We are Family
Francis had a hard time getting to sleep, and it wasn’t because of his rapey friend. She was done within the first couple of hours and left him in catatonic state. He wasn’t able to move at all, and his mind was too fried to think of anything so no shadow people would haunt him. Shame, too; he loved when Fred visited. They had a few shots, drank a pint of Bloody Mary, viewed into a portal at the souls of the damned- it was always a party with his favorite being from the night. Far better than Cassie the fiend specter, Casper’s dom.
No. It was a far simpler, sinister yet silly reason he couldn’t fall asleep: He could hear the lake outside. He could hear its soft swirls and laps at the shore… and, whenever he closed his eyes, he could hear it rushing by his ears again. He could taste the plastic bag again, feel the weight of the river pushing down upon him once more. Pressing his head against the pillow didn’t help either; it only dulled it beyond, creased the plastic tighter against his face, suffocating him.
He gasped, relaxing his head, easing his neck up out of the soft, orange silk. Though the sun pecked at his brow, it caressed the left side of his face, he refused to open his eyes. Not while She was still there. Destiny tittered, lapping at his face, and he felt her cold claw wrap around his member again, teasing out a few more drops.
“Aren’t breaks meant to be relaxing?” She said, teasing his nip, tugging, twisting it as her other hand kept toying below. “You are more anxious than back at home… Was it because you would miss little old me? That I wouldn’t be here? You don’t need worry about that, Francis. I will never be a memory.”
“Shut up,” he muttered, pressing the flat of his palm to his forehead. She tittered again, her tongue working between his creased digits on that hand, hissing as it steamed. He opened his eyes, looking that shade in those pink points. “Ah. So that’s your limit. You can’t be in the light.”
“In this form, at least. When I am whole, it will not be an issue. I am waiting for the day when I can be with you, complete. Only then will I truly be completed. My love, my destiny, with his Destiny.”
She giggled one last time, gave him a kiss on the lips, and faded as the sun washed down his front. And, for once in hours, he felt warmth again. Now, with the sun shining on him, his body finally relaxed, that event pressed back by the light that seared at his lids, letting him settle and drift away… Another thought decided to peek its head, though: What would happen if he tried sleeping on a water bed?
Trust nobody. Not even yourself. Especially not yourself, he thought, and chortled, turned to a yawn as he fully gave in. At least it was kind enough to not let him dream, and it wasn’t long before there was a knock at his door. He groaned, turning over in the full-sized bed, covered in that matching ensemble of orange silks, the brightest bit of color through its entirety. The armoire and chest of drawers were made of dark wood, matching the panels that peeked along the bottom of the walls, covered in a pastel wallpaper to the top where they blended into the cream-colored ceiling, warmed to a deep red by the setting sun.
The knock came again, and he grumbled a response, rising at last from the bed. He slung his legs over the side-
And almost jumped through the roof as he felt something graze them. Instead, it was only a little hop and scrape along the ceiling, landing with a resounding crash. Where his feet met that fluff again. He pulled out his phone and shined a light down there, finding a gray-and-black striped cat laying there. It was little more than a puffball with a pair of wide, blue eyes, looking up at him without a care in the world.
“You are way too trusting,” he muttered, and scooped the little thing up. It voiced its dissent, nibbled at his finger, but settled in his grasp as he stood- jumping again as he felt claws reach out and snag his heel. “Goddammit! How many of you are there?”
He landed -daintily; he was on his tip-toes, looking behind him- and saw the cat’s clone staring at him from the edge of the bed. The difference, though, was that one’s eyes were mostly black, and its ears laid back. It darted under the bed, to the other side, and he heard its claws pull at the blanket, looking over the top at him. But the knock resounded for the third time, and he had no choice but to ignore the challenge and answer it.
On the other side of the door was a red-haired lass, separated into two coiling pigtails. She looked younger than Minerva, but only just, and had similar, red eyes. Her nose was far daintier, though, and her smile far more welcoming, lips painted in a matching shade to her purple evening gown. Her skin was bronzed, and he could tell at her shoulders that she was paler than Minerva normally. She didn’t run from the sun, though, for fear of its burn. She embraced it, and gained its respect.
“Well, hello,” Francis said, roughing up the cat’s fur. It nipped and batted at his hand, purring and growling at the same time. “Sorry for taking so long. I was in the middle of playing with some pussy. As you can see, it’s all wired up now.”
“That’s okay. I sent them in there,” she said, and scooped the little ball of fluff from his arm, much to its disdain. It nibbled and kicked at her hand, at her arm, cradling it. “Where’s Desmond?”
“The twin? He’s- RIGHT HERE! CHEATER! CHEATER!!!” Francis squawked as he yanked the cat off his left wing, latched onto the very tip of the first bend. It growled at him, kicked at his hand- and managed to find footing to leap and cling to his chest. Francis gasped, and the cat ran up it, pushing him back and debilitating enough to force him upon the bed once more, thundering through the manor from his crash. The cat hopped back down to his gut… where it laid down, looking at him. Waiting. Francis raised his head a little, and it growled, its fluffy tail flicking behind. “Oh. Great. Hi, mini Jessica.”
“You will forgive Desmond. He loves a good tumble. Ingrid here isn’t as rowdy, so when he has the chance he goes for it… I’m Elena, by the way. Elena Parry.”
“Francis, but you already knew that.” He started to sit up, but the cat jumped on his face again, batting at it before hunkering back down on his gut, wiggling its butt. Francis raised his arms, closing in on the ferocious feline, which it stuck out its tongue and stood on its back legs. It swatted them away, bounded over them, ran off the bed only to barrel back on, making sure he stayed down. “So, aside unleashing a devil spawn upon me, why else are you here?”
“I was meant to be here sooner. Midday… Don’t know what came over me but I was found by Lilith in one of the cots downstairs who woke me up and sent me up here.”
“It’s probably for the best. I slept like shit.” Which that succubus knew… I’m not going to thank you. “But why?”
“Surely you didn’t want to spend your entire visit asleep during the day. Safer Isle has beautiful beaches-”
“I sort of saw that last night and right now, though I have some class. I say girls.”
“Don’t be. You rock what you got, right- hah! Didn’t expect TWO MORE HANDS did you, you little psycho- ow! Ow ow ow ow-”
“Oh dear. That was one helluva squall. Desmond is starting to get serious.”
He better be because here’s TWO MORE HANDS. What are you gonna do now? What are you gonna do n- No! Not the-”
He sounded like a little girl, and was probably even more comical as he curled into a ball, trying so hard to keep that cat away from someplace that really shouldn’t be pawed at by regular felines. In doing so, though, it left his normal head exposed, and the cat pounced on the opportunity. It landed right on his ear, and hunkered down, licking at his cheek as it kneaded its claws into the side of his face, settling.
“Victory, Desmond,” Elena said, tittering as she picked the little psycho off –which it was as delicate as it could be. Then again, it could be; it showed who was boss. Ingrid, meanwhile, hopped off her arm and pushed its way into Francis’s arms, purring away. “She likes you.”
“Yeah, most women and pussy does,” he grumbled, but held it in the bend of his arm as he finally stood. Elena turned around- and he saw that the demonic influence was greater on her. What he thought was simply a corset or light jacket was a pair of black, wrapped around and resting on her hips. Their tips were a deep red, broken by a single white stripe at the base of each point- but it did not take away from her glorious rear. It was just the right size, the right shape, a perfect, heart-shaped, pillow of an ass –which, if he had to assume, matched her chest. The gown did a good enough job of downplaying them, but, as she turned, he saw them bound after, saw them jiggle and settle, and was more than happy to be damned to tap into that.
But not then. She was going to show him the beaches outside of the generic marble estate. Did Eve simply had a hard-on for Roman and Greek architecture –of course she would; it would be the most nostalgic. Sadly, it meant that every house looked almost the bloody same. The interior might change, this one far more colorful and flat than the crystal and glass of the others, but it still had the same set-up.
Thankfully, though, the rest of the isle was far more interesting. He couldn’t see nor feel it in the fog of night, but the isle was significantly warmer than the main land. So much so that wildflowers continued to flourish, giving the wide berth of grass between the circular road such color and vibrancy. There was a slight incline towards the center of the isle, the most sinful of raises, where it plateaued and farmland was gated off. Even then, he could make out the heights of walnut trees off to the northeast. Trees were scattered across the expanse otherwise, of pine and beech, but they never condensed in any one area, allowing the true beauty of the soft water of the lakes beyond to shine.
Lilith was under one of the trees, sprawled out on a crimson blanket. She had a pair of glasses on, reading, looking up at Johnny, Cain, and Enoch as they bounded through the water. Nicole was involved, as were a handful of goblins, but not one of them was Francine. Adam and Eve were not seen either, but Francis didn’t want to think on that. Being separated from your love for so long- come to think of it (which he didn’t want to), he needed to thank the wizards for whatever they did to muffle the rooms and halls.
Steam billowed towards the shore as the three headed for the sands again, the silky off-yellow layer turned to colorful glass under Cain’s feet. He biffed the back of Enoch’s head before bending down to a small cooler, pulling out a beer. Stopping as Johnny clapped and gestured to Francis. Him and Enoch were in swim trunks, while Cain didn’t bother. Like anyone could tell the difference in the rock and his junk.
“Sleeping beauty finally shows up,” Johnny declared, tossing him a can. “There you are. Breakfast of champs!”
“Danke!” Francis said, biting straight through the top of it. The rest of the can was to follow, ground into fine sheet, while he partook in the ale inside. It was a commercial beer, nothing to write home about, but at least it wasn’t the piss that most widely-distributed beers were. He spat the tin out, landing in the cooler- and he caught the second Johnny threw- then the third. “Careful now. You might actually get me buzzed.”
“Now now. You don’t need to act hard before little Lyn,” Enoch said- and Francis wasn’t even close to right. Oh, he was thin, but he made a skeleton look fat in comparison. He made Holocaust survivors look well nourished. Geriatrics in their final throes had more life and sustenance to them than that… twig had –well, a twig with a heavy set of berries near the middle. Even in baggy swim shorts, there was no hiding the python snuggled up in those bright green pants. That twig hooked an arm around Elena’s shoulders, chuckling… batting the cat as it batted him. “Ah, I see Des is raring to go.”
“He should. Fucker’s got a win streak to maintain,” Francis said, glaring at the little puffball.
“You lost… to a two-pound dust bunny,” Cain said, shaking his head. “Don’t worry, Francis. I would have, as well… but no cat wants to touch me.”
“Yeah, nobody really wants to touch you,” Francis clarified, and raised his arm, disturbing the highness on it. “Meanwhile, this one is actually lording over me… Anyways, what’s the schedule? Take it dinner’s tomorrow. Then?”
“We’re here until Sunday,” Johnny said. “Monday morning -actual morning- we pile back in the car, take a boat ride, and return to the humdrum of a school filled with horny psychopaths… and Francis. After we drop Cain back off at the airport.”
“Don’t remind me,” he grumbled. “I am not looking forward to returning to the Baltic sector.”
“What? German women too much for you?” Francis said, flinching as he felt a small hand clap his rear.
“Ah, ah wouldn’t be dissing those krauts, wee barra,” Nicole stated. “The Baltic sector, also, has the highest concentration of drakes and dragons-”
“And there’s a civil war right now in their ranks,” Cain said. “A power vacuum.”
“Old Jeorgen finally died, huh? Shame, that. He was quite the gentleman.”
“And the heads are trying to keep it under wraps but they suspect foul play in their own families. His daughter hasn’t been seen for months.”
“Ah, but ah wouldn’t rule it as that jus yet! Old Jeorgen was a stickler and she betrayed his trust and tarnished his name. She was probably elated to finally be free and is enjoying a bit of freedom.”
“Regardless, the drakes have seen a chink in their armor. They are using this as an opportunity to be equal to the High Dragons-”
“Fat fucking chance,” Francis blurted. “If even a half-blood like me can outdo them, then what do they really have?”
“Yes. About that,” Eve cut in. She stood at the edge of the sand, just off to the left of Lilith, wearing a thick bathrobe. Francis called what she was doing; even as the sun set, she was the coming dawn. Absolutely glowing. Her smile was hot enough to be the sun’s rays, beaming at Francis… even though it had a tinge of sadness. “I’m sorry, gentlemen, but I need to borrow the youngest for a moment.”
“Oh, fine. Ruin the brothers’ times. As always,” Cain said, chortling as he biffed the back of Francis’s head-
“Wait. Does that mean I’m technically Francis’s brother, as well?” Johnny interjected. “Lilith is your sister. I’m married to Lilith-”
“For the sake of the argument, no,” Francis blurted. “I refuse to believe I’m being taught by my older brother.”
“Why not? Maybe if you actually listened you wouldn’t be in as much hot water as you are.”
“Yes yes. Well, I’m gonna die before the end of the year. You know what they say about the brightest flame? At least I’ll be spectacular.”
He huffed, and stomped over to Eve. Which Elena followed. Eve gave her a peculiar look… then nodded, seeing the cat in Francis’s arm.
“Any way you can separate yourself from the feline, Francis?” Eve said… and the cat growled. Eve scoffed, and leaned down, looking the cat in the eyes. “I didn’t ask for your opinion on this, little lady. We have important matters to discuss.”
The cat hissed, and burrowed tighter into Francis’s arm. Glaring at her.
“She says Francis is warm and that she is comfy,” Elena said. “She won’t listen in. Too much.”
“She better not… For the record, Francis, I know you dislike pants but could you show some decency and fix them proper?”
“Oh! Uh. Right.” He cleared his throat- and just realized that Elena had been casting glances the entire time… No wonder Enoch said what he did. He shoved his member back down inside, much to the wizard’s displeasure, and parted ways with her, taking one of her pussies with him. They headed back for the manor, the sun gone, leaving it cast in the purple hue of dusk. “So I suppose that stereotype is true? Wizards and cats?”
“Only her line.” She didn’t say anything else, with only the sounds of the beach goers behind them, fading with each step-then-clack up the stairs. She veered from the doors, though, heading right of the first marble pillars, where a small set of steps waited to a lounge area, covered in lush red fabric. She walked around it, to the back, where a wide-seated chair awaited, settling in upon it. She gestured to the plump pillow before her, having Francis sit there, then she sighed. “So… At last. We can talk.”
“Let us start with the less scathing of the HANDFUL… The drider. Scarlet.”
“What about her?”
“What is your relationship with her? How did you come to meet?”
“Wow… Did not expect that question from you.”
“Oh, I already know, but I want to hear it in your words.”
“Ah. There we go… Okay. It was the first time I went out with Cass –which, by the way-”
“We’ll get to that. First… continue.”
“Okay. We went out, our chaperon had a spat with the witches. They had a drag race -which Plank’s engine won- and, while we were sitting there moping, she pulled up and offered a ride. She, also, gave Cass a much-needed pep talk… which I am not regretting.”
“Regret? That’s a strong emotional upheaval.”
“Yes, well, a snake being skewered on a roof will do that- I take it that involves the other person you have questions about?”
“Yes… There’s simply no way to set this conversation up proper, is there? I was trying to keep a flow, but-”
“Yeah, no. There’s no flow to this. It’s all one big clusterf-”
“Language… Clusterfuck. I agree.” She sighed, pulling out her phone. “I’ve been spending the last few days viewing and reviewing that footage… It’s as she told you in the cafe. There’s no way of knowing… now.”
She nodded. “I would show you, but it would be far too technical. I’ll make it blunt, then: The footage has been doctored. Expertly at that. I can only just make out the cuts in the video footage of that week, but whoever did it managed to set up cameras in almost the exact locations I had mine. They spent months studying… The problem is I look back at the months of footage and there is not a shred of evidence of anyone paying attention to them-”
“Which is why it comes back to my lovely dragon stalker.”
“And the drider.”
“Really? You think Scarlette could have done it?”
“Not likely, but it’s a possibility. I dug into Scarlet’s past… and… there’s nothing. There is no history of a Scarlet in all of himanity or even at Vereor Nox. There is for a Scarlette Borden, but she has been dead for two years.”
“Was she cloned? Would Lilith have done so?”
“There wouldn’t have been a reason to. Scarlette killed her family; they were no longer benefactors of Vereor Nox, thus their bloodline wouldn’t have been insured. There’s more than enough driders in the world, so conserving her for the Archive wouldn’t have been accepted by the Death Marshes. Nor the Council. Especially one who had shown such… instability. So I have no idea who this Scarlet is, but she is not Scarlette.”
“Could she have lied, then?”
“More than likely, so I’ve been digging into the database… Has she told you anything else?”
“Outside of being a student once? And loving Johnny-”
“Which was Scarlette, so I am assuming she is trying to cover her own identity. Even if the life she chose was not… fortuitous… Back on point, though. Sarah… What can you tell me about her?”
“Aside trying to rope me to come back to dragonland with her?”
“She’s doing WHAT!”
“Oh. Yeah. That’s what she keeps proposing. Come back with her and be a nobody or stay there and be a legend… How is that even an offer? She keeps saying it is the deal of a lifetime, that it is great, that it’s all great… Sort of makes me want to introduce her to the president. See who has the bigger dick.”
Eve sighed, a heavy, exasperated thing, and dropped her phone in the crook of her legs, shaking her head.
“So you are not considering? Not even in the slightest?”
“… Yet… you are still conversing with her.”
“I mean, sure. She isn’t bad company, and she’s another dragon. It’s… sort of nice to know I’m not the only one. You know? I know you told me, but actually… seeing them, talking to them… It makes all the difference. Even if she is trying to kidnap me –during a civil war at that. Jesus, Minerva had a point. I’m gonna die!”
“Yes. Kidnapping… What can you tell me about Destiny?”
“That she fucked me silly this morning?”
“She has? But none of the isle’s motion sensors triggered.”
“I’m feeling at this point it’s more my body fucking itself. I think she infected me with insanity… I mean, I was already insane, but an actual viral strain of insanity. Only I can really see her. For instance, she’s standing over your shoulder.”
She looked up… and looked dour as she looked back at him.
“You can see her right now?”
“Only her eyes. Those pink, beady fucking eyes that I want nothing more than to PIERCE WITH MY CLAWS… but now my question. Unless you had something else to ask.”
“I did, but your explanation now… It answered it.” She sighed again, and put a hand to her chest. “So. You want to know why I didn’t accept Mister Crane’s offer. Correct?”
“You’re a business woman, after all. His proposal was sound. It helped both parties-”
“I may be a business woman, Francis, but I am a mother first. My family will always come first… and I wanted to spend this year with the entire family. And no one else.”
Francis scoffed, smirking, but he could feel the weight gathering behind his eyes, the way his throat already starting to clench.
“Well… You’re just a big ole softie, then,” he said, and leaped to his feet… offering her his hand. “Come on. Let’s go join the dunces down at the beach again.”
“I would, dear, but Adam is waiting for me inside-”
“Oh, God! Please tell me you’re not going another round?”
“Don’t be silly. He can’t even move… I was waiting for the tea to steep. Ancient blend; takes longer for the true flavor to come out of the leaves. Which… Ah. Perfect timing… Though you might want to hurry down. They just fired up the barbeque pit.”
“Hell yeah!” He shouted, and the cat in his arm rose its head, yipping as he spun and bolted back to the beach. It clung to his arm for dear life, but that was the bed it made. It now had to lie in it… as Francis continued to prepare his. Perhaps he did bite off more than he could chew, but he’ll get through it. So long as he had these crazy people beside him, he would be fine… Even against those ghastly pinks.