Title: Just Stay With Me
Fandom: The Hollows aka Kim Harrison 'verse
Characters: Rachel Morgan, Ivy Tamwood, Robbie Morgan, Al, Minias
Summary: Robbie Morgan shows up on his sister's doorstep one day without warning. Can what Rachel and Ivy have made for themselves stand against it?
Beta: queenbellatrix was so kind as to beta this for me and point out my myriad errors and goofs. Anything that remains is totally on me.
Author's Note: I read Two Ghosts For Sister Rachel and got a bunny for this story with Robbie. He was...not how I was expecting Rachel's brother to be, but I hope I nailed his character. It was a really awesome short story that I'd definitely recommend reading for an excellent look at what Rachel's earlier years were like for her. It explains a lot.
Spoilers: Spoilers for The Outlaw Demon Wails and Two Ghosts for Sister Rachel, the short story in Holidays Are Hell.
Disclaimer: These characters belong to Kim Harrison. No copyright infringement is intended.
The flat of Ivy's hand slapped into my cheek. It immediately exploded into a burst of stinging pain that made my face feel twice its usual size. I didn't hesitate to respond, dropping to the floor without a second thought and scissoring my legs with hers. Our legs tangled and Ivy fell. I was already pushing myself back up to a standing position even as she fell. I was a half-second ahead of her and if I didn't maintain that advantage I was in for a world of hurt.
I pushed myself harder and faster, diving back into the fight.
Ivy came up swinging, but I was prepared. I blocked her first two shots and ducked under the third. Slipping past her, I snapped my leg out to connect with her hip. She staggered off balance and moved with a speed I couldn't follow to push herself off of the wall. Ivy caught my foot and snapped it in the opposite direction of my momentum.
For a second time, I fell hard. Ivy was on top of me before I could breathe. We wrestled for an instant. Her bare foot slipped against the well polished wooden floor and I took advantage of her rare moment of distraction to break her hold. I stumbled a few feet away and then stopped.
Ivy lunged towards me again.
"Ivy, wait," I managed to get the words out around several panted breaths. Fortunately, Ivy halted almost immediately. She slumped slightly over herself, but unlike me there was no sweat trickling down her face, and she certainly wasn't breathing hard. I shook my head. That was Ivy, all right.
I glanced up again, trying to catch a good look at her eyes in the bright light of the living room. The ring of brown around her pupils had shrunk, but her eyes still showed enough of her normal rich brown that I wasn't worried. Ivy was still firmly in control.
It seemed that with the issue of our blood balance settled for good, some of the uncertainty between us had diminished. Ivy had been the one to suggest that we start sparring again for both of our sakes. It had taken some careful thought and a quick attempt with Jenks present to convince me that we could really do this.
The memory of our last sparring session was burned indelibly into my mind and I never wanted to drive Ivy away again. Sparring wasn't worth it. But it looked as if we could handle this now, and I was happy about that.
I hadn't realized how much I'd missed the time that we shared sparring like this, until we'd started it up on a regular basis again.
I took one last deep breath and slowly exhaled it. With a smile, I gestured for us to start again. The corner of Ivy's lips turned up in a feral smile. My heart lurched. Slowly we circled, watching each other carefully as we paced around each other in the relatively tight confines of the hallway.
A sudden knock at the door broke my concentration. I glanced away and Ivy struck. I barely yanked my head back fast enough to avoid her punch. I hit the wall awkwardly and shoved away from it, instinctively attacking back.
I only had an instant of warning when I felt someone tap a line behind me. I whirled to face the new attacker, forgetting Ivy at my back. Whoever this new person was, they weren't here to spar; not tapping a line uninvited on our front steps.
I was too startled to counter the surge of pure line energy that lashed through the hallway. It swept past me, whipping at my hair and slammed Ivy into the wall with enough force to buckle it. Even after several sessions with Al, I couldn't control ley line energy with this much precision and force.
"Ivy!" My voice broke with worry for Ivy as I ducked down in front of her, shielding her from our attacker even as I tapped a line myself. What I lacked in skill, I certainly made up for it with sheer power. Between the energy I had spindled in my chi and a few tricks that Al had been teaching me, whoever had slammed Ivy into the wall was about to be very, very sorry.
I struck out blindly with the line energy, only catching sight of our attacker an instant later. I choked as desperation and disbelief welled up within me, along with a healthy dose of panic. In an effort that I wasn't even certain would be successful, I tried to suck back all of the energy that I'd hurled out so violently only an instant before.
I screamed as the energy flooded back into me, overloading even the amount of ley line energy that I could safely handle. My head felt as if it were on fire. I sank to the floor, clutching at my head in agony, my eyes squeezed shut. Desperately, I waited for the pain to stop. My head throbbed, pulsing with the remnants of the energy that had surged through me. I couldn't hold in a whimper.
Distantly, I felt Ivy brush past me. Her presence was nothing more than a faint brush of air, as she moved to stand in front of me with vamp speed. I heard another sound, which my pain fogged brain recognized as someone slamming against a wall with bone cracking force.
"Rachel?" Her voice was hard and cold, but underneath it I could hear her concern for me. "Tell me why I shouldn't kill this very foolish witch."
I tried to focus enough to stop panting from the pain. As my breathing slowed, the throbbing pain in my head seemed to be easing up. I took two more slow breaths before I thought I could speak and raised my head. Ivy had her hands clenched around his neck, holding him a foot off the ground.
"Ivy, no," I gasped out breathily, not worried that she wouldn't hear me; her vamp hearing would take care of that. "He's my brother, Robbie." I forced myself to sit up shakily. "My very stupid brother, Robbie," I added under my breath. "Let him go. Please, Ivy." It was both a command and a request.
Ivy let him go abruptly. He slid down the wall and landed awkwardly on his feet.
There was an awkward moment of silence as I struggled to stand, glancing back and forth between Ivy and Robbie. Ivy's eyes were still almost devoid of their usual rich brown color, although the longer she stood, the more color returned. She was still glaring at Robbie, however. I couldn't blame her though. What the Turn had he been thinking, storming into our home like that?
I touched Ivy's elbow for an instant, just long enough to drag her attention away from him.
"Are you okay?"
She nodded. Her lips were pressed into a thin line. The tension in her stance told me more than she would be willing to admit about what damage had been inflicted when Robbie threw her into the wall.
"What's he doing here?"
I shook my head. "I don't know." Ivy had an excellent point. I had no idea what Robbie was doing here. The last that I'd heard he was in Portland. Mom and Takata had visited him a few months ago to meet that woman that he was getting serious with. Or at least that was what I'd heard. We hadn't spoken much since I'd joined the I.S.
"What are you doing here, Robbie?" I asked, finally turning to face my brother.
He frowned. "Mom said I should come see you."
I shrugged in response to his obvious lack of enthusiasm. We had been close as kids - out of necessity if nothing else. Robbie had been my defacto babysitter as a child. Not many other people could be expected to put up with the special needs that I'd had. We'd presented a mostly united front against our parents and the world, getting into trouble and trying to get away with as much as we could under the nose of careful parental surveillance. He'd been my hero, especially after Dad died.
That hadn't lasted long after I'd decided to join the I.S. and we hadn't spoken since. He couldn't seem to remember me as anything but the fragile, sick child that I'd been. That was the reason that we'd barely spoken in years. The last time I'd seen him, his lack of support had cut too deeply. I'd changed a lot since then, however.
Not only had I joined the I.S., but I'd met Ivy and then left the I.S. as well. Everything that happened before it seemed to pale in comparison to what happened after that. Demons and Nick, finding and losing Kisten, and finding out that Trent's father had fixed me a little bit too much. It didn't make Robbie's lack of support hurt any less, but it did give me a little bit of perspective on things.
"Rache? What in the name of Tink's Disney mansion is going on in here?"
Jenks flashed into the room in a shower of sparkling red dust, with his sword drawn. There was no question that my pixie backup and landlord was pissed. I couldn't blame him. It looked as if Robbie had done some damage to more than just Ivy with that ley line blow.
I shook my head. This just kept getting better.
"Jenks. This is my brother, Robbie." I realized, distantly, that Robbie still hadn't answered my question. "Robbie, this is my partner, Jenks." The last part was said more for Jenks benefit than Robbie's. Even nearly a year later, I was still sensitive about the time Jenks had spent away from us, feeling as if he were unworthy and not a valued part of our operation. Ivy and I wouldn't let it happen again.
"You should apologize, Robbie. You came in here and blasted Ivy. You're lucky she hasn't called the I.S."
Okay, so that last part was completely untrue. Calling the I.S. was the last thing that Ivy or I would ever do, but Robbie didn't know that. It was what any sane witch would do. Or alternately any witch who hadn't been under the threat of I.S. sanctioned vamp assassins less than a year before.
"Apologize?" His voice was rough with anger and outrage. "What should I apologize for? That vamp was throwing you around the room."
I winced. Maybe I hadn't been holding my own as well as usual. I'd been spending more time with Al lately, and less keeping in shape. I didn't think it had gone that badly, though. I made a mental note that I needed to spar with Ivy more and start running again. Every since they'd kicked me out of the Make-A-Wish camp for not dying quickly enough, I'd tried to stay in as good of shape as possible.
"She wasn't throwing me around the room," I said sharply. "We were sparring, Robbie. It helps us both keep in shape for when a run goes sour."
Ivy laughed softly, and I shivered as I felt the sound of her voice go down my spine like a caress. "If you planned your runs better, you wouldn't have to use those skills so much."
"I do plan," I protested sharply. "It's not my fault that my targets don't always follow the plan."
Robbie was looking between us with a mixture of confusion and disbelief. I tried not to imagine what he would think of Al. It was probably best if he didn't find out about my demon teacher just yet. Ivy slipped past me into the kitchen, her exit marked only by the whisper of bare feet on the wooden floor.
"I'll make some coffee," she called over her shoulder. I glanced behind me, catching her eye and smiling to let her know that I appreciated the gesture.
"I thought you'd left the I.S.?" Robbie's question brought me sharply back to the conversation at hand.
"Then why are you still taking runs?"
I pointed vaguely towards the door behind us. "Vampiric Charms - an independent runner service. We take the jobs the I.S. don't want or can't solve."
Robbie looked frustrated now, a faint tinge of red rising in his cheeks. We shared the same pale coloring that made our emotions clearly visible on our faces.
"I thought you left the I.S. to get out of that life."
I tried not to roll my eyes.
"She left the faerie-loving I.S. because they were only giving her crap runs that were way below her skills. They were trying to force her out. She's just lucky she got out when she did."
Jenks impassioned defense both surprised and warmed me. I shot the fluttering pixie a grateful look. He smiled in response, his wings beating quickly as he came over to land on my shoulder.
I cocked my head so I could see him and caught the accusing glare that he directed towards Robbie. "Rachel and Ivy are the only partners that I'll work with."
I blinked, suddenly have to push back the tears that Jenks unexpected words had brought to my eyes. Pixies demanded loyalty in their partners and gave it like no one else. It made Jenks words doubly important; I hadn't realized how much loosing his trust last year had hurt.
I turned sharply, sending Jenks fluttering into the air to catch his balance, and headed towards my room at the back of the church. I needed to get away for a minute. There was no way that I could let Jenks or Robbie see me cry. Robbie would just have to deal with it for a minute. He was the one who'd come barging in here after all. He could just take his chances with Ivy. For a change, I was actually hoping that she might drive a man away.
Leaving the door to my room open just a crack so that I could catch the dim murmur of voices drifting back from the kitchen, I slowly pulled off my clothes and glanced through the closet for something to change into. A quick glance at the clock reminded me that I only had a few more hours before the sun sank and my time with Al began. I didn't think he'd be inclined to give me a break just because my brother was in town, and as much as I liked any excuse not to spend time with Al, I wasn't sure how much time I actually wanted to spend with Robbie.
After a quick glance between my options, I decided on my working leathers. The ever-after wasn't a witch friendly destination, even if I was nominally under Al's and somewhat more generally Newt's protection. The leathers would also give that extra edge of protection against certain environmental hazards. I also had a suspicion that seeing me dressed like this would piss Robbie off, but that was just a bonus.
Checking my bag, I made sure that my spelling supplies and my splat gun were all ready to go. Al was horrible when I made him wait when he came to pick me up from the line. Last week Al had said that I was just about ready to try jumping the lines on my own; it was the first good news I'd had since he'd taken me on as a student.
There was a soft knock on my door and I whirled sharply to face the intruder. The sharp retort on the tip of my tongue died as I realized that it was Ivy, not Robbie as I'd been expecting.
"Hey." I acknowledged her presence quietly, tilting my head and gesturing for her to come on in as I went back to throwing things haphazardly into my bag. It's not like it would stay organized anyway.
She slipped silently in behind me. I felt her brush past me and settle on the bed, tucking one leg gracefully underneath her as she did.
"I'm sorry," I didn't look up as I apologized. I hated having to apologize for Robbie. I hated that he'd attacked her in our own church.
"For having a stupid brother? Not your fault," she said with a wry twist of a smile.
I flashed her a grateful look and went back to going through my things.
"He's not so bad." I wondered where that had come from the moment the words left my mouth. I had been fighting back the urge to pound Robbie since he got here, not defend him. I sighed. "We were closer when I was younger." I flopped down on the bed at the corner opposite Ivy. "He was upset when I joined the I.S. He didn't think I could do the job."
A frown creased Ivy's forehead, but she didn't comment.
I shrugged, not wanting to talk about it. Ivy and Jenks knew I'd had Rosewood Syndrome; they didn't know how bad it had been or how much it had affected me. By the time I'd met Ivy, and then Jenks, most of the obvious signs of the illness I'd had as a child had disappeared. I didn't like to think about that time much, or how much I'd had to fight and struggle to get where I was today. I preferred to leave that in the past.
"He made you cry."
The tender concern in Ivy's voice almost brought tears to my eyes again. I shook my head ruthlessly against the tears and stood.
"It was nothing. Just a stupid comment Jenks made."
I reached down to grab my bag and suddenly found myself looking down at Ivy. It was odd staring down at her, instead of looking up into her eyes like I usually did. It made the delicate features of her face suddenly stand out. My breath hitched. I couldn't think, couldn't breathe. I felt like a deer in headlights. She didn't move, except to curl her lips up in a hint of a wry smile.
"Come eat something before Al comes for you." Ivy's deft change of the subject broke the tension of the moment.
I exhaled and slung my bag over my shoulder. "That sounds good. I think there's some spaghetti from last night that I can heat up for us." I hesitated. "Did Robbie leave?"
Ivy stood in a flash of motion that was so abrupt I never saw the transition between sitting and standing. "No. He said he wanted a chance to talk to you."
I made a face in annoyance. Having a serious talk with him while waiting for Al was really the last thing I wanted to do.
Ivy cocked her head towards me, her actions suddenly taking on a predatory smoothness that put fear into the heart of anyone smart enough to notice it. Her pupils dilated and she smiled sharply enough to send an average human screaming back to their regular life in their regular neighborhood.
"Do you want me to make him leave?"
I smiled. It was a tempting thought, but I hadn't gotten this far by letting Ivy take care of my problems for me. It would be too easy, and I knew it would come back to bite me in the ass in the end. Besides, I just couldn't do that.
"No, I appreciate the offer, but no. I'd better see what he wants."
She nodded and waited for me to slip past her and into the hall. She mirrored my movements down the hallway to the kitchen, and for a change, I didn't feel like I was being stalked by my own personal shadow, but rather safely watched over. Her support meant a lot.
Robbie was sitting at the table eying Jenks over the salt shakers. Jenks was flitting back and forth with maddening quickness between the window and the door to the hallway. It was his way of doing sentry duty, keeping himself both between Robbie and his family, and Robbie and myself.
When Jenks saw me enter the kitchen, Ivy at my back, he gave me a quick nod and then disappeared out the window in a flash of red sparkles.
"Be glad I didn't pix you," he snapped menacingly under his breath as he flashed past Robbie.
Ivy managed to hit his chair as she stepped past to take a seat in front of her computer. She'd been forced to get a new one after Rynn Cormel and Al had trashed the kitchen during their fight. However, if the worst thing that came of a visiting demon was a trashed computer, I was one lucky witch indeed.
Robbie cleared his throat, clearly swallowing the comment that he'd been about to direct towards Ivy when he saw the look on my face.
I opened the refrigerator door to pull out the remnants of last night's spaghetti before I spoke.
"What are you doing here, Robbie? Why did you come see me now?"
He sighed. "Rachel...I know you never stopped being mad at me that I didn't support you joining the I.S., but I thought it was ridiculous. I was worried about you, and I was right."
It was the last thing he should have said. I slammed the container of sauce down on the counter loudly and turned to glare at him. Out of the corner of my eye, I caught a glimpse of Ivy's pointedly raised eyebrow.
"All you're doing here is pissing me off, Robbie," I said bluntly. I didn't know what else to say and it was true. He'd been stepping on every nerve I had since the moment he walked into the church.
"That's not what I meant, Rachel," Robbie interjected, standing quickly. "I just meant that the I.S. turned out to not be a very good fit for you and you were very lucky to get out alive. Not many people do."
I glanced to Ivy involuntarily. "I know that."
"So what I'm saying is maybe you should reconsider now that you're not trapped in the I.S. You could be doing so much more, Rachel! You never finished up your education. I could still get you into a college out in Portland. You could move out there. Now that Mom and...Donald," he forced himself to say Takata's name, "Are spending time together, Mom's out there a lot lately. It could be good. I think you'd like it and Mom would worry less."
I snorted at that. "Mom doesn't worry," I stated bluntly. "She encourages me, instead of holding me back." I looked at him pointedly. "She always has."
"Rachel, I know I deserve that, but consider my offer, please?"
"Just consider it." He was pleading. As angry as I was with him, as frustrated as I was by the way that he'd barged into my home, and by his refusal to take me seriously, he was still my brother and I didn't want to hurt him. I didn't actually have to go through with it.
"Fine." I punctuated my statement with a half-shrug. I couldn't deal with this now.
A hiss of breath caught my attention, and I jerked my attention away from Robbie to land on Ivy. She sat frozen for a second before she lurched into motion. She flashed through the kitchen like still frames of motion that were missing the frames in between them and then she was gone.
The conversation replayed through my mind hastily and, in an instant, I knew what was bothering her. She thought I might actually be considering leaving. Driving me away was one of the things that she was frightened of and now I'd made her think that I was actually considering it.
"Damn it back to the Turn," I hissed. This day just kept getting worse. And then I doubled over with a sneeze. I straightened only to be caught by another and then another until my still tender head started pounding again.
"I'm coming," I snarled, knowing that an attack of sneezing like this could only be brought on by one thing. Today it was almost a relief to have Al interrupt. I had to get out of here.