Lauren has a million things to do before the day is over. The Elders' Council is in ruins, The Ash is still recuperating - in no condition to resume even half his duties - and everything is in absolute chaos. They've managed to avoid a war but most days it feels like what's they've got now is almost as bad.
But some things one does to survive and other things because survival is useless without them. It's been a hard lesson for Lauren to learn – and oh, she's learned it the hard way – but she's determined to try and live her life by that truth, and so here she is, taking an hour out of her busy day to meet Bo. Because Bo owes her a talk and Lauren owes her an explanation and maybe when they've both paid their debts something like the connection they once had can be between them again. Lauren hopes.
"Thank you for meeting me," Lauren says, carrying two cups of coffee to a small table in the infirmary break room. She can take an hour out of her day to talk to Bo but going outside the complex to do so would cross the border into inexcusable indulgence.
"Sure," Bo says. "I owe you that much." She smiles at Lauren, small and a little embarrassed; a smile Lauren hasn't seen in a very long time. There's no resentment in it, no distrust. Lauren hopes she's right in her assessment; she's never been very good at reading people.
"I never meant to hurt you." She opens with honesty because, all things considered, in this case it truly is the best policy.
Lauren nods. She's so damn relieved this point at least is something she won't have to argue. "Everything I did, I did of my own volition."
She can see the resistance, the counter argument forming in Bo's head; Bo looks like she's trying to make up her mind about voicing it.
"I mean it, Bo. Yes, the Ash did ask me to distract you but that only gave me an excuse to do what I probably would have done anyway - what I wanted to do."
"Righty," Bo says. "Because if the Ash is famous for anything it's his keen insights into human nature and unparalleled yenta skills."
"Cut the shit, Lauren. Could you have said no? Once he'd told you to sleep with me, could you have actually said no?"
The answer is complicated and Bo, accustomed to the luxury of complete freedom and choices in stark shades of black and white, might not be ready to hear the full speech. Lauren decides to simplify. "Yes, the Ash does get a certain say in my actions. But that doesn't mean I wasn't meeting you - helping you - in secret for months, against his wishes. He didn't order me, he didn't compel me. He suggested, and I agreed." Something between disgust and disbelief begins to rise up in Bo's expression and Lauren hurries on to get her words out before Bo decides she's done listening. "You were going to go up against Vex, alone, Bo. It was stupid, trying to distract you like that, I should have known you'd see through it, but I had no choice. There was no time and you wouldn't listen to anyone and I just thought..." Lauren pauses. Clears her throat. Composes herself. "I wasn't thinking. I made the wrong call. It was a mistake, but I did what I did because I wanted to keep you safe, not because I was told to."
Bo gives her a narrow eyed, examining look. "How can I ever really trust you on that, given your favorite shiny necklace?"
Lauren takes a breath. This is not unexpected. She can't blame Bo; she'd probably feel the same way had the circumstances been reversed. Well, not now - not anymore - but before, when she was young and oblivious to the fae world. In some ways Bo's no different than any random human who's been accidentally exposed to the truth. Well, except for how she's been allowed to go on living.
"I love you," Lauren says, meeting Bo's eyes. It's the truth, pure and absolute, and it's the strongest antidote – the only true antidote – she can offer to counter Bo's suspicion and doubt.
"Yo, yo, mamacitas!" Kenzi's voice invades the room before her physical presence does. She comes in swaggering, like she usually does, strolls over to Bo and puts her arms around her, handing her a phone. "Hale really needs to talk to you, it's urgent," she says, then adds, looking up at Lauren, "sorry to interrupt your special time, there's a silly little murder spree going on; couldn't be helped." She shrugs and purses her lips and Lauren takes her cup to be rinsed by the sink to avoid rolling her eyes in front of Bo.
She hears Bo hmm and huh into the phone before saying, "Sorry, I need a minute," getting up and walking out of the room. Kenzi stays.
"Would you like something to drink?" Lauren offers, refusing to let the silence turn awkward.
"Um, no, thanks." After a minute Kenzi adds, "I really am sorry for the interruption. I know finding the time to fuck with people's heads must be really hard for you right now. You're all busy with the almost-sorta-war and whatever."
This time Lauren can't hold back the eyeroll. "Grow up, Kenzi."
Kenzi smiles but there's nothing but disdain in her eyes. "If I do that who'll keep Bo away from assholes like you?"
"Oh give me a break," Lauren mutters. "Dyson lied to her, kept things from her on purpose – from both of you – for the sake of some agenda, for months, and I'm your number one enemy?"
"Dyson was there for her. Yes, he was an asshole but he didn't desert her when she needed him. He stuck around, he backed her up even after she threw him out."
"If she'd just given me the chance--"
"Hey, so," Bo says, walking back into the room and tossing Kenzi the phone. "I told Hale we'll meet him on 6th and Hamilton in fifteen minutes, so we better get going."
"Yeah, sure," Kenzi says, gracefully pocketing the phone and sliding out of the stool.
"I'll meet you in the car in a few minutes?" Bo says when she and Kenzi come face to face near the door.
Kenzi nods and walks out, giving Lauren one final steely glare. There might have been some acquiescence there, Lauren really can't tell. Kenzi's one of those people who only pretended to be easy to read, Lauren knows that much.
"So," Bo says once Kenzi was out of earshot.
"Yeah," Lauren says, not sure how much of her conversation with Kenzi Bo's overheard. Not that she'd planned to keep any of that from Bo, but she wouldn't have chosen to tell her that way, precisely. Maybe that had been part of Kenzi's plan, too, to force Lauren's honesty for Bo's sake, in case Bo felt too constricted by debts owed and a proper upbringing to do it herself.
"I need to know," Bo said. "I need to know the truth."
I already told you Lauren's about to say, and it must show in her expression because Bo adds, "the whole truth. What you really think, where we really stand. Yeah, you love me, I get that. I believe you." She sighs. "I don't have a lot of experience with this, Lauren. I've never really been Relationship Girl. I grew up with stories about how love can be enough to can keep two people going, keep them happy, but I just tried that whole deal for the first time and it kind of backfired in a big way."
Dyson. Something must have happened with him, but what? Lauren hasn't heard from him for ages, not since the Ash got hurt, which is strange given how he's one of the Light's greatest warriors and surely she would have heard something by now about him being--
"So, the truth," Bo says, interrupting her train of thought. "What you hate about me. What bothers you. All the shit you're not supposed to say."
And then? Lauren doesn't say. What will you do with that?
"All right," Lauren says. "I think you overreacted that night, but I can sort of understand why you did, and I'm sorry. I should have known better. I… I'm not good with reading people. I thought I knew you but I didn't, not really." Not that I really know you now. "I was wrong, and I hurt you and ended up not doing either of us any good." Deep breath. "But then you and Dyson… I don't know if you forgave him because he'd treated you better than I had, or because you were in a different place mentally, or because no matter what happens between us, you'll always end up running away from me to men like him."
All Lauren can read in Bo's expression is surprise. Confusion. Something else. God, Lauren's so often wished she was better at this sort of thing.
"I can't do this right now," Bo says quietly. Lauren's not sure which one of them the words are intended for. "I'm sorry." She looks up. "I have to go. There's a murder and I… I'm sorry."
Suddenly she's by Lauren's side, hands on Lauren's shoulders. She leans in and Lauren does too and they're kissing, soft and urgent. In the back of Lauren's head, behind the parts frantically trying to make sense of this and the huge chunk enjoying it without regret or analysis, some part registers the lack of that heady, tingling sensation. This isn't feeding. This is just Bo, kissing.
"I think I kind of love you too," Bo says. "But I don't know what that means yet, and I can't make you any promises, I'm sorry." She draws away. "I have to go."
"We'll talk more?" Lauren manages to say as Bo heads for the exit.
"Yeah. We will," Bo says, lips curving into a smile, before disappearing.