Something Like a Star
Summary: Ivy is nervous about Rachel leaving to save Nick, but Kisten is there to calm her down and cheer her up. Ivy/Kisten friendship fluff.
Notes: This takes place near the beginning of Fistful of Charms, when Rachel and Jenks (after he gets big) are loading the van right before they leave to save Nick.
Disclaimer: They don't belong to me, but to the wonderful Kim Harrison.
Ivy let the heavy door to the church slam shut behind her as she stalked inside. Rachel and Kisten were still outside talking, and she could hear Jenks throwing things into the van. The various noises almost seemed to hurt her ears as she tried to escape the reality of the situation. She was alone, and she would be alone for days, despite what Rachel had said. Already she could feel the walls closing in around her. Her footsteps echoed softly against the walls of the sanctuary, and she took a deep breath, allowing the multicolored light from the stained glass windows to fill her cold body. The black finish of her beautiful piano glinted as she walked by, catching her attention and demanding she stop.
The sigh was almost unheard as she eased gracefully onto the piano bench and pressed her foot gently against one of the pedals. It gave way and the keys shifted slightly. Her mother had forced the lessons on her, yes. But that didn't mean Ivy didn't enjoy playing the lovely instrument. It took all the energy she had, though, to lift her fingers up to the keyboard and hit a random minor chord. The sadness of the notes resounded inside her and she quickly removed her hands, causing the reverberating sounds to stop abruptly.
A single tear slid down her cheek and she wiped it vehemently away. It wasn't that big a deal; she just had to convince herself of that. Rachel wasn't her damned keeper and the redhead could do whatever the hell she wanted. The thudding of the front door was the only sign Ivy had of Kisten's presence, but she stayed where she was, fingers once again poised over the keys. A melody emerged this time, haunting and heartrending, and she let it flow.
"You don't always have to force yourself to be strong," Kisten whispered, his voice still easily heard over the poignant music. He didn't expect her to stop playing, and she didn't as he continued. "Rachel will never know when to help you if you don't ask."
"I don't need her help," Ivy snapped, her deft fingers never losing a beat as she let her soul loose in one of the only ways she knew how.
"You know you do. Stop lying to yourself." He leaned against the doorway, knowing better than to approach his childhood friend, however calm she seemed. "I can see what her absence is already doing to you, and it's going to be a downward spiral. Run out there and make her stop. Make her come back."
"No!" She leaned back and jerked her fingers away from the piano. The music echoed around them for a tense few seconds before dying away. In the brief silence that followed, they both heard the van's engine start.
"Why not?" Kisten's eyes flashed in defiance. Ivy was the dominant one in their relationship, but he wasn't afraid of her. "Are you worried that she'll think you weak? Insecure?" Ivy stood up unexpectedly, the bench scraping the floor behind her as she left the room in a huff. Kisten followed her to the kitchen, making her even angrier.
"Leave me alone," she warned softly, her voice dangerous. "I'm not in the mood for your psychotherapy crap." The computer on the table started whirring when she hit the power button and she reached over to rearrange the suddenly-out-of-order pens in their holder in an attempt to bug him into leaving.
Kisten bustled around the kitchen ignoring her, pulling out some food for a real breakfast. Ivy eyed him warily, not sure what to make of his big brother-like concern. It irked her and she wanted him to stop. "What do you want?" she finally asked, annoyed.
He just gave her a lopsided grin as he stirred together some eggs and milk in a bowl. "I want to keep you company. You need it, so don't lie." He turned on a burner at the stove and put a pan with a square of butter inside over top it. "Are you going to call Skimmer?" The question was soft and almost lost through the sizzle as he dumped the egg/milk mixture into the pan.
Ivy didn't answer, realizing Kisten already knew it was a yes. "Why should it matter?" she said numbly, typing away at the computer as though disregarding his entire side of the conversation. She really did want him there, but she would die twice before asking him to stay.
"Because it will be too easy for you to…fall back into old habits," he countered, choosing his words carefully. Ivy's fingers stilled momentarily before she pushed herself away from the computer and went to stand beside her friend at the stove. Kisten smacked her hand away from the pan and shoved a loaf of bread at her instead. "Make some toast." He could almost feel her glare eating away at his back as she grabbed the butter and a knife.
"I don't want eggs," she spat bitterly, smashing the bread down into the toaster anyway.
"I never said I was making any for you," Kisten returned playfully. Ivy was just in a foul mood; they'd both be fine as long as he didn't push her too hard. Maybe some light bantering would actually make her feel a bit better.
Kisten almost laughed out loud when he saw a very brief smile flit over Ivy's lips. It was quickly chased away by an angry scowl, but he knew he had her. Failed cohabitation or not, he knew Ivy inside and out, making it rather easy for him to make her emotions shift. She could do the same to him, but it was 'Comfort Ivy Time' now and he would do everything he could to help. She had made so much progress since Rachel had moved in and he refused to let the runner's absence cause some serious backtracking.
"You're in love with her, aren't you?" he asked suddenly.
Ivy stopped in her tracks, color rising to spot her cheeks. "How dare you…"
Kisten raised his hands, spatula dripping eggs and butter to splat against the stovetop. Ivy's blackening eyes darted to the mess then settled on his innocent face. That might have been too much, he realized, but he wouldn't stop just because she was vamping out. "You are. Why do you think Dorothy dislikes her so much? Rachel isn't just your friend or partner, is she?" His words were cut short by a smart slap across his cheek. He just grinned and shook his head. "Guess that's all the answer I need."
"You…you son of a bitch!" Ivy swore, now beyond angry. Her hand poised to slap him again if he so much as opened his mouth. "Get the hell out of my kitchen!"
"No." Kisten grabbed her wrist before she could hit him for it. He looked her square in the eyes as he said, "You are never going to understand your actions unless you understand yourself first. That's the way it works."
Ivy jerked out of his hold, furious but not doing anything about it as his words sunk in. Her eyes stung with tears as the ring of brown widened and went back to normal. "Are you saying I don't understand myself, Kisten?"
He kept her in sight as he turned back to the eggs, which were starting to turn an ugly brown. "No, I'm just saying that you have more learning to do."
The stove clicked as he turned off the burner so he could wrap his arms around his friend. Surprisingly Ivy didn't fight him off, instead leaning into his reassuring embrace. The heat of his body fought away the lingering chill and she suddenly felt guilty for her violent outburst. "I'm sorry I hit you," she whispered into his chest, blinking away her tears until they disappeared. Her arms snaked around his waist, and they stood there together in comfortable companionship for a few more seconds. "I'm just…a little stressed right now."
"A little stressed?" Kisten said into her silky hair. "Hell, Ivy, if I were in your position I would have snapped by now."
"Then it's a good thing you're not."
He chuckled and let her pull away from him as he looked down at the pan. The eggs were quite done. "Get me two plates, love. And the toast, if you would."
Ivy glared at him, almost playful. "I will if you drop that horrific accent."
"Deal." The both smiled, but Kisten broke the mood all too quickly by asking, "You already miss her, don't you?" His voice was sympathetic, keeping her from getting angry again. He had gone back to being big brother.
"Is it that obvious?" Her face lost its good-humored innocence as she frowned, plates clattering against the counter.
"Very," he answered honestly. "But you can still say it out loud, you know." He kept his gaze on her as he scraped the eggs onto the proffered plates, holding them out again for her to add the buttered toast. Ivy was silent, letting his words sink in as she got out two forks and set them with napkins on the table. "You're doing so well, Ivy," Kisten told her, reaching out to grab her hand once the plates were set down.
Her face was expressionless as she looked at him. "What are you talking about?"
"You're not the person you used to be," he whispered, squeezing her fingers. "You've grown up into a fine young woman." That last part was added in jest, but they both heard the truth in the words.
Ivy didn't jerk away this time, instead keeping a firm grasp on his hand as she glanced down at the food he had prepared. "Thank you, Kisten. For everything."
"Hey, no need to thank me. It's what friends do, after all." He grinned widely, dropping her hand after one last squeeze and gesturing to the table. "Breakfast is served, love. Have a seat and start eating. What would you like to drink?"
"Could I have some orange juice?" she asked as she pulled out a chair and sat down, unfolding her napkin and placing it in her lap.
"Coming right up." He poured them both a glass and sat beside her at the table. "Dig in."
Ivy smiled briefly before taking a large bite of the eggs. The smile dropped from her face. "Kisten," she said slowly, "they're…a little burned. Since when do you burn scrambled eggs?"
"What?" Kisten's eyebrows furrowed in real concern. "They're burned? No way!" He quickly shoved a forkful into his mouth, then reached over to smack Ivy on the arm. "You dirty liar! They're fine!"
She burst out laughing, pleased with herself. "Well, they could have been burned considering the amount of time they were on the stove. And they are a little brown." The smile returned to her face as she held his eyes with her own. "Besides," she added playfully, "your reaction to imperfect food is too hard to pass up."
"Shut up," he muttered as he looked away, embarrassed. "That was mean."
Ivy shrugged and continued eating. "You're a good cook," she finally admitted after her plate was cleared. "I appreciate you making me breakfast."
"I certainly don't mind the cooking," Kisten responded, "so long as you clean up."
For once, Ivy didn't complain as she stood and gathered their dishes to bring to the sink. "I'll wash them later." The pan was dropped noisily into the sink to join the other dishes with her words.
"What, Miss Obsessive-Compulsive isn't going to do the dishes? I'm shocked!"
She merely glared at him as she walked past to the hallway. "I'm going to clean the whole church, you ass. They'll get done later."
"Oh." Kisten paused, regarding her quietly as she opened the door to her bathroom, presumably to get some cleaning supplies. "Are you trying to erase Rachel's scent?" he asked when she reappeared with a bucket and a bottle of ammonia. The deer-in-headlights look on her face gave him all the answer he needed. "Is that really a good idea?"
Ivy suddenly sagged against the wall. "I can't do this," she breathed.
Kisten was at her side in an instant. "Can't do what, Ivy?" He took the bucket and ammonia from her hands and set them on the floor, reaching up to cup her oval face in his hands. "What's wrong?"
She looked up at him, pain clearly written across her face. "What if I go to him?" she asked, horrified. "What if I…what if I…" Her voice trailed off in building panic.
Piscary. Damn him. Kisten's hands dropped from her face as he took her in another tight embrace. "You won't," he told her softly. "You're stronger than that. And besides, Rachel will be back before you know it." He patted her back and ran a hand through her hair. "Would you like to come stay with me until then?"
Ivy gathered herself and pulled out of his arms. "No, thank you. I'll – I'll be okay. I just need to… clean."
He let her go. Pushing her would only make things worse, and he knew that. But still. He was worried for her. Rachel had somehow become the glue that held her together, and now that the glue was gone there was the possibility that Ivy would fall apart. She would clean until her hands fell off, and that would help her. But what then?
Kisten pulled out his cell phone and scrolled down for Piscary's Pizza. He had to let them know that he wouldn't be coming in today, or tomorrow. Ivy needed him here, and here he would stay until she kicked him out. After all, that's what friends were for.