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and i know i'm too old to dream (and i should try to be something real)

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She finds Beatrice without meaning to.

 

Her eyes spot her immediately. A dark blue spot against the pale yellow of the wall, unmoving as the rain falls short of where her feet rest on the pavement. Her eyes are closed, but her head is tilted up to the sky.

 

There’s a flash of lightning and for a second Beatrice’s whole body seems to glow in the dark as if she were the Halo Bearer. As if that specific burden didn’t already fall on Ava’s own shoulders.

 

(Then again, she wouldn’t wish that burden too on Beatrice. She doesn’t think the girl needs another excuse to accept martyrium.)

 

She wonders for a second that feels too long if Beatrice too had felt the calling of the storm raging against the windows; if she too had been so restless lately that she went out of her way to seek lightning; if she too couldn’t fall asleep anymore unless she crashed from exhaustion into a dreamless sleep.

 

She hopes with all her heart Beatrice was just in want of fresh air.

 

Then again, there are less dangerous places to find it than on top of a roof two stores up during a summer storm. And okay, maybe she’s there too, but her bones- and she’s still so not used to thinking this- snap back together just as easily as they snap apart.

 

(She’s kind of curious to see what lightning could do, though. Probably hurt like a bitch, but wouldn’t it be fun to experience?)

 

(Probably not.)

 

She’s debating with herself the best way to announce her presence, especially the best way to do so without Beatrice jumping into action and drop-kicking her to her probable death, when she turns around herself, her eyes suddenly open and on Ava.

 

“Hey,” she greets Ava in her usual soft-spoken voice.

 

Not that she has any trouble hearing her, even though the rain roars around them. It’s like her ears are tuned to Beatrice’s voice as if her body had been attuned to hers. And maybe she’s never been the most observant person, but she can recognize the exhaustion Beatrice seems to exude today.

 

“How did you—”

 

“You think very loudly,” Beatrice answers before she can finish the sentence, she waits a second before continuing with a small confidential smile, “And that door needs to be oiled.”

 

“And here I thought you could read minds.”

 

Even half a meter away and in the darkness as rain falls around them, Ava can see the twinkle in Beatrice’s eyes. “Oh, I can.”

 

She wonders if anyone else is privy to this side of Beatrice, too. Beatrice smirks and Ava wishes, all of the sudden and for no apparent reason at all, for the answer to be no.

 

“Damn elite sect of nuns with superpowers,” Ava shakes her head as she sits next to her, back to the wall, oddly pleased when Beatrice’s hand shoots immediately to support her in case she slipped.

 

She can feel the warmth against her upper arm, even without her touching. Beatrice was always so warm, and kind, and lovely, and—wait, what?

 

Weird thought there, Ava.

 

Then again, she’s been having more than a few of those lately, when she was around her. Probably something she should examine, sooner or later. Probably later.

 

She shakes her head again, before drawing her knees to her chest and wrapping her arms around them and resting her cheek on them. “So, what was I thinking?”

 

“That lightning storms are very striking,” Beatrice says, completely deadpan, before cracking into a smile. And it’s a smile so pleased Ava can do nothing but laugh.

 

“That was bad.”

 

Beatrice’s smile only gets wider.

 

“No, really. It was horrible. Did you google it? Tell me you googled it. You couldn’t have made up something so horrible on your own.”

 

Beatrice just looks at her. “I refuse to dignify that with an answer.”

 

And Ava is stuck once again by the full force of Beatrice’s intent gaze.

 

There’s another flash, and Ava turns to face the sky once again, suddenly feeling like Beatrice’s eyes may be too much.

 

“Do you wish to know how far away it is?” Beatrice asks and Ava smiles at the childish enthusiasm in her voice.

 

“The lightning?”

 

Beatrice doesn’t stop smiling that excited little smile that always makes its presence felt when she can teach Ava something. Usually, it’s reserved for a ‘how to make a grown man cry and fall on his face’ kind of lessons, but Ava doesn’t mind the change of pace too much.

 

And she looks so childishly happy Ava doesn’t have the heart to tell her she already knows how to. It’s a rare look on her, so free of expectations and duties. Ava loves it, maybe, a bit too much.

 

And so she shrugs with a smile. “Sure.”

 

Beatrice waits for another flash, before counting under her breath. Ava can’t take her eyes off of her and she doesn’t know why. At the sound of thunder, she turns back to her with a satisfied smile.

 

“Seven kilometres,” Beatrice says, “You count the seconds and then divide by three.”

 

“That’s cool,” Ava tries to inject enthusiasm in her voice, but she never was much of an actor. And Beatrice, the greatest nun detective in history, picks up on it in an instant.

 

“You already knew how,” she accuses her, though there’s little bite behind the words.

 

“…Maybe,” Ava admits, but when she sees Beatrice’s face fall, she rushes out- “You looked so happy, though.”

 

Another flash of light, and then the thunder, the storm so far away she almost doesn’t hear it.

 

“It’s going away.”

 

“Most things do,” Beatrice replies sombre- and suddenly she, too, feels hundreds of meters away from Ava.

 

“So,” Ava says because she’s never learnt how to shut up, “Why are you up here?”

 

Beatrice doesn't answer her for long enough Ava starts to wonder if she had asked anything to begin with. “I guess I miss the OCS, and this roof reminds me of it.”

 

Ava speaks before her brain can tell her it’s a bad idea. “I used to do that a lot.”

 

“Do what?”

 

“Play pretend. Not much else to do when you’re a paraplegic kid in an orphanage.”

 

Ava sees the way Beatrice’s face slips quickly into a wince even she couldn’t conceal beneath a mask of calm confidence and realizes she just royally fucked up.

 

“I’m sorry I never… I never learnt how to comfort someone. I never… I didn’t have a lot of social experiences before this. I don’t think I’m any good at it.”

 

“Not much,” Beatrice agrees, and the honesty should sting but it doesn’t- Beatrice always knew how to bring Ava back down without making her crash into pieces, “Practice makes perfect, though.”

 

Ava bumps their shoulders together, and they sit in the quiet, the rain falling softly around them so that Ava half thinks it’s all a dream. And she half thinks that if it were Beatrice might have been her love interest in it, and that half thought is more than jarring so she escapes it in the best way she knows.

 

“You know what I realized?” she says, breaking the quiet easily.

 

It’s a testament to how much Beatrice knows her by now, the way her face turns from peaceful to cautious immediately. It makes Ava want to break into a grin.

 

“No.”

 

“I’ve never felt rain on my skin. Or well, I did, probably. But not in more than ten years.”

 

“Ava,” and Beatrice’s voice has a tone of warning in it that maybe Ava should heed.

 

She jumps to her feet and offers Beatrice her hand. “You’re right. I shouldn’t.”

 

Beatrice smiles as she takes her hand.

 

(Then again maybe not.)

 

Ava locks their fingers together before dragging Beatrice in the rain with her.

 

“Ava!”

 

Before Beatrice can think of breaking away, Ava hugs her close to her chest. Beatrice is warmth and soft where the rain is icy and wet. It makes for a contrast near a symphony.

 

“C'mon, sister no fun, where’s your inner child?” she shouts over the rain.

 

“I think you are plenty child for both of us!” Beatrice shouts back but doesn’t try to get out of Ava’s grip- which is weird because Ava is sure Beatrice knows half a million ways to escape unwanted touches, has seen her thrown grown men on the ground without breaking a sweat but she stays in Ava’s arms and Ava is lost in the search for the reason why.

 

(So much she should stop avoiding thinking of.)

 

(Not that she will.)

 

Ava’s laugh bubbles through her chest.

 

“Admit,” she pushes closer, until her lips hover over Beatrice’s left ear, feels her shiver against her body, “You’re enjoying it and I’ll let you go.”

 

And then, almost as an afterthought, she brushes her lips to Beatrice’s cheek.

 

And Ava is a tactile person. Ask anyone! She is! It’s… sad, to put it in words, but she likes the reminder that she’s not alone anymore. She’s a bit touch-starved if she was being honest. Making up for a decade of child abuse, really.

 

That’s why she does it.

 

No other reason.

 

But it seems Beatrice doesn’t need Ava to let her do anything, as she decides she’s done hugging her because she jabs a fist under Ava’s arm and applies sharp pressure until she lets go.

 

"Ow, alright."

 

Ava misses her the instant she lets go.

 

“You’re mad,” Beatrice says, barely more than a whisper, like she didn’t want Ava to hear her.

 

She might have slipped away from her hug, but she was still so close Ava could track each drop trapped in her eyelashes.

 

“And you’re the one still standing under the rain with the crazy person.”

 

Beatrice takes a step back as if Ava had been the one to remind her of the rain still falling around them.

 

It’s a step and yet it feels like miles.

 

“Come,” Beatrice says, “You’re going to catch your death.”

 

Ava follows after her, quiet for one of the first times in her life. Beatrice doesn’t lead her to the room Ava shares with Camila, though, opening the door next to it that led to Beatrice’s own.

 

She watches Beatrice as she takes out two towels and some clothes for the both of them from the black garbage bag they used as a suitcase.

 

Beatrice’s fluid in her movements, as she turns away from her and takes off her tunic. It falls down to the floor with a wet squelch. Ava tries not to think how this is the first time she has ever seen more than the usual square centimetre of Beatrice’s skin, and then tries not to think about why it makes her own skin itch.

 

And then she stops.

 

Because why is it making her skin itch?

 

Why would it?

 

Why does her thought always stray when she’s near her?

 

What does she want from Beatrice?

 

And she had kissed JC. She had more than kissed him if you caught her drift. And she’s less than naïve, she won’t pretend he was to her anything more than what he had been. A taste of freedom. Her first taste of freedom, her first shot at a semblance of normalcy and fun. And she had thought, he wasn’t a bad boy, to be her first.

 

But this. This itch, this burn, she feels as she looks at Beatrice’s naked back… it’s like the cold left behind by the rain evaporates off her skin in an instant, leaving behind feverish heat instead.

 

It’s… surprising.

 

Ava is still so new at this whole sexual awakening thing, even though part of her feels like she shouldn’t be. Irrationally. And like most things concerning Beatrice, that had surprised her.

 

She finds her hand reaching out for her without her brain ever giving the command. She catches herself before fingertips can brush over wet pale skin.

 

She turns around. “I—” her voice comes out strangled even to her own ears, she clears her throat, “I will go, then. To my room. Yeah. Okay. Goodnight.”

 

She storms out before Beatrice can say anything.

 

How is she meant to sleep after this fucking realization?

 

**

 

Ava needed to look up whether kissing a nun was a sin, like asap. It shouldn’t be on the top of her list of priorities, maybe, but when has she ever followed a straight path to success. Eh. Straight.

 

Anyway- kiss, sin or no sin?

 

It probably was, but you never know right? Maybe there was like a secret chapter in the new testament about it, like “thou shall kiss whoever thou wanteth to kiss” or something.

 

Then again, Ava might not be an expert, but she does know most of the rules of the Church were made up by men trying to control a narrative that didn’t fit their preferred view.

 

Anyway, the question had been in Ava’s mind for far too long to stay unanswered. Far too long being approximately a whole twenty-four hours. Ava wasn’t made of patience. Obviously.

 

Especially since

 

Beatrice had been as solid as the stone she emerged from, and Ava couldn’t stop looking at her lips and wondering if kissing her would damn them both. Not that she believes in that kind of thing. But Beatrice seemed like she did.

 

Did- does Beatrice even want to be kissed by her?

 

Maybe that was a better question to have answered.

 

Her eyes had lingered too, but she had taken vows. She was a nun. A weird, wonderful, badass nun, but still a nun. And she cared about her faith. Who was Ava to ask her to let go of that?

 

Another thing Ava needed to do, apparently, was paying attention while cooking.

 

Because while cooks on tv- because she did watch cooking shows when she was stuck in that bed, and maybe she didn’t want to admit that in front of Mary that one time because it was nice to have someone look at her like a parent would, or maybe she just liked to irk her up more than she probably should- talked incessantly in front of a camera and never as much as scalded themselves that didn’t translate to Ava’s experience.

 

Because apparently thinking of nuns, and kissing, and kissing nuns, might bring some poor unsuspected newly amateur tortilla de patas maker into burning her hand on the stove.

 

(She’s almost twenty, she should know by now that life isn’t like tv shows it to be.)

 

She hisses out loud as the skin on the back of her hand starts to turn red, like a small sliver of a red moon, before the Halo power starts flowing to the injury and she watches as it turns back to normal. If nothing else, being the Halo bearer had some perks.

 

“I thought Mateo taught you how to do it.”

 

“Still jealous he likes me more than you, uh?”

 

Ava can pinpoint the second Mary decides to throw the spatula in her hand, and she thanks the Halo again for gifting her with superhuman reflexes as she catches it in mid-air with a smirk directed in Mary’s direction.

 

She scrunches up her nose when Mary sticks her tongue out. “Rude.”

 

“I know you are but what am I?”

 

“And so mature, too.”

 

“Feeling funny today?”

 

“I’m always funny.”

 

Mary nods sympathetically. “You tell yourself that.”

 

She throws the spatula back to Mary with a laugh and starts the preparation to turn her little baby in the pan. She really needs to focus on this step. It’s a sacred step, Mateo had told her. He was probably fucking with her, though.

 

She puts a plate on the pan, before flipping it, thanking whoever looked upon her from the skies when she does not send the mixture of egg, potatoes and onion flying. She manages to get it back in the pan the right way, and she swears she’s never felt more accomplished than this in a long time.

 

She throws a fist in the air in celebration and Mary, rudely, laughs at her.

 

“Look at you, baby girl, an accomplished cook.”

 

“Is it a sin to kiss a nun?” Ava blurts out before her brain can catch up to her mouth. She should have grown out of it by now, and yet.

 

By the face Mary makes, Ava is pretty sure the answer to her question is ‘enough to make a nun blush’. Ah. She can’t help the slight chuckle at her own joke. She’s hilarious, really. Lilith is just jealous of her genius.

 

Mary just looks at her some more. “What the fuck?”

 

Okay, so more blaspheme that she had previously thought. Great. She hopes she hadn’t made Beatrice too uncomfortable, then, when she had fallen into her arms and couldn’t tear away her eyes from her lips. That was the last thing she meant to do. Make her uncomfortable that is. And that whole incident had been before she had even realized it, so it should hardly matter as intent, right?

 

“Calm your tits,” she tries her best to look nonchalant, “It was just… curiosity.”

 

“Watch your language,” Mary snaps half-heartedly, face still very much weird and eyes still very much trained on Ava instead of the cherry tomatoes happily wilting in the pan.

 

“You just swore!”

 

Mary turns her eyes to the cherry tomatoes, finally. And she doesn’t say anything. Ava doesn’t mind, really, she’s fine with silence. She’s a master at it. 'Silence of the lambs' was inspired by her mastery of the craft.

 

(Wait, that one was a horror wasn’t it? What did JC say about it? Is she going to blurt this out if Mary doesn’t pick up the conversation?)

 

“I’m not a nun,” Mary says, saving Ava from another social blunder.

 

(Thank god.)

 

“Well, neither am I,” Ava reminds her.

 

“Then why did you ask?”

 

“Curiosity. Search for higher knowledge. I’m a scholar at heart, Mary.”

 

“Mh mh.”

 

“And well, weren’t you in love with Shannon?”

 

The way Mary jerks, as if a lightning bolt had stricken her, was all the answer Ava needed. And then she kinda wants to beat herself up, because now Mary has a distant look in her eyes, and really, how insensitive could she still be? She’s trying to be better. Why can’t she be better?

 

“I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have phrased it like that.”

 

She watches as Mary reaches through her shirt, grasping what looks like a round pendant through the fabric. She lets go of it just as quickly as she had clutched it, and it doesn’t take a genius to guess it’s something Sister Shannon gave her. Ava wonders what it is.

 

“No, you shouldn’t have,” Mary agrees, “But you’re right.”

 

“So…” oh god why are you still talking, quit while you’re ahead Silva, you’re better than this, she berates herself, but her mouth keeps on going anyway, “Was it a sin?”

 

Mary narrows her eyes. “Is there a problem here?”

 

“NO!” she blushes, “No. It was just—”

 

“Curiosity, yes, you’ve said,” Mary says, but her eyes bear deep into Ava’s and she’s pretty sure she never was the poker champion Ava first thought she was- because it turns out, when your body could move from the neck down, it betrayed you more than it could when it could not move at all.

 

“Curiosity,” she confirms with a nod that she hopes doesn’t come off too relieved.

 

“You’re not a nun, technically, baby girl.”

 

The pet name warms her more than she wants to admit- it’s not cool to like being treated like a little sister- she turns away. “I know that.”

 

“So I’m sure that that boy won’t burn in hell for kissing you.”

 

It takes her a second to realize who Mary was hinting at. In that second Mary had managed to drain the pasta in the sink and pretend to be uninterested all at once. Now she, Ava thinks, would have no problem hitting all the jackpots in Vegas.

 

“I wasn’t asking for JC,” Ava says before she can realize she’s fallen right into Mary’s trap.

 

Mary turns to the skillet nonchalantly tossing the pasta in with the tomatoes. “Then I don’t see why else you would ask.”

 

“You’re right, it’s silly. That’s what google is for. Forgot I could now move my own fingers to check.”

 

“Ava.”

 

“I mean you spend a decade stuck in a bed and nobody bothers to teach you what yahoo answer is for, am I right?”

 

“Ava.”

 

“…Yes?”

 

“I don’t know if kissing Shannon made me a sinner,” Mary says, and Ava notices how when she says Shannon’s name, her voice itches with pain still, “I just know it was right. It felt right.”

 

“Was it before she took her vows?”

 

“It started before. It continued after. I think most turned a blind eye to it.”

 

“Because she was the warrior nun.”

 

“Yes. But also,” and Mary smirks then, in a way that Ava’s sure made powerful white men shiver in fear, “My name is Shotgun Mary for a reason.”

 

“I’m sure you’re great fun at parties.”

 

“Hey there, respect your elders.”

 

“I’m your superior officer.”

 

Mary doesn’t even give her the satisfaction of a laugh, just stares her down unimpressed, before quipping: “Your potatoes are burning, superior officer.”

 

“Sure, it does,” Ava says, smiling sardonically back, “And I have gullible written on my forehead.”

 

Doubt starts to poke at her when Mary just shakes her head. She risks a glance to the pan.

 

“Oh shit.”

 

Mary laughs then, shaking her head as Ava tries to avoid spoiling their food. “Why don’t you go call the others for dinner? I’ll take it from here.”

 

“Will you take credit for cooking?” She says as she narrows her eyes, spatula held like a sword. Or how she thinks a sword should be held. For all their training Ava still isn’t allowed weapons, for as much as she reasons she should know how to fight with the sword even if it’s made out of demon’s bones and not divine metal.

 

Mary just looks at her, her face screaming ‘Ava for the love of god just go before I take my favourite shotgun out’ - or maybe she was just staring at her because she loved her so very much, Ava isn’t sure which it was.

 

(Probably the murdering one.)

 

“Okay, okay, I’m going.”

 

She bumps into Camila and Lilith as she steps out of the kitchen. Oh well, two done and one to go then.

 

She finds Beatrice in the church library, or well, the room filled with books and seemingly smaller than a janitor’s closet the church uses to store books.

 

She finds her curled up with a cup of tea near her, half-empty and long gone cold as if she had started it but got so lost in the book, she couldn’t finish it. The sunset washes over and around her, a golden wave that makes her look as if spun from gold.

 

She’s so pretty Ava really physically hurts, and she really, really wants to kiss her. She speaks before she can blurt that one out.

 

“Hey.”

 

“Hey. What do you need?”

 

“Nothing I just wanted to hang,” Ava says, completely forgetting she’s actually supposed to be calling her to dinner, mostly doing so on purpose, “Or I can go if you wanted to be alone.”

 

“No, it’s fine I was just reading. Join me?”

 

Ava sits next to her- as if she could ever deny an outright request from Beatrice- smiling when Beatrice makes space for her, shifting under her cocoon of blankets. How a person can manage to look both hot and cute at the same time, Ava doesn’t know.

 

There’s still a cut right under her cheekbone, faint now after a few days but there, nonetheless. Ava worries a bit about that, about how easily Beatrice seemed to bruise, and she wonders what the nun could be hiding under the layers of clothes. It pulls Ava’s focus from where it usually laid- her lips- though, so she’s grateful for small mercies.

 

Beatrice keeps looking at her and Ava remembers she’s supposed to be speaking to her. “Oh, what precious nun records did you find this time?”

 

“Not everything I read is about our mission.”

 

“Oh,” Ava breaks out into her best conspiratory smirk, “Do tell how you found smut in a church’s library.”

 

Beatrice lets out an indignant huff of air Ava lets herself interpret as a laugh.

 

“It is not smut.”

 

She says the word with such contempt Ava just has to laugh.

 

“Sure, it isn’t. Don’t worry, I won’t judge. Or tell,” she winks then, “If you share, that is.”

 

“Oh, I know my secrets are safe with you,” Beatrice says in such a hushed whisper Ava shivers all over in anticipation.

 

Bad Ava.

 

Don’t lust after your friend as she looks at you under the low light of sunset filtering through the tiny slit of a window- the only window of the room- as her back effectively blocks the only way of access into the room.

 

She swallows.

 

“No exit,” Beatrice seemingly agrees with her thoughts. Her thoughts, right?

 

Oh God, had she spoken aloud again?

 

“The book,” Beatrice continues, and Ava barely keeps a sigh of relief out of her mouth, “It’s ‘No Exit’ by Sartre.”

 

Ava nods like she knew exactly what Beatrice was talking about.

 

“French existentialist,” she prattles on as if giving Ava a personal lecture, “Great friend of Camus. He believed that essence preceded existence. That man was condemned to be free. That hell was other people.”

 

“Must have been the life of the party.”

 

She looks at the page to find it written in the original French. Of course. She’d roll her eyes, wasn’t she too busy imagining Beatrice speaking the words aloud. God, she has the hots for a nerd.

 

“Yeah. An atheist, too. I wonder how it got here.”

 

“You gotta know your enemy to fight it,” Ava says, completely serious, before her stomach makes a sound akin to an earthquake.

 

This time Beatrice actually laughs.

 

“Oh right,” she pretends to be reminded, she doesn’t know if Beatrice is fooled though, Ava wasn’t ever much of an actor, “I was supposed to call you to dinner. I cooked.”

 

“Am I in for a surprise?”

 

“I’ll have you know it’s the only thing I know how to cook. And I cooked it excellently well.”

 

(If you didn’t look at the slightly charred bits on the bottom, that is.)

 

(But Beatrice doesn’t need to know that.)

 

Beatrice helps her up, before bending down again to retrieve the half-drunk cup of tea and her blanket.

 

The walk back is quiet, and normally Ava wouldn’t mind it much- she likes the silence that comes with staying near Beatrice- only this time when their hands brush, she feels the overwhelming need to take Beatrice’s hand in hers. And that’s not something she could do. Should do. So, she rushes through the first conversation topic she can think of.

 

“You like books then?”

 

(It’s a stupid topic of conversation.)

 

Beatrice side-eyes her, a smile playing at her lips. “The church doesn’t just lock us up in a gym and a crypt, you know?”

 

“That’s way too specific. Do they actually?” she says, widening her eyes until Beatrice rolls her eyes, “Anyway, you could have been a tv kid. I was.”

 

“I wasn’t. Television wasn’t encouraged in my household. I’m not really up on pop culture.”

 

Ava smiles at the way the words sound in Beatrice’s mouth- just a tad out of place. “Maybe we should correct that one day.”

 

“Maybe we should,” Beatrice echoes back, and Ava gets caught up in the way the words sound in her mouth.

 

A promise.

 

**

 

The next morning, she wakes up to an empty room.

 

Which isn’t rare, Ava likes her sleep, and Camila is a small ball of energy who’s up with the sun, but a quick glance to her phone- which had been… borrowed from one of the possessed dudes at the Vatican- lets her know she skipped on both the terce and sext. Which meant she had skipped lunch.

 

She groans a bit, as she goes downstairs, knowing that it was Lilith turn to cook that day, so that meant she would have to try her luck with bread and ham and step carefully around whatever had been cooked.

 

After having secured her very balanced lunch, she starts wandering around in search of familiar faces.

 

She finds them, predictably, on the makeshift training ground. She stops herself from skipping over to them, but just barely, her heart doing the funny flip thing it always did when she saw Beatrice.

 

Lord, how had she not noticed her crush before? Whatever. Play it cool, Silva.

 

“Beatrice,” she greets neutrally.

 

(Nailed it.)

 

“Bitch,” she greets less neutrally.

 

“Midget,” Lilith doesn’t even lift her eyes from where she’s stretching on the ground to reply.

 

“We’re like the same height!”

 

Lilith doesn’t answer again beyond a smirk. Asshole.

 

She focuses back on Beatrice, which may have been a mistake.

 

Because were usually stood a habit wearing nun, was a girl with jeans rolled up to her ankles and what looked like a very soft flannel over a tank top. It takes Ava a second before she realizes she’s been staring for far too long.

 

Her brain is buzzing with one too many thoughts, most of which shouldn’t come out of her mouth.

 

“Hey,” Beatrice says, almost a question.

 

“You’re in people clothes!” is exactly what she didn’t mean to blurt out.

 

Beatrice makes a face that makes Ava think of that one time she had convinced Diego that motherfucker was a more respectful way to say nun in English. Sister Frances had made that same face of bewilderment Beatrice is now sporting. Though she has to say Beatrice’s is much more amused than Sister Frances’ face had been.

 

She doesn’t like to think of Sister Frances and Beatrice in the same sentence, though.

 

She should also say something else because Beatrice is still staring at her.

 

“You know,” she shakes her hand in a circle like she had seen the locals do, though she’s sure she doesn’t look half as cool as they did, “Not nun clothes. People clothes. Jeans. And a shirt. You look nice in a shirt. Oh god, you can stop me whenever.”

 

“Do I?” Beatrice asks, her head tilting with what would read as shy weren’t for her shit-eating grin.

 

“Yeah. Nice. Very nice. Yes. Very… oh you bitch.”

 

Beatrice laughs then and the sound is clean and silvery as if the bronze bells that rang at the beginning of every mass in this small Italian town had taken residence in her throat instead of the small turret by the chapel.

 

(It’s not a nice church, and they’re not nice bells, but the sound of calling people to their faith… Ava feels like she knows a lot about that.)

 

She also hears a snort from somewhere on her right, and shit. She forgot they weren’t alone.

 

“I’m sorry but… people clothes?”

 

“Yeah, sure. Laugh it up. Last time I’ll say anything nice to you.”

 

It’s a tall lie, and they both know it, but Beatrice lets it past. “So, what did you need?”

 

Ava should answer something smooth like: Nothing at all, other than the pleasure of your company.

 

“I wanted to… can you teach me how to write properly?”

 

Shit, she fucked that up. And she can see Mary laughing it up from the corner of her eye.

 

And even if that’s not at all what she had meant to say, she can do little to take it back now. “It seems my hand kind of forgot the movements, you know, being paralyzed from the neck down and everything.”

 

The laughter falls from Beatrice’s face immediately, morphing to a much kinder expression. “Sure.”

 

She can’t believe she used the paraplegic card because of social anxiety.

 

“I probably need some general math lessons. Like, I’m pretty sure I shouldn’t be using my fingers to add stuff.”

 

“Wait, that can’t be right,” Mary says from beside her.

 

“In my defence, I haven’t stepped foot in a school since I was like seven.”

 

“They didn’t provide instruction at the orphanage?” Beatrice asks, her eyebrows falling together in the picture-perfect of concern for Ava’s past education- or rather, her lack thereof.

 

She shrugs. “Nuns, man.”

 

Mary shakes her head in sympathy. “I know, baby girl.”

 

They both ignore Lilith rolling her eyes behind Beatrice- and like what? Was she eavesdropping on their open-air conversation in the middle of the communal garden? Rude.

 

“I’m going on a run,” Lilith announces to no one in particular, though her eyes are for some reason trained on Ava. Which is weird because Lilith always tried her best to either pretend Ava doesn’t exist or, if that failed, berated her without even looking at her.

 

But since Ava did have her attention now- “Gross.”

 

“And you’re coming with me,” Lilith adds, still looking at her- staring really. Double weird.

 

“Even more gross,” she says, even though she actually really likes running. Wait, is that right? “Grosser?” she tries again, tilting her head in Beatrice’s direction.

 

“You should go,” is what Beatrice answers. Rude.

 

“Grosser,” supplies Camila with a smile, the angel, the only one not betraying her and proposing she went on a run with the hellspawn.

 

That was insensitive, the voice that sounded an awful lot like Beatrice’s own reminds her. Try antichrist, says the one that sounded more like Mary.

 

The voices in her head were so useful, you guys.

 

“C’ mon midget, I don’t have all day.”

 

And well, Ava is only so mature. She sighs and walks to Lilith, before slapping her (gently, more or less) on the back of her head and running off.

 

“Race you.”

 

“Get back here!”

 

She laughs as she hears Lilith’s steps behind her.

 

She manages to dodge the first fist, but not the kick to her leg. She only barely manages not to faceplant into the pavement, which, she’s sure, deeply disappoints her attacker.

 

“You’re a child.”

 

“Says you. Takes one to know one,” Ava says, before sticking her tongue out. That probably doesn’t help her case, but Ava never was one for easy victories.

 

It’s a game they play, at this point. Lilith will grumble and Ava will poke. But if she were to turn at just the right second, she would spot the slight tilt of Lilith’s lips- the maximum extent of a smile Ava could get from her.

 

Lilith starts speaking with her face still turned away from her. “I didn’t think much of you when I first saw you.”

 

Bullshit,” she drawls, her mouth morphing into a confident grin, “I was glowing, and I killed a tarask first try.”

 

“You banished him at best,” Lilith sneers, and yup, there it is, “Anyway, you weren’t much. You still aren’t.”

 

“I’m waiting for the but here.”

 

(Eh- butt.)

 

Lilith looks at her piercingly, before continuing. “But I still think Beatrice could do worse.”

 

She falters in her step and faceplant in the cement. She feels her nose breaking and then, just as swift, mending back in place. The bruise on her knee blossoms and fades in the amount of time it takes for her mind to acknowledge it. It, also, hurts like a bitch.

 

And then she notices her arm.

 

Shit.

 

She grits her teeth. “Shit,” she repeats out loud.

 

It was always an unsettling experience, to watch her bones realign, to see the tendons snap back into place as red muscle grows around white bone, as capillary worm into and around, and then watch as skin grows over that too, one cell at a time, one follicle at a time.

 

(She did watch érase una vez el cuerpo humano, when she was nine. It was one of her favourites.)

 

(Still was if she were to be honest.)

 

It wasn’t just unsettling the sight of it. It was how she could feel every cell reconstruct just as she had felt each one gets torn apart in the fall. And it had hurt. Like a motherfucker.

 

“Fuck. Motherfucking fuck.”

 

“You done?”

 

To Lilith’s credit, she doesn’t faze much at the sight of it all. Then again Lilith must be used to morphing body parts by now. That was rude. In her defence- “I’m sorry my tibia just fucking snapped.”

 

“That’s your shin, not your arm. You broke your…” Lilith pauses as she crutches down next to where Ava is still stuck, it doesn’t take long to determine, “Ulna.”

 

“What would I do without you,” Ava can’t help the snark.

 

She finds out what tripped her as soon as she looks beyond the bloody mess of her leg. Her foot had phased through the ground apparently, in the shock of hearing Lilith of all people say—anyway, making her powers so much more annoying.

 

“What are friends for.”

 

Lilith’s voice is dry and grits against Ava’s skin, and her nerves. “God. Shut up.”

 

And then, like some kind of miracle, Lilith does shut up.

 

(And like any miracle, it’s short-lived.)

 

“Anyway,” Lilith says, and Ava groans, “Beatrice could do better. But she could also do worse.”

 

“Rude.”

 

Lilith goes on like she hadn't heard her at all. “It could be Shannon because Shannon was good. She was… better, for as much as it pains me to admit it. But you. You were nothing.”

 

“Hey now, I thought we’d gotten past that.”

 

“You were nothing. And then you were what we needed,” Lilith makes a face like she’s disgusted by her own words, and well, same, “What Beatrice needs.”

 

“Is this a fucked-up attempt at a shovel talk?”

 

“This is me telling you to not ‘fuck it up.’”

 

And well, since Lilith is in the mood for heart to hearts… “I keep thinking—”

 

“That must be a curse.”

 

“Uncalled for.”

 

Lilith just laughs and Ava rolls her eyes, before continuing.

 

“I don’t know,” Ava sighs, a hand traveling through her hair before remembering the gunk and blood on her fingers- yuck, she’s gonna need a shower when they go back, “I keep thinking I’m being too selfish.”

 

“So what?”

 

“What do you mean so what?”

 

Lilith shrugs, a too human gesture for a less than human vessel, in Ava’s opinion. “The world is ending. I went to hell. Who cares?”

 

“She cares!”

 

“She might care about you more. For some unknown reason. Release us all of the pining and just kiss her.”

 

And before Ava can even think of being offended by that, Lilith turns and runs, leaving Ava in her dust and more confused than ever.

 

**

 

Ava could say with little to no uncertainty that she was not a person made to be quiet. Or to stay still.

 

She kinda wishes she could have discovered this in any other situation than an old dusty church library while Beatrice looked so cool and focused as she showed Ava the motions she hadn’t been able to aptly replicate in a long time.

 

She watches as Beatrice traces the elegant curve of a cursive f, before it falls into a g.

 

And she falls into the sudden and utterly devastating realization that she was committing the most unbearable and unforgivable of sins since she was able to walk again.

 

She was bored. And overthinking about what Lilith had said. But mostly bored.

 

Not only was she devastatingly bored. She had also practically begged Beatrice to help her with her writing.

 

(Never mind how her request had come from the desire to be near Beatrice more than the one to learn how to write again.)

 

(Never mind how she found herself staring at Beatrice’s hands, and her lips, and she found herself wanting.)

 

She tries to focus back on Beatrice’s hand and its movements, but she only manages to focus on Beatrice, and Beatrice alone.

 

The way she held herself, the way she was so, so focused on her task, the way her eyes sparkled with a genuine want to teach.

 

Oh.

 

She had never noticed before- how had she never notice before- the way Beatrice’s eyes were so dark and lovely, so sweet and kind like… and Ava isn’t any good with metaphors, but Beatrice really…

 

“You really do have the prettiest eyes.”

 

She doesn’t realize she has said it out loud until said lovely eyes go wide, and Beatrice moves away from her so quickly Ava swears she almost feels a burst of wind in the instant it takes her to jerk away.

 

(Seriously, what’s with her and blurting out stupid shit lately?)

 

“What?” Beatrice asks, and she sounds breathless a bit, and Ava should not start imagining other ways she could make her so. Her throat goes dry at the thought. She shakes her head. Yeah, she should really not start at all.

 

“Not that… I mean. You do. Have pretty eyes, I mean.”

 

“Thank you.”

 

“No… no problem.”

 

She smiles, but Beatrice doesn’t smile back. Ava wants her to. Ava wants to watch Beatrice shake her head fondly while her lips lift up at the corners slightly, or, even better, she wants to hear the small laugh that comes before her half-opened mouth smile.

 

Instead, Beatrice is quiet in the way that usually precedes something very wise, or very sad. Sometimes, most times, it’s both.

 

“Do you ever…” Beatrice trails off, only to continue when Ava makes no movement to fill the silence- though it is hard to stay quiet, Ava really wants Beatrice to speak, always- “Do you ever think about how your parents have a vision for us that is never who we actually are?”

 

“I mean, I'm an orphan so never much thought about it,” Ava blurts out, regretting it the second she watches Beatrice flinch, “When I saw you for the first time, fighting… I thought you were so brave.”

 

“Didn’t live up to your expectations, did I?”

 

“I wouldn’t say that.”

 

“You never asked me why I took the vows.”

 

“I thought it was one of those questions you can’t ask, like asking for a woman’s age,” the joke is out of Ava’s mouth before she can stop it, “But you kind of did. Tell me, I mean.”

 

“I was being ambiguous.”

 

“Oh cool, can you write with your left hand then?”

 

Beatrice laughs, and though Ava doesn’t understand why a weight lifts off her chest.

 

“Devotion,” Beatrice says all of the sudden, and Ava is caught, as she always is, by her voice, “I wouldn’t call it that. Dedication. Purpose. It was something. It still is. I thought it would be a way to become… acceptable in my parents’ eyes. Though having a nun for a daughter wasn’t their intention, too, so.”

 

“I… I wouldn’t know anything about parental expectations. But I did spend most of my life spiting the only caregiver I had so. I’d say you’re acing it.”

 

There’s a sort of miracle, then, when Beatrice smiles at her. And Ava does not want to ruin it by opening her mouth. But just before she can, Beatrice beats her to it.

 

“Did you know we choose our names?” she waits until Ava nods, before continuing, “When we answer the call, we choose our names. We don’t have to, not anymore, but I did.”

 

And well, that explains why any parent in their right mind would name a child with the queen of demons’ name, though it doesn’t why anyone in their right mind would choose it as their nun name.

 

Anyway, Ava supposes there’s a reason for Beatrice to be telling her this. Unfortunately, Ava does not know anything about saints other than they were a pagan population response to being told 'you guys are monotheistic now’, and that was an opinion overly frowned upon in the convent.

 

“Beatrice.”

 

“Saint Beatrice,” she confirms, before adding, “De Silva.”

 

Oh.

 

“Oh.”

 

Beatrice isn’t looking at her as she speaks. Ava’s thankful for small mercies because she wouldn’t know what to do if she were to. “I thought you were a sign when we first met.”

 

“Sorry to disappoint.”

 

“You didn’t. At first maybe but. Ava,” Beatrice sighs her name, and it feels like a revelation.

 

Oh.

 

(A part of her brain registers how Lilith had been right.)

 

It shocks her to her core.

 

(She kind of hates to admit that Lilith had been right.)

 

“You must find it funny,” Beatrice says, and Ava almost lets out a nervous laugh in answer, out of instinct. She doesn’t think it would be the best response to this answer, though.

 

“Funny?”

 

“Sure, you find most things funny, don’t you?”

 

And Ava supposes she should feel offended by that, a bit. But Beatrice had always been out-front in her judgment, and most times, right, because she does find most things funny. She had to, for most of her life. Can’t get much other than a laugh out of life when you’re stuck in a bed for most of it.

 

A laugh… and an indecent gesture.

 

“I don’t find this funny.”

 

“Really? The lesbian nun doesn’t amuse you?”

 

And she says the words so harshly Ava wants to recoil as if she had been hit by one of Lilith’s punches.

 

This time she does let out a small huff, and Beatrice’s eyes harden in a way Ava only ever saw directed at that bitch Crimson. She hears a voice that sounds eerily like Sister Frances in her ear about disrespecting the dead, but she’s dead too, so Ava thinks fuck her too.

 

Anyway, Ava only realizes her mistake when Beatrice is already three steps further away from her. And that just won’t do.

 

“I’m sorry. I’m not laughing at you.”

 

“Just at my circumstances.”

 

“No!” Ava's hand shoots to hold her in place, she tries to soften her voice, to make her understand, “No, of course not.”

 

“And you! Why you?! Why—”

 

Ava tries not to be offended by that.

 

“I know why,” Beatrice continues in a whisper so low she almost doesn’t hear it.

 

“My dazzling good looks?”

 

And just as quickly as it came, Beatrice’s rage subsides.

 

She reminded Ava of a tide. She moved like water, Ava had noticed that from the first time she saw her fight like it was a dance, and she was like water too. Swift and quick. And dangerous, oh so dangerous she sometimes sent shivers down Ava’s spine.

 

“Why are you making a joke of this?”

 

“Because it is, isn’t it? Right?”

 

“Oh, Ava.”

 

Ava has never had anyone look at her with such soft eyes before, not even JC.

 

She doesn’t know when she had leaned so close, or when her forearm had started digging into Beatrice soft skin, but she watches her pupil dilate, her mouth falters open.

 

“I don’t… like succumbing to my feelings,” Beatrice says, and that’s a bit- a lot- of an understatement right there.

 

“I know,” Ava says anyway- because she does, “You’re real good at it, too.”

 

“Thank you.”

 

“No problem,” Ava says because this wasn’t already more of a fever dream of a conversation.

 

“I’m so angry. All the time,” Beatrice says, “And I can never show it, and I can never let it out because I have to be the level-headed one.”

 

“I know.”

 

“Wanting, for me, was enough. Until you,” Beatrice breathes her name like it’s her beginning and her end.

 

“You’re allowed to want something, Beatrice.”

 

“No, I’m not.”

 

Beatrice says the words in such a levelled, accepting way, Ava’s heart aches. And she wants to tell her that no, she deserves the world, in Ava’s opinion. That she deserved so much more than her parents had made her think. That she was more to Ava than just what she could teach her, what she could help her with.

 

Mostly, Ava wants to hold her until she believes her.

 

Mostly, she wants to offer Beatrice all the kindness the world had denied her, because she deserved it.

 

“You said not everything is about yourself,” Ava says, her hand going to cup Beatrice’s cheek without her meaning to, “But that doesn’t mean nothing can be.”

 

She doesn’t expect Beatrice to take her hand and bring it close to her lips. A feather-light kiss.

 

“I can’t. I. You can’t ask me—”

 

And with each stuttered word, Beatrice’s lips brushed against the back of her hands, shadows of lips and shadows of kisses. Ava’s tongue feels too heavy in her mouth.

 

“I think you’ve been asked enough of already. What do you want to ask for?”

 

“You’re a desire I’ve long since forgotten,” Beatrice chokes out the words as if anything more would let all her heart spill out too, “A softness I have more than denied myself.”

 

Ava pretends the words don’t choke her up too. Pretends she doesn’t feel a remnant of fear running through her veins at the thought of commitment and responsibilities. Pretends she doesn’t feel the rush of adrenaline, too, like she’s been shocked by lightning.

 

“That’s alright.”

 

And she could borrow some metaphor to describe how it feels to have Beatrice come closer still until there’s barely a breath of space left between them.

 

“I’m afraid if I kiss you now, I may never stop.”

 

And Ava wants her to smile, so she says, “Fine by me. Kiss away.”

 

“Can you be serious for once?” Beatrice asks, but she’s smiling again.

 

“No,” she smiles too, as she offers, “But I could kiss you instead?”

 

And Beatrice doesn’t answer, just fits their lips together.

 

(She thinks for a second of how when she kissed JC, her brain had gone a mile a minute.)

 

Ava remembers to kiss her back the moment Beatrice seems to be pulling away. She makes a noise from the back of her throat, something needy and that she wants to deny ever came from her lips, before following Beatrice's lips.

 

(When she kisses Beatrice, it’s like her brain doesn’t even exist anymore.)

 

She kisses her again, still soft, just a press of lips, and yet. And yet.

 

(Just her heart.)

 

She wants to press further, she wants to bury her hand in Beatrice’s hair, she wants to taste her skin.

 

But when she cups Beatrice’s cheek with her hand, she finds wet tears. And Ava for the first time in her life thinks that there’s time.

 

She rests her forehead against Beatrice’s and brushes her tears away.

 

Ava feels like the room is too bright, too big, for this. For them. And at the same time, it’s like her heart is trying desperately to grow to fill the space.

 

“You good?”

 

“I’m alright,” Beatrice says, Ava watches her throat bob before she continues, “I’m very good.”

 

“Good.”

 

“Good,” Beatrice echoes one last time before laughing, wet and happy and alive.

 

And well, Ava is only human. She bends to kiss her again.

 

And again.

 

And again.

 

(Yeah, everything was good.)