Red Dragon

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The Fast and Furious

The night was filled with so much ball-busting that Francis thought he had entered the magical world of the Nutcracker. If it wasn’t for the crash of pins, it was the onslaught of questions, some even he considered far too personal. The obvious ones were obviously obvious; where were you born, who was your father, who was your mother, when did your father tell you she was dead, when did you realize what you were and your father lied... The last one threw them through quite the loop. He was being honest, though; he didn’t know until roughly a few months ago that he was a drachen.

“Surely you must have noticed before?” Bridget said, tugging at the small flap on his arm that covered the fin under. “What about these?”

“I got into a lot of fights after I left home. Didn’t go the hospital, so I thought it was just extra growth.”

“Because we all have frills out of our arms and backs,” Lola said, scoffing as she returned from throwing her ball. “Can you please make it sound a little more believable? I know you are telling the truth, but come on!”

“If it was cancer, it would have made my life a little shorter. Fine by me.”

“W-why would you w-w-want to die?” Cassidy said... One would think she would have gained a bit more courage by then, settling in for the fourth round, but she seemed even jumpier with each passing moment. Especially when Francis touched her, even if it was but a graze against her arm. She sniffed, looking down at the table as he looked at her after that question, still blushed. “W-w-w-was life t-that hard?”

“Gang life is no life to live,” Samantha said, hopping off her Minotaur, Cirnos’s, lap. “If he had been doing it since his teens, death really would have been a mercy. And a badge of honor.”

“I w-w-w-w-wouldn’t t-t-think so-”

“Of course not,” Lola exclaimed. “You never had to grow up poor.”

“Huh?” Francis uttered.

“Like you didn’t know. She’s-”

“When did you leave your home, Francis!” Bridget cut in, shooting Lola a dirty look.

“Fine. Fine. If she doesn’t want him to know that she’s-”

“Well! Francis?”

“This has been happening far too often,” Francis grumbled. “Seriously. Y’all ask me all these questions, expect me to give so much, but are too afraid to tell me the truth about yourselves.”

“Don’t look at me,” Lola said, chuckling. “I’m all about the truth. Hate when people hide shit, even if it’s something good –which, let me tell ya, it’s REALLY g-”

“Shut up!” Bridget shrieked, and her hair glowed. The red turned shock white, and some strands snapped free, slinging out, grabbing Lola, and slammed her head into the table. The four pitchers on it, clanked, the closest and its liquid sloshing merrily with that hard crack... and Lola stayed down. Bridget cleared her throat, and creased her fingers, looking to Francis. “Well? If you don’t mind.”

“I don’t. Not really. Just... don’t freak out like the last two I told,” he huffed, and took a long drink from the pitcher on his party’s table. Penny’s eye twitched as he tipped that brown liquid into his gullet, draining half of that one before setting it by the nine others. All drank by him. He coughed, wiping his nose. “That shit’s horrible. At least it’s cold.”

“Cold?” Tanya said, pouting. “You’re lucky, then. Ours is-”

“Don’t believe him,” Penny said.

“No one asked for your two-cents, Dwight.”

“Get it anyways. Consider it a donation. ‘Cold’ to him would be anything under the temperature of the sun... Can you even get drunk!”

“Yeah, but it takes pretty much pure kerosene to even get a buzz,” he said... then finished off the rest of the pitcher. He snorted, then blew air out of his cheeks, sounding like a horse. “Okay... I left home on the eve of my fourteenth birthday. It was Tuesday. Taco Tuesday... I killed my father.”

“What?” Everyone but Penny exclaimed.

“Yeah. I killed him.”

“I knew you were gangster, but to kill your own pops-” Samantha began.

“He’s burying the lede,” Lola grumbled, picking herself off the table.

“Huh?” Francis said.

“I’ve noticed that about you. You love to leave out details to make it shocking.” She took a drink from the pitcher, and hiccuped as she put it back down. “What lead up to your father’s death?”

“Wow... You’re the first person to ask that.”

“Do I get a cookie?”

“No, but you get more of my life.”

“That’s a shitty prize.”

“No no. Please. Tell us,” Bridget said.

“As I said, it was Taco Tuesday. Dad loved to make his hot, so I loved to match. Problem is, taco seasoning gives me gas... Late that night, as I was sleeping, my stomach gurgled. I tried to fart and it came out hard –but not hard enough to be a shart, you know? It was a hard fart, the kind that just-”

“We get it,” Penny cut in. “Move on.”

“Well, I went back to sleep... but woke up to the smell of pork crackling. I thought dad was up. He loved to make pork chops for breakfast, or bacon or fried ham... but when I opened my eyes and rolled over... It wasn’t pork. Not the normal kind- can I have four more pitchers?”

The waitress scoffed, but took the empties away, returning with four new soldiers. The first two were downed in seconds, while the third actually made his head spin a touch. He burped as he set it down, wiping his face again... his eyes a bit heavier this time around.

“Anyways,” he grumbled, clearing his throat, “the rest of the house was burning. I could hear the boards snapping away. It was only a matter of time before the second floor caved in... I jumped out the window. Face-planted on the concrete path in the backyard... I was hurting like hell, but at least I was alive. At the time, I thought it was thanks to my dad for... for... I also thought it was his workshop in the basement that caused the fire... Turns out both were lies in the end.” He tipped the rest of the third pitcher down, then didn’t give the fourth any mercy, chugging it. He slammed it down, and the entirety shattered, sending shards flying. Blood trickled from his palm, the handle crushed in it... but still smiled at Bridget. “Any more questions?”

There wasn’t, and, as that last round of bowls was thrown, they called it a night. Francis paid for the trio, but was still hounded by the three witches up to the owner. Then to the door.

“We had a great time tonight,” Bridget said.

“It was awesome to finally meet you, get to know you,” Lola said, tittering as she smacked his rear. “You know how to party, too.”

“We should do this more often,” Tanya said.

“That sounds like a wonderful idea,” Bridget said. “How about we make this weekly?”

“I don’t know. You will have to ask the little missy,” Francis said, clapping Cassidy’s shoulder –which made her squawk and jump... It was cute at first, but now it was starting to annoy him. “How about it?”

“W-well-” She began, but was cut off by Penny.

“Why would he need you guys? He has me at his beck and call,” the wizard said, sneering as blue runes popped to life on her staff. “Why are you laughing?”

“No offense, Penny, but do you think he would hang out with you if he had a choice?” Bridget said.

“Yeah!” Lola chimed in. “I can only imagine you’re as bitchy with him as you were with us.”

“Ooh! Do tell,” Francis said, cut off by the raging pyre behind them –thank God. They stepped out into the town, and he was more than happy so smell burning wood.

“Don’t you fucking dare,” Penny said. “And I don’t bitch that much-”

“Bullshit! Bull. Shit. I only ever saw two emotions out of you, angry and hungry.”

“Oh, so you’re on their side now?”

“No, but I don’t let people tell bald-faced lies, either.”

“Then you need to distance yourself from her. Now,” Tanya said. “Before you met her was the best time, but sooner rather than later since you fucked that up.”

“We’ll gladly let you ride with us,” Bridget said, squeezing his arm. “We’ll be glad to make sure you get back and forth to class. We’ll even help you cheat... on your schoolwork, of course.”

“He doesn’t need help like that,” Cassidy stated, and eased Bridget’s hand away from his arm, taking it for herself... and, for a moment there, he almost forgot she didn’t shake. Shame it came back. “I-I m-m-mean-”

“Still!” Lola barked, shaking his shoulder as they came to the cars. She tittered, and smacked the roof of Penny’s car. “You should ride with us. Can’t imagine that rinky little thing is safe to ride in-”

“Oh, that does it!” Penny shrieked, shoving Lola away. Her staff was white-hot, her hair risen and smoking with those flames. Her eyes were pure blue, while fire spewed from her maw. “You can insult me all you like. You can try to schmooze your way into Francis’ good graces, but you... you DO NOT... DO NOT INSULT MY BABY.”

The wind howled. Cirnos stepped back from Samantha as she stepped forth. And up. The wind caught her feet, becoming one with it as she seemed to... change. Rain started to patter, thunder rumbling in the gales swirling around her legs, her dark form giving way to nothingness. Then ice. Her arms elongated, still so slender, as were her fingers, growing out into long, garish claws. Her face “dropped”, her lips melting away for the spikes under, warmed by the fire in those bright, yellow eyes.

“Are you sure you want to do this?” Samantha said, her voice lost to shrills and howls of the wind, as if it were whistling through a dead forest... or a cemetery. “Do you have what it takes, puny human?”

“I’m ready whenever you are, frigid bitch!”

“Such fire. Fitting for a spinster.”

Penny growled, and spun her “staff”. It didn’t even seem to be made of wood anymore, gone to the flames. Crystallized on the ends. The fires were cooled and forged into two, long blades, crackling with the trapped energy that still popped and sizzled on the runes. The rain rose to a squall, bringing forth fog. And steam.

Bridget groaned, stepping in between.

“Come on, guys. Is this really necessary?” She said. “We’re adults here, not children.”

“Could have fooled me,” Lola said.

“Shut up!” Bridget, Tanya, Samantha, and Penny all screamed... but Lola simply shrugged.

“I’m just saying. If she wants to put her money where her mouth is... why not put ‘her baby’ to the test?”

“What do you have in mind?” Penny said.

“It’s quite simple. It’s a dead town, middle of nowhere, with a long strip of road. From here to the interstate split would suffice... How about you see if it can beat us.”

Penny... huffed, and all her fire went out. She tapped her staff onto the blacktop- and cocked her brow as Francis hovered by it.

“What are you doing?” She said.

“Helping all of you,” he said, inhaling that burnt wood.

“... Whatever... But I accept your offer. If I win, which I will, you three need to back the fuck off and leave us alone.”

“I don’t mind them-”

“Leave. US. Alone.”

“Fine,” Bridget said, and tittered as she poked Francis’s cheek. “But when we win, you have to attend anger therapy and give Francis here some space. And not just the physical kind. You really can’t get a word in edge-wise with her, can you?”

“Not really,” he said.

“Because he has nothing interesting to say!” Penny said.

“Wow. Really?”

“All you do is talk about fucking and food. FUCKING, AND FOOD.”

“No I don’t. I also talk about cards.”

“Who gives a shit!”

“What kind of cards?” Lola said.

“For copyright reason I cannot say aloud, but it’s the one with five mana-”

“Oh! Magic: the Gathering-”

“Hey hey! Are you trying to get me sued?”

“They can’t sue you in real life.”

“Never bet on that. If there’s a way, they can find it.”

“Naturally paranoid. I can dig it. So what colors do you play?”

“I am a fan of black-”

“Who isn’t?” Samantha said, returned to herself. She sighed, and turned around, kissing Cirnos. “Sorry, baby, but you should probably get back to work.”

“Yeah. I know,” he muttered. “We’re still on Wednesday, right?”

“You know it. I never let you down.”

He stole another kiss, brushed her cornrows over her ear, then nodded to Francis.

“Was nice meeting you.”

“Likewise,” Francis said. “Can’t wait to not-talk with you again.”

“Next time I just might.”

He left, his clomps echoing through the town as he returned to that alley... Samantha cleared her throat, sneering at Penny.

“So. Those are the terms,” she said. “Do you accept?”

“Yeah. Because I know I’ll win!” Penny said, and stormed around the door- taking the staff with her! Francis rushed to follow, but she jutted that branch into his chest. “You and Cass stay here. I’ll be back to pick you up.”

“C... can I at least keep the st-” He got his answer as the door slammed shut, taking with it his one boon. He dashed over to Cassidy and pressed his nose down into her neck, inhaling her down... Yes, she shivered. Shocker there.

Bridget, Lola, and Tanya joined him as they walked to the streetwalk, standing by the light the two women revved at. Samantha was in a silver sedan, nothing too special about it, but, beside the Hellrider roaring beside, she might as well have been in a luxury car. That poor vehicle; it was consumed in those blue flames, its headlights warped into red points, its frame shuddering and cracking and shrieking for help.

The stoplight across from Francis turned yellow, and he held Cassidy tighter as those engines continued to rev. Flames shot up through the “sunroof” of Penny’s car, screeching like a million devils through the town... It turned red; the light before the two turned green. The cars pounded down at the same time, the wheels screeched, and Samantha was off. Racing with Penny’s engine.

The witches howled with laughter as all the flames around Penny were extinguished. She climbed out of the car, looking upon the toasted remains of “her baby”. The hood of the car’s front was torn away, with two rows of fire showing the engine rushing up towards the horizon, keeping ahead of the silver sedan the entire way. Penny lumbered to the front, her legs shaking so much, her body bending to an invisible wind as she turned and looked upon the carnage... and collapsed to her knees.

“My baby,” she mumbled, barely heard above the music still blaring behind, but it was clearer as she screamed it, sobbing against the bumper. Samantha returned, hissing to a halt right behind the wizard, and chortled as she waltzed up to the broken wizard.

“Looks like we win,” she said, and pulled out her phone. “Let’s see here... Okay. There are four different therapists in the area... And... Sent.” She pocketed her phone again, and nudged her head to the crowd on the walkway. “Go on and climb in. We’ll hit up the Chinese place in Robinson before we go home.”

“Damn right we are!” Lola said, whooping as she ran to the sedan.

“Always thinking with her gut,” Tanya grumbled... but smirked up at Francis. “What’s your favorite dish?”

“I’m a sucker for General Tso’s... but you guys go on ahead,” he said, gazing at Penny. “Think I’ll need to keep an eye on her. To keep her from going nuclear.”

“Too good for her.”

“Probably, but it’s my choice.”

“Are you sure?” Bridget said, wringing her arm. “You might be stuck here for hours.”

“That’s fine by me... What about you, Cass?”

“O-oh. Uh-” The harpy began.

“Look. If you don’t want to be here, if you are really that uncomfortable, then just go with them.”

“N-no! T-t-that’s not it-”

“‘T-t-t-that’s n-n-n-not i-it-’ Can you hear how fucking annoying that is?”

“Oh. S-sorry-”

“Don’t be! Just don’t do it... is that so hard?”

She went quiet after that. The witches waved him and his shivering little bird off as they left, and Francis decided it was probably not a good idea to leave a burnt wreck in the middle of the road. Most of the inside was ash, so it was rather light. The main problem was bulk, but, with a bit of positioning, a few crunches into the middle, he managed to lift it up and put it back into the parking lot... Penny, meanwhile, stayed in the middle of the road, looking down at it.

Francis and Cassidy sat on the side, watching her, seeing her rock back and forth to own heartbeat while she still whispered, “my baby”. Francis managed to salvage her staff and inhaled its (FADING) scent for as long as he could, glancing up to see the sky. It wasn’t long before the moon was gone, and dawn approached; maybe it was time to actually talk to her?

“Hey,” Francis called out... He did it again, and did so until her head slowly swiveled to him. “You going to sit in traffic all night?”

“Why not?” She mumbled. “Maybe, if I’m lucky, I’ll be run over... I’ll at least be the prettiest road kill.”

“Highly doubt that. I’ve seen some stunning 9/10′s paved across the road before. You would be... about a 6? Maybe?”

“Oh. Okay... Even in death, I’m not good enough.”

“Good God, woman... It was a car. You needed a new one.”

“No. It wasn’t a car... It was my baby. My baby...” She sobbed, and her face contorted, showing her true age as thick, greasy tears fell down it. Her hands flopped out of her waist onto the coarse road... then slapped it- slammed into it. She screamed as blood splashed across the black top, as her hands tore away. “Godsfucckingdammit!!!”

“Yeah! Teach that road whose boss. Good for nothing layabout; then it has the balls to ruin itself and expect others to pave it-”

“Shut. Up... Just... shut. Up! Do you EVER SHUT UP!”

“Do you?”

She scoffed and slapped her hands down again.

“You hate me... Everyone does.”

“I don’t hate you, Plank.”

“Don’t you lie to me!”

“Don’t you dare say I lie to you! I’ve told nothing but the truth since we met. I don’t need to lie; no one believes me anyways... I don’t hate you, Plank.”

“Then why are you here? Why didn’t you just leave with them?”

“Because somebody had to make sure you don’t become a road pie.”

“Why? Who cares? I’d rather die... At least I don’t have to deal with liars.”

“I told you-”

“I’m not talking about you!” She sniffed... and looked behind, back towards the interstate split. “One day, they are closer to you than blood sisters... The next day, they act as though they don’t know you at all. The laugh about it, too, as if you’re the crazy one, as if you’re THE ONE WITH ISSUES. ALL YOU FUCKING BITCHES ARE THE ONES WITH ISSUES, GODSDAMMIT... Gods... Godsdammit.”

She sniffed, and wiped her nose, smearing blood under it... She raised her hand, looking upon the raw skin, the exposed muscle and the remaining, bruised skin... then looked to Francis.

“My staff. Please.”

He trudged over to her, and just... let her... touch the staff- the runes ignited, and her hands burned, returning them to their usual splendor. Plank grunted, groaned, growled as she used the staff to stand... and tried to take it away from Francis.

“Do. You. Mind?” She grumbled.

“I sort of do- oh gods- Cassy-” He rushed over to her and dove into her lap, inhaling her thick, lustful scent deep. She reeked of it during the entire date, but he could hardly tell over everything else going on... or her nice, light perfume.

Penny scoffed behind, and lumbered over to them, plopping down beside.

“You could at least wait until you’re home before doing that,” she grumbled, and he heard her phone ring... and ring... and ring-

“If you are trying to reach Eve, she won’t be available for another hour,” he mumbled.

“Well, that’s just great. We’re stranded here... Thank you, I guess.”

“That’s what friends are for.”

She scoffed. “‘Friends’...”

It seemed luck was on their side, though.

Francis heard it coming miles away, purring through the streets and downtown behind them, but it still intrigued him as that car slowed to a halt along his back. He inhaled Cassidy’s desire deep, then look up. And back. There, he saw himself, reflected in the polished red metal. It looked more like a landboat than a car, easily as long as a truck, but, as he looked under the vehicle, saw those eight legs emerged, he could see why it needed to be that way. Those eight, spindly ends clacked around the car, going around the front, where he saw a bit of the yellow light from her emergencies turn prismatic against her chitin until, at last, the first hint of that shiny, black shell made its debut. The two pedipalps at her middle were still, the plate there locked there by her belt for her green tunic, covering most of her pale form. His eyes drifted over her pert chest, where her long, delicate hands rested, and continued up to her eight, purple eyes in a fair face. Her hair was tied back into a bun, white as snow.

“Oh, you poor dears,” the drider said. “You look lost.”

“Lost? No,” Penny said, nodding down the road. “Just... waiting for the engine to return.”

“The engine? I take it to that... Well, if you like, I can take you wherever you need to go. It’s not safe to be in this town at... this... oh my. You’re a big man.”

“For you,” he said, and held out his hand. “I’m Francis.”

She took it, her hand so soft, yet her nails stuck, so precise, into his palm, into the muscles for his fingers, easing them even if he tried to squeeze.

“I’m Scarlette. You are quite the imposing figure, if I may say, but why place such a burden on you?”

“You’re right. Besides, I need my beauty nap for class.”

“Vereor Nox?”

“Where else?”

She tittered, and let him go. “True enough... Please. Climb in. We can talk more as we go. It’s still quite the ride.”

“Can’t say no to that... Cass?”

“Y-yes,” she said, and opened the door to the back of the land yacht... before nodding to the drider. “Thank you.”

“It’s the least I can do, dear. What’s your names?”

“O-oh, I’m C-C-Cassidy-”

“And, as you can hear, this has been a really successful date,” Francis grumbled, and pushed in ahead of her. Waste of my fucking time. The interior was as plush as the exterior, especially around the steering wheel... but... there was sort of a problem: there was no “seat” for it. Or pedals. Instead, there was a bit of a cushion on the ground before it, with a strange set of buttons along the underside of the wheel. The roof was covered in soft, brown carpet, while the rest had black. There was a passenger seat, which Penny took after a moment, and the back seat was one long bench, with the left side propped up with a bit of cushion. For some reason, there was a small window open beyond it –which turned out to be her web catcher as she climbed back into the driver’s seat. Her stinger pushed straight out it- and FINALLY Cassidy joined him. “Took you long enough.”

“Sorry,” she said, and giggled as she leaned against him. “Scarlette talked to me a moment.”

“And?”

“And...” She reached out... and poked his crotch. She giggled, then climbed on it, straddling his waist. She brushed his face, her breath so hot on it, and kissed him, moaning against his lips. His hands locked around her, holding her so tight as she did the same, pulling him into that kiss... At last, it was him that broke it, both of them panting, and she smiled down on him. “She told me what I needed to hear.”

“That’s good. That’s real g-”

She cut him off again, stealing his lips, his words. He wasn’t sure what the drider told her, nor did he care at the moment. He was up too long, dealt with enough crap; it was finally nice to have SOMETHING... and for her to stop shaking. Though it might not have been fair; he was shaking now.

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