Her whole body ached, covered in blood and ash. Small sparkles from the diamond glittered on her fingertips. She pressed herself against one of the stalagmites, the unrelenting pressure of the stone grounding her in the moment. The rest of the Nein were spread throughout the bubble, taking stock of the battle. Caleb had that look on his face, the one he usually got after the flames destroyed one of their enemies. Yasha was much the same, staring into her blade. Caduceus was speaking with the Wildmother, moss and mushrooms radiating out from his seated form. Fjord was wiping the blood off of his body with water from the pool. Nott had left the bubble after ensuring that Caleb was fine, scouting the area to triple-check that nothing was waiting for them to let their guard down.
Beau plopped down next to Jester, one arm slung over her shoulders. “You okay, Jess? This was kind of a rough one for you.”
Jester curled herself into Beau, one hand clutching Beau’s vest. “I don’t like it when we fight,” she whispered, tears streaming down her face.
Jester knew Beau wasn’t the kind to give hugs. Beau wasn’t a tactile friend. Her preferred method of cheering someone up was to go kick the shit out of whatever made them sad. But Beau wrapped her arms around Jester and let her take the physical comfort that she needed in the moment. She carded her hands through Jester’s hair, pressing just hard enough to remind Jester that she wasn’t alone in the world. She usually only did this for Jester when they were safe in their room, away from prying eyes and questioning looks. Jester clung harder, her knuckles almost white as they gripped the back of Beau’s vest.
If they were in their rooms in the tavern, this would be easier. They could find a dark corner and hide away from the world for just a little while. The bubble was nice, the bubble was safe, the bubble kept threats away from them while they slept out from the cities and towns. But Jester had spent so much of her life hidden away from the darkness in the world, had spent so long watching the streets of Nicodranas from her window wondering if she’d ever get to run through them that the safety of the bubble felt constricting some nights. She and Beau were much the same in that way, longing to immerse themselves in the danger of the world just to remember that it’s real, that they’ve gone further than they ever believed.
“Did it feel like this when we lost Molly?”
Jester had always wondered what the others had felt, when Molly died. She knew snippets, that it had bonded Beau and Nott and Caleb together, that they all resolved to be better people in the world. She hadn’t really thought about it beyond that. Molly died and Caduceus joined them and they moved on, heading to Nicodranas and then the seas and now to Xhorhas to save Nott’s husband from the Kryn. Sometimes Jester felt like they were running from their pasts so much that they never took the time to really sit down and process the things they got into. Sometimes she just wanted to sit in the middle of a city and feel the press of people all around her, remember that she was alive and mostly well and not in a cell in the middle of the woods, hoping beyond hope that her friends were actually her friends.
“I mean, we weren’t getting attacked by our friends and Molly didn’t come back, but yeah. It felt kinda like this, except we couldn’t stop. Had to kill those fuckers and get you guys outta that shithole.” Beau pressed a kiss to the top of Jester’s head, lingering for longer than most people would dare to. “We really need a fucking vacation.”
This was when Jester would usually pull away. Beau’s upper limit for physical contact was much lower than hers and she never ever ever wanted to make her friend uncomfortable. But Beau’s arms were strong around her and held her close even as she made the move to pull away. A tremor passed through the two of them, starting somewhere deep in Beau’s chest.
“I thought we were all going to die. I thought we were all going to fucking die.” There was something ragged about Beau’s words.
Wetness splashed down Jester’s shoulder, Beau collapsing into her. A nose pressed into the crook of Jester’s neck. They clung to each other, holding onto the only lifeline they could find. Something settled in Jester’s chest, even as it felt like her whole world was falling apart around her. Beau, more than Fjord, more than Nott, more than anyone, was her truest lifeline. If Beau was there, she would be okay. Maybe not right away, maybe not for a long time, but Beau would make sure she’d be okay.