Title: The Morgan Sanction (2/?)
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
The bottom fell out of my stomach.
One of the Fallen. One of the Fallen was standing in my kitchen. I was looking one of the Fallen. Talking to one of the Fallen. I'm not exactly what you would call religious - which wasn't to say I didn't believe; I mean, crosses, holy ground, and the like affect demons and undead vamps for a reason - but I did know enough to have a fair idea of how indescribably bad this was.
Excuse me a moment, will you? I'm going to have a minor coronary. Won't take but a minute.
The Fallen were something that nobody really discussed. Not from any kind of 'ignore them and they'll go away' kind of mentality, but more because going around asking questions ran the serious risk of attracting their attention. Some said they drew power from fear, despair, hatred. Personally, I thought they knew they stood a better chance of getting people to make deals or sell their soul or whatever if they were full of one or more of those emotions. Any textbooks that mentioned them at all gave next to no solid information, and any advice they offered amounted to 'avoid at all costs'.
And one of them had come looking for me.
And I thought I'd been scared out of my mind when I'd been attacked by that demon. Frankly, this was a benchmark I could have lived without setting. Fear like that was like ice water: a cold feeling that you swallow, which rolls down your throat and spreads into your chest, robbing you of your breath and sending your heart into hyperdrive. Your muscles begin twitching and vibrating out of your control, resulting in anything from you trembling like a leaf to you collapsing into a whimpering heap. However you slice it, though, you're not going to be able to carry out your brain's increasingly urgent demands to get the hell away.
That was me. I stood there, wide-eyed and shaking, as I stared at Tamiel. She, for her part, watched me in what might have been amusement, sipping at her coffee. My own mug sat on the table in front of me, forgotten.
"Well," she mused after swallowing. "At least you have some idea of what you face. Good. That will help you. Now, back to the issue at hand."
It took me a moment to realize what she was talking about, and several more to find my voice again. My words came out more unsteady and quiet then I would have liked. "You can't seriously think I'm actually going to take a run from you."
She smiled. It looked wholesome and pleasant. How did she get away with that? "I know that you will. That's not the issue."
"Oh, really? And just what do you think 'the issue' is?" Well, that was a little better. I didn't sound like a scared five-year-old girl, at least. I think I'd made it up to nine.
"Whether or not you will live long enough to complete your task."
I sat down in the nearest chair, mainly because otherwise I would have collapsed to the ground. Apparently, I just hadn't been scared enough before. "Why me?"
The question had barely even been a whisper, and hadn't really been directed at her, but she answered anyway. Well, sort of. "Because, ultimately, it could be no one else. Because you are not the kind of woman who can sit idly back while innocents are murdered. Because it is better for you to have an idea what you're getting yourself into, rather then simply jumping in blind." She paused, then added, "Again."
I wasn't sure exactly what she was referring to with that last, which by itself is probably proof that she may have had a point. May have. A tiny one.
"I can pass your concerns along to the authorities, but I'm not actually an officer of the law, anymore," I told her. "If I captured a killer, I'd have to do that, anyway. And they get awfully testy if you try and play vigilante." Well, the I.S. did, at least. Of course, they didn't exactly like me all that much to begin with.
"If you want to bring your partners in on the case, I understand." I got the feeling she wasn't exactly listening to me. "Chances are you will need their help, and more, if you are to survive this."
"Why do you care?" I asked. If she wasn't going to listen to me when I told her no, I figured I might as well try something else. "I mean, you're..." I couldn't think of a polite way to finish that sentence, so I just trailed off and made a vague gesture at her with my hand. "Why should you care if innocent people are killed?" Presuming, of course, that they were innocent at all.
She looked like she was actually going to answer, but before she could do more then inhale, we were interrupted by the sound of the front door opening again. "Hey, Rache! We're back!" Jenks called. "You are not going to believe what happened!"
Bet I could top it.
Tamiel smiled, as if she could hear what I was thinking. Hell, maybe she could.
Oh, scary thought.
Ivy and Jenks looked the same as they ever did when they entered the kitchen, so whatever it was that had happened couldn't have been too bad. Of course, I probably looked like I always did to an outside observer, too, so that didn't necessarily mean anything. They paused upon seeing that I had company, and froze in place once they got a good look at her, wearing twin looks of astonishment.
Well, it was nice to see that I wasn't the only one she did that to.
Tamiel, for her part, merely sat there, letting them gawk. Hell, she was probably used to people reacting that way to her. I took advantage of the distraction to try and pull myself together. I wasn't sure what to do, but staying put and not attracting her attention seemed like a good idea.
Right up until I noticed Ivy's eyes going black with lust. Apparently, we weren't reacting exactly the same way, after all.
I was out of my chair before I realized it, and walked around the table on shaky legs until I was standing in between them. Exactly what I planned to do from there I had no idea, but I knew I couldn't just sit there and let Ivy make a horrific mistake.
"Rachel?" Ivy sounded both tense and wary, and it wasn't hard to figure out why. They might have been too distracted before, but I was certain she and Jenks could both smell the fear rolling off me in waves, and when Tamiel rose to her feet and I unconsciously took a step away from her I clued them in to why. "Who's your guest?"
"Client," Tamiel corrected with a smile.
"Not client," I ground out. Ivy stepped up beside me, and I had ann illogical impulse to shove her back behind me, possibly out of the room. Still... It was nice not to be standing there by myself. To Ivy, I said, "She calls herself Tamiel." Ivy jerked and looked at me in surprise, then understanding. She recognized the name. Swell. At least now she had an idea why I was so scared. A quiet voice in the back of my mind told me that standing next to a vampire while reeking of terror was not the best idea, but I was certain Ivy's protective instincts would prevent any... unfortunate accidents. "She wants me to find someone for her."
"Not for me," Tamiel murmured, shaking her head as if I were a naughty schoolchild. Her smile hadn't faded.
"And who would that be?" Ivy sounded as suspicious as I felt, which was nice.
"She won't tell me."
"Won't that make finding them hard?"
My lips twitched, but I couldn't quite manage a smile. "That's what I said. According to her, we've got a serial killer operating in Cincinnati and didn't notice."
"Oh, she's noticed, Rachel."
Afraid or not, that I wasn't about to just ignore. I took a step towards her, fully prepared to lay into her for even implying that Ivy might have in any way known something. Fortunately, Ivy placed a hand on my shoulder and spoke up before I could say anything that might have resulted in my immolation. "She's talking about our run tonight. There was a vampire that... Well, long story short, he admitted to accepting a contract on a young woman's life, but burst into flames before he could tell us who hired him."
My stomach lurched unpleasantly. "And that's who you want to send me after?"
She raised an eyebrow. "If you wanted safe, boring jobs, perhaps you should have stayed with the I.S."
Well... Yeah, there was that.
Ivy knew me well enough to guess what I was thinking, and interposed herself between us in one of her blink-and-you'll-miss-it movements. Her control was slipping. Fantastic. "Absolutely not. You can't have her. She's a white witch, anyway, so you have no claim on her." Ivy thought she was here to... what? Corrupt me? Was she known for leading witches astray, or something? "Why not come after me, if that's what you want?"
"When did I say that was what I wanted?" Tamiel asked innocently. She seemed like she didn't even notice there was an agitated pixy buzzing near her head, but I could tell it was more that she just didn't care. "Besides, a Tamwood vampire? Please. I could corrupt one of you with my eyes shut." She tilted her head, looking thoughtful. "Actually, I think I have, once," she mused. I told myself quite firmly that I did not want to know what she was talking about.
I'm not sure myself entirely bought that.
She shook her head abruptly. "No, young Tamwood. I prefer a challenge."
Well, that sounded uncomfortably familiar.
"I think you should leave, now," I told her quietly. If she actually did want me to take this run, she'd know that antagonizing my partners was not the best way to go about it. I still had no intention of working for her, but if it got her to leave, she could think whatever she liked.
She inclined her head in agreement. "Perhaps so," she replied, standing. "Though there is one other thing," she added.
From behind me.
With a muffled yelp, I whirled. Sure enough, there she was, not even a foot away. A quick check, mainly because I couldn't help it, showed that, no, she wasn't in her chair anymore. I hadn't blinked, but I still hadn't seen her move.
Not like I hadn't already known I was outclassed in just about every way possible. That just seemed like showing off.
She was shaking her head, looking almost... disappointed? "You haven't been taking very good care of yourself since you went independent, have you, Little One?" Her gaze flicked from the demon mark on my wrist to the scars on my neck, and I could swear they tingled a little. She sighed. "Clearly, you are going to need some help to get through this." She grabbed my right arm, just below the shoulder. "Fortunately for you, I can provide it." Sudden heat flared under her hand, and I decided she'd probably grabbed me to keep me from staggering away.
I doubt I could have managed more then that. The pain was shockingly intense, and only the fact that I couldn't get the breath I needed kept me from screaming in agony. Realistically, it couldn't have lasted for more then a second or two, because I was pretty sure Ivy would have charged at the Fallen angel if it had gone for any longer, despite knowing she wouldn't have had a chance. (And she calls me impulsive.) It somehow felt longer, but eventually the pain faded, then was gone. She let go, studied my arm - which looked the same as ever to me, from what I could see - for a moment, then nodded in satisfaction. "That should suffice. If you need to get in touch with me, you can reach me here." She produced a business card from precisely nowhere that I could ascertain and handed it to me.
I took it from sheer reflex, mentally willing her to just leave already. "See you soon," she promised, then turned and began to walk away. For an instant, her form glowed with a muted light, and I could have sworn I saw a pair of black wings beat the air once - despite there not being anything attached to her back - and in a rush of displaced air, she was simply gone.
She hadn't tapped a line, I hadn't felt the slightest bit of magic, but she was undeniably not there anymore.
"Well," I managed after several seconds of stunned silence. "That was... something." I looked down at the card she'd given me. It was light on details, giving me only her (assumed) name, profession, and a phone number. It was worth noting, though, that the first two were Tamara Jordan, Attorney at Law.
The Fallen angel was a lawyer. There were so many jokes there that I didn't even know where to start.
"Jenks, did you get a scent off of her?" I asked quietly. It was starting to sink in I was still alive, though presumably still screwed, and an amount of numbness was settling in.
"No." He sounded personally offended by this, and that little bit of normalcy made me feel a little better. "There was nothing. I mean, nothing! Tink's titties, Rache! What have you gotten yourself into now?"
"Me?!" I whirled around, indignant. "I didn't do anything but answer the door! She came looking for me!"
"And you told her no," Ivy observed quietly. Her too dark eyes were still focused on me, but I didn't even really notice the sensuality coloring her voice. I had bigger things to worry about.
"Of course I did. What, you think I should have agreed to work for the Fallen angel?" How could she even suggest that?
"The what?!" Jenks interjected. Apparently, he hadn't known who she was, either. I felt a little less stupid for my own ignorance.
"You heard me. And yeah, I said no. Not that she seemed to get that. I'll go talk to Edden about the evident murders tomorrow." Because no matter what 'Ms. Jordan' thought, they did need to be involved. "Why don't you go see your family?" A sudden thought struck me, and I added, "And tell them that if they see a tall redhead around here without any noticeable scent, they should stay as far away from her as they can."
"Good idea." He zipped off to do just that, obviously not liking the idea of an innocent pixy anywhere near the hellbitch any more then I did. I privately resolved to begin looking into possible ways to keep her off our property.
"No," Ivy said quietly. When I looked at her in confusion, she added, "I wasn't saying you should have agreed. I was just... trying to understand. I've heard stories about her. She doesn't usually take no as an answer."
"Oh, she kept going on as if it was a foregone conclusion that I'd do what she wanted no matter what I said," I replied, noticing that I was trembling. Had that just started, or had I been doing so the whole time? I honestly had no idea, and wasn't sure if it even mattered. "Ivy..." What? What was I going to tell her? That I was scared? She already knew that.
She pulled me into a hug. It felt really nice. "Whatever happens, I'm right here with you," she promised.
I rested my chin on her shoulder, closing my eyes as the tremors subsided. "Thanks," I whispered. God, this was nice. Why didn't we hug more often?
"Anything for you," she purred, breath warm on my neck. I could have sworn I felt her lips ghost over my skin.
Oh, right. This was why.
Curiously, I didn't feel as afraid as I would have before. Nothing like a visit from an agent of Hell to put things into perspective, I guess. "Um, Ivy...?"
"I don't want it to smell so good. Your blood. Your fear. But it does," she whispered to me, and I started when one of her hands made its way down to my ass. "Rachel..."
The way she said my name, her silken voice sliding over me like a lover's caress, made my insides jitter in a surprisingly pleasant way. Rachel, your roommate is feeling you up, my mind pointed out rationally. Don't you think you should do something about that?
I deliberately ignored the small voice in the back of my head that asked me why I'd want to do that. Just because I hadn't been with anyone like that in depressingly long - well, it depressed me, anyway - was no reason to take advantage of Ivy's loss of control. I would never use her like that.
And, you know, I was straight.
(Should it have worried me that Ivy barely had to do anything to reduce my sexuality to an afterthought?)
"Ivy, I think it's been a fairly long day for both of us," I began calmly, which I think was a hell of a feat, since the kisses on my neck were becoming more deliberate and provocative. "And tomorrow may well be longer. We should probably get to bed."
She pulled back and looked at me, eyes as black as sin, a sly smile playing about her lips. "Mmm, you read my mind."
Crap. I could have phrased that better, couldn't I? Her lips lowered to my neck again before I could clarify, sucking now. She hadn't bitten me - not yet - but things certainly seemed to be heading in that direction. I felt a moment of delirious pleasure from my scar.
Then the damnedest thing happened.
I felt a tingling on my arm where Tamiel had grabbed me, and what I could only call a quivering pulse seemed to spread out from there through the rest of my body. I had no idea what it was, but it seemed to wash away the demon scar-induced euphoria as if it had never been there. "Ivy?" To my embarrassment, my voice came out breathy and full of need. (In my defense, though, her mouth on my neck was an incredible distraction.) I cleared my throat and tried again. "Ivy, I think she did something to my arm."
That did it. Whatever else Ivy might have been feeling just then, her protective instincts pushed it aside. Ironic, that she'd seek to protect me from everything but herself. "What do you mean?"
"Well..." I hesitated, uncertain how to phrase what I was thinking. She waited patiently while I organized my thoughts. "You're still pumping out pheromones, right?"
Her cheeks tinged red. "Um. Yes."
I pushed on before she could apologize, or worse, leave. "Look at me, Ivy. What am I not doing right now?"
Her eyes narrowed as she caught on. "You did react at first, though."
"For a moment, yeah." And I'd gotten her to stop after maybe three or four, which I was NOT thinking about. "But then..." I tried my best to describe the weird sensation I'd felt, pushing up my sleeve as I did. I was only wearing a T-shirt, so it didn't take long.
There, on my arm, was what looked like it could have been a tattoo - or a brand, which was an uncomfortable thought for a multitude of reasons - made up of what seemed, to me, to be a bunch of squiggling lines. I knew it was a sigil, and though I didn't recognize it, I felt confident in making a guess. "Tamiel?"
"It represents her, yes." Well, Ivy didn't sound aroused, anymore. That was a plus.
"I was afraid of that," I muttered. I shook my head. "I'm gonna take a shower, then go to bed. See you in the morning?"
Ivy nodded, still looking a bit embarrassed. I probably could have gotten her to join me, if I'd wanted to. It would have been easy. If I was attracted to Ivy like that, I probably would have. I didn't, though, so obviously I wasn't. Instead, I went off to go take a shower.
A cold, cold shower.