Gray Line, part 8
Lauren was in the bathroom. The door firmly shut, something had washed over them, and nearly destroyed her self-control. They had found themselves all over each other. She moaned just remembering the taste of Blue's lips.
She stared at herself in the mirror, dark golden scales, gold eyes, and wings. The pain of the leather membranes ripping out of her back had actually given her back part of her sanity, the part that made her retreat quickly to the bathroom. Her eyes blinked, not up and down, but the lids closed from the sides, it was disturbing.
"Blue, I'm sorry; it’s not your fault." She called out through the door. "I was just a little overwhelmed." That was putting it mildly.
“Are you sure?” Blue hugged herself, worriedly watching the bathroom door from the bedroom. “You ran really fast.”
Lauren swallowed and opened the door; fairly certain whatever had happened was done. "I was afraid I'd hurt you. The change was out of control." Probably triggered by her arousal.
“I didn’t mind.” Blue’s voice was very small as she stared up at Lauren. “Did I do something wrong? I know you said slowly, and I was being good all night, even with you all warm and next to me, but then that happened and I just wanted to touch you.” She knew she was babbling, so she clamped her lips shut.
"It wasn't your fault. Whatever that was, was outside our control." Lauren felt bad; it wasn't the woman's fault. "Don't do that. You haven't said anything wrong or bad, there's no need to be quiet." In the larger room she flared out her wings enjoying the feeling. She didn't think she had the muscles to actually fly with them, but gliding was possible if she remembered correctly.
"The wings are pretty." Blue said quickly, watching them flex. "They look like dragonfly wings. Do they feel strange?" She brushed shaggy hair out of her face, happier now that Lauren wasn't upset with her.
"Yes, they feel really strange. I don't think they're for flying." They folded back down covering her almost completely from head to toe, she didn't want to think about where all that mass had come from.
Blue reached out, tentatively stroking them with a smile. "They feel softer than I thought." She was about to say something else when someone knocked on the door to their rooms, causing her to yelp in surprise and yank her hand back.
"You two up yet? We have things to do, people to annoy." Dianna's voice sounded through the hallway door.
Lauren looked at Blue and then the door. "We are. Uh . . . one sec." She moved slowly to the door and unlocked it. She opened it slowly. "There was a problem." She stepped back.
"What sort of . . . oh." Dianna blinked staring at the wings and then at Lauren's eyes. "What happened?" That was completely unexpected. Quickly she stepped in and closed the door, no sense alarming others.
Lauren blushed, even with the scales her face turned red. "Something kind of affected . . . us . . . I lost control. I managed not to hurt Blue." She rushed to say the last part.
"Oh." Dianna's smile widened. "Sorry about that, my bad." She shrugged, not really particularly sorry about it. "Guess that mean's you're staying here to watch Quinn and your friend is coming with me shopping."
"Oh . . . uh.. okay."
"Since Green's been in my room already, I’m going to go get the sleeping woman and she's going to stay with you while you get the wing thing under control. Okay?" Compared to that, her hair having changed color and grown long wasn't really worth mentioning.
"Green, here. Shouldn't we . . . uh . . . do something like leave?"
"Quinn doesn't have any clothes, you two are running around in rags, and I'm wearing something that's probably going to get me arrested for indecent exposure. We need supplies before we go into the Gray again. Especially if we're going into the Asylum." Dianna grimaced at the mere idea of it. "Be right back." She closed the door behind her as she went to bundle up the good detective.
"I have to go with her?" Blue didn't seem really thrilled with that as she looked at the closed door.
"Shhh." Dianna whispered, gathering the woman, blankets and all, and picking her up. She was heavier than before, or maybe Dianna wasn't as strong, but she managed. "Lauren's going to watch you while you sleep." She felt a surge of protectiveness for this normally hard-bitten cop.
A yearning to keep her safe that was tender as it was fierce.
Ignoring the startled look of a maid outside in the hallway, she kicked twice on Lauren's door to get her to open it.
The door opened with Lauren standing out of view behind the door.
Quinn had gone back to sleep in Dianna’s arms.
"Here." She tucked Quinn into the bed, giving Lauren a pointed look. "Keep her safe okay?" She kept her voice quiet, trying to let Quinn sleep more.
Lauren nodded. "You keep Blue safe." She stood awkwardly, not able to sit until she changed back. "And don't take too long."
The half-demon gave her a wink. "Deal. Come on little Blue, time to go shopping. Let's see how far Quinn's cash will go." She waited for the young woman to unfold herself from where she'd been crouched and carefully slip past Dianna.
Quickly, the blond kissed Lauren on the lips and slipped out the door.
Dianna waggled her eyebrows at Lauren, following Blue out the door.
Lauren just blushed again.
The wings were gone by the time Dianna and Blue came back. Quinn was still asleep, the cop hadn't moved once since Dianna had deposited her into the room.
"Hey." Lauren said opening the door, her eyes checking Blue to make sure she was okay and then Dianna.
The blond waved, biting her lip as she wondered if Lauren would like the new clothes. “Dianna said I had to wear something other than what I had.”
“No.” Dianna said, carrying bags inside and laying them down next to the bed. “What I said was that you would look nicer wearing actual clothes and not just those stained things that were once clothes in a prior life. I think I did well, don’t you Lauren?” She grinned at the younger human as Blue stepped inside.
She’d gotten them all jeans, something that would hopefully stand up to what they’d be going through shortly. She’d also found time to buy Blue some hair ties so that the poor girl could get that long hair out of her face. That coupled with a new T-shirt, did a lot to improve the girl’s look.
Lauren nearly swallowed her tongue. "Uh, wow, you look nice. Really nice. I like your hair up like that." Her face was getting red again as she tried not to let her gaze focus on Blue's breasts that were highlighted in the new snug clothes.
Blue’s blush became even redder and she smiled shyly.
“Here.” Dianna shoved the leftover cash into Lauren’s hands. “Go get us some food, there’s a shop on the corner. Wait for us there.” She was working hard to avoid laughing at the two of them. Between the blushes that were going on, the two of them were absolutely adorable right at that moment.
That and she wanted to wake Quinn up without an audience. Which was odd since she’d never really minded having an audience before.
Lauren blinked at the money and then grabbed it. "Let me get dressed and sure." She rooted around the bags until she found something her size and went and changed in the bathroom. She washed her face and checked her breath before leaving. In the clean clothes she felt human again. "Ready, Blue?" She asked, opening the door.
Blue rocked back and forth, hands stuck in the pockets of her pants, nodding quickly.
Dianna just grinned at the two of them, making it quite clear what she thought was on both of their minds. “We’ll be down soon, so no doing anything I wouldn’t do.” That certainly left a lot open to interpretation.
Quinn slept on oblivious to everything around her, red hair poking out through the covers.
Having to nearly shove Blue out the door, Dianna closed it and locked it behind them. “Thought they’d never leave.” She muttered, stripping clothes as she went toward the bed. There was only one way she could think of to make Quinn’s wake-up call pleasant.
She slid under the sheets naked, sliding her body up against Quinn’s sleepy warmth and slowly began to kiss the Irish woman’s exposed neck, her fingers sliding along the woman’s ribs and stomach. “Time to wake up.” She murmured into an ear, fingers sliding lower.
Gooseflesh sprang up along Quinn's skin and she gave a breathy moan as her eyes cracked open. "Are you trying to kill me?" She was sore but Dianna's fingers felt so good where they were.
“I’ll be gentle.” Dianna promised, ducking her head under the covers so that she could gently kiss and tongue that sore flesh.
"Oh God." Quinn said eyes squeezing shut, her hands reaching and tangling in that long dark hair.
Dianna was slow and gentle, the climax built steadily under her skin until she came with a gasp, biting her lip. Quinn slumped back into the bed, the muscles in her stomach slowly relaxing and her left hand stayed tangled in that soft black hair. "You are a wicked woman. That's the best wake-up I've ever had, I think.”
“Mmmm.” The half-demon hummed her own approval, licking her lips as she crawled up to kiss Quinn. She’d had her own pleasure riding out the waves of pleasure from Quinn’s orgasm. “Good morning, again. I hope you slept well for a while.” It wasn’t much, but four hours was all that Quinn was getting.
Quinn was surprised by the kiss but didn't say anything. "I slept very well, considering this isn't our room." She stretched and then snuggled into Dianna's body. She had loved her husband very much, enjoyed being with him, but there was something nice about a woman's softness and curves, also there was the lack of stubbly facial hair that had made oral sex a turnoff. "I suppose that was your way of getting me up and moving." She mumbled into Dianna's neck.
“Seemed like a good way to go. Nicer than pinching your ass wasn’t it?” Dianna slid her fingers through Quinn’s hair, marveling at the color of it. “I’ve never told you this, but I like your hair. I think this was what I wanted when I dyed mine.” Maybe she’d stick with black hair; Quinn certainly seemed to like it long.
"I hate to break it to you but your hair was not anywhere near my color." Quinn said with a relaxed sigh as Dianna's hands moved through her hair. "If you keep doing that, I'll go to sleep.”
“Sadly, there’s no time for that today.” Dianna kissed her briefly once more and then slid her way out of the sheets. Any longer touching Quinn’s skin and she’d loose her control again. “I sent the kids for food, Blue and I went to Wal-Mart for clothes and had a fight with the most obnoxious little troll of a human woman I’ve ever met.” Pale eyes rolled as Dianna remembered it. “I hope Lauren gets Blue to talk more than I did; I think she said two full words while we were out. You getting up?”
Quinn grumbled at the cold air but sat up stretching. "Fine, I'm up.”
"Jeans or slacks?" Dianna pulled both out of the Wal-Mart bags, hoping they fit. "First time I've ever shopped for clothes for someone else." It had been much more fun than shopping for herself.
Quinn looked at the clothes. "Slacks.” She said getting out of the bed with a wince. That was probably more than a lifetime of sexual activity rolled up into a couple of hours.
“You all right?" The half-demon couldn't, quite, stop smirking a little as she watched Quinn get dressed. Who was, she suddenly realized, the first woman she'd ever slept with and found even more attractive in the morning.
Quinn's response was to swat Dianna's shoulder. "You know I'm not. Most of those muscles haven't had a workoutt in a while. Stop looking so smug." Although the smugness was better than the indifference she'd been expecting.
The smirk grew larger. "You kept pace well, right up until you collapsed." Dianna dodged another swat, laughing. "I was certain this was supposed to be awkward and full of bickering." She said, once she was certain the Irish woman wasn't going to come after her.
"What would be awkward?" Quinn asked, pulling a gray T-shirt over her head. She dug around in the sack and pulled out socks.
"The morning after?" Dianna leaned up against the wall, watching with interest as Quinn bent over. "That's what it's supposed to be right, awkward, you telling me I tricked you into it or something like that?"
"I suppose. You didn't trick me, I knew before we got naked it was probably a one-time deal and that I would do my best not to be bitter or angry with you. You've always been very honest in your wants and desires. You like sex, you're not monogamous, and you have no plans to change that. So if I want to get bent out of shape, I only have myself to blame." Which she might, for giving in, short-selling what was important to herself. She wanted someone who would love and want only her, but she couldn't fault Dianna for her human weakness, and for now it had all been worth it. Tomorrow or whenever she woke up alone, she'd bitch herself out.
The smile faded and Dianna frowned. "Yeah." That was what she'd told her after all and the half-demon pushed off from the wall. "We should go, burning daylight after all." She picked up a backpack stuffed with things that might be useful.
Quinn felt the change between them and winced. That was what she'd been expecting when she woke up. "Yeah, let's go get the kids." She slipped into her shoes and followed.
"Here." Dianna tossed a spare backpack toward Quinn, leaving the rest of the shopping bags behind. If they made it out of the Gray tonight maybe they could come back, if not then it really didn't matter. "Flashlights, flares, walkie- talkie although it probably won't work and rope, also a knife just in case."
"Have you spotted Agent Green? I expect him to be bursting into our old room looking for my dead body anytime now. Good thinking in moving me." Despite the embarrassment of Blue and Lauren knowing what they had been doing.
Dianna shrugged. "Who knows what that prick is doing. I hope some demon gutted him . . .." She trailed off, mouth opening in surprise as the elevator doors opened revealing the agent in question across the hotel's lobby. "Well shit."
Green was arguing with the hotel manager, gesturing toward the ceiling above him. "You just rent rooms to demons without proper identification! Who knows what they could be . . ." He trailed off, eyes widening as he stared back at the two of them.
Quinn pulled Dianna back into the elevator, hitting the door close button and then hit every button to the top floor. Once they hit the second floor, she pushed Dianna out and then dragged her to the housekeeping closet where, as she had hoped, the staff had left the door propped open. She shoved them both inside and quietly shut the door, breathing a sigh of relief when it clicked shut.
"What are you doing?" Dianna hissed, as they were wedged in together. "That prick injected me and tried to get me to kill you! We should kick his ass."
"Right and have the DA hunting us for the rest of our lives; no thank you. Agent Green is causing enough of a shit storm for himself, he's going to be shipped off to Alaska soon. Spending government resources without any solid leads, the government frowns on that."
"How do you know he isn't just doing what they tell him to?" Dianna whispered back, ears straining for any sound of movement outside.
"He's by himself. He's made this personal. If he had a leg to stand on, this place would be swarming with agents. You killing me was his ace in the hole. You didn't do as he planned."
"He still shoved a needle in my ass, he deserves some payback." Dianna pouted a little.
Quinn heard the stairwell door open and pulled Dianna into her, kissing her, just to make sure the woman didn't do anything stupid. Somewhere in the back of her mind she was aware of the doorknob rattling.
There was a moment there, where Dianna was certain she was going to get her chance at revenge, and then Quinn went and distracted her. It was a really bad sign that the human could distract her so thoroughly and quickly. Within seconds, she'd forgotten completely about the man she wanted to deck as hard as she could, and was focused completely on Quinn's lips and tongue.
Once Quinn heard the stairwell door close again she pulled away, breathing heavy. She swallowed and still couldn't find any words. Finally she said, "Damn." She reached behind her and slowly opened the door.
Pale eyes opened after a second, irises dilated as she stared at Quinn's back. How the fuck did she suddenly have that sort of power over her? "He gone?" She licked her lips, voice hoarse.
"Think so." She slipped out the door moving to the stairwell door she opened it listening. There were fast footsteps going up, then a door opened. She gestured for Dianna. She let the woman go first and then silently shut the door, moving them down the stairs.
"We really should just go tie him up somewhere." Dianna grumbled, finding the utilitarian stairwell and the way down.
"Don't have time, daylight burning remember."
"Spoilsport." She let out a relieved sigh seeing Blue and Lauren waiting for them in the coffee shop.
"He's an idiot. He walked right past them and didn't even notice them."
"He's got a serious issue with you." Dianna hefted the backpack over her shoulders. "I think he wants you very dead."
"Yeah." Quinn said in agreement, but she couldn't fathom a reason why.
"Wait . . ." She grabbed Quinn's arm before they went inside, stopping outside the front door. "Do we really have to do this? We could just go, somewhere, away from here. Take them with us if they want." She really didn't want to go to the Asylum.
"Then take them and go. I can't let that thing do what it did to my family to someone else's family. I just can't. I can't let her get the secret to Lauren so she can make more half-demons into full demons, or humans into demons. You changed back but others might not be so lucky."
Dianna sighed, dropping her arm. "Blue shouldn't come with us." She said, looking back inside through the glass at the two women, barely out of their teens, laughing with each other. There would be no laughter inside the heart of the Grey.
"Blue will make her own decisions, she lives in the Gray with the healer witch, and she’s probably better suited to survive it than us."
The entire thing made Dianna's stomach twist but she gave a short nod and pulled open the door. "Fine. My tempting you for the day is done I guess." She gave a sad smile.
"You'll just have to suffer my wounded nobility a little longer. You can go, Dianna; I won't hold it against you."
"Right and let the people who burned my bar down get away with it?" Dianna's lips curled in a snarl. "I don't think so." Which was of course the one and only reason she was going along with this; it had nothing to do with staying close to Quinn.
Lauren moved closer to Blue, trapping her body on the stool between her and counter. "Hey. Like your coffee?"
"You have some . . . on your lip.." Lauren looked around but no one was paying attention to them. This close to the Gray, people only paid attention to themselves.
She leaned forward kissing it off.
The other woman blushed, leaning in and kissing her back quickly. "What about your wings?" She blinked. "They disappeared."
"For now. Sometimes my skin is made of stone, other times it's scales, it just depends."
"With the vial?" Daringly, the blond reached out and took Lauren's hand.
"Yes. They scare me but I can't stop."
She let Blue take her hand, smiling.
"I worry. Darkness spreading through your veins." Blue bit her lip, tracing her fingers along the back of Lauren's hand where the veins were just visible. "Changing you." Frustrated, she shook her head, looking up to back at Lauren. "London bridge is falling down, falling down my fair lady." She whispered.
"Then when I change I have to hope I'm like Dianna." Not like other things that haunted her nightmares.
"Dianna's only half though. She gave me sandwiches once, when I was singing to the lady in the window." Blue brightened at that memory. "Build it up with iron and steel, iron and steel, iron and steel; Build it up with iron and steel, my fair lady." She looked around quickly and then gently kissed her hand.
"I have to be half because I'm human; I can't lose the core of what I am." But maybe that was the lie she told herself.
Blue had no words for that, she shook her head, there was only hope after that. "Dianna's arguing about me again." She nodded beyond Lauren's shoulder at the windows.
Lauren turned looking over her shoulder. "How do you know?"
"She looks upset and she doesn't like me." Blue said, as if it was obvious.
"If she didn't like you, she wouldn't have given you a sandwich." And anyway Dianna always looked upset these days.
“I liked the wings.” Blue said suddenly as she looked up from her spiced coffee, changing subjects abruptly. “They looked nice, but the eyes were strange.” She kept glancing around behind her, trying to figure out what it was that Dianna and Quinn were talking about. They didn’t look happy, whatever it was.
"Thanks." Sometimes it was hard to keep up with Blue in a conversation.
The door opened and she knew their pleasant coffee talk was over. "Hey." She said to Dianna and Quinn. "I uh, like the hair.”
“I was thinking of dying it bright pink, maybe purple.” Dianna said back, just to see the look she got from Quinn. She was still irritated with the human from this morning, and her refusal to let her pummel Agent Green. “Coffee break’s over, time to get moving before we lose our chance. Last chance for you two to catch a bus going far away from here.” The half-demon eyed them both.
Lauren looked from Dianna to Blue then back at Dianna. "I'm not leaving you. I've already lost one family, I'm not losing another." She stuck out her chin defiantly. Family, huh?” Dianna grinned. “You sure you want to make us family? You don’t usually get to choose those things and there might be better options around.”
Blue looked from one to the other, feeling the need to stay quiet.
It was Quinn that spoke. "Stop being a jackass, Theron, she's made her decision now you just have to learn to deal with it."
Lauren was silent watching Dianna, somewhat hurt by the words. She stepped back feeling Blue's leg touch hers and felt better. "Let's just get going okay.”
The half-demon winced. “Damnit.” She ignored the two other women and grabbed Lauren’s arm. “I didn’t mean it like that, just that maybe you should hang out with people who are a bit more… stable?” More likely to live through the next few hours was what she really meant.
"Families are chaotic, Dianna, but they support everyone in it. You've supported me since the moment you adopted me." Lauren said quietly.
The now dark-haired woman swallowed past a suspiciously large lump in her throat, giving the younger human a swift hug. “Well.” She said gruffly, doing her best to show that Lauren’s words had not affected her at all. “You coming with us too?” She nodded at Blue.
“You’ll need a healer.” Blue said certainly, taking Lauren’s hand as she stood up. She wasn’t just sitting this out.
“Fine.” Dianna rolled her eyes and looked over at Quinn. “I guess you have your group of insane lunatics ready to go into hell for you.” She wasn’t kidding about the hell part.
"You are such a sweet talker." Quinn said shaking her head. "You can leave, Dianna; we've pulled you into this, when this is really is about me and Lauren. You've repeatedly wanted us to leave you alone and what do we do? We get your bar burned down and then your father renounces you. We've caused you enough pain." A last out for the half-demon, Quinn was torn with wanting Dianna somewhere safe and having her near. God why had she slept with the woman? If they lived it, would kill her to watch Dianna take another lover.
“I’m in this.” Dianna’s eyes narrowed. “That bitch owes me for a bar. Besides, who do you think she’s probably getting her virgin sacrifices from? Dear old dad’s probably involved in this up to those greedy little eyes of his.” She lifted her nose. “Besides, who’s going to get you into the Asylum if I don’t come along?”
Quinn held up her hands in surrender. "Fine. Lets get going?" She turned heading for the door.
Lauren smiled at Blue and with their fingers intertwined headed for the door as well.
A half block down the street Agent Ferris sat in an unremarkable blue Chevy sedan, watching as the group of women exited the shop and started moving. Flipping open his cell phone he hit speed dial, eyes never leaving the group as he started up the car with his free hand.
“Hey, yes I have them. They’re leaving the coffee shop now. What? Probably toward the Gray. We’ll lose them if they…” He paused, an eyebrow rising at the vitriol in his partner’s voice. “You want to call in the full agency to get them? You sure that’s….” he trailed off as the phone went dead.
“Great.” He pulled away from the curb, staying well back from them. Things were about to get interesting.
Quinn shivered as the Gray fog grew thicker. Here they were going back into the Gray again. For what? That one question hammered the inside of her skull. For revenge--was she risking all their lives for revenge on the demon that seduced her husband and murdered her son?
They should just run away. To Mexico maybe.
“Second thoughts?” Dianna asked, as they breached the edge of the Gray and kept moving. The fog wasn’t uncommon during the daytime, as if the Gray wanted to eliminate any chance that sunlight could penetrate here. It was better than the constant rain as far as the half-demon was concerned.
The four of them were a large enough group at the edge of the Gray Zone to keep any potential trouble away. The real danger would start nearer to the Asylum. It wasn’t really safe there, even during the daytime.
Quinn was quiet for a second and said. "Yes." Admitting to those second thoughts, not loud enough for Blue and Lauren to hear. Doubt was pounding away at her nerves.
“That’s the Gray.” The half-demon answered, moving just a little closer to Quinn as they walked. “You can’t let it get to you though; if you start feeling nervous, then you’ll get scared and everything in this place will come after you wanting a taste.”
She knew that, the Gray got to a person. She let out a breath and tried to push all second thoughts from her head. "Thanks." She blinked realizing how close Dianna was next to her. She blushed lightly, sure it was her imagination, but she thought the woman still smelled of sex, their sex. Swallowing she looked anywhere but Dianna, feeling her gut clench.
“Good.” Dianna whispered. “Think about that. Think about me between your legs this morning.” She licked her lips, feeling the wave of arousal. Much better, things might still target them, but it wouldn’t be the full demons that fed offfear and self-doubt.
"Don't." Quinn said, but her face was heating up even more, and her mind had gone there, to their morning.
"Why not?" The other woman grinned archly. "Aren't you in a much better place now? Things in here want to feed off fear and confusion."
Quinn just gave her a look but didn't say anything. From in front of them Lauren asked. "Do we have any weapons?"
"Quinn's carrying around some guns." Dianna shrugged, not really sure if guns would do anything for what they were about to enter. "I got some contractor stuff from the home tools section, but really our best bet is to avoid fighting altogether. Although . . ." She smiled at Lauren's back "You're kind of a weapon all by yourself."
"Okay. Then we might want to go down a different street, I'm starting to get a headache."
"Already?" Dianna's smile faded and she looked around quickly. They weren't even a few blocks into the Gray yet, not good. "This way." She turned right, going into an empty bank, hoping that the rear door she remembered would still be there.
"Shadows on the wind." Blue whispered, staying very close to Lauren as they walked, blue eyes flicking about, constantly worried.
Quinn pulled her gun following Dianna.
"As if things weren't freaky enough." Dianna muttered to herself, listening as Blue hummed a nursery rhyme behind them. The bank had been abandoned decades ago; marble floors were thick with dust. Theirs were not the only footprints that had disturbed that dust. It was an eerie feeling moving through the shadowed emptiness.
Quinn wished for a flashlight, "Why do the emergency lights work?" she wondered. But the occasional light only served to make the atmosphere creepier.
"Someone's making it their home." Dianna moved faster, the lights making her even more worried about this place. There were no right answers in the Gray though, just the least wrong answer. "There, the rear door." The old-style exit sign painted on it was only just visible under the dust and grime.
Everyone moved quickly toward the door. Quinn pushed everyone in front of her toward the door, covering their exit.
Something flickered in the shadows, a mostly human shaped figure although the head looked abnormally large as the thing shifted in the flickering light. "Demon killer." Its voice was low, like rocks grinding against each other.
At the front of their small pack, Dianna shoved against the door, grunting as it gave only a few inches. Apparently, it had been longer than she remembered since she'd come through this way.
Quinn leveled the gun, hands steady. "Lauren, open the door with that super-strength of yours." She barked out.
"Demon Killer." The thing said again, not moving any closer to Quinn.
"Yes, I've killed a demon." Not that it had done much good since the bitch was back.
"A little help here, Lauren?" Dianna grunted, shoving again against the door, which gave a few inches more.
Lauren took a deep breath, she'd never called up the demons inside her, they just came and went as they pleased. "Come on." Everyone was relying on her, the stress made her stomach hurt.
Blue's fingers slipped out of her hand and she leaned in, kissing Lauren's cheek. "Relax. Don't force it, you'll strain something." The blond teased, at odds with the tension around her.
"Huh,” Startled, Lauren nearly jumped. "Right, no strain." She needed to open this door or they might die, or worse, something would hurt Blue. Her skin bubbled, changing into scales, eyes became yellow suns, and teeth became fangs. She pushed into the door next to Dianna and felt the metal move and groan.
Whatever wasn't letting the door open didn't move, but Dianna's eyes widened as she watched the hinges in the doorframe buckle and then rip out of the concrete wall. The door ripped open from the wrong side. "Remind me of that next time I need a can opener." Dianna shook her head, looking behind them at where Quinn was facing down the demon. "Quinn, door's open, time to go!"
The thing took one step toward Quinn, the solid floor shaking under his weight. "Demon Killer. Death stalks you." He rumbled again, yellow eyes peering at her through the misshapen face.
Quinn wished she had something flippant to say back but she had nothing, only the memory of Dianna between her legs to prevent the mind-numbing fear from washing over her. She backed up toward the door, eyes not leaving the creature in front of her until she was outside.
"Troll." Dianna said, wrinkling her nose in distaste as soon as Quinn was outside. "They really like sucking the marrow from human bones."
"He tried to eat me once, said he wanted to play cards." Blue whispered to Lauren, happy to hold the other woman's hands, even if her skin did feel funny.
Lauren's eyes narrowed and she wanted to go back and hurt the thing.
"This way, Romeo." Dianna caught sight of that look and recognized it. Part of the building behind the bank had fallen off the roof, blocking the rear door. Like everything in the Gray, the buildings were crumbling here. "This should get us behind the Asylum." She hoped, as they headed down the trash littered alley way.
"Good. " Quinn said, wanting to be done, wanting to sleep for days.
"Not really." Dianna moved up to the front again, leading the way.
Since they were in the middle again, Blue leaned into Lauren as they moved around debris in the alley. "See, you can control it." She said, inordinately proud of the other woman.
"I guess. I'll believe that when I can control myself more than once." Lauren said slightly bitter.
The blond hesitated, not sure what to say. "I trust you." She said finally, squeezing her fingers.
Quinn rolled her eyes. "Look, kid, it's like you're a teenager again, you just have to get used to all the different hormones and stuff. But I'm going to guess you were always quiet and controlled in high school, never making waves, never letting others know how they pissed you off or let that cute girl know you thought she was hot." No wonder Lauren's sister experimented on Lauren. Lauren had an iron will, perfect for controlling demonic urges.
"I would have liked knowing you in high school." Blue said quietly, thinking it would have been nice.
"I was quiet and all those other things Quinn said. I volunteered in the library, I love books."
"Books are good, but maybe I could have gotten you to come dance with me?" Blue said, hopefully.
"Its possible, but I was so shy, I would have made a fool of myself."
"You would have looked cute doing it." Blue gave her a bright smile.
Ahead of them, Dianna looked over her shoulder, both eyebrows raised incredulously.
Quinn couldn't agree more. Except the farther they got into the Gray the more a heavy depressive weight seemed to pressing on her, only the sweetness of Lauren and Blue's crush or whatever seemed to make the air lighter.
"I think I wish I was in high school right now." Dianna grumbled, goosebumps shivering across her skin as she slowed her pace. The alley ended ahead of them and beyond that was the imposing dark outer wall of the Asylum.
"When they first built it, this was made of white granite. The story goes it was dyed black by the sins of those inside." Half of her loved this place, the other half despised it. All in all, she'd rather be somewhere else right now.
Lauren gritted her teeth as the low steady ache in her head blossomed into a head splitter. Fingernails lengthened and with a cry of pain the skin on her back split as leather wings formed.
"Lauren?" Blue worriedly watched, not sure what she could do, as the woman she hoped was her girlfriend cried out in pain.
"Maybe it was a bad idea to bring her here." Dianna muttered, meeting Quinn's eyes.
"Go ahead and say it." Quinn snapped back. She was getting grumpy and her shoulders hurt.
"I like the way you scream my name?" Dianna smiled, turning around and heading for the Asylum walls. "That what you wanted me to say?" She called back, letting Lauren recover on her own time.
Quinn was taken off guard by that, she had expected a 'told you so' from their previous conversation outside the coffee shop.
Blue blushed, deciding she was going to pretend she didn't hear those words and didn't understand what they were talking about. Instead she kept rubbing her hand along Lauren's back, feeling muscles shudder under her touch.
"God, they’re weird." Lauren said letting her wings stretch and work loose. She looked up at Blue and then leaned her scaled head in close, she breathed out, the warm breath washing over Blue's face. Then she opened her mouth, her tongue snaking out and hesitantly licked the woman's cheek, tasting Blue's scent.
It was a different way of experiencing the world.
"They’re weird." Blue agreed, giggling just a bit at the strange feeling that was. Not at all weird like Lauren and her were.
"You coming?" Dianna yelled, trailing her hand along the base of the asylum wall, searching for something.
Slowly Lauren folded her wings around both of them. "Just a sec." She let out another warm breath. "I . . . whatever happens in there, please don't hold it against me."
Wide blue eyes studied Lauren's new face and she reached up, touching that face. "I won't. But I'm coming with you." She didn't want to get left behind again.
"Of course, we're a team." Lauren said never doubting Blue would be with them.
"Good." It wasn't a good time for it, or the right place, but Blue leaned in, kissing her softly. "Good." She repeated.
Lauren made an odd purring noise in her chest in happiness and opened her wings.
Quinn was scratching her shoulders. "So do we just walk in? Or scale the wall?"
"There's a way . . ." Dianna frowned, searching. "Somewhere around here, I know it was . . ." She grumbled, probing and prying at the dark wall. She knew she was in the right place, where the hell was it?
Quinn watched curious.
"See, this is why you needed me." The half-demon knelt down in something she didn't want to look too closely at and reached into a run-off pipe. Something clanked and an ancient, blood-rust colored iron door groaned as it swung out of the wall. "See?" She forced a grin. Why were they doing this? They should be running away from this place.
"Dianna, I find it interesting that you knew that was there. Anything you want to tell me?"
"Starting to doubt me too, Quinn?" Dianna wiped off her hands, standing up.
"No, we're too deep in this shit for that. You going to avoid my question?"
"Banks don't give loans to half-demons, you know that? No business loans, no papers, no tax breaks for anything you do. No money to do what you have to do." Dianna lifted her head.
"No, actually I didn't know that." Quinn wondered what that had to do with the secret door.
Feeling their eyes on her, Dianna looked away, studying the courtyard beyond. Weeds had taken over most of it, although the occasional newspaper still fluttered about on errant wind gusts. All of the windows were intact here; no one had dared hurl stones at this building. If you stared long enough you could see things moving behind those windows, ghostly outlines of patients and doctors from the turn of the century.
“Which means that if you need money to start a bar that was your sister’s one desire, you need to find the money elsewhere.” She swallowed; Quinn wasn’t going to like hearing this. But maybe it was for the best to end things now.
“So you go to the only demons in the Gray that have money.” Dianna wondered if Quinn knew what was coming yet. “My father wasn’t happy but after I proved I was his daughter, he had to lend me some.” But not all, oh no, he’d been good at making sure to give her far less than she’d needed.
Pale eyes turned to look at Quinn, feeling the dawning horror in their link. “And the other was Alvera.”
Quinn swallowed and kept her mouth shut to prevent words that wanted to come out from coming out. There was a stab of betrayal that Dianna would go to that demon. She kept quiet because part of her knew Dianna didn't deserve her harsh words for doing what she needed to survive.
She closed her eyes and practiced the breathing techniques she'd learned when she'd gone to a therapist. She still felt betrayed but less angry. "That sucks." She said finally opening her eyes. "Come on; daylight’s burning.”
“Right.” Dianna smiled bitterly and turned, stepping into the courtyard. “No going off to examine anything alone, no one goes wandering off or splits up. There’s enough danger in here without us doing stupid shit.” She dug around in her pack, tossing flashlights to the two younger women. “Last chance to back out.”
Lauren rolled golden eyes. "We're going with you."
Inside, deep in the basement of the Asylum red eyes opened, and with a purr, pale arms stretched overhead. "Lovely, lovely, Quinn's here; no more playing cat and mouse games."
The blob peeked in through the doorway, "Mistress?"
"We have guests. Divide them, they stink of old magic together, so divide them so I can conquer."
"As you command."
"Oh and I need Quinn alive, the others I don't care about."
The blob jiggled, which might have been a nod.
Blue stuck close to Lauren’s side, holding her left hand and not at all minding the claws. They were reassuring in this place of darkness. The air smelled strange, old and musty but full of an iron taint that might have been blood. Things moved around them and she had to close her eyes, whispering nursery rhymes to herself. They weren’t real things, just echoes of what had happened here before.
Doctors with mad smiles and scalpels dripping blood chasing after patients who were screaming for help while nurses laughed and danced naked.
Evil, evil things had happened here and she felt her skin crawl.
“Rock a bye baby, on the tree top. When the wind blows the cradle will rock…” She peeked through her lashes, wishing she’d kept her long hair dangling in her face. The ghost of a nurse, or maybe it was a patient wearing a nurse’s uniform, screamed as the doctor behind her slit her throat. Still holding the spurting body to him, he looked right at Blue and smiled.
She shut her eyes hard. “When the bough breaks the cradle will fall, and down will come baby, cradle and all.”
Ahead of them Dianna glanced back, only catching hints of what Blue was seeing. She knew bringing someone with psychic powers like Blue’s in here was a bad idea. To the rest of them it was just hints of movement out of the corner of the eye, Blue was already terrified.
“Lauren, you have to keep her calm, she’s going to…” Dianna trailed off, footsteps coming to a stop as she listened intently. Something had shifted, deeper in the Asylum, something powerful had stirred.
Lauren leaned into Blue, wings opening and settling around them. A useless shape inside, she wished for the one made of stone, but she'd chosen this one because it seemed less aggressive and she'd been concerned for Blue.
"Blue, come on, it's going to be okay. They're just memories locked in this place, they can't hurt you. They just want you to feel as bad as they do. So they're going to try their best to torment you because they can't touch you." She reached out a clawed hand and it sliced through a shadow with no effect on her or the shadow. Other than a slight coldness nothing happened.
“Memories can hurt.” Blue whispered, staying right where she was. It wasn’t as frightening here though and she hoped she could keep walking like this. “Can I stay here?” She whispered, tightening her hold on Lauren.
"Here in this hallway? Probably not, but next to me, sure unless we need to fight." She looked at Dianna worried, then back to Blue. "Blue, you can shake off the bad memories; don't let them drag you down," she said softly. “Try and think of happy memories, like . . ." She tried to come up with something. "Our first kiss.”
That was a happy memory and Blue had already decided she was going to treasure it for a long, long time, no matter what happened. She nodded, swallowing, and opened her eyes again. The images were still there but they looked a little less firm, not quite as real as they had before. Ignoring them she focused on the solid feel of the shorter woman next to her and the memories that she wanted to relive.
The half-demon ahead of them waited impatiently as Blue got herself under control. “You both okay?” When she got a nod, she started moving again, hoping that she remembered the way to the basement levels.
“We get split up, for some reason, try the walkie-talkies. If they don’t work, we need to make our way to the basement. That’s where the…” There were no words for what was in the basement and Dianna shivered. “Treatment rooms were.” That would do for now. “Quinn, you all right back there?”
"Yes, I'm fine." Her shoulders where the demoness had burned her hurt, they throbbed in time with her heartbeat and she was beginning to think it wasn't a coincidence, maybe it was reacting to the heavy demonic influence and magic. "Basement check."
"Mommy." A child's voice shouted out and Quinn stopped heart in her throat, it had sounded like Conner. She looked around but didn't see anything. "Did anyone hear that?" She asked.
"Hear what?" Lauren asked.
"Mommy." It came again.
"I didn't hear anything Quinn." Lauren said looking at Blue and then behind at Quinn who had fallen behind.
“Quinn…” Dianna turned around, worried when the Detective took a step away from them. “Whatever it is, Quinn, it’s not real… Goddamnit!” She swore as the other woman took off running. “Fuck. You two stay here, do not move!” She yelled as she took off after Quinn.
"Dianna!" Lauren shouted but the woman was gone single minded on Quinn, "It's probably another trap." She said mostly to herself, she sighed and looked at Blue. "Wanna make out?" She wiggled her nonexistent eyebrows trying to lighten the mood.
Which worked as Blue giggled. “Not with that tongue.” She did lean in close to Lauren, eyes wide as she stared down the decrepit side passage that Quinn and Dianna had disappeared down. “What do we do?”
"We wait here, then we try the walkie-talkies, and then we try to find the basement." She pulled them over out of the center of the hallway and wrapped both wings around them peeking over Blue's shoulders, not liking this at all.
"Mommy." Came the child's voice again, closer.
"Connor?" Quinn said desperately. It was impossible, Connor was dead, but it sounded so much like her boy.
There at the end of the hallway a small pale figure stood, lost and alone. "Mommy?" It said again.
"I'm here." She ran faster pushing tired muscles. There was a crack and a groan of metal and wood as the floor fell out from under her.
Dianna heard the crash, but she’d somehow lost Quinn in the twisting hallways. Cursing, she backtracked, finding the place where she thought she’d lost the human and took the righthand turn instead of going straight.
“Quinn? Can you hear me? Quinn?” The half-demon called, worriedly searching the side rooms as she went. These looked as if they’d been doctor's offices at one point, or maybe administrative offices, it was hard to tell after so many years of neglect.
Rounding another corner she shook her head in relief. “Quinn, what are you doing?” The detective was standing at the edge of a collapsed section of hallway, staring down into whatever was below.
“He wasn’t your boy, whatever you heard that wasn’t your child.” Dianna moved closer, focused on the detective's back. Maybe she could grab her and pull her away from the opening if she got close enough. The Irish woman made no sign of hearing her, she stood right where she was, staring downward and a little thrill of warning ran up Dianna’s back.
“Quinn? Can you hear me?” She reached out to touch that familiar skin, gasping as the woman whirled on her, red eyes flashing. The thing that looked like Quinn grabbed her hand, laughing.
“Quinn, can you hear me?” It mocked, face twisting into a shape from nightmares as Dianna struggled against its grip.
“Why don’t you find out!” The thing screamed, pulling Dianna toward the cave in, it’s grip on her hand like steel.
Dianna had a glimpse of Quinn laying at the bottom of the hole, maybe two or three floors down, and then she was falling, arms cartwheeling as the broken wooden floor below rushed up to meet her.
Lauren grumbled and fiddled with the walkie-talkie but the claws were not helping. "Dianna? Quinn?" She said before her finger slipped off. "Blue, a little help.”
“Yes, clawed one.” Blue quipped, taking the walkie-talkie before Lauren put a claw through the speaker.
Pressing down on the talk button she held it up to her mouth. “Dianna? Can you hear me?” Only static answered, and it kept answering for the next dozen or so times that she tried. Worried blue eyes looked down at Lauren. “That’s not good right?”
"No, it's not." Lauren looked around. "We need to find a nurses station, they would have had an emergency exit sign, that will give us a rough map so we can find some stairs. I'm not trying an elevator."
She had to push Blue a little to get her moving, and it was awkward moving so close together, but it was the only way to keep Blue going. Her headache was worse, which meant demons were active somewhere nearby.
Lauren paused and looked inside a room; it looked like someone had made a fire inside. She sighed and moved on to the next one. She gave a toothy grin and let go of Blue's hand to move inside. With a heave of muscles, she ripped the metal sign off the wall.
“Wow.” Blue blinked watching the entire metal sign come free, screws that had anchored it into the cement wall coming with it. She let out a low whistle. “Very butch.” She thought that was the right way to say it.
"Uh . . ." Lauren looked from the map to Blue and then back to the map. "Right." She brought it over to Blue so the woman could shine the flashlight on it. "We're here." She pointed at the little star. "And the stairs are?" Her eyes tracked around the map. "There. Jesus how big is this place?"
“Melva said it was bigger inside than it looked outside.” Blue said, tracing a finger along the dirty sign. “We have to go through here.” She pointed at a large area that said isolation rooms. “I don’t think I like that idea.”
No, Lauren imagined Blue wouldn't. She couldn't imagine the amount of psychic crap in those rooms. People locked in them with only their thoughts for company. "I'll be with you. I won't let anything happen to you.”
“Okay.” Blue said, voice small. She really didn’t want to do this, but she would. “I’m not letting go of you.” She warned, as they stepped back out into the hallway. Wincing as echoes of the past played out around them. Most of those echoes were very grizzly, the one with the patient ripping out the doctors eyes and eating them was probably going to be in her nightmares.
Lauren felt bad, but she couldn't just leave Dianna, she owed the woman more than to turn around and flee. But she wanted Blue to be safe. A woman she hardly knew but that felt more important to her than anyone else she'd had in her life to date. She could almost hear her sister's voice saying that was because Blue had kissed her. Maybe that was true, but Blue believed in her, believed in her to be strong, to do the right thing.
So finding Quinn and Dianna was the right thing.
“But I’m keeping my eyes closed when we go through there.” Blue said, being very certain that Lauren knew she wasn’t going to watch.
Quinn's eyes opened everything was dark, everything stank. The smell made her stomach roll and she grimaced and took some deep breaths.
"Probably not the best smell for a human." A seductive voice said, the words stroking and caressing the air. "But for a demon even a half-demon it’s pleasant. Nice to meet you again, Detective. Always one step ahead of me. I was going to come get you in time, once I was stronger, but then you had to surprise me by coming here. Might have worked, but you of all people can't surprise me anymore." Alvera was sitting on a throne of bloody bones made from all her sacrifices; out of the darkness around them demon eyes watched, burning red coals in the dark.
Before, this room had been used for various treatments; shallow tanks with brackish water and wires, benches with tie-downs among operating tables. "In this room, horrible, horrible things were done to stop human misery, only to prolong it. The stench of that misery is like a perfume."
Quinn forced herself to sit up. As long as the bitch was talking, she was still alive.
Dianna lay in one of those tanks, arms tied to the side of the bathtub, her breathing causing ripples to form in the water that she half lay, half sat in. Wires sparked in the back of the room, giving brief flashes of light to the darkness that they were in.
Quinn swallowed. "Let her go."
"No. I had a delicious thought. Wouldn't it be interesting to see if I can split a half-demon into parts?" Alvera moved, a whisper of cloth on skin. “Of course, you could always stop me.” She slid her fingers along the bathtub, fingers trailing in the water.
"I did it before; you think I can't do it again." She forced herself to her feet. Her back screamed in agony and she almost collapsed.
The demoness's laugh was dark. "You can barely stand. You're weak. This isn't your home and you don't have surprise on your side this time." Alvera's hand shot out, wrapping around Quinn's throat. Effortlessly she lifted the human up off the floor and then threw her back down. "On your knees, where you deserve to be." Alvera snarled.
Quinn cried out as she hit the dirty floor. She shook her head clearing the stars and then she started getting to her feet. "I'll find a way, you fucking bitch." The words weren't as defiant sounding in the dark room.
"Like you found a way to save your son?" The dark voice chuckled, fingers flicking through the water again. "Oh, that's right, you didn't. His soul is mine."
"His soul was too pure for a dark thing like you to hold on to." Quinn spat out.
"Unless . . ." The voice purred, picking up electrodes and inserting them into the water. "His father sold his soul to me."
Quinn's heart shattered at the words. "No." Her world titled and she couldn't breath.
"Yessss." Laughter echoed off the walls. "That makes two members of your family that are mine."
"You can keep that thing that calls himself my husband but you can't have my son." She hurt; it felt like something inside had broken.
"I won't just give up such a delicious soul for nothing." Alvera purred. "A strong soul, something worthwhile for such a trade." The next wire she picked up sparked as she touched it against the side of the metal tank. The brief current caused Dianna to spasm inside of it.
"Stop." Quinn begged, feeling Dianna's distress. "What do you want?"
"Your soul of course." Alvera smiled in the darkness, an evil expression in the darkness.
"You'll let them go? Dianna, my son, in exchange for my soul. Let them out of this place."
"Dianna is mine; she owes me a lot of… what is the term?" The wire sparked again and the half-demon thrashed in the water. "Interest. Yes, interest for the loan I gave her. I intend to have my pound of flesh, Detective. But your son, yes, he can be freed."
"No, Dianna's mine. So you can try to collect but good luck with that." She laughed feeling better to have one up on the demon.
Slowly she got back up, remembering a fundamental thing about demons, they were liars. "I don't think you have my son. I think you're a liar." She had faced this thing once before, she could do it again even if it meant dying on her two feet.
She moved toward the tub wishing she had a gun but instead she whispered the Lord's prayer.
The smile was more of a snarl this time. "You'd damn your son's soul for all eternity just for this?" Dianna thrashed as Alvera shoved the cable into the water. "How long do you think it will take for her brain to melt?" The smile was back. "Are you feeling her pain?"
"Yes." Quinn hissed out. "Prove you have my son."
She was taking as much of Dianna's pain on herself as she could, she owed the woman that much for getting them into this. "Cause I think you're lying."
The air around them was getting colder and Lauren had a pretty good idea that wasn't a good thing where Blue was concerned. She kept up a stream of nonsense. "It's okay. I'm right here. I'm not going to let anything happen. It's okay." It became a mantra of sorts.
"Did you like having a sister?" Blue blurted, shivering as she clung to Lauren's hand. "I always wanted a sister." The stairs were through the doors ahead of them, but they were on the other side of the isolation rooms, which were also through the doors.
The shivering got worse as they moved into the dingy corridor beyond. A dozen cells were off the corridor, empty except for the ghosts inside of them. Which Blue tried to ignore.
"No, she . . . uh . . . she's the one who did this to me. Said it was to help with anxiety, instead, she made me a demon. She was smart and pretty and everything I wasn't, and my parents spent their whole life asking me why I wasn't more like Susan."
"You're smart and pretty." Blue pointed out, the shivering lessening a little. "Even when you have wings." That was a lot to get used to, but she'd seen a lot of strange things in the Gray.
"Thanks. So you were an only child? Did you grow up here? Well, not here in the Gray but in town?"
"No." Blue shivered, looking away from the body hanging in the isolation cell they were passing in front of. "New York." She swallowed. "My parents were rich, very rich. Daddy worked for a big bank, mom was involved in all the parties and the right fundraisers." Blue kept her eyes closed. "They thought I'd gone insane." She swallowed.
"It's okay." Lauren careful of her claws rubbed Blue's back. "I've never been to New York, I've never been out of the state."
"We could go. See the statues and the shows. I like the plays, and then there's the dancing. I was going to dance, I was good, all the teachers told me so." She felt Lauren slow and, reluctantly opened an eye. The thing standing at the far end of the room, in front of the stairs, didn't look like a ghost.
“That's not an echo, is it?" She said worriedly.
Lauren's eyes were murderous slits, and she hissed a warning to the thing.
The thing at the end of the hallway moved toward them and Blue shivered as she got a good look at it. It looked like Dianna, the form was right, the hair was right, even the way she was smirking looked like the half-demon.
But it wasn’t Dianna. The edges of her blurred a little if Blue looked hard enough and her shadow flickered, moving between different shapes as if the light being shown on it was ever changing.
“That’s not Dianna.” Blue whispered certain of it as she was of anything else.
“Of course, I’m Dianna.” The thing moving toward them said in Dianna’s voice. “Your friend. I got lost looking for Quinn, have you seen her?” There was even what sounded like genuine worry in that voice.
Dianna never made Lauren's head ache like this. The scaled woman moved in front of Blue with a growl. Wings spread so she blocked Blue from the demon, she stared at the thing, she would have believed it to be Dianna, it was perfect except she'd never had the overwhelming urge to kill Dianna. The urge to kill this thing drummed through her with every beat of her heart.
"Hey." She hissed out. "What do you call a demon that kills other demons?”
Something shifted in the thing’s face, just a momentary flicker of something other than Dianna’s eyes and mouth. “I don’t know, Lauren.” She kept walking toward them, eyes intent on the humans.
Blue slowly backed up, eyes wide of what she could see around Lauren’s wings.
"Hey you've heard that one before, that's the right answer." Lauren said. As the thing in front of them stopped moving and blinked in confusion she sprang, muscles tensing and releasing in that blink of an eye. Claws out, wings snapping into her body.
The thing’s form changed even as Lauren leapt for it, the boundaries of Dianna’s body sagging and flowing until it wasn’t so much a person as a blob that vaguely resembled a human. The thing flowed around Lauren as she struck it, wrapping folds of itself around her as the force of the impact sent them both tumbling along the floor.
Hand over her mouth, Blue backed up, not sure what she could do, if anything to help her girlfriend. Something behind her moved in the darkness and she screwed her eyes shut.
“Just echoes.” She whispered to herself. “Just echoes of the past. Can’t hurt me, they’re just shadows.”
Cold dead fingers wrapped around her ankles and pulled, sending her falling face first to the ground, arms outstretched as she screamed. The fingers dragged her backward kicking and fighting, into the isolation cell.
“Laur…” The scream was cut short as the rusting metal door swung shut.
"Blue." Lauren shouted. Claws slashing and gouging into the blob. How did one kill a blob? Fire or ice, she would guess but she had neither. She tore herself away from the thing and ran at the closed door, hitting it at almost full speed.
The door groaned as it slid back half an inch but didn't open. She pounded on it, her claws scratching the metal. "Blue!" She shouted again just as she was yanked back by the blob. "Damn it!" She screamed trying to turn around and face it.
Suddenly it was over her head, covering her nose and mouth, and she couldn't breath. She clawed at it and tried to pull it off. Her legs trembled after 30-seconds and then they gave out.
The blob wrapped itself around her, bearing her to the ground, tightening its hold as it did so. Only when it was certain that she wasn’t moving anymore did it pull away, its mass rolling down the hallway to report back to its mistress that the two others had been taken care of.
Dirty fingers reached out through the half-inch gap that Lauren had opened. Just barely she could pull on the door, Blue throwing everything she had into it so that the door slid open, reluctantly. Behind her the shadows burned, blue flames flickering through them.
The human was covered in bleeding scratches and dirty from the contents of the cell she’d been dragged into. None of that mattered to her though as she stumbled to Lauren’s side. “Lauren?”
Frantically she knelt next to the woman who was slowly looking more like a human and pressed her hands to the woman’s chest.
Lauren wasn’t breathing. Terror seized her and she focused her powers.
"Prove it. Prove you have my son's soul." The demon had to be lying, had to be. She licked dry lips and watched Dianna's body convulse, her own skin buzzing.
Alvera licked her lips, it was an unexpected bonus to be able to hurt Dianna and have the human feel it. She really enjoyed bonuses. “What would you want for proof, his darling little screams for help from his mommy?” She yanked the cable free of the water, leaving Dianna collapsed in the water. She didn’t want the half-demon dead yet, no that would take much longer.
"Whatever it takes to convince me you really have it? The burden of proof is on you, not me." Quinn said voice steady even if her body wasn't so much so.
“How about I show him to you?” Alvera’s smile was nasty as she stalked toward Quinn. “Would you like that? Would it make your little heart bleed to see him again?” She waved and the pool of water in another one of the tubs shimmered, glowing as it showed a young boy surrounded by demons. “Can you see how terrified he is?”
Quinn nodded, tears streaming down her face. "Why?" She asked, her voice a hollow shell.
“Because he should have been your brother.” Alvera was loving every tear, every moment of heart-wrenching pain. It was delicious. “Your father sold your brother’s soul to me, did you know that?” She laughed at the expression on Quinn’s face. “Traded it to me for the soul of his beautiful wife.”
"I don't understand." Her mother had been a nun, how had Alvera gotten her soul? "That's impossible. She was a woman of the church." But it was a well-romanticized story, how her parents had defied their vows to find love.
The demoness laughed. “Really? Do you think she’d always been a nun?” The smile was pure evil now. “She tried to redeem herself.” More laughter, almost giggling this time. “But that’s not how it works, she should have known that. When they fell in love your father pleaded with me, begged me to give her soul back. I agreed, for a price.”
Quinn let her eyes close, all of it just too much. "My brother." She said weakly. "But I've met the demon that has his soul and it's not you.”
“Yes.” Alvera’s eyes narrowed with sudden fury. “It’s not. His soul is out of my reach, but yours wasn’t. How easy it was to seduce your husband and then to get your son’s soul…” She nearly purred in pleasure. “Worth every second. Until you ruined it by nearly destroying me!” That earned Quinn a hard punch across the face that sent her tumbling.
Recovering her composure Alvera smiled. “It’s all right though. You gave me the perfect anchor to keep me from being completely gone, those scars on your shoulders. Now with your soul I’ll be fully returned.”
Quinn sat jaw aching, wanting to so completely just give in to the mind numbing depression that waited to overwhelm her. But that had never been part of her character. She rubbed her jaw and looked at the demoness. "It burns you up, doesn't it, that at every turn my family has one upped you. Every turn. I could walk away and give the Quinns a perfect score. Quinns three - Alvera zero. Or . . ." She could tell she had the demoness, the thing was hooked on her every word. "we could make a deal."
Alvera’s smile was blinding in the darkness.
Lauren snuck into Blue’s hospital room whenever she could, sometimes the nurses chased her off, and sometimes they pretended not to see her. She talked to Blue, told her everything she could think of, but mostly she begged the blond woman to wake up.
Cain woke with the sound of a gun being cocked. His red eyes snapped open and then he went cross-eyed staring down the barrel of a gun.
Quinn looked at her brother. “Get up.” She said quietly.
He was sandwiched between a curvy African-American woman and some sort of Norse God. Is this what she had to look forward to, a life of debauchery? “Get up, don’t make me ask again.”
Cain nodded and worked on squeezing out from between his two lovers for the night.
Quinn tossed him a robe and then moved into the kitchen. She pulled out a glass and his best whiskey and poured herself a double. She slammed it back and then poured another.
“That’s no way to treat a fine drink.”
She looked at him over the rim of her glass. “Is it true?”
“A lot of things are true. Any truth in particular?”
“The one about Da, mum, and you? Did my son die for the sins of my family?”
“Oh.” He said quietly. “When we found out Alvera had been killed by you, we thought it was over.”
“Is it true?”
He sighed, “Yes. Da fell in love with a nun breaking his vows to the church. She was a Ridden, a pathetic human that had sold its soul to a demon. This nun’s soul belonged to Alvera, but she in turn fell in love with him. They begged Alvera to let mum’s soul go, and she agreed, for a price.”
“Your soul.” Alvera hadn’t lied.
“Yeah, the soul of their first born. I found out about it and shopped around. If was I going to lose my soul, might as well be to a demon I liked. Thrasher was pleased as punch to fuck Alvera over and take my soul before my 18th birthday.”
Quinn finished her drink and poured another nodding. “But Alvera wasn’t willing to sit back and have a laugh about how the humans had fucked her. So she came after me, figured if she got my husband and my son, I’d follow. Only I didn’t and I didn’t kill her.”
“Yeah. Just sent her back to hell for a bit. Quinn, I’m sorry. You deserve better than your family.”
“Shut up, Cain.” She leveled the gun at him. “You’re going to pay me back for all the shit I’ve endured on your and Da’s behalf.”
“Sure, whatever you need.”
She nodded. “Fix Dianna’s bar. Get it back from her father, get him to leave her alone, and make it look like it never burned down, and give her the deed. She owns it debt free.”
“Sis, Malax? He’s no small time player, he’s the King of Lust.”
The gun went off, and he squealed in pain as the bullet entered his thigh.
“Do it, Cain, make it happen. Thrasher can’t be small potatoes if Alvera didn’t fuck him up for poaching your soul.”
He nodded. “Fine, consider it done. Anything else?” He squeezed a hand over the bullet hole, blood sluggishly dribbling out from between his fingers.
“I need a fake ID.”
Lauren snuck into Blue’s room. She was tired, some green thing with tentacles had tried to eat her when she’d taken a shortcut through an alley. She dumped the dying flowers out of the vase and put in the fresh ones and sat down. Only to give a squeak of shock as she saw blue eyes looking back at her.
The young woman’s mouth opened. “Who’s Blue and who are you?”
Lauren’s mouth open and shut. “This isn’t funny, you’re Blue.”
“My name’s Violet.”
“Violet.” She said dumbly.
Suddenly, there were nurses and doctors in the room, and Lauren found herself outside.
Quinn had bought several plane tickets in her name all going different places. Then as Alice Little she bought a train ticket to New York, where her father’s church was.
She waited for him, sitting in a pew, watched him come in and talk with several of the church volunteers. He looked smaller, more broken blood vessels in his nose. She got up and lit a candle for her son and then stepped into the confessional. She waited for him to notice the light.
“How may I help you child?”
“By stepping up, and taking responsibility for your sins.”
There was silence, it stretched out for minutes until it broke. “Maggie?”
“Yes, Father Quinn. It's your daughter.”
“I don’t know…”
“Yes you do, you know exactly what I’m talking about. My son dying because you couldn’t keep it in your pants. You loved a demon-ridden whore more than you loved your own children and then once she was gone, you still refused responsibility, so instead you went and hid in the church on the off-chance Alvera came for you. I have news for you, Father; she came for me and took my son. Your grandson.”
“Don’t you dare call your mother a whore!” He shouted back.
“You’ve known all along that she’d come for me. She took Connor and you said nothing. I get framed for murders I didn’t commit, nearly killed by demons, and you say nothing.”
“I told you to talk to your brother, it's not my fault you blame him for things beyond his control, and refuse to talk to him.”
“I shouldn’t have to. You should have told me, it’s your sin, your lust, that put your children in this situation.”
Her answer was silence.
She was getting up to leave when he asked. “What do you want? I didn’t want my grandson to die or you or Cain, but I loved your mother so much. Do you know how much it killed me when she died from cancer?”
“I want you to give your soul to Alvera so she’ll let Connor’s go, like you should have when you betrayed your vows for a roll in the hay.”
Quinn wasn’t surprised. “Goodbye, Father.” She exited the small booth.
She stayed in a hotel room for two days drinking and waiting. Almost every night there was some sort of erotic dream starring her and Dianna. It hurt, because Dianna was probably with some vapid, bubbly blonde; fucking her brains out, not her, never her, only that one night. Those memories would have to sustain her. Distance and drink muted the bond; perhaps she was as weak as her father.
“Did you find your answers? Get all your affairs in order?”
She blinked and then looked at the now occupied couch seat next to her. The demoness sat there, smirking. “Yes.”
“Your father’s not here so I’m guessing he’s still the spineless bastard I knew him to be.”
She nodded draining the glass. “Let's get this over with.” She set the glass down and stood up.
“Yes, let's.” She reached out, only to be stopped by Quinn’s hand. “What?”
“I do this and you leave my friends and family alone?”
“Yes, yes, that’s the deal.”
“I want your blood on it.”
“Fine.” A claw quickly cut her hand and then the demon’s. Alvera looked at Quinn, “Maggie Quinn I get your soul and in return I will do no harm toward your friends and family.” She only agreed to this because Maggie had so little of each. Then she clasped Quinn’s hand. “Happy?”
Quinn nodded, “Last thing. Let Connor’s soul go.”
Alvera made a face, but then pushed a hand inside and pulled something out. A spark of pure light, it hurt to look at it. Quinn thought she heard the whispered word ‘Mommy’ and then it was gone.
“Leave Dianna alone.”
“Yes, covered under friends and family. Are you done?” The demon snapped.
Alvera moved her hand back from Quinn’s and took something with her. Alvera stared at her the soul in her hand. “It seems light.”
“I know what a soul weighs.” The demon considered that and then shoved it into her mouth devouring it.
Quinn blinked. She felt hollow. She blinked. She felt oddly unencumbered.
Alvera watched her. “You look so much like your mother now.” She stepped forward to kiss her.
Quinn stepped back. “I’m not her. And I’d really rather not think about what that just inferred about you and my mother.”
The backhand sent her across the room but in the blink of an eye she was up.
“You’ll do whatever I tell you to. You belong to me.”
It was two days before Lauren could get back inside to see Blue.
She opened the door looking around. “Blue… I mean Violet?” She shut the door and walked over to a chair and watched Blue sleep.
She bit her lip worried, she should go find Dianna. She’d know what to do. But the half-demon had her own issues.
Suddenly the door opened, and two people came in dressed in fine clothes and stinking of their own self-importance.
“Who are you? Get this janitor out of my daughter’s room. Oh God, it probably doesn’t understand English. Does somebody speak Mexican in this horrid place?”
“I understand you just fine.” She blurted out. Only to still find herself shoved out of the room. “Stop it. Stop touching me. Blue! Blue!”
Suddenly a metal cuff locked around her wrist, and she looked up into the face of Agent Green. “I’ve got this. Glad I could help you find your missing daughter. Come on Lauren, time to go home.”
“No.” Lauren tried to wrench her arm free but only found herself surrounded by agents.
"What were you doing in that Asylum in the heart of the Gray, Lauren? Where's Quinn?" In the back of the van Agent Green's questions never stopped. They'd drugged her with a muscle relaxant so none of her muscles worked, she couldn't change shape, couldn't fight them. Didn't matter, without Blue. It had been her fault, she'd died and Blue had tried to bring her back. Blue shouldn't have done that. All her fault.
God, she wished he'd stop asking that, no one knew. She'd woken up in the Asylum with Blue unconscious next to her and the stamping of several booted feet. Then the DA agents had crashed through doors, she had run, feeling bad for leaving Blue. Bad girlfriend, she was a bad girlfriend.
Cain Quinn stepped into the police station, sunglasses in place and holding a cane for his limp. Maggie just had to shoot him with a melted-cross special. He stopped at a desk. "I understand you're holding one Dianna Theron illegally, and if you don't release her I will make a call to the HDCLU, and you'll have a camp-out of several angry protesters outside your doors. How would that be for business?"
The man paled and swallowed nervously. God, he hated the Half-Demon Civil Liberties Union. "Uh, let me take you to the Chief."
"Yes, let's." He said with a neutral smile.
The Chief looked up as his door opened and then sighed as he saw Cain. He waved off the Sergeant, "I've got it."
Cain came in with a smile.
The chief spoke before Cain could. "Look, I don't believe any of this bullshit about your sister, but it looks worse the longer she stays away and these DA hacks build a case against her. So tell her to come in."
"I'm not here about my sister. I can't tell her to come in because I don't know where she is. I'm here about a Ms. Theron, whom you have been holding without any reasonable cause."
The Chief paled, no one knew they had Theron in a cell. "The DA . . ."
"Can blow me. Now either release her or deal with the HDCLU and myself. The DA is really high on my shit list, particularly this Agent Green, who seems to have a vendetta against my sister. I'm horrified at how this . . . her brothers-in-blue have turned against her as well as this city. She has given all of herself in the ideal of 'To Serve and Protect' and this is how she's repaid? Wherever she is, I hope she has found a better class of people to have her back."
The Chief flushed. "I will have Ms. Theron released; she will need to stick around for any questions related . . ."
Cain cut him off. "Any questions can be filtered through Ms. Theron's lawyer." He pulled out a business card and set it on the desk.
The Chief picked up a phone. "Release Theron. Yes I know, now just release her. Her lawyer is here.”
Cain put his hand on the small of Dianna's back as they moved out the front doors of the station. There were a group of people there holding signs about police brutality against half-demons.
"I thought you weren't going to call them." The Chief sputtered.
"I lied." Cain said, moving Dianna through the crowd. He did stop to speak for Dianna. Condemning the police and then praising them for giving in to pressures from a dubious agency like Demon Affairs and keeping Ms. Theron locked up without a lawyer, showing yet again how half-demons had little or no rights.
"Just keep looking pathetic and lost," he whispered into her ear, "and don't say anything." He moved them to a waiting car.
Dianna nodded a little, it wasn’t a hard request. Everything hurt, either from what Alvera had done to her or the beating she’d taken in the holding cell. The entire details of the last twenty-four hours were very fuzzy; she had big gaps in her memory. The last thing she clearly remembered was falling through the air in the Asylum, the ground rushing up to meet her.
There were only fragments after that, shattered pieces of remembering.
Screaming in pain as Alvera shocked her in the filthy pool of water, the broken look in Quinn’s eyes as she watched.
The feel of rough hands on her as the DA agents arrived, and then flashes of traveling in a helicopter she thought.
Gingerly she got into the car, wincing as bruises ached with the contact. Her face must look a mess.
“Why are you doing this?” She said as soon as Cain got inside, the swollen split lip making it harder to talk than usual.
"My sister asked me to and in 15 years my sister hasn't asked me for a thing." He tapped on the partition separating them from the driver and the car started moving. He opened the wet bar and grabbed a handful of ice, wrapping it in a towel and handed it to her.
“She’s alive?” Dianna cursed the hopeful note in her voice as she took the ice and pressed it to her right eye.
Cain lifted his sunglasses and rubbed demon-red eyes. He'd heard rumors, things that made him uneasy. Alvera wasn't gone and she'd gotten a new Reaper. That made many of the bigwigs uneasy. It made him uneasy because his sister had fallen off the radar.
"As far as I know. She showed up. Asked a bunch of questions, shot me in the leg, made me promise some stuff and then took a fake ID and left.”
“Shot you in the leg?” Dianna grinned a little and immediately regretted it. “Thank you for getting me out of there.” She dabbed at her lip with the towel, sighing as she realized she’d split it open again. “Now what?”
"You were a very hard woman to find and the more I dug the more I was horrified at what I found. I have no illusions about demons; I have done a lot of bad things to get where I have in life, it's part and parcel of being a Ridden. But the sheer amount of government cover-up and corruption going on around this stinks more than a mob boss's trial." He poured himself a drink. "I am taking you home, per my sister's request."
They drove toward the Gray Zone, a route very familiar to Dianna. Finally, the car stopped.
"Maggie said all you really wanted was your bar and to be left alone." He said as the doors unlocked. He reached out, opening his door and slid out before limping over to Dianna's door and opening it.
Confused at where they were going, Dianna watched him get out, following. “I don’t really have a bar or a home anymore. Remember the 'burning it to the ground' thing?”
"Yes, I read about it. Never been to your bar, your father and I don't get along." He helped her out of the car and then turned her to look at the rebuilt bar. "There's some mean German woman in the kitchen making lunch, I don't advise keeping her waiting.”
“Wha….” Dianna blinked, and then blinked again, mouth open as she gaped at the building where her bar had been. It looked almost identical, newer than her place had been, with workers still painting the outside. “How…” She trailed off, thoughts whirling. “That’s impossible,” she settled on.
"I know a Timebender. She put a bubble over it, luckily she only accelerates time. So inside the bubble, time moved faster, normally she charges a lot of money, helps out in big labs making experiments go faster, but she owed me a favor. There are still a few things inside that are missing like bar furniture, lighting fixtures, and other things. As I am made to understand, girls like to pick that stuff out for themselves." He paused and pulled out a slim leather document holder. "Oh and this is yours as well." He handed her the deed to the land and the building.
Wonderingly, Dianna took the deed in hands that only trembled a little. She was very quickly approaching the limits of even her endurance. “Quinn arranged this?” She whispered.
"Yes, Maggie arranged this." He was silent for a moment biting his lip. "Dianna, this was our fault, you merely got swept into a grudge match losing your home, your dignity, and at every turn you helped my sister. Maybe grudgingly, but you were there for her when the rest of the world wasn't. She wanted you to have the things that were taken from you because of her. Your bar and well, your peace and quiet.”
It was what she wanted, what she’d always wanted. Why then, did it feel like she’d lost everything, Dianna wondered? What was that empty feeling from?
“Will you tell her I’d like to see her, if she wants to?” Dianna asked, voice quiet as she stared at the building.
He sighed, suddenly looking very human. "I don't know where she is. She's just disappeared.”
Dianna jerked her gaze away from the building to narrow her eyes at the demon servant. “She what? What do you mean she just disappeared? You said she was fine.”
"Last I saw her she was." He shot back defensively. "Look, I've learned to leave her alone. If she needs something, she'll stop by. I have someone checking in to the fake ID I gave her. Following her trail, but do you have any idea how many Alice Littles are in the world? A lot, which is what makes it such a good ID." He angrily loosened the tie he was wearing. "Why the fuck do you care?”
An excellent question and one that Dianna had no answer for, none that she was willing to share with anyone else at least. “Tell her I’d like to see her if you see her again.” Was all that Dianna said, a bit of her old self showing through again. “Thank her for the bar… it….” She trailed off, confusion choking off the words again.
It was perfect, but it would never replace what she’d lost. Sissy was gone, would always be gone and Dianna was fully alone again. Swallowing she shook her head and walked for the door, not once looking back as she went inside.
End of Part 1
Don’t send us hate mail! This turned into a trilogy, which we have finished and are sending to our lovely beta reader. They are written and will be posted, promise.