The roaring waves crashed against the hull of the ship, but they were merely background noise, drowned out by the sound of music. It was long past sunset, the moons mirroring each other on opposite ends of the sky. Around their ship, the Nein Heroez, the ocean stretched as far as the eye could see.
It had been far too long since the Mighty Nein had a break. A real break, not one where they were working a job, saving people, running errands, or getting from one place to another. A break where they could really relax, without having to worry about what tomorrow would bring or whether everyone would survive the night. It was Fjord’s idea to spend one last night on the ship with the crew before embarking on their next adventure, and everyone had happily agreed.
The sound of Orly’s bagpipes cascaded through the crisp sea air, echoing across the ocean. He was accompanied by Yasha on the harp and Marius on the fiddle, who led them in a jaunty tune. It was nothing like the perfect melodies and flawless band that backed the Ruby of the Sea at the Lavish Chateau, but that was what made it uniquely beautiful. Beau would never have thought to mix bagpipes, harp, and fiddle, but to her surprise, she enjoyed the interesting blend of music. She couldn’t help but tap her foot to the rhythm from where she leaned against the port side.
Beau’s eyes scanned the deck where everyone had gathered for an evening of drinks and music. Caduceus was walking around with a small plate, passing out snacks and hors d’oeuvres to the crew. Veth had spent the afternoon tinkering with fireworks and was affixing them to some of her crossbow bolts in an attempt to set them off without accidentally setting the ship on fire. Fjord and Caleb were drunkenly waltzing across the deck, laughing with each other. And Yasha…
Yasha sat atop a barrel, next to Orly and Marius. Her hair blew wildly in front of her face in the ocean breeze. Her eyes were closed, lost in the sound, as her fingers plucked diligently at the strings of her harp. There was a soft smile on her lips while she played. Beau couldn’t tear her eyes away.
“... hope we can be back in Nicodranas by my momma’s birthday and—are you even listening?”
Beau blinked, drawn from her reverie by Jester’s voice in her ear. “What?”
Jester followed the line of Beau’s gaze from a moment ago and a grin overtook her face. “You seemed distracted,” she said, teasing. “What were you thinking about?”
Jester already knew very well what Beau had been thinking about. Didn’t mean Beau had to be honest about it.
“Just that… Marius is a, uh, much better musician than he is a fighter,” Beau said.
Jester rolled her eyes. “Well, obviously,” she said. “He’s a really bad fighter.”
Beau laughed and took another sip of her ale. “He did set a very low bar for himself.”
“I’m sure Orly’s a great teacher, though. He must be giving Marius some pointers on the whole music thing. He taught me how to do tattoos and I’m getting really good at that!” She scooted closer to Beau and nudged her in the side. “Do you want another tattoo tonight? Because if so, I can definitely hook you up.”
Beau chuckled. “I am not drunk enough for that tonight, Jes.”
When Jester didn’t reply, Beau directed her gaze at Yasha once again. Beau knew that Yasha was of some sort of celestial descent, but the reflection of the moonlight on her pale skin and the peaceful demeanor with which she played the harp made her look truly angelic. The only thing that would make her look even more like an angel was if she brought out her wings.
“You should go talk to her.”
Beau immediately went rigid as she averted her gaze and scoffed in denial. “What are you talking about?”
Jester glared at her. “Don’t try to play dumb with me, I already know how you feel,” she said. Beau opened her mouth to protest, but before she could even get a word out, Jester added, “Even if I didn’t know, it’s written all over your face when you look at her.”
Beau’s cheeks flushed and she quickly punched Jester in the arm. “Shut up,” she muttered defensively. But she glanced back over at Yasha, still sitting atop the barrel. She was mesmerized by the way Yasha’s fingers danced so easily across the harp strings without even looking at them. She was so focused and the joy on her face at losing herself in the music was apparent, it made the corner of Beau’s lips twitch up in a small smile. Man, Jester was probably right. Beau couldn’t hide her heart eyes for Yasha even if she tried.
She didn’t really care to try.
Beau sighed. “Look, I took your advice and tried to...I dunno... put myself out there. We’ve been spending more time together but she hasn’t done anything. I’ve all but told her how I feel,” Beau sighed dejectedly. “I’m starting to think she doesn’t even feel the same.”
“There’s no way that’s true, Beau!” Jester scoffed. “Yasha is crazy about you! She just shows her affection in more quiet ways.”
Jester shrugged. “She’s saved your life a few times,” she began to list off. “She always heals you even though Caduceus and I are more than capable of that. She pays attention to you.”
Beau rolled her eyes. Though Jester’s words reminded her of a conversation she had had with Yasha a long time ago, she didn’t want to get her hopes up.
“I’ve seen you. I’ve seen you a lot.”
Beau just shrugged, not wanting her thoughts to linger on false hope for too long.
“I still think you should talk to her,” Jester mumbled.
Beau hated admitting when she was wrong. Maybe she was just looking for excuses to close herself off again, put up her walls and never speak another word of this damn crush. But she knew very well this was much more than a crush and her feelings for Yasha weren’t going to disappear that easily. Beau had already tried. She tried to forget about it and redirect her feelings to someone else, someone easier, less complicated. But no matter how many other crushes she had or how many other women she hooked up with, it always somehow came back to Yasha.
Beau let out a long sigh. “You’re probably right,” she grumbled. “I just hate talking about feelings and shit.”
She glanced back up at Yasha, still strumming away at her harp. She was focused on her task, but the look of joy on her face made Beau’s chest tighten. Watching Yasha was always captivating. There was something about her that made the rest of the world pale in comparison. She leaned back against the railing of the ship and tilted her head, a small smile on her face.
“I’ll talk to her later,” Beau mumbled. “She looks happy right now. I’ll just let her be.”
Beau took another drink of her ale, trying to watch her friends dance to the music, but her eyes were always drawn back to Yasha. She wasn’t going to complain. Yasha was nice to look at.
These were the moments with her friends that Beau lived for. Sure, daring adventures and saving lives was fun, but the times when they could just breathe and enjoy each other’s company were Beau’s favorite. It was the only time she allowed herself to let her guard down and just be.
Because Beau was relaxing, still distracted stealing glimpses of Yasha, she had forgotten about Veth tinkering with fireworks. There was a lull in the music when Beau heard a quiet voice say, “Shit!” Then, a crossbow bolt whizzed across the ship until it stuck in the wall behind Marius, inches from his head.
“Watch it!” he said, halting his playing for a moment to scold her.
Veth just smiled guiltily. There was a moment of silence followed by a loud POP as the firework affixed to the crossbow bolt exploded in a burst of color.
The music halted, and when the smoke cleared, Marius was singed head to toe, and he looked pissed. “Damn it, Veth!” Marius groaned. He started to lunge for her, then cradled his arm that had been right next to the blast. “Ow.” He shot Veth another glare then limped below deck.
“Don’t be such a b...baby!” Orly called after him. “It’s just a light third degree burn, we’ve all been there!” When there was no response, Orly just shrugged and resumed playing his bagpipes.
Caduceus was quick to follow Marius below deck. “I’ll help him out,” he said as he passed by.
Beau just chuckled and took another drink from her ale, silently wondering if Veth had done that on purpose. Marius could stand to toughen up a little, after all.
Beau’s gaze found its way back to Yasha, as it always seemed to. She had also resumed playing, but after a few moments of watching, she looked up and their eyes met. Beau’s heart stopped and she allowed herself a moment of panic before she pulled herself together and gave Yasha a crooked smile.
When she smiled, Yasha’s hands faltered on the harp. She missed a few notes, then looked away, blushing furiously. If Beau hadn’t been paying rapt attention to Yasha, she may not have noticed. Then, Beau felt an elbow sharp in her side.
“Ow,” she muttered, glaring at Jester. “What the fuck was that?”
Jester didn’t say anything. She just nodded toward Yasha.
Beau stared at her blankly. “What are you—“ she started to ask, but was cut off when Jester not so subtly shoved Beau about five feet in Yasha’s direction.
Beau glared at Jester, but instead of returning to her place, leaning against the railing of the ship and watching from a distance, she pretended like that was exactly what she wanted to do and continued with the momentum, walking over to Yasha. Yasha looked up again and, upon seeing Beau moving toward her, froze for a moment. By then, Beau had reached Yasha’s side.
“Keep going,” she muttered, just loud enough for only Yasha to hear. “You’re really good.” Yasha nodded, cheeks flushed, then looked back down at her harp and continued to play.
Without Marius on the fiddle, Orly and Yasha had started a slow tune that was softer and more romantic than the fun and upbeat tune from before.
Earlier, Beau had been trying to feign like she wasn’t fully enraptured in everything about Yasha, but now with the music swelling in her ears and Yasha beside her, Beau didn’t think she could continue to pretend. Yasha was captivating and Beau was certain anyone paying attention would be able to see just how smitten she was; it was written all over her face.
Yasha’s eyes opened a moment later to find Beau watching her with rapt attention. Her hands slipped and the harp’s melody wavered slightly.
“You know,” Yasha whispered, “it’s a bit hard to concentrate when you’re looking at me like that.”
“Like what?” Beau asked, batting her eyelashes innocently.
Instead of answering, Yasha stopped playing and looked Beau dead in the eyes. She said nothing, but held her gaze. Beau thought she was enraptured before, but now she was lost in a labyrinth of violet and light blue, and she never wanted to find her way out.
“Dance with me?” The question fell from Beau’s lips before she even realized what she was saying.
Yasha’s brow furrowed in confusion. “What?”
Beau nodded out to the deck, where Fjord and Caleb were now drunkenly waltzing to the slower music, where Orly continued to play on his own without needing help from any backup instruments. “Dance with me.”
Beau wasn’t sure where the sudden confidence came from, but she ignored the heat in her cheeks and the way her heartbeat thudded in her ears. She held her breath and watched as Yasha’s eyes went from confused to understanding to a tentative excitement. “Okay,” she whispered.
Beau bit her lip, trying to contain her grin. She offered one hand to Yasha. Yasha looked at it in awe for a moment, then set aside her harp and took Beau’s hand.
They had held hands before, but Beau was always surprised by Yasha’s soft skin and her delicate touch. Beau’s own hands were hard and calloused from long days of training and the constant grip of her staff. She expected the same of a warrior like Yasha, and while she did feel calluses, they were smooth, like a freshly polished wooden surface rather than rough sandpaper. Her gentle grip probably came from her skills with the harp, or her love of flowers. Regardless, Yasha held Beau’s hand like it was something fragile and beautiful. Beau tried not to linger on that thought too much as she led Yasha out to the middle of the deck.
Beau kept their hands together and placed her other hand on Yasha’s waist, tugging her just a little bit closer. Yasha tensed and the pair froze for a moment.
“What is it?” Beau asked.
“I just—I’ve never done this before.”
Yasha nodded. “Not like this, at least,” she said. “I’m not—I don’t think I know how.”
Beau gave her a reassuring smile. “Don’t worry, we’ll keep it simple,” she said. “Just follow my lead.” She squeezed Yasha’s hand, then began to lead.
Orly’s music carried beautifully across the vast expanse of ocean around them. Beau held Yasha close and led her in simple, careful steps across the deck of the ship. Yasha’s teeth dug into her bottom lip, and she kept glancing down at their feet. A moment later, Beau felt a crushing pain on one of her toes. She winced
“Sorry!” Yasha said, still looking down.
“It’s fine,” Beau muttered, hoping to reassure Yasha but she still had a stressed crease in her brow. She squeezed Yasha’s hip gently to get her attention and whispered, “Hey, look at me.”
When Yasha lifted her chin and met Beau’s eyes, her shoulders seemed to relax a little and her expression softened. “I’m not very good at this.”
Beau’s lip twitched up in a small smile. “You’re doing fine,” she said. “Just relax. Don’t think about it too much. It’s just you and me, yeah?”
Yasha blushed. “Yeah.”
She didn’t take her eyes off Beau’s after that.
Once Yasha started to get comfortable, they danced more easily and the whole world around them seemed to melt away. Beau lost track of Fjord and Caleb dancing around them, and she almost missed Jester trying to subtly give her a thumbs up.
“You’re getting pretty good at this,” Beau said.
“I have a great teacher,” Yasha said. “Where’d you learn to dance?”
Beau shrugged. “Lots of nights at the local tavern, trying to avoid my dad and impress a lady or two.”
“Well,” Yasha said, “it’s definitely working.”
Beau gaped at her for a moment, a surprised half smile on her face, her cheeks flushing. Yasha just smirked and tilted her head. She hesitated another moment, then let out a quiet, breathless laugh.
“Well, you’d be the first it worked on,” she admitted.
Yasha dipped her head and her gaze lingered on Beau’s lips for a moment before meeting her eyes again. “What a shame.”
Beau felt like she couldn’t breathe when Yasha looked at her like that. She wanted to lean in and close the distance between them, but that wasn’t her decision to make. She hoped Yasha would take that leap for them.
All of a sudden, the slow melody they swayed to turned into a more lively tune as the sound of a fiddle rejoined the ensemble. They froze and glanced over to find that Marius had returned, freshly healed and bandaged up, wielding his fiddle once again. Caduceus gently patted him on the shoulder, giving him one last glow of healing magic.
Beau froze, unsure of how to continue with the sudden change in music. She glanced at Yasha, curious, who grinned and raised their hands to twirl Beau playfully.
Beau’s cheeks flushed and she laughed. She grabbed Yasha’s hands and they danced, jumping around, grinning from ear to ear. Gradually, the rest of the Mighty Nein and their crew joined in their dancing, but Beau hardly noticed. She only had eyes for Yasha.
With the new presence on their makeshift dance floor, things were a bit more crowded. Jester bumped into Beau’s back and pushed her into Yasha so they were pressed even closer together.
“Sorry,” Beau mumbled. She caught Jester throw her a wink out of the corner of her eye before slipping into Fjord’s arms to dance with him. It made Beau think she did that on purpose.
“It’s okay,” Yasha said. She glanced around them. “It’s, uh, getting a little crowded out here, isn’t it?”
Beau nodded. “Yeah.”
Yasha stepped away from her, and there was a momentary surge of disappointment until she grabbed Beau’s hand and tugged her off the dance floor. Beau helplessly followed. She would follow Yasha anywhere.
Yasha took her to the opposite end of the ship, behind the main cabin, but to their surprise, they found Veth there, still tinkering with some of the fireworks. She looked up from her work and raised an eyebrow at them.
“I’m sorry, did you two need some privacy?”
Beau blushed furiously, and she felt Yasha tense beside her as well.
“Sorry, we were just— we were looking—“
“We can go,” Yasha said quickly, cutting her off. “Leave you with your toys.”
“These are not toys, they’re explosives!” Veth shrieked, as Yasha dragged Beau back around the corner, giggling.
They slowed down and looked around. It still seemed like Yasha wanted to talk, or perhaps just spend some time together. Maybe they could go below deck? Though there were probably a couple of sleeping crew members down there. She could ask Fjord if they could use the captain’s quarters, but that would probably just lead to a smattering of questions from him that Beau did not want to answer.
As if reading her mind, Yasha said, “I think I know somewhere we can go.”
Beau raised an eyebrow at her. “What did you have in mind?”
Yasha looked up and Beau followed her gaze all the way to the crow’s nest, towering above the rest of the ship. She met Beau’s eyes again and shrugged. “Hold on tight.”
And before Beau even had a chance to protest, Yasha’s arms were around her, holding her close to her chest. She heard the rush of wings catching wind, and suddenly there was a swoop in her chest and her feet were off the ground. She had flown with Yasha before, but only the one time. This felt different. More deliberate, more free.
There were gasps from below, as some of the crew saw Yasha’s wings for the first time. Beau normally didn’t care much for a spectacle, but the joy on Yasha’s face whenever she flew was breathtaking. At least no one would bother them up here.
It was a short trip up to the crow’s nest. They touched down on the wood surface and Yasha’s wings disappeared. The music and laughter grew more distant and muffled; the torches faded, leaving them with only the glow of moonlight. The wind was much stronger this high up; it whistled in Beau’s ears, rustling her hair. She watched as it blew Yasha’s tangled hair in front of her face, covering her bright eyes until she tucked it behind her ear and smiled. Beau tried not to think about how much she wanted to kiss her.
She also tried not to think about how closely together they were pressed in the very small space. Yasha frowned.
“I, uh—I thought it would be bigger,” she muttered.
“It’s fine,” Beau said. She hopped up to sit on the ledge, trusting herself not to fall, leaving more room in the basket for Yasha. “See? Plenty of space.”
Yasha smiled. “That was fun,” she said. “The dancing, I mean. I—I don’t think I’ve ever done anything like that before.”
“They didn’t have dancing in your tribe?”
Yasha hummed in thought. “It was a bit more...ritualistic. Never quite so simple or fun.”
“Well, I’m glad you had fun.”
Yasha turned away from her and faced the open ocean, her hands gripping the railing in front of her. Beau gazed out at the sea as well, but what she enjoyed more was watching Yasha take in the sight. Her eyes were wide in awe and a small smile was on her lips.
“It’s really beautiful out here,” Yasha said, breathless.
“Yeah,” Beau muttered, still looking at Yasha. “It is.”
They were quiet for a moment; all they could hear was the wind as it rustled their clothes, the waves as they crashed against the hull of the ship, and the distant music and laughter of their friends. Beau was content with the silence. It was another thing she loved about Yasha—the way they could both appreciate the beauty in the stillness of a moment.
Eventually, Yasha spoke up again, her voice quiet. “What scares you, Beau?”
Beau blinked, taken aback by the abrupt question. She chuckled softly. “Damn. If I knew we were gonna get all philosophical tonight I would’ve had another drink.”
Yasha’s lips turned up, amused, but it clearly wasn’t the answer she was looking for.
“Uhh, I don’t know,” she floundered for a moment. She instinctively wanted to fall back into her habit of keeping up walls, but when it came to Yasha, she wanted to tear them all down and let her in. “I’m scared of proving my dad right and...not living up to anything. I’m scared of things I don’t know. I make it a point to research and know things. This damn city with nine eyes is really throwing me.” She hesitated. “I’m scared of losing you again.”
She spared a glance at Yasha, trying to read her reaction, but Yasha showed none.
“And, you know, the rest of the Nein,” Beau said quickly, her nerves getting the best of her. “That’s why I fight so hard. It’s why I always get back up. I don’t know what I’d do if I lost you. Any of you.”
Yasha was quiet for a moment. Beau’s anxiety grew with every passing second until Yasha finally spoke up.
“That’s one thing that I love about you,” Yasha said plainly, easily. Beau blushed at her words, unsure of exactly how much she meant them. “You face the things you’re afraid of head-on. You don’t back down. It’s quite admirable.”
Beau snorted. “I’d say it’s less admirable and more just me being stubborn.” Yasha said nothing. Beau cleared her throat. “And you?” she asked. “What scares you, Yasha?”
Yasha finally turned her gaze away from the ocean and looked at Beau, meeting her eyes. “You do,” she said softly.
Beau was speechless and felt like the breath had been knocked from her lungs. “I’m not that intimidating, am I?” she asked, only half joking.
Yasha shook her head. “I didn’t mean you, you. You know?”
Beau stared at her blankly.
Yasha huffed, a little frustrated. “Sorry, I’m not very good at this. I—I just meant—I’m not scared of you, but more...the way you make me feel.”
Beau’s heart hammered in her chest, pulsing in her ears. It sounded like Yasha was saying… She shook her head and cleared her throat.
“And how do I make you feel?” she asked.
Yasha shyly looked down at her feet. “I don’t know if I have the words for that.”
Beau shrugged and gently nudged her. “Just try.”
Yasha paused for a moment, thinking. “Do you remember when I first got my wings?” she asked. “You leapt from that cliff and asked me to catch you and I—I wanted to see if they were real? It was...surprising and exhilarating, and it—it felt like a dream.” Beau nodded in understanding. “I think that’s how you make me feel.”
Yasha’s pale face was flushed pink and she fidgeted nervously with her hands. Beau reached out and cupped Yasha’s cheek, stroking her thumb against her soft skin. Yasha sighed and leaned into the touch. “Yeah?” Beau asked as she bit her lip.
Yasha nodded. She placed her own hand over Beau’s, covering it. “I’ve wanted to kiss you very badly all night,” Yasha confessed, her voice a soft whisper, like she was scared of saying it too loud.
Beau leaned in, a small smile on her lips, and matched Yasha‘s whisper. “Then kiss me.”
There was a moment of hesitation, thick with tension as they were drawn closer. Their eyes were locked, Beau’s occasionally glancing down at Yasha‘s slightly parted lips, then back up to her wide, dark eyes. They started to flutter shut. She could feel Yasha’s soft breath against her lips.
And then Yasha kissed her and Beau felt like she was flying.
Yasha’s arms circled around her waist, tugging her close and holding her there. Beau melted into the kiss, feeling the rush of euphoria and relief as everything she had wanted for longer than she would care to admit was suddenly real.
Beau wasn’t even sure how long they kissed, but they were eventually startled apart by a loud BOOM as fireworks lit up the night sky. They looked up to see glittering green sparks spell out the word ‘NEIN’ before fading into smoke.
“So that’s what Veth was working on,” Beau muttered. Yasha chuckled and placed a finger under Beau’s chin, tilting her head up to kiss her once more.
“Mm,” Yasha hummed contentedly, pulling back ever so slightly and brushing their noses together. “I’ve wanted to do that for a long time.”
“Me too,” Beau breathed.
They stayed like that, wrapped in each other’s arms, until they realized that the music had faded, the laughter had died down, and most of the crew had gone to bed. They looked around and Yasha smiled sheepishly.
“We should, uh, probably get to bed,” Beau muttered, rubbing the back of her neck. “So how were we gonna get down from here?”
Yasha froze and her eyes grew wide. “You know, I hadn’t actually thought that far ahead.”
Beau grinned. “I don’t mind. I like it up here,” she said, and kissed Yasha again. “We could stay a bit longer.”
“Don’t we have to be up early tomorrow?”
“Shh,” Beau pressed a finger to Yasha’s lips and shook her head. “Don’t talk about tomorrow. I don’t want tonight to end.”
“Why’s that?” Yasha asked, a soft smile on her lips.
Beau shrugged. “You make me happy and… and tonight has been the closest thing to perfect that exists.” She hesitated for a moment and let out a tense breath she had been holding. “I think I’m just scared things will feel different tomorrow. Like waking up from a dream and being disappointed that it’s over.”
Yasha took Beau’s hand, threading their fingers together, then brought it up to her lips. She placed a soft kiss to Beau’s knuckles, then let their hands fall, still clasped together.
“They won’t be different,” Yasha reassured. “I love you tonight, and I will love you tomorrow.“
Beau gasped softly. “You love me?”
“Of course,” Yasha said.
She didn’t even hesitate. She loved Beau.
Part of Beau wanted to run away in terror. It was an unfamiliar feeling, to be loved, but not unwelcome. Instead, Beau pushed down the scared little kid inside of her. She wanted to be happy. She cupped both of Yasha’s cheeks and pulled her in for another lingering kiss.
“I love you,” Beau sighed against her lips. “I love you,” she mumbled between kisses. “I love you.”
For the first time in a very long time, Beau let herself feel as deeply as she wanted to.