They had barely slept for two days now and their only solace came in the form of the ice fog that had still not shifted. The chances of them making it to Aeor tonight were slim, and that was something at the very least.
Lucien, predictably, was determined to keep going regardless, leading them through the fog with gradually lessening confidence. And as the hours ticked by even the other Tombtakers were beginning to look frustrated. More than once, Yasha had noticed the glances shared between Zoran, Tyffial and Otis - though interestingly, never Cree.
Beau had been uncharacteristically quiet all day, Veth picking up the slack on goading Lucien about the direction he was taking them everytime they once again came across a familiar set of tracks.
The barbarian felt sick with worry. She had done since the moment she had roused early that morning. She didn’t think she would ever be able to unsee the looks on Beau and Caleb’s faces, those bright red eyes branded onto their skin.
As the Nein trekked through the tundra alongside the Tombtakers, Yasha kept close to the monk. She didn’t say anything, she had no idea what to say, but she needed the other woman to know she was there for her, that she would do anything to keep her safe.
They walked quietly, side by side, and every so often Yasha’s eyes caught movement as the smaller woman’s right hand reached across to grasp her left. More than once the aasimar watched as Beauregard absentmindedly rubbed the back of her hand, the bright red of the eye hidden beneath her wraps and the leather of her maelstrom gloves. And more than once Yasha had to stop herself from reaching out and squeezing Beau’s hand in reassurance.
The barbarian knew that she wasn’t the most insightful of the group, but it didn’t take a lot to notice how lost in her own thoughts Beau was today.
And so, when the group next stopped for Lucien and Veth to argue, and she noticed the way that Beau’s hands shakily tried to unhook Veth’s flask from her belt, Yasha stepped forward.
“I’ve got it” she whispered, hands reaching out and carefully unfastened the flask, pressing it into Beau’s shaking hands.
“Thanks, Yash” the monk mumbled, avoiding eye contact and instead focusing on unscrewing the lid and lifting it to her lips.
Yasha bit her lip as she watched Beau drink, smiling softly as the monk offered the flask back to her. She took it with a small smile of thanks, lifted it to her lips and let the alcohol burn her throat.
Once she was done she held it back out to Beau who shook her head and stayed quiet as she watched Yasha reattach it to her belt for her.
“You’re shivering” Yasha whispered as she lifted her head to meet Beau’s eyes, her fingers lingering at the monk’s waist.
“‘M fine” Beau muttered in response. “It’s always freezing here” she shrugged, trying to brush it off but both her and Yasha knew it wasn’t just the cold of Eiselcross that was getting to her, there was an icy cold fear taking root at her heart - at their hearts, if Yasha were to be perfectly honest.
The taller woman hesitated for a moment, her eyes searching Beau’s which were once again averted and then she took a step back and unfastened her shrug before wrapping it carefully around Beauregard’s shoulders.
The stunning blue of the monk’s eyes lifted to meet Yasha’s gaze and she opened her mouth to protest but thought better of it as she took in the way that the aasimar was looking at her.
“Smells like you” she instead whispered, turning her head away and pressing her cheek into the softness of the fur.
“I hope that is a good thing…” Yasha replied with a low chuckle, her eyes carefully watching Beau even as she felt a flutter in her chest.
“It is” Beau replied gently, lifting her head and offering Yasha a small smile.
“Alright, I’m pretty sure it’s this way”
Lucien’s voice cut through the moment between them and they both let out a deep breath and turned their attention to the purple skinned tiefling at the head of the group.
“Pretty sure? You’ve gotta be fucking kidding me, we’ve been walking in circles for two days now!”
Yasha couldn’t help the swell of pride, and the smile that spread to her lips as she heard Beau’s voice challenging Lucien for the first time that day.
The tiefling’s eyes narrowed as he focused in on her with a scowl.
“Aye. I’m pretty sure” he growled in response and turned, dramatically, on his heel in the direction he had just been pointing.
The barbarian bit her lip and ducked her head, trying not to laugh at how easily her monk got under his skin. And definitely trying not to focus on how she had just thought of Beau as hers.
By the time darkness came Lucien was finally ready to call it a day, and with a frustrated nod in Caleb’s direction he came to a halt and allowed the wizard to conjure the tower.
Dinner had once again been a tense affair, with Lucien’s irritation becoming clearer with every question he was asked.
And Beau was quiet once more, seeming somewhat zoned out from the conversation as she pushed her food around her plate with her fork. Her fork which was held tightly in her right hand, her left hidden beneath the table on her lap.
The Nein had agreed that it was best that Beau and Caleb tried to keep last night’s discovery from the Tombtakers, and Lucien in particular, for as long as they could. And whilst they weren’t completely convinced that the Nonagon didn’t know exactly what had happened it seemed that they had at least managed to hide the bright red eyes so far.
Exhaustion plagued the entire group and so when Lucien stood up, announcing he would be forgoing his sweet tooth tonight, there was a sense of relief that washed through the room. The remaining Tombtakers got to their feet too, Otis not looking especially pleased to be missing dessert, and followed their leader out of the door and up to their quarters.
“We should rest” Caleb’s voice broke through the silence once the Nein were alone.
“Or…” Jester began, looking between her friends. “You know, we could still do one of those things we talked about last night…”
A heavy silence filled the room.
“I don’t know that uh, that going to your place is really an option anymore…” Caduceus spoke up, his eyes leaving Jester’s to glance at both Caleb and Beau. No one needed to ask what he meant, they all knew that last night had changed a lot of things.
“Caduceus is right, I think we have no choice but to see this out now…” Caleb agreed.
Yasha’s eyes fell to the woman beside her, watching the way that Beau’s hand tensed in her lap.
“Or you know, we could fly...to Essek…”
“Jester, we are all exhausted. That would be incredibly stupid right now” the clipped tone of Caleb’s voice caused Yasha’s heart to lurch and her eyes lifted from Beau just in time to catch the hurt in Jester’s eyes.
“I think you should all go back to Nicodranas”
Everyone’s attention turned to Beau, eyes widened slightly.
“Like Caleb said...that’s not really an option anymore…” Veth responded.
“It is. Just not for me and Caleb” the monk mumbled in response.
She shook her head immediately as Jester began to speak. “No. This was our mistake. It’s - it’s on us to fix this”
“Did you hit your head or something? You are been completely ridiculous”
It was Fjord who spoke up this time and blue eyes instantly honed in on him. “No I’m not Fjord. I’m being fucking practical, which is what I should have been when he presented that damn book to us in the first place” she argued, her voice rising.
“Beauregard, calm down…” Caleb reached out towards her and she immediately flinched away and stood.
“Can’t you see I’m trying to protect you all?”
“And we are trying to protect you…” the sincerity in Veth’s voice was enough to make even Beau pause, but then the monk shook her head.
A shaky sigh escaped Beau and it looked as though she were about to speak once again when she thought better of it and turned. “I’m going to bed” she announced and stormed out of the room.
Yasha stood and moved to go after her but Caleb’s hand gently rested on her bicep.
“I’ve got this” he promised, turning back to the group. “Sleep, we are going to need our strength come the morning” he insisted and then he was gone, following after Beau.
“I know that, believe me, Beauregard” there was a sense of growing frustration in Caleb’s tone.
“I can’t - I can’t lose them, Caleb. I can’t be responsible for -”
“You’re not. You won’t be” he interrupted, refusing to let Beau blame herself. “They - we - were already on this path. And they will remain on this path, with or without us”
There was a moment of silence before the sound of shuffling.
“I love you, Beauregard” Caleb whispered between choking back what sounded like a sob. “You are my sister, and one of my best friends. I would not be the - I don’t know what I would be without you and the Mighty Nein” he admitted. “But I love you and I know that together we will do whatever it takes to protect the rest of our family”
He paused just long enough for Beau to mutter a “Love you too, man…” before continuing.
“I will not lose another family by my hand or anyone else’s”
Yasha let out a shaky breath, feeling terrible for overhearing the exchange as she had stood outside of Beau’s door agonising over whether to go in.
She waited a moment longer and when neither Caleb nor Beau spoke up again she raised a hand and gently knocked on the door before pushing it open a fraction.
Inside she could see Beau sitting on the edge of the couch, Caleb kneeling in front of her with his arms wrapped tightly around her shoulders.
Yasha swallowed hard, feeling bad to interrupt this moment between them but stepped inside the room anyway.
“Hey…” she whispered causing Caleb to look up.
“Yasha…” he acknowledged with a sad smile.
“I just -” she began, not really knowing how she would have ended that sentence had Caleb not interrupted with a nod.
The wizard turned back to Beau, who had not even reacted to Yasha’s arrival, and pressed his forehead to hers.
“Ich liebe dich” he whispered, holding her tightly for a moment before releasing her and sitting up. His hands reached up, gently cupping Beau’s face as he pressed a kiss to her forehead. “Wir können das schaffen” he added before getting to his feet, gently squeezing Beau’s shoulder and making his way to the doorway and Yasha.
The two exchanged worried looks before Caleb forced a smile onto his face.
“She needs you more than she will admit” he whispered, gently squeezing Yasha’s forearm and making his way past her.
Yasha hesitated momentarily before letting out a shaky breath and making her way over to Beau.
The monk still sat on the edge of the couch, the light from the flames of the hearth dancing across her skin, her body hunched and her head bowed. As Yasha got closer she noticed that Beau’s eyes were transfixed on her left hand as she flexed and rotated it in front of her, the bright red of the eye casting a soft glow on her face.
Yasha’s voice was so soft that she was unsure whether Beau had heard it or not. Either way the monk didn’t respond.
She hesitated for just a moment before taking another step closer and when there was still no reaction from the other woman Yasha took a seat on the couch beside her.
“Beau” she whispered once more as she reached out and covered the monk’s smaller hand with hers, gently wrapping her fingers around Beau’s and lifting their joined hands to rest in her lap.
Whether it was the fact that the red eye was now covered, or a result of Yasha’s touch, Beau finally lifted her head and met Yasha’s eyes. The aasimar felt as though her heart was breaking as she saw the sadness in those beautiful depths of blue.
The two searched one another’s gaze for a moment, neither daring to speak and break the spell.
Eventually Beauregard’s eyes fell to Yasha’s lap and their joined hands and the barbarian instinctively squeezed the smaller hand in her grasp.
“This doesn’t change anything you know…” she found herself whispering.
Beau lifted her head at that, brow knitting as she studied Yasha. “It changes everything, Yasha” she argued, voice a little gravelly.
Yasha shook her head, her thumb gently brushing the top of Beau’s hand, very aware of what lay beneath her touch, branded into the monk’s dark skin.
Beau’s eyes searched hers confusedly.
“This is - this is a complication” she agreed, thumb brushing over the branded skin once more. “But we were always on this path, Beau” she insisted. “No matter what we said, we were always going to follow this until the very end. We’re going to stop whatever Lucien, and the Somnovum are trying to achieve”
The monk let out a shaky breath but she stayed quiet.
“You saved me from a cult,” Yasha whispered, gently encouraging Beau to move closer to her. “I won’t let another take you from me”
Beau squeezed her eyes closed tightly and took a deep breath before finally relenting and letting herself lean into the solid warmth of Yasha’s body.
The simple movement soothed some of the ache in Yasha’s heart and she gently nudged the smaller woman.
“How are you feeling?”
Beau let out a deep breath and shrugged against Yasha. “Physically? Fine” she muttered, eyes automatically falling to her hand in Yasha’s. “Mentally...I’m not sure any more…”
Yasha bit her lip and nodded.
“You don’t like not knowing what’s going to happen…” she muttered softly, feeling Beau nod beside her.
“I guess I’m so used to having the facts, being able to work things out. Have an element of control, and now…”
Yasha nodded this time and pressed closer to the monk’s smaller frame. “I know exactly how that feels” she found herself admitting.
Beau frowned, “Yasha, I’m sorry. I -”
The aasimar shook her head defiantly. “Don't be” she insisted, her hand tightening around Beau’s. “Maybe all those experiences I’ve had can be useful?” she suggested with the softest of smiles.
The woman beside her chuckled softly and pressed her forehead against Yasha’s shoulder.
“Wanna know a secret?” she whispered as she let herself breathe in Yasha’s scent.
“Only if you want to share it” Yasha’s response came as a whisper of her own.
“I’m scared” Beau’s admission was barely audible, her voice breaking as she continued. “For the first time in my life I’m scared because I don’t know what’s going to happen to me” She let out a shaky sigh and sat up a little, her eyes once again falling to their joined hands still resting in Yasha’s lap. “I finally stopped living in the present, and started thinking about building a future…”
Beau knew that her old self would have laughed this off. She might have worried but her confidence in her ability to fix whatever was happening would have outweighed the worry. This new, more mature Beau, had too much to lose.
Yasha swallowed hard, hesitating before she replied. “I am scared too…” she admitted. “I am scared because I always thought I was strong enough to protect you, to protect all of you, but now I don’t even know what I’m protecting you from…”
Beau stayed silent and they both knew it was because she had no answer.
She allowed herself a few more moments of solace pressed against the warmth of the barbarian but then she released a deep breath and sat up, tugging her hand from Yasha’s grasp.
“It’s late, Yasha. You’re probably exhausted…” she mumbled as she began rubbing the brand on her skin with her right hand. It didn’t hurt. But it felt like it should.
“I won’t let you be alone”
The argument surprised Beau, but perhaps it shouldn’t have.
“Not after -” Yasha sighed and turned to face Beau. “I don’t think it’s a good idea for you to be alone…”
She couldn’t bring herself to say it but as Beau lifted her eyes to meet Yasha’s she could tell what the aasimar was thinking - there was a chance the dream could happen again tonight. There was a chance she could wake up branded once more.
The monk buried her head in her hands.
“This is all so fucked up” she whispered, eyes squeezed shut.
“I know” Yasha’s whispered response was accompanied by her hand gently resting against Beau’s back. “Beau?”
“I don’t think I can wait any longer…”
Beauregard’s eyes shot open, still obscured by her head in her hands. “What do you mean…” her voice shook a little, nerves beginning to flood through her body.
“I stupidly thought we had more time,” Yasha explained, her hand beginning to make slow and cautious movements against Beau’s back, in what she hoped was a comforting way. “And now I have no idea how long I have left with you” her voice broke with the emotional weight of her words.
Beau swallowed nervously and lifted her head from her hands, blue eyes searching mismatched irises.
“Me too…” she whispered, brow knitting together with worry.
“It is so rare to find someone who makes you feel this way…” Yasha bravely whispered, eyes not leaving Beau’s as she tried to communicate what she meant.
She watched the movement of Beau’s throat as the monk swallowed but failed to find words.
And so Yasha continued, “I can feel myself falling in love with you, Beau…” the smaller woman’s eyes widened slightly, her chest beginning to rise and fall heavier. “...and that used to be so terrifying…” the barbarian admitted.
Beau’s head was spinning, eyes searching the depths of Yasha’s as she tried to find the right words. In the end all she could manage was a simple, “And now?”
“It’s not so scary…” Yasha shrugged, a sad smile on her lips.
Beau’s expression echoed it.
“I think…” Beau’s voice got caught in the back of her throat and she took a moment before trying again, “I think I’m still learning what love is, but…” she paused, helplessly looking to Yasha for something, anything.
The aasimar didn’t disappoint, “Let me show you” she offered and Beau found herself nodding because despite everything that was happening there was nothing she wanted more than to learn how to love, and be loved, with this woman.
There was a moment’s hesitation between them. Two souls desperately trying to reach out to one another, but both as terrified as the other of doing something wrong. That, afterall, was why it had taken them so long to get to this point.
In the end it was Yasha that made the move, her large hand reaching out and cupping the side of Beau’s face.
The monk’s eyes fell closed and she couldn’t stop herself from turning into the touch.
“You’re the only person that’s ever made me not wanna run away from these feelings” she admitted as she allowed herself to get lost in the softness of Yasha’s expression.
“That feels significant…”
“It is” Beau chuckled nervously.
Yasha smiled brighter, her thumb brushing against the softness of Beau’s cheek. And then she leant forward, taking Beau’s breath away as she pressed their foreheads together and held her close.
“Tell me it’s okay to fall…” the pleading in Yasha’s tone caused Beau’s heart to ache, it caused tears to spring to her eyes and a shaky breath to escape her.
“I can't,” she whispered in response. She couldn’t tell this amazing, powerful, kind woman to fall in love with her. She was nobody. ‘Angel blood’ Lucien had called her, and yeah it had been creepy as fuck but it had been a stark reminder of how Yasha was something so much more, and Beau didn’t feel like she could ever be enough.
“I can’t ask that of you, Yasha” her voice trembled and she squeezed her eyes shut, allowing herself to enjoy the feel of being held so close by this literal angel.
She could hear her heart pounding in her ears and she briefly wondered if Yasha knew how hard it was hammering in her chest, desperate to free itself from its constraints and present itself to the barbarian.
Old Beau had been selfish, and there was a part of this new Beau that desperately wanted to revert to that. But she wasn’t sure she could do that to Yasha, and so instead she decided to meet her halfway.
“I can’t ask it of you, but I can promise that if you do I’ll be there to catch you…”
She felt, rather than saw, Yasha release a breath causing the stubborn strand of hair that always hung across Beau’s eye to flutter gently as she did.
And then it was happening.
It started with the lightest touch of Yasha’s lips against hers. So light that Beau could have convinced herself she was imagining it.
But then Yasha’s other hand fell to Beau’s thigh and that tentative press of soft lips grew in confidence, coaxing the smaller woman to join in.
It was everything Beau had imagined, and more. It felt like coming home, it felt like finally having a place in this world, and it was something she wasn’t willing to give up for anything - certainly not the eyes of fucking nine.
The soft, lingering kisses felt like those spectral butterflies that had been appearing around the Nein had taken refuge inside Beau’s chest and were now desperately attempting to break free.
As the two grew in confidence, in this new dance they were learning together, Beau’s lips parted and she kissed Yasha with more urgency, drawing the barbarian’s lower lip between hers, claiming it for her own. She was somewhat surprised to find that the usually gentle barbarian did not surrender control of the kiss, but instead fought for dominance - desperation growing within the kiss until suddenly it slowed.
Beau knew she would cringe when she thought back on this later, but right now all she could think about was how amazingly in sync they were. It felt as though they had been doing this their entire lives, both knowing exactly when to give up the urgency and instead melt into the softness and entirely different desperation of this slow kiss.
When they finally broke away there was a silent acknowledgement that neither were ready for it to end, in the way that they lingered, lips grazing one another with the slightest of movements. But they both knew they had to stop, they were exhausted and as much as this meant to them both on a personal level they both knew that the Nein came first and they wouldn’t allow themselves to hinder the group tomorrow by not getting enough rest.
“You have no idea how long I’ve wanted to do that…” Beau breathed out softly as she pressed her forehead gently against Yasha’s.
The aasimar smiled in response, “I think you’d be surprised at how long I’ve been thinking about doing that”
The monk chuckled softly and let out a happy sigh. “Yeah?”
“Yes” Yasha agreed as she let her thumb gently trace the outline of Beau’s strong jawline. “Now come on,” she instructed. “Bed”
“That is not at all how I’ve imagined hearing you say that” Beau laughed but got to her feet, and offered her hand to Yasha. There was a moment’s hesitation from the other woman before she reached out, but ignored the offered hand and instead took Beau’s left. She let her eyes look over the stark red eye for a moment before wrapping her own hand around it to obscure it from view as she stood up.
Beau bit her lip a little hard as she looked down at their joined hands, her heart swelling with adoration for this woman who was apparently adamant that this predicament would not come between them.
She released a shaky breath and then squeezed Yasha’s hand before leading her through to her bedroom. Her eyes glanced over the bed and a wave of nausea washed over her at the memory of the last time she was in bed, the memory of the dream, the desperation that had overwhelmed her body and the cries of anguish that had invaded her mind.
“I’m just gonna…” she trailed off, dropping Yasha’s hand and gesturing towards the bathroom.
Yasha nodded, watching as Beau hurried away.
Kicking the door closed behind her Beau collapsed against the sink, hands gripping the rim of the porcelain. Lifting her eyes she took in the sight of herself in the mirror, she barely recognised the face that looked back at her. She had always been good at hiding her pain, and her fears, but the eyes looking back were filled with terror.
She watched on helplessly as her breaths became more and more ragged. Shoulders rising and falling heavily and her knuckles whitening from the way in which they gripped the sink edge.
Eventually she pulled it together long enough to splash some water over her face, and made her way back out to the bedroom. Her heart soared at the sight of Yasha sitting patiently on the edge of her bed.
“Sorry…” the monk offered as she padded over the other woman.
“Don’t be” Yasha’s reply was honest and simple. Mismatched eyes took in Beauregard’s tired face and then got to her feet, Beau’s eyes lifted to follow Yasha’s comforting gaze as the barbarian stood tall.
There was a moment’s hesitation, a soft exhale, and then Beau was encompassed in a strong, warm embrace. The moment Yasha’s arms encircled her smaller frame Beau felt her entire body relax into the hold, as if she had been waiting for this her entire life.
And perhaps she had.
“Feels good…” she found herself mumbling from where her cheek was pressed against Yasha’s collarbone. “Don’t think I’ve ever hugged you before”
“Only in my dreams” Yasha smiled, arms tightening around the human.
Beau chuckled, letting her arms loop around the solid warmth of Yasha’s waist. “Well, feel free to do this whenever”
She felt the rumble in Yasha’s chest as the aasimar laughed and then she felt the softness of her lips as they pressed to the top of Beau’s head.
“Okay” she relaxed her hold on Beau, hands gently gripping the smaller woman’s biceps, thumbs brushing absentmindedly against the scarred skin. “Bedtime” she insisted, only to be cut off as Beau stretched up and brushed a chaste kiss to Yasha’s lips.
When she lowered back to her true height she ducked her head to hide the flush on her face, and the ear splitting grin that was threatening to break out. It felt good to finally be able to do that. And when she finally looked back up she saw that Yasha had been just as affected.
“Right. Yeah. Bed” Beau muttered and gently brushed past Yasha to crawl into bed, throwing herself to the far side and enjoying the softness of the mattress and pillows. Fuck, she was exhausted.
Eyes fell closed for a moment, a small smile tugging at the corner of her lips as she felt a dip in the mattress as she was joined in bed.
When Beau opened her eyes she found Yasha laying on her side, facing her, with such a soft expression on her face that it caused her heart to stutter.
Maybe she already knew how it felt to love, she thought to herself as she watched Yasha reach out and take Beau’s left hand once more, lifting it to her lips and pressing a soft kiss to her palm, and then to the back of her hand.
“I really fucked up this time, huh?” she laughed humorlessly, eyes watching the way in which Yasha’s brow knitted.
“No,” the aasimar whispered, fingers tangling with Beau’s. “This wasn’t your fault, Beau”
The monk rolled her eyes, she clearly did not agree with that sentiment.
“Did you blame me when Obann took over my mind?”
“No, of course not” It was Beau’s turn to frown this time.
“It’s the same thing” Beau opened her mouth to argue but Yasha shook her head and continued, “Whatever is happening is not your fault. Both you and Caleb did what you thought would help, just as I thought that fighting Obann was the right thing to do”
Beau sighed, shifted onto her side to properly look at Yasha as she spoke.
“We have no idea what any of this means, and that’s the scary part” she whispered. “But we’ll figure it out, like we always do. We’ll stop Lucien, and the Somnovum. We’ll save the universe or whatever, and then we’ll finally have our date” she promised.
The monk squeezed her eyes closed for a moment and sighed. “I’m sorry we never got to have our date”
“I wanted to do something special for you”
“Being with you is special, Beau” she mumbled. “I really wanted our date”
“And I will still want it when this is over” she insisted, eyes fixed on Beau’s as she tried her best to make the monk understand. “This was always going to be about more than a date to me…”
“Yeah, me too…”
“So get some rest, and then tomorrow we do what we do best and we figure this all out and fight for a future together”
Beau let out a shaky breath and nodded. “That sounds like a good plan, Yash” she agreed, smiling softly as she was tugged into the aasimar’s arms once more.
“I refuse to lose you, Beau”
“What if it’s too late?” she whispered against Yasha’s chest, the worry that had filled her since the moment she had seen the eye on her hand.
“How can you know that?”
“You’re here with me right now”
“Remember when you tried to leave to break Veth’s curse? We wouldn’t let you go then, when it was your choice. There’s no chance any of us will let you go this time. Neither you or Caleb”
“I hope so” she snuggled closer to Yasha, breathing in her scent and letting it calm her.
Yasha tightened her hold, and Beau closed her eyes as the aasimar began to whisper soft words to her. It took a moment for Beau’s exhausted mind to adjust and realise that it was Celestial.
“Dope monk shit” she muttered sleepily, a smile crossing her face as she thanked Ioun that she could understand every word of love and encouragement that left Yasha’s lips and let rest finally come to her.