She was picking her way through the battlefield as lightning flashed overhead and a heavy rain began to fall. She was searching for something (or was it someone?), that much she knew, but she couldn’t remember what it was. She was sure she’d know it when she saw it though, whatever or whoever it was. She struggled to move quickly through the ever-deepening mud and exhaustion that sucked at her feet with every step, but still she trudged on, certain that she was close, so close.
She spun around, but there was no one on the battlefield but her and the howling wind that blew a familiar-looking scrap of tattered fabric in its wake. Wait...familiar? Yasha broke into a loping stride, but the marker with Molly’s coat seemed always just out of reach, no matter how hard she tried to reach it. She tripped over an ancient rusted sword that sent her sprawling face-first into the mud. When she looked up, the marker was right above her. Beneath her, the dirt heaved upwards, as if something were trying to claw free.
Yasha dug through the broken earth with her hands, desperately trying to stem the flow of soil and water that poured through her hands back into the shallow grave as quickly as she dug it out. She brushed against something solid, and a purple hand gripped hers like a lifeline. She yanked with all her might, pulling her friend free of the earth that clung to him like a malicious mockery of his colorful coat. Finally, her search was over and she could rest. She could have wept with relief.
Red eyes stared up at her, and Molly opened his mouth, but where his mouth should have been was only worms. His hand latched onto her leg like a vice even as she stumbled back.
You weren’t there , he said in a terrible, croaking voice so unlike the voice she remembered that she instinctively flinched back, wrenching herself free of the thing’s grip (it wasn’t him ― it couldn’t be him ) . It crawled after her, not unlike the worms that poured from its mouth and the large gash she could now see on its back. Why weren’t you there, Yasha? I needed you.
She did weep then. I’m sorry , she cried even as she scrambled backwards through the muck, fleeing like the coward she was. I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry ...
Yasha jolted awake, sitting up and breathing heavily until her heart stopped hammering in her chest.
She glanced over to see Beau looking back at her from where she was keeping watch with Fjord, dim firelight flickering off the lens of her goggles. It lent them an eerie red shine that immediately had Yasha squeezing her eyes shut to block the image. “Fine,” she sighed, scrubbing her face with one hand before lying back down and turning over. She pulled her shawl tighter around her shoulders. “I’m just fine,” she repeated quietly to herself. If she said it enough times, she could convince herself it might even be true.
Sleep didn’t return easily as she lay there.The fire crackled and popped, and the sound of low conversation reached her ears as Beau and Fjord talked quietly between themselves. Nearby, Jester giggled in her sleep before falling silent once more. Caduceus let out a light snore before settling back down in his bedroll. Nott mumbled something incomprehensible, kicking out against Yasha’s leg even as she curled tighter into Caleb’s side. Yasha rolled away onto her back with a heavy sigh, looking up at the stars until her eyelids finally finally began to drift shut once more.
Why weren’t you there? a softer voice whispered insidiously in her ear. Yasha’s eyes flew open, though her heart only stuttered briefly before resuming its normal steady rhythm. Zuala’s voice was a familiar refrain in her dreams, though no less painful in its familiarity.
With a groan of frustration, Yasha got up and made her way over to the fire. Its faint warmth helped banish the last shreds of her nightmare to the back corners of her mind, but she knew she wouldn’t be able to sleep the rest of the night.
“Bad dreams?” Beau asked over her shoulder, voice uncharacteristically gentle. When Yasha looked over, she cleared her throat, returning to a more normal tone. “You were, uh, talking in your sleep before.”
Yasha leaned forward, holding her hands out towards the campfire. “It was nothing,” she said flatly.
“Right, okay.” Beau turned her gaze back to the night. Yasha held her breath, waiting for more questions―because with Beau, there were always more―but besides the occasional glance thrown her way, the monk seemed content to let it go.
Well, maybe content was the wrong word, more like distracted . Yasha watched as her foot bounced out a steady rhythm, her one-handed grip on her staff tightened until the wood creaked, and she twitched toward every little sound as she stared out into the night. Given another few minutes, Yasha wouldn’t be surprised if she started pacing despite her earlier injuries.
Yasha looked around for what could be causing such anxiety. “Where’s Fjord?”
Beau gestured towards the fire with her staff, where the last log had just collapsed in a shower of sparks. “Getting more wood.” She waved her slinged arm as much as her previously dislocated shoulder―courtesy of the strange creatures they had fought earlier―would allow before she winced and let it fall back down with a scowl. “Not much use me doin’ it with this thing here.”
“Has he been gone long?”
“No.” She seemed to catch herself and released her death grip on her staff, shaking her head as if to clear it. “Just before you came over. I’ll give him a couple more minutes before I send the search party.”
Yasha just nodded, turning her attention back to the fading fire.
A moment of companionable silence fell before Beau cleared her throat. “Look, I’m not great with words and I know you aren’t either,” she said almost hesitantly, “but it might help to, I dunno, talk about it? Just, uh, just throwin’ it out there.”
“Talk about what?”
“About what’s keeping you up?” She turned to face Yasha more fully and held up her good hand when Yasha hesitated. “Or nothing. We can talk about nothing at all. That’s cool too. Forget I said anything. I should just be keeping watch anyway. Good talk.” She poked at the still-glowing embers of the fire with her staff, sending sparks scattering upwards.
Yasha watched them go, feeling the faintest stirring in her soul as she stared up at the sky. She didn’t want to talk about her dreams, but she supposed just talking itself couldn’t hurt. “There’s a storm coming.”
Beau’s head snapped up, surprise clear on her face, before she looked up at the clear moonlit night, not a wisp of a cloud in view. She pushed up her goggles and looked again, blinking owlishly in the dim light. “How do you know?”
Yasha just raised one eyebrow, and Beau floundered when she looked back. ”I mean, I know you know ―it’s kind of your thing―but is it just like, a feeling or something?”
Yasha hummed lightly to herself as she thought. Mere words couldn’t describe the sensation of electricity dancing through her limbs, echoed thunder rumbling beneath her skin, the ghost of rain running down her face. There was a certain pull to it that refused to be ignored until she’d heeded its call. But how to explain all that? So she didn’t try. “It...is something like that,” she settled for.
Beau just continued to look at her expectantly.
Yasha sighed. “There’s a pressure all around, a...a taste to the air...” She shrugged. “I don’t know..”
“Huh. Still kind of neat, I guess.”
“‘Neat,’” Yasha repeated drily.
Beau ducked her head. “You know what I mean,” she muttered.
Yasha wasn’t sure she did, actually, but that wasn’t anything new, so she let it go. “I can finish out your watch for you if you’d like,” she offered instead, watching Beau stifle a brief yawn. “I’m not going back to sleep, and it’s almost time for a switch anyway.”
“Nah, don’t worry about it. This thing’s doin’ a good job keeping me up,” Beau said, carefully swinging her slinged arm with a grimace.
Yasha glanced at her hands. It seemed like what little sleep she’d gotten had been enough. “I might be able to help with that now.”
She clenched her fist and concentrated, reaching past the soreness in her muscles, past the grief and confusion of the last few months, past the ever-present rage that clenched around her heart like an icy prison to the calm, clear light in her soul that nothing she’d yet done seemed to dim. When she opened her hand, it glowed faintly.
She raised it to Beau’s shoulder, pausing briefly. “If I may?” she asked belatedly, unsure if she was overstepping.
Beau grinned up at her. “Hey, you can do whatever you want to me whenever you want.”
Yasha huffed a quiet laugh, amused despite herself. “This might hurt a bit,” she warned, placing her hand against Beau’s arm.
Beau shrugged her good shoulder. “Pain isn’t always a bad thing, y’know?” She winced as something in her shoulder shifted before continuing with a somewhat more strained grin. “Sometimes it’s just your body’s way of letting you know it’s healing.”
Yasha sucked in a quick breath, hands stilling. She hadn’t thought of it like that before. Pain was just, well, pain. You patched up what you could and pushed through the rest. Any lingering aches were just reminders of past mistakes and failures, valuable in their own way, even treasured in some cases if she was being completely honest with herself. How would she make sure she never forgot if it didn’t hurt? Was healing even a choice? Or an inevitability?
“Umm, Yash? I know you’re helping me and all, but do you mind easing up just a bit?”
At Beau’s strained voice, Yasha came back to herself, immediately loosening her tight grip on Beau’s arm. “Sorry,” she muttered, directing an extra bit of healing light into her hands to make up for it.
“No worries. You alright?”
Yasha just nodded, working in silence for a moment to repair what little damage she could as her thoughts roiled. The monk had a habit or getting under her skin with seemingly offhand comments that still managed to cut to her core as easily as a hot knife through butter. It was irritating, it was maddening, it was... (dangerous, a quiet corner of her mind whispered. Yasha did her best to ignore that corner). “You lied before,” she said without looking up from her work.
She felt Beau pull away from her slightly. “Oh, um, yeah, probably. I get that a lot, well sort of a lot. I’ve been trying to work on it.” An expression Yasha didn’t recognize crossed her face as Beau sucked in a quick breath and let it out before darting a glance back over. “Not that I’m doubting you, but, uh, out of curiosity, what...exactly did I lie about?”
“You said you weren’t good with words.” Yasha removed her hands, watching the faint glow fade completely away before she trusted herself to look up. “I think you do just fine.”
“Oh.” Beau looked like she’d been struck over the head.
Yasha cleared her throat and stood. “That’s about all I can do,” she said, gesturing towards Beau’s arm. “Try moving it a bit?”
“Oh, uh, right.” Beau swung her arm up and down slowly before making a fist and performing a series of mock punches in the empty air.
They were much slower than her usual flurry of blows, but Yasha still winced. “Careful. I’m not Jester or Caduceus. You’re probably going to want one of them to take a look at it again in the morning.”
“Don’t sell yourself short. You do pretty good work and look pretty good―” The last part of her sentence was interrupted by a jaw-cracking yawn.
Yasha gave her a nudge in the direction of her bedroll. “Go to sleep, Beau. It’s fine. I’ll keep an eye out.”
Beau immediately went to protest, but another yawn made her shoulders sag in defeat. Still, she hesitated. “Wake me if Fjord’s not back soon?” she asked. ”Or if there’s any problem?”
Yasha nodded. “Of course.”
“Thanks,” Beau said softly. She looked like she was about to say something more before giving a brief shake of her head. “For the healing,” she clarified finally. “See? Good as new.” She spun and swung a wild haymaker into the open air before doubling over with a wince and a muttered, “Oh, ow.”
Yasha took a quick step forward, but before she could get any further Beau straightened with a more familiar grin in place. “Kidding, kidding!” She waved her arm in a circle to prove it. “Just wanted to see if you’d come running to my rescue.”
Yasha rolled her eyes, but she couldn’t help the small smile that crept over her face as she crossed her arms. “You’re incorrigible.”
“The worst,” Beau agreed with a chuckle. “But hey, it got you to smile. Bet you’re not thinking about bad dreams now, huh?” She winked and gave a two-fingered salute before nudging Jester over with her foot and promptly collapsing into her bedroll. Soon enough her snores joined the chorus of sleepy grunts and grumbles.
“No,” Yasha said, shaking her head as she looked up at the first flickerings of lightning on the horizon, fond smile still lingering on her lips despite her best efforts to suppress it. “I guess not.”