Though that cabin in his craw was a right nuisance, there was no way on this plane of existence that he was turning away pizza. It would simply have to endure the dredge or collapse for the oncoming wave of breakfast delight. He really did outdo himself, but it was pizza. So long as it had sauce, toppings, and cheese, there was no way he could screw it up- not true... He could have added grapes.
The drachen managed to get, and keep, down four slices before his “arms” gave out. He held to the bitter end, though, descended her to the ground, but the last inch they buckled and she hit the floor. Even then, though, she refused to get up. She rolled on those leathery folds, on those crackling “fingers”, trilling and purring and growling and grumbling as he finally rolled them up enough for her to slip in between. She stood, straightening his shirt across her (still perky) breasts... and gave him a kiss on the cheek before taking another slice of pizza.
“You really going to make those two wait? So inconsiderate,” the manticore said, waggling a finger at him then to his shirt. “I’ll be keeping these and your pants for your next visit, so you best be good at running in the buff.”
“I mean, I am. This won’t be the first time,” he said, hissing and groaning as he tried to furl his wings back against him... failing. They were too weary to even close let alone raise. The most he could do was close the tips in, making it look like he had two giant drills on his back- not even on his back; they rested off to the sides, giving him strange, oblong “hips”. “I always thought having wings would be cool... They are, but this is annoying as hell.”
“Don’t fret. You’ll ‘grow’ into them. You can’t expect them to be amazing right off the bat.”
“Yeah I can! Have you met me?”
“Oh, I have. I have... Which I think I know a perfect strength training for them. How about it? Three times a week, four when you get REALLY good at it?”
“And how many ‘sets’ per?”
“Right now I’m good for one at a time... but, who knows, maybe I’ll push you upwards of five- yeah yeah! He’s coming. Hold onto your panties.”
“Why don’t you put a pair on?” Penny exclaimed.
“Well, that’s just rude. And misinform-”
“You think I’m deaf? You were talking with Joanne outside my class about jumping him. ‘If he makes it out of this, I’m gonna rock his world’.” The door clicked open, and she stomped in... shaking her head at the two of them. And the pizza. “You made this and didn’t bother to invite me in? Shamful.”
“How did you get in? The door was locked.”
“No it wasn’t.” She entered the kitchen, careful to work her laced sandals around the mess, and grabbed a slice. She bit into it, as she gave Francis the evil eye. “Why do you never cook for me?”
“Because it was the deal,” Francis muttered, smacking Jessica’s bum and making her yip. “I would cook for her if she fucked me.”
“It was more I would fuck him for a meal,” Jessica said, grabbing his ass as she growled and nipped at his neck. “Slight difference, but enough of one. And he’s trying for a second meal.”
“Yeah, no. I’m not that desperate,” Penny said, finishing off her first slice before munching into the next. “It is good, though. Nicole’s teaching you w-”
“Nicole did not teach me this,” Francis clarified. “Lunchables did. Anyways, let me go get some clothes- wait. Is Bridget waiting at my place?”
“No... She went back to hers. For the moment. She looked visibly upset when I made that crack about you being in Jess... Seriously. She knows you guys aren’t a couple yet right- and, even then, there are a dozen other guys.”
“Yes, well, a twink, a power-hungry twink Fanger, a bucket of jelly, an obese horse, a lizard, a gay furry, and a hulk of armor aren’t exactly as enticing,” Jessica stated. “Trust me, the girls tried with the gay fox, thinking a good V can change his mind.”
“That’s... not how it works,” Francis said.
“I didn’t say I agreed, but they’re trying.”
“I’m simply glad so many stopped going after Johnny,” Penny said, rubbing her head. “That first year he was here... Hoo, man.”
“He had his pick, huh?” Francis said.
“And then some... Course, Lilith was his mate but he was completely clueless to that or what he was. A lot of us were told to distance ourselves and keep it... ‘normal’. He didn’t even know about the cafeteria, for crying out loud... The witches, though. They didn’t follow orders. They tried so hard to weasel in. ESPECIALLY Bridget, but I bet she didn’t tell you that.”
“Oh, she did. She told me she tried barking up that tree, but Lilith ‘won’ in the end... though... I’m curious. Did she?”
“He’s married to her. You tell me.”
His thoughts drifted back to the tale the drider told him, to how Johnny truly loved her and how Lilith used her Ways to make him forget... But... it was best he kept it to himself. It was a wonder the pair didn’t catch on yet, but every other time it was in his mind he was either dead tired or close to it. Besides, it wasn’t that important... right?
As much as he would have loved to stand there naked in between two wonderful women, he finally found the strength to close his wings. He pushed his way passed, making sure not to stain Plank’s outfit with his junk of course, and hurried to his place. He didn’t care which shirt he threw on, but knew he was due for a pair of blue jeans. He needed to break in at least one pair... him and those denim prisons? They don’t get along, even worse than slacks. Even as he pulled them up, he could feel the material starting to tear against his skin. He didn’t have “scales”, but his skin was always so dry that he might as well have a full layer of them.
He clasped the button, though forgone the zipper, and turned around to face the door to his bedroom.
Meeting Tina there.
“Jesus!” He barked, gripping his chest, clawing gently at the soft, red polo shirt. “Wear a bell or something.”
“Just wanted to check in on you. Make sure my brother didn’t rough you up too much. Not even a bruise,” she said, and stepped forward. She reached out, over his shoulder, and touched his wings. “Truly fascinating... Fascinating, yet depressing.”
“Well, you can’t put them -or these- away anymore, can you? You can’t hide what you truly are... Not anymore. You will never be able to return to normal society... Again, fascinating but depressing.”
“Wow. Didn’t think of it like that before, but yeah. Sort of is... if I gave a shit.”
She huffed, smiling. “True enough, I suppose... Still. You sure you can’t put them away?”
“Oh. Yeah. Let me tell you. I’ll just shove two six-foot limbs into my back again with their folds, and squeeze in another set of arms into my arms.”
“A full-blooded Grand Dragon can. Even Drakes can stow their folds away... but you, a half blood-”
“Rather, the question is why would I. They look amazing!” He fanned them out, but winced. They were still on the sore side, and even then he could barely open them more than half their majestic lengths. “Oh, ow-”
“Are you okay?”
“Yeah. Just... They had one helluva workout this morning.”
“Already trying to fly with them? It’ll take weeks before they can handle your weight for more than five minutes, and that’s a foot off the ground.”
“And how do you know that!”
She pulled out her phone. “I did some research.”
“... Okay, why?”
“I was curious... Don’t get the wrong impression. You are a curiosity, after all, and I wanted to check to see if there were other recorded cases. As far as I could tell, there were only three other half-breeds in the last two centuries, which the one prior to you was in 1903. In Austria... I needed to... Let’s say I’m on SEVERAL watchlists right now, but I found one Doctor Traub’s medical journals and his... experience with “Drachen Herr Sweitz”... Which is where the term drachen came for all half-breeds. Kind of funny, if you think about it. Drachen simply means dragon in German.” She huffed, putting her phone away, and rolled her wrist to him. “Anyways, he found out that their wings take at least four decades to sprout fully, and even after that take weeks of strength training to acclimate. They did flight trials soon after, but it would only last a few minutes at a time. It took a year before he could spend an hour in the air, but hit speeds up to mach three.”
“Huh- wait. Four decades? As in forty years... I think I’m a bit short on that.”
“That’s because of me,” Bridget said, pushing passed Tina. “I’ve been working on a recipe during the latter portion of the day that would aid you... I knew how much it irked you, and I presumed it would bring you pain.”
“She’s not wrong,” Tina said. “In the journal, Herr Sweitz was known to ‘go into fits of rage’ due to the sheer pain in his back. What was found out, though, was that the smallest pressure on the back would render him incapacitated during.”
“Which makes sense. That’s a lot of extra pressure to have on the back,” Bridget said, touching his wing. “But the end result... is truly marvelous... Are you ready, Francis?”
“Yes. Please. I’m trying to sleep here,” Nicole grumbled from the bed. Making Francis jump.
“How long have you been here?”
“The entire time... Again, yer lack of mention-”
“This wasn’t my fault this time. I passed out in the wrong apartment... Anyways, I’m ready I’ll ever be... but... Tina, what happened to him?”
“They rendered him unconscious, dismembered his body, and put his heart in a jar of formaldehyde... which, if the journal is to be believed, ‘Still beat even in its new vessel’... Really, it’s hard to believe the latter half due to how close it was before Operation Paperclip and the cocktail of drugs the Party was given to keep working, but, if that’s the case-”
“Francis doesn’t need to worry,” Bridget interjected, squeezing his arm... both of them. Rather his wing and his actual arm, holding them around her. “This is America, after all.”
“That’s not very comforting,” Francis muttered, and chortled to himself since the other two didn’t seem to find the comparison humorous. He was lead out by the redheaded witch- where he was taken by the wizard- then passed to harpies at the entrance- intercepted by a centaur and her adopted orc sister- finally saved by a fox and a knight in shining armor. All the while an audience watched, just as lost at him at how his life became a game of hot potato. How could he even focus on his test?
Very easily. Again. In fact, it was easier than the first time- which made him worry. He was already fuming after the third question, but, considering the first test, he started to scrutinize the answers more, started to question himself more- pondered if he may have been wrong- no! He wasn’t wrong! The test was! How it was worded was!!! And every question only got easier!
What should have only taken him fifteen minutes he stretched out to the lunch break, and he was still only on question twelve. Of twenty. The others -yes, even Lucas- already were done and gone for the day, but no. Not him. The only reason he broke for lunch at all was because Johnny insisted, but he didn’t know where to go. The school seemed like a ghost town.
Jessica mentioned that tests were tomorrow for most, but, as he strolled down the hall to the cafeteria, as he opened the doors inside, he wondered how many attended review. Penny and Bridget didn’t even bother to come check on him, probably already believing he finished his test and went home, and Ezra was probably with Dixie, tutoring in the library in the old building across the lake. So... he was all alone. Save for the workers, of course –which, even then, there were only two on standby. A scant skeleton crew compared to the ten of any other day.
The grounds below the balcony were even clear. Aside the school of Mermaids that made their “home” in the lake, there wasn’t a sign of another living soul... Perfect. It had been far too long since he was actually left alone with his thoughts, and now he could have a proper date with them. First off, what was he thinking of dating a harpy? They were family-oriented, almost worse than a certain red-haired witch, and, once they get a taste, they won’t leave him be- which let us focus on the fact that he fucked a cat. A manticore, but still. An over-sized cat with extra parts attached. What were cats known for? Being incredibly jealous, needy, and destructive. He was still in his post-climax euphoria, but he really should have considered what she was actually saying. She was going to be jealous. She was going to stalk him, and, if he did something to upset her, destroy whatever was in the way... which she now knew what the harpy was planning to do, and, last he checked, cats weren’t nice to birds.
Or what about Tina, the sister of the Fang who was disgraced, a black eye for the ruling Matriarch of that region. Was it only interest she was looking him up, or was she tasked to do so by her mother, to try to bring him down. There was no way in Hell a person of that stature would let his action against her family go unpunished, since it was essentially a purge of her bloodline. Her whole attitude was... different. Even the day before she was different, more open to his advances. She didn’t struggle at all in his clutches; in fact, she seemed to enjoy it! That wasn’t the Fang he knew... No... it’s not adding up. She’s definitely up to something.
Then what about Ezra, Ben, and their psycho mother? Did she give up on that? Given Ezra’s statements, she doesn’t seem the type... and, given her actions when it came to her brother, any action against family would be swift. And just. Meanwhile, Ezra seemed more than happy to side with him against her own mother while Ben had been silent on the whole thing- and there was the whole Desiree debacle. A cat, a bird, and a snake, all honing in on the same date- Destiny. Who was she? That question had become so much harder to answer now with his own fandom behind him. He was no longer an enemy to all. He was no longer the pariah, which meant it was easier for his stalker to blend in and get close without him ever knowing.
That bastard Tyson succeeded in one thing. He made his life that much harder... and it was only going to get harder come next week. When he worked under Beatrice... Sure, she assured him it wouldn’t be the hardest work, but she was as shrewd as she was beautiful. And she was beautiful, a goddess among harpies. There was no doubt in his min she would try something.
Then there was Thanksgiving, and spending time with Eve... and Nicole... He needed to bring someone with him, anyone, if only to act as a meat-shield. There was no doubt in his mind that, given how much he has “avoided” her, she would make him pay. And pay dearly... He didn’t want to go home today. Or tomorrow- or Sunday- ever. He did not want to go home... but he needed to. It was better to bite the bullet then than later, but... even then... the bullet was easily going to be a tank shell.
“Eh. If I can handle the fucking Fangers, I can handle her,” he said, taking a drink... but didn’t feel certain even then. It was meant to bolster his confidence, strengthen, harden him, but it only seemed to break the shell, the mottled exterior that had shielded him from those thoughts for so long, now allowed to roll across his form and chill him. He cleared his throat, and looked at the plastic cup, turning it over. “I can do it.”
“Can do what?” Sarah said beside, making him jump. She had a glass of wine, along with a keg of it sitting beside her... Yes. A keg. No, not one of those small, flimsy, wooden ones but a large steel drum. It dwarfed her... At least, in her current state. The dark red liquid gleamed like a thousand rubies as she tipped that glass to her lips, drinking half of it before she actually gulped, finishing it off before she reached down and refilled it, all the while beaming at him. “That was quite the yip.”
“Yes it was. Again, bells. You girls need them,” he groaned, setting his cup down- which she took and filled it, handing it back. “Oh. Thanks, but I’m not done with my test.”
“We both know that little bit won’t affect you... So... how have things been?”
“Like you don’t know.”
“A bit presumptuous, but you’re not wrong.”
“I mean, it’s kind of hard not to miss.” He fluttered his wings as he drank from his cup... handing it back. Emptied. “That’s some good shit, though I guess I should have expected that. Grand Dragons only have the best tastes.”
“You’re not wrong, but I’m actually different from my Family. The others prefer Bolshevik preserves while I prefer more... modern takes of wine from Crimea. This, though, is a cask from Italy. A sweet red... I thought it best to... celebrate your coming of age. Far sooner than even I expected-”
“Yes, well, it was one helluva growth spurt.” He gulped down that glass too, going down far too smooth, and she took to fill a- “No. No. I shouldn’t.”
“Go on. I insist-”
“Which is why I shouldn’t... What are you doing here? Truly?”
Sarah huffed, and rose her glass to her lips. She drank it, slow, letting it trickle in as she kept her gaze locked on his, let him see himself reflected in those deep pools of amber, glittering with an eerie light. The dragon gulped down the first half, then set it back down, still smiling at him.
“You know why,” she said, and waved back to the Academy. “This place... these people... Do you really think you’ll ever belong here?”
“Not really, no. I think this is a massive waste of time-”
“Because it is. You might only be a half-blood, but you still have the blood of the Grand Dragons within you. There is no ‘fitting in’ when you are above them. There is no belonging for a god among ants... and, no matter how much they try, they cannot brainwash you. They cannot remove your true birthright... The fact you would lay with them is enough of a sin, but that is not my place to criticize. After all, you were conceived from such a folly, but that doesn’t mean you need to continue that tradition.”
She filled her glass again, and held it up to Francis.
“I’m not pushing you, but I am extending the offer. Once your wings have matured, I wish for you to join me. Together, we can return to our kind and you can be amongst your own. And you will be truly happy.”
“Tempting, but I’m more than happy to give you my answer now.”
“Yeah: Hell. Fucking. No... I mean... what part of you thought I would agree to that? Even the slightest bit! Yes, everyone may be ‘beneath’ me. I may be a ‘god’... but isn’t that more reason for me to stay? If I KNOW I’m above everyone, KNOW I am superior to them, why the hell would I leave that to be just... another somebody- no, less than that. In your own fucking little clique, I would be considered the lesser BECAUSE I am a half-blood... Why would I give this up to be treated as you treat others?”
“I can assure you that wouldn’t be treated as a lesser. Far from it.” She sighed, though, and stood. “I know it seems I’m being rather tactless about this, but there’s a reason I’m being so blunt. The time will come when you see it yourself. What was once fear and hatred, now turned respect and adoration, will turn to envy and opportunity... I am trying to save you, but I should know better. History repeats itself... Until we meet again, Francis.”
“Yeah, and MAYBE NEXT TIME YOU’LL HAVE SOMETHING INTERESTING TO TALK ABOUT!” He screamed after, watching that silver cask gleam like a falling star through the night sky... The drachen huffed, and tipped back that last cup of wine before returning to Johnny’s classroom, finishing up the test at last. And preparing for the trial at home.