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a confidant and friend

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1.

‘Perhaps, and I mean no offence when I say this, but perhaps one of, ah, the more persuasive, the more obsequious—‘

‘Obse-what?’ Jester interrupts, looking up from where she is drawing at Beau’s new desk. Or, gods, maybe on the desk itself.

‘—charming, flattering ones of us—myself, or Fjord—could talk to the High Curator,’ Caleb suggests, his fingers pulling, drifting across the air as he plans in that way he does, like he’s pulling on strings, tugging their strategy into place like the mental image he has is a tangible thing. ‘You have a habit of being…’

‘A habit of being what, Caleb?’

To everyone’s surprise—even Beauregard’s, maybe even Nott’s own—the sly, almost challenging question comes from Nott of all people.

‘Hm. I have spoken out of turn,’ the flame-haired wizard says. Shakes his head. ‘Never mind.’

Nott relents a little. Then, ‘She may have been an absolute garbage fire when we met, but even I have to admit, she’s getting better at not making people want to punch her in the face.’

‘Thanks?’ Beau says, not sure how much of a compliment that really was. ‘Plus, the High Curator isn’t gonna talk to you if you’re not part of the soul, probably. It’s gotta be me. Unfortunately,’ she adds with a hitching smile, directed to Caleb, as if to say I get it, it’s fine, I totally fucking agree with your assessment of my skills or lack thereof.

Nott narrows her eyes. Her hand drifts towards her crossbow. ‘You’re going to do just fine,’ she says, and somehow manages to make the encouragement sound like a threat.

//

2.

‘You lying to me?’ the guard demands, shakes Beau by the collar. He's a big brute, with giant hands and hoary knuckles, and he nearly lifts her clean off her feet when her first attempt at talking her way in goes not well at all. 'What are you up to? You want to sneak into the fort, is that it? You think I’m gonna buy there’s people after you?’

Beau bites her tongue before she can reply with something rude, something that’d make him just straight up kill her.

‘I'm telling you the truth, man. There’s a gang of fuckin’—murderers or, or thieves or bandits or whatever you call them, out there in the forest right now. I’m of the Cobalt Soul—see? I’m on your side!'

That does seem to help. The guard wavers, glancing down at her distinctive raiments.

‘Alright…’ he mutters, drops her back down to her feet. ‘Show me where they are. We'll dispatch them first, and then you can come in. Darius! Leon! Marta! With me,’ the captain calls, and the foursome follow Beau out into the clearing by the fort. ‘Mark my words, monk—if you can’t show me where they are, I will take you as our prisoner instead. Clear?’

‘Clear,’ Beau says, right as a scratchy voice tickles in her ear, or just behind it, like she’s hearing the voice without hearing it.

Modern. Literature.

That’s all the warning she gets before a bolt slams out from the treeline. Beau catches it, does her best to make it look like it got her bad, lets herself fall. It helps that she actually only barely managed to catch it and the bolt head actually pierces her skin, makes her grunt and bleed rather profusely from the wound.

The captain steps back from her where she falls to the side. Surprised, he waves his guards out to deal with the attacker. Unfortunately for Beau, he stays where he is and when it becomes readily apparent that this is, in fact, a trap, he goes nearly purple with rage and swings his blade down toward her. She rolls out of the way of the first strike, scrabbles backward in the dirt and detritus, that layer of wet earth and crackling leaf litter. He swings again, and again, lands with a wild and heavy strike a biting slash across her thigh. It makes her cry out, and—panicking—Beau grabs at a handful of that litter, throws the leaves into his face. He yells his fury, almost a roar, right in her face—and the noise cuts off to a gurgle and a wheezing choking sound as he drops down, unmoving.

Behind him, uncharacteristically deep into the battle, is Nott. Her dagger is drawn instead of her crossbow and it drips with red; the frenzied, terrified look in her eyes fades somewhat when she sees Beau staring back at her.

‘Alright?’ she rasps.

Beau nods a few times, quick and uncoordinated, suddenly dizzy. They both look to the gash on her thigh, her pants soaking with way too much blood, and Beau's vision goes spotty.

‘Jessie!’ she hears Nott call. ‘Jessie, Beau’s hurt! Get here—now!’

//

3.

‘Beau, you could climb up there and grab it, right?’

She examines the column—even with spiderclimb it would be difficult, the thorns that wrap around the column thick and wicked looking. Where they don’t coil, the marble is smooth and slick with dripping water.

‘Yeah.' She cracks her head from side to side. ‘I could give it a go.’

‘Absolutely not,’ Nott denies, shakes her head.

‘What? You wanna race?’

‘No,’ the woman says, eyeing Beau like she’s stupid, like she’s doing something stupid. ‘It’s too dangerous.’

‘Ah, it'll be fine—‘

‘We don’t know what those vines will do to you! Doesn't anyone remember that mud wizard telling us not to touch the vines? I don’t like it, it’s not safe.’

‘Nothing is safe these days. It’ll be fine,’

Beau is held in place when Nott grabs at her, wraps a forbidding hand around her wrist.

No,’ she says again. ‘There’s safer ways to do this. There’s got to be a safer way to do it,’ she says, directing that to Caleb, to Fjord, to Jester and Caduceus. ‘Figure it out.’

Beau tries to twist her hand free but Nott has a hell of a grip on her. ‘It’s fine, dude,' she tries to argue. 'This is what I’m here for. Dope monk shit!

‘No.’

Nott won’t be moved on that, and when they throw a rock closer to the column and see how the vines lash out like great toothed tentacles and slam it to the ground, the rock shattering on the stonework, Beau gulps and finds herself glad for what she realises, confused, was protection.

//

1.

‘Beau? Are you—‘

‘No!’

‘Oh fuck, oh geez,’ Nott spins in place, looking for a towel or a rag or anything that might be used as a tissue or at least to hide Beau’s face as she cries. ‘Oh fuck,’

‘It’s fine—‘

‘You’re crying!’

‘Shut up, no I’m not,’ Beau denies, even as her voice catches and breaks, and a fresh wave of tears crashes down her face, running freely down her cheeks before pooling in the crook of her elbows, over her forearms where she buries her head in them.

Nott freezes in place. Then, carefully, she steps over so she is standing next to Beau and lays a gentle hand on her shoulder.

Beau shrugs it forcefully away. ‘Fuck off,’ she snarls. The effect is diminished by the snot-thick words, the way her face turns away, trying to hide puffy and red-rimmed eyes.

Nott doesn’t fuck off. She sits down next to the girl and lifts a hand up and around, half a hug, half nothing more than a patting hand on her shoulder.

‘There there,’ Nott soothes in her scratchy voice. The instinct comes back to her naturally, even after so many years as not-Veth. Soothing a crying child, especially one so heartbroken? She pats Beau’s head when the girl falls into her, starts to cry into her shoulder. ‘There there,’ she murmurs, rocking Beau. ‘It’s alright, it’ll be alright.’