Title: The Morgan Sanction
Legal-Type Disclaimer: Yeah, I still don't own The Hollows. (Are you surprised by this?) I do own the OCs, though.
Author's Note: This is going to be even more AU then my other Hollows story, picking up shortly after the events of Dead Witch Walking.
Did I mention it was an AU?
The world is a dangerous place to live, not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don't do anything about it. - Albert Einstein
This was so incredibly not fair.
It wasn't that I was upset that Ivy had gone on a run without me. It wasn't that she'd brought Jenks with her for backup. It wasn't even that I was sitting home, alone, on a Friday night - although that was hardly helping.
It had been almost a week since I'd had a client, and that had hardly been any kind of challenge. I mean, finding a ten-year-old warlock's lost kitten? Sure, it turned out that it had been taken by a Were to be an after dinner snack, but when I'd confronted him about it, he'd been shocked to learn the kitten was owned by a scared little girl, and had just given it back to me, completely unharmed. It wasn't that I minded an easy paycheck - and the girl's family had paid me, even though I wasn't entirely convinced they'd known their daughter had hired me until after partway through my first visit - and I'm willing to admit, her overjoyed reaction to her pet's safe return probably would have made the whole thing worth it on its own.
But I wanted a challenge, damn it. That was part of the reason I'd left the I.S. in the first place. And now Ivy and Jenks were out having fun - I mean, on a quite possibly dangerous run - without me.
All right, so maybe it bugged me a little.
I didn't begrudge Ivy the work, of course. I mean, I did like her, after all. I wouldn't have kept living with her if I didn't, once the I.S. death threat had been called off, and Trent had been successfully been blackmailed into leaving me the hell alone.
Hmm? Oh, Trent would be Trent Kalamack. Or, if you prefer, Councilman Trent Kalamack. Personally, I thought of him as the Brimstone-dealing, biodrug-producing, murderous son of a bitch who'd kept me prisoner for three days, then entered me in the underground rat fights. (I'd transformed myself into a mink to infiltrate his property and find something on him big enough to bring him down, so that I could pay off the I.S. to withdraw the aforementioned death threat. Don't give me that look, it was a perfectly reasonable plan. Even Ivy thought so. Eventually.) I couldn't classify him much beyond that, since I had no idea what he was. Even Jenks didn't know, which was unusual, since pixies were so good at telling who was a member of what species. But not Trent. Nobody had any idea what he was.
As for why I might have moved out once I was safe? Well. If you've ever lived with a vampire, or even just spent a lot of time around one, I don't think I need to explain. If you haven't, well, you don't know what you're missing. And I don't mean that in a good way.
Ivy Tamwood was, all things considered, an amazing woman. She was one of the best runners I'd ever seen - which could, at times, make me a little insecure about my own skill level... not that I was bad, but there's good, and then there's Ivy - she was beautiful - which could also make me feel insecure - smart, organized (to an almost absurd degree, really), rich (well, sort of... Don't ask, okay?), talented at... well, I had never really tried to keep track, even during the year we'd worked together at the I.S.
She was also a living vampire who'd sworn off practicing. In the abstract, that meant that she refused to drink blood. Living vampires, unlike the undead, didn't actually need to do so, but they still had the thirst. Ivy had restrained herself for three years, now, which was simply amazing.
In practical terms, at least for me, this meant that she could often be tense or irritable, pulled an aura sometimes without even meaning to, and couldn't always control herself when something set her instincts off.
And I seemed to have a previously uncharted, MENSA-level of skill in accidentally setting her off. Frankly, it was a testament to her control that I was still alive. Not that it was really my fault either - well, most of the time - as I'd known precious little about vampires and what not to do around them when I'd moved in, and she'd known that full well.
It was a learning experience for both of us, and in my defense, I was getting better at avoiding her triggers. Still, there were days that I almost - almost! - wished she'd take up practicing again. One of the things stopping me, of course, was the not-entirely-unreasonable worry that if she did, she'd start with me. I mean, come on, I was right there, after all. A nice, tasty morsel, ripe for the taking. Thanks to a demon-inflicted vampire scar - looooooooong story short, it had shifted into a vampire (specifically, Ivy... yeah, I know, that just helped our living situation SOOOOO much) and injected me with its venom, which resulted in me having an unclaimed vampire mark; and believe you me, it was NOT easy getting Ivy to tell me just what had happened to me - all she had to do was release enough pheromones and not only would I not fight her when she came at me, I'd tell her to do more, and to hurry up about it. We'd already had a couple accidents, where she'd unintentionally sent waves of pleasure through me strong enough to cause my legs to give way underneath me. Just so you don't think I'm the only one who makes those kind of mistakes.
Like I said, it's been a learning experience for us both.
Frankly, it was a good thing Nick was in the room the last time it happened. (Nick's another long story, which I'll get into later.) I honestly don't know if she would have been able to stop herself if we'd been alone, and the only reason I was so disappointed that she hadn't kissed me, or bitten me, or... whatevered me was because of the damned pheromones.
Or at least, that was what I told myself to get to sleep at night.
She'd been utterly apologetic afterward, of course, but I didn't blame her, and made sure she knew so. I'd asked her if she wanted me to leave, if that would make things easier for her, but she'd looked horrified by the mere idea, and refused to even entertain the suggestion.
And as dangerous as staying might sometimes be, I'll admit that part of me feels all warm and fuzzy inside when I think about how much she wants me to stay.
Even if I'm not entirely clear on the why of it.
I'm getting off topic, aren't I? Sorry. Anyway, it was Friday night, Ivy and Jenks were out on a run, and I was home alone, having just finished brewing up a couple of fresh potions, when someone knocked at the front door. "Just a minute!" I called, putting the last of my supplies away. As I headed toward the foyer, I idly wondered just who was at the door. Keasley? It was a bit late in the day for a visit, especially so randomly. He was getting up there in age, after all, even for a witch, and with his arthritis he didn't often go places just because, especially at night. One of Ivy's... friends? I debated going to get my cross, but decided against it. After all, anyone it would work against wouldn't be able to enter the church in the first place.
Curious, now, I opened the door... and my brain momentarily froze.
The woman standing there was... perfect. Completely, utterly perfect.
She was tall, standing several inches above Ivy even in flats. Her hair was a deep red, three or four shades darker then mine, and while I couldn't quite pin down her age, I was leaning toward the younger side of the spectrum, as she'd added lighter red and orange highlights strategically, making her long mane of hair almost look like flames. Her green eyes seemed to sparkle with an inner light. Her lips quirked in a little smile, as if she knew life was a joke, and someone had already told her the punchline. She was wearing a black dress which exposed just enough of her legs that (I presumed) it would be hard for a guy not to look, and the neckline dipped low enough that it might be... interesting... if she took a deep breath. Her face would have made Helen of Troy weep with envy, and she had the kind of body women like me could only dream of.
The thing of it was, I wasn't attracted to her at all. I know, the way I'm gushing, you wouldn't think that, right? But it's true. The weird thing was, part of me felt like I should have been attracted to her, even though I don't like women that way. (Stop laughing back there. Don't think I can't see you.) I did, however, feel strangely happy to see her, as if a best friend I hadn't seen in ages had just shown up out of the blue. I'd never heard of vampires pulling anything like that, but then, she didn't smell like a vampire. She smelled like... nothing.
That startled me enough to shake me out of the stupor I'd fallen into after laying eyes on her. She had no scent. At all. I didn't see how that was possible, unless she had an amulet on her somewhere that was completely masking her scent. (Which was something I had no idea how to make - or had really even heard of - but would have dearly loved to own. It would have solved so many of the issues Ivy and I had.) There was no reason I could think of for this woman to be wearing such a thing just that didn't involve her being in some kind of serious trouble, most likely trying to shake a tail of some kind.
Which, admittedly, is just the sort of person who might show up unannounced on the doorstep of a Runners' agency.
"Can I help you?" I asked finally, hoping I hadn't stood there staring like an idiot for as long as it had felt like.
Her secretive smile widened. "I believe that you can." Her voice was smooth, cultured, and wrapped around me like a warm hug. What was this? "The question, I believe, if whether or not you will."
My manners finally decided to kick me in the ass, and I stepped to the side. "Please, come inside. I was just fixing a pot of coffee. Would you like a cup?"
"That would be lovely, thank you," she said as she walked past me. I could feel warmth as she brushed by me, as if she was running a high fever, and had to push down a bizarre impulse to give her a hug. I didn't feel any magic coming from her, which ruled out most of the usual suspects, and vampire abilities simply did not work this way. (Believe me, if Ivy could have inspired a desire to cuddle in me, instead of mindless passion, she would have done so.) I didn't know a lot about what the undead could do, or demons, but neither of them could have set foot on holy ground. What was this woman?
Some details were in order. "What's your name?" I asked as I led her to the kitchen. "And just what is it you think I can do for you?"
"Tamara Jordan. And I want you to find someone."
She sat down at the table while I retrieved a couple of mugs from the cupboard and poured the coffee. There would be more then enough left for Ivy when she got back, in case she wanted any. "Who?"
"I can't say."
I paused before pouring the second cup, giving her a Look. "That'll make it rather difficult to find them, then."
She smiled again. Or maybe she hadn't stopped. "I have confidence in your abilities, Rachel."
That gave me pause. Not that she had confidence in me - that was kind of nice to hear, actually - but that she knew my name. I hadn't introduced myself, yet. "You know my name."
"I'm here for you, Rachel. Not one of your partners. I know a great deal about you."
My undernourished ego soaked that up, even as I felt some suspicions stir. She knew a great deal about me? How? Our agency hadn't even been in business for that long. "Why are you here, really?"
"I told you, I want you to find someone." She reached over and picked up a newspaper that had been sitting folded on the table, opening it up and flipping through it in search of something.
I finished pouring the coffee and brought the mugs to the table, studying her closely as I did, and I realized something. It wasn't that she was so overwhelmingly beautiful that made her stand out the way she did - though, well, see above - so much as it was an utterly complete lack of flaws. Her skin didn't have the slightest wrinkle, her face didn't have so much as a dimple, her teeth were all straight and gleaming white, her hair looked to be silky smooth and seemed to have never even heard of split ends, there wasn't even a hint of a blemish anywhere on her, her nails - manicured and polished in a clear shade - were flawless... I could go on in detail, but the short of it was that that kind of perfection just did not exist in nature. Even vampires didn't have it that good. And that wasn't even getting into the odd happy feelings she seemed to provoke in me. There was a curious sense of familiarity to her, as well, I decided. I just couldn't place her.
Nothing to do but keep asking questions, then. "And why do you want to find this person?"
She smiled approvingly, as if I'd finally asked an intelligent question. Rather then answering, though, she laid the newspaper on the table and turned it so that I could read it. She tapped her finger on a story headlined HIGH SCHOOL STUDENT DIES IN ACCIDENTAL FIRE.
I skimmed over it. "Kristin Blake. Honor student, head of the debate team, had just gotten a full scholarship to UCLA... Police called it a tragic accident."
I eyed her. "It wasn't tragic?"
"It wasn't an accident."
I started. "If you have information pertaining to a murder, you really need to go talk to the cops."
She shook her head. "The F.I.B. would not be able to handle this, and the I.S., well, I'm certain I don't need to tell you of the prevailing attitude toward such crimes within the agency."
My stomach tightened. No, she didn't. The I.S., as a whole, seemed more interested in covering up any Inderland-related crimes then they were in solving them and bringing the perpetrator to justice. Sometimes, I wondered if maybe that wasn't because someone, somewhere within the agency, wasn't in some way related to the crime in question.
Other times I was certain of it.
"Who'd want to kill her, though?" I asked, looking at the article. There didn't seem to be any reason behind it.
She flipped through the paper again, stopping at the obituaries. "Them," she corrected, pointing to one obit, then another. And another. And another. There were six in all, which, if she was to be believed, meant there was a serial killer out there who'd racked up seven kills - at least - in the last week. "And that is something you'll need to find out, isn't it?"
"I'd need more to go on then this!" I protested. "How do you even know that they were murdered? Why hasn't anyone else picked up on that, if it's true? Why did you come to me with this? What are you?"
"You don't need to know what I am." Evidently, that was the only question she felt was worth answering... and she hadn't really even answered that.
"I disagree. A few too many people have been trying to kill me lately for me to just blithely trust you. Hell, I'm willing to bet your name isn't really even Tamara." She raised an eyebrow at that, but declined to comment. "Now, tell me who you are. Who you really are."
"You don't remember me, then?" she asked, looking almost sad for a moment. "I was afraid that might be the case."
"...we've never met."
"In point of fact, we have," she corrected. "Though I believe there is much from that time of your life that you don't remember. Your friends from camp, for one."
I stiffened. There was no way, no freaking way, that she could possibly know anything about that from police contacts or word of mouth. "Who are you?" I whispered. "How are you here?" I wasn't even sure why I asked her that, just that I needed to know.
She stared at me for a long moment, and I stubbornly stared back. She sighed. "As you wish." The words were barely audible, and I was seized with the sudden, horrifying knowledge that I'd just made a huge mistake, that I should have left well enough alone.
Too late now. She was speaking again, and her explanation did nothing but chill me to the core.
"My true name, as you would know it, is Tamiel." She smiled, and there was something about it that made me shiver. "And Fallen or not, I am fully capable of setting foot on hallowed ground without repercussion. Being cast out did nothing to change that."
I didn't say anything in reply, because I was too busy screaming inside my head.