Lauren awoke to the sounds of Jungle Jeeves at a nearly ear-splitting decibel from downstairs and Bo's body cocooning her in a warmth and comfort she hated to leave. It didn't happen often when they were together that Bo would be the last to wake up and just like every time she had the opportunity then, she stayed in the moment for as long as she dared. She didn't want to leave the safe harbor she found after her early morning confessions, but Bo's condition wasn't going to cure itself and there was no time to waste.
Bo barely stirred when Lauren carefully untangled herself and moved off the bed except to push her face deeper into the pillow she'd just vacated, a testament to how much facing the Una Mens and subsequent fever took out of her. With strength she didn't know she possessed she reached for Bo's phone and texted Dyson and Trick. Now that Bo was no longer unconscious she could heal and while Trick may be able to provide her with some valuable insight if something like this had ever happened in Fae history, he also had the resources to procure some of the rare and hard to find ingredients she hoped would be instrumental in slowing the regression down. She even held out hope that he may know of a lab she could begin her work in.
Her thumb hovered over the screen containing her succinct text to Dyson. She regretted not contacting the powerful shifter sooner but she was selfishly caught up in reliving a past that she could no longer run from or keep from Bo and she would never regret sharing her history with the woman who even now and against all odds, felt like her inevitable future.
Dyson's presence requested, she made her way downstairs and just as the obnoxious noise level suggested, Crystal and Kenzi were camped out on the couch with empty cereal bowls between them on the cushions. Kenzi was first to acknowledge her, beckoning Lauren over and in true comical Kenzi fashion, made a show of quietly asking about Bo, whispering as if the television wasn't blaring and she was being considerate. After reassuring her that her best friend was resting peacefully, Kenzi then suggested that what Bo really needed was a stack of pancakes and while Lauren agreed to provide said quantity of pancakes, what her own heart desired was a strong cup of coffee and a shower to hopefully jolt her awake so that she would be ready for whatever the day threw at her.
Crystal joined her by the coffee pot a moment later, her eyes twinkling with desire as she stood inside Lauren's personal space under the guise of pouring sugar in her coffee mug. Lauren was not entirely immune to the pretty waitress's advances and had a hard time not reacting to Crystal lightly grazing her neck with her fingertips as she pushed Lauren's hair behind her ear. She made inane small talk as Crystal's hand wandered down her back and to her hip. It was clear what Crystal wanted, but not apparent to Lauren how she should react. Her heart and soul belonged to Bo. It was as simple and as complicated as that. Bo was a succubus. A creature that by design could not be trusted with her heart or anyone else's without it becoming an unbearable burden.
"Are you and Bo - " Crystal began nonchalantly, not knowing how to label whatever the nature of the doctor and the succubus' relationship was.
"She's under my care," Lauren filled in the blanks, not moving away when Crystal drew their hips together but making no move to reciprocate the attention she was receiving.
"And that's it?" Crystal wondered aloud, noting that Lauren was emotionally compartmentalizing herself from the woman resting just upstairs. She would have to be a fool to not see how the gorgeous brunette and Lauren looked at each other.
"That's all it can be," Lauren responded, finally taking action and pulling away.
"But you want more," Crystal stated the obvious.
"That's not important," Lauren disagreed.
"You're wrong, Doctor," Crystal smiled sadly, drawing Lauren closer enough to kiss her. Not a kiss of passion. Instead, it was a kiss of understanding and compassion. A kiss to end what might have been and never could be and Lauren immediately recognized it for what is was. "It's the only thing that is important."
"So, what? You're my pimp now?" Bo stomped into the kitchen, pushing the long sleeves of her black sweater up her arms as she stood in front of Lauren, demanding answers as waves of equal parts hurt and anger poured off her.
There had been a surprising lack of noise coming from upstairs. No headboard banging against the walls. No chunks of plaster dropping to the floor. No cries of passion or sounds of pleasure. Nothing. In fact, Dyson wasn't there long before he nearly sprinted out the door only to be prevented in his hasty escape by Crystal delivering a surprise request to leave. This wasn't her fight. She didn't know enough to be a threat to either side and she could disappear easily with Dyson's help. There was no talking her out of it and there were no hard feelings on either side as she left with the detective who begrudgingly promised he would see to her safety.
"Easy, Wondersnatch," Kenzi cautioned trying to guide Bo back towards the living room noting the exhaustion lines etched into Bo's normally healthy and youthful complexion, but the succubus was having nothing to do with it.
"Stay out of this, Kenz!" Bo warned, turning back to Lauren. "You called Dyson?"
Lauren's voice was calm and warm as she responded knowing that Bo needed to avoid highly stressful situations. "I texted him, actually. You were weak and you needed to heal, Bo," she reached out to lay a gentle hand on Bo's shoulder and grasped nothing but air as the angry woman stepped out of her reach. Steeling herself, her hands dropped listlessly to her sides. "You've used Dyson for precisely those reasons on several occasions." Lauren tried a different tactic, keeping her tone even and professional this time, frustrated and if she dared to admit it, thrilled that Bo had not taken advantage of the opportunity she'd handed her.
"You know I have! But -"
"You and Dyson currently share a physical relationship. Correct?" Lauren pressed on with undeniable truths, ignoring her personal feelings in favor of logically disassembling Bo's anger. "You both acknowledge that he's had his love back for you for some time," she added.
"Why are you acting like a robot? Like this doesn't matter to you?" Bo questioned, hurt evident in her tone.
"What matters is that Dyson is willing and able to heal you and help you maintain your strength. What matters is that unlike any other Fae I could have contacted to heal you, Dyson is the only to willingly disobey the Una Mens. What matters is that you have every possible weapon at your disposal to fight this thing," Lauren reasoned. "He would have been here today even if I hadn't asked him to be. I simply sped up the process."
Bo felt as if the rug had been pulled out from under her feet. The strong sensation of spinning clouding her thoughts had nothing to do with the steady deterioration of everything that she was. "But I thought -" she began, trying to sort her feelings into actual words. "After last night - " she tried again. "I told Dyson that I couldn't.. That we couldn't -"
"Oh, Bo." Lauren pushed a hand through her hair, trying not to convey her frustration. "You didn't heal. Why would you do that? You're a succubus. You need to keep a regular feeding schedule. Especially now," Lauren reminded gently, stubbornly ignoring what Bo was struggling to tell her. It made her feel too much.
"And you'd be okay with that?" Bo questioned and Lauren forced herself not to flinch at the blatant hurt in her former lovers eyes.
"Of course," she answered quickly. What other choice did she have? No matter how much Lauren wanted to be enough, she simply wasn't. In her mind, she was eliminated from Bo's list of suitable mates immediately. She had tried and failed to keep up with Bo's appetites and lost a good chunk of her own self-worth in the process. She wasn't ready to lose Bo again. Not now. Not ever. Claiming Bo's heart again wasn't something she'd couldn't afford to allow the possibility of.
Bo knew she was lying. She knew Lauren was lying when she healed with Dyson and they came to that disastrous agreement all those months ago when she was selfishly unwilling to do anything about it. "Bullshit." Lauren's eyes flashed angrily just long enough for Bo to see it and forge ahead. "Bull. Shit." She repeated for emphasis, confronting Lauren head on; something she'd masterfully avoided while they were together. "I'm not okay with it, so I know you're not. Why are you trying to convince me otherwise? Are you just trying to separate your feelings for me so it will be easier for you when I drop dead?" Bo spat out, no longer feeling like she had the time to filter what should and shouldn't be said.
"You are not going to die!" Lauren responded vehemently.
"Okay, fine. Then be with me," Bo challenged, suddenly very pleased with herself and with the freedom to blurt things out.
"What?" Lauren shook her head in wonder, her face unable to disguise her confusion as her emotions whiplashed from one extreme to the other. She impulsively reached out to feel Bo's forehead, searching for some signs that the succubus was in the grips of another fever. It was the only thing that seemed rational in the face of Bo's curious behaviour, but her temperature didn't seem elevated - just her normal swoon-worthy warmth that always seemed to be drawing Lauren in.
"Lauren," Bo called her name softly, the tempest between them calming with one simple touch. "Do you love me?"
She felt her face softening involuntarily at the question. Of course she did. "That's not im -"
"Don't you dare say it's not important," Bo stopped her looking more than a little offended, the storm threatening to rise again. "It's a simple question. Yes or no?"
Kenzi felt like a trapped voyeur. She was an unwilling witness to the drama unfolding in front of her. She'd tried to discreetly inch herself out of the room to give them the privacy that a conversation like this deserved, but she couldn't make her feet budge from their current spot. She felt more than a little sympathy for Lauren. It was obvious she'd always been in love with Bo and continued to be. But being in love with Bo hadn't stopped the succubus from taking advantage of Lauren's trust and abusing the hell out of it. The tiny Russian had to admit to herself that she was just as guilty in taking Lauren's love for Bo for granted - even going so far as to encourage Bo's careless behaviour with Tamsin and anyone else that caught Bo's eye. She had no regard for Lauren's feelings at all. It wasn't often that she felt ashamed of something she did, but in this moment, she did.
"I do," Lauren admitted. Quickly shushing Bo before she could get carried away with the wrong idea. "But that doesn't change the fact that I can't sustain you. I'm not enough and I'm not evolved enough emotionally to be okay with that and to share you," she finished with a sad shrug of her shoulders. "I am left with the reality that there will always be another time the world needs saving, or some sexy not-quite-villain that will turn your head, or some wolf that gets his love back from you, or some legend in a prophecy that only you can release. I can't compete with that and I'm not going to try anymore. I'm a distraction. And I'm not that selfless."
"You're wrong," Bo promised, gripping the very shoulders that were carrying the weight of sins from both their pasts. "You sustain me in all the ways that count. And it's time that I earned your trust and showed you that when it matters, you can count on me."
"I don't need grand gestures," Lauren disagreed, her hands coming up to rest on Bo's wrists. "I just need you to survive. This isn't the time."
"This is exactly the time," Bo asserted. "What good is surviving when there's nothing to look forward to? Weren't you the one who taught me to be patient and to have goals?" Lauren's lips pressed tightly together as she tamped down the urge to smile at the ridiculously gorgeous creature in front of her who needed no tricks of succubussary to woo her. "I can have patience. Especially when my goal involves a certain doctor," Bo continued brightly.
"Dr. Monroe?" Lauren teased in a vast contradiction to her own judgment. Dr. Monroe wasn't so much of a doctor as he was an ancient man shuffling around in a lab coat with immense bushy eyebrows and frighteningly long nose hair. Both of which he seemed perfectly unaware of. To be honest, Lauren had no idea what his exact purpose at The Light lab was. Other than returning books to the archives, she'd never seen him actually do anything.
"I've heard that much hair can be a sign of virility," Bo sassed, grinning as Lauren's face pinched with distaste. Her easy smile slipped away as she dipped her head to catch Lauren's eye. "I'm serious about this. I need you to know that."
As flattered as Lauren was, and she was, immensely so, she also felt the ache of reality. "You need to be concentrating on staying healthy. On beating this. I love you. I love you so much and I will always be in your corner. I can't give you any more than that. Maybe that's not enough, but we were lovers before and that wasn't enough."
"That's not true," Bo's denied.
"It is true. You're a succubus. And I'm human ," Lauren argued, feeling like she'd have more luck reasoning with an actual brick wall.
Bo shook her head, her eyes plead with Lauren to believe her. "Stop saying that. I don't care about that!"
"That's always been part of the problem!" Lauren replied, her wall of contained rationale slipping. "You choose not to see what a spectacular disadvantage I'm already at because of that. There is no level playing field between us just because you want to ignore your biology because you've proven that you won't or can't. I'm a shot, Bo. We do the same things. We help control your urges until they can't be ignored anymore. You're not a monster. You're not. You are a one hundred percent fully functioning succubus with a healthy sexual appetite who should have nothing to feel guilty or ashamed of."
"Great ! I'm not a monster, but I'm not girlfriend material either," Bo spat in defeat, trying not to pay attention to the growing buzzing in her head and the strong urge she felt to just sink to the floor.
"Bo," Lauren started, trying to rest a reassuring hand on Bo's arm.
"No," she angrily jerked her arm out of Lauren's reach. "I don't accept this. This is bullshit! You're just afraid! You love me. You love me so much it scares the hell out of you!"
"Yes! Gods, yes. I'm not denying that, Bo. I'm just seeing the bigger picture and the reality of anyone else getting to touch you besides me kills me!" Lauren shouted, shocked at her own confession. She paused once more to try to get her chin from trembling, doing her best to rein herself in and to try to calm Bo down as well. She started again, her delivery much calmer this time. "You're dealing with so much right now and it's hard to make sense of everything that's happening. Just.. Please. I have limits. But I know that even with those limitations, I can help stop what's happening to you. Please let that be enough." Lauren closed her eyes momentarily in the hopes of keeping the tears she could feel accumulating in her eyes from escaping. She was almost successful.
"Your text indicated there was an urgent matter to attend to," Trick announced from the living room, his arrival completely unnoticed in the face of the explosive drama before him. "But it looks like I could have taken a few extra minutes to get here."
Bo tore her eyes away from Lauren only long enough to glance at Trick before they were drawn like a magnet back to the tragically beautiful doctor before her. She watched as Lauren retreated behind her mask of professionalism. "Thank you for coming. Your timing couldn't be better, Trick," she managed to utter as Bo witnessed her walls sliding back up again and she mentally and physically distanced herself from Bo. "There's not a moment to waste."
Lauren trudged up the stairs towards Bo's room feeling worn and weary and not even a tiny bit hopeful. The last eight days were spent in a lab where she worked herself past the point of exhaustion but never once considered herself beat or ready to give up. She knocked softly before opening the door to find Kenzi resting against the headboard with a thick glamour magazine in her hands and a sleeping succubus beside her. It was a scene she was all too familiar with recently. "How long has she been out," she whispered as she drew closer to Bo to press her fingertips to the inside of her wrist, slowly counting and frowning at the result she was getting. Her frown deepened when she saw the way strands of hair limply clung to the sides of Bo's face, her once healthy glow now looking pale and ashen. She didn't need to feel her forehead to know that she was running a fever again but she did anyway.
"A few hours," Kenzi answered, putting the magazine down on her lap when she noticed the fairly large syringe in Lauren's other hand. "Something new?" she observed, seeing that the coloring was different from what Lauren usually injected her friend with twice a day.
"We exhausted the supply of cambylictus that we were able to get our hands on. I'm trying a blend with more corly root and added some athelas that Trick suggested," Lauren rattled off as she pushed the needle under Bo's skin and pushed the plunger slowly and smoothly.
"No idea what you just said, but I hope it works," Kenzi waited for Lauren to raise her head again, her piercing blue eyes locking on to hazel ones. Kenzi's usual false bravado was nowhere to be found in that moment. "Tell me our Bo is not going to die."
Lauren felt her confidence waver with the direct question and she knew that Kenzi had witnessed it by the way her face fell. They stared at each other for long moments, each of them unable to express how much the woman lying between them meant to them and what utter devastation her loss would bring. "How long?" Kenzi bit down on her lip to keep it from trembling.
Lauren swallowed thickly. "Not long," she admitted, unable to keep herself from touching Bo. She smoothed the hair away from Bo's face, her fingers lingering on the skin there.
Bo's condition had declined shockingly quickly. Almost overnight she went from a fearsome vixen, capable of handling herself both physically and verbally to needing help to sit up in bed and unconscious for hours at a time while cold sweats and fevers devoured her body and mind. During her waking hours, Lauren dropped everything she was doing and rushed to be with her. Those moments with Bo marked the only time she was away from the lab. She caught fifteen to twenty minutes of sleep while waiting for test results a couple of times a day, but she kept going.
"She saved Nadia," Kenzi confessed out of the blue. "Did she tell you that? It wasn't Lachlin. It was Bo. She did it for you."
While the admission startled Lauren, it was more the timing and less the subject matter. "I think I always knew that in my heart," Lauren revealed. "She certainly lives by the motto of 'Go big, or go home'," she smiled sadly.
Kenzi noticed and appreciated that they hadn't given up on Bo just yet. They hadn't started to mourn her or speak of her in past tense. It soothed her somehow.
Lauren felt a strange sensation come over her and she quickly recognized it as hope. "Kenzi! Nadia!" she said excitedly, clutching Bo's hand and smiling for the first time in days. "Nadia, Kenzi!"
"ooookay. I'm going to need more words here, doc," Kenzi complained before apparently having the same idea and jumping off the bed and rushing to meet Lauren. "Will it work?" she questioned excitedly.
"I think so," Lauren nodded, finding herself caught up in Kenzi's enthusiasm as the gripped each other's arms and danced around before hugging tightly. Without letting go of Kenzi, she reached for her phone, dialing a familiar number. "Trick? How quickly can you be here? I can save Bo, but I need your help."