Beatrice's and Ava's room that had Lilith twitch beside her.

None of them spoke, all too focused on listening for any sounds next door, each of them praying for the silence to hold.

The silence meant that it was over, that maybe Ava could rest again. 

So when something hit the wall with enough force that each of them knew that either Ava or Beatrice had thrown something, Mary felt her heart race.

Ava deserved one night of peace.

Lilith didn't even speak. In the time that it took for Mary to swing her legs to the side and get to her feet, she was gone.

Mary and Camila grabbed their shotgun and pistol respectively, not bothering with shoes as they each raced to the door and out into the night.

Lilith had opened the door for them, and as they all raced inside, found themselves met with a heartbreaking sight.

Beatrice and Ava on the floor with Ava sobbing into Beatrice's neck as they clung to each other as though their lives depended on it.

The halo was flickering with each of Ava's cries, the sound of her suffering was only slightly muffled by Beatrice's neck.

Mary and Camila each let their weapons hang loosely at their sides, Lilith picked up the TV remote from the ground and walked back over to stand silently beside them as they took in the scene before them.

It took a moment for Beatrice to lift her head enough to look at them, the tears streaming down her cheeks and the pain in her eyes said more than any words could.

This seemed bad.

This seemed really bad. 

 

Chapter Text

 

It took several minutes for Ava to even begin to talk to them, and it took even longer for her to be able to tell them about her dream and what she had seen and experienced. 

She did so whilst remaining hidden against Beatrice's neck, sniffling between every other word. 

It was upsetting to watch. Lilith found herself unable to look at the pair on the floor for more than a few moments. Despite the darkness in the room it was still far too easy to see the pain and discomfort on Beatrice's face. 

She didn't seem to know what to do with her hands, so Beatrice just sat there with them resting on Ava's back and looking so painfully vulnerable each time her gaze flickered to each of them. 

Adriel was haunting Ava's dreams, and if Lilith was understanding her correctly, it was possible that he was watching her at all times. 

Watching them

"He can find us." Ava said into Beatrice's neck. "If he's watching then he can find us and he'll kill…" 

Beatrice made some reassuring sounds, one hand left Ava's back to brace against the floor when Ava clung to Beatrice tighter. 

Camila dropped her head, sniffing quietly herself. Lilith couldn't blame her, watching Ava in such clear distress was just as hard as seeing her in physical pain. 

Lilith clasped her hands tightly together and looked from Camila to where Mary stood against the wall and back to the pair sitting on the floor. 

"We… We don't know for sure if he can see you all of the time yet." Lilith began slowly. "I can only sense your presence and connect through our dreams so it's possible that he can only do the same." 

Mary met Lilith's gaze. "If he can sense her then Ava is right. He can find us. If he can see through her at any time then no matter what we do he's always one step ahead of us." 

It was the harsh reality that none of them had wanted to voice even if they all knew it. Ava and Beatrice had known it before the rest of them had even walked into the room. Now they were all left with the painful uncertainty of what came next. 

When Ava stopped sniffling the silence that fell on them felt so heavy Lilith couldn't breathe. 

They all startled when Ava suddenly got to her feet, almost knocking Beatrice flat on her back in the process and stormed towards the door before any of them could do anything to stop her.

Beatrice looked both stunned and distraught from where she sat and began to get to her feet to follow. 

"Ava -" She stopped when Ava walked out of the room without looking back. 

Lilith rose to her feet and spared Beatrice what she hoped was a reassuring look. 

"I'll go." Lilith said. "Don't worry." 

Beatrice looked like she wanted to argue or ignore her but she didn't move from her spot, allowing Lilith to turn away and follow Ava outside. 

She hadn't gone far, still on the walkway with her forehead resting against the vending machine. The light from behind the glass illuminated Ava in a bright white glow. 

"If you ask me if I'm okay, you're wasting your time and I will punch you." Ava mumbled. 

"Noted." 

Ava pulled her head from the glass and wiped at her eyes with the back of her hand, gesturing weakly at the machine. 

"Do you have any money?" 

"There's no cameras here. Just phase." Lilith replied. 

At this point it made little difference right now about whether she used her powers or not. 

Ava sighed, there was a gentle glow from the halo as she reached through the glass and helped herself to a drink from inside. When Lilith saw the familiar colours of the redbull can, she almost felt like she should stop her.

"Ava…" 

"He took me inside of the room." Ava said quietly. "I don't know if it was real or just my memory of what it looked like. But she was there, sleeping on the bed and he saw her." 

"...Beatrice?" 

Ava nodded as she cracked the can open, turning to put her back up against the glass and drank heavily from the redbull. 

"He wanted to know what I cherished. He's going to kill her because he knows it'll cause me more pain." Ava said, her voice was strained. "And then he's probably going to kill the others and then us." 

Lilith walked closer. "You know we're not going to let that happen. We won't go down without a fight." 

She didn't like the resignation that seemed to be settling on Ava's face. Ava was thinking. Planning. 

"How exactly can we win in a fight in this situation?" Ava asked. "If he can find us through me then we can't stay still, and if we can't stay still then we can't really rest." 

Ava was right, something that made Lilith proud of her for thinking so logically but at the same time, Lilith couldn't help but be frustrated at the entire situation. 

Because she could see clearly where Ava's thoughts were heading. 

"We're strong, Ava. We've been on the move before so we can figure out how to deal with it." 

Ava turned her head to meet Lilith's eyes, they were red raw from crying and more tears threatened to spill out. 

Lilith closed the distance between them and grabbed the sleeve of Ava's shirt with a bit more force than was strictly necessary. 

"What exactly do you think you're going to do? Just run away? I thought we were past that." Lilith hissed. 

Ava slapped her hand away and put a few steps between them. 

"Do you think I want to do that?" Ava asked. "But think about it for half a fucking second -" 

"No. You're scared and worried about your friends. I get that, Ava, I really do. But if your first thought is to be a self sacrificing idiot and run off because you think it'll protect them then I have no issues knocking you out right now." 

For a moment Lilith thought Ava was about to start yelling back at her, that this was going to fall apart into an argument about how best to proceed. So it was actually a surprise when she saw Ava's bottom lip tremble and her head drop. 

Her shoulders began to shake with the effort it took to keep silent. 

Lilith sighed and closed the distance again, thankful that Ava didn't push her away when she wrapped her arms around Ava's smaller frame. 

"I'm only going to get them hurt, Lilith." Ava whispered. "I can't lose… I can't." 

"Do you think we can bear to lose you too?" Lilith asked. "You aren't going anywhere alone." 

If it really came to it, and they absolutely had no other option, then Lilith would make sure that Ava didn't go alone. 

She may not want to consider it, or even admit that Ava may be right in her thinking, but Lilith knew that she would be the best suited to make it work. 

If she had to then Lilith could take Ava and teleport her somewhere safe. They could keep on the move more effectively and still maintain contact with the others. 

Lilith didn't want it to come to that, splitting them up only felt like it would cause more pain and ultimately weaken them. 

And admittedly… Lilith definitely didn't want to be faced with Beatrice's reaction if that were to happen. 

"Besides…" Lilith continued, hugging Ava a little tighter. "Do you really think that you'd get more than a mile away before Beatrice came sprinting after you?" 

Ava's laugh was weak against her shoulder. "Bea can't run on her leg at the moment." 

"As if that's going to stop her." 

Ava sniffed against her shoulder. "It should." 

"But it won't." 

"...I know." 

"I'm sorry for snapping." 

"It's okay. I'm sorry too." 

Lilith drew back. "Are you ready to go back in? We can actually talk about our plans and try and figure out how to get some rest." 

Ava shook her head and pulled out of her reach. She phased her hand through the vending machine to grab some more redbull’s. 

"You shouldn't talk about plans with me in the room anymore." Ava said firmly. "It's not safe." 

Lilith sighed. "Ava…" 

"No. That's my condition, I'm not gonna go anywhere but I can't risk you guys even more by letting him know the plans." 

"And how are you supposed to have a say in any of this?" 

"I won't." Ava replied. "I'll… I'll just have to trust my team." 

She had come so far, it was only a few months ago when Ava had ran away for her own (justifiable) reasons. Now she was only considering it to try and protect them. 

"Wait in the other room, okay?" 

Ava nodded. "I will." 

 

--

 

Mary turned the lights on as soon as Lilith and Ava were out of the room, it was only then did Beatrice realise just how soaked through the left shoulder of her shirt was. 

Her neck was still wet with Ava's tears. 

Beatrice had been coping before, but now? Standing in the room with Camila and Mary nearby now felt so much more so much worse. 

She hadn't doubted that it had been obvious that she was hurting when the others had found her and Ava, and it was impossible to hide her face from them as Ava had tearfully explained everything.

But Ava wasn't here right now, Ava had walked off, scared and overwhelmed and nobody was talking about the elephant in the room as to what these new developments meant. 

Beatrice took one look at Camila's sad eyes and walked into the bathroom, locking the door behind her. 

She turned the tap on and gripped the edges of the sink until her knuckles turned white, watching the water run down the drain and the occasional tear fall from her eyes to join it.

Her chest ached, her body felt frozen and there didn't seem to be enough air in the room to fill her aching lungs. Every muscle felt like it had been pulled taut to the point where every injury she had just hurt more. 

Where did they go from here? If Adriel could see where Ava was then how long did they have until his men were here? 

What was stopping him from coming here himself? He had teleported before. 

How long could they stay on the run for before exhaustion or an accident happened? How could they fight if they were exhausted? How could they plan effectively? 

They couldn't. That was the problem. 

And they all knew that. Ava more so than any of them. Beatrice could only imagine what kind of conversation was happening between Ava and Lilith right now, but if she were to take a guess, Beatrice would say that Ava was currently weighing up their options. 

Beatrice needed to think. They couldn't consider an alternative, they had to keep Ava here with them. They had to hide her from Adriel. 

There were only two things that could do that. 

Divinium and the Osmium vest. 

They only knew that divinium worked if it was lodged in Ava's spine and the vest was back at Cat's Cradle. 

Putting Ava through that pain again was out of the question, but it was also too dangerous to go back to the cradle. 

But if it was a choice between the two? Beatrice knew which one she would pick without a question. 

It wasn't down to her though. 

She needed to speak to Ava. Now. 

Beatrice splashed a handful of cold water onto her face and turned the tap off and headed over to the door. She unlocked it and threw it open, almost walking directly into Mary in the process. 

"I was just about to check on you." Mary explained. 

Beatrice glanced to her left. Lilith was there. 

But no Ava. 

Beatrice was already walking towards the door, only stopped by Lilith intercepting her with a steady arm across her chest. 

"Where is she?" 

"She's okay." Lilith said softly. "She's next door, probably halfway through her second redbull and she's miserable, but she's okay." 

Lilith might have heightened strength, but Beatrice was more than willing to try and push past her if it was needed. 

"Where did she get the redbull's from?" Camila asked. 

"Vending machine." 

"...She has no money?" 

Lilith drew her arm away from Beatrice and crossed her arms. "I'll leave a tip at reception if it makes you feel better." 

"Considering everything going on right now, I'd say stealing a few energy drinks won't be the end of the world." Mary said. "What's the plan?" 

Beatrice kept her gaze fixed on Lilith. "Why isn't Ava -" 

"Because she insisted on not being here for this." Lilith interrupted. "If he is able to listen in through her at all times then Ava doesn't want to risk putting us in more danger by letting him hear our thought process." 

Beatrice knew that it was the right choice to make, but it didn't mean that she liked the idea of Ava being alone in the next room. 

Alone with her thoughts, not knowing if she was being watched. 

Beatrice just wanted to hug her. 

"How is Ava supposed to give her input and opinions on the plans if she doesn't know what's happening?" Camila asked. 

Lilith made a point of meeting and holding Beatrice's eyes. "Because she said she would trust her team. So we need to think very carefully about what our next move is because she trusts us." 

Beatrice felt her jaw clench and inhaled slowly through her nose. 

Ava was trusting them to make some very important choices right now and it didn't feel right to be making them without her being here. 

Beatrice sighed. "Okay... Okay fine. Did Ava have any ideas herself?" 

"One that we won't consider yet." Lilith said simply. 

Beatrice opted to turn away and walk towards the bed to sit on the edge of it, careful to keep her head down until she was able to get her expression under control. 

So Ava had considered it too then. Splitting off from the group to protect the team. 

It wasn't running away, but it was close. 

"Right now I want to know if he is able to see through her at all times." Mary said. "I'm not doubting that he can sense her location but knowing if he can hear us will change the situation entirely." 

"How do we do that?" Camila asked. "Feed Ava false information and see what happens?" 

Lying to Ava? Beatrice couldn't do it. 

But Mary was right that it was important for all of them to know. And if they had a clear answer and it turned out that he couldn't see them 24/7 then that would be a massive weight off of Ava's shoulders. 

"Yeah, basically." Mary nodded. 

"Is there a way to do that without lying to her?" Beatrice asked quietly. 

"We can think about it." Lilith said. "We don't have to come to a decision at this moment, but we do need to think about ways that we can protect her." 

Beatrice finally felt ready to lift her head, she knew that her expression was carefully neutral as she looked over at Lilith. "I've already thought about it. The shard that was in her back masked the halo but putting Ava through that pain again… No. The only other option is the osmium vest." 

"Which is back at the cradle." Lilith pointed out. "I can teleport there with no problem but I don't know where they will be storing it now." 

"And no way do we feel comfortable sending you in there alone." Mary replied. 

"But the vest is our best chance at protecting Ava…" Camila said quietly. 

Beatrice rested her palms on her knees and sighed. "This is getting us nowhere." 

"Right now I think we need to decide if we're going to stay here tonight or hit the road again." Lilith said. "It's unlikely Ava will sleep now but the rest of you still need to rest." 

Beatrice personally couldn't see herself being able to sleep now either, even though her body desperately needed it. 

"Personally I think we should stay here." Mary said. "It's pretty isolated, we have an advantage, good vantage points and there's less surprise versus if we were on the road."

Images of the crash that had started this whole ordeal came rushing to the front of Beatrice's thoughts. Each moment played through in vivid detail until the cut on her head began to throb. 

"I agree." Beatrice nodded. "Here is better, just for tonight." 

"I can see if I can hack into any cameras in the area, it wouldn't be much but you never know." Camila offered. 

"Do it." Lilith said. "I don't know if it's worth all of us staying in one room too." 

"I'd rather be safe than sorry." Beatrice got to her feet. "What do we tell Ava?" 

"That we stay here tonight and look at moving on tomorrow." Lilith replied. 

"Are we going to feed false information?" Camila asked. "Because I might have an idea…" 

Mary nodded. "Let's hear what you've got." 

 

--

 

Ava sat on the edge of the bed, foot tapping so aggressively against the floor that she had to wonder if she was going to wear a hole through the carpet. 

Was it anxiety, fear or the amount of sugar and caffeine taking over her body? 

Ava eyed the empty cans on the table and inhaled sharply. 

All of the above. It was definitely all of the above. 

In hindsight, the caffeine probably wasn't a great idea because now Ava just wanted to cry and run. More than that, she just really fucking needed a hug. 

Ava was very fucking familiar with fear. Fear was essentially Ava's best friend, she was accustomed to it existing within her. 

But now? It feels different now. Heavier. It was impossible to shake the feeling of being watched, that there was a chance Adriel was lurking in the back of her thoughts. 

Seeing what she saw. 

Ava desperately hoped that it wasn't the case, because as much as Ava didn't want him to see Beatrice, she really didn't think she would be able to avoid looking at her. 

Just one more reason why she had thought about leaving. 

Ava sighed heavily and buried her face into her hands. 

What the fuck was she supposed to do? How were any of them going to deal with this? 

But sitting here and spiraling like this was achieving absolutely nothing. 

Ava couldn't help plan with the others. All she could do was wait for them to talk through their options and trust in them enough to let them make the right decision. 

And she did, Ava did trust them. 

Whatever they decided to do, Ava would listen, no matter how scared she was. 

Ava closed her eyes and took a deep breath. 

Fleeting images of her dream with Adriel came back to the surface. 

The cliff. 

The crashing waves. 

That place was important to Adriel, he had said as much himself. 

A cathedral built by the tide, where his new world would begin. Those were his own words. 

Ava needed to figure out where that cliff was, because she sure as shit had a feeling that it was going to be important. 

Ava clasped her hands together and rested her forehead against them. She could feel the tears finally drying against her cheeks. 

"Hey Shannon?" Ava whispered. "If I fall asleep, do you think you could do me a solid and come and say hey? The others are amazing but I can't bring them with me into my nightmares." 

And she didn't want to give any of them more pain, especially not Beatrice. Beatrice was already injured and healing, emotional trauma from Adriel invading her dreams? No thank you. 

The door opened slowly, Ava pulled her head away from her hands and looked over in time to see Beatrice in the doorway. 

The light from the moon cast a very gentle glow over her features. 

She looked tired and worried, but Ava didn't miss the way that Beatrice seemed to relax when their gazes met. 

Ava couldn't deny that she felt exactly the same way. 

Beatrice lingered in the hallway, resting her hand against the doorframe. 

"How are you feeling?" She asked softly. 

Ava got to her feet and used the back of her hand to dry away the last of her tears and turned to face Beatrice. "Pretty shitty. You?" 

Beatrice stepped into the room and closed the door behind her, hesitating for a moment before flicking the light on. She said nothing when Ava flinched away from the sudden brightness. 

"I'd be lying if I didn't say that I shared that feeling entirely." Beatrice replied. 

Beatrice looked so tired. If it weren't for Ava then Beatrice could still be sleeping right now. 

She needed the rest more than any of them, how else were her wounds supposed to heal? 

Beatrice tilted her head slightly to the side, her brow furrowed slightly and the concern was evident in her voice. 

"Ava -" 

Ava was already moving, stumbling and crashing into her before Beatrice had the chance to finish her sentence. 

Her arms wrapped around Beatrice's waist, face finding its way into her neck. Ava felt Beatrice's arms circle her shoulders, one palm resting flat against the halo as she tried to keep them both steady. 

She heard and felt Beatrice's back hit the door, the soft grunt from Beatrice's lips followed immediately after. 

Even trying to hug Beatrice only caused her more pain. 

"I'm sorry." Ava whispered. 

Beatrice's hand moved up to rest against the back of Ava's neck, her head turned slightly to bump against Ava's. 

"It's okay. You didn't hurt me, Ava." Beatrice replied. "Everything is okay." 

"No it isn't." Ava shook her head. 

Beatrice held her a little tighter. "Within these four walls, it is. We're okay." 

Ava closed her eyes and took a deep breath. She could feel Beatrice's heart beating against her forehead, and that alone was enough to help Ava feel more grounded. 

"I'm still sorry though. We should all be resting, you should be resting." 

There was something extremely calming about the way that Beatrice's hand stroked gently at the back of her neck. If it weren't for all of the stress and caffeine in her system right now, Ava wholeheartedly believed that it would be enough to lull her into sleep. 

Because it definitely had her muscles relaxing and more of her weight pressing into Beatrice's. 

"Is this helping?" Beatrice asked. 

"Yeah." 

"Do you want me to keep going?" 

Ava wondered how easy it would be for her to shift her head and let her lips press against Beatrice's neck. 

She settled for nodding instead. 

Beatrice continued her gentle movements against Ava's neck, leading Ava to wonder what had caused her to try this. 

Was this something that Beatrice knew would help because it brought her comfort? 

"Are the others okay?" Ava asked. 

"Yes. We've been talking about plans and -" 

"Beatrice..." Ava interrupted. 

"The others will… They'll fill you in on some of the other stuff." Beatrice continued softly. "But we're all going to stay in one room for the rest of the night." 

Ava frowned, suddenly thankful for her impulsive decision to fill her veins with caffeine. 

"That's going to be super cramped." Ava murmured. "That was the whole reason they got two rooms, right?" 

She felt Beatrice nod. 

"But we will all feel slightly safer." Beatrice said. "And I know that it's unlikely you or any of us will get much sleep now, so it just makes more sense." 

Ava couldn't argue with that. She knew that she wasn't going to sleep herself, but she wanted to have some hope that the others would be able to get some rest too. 

"It'll be like… The most depressing sleepover ever." Ava sighed. "Just without the truth or dare and late night snacks." 

Beatrice was quiet for a few moments as her fingers came to a stop at the base of Ava's skull. 

"At least we're together." Beatrice said quietly, her voice cracked slightly, it wouldn't have been noticeable had Ava not been so close and so familiar with Beatrice. 

Beatrice almost sounded scared. 

Lilith must have mentioned Ava's half formed idea. 

Oh. Fuck. 

There was a very strong chance that she had scared Beatrice. 

"Are you ready to go next door?" Beatrice asked before Ava could say anything. 

Ava pulled back just enough for them to be face to face and after a few moments, pulled her arms away too. 

Beatrice seemed to hesitate but followed suit, dropping her hands to her sides and stayed where she was, leaning against the door. 

She was smiling, albeit softly, and Ava knew that it was Beatrice trying to offer some more reassurance. 

"Yeah, I guess." 

Beatrice nodded and turned away to open the door. 

Ava was willing to bet that Beatrice really fucking needed a hug too. 

She stepped forward to wrap her arms around Beatrice's chest. This time Beatrice didn't stumble, but she did brace her hand against the doorframe all the same. 

"...Ava?"

Ava rested her chin on Beatrice's shoulder and hugged her tight. "I just thought that you might need a hug too." 

Beatrice's free hand reached up to press against Ava's arms. 

"You were right." Beatrice replied. "You're always right." 

Ava laughed softly. "I don't get told that I'm right very often." 

Beatrice's other hand left the door frame to curl around Ava's wrist. 

"You always seem to be right when it comes to me, Ava." Beatrice sighed. "And I don't know how you do it." 

Ava didn't exactly know how to answer that either. How she could take one look into Beatrice's eyes and pick apart every emotion in there, how she could watch the way Beatrice positioned her hands and know if she was hurting or not. 

Beatrice was very good at hiding her feelings behind a huge ass wall, but somehow Ava had been able to get a glimpse through that wall back from the very beginning, back in that moment they shared in the hallway of Cat's Cradle all that time ago. 

And okay, being able to read those little tells in her body language and the cadence of Beatrice's voice meant that Ava generally had some kind of an idea as to what Beatrice was thinking, but she was still far from knowing exactly what was going on in Beatrice's head. 

So, no, in short, Ava didn't know either. 

But she knew Beatrice, and Beatrice knew her. 

"I don't either." Ava admitted. "But it's you and it's me, and I think that maybe we've been through too much together to not know each other." 

She felt Beatrice's entire body tense, the hands resting against Ava's curled around to hold onto her tighter. 

For a minute, Beatrice was silent. Ava couldn't hear or feel her breathing. 

It was only when she began to turn in Ava's arms did Beatrice release her grip on Ava, allowing Ava to let her arms fall to her sides. 

Her chin was tucked against her chest, eyes cast downwards. Beatrice only stayed that way for a few seconds before she lifted her gaze. 

Beatrice was looking at Ava almost like she had when Ava had made it through the twenty feet of wall. 

Almost. Because this look carried twice as much heat. 

It wasn't just the caffeine that was making Ava's heart race now. 

"Bea…" 

Beatrice took a step closer. "Ava." 

The knock at the door was sudden enough to cause both of them to jump, Ava's hand finding Beatrice's immediately. 

"Are you two okay?" Lilith asked through the door. 

Beatrice closed her eyes and exhaled quietly. "We're okay. We'll be out in a moment." 

"...Sure, okay. Take your time." 

If Ava listened carefully, she could hear Lilith's retreating steps, but brushed it all aside in favour of watching Beatrice. 

She opened her eyes and Ava found that much of that heat had dissipated. 

"We should go, right?" Ava asked. 

Beatrice turned and opened the door, but still held onto Ava's hand and guided her outside. 

"Do you feel okay after all that caffeine?" 

"I don't think I'm gonna be able to sleep, if that answers your question." Ava replied. 

That had been the intention after all. 

Beatrice stayed ahead of her as they walked and squeezed Ava's hand gently. 

"Try and drink some water soon." Beatrice said softly. "Otherwise you may end up with a headache." 

Lilith had left the door ajar, when Beatrice pushed it open she dropped Ava's hand after giving it one more soft squeeze. 

The others weren't exactly subtle in the way that they cast fleeting looks at Ava as she stepped back into the room and closed the door behind her. 

Mary, unsurprisingly, was on the balcony smoking. Camila was sitting on the floor with her back against the bed, phone in hand. Lilith was in the process of making herself comfortable in the chair once more. 

"So…" Ava began, slipping her hands into her pockets and throwing on her best attempt at a smile. "Moving on from my little meltdown earlier, everything good?" 

She watched Beatrice move further into the room and sit on the edge of the bed. She clasped her hands together on her lap. 

Beatrice was trying to hide her anxiety. 

"We're good." Mary replied. "We've been talking." 

Ava nodded. "Hit me." 

"We're too tired to really go anywhere tonight, so we'll go back to old habits. All stay in this room and take it in shifts." 

"Mary will take first watch." Lilith spoke up. "Considering the time of night we'll only need one more watch after that to take us through to morning." 

"So Lilith will take over from me." Mary added. 

Ava wondered if she should point out that she didn't plan on sleeping either, but it seemed like they already knew that. 

They'd just insist she still try and rest though, even if she didn't actively sleep. 

"What about tomorrow?" Ava asked. 

"We're going to keep heading north." Camila said, her gaze was fixed firmly on her phone and Ava belatedly realised she was looking at a map. "We're not that far from Guadeloupe, so that will be our next spot to lay low." 

They shouldn't be telling her things in this much detail, that they were leaving, sure. But their destination? They all knew that it was possible Adriel was listening. 

It was the whole reason she hadn't been in the room for fucks sake. 

Just as Ava opened her mouth to protest, she noticed movement in the corner of her eye. 

Beatrice was fidgeting. The look she gave Ava was fleeting, but it told Ava everything she needed to know. 

Oh. 

It was a lie. 

They were lying to her. They were testing out Adriel's limitations. That was why Camila wasn't looking at her. Why Beatrice hadn't been the one to say anything. 

Beatrice wouldn't lie to Ava, even if it would help protect them all. 

She fucking loved these women. 

"Okay." Ava sighed. "Whatever you guys think is best." 

Camila turned her head and smiled at Ava. "It'll be okay." 

Ava could only try to hold onto some of the optimism that Camila had and hope to fucking God that between now and them leaving this motel, Adriel's men didn't find them.

Or worse than that, Adriel himself. 

She pushed the thought aside. 

Trust her team. Ava just had to trust them. 

"Right now, we need to rest." Lilith pointed out. 

"I'm going to go grab the pillows and some weapons from next door." Mary said. "Beatrice, Ava. You two take the bed, you too if you can squeeze in there with them, Camila. Don't even think about arguing, any of you." 

Ava didn't think that any of them had the energy to even try. 

 

--

 

Mary leaned against the railing, exhaling smoke with a quiet sigh. 

There was a chill in the air that was just on the wrong side of comfortable, but Mary still found that she preferred it to being in the room. 

Camila had fallen asleep pretty easily, and it actually seemed like Lilith had the ability to just flip a switch and go to sleep when she wanted. 

Ava and Beatrice… Well, Mary just didn't really know. 

Mary was pretty sure that Ava was still awake, wedged in between Beatrice and Camila on the bed, but she had made no attempt to make conversation. Beatrice had been just as quiet, but before Mary had come outside she had noticed Beatrice shift onto her side to face Ava and curl into herself a little. 

There was definitely very little to feel optimistic about right now, but Mary had still taken comfort in knowing that they were all together again. 

Even watching the way Beatrice and Ava interacted brought about a small joy. Because once the layers of pain and fear were peeled back, all Mary could see were two young women trying to navigate the feelings that they had for each other. 

She couldn't help but wonder where they were in that regard, if they had even spoken about it yet. But Mary also wondered how it could have been different for them had Ava not been taken. 

If they had been given the time and space to figure everything out together, would they be in a relationship by now? 

Mary sighed and flicked her cigarette over the balcony, watching the scattering of embers when it hit the ground below. 

There was no point in thinking about what ifs, it wasn't going to change the situation that they were in and it sure as shit wasn't going to help anybody. 

They just needed to try and stay one move ahead of Adriel and stay alive. 

She heard the slide of the balcony door opening behind her.

“You don’t need to be up yet.” Mary said.

Lilith appeared in the corner of her vision and leaned against the balcony and looked up at the sky.

“I couldn’t sleep anymore.” Lilith replied. “Ava is still awake and I heard Beatrice wake up.”

“So you figured you’d give them some privacy?”

“I feel as though I may have interrupted them earlier, this was the least I could do.” Lilith said. She sighed and turned to lean against the balcony so that she could look through the glass into the room. “...Do you think Camila’s plan will work?”

Mary reached into her pocket for her cigarettes and pulled another from the packet and lit it up, turning to mimic Lilith’s posture as she exhaled.

“No clue.” Mary replied honestly. “It’s a good idea. If what Ava has told us is true and Adriel can see what she sees, then this should confirm it. Camila has already hacked into traffic cameras around Guadeloupe and along the route from here so in the morning she can monitor for anything suspicious.”

“And if his men don’t turn up?” Lilith asked.

Mary shrugged. “Then we have to assume that there are limitations to his abilities and Ava might be able to rest a little bit easier.”

Which seemed like a poor choice in words the moment they left Mary’s mouth. She knew full well that if the person who was hunting her and her friends was lurking in her thoughts and could speak to her in her dreams, there would be no way in hell that Mary would be able to sleep.

“We really do need to entertain the idea of going back home. That vest might give Ava a lot more safety and peace of mind.”

It could also be a much more dangerous trip than anything else. But Lilith did have a point.

“We’ll see.” Mary said quietly. 

 

--

 

When Beatrice opened her eyes, Ava was the first thing she saw.

The room was silent, Ava hadn’t seemed to notice that she had woken up as she continued to stare up at the ceiling, breathing quietly. 

The room was much cooler than it had been before she had fallen asleep.

She heard soft footfalls across the room followed by the sound of the balcony door opening and closing, for a moment the smell of cigarette smoke reached her nose. 

Lilith must have gone to join Mary outside. 

Beatrice hadn’t even intended on sleeping, not when she knew Ava wouldn’t. She had even positioned herself between Ava and the door just to try and help Ava feel a little safer.

She sighed under her breath and pulled the blanket over her shoulders.

"You're awake?" Ava asked quietly. 

Beatrice lifted her gaze and found Ava looking back at her. 

"Yes. Have you slept?" 

"Nah. I've been lying here in awkward silence while trying very hard not to think." 

"Have you been successful?" 

Ava snorted quietly under her breath and rolled onto her side so that they were face to face, Beatrice noticed Camila's arm draped over Ava's stomach. 

Camila had never had any issues giving affection freely. 

“Not really.” Ava replied. “I keep wondering if he’s watching, if there’s a way for me to know when he’s watching. With Shannon I had a vague awareness when she was with me but I also think that was different because she’s part of the halo. But then I just think about the other halo bearers and if they’re somewhere in my head too and…”

Ava trailed off with a sigh and shook her head sadly. Behind Ava, Camila snored softly and the sheets rustled as she moved closer to Ava.

It made Ava smile though.

“She’s like a koala.” Ava laughed. 

“She is.” Beatrice agreed.

“But yeah, trying not to think is the guaranteed way to start falling down the rabbit hole.” Ava continued. “So I've mostly been trying to stare at the ceiling so that it’s too boring for him to pay a visit.”

Beatrice’s fingers twitched beneath the blanket, there was a moment of hesitation before she reached out and pressed her fingers to Ava’s wrist.

“You’re safe with me, Ava.” 

Ava’s gaze dropped but she turned her hand around to catch Beatrice’s hand before she could pull away.

“I know. It’s just… I don’t think that you’re safe with me.” Ava admitted quietly.

Beatrice knew that was how Ava felt, they all did. She made no attempt to hide her fear from them, but whenever she said it, Beatrice felt a part of her break.

It felt like they were heading towards a breaking point.

Beatrice had never begged in her life, even when her parents sent her away, Beatrice didn’t cry or beg for them to let her stay, regardless of how much it hurt her.

But if Ava were to tell Beatrice to her face that she was going to leave, even if it was to protect them all, Beatrice knew that she would not be able to show the same restraint.

When they were next door, before Lilith had interrupted them, there had been a moment. Beatrice had felt the need to move closer, where all she had wanted was to feel Ava against every part of her body.

Beatrice knew in her heart that she had wanted to kiss Ava, that she probably would have if Lilith hadn't knocked the door. 

She still wanted to kiss Ava now. But with Camila behind Ava she knew that she would not be able to find that bit of courage to try again, even if Camila was asleep.

But she really wanted to, even more so after Ava had surprised her with that hug.

She couldn’t let go of Ava, not now, not ever. They had come too far.

“I’m safer when you’re with me, Ava.” Beatrice whispered. “When you were taken… Parts of me were taken too. Part of me went with you, and for that I was thankful because it meant that you were not alone.”

Ava shifted closer as much as she could with Camila’s iron grip around her and reached up to brush her fingers against Beatrice’s cheek.

“What about the other part?” Ava asked. “Where did that go?”

Beatrice inched closer too, enough so that she could feel the warmth radiating from Ava’s body. “I don’t know. I mentioned the things that I did while I was trying to find you before, but it felt like a piece of my soul was missing. The world as I knew it was shattered and I knew that it wouldn’t be fixed until you were back.”

Ava’s gaze flickered from Beatrice’s eyes down to her lips and back again, her hand moved down to brush against Beatrice’s neck and curled around her shoulder. Ava’s touch was gentle as she pulled Beatrice closer until they were all but pressed together.

When Ava’s lips touched her forehead, it felt like a blessing. So soft and warm that Beatrice closed her eyes and sighed at the touch.

She didn’t know what to do other than lie there as Ava drew away and shifted to rest her chin on top of Beatrice’s head, tucking Beatrice against her.

Beatrice could feel Ava’s heart racing against her forehead. The caffeine? Anxiety? Their proximity? She didn’t know. It didn’t matter right now, not when Ava’s arm was keeping her in place the way that it was.

She had chosen this position on the bed to give Ava some more protection, and yet right now, it was Ava who was protecting her.

“I’m here, Beatrice. I’m here.”

Beatrice hated that the first thought that came into her mind was ‘but for how long?’

Ava leaving wasn't even an option yet. It was just a fleeting thought and a last resort option that nobody wanted to consider. But it still made Beatrice want to hold onto Ava, look her in the eyes and beg her to stay.

Don’t leave. Stay.

Please. 

Beatrice closed her eyes and allowed herself to drape one arm over Ava’s waist, Camila’s arm twitched against hers but she didn’t stir otherwise. Beatrice’s other hand curled into Ava’s shirt and didn’t let go.

“Please.” Beatrice whispered.

…Please.

 

--

 

Beatrice thought Ava was going to leave. 

The fear that she felt was so clear even as she lay sleeping in Ava’s arms.

Ava didn’t know how long had passed before she had drifted off again, Ava was only thankful that she had felt safe enough to fall asleep.

She wasn’t going to leave, not if she didn’t absolutely need to. But at the moment, Ava couldn’t rule it out as an option, not if it was a matter of life or death for the people she cared about the most.

It all depended on whatever plan the others had. That would be the deciding factor in all of this.

If Adriel forced Ava to leave Beatrice, then she was going to rain hellfire down on him.

That was, if Beatrice and Lilith didn’t get to him first. 

It was a surreal experience to feel Beatrice’s breath against her neck. But to be honest, so was the sensation of being sandwiched between Beatrice and Camila, even though each of them brought very different sensations along with them.

Both were warm and comforting, safe. But Beatrice gave her longing and made every part of her body feel alive and Ava knew exactly why.

Camila was friendship, Beatrice was that and so much more.

Ava heard the balcony door open followed by footsteps moving into the room, a second set of footsteps eventually followed and the door finally closed. 

From the way that she was lying, Ava couldn’t quite figure out which set of footsteps belonged to who, but she listened as one settled down in the chair and the other on the floor by the foot of the bed.

“You should try to sleep, Ava.” Lilith said. 

Ava closed her eyes, and didn’t respond.

 


 

"You need to eat something." Lilith said. 

Camila looked up from her laptop to see Lilith standing in front of Ava, holding out a cereal bar towards her. 

Ava took it from her and flopped back down against the bed. 

Mary was in the room next door, packing up the rest of their stuff while Beatrice was in the bathroom. 

There was such a nervous energy in the room. Ava looked like shit, she clearly hadn't slept after her nightmare. Beatrice was even quieter than usual, Mary and Lilith seemed tired but were definitely putting on strong faces for all of them. 

Camila just kept looking at her laptop. The majority of the cameras she had hacked into were located just outside Guadeloupe, some focused on the roads that they would take themselves to get into that town if they were to drive there from their current location. 

So far, nothing suspicious. No signs of shady guys in vans or roadblocks being set up to intercept them, which was exactly what Camila hoped to see. 

As long as it stayed that way, then they could assume that Adriel couldn't watch at all times. 

If he could only see through Ava's dreams… It wasn't ideal but it was still the lesser of two evils. 

There had to be a way to make a safe place for Ava though, and Camila definitely had a couple of theories on how to make that work. 

But it was all theory, and Camila had no way of even attempting it without Jillian's help. 

And considering the deal they had already made with her, Camila was more than reluctant to ask for more. 

A bottle of water appeared in front of her, Camila looked up and saw Lilith standing over her. 

"Thank you." Camila said, taking the bottle. 

"Anytime." Lilith gestured at the laptop. "Anything?" 

Camila shook her head. 

Lilith nodded slowly. "Okay… Good. Good." 

"Did you sleep okay?" 

"Yeah. Ava is very comfortable." Camila replied. She looked over her shoulder and met Ava's gaze. "You're like a walking space heater." 

Ava smiled. "And you're a koala. Very clingy. It was cute." 

"I wish you could have gotten some sleep though." Camila said. 

Ava gave a half hearted shrug. "It's no big deal. I still got some rest being sandwiched between you and Beatrice so I'm not going to complain." 

"You shouldn't have drank all of those redbull’s." Lilith pointed out. 

"It was either that or give Adriel a guest spot in my dreams again." Ava mumbled. 

Lilith fell silent, watching Ava for a moment before turning away to walk back to the chair. 

The bathroom door opened and Beatrice stepped out, her gaze was on the floor as she fixed her hair in place but quickly looked up when she registered the silence in the room. 

Her eyes immediately went to Ava before she sent a questioning look to Lilith and Camila. 

"Can I steal the bathroom next?" Ava asked, already sitting up and getting to her feet. 

"It's all yours." 

Ava grabbed her bag as she crossed the room, pausing just for a moment as she crossed paths with Beatrice. The look that they shared was almost a conversation in itself, but it only lasted for a few seconds before Ava continued into the bathroom and closed the door behind her. 

Beatrice walked over to the bed and sat down near Camila. She sighed quietly as she picked up the cereal bar that Ava had left on the bed. 

"She still hasn't eaten, has she?" Beatrice asked. 

"No." Lilith replied. 

"I'll try again in a little bit." Beatrice said. "Camila, any updates?" 

"All clear so far." 

Beatrice visibly relaxed, gaze moving to look at the bathroom door as she nodded. 

"Good." 

"You should both finish packing." Lilith said. "As soon as we're ready we'll head out." 

Camila spent a few moments studying her laptop before she turned her attention back to Lilith. 

"I'm pretty much ready. I've set up my phone so I can keep an eye on the cameras I've hacked into." 

"I'm almost ready too." Beatrice added. "We're heading south, yes?" 

"We are." 

There was no clear destination in mind, they just knew that they had to keep driving until they reached a definitive answer about Adriel's capabilities. 

If that meant they would drive all day then so be it. 

 

--

 

Mary zipped up the final bag and got to her feet, casting an eye over the rest of the room just to make sure she hadn't missed anything. 

When she was satisfied, Mary picked each of them up and left the room, locking the door behind her. 

She scanned the parking lot out of habit, noting the cars that she recognised from the night before as well as the new additions. 

There were three new vehicles. A rundown green Ford Fiesta parked near the reception, a dirty white van on the other side of the lot and an old black Mercedes a few spaces over from their land rover. 

Her gaze lingered on the van for a few moments longer. As a rule, Mary was always more suspicious of those than anything else considering their past experiences. But when she saw no sign of movement from inside of the van, she continued on her way and let herself back into her room where the others were waiting. 

Ava was just in the process of walking out of the bathroom, now dressed in a pair of black jeans and a loose fitted burgundy shirt. Camila was packing up her laptop while Beatrice was fastening a knife to her ankle holster. Lilith was the only one who was doing nothing.

“Are you guys almost done?” Mary asked. 

Camila glanced around at the others and nodded. “Pretty much.”

“I just need to use the bathroom before we go.” Lilith said.

“And I need to grab my jacket and the sword.” Ava added.

“Alright.” Mary nodded. “Camila, give me a hand putting the bags in the car, then we’ll drop off the key at the front desk.”

“No problem.”

“I’ll hand in the key for this room once I'm done.” Lilith said.

“Sounds like a plan. Don’t take too long.”

Beatrice gave a nod of acknowledgement while Lilith headed towards the bathroom. Camila grabbed as many bags as she could carry and moved to join Mary.

"How are you doing?" Mary asked. 

Camila was close at her heels as they began to make their way down the stairs to the parking lot. 

"Is there really a point in asking that now?" Camila asked. "Not as bad as… others, but pretty shit." 

Mary could definitely relate to that. 

"Yeah, I know what you mean." 

"I just keep wondering if there's more that we could be doing." Camila continued. "If there's actually anything to achieve from this plan or if we're just using Ava as bait." 

Mary glanced around the empty lot while they walked and adjusted one of the bags on her shoulder. 

Constantly running around blind, never being able to relax for long. It was breaking them down bit by bit. 

"I know, it's not an ideal situation. But we do need to try and get some answers." 

Camila sighed as they reached the car, leaning against one of the doors while Mary dug the keys out of her pocket. 

"I've been thinking about the divinium, and how it seemed to basically work as a signal blocker for the halo." Camila said quietly. 

Mary opened the trunk and started to place the bags inside, shooting a curious glance in Camila's direction. 

"What are you thinking?" 

Camila sighed. "I don't know. I don't even know if it would work, but it's just… The vest on a larger scale." 

She moved to stand next to Mary so she could throw her own bags into the car. 

"Keep thinking about it." Mary said. "I think we're getting to a point where we're willing to try almost anything." 

As long as they were all together and Ava was safe. That was all they wanted and needed right now. 

"I will." 

Mary closed the trunk and looked back up to the motel room. The others hadn't come out yet, but with Ava and Beatrice being left alone while Lilith used the bathroom, that was hardly a surprise. 

She glanced around the parking lot again, eyes falling on the van, more specifically the dark tinted windows. 

The hairs on the back of her neck began to stand up. 

Her instinct was warning her. 

She was reluctant to put her back to the vehicle, but on the off chance that there was somebody inside, to outwardly react would be less than ideal. 

"Come on." Mary murmured, forcing herself to turn away. "Let's drop the keys off." 

Camila didn't miss the shift in tone, falling into step beside her and pressing close against her shoulder. 

"What is it?" She asked quietly. 

"The van." Mary replied under her breath. "I saw it earlier but didn't think too much of it, but it has tinted windows." 

Camila's hand shifted to her side, where Mary knew she kept her gun, but she didn't draw it. 

"Vincent's men?" Camila asked. 

"Don't know, they haven't exactly been the type to stakeout and wait before." 

"Could be waiting for a positive ID on us?" 

"If Adriel is in Ava's head then he'd know exactly which room she was in, Vincent could relay that information in real time to them." Mary pointed out. 

The silence of the parking lot began to feel oppressive, intimidating. It almost felt like the equivalent to being caught in the eye of the storm.

It wasn't a fact that they weren't Vincent's men, it might not even be anybody to worry about at all. But if it was , then Mary was fairly reassured by her own words that they weren't directly linked to Adriel and Vincent. 

But that just brought about another question. 

Who the fuck were they? 

"Call Beatrice. Tell them not to come out of the room." 

They were only a few feet from the reception. The glare from the sun made it almost impossible to see into the room, but they just had to get inside. It was cover and it would buy them the time they needed to figure out if this was a threat and how to deal with it. 

Camila reached into her pocket to pull out her phone, as she did, the clouds passed over the sun. 

Mary could see through the glass door into the reception. 

She came to a stop and threw an arm out to block Camila from continuing walking. 

There was a man standing at the front desk, blocking the person who worked at the motel.

His right arm was raised, pointing something at the worker. 

The gunshot came only a millisecond later. The glass of the door seemed to shake with the volume of it. 

Almost simultaneously, Mary heard the telltale sound of a van door sliding open. 

Fuck. 

Fuck. 

With one hand, Mary shoved Camila with as much force as she could, with the other she drew her shotgun from beneath her trench coat. 

She saw the figure turn away from the front desk, gun still in his hand as their eyes met through the glass. 

He took aim. 

Mary fired first. 

 

--

 

Beatrice didn't miss how Ava's hands shook as she pulled on her hoodie. She tried a few times to zip it up before cursing under her breath and giving up entirely. 

She looked so tired. 

Lilith was still in the bathroom, the water from the taps was the only sound in the otherwise silent room. 

"So… I've learned a few things in the last what, nine hours? One of them is that energy drinks taste good but caffeine hurts." Ava said, her tone was forcibly light.

She was trying so hard to be strong, even if Ava's idea of being strong was to try and joke. 

They both had their ways of coping. 

"It's not the caffeine that hurts." Beatrice replied softly. 

She slowly crossed the room to stand at Ava's side by the balcony windows. Ava turned so that they could face each other and slipped her hands into her pockets. 

"I know, but it's easier to say caffeine than list out every symptom I'm feeling right now." 

This was something easier for them both to focus on right now. 

They needed easy. 

"What symptoms?" Beatrice asked. 

Ava's gaze dropped to the floor, her hair did very little to hide her face. 

"My head hurts, I feel dizzy if I move too fast. It kinda feels like my heart is trying to jump out of my chest like one of those things from Alien." Ava explained. "But I also feel like that all of the time now it's just… Times one hundred." 

"I know what you mean." Beatrice replied. "But what you're describing does sound like it's caffeine related. But… Ava, not sleeping either? That's only going to make it worse." 

Ava hummed softly. "Sleep with a side serving of nightmares and being watched by the asshole who wants to kill us. Or… Chug redbull’s and avoid sleep -" 

"Will only hurt yourself more." Beatrice interrupted. 

Ava inhaled sharply and sighed. "Just another lose-lose situation to add to the pile." 

Beatrice picked up her jacket and slid it on and adjusted the collar as she turned back to Ava. 

"I know, I'm sorry." 

Ava smiled. "It's not your fault." 

"You're probably dehydrated so you need to drink water, eat, and try to rest. Even just short naps when you can, it will help." Beatrice said. She lifted her hand slowly. "May I?" 

"I… Yeah, I mean I don't know what you're doing but I trust you." 

Beatrice took a small step closer and reached up to gently press her fingers to Ava's pulse point. It hadn't been strictly necessary considering that she could see it pounding from where she stood, but feeling it with her own fingers only confirmed it. 

Ava's heart was racing. 

She was watching Beatrice intently, curiously, and when Ava swallowed, Beatrice felt that too. 

"Your pulse is very fast, so you'll likely have more anxiety until the caffeine gets out of your system." Beatrice said. She lifted her eyes from Ava's neck to meet her gaze. "Ava, I know that right now it feels like we're losing. I know. We're lost and trying to figure out our next step…" 

"Understatement." Ava laughed weakly. 

Beatrice held Ava's gaze steadily, her own heart felt like it was beating as Ava's was. 

"It might feel like we're losing and it's the end of the world, I'm not going to lie to you about that." Beatrice said. "But that's just how it feels, Ava, because what I do know? That even though it feels like we're losing and we're losing hope, I know that we're still winning." 

Ava's eyes began to water. She swallowed again and chewed on her bottom lip. 

Beatrice was still far too aware of Ava's pulse beneath her fingertips. 

"How can we be winning?" Ava asked. 

"Because we have you back, Ava." Beatrice said firmly. "Despite impossible odds, unbelievable pain and heartache, you're back. You're back and you're here, with us. With me." 

Ava swallowed again. "Beatrice…" 

She had no idea how to navigate this part of herself, how to approach the part of her heart that desperately wanted to find the words to describe her feelings and the importance of the girl in front of her. 

Beatrice had told Ava that she had so much to tell her back in their dream on the beach, things that they didn't have the time to discuss back then. 

And she still hadn't begun to scratch the surface of talking about their feelings. 

"Whatever we do next, whatever comes next, I'm with you." Beatrice continued softly. "We go through it together because I'm not letting you get taken again and I'm not going to let them hurt you." 

Ava let out a shaky exhale and lifted her own hand up to curl her fingers around Beatrice's. Just when Beatrice thought that Ava was going to peel her hand away, instead, Ava gently moved it. 

She guided Beatrice's hand until those two fingers moved to rest just behind Ava's ear. It brought about a rush of memories to the surface of that day in Jillian's lab. 

Her thumb moved instinctively to rest against Ava's cheek, even with the adjustment, Beatrice could still feel Ava's pulse. 

It felt faster. 

And now Ava was holding onto her wrist and she probably knew just how fast Beatrice's heart was beating too. 

Ava's grip tightened the smallest amount on her wrist. Beatrice wondered if Ava was about to cry or not. 

"Beatrice… You know it's not me I'm worried about." 

And now Beatrice wasn't sure if she was about to cry or not. 

Because yes, they might both be struggling with finding the direct words, but they each spoke so much with just their eyes. With their touch. 

And Ava couldn't be more clear right now in what she was saying. 

She was worried about Beatrice getting hurt over herself and anybody else. That was what Ava was telling her. 

"I'm not going to leave you, Ava." Beatrice replied. "I'm going to keep my promise to you." 

We will never leave you. 

The day that Beatrice had spoken those words, she had meant it in that way, of course she had. 

All of them. They were a team and they weren't going to leave Ava. 

But there was a piece of Beatrice that had wished she had still been more specific. 

It had been too hard then, too revealing. 

But now was the time. 

" I will never leave you." Beatrice said. 

Ava shook her head slightly, but she held onto Beatrice's wrist just as tight. 

"You can't make a promise like that, Bea, not right now, not with -" 

"I can." Beatrice interrupted gently, bringing her other hand up to rest her palm against Ava's heart. "Because no matter what happens, in some way, I'll always be with you."

There would always be a part of them within each other. 

Beatrice couldn't quite put her finger on the shift in Ava's eyes, a recognition, an understanding. 

"In this life or the next." Ava whispered.

Beatrice wanted to ask, she wanted to know and to understand whatever it was that Ava had seen, but found that no words came when she felt Ava press against the hand on her chest. 

She was trying to lean in closer. 

Her eyes flickered downward. 

Beatrice didn't know if she was supposed to lean in too. 

The gunshot tore through Beatrice's thoughts, her mind and body reacted immediately and each were responding in an instant despite her heart plummeting into her stomach. 

Beatrice was already in the process of reaching for Ava to move her away before her brain began to catch up with her. 

One gunshot, .45 if Beatrice were to hazard a guess, possibly eighty yards away. 

Ava was staring at her with wide eyes, her hands clutching at Beatrice's wrists. 

It had all happened in the span of a few seconds. 

"Beatrice -" 

Shotgun blast, glass shattering. 

Mary. 

More gunfire, automatic rifles. At least two, most likely more. 

Okay. 

"Grab your sword." Beatrice said, already gently pushing Ava in that direction while she turned away to grab her own weapons. "Lilith!" 

The door to the bathroom opened at the same moment the door leading outside was kicked open sending splinters scattering into the room. 

It was a moment frozen. A moment where Beatrice found herself staring at the man in the doorway, the assault rifle in his hands. 

Lilith was in the doorway to the bathroom, Ava was on the other side of Beatrice less than three feet away. 

Odds and statistics ran through her mind, immediately coming to the conclusion that there was no way that she was going to reach her gun or her knife in time. 

About twenty seconds had passed since the first gunshot, no more than three since this man had kicked the door in. 

He held the gun at his hip. 

As long as it stayed focused on her, it would buy Lilith enough time to stop him and keep Ava safe. 

"Beatrice!" 

Ava had all but screamed. 

Beatrice could hear her take that first lunging step, she could see Lilith's eyes widen, the dark claws beginning to slide out as she moved forward too. 

There was no light, no explosion, it was nothing like when she faced Crimson. 

It was just the desperate cry of a girl who had been through so much and had lost so much. 

She felt the slam of Ava's weight into her side, the instinct to grab her and shield Ava with her body came through strongly. 

Ava's body was warm, but when Beatrice felt Lilith crash into them both too, her body only seemed to get hotter. 

Beatrice barely had enough awareness of her surroundings, but she still managed to hear the burst of gunfire. 

She felt Lilith grip her bicep, small sharp punctures in that area, the heat around the three of them grew to an almost unbearable amount. Beatrice felt her palms burn against Ava's back. 

The explosion felt silent. 

 

--

 

Camila peaked out from behind the cover of the car to fire a shot. It landed true but Camila was already ducking back into safety before his body hit the floor. 

Mary was still beside her, back against the car and clutching her shotgun and breathing heavily. 

A few seconds passed with no gunfire. 

"I think they're all down." Mary said after a beat. 

It had all happened so fast and was over even faster. 

She hadn't even had a chance to call Beatrice and warn them. 

Camila reloaded and got to her feet, glancing around. The man they had encountered coming out of the reception lay slumped against the wall, two were near the van and a fourth Mary had stopped before he reached them. 

She frowned. 

Wait.

Camila had counted four exit the van, the one from the reception made it five in total. 

She only counted four bodies. 

"Who do you think these guys are?" Mary asked, walking over to Camila's side. "We need to get the others." 

The others. 

Camila looked up, heart in her throat as her eyes found their room. 

The door was open. 

There was a man in the doorway. 

Number five.

"Mary -" 

There was a blinding light. 

The explosion came next, Camila only had time to see the glass from all of the windows blow out before Mary was tackling her to the ground and shielding both of their heads as glass and rubble rained down around them. 

Camila's ears were ringing. 

"What the fuck was that?" Mary yelled, as if they both didn't already know. 

Ava. 

Camila lifted her head when Mary drew her hand back and gasped at the sight of the damage. 

It was a level of destruction that Camila had never witnessed, least of all from anything she had seen Ava do. 

The room and the ones surrounding it had also suffered from the explosion, glass and debris covered the parking lot. Distantly, Camila could hear fire alarms blaring. 

"Fuck." Was all Mary could say. 

She got to her feet, helping Camila up with her. 

Ava. Lilith. Bea - 

Camila cast one, terrified look at Mary. They both looked back to the room. 

Ava and Lilith could heal. Beatrice couldn't. 

Mary was already running across the asphalt. "Beatrice!" 

Camila was close at her heels. The stairs seemed to be mostly intact, but there was no way to know until they attempted to get up them. 

They both came to a screeching halt when they both saw movement coming out of the door. 

Lilith stepped out first, holding onto an arm as she stepped sideways through the door, revealing an unconscious Ava hanging from her side. 

Neither Camila or Mary breathed until they saw Beatrice step out with them, supporting half of Ava's weight with the sword hanging from herother shoulder. 

They looked like they had been through hell, and rightfully so. 

But from where Camila was standing, they didn't look injured. They looked shocked, covered in dust and dirt.

"You guys okay?" Mary called up to them. 

"As much as can be." Lilith called back. "Are we clear?" 

Camila nodded. "Yeah." 

"Are the stairs safe?" Lilith asked. 

"No idea." Mary replied. 

Lilith glanced at Ava hanging between them and then looked at Beatrice. She said something that was too quiet for Camila or Mary to hear, but whatever it had been, Beatrice clearly didn't like. 

Beatrice shook her head and it almost looked like she pulled Ava a little closer against her side, wincing as she did so. 

It seemed like they were trying to figure out how to get down to the ground. 

Camila reached out to give Mary's sleeve a gentle tug. "I'm going to check the men, see if I can find out who they are." 

"Go for it." Mary nodded. "And hey, if they're carrying any cash…" 

"Got it." 

Lilith and Beatrice still seemed to be at a bit of an impasse so Camila turned to head towards the van. She had to wonder distantly how many other people were in the motel, if at all, considering how there had been no signs of life from the other rooms. 

Camila searched the pockets of the man closest to the van, pulling out a wallet and some ammunition and then did the same for the second and third. 

The one inside the reception was slightly different, Camila noticed that immediately. He still looked as clean cut and formal as the others, there was no wallet in his pocket but she did find a series of photographs. 

Photos of all of them, sans Ava, ones that Camila recognised. They were photos of each of them from the Cradle. 

They could have only come from the Cradle, which meant that it was very likely that these men had come from there first. 

Mother Superion had said that men from the Vatican were leaving to find them. She had warned them about using the credit card. 

Camila found herself hoping that these men had found them through that and not through Ava. 

She just needed to be able to prove that before Ava woke up, otherwise there would be no way that she could be reassured. 

Because if Ava thought this was her fault, then Camila wasn't sure that even Beatrice would be able to talk her down. 

Camila folded the pictures carefully and slipped them into her pocket before getting up. She moved to the front desk and had her suspicions confirmed. 

The man working behind the counter lay dead too, a single bullet to the head. 

Guilt pulled at her heart. 

"I'm sorry." Camila said softly. 

She turned away and headed back towards the others. 

Ava was now being supported in Mary's arms, Lilith was back by Beatrice's side, wrapping a hand around her arm. 

"Mary!" Camila called. "I'm just going to check inside their van." 

Mary turned to look at her, moving Ava in the process. The back of Ava's hoodie was burnt away leaving only exposed skin and the glow of the halo. 

"Make it quick. We need to get out of here." Mary replied, she brought a hand up to rest against Ava's back to keep her steady. 

Camila heard Lilith call out "Be careful with her Mary." behind her. 

Camila climbed into the back of the van and began to search. 

 

--

 

The moment Lilith teleported them down, Beatrice was already pulling out her grip to get to Ava. 

Lilith was beyond thankful that she didn't seem too hurt, but Lilith also couldn't understand how

She didn't understand how it had happened, all Lilith knew was that the moment she had grabbed Ava and Beatrice, the halo had exploded with so much energy that they had been forced to the ground from the sheer force of it. 

She remembered the rush of energy pass between the two of them, Ava screaming in her ear, the distant scream of the man who had stormed their room. 

Beatrice had been silent the entire time. 

Lilith was fairly certain that it had happened because she had touched Ava, charged the halo. 

And by doing that, they had destroyed a room and all but melted a man away. It was a miracle Beatrice hadn't met the same fate. 

But Ava? The halo had burned a perfect circle through her shirt and hoodie. 

"Be careful." Lilith warned as Beatrice pulled Ava's arm over her shoulder. 

"I've got her." Beatrice replied. "We need to leave." 

Mary glanced between them both and nodded, pulling the keys out from her pocket and pushing past them to head towards the car. 

"Camila!" Mary called. "We're leaving!" 

Beatrice dragged Ava along with her, so Lilith hurried to Ava's other side and tentatively reached out to steady Ava a little. 

She didn't feel hot to the touch anymore, but there was still an unmistakable thrum of energy still moving between them. 

With Ava unconscious, it felt less like a circulation of power and more like she was giving Ava her own energy.

Maybe she was charging the halo back up. Maybe Ava would wake up sooner. 

"Can I help?" Lilith asked. 

"I can handle it." 

"Beatrice…" 

"Can you just… Can you just get the door for me please." Beatrice replied quietly. 

Lilith knew not to push anymore, she knew Beatrice's limits. All of her focus was going to stay on Ava now until that girl woke up.

So as Mary reached the driver's side door and unlocked it, Lilith took a few strides forward and pulled open the door for Beatrice. 

"Camila!" Mary yelled again. "We're leaving, now!" 

Camila came sprinting out of the van with what appeared to be a stack of papers tucked under her arm. 

Lilith turned back to Beatrice. "How do you want to…" 

"Hold her for a moment, I'll get in and then we'll ease her in." Beatrice said. 

Beatrice was so gentle in the way that she placed Ava into Lilith's arms, and Lilith could see that Beatrice was working very hard to try and keep the worry from showing too much on her face. 

Lilith couldn't blame her, it had been several minutes since the explosion and Ava had yet to so much as stir, let alone showing any signs of waking up.

As Beatrice got into the car and slid across the seats, Lilith took a moment to hug Ava closer. 

"Come on, Ava, that was impressive and everything but you need to wake up now before we really start to worry." Lilith whispered. 

She cradled Ava's head and leaned down to put Ava in the car. Beatrice was already pulling her closer and lying Ava down across her lap and making it so that Lilith could fit into the backseat too. 

Lilith lifted Ava's legs onto her lap just as Camila opened the door and dropped into the passenger seat with a sigh. 

"The fuck were you doing in the van?" Mary asked. 

"It looks like receipts and bank statements." Camila replied. "I want to figure out who they were." 

It was silent save for the sound of Mary starting the engine. 

Camila flicked through some of the papers for a second before turning in her seat and settled her gaze on Ava's sleeping form. 

"How's she doing?" 

"She used a lot of energy, much more than she probably knew that she had." Lilith replied. "She just needs to rest so she can recharge." 

Lilith wasn't sure if she was helping Ava to recharge, if she was even helping at all. But on the slim chance that it was, Lilith rested her hand on Ava's calf and hoped. 

Camila looked at Ava for a few more seconds and met Lilith's gaze. She nodded slowly and turned to settle back into her seat. 

They pulled out of the parking lot and Mary began to drive, noticeably in the opposite direction to where they had told Ava the night before. 

There was no plan, no destination, just the single thought of getting the hell away from the motel. 

Lilith looked over to her left. Beatrice had her head down, attention focused on Ava and completely oblivious to the scenery rapidly passing by. 

There were small holes in the sleeve of Beatrice's jacket, Lilith knew that she had caused them by grabbing onto Beatrice's bicep before the explosion. 

She just hoped that she hadn't hurt Beatrice too much. 

One of Beatrice's hands rested on top of Ava's where it lay on Ava's stomach, the other alternated between checking Ava's temperature and stroking affectionately through Ava's hair. 

It was only when Beatrice turned her hand to press the back of it to Ava's forehead again did Lilith see the burns that covered her palm. 

"Beatrice…" 

"It's fine." Beatrice replied sharply. 

Lilith could only imagine how much it must hurt. 

None of this was fine. 

 

--

 

Ava felt as though she was floating. 

Numb. Everything was numb. 

She didn't dare open her eyes. 

Memories filtered through her mind in broken fragments. 

Beatrice, so close to her, hearts beating as one. 

The door slamming open. 

Fear. 

Running to grab the sword. Tackling Beatrice. 

Lilith. Lilith grabbing her. Grabbing Beatrice. The rush of power tearing through her veins. 

Power. Heat. Pain. 

Beatrice's eyes. Her touch. 

The halo imploding. 

Golden light. Burning, dripping, energy in physical form like wax melting against her skin. 

Screaming. 

Silence. 

It was still silent now. 

Ava could feel a presence standing over her, watching her. It didn't spark fear in her chest or make her body want to coil in on herself. 

It was familiar and safe. 

"Am I dead?" 

Shannon's laugh brought with it a moment of peace. 

"You're fine, Ava. Just unconscious."

"Fine is a pretty broad term." 

Ava opened her eyes and found Shannon standing over her. Wherever they were, Ava couldn't make out the details, everything around them felt partially formed, blurry. 

It was like her brain didn't even have the energy to put them somewhere familiar. Awesome. 

"I heard you last night. Adriel is communicating through your dreams?" 

Ava sat up, leaning back on one hand as she stared at Shannon. 

"Where were you?" Ava asked, hating the way that she sounded like a lost little child. "I was alone with him and I… I was so scared." 

Shannon knelt down so that they were level, her gaze was apologetic. 

"I'm sorry." 

"He's in my head. This happened because of him." Ava said. "He can see what I see so he sent his men here." 

When Shannon touched her knee, Ava still couldn't feel it, but it still helped her feel a little bit more grounded. A little bit more alive. 

"I don't think he can." Shannon said. "Can he sense you? Yes, just like Lilith can. But I don't think he can see through you whenever he likes." 

"But -" 

"Ava." Shannon interrupted firmly. "You know Adriel. You know what he's like. If he had the capacity to speak to you whenever he wanted, then why wouldn't he? Why wouldn't he want to whisper in your ear at all times to taunt you, to break you? It's because he can't, that's why." 

There was a sound logic to Shannon's words. In her dream he had taunted and threatened Beatrice. 

And there had been plenty of opportunities for him to whisper such threats to her while awake. 

"There is nothing more narcissistic than a man who wishes to be seen as a God." Shannon continued. "He may have underestimated us originally, but Adriel still believes he is superior, he still believes that he is untouchable and that no matter what happens, he will win." 

"...So what? He feels like he can do whatever he wants because he doesn't think we'll stand a chance?" Ava asked. 

"Exactly. And that will be his downfall. Don't let your fear of him push you away from the others." 

Ava rested her chin on her knee and closed her eyes for a few moments. 

"He can sense me, we can't stop and rest or plan." 

"Then you need to find a way to hide in plain sight." 

Their eyes met and Ava understood immediately. 

"I need the vest, don't I?" 

Shannon nodded. "It might not be enough, but if it could hide the halo from a tarask, then it is worth a shot." 

Okay. 

Going back to the cradle was exactly what they had wanted to avoid, it was too dangerous and there were almost certainly going to be people waiting for them. But Shannon was right, and they had been right when it had been suggested the night before. 

It was worth a shot. 

"Did you really come to visit just to give me a pep talk?" Ava smiled. 

"Figured you could use it." Shannon replied, giving Ava's knee a pat before standing up. "But you should wake up now, they're worried about you." 

The others. Were they okay? 

Mary and Camila had been in the gunfight but Beatrice… 

Fuck. Beatrice. 

Shannon must have seen the panic on her face. 

"Just go back, and remember, you did the right thing and they need you with them." 

The right thing? 

"What do you mean?" Ava asked. 

"Wake up." 

 

--

 

Beatrice's palms hurt. They hurt so much more than the small puncture wounds on her bicep currently causing blood to drip down her arm. The nerves in her palms still screamed from the burns that had left her exposed. 

They weren't bad burns by any means, considering the force of the explosion and their proximity to the halo when it had happened, Beatrice knew that it could have been far worse. 

The pain didn't stop her from smoothing out Ava's hair, keeping it from her face as the world passed them by.

She already knew that Ava was going to react badly when she saw those burns. 

Beatrice just hoped that she would see the bigger picture, that Beatrice was only alive because of Ava's intervention. 

Mostly, Beatrice just needed Ava to wake up. 

Lilith kept watching her, Beatrice could feel her eyes on her, though she remained silent about her injuries. 

Mary was breaking just about every traffic law there was in her need to put as much distance between them and the motel as she could. 

Camila was riding shotgun, silent as she flipped through papers in her hands. 

"These are credit card statements." She announced suddenly. "For our card." 

"Which means they got them from Cat's Cradle." Mary said. "Mother Superion did warn us that they were sending people out." 

"They had pictures of us all too, Ava not included." Camila continued. "Looking through their wallets… My guess is the Swiss Guard." 

Beatrice used the back of her hand to stroke Ava's cheek, the relief in her heart was fleeting but undeniable. 

They had come from the Vatican. They had found them through natural, investigative means. 

Ava hadn't led these men to them, the paper trail they had left had. 

Thank God. 

"They have some fucking inconvenient timing." Mary muttered. She glanced at Lilith over her shoulder. "What the fuck happened back there?" 

"One of them kicked the door in." Beatrice offered quietly. "He had his gun ready and he would have fired before I could reach my gun or any of my knives. Ava threw herself at me." 

"As did I." Lilith said. "I think that when I touched Ava, I overcharged the halo, hence the damage." 

The man had practically been reduced to ash and bone. 

The image of his remains may haunt Beatrice for quite some time. 

In the rear view mirror, Beatrice could see the concerned and thoughtful look on Mary's face. 

"There was a lot of damage." Mary said at last. "It's a miracle you two weren't hurt." 

Both Beatrice and Lilith said nothing, although Beatrice saw the slightest twitch in Lilith's jaw as she clearly debated whether or not to tell them the truth. 

The last thing she wanted was for any of them to think that Ava could be dangerous to them. 

"So she's more powerful when you touch her?" Camila asked. 

"It would appear so." 

Mary hummed quietly, but said nothing more. 

It did nothing to reassure Beatrice. 

Ava sucked in a sharp breath, her body jolted suddenly, arching up. 

When her eyes opened, it was clear that she wasn't registering Beatrice above her. There was only fear and confusion in her eyes and Beatrice barely had enough time to draw her hands back before Ava was shooting upright, almost falling from her and Lilith's lap in the process. 

"What happened?" Ava asked quickly. "Where are we? What -" 

Beatrice took hold of her arm while Lilith held onto her legs to try and keep Ava still, despite her frantic movements. 

"Ava. Ava it's okay. You're safe, we're all safe. We're in the car." Beatrice replied as softly as she could. 

"And we're driving very fast so I'm going to need you to calm down." Mary called. 

Beatrice felt a pulse of pain shoot up her arm as Ava pulled at her grip and wasn't quite quick enough to bite back a gasp. 

"Who were they?" Ava asked. 

"Swiss Guard, we believe." Beatrice replied. "But Ava, you need to breathe, it's okay." 

She reached up to cup Ava's cheek. Ava seemed to see the gesture and turned to look at her, but her gaze flickered to Beatrice's palm. 

Beatrice saw the moment Ava registered the damage. 

Ava inhaled sharply, her own hand came up to catch Beatrice's wrist. 

She let go just as quickly, clearly coming to a conclusion if the tears forming in her eyes was anything to go by. 

"Ava, I'm o -" 

"Did I do that to you?" Ava asked quietly, her voice cracked as she spoke. 

Beatrice tried to keep her expression and tone reassuring. 

She couldn't lie to her. 

Beatrice tried to reach for her again. "...Ava."

Ava flinched away again, bumping into Mary's seat in her attempt to get away, ignoring Mary's sound of protest as she shook her head with enough force that Beatrice felt tears hit her skin. 

"I need to… You need to let me out." Ava begged. "Let me out!" 

Lilith leaned forward, holding onto Ava's leg. "Mary, pull over before I teleport her to the road." 

Mary pulled off of the road and slammed the breaks on with enough force that Beatrice slammed into the car door.

The car hadn't even fully stopped but it didn't prevent Ava from twisting to get her hands on the door, scrambling for a few moments before giving up altogether and phasing through, hitting the ground with a solid thud. 

"Beatrice, what the fuck is Ava talking about?" Mary asked. "What happened?" 

Beatrice barely heard her speak though, all of her focus was on Ava scrambling to her feet and running into the barren land ahead. 

One hand unclasped the seatbelt while the other found the door handle and threw it open, feet hitting the dirt and took off after Ava. 

"Ava!" Beatrice yelled. "Wait!" 

Her leg ached with every step, Beatrice could feel the stitches pull and the threat of it giving out as she fought to catch up. 

Ava came to a skidding halt, kicking dust up around her as she turned to face Beatrice. 

"Stay back Beatrice!" 

Everything in her heart wanted to do anything but stop, but she knew that the worst thing that she could do right now was ignore Ava's wishes. 

Twenty feet. That was how much space was between them. 

Beatrice wondered if Ava knew that. 

She took a shaky breath, shifting her stance to take some of the pressure off of her injured leg. 

"Ava… it's okay." 

Ava used the back of her hand to wipe at the tears on her cheeks. 

"What part of this is okay?" Ava asked. "Look at what I've done to you!" 

"It wasn't you, it was -" 

"The halo." Ava interrupted. "And halo is a part of me so that means I've hurt you. Me! Fuck, Beatrice, I've been so scared about Adriel or some fucking asshole hurting you but it was me . I hurt you." 

Beatrice wanted nothing more than to take a step closer, to try and soothe some of Ava's fear. 

"You also saved me." Beatrice replied. "A couple of burns is nothing compared to the alternative."

It gave Ava pause, but it wasn't enough to calm her. 

"But where does it end? I couldn't control that flare, what if it happens again? What if it had happened in the car?" Ava took a step back. "That was too much power. It could kill you all." 

"You learned how to control the halo before." Beatrice said. "This is just another lesson, another skill to hone. It's something that you and Lilith can learn to control." 

How was it that even though Ava only stood twenty feet away from Beatrice, she felt further away right now than she had when they were separated by miles and a prison?

It couldn't be like this. 

"What you did back there was instinctual." Beatrice continued, risking a small step forward. "You came to help me, you shielded, protected and saved my life. Just like you did back at Cat's Cradle, and with the same energy and force as Melanie described in her journey entry." 

Ava stared at her for several moments, her tears rolled freely down her cheeks and fell to the dirt at her feet. 

"The halo flared with a blinding light and emitted a blast unlike anything I had ever experienced." Ava said, the words were not her own, but so achingly familiar that Beatrice knew their origin instantly. 

Beatrice sighed as tears of her own began to form. "Ava…" 

"The Nazi's bullets melted away along with his gun, his flesh, and a good portion of the wall. I fell back in the collapsed ruins of the pub, drained." Ava continued to recite Melanie's words as she took strides to close the distance between them. 

Beatrice had never doubted that Ava had listened to her that day, but to the point where she was quoting it word for word? That she had listened so intently that Ava knew Melanie's story and held onto it almost as deeply as Beatrice had? 

It made her heart race. 

Beatrice took a few hesitant steps forward too. 

"I have no understanding of what allowed me to conjure such energy." Ava continued softly as they got closer, sniffling and still wiping at her eyes. 

When she came to a stop, Ava was only a couple of feet away from Beatrice. 

"But in the moment, I felt unbound. Unburdened. I felt finally myself." Ava finished, her voice broke in the same way that Beatrice's had as she reached the same moment of the passage. There was so much pain and desperation in her eyes as she held Beatrice's gaze. 

"Ava…" 

"I don't feel unbound. I feel anything but unburdened and I don't know who I am anymore so I definitely don't feel finally myself, Beatrice." Ava whispered. "All I feel now is burden and fear. Fear at the knowledge that I've hurt you and that I'm going to get you killed." 

There were no words in the languages that Beatrice knew that would adequately describe who Ava was. 

But Beatrice would be damned if she didn't try. 

"You are Ava Silva." Beatrice replied. "You are somebody who has been through more than your fair share of pain, but you've pushed through it all and you can push through this. You are the halo bearer who is going to put an end to all of this. You are brave, you have the biggest heart than anybody else I have ever known. You have a capacity for kindness and love that is unmatched."

For a moment, Beatrice thought that Ava was going to take a step back, so she was more than relieved when she moved closer instead. 

"Beatrice…" Ava sniffed. 

Beatrice held one of her hands out, and even though the sight of the raw skin made Ava cry a little harder, she still reached out to take a delicate hold of Beatrice's hand. 

"You are our leader, but more than that, you are our friend. You are my friend." Beatrice took Ava's other hand. "You are everything, Ava Silva, and what you are is beautiful." 

Ava brought their hands together until she had Beatrice's clasped in her own. She opened her mouth to speak but whatever words she had intended to say were lost in her pained sob. 

She bent her head until her forehead rested against their hands and fell to her knees in another cloud of dust. 

"I'm sorry, Beatrice, I'm sorry for giving you more pain." 

"Don't be." 

She watched as Ava closed her eyes and saw the gentle glow of the halo illuminate her back. 

A warmth seeped into her hands, entirely unlike the burn of the halo. The physical sensation was nothing more than a light tingling, but emotionally? 

Emotionally it felt like a warm hug on a cold day, the sun breaking through the clouds. 

It felt like gold filling the cracks and making something whole again. 

It felt like love and healing. 

…Healing? 

"Ava." Beatrice whispered. 

Ava lifted her head and met Beatrice's gaze, silently questioning. 

Beatrice carefully drew her hands, opening them and turning her palms outwards so that they lay flat in Ava's hands. 

They both gasped. 

The burns were gone, leaving but the faintest scar in their place. 

Ava stared disbelievingly at Beatrice's hands. 

"I…" Ava trailed off and looked at Beatrice. "Beatrice…" 

"How did you do that?" Beatrice asked. 

Ava shook her head. "I… I don't know. I just thought about you, and that I wanted to help you." 

Beatrice had never heard of a halo bearer healing others before, she doubted there was any record of such a thing happening in the journal either. 

She eased one hand from Ava's grasp and reached out to cup her cheek. 

"There have been many halo bearers since the day off Areala, but there will only be one Ava Silva, and you are unlike any who came before you." 

"I healed you…" 

"You did." Beatrice nodded. She took a chance and moved her arms to hug Ava closer, just like she had done to Beatrice that night in the garage. "You really did." 

Ava clung to Beatrice's jacket and laughed, it was a sound of genuine relief and joy. 

If Ava could do this, then Beatrice believed there was little that she would not be able to do. 

"I can heal you now." Ava whispered into Beatrice's shirt. 

"You've always been able to heal me, Ava." Beatrice replied. "You have since that moment in the halls of Cat's Cradle. You saw me in a way others hadn't and my life hasn't been the same since." 

Ava's breath caught, eyes wide as she stared up at Beatrice. 

Beatrice had every intention of dropping to one knee, to cradle Ava's head in her hands and kiss her gently on the crown of her head, but when she heard the rushing footsteps behind her, Beatrice knew that her intentions were to be interrupted for the third time in under twelve hours. 

It was Camila who was hurrying over to them though, which was a change. 

"Guys! Guys!" 

"What's wrong?" Ava asked, the joy had left her tone and was replaced by immediate worry. 

Camila held up the phone in her hand so that it was clear to see. 

Beatrice may not have been able to see the name on the screen, but she knew exactly who it was by the look of apprehension on Camila's face. 

"It's Jillian." 

 

Chapter Text

 

Jillian didn't sleep much these days. 

In the moments that she did, she always saw Michael. 

Her beautiful, perfect boy. 

In those moments, she forgot about the pain. 

When she woke, Jillian was consumed by silence and grief. 

So she filled her time with work, pouring over data and calculations. 

Anything to get that portal to come to life once more. 

Every method she had tried had brought nothing but failure, there had been nothing that could compare to the readings from the day Michael had stepped through. 

When it had first happened, Jillian had spent days with no idea what had brought the portal to life. 

And then Camila had called her. 

That was when they had both learned the reality of what had happened to each of them on that day. 

The time the portal had activated had matched up with the time Ava had been inside the tomb. 

Camila hadn't gone into much detail about what had happened inside that tomb or their version of events at the Vatican, but whatever had happened, it had been enough to power up the portal despite the distance Ava was from it. 

Jillian had been trying to comprehend that information ever since and could only come to one conclusion. 

Ava was the answer, not divinium. Ava. she always had been. 

But Jillian had no way to get to her. 

A fragment of hope had come in the form of Camila reaching out for her help to find Ava after she had been kidnapped. The deal that they had made had only added to that hope. 

Jillian was not completely blind to the war that they were fighting, that Ava couldn't die if they were to stand a chance. 

If Ava died, so did her chance of getting Micheal back. 

So the deal had been made. Jillian had helped them. 

And all she had heard since then was a two word text from Camila that had simply read:

She's back. 

Jillian had respected their space. She knew that they were dealing with a threat beyond comprehension, she knew that whatever had happened to Ava in the time that she had been gone had no doubt been traumatic. 

But it didn't erase the fact that Jillian needed them too. 

That they had a deal. 

It was a delicate situation, but when it came to her son, there was nothing that she wouldn't do to bring him home. 

Surely everything she has already done was evidence of that?

Jillian didn't particularly want to have to remind those girls of what had been promised to her, to do so could be interpreted as hostility. 

But this was her son. Jillian could try to give them more time, but time was something Michael didn't have. 

Each day he spent… Wherever he was, alone, lost and scared, was another day where she risked never seeing him again. 

On the morning when Jillian's patience had reached its end, the portal came to life. 

It lasted only seconds, fleeting enough that had Jillian not been in the room at the time, she could have gone hours without noticing it. 

It was over before she had even gotten out of her seat. 

Jillian looked over the data, the sheer amount of energy output that the readings were showing were astounding. 

It could only be Ava. 

So Jillian reached for her phone and called Camila's phone. 

She was prepared to risk the change in perception. She was prepared to do whatever it took. 

Jillian couldn't be patient anymore. 

 

--

 

"Do you think one of us should go after them?" Camila asked quietly. 

Ava and Beatrice were still in view, the only signs of life against an otherwise stretch of land, but it was impossible to see what was actually going on between them. 

But Ava had seemed almost inconsolable when she had fled from the car, and Beatrice hadn't seemed far from a breakdown herself as she followed close behind. 

"No." Lilith said quietly from the backseat. "Ava is going through something very intense right now. She needs support that I think only Beatrice can give to her." 

"Are you sure about that?" Mary asked. "Because Ava seemed extremely worked up about Beatrice. So if you want to tell us what the fuck she was talking about, that'd be great." 

Camila heard Lilith sigh heavily and looked over her shoulder to see Lilith tip her head back against the seat and close her eyes. 

"Basically… When the halo exploded, Beatrice must have had her hands on Ava's back because her palms were all burned." 

Oh… Oh no. 

Camila kind of wanted to cry. Poor Beatrice, who constantly seemed to be accumulating more injuries. 

And poor Ava… The guilt that she must be feeling. 

No wonder she had reacted the way that she had. 

Hurting any of them would be devastating to her, but to hurt Beatrice? That was something else entirely. 

They all saw the way those two looked at each other. 

Mary pinched the bridge of her nose and sighed. "Fucking hell." 

Lilith merely hummed in response. Camila closed her eyes and let her head bump against the window. 

"How many injuries does Beatrice have now?" Mary asked. 

"Too many." Camila murmured. 

"...I also hurt her." Lilith spoke up quietly. "My claws were out when I grabbed her arm." 

Camila was running through their supplies in her head, the claw marks she could bandage up easily, but burns? 

Depending on the severity it was safe to assume she was unequipped to deal with them. 

And Camila didn't have much hope that any of them, Ava included, could talk Beatrice back into a hospital. 

Jillian had the resources to treat her, but that was even more unlikely, not with them knowing what Jillian needed Ava for. 

What a mess. 

"You powered up the halo." Mary said. 

Another sigh from Lilith. 

"Yes." 

To an unbelievably powerful degree, it would seem. 

It was the kind of power Melanie described in the journal. Was that an insight into the full capability of the halo? Why Adriel wanted Lilith dead? 

Was there a way for Lilith to give Ava that power back permanently without having to die? 

Neither of them could die. Camila didn't think she would be able to cope with those losses. 

Camila chanced a look over at Mary and knew exactly what she was thinking. 

Burned hands were nothing compared to the alternative. 

Beatrice could have died, whether Ava and Lilith had interfered or not. But if it had been because of them? 

It was terrifying to think about. 

And Mary was clearly very aware of that, of a potential danger that hadn't really occurred to them until now. 

This was new power. Raw, dangerous and unchecked. 

Ava had done well to hone her abilities with the halo when she had. Lilith too, considering how little time they both had to get to grips with it all. 

But they needed to learn to control this, and fast. 

How were they supposed to be able to do that? Where? 

The sensation of her phone vibrating in her pocket startled Camila so much that she banged her head against the window. 

Feeling Lilith and Mary both watching her didn't make it any easier to get her phone into her hand, but all Camila could focus on was the way her stomach dropped the moment she saw Jillian's name on the screen. 

"Oh. Shit." 

Her seat shifted slightly as Lilith leaned forward and rested her hands against it. 

"Let it ring out." Lilith said. 

"She'll just call again." Mary pointed out. 

"I got this." Camila said, sliding her thumb across the screen and lifting it to her ear. "Jillian, hey, I'm sorry this really isn't a good -" 

"The portal activated." Jillian interrupted firmly. 

Camila's breath caught in her throat, she turned her head, looking past Mary and out to where Beatrice and Ava were still talking. 

"...What?"

"And I don't think I need to tell you when it happened because I think you know." 

Ava and Lilith had opened the portal, just like Ava had when Adriel had tried to take the halo from her on that night in the Vatican. 

"Like I said… Now isn't a good time. We're trying to deal with something right now." 

"I need answers, Camila."

"What's she saying?" Mary asked quietly. 

Camila shook her head. "I don't have answers to give you right now. Bea is hurt, we were attacked, we don't have time." 

"I need you to make time." Jillian replied, the frustration was beginning to seep into her voice.  

"Jillian…" 

"We have a deal, remember? And right now, none of you are honouring that." 

"You have to understand that it's dangerous." Camila said. "We can't just come to you without risking bringing the enemy to your doorstep." 

"Then we need to find a way." Jillian replied. "I want to talk to Ava." 

"I don't know if she's in a state to be able to do that." 

"Then I need to hear that from her." 

Jillian wasn't going to back down. She wanted them to come to ArqTec, Camila couldn't exactly blame her but it was just more pressure that they really didn't have the room to deal with right now. 

Her timing couldn't have been worse. 

Camila reached for the car door and opened it, much to the confusion of Mary and Lilith. 

"I'll ask her and see how she's feeling but I can't make any promises." Camila said. 

"...What's happening?" Lilith asked quietly. 

"It sounds like Jillian wants to speak to Ava." Mary replied. 

Lilith murmured under her breath about the ridiculousness of the situation but neither of them stopped Camila from getting out of the car. 

She walked around the car and headed towards where Beatrice and Ava were. 

"I'm heading over to them now." Camila said. 

"You do understand where I'm coming from though, don't you?" Jillian asked. 

Jillian had lost her son, and as far as she was concerned, Ava was the only key to getting him back. 

And he had been gone for so long. Any situation when a child has been missing for this long is terrifying, but for Micheal? 

He wasn't even on this Earth as far as they knew. 

Could he really be in heaven? Hell?

Was he where Lilith had been? 

Jillian was defined by so much more than just being a mother, but she was still a mother. 

A mother who just wanted to find her son. 

"Of course I do." Camila replied. "But you also need to understand our situation, we can't even stay still for long enough to rest for a whole night. An innocent man was just killed for working at the place we were hiding." 

As Camila continued to walk, she could see Ava clearer now, she took in the way that Ava was kneeling before Beatrice. 

The way that Beatrice was hugging her close. 

It didn't seem like they were crying, but it did look like a very intimate moment. 

Camila really didn't want to interrupt. 

But they must have heard her approaching because Beatrice turned her head slowly to acknowledge her presence. 

"Guys! Guys!" Camila called out to them. 

Ava shifted slightly so that Camila could see her face, the worry was evident on her face. 

"What's wrong?" Ava asked. 

Camila held up the phone for them to see. 

"It's Jillian." 

Beatrice immediately looked frustrated. 

"Now isn't a good time." She called back. 

"Is that Beatrice?" Jillian asked. 

"I know. But she said that the portal activated." Camila explained as she brought the phone back up to her ear. "Yeah, that was Bea." 

She watched Beatrice turn away for a moment, hands moving to help Ava up to her feet as Camila moved closer. 

Jillian sighed heavily on the other line. "I'm going to be honest with you, Camila. It feels as though you're all keeping Ava away from me." 

The back of Camila's neck went cold. A whisper of instinct that had her guard rising slightly. 

It felt like standing on extremely thin ice. 

"Ava is literally two feet away from me." Camila replied. 

Ava stood as close to Beatrice as humanly possible without actually stepping on the other girl, her cheeks were still wet with tears and everything about her right now just gave the impression that she seemed extremely dazed. 

"Hi." She said weakly. 

Beatrice gave her a long, concerned look. 

"You should all come in." Jillian said. And after a few agonisingly long seconds added, "For all of your own goods." 

And that… That almost sounded like a threat. 

Beatrice held her hand out, as if to ask for the phone but Camila took a step back and raised a finger to stop her. 

Ava looked concerned, one hand came up to rest against Beatrice's arm, fingers curled into her jacket. 

Who the touch was intended to comfort, Camila didn't know. 

Beatrice's jaw tightened, no doubt reading the worry on Camila's face easily. 

Camila's mind was racing, trying desperately to interpret Jillian's words as quickly as she could. 

Was it a threat? A warning? 

Had Jillian's patience reached its end, the need to find Michael overshadowing everything else? 

If it were Camila, what would she do in this scenario? If she was talking to the people who potentially had the answer to everything. 

She would want to find them. 

And she would do anything to do that. 

…How long has the call been connected? 

Camila looked from Ava to Beatrice and let out a long breath. 

"Jillian…" Camila began apprehensively. "Have you traced this call?" 

Ava's grip on Beatrice's jacket tightened, they both focused their attention on Beatrice as they watched her take a deep breath. 

The silence felt painful. 

"I can have a team there to meet you in two hours." Jillian replied eventually. 

Nope. 

Camila hung up the phone, and shoved it into her back pocket. 

"Are you two okay?" Camila asked. 

Ava frowned. "I… Long story. What just happened?"

"She traced the call." Beatrice said softly to Ava, though her tone swiftly grew heavier when her attention shifted to Camila. "Standard procedure for a trustworthy ally, yes?"

The bite in Beatrice's tone may not have been directed at her, but it had Camila taking a small step back all the same. 

"We need to get back to the car." Camila said. "Tell Mary and Lilith, we can make assumptions about Jillian's motivations later." 

Thankfully, rather than argue, Beatrice lifted a hand to press against Ava's back, gently guiding her to move forward. 

Camila's gaze lingered for a moment as even more confusion settled within her. 

Lilith had said Beatrice's palms were all burnt. 

So why did her hands look completely healed?

 

--

 

Even when they were back in the car, Ava didn't feel like she could speak. It was much easier to stay as she was, wedged between Beatrice and Lilith as Mary drove and Camila explained everything. 

Beatrice had offered to take the middle seat, but Ava had merely shook her head and climbed in. 

Her leg was still injured, it'd be too uncomfortable in the middle seat. 

Everybody was angry . Not at Camila, they could never be angry at her. 

Hell, Camila herself seemed pretty pissed. 

They were angry at Jillian, at the idea that she was sending people after them to bring them, to bring Ava back to ArqTec. 

Ava didn't know what to feel. 

Not about Jillian, not about the others' reactions, anything. 

Ava was still trying to come to terms with the grief that came with knowing she had hurt Beatrice. 

But then there was the awe of healing her. 

That part still didn't feel real. 

She kept staring at the back of Beatrice's hand where it rested on Beatrice's thigh, trying to understand how she had done it. 

"So where exactly am I going?" Mary asked. 

"Just keep driving." Camila said. "I'll find us somewhere when I'm done with this." 

She had both her and Mary's phones in her hands, typing numbers from her phone into Mary's. 

"Do you really think she's sending people to us?" Lilith asked. 

"It's what I would do." Camila mumbled distractedly. "I could be wrong and I hope I am, but I want to play it safe." 

Lilith hummed. "So we've got Adriel and his growing demon army, the Vatican and their Swiss Guard, quite possibly the police and now Jillian looking for us… Wonderful." 

Ava frowned at Lilith's words. 

"Would the police even be able to link us to what happened at the safe house?" She asked quietly. 

"We can't rule it out." Mary said. "But I think Lilith is referring to the night you were kidnapped, when we took Beatrice to the hospital to check out her injuries."

"A nurse got suspicious because Beatrice didn't want to stick around for the x-ray and observation." Lilith explained. "And then she spoke to security when she heard that a car had been stolen by Mary from the parking lot." 

Beatrice's hand slowly curled into a fist. 

Ava gave a small nod. "I see." 

She watched Camila pop the sim card out of the side of her phone, break it in half and throw it out of the window. 

"At the rate we're going, we're all going to need new phones." Mary sighed. 

Ava began to tune them all out, she moved her own hand to tap two fingers gently against the back of Beatrice's. 

Neither of them looked at each other, but Beatrice didn't need any clarification. She simply flipped her hand over, palm up. 

It didn't seem real. 

There were still faint scars, the larger ones Ava assumed were the remnants of the burns, the smaller ones most likely from Beatrice's past. 

Ava pressed her finger to the middle of Beatrice's hand and inhaled softly. 

Her skin was so soft. 

For all of the damage Ava had caused, she had also healed it. She had taken Beatrice's pain away. 

She had helped

But it still didn't change the fact that Ava had still caused Beatrice harm. It didn't erase the knowledge or memory of her actions. 

Ava brushed her finger along the lines of Beatrice's palm, watching as her hand twitched but didn't move away from Ava's touch. 

Curious, Ava brought her fingers down to the tiny bit of wrist that wasn't covered by the sleeve of Beatrice's jacket and back up again. When she reached Beatrice's fingers, Beatrice straightened them out so Ava could touch her fingertips. 

They were calloused from years of training, her fingers flexed as Ava touched each one. 

Even though she could see Beatrice's fingers twitching, Beatrice didn't do anything else in response to Ava's touches. 

But Ava saw Beatrice's head move, turning to look past Ava. 

Ava frowned and followed the movement, coming face to face with Lilith's watchful gaze. 

It wasn't judgemental or anything like that, but it was watchful, fixated on Beatrice's hands too. 

It wasn't the touches she was looking at, it was Beatrice's hand. 

Lilith must have seen Beatrice's hands before. 

Ava looked away, back at Beatrice's hand and slid her fingers into the spaces between Beatrice's and curled them until their hands were entwined. 

She heard Beatrice exhale slowly and watched her gaze drop back to their hands. 

Ava smiled to herself as she watched Beatrice's fingers close around her own. 

Nothing really made sense anymore, but this… This did. 

Beatrice made sense. 

 

--

 

Ava's fascination with her hand seemed to extend beyond trying to understand her new healing abilities, that much had become clear when her touches had moved to Beatrice's wrist and fingertips. 

She had touched with such caution, such delicacy, making sure to give Beatrice room to move away should she want to. 

When Beatrice had noticed Lilith watching the exchange, her first instinct had been to pull away, to hide. Her second instinct had told her that Lilith was only watching because she had noticed the healed skin. 

It had surprised her that Lilith hadn't said anything about it, but knew that it was something that would be brought up later. 

Lilith gave them this moment of peace.

Ava had held her hand for the rest of the drive, it was only when they had parked up outside a small cafe did Ava let go. 

Which led them to now, all sat together in the corner of the cafe. Ava, dressed in a new hoodie, tucked between Beatrice and Camila. From where she sat, Beatrice had a good view of the entrance and the windows. 

Mary put a menu down between Beatrice and Ava. 

"You're both ordering something." She said. "So have a look and decide." 

Ava sighed. "We have bigger things than breakfast to think about right now, don't you think?" 

"Yeah, but I think that you both still need to eat so we're going to order food and then we're going to figure this out." 

Ava scowled and dropped her head to look at the menu. 

"...Do you wanna split an omelette or something?" Ava asked. 

"Yes, sure." Beatrice replied. "Would you… Consider easing away from coffee?" 

When Ava dropped her head a little bit more, it bumped against Beatrice's shoulder. 

"Yeah… You're really that worried about my heart, huh?" 

"You know I am." 

Ava hummed quietly, took hold of Beatrice's hand once more and gave it a gentle squeeze. 

"Okay. Deal." 

They were given a small respite as they each placed their orders, Beatrice opted to glance through the window instead of acknowledging the fleeting looks from the rest of the group. 

"Where do we even begin?" Camila asked.

Lilith levelled Beatrice and Ava with a long look. "I think there's a lot that needs to be discussed." 

Ava's grip on Beatrice's hand tightened. 

"I think our priority right now is the several different groups of people trying to find us." Beatrice said. "And more specifically, Jillian's actions." 

She was making little effort to hide her feelings about these new developments. 

Could they still consider Jillian to be an ally if she willingly sent people out to find them? It didn't exactly fill Beatrice with much faith. 

Or any, in all honesty. 

Camila glanced up from her phone and sighed. "We'll get to that." 

"How about we just think about this for a minute, wait for our drinks to arrive and then we can start falling down the rabbit hole?" Mary suggested. 

"I'm sure we can at least agree on that." Lilith nodded. 

Beatrice felt Ava's shoulder bump gently against hers. 

"You aren't in pain, right?" Ava asked softly. 

"No." Beatrice replied. "I mean, yes, but no more than usual. It's manageable." 

When would it be the right time to bring up Ava's healing? It didn't feel like it was her choice to even do so. 

Ava turned Beatrice's hand over and brushed her thumb along her palm before bringing it over to rest on Ava's thigh. 

Beatrice held her breath. 

As Camila began to look through her phone and Lilith and Mary talked quietly about exit points in the building, Beatrice glanced down to watch Ava adjust their hands. 

Ava's thigh was warm and soft beneath her hand, Ava hand was a steady weight keeping her in place. 

"Is this okay?" Ava asked quietly. 

"Yes." Beatrice replied. 

It was still so new and unfamiliar between them, and yet it just felt so… right. 

And to be honest, Beatrice really needed these touches. 

She just wanted Ava to be closer to her. 

"So, good news, maybe?" Camila began, waiting until at least Ava was looking at her before continuing. "I've been going through the security footage of the town we said we were heading to and there's been nothing suspicious there." 

"So what, based on that we're saying Adriel isn't in my head all of the time?" Ava asked. "Cause I don't really buy it…" 

"It's something though." Mary said. 

"It depends on if he knew that the Swiss Guard were going to find us, why waste sending men out there when they were going to catch us at the motel." Lilith shrugged.

Mary stared at her. "Seriously?" 

"I want to be wrong, obviously." Lilith replied. "But we have to look at this at all angles." 

Ava sighed and slumped back into her seat, Beatrice watched her for a moment before squeezing her thigh gently. 

(That in itself was a foreign experience, as was the way that Ava's attention was instantly on her.) 

"For whatever my word is worth… I think it's at least somewhat reassuring that Camila's trap didn't pan out." Beatrice said softly. "It doesn't mean that we're entirely out of the woods, but it could suggest he can't see through you all of the time." 

Ava used her free hand to run it through her hair, going so far as to pull her hood up too. 

"It is better than nothing, but I'm still dubious." Ava agreed after a few moments. 

It was the best that they could do. Beatrice couldn't blame Ava for her apprehension either, why would she want to get her hopes up only to have them crushed again? 

"I don't know how we're going to get answers, but we do need to hide you from him." Beatrice continued. 

Mary lifted her hand slightly to silence them all as their drinks were brought over to their table, the highlight was seeing the small smile on Ava's face when she was given a side helping of marshmallows to add to her hot chocolate if she wanted. 

"You're saying we need the vest." Mary said. 

It was starting to feel like the only feasible option. 

There were still a lot of problems to take into account, but if it meant keeping Ava safe and easing some of her fears then… It was worth it, wasn't it? 

Yes. For Ava, it was always worth it. 

But they still had to be careful. 

Beatrice reached for a single sugar cube and dropped it into her cup. "It seems like it's our best chance to keep Ava safe." 

"But trying to find it in the Cradle seems really risky." Ava said. "Look at what happened the last time we were there, and that was before we had Adriel to worry about." 

It was endearing how she dumped almost all of the marshmallows into her drink. 

Even more endearing was how Ava offered Beatrice a marshmallow too. 

"I can teleport in and out." Lilith said. "It'll take ten minutes." 

"Not alone you aren't." Mary replied. "We don't know what's in there. And before you say anything else, we're not letting you go without us being nearby." 

Lilith frowned. "That defeats the purpose of having teleporting as an ability."

"Yeah, but if you get ambushed or separated from whoever goes with you, then we need to be nearby to give backup." Mary argued. 

"You know she's right, Lilith." Camila said. "It's not a solo rescue mission, we have room to think now." 

It was impressive to watch Lilith's expression shift from bordering on argumentative to something more accepting and resigned at Camila's words. 

"Fine." Lilith said. 

"That's our possible next step then." Mary nodded. "What's next?" 

"Jillian." Beatrice said. 

"Beatrice." Lilith said at the same time. 

Ava's attention quickly snapped to Lilith, her grip on Beatrice's hand tightened. 

"What about Beatrice?" Ava asked.

The sharpness in her tone had everybody looking at her, surprised.

For Beatrice, it made her chest feel warm, it was a strangely protective gesture to see Ava display.

"When I say Beatrice, I don't just mean her ." Lilith hurried to explain. "I should have elaborated, I meant the explosion and what happened to Beatrice." 

"Actually while we're on the topic of the explosion…" Mary began. 

Lilith cut her off, and nodded towards Beatrice. "You got hurt in the motel." 

Her tone wasn't sharp, per say, but there was an edge of impatience to her voice. 

Lilith had definitely seen Beatrice's hands, and she had held back on getting her answers up until now. 

"I did." Beatrice nodded. 

"I saw the damage to your palms." 

Mary and Camila were looking at her now, Beatrice kept her gaze focused on Lilith even as she could feel Ava tensing up. 

"I know." 

Lilith raised an eyebrow at her. "Don't you think now is a good time to show them what I saw during the drive here?" 

Beatrice took a sip of her tea and lowered it back to the table with a sigh, gently removing her hand from under Ava's. 

She turned her hands over and lay them palm side up on the table. 

Mary raised an eyebrow, while Camila leaned forward slightly to get a closer look. 

"After the explosion, those hands were raw." Lilith said.

"I healed her." Ava interjected. "I… I have no idea how and I'm still trying to understand it, but I healed her before Camila came over with the phone." 

Beatrice had every reason to believe that if they weren't in a public setting, Camila and Mary's reactions would be very different. 

Okay, mostly Camila's, if the way she covered her mouth with her hand to muffle her gasp was anything to go by. In comparison, Mary was much more subdued.

When Lilith reached over as if to take hold of one of Beatrice's hands, Beatrice immediately drew them back in favour of curling them around her cup. 

"Lilith did mention that you'd gotten hurt while you and Ava were outside talking, and I was confused when I saw your hands." Camila said. She shifted her gaze to Ava. "Ava! You can heal!" 

Ava smiled at her enthusiasm and nodded. "Yeah. I'm still not sure how. I just… I was crying and I felt so guilty for hurting her and I just wanted to take the pain away." 

"Sure looks like you did." Mary said proudly. "Good job, you keep on surprising us." 

Ava wiggled slightly in her seat, knee bumping against Beatrice's in the process. 

"I just wish I understood how I did it." Ava said, turning her head to look at Beatrice. "You're still injured elsewhere." 

"I do kind of want to see it in action." Lilith said. 

"Not here." Beatrice replied. "It'll draw too much attention." 

Ava sighed but nodded, letting her hands rest back in her lap and dropping her gaze down to her drink.

"So now you can heal and cause damage on par with C4." Mary said. 

At the mention of the explosion, Ava seemed to shrink into herself a little more, deflated. Beatrice hesitated for a moment before letting her hand drop down and sneak back over to rest against Ava's. 

It seemed to help, if only a little. 

"You can't blame Ava for that." Lilith said before Beatrice could speak up. "I'm equally responsible for what happened." 

Mary rolled her eyes. "I wasn't blaming anyone. I just wanted to point out that this is a lot of power that you two have, it's amazing that Ava can heal, but we can't ignore the danger that you both pose." 

"I can't control it." Ava murmured. "It happened so fast I couldn't keep the energy inside." 

"All the more reason we need the vest." Camila said. 

"But they also need to learn to control this." Mary sighed. 

"To do that, we need a space." Lilith pointed out. "And if the Swiss Guard have gone through the files back at the cradle, that means all of the safe houses are likely to be compromised." 

There were too many factors to consider, too many points of concern for each of them. If Beatrice could feel her own head spinning trying to keep track of it all, she could only imagine how the others were feeling. 

She just wanted to rest. More than that, Beatrice wanted Ava to be able to feel comfortable enough to sleep again. 

"Even if we had a safe house and the vest, would that be enough?" Ava asked. 

The vest would make it harder for Adriel to trace Ava, but would it be enough? They wouldn't know if they didn't try. 

But she couldn't think of a way to get them a safe house, unless they resorted to the methods the group of people Ava had hung around with after receiving the halo. 

Breaking into rich people's holiday homes didn't feel like a great option. 

"I actually have an idea." Camila spoke up softly. Her gaze was apprehensive as she glanced at Beatrice. 

Beatrice already knew in her gut what was coming. 

"Let's hear it." Mary said. 

"It's all theory, but to even attempt what I want to do, I'd need Jillian's help." 

Ava's hand found Beatrice's and held on tight. 

"Jillian isn't going to give us any more help until we go to her." Beatrice said. 

Camila's shoulders dropped. "Bea…" 

"She tracked your phone to send people to find us. She wants to use Ava to power the portal and -" 

"Find her son." Camila said, cutting Beatrice off as gently as she could. "You know I don't agree with what she's done today, but we have to look at it from her perspective." 

"It's hard to do that when I know what she wants to do to Ava." Beatrice replied, she could hear her own voice getting firmer, louder. "What happens when she finds out Lilith charges the halo? She'll use her too." 

"Beatrice, calm down." Lilith said carefully, glancing around the cafe. 

Ava was silent, even though Beatrice could feel her gaze on her. She could only focus on Ava turning her hand, threading their fingers together and holding on as tight as possible without hurting Beatrice. 

Camila's eyes were understanding and sympathetic as she looked at Beatrice, but she showed no signs of backing down either. 

"Love pushes us over lines we would never normally cross. We can't judge Jillian for the things she's doing, I don't think any of us could say we wouldn't do the exact same thing if we were in her position." Camila stated calmly. 

The truth in her words cut through Beatrice. 

Because she was right, and Beatrice knew that. 

And she hated it. 

It didn't take a genius to look at her actions since the night Ava was taken to know there was very little that she wasn't willing to do to find Ava and keep her safe. 

Beatrice had essentially told Mary as much that night in the warehouse. 

It felt like the walls were closing in on them, everything was pointing them to go to Jillian. 

And by extension, potentially putting Ava in even more danger. 

Beatrice wanted to throw up. 

She could barely focus on the growing silence, the eyes that kept shooting uncertain glances at her, even Ava's hand in hers felt like a ghost of a touch. 

"I think we should take five." Mary said. "I'm going for a quick smoke before the food comes. Beatrice, do you want to -" 

Beatrice pushed her seat back and pulled her hand from Ava's as she got up her feet. 

"I'm going to the bathroom." 

 

--

 

Ava looked stricken as the rest of them watched Beatrice walk away. Camila watched her gaze drop to the table as she slowly pulled the sleeves of her hoodie down over her hands. 

Camila felt bad. 

"Ava… You should probably go check on her." Mary said. 

"I will. I'm just giving her a minute to herself first." Ava replied. "I'm gonna have to go through this portal, aren't I?" 

"No." Lilith said. "Not if you don't want to." 

Ava frowned. "But…" 

"There are other options. If Beatrice will hear out everything Camila has to say first, we can actually reach a point to discuss them." 

Ava lifted her head to look at Lilith, that frown still firmly in place even as Camila saw some kind of realisation in Ava's eyes. 

It happened at the same moment Camila realised what Lilith was saying. 

Lilith was the other option. 

"Lilith -" 

"Don't, we're not talking about this right now. You need to go talk to Beatrice." 

Ava stared at her for a long few moments, before getting up from her seat with a resigned sigh. 

Mary got up too. "Yeah, I'm still going to smoke. I'll be back when the food comes." 

Lilith leaned back in her seat and took a sip of her drink as Ava and Mary both left the table. 

"You were right, you know." Lilith said, addressing Camila. "We would all do exactly what Jillian is doing and Beatrice knows that." 

"Thank you." Camila sighed. "I should still apologise, though." 

"What for? You didn't insult her, and I don't think it was a directed attack or anything." 

Camila grimaced and averted her gaze. 

"Not exactly. It certainly wasn't an attack but I was directly talking to Beatrice when I said that." 

"I still don't think you need to apologise, but it is your choice." Lilith said. 

"Will you really go through the portal in place of Ava?" Camila asked. 

Lilith nodded. "I made a promise that I would keep Ava safe, that if it came to this then I would go." 

When Camila had brought love into the discussion, she had meant it in terms of the (very clear) romantic love that was growing between Beatrice and Ava. But the platonic love that was felt between them all was just as strong. 

There was very little that they wouldn't all do for each other. 

She understood Beatrice's fear of Ava going through the portal though. 

Camila suspected it felt something like how she was feeling at the idea of Lilith going. 

She wished that she knew what to do to help. 

 

--

 

In hindsight, the bathroom had not been the best option. 

It was far too cramped and the open window was far too small to provide much in the way of fresh air. 

But she couldn't go outside with Mary, she didn't want whatever words she had to offer. Not right now. 

So now she was sitting on the closed toilet seat, head in her hands as she tried to keep herself composed. 

What was she supposed to do? Jillian needed Ava to open the portal, she most likely wanted Ava to go through it too. Beatrice didn't want her to do either of those things. 

But… What if she went through instead of Ava? Would she even survive? Probably not, but it would still be more ideal than letting Ava go. 

There was also the potential that Ava would want to be the one to go, that she wouldn't want anybody to go in her place. 

If that were the case, then Beatrice already knew that she couldn't let Ava go alone. 

She'd follow Ava, no matter what. 

It was too much to be able to think about. 

There was a gentle knock at the door. 

"Occupied." Beatrice said bluntly. 

"It's me, Bea." Ava replied. "...You're not actually peeing right now, right? Or pooping. You're not pooping are you?" 

Beatrice got to her feet and unlocked the door, opening it and pulling Ava into the room by her hoodie before closing the door and locking it again. 

"I was doing neither of those things." Beatrice replied. "Although strangely, I do appreciate you asking." 

Ava laughed weakly and leaned against the door, watching Beatrice as she took her seat again. 

They held each other's gaze, and Beatrice knew that it would only take a few moments for Ava's presence to make her feel better again. 

"You okay?" Ava asked. 

"Overwhelmed." 

Ava made a sound of agreement as she pushed the hood off of her head. "Yeah, same. Do you want to talk about it?" 

"I don't know how." Beatrice admitted. 

"Can I speak freely?" Ava asked after a few moments of thoughtful silence. 

"Always." 

Ava pushed off of the wall to cross the small distance, turning on her heel to lean against the wall beside Beatrice. When she moved to slide down it, Beatrice threw her arm out to catch her elbow. 

"What?" 

"I wouldn't sit on the floor, Ava, we have no idea how clean it actually is." 

"...Okay yeah, good point." 

Beatrice pulled her hand away reluctantly and waited for Ava to say her piece. 

"With this Jillian situation, is it because you don't trust her? Or because of the portal thing?" 

Beatrice sighed. "Both, but… More the second part." 

"We can't just leave Michael out there, Bea." 

"...I know." 

"You don't want me to go through the portal if we can power it up again, do you?" 

Beatrice shook her head. "I'm not trying to speak for you and I'm sorry if I have. I know that ultimately it will be your choice and I do respect that but -" 

"Bea." Ava interrupted softly. "I know, it's okay. Your feelings on this are important to me, I want to hear your thoughts." 

"We don't know what's on the other side, what other dangers are there. What if there are tarasks? What if you can't open it from the other side?" 

"Beatrice…" 

"What if you get trapped there, Ava?" 

Neither of them missed the way that Beatrice's voice cracked. She felt Ava's hand rest on her shoulder. 

"I know. I'm scared too." Ava said softly. "But we have each other, and the others will do everything to keep us safe too. And I don't think that Jillian would throw us into this without doing some tests first." 

"We can't know that for sure, Ava. What if she's working with Adriel?"

"I don't know." Ava said. "What I do know is that Lilith and Camila have ideas, and we kind of owe it to them to hear them out, don't we?" 

Beatrice sighed again and got to her feet, turning away from Ava and wrapping her arms around herself. 

"We do. Have I been awful to Camila?" 

"I don't think so? Not awful, anyway. We all know that you're not angry at her specifically or anything. It just because she's who's relaying Jillian's words." Ava replied. "We all understand." 

Beatrice still made a note to find a moment alone with Camila when she could, at the very least she should still apologise. 

She was still thinking about it when she felt Ava press up against her back, arms circling around her stomach and chin coming to rest on Beatrice's shoulder. 

Did Ava know just how grounding this type of hug was for her? 

Beatrice moved her hands to cover Ava's arms. 

"How are you feeling?" Beatrice asked. 

"Honestly, most of what you're all saying out there is going right over my head." Ava replied quietly. "All I can think about is healing you. I think about that a lot. I still can't believe I did that." 

Beatrice couldn't either. It was just another reason as to why Ava was spectacular. 

"It was incredible, Ava." Beatrice said. "You're incredible." 

"I… I also keep thinking about your other injuries and that I really want to heal them too. If you'll let me?" 

Considering the things Ava had been thinking about which led to her discovering this ability, Beatrice probably shouldn't be surprised, but she still was. 

Ava cared about her. 

She cared so much that Beatrice and her injuries were on the forefront of Ava's mind. 

Beatrice knew that the others cared about her, and had done so for a long time. But not like this. 

Not as intensely as this. 

"You don't need to do that Ava. Not right now." Beatrice whispered. "It's okay." 

"I want to." 

It might help Ava relax a bit more. 

Beatrice nodded. "Okay." 

Ava released her hold on Beatrice so that she could turn and face Ava again. 

She watched Ava's gaze focus on the cut across her eyebrow and reached out to still her arm before Ava could really begin to lift it. 

"I wouldn't." Beatrice said. "It might raise questions if the waitress or anybody else sees it healed." 

"Oh, right. Then where should I…" 

While her ribs and leg definitely hurt more and it would be so much more comfortable to move around, the idea of having Ava's hands on those areas was… it was too much. 

And it was definitely too much to happen in a tiny bathroom. 

There was also the gunshot wound, but Beatrice also had to wonder how much energy Ava's healing used up, would something like that be too draining?

They had a lot to learn about it. 

Beatrice tapped her arm where the puncture wounds caused by Lilith rested. 

"How about here?" Beatrice suggested. "They're not deep, so it shouldn't be too taxing." 

Ava offered her a small smile. "Don't worry about that."

"Still, humour me?" 

Ava nodded and gently reached up to curl her hand around the space Beatrice had pointed out to her. 

Her gaze grew serious and focused as she stared at the spot, drawing in a deep breath before closing her eyes. 

Beatrice watched the halo light up, and she could just about feel the warmth from Ava's touch but the tingling sensation Beatrice had felt last time was strangely absent. 

She watched Ava's brow furrow, the halo brightened even more but all she could feel was Ava's frustration growing. 

Ava broke contact suddenly, stepping back and letting out a huff. When she opened her eyes and looked at Beatrice, she seemed on the verge of distraught. 

"Did it work?" Ava asked, the heaviness in her tone suggested that she already knew the answer. 

Beatrice wanted to hug her. 

"I'm sorry, Ava." 

Ava dropped her head and sighed. "I don't understand… I did everything like before. It even felt the same? Mostly." 

"Mostly?" 

Ava gave a weak shrug. "It felt like it wasn't connecting to you." 

Beatrice frowned and looked down at her own hands. 

They had been touching, skin against skin, when it had worked earlier. 

Could it really be so literal? 

"Ava… Do you have enough energy to try again?" Beatrice asked. "If that's what you want." 

Ava gave a small nod and reached up again, even though she kept her head down. 

Beatrice caught her hand again and moved her own free hand to rest on Ava's shoulder and waited until Ava lifted her head before speaking. 

"Just hold on a moment though, okay? I have an idea what the problem might be." 

Ava frowned, but stayed put as Beatrice took a step closer to the door and unzipped her jacket before removing it and hanging it up on the coat hook. 

Beatrice glanced at her arm and grimaced at the streaks of blood, both fresh and dried, against her skin. 

She had seen firsthand the damage that Lilith's claws could do, Beatrice supposed she should be thankful that she had gotten away with simple puncture wounds. 

"Wait, Bea… Do you really think that'll work?" 

"It's worth a try, isn't it?" Beatrice asked, moving to lean back against the wall. 

Ava seemed to agree and moved back into Beatrice's space, her hand found the same spot and her fingers pressed into the soft skin of Beatrice's arm. 

"Ready?" Ava asked quietly. 

"Of course." 

This time, when the light of the halo filled the room, Beatrice felt the tingling dance across her arm, the familiar warmth filled her body. 

It almost felt like she could feel the skin knitting itself together, but it was over too quickly for Beatrice to catalogue every sensation. 

Beatrice found it hard to care when she saw the hopeful look on Ava's face when the light faded. 

"Did… Did it work this time?" 

Beatrice turned her arm as Ava removed her hand and despite the blood streaked across the skin, they both saw the absence of any puncture wounds. 

At most, Beatrice thought she could see faint white scars. 

"It did. See? You can still do it, it just seems like you need to have direct contact." 

Ava laughed breathlessly, thumb pressing into Beatrice's arm to inspect the marks. 

"The halo can bring me back to life, destroy a room and lowkey melt a guy, but when it comes to healing it draws the line at cotton poly blend? Crazy." 

Beatrice was just thankful that they had discovered this before they tried to heal her ribs and legs. 

This means Ava needs to have her hands on Beatrice's body, doesn't it? 

Her ribs, her thigh...

Beatrice could feel her ears burning. 

"I think… When it comes to the halo we have to choose the parts we want to try and understand and just accept some of its mysteries." 

Ava snorted. "Yeah, true." 

Beatrice felt Ava's fingers inch lower until they brushed against the bandage protecting her gunshot wound. 

The minutes were counting down until one of the others came looking for them, either to make sure they weren't having a breakdown or to tell them that their food was ready. But Beatrice could see the idea in Ava's eyes, and feel the intent behind those touches. 

"Why does it still leave a scar though?" Ava asked softly, almost as if she was talking more to herself than Beatrice. "Is it based on how much energy I try to put into it?" 

Beatrice covered Ava's hand with her own.

"There's no rush to figure that out, Ava. A scar is nothing to be concerned about right now." Beatrice said reassuringly.

"Can I still try?" Ava asked. "...Please?" 

Oh… Puppy dog eyes. 

Beatrice couldn't say no. 

"Help me with the bandage?" 

Regardless of how gentle Ava's touch was, each bit of pressure sent a jolt of pain through to the bone. 

Ava made a sad sound when she saw the wound, even though it was healing well courtesy of Camila's stitches. 

"What will happen to the stitches?" Ava asked. 

"They'll probably just fall out, like yours did." Beatrice replied. 

"Okay…" Ava nodded to herself and covered the area with her hand. "Let's do this." 

Beatrice relaxed as much as she could against the wall and watched as Ava grew focused, the halo began to light up and bathed them in light once more. 

This time Beatrice was sure she could feel her body knitting itself together, the pain eased as Beatrice felt Ava and the halo repair her arm. 

It was a strange experience. Was this how it felt for Ava? Going through traumatic injuries and then watching and feeling her body repair itself, leaving behind no physical scars, only the memory of the pain that she felt. 

The light from the halo stuttered for a moment, at the same time Beatrice felt Ava's grip on her arm tighten and heard a sharp inhale. 

"Ava?" 

The light grew brighter and Ava drew a deep, steadying breath. 

"I'm fine." Ava replied. 

Her voice sounded strained. 

She definitely didn't seem okay. How much energy was this taking from the halo? 

"You can stop, Ava." 

"Not yet. I just need another minute." Ava muttered. "Fuck."

Beatrice flinched slightly when Ava's other hand shot up and hit the wall beside her, Ava's body weight pressed up against her and jarring the aching pain in her ribs. 

Ava's breathing grew heavier, laboured and exhausted. 

Beatrice grabbed onto Ava's shoulders to keep her steady. "Ava, stop." 

Ava's hand dropped from her arm, body going heavy against her. 

She was silent for several moments, head tucked beneath Beatrice's as she got her breathing under control. 

"Are you okay?" Beatrice asked. 

"Fuck, yeah. Yeah I'm good." Ava replied quietly. "Damn that… That really drains the ol' powerbank. Did it work though?" 

"It feels like it. Do you need to sit down?" 

Ava shook her head. "Can we stay like this?" 

Beatrice adjusted her hands until they were wrapped more securely around Ava's body, taking on her weight. 

"Whatever you need." 

For as stressful and intense everything was, Beatrice always found that when they ended up in each other's arms, things felt a little easier to deal with. 

A little easier to face. 

Ava groaned quietly. "Kinda wishing I'd ordered a coffee now. I'm exhausted." 

Beatrice turned her head enough to rest her cheek against Ava's hair. 

Ava needed to sleep, she needed to rest, but Beatrice knew that Ava wasn't going to be all that willing to try. 

"Will you try to rest?" Beatrice asked. 

"No. Not yet." 

There was a light knock at the door. 

"Guys, food is out." Mary said. 

It took longer for one of them to come and check on them than Beatrice thought it would. 

"We'll be out in a moment." Beatrice replied. 

At least with Mary, there was no fuss involved. 

"Moving seems like so much effort." Ava sighed. 

But she did, reluctantly pulling herself from Beatrice's hold and stepping back. 

She looked paler than before, worn out beyond her limit, but it wasn't enough to stop Ava from smiling at Beatrice. 

"How does the arm feel?" Ava asked. 

Beatrice glanced down and gave her arm some experimental movements. She had gotten so accustomed to the pain that always followed that now it actually felt strange to have such freedom. 

A scar still remained, something that seemed to dishearten Ava slightly, but Beatrice would never complain about that. 

"It feels good." Beatrice said. "Thank you, Ava, I'm just sorry that it's left you feeling this exhausted." 

"It's worth it. You're worth it." 

"Are you ready to head back out there? Try to eat?" 

Ava nodded. "Yeah, but can you promise me one thing?" 

If she could, she would promise Ava the world. 

"Of course." 

"Just… Hear out what Camila has to say? I know your feelings on the Jillian situation but we gotta look at all of the options. Jillian isn't our enemy, as far as we know, so we shouldn't treat her at one." 

Even when they all had reason to doubt, Ava's kindness and empathy was unwavering.

Beatrice sighed. "I just don't want to put you in any more danger." 

"I know, and you know I feel the same way about you and all of the others, but we just need to try right? And know that we'll do everything we can to keep each other safe." Ava said. "Trust in your team, right?" 

Ava really had taken those words to heart. 

"Right." Beatrice nodded. 

Ava took Beatrice's jacket off of the hook and handed it back to her. 

"Ready?"

"Ready." Beatrice said as she pulled it back on. She smiled at Ava. "You know, I feel like you missed an opportunity there."

Ava frowned. "How?"

"Jillian the villain, it just sounds so much better."

Ava's laugh was beautiful. 

"It rhymes! We'll save it for if she does turn out to want us dead."

It felt good that they could still make jokes about their situation.

(It felt better to make Ava laugh)

--

 

The omelette was really good. Ava was really glad that the others had encouraged her to keep trying. 

It was also comforting to see Beatrice eating too. 

There was an unmistakable warmth in her chest, one that was always present when she looked at Beatrice but now only felt stronger. Brighter. 

Sometimes, Ava felt as though she had very little to offer. She wasn't a skilled fighter, or great with technology and while Ava knew she had displayed some okay skills at strategising but those skills were nothing compared to what the others could do. 

Ava didn't bring all that much to the table in those regards. She knew that her identity wasn't defined by the halo, that there was so much more to her than just that hunk of metal in her back. 

But knowing that she could heal? Seeing the proof for herself on Beatrice's skin? 

There was so much more potential here. Ava could do so much more to help. 

She felt useful.

"I became skilled at so many things just so I would still have value." 

Ava paused with her fork partway to her mouth and looked to the girl beside her. 

Oh.

This was just a taste of the feelings Beatrice must have felt for her entire life. 

"You always seem to be right when it comes to me, Ava." 

Those had been Beatrice's words to her last night. 

It was true. They understood each other. 

Beatrice noticed Ava watching her and gave her a questioning look, a silent 'are you okay?' clear in her eyes. 

Ava nodded and smiled back. 

They were far from okay, but they were both doing slightly better since their time alone in the bathroom. 

Beatrice had listened without protest as Camila had explained her plan despite the apprehension evident in her expression. 

The whole thing had mostly gone over Ava's head. 

But Ava could blame that on just how tired she felt now. It had hit her like a truck whilst healing Beatrice. 

It was going to be hard to stay awake for much longer. 

"Okay… Talk us through it one more time." Mary frowned. "You want to build a what?" 

"A Faraday cage." Camila said. She made a face and shrugged. "Or something like one, anyway." 

Ava was glad that Mary and Lilith seemed to at least be sharing in some of her own confusion. 

"Is it like… A literal cage?" Ava asked. "Cause I think I'd rather take my chances with the vest." 

"Sort of?" Camila replied. "An actual Faraday cage is used to block electromagnetic fields to protect whatever stuff is inside. If there's a way to use divinium or even the vest to create something similar, then maybe there's a way to create a perimeter for Ava to move around freely whilst also hiding her from Adriel." 

"Giving Ava and Lilith a space to train freely without risking the vest from affecting their abilities." Beatrice finished. 

Camila nodded enthusiastically. "Exactly" 

"Do you think it's possible?" Beatrice asked. 

"No idea." Camila replied honestly. "But that's why I need Jillian's help. She'll have the resources and knowledge to help make it possible." 

Beatrice set down her cutlery and pushed the plate they were sharing closer to Ava, silent for a few moments as she thought. 

Eventually, she turned to Ava. 

"What do you think?" 

Ava tried not to let herself feel optimistic, but if this was something that Camila could pull off, it could buy them so much more time to regroup together safely. 

But it was more than that. 

"I think that me and Lilith really need to have a chance to get to grips with all of this." Ava said softly. "We need to, Bea, I can't risk what happened today happening again." 

They couldn't risk hurting the people she loved. 

Not again. 

She couldn't hurt Beatrice again. 

Ava couldn't ask Beatrice to trust Jillian, regardless of the empathy that they all felt for her situation, they had all been through too much for there to not be some apprehension. 

All Ava was asking was for Beatrice to trust in her and their friends. 

Beatrice studied Ava for a few moments and nodded, turning back to Camila. 

"Do you have any ideas on how to approach Jillian with this?" Beatrice asked. 

Camila pushed her own empty plate aside and shook her head. 

"There's no way Jillian will help us unless we show up, and we can't just walk into ArqTech right now because of the risk of Adriel knowing we're there and sending an attack."

"So… Before we can think about doing that, we get the vest?" Ava asked. 

"It certainly sounds like it." Lilith agreed. "I'm on board with this plan, but like all of you, I have my reservations about Jillian. Anything to do with the portal can wait until we meet with her, but before that we need to make sure that she isn't allied with Adriel in some way." 

"I think if we just go to her, that will appease Jillian for a little bit." Camila said. "Right now she feels like we're actively avoiding her and keeping Ava away." 

Which they were, but none of them voiced that fact. 

Ava watched Beatrice's jaw tense, but said nothing. 

"Do you think she would do that?" Mary asked. "Work with Adriel, even after she helped us find Ava?" 

"It's like Camila said earlier." Beatrice said. "Love pushes us over lines we would never normally cross." 

There was something about the way Beatrice said the word love that made Ava's heart race. 

"And Adriel is like… A master manipulator." Ava added. "Just look at what happened between me and him in the tomb." 

He'd almost talked her into giving him the halo back, after all. 

"So we need to rule out any potential involvement before we even consider going forward." Mary said, nodding to herself. "Okay. It's a rough plan, but it's something." 

Lilith hummed in agreement. "I think we focus on our next step first. Get the vest and then see what our situation is before moving onto Jillian." 

"We'll hit the road soon then." Mary decided. "We can figure out who will go in with Lilith on the way because no way are you going in alone." 

Lilith didn't bother to argue that point again at least. 

Ava wasn't sure how long the drive would be back to Cat's Cradle, but a long drive, almost certainly with Beatrice's warm presence at her side? 

…She was going to fall asleep. 

Was there any point in fighting it? 

Ava didn't want to sleep, she didn't want to come face to face with him again. She didn't want to risk revealing any of their plans to him. 

But what if she could flip the script? What if she could get information from him? 

Maybe it could help. 

Maybe she can get some answers. 

And if the others were awake, then they could watch over her, wake her if she starts showing signs of distress. 

Ava turned the idea over in her mind as the others finished up their food and got ready to leave. 

As they made their way back to the car, Mary leading the group, she felt Beatrice's hand gently touch her arm. 

"Are you okay?" Beatrice asked. "You seem quieter." 

Ava made her choice. 

"I think I'm going to try and sleep, if that's okay with you?" Ava replied. 

"Of course it is." Beatrice said softly. "Are you sure?" 

"I'm… Scared." Ava admitted. "But if he shows up, I kind of want to see if I can get information from him?" 

The relief that had been on Beatrice's face at Ava's intention of sleeping was replaced by concern. 

"You don't have to do that, Ava." 

"I know. But… I don't know, I want to try." Ava replied. She took a deep breath and held Beatrice's gaze. "Can you keep me safe? Wake me up if it seems like I'm freaking out?"

"You know I will." Beatrice whispered. 

Ava would have hugged her, had they not reached the car. 

She knew that Beatrice would keep her safe. 

 

--

 

The car was filled with the gentle music of the radio as they began their drive to the place that they had once called home. 

Lilith had taken shotgun this time, leaving Beatrice, Ava and Camila in the backseat. 

It didn't take long for Ava to pull her hood back over her head and begin to shift, trying to make herself more comfortable. 

Beatrice only hesitated for a moment before she lifted her right arm in invitation, something that Ava responded to immediately. 

Nobody said anything as Ava fit herself against Beatrice's side, head resting against Beatrice's shoulder and tugging on her hood to block out as much of the light as possible. 

Beatrice lowered her arm and let it curl around Ava's body, hoping that if she did manage to fall asleep, Ava would still be aware of the weight it provided and know that Beatrice was there. 

It meant so much more when she felt Ava's hand press against her arm, keeping it in place. 

"I'm going to be right here with you the whole time, Ava." Beatrice said quietly. "We all are." 

Ava's fingers flexed around her arm in acknowledgement. 

Beatrice watched Camila throw a soft smile their way while Lilith glanced over her shoulder, looking almost relieved to see Ava at least attempting to rest. 

None of them knew what awaited them back at Cat's Cradle or what would happen afterwards if they were successful in their goal of retrieving the Osmium vest. 

For now, Beatrice could only think of the girl resting against her, the trust that Ava felt in Beatrice to allow herself to be vulnerable like this. 

It made Beatrice feel vulnerable too, even with the knowledge that the others must have a very good idea about how she felt about Ava. 

But they accepted her, and that meant everything to Beatrice. 

She rested her cheek against the soft material of Ava's hood. 

Love really did make people do things they never thought they would. 

And as she felt Ava's breathing even out and her body slacken against her, Beatrice found that in this case, she was really glad of that.

 

Chapter Text

 

She recognised her surroundings the moment she stepped into her dream. 

Ava may have never set foot in this room in the waking world, but Ava knew every detail right down to that fucking obnoxious desk.

She was back in the villa that she had been held in. She was in the room that she had seen in her dream after she had been freed. 

Except right now, Ava was the only person inside. 

Okay. 

This was fine. She was safe. 

Her sleeping body was currently surrounded by her friends, held steady by Beatrice's arm around her. 

If she focused really hard, Ava was sure she could still feel the warmth of that touch across her chest. 

Beatrice was safety. 

Ava let out a slow breath and looked around the room and noticed Adriel's sword lying on the desk. 

Ava took a few tentative steps forward to get a closer look. 

It wasn't glowing, which shouldn't be a surprise considering Ava technically wasn't really there and it was only now that Ava had the chance to take in its details. 

Or lack thereof. 

The sword itself seemed very basic in design. The blade was definitely longer than Ava's and appeared to be heavier. It seemed to have a slight curve to it at the tip, the guard was designed in the shape of two snakes and the pommel contained another piece of divinium encased in the metal. 

It wasn't spectacular by any means, but whoever had forged it for him definitely seemed to lack creativity.

But it was bigger than hers, so Ava suspected Adriel was happy enough with that. 

(She definitely had a few ego and size related jokes that she could throw at Adriel if she ever got the chance to use them.) 

Although it was definitely a different style to what Ava would have expected. 

She tried to commit it to memory with the intention of finding the name of its style as soon as she had a chance. 

The sound of voices approaching threw Ava off guard.

"My Lord, it's merely my suggestion that you begin moving your men, you've said yourself that the halo is on the move, you could have them intercepted and claim the halo once and for all."

Ava recognised that slimy ass voice anywhere. 

Vincent. 

Motherfucker. 

"If I wanted your council, Vincent, I would ask for it." 

Ah, and there was Adriel. 

Dude really didn't seem to like it when Vincent tried to voice his thoughts. 

"Apologies, my Lord." Vincent replied. "Is there anything you need of me?" 

"I want you to get an update from Duretti. There was a sizeable outburst of energy from the halo and now it is moving south. I do not appreciate being kept in the dark like this." 

Oh? 

So he knew about the explosion but nothing else? 

Interesting, and actually somewhat reassuring. 

What wasn't reassuring was the confirmation that Duretti was working with him. 

Yeah… really not ideal. They needed to warn Mother Superion as soon as possible. 

The footsteps were getting closer and Ava watched the closed door as she tried to ease the anxiety that she could feel rapidly building. 

She closed her eyes for a moment and reached up to touch her hand to her right shoulder, where she knew Beatrice's hand rested against her sleeping body. 

Ava was safe. 

Beatrice was keeping her safe. 

She just needed to remember that. 

When the door opened Ava dropped her hand and opened her eyes, locking gazes with Adriel the moment he stepped through. 

He stopped in place, the fleeting moment of surprise was quickly masked by a slow curving of his lips. 

"Ava. What a pleasant surprise." 

Over his shoulder, Ava could see Vincent looking around the room. 

"Sorry to just drop in." Ava replied. "I hope I'm not interrupting your very important scheming." 

Adriel angled his head slightly towards Vincent. "Leave us." 

He didn't even wait for Vincent to respond before he made the door close behind him. 

It was just the two of them now. 

Ava slipped her hands into the pockets of her hoodie and regarded him for a few moments. 

"Genuine question, do you like it when Vincent calls you his Lord?" Ava asked. "Because personally it sounds a little too slimy and groveling for my taste." 

Adriel smiled. "It is my rightful title." 

"Hm… Agree to disagree." 

Adriel moved further into the room towards Ava. 

"My question to you Ava, is why is it you always begin these encounters so full of confidence when we both know that by the time you leave me, I will have broken your spirits?" 

Fucking hell. 

He wasn't exactly wrong but… Jesus. 

Broken spirits was a bit of an exaggeration. 

Ava shrugged. "You can't hurt me here."

"Our last encounter said otherwise." Adriel pointed out. "You seemed rather upset." 

"Yeah well, you didn't look super thrilled yourself when you first walked in here. Trouble in paradise?" 

She wasn't going to let him get to her so easily this time. Ava was going to come out of this with some information that would actually fucking help them. 

Rather than answer, Adriel folded his arms across his chest as he continued to stare at Ava. 

"I felt you use the halo earlier." Adriel said. "Very powerful. It's hard to control now, isn't it?" 

He definitely didn't need to know any of those details. 

"Hard? Please, I had more problems trying to figure out how to wear the habit that one time." 

But Beatrice had helped her do it, and Ava could still see her proud smile as they stood before the mirror. 

Adriel hummed thoughtfully, glancing over to look out of the window. 

"You're moving south. Where are you going?" 

If Adriel could see her at all times, then he would know. 

Was it a bluff? 

"How the fuck should I know? I'm here aren't I? I don't know the stops on our road trip." Ava replied. 

Adriel walked around the desk, making a show of dragging his finger along the edge of the sword, never once taking his eyes off of Ava. 

"Why are you here, Ava?" Adriel asked. 

"Because I can't control this? Believe me, you are not a face any girl wants to see in her dreams." Ava pulled her hands from her pockets and stretched them over her head lazily. "So unless you know how to stop it then I guess you're stuck with me." 

Ava wasn't about to give up without something. Just one useful bit of information about their connection, about his plan. 

Anything. 

As long as she didn't fuck it all up and reveal their plans to him, what little plans they actually had, it'd be okay. 

"And why would I want to stop it?" Adriel asked. "I do enjoy our catch ups." 

Ava groaned inwardly. 

She really wanted to punch him in the face. 

"I don't know, Adriel…" Ava began walking over to the desk to lean her hip up against it. "Imagine if you hadn't known I was here, how much could I have overheard?" 

It was only there for a moment, but Ava didn't miss that self assured smirk falter and fall from his face. 

"Imagine indeed." Adriel said. "Not that it would help you." 

Ava folded her arms across her chest, pictured Beatrice's hand entwined with her own and made a thoughtful sound. 

"So… Is your confidence in your plan a wannabe God thing?" 

Adriel's nostrils flared, the anger in his eyes was evident as he slammed his hands down onto the desk. 

"I am a God!" He roared. 

Ava took half a step back, imagined Beatrice's hand holding onto her own and held his gaze. 

Well, okay then. 

She still wasn't going to back down. 

"You're a coward who didn't even have your own halo to try and take over the world with. You had to steal it." Ava replied calmly. "You used Areala as a hiding place. And I don't know how, don't care how, but you got yourself trapped under the Vatican for hundreds of years, which was kind of dumb of you, let's be real." 

His hands curled into fists, teeth bared. 

Oh yeah. 

This was his berserk button. 

May as well keep pushing. 

"You can't even take the halo from me, yet you want to take over the world?" Ava forced herself to laugh. "Definitely not a God. A joke, though? Yeah, that's you all over." 

In a blink of an eye, his hand was moving and closing around the grip of the sword and lifting it. 

It didn't touch her, even if it had Ava wouldn't have been able to feel it, but her synapses still tingled with a perceived sense of danger. 

She lifted her head all the same. 

If she were awake, would that blade be cutting into her skin? 

Deep breath in, slow breath out. 

"Before I take the halo back, I'm going to make you kneel. I'm going to make you watch as I take everything you love away from you." Adriel said quietly. "I might even let you live long enough to see the birth of the new world." 

Ava lifted her hand to curl it around the blade, even now it still surprised her that she didn't feel the sensation of it cutting into her flesh. 

"No point in making egotistical speeches, Adriel." Ava replied. "Cause you're not taking anything or anyone I love away. You're not getting the halo back and I'm sure as shit not going to let you try this world domination, second coming of Christ shit." 

Adriel narrowed his eyes at her. He was definitely suspicious of her refusal to back down. 

"Where are you going right now? What are you planning, Ava?" 

He really doesn't know. 

Adriel can't see her all of the time. 

And he fucking hated that. 

The laugh that spilled from her lips was one of genuine happiness. 

"I'm not telling you shit. I'm not your hostage anymore." 

"As long as we are both breathing, you will always be my hostage. When you sleep, you are trapped here with me. When I sleep I am a ghost watching your every movement and -"

"Let me guess, when we both sleep I'm a hostage to your dreams?" Ava guessed. 

He looked angry that she had interrupted him, his smile was all teeth. 

Predatory. 

"I couldn't have put it better myself." 

And that was all Ava needed to know. 

Time to get the hell out of here. 

"Thanks for the chat, Adriel. I'd say it was a pleasure but we both know that'd be a lie." 

She realised her grip on the sword and moved her hand back to her shoulder, picturing Beatrice's hand again and tapped her fingers a few times. 

God, she really hoped it worked. 

It'd be really embarrassing if she was stuck here now. 

 

--

 

The arm wrapped around Ava's chest was at strong risk of falling asleep. 

Nobody had made much effort to make conversation and Beatrice didn't have the energy to offer any herself. 

The gentle weight of Ava against her body and the scenery passing them by was making it hard to stay awake. 

But she couldn't let herself drift. 

She had to keep watch over Ava. 

Every now and again, she would see Ava twitch and shift, fingers flexing around Beatrice's wrist before settling down once more. 

She was facing her fear head on right now, just on the off chance that she would be able to get them some more information. 

Ava was so much braver than she had ever given herself credit for. 

She wasn't a flight risk. She wasn't thinking about herself. 

With her hood having slipped off not long after she had fallen asleep, it left Beatrice able to turn her head and press her lips to Ava's hair. 

Beatrice longed to move her other arm too, to wrap it around Ava's stomach and hold her even tighter. 

"Bea?" 

Considering how soft Camila's voice was, it still managed to startle Beatrice, although she managed to stay mostly still as to not jostle Ava. 

From the corner of her eye, she met Camila's gaze and made a quiet sound of acknowledgement. 

Lilith turned the radio up. 

"About earlier…" Camila continued quietly. "Some of the things I said were insensitive, to you specifically. I'm sorry for that. I could have made my points without resorting to that. They were cheap shots." 

Beatrice inhaled deeply through her nose, picking up the lingering traces of smoke from the explosion and Ava's shampoo before lifting her head to rest her chin in her hair instead. 

"It's fine, Camila." Beatrice replied. "Honestly, I should apologise too. I wasn't fair, I should have let you speak and been more understanding, for that I am sorry." 

Though Beatrice would stand by her choice to not trust Jillian just yet. 

"I don't blame you for having doubts. I do too." Camila said, turning her attention to Ava's sleeping form and reaching out to tuck a loose curl of hair behind Ava's ear. "But you can trust me when I say that I'm going to do everything to keep her safe." 

"I know you will." Beatrice replied quietly. 

But while all of the others would protect Ava, Beatrice would be damned if they had to. 

She was going to keep Ava safe. 

"We'll be there in just over an hour." Mary spoke up. "Do you think we should wake her up?" 

Beatrice met her gaze in the rearview mirror and gave a soft shake of her head. 

"Ava needs to rest either way, but if she starts looking uncomfortable or I see signs of panic, I'll wake her." Beatrice replied. "For now… Let her rest." 

"You should rest too." Lilith said. 

"I can't watch her if I'm sleeping." 

She had no reason to doubt that the others weren't capable of watching over Ava. 

But Ava had asked her. 

It was Beatrice that Ava had laid her trust in right now. 

So until Ava woke up, Beatrice would keep watch. Rest could come later. 

"Is it worth having some kind of plan in place for when we get closer to the cradle?" Lilith asked. "Regardless of if Adriel can see through her or not, he can sense the halo. If Ava is close to the cradle then he'll know we're up to something." 

"It shouldn't take long." Mary replied. "Our only options are to either park up nearby while you teleport in with someone -" 

"Me." Camila said. "I'll go in with Lilith." 

"Or we drop Ava off somewhere with Beatrice, go to the cradle and come back to pick them up." Mary finished, and when she processed Camila's interruption, frowned. "Wait, what?" 

Lilith was turning in her seat to look at Camila too. "Yes, what?" 

Beatrice had expected Camila to offer to go with Lilith, it made the most sense after all. 

Mary was the best driver, Ava didn't know her way around Cat's Cradle as well as the others and Beatrice still had her injured ribs and leg. 

(Not that she would leave Ava even if she weren't injured.) 

And besides, it was Lilith. Camila was always going to be the one to go with her. 

But the idea of them leaving her and Ava somewhere while they looked for the vest? 

That… wasn't a good idea, no matter how much Beatrice wanted it to be. 

"Somebody has to go with you, Lilith." Camila replied. "And the only person here who knows the hidden corners of that place as well as you and me is Bea." 

"Right. Okay." Lilith nodded, turning back to look ahead. 

"You can't separate me and Ava from you all either." Beatrice spoke up softly. "I wouldn't be able to guarantee her safety in my current state if anybody were to ambush us."

She hated even admitting it. 

"I know." Mary said. "I just wanted to make sure we covered all options. There's risk involved no matter what we do, but all of us being split up like that is too much right now." 

"Have you asked Ava to heal the rest of your injuries yet?" Camila asked quietly. 

Ava shifted against Beatrice, head tilting back against her shoulder as her brow furrowed. 

Beatrice watched Ava carefully as she shook her head. 

"No. I would never ask. Ava offered. She healed my arm while we were in the bathroom at the cafe but it left her rather exhausted." 

Beatrice had every reason to believe that Ava would want to try again as soon as they had the privacy to do so. 

How they'd do that though, Beatrice didn't know. 

"Okay, so Camila will come with me to find the vest. You and Ava can stay in the car with Mary." Lilith said. 

"Sounds like a plan." 

Beatrice made a quiet sound of agreement. 

Ava shifted against her again, brow furrowing even more. The hand around her wrist flexed and moved, drifting up slightly the back of her hand. 

Beatrice watched as two fingers gently tapped against her skin. 

…Ava? 

Ava repeated the gesture again. 

It couldn't have been a clearer sign. 

Beatrice sat up slightly, bringing Ava up with her and leaning in close to her ear. 

"Ava?" She whispered, holding her closer. "Ava, wake up." 

Ava didn't respond, but the hand that had been tapping against Beatrice's curled around hers and clung on tight. 

She was aware of Camila watching them both, it was possible that Lilith and Mary were too, but it was easier for Beatrice not to focus on that. 

Ava was her only focus now. 

She slipped her free hand into Ava's and squeezed as hard as she could without potentially hurting the sleeping girl. 

"Ava… Listen to my voice." Beatrice continued to whisper, fully aware of the way that her lips inadvertently brushed against Ava's ear. "I'm here, you're safe. Just… Just follow my voice, focus on my touch. Come back to me, Ava."

Come back. 

All at once she felt the tension of Ava's body, the tightening grip on both of Beatrice's hands and the deep inhale as she clawed herself back into consciousness. 

She felt Ava turn her head towards her, so Beatrice did the same, only drawing back enough so that they didn't bump heads. 

But they were still so close that their noses were almost touching. 

Ava looked a little dazed as she adjusted to her surroundings, the lingering traces of sleep heavy in her eyes as she stared at Beatrice. 

But it wasn't like before. 

She didn't look terrified. 

Ava clumsily pulled one of her hands free from Beatrice's as she twisted a little more towards her, it found its way into Beatrice's shirt, digging into the material and settling just above Beatrice's heart. 

"Are you okay?" Beatrice asked softly. 

Ava's eyes flickered over her face, the grip tightened on Beatrice's shirt.

"I heard you." Ava replied. "You woke me up when I needed you to." 

Beatrice brushed her thumb across the hand still entwined with her own. "I promised to watch over you, Ava." 

Ava beamed, a soft laugh fell from her lips before she tipped forward as much as she could to hide her face in Beatrice's neck. 

Beatrice closed her eyes and allowed herself a moment to relax, to feel the smile pressed against her pulse, the warmth of Ava's body and the heartbeat Beatrice could feel through her shirt.

It could only be a moment. A few blissful seconds where they could both pretend that everything was okay. 

Because the second Ava drew back, hand moving from Beatrice's shirt and reluctantly shifting to sit in her seat properly, it was back to reality. 

Ava didn't let go of Beatrice's hand even as her focus shifted to Mary. 

"You need to warn Mother Superion. Duretti is one hundred percent working with Adriel. I don't know in what capacity but I don't think he's possessed." 

There seemed to be a collective sigh from both Mary and Lilith. 

They'd all expected it. All they had to do was look at the things he had done to become Pope. 

Beatrice could still remember the look on his face when he realised she would not be loyal to him. 

"It'd actually be more surprising if he was possessed." Lilith said dryly. 

Mary hummed in agreement. "What did he say about Duretti?" 

"Not much." Ava replied. "I overheard him telling Vincent to get an update from him before he realised I was there. He sensed the explosion and wanted to know what was going on." 

"Which means Adriel was likely aware of the Swiss Guard being sent after us." Beatrice said. 

"...Yeah." Ava sighed. "But I get the impression that Duretti is looking for us to impress Adriel? I don't know, it just feels separate from Adriel's hunt." 

Hunt. 

It felt so much more visceral when Ava called it that. 

Mary pulled her phone out of her pocket and shoved it into Lilith's hand. 

"Text her for me will you? We just have to hope she checks her messages." Mary said. "After the last contact we had with her she's probably being even more careful to stay under the radar." 

Beatrice's attention was pulled away from the conversation in front of her by Ava turning her hand over to idly play with her fingers. 

"Do you want to talk about it?" Beatrice asked quietly. 

Ava was silent for a few moments as she continued to fidget with Beatrice's hand. The others fell silent, although it was only Camila who was noticeably watching. 

"The usual shit happened…" Ava began softly. She sighed and threaded her fingers through Beatrice's. "He was intimidating and kind of threatened me… Well, I say kind of, he did point a sword at my neck but I'm not sure if that counts because we both knew it wouldn't hurt me." 

She said it with such surprising ease that it only added to the ache in Beatrice's chest. 

It hurt to picture Ava standing up to Adriel with a blade pointed at her, despite the pride she felt at Ava's bravery. 

"It still counts as a threat." Beatrice replied. 

Ava hummed. "Do you guys want the whole rundown of the encounter or can I just cut to the chase?" 

"Whatever you feel comfortable with." Beatrice said. 

"Cool. Cool, cool." Ava nodded. "So, good news, Adriel can't actually see me most of the time? He knows we're on the move but he kept asking where we were going."

"Are you sure he wasn't bluffing?" Lilith asked, glancing up from Mary's phone. "Mary, I've texted Superion too." 

Mary made a sound of acknowledgment while Ava gave a small shrug. 

"Adriel kinda likes to gloat, he's made it very clear that he wants to make me hurt and suffer. If he knew where we were going he would have said so just to stress me out." Ava replied. "Plus he said that when I sleep, I'm trapped with him. When we both sleep, I'm still trapped and that when he sleeps, he's a ghost watching my every move. So interpret that as you will." 

So when they were both asleep, it was like the times Ava and Lilith communicated in their dreams. 

But when only one of them slept, they were able to see the one who was awake? 

Adriel could only see them through Ava when he slept. 

"He wouldn't be a ghost though, would he?" Beatrice asked. 

Ava turned her head to flash Beatrice a questioning look. 

"What do you mean?" 

"When you sleep, you go to him and he can see you. So when he sleeps, you should be able to see him too." 

"The only time I've seen him while I was awake was like… A glimpse of his eyes in the mirror when I got out of the shower when I first came back to you." Ava looked almost guilty at the admission, no doubt realising that she hadn't divulged that information before. 

"You never mentioned that before." Beatrice pointed out gently. 

"Even now I'm not sure if that was just… You know, trauma or not." Ava said. "I'm sorry." 

Beatrice squeezed her hand reassuringly, almost wishing that the others weren't around them so that she could offer more. 

"You don't have to apologise, Ava. You know I - We only want you to feel safe." 

If the small smile was anything to go by, Ava didn't miss the way Beatrice stumbled over her words. 

"I know." Ava replied, shifting to drop her head against Beatrice's shoulder. "You keep me safe, Bea." 

Ava's words filled Beatrice's heart with gold. 

She ached with the desire to turn her head again, to brush her lips against the soft skin of Ava's forehead. 

Desire? 

Beatrice was not blind to her own feelings for Ava, she had come to accept them and knew how deeply they ran. 

But desire… It was accurate, yes, but there was a heaviness to it that only added to the longing she felt. 

When Ava shifted a little closer to bump her forehead against Beatrice's jaw for a moment before settling back down, it felt like she was doing so because Ava had sensed Beatrice's internal struggle. 

"How long until we get to Cat's Cradle?" Ava asked. 

"About forty minutes." Mary replied. "We can run through the plan again in a little bit. Is there anything else you need to tell us?" 

Ava shook her head gently. "Not really. Vincent is following him like a lost puppy and it might actually be annoying Adriel, but that's not exactly relevant." 

Perhaps not relevant, but it seemed to amuse Mary a bit. 

Camila reached over to pat Ava's leg gently. 

"Get some more rest, Ava." She said softly, eyes flickering up to meet Beatrice's. "Both of you." 

Ava hummed and slid further into Beatrice's side. 

"I'm not gonna sleep again, but Cam is right, you should rest, Bea." Ava murmured. 

It was easy to close her eyes, and Beatrice knew that it would be even easier to melt into the comfort that Ava gave her. 

But forty minutes wasn't long, certainly not enough for Beatrice to really settle and feel as though she would get a restful sleep. 

"I can't sleep, Ava." Beatrice replied. 

Despite her instinct, Beatrice didn't flinch when Ava's free hand came to rest against her stomach, but she did immediately wonder what it would feel like to have Ava's touch against her bare skin. 

Warm. 

It would be warm. Ava was always warm.

Beatrice's stomach twisted. 

It was getting very hot in the car. 

(She could feel her ears burning.) 

"You don't have to sleep." Ava replied. "Just rest." 

"I'll try." Beatrice replied. 

It was the best she could offer. 

 

--

 

It was so strange to see Cat's Cradle again, even if it was from a distance. 

As Mary had driven them closer, the tension had steadily increased within the car until Camila found herself unable to ignore the anxiety growing in her stomach. 

Beatrice and Ava had been quietly resting beside her, not quite sleeping but at the very least at some kind of peace, but as they had gotten closer, Beatrice's eyes had opened and Ava had sat up a little bit straighter. 

It felt like it had been so long since they had all been within those walls. 

Hell, Camila's last moments in Cat's Cradle had involved blindly firing an assault rifle to protect Ava, Beatrice and Mary. 

(And then she had gotten to see firsthand some pretty intense eye contact between Ava and Beatrice in the back of the van.) 

"Alright, I'm going to find an alley to park in." Mary said. "It'll give you both a chance to figure out what weapons to take in and run through the plan one more time." 

To call it a plan was a bit of an overstatement. Right now it was just a case of getting inside that building, avoiding the other highly trained nuns who may or may not see them as traitors and will attack on sight, find the vest and get out in one piece. 

And there lay the root of her anxiety. 

Facing Crimson and her group were one thing, but the women in Cat's Cradle were her friends, her sisters

She didn't want to fight her sisters. 

"Can you try to steal more gadgets too?" Ava asked quietly, voice pitched so low that there was no way Lilith or Mary could have heard her. 

"Why? What do you want?" Camila replied. 

"Communication things? I… I don't like that you guys are going in there and there's no way we can even check in with you." Ava explained. "It wouldn't be useful here but… Just in case, you know?" 

She had a point. 

Camila smiled reassuringly. "I'll try." 

Whatever they took, Camila would try to bring back one day. They were only borrowing it. 

As Mary turned down another road, Camila drew her pistol so that she could busy herself with checking its ammo. 

Mary drove them down an alleyway, parking up and letting out a quiet sigh. 

"Okay, this seems like a safe distance." Mary said. "We can come running if it comes to it." 

"And how exactly are we supposed to alert you all if we're in danger?" Lilith asked. 

Mary frowned at her. "Use your phone? Have me on speed dial and I'll come." 

The way the two of them stared each other down was almost funny. 

Camila leaned forward to tap Lilith gently on the shoulder. 

"It'll be okay, as long as we don't get separated. If anything happens we'll just teleport out and regroup." 

They had to get the vest one way or another, but trying to take on the entirety of Cat's Cradle wasn't an option, nor was the idea of Beatrice and Ava coming to save them. 

Regardless of Ava's healing, Camila would much rather not give Beatrice the opportunity to add more injuries to the collection. 

Camila just had to pray that it wouldn't come to that. 

(She tried not to think about how little weight her prayers seemed to carry these days.) 

"Agreed." Lilith nodded. "Mary, pop the trunk, will you?" 

Before either Lilith or Camila could open the doors and climb out of the car, Beatrice spoke up quietly. 

"Teleport into the crypt. It'll almost certainly be empty." 

Camila was pretty sure she had only been there once or twice herself. 

Lilith hummed. "I will, thank you." 

Lilith got out of the car first, looking around cautiously as she made her way around to the back of the car. 

Camila flashed Ava and Beatrice a reassuring smile, reaching over to squeeze Ava's arm. 

"We'll be back before you know it, okay?" 

Ava nodded. "Be careful."

With one more shared look and a fleeting glance at the apprehension on Beatrice's face, Camila climbed out of the car too. 

Camila came to stop at Lilith's side as she rummaged through their bags, not missing the deep frown on her face. 

"We should try to get some more ammo while we're in there." Lilith said quietly. 

"Knowing the armoury as well as I do, they can definitely spare it." Camila replied. 

Lilith hummed, and after a moment of consideration she turned the bag over and emptied its contents, sliding the now empty duffel over her shoulder. 

She definitely seemed nervous as she turned to Camila, no matter how hard Lilith seemed to be trying to hide it. 

"Are you sure you want to do this with me?" Lilith asked, closing the trunk. 

"You're not doing this alone, Lilith." Camila replied. "I'm with you." 

Lilith tipped her head back up to the sky for a few moments and let out a long sigh before nodding. 

"Okay. Beatrice said to go in at the crypt. Where is the vest most likely to be now?" 

Camila shrugged. "Depends, Mother Superion used to keep it in her office, but it could also be in the armoury or the office Vincent used to use." 

Lilith nodded again and held her hand out towards Camila. 

"Are you ready?" 

Camila smiled and took Lilith's hand. 

"Absolutely." 

"Take a deep breath, and don't let go. This might be a bit rough." 

If it were Ava standing in her place, Camila knew that there would be a joke to be made at Lilith's words. 

But for now, Camila could only focus on calming her racing heart. 

She took a deep breath.

"I'm ready." 

 

--

 

Camila didn't let go of her hand even once they were inside the relative safety of the crypt. 

It was an iron grip, even as she turned away to lean against the wall, breathing heavily. 

Lilith listened carefully for any signs of life ahead as she gave Camila the space to gather herself. 

"Are you okay?" 

Camila nodded quickly. "You weren't kidding. That was… That was a lot." 

"Take your time." Lilith said softly.  

"Does it always feel like that?" 

"It gets easier." 

It took a few more moments before Camila's grip loosened and her hand dropped away from Lilith's. 

She noticed the absence of warmth immediately. 

It was incredible how even when she was pale and sort of looked like she was going to throw up, Camila still managed to look reassuring, that smile was finding its way back in place.

Camila had more strength than anybody ever gave her credit for. 

"I'm good to go if you are." Camila said. 

"In a moment." Lilith replied. "How do you want to play this?" 

Camila glanced down the passageway and back to Lilith. 

"I don't want to fight if we can help it. But I also don't want to call the others for help." Camila explained. "We can't risk them getting hurt." 

They were on the same page then. 

"Agreed. But if the vest is here, I'm not leaving without it." 

Camila nodded. "Okay. Armoury first?" 

"Armoury first." Lilith confirmed. "Stay close to me, if we have to, I'll teleport us to somewhere else in the building." 

It would be disorienting for Camila, but ultimately safer. 

Camila smiled. "Keep us on the move?" 

"No point in running away if we get compromised, right?" 

"That's true." 

"Are you ready?" 

Camila clicked the safety off of her gun, even though they both knew she had no intention of using it on their Sisters. 

"Ready." 

Together, they slowly fell into step side by side as they made their way down the passage. 

When they reached the hallway of their former quarters, Lilith felt a surprising sense of nostalgia, sadness, even. 

What had become of their rooms? Of their belongings? 

Lilith didn't doubt that her room had been emptied, her own belongings boxed up or more likely, thrown away. As far as everybody in Cat's Cradle was concerned, she was dead. 

But Camila and the others? 

What had become of the fragments of their lives? 

Judging by the forlorn look on Camila's face, she was thinking something along the same lines. 

They'd been so busy keeping on the move and just trying to stay alive that none of this had even occurred to them until now. 

"Maybe they're boxed up somewhere." Lilith offered quietly. "We kept Shannon's belongings." 

"Shannon died ." Camila replied. "We're excommunicated and labelled as enemies of the Church, it isn't the same." 

They passed through the hallway, occasionally hearing movement on the other side of heavy wooden doors, but neither of them voiced a curiosity to venture into their former rooms. 

It was surreal. Everything in their lives had changed so much and so drastically, and yet these halls remained the same. 

"Do you think we'll ever be able to call this place home again?" Camila asked. 

Lilith didn't know how to answer that, and definitely not in a way that would give any form of comfort. 

"Do you want it to be home?" 

"I… I don't know." Camila replied honestly. "There's a lot that I haven't had time to reconcile with. I'm okay with being kicked out, I… I even told Bea that I almost wished for it before all of this even happened… But I think I'd still miss living here." 

Lilith could understand the logic behind Camila's thoughts. 

Church aside, this was still the place they called home. The place where they all met. 

It'd always be important for that reason, even if everything they had ever been led to believe was a lie. 

Camila sighed, but the smile returned. "Bigger picture for now though, right? No point in thinking about home when we're facing the end of the world." 

Was there even a place for the OCS to operate in the world now? Would there be a place for them if they succeeded in stopping Adriel? 

Ava wanted to end the line of Warrior Nuns to end with her, Adriel wanted to bring about a new world in which he was God. 

Bigger picture indeed. 

"We'll figure it out. Nothing is impossible." Lilith replied. 

Camila snorted quietly. "That's a fact." 

The sound of a door opening caught Lilith's attention and had her springing into action before Camila could turn her head to look. 

Lilith grabbed Camila's shoulder and pushed her, moving them both into an alcove hidden away by the shadows, not stopping until she felt Camila's back press up against the wall. 

Even in the relative darkness their cover provided, Lilith was close enough to Camila to clearly see the wide eyed surprise on her face. 

She could feel Camila's heart racing against her. 

Or was it her own? 

It was hard to differentiate between the two. 

Lilith raised her arms to press her palms flat against the wall, bracketing Camila in place and shielding her from the world around them. 

Neither of them dared to breathe, even to blink would feel like they were at risk of making too much noise. 

Even as the footsteps grew louder, passing right by them and steadily retreating away, they didn't move. 

Camila could have looked over Lilith's shoulder at the Sisters who had passed them, but her gaze was unwavering as she stared back at Lilith. 

In the rush, a curl of Camila's hair had fallen, not in the way by any means, but enough that Camila must surely be aware of it tickling her skin. 

Lilith's fingers itched. 

She wanted to brush it back into place. 

Seconds stretched into an infinity, a moment in time where nothing else seemed to exist but the two of them. 

It was Camila's hand on her shoulder that brought Lilith back into reality. 

"Lil… I think they're gone." Camila whispered. 

Right. 

Shit. 

Lilith pushed away, taking a few steps back to put some distance between them. 

"Right. Of course." Lilith cleared her throat and looked around. "Yes. The coast is clear." 

Camila was grinning at her. "It is."

"We should probably…" Lilith trailed off lamely and gestured in the direction they had been heading. 

Camila laughed, albeit very quietly. 

"We should." 

Lilith allowed Camila to take a few steps ahead so that she could turn her attention to the crucifix on the wall opposite her, glaring at Jesus who hung from it. 

"You saw nothing." She hissed under her breath. 

 

--

 

Ava hated waiting. 

She hated not knowing if Lilith and Camila were okay, she hated being so close to the cradle while knowing Adriel could sense exactly where she was. 

It wouldn't be all that hard for him to ask Vincent what was in the area for him to put two and two together and know she was here. 

And then what would happen? 

He'd probably destroy Cat's Cradle, just to send Ava a message. 

Ava didn't realise her hands were shaking until Beatrice's hands gently came to rest on top of them, stilling her immediately. 

"They're going to be okay." Beatrice said softly. 

"How long do you think they'll be?" Ava asked. 

"There's no way to know." Mary replied. "We don't know where the vest is, and I assume they're going to move slowly to not get seen." 

It didn't really fill Ava with much relief. 

"...What happens when we get the vest?" 

Beatrice was quiet for a few moments, though Ava felt a rush in her chest when Beatrice threaded their fingers together. 

"Immediately? Get the vest on you and keep you safe. But after that…" Beatrice shook her head gently. "I don't know." 

Beatrice's main focus was always Ava's safety. 

They may not know exactly what will happen next, but they all had a pretty good idea. 

The shadow of Jillian and ArqTech loomed over them. 

But Beatrice wouldn't bring that up, and Ava didn't particularly want to either. 

For now, it was better not to think about that. 

Not until Lilith and Camila were back with them and they were safe. 

One of Beatrice's hands left Ava's and moved around to her shoulder, gently bringing her closer until Ava could rest her head on Beatrice's shoulder. 

Maybe it was being so close to Cat's Cradle again, but Ava found her thoughts drifting to that day in Mother Superion's office. 

When she had fallen into Beatrice's arms in search of comfort. 

Even in her pain, even though Beatrice had initiated the contact, Ava hadn't been blind to the apprehension in Beatrice's touches. 

Now those touches came easier. 

It was equal give and take between them, a constant ebb and flow. 

Ava would never take more than Beatrice was willing to give, but she would accept Beatrice's offerings willingly. 

She wouldn't push further than she thought Beatrice was willing to go. Regardless of her own feelings, Beatrice had to move at the pace she was comfortable with. 

All Ava could do was offer. Make it clear that she was willing to give Beatrice whatever she needed too. 

She wanted to know their next move as a group. She wanted to know if she would have the chance to be alone with Beatrice. 

Because Ava wanted to offer to heal the rest of her injuries. 

She knew that Beatrice was apprehensive about it, her healing required direct contact with the skin. That would mean Ava needed to have her hands on Beatrice's ribs. 

Her thigh. 

(Oh God. Her thigh.) 

It wasn't an act that would be intended to be intimate, but Ava couldn't deny that there was still going to be some hesitation there purely because it was going to happen between them. 

So yeah, Ava understood Beatrice's thoughts on the matter. 

She would just have to figure out a way to make Beatrice as comfortable as she could. 

 

--

 

Camila still hadn't recovered from their moment in the alcove even as they finally gained entry to the armoury. 

It had been locked up when they had gotten there, something that had been fixed by a quick teleportation from Lilith, but even as they searched in silence, Camila's thoughts were elsewhere.

Because good fucking God. 

It was one thing to have Lilith pressed up close enough that had they not been in the shadows together Camila would have been able to see her pulse beating against Lilith's neck. 

But it was something else entirely to have Lilith's arms on either side of her, keeping Camila pinned in place. 

It was… A lot. 

Like really a lot. 

(Camila may have had to put her faith solely in Lilith's situational awareness for a few minutes after it had happened.) 

They had started to see more Sisters as they had made their way to the armoury, just going about their daily lives, completing chores or heading outside to train with the rest. 

Camila was just glad that training was happening outside, there was no way that they'd have been able to be here right now without being spotted. 

Her brain was split between anxiety over avoiding getting caught and frustration at not being able to find the vest amongst an array of equipment. 

There seemed to be a lot of things missing, more than Camila had taken the day they had fled. 

Was there a team out on assignment? 

The duffel bag landed at her feet, startling Camila out of her thoughts. When she looked up, Camila saw the irritated expression on Lilith's face. 

"It isn't here." Lilith said. 

She almost seemed to be pouting about it. 

(It had no right being cute or amusing in their current situation.) 

"No." Camila sighed. "But it always felt like the least likely place." 

Lilith hummed. "Let's stock up, we might not get another chance to come back in here." 

Please don't jinx it, Lilith. 

"Sounds like a plan, just -" 

"We won't take more than we need." Lilith interrupted softly. "We just need ammo and any close contact weapons they can spare." 

They could always benefit from more knives. 

Lilith began to gather up ammunition and drop them into the bag while Camila split away to figure out what they could take that wouldn't be noticed. 

"Mother Superion's office next or Vincent's?" Lilith asked, not bothering to look away from her task. 

"Superion's is closer, and -" Camila froze. "Do you think there's a new Superion?" 

Lilith paused for a moment, still not looking over to Camila, but she gave a slight nod. 

"I'm almost certain that they would have brought in a replacement the moment our Mother Superion accepted the post at the Vatican." 

Camila didn't like that. 

"There might even be a new Vincent." Lilith added. "I'd say hopefully one who wouldn't betray us and align themselves with the closest thing to the actual devil…" 

"But considering they were both probably chosen by Duretti, we really can't get our hopes up." Camila finished, pulling a couple of knives from the rack and adding them to the bag.

"Exactly." Lilith agreed, dropping a final box into the bag and zipping it up. "If there is a replacement Superion, what are the odds that she's outside watching training?" 

Camila moved closer, already beginning to brace herself for another imminent teleport. 

"I'm going to go for optimism here and say that she's absolutely outside and we're going to be totally fine." 

Lilith rolled her eyes good naturedly, and as she threw the bag over one shoulder, she extended her other hand out towards Camila once more. 

With a firm grip and another jarring shift Lilith teleported them back outside of the armoury. 

Lilith didn't seem to mind that it took Camila an extra couple of seconds to let go of her hand again. 

But when she did, it was back to business. 

"Let's make this fast." Lilith said. "I'm not sure what Ava's capacity for patience is, but I'd rather not cause her to worry more than she probably already is." 

Camila didn't doubt that Ava was stressing out in that car. 

(The same way that Camila didn't doubt that Beatrice would be comforting her despite her own concerns.) 

They began to move across the room towards the doorway. 

"Agreed." Camila nodded. "Step one, don't get caught. Step two, find the vest. Step three -" 

Another door swung open, stopping them in their tracks as they both spun on the spot to the source of the intrusion. 

All Camila saw at first was the familiar blue habit. 

But then she saw the girl's face. The confusion as she recognised Camila, the shock when she saw Lilith beside her. 

It was Sister Joan. 

They had often cooked together. Camila liked her. 

"Camila?" Sister Joan said. "...Lilith?" 

One of Lilith's hands subtly moved closer to Camila, as though she were about to push Camila behind her. 

Camila was sure she could hear Lilith's claws extending. 

Camila looked from Sister Joan to Lilith, letting out a weak laugh. 

"Guess we failed step one." Camila joked.

It unsurprisingly fell flat, and the silence stretched on for what felt like several minutes. 

It couldn't have been more than fifteen seconds. 

Camila chose to see it as a good thing that Joan hadn't immediately attacked or ran to alert anybody of their presence. 

Lilith's hand was so close to touching her own, ready to teleport them away in a heartbeat. 

"Lilith… Is that really you?" Joan asked. "We thought you were… You died." 

"It's a long story." Lilith replied, and when she saw Joan glance down and stare at the dark claws extending from her other hand, added, "It's a very long story." 

"Joan…" Camila spoke up, keeping her voice as soft as she could. "Don't panic, I can explain." 

"What are you doing here?" 

Camila hoped her puppy dog eyes held some power here. 

They weren't on Ava's level, but they were still pretty damn good. 

"We need the Osmium vest. It's important." 

"Why? What happened?" Joan moved closer to them, looking around the room almost as if to make sure that they were still alone. "They're saying you're all traitors, that you all tried to kill the Pope -" 

"Lies." Lilith snapped. 

Joan got as close as she dared, keeping a cautious eye on Lilith the entire time. 

"They brought people here." Joan whispered. 

People? Who, the Swiss Guard? The replacement Superion?

There were a lot of questions from both parties and nowhere near enough time to adequately deal with them all. 

Lilith was definitely on the defensive, more watchful than anything else. 

Could Camila summarise the events since the Vatican in thirty seconds? 

It was worth a try. 

"Adriel was kept prisoner under the Vatican. He's not an angel, he's a demon and the halo is something he stole and that's a whole other story. He caused the attack on the Vatican which we escaped and believe Duretti is involved in trying to cover up the whole thing." Camila took a deep breath before barrelling on. "Ava got kidnapped because he wants the halo back, we got her back. She's safe, but he has a connection to her so we need the vest to try and protect her. Oh, and also Adriel is trying to take over the world and essentially become a new God." 

The silence that followed was heavy as Joan stared at her, stunned. 

Camila turned to Lilith. "Did I miss anything?" 

Beyond everything to do with Ava's suffering, her relationship with Beatrice, all of the Jillian situation, obviously. 

"I'm part tarask now." Lilith offered casually. 

"Right! Lilith is part tarask and has a connection with Ava too." Camila nodded. 

Sister Joan definitely looked considerably paler than she had before Camila had begun to speak. 

"Long story short, we're not traitors and we certainly are not enemies." Lilith said firmly. 

"What do you mean they brought people here?" Camila asked. 

"Father Rúben." Joan replied. 

Lilith scowled. "Who the fuck is Father Rúben?" 

"He's from the Vatican. He came with about a dozen Swiss Guard." Joan explained. "They tore apart your rooms and Mother Superion's office looking for evidence, they questioned all of us about you." 

What was the point in destroying their rooms? Rude. 

"How did you even get in?" Joan asked. "Most of them patrol the perimeter." 

"Long story." Lilith and Camila said in unison. 

"Look…" Camila continued softly. "I know that we're asking you to take on a lot on blind faith right now, to learn that everything we ever believed about the halo is a lie… But please, please , we need to find the vest. We need to stop him." 

As the seconds passed and the silence stretched on, Camila's anxiety grew. 

Beatrice would have been better suited for this. She was better at making her point and convincing people. 

Camila also knew that for as much as she had gotten along with everybody here, before Ava, she had been the new girl. They didn't know her, they trusted her based on Sisterhood, not because she had proven herself or had earned it. 

She wasn't Lilith, who came from a family who had two halo bearers in their history and had been next in line after Shannon. 

And she definitely wasn't Beatrice, who despite the walls she had still maintained, became somebody that people looked to for guidance thanks to her skill and talents. 

Shannon and Mary had always been a different story. Shannon being the halo bearer and Mary's unquestionable role within the order. 

Camila always felt like a kid compared to them. 

And she felt that more now, as she looked pleasingly at Joan and hoped that it would be enough to convince her to help. 

(Camila wasn't oblivious to the fact that she definitely still had some work to do on herself in terms of how she saw herself.) 

So it was actually a surprise when Joan gave a nod. 

"I know where it is. I'll take you to it." 

Holy shit?

Camila didn't want to get ahead of herself, but oh, this felt like the break they desperately needed. 

It didn't even bother her that it might be a trap, not when Lilith was right there next to her. 

Lilith wasn't going to let anything happen to them.

 

--

 

Lilith didn't want to be suspicious, if anything she knew that she should be relieved that their encounter with Sister Joan hadn't turned violent. 

But as the three of them made their way through the halls towards Mother Superion's office, Lilith couldn't quite bring herself to let her guard down. 

Camila didn't question the clawed hand. 

Maybe it had something to do with the fact that every time they took one step forward something happened to completely screw them over, but Lilith was having a hard time comprehending that Joan was genuinely helping them. 

Outside of their group, sisterhood didn't hold the same significance now. 

It all just felt too… Easy. 

Because yes, Joan had looked understandably surprised at Camila's speech, but it was the lack of followup questions that had Lilith's suspicions growing. 

Finding out Adriel's true nature and how it conflicted with the entire history of the OCS? Not something easily accepted. 

"I imagine you must have a lot of questions." Lilith said. "The truth about Adriel is a lot to take in." 

"It is." Joan agreed. "But Mother Superion maintained some contact although she advised that she couldn't go into much detail. She warned us of a danger ahead and to not trust those who came to the Cradle." 

Did that mean that they always had allies here? Could they have reached out sooner? 

It wouldn't have mattered anyway, not with the Swiss Guard being here. 

"Is Mother Superion okay?" Joan asked. "She hasn't made contact recently." 

"We haven't heard from her for a couple of days." Camila spoke up softly. "She has to be careful." 

"And Beatrice? Mary?" 

"Both alive." Lilith said. "They're safe and with Ava." 

"...And how is she doing?" 

Lilith was pretty sure Joan had never interacted with Ava, but she would admit that asking about Ava's wellbeing was somewhat touching. 

"She's a fighter." Lilith replied. "She's stronger than any of us ever gave her credit for." 

They reached Mother Superion's office, Joan tested the door and pushed it open. 

"Newperion is watching training at the moment, it's due to finish in the next ten minutes so you don't have much time." Joan said. 

Camila raised an eyebrow. "Newperion?" 

"It's no Cruella de Jesus, but it helps us differentiate." Joan shrugged. "Newperion is good but she isn't our Mother Superion. She also seems quite restricted by Father Rúben."

The office hadn't changed all that much since they had been gone, but as Lilith and Camila looked around, they didn't seem to know where to begin their search for the vest. 

Thankfully Joan knew what she was doing as she walked over to the cabinet in the far corner. 

"There's a divide in the Order." Joan continued. "When Father Rúben got here everybody was interviewed, we were asked about Ava and if we knew where she was or if we'd had contact. But they had never mentioned you were alive, Lilith, not even Superion. There are those who do believe that you're all traitors, they've been more than willing to join the search for you."

It was to be expected, but it still felt disappointing to hear. 

But as they watched Joan open up the cabinet and lift the vest from it, Lilith found herself not caring as much as she probably should. 

This was it. They had the vest. 

"But you're on our side, right?" Camila asked quietly. 

Joan walked back over to them and held the vest out, offering a small smile. 

"I am. I have never doubted Mother Superion before, and if Beatrice is fighting for this cause then it is something to believe in." 

Lilith had to wonder if Beatrice had any idea that so many people looked to her for guidance. 

Camila beamed as she took the vest from Joan's hands. 

"Thank you. It means a lot to know that we still have friends." Camila replied. 

"In this life and the next." 

"In this life and the next." Lilith and Camila echoed. 

"And if there's anything we can do to help, call me." Joan said. 

"We may have to take you up on that offer." Lilith replied. "We're on the verge of a war." 

Camila and Joan exchanged a few more words, Camila borrowing Lilith's phone to take Joan's number and writing down the names of the Sister's who were working under Father Rúben's (and by extension, the Vatican's) orders. 

"I'll try to limit the contact unless it's an emergency." Camila said. "I don't want to risk your safety here." 

"And as heartwarming and reassuring as all of this is, I'm afraid we really need to go." Lilith interrupted. 

Camila nodded and turned back to Joan. "I know there's a lot left unsaid, but she's right." 

"I understand." 

"But I'll keep in touch. If we hear from Mother Superion, I'll let you know, and I'll make sure to answer any questions you might have." Camila replied. 

"Do you need help getting out?" Joan asked. 

Camila and Lilith shared a smile. 

"We're good." Lilith said. 

"But before we go… I do have one more favour to ask." Camila added. 

Lilith frowned. 

A favour? Camila hadn't mentioned anything about needing anything else from here. They already had their ammo. 

"I'll help however I can." 

Whatever it was, she was about to find out. 

 

--

 

If it had been up to Ava, she would have put the vest on the moment Lilith and Camila had come back to the car. 

But Mary had been quick to point out that if Adriel didn't already know they had been at the Cradle, then they'd definitely catch his attention if he stopped being able to sense her while parked nearby. 

So while Lilith and Camila had filled them in on their encounter with Sister Joan (whoever she was) and everything they had learned, Mary drove them to the edge of the city so that they could find somewhere to plan out their next move. 

The Mcdonald's they had found themselves in was a surprisingly nice change of pace, even though Ava was currently tucked into one of the bathroom stalls, trying to figure out the best way to wear the vest. 

Not that there were many ways to wear it. 

Ava held it up and sighed. 

"Never thought I'd need you again." 

But if it meant that they'd all be safer, then it had to be done. 

It occurred to Ava that until Camila figured out how to make her faraday cage work, if it was even possible, then she was most likely going to have to stay in this vest. 

…Would she even be able to shower? 

It would have to be a future problem. 

It'd probably be easier to wear it underneath everything, she could totally hide it under a shirt and a hoodie. 

She was probably over thinking things a little bit now. 

But then again, Ava never thought she'd be stripping off in a McDonald's bathroom. 

Definitely one of her stranger experiences, which was certainly saying something. 

The vest felt weird against her skin, an unfamiliar weight quite literally added to her shoulders as Ava pulled her t-shirt and hoodie back on. 

She checked herself in the mirror, running a hand through her hair before stepping out of the bathroom only to find Beatrice leaning against the wall by the door. 

"Oh hey, why aren't you with the others?" 

Beatrice offered a small smile. "I wanted to wait for you, but I didn't want you to feel that I was hovering. This felt like a safe middle ground." 

It was actually quite a cute gesture. 

"That's sweet of you Bea, thank you." 

Beatrice's gaze dropped to the floor, smile still in place as she pushed off of the wall. 

(were her ears turning pink?) 

Beatrice gave her a fleeting once over as they began to make their way over to where the others sat, trays of food already covered the table. 

"You're wearing it?" She asked. 

"Yeah." 

"Is it… Uncomfortable?" 

"Not at the moment, it's nothing I'm not used to." Ava shrugged. "Are you okay?" 

Beatrice hummed. "Glad to know we have allies, not so much to know that Adriel has a foothold in Cat's Cradle through Duretti and the Father he sent with the Swiss Guard."

Yeah, that was less than ideal. 

It only gave Ava more reason to be concerned about the potential fallout of them taking the vest. 

"...I'm also not all that thrilled about what comes next, but you already know that." Beatrice added. 

ArqTech, Jillian and everything that came with being there. 

"It'll be okay." Ava replied. "We all share the same concerns that you do, Bea. Trust in our team, right?" 

Beatrice looked towards their friends and nodded. 

"Trust in our team." 

The moment they both sat down, Mary and Lilith both immediately pushed a box of chicken nuggets towards them. 

Well, Mary gave them the nuggets, Lilith just kind of threw a selection of dips at them. 

"You're wearing it." Lilith said. 

Ava debated her options for a moment before reaching for a sweet and sour sauce. 

"That was the point, right?" 

Lilith looked like she was seriously considering throwing a chicken nugget at her. 

"Yes, but my point is… I know you're wearing it." Lilith said. "I felt the shift immediately." 

Beatrice reacted more noticeably than Ava did, body straightening in her seat and gaze turning extremely hopeful as she looked from Lilith to Ava. 

Ava felt hopeful too. 

"You can't sense the halo now?" Ava asked. 

"Right now, only faintly and that's purely because you're sitting in front of me." Lilith replied. "But the moment you put it on it was like you disappeared." 

Thank God. 

Ava let out a sigh of relief. "Okay good. This is good." 

"It's really good." Beatrice agreed, half-heartedly pulling a chicken nugget apart. "It's exactly what we wanted to come of this." 

"Adriel isn't going to like it." Ava said. "I'm worried about what that could mean, especially for the others at the Cradle." 

"They're strong, Ava. If anything happens from this they won't go down without a flight." Camila replied softly. 

Ava certainly hoped she was right. 

"We need to figure out the next step though." Mary spoke up, reaching for a handful of fries. "Are we going to go to Jillian?" 

Beatrice quietly set her food down. 

"I don't think we should turn up unannounced." Lilith said. "We still have concerns, if we're going there then it needs to be on our terms." 

"So you want to negotiate with her before we go?" Beatrice asked. 

"It feels like the best option." Lilith shrugged, turning her attention back to Ava. "I know that you want to help, we all do, but not if it puts you at risk." 

"Right now it's about smoothing things over and getting a place to train." Mary said. "We need to rest and recover if we're going to have a hope of figuring shit out." 

Ava hummed. "It's not like we can do anything there anyway? The vest is hiding me, sure, but if me and Lilith try to use our powers it's really likely that it'll expose me." 

"Or you'll destroy part of the building." Mary added. 

Beatrice's burnt hands flickered through her mind. 

They could cause so much damage. 

The vest wouldn't stop Ava from using the halo, but there was no way to know if it could handle the force of their combined power. 

"Before Jillian can even attempt to have us power up the portal, we need to have some control." Lilith said. 

"And then there's security. I need to try and build the Faraday cage so that you can actually train safely." Camila pointed out. 

As far as leverage went, it wasn't much, but it was all they had. 

But it would be a pretty convincing argument. 

"So, what now?" Ava asked. 

"I say we get back to the car, call Jillian and lay out our terms." Camila said. 

Beatrice frowned. "And if she doesn't accept them?" 

"If Jillian wants our help, she'll have to." Lilith shrugged. 

That was a good point. 

It sounded like they had to make it clear that Jillian needed them more than they needed her. 

Ava looked at their half eaten food across the table.

"Should we practice what we're going to say?" Ava asked. "Who should make the call?" 

"When she called earlier she was really insistent on wanting to speak with you." Camila replied, gaze focused on Ava. 

Ava balked. "I don't know if I can handle that kind of talk on my own. I can totally handle confrontation but we all know I have a certain… way that I go about it." 

Namely with a lot of sarcasm and defensiveness. 

"You won't have to do it on your own, Ava." Beatrice said softly. "You never have to do anything alone." 

It was easy to forget that the rest of their group were sitting right there when Ava was left staring into Beatrice's eyes. 

Ava could get distracted trying to count the scattering of freckles along her nose and cheeks. 

"Beatrice is right." Lilith said, voice cutting through Ava's thoughts and bringing her back to the conversation. "We'll take some time to talk this through, finish our food and then when we call her, we'll do it on speaker." 

Ava reluctantly turned her gaze away from Beatrice to look at the others and nodded. 

"Okay, cool. So I'm gonna what, rehearse what to say?" 

"Beatrice is good at negotiating and convincing people." Mary said. 

Beatrice was already shaking her head. "Don't, please. This plan will work better if I don't speak to her."

Beatrice was trying so hard to be supportive of this plan, she really was. 

She knew the importance of it, that Ava and Lilith needed to be able to train, Camila needed to try and build that Faraday cage. 

But Beatrice wasn't going to walk into ArqTech trusting Jillian, even more so after the phone call this morning. 

Ava wanted to hold her hand again. 

"I… Actually think I should talk to her?" Camila said. "I already have a rapport with her." 

As they all began to talk, Ava cast a sideways glance at Beatrice, taking in her silent, thoughtful gaze. 

She knew she should be listening, they were talking about important things. 

But right now, Ava chose to shuffle her chair closer until she was able to lean against Beatrice, bringing the box of nuggets closer so that they could keep eating them. 

It was easier to focus once Ava had the warmth of Beatrice against her. 

 

--

 

Beatrice had felt her mood shift the moment they parked the car. 

Her guard was well and truly back up. 

The call with Jillian had gone almost too smoothly for her liking. 

The tension had been undeniable, and initially Jillian had refused to even talk to them until Ava confirmed that she was there, but then Camila had taken over

She had justified her choice to cut the call from the morning, explaining to Jillian that they had to take steps to conceal the halo from Adriel before coming to ArqTech in order to protect them all. After that Camila had laid out their conditions, making it clear that they knew what Jillian needed from them but until there were protective measures in place and that Ava and Lilith were able to channel their energy safely, they wouldn't be able to attempt it. 

Jillian hadn't sounded thrilled by any means, but had ultimately accepted it. 

(Part of Beatrice suspected it was Camila's sales pitch of building the Faraday cage that had helped their argument the most.) 

So now here they were, keeping one eye on the building as they gathered around the trunk of the car. 

When Camila lifted a duffel bag onto her shoulder, Mary glanced over to her. 

"I'd leave anything that isn't important here, just on the off chance that we need to make a quick exit." 

"Trust me, there's things in here that we don't want to leave unaccompanied." Camila replied. 

It didn't look like the bag she kept any of her usual tech gear in, and Lilith's silent gaze told Beatrice that she knew exactly what was inside this particular bag. 

Beatrice could only assume that they would explain as soon as they knew they were alone.

"So we're just walking in there armed to the teeth?" Ava asked, accepting her sword from Mary and sliding the strap over her shoulder to keep it secure. 

"It's just to be safe, Ava." Beatrice said gently. She holstered her pistol and moved back to join Ava at her side. "We still have to be prepared for anything to happen." 

Ava nodded despite her unhappy frown.

"Are we ready?" Mary asked, and after everybody nodded, turned away. "Okay, let's go." 

It wasn't particularly subtle how they all fell into formation around Ava, with Beatrice and Lilith taking up position either side of her while Camila and Mary lingered close behind, but Ava didn't seem to notice. 

If she did, she didn't draw attention to it. 

Beatrice and Lilith shared a quick look as they walked, a quiet understanding of what to do if the worst happened. 

She knew that if it came to it, Lilith would grab Ava and get her away somewhere safe. 

It was always better to be prepared, even if Beatrice loathed the idea of Ava being away from her. 

Her safety came first. 

From the corner of her eye, Beatrice watched Ava's hand reach up to adjust the strap of her sword, fingers flexing around it before it dropped to the side, curling and unfurling her fingers. 

Ava was anxious. 

As they got closer to the doors, Beatrice reached over, hooking two of her fingers around Ava's. 

It wasn't much, but it seemed to be enough to put Ava at ease. 

They all stepped through the doors together, Beatrice found that she recognised the security guard staring back at them. 

It was the same woman who had been there the last time they had come here. 

"Oh God. Again?" 

"To be fair, this time we're actually expected." Ava greeted. "You might want to give Jillian a call." 

The woman gave them a long, suspicious look before grabbing her walkie talkie and taking a few steps away to get out of earshot. 

Ava let out a slow breath and adjusted her hand to hold onto Beatrice's a little tighter. 

"You okay?" Ava asked quietly. 

Beatrice turned her head slightly to meet her gaze. 

"Yes. Are you? Are you seeing anything?" 

Ava shook her head. "If I see so much as a hint of red smoke, I'll let you know." 

"Don't let the lack of security fool you either." Lilith spoke up. 

"I won't." Ava replied. 

The security guard approached once more, frowning unhappily as she cast her gaze over each of them. 

"Doctor Salvius will see you now."  

Ava squeezed Beatrice's fingers again, a silent reassurance that Beatrice didn't realise how much she needed until she did it. 

Okay. 

It was time.

 

--



Jillian was not the easiest woman to read. 

The crisp white pantsuit was still present, her hair and makeup was perfect, but even with her perfectly put together exterior, Ava could still see the cracks. 

Her eyes were tired, her posture not quite as strong as she sat at her desk. 

The smile that found its way to her lips did not feel warm nor did it feel all that genuine. 

"Ladies." Jillian greeted. "Thank you for coming." 

Ava couldn't even tell if she was being sarcastic or not. 

There was definitely a hint of passive aggressiveness though. 

Beatrice may have let go of her hand the moment they had walked into the office, but she hadn't strayed more than a few inches from Ava's side. 

The others were the same, they all stayed close. 

A unit. A family. 

"Thank you." Ava replied. "And thank you for understanding why it took so long for us to come." 

Ava could play nice. 

Beatrice, Mary and Lilith didn't exactly give her the impression that they were going to be anything more than civil right now. 

She knew Beatrice had no intention of hiding her distaste of Jillian attempting to trace their location, but while they were all put off by the act, Ava also knew that Camila was putting it aside more than the others. 

Because Camila had been furious about it. 

"Of course." Jillian nodded. She glanced over at the rest of the group, taking them all in before she focused on Ava. "I'm glad they managed to find you." 

Ava hummed. "I suppose I should say thank you for your help with that too. I know you played a part." 

"I did, and you're welcome." Jillian gestured to the seats around the office. "Please, feel free to sit." 

Nobody made an attempt to move. 

"I think we're good." Ava said. 

"You said that you were being traced through the halo and that was why you couldn't come here sooner, but that has changed. How?" 

As Ava pulled her hoodie and shirt up just enough so that Jillian could see the vest, she saw Beatrice's gaze shift to follow the movement too. 

"This helps block the energy." Ava replied. 

Jillian leaned forward in an attempt to get a better look, frowning when Ava covered it back up again. 

"Fascinating. What is it made of? Would I be able to run some tests?" 

"If Ava removes it then it puts her in danger." Beatrice interrupted. 

It was as close to a no as somebody could get without speaking the word. Her tone and expression left nothing to interpretation. 

Jillian's gaze lingered on her for a few moments before turning to Camila. 

"And you want to build a Faraday cage to achieve similar results?" 

Camila nodded. "As I said earlier, I believe it's a necessity. We need to be able to block out the halo and the power it puts out more effectively and with a bigger radius so that Ava and Lilith can train." 

"And you two are connected." Jillian said, turning to look between Ava and Lilith. 

She had already done tests on them both once, Ava could already predict that she would ask to do more now that she knew of the connection. 

"We are." Lilith confirmed. "And we're still learning how it works, but based on this morning we know that what we can do is enough to alert Adriel." 

"Meaning that if they were to attempt it for you now, if they didn't destroy this building then you'd definitely have an army of demons and quite possibly the Swiss Guard knocking on your door." Mary said. 

"As we explained to you on the phone." Beatrice added, rather bluntly. 

It would… probably be for the best if Beatrice didn't spend much time alone with Jillian, Ava wasn't sure if Jillian could survive the sass. 

(Personally, Ava was deeply enjoying getting to witness it. Beatrice being sassy was one thing, but it being used whilst being protective of Ava? Jesus Christ.) 

"I'm aware. I just wanted to make sure that we're still on the same page." 

For a few moments, Beatrice and Jillian held each other's gaze, neither seemed to be willing to break eye contact first. 

"Do you think we can build it?" Camila asked. 

Jillian finally looked away from Beatrice towards Camila. 

"We will have to draw up some blueprints and run some tests." 

"I'd be interested in looking over any data you're willing to share in regards to the portal and its energy output too." 

"We'll compare notes." Jillian replied. "And from what you've told me, you've all had a long few days." 

"That's an understatement." Mary said. 

"I'll have rooms prepared for you all. The cafeteria is usually beginning to close for the evening now but I'll send word to them to prepare something for you all." 

This place had a cafeteria? 

Ava didn't have the heart to tell her that she wasn't hungry. 

But all in all, she couldn't complain about how this conversation had gone so far. 

There was still a bit of hostility in the air, the unspoken mistrust they all shared hung around each of them. 

But there seemed to be an agreement, a vague plan of action that would buy Ava and Lilith some time to figure out how to navigate the issue of the portal. 

Lilith wasn't going to let Ava go through, that much was certain. 

But Ava didn't want her to go through either. What if Ava couldn't get her back? 

"What is your security like?" Mary asked. "We wouldn't be here if we thought there was a high risk of being found, but I'd rather not leave anything up to chance." 

"Well, since our last… Break-in, I made changes and strengthened our security." Jillian said, her gaze shifted to Beatrice again, a knowing look in her eyes. 

Beatrice merely lifted her chin slightly, actually going so far as to smirk, her posture spoke volumes. 

She looked proud. 

Ava wondered if Jillian still had the security footage of that night, she wouldn't mind getting a glimpse of Beatrice taking on Jillian's security. 

"...But you're more than welcome to speak with my head of security should you have concerns." Jillian continued. 

"I will." Mary nodded. 

"Now, I see you brought all of your… guns, but I assume you have other belongings to bring in?" 

"We do." Beatrice said. 

"Wonderful. I'll make the relevant calls if you'd like to collect your things. Camila, I'll put together the data for you to look over throughout the evening. Does that sound okay with you all?" 

Ava glanced at the others, looking for confirmation, receiving a subtle nod from each. 

When her gaze landed on Beatrice, Beatrice turned her head to meet her. 

She still didn't look thrilled, but her expression was questioning, almost as if she were looking to Ava for her thoughts before answering herself. 

Even in her silence, Ava knew that Beatrice was asking her if she was okay with this. 

Ava knew because she was asking the same question herself. 

They both accepted what was happening, they were all taking precautions to make sure they were safe. 

Beatrice and Ava didn't need words to know what the other was thinking. 

They just wanted to know that the other was okay. 

There was a shared nod, and Ava turned back to Jillian. 

"Sounds good." Ava replied. 

 

--

 

Lilith made a point of keeping her gaze fixed on the tray of food in front of her despite the prickling sensation making the hair on the back of her neck stand up. 

Beyond the handful of uniformed guards sitting at a table across the room and a cleaner mopping the floor, the cafeteria was empty. 

None of them really made much effort to eat or talk. Lilith had to force herself to even try the food they had been provided. 

What was the room situation going to be like? Would they be free to move around the halls as they wished? Would they be separated? 

Beatrice and Ava weren't going to like it if they were. 

"You know, I'm not overly fond of being watched." Lilith said, raising her voice just enough so that it carried over to the occupied table.

The group of guards were quick to turn back to their food, taking quietly amongst themselves. 

Ava frowned as she glanced over to the table and back down to her food. 

"So that's gonna be a thing while we're here?" Ava asked. 

"Considering the amount of security cameras they have, yeah." Mary murmured. 

Beatrice had been relatively quiet since they had entered ArqTech, though she made sure to stay by Ava's side the whole time, meeting Ava's questioning looks with ones of gentle reassurance. 

But at Mary's words, she lifted her gaze to the corner of the room, staring up at one of the three cameras Lilith was already aware of. 

"So long as they're not in the rooms we're expected to sleep in." She said quietly. 

Ava looked equal parts surprised and concerned as she turned to look at Beatrice. 

"Cameras in the room?" Ava asked with a pout. "Very Big Brother." 

"Maybe not cameras, but we should definitely check for bugs. Just to be safe." Lilith said. 

She looked across to Camila, half expecting her to chime in, but was ultimately unsurprised to find her completely absorbed in the contents of the tablet in front of her. 

Camila had been focused on it from the moment they had sat down. 

Lilith had also been surprised that Camila hadn't mentioned to the others what else was hidden in the duffle bag they had brought from Cat's Cradle. 

She had her reasons, Lilith was sure. 

"Camila?" Lilith called gently. 

Camila's gaze snapped up, looking around at each of them, confused. 

"Hi! Sorry, what's up?" 

"Do you have something that can help sweep rooms for bugs?" 

"Oh, yeah. Once we get set up I'll have a look." 

Mary nodded towards the tablet. "Interesting stuff?" 

"It's way out of my depth." Camila admitted. "But I wanted to at least try to get an understanding of the science behind how the portal even works." 

She was really going above and beyond to try and figure everything out. 

Once again Lilith was reminded of just how much Camila had done to help them since Ava had been kidnapped. 

Nobody doubted how hard and how much Camila had done, except maybe Camila herself. 

"How do you plan on building the Faraday cage?" Beatrice asked. "We only have so much divinium to spare." 

Ah. 

Lilith looked expectantly at Camila, when Camila met her gaze she smiled reassuringly before turning back to Beatrice. 

"Joan gave me access to the divinium we had at the Cradle. It isn't much, I had to make sure they still had some to use, but hopefully what we do have will be enough to make this work." Camila replied. "And… Hopefully the tests won't somehow destroy it so we can still use it when we face Adriel." 

There really wasn't all that much left, Lilith had been shocked that Joan had so really trusted them with what little they had. 

If only they could have gotten their hands on that tarask skeleton before Adriel. 

Ava laughed nervously, gaze flitting between Mary and Beatrice as she reached up to rub at the back of her neck. 

"Is it too late to apologise for melting the divinium knife the last time we were here?" She asked. 

Neither Lilith or Camila had been there when that happened, but Mary had told them about it in the first days of their time on the run. 

Lilith saw something shift in Beatrice's gaze at the mention of the event. 

Her eyes had darkened, attention turning back to Ava and drawing a deep breath. 

Why could Lilith see hunger in her expression? Beatrice had barely even touched her food. 

Oh?

Wait. 

Oh! 

…Holy shit, okay. 

Very different type of hunger. Now she just felt dumb.

Lilith was just… going to pretend she hadn't seen that. And she definitely wasn't going to acknowledge the way that Ava picked up on Beatrice's expression, eyes slowly widening as her body straightened up. 

While it certainly made a change from the sad, pained puppy dog eyes and longing glances, this was still a lot to be a witness to. 

"Don't worry about it." Mary said. "If anything, it was good to find out you can actually do that." 

Her words were enough to break whatever moment was happening between Beatrice and Ava right now. 

Even if Beatrice still couldn't quite bring herself to look away from Ava. 

"And here I was thinking it was kind of a waste of power, even if I did look kinda badass doing it." Ava replied. 

Lilith's attention was pulled away by three more people entering the room. 

More security guards. 

"I think our tour guides are here." Lilith murmured. 

Ava and Beatrice each looked over their shoulders at the guards as they approached. 

"Which one of you is Mary?" One of the guards asked, when Mary lifted a hand he nodded. "I've been asked to take you to our control room so that you can meet our head of security." 

"Sounds good." Mary rose to her feet, leaving the rest of the food but grabbing her bottle of water. "You guys get some rest, I'll catch up with you later if any of you are still up." 

It was getting rather late and it had been a very long, draining day. 

Lilith could see them all crashing out as soon as they were settled in whatever rooms they were given. 

They all watched Mary leave with her bags, even as one of the remaining guards began to speak. 

"We'll show the rest of you to your rooms and where you can shower." 

It definitely sounded like they were going to be separated. 

And judging by the unhappy looks on Ava and Beatrice's face, they had realised as much too. 

They'd figure it out. Lilith had no doubt that they'd find their way back to each other. 

They always did, after all. 

 

--

 

Camila may have been wrapped up in the data that Jillian had given her, but even that wasn't enough to stop her from seeing the conflict on everybody's face when they realised that they were being put in single rooms. 

Rooms with beds that would definitely struggle to have two people sleep comfortably in it. 

(and by everybody, Camila definitely meant Ava and Beatrice.) 

Before Beatrice had been shown into her room, Camila had heard Ava's whispered promise to come and find her. 

It was so endearing. 

Camila couldn't deny that she was a little conflicted over the room situation herself though. 

On the one hand, it was a nice change of pace to have a space to herself, but she also definitely felt a bit lost at it too. 

All of her friends were nearby, but it still felt like an incredible amount of distance. 

She'd done a quick sweep of her own room, satisfied that it was free of bugs before going to the others. 

Mary's room had been first, considering her room was closest and she was still going over the building's security. 

She'd spent a bit longer in Lilith's room, Lilith had already looked for herself but had asked Camila to do another sweep just to make sure. 

It had been nice, and the only reason Camila had left when she had was because Lilith had wanted to head down to the showers. 

She stopped outside Beatrice's door and knocked quietly, it took several moments for her to be able to hear movement on the other side before the door finally opened. 

Beatrice had already changed into sweatpants and a t-shirt, looking almost sad as she saw Camila standing before her. 

When the halo had burned her, Camila hadn't seen the damage it had caused so she had never really gotten the chance to see how strong the healing was.

But now? Camila was staring at Beatrice's bare arm. 

It hadn't been all that long ago when Camila had helped stitch up the bullet wound that had lay there. Now only a fading scar remained.

She wondered what it was like to feel both sides of the halo in the way that Beatrice had. 

"Hey Bea." 

"Hi."

"Sorry to bother you, do you want me to check your room for bugs?" 

Beatrice shook her head. "I've already taken care of it. It's clear." 

She didn't really seem to be in a talkative mood right now. 

"Are you okay?" Camila asked. 

Beatrice looked over Camila's shoulders at the fluorescent lights. 

"As much as I can be." 

She looked like she needed to sleep for a whole day. 

But she also looked down. 

Beatrice wanted to be near Ava. 

But Ava had promised to come to her, it was probably best to give Beatrice her space for now.

"You'll tell me if there's anything I can do?" 

Beatrice nodded. "I will, thank you, Camila." 

"Goodnight Bea." 

"Goodnight, Camila." 

Beatrice offered a small smile before she closed the door. 

Time to head to Ava's room and see what was taking her so long.

 

--

 

Ava knew she had made a good choice in wearing the vest underneath her clothes, but she would be damned if it still wasn't a massive inconvenience. 

The showers looked so good and she just knew it'd feel so good to wash the day away. 

But no, she had to keep this damn thing on and figure out what to wear over it so that she wouldn't sweat to death in the night. 

Ava felt ridiculous, with everything that had happened today, she was currently standing in her room trying to figure out what to wear. 

Beatrice was waiting for her for fucks sake. 

It wasn't even like she had many options to choose from. 

The knock at the door scared the shit out of her.  

She crossed the room and slid the door open, blinking in surprise when she found Camila standing in front of her. 

Ava had almost expected it to be Beatrice, concerned as to what was taking Ava so long. 

"Hey Cam." 

"Hey." Camila's gaze dropped down to the vest. "What's going on?" 

"I'm trying to figure out what to wear over this because it's not the most comfortable thing in the world." Ava replied. "What's up?" 

"I said I'd come and check the rooms for bugs, remember? Well, so far so good but I'm not going to relax until we know this room is clear." 

Oh right. 

That was fair, but Ava didn't exactly plan on staying in this room for long. 

But she stepped aside all the same so that Camila could enter. 

"Knock yourself out." 

"I saw Bea." Camila said, her tone conversationally light, almost… playful. 

Ava paused and turned to watch Camila as she moved further into the room, making a beeline for the air vents. 

"Is she okay?" 

Camila grabbed a chair and dragged it over to the wall, stepping onto it to begin opening it up. 

Ava saw Camila smile. 

"I think she's waiting for you." 

Ava opted to walk over to the bed and continue pulling out the few options she had. 

"...Yeah." Ava replied. 

"You can go on ahead if you want, she's probably starting to worry you've stood her up." 

Stood her up?

Okay, what was going on? 

"You're being very… Casual. Too casual." Ava said. "Why?" 

Camila all but ripped the cover of the vent off of the wall to peer inside, she was quiet for a few moments until she placed it back on, apparently satisfied. 

She hopped off of the chair and smiled as she met Ava's gaze. 

"Well… Do you want me to beat around the bush?" Camila asked. 

"Not really." 

"Do you want to talk about your feelings?" 

Ava couldn't stop herself from making a face, causing Camila to laugh. 

"Didn't think so." Camila said. "And I'd ask you if you need any help or advice but I'm also pretty sure you have all of that covered." 

Ava let out a weak laugh. "I wouldn't be too sure about that, I don't know what I'm doing." 

She was running around blind here, it was Camila who really seemed to have everything under control right now with her Faraday cage plan and sometimes it felt like Camila didn't even believe that herself. 

"You need to believe in yourself more, Ava." 

"I could say the same to you, Cam." Ava replied softly. "You know that I wouldn't be standing here if it weren't for you." 

Camila looked surprised at the sudden shift in conversation, shaking her head and taking a step back. 

"All I did was lead Vincent's men to the safe house and nearly got us killed." She replied, almost dismissively. 

Ava frowned. "You found out the names of the guys who took me -" 

"Which made Bea go rogue and get shot." 

"Beatrice would have done that regardless, she would be the first to admit that and you know it. That was her choice, and it isn't something you should blame yourself for." Ava pointed out. "If they hadn't moved me to the villa you would have found me at the prison. You stitched me up when I was barely hanging on the day I got back and now you're here trying to build something to keep us safe. You deserve to know how important you are here, Cam. You need to believe that." 

Ava had been very confident in her speech right up until the moment she realised Camila looked like she was going to cry. 

She definitely didn't expect Camila to tackle her into a hug so tight it actually hurt to breathe.

Ava wrapped her arms around Camila and held on. 

"Cam?" 

"You have no idea how much I needed to hear that." Camila whispered. 

Sometimes Ava forgot that even though Camilla had joined the OCS willingly, underneath the cool techno wizard, kickass warrior exterior, that they were practically the same age. 

Ava hugged Camila tighter. "You're a fucking badass, Cam. Don't let that tiny voice of self doubt in the back of your head tell you otherwise." 

"And if you say you don't know what you're doing again, I'm going to either hug you or slap you." 

"Hm, hugs please." 

Camila laughed and gave her another squeeze before stepping back and moving her hands to rest on Ava's shoulders. 

"Deal. Now, do you want me to finish up here so you can go and put Bea's mind at ease?" 

Ava laughed. "I need to put clothes on first." 

"Oh my…" Camila trailed off, turning away and grabbing the first t-shirt she could reach from the bed and then grabbed the black hoodie from inside the bag and threw them both at Ava. "There. Done." 

"So you're just kicking me out now?" 

"I'm lovingly urging you to get a move on and go to Bea so you can both stop being all sad and mopey." Camila clarified. "It's been a long day and you two haven't been able to talk since we got here." 

That was true. 

But talking wasn't exactly the top priority Ava had in mind.

She wanted to heal Beatrice. She wanted to be in Beatrice's space, hear her voice, feel her warmth and just exist with her. 

Ava pulled on the t-shirt and as she began to put on the hoodie too, she found herself smiling when she realised it was actually Beatrice's hoodie. 

It smelled like Beatrice. 

She zipped the hoodie up to the top and shoved her hands into her pockets, smiling at Camila. 

Camila nodded her approval. "Go on, get out of here." 

"I will, but can I just…" Ava pointed to the blanket. 

The beds were really small, and besides, if Beatrice's room was as cool as Ava's was, then Beatrice would definitely appreciate the extra blanket. 

As she pulled it from the bed and hastily draped out over her shoulders, Camila had already gone back to combing the room for bugs. 

Ava stopped at the door and looked over her shoulder, a question on her mind despite having a pretty good idea as to what the answer would be. 

"Hey, just to clarify, you're cool with… this, right?" 

Camila stared at her incredulously, and if she had been closer, Ava was pretty sure she would have received a playful slap in response. 

"Am I cool?" Camila repeated. She sighed heavily and tipped her head up to the ceiling for a moment. "She's asking me if I'm cool with… Ava. Do you remember when we were here the last time? What I gave you?" 

"Yeah of course. You found the journal entry about Sister Melanie and it helped us nail down the phasing." 

She never forgot how Melanie's description of the halo so closely resembled the feeling she experienced when trying to protect Beatrice. 

Camila hummed. "What else?"

"What…?" 

"Sister Melanie?" 

Oh? 

Oh shit? 

"Did you really show us that journal entry because Sister Melanie was gay?" Ava asked. 

Camila shrugged. "It ticked all of the boxes." 

Holy shit. 

Ava could only stare for several moments until Camila laughed again. 

"Was that not obvious?" Camila asked. 

Clearly fucking not. 

"No!" Ava replied. "What the fuck? I didn't even have romantic feelings for Bea back then." 

Like yeah, there had been moments , but Ava didn't know shit and a lot was going on and...

...And she just very vocally announced that there were romantic feelings.

She pointed at Camila. "We're coming back to this later because I have questions." 

"That's fair." 

"But you knew?" 

Camila moved back into her space and placed her hands on Ava's shoulders to gently steer her towards the door. 

"I say this lovingly, but we all knew, Ava. I'm pretty sure you're the last one to figure it out." Camila said as she opened the door and pushed Ava out. "But that's fair considering literally everything so don't worry about it. We can talk about it tomorrow, go find Bea, have fun, I love you." 

Ava didn't even have a chance to respond before the door was being closed on her, giving her one last fleeting look at the grin on Camila's face. 

…Okay. 

Filling all of that away for later. 

But hey, unconditional support from her family that had now led to Camila gently intervening and kicking Ava out of her own room. 

Cool. 

Ava turned around to look at the long stretch of hallway. 

It all looked identical. 

Where was Beatrice's room again? 

 

--

 

Beatrice lay on her back, staring up at the dark ceiling and listening to the hum of the air conditioning. 

It left the room a bit too cold for her liking, but Beatrice didn't have the energy to explore the room to figure out how to turn it off, even grabbing a sweater felt like too much effort. 

The room was small, scarcely decorated in a way that almost reminded her of her room back at Cat's Cradle. 

Beatrice didn't like it. 

Everything about ArqTech made Beatrice feel uncomfortable, but being separated from the others and left to her own company in this room was much worse. 

It felt different from being in the safe house, and now that Beatrice knew how it felt to sleep with Ava against her, Beatrice didn't want to go back to the way things were before. 

She wanted to keep moving forward. 

Whatever that involved. 

Despite the assurances that they were safe here, Beatrice still couldn't push down the anxiety that she felt. 

Plus... she missed Ava. 

She couldn't be far, but Beatrice didn't know which room was Ava's. Beatrice had been the first to be shown into her room, it was only Ava's promise to come to her that kept the fears at bay. 

Sleep was not going to come to her until Ava was here. 

Ava would show up, Beatrice just had to be patient. 

There was no use in passing the time by trying to theorise how the Faraday cage was going to be built, that was much better left in Camila and Jillian's capable hands. 

There wasn't even anything she could do to help with security, Mary had that under control. 

Beatrice had nothing to contribute. 

At least the bed was relatively comfortable, if not a bit on the small side. 

The lightest knock at the door pulled her from her thoughts, it was so soft that Beatrice sat up slightly to stare at the door for a moment, uncertain that she had actually heard the sound or not. 

She got up from the bed, groaning when her thigh protested at the sudden movement and a shiver ran up her spine as her bare feet touched the floor. 

Beatrice walked across the room and slid the door open, almost expecting the knock to have been a figment of her imagination, but instead Beatrice found a visitor. 

Ava looked tired and a little sheepish, blanket wrapped tightly around her body. 

"Hi. Did I wake you?" Ava asked. 

"Uh, no. I… I haven't tried to sleep yet." Beatrice replied. "Are you settled in?" 

Ava shrugged. "I don't like these rooms." 

Would it be too much to hope that Ava didn't like them for the same reason as Beatrice? 

"Neither do I." Beatrice replied softly. 

"I'm sorry I didn't come sooner, I uh… I had issues trying to figure out… this." Ava explained, gesturing vaguely to her torso. 

"Is the vest uncomfortable?" 

One of Ava's hands creeped under her blanket, no doubt to toy with the vest in question. 

"A little." Ava admitted. "I definitely made the right call by wearing it underneath everything else. Hopefully whatever Camila has planned will work because I'm going to need to shower soon, but hey, that's the cost of safety I guess." 

Beatrice wanted to wrap Ava up into her arms and hold her close. 

"Do you feel safer?" Beatrice asked. 

Ava's shrug was mostly hidden beneath her blanket. "More than I did fifteen minutes ago." 

"Why?" 

"Because I found you." Ava replied simply, dropping her gaze to the floor. "I always feel safest with you." 

Everything Beatrice had ever done, ever learned, was to make herself useful, to find a purpose. But she would give it all up just to be Ava's safe place. 

Would that ever be possible? To give up all of this and just be by Ava's side? No more fighting, no more pain or fear, just… Living? 

What would that even be like? 

"This place is a maze though." Ava continued. "And in the dark? Yeah, not easy to navigate." 

"You managed to find me okay though." 

Ava smiled. "This wasn't the first door I knocked on. Lilith says hi by the way." 

It occurred to Beatrice that Ava had never explained why she had wanted to come to Beatrice in the first place, it had never been a question that Beatrice had thought to ask.

When Ava had quietly promised to come and find her, Beatrice had accepted it readily and without hesitation, because all she had wanted was for Ava to be here. 

She didn't want Ava to leave, and Beatrice couldn't be certain that there weren't security guards roaming the hallways. Security guards that Beatrice didn't particularly want to cross paths with or questioning why Ava was out and about. 

Beatrice smiled back and stepped aside. "Do you want to come in?" 

There was something extremely endearing about the way that Ava shuffled into the room clutching the blanket close to her. 

"Have you wondered why Jillian just has a bunch of rooms decorated in exactly the same way at her disposal for us to sleep in?" Ava asked. 

Beatrice closed the door behind her and followed Ava further into the room, hesitating for a few moments before she walked over to the bed and sat on the edge of it. 

"I suppose they're handy to have for her staff." Beatrice replied. "I'd rather be in here than one of the medical rooms." 

"True." 

"Do you want the light on?" Beatrice asked. 

"Nah, I'm good like this." 

Beatrice was somewhat relieved, she was more comfortable in the dark. 

Ava grew quiet and walked over to the window and used one finger to open a slat of the blinds to look outside. As Beatrice watched her, she toyed with the edge of her own blanket and waited.

"I don't feel scared to sleep." Ava said eventually. "It already feels different. Muted, kind of? I'm confident that he won't be there in my dreams." 

Beatrice leaned back, letting one arm take most of her body weight as she lifted her injured leg back onto the bed and focused on the girl standing only a few feet away from her. 

"But you still can't sleep." Beatrice said softly. 

Ava sighed and took a step back from the windows, turning back to face Beatrice. "No. I mean, I obviously haven't tried yet but I kinda think I know why I don't want to." 

The air in the room felt just a little bit heavier than it had a moment ago. 

"Why?" 

"Because since the day that Lilith brought me back to you, you've been by my side. You've been there whenever I've slept. I… I don't know if I can sleep without you, Bea. And I don't know if I want to try." 

It took a conscious effort not to make a sound at Ava's admission. It wasn't necessarily a surprise, and the sentiment was more than mutual, but the ease in which Ava let the words exist between them still managed to leave Beatrice breathless. 

Ava took her time walking back towards the bed. When she reached the foot of it, she shrugged the blanket off of her, folded it haphazardly and placed it on the foot of the bed. 

She was dressed in sweatpants and a black zip up hoodie that Beatrice was pretty sure was actually hers. 

Beatrice could just about see the outline of the vest underneath the layers of clothing. 

Ava glanced from Beatrice to the bed, suddenly looking a little bit lost. It wasn't until Beatrice shifted herself, turning a little more to face Ava and reached forward to pat the bed gently. 

"Sit with me?" Beatrice asked. 

Ava smiled and wasted no time in scrambling onto the bed, keeping a few inches of space between them and crossing her legs beneath her as she rested her hands on her knees.

Despite the slight shift in the energy between them, Beatrice didn't feel the need to push Ava into breaking her thoughtful silence. 

Truthfully, it was hard to think of anything to say when she was the sole focus of Ava's gaze. She tracked the way Ava began at Beatrice's legs, moving up her body to her face.

Ava's eyes flickered up for a moment to Beatrice's eyebrow.

Beatrice already knew that Ava was thinking about the injuries. 

Ava still wanted to heal her. 

And Beatrice wanted to let her. 

When Ava's eyes locked with Beatrice's own, everything seemed to freeze. 

Ava looked at her with such warmth and softness, but with an undercurrent of something… More

Something that ignited a spark in her chest, and the longer that they held each other's gaze, the more it seemed to spread through her. 

It was surprising that Ava was the one who broke eye contact first, head dropping to look down and moving her hands to curl into the blanket. 

"I've been thinking about you." Ava whispered. "I've been thinking about you a lot."

The room was too silent for Beatrice to be able to conceal her sharp inhale, Ava glanced up as if to gauge Beatrice's reaction but didn't say anything else for a few moments. 

"I don't know what's going to happen next." Ava continued softly. "Even tomorrow is a mystery, but what I do know is that there are cameras all over the place here and I think that outside of this room we won't get much time to just be… Us." 

Beatrice's fingers twitched with the urge to reach out to touch, but for now, even if it was just for the next few moments, Beatrice resisted. 

"Well… For now, anything on the other side of that door doesn't matter." Beatrice replied. "We have time."

She saw Ava smile softly but still watched as she fidgeted with the blanket.

"You can say no, obviously, but I still really want to heal you." Ava said. 

"I know you do." Beatrice replied, glancing down at the space between them. "And I do too, it's just…" 

She trailed off weakly and sighed. 

It was hard to explain to Ava that the thing holding her back was the knowledge that Ava would have to touch her bare skin. 

"Would it help if I… I don't know, kept my eyes closed?" Ava suggested. "Whatever you need to make you more comfortable, I'll do."

But of course Ava would know exactly where Beatrice's anxieties lay and would make sure that Beatrice could set the boundaries. 

Beatrice wanted this to happen. 

They were alone, they were safe and they would remain uninterrupted. 

"...Eyes closed might help." Beatrice replied. She took a deep breath and exhaled slowly. "I… I'll need to take my sweatpants off to remove the bandage." 

Ava nodded a few times, and Beatrice watched her eyes fall shut. 

"I can turn around too, if you like." 

Beatrice shook her head before realising that there was no point in doing so and slowly slipped from the bed. 

"I trust you, Ava." 

She really did, but it didn't stop her fingers from trembling as she pulled at the drawstring and silently shimmying out of the pants. 

Beatrice was standing in her underwear with Ava only a foot away from her. 

For everything that has ever happened to her, Beatrice could never have foreseen this. 

With a quiet exhale, Beatrice climbed back onto the bed, stretching her injured leg out in front of her, careful not to bump Ava with it. 

True to her word, Ava didn't open her eyes, she'd even kept her head down in a way that made her hair obscure her face so Beatrice couldn't even attempt to read her expression.

"I'm just going to remove the bandage." Beatrice explained. 

Everything that had happened since the motel had pulled at the fragile skin, causing it to bleed again at some point. 

Beatrice tried not to make too much noise as she pulled the bandage from her skin.

"Are you okay?" Ava asked. 

"My leg bled again." Beatrice explained quietly. "It's stopped now but it's made the bandage stick. I'm okay." 

Ava made a sound of acknowledgement and Beatrice didn't need to see her face to know there was an unhappy frown there. 

It took a couple of minutes to get the bandage off, and even in the darkness, it wasn't pleasant to look at. 

"The bandage is off." Beatrice said, she looked at the space between them and folded her good leg underneath her. 

Ava lifted her head but kept her eyes closed as she held out her left hand. 

"Am I close enough to you?" Ava asked softly. 

Beatrice could already feel her heart beginning to pick up more with anticipation. 

"You are." She replied, lifting her own hand to tentatively touch her fingertips against Ava's and watching as Ava flinched for a moment at the sudden touch. "Am I okay to guide you?" 

"Always." Ava whispered. 

Okay. 

She could do this. 

Beatrice moved her hand, slowly tracing her fingers across the back of Ava's. She felt Ava twitch under her touch, heard the shaky exhale from Ava's lips as Beatrice took hold of her hand and began to move them. 

Ava's hand was warm against Beatrice's thigh, the touch was apprehensive and only rested comfortably when Beatrice pressed down just enough for it to cause a dull ache down to the root of the wound. 

Even with her eyes closed, Ava still managed to look so sad. 

"...How have you been moving on this?" 

"I'm good at coping with pain." 

Physical pain, anyway. Emotional pain was harder to deal with these days.

Ava's hand settled a bit more steadily against her, the tiniest stroke of her fingers against the inside of her thigh that left Beatrice curling her free hand into the sheets. 

Oh… 

Beatrice looked from Ava's face to her hand when she felt another shift in movement. 

It was barely there, barely noticeable, but Ava's hand was shaking. 

Trembling. 

"Ava…" 

"Are you ready for me to try?" Ava asked. 

Beatrice moved her hand so that her fingers curled loosely around Ava's wrist, the pulse hammered against her fingertips. 

Her eyes were still closed, and a part of Beatrice wondered what would happen if she were to ask Ava to open them. 

Was she ready to let Ava see her in this way? 

She could already see into Beatrice's heart, why was her bare skin any different? 

Beatrice knew why. 

It was a different type of vulnerability. 

"I'm ready." Beatrice replied. "But Ava?" 

Beatrice could see Ava's eyes move beneath her eyelids, the heavy rise of her chest as she took a deep breath. 

"Yeah?" 

"If you start feeling drained, will you stop?" 

The corner of Ava's lip curled up slightly. 

"I'll try, but Bea… You know me." 

And she does. She really does. 

Ava wouldn't be able to stop herself, not now that she knew she could heal. 

She wouldn't stop until Beatrice was healed. 

Beatrice's fingers flexed around Ava's wrist. 

"I know." 

The halo began to glow, although it took a few seconds for the light to spill out from beneath the vest, in the same moment, Beatrice felt Ava's pulse begin to pick up. 

Beatrice had to blink a few times for her eyes to adjust to the light breaking through the darkness. 

But the way that it made Ava look? Strands of golden light spilling from her body, the glow it left against her skin?

It looked like sunlight filtering through her hair. 

Ava looked so peaceful, bathed in light. 

And Beatrice was so caught up in tracing the curve of Ava's lips that she didn't even register that the pain had disappeared and her leg was healed until the light around them was beginning to fade. 

When the pressure on her leg began to ease, Beatrice found her grip tightening in response, keeping Ava's hand in place. 

Ava inhaled, hand pressing back down. 

"Beatrice?" Ava whispered. "Did it -" 

"It worked." Beatrice finished. "I just… I'm not ready for you to let go yet." 

Ava's lips moved as though she were about to speak, but no words came out. 

All Beatrice could do was watch those lips. 

"Do you… Do you want me to move to your ribs?" Ava asked. 

"Yes." Beatrice breathed. 

"...How?" 

"Can you give me your other hand?" 

Ava did so, but as Beatrice began to guide it towards her, Ava almost tipped forward, putting more pressure on Beatrice's thigh to keep herself from falling into her. 

"I think I need to move closer, Bea," 

Beatrice stroked her thumb against Ava's hand. "Okay. I've got you." 

She held onto Ava's hand steadily as Ava rose up onto her knees and shimmied closer, finding her way into the space between Beatrice's thighs. 

It was pretty cute to watch, but Beatrice could only focus on how she could feel her body getting warmer at the closer proximity. 

"Am I close enough?" 

There wasn't much space left between them. 

"You are." Beatrice replied, bringing Ava's right hand closer. 

As she did, Ava settled back on her heels. There was a long moment before she brought their hands beneath her shirt and pressed Ava's hand against her ribs. 

At least when Beatrice gasped this time, she could blame it on her injured ribs. 

"Does that hurt?" 

Beatrice stopped her before she could draw her hand back. 

Actually no, maybe she couldn't lie. 

"Your hand is warm." Beatrice said instead. "I'm okay." 

(She knew her touch would be warm.)

Ava's lips curled into a small smile. "You feel cold. Do you want the other blanket?" 

She could use that to cover her legs, maybe then she wouldn't be so self conscious about Ava seeing her. 

But Ava had seen so much of her already, what was a bit of bare skin compared to everything else? 

She just needed a bit more time to settle into this moment. 

"No. Not yet." 

Beatrice felt Ava adjust her hand, fingers spreading out along her ribs, thumb pressing gently against the base of her sternum. 

She forgot how to breathe. 

Ava went still too. 

"Ready?" She whispered. 

Beatrice nodded, belatedly realising that Ava wouldn't actually be able to see her. 

"I'm ready." 

She wasn't sure if it was because of where the healing was taking place or if it was because they were getting accustomed to how this all worked, but the warmth felt much more intense this time. 

It felt like it was seeping into Beatrice's heart. 

Beatrice couldn't hold onto Ava's wrist any longer, she let go in favour of moving her hand to rest against Ava's shoulder. 

She had gotten so familiar with living with her injuries that feeling Ava take that pain away bit by bit left her feeling light. 

"Is it working?" Ava asked. 

"I can feel the halo through my whole body." Beatrice admitted. "It… feels like you're healing my heart." 

She watched Ava's brow furrow for a second as she processed Beatrice's words, the glow and warmth began to fade as she finished healing Beatrice's ribs but her hand remained in place.

"Your heart doesn't need healing, Beatrice." Ava replied quietly. "Your heart… it's perfect just the way it is." 

Her voice was so soft and so honest that Beatrice felt her heart skip. 

"Ava…" 

"You know I wouldn't say it if I didn't believe it." Ava murmured. 

Even in this light, Beatrice could see the exhaustion from using the halo beginning to take hold, despite how cool it was in the room, Beatrice could see the beads of sweat clinging to her temple. 

But Ava's voice was steady. She believed what she said wholeheartedly. 

"I know." 

They both fell silent. Ava's hand lifted from Beatrice's thigh to reach up and draw the zipper of her hoodie down. 

Beatrice's gaze dropped to stare at exposed collarbones. 

They were both breathing heavily, and Beatrice watched Ava's head drop as she tried to get herself under control. 

"Are you okay?" Beatrice asked. 

"Yeah, yeah. I'm good." Ava nodded, lifting her head once more. "Can I heal your eyebrow?" 

Beatrice gave her shoulder a gentle squeeze. "Do you have enough energy?" 

Ava took a deep breath and nodded. "Yeah, totally. I've got this." 

If Ava was close to the point of feeling drained, then at least she was in a good place to recover. 

There would no doubt be questions from Jillian tomorrow when she noticed the absence of a cut, but that would be something to deal with when it happened. 

Right now she just wanted Ava's hands to stay on her. 

But there was more to it than that. 

She was ready. 

"Ava?" 

"Yeah?" 

"Do you… Do you want to open your eyes?" 

She felt Ava tense beneath her touch. 

"Are you sure?" 

"Yes." 

"Do you want the blanket to cover your legs? Or do you wanna put your sweatpants back on?" 

Beatrice considered both options for a moment before she answered. 

She had nothing left to hide. 

And she didn't want to hide from Ava, not that it was possible. 

"No." Beatrice replied. "Open your eyes, Ava." 

Ava did so slowly, blinking a few times until her eyes focused and met Beatrice's. 

Even though her hand was still on Beatrice's ribs and the other hung loosely close to her thigh, Ava didn't look away.  

She was looking at Beatrice with such an intensity that it made Beatrice feel like she was the only being in existence. 

With Ava's hand still resting steadily against her ribs, she lifted her other up slowly until her fingertips delicately touched the skin around the area of the wound. 

It took all of Beatrice's control not to let her eyes close at the touch. 

Ava's gaze only grew more intense, the fingers on Beatrice's ribs moved almost reassuringly as she adjusted her touch on Beatrice's face. 

Her fingers slipped into Beatrice's hair, her thumb came to rest against the wound. 

"Are you ready?" 

Beatrice could only nod. 

She managed to keep her eyes open when that familiar warmth took hold. Compared to her other injuries, this one had always been the least painful of them. 

But under the weight of Ava's gaze and touch? The healing felt so much more intense than the others had. 

Ava didn't blink, she didn't look away, she merely held Beatrice's gaze so that Beatrice could see the gold reflected in those dark eyes. 

She looked tired when the light faded away, but she was smiling. 

God, that smile. 

"There." Ava said softly. "All better." 

"Really?" 

Ava hummed, thumb stroking affectionately across her eyebrow as she adjusted her position to sit cross legged once more. 

"I think it's still left you with a scar, but that just adds to your badass vibe." 

Beatrice smiled. "I'm a badass?" 

Ava's smile blossomed into a grin, a soft laugh filled the space between them. 

"A badass, a genius, thoughtful and gentle…" Ava gave one last sweep of her thumb before she drew her hand back, her expression was fond, almost hesitant before she continued speaking. "You're kind hearted, brave… Beautiful." 

Oh. 

Beatrice was trying very hard to keep her breathing steady as she held Ava's gaze, thankful that even though she had leaned back ever so slightly, the hand hadn't left her ribs yet. 

"There aren't enough words to describe how incredible you are." Ava continued quietly. "You're my light, Bea." 

She had said something very similar when they had connected in their dreams. 

When things had been so close to ending, Beatrice had quietly admitted that she didn't want to only see Ava in her dreams. 

Ava had been by her side ever since, and Beatrice still had so much that she wanted to say. 

In such a short time, Ava had gone from being a stranger to a friend, to being her best friend and then so much more. 

There had always been more between them, and Beatrice felt it that day in the hallway. 

She may have so much left to say, but right now… Maybe it wasn't necessarily words that she needed. 

In this room, only they existed. They were safe, they were alone, and more importantly, they were together. 

Ava had just called her brave, but Beatrice felt anything but as she tried to figure out how to phrase her next response. 

She allowed herself a moment to draw a deep breath and exhaled slowly, moving her hand from Ava's shoulder to trace her fingertips against the back of Ava's hand, dropping her head to watch the touch. 

"Ava?" 

"Yeah?" 

"Could I ask you a favour?" 

She could just about see Ava smile from the corner of her eye. 

"Of course." 

Beatrice didn't lift her head fully, she merely titled it enough so that she could still lock eyes with Ava. 

She heard Ava's sharp inhale. 

"There's something that I want to try, could you close your eyes?" Beatrice asked. 

Ava nodded, eyes falling closed without question. 

Beatrice continued to move her fingers along the back of Ava's hand, finally lifting her head to look at Ava clearly once more. 

She looked so relaxed and calm. 

"Do you trust me?" Beatrice asked. 

"With my whole heart." Ava replied immediately and without a trace of hesitation in her voice. 

Beatrice knew that the longer they existed in this moment, the more she was going to overthink how to do what it was she desperately wanted. 

She didn't have all that much experience in this area. 

Beatrice took in the curve of Ava's lips, the way that her hair perfectly framed her face and the warmth of her touch. 

She leaned forward, angling her face to the side at the last moment so that she didn't accidentally bump their noses together when her lips found Ava's in the dark. 

Beatrice closed her eyes and curled both hands into the sheets. 

Ava's lips were soft and warm. It was a tentative first contact, neither pressed for more or pulled away. 

But despite how chaste it was, Beatrice was still certain of one thing. 

Kissing Ava felt like tasting the sun. 

Only a few seconds must have passed by the time Beatrice pulled back. It probably took the same amount of time for her to work up the courage to open her own eyes. 

When she did, Beatrice was met with a room filled with light. 

Ava's eyes were still closed, light spilling freely from the halo only served to make her smile look even brighter. 

…Ava was smiling. 

Her hand still rested against Beatrice's ribs, ensuring contact was maintained between them. 

"Bea?" 

Beatrice let out a shaky breath. "...Ava?" 

"Can I open my eyes now?" 

"...Yes." 

The light from the halo showed no sign of fading, the vest took away the risk of being detected but stood no chance of hiding Ava's emotions. 

Ava opened her eyes, noticeably surprised at the amount of light around them, but her gaze softened when her attention focused on Beatrice. 

"Hey." She said softly. 

"Hi." 

The sound that came from Ava's mouth was closer to a giggle than anything else, ducking her head for a brief moment as she drew her hand out from under Beatrice's shirt. 

Their eyes met again. 

"You kissed me." 

Beatrice nodded slowly, the anxiety was beginning to build in her chest despite every clear sign telling her she had nothing to be afraid of. 

Ava's smile didn't falter, she merely lifted her hands and held them out between them, palms up. 

Beatrice placed her hands in Ava's, who wasted no time in beginning to play with her hands. 

"Are you okay?" Ava asked. 

"I…" Beatrice paused to let out a long breath. "Yes. Are you?" 

"So… I don't really know what to say in this situation." Ava admitted. "But what I do know is that I've wanted that for a while now. So yeah, I'm okay." 

"You have?" 

Ava threaded their fingers together and gave both hands a reassuring squeeze. 

"When I said that I think about you a lot, Bea, I wasn't kidding." Ava replied. 

She had kissed Ava. 

They had kissed and Beatrice's heart was still singing Ava's name with every beat. 

Beatrice could feel the tears threatening to form, the tightness in her throat despite the joy she felt in her veins. 

Ava must have seen it in Beatrice's expression though, because she slowly moved their hands up to her shoulders, guiding Beatrice's hands around her until Beatrice got the hint and held onto her shoulders. 

"I don't know how to do this, Ava." Beatrice admitted. "I don't know what to do with it all." 

"All of what?" Ava asked softly. 

"All of this…" Beatrice's voice cracked. "All of these feelings that I have for you." 

All of this love for her. 

Ava brought one hand up to rest flat against Beatrice's chest, directly over her heart, her smile only grew softer upon feeling its rapid beat. 

"I'll take it." Ava replied. "I'll look after it all. You can trust me." 

Ava had said that she trusted Beatrice with her whole heart. 

And now she was asking Beatrice to do the same. 

To trust her. 

If there was one person in this world Beatrice was willing to trust her heart to, it would only ever be Ava Silva. 

"Okay." Beatrice whispered. 

"I don't know how to do this either, Bea." Ava continued. "But we're Beatrice and Ava, that hasn't changed, we're still us, just… more." 

"There's always more." 

Ava let out a quiet laugh and nodded. "Yeah, exactly. We'll figure this out." 

Beatrice tipped her head forward so that she could rest her forehead against Ava's. 

"What do we do now?" Beatrice asked. 

"What do you want to do?" Ava countered. 

Beatrice didn't need to think for long. 

"I... think I'd like to kiss you again." 

Ava laughed. "I think I'd like that too."

It was surprising to Beatrice just how easy it was to cradle Ava's face in her hands, for both of them to lean in and come together once more. 

Ava's lips moved against her own, still tender despite the undercurrent of want that lingered beneath. 

"I think about you a lot too." Beatrice whispered when they finally broke apart. 

Whatever lay beyond the morning was irrelevant right now. 

Until they each set foot outside of this room, they weren't the halo bearer and the sister warrior. 

They were just Beatrice and Ava. 

Unburdened. Unbound.

They felt finally themselves.