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Behind Bars

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Beau knew she was alive because everything hurt.

Her body was heavy and her chest ached like a motherfucker. Not, like, in a "feelings" kind of way. In a "yep, I've been impaled by a giant metal glaive" kind of way. Memories of the battle rushed through her brain. A failed distraction. The laughing hand, whose sounds never got any less terrifying. Yasha dragging the skingorger behind her as she walked menacingly towards Beau. The weird kind of cold sensation of metal piercing into her flesh, followed by the warmth of the blood that spilled out in spades. Consciousness fading fast.

But also Yasha's hands, touching ever so softly - an apology she couldn't really verbalize properly, said in the form of her angelic healing. The Nein finally reunited, going in after Obann as a family. Having her long lost friend finally fighting by their side again. It was... right. So, with newfound courage, she threw herself and everything she had at that demon asshole. She did everything she could to try and make sure he would pay for what he did. To Yasha, to the Cobalt Soul, and to all of the Mighty Nein. And, well, maybe she didn't quite take into account that justice would feel better if she'd been alive to see it.

She vaguely recalled falling unconscious again.

And that's when the anxiety proved big enough to force her to open her eyes and look around.

She was in a simple but spacious room. Spacious enough that she could see some of her family in what looked like a worried back and forth, but she couldn't really hear anything. Fjord was shaking his head at whatever Caleb had just said, and Cad took a sip of tea.

"Beau! You're awake!" Jester's high voice pulled Beau's attention to her other side, where her tiefling friend sat by the bed. "Oh my god, Beau, we were so worried! I mean, you were taking forever, so..."

The shrill voice turned the heads of all the guys towards them.

"Hi... Jes", Beau greeted with a hoarse voice.

“Beauregard. Welcome back to the land of the living”, Caleb greeted her.

“You scared the shit out of us for a second there”, Fjord said as he made his way to her bed.

“Yeah. Kinda scared the shit out of myself. Please tell me that Obann bastard-” Beau got out after a moment.

“Dead”, Caduceus assured her, and brought his cup back to his lips.

“Beau…” Jester started, and her voice choked up a bit. “You were, too. Dead. Yasha tried to drag you away from him so that you’d be safe, but… It was too late, I think. I was too late. I’m so sorry.”

Beau didn’t really grasp the gravity of the situation until Jester said all that, a few tears going down her usually smiling face. It was then that she noticed. Her heart stopped for a second, and she was almost too afraid to ask.

“Where… where is Yasha?” Beau asked, pushing through the hesitation. Looking around the room, she found the consideration to add “... and Veth?”

Her friends eyed each other as if trying desperately to figure out what was the story.

“Our… sneaky friend is on a scouting mission”, Caleb explained, trying to conceal his anxiousness. “She should be back any time now”.

“And Yasha…?” Beau asked, her voice almost a whisper.

“The Cobalt Soul has her somewhere. They took her when we arrived in Zadash”, Fjord took mercy on Beau and stopped dancing around the truth. “We figured you would probably know what they do to prisoners, but you were unconscious and it’s been a few days”.

"I tried messaging Yasha but I couldn't get through", Jester explained.

"Which doesn't mean they did something to her, necessarily", Fjord reprimanded. "Anyway... Veth went invisible to take a look around a while ago".

“Beauregard, they are not convinced that the… um… attack... that Yasha took part in was due to Obann’s influence”, Caleb told.

“Then why the fuck did we come here? Why did you let them take her?” Beau asked, exasperated.

"Beau", Caduceus began, with a calm voice. He always knew to deescalate a situation. "When you died, Jester and I had nothing left that could bring you back. We thought here we might find someone who could… lend us a hand, considering your station in the organisation".

“We got a little desperate”, Fjord chuckled nervously. "We didn't know what else to do".

“It doesn’t matter. It worked”, Caleb assured them.

As he said that, the door to their chambers creaked open and then closed again. The apprehension was palpable in the air as they all took a defensive stance around Beau.

A beat later, though, Veth materialised by the door.

"These monks are very perceptive", Veth stated, a little breathless.

"Were you seen?" Fjord inquired.

"Are you alright?" Caleb went on.

"Veth", Beau began and tried to sit up… only to groan and fall back on the bed. Her chest hurt pretty bad. She gritted her teeth and tried again, managing to lean on one elbow. "Did you find her?"

Jester pushed her back on the bed as gently as she could, which is to say not very. "You stay right there", Jester said in what almost sounded like a threat, but not a moment later Beau felt the healing magic coming through Jester's fingers where they touched her.

"Thanks", Beau showed her appreciation awkwardly. She wasn't too used to all this attention. She quickly turned back to Veth: "But hey, did you?"

Before Veth could answer, the door slid open once more. After a beat, Dairon came in. With a glance around the room, their eyes set on the goblin form.

"Sorry!" Veth hurried to apologise, "Sorry. I was just looking around a bit 'cause I was bored, nothing to it!"

Dairon sighed. Veth wasn't the most convincing of individuals and the monk was not one to be easily fooled. It seemed like they were about to say something before noticing their apprentice was conscious at last. They made their way to Beau.

"Beauregard", they sounded stern but relieved, "I thought I had instructed you not to die".

"Well, I'm here, aren't I?", Beau retorted in that tone she always used when trying to deflect attention.

"You were lucky. Incredibly lucky that your companions had the means to bring you here, and incredibly lucky that we had a cleric readily available", they said harshly, before softening her voice. "I am very glad to see you well, but in the future…"

"I know. 'Don't die', right?" Beau completed.

"Don't die", Dairon agreed.

The Nein kept looking at each other sheepishly. Sure, it was Beau being grilled, but the guilt was being distributed generally. Beau stopped a moment to gather the courage before getting at it.

"Dairon… where is our friend?"

They looked around the room and studied the Nein for a moment, like they were weighing whether they should speak. Then, with a sigh, "She is… currently being held in the dungeons below the library. Awaiting the trial. I can take you to her once you're feeling better".

"I feel great. Let's go", Beau said as she tried to get up again, this time swallowing her growl of pain.

"Don't be ridiculous, Beauregard. Right now, you need to rest. Recover", Dairon told her, trying to cloak their protectiveness with harshness. At that, Jester came closer once again and pushed Beau back into the bed once more.

"Well, can't you take one of us?", the tiefling asked.

"As much as I feel for your situation, the area is strictly prohibited for visitors", Dairon explained, shooting a pointed look at Veth. "Only members of the Cobalt Soul can come in and out freely"

"Which is why I'm going right now", Beau asserted and shoved Jester's hand away, finally getting up on her feet and taking a careful step. She closed the lounging robe she just realized she was wearing - her usual clothes were probably all kinds of fucked up, with all the blood and the giant holes in the chest area. No matter. She had things to do.

Dairon seemed to measure her up, trying to sense the slightest hesitation, anything but the firm resolution they saw in their apprentice's face. They turned and began making their way to the door, "Well, come on then".

Beau shot a glance at each of the Nein that said something like "I fucking got this, please don't fucking try anything too fucking stupid" and followed after Dairon.

She struggled a bit to keep up. Maybe she tried a little too hard to put up a tough front, but the truth was… She had to muster every ounce of willpower she had for each staggering step. She had to tell herself that it was all in her head and that her wound wasn't about to reopen and spill out her insides. She didn't ask Dairon to slow down, though.

They exited the living quarters and into the more occupied library. Crossing paths with some of their colleagues, Beau was being stared at like an apparition. Assholes. She wondered which of them were responsible for getting Yasha locked up. Once Dairon had led her to the more deserted aisles, she struck up conversation.

"So. How the fuck did this happen?", she asked them.

No answer.

"Were you in on it?", Beau pressed.

Dairon sighed and looked around to see if anyone was still paying attention to them. After a moment or two, they pulled Beau behind a bookshelf.

"Beauregard, you asked to see her. We're getting to that. But this is not a place for questions. As you very well know, the Cobalt Soul pride themselves on being the eyes and ears of this country. Which is why you cannot hope to have a private conversation right at the heart of it", Dairon said in a cold whisper. Then, they softened a bit. "Come with me. See your friend. Rest for a bit. When you're ready, we'll talk. Come to my quarters and we'll… figure something out. Patience".

Beau nodded.

Dairon waited a beat longer to make sure Beau would comply, before deciding to go back to the main path. Again, Beau followed.

She followed, but her stomach was churning, and only in part because of her injury. If she was doubting at all that there was something weird going on before, then Dairon made it pretty fucking clear now. And if Dairon had to walk on eggshells, this was probably a higher up kind of issue, which meant that Beau's position within the Soul meant jackshit. Because of fucking course. She reorganized the steps in her brain. First, making sure Yasha was okay. Then, quietly, punch people for information, probably.

By then, they were descending into the dungeon. It was guarded at the entrance by two monks, one at each side of the heavy door, but upon encountering Dairon they let them pass. Beau had been arrested before, but this place… it was on another level completely. It was clearly more like a torture chamber than an ordinary prison. It was one very long and occasionally curling corridor with mostly empty cells. Whenever Beau passed by an occupied cell, its inhabitant recoiled from the light of the torch they were carrying like they weren't used to seeing much light at all. Probably one of the more sketchy means the monks had of… acquiring intel. Beau shuddered at the thought of what Yasha had already had to endure while she was unconscious like a fucking asshole. She wanted to stop and confront Dairon. Ask them "how the fuck do you let this happen?" or something. Maybe "where was I when they introduced new monks to this place?". Probably also "what the fuck?". She hoped that was part of the talk that her mentor so adamantly wanted to reschedule, or else… She didn't even quite know what "or else" might mean.

She was still deep in her thoughts when Dairon rested a hand on her shoulder and stopped her in her tracks.

"She is right up ahead to your left. I'm sure you can make your way back without a guide, and so I will give you some privacy", Dairon told her as they handed over the torch. "I am not going to fool myself into believing you would ever follow direct orders, but I must ask you… as a friend… Don't do anything unwise that would complicate her even further. Control your impulses".

"Thanks", Beau said half genuinely. "Looking forward to that talk".

"I am, too", Dairon reassured her. They began making their way back before stopping for a second. "And Beauregard… I am very glad you're okay".

"Thanks", Beau said with more feeling this time.

She stopped to breathe for a bit, to prepare herself. She wasn't quite sure of what she would find when she got to the cell. She heard Dairon's steps getting farther and farther away, and forced herself to move as well.

And there it was.

She saw a large and unkept mass of black and white before she realised it was her. And it was her.

Yasha was sitting at the corner of her cell, curled into herself so much that her usual hulking frame seemed almost small.

She looked like shit. Or, well, she looked like a gorgeous angel that had been through a rough few months and even rougher couple of days. She looked dirty and disheveled. Her eyes were slightly puffy and red, though just looking at her you couldn't tell if it was because she hadn't slept in a while or if she'd been crying a lot. And there was still a lot of dry blood sticking to her in a few places.

And the weird thing was, when Beau got closer, shining torch in hand… Yasha looked at her briefly and, with what seemed almost like disinterest, looked away. Beau let the torch slide in a slot on the wall, and sheepishly walked closer.

"Hey", Beau greeted, her voice suddenly hoarse.

At that, Yasha sighed and, with some difficulty, got up and got closer to the bars. This time, she really paid attention. Her brow furrowed as she studied Beau's face. For a second there, it seemed like she was going to break, but then quickly pulled back and put on a harder face.

"That's not what she wears. Overall pretty good, though", Yasha told her and crossed her arms.

Oh.

"That…" Beau started carefully, but then decided to laugh it off, "yeah, I guess I gotta look pretty stupid right now. What the fuck are these, fucking pajamas?"

Yasha froze.

"My stuff is probably in the wash 'cos I got all that blood on it, last time. I don't know, I literally just woke up and came down here to see you", Beau kept going.

Silence.

"Which was probably rude of me, but hey. If you really want me to, I can go, freshen up, put on something nice just for you and come right back. No biggie".

Yasha looked like she saw a ghost.

It was getting Beau a little nervous, actually.

"Are you okay? Say something"

"Beau...", Yasha managed to force out before getting all choked up.

"Hey…" Beau tried to say reassuringly and came so close to the bars that it almost touched her. "C'mere, it's okay"

With slow steps, Yasha approached. She hesitantly reached out through the bars and touched Beau's face, like she was still uncertain if Beau was really there. Upon feeling the warmth beneath her fingers, she immediately pulled them back. Like even that little contact could burn. As quickly as that, a few tears began streaming down her face.

"Beau...", she tried again. "I… I thought..."

Beau grabbed Yasha's retreating hand.

"I know. I'm good, though. More worried about you"

Yasha pulled her hand away.

"You shouldn't be", Yasha said with a look of shame to her teary eyes.

"Well, I kind of am. I came to let you know that we're gonna get you the fuck out of here", Beau asserted, finally tapping onto that practical mindset. "Like I said, I just came back. I don't have all the details figured out yet, but don't worry. It'll be okay. You'll be out in no time"

"I'm not sure that's gonna work out", Yasha let out in a tired, defeated tone.

"Fuck yeah, it is. Honestly, I'm surprised they even managed to drag you in here"

"They said they would only call in the clerics for you if I gave myself up", Yasha confessed. It made sense. Still, it took Beau by surprise that Yasha would give up her freedom for her so soon after she finally got it back. Beau decided to let herself figure out whatever feelings were trying to burst out later. A lot later. Right now, she had to focus.

"Who said that?", Beau asked, happy to get her first clue.

"I don't know. Some blond stuck-up elf guy?", Yasha tried, a little uncertain.

"Zeenoth?"

"Yeah, maybe. Wasn't paying too much attention to him at the time"

Beau chuckled.

"Glad to know that asshole values my life so much", Beau remarked in a dry tone. Then, catching herself, refocused on Yasha. "Thank you, though. Seriously. But I'm good now, so it's time to try to get you out"

Yasha took another moment to study Beau's face. She could only do so for a moment before having to avert her eyes. "Beau… do you realise none of that would've happened to you if it weren't for me?"

"That wasn't you. That was Obann", Beau reprimanded, almost spitting at the name.

"Right", Yasha half snickered.

Yasha reached out to Beau through the bars and pried Beau's robe slightly open. Just enough to reveal the long deep gash that lingered on her chest despite all the healing the clerics had dumped on her. Still, the wound was mostly closed up and began to form a layer of pink tissue. Yasha couldn't look away. She traced the newly formed scar softly with her fingers.

"It was my weapon. My hand, that did this. My hand, last time I was here, that slashed through a dozen of defenseless librarians", Yasha said, her voice trembling.

"Yeah, but not your will", Beau retorted. She held Yasha's hand on top of her wound. "The first thing you did after you were freed and we were out of combat was heal me. The first thing".

At that, Yasha's hand glowed softly with a nice warmth against Beau's chest and, as it dimmed, the skin around the wound got the tiniest bit tighter. Its color also faded into a lighter pink. When Yasha's fingers left her skin, she missed the comfort.

"I don't know if that's enough", Yasha said softly in resignation.

"It's enough for me", Beau assured her. "We're gonna get you out, yeah?"

"Yeah, okay", Yasha said with the smallest hint of hope, and finally looked up from the wound and back at Beauregard. There was something different about her eyes, then. An expression Beau couldn't quite place. It was all at once soft and wary, distant and earnest. And yeah, that tracks, Beau figured. With everything she'd been through, Yasha must've been pretty confused.

Focus.

"I would ask how they've been treating you, but I guess it's pretty clear", Beau started, and gestured to the all around awfulness around them. Yasha said nothing. Yeah. Pretty clear. "Have you eaten?"

"I have been pretty difficult since I got here,'' Yasha conceded. "I think they might be too scared to come close enough to hand me food".

"Yasha…", a silent question hanging in the air.

"They brought me food. Once. Wimpy little twink".

"Right..."

"He… he led me to believe that you didn't make it. I might've raged a bit", Yasha said matter-of-factly, but then bit her lip and tried to feel for a reaction.

"That's flattering. You raged just for me?", Beau tried to lighten the mood.

"Yes, well, I was quite angry"

Beau chuckled.

"You know how long that was?", Beau asked. At that, Yasha looked around amusedly.

"There's no real good way to tell the passage of time, down here"

"Right. Tell you what. I don't have anything on me right now, but I'll go get you some stuff. Ya know, to eat, clean up. Maybe a few candles. A book", Beau proposed, and added a smile. "Small book, though. Don't want you to get too cozy, this is a very short term solution. How 's that sound?"

"It sounds wonderful", Yasha answered, softer than ever.

After so many battles opposite Yasha - opposite Obann, she had to remind herself -, it felt weird to have Yasha look at her with such tenderness. Good-weird. And kind of confusing, honestly. Then again, this… prison… was pretty fucking grim. Any familiar old face must feel like fucking salvation. Beau took a deep breath and decided to shove these stupid thoughts away. There would be time for this later, maybe. Probably.

"Cool. Any special requests?", Beau offered.

"I don't think so. Just..." and for a second there, Yasha seemed like she might start crying again. She held it back, though. She was a tough ass bitch. "Just please come back soon".

"Yeah, obviously. Dope monk speed, remember? I'll be back before you know it", Beau reassured her. She held out her hand through the bars. Quickly, Yasha's hand was in hers. Grasping tightly. Promise and trust, apology and understanding. Maybe something else, too. Maybe some guilt, maybe some longing, maybe even some fear. "Try not to scare anyone else 'til then".

"I will make no promises", Yasha said and smiled at her. "Be safe, Beau".

Beau let go of Yasha's hand and, with one last comforting grin, began making her way back.

She walked with a brisk pace. At least as brisk as she could manage, with the way her chest ached. She wanted to scream. She wanted to take a page from Yasha's book and just rage. It would be no good, though. She knew she had to be smart about this and she knew what she had to do.

But first things first.

First, she had to grab a few things. Take care of Yasha. Then, we'll see.