Kenzi often found herself awkwardly sharing a kitchen with Bo's one-night stands. Well, not often-often. Maybe a couple of times. Once or twice. And the awkwardness was rarely on her part. She was content to stumble into the kitchen, grunt at whoever happened to be there, and silently make herself some life-giving cereal before heading back to her blanket cocoon.
Occasionally she got the shit scared out of her.
Afterwards Kenzi would blame the whole thing on early mornings.
Kenzi wasn't really well-acquainted with mornings, not enough to have a particular opinion on them. Theoretically she disliked them, but if she was up before noon it was a fluke. Generally an unpleasant one.
This morning had been just such a fluke, but – to her vast surprise – it had been a pretty nice one. She'd woken up feeling disgustingly chipper and energetic, and had taken the pinkish-orange sky as a sign from above to try out the funky pinkish-orange roller skates someone had thoughtfully left in their sitting room for her.
She'd sailed across the streets, sharing righteous nods with the occasional early-morning jogger or dog-walker. These people! Her people! Well, they could be her people. She could turn her life around. Maybe pick up a bicycle, or a set of dumbells or something. Each dawn would find her stretched out into weird yoga-shapes like something out of a yoghurt commercial; she'd lift the finest organic vegan produce from WholeFoods and join a roller derby team.
By the time Kenzi arrived home she was so full of superior well-being that she didn't notice the mysterious lump of person on the sofa until it groaned.
Kenzi yelped. She also jumped, which was a poor choice considering the roller skates; the small startled jump turned into a farcical windmilling of arms and flailing of legs as she struggled to keep her balance. At the same time her cell rang, Ke$ha's dulcet tones making their contribution to the scene.
The mysterious lump jolted awake just in time to witness Kenzi looking like a complete moron. It revealed itself to be not a sinister fae hitman but a rumpled-looking shirtless woman who sat blinking as Kenzi restored herself into balance and finally, finally got Ke$ha to shut up by answering her phone.
It was Bo, and she spoke before Kenzi had a chance to say anything.
“I've got a lead on the gorgon case,” she said, with her Determined to Get Shit Done voice. “But I brought someone home last night – could you, you know, play hostess while I'm gone?”
“That's why someone's lurking in our living room? You don't think you could've mentioned something before she scared the shit out of me?”
“To be honest I didn't think you'd be up,” Bo said, and ignored Kenzi's indignant huff. “Gotta go.”
“Hmph.” Kenzi pushed herself towards sofa-girl. Sofa woman, really; she looked like she was mid-forties or so, with pale brown skin and frazzled hair and deep, dark circles under her eyes. Kenzi whistled.
“Wow. You had quite a night, huh?” The woman groaned and pulled the blankets over her head. Kenzi smiled wrly.
“So do you have some weird fae objection to shirts, or what?”
The woman's name was Parvati, and she did not have an objection to shirts. She did seem to have an objection to talking, smiling, or keeping her eyes open for very long.
Kenzi decided to take pity.
“You know,” she remarked, unlacing the skates and watching Parvati from the corner of her eye, “the best way to deal with a hangover is to keep drinking.”
“I'm an alcoholic,” Parvati said.
“I'm not hungover.”
“Riiight,” Kenzi said, not sure if she actually felt as skeptical as she sounded. Parvati looked completely exhausted, her skin pale and clammy. “You don't have some weird voodoo-hoodoo illness, do you? Because I've had enough bleedy-eye issues to last a lifetime.”
Parvati didn't answer. She was busy struggling into a dark blue cardigan; as Kenzi watched she stood up, wavered, and fell back into a heap on the sofa.
“Whoa, shit --” Kenzi got to her feet, hovering anxiously. “Seriously. Magical illness? I know a doctor – she's not much of a talker either, you guys could start a club or --”
“No.” Parvati seemed to drag her eyelids open. “I'm not sick. I – didn't expect it to be quite this... draining.”
Kenzi blinked at her. “What, banging Bo? … wait, don't answer that, that is way TMI.” She sat back down on the dusty seat across from Parvati, peering at her and wondering whether she ought to grab some Emergency Kitchen Weapons. “So what's your power? You're not going to make me cut up my own arm to regain your zest?”
“It's not polite to -”
“Yeah, yeah, it's not polite to crash on stranger's sofas either. Fess up.”
Parvati gave her a long, hard look. Then she heaved a sigh. “I'm a kelpie.”
“What, you're like... shape-shifting seaweed?”
“More like a seal,” Parvati responded, and Kenzi felt mildly put-out at the thought that she apparently came across as that stupid. “We feed on human longing, but...” she trailed off. “It doesn't matter.” For a moment she sounded so bone-achingly weary that Kenzi almost gaped. It took her a moment to collect her head.
“Wait. You feed on longing and you're jumping into bed with a succubus? Isn't that, like, the complete inverse of longing? Either you're trying to give yourself head s'plody or you're trying to give Bo head s'plody, and lemme tell you, if you've got it in for Bo you're going to have to go through me.”
… and a werewolf. And a siren. And Bo herself, who had been acquiring a surprising number of dangerous sharp objects. But Kenzi figured anyone who didn't find her intimidating did so at their peril (again, mostly because of the werewolf and Weaponsmaster Succubus, but whatever).
Parvati put her hand to her head and sunk further into the couch.
“Relax,” she muttered. “This isn't about Bo.”
“So what, you think she was trying to use me as her next drug of choice?”
Kenzi, sitting cross-legged on the kitchen table, reached across several antique swords and an elaborate dagger to grab a handful of Bo's cheesy nachos. Parvati had spent several hours on their sofa that morning until she'd insisted on calling a taxi and dragging herself out of their lives before Bo got back.
“Yup. Bo-the-sedative. And she was way emo too. But not in a messed-up, Marla Singer way.”
“Marla Singer?” Bo asked, one eyebrow raised.
“From Fight Club? Jeez, I know you've been fugitiving for a while but I also know for a fact that serial killers are allowed in movie theaters.” Bo rolled her eyes. “Anyway. She was just sad, you know? She pretty much told me she got into your pants to knock her out for a while.”
“So now I'm a hit of ambien. Nice.”
“Think of it as therapy fucking,” Kenzi suggested. “Saving the world one screw at a time. Dr Bo's Medical Orgasm Clin--” she interrupted herself with a squeak as Bo started flicking bits of cheese at her face. “Hey!”
Thus began what was probably Bo's first food fight. (Kenzi was still getting used to the baffling number of things that were firsts for Bo: the running-from-justice thing really did eat into a girl's social life.) It ended in a truce after they almost destroyed the TV.
It wasn't long before Kenzi spotted Parvati again.
She had just completed an exorcism job well done ('well done' meaning 'well paid') in a sickeningly well-to-do suburb. The appearance of fae in every part of Kenzi's life didn't phase her much – she figured that they'd always been there and she was just now noticing it: werewolves pushing strollers, harpies selling newspapers, oracles delivering pizza. And then there was Dyson and Hale, who seemed to love popping up whenever she was trying to earn a little (dis)honest money.
The exorcism gig was simple enough; she waved her arms around and scrunched up her face and recited old fairy stories she remembered from her childhood. It gave her a chance to speak Russian more often, and to make money off of idiots, and it was easily the least dangerous of her current money-making schemes. Kenzi was extremely fond of it.
Parvati was striding towards her with an air of purpose. She looked different: her eyes were clearer and her hair was neater, and Kenzi was suddenly struck by how tall she was.
“I need your help,” Parvati said, as soon as she was close enough.
Kenzi looked up at her, with a wide-eyed gaze. “Yes, I sense it,” she said in her exorcist's voice – an old impression of one of her great-aunts she used to do to make her cousins laugh. She raised her hands to paw at Parvati's aura. “Yes, yes, my child – clearly I am here just in --”
“Cut the crap, Kenzi,” Parvati said, swatting away Kenzi's hands. “This is important. Come on.” She started striding on her way. Kenzi started counting how many paces she would go before realising that she wasn't following.
It took eight. Parvati turned slowly. She didn't look pleased.
“I'm probably going to pay you, you know,” she said.
“Well why didn't you say so,” Kenzi exclaimed, and hurried to catch the taller woman up.
“Let me see if I've got this straight,” Kenzi said. “Kelpies generate longing by making dudes fall in love with them, staying around for a while, and then turning into seals and living underwater for a few decades?” She shook her head. “And nobody's ever stopped to ask why fae are so messed up?”
Parvati ignored Kenzi's question. She also ignored the several amusing inaccuracies Kenzi had added to her summary. “The point is that I have been stuck in this form for far too long. I've been close to starving. But now I know where my pelt is.”
“Your what now?”
“My pelt – my skin. I need it to turn back into my true form.”
“Wow. You are officially the lamest werewolf ever.”
“Will you help me?”
Kenzi stopped to give Parvati a considering look.
“Sure,” she said, slowly. “If the price is right.”
The price sounded more than alright until Parvati started to explain where exactly she thought her skin was being kept. 'Private collection' either meant a museum, implying that Kenzi was going to have to pull off some National Treasure level shit with nothing but a bunch of old-fashioned weapons and a washed-up seal working through the twelve steps, or an oak-panelled room in a fancy old mansion full of complete assholes.
Kenzi was mentally building herself up to an Indiana Jones figure in her mind when Parvati made it clear that it was more of the asshole-infested mansion kind of job. She tried to pretend that she wasn't disappointed; that she was the practical-if-unconventional business woman she liked to pretend she was; that she didn't take delight in being able to look around any room and come up with four different plans to take anything she felt like.
“So what kind of place is it?” she asked, pushing aside lists of things to find out about museum security out of her mind. Back to business.
With Bo still busy on the gorgon's case (apparently way duller than anyone would expect; Kenzi kept getting text messages complaining about having to dig through seventy years' worth of tax returns) and her excursion to Asshole Manor that evening, Kenzi insisted that Parvati take her out for a pre-job drink.
“You did hear me when I told you I'm an alcoholic?” Parvati wanted to know, and Kenzi shrugged.
“Doesn't mean I can't have any fun.” They settled on meeting at a diner anyway; Kenzi brought along a small bottle of whiskey and added a shot or two to her coffee. It wasn't until they she was sitting across from Parvati that Kenzi remembered that she was the dourest person she'd ever met. It would take more than a few Irish coffees to make this meeting 'fun'.
“So,” she said, drawing out the sound as if that in itself might create something like a conversation.
“So,” Parvati replied, evenly.
“How've you been feeding?” Kenzi improvised. “You said it was to do with longing.”
Parvati wrapped her long fingers around her coffee mug, gazing steadily at Kenzi. “I worked at a travel agent for a while,” she said eventually. “It wasn't much... now I volunteer at a fertility clinic.”
“Ouch. You couldn't just go into advertising?”
A humorless laugh from Parvati. “It has to be as profound as possible. Kelpies – we're not very good at absorbing longing for other things.” She took a sip of the coffee and grimaced. “I know it sounds...”
“Kind of morally gross?”
“It's about survival,” Parvati said, and suddenly Kenzi knew why she wanted to be involved – why she wanted to help – why she'd felt so weirdly guilty about bad-mouthing Parvati to Bo. It was her mother's face, pale and drawn after another night in a damp motel room with no A/C, struggling through paperwork in a language that neither of them had gotten a hold of yet. Finding out they'd been overcharged on rents for the third time; trying to find a job, any shitty job, with the bare minimum of English. Survival.
If she looked taken aback, or suddenly distant, Parvati didn't say anything. They finished their coffee in silence.
The whole gig went reasonably well. Kenzi was born for this kind of thing. She exulted in it. She felt like she was on stage in front of thousands with no script, and she convinced them she was performing a masterpiece.
Well, maybe not a masterpiece. All she had to do was convince a party full-of-themselves bankers that she had been called over by 'the agency'. But she slipped away and unlocked the right cabinet in the end, and her escape route was only blocked for five minutes or so by some dude with eighties hair snorting eighties amounts of cocaine.
She met Parvati the next day, pelt in a leather shoulder bag she'd happened to pick up the night before. She didn't want to touch it herself – when she'd picked it up last night it had felt warm, like she was handling a newly-dead animal.
“About the -” Parvati had started, but Kenzi cut her off.
“Don't worry about it. Just – here. Go do your crazy not-mermaid thing.” And she turned around and left before she could regret it.
Bo didn't get home for another few hours, by which point Kenzi was lounging unhappily on the sofa. Bo flopped down next to her.
“Nope. It was peachy keen. What makes you say that?”
“You've got the roller skates on but there's not a yoga DVD in sight.”
“Oh.” Kenzi looked down at her feet. “Yeah, I guess.” She felt Bo huff a sigh out of her nose, then shift until one of her arms was draped over Kenzi's shoulders. “... oh, man. You're not going to try succubusing me back into a good mood, are you?” Bo snorted. Kenzi felt a smile begin to play about her lips, and she shifted back, leaning into Bo's side.
“D'you think kelpies remember favors?” she asked eventually. “Because I could've made a killing last night.”