Title: Window to the Soul
Summary: A run has an unexpected consequence on Rachel and Ivy's relationship.
Spoilers: The Outlaw Demon Wails
Advertisement: Part of the FSAC:DD08
Disclaimer: These characters belong to Kim Harrison. No copyright infringement is intended.
Note: I seem to be incapable of writing short Hollows fic. I…don't know.
Beta: Many thanks to RaceTheWind10 for her beta, advice and authorly arse kicking on this one. :D
They say that eyes are the window to the soul and it's true. You can see the truth in someone's eyes even when the rest of them is lying. It's even more true with vampires. Not only do their eyes offer a glimpse into their soul, but a look at every nuance of what they're thinking and feeling.
I stumbled inside, tripping over the threshold and almost falling into the small end table by the door. Heat spread across my face, and I didn't need a mirror to know I was blushing the color of my hair. Damn it, I'd been trying so hard to be quiet and I'd ruined it with one quick careless step.
"Rachel?" Ivy's voice drifted back to me from the kitchen. It wasn't loud, but it was unexpected at this obscenely early hour. The sun was barely peeking over the horizon. No respectable witch would be out at this hour. It was a good thing I wasn't a respectable witch.
"Hey," I called back, "It's just me."
Of course, Ivy already knew that. She was a freaking living vamp. She'd probably heard my heart beat or caught a whiff of my unique scent the moment I'd walked in the door. It was just her way of checking on me and letting me know that she was still up.
Or maybe she was up early. It smelled like coffee. Ivy tended to only make coffee when she wanted to wake up, not when she was staying up.
I took one look into the mirror as I headed down the hall, and winced. There was no way that Ivy wouldn't notice and there was also no way that I could avoid her. I rubbed at the bruised mark on my neck. Marshall and I had been out until after sunrise. It had been nothing more than fun between friends, but that was actually beside the point. Now it was time to face the music.
For a moment I felt like a teenager sneaking back into Mom's house after I'd managed to convince her that I was studying at a friend's house. The fact that I didn't actually have any friends because I'd spent most of my time undergoing treatment for Rosewood's Syndrome and not in school seemed to have escaped Mom sometimes, especially after Dad had died. The feeling faded in a rush of defiance. I wasn't that kid anymore. I didn't have anything to feel guilty about and Ivy certainly wasn't my mother. She didn't have any right to be angry or upset about how I lived my life.
Right. That was what I would keep telling myself.
"Did you have a nice time?"
My shoulders tensed, but I refused to look over at her as I moved to the cabinet and grabbed a mug. I busied myself with pouring a cup of coffee and fixing it just so, as I contemplated Ivy's knack for making pointed questions sound incredibly bland. Or maybe she was just asking as a friend. Ivy had seemed to mostly accept my decision about the fact that our relationship wouldn't be going beyond friends, but it was hard to know where we stood with each other some days.
Maybe she was just making small talk. I shouldn't feel guilty. I didn't owe her anything.
"Yeah," I said as I added a healthy amount of sugar, "It was nice to just have some quiet time for a change." I grimaced and took another sip of my coffee. "I didn't think this thing with Marshal was going to last, especially after I took off into the ever-after, but he seems to be respecting my decision about it."
Ivy nodded, agreeing with me, but also slightly distracted as she clicked her way through her email. Her momentary distraction gave me the opportunity to study her face, the lines of her body, the small gestures of her hands to see how she was really handling this conversation.
To my surprise she seemed fine. Even in profile like this, I could see the normal full ring of brown around her eyes. There was no indication that she was vamping out in the slightest. I felt a twinge of pride and something else that I couldn't quite name at the thought of the control that Ivy was gaining over her instincts. The time she was spending with Rynn Cornel really seemed to be helping her. A smile slowly curved over my lips. It was good that we were learning how to live together without stomping all over one another's emotions.
"Will you be here tonight?" Ivy glanced away from her computer screen to look over at me. She clicked the enter button to complete what she was doing without looking.
"Yeah, I will be," I said, hiding my smile behind my coffee cup as I took a sip. "I don't have any runs, and I don't think I feel like going out." I set the mug down and walked over to the refrigerator. I opened it up slowly and contemplated my options. It had been a while since I'd really cooked for the two of us and it was something I realized I'd missed doing.
It had been part of my original deal with Ivy when we'd first moved in and I'd been confined to the relative safety of the church. She'd provide the groceries if I'd use them to provide something edible. In the wake of Kisten's death, and Al's threats on my family and my life, our deal had fallen to the wayside, very low on the list of things that were important to us. We'd had far too much else to focus on to worry about the details.
Now things were beginning to slow down and fall back into place. It was time to start picking back up the small rhythms of life.
I shut the refrigerator door enough to look back over at Ivy. "Do you feel like pizza tonight?" I bit my lip as I waited for her response. I might not be able to make pizza like Piscary, but I did know that homemade pizza of any kind was Ivy's favorite, and I wasn't above tempting her with it.
Ivy glanced away from her computer screen and gave me a quick smile before she glanced back at what she was working on.
"That sounds great, Rachel, but I don't think I'll be able to be here."
I grimaced. That wasn't the response I'd been hoping for. We hadn't been spending much time together lately and I missed that. It seemed as if I might need reassurance that I still liked me as much as she did sometimes.
"Oh. Right. Well, that's okay. Maybe you can just have it leftover or something." Odds were I wouldn't even cook, if Ivy weren't there. It suddenly seemed like too much effort, not the fun it had been.
Walking over to the sink, I emptied my mug, washed it and deposited it in the drain. It was still early and I'd been out far too late. It was time to crash.
"Good night," I called to Ivy as I lingered in the kitchen doorway, glancing back over at my shoulder at Ivy.
She barely tipped her head in acknowledgment. I sighed and walked away, suddenly feeling everything that had been covered up in the rush of coming home and seeing Ivy. My eyes felt itchy and dry, from lack of sleep, and the rest of my body ached dully. It was nothing that several hours of sleep wouldn't cure, but I felt weighted down and exhausted.
It was only a few moments after I fell into bed and that sleep quickly claimed me.
I woke up sharply, my brain suddenly on alert. Glancing around my room with quick startled looks, I rapidly tried to figure out what sound had woken me. I almost jumped out of my skin when the phone rang. I flopped back down on the bed, snuggling down into the soft covers with relief and blearily stuck my hand out to search for the phone.
Too lazy to sit up again to look for it, my hand scrabbled over the contents of the table behind my bed and managed to knock the clock off of it before I found it. A quick look at the caller ID showed me Marshall's name. I smiled and sank further back into the comfort of the bed as I opened the phone.
"Hey." I said, realizing as I did that my voice still sounded low and sleepy. I grimaced. Oh well. Maybe he wouldn't think I was a slacker, even if he was more used to human hours. He did know how late I'd been up the night before after all.
"Yeah..." I drawled.
"I just wanted to make sure you got home okay."
I couldn't help but smile. Marshall really was a sweet guy. Even if I didn't need protecting, even if there was nothing he could do to protect me it was still sweet.
"I'm fine," I answered him, as I snuck a look at the clock. "I missed all of the vamps, all the little werewolves were in bed, and I even managed not to wake up the two humans down at the end of the block on my way in." I had to sit up and flip it over with a nudge from my big toe to see the big digital numbers from where I'd knocked it to the floor. I'd only been a sleep for a few hours. Still it seemed a little bit late to call to make certain I was still alive.
Maybe Marshall was being more than just sweet. Mom had been telling me that he was interested. I just wasn't sure if I wanted her to be right, even if she usually was about this sort of thing.
"I wasn't really worried worried about the humans at the end of your block, Rachel," Marshall confided in a slightly more serious voice.
"Yeah?" I couldn't help the slight upwards lilt in my voice. Marshall's attention was flattering and he wasn't bad to look at.
"Really." I could almost see his wide smile over the phone. "You did have a knack for getting into trouble if you hadn't noticed."
I couldn't help but smile. I had in fact noticed, especially after Jenks and Ivy had gone to great lengths to point it out to me, and for the most part I'd tried to stop living my life in unhealthy ways, but I couldn't help but want things to be simple and uncomplicated sometimes.
"Do you feel like helping me stay out of trouble tonight?" The words were out of my mouth before I realized what I was saying, but it was too late to take them back now. Ivy had even said she wouldn't be there. There was no reason for me not to invite a friend over. "I was thinking about making pizza and watching a movie."
"That sounds great." At any other time I would have been thrilled by his easy acceptance. Instead I felt faintly sick. "What time should I be there?"
Making pizza with Ivy or Kisten present had always been more art than simple chore. With Marshall it was simple. Presentation, and finesse were out the window. There was no gourmet ingredients or trade secrets involved. I'd gone out that afternoon and bought several pre-made pizza crusts - something I'd never have even thought about doing if Ivy was going to be there - and several jars of sauce.
I'd had a moment of hesitation, mentally waffling between the jar that still had Piscary's cartoon logo on it or the second best brand that was only there for the humans who thought they were brave and didn't know any better. Piscary's was distinctly better, richer and with a fullness of flavor that the other couldn't match, but the thought of even bringing that small memory of Piscary into the church was disgusting.
I remembered all too clearly how Ivy had looked when she'd said that Kisten's killer had tried to blood rape me. What I had experienced was nothing compared to what Piscary had done to her. There was no way I would ever willingly bring any reminder of that into our home. Crappy sauce it was.
Marshall didn't seem to mind though.
"Okay, Morgan. This is a deal breaker. Anchovies or no anchovies?"
"Eww," I wrinkled my nose dramatically. "No anchovies."
Marshall stepped up behind me close enough that I could feel the warmth radiating from his skin. "Good decision."
I glanced up at him over my shoulder at stuck out my tongue like I was twelve.
"I don't need your approval on my topping choices," I said with mock defiance. "Besides who puts broccoli on their pizza? That's even worse."
Marshall grinned. "That's good. Because then I wouldn't be able to do this."
His eyes sparkled and I knew without a doubt what he was about to do. He slipped one arm around my waist, just grazing my hip and slipped one hand up to cup my chin and drew my face towards him. The callused roughness of his hands that felt scratchy against my face, as he lowered his lips towards mine.
My eyes fell shut and I was left in an aching moment of waiting. The sound of the door opening startled me and I jerked back. My hand landed on the warm stove top and I yanked it back too quickly with a hiss.
"Turn it," I cursed, holding my hand to my chest.
"Rachel?" Marshall looked as startled and off balance as I felt.
I stepped past him and turned on the tap water, to run the cold water over my burned hand. It wouldn't do for it to blister.
That was how Ivy found us when she walked into the kitchen. She froze in the doorway, looking between Marshall and I. He had moved to the sink to take a look at my hand and he held it cradled in his with water washing over us both. My blood raced.
Her nose flared imperceptibly and I waited for the ring of brown around her eyes to get lost in the darkness of her expanding pupils that would tell me how much I needed to worry about Marshall, but there was nothing. No sign that Ivy was upset or even that she cared that Marshall was there. My stomach settled like lead.
"Hey, Ivy." My greeting sounded lame, even to me.
"My run didn't take as long as I thought it would. Is there any pizza left?"
I shut the tap off and stepped back from Marshall. "You're in luck. We were just about to put it in."
I blushed as Ivy looked over at me. It was far later than we would usually eat, especially with Marshall keeping human hours.
"I invited Marshall over when you said you wouldn't be home. I was in the mood for company," I explained, as I made sure the oven was pre-heated and got ready to stick both pizza's in.
Ivy still wasn't saying anything and I wasn't sure how to act. It had been over a year since I'd been this at a loss for what Ivy was thinking or feeling. I'd learned to read her body language, the minute shifts in her expression and the look in her eyes. Tonight, nothing made sense.
"Hey, Marshall would you mind giving us a minute?" I asked, turning to give him a warm, but flat smile.
He looked quickly between me and Ivy and I saw him bristle slightly. "Sure, no problem." He dried his hands and started towards the backdoor. "I'll go see what Jenks is up to."
"Actually, maybe we should call it a night." I gestured at my burned hand. "It hasn't gone so well."
"Yeah..." he agreed, obviously at a loss, but uncertain what he could say without being an ass. He was too nice of a guy to do that. "Maybe some other time."
I nodded and made vague noises of agreement as I walked him towards the door. I was more concerned with Ivy at the moment. The only time I'd ever seen her so emotionless was after Piscary had made her his scion in truth as well as in name and that had terrified me.
Waiting until I could hear Marshall's car pull away from the drive, I took a deep breath and let it back out before I walked back into the kitchen.
Ivy was staring at me with a bemused expression. "You ran him off."
My eyes narrowed. "I was worried about you."
Her brow furrowed. "Me," she asked in surprise. "Why were you worried about me? I even came home from my run early."
I folded my arms over my chest. "Exactly. You came home early. What happened? You plan things out perfectly."
Ivy let out a lilting laugh that surprised me. Not because Ivy didn't have a sense of humor, but because I didn't expect her to be in this good of a mood.
"I've been working on a run for Rynn this past week, Rachel," she explained in her gray silk voice. "Tonight was the execution of everything that I've been planning. I didn't want to tell you I'd be here in case things went badly." She grimaced. "I didn't want to cancel on you." Ivy shrugged with feline grace. "Things went good, so I got here early."
"Oh." I didn't know what to say. That was good obviously, but I was still puzzled. "But you're okay? Other than that," I asked slowly.
"Of course. Why wouldn't I be? Those ghouls couldn't even touch me," she said derisively.
I had to smirk at her cocky tone. It was quite a thing to see Ivy in action. I'd been lucky to have a chance to learn from her.
"Well, you just seemed..." I wasn't quite sure how to say what I was thinking. It seemed petty and embarrassing.
Ivy raised her eyebrows in a silent challenge.
My face flushed and I couldn't meet her eyes as I spat the words out quickly, knowing that she wouldn't let it go until she had an answer.
"Your eyes didn't change when you came in and Marshall was about to kiss me and you didn't react. The last time that happened, Piscary had...you know..." I glossed over what exactly Piscary had done, because I didn't know and what I did know I didn't want to think about. "I just wanted to make sure you were okay." I trailed off, not able to even look at Ivy from the depths of my embarrassment.
Silence filled the room. I was starting to wonder if I'd completely misread Ivy. I wouldn't be the first time.
"Rachel, why did you get upset?"
I looked up sharply, wondering if she was mocking me. "I just told you!"
"You got upset because I didn't respond when I saw you and Marshall together."
Something about her voice and what she's saying made me squirm. I couldn't stand still so I start pacing back and forth across the kitchen.
"Why were you upset?" Her voice was low but demanding. "Rachel." She stepped in front of me and caught my arm at the elbow stopping me in my tracks.
"Because you didn't...and I was worried." I folded my arms over my chest and resisted the urge to jerk away from Ivy, knowing it would trigger her instincts in exactly the wrong way. "Ivy." I intended to growl out her name in irritation, instead it came out as a plea.
Hearing her name that way seemed to cut Ivy to the quick. Her grip on my elbow loosened and she dropped to her knees in front of me. Her hand stroked up and down my arm instead of holding me in place. The expression in her eyes was unreadable, but the hint of desperation in her face was starting to scare me.
Triggering her instincts now, after we'd done so well together for the past few months, was the last thing that either of us wanted or needed. Well, maybe I wanted it just a little bit. The thought of her teeth in my neck was more than I could bare some days. I'd lost count of the mornings I'd woken up panting from a dream that felt all too real with my hand fumbling at my neck.
"Rachel," she spoke softly, "Please tell me." The soft sheen of tears in her eyes was more than I could resist. My breath hitched and hissed out through my teeth again before I could get the courage to answer her. It was embarrassing.
"You weren't upset when you came in, about Marshall and I," I said softly. "You weren't jealous or angry and I didn't like that." I looked away again, because I couldn't look at Ivy as I said it. It wasn't a pretty emotion and I was embarrassed, but Ivy had asked, had begged me to tell her and I couldn't deny her that much.
"Rachel." Her hand stopped and gripped my arm so hard that I knew I would have a bruise there by tomorrow morning. I made myself meet her eyes.
She was smiling at me. I frowned. It was the last thing I'd expected. There was no chance for me to say anything though. Ivy stood abruptly. Her hand cupped my face, her thumb stroking my cheek. I leaned into her the smooth gently touch of her hand, as I hadn't Marshall's. My heart was beating so quickly it felt as if my chest would explode. When her lips finally touched mine, it was a relief so incredible I almost forgot to breathe.
Ivy's lips moved gently against mine, hesitant at first until I responded to her. I ran my hands up her back and threaded my fingers through the short locks of her gold frosted hair. Her tongue brushed gently against my lips and I opened my mouth, letting her in. The warm velvet of her tongue caressed mine and I felt the edge of one of her canine teeth scrape bluntly against my tongue. It sent a shiver through both of us.
Slowly we began to separate, but not let go of one another. Ivy rested a hand on my hip and let it linger, as she watched me carefully.
"I was wearing contacts."
"What?" Her comment was so unexpected and out of the blue that I was completely off-balance. I had no idea what she was talking about.
"My eyes. I had to go undercover as a human for the run that I've been on this week. If my eyes had changed, it would have gotten both me and the little boy that I was there to rescue, killed. Contacts are the easiest way to hide that."
I pulled back from her sharply. My heart sank like a stone in my stomach, and my ears burned. How could Ivy have tricked me like that? How could I have fallen for it so easily? I knew she was hunting me slowly. So many people had told me that from Nick to Rynn Cormel. Even Ivy would admit it, and I had fallen for it so easily. All it had taken was a pair of contacts. My heartbeat was loud in my ears and I was lost in a rush of emotions.
I was angry, embarrassed and ashamed. I'd ruined everything that the three of us had worked so hard to build together, including the job and life that I loved. Jenks would kick me out for screwing things up yet again. This was exactly what he'd always warned me not to do, what he'd struggled so hard to prevent. I groaned. Jenks was going to be so mad and he would be right.
"Rachel?" Ivy fell back on her heels, her vampiric senses telling her that something was very wrong. "What's the matter?"
"You tricked me."
Ivy's face fell. In an instant any hint of emotion, of feeling, was gone from her face. She looked as if she'd just been kicked in the gut by a very pissed off Were. Slowly she rose to her feet and crossed her arms over her chest.
"I did not trick you, Rachel," she enunciated every word, slowly and carefully. "I wore them for a run. You made an assumption." Anger was creeping into her voice with every word. It sent a shiver down my spine and a powerful jolt of sensation directly to the scar that she had put on my neck. "You were the one who was upset when you thought I wasn't jealous of that ridiculous warlock. You started this." I blinked and she was suddenly directly in front of me. Her arms were on either side of my head, as she braced herself against the wall. "You're just scared to admit what you feel for me," she breathed, her whispered words brushing like silk against my ear.
Having Ivy so close, her scent surrounding me, her body pressing up against mine, was overwhelming. I couldn't move and I wasn't sure I wanted to, even as I fought to hold on to my anger. It was the safest, most familiar thing that I was feeling at the moment and I needed it to clear my head. If I could just hold on to it long enough to give me a chance to think against the overwhelming onslaught of sensations that Ivy presented as she pressed so closely up against me.
"Rachel," she purred my name against my ear. "Look at me."
And I did. I looked at her because I couldn't look away. "Ivy." My hands slipped up to rest on her shoulders.
"Do you really think I would try to trick you?"
I shook my head. "Yes." I couldn't even decide what I was feeling or thinking.
"I wanted you to want me," she said slowly. "I wanted you to come to me of your own free will. I can't force you to love me, Rachel, if I could have done that, I would have made you my scion last year. That's not what I want. I want you," she repeated it for a second time. "Stop running. Give me a chance."
My hands slipped from her shoulders and my fingers laced together behind her neck.
"Trust me, please, Rachel. I will never hurt you."
It was the truth. As much as Ivy scared me, as much as I worried that I was letting my need for danger lure me into making bad decisions, I could no longer deny that I wanted this. I'd kissed her with no coercion on her part. Any assumptions I'd made were my own. You know what they say: it makes an ass of you and me. And I'd certainly been an ass. I should be the one apologizing, and here Ivy was comforting me, begging me to let her in and reassuring me of her intentions.
Ivy deserved so much better than me. She deserved someone who could love her with all of their heart and who wouldn't hurt her. I couldn't promise that. My life was so screwed up. Most of the time, I ended up hurting the people that I loved the most, more than anyone else in my life, but I wanted to be there for her. I wanted to have a chance to with her.
"I know. I know you wouldn't hurt me, Ivy." I took a deep breath, and closed my eyes, leaning my forehead to rest against hers. "I'm sorry." It was rare that I apologized and even now it was hard to say the words to her, but she deserved to hear them. I had screwed up majorly.
Ivy was silent. Panic began to well up in me. Had I now, finally, at the moment that I realized my feelings for Ivy, pushed her too far away?
I opened my eyes. She was standing motionless, staring at me without even breathing.
"I want to kiss you."
She spoke so quietly that it took me a moment to realize what she'd said.
"Oh." This was it. There was no going back from this kiss. It would change everything. It would be nothing like our first kiss or even the second. The third time was the charm, as my Mom would say. It would be an irreversible statement. An admission of what I felt for Ivy with no chance to let my fears or doubts hold me back any longer. I let those thoughts sink in and then realized something much simpler: I wanted to kiss Ivy too.
So I did. For the first time I was the one to initiate our kiss. My pulse was racing and I felt shaky with adrenaline as I leaned up to meet her lips. Passion flared between us and I lost myself in Ivy as she responded to match every move I made.
My knees buckled underneath me at the feel of her lips on mine. I had to let go of Ivy quickly to brace myself and keep from sliding down the wall.
Ivy laughed as I slipped away and caught me in her arms, pulling me closer to her. "I was jealous as hell, when I saw him touching you," she admitted, her voice so low that it was almost a growl. "I wanted to kick his ass back to the Turn just for touching you."
She nodded. "Am I going to have to?"
"Kick his ass?" Ivy nodded. "No, I don't think so. I have what I want right here."
We still had a lot to talk about. There was no way that we could define our relationship in a day, or even a week. Ivy and I were too complicated for that. It would take time to sort out our lives and decide what we could live with, but that was all right. What we had went beyond mere friendship or even blood. What we had was love.