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It figured that the only inn in town would have just one room left, and that the room would have only one bed. At least this time there wasn't any water on the floor. Beau dropped her bag and glanced up at Yasha. "So, guess this is us. Bunking up."

"Yes." Yasha set her sword up against the wall. "I will sleep on the floor."

"You sure about that?" Beau tipped her head to the side and raised an eyebrow. "It's pretty cold, and we don't have a fireplace." She glanced over the room and its stupidly large windows and half-broken shutters. Outside, snow lay on the ground, wind blowing it into drifts. "It's a big bed," she said. Biggish, anyway. "I think we have room."

Yasha stood still for a moment, in that unnerving way she had of simultaneously looming and being so silent as nearly disappear. "Fine," she finally said. "But not yet. It's a bit early, yes?"

"Oh, sure." Beau shoved her bag into a corner of the room where it wouldn't be visible from the door. "We should get some dinner and see if we can gather any intel before we go to bed. Uh, sleep." Yasha arched a perfect eyebrow, and a rush of heat blazed onto Beau's cheeks. Oh fuck, was she blushing? That needed to stop right now. "I mean sleep."

Yasha's eyebrow fell back into place, replaced by a half-smile. "Of course."

"Right." Beau gestured at the door. "Well, after you." Yasha exited the room, and, after a quick deep breath, Beau followed. This was just another day on the road, and another night in an inn. Just because Jester wasn't sharing the room with them didn't mean anything was different. She could be professional about this.

She followed Yasha down the stairs and into the tavern, where Yasha took a seat at the mostly-full bar. As Beau sat next to her, she raised a hand to signal the bartender, a dwarf with a bushy black beard, shot through with gray. The fellow glanced from the ale he was pouring with a nod; he'd be with them in a moment. Beau noted that the seats on either side of them were empty and leaned a little closer to Yasha. "So. Any plan of action?"

"I plan to listen," said Yasha. "You can ask the questions, if need be."

"That makes sense, I guess." Beau looked down at the bar and let out a soft sigh. She and Yasha were not, by temperament, the ideal people for an information gathering mission, and she wished for the calming presence of Fjord or Caleb, or Jester's gregariousness, or even Molly and his oily charm. But Caleb was mired deep in his magical research right now, and everyone had agreed that a half-orc, goblin, or tiefling would stand out too much in this small town, so far east; despite her size, Yasha would be less conspicuous than the other non-humans. So Beau and Yasha were the only possible team, and they would do their best. Especially if it came to cracking some heads for intel. Now that, they could do.

At the thought, she smiled to herself, and she heard a chuckle at her elbow. She turned to see the innkeeper, a middle-age female gnome, perched on the stool to her right. "Well, hello dear," the innkeeper said. "How did you girls find your room?"

"Clean and comfy, just like you promised." Beau forced a quick smile. "Thanks."

"Good, good." The innkeeper beamed. "It's always nice to give a young couple just starting out a nice place to stay."

"Uhhhh..." Beau glanced over her shoulder at Yasha, whose mismatched eyes were wide. Poised to blurt out a denial, she hesitated. What would attract less attention? A couple traveling together, or random unrelated people sharing a single bed? "What gives-- I mean, how did you know?"

"Your rings," the innkeeper said, with a pointed look at their hands. "Matching, and clearly new. Are you on your honeymoon?"

Beau lifted up her hand to get a better look at the ring she'd placed on her ring finger. A ring of protection, spoils from a recent job. Because she and Yasha were so often on the front lines, the Nein had agreed they should have them. She hadn't really noticed that they matched, but now... "Ehhh, well, you got us!" She laughed, as light-hearted a chuckle as she could manage, then flicked a glance to Yasha, willing her to play along. Yasha seemed stunned, but she didn't flinch as Beau tossed an arm around her shoulders. Her broad, beautiful shoulders. "Got hitched in Rexentrom, and decided to head up to the mountains for some country air. Right, honey?"

Yasha's eyes blazed fire for just a moment, then settled back into her usual implacable stare. "So we did. Even though I wanted to go to the ocean."

"It'll be the coast for our first anniversary, I promise." Beau turned her biggest, fakest smile on her pretend bride, then pulled her arm back as she looked at the innkeeper again. Quick, turn the conversation to some other topic. "So, are you married?" The words were barely out of her mouth before she smacked herself on the head internally. Some change of subject.

"I am, I am. Twenty-seven years next month." She glanced toward the bartender, who was still pouring drinks at the back of the bar, and raised her voice slightly. "We'll see if he remembers."

Although the bartender didn't pause in his work, he did shake his head and chuckle. "Not much chance of that with you reminding me all the time, now is there?" Once he'd set two glasses of ale down on the counter in front of the customers at the far end, he came to their part of the bar and leaned on it. "Now, ladies, I hear congratulations are in order. What can I get you? First round, on the house."

Beau glanced at Yasha and grinned again. They should pretend to be newlyweds more often. "Whiskey, please. The strongest you have."

"Same," Yasha said.

The bartender acknowledged the request with a nod, then pulled out four glasses, pouring two fingers of rich amber whiskey in each. "Here you go," he said as he handed one of the glasses to his wife, took the last for himself, and raised it in a toast. "To love, both young and old."

"To love," Beau repeated, clinking her glass against the others, then catching Yasha's eye as she took a sip. The whiskey was perfect -- dark, smokey, just a bit of burn as it went down. Yasha closed her eyes as she drank, and Bea

"So, how did you girls meet?"

"At the circus," Beau said, with another glance that she hoped was suitably fond at Yasha, but really to do a quick alignment of stories. The first rule of lying: stick close to the truth. It was the easiest thing to remember and most likely to seem believable. "Yasha here was working the door, and she took me and some friends to our seats."

"If by 'took' you mean 'carried'," Yasha pointed out. She jabbed her thumb in Beau's direction. "This one made a joke about being carried to her seat, so I called her bluff."

"Oh!" The innkeeper laughed and clapped her hands together. "That must have been a sight."

It had never occurred to Beau that the story was an actual "meet cute", right out of one those romance novels that Jester enjoyed. Too bad the rest of the relationship was imaginary. "It was," she admitted. "And I never wanted her to put me down." Well, that was too much honesty. To cover the blush, she knocked back the rest of her whiskey; out of the corner of her eye, she noticed Yasha doing the same. "Well, anyway, so that's our story. But enough about us." She pushed the glass forward and the bartender refilled her drink. "How's business?"

"Good, good, more soldiers coming through than usual." The innkeeper sipped her own drink. Beau leaned in on her elbow, pretending great interest, while Yasha slipped off the stool, glass in hand, to start casing the room. Beau felt a quick but firm pat on her shoulder, and she leaned into it without thinking. All to maintain the cover, right? Right. They had a mission, and it was time to get to it.


"Well." Beau walked into the room and yawned, stretching one arm over her head and pulling on her elbow. "That was surprisingly productive."

Yasha closed the door behind them. "Yes," she said. "It helps that we can both hold our liquor."

Beau chuckled. "While pretending that we can't." She bumped Yasha's side with an elbow. "'Ooooh, my lord, that'th just so fashin- fashin- interestin'! Buy me another?'"

"Yes," Yasha said again, her eyes narrowing -- was that disapproval? "So it was all pretend?"

"Well. Yeah." Beau pulled herself up straight-- mostly. In fact she had allowed herself to get just a little bit buzzed. Otherwise she wasn't sure she'd be able to sleep, not in the same bed with-- *a perfectly innocent traveling partner*, she reminded herself. The married couple act was fun, but it was just that -- an act. Even though it had felt nice to sit close to Yasha, especially the few times she had thrown an arm around Beau's shoulders. "Um. Anyway. You ready for bed?"

Yasha cocked an eyebrow at her. "I am still wearing my armor."

Beau blinked. "Oh. Right. So, that would be a no then."

"Unless you want me to stand watch. I can sleep in the chair."

"Oh, no, I mean..." Beau looked at the chair. It was made entirely of wood, no padding all, and seemed rickety. "That doesn't look very comfortable. And it's even colder now than it was when we got here."

Yasha also glanced at the chair, then shrugged. "I've had worse," she said.

"Nah. Besides..." Beau racked her brain for a plausible reason to object. "What if someone came in and saw you sleeping in the chair? What newlyweds would sleep apart on their honeymoon?"

"So you are saying that sharing the bed is necessary to preserve our cover?" A small smile crept onto Yasha's face. "Well, all right then."

"Okay." Beau turned away to hide another goddamned blush. "I just need to splash some water on my face, and I'm good."

"You do that. I'll change."

Beau went to the ewer on the bedside table and took a handful of the icy-cold water. Maybe the chill would shock her back to her senses. Or at least stop the blushing. She pulled her hair free of its top-knot and shook it out, kicked off her shoes, and then dove under the covers, very carefully not looking toward the corner of the room where Yasha was unbuckling her breastplate and pulling off her grieves. Why had she worn full armor into the tavern anyway? Beau was still wondering about that when the bed dipped beneath Yasha's weight.

"Do you need the lamp?" Yasha asked.

"Nope, I'm good."

"All right." The light from the oil lamp dimmed, then went out entirely, plunging the room into near-blackness, the only illumination a few streaks of moonlight coming through the cracks of the window shutters. The night outside was clear and cold, but at least not windy. Beau snuggled herself deeper into the covers as she felt Yasha shift behind her, lying down back to back in the not-quite-large-enough bed.

Beau closed her eyes and took a deep breath, drinking in the quiet, broken only by a few creaks and groans of wood as the building settled into the night and by Yasha's steady breathing. Beau closed her eyes and tried to match the reassuring sound, but her mind was still too busy: with the intel they had gathered about the army's movements, with the sentiments of the locals, but mostly with the memory of Yasha's hand squeezing her shoulder, the secret smiles they had shared, the warmth of a strong arm around her waist. Just the images alone would have distracted Beau from sleep and into the fleeting fantasies she'd been having for months; having their object lying next to her, their backs lightly touching, was beyond too much. Why had she thought sharing a bed was a good idea?

After what felt like forever, she opened her eyes and rolled onto her back. "Hey," she said, softly, in case Yasha was asleep. She didn't think so, though, not based on the sounds of her breathing. Yasha was a light sleeper, but not that light. "You up?"

Long enough passed without a reply that Beau wondered whether she had misjudged, until Yasha let out a soft sigh. "Yes."

"Sorry, uh, I hope I didn't wake you."

"It's all right." Yasha rolled over onto her back. "I don't usually sleep well anyway. Not unless it's raining."

"Stormlord, right," Beau muttered. "Is that tough?" She rolled around a bit more to look at Yasha, propping herself up on her elbow. Just enough light came in through the cracks in the shutters that she could make out the planes of Yasha's face. "Following an illegal god, I mean. I've gone against the rules a lot in my life, but it never even occurred to me to look for a patron beyond Ioun."

Yasha stared at the ceiling without blinking, long enough that Beau started wondering if she'd fallen into a trance or something. Then she blinked, and shifted her head to face Beau. "When you are a Xorhasian living in the Empire, taking the path of a forbidden god is among the least of your concerns."

"Oh." Beau fell down off her elbow, head bouncing on the pillow. "I, uh. Right. Sorry. I didn't think of that."

In the darkness, Yasha smiled. "You are of the Empire," she murmured. "It is all you have ever known. I can't fault you for it."

"Still, sorry." Beau shook her head. "Someday I'll learn how not to stick my foot in my mouth."

"Perhaps." Yasha turned onto her side. "But I hope not entirely. Your bluntness is part of your charm."

Beau blinked. "Really?"

Yasha nodded. "People always know where they stand with you. It is... refreshing."

"Huh." Beau turned this over in her mind for a moment, then raised her eyebrows at the implication. "So," she said with a smile, "you think I have charm?"

Yasha's smile widened. "Would I have married you otherwise?"

Beau snorted. "Fake married, anyway."

"Right. Fake married." Yasha's smile faded, but her eyes turned dark. "It was-- fun. To pretend."

"Yeah." Beau swallowed. Somehow, her face was only inches away. And that look in her eyes... was that an invitation? Beau lifted her hand and brushed it lightly over the dark spot on Yasha's chin. Her skin was warm, and softer than Beau had expected. "Do you want to... pretend a little more?"

After a second that felt like an hour, Yasha closed the gap with a swift kiss, lips firm against Beau's. "You mean, like that?"

Beau laid her hand on Yasha's thick hair, burying her fingers in the long locks as she'd longed to do, almost from the moment they'd met. "Yeah," she breathed. "That's about what I had in mind."

She wrapped her hand around the back of Yasha's head and moved in for another kiss, longer, harder. Yasha pulled her tight, and her embrace was everything Beau had ever imagined -- strong, safe, exciting -- and Beau lost herself there, in the warmth against the cold world outside.


"You two leaving then?" The innkeeper scooted her stool closer to the edge of the bar, looking Beau and Yasha up and down, possibly noting how Yasha's arm was firmly wrapped around Beau's waist. "You seem to have enjoyed your stay," she added, breaking into a grin.

Beau let herself blush this time. For the cover, and because she didn't care who noticed that she might be glowing a little. Maybe that made her more conspicuous instead of less, but for once she couldn't bring herself to care.

She glanced up and caught Yasha's eye; Yasha smiled down at her, then kissed her forehead. "So we did," she said.

Beau grinned at Yasha, then the innkeeper as she handed over the room key. "Maybe we'll see you on our next anniversary."

The innkeeper chuckled. "I sure hope so. Safe travels, then."

"Thank you." Yasha nodded, then walked away from the counter, dropping her arm but tangling her fingers with Beau on the way down, still holding hands as they walked through the door.

"I might be tempted to stay," Beau said after they were well away from the inn, still walking hand in hand. "But I guess we need to get the intel we gathered backed to the rest of the Nein."

"Right." Yasha glanced at their joined hands, then at Beau's face. "And... maybe some other news as well."

Beau grinned as her heart skipped a beat. "I think Molly might just have lost a bet."

"Oh, probably." Yasha smiled back. "I wonder with whom?"

"I'm gonna guess Jester," Beau said. "Since she's been sharing a room with us so often. Maybe she knew before I did."

"Maybe." Yasha squeezed Beau's hand, then let go. "Either way, we should hurry. The stables are this way."

Beau followed, pushing the silly smile off her face and into her heart. Who knew if this new feeling would last, or what it was going to be? For now she was going to enjoy it, and let it be real.