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Weight of the World

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Cleo Silsbury shivered. The chill was not in the air; it came from within. She drew the material of her hoodie closer about her face and peered around the corner. Merely bearing witness to the atrocities before her went against everything that she stood for, but there were too many fae in one area to singlehandedly engage. Even as an Erised with the ability to absorb any creature's gift for a limited time—sometimes with devastating consequences—her hands were figuratively tied.

Choking on barely contained rage, Cleo continued to watch. She would need to make an accurate report to the Ash if they had any hope of curbing the ever more aggressive explosions of violence that seemed to be cropping up.

Several feet away, six dark fae surrounded a young light fae couple. There might have been a Mesmer among the onlookers because the female of the couple looked to be a puppet whose strings were being pulled by someone else. The young woman regarded her mate with obvious terror and grief while needling and berating him. Her words and actions definitely did not match her facial expressions as evidenced by the tears, brought on by involuntary duplicity, which leaked down her face.

Cleo's stomach threatened revolt when someone handed the young woman a knife and the puppeteer proceeded to make her use it. At that point she turned away, unable to bear witness. Walking away without helping the young man was proving to be one of the hardest things she had ever had to endure. Head down, Cleo slipped further into the shadows and made haste for a well-lit street where she might hail a cab to take her to the nearest train station.

If this was happening in a small northern town of Ontario there was no telling what would be happening in the bigger cities of the province. She needed to get back to Toronto as fast as public transit could take her.

· x ·

Coffee gurgled merrily in the background, filling the kitchen with a wonderful aroma. For the past five years few things in life had brought Doctor Lauren Lewis pleasure. The scent of freshly brewed coffee had previously topped the miniscule list. Coffee's reign had only recently been upset by something—someone—that blew the entire list away, magically making everything in Lauren's life seem decadent.

Her fingers found the hollow of her throat as heat rose to her cheeks. The soft touch of Bo's lips still lingered there. The succubus had stirred only marginally as Lauren shifted on the bed, shutting off the alarm before it could go off. The woman had reached across Lauren to pull her close, pressing a kiss to her skin before drifting back to sleep. Lauren had carefully extricated herself, slipping from Bo's bed to find her fastidiously arranged pile of clothing. She crept silently into the bathroom to change. Afterward she had come downstairs to plug in the coffee maker, having prepared it the night before with freshly ground beans, a pinch of salt to cut the bitterness, and filtered water.

Bo had insisted that Lauren stay with her for the past couple of nights. Ever since they had run into an Erised at the Dal Riata, Bo could not stand to be apart from Lauren longer than their everyday routines called for. Lauren, for the most part, had been delighted to oblige her lover, but sometimes guilt crept in, putting a damper on the high.

It had been harder to adjust than Lauren suspected. The Erised had removed her ethereal ties to her previous girlfriend, Nadia, making it possible for her relationship with Bo to blossom. Try as she might, though, Lauren simply couldn't let go of the guilt she felt at her original betrayal of Nadia. While Nadia had been in a coma Lauren had desperately sought the means to awaken her, but five years had proven a long time to go without the physical and emotional affection of another person. At the height of Lauren's despair, Bo had exploded into her life.

The succubus had enthralled Lauren from the first moment they met, when the doctor had been commanded to examine the exotic creature in her laboratory. It had only been a matter of time before Lauren's craving for intimacy had overridden her better judgment, compelling her to give in to the succubus' considerable charm.

As they grew closer, Lauren had bungled their relationship with a series of extreme mistakes, however well-intentioned, that should have driven them apart—and had in fact done so on more than one occasion. Bo, nevertheless, proved more forgiving than anyone Lauren had ever met. Somehow the succubus continued to support her regardless of the doctor's fundamental compulsion for secrecy. Bo had even helped Lauren discover the clue that lead to Nadia's freedom from the shaman's curse, which had, apparently, been the cause of her coma.

Nadia's awakening had forced them apart. Lauren tried her best to devote herself to Nadia, but ultimately failed. Her heart belonged to Bo and no matter what she tried to do she could not make herself let the succubus go. When Bo had touched the Erised with her gift, setting an unstoppable course of events into action, Lauren and Nadia's relationship had been dissolved as a consequence. Lauren often felt as though it was a cop-out and guilt sprang up occasionally, reminding her that she hadn't suffered any consequences for her indiscretions. And to think this was the least of her worries.

Bo continued to find trouble wherever she went. Lauren likened the succubus to a rare earth magnet, drawing danger and chaos—and conversely devotion—to her with unprecedented strength. This time all of the fae were embroiled in the brewing tempest and somehow Bo had been lofted as their champion, which Lauren found fundamentally terrifying. She'd just found Bo; to lose her to a war that made no sense was too frightening to dwell on. She had to suppress the thoughts immediately to prevent herself from melting into a quivering mess.

With a shaky sigh, Lauren checked her watch. It was nearly time for her first, albeit extremely early, appointment of the day. Pouring steaming coffee into her travel mug, Lauren shouldered her duffle bag and went out the front door of Bo's dilapidated, yet oddly enchanting residence.

· x ·

The problem with fighting humans was that it felt more like practicing tai chi forms than actual combat. Dyson could dodge his opponent's fist with ease, but threw up an elbow to deflect it instead. He followed with a lazy right hook. She managed to block it with a grunt. She skipped back and they circled one another. He watched her bounce up and down, switching her balance from foot to foot. Her eyes were wide with rapt attention. She breathed in through her nose and out through her mouth, chest rising and falling with every adrenalized heartbeat.

She came at him again, this time with a quick kick that connected with his calf. He stumbled forward. She backed away. He straightened. She punched. This time he dodged. They circled again.

He saw her eyes drop slightly before she hunched down and propelled herself at him, arms shoulder width apart. He widened his stance, bracing for the impact, ready for full body contact. At the last second she pulled up and made herself small enough to get inside his defenses. It was a brilliantly executed feint. She grabbed the sides of his head, gripping just under his ears. She stepped back and brought his face down to meet her knee. She used the rest of his forward momentum to flip him onto his back.

He dispelled some of the shock of the impact by slapping his arm out to the side. She straddled his midsection and rained succinct blows on his face. He took his time raising his arm to block. At the look of sheer determination on her face, he couldn't help but laugh. He tapped the mat three times.

"Okay, okay!" he shouted. His opponent stopped moving and cocked her head to the side. Her chest heaved from the exertion and sweat trickled from the side of her face down her neck. "That's enough for today."

She scrambled back and stood up, offering a hand. He gladly accepted and she helped pull him to his feet.

"Sorry about your face," she said as she grabbed a towel from a nearby bench.

He shrugged. "You fought well."

She acknowledged his praise with a curt nod and departed the gymnasium.

Dyson sighed. Taking his own towel from the bench, he draped it across his shoulders and sat down. His face was tender, but he'd suffered worse. Despite what she thought, her blows had barely tickled. They had only been sparring for a few weeks and she was still weak, but she learned quickly and she was clever. She also had surprising agility working in her favor. Although she would never be a match for a fae opponent, were it to come down to a real fight, he suspected she might be able to manufacture an escape. And with what was coming, he thought that was the best any of them could hope for.

His thoughts turned to Bo and he growled angrily. She had told him that Lachlan, the Ash, had asked her to be his champion—their champion—in the coming battle against a creature called the Garuda. Dyson had been furious to hear it and had tried to talk Bo out of it. The succubus was stubborn and refused to listen to reason and it had been Trick who had finally convinced Dyson to leave it alone.

It was times like these when Dyson felt the loss of his love for Bo most acutely. He had worked hard at forcing her to the fringes of his life with the hopeful inevitability of sparing her feelings. When she had turned to Lauren, Dyson had at first bristled. As time passed and he saw that Lauren was helping ease Bo's pain, he had struggled to come to terms. He was not the sort of man to prevent someone's happiness to assuage his own misery, but it was a daily effort that was growing increasingly more difficult.

If he still had her love, her trust, he was convinced he could reason with the succubus to let Lachlan and other members of the Light take care of the Garuda. There was no sense on dwelling on those thoughts, however, and he couldn't change what had happened between them. His only option was to support Bo in whatever way he could. If that included training humans indentured to the Light in combat, so be it.

· x ·

Bo shuffled sleepily around the kitchen. She tried not to bump into anything and cause a ruckus which might awaken Kenzi, who had drunk a whole lot of wine and passed out on the couch. The girl was positively grouchy after benders like that and Bo was loathe to deal with it this morning.

She had awoken alone. Again. Lauren always managed to slip out of bed before Bo could even fathom attempting to regain consciousness. Ever since discovering that sleeping with humans didn't necessarily mean waking up next to a corpse, Bo had become increasingly fond of snuggling. It was difficult to accomplish, however, when her partner wasn't there to snuggle with.

She had to smile, though, at the little note next to the percolator, written in Lauren's beautiful, precise hand. It mentioned sticky buns that the doctor had stashed in the oven to prevent Kenzi from eating them all, and that she had left the coffee on. At the bottom Lauren had drawn a cute little heart with an arrow through it, making Bo forget all about the fact that she had abandoned her at oh dark hundred in the morning.

Kenzi's loud, dramatically miserable groan brought Bo's attention back, although she couldn't wipe the stupid grin from her face. The younger woman rolled off the couch and half crouched-half walked to the kitchen counter, hoisting her tiny body onto a barstool. She clutched her head and groaned again.

Bo rolled her eyes. "Good morning."

"What's so good about it?" Kenzi wondered.

"Well, Lauren made coffee."

"Not sold yet. What else?"

"There are sticky buns."

Kenzi perked up at that, and then evidently regretted it because she winced and went back to squishing her temples with the heels of her hands. Bo chuckled softly and set about making them each a cup of coffee. She also went to the fridge and dug out a bottle of water. She handed the water and a couple Advil to her partner in crime.

"You really gotta quit drinking so much," Bo said.

"No way. Just get me to the Dal so Hale can fix me right up."

Ever since she had discovered that a Siren's song could be used to whistle away alcohol induced cranial damage, Kenzi had sought him out whenever overindulgence threatened to make sunglasses her best friend.

"Kenzi, Hale is not your personal hang over cure. You keep running to him anytime you have a headache and the boy's going to start expecting something in return," Bo teased. "Drink water."

Kenzi's face contorted as she sipped the flavorless fluid. She tipped her head back and popped the Advil in her mouth, choking them down. "Ugh!" she said, then reached out to Bo and flexed her fingers in a 'gimme' fashion.

The succubus shook her head at her friend and opened the oven door to pull out the secreted baked goods. She removed one from the plate and plunked it on a piece of paper towel for Kenzi. "Mmm, sticky sweet carbs!" Kenzi sang as she stuffed a large chunk in her mouth.

Bo moved around the counter to sit next to her friend. She put one cup of coffee in front of Kenzi, who smiled gratefully. Clutching her cup, Bo blew on the surface of the steaming liquid before taking a delicate sip. She moaned and her eyes fluttered closed. "God, that's heaven," she murmured.

"Barista girl strikes again," Kenzi grumbled.

Bo playfully swatted at the younger woman. "So, I'm going to the Dal to meet Dyson in a little while. You wanna tag?"

"'Course. Can't leave your lady lumps to their own devices, now can I? Never can tell what your succubum will get up to."

"You're insufferable," Bo said around a smile.

"Am not. What I am is possibly still drunk."

Bo scoffed. "Besides, it's only eight o'clock in the morning. What trouble could conceivably find me at this ungodly hour?"

· x ·

Chapter Text

· x ·

"Here are the files you requested, Dr. Lewis. I also took the liberty of scouring the library." A young human intern set a box of notes and books down on the corner of Lauren's desk. He patted the top book affectionately as she looked up. "There's some stuff on the restricted list that might interest you, but I can't access it. I made notes, though, so you'd know what to look for if you wanted to."

Lauren smiled distractedly. "Thank you, James."

He beamed and waited perhaps a beat too long before realizing she had already gone back to studying the monitor in front of her. In peripheral, Lauren saw his shoulders roll forward in dejection as he stepped back. His eagerness to please her had been evident and she had dismissed him with a half-hearted thanks. Feeling guilty, Lauren pushed back from her desk and stood up. He had already crossed half the lab by the time she spoke.

"James?"

He turned, a puzzled look overshadowing his disappointment. "Yeah?"

She gestured to the box of books on her desk. "Are you busy this afternoon? I could use a research assistant on this project."

The truth was that the books were actually very important to her and she didn't relish the idea of sharing them with anyone. She couldn't wait to crack them open, to spend hours poring over them. The idea of someone else touching them made her personal green monster rear its ugly little head. She wrangled with jealousy and ultimately won.

Given the way his eyes lit up with excitement, Lauren knew she had made the right decision. He all but scampered closer to her. "I'm free now," he said.

Lauren chuckled at his enthusiasm. She patted his arm. "Okay. Find an empty conference room and get started. I just have a few things I need to finish up before I can join you."

James nearly trembled as she picked up the box of books and delicately delivered them back to his awaiting embrace. As he departed, Lauren couldn't help the grin that spread across her features. She idly wondered if that was how she had appeared when she'd been younger. She decided she definitely had and her grin stretched wider.

As she sat back down, the cell phone in her pocket vibrated. She took the phone out and looked at it, puzzled by the unknown number showing on the screen. Lauren thought about the piles of work she had yet to do and contemplated ignoring the call. With things as precarious as they were out in the world, Lauren decided it would be irresponsible to let the call go to voicemail, especially considering only a small handful of people had her private number. One of them could be in trouble.

"Hello?" She listened quietly, a sense of unease quickly burning through her good mood. "Can you come here? No. Don't do that. Listen, I'll send a car. Stay at Union Station and wait for it, okay? Cleo? Thank you for calling me. I'll let the Ash know to expect you."

Lauren's hand trembled as she set the phone down. The presence of an Erised was bound to make everyone at the compound nervous. A stigma was attached to them due to the lack of knowledge. They were feared and reviled. Erised were known to be able to capture any fae's ability, rendering their victims, for all intents and purposes, human for the duration. What Erised fed on, however, was their prey's most base desires. To that end most Erised had been hunted to extinction. To Lauren's knowledge Cleo Silsbury and one other were the only two remaining. The other had been missing for a long time, prompting Cleo into a never ending search for her kin.

When they had met Cleo, Lauren and Bo had learned the hard way what an Erised was capable of. Consequently, Lauren was one of the very few who had witnessed Cleo's innate gifts at work. In that time, she had gained a healthy respect for the woman, even if she hadn't entirely been able to forgive Cleo for what she had done to her.

Lauren had made a gesture of friendship, however, as an exercise in absolution and to aid in healing her own guilty conscience. She was glad she had, because it would be better to have an Erised on their side, rather than working against them.

The air felt thicker as Lauren worked through her dread to pick up the phone. She first placed a call to the garage attendant to send a driver for Cleo. Next she called Lachlan.

· x ·

Dyson laid his pool cue on the table and glared at Hale as he threw a twenty down next to it. The Siren had beaten him yet again, leading him to realize how distracted he'd really become.

"You got a burr stuck to your butt fur, or something? I never beat you twice. Hell, I rarely beat you ever," Hale said, following his friend to the bar where he paid for a round. Dyson raised his eyebrows at the thought of drinking a mid-morning shot, prompting Hale to shrug and say, "Well, it is five o'clock somewhere, isn't it? Besides, you look like you could use one."

"I have a lot on my mind," Dyson confessed, tossing back the shot. The pretty blonde bartender who replaced Trick when he wasn't around raised the bottle and winked at him. The shifter shook his head, refusing a second round. The first still burned his gullet.

"Hmm," Hale hummed as he eyed the bartender. "A piece of that would go a long way to solving anyone's problems."

Before he met Bo, Dyson might have agreed. Now? Not a chance in hell. He didn't like to admit it but he was having a hard time stomaching blondes these days. As an unfortunate side-effect of coming to terms with Bo's relationship with Lauren, Dyson had begun avoiding blonde women as sexual partners. Not that it mattered because there were plenty of brunette and redheaded fish in the sea. And he fished a lot, trying to somehow fill the hollow inside him. His exploits had the adverse effect, making him surly. He had even failed miserably at his chance with Ciara, a woman he once thought he loved. He suppressed a growl and clenched his fists.

"No? All the more for me," Hale said, still appreciating the bartender's voluptuous curves. At Dyson's insistent silence, Hale turned. "Seriously, bro, what gives?"

"I don't want to talk about it right now," Dyson snapped.

Hale put up his hands, startled by the fervor of Dyson's tone. "Fine. Sorry I asked."

Dyson thawed a little. "I'm just trying to deal with some personal crap right now."

"Succubus related?" A sharp glance confirmed Hale's suspicions and the siren nodded understandingly. "Look, you don't have to explain. That woman would be a handful for anyone."

"It's not her fault, really. I made a deal with the devil and now that I know the consequences it's too late to renege."

Dyson could see that Hale felt for him, but he didn't want his buddy's sympathy. The only thing that would help him now would be to break the Norn's hold over him and he couldn't fathom a way to do that. In a delicious twist of irony one of the few people who could possibly help him with a viable answer was Lauren herself. As a walking, talking Fae encyclopedia she could likely find some sort of loophole for him.

Saving him from travelling further down that dark corridor of thought, Kenzi shambled up to the bar. Most of her face was eaten up by a large pair of sunglasses, which she slid down her nose to regard Dyson. "Whoa. Who pissed in your cornflakes?"

Noting her extremely bloodshot eyes, Dyson shook his head. "It's not my cornflakes I'd be worried about, Kenz. You look to be dragging ass this morning. Drink too much wine last night?"

"There is never enough wine to appease that lush," Bo piped up from behind Dyson. He had been expecting her, but the sound of her voice in such close proximity startled him. The succubus put one hand on his shoulder and leaned forward to finger the empty shot glass on the bar. He could feel the warmth of her chest pressed against his back.

Kenzi noticed the empty glass, too, and said, "Dude, it's only eleven."

He breathed deeply and felt his stomach sour with regret. He could smell Lauren all over Bo. He wanted to say "yeah, well my hell starts the moment I open my eyes," but refrained. Instead he clenched his teeth, struggling for control. Shoving off from the bar to get away from Bo, who had to move quickly to the side to evade, Dyson gathered up the case files and moved down the bar to spread them out. The Norn may have taken his love for Bo, but she hadn't taken any of his other emotions and those were the ones he was having the most trouble dealing with now.

Bo, oblivious to the fact that she was the source of his discomfort, snorted, "You don't waste time getting down to business."

"Not when it comes to fae casualties, Bo," he grated.

Bo and Kenzi shared a glance, but wisely kept their mouths shut. Bo defaulted to a professional persona that she normally reserved for prospective clients. Kenzi retreated to whisper to Hale, likely to beg him to charm her headache away.

"What am I looking at?" she asked.

"Sprites. These ones are dark fae. They are nasty little buggers that have been plaguing The Pantages Theatre for the last century. I think one of them even had a thing for Neve Campbell when she danced in Phantom of the Opera; used to leave dirty notes in the dancers' dressing room for her. The authorities never did figure out who her stalker was."

Bo looked puzzled. "Do I want to know why you know that?"

He shrugged. "Probably not."

She took the file from his hands and peered closer at the photo. "What's wrong with them?"

"They've been petrified," he replied. "See the ashen pallor of their skin? Normally they're a bluish-green colour."

"What could do this?"

"That's what we need to find out."

Kenzi chose that moment to return with renewed vigor, the sunglasses perched on top of her head. "Hey, those are really lifelike garden gnomes. Where can I get one?"

Bo snickered. Dyson snatched the photo away and stared sternly down his nose at the human. "They're Sprites, Kenzi, little dark fae that were once alive. And no, you can't have one."

"Hold on, hold on… if they're dark fae why are we dealing with this?" Kenzi asked.

"The Ash asked me to as a favor to the Morrigan. I guess she's got her hands full, too. Some really bad stuff has been happening to both sides and no one really knows what's going on. For once both sides are attempting to cooperate with one another."

"Can I take the file? I'll go ask Lauren if she can tell us anything," Bo asked, holding out her hand. At the mention of Lauren's name, Dyson's nostrils flared but he handed the file over readily enough.

"I sent the bodies to the lab. She may have already begun the workup," he said in a carefully clipped tone.

Bo hugged the file to her chest and shifted from foot to foot, as though she had something more to say but didn't quite know how to broach whatever was bothering her. Eventually she reached out and slid a hand down his arm. "Are you all right, Dyson? I'm worried about you."

Schooling his features into an expression he hoped passed as nonchalant Dyson said, "I'm fine; nothing to worry about."

Disbelief registered on her face, but Bo merely nodded. The stubborn shifter would tell her what was bothering him when and if he felt it was necessary. Until then, Bo had enough on her plate to last one succubus a lifetime. There was no sense in adding more complicated drama.

When she and Kenzi had gone, Dyson returned to the bar. Under Hale's watchful eye, he ordered two more shots and downed them rapidly. He had his work cut out for him if he planned to cull his emotional baggage.

· x ·

Chapter Text

· x ·

"Don't touch anything."

Kenzi—oblivious to the disapproving looks of the fae Lauren employed—flitted around the lab blatantly snooping with her hands purposely clasped together behind her back. She cheekily waggled her eyebrows at Bo when the woman frowned at her. Bo shook her head and left the young woman to her own devices.

A nurse directed Bo to a conference room down the hall where she would likely find Lauren. She strolled like she owned the place, peering into various rooms through windows and open doors as she went. Most of the rooms held medical equipment that seemed pretty cut and dry. A few things were exotic looking, sparking her interest enough to make mental notes to ask Lauren about them later.

Seeing Lauren in "work mode" was a delightful perk of being the Ash's champion given that she now enjoyed pretty much free run of the compound. Bo intended to take full advantage of it. She paused outside a partially closed door when she heard Lauren's distinctive timbre.

"Biological transmutation is impossible. The theory blatantly disregards basic physical laws," Lauren was saying. She had the sound of someone who was exercising vast amounts of patience, making Bo that much more curious as to whom she was speaking. Normally Lauren reserved that tone for when she spoke to Bo and Kenzi about some scientific something or other.

Poking her head around the door to glance surreptitiously into the room, Bo saw Lauren perched on the end of a long conference table; one foot was planted firmly on the floor and the other on a chair in front of her. In her lap she cradled a text book, which she rapidly flipped through, shaking her head.

But it wasn't Lauren who caught Bo's attention, it was the young man seated at the other end of the table. Or rather the syrupy force of nervous, geeky libido he exuded. It permeated the room, surrounding Lauren like a cocoon before sluggishly leaking out the door. Even if Bo hadn't already switched her senses into high gear in anticipation of seeing Lauren, she still would have noticed the fog. It hit her with a force akin to that of an F5 tornado. Her mouth flooded in anticipation. Then, as quickly, her lips were pulling back from her teeth in a silent, possessive snarl as the reality of the situation sank in: the young man was lusting after Lauren in a huge way.

"This stuff is too new, James. It's not what I'm looking for," she said, snapping the book shut while sliding gracefully off the table. "Look at the older books. If the paper looks yellow and the pages smell musty, that's what you want."

Lauren handed the book back to him and their fingers touched, causing a wave of desire to roll off the kid and crash full force into Bo, who had to stumble back into the hallway to escape. She caught the jamb and swung so that her back slammed against the wall beside the door. She pressed a hand to her heaving chest, trying to calm herself down. She screwed her eyes shut. It was an unusual sensation to have her emotions waging battle with one another. The need to fuck, to rip out throats: it was all very overwhelming. The latter was startlingly uncharacteristic.

"Bo? Everything okay?" Lauren, having stepped into the hallway to see what the commotion was about, sounded concerned. "What are you doing here?"

"Hi," Bo said. Her voice didn't break on the tiny word. She was off to a good start. "I, uh, just need a minute here." She could smell Lauren now, the scent of Japanese cherry blossoms. Her struggle intensified. Bo opened her eyes. To Lauren's credit she didn't flinch as azure pinned her.

"Do we need to go somewhere?" Lauren's tone was even, unaffected. Bo had forgotten how different Lauren was here; how rigid. It didn't jive with what Bo thought Lauren was suggesting.

Processing seemed beyond Bo's capabilities at that moment, so the doctor merely took the succubus' arm and dragged her down the hall. She directed Bo through a door into a small, sparse lab that had one microscope and a rather monstrous computer. Locking the door behind them, Lauren leaned against it, stuffed her hands into her lab coat and waited.

In the space of a heartbeat Bo had closed the distance between them. Hands on Lauren's hips, Bo dragged the doctor firmly against her. A bruising kiss that stole Lauren's breath set her trembling. Then Bo pushed her back against the door, holding her firmly while her fingers attempted to gain access to Lauren's pants.

Lauren broke the kiss, gasping. "Bo. Stop."

The brunette ignored her. Lauren's zipper was no match for the questing succubus. Normally, Lauren herself was no match. Today she would have to be. Lauren couldn't do this. She wanted to; God, how she wanted to but her needs would have to wait. There was too much at stake.

Bo's fingers found their mark making the doctor moan in desire—and regret. She wrapped remorseful fingers around Bo's wrist and yanked the succubus' hand clear.

Stunned, Bo looked up, her teeth clenched in affront. Tendons ridged along her neck at the strain of reigning emotions. Blue daggers stabbed into Lauren and for a moment she thought the succubus might use her abilities to bend her to her will. Then Bo blinked. And blinked again.

One more blink brought Bo's breathing under tenuous control. "What's wrong?"

"I can't do this, Bo," Lauren said. Bo looked at her glistening fingers as if to say she thought otherwise. The doctor moistened parched lips and shook her head. "Not here. Not right now."

Bo's features became stony, the blue bleeding from her eyes. "This has to do with that guy." She spat the last word as though it left a bitter taste in her mouth.

Lauren jerked her head, a rapid quiver of confusion crossing her face.

Bo regarded Lauren and believed the other woman's uncertainty, but she couldn't break the resentful wave now that it had begun to crest. "I saw how he looks at you, Lauren." She held up her fingers. "He wants this. He wants you."

Incredulity crashed over Lauren and she began to shake her head in denial. "Do you mean James?" Giggles burbled up from her belly at the preposterous thought. She laughed until she couldn't breathe. At Bo's less than impressed expression, the doctor struggled to stop. "You're serious?"

"His chi was cloying." Bo crossed her arms. That would explain the succubus' sudden carnal reaction. She was responding to her involuntarily fired up libido while attempting to stake her claim on Lauren.

"Oh," Lauren said, failing miserably to articulate a more serious response.

"Who is he?"

"He's just an intern, Bo. A human—probably one of the many the Ash 'saved' from a life of poverty on the street. I asked him to help me with a research project I'm working on. Is this… is it going to be a problem, Bo?"

The succubus looked like she thought it might be, but said, "No, of course not."

"Bo, look at me." When the succubus' eyes met hers, Lauren reassured, "That scrawny kid's got nothing on you."

Lauren moved, wrapping her arms around Bo's waist and resting her head on the succubus' shoulder. She breathed deeply. Bo gave off a faint, unfamiliar scent. It wasn't entirely unpleasant, making Lauren smile. "Can I make it up to you tonight?"

Bo's stiffness seemed to ease a little. "I guess so."

"Good." Stretching up, Lauren placed a kiss on the frustrated succubus' brow. "I really need to get back to work. I assume Dyson sent you here, right? I haven't had a chance to start my workup on the sprites yet. I can't get blood samples because of the petrification and…" Lauren trailed off and backed away from Bo, holding her at arm's length. The brunette's eyes had glazed over. "Never mind, I'll explain later. Are you going to be all right?"

Bo made a vague movement that Lauren took to be affirmation.

"I'll meet you back in the lab, okay?"

"Sure," Bo said.

Placing another chaste kiss on Bo's forehead, Lauren rearranged her clothing, unlocked the door and let herself into the hallway. Bo stood at the door and watched her lover's form retreat.

She waited.

Strung tight as a bow, the succubus bit her lip. Fire burned through her veins. Her eyes teemed blue.

She waited.

Eventually an unsuspecting male fae carrying an armload of charts had the misfortune of walking past the door where Bo lingered.

· x ·