DISCLAIMER: The Hollows and its characters/inhabitants are the property of Kim Harrison. No infringement intended.
SPOILERS: Set an unspecified amount of time after BLACK MAGIC SANCTION.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
By Kirk Baldridge
PART I: Rachel
All the air exploded out of my lungs as I fell flat on my face from several feet in the air. I lay there for a few moments to make sure everything was where it was supposed to be, and slowly pushed up to my hands and knees. "So this is what being turned inside out feels like?" Running my fingers through my curly red hair, I groaned. "Thanks a lot, Al."
I asked him to let me make my own way home after our weekly 'class'. For some reason this irked the demon, who proceeded to open a ley line and shove me inside. Damn it, that hurt. On the plus side, looking around, I realize I'm in the church kitchen. It was pouring down rain when I left. I was just glad I hadn't landed face down in the mud outside. Again.
I started out of the kitchen, but a piece of paper sitting on the counter caught my eye. It was a note from Jenks, which always struck me as odd. I could never figure out how the pixy managed to write, considering all the pencils and pens in the church were as big as he was. The note said he had taken the entire brood across the street to Keasley's to help Jih, who was nearing the end of her birthing cycle. Normally, her mother and eldest sister would have done this, but since Matalina died with a sigh, I put the note down. That had hit all of us hard, especially Jenks, of course, and I still catch him crying sometimes.
"Finally. A night to myself."
Truthfully, though, I wasn't looking forward to this as much as you might imagine. I was rarely ever alone and I liked it that way, because too much peace and quiet meant I only had my thoughts for company. I had done a lot of thinking these past few weeks, and while I had come to a decision, I was having a hard time figuring out the specifics. I mean, it was a big deal for me. Realizing I stunk of burnt amber, the unmistakable scent of the ever after, I decided I needed a shower, and headed toward my room.
In the entryway to the living room, I froze, breath catching in my throat. Ivy was sprawled out in her favorite chair, fast asleep. She had on a robe that lay wide open, putting her long, lean body fully on display in nothing more than silky lingerie. The curtains were open, and moonlight made the living vampire's pale skin glow in sharp contrast to her jet-black hair.
I'm staring, and I can feel my mouth hanging open. I can't help myself. 'God, I hope I'm not drooling.' I've never seen Ivy like this. She's so open and relaxed and, God help me, nearly naked. 'No, no, no, stop it Rachel. Bad witch.' I've always thought Ivy was beautiful, but I've never had the chance to simply admire her when she's awake, because my damn vamp scars and Ivy's instincts inevitably kick in and we basically have to get away from one another before something uncontrollable happens. We've even tried sharing blood twice before and it didn't work out, because we were both holding back for various reasons.
I'm not anymore. Pierce and I separated amicably, because I finally came to terms with what I've been feeling all these years. He watched the two of us together for a year before getting a body again after all, he knew the truth even before I did, and he told me he was just grateful for whatever time we had together. Though he tried not to show it, I think Al was actually pleased; while he had not forbidden our relationship, he said we got more work done when we were not sneaking off somewhere.
Ivy stirred, her body shifting a little to the left. The movement of her breasts mesmerizes me, and I let out a breath I didn't even realize I was holding. Why in hell did it take me so long to figure this out? It was always Ivy. The men came and went; Nick, Marshal, Pierce my thoughts pause briefly on Kisten and I smiled, no longer succumbing to melancholy. As much as I loved him, and God knows I did, that part of my life is over. If I have anything to say about it, the ivory goddess before me is my future.
I close my eyes and imagine what it would be like to kiss Ivy. To really kiss her, not the teasing caress she once given me to show me what I was missing. Damn it to the Turn, what was I so afraid of? My scars? Her bloodlust? That's not the point. This was what I wanted, what I have been dreaming about for so long. I love Ivy. 'I love Ivy!' I wanted to share everything with her. At length I took a deep breath and open my eyes, only to find Ivy looking back at me. 'Oh God. How long has she been awake?'
PART II: Ivy
I was roused by the scent of burnt amber as she stopped in the doorway.
'Rachel.' It's difficult, but I resist the urge to leap up and run to her. She's usually tired after she comes back from Al and I don't want to push her. 'God knows I've done that too much already.'
Therefore, I deliberately keep my eyes closed and remain still. If she wants to talk to me, she will, otherwise we'll see which of us is the first to wake up tomorrow. Vampires and witches don't usually have similar sleeping cycles, though truth be told I have modified my own so Rachel and I can spend as much time together as possible.
'I love you so much, Rachel.'
She knows it. At least, I think she does. Sometimes, I catch her looking at me and I swear, just for a second, I see the same thing mirrored in her eyes, then she usually flushes and turns away when she realizes I'm watching her. Other times she's begging me to bite her while refusing to go any further. Sometimes I just want to run away screaming, but I'm more afraid of losing her than just about anything else. I can handle whatever comes as long as I'm with her. If it's just as friends and business partners, fine, if it's blood balanced, so much the better, and if it's as lovers no. I'm not going to delude myself any more.
Rachel Morgan may love me, hell, she's said as much, but I know she can't be in love with me. Not that way. The thought tears at my heart in ways I didn't think possible. Especially since, I've changed. I've found the balance within myself. I want to share everything with her. I really can now. Except, given our history, why would she listen to me? I nearly killed her twice. Plus, she's with Pierce. That guy rubs me the wrong way, and not only because he gets to hold Rachel, kiss her, see her naked. 'Damn it, Ivy! Stop that!' If I keep this up my pheromones will start filling the air, and even if they don't affect Rachel directly, she'll know I'm awake.
I open my eyes to check. 'Crap. She's looking at me.'
PART III: Revelations
Rachel blinked. "Umm, hi."
Ivy didn't move, except to smile slightly. "It's not polite to stare, you know. Some people might take it the wrong way." While she said it good-naturedly, they both knew she wasn't entirely kidding. In the past, it had taken little more than a knowing look to cause the kind of trouble both of them were reluctant to stay out of. That was the problem. They were in love with one another but they had both been fighting it for so long whenever anything happened it all tended to come flooding out at once.
Rachel sighed. "Sorry. Did I wake you?"
"Umm, no." Ivy lied badly, at least to Rachel. "So how'd your lessons go?"
"Pretty good, actually. Al is not exactly what I would call the most patient teacher, but her leaves me alone in his library for long stretches and you'd be amazed what you can learn with free access to those kinds of books."
"Demon books, you mean?" Ivy made no attempt to hide her dislike for demons and black magic. She also knew Rachel had no choice, if she didn't work with Al he would be free to torment her and those she loved.
Rachel shrugged. "Yes, but so what? I've told you, things aren't always so black and white, Ivy. You know that better than most." Realizing the conversation was heading in a direction that could only end in either an argument, or with one of them storming out, she was afraid if she missed this opportunity she would not be able to find the tenuous courage again it had taken to get to this point. "But I don't want to talk about Al and the ever-after." She took a deep breath. "I want to talk about us."
Wide-eyed already, Ivy blinked. A hint of black swirled around the vampire's brown pupils.
It was the first hint of stronger emotion, and Rachel forced herself to remain calm. Not that she was afraid, not really, she was past being scared of Ivy, but if she wasn't careful what she did feel could have a similar effect.
"Don't, Rachel." Ivy's voice was like gray silk. "Please."
"I have to, Ivy. I'm sorry." Rachel took a step closer, though she was careful to go slow. "I can't keep doing this."
Ivy dropped her gaze, letting her silky raven hair hide her face. "I know." It was little more than a whisper.
"I don't think you do. Ivy " Rachel sat down next to the vampire and took her hand. Both of them felt a familiar spark but neither was willing to pull away. Their breathing grew mutually quicker. " I'm sorry, God, I'm so sorry it's taken me so long to figure this out, and I know, it's probably not fair I bring this up now, with you and Glenn but "
Ivy put a finger to Rachel's lips. "Is that why you're so scared? I'm not with Glenn anymore, dear heart. He was good for me, he helped me figure some things out myself, but he and Darryl "
Rachel nodded. Glenn's roommate, a woman she had never met. "I thought you guys were happy?"
"We were. I just I wasn't there for him like he deserved, and we both knew it. I helped him understand Inderlanders better, and he helped me realize there was a difference between sex and blood. It reinforced what Rynn taught me. I'm not sure I'll ever be fully free of everything Piscary did to me, but I feel so much freer than I ever have. God, Rachel, you have no idea." She looked into the redhead's eyes. "Before this goes any further though, what about you and Pierce? I haven't seen him around the church lately."
"And you're not going to," Rachel replied. "We broke up too." Ivy cocked her head, one eyebrow raised. "It was a mutual decision. He said he couldn't compete, and wasn't about to stand in the way."
"Compete? Stand in the way? Of what?"
Rachel smiled. "This. Us." She reached out and cupped a pale cheek. "I love you, Ivy Tamwood." She smiled at the beautiful flush on the living vampire's otherwise pale cheeks. "And not just like a sister, or a friend. I want to be perfectly clear about this. I am head over heels, heart bursting out of my chest, can't catch my breath, desperately in love with you."
Ivy opened her mouth but no sound emerged.
"Traditionally, this is the part where you say something," Rachel prompted. "Look, I'm sorry to just spring this on you like this. I know it's not really fair, and if you think you need some time, I understand. I just " Whatever she had been going to say was abruptly cut off when Ivy lunged forward with vampire suddenness and kissed her.
After a few heated moments, their arms wrapped around one another and they snuggled down into the chair. Both women moaned softly as their breasts rubbed together, sending tingles of pleasure deep into their cores. Rachel groaned as Ivy's lips pulled away from hers, only to gasp in delight as they moved down to her throat. Not, she noticed, the side with the vamp scars. In a clarity that shone through the haze of passion, Rachel realized Ivy was deliberately avoiding them and showing she could keep her own pheromones in check, this was about them sharing something physical and wonderful, not her blood lust.
"Mmm God, Ivy..."
In the process of trailing a line of kisses down the exposed skin of Rachel's chest above her top, Ivy felt a shudder pass through the redhead and paused to lift her head. "Are you okay? Am I going too fast?"
"N-No." Rachel felt Ivy stiffen, as if she was about to pull away, and she gently touched Ivy's suddenly worried face. "I'm sorry. I'm okay. I only meant no, you're not going too fast." She smiled when Ivy visibly relaxed. "I love you and I trust you, and God, I need you, Ivy. So much it almost hurts." They lost themselves in another kiss. "I'll admit, I'm a little scared." She clarified quickly. "Not of you. I've never been with a woman. You know that. Hell, I've never even thought about it, until I met you. I want to share everything with you, Ivy. It's just I know we've only started, and I already feel like I'm going to burst."
"Just wait," Ivy said in a low, husky voice that made Rachel tremble. "We haven't even gotten to the best part." She brought her mouth down and gripped one of the buttons on the redhead's top with her teeth, then her brow furrowed. She pushed herself up and turned at the same time, a hiss escaping her clenched lips while Rachel just looked confused.
"Tink's titties it smells in here!" Jenks came flying into the room. "What are you guys doing " He stopped in mid-air as he caught sight of the two women in the chair; arms and legs entangled. " oh. Uhh, that's not vamp pheromones, is it? And I don't smell blood." He crossed his arms. "You two finally getting some? Damn. I guess I owe Ceri fifty bucks."
Rachel sat up. "Wait a second. You bet on us having sex?"
"Hell no. I never figured you guys could get past your individual hang-ups. She never doubted it."
Ivy took a deep breath. "What do you want Jenks?" Her eyes were tinged with black, though she didn't appear to be in any danger of actually losing control. She also didn't bother to close her robe. "As you can see, we're busy."
"Oh! It's Jih! She had two girls and a boy!"
Rachel could feel the pixy's fatherly pride and grinned. "Congratulations, grandpa."
"Thanks. She wants to see both of you, when you get the chance. Ceri and Quen are on their way now. You should see Keasley. He's got the whole garden decorated." Jenks' wings drooped. "I just wish Matty was here."
"I'm sure she's looking on," Rachel said. "Just as happy and proud as you are." She had no idea if pixy's believed in an afterlife or not, so the words sounded rather hollow to her, but she was just trying to comfort her friend as best she could. "Tell you what. You go back to Keasley's and be with Jeh. We'll come over in a little while, okay?"
Jenks tipped his hat. "I'll let you get back to it." He chuckled at Rachel's blush and Ivy's snarl. "Finally!" They heard him shouting as he flew out of the room. "This'll make both of you so much easier to live with!"
Rachel reluctantly disentangled herself from Ivy, and heard the vampire make a soft whimper. "We have to. If we don't, once he starts blabbing, we're going to have fifty pixy faces pressed up against the window, or worse, swirling all around us." She kissed Ivy. "Think about it this way. It gives us something to look forward to when we come home."
"Damn it." Ivy stood up. "You'd better hope they have some brimstone cookies, witch. You're gonna need the energy."
Shaking her head, Rachel took her soon-to-be lover's hand. "Come on, let's get you dressed."
"I can do it on my own, you know."
Rachel shrugged. "Yeah, but this way, I get to watch."
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