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i can't believe (i ever dreamed without you)

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Ava doesn’t remember much from the battle at the Vatican. 

After Adriel summoned hundreds of wraith demons and possessed an entire mob of tourists, it’s mostly just a blur. She does remember a blinding pain searing through her back as the possessed closed in on her friends. 

Her family.


The last thing she remembers is a blinding light. 

Then darkness.

When she wakes up in a strange room in the middle of what appears to be either the late evening or the early morning, her first instinct is to panic. Lately, she's done a lot of waking up in places she doesn't remember falling asleep in. 

Ava shoots up from the mattress, yet immediately regrets the movement when the area of her back where the Halo sits screams in protest. It’s nothing like the pain she recalls from before she blacked out—this is more of a sharp pain whereas the feeling from before was akin to a thousand-degree blade slicing through her skin. Ava imagines it felt much like what a lightsaber would feel like if Star Wars was real. 

“Fuck!” she hisses. 

Her second instinct, one that’s new and comes in the shape of a calm, steady voice in her ear, tells her to take stock of the situation. 

It’s hard to see much at all in the darkness with the only light source coming from the moonlight streaming in through the open window on the far side of the room, the breeze blowing softly and carrying with it a saltiness that can only come from the sea. 

She must be near the ocean. 

Her armor is gone, replaced by a pair of loose-fitting sweatpants and a cotton t-shirt. Ignoring the fact that someone had undressed her, Ava continues her observations. 

The room itself is fairly simple, she notices as her eyes adjust to the dark. It’s small and consists of the bed, a small little table with stuff littered across it, and a chair in the corner. 

A chair that is very much occupied. 

It takes Ava no time at all to recognize the familiar shape of Beatrice slumped over in the chair to her right, hair pulled back in a low bun with several strands escaping to frame her face, which is directed downward as she dozes. Much like Ava, she also appears to be dressed in civilian clothes. 

The sight alone is more than enough to put Ava at ease.

Beatrice is here, which means they must have made it. By the grace of God himself, Ava figures. Or she’s just racked up enough good karma in the recent months that the world let her have this. 

Settling back against the pillows, Ava decides that she needs to know that the others made it, too. Unfortunately, that means waking Beatrice up from her probably much-needed rest. 

“Bea…” Ava rasps, voice hoarse. She realizes how dry her throat is, so she clears it and tries again. “Beatrice!”

If the situation were different, Ava might’ve found the way Beatrice jumps from her chair in a tangle of limbs almost comical. However, she can only find it in herself to be relieved. 

Relieved that she's not alone. 

“Ava?” Beatrice is at her bedside in a second, blinking away any traces of sleep. Her arms reach out. To touch? To comfort? To make sure that Ava sitting there smiling dopily at her isn’t a mirage? Ava isn’t sure. Whatever she means to do, the nun stops herself before she actually makes contact. 

Ava has no trouble meeting her halfway.

"Hi," Ava breathes, lifting her arm to wrap her fingers around Beatrice's hand and squeezing it gently.

To make sure that this isn't some kind of fever dream. That Beatrice is really here. 

And she is. 

Ava feels the warmth of the other girl's skin, runs her thumb over the rough calluses that can only come from hours and hours of training and hard work. Her smile widens.

This is real. 

"Ava," Beatrice says again, fondly. She cups Ava's hand between her own and sits carefully on the edge of the bed, still leaving enough space between them. Ava briefly wonders if she's literally leaving room for Jesus when Beatrice asks, "How are you feeling?"

"Pretty sore," Ava admits, but since she can still feel anything at all, it's better than the alternative. So, she adds with a wink. "But I've had worse." 

"I'm not quite sure you have," Beatrice's tone takes on a hard edge and she squares her jaw. "Adriel nearly took the Halo and almost killed you to do it."

His name sends a cold chill down Ava's spine. 

Dark eyes and sunken cheeks haunt her on the backs of her eyelids when she blinks. Shaking the image away, she focuses on the matter at hand. 

"How did we get away?" she asks. 

Beatrice furrows her brows and stares at Ava for a moment in thought. "You…don't remember?"

Ava shakes her head. "Not really no." 

It's almost concerning when Beatrice smiles this reverent—almost giddy—smile that Ava's only seen when the nun was coaching her through the twenty feet of wall. Specifically when she caught Ava on the other side and cradled her in her arms for much longer than what would be considered friendly.

"You exorcised all of the wraith demons at once in these waves of blue light," Beatrice tells her, awe leaking into her voice. "It blasted them and Adriel quite literally off their feet. Not only did you save all of those people, but you saved us, too. I've never read that the Halo could do anything of the sort, but it did. For you. "

"Everyone's alright?" Ava doesn't know what she, or the Halo, did. Just needs to know that her friends all made it. 

"We're a little worse for wear at the moment, but everyone survived," Beatrice confirms. 

Ava hadn't noticed it before, but now that she's looking she can see the dark mark previously hidden by the shadows on Beatrice's cheek, a startling mixture between blue and purple, while a cut above her right eyebrow is held together with butterfly stitches, and a bandage wraps around her bicep. Can see how exhausted she looks. Her little chair in the corner couldn't have provided much comfort for a good night's sleep, Ava thinks.

"How long was I out?" Ava wonders as she reaches out to brush Beatrice's bruised cheek gently with the tips of her fingers.  

"Thirty-six hours," Beatrice reluctantly admits, allowing the contact. Ava swears the dark-haired warrior even leans more into the touch. 

Holy shit, Ava thinks, I was out for that long?

"Whatever you did with the Halo required a lot of time to recharge," continues Beatrice. "Much more than seven minutes. We drove for twenty hours straight until we reached a small beach town outside of Girona, Spain. Camila and I carried you up here and then she stitched up your back. This place belongs to someone Mary knows from before the OCS. It's completely off the books so neither Adriel nor Durretti should be able to find us while we're here." 

"That—that's good," Ava finds herself unable to tear her gaze from Beatrice's eyes—just so thankful that she's alive. That Mary, Lilith, and Camila are all alive. 

She's lifting her hand upwards to brush some of the other girl's dark brown hair behind her ear when the movement agitates the injury on her back. 

With a hiss of pain, Ava pulls her arm back so that she can press it into the bed and allow the wave of pain to pass, fisting the sheets. 

" Ava," Beatrice comes closer, obvious worry flooding her tone. Her hands hover over Ava's body, scared to touch her for a much different reason than before. Eventually, she comes to a decision and announces. "I'm going to get Camila, I'll be right back I promise."

"..." Ava can't get Beatrice's name out before she's gone, so she just bites her lip and sinks further back into the pillows as the wave passes and dulls to a more manageable throb. 

Camila hurries into the room not a full minute later, Beatrice hot on her heels. One of them flicks on the lamp on the bedside table and the entire room is illuminated. Blinking to adjust, Ava's not sure if she's ever seen the younger nun without her habit and her tunic. She's wearing an outfit similar to Ava's own with short, curly hair on full display. It suits her, Ava decides.

"Hello, Ava. It's good to see you awake," Camila, as usual, is the literal embodiment of human sunshine. "Beatrice says you're having some pain?"

"It's not that bad."

Ava tries to wave her off but Camila catches her wrist and presses two fingers into the skin there. 

"Ava," Beatrice admonishes her. "You were just writhing in pain." 

"I just moved too fast, that's all!" Ava doesn't want Beatrice to worry. Doesn't want any of them to worry about her. "Shouldn't I be healed by now? It's never taken this long to heal before." 

Camila lets Ava have her arm back. "We think it's because of the amount of power you used back at the Vatican. Paired with how close the wound on your back is to the Halo," she exchanges a glance with Beatrice, "that's why it's taking a bit longer to recharge and heal you. Beatrice? Can you help hold her up so that I can check her stitches?" 

Beatrice moves to the other side of the bed and gently places her hands on Ava's shoulder and her waist. "Apologies, Ava. I'll try to be as careful as possible."

Ava knows she will. "I trust you."

And she does. So much. 

Together, they maneuver Ava into a sitting position. She doesn't have to worry about much because Beatrice keeps her upright with strong hands while Camila carefully peels the dressings away with nimble fingers. 

It hurts, but Ava just bites her lip and toughs it out. 

Beatrice inadvertently draws her focus and simultaneously grounds her by rubbing her thumb in small circles on her shoulder. 

After a few moments of gentle prodding, Camila secures the gauze and the two nuns settle Ava back on the bed. 

The younger nun bites her lip, "Everything looks fine taking into account the slowed healing. It's still much further along than the average person, but your heart rate is a little high though," Camila informs them. "I can give you something for the pain, which will help you sleep a little longer and hopefully give the Halo enough time to do its job." 

"Like drugs?"

Camila giggles, " Medicine, Ava. I managed to get some morphine from a clinic we… stopped at along the way. Would you like some?"

Covering her mouth and letting out an exaggerated gasp, Ava asks, "You mean you stole supplies? Like without permission? I'm floored." 

Her jesting even coaxes a smile out of Beatrice, who shakes her head in fond exasperation.

"I think that's low on our list of misdeeds as of late," Beatrice points out. 

"Did you seriously blow up the Vatican for me?" Ava grins as she remembers Beatrice pulling her out of the rubble. 

Camila coughs. "The morphine?" 

"Um, I guess?" Suddenly, Ava feels nervous. The last time she was given a needle she woke up on a cold slab of metal in a church basement morgue. 

Sensing her hesitancy, Beatrice squeezes the shoulder that's still under her hand. "You don't have to, but it'll probably help you relax and Camila is very skilled in first aid." 

Ava closes her eyes and takes a deep breath. She opens them. "Okay, let's do it."

Beatrice nods to Camila, who grabs a small,  black bag from the ground and rifles through it until she finds what she needs, a small vial and a needle. 

"Now this will probably make you a little loopy," Camila warns as she measures out the dosage. "It'll also make you really tired. Ready?"

"As I'll ever be."

There's a brief cold feeling as Camila swipes a patch of skin on Ava's arm with an alcohol wipe. Beatrice is still providing a steady pressure on her shoulder and the younger sister warrior sticks her with the needle and administers the medicine. 

"You're going to start to feel it very soon," Camila informs her, putting the medicine back where she got it from. 

The hand on her shoulder disappears and a glass of water is held in front of her face. 

"Drink some," Beatrice urges. "Halo or not, we don't want dehydration to be your downfall." 

Ava takes the glass and brings it up to her lips, gulping down most of its contents greedily. The liquid soothes the dryness of her throat and she lets out an ahh. 

"Water you talking about Beatrice?" Ava chuckles. "Dehydration is not going to be the thing that gets me."

Beatrice and Camila exchange an amused glance over her head. 

"I think the morphine is working," Beatrice guesses, lips curving upwards in a soft smile. 

Ava thinks that Beatrice has a beautiful smile. That she should smile all the time because it lights up her eyes and makes Ava feel all warm and fuzzy inside. She misses whatever words are exchanged between the two nuns until Camila pats Ava's hand. 

"I'm really glad you're alright, Ava," Camila's voice is light, reminding Ava of bells. 

"Me, too."

Camila leaves and then it's just Ava and Beatrice. 

Ava is starting to feel really really heavy. Like her body weighs a thousand pounds. Or like she's trying to swim through molasses. She feels her muscles relax and her body sinks down further into the mattress. When she blinks, she finds it's even hard to keep her eyes open. 

"I should let you get your rest," Beatrice's quiet voice cuts through the haze and the light flicks off.

That drags Ava slightly back to the waking world. She doesn't want Beatrice to leave. Doesn't want to be left alone. 

"...stay," she slurs and sees Beatrice freeze. "Please."

"Okay," Beatrice says, "I'll stay." 

She moves to go back to her original post, the chair, but Ava manages to catch Beatrice's wrist with clumsy fingers before she can get far enough out of her reach. Despite Beatrice being perfectly capable of easily pulling out of Ava's grasp—even if she did have the Halo on her side—the other girl allows herself to be pulled to a stop. 


"The chair's… good," Ava mumbles, peering up at Beatrice with unfocused brown eyes. She manages to slide back several inches and pat the spot on the bed next to her twice and the movement saps just about the rest of the energy she has. "Room…on bed…f'both of us."

It's silent and Ava finds herself swaying back into sleep's comforting embrace, teetering on the edge of the darkness with every slow blink. 

Then, the bed is dipping under the weight of another body. Ava blearily opens her eyes again to see Beatrice lying opposite her, watching her with eyes that hold so much intelligence and emotion behind them that Ava has only brushed the surface of.

And she wants to know so much more. 

But right now Ava's slipping further into the realm of unconsciousness and can't fight it any longer. 

"G'night, Bea…" she says into the pillow. 

"Goodnight, Ava." 

Beatrice's soft accent curling around her name is the last thing Ava hears, the calm and steady sound wrapping around her and lulling her back to sleep. 

Hours later, Ava opens her eyes, and the first thing her mind registers is the distinct lack of pain pulsing through her back and down her spine. There's still a dull ache, but the Halo must be working its magic because Ava feels practically as good as new. 

It's still pretty dark out, although the sky is starting to lighten, so Ava guesses that it must be close to dawn. 

Yet that doesn't explain why she was so suddenly dragged into the waking world. 

Ava's wiping drool from the corner of her mouth when she realizes that the reason is lying right next to her. She watches as Beatrice turns abruptly on her side, hand coming up to claw at her pillow sluggishly. Opens her mouth to ask the other girl what's wrong when she figures out that Beatrice is asleep. 

Eyes closed, Beatrice's lips are pulled down in a frown, and a light sheen of sweat coats her forehead. There's a crease between her pinched brows, the worry line looking completely out of place on the usually smooth and worry-free skin. Her mouth moves, forming words, but no sound comes out. Ava isn't sure whether she should wake her up or just wait it out. Do you wake someone up from a nightmare? She doesn't know. 

Her decision is made when Beatrice lets out a soft, but seemingly pained, gasp. Unable to just sit back any longer, Ava tries calling out her name, but Beatrice is trapped in whatever dream she's currently having. 

It's not until Ava attempts to physically shake her awake that Beatrice reacts at all. 

"Bea," Ava urges, giving the nun's shoulder a gentle tug, which does the trick a little too well. 

Beatrice's eyes snap open almost immediately and one of her arms flies out to blindly strike the perceived threat with years of skill and training behind it. 

Having been blessed with fast reflexes by the ancient holy artifact embedded in her back, Ava's able to duck before a fist can nail her in the face. 

"Beatrice, it's okay, it's just me, Ava," the girl doesn't move to touch Beatrice again, just holds her hands up to prove that she doesn't mean any harm. Not that she could ever really hurt the Sister Warrior—whether on purpose or accidentally. Ava tries for a reassuring smile instead. 

Brown eyes blink and focus on the Halo Bearer, seeing her , and Beatrice's twitching muscles relax. Sitting up, the other girl leans forward to study Ava from head to toe, searching for something that only she is aware of. "Ava?" Worry leaks out into her tone. "Are you alright?" 

Assuming Beatrice means nearly nailing her with her fist, Ava grins and says, "I'm right as rain." 

Admittedly, Ava has absolutely no idea why that phrase is used to signify that someone is perfectly fine. It makes very little sense to her how rain can be right. What she does know is that her words and the visible confirmation puts Beatrice at ease. The tightness in her eyes disappears and her breathing returns to normal. But something about seeing Beatrice, strong and unshakable Beatrice, so vulnerable tugs at Ava's heart. Reminds her of being back at ARQ-Tech listening to Beatrice read from the journal.

"Are you okay?" Ava echoes Beatrice's question when the silence goes on for too long. "You were having a nightmare."

"I'm fine," Beatrice clears her throat.

"Do you…wanna talk about it?" Ava asks. 

Shaking her head, Beatrice gives her a small, but reassuring smile and says, "I don't really remember what it was about. I'm sure it was nothing." 

Unsure if she believes Beatrice's excuse, Ava still lets it go. Trying to force the skilled warrior to open up when she didn't want to was like trying to break through a concrete wall with only a plastic spoon. Ava's occasionally been able to either phase and or just smash right through them, but this isn't one of those times. She falls back against her pillow with a sigh.

"You seem to be feeling better," Beatrice observes. 

Ava stretches her arms experimentally, ignoring the slight soreness of her back. "Yeah, I'm pretty sure I'm just about recharged and ready to go!" 

"Why don't you just take it easy for today?" Beatrice suggests, tucking some stray hairs into her bun. "We aren't sure if there will be any lingering effects of utilizing so much of the Halo's power and we haven't been able to get in touch with Jillian Salvius, so there's no way to analyze the energy output changes or anything at all really and…" 

There's a loud gurgle that interrupts Beatrice's uncharacteristic rambling.

"Let's worry about breakfast for now," Beatrice says as she slips out from under the sheets and rolls out of bed. 


Now that her body is fully functioning again, Ava is hit by the sudden urge to go to the bathroom, the pressure on her bladder threatening to act if she doesn't voluntarily do so soon. 

"Um, Beatrice?" Ava's less graceful getting off the mattress, taking a bit longer to find her balance. "I might have to make a stop at the little girl's room on the way." 

"There's a bathroom down the hall," Beatrice tells her. "You'll find a toothbrush and whatever else you might need in there." She seems reluctant to leave. "I'll meet you downstairs?" 

"You got it, dude." 

Beatrice doesn't react to the Full House reference besides a slight furrow of her eyebrows. Ava vows to someday introduce the nun to all of the greatest things that pop culture had to offer because the number of references lost on her friends these days should be criminal. 

But first, the bathroom. 

She and Beatrice split off in the hallway, Ava going left toward the bathroom and Beatrice going to the right, presumably, to go down the aforementioned stairs. Ava finds the bathroom easily enough, relieves herself, and roots through the drawers for a toothbrush and some toothpaste. She then washes her face, puts some deodorant on, and attempts to run a brush through her hair. Once it's flattened enough, Ava shoots her reflection finger guns and slips back out into the hall. 

There's quiet chatter as Ava descends the stairs, turns the corner on the last couple of steps, and enters the kitchen. It's a pretty traditional space with an open floor concept and there's a glass door at the far end of the room that leads to a stretch of sand. No wonder she could smell the sea so strongly last night, the house must back right up to the ocean. 

Mary is the first one that Ava sees—mostly because she's leaning against the wall closest to Ava with a newspaper propped open. 

Seated at the table are Camila and Beatrice. The youngest nun is pouring over a tablet lying on the wooden surface with a look of intense concentration and a thoughtful frown. It's ironic because in the short time Ava's known the other girl, she's never seen her sit still for long without fidgeting. 

On the other hand, Beatrice is flipping through the Warrior Nun journal rather erratically, not lingering on any page in particular. It's almost as if she's searching for something specific. Ava has no idea what, but it must be important. 

And Lilith is… 


"I've got breakfast!"

"Son of a b—"

Lilith's sudden appearance scares the absolute shit out of Ava. She seemingly just appears into existence in the space behind the group's newest member, much like how she did back in the catacombs of the Vatican. Unlike the others, there's no sign of injury on her face or anywhere else, which Ava attributes to her newfound demon powers. More importantly, there's a brown bag dangling from her fingers that apparently holds food. 

"Well if it isn't Sleeping Beauty," Lilith drawls, an amused smirk tugging at her lips as she eyes Ava with her hand still placed over her heart in surprise. "I was wondering if you were ever going to rejoin the waking world." 

Mary pushes herself off the wall. "What Lilith means to say, is that we're glad to see you up and moving, kid." 

She puts the newspaper down and takes a seat at the table. Lilith places the bag she brought in the center and Ava slides into the seat next to Beatrice, peeking into the bag and seeing more than half a dozen ensaïmadas. 

"It's okay, Mary. I know that Lilith missed me," Ava pulls out one of the pastries and immediately takes a huge bite, cheeks puffing up like a chipmunk. 

Lilith mutters something under her breath that sounds like I wouldn't go that far. 

Before she can antagonize the woman any further, Camila draws her attention with a bright smile and a "good morning, Ava!"

Swallowing her food, Ava grins back at her. "Morning Camila. Whatcha working on?"

"Just checking some social media platforms to monitor what they're saying about the Vatican," Camila turns the iPad around so that Ava can see. It's got two different apps open and a bunch of different posts scattered across the screen. Ava pushed it back across the table. 

"And what are they saying?" she asks. 

"They're saying that there was an accidental explosion on a spot being worked on in the catacombs and that the resulting blast spread chemicals into the air that caused people to hallucinate," Mary explains, rolling her eyes. 

Lilith scoffed, "Of course, Duretti would rather the public be concerned about faulty construction instead of the actual threat of demons and possessions."

"I guess it's better than trying to come up with a reasonable enough explanation for the glowing girl levitating in the middle of the damn courtyard," Mary reaches for an ensaïmada and takes a bite.

"Wha?" Ava speaks through a mouthful of dough. "Ah gwowed? 

"Yeah," Camila nods, eyes wide. "It was one of the most amazing things I've ever seen! We were all overwhelmed, and then, suddenly, there was this magnificent light and then all of the possessed people just dropped to the ground at once." 

"I sound awesome. Do you think I could do it again?" Ava turns to look at the others with a curious grin. 

Finally, Beatrice shuts the journal and says, "Let's not jump into anything too soon. There's nothing in any of the previous Halo Bearer entries that depict a burst of power like the one you produced. Not even a small one such as what happened with Sister Crimson back at Cat's Cradle." Seeing the deflated expression on Ava's face, Beatrice adds, "I just think that you should take it easy for today and we can ease you into training and work on figuring out the extent of your abilities at the same time." 

Everything in Ava wants to argue. That they don't have any more time to waste with Adriel, Vincent, and probably even Duretti on their tails. That Ava's already got so much to work on and even a day could make the difference in their battle against evil. That the Halo's recharged and ready for them to try and unlock more of its secrets. 

But there's something in Beatrice's eyes, something almost like pleading, that has Ava agreeing to wait until the next day to pick things back up. 

"Yes ma'am!"

Beatrice is acting strange. 

It takes Ava a couple of days to realize the nun's behavior has changed from before the Vatican. 

It's not a complete personality change or anything. Beatrice isn't skipping around singing or being overly talkative. If that was the case, Ava's first thought would be that the other girl was abducted by aliens and replaced with an imposter. 

However, that's not the case. The changes in Beatrice are subtle, but worrying all the same.

The first thing Ava takes notice of is the fact the nun is spending a lot more time around her. Time that she could be spending doing other things like research or whatever else Beatrice likes to do.

While Mary has been meeting with contacts and gathering information and supplies, the other three women have split Ava's training up into different sections between themselves. Lilith decided she wanted to do combat, which Ava assumes is so she can kick the shit out of her without the others getting upset about it. Then, there's weapons with Camila, who is oddly terrifying when given the opportunity to show off her skills with guns, crossbows, and knives. And then there's trying to activate the Halo's powers with Beatrice. 

It starts with Beatrice tagging along to her combat training sessions with Lilith. 

She sits off to the side, out of their way, usually with the Warrior Nun journal and some other reference books spread out around her. Doesn't say much unless it's to warn Lilith to take it down a notch when she and Ava get a little too carried away.

Which happens a little more than what is probably necessary. 


“Damn, Lilith! Did you seriously have to rearrange my entire face?” Ava covers her nose in a poor attempt to stop the blood from gushing out of it. She had been just a second too late in dodging one of the woman’s flying fists and the force of the punch pushed her back flat onto her ass. 

“You should’ve been able to evade that hit easily,” Lilith tells her, yet helps Ava to her feet anyway. “But I do apologize, I didn’t mean to hit you that hard.” 

Ava doesn’t harbor any hard feelings. She understands the struggle of controlling her strength. Remembers the man that she threw across the bar with just a single tap. Like her, Lilith is learning how to control her abilities and doesn’t need Ava making her feel bad about it. 

“No sweat,” Ava attempts a smile, but the effect is likely ruined by the blood on her face. 

Beatrice, on the other hand, doesn’t seem to care if it was only an accident. She must've abandoned her books when Lilith's fist met Ava's face because she's there in an instant, pushing a sweat rag into Ava's free hand and rounding on the tallest of the three of them. 

"Seriously, Lilith? You're supposed to be teaching Ava, not giving her brain damage.”

“Calm down, Beatrice, it was an accident.”

“Hey,” Ava slips between the two posturing nuns, facing Beatrice and using the hand not currently stemming the blood flow to hold the girl’s elbow. “I’m okay, Bea. It was just an accident. Lilith didn’t mean it—and besides, I need to be able to take a hit if I’m ever going to beat Adriel,” she doesn’t miss the way the name causes Beatrice to flinch. “Anyway, it’s already healed. See?”

When she removes the rag, there’s no longer a steady stream of blood, just whatever’s already on her face. And although she can’t see her own face, there’s not even a bruise to show for it. 

Beatrice relaxes and Ava deems it safe enough to turn her body so that she can look at both of them. 

“I think that’s probably enough for today,” Lilith speaks, studying Beatrice with an odd expression before turning her gaze on Ava. “We can pick it back up again tomorrow. Good work today, Ava.” 

With one last glance at Beatrice, Lilith pivots and makes her way to the house, snagging the other towel and disappearing around the corner, leaving Ava and Beatrice to themselves. 

Fingers loop loosely around Ava’s wrist and Beatrice gently tugs her over to where she was originally sitting. 


Without another word, Beatrice takes her water bottle and pours a decent amount out onto another towel. She brings the wet fabric up to Ava’s bloodstained skin and wipes gently. Lightly, she drags it over the rest of Ava's face, down the slope of her nose, over the curves of her cheeks, across her chin, and carefully over her lips. It's done with such intense precision that the unknowing spectator would assume Beatrice was a skillful surgeon and not just cleaning off Ava’s face. 

For her part, Ava stays perfectly still, which is usually difficult for her because she has so much energy and so much time to catch up on. However, as Beatrice is finishing up, Ava feels the need to say something.

“I feel like this happens to us a lot.” 

“This?” Beatrice echoes.

“You know…me bleeding and you cleaning me up afterward,” Ava scrunches up her nose, not impressed with her phrasing. 

“I’d rather we didn’t make a habit of it,” Beatrice tells her, and something in her expression causes Ava’s demeanor to shift to something more serious. 

“I promise that I will try to the very best of my ability to not be stabbed, shot, or otherwise injured if I can help it,” Ava vows, holding her right hand up with the three middle fingers raised and her thumb holding down her pinky.

“Is that the Girl Scout salute?’ the nun raises an eyebrow. 


It definitely is. 

“Well,” Beatrice's lips quirk up. “I’m going to assume you were never a Girl Scout, but I appreciate the sentiment,” she pauses, “and I’m going to hold you to that. Now, help me with these books, so we can go see if Mary managed to acquire some divinium from her contact.”

It happens again when she’s going over weapons training with Camila. Ava successfully manages to quickly reload the pistol the younger girl handed her several times without fumbling with the clip. 

Ava’s preferred weapon of choice is the Cruciform Sword, of course, but knowing how to handle a multitude of weapons will come in handy, Beatrice had said. 

So, Camila and Ava have gone over numerous weapons and the best ways to use them, seeing which ones the Warrior Nun is naturally more skilled at using and which she may need more practice with. 

“I feel like freaking James Bond,” Ava announces, holding the empty weapon and ducking behind the wall. Popping her head back in and pointing the gun at the wall, she lowers her voice. 

“They call me Silva. Ava Silva.”

Camila giggles, but then stops when her eyes move to look at something over Ava’s shoulder.

In a flash, someone plucks the weapon from her fingers and places it back on the table with the rest of the things Camila has spread out. 

“This isn’t a game, Ava,” Beatrice says sternly. “Guns are weapons and should be treated as such. If you want to defeat Adriel, then you’re going to have to stop treating everything as a joke. ” 

It’s not the first time Beatrice has been a little harsh with her in the last couple of days. She hasn’t said anything, but Ava knows she’s not sleeping at night, purposefully walks the hall at night to see if she can see the light on down the stairs that Beatrice keeps on so that she can read. 

Ava knows that something is going on with Beatrice, but she can’t figure out what it is. If it’s something she’s done to upset her. 

Still, using Adriel is a low blow and Ava deflates as Beatrice finishes her lecture and moves on to sharpen some of her knives in another room. 

Ava turns her gaze back on Camila, who gives her a sympathetic smile. 

“Do you know what’s wrong with her?”

Camila shakes her head, "No, but she's been this way since the Vatican. I assume it has something to do with that? We didn't exactly win," she points out, "it was more of a stalemate." 

It's a good point. Beatrice is dedicated and hardworking, so she probably views anything less than a victory as a failure and maybe Beatrice doesn't handle failure well. Granted, Ava's never seen the warrior fail at anything. But it certainly would explain some of her recent worrying behavior. 

"She shouldn't worry because next time we're going to kick Adriel's ass all the way back to hell," Ava declares with certainty. 

"With that kind of confidence?" Camila says, "I don't doubt it." 

It isn't until she's trying to replicate the Halo's blast of power—albeit on a much smaller scale—that Ava finally figures out what's been going on with Beatrice. 

Well, she doesn't necessarily figure it out on her own as much as Beatrice practically spells it out for her.

"Nothing's happening." 

Ava cracks one eye open to look over at Beatrice, who's sitting directly across from her mirroring her position with her legs crossed, hands resting on her knees, and sitting tall with her eyes closed like Ava's are supposed to be right now. They've been at this for a while now and Ava's not sure how much longer she can sit so still. After lying in a bed most of her life, she never really wants to be still ever again. Always feels the need to be in motion and isn't sure whether that's just her or a side effect of the Halo humming inside of her. 

Beatrice says that meditation could help her to unlock the secrets of the ancient artifact, help her connect to it, and use it purposefully instead of accidentally. Only Ava can't clear her mind and she certainly doesn't have the discipline that Beatrice does to sit in one spot for hours on end without moving. 

So far all it’s doing is making Ava feel as if she’s suddenly going to vibrate out of her skin. 

“Meditation is a learned skill,” Beatrice doesn’t open her eyes. “You can’t expect it to work in only a day.”

Sighing, Ava forces her eyes shut and lets the tip of her tongue poke out of the corner of her mouth as she tries to concentrate. 

She makes it another five minutes. 

“This isn’t working,” Ava declares and pushes herself to her feet. 

Slowly, Beatrice opens her eyes and there’s a steeliness to her gaze that Ava isn’t used to. That’s never been directed at her. 

“It’s not working because you’re not giving it enough time, Ava.”

Ava feels a surge of defensiveness surface at the nun’s harsh tone. Seriously, what the hell is Beatrice’s problem? 

“I’m not sure if you’ve noticed, but time isn’t something we have a whole lot of,” she snaps. “Did you forget about the literal demon with a possessed army that’s trying to kill us?”

“Of course, I noticed,” Beatrice seems thrown by Ava’s attitude but her voice is firm as she stands as well. 

“Then why are you wasting time making us sit here when we could be working on something useful?” Ava demands. “We don’t know how the Halo works or if it’s even a holy weapon and not just a tool for evil . The only reason Adriel put it in Areala in the first place was to hide it from the Tarask, not to save her life.” 

Beatrice falters. “He told you that?” 

"No, he tried to pass himself off as an angel," Ava bitterly recounts the events in the tomb. Something she hasn't done other than a glossed-over rendition to the rest of the team. "But when he touched me, I saw flashes of him and Areala. Memories. He only gave up the Halo to save himself. We can't trust it. What if it ultimately listens to him over me?"

Uncertainty coats her every word and Beatrice visibly softens in front of her. 

"But Ava don't you see? You've already used the Halo against him. Whatever you did at the Vatican hurt Adriel. Enough for us to get out of there," the dark-haired girl says softly. 

"I didn't do anything, it just happened!" 


"And it probably only hurt him because he's been trapped in a tomb for centuries.

"I don't—" 

"Fuck! How in the hell am I supposed to—"

"Ava," Beatrice touches her elbow to physically catch her attention. "The Halo."

Ava's about to snap something along the lines of yeah what about it when she feels it. 

There's a fiery heat spread out against the upper half of her back, familiar in its feeling as Ava's experienced it almost every time she's phased. Except instead of the usual steady hum that the Halo emits, this sound is irregular. Pulsing. Is in sync with her heaving breaths while she tries to suck in the air she deprived herself of during her rambling. 


Then she remembers what Beatrice said to her after she woke up at Cat's Cradle for the first time, recently brought back to life and scared out of her mind.

"It's reacting to your emotions." 

She remembers levitating over the bed, then phasing through the mattress and her restraints, and the unintentional blast of power from the Halo that knocked Beatrice and Lilith off their feet. Remembers never feeling as afraid as she did when she saw Beatrice and the others being overwhelmed by the possessed at the Vatican and letting out a pained scream as scalding heat tore into her back before everything went black. 

"You said it before," Ava lifts her gaze to meet Beatrice's. "That the Halo reacts to my emotions." 

"That's correct," Beatrice says slowly like she’s not sure what point Ava is trying to make.

“Then why are we spending all this time meditating? That seems like the exact opposite of what we should be doing?”

“Because if you want to be able to use the Halo, you have to be able to control it,” Beatrice retorts. 

“Did you forget the part where I phased through twenty feet of solid rock?"

"Adriel almost killed you, Ava!" 

Whatever words are about to fall from Ava's lips are sucked back down in a sharp inhale when Beatrice's voice raises to almost a near shout. Stunned at the outburst, Ava stands there with her mouth slightly open, eyes flicking over the other girl's face before landing on glossy brown eyes. 

Is Beatrice about to cry?

Ava recalls the moment in the library where Beatrice had opened up to her and the helplessness she felt as the nun wiped away tears. 

"He was cutting the Halo out of you and there was nothing I—we could do to stop him. None of us could get to you. We could only listen to you screaming as it happened," Beatrice closes her eyes, and Ava wonders if she's holding back her tears, reliving the memory, or both. She takes a deep steadying breath and opens her eyes. "Do you remember when I told you that we would never leave you?"

"I think you said even if I was covered in boils?" Ava tells her. 

"And that's still true. We aren't going to leave you, but you can't leave us either," Beatrice is as vulnerable as Ava's ever seen her as she reaches out a trembling hand to ever so gently clasp her fingers around Ava's wrist. "You can't leave me, either." 

Finally, it clicks.

Beatrice isn't upset about their retreat from the Vatican at all. Her recent tyrant-like behavior doesn't stem from a perceived failure and preventing it from happening again. It's been to train her as quickly as possible to prepare her as best as they can for whatever comes next. Beatrice isn't upset with Ava at all—she's worried for her. 

Beatrice is afraid of losing Ava. 

Her body moves before her brain catches up and uses Beatrice's grip on her arm to tug the warrior into her embrace. Ava winds one arm around Beatrice's neck while the other weaves between the nun's elbow and side to rest her hand on the middle of her back. Their slight height difference means Ava can rest her chin comfortably on the taller girl's shoulder. 

There's a moment when Beatrice stiffens up, arms hanging at her sides that's eerily familiar to when Ava first hugged her in tears after Mother Superion called her unworthy of the Halo. Only this time, it's Ava doing the comforting and not the other way around. 

Yet it's over just as quickly because Beatrice physically melts into the hug, arms coming up to clutch at Ava so tightly that it's slightly difficult to breathe. 

But Ava doesn't care and allows herself to sink into the now familiar clean scent of the generic soap they've all been using from the house and the inviting warmth created by the embrace. She'd let Beatrice squeeze all the air out of her lungs if it made her feel the tiniest bit better. 

"I won't," Ava promises as they stand there, holding each other. "I won't leave you." 

Beatrice doesn't reply, just continues to hold onto her. They stay that way for several long moments just holding on to one another. Ava waits until Beatrice starts to pull away to loosen her grip. 

However, she doesn't go very far because although Beatrice's hands slide from her back, they don't leave her body entirely. Instead, they follow the length of Ava's arms down to her hands, leaving a trail of goosebumps in their wake before tangling her fingers together with Ava's. 

The sight of their entwined hands sends Ava's heart into overdrive—or at least that's how she hears it in her head. 

Ba-dum. Ba-dum. Ba-dum. 

Ava knows Beatrice is very particular about physical displays of affection, preferring a grounding hand on the shoulder to offer comfort or praise rather than hand holding. Doesn't know if it's because of her parents or something else.  

Ba-dum. Ba-dum. Ba-dum.

Brown meets brown as Ava lifts her stare up from their hands to Beatrice's eyes and nearly tips backward at the intense swirl of emotions she finds in them. 

Ba-dum. Ba-dum. Ba-dum

Unconsciously, she feels herself leaning closer and she really hopes she's right about this because the only experience she has is JC and he and Beatrice couldn't be any more different and she thinks that Beatrice is also leaning in but that could just be the lack of oxygen to her brain from the hug so Ava thinks fuck it and decides to go for it before—

"Hey, you two, lunch is ready!"

…something interrupts them. 

Mary's voice is like a bucket of ice water being dumped over their heads, snapping them out of the moment with a cold splash. They're separated before the woman has even finished her sentence, but it's mostly Beatrice that does the moving. Ava's still wrapped up in the quiet brunette's orbit and has to wobble for balance when her steadying hold leaves her. 

Whatever it was that was about to happen is over just like that, the moment is gone along with the breeze blowing gently along the water's edge. 

Ava thinks about it for the rest of the day, playing back the interaction and the conversation leading up to it. As she lay in bed that night, she has to resist the urge to march down the hall to Beatrice's room and just plant one on her. Realistically, she knows that's a terrible idea because Beatrice might push her away if the situation isn't right. 

No, this needs a more delicate touch. 

And, suddenly, Ava's got an amazing idea. 

It takes a little convincing to get Mary to agree to her plan. Camila is on board from the get-go and Lilith only agrees to keep Beatrice distracted enough with an intense sparring session if Ava can get her to "stop breathing down our necks" which Ava guarantees, so she really needs this to work. 

"You want to use the money we have for food and supplies to buy Beatrice, what, a souvenir?" Mary's irked stare screams skeptical and Ava should explain this better. 

"That's not—It's not a souvenir!" Ava denies. "She's been really worried for… reasons and I think this will make her feel better." 

Mary's quiet contemplation as she eyes the Halo Bearer is unnerving and Ava shifts her weight multiple times as she waits for her to speak. Eventually, Mary sighs and shakes her head in mock exasperation—because Ava knows Mary has a soft spot for her. For all of them, really.

"Fine, let's go get your girl some jewelry," Mary moves over to a decorative side table in the entryway and grabs some banknotes from inside a drawer. "I swear the two of you are so lovesick it's disgusting." 

"What? We're not lovesick!" Ava exclaims as she follows Mary out the door. 

"Please," Mary leads them down the cobblestone road toward the center of the small town. "You two are so obsessed with each other that you're the only ones that can't see it."

Ava latches onto the implication of that statement like a dog with a bone. 

"Beatrice likes me?"

Sure, Ava's been infatuated with Beatrice since she sat next to her during that first meal at Cat's Cradle. Beatrice didn't treat her like a burden when she could barely hold her sword correctly and believed in her when she said she could phase through twenty feet of rock when she could barely phase through a foot without getting stuck. 

When she made it all the way through the first time in the ARQ-Tech lab, Beatrice was right there to catch her. Ava can still recall the way the other girl held her tenderly and gently stroked the side of her head as they knelt on the floor, gazing at her softly as she caught her breath.

Then, Shannon told her that she could potentially destroy what they thought was a relic in Adriel’s tomb and her first thought was that the cycle of Warrior Nuns could end with her. Nobody else would have to die. Not Lilith, not Mary, or Camila. 

Not Beatrice.

But she never got the impression that the mature and skilled warrior felt anything for her other than friendship until their almost-kiss the other day.

“Girl blew up the Vatican for you,” Mary deadpans. “Beatrice has the strongest sense of duty of anyone I’ve ever met and she went against everything she believed in because she believes in you more. If that's not love then I don't know what is.” Ava's too stunned to respond and Mary nudges her with her shoulder. "Now hurry up. If we take too long she's going to notice you're missing."

Ava finds exactly what she's looking for in a small jewelry shop tucked away on the edge of the town square. 

The piece of silver is beautiful because of its pure simplicity. Meaningful without being flashy. It screams Beatrice without having to scream at all in its quiet elegance. The jeweler, an older man with a scruffy beard and kind eyes, offers to set a stone in the center of it, something that'll draw the eye, but Ava just politely declines, telling him that she has something in mind back home. She gives him the appropriate amount of euros, takes the small velvet drawstring bag that contains her purchase, and thanks the gentlemen. 

Mary opted to stay outside and wait for Ava under the guise of needing to make a call. She’s leaned up against the stone wall next to the shop’s display window and raises a brow in silent question when Ava gets close enough. 

Holding up the cloth pouch in one hand in a little 'tada' motion, Ava answers the question without words. Then, she hands over the change from the purchase. Mary eyes her for a breath before taking it and tucking it into her pocket. 

It’s unsettling how Ava can’t decipher her expression.


“This is sappy as shit, and if you tell the others I said this I’ll deny it,” Mary gives her a warning glare to emphasize her point, though it only lasts for a beat. “But you and Beatrice are really good for each other. You’ve cracked open her nearly impenetrable exterior and brought life back into her.”

“I did?” 

Ava doesn’t know the Beatrice from before, yet she’s seen with her own eyes the transformation in the other girl from their interactions of just exchanging polite and somewhat stiff conversation to exchanging puns and completely trusting one another. Realizes that she’s been slowly chipping away at Beatrice's heart, worming her way inside and taking up residence. 

Mary’s expression turns contemplative and slightly wistful. “Shannon always used to try and get her to loosen up, to be more than just her duties and training and live a little, but she never got very far. You’ve been here all of five minutes and she’s happier than I’ve ever seen her.” She gives Ava a teasing smile, “And she’s managed to turn you from a thick-skulled kid into a leader worth following.”

It’s high praise from Mary who doesn’t offer compliments lightly and it stuns Ava. 

She isn’t sure how to respond. Thank you seems like not enough, but Ava doesn’t think the woman would appreciate the physical gesture. 

“We’re going to stop them,” she decides on. “Vincent and Adriel. For Shannon, and Areala, and anyone else who’s died because of this fight. I swear, Mary. We will."

"I know we will," Mary claps her on the shoulder and squeezes with a little more pressure than necessary. "Because we've got you, kid."

Ava doesn't cry.

But if she did it would be perfectly acceptable and not at all embarrassing. 

It's a lot harder to melt divinium into a specific mold and meld it to the silver pendant she bought than Ava originally anticipates.

The piece of divinium they'll use is from one of Camila's crossbow arrows that broke in half during their hasty exit from Rome. There's more than enough for the task and the rest of it can be repurposed into a divinium bullet or two.  

Mary and Lilith take Beatrice on a 'supply run' to the furthest market in town and promise to keep her busy for at least a couple of hours. 

Ava and Camila watch several YouTube DIY videos before they're semi-confident that they have an idea of what they're doing—it's mostly Camila who understands the mechanics of what they'll be doing being their weapons expert. Essentially, Ava just understands they'll be melting the rare metal and changing its shape to fit the ovalish divot in the pendant's center. 

The longest part of the process is waiting for the divinium to completely melt, which is actually pretty awesome to watch as Ava's closeness to it means that it maintains a steady blue glow. 

"You're doing a really lovely thing," Camila's soft voice joins the sound of the crackling fire. 

Turning away from the fireplace, 

"Oh—uh thanks," Ava fiddles with the mold they made, glancing up briefly to see the young nun's gentle smile and the earnestness in her dark eyes, and feels the urge to continue. "I just hope that it'll make Beatrice feel better."

"It will," Camila's optimism is infectious. "I'm sure of it."

Ava ducks her head, "It seems a little conceited now that I'm thinking about it. Kinda like I'm making it all about me." 

Frowning, Camila studies the bright blue liquid in front of them. "I don't see it that way," she says. "There could be a number of ways to interpret it, but the way I see it, the divinium is connected to the Halo, which is a part of you. It's like you're giving Beatrice a part of yourself and that's beautiful." 

"Huh," Ava says, lips curving upwards in thoughtfulness. "That's better than what I was thinking. Thanks, Cam." 

"You're welcome," Camila grins back.

At least until her gaze trails over the fire.

"Oh! I think it's ready!" she jumps to her feet and hurries over to the makeshift forge, slipping on some heavy-duty work gloves as she goes. Carefully, she plucks the small metal casting ladle with the completely melted divinium in it. "You got your gloves?"

Ava holds up her gloved hands and wiggles her fingers.

It's her job to hold the mold while Camila pours the liquefied divinium into it. Ava keeps it steady as the molten liquid is poured inside. They'll have to wait for it to cool before they can set the divinium onto the pendant. 

After they finish and clean up their mess, Ava removes the newly reshaped—and still glowing—piece of divinium from the mold and sets it into the divot on the smooth surface of the necklace. It's a perfect fit and both girls admire the finished product of their hard work. 

"Wow," Ava breathes.

"It's beautiful," Camila says at the same time.

It takes two days for Ava to work up the courage to give Beatrice the necklace.

Throughout the entirety of those two days, she keeps it in one of her pockets at all times, waiting for the right moment to give it to the other girl. It feels impossibly heavy as Ava carries it around almost as if it's reminding her of its presence. 

As if she could forget. 

The whole time they've been here she's had so many moments with Beatrice, and suddenly, it's like she can't find a single second alone with her. And it's not for lack of trying. Ava tries on multiple occasions to pull her away from planning their next move with Mary, or translating ancient texts with Lilith or Camila. Has to ignore the knowing glances from the other three every time they're in the same room together. Yet, she doesn't push or insist because she's secretly terrified of rejection. That Beatrice will think the gift is weird or that she'll reject it. Reject her.

It isn't until the third day that Lilith corners her in the garden, drags her through the house, and practically shoves her out the back door where Beatrice is going through a series of martial arts stances, one after another flowing so seamlessly into the next that it appears almost like a dance. 

Ava hears the lock click behind her and scoffs at Lilith's childish action. 


While Ava had been distracted with glaring at Lilith through the glass, Beatrice must have heard the door and Ava's resulting derisive sound. 

She spins in time to see the brunette take a drink from her water bottle. The afternoon sunlight hits just the right spot to illuminate the beads of sweat dripping down the column of her throat and—now is really not the time to be gawking, Ava. 


"Did you need something?" Beatrice inquires.

"Oh, uh," Ava tucks her hands into the back pockets of her shorts. Her fingers brush against the jewelry bag and she remembers why Lilith shoved her out there. Well, now's as good a time as any, she guesses. "Actually, there was something I wanted to…um, give you."

Beatrice draws her eyebrows together, the space between them wrinkling as her head tips slightly to the side in blatant bewilderment. Like nobody has ever given her anything ever. That thought tugs viciously at Ava's heartstrings and the feeling urges her to take several steps closer. 

"You do?" Beatrice finally settles on, still seeming unsure. 

"Yeah," Ava nods quickly. 

Fumbling with her hands, she pulls the small black pouch from her pocket. Thankfully, the fabric is so thick that the divinium glow is hidden within, otherwise, Beatrice would immediately have an idea of its contents. 

Slowly, she holds it out to the other girl with a nervous smile. Beatrice hesitantly accepts it, their fingers brushing momentarily, and Ava briefly wonders if her tentativeness is because she thinks it's some kind of prank. 

"I made it," Ava finds herself explaining. "Well, the others helped, but… yeah." 

Brown eyes flick between the pouch and Ava's earnest face before Beatrice carefully peels open the little bag. Once it's no longer sealed, the familiar soft blue glow of the otherworldly metal emits from the opening. Ava watches as the nun's confusion deepens and her curiosity gets the better of her, tipping the contents into her open palm. 

The silence that follows as Beatrice stares at the necklace is suffocating. 

From her position, Ava can't see the expression on Beatrice's face, so she just shifts her weight anxiously as she waits for a reaction of any kind as the taller girl runs a finger over the pendant.

It's a simple cross, about two inches or so in length. Four more lines of silver connect along the center to make a diamond shape. Inside of the diamond is where the divinium is set, brightly illuminated at Ava's proximity. It's hanging off a long chain that she'd picked specifically so it could be kept under Beatrice's clothes or armor. 

"You made this for me?" 

Beatrice speaks so quietly that Ava can't discern her tone. 

"I know that you've been worrying about a lot lately, and after we had that conversation the other day, I got to thinking," Ava rambles. She does that when she's nervous. "I know I can't magically fix all our problems, but I can do one thing: give you a little bit less to worry about. I figure, if you have this, then you'll always know when I'm nearby, and if I'm not, it'll be like we're still together because of the Halo's connection to the divinium and to me—ugh this sounded so much better when Camila said it," she tips her head back to look up at the sky in hopes that God will just smite her right then and there.  

Just as she's thinking she fucked everything up, there's a flurry of movement in front of her. 

She doesn't even have time to tilt her head back down before Beatrice's body collides with hers, eliciting a soft oof from the sudden impact. 

Beatrice's fingers dig almost uncomfortably into Ava's skin as she clutches onto her. Ava doesn't really mind. In fact, she'd gladly let Beatrice do this forever if it meant she got to keep touching her. 

"No one's ever made me anything before." 

If the whispered admission doesn't break Ava's heart, then the realization that Beatrice's shoulders are shaking because she's crying definitely does. 

"Well that's their loss," Ava's not sure exactly who she's referring to. Beatrice's parents, the people she grew up with, or her boarding school classmates. Nevertheless, she vows, "I would make you a million things, Bea." 

The watery laugh Beatrice lets out echoes in Ava's ears. She's trying to commit the sound to memory when she feels Beatrice begin to pull away. 

But the nun doesn't go far at all.

She separates them just enough so that they aren't tangled together, cups Ava's jaw with both hands, and tips her chin upwards to catch her lips in a fervent kiss. 

And Ava's only ever kissed JC, but somehow she knows that no one will ever compare to Beatrice's pillowy lips pressed against her own, noses brushing, and one of her thumbs stroking Ava's cheek as they move against each other, trying to learn this new dance between them. Her hands come up to rest on the other girl's shoulders to steady herself. The Halo's hum in the background sounds almost like a pleased purr. 

Soon enough—too soon, if you ask Ava—they part for air. 

They stand there catching their breaths with their foreheads pressed together and eyes locked in a beautiful mixture of various shades of brown. 

Ava sees the tear tracks running down Beatrice's face, can't help herself, and drops a tender kiss on each of her cheeks. 

"You know," Ava nudges Beatrice's nose with her own. "When I pictured our first kiss, you weren't crying." 

"So, you've thought about this before?" Beatrice's warm breath on her face is slightly distracting. 

"Like you haven't," Ava retorts. 

"Are you thinking about it right now?" Beatrice hums. "Because I'm thinking about it." 

"Maybe," Ava teases before kissing Beatrice again. 

"You know the others are probably watching us and saw the whole thing, right?" Beatrice's question earns a loud cackle from Ava, who nods gleefully. 

"I'd be kinda disappointed if they weren't."