Red Dragon

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Deliverance

Francis never ran faster before. There was one time in Philly that came close, but the trash in the back alleys hampered him. There, in Paradise? He could go his full gait, and take it all in stride without worry. Why he needed anyone to take him to school was truly a wonder since it took him only thirty-seven steps to cross the entire city back to the apartment.

Getting back, though. That’s when it was fun, and it had been even longer since he ran across rooftops. The problem came when he reached the end of the apartments and the next structure wasn’t for another hundred yards. Easily. His fins carried him a bit of distance, slowed his fall enough for him to hit the ground running, but would it have killed his mom to pass along a full set of wings? Those things were a freakin’ embarrassment.

By the time he flung open the doors and took his seat, his stomach growled up a storm. And Bridget was mostly done with her meal. She ordered a serving of cheese sticks when he was gone, four still remaining. If the grease on the paper they were served on was to be believed, there were eight at the start- none as he feasted. At last.

The witch giggled, cutting a piece of her chicken as his plate clattered and screeched under his onslaught. She waved that reddened, seared bird his way, unseen behind the monolith that was the cheeseburger.

“You must be hungry,” she said, and bit into the fowl, mumbling her words as she continued. “Did you remember your wallet?”

He reached down into his sweats and slapped the little square onto the table, diving into the burger again. It could have been literal shit at that moment and he would have been downing it. The fact it was a Godsend, though, made him weep for the sandwich he now partook. It deserved far more, a more dignified fate than to be wolfed down, as if he were some kind of animal!

It only really dawned on him as he was down to the last quarter of the second half. He tore through it as if it were nothing, as if it was but another fast food throwaway. Somebody had to spend time to make this burger. Somebody had to put true craft into it, for it to be cooked complete as it was and still have so much flavor at its size... but, it was over, and he didn’t need to worry anymore. The fries were sweet but had a nice salt coat, balancing it out, and the shells and cheese were gone before he could even breathe.

He settled back into the booth, patting his belly. He wiped his mouth with several napkins, balled in his palm, soaking up the grease that had coated it in his massacre. Bridget, meanwhile, was still nursing her chicken. At least her sides were gone. Francis pulled out his phone, and saw that Desiree took the witch’s advice. There were only five new photos... and an actual text.

Hey... Are you mad at me?

No. Why? He sent.

You haven’t said anything back. Are you still enjoying the photos? ;)

I am, though they are getting lazy. Starting to look like repeats. Not complaining.

I can send you pictures of something else to spice things up? ;D

He rolled his eyes- but she sent another text before he could even respond.

It’ll cost you, though.

Oh? What?

You’ll have to go on a date with me. That’ll pay back for the phone, too. Sunday good for you?

No. I have a date with Cass that day.

>:( But you already went out with her once. You should give new people a chance before rotating back.

Honestly, I can’t argue with that, he thought... but also didn’t want her to have any ground with that argument.

Are you telling me who I should and shouldn’t date?

What? No!

Then you need to calm your snake tits! She already approached and asked, I said yes. End of story... for this weekend. Next weekend is a different story.

Ooh... :3 That’ll be near Halloween.

Still one week after but yeah.

We could make it a spooky movie marathon. Go out to eat at the diner first. I’m here with Bridget at the moment and the burgers are the bomb!

O_O YOU’RE OUT WITH BRIDGET?! RIGHT NOW! X-x I THOUGHT YOU WERE PLAYING CARDS WITH BEA. THAT’S WHAT SHE TOLD ME WHEN I TRIED TO REACH HER.

You tried to reach Bea? Why?

She didn’t send an answer after that. Which was fine as Bridget sighed. The witch still had half her chicken left, but she already gave up. She pushed the plate away, patting her stomach, and yawned. Turned into a burp. A politely loud one.

“Oops,” she said, blushing a little as she cleared her throat. “Excuse me... I take it Des wasn’t happy about you telling her you were with me?”

“How did you know?”

“You looked at me in the middle of a text. A subconscious clue.”

“It was barely a glance, not even worth noting. Damn, you’re good.”

She tittered, reaching into the pocket of her jacket, and pulled out her wallet.

“I have to be as a teacher. Especially with Fangs.” Mom approached again, holding two separate checks. “It was delicious. Thank you.”

“That old fart still has some talent,” she said, cackling as she took Bridget’s card and Francis’ cash –which, for the amount of food he got, $12 was a steal. FAR better than at that “Italian” restaurant; he didn’t even need to pay that night but if he had known it would cost THAT much he would have simply went to the Golden Arches.

Bridget stood, and offered her hand to Francis, taking it as they both started towards the door. They were slow about it, lingering, waiting for Mom to ring them both up. It was done, though. The hag handed them their receipts, as well as Bridget her card, and they welcomed the bright sunshine of early morning. It was well past both of their bedtimes, and it showed with how slow they marched on. Especially Bridget. She seemed to ebb between this world and the next, coasting on his arm, nuzzled up against it.

Francis needed to wake her up at his door. She mumbled, grumbled as she pressed harder, clinging dearly to his arm- before she gasped. Her eyes shot open, and she looked around... settling as she looked up at Francis.

“O-oh,” she said. “We’re here... Thank you for coming with me, Francis.”

“It’s no big. I got food out of it.”

“That you did... You know, I was quite comfortable on your arm. It has a bit of give to it that I didn’t expect, given the bony extras under. That and the muscle... I’m half tempted to ask if I can stay the night.”

“Only half?”

She tittered, squeezing his arm. “Okay. Far more... but I think I should part here. I’ll be bothering you in the morning for coffee and probably nagging your ear off in the evening. I want you to have some breathing room... Again, though. I really appreciate it.”

“No big.” She let go, and stretched as she yawned again. He poked her forehead, making her squeak and lock her feet, and he chortled. “You sure you’re going to be okay, though? Do you think you can make it to your apartment?”

“I should be fine... Until later, Francis.”

Bridget took her leave, but Francis didn’t stick around to watch. She was a big girl. She didn’t need him. She’ll do fine... just... ignore that clang and curse. Which he did. He yawned as well as he lumbered into his apartment, ready to take a nice, long, well-deserved-

But of course.

No sooner than the door closed than a knock came to it. A hard knock at that; just like his life. He groaned, almost a growl as he wheeled about, returning to that blockade. He didn’t even bother to look through the hole; whoever it was will simply have to deal with him bumbling over a few-

It was the drider from the other day- week... It had been a week. A wonderful, fleeting, lazy week. She wore a bright blue dress this morning, with a large, daisy yellow hat and shockingly pink sunglasses. She smiled at him, and offered her hand.

“Hello,” she said. “It’s been a while.”

“Not that long,” he said, shaking her hand... then his head. “What are you doing here?”

“I simply wanted to check up on you. We didn’t exactly meet at your best.”

“It wasn’t? I had a ball- oh, but I do need to thank you. Your advice to Cass? Saved it from being a complete train wreck of a waste of time. Instead, it was just a glorious complete train wreck.”

She tittered, and raised his hand to her lips. Her fangs flashed as she gave it the smallest of kisses, right in between the thumb and index, before lowering and letting it go.

“Might I come in –only for a moment. I know my timing is a bit strange. And irksome. You’ve only gotten out of the Academy and are wanting to go to bed-”

“You’re right on that last part. I’m wanting to go to bed, but not because of the Academy. Kind of hard to be since I’m suspended until next Monday.”

“Suspended? You? How? You seem like... well, like a darling.”

“I can be as long as no one messes with me. Somebody did, though.” He gestured her in, and her spindly legs made quick work passing through. It was as if she was a shadow, as if she wasn’t truly there- save for her abdomen. It took the breath out of him as it bumped against, and he could feel just how hard those glassy black chitin plates were. He rubbed his chest, and followed her into the living room. And saw that she was staring at it. In awe? “What?”

“O-oh. Nothing. It’s... It’s like it never changed.”

“You were in this apartment before?”

“Quite a few times, actually.” Her legs stretched up to the ceiling, turning her enough to step over onto the other side of the couch, then she listed off to the left, sitting in the one there. She laid backwards on it, her legs curled up against her abdomen, watching as he took the couch she walked over. “So how have you been?”

“Better, but my worst days are far behind me.”

“You sound so confident about that.”

“Because I know... Anything is a step up from the life I used to live.” He yawned, and spread his arms over the couch, as well as spread his legs. His jaw cracked as he snapped it shut, grinning at her. “What about you? Out for another ride?”

“I was... In truth, I was sitting down in the parking lot, wondering if I should simply leave. That’s when I saw you and that witch stumble by.” She scoffed, and waggled a finger at him. “It’s not my place to say, but I think you should be careful around her.”

“Oh, you’re not the first one that crossed that line, but I’m not one to turn down advice when given. Instead, I ask... why? What’s your story with her? While you’re at it, why don’t you give me the rundown on this apartment since it seems your nostalgic.”

“You are quite astute.”

“Why yes. I know I’m quite the stud, but giving me a compliment isn’t a good look.”

“No no. Not a... Well, my reason for the witch is a part of why I’m nostalgic... and sorrowful of this apartment.” She sighed, a wistful thing, and looked to the TV. “A man lived here once. A wonderful, strong, witty... handsome... loving man. I love him- loved him... But he was confused. And afraid. Due to events in his life out of his control, he was always afraid of commitment. It ate at him, tore at his soul... and it was only made worse by the women at the Academy.”

She looked back at Francis- no. That would mean she was paying him any attention. Instead, it seemed her eyes locked on the phantasms that cloaked him. And they angered her. They despised her, treated her like filth, laced through that glare.

“The witches, thirsty as they are amoral. They were the first to infect his mind. Bridget, especially. Lola might have earned her way into being a porn buddy while Tanya- you met Tanya, correct?”

“Somewhat? She seemed rather... bitchy. At least around Penny. Other than that, she seemed... quiet? Listless? Almost lackadaisical?”

“You know lackadaisical but not astute?”

“Nope, but it sounded like something that fit. I heard it on a cartoon once.”

“It’s an apt description, though. It has to deal with how her magic works- but that’s not important. What is... was that those three connived to lock him under a spell. They even turned against each other during it, and they weren’t the only ones, either. Victoria and her wolf pack-”

“Wait. What? Victoria’s wolf pack? I thought Mandy was the alpha.”

“Ah. Then they actually did clone them-”

“They’re fucking clones? Jesus! How many clones are running around that fucking school?”

“Regardless... The wolf pack at the time, they destroyed that door and tried to rape him the first day he was here. If it wasn’t for Isiah, they would have Marked him there and then... The more I think about it, the more I realize how fortuitous he truly was. He is so... so lucky.” She sighed again, and laid her head back, resting her hand over her face. “We met in class. He was so... innocent at the time... It was like he didn’t know anything, that he didn’t know my family... or that he didn’t care. He didn’t care who my family was or if I was a drider –at the time.”

“I take it things didn’t stay that smooth.”

“They did, though... Until...”

“Until?”

The drider sighed, and rolled out onto the floor. She stretched to the ceiling, yawning, then turned around, her smile replacing that ugly scowl.

“I’m afraid that’s all you’ll get out of me for now,” she stated, winking at him. “A lady can’t give away all her secrets, can she? If you like, if you have a cellphone, we could talk more. I wouldn’t mind reminiscing those days, or be back here, where it all began.”

“Sure.” He handed her his phone, and it soon buzzed as she shot it a message.

“Just save me as Scar.” She stated, handing it back. “Once again, I’m sorry to intrude.”

“I have nowhere to be tomorrow. I can sleep in... Just... tell me: What happened? What drove a wedge between you, too?”

“That’s... a bit complicated... I can give a who, though: Lilith.”

“Of fucking course. It always goes back to that bitch.”

The drider smiled, and took his hand again, kissing it.

“We have much alike, then... Ta ta for now.”

She scuttled off, and the door closed... He sat there, listening, as still as a stone. He simply waited, counting down the minutes on his phone, five in total... before he took a deep breath, let it go, and stood-

“Called it!” He boomed, stomping to the door. “Fucking called it... WHAT!”

He boomed as he threw open the door. Fire frothed from his mouth, growling... feeling sick as he realized it was Dixie. Tears welled in her eyes, full of fright, and he could see that she was shaking from head to toe- and she wet herself, ruining her brown culottes. His heart sunk more as he saw the object in her right hand, realizing why she was there.

“Dix,” he began, reaching out, and winced as she cowered under his hand... pulling it back. “Sorry. It’s... it’s been a morning.”

“I-it’s m-m-my fault,” she stuttered out, and, though it shook something fierce, managed to raise her arm. He could hear it ratcheting, the force behind it, to be able to stand up to him, the storm bearing down so great. “T-t-the w-w-w-waitress a-asked me t-t-to bring this to y-you- I’m sorry. I shouldhavejusttoldherIdidn’tknowyouANDBEENONMY-”

“Dix!” He boomed, and grabbed her shoulders- making her scream. She shrieked, squealed, writhed in his grasp.

“Don’t kill me! I’m sorry! Please don’t kill me! Please! I’ll n-never bother you again, just DON’T KILL ME!”

Tears, thick, greasy things ran down her cheeks. More piss dribbled down her leg, forming a puddle under her, all the while she writhed and cut and brought blood herself under his claws, trying to keep her steady. The way she twisted, the way she tried to contort; if he wasn’t holding her, she would have broken her back. And it was all because he was holding her, because he was trying to calm her. Because... BECAUSE-

“Is that what you truly think of me?” He muttered, his growl returning, silencing her pleas. She went still, her eyes as wide as dinner plates, reflecting his terrible visage, mirroring that... THAT- “Monster! You think I’m a monster, don’t you? DON’T YOU!”

She whimpered, ducking her head, and seemed to try to scrunch herself up in a ball, still locked in his grip.

“Please,” she whispered, so faint... so... hopeless. “I didn’t mean anything by it... please.”

He scoffed... but shook her, hard. He forced her to look him in the eyes again... and to see the tears in them.

“Why would I hurt a sweet girl like you?” He said, and wiped her cheek. “I thought we got along.”

“Y...you did?”

“Sure... Hell, I thought I fucked up when I scared you off, but, here you are, trying to do me a solid... I’m sorry for how I acted. It’s been one of those days, people catching me at the worst times... and about scaring you that day.”

“I... it’s okay... You really thought I was s-sweet?”

“You ARE sweet. Hell, I was being honest that day. If I had it my way, I would have had you squealing by the end of the night. You are one fine ass woman.”

She still stared him in the eyes, but the terror, the fear was gone. Instead, there was that glimmer from the first time they met, and the heat in her cheeks. He could feel her entirety relaxing under his claws, eased up against her soft, pink flesh, rubbing them, soothing away the pain as best he could.

Her eyes went wide, and she gasped, pulling away. She snorted and shuffled- crying as she slid a bit on her own puddle- before crying out again and running away.

Francis huffed, and leaned back against his doorway, shaking his head as he looked after... before the hairs on his napes perked up. He looked back, and saw a glimpse of eyes before they disappeared back behind a door, slammed shut. Well... looks like he just made three friendships that morning, two that simply needed mended.

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