“Look, I’m sorry...”
Lauren stared at the glass, placing down the empty bottle next to it. Fuck.
“I didn’t...I thought...”
She’d buy more tomorrow. She just had to keep her mind focus on the task at hand. But as the night progressed, the case notes had become more difficult to write; her handwriting had become looser, her words and sentences vague. She grasped at the wine glass, taking another mouthful.
“It’s just that...I mean I’ve tried, I’ve tried so hard, and I love you, I do.”
Breathing in the wine gave her eased moments, the scent heavy and consuming made her feel lighter. If she wanted to, she could probably list the ingredients, go over the process of wine. It could take her mind off from other things.
“And I know you love me. And that’s...that’s the problem. It’s not fair on you that I...”
Her eyes slowly blinked shut as she felt her mind thankfully cloud further. The alcohol was thick in her mouth, coating her tongue and throat as it slipped down to her stomach, and for just a few dulled moments, it was easier.
“I guess what I’m trying to say is that...”
She had work tomorrow, specifically, she had to check on the experiments from last week, make sure that they were all proceeding as normal, then she had four patients booked in for after lunch, and between those she had an autopsy to begin, a clinic to run and duties to delegate. The case notes could wait.
“I’m just not in love with you. Not anymore. Maybe...maybe I never was.”
But knowing her luck, there would probably be another police case that needed her to look over for any obvious signs of fae. Most fae on the police force had either the ability to smell fae, or were given equipment to run tests. Usually her practice wasn’t needed, but there were odd cases. Like kitsune.
The glass hit the ground. Pushing away from the bench, Lauren felt her hand cover her mouth, eyes squeezing shut as she wrapped an arm around herself. She felt like she was going to throw up, maybe she was. No, she hadn’t drank enough.
“Please say something.”
Her breath shuddered into a sob, knees giving out to hit the tiles.
It hurt. Her whole body hurt. Bo loved her, she had to. No, that’s not what she said was it? She loved her yes, but she wasn’t in love with her. She loved their friendship, the sex. But she didn’t feel the same way. Never felt the same way.
God, Lauren could actually picture her face, see Bo fumbling, her fingers reaching for hers. But she couldn’t let Bo touch her, not when she was admitting that...that what? Everything was in her head? Everything she’d thought was real and grounded was unrequited?
To a degree. She had to remember that part. It was partly returned.
But a laugh bubbled up inside of her. She could feel it heavy in her chest as she laughed. Bo loved her. Never had such words torn her apart, left her hollow and aching. It hurt so much and so wrongly.
God. Pain she could deal with. She could have a gunshot wound, she could be stabbed. Quills driven into her, a knife against her skin. She could stitch her own wounds and snap bones into place.
But aches. She didn’t know what to do with aches. Aches were a symptom, the brain causing them to tell the body that something was wrong. Dehydration caused headaches, sickness caused stomachaches. But this? This was the anterior cingulate cortex of the brain becoming stressed and then over stimulating the vagus nerve. There was no cure. No quick fix, or temporary solution.
No, there was just this, weeks of this, weeks of been reminded and then thinking, believing that finally it was okay, she was okay before the pain would start over and she’d be back at square one.
She needed to stop thinking. Needed to get out of this.
Hands clenching, she pushed herself off the ground, walking to the kitchen sink and pulling the dustpan and broom out from the cupboard beneath. She just had to keep busy, keep her mind steady and focused. Eventually she’ll collapse into her bed.
The mess was cleaned quickly; the glass was swept away, wine droplets cleaned before they could stain, and a good vacuum over to be sure no shards were left behind.
Her mind was frazzled though, and her entire body was on edge. Everything ached and pulled, a part of her desperately clinging to the hope that she’ll wake up and this will all be a dream. And yet, here she was, drinking like a heartsick girl, knowing that all that was going to happen was nightmares and a sharp awakening.
Standing up, she walked over to the sink, pouring herself water and drinking it again, before refilling the glass and doing it again.
She told herself it was to make sure she was hydrate and to stop any headaches that the alcohol may cause. Informed herself that a bottle of wine to a single person was more than indulging and that at least eight glasses would be required to counter the effects of alcohol induced dehydration.
But it was a process, calming to have control over something in her life. Her house was already clean, already swept and dust free. The art was all correctly aligned on the walls, measured so, and there was no need to arrange the furniture, she’d done that.
She had work tomorrow, and her responsibilities came first, allowing herself weakened over heartache was unprofessional and entirely unacceptable.
But tomorrow...tomorrow night she could.
Taking a breath, Lauren felt her hand steady as she shut her eyes. Thinking of Nadia used to calm her before Bo. Thinking of Nadia’s smile, her lips that she could trace over and over again in her mind, or the grecian skin, which blemishes she could still remember, made her feel closer to the woman.
Thinking of her now made her remember the phone call from the jeweller's asking about a final payment when she’d returned from the congo. Made her remember the nights she hovered over books, and curled up by Nadia’s side instead of her bed. Finally it made her remember the knife, Nadia begging, pleading and turning around.
Then holding her until the body was cold and she finally was able to call the Cleaners.
The glass was empty. Slowly Lauren placed it down into the sink. She shouldn’t think of Nadia, or Bo. But it was easier thinking of Nadia, knowing what did go wrong there, what she could have done to make it better. With Bo...it didn’t make sense.
As a whole, from Bo's point of view, the conversation was as follows:
“Look, I’m sorry…” Bo took a breath, eyes squeezing shut as she struggled to form the words, “I didn’t…I thought…” every time she tried to begin, her words fell away.
“It’s just that…I mean I’ve tried, I’ve tried so hard, and I love you, I do. And I know you love me. And that’s…that’s the problem. It’s not fair on you that I…”
She blinked, her hand reaching out only to fall short, curling in on its self, “I guess what I’m trying to say is that…I’m just not in love with you. Not anymore. Maybe…maybe I never was.”
Swallowing Bo looked up, forcing herself to meet Lauren’s eyes, “I’m sorry.”
She could feel the lies clogging her throat, the self loathing as Lauren’s face fell apart. It was for her safety, she reminded herself, for Lauren. She deserved a normal life, a life where she was loved by someone who could be enough for her, who wouldn’t hurt her, or…
“Please say something.”
Chapter 2: All That is Thirst
She just wanted a glass of wine, at least, that's what she told herself when she dressed up and found her way at the neutral territory fae-bar. Tamsin saw right through her lies.
Lauren was quite content in sitting in shadows of the wine bar, listening to the music and allowing people to walk around, ignoring her.
Cigarette smoke wafted from outside, around the bar, bringing back memories of youth. Her and her friends would curl up in a booth sometimes, they’d drink and dance and laugh. Nadia would have an arm around her waist, or a hand on her thigh as they all swapped stories.
She missed her friends, missed interacting with them. She didn’t have that with Bo.
Had. Past tense. She needed to remember that now.
But it had always been just her and Bo, or sometimes they were with Kenzi, or at the Dal. It wasn’t like back in her early twenties where Nadia and her would have dinner parties, or random gatherings.
She smiled then, remembering that sometimes they’d even go out to a bonfire somewhere freezing in the middle of nowhere. She’d end up scolding Nadia for bringing her until the woman wrapped her arms around her and zipped them both up in her coat. “All better now?” she’d ask, kissing her cheek, or neck, or shoulder. Whatever was easier.
Lauren blinked, looking down at the wine glass. It would be easier if she could only hold Nadia in the highest respect, and Bo against her as everything that went wrong.
But she couldn’t. She was a different person then, and a different one now.
One that apparently fell in unrequited love with a succubus and was then bitter when said succubus broke it off.
Taking a breath, Lauren turned to stare out onto the floor deck leading outside. People in high class clothes, sipping their cocktails and flirting graciously, slipped around in heels and polished shoes. She used to come here before Bo, before things got complicated. It made little sense to come now.
The place was a fae-owned bar, in neutral territory, much like the Dal but directed towards a more upper market. She was safe here, blood wasn’t allowed spilled on premise. Nor were human feedings allowed.
But no longer did she feel that spark of adrenaline, the wonder or thrill as she stared around at all the fae who purposely ignored her. She felt cold, tired, and she wondered again why she was here.
A part of her knew, but it was hard to admit she felt that petty or desperate.
“Shouldn’t you be at the Lab or somewhere else?”
Lauren jumped, looking up. Tamsin stood in front of her, dressed up in black dress pants, and a silk red blouse with an expression of amusement at surprising Lauren. She looked like she was here for a business meeting instead of ready to kick ass in her usual attire.
“Lauren,” she counted, arms folding against her chest. Lauren took a sip of wine and gestured only mildly with her fingers for her to sit down. Clearly the woman had no intention of leaving.
Rolling her eyes, the valkyrie sat down across from her, sliding into the booth.
“Did you want something to drink?” Lauren asked. She wasn’t sure why, but suddenly having the company seemed to be a good distraction from her own mind. She didn’t particularly like Tamsin, but the Dark Fae cop seemed just as isolated as she was - not that Lauren would ever mention that out loud, the valkyrie would just as quickly utter a retort, hit her for good measure and leave.
Tamsin gave her an odd look, “I’ll take a beer if you’re buying.”
Brushing it off, Lauren slipped out of the booth. She finished the last mouthful of wine before walking over to the bar. The bartender was an old patient, part-ogre and a tall burly man that looked the part. With a crooked smile, he took the glass from Lauren and poured her another red. “Anything else?”
“Bottle of beer,” she said, pointing to the familiar brand. Quickly, she placed down the required money, offering a small ‘thanks’ with a smile, and moved back towards the booth.
In the time she’d gone to get the drinks, Tamsin had reclined back in the seat, arms along the spine of the booth. With a sharp grin, she took the bottle and easily twisted the lid off before taking a swig.
Lauren slowly sat herself back in her place and timidly sipped at the wine.
“What, no tequila?”
Lauren laughed, “Tequila or vodka would not be advisable. I’m trying to not get drunk.” She took a sip of wine then, trying to ease the nervous energy she felt. Tamsin’s demeanour was tough, dominating. Through the brief encounters Lauren had, it was easier to allow the woman’s presence to wash over instead of stand against.
“So...the wine’s just, what, a conversation starter?” Lauren smiled, amused behind the wine. “Well, regardless, you’re trying to get laid.”
Swallowing the mouthful hard, Lauren looked up. Had Bo told her, or was it just that obvious in her posture and face? Tamsin, after all, was a detective, and before that a bounty hunter, certainly she was good at reading people and determining a situation quickly.
But Tamsin just seemed to roll her eyes and take another swig of beer. “You’re here, dressed like that and getting drunk on wine. Are you taking up on the privileges with your ‘open relationship’?” Lauren looked down at the wine glass, feeling the familiar ache. Tamsin went quiet for a moment, the sarcasm slipping to genuine surprise. “Oh well that makes more sense then.”
“How?” she asked. As hard as she tried not to, the words spilled out defensively.
But the woman shrugged it off. “Succubus had her panties in a knot the other day. Figured she was still pissed about me beating her down when she went all Dark Bitch,” sitting back, she smirked, reliving the memory. “But breaking it off with you makes more sense.”
“No it doesn’t,” Lauren muttered, hiding behind the red. If she breathed in the scent, swallowed the heat, it was easier to breathe.
“Mm. Did she tell you why? Kinda thought you two were going to try the whole marriage and old age deal...well partly. You being human and all puts a hitch in things.”
“Why do you even care?” Lauren bit back.
Tamsin raised her eyebrows, scowling only for a moment. “Look, whatever. I don’t, just making casual conversation since you bought me a beer and all.”
Lauren shook her head, setting down the glass. “Sorry,” she murmured. Her fingers tensed, clenching into her palms before she forced herself to relax. “It doesn’t matter. Bo and I... It’s over. Done, if it ever was...”
Tamsin’s fingers drummed along the glass in thought, watching as Lauren stared down at the napkin her glass was set on. “And you’re here for post-breakup sex?”
Lauren smiled bitterly, reaching out, her fingers played idly with the napkin’s edges. “It’s for the best. Bo is moving on, and as should I. Scientifically speaking, casual sex releases many of the same brain-chemicals as love, allowing myself multiple partners, or at least one partner in short term who I may sleep with, allows the emotions I feel for Bo to be pushed towards someone else temporarily until those emotions then subside and I no longer...feel...”
“Hurt,” Tamsin finished. “Rebound sex, but you know, less...science-y. You could have just said that.”
Lauren rolled her eyes, looking up at Tamsin, “I’m a scientist, the science comes first when I think. That’s how I was trained.”
“And I’m a detective but you don’t see me going around detecting stuff.” Lauren stared at her, eyebrows raised before Tamsin waved a hand dismissively. “Okay, so this conversation doesn’t count.”
“So why here? Wouldn’t a human bar be more suitable?”
“And take them back to mine where I have to explain, oh, by the way, my neighbour has a third eye, but don’t worry about it just make sure you don’t look into that eye when he’s taking out the trash, because it’s considered rude.”
“Or you could go to their house and make the walk of shame back home?” she suggested.
Lauren shook her head. “Other people’s homes are...” she let out a breath, not wanting to admit she had an adamant fear that if she went to someone else’s house they’d lock her in the basement.
“Yeah, whatever. I’m the opposite. I don’t take people back to mine, I’d rather get it done and over with in the bathroom or go back to there’s if I want something longer.”
“That seems to work well for you.”
“It is what it is. All that feelings crap behind sex seems to constantly end up in situations like you. I say, bypass that and just have the sex part.”
Lauren chuckled. “There’s more to relationships than just sex.”
“Ugh, spare me your romantic mumbo jumbo, I am content in my uncomplicated life with my many orgasms.” Standing up, she grabbed the wine glass from Lauren, “Alright, I’ll get you another round and then try and match you up with someone. This is your third, right?”
“Good, that’ll make things easier.”
Lauren smiled, watching Tamsin’s hips sway as she walked over to the bar. It was refreshing to talk to someone who spoke exactly what she was thinking. She got to cut through the usual bullshit, and have an honest conversation. It was friendly, different to what she was used to with most fae or even Bo.
When Tamsin returned, it wasn’t with a glass of red. “Vodka will make everything better,” she explained, pushing the cocktail her way.
“Trust me. For this, you’ll want vodka so you can blame it on the alcohol and swear never to do it again, until next friday when you’re in the same seat waiting for someone else to come in.”
“Sounds like you’re coming from experience.”
The woman shrugged, eyes scanning over the room in search of a potential sex partner.
Lauren looked over Tamsin, watching her drink her second beer. She was interesting, stoic and held back at times, while more chaotic in a sense. Her motives seemed to be clear on a shallow level, but as Lauren reclined back into the vinyl seats of the booth, she found something puzzling. “Tamsin...why are you here?”
The valkyrie blinked, looking back to Lauren. “The beer’s cold and the women hot,” she shrugged, face tight and inexpressive. Lauren felt her lips part, taking a breath of confidence as she realised how shaky the grounds were of the question.
“No, I mean,” she looked down, smiling at the vodka-heavy cocktail nervously, “Why me?”
Tamsin became still, fingers wrapping around the neck of the beer tighter than necessary, “You’re one of the few people I haven’t managed to piss off. When I saw you in here I thought...” she shook her head, tagging a swig of beer. “I don’t see why it matters.”
Darting her eyes away, Lauren regretted asking. She didn’t mean to press the issue, but this was certainly an odd situation. “It’s just that usually you hang out at the Dal,” she shrugged.
“So do you.”
“I’m avoiding Bo.”
“Well, maybe I am as well.”
Lauren frowned, “Are you avoiding someone?”
“I thought this was about getting you laid, not twenty-questions with the shunned Dark Fae.” Tamsin froze at the last words. Noticing, Lauren looked down at her drink and lazily began playing with the straw before she took a sip. This was not something she wanted to get into.
“How much vodka did you say was necessary?”
The relief was evident. “Enough that you can smile and mean it.”
“I can smile perfectly fine, thank you.” Lauren returned, taking a sip of the drink as if to prove a point.
“Yes, but you have to mean it, doc.”
“Doc?” she blinked, slightly puzzled by the name. Though as she drank the alcohol, she felt a part of herself smile towards the familiarity in the nickname.
“Eh, you’re a doctor, doc for short. It works.”
Lauren laughed, already feeling the buzz from the surprisingly fruity drink. “Does that give me the right to give you a nickname in turn?”
“You call me Tam-tam or Tammy and I’ll make sure you never say another word. Ever.”
“I’ll be sure to keep that mind.” She paused, and then, “Who calls you Tam-tam?”
“Sorority,” she ground her teeth. “But killing them would get me even deeper in shit with the Dark Fae.” Sighing she sat back, taking a healthy drink from the beer.
The evening progressed and as more alcohol passed between them in alternative rounds, (though more often than not, after the cocktail, Lauren requested water or soft drink) conversation spun to a personal, though boastful route as the two, with each time they rose and returned with drinks, slowly began to subconsciously sit closer and closer until there were sitting on the same stretch of vinyl seat.
“A while ago when I was first starting out, I was short on cash,” Tamsin began, meeting Lauren’s eyes as she idly played with a straw and the melting ice, “so I took on some less than pleasing jobs.”
“Run of the mill, fifty dollar cases that at least pay for gas or your meals for the rest of the weak. That sort of thing,” she shrugged.
Lauren nodded, sympathising. At college, she lived mostly on tutoring and babysitting jobs in between and after classes. Her parents had paid for her education, but she had been expected to make her own living for food and everything else she wanted.
“One of the low bounties happened to be a man who’d skipped his caught date by accident. Slipped his mind apparently. I didn’t really look at the file that much except to get an idea where he might be. It wasn’t hard. The guy was at home, mid forties, and watching some ‘big game’ with a six pack of beer. Missed his date because of some other ‘big game’. Whatever, I don’t remember the details, what I do remember however is him opening to door wearing nothing but a robe that was wide open.”
Lauren choked, the mental image filling her brain, “oh that’s just...wrong.”
“Pretty much. A mid-forties, balding white man who probably drinks a slab a day. You can imagine what I- anyway, after explaining why I was there, he tried to slam the door in my face,” Lauren watched, amused as Tamsin scowled.
“I assume you were used to that happening though, being in that line of field, it seems to be common.”
“Yeah, you learn to wear doc martens and keep your foot wedged in the door. Needless to say, the door bounced back and I cuffed him before he had a chance to do anything else. Well, I got one wrist, he slipped free somehow and pulled away. Made a run for it, the skeez.”
“In just a robe?”
“Oh no, that fell off when I tried to grab it to tug him back, the freaking thing slipped and I was left chasing after a naked man who went for elevator.” A very deep scowl passed over Tamsin’s face as she shut her eyes to reject the image in her head. “The last thing anyone needs to see, ever, is a naked man’s butt cheeks as he runs from you.”
Lauren laughed. “So, he what? Ran and got into the elevator, and then just stood there naked as it went to a different floor?”
“Apparently. I had to run down six flights to catch him.”
“Did the elevator stop at every floor?” she asked. “Because six flights of stairs would take more time to run than an elevator moving directly down.”
Tamsin glared, “This is my story, remember?”
Lauren recoiled, “I just meant that-”
“Yeah, sure. Alright, fine Sherlock, I ran down two flights and jumped over the railing of the last one and ended up catching him as he was making a run for the door. Happy now?”
“It’s still a good story when you tell it like that,” Lauren smiled. “So what happened then?”
“I ended up tackling him to the ground, before I finished handcuffing him. After some struggle, I threw him into the passenger seat of my car,” Tamsin finished her story, shrugging. “Took him to get processed, collected my bounty money and I was off to buy beer.”
“Did you scrub your seats after he sat all over them?”
“Nah, there’s been worse things than some guys ass on my seats. The stories I could tell you doc, would make you sick to that lightweight stomach of yours.”
Lauren hummed, disagreeing, “you would be surprised. I’ve probably got some that could make you ill from the details.”
Tamsin laughed, shaking her head as she leaned back. “Alright, anyone you like now?”
The two of them were still looking for potential rebound partners, though Lauren had begun to find it more of a game as the resentment inside of her, softened with company. Scanning the area now, she noticed a tall red head who oozed sexual tension. “She’s interesting,” Lauren pointed out. “Boots, leather pants, with the blue shirt and the scarlet hair.”
Tamsin glanced over the room before finding said woman walking across to the bartender, “She’ll also end up giving you scars. Literally. Feeds of physical pain and violence.”
“Oh,” Lauren murmured, “wouldn’t she be happier at Vex’s club?”
“Vex has new management over on Evony’s orders, the club’s low-key for the moment and the BDSM scene’s become disgustingly vanilla.” Her eyes flicked around then, searching for someone suitable before noticing a familiar face, “What about Kara? Over there by the plants and blue lights. Short dark hair, part pixie. I mean, if you can ignore the teeth.”
“Yeah, those teeth? She’s part pixie and probably part-”
“Okay, I get it. Not a good idea. She might end up snapping your bones for the marrow. Fine, what do you want in rebound sex? Do you want someone better than Bo, worse than Bo-”
“She’s a succubus.”
Lauren turned to stare at Tamsin intently, feeling the haze of alcohol drum through her as she held the valkyrie’s eyes, “not much is better than Bo. Succubi read sexual energy and can see when certain things get you more aroused, and what doesn’t. They learn how to push your buttons pretty quickly.”
Tamsin tilted her head, bringing the glass to her lips before muttering, “you seemed to last a while with her. Unless you...?”
“No, we are not talking about me,” Lauren dismissed. There were many things she was open to, her sex life was not one of them. “However, you seem to have drawn some attention while you were here,” she noted, “does your reputation proceed you?”
“My reputation is something you’ll have to wonder about,” she returned, smirking as Lauren paused. A light blush reached the doctor’s cheeks as she laughed nervously and looked away from Tamsin.
“I...that’s not what I...okay then.” She shook her head, sitting back to repress the laugh. “Okay then, next story,” she gestured, holding up both index fingers to point to the valkyrie.
Tamsin lifted the drink in grip, shaking her head. “Nope, I want to hear another one of your boring stories.”
“My boring stories?” Lauren chuckled, “And here I thought you enjoyed the image of me getting chased by a bear shifter.”
Tamsin’s eyes glimmered, amused. “You falling face first in mud is amusing, however there wasn’t much medicine in that story.”
“No, well, I don’t think you’d find the medical stories all that interesting. Saying I helped birth a centaur child from a fury’s womb probably wouldn’t be as say, enthralling as me hiding in a ditch. However, I have some good college stories. Good drunk...college, perhaps not. Those could be used against me...”
Tamsin shook her head, amused as she watched Lauren babble in thought. “You’re so drunk.”
“I am. But you’re the one that kept buying me vodka, so it’s your fault. I was quite content on having wine, getting a little bit tipsy and then going home.”
“Well, you should get laid. Wake up hungover in an empty bed with someone you kind-of regret. I promise to make sure you won’t regret the person too much.”
Lauren blinked, shaking her head. As the night progressed, her resentment towards Bo had depleted. And as much as the idea of Tamsin setting her up for amusement could be fun, she wasn’t ready.
She hurt, and she was definitely still bitter, but this wasn’t fair on Bo, or herself. “No, it’s too soon,” she whispered. Smiling, she looked down at the empty glass in front of her, “This has been nice, really nice and thank you for making my evening actually interesting instead of a pity party, but...I should go home.”
“It’s midnight and I have to deal with a hangover tomorrow.” Moving to stand, she watched as the valkyrie rolled her eyes, more than a little annoyed that the evening ended so soon.
Lauren was surprised. Though she had enjoyed her evening, she didn’t think Tamsin found it any more than mildly amusing. “Goodnight,” she nodded dizzily.
Tamsin sighed, sliding out from the booth to watch as Lauren slowly rose, looking a lot more drunk than the valkyrie had expected. “come on, let me make sure you get home safely.”
“Look. Just...let me, okay? You’ve had a lot more alcohol than I think you’re aware of and as fun as leaving you to deal with that might be, if you were to get into trouble and the Ash got word I was the last to see you, my ass would be on the line. And I don’t need another cross through my name,” she glared determined and too tired to fight, Lauren’s shoulders dropped in defeat.
She knew Tamsin was right. Already she was struggling not to let the world spin too much. It was probably due to mixing wine and vodka.
“Fine. Take me home valkyrie.”
Tamsin snorted, reaching into her pocket to pull out her set of keys. At the jingle, Lauren squinted, “you’re not driving are you?”
“Of course I am.”
“Valkyrie, doc. Didn’t you study us? Our metabolism is higher than humans by a long shot. I’m not over the limit.” Lauren scowled at her, “come on grumpy, get some water in you, and you’ll be home in no time.”
“I’m not grumpy.”
Tamsin snickered, leading her outside the bar into the parking lot. To her surprise, Lauren didn’t stumble too much in the boots she wore. Though more than once, she had to use pillars on the way over, to steady herself.
“Get in,” she gestured vaguely to the black pickup.
Lauren blinked. “Woah.”
“Kind of expected like a...I don’t know. Motorbike maybe?”
Tamsin chuckled, “Oh, one day I’ll show you my bike. Leave’s Dyson’s to shame. I saved up for six years to get her.” Sliding in, she made sure that Lauren buckled up before switching on the car and turning the radio down.
“I’ve been there.”
“Oh. Right. That case.”
Tamsin smiled to herself as she flicked on her headlights and switched the car into gear. Lauren leaned against the door, falling asleep already.
“We should do this again. Hang out. Even if you don’t want to be seen. We could go somewhere undercover and low key to hide under the fae...the....”
“Mm,” Lauren murmured, yawning as she nodded sleepily.
“Why?” Tamsin frowned.
“Because you’re the only person who cuts through bull...”
“Yeah, well, don’t hold your breath. You’re still human.”
Chapter 3: Pure Morning
A friend in need is a friend in deed. A friend with breasts and all the rest.
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
A weight rested on Lauren’s waist, curling around her torso. For a moment, she found herself blinking at sunlight, puzzled. Bo rarely slept over hers, it was usually in the succubus’ home that they ended up-
Last night came back to her then as she began to feel the effects. The alcohol was now thick and nauseating in her belly, though her head only carried a minor ache. Frowning, she rolled onto her back to escape the some shaft of sunlight that spilled across the edge of her pillow.
Tamsin shifted beside her, head nuzzling against her shoulder. At Lauren’s movement, her arm tightened, before she relaxed again, slipping further asleep. It was oddly cute, and as Lauren watched her, she found herself smiling. She wasn’t sure how the woman got there, but for the moment, she was warm.
If feeling a little awkward to waking up with a semi-stranger in her bed, pantsless.
Vaguely, Lauren remembered drinking cups of water the night before, and then Tamsin had ordered her to bed before following her to make sure she’d make it up the stairs safely, but how the valkyrie ended up asleep beside her was unknown. Fuzzy to be honest. There was a conversation but she’d been half asleep at that point.
Though, she mused, it was somewhat amusing to find out that the warrior-woman was such a sleep-cuddler.
“Mm,” Tamsin murmured, taking a deep breath before slowly letting it out. Hopefully the woman didn’t have to work.
She didn’t. Not really, the only work she had planned for her self was more personally induced research. She only completed the small projects in her spare time, in between improving the fae archive and keeping herself up-to-date with knowledge.
She had time to just rest in bed for a moment longer. Probably.
Lauren stretched her head, feeling the warm light cast over her again. Besides her, the clock on the bedside table read that it was a few minutes past eight. A part of her knew she should move, go and shower or make breakfast. Something that didn’t leave her feeling odd in bed with a sleeping valkyrie.
She half expected that at any given moment, Tamsin would wake, grab her neatly folded clothes from on top of the dresser, and with a last scowl, leave.
But the valkyrie slept on.
Eventually Lauren untangled herself from the bed, careful to not disturb the valkyrie as she pulled her robe from a hook hanging off the back of the door, and wrapped herself warmly within it before quietly walking down stairs.
She’d shower later. Breakfast was needed first. Something heavy and greasy with a side of orange juice to counteract the alcohol.
Looking through her fridge, she pulled out the ingredients as the idea of bacon and eggs caught her attention. Grabbing her frypan, she took a breath, easing into her morning routine.
Cooking was a small comfort to her. A process that kept her mind occupied. In the half-asleep state as she brewed a new pot of coffee, she could wonder about Tamsin, her experiments and when thoughts of Bo set her stomach turning, she could focus on the crackling oil, or the scent of coffee and bacon.
It was hard not to feel the echoes, though. Remember an arm around her waist, a laugh next to ear as she explained her method of cooking to her once-lover.
How could Bo...?
No. She didn’t want to ponder this. Didn’t want to focus on the aches and drive herself mad with could-haves and why-nots.
Lauren paused, looking up as footsteps came down the stairs. “Morning,” she smiled. Tamsin, still pantless, headed straight for the coffee, making herself quite at home as she then went into the fridge to pull out Lauren’s milk.
At the woman’s grumble, Lauren plated the food quickly and handed one to Tamsin before switching off the fry pan.
“Don’t talk to me,” Tamsin growled as she stood on the other side of the bench and began eating her own meal. Lauren didn’t reply, content in keeping to her food as she quietly passed over the salt and pepper. Moments passed in silence before Tamsin looked up. “Ah, thanks by the way.”
“For letting me crash.”
“It’s no problem,” Lauren smiled, “Though I doubt the Light would take too kindly if they knew,” she teased, smiling as she took a sip of her orange juice.
Tamsin smiled, grabbing the second glass laid out on the table, and pouring her own glass. “Yeah well, I’ve gotten special privileges working with Dyson. Get to walk around and play with the Light Fae toys, just as Dyson gets to play with the Dark.”
“I’m a toy now?”
Tamsin smirked, eyeing Lauren, “you could be.”
A blush unexpectedly pulled at the received attention. Laughing nervously, she adjusted the conversation, “So do you have plans?”
“Work?” The bacon and eggs probably would have gone better with a side of toast, Lauren noted, cutting into it. But it was too late now to cook that. Tamsin was finished and it felt wrong to make them for herself, now.
“Nah, not unless Dyson calls.” Tamsin stretched her arms then, rolling her shoulders before leaning forward to smirk at Lauren. “You didn’t go home with anyone.”
“I went home with you,” Lauren counted.
“Yeah but we didn’t sleep together.” Lauren blinked, looking at her until Tamsin rolled her eyes, “you know what I mean.”
“Apparently I don’t.”
“Cute,” she replied deadpan, nose scrunching up distastefully to make her point. “Your coffee sucks by the way,” she said, eyeing the half empty mug. “You’re buying a cheap brand. Forking out the extra money wouldn’t kill you, you know?”
“I’ll be sure to keep that in mind for the next time you decide to crash in my bed for the night,” Lauren smirked, taking Tamsin’s plate over to the sink. Rinsing the dishes of oil, she placed them neatly into the dishwasher before moving other glasses and cups into their designated places. When she went to turn around, Tamsin was behind her.
“Uh-uh. Let me speak,” she said, placing her hands on other side of Lauren, onto the bench, pining Lauren in place. “Right now you’re hung up over the succubus, you love her, it hurts, blah-blah-blah.”
“Tamsin-” Lauren pushed, but the valkyrie didn’t move. Her was expression masked, and regardless of Lauren’s sharp ability to read body language, she couldn’t see the woman’s intentions. Frustrated, she allowed Tamsin to continue if only out of curiosity. “What is it?”
“Look, you need to rebound and get it out of your system ASAP. Clearly you’re not the type to pig out on ice cream and sob your way until the next one comes over, but you are the type to fuck your way out of misery.”
Resentment towards the comment rose bitterly inside of Lauren, curling beneath her skin. “I am not the-”
“Please. You went to a bar with the plan to get drunk and fall into bed with someone. Don’t tell me it’s your first time.”
“So what you did after your last break-up? How long did it take you to get in bed with someone, or at least try?” Lauren went quiet. Nadia’s face, pale as she bled out, filling her memory; the nights she loathed going to bed cold, waking up alone until she managed to pull her self to Bo’s. How long did that take? Was it a single night that she couldn’t stand being alone, or had weeks past?
She should know that answer, but under Tamsin’s scrutinizing stare, she trembled and fell short.
“I went to get drunk last night,” she pushed, returning the hot stare. Her body tensed into the glare, and she was sure nothing but blinding anger could be seen, but Tamsin only looked down at her amused.
“You could have gotten drunk at home for half the price.”
She wanted to shrink under the words and stare. Awkwardly she pressed back against the bench, forcing her legs to remain unbent as Tamsin pinned her. The woman wasn’t touching her, not yet, but she was close enough that Lauren could see the different pigments in her eyes.
“Perhaps I just needed a friend,” she replied sarcastically. The defense fell with a short laugh from the valkyrie.
“I’m sure. But now I have to wonder, why did Bo leave you? I mean, she had it all: the chance to take home who she wants, to feed with whomever, wherever, and then she got to come home to a pretty thing who’d do anything for her. Even betray the Ash. I mean, this can’t be because you didn’t believe her all that time ago about the human-friend, that’s done and over with. And it’s not because you lied to her, she forgave you for that.”
Her hands gripped the counter top as she glared at Tamsin. She could feel the words like cold steel digging into her pride, “What are you insinuating?” she asked, teeth grinding.
“I’m asking you,” Tamsin whispered lowly, taking great pleasure in getting a rise out of Lauren as she leant in close. “what did you do?”
“I did nothing wrong.”
“Come on, between ‘friends’, what did you do to make the succubus break off her only real chance at a white picket fence and make her go running back to Dyson?”
Lauren froze, her anger leaving her temporarily as the words echoed. “She...she what?”
“Her, the wolf, feeding and healing or whatever you call it. Fucking I guess is a good word choice,” she noted, shrugging.
Lauren was quiet, processing the words with a blank expression. Fucking. Bo was...with Dyson again.
Stepping back from her, Tamsin blinked. Lauren’s expression made her feel cold as she realised what she’d done, “Fuck. Look, I honestly thought you knew about that, I thought it was part of your deal last night. You know, you two being together and her with her ex, healing. Well, until you said you broke it off that is.”
Lauren trembled. The bitterness returning inside of her. She knew Bo needed to heal, understood that that was important, but she at least believed that Bo would spare her feelings and wait a while before returning to Dyson. Feed off strangers that Lauren had no connection with.
This was unnecessarily cruel.
“You okay there doc? You look like you’re going to hurl or cry or something.” Lauren vaguely heard the words Tamsin spoke critically. There was a dull numbness that filled her, imaging Bo leaving her for Dyson...
Was that why? Did Bo ever really feel for her, or was she just a nice distraction from Dyson when he had no love.
“She’s with him?” she asked, her voice drifting out of her in a haze. None of this made sense. None of this should make sense.
“What, do you want me to go shoot a porno video for proof?”
Lauren shook her head, blinking as she tried to regain control. Looking down the robe she wore, to where her feet poked out from beneath cotton grey pants, she focused on her toes, or the pattern in the linoleum. “How long?”
“I don’t know. A week maybe?” Tamsin shrugged, shifting her weight awkwardly, “what does it matter?”
“It doesn’t.” Lauren shook her head, laughing coldly, “clearly it was Dyson, it was always...Dyson. I should have known, right? I mean, she never...it was never...” Shutting her eyes, she leant back. Her breath shuddered, hands clenching before she opened her eyes again. “I need to do experiments. I have a lab to organise for Monday.” She went to move, but Tamsin snatched at her wrist.
Interrupting, she tugged her wrist free before anything could be said. Her body was tight, poised. She wanted to run, run far away from the fae, from all this crap, but most of all, she wanted to get as far away from Bo as possible. But she couldn’t. She had a lifetime indenturement to fulfil because she wanted to save a woman who was now dead.
Swallowing, she took a breath to focus her mind.
Tamsin, for once, was at a loss with words.
“I need you to leave.” Lauren looked up then; her eyes hard, hands steady by her sides as she held her jaw tight to keep her voice from wavering, “I need you to leave, now.”
Tamsin nodded, swallowing any further comments. Lauren watched her leave, walk up stairs and dress before coming back down. There was no snark, no final words. Just the quiet sound of the door closing and receding steps.
Outside, Tamsin’s head spun as she dug into her pocket for the keys. It shouldn’t matter. Lauren was just a human. Intelligent maybe, mildly attractive, she guessed, but there was nothing particularly interesting about her. Nothing that should make Tamsin feel so guilty.
It was that damn puppy-face. How her eyes got big and glassy, and that small quiver in her lip as she asked about Dyson. “Fuck,” Tamsin swore, hitting the steering wheel hard enough to hear the plastic groan.
Sitting back, she sighed, taking a moment to breath.
She could still taste the breakfast. It’d been awhile since someone cooked for her, and never without motive. But Lauren had done it casually, it wasn’t a thanks for the sex, or anything like that. It was hangover food. As though she might recognise...
Tamsin blinked, shoving the key into the ignition. She was thinking too much on this. She just needed...
Oh. Right. The Morrigan was having her house raided. She was homeless for two more days until Evony grew bored of the passive-aggressive punishment and moved onto something more straightforward.
She just hoped they didn’t touch her weapons collection. She could handle coming home to a trashed apartment, but her weapons were hers. She’d spent years building the collection and keeping them in top condition was one of the few things she had left to keep her mind clear.
Starting up the engine, she headed for the office. She’d pick up some files, maybe get a workout, shower, switch into clean clothes. Anything to take her mind from Lauren’s hurt expression.
Sorry for the short chapter, but it just worked out that way.
Also if anyone doesn't know, the chapters are based (loosely) around the songs they're written to, or at least a selected segment. (Before the Rain - Duran Duran, All That is Thirst - Pati Yang, and Pure Morning - Placebo)
Chapter 4: Strange Behaviour
There's a dead body and Tamsin doesn't understand why she keeps stepping into this damned love triangle.
Her boots crunched down on the dry grass as she pushed through the brush. A hand was raised to deflect any on coming branches that flung back after Dyson pushed through. The brute tended to forget she was right behind him. Idiot. “This is bullshit.”
“The dead body?”
She glared, shaking her head, “No, the corpse is fine. My fucking boots however, are no- ow.”
“What? Finally twist your ankle?” He turned around to see Tamsin’s long, pale hair, caught in a branch. The valkyrie's expression was bordering on contempt with him.
“Shut it!” she warned, holding up one finger before moving to untangle her hair from the mass of thin twigs. “I hate this area; it's muggy and there are too many bloodsuckers out here. Not to mention the ticks and mosquitos.”
Dyson chuckled, watching as his partner finally ripped free her hair, before moving to tie it back into a bun. Satisfied, she let out a huff of breath and gestured for him to move. “I didn’t take you for the type to shy away from camping," he teased. "I thought you were all for nature.”
“Camping is ridiculous,” she scoffed. “Why lie out beneath some stars, only to freeze your tits off, get bitten by mosquitoes and take a shit in some dirt hole when you can just go rent a cabin, or whatever takes your fancy. And you may be a tree hugger, but I take comfort in my nice, warm bed with my central heating.”
“I think the point is being one with nature.”
“And I’m pretty sure that’s still illegal here, though I guess some rules get shaky when it comes to shifters,” Tamsin smirked as she continued to follow him, only stopping to duck her head down, avoiding any oncoming branches."If I didn't know any better, I'd say you were getting us lost."
"I can smell the body. We're not that far away."
Tamsin rolled her eyes, but it wasn't much longer before the grass began to thin out and larger trees came into view. They'd finally hit the woods, and already she could feel a distinctive hum over the wildlife. Something was definitely amiss. Dyson too, looked tense, but when she questioned it, he shook it off and muttered something about a 'bad vibe'.
Bad vibes weren't enough. Bad vibes could be food poisoning or him coming down with the case of a succubus STD, so until she had more than some spooked birds and a tense wolf, this was just another dumped body by a careless human.
“Finally!” she exclaimed as they pushed through to the clearing. In the distance she could see where the tape was wrapped around a throng of trees, warding off the happy campers she and Dyson would end up questioning one by one. Annoying humans. Most of them were probably too high or drunk to remember the night before. “Hey wolfboy, why didn’t we come that way?” she asked, pointing to where all the police and ambulance vans were parked off a dirt road.
"The scent came through this way. There may have been evidence."
"Bullshit," Tamsin’s rolled her eyes as she sharply adjusted the leather jacket and stalked over to where the forensic team was. "Evidence my ass," she muttered. Dyson wanted to get under her skin. Ever since Hale had been made the new Ash, they’d been teamed together for a trial Dark-Light partnership.
It’d been a couple of months now and still they were play a tug-o-war, learning each others boundaries, how far they could get under the other’s skin before they snapped.
This was exactly why she hated partners. If the Morrigan hadn’t given direct orders for her to remain, she’d up and quit, return to the solitary work of being a bounty hunter. The pay fluctuated from ‘retiring to Paradise’ to ‘living in the truck’ but it didn’t require a sniffer dog. Much.
Tamsin’s nose wrinkled as the potent stench hit her. The body had either been baking in the sun, or it was a few weeks old. Either way, she felt the smell in the back of her throat.
Pushing under the police tape, she took a peak at the body before sighing.
Damn. The body looked as if something had ripped its way out from the stomach.
“We could pass it off as a sick joke gone wrong,” she said to Dyson. “But you might have to call in someone for the report.”
“Lauren,” he nodded. “She can examine the body as well. But I’m thinking Underfae.”
Tamsin nodded, pulling out her phone, hesitating only briefly before dialing. It was Monday, Lauren probably had forgotten the event.
“Doctor Lewis speaking.”
“Yo, Doc. We need you here for a case, something burrowed out of a camper’s body. We’re thinking Underfae going by the trail of bloody footprints.” Well, there were no footprints per-say, but she was sure Dyson could sniff something out.
Lauren paused on the other end of the phone. Tamsin was about to snap at her to reply when she heard a deflated breath. “Can you deliver it here?”
Tamsin looked up at Dyson, raising her eyebrows expectantly. There was no way he wasn’t listening. “Sure,” he nodded.
“Dyson says that’s fine.”
“Tamsin…” Lauren took a breath.
“I’ll expect good beer.”
“Thank you.” Pocketing the phone, she turned to face her partner. Dyson’s brows were up high. “Don’t,” she cut off. “It’s none of your business.”
“I was just going to say that the conversation was friendly.”
“I can be friendly!”
“Don’t,” she warned again.
“I’m just saying, Lauren’s Light.”
“No? Really, wow. I didn’t know.” She glared, hands on hips, scowling at Dyson. “I am not sleeping with the Light’s prized human possession.”
“I swear to whatever higher being you believe in Dyson, I will beat the shit out of you if you suggest anything further.”
Tamsin punched him, knocking him backwards. Letting out a breath, she sighed contently as adrenaline flushed through her system. “That. Was worth it,” she smiled. Then, noticing people staring she pulled back. Fuck this shit. “Yeah, yeah crime scene, whatever. Look, everyone finish up what you need to do and I’ll take the freaking body and excuse myself.”
Dyson snickered, righting his nose as he stood back up. “I’ll back off.”
“Good, because-” she cut off, looking at the campers. “Damn. You! Yeah, shorty with the curls, hand it over.” She stormed over, holding out her hand. The boy looked at her terrified, feigning confusion. Or maybe he was just stupid.
She didn’t care.
She grabbed him, taking the package and looking down at it. Shit. Acid. “We’ll have to take them in.” Dyson said.
“You realize this means anything they’ve seen isn’t worth jack shit.”
“Yeah, I know.”
Biting back the urge to punch the kids, she pulled out the zip ties, sticking them on the kids one by one. The kids, having being off their high for a few hours now – probably around the time they realized their friend was dead – were compliant for the most part.
One of them. Greasy who smelt like a toilet, tried to complain and got a knee in his back. That shut him up well enough.
“Sit,” she warned. “Good boys.”
Turning to Dyson, she stared at him. “I’ll go tell Alf. We can follow behind.”
“Tell me how we’re going to do that when you parked the car a mile back?”
Dyson stared at her, grinning as he threw his keys. “Catch.”
She caught them, glaring. “I should punch you again.”
“You should,” he agreed, laughing as he left.
Tamsin cracked her neck. Lauren looked up at her, glaring. “Sorry,” she muttered, holding her hands up.
“You don’t have to be here,” Lauren said, peering back down into the corpse. She reached up, adjusting the light as she continued: “I will be writing up report for you with all the necessary information.”
“Maybe I want to be here in case you forget something,” Tamsin shrugged, folding her arms as she lent back against the bench. Truth was she was trying to figure out how to say sorry your feelings are hurt. Or something along that line. “So...what do you know?”
“It’s definitely an exit wound, it seemed to have latched onto the wall of the stomach until it grew too big. I would agree with Dyson’s hypothesis. So far, it seems fae.”
“Wouldn’t he have…” Tamsin waved her hand around, gesturing to her stomach. “Felt it grow or whatever.”
“He probably ingested it not long before it tore free, there are many fae that grow rapidly within their hosts before, well,” she turned back to the corpse, digging through the stomach contents. Tamsin made a disgusted noise. “By the time he felt pain it was burrowing out. Did you say there were drugs?”
“It’s possible that could have sped up the meiosis process and-”
“Meiosis, it’s...the growth of the fetus.”
“So it’s a fetus?”
“No, it’s hatched, it’s a baby or a child now.” Grabbing her pair of tweezers, she picked up what looked like a gross looking sack. “Found it.”
“What is that? A condom?”
Lauren looked at Tamsin horrified. “Do you really have to be here commenting?”
“You don’t have to be rude,” Tamsin said, pushing off the bench. “Sorry I’m not as smart as you, but it looks like a condom.”
Lauren sighed, placing the sack next to her equipment on the table. She planned to dissect it and look for genetic markers once she’d dealt with the valkyrie. “Why are you here, Tamsin?” she asked softly.
Tamsin fumbled for a lie, gaping before she answered, “The case.” Lauren’s gaze didn’t drop away. “Fine, I just...you were pissed the last time I saw you. I thought you knew about her and Dyson.” Hands on her hips, she looked down at her feet. “I honestly thought you did know. I would have been more careful or whatever. Not dropped it on you like that first thing in the morning.”
“You slept over.”
“Way to change the topic.” Tamsin said. It got a chuckle from Lauren. In her defense, drunken Lauren got clingy when she dropped her in bed and thought she was a human teddy bear. Plus it was better than her truck. “You had orange juice,” she finally answered, shrugging it off like it was no big deal.
Lauren smiled, humming as she turned away, disposing the latex gloves with a decided snap from both hands. “Orange juice?”
“Ah. Coffee,” she smiled again. Lauren paused, turning on her heel as if she was about to say something before shutting her mouth again. Taking a breath, she met Tamsin’s eyes. “Come over tonight.”
“It’s just...I owe you a beer.”
“Beer.” She wasn’t convinced.
“I’m also making pizza.”
Tamsin frowned. “What do you mean ‘making pizza’? Don’t you just...order it?”
Lauren laughed again, shaking her head. “You’ll see.”
“Why do you want me over?” Tamsin asked. “Are you going to perform weird science things on me because you’re still angry?”
“The idea crossed my mind,” she nodded, smiling at her. “But, I just want to discuss the case. I need to dig up some files but there’s something familiar about it. And I’m sure Dyson’s found something by now.” Tamsin’s phone rang on cue. Turning away, Lauren said a short goodbye as Tamsin answered her partner’s call.
“You still at the doc’s?”
“Tell Lauren we’re sending over some files, then get over here. This isn’t the first case.” Tamsin sighed as Dyson hang up. Turning to Lauren she relayed the message, watching Lauren nod, unsurprised, before she returned to the station.
On her desk was twelve yellow files and Dyson with coffee. Snatching the Styrofoam cup from him, she opened the first one. Jason Thirroul, 27. Australian tourist. Same ripped stomach, but found in an alley way. The second one, Kelly Rivera, 17. Local, found in her backyard, ripped from the chest. Mikel Borgia, 55, here for work and found in a hotel room, spine. The others read similar.
Different ages, backgrounds, different social classes, hell, even different countries. Tamsin sighed. “This tells me nothing. Even the wounds are different.”
“They’re similar though. All look like something tore its way out. I’m not saying they’re all connected but I think that they show a striking resemblance to our case, don’t you think?”
She nodded. He was right. Still, it didn’t tell her much. “What do you want to do?”
“Start digging. Half these cases are cold. This one,” he tapped the top file of the Australian tourist. “Was two weeks ago. I thought we’d do some digging.”
“Right now?” she set the coffee down, staring at him. “I haven’t had lunch.”
“We can get lunch on the way.”
“Fine.” She finished the coffee, chucking it in the bin. “You sure you don’t want to get out your whiteboard and start putting photos up?”
Dyson laughed, shaking his head. “Come on, I’ll get you a BLT.”
“Now we’re talking.”
The alleyway was boring, Tamsin said so with a mouthful of the promised BLT.
Dyson took a breath, smelling before he moved around. “The body was found here,” he said. Blood still stained the bricks even after it’d been hosed off. Not surprising with the amount that came out. Taking in a breath, he tried to smell anything else. Nothing.
“It was two weeks ago.” She took another bite, polishing it off before she chucked the packaging in the bin. Wiping her mouth with the back of her hand, she stared at Dyson. “The trash would have been emptied and the insects would have taken most of the evidence left anyway, if there was anything. I don’t know what you’re searching for.”
“A connection. What was he doing here?”
“It’s near a hostel,” she shrugged, “he could have been walking back.”
“The pub? I don’t know! What do Australians do in Canada?”
“What most people do.”
“Sex, money and alcohol,” she rolled her head, mourning the eaten BLT. She was still hungry. She had pizza to look forward to but who knew what weird things Lauren would put on the base. Maybe she liked vegan. Tamsin shuddered, dismissing the thought. No, the doc was weird but not that weird.
Dyson rose and looked around the area while Tamsin tried not to touch the wall. There wasn’t much garbage or crap lying around. For an alleyway, it was well kept. But it still stunk of urine. “How far’s the hostel?”
“You’ve lived here longer, haven’t you?” Dyson stared at her. “Right, fine, it’s about a mile that way.” She pointed ahead, where they’d parked the car. “So he was probably coming from somewhere here. There’s a bakery?” she suggested.
“He could have been heading somewhere. Does the report say anything about alcohol or drugs?”
Tamsin sighed. The file was back in the car. She went to argue but stopped. There wasn’t a point, Dyson already had his back to her. Dick.
Hanging her head, she walked over to the car, looking for it in the backseat. When she finally grabbed it, scattered beneath the others, she headed back to Dyson, flicking through to the coroner’s report. “Marijuana. Not that surprising.”
Dyson shook his head. “Maybe it’s a drug connection?”
Tamsin shrugged. She didn’t think it was likely. Marijuana and acid were on a different playing field. She doubt they even had the same dealer. “Could be food. Maybe they went to the same restaurant before hand.”
“Did Lauren say how long it would take for the parasite to grow?”
“Nah, she thinks drugs might have sped it up. Which doesn’t help with any of the death locations.” She looked around. The area wasn’t the slums, but it wasn’t far up from it either. “Do we have to check out all the areas?”
“Let’s just go to the hostel and check that out first.”
“Why? It’s all territory.”
“Bo did a case a while back that used backpackers, maybe someone got an idea.”
Tamsin stared. “They’re not all backpackers. One of them was here on work, another-”
“We’re covering all bases.”
“It’s a wild goose chase!” She threw her hands in the air, frustrated. Like hell she was going to stomp around and look for anyone that might know shit. There was a fucking list of witnesses they could call for fuck’s sake and Dyson knew as much.
He just didn’t trust the humans to see as well as him. Which was probably mostly true but dammit, it’d been two weeks. What did he think they were going to find?
“Until we have a lead, we’re going to go on a wild goose chase. Come on.”
“Fuck this.” Tamsin said, stomping after him, shoving the file into his hand. “Fine, whatever, but you can talk to them. I’m going to search around the area this time. I do have some experience in that area, even if I can’t smell what they ate for breakfast.”
Dyson chuckled at her, slapping a hand over her shoulder. “If you want.”
As they walked out on the street, Dyson peered down at, watching her anger grow darker with each footstep. The first person they came across was going to be knocked unconscious if he wasn’t careful. “So...beer tonight?”
“Don’t think you can keep buy me off,” she snapped. “Besides, I’m busy.” Dyson’s eyebrows rose. “I do have a life outside of you and work.”
“You’re an asshole.” He laughed dodging a punch for his shoulder.
“Who’s the date?”
“Who said it was a date? I have beer and pizza waiting for me and I’m not giving that up for anything or anyone. Including a night out with you.” She smiled at him, the sarcasm biting at the corners. “Besides, I’m sure Bo would prefer you to be with her.”
“Yeah, you two. You’re a thing now, aren’t you?”
He frowned, but didn’t comment. Tamsin got the feeling she’d, again, stepped into something she shouldn’t have. Dammit, she needed to tape her own mouth shut, or just stay out of the whole love triangle thing. Whatever it was, it was messy and she wanted no part of it. Succubus be damned.
Okay, she wanted the beer and pizza part, but that was it.
Dyson stopped suddenly, staring at something ahead. “You know what, you’re right. Head back to the station,” he handed back the file. “I can handle this on my own.”
He offered her his best smile. “I’ll catch a cab back.”
“Don’t give me the crap, what’s going on?”
He looked at her, conflicted before he gave in. “I had an idea, but it’s Light Fae territory.”
“So, they won’t appreciate a Dark Fae valkyrie stalking around.”
“Fine. Whatever.” Rolling her eyes, she began heading back to the car. “See you at the station then. If you don’t die first.”
“Goodbye to you too.”
Chapter 5: the Sound of Violence
Beer, wine and pizza
“You didn’t want me to bring anything, did you?” Tamsin asked when the door opened. Lauren’s smile froze before widening unexpectedly warm.
“No, all good. I have wine, pizza and beer.” She opened the door further, stepping back to allow entrance. Tamsin walked in, rolling her shoulders as she tossed a look around the apartment. Exactly how she remembered, expect with more light. “Ah, bathroom’s upstairs to your right if you need it.”
“Oh.” Lauren’s cheeks pinked briefly, before she shut the door. Tamsin almost snickered at the reaction, whether it was from her having been here before, or because she’d seen her bathroom didn’t matter.
The doc rushed around, moving to check on the pizza. A cutting board had been laid out, tomato sauce, cheese, and a fair few other things that Tamsin had no idea with. But before she could get a look, Lauren had begun packing it all away back into the fridge, wiping down the bench as if the cooking part had never happened. “You’re a bit of a clean freak, aren’t you?”
“Do you know how many people have salmonella, e.coli and cryptospordium without even realising it? Most people aren’t aware that salmonella, though usually destroyed in the cooking part, still resides on the packaging and where you cut up meat, which is why you should always thoroughly clean surfaces after using meat before you cut up anything else. E.coli-“
“Yo, doc. Valkyrie. Fae, remember? Most of that stuff wouldn’t cause a tickle in my throat, so cool it.”
Lauren’s lips twisted uncomfortably, staring at the woman before she nodded. “Right. Well, they can, as a matter of fact, affect you if you’re already sick. Worse, they can mutate into something else.”
Tamsin shrugged. “I have people out in the world looking for a chance to kill me. I think they’re a little more important than a teeny-tiny bacteria.” The look Lauren gave her was priceless, and Tamsin couldn’t help but smile back at her. “So…” she said as Lauren moved around the kitchen, “do you have to learn how to pronounce all that stuff, or do you just make it up and hope the other person doesn’t know?”
“Most words come from greek or latin, their pronunciation is far more straightforward than people are aware.” Lauren shrugged, then, smiling, said: “But most of the time people don’t realise if I mispronounce.”
“I knew it. You totally make it up half the time.”
“I never said that.” Tamsin scoffed at her. “So, wine?”
“God yes, after the day I had. I’ll take anything.”
Tamsin slipped off her coat, slinging it over the back of a chair. Her eyes followed the strip of flesh revealed as Lauren reached up, grabbing two glasses. “A day. Wild goose chase, Dyson being a pain. Usual stuff.” Tamsin didn’t miss the brief moment where Lauren’s body tensed, but chose to ignore it. “So, what did you find out about the critter?”
“Hmm?” Lauren turned around, placing the glasses down. Under the bench, she pulled a red from the wine rack and held it up for approval. Tamsin didn’t care either way. Red, white, it was all alcohol. “Oh, right the case.” Lauren nodded, pouring the wine into the glass. “I don’t know.”
“What do you mean ‘I don’t know’.”
Lauren looked up, pushing the glass over to her. “I mean, I was…busy.”
“Busy.” She nodded.
“Busy my ass, you were working on it all day!”
Lauren glared up at her, screwing the bottle cap on before she set the wine down again. It was a moderately cheap brand, a good one, she supposed, but then again, Tamsin didn’t exactly rock down to winery walkabouts all that often.
“I was distracted. I had other patients to attend to.”
“And the entire Medical Light Fae at your disposal.” Speaking of, she shouldn’t be here. But, whatever. Hale can come knocking on her door and she’ll explain. Or pull something out of her ass to get him to lay off.
Lauren, however, was lifting the wine to her mouth, body tense. Her fingers tapped against the bench nervously before the glass set down again. “Dyson was right, it is an underfae, but nothing I’ve seen before. At least, not from what I could see from the embryo sack. It’s possible that the DNA shifts after gestation, but without seeing it, I wouldn’t know.”
“Gross, and a lot of help.” Tamsin took a sip of the wine, hoping it could wash the bad taste of ‘embryo sack’ from her mind.
“Well, I assume it’s parasitic giving where it was found, however I haven’t…” her hand clenched. “I haven’t logged it into the archive just yet to see if the Light have anything on their database. It’s possible, but if they didn’t, the Dark might-“
“And so’s my ass!” she snapped. Lauren didn’t flinch, but Tamsin didn’t miss the subtle fear flash over her features. Dammit. “Look, I’m not good in with the Dark right now.”
“Yes, but this case-“
“Won’t help. Alright? Just…drop it.” She sighed, rolling her shoulders. It didn’t help that Lauren’s crestfallen expression was like a kick to the shin. “Evony doesn’t give two shits about underfae in humans as long as someone is there to cover up the mess. I’ll do what I can, but so far, all I can do is keep to my job.”
“Don’t be, you didn’t screw up.” Tamsin shrugged, adding a short, “Yet.” Because who knew, maybe the doc would fuck this all up. It didn’t take much. Bo was enough of a catalyst to screw things up for everyone else it seemed.
Silence held between them before a short ding from the timer rang out. The sound had Lauren rushing over to the oven and pulling out the pizza, washing the all-too familiar aroma of pizza through the apartment. It was good enough that the irritation Tamsin felt, began to subside. Quickly, Lauren set it down the food onto a wooden platform and brought it over onto the bench.
Cutting it into slices, she served it onto plates and smiled at Tamsin. “I didn’t know if you liked meat lovers or supreme, but I assumed-“
“It’s good,” she nodded, taking a slice. One bite however, nearly had her melting. Dammit, the doc could cook. “Fuck me.”
Lauren chuckled. “Good?”
Tamsin stared at the food, taking another bite eagerly. She had no idea what was on the pizza, but she had never tasted pizza so good. Lauren moved away from the bench, grabbing a file from her work table and setting it down between them. “That’s all I have. It’s not much.”
“I’m eating an orgasm,” Tamsin said, chewing happily. “Save the science crap for afterwards, alright?”
“My hamburgers are also better,” she mentioned casually, flicking open the file. Tamsin’s eyes went to the photos of the other victims. There was one she hadn’t seen before, a red headed boy. Fourteen. Damn. “This one is different,” Lauren said, tapping her finger on the photo. “I don’t know if it’s a different case, or what without having seen the body. The lab reports are similar, but you see how the stomach wound is cleanly sliced open. The creature didn’t burst from this one. It was cut out.”
“So someone’s breeding them?”
Lauren shrugged. “I wouldn’t know. Without knowing what the creature is, it could just as simply be an outbreak of some random underfae. The report from this body seems to think that someone tried to save them, perhaps they knew what was inside and attempted to get it out before it was too late. Clearly failing but…”
“Or it could simply be some underfae dealings.” Tamsin grabbed another slice of pizza, wiping her hands on a serviette Lauren had laid out before she flicked through the file. Little else was mentioned. “I thought you said you didn’t do much.”
“Well that wasn’t difficult, I only had to look through the reports. I did all that before-“ she cut off, stuttering briefly before deciding to just end the sentence there lamely. Her hands fidgeted as she took the glass.
Tamsin looked up at her, eyebrows raising. “Before?” she prompted.
“Before I was called in to the medical bay,” she spoke nonchalantly. Tamsin squinted, nose scrunching up at the answer.
“You’re a horrible liar, you know that right?”
Lauren deflated at the words, sighing. “Yeah, I know.”
“So…what? You didn’t get work done because…?” she waited, staring hard at the doctor. Lauren squirmed under her gaze, fiddling with the wine before she decided to just set it down.
“I was busy,” she tried. Tamsin continued to stare, waiting patiently as she finished off the second slice of pizza.
“Busy.” Then, caving, she muttered: “Bo.”
“And you just blew off the rest of the day?”
Lauren glared, staring up at her. “No, I worked, thank you. I’m not the that-that woman that…” she huffed, offended. But Tamsin only smiled at her amused, which served to infuriate Lauren more. “I did have patients.”
“Which I assume you took up because you needed to do something big with your hands.” Lauren adverted her eyes. “You need to move on.”
“Look, this…” she gestured to the report, “isn’t okay. You read through a few files, then what? Thought it was ‘good enough’. You didn’t delegate anyone onto it, you didn’t need to work on something else, you just blew it off. Why? Because it’s Dyson’s case?” Lauren flinched at the accusation. “Bo hurt you, it sucks. But you can’t let it affect your work.”
“You blew off the rest of your research because you got agitated, right? You needed to do something that didn’t require you to think, so what? You took on some surgical bullshit?”
“No, Lauren. This is screwed up. If you can’t work, then you need to assign someone else who can. Dyson and I need someone to work this crap out, otherwise we’re just walking in circles until you can point us in a freaking direction and for fuck’s sake grow a pair and move on.”
“Move on?” Lauren enunciated both words with enough venom to curl in Tamsin’s stomach. But dammit, she couldn’t stop there because the doc was getting a little hurt.
“Move on, get over her. Sleep around, drink until you-“ Tamsin’s phone ringing cut her off. Glaring, she pulled it out and stared at the number before shoving the device to her ear. “What?”
“Interrupt your pizza and beer time?” Dyson’s voice called through.
“As a matter of fact, yes.” Dyson laughed at her. Across from the bench, the anger Lauren held was simmering. “What’s up?”
“That lead I had earlier? They have an idea about what this is all about.”
“And it might be another goose chase.”
Tamsin snorted, “No! Really?” On the other end, Dyson laughed. “Get on with it. What do you need?”
“Do yo know a guy by the name of ‘Alec Schwartz’?”
Tamsin frowned, watching Lauren nursed a glass of wine. “Alec Schwartz? Yeah, I know him. I used to do some underworld dealings for him back in the renaissance.” Lauren perked up at that, surprise on her face. Tamsin smirked. “I haven’t been in touch for a while, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s the one dealing. Look, give me a few days and I’ll find out what I can.”
“That’s all I ask.”
“Yeah, thanks,” she muttered, hanging up. Stuffing the phone back in her pocket, she grabbed the wine and downed the last of it. “Lead on the case,” she replied as Lauren’s brow pinched at her.
“Yeah, I’ll get on it tomorrow. Daisy won’t answer her phone after seven, so…” she shrugged. “Ah, for what its worth-“
“It’s fine. Just…eat.” Tamsin blinked at her, confused. But she wasn’t going to look a gift pizza in the face.
Shrugging, she grabbed another slice of pizza and happily ate. Quiet settled over them before Lauren began to top up their wine, looking as if she hoped to find something in the bottle. “If you’re too pissed at me,” she shrugged, looking at her, waiting.
Lauren frowned, trying to find the anger again. Her shoulders slumped however and she moved for the last of the pizza. “I’m fine,” she said. “Besides, it’s not like you have much of a filter. Must be a Dark thing.” Tamsin stared, before the smile got her. Right, a joke. Well, that was a good sign.
“You get used to saying what’s on your mind. Culture, association and all that crap.” Lauren smiled, humming. Her eyes glazed over, looking as if she had something to say. Tamsin waited, drank, ate and then stretched out, propping her head up onto her hands. Slowly, Lauren took a breath.
“Lauren…” she returned.
The doc’s mouth opened, then shut, her head shaking. “It doesn’t matter.”
“Sure it doesn’t.” She waited. Lauren began reading the wine bottle, fingers drumming. When nothing happened, Tamsin gave up and decided to just get it over with and take the matter into her own hands. “Right. So. What’s the deal?”
Lauren blinked at her. “The…deal?”
“You. This. Why am I here? Not that I’m complaining, you’re a damn fine cook, but…” she washed her hands over the area, slapping it back down onto the bench. It was weird.
“I…wanted company,” Lauren offered weakly. But there was a grain of truth in the words, enough that Tamsin’s fight dissolved. Standing up, she nodded.
“Alright, well. Company. I can do that with wine, but you’re going to have to have some more interesting topics than Bo or the case.”
“I really don’t care,” Tamsin said plainly. “I’ve stepped my foot into enough of that shit. All I want is to keep to my usual life, alright? None of this romantic triangle crap, be-“ she cut off, looking at Lauren’s face. There was a look, a very familiar look that had a smile breaking out over the valkyrie’s face. “Ohh, I see.”
Tamsin chuckled, she didn’t know how she’d missed it. “I know why I’m here.”
Lauren stared back at her, her eyes darting between Tamsin’s. The valkyrie moved, taking a mouthful of wine before she placed the glass back down. Walking around the bench, she moved until she was standing just before Lauren. The doctor stood up straight, hands curling nervously. Unsure of what was about to happen.
“Why didn’t you sleep with Friday night?” Tamsin asked. Lauren was wearing jeans, laid back. But the pink shirt was a nice touch, draped nicely over her curves.
“I didn’t want to sleep with anyone. I don’t need sex-”
“Yes you do. You wanted to get back at Bo for everything, you still want to- don’t give me that look, I know you’re not petty enough to have her catch you, but you still feel angry. You’re not the type to hit her or burn her stuff, no, you’re much more subtle. Aren’t you?”
Lauren stepped back, glaring at her. “I don’t know what you mean-“
“I think you do.”
“Tamsin-“ Lauren gasped, the taste of wine on her lips and tongue as the valkyrie kissed her, slamming her back into the sink. Hands clung to her hips, over the waist of her jeans. Lauren was stunned before her brain caught up, her hands reaching up to push at the shoulders, clinging instead as Tamsin grabbed her bottom lip and sucked. A moan pulled out of her involuntarily, her eyes squeezing shut. She hadn’t been kissed like this for too long. Like someone just wanted her.
Lauren kissed back, tongue sliding against the valkyrie’s, catching it with her teeth before the rational part of her brain spoke up The slap came, loud. Tamsin pulled away, grabbing at her cheek as she stared at Lauren. Seeing the doctor’s other hand over her mouth, she smirked, wiping at her bottom lip and stood up straight again. “You’ve got some fire,” she said.
Lauren was staring, horrified at the floor with her hand splayed out. She could feel it ringing, her mouth swollen, everything pounding. She wanted to blame the wine, to yell at Tamsin, but nothing came out. The warm, liquid feeling was still pouring in her belly, wanting her to spring forward. But she didn’t.
The valkyrie stepped back, taking her wine glass in hand and finishing it off. “Look, you clearly need to get over Bo. So, if you’re looking for a body, I can be that. I’m not much of a cry-on-the-shoulder type of girl, but I can do alcohol and I can do sex.”
“I don’t need…”
“Then, whatever. I’ll leave. Clearly I’ve overstepped my bounds.” A few times this night alone. Dammit. This was so messed up. Grabbing her coat, she made to move.
“No.” Lauren seemed to snap out of her daze and move to the fridge, pulling out beer. “Alcohol,” she said, nodding. “Let’s just…” pretend this never happened.
“Your choice.” The jacket dropped onto the table before Tamsin grabbed the first bottle, unscrewing the cap with ease. Lauren followed suit, rolling her shoulders as she moved away from the kitchen and over to the couch. The television clicked on, some 90s movie began playing and Tamsin wondered why she was still there. Well, she knew why Lauren hadn’t kicked her out.
“You’re right, you know,” Lauren’s voice said, somewhere between a second beer and an empty wine bottle.
“I know.” She paused then, tilting her head, “About what?”
Lauren smiled, turning her head to look at her, “About distractions. Work. I shouldn’t have put the case off.”
“No, you shouldn’t. People’s live are at stake, or something. Really I just don’t want my ass kicked.” She sat down beside the doctor, lying out over half the couch. “You’re all right doc.”
“Same to you.”
Chapter 6: House of the Rising Sun
it's been the ruin of many a poor girl. And God I know I'm one
The sun had some freaking aim. Rolling over, Tamsin nearly fell off the couch before she realised what was happening. Blinking, she glared at the white walls, the room, and then looked down to see a half-dressed Lauren sprawled out on the floor with one of the couch cushions and a blanket twisted around bare legs.
Not sure how that happened, but she assumed that the pantsless part came when the good doc found herself too uncomfortable to sleep and too tired to walk upstairs. The purple bra, too, had been tossed on the pile of denim.
Sitting up, Tamsin climbed over the sleeping body and made her way around the couch, to the kitchen. A good person would clean up all the empty bottles. Tamsin went for the last slice of pizza, downing it with a glass of orange juice. The pizza tasted just as good cold. Kinda made her want to come over more often. The japanese beer was as added bonus, too from last night.
Licking her lips, most important meal of the day eaten, she stared. Now what?
Lauren murmured in her sleep, moving from the sound of rustling material. Tamsin grabbed the clothes she’d taken off, doing her best not to disturb Lauren as tugged on her boots, grabbed her shirt and threw on her jacket. A hand through her still-pinned hair warned her that she’d need to look in a mirror before stepping outside.
Or at least used the truck’s mirror. She made a move to leave, stopping as Lauren exhaled in her sleep. She had to do something, at least, she think there was some weird courtesy when it wasn’t a one-night stand that you were supposed to chuck a short cya later. Maybe. Maybe she should just leave.
Or maybe just a note. Lauren didn’t want to be disturbed while sleeping. Okay. A note. No, no, that was a bad idea, besides where would she get a pen or paper?
Standing still, halfway to the door, Tamsin was torn between writing a note, waking her up to say goodbye or just leaving.
The just leaving part was winning front and centre. Lauren would understand what that meant. Right?
And if she didn’t why did she care?
The choice was taken away as a phone blared. Not her’s, must be Lauren’s. Who else would have a sensible ringtone. Then was a groan, some fumbling and then the ringtone stopped.
“‘Octor Lauren Lewis speaking,” came a slurred, half asleep speech. Tamsin smiled, then looked at the clock hanging on the wall. Shit. “What?” Lauren jumped up, running up stairs and ducking back to smile at Tamsin. “You’re here, Hey. Sorry, late. I’ll call you later to-. No, no I’m talking to someone here. Um, there’s coffee if you-“ her brow pinched, obviously something to do with the phone call as she rushed away. “I’m getting there. Look I didn’t know the time. I’m sorry! Hale…” drifted off down the hall.
Tamsin followed up stairs, ducking into the bathroom as, from the bedroom, Lauren was trying to grab a clean set of clothes, phone between her shoulder and ear as she tugged on a pair of pants. Tamsin stopped, watching the hips wriggle before she rose her eyes.
“Can I borrow toothpaste?”
Lauren looked at her, wide-eyed before nodding, returning to a furious conversation that, by the sound of it, was a medical emergency of some degree. Heading back to the bathroom, she opened the cabinet and- found soap. A lot of soap. Okay, not the right one. Opening the cupboard below the sink, she found an unopened toothbrush and toothpaste. Score.
“Can you lock up behind you?” Lauren called just as Tamsin began brushing her teeth.
“Sure.” Why not?
“Thanks!” With that, there was the sound of jangling keys, running down the stairs, a sharp thump and then some swearing all before the door closed. Lauren was probably running to the compound by the sound of it.
Spitting into the sink, Tamsin rose her eyes and became very aware that somehow she’d been in charge of locking up someone’s house. How she’d managed that job was beyond her. When another phone rang, hers this time, she dug into her pocket and pulled out her mobile; Wolfman blaring at her. Denying the call, she stuffed it back in her pocket and fixed her hair. Rubbed against a couch was not a good look for her.
Right. Coffee, lock up Lauren’s house, then go visit Daisy.
Daisy happened to live in Australia but there was a Dark Fae travel agent that owed her one for saving his husband from a frost worm. Seemed a good time as any to check that chip in. If she was lucky, she could stretch it.
After locking up Lauren’s house (seriously how did someone as smart as Lauren think leaving her in charge of that was a good idea), she climbed into her truck and headed back onto the road. The Light Fae compound wasn’t far away, but Tamsin had no idea if Lauren drove a car, had a motorcycle or was the type to just leg it (and call a cab). Whatever, Lauren was weird. Why she was even thinking on that was beyond her.
She pulled off the main road, parking in a three hour space before she looked around her truck. There were a few weapons, empty packagings from food and some clothes she had managed to grab before the Dark began investigating. As much as she wanted her home back, she didn’t want to bother calling Evony, there’d be some long-winded bullshit about ‘oh, we thought we found some illegal substances so until all is proven clean, we have the house under lock’. A fancy way of saying, no, you haven’t proved yourself as a resourceful asset, do it soon or we’ll charge you with something.
Bitch could give as could as she got, Tamsin gave her that.
The travel agency stood off a main road, across from a thai restaurant and probably got as much human business. Which was to say, not a lot, being that both were Dark Fae and had a notorious reputation in the human world.
Pushing through the travel agency doors, she came across an empty waiting room and a short, chubby man playing on his phone. “Sup, Mikey.”
“Tamsin!” he beamed, placing the phone down, “you look well. Still working for him?” Tamsin frowned. How the hell did he knew about that.
She was about to interrogate him before remembering that the last time Mikey and her had crossed paths, she was working for a guy named Alistair. Art dealer, hired her for some lesser known jobs. Not really up her alley, but at the time the pay had been good and the work easy.
“Oh! No, I’m…Dark Fae crap,” she shrugged. “Real, honest job now. Detective.”
“Oh,” he replied, eyebrows raising as he bit back a laugh. Bastard.
“Don’t give me that look, I’m actually here on police business.” That nearly got his eyebrows up into his hairline. Tamsin let him stew in that fear briefly before she smiled. “Australia, Canberra, actually.” She dug into her pocket, pulling out her phone. Daisy lived somewhere odd. Under a highway or in a toll booth or something strange. “Here,” she said, flashing the GPS co-ordinates..
“Free,” Tamsin returned, leaning over the counter. “I think you owe me, and no, this doesn’t cover it. Sorry to here about you and Jones though.” Mikey’s mouth open, before he nodded, agreeing. With a single step, Tamsin found herself in bushland, a sun blaring down her. Fuck, wasn’t it supposed to be autumn or some crap?
Something black and red slithered away from her and Tamsin nearly stomped down on it. Fuck this shit.
“Tamsin?” A voice croaked. Daisy stepped out from the tree, smiling at her with a mouthful of yellow teeth.
“Still haven’t kicked that smoking habit, I see.”
“Coffee this time,” she shrugged. “Smoking stopped in the nineties. What are you doing here?”
Daisy blanched, stepping back and shaking her head. This is why Tamsin didn’t want to call her. Daisy would have hung up the moment she said the name. Even now the woman was trying to step back into her gumtree. “Daisy,” Tamsin warned, stepping forward she grabbed an arm just before Daisy tried to bolt. “You know where he is. You always know where he is.”
“I left him!” she said, sticking out her chin. “I don’t deal with his stuff any more. I don’t move his products.”
“It’s true!” She said, shrugging with her arm, but Tamsin barely budged. Daisy was weak as a human in comparison. She might as well have been trying to blow wind in her face for all the good it did. “Let me go.”
“No. You always knew where he was and what he was up to. So spill it.”
“You can’t make me-“
“Daisy. Alec Schwartz, he’s using humans isn’t he? To move merchandise I’m betting. Not the first time he’s done it and last time that happened I ended up knee deep in human entrails, so I’m giving you one chance.”
Daisy shrugged, staring up at the sky. Irritation bit at Tamsin’s jaw. She could feel sweat slicking down her spine already, fuck Australia. Really, it was freaking autumn and the sun seemed to be a thousand times hotter. And brighter. Jeez. If Daisy didn’t hand over the information soon she was going to bring her back to Dyson and have him interrogate her because she couldn’t stand another moment. “I don’t know anything.”
“Tell you what,” she said, smiling sharply at the woman. “Don’t tell me. Let’s just bring you in to the police, make it public knowledge that you might be handing over some vital information on anything. What you handling now? I’m betting it’s something important for you to come back here. So when he sees your name in the papers, well…”
Daisy’s eyes nearly popped out of her face. “You wouldn’t. You owe me.”
“I owe you you’re life, don’t think I can’t make it a difficult one.”
Daisy swallowed, thinking over the threat. Her eyes stared at Tamsin, chin wobbling before she stiffened herself, stepping backwards.
“He’ll never deal with you again. Actually, I don’t think anyone will want to deal with you after they find out you’re talking to the cops.”
“Police?” Daisy shrugged her hand off, rubbing where she’d been grabbed. “He’s a bloody fool if you ask me,” she said. “I won’t deal with him.”
“What’s he dealing?”
“Alp-luachra.” Tamsin blinked. The name didn’t ring any bells, but Lauren probably knew. Hell if she didn’t someone would around there would. “Anything else I should know?”
“No,” Daisy said.
“If I have to come back-“
“There’s nothing. Besides, I won’t be here anymore, so good luck.” She walked away, stepping into her tree. Tamsin sighed. Great, that was just great.
Returning back to the agency, she shrugged off the heat, welcoming back the familiar cool air. “Hot there?” he asked, smirking.
“Fuck you,” she glared.
“Bad negotiation?” He was just about grinning now.
“I don’t know. Why don’t you try me and we’ll see.” He backed off, and after a sharp moment of glaring, Tamsin turned away and walked back to truck. She needed to share the information with Dyson. Actually, checking her phone, she better call him first and meet him over the Light Fae compound. Might be easier.
“If I tell you I found out the information, will you bite back any comment you have.”
“Five missed calls, Tamsin. Five. You’re late.”
“Police business, it’s forgivable. Look, meet me at the medical centre, I think Lauren will want to here this as well. She’ll probably have some answers on what the thing is.”
“And what is it?”
“Alluarka or something. Heard of it?”
“No. But Lauren would have.” She didn’t think so. Dyson and her had a rich history but there was a lot of things that didn’t cross paths with her. The alchara seemed to be one of them.
Downtown, back at the Light Fae compound, Lauren’s medical emergency appeared to be settled when both her and Dyson walked. Lauren looked between them, body tensing at Dyson before looking to Tamsin curiously.
“Privileges,” she smiled. She couldn’t be here without Dyson, but whatever.
“So…” Lauren looked between them. “What can I do to help?” There was that smile, the smile that now, having known after-hours Lauren, was just that little bit too tight and plastic-like. No wonder people thought she was Doctor Freeze.
“I talked to a friend of mine,” Tamsin told her. Lauren nodded, remembering that brief conversation last night, which probably meant that she didn’t drink as much as her. “She mentioned al-lura or something.”
“Yeah, that one,” Tamsin nodded. “Is that bad?”
Lauren hissed in a breath, mulling over what she knew. “It’s not good.” She turned around, stepping away from her medical lab and to where her office sat. Pulling up the chair, she opened up her computer. “From what I know of them, they’re a small underfae, parasitic. They crawl into the throats of their host and eat off the pith.” Tamsin nodded, pretending she understood what that meant. “I don’t know why they’re-“
“Trade,” Dyson interjected.
“Bursting out,” Lauren finished. “Usually they’re like a tapeworm, eating everything the host eats until the person dies of starvation or becomes malnourished. For it to grow to such size is…well, unheard of.”
“Well, I’ve never ahead of them,” Tamsin shrugged.
“They’re usually known as a ‘joint-eater’,” she said.
“Ohh,” she hummed. Even Dyson nodded, knowing what they were talking about.
“So they’re uncommon, but you’ve probably come across a few.” She looked to Dyson then, who nodded. Tamsin shrugged. Maybe, but not that she could remember.
“Do you think they’re being genetically altered?” Dyson asked.
“It’s possible,” Lauren nodded once, eyes squinting up at the ceiling. “But it still doesn’t make sense as to why. I’d have to have a specimen in hand to understand. If you could get one during gestation that would help.”
“You can’t get it from the sack you found?” Tamsin asked. Lauren shook her head.
“No. There wasn’t a lot there, but if it has been genetically altered, that would explain why I didn’t immediately see what it was. The bursting from the stomach is extraordinary, I would placed it under a different far, something known for parasitic breeding patterns.”
“Perhaps if you’d actually been working on the case,” Tamsin breathed out, quiet enough that both Lauren and Dyson heard and pretended not to. Raising her eyes, she noticed Lauren bristle at the comment. Dyson turned, casting Tamsin a look, as if to question her snarking on the doctor.
“Well,” Lauren said, after a moment of typing. “I’ll have to take a second look, but so far the archive doesn’t explain why someone would be breeding them, if that is the case.”
“They’re sometimes used to keep people thin, specifically models. Humans have been known to find out about them and abuse them from the black-market. However, it can go wrong if they don’t know how to get them out.”
Tamsin blinked. “Which is?”
“Salt,” Lauren said, “Dehydration. The alp-luachra will get thirsty and look for water before a human or fae will.” She smiled, scrolling through the information for any keywords. “They’re quite a fascinating breed. Sometimes they can be quite symbiotic rather than parasitic. Still, as a doctor, I don’t condone weightless through starvation. In fact, starvation can cause weight gain rather than loss because what the body does is-“
“Don’t have an issue, don’t care,” Tamsin shrugged. Lauren’s mouth shut with a snap, stifling a glare as she turned back to the information. “So…do you have any printouts, information we’ll need?”
“Like what?” Lauren asked. Clearly she thought everyone absorbed information as quickly as she did.
Tamsin dismissed the comment, “How about areas to find them?”
“Rivers, usually. Bodies of fresh water are generally a good place to start. They wait for humans, or animals if they’re desperate, to fall asleep, then they turn into a lizard and crawl down their host’s body. They’re active around this time, primarily in summer though. However, if someone’s breeding them, then perhaps they collected them from the nearby river?”
“So, they breed in stomachs?”
“Generally,” Lauren said. “The alp-luachra will find a host, much like how some birds will build nests, an appropriate host will bring a mate, from there they breed and move when the host either dies or the food can no long sustain them. Most symptoms of an alp-luachra just look like food poisoning, so it goes unnoticed by humans for the most part.”
Tamsin blinked. “Right. So, any help to where Alec might be?”
“I’ll keep looking. But a specimen will show what they’re eating, general ideas of their environment. So-”
“Got it,” Tamsin nodded. “Get one, bring it back, preferably alive.”
“Thanks Lauren,” Dyson said. Tamsin offered a nod and a murmured thanks as well, because hey, the doc was trying at least. Outside of the compound, Dyson stopped her at the truck.
“So are you going to tell me why you came to work smelling like Lauren?” he asked, “Or am I going to pretend I don’t know.”
“It’s not what you think.” Tamsin rolled her eyes. “Please, sleeping with the doc would get me in way more trouble than I already am.” That was a lie, Evony had been after Lauren since she first heard about her achievements in the Light Fae. Anything that pulled her over would probably get Tamsin good in with the Dark, but she wasn’t going to tell him that.
“She offered free beer and pizza. What was I supposed to say?”
Dyson laughed, shrugging. “Look, it’s not my place to say.”
Tamsin’s eyes narrowed, waiting. “Is this about some weird petty jealousy? Because I have to tell you, that’s really shitty to get in between her having friends.”
The comment hit a target and Dyson’s humour left him. “Be friends with who you want,” he said after a moment. “The God’s know Lauren needs someone.”
Tamsin grimaced. Yeah. The doc didn’t have many friends. There was Bo and there was her. Work colleagues didn’t count and she doubted that Lauren was the type to open up to someone who would jump at the chance for her position.
Looking back at the compound, Tamsin sighed. You do what you have to do to survive. And Lauren knew how to survive. She could smell it, that lingering death, the familiar earthen smell of blood and war laid under Lauren’s scent. She doubted anyone else could smell it but Tamsin knew it was great part of the reason she wanted to stay as well as run away from her.
Chapter 7: A Little Death
I want you to make me feel like I'm breathing, feel like I am human
Lauren’s finger hovered over the messages before doubt crept up her spine. Fumbling, she stuffed the phone back into her pocket to stop from seeing the name. She needed to figure things out for herself before went and did something stupid. Like a boot-
She froze at her name, hating how it sounded so easy on the familiar lips. Hated how it brushed over her skin. Slowly, she relaxed her muscles, shoulders falling back as she turned to face Bo. The smile looked stiff on the succubus’ lips, her brow pinched, stilted wave of her hand.
She was about as awkward as Lauren felt.
“You um, you look good,” Lauren offered. Then cringed at her comment, “I mean, there’s no visible abrasions, or lacerations for that matter, so you’re probably not here for medical reasons.”
“I am, just…” Bo sighed. “I need your advice on something. I have this case and I thought…” Lauren blinked, staring at Bo. She could have gone to Trick, but she came to her. Why did she do that? Unless-
“Oh!” she smiled, nodding “Sure, that’s fine.”
Olive branch. Bo was offering her an olive branch. Lauren’s fingers tensed. She wanted to snap the branch in half.
Bo beamed at her and the unease in Lauren flared up as the woman stepped close enough to smell her perfume. Soap, hint of salt. “See, it’s a missing person’s case. Which isn’t too unusual. I looked around his usual hiding places, but I came up empty. Then I came across one of his friends, Elena. And, well…”
Bo showed her a few printed photos of the blisters on a woman’s bicep. The blisters were in the shape of a handprint as though someone had grabbed her and burnt the skin. Picking up the photo’s, she glanced through them, frowning. It could be nothing but an escaped underfae with a hot touch. Or it could be something more. “Where is she?”
“At some shelter. She’s on the streets. Kenzi had to convince her to talk-”
“Did she tell you who touched her?” Lauren asked carefully. “What they looked like, anything?”
“Like a person?” Bo blinked at her, her brows pulling together as she took the photos back. “No, not exactly. Why?” The last question stretched and Lauren couldn’t help but think Bo as too inquisitive. Selfishly, she just wanted Bo to follow her orders like one of her medical personals.
“Bo, she has to be brought in so I can check her over. It’s probably nothing but I’d rather know and be sure.” She snapped the file close, handing it over. Bo didn’t take it, she rolled back on her heel, arms folding defensively. Great.
“Not until you tell me why.”
Lauren felt a sigh pull from inside of her, irritated that the succubus was being stubborn. She didn’t want to tell Bo that hey, a seraph might have grabbed this person and if so, then the Ash (and the Morrígan) need to know that there’s a chance that someone high up is visiting here to make sure order is kept in place.
Or that there’s a rogue seraph in town which was just as terrifying. But Bo’s jaw was tightening in that way which meant she wasn’t going to nudge one way until Lauren handed over the information. Swallowing, Lauren’s felt her resolve slacken. If she didn’t come to her, she’d go to Trick and Trick would know what this meant and then she wouldn’t have a chance to explain herself.
If it even was what she thought. Lauren’s jaw squared and she raised her eyebrows at Bo. “There’s a chance she’s been touched by a seraph, if so I want to know why.”
Lauren laughed, “of sorts. They’re very rare and very powerful. I don’t want you taking one on alone. But before we get to that, I want to know that it is what I think it is before making wild assumptions. So, could you bring her in?”
Bo seemed to think over what was said, studying Lauren before she nodded. “Sure. If it is a seraph what does that mean?”
“Trouble, the usual,” Lauren smiled at her. “He’s probably a rogue seraph. When they’re not with their families, well, they tend to go a bit insane, looking for a way to return home. If he is a rogue, he’s just trying to prove his worth. Nothing else.” She tried to push her ease across, but Bo’s eyes flickered cautiously.
“She trusts Kenzi, so...I’ll go talk to her about bringing her in.”
Lauren nodded, swallowing. “Just…keep her at ease. There should be nothing to worry about. It could be another fae.”
“A fire fae?”
“Of sorts, there are a few other types of fae that leave handprints like that,” Lauren nodded to the photos.
“But they’re usually not found interacting with humans. Seraphs, too, are unlikely. However they have been known to interact when their duty calls or...they’ve been abandoned from their clan. I actually had the pleasure of meeting one in Peru once, it was...awkward,” she finished quickly, realizing Bo had no interest in listening to her ramble about an event that happened four years ago.
“Yeah,” she smiled. The quiet settled over them heavily before Bo cleared her throat. “Well, okay then,” she nodded. “I guess I’ll go talk to Kenzi and track her down then. But it might take a day or two if that’s alright. I mean, we have a way of contacting her but...” it’s complicated. Yeah, everything between them was complicated. Lauren pushed the words away, forcing herself to smile.
“That’s fine. There’s no immediate rush, she shouldn’t be in any danger. As soon as you can will do.” Lauren tensed at her words and masked her features, hesitant to speak further. Bo nodded at her.
She turned to leave and Lauren’s throat constricted, “Bo?”
“Just...bring her to my apartment. It’ll be easier.” Bo paused, before smiling. The soft smile twisting harshly in Lauren’s gut as she turned away from the succubus, her fingers clenching. The entire conversation had been like treading on glass and the feeling inside her chest was no help.
She waited until Bo’s steps had receded before she pulled out her phone, sending a short text to Tamsin. The reply came quickly. A short, but confused K?
Lauren swallowed and turned back to work, keeping herself busy for the rest of the day. Bo didn’t get in touch with her again, and soon, she found herself returning back to her apartment where Tamsin was just about to knock on her door.
“Oh. Hey doc.” The hand fell away lamely. Tamsin stepped back, burring her hands into her pocket as she gave space for her to step forward.
“Hey Tamsin,” she sounded as tired as she felt. Placing the key into the apartment lock. The day was harrowing, to say the least. But the closer she stood to Tamsin, the more adrenaline rushed into her system, making her feel nervous.
She turned the key and stepped inside, the valkyrie following behind her. The door shut behind them and Lauren pulled off her jacket, turning to face the other woman, words dry in her mouth.
“You look exhausted,” Tamsin pointed out. “Is this about the case?”
“The-? no. Not exactly. This is about…” she sighed, running her tongue against the back of her teeth. She knew what she wanted to say, but she didn’t know how.
“About what?” Tamsin asked, hands on her hips, eyebrows raised. Lauren tensed, then sprung forward, grabbing the valkyries head before she kissed her. Tamsin gasped in her mouth, humming a noise of complaint before she grabbed Lauren’s shoulders and relaxed, kissing her back at the surprise slipped away.
Relief flooded through Lauren and she pulled away, licking her bottom lip. “Sorry,” she said. Softly. She took a step back, hands drops away. “I just...I was thinking about everything and what you’ve said and-”
Tamsin tugged off her coat, dropping it down on the ground before she kissed Lauren again. “I got it, doc,” she said. Her mouth pressed to Lauren’s, fingers drawing up, underneath Lauren’s shirt before she tugged it up, over Lauren’s head. “What do you want me to do?”
What Lauren wanted was to forget and for once, not feel lonely. Her mouth opened to reply, but the feeling the valkyrie’s hands on her bare waist shut off her mind. It didn’t matter. Leaning forward, she kissed her, tugged off the woman’s shirt, unsnapped the bra and pulled her backwards, towards the bedroom.
“Oh no.” Tamsin tugged the belt loops, bouncing Lauren hips to hers. Breathing out, Lauren felt the nervous pit in her stomach, clench. “You look almost scared, doc. Afraid I bite?”
“I know you bite.” She was smiling, the ease washing over her as she slid her hands over Tamsin’s shoulder. The woman was tiny. Taller than her, but tiny all the same.
Tamsin smirked, lifting her hand to brush through Lauren’s hair. It curled around the base of neck, holding her steady. “Relax. This is just casual, right?” Lauren nodded. “Then there’s nothing to prove,” she shrugged. “Except good sex and I’m sure you can keep up.”
Lauren laughed, licking her lip. Well, she had kept up with a succubus for long enough. Lauren’s fingers reached out, undoing the top bottom of Tamsin’s jeans as she watched her carefully. “I haven’t done this in a while.”
“Casual sex. That didn’t mean anything,” Lauren replied, tilting her head. “I guess I’m going to have to be thorough.” Tamsin stopped breathing as the hand slipped down her pants over the scrap of cotton. Lauren stepped closer, tilting her head left so her lips brushed against Tamsin’s ear. “How about you tell me what you want?”
“Mm?” she brushed over the cotton, between the wet folds. Tamsin’s breath shuddered at the deliberate, long stroke. Closing her eyes, the valkyrie tilted her head, lips parting to kiss Lauren again, but the doc moved her mouth away, instead brushing against the jawline form the corner of Tamsin’s mouth. “No requests?” she asked, coming to the shell of her ear.
Tamsin swallowed, just as Lauren’s lips came to the pulse point.
Her fingers were slowly slipping back up, pulling the cotton up tight against Tamsin’s sex. The valkyrie stepped backwards, and Lauren pressed closer, enjoy the familiar hum against her lips.
She felt Tamsin’s hands grabbed at the kitchen bench behind her. Then, the valkyrie was up against her, head against Lauren’s shoulder, mouth on hers in retaliation, as Lauren’s fingers stroked.
“Don’t tease,” Tamsin finally spoke. Lauren breathed out, pulling her hand out from the pants and curling them around the waistband, tugging down. Her fingers slipped over Tamsin’s ribs, thumb brushing past a nipped before she slid her hands down her side, moving to slip underneath the black cotton.
Tamsin grabbed her, kicking off her shoes, then her pants before she twisted Lauren body around, until the small of her back hit against the kitchen bench as Tamsin’s undressed her. She tore at the clothing articles from her body without a care to where they went, fingers snatching, scratching at skin.
Lauren shuddered, her fingers curling against Tamsin’s ribs as her jeans were ripped down thighs then torn off. She fell back, head hitting the bench, legs hoisted up around Tamsin’s hips.
“Last chance, doc,” Tamsin teased, leaning over her, one palm flat beside her neck, “to back out without a complaint from me.”
Lauren arched, pulling her closer. “Then I’m glad I’ve made up my mind.”
Breathing out, she shut her eyes as Tamsin mouth came to hers. Fisting a handful of her pale hair, Lauren nearly pulled the woman up onto the bench with her.
“Uh-uh,” Tamsin hummed against her mouth, sucking at Lauren bottom lip before she pulled away. “I’ve got plans for you.” She pushed the bra up, uncaring towards comforts before her hands slid down Lauren’s sides, holding her hips still. Lauren’s eyes rolled back, head dropping to the bench as she felt a mouth, hot, kissing down her breastbone.
Over her heart, teeth dragged, sliding, before slipping to her breast and taking a nipple in her mouth. Lauren gasped. Her legs slid on either side of Tamsin, hands grabbing at her back as she felt her suck, tugging at the nipple and pulling it away between two teeth. It plopped out wetly as two fingers twisted at her other breast, playing with the nipple’s head.
“You did hear me mention the word plans right?” Tamsin bit back, smirking up at her between two breasts. She kissed at the cleavage, smiling as Lauren laughed.
“So you’ve been thinking about this?”
“From the moment I woke up next to your hungover face.”
“I was not-”
Tamsin stared at her, and Lauren sighed, arching briefly as she felt hands lay flat over her ribs and begin sliding down. “I’m not complaining,” Tamsin said. “Just not used to waking up next to someone I didn’t sleep with. Figured I should repair the situation.”
“Ah.” Lauren said, then almost ahh’d as a finger, gently slid over her public bone, between the crease next to her thigh. Right. This was…
Tamsin pulled away and Lauren shivered, moving to close her legs when two hands clasped over either side over calves. “Spread them wider,” Tamsin ordered. Lauren felt her stomach heat, then pool between her thighs. Oh wow. Obediently, she parted them wider. “Good, now tell me what you want.”
“Um…” Lauren blinked, breathing out softly. It was different with Bo, she didn’t have to speak, to explain. Bo just explored and knew immediately when it was the right thing.
Though, perhaps Tamsin would as well. Looking at her smirk, Lauren wondered if she just wanted to hear her say the words. Well, two could play at that game. She wasn’t a blushing schoolgirl.
“I want you,” Lauren began, “between my legs, and I want you to use your tongue while inside of me, until I orgasm.”
“Ooh,” Tamsin hissed. “Someone’s got a mouth on her.” Still, her hands draped over Lauren’s thighs, fingers tracing over the hip bone. “Maybe I’ll get creative while I’m done there. See if I can break that pretty brain of yours.”
Lauren laughed, then hummed as the hands slipped over her hips, holding her steady as Tamsin lowered her head. Lauren’s legs twitched at the first breath against the damp heat.
“Are you just going to-” Lauren’s mouth cut off at the first lick. Barely there, just a scrape against the labia minor. Her eyes fluttered shut. “Oh. Okay.” Adjusting, she slid her legs over Tamsin’s shoulders, heels digging into the valkyrie’s shoulder blades as the mouth pressed over her sex. Tamsin’s breath was cool, and it shivered out over her.
Lauren clenched, then hummed back a response as the woman laughed. “Enjoy that.”
“Get your tongue working, valkyrie.” Tamsin chuckled again, before her tongue slid over the folds. Long, hard, Lauren’s body rolled into it before two hands pushed her hips down. “Cruel.”
Tamsin said something between her legs, but it might as well have been high valarian for all she understood.
Dropping back, Lauren’s hands felt useless at her sides, but the moment she slid them over the bench, above her head, she was using them as a leverage to arch up as Tamsin mouth slipped over her clit, sucking as she inserted two fingers.
Lauren’s knee jerked, leg pulling at Tamsin to inch her closer to where she-
Hissing out a breath, Lauren relaxed, forcing herself to become limber again. She’ll be damned if she lets herself come that soon.
The teeth grazed over her slit, tongue rubbing over the unsheathed head of her clit and Lauren forgot to breath as the finger curled, hitting just right spot. Dammit.
Tamsin was playing unfair. The hand not curling inside of her, slid up to her breast, thumb teasing lazily over the nipple. Woman had some practice. Within a few, mewling moments, Lauren was squeezing around Tamsin’s fingers, head slamming back.
Breathlessly, she felt herself relax, staring up at the ceiling unhappily. “That wasn’t fair.”
“Been a while?”
She kicked her away with the heel of her foot, still panting as she drank in the high. It wasn’t good enough. Wasn’t what she needed and Tamsin knew it. Sitting up, she glared at her playfully. Her lust had barely been quenched and there’d be hell to play. Grabbing the valkyrie’s jaw, she pulled her to her, kissing her hard. Well, time for round two.
Tamsin’s turn to be left unfinished.