Kenzi stared down at Dyson’s outstretched hand, his once short nails now razor sharp claws, and frowned with frustration. Why couldn’t she do that? They had been “practicing” for hours now and still her mani was completely flawless. He told her that she had already done this before in the ice tub, but she couldn’t remember much from that day and the very idea of any part of her becoming something so foreign and deadly without her being aware of it had way too much of a gross out factor attached for her to want to remember it now. That lack of control would totes freak her brain and she knew it.
“Ahhh, I’m never going to get this.” She knew she could do it, she also knew she didn’t really want to do it. So far their training had consisted of a lot of running around in the woods and not much else, an activity she could have just as easily done as a mere mortal, somehow this seemed like the death knell to her humanity more than anything else ever had before. She wasn’t ready.
“Yes you will, it will just take time, and effort.” She hated this, and even more than this she hated that patient voice he was using. Like he was humoring the slow kid in class and telling them that they can learn too. All you have to do is try, what BS.
“Is that how you mastered all your wolfy-ness oh great one?” Maybe if she could get them on the topic of his wolf-i-tude and off hers she would be able to take a deep breath and deal.
The way he ducked his head down and smiled, made her heartbeat thunder in her ears, not that she would ever truly go there. But still that smile was downright lethal.
“No, it’s not.” Of course not, he was superwolf and there was no way anyone had been forced to give him lessons in how to howl.
“Then why can’t I learn the way you did?” Anything had to be better than this way, this slow meandering down a new path further and further away from who she used to be. Maybe his way was faster and they could just rip the bandaid off and get it over with, she hated the feeling of losing herself by inches.
“Because I was born with my wolf, I was never anything other than what I am now. There were no limitations I needed to overcome. With me it was always more about learning not to shift, than learning to do it.”
“Oh, dude, did you like, run around as a little wolf cub? Was that your people’s version of a toddler running around bare ass? Even if you didn’t I now totally have it as a mental image and it’s soooo cute.” His shaking head said no, but his ruby red cheeks said hell yeah. He so totally ran around as a little cub, and it had to be so adorable.
“Come on Kenzi, try to focus, the sooner you learn this the sooner we can leave this cabin and head back to town.” She scrunched up her face so that he could see that she was concentrating just like he asked, but at the same time she couldn’t help but think about what he’d said.
Did she want to leave here? This cabin in the woods where it was just her and D-man, chilling and talking all day and all night? With a jolt she realized that no, no she didn’t want to leave.
She missed her BoBo she really did, even though they hadn’t parted ways on the best of terms, she knew she and her bestie would work things out like always. She’d made new friends or really better friends of not only Dyson, but Trickster and the formerly dubbed Ash-hole. She and doc hot pants had developed a little friction but nothing that couldn’t be fixed with some good old fashioned avoidance.
So what was her deal?
She didn’t know why she was so afraid to go back, and afraid she was. She might not like admitting to her fears out loud, especially when the Fae were within earshot, but she could still recognize them for her own and she was afraid. Sure staying here had its own personal phobia of otherness attached to it, but going back didn’t appeal either. But why not? Home was full of reminders of the good old days, sure, full of people who knew and cared for the human girl she used to be but that couldn’t be what was holding her back. The world would be full of reminders so avoiding one place wouldn’t stop that particular wound from bleeding.
Looking up as Dyson took her hand and moved it this way, and that way, trying to help her do what came so naturally to him she had her answer. She was afraid of Dyson. Not like afraid, afraid, but scared witless of losing him. When she finally got this whole wolf business down and went back to where they both belonged, he would go back to where he belonged. Bo’s arms.
Not that she really had a problem with that, if Bo-balicious was who made his wolf sit up and howl then all the power to them both, but something way down deep inside of her sat up and snarled at the mental picture show that went along with that idea. She didn’t understand that any more than she understood anything else that was happening in her life at the moment, so she did what she always did when life got too complicated to deal with, she pushed it all to the wayside and concentrated on one thing at a time. She would sprout some claws if it was the last thing she did!
Humanity be damned, it was already in the rear view mirror and staring at it longingly while morose ballads from the hairband days crooned in the background wouldn’t change a damn thing. This was who she was now and she would embrace it, because what other damn choice did she have.
Dyson watched as Kenzi’s face got all serious, a sure sign that she was really thinking about other things, but it was so cute he decided to let her have her little mental dialogue for the moment. If it went on for too long he could always bring her focus back to where it was really needed after all. For now though he had a few mental roadblocks to overcome himself. When he’d talked about them leaving the cabin and going back to the Dal his heart had skipped a beat leaving a burning sensation in his chest.
He knew he loved Kenzi, and deep down he and his wolf were both sure that she returned his feelings, but at the same time he couldn’t force himself to say the words to her when she was awake and coherent enough to truly hear them. He was being a coward, he knew that, but he just couldn’t force those words out of his throat where they burned waiting to be said.
He was stuck in the land of what if. What if she didn’t feel the same way? What if she did feel those feelings for him but he rushed her and messed it all up? What if the woman who made him, both man and wolf, content didn’t say it back?
Letting his eyes slide closed for a moment he let those thoughts run wild, before he slammed the door shut on them. Now was not the time for that, now was the time for training. If there really was an unknown pack in the area like he thought, then Kenzi would need to know how to defend herself, and that began with being able to call her wolf claws into her human form. In close combat they were better than any knife.
“Come on Kenzi, you can do this. You’re just overthinking it. The wolf, your wolf, is a part of you. She’s always with you, just beneath the surface. Waiting to help you survive anything, willing to let you draw on her strength and her true predatory nature. The claws are just a part of that. Always there but hidden from sight until truly needed or asked for. Close your eyes and see your wolf, you’ve seen her before, just let her in if only a little bit, let her guide you to what needs to happen. Just let go, that little bit, let the wolf inside of you rise to the surface. Not breaking through, just under the skin.” He watched as slowly her nails began to change to the claws he’d always known were there. When she opened her eyes again instead of the grey ice blue of her human side the bright molten silver of her wolf shone through.
“Good. Very good.”
He wasn’t so worried now, now that he knew that if it came down to it she could and would do whatever she had to in order to survive. He shouldn’t have been so surprised, Kenzi had been a survivor long before she’d ever met the Fae and now that she was Fae herself that wouldn’t change.
Lachlan looked around the Dal and tried to hold in his sneer of distaste, there was just something about this way station that rankled. He wasn’t sure what it was about it that made him so uneasy, but he supposed it might be because of whose territory it was. There were actually few Fae who could be said to outrank him in power and status, but Trick was one of those few and while they were friends of a sort now having been in the trenches together to save Kenzi there was still something about standing in the heart of his domain that made his teeth ache to tear into something. However, he was a civilized man and he was there for a reason and he would see to his needs over his instincts.
“Lachlan, what brings you by?” The older man seemed genuinely shocked but pleased to see him, though he made no move to come out from behind the bar. He found himself suddenly reluctant to speak, knowing that the reason for his visit would likely put Trick in an unfortunate position in his personal life, but if he was going to proceed he truly did need advice from someone in a position to have an opinion.
“I need your advice on how to handle a quite delicate situation.”
“Bo?” He didn’t need to ask how the man knew, he imagined that his grand-daughter was no end of trouble and in all likelihood caused him the bulk of his problems these days. She definitely seemed the trouble magnet sort.
“To a degree. Word of what transpired with Kenzi has gotten out, as you very well might have heard, though so far no one seems to have the whole story and now I find myself in a bit of a delicate position. I need to punish Doctor Palmer, and I need to do so at least semi-publicly so that none can think to defy me in the future, and also to protect the good doctor from any less authorized justice, however I have a waiting problem there.” A rather loud one in point of fact, and he did not need to handle one challenge to his authority only to be openly confronted with another.
“Bo won’t stand for it.”
“Exactly, so I came to ask you as someone who knows her well and was involved in the situation from the beginning. What do you suggest?” Trick had yet to take his eyes off the bar while they spoke, but this finally had him making eye contact. The old man might have been around since the dawn of time or near enough but it was clear that it was still possible to surprise him. For some reason that made him swell with pride.
Trick wished he didn’t have to have this conversation with his granddaughter but he knew better than most what could happen if he didn’t. Lauren’s punishment would be making the gossip rounds soon and if Bo wasn’t properly prepared first she would most likely make a scene they could all ill afford at the moment.
While they had defeated the Garuda they had come out the other side far from unscathed, these losses coming so close on the heels of Aife killing so many of their Elders left the Light wounded and easy prey if given a proper opening. That opening could not be Bo. While Bo claimed neutrality and did indeed help Fae from both sides of the line, it was well known that most of her ties were to the Light, if she turned against them in the wake of Lauren’s punishment she would be declared an enemy and treated accordingly. He had already lost his only daughter to such politics in times of conflict and he refused to lose anyone else so senselessly.
He and Lachlan had debated about waiting until Kenzi and Dyson were back in town to have this out, both aware that the two of them were the most likely to be a calming and restraining influence on Bo. By the time the conversation had ended however, they were both in agreement that the time frame of their return was too uncertain to be counted as a factor in the decision. If they waited too long to punish Lauren for her indiscretions then not only would Lachlan be seen as weak but the entirety of the Light in their city would as well. If that happened their likely wouldn’t be any reason for Dyson and Kenzi to return, because there would be nothing left for them to return to.
“Trick, what are you doing here?”
“Bo, we need to talk. It’s about Lauren.” Watching her face shift into a scowl he knew he was doing the right thing.
Lauren knew her sentence would be handed down soon, but she hadn’t thought it would be this soon. She sat outside the office of the Ash and all she could think was that she wasn’t ready, she knew just how brutal and unforgiving the Fae could be and she knew what she had done while minor in her opinion at the time was a real breach of trust for them. Her hands were beginning to sweat and rubbing them against her jeans weren’t doing much other than making her fidget more which seemed to be amusing her guards.
The door swinging open shattered what was left of her nerves and she began to physically shake. She knew what was happening to her, she was experiencing an adrenaline spike due to stress and fear, adrenaline works directly on receptor cells in muscles to speed up the contraction rate of the fibres, kicking off the fight or flight response not that she had either option available to her. High levels of adrenaline can therefore lead to muscles twitching uncontrollably, making her body twitch and shake. Knowing however wasn’t enough to help her regain control of herself. Walking into the office on shaking legs she kept her eyes on the floor. She didn’t want to see it coming, it was the only control she had at the moment and she knew even that would not last long at all.
“Ah, Doctor, good of you to join us so promptly.”
Us? Looking up she found Lachlan lounging in behind his desk but standing beside it was Hale. While he wasn’t technically an Elder his family was old enough and pure enough that in these uncertain times he as the heir held enough sway to be a true mover and shaker. Unfortunately for him his father was still alive so he was limited in how much shaking he could do.
She stayed silent, talking was what got her into this mess in the first place and she was not going to dig herself any deeper.
“As you have probably already surmised this is your sentencing hearing. We have come up with two options for you and have debated amongst ourselves about it for quite some time now but since it is your life on the line we decided to let you choose between them. Option one we could simply lock you away in the dungeons for a few months while we stabilize our position, we can’t have any unfortunate information leaks at the moment if we truly wish to rise back to our former level after all.” No not the dungeons, that place was so loud and filled with sorrow and tedium she knew she would go mad within a week, by the time they let her out again she would be beyond useless.
“Option two is a bit more involved. We would contact Vex and have you loaned out to the Dark for just as long, where you would learn more about the Fae that aren’t necessarily available to you on this side of the line. Given his position and the sway he has with his Elders it would be agreed that you would answer to him and no one else.” Their looks both towards her and between each other were clear. She could either be a prisoner or she could be a spy. She knew what the Dark would do to her if they caught her sending information back to the Light, but she also knew that they would be in the same predicament that the Light were in now.
They weren’t saying it but it was clear why they were giving her these options. Bo. They were afraid of angering Bo. It wasn’t a lot of leeway but she would take what she could get.
“I would be honored to continue being of use to the Fae.” She only hoped she survived this, then again death would be a way out of her current enslavement even if it wouldn’t be the one she would choose for herself.
Evony was not used to having to run her own errands, she had people for this for god’s sake, but this matter was far too delicate for just any hands to handle. Her relationship with Vex was already fraught enough without someone playing monkey in the middle while the two of them sniped at each other. She was well aware that she was holding onto her position, and her head, but a mere thread and she would not risk angering the Dark Elders any further by getting into another pissing match with their dark horse contender for her throne. She didn’t have the clout she used to at the moment, and some indignities were better swallowed than aired.
“Well, well, well look who has deigned to come down amongst the masses. What’s the occasion? Do I need to pop open the bubbly?” She desperately wanted to tell him to can it, but this wasn’t the old days and they weren’t in her office. They were in his.
“Vex, can’t an old friend just stop by for a visit? I was in the neighborhood and realized that you and I haven’t had any time to really chat lately and I miss our little tête-à-tête’s.”
“Pull the other one, or better yet go for the middle bit and give us a thrill, you miss me about as much as I miss you. So I’ll ask you one more time. What. Do. You. Want. And this time lovey try for the truth. There’s only so much of you I can take in a night without losing my dinner.” Oh how she detested him, she should have had him killed back when she had the power to get away with it, but now she just had to deal with him.
There had been a moment there, when she would have been able to squash him like the powerless bug he was but she had let it pass in favor of a more drawn out punishment. Now he was back on top and there was nothing she could do to him with the elders backing him again and they both knew it.
“Fine. You got pretty close with the other side during this last little dust up, tell me what have you heard lately? More specifically what have you heard about Bo’s little pet human?” The direct approach rarely worked with Vex but she knew if she pushed him much more she might be the one squashed.
“What you want to know ‘bout her for? She don’t seem your speed, she’s creative, sure but not with the kind of talent you’d be looking to suck on, and we both know if you try going toe to toe with the succubus again, face won’t be the only thing you lose.” She wanted to wipe that smug, manic grin off but settled for examining her nails instead while she fantasized about what it would feel like to rake them across his face.
“Word is something went down on their side of the fence that has left their little group in tatters. No one knows much about it, other than whatever it was had to do with Bo’s pet. The latest rumor to reach my ears however says that the nice doctor is about to get a pretty public flogging, that is if they have any balls, and the little human hasn’t been seen around town for a while now. I know you and I have had our differences in the past Vex, but this is beyond that. If you hear anything concrete I would be grateful if you kept me in the loop, if the Light is faltering I want to know about it, preferably before anyone else.” Bo was a divisive creature and if she was setting herself against the Light, then there were moves that would need to be made.
“Oh, I got ya. You want me to wriggle my fine ass back over the line and see what I can sniff out, that about the gist of it? Well, I suppose catching up with old friends might be the theme of my week then.”
“Let me know what you hear. Ciao.” Heading back towards her town car she started working on her backup plans. She would need to verify any information Vex might bring to her after all and she had the perfect little canary in mind.