"Tamsin, I hope you're hungry, because I just got enough Chinese food to feed a whole Fae army," Bo called as she stepped into the abandoned building that now only she and the Valkyrie called home. She stopped short, though, when she noticed something odd about the place.
Bo quickly carried the bags of food over to the kitchen table and set them down. She then turned to scoop up one of several large gray feathers that sporadically littered the floor.
"What the hell?" she muttered to herself as she turned the feather over in her hands and rubbed her fingers along its soft surface. Her brows furrowed as she noticed that the feathers seemed to trail toward the stairs, and then Bo's eyes narrowed in suspicion.
She reached under the kitchen table for the sword she kept hidden there, latched to the underside of the table. "Tamsin?" she called again as she cautiously made her way toward the stairs.
Bo's heart began to race. The hair on the back of her neck stood at attention, and her flesh prickled with her unease. She didn't like the silence. It always felt too thick, like all the air had somehow been sucked from the room and she was just waiting for the breath in her lungs to leech out and leave her helpless, on the edge of disappearing. The silence had been too much for too long now, ever since Hale…since Kenzi.
Only one thing seemed to truly dull the ache, one person.
Bo's stomach churned uncomfortably at the thought that Tamsin might be in danger or wounded. Her heart clenched in her chest. Her throat closed to the point of making her choke on her own saliva. If anything happened to Tamsin, she wouldn't…Bo didn't think she would be able to survive it.
She shook her head quickly to clear away the daunting thoughts. Panicking now would help no one, and Bo had to remind herself that it wasn't over until it was over. Not only that, but Tamsin was strong, the strongest person Bo had ever met. She wouldn't go down easily.
Bo crept up the stairs, her boots dusting over a continuous trail of feathers, and inched toward the bedroom she had been sharing with the Valkyrie for nearly a full year now. She never would have guessed all the ways she and Tamsin fit together, but they did. They fit in ways that Bo had never been able to with Dyson or even Lauren. They fit in ways that made Bo feel like maybe they were made for one another, molded to suit one another's bodies to perfection; designed to fold into one another, flesh on flesh, and fingers laced together like strings of fate. They just fit.
"Unless you're planning to stab me, you should probably stop creeping around with a sword."
Bo's face scrunched in confusion as she relaxed from her defensive stance and let the sword fall to her side. "Well, you didn't answer when I called," she replied dryly, moving to set the sword down on the trunk in the corner. She couldn't see Tamsin clearly, but she knew the blonde was in their bed. The dark crimson canopy had been let down, and it cascaded around the bed to obscure the person within.
"What's with the feathers?" Bo asked, glancing around the floor. "Did you get in a fight with a pillow?"
She snorted at her own little joke, but Tamsin didn't say a word, not even to make fun of her. That sent up a red flag.
"Why are you in bed?" Bo asked her, concern evident in her voice. "And why is the canopy down? Are you hiding?"
She heard Tamsin's heavy sigh, quickly followed by an irritated grumble of "Yes."
Bo inched nearer the bed. She softened her voice as she asked, "Why?"
"I just am," Tamsin bit out, and Bo saw the shadow of the blonde's movement through the canopy. The Succubus reached to pull the material aside, but stopped when Tamsin quietly said, "Please don't."
Bo shifted awkwardly from foot to foot as she hovered outside Tamsin's makeshift hideaway. She wasn't exactly sure what to do. Tamsin was particular about the way she processed and dealt with things, which Bo sometimes struggled with. The Valkyrie liked to deal with things in solitude. She wasn't the stroke-my-hair-and-feed-me-ice-cream type, and Bo had spent the last year learning how to read Tamsin's mood swings and properly assess how to react. It wasn't always easy.
"Um…I got Chinese food," Bo said after a moment, biting her lip and wringing her fingers together. "You said you've been craving it, so I figured I'd treat you. I even got those little—"
"Just go away, Bo," Tamsin muttered, her voice tinged with despair.
Bo's heart clenched at the sound. "Tamsin," she said softly, hovering one hand over the canopy. "Will you at least tell me what's wrong?"
Silence followed, stretching out for several long moments. Bo sighed, assuming she wasn't going to get an answer. "Okay," she whispered, turning to leave the room. "I'm here if you need me." She then made to leave the room, but just as she reached the doorway, she heard Tamsin's voice quietly call out.
"I don't want you to see me right now."
Bo hesitated, lingering in the doorway, before turning back. "Why not?" she asked, hoping Tamsin would open up a bit and talk to her. The Valkyrie was always so closed off when she was upset about something, though she had grown by leaps and bounds in the year that she and Bo had been together, growing and falling into one another, into love. Still, she had a tendency to throw up her walls whenever she felt the slightest bit vulnerable. Bo didn't mind, though. She always took the time to help knock them down again. She always would.
Bo smiled tenderly. "Oh honey," she replied, chuckling softly, "you and I both know that that isn't true. You are beautiful."
"You wouldn't say that if you could see me," Tamsin croaked, sighing raggedly.
"Tamsin, I've only been gone for like twelve hours," Bo told her, "which granted, is longer than I had planned, but you know how these cases go. One thing always leads to another. Anyway, the point is that I saw you twelve hours ago, and you were still gorgeous."
Tamsin didn't say anything, choosing to simply grumble bitterly instead, so Bo sighed and walked over to the bed again. "Alright," the Succubus said, "that's it. I'm coming in."
"No, Bo, don't!" Tamsin tried to protest, but it was too late.
Bo jerked open the canopy, and her expression instantly morphed into one of shock, followed by one of confusion, followed by one of apprehension. "Um…" She didn't have a single clue how to address what she was seeing.
Tamsin was settled in a heap on the mattress in only a white tank top and panties. Her skin was extremely pale, pale enough that Bo could easily see the sprawling webs of her veins beneath the surface. The Valkyrie was hunched over in the middle of a large pile of feathers, her massive wings extended out of her back and drooping around her shoulders. She kept her head down so that Bo couldn't see her face, but it was clear from the rest of her that she felt positively miserable.
Bo's eyes scanned over her lover's back, her heart swelling at the sight of Tamsin's wings. They were a rare sight. Since Tamsin's rebirth, Bo had only seen the Valkyrie's wings on five different occasions, and every single time, their beauty left her breathless. They were stunning, much like the woman they were attached to.
In this moment, though, those brilliant wings weren't looking so hot. Lackluster and limp, they hung lifelessly around Tamsin's body, and Bo's concern spiked when she noticed several places of visible flesh with only fuzzy tufts of feather barely sticking through.
"These are your feathers," Bo breathed, a barely audible whisper, as she picked up several of the large feathers that covered the bed.
Tamsin nodded, appearing more defeated than Bo had seen her since the whole Wanderer debacle. "I told you," Tamsin whispered, her head hanging. "I'm ugly."
Bo dropped gently onto the bed in front of the Valkyrie, and reached out to take her hand. "Hey, no you're not. Don't say that."
Tamsin sniffled before letting go of Bo's hand to reach up under the waterfall of hair hiding her face and wipe her tears away almost violently. She huffed out a breath, annoyed with herself for being so emotional. "I look like shit," she snapped, "and I feel like shit."
"Tamsin," Bo said, reaching for her hand again, "what is this? Are you sick? Are you…should I call Lauren or somebody? I'm worried."
Tamsin looked up at her then, and Bo startled a bit to see the Valkyrie's face full on. It was her true face, dark and sunken, almost skeletal, with eyes as black as night. She couldn't explain it, but Bo found this version of Tamsin's face just as beautiful. At this point, Bo was fairly positive that she would find any version of Tamsin stunning. Still, the Succubus quickly shielded her eyes, but Tamsin reached out and pulled her arm down.
"I'm not casting doubt on you," the blonde told her. "I just can't mask myself right now."
"Oh." Bo grimaced when she reached out to cup a hand around Tamsin's cheek and felt how cold the blonde was. "You're freezing," she hissed, shaking her head. She moved to get up from the bed. "I'm calling Lauren."
Tamsin grabbed her arm again and yanked her back down. "I'm fine," she said, squeezing Bo's arm and letting her head fall back down so that her hair cascaded around her face again.
"Yeah, okay," Bo drawled, "and I'm not a Succubus." She gently stroked a hand through Tamsin's hair then as she softened her voice to say, "You are not fine. You're freezing, your face has gone all fifty shades of gray, and your feathers are falling out. You're sick, babe. I'm calling Lauren."
"I'm not sick," Tamsin told her, sighing. "I'm molting."
Bo froze at that, her face scrunching and her mouth moving wordlessly for several seconds. "O-oh," she finally stammered out. "Um…like a bird?"
Tamsin practically growled out her response. "Yes, like a fucking bird!" It was bad enough that it was happening, but having to actually verbally compare herself to a bird was just embarrassing.
"Sorry, sorry," Bo said quickly, squeezing Tamsin's hand. She felt like she was walking on eggshells, unsure of how to properly react so as not to upset the blonde. It was surprising how sensitive Tamsin seemed to be in this moment, in this state, but Bo figured that that was just part of this…molting stuff or whatever. "I didn't mean…is this normal?"
Tamsin nodded as she reached up and swiped at her cheeks again. She huffed out a breath that made her hair jump forward before falling back to her face. "Once a Valkyrie gets her wings, she molts once a year."
"Okay, but that's a good thing, right?" Bo asked her, smiling softly as she squeezed Tamsin's hand. She couldn't help herself, because as miserable as her lover looked in this moment, Bo also found her incredibly cute when she was all frowny and frustrated. "You'll shed all your dead feathers and grow newer, healthier, prettier ones, right?"
"That doesn't mean I like it," Tamsin replied bitterly. "Everything I've ever heard from other Valkyries about molting has always made it sound like hell, and for good damn reason."
Bo chuckled, the sound only growing into a loud peal of laughter when Tamsin's face snapped up. "Are you glaring at me?" Bo asked her. "I can't tell. Everything is just dark."
Tamsin shoved Bo's shoulder as the Succubus continued laughing. "You're such a bitch."
"Oh, come on," Bo cooed, reaching out to tangle her fingers through Tamsin's. "I'm just teasing. How long does this molting stuff usually last?"
"I don't know," Tamsin told her, shrugging and hissing with the pain of the motion. Her wings felt too heavy and sore for such movement. "This is my first molt. A month? Maybe longer."
"A month?" Bo asked, eyes widening. "Damn."
"Hey," Tamsin huffed, "I have to shed all of my feathers and grow new ones. It's not like it's easy."
Bo smiled tenderly at her and leaned forward to press her lips to the Valkyrie's blackened cheek. "You're right. I'm sorry."
"No, I'm sorry," Tamsin mumbled. "I'm just…I'm fucking emotional or hormonal or whatever."
"Is this why you've been so moody lately?" Bo asked her.
"I guess." Tamsin shrugged again and instantly regretted it. "It's like the Valkyrie version of a period."
Bo laughed out loud at that, but then her brows furrowed. "Wait," she said, "you don't have a period?"
Tamsin tried her trademark deadpan stare, but it lost its effect given that her eyes were currently incapable of expression. "Really, Bo?" she drawled. "You've been living with me for over a year and you've never noticed my lack of a period?"
Bo's expression was hilarious, part-wonder, part-confusion. "But you buy tampons," she argued, and Tamsin chuckled.
"Yeah, for you, dipshit," the Valkyrie countered, squeezing Bo's hand as she laughed.
"Wow," Bo said after gaping a moment longer. "Lucky you."
"Yeah, not so much anymore," Tamsin grumbled, pointing to her wings. They laughed softly together. It wasn't much, but it eased Tamsin's ache, and the more she laughed, the calmer she became. As she calmed, her face slowly began to change.
Her dark, sunken cheeks filled out and slowly regained their natural color. The black in her eyes seeped away, lightening until all that remained were those ever-changing pale irises, sometimes blue, sometimes green, sometimes gray, that Bo had fallen in love with.
Bo's heart fluttered wildly beneath her ribs as she smiled at the blonde. "There you are," she whispered, reaching out to dust her fingertips over Tamsin's cheek.
Tamsin sighed and leaned into the touch. "Thank you."
Bo simply nodded. "We'll get through it, Tam." She leaned forward to gently press her lips to the Valkyrie's. "We always do."