Welcome to the Family
Francis lumbered outside the door to his apartment. For the second time. He did what he always did best and forgot his mail at the cafe, so he had to trudge all the way back. At least, down to the parking lot. Sarah, in her “kindness”, saw that he forgot his package and brought it to him. Sounded nice, but she left the cafe right after him. He even held the door open for her… More than likely, she thought about it a nanosecond before him.
But she was in the past. Not far, nor far behind, but she was back there. The present- no, the future was before him. What would become of a certain goblin… Well, there was only one way to find out. He heaved a weary sigh, and cracked the door open at last- and, upon breaking the seal, he was hit with the scent of bleach. Lots and lots of bleach.
Francine was on the couch, still naked, saturating the poor thing with her sweat. She was caked in it, and he could tell that was even after taking a shower. Her chest still heaved, her breath so ragged, wheezing, echoing in the quiet apartment. She had an arm over her face, her head lost behind the far arm, and she didn’t budge nor even seem to notice him. Even as he stomped over. And passed, heading for the bathroom.
Every step magnified that bleach, that strong, alkaline tang… but, for whatever reason, bleach never bothered him. Quite the opposite, in fact. That harsh burn on the senses, the way it stuck to the back of your throat if you inhaled too much of it; quite… intoxicating. He would be sleeping like a baby after he saw the results… and… Well, the floor was cleaned at least. Polished to a shine at that… but the bowl… He snorted, and returned to her.
Grabbing her by the ankles.
She squealed and squawked louder than any orc or harpy as he swung her lazily along back to that porcelain throne. Holding her over it. She looked down at the shining bowl, at the crystal clear waters in that smooth, creamy basin… almost clear save for two streaks at the very bottom.
“What were you told to do?” Francis said, drawing it out.
“W-w-wait wait wait- w-wait!” She spluttered, silenced as he plunged her down into the bowl… but stopping right before her pretty little head hit the water.
“You were supposed to clean this. All of it. It was supposed to be spotless, like the fairies do… Does THAT look spotless!”
“Please! I-I-I tried, but I c-c-couldn’t get it scrubbed off! I even tried a power washer-”
“And where did you get a power washer?”
“That manticore had one! She stopped by asking for you again and I told her you would be out playing cards.”
“Oh? What did she say?”
“She said to tell you that she needed to talk! Most likely next week since she was about to go on vacation. She’s taking a trip to Mexico.”
“Mexico, huh? And she couldn’t take me? I’ve been dying for decent enchiladas… Anyways, you didn’t do your job. HOWEVER, there’s still time.”
“W-what do y-”
And he started singing, dunking her head into the basin. The water sloshed louder than her exclamations, her curses and sobs, crying out as her head scraped at the bottom of the bowl. However, no matter how hard he pressed, she was just a shitty mop. No… there was no way to remove those marks. Not without breaking the bowl.
“Ah, well. You tried, and that’s all that matters,” he said, dropping her off to the right. Headfirst; it was the safest part at that moment. Her hair squished, softening her fall, but the rest of her was so dramatic, rag-dolling as it did… He decided to kneel to the bowl, curious at those marks… and decided to scrape his nail against one of them. Water sloshed around it, but he managed to pry up a little of it… and sniffed it. He grinned, tasted it, and scoffed as he shook his head, spitting it out. Paint? That was a low blow.
Low, but effective… He left her there on the tile and retired for the night, allowing day two to roll in. His alarm sang its usual din, which was strange. He could have sworn he turned it off yes...ter… When he reached for his phone and turned it over, he realized it wasn’t it. Instead, the alarm was… tinnier than normal. As if echoing in a small room.
Or a box.
“What the shit?” He grumbled, and grabbed the box off the coffee table. It was the package from yesterday, but he could have sworn that was turned off –which, given his track record on those, seemed pretty good.
No. This time, he was wrong. The phone was alight and alive and well once he pulled it out of the box, showing a small image of a pixelated snake lady doing a little dance underneath a banner that stated it was time for “sleepyhead” to wake up. Who knew, even in death, she would a right pain in his ass… Yet… he found himself yearning for that 16-bit snake, if only for a bit longer-
He scoffed, disgusted at himself, and lobbed the phone at the end of the bed, shaking his head.
“The fuck is wrong with you?” He grumbled. “Simpering like a little bitch… You didn’t even have a date with her –not from lack of trying of course. So what if she paid to see your dick? It was as Ali said, she was a fool to pay for something that was free- Hell, she treated you like a fucking gigolo… Then again, that could apply to, like, 99.99999999999-something shit percentage of the bitches ’round here. Including her.”
No matter how much he talked, though, that little snake kept chirping away on the phone… until it didn’t. Then, in its silence, his chest felt the most hollow, the room the coldest its been… He needed someone to hold.
“Who the fuck you talking to?” Francine muttered, lumbering out of the bathroom… No. He wasn’t that desperate. Her hair was done up in a towel, the rest of her left to drip-dry as she stomped towards the bed, looming over him in all her four-foot ire.
“Who else but myself. No better company than one’s self, after all.”
“I feel bad for you, then. I was always told the golden rule was to treat others how you treat yourself… Well, I see that’s too fucking true- oh. Right. I forgot to mention last night. Eve called.”
“Yeah, they’re coming to get us after the airport… The stretch; they’re bringing the stretch.”
“Sort of expected. Can’t imagine her usual limo can handle the four of us… Who are they picking up at the airport- wait. Pick up? As in we’re not going?”
He bolted to his feet, shivering with excitement.
“Does that mean she refused Mister Crane’s offer?”
“I guess? Why is that impor-”
Okay. It didn’t matter if she was the only one there at that moment. He cheered and scooped her up, dancing around the room as she exclaimed and argued. It was as if a great weight had been lifted off his shoulders, the dread of looking at his would-be fuck toy’s killer in the eyes and having to act like nothing was wrong. He didn’t need to hold back all that fury, all that rage for the holidays- but wait. Why did she turn it down? She was a pragmatic woman; she would have seen how beneficial his deal was, damned be his feelings on the matter. Hell, he already resigned to the fate of being a ghoul, a sin-eater, the serpent that devours its own tail.
Guess he would simply have to wait until she was there to ask- but wait.
“Who is she picking up from the airport,” he asked… and gave Francine a little shake. “Hey… hey! Wake up, ya lazy bitch.”
From how her neck cracked and popped and made her head swivel, to how she simply hanged limp in his grasp, he must have hit her head against the ceiling one too many times… and a bit too hard. That last part, though, was debatable. He only required a small tug to pull her out with the last throw he did, and all the other she simply fell back. He had no idea who lived above, but thank goodness it was the holidays…
They stood outside in the setting sun. Francis wore the muumuu Ezra gave him and one of the pairs Bridget forced upon him, leering at the soft dots that fell around, glistening in the final rays of day. They were sticking to the ground, already an inch thick, giving that parking lot a virginal white veil, soon to be torn away by a big black car. Francine didn’t look quite nearly as excited as him to see it come in, but when was she happy about anything? Besides, for once it was hard to tell if she was being bitchy under that thick winter coat. He could only make out her eyes inside its fur-lined hood and the black scarf, which only ever shown one emotion. She hugged herself, still too cold behind a pair of mittens AND a glove lining inside them, as well as a pair of leggings with jeans AND leather boots. It wasn’t THAT cold out; he could still feel his toes, though they were starting to feel like they were on fire.
At last, though, lights appeared on the street, coming from the bridge. It was a while longer before they heard the engine against the soft wind, blowing the other way, and a bit after that before they saw the front of the car enter the town. From there, it was a matter of drifting into the parking lot, marring that veil at last, and pulling up parallel to the curb. The parking lots came on, and-
“Cain!” Francis exclaimed as the monstrosity opened the door. The blue flames on the abominations shoulders turned white with a flare of pink, giving those hard spikes an almost white hue as he rose from the limo. He wore a pair of fine white suit pants, but he forgone a shirt, showing the crags and fissures along his hard, stone body. Just like Eve, his skin pulsed with the primordial ooze, constantly secreting, melting only to harden into fresh layers of rock. Of skin. He had rows of jagged teeth, and, just like Eve, shockingly white eyes, filled with such… adoration as he looked upon Francis. As he hugged Francis. His spikes scraped against the drachen’s skin, but they did not cut nor pierce the thick hide. Francis pushed back, and clapped those jagged shoulders, making them geyser with fresh flames. “How’s it been, man?”
“Oh. You know. Traveling. Shitting my guts out,” he said, and even his voice was an assault on the senses- on humanity. That utterance seemed to emanate from Hell, Itself, breaking through those crags of a body to whistle and shriek along the peaks before joining with the growl of the rumbling Earth inside him for even daring to utter upon Her. “I’ve got pictures.”
“Fuck yeah! Where this time?”
“Moscow for starters. Then Georgia-”
“Georgia? What’s so special about a state?”
“Please tell me he’s not that retarded,” Francine said, scoffing as she pushed by him. “Why did I bother asking? I already know. Grammie, you in there?”
“In the back, deary,” Nicole bellowed from inside –and, though, it had been a short time, he forgot how thick her accent was. And how much louder she was when she drank. The entire cabin reeked of alcohol, mostly bourbon to be precise. He could hear glasses clinking as Francine scuttled her way in. And he caught sight of people he wasn’t really looking forward to seeing.
“You know, it’s the holidays. Why do I need to see you two?” Francis grumbled, shaking his head at Johnny and Lilith.
They giggled, Lilith’s cheeks burning red. Johnny, meanwhile, had some composure, even though he had two copper mugs in hand for her one tumbler. The incubus held up the right, gesturing it to Francis, who finally appeased the mass and climbed in, settling in the far left corner by his favorite teacher. Cain closed the door behind him then fished through his pants, pulling out his phone –but Johnny had his attention at the moment. With that copper cup and the… ginger beverage.
“Spiked ginger ale?” Francis wondered, and took a drink- no. It was not ginger ALE. From the taste, it was the entire plant, with a hint of lime. The alcohol was almost non-existent, but if the drachen had to guess… vodka? Regardless, it was down in three swigs, before the car even had a chance to leave, but Johnny was smart enough to prepare him another before then, handing it to him. “Oh, God… That’s one of the best drinks I ever had. The hell is it?”
“A Moscow Mule,” Lilith said, scoffing.
“Ah. Of course. Leave it to the Ruskies to combine anything with vod-”
“It actually originates form California,” Johnny clarified, sipping from his mug… and chuckling. “Sorry. I was bored one night and wanted to try something new. Saw something called a ginger BEER and wondered, ‘What is that? Is it basically rebranded ginger ale?’”
“I tried to talk him out of it,” Lilith mumbled, clearing her throat as she held her bourbon glass under her nose. “Personally, I never found the appeal.”
“Of course you didn’t,” Francis said, gulping a third of his glass after. He still couldn’t taste the alcohol, but the bite of the ginger beer was enough to send a small shiver down his spine. “Oh, man… That’s some good shit.”
“Isn’t it, though?” Johnny said. “It’s actually been around for a long time. Especially back in my neck of the woods of Washington. It’s understandable why it didn’t take off as much in the east coast. Harder drinkers here, but that is simply refreshing.”
“You ain’t kidding. I can see myself getting into a lot of trouble with these.” He dumped another third into his gullet then handed it back to Johnny, handing him a filled mug in return. But his attention was finally removed from the drink, alone, and he glanced around the car. Lilith and Johnny were of course there, as was Eve and Nicole. Cain was there… but there were two people he never saw before in his life. One sat to the left of Eve, holding her arm… and the other sat across. In a bright, red tuxedo. “So who are the new guys?”
“Well, you know me. If only by name and reputation,” the man holding Eve’s arm stated, giving him a warm smile. His voice rolled like thunder along a mountain line, shuddered the very Earth to its core in its passing. It held Spring’s warmth, and, if there were any flowers in the car, could have probably brought them to life. His skin was darker than Eve’s, almost… earthen in shade, but it was brightened almost to her shade by the same fiery lines under his skin. His eyes were white, as well, but had a shock of blue in their centers, going against the dark green pulses. He held out his large, thick hand to Francis, whom felt the strength of titans caress his claws as he took. “I am Adam… That dapper fellow is Enoch.”
“Aw, no fair,” the red-suited man said, smacking his wire-like lips. He was incredibly pale, almost blue with how pale he was, and, if Francis had to wager, was more suit than man underneath. He could see how it bagged, with how it showed off his gaunt shoulders, matching his hollow cheeks and even bleaker eyes, little more than black pits with a point of purple in their dark depths. However, as Francis shook his hand next, he knew it was a facade, that he had power that betrayed that skeletal form. “I suppose no one wants to hear one of my grand introductory speeches at the moment-”
“After what happened at the airport-” Lilith muttered, which Enoch waved her off.
“You cannot fault me for that. The lass who asked was a beauty divine, a true angel sent to earth. Her voice was like honey on the ear, and made one feel like they were wrapped in velvet-”
“All she did was ask for your name.”
“And what is a name but the essence of your being! Oh, with how wondrous a miracle her voice -and body- were, I had no other course of action but to allow my soul to sing and, when that urge doth swell and the world can feel its power, there is no stopping the drama and theatrics that go with. Oh, if I needed to, I would have sung her a serenade to explain to her what truly makes me who I am. I would have wrote a play and had those other oafs that arrived play the parts.”
“Those ‘other oafs’ were security,” Eve said, creasing her brow… but gestured to Francis. “You would think, after quite literally an age, this hopeless romantic would have learned restraint.”
“Ah, but dear Eve, there is no restraint for the soul, for the truth! After all, my Voice reached her; she gave me her number.”
“Yes. Her actual number,” Johnny whispered to Francis, which both of them snickered. And made Enoch pout.
“What, pray tell, do you find so funny?”
“I mean, if it works for you,” Francis said, looking out the window. “I have an easier way of getting girls in bed.”
“Ugh. Who wants to simply take them to your cot? I wish to go out dining, to enjoy fine wine and finer company. For me, the thrills of adventure outweigh the fun one can have in indulging carnal urges.”
“A… are you gay?”
“Oh… You’re just like all the others. Just because I’d rather spend time indulging more hedonistic pleasures than those of the flesh that must mean I spurn the opposite gender for release.”
“No, but you are talking as if sex doesn’t matter-”
“In the grand scheme of things, it really doesn’t. Not to Us… That doesn’t mean I don’t mind a bit of intimacy here and there, but, with how… jaded I am of it all, it requires… Hellish heights.”
The way his voice twisted made every hair on Francis’s body want to run away. Though he said it with such delight, such pleasure… there was nothing savory in that tone. The way those purple lights flashed, the white fire that burned around them in their center, also, didn’t help… Francis returned his attention to the mug, and put his face down, looking at his step-brother’s phone, showing off far-off countries and “people”.
“Just so you know, we aren’t going back to the usual estate,” Eve declared, focused on Francis. He looked up, and saw her staring at him, beaming at him. “We’re heading upstate this year, a lovely little town in Massachusetts.”
“Okay. So long as it’s not Maine. There’s enough freaky shit in here to give King an entire series and to make him wonder if he should be doing drugs again.”
He wanted to ask her why she refused the deal… but decided it was best to hold off. For now. The heavy circles under her eyes, and the way she leaned on Adam’s arm, helped him come to that conclusion. Let her enjoy the company. Besides, Cain was showing him some Loup Garou in Georgia –which turned out to be a country, as well. Who knew?