Chapter 9: Chrysanthemum
Bo grabbed Lauren's hand and pulled her up the staircase and back into her bedroom. From the closet, the succubus threw out two empty duffle bags. She was going to make good on her word – that the second Kenzi got back they would all leave. Where they went was up for debate, but she didn't care so long as she had the two most important people in the Camaro with her.
Bo nodded to the piece of luggage closest to Lauren. "Do me a favor and pack Kenzi's shoes."
Lauren gave her an inquisitive look. "Her shoes?"
"Yeah. Kenzi won't leave without them."
Together, they filled the bags with as much as they would carry. Just because Bo had a lot of money didn't mean she wanted to replace everything she owned. They couldn't do the same for Lauren's possessions, unfortunately.
"Hey, dudes…" Kenzi's voice carried up the stairs and went right through the decrepit walls.
Bo shouted back, "We're up here!"
"How many times do I have to tell you no sex acts downstairs?!"
"What the hell are you taking about?"
"I'm talkin'bout the trail of clothes and handcuffs around our water pipe!"
"Shit," Bo whispered. "Kenzi!" she yelled, already halfway down the staircase. Bo jumped the last step and once again found herself face to face with Dyson. He wasn't human this time. Over a long growl rumbling from the very bottom of his jowls, Kenzi began to list expletives.
The water pipe had sprung a tiny leak where Dyson struggled against the restraints before transforming. There was so much pressure in the line that the water came out in a fine mist, saturating the fur around Dyson's neck. Mangy and wet, he crouched to strike. Bo's heart dropped. Her flight or fight reflex didn't kick in, there was no adrenaline to step back or put her arms up to protect herself. A single voice infiltrated her mind like the steady drip of a faucet that couldn't be shut off no matter how carefully the handle was twisted in either direction.
There is no future in which you can survive. Death waits for you….
Frozen, Bo stared into the voracious eyes that saw only her demise. The wolf tensed and lunged for the succubus, his jaw open and head twisting to clasp white teeth around her throat. His paws pushed into her shoulders first – knocking her onto the stairs. She was sure to feel the predator's bite next. It would come and be done so quickly that she would bleed out in seconds. The last thing on Earth she expected to see was a pair of arms around the beast, keeping his face a mere inch from the tip of her nose.
Kenzi grunted with effort, dug her fingers to Dyson's coat, and pulled as hard as she could. Mad with rage, the wolf swung his head around, back and forth, saliva and fur being lost in the struggle.
Something did not snap in Bo, it did not crumple, and it did not break. It was crushed; pulverized between what Bo had to do and what was in her way. Her eyes became that dangerous, electric blue. Kenzi was the thing that made Bo feel normal and special at the same time. Kenzi was her heart, and the succubus would not let the girl die in her place. Bo got her legs under the creature and pushed him away. Lauren's hands were in the collar of her leather jacket, pulling her up from behind as Kenzi and her prisoner rolled on the floor.
Dyson landed on top, hind feet digging in for any kind of purchase on the wooden paneling so he could pull just far enough away to bite. Bo reached for the pipe he'd been handcuffed to and yanked it out of the hole in the wall. The brutal destruction caused the water main to spew and spill everything it had. It doused both of the Fae and Kenzi. Bo's last shower had ended in bloodshed; this would be no different.
With one kick she shoved Dyson off of her friend. Using the piece of metal like a bat, she struck him in the face. Then, with one emphatic thrust – she impaled Dyson through the chest. He sank to his belly and let his head fall, a weak growl still echoing from his gullet. In blood and rising water, his paws twitched. A second later, he stilled after his body transformed back to into its human form.
The succubus quivered with exertion. Her mind was behind a titanium wall of anger and fury, and the spray from the busted water line was only making it worse. She turned her blue eyes from Kenzi who was getting up from the ground to Lauren who was finally off of the stairs. Hunger set its claws into her and presented two human sacrifices. Bo looked back to Kenzi and had just barely opened her mouth when a gentle hand was placed on her shoulder.
The Fae whipped her head around and snarled at the doctor. If Lauren wanted to die first, then so be it.
"Bo? Something's wrong," the blonde said, her eyebrows drawn down in confusion. In calm conviction, Lauren splayed her heart for the succubus to see – to devour if she wanted. "It's me, Bo. Lauren. I loved you from the second we met. Remember that first time? It was in the hotel. I was probably nervous, but you told me I was beautiful – that I deserved to hear it every day."
Bo blinked and swayed on her feet. Lauren grabbed Bo gently around the shoulders and moved her out of the water dripping down from the ceiling, but the succubus was still not herself. She latched onto the doctor's collar with slippery fingers and growled again. As the wolf was tamed, so was Bo. Kenzi wrapped her arms around the taller woman and held her firmly.
Somewhere in the body heat, while feeling Kenzi's heartbeat in her back and Lauren's hands moving up from her shoulders to cradle her neck, Bo was released from the entity that had taken over.
Lauren whispered, "Come back to us, Bo."
The succubus looked down and her knees buckled as her eye color reverted. Not expecting to have to hold her friend up, Kenzi made the descent to the floor with Bo slowly. Lauren checked her vitals and met Kenzi's concerned gaze. If either of them knew how close to death they were, or cared, they didn't voice it.
"Thanks for doing this for us, Tamsin." Kenzi passed out the contents of a manila folder among the others. Three perfectly legal-looking passports, birth certificates, and IDs found their way into proper hands. Changed from her wet clothes, Bo looked down at her newly adopted persona. The name was common; the physical attributes unchanged.
"I am really more partial to keeping my head off the chopping block, so next time you little ladies ask for a favor-"
The Valkyrie was checked by a full-body hug curtsey of one grateful succubus. Tamsin squirmed, retreating from the embrace with a horrified look.
"Thank you, Tamsin. Thank you, thank you, thank you so much."
Lock-jawed and weary, the blonde Fae accepted that there was no way to dismantle this impromptu hold. "You're welcome," she whispered, her chin rested on Bo's cheek for a gentle moment. Finally free, Tamsin sighed and walked to her office door. "If you'll all excuse me, I have a dog to bury."
Lauren was the first to leave. She passed Tamsin with a smile and a short whisper for her ears alone.
"I know you've done us a huge favor – but if you find yourself able, there's a file on my laptop at home…" The doctor handed her a note and walked away.
Kenzi's farewell was much less touchy feely than Tamsin expected. The young woman lightly bumped her shoulder with a fist and grinned.
Tamsin frowned. "That's it? No snarky goodbye? Not even a hug?"
The girl tried to keep her face hidden as she went past the Fae. "Hate goodbyes, so…" Unbeknownst to the Valkyrie, but very much a fact to Bo, Kenzi left with tears forming in her eyes. Bo glanced at the back of her truest friend and knew there would be more tears to come. It was a shame they couldn't take the Dark Fae along. It would have been a strange family dynamic, but a family none the less.
Bo paused in front of Tamsin as her two companions got into the Camaro.
The cop advised her, "Don't put off getting a new set of wheels."
"I won't." Bo swayed on her feet, unable to go forward. "Tamsin… I'm scared." Tamsin stood by quietly. "Kasper is still alive. What he said – I can't forget it."
The other woman came to life with a fierce look and a sturdy hand on both of Bo's shoulders. "You can."
Bo trembled in the face of her worry. "There is no future in which I can survive. Death waits for me," she asserted.
"Listen to me, succu-babe. Kasper is a crime-lord with a loose screw, but what he said is true," Tamsin stopped her speech as Bo looked away from her. The blonde was a stern-hearted warrior, and talking wasn't her normal field of battle, but that didn't mean she would allow Bo to surrender. "It's true for all of us. The future is what we make it, but one day – we won't survive to see any more of it. Death waits for you. It waits, Bo." Tamsin dug her fingers in a little tighter. "It's not right around the corner. You won't die the second you walk out this door. You won't die tomorrow, or next week… unless you give that evil bastard what he wants – your fear. Live your life, love your woman, and tell Kenzi… she can call me anytime she wants."
Bo took a deep breath and placed a hand over Tamsin's. "I'll tell her." The Valkyrie was wise with her years, and the truth of her words couldn't be denied. Kasper was a scaremonger holding a grudge against a beauty he would never understand. Bo's new life wouldn't start until she let the old one go. That meant fear had to go too. Kenzi had given her the freedom to be herself, Lauren had given her the freedom to love, and Tamsin… Tamsin gave her the freedom to live.
The blonde squeezed Bo's shoulders one more time before letting her go. "See you on the flipside."
A month later, bikini-clad and resting, Bo sat on a padded beach chair next to an in-ground pool. Normal, fruity drink in hand she tanned under the sweltering Caribbean sun. Lauren was reading a book beside her while she sat at a table with an umbrella to cover her fair skin, and Kenzi was on a plastic floaty in the pool.
A top-forties tune rang from Kenzi's phone on the table. "Hey!" Kenzi shouted. She began to paddle furiously with her hands, not making much progress for her effort as she was on the far side of the pool. "Someone get that!"
Lauren glanced at the device and then to Bo. The succubus rolled her head and kept her eyes closed. Always the more responsible one, the human grabbed the phone and answered.
Officer Tamsin was on the line, confused for a second until she realized who she was talking to. "Hey… Um… I wasn't expecting you, but I need to talk to you anyway."
Lauren ignored Kenzi's pestering. Her questions of who it was and what they wanted were better answered by the wind.
"What can I do for you?"
"Nothing, I just wanted to let you know I have the file you wanted."
The doctor beamed, "You do?! Goddess, thank you."
"I don't possibly know what you want with this scientific garble, but I've got it."
"If you say so. Studying roses kinda seems like a waste of your talents… But – whatever! I'll send it your way. Put my buddy on, will you?"
Lauren stood, tightening Bo's old robe around her swimsuit and kneeled down by the pool's edge where Kenzi had finally managed to waddle herself over to. "It's your parole officer," she joked.
The young woman was all smiles and took her cell phone as she waded back out to sea.
Staring at Bo, Lauren's eyes danced behind the possibilities. The succubus had delivered everything that she promised. She gave Lauren unforgettable nights, but more importantly, she gave Lauren a quiet, normal life. They shared breakfast in the morning, watched television in bed, and smiled at each other for no other reason than that they were together. The doctor only wanted to give that to Bo for as long as she could. Humans were as limited as their lifespan.
Bo's enchanted rose was the key to change that. Lauren didn't have the long-lived flower anymore, but she had something more precious – hope for their future.
Without warning, the doctor leapt at the succubus. Bo barely managed to keep her drink in hand as Lauren kissed her. Under tender lips, Bo was reminded of another time and place. A nice hotel, a black dress, and a broken glass. Needing her other hand to embrace Lauren more than she needed it to hold her cocktail, Bo let her drink fall and buried her fingers in yellow hair to the sound of breaking glass.
The Chrysanthemum, better known as mums, comes in a full range of colors. They look similar to daisies and usually have a yellow center. Chrysanthemums are symbolic of joy and optimism, and mean, "You are a good friend."
Thanks for reading. I would give you a rose if I could, you deserve it. Here's to hoping you can accept how wonderful you are every day.