FOUR MONTHS LATER
Rachel tucked the phone between her ear and her shoulder to free up her hands, and reached for the top drawer closest to the sink and pulled it open. She lifted her shoulder, pressing the phone more tightly against her ear and then began rooting through the drawer for a long plastic spoon.
"It's the perfect temperature now," Rachel said absently into the receiver as she triumphantly pulled out a long white plastic spoon. "In a couple of weeks it's going to be a sauna," she continued, shifting the spoon into one hand, while she reached up to hold the phone with her other one. "Yeah, yeah, rub it in," she griped into the receiver as she plunged the spoon into a tall glass jar of lemonade and began to stir. "We're just doing our part for the environment."
Alice laughed at that, and Rachel smiled, happy and a little sad at the same time. Maybe it would make her sound like a baby, but she didn't care. She missed her mom. When Alice was still in Cincy, they didn't exactly see each other all the time, but they could see each other whenever they wanted, and that was nice. It had been comforting to know that no matter what happened she could be in her old house, in her old kitchen, being hugged in her mother's arms, while hot chocolate cooled in her favorite childhood mug in a matter of minutes. That house and her mother had been the only consistent thing in her life, and she missed the security of it. Her life was full of enough chaos and change, that it had comforted her to think that the house and her mother would always be there, that that would always stay the same.
She missed having Alice a fifteen minute car ride away, but her mother had been doing much better since moving. She was more lucid, it was easier for her to focus. She was working again, selling spells and charms and making a good living at it away from Cincy where people had stopped buying from her because of Rachel's reputation. There was a peace in her voice, a confidence and surety that Rachel hadn't heard in a very long time, and she knew that her mother was happy. She missed Alice, but she was glad that she moved. Alice couldn't have moved on surrounded by the ghosts of her past, and she deserved a chance to move on and to live again. She still had a lot of life to live, and Rachel wanted that time to be happy for her mother.
"Okay, now you're just showing off," Rachel muttered as she pulled the spoon out of the container of lemonade and dropped it into the sink. "I …"
Rachel's voice trailed off as the back doors opened, and Ivy sauntered into the kitchen, a dark, romantic figure backlit by the blazing afternoon sun. Ivy had been working outside since the early afternoon, and Rachel knew that she had come in search of the lemonade Alice's call had stopped Rachel from bringing outside to her.
Ivy had completed the small garden project she had first told Rachel about the day they had gotten together weeks ago. But, to Ivy's surprise and delight, she had found that she actually enjoyed gardening and the living-vampire had set her mind to renovating the whole backyard.
The garden had already been there when they moved in, and it had been planted by the previous owner rather haphazardly. There was no real organization or discernable pattern to where things had been planted and on more than a few occasions, Rachel had come into the church muttering about how she couldn't find this or that plant out there, and how annoying the chaos of it was.
Ivy had decided to put an end to that – even though Rachel told her that she didn't have to – and had been outside for the majority of the past two days working on the garden.
Over the past two days, Ivy had cataloged the plants to see what was out there; she had categorized them into types based on the kinds of spells they were used for; and she was currently in the process of transplanting some plants from one section of the garden to another with the pixies help. When that was over, Rachel knew that the plan was then to place sectional dividers up and then finally, to put up posts with labels so that Rachel could find what she was looking for at a glance.
It was one of the sweetest things that Rachel had ever had done for her, and the redhead had rewarded Ivy the previous night with a bubble-bath, followed by a massage, followed by Rachel's mouth running over Ivy's naked body until both of them were sweaty, aching and completely spent.
Rachel licked her lips, but forced her mind back to the present. Before Alice had called she had been contemplating how to reward Ivy for her hard work that night. But, those were thoughts she didn't want to have while on the phone with her mother, so she simply turned her eyes to Ivy to watch her lovers approach.
Ivy's long, tapered fingers – which had been pale days before but were now darkening attractively from time spent in the sun – ran through the living-vampires onyx hair as the back door closed behind her. Rachel watched her, and as she did the witch could practically feel the silky strands of Ivy's hair brushing warmly through her fingers.
Ivy was wearing a pair of very short jeans shorts, and a thin white tank top that was now clinging fiercely to her sun damp skin, the black bra Ivy wore under it completely visible now. Smudges of dirt dotted Ivy everywhere. She had streaks of earth running over her thighs, there were dark patches on her shorts and tank top, and slashes of dirt running along her arms. There was even one particularly fetching smudge on her right cheek.
Ivy was, in short, a dirty, sweaty mess at the moment, but she was a dirty, sweaty mess Rachel found incredibly sexy and she wanted nothing more than to stalk over to Ivy and put her hands on her, and then her lips on her, and then she wanted to do things to Ivy with her hands and her lips at the same time.
Rachel blinked, her mothers voice on the other end of the phone snapping her out of her thoughts about Ivy.
"What?" Rachel said a little dazed as she watched Ivy move towards her. "Sorry," she said, smiling softly as Ivy came within arms reach of her and smiled at her. "Ivy just came in," Rachel continued, her voice softening unconsciously as she said Ivy's name.
Ivy placed a gentle hand on Rachel's hip and leaned down to kiss her cheek tenderly, then she pulled back and angled her head at the jug of lemonade, silently asking if it was ready to be consumed. Rachel nodded her head, and as Ivy reached for a glass, Alice laughed softly on the other end of the phone.
"Oh," Alice drawled as Ivy began to pour, and Rachel blushed and dropped her eyes to the floor. Her mother's 'Oh' had been more than a little suggestive, and Rachel realized that her mother knew that her mind had drifted into her happy Ivy Place.
When Rachel lifted her head again, she saw that Ivy's eyes were on her. Her gaze was curious and her posture was relaxed, but in the bright afternoon light illuminating the kitchen, Rachel could see that the charming cinnamon of Ivy's eyes had begun to darken. Ivy always knew when she was blushing, even when she couldn't see her directly because the scent of her blood became stronger when it rushed to the surface of her skin. Because of this, blushing had always made her awkward around Ivy in the past since she didn't want to trigger her instincts, but now it was a rather effective method of foreplay. Blushing had actually started to affect her libido, because her brain was starting to associate it with Ivy jumping her, which was always followed by incredible waves of pleasure.
However, she was on the phone with her mother at the moment, which meant she was in no position to satisfy any desire her blush created in either of them, and she shook her head at Ivy, silently informing her not to try to start anything. If she suddenly told Alice she had to go, Alice would know exactly why, and Rachel couldn't face the idea of Alice being aware she was having sex while she was having sex.
"Huh?" Rachel asked dumbly, realizing she had missed the majority of what her mother was saying again. "Okay," she continued a moment later, her brows scrunching together before she looked over at Ivy and held out the phone. "It's Alice. She wants to talk to you."
Ivy nodded and reached for the phone, warmly saying, "Alice, hello" as Rachel moved to the side to lean against the center island. As Rachel settled in spot, Ivy smiled brightly, and then a few seconds later she started to laugh. Rachel was caught between the impulse to frown and the impulse to smile. She loved the sound of Ivy's laughter. It was something she hadn't heard often in the past, but had heard quite a bit in the last few months, and she wanted to hear that sound daily for the rest of her life. But, she suspected that whatever her mother was saying to make Ivy laugh was about her, and that made her want to frown. They always ganged up on her nowadays.
"Okay," Ivy said, still chuckling softly as she spoke. "I won't," she promised laughing again. "Goodbye Alice," she finished with a smile and then she turned to face Rachel, and held the phone out to her.
Rachel took the phone and clamped her hand over the mouthpiece.
"What was that about?" Rachel whispered.
"Nothing," Ivy said, a sly smile spreading across her lips as Rachel glared at her.
"She said something about me, didn't she? What'd she say? It's not true," Rachel said. Her head was spinning a little by the time she finished speaking, and she had to blink a few times to try and clear her head.
She had moved closer to Ivy as she spoke, and the air around her was swimming with happy vampire pheromones. Ivy put them out almost constantly while they were around each other these days, but usually it started out as a slow stream that built up at a rate that allowed Rachel to adjust to them. This time Ivy had unconsciously released a heavy burst in her happiness and amusement and it rocked Rachel for a second.
"Nothing," Ivy repeated, smiling again. Then she leaned forward and kissed Rachel's forehead before she picked up her glass and headed for the back door again.
Rachel watched silently as Ivy moved towards the back door and then slipped out again. "It's not fair that you two pick on me," Rachel groused the moment she was sure Ivy was out of the range where she could pick up what was being said without trying to.
"Not fair?" Alice questioned laughing. "Rachel, you sound like a six year old."
Rachel slumped against the counter morosely and glared at the microwave.
"No I don't," she pouted. "You sound like a six year old," she continued, biting down on her lip before she could utter the 'so there' that was on the tip of her tongue.
Alice made a sound on the other end of the phone, but otherwise ignored her daughter's response.
"She's a good egg. You should hold onto that one," Alice said a few seconds later, her words catching Rachel by surprise, as they often did.
"I will," Rachel said, her voice cracking a little bit as her eyes tracked to the back door. She could see Ivy's sleek form moving around, and suddenly wished that she was outside too. Her mother's words had called up some wordless emotion in her, and she wanted Ivy's hand in hers, or her arms around Ivy's waist.
"So, when are you coming out to see me?" Alice asked, apparently pleased with the seriousness of Rachel's answer. "The place is all fixed up now, and I want to show it off."
Rachel smiled, glad to have the conversation move towards lighter areas. "Soon," she said, leaning back against the counter. "When Ivy's finished playing in the dirt we're going to book the tickets." And then after that it was straight to the bank, but Rachel kept that part to herself, since she was sure Alice wouldn't find it as amusing as she did. It was a 'you had to be there' kind of thing.
"Wonderful," Alice exclaimed happily. "Robbie is dying to meet her."
Rachel sighed piteously and gave up on the idea of a relaxing vacation, resigning herself to the fact that it would be more 'interesting' than anything else.
Rachel had just finished hanging up the phone when Ivy walked back into the church, surrounded by numerous zooming pixy children and Jenks, who was trying to corral them all. Ivy had a vaguely exasperated look on her face, and Rachel smiled and made her way over to her, immediately lifting up onto her tip toes to place a kiss on Ivy's lips.
"I'm dirty," Ivy protested when Rachel then proceeded to wrap her arms around Ivy's waist.
"I know," Rachel murmured, completely unconcerned. "I like it when you're dirty," she continued, smiling slyly before she pressed her lips to Ivy's neck, knowing that it would get the living-vampires pulse racing.
Ivy purred softly, and Rachel rested her head against her lovers shoulder as Jenks and a dozen of his kids flew towards them again. It seemed that he'd finally managed to get them under control and was ready to herd them back outside.
"Mom says hi," Rachel told him as he flew past them, his hands on his hips in his most intimidating Peter Pan pose as he eyed his children closely.
Jenks paused as the last of his kids flew out and turned around to face Rachel, a large smile on his face as he did.
"I know. I like it when she says hi," he responded in his best 'sexy girl voice'.
Rachel blushed deeply. She had been speaking softly when she was teasing Ivy a minute ago, but she had forgotten that pixy hearing was good enough to pick up even whispers if they were in the same room as someone. Jenks probably heard a lot that Rachel would rather he not, but since they were in the same room this time he had apparently decided this was fair game for teasing.
"Shut up," Rachel muttered, the complete lack of wit in her reply making both Jenks and Ivy laugh.
"What in Tink's drawer of inappropriately used kitchen utensils are you two getting up to at night?" Jenks asked flying over to Ivy and settling down on the shoulder that wasn't being occupied by Rachel already.
Ivy murmured something in response that Rachel couldn't quite make out, though she was sure that the words "Strapping Young Vampiress" were in there somewhere, and consequently she smacked Ivy lightly in the stomach.
She hated it when they used low speaking voices they knew her witchy ears couldn't pick up.
"I think it's time for more lemonade," Ivy declared, pulling away from Rachel and moving over to the counter. Teasing Rachel was one thing, but she didn't want to upset her enough that they wouldn't actually get to play dirty with each other after the sun went down.
Rachel harrumphed, but watched as Ivy sashayed away from her. She wasn't mad enough that she would pass up that view.
Jenks followed Ivy over to the counter, showering her with golden dust as he hovered near her. Rachel stayed where she was for a few seconds, watching as Ivy refilled her glass while Jenks talked to her rapidly about the progress they were making outside. Rachel was actually interested in how things were going out there, but she couldn't concentrate on what Jenks and Ivy were saying to each other. Instead she just focused on the blissful domesticity of the moment. She was overwhelmed by how wonderful it was to be in her own fabulously large kitchen, on a sunny afternoon with her two best friends, one of whom she also happened to be madly in love with.
As Jenks continued to talk, Ivy's head swiveled around to look at Rachel, and the redhead realized that her lover must have felt her eyes on her. Ivy looked at her questioningly, and then lifted her arm and held it out, beckoning Rachel over.
Rachel smiled and heeded Ivy's call, sighing contently a moment later as Ivy's arm fell around her shoulders, tucking her securely against the living-vampires side.
Rachel smiled as Jenks excitedly kept talking to Ivy. Demon scars, shunning and Al, be damned. She was a lucky witch.