Devan wasn't entirely certain when her feelings for Dren stopped being an act.
It had seemed like the perfect plan when she'd first thought it up. Her guard had clearly found her attractive from the start, and some light flirting followed by some clever use of her tongue (and her fingers, and a few well-placed sparks of electricity since what was the point of having magic if you didn't use it creatively sometimes?) had at least pulled the other halfling firmly into lust. And, well, things had just spiraled from there.
Devan wasn't exactly a master liar, but it wasn't all that difficult to convince Dren that whatever she felt was mutual. A few stolen kisses, some hurried sex, and the assassin had told her everything. It hadn't exactly been a surprise to hear that the Clasp was planning on betraying her, but that had been enough to convince her that she had made the right decision.
All Devan had to do was keep up the act, and she'd be home free. She'd grab the gem that the Clasp wanted, leave the rest of them to deal with her grandmother's wrath, and get the hells as far away from Emon as possible. It was the perfect plan. She'd have money, freedom... everything that she had ever wanted would be hers.
The problem was that she was fairly certain that she actually felt something for Dren. Something other than an honest appreciation of her body, even, which very much hadn't been part of her plan. And the closer she got to meeting her goal, the harder it was getting to think about just what it was going to involve.
Devan glanced around the room they were in, her eyes once more drawn to a small, nondescript stone sitting on a small table near the wall. It didn't look all that special, especially compared to some of the other things that the Shrew had sitting out, but she'd recognized it immediately. She'd used it once or twice years ago, when she'd still been on her grandmother's good side and trusted enough to run unimportant errands for her.
It was a ticket to freedom.
Her eyes darted towards Dren. She was so close to getting everything that she'd wanted. She'd already pocketed two familiar rings earlier, while the others had been focused more on each other than her, the Nondetection spells woven into them just waiting to be activated – although why she'd grabbed two instead of one, she was trying not to think about too hard.
Another five minutes or so, and there was a good chance that her plan would be firmly set into action. So far, things were going exactly as planned. The others were clearly on edge, their little group splintering from within. She should be able to use it to her advantage, if she was careful, and then she'd be free. From the Clasp. From her grandmother. From her debts. From everything and everyone that was holding her down.
But there was a chance, a fairly decent chance considering the way her life usually went, that things wouldn't go like she was planning. And if she was going to get her hands on the stone that was sitting there, unnoticed just a few feet away, she needed to do it now. It was a guaranteed escape. But it would mean giving up the chance of riches.
Money or love. That's what it always came down to in the end, wasn't it? The last time Devan had made that choice, she'd gone with money. And just look where it had gotten her.
But, well, money was money. There was a reason that it tended to take priority.
Devan glanced over at Dren again. The other halfling noticed this time, shooting her a quicksilver grin that sent butterflies shooting through Devan's stomach before turning her attention back towards the bickering group a few feet away from them.
"Damn it," Devan muttered under her breath. Then, with only a moment's hesitation, she grabbed Dren by the hand.
Dren turned back towards her with wide eyes, her gaze darting down to their joined hands for a moment before coming back up to focus on Devan's face. "What's going on?" she asked quietly.
Devan took a shaky breath and slowly let it out. "Do you trust me?"
Dren nodded. There wasn't any hesitation, not even a tiny bit, and that scared Devan more than anything. A part of her wanted to turn and run then and there, leaving Dren and her ridiculous naivety behind her.
Instead, she gestured with her eyes towards the small stone that she'd noticed.
Dren followed her gaze, her brow furrowing somewhat as she saw the stone. She clearly didn't know what it was; her face was an open book, especially for someone who was supposed to be an assassin.
"Forget the gem," Devan said softly, purposefully switching to Halfling to keep the others from listening in. She'd learned the language as a child, when she still lived with her mother, but she'd never really gotten the chance to use it all that much. Her grandmother had preferred Common, so that had been what she'd almost always spoken after being taken in by the Shrew. "If we grab that, they'll never be able to find us."
Curiosity flashed across Dren's face, but she didn't ask any questions. She just nodded, her grip on Devan's hand tightening a little.
Devan took in another breath and glanced around. Delweth was glaring daggers at Tarvis's back, the look on her face making it clear that she would like nothing more than to stick a dagger in it, while Obby eyed her suspiciously. They weren't paying any attention to her and Dren, not just then. This was her chance.
This was their chance.
She looked over at Dren and nodded. Then, without a word, she sprinted towards the table, pulling the other woman behind her.
Devan heard a curse as Tarvis noticed them, followed by the sound of a weapon being unsheathed, but she ignored it. She just reached out and wrapped her hand around the stone, focusing on getting them the fuck out as far away from Emon as possible. Dren squeezed her other hand.
Behind them, someone screamed in pain.
As the magic in the stone kicked in, teleporting her and Dren away, Devan swore that she heard her grandmother's laughter.
Every now and then, she'd disappear for a few hours and come back with a blank expression on her face, splatters of blood on her clothing, and a bag of coins. But the longer it was since they'd left Emon, the less that happened. Dren clearly enjoyed playing the bard more than she did using her skills as an assassin, and Devan didn't have the heart to push her back towards her previous profession even if it did pay better.
It was purely for selfish reasons. She preferred it when Dren smiled, and she was much more likely to smile when she was sharing her poetry than when she was, well, using some of her other skills. Both of them had wanted a new life, after all; that had been the entire point.
Devan, well, she was good at losing money. Some things didn't change.
Dren kept most of their gold. It hadn't been a conscious decision on either of their parts, at least not that Devan was aware. It just... happened. Maybe it was because Dren had been the one to earn them gold in the first place, back when they'd first teleported out of Emon and into a small village near the Shadebarrow that Devan had been to once before as a child. She was already holding their coin, so it had seemed natural for Devan to pass along the handful she earned as well.
It lasted longer that way, at least.
Anything that Devan had on her came from gambling winnings or the occasional pocket that she managed to pick without being noticed. She was getting better, at least compared to when they had first set out on their own. She wasn't nearly as good as Dren was at sleight of hand, and she wouldn't be for quite some time if ever, but she was learning.
It used to be that she'd try to get credit to keep gambling, digging herself deeper and deeper into debt. That's what had gotten her into trouble back in Emon, after all. Nowadays, Dren wouldn't let her. The moment she noticed that Devan was out of coin, she'd slip in and somehow always manage to convince Devan to leave the table and join her upstairs.
"One more hand, and I could have turned everything around," Devan grumbled under her breath as Dren all but shoved her into the room they were staying in for the night.
Dren nodded placatingly. "I'm sure you could have."
Devan glared at her.
Before she could actually say anything, though, Dren leaned in and pressed a kiss against her lips. Devan felt her legs go a bit weak. She slid back against the now closed door, her back hitting the wood with a thump. Dren's body pressed tantalizingly against hers, her hands running up and down Devan's sides as she pressed her robes closer to her skin.
Dren was wearing a much too smug look on her face when she finally pulled away. "I love you," she said softly.
Devan didn't say it back. She couldn't, not yet. Dren didn't seem all that disappointed, not did she seem particularly surprised. It wasn't exactly something new, that Devan didn't say those words.
There was a small part of Devan that wanted to keep pressing the matter she'd been arguing for before the kiss, to try to convince Dren to lend her a few more gold so that she could win back the coins she'd lost earlier in the evening. Still, there was another part of her anatomy that seemed much more interesting in continuing their current activities. And it was becoming harder and harder to ignore.
"You're wearing too many clothes," Devan said, her voice a bit more breathless than she'd intended as she reached out to brush a loose strand of hair out of Dren's face.
Dren grinned at her. "So are you," she shot back. Then, without another word, she took a few steps away and started stripping, pale skin quickly emerging from under her leathers as she pulled them off.
Devan quickly joined her. It was much less involved for her to undress, considering all she was wearing were her robes – and nothing underneath them.
Less than a second after her robes hit the floor, Devan found herself flat on her back on the small bed in the center of their room for the night. She blinked once or twice, not entirely certain how that had happened considering she was fairly certain she hadn't used any magic. But then Dren was kneeling between her legs, her mouth and tongue putting themselves to very good use, and that thought – as well as pretty much any others she might have had – flew straight out of Devan's mind.
Sparks flickered from her fingertips, mostly unintentionally.
Dren pulled away from her task for a second, her eyes flickering with mirth. "Not yet," she said, shaking her head as she nodded towards Devan's hands. "Please? I want you to go first tonight."
Devan took in a shaky breath and let it out. Then she nodded, doing her best to force her magic back down. "Just hurry," she said.
"Hurry?" Dren's eyebrows rose, and her mouth twisted into a thoroughly unrepentant grin. Oh, she was still naïve about some things, but sometimes Devan couldn't help but wonder if Dren had been playing her too back during those long weeks locked up with the Clasp. If at least some of her naivety had been an act as well, a chance for her to escape from her previous life just like Devan had been trying to do. "Where's the fun in that?"
With a wink, she brought her head back down and went back to work. And, well, there wasn't much need for words after that.
Still, at that particular moment, she honestly thought she might prefer being a prisoner of the Clasp – or the Shrew, for that matter – than being where she was just then.
"It's fucking cold," Devan grumbled under her breath for the fifth time in the past few minutes, the words a bit muffled by her chattering teeth.
Dren let out a huff and rolled over to face her. "It's not that bad," she said lightly. Or, at least, as lightly as she could considering she was shivering almost as hard as Devan was.
Devan shot her an incredulous look as a gust of wind hit them, blowing their hair and sending a light spray of rain splashing on them.
"Well, it could be worse," Dren amended a bit sheepishly. "At least we found shelter?"
Devan sat up, pulling her thin blanket more tightly around her, and glanced around their so-called ‘shelter.' It was a small hole in a cliffside that had aspirations of one day being large enough to be called a cave, and the only thing it had going for it was that it kept the downpour currently going on a few feet away mostly off of them unless the wind blew in the right direction. Or wrong direction, depending on how one looked at it.
Dren sat up as well, unwrapping herself from her own blanket. "Come here," she said, gesturing for Devan to move closer to her.
A gust of wind blew straight into their camp, a spray of cold water hitting Devan in the face. She all but flung herself at Dren.
With a laugh, Dren shifted so that she was between Devan and the opening to the outside. Then she wrapped her arms – and, more importantly, her blanket – around her.
Devan instantly felt warmer. "I love you," she said with feeling, sinking back against Dren's chest.
Behind her, Dren went still.
It took a second for Devan to realize why. Once she did, it took everything that she had not to immediately pull away. The words had come out without any thought or hesitation.
And she honestly thought that she meant them.
Devan took in a deep breath and then let it out, trying to slow down her suddenly racing heartbeat. It wasn't as if the realization had come out of nowhere. It had been building for months now. But it still caught her off guard.
"I love you," Devan repeated slowly. Intentionally. The first time, they had just slipped out. This time, it was on purpose, and she wanted to make certain that was clear.
Then she turned slightly so that she could see Dren's face.
Dren was staring at her with wide eyes, her mouth parted ever so slightly. As Devan watched, the corners of her mouth twisted upwards, and the next thing she knew Dren was grinning wildly at her. "I love you too," Dren said brightly.
Devan leaned in and kissed her.