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she's the girl in your nightmares

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She comes awake with a start, the horrors of the dream following after like a hand stretching up and out of her pillow, grasping for her, trying to pull her back down, in, down. It’s silly, there’s no way it's real, but still Beau throws herself out of the bed and onto the floor, scrambles as far from the bed as she can manage.

She must make some noise doing it because she hears a quiet,

‘Mm. Beau?’

It takes a moment to calm her racing heart, enough to sound normal when she answers Jester. ‘Yeah. Yeah, it’s me. Go back to sleep, Jes.’

‘Everything okay?’

‘Yeah. Everything—everything’s fine.’ Beau folds her arms, closes her shaking hands into fists.

She isn’t too surprised when, instead of an agreement and sounds of a sleepy return to dreams, she hears Jester’s bedsheets rustle and feet tapping down onto the floorboards as she makes her way over.

Beau has ended up on the far side of the room, away from the window, away from the beds. Close to the door. She thinks about heading down to the kitchen, starting up the fire, or to the training pit to do something about this energy, this buzzing, frightened energy that demands to be acknowledged, won’t settle even when Beau tries to shake it away, shakes out her hands hard in an attempt to do exactly that.

Jester stops in front of her. It’s hard to see in the dark, but Beau thinks she can just about make out her silhouette, hands reaching for Beau to comfort her. She goes for Beau's shoulders, curls soft hands over the curve of her shoulders, rubs up and down from shoulders to bicep and back.

‘Bad dream?’ Jester asks.

Beau scoffs. ‘No. I’m fine.’

‘Then you’re okay to come back to bed—’

‘No!’

Jester doesn’t say anything, but in the cover of darkness she might look a little smug.

‘I’m—gonna go train.’

‘Beau,’

‘It’ll be fine. An early start, that’s all.’

‘After a late night. And a dozen early starts. I know you haven’t been sleeping right,’ Jester accuses, though she’s missing the accusation and instead has replaced it with a potent, brain-swirling level of concern.

‘I’m fine,’ Beau lies, because she has to, because she always does. Maybe she does feel a little dizzy.

‘Beau,’ Jester sighs. Smothers a yawn. ‘Okay,’ she says. ‘If you can’t sleep here, we’ll go somewhere else.’

‘What? No, Jes, go back to bed, I’m not making you miss your sleep for—‘

‘For you?’

Beau hesitates. There’s a sharpness to Jester’s tone that warns her to tread carefully. ‘Yes?’

‘Too bad.’

It takes a moment for her to coax the candles to brightness, but Jester manages. Hands Beau the candle to keep her hands busy, and, without another word except to tell Beau sweetly to shut up when she tries to argue again, Jester gathers up their pillows and blankets and, thus encumbered, shuffles out of the room.

Beau follows.

‘What are you doing?’

‘Sometimes,’ Jester starts to say, struggles to rearrange her hold on the stack to pull her head out of the pillow on top that muffles her words. ‘Sometimes, when I couldn’t sleep and mama wasn’t busy, we would make a nest somewhere else. She told me it was because when I was sleeping, dream Jester ran around making mischief. And sometimes, dream Jester wanted to make mischief somewhere else!’

Beau’s heart gives this warm, almost painful thud, which can’t be healthy.

‘That’s really cute.’

‘Isn’t it?’ Jester laughs. She marches right up to Yasha’s room, knocks softly on the door. ‘Yasha?’

For a moment, all is silent.

Beau shakes her head. ‘C'mon Jes, I don’t want to disturb Yasha. She’s probably sleeping the worst out of all of us,’

‘Then she might like this too,’ Jester points out, very reasonably. ‘Trust me, Beau.’

She grumbles for a moment but settles. ‘I trust you. Of course I do.’

‘Good. Yasha?’ Jester taps again on the door.

‘Is something wrong?’ a quiet, hoarse voice says from the other side of the door. Beau reaches out before she can think about it. Sets the palm of her empty hand on the dark wood of her door. The darkness, the pain of her dream makes her heart ache as it finds its twin in the pain buried in Yasha’s voice.

Jester’s lower lip trembles. She sucks in a breath and says, cheerfully, ‘Nope! Beau is having trouble sleeping, though—‘

‘Hey, tell everyone, why don’t’cha?’

‘—and so we’re gonna sleep on the balcony. If you don’t mind, that is.’

Something scrapes carefully back, something heavy, as though Yasha had placed a dresser up against the door, some kind of barricade. She opens it enough for Jester and Beau to step in.

‘You scared we are gonna break in?’ Beau asks, nodding to the barricade of stacked and toppled furniture.

In the moonlight that washes in from the balcony doors, Yasha is drenched all in silver and shadows. The pinprick of light in her pupils alone is bright; the colour of them, the bags under her eyes, are swallowed by the deep shadows beneath.

‘No,’ the woman says. ‘Not you breaking in.’

‘As fun as this is,’ Jester says in a very purposefully light tone, ‘I’m going to the balcony. Yasha, get your blankets too if you want to join us.’

‘Oh. No, I don’t think,’

‘Hey,’ Beau interrupts. ‘if I have to sleep out there in the cold, I need someone who isn’t a natural icicle with me. You in?’

‘I am naturally very cold,’ Jester nods. ‘Good thinking, Beau.’

‘Clever, that's me.’

‘So smart,’ she laughs, and waddles, still laden with all their bedsheets and everything, toward the balcony.

Beau smiles after her. When she's left, she turns back to Yasha. Her smile doesn't fade, doesn't break, but she does feel it soften somewhat. 'So? I won't make you do anything. You can say no.'

Yasha shakes her head slowly. ‘I don’t know, Beau, I can't.’

‘Hey, I got you. We got you. And honestly, I dunno what exactly you’re worried about—‘

‘Obann coming back and making me kill you all while you are asleep,’ Yasha says, matter of factly. It’s a trick of the light, probably, that makes the shadows clinging to her deepen and darken.

‘Oh.’

‘Yeah.’

‘Yeah, that’s—a lot.’

‘Yeah.’

‘Well.’ Beau glances out to the actually really comfortable looking nest Jester has made for them. ‘I trust you, even if you don’t trust yourself. But you don’t have to join us.’

‘Thank you, Beau.’

Yasha does stay in her room, lurking. But Beau steps out into the chilly ever-night and lays down next to Jester. Despite her teasing, she isn’t very cold and she wraps herself in blankets and cuddles into Beau’s side.

‘Look how many stars there are,’ she whispers.

‘Mm. Dream Jester gonna make all new constellations?’

Jester laughs, clean and crisp in the cold night. ‘Yeah.’

‘Dream Beau’ll help,’ Beau offers. ‘I’ll write ‘em all down and we can sneak ‘em into the library.’

‘Beau, that’s so sweet,’ Jester coos, leans over to kiss her cheek. She winds her arms around one of Beau’s, then changes her mind, pulls it fully around her shoulders and slides into place next to her. The thing they have is new and not secret, exactly, but it feels fragile in a way that has nothing to do with the strength of their feelings. When Jester kisses her, Beau sighs happily into it, lets some of the fear and the heartbreak of her nightmares fleck away into so much rust red dust.