With no class for either of them, Francis and Desiree played the night away with their most... gracious host. Francis had no want to return home anyways, and it seemed that the lamia (and harpy) were going to indulge in the time they had as long as they had it. So they played... and played... and cracked open a few packs (courtesy of Desiree), made “decks” out of those packs, and, yup, played some more. “Limited” the lamia called it. “Making a deck only out of a handful of packs”... Francis wasn’t sure if he liked it or not. On the one hand, it put his deck-building skills to the test, as well as his knowledge on the meta of that set and what were the bomb cards.
On the other, he knew his luck with opening packs.
When she wasn’t salivating, Beatrice looked close to boiling over with each card he played. After the sixth round with those “decks”, she had Wes bring down a fresh booster box and forced them to do a true draft instead of a limited pick. And she always made sure to go first. On every pack. Wouldn’t you know, she ended up with all the rares; how lucky is that? Shame that simply collecting the rares wasn’t enough to make a winning deck, but at least she kept her pride.
As Wes returned for the next day’s shift, the three finally parted. Much to Desiree’s disdain. Her tail was so stiff, its soft, almost plush tip unable (or unwilling) to unwrap from Francis. He would have complained, but her coils were so... cozy. Oh, he made sure to stand every few hours or so, but the last few had been so unbearable to think about that he... embraced those rings of soft flesh like a thick, velvet robe.
But they departed, and Francis lumbered his way upstairs to his apartment- HIS apartment. He stopped for a moment at the door, looked to the left, the right, making sure he went down the right pathway and was not too far down it. Even then, he wasn’t convinced. The door was cracked and there was a girl humming away inside. Far too happy; couldn’t have been Francine... but there wasn’t any other door that fit the description, not in his mind nor in reality. It even had the proper number plaque on the door... He huffed, and pushed it open.
“Honey, I’m home,” he called in, and passed by the kitchen, into the living room. Where that horrid humming emanated. It continued, too, even as he made his way to the bedr-
“And where have you been?” Francine said. She was laying on the couch, with not a strip of clothing on her. Her phone was on the coffee table while she had a gaming device hiding her visage –in truth, an improvement. What her hummings once covered Francis could hear the screams of people as fire and steel met flesh.
“Playing cards in The Chalice.”
“Oh, dear. That’s not good... I’ll have to discuss your cardboard crack addiction with Eve. Seems like a frivolous waste of the money she gave you.”
“Jokes on you. I haven’t spent more than a couple five’s down there. And that was with my money.”
She lowered the device enough for him to see her scowl.
“Don’t you have better things to do with your life? With your time?”
“I could ask the same.”
“And I would be able to answer, since I’m not a fucking pussy who deflects: No. I have to watch after your sorry ass.”
“Now that is sad. You have no greater aspirations than to be a pocket pussy? Then again, I guess that’s all that can really be expected of you green bimbos... I’ve been racking my brain, though, since we last spoke. Laury, Laury-”
“Her name was Loralei.”
“Right, it... I still can’t recall. Must’ve been no one important.” He yawned, giving her a dismissive way as he covered it. “Anyways, I’m gonna go take a nap. I have a date tonight, so you’ll be staying here, all by yourself, being useless and unwanted.”
“If it was with that manticore bitch, she already stopped by.”
“Jess? No. What did she want, though.”
“She wanted to know if you were home. I kept it pleasant, told her you didn’t want to be disturbed and not to trouble you anymore.”
“Uh-huh. Sure. And what did you really tell her?”
“... That is what I told her- before you get too ass-hurt, she laughed it off and told me to tell you to stop by her place whenever you get home. I told her I would tell you but not to get her hopes up.”
“Not bad advice. Always best to keep it to the minimum... but still... You pull that shit again, with anyone, and I don’t care what sort of punishment awaits. I’ll tear you limb from limb, crush your teeth in, bash your skull until you can only lick windows, and then use you as a true pocket pussy until you die. And that’s being merciful. If I wanted to be cruel, I’ll leave your senses and mind intact and have you go through the pains of childbirth, again and again AND AGAIN, and stomp the newborns, your babies, right in front of you into a very... very messy pulp.”
“Oh, I’m absolutely shaking. I think I pissed myself.”
“Better not. Otherwise, you’ll need to clean that couch.”
“Let me check, then... Nope. Didn’t piss myself but wet as hell. Don’t get the wrong idea; it gets off on hearing a bitch trying to bark. Right now, you are howling up a storm.”
“Let me go get a cactus, then. It’s the only item suitable for that cunt.”
“Please do. Maybe then I’ll actually feel it.”
“Not my fault you can fit an entire watermelon in there and still have leg room. Maybe you shouldn’t have fit the entire country of Bosnia in there.”
“Do you even know where Bosnia is?”
“Yeah. In your twat... I’m gonna go check on Jess now.”
“Aw, and we were about to hate-fuck, too.”
“Jokes on you, I already got you to moan. And I wasn’t going to touch you anyways.”
“You’re right. I was going to touch you.”
“Even then, I’d rather have Mordred’s metal knuckles on my wang. I’d rather fuck his visor and scrape it off than put it anywhere near that plague pot again.”
“If you say so.”
Francis scoffed, but was at least thankful she hid her face behind her device again. And that he wasn’t as tired as he was a moment ago. The fire in his chest warmed that stone that fell out of it, into the pit of his stomach. It only sank lower as he flung open the door to his apartment and charged across the pathway, passed the stairs, to the other side. He knocked on the door of 321, but didn’t wait even for the fourth rap to ring before he tried the handle.
Finding it unlocked.
“Oh no,” he grumbled, gulping down the bitterest of spit, thick with dread and despair. His mind already turned to the worst, hardening his stone heart for what awaited beyond. To say she raised a few red flags in the past was an understatement; the fact she gave so much... strength to their meeting, to turning her life around... Only to be told by a foul-mouthed little goblin he wanted her out of his life... The door was slow to swing in. It didn’t creak, but its glide had no help save for the soft press of the tips of his nails against.
It was dark inside. Not a single light was on in the apartment... He took a deep breath, smelling the pizza from the day before, still so heavy on the air. So much so that he could taste it. He held that taste, held the memory that came with it, the snarky, mischievous little minx that road his rod, that forced his wings to pull their weight... and, finally, ran his hand along the inside of the door, flipping on the lights for the living room.
“Jess?” Francis called in, stepping through the arch at last. He eased the door behind him but did not shut it, leaving it a crack. His fingers trailed along the walls, slipping into the kitchen as he passed, turning it on, as well. Thankfully, the pizza had been put away or finished, as the pans were now clean and in the left side of the sink. “The little gremlin at home said to come see you. Hopefully you didn’t pass out already.”
He received no reply, though. Even as his voice echoed through the rest of the apartment. The drachen pushed open the door to the water closet, flicking its light on as well, finding it vacant. The living room was, also, empty, but at least there was a sign she had been there at all: Her work blouse, a black blouse with a name tag attached, laid on the couch, along with a pair of black work pants. Neither of which were there the day before.
His steps turned to lead as he trudged to her bedroom... Maybe he was putting too much stock into what that bitch said. Did he really think the manticore that weak-willed, that thin-skinned, to believe such a bitter girl upon first meeting them. Then again, for all he knew, more was spoke –or less- and now the headache started to set in, dealing with a real life Schrodinger’s Cat. Until he opened her bedroom door, he had no way of knowing if she was alive... or dead.
Which all came down to that handle... He gave it a twist, and it was heavier than before. Almost stone as it scraped on its hinges and shuddered into the room... It was dark in there, as well, even with the dusk shining through the window across, through the drapes. Onto an empty bed.
The bathroom door opened, and soft heavy metal flowed out of it, stemming from the earbuds in the manticore’s ears as she stepped out, wrapped in a thick, orange towel. She started towards the chest of drawers at the foot of the bed before she caught sight of him outside her periphery. Her tail swung out- but stopped as she squeaked, halting its hard tip right before his neck.
“Oh. Sorry,” she said, retracting that tail as she sauntered over and flung her arms around his neck. Her earbuds hung off the back of her pointed ears, still blaring away. “You’re here sooner than expected. Haven’t had a nap yet?”
“No? Wait. Did you know I was at the card shop?”
“Well, yeah. You told me you love to hang out there, and often overdo it. Did you have fun?”
“In a moment... Did you talk to Francine?”
She scoffed, her paws kneading into his shoulders.
“Sadly. When does your other housekeeper come back? At least she’s better at pretending to care.”
“She’ll still stop by every so often, but that... thing... She’s my new permanent nanny.”
“‘Permanent’. That’s a cute way of saying three months... tops.”
“Nah. Sort of stuck with her. She’s the other’s granddaughter.”
“Granddaughter! She didn’t even look old enough to have a daughter, but has a granddaughter old enough to be around you-”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“It means that when the police arrive it’s not because you are a pedobear. Just a crazed killer who needed their fix.”
“So... what all did she say to y-”
“Sit down first.” She guided him to the bed and had him follow her... request, before doing so herself. Right onto his lap. The towel slid off as she did, showing that her fur was still rather matted, revealing the curves of all six of her breast against her pale skin. She purred, licking her lips, and nuzzled his chin with the top of her head. “There we go... Cuddles...”
“I should have known this was why you were looking for me... So, if you knew I was at The Chalice-”
“Hell no. I’m not stepping foot in that place. Not in Bea’s domain.”
“... I know I shouldn’t be surprised anymore, but you, also, knew Bea?”
“Well, yeah. I was a freshman when she was in her senior year. She’s scary for a bird. Like... T-rex scary.”
“Oh no. No no no... The T-rex was no bird-”
“They are technically-”
“No. Fuck off with that logic.”
“But there’s science-”
“No! I refuse to accept it... but I take it your time with Francine was just the most... pleasant.”
“Oh, it was. She was just the most charming person... Did you know she had the gall to try to advise me to stay away from you? Not even a minute into us talking and she was trying to tell me you were going to be the death of me... Uh, no, honey. Quite the opposite- scratch behind the ear- ah... thank you...”
Francis didn’t make it home for his nap. He passed out with her, holding her in his arms, the pair of them sawing logs together, if only for a bit. And it was only a bit. Jessica was up first, stirring him as well. It wasn’t fair in the last, though. She was a cat; a cat nap would be sufficient. Ever heard of a dragon nap? A dragon’s SLUMBER was known to last generations... but... it was the day. The third date with Cassidy... yet, after the incident with Jessica that morning, and meeting Sarah... He couldn’t feel excited.
He waited outside of The Chalice. Rather, he walked down with Jessica to her car and saw her off and didn’t see a reason to go back up so close to the time, so he stood there, leaning on the glass, still warning about raining men- oh. He just realized another sign was put up: Do not disturb the dragon. We are out of fair maidens to appease him.
Fair? Maybe... but I love me a dirty girl anyways, he thought, licking his lips- but was quick to retract his tongue as the door opened. Beatrice stepped out, arguing on the phone, fishing in her top for a pack of cigarettes. She managed to find the box, flicked it open, and pecked out one of those long death sticks before shoving it down between her feathered bosom again, fishing for another item.
Before stopping, freezing as the thinnest stream of flame passed before her, lighting her cancer stick. She was quick to recover, and, within an inhale, had the cherry nice and red and continued her debate. If Francis had to guess, it was with her distributor... or maybe one of her bulk buyers. The word “pallet” was being thrown around quite a bit. As was “shortage”.
“As I said, you either find me ten more or I will find another seller,” she finished, and groaned as she pocketed her phone. “Just not my week... Speaking of, you look like hell.”
“Thanks. It’s all the rage nowadays.”
“Still? It was always the fashion around midterms and finals. That should be coming up, shouldn’t it?”
“Supposedly. Hopefully I won’t go stormtrooper on that one.”
“What, answer every single one wrong?”
“The other kind of stormtrooper, with the flammenwerfer. Just like them, though, it came back and bit me in the ass.”
“Look on the bright side... At least you’re getting laid tonight.”
“That remains to be seen... and, really, after what happened earlier-”
“You mean at the store? Look, I know I acted a bit... immature there, but that wasn’t your fault. I’m just a bit on edge lately and-”
“Nah. It’s not you. It was my new... guest and a manticore.”
“Manti- oh... Jessie! How is she doing?”
“Okay. For the most part. Afraid to tread on your domain for some reason.”
“My domain? Ah... then the Black Lotus incident must have stuck.”
“Do I even want to know?”
“It’s not that big a deal now, since I have two full playsets, but, back then, well, I wasn’t exactly the most popular person. I tended to stay to myself. And my cards... and painting... Well, one of my prized possessions was a signed Black Lotus in near mint condition. I didn’t have it graded since I wanted to actually use the card and not have it be put away in a plastic container, but I did keep it double-sleeved.”
“Double? Why would you need to do that?”
“A lot of proud collectors do, and its to make a complete barrier for the card. A single sleeve often has at least one end opened and exposed to the elements. For normal use, it’s often more than enough, but for some of the more... pricey cards, they demand more TLC... Anyways, Jess was having a bad day. She had gotten into a fight with a naga over a guy -which the guy was a total puss by the way- and passed my table. In her... frustration, she didn’t realize her tail had been leaking. Just as I was putting away my brushes, looking away... a drop of her poison got on my card.”
“Ooh... How long?”
“Three seconds. Then another six for the table... I never screamed louder. I doubt even during sex I’ll scream as loud as that... I jumped her ass and beat her senseless, all while waving that burning, ruined card before her face. She was hospitalized for two days and I was in detention for a month. After that, though, she refused to look me in the eye.”
She pulled out her cig box and deposited the butt into it, sighing as a car pulled in.
“Looks like our time is up... a word of advice? Ruffle the feathers the other way down there. It’s... exhilarating.”
With that she slipped back inside, the bell jingling both for her departure and for Cassidy’s door. She was in a modest, pale blue dress that night, with little, spaghetti-string ties on the sides, with her talons capped with silver, reflecting... and showing she wore no panties under. She didn’t need make-up, her face already aglow, her eyes gleaming with tears, all the while her entirety seemed to vibrate.
“H-hey,” she said, her voice already cracking. She cleared her throat, and it seemed to dull her shakes as she approached him, taking his arm. “Already r-ready I see... D-d-dad wants to see you before we head out t-tonight. Mom, too.”
“Sounds great. What else is on the schedule, aside hard and rigorous sex?”
“W-w-what! W-who s... Dinner. We are having d-dinner. Then-”
“Mini golf? Please tell me mini golf.”
“I... is that euphemi-”
“No. I mean literal mini golf. Putting tiny balls into holes on a miniature scale.”
“O-oh... Sounds... Where would we even find such a place?”
“The mall? You want to go to the mall?”
“Sure. If it’s mini golf. NO CLOTHES SHOPPING, THOUGH.”
“Really? But I would have loved to model some things for you.”
“Okay, no clothes shopping for me.”
She tittered, and kissed his cheek, still clinging to his arm.
“Okay... We’ll consider it after meeting with mother and father... Francis?”
She opened her mouth, ready to ask... but shook her head, guiding him to the back of the car again. The door still stood open, the driver inside on his phone, humming... cut short as they clambered in and closed the door.
“That was fast,” he muttered, putting the car in reverse.
“Well, yeah, I was standing right there,” Francis said, gesturing to The Chalice.
Beatrice still standing at the door.
She gave him a two-fingered salute, and a smile... a small, sad smile as the car drifted away... And, for some reason, he felt a bit of... regret leaving her there like that.