Hello again, I'm sorry for the wait. In this chapter, we get a small glimpse of Bo's insecurities and anger regarding the fae in general and her struggle to stay neutral. Also, a new development raises the stakes even higher. Enjoy
This Hollow World
"Norn, like, the sick hippie lady that ruins people's lives, that Norn?"
Lauren could see the tension in Bo's shoulders, and marveled at the biting snark in her voice when there was no real humor.
"Yes," Trick ran a hand over his face, as if he found the whole conversation uncomfortable, "One of three sisters. The third and eldest, however, died when I was very young, murdered before I can remember."
"So, if the caped crusader here," Bo gestured over her shoulder, "is a necromancer, couldn't she have raised her own sister? Is she so different from a Hsien?"
He shook his head. "Light fae, remember? The Valkyrie raises her victims and shapes them into heroes for battle only. She is a herald of victory during war."
"Then she shouldn't be here. I prevented another war."
"And there are always consequences, I think we can all agree. There's also a long-standing rumor that the Valkyrie herself was the murderer." Bo's only response was a quirk of her eyebrow, but Lauren shivered, suppressing the urge to cast a nervous glance around the room.
"This would probably be best continued in private," she said softly, "There are more than a few individuals present with the ability to overhear."
"Rain check. I've got somewhere to be." Bo took a last drink, stood, and straightened her coat.
Trick smiled at her in spite of the worry that formed lines at the corners of his eyes. When she was gone, he turned to Lauren with a stern expression. The muscle in his jaw clenched as he pushed another glass towards her.
"You want to tell me what's really going on?"
Hours later, closed, locked, and dark, the Dál made for a wholly different setting than the warm, inviting pub prior to, or significantly later than, the early morning. Lauren stood with her hands in her pockets, silent, letting Trick pace around his study. Judging by the sweat beading on his furrowed brow, she wondered what he wasn't telling her about the Valkyrie, or perhaps another even more powerful rival.
"Is there anything you can do to help us?" She felt terrible even to ask.
He followed the direction of her gaze to a bundle on the desk, the scarred, faded leather concealing the terrible tools that had implemented a great dimorphism in fae ideology, created from nothing an almost civilized society, and ultimately killed his beloved wife. Even now, he could feel her spirit, her love, his salvation that had been purposed for their granddaughter, surging through his veins.
There are always consequences. Whenever he looked at Bo, he was reminded of her sacrifice. Every day since the battle against the Garuda, there was a slightly more elegant cant to her posture, a natural intensity of presence, a sinful grace that reminded him painfully of her mother. Yet that encroaching darkness was also the reason he was still alive.
"No. I've already used my blood to help Bo against Aife, and that ended badly. Honestly, I thought that encounter was the worst of our problems at the time," He sank into a chair and held his head in his hands. Lauren's heart ached for him, for his family. He looked so broken.
"Listen," Trick spoke to the floor, "I'll scour my collection and try to find whatever I can. I don't know what game the Black Thorn is playing, nor Bo for that matter." A long moment passed before either moved.
The barkeep took a deep breath, gathering himself. Rising to stand before her, he grasped her arms and pulled her down so that he could look her straight in the eyes. In his, she found the quiet strength she always associated with Trick, along with the resolve she recognized in Bo, and knew that she was facing the Blood King as well as her friend.
"Lauren, I don't know what's going to happen. But if the opportunity does present itself and you can get out of all this, I encourage you to take it. Run fast and hard and don't look back."
Lauren didn't see Bo again until late the next afternoon. She waltzed though the glass doors of the clinic as if she owned the place. Security didn't stop her to ask for identification, and the guard barely glanced her way, which was strange. It usually took a minimum of two friskings before Bo was allowed inside.
Lauren stayed where she was behind a compound microscope, an assortment of vials and stacks of notes spread around her on the desk.
"Such a serious face, Dr. Lewis," Bo pretended to pout, perching atop one of the examining tables. Her voice dropped an octave, eyes dark, beautiful, wild, and not the least bit human. "What are you working on?" Lauren felt her lips tipping into a half smile in spite of herself. Bo's not-quite-innocent curiosity was almost normal, like any other visit.
"I'm reworking the antidote I made for Sabine," she kept her eyes on the syringe in her hand as she filled it with a sample of Bo's blood. The sobering truth was that she had to occupy her time somehow in the lull before the Stag Hunt. If indeed these were to be her last days among the fae, she had no qualms in using their own resources against them to ensure Bo's survival. "Just in case," she added softly.
Bo didn't respond immediately, silently considering the doctor from across the room. The weight of her gaze made Lauren uncomfortable, nervous even. She continued to ramble. "That is, of course, assuming that the same poison will be used to coat the arrowheads. Sabine was also extreme lucky that Hamish was there to manipulate the trajectory of Lachlan's arrow away from her heart, a luxury you won't have."
She heard Bo drop down from the table, was aware of her approach in the periphery of her field of vision. "You've always helped me," she breathed close to Lauren's ear, something close to awe in her voice as she reached up to tuck a stray blonde curl behind it. Pilomotor reflex was instantaneous, leaving the doctor chilled at the same time a familiar heat spread through her.
"Yes," she said, feeling her capacity for coherent thought slipping in direct correlation to Bo's proximity. Now she was running the tips of her fingers very lightly over Lauren's bare arm, from the band of her watch to the crease of her elbow where she had rolled up the sleeves of her lab coat and back. Her mind grew hazy, and she knew that Bo was channeling her power of influence even in this small touch.
"Just because we were successful then," Lauren tried to pick up her previous train of thought as she felt herself being turned around to face the succubus with a gentle tug, "doesn't change what this is, Bo."
Her smile was tight, almost angry. "And what is that?"
Bo may think herself indestructible, but Lauren was determined not to sugar coat reality. Not when the stakes were so high. "A traditional, socially acceptable means of punishment. A death sentence."
Bo went perfectly still, like some Greek statue, her hands gripping the collar of Lauren's coat. "You're just like Kenzi," she spoke in a low voice, the sound like silk moving over Lauren's skin. "You think I don't stand a chance." Bo stepped closer, further into her personal space.
"I've survived their assassins," Fierce blue eyes bore into her, and Lauren struggled to breathe normally against the onslaught of magic filling the room.
"I've beaten their stupid political system over and over," Bo bowed her head, brushing her lips against Lauren's neck, felt the racing pulse there, "every day since I was dumped into this crazy world."
Trying to decide whether or not she was being threatened, Lauren's eyes slipped shut, her breath breaking on a sigh as Bo's hands moved lower, pushing back the lab coat to settle on her hips, pulling her closer. Finding her voice proved difficult.
"I think that if anyone has a chance, it's you."
The silence that followed was heavy, a suspension of charged energy hanging between them, barely contained. Lauren saw the strain in Bo's expression, looking for all the world as if she were counting to ten in her head. The seconds stretched as her equilibrium was slowly restored. Pupils dilated against fading blue, she focused on the syringe that lay forgotten on the desk.
"When you're done, it's really important that you get rid of any blood of mine that you have from when I was getting treatments or from the Garuda. That stuff's dangerous, apparently."
That made Lauren pause. "Dangerous?"
"Yeah," Bo leaned away and stepped back, running a hand through her hair in a nervous tic, "My blood binds people against their will. With you gone, there's no telling what someone could use it for…" When her eyes met Lauren's there was a shy regard and genuine sorrow that reminded her of the succubus when she first met her, a vulnerability she hadn't seen in weeks.
"After what happened with Ryan, and then the Garuda, I thought of all the times I came to you when I was hurt, and I didn't even know you were in danger." Her slight smile was self-deprecating, "You know, any more than normal around me. I'm sorry."
"Bo-" Lauren reached for one of Bo's hands, "You didn't know."
"I couldn't bear it if Kenzi or you or Dyson were bound to me because you helped me after a fight. I'm tired of hurting people to survive. I thought those days were over."
"We're not being influenced like that, Bo," Lauren said, "Those relationships are real." She brought Bo's hand up to her face to kiss the palm. "This is real."
Taking a deep breath, Bo finally relaxed enough so the surging current of heat that had overtaken Lauren's senses moments ago receded into gentle waves, only a slight impression in the back of her mind, not completely gone.
"Let's go for a walk. I think all this," Bo gestured absently at the gleaming steal surfaces, freshly buffered floors, and white walls around them, "sterility is getting to me."
Kenzi emerged out of the cloud of steam that was currently the bathroom after a glorious twenty-minute shower. The smell of fresh brewed coffee greeted her at the bottom of the stairs.
"Bo? You're back early," She mumbled around the towel she was using to dry her hair, "Trust me, you're going to need something a lot stronger than a good mocha if you're trying to apologize for signing up to play hide-and-seek with-"
Kenzi froze. She knew that voice. Pulling the towel from her face, she stared openly at the woman currently occupying a stool at the island counter.
"I have a message for my daughter."
Thoughts? In the next chapter, Bo and the Valkyrie face off for the first time. Everything has been from Lauren's perspective so far, with the exception of the short scenes with Trick and Kenzi. If you would like the narrative changed to look at other characters and their perception of Bo and her situation, please leave a review or pm. I greatly appreciate your feedback. Thanks for reading!