Kenzi bounced her legs in the passenger seat of Dyson's car anxiously as the outskirts of the city whipped by. Advantage of riding with a cop: speed limits were a suggestion. The car still wasn't going fast enough. It had been over six hours since Bo had sent her the address she and Dyson were headed to now. They’d split up to follow two leads on a missing fae, and Bo hadn’t answered a text since. When her phone had started going straight to voicemail, Kenzi called Dyson.
The address, when they got there, was an ugly-walled, sticky-floored bar, empty except one table of three guys in the corner, all of them wearing trucker hats.
"Is it just me," Kenzi said, "or are these guys all human?" Pretty scummy humans, but humans.
"It's not just you. There are definitely fae here though. Something doesn't smell right."
"No kidding something doesn't smell right, we're at the place dive bars go when they get off work. It's probably held together with stale beer and kitchen grease."
"Just stay close."
"I get it, I get it," Kenzi groaned, "I won't talk to strangers, I'll look both ways before I cross the street, and I'll keep my arms and legs inside the vehicle at all times. Lecture over." Except apparently not, or at least something else was starting, because Dyson was shrugging out of his coat and handing it over.
"Shouldn't I be getting a sweater pin or something before I start wearing your jacket?" Kenzi said.
"It'll make you smell like me."
"And walking around wearing an overcoat doesn't look suspicious at all." Kenzi wasn't going to argue the point about staying safe, mostly because thinking about how vulnerable she was around most fae tended to freak her out if she did it too much and that was the last thing she needed when they were trying to save Bo. She eyed his excuse for an ensemble for a hot second and held his coat out to him. "Give me your vest."
Dyson started unbuttoning his vest and gave a huff growly enough to hear the wolf in it—now that was one cranky puppy. They were lucky he wasn't in full cop drag or he'd have a shoulder holster to deal with too. He traded for the coat and Kenzi turned her back to him and the creepers in the corner to get into the vest.
"Voila!" She turned to face him, smoothing her hands down her sides. It smelled like Dyson even without super senses, buttery soft leather still warm from his body. Tighter would've been better, but with the top button undone and a little fluffing the girls had more than enough oomph to make up for it.
Dyson took one look at her and made a beeline for the bar, which might have been a little insulting if Kenzi didn't know just how good her boobs looked like that.
"I'm looking for someone. A woman. Pretty, average height, long brown hair."
"If you're done with the one you've got," he said, leering at Kenzi in an annoyingly familiar way, but before she could get out a snappy comeback Dyson slammed the base of an empty pint glass down on the guy's hand.
"Jesus!" Kenzi yelped, and the bartender yelped louder and jerked his hand back, panting.
"You don't get to mention her," Dyson said calmly.
"So is there some, like, residual Bo-juujuu floating around in here somewhere?" Kenzi blurted. "Because I just got turned on so fast I think I felt my pupils spontaneously dilate, and charming though your brooding ass may be hot damn this is not natural."
"You should kiss me now." Sure, there was usually a little voice somewhere in there reminding her that Dyson was a fine specimen of tall, dark and wolfishly handsome, but the idea of him—what even was that, defending her honor?—was doing things to her it had no right to do.
Dyson put his hand on Kenzi's head, which was deeply unfair when he followed it up with, "I think that would be a mistake."
"Right," Kenzi said. "Because I'm human."
"Because you're Bo's," Dyson said gently.
"So are you, Scooby Doo, but you don't see me making a big deal about it." She'd made like no deal about it, which considering just how much Bo unknowingly owned his ass was very generous of her. And yet Dyson was being nicer about it than he had any right to be, like he was trying to let Kenzi down easy. Like she was actually interested in him.
She turned back to the bartender, who was still cradling his hand. "So," she said, "Gorgeous brunette with cleavage for days, probably wearing leather.
"You should really put some ice on that," she added after he pointed them to the hallway in the back. "Anyway," she told Dyson, "your 'reason' is total crap. Bo wouldn't just approve, she'd watch and then mop up the winner for a second helping. That's probably the only way I'll get laid any time soon. Girlfriend has cockblocked the last three guys I tried to pick up."
"She thinks you have terrible taste in men."
They turned from the short hallway onto a much longer one. "Pssh. Deep down in that sex-driven hindbrain of hers all she's thinking is that if mama ain't getting none of this, ain't no one getting some. Our electricity is out the ass just from my Hitachi."
"Since when did squatters pay utilities?"
"It would be," Kenzi clarified. "If we did."
The first door on the hall opened onto a small room that held nothing but a stripped-down bed, a rickety chair, and one of those cheap fiberboard tables with screw-on legs. So did the second, and the third. Dyson looked at Kenzi.
"Hey, where there's sex, there's a succubus?" Kenzi said hopefully, and then Bo was jogging down the hallway towards them. "Kenzi!" she yelled when she got close, and Kenzi swayed towards her.
"Hi," she said dreamily. When Bo smiled it made her feel tingly, like the effervescent giddiness of rolling with none of the muzziness.
"Are you okay?" Bo asked.
She patted Bo's cheek. "I'm fine, honey. And you are so pretty."
Bo groaned. "Not you too."
"What's going on?" Dyson asked.
"They were running some kind of machine with sex magic, sort of siphoning off sexual energy from everyone that walked in. I came in to ask questions, they saw a new battery walk in the door and knocked me out," Bo said, all in a bubbly rush, like she was riding a major high herself. "Hey, did you guys know this place was a brothel?"
"We figured it out," Dyson said. "So what happened? he asked patiently.
"I blew their circuits," Bo said, and she was grinning, the cat-got-the-cream one. Her mouth was really, really pink. "The machine went kerplooey and sort of—spewed all of the energy right back out, I think. I got loose while they were distracted."
Which would explain why Kenzi wanted to hit that shit like Dyson's ass was a pinata and it was Cinco de Mayo. "Can you kiss me?" Kenzi asked her, but Bo was already leading Dyson in the direction she'd come from. Kenzi followed behind and made sure to enjoy the view.
The dudes in the back room were all stripped to their underwear (or less), unconscious and bound with duct tape. "For the record," Bo said, holding her hands up when Dyson's mouth got all pinched and tight, "the tape was me, the rest was all them."
"Oh, let me, let me," Kenzi said giddly, and slipped between them—be still her heart—to get in front of the hipster douchebag in charge. "Hey!" she yelled. "Wakey, wakey, eggs and bakey, asshole," and smacked him in the head, hard enough to properly convey, 'fuck you for making me want to roll over for my best friend and her boyfriend.'
He gasped awake, tape creaking around his wrists and, blinked up at Kenzi, dazed. "Who the fuck are you?"
She crossed her arms and said, "I'm with them," jerking her chin towards the wall without taking her eyes off of him, the better to intimidate you with, my pretty. Also, having to wipe drool off her chin was a surefire way to ruin any hope of Kenzi being taken seriously by a fae ever again, and she didn't need to see Dyson and Bo to know they were looking all sexy and dangerous, with their smoldering and their leather and their hotness.
Dyson crouched down to look at the guy eye to eye, who started shifting a little and licking his lips, and not like he was scared. Boy, did Kenzi know that feeling. Dyson started questioning him: how many mages were involved, what were they powering—nothing unusual.
"Have you ever thought about doing phone sex?" Kenzi breathed. "Sorry, sorry," she said when Dyson turned to look at her, "I'm leaving." She made her way back out to the front of the bar and sat down at the empty table closest to the hallway. The bartender didn't ask if she wanted anything. She didn't blame him.
"Can I get you a drink?" someone slurred, and Kenzi looked up from her phone into the face of yet another trucker-cap who'd seen better days, leaning over her table. He was clearly a new arrival, because she couldn't imagine anyone who'd seen Dyson smash some dude's hand with a glass would've tried anything.
"Sorry, buddy, I think I'm taken." She said it as a joke to herself, this Wonderland day when Dyson made her weak in the knees and looking at Bo made her mouth water, so of course the asshole had to take it seriously.
"Oh, come on," he said, in a wheedling tone he clearly thought was convincing, "if you're not sure, then maybe I can help you figure it out."
"Thanks," Bo said out of fucking nowhere, syrupy sweet, the succubus version of A Ghost in the Darkness, "but she's got all the help she needs. Right, Kenz?"
"What she said," Kenzi said weakly, and watched Bo's hand stroke down her arm almost impersonally, appraising more than familiar. Like Kenzi wasn't the roommate who left her laundry in the washing machine for a week and had to rewash it twice to get rid of the mildew smell, but a possession, something to be owned and taken care of and shared. When she got down to Kenzi's hand she pulled it up to tug it around her waist, and hoist Kenzi up and lead her back down the hallway.
"Dyson sent the photos to Hale for ID, there's a clean-up crew on the way," Bo said. "So we're going to keep an eye on them until they get here."
They found Dyson in the office sitting on a couch that looked like it used to be red and blue plaid, but was now only three or four shades of dingy and dingier. The dumbasses from earlier were lined up neatly against the far wall, still bound but blissfully clothed.
Bo tucked in next to him on the couch and smiled up at Kenzi. "You can sit." It was more predatory than normal and full of teeth, a little more her, like somebody hit her hungry button.
Kenzi paced the floor in front of the couch. "Nope," she said firmly, before she could embarrass herself in front of these bozos or offer herself up as a succu-snack delivery service. "I am not that kind of masochist."
"Come on," Bo coaxed, "We're not going to—"
"Bo." Dyson had a hand on her arm. He pulled an oversized cushion from the end of the couch and shifted his leg to drop it to the floor. "Kenzi, why don't you sit," he said, not a question.
Kenzi melted a little in relief, because that was good: close, but not too close. She turned on her heel and plopped down and distracted herself handily trying to get comfortable. The cushion was lumpy and it took a little maneuvering not to feel like she was going to slide off. Finally satisfied, she tugged Bo and Dyson's legs over each shoulder, feet planted on her thighs. Slipped her arms around their shins and pulled their knees in close around her, a shield against the world—sometimes a cage was to keep things out, not just keep them in.
"How are you feeling?" Bo asked, rubbing at the nape of Kenzi's neck.
She felt clear-headed, enough to tell that the rest of what she felt wasn't quite right, was coming from what felt like somewhere not inside her, or maybe from farther inside her than it had before. Bo had touched her like this like a thousand times when they were sitting on their couch watching TV, but this time Kenzi closed her eyes and sucked in a breath, overwhelmed by the desire to arch into it. She leaned her cheek against Dyson's leg, dizzy with the musky scent of him and the animal leather smell of Bo.
"I want to lick your pants," she said, and sighed. So much for not being a masochist.
"So you've turned into a kitten," Dyson said, warm and amused. "That explains so much about you."
Kenzi turned to gnash her teeth at his hand and glared. Wolfman Jackass had a pretty good poker face when he wasn't freshly post succ-ing—and she said that as an authority on both subjects—but he was laughing at her, she could tell, and his voice was caramel-y in a way that made her want to roll around in it, and that was just not on. She emphatically flopped her cheek against Bo's thigh in protest.
Dyson scratched at her head with warm, strong fingers, above where Bo was still rubbing her neck. Definitely laughing at her, and completely unfazed by the threat of Kenzi's attempted cannibalism.
"Obviously it's hitting Kenzi a lot harder," Bo said, all flirty, "but how much is it affecting you?" because she was dumb and probably thought her little Arouse-o-meter told all. What would extra mojo do to Dyson when he was hot for her 24/7 anyway?
"A bit," he said, because he was a cagey bastard. Sign numero uno that something is rotten in the state of Dyson: whenever someone wanted black and white he answered in the inbetweens, implying without admitting, hiding without outright lying. 'A bit' to anyone not a sex-crazed succubus probably meant Kenzi wasn't much worse off than he was at all, he just hid it better.
At least when it came to Bo. There was a definite vibe of manhandling Kenzi he wasn't hiding so well. It couldn't be a sex thing, what with the whole mate for life business, but it was there.
"My ladyboner is so confused," Kenzi told Bo's leg. She was so tired. "I still don't want to have sex with you, I just want to, like, worship you." And Dyson was—well, it felt weird, almost, to call Dyson her friend. Hale was her friend. Dyson was, like, her wolfbro. They had a thing, they understood each other, even when she hated him that one time. It was a weird sense of loyalty toward each other for reasons that had nothing to do with love, not in the he-and-Bo way. Maybe in a family way. Family she wanted to bang, right now, but that was the sex magic talking.
"I know," Dyson said. He was being gentle again.
"I just said all that out loud, didn't I?" Kenzi asked.
"You guys smell so good," Kenzi said mournfully, and meant so much more.
"I know, Kenz," Dyson said, and stroked her hair until she fell asleep like that, tucked between him and Bo.
She dreamed, not that she realized it until later, because it felt like a memory to hear she's ours when that guy hit on her, when the schmuck in the back room asked who she was. Only it never happened.
"A shot of your finest, my good man," she said, slapping her hand on the bar.
Trick said, "Kenzi," a hello and a warning all at once.
"Don't start with me," she said. "I need something good, Trick. Please." A day like today would've deserved a good whine if she could've mustered the energy for it. Kenzi didn't have the energy for it. Kenzi, if she were frank—and she was always frank unless she was lying—was emo. And this wasn't even regular "crying because you dumped your cheating ho-bag girlfriend" emo, this was like, "tragic teen suicide" emo.
Trick's look was level, considered. Not that he was ever anything but, but sometimes when she looked at him she got the feeling she was being measured against very old yardsticks. Like from before there were yards. Whatever he saw convinced him, clearly against his better judgement if the pissy little huff he gave meant anything.
The two shot glasses he slid down the bar were filled with liquid gold—actual metallic looking liquid, not gold-flecked liquor. The one he pushed towards her was only a quarter full. The surface shimmered like an oil slick.
Kenzi looked down. "Little light on the pour aren't you?"
"You're lucky I gave you that much. If you scorch your throat, don't blame me."
Kenzi picked it up and tilted it, watching it coat the glass in a syrupy golden iridescence. "What is it?" She trusted Trick enough to know he wasn't feeding her metallic paint or something, but still.
"I'll tell you after you drink it." Which was super annoying, if comforting in its Trick-ness, seeing as how the man seemed to live for being vague, with a side-helping of mystical prophecies.
"Y'know, Trickster, some days you've just got to be thankful for the little things."
Trick raised an eyebrow. "Like?"
She looked over at Dyson guiding Bo through the crowd with a hand on the small of her back. She felt a hopeful throb at the memory of Dyson stroking her hair, the pressure of Bo's hand on her neck. She was still wearing his vest.
"Leather," she said with relish, glancing down at her sip of a shot before she gave Trick a righteous glare. "Friends who take care of you even when you don't want them to." She held her shotglass up and wiggled it enticingly. He lifted his own—full almost to the brim, the jerk. "Oh, and no electricity bills," she added.
"Well then," Trick said, and the corner of his mouth twitched, a dead giveaway that he wanted to laugh but wasn't going to give her the satisfaction. He clinked his glass against hers. "To no electricity bills."
Kenzi choked a little on the shot. It burned unnaturally going down, not the familiar cheap booze burn, but smoldering and seeping into every corner of her, making her warm all over.
Trick looked at her in that slightly too casual way he had. "So Dyson tells me you all had some trouble with a, uh, mage today."
"'Mages,'" Kenzi said, air quotes intact, "can go die in a fire."
"You seem like you've recovered from the effects well enough." Trick raised both eyebrows, which was practically hysterics for him. "You know," he said, in what Kenzi would never tell a soul she thought of as the Dad voice. "These kinds of spells—they don't make you want to do things you wouldn't do on your own. It just heightens what's there. Any desires or urges you may have had were already inside you."
"Yeah, I was kind of afraid of that."
There was that yardstick look again, and this time Trick slid over a double of good ol' whiskey, almost spilling over.
Now that was more like it.
Kenzi stayed at the bar until Bo appeared at her shoulder—sans Dyson, thankfully. She dragged Kenzi's happy ass home, dragged it into PJs, and then onto Bo's bed. She wasn't drunk, just tipsy, still feeling the tingly warmth from Trick's phoenix piss or whatever that stuff was.
She didn't make a habit of asking Bo dumb questions, but hey, it would be hard to top writing her a note to ask if she was an alien.
"So, like, if you were at ground zero of this sex bomb, why didn't it do more than put a little pep in your step?"
Bo shrugged. "I felt different, but I mostly just—felt more like me. I wanted the same things I always wanted, I just wanted more of it."
"Ugh," Kenzi said, and keeled over dramatically at the injustice of it all. Of course Bo was so consistently, unapologetically her, so in touch with her base desires that having them released didn't bother her a bit. Which of course included staking a claim on Kenzi. And what's worse was that Kenzi liked it, from the same part of her that was happy sitting safe behind Dyson and Bo's legs. That liked Dyson smashing that dude's hand with a glass. It's not that she needed the protection—a little chainsaw goes a long way even when you're a chihuaha running with the big dogs—but it was nice to have people who wanted to. It was nice to have people.
Convenient side effect of Kenzi's lack of will to stay upright: it put her head next to Bo's hip, in perfect petting range, and Bo's hand fell to stroke her hair like it was second-nature. "So how are you?"
"My appreciation of your gorgeousness is back to normal levels, sorry to break it to you," Kenzi said, and bit her lip. "The kitten situation is," never going away, ". . .no bueno. Clearly," she added, opening her eyes to look up pointedly at Bo's hand.
"Well if it makes a difference I'm sure not complaining," Bo said. She sounded the way she always did when she was flirting with Kenzi, and it was so Bo it made something get a little tight in Kenzi's chest, like she wanted to cry. How do you say, 'I love you but not in a sexy way, but not really in a friend way either, and I think the same goes for your boyfriend'?
"I'm sorry," Bo said, all serious out of nowhere. "If it weren't for me overloading their crazy machine it wouldn't have happened."
"Hey," Kenzi said, and threw her arm around Bo's waist: it was kind of half-hug and half-snuggling with Bo's leg (again). "You did what you had to and kicked ass. And what's a little public embarrassment between friends, right?"
What Kenzi did not do was drama. Kenzi figured out what she wanted and went for it. When Kenzi ran into a gorgeous, lifeforce-sucking creature of the night she stepped up and said, "Let's be besties." She'd seen through Dyson's stoic detective routine like it was glass. When someone shoved it in her face that she was a little human fish who'd just thrown herself into a huge-ass pond, she stood her ground at Bo's side. Kenzi had faced down some scary shit since she met Bo, she could sure as hell face down a little squeamishness about the fae thinking she was just another My Little Human Pony.
Bo had her feet in Dyson's lap when Kenzi came out of the kitchen holding a bowl of popcorn bigger around than she was. There was plenty of room on Dyson's open side for Kenzi to fit if she wanted to.
"'Scuse me," she said, hoisting the bowl into one arm to lean over Bo and pull one of the bigger pillows from the back of the couch. She plopped it on the floor in front of Bo, sat, and lifted the bowl up above her head for them to take some.
Dyson said, "Thank you," way more formally than you'd expect for a guy munching on popcorn, but Kenzi got it, and tipped her head against the side of his knee.
"There should be scritches happening now," she announced, and picked up the remote to start the movie. Someone had to show these people who was in charge around here.