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Age to Age and Heart to Heart

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When destiny finally remembers to come calling for Beau, it's not exactly subtle. It's her birthday, for one, and for two it's literally a call. Like, on her phone. It's Fjord, specifically, and she's holding a bottle of wine she hasn't managed to open yet and hovering over Tori's message history while she contemplates a birthday hookup.

 

She decides to take it as a sign.

 

"Hey cap'n."

 

"Heya, Beau." She knows right away something's up, namely because the correct response to "cap'n" is "first mate" even if they're too old for that shit. If she plays, he plays. And with him, she usually plays.

 

"Spill."

 

He laughs ruefully. "I was going to do a checkup first, some small talk - you know that thing people do when they get along and they're not you and Caleb?"

 

She smiles to herself a little; she can't help it. "I don't have a dog to report on, weather's great, job's a job, I know you're calling because it's my birthday even though you're too smart to say it out loud. Miss anything?"

 

"Just the part where you check with the other person, but it's fine. I know who I'm talking to."

 

She huffs just loud enough for him to hear and keeps eyeing her wine. She gets a weird feeling she's not cracking it tonight. "So hit me, dude. What's up."

 

"What's your weekend look like?"

 

She blinks. "I mean. It's a weekend and I work in law. Drink tonight, gym tomorrow, existential dread on Sunday. Loads of potential for questionable decisions in the cracks. You're not in my yard with Jester and a ball pit are you?"

 

She hears a giggle and a "Hi, Beau!" come from the background.

 

"Hey, Jes."

 

"We're not in your yard," says Fjord, "but I was wondering if you might like to come to mine for a couple of days."

 

"The camp?" Dread begins to tingle in the back of Beau's mind, not quite in her body yet. "Is something up?"

 

He sighs heavily. "Jonesy had a heart attack a few months back. He pulled through, but he's in no position to run things anymore. We barely pulled off this year, and that's because most everything was already handled before camp start."

 

It clicks. "You're worried it'll close."

 

"There's options, but yeah. That's the worry. I was kind of hoping I could convince you to come out for a couple nights, bring Caleb if you can pry him off whatever project he's working on these days. Jes'll be with me, and of course Caddy still lives there. I know it's short notice, but I'm happy to cover you and Caleb getting here. Way back's free, obviously."

 

Beau glances out at the early evening light spilling through her neighborhood, imagines all the brick and metal replaced with trees and no AC. She thinks about her weekend of nothing, then she thinks about camp and maybe calling in Monday just for the hell of it. "Yeah okay. Don't worry about covering us. I got it. Am I bringing snacks?"

 

There's a relief in his voice Beau can't quite place and makes a mental note to check on later. "There's stuff leftover here to make for memory's sake, but I wouldn't say no to the kind of beverage we're not allowed to keep around the kids."

 

"You got it. I'll pack a bag and bully Caleb and let you know when we're on our way." Whatever he's doing, he'll come.

 

"Fantastic. Thank you. See you in a bit."

 

"Thank you?" But he's already hung up. Definitely weird.

 

She calls Caleb while she's digging for her gym clothes and dumping stuff in a duffel bag, and after a little back and forth sniping he agrees to meet up at the circle in half an hour. "And bring your own damn pillow," she jibes.

 

He snorts in a convincing show of aggravation. "One time, Beauregard. I shared your pillow one time, and you offered."

 

"Mm." She tosses in a folded top sheet. "Why was that again?"

 

*YEAR TWO, DAY THREE*

 

Beau pushes the light on the watch she got for Christmas and sighs heavily. Eleven PM and she's exhausted, but she can't sleep. Tomorrow's too exciting.

 

A sniffle catches her attention from the bunk to her left, and Beau turns her head to find the boy with the faded clothes curled up on his side, head pillowed on his arm and misery pouring from his body language. He's one of the homesick ones, a concept Beau doesn't understand. Home is boring and awful, and camp is fun.

 

"Hey," she whispers across the three feet between them. "Why are you crying?"

 

The shadow of him scrubs an arm over an indistinct face and curls up tighter. Fjord would be the better person to deal with a crying boy, but he's fast asleep below her and bad at being quiet besides. Or too good at being heard, but the difference doesn't register yet with her.

 

She sticks her foot out as far as she can and nudges the boy's mattress. "I know you're awake. Where's your pillow?"

 

Another sniff, then: "I gave it to the girl who wet the bed. Leave me alone."

 

Beau blinks. She doesn't know the full implication of words like "autistic" or even "kindness" but she has a loose grasp of "pretty sure this boy isn't going to sleep without his pillow" and "that means sniffling all night," which makes it her problem too.

 

She nudges his mattress again. "Move over."

 

That gets his attention. "Wass?"

 

She shushes him, softly. "Just do it."

 

"Why?"

 

It takes all of her self-control not to smack him with the pillow. "Because you can't have mine but you have to sleep so I can sleep."

 

A pause. "I can cry more quietly."

 

The pillow makes a soft impact when she gives in and chucks it at his head, and she's moving carefully between their bunks in the dark already. There's a little light from a lamp outside, but the world is mostly shadows and suggestions as Beau balances between the two beds and shifts quickly to his. There's a teeth-jarring squeak and she freezes, but the snoring and breathing sounds go on without interruption but for someone turning over in their own bunk across the way.

 

Beau lets out a sigh of relief and remembers the boy when he scoots sideways as tentatively as he can - which also feels loud, because the mattresses all have a rubber sheet on them for incidents like the girl using Caleb's pillow had tonight.

 

Beau pushes him over a little more and settles in on her back. They're still shoulder to shoulder in the already-stifling warmth of the cabin, but she's made her bed so to speak. She's not going back. Besides, it's kind of thrilling to break a rule for good reasons. Even if she got caught, nobody could get too mad.

 

The boy whispers into the dark. "I did not think you were nice."

 

Beau scowls. "Why not?"

 

He shrugs a little. "You are…eh, bossy?"

 

By the time Beau is old enough to understand that bossy and nice are not mutually exclusive, she will have long ago lost the inclination to be seen as the second. But she's still a kid, and the world is split very evenly between nice and mean. Bossy is mean, and Beau is offended. "Am not."

 

He seems like he's going to argue, but then he doesn't. Soon after, she realizes he's fallen asleep.

 

She finds out the next day that his name is Caleb, and that he is as loyal as he is belligerent - a fact that is still as true for him as it is for her thirteen years later as he sighs at her question and dodges it neatly.

 

"I will see you in half an hour, as promised."

 

Beau grins as the call drops, feeling suddenly lighter as the reality of what she's doing hits her. She's going back to camp. She's going to see her friends all in one place for the first time in more than a year. Even if it's just for a couple of nights, camp is a place that lives in her memory as a balm - the place where troubles went to die for a little while and magic was real.

 

More real, anyway. Real enough to spawn countless legends and stories meant to excite and to soothe by turns, and Beau has to resist getting lost in the memories as she rushes to call an Uber and throw on more comfortable shoes. She can change when she gets there, no big deal.

 

Beau's standing next to Caleb in the teleportation chamber when she remembers she forgot to text Fjord and tell him they're coming.

 

"Shit."

 

The runes light up as Caleb glances at her, and they're gone.

 


 

They leave their things in the Director's cabin for the time being and wander out to search for the others, who aren't waiting for them because Beau's an idiot. She'd call now, but cell reception is fuck all out here; Fjord would have called her from the landline. At least they're both wearing sensible shoes, or as sensible as Beau keeps around these days. Caleb's pulled an old pair of boots from somewhere, but the rest of his clothes are fairly recent as a result of his tenure-track position at the university. Beau would know - she was there when he bought them.

 

"Check the lake?" He suggests when the cabins and the event center turn up nothing.

 

Beau shrugs. "Weird time to go canoeing, but stranger things have happened. We can try the pool on the way back up the circuit."

 

The path is the same worn dirt Beau remembers, wide and friendly and chattering with the familiar sounds of a summer evening growing up. The cicadas and the frogs are absolutely deafening, and Beau keeps an eye out for snakes even though the chances of them coming anywhere near here the same day the kids left are nil.

 

Almost nil. This is the first place she ever saw a copperhead, after all. Scared the hell right out of Fjord, but the other girl they'd run with had been fascinated. Caduceus's niece.

 

Wow, there's a memory.

 

She turns to Caleb. "Hey, you remember Yasha?"

 

He snorts. "Ja, inasmuch as the two of you ever stayed with the group."

 

"Hey, we had places to be. Frogs to catch. Games to play."

 

"Games that involved kissing?" He's smirking at her, puts his hands up in defense when she glares at him. "I said I wouldn't tell and I never did."

 

Beau's face feels like it should be hot, but mostly it feels important that she set him straight. So to speak. "It really was though. Like yeah I turned out gay as hell and that's definitely like. Early signs for five hundred, Alex, but it wasn't like that." She kicks an errant pebble off the path, hands shoved in her pockets. "Mermaids gotta kiss you so you can breathe underwater. Everyone knows that."

 

"And you were never the mermaid," Caleb muses, finger to his chin. "Early signs..."

 

He's already chuckling and it turns to laughter when she shoves at his shoulders. "I will absolutely throw your ass in this lake, you dick."

 

She won't and he knows she won't, but she wonders if a small part of him kind of wishes she would, too. It's probably just her.

 

"I would have killed for that much imagination as a child," says Caleb when they've lapsed again into silence. There's nobody at the docks, so they're following the shore now up towards the pool. "I remember thinking if it were possible to grow and be a professional Tarzan, you would."

 

She laughs without humor. "More of a 'George of the Concrete Jungle' but sure." Thinking about the path she took and the one she's on makes her yearn a little more for the alcohol stashed up the hill in Fjord's fridge than she'd like, so she turns her thoughts back to the memories of the lake and squats to pick out a few pebbles. Round as she can find, two white and one black.

 

Caleb's paused behind her, shielding his eyes against what's left of the evening sun coming at them through the trees. "I think I see them at the pool."

 

"Damn," Beau comments, getting to her feet and rattling the pebbles into an old, familiar hold. "Should've changed. Oh well, we've got tomorrow." She chucks a white pebble, then the black, then the other white, and a couple seconds pass before she realizes she's holding her breath. She exhales and smiles crookedly out over the water, hands returning to her pockets.

 

"Kinda wish I could still imagine like that too," she says as they start walking again. "Those games, this camp, that girl…got me through shit I didn't even know I was dealing with."

 

Caleb nods quietly. "Are you…dealing with shit you do realize these days?"

 

She snorts. "I think I'm probably just dealing with the idea of like…this is it. I've arrived, got my prestigious job and now I'm in it for the next whatever."

 

"A lot of people would call that stability."

 

Beau shrugs. "I dunno, doesn't feel like you need stability if you can work with change. Trick is to keep moving, and I'm not sure when I stopped." She looks around. "Definitely way after this place."

 

Caleb chuckles. "Funny. I found much comfort in the structure and routine of this place."

 

She grins at him. "So I was good for you."

 

"You were predictable in your unpredictability."

 

"Piss off." She goes to knock her shoulder against his, but he leans away with a shit-eating grin.

 

"Predictable," he teases, and predictably she chases him all the rest of the way to the pool as the sun sinks lower in the horizon. Unnoticed among the exuberant shouts in greeting, a cool and insistent gust springs from nowhere to briefly expose the pale bellies of the leaves all around before receding into the disguise of a quiet evening breeze.

 

Two hours later finds the five of them inside the event center swapping stories and eating grilled burgers off foam plates, squabbling over chip flavors and laughing. Beau can't help but be fascinated by Caduceus; he seems so old in her memories, and yet he's hardly changed at all and feels exactly their age. She definitely doesn't remember him being such a shit, and it's a long while before she finds a good place to ask the question on her mind since the lake.

 

"Hey Caddy, how's your niece?"

 

He smiles, and again the world around Beau seems to hold past and present in the same view. If she turns her head too quickly, she might find herself snapping out a daydream at thirteen to return to a room full of chattering peers and the clean exhaustion of a day spent running nonstop. "I think she's doing alright." Caduceus's voice locks her back in to the present with a start, but if he notices her odd state he doesn't let on. "Traveling around, maybe looking a little to find herself. She stops in every now and then to say hello and have a good meal."

 

"That's great," says Beau, but it's reflex. Traveling to find herself. It sounds nice in theory, but it's such a mundane, normal answer. Why's that leaving her feeling a little deflated? "It's just Caleb and I were talking about her earlier, how we'd usually end up ditching everyone to go play by ourselves."

 

Caduceus's eyes are always soft, but they seem to get softer now. "You and Yasha were good for each other."

 

"Yeah, um." Beau rubs the back of her neck. "I kinda realized, like years later. You probably knew where we were every time we snuck off, huh."

 

"Oh yes. Well. Broadly speaking. I at least knew how to find you quickly if I needed to." He stirs a carrot ponderously in his hummus. "I didn't often need to, though. Rule breaking is a side effect of some of the best things about life, especially when it's in pursuit of friendship."

 

Beau's face flushes unexpectedly. "Yeah, um. Thanks, is all I mean. For letting us go off and be in our own little world. It…helped."

 

He positively beams. "Good. The same was true for her." He takes a bite and seems to recall something. "She's due for a visit any day now, I feel."

 

Beau's hamburger does something complicated in her stomach as Fjord frowns. "I don't think I've seen her since I got on here, and that was two years ago."

 

Caduceus inclines his head. "Was it? Well then she's overdue."

 

A strong gust of wind sends leaves skittering over the patio of the event center, and everyone turns towards the propped open doors - fourteen years, and Camp Blooming Grove still runs without AC.

 

"Looks like we've got a storm moving in," Fjord comments mildly. "Tis the season. Shall we clean up and head to the staff cabin?"

 

Beau's about fourteen years too old to be excited at the thought of seeing where the staff slept, but it's the only place in all the campgrounds she's never gotten a good look at the inside of. It turns out to be not much, but the beds are softer and the place decked out with more of a real log cabin feel. The "cabins" they slept in as kids were essentially cinder blocks made of cinder blocks with metal beds and showers - not that any of them ever minded. Nothing could detract from the excitement of adventure and the sense of independence.

 

But it's nice, lying here and listening to the storm whip up outside. Beau had checked the weather briefly while packing, but Fjord was right on the money. She'd forgotten the storms around here tend to come and go without warning.

 

As she watches the ceiling flicker with the occasional lightning, still sounding far off, Beau finds her thoughts returning again to Yasha. It's this place, she figures. She'd forgotten just how much of her experience at camp had either been playing with Yasha or waiting for Yasha to come back. There's so much magic here, compared to everywhere else Beau has been; it's no wonder their imaginations had been able to run so freely.

 

She feels a distant pang at the thought of it closing, wonders what it means for the Grove because she's almost certain there's a connection there. It's probably the rest of what had been hiding behind Fjord's voice.

 

But there will be time for that tomorrow. For now, Beau just wants to lie here in this unfamiliar bed surrounded by oh-so-familiar sounds and smells, and give in to the strange sensation rising in her again of her past as a physical presence nearby.

 

With the feeling of sinking into the past comes more thoughts of the girl, Yasha. Thinking of her feels like finding a box of old memories stashed in the attic, beloved toys long forgotten and shirts worn soft and riddled with holes. Delight that belongs to someone else, maybe, someone who sleeps deep within the walls Beau's built to protect her. She had two different color eyes, Beau remembers. Sort of clumsy at first, like puberty had taken her down at the knees and they needed a while to remember how to work again. Awful at tree climbing, but man did she smile when she managed to make her way up next to Beau on a branch.

 

There's an odd feeling woven throughout the scraps of memory flickering back to life like fluorescents down the hallways of Beau's mind, something ephemeral and difficult to grasp. It's like she's looking at the parts of something bigger, but she can't pull far enough away to see what. She can remember how Yasha's hair felt in her hands but not the way it looked on her face. Yasha loved the water, but there's nothing there to support her certainty.

 

She falls asleep like this, grappling with the sense of déjà vu and winding up in a strange blend of dream and memory. Two shadowy silhouettes side by side on a rock, faces tilted towards the storm rolling over them with expressions not of fear, but grim resolve.

 

"Can he make you go?"

 

"He doesn't have to. I always do, eventually."

 

"But not right now?"

 

"No. Right now I'm staying here with you. He'll wait."

 

"Why do you look so sad?"

 

"Because...what if Caduceus is right? About magic fading from people?"

 

"He's wrong. At least it's not going to be true for me. Being my best friend has nothing to do with magic."

 


 

"Rested" isn't the first word that comes to mind when Beau opens her eyes, but the morning is more than beautiful enough to make up for it. Dawn splashes across the top of the walls from the window over Beau's head, soft orange and sparkling as the shadows of leaves wave softly along one side.

 

She'd forgotten that for all the reasons she hates the place she grew up, there's an undeniable kind of magic to it that has nothing to do with the Wildmother. At least not directly. The birds and the trees and the light all around might fall into her domain - literally, in the case of the Grove - but Beau can remember feeling it now and then in places decidedly less…influenced. Her family's estate, for example.

 

Beau had neglected to pack nightclothes because she doesn't own any, so she sits up in the gym shorts and soft sports bra she'd fallen asleep in and runs her fingers through her loose hair before pulling it up into its customary topknot braid with an ease born of years of practice. It probably says something that Beau kept the piercings in her ears and the undercut she'd procured after spending her twenty-third birthday in tears. It's probably the same message that comes knocking when she thinks too hard about how none of what she's accomplished comes close to feeling as good as an hour getting her shit handed to her by her trainer at the gym.

 

She's done fine at ignoring it for this long, though, and she quickly finishes lacing her shoes before taking a last look at her sleeping friends and slipping quietly out the door.

 

The frogs and the cicadas are sluggish when she starts off her morning stretches, but by the time she's finished the air is stuffed with moisture, heat, and the sounds of a world waking up to greet the green and gold light pouring over the lake. Loose-limbed and sweaty, she considers the merits of cooling off, but the recklessness that had driven her to leap headfirst into the brownish water as a kid has been tempered with time by the understanding of things like tetanus and snakes. Fishing is probably still one of the activities on rotation - there's no way there aren't old hooks scattered around.

 

But there is a canoe hauled up on shore by the dock with an oar lying across the seat, and she can cool off just as easily with a little bit of morning meditation. Two minutes finds Beau well out into the water with her face upturned to the morning light filtering through the trees, eyes closed as she listens for a long moment to the trees and the fish that occasionally splash up against the surface and just breathes.

 

Before long, something in her begins to squirm with the now-familiar sensation of being split between two times. It's sharper this time, the almost physical conviction that there's another one of her here in the boat - all limbs, as tall as she's ever going to be, and definitely rolling her eyes in boredom. She'd had no patience for being on the water, Beau remembers. Not when she could be in it with Yasha instead, reveling in the sense of freedom and exploration…they had been in the water. That's why she knows Yasha loved it. They'd spent whole afternoons dodging the watchful eyes of adults, but again Beau feels that strange dissipation, the fraying at the edge of the memory as she tries to focus.

 

She realizes quite suddenly that someone must be nearby. There's a conspicuous vacuum of silence where there had been noise - bugs and animals cutting off at the detection of a presence. Beau opens her eyes and glances towards shore, but there's nobody there or coming down the long path. Besides, she's far out in the lake and so is the silence.

 

And yet there are eyes on her, she knows that as certainly as she knows she hasn't heard any footsteps because there haven't been any.

 

Another fish jumps from the water just outside of her periphery with a solid sort of impact, and Beau flicks her eyes to the foamy patch of ripples too late to catch what kind it must have been. Big, she can tell that much. A vague and hazy feeling with no basis in memory tickles at the base of her skull: don't watch the ripples. Beau's mouth goes dry, heart perched in her throat. Excitement, she can feel. Anticipation. It tastes familiar, but why? It's so fucking close to making sense, if she could just…

 

A single word splits the silence from over her opposite shoulder.

 

"Beau?"

 

The imaginary child in the boat beams brighter than the sun, brighter than Beau remembers herself capable of, and then there's only one of her and a hyper awareness of the blood in her veins, the taste of the light on the air around her and the sense of overpowering relief that comes with discovering just how long she's gone without taking a deep breath in the same moment her lungs remember how.

 

After fourteen years, the face waiting for her when Beau turns should be unfamiliar. There's so much of the Yasha she knew missing from her features, so much of what she's become in its place with no real indication of what that might be. But Yasha has always said Beau's name like she's reluctant to stop, like she's searching for even more than the four letters that fall from everyone else as two, and the shape her name makes of Yasha's mouth lingers there in the roundness of her lips as it has since Beau was too young to notice.

 

 "Oh my gods." Beau's voice cracks. "I remember."

 

And she does. It's coming back far too quickly to make any sense, but the sight of Yasha has blown open the cracked door in Beau's mind and it's like she's gone her whole life without knowing a color's been missing; everything inside of her is reconfiguring around this new old realization. Yasha was a mermaid. Yasha was her best friend. Yasha was everything.

 

Yasha is up close to the edge of the boat and reaching for her face, her eyes fixed on Beau's and wet from the lake - no, not the lake, Yasha can choose to stay dry and that means -

 

"You came back to me." Her voice pulls Beau out of her torrent of jumbled thoughts and memories, awed and tremulous and so, so familiar. "You're really here."

 

Beau's knuckles are white on the edge of the canoe, and it takes effort to pry off a hand to hold on to Yasha's wrist. "I'm here. I'm so sorry, Yasha. I broke my promise and I - I forgot, after everything-"

 

Yasha shushes her gently and swipes her thumbs under Beau's eyes. She's so big, Beau realizes. So much bigger than the scrawny teen she'd left behind all those years ago, the one she'd promised not to forget. "Caduceus said, remember? Humans naturally resist magic as they grow up, even in their memories." Yasha smiles up at her, and there's enough sorrow in her eyes for two. "I am magic, and you...you had to grow up so fast, didn't you?"

 

Her vision blurs hard, and the laugh Beau coughs has the seed of a sob buried in it. "Says the one who knew what destiny meant before she knew what a burrito was."

 

"Hmmm," says Yasha, and Beau discovers that the way she smiles hasn't changed much either - like she's rediscovering how every time. "I've had both now, and the burrito was way better."

 

Beau sniffs. "So you did it? It's over?"

 

Yasha nods. "I'll tell you about it some other time. Right now, I just…gods, I have so much to show you." Her eyes are brighter even than the scales shimmering beneath and around them, hesitance now in her voice. "Will you come with me?"

 

All of Beau's defenses have fled for one glorious moment, rendered into ash by the sheer force of raw emotion pouring through her in a way she can't remember happening - at least not yet. Faced with anyone else, the Beau of five minutes ago might have said something casual, something wholly reflective of her inability to muster much beyond vague contentment or curiosity. She's been a longtime fan of phrases like "if you like" or "sure" or "why not?"

 

"Please," she whispers, and then she yelps in the next instant as Yasha surges up further out of the lake. She shifts her grip and plucks Beau from the boat with nothing resembling effort and sets her down in the water before her as Beau clings to her biceps and tries desperately to reconcile her moment of sincerity with holy shit that's hot. "I'm already impressed," she manages, which seems like a fair compromise.

 

Yasha's familiar mystified expression might look different between the scales dotting her face, the braids and metal in her hair, and the now fully-visible marking below her lip, but it's still exactly as cute as it always was. "I haven't started yet."

 

Beau laughs, slightly giddy. "Sure, okay. Lead the way."

 

The scales on Yasha's face go from pearlescent to vivid in a way familiar to Beau, albeit from her tail instead. "I, ah…I've learned a bit. About kissing, since…"

 

Beau feels heat crawl up her face. "Right, same. Yeah. We can just hold hands? If you want? But I'm definitely cool with the uh. The usual. If you are." Gods strike her down, she has kissed this woman more than anyone else probably put together, and here they are anyway.

 

Yasha nods, her brilliant scales flashing. "Yes, of course. It's just. People get…weird, and I don't want your mate to be upset with you."

 

Beau thinks she might actually feel something grind to a halt in her head. "My what?"

 

"The person I can smell on your clothes." Yasha tugs lightly at the front of Beau's sports bra, and that's when she remembers she had definitely been wearing it the last time she hooked up with Tori.

 

"You can smell-? Nevermind. Of course. That's not - I don't have a…mate, oh gods. She's. Friend, person-" Somehow the relief on Yasha's face is worse than any laughter she could have expected, and Beau buries her flaming face in her hands to mumble, "Just fucking drown me, holy shit."

 

Now Yasha does huff quietly as she gently pulls Beau's wrists away. "That makes things easier."

 

Does it? She's so close now, and everything in Beau is still sorting through the realization that she's spent so much of her time missing the woman right in front of her without realizing it, without remembering what she lost. "Do you?" she asks before her nerve can fail.

 

Her heart sinks when Yasha hesitates, and it takes her a second to realize the quiet word dropped between them is "no."

 

It's the answer Beau wanted, but there's a cavern of a emotion behind it that shifts her priority from the selfish relief she anticipated to genuine concern. "That sounds like a story," she prompts softly.

 

A shadow flits across Yasha's face, making her look suddenly much older than the two years between them. "I'm not sure I can tell it yet. But I am sure that having you here again is the happiest I have felt in a long, long time."

 

Beau manages a smile. "Feeling's mutual. No pressure. Operation 'kiss the human for platonic non-drowning reasons' is totally back on if you want." It's even true, she's surprised to realize. There's absolutely no doubt that the feeling accompanying all of the memories flooding through her is love. She's actively avoided it long enough to spot it on sight, but now that it's here it takes a backseat to whatever it is that Yasha needs from her - up to and including nothing at all. They always did rig the games they played so they could both win. This is just more of that.

 

It's Yasha's turn to scrub a hand over her face; Beau notes for the first time the long fin running down the side of her forearm. "This was…I had no idea how this morning was going to go," Yasha confesses. "I heard the three rocks yesterday, but I never…I figured I was probably coming home to a false alarm." She looks back to Beau and smiles. "I think that's the fastest I've ever made a storm."

 

"Wait. Made a storm? You said you could travel through them, not…" Beau squints at her. "Are you a god? You can tell me."

 

"Beau." It's not so much exasperation as a sort of plea.

 

"Sorry. We'll come back to that later. Morning plans. Happiness. I'm listening." She's babbling is what she is, but there's something wedged in the space between tearful reunion and tactical kissing and she's getting the mounting feeling that whatever it is, it's not anything she's prepared for.

 

"I was in love with you," says Yasha. "When we were kids. It took me a long time to realize and I know it's sort of….new for you to remember me at all, but the point is that I think I still might be." She doesn't seem to know what to do with all of the air making its way slowly out of Beau, but she manages nod for her to continue in spite of it as her mind lists sharply on its axis. "I don't really have more. It just felt like a thing you should know before I kiss you, because I think we might be different people and it's fine if-"

 

"Yash." It comes out only a little bit of a wheeze. "I have had more feelings in the last ten minutes than I think I've had since puberty, and I'm not any better at them now than I was then." She swallows and gathers herself enough to risk a glance at Yasha's face. She looks tentative, but not upset. She's just listening, still holding Beau up by the forearms as her tail keeps them afloat from below. If Beau concentrates, she can feel the water moving slightly with the motion.

 

"I was…too," she says. "Got there about sixty seconds ago, but. Yeah. And uh. I know I'm definitely a different person, but I…" She has to look away if she has a shot in hell at getting words out. "I think I want to find out what we could be now too if you want. Like I think that's the healthy option? There's not really a manual here."

 

Yasha nods eagerly. "Yes. I want to find out too." The colors around her eyes deepen again. "Does that mean I can kiss you now? So you can breathe?"

 

Beau sputters for a moment before whole words make it out. "You can kiss me however you like, but you should know I'll probably enjoy it way too much no matter what."

 

Yasha doesn't bother replying. She's just there, suddenly, taking up all of Beau's space and obliterating any thoughts that might have been left pinging gently off the sides of her skull like a screensaver as her lips find Beau's in a way altogether very different from any time before. Nearly all of their many, many kisses before now had been light, quick things that brought with them a heightened sense of airflow, a subtle improvement in the efficacy of the lungs in Beau's body.

 

This one is different first and foremost by virtue of the fact that Beau definitely has way less air than she started with when they finally pull apart.

 

"Holy shit," Beau gasps. Her arms are around Yasha's neck and her knees braced above the fins on her hips, but fuck if Beau can recall getting here. "We sucked at that as kids."

 

Yasha laughs at that and pulls her in close just to hug her, and Beau thinks she's probably invincible inside of the unreasonably strong arms wrapped around her as she breathes in Yasha's scent - and coughs. "You smell like salt water."

 

Yasha pulls back and looks like she's going to say something, but it's then that Beau notices the scales of her face darkening again and puts together what she'd completely missed as a dumbass preteen. "Wait. You blush through your scales, don't you? You do! Motherfucker!"

 

Yasha looks bewildered. "You know that. Or you did."

 

"No! I specifically did not know this!" Beau's shouting, but it's all excitement and realization. "Every time I scratched your tail, or did your hair, or - I just thought that happened when like…you got warm or something!"

 

Yasha shrugs, a little sheepish. "Well, you were mostly right." She drifts backward, tugging at Beau's hand. "Now come on. I'm sure Caduceus will be making something good and I want to be back before we miss out."

 

"Wait!" Yasha freezes halfway through flipping over to dive and looks at her. "You uh." Beau rubs the back of her neck with her free hand. "I don't think you actually did the thing. When you kissed me."

 

"Ah." Yasha pulls Beau carefully in close until their stomachs touch, partially reclined as she is. "I may have been a little preoccupied. Let me try again." The kiss she lifts to press against Beau's lips this time is light and sweet, but she lingers for a moment as the long-forgotten sensation of extra air settles again in Beau's chest.

 

She smiles and opens her eyes to bump her nose gently against Yasha's. "Nailed it that time, but no complaints if you feel like topping me up at any point." She shivers a little. "I forgot how weird it is to be completely dry in the water."

 

Yasha raises her eyebrows. "I could make you wet if you would rather."

 

There is no time to even remotely check herself. "Already taken care of." 

 

Yasha tips her head, and now Beau remembers the other great thing about hanging out in water she can breathe - in lieu hoping the earth will open and swallow her, she can take matters into her own hands and dive straight for the bottom of a very deep lake.

 

But with diving comes looking down, and Beau can't help a grin as Yasha shoots past her in a stream of silver bubbles to disappear into the darkness. A streak of bright blue lights up from within the murky depths, turning in three quick circles like a giant, deadly puppy before it fades and Yasha comes spiraling back up into view with a fond huff muffled slightly by the weird magic that lets them talk.

 

"I forgot how slow you are," she complains, and then her hand finds Beau's and they're off at a speed that would rupture her ears if not for the magic resting within her.

 

"And I definitely remember how impatient you are."

 

Yasha throws her an unapologetic smile over her shoulder and bears them down, down into the cool blackness below. She lights up again for Beau's benefit, and eventually Beau will open her eyes and marvel at the light chasing like lightning along Yasha's tail and the top of the fin between her shoulders and along her forearms. She'll know where they are and where they're headed with little more than a glance at the familiar boulders marking the way to their little cave, but for another moment her eyes stay closed as Beau revels in the buried memories returning of the summers she spent not swimming, but flying.