Title: The Morgan Sanction (5/?)
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. Also? The muse is evil. You are warned.
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
Have you ever had one of those days?
You know, when nothing seems to be going quite the way you want it to? Where things just pile up on top of each other? Where you get hit with earth-shaking revelation after earth-shaking revelation, until you barely know which way is up? Where you find out your supposed best friend was hunting you all along, and that you may well owe your life to the forces of darkness?
No? Just me, then?
That would figure.
So, yeah. There we were. Me, nearly shaking with rage as I held up a photo album displaying a picture of Tamiel and my seven-year-old self; Ivy, staring at it, shock and uncertainty painted across her features; and Mom, looking caught somewhere between guilt and fear.
It was the guilt that pushed me over the edge.
"Perhaps you could explain it to me," I said to her harshly. "Because I would very, very much like an explanation aside from the obvious." Because if it was that...
Well, I didn't know what would happen then, only that it would most likely be loud, and messy, and not something that could be taken back.
"It's not what you're thinking," Mom began, at which point I interrupted, unable to let that pass.
"You have no idea what I'm thinking!" I just barely managed not to shout it. "I'm not even sure what I'm thinking! All I've got are a few facts, and they are not painting a favorable picture."
"Perhaps if you actually let her speak," Ivy interjected hesitantly, only to flinch when I wheeled on her, too.
"Oh, don't you start! We'll get to you soon enough, don't worry."
I barely paid her look of confusion any mind - doubtlessly, she was wondering what she'd done, but I could only deal with one betrayl at a time - as my gaze swung back to my mother. "You made some kind of deal with her," I accused. There was no actual law against such a thing - which was good, because I honestly have no idea what I would have done if there had been - but that didn't make it in any way good.
"Rachel, you were dying!" she burst out. It was the tears in her eyes that made me pause long enough for her to continue. "You don't know what it's like, watching your little girl suffer and fade away, inch by inch, day by day, right in front of your eyes... powerless to do anything to stop it. I pray to God you never do. We would have done anything to save you."
"...we?" My already unstable worldview took another sharp hit. Dad? Dad had been in on this, too?
"Well, of course," a new voice said from behind me. Mom and Ivy started, almost in unison. I didn't even blink, partly because I'd been knocked back into my numb state, and partly because, frankly, I'd kind of been expecting her to pop up at some point during this conversation. "She couldn't have done it on her own, even if she'd wanted to. You really think your average witch would know how to get a hold of one of us?"
I turned to look, and sure enough, there was Tamiel, standing in the doorway, looking perfectly at ease with her surroundings. She was still dressed in her business attire, with a brown leather briefcase in one hand. Ivy was looking at her with the same intense wariness that I probably should have been, but just couldn't summon up. Mom's expression, though, was a mixture of fear and faint loathing. It made me wonder just what she'd promised Tamiel in exchange for her favor - or what they had, rather. "But someone in I.S. could find out easily enough, couldn't he?" I replied, feeling sick.
She shrugged absently, looking around with faint interest. Looking to see what had changed since she'd last been there, I realized. Hell, if she'd been there at camp with me, why not have visited the house? "You'd be surprised by how many in your I.S. are indebted in some fashion to one of the Fallen... Or perhaps you wouldn't."
Actually, it wouldn't surprise me at all. Really, it would explain a lot. "What are you doing here?"
"You needed me," she said, as if that should have been perfectly obvious. "I'd tell you to worry about this later, when you had time to do so, but I have a fair idea of just how useless that advice would be."
"How does she even know what you are?" Mom asked, visibly upset. "You're not allowed to tell her. We agreed..."
"She asked." The warmth that had been on Tamiel's face when she was looking at me vanished, leaving a blank slate that was positively chilling. "She didn't know not to. You did Rachel no favors by hiding the truth from her, Alice. But you did more then that, didn't you?" That elicited another guilty flinch.
Looking down at the photo album in my hands, it was easy to guess why. "I don't remember you at all. I barely remember anything from back then. Memory charms like that... They're extremely illegal."
"And extremely unhelpful," Tamiel added, still giving my mother occular frostbite. "I taught you a number of things, back then. Some you thought were just games, but not many. You always were a bright girl." Her expression didn't change, but I briefly felt that same fuzzy feeling, inside. I still couldn't pin down just what it was. "One of those things, as a not random example, was how to properly combat and contain a demon. If not for the oh-so-thoughtful help of Mrs. Morgan, here, you wouldn't have any demonic marks or scars at all, and I wouldn't have needed to add my own to counter them for you."
I gaped at Mom, unable to articulate my whirling feelings into any kind of coherent statement. "I couldn't pick and choose," she defended. "It doesn't work that way. It was all or nothing."
"'Nothing' doesn't seem to have done me much good," I finally managed. "Why not just burn this, then, if you were so worried about me finding anything?" I held up the album, shaking it for emphasis.
She couldn't seem to come up with an immediate answer, but Tamiel, surprisingly enough, spared her from needing to. "Oh, I haven't seen that in ages," she commented, face and voice thawing as she looked at the picture. "You were so adorable. And you've grown into a fine woman." She smiled at me, and I could swear I felt the warmth of it underneath my skin. Considering how my day had been going thusfar, however, I wasn't about to automatically believe it. "Tell me, is there anything from in there that you do remember?"
I frowned, flipping back to some of the earlier pages. "I'm blanking on some names, but that could just be how long it's been since I've seen any of them." I felt a touch of shame about that, and made a mental note to try and track some of them down, later. If any of them were still alive. My anger at Mom had cooled somewhat - I wondered if that had been Tamiel's intention, or just a byproduct of whatever she was really there for - but hadn't vanished. "How many of them did you make me forget?" I snapped at her.
"Rachel, you don't understand. It was for your own good!"
"Ignorance of a bargain does not excuse one's obligations," Tamiel interjected, suddenly every bit the professional lawyer. It was a little jarring. "As I said, Alice, you've done her no favors."
I frowned at her suspiciously. "What bargain?"
"Shortly. Keep going."
My frown deepened. What was so important that- I froze, blinked, and looked more carefully at one of the pictures displayed. It showed me, Dad, and another man with a boy whom I presumed was his son. "Son of a- Is that Trent?"
"What?" Ivy, who had up until this point stayed silent as she watched the developing situation with wide eyes - maybe she just wasn't used to dealing with a screwed-up situation like this in a family whose last name wasn't Tamwood - now came forward to peer down at the album. She was already tense, but when Tamiel drifted closer, she somehow became more so.
The Fallen angel seemed somewhat amused by her reaction. "Not quite. This is Trent," she said, tapping the boy with one elegantly manicured fingernail. (Remembering our earlier conversation, I wondered if she actually went out to get a manicure, or just willed them to look that way.) "That's his father."
"Our fathers knew each other?" After a pause, I blurted, "We knew each other?"
"Oh, yes. I believe you blasted him into a tree, once," she said with a smile. "A bit extreme, perhaps, but not entirely undeserved."
I blinked at her. She sounded so... pleasant as she spoke, as if blasting a young boy into a tree was an amusing childhood prank. I probably shouldn't have been surprised by that, but... Well, in my defense, so many revelations, all one on top of another, had stunned me to the point where my brain was lagging a bit. And Trent was obviously fine, so I suppose it couldn't have been that bad. "He remembers me from back then?"
"I would presume so, yes."
"Does he remember you?"
She shrugged. "He may well. He would only have known me as Tamara Jordan, though. As far as anyone else at camp was concerned, I was only there to keep an eye on you." She smiled brillantly, adding, "As any good godmother would."
"You're..." I couldn't even finish, choking on the rest of the sentence.
"It did seem the easiest, least complicated way of explaining our relationship." I had no idea if that was a yes or no, but got the idea that 'godmother' was all she'd told the staff at the camp. "And since I know you're going to ask, no, I wasn't there all the time - in person, anyway - nor was I a counciller. And no, I didn't bother making bargains with any of the other families."
"Why not?" Aware of how that sounded, I added, "What stopped you?"
She simply stood there for a long moment, smiling at me, before finally replying, "You don't get everything for free, Rachel."
Well, that woke me up just fine. Guess I had some adrenaline left, after all. "There are things I still need to know."
"That's more true then you know. But 'want' should not be confused with 'need'."
I stifled a sigh. Why did I keep expecting her to tell me everything? I knew better, but something inside me kept genuinely believing that she would. "What did they trade you for my life?" I asked. A stray thought hit me, and I added, "And if you were around that long, why did it take so long to cure me?"
"The first part isn't important. And they believed - rightly so - that if you were to suddenly be cured overnight, it would raise too many red flags. They might have been jailed - or worse - for black magic, and you would have been turned into an experiment, possibly to the point of dissecting you to find out how they'd done it."
"Making a bargain with one of the Fallen isn't illegal," I countered. "They wouldn't have been arrested for that. And it is not unimportant!"
She sighed. "I didn't say 'arrested', I said 'jailed'. And while your suffering was unfortunate, you don't seem to understand the implications of that picture you were looking at."
I didn't see the distinction, but pushing her never seemed to get me anywhere. And what about the picture? That my and Trent's fathers had known each other was interesting, but what did that have to do with anything? "Yeah, well, this is turning into a really long day, and it isn't even half over, yet. Explain it to me."
She looked sympathetic, though I wasn't sure how far to trust that. I wanted to, which was one of the reasons I made myself doubt it. I couldn't afford to blindly trust her - or anyone, it seemed. "You know about Trent's, shall we say, side business. You also know how many children are diagnosed with Rosewood every year, and how few survive. By curing you as slowly as I did, it allowed his father to study the changes, and reverse-engineer a treatment protocol. It isn't a sure thing, but because of you, children all over the world have a chance to live full, complete lives. Not that any of the families can actually explain why that is, given the current laws. But there are hundreds, maybe thousands, of children alive today because of you. That was why you agreed to it in the first place."
That threw me. "I agreed? I knew about this?"
Her expression turned almost pitying, which made my stomach clench. "Yes. Which is why I told you that it didn't matter your parents had agreed to. Because once you found out about it, you demanded that you be allowed to take their place in the bargain."
I stared at her in stupefied silence.
"You said that it was your life at stake, not theirs, so you were the only one who had any right to make that kind of decision. You couldn't stand to see anything happen to them because of you." She smiled sadly. "You were never afraid of me back then. I regret that that's changed."
I became aware that at some point while she'd been speaking, my legs had collapsed underneath me, and I'd dropped down to sit on the couch. I hadn't even noticed that I'd walked over to it. Hell, I'd completely forgotten that I had the bag containing my purchases from earlier still hanging from my wrist. Despite everything, I was glad that Ivy was there to watch my back until I pulled myself together.
Things were finally making sense. While she might have been able to get to me wherever I was if she'd made a bargain with my parents, if I'd made the bargain with Tamiel myself, there was no question about it.
And that was what Mom had most wanted me to forget. That I'd made a deal with one of the Fallen on their behalf. Evidently, I'd been stupidly self-sacrificial from an early age. And if Tamiel couldn't openly approach me as herself, couldn't even tell me what she was until I asked...
I understood her actions, might even be able to forgive them in time, but Tamiel had been right about one thing: Mom really hadn't done me any favors, in the long run.
"And now that that's all sorted, perhaps you should get back to the business at hand." Tamiel closed the photo album and placed it on my lap. When had she moved over to stand next to me? "You have a somewhat better idea of what you're dealing with on this particular case, but - and this is through no fault of your own - you're not equipped to deal with it."
That was probably true. I'd never gotten what one would call a proper education, in terms of magic. (Not that I remembered, anyway.) Considering everything else that had been called into question, if not outright revealed to be a lie, I had to wonder if there was some other reason Dad hadn't wanted me tapping any ley lines. Just then, it didn't really matter. "Yeah, well, I've had about all the revelations I can stand for today. So, if you don't mind...?"
She nodded gracefully. "Of course. Keep in mind, though, that things are rarely as simple as they seem." Which could have been refering to Mom's lying, her own part in matters, Ivy's deception, or anything inbetween. Maybe even all of them. It didn't matter, really. It wasn't bad advice, and I wasn't about to do the opposite just because I didn't like the source.
Of course, this is me we're talking about, here. I don't like admitting it, but I do have a nasty habit of speaking - and acting - without really thinking things through. I was going to be trying my best to avoid doing so during this run - considering the players already involved, and whoever (or whatever) might still be lurking in the shadows, my regular impulsive behavior would get me worse than killed, very quickly - but...
For better or worse, I'm me. And some habits can't just be switched off like a light switch.
"If you need me, just call," she said, then turned and vanished.
By that point, her abrupt exit didn't even phase me. It was that kind of day.
It did, however, leave me sitting on my mother's couch, surrounded by memories of past events that had suddenly become tainted. I didn't like it, and part of me resented Tamiel for bringing things to light, but there was nothing I could do about it.
Nothing but leave, which was sounding better by the second. "Come on," I said quietly to Ivy. "We have work to do."
"What are you-?"
"Not now," I almost growled at Mom. "I can't... We'll talk later. I just... I can't. I just can't. Not yet." She winced, but nodded. I didn't say another word as I got up, wavered for a second as I got my balance, then headed for the door.
Ivy... I had no idea what I felt in regards to her, just then. I did, however, appreciate that she didn't try starting a conversation on the ride back to the church. I barely even noticed her driving, and for once, being on a motorcycle didn't bother me in the slightest.
Like I said.
That kind of day.