Title: A Touchy Situation
Fandom: The Hollows aka Rachel Morgan aka that series by Kim Harrison
Time frame: Not very long after White Witch, Black Curse
Characters: Rachel Morgan, Ivy Tamwood
Genre: Drama, angst, romance
Summary: The more things change, the more things stay the same. Rachel makes a discovery, and has to deal with the consequences of what she's learned.
Disclaimer: All characters, and the universe that they go with belong to Kim Harrison. I'm just playing in the sandbox. No infringement is intended.
Spoilers: For White Witch, Black Curse and using information about WW,BC that was revealed in the Spoiler Chat that Kim Harrison did shortly thereafter. So...lots.
Notes: The afternoon that I sent my massive novel length Hollows fic to the beta, I started working on this fic. I think I seriously had the Hollows on the brain for a few days there. Hopefully, some folks will enjoy this. And many thanks to queen_bellatrix for doing a speedy beta on this for me. I really, really appreciate it, Dude. :D
I stumbled down the hall, my eyes half open and my fingers trailing along the wall, as I headed toward the bathroom. The hallway was barely light enough to see in, all of the lights still turned out. Only the faintest hint of daylight filtered through the windows at the far end.
My stumbling stopped abruptly as I ran face first into something solid. It felt warm and supple under my hands, and my eyes jerked open in surprise. Just what the Turn had I run into?
I found myself on eye level with a bare, dark-skinned chest. I jerked back and slammed into the wall, reaching for a ley line and instinctively throwing it at my unknown assailant.
The man went flying through the air and crashed into the wall at the far end of the hall with the sound of splintering wood, and the heavy thud of a body hitting something solid and immobile. Ivy's door yanked open and she came streaming out of her room, her black silk robe flapping open and showing far too much of the pale, ivory skin that it was intended to cover.
"What did you do, Rachel?" She demanded, barely sparing me a glance before she ran down the hall with vampiric speed.
"Hey," she said tenderly, bending over the man and holding a hand out to him. "Are you okay?"
There was a slight groan and then he straightened. I got a good glimpse of his face and sagged back against the wall.
"Glenn? What are you doing here?"
He and Ivy shared a quick glance and then Ivy straightened, wiping dust and splinters off her hands nervously, before she turned to face me.
"Glenn and I have been dating. He spent the night last night."
My jaw actually dropped. I thought that only happened in bad movies. Apparently it really did happen. Looking back and forth between Glenn and Ivy I couldn't quite believe it.
"But you almost killed him the first time he came in the church," I said, gesturing at Glenn in bewilderment.
Ivy paled and Glenn glared at me as he pushed himself up off the floor. Moving stiffly, he laid a supportive hand on the small of Ivy's back. She stayed ramrod straight and didn't relax a fraction at his touch, but she didn't shake him off either.
"That's not fair, Rachel," Glenn said quietly, but firmly.
Ivy wasn't looking at me, focusing instead on a spot just over my shoulder. The hurt look on her face was pissing me off.
"Just do me a favor, Rachel," she said coldly. "Try not to throw him into any more walls. I prefer my men unbroken."
"Well, you could have told me that he was going to be spending the night. Then I might have realized that someone else was going to be here and not thought someone was attacking me when I ran into a strange guy in the middle of the hallway at an obscenely early hour of the morning," I snapped back. "We're supposed to be friends. Even roommates usually get a heads up."
Ivy stepped away from Glenn and stalked toward me.
"And if I had thought you could act like an adult about it and not like, well, like this, about it, I just might have told you." She was towering over me by the time she finished speaking, using her greater height to make her look intimidating.
I didn't flinch back from her in the slightest. I had seen Ivy in far pissier and more dangerous moods than this. A little bit of towering and an attitude weren't going to deter me. Especially when she was the one out of line.
"You're the one who's being childish about this. Why would I have cared that you were dating Glenn? What were you afraid of Ivy? That I might start being a bitch and trying to drive him off like you do with every single guy that I get involved with or who even comes in the house? If you'll recall, that's how Glenn ended up against a wall in the first place."
I hadn't had a chance to think about the idea of them, even more so since I had never even considered it as a possibility, but it wasn't so bad, was it? Glenn was a nice guy and he would be good to Ivy. What else could a friend ask for? I folded my arms over my chest and glared. No, it wasn't Glenn and Ivy that I was pissed about. It was the fact that Ivy hadn't trusted me enough to tell me. That was what hurt the most.
"Ladies," Glenn said stepping up between us as quickly as he could when he looked like the walking wounded, "Maybe we should just take a break and calm down before everything gets out of hand."
This time Ivy did shake off the hand that Glenn had laid on her arm, and stepped forward until we were only inches apart.
"No," Ivy said firmly, "I think we need to have this conversation. I only chase off the losers, Rachel. You really do know how to pick 'em. Heard from Crap for Brains lately?" She added pointedly.
"No, you only bother to chase off the ones that you think might be a threat to you," I retorted just as quickly. "And you would know if I had heard from Nick because I actually tell my friends about what's going on in my life."
"Maybe if you were a little less preoccupied with your life, you might have noticed that I was going out with Glenn. We weren't exactly subtle, Rachel. You were just oblivious. Like always."
She was breathing harder now, and the ring of brown around her irises was contracting. I was tired of always having to draw back when things got tense between us. I wanted to have this out here and now. In a shower of pixy dust, angry red sparkles drifted down between us. Ivy and I both jerked back, not wanting to get any of the pesky dust on us.
"Jenks," I snapped, "Stay out of this."
"No, Fairy loving way I'm staying out of this, Rache," He countered, flitting in front of me aggressively, with his hands planted on his hips. "You two always make a mess out of things."
"Leave us alone, pixie," Ivy growled, echoing me. "This is none of your concern."
Jenks threw up his hands in disgust. "So now they agree!" He glanced back and forth between Ivy and I and then flitted over to Glenn. "Want some coffee, Glenn?"
Glenn blinked at the sudden change of subject and then his brows furrowed. "You can fix the coffee?"
Jenks smirked. "No, but I sure can push the buttons. Let's leave these two to argue this out. I don't need a headache this early in the morning and you look like you could use somewhere to sit down."
Glenn glanced between Ivy and I. My cheeks grew hot as embarrassment rushed through me. Whether I had thought I was being attacked or not, I had still thrown Glenn into a wall.
"I'm, uh, sorry about that," I said wincing and pointing to the wall that I'd thrown him into as he walked past me.
Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Ivy's head come up sharply.
"I didn't realize it was you, or I wouldn't have done it. You just surprised me."
Glenn nodded, and I could see that he had at least forgiven me for throwing him into the wall. He still looked upset about my impending argument with Ivy, however. I could deal with that later, though. Right now, Ivy and I were alone and she was still pissed off.
Or maybe not. Mostly she looked tired. I didn't have to look to know when Glenn and Jenks disappeared around the corner. Ivy relaxed fractionally and sighed, wrapping her arms around her chest and leaning back against the wall.
"Why are you so mad about this, Rachel?"
I shook my head, tossing my red hair away from my face and out of my eyes.
Ivy shrugged. "Why not Glenn? He's a nice man, Rachel. I thought you would be happy for me that I was with a nice guy."
"I am," I whispered, suddenly feeling overwhelmed and uncertain. "I'm happy for you," I repeated, feeling anything but.
"But why him?" Ivy's uncertainty was slowly giving way to annoyance. "I mean, you can hardly look at me some days without - without," I gestured words failing me. Ivy seemed to get the point because she scowled. "But you can be with him, no problem?"
"The way I feel about Glenn," Ivy said slowly, as if picking her way across a live mine field, "Is completely different from the way I feel about you."
"So you can touch him all you want, but you can't even look at me some days? You won't even touch me."
Ivy went painfully still. "What are you saying, Rachel?"
I looked at her helplessly. "I don't know. It's just not fair."
"Why?" Ivy breathed.
"Because," I swallowed, and forced myself to keep going. "Because sometimes I want you to touch me."
I closed my eyes. I couldn't believe I'd just said it, but it was the truth.
"How," Ivy's quiet voice penetrated the silence. "How do you want me to touch you, Rachel?"
A hint of air brushed across my face. My hair shifted away from my face with the lightest touch.
"A friendly hug? A chaste arm to lean on? Or something else?"
My eyes still closed, I tilted my head towards the sound of her voice.
"When I was curled up in a fetal position on the floor hurting, I wanted you to hold me in your arms, and tell me that it would all be okay. I wanted you to kiss my hair and carry me to bed. Pull the sheets up around me and promise to never let anything hurt me ever again. At least until the next day when I was ready kick ass again. And then lay there and hold me in your arms until noon when we were both ready to face the day again."
I heard Ivy's breathing catch. Slowly long, slender fingers brushed across mine and curled around them. I squeezed back so hard that it probably hurt.
"Is that all you wanted?" Her voice was tremulous.
"No," I said slowly. "I want you. I want to be able to kiss you when you wake up and your hair's a mess and you look completely adorable. I want you even when you scare the crap out of me."
Ivy's hand was shaking underneath mine. She was gripping my hand just as hard as I was holding hers now.
"All you've ever had to do is crook your finger and I would come running." Ivy sounded angry. "You had to know that. So, why now, Rachel?" She asked with exasperation. "You don't have to say all of this stuff just because you don't want anything to change. I like Glenn but I'm not going anywhere."
I shook my head, and finally opened my eyes, looking up into hers, gauging the look in them. I read the sadness, confusion and anger in them easily. I was still earning my Ph.d. in Ivy but I could already read her so much better than most. Best of all, her eyes were the rich brown that I loved most, without a trace of expanding, blackening pupils.
With my free hand, I touched the crook of her elbow, pulling her toward me. Ivy leaned closer to me, not pulling away, but not giving any either. Her eyes widening in surprise was the last thing that I saw before my lips touched her.
The first taste of her small firm lips under mine was all too fleeting, but it left me immediately wanting more. Only once before had I kissed Ivy and I had been so overwhelmed by the sensation of her fingers playing with my scar that I could hardly remember it. This time I was curious. I wanted to know what kissing Ivy would be like without the added distraction.
The softness of her lips, even pursed into a thin line as they were, amazed me. I wanted to feel them, kissing me back. I shuffled closer until I could feel the warmth of her body against mine. I kissed her again, longer this time and lingering until she couldn't resist any longer. Finally she responded to me, kissing me slowly and then greedily, until I was breathless and reeling under her touch, and she was holding me to her like she never wanted to let go.
When we finally eased away from one another, Ivy gently rested her forehead against mine, and sighed.
"Rachel, I don't understand."
It was easier, talking to her like this. She was close enough that looking into her eyes was impossible, and that seemed to make soul-baring confessions somewhat easier. I cupped her face, gently rubbing my thumb along the line of her cheek. Her skin was so soft, smooth like silk.
"I want you. Not Ivy the living vampire." She tensed against me, and I rushed on, hoping she was still listening to me. "What I mean is, I accept that part of you. I don't want you to deny it, but that's not all of who you are. I want to get to know Ivy the woman. And when I saw that Glenn got to have that part of you, and we...the only time you ever kissed me was to share blood," I finally blurted out. "It's all or nothing. You said that."
Ivy let out a shuddering breath. "Oh, Rachel. That's not what I meant. If you wanted a blood balance...." She shook her head. "But if all you wanted was me." She was looking at me in disbelief. "You're such an idiot," she said fondly.
I laughed helplessly, startled by her abrupt words, but not offended. It wasn't the first time that I'd been called an idiot, or even the first time that Ivy had called me one. The way she had said it made it sound more like an endearment than an indictment, and I could live with that.
"Does that mean...." I trailed off slowly.
Ivy grimaced and I flinched wondering if I had finally managed to push too far. She straightened up, easing away from me. I shoved my hands in the loose pockets of my robe to keep from reaching for her again.
"It means I have to go talk to Glenn," she said, real regret in her voice. Her focus was distant, but she kissed me lingeringly on the cheek before she headed toward the kitchen.
Feeling confused and bewildered, I started back to my bedroom, before I realized that I had never made it to the bathroom. Damn it back to the turn; I still had to pee!
It was a long hour later before there was a soft knock on my bedroom door. I yanked it open quickly and tried to pretend I hadn't been pacing and waiting for some sign of Ivy since the moment she had gone to talk to Glenn. I felt bad for Glenn, and I was pretty sure our professional relationship was going to be awkward for a while, but for Ivy I was more than willing to deal with it.
She looked tired, and a little bit sad. Her eyes were red, and slightly puffy. She had probably been crying, but she gave a little smile when she saw me. Ivy was standing uncomfortably just inside the door to my room. I hesitated and then awkwardly slipped my arms around her. The moment I did, she melted into me.
Breathing out a sigh, relieved that I had gotten it right, I snuggled closer to her. It was so nice to be able to touch her whenever I wanted to, without worrying about it. I had a feeling we were going to have to have a talk sooner or later though. Just because we had gotten a few things straightened out, it didn't mean that there weren't still things that needed to be dealt with.
"Hi," I said softly, not sure if she wanted to talk or not.
"I wish I hadn't had to hurt Glenn," Ivy spoke abruptly, still holding me.
What could I say to that? Ivy seemed to realize that I wasn't saying anything. She leaned back enough to look at me.
"You haven't changed your mind, have you?" She asked, worry plain in her voice.
My heart ached for all the times that I had hurt Ivy and put that fear into her voice.
"No," I answered her quickly. "Not at all."
"Good," Ivy said firmly, giving me a real smile for the first time since she had come back to me.
"So where do we go from here?" I asked into the silence.
"Where ever we want," Ivy said simply.
"And if I really want to kiss you right now?"
Ivy smiled brilliantly. "Then I definitely think you should."
And I did.