sunbaked_baker: (Cold ashes)
[personal profile] sunbaked_baker
There was a lot to tell, and it took quite a while for Sunshine to tell it all, even though she condensed some things, left out some particulars, and did not go into details about others. The entire undertaking began to take on this cast of surreality, as Rae told her story, as though it had happened to someone else. But Mel let her tell it. He listened and didn't interrupt except to suggest, part way through, that they go back inside and get dressed, and make some tea.

She told Mel what had really happened those couple of days at the lake, a few years and a world ago, where this had all started.

(There hadn't been any trouble out at the lake in years, and it was so exquisitely far from the rest of my life.)

She told him of her magic-handling, and of her unlikely alliance with a vampire. Of the poisoned wound healed by unorthodox means. She told him the implications of that awful incident with the table knife that night in the alley, of her abilities. Of Pat and Jesse and Theo begging her for help, after sharing with her the ghastly revelation that the human world was getting weaker, that the vampires would soon be running the show if things didn't change soon. She could do things that SOF couldn't, and they wanted her out there doing that.

For the sake of the world. For everyone.

And she told him what she and Con - though she did not share his name - did those nights when they went out. The words stuck in her throat, and it took all of her will to say it out loud, but she told him. And Mel did not get angry. Did not yell. When Rae fell into silence some hours later when they were sitting on his couch, he said nothing at first, only refilled her cup of tea.

"I had guessed some of this," Mel admitted, at last. He looked about as exhausted as Rae felt. "But not all of it. And I admit it's worse than I was imagining. You've been in such danger... and I keep thinking that if... if you had told me, I could've-"

He must have seen Rae's flinch, because he took her hand in his and gave it a squeeze.

"Sweetheart. Don't listen to me. I love you, and so when you tell me everything you've been facing all this time, my first desire is to have been there for you, and to have helped you in whatever way I could. But I understand why you didn't tell me. You and I, and your family, were safer that way." Mel, who knew all of Rae's scars, picked up her hands and placed a kiss to the back of each. "Doesn't mean I don't wish things could've been different."

But you were there for me. You did help me, she wanted to tell him, but all she did is give a faint, dry laugh, and say, "You and me both."

Mel loosened his hold one her hands, tracing his thumb along one of the scars upon her knuckles. "That just leaves the question of why you chose to tell me all of this, today."

She nodded, slowly. "The deputy executive of our SOF regional headquarters... has been on my tail since near the beginning. She just doesn't have proof to support her suspicions."

"Pat and the guys could just tell her you're working for SOF under-cover?" Mel suggested.

Rae gave a faint sigh. "With what I can do? Her finding out would be the fastest way to have me disappeared into an underground SOF lab for the rest of my life. She'd have their science goons trying to figure out how I can do what I do, and trying to replicate it, for the rest of my life. For the greater good, you know," Rae remarked, shaking her head in frustration and nerves. "In any case, unlicensed magic-handling and doing SOF's job for them aside, 'consorting with the enemy' is a felony."

Mel nodded, taking a sip of his tea. "And they wouldn't believe for a second that a vampire could be one of the good guys."

"But you would?" Rae asked lightly, still wary of Mel's reaction to all of this.

"I trust your judgement, Sunshine."

She smiled, then, though her heart wasn't in it. "Thanks for that, though I don't feel like I deserve it. The Deputy Exec, anyway, has been trying to get proof that I've been doing something illegal."

"Like questioning family and friends," Mel remarked, recalling the surprise SOF visit to his house a while back.

"Yeah," Rae nodded, a little subdued. "I'm sorry about that." Her fear and nervousness about the next morning was creeping back, now that she had to talk about it. "She also bugged my car, and the bakery, and... sent fetches after me."

Mel stared at her in shock; Rae saw the familiar signs of protective anger beginning in his look, and decided not to give that anger the chance to build up a huge head of steam.

"Nothing came of it," she assures him, hurried. "One was disabled and the other was contained, and we have the contained one as evidence against her. There's some other stuff too, but tomorrow morning Pat and Theo and Jesse and I have a meeting with Regional Executive Misra. Early. Going to... show him the evidence we have that she's been hounding a... law-abiding, cinnamon roll-making member of the human public, using very illegal means. It risks... everything, Mel, if it doesn't work. If she finds out, if the press gets wind of it, or if there's a public trial..."

"Oh gods and friggin' angels," Mel breathed, the anger draining from him in a rush. He pulled Rae into a sudden hug. She rested her head against the oak tree tattoo on his shoulder and tried not to cling. "Be careful."

~*~*~*~

Dusk was only beginning to sink into real darkness that night, when Rae stood on her balcony and sought her alignment with Constantine. She needed to talk to him. They were in this together, and he needed to know.

The telling went more smoothly with him - only a vampire could manage active listening with such concentration. And he already knew the situation with the Goddess of Pain. But the risk of the following morning affected him, too, so Rae felt he deserved to know what was happening. In case things went wrong.

"I don't intend to mention you at all, if I can keep from it," Rae told him, standing on the balcony in the darkness that was his element. The quiet sounds of the night - the occasional hoot of a distant owl, the chirruping of crickets, the rustling of leaves in the breeze - were helping Rae keep herself calm. She felt sick to her stomach, anxiety leaving her restless and upset. She stood with her arms crossed to keep herself from fidgeting, wanting to pace but resisting the urge.

"You will do as you must," Con replied, looking at her. Glancing at but not quite meeting his emerald-green gaze, Rae remembered his mostly-unspoken offer to get rid of the Goddess of Pain some years ago, and briefly entertained the notion of how things might have been easier had she agreed to it. But Sunshine was still herself, whatever her hands had done in times of necessity, and that was not her way, if she could help it. And, for better or worse, she still could. "I trust in you and what you can do, as I ever have."

"You have far more faith in me than I do," Rae remarked, dry, as though she were not sick with fear of what tomorrow would bring. He touched her face then, with his hands that could so easily snap someone's neck, gently lifting her chin so she would look him in the eyes.

"Sunshine. Since I have known you, I have never had reason not to have faith in you."

She wanted to argue, to tell him that she couldn't be sure what would happen, to tell him that she was scared - did he not realize that this could ruin everything they had been working for? Risking their lives for?

"We have gone into battle together and separately, many nights, since this work began," Con said, reading the fear in her look. He leaned down to place a kiss upon the center of her forehead, like a benediction or blessing. "In every attempt, we risk everything for the sake of everything. This is no different, only I cannot follow you into battle by daylight. But I have no doubts in you. Your other allies will be beside you, and will support you when I cannot."

"And if that's not enough?"

...if they fail, if she is found out, if she is locked up in a SOF lab, if she can never again go back and just be a coffeehouse baker...

"Then, I will still find you when the sun sets again, wherever you may be."

Tears prickled in the corners of her eyes, and she looked away, turning her head so his fingers no long cradled her chin. The support, unquestioning, unwavering, was a wonderful thing, but she could not explain how the loss of her daylit life would likely kill her as thoroughly as any vampire could. She couldn't live that other, benighted life all the time, with nothing to balance it. It would end her, one way or another.

"You should sleep," he said, when she did not reply. "They will be here for you well before you usually go to make cinnamon rolls."

"In about five hours, yeah," she said, knowing sleep was needed but unlikely to happen.

"Then I will go, and see you tomorrow night, whatever the circumstances," he said. "Sleep well."

"Oh yeah, sure," she replied, dry and trying for levity. "No problem there."

But he was already gone.

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Rae "Sunshine" Seddon

August 2017

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