Title: Return to the Hollows
Author(s): Jaina
Fandom: The Hollows aka Rachel Morgan aka that series by Kim Harrison
Characters: Rachel Morgan, Ivy Tamwood,
Genre: Drama, angst, romance
Summary: Rachel is always making mistakes. One day things go too far. Some mistakes can't be fixed or gone past. Some mistakes are lasting, and some have consequences that can change lives.
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: Goes through White Witch, Black Curse, although I don't think they're particularly glaring or massive.
Notes: My thanks to my beta for this one, infinitlight . She was awesome enough to look over this massive fic for me, and I really appreciate the time, effort and level of detail that she put into looking over this. Also the number of times that she had to uncapitalize were and warehouse. Sorry, dude. My bad.

Part One

It was midnight - the witching hour - my favorite time of day. The church was bathed in silence, which had been a rarity lately. There was no clatter of pixy wings, or sharp chatter of fifty-two pixy children arguing about who got to play with Rex. Bis guarded the rooftops, as still as the statues most humans had once believed gargoyles to be, surveying the church and the block beyond it carefully until Jenks was up again.

Ivy's motorcycle was parked outside. It was a good indication that Ivy was inside, tucked into the church that had become a sanctuary, and more importantly a home, for both of us. The stillness in the air, combined with the lateness of the hour, made me feel like a mischievous child up past her bedtime and reveling in every second of it.

I was reveling, at least, coming down off the high of a task well done. I had spent the last twenty-four hours with Al in the ever-after. It wasn't my first such trip - I had been going to him for lessons for the past year and a half, but tonight for the first time I had mastered jumping the lines by myself. The fact that my trip home had been completely Al-free might have also had something to do with my good mood.

We had reached an understanding since I'd become his student. That didn't mean I didn't feel a whole lot more comfortable now that I was free to come and go without having to depend on him, or any other demon.

I couldn't wait to share the good news with Ivy. She would be so happy for me and she might even be a little less grumpy, knowing that I was that much safer while I was with Al. It scared her that I had to go somewhere that she couldn't follow, somewhere that if I got in trouble, she couldn't ride in, motorcycle revving, and save my sorry witch ass. This might just make it a little bit easier on her.

I dropped my bag on the kitchen table, my grin widening as I imagined Ivy telling me to put it where it actually belonged, the next morning when we fixed breakfast together. Sometimes I delighted in annoying her neat-freak tendencies. My jacket got slung across my desk as I headed out of the kitchen and down the hall toward our bedrooms.

It was a little bit more difficult to pull off my boots as I walked. I felt ridiculous, tugging at the laces and hopping, one-footed, down the hall until I careened into the wall, breaking the deep silence of the church. I dropped the first boot to the floor with an echoing thud a moment later. The second one followed it almost immediately. I didn't bother to shove them out of the way. No-one would be walking down this hall to trip over them until Ivy and I were up again, and that was still hours away.

I nudged the bedroom door open with my toe as I pulled my old Were Now t-shirt over my head and let it fall to the floor. It took a little longer to work my leather pants off. Finally they pooled around my ankles and I stepped out of them, leaving me only in a bra and panties. Only a hint of light had it made into the room from behind the heavy curtains, but it was enough. Memory guided me the rest of the way to the bed.

Pulling back the familiar weight of the down comforter, I slipped in between the dark silk sheets. They felt pleasantly cool and smooth against my bare skin. It felt almost sinful to simply luxuriate in the sensation.

In the dim light I could just make out the shape beside me. Rolling over, and propping myself up on one elbow, I leaned over and pressed a kiss into the bare shoulder sticking out from under the sheet. I buried my face against the nape of her neck, and breathed in deeply, inhaling the scent that was uniquely Ivy's. It filled me and surrounded me. I didn't have a vamp's sense of smell; I couldn't read a thousand emotions just from a scent and it didn't trigger instincts instilled by a millennium of evolution, but it did make me finally and completely feel as if I were at home.

"Rachel?" Ivy's sleepy voice made me smile. She was so different like this, before she was fully awake and back to being her usual guarded, impossibly careful self.

"Hi, honey," I whispered against her ear. "I'm home."

She shifted slowly until she was facing me in bed, reaching out for me as she did. I scooted over, settling against her, the line of my hip brushing the curve of her stomach. We fit perfectly. Eyes still barely open, and heavy-lidded from sleep, Ivy tilted her head to find my lips for a sleepy kiss.

I pressed against her lips more hungrily. It suddenly seemed as if I had been gone for a lot longer than twenty-four hours. It was embarrassing how much I had missed her, and I spent the next few moments trying to show her just how badly that was.

The lazy kisses that we had been exchanging grew into something more intense, as I swiped my tongue over her lips. Ivy's hands tightened around me, pulling me closer, before running down the line of my hip to cup my ass.

When I finally dropped my head down on the pillow beside her we were both panting and breathless. Ivy shifted her weight until she was straddling my hips, looking down at me through a curtain of hair. I couldn't help the smile that traced its way over my lips. I loved seeing her like this. Even after being together for several months, the newness of this moment had yet to wear off. I still savored the closeness that we shared.

"Trent was here tonight." Ivy didn't sound very happy about it. "For several hours."

Come to think of it, I wasn't very happy about it either. I wrinkled my nose in irritation.


"I was going to ask you the same thing. He wouldn't tell me anything." Even though the light obscured her features, I could still hear the tension in her voice. Trent butting into my life rarely meant anything good. The times he had helped me out were far outweighed by the times that I had almost died because I had gotten involved in some scheme of his.

"I haven't seen Trent in months. Not since the party on top of Carew Towers at New Year's." The bastard. "I don't know why he would want to see me. We don't have anything to discuss."

Ivy shrugged, but seemed appeased by my comments. "He thinks you do."

I groaned and sighed. "I'll talk to Ceri tomorrow and see if she knows anything about it. If it's nothing life-threatening, I'll do my best to not get involved, okay?" Another thought occurred to me. "Why was Trent here so long?"

"He wanted to wait for you."

I laughed. Like that had ever stopped Ivy from driving off anyone she didn't want me to spend time with.

"You didn't scare him off?"

I felt her shrug. The tips of her hair brushed lightly against my shoulder as she tilted her head away from mine.

"I thought you might want to talk to him."

"Trent? No." I touched her shoulder reassuringly. "Trust me, if I want to do a deal with Trent, you'll be the first to know."

"Okay," Ivy agreed softly. Her hands were moving up my side, slipping around behind me. She brushed the edge of my bra and then fumbled with the clasp. I arched into the motion, all thoughts of Trenton Aloysius Kalamack gone.

As she worked at my bra, I ran my fingers across her cheek and then lightly cupped her chin, bringing it back up so that I could see the glint of her eyes in the dim light. I didn't have to be able to see fully to know that Ivy's pupils were so large that there was barely any brown visible around the edges.

"Did you miss me, dear heart?"

It was an endearment that Ivy only used on the most intimate of occasions and those two simple words always made my heart ache. Every time she said them it was as if she put everything she felt for me into those two simple words.

"I thought about you the whole time I was gone," I admitted in the quiet voice that the darkness and the moment seemed to call for.

"I missed you too."

"Al kept complaining because I was distracted." It reminded me of the good news that I had been dying to share with her not that long ago. Now it didn't seem very important at all. Hardly worth mentioning, in fact. It could definitely wait until morning.

I shifted underneath her, deliberately rubbing my body against hers. She stiffened in my arms.

"God, Rachel, you are such a tease."

I laughed and gently nibbled on the delicate tip of her ear. "It's not being a tease if you follow through."

"You're going to kill me one of these days."

"And you'll enjoy every minute of it," I joked back, out of habit.

Ivy's eventual death was a sensitive subject between us. Unless something very drastic happened, she would survive her first death. That much we knew. What happened after that was a subject that both of us had skirted carefully around each time it had looked as though it might come up. It certainly wasn't a conversation I wanted to have at the moment.

Ivy's breath was warm as it brushed over the scar on my neck. It sent an uncontrollable shiver racing down my spine. Her thumb brushed across the raised scar tissue - the scar she had given me - playing with the delicate flesh to watch me squirm beneath her touch.

"Can I..." she breathed, mocking playfulness in her voice as she asked the ritualistic question. "Will you give me this?"

It was a rhetorical question and we both knew it. There was no need for her to ask, though we both knew if I did say no, she would immediately stop. She had proven that to me, earning my trust the hard way, until our relationship had grown to be what it now was.

"Yes." No matter how rhetorical the question, I still made the effort to answer her every time, no matter how close I was to being lost in the ecstasy of it. I wanted Ivy to hear, to know completely, how much I wanted her. Any time she doubted, I wanted her to remember that affirmation.

The hint of tension that was there in her body every time, no matter how many times I'd already said yes, relaxed at the same time that excitement ratcheted up the tension in mine.

Ivy bent over my neck, her tongue sweeping gently along the scar she had left there. Just the feel of her tongue on my skin had me clutching at her shoulders. The first time we had done this, I had left bruises. Ivy hadn't minded. I had a suspicion that she liked it when I marked her body. Her teeth scraped over the sensitive skin that she had been focusing on.

"I think I'm the one who's in danger of dying," I gasped, trying to catch my breath in the maelstroms of sensation that she was pulling from my body. Ivy was a master at what she did and I didn't stand a chance.

"Now, we can't have that," Ivy purred dangerously.

There was nothing else like it, when she was like this, so completely in control and yet so attentive to everything about me. I had never had a lover like her before.

Ivy raised her head, letting the sensations that she was pulling from my scar fade to a low simmer, all the more intoxicating for their loss, and turned her attention to my lips. She kissed me like it was the last time and I lost myself in the feel of her.

Her nails scraping lightly along my stomach just above the line of my panties made me jump. I grabbed her arm convulsively as she smiled at me knowingly.

"That get your attention?"

"You've had my attention," I wailed plaintively.

"Oh, poor baby," she murmured against my lips. "Want me to kiss it and make it better?"

I laughed. "Okay."

Ivy pulled back as I leaned in. I frowned in confusion until I realized she was sliding down my body. Her mouth left a hot trail as she traced her way down. Her eyes, lost in darkness, met mine deliberately, as she slowly pulled my panties down until I was free of them and then she tossed them aside without a second glance as to where they landed.

I giggled. We had been finding clothes in all kinds of odd places. It had led to some embarrassing moments with Jenks, but on the whole we were both used it by now.

Ivy brought my attention back to her with a flick of her tongue. I hissed at her touch, my fingers clenching as they threaded through her long, silky hair.

My head fell back, my eyes dropping shut as she stroked and caressed. I scrabbled for something to hold onto, clutching at the silk sheets that were pooled around me. My world narrowed to the feel of Ivy's tongue, the strong, sure strokes of her hand, and the feel of her long, powerful fingers on my hip.

The sudden loss of Ivy's tongue against me made me whimper in anguish. So close. I tugged at her with the hand buried in her hair demandingly.

"So impatient," she murmured. Her thumb brushed over my clit and made my hips jerk. "You should do something about that, Rachel," she added.

I was growing less amused by the moment, especially when she caught my hand, and raised it back to my side and away from where I wanted it.

"Ivy," I whined.

"Do you trust me, Rachel?" she asked in a sing-song voice.

The question caught my attention even through my current frustration.

"Of course."

Her smile was predatory. "Good."

With her fingers, she found the rhythm that we had lost, bringing me just as close to the edge as I had been before. Her fingers clenched on my hip and in the next instant her teeth sank into the inside of my thigh.

It was honestly the last thing that I had been expecting, at least if I had been coherent enough to have expectations. It also sent me immediately over the edge, leaving me spent and breathless, even as Ivy continued to suck at the small bite that she had made.

I could feel the sensations within me building again as she continued to take blood from me. My fingers loosened and fell from her hair to trail downward until I cupped her neck, holding her to me and caressing her gently and waiting as she took what she needed.

I bit my lip, waiting for it - that one pure, shining moment that I savored above all else. It was the moment that made what I shared with Ivy about more than just an exchange of blood. There was a moment of perfection as our auras chimed, Ivy's pure aura, blending with my own, tainted one.

Better still, I could feel everything that Ivy was feeling. The things that she felt for me were overwhelming. The love and trust, need and devotion: I didn't know how to answer it, but to hope that this sharing worked both ways. It was so much more than just blood and sex.

"Oh, God, Ivy." I arched up against her as she continued to suckle at the bite she had made. I could feel her desire for more, to be closer. Without words, I consented. How could I refuse?

She was everything I wanted, my perfect partner and my best friend. It was amazing, I thought, that we had stayed floating in the moment of connection for so long. It had never lasted this long before.

Ivy's surprise echoed mine, for a moment before it was lost in out mutual desire. Our emotions seemed to echo and feed off one another in a way that I had never experienced before.

"Ivy?" My voice trembled.

Her fingers squeezed lightly. Trust me.

I had and I did. There was no question of that. I surrendered to everything that being with Ivy could mean, and lost myself in her.

When I woke, the room was still enveloped in a pleasant, comforting darkness. The only light shone in through the cracks in the heavy, leather curtains that Ivy kept in her room for just this reason.

I stretched and rolled onto my back, feeling the pleasant soreness in my muscles and a dull ache from Ivy's bite. I shut my eyes as a lazy smile drifted over my face. It was the feeling that I had come to associate with a recent bite. At first it had bothered me, Ivy's marks on my body. Not that I was ashamed of them, but it seemed tacky, like I was just any other shadow.

Over time Ivy had convinced me differently. She had shown me that she didn't respect me any less in the morning for taking my blood the night before, and the reverent way that she would kiss the bite in the light of morning was enough to erase the rest of my doubts. Ivy was honored that I would let her so close and trust her so much.

Now I savored the dull ache of a fresh bite, holding it close as a reminder of what had created it. The first time that Ivy had wanted to make a new mark on my body, she had come to me and asked me. It was a first for me. There was a novelty in asking if I wanted a scar in a certain in place or not. When I had expressed surprise that she would ask, Ivy had answered that it was my body and I had the right to dictate what was done to it. It was just one of many discussions that we'd had.

There were a lot of preconceptions that I'd had about vamp relationships and just as much that I hadn't known. It was just one of a myriad of other details that made up a good blood balance. And to think that I had so blithely told Ivy I'd wanted to enter into one. It was no surprise she had almost laughed in my face at the idea. I'd had no idea what I was getting myself into.

However, now I did. And last night's bite had not been agreed upon beforehand. I shifted again to find a more comfortable position. Not that I was complaining, mind you. Last night had been wonderful, somehow more than anything that Ivy and I had ever shared before.

The thought drew a smile to my lips. The ecstasy of the night before had faded, but I was still left with the glow that only good sex and deep sleep could leave you with. Rolling over, I snuggled closer to Ivy, running my hand down her shoulder and pressing a kiss to the base of her neck.

I threw a leg over hers and winced as the pressure on the still fresh bite. Ivy shifting as she woke distracted me and I looked down at her.

"Good morning," I said as I leaned forward to press my lips gently against hers.

Ivy's hand came up to cup my face and hold me close. She didn't let go, her thumb stroking across my cheek, even as I slowly sat back, gently breaking the kiss.

"A very good morning, indeed."

Her other hand traced down my body, until her fingers were gently stroking over the small bite mark on my inner thigh. Ivy pulled my leg up and leaned over until she could place a light kiss on the sensitive flesh. I shivered at the memory of her lips suckling at that skin just hours before. I was suddenly wet all over again.

When my eyes opened, she was staring at me warily.

"Are you upset with me?" Her eyes dropped again. "I wouldn't blame you if you were. I should have asked. We should have talked about it. I just...I got caught up in the moment. It's not an excuse," she said, looking back up at me quickly. "I'm sorry, Rachel."

I reached out to put a finger to her lips, before she could say anything else.

"I'm not angry, Ivy."

And it was true, I wasn't mad. It was actually a little bit strange. Not that I hadn't enjoyed what we had done. I had, very much, but our relationship worked best when there were rules. I had learned that from Ivy. Control was just as important as letting go on occasion. Ivy needed that control and so did I. That control kept me alive and let our relationship work.

"I'd rather talk about it first next time, but-" I couldn't stop the flush that heated my cheeks. "I really enjoyed last night."

Ivy smiled shyly. It was this side of Ivy that had drawn me in, the shy, vulnerable side of her that only I was allowed to see.

I wrapped my arms around her and held her close.

"Rachel?" Ivy's voice was hesitant.

I pulled back enough to be able to see her better.

"Yeah, babe?"

"This is going to sound weird, but does something feel...different?"

The pause as she searched for the word that she wanted, struck me as odd. Unlike me, Ivy always knew what she wanted to say and spoke very precisely.

"Different, how?" But even as I asked the question, I got a sense of what she meant.

Something did feel different. I felt connected to her in a way that was just more. It wasn't just connected in the emotional sense but in the literal sense. On impulse I focused for that half-second necessary to use my second-sight.

There was a thin line of gold, falling away from Ivy's aura and connecting to mine. The realization of what it meant hit me an instant later. What I saw made me stop breathing.

"Oh, God, Ivy. I'm bound!"