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10

That night Mel slept better than he had in years, which was a shame. He promised he would give Brin sleep bumps every night, but, considering how much he put into today’s test, he was simply tuckered out –but why was it called tuckered out? Was there somebody a long time ago named Tucker who was always so lazy and slothful that they had an entire word framed around them? What if their name was something else, like Maxwell or Mac? Would it be maxed or macked out? What if they were named Sucker. It had to be a real name at some point in history, right? Then would it be sucked out? Really, out of all the names so far, that one made the most sense, even if it was a little tasteless –or maybe it had a little taste; Mel wasn’t one to judge.

What he did judge, though, was that he had just about enough of Saliim’s bitching. Though he laid in bed, ready to simply slip away with his current favorite body pillow, she kept shaking him awake.

“Give me a bed,” she demanded, again and again, her shakings only making him want to use what energy he had held back... He was asked to take it seriously, not to give maximum effort. However, with every rattle of his teeth as his head hit back against the pillow, it became more and more tempting to listen to the man in the fancy red suit that does funny things to hide his crippling depression. His head huffed against the overstuffed head bread again, the room almost black as pitch save for the pulsing runes on her middle. “Either give me a bed or hold me.”

“Nuh!” He said, again and again, and tried to turn to spoon his body pillow again. As expected, though, every time he tried, he was forced back on his back. “Go get some newspaper.”

“I’ve been sleeping in that fucking newspaper for... hold on.” She picked up one of the ratty remnants, flipping it over before discarding, fishing for another, repeated again and again until she found one that must have finally suited her agenda. “Here we are! Four months. You never even changed them in that time.”

“Why? It’s not like your using it for anything other than a bed.”

“Natural bodily oils still leak into them! They still encrust and mold and dampen-”

“Wait,” Brin exclaimed. “You’ve been here four months?”

“She has,” Mel said, yawning, and rolled against Brin again. “Quiet, pillow. Sleepy ti-”

“And you still haven’t found a way to return home?” Brin continued, though.

“No. None,” Saliim said. “It’s as if nobody is really looking, though they say they are. The ‘worried’ party can immediately return a gorgon, but trying to return a succubus to her home, scared shitless, tortured daily is way too much to ask. By the Dark One, the gorgon was even treated better than me!”

“Has she always been like this, Master Mel?”

“Ever since I summoned her and asked her to paint her liver blue,” Mel grumbled, almost dozed off when Saliim shook him awake. “What? At least you did it.”

“Y... you did?” Brin said.

“I thought it was a weird kink or something, that he’d ask for an X-ray shot when we finally... you know...” Saliim growled, and forced him to open his eyes again, looking up into her bloodshot beauties. “That has to be the worst offense to come out of all of this: I haven’t been laid once... A succubus, not able to Feed.” She sobbed, pushing him down against the futon. “How can you be so cruel?”

“I’m not!” He said.

“But you are! I’m dying while everyday you treat every day as one big joke.”

“But I’m not keeping it from you.”

“But you are! You never once Fed me.”

“Because you never asked, jackass! I’m not a mind-reader.”

That gave her pause, her runes snuffed out, leaving only her eyes to see in the dark room, blinking quickly and frequently. He heard her mouth open and clack shut again and again, forgotten as he turned and cuddled his body pillow once m-

Guess what happened?

“So,” Saliim said, clearing her throat. “What you are saying is... if I simply ask-”

“Nope.”

“But you just said-”

“I never denied you before because you never asked. I am refusing you now because you have been such a bitch.” He yawned again, and, finally, held his flesh pillow with two fleshy pillows on it. “As for you, I’m too tired tonight.”

Brin giggled, and hugged him back. “That’s okay. I’m in no rush. I’ve never Fed, so I’m not tied to it.”

He didn’t notice that she stuck out her tongue at Saliim again, nor did he notice the pillars of flames rising from the horngry succubus’s back. Those black flames crackled and squelched on the newspaper as she paced it three times before lying down, and, finally, Mel was able to pass out in peace. He didn’t even dream that night, a sign to him that the next day was either going to be really freakin’ good, like his sophomore year in high school where he randomly got $40 walking to school then had his first sexual experience with one of his friend’s older sisters that evening before going home and doing the crowning achievement of the day: taking off his pants both legs at once. It was a skill he spent hours on, now given fruition as both slid off in perfect harmony! Neither leg got caught on his heels, neither held on to make him trip for his hubris, gliding off with the chorus of angelic hymns bolstering its flight... or it could be very bad, like the day his friend found out his sister gave him head and smashed his face not only into the vending machine but down several flights of steps by them, not stopping until his teeth made Picasso’s work jealous. Needless to say, that friend didn’t stay long, and his family paid for the EXTENSIVE corrective surgery that he was so thankful for that he never brushed his teeth again. And thanks to magic, he didn’t need to! Also thankfully, there was a happy ending after all: The friend’s sister didn’t stop offering. He wouldn’t stop accepting either until she was truly married to her boyfriend; then it just started to feel a little awkward. He got one last bit of lip service on the eve of her bachelorette party, then cut all ties to her. She was kind of a slut, anyways, showing off her ankles and all in her scrubs. How dare she show so much skin at the hospital!

Sadly, there was only one way to know if it was $40 bj and perfect pants removal (which he couldn’t remember exactly why he wore pants that day; all he knew was he had even less hope of pulling it off when the time came because of what had transpired that day) or it was voyeur pavement facial into Jason Vorhees’ shrapnel-filled asshole, and he really did not want to wake up. The buzzing never helped, and after what he and Saliim discussed the night before he really did not want to see what she had planned. He was never a fan of pegging. Or whips. Or chains. Or drugs –at least, the type that makes you a toy for somebody undesirable... Oh! Or death. Death was up there; he had so much to live for, after all. Like... Regardless, the buzzing was only getting louder, and the succubus were only becoming more roused.

Mel heard the newspaper shuffle behind him, the succubus groan and yawn and whimper all at once as her body popped while her feet were already on the move, heading for the bathroom-swiped-kitchen. Saliim? Going to the kitchen? In the months she’s been there, he never even seen her leave to use the restroom, which made him wonder now if she had made an elaborate ruse last night about the stains on the newspaper, but only a step in that direction. How could it veer any more from the path that laid before him, what with its giant flashing signs and robots screaming in the foreground. Every alarm bell, klaxon, air horn was rumbling away, telling him that this would only end badly... and yet... he found himself curious and wanting to know- nay, needing to know more.

What exactly was she up to? Was she planning to poison him? Did she learn nothing from the gorgon; she would have to put enough in it to not only kill herself but Brin, as well, before he felt the effects. It would have to be, like, super person- no! Super wasn’t enough. It would have to a step beyond super! It would have to be super duper poison, and even that wouldn’t do! It would have to be the next step, the truest of poison power (before retconned and given multiple paths where not even Super Poison God Super Poison would be enough; there would be Super Poison God Blue and Hyper Injected and Super-dee Duper Ultrasupercalifragilisticexpialidocious Poison... TWO) for it to probably do the deed. It would have to be enough to not only kill her, Brin, and him, but also enough to kill every multiverse version of them, every timeline; every potential future where they exist would have to be wiped out, AND EVEN THEN... he probably wouldn’t eat it. Unless it was made into French toast.

However, he had other matters to attend to. His robes weren’t going to be purified of the blood of the innocent on their own, after all. Mel rose out of bed, doing his own bit of popping and groaning and lumbered to the door.

Met by Saliim.

“Don’t come in!” She squawked, but shook her head, doing something that sent a chill down Mel’s spine. She... SMILED. “Er, I mean that in the kindest way possible. It’s a surprise.”

“... Okay,” he said, and swiped across the arch, thankful that it wiped her smile away with it. Not because she was in the other room, but because when it transitioned her hand was still in the arch and so it toppled to the ground, detached. Her sober scream warmed his heart a touch, knowing that she was still herself, and stepped into the bathroom fully just as the archway behind snapped shut. He tossed his robes on the sink, hitting with a soft splat, and stepped into the shower, welcoming the cold waters... then fresh robes that came with it. He swiped the arch as he finished tying his sash, and was met by another of Saliim’s screams, this time her whole left leg cut off. He picked it up and held it to the arch as it swapped to the kitchen again, and hummed to a rather morbid song in this situation. “’And you turn yourself around; that’s what it’s all about.”

He flourished with her leg... but once more another chill ran down his spine. Normally, she’d be calling him an idiot or screaming for his death while slapping her leg out of his hand –okay, that part isn’t normal...ish. But she didn’t have the slightest inkling of anger, rage, nor pain in her face. Instead, she was still smiling... and- dare he to even note it? Did he truly believe this black magic fuckery- but there was no reason to simply believe! She was!

She.

Was.

LAUGHING.

“Aren’t you in a good mood this morning?” She said, and gently took her leg back. Blood rained from her gash... and also where her leg had been cut from, attached again with the aid of spearmint radiation. She stepped on it tentatively, adding more pressure with each fall until all of the green light was gone, then she pressed against Mel’s chest, guiding him back to his futon. Where Brin was, as well, just as stunned, gawking at the succubus- IN AN APRON NOW. She poked his nose, and waggled a finger before him, sending his body into full fight-or-flight as she... WINKED. “Now you two be good and sit out here, okay? I’ve got something in the w- hold on.”

She HUMMED as she SKIPPED over to the entry, and every part of Mel wanted to yell at Penelope to run, run for her life. This was an unholy place, a haven for EVIL. However, she didn’t have a chance; she was stunned at first sight, dazed by Saliim in that apron, and the succubus claimed her, pulling her in and onto the futon as well.

“Good morning, madam,” Saliim said... singing it... the dread and fear in the room was palpable, the sweat that rolled off all their of their brows giving it a sour-sweet tang. “I didn’t forget about you, either, so all of you simply make yourselves comfortable. Converse, mingle, while I add the finishing touches... especially for you, Mel.”

She winked at him again, and spun about, swaying her hips wide enough to hit the side of the wide arch as she returned inside, swiped back to the bathroom.

“Master Mel,” Brin whimpered, squeezing his hand tight. It didn’t settle the shaking any, neither hers nor his. “I’m scared.”

“Me too,” Penelope said, walking around and sitting on Mel’s right. She wrapped her arms around, tears splashing, adding some warmth to Mel’s nape, all their eyes locked on the doorway. “Is it too late to run?”

“She’ll simply be dragged with us,” Mel grumbled.

Penelope sobbed, digging her nails into him. “I don’t want to die, Mel. Not like this. Not while I’m a virgin.”

“That makes two of us,” Brin said.

“Three,” Mel corrected, which broke the spell that had taken control of Penelope, allowing her to look away from the door at last.

“Wait. You never... with either one of these succubus? Or the gorgon?”

“What gorgon? I don’t remember this.”

“He never did it with Fluffy,” Brin said, but all conversation was postponed as the door flashed, revealing the kitchen again and their would-be executioner. She was still wearing her apron, the red material splattered in white, as if she already slain a cyborg and relished in its life fluid. Her shadow loomed over them, bathed them in darkness, turning darker as she sauntered their way. Death was upon them, in the form of extra fluffy pancakes!

“Okay!” Saliim said, handing each of them a plate of the towering piles of fluff. There were only four per plate, but those four were taller than most newborns. She had a plate as well, balanced on her tail behind while it was wrapped around a bottle of syrup, a case knife, and a jar of blackberry preserves. “They’re just buttermilk, but I hope you enjoy them all the same.”

None of them spoke, simply staring down at their golden demise. With smiley faces, no less. Saliim managed to burn the souls of children with such innocent smiles into the pancakes. She was the first one to take a bite, after dousing hers in syrup and giving it a single slice of the blackberry, watching them as she chewed and hummed.

“Well?” She said, muffled by a mouthful of that fluffy evil. “I know you’re ravenous in the morning, Mel; you don’t need to hesitate.”

Mel cleared his throat, and gingerly picked up the fork, tapping at the bouncy, villainous crust.

“Well, I lived a life,” he said, and took his first bite. He chewed it over, savoring the sweet death in his mouth, letting it linger until it was little more than paste, then swallowed it, feeling it slither into his stomach and sit there like a lead balloon. “It didn’t kill me right off the bat, so I assume it is somewhat safe.”

Saliim gazed at him a moment, not her usual glare or glower or sneer or smirk or any of the sort but a simple gaze, which made his stomach roil more than if she did, and almost turned over as she giggled. She waggled her fork at him, shaking her head.

“You would think I would poison you?” She said, taking another bite. “Silly Mel; I’m not trying to kill you. I just thought I’d... try something new.”

“Never heard the phrase ‘kill with kindness’?”

Ah... that felt a little better. There was that glint of the true Saliim; it was only a glimpse, a moment, and only in her eyes, but that made his stomach settle enough for him to continue eating, even as she giggled again. The others finally dug into their food, and the room was filled with the cacophony of forks crunching into pancake then scraping against plate, of the soft chews into the glorious deaths that surely awaited them one way or another from eating so much. Maybe she didn’t poison them, but Mel felt like he was going to die by the end regardless.

Saliim took their plates into the kitchen, washed in a blink before she returned. She knelt before Mel, rubbing his stomach, giggling as he groaned.

“Feels like you have a full tummy,” she mused, laying her head on it. She still looked up at him, those eyes twinkling a little. “So how was it?”

“It was okay,” he said. “Nowhere near as good as that pizza yesterday, but it made me the fat all the same.”

“That’s good.” She hummed, rubbing his belly a moment longer before rapping it with all eight fingers then slapping it with both palms, standing. “But we need to get you moving. You two have your Restoration class today.”

Mel bolted to his feet, almost stumbling forward from the extra weight in his gut.

“That’s right!” He said. “We can’t keep Professor Torrid waiting.”

Rather, he didn’t want to keep her waiting... Besides, he wanted to see just how much Saliim was willing to try something new, and what better way than out in front of everybody. He worried this morning that this day was going to be really bad, but now he knew it was going to be an absolute delight.

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