Penelope's Lament

A/N: This takes place soon after For a Few Demons More, and is Rachel/Ivy fluff. MAJOR SPOILERS FOR THE BOOK, just so you know.

Disclaimer: All characters mentioned here are the sole property of the amazing Kim Harrison. They do not belong to me.



I was rudely awakened by a sharp tug at my hair. Before I could fully comprehend what was going on, I sat up quickly in bed, prepared to tap a line. Then I saw something dart forward through my sleep-clouded sight.

"Jenks!" I shouted when I saw who it was. This was the first time I had actually been able to fall asleep in days, and now he'd gone and ruined it. And I needed to sleep, damn it! How else was I going to be able to heal? "What are you doing?"

Jenks hovered before my face, his dragonfly wings a light lavender color. "It's Ivy," he said, darting forward to pull my hair again. I resisted the urge to swat him away as his words sunk in.

"What about her?" I was already on my feet, pulling my on robe and searching around for my slippers. I found them kicked under the bed skirt.

"She's been sobbing for the last two hours, you stupid witch! Can't you hear her?"

My face flushed. I knew exactly what she was crying about and it quickly brought tears to my own eyes. My heart seemed to break all over again. Not only did she need me, but I needed her. I needed her more than anyone else in the world now. And I couldn't even begin to imagine how alone she felt. I should have checked on her before bed. Or something.

"She's in her room," Jenks called after me as I padded into the dark hallway. Her door was closed, but I could hear hitched breathing coming from within. Shoving what could be called my better judgment away, I pushed the door open and stepped into her oh-so-normal room. She was lying in bed with the covers pulled up to her chin and even though her back was toward me, I knew she was aware I was there. Light from the lamp beside her bed cast strange shadows over her body.

"Ivy?" My voice was timid, about to crack. I was going to start crying again, too, and now I didn't want to be alone. It was probably better for us to be together in our grief, anyway, and I had no second thoughts as I sat behind her on the bed. "Are you okay?" Stupid question, Rachel.

"I told Jenks - " She paused, and as if hearing my thoughts she mumbled a miserable "No." Her breath caught in her throat and before I even realized she had moved, she rolled over and wrapped her arms around my waist, her head in my lap. It was an awkward position, but I didn't bother shifting. Her body trembled where it touched mine. "I don't know what to do."

And then I was sobbing with her. It almost made me angry at how weak felt. I loved Kisten, and just thinking that I would never see him again – and witnessing how it tore apart my best friend – broke my heart nearly beyond repair. My tears had been never-ending over the last few days. Ivy, though, had closed herself off. She had tried as hard as she could not to break again, as she had on the boat. But now here she was. It made me wonder how many nights she had spent like this. My arms tightened around her and I finally moved so I could get a better grasp without hurting her.

"Why did this happen?" Ivy asked, looking up at me with pain-filled eyes. I knew she didn't expect me to answer, and I was glad of it. I wanted an answer to that very question, and it was with a sinking feeling that I had realized days ago that I may never find it. Desperately trying to sooth my burning soul, I shifted again, this time lowering myself beside her to relieve my aching body of having to sit up.

"I don't know." I responded lamely. "I don't know."

"He didn't have anything to do with this!" Ivy snapped suddenly, startling me. She jerked in my arms and tried to get away, but I held her still. "He didn't do anything," she added softly as she stopped struggling. She hadn't repeated her worries about his murder – or her involvement in it – since we had found him, but I knew she was still sick about it. I couldn't blame her. "He was my best friend, Rachel." I could barely hear her voice now. "Even Skimmer - " She stopped herself again and didn't continue.

Skimmer hadn't been around at all since Piscary's death. I had no idea what had happened to her, and didn't really care. "It's over, Ivy," I whispered. Even saying those words hurt. I wasn't ready for it to be over. I wanted to take that time back. I wanted to save him. His last words ran through my head, making my heart constrict. And then Ivy's remembered screams broke through my thoughts. Why did this happen?

"It's not fair," I whimpered, hiding my face under her chin. I felt her arms, limp until then, pull me closer to her. It was safe there. She and I both knew it, and neither of us cared about the position we were putting ourselves into. Suddenly feeling the chilled air pressing in around me, I extracted myself from her grasp and slipped under the blanket.

Ivy didn't reach out to me again and I felt it like a slap. She was scared. Scared of me, scared of the situation, scared of the world. And I didn't know how to fix it. Knowing that brought more tears to my eyes and they spilled down my cheeks. "Damn it, Ivy, just hold me!" I suddenly burst out. I had gone to her earlier because she had needed me. But now that I was there, I realized I needed her just as much. Maybe even more now.

My words struck something inside her. Her own eyes filled again and she held back a hiccupping sigh as she scooted closer to me and wrapped an arm around my torso once more. She was shaking and I could feel the muscles in her abdomen twitching every time she took a breath. In response to the acknowledgement, I put both my arms around her in a tight hug. "I'm sorry," she said brokenly. "I just don't - "

"Shut up," I mumbled half-heartedly. I knew what she was going to say. My head was pressed against her chest now and I could hear her heart pounding behind her ribs. It was a wonderful sound, one I had never heard before, and it made me grateful that she was alive. That Piscary hadn't killed her. Like he wanted to do. Like he had tried to do. I felt a momentary appreciation for Skimmer that was quickly chased away by her threats toward me. But at least she had been there. I lifted my eyes to Ivy's neck, trying to find the scar that should have still been present on her skin before realizing that it would be on the other side. "I can hear your heart," I said stupidly, looking for something to break the silence.

"I'm surprised it's still there," she spat bitterly, her words rumbling against my ear. "It should be dead and black after everything I've done." My hold on her tightened in an attempt to tell her how wrong she was.

"Shut up," I said again, this time with a little more force. "I can hear it just fine; of course it's still there." She didn't say anything. "You didn't do anything wrong, either," I pointed out, echoing what she had said earlier of Kisten. "You had no part in what happened. I know you didn't." The memory of her calling out to Piscary as he died flashed through my mind. "I know you didn't."

Ivy was silent, and I had no idea if she had even heard me. I didn't push her, though. Kisten really had been her best friend. He would have known what to do, what to say to her to make everything better. He knew her better than anyone else. She hadn't lost a lover as I had. She had lost a member of her very personal family. There was no way Piscary would have been able to talk her into killing him. No way at all.

I was starting to feel numb. Kisten's face filled my vision, and I drank it in. We would get through this. We would. Right? Ivy's embrace was warm and it gave me a small piece of hope. I had almost lost her too. I still wasn't sure how I didn't. I pulled back a little so I could see her face. She had been staring at the far wall, seeming to be lost in thought just like I was. Her eyes found mine when she felt me move. I reached up to her face and wiped the tear marks from her cheek. "We'll find whoever took him from us. We'll find him and kill him."

Ivy's eyes filled with anguish but she didn't drop my gaze. "Or her," she added quietly.

"No." I placed my hand back against her cheek. "It wasn't you. No way." I touched her hair, pulling out a knot to make it silky. She was tense under my fingers and way too aware of my movements, but I knew she wouldn't do anything. We were both too tired, too miserable, for something to happen. It was with that knowledge that I lifted myself to kiss her forehead, letting my lips linger against her skin. I felt her eyebrows furrow before I pulled away and let myself fall back to the bed. "I'm glad you're okay, Ivy," I sighed, finally nearly overcome with exhaustion.

She didn't hesitate this time before putting her arms back around me and pulling me to where I had been before. I relaxed in her embrace, falling into the numbness my emotions had brought on. It was easier than being depressed at this point, and much less painful. Ivy pressed her face into my hair, breathing deeply. I let her do it, knowing she was only searching for comfort.

"Do you mind if I stay with you tonight?" I asked, my eyes drooping.

Ivy was quiet for a long moment before finally replying with, "I don't mind at all."