The first day of holiday. A whole week away from (almost) everyone, and (almost) everything. He had no idea when Eve would be there to pick him up to whisk him away, if it would be that day or the day prior or day of, but the simple fact that he didn’t need to wake up with his alarm, that he didn’t need to be hurried out the door, whether by an angry wizard, a horny witch, or anything in between, meant that he didn’t sleep worth a crap. Oh, he tried to sleep in. He tried to push beyond the alarm, but his body felt as though that he was putting himself in danger when, in truth, his body was putting itself in danger for denying him rest.
No use threatening it, though. That would only entice it more. Bad enough that a certain part was more than happy and ready to be beaten, but he doubted there was anyone available that week. Jessica no doubt picked up extra shifts. Nobody wanted to work holidays, so that meant easy money in the bank, as well as hours to spend elsewhere. Maybe during Christmas when she had all that money to spend and share. As Dixie explained, Ezra was gone, but even then both girls were in a nasty Catch-22 with each other that meant he wasn’t getting in either one. The wolves were already back if his fuzzy memory of the night before was anything to go by. Because of course Lilith would waste no time expediting their “resurrection”. Bridget could help, but as of late he wanted to wean her off. She was already clingy, but he didn’t need that sort of attachment this close to the holidays. That’s exactly what she wanted.
And then there was the matter of Destiny and how she continued to plague him. Even without the phone… As he joked before, it must have been a remnant, but, if it was, shouldn’t it have been dissipated after the “aftershock”? Instead, that second time it was even stronger. How do Shade’s shade’s shades work? What sustained them- but that was dancing around the true elephant in the room. Rather, the harpy.
He groaned, holding his stomach as he bent over on that porcelain throne. Even after all the tufts he removed, after trying to pick through their carcasses as well as he could, there was still a lot of fur left over. Even when they were mid-transformation they had a thick down of the stuff, and now he was paying for it. Though the question was which was now worse: four lycans, or one good evening at the bar? As he pushed out hairball after bloody hairball… it was up in the air.
Just like Cassidy’s innocence.
Yesterday, he was certain there was no way. She would never go to that length… However, after his experience with Dixie, seeing how she refused her own feelings, fought against her own drunken lust… If she could go against her instincts, what was stopping Cassidy? In fact, Cassidy was in an even stronger position. They fucked. A lot. She had him pretty much marked… and then this lamia decided to try and muscle in, got in her face, gave her a blemish on her pristine record? Not only that, it was over her mark, her lover. He had seen just how conniving she could be, how ruthless she was towards those she deemed a nuisance, so what about one considered a threat?
No… he let things go too far. It was as Johnny warned. Cassidy hit the Point… and, with each pained, miserable grunt then plop, it cemented that fact. He was the reason she was dead. He was the reason that harpy flipped her lid… but that doesn’t mean he couldn’t save her… He’ll probably wait until after the holidays, though, if Eve does end up signing his death warrant and forcing him on a nice, one-way ride to bone town. Even then, it was just in good taste. He wasn’t heartless; why would he ruin the best time of the year?
But that was still at least a month. One more month of pretending to be happy, of being okay with who she was and what she had done… It was going to push him so far- and over the edge if she tries with anyone else. Especially Dixie.
Francis heaved one last lycan bezoar into the bowl, then finally cleaned up and flushed… feeling the water rise around his rear. He stood, and saw that the plumbing simply couldn’t handle that much hair… or bone. He could see some teeth in the top few, breaking apart as the water flowed out of the basin. The drachan grabbed for the plunger.
But stopped as he heard something tingle by his right ear.
“Remember how she bitched?” The softest of voices sang into it, lead by a chorus of tingles and giggles.
Francis… grinned. No, he did more than that, but as of late all he could do was wear a shit-eating grin and this felt even larger than that. He straightened, cleared his throat, and marched out the door, heading for Francine’s. Her door was fixed- and remained that way, given the courtesy those darling fairies gave him. Once the seal was broken, though, the hot smacks of flesh erupted out of the room. A girl moaned, panted as she laid on her back, taking two hard ones in both her lower lips and her ass on Francine’s computer screen. The goblin, herself, had her legs spread, resting on the desk, while her hand dove between, drilling a long, white dildo into her delicate flower.
She gasped, and once more fell out of her chair. This time in between. The keyboard gave chase after, having rested on her ankles, while her “mouse” stayed on the table. She growled, lurching to her feet, leaving the glistening white member on the ground.
“What gives!” She screeched.
“Your job,” he said, and grabbed her by the arm, wrenching, dragging her back to his lovely abode and into the bathroom. He didn’t notice the smell the first time, but as she gagged- and threw up… he did notice that some of his eyebrows were singed off. He yanked her around, shoving her towards that desolation, and she whimpered and gagged and retched as she tried so hard to stay out of it. “Get to work.”
“But- oh g, it’s in my mo- my m-” She threw up again, aiming it towards the bowl… but it came short. She tried to speak again, wheezing, releasing another wave into the filth around, but managed to splutter out a single word at the end. “F-fairies!”
“Not their job… I’m gonna run to the cafe to get some breakfast then stop by and play a few hands with Bea. I want all of this cleaned up by the time I get back. Understand?”
She couldn’t argue it, so he took his leave, feeling so smug. So justified, and intrigued. The fairies could speak to him, after all, but chose this entire time to remain silent… Then again, he had no idea what sort of contract they were under, and how much they truly risked to pull this stunt. If it came to that, he would vouch for them hard. Francine had it coming- but, before he went to the cafe, perhaps he should stop by the post office. Before it became an avalanche.
He pulled himself out of the rubble of the path and headed left, where he and Eve went so many months ago. In fact, it had been so long since he gave any thought to that part of the apartments. He forgot there was an alcohol store, a yogurt place, and even a small general store –which must not have been there when he first moved in, given it had a large GRAND OPENING banner before it. Why did it say it was still closed, then? Were they setting up for after the holidays? If that’s the case, why have the banner up then? Were they trying to confuse him! For that, he had a quarter of a mind to carve a circle out of the window, but he was better than that… He did a triangle, instead. Right on the front door. Pulling it out so it didn’t fall inside was the fun part, and a nice souvenir. Never know when one could use a glass arrowhead.
He reached the end, standing beside those smoked windows, and he took a deep breath, opening the door. He walked across the room to those brass boxes- and realized he didn’t have the key- did he ever have a key… He truly didn’t know. He could not remember if Eve ever mentioned a key… eh. It didn’t matter. He knew he was 312 (not to be confused with 321; what moron did that), so he slid his nail right into its lock, giving it a hard twist.
A bit too hard a twist.
The poor thing. It didn’t stand a chance. Its guts followed after his digit, clinking, ringing its final cries in the tiny postage stamp room, its mechanism left bare. Even the pins that were meant to hold it had broken off, making it look like a spider or scorpion was pierced on the tip of his finger, curled up and dead. It, too, clattered to the floor, and he slid the metal box free, seeing that it only had a few letters (all ads), a flattened magazine… and a peculiar, rectangular box. He cocked his head and pulled it out, turning it over.
His worst decision all day.
“G...God damn you,” he muttered, and his vision wavered as he had problems reading the text. It only got worse as he reread it, letting that familiar, forsaken scrawl sink into his soul.
Don’t tell Bridget or Cass, but I had this ordered. No one else touched it save for the people at the factory and myself as I write this. My father made sure of that. Cannot wait to see it on our date. - Your snaky stalker. <3
His fingers trembled as he turned that box on its side, looking at the top of it. There, a bit of the cardboard was uneven, raised, as if it had been pried before then hastily shut. He dug his nail under and, with a light pop, it cracked open like a clam, falling open to show a black-and-gold phone, along with a charger and an explanation of the plan he was a part of. Once a part of; he doubted good old daddy kept the phone line up and running after his daughter died over his dick.
He scoffed, turned to a sniff, as he held the power button… and, upon the front as it settled, was a picture of the lamia, herself. Not a suggestive one or a nude but of her in a simple, gray, hooded sweatshirt holding up one of her decks. Cards that would never be played again, that would never be used against him again, an opponent he will never be able to challenge and be challenged by… ever again- dammit! Was everything out of focus that day? Was the entire world in an ocean filter!
Francis, as proud as ever, slammed the phone back into the box, crushing it shut. He spun, heading for the door-
Where Beatrice entered.
“Oh hey! Morning,” she said, smiling at him –at least, Francis assumed she was smiling. At least, at that moment. She grew closer, and touched his cheek, her warmth searing against that haze before him. “Are you all right?”
“Peachy,” he said, but his voice cracked, making him growl. He eased her aside and headed for the door. “I’m hungry. We’ll talk later.”
“Okay, but only if you want to.”
“Is Wes back?”
“Until next Sunday.”
“Good. Because I could really use a hand or two.”
The doors hissed shut in his wake, and steam rose where haze once was. Fire frothed from his maw, burning away that horrid screen, all the while his mind continued to swim through it, piecing it together. At least, trying to. Desiree stopped at the post office that morning to have its clerk put it in his mailbox as a surprise. She was trying to put an end to all the fighting –notably in a passive-aggressive way, but still putting an end. She would have backed down, apologized to those involved. Bridget would be more than happy to forgive since it seemed like she was giving up (and why wouldn’t she; until then she was the only one of the three to not even have a date so she had no ground to stand on), but what about Cassidy? That harpy was sharp, and would have seen through the ploy. The question then was would she have been angrier, more vehement, or let it be and simply observe?
Even, then, though it still wasn’t adding up… Where was Cassidy? If she could give her story, he could figure out what happened- wait, why would he need to? The place had cameras, with plenty of eyes on them. Maybe he was trying to deduct something that was already done- and maybe that was why Cassidy wasn’t around. Eve and Lilith could have easily caught her red-handed and have done something about it- but then why did neither group try to contact him? Why didn’t they tell them what transpired… Perhaps, above all else, was more damning than anything. Perhaps the question wasn’t what the cameras caught but what they didn’t. If that was the case-
He was too pissed, hungry, and depressed to consider it any further. He was entering lands of theory and conspiracy he really wasn’t in any place for. Francis groaned, settling into the back booth of the cafe, and nursed the coffee pot Mom was kind enough to leave for him. An entire pot of breakfast blend. He grabbed the sugar dispenser and poured it in, not stopping until it was well beyond the halfway mark (which would have been impressive if it wasn’t already missing a quarter), then set it down, tipping the scalding cold drink into his maw.
“Fresh,” he muttered through a mouthful of the dark brew, then looked up at the TV’s, if only to slow his minds. The first was showing handegg and a lot of overpaid actors running it up and down a field with the occasional break for the true money-makers of the channel. The second showed hockey, which, since there was no fighting nor threat of it, was simply men gliding around each other while rubbing sticks. The third was the most bleak, and it was showing international “news”. What was the script this week? Orange man bad? Disclosing private matters to the public because it hurt people’s feelings? Yet another company losing money because of failed ad campaigns that did little for the product but ostracized demographics, then blaming said demographic? What about the police who had to grow to be violent to match the violence thrust upon them now being demonized for being violent? It was the same shit in 2012 as it was in 2014 as it was in 2015 and, even now, none of it fucking changed. It was all bullshit… At least it was entertaining if it was looked at like it was a comedy. Which went well with his coffee- and toast. Mom was spoiling him. “Thanks.”
“None needed. It was with compliments from the lady at the door,” she said, then hurried back to the kitchen. His eyes drifted down to it, but, sadly, it seemed Mom’s better years were starting to be behind her. The “lady” wasn’t at the door; she was starting to sit at his table. Sarah gave him a small smile, goading the coffee pot out of his hand, and filled the blue mug set before him before putting it back in his claw, taking a drink from it.
“Ah. Fresh. Just the right amount of sugar,” she said, gulping it down in three swigs. She eased the pot away again, filling it once more, and chuckled as she pushed it back to him. “Won’t lie. I was surprised to see you still in town.”
“I bet,” he grumbled, taking another drink. “Really, I have no idea when I’ll leave. Or where to, for that matter.”
“That’s a shame. It’s not right that you are kept in the dark, especially around the holidays.”
“Eh, I’ll live. It’ll happen sooner rather than later, so… all I need to do is be ready for it… My question is, though, what are you doing here?”
“I’m stalking you, of course”
“Ah. Of course. How could I have not guessed… I already gave you my answer.”
“You did, but I am not giving up hope on you. You will soon see the truth in my words, and know that I was being genuine. You would not be treated as a secondary citizen. You would be respected, welcomed as an equal –a true equal, not as a messianic figure among swill.”
“Well, people are already being crucified in my name, so it’s a bit late for that.”
“Don’t act dumb. If you are stalking me, then you know about the shitshow at the Academy two days ago- which means… You must have seen, right?”
“I’m afraid not. I followed you and the drider to the Chinese restaurant… then I had a moment of weakness… I have a fondness for General Tso’s chicken, so swooped in to partake-”
“You really shouldn’t have.”
“No. No, I really shouldn’t… How that place stays open is beyond me.”
“Any port in a storm.”
“Ah. True… Still. It simply made me yearn for true Chinese, so, after that, I… left.”
“Left? Wait… oh, you bitch! You went to China, didn’t you?”
“Only way to truly get it authentic.”
“And didn’t even bring me any? Such a selfish stalker.”
“I refuse to apologize as it was good Chinese, but I felt regret since I was unable to help you with the current situation… I may have… overstepped a few boundaries.”
“What do you mean?”
“I sneaked into Vereor Nox and broke into their mainframe.”
“What the shit! Why?”
“I needed to see the security footage and figure out what happened… I needed it downloaded to my phone.” She pulled it out and unlocked it. She swiped the screen a few times then laid it on the table, showing the tops of Vereor Nox. The time on the bottom shown it was right at the start of lunch for normal students, rapidly rising. For being security footage, it had great quality –and color. Especially since it was at n- “There!”
She paused the video and backed it up thirty seconds, showing the moment Desiree was dropped upon the tower. It pierced right through her, without any effort… but, as the speed was returned to normal, his heart sank like a stone, watching as she reached up and grabbed at that spike. Her body flinched, thrice, small specks of blood flying out and onto the cold stone, but she kept reaching, kept pulling for it… falling back, unable to stay upright. In the last moment, he saw her mouth something… and then go completely still.
“That was the best angle I could find,” Sarah explained. “It was the highest camera on the premises. Someone dropped her from a great height right on that peak.”
Francis… huffed, and looked up at her.
“Like a wyern? Or maybe even a dragon?”
“I understand what you are trying to imply, but, again, I was stalking you at that moment. There’s even video footage of me outside of the Chinese restaurant if you want the proof-”
“I very much do, and how fortuitous you thought of such.”
“You struck me as the paranoid type, for I am the same way.” She swiped the phone… and, indeed, there she was, standing beside the sign just along the road into the Chinese restaurant, staring into it. Staring at him and Scarlette. “You can watch until you two leave, but the timestamp of the footage already exceeds the events that occurred at the Academy.”
He snorted… shaking his head. “Okay… did you find any footage of harpies? Maybe outside of school grounds?”
“No. None, but the problem is there are several blindspots outside of Vereor Nox. Plenty of nooks and crannies in Paradise that cannot be caught. She left for the cafe for lunch, and, along that route alone, there are forty different places where it could have happened. The harpies, themselves, left Paradise for lunch, heading for Robinson. I checked the footage, and they were there until five minutes before class resumed… Everyone, of course, save for the one you call Cassidy.”
“And how do you know which o- right. Stalker.”
“She left earlier than the others, actually cut class, and was on her phone. If the footage of her stomping down the steps was any indication, she was yelling… Sadly, that’s where things get tricky- here. Let me pull it up.”
She scooted the phone back -just in time for Mom to put down his meal- and flicked through it as his fork and knife got busy on the ten-tall pancake tower. It oozed syrup down all its sides, taking with it the fresh wild berries piled on top. They, also, peeked through the batter, giving some color to those thick, fluffy, golden saucers. The second plate was laden with sausage, of the plank and patty variety, garnished with freshly cut-then-sauteed bell pepper and onion, while the third plate was no slouch, heavy with regular and Canadian bacon. But he wanted the pancakes, if only to fill the hole quickly growing inside, gnawing at him faster than he gnashed that batter.
She pushed the phone back to him, and he saw Cassidy on it. Sarah pressed the play button, and he watched as what she said came true: She was stomping down the steps, yelling at her phone, looking more and more flustered with each one… then, when she reached the bottom, the video cut out. Sarah sped it up until around the minute the footage from the other camera caught Desiree, and it cleared.
“It’s not only that camera either,” Sarah stated. “At that exact moment, all cameras in the area went dark- before you start, it was a scheduled maintenance of the system… Still. Rather shady.”
“It was… it was…”
“Sounds like you have a bit more information on this.”
“Well… Des and Cass… they had a fight the day prior. A bad one. Bad enough that she and Des were meant to be in detention. The fact that both were let out-”
“It was the day before holiday gave out. Maybe they didn’t think it was that big a deal?”
“… Who was the teacher in charge of detention that day?”
“No idea. I only looked for exterior footage. Was working on a tight window.” She filled her cup one last time, and sighed, ruffling his hair. “Well, I can only see this getting worse. I simply hope you can see the wisdom in my offer before it’s too late… I will still be around, so, if you ever need someone to talk to-”
“Yup. Okay. Thanks. Unload this train wreck then leave. I see how it is.”
“You wouldn’t have it any other way.”
He scoffed… but couldn’t help but smile. She wasn’t wrong… she wasn’t wrong… and, for once in his whole life, he felt he might have over-ordered. Or, maybe, overestimated just how much an appetite he had… or how easy it was to ruin. He soldiered as long as he could, but his constant glances to the box in the seat to the right made that harder and harder. It wasn’t long before he asked Mom for a few boxes… and he simply returned to the apartments… He didn’t feel like playing anymore.