After Tamsin matured and got her memories back, it was only a matter of time before they started sending her out into the field. Bo still refuses to take orders from Evony, and Evony seems more amused watching Bo struggle futilely against the Una Mens than subduing Bo herself, but even Bo can't protect Tamsin from her role in the Dark forever. Tamsin, it seems, has a skill set that's in high demand.
It's not pretty.
Tamsin sees Lauren for stitches after her first mission. There's only one wound on her: a curving gash down her right tricep, deep enough that Lauren can see the fascia and muscle without even pulling the sides of the wound apart. It's already starting to heal by the time Tamsin comes to see her, but Tamsin says it'll scar if it's not stitched properly. Apart from that, there's not even blood on her clothes; Tamsin cleaned most of the blood off her arm before she came. As far as missions go, especially where the Dark are concerned, this is practically nothing.
But Tamsin just sits there, quieter than Lauren's ever seen her--not like they have anything to talk about--and stares at the counter with an expression that Lauren recognizes all too well. Rawer than the reds and whites of the wound that Lauren can see. It's fascinating, to part of her: the science of life cycles, the mechanics of reincarnation and its effect on memory and personality, especially in a species like the Valkyrie. She wonders why a species so often involved with violence seems to have evolved so familiar a psychological response to it. Another part thinks of sand and ash, and bodies reduced to unrecognizable piles of meat by IEDs. Another part of her feels hungry.
Lauren's never liked Tamsin.
First, she does everything in her power to get Bo executed. And when that doesn't work, she insinuates herself into Bo's relationships--Lauren and Bo broke up because of so many more issues than Tamsin, but Tamsin was at least part of the catalyst. And Bo still bears some of the responsibility for not telling her--they've never talked about it--but Lauren's never forgotten the malice dripping from Tamsin's voice when she flaunted that kiss at her, or the sneer on her lips. This Tamsin doesn't sneer; doesn't act superior, doesn't do anything except sit quietly and look at the floor and not show any outward signs of pain. Except for ones that Lauren knows, intimately, from the wards in Afghanistan.
She's worked with people she doesn't like--people she's hated--for a long time now. She can stand up for her own interests, and the interests of the people she loves, even if it means working with people she'd rather not interact with. She's a doctor. It's her profession. Everyone has their reasons, even if they lead to awful, awful things. She should know.
But here she is, with Tamsin at her mercy, unhardened, damaged, in the heart of the Dark Fae power. And she can't find a trace of pity for her. That's new.
Actually, she's pretty sure it's not new; she's pretty sure she's just never let herself think that before now. She's not sure what to do with that. She can't convince herself it's Evony's fault, and, really, with the game she's playing, she can't afford to try.
So she finishes stitching Tamsin back together, the whole time aware of the whistling absence of affect and movement from her. How she seems to have vanished into herself. How cold her skin is. When she remembers Tamsin's going home to Kenzi after this, and that Kenzi will try to take care of the damage Lauren can't do anything about, she's not sure if she's relieved or disappointed.
* * *
Her and Bo aren't technically "together"; Bo is still adamant about breaking free from the Dark, and while she protects Lauren to the best of her ability, and Lauren does the same for Bo, the times that Bo turns her around and takes her over the counter in her new loft, or tells her she loves her, don't overcome everything that's still between them. Bo still won't quite accept Lauren's choice to play Dark as a legitimate one, even if she says she does. There's broken glass in the blue of her eyes, and the effect is a little bit like standing in front of a blast furnace with no face shield.
Push comes to shove, Bo absolutely has her back--but Bo isn't going to protect her 24/7 anymore. Can't. And as lonely as that thought feels, living in enemy territory, Lauren thinks it's better this way: drawing her own boundaries, understanding her limits. She isn't Bo, and if she tries to play by Bo's rules, she'll end up dead. So, she's playing her own long game. Bo will want in, but Lauren knows better than to tell her anything just yet. Bull, meet china shop.
Lauren knows there's something going on with Tamsin and Bo, too; she's never asked, still doesn't want to know, after the way it started. Whatever it is, it's hurting Tamsin--but then, Bo has that effect on everyone, lately.
* * *
They carry Tamsin in at 4 am; two Fae she doesn't recognize. She's incoherent. It's the only time Lauren ever hears Tamsin raise her voice in pain after a job, and even then, it's only for a moment. Lauren's up in a heartbeat--after Afghanistan and the Congo, even the vibration of her phone will wake her out of a dead sleep, let alone banging on her door.
"What did this?" Sure, she's halfway clothed, and it'd be nice if she had time to put shoes on, but Tamsin can't stand on her own, doesn't even look conscious, and all she really needs is pants. The shorter one--looks sharper--shakes his head.
"She had these on her." He passes her a bundle of leather--Tamsin's jacket--and there's something hard-plated wrapped inside it. Something falls out; she catches it on the top of her foot so it doesn't break, mostly by luck. It rolls off onto the floor.
It's a Scorpio carapace. Very rare, highly venomous, and even more valuable and deadly if they passed their Dawning. They are, without exception, Dark. And the vials--venom. Six, counting the one she caught with her foot.
One, two... three stings. She should be dead. Her skin is far too hot, and she's shaking almost convulsively. It's an excruciating way to die. Lauren almost wishes she'd make a sound; she's seen what the venom does to its victims, and Tamsin should be screaming. If she can last any longer...
She does, long enough for Lauren to apply the antidote. If she'd known she was getting the best medical training she possibly could in order to apply poultices made of ground horn and infused seawater, with a lodestone resting on top of each bandage, she'd have quit medical school. Still, once it becomes clear that Tamsin is stabilizing and not dying, Lauren curls up on a chair to make sure nothing changes. Lets her just lie there on the counter. Sends Evony's goons home.
She's gone when Lauren wakes up, leaving the carapace and venom on the counter. Special delivery from the Morrígan.
She shouldn't have been able to even make it to the door.
* * *
Whatever Kenzi's doing, it's not working. But Lauren knows, with violence on the scale Tamsin will see, maybe already has seen, there's only so much that can be done. She empathizes--she's seen this more than enough times--but can't quite manage sympathy.
She never shows up drunk. It's funny, because Lauren doesn't remember ever meeting the old Tamsin without the presence of alcohol somehow, unless she was with Dyson on police business. And, again, fascinating.
She gets used to Tamsin showing up at odd hours, usually with a text about fifteen minutes beforehand. Gets used to stitching her up, pulling out bullets, administering shots when she can suspend the antidote in solution and more primitive methods when she can't. Tamsin has never once asked for an anaesthetic. Sometimes Lauren gives her one anyways, because of visceral memories of screaming patients. But Tamsin never makes a sound louder than a hiss. Never seems to need it.
The one thing she doesn't ever get used to is that look. Tamsin is obviously very good at what she does; some of the wounds she treats are from Fae that even Bo would be extremely hard-pressed to take on alone--the Scorpio being one. Lauren wonders if even Kenzi knows just how good she is.
It's also obvious that Tamsin doesn't want to do it. But with the Una Mens watching, and being out of favor with Evony, she's not in a position to say no. This is her function within the Dark; and her relationship with the Dark is more than a mysterious contract that she wouldn't possibly have consented to in her right mind.
Every time, that look. Maybe she never gets used to it because every time she comes by, it's more pronounced. Even if Tamsin isn't so incredibly still anymore. It's ingraining into how she moves. If the Una Mens leave soon, she might have a chance.
Maybe part of the reason why it never gets old is the hot little twinge she feels every time she sees it. That arrogant Fae smugness falls away into nothing but fracture and blood, and she doesn't even have to pretend to lift a finger on her behalf.
* * *
Tamsin's back from this one before sundown. It's late summer, or early fall; Lauren's loft has a window that faces west, so that the sunset turns everything heavy red and shows every particle of dust floating through the air. Slightly frightening, considering that she still works at home sometimes. But, it's gorgeous. When Tamsin stumbles in, hair loose, black shirt, black pants, blood and ash, she looks like a picture of a solar flare. The shadows under her eyes, though, have only grown.
She has four slashes to her chest and abdomen. Nothing incredibly deep or serious, but again, stitches will be required. The shirt is trashed, but she supposes that's why Tamsin wore a plain black t-shirt. Either way, it comes off.
Even with her withdrawn silence, she's still intimidating. Even more so with her shirt off, if that's possible. Her skin turns almost gold, the muscles playing underneath sharpen in definition, and the blood glistens deep red. Her face is utterly blank as she looks over Lauren's shoulder and out the window behind her.
Her hands are on Tamsin's chest; mostly just her fingers, really. Splayed out and steepled against the slight motion of her breathing, one hand tugging the thread through. She ties them off, one by one, leaving bloody smears on Tamsin's skin with her gloves.
It's easy, really. So easy. Blood and adrenaline and fragmented emotions, all too familiar, and damn if Lauren doesn't like having the woman who took so much pleasure in fracturing her relationship with Bo standing there like a good little soldier, looking broken in ways that have nothing to do with the body. And the body...
Maybe Tamsin senses the predatory tension in Lauren's movements, has sensed it all this time, and responds. And maybe Lauren's just telling herself that to feel better about what happens next.
Lauren finishes the last one and strips the gloves off--neither of them is going to get an infection, Tamsin's a Valkyrie, at least her biology is consistent with a species evolved around mass death--and smoothes the skin around the stitches, half checking her work, and half just feeling Tamsin under her touch, still and compliant, there and not there.
Tamsin breathes. She's been breathing this whole time, but something clicks for Lauren in that slow rise and fall. She looks up at Tamsin's eyes. Tamsin looks back, waiting. Blank.
She pulls Tamsin down by the back of her neck, and Tamsin doesn't resist. Just moves as directed. It's distant, abstract, more of a rote response; but it's a lovely one, Lauren has to admit. How she opens, lets Lauren take, and, oh, she does. Slowly and thoroughly. That must be Evony showing through. Then a shiver runs through Tamsin, head to foot, and she kisses back. It's not as hard as Lauren expected, coming from her; she just deepens the kiss, hands coming up to cup her jaw. Like she's holding onto Lauren.
The predatory instinct flares at that, and Lauren backs Tamsin into the counter. Presses farther. Tamsin makes a soft sound and slides up onto it.
She's pliant under Lauren's hands. Arches up into her mouth when it moves to her neck. And those aren't pain sounds she makes when Lauren drags her bra down her body and nicks the fresh stitches in the process. She moans when Lauren's mouth closes on a nipple; that. That sound. It doesn't take long before her hips are pushing against Lauren's. Lauren smirks against Tamsin's skin. Tamsin lifts her hips when Lauren slides her pants down, one hand in Lauren's hair.
There's a sound that builds and builds in her chest, but she can't quite let out, when she pushes two fingers into Tamsin and finds her soaked. A pressure. Tamsin's head falls back, and every single one of the sounds coming up out of her throat, sounds she's sure the woman she slapped would be ashamed of, collects in Lauren's throat with that pressure. She's softer than Lauren remembers thinking she was. Lauren can feel her lips twist, at that, and she fucks her harder. Tamsin falls back on her elbows; then, down on her back.
And there she is, bright hair pooling on Lauren's counter, blood and sweat sheening on the muscles of her chest and stomach while she strains and gasps, lit up with the last few minutes of that molten-red light from the window.
It doesn't take long at all for her to come. Lauren's lips peel away from her teeth, and that sound drains out of her chest in Tamsin's shuddering. Blood leaks out between the stitches.
When Lauren turns away, Tamsin doesn't need to be told to go. Just shrugs back into her bra, takes her shirt and pulls what's left of it around her, and leaves without another word.
She leaves a small, matte-black box on the counter. Lauren opens it; it's the breeding embers of a fire fairy. Special project for Evony.
* * *
When Tamsin started reciprocating? Wrong question. This has never been about giving, for Lauren.
She remembers the first time she let Tamsin go down on her, though. When she first noticed the hunger in Tamsin's mouth on hers wasn't just raw, confused need. When Tamsin's hands got insistent.
She'd say it's "nice", in that it's odd, new, maybe not what she was expecting, but she likes it anyways, and Tamsin knows how to use her mouth, and it's a relief to come with someone who doesn't require the kind of careful handling that Bo and Evony do.
But there's nothing nice about this. Even if they don't leave marks every time.
Still, Tamsin's mouth feels strangely soft on her. And maybe that's why Lauren comes so hard.
Moonstone, this time. Real moonstone. For a shifter.
* * *
She has a pang of conscience about it. Tamsin is clearly traumatized--both by what the Dark are forcing her to do, and by the falling-out over Rainer. And Lauren knows she's using Tamsin--to get off, to get back at Bo, get back at the Dark, back at the Fae, to get back at a version of Tamsin that doesn't even exist anymore. It's starting to sink in that it's stupid for her to think things will ever be the same again. That they will ever get easier, in any sense. And it's been seven years for her.
But then, Tamsin never acts like she thinks Lauren is doing this for her, either. At some point it stops being because she's too numb to respond emotionally and becomes something else, in flashes--this Tamsin has a vicious, instinctive kind of intelligence. It's satisfying and sickening at the same time to watch all that softer possibility just... Die. To know that when the woman Lauren remembers re-emerges, this time, it'll be at Lauren's hands. Meanwhile, they're both proving to Tamsin that this is what she is. All she'll ever be.
But this particular day, the whole situation starts to feel surreal. This isn't who she remembers being. Why she's a doctor, of all things. She's not here to break things. She should be trying to stitch them back together. Minimize the damage.
This time, Tamsin shows up with a bottle of alcohol in hand, and a bitter, bloody smirk.
She's not sure where the medical part ends and the sex begins. She thinks it's that half-gasp, half-hiss that she remembers so vividly, when the needle sinks through her skin, or how her skin is flushed--from the fight, the alcohol, arousal, and maybe they're all the same thing. Or maybe it's the lazy challenge in that half-quirked eyebrow while she's watching Lauren pull out her field kit, half-slumped against the counter. It gives her a moment of vertigo, that look; it's so familiar, but she doesn't realize until then how long it's been since she really saw it.
She pushes Lauren back into a chair, sinks down on her fingers, and rides her hand. When she comes, her eyes flutter shut and her head falls back and she shudders. But that smirk returns in a heartbeat--more a curl of her lips over her teeth--and she pushes herself up and leaves, almost before Lauren has a chance to process that she's leaving.
There's teeth in the box, this time. With venom glands attached.
Lauren closes her hand around the box, hard; that light-headed feeling's back.
It never really quiets, after that.
* * *
Good lord, Tamsin is strong. Without even trying.
One arm threaded under her thigh and braced across her hips, fingertips of the other hand digging hard into her other thigh, holding Lauren down while her body fights its hardest to grind, arch--
Lauren can break herself on that grip. And then come back and find she's still here. In once piece. Tamsin holds her down and seems to know when she's come to.
She sees Tamsin looking at her, biting her lip, the tiniest furrow in her brow, and those shadows--but it's just a flash before Tamsin pulls back and starts grabbing clothes. A shirt comes flying Lauren's way. She manages to catch it with not her face.
Just before Tamsin heads out the door, she pulls something out of her jacket and tosses it to Lauren. "Hey--catch." This one Lauren catches with her hands. Tamsin disappears.
Once she's dressed, she looks at it. Smallish case, matte black. She opens it.
Lauren frowns. That's not what I requisitioned--
She goes through a mental list of the things Tamsin's left with her after jobs: vials of venom, cuttings of plants and hair, excretions and organs of Fae with medicinal properties that even most Elders probably aren't aware of... Lauren can't even remember them all off the top of her head. She mostly just assumed that she'd been ordered to procure them for Lauren. Evony's managed to find her more and better materials than she ever could have dreamed of. Even the very rare materials she needs are there within the week. That's why Tamsin comes by; she's usually injured by that point, anyways.
She never once considered that Tamsin might have simply recognized them and brought them back because they're rare and powerful. Not even sometimes. It never occurred to her that Tamsin is more than old enough to be able to identify them herself. Now that she thinks of it, half the stuff she gives Lauren, Lauren didn't ask for. It must have just worked out with the job she was on.
Lauren has to sit down. She remembers catching the end of a conversation between Tamsin and Kenzi awhile ago--god, forever ago--something about amends. And it clicks.
She gets it: in whatever capacity she has left, Tamsin's being helpful. Maybe even kind.