Semi-Incubised Veteran Get's Mistreated: The Story

Jan 19th, 2015
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  1. >"Eat shit you fucking murderer!"
  2. >A cup of soda smashes against your face, its contents exploding from the small confines and soaking your left side.
  3. >Well, at least your leg is dry. That'd be a bitch to clean.
  4. >Still, you're leisurely stay at the park is ruined.
  5. >You slowly stand, holding some of your weight on your cane, carefully making sure you have your footing.
  6. >After feeling your hip and making sure you're leg is still in place, you begin the slow trek back home.
  7. >You don't have to run. Most will bother you, but usually they're not much of a hindrance. Not like anyone's going to rape someone like you.
  8. >You take a look around as you walk. Sunlight streams through the leafless trees, a crisp breeze blows by, children scurry around, a few couples have cheap dates, and a little girl cries.
  9. >She's under a tree all by herself, crying loudly in the fetal position. You stop for a moment, looking at her, before slowly moving to her.
  10. >You clear your throat.
  11. "Hey, you okay there, kid?"
  12. >Your voice sounds rough, you're not sure if it's due to age or lack of use. Probably both.
  13. >She continues to cry, unaware of your presence.
  14. >You rest an arm against the tree and softly jab her side with your cane.
  15. "Hey, kid."
  16. >She lifts her head up to reveal pointed ears, streams of tears, and a runny nose.
  17. >Huh, a catgirl.
  18. >"I-I luh-l-lost my muh-m-mooom!" she stutters out, hysterical.
  19. >You shift uncomfortably. Oh boy, a lost girl.
  20. "Well," you say, trying to keep her calm, "why don't you tell me where you saw her last, that way maybe I can help you find her."
  21. >She wipes her eyes with her paws as she stammers out her response. "I wuh-was playing with s-some of the kids at th-the puh-playground nearby, and w-we were playing hide and seek, so I-I ran from the playground to find a b-better place to hide and whu-when I got back my mommy was gooone!"
  22. >Great. She could be anywhere.
  23. >She takes her paws away from her eyes and blinks up at you, for the first time seeing you unobscured. Her eyes widen in fear and her mouth drops open.
  24. >Faded scars trail your face, with pleasure runes trailing down your neck, and on the back of your hands, the rest concealed by your damp, dark green jacket.
  25. >Your skin has a lightly pinkish, unnatural hue, and small horns peak from your head, which parts your messy hair away from your face.
  26. >You are slightly scruffy from not shaving for a few days.
  27. >From just looks, people would assume early fifties at most, but in reality you're nearing 76; one of the affects of being somewhat incubised.
  28. >You are very obviously a rare sight. A veteran.
  29. >And the last "war" this world has seen is the big one. The Contact Wars.
  30. >Shit gotta defuse this situation before it goes bad.
  31. "Before we panic here-"
  33. >People turn and stare as the kitten scurries away, crying and screaming.
  34. >With how distressed she is, she isn't getting very far, but you're not very fast either.
  35. >You hobble after her.
  36. "Hang on I'm not going to fu-" you catch yourself before you curse in front of a child, "flipping hurt you, I want to help you!"
  38. >You glance around nervously at the crowd forming. Things are going to get dicey if you don't do something.
  39. "Hey, kid, don't you think I'd have already hurt you if I wanted to?" you ask, sounding desperate.
  40. >She begins to get up to her feet. If she runs, you'll never catch her, and then she'll be alone and in danger.
  41. >Thinking quickly, you sit back and drop your cane, lifting up your hands. You cross your legs to hide your somewhat exposed artificial leg.
  42. "Look, LOOK, I'm harmless from here! I don't want to hurt you, I can't hurt you, I just want to help!"
  43. >She's on her feet now, getting to a runner's stance, but it's a good damn thing catgirls are known for being curious.
  44. >She turns her head to get a quick look at you, and, glancing at your vulnerable position, cane laying at your side and sitting on the ground, hands in the air, hesitates.
  45. >Shit better reel her in.
  46. "See, I'm not hurting anyone, just a harmless old man, sitting in the dirt like an idiot."
  47. >Slowly, slowly, she turns to you, still tense. You sigh and put on a soft smile.
  48. "Good, good. Everything's going to be okay, you hear? Now, I'm going to get up, and we're going to see about finding your mother."
  49. >Fuck it's going to be hard getting up.
  50. >You roll over to your hands and knees, or, uh, knee, and progressively work on standing up.
  51. >"W-why's your leg metal?"
  52. >It went boom, kid.
  53. "I, uh, lost it."
  54. >"Y-you can do that?"
  55. >Choosing not to answer, you grab your cane and use it to get yourself on your feet.
  56. >The catgirl looks shyly up at you while you, even slightly bent over a cane, tower over her.
  57. "Well, let's find your mom. Where was the playground you were at?"
  58. >Following the little girl, you go up to one of the numerous kiddie-areas in the park. Not very many kids are there, most leaving because it's just starting to get late.
  59. >Looking around, you see no distressed mother.
  60. >"Wh-where do you think she is?"
  61. "Probably looking for you," you say with a shrug.
  62. >"What do you think we should do?" she asks, her fear evident in her voice and expression.
  63. "Best we can do is sit here and wait for your mother to come back."
  64. >You walk to a park bench and sit down, the girl following and sitting as far as she can away from you.
  65. >Awkward silence soon fills the air between you.
  66. >You attempt to break it.
  67. "Hey, what's your name?"
  68. >Nothing but a shy and scared stare.
  69. "Mine's Tom. You can call me Tommy if you'd like."
  70. >Nothing.
  71. "My friends called me Tommy."
  72. >Really not working with you here.
  73. >What can you say, really?
  74. "You know, I used to go to this park when I was a kid."
  75. >She continues staring, but she seems… interested enough.
  76. >Can't really tell.
  77. >You look off to the playground.
  78. "Some of my earliest memories were of me and my friend playing at this park. We used to play tag, except she was always faster than me. She'd always say how we should play something else, but I'd insist we play tag. Even though I'd get worn out before she did, even though I could never catch her, I just wouldn't let myself stop until I did."
  79. >You glance back at the catgirl. She's less afraid now, that's a good sign.
  80. "One da-"
  81. >"What species was she?" she asks.
  82. >The question stops you.
  83. "Huh?"
  84. >"What species was she? Was she a fast one?"
  85. >You look to your legs.
  86. "Back then, it was just human."
  87. >"O-oh."
  88. >Another brief silence before you continue.
  89. "One day, as usual, I was It, and I was relentlessly chasing her, while she would occasionally turn to mock me. That was her big mistake," you say, looking to the cat with a small smile. "She tripped on a fallen branch, and I immediately ran and tagged her. I laughed and tried to help her up, but when I did, she, uh, she started crying."
  90. "At first, I thought it was because she lost, and for a second I felt bad about tagging her. But she started saying that her ankle hurt."
  91. >You turn to the catgirl, who has no trace of fear on her face anymore.
  92. "You know what I did?"
  93. >She shakes her head no.
  94. "I took her, and I put her into a princess carry. Then I carried her all the way home. Turns out her ankle was sprained, so we couldn't play tag for a while after that. It was alright though; she still had checkers to beat me in. But after that, we did a few strength competitions for me to win."
  95. >She looks to you, expecting more.
  96. >You shrug.
  97. "Sorry it was dissatisfying, it was the first thing to come to mind. I haven't really thought about my childhood in… in a long time."
  98. >"What happened to her?"
  99. >How do you put this?
  100. "Died."
  101. >She looks away from you and swallows.
  102. >Smooth, real smooth.
  103. "Hey, if you're thinking it, I didn't kill her."
  104. >"I-I wasn't thinking that."
  105. >Shit, way to make things awkward.
  106. "Sorry about all that, then. A lot of mon- mamono, are kinda' quick to jump to conclusions."
  107. >Nothing.
  108. >She's the one to speak up now.
  109. >"How did she… you know."
  110. "Die?"
  111. >She nods.
  112. >You look down at your hands perched on your cane.
  113. >Blood. You could taste and smell blood.
  114. >It's been decades and it still feels like… like little over a year, tops.
  115. >So long, and you still can't get over it.
  116. >You force the memories back.
  117. "I don't want to talk about that."
  118. >Beat.
  119. >"I'm sorry."
  120. >You turn to her.
  121. >"You look like you were remembering something bad."
  122. >Ah crap, look what you did in front of the kids.
  123. "It's fine."
  124. >Pause.
  125. >"My name's Katherine. B-but my friends call me Kiki."
  126. >A smile comes takes your face.
  127. "My name's Tom, but you can call me Tommy."
  128. >For once, the girl smiles.
  129. >You sigh. It's good, you're making ground.
  130. "Well, Kiki, I told you a bit about me, why don't you say something about yourself?"
  131. >She fidgets.
  132. >"I play soccer with my parents."
  133. "Really? A sporty girl, huh. I wish I could still kick things around."
  134. >She looks up at you. "Is it because of you lost your leg?"
  135. >You nod.
  136. >"Maybe, after mommy finds us, we can go look for it!" she says, letting childish excitement seep into her voice.
  137. >You chuckle.
  138. "I don't think we'll be finding it anytime soon."
  139. >"Why not?"
  140. >Remember, she's a kid.
  141. "I lost it in a far away place."
  142. >"Oh… why don't you go back there and look for it."
  143. >You shake your head.
  144. "No no no, I'm not going back there."
  145. >"Why not?"
  146. "Bad memories."
  147. >Awkward silence, my old friend.
  148. >"I heard you beat up an ushi-oni."
  149. >More like you caught her raping someone and broke your cane on her head.
  150. >Then knocked her seal off.
  151. >She beat you into the ground then broke that man in ways you hadn't seen since the war.
  152. >They eventually moved into your apartment complex. Turns out they got married.
  153. >Weirdest elevator ride ever.
  154. "It was really the other way around, but yeah, I did get a few good hits on her."
  155. >The sun's setting. That ain't good.
  156. "Hey, maybe we should-"
  157. >"KATHERINE!"
  158. >Fucking finally.
  159. >With a shout of "Mommy!" the little kitten hops out of her seat and into her mother's arms.
  160. >You nod your head. Mission accomplished.
  161. >Her mother glares up at you, but says nothing as she picks up her daughter and rocks her back and forth.
  162. "Yup, I'm done here," you say as you laboriously stand.
  163. >"Wait, Tommy!" shouts Kiki as she leaps from her mother and scampers to you.
  164. >You blink at her. Well, people being with you willingly, that's a first.
  165. >She hugs your good leg. It's a bit sticky from the soda.
  166. >"Thanks for helping me."
  167. "It's fine, really."
  168. >"Alright Kiki dear, come here."
  169. >She lets go of your leg and goes running back to her mother, who pulls out her phone. Probably to talk with her husband.
  170. >With everything done, you turn and come face to face with a dark-elf police officer.
  171. >She looks at you, obviously unhappy, with her hand twitching over her… is that a fucking whip?
  172. >The atmosphere is tense, but she doesn't seem to be doing anything serious, other than gazing into your eyes with malicious intent.
  173. "Is there a problem, officer?"
  174. >"… Not with the girl's reaction to you, no. But if I see you with a missing child again, there will be consequences."
  175. >Right, you look after a lost child and suddenly everything's your fault. Bitch.
  176. >"You're lucky you're claimed," she says as she walks past you, to the mother and daughter.
  177. >You stay still for a moment, letting it all sink in, before you start walking home.
  178. >Goddamn are these sticky clothes uncomfortable.
  180. >Damn does TV suck nowadays. You have to watch kids shows just to not get any sex, and even then it's all innuendoes.
  181. >The doorbell rings, drawing you out from angrily watching a cartoon witch and imp suck popsicles.
  182. "Coming!" you shout as you attach your leg.
  183. >It won't look pretty, but you weren't expecting anyone, so you suppose it's time to scare off a newbie Dark Priest or Sabbath preacher again.
  184. >You quickly shuffle your way to the door, and open it, wearing a face of displeasure.
  185. "Is there a problem?"
  186. >It's a neko.
  187. >Wait, you recognize that neko.
  188. >"Tommy!" says a voice from underneath you. You feel something latch onto your good leg.
  189. >You glance down to Kiki, then up to her mother.
  190. >She looks like she'd rather be anywhere other than here.
  191. "Uhhhh… mind explaining what you're doing here?"
  192. >"I got a school project!" the little cat says.
  193. "Great, what's that have to do with you being here?"
  194. >"It’s a history project!"
  195. >This better not be leading to where you think it's leading.
  196. >"You're supposed to ask someone about a point in history they've experienced.
  197. >You begin to sweat.
  198. >"So I came to ask you what it was like before mamono! You might be one of the only ones in the area who actually lived in that time!"
  199. >You let out a sigh. You thought this would be about the war for a second there.
  200. "I dunno, don't you think your mother is unhappy about this?"
  201. >The woman opens her mouth to speak before her daughter does it first. "I asked for this to make up for her losing track of me! But she won't let me interview you by myself, so she came! She even helped me find you!"
  202. >Oh boy.
  203. >The catwoman stares daggers at you while you try to find a way out of this.
  204. >She's dressed in business attire, in stark contrast to your casual short sleeve shirt and shorts, revealing in full the prosthetic leg, pleasure runes, and scars usually better hidden.
  205. >"You're going to help my daughter with this project," she says sternly. One ear twitches. "And she's going to pass with an A, or you'll meet my sister."
  206. "Who's your sister and why should I care?"
  207. >She smirks. "She's the mayor."
  208. >FUCK.
  211. >You sit around your small, round dining room table.
  212. >Frankly, you don't know whether to be upset over the situation you've gotten yourself in, or overjoyed by the fact that this table is finally being used by more people than yourself.
  213. >The catwoman stares at you from across the table, while her daughter sits in between you two.
  214. >You nervously wring your hands around your cane underneath the table, waiting for the awkward silence to end.
  215. >But Kiki seems to want you to talk first, happily waiting for you to say anything.
  216. >You clear your throat.
  217. >The catwoman adjusts her glasses. Kiki continues happily swinging her legs, not long enough to reach the ground from her chair.
  218. "Uhhh… s-so…"
  219. >Goddamn it you survived a war why are you this nervous.
  220. "What is it you," you gesture at nothing in particular, "wanted to know?"
  221. >"About what it was like before mamono came!"
  222. "Yes, but, I mean, anything specific?"
  223. >"Specific?"
  224. >Her mother answers. "He means is there anything more detailed, or focused. If I said I wanted that lamp," she says as she points to a lamp across the room, "I would be talking about that lamp specifically."
  225. >"Oh!" she looks down at her folder on her desk, papers neatly piled on top. "Specifically," she mutters as she squints her eyes and reads over her assignment.
  226. >She shrugs. "It just says I have to get a story on what it was like to be in a different time!"
  227. "What type of teacher gives an assignment like that," you mutter. "I guess I'll tell you a story about when I was a child. That's really the only time monst- mamono weren't around."
  228. >The woman narrows her eyes at you narrowly avoiding saying the m-word.
  229. >That's just what you called them! Everyone did!
  230. >Disregarding slurs from a bygone era, you try to scrounge up a childhood memory of yours.
  231. >You suppose you could tell another story about Mary.
  232. "Alright, how about a story from when I was your age? That work?"
  233. >"Sure!" she says, grabbing a small notepad and a pencil.
  234. > You think back, far back, to one of your earliest memories.
  236. >Fall is in full swing. The leaves are red and yellow; the air is crisp and cool.
  237. >You're new to the area, and more importantly, new to the school.
  238. >Not like you had very many friends before the move, but some were better than none.
  239. >And you were shy as hell.
  240. >Your eyes drift around the small playground, as all the kids run about and have fun without you.
  241. >The teacher, Ms. Somethingoranother, young and inexperienced at her job, leans over and whispers into your ear, "Why don't you try making friends with the other kids?"
  242. >You shake your head no. This whole situation is jarring and frightening to you.
  243. >She nudges you forward a bit. "Go on, you have to speak with them sometime."
  244. >You look at her, seeing her motioning towards the other kids, and start walking towards the brutal hell that is adolescence.
  245. >Standing next to the slide, a bit into the fray, nothing bad seems to have happened.
  246. >Maybe you'll live through this unscathed.
  247. >"Hey, new kid!"
  248. >Spoke too soon.
  249. >A girl runs past you, slapping you on the shoulder without breaking her stride.
  250. >"Tag, you're It!"
  251. >Oh god, no. Not this.
  252. >You've got to get this away.
  253. >You turn to the girl and run, but she's almost halfway across the playground now.
  254. >It's a futile effort to try and catch her.
  255. >Turning to the nearest boy, you immediately tap him on the shoulder.
  256. "Y-you're it," you say.
  257. >"You can't do that, I'm not playing!" he says, stamping his foot.
  258. "W-who is?"
  259. >"I dunno. You don't know who you're playing with?"
  260. >You shake your head no.
  261. >"I guess you should ask who tagged you, then before recess ends and you're It forever."
  262. >Forever?
  263. >Truly that would be a fate worse than death.
  264. >Panicked, you try spotting where's she's ran, but the girl is nowhere in sight.
  265. >You run around the perimeter of the grounds, but she's completely disappeared.
  266. >Things aren't looking good.
  267. >You begin searching everywhere you can, running through crowds, taking lookouts points on jungle-gyms, climbing up the slide.
  268. >It's like she's invisible or something.
  269. >The bell rings just as you decide to ask around for her, sealing your doom as another pariah fallen to the "It" plague.
  270. >The girl pops out from somewhere behind you and starts scampering to the school.
  271. "Hey!"
  272. >She turns to look at you, a smug grin on her face.
  273. "Why'd you do that? Now I'm It forever and no one will ever like me! And I just moved here!"
  274. >She continues smirking. "I guess you're just going to have to catch me afterschool if you want to get rid of it. The game never ends, after all, it's just stopped for school! Come on, the faster we get in, the faster it'll be over!"
  275. >No arguing that logic.
  276. >You wait out the remainder of the school day with eager anticipation, your teacher occasionally flashing you a smile, though you couldn't care less.
  277. >You were a boy with a mission, a mission to restore your honor and remove the curse placed upon you by that girl.
  278. >The final bell rings, and you join the stampede of kids running from their desks to freedom, immediately seeking out the playground.
  279. >She's already there, looking for you.
  280. >You make eye contact before she quickly turns and runs, with you chasing behind her as fast as you can.
  281. >You chase her out of the schoolyard, into the streets.
  282. >It makes you somewhat nervous to be out of the schoolyard and into completely unfamiliar territory.
  283. >She leads you to what seems to be one of the nicer areas, and runs up to one of the houses, where an old woman sits.
  284. >She leaps behind one of her legs, and grabs on. "Grandma, grandma, protect me!"
  285. >She looks to you, bent over and panting heavily from all the running. "Boys chasin' you already?" the old woman asks. "That the friend you were tellin' me about?"
  286. >"Yup!" says the girl beneath her.
  287. >Wait, you've only been here for a day.
  288. >The grandmother sighs dramatically. "Well, let's get him a glass 'a water. Your parents know you're here?" she questions you.
  289. >You shake your head no.
  290. >"Well then, come in, I'll have to drive you to them soon." She shoos the little girl off her leg, and begins walking into the house. "You comin' in?" she says as she holds the door open.
  291. >You stand up straight and look between the two, then inside, before walking in.
  292. >That was how you met Mary, and her grandmother.
  294. >There's a brief pause after you're finished with your story.
  295. >"Don't you think you could've told a story that showed more of the differences between now and then?" Kiki's mother says.
  296. >You shrug.
  297. "What did you want me to tell? Sure, a lot of things changed, but, I mean, I don't think saying what's different is appropriate in front of a kid."
  298. >"And just what do you mean by that?"
  299. "Well, the dating scene's all weird, for starters."
  300. >Her frown intensifies. "How so?"
  301. >You shift in your seat.
  302. "Well, girls weren't so… forward, and certainly not as… active, as they are now. And they're starting to do it at too young an age, too."
  303. >"What are you implying here?"
  304. >It's like anything you say will piss her off.
  305. "I'm just saying, the things girls do today are too wild! They're literally pouncing on boys in the street!"
  306. >"Mommy, what's he mean?"
  307. >"He doesn't like that mamono have sex, dear."
  308. >You stare at the mother in horror.
  309. >"Oh." She begins writing something down.
  310. "Nonono, don't say that, I just don't find it good that it's all so open."
  311. >"What do you mean?" Kiki asks.
  312. "You know, all the… the 'proactive dating', and the rates of… activity, in urban areas, high schools, middle schools… sometimes even earlier schools."
  313. >Kiki just shrugs. "What's so bad about it?"
  314. >You groan.
  315. "It was just different, back in the day. You wouldn't have so much public displays, boys would be the ones chasing girls…"
  316. >Her eyes sparkle. "Wow, it worked backwards back then!" She looks at her notepad excitedly and starts quickly writing.
  317. >"What happened to the girl, you mentioned her name was Mary?" the catwoman asks from across the table. "What's she doing now?"
  318. >How to put this softly.
  319. "She's gone."
  320. >"Didya' marry her?"
  321. "Huh?"
  322. >"The childhood friend! It's like the oldest thing ever! You always go for the childhood friend! So you married her, right?"
  323. >You're getting uncomfortable.
  324. "S-sorta?"
  325. >"Does this have to do with the woman who claimed you?" Kiki's mother presses. "Where is she, anyway?"
  326. >"Well, you said your wife is dead, so…" Kiki says, before she frowns. Seems she drew a conclusion. "Oh. Is that what you meant by her being gone?"
  327. >You nod slowly.
  328. >"And the woman that claimed you?"
  329. >Damn, was that lamp always that interesting.
  330. >"Was it the same woman? Can human girls claim men like mamono can?" asks Kiki.
  331. >These questions are starting to rub you in a bad way.
  332. "No, humans can't claim men like that," you say, trying to get them to focus on the other question.
  333. >"So then how were you claimed?"
  334. >You swallow.
  335. >"What did you do to her?" the woman asks.
  336. >The room goes silent. You turn your head to stare at the older neko.
  337. "What do you mean?" You can't hide your grim attitude from seeping into your voice.
  338. >"You're claimed, yet you're by yourself. What did you do with your wife?"
  339. >Your mouth hangs slightly open as you try to work your way out of the shock as to what she said.
  340. >She stares at you with open distain.
  341. "You're daughter has everything she needs," you say, trying to sound calm. "I think it's time you left."
  342. >She stares into your eyes for a little while, before standing from her chair. "Come on sweetie, let's leave this behind us now."
  343. >Kiki hops from her seat, looking nervous, and takes her mother's hand. You hear the clack of high heels walking away.
  344. >"Bye Tommy!" Kiki says, before you hear the door slam shut.
  345. >You sit there, no longer hiding your shivering, staring at the cheap wooden table.
  346. "Fucking bitch."
  349. >You look at your face in the bathroom mirror, slumped over the sink, turning your head left and right to get a good look.
  350. >You need a goddamn shave. And a haircut.
  351. >Baggy eyes, worsening scruff, messy hair; your chest hidden behind a white beater, nicely filling it in due to keeping a thin layer of muscle, despite the fact you really don't take care of yourself anymore.
  352. >Sleep didn't come easy for you last night.
  353. >Memories kept you up until 2AM, and when you did fall asleep, the nightmares came for you.
  354. >Not the centaur variants either, the old ones, the bad dreams that haunted you since you left the Realms.
  355. >You wet your hands and drag them across your face, washing off some of the sweat and grease.
  356. >Someone knocks on your door just as you're wiping off your eyes.
  357. >You're not in the mood for this shit.
  358. >Snatching your cane from the side of the sink, you turn and hobble quickly to the door. You want this to be done.
  359. >Opening your front door and giving your best "don't fuck with me" face, you're met only with empty air.
  360. >Squinting, your eyes dart around the hallway, finally coming to rest on the little girls below you.
  361. >Your somewhat groggy mind's first conclusion is Sabbath, but with a cheery shout of "Tommy!" and a small girl wrapped around your good leg, you realize it's so much worse than that.
  362. >Seems someone up there hates you deeply.
  363. >The other girl looks you up and down, emitting a low whistle before walking right around you and into your house.
  364. >"So this is the guy you were telling me about? I thought a Humanist soldier would be a bit more, y'know, cool."
  365. >Nope, you're not having this shit, not today.
  366. >Quickly shifting your cane's position for wider, sturdier stance, you shoot out your free arm, grabbing her by the shoulder.
  367. >She teleports away from you. You realize in that moment how truly fucked you are.
  368. >"Easy there!" says the cheshire, smirking. "You're a bit old to be shopping for this type of merchandise, aren't you?"
  369. "No, no, not interested in any way, get the fuck out."
  370. >"Wait!" Kiki pipes up, still on your leg. "She doesn't mean anything, she's just having fun." The catgirl shoots her friend a glare. "Aren't you?"
  371. >"Eeeeeh… why not."
  372. >Not even a minute and already you hate this girl. Girls like this are the reason why parents should be allowed to beat their children.
  373. >The cheshire quickly does multiple small jumps to your couch, picking up the TV remote and beginning channel surfing on your cable.
  374. >You look down at Kiki, unamused.
  375. "I swear to God there better be a good reason for this."
  376. >"I went to Maddy today for cover so mom wouldn't know I was visiting you! And in exchange she wanted to come!"
  377. >Your frown persists.
  378. "Still doesn't answer my question."
  379. >"You're all alone!"
  380. "Gee, thanks."
  381. >"No, I mean you need someone to keep you company!"
  382. "And you thought that she," you point at the cat lazing on your couch, "was good company? Not to mention that you snuck here behind you're very easily pissed off mother's back? And all because you thought I was lonely?"
  383. >Kiki lets go of your leg, lowering her head ashamedly and generally looking as adorably guilty as possible.
  384. >Perhaps with the amount of stress you're feeling today that your defenses are already down.
  385. >Perhaps you've grown to find the shit she's put you through for the past week interesting.
  386. >Perhaps you really are lonely.
  387. >But you feel yourself caving.
  388. "… Alright, get in, but I don't want a word of this getting out, you here?"
  389. >The little catgirl beams at you, before latching onto your leg again.
  390. >You close the door as you turn around to the other cat.
  391. "You hear me! Not a word!"
  392. >"Yeah, yeah, hey, you got any premium channels on this?"
  393. "If you make me pay for anything, I'll-"
  394. >"You'll what," she leers at you.
  395. >You just grit your teeth.
  396. >"Relax, old-timer, I'm not gonna' do anything, sheesh."
  397. >Kiki pulls on your pants, gesturing you to come closer.
  398. >You slowly and carefully get to one knee, still looking down at her a bit.
  399. >"She has a hard time liking new people, but she was really interested when I told her that you were from the before-times! She might not look it, but she really wants to get to know you, she just doesn't… really know how."
  400. >You look back up to the couch, where she's settling down with a bag of chips.
  401. "Where the hell did you get those?"
  402. >"Your next door neighbor."
  403. >You look back at Kiki, staring your bloodshot eyes deep into her nervous ones.
  404. "Tell me why I shouldn't slap her shit right now?"
  405. >"Y-you'll get in trouble," she says with a shrug.
  406. >Grumbling, you stand up and limp your way to the couch.
  407. >Maddy sprawls herself out as best she can, mostly occupying your entire couch.
  408. >You grab her legs with one hand and turn her so you have room to sit.
  409. >As you settle down, she teleports, changing position so that her back rests on your legs, with her looking up into your eyes.
  410. "Get off."
  411. >"Make me."
  412. >You put your hands under her and roll her off of you. She teleports back to the couch before she can roughly land on the hardwood.
  413. >What is it about her that pisses you off so much? You should probably be more careful. God forbid she gets upset and starts saying shit.
  414. >Sighing, you lye back as Kiki settles in between the two of you.
  415. >"What're we watching?"
  416. >"Some infomercial about some new kinda' fertility pill."
  417. "Oh boy, more shi- crap."
  418. >Gotta' watch your step here, no more carelessness.
  421. >You turn off the TV, eyes wide in abject horror.
  422. >"Hey, I was watching that!" The cheshire next to you shouts.
  423. "T-they tested the effects. On television. You saw everything. Even the inside."
  424. >"How else are you gonna' see if they work?"
  425. "You look at customer reviews, not show the acts of sex until conception live on television!" you say, exasperated.
  426. >The miniature monster shrugs. "Well, right there the proof's in the puddin'." She chuckles a bit.
  427. >You look to Kiki, hoping for some form of sanity.
  428. >She merely shrugs in response. "I don't see why they shouldn't do that."
  429. >Unbelievable. You've been dealing with monsters for decades, and you can still find brand new things they do that horrify you.
  430. >Times are changing for the worse. And the children are fine with it.
  431. >Yup, you're old.
  432. >Still don't make that shit right.
  433. >You stand up, pocketing the remote and trying to work out the images of sperm writhing its way to one of the four egg cells.
  434. >The images might've made you uncomfortable, but goddamn, you'll admit these monsters knew how to make sex drugs.
  435. >"Well, what're we gonna' do now?"
  436. "Not watch TV, that's for shit sure."
  437. >"Then what can we do, soldier-boy?"
  438. >You begin walking to your kitchen.
  439. "I don't fu- fudging know."
  440. >The demonic kitten smirks. "You can say fuck around me, I'm not your mommy."
  441. >You open your one of your cabinets, pulling out an emergency bottle of whiskey.
  442. >You are by no means an alcoholic, but sometimes you need something strong to take the edge off of life.
  443. >Can't sleep. Little girls are bothering you. Everything on the TV is either softcore porn or downright fetishy shit. Yup, now's one of those occasions.
  444. >You wonder what other terrors awaits you should you venture out of the mind-numbing (lewd) history-documentary reruns, poorly written children's cartoons, stupid reality shows about tanukis ripping people off, and perverted newscasts.
  445. >You pour yourself a small glass before resealing the bottle and putting it back in its resting place.
  446. >Picking up the glass and turning, you look at the cheshire staring up at you.
  447. "Out of my kitchen, I'm having a moment."
  448. >"Not until you give me something to do."
  449. "Get out of my apartment."
  450. >"Come on, something fun!" she says, teleporting up to your counter.
  451. "You can start with getting down from there."
  452. >She groans. "What do you even do all day?"
  453. "Read books. Watch old movies."
  454. >She gags.
  455. >You roll your eyes and take a sip of your drink.
  456. "Yeah, well, what do you do for fun then?"
  457. >Her face slowly adopts an evil grin. "Mess with people."
  458. >You pop back the rest of your drink.
  459. "Well, let's watch a movie!"
  460. >You place down your glass and hobble your way quickly to the TV stand, Maddy following closely behind.
  461. >The Godfather. Bladerunner. For some reason you've got two copies of American Psycho.
  462. >The Dark Knight trilogy, The Lord of the Rings, Forest Gump.
  463. >Shit, what can you show them that'll interest them.
  464. >Wait, why do you care? Why not throw on something that'll make them leave.
  465. >Alien, The Thing, The Shining.
  466. >Putting further thought into it, scaring them might cause more problems than it fixes.
  467. >"We gonna' watch a movie," the cheshire says over your shoulder. "Or are we just gonna' to watch you browse?"
  468. "Hang on, I'm trying to find something for you to watch."
  469. >Uhhh… Nightmare Before Christmas?
  470. >Fuck it.
  471. >You pull out the case and put it on the TV stand.
  472. >"What's that? It looks weird, and bad."
  473. "It's Tim Burton, it's gonna' look like that."
  474. >"I don't wanna' watch something like that, I wanna' watch something cool! Something with less monsters, something pre-war!"
  475. "This is pre-war."
  476. >"Uh-uhm," says Kiki from your couch.
  477. >Damn, you forgot about her for a second.
  478. >"I-I agree with Maddy. Let's watch something humans watched."
  479. >The one kid's movie you have and they don't want to watch it.
  480. "Fine, you pick, I'll tell you yes or no."
  481. >The smug cat immediately goes for Saving Private Ryan.
  482. "Put that down."
  483. >"Well now I'm only more interested."
  484. "I said I'd tell you yes or no, and I'm saying no."
  485. >You snatch the case from her hands and put it back.
  486. >"Fine, party-pooper." Picking up Forest Gump, she turns it to its back and reads.
  487. >"Eh, looks like a cheesy romance… why not. I want to see how human girls got with men."
  488. >You think back. You haven't watched this movie in a long time.
  489. >There isn't really anything you can recall that they can't see. It says PG-13 so it's probably alright.
  490. >You slide it in and make your way to the couch, the cheshire teleporting next to you.
  491. >Kiki pulls on your shirt as the movie starts up.
  492. >"I-I'm sorry about all this."
  493. >You just grumble and lean back, trying to get comfortable as the opening music plays.
  494. >Just a bit into the movie and Maddy is already stirring the pot.
  495. >"I don't get humans! He obviously likes her, why didn't she ever claim him or tell him to buzz off?"
  496. >"Humans can't claim men," Kiki informs.
  497. "It's more complex than that."
  498. >"It isn't! Look, he's dumb, okay, but that's no excuse! Just work off all that energy, even if you don't want to spend your life with him, or marry him!"
  499. "He's borderline, if not completely, retarded."
  500. >"What's that mean?" asks Kiki.
  501. "Just watch the damn movie."
  502. >Maddy crosses her arms and pouts. "Human girls are weird. And stupid."
  503. >You ignore the comment.
  504. >Slowly, the movie unfolds.
  505. >And you remember why you didn't watch this movie for so long as Forest prepares to go to war.
  506. >You reach for the remote from the cheshire.
  507. >"Hey, I'm watching this!"
  508. "I thought the human girl bothers you."
  509. >"I didn't say I wasn't interested! Besides, this is looking more like the first movie."
  510. "Yeah, that's why we really shouldn't watch this anymore."
  511. >"Why? Afraid?"
  512. >Your gaze hardens.
  513. "Stop the movie."
  514. >She looks a bit nervous, but she quickly hides it under a smirk.
  515. >"What do you have to be afraid of?"
  516. >"Isn’t it mean to make him watch this?" the kinder cat pipes up.
  517. >"Nah, he's a grown man, he'll be fine."
  518. >You lunge for the remote.
  519. >The girl disappears, before quickly reappearing.
  520. >"Look what you did, now I had to hide it in the neighbor's house."
  521. >You move to stand before she grabs your cane and teleports off.
  522. >You're stunned by the sheer audacity she had to do that.
  523. >The monster teleports back and settles down on the couch next to you again.
  524. >"Maddy, why'd you do that?"
  525. >"So he couldn't stop the movie."
  526. >"But that was mean!"
  527. >The sound of helicopter propellers fills the room. You start to glance around nervously. Your hands are shaking.
  528. >"And? He hasn't exactly been the nicest to me."
  529. >"And you haven't been the nicest to him either!"
  530. >"Relax, he'll be fine, right?" she says, nudging your arm.
  531. >Kiki looks at your trembling hands, and then up at you. "Are you okay?"
  532. "Yeah, yeah," you squeak out, wide eyed and staring ahead like a deer in headlights.
  533. >Kiki constantly looks between you and the TV, while Maddy is almost entirely focused on the movie.
  534. >The movie doesn't seem so bad. There's just soldiers, they're just walking around. You can take this.
  535. >You breathe heavily. Your hands begin trying to find your cane to wring, and when they don't, clamp down on your legs. The lack of sensation from your right prosthetic further unnerves you.
  536. >The soldiers trudge through the Vietnamese swamps and marshes, guns in tow.
  537. >Rain pelts them.
  538. >You try to drag yourself out from having flashbacks.
  539. >The soldiers walk onto a small strip of dirt road as the heavy rain suddenly stops.
  540. >You violently jerk as the soldiers suddenly come under fire.
  541. >Your entire body is trembling, your back is pressed as far back as you can against the couch, you're holding your breath.
  542. >The two girls watch with eyes as wide as yours as they get a taste of what war looks like.
  543. >Bullets rain, men scream, things explode, people die, the neat lines become chaos and you can see everyone ducking down around you as musket fire flies past you.
  544. >You shake your head quickly, trying to pull yourself out from the memory as the movie continues.
  545. >The girls do nothing but stare as they see blood, charred flesh, broken men, and napalm.
  546. "Can we stop watching this now," you almost inaudibly say as the rescue helicopters arrive.
  547. >Maddy nods slowly before teleporting off the couch.
  548. >You sit down for a few slow, grinding seconds as you watch bandaged men sit around in a hospital.
  549. >She comes back just as a legless Lieutenant Dan is carried off, legless.
  550. >"Sorry, the woman next door…" she trails off as she sees what's on the TV.
  551. >She stops the movie for you.
  552. >The silence in the air is almost palpable. "Here's your cane back."
  553. >You turn to her, as she meekly offers your cane with a nervous smile.
  554. >You take it in your trembling hands, holding it a little while before setting it down at your side.
  555. >Maddy puts her hands behind her back as you and Kiki stare at her.
  556. >She glances to Kiki, and then back to you.
  557. >"Sorry," she says.
  558. >And then you backhand her.
  561. >Maddy stumbles from the force of the sudden impact. You hear Kiki gasp.
  562. >The only movement in the room is you slowly putting your hand back to your cane.
  563. >You continue to stare at Maddy, her hands resting on the cheek you hit, occasionally letting out a hiccup. She's crying.
  564. >The only noise you hear is the blood pounding in your ears.
  565. >Your heart races uncomfortably.
  566. >Kiki is too stunned or scared to speak.
  567. "Get out," you croak.
  568. >She slowly turns to you, moving her hands away from her face, and trying to make eye contact. She can't maintain it under your gaze, quickly looking away any time she tries to lock eyes again.
  569. >You point towards your door with a quivering hand.
  570. >Her poor attempts at putting on a brave face do nothing to you.
  571. >"T-Tommy?" Kiki whispers behind you.
  572. >You take a deep breath and turn to her.
  573. >For a while you just stare at her.
  574. >She tries to hide behind her hands.
  575. >You slowly rise to your feet and begin moving to your kitchen.
  576. >After today you're gonna' need to replace that emergency bottle of whiskey.
  577. >Reaching in and pulling it out, you don't even bother getting a glass.
  578. >You lean against your counter and take a large gulp.
  579. >Your throat burns as it goes down.
  580. >Walking out and looking to your living room, you find the two cats still there. In the same spots.
  581. >Looking at you.
  582. >She's still crying. Kiki looks like she's going to cry.
  583. "Yeah," you say, nodding slowly. "This never happened before, has it?"
  584. >You swig back another load of burning drink.
  585. "I bet you haven't faced a real consequence in your entire life."
  586. >You move to the couch, standing on the other side from Maddy.
  587. >She looks at her feet. Tears from her eyes as she almost silently cries.
  588. >"Y-you're wruh-wrong," she stutters out.
  589. >You do nothing but stare.
  590. >"I-"
  591. "Shut up."
  592. >"Bu-"
  593. "I said shut up!" you shout, moving in a step, and leaning down. "I don't care what you have to say."
  594. >You tip back the bottle again and look at her.
  595. "Look at me."
  596. >She flinches.
  597. "Look at me, I'm gonna' cut this shit out by the root."
  598. >Yet the girl continues to look down at her feet.
  599. >You rest your weight down on your left leg and slam your cane into the ground, a loud crack filling the room.
  600. >Maddy tenses.
  601. "Look at me!" you bark.
  602. >Kiki squeaks in surprise.
  603. >Painstakingly, she turns her head up to you. She's still got a red mark on her cheek.
  604. >Once again, you let silence tear into her while you take another swig.
  605. "Did you have fun today?"
  606. >The kitten says nothing.
  607. "Come on, you said you liked to mess with people."
  608. >She takes in a shaky breath.
  609. "Did you have fun," you say as you move to sit on the couch, "messing with that beaten old man? Like everyone else?"
  610. >She stares forward while you continue your assault.
  611. "I mean, you're certainly not the first." You shrug. "I don't really blame anyone anymore; I'm a pretty easy target."
  612. >You lift up your hand and snap in her face. She looks at you from the corner of her eye.
  613. "So? Did you have any fun?" Swig. "Relieve any stress, perhaps?"
  614. >"Tommy?" Kiki whispers.
  615. "I wonder what it must feel like, to make someone relive their torments for your own enjoyment."
  616. >"I-I'm suh-s-sorr-heey."
  617. >Swig.
  618. "No you're not. You're afraid of the consequences."
  619. >You look away from her, at the blue screen on your TV.
  620. "You know how I lost my leg?"
  621. >Out of the corner of her eye, you see her lip tremble.
  622. "You might think a monster took it in combat," you shake your head, "but that isn't the case. I'm sure you're aware of the stories on how brutal the UN Armies were, right?"
  623. >No response.
  624. "Well, we were in a fight, if you could call it that, with magic users. Succubi, witches, all that shit. The entire line was chaos, troops were running. It wasn't the first time they pulled this shit, but…"
  625. >You swallow.
  626. "There was no chance we would win. So, they sent in the planes and…"
  627. >The memories start setting in. You fight to keep in tears while your body trembles.
  628. >You take a sip.
  629. "They started bombing, everything. We were told to hold the line, and then the planes came, a-and then we were getting slaughtered by our own bombs."
  630. >You look down at your legs.
  631. "W-we all started running and… and one set off way too close…"
  632. >You just breathe.
  633. "Now I got this," you say, looking back at the cheshire and tapping your leg with your cane. "This… fake, as a replacement. The UN didn't even buy it for me, technically. I had to buy it with my own army pension."
  634. >The room goes silent with your last words, save Maddy's hiccups.
  635. >You turn to look at Kiki. Her crying tugs at your heart, but you bury the feeling.
  636. "Take your friend and get out. And don't come back."
  637. >She blinks, tears starting to come at a more rapid pace.
  638. >You rest your cane against the couch and lean back.
  639. "Go."
  640. >She hops to her feet, and takes her emotionally ruined friend's hand.
  641. >You take another drink when you hear the door softly close.
  642. >You don't care about the cheshire. She gave you more shit than you could swallow, and you made her pay for it.
  643. >But Kiki…
  644. >She's just been a mess for you. Frankly, it's good for the both of you she's gone for good.
  645. >Just, why is it you feel so sad about her leaving?
  646. >Maybe… maybe, it's because you were hoping she'd stay sympathetic towards you. Genuinely sympathetic.
  647. >You gulp back another helping.
  648. >What a silly thought.
  651. >You look in the mirror at your black eye.
  652. >Yeah, that's why you don't drink in bars anymore. You can't take as much insults when you're in the drunk.
  653. >You probably said some real bad shit, too. You're going to have to convince everyone you're not humanist.
  654. >That is, anyone who would stick around long enough to listen.
  655. >It happens. Sometimes.
  656. >Rarely. If ever.
  657. >Only once, recently.
  658. >And she's gone now.
  659. >You sigh and rub the scruff on your face.
  660. >Well, now's as good a time as any to shave.
  661. >Can't look like a sad hobo forever.
  662. >You pull out a can of shaving cream and a razor.
  663. >Lathering your face with the foam, you briefly look at your somewhat pitiful and silly appearance in the mirror before preparing your razor.
  664. >A rapid knock comes from your front door.
  665. >No, no you're pretty sick of the world today. You don't care if it's Jesus fucking Christ, He can wait if He wants to see you that badly.
  666. >As you move the razor to the side of your face, the knocking comes again.
  667. >Your eye twitches as you drag the razor down, the person outside now banging on your door.
  668. >Just wait for them to go away, they always go away.
  669. >"Mister, uhhh, Tom?" a voice calls.
  670. >A little girl's voice. A familiar little girl's voice.
  671. >The look you give your mirror could chill bones.
  672. >You grab your cane and move to your living room, razor in hand and shaving cream on face.
  673. >Maddy stands in front of your door, looking suitably nervous.
  674. >Bitch better be.
  675. >You say nothing, merely glare, and hope that makes her leave.
  676. >Oh, if only.
  677. >"Uhhhhh… hey," the striped menace says. She immediately looks like she's internally kicking herself over how stupid she sounds.
  678. >You press on with your cold gaze, letting the awkward silence be her answer.
  679. >"Look, I don't want to be here."
  680. >That makes two.
  681. >She nervously shifts. "I-It's about Kiki."
  682. >You say nothing while she looks at you, expecting some form of answer.
  683. >She makes a face you can't identify before quickly stamping her foot, putting an end to the tense quiet.
  684. >"I said I was sorry, okay!"
  685. "Wow, I feel better already," you say dryly. You got some shaving cream in your mouth in the process, though.
  686. >You wipe it off with the back of your hand while she speaks.
  687. >"I was just trying to have fun, I didn't think you would-"
  688. "Put an end to your shit? You wanna' see me do it again?"
  689. >She shuts her mouth.
  690. >You give an approving nod before walking to your bathroom.
  691. >She teleports next to you. "Wait, I'm sorry, okay? Can we just focus on-" she sniffs the air, "Have you been drinking?"
  692. "I tried taking it up as a pastime lately, but after yesterday I think I'm giving it up."
  693. >"Getting the black eye wasn't so fun?"
  694. "Shut up. Is it that obvious?"
  695. >"W-well, yeah, it's on your face."
  696. "No," you say, arriving at your sink and resting your cane on it. "I mean the drinking."
  697. >"You smell like you've been drinking."
  698. >You look at her, briefly wondering how she knows what that smells like.
  699. >"Mom drinks sometimes."
  700. >If you honestly cared, you would've asked.
  701. >You look back at the mirror, re-applying shaving cream.
  702. >"You just going to, uh, go about your thing while I talk."
  703. "Can't catch you, only hope you leave," you say, getting more cream in your mouth.
  704. >You drag the razor down.
  705. >"Well, o-okay. Kiki's been, well, sad. Really sad. I haven't seen her so sad in… ever."
  706. >She's sounding… surprisingly mature for her age. Nervous, but mature.
  707. >Your eyes narrow in suspicion and curiosity as you nod for her to continue.
  708. >"I think," she steels herself, "I think you should talk with her and make up."
  709. >You shave off more facial hair.
  710. "No."
  711. >She flashes an almost pleadingly sad look before wiping it away.
  712. >"Please, I've messed enough things up for her already, I don't want to make it any worse."
  713. "Oh, so this isn't the first time you've been a shitty friend?"
  714. >"I-it isn't like that."
  715. "Yeah," you say, wiping off the remainder of the shaving cream and looking at the results. "You're real convincing about that."
  716. >She takes a shaky breath. She looks upset.
  717. >"People… people don't like me."
  718. "It isn't a mystery of the fucking universe why," you say, grabbing your cane and turning to her.
  719. >She trembles.
  720. >Maybe you should cool it a bit.
  721. "Alright, alright, now-"
  722. >"You don't understand!" she shouts at you. "You just look at me and guess that I'm the reason I'm all alone! You think that I made everyone hate me by acting out! I didn't, I didn't do anything!"
  723. >She bows her head, trying to hide her tears. "Mom did bad things to dad! She would mess with his head! Sometimes she scratched him up, and it wasn't from sex! Sometimes he would walk with a limp!"
  724. >"Dad would… would always ask for her to stop. He always looked so scared, he would whisper it so no one but her would hear; I had to hide just to see! A-and mom," she hiccupped, "mom would just smile."
  725. >"A-and one day I tried to do what mom did, when I was first learning how to jump. I-I thought I would play a game! B-but h-he was sc-scared of me! H-he saw I could juh-jump and h-he wouldn't even touch me!"
  726. >"And th-then… a-and theh-then he," she begins to sob. "H-he rah-ran."
  727. >Suddenly the words just flow from her in a jumbled mess. "H-he tried t-to guh-get it suh-so he could t-take me w-with him, buh-but mom fought b-back. A-and he left!"
  728. >And then she just cries.
  729. >You blink. You were taken off guard.
  730. >Her life wasn't really as you expected it to be. You thought her more the spoiled bitch type.
  731. >"N-no one likes me! They call me nuh-names and tell me I-I'll n-never guh-get a huh-husband!"
  732. >She looks up at you, with tears and snot dripping down her face. "I-I'm guh-gonna' buh-be a-all al-looone!"
  733. >Damn it. Damn it you're supposed to be callous.
  734. >You reach behind you and grab a few sheets of toilet paper, before waving it in front of the cheshire's face.
  735. "To, uh, to dry yourself up a bit," you say, looking away.
  736. >She looks up at you with an adorably sad expression. "Thuh-thanks," and she rubs her face with it, soaking through the paper easily, and she's barely cleaned herself.
  737. >She looks back at you and lifts the wet and sticky sheets back to you.
  738. >You take it in between two fingers and throw it in the toilet, before grabbing your towel and handing it to her.
  739. "I guess that alone isn't gonna' do it."
  740. >She doesn't hesitate to bury her face in it.
  741. >You spend the a few minutes awkwardly standing in the bathroom with a sobbing girl that you should really hate right now.
  742. >Eventually, she pulls her face from the ruined towel.
  743. >"M-mom isn't doing good anymore. She's never happy. Sh-she just goes to work and comes home when she's done. Except when she goes drinking."
  744. >You glance around nervously.
  745. "Does she, uh-"
  746. >"Sh-she doesn't do anything with me, just hands me money and tells me to order for food, o-or go out."
  747. >Oof.
  748. >"Please, please talk with Kiki again, I-I don't want to make everything worse for her. Sh-she already doesn't have many friends b-because…" she tapers off.
  749. >You sigh sadly, and kneel down, ready to tell her how that isn't a good idea for you to see her.
  750. >But the way she's staring at you, with hope and sadness.
  751. >Fucking sap. Fucking sad kids with their sob stories. Fucking cheshires and their unreliable nature.
  752. >You'll blame it on the oni rattling your brains if this goes wrong.
  753. >Slowly, you reach out and place a hand on her shoulder.
  754. "I'll see what I can do."
  755. >You pat her shoulder.
  756. "In the meantime be less, uh…"
  757. >"Less like my mom," she says.
  758. "Yeah. Don't let her define you."
  759. >You get to your feet and leave the bathroom, the small cheshire following closely behind.
  760. "We're a lot alike, now that you've put on some perspective."
  761. >She tilts her head in curiosity. "How?"
  762. "Sometimes, bad things you aren't really in control of define who you are."
  763. >You sit on the couch and look at her.
  764. "Don't worry. It'll get better for you, just give it time."
  765. >Your gaze hardens.
  766. "But don't fuck with me again."
  767. >"I-I won't," she says meekly.
  768. "Good. Now," you say, leaning back. "You owe me a proper damn introduction."
  769. >She blinks at you.
  770. >You gesture.
  771. "Start with your name."
  772. >"Oh! I-I'm Madeline, but Kiki calls me Maddy."
  773. "My name is Tom, friends call me Tommy."
  774. >You smile softly.
  775. "Call me Tommy."
  776. >The cheshire finally shows you a smile that isn't a smirk.
  778. >You find it funny, in a way, that you find yourself on a park bench again.
  779. >Right back where this all started.
  780. >Everyone's noticeably avoiding you, though.
  781. >Not like you aren't used to it from your previous visits.
  782. >It was your park first, everyone else can go fuck themselves.
  783. >Knowing monsters, they probably will. In the park.
  784. >Horny shitheads.
  785. >You look around.
  786. >A couple of monster girls, about highschool-age, look to you and whisper while frowning.
  787. >A parent looks up from talking to her child, makes eye contact with you, then immediately turns around and walks away, picking up her child and holding her close as she does so.
  788. >A crow tengu lands on a tree across from you, caws loudly at you, then flies away.
  789. >Yup, a real welcoming city.
  790. >Fuck everyone in it.
  791. >You look around again, and sigh, impatiently.
  792. >Just gotta' sit here and hope that little cheshire keeps her word.
  793. >Frankly, it was hard enough just going along with this.
  794. >The circumstances of your last meeting was… not really something you're proud of.
  795. >Yeah, you were egged on, Maddy got what was coming to her, but still.
  796. >They're both just little girls. Little monster girls, but still girls.
  797. >That isn't the only reason, though.
  798. >It's like… like coming here is admitting you don't want to be alone anymore.
  799. >However true that is, it's a hard thing to admit. You're supposed to be the big bad scary man.
  800. >The tough guy, the brutal soldier that clawed through hell and came out not caring about anyone.
  801. >Nope, instead you came out of the war a sad and sorry, missing a leg, a woman, and what felt like a part of your soul.
  802. >"Tommy!"
  803. "Huh?"
  804. >A little cat embraces your good leg.
  805. >"You actually showed up!"
  806. "Y-yeah."
  807. >What are you doing, stuttering like a fucking wimp. Man up.
  808. >Kiki looks up at you happily. Like what happened last time, never did.
  809. "Aren't you... y'know, scared of me?"
  810. >Yup, way to go motherfucker, better call the fucking Glacies, they're missing one cool incubus.
  811. >"Why would I be scared of you?" she asks innocently.
  812. >"Sounds like you're losing your touch, Tommy-boy," comes a voice from behind you.
  813. >With a colorful warp, a little cheshire plops onto your lap.
  814. >"Going all soft for little girls. You know they got a club for that?"
  815. >You stare at her, unamused.
  816. >"'s called the Sabbath."
  817. >You blink.
  818. >She winks at you. "We can go there today, if you'd like."
  819. >You shove her off of you.
  820. "I thought you said you'd behave."
  821. >"I am! I'm never going overboard again, learned my lesson."
  822. >"It doesn't really sound like it," Kiki chimes in.
  823. >The striped cat gives her friend a small, sarcastic frown.
  824. >"Well, doesn't mean I'm not gonna' tease him a bit!"
  825. >Kiki doesn't look too happy.
  826. >"You going to be okay?" she asks you.
  827. >You shrug.
  828. "She's a cheshire, it's in her nature. Not like she can get to me just acting like a pest."
  829. >Kiki looks at you, not completely assured.
  830. "Relax, I'll be fine. We're not going to do anything that'll bring up anything bad."
  831. >"Speaking of, what are we gonna be doing?" Maddy says loudly.
  832. "You mean you didn't plan for that?" you say as you shoot her an annoyed look.
  833. >"You're an old-timer, and you've been here a long time, I figured you'd have something better to do than I could come up with."
  834. >Why are you even surprised?
  835. >Well, think. What is something you can take children to?
  836. >Museum of Natural History? Show 'em dinosaur fossils, and all that other cool shit?
  837. >And happen upon some WWII rifles, or some bows and arrows, and get some flashbacks.
  838. >Alright then, art gallery?
  839. >Right, because kids are just rearing to stare at some splats on a canvas, and telling each other how "abstract" it is.
  840. >Fuck, zoo?
  841. >Eh, it's kinda' expensive. They have a discount for seniors, right?
  842. >"Hey, buddy, you okay? You look like you're off in space here."
  843. >Goddamn it you purple bitch I hope you like staring at animals.
  844. "We're going to the zoo."
  845. >Hopefully this won't drain your wallet.
  847. >Of all the fucking bitches you've had to deal with, literal bitches are the most difficult.
  848. >Imagine your fucking surprise when the goddamn girl working the booth was a fucking wolf.
  849. >Yup.
  850. >She can fucking smell the claim on you, and she can smell the relation you have with the kittens.
  851. >That is to say, none.
  852. >Which gets her kind thinking, why would a married man be walking off with two little girls who aren't even his grandkids?
  853. >The easy excuse would be some Sabbath thing where a fucked-up wife likes it when her husband runs off to fuck other women, or some other deranged, perverse mess.
  854. >Except you all smell distinctly of no sex.
  855. >Hopefully the girls are virgins, too. Kids shouldn't be fucking around this early in their lives.
  856. >But then there's how you look, which is like a war survivor.
  857. >Pretty much what you were wearing when you met Kiki, only not covered in soda.
  858. >All these factors make for a very, very unhappy wolfgirl.
  859. >"Can I ask who's kids are those?"
  860. >Gotta be careful here.
  861. "Extended family, I'm watching after them while their parents are on vacation."
  862. >Let's hope she buys it.
  863. >"Someone would leave their kids with you?"
  864. >Fuck you too, really, right up your fucking ass with a cactus.
  865. "Who better to keep them safe, right?"
  866. >"Someone who isn't a killer?"
  867. >Yup. She's going there.
  868. "I'm not a fucking killer, and I wouldn't kill family."
  869. >"They don't even smell like you."
  870. "Doesn't fucking matter, you going to give me my fucking tickets or not?"
  871. >She glares at you, then starts to look uninterested.
  872. >"You're about ten dollars short."
  873. >Don't even, you bitch.
  874. "You kidding me? It's twenty-five bucks for seniors, twenty for kids. I forked over sixty-five fucking dollars for this mothe-"
  875. >Careful with the temper around the kids, no matter how bad it gets, you were raised right, goddamn it.
  876. "I paid sixty-five dollars, I know I did."
  877. >"I'm afraid the prices changed," she looks at her sharp nails as she speaks.
  878. >Your grip on your cane tightens.
  879. >"Ey, lady," Maddy speaks up.
  880. >Oh god no.
  881. >The dog looks away from her claws as you feel yourself sinking in shit.
  882. >"Don't go messin' with Uncle Tom, that's my job here."
  883. >The wolf looks down at the cheshire, and frowns, before printing out a few tickets and sliding them under, glaring at you.
  884. >You look over the tickets and smirk at her, but decide against giving her a few choice words.
  885. >You wish you could complain to the manager, but it's likely she'd side with the bitch.
  886. >Handing the tickets to the mousegirl eyeing you with fear at the entrance of the zoo, you're finally free to smell shit and look at sleeping animals in peace, at the low low-price of sixty-fucking-five dollars.
  887. >Fuck this city.
  888. >You grab a map and unfold it, barely looking over it before you feel a weight on your shoulders and paws over your eyes, making you stumble.
  889. >"Maddy!" hisses Kiki.
  890. >"Waddaya saaay?"
  891. >Damn it you cheeky bitch.
  892. "Thanks, whatever, now get off of me!"
  893. >The stripped kitten rolls her eyes, and pops beside you.
  894. >"I'll live with that."
  895. "Fantastic, now do you want to see the… uh…"
  896. >You look over the pictures next to the map, and something slowly sinks in as you realize some of the animals here are noticeably different than you remember them.
  897. >The area is so irradiated with DE that the ecosystem is changing.
  898. >Of course, you've seen some of the changes, but most animals are near untouched.
  899. >But the descriptions you see…
  900. >The scorpions shoot aphrodisiacs, the prey animals are bigger and darker-looking, the predators look stranger, and all of them breed like crazy, all so there's enough for happy couples to hunt in the wild.
  901. >There's a notice that says that said happy couples aren't allowed to hunt here.
  902. >My god, what the fuck happened. In around 50 years, the Earth is now irreversibly changing.
  903. >You feel chills all over.
  904. >What next, are the monkeys handing out fucking condoms?
  905. >"Hey, Tommy-boy?" Maddy's voice snaps you out from the map.
  906. >You look at her, and wipe away the cold sweat from your forehead.
  907. >"Are you okay?" pipes up Kiki. "You've been staring at the map looking scared for a while now!"
  908. >Fuck you started freaking out in front of the kids.
  909. "I wasn't scared-"
  910. >"Nah, you were totally scared. Did the cheetahs get ya?"
  911. >Fuck you Maddy.
  912. "No. It was just how… different the world is. I saw it on the news sometimes but so close is…"
  913. >"Awesome?"
  914. "Concerning."
  915. >"It's a side effect of mamono coming in, the Demonic Energies in the air-" you cut Kiki off before she can continue.
  916. "I know. I know, I'm just… everything I know is changing. The world is just so fucking different. It's like everything caters to something, or someone."
  917. >"Is that a bad thing?" asks Maddy, Kiki looking at you with the same question in her eyes.
  918. "It's just not what I'm used to. I'm used to… something else."
  919. >"Man, you need to get out more," Maddy snickers out.
  920. "Shut up, let's just get this over with."
  921. >You fold up the map and move in to the artificial environments.
  922. >You tried to stay near the animals that stayed the same, or at least mostly the same.
  923. >Nothing that'd make anyone rowdy, either.
  924. >But you also attracted a lot of stares.
  925. >Frankly, all the visitors looked ready to pulp you or looked ready to wet themselves.
  926. >Reminds you exactly what you are, and where your place is. Makes you feel like shit.
  927. >But the girls are enjoying themselves, even if you stumble across something that to you is just plain wrong.
  928. >Occasionally you feel the need to tell them about it.
  929. "Back in my day, alligators weren't that fu-I mean, that dang big! How the heck do you keep something so massive here!?!"
  930. >Yeah, you're old.
  931. >Still, alligators did not fucking need a few more feet added.
  932. >Their teeth looked no less vicious, though apparently they won't leave much more than simple wounds to most mamono and incubi.
  933. >You would still dread approaching one.
  934. >"I don't know about you, but I hear alligator taste goooooood," Maddy says while she looks over each of the oversized beasts.
  935. >"Do they cook them here?" Kiki asks.
  936. >You'd be disturbed, but you remember that cats are just little carnivores.
  937. >Hunters at heart, even if they're mostly harmless.
  938. >Mostly, you think to yourself as a pudgy-looking Jinko stares at the lazing lizards and licks her lips.
  939. >Maybe you should get them something to eat.
  940. >Though you have to admit, you're a bit worried about trying.
  941. >May cause a scene.
  942. >You look at the time. It's around five, it would probably be smart to get the girls home.
  943. >It may or may not be a little early, but you won't have to feed them and their parents won't expect a thing. Win/win.
  944. "Alright girls, take a good look, it's going to be time to head home soon."
  945. >Both girls mewl in protest. It's fucking adorable.
  946. >Damn it the cute is getting to you, making you a softy. You have to be strong.
  947. "I know, I hate to cut your fun short, but we can't hang around much longer."
  948. >Still can't prevent the small smile from coming on your usually dour face.
  949. >"Fiiiiiine," groans Maddy.
  950. >As you walk to the exit, you move across an exhibit that catches both girls' eyes.
  951. >Kiki damn near has a heart attack with excitement.
  952. >"Oh, oh, can we go to the petting zoo before we go?"
  953. >You look at the entrance.
  954. >Fuck it cost extra.
  955. >You may have to resort to prostitution, or eating at a soup kitchen.
  956. >You look down at her watery eyes, filled with hopes and dreams and childhood.
  957. >Goddamn little fucking cute girls.
  958. "Look, I really gotta get you home, and there'll be a lot of kids in there, and parents, so I don't think it would be a very good idea…"
  959. >"You scared of some kids?"
  960. >"Maddy, be quiet. It'll be fine, we'll stay with you the entire time so no one thinks you're bad!"
  961. >The little cat immediately grabs your scarred hand, runes trailing up the back, into her own small, soft one, unmarred by age or war, and attempts to pull you to the petting zoo.
  962. >It's not wallet-breakingly expensive, at least.
  963. >You're not eating like a king every night anyway, but you'll probably be sticking to the instant shit and no booze until the next check of sweet, sweet government money comes in.
  964. >As you walk in to the petting zoo with blissfully few problems, you silently hope there's enough stuff in the fridge and cabinets to make the boiled cardboard-tasting substances you'll be eating taste almost like an actual meal.
  965. >Aaaaaaaand all the kids and parents are staring at you.
  966. >Fuck.
  967. "Fuck."
  968. >Kiki, uncaring, pulls you deeper into the petting zoo, past the frightened children and protective mothers, all staring at you.
  969. >Standing in front of some… demonic boar pen, she immediately sets about petting the pigs gleefully.
  970. >Maddy looks to you and shrugs before joining her friend.
  971. >You swallow and glance around.
  972. >People still staring.
  973. >Goddamn monsters, the motherfuckers just can't let you have a break, can they?
  974. >"Tommy, come here, pet the pigs with us!"
  975. >You look down at the girls.
  976. >They just seem happy to be here. They don't care that you're… what you are.
  977. >You walk over to the pen and stare down at a big, lazy looking boar.
  978. >Slowly, you begin reaching out a hand.
  979. >But… what if it runs?
  980. >What if it smells the war on you, or the claim, just like everyone else?
  981. >What if it attacks you?
  982. >… What if you attack it, or it does something with your runes, or-
  983. >You pull your hand back.
  984. >You don't trust the world anymore.
  985. >A quick glance at the stares and you trust it even less.
  986. >Kiki looks up at you with sad eyes.
  987. >Shit, did she see you hesitate?
  988. >God fucking damn it you've dealt with enough today.
  989. "Come on, it's time to go."
  990. >Both girls move from the pen without complaint, though you're surprised Maddy didn't complain.
  991. >You're also surprised Kiki reached for your hand again.
  992. >Why are you so afraid now?
  993. >You take her hand, as gently as you can, and move your way out of the park.
  994. >If she does nothing to you when you touch her, why were you so worried about a boar?
  995. >You feel regret as you leave the zoo.
  996. >The big evil soldier feels bad, because of a little girl.
  997. >What the fuck is wrong with you?
  998. >You guide the girls into the subway, and accompany Kiki on her way home, waving her off when she reaches her stop, her home not far away.
  999. >The neighborhood is good, anyway, so you aren't worried that she'll be hurt.
  1000. >She hugs you before Maddy whispers something in her ear, then she leaves.
  1001. >You look down at Maddy, who stays by you.
  1002. "You both go to school together, so I know you live nearby. Go home, you've harassed me enough tonight."
  1003. >The cheshire looks everywhere but you, uncomfortable.
  1004. >You didn't think you were being that mean.
  1005. >"Hey, uh…"
  1006. >You look around the stop. You're still a massive draw of attention.
  1007. >"Can I stay with you tonight?"
  1008. "No."
  1009. >She looks up at you, eyes filled with desperation.
  1010. >"Please! I can call and say I'm sleeping over with a friend, mom's drinking so she'll be fine with it!"
  1011. >Jesus.
  1012. >What the fuck are you supposed to do here?
  1013. >"P-please."
  1014. >Fuck man.
  1015. >You could get in a lot of shit here.
  1016. >A lot of shit for a bratty little monster.
  1017. >She's got roots in Wonderland.
  1018. >She's a goddamn liability.
  1019. >…
  1020. >She's a little fucking girl with a drunk mother, you're not that cold.
  1021. "Fine, you're sleeping on the couch, though, and I'm not sure if I have anything to feed-"
  1022. >She latches on to your leg, burying her head into it, making you stumble a bit.
  1023. >Your cane clicks against the ground as you stabilize yourself.
  1024. >God, this may bite you in the ass…
  1025. >At least you'll go down doing the right thing.
  1026. >The world is filled with monsters, so someone's gotta show the kids what it means to be human.
  1027. "Come on," you say. "We need to take a different train if we're heading to my place."
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