Disclaimer: I don't own anything of Kim Harrison's. I do however use three quotes in this story from DWW, GBU and EWWBD (ironically in reverse order), which I'm not claiming to have written. It should be fairly obvious where they are. Aside from them, this is entirely of my own making.
Author Notes: This is a ONESHOT. I doubt I'll write a sequel (I hate writing in first person).
Thanks to Savior 8801 for unintentionally infecting me with the plotbunny in the first place (grins)
Also, if you enjoy this fic, check out my other (if somewhat darker) Rachel/Ivy story called: 'Case 6952'.
Dedicated to: The International Day (or Weekend) of Femslash 2008. Shout-outs to everyone who took part.
When a Door Closes, a Window Opens
"What...?" I breathed, heart stumbling to halt and trembling fearfully within my chest; like a cornered rabbit realising the fox is inside its warren.
He didn't...he couldn't...
As my eyes met Kisten's I suddenly knew that he could –and what's more, he had.
"I didn't know you were onboard, Rachel." He told me urgently, baby-blue eyes pleading for understanding. "My God, I never expected Saladan to leave everyone behind and save himself. I specifically gave enough time that the boat could be evacuated...I was just trying to scare him off, create a media circus..."
I sat there numb, while the warmth that had I just enjoyed in Trent's –or Ellasbeth's, to be precise– bath drained away.
Kisten was responsible for the deaths of sixteen people.
Almost eighteen, if you counted me and Trent. But we were the lucky ones. We managed to survive the blast within a protective circle of leyline magic.
And he was trying to tell me...
"It was an accident." My voice was flat, even to my own ears.
"Yes!" He replied earnestly, leaning forward to take my ice-cold hand in his. I let him, a large bubble of emotion rising within my throat and threatening to burst. I wasn't sure what would happen when it did. I pictured my mom's face falling as she found out I had picked the wrong man yet again. Worse, her face if she knew he had almost been responsible for my death. "Rachel, I never meant anyone to get hurt! It was to make Saladan back off, that's all –I swear."
The bubble exploded in a surge of fiery anger.
I tore my hands away and glared at the surprised expression on his face. "And you, you think that's alright?!" I hissed in disbelief, unable to comprehend what he was telling me. "That you 'never meant to', so that makes things okay?!"
A pained look crossed Kisten's face as he ran a hand through his messily spiked blond hair. His face was tight and drawn as though he hadn't been sleeping well.
"Of course not Rachel, I feel terrible. I underestimated him and those people paid for it with their lives. If I'd had even the slightest suspicion I would have done this another way." The words sounded sincere, but that may have been due to the stupid fake British accent he was still persisting with, even now. Most of the time, it was a pretty sure way to make me smile. This wasn't one of them. "But you have to see that Saladan is as much to blame as I am. He had every opportunity to save those people and instead he left them to die!"
A sharp crack cut the air and Kisten's face whipped to the side. My hand fell loosely beside me, throbbing from the force I'd put into the slap. A small part of me couldn't believe I had done it. I'd actually hit him? And he'd let me? I quickly stifled the remorse my stupid heart tried to feel.
"You bastard." I whispered, the prickling behind my eyes warning me that tears were threatening to spill over. "You put a goddamn bomb on that boat, Kisten! You didn't key his car or toilet paper his house! People died! This isn't some dumb action movie –what the Turn did you think was going happen!?"
His head turned slowly back to face me, the livid red palm print on his cheek a visible mark of my anger, but his eyes were still a steady blue.
"I'm sorry Rachel."
Did he think that was enough? That that would fix everything and we could just carry on as though this had never happened?
"So am I."
I turned away, unable to even look at him and faced the dark car window. My reflection stared pensively back. I had almost died. He had almost killed me. That the key word was 'almost' didn't make me feel any better. I felt hollow and sick, a shakiness settling over me that I somehow knew I wasn't going to be able to get rid of by myself. I needed a hug. I needed someone to tell things were going to be okay, even if it was the biggest lie in the history of lying. I needed–
In my mind's eye for a split-second, there flickered an image of almond-shaped brown eyes and ivory pale skin framed by long, silky black hair. The faint, ghostly scent of incense, ash and leather filled my nostrils.
My heart stopped again, then gave several irregular thumps. For some reason I couldn't quite convince myself it had something to do with fear.
"–can't take back what I did Rachel, I regret every life lost tonight–I almost lost you..." Kisten's low voice filtered back into my hearing, soft with regret and I blinked, mildly disorientated.
What was that?
"Take me home."
The words left my mouth before I was even conscious I was speaking them, but once they were out, I knew they were true. I just wanted to go home.
"Rachel, we need to talk about this," Kisten's voice shook slightly with panic as he spoke and in a dark part of my soul, I was glad. "if you'd just let me explain–"
"We don't need to talk about anything!" I shouted, infuriated and miserable; the longing to be home overtaking my whole being. It was the same old story, just a different man and a different screw-up. I'd really thought I was beginning to fall for him...Guess it shows I really do know how to pick 'em.
How had I missed the signs, yet again?
Wasn't it enough of a clue when he'd delighted in scaring me the first time we met? Hadn't I known he was the one to dump my roommate on our doorstep after she'd been raped? Didn't Ivy warn me not to go out with him? Hadn't I been there when he had barely stopped himself from killing those witches? This time I could blame it on vamp pheromones, but even I couldn't ignore the pattern emerging from my boyfriend choices. Why did I always manage to fall for the wrong guy?
"Rachel–" He began to protest.
"Godammit back to the Turn, Kisten!" I stopped, took a short, hopefully calming breath and then enunciated my next words slowly, trying to keep my temper in check. "This–is–not–about–you!"
I thought of still bodies floating in the icy water and the families that would be getting a visit from an IS officer so close to Solstice and the prickling in my eyes got worse. That had nearly happened to my mom. It would have killed her. She wouldn't have been able to survive another person she loved dying.
Fumbling with the car door handle, I flung the passenger door open and stepped out of the car, searching my pockets for my trusty cell–
And remembered it was at the bottom of the Ohio River.
"Rachel, get back in the car," Kisten coaxed, leaning over the bonnet.
I was not going to listen to him, even if I could feel the hunting pheromones he was pumping out to try to calm me down. I gritted my teeth at the thought. He wasn't going to win me over. Not this time. Not for this.
"Give me your phone." I demanded, my eyes narrowing as I steeled myself against him. Kisten looked instantly wary, but then sighed and handed it to me anyway, shaking his head as he watched me with a strange resignation. I ignored him, flipping it open and punched in the number a certain anal vamp had drilled into me way back when I'd had my dead-witch-walking membership revoked and started taking runs again.
:What now Kisten?:
I found myself almost bursting into tears at the familiar, but surprisingly snappish voice of Ivy.
"Ivy..." My voice cracked embarrassingly at hearing it, like a prepubescent choirboy talking to his first crush. Wait, maybe that was a bad example.
:Rachel?: Ivy's voice softened, instantly becoming gentler and more solicitous. :Are you okay? What's wrong?:
The caring concern in her tone wrapped around my chilled spirit like a warm blanket. I suddenly wished she was standing beside me right now.
"I'm...I'm fine." I lied. "Can you come get me?"
:Where are you? Where's Kisten? Isn't he with you?:
"He's here. We're still outside Trent's."
:What did he do to you!?: Ivy's voice demanded sharply, an edge of suspicious concern creeping into it and I heard things begin to shuffle around in the background as though she were searching for something.
"Nothing he hasn't already done." I whispered, feeling pathetically grateful as I heard the loud slam of our front door. "I just–" I faltered, uncertain of exactly what to say. That I suddenly needed to see her face? That I didn't want to be around Kisten right now? "–don't want to go home with him." I settled on.
There was a hesitant pause.
:I wanted to bring you back myself…but Kisten said he wanted to have a chance to talk to you first...: I heard a soft puff of air escape into the cell phone as she sighed. :...If he had been anyone else I would have…hurt…him, Rachel.: She whispered to me, the words a guilty confession even as I heard the conflicted pain behind them. For once, Ivy's bordering-on-scary protectiveness didn't send a chill of fear racing down my spine. :I'll be there in fifteen minutes.:
The phone went dead.
A small smile flickered over my face –I knew the time it took from here to the church, and there was no way it was fifteen minutes. Some serious speed limits were about to be broken. I breathed a sigh of relief and closed the lid, massaging my eyelids with the fingertips of my free hand. My smile faded. God this had been a long night.
"It's a good thing you called as quickly as you did. She already was ready to rip my throat out over sleeping with you." Kisten offered, coming closer towards me and extending his hand. He looked quietly relieved for some reason. I tossed the cell back to him, unwilling to risk physical contact. "I think she would have killed me twice if I had actually…" He trailed off, his eyes pained as he gazed beseechingly at me. "Please Rachel, don't hate me for this..."
My jaw clenched so hard, I swore I could hear it creak.
"Go away Kisten." I grit out, refusing to look at him. It hurt too much. "Just...go." I couldn't hate him. I wanted to, but I just couldn't. And I would never be able trust him again. This wasn't something that could be fixed between us. I wasn't going to be able to forget, or forgive it.
"I'm not going to leave you alone in the cold." He protested, stepping closer towards me, his hand outstretched again.
I pulled away, stalking down the slushy road and away from the gate to wait for Ivy. "I'm not going to be alone for long. Ivy's going to pick me up." I replied stubbornly.
I heard him sigh again.
"Please don't do this Rachel..." His voice trailed off, pleadingly. "Can't you see I didn't mean for this to happen? It was an accident..."
An accident is spilling rose hip tea on your mom's new three-hundred-dollar white rug. An accident is going into the back of the garbage truck in front of you because you were fiddling with the radio. An accident is forgetting to close all the windows when you turn the heating on. I've done all of these accidentally. I could forgive anyone else who's done the same. But this, this was not an 'accident'. Not even the same ballpark.
"You just don't get it, do you Kisten."
Was he deliberately ignoring the real issue here? Was he really so childish that he thought intentions mattered in something of this magnitude? Apologies and regrets weren't going to bring those people back to life.
"I can't take back what I did Rachel –if I could, I'd do it in a heartbeat. I'll carry those people's lives on my conscience until I die. I can never forgive myself for what I've done. What else do you want me to say?"
I laughed bitterly, choking back on a sob that wanted to tear itself free of my throat as I recalled the fight outside Saladan's boat and what Kisten had been so close to doing.
I had to know.
"Kisten," I spoke flatly, my eyes fixed firmly on the clear night sky. "were these the first people you've killed?"
He fell silent.
My eyes slid shut at his reply. A churning in my stomach told me that the waffles I had just eaten wanted to make an appearance.
"I've done things I'm not proud of Rachel." He whispered, voice heavy with sorrow. "Things that still haunt me today."
Was that supposed to make me feel better?
"Well, I'm sure that'll be great comfort to those peoples' families. That this time was an accident." My voice sounded nothing like me; it was way too dull and emotionless. Inside my chest my heart clenched with pain. I had liked Kisten. He'd made me laugh and forget Nick. We'd had fun together.
Apparently Kisten's highly developed sense of smell could detect the direction my thoughts were taking too.
"Don't let this tear us apart Rachel. I'm a nice guy, who just happened to kill his first person at eighteen. I–I don't want to lose you."
There were others. He had killed before today. Hell, I should have expected it. He had been Piscary's right-hand man after all.
My heart throbbed painfully at my decision, but I was resolved. I couldn't do this to myself again. I was getting in way too deep this time and I had to try to break the cycle –before I ended up dead.
"And I didn't want to end up in the Ohio River tonight." I said flatly. "It's funny how life works out."
Kisten made an inarticulate sound of frustration, his posture tense and hurt.
"Just go Kisten." I repeated, hating myself for the flicker of pity I felt. Stupid little soft-hearted witch. "Ivy'll be here soon." I knew he could hear the silent but unmistakable sound of our relationship shattering beyond repair, even if I hadn't said the words.
Kisten said nothing for several seconds, his fists clenching and unclenching as he fought for something else to say to sway me. Finally his shoulders slumped in defeat and he turned slowly back to his Corvette, sliding inside much with none of his usual fluid grace.
He paused, turning towards me for a moment; a bittersweet smile hovering on his lips. "Goodbye Rachel." I just nodded miserably, not trusting my voice and looked away as he put the car in gear and pulled out. When the tail-lights had vanished from view, I finally was able to sink to my knees in the flattened snow and wrap my arms around myself, shaking as I fought to hold back the tears threatening to overwhelm me.
A stupid, stupid 'accident' had cost sixteen people their lives, all thanks to an asinine Inderland pissing contest.
Dimly, I could feel wetness seeping into my clothes, but I couldn't bring myself to get up. Big Al could have appeared to drag me into the Ever After at that moment and I wouldn't have put up a fight.
"Rachel?" Ivy's worried voice made me shoot to my feet, stumbling a bit as the stiff limbs refused to fully cooperate, and scrubbed hastily at my face with my cold-reddened knuckles to erase any traces of possible wetness. I hadn't heard her arrive. Glancing over her shoulder I noticed she had brought her mother's Mercedes sedan instead of her bike. The roads must be pretty bad tonight.
"Oh Ivy, hey..." I forced a smile, which gradually felt more and more real as I met her familiar brown eyes. "Thanks for coming to get me." Ivy stood stock still for a moment; her delicate nostrils flaring as she inhaled deeply, no doubt trying to analyse my mood. The thought of her calculating how to handle me usually filled me with fear or annoyance, but right now I didn't have the mental energy to care.
"No problem." She spoke slowly, as though measuring each word and quietly crossed the distance between us, hovering uncertainly a short distance away. "I'm just glad you're alright." I noticed her arms give the tiniest of twitches as though they wanted to reach out and gave a pathetic snort of laughter at the thought she might be afraid to touch me.
"I don't bite, Ivy." I mumbled, part of me selfishly hoping she'd give me the comfort I had been desperately craving. Friends touched sometimes, didn't they?
An odd expression flickered over her face, gone too quickly for me to analyse and then she was hesitantly stepping closer, placing a slender hand on my shoulder. Warmth from her palm sank into me, forcing a single traitorous tear to leak out. I sniffled slightly and quickly coughed to cover it, hoping she wouldn't notice. Of course, I'd have had the same success in trying to hide raw steak in the Howler's changing room with the sensitivity of her vampiric senses.
"Rachel…" She murmured, edging closer and awkwardly squeezing my shoulder. She wasn't used to offering physical affection to other people for fear of it becoming tainted with her bloodlust; which was what lay at the root of her self-imposed isolation –and her loneliness. That she was trying now, touched me deeply. "I'm sorry…" I didn't know exactly what she was sorry for. She had tried to warn me. I had just –as usual– charged in anyway and ignored her advice. How many more times would I keep making the same mistakes? And how much longer would she tolerate them? I'd already driven Nick and Jenks away through my own stupidity...how much longer would Ivy put up with me?
Without conscious knowledge of how it happened, I suddenly found myself with both arms around Ivy's slender waist, gripping handfuls of her leather duster as I buried my face in the crook of her neck. Hot tears slipped from my eyes to fall on her porcelain skin beneath me as my body was wracked with the sobs I'd been repressing for so long.
She froze, her body becoming abruptly stiffer than a marble statue.
My mind flashed back to Skimmer's awkward assumption about our relationship and Ivy's refusal in discussing exactly what she wanted from me and a sliver of uneasy fear flitted across me. Oh God, I didn't mean to…
Hiccupping unattractively, I fought to speak through my tears. "Ivy…I…" I felt, rather than heard, Ivy draw a deep breath and then exhale, her tension seeping out with the air she released.
"It's alright Rachel." Ivy murmured, her body relaxing as she somehow managed to settle me even more snugly against her. Warmth soaked into me everywhere she held me. Her arms tentatively raised and slid around my waist, cradling me even more securely against her. "I can give you this." She whispered into my hair, her breath sweet and light, with the faintest hint of oranges.
A childlike contentment settled over me, something I couldn't remember feeling since my dad had last hugged me and I found myself breathing more deeply; subconsciously drawing the intoxicating mix of incense, ash, leather and something that was just uniquely Ivy, into my lungs. She smelled really good. Like home. "I'm tired of being wrong, Ivy..." My words were an indistinct mumble. "So tired..."
She should really hug me more often, I mused, somewhat fuzzily.
Distantly a part of my brain sounded an alarm, but was lost in the comfort Ivy was freely offering. My shoulders gradually slowed the intensity of their shaking as a peace settled within me. My tears dried. Ivy still didn't release me from her gentle embrace, and I didn't ask her to. I instinctively snuggled closer, the tip of my nose lightly brushing her neck; my exhaled breath puffing against her throat. For a split-second I felt Ivy's body go completely still against me, before she seemed to deliberately relax again and began to smooth a calming hand down my back.
"Thanks…" I mumbled clumsily after several minutes had passed, grateful beyond words that Ivy hadn't said 'I told you so'. I don't know if I would've been able to restrain myself if I was in her position.
She didn't reply, but the hand tracing the arch of my spine moved lower, leisurely sliding beneath the edge of my shirt. I stiffened in shock, the warmth of it seeming to scald the suddenly extremely sensitive skin. Her hand moved higher, its nails scraping lightly against my skin. Another shiver rippled through me, sending tendrils of heat throughout my body to resonate with the vamp scar on my neck. My entire being shuddered and melted into the caress, even as I stifled a groan from the wave of unadulterated pleasure washing over me. She was overwhelming my defences before I even was aware of what was happening. Long pianist fingers stroked me even more firmly in a deliberate attempt to call forth more sounds.
A low moan finally escaped my lips, heavy with need.
That made my eyes flash open; the faint alarm in my head morphing into a piercing klaxon and finally penetrating the haze of desire Ivy had cast over me.
My scar. She was playing on my demon scar.
"Um, Ivy…?" I managed hesitantly, hoping there was enough of her control left to pull herself back from the edge, even as I tried to ignore the reactions she was provoking in me. If I hadn't already tipped her over it that is. What in the Turn had been I thinking?! Her control must have been strained past usual limits tonight, if she'd thought I was dead for most of it. Why didn't I just poke a sleeping Were in the eye and then stick my head in its mouth while I was making life difficult for myself?! At least my fate with an angry Were would've been a lot quicker.
She didn't reply, except to dip her head towards me, her lips like heated velvet as they brushed against my throat. It was getting harder to think through the building longing in my body. This was so wrong. I tried to lean back to get a look at her eyes, but her arms remained as soft and unyielding as steel silk. I just wasn't strong enough to physically force her or use leverage in the position we were in.
Okay, don't panic Rachel. Struggling will just make things worse.
Unfortunately, I was speaking from experience.
Ivy's mouth traced a heart-pounding path downwards and finally stopped…on my now-throbbing scar. My breath hitched.
I could feel my resistance draining as her tongue flicked over the uneven bumps left by the stitches and gasped as a jolt of pure lust went straight to my core. My neck tilted back of its own accord, offering up more skin to be worshipped by her. It felt so good.
"I've been waiting so very long for this, my little witch…" She breathed, her voice sliding over me like grey silk. Another breathless whimper left me as each word spoken moved her mouth teasingly against my scar. Knees finally buckling beneath me, Ivy's inhuman strength caught and supported me easily.
"Ivy…please…" I didn't know what I was pleading for anymore. For her to stop? …Or for her to continue?
She carried on as if she hadn't heard me.
"This time you made all the moves, Rachel." A soft, purr-like sound of satisfaction came from her throat. "I knew if I was patient you would eventually choose me."
"I–I…d–didn't…" I stammered incoherently, eyes widening in shocked surprise. What was she talking about?
"Then why am I here–Rachel?"
I gaped soundlessly, unable to respond. Why was she here? Because I needed someone to look out for me…because I didn't want to risk Kisten sweet-talking me…because…because…My thoughts scattered, unable to formulate a justifiable argument. It would have been quicker for Kisten to take me straight home. I hadn't needed to call her. So why had I? Why had I needed to see her?
Ivy sensed my confusion.
Her voice dropped, becoming thick with dark seduction. "You'll see, little witch. We are meant to be together…Kisten wasn't worthy of you and neither is anyone else. No one can love you as I do." I tried not to melt against her slim form as she pressed a possessive kiss with a hidden edge of fang to my throat.
Then my barely functioning brain managed to focus on the single word reverberating within her last sentence.
Ivy loves me?
My mind whirled, dazed with the revelation. It wasn't just a part of her need to mix sex with blood to keep control. She actually loved me. Oddly enough, my heart felt lighter, as though it had sprouted a set of wings and was trying soar out of my chest. The words of a half-forgotten conversation with Kisten came back to me;
"I feel bad for Ivy." He whispered. "She doesn't want to accept her need for belonging, even as it charts her every move. She wants that perfect love but thinks she isn't deserving of it."
"She doesn't love Piscary." I whispered. "You said there was no beauty without trust and love."
Kisten's eyes met mine. "I wasn't talking about Piscary."
Shocked understanding flooded my body. He'd known. He'd always known. But then…why? Why would he still want to date me? Why would he want to hurt her like that?
Taking a shuddering breath to try to steady myself, I felt each word vibrate within my soul. Ivy loved me. As more than a roommate. As more than a friend. My heart gave a couple of irregular beats.
It…made a surprising amount of sense. I blinked as a number of strange incidents suddenly were abruptly viewed in a vastly different light. Things originally rationalised by her vampiric instincts now revealed another, subtler motive. Like her inexplicable dislike, bordering on loathing of Nick, and his insecurity and dislike of her. Like her over-the-top, almost jealous ex-like behaviour towards anyone who showed an interest, friendly or otherwise in me. Like her –now with hindsight completely obvious– reason for wanting me as her scion. I had been so blind…
I was snapped out of these revelations by Ivy's next words.
"You've always been mine Rachel. Now and forever."
A rush of nameless anaemic faces with hollow, dead eyes and dreams swallowed by the eternal hunger of their lovers, passed quickly through my mind as though illuminated by lightening, and distracted me from my strange, chaotic reaction to her confession. A sinister veil was cast over the declaration, tainting it.
I didn't want to lose myself in her hunger.
"Ivy…p–please…just listen…" I managed to whimper, praying she'd listen. "You, you promised you wouldn't…remember…?"
God help me, I was not ending up a broken shell of person as a shadow. Even if she –my heart gave another strange flutter– claimed to love me.
"Shh," the dark goddess cradling me close whispered, the gentleness of her hand on my spine a sharp contrast to the iron grip she was holding me in. "There will be no pain dear heart. I've been waiting to share this with you for so long." A kiss, lighter than a butterfly's wing, brushed against the underside of my jaw.
Tears, silent this time, slipped down my face. She wasn't listening. I was going to end up a mindless slave for the rest of my short life, if she didn't bleed me dry right now. I didn't have any leyline energy left stored in my chi or sleepy-time potions in my pockets. The powerful shielding spells on Trent's mansion also meant I wasn't going to be pulling on his private leyline from outside them without some sort of Solstice miracle. I was out of range of any nearby lines and utterly helpless. Something I hate with a passion.
"Ivy please!" I desperately pleaded. "Don't do this." A crazy spurt of inspiration hit me, fuelled by self-preservation. "This isn't how you really want it to be!" A deeply amused throaty chuckle rumbled from her chest. C'mon, Rachel, think fast… I pressed desperately on, panic lending me focus and strength. "This isn't how I want it to be either! You said you love me!" Her laughter trailed off and I swore I could almost hear her instincts wrestle with the closeted romantic she kept hidden from the rest of the world. "Do you really want our first time," silently I was trying not to hyperventilate at the thought of Ivy and I even having a 'first time'. Dammit, I was straight, wasn't I? A quiet voice reminded me that living vampires couldn't bespell the unwilling. I tried to ignore it. "to be like this –in the freezing cold outside Trent Kalamack's mansion," and I was really hoping he didn't have security footage of this far from the front gates, otherwise he was going to have some prime blackmail material –no, focus dammit! "just after I broke up with Kisten? If you do this, I'll leave this time, I swear to God! Jenks isn't there anymore either, you'll be completely alone!" I panted for breath, closing my eyes to try and fight the undeniable rushes of longing and desire flooding my system. I had to convince her…
Ivy was silent, though her hand underneath my shirt kept up its stimulating caresses. I couldn't bring myself to tell her to stop. The thought that I was enjoying it too much even as I feared for my blood and will, scared me. Was I naïve in hoping my appeal to her romantic side might awaken her powers of reasoning? Or just desperate? It was entirely possible I was both. I really didn't want to leave her. She was right; we were crap when we were alone. But if she did this…I would have no choice…
With painful slowness Ivy slid her mouth away from my neck to instead rest her forehead against the top of my head, her long hair sweeping over both of us like a black waterfall. I couldn't help the whimper that escaped me at the loss. "I need you Rachel…" She murmured, sounding like a goddess imparting a forbidden secret to her Chosen.
I swallowed, my throat suddenly thick with emotion.
"I–I need you too." I whispered back, meaning it with all my heart. "I do love you Ivy."
My heart and brain simultaneously froze in shock, almost causing me to black out in surprise. Where in the Turn had that come from!? I liked men, didn't I? I'd had boyfriends; lots of boyfriends…I wasn't…not…like that…was I? Not that there is anything wrong with…But as a friend…I loved her as a friend…just a friend...
Somehow the denials felt oddly hollow even in my own head.
Nick's words from a lifetime ago echoed in my head;
"It's not just blood she's after, though an exchange is involved. But I have to be honest. You compliment each other like no other vampire and scion pairing I've seen."
My breath slowed as I tried to process this.
Ivy had always wanted more. We did work together surprisingly well, supporting each others weaknesses with our strengths and becoming close friends…but I had never considered a romantic –or physical– aspect to our relationship…and yet I had said it…I had told her I loved her.
A spark of memory flared into life inside my head, of the first night we'd spent in the Church together.
Ivy exhaled, moving her entire body. Her breath sent a shock reverberating through me. My eyes went wide in surprise and bewilderment as I recognised it as desire. What the hell was going on? I was straight. Why did I suddenly want to know how soft her hair was?
All I'd have to do was reach out. She was inches from me. Poised. Waiting. In the silence, I could hear my heart pound. The sound of it echoed in my ears.
Maybe I had –briefly– considered it. Very briefly.
Except everything had gone to hell after that as her focus switched to my blood instead of my body and I panicked, setting off her more predatory instincts. I'd narrowly escaped being bitten for the first time, only Ivy's iron will saving me. My moment of attraction had been forgotten in the all-compassing fear which followed.
But if she hadn't lost control…If she had 'simply' tried to seduce me…What might have happened? Would I have given in? Or would I have still freaked out?
And if I really was so straight, how was it she could keep making me feel these things?
I was so busy trying to prevent a mental meltdown I almost missed Ivy's next words.
"We belong together Rachel." The words eerily echoed the direction my own thoughts were taking. "You can't leave. I won't let you."
"You don't own me Ivy." I managed to retort, chilled by the feral, possessive note in her words.
She laughed; the sound rich with dark seduction. I fought to resist it. And could feel myself failing.
"I beg to differ, my little witch." Ivy's smooth cheek was suddenly flat against my own. Her words caressed the shell of my ear. "You are mine." My eyes fluttered as another wave of pleasure crashed over me as she pulled on my scar. "Just as I am yours."
"Ivy…" I breathed as her never-forgotten hand danced higher, teasingly close to the swell of my breast. It was getting harder to think. Harder to say no. Harder to want to say no. "W–wait…" I couldn't say no, but I could ask her to wait. It was enough for the moment. Her hand paused, fingers still lightly stroking me. I swallowed.
Ivy, sensing my weakness, pressed her advantage. "I can be everything for you, dear heart. I'm strong enough to live in your world and never betray you. We would be so good together, Rachel. You would never want for anything again. All I am is yours for the asking."
My mouth went dry as her heartfelt words echoed in the cool night air. Something was vibrating inside my chest, as though a pure chord had been struck. Al's words came back to me as he impersonated Ivy, saying all the things I thought she could never voice –and yet she was proving me resoundingly wrong. I had said no to Al. He wasn't Ivy and I wasn't interested in his illusion…but what about the real thing? Was this what I had been searching for my entire life? Had it –she– been under my nose for so many years without me realising I was looking in all the wrong places? We connected like I had never before with any of my other friends. I hadn't even known it was possible to feel this close to someone. And we did compliment each other in every way; I could spend the rest of my life looking and I wouldn't find what I had with Ivy anywhere else. I could see why Ivy had blood and sex all tangled up together in her head. I was struggling to understand and I hadn't shared either one with her. I had never been attracted to another woman before…but maybe that didn't matter. Maybe it was just Ivy who called to me.
Ivy who I trusted more than anyone else in the world, next to Jenks. He was lost to me, taken away by my lack of faith in him. And I knew I wouldn't be able to stand losing Ivy in the same way.
But could I do it? Could I have as much courage as she did and allow her to show me everything I was missing? To take the first trembling steps into a new, uncertain and terrifyingly wonderful beginning? I had faced off against IS assassins, the two most powerful men in the city and a demon out for my blood. How could I not be brave enough to see if I could make us both happy? To at least try, even if I failed?
My resistance crumbled into nothingness.
"…Okay." I whispered.
"Okay?" Ivy echoed slowly, her voice as awed and innocent as a child.
My God, what was I saying…
"Okay." I repeated, licking my lips as a surge of adrenaline shot through me. It was like watching someone else controlling my body, saying these things which would seal my fate irrevocably with hers.
"Rachel…" She breathed, pulling back slowly. I finally was able to raise my head and meet her eyes. Steady brown, with a thick ring of obsidian stared into mine, searching for something as they filled with a fragile hope that I was suddenly terrified I would break. Don't let me hurt her, I prayed to whoever might be listening, please. The arm holding my body captive released me and slowly reached up to brush a loose lock of hair out of my eyes, gauging my reaction. I trembled at the tenderness I could feel radiating from the simple gesture. My legs felt weak and unsteady against the ground, as though they would collapse underneath me at any moment. Ivy smiled at me; an open expression of pure happiness that I had never seen directed at me before. At anyone. My heart stumbled at the sight and then sped up, thumping painfully hard against my ribs. It didn't occur to me to try to run, even though I'd seemingly succeeded in calming her bloodlust.
She loved me.
And I, I loved her. I could feel the knowledge and acceptance of it down to my very bones. I was going to try. For both of us.
My gaze slid lower, suddenly fascinated by the curve of that heart-breakingly perfect smile.
She was so beautiful.
Without allowing my brain time to think or slow me down, I leant forward and brushed my lips against her softer ones. A shallow intake of breath and a heart-pounding pause greeted me before Ivy tentatively responded, her mouth moving slowly and tenderly with mine.
There was no weirdness or revulsion. It was different to kissing a man...but it felt…right. Like this was how things were supposed to be. Just the two of us, together.
Maybe I wasn't a hundred percent straight.
As the kiss deepened, I felt Ivy moan wantonly into my mouth and my knees almost buckled again at the sound. She tasted like oranges.
I decided that I could live with that.
Why had I ever fought against this?
My hands moved up from her waist to thread themselves through her long hair, delighting in its silky warmth as they urged her closer again. I wanted her. She moaned helplessly into my mouth again, a sharpness pricking lightly against the edge of my tongue. Her fangs. I'd forgotten about those. Kisten's canines had always been blunted by the caps he wore. Ivy's free hand slid up to delicately cup my cheek, then slowly urged me to break the kiss. With a dissatisfied whimper and much reluctance, I obeyed.
"What?" I asked Ivy somewhat breathlessly, but with an unmistakeable childish pout I couldn't suppress. I finally realised what I'd been missing and she was stopping me? Oh Irony, thy name is Rachel.
She laughed, the sound as light and happy as I had never heard from her before. I found myself instantly forgiving her.
"I think we better take this back to the church before things move into NC-17 rated areas…" She murmured, the black band around her irises contracting to envelop more of the brown. For once, the sight didn't inspire fear or unease in me. "Being out in the cold isn't exactly how I imagined…" Ivy trailed off, two faint spots of colour rising to her cheeks. She was embarrassed. I tried not to think about the content of her imaginings.
"You're right…" I suppressed a sigh. Just how was I going to keep myself under control through the journey back? This would be one time I'd be thankful for Ivy's nail-biting 'Project Gotham Racing' style of driving. Ivy's thumb softly stroked my cheek as she slid out her other hand from under my shirt and laced the slim fingers together with mine. I stared at them for a long moment. I'd never held hands with her before. It felt...natural.
I met her eyes and smiled, feeling my heart expand painfully with affection. If possible, Ivy's smile became wider and she had been anyone else, I would have described her expression as giddy. Without looking away, she walked confidently backwards towards the sedan, leading me by our intertwined fingers. She fussed over opening the passenger door and then ushered me inside, even taking off her leather duster and draping it over my lap to keep me warm. I watched, trying not to let my amusement show as she all but vaulted over the bonnet of the car and slipped neatly inside the driver's seat; the entire sequence looking as if it had been flawlessly choreographed.
Her eyes darted over at me and her expression turned slightly sheepish. I shook my head fighting a smile and said nothing as she bit her lip, letting a wave of hair fall over her face to throw it into shadow.
"You…you do want this, don't you Rachel?" She whispered and I felt my fond amusement die at the sudden fear in her grey-ribbon voice. "You're not afraid? Or…" Her words trailed off as she lost courage, but I still heard what had been left unsaid.
…trying to get over Kisten…
It was impossible for me to fault her for this bout of insecurity.
I ducked my head slightly to meet her eyes through the veil of hair. "I want you, Ivy." I hesitated, then continued. "This feels more right than anything else has in my entire life. I'm not going to change my mind…and Kisten has nothing to do with how I feel about you. Or my decision tonight." I heard her shakily exhale in relief. "I am nervous," I admitted after a moment, with a slightly awkward laugh. Was sex with a woman that much different from a guy? Were the differences between female witches and vamps that noticeable? What if I didn't know what to do? Worse –what if I freaked out? If I hurt her?
I didn't realise I was on the verge of hyperventilating until Ivy gently caught my head and lifted it so our eyes met again "Shh," She breathed as her thumbs feathered lightly over my cheeks. "It will be okay, Rachel. You'll be fine." I smiled hesitantly as a measure of calmness slipped into me at her words –though that was probably also thanks to the vamp pheromones she was pumping out in a survival reflex. "There will be no pain. I'll go slowly." Ivy reassured me softly, letting one hand fall from my face as the other cupped my cheek. "I'm not going to lose control and bind you Rachel, I promise. Making love will shackle the hunger within me; you don't have to fear it. I won't hurt you." Something inside my chest relaxed and I offered a stronger smile. It was going to be fine. We were going to be fine. We'd figure all this out, together. Somehow.
"This isn't about satisfying my bloodlust either," Ivy continued, retreating back to her side of the car. It almost sounded like she was building up steam for a fully-fledged, nerve-induced ramble; an impression that was reinforced as I saw her anxiously tuck a lock of hair behind her ear.
"I love you Rachel. I want to show you how much."
"I want to be with you, in every way. It's not Piscary's influe–"
"Ivy." I leaned forward across the gear stick, covering her mouth with mine in a chaste kiss. Her words cut off as she blinked owlishly at me. I pulled back, slightly breathless and rested my forehead against hers. "I know." We really were a pair, weren't we? "I love you too."