Title: Early Days, part 1/3

Fandom: The Hollows, aka The Rachel Morgan series

Pairing: Ivy/Rachel, Ivy/Kisten (as a personal experiment)

Rating: Should be PG-13 until the last chapter, when it will most likely turn to R

Disclaimer: I don't own any of Kim Harrison's characters

A/N: This is first and foremost an Ivy-centric fic, and it is unlikely to feature much femslash other than a few stray thoughts on her part.

Part 1

Have you ever tried opening a "pull" door by pushing it? Most people say it's embarrassing; it is after all completely normal to feel silly when your brain, for some reason, can't tell the difference between two simple four-letters words like "push" and "pull". Not a lot of vampires know that feeling. It's a side benefit of the way we analyse sensory information many times faster than the average human or witch or whatever other sluggish species make up the bulk of this planet's population of sentient creatures. We see the sign, assuming we're moving at a politically correct pace we have more than enough time to read the sign, and thus we always handle the door accordingly. It's a fact of life so simple, I'd never given it much thought before today, indeed I'd never known the feeling before today. I think me and my whole kind might have been missing out; I was finding out it's actually a very therapeutic feeling to shove a "pull" door, especially if you are pissed off and using a scumbag pedophile ghoul's head to do the shoving.

"You can't do this! This is police brutality!" Said ghoul protested loudly between two dull thuds of his head with the metal door, his trashing about as effective as a child's; between our difference in strength (I was much stronger) and the cuffs slapped on his wrists, he was quite helpless against me, which was the only reason I hadn't broken a few of his bones to keep him still. "I'll sue your ass! Do you know who I am? I've got friends, you know! Your career is over, bitch!"

You did not just say that to a Tamwood vamp... The universe really has a sense of irony. Either that, or it hates this guy's guts. I thought, feeling I'd had enough therapy for one day. I had a banshee friend to ring up with my problems after all, and she might get jealous if I found a new way to deal with them. Yes, I have a banshee shrink. Crazy, I know. It's a long story.

"You're right, I don't know who you are. Not a clue." I began in a low, threatening voice, wrenching him up roughly until his eyes were level with mine. There was actually enough sense in him to figure out I wasn't just blowing off steam, and it shut him up. My opinion of him rose to whatever came just, JUST before rock bottom. "And I don't care. Nobody cares. Not a soul in this lowly world cares anymore. Do you know why nobody cares? Because you crossed the line. You're just meat now." My voice turned into a growl as the colour drained from his face and his sheer terror began to fill the air around us. "Oh, yes, I know what you did. Do you know why we call fourteen year-old girls off season game, meat? Because you're not, under ANY circumstances, supposed to hunt them."

"Oh, shit... L-listen, I... I never even touched those girls!" He had the balls to defend himself, which just made me feel like ripping them off and shoving them down his throat. "Honest! This is just a misunderstand-"

"You should really watch your step." I cut the ghoul off casually before nudging him down the concrete steps leading down to street level, where a cab was waiting for us. His tumbling down sounded rather painful; he came to a stop a few feet away from the sidewalk, groaning, and between the fall and my earlier therapy session, he didn't get up on his own. A few passersby gasped and gawked at the scene, but a quick flash from my I.S. badge kept any onlookers from interfering. My black eyes might have had something to do with it too; it takes one dumb cookie to get between a (real) vampire and her prey. I wasn't pulling an aura yet, but any Inderlander could tell I was not to be trifled with.

"Oh, I'm sorry. I just realised I owe you an apology." I leaned over him, and whispered in a low, mocking voice, pulling him up towards me by his collar. "I completely forgot to read you your rights. You have the right to remain silent. If you do not exercise that right, I will do it for you by breaking your jaw. You do not have the right to an attorney, so don't even ask. Doing so will only constitute a failure to exercise your first right and will annoy me, leading to same consequences. Do you understand your one right as I've read it to you? Good. Now get up." I didn't let him answer, just hoisted him back up and dragged him to the back of the cab. With the one hand I wasn't using to hold my suspect up, I gestured to the driver to pop the trunk; I knew by the way he didn't even blink that he had to be an Inderlander, too, probably a were. It's not that I like to enforce species stereotypes, but there are an awful lot of were taxi drivers. It's a job that most beta loners find agreeable, since it scratches their innate socialising itch without forcing them into the strict discipline and structure of a Pack.

"Oh, come on!" He exclaimed weakly, trying to backpedal as I steered him towards the open trunk. It did him no good; struggling only made fitting into the enclosed space more uncomfortable. "I told you, they weren't for me! I was just following orders. He ordered me to do it! What was I supposed to do? He would have killed me if I disobeyed him, and without bringing me back, too! You're one of us, you know what they're like!"

The ghoul turned frantic as I began to shut the trunk, and despite myself, I slowed down. Unbeknownst to him, he had struck a nerve. I didn't need to ask who he meant by his pseudo-cryptic "he" and "they". I knew he meant my (definitely not our) undead kin, and the oppressive hold they had over their living servants. I had felt that hold, that pressure, too. That didn't make us the same. It just made it a messed up world we both lived in.

"You should have thought about that before you chose to become what you are." I murmured, not looking at him. Make no mistake, this was not one of those movie moments where the bad guy claims the hero isn't so different from him, giving him pause and achieving some twisted sort of victory. I didn't see myself as I was in this wretched thing; I saw something I could have easily become if the circumstances of my birth hadn't placed me in a wholly different sphere as him. "You might have realised fangs aren't all they're cracked up to be." I spoke more softly than I had in all of our brief acquaintance, more for my sake than his.

The ghoul stared at me for a few seconds, a look of disgust passing over his features. "Yeah, of course you don't get it. You're a freaking princess. You don't have to work to get the gifts, you'll just get them when you die, no work involved. Why would you respect those who have to get off their asses to get 'em..."

Right, of course that's what really matters... How could I be stupid enough to think for a second you might regret scarring those girls for life...? I mentally rolled my eyes at my own foolish sentimentality, shoving my feelings down from whence they came. My face became a mask of fury once more.

"My, you really are clumsy, meat." I snarled as I finished cramming him in the trunk of the car, a lot more harshly than I had to. "First you don't watch your step, now you don't watch your hands..." I slammed the trunk shut on said hands, making it bounce right back up, a dark part of me enjoying the ensuing screams. With the heel of my boot, I kicked the ghoul all the way in (three times for good measure) and finally shut the trunk, panting in pure, dark rage. I stayed hunch over the back of the cab longer than needed. I had to get myself under control. The most offensive, revolting reason why I was angry was finally out of my sight, but that ghoul was only part of the reason why I was almost denting the yellow sheet of metal beneath my fingertips this fine evening.

Just let her stay away... Just let her stay away for a little while longer... I silently prayed as I tried to get my breathing under control. It was in vain; loud, obnoxious steps, lunker steps, a pixy would say, announced the arrival of the bane of the past three weeks of my existence.

"Damn, Ivy. I'm not sure if that was awesome or scary. Maybe a bit of both..." Rachel Morgan, the most ridiculously annoying witch in Cincinnati, said from somewhere to my right, the mere sound of her voice making positively bristle like an angry cat. "You'd think he stabbed your kitty or something." She giggled. Oblivious to my state of mind, the witch got closer, her boots clacking loudly on the pavement, and leaned against the passenger backseat door, looking at me over her shoulder. The pose might have been attractive if she wore some more tasteful clothes, but frankly, her attempt at a sexy confident look only came off as slutty, to the point she looked more like a ten-dollar hooker than an I.S. intern. We were in the middle of summer, and yes, the weather was hot, but there was no excuse for wearing a skirt that short on the job. Her little black top, not made of enough fabric to carve a pair of gloves out of it, wasn't much better either, and her boots looked like knock-offs of mine. Her fashion sense was only made worse by the fact that under the relative lack of clothes, there was a rather fetching woman. Her skin had the typically pale complexion of redheads (and for your information, ALL vampires like pale skin). Her green eyes sparkled with her mouth-watering vitality. A few strands of her artfully curly hair framed her strong-yet-feminine face. Her neck was long and slender, and if I could get past my rabid annoyance at her, the way she was flashing the length of it while looking at me might have made me even sorrier I had sworn off blood six weeks prior. Her body was athletic and lean, to the point some might call her skinny. If she was, she wasn't sickly-skinny. Her curves were no doubt lacking, but it didn't change the fact that she had a body type that yes, I did enjoy. It's understandable since my bisexuality didn't extend to other species, and the only women I'd ever slept with were vamps. When a species has got five thousand years of evolution charted towards perfect predation, you have to expect a certain streamlining; most female vampires are slender and athletic creatures too, none too blessed in the chest department. Large breasts slow you down and mess with your balance after all, so evolution tended to trim them down in vampires. Some might say we make up for it in mesmerising grace and old fashioned ass tightness. What? Where do you think that speed comes from? You need killer thighs and buttocks to move that fast.

Long story short? Morgan was almost as attractive as she was annoying. And in case I haven't made it clear, she was very attractive.

"Man, I can't believe I got my first official tag." The witch smiled broadly. "It's not even as impressive as my first one, if you can believe it, but... whoa! It's even more of a rush! I think I love it..." She sighed dreamily, as if her performance today had been anything short of disastrous.

It's easy to say you don't like someone and not back it up at all, so here's one reason why I disliked Morgan so much; the witch was cocky. She was so green she probably bled chlorophyll when cut, yet she had the ego of twenty rutting Alpha weres. We had worked together for three short weeks, and I had lost track of how many times she had told and retold that story about her (alleged) first tag two years ago, a two centuries old undead vampire with tendencies similar to those showed by whoever the scumbag in the trunk answered to. I wasn't sure I believed her; she didn't smell like she was lying, but I wouldn't put it past her to blow her achievement out of proportion. Maybe what she thought was an undead vamp was another ghoul or something, but I had no way to know for sure. Even if I cared enough to look up I.S. records, I wouldn't find anything about a pedophile vampire sexual predator; any case file like that would have gotten shredded before even making it to a filing cabinet. Having written proof of summary executions lying around makes for risky public relations, and if he, whoever he was, had truly been caught hurting children, he would have been summarily executed, and then just as summarily erased from history. It's simply how vampires maintain their good name.

Her cockiness wasn't the worse thing about Morgan, though before today's fiasco, I'd never really appreciated how greatly she could rub me the wrong way; the woman was recklessness personified. Winging it was all she knew how to do; her ability to plan ahead of time when going after a mark was practically nil, and even when I did it for her, she was all too happy to spoil whatever plan I cooked up in the name of improvising. She called it seizing opportunities I couldn't have foreseen; I called it playing with fire. Take today, for example. I had everything down to a T. An interview with a fourteen year old girl, a friend of one of the victims, had gotten us a lead towards that jackass now locked in the trunk. A few days' surveillance later, we had his schedule, his preferred haunting grounds, his methods, in short, everything we needed to plan a good ambush. I had everything laid down, when and where we would have the best chance to apprehend him while minimising risks to bystanders or any chance he might have to tip his master off. It should have been cake, clean and surgical, but of course, Morgan had to spoil it, because she thought she saw a better opportunity than the one we had created and could control. Instead of trapping him between us on his way out, like planned, she challenged him, flashed her badge, told him to freeze, the whole cop flick routine. I'm sure she actually smiled when he ran. Had he been an actual living vampire and not a ghoul, we would have lost him then and there, but after a wild chase and a low five figure of property damage, she managed to corner him, take away the knife he pulled on her and slap cuffs on him. If her success hadn't been so near-miraculous, I might have been impressed.

"So, how'd I do? Pretty good, uh?" She looked like a puppy asking me that, a very young puppy eager for approval. The age difference between us was only four years, but she made me feel like the oldest, wisest soul in the world next to her. "I think this should be worth a recommendation, don't you?"

I rolled my eyes, still fuming, hunched over the back of the cab. Of course, she was asking me that. She asked me that over and over again in the past three weeks; every little thing she did had to be worth my recommendation to our superiors that she be taken off her probationary status and promoted to full runner. My signing was actually needed for her to get her real I.S. badge. It was all up to me, but frankly, after the mess she just made, I think you can understand why I couldn't let her get promoted out from under me. Letting her run amok would be beyond irresponsible. Babysitting her might not be what I had in mind when I transferred from homicide, but at least it didn't get me a guiltier conscience.

"Come on, can you give me a grade, at least?" She asked when I didn't answer her first question, or react at all to her presence. "It was damn impressive, worth at least a nine out of ten, don't you think?"

"Oh, it's a ten, actually." I began softly, straightening myself out slowly and fixing my eyes on the beaming witch. Now she looked like a kid who was just announced that Christmas was five months early this year. "A ten on the Richter scale. That was a disaster, Morgan!" I snapped at the witch, my temper slipping up again. "For the love of blood, what were you thinking? Did you even think at all before you did something this idiotic?"

"Buh..." Pulling what she thought was appraisal out from under her left the witch momentarily stunned, but she quickly found her what passed for her wits. "Hey, I got him! This time, I actually got him! What's got your panties up in a bunch?" The witch protested loudly, pushed off the taxi and stood straighter, determined to stand her ground. "You didn't even do anything besides haul his ass out and bash the door with his face! I did all the actual work! This was all me! I think that's worth a little less bile from you for once!"

"We had a plan, Morgan, a plan you completely ignored." I pointed out accusingly.

"No, we didn't have a plan, you did, and you completely ignored all I had to say when putting it together... Again! And, and..." She stammered, her self-righteous anger causing her words to stumble over each other on their way out of her mouth. "And you know what? Screw your plan! I had him, period! I didn't feel like waiting around for that guy to step on exactly the right floor tile before snatching him, just to keep your precious little ego from getting bruised!"

"My ego, witch?" I asked, my voice mellowing, becoming lower despite my anger. Turn it, I knew what this was a sign of. My hands were starting to ache with the desire to pin her back against the cab. "You're the one who wanted to solo this tag so much you were willing to put yourself and who knows how many people in harm's way."

"What harm? He ran like a chicken the second I called him out! And he could barely tell one end of his knife from the other! I disarmed him just like that!" She snapped her fingers right under my nose, as oblivious to the threat I posed as she was to her current wrongdoings. She had no clue how easily I could have grabbed her hand and made sure she could never snap her fingers ever again. "I was better than him, and I was more efficient than you, Ivy! Why can't you admit I did good for once?"

"Because you didn't do well. What if that knife had been a gun? What then? You would have died, that's what." I growled, my tone of voice suggesting I really didn't give a damn about such trivial things right this second. "What if he had taken a hostage? You might have ended with another person's death on your conscience. I wasn't waiting for him to step on the right tile, Morgan, I was waiting for him to be in a mostly deserted place, where we could apprehend him without risking anyone's life. Is that so hard to understand? Are you really this much of a simpleton?"

Morgan's mouth worked wordlessly for several seconds, the witch obviously searching for a witty reply that wasn't forthcoming. Just like the child she was, when it became obvious that I had bested her she turned her back to me, muttering to herself how I couldn't have planned for those eventualities I mentioned anyway. "What do you think you're doing?" I asked her when she moved to pull the taxi's door open.

"What does it look like?" She shot back roughly. "Let's just get back to the tower, 'kay? I need coffee. Even that god-awful swill in the break room sounds great right about now."

"Huh-uh. Let's. Unfortunately, you're not getting in that cab."

"What? Come on, we can split the fare. I'm good for it." Morgan whined, her shoulders slumping a bit.

"It's not about money, Morgan, it's about blood." I said, cocking my head to the side, my eyes trailing down her body to the thin bloody line on her thigh, near her knee. "You got winged. You're not riding with me."

"You're kidding me, right?" She said, incredulously looking at the tiny gash. "It's barely bleeding at all! It's not even a scratch! And for the record, he didn't wing me, he dropped his fucking knife on me when I took it from him." Her smile made a shaky comeback for a second; she looked like she was expecting me to admit I was only jerking her around, nothing more, lesson learned, turning the page. Her face fell a bit when one of my eyebrows rose and I didn't start smirking. She started pacing, her stormy mood obvious.

"It's an enclosed space. I'm stressed out." I answered simply, my eyes tracking the angry witch whose speeding heartbeat I was having trouble ignoring. "It's not going to end well if we ride together." The witch threw her arms above her head in consternation, raging. "Truly, it's for your own good." I added with mocking concern. A bitterly incredulous sounding snort I can only call un-ladylike was my only answer. "All right, the truth is I'd have a lot of paperwork to file if I ended up ripping your throat open." I admitted casually.

"'The truth is I'd have to file a lot of paperwork if I kill you...'" The witch repeated after me, sounding like a parrot dipped in sarcasm. A childish parrot. "Last I checked you love paperwork. Filing papers speaks to the most anal part of you..." I didn't grace that with an answer. She obviously hadn't taken the time to think that one through, and the implications, once she caught on to them, would speak for themselves. Sure enough, her pulse shot up when she glanced, a little paler than usual, over her shoulder and caught sight of my dilating pupils. I still wasn't pulling an aura, but it was hardly needed when holding still and slowly blinking was this effective. Not even Morgan was thick enough to miss the message that I wanted some time alone badly enough to kill.

"If you start running now, you can catch that bus." I nudged my head a fraction towards the street closest to us, where a bus was coming down towards us, still far enough that she could catch it at a dead sprint. I never took my eyes off her, and all but stopped blinking, knowing the effect vampire eyes had on most non-vamps. "I'll see you at the tower." I dismissed her, but Morgan had already started running towards the stop, swearing all the way. Only when she climbed on did I drop the act and allowed a corner of my mouth to lift in a shadow of a dark, satisfied smile, wondering how many stops it would take for Morgan to realise this bus was heading away from downtown, and thus the I.S. tower...

With the witch out of the way, I closed my eyes, let my shoulders slump and finally took a slow, deep breath, hoping to center myself and stop looking like I'd rip the next throat I saw open. The air smelled of exhaust fumes and humidity, but it did shake off some of my stress at least. A whiff of Morgan's leftover fear gave my parched bloodlust a little jolt, but it was fading so fast I barely felt it, even though I hadn't taken a drop in the past five weeks, around the same time I had sex last. I took it as a sign that I was slowly making progress. Going cold turkey after so long freely indulging my thirst was an... interesting exercise in raw willpower. Vampires are built for a lot of things, but God was I ever finding out abstinence is not one of them. Hell, to be fair the worst thing about it wasn't even the hunger gnawing at my insides all the times. It wasn't the shortening of my already short fuse, or the tighter grip I had to keep on my emotions, for fear they might stoke my starved hunger and make me lose control. It was my newfound loneliness. It's not that I am, ever was or ever will be a social butterfly, but I do have my anchors... or at least I did, up until a month ago. After being engaged to him all of my life, I'd finally broken up with my best friend, Kisten Felps. I couldn't be around him anymore; my life, our lives, if I was perfectly honest, was too messed up, and while I saw what was being done to me and wanted out, Kisten... Kisten wasn't feeling the same way. He was Piscary's scion, and all too wrapped up in it; he saw what it did to him, but he either couldn't fight it, or he didn't want too. I couldn't really blame him. It had taken a life-changing encounter with a banshee for me to even try and fight the system ruling our lives. Besides, we both knew which of us was our master's favourite, which one might get away with symbolically breaking off with him. My chains were looser than his, even if my wounds ran deeper. He hadn't said a word to me since, though, and I missed him dearly

Feeling like my humanity was no longer about to be pulled under by the baser parts of my nature, I reached for the long leather glove I had hung on my belt. Squinting, I faced the mall, my eyes searching the night sky for a familiar gliding shape. Unable to spot it despite my nigh-perfect night vision, I put on the thick glove and let out a sharp whistle, holding out my arm straight before me, my fist closed, waiting. I didn't have to wait long; a few seconds later, a large, grey bird glided down gracefully towards me, braking with a happy shriek and a quick flutter of wings a few feet from my face before landing on my extended arm. I smirked a bit at his dramatic entrance. My pet owl's flight was so silent even my vampire-enhanced hearing had trouble picking it up sometimes. The first few times I took him out hunting with me, I wasn't used to how quiet owls could be, and he actually managed to startle me when I called him. It had since become a kind of game to him, and he tried to playfully sneak up on me all the time now, though the more I worked with him, the less often it worked. I couldn't bring myself to scold him for it, though, not when he made those huge amber eyes at me.

"Sorry, darling." I spoke fondly to the big owl now perched on my forearm, the simple, immediate affection in the bird's big amber eyes washing away the last of my annoyance at Morgan and my loathing of the creature we'd caught. "You don't get to play fetch with nasty bats tonight." Poser wannabe vamps like the one in the trunk always spend a small fortune on a transfiguration charm allowing them to become bats, so I'd trained my pet to catch any flying rodents he saw and bring them back to me, without killing them, when he was ordered. Of course, a hunting owl isn't exactly gentle, and those talons didn't retract; broken wings became broken arms and inches-long lacerations huge gashes when they changed back to human forms, so it wasn't quite merciful, but I'd yet to lose a suspect to my pet's gluttony. Besides, if they had nothing on their consciences, they wouldn't run from me, so I took changing into a bat as a sign they deserved the injuries they got playing hide and seek with a bird of prey about ten times their size. Heck, I'm pretty sure the owl was smarter than most of them, too...

I honestly loved this bird, and not just because he was my only company since I broke up with Kisten. He was remarkable in his own right. Not only had he been lovingly raised since he was only a hatchling, he was also a witch's familiar during his training. While I wasn't too fond of the magic behind the process, I could appreciate the result; the contact with a sapient mind had increased the owl's intellect to the point where "bird brain" became wholly inappropriate as an insult; indeed, he was smarter than your average golden retriever dog, and he could understand me and most orders I gave him. He was incredibly loyal too, having chosen me as much as I'd chosen him; he made a cage really unnecessary. He knew where I lived, and that there was a place for him to sleep there if he wanted it. It was a bother sometimes to let him in and out of my apartment, but since we kept mostly the same schedule, he didn't wake me up in the middle of the night too often.

"I won't need you again tonight." I said, stroking the bird's feathers with a delicate finger. "You can have the rest off. Just don't bring Erica any dead mice this time, okay?" I warned him not quite sternly, earning myself a sullen cry from him. My pet had dotted on my thirteen year-old baby sister quite a bit, but that's where the one "blemish", if you can call a funny anecdote that, of his intellect came into play. Since Erica and I smelled and looked so much alike but she was so much smaller than me, he had deduced that she was my (read our) young. The association he made was cute until he decided he wanted to be a good provider for his growing youngling. You can imagine how freaked out and embarrassed Erica was when a big owl decided to drop off a little something he just caught to supplement her lunch at school. A dead squirrel doesn't go too well with a ham-and-cheese sandwich, or so I've heard.

"Oh, stop it." I laughed when he responded by grumpily grooming the feathers I'd just smoothed over. "It was an honest mistake, I'm sure. Just keep it for yourself next time. She'll love you all the more for it." Two quick honks of the cab's horn reminded me I was still on the clock. "I'll be home before sunrise to let you in, okay?" The owl didn't nod or show he'd understood in any way, but I knew he had, and even if he hadn't, he could find shelter for the day for himself. I never had to worry about that. He turned around, spread his wings and with a squeeze of my leather-clad arm launched himself into the inky black sky.

"Sorry about that." I neutrally told the were (yes, it was a were, I could smell it) driver as I slid into the back of the cab, my face smooth and aloof, feeling calm and centered again. "To the I.S. tower, please."

"Ah, i's okay." The man in the front seat said with a thick Jamaican accent, or at least what a Jamaican accent sounds like to someone who's never seen an actual Jamaican in his life. Between his species, his job and his manner of speech, he looked like a walking-talking racial slur... "Was funny watching you break yo' bitch in. Tee blood was a nice touch."

"I have no idea what you're talking about." I replied casually, settling myself more comfortably, taking advantage of Morgan's blissful absence to sit askew, snaking my arm around the head rest and leaning back with my eyes closed.

"Oh, maybe I'm wrong, then, but that wou' make you tee most blood horny woman I ever see." The driver said in a conspiratorial tone. "No even them u'dead whassit can't stand a li'l blood like that, and you got a pulse. I figure yo' bitch is just a li'l whack in the head, yes? She no know about whassits like you?"

"Would you please cut that out? This is getting offensive." My eyes snapped open but my voice remained calm.

"Yes, ma'am!" The driver snapped to attention, his accent turning into pure grade A Hollows born and raised. "Sorry, ma'am, I didn't mean to offend you. A lot of customers like the other persona more. It makes them feel like they can loosen up, be all friendly and casual-like, you know?" He paused for a long time, his fidgeting on the steering wheel confirming what his scent already told me. He was still curious about Morgan and me, but he didn't want to risk his tip over it either. "So, I guess your friend the redhead really pissed you off if you tricked her like that, uh? I mean, vamps don't flip over a few droplets of blood. I've seen vamps pull people out of car wrecks without so much as blinking."

I didn't answer, but I couldn't quite keep a corner of my mouth from curving up into a private smirk. I wonder if she's figured out she's heading the wrong way by now... I thought snidely, darkly satisfied with myself as I reclined back, enjoying the relative silence and the absence of the witch's constant chatter while it lasted. I was only rid of her for a short time, and I intended to make the most of it, even if it was only a taxi ride. So what if I could have split the fare? It was worth it.