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Vengeance in Little Monster City (Monster Inside)

YBA Dec 16th, 2014 (edited) 12,779 Never
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  1. Link to previous part: http://pastebin.com/41LJVkje
  2. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
  3. Monster Inside
  4. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
  5.  
  6. “I’ll take my chances.” You throw her jig right back in her face.
  7.  
  8. “Suit yourself.” The big snake sniffs. Her slate-colored face slides back into an impassive mask of cold hate. She has that utter stillness, like a department store mannequin. It’s only her eyes that give her away. “No kiss then either?”
  9.  
  10. “What do you think?” You brush her off. Ignoring her fat tail blocking the exit, you squat down to get a good look at Nessa. She’s a bitch, but will make a good shield out in the hallway. You’re much less likely to be assaulted while carrying a Cheshire cat with hair soaked in blood.
  11.  
  12. “Hey, Nessa.” You snap your fingers in front of the slowly waking cat. “Nessa, look at me. I said look at me! How many fingers am I holding up?”
  13.  
  14. “V-Vanessa. I told you to call me Vanessa.” She mumbles with unfocused eyes. One of them is wide open dilated. That’s not good, but then June just made her brain rebound a few times in her skull.
  15.  
  16. “Good enough. Let’s get you to Nurse Medic.” You know you really shouldn’t move her if she was human but she’s a monstergirl and much tougher. This will get her help the fastest, and the nurse’s office is a safe place with a phone and some clothes.
  17.  
  18. The overgrown cat groans when you throw her arms around your neck. You can piggyback her at least. Your back still hurts way too much to princess carry anything, and she’s too short for an army carry without hunching over.
  19.  
  20. You’re interrupted by the slow incredulous hiss from June looking over your shoulder. “Are you fucking kidding me? She tries to rape you, and you’re taking her to the nurse?” The great snake’s anger is warming now, icy hate melting to rage. “You left me bleeding in the dirt when you fucked me, but you help her when she pulls this? Y-you bastard. You cold-blooded son-of-a-bitch!”
  21.  
  22. You turn and look her in the slits of her eyes, give her your award-winning nasty smile, then thumb your nose before supporting the cat’s long smooth thighs to hold her up. “You would know cold-blooded.”
  23.  
  24. June stops you as you shove past her massive coils toward the door. You nearly drop the cat when a reptilian palm openhands you across the face hard enough for you to do a tooth check. Even as you stagger back a step you realize it’s a measured blow. The big crotaline could tear your head off if she really wanted to.
  25.  
  26. Wild broken talons grip your shirt and the cottonmouth gets right up in your face. You’re close enough to see the IR pits even in the gloom. “This circus outside isn’t going to go away anytime soon. You need protection, and your horse pussies are in the wrong years to give it to you during school. There’re only two people in our class who are tough enough for the job, and Ruby hates your guts. So when you’re ready, you let me know. Of course if you let me get thrown in ISS for cracking her skull, you’re gonna be the piece of shit that’s shit outta of luck when you realize it.”
  27.  
  28. Before you can speak any response, the big brute steals a kiss. Her lips are soft but cool, like you remember vividly when you touch any part of her. You recall the feel of her heavy coils constricting around you, the white silken touch of her hair, the relief from the burning heat of her venom in her serpentine embrace, and those eyes. Those eyes so green, so bright, so alive…
  29.  
  30. Maybe your head isn’t as clear as you thought. The snake is still talking.
  31.  
  32. “…keep your fucking pants.” June finishes and shoves you out the door.
  33.  
  34. Nessa hugs you close with her purple paws, almost choking you, then complains about her head. The hallway is mostly empty, but the background racket of students on break echoes through the air. A bookish Kepri under classman nearly drops all her books coming out of the library. The short nerdy scarab runs for it when you loudly ask if she has a phone you can borrow.
  35.  
  36. Well, you probably do look pretty scary right now, what with the ichor on your shirt, the bloody cat on your back and the uncomfortable tent in your pants making it hard to walk. The Cheshire’s small breasts rubbing against you through her shirt aren’t helping that department either.
  37.  
  38. Two other students scatter for it while you tromp down the hall until you’re finally stopped by something with brown skin, black wings, black scales, red claws and bubblegum pink hair. It takes a few seconds for her to pull her eyes away from your pants. What is it with you and dark girls anyway? You suppose it is kind of the brunette of Little Monster City with all the settlers from Gottwaffe.
  39.  
  40. She’s a dragon, you think. You can’t be completely sure. You swear you just saw the golden snake-themed scarf around her neck blink. And dragons never stoop to talking to someone so low on the totem pole.
  41.  
  42. “You’re girlfriend looks bad. You need help?” She says evenly. That proud haughty surety, she’s a dragon alright. She’s big, but she looks young. Freshman maybe? You’re terrible with faces outside your class.
  43.  
  44. You tell her you would appreciate some help getting to the nurse’s office. The whole time you can’t help but be distracted by her attire. She has a small enamel pin of a cute chibi lamia pinned to her uniform jacket over her heart. The lamia is smiling and holding up a little word banner.  It reads ‘I think you’re a qtπ’
  45.  
  46. When you look back at it a moment later, you almost jump to see the adorable little snake’s expression switched to a pitiful crying face with a changed banner. ‘So she is your gf.’
  47.  
  48. The dragon’s face is just as regal and impassive as ever when she motions you behind her. She begins clearing the halls ahead and you jog in the shadow of her wings. You reach downstairs and the office in a matter of minutes.
  49.  
  50. Nurse Medic opens the door like she was expecting you. Her mismatched eyes size you up and then the cat on your back. “I thought all that noise outside might be about you, Anon. Come on in. I’m a little busy for a Monday.” Her deadpan greeting would be funny if she didn’t always talk in a monotone.
  51.  
  52. The coughing and chitchat in the large office stops as all eyes turn to the newcomers, reptile, mammal, bug and a number in-between. The dragon follows you in while you lay Nessa on a free bed.
  53.  
  54. Then you finally see what all the other students were freaking out about. Something went haywire inside the cat’s head for sure. Half her face is invisible, her wide gold eye and half her teeth hanging in the air. Her ears look like they’ve been shot with buckshot. Her right arm looks like it got cut off at the elbow despite you feeling her fluffy right paw in your hand. More invisible spots are scattered all over the rest of her like a block of swiss cheese. Top that with blood matting down her purple hair and you looking like you caused the whole mess, and you’re surprised the police aren’t here all over your ass. Maybe they’re on their way anyway.
  55.  
  56. It makes you do a double take at the dragon. Why didn’t she panic?
  57.  
  58. The scaly reptile seems to take your meaning without asking. “Wondergirls have to stick together. Everything is so…drab out here. This seemed fun.”
  59.  
  60. You look at her pin. It has a lewd smile and ‘White Knight checks Red King’ on the banner.
  61.  
  62. You’ve never heard of a dragon from that place. Most things out of Con Carroll are too dangerous to be allowed co-settlement. Even Cheshire’s are not THAT common.
  63.  
  64. The medical golem strides hitchingly up and looks Nessa over. “That’s some pretty nasty swelling in her head.” Her milspec eye hums with a sound like a microwave heating up leftovers. “I don’t think there’s any major internal bleeding. We’ll make her comfortable and get her to the hospital to be safe. I’ll let her parents know what happened in the meantime.”
  65.  
  66. She rubs at the faded 57 under her cap with carbon fiber fingers. “You want to tell me the story before I have to call the principal in a couple minutes? This isn’t an average scratch or cut. You know it has to go upstairs.”
  67.  
  68. You decide to keep the lie as simple as possible, just one of omission. “She wanted to break the intimate affection school rules. I said no. She wouldn’t take no for an answer.”
  69.  
  70. The whole room goes silent as disoriented Nessa flashes her shit-eating grin with half a face and pulls her right arm out from under the covers. She boldly strokes the front of your pants with an invisible paw. Anyone watching can see the folds of cloth press and twist under the pressure. “Does this look like he doesn’t want it to you?”
  71.  
  72. Several monstergirls gasp and the hornet in the next bed lets loose a disbelieving whistle. Even in this academy, that’s beyond brazen.
  73.  
  74. “Is this the same student who clawed you last week?” The ex-military magic automaton taps her pen impatiently against her clipboard. She’s very expressive for someone with only one inflection of voice.
  75.  
  76. By the time you finish playing twenty questions with the golem, the intercom is already blaring for you to go to the Vice Principal’s office, the head of discipline. You might as well get that over with.
  77.  
  78. The dragon follows you out the door. “I didn’t introduce myself earlier. I’m Jacqueline Babble. Friends call me Jack.” She pulls up beside you and keeps walking with you down the hall.  “You’re the most interesting guy I’ve seen lately. Seems like you have a lot of fun in this dreary place.” The tone is haughty, patronizing but you can sense her interest. It’s that catpawing interest like the Cheshire twins have in you.
  79.  
  80. You glance surreptitiously at her pin. The sweet little childish lamia is making puppydog eyes and her banner reads ‘Start as just friends?’
  81.  
  82. “Not looking for any new friends right now, Jack.” Like Nessa isn’t enough in the ‘fuck with your life for fun’ drama department. At least June has a proper grudge. She’s somewhat more predictable. With the current fiasco blowing around you, who knows if you’ll ever get around to personally dealing with Lisa or Ruby either.
  83.  
  84. “I suspect you don’t have many friends. Your kind seldom does. That makes two of us. So why not?” The dragon keeps bird-dogging you all the way to the Vice Principal’s Office. Her eyes are almost completely glued to your pants, while your gaze is drawn to the little animal and monster themed bits of flair on her uniform that jump and twitch like they’re alive.
  85.  
  86. At least it keeps the vultures circling. You notice big miss yellow raincoat in the hallway back away when she sees the freakshow dragon in lockstep with you.
  87.  
  88. Your dick still feels like it’s going to blow a gasket if you don’t get some relief soon. You’re going to get this meeting done. Then you are finding both Izzy and Nina to acquire some privacy and some satisfaction before something breaks.
  89.  
  90. Vice Principal Diggood’s door is open when you get there. Miss Diggood, more like Miss Do Nothing.
  91.  
  92. “Oh, Anon. Have a seat. We have a little problem here. What can we do to solve it?” The middle-aged ground dragon speaks in that deliberate infuriatingly slow way that wurms do when they’re thinking hard.
  93.  
  94. This is why you hate anything going wrong at school, the same phrasing every time. It was particularly fun sitting through this conversation the time Nina broke your rib and Diggood thought you were faking. She’d be on the list if she didn’t treat everyone this way. She’s head of discipline because she’s such a beast that she can physically break up fights between the biggest students. And she does that plenty. Judging by her torn shirt, she’s been doing that today.
  95.  
  96. And now comes the part where she tries to force the non-liability of the school down your throat.
  97.  
  98. It takes over half an hour before she lets you loose. The highlight of the conversation was where she got Lily on the phone and the sluttcubus said ‘Are you seriously calling me because a girl got her ass kicked for trying to rape him?’ loud enough for you to hear through the speaker. At least you know the school won’t take any action one way or the other. The ball is firmly in your court.
  99.  
  100. When you leave, Trisha is waiting for you in the hall, making small talk with Jack. That’s all you need, and neither horse has shown up. They’re probably laying low like they’re supposed to. You would bet Izzy is keeping general tabs with her bugs and Nina is standing by for an order that won’t come.
  101.  
  102. Trisha isn’t exactly happy but she’s not as sad as you would normally expect a girl with a sister in the hospital to be. Why is she still here and not with her sister? The violet-striped Cheshire nervously wrings her paws when she spies you closing the big oak door to Diggood’s office. She’s still anxious when she pulls you off to the side. Jack doesn’t take the cat’s pointed hint to leave.
  103.  
  104. You see Trisha’s tail twitch and her ears lower. “The EMT’s said Ness is probably fine. She should get back to normal when the swelling goes down in her head, but the doctors are running scans and tests at the hospital to know for sure by tonight.” Her anxious eyes beg your pity. “You know she can get a little carried away sometimes. You wouldn’t call the cops or press charges would you?”
  105.  
  106. Damn it Trisha. This is what you’re panicking about? If she only knew the myriad reasons why you could never do that. She’s not dumb. She should have an inkling. It’s still a good opportunity.
  107.  
  108. You push back a loose strand of purple hair over her furry ear. “Help me finish what your sister started, and I think we can come to an understanding.” You breathe so softly, the words barely vibrate the air.
  109.  
  110. “Now?” She mouths silently, staring at your pants.
  111.  
  112. You nod pointedly. Even that dim Christmas cake Diggood was starting to look breedable by the time you escaped her office. And jokes about something downstairs blowing out are quickly becoming less funny. Three days backed up plus June’s venom and an erection going on an hour is a bad cocktail unless a guy is into serious orgasm denial.
  113.  
  114. Trisha takes your hand in her gentle paws and earns a jealous glare from the Jabberwock.
  115.  
  116. You don’t have time to wonder as your gut clenches as the catgirl takes you somewhere quiet, out of the way, somewhere full of mops and the smell of pine and ammonia.
  117.  
  118. It’s very tight quarters, nothing more than a broom closet really. Trisha is shoved up against you, entangled in your arms. The sweet smell of the Cheshire’s fine fur and hair battles with the cleaning agents. Her scent is different than Nessa’s, stronger. Your face has never been so close to hers, even when she was under your desk.
  119.  
  120. “This okay?” She’s so nervous, she’s trembling. “Do me one favor. Would you…would you kiss me first? “
  121.  
  122. “Sure.” You lean in and make her look at you, pupils reflecting red in the dark. She shrinks back from your touch and her white cheeks turn a brilliant shade of crimson.
  123.  
  124. Really? Of all the times to act like a blushing maid. It would almost be adorable if you weren’t so frustrated.
  125.  
  126. “T-then you better go ahead then. The later it gets, the later it gets.” Trisha puckers her lips and screws her eyes shut. Even if it’s an act, it’s still unbearably cute.
  127.  
  128. You decide to make it memorable. Bad enough you both have to do this with one foot in a mop bucket. She shouldn’t feel like just the most convenient hole at the moment, even if she is.
  129.  
  130. Starting slow, you give her an Eskimo kiss and begin to scratch behind her ears. Then you lead into the real thing. She thrums a low purr when your lips embrace hers with practiced confidence. Pulling away before it gets too heavy, you let her enjoy that first kiss with a new partner tingle.
  131.  
  132. It’s sickening to watch the happiness and guilt wash over her face. Soft paws push you away when you go in for another taste.
  133.  
  134. “Stop. It’s not right. You have to know, I’m no better than Ness. I’m just the same.” She almost squeeks as she chokes the words out. “I have the same kinds of thoughts. I want to do the same kinds of things. I just don’t have the same guts to follow through.”
  135.  
  136. The feline monstergirl embarrassingly points at the collar you’d almost forgotten around your neck. “That was my idea. Ness stole it when I waited too long. I came up with most of the things we did to you.” She starts to sniffle. “And here I am, while she’s in the hospital, hoping something like this would happen.”
  137.  
  138. “I’m a terrible person, and I helped make you into a terrible person. I’m sorry.” She waits for your response, good or bad. What a heartfelt apology from another fantastic liar on your list. She even tagged a nice insult on the end.  
  139.  
  140. Having a conscience is plenty big enough difference to you between the sisters. But you have listened to enough manipulation and drama for one day. You don’t have the patience to deal with any more. You shove her up against the closet shelf, rattling the bottles. Pressing your body against hers, you lift up her leg and hike up that short pleated skirt.
  141.  
  142. “I don’t care that you’re sorry. I really don’t care at all.” You growl as you lift her leg higher and grind into her panties.
  143.  
  144. Trisha hugs your neck for support while you unzip your pants, her expression growing more and more unsure.  
  145.  
  146. Her whole vulva is puffy and swollen and the heat rolls off her. Pushing her panties to one side, you caress her smooth mound…she shaved today...then down to her hot lips, the slit in-between already beginning to moisten. You rub hard on the little nub hidden away and swelling up. Your caresses are coarse, brutishly trying to force her to readiness as soon as possible. If you had lube, you wouldn’t even bother with foreplay.
  147.  
  148. The cat grimaces and you feel the faint wisp of razor sharp claws through the shirt on your back. “Not so rough. I haven’t done this before.”
  149.  
  150. Like you believe that. You hook your middle finger into her vagina. It’s so tight you have to work the digit in slowly. Before you reach the second knuckle, you meet a barrier of thin flesh, impossible. It was clear she hasn’t slept around near as much as Nessa but come on.
  151.  
  152. You grab her by the hair and yank her head back. “What kind of slut gives up her first time in a broom closet?” You demand.
  153.  
  154. “Y-you said it had to be right now. Stop. You’re hurting me.” The lithe nubile feline squirms in your grip, her tabby ears flattening in pain.
  155.  
  156. You let her go, take a deep breath then let it out in a sigh. She’s so damn worried and tight, it’s going to take forever to loosen her up. You don’t have the time.
  157.  
  158. “You can use your mouth instead, if you want.” You tell her.
  159.  
  160. Trisha’s resolve wavers. She tenses up. Her thin striped tail thrashes indecisively against your legs. Finally, she leans in for a kiss and hugs you tight. “No. I want to do this with you. It’s too late to do things right, but let me pretend for a little while.” Her tone is wistful, sad.
  161.  
  162. That’s not what you were expecting. Today is full of surprises, few of them good.
  163.  
  164. That docile fearful look on the mirror face to that disobedient hospitalized cat, it wakes something vile in you. You shove Trisha’s leg further up and position yourself at her entrance. She silently tilts her head inviting you bite her neck in just the right spot, sink your teeth in where Nessa once told you to nip her. Some of the tension drains from the Cheshire’s taught muscles when you clamp down. The short sharp caterwaul that follows begs you to continue.
  165.  
  166. The small felid muffles her scream into your shoulder as you mercilessly begin to force your way inside, her maidenhead destroyed with a single hard thrust. She can take pain better than her sister, but you still feel the wet splash of tears against your cheek. Your free hand explores her silky supple thighs and firm ass as you pull back. Your return strokes drive deeper, again and again working to get your whole length inside. The pleasure of her warm wet tightness burns firmly in your brain, and you yearn for more.
  167.  
  168. Her undefiled depths work hard to keep you out as you hammer them open and she cries. If the venom wasn’t in play, you couldn’t have penetrated fully at all. Trisha’s insides coat your dick in red as spaces too small for you are forced to accommodate your girth. It’s an amazing high, the endorphins and sexual pleasure course through you. Your back pain and bruised pelvis fades from thought. There is only the unspoiled girl in front of you, slowly being sullied by your naked lust.
  169.  
  170. “It hurts.” The Cheshire’s weepy voice whispers in your ear. “Can’t you be a little more gentle? You’re tearing me up.”
  171.  
  172. Your last bits of restraint fall away as you ignore her pleas, industriously digging deeper. You haven’t tasted such delicious sorrow since you first slept with Nina. And she just feels so good inside, maybe the best you’ve ever had. Maybe only the toxins polluting your mind make you think so.
  173.  
  174. You feel that unique bump inside her wet walls on the top of your glans when you pull out, just a couple inches in from the entrance. You decide to give the cat a slight reprieve from deep penetration. She lets out her first real moan as you rub back and forth, attacking her G-spot with the corona of your head.
  175.  
  176. Her fast hot breath soaks through your shirt and you bite her neck harder. She’s finally starting to feel it. You move your free hand to her ears and stroke her hair. A purr vibrates her small chest, wordlessly asking you to keep going.
  177.  
  178. As you bite and pet her, Trisha loosens up and it becomes easier to move. You plow deep and rut hard, each bloody slap better than the last. Her narrow slick insides still put up a hard fight to deny you entrance, then throttle your shaft when you try to back out. Sweltering sweaty thighs meet your own in primal bliss.  After waiting on the edge for so long you can’t take it anymore. The Cheshire’s battered virgin pussy grasps at your hard dick while your hips begin to buck.
  179.  
  180. You cum deep inside the pussycat, penetrating so far you touch the tiny dome of her cervix. She flinches in pain as you fill her insides with thick white spurts of your seed. Each jet is met with a feline moan as your semen mixes with her blood into a pink marbled mess.
  181.  
  182. The sweet heat of venom quickly overpowers the ecstasy of release. One orgasm is not enough, and it would be unkind to Trisha to leave her unsatisfied. You slip back inside, and this time you gently take your time.
  183.  
  184. You work your way into a steady smooth rhythm.
  185.  
  186. Her moans come more naturally now, not so pained. She hugs you tighter and pulls her legs free, locking them around your back, creating her own tempo. The Cheshire rubs her nose across the nape of your neck breathing deep.
  187.  
  188. The purple cat doesn’t seem to like what she smells. Her face wrinkles with distaste. Pulling loose from your mating bite, she undoes your shirt with a free paw. Mewing, panting, she rubs her cheeks on your chest and neck, marking you, kissing you. Her ears flick and twist across your chin and nose, tickling your skin. The little nub on her furry wrist wanders across your scarred shoulders and all over your back. She soaks herself into you, scrubbing off the other scents your sinful body is stained with, letting the whole world know you belong to no one else. Even Nessa didn’t dare go this far her first time in your bed.
  189.  
  190. Her nethers suck you deep inside, and you bottom out in her small pussy. Trisha clenches as a shock surges through her each time you touch the entrance of her womb. Every time she pulls you back in anyway. Her hips move up and down, forward and back. Her ruffled skirt tickles your navel, and her shirt sticks to your sweaty chest.
  191.  
  192. The minutes pass in hungry lustful fulfillment of your base desires, mating, breeding, fucking. Trisha yowls and you are forced to cover her sounds of passion with an open hand. That only lasts for moments before she pulls it loose with powerful claws and kisses you for a more pleasant gag.
  193.  
  194. This continues for one round and into the next. You’ve lost track of the time completely. Her awkward instinctive motions overlaid with your own moves are finally bringing her to climax. Despite your warnings, she still digs her vicious nails into your back as her body quakes in orgasm. Her legs hold your cock tight inside for every spasm of pleasure as your third load fills her womanhood.
  195.  
  196. It finally feels like enough. The venom still flows through your veins, but you can quash the urge. The endorphins fade and your pains are beginning to come back to you, worse than ever.
  197.  
  198. The Cheshire looks disgustingly pleased with herself, basking in the afterglow. There’s a small hopeful flickering light in her yellow eyes.  "You know, Ness didn’t lie to you. I really did have a big crush on you when you first moved here. Was there ever a time back then, a moment when just you and me could have…?”
  199.  
  200. “Yes, but it’s long gone. Does that make you feel better or worse?” You don’t sugarcoat it. You would have taken any pretty lady, any kindness back then. Only now that you’ve grown jaded, bitter and full of hate do the old lies and rumors begin to fall apart, and you get what you wanted. Only it’s not in the way you wanted. The irony is not lost on you.
  201.  
  202. Trisha thinks hard. “I don’t know.” She murmurs gravely.
  203.  
  204. The silence stretches as you both do your best to dress and clean up.  
  205.  
  206. “Ness asked for you to visit her after school.” The Cheshire speaks first.
  207.  
  208. “Why would she care if I did that?” You wonder aloud.
  209.  
  210. “Honestly, I think she just wants to trick you into a quickie.” Trisha blithely answers with a wink. A pop later and she’s gone.
  211.  
  212. You smile at that. She’s probably right.
  213.  
  214. When you really have a few minutes to go over yourself, you groan at the stains and the blood and the other fluids soaking your clothes. You’re a real mess. At least it’s classtime now, shouldn’t be hard to get to a change of clothes with the halls empty.
  215.  
  216. Stepping out of the cleaning closet, you realize what a favor Trisha did by covering you in her scent. Only the most desperate monstergirls would dare bother you when you are so clearly marked and claimed. Finding your way to the nearest men’s restroom, you go to the third stall and stand on the commode. The square ceiling panel pops up with little trouble, and you rummage around to find the unmarked plastic lump. Inside there’s fresh plain clothes, and a couple other niceties wrapped in a trashbag. The clothes are good quality but thrift store fodder. It’s not like you can afford dozens of actual uniforms to stash around. An ironed shirt and pants with your jacket should be enough for the teachers to let slide.
  217.  
  218. When you return to class, it’s not to the teasing or jeers you would normally expect for coming in late or the hoots of coming back around the same time as a girl. Everyone has their head down taking a quiz. Trisha isn’t there. She likely decided to go check on her sister.
  219.  
  220. The big snake is curled up in her seat, acting like nothing is out of the ordinary. Only the tip of her tail silently rattles like an impatient child when you sit down at your desk.
  221.  
  222. Mrs. Burnett hands you your paper with a look of disapproval and a tardy slip. Her painted claws are as razor sharp as her daughter’s sitting next to you, tail burning low.
  223.  
  224. You take a look, one thing the miserable weekend did give you was an excuse to crank up some music and get ahead on your school work. You should be ready. Then again, Burnett is a real hardass stickler for detail. She loves to throw in A-breakers on all her tests.
  225.  
  226. Monster-Human Relations Quiz 8, Question 1: What was the scandal that forced the signing of the Basement Protection Act?
  227.  
  228. Dungeonmate. Easy.
  229. Question 8: What are the three spousal rights protected through official marriage by the state?
  230.  
  231. This one, the three M’s.  And they wonder why so many girls think the purpose of this school is four years and a ring.
  232.  
  233. And DONE, you slap down your pencil right as the bell rings.
  234.  
  235. The next couple of classes go easy enough, though your back really disagrees with sitting in those small hard chairs so long. June keeps on giving you little glances with those cold jade eyes during breaks, waiting for you to say something. You let her fidget.
  236.  
  237. Strange eyes follow you in the halls. When you go to swap books and grab your pack from your locker, students bump and brush against you. A strange tail slides against your leg. A bony chitin hand gropes your ass. You keep your head down, giving in to the attention is what they want. Do not speak to them; do not engage them.
  238.  
  239. At the end of the day you make your final trip to your locker and find a number of hieroglyphs scratched on it in chalk. You can’t read old kingdom or new kingdom but you know this isn’t either. These are from beyond the gate. Doubtless one of the Gypt girls scrawled it. The remains of your lock lay on the floor.
  240.  
  241. You open the door and find three letters inside: A folded piece of lined paper, one of fine velum stationary, and one that looks like a piece of scrap metal was wadded up and chucked in there. You grab all three, throw them in your pack, and copy down the glyphs. Sure would be nice to have a phone to take a picture right now. You’d rather read these things somewhere more private.
  242.  
  243. You head over to archery to find Nina. She’ll be getting changed and ready for early practice right about now and you’d love to join her and relax a little. You only stop to ask an Anubis junior about the message you copied down. The jackal has an engagement ring her big black paw, so seems safe enough. She’s very friendly until she sees the message, then her eyes narrow and she spits you with a nasty glare before stomping off.
  244.  
  245. “What does it mean?” You call after her.
  246.  
  247. She contorts her monstrous hand into the sign of the horns and points it at you. Well that’s universal enough to figure out.
  248.  
  249. Nina and Izzy are both waiting for you at the back entrance to the main building. It’s rare to see the two sisters around each other when they’re not forced to be. Nina shifts on her steel shoes, tail swishing. She’s in her school clothes and looks more than the usual amount of upset. Normally, she would ignore you in the public venues of school. The letters can wait.
  250.  
  251. Your loyal warhorse looks at you closely, making sure you’re alright, then hugs you close. Her expression flashes with jealousy when she smells Trisha all over you. “So the cat wrecked your phone. That’s why you didn’t call.” She whispers. Taking a deep breath, she kisses you in full view of the passerby.
  252.  
  253. There’s a few calls of “Get a barn!” and “Come on, you can do better than horse pussy!”
  254.  
  255. She lets you go, her face flushed in embarrassment. It’s one thing to undress in the woods. It’s another to act like this in front of people you know. After a moment, you notice her bow is slung over her shoulder.  Izzy has yours.
  256.  
  257. “I just finished talking with the Prez.” Nina starts slowly. “We’re both kicked out of the club. She said word for word that ‘If you randy hooligans can get your act together, you can reapply next year.’ Prez was really upset. She looked like someone had worked her over good. I never even knew you could break an elf’s ear.”
  258.  
  259. Your refuge, your old sanctuary, gone. You’d be lying to yourself if you said it didn’t hurt. You should still send Prez a card or something. She’s not exactly your friend, but she deserves better.
  260.  
  261. Nina looks over to Izzy who takes her cue. “Sis is still hurting so she can’t carry you. Would you like to ride me home instead? Better than walking home right?”
  262.  
  263. “Can you carry me? You’ve never been ridden.” You ask the eager younger sister. She sits down and pats her back. What a forward girl.
  264.  
  265. “Wait until we’re out of the school grounds at least.” You smirk. They really are trying to grab your attention. It’s nice to see the girls care this much.
  266.  
  267. She nods and takes your pack. Both members of your remuda walk you out the back gate and along the sidewalk by the park. Nina gives a few pointers to her unshorn younger sister on carrying a rider. The big warhorse tenses as you hop up on Izzy’s back. Your palfrey is shorter and less muscular than her big sister so she’s easier to ride. After a few staggering steps, she starts to get the hang of it. You put your arms around her slim humanoid waist and your knees settle onto her flanks. It’s harder work for her than Nina, but she’s still far bigger and stronger than the average centaur.
  268.  
  269. “Atta girl.” You encourage her, and dig your heels in to bring her to a true walk.
  270.  
  271. When Nina is sure that Izzy isn’t going to stumble and break a leg, the dark mare says her goodbyes. She kisses you farewell and nuzzles your ear. “I’m so sorry Master. I’ll be back to one hundred percent soon. But know always I love you more than anyone. Call me whenever you need.” She suckles your earlobe. “Or want. I’ll see you tomorrow.”
  272.  
  273. You let her trot out of sight before you grab hold of Izzy’s ear. The young mare staggers when you start with a soft twitch then bring it to the very border of pleasure and pain. “Now Izzy, you gonna tell me what this is really all about? I know Nina. I know what it looks like when someone forces her to do something, and I don’t like it when anyone tries to have control over her. She’s MINE, do you understand?” You dig your nails in. “I’m going to give you one chance to explain. Make it good.”
  274.  
  275. Your crazy horse steps onto the grass and falls to her knees when you hard twitch her for hesitating. Tears form in her eyes. “It’s not what you think Master.”
  276.  
  277. “I said explain, not make excuses.” You command.
  278.  
  279. Izzy blinks back her waterworks as best she can. “E-early Saturday morning, when she got home, Nina woke me up and asked to make sure you were taken care of on the weekend. She made me promise to not touch you no matter how bad I wanted it until you had a few days to get better.”
  280.  
  281. “Please don’t be angry Master. I would have done it anyway. But you know Sis, she’d do almost anything for you.”The tears start to fall as you literally wring the truth out of her.
  282.  
  283. “Can you blame me for using that to finally be ridden and have you to myself for an afternoon? It’s been eleven days. I can’t get by with watching and toys anymore. I need you Master. Please!” Her pleas are pretty cute. It’s not the normal hate between the sisters either. Things are improving.
  284.  
  285. You let her go and command her to stand with a “Hup.”
  286.  
  287. “We’ll stop by my house to pick up a few things. Then we’ll find a place for your punishment.” You promise. And you will have to find a place, safe and quiet. You’ll miss the range.
  288.  
  289. An hour later and you both amble into the courtyard of the Wyvern’s Roost, the second nicest hotel in town. Well, there’s only three proper hotels in Little Monster City but the Roost is still top notch. Whispers follow you into the lobby. Students only stay here for one reason, and the horse is still in her uniform. When you get to the front desk, the beautiful Wyvern receptionist tic tacs at her keyboard with her thumb claws, wings folded tightly at her side.
  290.  
  291. You’re lucky, and the honeymoon suite is available. The dragon smiles and is about to offer congratulations when she notices your ring-bare hands. It turns to a knowing smirk as she hands you the key. Izzy has a stupid grin on her face as you both ride the big polished brass freight elevator up to the top floor.
  292.  
  293. “Don’t get too excited.” You warn the mare. “You’re paying for this.”
  294.  
  295. Still beaming, she nods. “Of course, Master.”
  296.  
  297. The room is not as fancy as the Nettle, but being ten stories up does make up for it a bit with the view. Izzy practically launches herself into the huge bed and you hear the frame creak and groan under her weight when she powerlides the covers off.
  298.  
  299. You grab your bag and start to dig through it. “Punishment first. You’re going to want to bite on this.”
  300.  
  301. Her smile fades when you hand her a short frayed piece of rope.  
  302.  
  303. You caress her cheek while she looks down into your eyes. “You manipulated your sister, you withheld information from me, and you manipulated me. A bad girl like that gets three lashes before she’s allowed to have fun.”
  304.  
  305. “You’re going to whip me? I don’t need a bit for that.” Izzy squares her shoulders and some of her unfounded confidence resurges.
  306.  
  307. You pull out your bullwhip. “No, I’m going to flog you. And trust me, you will.” You crack the braided leather lash with a sound like a gunshot. The tall dark centaur can’t help but recoil in fear.
  308.  
  309. Today, on the whole, has sucked. But right now, in this moment, it feels good to be in control.
  310.  
  311. It doesn’t take long for the centaur to dress down to her red lace underwear. She was planning for something nice today. She turns her back to you and her muscles tense.
  312.  
  313. Izzy almost shrieks when your first strike licks fire across her hide.
  314.  
  315. You settle her down with a brush of her hair. Fingertips caress the perfect soft brown skin of her upper back. “That’s a real lash, sweetheart. It’s your first, and you took it well. You got two more coming. Can you do it? Your sister once took ten for the biggest screwup she ever made.”  
  316.  
  317. She nods, biting back the tears. Good.
  318.  
  319. The tall dark centaur gnashes the rope as you whip her a second time, slashing across fur and skin. You allow her a second as her velvet black coat welts. Short harsh snorts of pain gust through her nose. She looks at you with those gorgeous yellow eyes framed in onyx hair, steeled for the last of her punishment.
  320.  
  321. You crack your whip in a final lash along her hindquarters and she jerks hard, shaking the bed. The welts crisscross her horse back, swelling into ugly gray mountain ranges in the plains of her coal dust hide.
  322.  
  323. “Sometimes Master, you are cruel.” The younger sister gasps, hands dug into the soft covers of the bed. She’s never felt this kind of pain before, and you know she doesn’t like it the way she enjoys the lighter hits.
  324.  
  325. “Am I cruel now?” You trace your fingers from her lips to her chin, then down her throat, to rise of her collar bones, and finally to the valley of umber breasts held up in red satin.  Your other hand grasps a tall ear in a soft twitch.
  326.  
  327. “Only if you stop.” Izzy breathes. She pulls the tie from her hair, letting the great silken waves fall over her shoulders. Your palfrey leans down and plants a lewd kiss on the nape of your neck. “Will you reward me, Master?” Her hand slips behind your waistband as she goes right for the naked touch of your manhood in her fingers.
  328.  
  329. “Is that what you want?” You ask, teasing your hands down along her waist, circling her naval, then lower, harassing that magical boundary where her dark skin meets her black coat.
  330.  
  331. She withdraws her hand and then hugs you into her magnificent cleavage, second only to one other you know.  “No, I want you. I want all of you.”
  332.  
  333. You smile at her answer. “Then tell me how you want me. With bridle and crop? With gentle fingers and loving caresses? Hard and rough? Slow and tender? Today you choose.” On the whole she has been better, much better than she used to be: patient, kinder, and less crazy. Now that she knows your displeasure at working behind your back, she deserves a true reward.
  334.  
  335. Izzy leans over and her curtain of hair drops like night around you. Only her golden eyes reflect the meager light. “Hard and loving…” She brings your fingertips to the hook of her bra. “…with your bare hands.”
  336.  
  337. With that you set her breasts free and sink your whole hands into supple brown flesh. Her big primary heart thuds shockwaves into your hands.
  338.  
  339. “Yes.” The centaur susserates. “Like that Master. Knead them. Suck on them.”
  340.  
  341. You map the circumference of her left areole with your tongue, then pull her nipple into your mouth. You suckle one teat and tug the other in your fingers as she grows hot and ready in your hands.
  342.  
  343. “Harder.” She snorts. “More passionately, like you really love me. I want to feel the marks of your hands on my tits even when you’re at my back and they are far out of your reach.”
  344.  
  345. You squeeze hard, leaving red handprints in her skin. Your teeth nip at her nipple and she shudders. “Ask, don’t tell. You know better.”
  346.  
  347. “Yes, Master. I’m sorry. I got carried away.” She nickers into your ear, then looks behind at her welted horse back.  “Please take me.”
  348.  
  349. You move to the far end of the bed and give her a firm smack on the hindquarters. Her ears perk up. She likes that.
  350.  
  351. The mare’s black hair hides half her face and a single wild eye looks radiantly back at you. Izzy lifts her back end the barest bit with her knees. Your palfrey swishes her tail and sways her ass invitingly. The girl has learned a lot. She knows how to put you in the mood. Your rock hard member throbs in time with your jaded heart.
  352.  
  353. You caress her puffy black mound, swollen with lust, under red lace. Her pussy drools in anticipation, leaking down all over her engorged clitoris, soaking her good panties. You’re almost tempted to tease her with some oral. But that look of desperate longing in her eye drawn to your loins….that’s far too similar to what you saw in Nina’s brown orbs during the full moon. A smart man knows when enough is enough.
  354.  
  355. You mount the dark mare and give her what she wants. The entrance to her well-trained cunt welcomes you in like it was built just for you. Your glans passes through her gate and she shivers with the sensation of you, and you of her.
  356.  
  357. “Yes Master. I’ve missed this. I’ve missed it so much.”  Your palfrey pants and massages her own breasts.
  358.  
  359. The inside of a centaur is a rare heat, unmatched by the cats or the snake or any other you’ve known. Centaurs make you sweat. They make you want. They milk you with everything they have. When it’s almost impossible, and insanely painful, to hold them in your arms while you rut, their pussy is the only way their body can show you just how much they love you during sex. And Nina goes even beyond that. Izzy is working hard to catch up, and she’s narrowing the gap.
  360.  
  361. She swallows you deep, each sucking contraction trying to siphon every last bit of precum to add to her own juices and ease your way. Your cock is surrounded by heat, like fire. Your horse is positively glowing with passion as you push and pull your penis from hilt to head and back again. Even laying on the bed, she matches her movements to yours, mindful of the black and blue stripes over your pelvis.
  362.  
  363. The tall mare stifles a shout of surprise when you grab her whipped ass in a skin twitch. Her jaw slackens and her long tongue sticks out the barest bit. Heavy-lidded eyes look back at you in happy ecstasy. The squelching sounds of your mating begin to be drowned out by her low moans.
  364.  
  365. Izzy has always focused on technique over passion. It’s a rare beautiful thing when she gets lost in the pleasure. She’s always liked it, but it's even more pleasing to see her revel in it. It stirs you. It stokes your fire inside as traces of viper venom still course through your veins.
  366.  
  367. You lay yourself over her, hugging the inside of the thighs of her massive hindlegs, and drill into her HARD.
  368.  
  369. Her gasping moans are music to you as you piston back and forth feeling every crease and wrinkle of her sheath. Your cheek lays on her soft coat, smelling of sweat and the clean scent of her shampoo.
  370.  
  371. “Please, harder. I’m almost, almost…” She begs. You oblige. Leaning back up, you wrap your fist in the skirt of her long tail just below the dock for leverage. A good yank followed by repeated bruise smacking thrusts make almost a ton of monstergirl shudder.
  372.  
  373. You both build to the peak of mating frenzy. She spreads her hindlegs on the bed, trying to get you ever deeper. She’s been waiting so long, wanting. Izzy spasms before you do, cumming on your legs and the sheets. Her hips buck and quake while her young cunt ensnares your dick in a death grip.
  374.  
  375. You barely manage two more thrusts before you reach your end, spraying the few spurts of fresh seed your balls have made in the last few hours inside your palfrey. She sits there breathing heavily for a minute, long hair hiding her face like a bad B yandere horror flick.
  376.  
  377. Then the mare whoops and rolls around happily on her side like a nag taking a dust bath. “Now that’s what I’m talking about! Toys are good, but I’m so tired of them alone. Today I wanted no tack, no toys, just you.”
  378.  
  379. The warhorse of a girl finally sits upright. Izzy stacks up the pillows up into a mimicry of the head of a centaur’s bed and invites you over to lay beside her.  That’s interesting. She’s not exactly the cuddling type. But you’re tired and it’s so soothing to rest against her flank, listing to the faint bass thud of her secondary heart. Soft large hands play across your naked torso, then move to your shoulders. She segways into a massage, rubbing her thumbs into your traps.  It’s absolutely heavenly.
  380.  
  381. You’ve almost drifted off when her voice insinuates itself in your ear. “It was less than usual, Master. How many times did you do it already today before this?”
  382.  
  383. “Three.” You grumble in that irritated mood that half-sleep brings.
  384.  
  385. “With…” She takes a deep whiff of your neck. “…someone new. So that’s what Sis was upset about. I knew it would take more than a rumor to make her risk tanking her reputation and French you in public.”
  386.  
  387. “And you’re not the same?” You almost laugh.
  388.  
  389. “Ah, but I have you in this fancy hotel all night. She doesn’t get that today. I do.” Her long tan fingers fondle your balls gently. “I know for a fact these two are good for plenty more rounds if you really want it and we space it out a little bit. I wouldn’t say no to that. But even only having you here to myself, it’s nice.”
  390.  
  391. Izzy goes back to massaging, and you relax into the excellent horsehair blanket of her side.
  392.  
  393. Right when you’re almost ready to slip into the first happy sleep you’ve had in days, your palfrey pipes up again. “Master?”
  394.  
  395. Only the gravity in her voice keeps you from pretending to be asleep. “What?”
  396.  
  397. “Will you give me your mark, like Sis?” She asks.
  398.  
  399. “I can’t. That brand is a promise, one I can’t make twice.” You respond. You only feel Izzy’s hands freeze for a moment before she resumes pampering you, so gentle, so good.
  400.  
  401. You drift off to caring soft fingers playing over you and teasing your hair.
  402.  
  403. When you wake up, it’s already light outside, and the horse is gone.  There’s a note left on the desk and the centaur’s oversized phone. ‘I had to head home before Mother missed me in the morning. Room is paid up and I left my phone for you to use until you get a new one. I enjoyed our evening together. Please don’t make me wait so long until the next time. See you soon.’ –Izzy
  404.  
  405. That note reminds you to check out the other notes you got yesterday. First was the hieroglyphic graffiti, then the plain paper, fancy stationary, and steel. Forget the wadded up steel. It would take a screwdriver and a hammer to flatten that out. The velum looks official so you check that first.
  406.  
  407. ‘I know you’re tough kiddo. You’ll make it through all this. But if things get too hairy, here’s a final ace. There’s only been three deaths at school in the many years since I started, but all were in fights over men. Watch yourself and good luck.’- Prez
  408.  
  409. There’s a card attached ‘Natalie Greene: Vice President of Male Relations: Monstergirls for Monogamous Matrimony.’ Oh god, the MMM. You hadn’t even considered those people. There’s a hand-written personal number on the card. Prez is right, last resort. The elf is really a peach, writing that after everything yesterday. You will have to get her a card and a box of chocolates today.
  410.  
  411. The lined paper just has a few tiny jittery scratches written on it. You bring it closer to try and make it out. A fine white powder sifts from the page into the air and you can’t help but inhale a little even as you pull away. Soothing warmth begins to spread from your nose to the back of your skull before enveloping your whole body and raising your mast.
  412.  
  413. Well hell, that’s not how you wanted to start the day.
  414.  
  415. You take a quick shower to clean up and take care of that enough to be able to walk around. It still looks like you have a couple wadded up socks stuffed in your pants but at least it doesn’t hurt.
  416.  
  417. You’re still wearing your spare clothes when you check out and begin to hoof your way to school. Your bruises annoy you every time your hand brushes against them but your back is feeling really good. Izzy gave you an incredible massage after you passed out. You can feel it in your bones. it’s a good thing too. Looking at the time on your borrowed phone, you’re going to need to jog to make it to class on time.
  418.  
  419. You make good time to the park. Sweat runs down your face as you continue gamely on in spurts of jogging then walking the few miles from downtown, resting at lights and crosswalks. You pass a number of city residents that give you odd looks and a couple student stragglers leaving home late. You only stop to grab a couple tokens of thanks for the Prez. You’re so caught up in the time that you forget that June’s path takes her through this edge of the park on her way to school.  
  420.  
  421. Pounding down the sidewalk, you see the big crotaline up ahead. Her onyx hips sway in time as her powerful tail slithers down the rough concrete. For a girl without a real ass, that skirt she’s wearing still hugs all the right places. You wonder how high those scales really go, memories of the first time are blurry.
  422.  
  423. Ugh, how can you even think that? It must be that damn little brain in your shorts, the one telling you that anything female is currently fair game. Fucking spiked letter. Fucking snake.
  424.  
  425. You slow to a walk and hang back. It’s too much trouble to pass her. You’re almost naked of protection out here, totally exposed. Not smart to attract her attention. Besides, you’re still on track to get where you need to go in time.
  426.  
  427. The next ten minutes pass without incident until you feel the morning wind shift in her direction. The cool breeze feels nice on your sweaty back. You pay no mind until the huge pit viper halts. She points her nose in the air, and even from this distance you can see her long tongue flick in and out, tasting the air. The pit of your stomach drops as she turns around.
  428.  
  429. That’s just goddamn perfect.
  430.  
  431. Vertical slit pupils lock onto you. You keep walking. Don’t show fear or acknowledge her.
  432.  
  433. As you near the waiting viper, you notice her keeping a straight face. Likely she is just as unsure of your intentions as you are of hers. This isn’t your normal path to school after all. You spy her tongue flicking in and out and her eyes flitting searchingly behind you every few seconds. Heh, so she thinks you brought backup. Well, you should have. You look her in her nephrite eyes then break contact as you stride by.
  434.  
  435. “Not even a hello?” The lamia asks flatly.
  436.  
  437. “Good morning, June.” You greet her and keep on walking.
  438.  
  439. There’s a long pause. Then you hear the rasping sound of tough belly scales on cement as she slithers up beside you, pendulating side-to-side elegantly as her tail propels her along.
  440.  
  441. “You didn’t roll over on me yesterday.” The cottonmouth says. There’s a hint of something there in her voice you can’t quite place. Smugness? Self-satisfaction?
  442.  
  443. She opens her bleach white mouth and flashes her fangs. “I knew you wouldn’t.” Okay. She’s gloating.
  444.  
  445. “I like to keep my options open.” You reply and quicken your pace.
  446.  
  447. The massive snake refuses to be left behind. Gray-scaled hands wrap around your collar like living steel.  “You think you’re pretty smart.” She chokes you tight.  “But you’re not half as clever as you think you are.”
  448.  
  449. “That still makes me more clever than you, June.” You manage to wheeze out.
  450.  
  451. “We’ll sssssssee.” She hisses.  
  452.  
  453. Twin hypodermic daggers lance into the side of your neck. Fuck, she strikes fast. It’s only a little bite, enough to make the confines of your pants go from tight to very tight. That unforgettable feeling of heat hits your brain first then spreads to the rest of you like wildfire. It’s sweet and whispers of scaly comfort. It’s far too comfortable a feeling, dangerous, made more so because it’s subtle at the low dose.
  454.  
  455. “Try to keep your pants on today.” The lamia laughs sadistically and lets you loose with a hard slap on the back.
  456.  
  457. You touch the fine stream of blood welling from the punctures in your neck and can’t resist a final glare at the pit viper. Her hard jade eyes dance with laughter. Then she reads something in your face, and some of the laughter dies. You see her fumble around in her uniform jacket pocket for a second before she retrieves a wadded-up napkin.
  458.  
  459. “Now you can’t say I ruined your shirt.” June grumbles and shoves the paper into your palm with ragged claws.
  460.  
  461. Looking at the spot of jam on one corner, you don’t suspect it to be a trick. Besides, what’s she going to do, drug you more? You find a clean bit and put it over your wounds to staunch the trickle of crimson before turning back to the path ahead of you.
  462.  
  463. Black armor scales grind on the pavement as June matches your step with her slithering. You arch your eyebrow at her as she neither pulls ahead or behind.
  464.  
  465. Slit pupils eye your round ones. “We’re going to the same place. You can stay behind if you care that much. I’m not going to be late because of you. Be grateful for the free protection. I hear the loser seniors are after you now.”
  466.  
  467. “I wouldn’t need an escort if it wasn’t for you.” You retort.
  468.  
  469. Rage simmers in the great snake. “And I wouldn’t have needed to put you in that situation if it wasn’t for what you did to me. You took away MY CHOICE! You made yourself mine. You have to live with that as much as I do.” Her nostrils flare. “Blame games run in a circle, horsefucker. You want to keep spinning around, we can go all day.” The lamia’s good mood completely evaporates.
  470.  
  471. “You really never know when to just shut the hell up.” She mutters. “It’s too fucking cold for this.”
  472.  
  473. It’s a quiet and uneventful walk the rest of the way to school.
  474.  
  475. You don’t see hide nor hair of your horses, but you hear the sound of swift tiny feet running down the pavement before something small leaps onto your back and wraps its arms around your neck. You lurch as your spine reminds you with screaming pain that your lumbar is not okay with that. A bandaged paw hugs you and a bandaged face rubs against yours.
  476.  
  477. June acts like she’s just smelled something rotten. The cottonmouth takes one last look at you then slinks off like she was never travelling with you at all.
  478.  
  479. “Not visiting me and hanging around the two-faced snake skank. A pretty girl like me could almost be offended.” A feline voice giggles in your ear.
  480.  
  481. “Nessa.” You grunt. “Get offa me!”
  482.  
  483. “Vanessa. Say it with me now Master, Vuh-ness-uh.” The Cheshire turns up the husky and sultry tone to eleven.
  484.  
  485. A small violet pop announces the arrival of Thing Two. “Leave him be Ness. Didn’t you learn anything yesterday?”
  486.  
  487. “Pfft.” Nessa snorts. “Listen to that. Can you believe Trish? She finally gets laid and her ego swells up like a balloon. Be careful or she’ll want you to call her Patricia soon. Then you’ll really be in trouble.”
  488.  
  489. “Says the cyclops mummy cat.” Trisha comments with that shit-eating grin you haven’t seen on her face in some time.
  490.  
  491. “Pirate mummy ghost cat, thank you. Which makes you the boring twin.” Nessa finally hops down and you get a good look at her. The top of her head and most of her right side is wrapped up in bandages. An eyepatch covers her eye that got knocked out of wack. Her ears are still full of invisible spots.
  492.  
  493. The small Cheshire catches your look and flexes the wrapped fingers of her right paw. “Oh it’s mostly for show, except the ones on my noggin. The invisible bits started moving around like a lava lamp on this side and it was making everyone sick, including me. So I got it wrapped up until it gets better.” She nuzzles your neck affectionately, and you feel her good paw caress the bulge in your pants. “I hope that doesn’t disqualify me from that heart medal and the pity fuck.”
  494.  
  495. “Why would he take pity on you? I sure wouldn’t. You deserve what you got.”Trisha pulls back on Nessa’s eyepatch and lets it go. You catch a glimpse of a terribly dilated eye before the cover returns to the feline’s face with a snap.
  496.  
  497. “That’s harsh, Trish. It was just a little fun. You’re not going to score brownie points with him by kissing his ass anyway. Good question though.” Nessa turns to you. “Why did you?” There’s some sincerity there, you think.
  498.  
  499. The bell rings and cuts the conversation short. Nessa looks like she wants to say something else but Trisha pops over and steals her eyepatch then teleports out of reach.
  500.  
  501. “Who’s the boring twin now Miss Can’t Jump?” She teases, eyepatch on the wrong eye, with that smug toothy grin and her best Captain Morgan pose.
  502.  
  503. “Trish, give that back.” Nessa chases her sister who pops away and up the stairs at the last second.
  504.  
  505. “No, don’t bully the cyclops!” The Cheshire squeals and runs inside.
  506.  
  507. As you walk into the school, you notice a small wildflower placed in your front shirt pocket. The strangest thing is you’re not completely sure which one of the twins it’s from.
  508.  
  509. Class is pretty smooth, except for strange hands playing grabass with you during the breaks. Mostly strange anyway, you’re sure there was a Cheshire paw or two snuck in there. At this point, all you can figure is that this is more like what most of the men in this place have to put up with.
  510.  
  511. Midday finally gives you a real break and Nina sends you a text that she made you lunch. The big tomboy tries hard but never lets you forget that she is always working for you either. It’s manipulative and loving at the same time, the kind jealousy that only true caring can breed.
  512.  
  513. You give the massive mare a soft twitch and a few things to pass along to the Prez when you meet up with her in the hall. She gives you a chaste kiss on the cheek and a picnic basket in return. It’s still enough to earn a few mixed cries of envy and disgust from the peanut gallery.
  514.  
  515. “Care to join me?” You ask looking up at the warhorse of a girl. You watch her ponytail drift back and forth as she shifts one ton of horseflesh indecisively.
  516.  
  517. “The standing tables are too tall for you, and yours is too short.” Nina finally answers, chickening out. Well, her ice queen front is useful in its own way. It reminds you how different she is behind closed doors.
  518.  
  519. You pick out your usual spot by yourself. There’re so many eyes watching. It’s even worse than yesterday. You’re sure the bloody cat spectacle just fanned the flames.
  520.  
  521. June gives you a look and a subtle inviting wave next to her and the few other girls at her table. It doesn’t last long when Ruby slaps the lamia’s hand down in conjunction with an angry sputter of flame. Bad move. The cottonmouth is one snake that doesn’t like being told what to do by anyone. Angrily, viciously, the stony lamia rotates her jaw open a full ninety degrees. Her four inch fangs, one slightly longer than the other, slip from their white fleshy sheaths.
  522.  
  523. Ruby sets down her fork and props up the elbow of her bare claw on the table in challenge. Two different scaly armored gauntlets meet, red versus black, fire versus stone. Corded muscles bulge and strain as the smaller salamander armwrestles against the big snake. It’s an even match until June mouths something and Ruby’s tail lights up like a torch. Then the carmine lizard starts to pull ahead. Slowly, inexorably, she forces the viper over.  Just as the big crotaline is about to tap the table with the back of her wrist, June smashes her head forward. The resulting thunk of skull on skull rises above the cafeteria chatter as the dazed salamander slides back into her seat and the snake crushes Ruby’s hand victoriously into the table. She looks back at you with a smug ‘Well, who did you expect would win?’ expression and bites the end off a broken claw.
  524.  
  525. It all just really drives home again that June is extremely dangerous. Her plan is playing for time to fill you with more and more venom, and she’s resisting the sexual drive of a mated monstergirl better than any you’ve ever seen. In the end she wants you to crawl to her. The worst part is even with your limited exposure, the snake juice is already beginning to work its magic. Your hands are beginning to tremble since the small morning dose wore off and cold sweat beads on your forehead. You’ll need a permanent solution to her, and soon.
  526.  
  527. “This seat taken?” A regal voice knocks you out of your dour thoughts as someone sits down beside you. That’s a rare surprise. You thought maybe one of the cats might show up but not this.
  528.  
  529. It’s that strange dragon from yesterday, the one with the proud face and jittery clothes.
  530.  
  531. “So…do you have like a stalker or secret girlfriend or something? About eight feet tall, skin a shade darker than me, four legs, and hits like a fucking truck?” Jack rubs her jaw for emphasis.
  532.  
  533. You can’t see her pin from here with her hunched over her tray. Shame, it was neat to read. “I know a girl like that. She wouldn’t slug anyone without a reason.” You answer.
  534.  
  535. Jack turns toward you with a face stuffed with meatloaf and somehow manages to talk around it without looking like a total slob. “Don’t know what I did. I just said out loud you looked lonely so I thought I’d say hi. It’s a terrible shame to let an opportunity for an interesting conversation slip by, you know? Then this pissed-off-looking junior just cold cocks me.” The dragon shrugs nonchalantly but her tiny lamia pin is fuming.
  536.  
  537. “She is the jealous type.” You nod. That stupid horse. You just gave her a chance.
  538.  
  539. “Aren’t we all?” Jack says slowly. You could swear you see the start of a tiny smile tugging at the corner of her mouth as she notices you looking closely at her bits of flair. You can’t help it. Monstergirls are strange for the most part, and after two years you’ve become jaded to claws and spikes and wings and fur and scales. But pieces of clothing seemingly acting of their own accord, that’s STRANGE.
  540.  
  541. “Don’t stare so hard. Your girlfriend might get the wrong idea.” The Jabberwock teases haughtily.
  542.  
  543. She takes off her lamia pin with a polished flourish of a red claw. “Wondering what all this is?” The dragon tosses you the trinket and you fumble it in your hands before catching it against your shirt. The dark drake snorts back a giggle and her pink hair settles back across her shoulders when she sees you playing hot potato with it.
  544.  
  545. You turn the decoration over in your hand. It’s cold and plain. The lamia is smiling and the banner reads ‘Year of the Snake’. Nothing moves, it’s just regular old brass and enamel.
  546.  
  547. Jack pets her golden snake scarf and it rubs back into her hand for more. “You seem like a pretty smart guy. Figure it out yet?” She’s so patronizing, but in a playful way. It’s still so reminiscent of the catpawing attitude of the twins.
  548.  
  549. “Wait, wait, don’t answer. I have something fun that shows it better.” The reptile stops you and gets to digging in her capacious backpack. “Where is it? Come on. I just saw it here earlier. Aha!” She pulls out a small wooden box.
  550.  
  551. The Jabberwock flips it open and there’s two small handpuppets inside cushioned on velvet. She catches your laughing eyes and flushes dark with embarrassment. Licking her lips, she turns her noble nose upward so she can look down on you. “I need these for my volunteer time with our elementary sister academy. Don’t you know that’s a requirement for girls here on visas?”
  552.  
  553. Despite your better instincts the girl is pretty endearing. She reminds you a little of the Prez if the elf was stiff collar and not a slacker.
  554.  
  555. Jack pulls out the pair. It’s a dragon and a knight, remarkably well made. The cloth and sequins and metal twitches as she slips each on a different talon of her terrifying snatching hand.
  556.  
  557. Your human eyes widen with childish wonder as the knight draws his sword and raises his shield. The dragon puppet stretches out tiny felt wings bellows a small light of flame, barely bigger than a lit match.
  558.  
  559. The battle is short and fierce. The two combatants attack each other in an almost choreographed dance. The knight strikes out only to be cut short by the dragon’s breath, scorching his tiny shield. Pull back, rinse and repeat. Both of them begin to tire. The tide only turns when the felt dragon snatches a butter knife from Jack’s tray. The tinny clash of metal reverberates even through the thick lunch table as the knight’s sword scatters into a pile of mashed potatoes.
  560.  
  561. The puppet dragon moves in for the kill, dull blade pressed to cloth. The Jabberwock is just as engrossed as you are, her red eyes watching intently.
  562.  
  563. The felt drake leans in, face almost on top of the knight’s helmet. Tiny button eyes gleam with false life as it drops the kitchen utensil and grabs the knight in a tiny hug. The night flails wildly as she covers him in cloth kisses and her little pipe cleaner tail twists into a heart.
  564.  
  565. “Oh my. That’s just so adorable and romantic.” A sweet gentle voice chimes in from near your elbow. It’s some short fluffy freshman with tall ears, staring with wide eyes.
  566.  
  567. Jack suddenly seems very self-conscious at the multitude of eyes pulled to the spectacle and she stuffs the two back in their box, the lifeless knight still entwined in the dragon’s embrace.
  568.  
  569. “Sorry about that. I can’t control them exactly. But then not knowing the story keeps it from being boring right?” She gives you a wan smile, clearly embarrassed to have been acting so childishly in front of the other students. “So that makes things a little clearer, yeah?”
  570.  
  571. You reach over and pull out the toy sword she missed from her pile of potatoes in her haste. “Here, before someone claims they’re King of Idaho.”
  572.  
  573. The dragon takes it and cleans it with a stiff dignity before stowing everything away while you unpack your own lunch.
  574.  
  575. There’s a nice love note in there from Nina that creases your mouth into a small smile on top of a slightly smaller mountain of food than the last time.
  576.  
  577. “So I hear there’s a goblin town in this city.” The drake speaks up. “Have you ever been?”
  578.  
  579. The only goblin you’ve ever seen is Meryl from your class and she keeps to herself, pretty pointy green nose always to the grindstone. You shake your head before digging into what looks like lukewarm cauliflower casserole. The vegetables and creamy cheese melt on your tongue. By god it’s wonderful. Nina must be practicing her cooking.
  580.  
  581. “It’s supposed to be underground like a dwarven town. And they say that a bunch of them still speak real Goblin.” Jack stuffs her face as she continues, making up for lost time, but still holding her utensils like a proper lady. “Can you imagine, beneath the streets like catacombs? It could be a real adventure.”
  582.  
  583. “Sounds like it.” You nod, attacking the lasagna next and trying to ignore the dragon sneaking a taste of the casserole.
  584.  
  585. “So…do you want to go check it out?” Jack asks. The request is very businesslike in delivery, but you can see innocent excitement glimmering in her eyes.
  586.  
  587. “Who’s going and when?” You are genuinely curious. It seems there’s a lot more about this city you’re unaware of and a change of pace might clear your head, give you better perspective on how to salvage this whole mess.
  588.  
  589. “You’re the first I’ve asked. I just think it would be more fun than going alone.” The draak busies herself with a drink of holstaurus milk, looking away from you. You wish her pin was back on her jacket and not sitting uselessly on the table right now. It’s a lot easier to read than she is.
  590.  
  591. “No other dragons?” You have enough trouble. You don’t need that kind of trouble too.
  592.  
  593. Now that gets you a raised pink eyebrow. “When have you ever known dragons to get along with each other, especially with one that can’t breathe fire and doesn’t care a bit about a hoard?”
  594.  
  595. “So this is the kind of dragon that comes from Con Carroll.” You say halfway to yourself. Jack seems to hear it anyway, you forget how perceptive most monsters are. You have gotten sloppier of late. The drugs and venom and general upheaval of your life make things so much more unpredictable, harder to control. And then there’s creatures like this, that thrive on the chaos.
  596.  
  597. She snaps the lamia pin back on her lapel and her red claws flash in the fluorescent light. “With jaws that bite and claws that catch. Got a problem with that? Come on. It’ll be fun.” The dark dragon seems to think that’s the only argument that really matters.
  598.  
  599. “Down down to Goblin Town, we go my lad, oho my lad.” Her noble voice rings like leaded crystal.
  600.  
  601. “Did someone say something about fun and goblins?” A small pop announces Trisha’s arrival. She wedges herself between you and the Jabberwock, skirt straddling your thigh as she sits halfway in your lap. A flash of something crosses the dragon’s face and is gone too fast to tell what it is, annoyance at being interrupted probably. The high class types can be pretty easy to ruffle when etiquette is broken.
  602.  
  603. The short Cheshire leans back until her head rests on your shoulder, subtly grinding her tight little butt against your leg and rubbing her scent onto your exposed neck. “I’m sure Meryl would tell us how to get down there. I think she lives in goblin town. Her parents are so rich they send her to school here.”
  604.  
  605. “Us?” Jack says at the implication.
  606.  
  607. “Goblins are rich?” You say at the same time.
  608.  
  609. Ignoring the drake, Trisha takes a keen interest in your lunch as she answers you. “Not as much as dwarves but some are yeah, like the greenies. They’re like the number two miners and builders, slightly ahead of gnomes and kobolds I think. They’ve got the contracts for the infrastructure in town: electricity, lights, gas, water, sewage. Didn’t Mrs. Burnett go over it last year? Mom works in the DOT, is how I know.” The cat says it all with a charming grin as her tabby paw, hidden by the tabletop, gently and affectionately rubs over the seam of your pants.
  610.  
  611. Maybe it wasn’t the smartest thing to give the gentler twin so much attention yesterday. She caused less trouble before.
  612.  
  613. Trisha steals the fork silently from your hand with skill she’s honed over the years. Before you can object, she cuts into your lasagna and takes a bite. The smile on her face goes from lewd to Garfield in an instant. She licks the tomato from her long canines and grabs another mouthful.
  614.  
  615. Jack opens her reptilian maw to admonish the cat for her rudeness but Trisha interrupts again by talking first. The big drake settles disconsolately into her seat.
  616.  
  617. “This is great! I can see why you keep the horses around.  Leal hearts, strong muscles, free transportation, and really good food.” The Cheshire lowers her voice to a whisper. “Nessa said that the sex is apparently pretty swell too, though you ditched them quick enough in the spa and you have been getting around.”
  618.  
  619. “Your point?” You grumble more nervous than angry. Jack has a patient smile on her face but the lamia pin has turned red and the livid caricature monstergirl has mushroom clouds for pupils. You’re pretty sure she can hear everything the cat is saying. Trisha probably knows it too.
  620.  
  621. The Cheshire grabs another forkful of baked Italian goodness and instead of wolfing it down holds her paw beneath the fork and raises it to you. Golden eyes look at you sheepishly.
  622.  
  623. You stare back at her. She’s dodging the question. Her cheeks begin to blush when you don’t play along. “Come on, Anon. This is embarrassing.” Her paw starts to tremble. It’s a peek behind her teasing front at that nervous girl inside. She looks entirely too happy when you finally open your mouth and accept the morsel from her.
  624.  
  625. “I just want to know what the competition is like. Just because there’s room for more than one doesn’t mean everyone is equal right?” Her smile is sugar sweet, but you see ambition burning behind it. “Some are more equal than others.”
  626.  
  627. You swallow. “You came here to tell me that?”
  628.  
  629. Trisha stands up.  “No, I came to remind you to never ever cut a deal with a dragon.” Barely audible, she susserates in your ear with the same sultry tone Nessa has teased you with.
  630.  
  631. “I think it would be fun to go check out goblin town on Friday. See you then, or sooner.” She adds before jumping away with a crack. You look down. Your lasagna is gone with her.
  632.  
  633. Almost on cue, Nessa stumbles up to you. Winded, she looks at you with her good eye. “W-was Trish…” She sticks her tongue out, panting lightly, paws on her knees.
  634.  
  635. “Sorry, Nessa. She’s already gone, I’m afraid.” You say it with true pleasure, and she can tell you’re not sorry at all.
  636.  
  637. The bandaged big purple tabby flashes a toothy grin that lasts half a heartbeat before she drops her head and sighs. “When I get my claws on her…” Her ears flatten. “You still don’t call me Vanessa.”
  638.  
  639. “Have you done something to make me want to?” You reply and purposely ignore her to search for dessert in the basket.
  640.  
  641. The Cheshire hugs you from behind.  “Maybe…Maybe not, but that doesn’t mean I won’t do more. How about some credit on good faith? Come on, I call you Master.” She implores while subtly rubbing her scent on your neck, covering Trisha’s.
  642.  
  643. “Don’t even ask, Nessa. You write bad checks and you know it. Go pester someone who’s still dumb enough to believe you.” You ruffle her hair and push her face away with your palm. She does at least suffer you to pry her small tough arms off your neck. The lithe cat feigns hurt feelings and looks like she’s about to cry. Same old, same old. This time though, she doesn’t crack a grin after a few seconds. The hurt look sticks.
  644.  
  645. Jack is bent over her tray, picking at her food. You see her eyes sliding back your way occasionally.
  646.  
  647. The Cheshire actually thanks the Jabberwock for her help yesterday and pointedly leaves you out. When she’s finished, she lightly bats the back of your head with her bandaged paw. You hear her mutter “Jerk.” sourly then turn to go looking for her sister. If she wasn’t so good at crying wolf, you’d almost think she was actually hurt.
  648.  
  649. You spend the rest of lunch idly chatting with the Jabberwock about the town, where she came from, and so on. Nice safe small talk. She gives a particularly interesting description of Con Carroll by blowing pink smoke into a glass. The heavy fog swirls around inside like a storm cloud. “You know something’s at the bottom, but you can’t see exactly what until your feet are right on top of it. The next time you go, it’s just as uncertain. That’s what makes it interesting. You never run out of fun things to do since everything’s always changing.”
  650.  
  651. Her lips tighten into a hard line. “It’s not all good I guess. Wonderland does things to the human mind.”
  652.  
  653. “What kind of things?” You ask while splitting a lemon tart with her so big it might as well be a pie.
  654.  
  655. “Well like my dad’s name is Craft. Always said it stood for Can’t Remember A Fuckin’ Thing. He was from this side, used to be military or something I think. Least that’s what mom says. Not like he recalls.” She smiles at her own halfass joke but the little snake pin has a sadface and reads ‘Homesick. Lonely.’
  656.  
  657. You steer the conversation around to happier thoughts and find out that she lives in a dorm for other girls attending from beyond the gate. Part of some sort of exchange program you hadn’t really heard about, though you never really got around to knowing many people well.
  658.  
  659. Turns out they have a rec area that’s pretty much abandoned. Most would rather explore town than stay indoors or congregate at local haunts. Might be worth checking out as a place to hang out. They got pool and darts and other basic stuff. You’d only run the risk of stumbling into girls from the old world, girls that most people paint as far more uncivilized than even the terrors that live in Little Monster City. After all the monstergirls that have bothered you over the years, you’ve never been able to tell the difference. If anything, girls that could get their visas revoked are probably careful to be on their best behavior.
  660.  
  661. You turn over these thoughts in your mind for the rest of the day. It would be so nice to have a refuge again. And it’s close. You told Jack that’s where you’d meet her for the trip to goblin town so it will give you a chance to scope it out. You don’t think it’s a trap, but this trip is not completely platonic either. The Jabberwok has an agenda, a game, something up her sleeve.
  662.  
  663. Ah, you just can’t think right today. As you sit in class, your hands shake with tremors and your stomach begins to clench and cramp. You’re certain it’s not the food doing it. June has a knowing look in her eyes when you glance her way. You see the message plain as day in the bright cold jade. “If you feel bad, you only need to ask, and I’ll make it all better.”
  664.  
  665. Fuck her. You excuse yourself to the bathroom to puke out your guts and wash your face in cold water. When you’re done, you appraise yourself in the mirror as you straighten your jacket. You look tired, pale, worn down. Your newfound energy from this morning is already petering out. You’re halfway considering giving yourself a small dose of your stored venom to help wean off the stuff, before you shove that thought down angrily. You stare at your hand, concentrating, willing it to be still. After a few deep breaths, you feel a little better, take a few sips of water to help calm your stomach. You look in the mirror again and a set of eight glossy crimson compound eyes reflect back at you.  “Found you.” An icy voice echoes.
  666.  
  667. You nearly leap out of your skin. It’s that senior from yesterday, the fake ant. She’s short, with a black carapace and white hair framing her smooth porcelain face. With all the distractions weighing you down, it’s no wonder you got caught with your pants down. You still curse yourself at your carelessness. What are the odds she would be roaming the halls right now? Then you remember seniors have a free afternoon some days.
  668.  
  669. “Just keep looking that way.” She commands while pointing your head toward the mirror with silk-gloved hands.
  670.  
  671. “Tanya, are you absolutely sure this is him?” The ant arachne asks over her shoulder as she pats you down, finds your phone, turns it off, and packs it away.
  672.  
  673. “Positive. I can taste it.” You recognize that bubbling of the raincoat girl. She’s out of your line of sight with the mirror back toward the door.
  674.  
  675. Just seeing them makes you fume, and against your better judgment you open your mouth. “I saw what you did to the Prez. She’s a nice girl. She didn’t deserve that.” You spit in the sink. “And thanks for getting me kicked out of the Archery Club you degenerate cunts.”
  676.  
  677. The false ant actually looks guilty and ashamed. “We got carried away. We really never meant to hurt her. We’re not evil you know?”Her face hardens as she binds your hands with strands of fresh silk. “But we are desperate.”
  678.  
  679. “Do you have any idea what my girlfriend is going to do to you if you don’t let me go?” You drive the threat right into the heart of their plans. Nina may not be your girlfriend in reality. She won’t act without your say so. But she would take genuine pleasure in brutal payback against anyone who touches you.
  680.  
  681. “If you have a girlfriend, then why do you taste like so many women?” The cloaked goliath wheezes. “What say you Sheikh? Isn’t your kind specialized in not caring about that sort of thing?”
  682.  
  683. Wrapping more silk around your mouth in a makeshift gag, the ant arachne smells your clothes carefully. Unsettled, she gazes back over her shoulder. “I’m not a manthief.”
  684.  
  685. “Good thing we’re just borrowing him for a little while then.” The wet rag muffled giant jokes.
  686.  
  687. “Y-yeah, just borrowing. It’s just borrowing.” The imposter ant repeats in her rare husky voice, the icy tone thaws as she tries to convince herself. She tightens the silk around your wrists.
  688.  
  689. Looking back to say something else, she lets her guard down for the few moments you need. You take a breath. This would be a lot easier if you didn’t feel like complete shit right now. Drawing on your flagging reserves, you dash for the alarm over by the door. The fake ant is small and light even if she is strong. Your jarring move throws her fat abdomen into the stall behind you with a crash. Shoulder pointed squarely at the palm-sized alarm button, you make one final push.
  690.  
  691. Two steps from your goal, something strong and slimy wraps around your ankle and holds tight. With your arms tied behind you, you slam into the floor at full force. The sound of your lungs deflating and sternum popping loudly echoes in the restroom.
  692.  
  693. “Close call.” Sheikh whistles under her breath while you lay there gasping uselessly. “He okay?”
  694.  
  695. “Fine.” Another sticky appendage works its way under your arms and hauls you to your feet, pulling you away from the alarm at the same time. You don’t have time to catch your breath as the tentacles attached to you start to reel you in. You get a good look at them now, slimy green, claws on the end, growths like little feathery tongues stuck out along the length. It’s like something out of a tentacle porno. She probably IS something out of a tentacle flick.
  696.  
  697. As raincoat drags you close, you notice the smell. It’s so thick you can taste it, as the bitch likes to say: sickly sweet honeysuckle with an undercurrent of rotten meat. If your stomach wasn’t empty, you sure couldn’t hold it down with that odor invading your nostrils.
  698.  
  699. “Time to go.” The coat opens and you’re pulled inside like she’s the Ghost of Christmas Present. Only instead of an old man’s hairy legs, it’s a forest of slimy writhing green.
  700.  
  701. The coat buttons back up and shuts out the light. The horrible stuff coating all the cosmic horror arms starts to soak through your uniform, with a warm tingle that spreads across your skin. The dark and stench and claustrophobic pressing sensations only get worse as free tentacles ensnare you and suspend you in the air. Momentum shifts as the abomination glides through the door. So that’s how they plan to drag you out of here.
  702.  
  703. You keep hoping to hear some close voices, a good time to make a Hail Mary moan for rescue. No such luck as you’re carried off god-knows where. The worst part is nobody will really care if you skip out. You’ve done it often enough to not raise eyebrows.
  704.  
  705. Eventually, after you’re sweaty, slimed and miserable, the eldritch bitch dumps you on the ground. It’s polished stained concrete. You could be practically anywhere on campus. All you know is you’re inside and it’s dark and quiet.
  706.  
  707. Her friend, the stunted chitin monstrosity, drags you upright. Ruby eyes glitter like gems as she looks you all over. Silk-gloved exoskeletal fingers get to work undoing your jacket and shirt. The desperate virgin slips the damp clothes over your shoulders and down your arms, reinforcing your restraints.
  708.  
  709. Both girls gasp when they see the numerous bite marks on your shoulders and the massive fresh red scars of your back and below your collarbone. You just glare at them, hard and hope they don’t mistake your venom withdrawal shakes for fear.
  710.  
  711. The nerves of the spider mimic start to give. “Maybe this was a bad idea after all? If we call it quits now, it’s just a harmless prank.”
  712.  
  713. Honestly if they just wanted a quick fuck, you would be happy to oblige and get them out of your life. You thought of exactly three critical reasons why you shouldn't during your little ride under the abomination’s skirt. First, there’s no way they would take it as a onetime thing. Your other encounters have proved that. Second, it would exacerbate the rumors around you and bring more abominations calling. Third, nobody forces themselves on you like this. You are not a toy, not for the snake, not for the cats, not for anyone.
  714.  
  715. “Do what you want. I’ve come this far. I’m not quitting. I don’t know the next time I’ll have a chance like this.” The voice of the goliath is less muffled now, clear and without the bubbling sound. You look over and see her undressing. The scarf from her head lays at her feet. She shrugs off her robelike plastic jacket to join it.
  716.  
  717. Your first thought is one of awe. The girl is stunning. You’ve never seen an ugly monster but her visage is the closest you’ve ever dared compare to real perfection. Orange hair, patterned like tiger lily petals, falls over her green face and iridescent silvery eyes. Healthy breasts strain against a racy white bikini and a matching swimskirt rests on her hips below her toned abs. If it wasn’t for the mass of unspeakable tentacled horror below her skirt and the arms ending in two massive plantlike bulbs with creepy little hands several sizes too small, she would be the cutest girl you’ve ever seen. This school isn’t exactly full of slouches in the looks department either. Even with her deficiencies, she should not have a problem finding someone to bang her.
  718.  
  719. Then the smell hits you like a wave. It took a moment to notice, sitting soaked in her excretions, but the vile scent of honey and decomposing meat mixed together rises in magnitude until it literally becomes difficult to breathe.
  720.  
  721. The quisling ant doesn’t look like she enjoys it any more than you do. She seems to make up her mind about something, nods severely to herself, then turns to you. “I guess today is not my day after all…”
  722.  
  723. Before you can even grunt she’s on you, lips mashing clumsily against yours, tongue burrowing under your gag, past your defenses, all the way back to tickle your uvula. You don’t even get a chance to bite down and teach her a lesson before the sensation is gone. She smiles and says in that low husky voice. “Find me if you ever want to have a go cutey.”
  724.  
  725. “I’ll leave him to you.” The antlike spider scuttles off past you. Seconds later, you hear a door close.
  726.  
  727. The stereotypical green tentacle rape machine sits there and just ogles you for a minute. “I hadn’t really gotten a good look at you. You are kinda cute, in a scrubby sort of way.” She brushes her petal hair out of the way. “I’d ask you your name but well…” She gestures at your gag with a shriveled crooked finger. “…don’t think you’re gonna say much.” The verdant horror glides closer on a dozen slimy appendages. “There will be time for pillowtalk later.”
  728.  
  729. Her right hand splits into five parts as she opens the big pod on her right arm. A million fleshy cilia writhe inside, like someone dumped a bucket of nightcrawlers in there. The sight combined with the odious stench makes your empty stomach fip.
  730.  
  731. There were many horrible things that you thought might happen to you in this town. Tentacle rape was not one of them until today.
  732.  
  733. This loathsome thing has you, and she means to use you every way she can while she can.
  734.  
  735. What follows is something you will later wish sorely to forget, sensations that just remembering would make your skin crawl. The monster locks her abominable pod onto your waist even as you try to get up and struggle backwards. For a second you imagine your clothes melting off like in the movies. The reality is almost worse. Like miniature fingers working in concert, the cilia drag your pants and underwear off, inching along maddeningly with ten thousand tiny caresses. Her drool or nectar or whatever it is seeps into your skin, stronger than anything in the tentacles before. Your body grows hot and you recognize the effects of an aphrodisiac at work.
  736.  
  737. The putrid smell is gagging now and grows even stronger as her breath quickens.
  738.  
  739. “May be innocent, may be sweet, ain't half as nice as rotting meat.”You don’t remember where you heard that quote. The wormy carpet engulfing your waist tries to latch onto your dick. The stench, god the stench. It’s all too easy to imagine an army of maggots under the green flesh, writhing, biting, waiting to consume you.
  740.  
  741. That’s the last straw. Empty stomach or not, you hurl. Acid and water soaks into your gag, burns your throat and your nose. Convulsions wrack your gut as you choke and dry heave. You can’t breathe. Oh god you can’t breathe! This goes on for over a minute until the burning in your lungs starts to overtake the burning in the rest of you. Panicked wide iridescent eyes look on as you start to turn blue.
  742.  
  743. The effect on your molester is instantaneous. The horror drops you. Watching something with a score of tentacles squirm nervously does not help your stomach. As spots start to dance in your vision, she finally drifts in to help.
  744.  
  745. Something sharp, a claw, cuts your gag and bonds. A tentacle props you upright and pats your back to help you clear your throat. You cough up bile onto the concrete. Rank air fills your lungs, but at least it’s air. The slick caress of the green arm leaves you.
  746.  
  747. When you finally catch your breath, it still takes a minute for your body to quit trying to expel your insides onto the floor. When the convulsions stop, the first thing you notice is the crying.
  748.  
  749. “Disgusting.”  She weeps. “I’m so disgusting I make men choke and throw up by just touching them.” The thing has tied herself into a tentacle ball. You can’t see her face, just a green knot of abominable arms. She doesn’t notice you get up. The creature is wrapped in her own little world of misery.
  750.  
  751. Well fuck her anyway. It is the truth. Deal with it. You slide back into your nasty slimed uniform and try to ignore the heat of the fluids continuing to spread over your body. You shake with the shock of how close you came to really being raped by that…that thing.
  752.  
  753. A small voice echoes in your mind, and it sounds an awful lot like the slutcubus. ‘Here’s someone desperate, starved for affection, at the very edge. You remember what that’s like, what a few gentle lies and kisses would have bought from you only months ago. A little push, little promises, little tokens of kindness, and she would be your slave.’ Then you think of Nina, and how dangerous that is at the same time. You need to tread lightly or you’ll end up with a knife in your back. After the snake one-dick-for-life catastrophe, you’re never touching another species without proper research ever again. You probably couldn’t fake ignoring that smell anyway.
  754.  
  755. The snake, June, the instigator of all this. What madness has let you leave her alone so long? You know the threat she presents. But it always seems to be ‘I need to take care of her. She’ll get what’s coming. I’ll take care of her soon.’ And soon was always tomorrow then the next day and the next. Then she throws this whole mess on top of you and all you’ve done is dick around and play salvage and defense.
  756.  
  757. ‘It's too late, even if you killed me, you'd still be mine.’ Her sibilant voice whispers in your thoughts.
  758.  
  759. You never beat her or punished her when you knew it would have been the smartest course of action. You stayed your hand, moved on to others before it was time. What if she was right? What if that half-remembered moment of lust did something to you? Just the thought of it galvanizes your will to action, not soon, not later, NOW. You can’t believe it took you almost getting tentacle raped to finally do something. That alone speaks volumes. Your hate hasn’t abated but your will, your will to do wonderfully horrible things hasn’t been what it was since then.
  760.  
  761. You dig through the pockets of the abomination’s coat until you retrieve your borrowed phone. If one thing has gone right for you, it’s your remuda. As you message Nina’s phone, you can only think there’s so much to do and so little time.
  762.  
  763. You leave the sobbing senior to wallow in her depression. Turning her in would take up too much paperwork and time. Diggood would probably ignore the whole thing anyway. Or is it weakness that stays your hand this time as well? You try not to think about it as your body burns with chemical-induced lust.
  764.  
  765. Five hours later, you stand in the men’s locker room as the last red rays of the sun pour over the school. June is coming. You know she is. If you might be different than you used to be then you sure know she is: the way she slithers, moves, the sneaked glances, the way she turns her head when you’re in the same room. She can’t resist. She knows it’s a trap, but she’ll come anyway.
  766.  
  767. You see the shadow of the door creeping open and move back toward the edge of the tile by the showers. Izzy and Nina stand ready with restraints and extinguishers. The lights are all on inside. No use hiding. The serpent can see better in the dark than anyone. You won’t give her that advantage.
  768.  
  769. She comes in low. You’ve never seen a lamia slither near the ground like a real snake but there she is, chin three inches from the ground, long tongue tasting the air ahead of her.
  770.  
  771. The slits of her intelligent jade eyes lock onto you almost immediately. She strikes forward without any hesitation, slithering under the wooden benches for cover. Fuck she can move when she wants to. Izzy tries to grab her and latches onto nothing but scales that slip through her grasp. Nina is more practical, spraying the pit viper in the face with her extinguisher and kicking out hard with a steel horseshoe. Even ten steps back, you hear ribs snap in the cottonmouth’s tail.
  772.  
  773. With a roaring shout unlike anything you’ve ever heard, the viper picks up a whole ten foot bench and smashes it against the massive centaur. June aims for her legs, smart and wicked. Nina has to drop her extinguisher to protect herself from crippling injury. You hear the thick oak splinter across your mare’s horse shoulders and know she’s going to walk with a limp for awhile.
  774.  
  775. That buys the snake the couple seconds she needs to close the distance to you. The back of her tail coils. Even as you step away, she launches herself forward in a flying tackle. Ragged broken claws grab your shirt as her huge weight sails through the air and tears you off your feet.
  776.  
  777. You land on the tile hard and the room spins as she coils you up. When you get your bearings, the first thing you notice is the heat. The cottonmouth is burning up like she’s got a terrible fever. So that’s where all that energy came from. She’s breathing hard now through her glottis, body spent.
  778.  
  779. Your horses dash to your aid, only to come to a crashing halt when June yells “STOP!” and wraps her gray scaly hands around your neck and tightens her black armored coils. “Not one step closer, until I’ve said my piece.” She hisses haltingly, trying to catch her breath.
  780.  
  781. “I’m glad we’re all here. This is what I was hoping for.” The formidable lamia looks in your eyes, wild white hair strewn everywhere. “You. This time you will shut the fuck up and just listen quietly.”
  782.  
  783. Nina tries to edge in closer and you feel the viper’s grip tighten painfully as she warns the mare back. You can’t speak and can barely breathe. Fangs flip out and retract in the corner of your vision. “I don’t know what he did or promised you horse pussies to make you obey him, but you have got to realize the truth by now. No matter what he thinks he has on us, he’s messed with too many of us now. If we came together, stuck together, got our story straight, let my venom do its work… He’s only a man. What could he do to us? He would be at our mercy, to do with as WE please.” She lets the words sink in for a moment, looks for weakness in their faces.
  784.  
  785. You’re pleased to see neither falter. How naïve, that the snake thinks other girls wouldn’t want you as anything other than a slave or a toy. Though it does color a pretty ugly opinion she clearly has of you.
  786.  
  787. “Quit helping him. Help yourselves!” The cottonmouth almost shrieks exasperatedly.
  788.  
  789. Your destrier opens her mouth before Izzy does. “We could turn. But then what? Instead of him, you’d call the shots, controlling him with your venom. There’s nothing that keeps you from taking him all for yourself. I don’t see how anyone’s situation is improved but your own. You just want him without a fight.”
  790.  
  791. “AND WHY CAN’T YOU JUST LET ME HAVE HIM?” The snake thunders. “He’s not even that good a man. You can find another one, a better one. Let me have this one. He’s not good, but he’s mine. It wasn’t my choice, but he’s mine. My territory, my mate, by the old laws he belongs to me! If we were on the other side of the gate, you’d be stoned for this!” So this is what was simmering underneath her cool gray hide all this time. She’s starting to crack under the pressure.
  792.  
  793. “It doesn’t work that way here. You know that. Now let him go.” There’s a hardness there in Nina’s voice, a commanding tone that the dark mare has not used in your presence in a long time. You see her foot twitch and you know right now all she wants is to hurl June on the ground and keep beating her face in with a steel shoe until there’s nothing but red paste left.
  794.  
  795. “I’ll let him go after you let me out of here.” Broken talons scratch bloody furrows in your neck as the lamia tightens her grip even more. “I swear I’ll snap his neck if you come any closer you loose horse cunt. Then nobody will have him.”
  796.  
  797. “And lose your only chance at a mate? I don’t think so.” Nina pushes forward. Izzy stands at her shoulder to back her up. There’s only a subtle glance at you for the final okay for this gamble. You nod as best you can; then everything falls into chaos.
  798.  
  799. You wake up on the mildewed tile with a goose egg on the back of your skull and a pounding headache. Blood trickles down the side of your neck and you prop yourself up. The movement dizzies your aching head.
  800.  
  801. “Master. Good, you’re awake. Are you okay?” Izzy calls out.
  802.  
  803. “I think so.” You answer.
  804.  
  805. You roll over and see the great serpent pinned to the floor. Both centaurs are literally sitting on top of her, holding her down with their great weight, Nina just above the hips and Izzy about halfway down the tail. June seems to have already worn herself out. Her tail doesn’t thrash or twitch about.
  806.  
  807. Nina pulls your eyes to her first. The big centaur is shirtless, only her ornery oni bra covering her chest. She’s holding a piece of her white shirt to her forearm, stained dark red. The rest has been stuffed in the snake’s mouth as a makeshift gag. The mare’s liquid brown eyes take you in, dilated as far as they will go. That explains why June didn’t bite you at least. She was saving her venom for a fight.
  808.  
  809. Your horse doesn’t say a word, but you see the worry on her pretty dark face. You can tell how much it killed her to hold and wait when you could have been bleeding out of your brain. Bless her, she really is the strongest, the most loyal. You’re substantially surprised to see a fainter, yet genuine expression of concern on Izzy’s face.
  810.  
  811. You stand on shaky knees and go to each of them in turn, whisper thanks in their ears as you soft twitch them. You grab bandages from the big first aid station and take care of Nina’s arm quickly. While you should have plenty of time to deal with the snake, you are not going to take any chances.
  812.  
  813. You swallow some painkillers out of the first aid box for your head before coming back, cleaning the quartet of weeping wounds that pierce right down to her radius and wrapping her up.  You feel a tremor go through her flesh as you touch her. The massive centaur is holding back with every fiber of her being against the effects of the venom. She scoffs at the small amount of painkillers you could offer her from the station, asks for a kiss to make it better instead.
  814.  
  815. “That’s my good girl.” You oblige and praise her sincerely.
  816.  
  817. Then you get down to business. “You put up a good fight June. I should never expect anything less.” You sneer at her glare. “We’ll start with milking. You remember how that goes don’t you? Bite me or scream and I’ll let the centaurs have you. You don’t want that. They don’t like competition.”
  818.  
  819. The viper’s glottis sticks out the corner of her mouth, letting her breath easily. Those bright eyes in her statuesque face burn with cold rage. You pull out the gag and the she spits out a mouthful of saliva mixed with blood. “Don’t act like it was you that stopped me, weakling.”
  820.  
  821. “Credit where credit is due.” You blow a kiss at the horses and the serpent fumes.
  822.  
  823. You set the empty jar in front of her and get to work pushing the venom out through each fang. She acquiesces to your probing hands reluctantly, but she would fight far harder if she knew what was coming next. There’s not much left after she bit Nina, maybe a finger and a half. You cap the container and seal it well.
  824.  
  825. Then you stand up and go back to one of the open lockers where you stashed something special you stole from the pool supply closet: a jug of muriatic acid used for balancing the pool pH. Very concentrated, very effective for what you need.
  826.  
  827. The serpent begins to shake and Nina shoves the cottonmouth’s shoulders to the floor with her powerful hands. Good, June’s afraid. Let the terror build inside the bitch and come crashing down.
  828.  
  829. “Don’t think I take this action lightly June. Your plan, your venom, had a good chance of success. It was and is a real threat. You see this?” You hold your hand in front of her, let her see the tremors of withdrawal. “This time next year I could have been kissing your nonexistent ass and begging for a bite. I can’t let that happen. So I’m taking away the source.” You begin to fill one of two syringes with the green acid.
  830.  
  831. That grabs her attention. “No. You can’t.” She whispers in a disbelieving  hiss.
  832.  
  833. “Yes, I can.” You assure her.
  834.  
  835. “A viper isn’t a viper without venom. It’s like castrating me.” Those begging eyes, like she thinks you can’t possibly understand how this will mutilate her.
  836.  
  837. You shrug. “You should have thought of that before you started using it against me.” You can barely keep your cool facade. Her pathetic imploring expression strikes at something instinctual inside you. Natural or implanted by the slithering witch, you don’t know. But you need to get this done before you start to give.
  838.  
  839. “I’m begging you, please. I’ll never bite you again. Take my fangs instead. I can’t bite you without fangs.” The crotaline almost whimpers.
  840.  
  841. “Don’t make promises we both know you can’t keep. Fangs only buy me a little time. This is a permanent solution.” You brush her tangled hair away from her face, looking at the two lumps at the back of her head that represent her venom glands.
  842.  
  843. “How can you do these things to me? I talked to Nessa, know what you did to her. A warning, a slap on the fucking wrist, cut her fucking fingernails!” Tears start to run down her face, and you remember a similar expression when her skin was ash gray and she was a maid. “You took away my future, my chance at romance and now you’re going to take away my very symbol of womanhood. HOW IS THAT FAIR?”
  844.  
  845. “It’s not.” You tell her simply.
  846.  
  847. “I’m begging you! DON’T!” She pleads.
  848.  
  849. The good thing about hydrochloric acid is it scars very well. A delicate system like her venom glands won’t need much to be irrevocably damaged, with no marks on the outside to tell and nothing short of a biopsy to prove. If she complains to anyone their first thought will be stress causing her to freak out and stop her venom. They already think she’s a liar. It’s rather ironic, because out of all the girls, she’s really the only one who isn’t good at that.
  850.  
  851. You plunge the hypodermic needle through her scalp, feel it punch through the skin then the resistance of the outer layer of the sac of her right venom gland, the newly healed one. Stabbing into the slight wet void, you shove the plunger down. The sickly green liquid moves slowly into the hole, inflating the venom sac like a balloon. Nina holds the snake’s head steady in her powerful brown grip to keep the needle from breaking as June thrashes against the burning. It takes a few seconds before the big crotaline starts to scream.
  852.  
  853. You let the acid sit a full ten seconds after emptying the syringe, unfolding the cottonmouth’s fangs and stuffing the gag behind. It’s no small feat while the snake’s sharp teeth tear up your hands. Once she’s finally secure, you milk the acid out. You want to get most of it out before it gets in the blood stream or worse. Milking it also spreads a little through all the passages of her glands, ruining the whole kit and caboodle instead of just the storage tank. Traces of blood and sluffed off flesh pours into the empty vessel.
  854.  
  855. June never stops screaming, even to catch her breath. It only goes up a note when you repeat the process with the second gland. She runs out of steam about halfway through. The wailing “AAAAAAHHH’S” become “aaah’s” become hisses.
  856.  
  857. You follow up by flushing the glands out with water from clean syringes several times. The screams become less pained. Her delirious eyes focus again. It’s time for the final act. You shake the small jar of venom under her nose. “You see this, June? It’s all that’s left. The last of your venom that exists anywhere.”
  858.  
  859. It’s a lie. You have your big jar stored safely away for a rainy day, but she never needs to know. You hate to admit it to yourself, but it actually hurts to watch the fire die in her eyes as you pour the snake juice into a drain right in front of her. “Now if you want me to share your bed, you need to go about it the old fashioned way, like everyone else.”
  860.  
  861. You brush the hair of the almost catatonic lamia, remove her gag, and give her a little kiss. “You are a pretty girl June. If you come around to my way of thinking, you don’t have to be alone.” A fresh tear rolls down her cheek. The heavy snake lays limp, silent.
  862.  
  863. ‘Every once in awhile, give one to the dogs or they won’t hunt for you.’ Lily’s advice comes back to you. This time you heed it. You turn to Nina and Izzy. “She tried to cut you both out. You’re free to show her what you think of that. You have one minute after I leave.”
  864.  
  865.  “June, if I were you, I’d start apologizing to them instead of laying there.” You advise her as you pack up your things.
  866.  
  867. As you exit the locker room, you hook the bug to Nina’s phone into your ear. The first thing you learn is the serpent’s screams of pain haven’t quite run dry yet. You doubt you would have had the resolve to do that to her yourself anymore. Just imagining bringing a boot down on that gray skin, jade eyes crying for mercy, you tremble. Good thing the Van Harne girls have more than enough personal grudge to compensate.
  868.  
  869. You quicken your pace away from the scene. It disgusts you that hurting her was not nearly as fun as it should have been. Necessary? Absolutely, and you’d do it again in a heartbeat. Only, there was no real joy in it. The pleasure wasn’t there. That worries you more than anything.
  870.  
  871. You’ll need to test if it’s just the snake or extends beyond to any of the others. Luckily there’s one cat who broke her deal with you, and you made the consequences for that very clear when you left her with a warning the first time. It’s come time to collect.
  872.  
  873. But first things first. An invisible paw taps you on the shoulder. Your lookout has been doing her job well. “Is it over?” A nervous little voice mews.
  874.  
  875. “Almost. But I need you to follow her home. Watch her. Make sure she doesn’t go for a razorblade in the tub or bring a knife to school tomorrow or anything.” You tell the Cheshire.
  876.  
  877. “Do you really think she would?” Trisha asks with a shudder you sense even if you can’t see.
  878.  
  879. “I don’t know. That’s why I’m having you do this.” You tell her honestly. Your shoulders sag and you feel completely drained. It’s been a terrible rollercoaster of a day, and the ride never seems to end.
  880.  
  881. The naked cat gives you a reassuring hug. Then her unseen paws slide down to grasp your hands and soft small lips kiss your bleeding cuts. “You’ll keep your promise afterward right?”
  882.  
  883. The serpent’s final scream drowns out your answer through the earpiece. Izzy comes out moments later. You don’t get to repeat yourself as you focus on Nina’s final words to June in your earpiece. “If you EVER threaten him that way again, orders or not, I’ll dunk your head in that acid until there’s nothing left but pitted bone.”
  884.  
  885. You bring your attention back to Trisha. “Be careful. Remember, most people can’t see you, but she can.”
  886.  
  887. “You act like it’s my first time walking around town naked.” The Cheshire halfheartedly laughs. You hear a little pop, and know she’s off to hide.
  888.  
  889. Nina walks out of the locker room. You half expect to see her hands covered in blood. The truth is far more mundane. She knows how to hurt people without going that far. You only have to rub your finger over that spur of mishealed bone in your chest to remind yourself of that.
  890.  
  891. The red spots staining her own bandage are the only blood on your destrier. She doesn’t carry the grim satisfaction that her sister does on her face. Instead her eyes simmer with venom-enhanced carnal lust. The vicious dim monster part of her brain has had her primal win against her rival, and now she wants her prize. Weary as you are, you’re still going to have to take care of that or risk a repeat of the full moon.
  892.  
  893. Finding a nice quiet classroom, leery of other students who might have gotten similar ideas, you give your remuda the attention they crave. This time, for the first time, the threesome is not a contest with subtle elbowing and oneupsmanship. Instead while they ravish you, they each treat you as ‘ours’ and not ‘mine’. You can see it in the way they move, touch you and each other. They never would have united completely against the others, but June is the kind of threat that really could pry you completely away. For this moment at least, the two mares revel in pleasing you together.
  894.  
  895. Izzy’s yellow eyes in particular look different, something more than lust or madness there, a hint of something deeper and stronger.
  896.  
  897. Nina pours her love into her caresses and kisses and later the movements of her hips as she presses you against the wall. All jealousy between the sisters lies temporarily forgotten as two tons of horseflesh coax and cajole no less than six orgasms from you in inexorable ardent sex well into the witching hour. It’s not until you start to nod off in the middle of a double blowjob that Nina finally comes to her senses and offers to take you home while Izzy cleans up.
  898.  
  899. Even completely exhausted, you see the envious spark reignite in the palfrey’s golden orbs as she acquiesces. But your second doesn’t make a fuss as your big warhorse helps you up onto her back. You leave the master key with Izzy and Nina carries your worn out self home.
  900.  
  901. Your dark mare is so radiant she almost glows, and only her bruised shoulder keeps her from prancing all the way to your house. She’s drunk on victory. But you know better. June is too much like you. She won’t let her hate go. She won’t stop or give up, not until one of the two of you is broken. You need new plans, but right now you’re tired, so tired. You can’t think like this.
  902.  
  903. You stumble through your front door into your dark quiet house. It reeks of sex as always, though the stench has gone stale. Your hand goes to your pendant, returned to its rightful chain. It’s cold, the devil is not here. You think about checking on your old man, remind yourself that for all intents your old man is dead and shuffle to your room.
  904.  
  905. There’s a bottle of Champaign in a bucket of ice, sitting at the sealed door to your room with a card tied around the neck of the bottle. You carry it through the door to dispel any demonic magic that might have been laid on it. The only thing that happens is the ice melts almost instantly into tepid water. This must have been here awhile.
  906.  
  907. You open the card. “Congratulations on your fifth girl. I’m so proud of you. Wish I could share this with you. Save it, and maybe we can when I get home and make it an even six. –Love, Mom”
  908.  
  909. Terror and anger mix together in a heady rush of adrenaline. How did the stepslut know? Does she mean Trisha from yesterday or something else? And how dare she call herself Mom. It’s one thing to call you Son all the time, but that’s too damn far. Where is she getting this information from?
  910.  
  911. You don’t sleep that night, slipping in and out of consciousness restlessly every few seconds, waiting every moment for your phone to ring from Trisha or Izzy and signal disaster. As dawn breaks, your relief is palpable. The succubus has still not returned home either. But you still have to drag your ass to school.
  912.  
  913. June corners you before class, looking as tired as you feel, section of tail wrapped in a temp cast. It’s the kind you can buy at the store for bad strains. You were hoping to hear from the Cheshire first and begin to worry until you see her walk by with her sister. The twin gives you a covert thumbs up with a look that says she wants to help but isn’t going to chance brain damage like her sister. The great snake grabs your uniform and slams you into the wall of lockers. Fuck your luck.
  914.  
  915. “If you were anyone else, anyone else at all, I’d tear your throat out with my bare teeth and stuff your corpse down a hole so deep no one would ever find it.” The fire burns again in her jade eyes, no longer cool and controlled but a blaze that threatens to swallow everything. Her slate-gray hands, in stark contrast, grip you like cold iron.
  916.  
  917. “But you can’t.” You’re too exhausted to come up with anything clever.
  918.  
  919. That brings an ugly smile to her stony face. “I look at your pitiful face and know you can’t do it to me either. We’re joined after all, forever.” Her nasty grin widens and she opens her bleach white mouth to flash her fangs out of habit. The crotaline snaps her jaws shut with a crash of teeth and leans in to whisper sensually. “Besides, I don’t need you dead. I just need you to wish you were. You’d be surprised what you can live through.”
  920.  
  921. You laugh at the absurdity of her proclamations, and to wash away the jitters of your old doubts clawing at you. ‘You don’t have the balls to finish her. You barely have the guts to hurt her. She’s changed you, made you weak. It’s too late. It’s been too late all along.’ Each unbidden thought sinks into your spirit, tries to drag you down. You can only take comfort that similar thoughts have probably been plaguing the slinking skank and laugh even harder.
  922.  
  923. “So will we dance this dance forever?” You ask with enough smarm to fill a bucket.
  924.  
  925. The huge blacks-scaled reptile gives you a haughty smirk, a mirror of the one she used to give you before a beating when she was the color of fresh ash. “Of course. The only question is: Who will lead?” That’s when she kisses you. It’s hard, loveless, and tastes of spite, an act of pure heartless domination.
  926.  
  927. Some of the other students begin to crowd around. Couples are always prime entertainment for the gossips and the lonely.
  928.  
  929. June’s sibilant voice whispers gently in your ear. “I wasn’t wrong before. The mistake I made was not taking out your support system first. We’ll see how tough you are when the only muscle you can rely on is your own.”
  930.  
  931. The serpent leans in for another kiss. This time you go on the offensive, wrap your fingers in her fine gossamer platinum hair and take control. Your lips and hers attack each other in pure hate that burns white hot. It’s messy, rough, until your instincts start to take over. Your mouth moves naturally, knowing how to kiss a woman, even a cold vicious whore. Your tongue entangles with hers, pushing and wrestling. You brush the soft fang sheaths of her soft palette, explore the round opening of her secondary trachea. Her viselike grip begins to relax as she pushes back, tracing from your chipped tooth to the points of your bicuspids. Lidded slit pupils set in nephrite focus at some point behind you as your own eyelids grow heavy.
  932.  
  933. The moment shatters as first bell rings and shocks you back into reality. June takes a long shuddering breath, something unreadable etched into her carved stone complexion. She drops you like a sack of rocks and slithers off to class. The whistles and hoots of the catcallers swiftly dissipate with the ringing of the second bell. Ready to collapse, you lurch your way to your seat.
  934.  
  935. You’re not sure how long later, a ruler raps smartly against the back of your hand and jars you awake. A chorus of giggles goes around the classroom.
  936.  
  937. “Mr. Adrian, is my lecture boring you?” That’s not your name but Mr. Kong’s annoyed glare leaves no doubt who he’s talking to. You don’t bother to correct him.
  938.  
  939. “No sir. I’m sorry. I just didn’t get much sleep last night.” And you do your damndest to stifle the urge to yawn.
  940.  
  941. Your ancient history teacher pinches the brim of his nose and shuts his intelligent slanted eyes.  He looks over to Ruby sitting beside you. “Miss Burnett, your class has Chemistry next don’t they?”
  942.  
  943. The salamander’s mocking grin turns into a neutral studious mask. It’s only then you notice the burnt smell, the last week of notes missing from your notebook and traces of ash on your desk and scattered on the floor. You guess that’s what made Kong finally act. The retired major may not care a whole lot about anything other than history, but he does care about order in his classroom. Some other teacher’s brat may run around how she pleases but too much disruption means nobody learns anything. To burn all those pages, she much have been at it for half of class since she always does it one at a time, like some kind of obsessive tick.
  944.  
  945. “Well?” He prods.
  946.  
  947. Ruby seems loathe to speak, since it concerns you. You can count the number of times she’s actually spoken to you on your fingers and toes. “Yes Mr. Kong. Lab day today.”
  948.  
  949. “Well Mr. Adrian, we can’t have you passing out in the laboratory. Take your butt down to Number 57 and grab some shuteye. I’ll write you an excuse. You can get your notes from a friend.” The short gray-haired man grabs your shoulder and leans over to your ear speaking softly. “Don’t let this happen again. Am I clear?” You can distinguish a little of his old military timbre in the order.
  950.  
  951. You nod. Really if you had anywhere else to go besides staying home and dealing with the slutcubus and her proclivities, you should have just ditched today anyway. But you needed to check on Trisha since she didn’t call, and get an update on the snake.
  952.  
  953. “Teen high school drama.” Kong mutters dolefully when you grab your bag and head down the hall.
  954.  
  955. The medical golem is plenty happy, as happy as she ever is, to give you a yellow slip for the day once she gets a look at you. You still butter her up by calling her Heinz. It seems strange to humor a construct like her, but then why wouldn’t you give a machine that helps people a heart to care?
  956.  
  957. She has her hands full anyway. Varsity Rugby is practicing for their next big game, and those gals don’t hold back. There’s an ogre and the buffest blue oni you’ve ever seen already in there. The green girl is getting an epoxy cap put on a cracked horn, and the azure amazon is grabbing a wrist brace, some athletic tape and a giant container of ibuprofen. “Vitamin I” Nina calls it, when she has polo practice. Your centaur is probably as tough as these girls. She’s as big or bigger. But she would never play a sport where people can go for the knees.
  958.  
  959. They barely spare you a glance as you take your get-out-of-class-free ticket and pick the bed in the second quietest corner. The obvious first choice smells a little too much like home. You tuck into the scratchy linen sheets and gratefully close your eyes.
  960.  
  961. Sometime later, a soft paw brushes your cheek and wakes you with a start. “Have a nice nap?”
  962.  
  963. “Trisha?” You squint and rub the sleep from your eyes.
  964.  
  965. The Cheshire sits down on the edge of the bed, doesn’t bother to tuck her skirt. She grins when she draws your eyes to her milky white thighs. “Feeling better? It’s lunch so we have some time to talk. Fifty-seven’s gone to stretch her legs for a minute. Sorry about this morning, but if you knew how tense June is right now, you wouldn’t want to tangle barehanded with her either.”
  966.  
  967. “Forget it. What happened yesterday?” You throw the sheets off and sit up. The cat giggles at your bedhead and snuggles under your arm, getting comfortable. Foot claws pull at your sock and soft hair tickles your ankles.
  968.  
  969. “There’s not much to tell really. She went home.” Trisha shrugs. “She lives in a bigass mansion, did you know that? Pretty run down, and when I was there it only seemed like her family uses a few rooms.” She rubs the fingers of her paw together. “I took two showers and I still don’t think I got all the dust out.”
  970.  
  971. “What did she do when she got home?” You pry, scratch behind her ears to encourage her.
  972.  
  973. “Anon, don’t do that. I’ll…” She yawns, and a purr starts in her chest. “She broke into her parent’s study and drank enough liquor to knock out an oni. Did a LOT of crying and cursing the whole time, smashed bottles on the walls.” Trisha frowns. “It was pretty sad to watch.”
  974.  
  975. “And after that?” You nibble the tip of a violet ear. A Cheshire is always a Cheshire. Even if they like you, they always make you play the game. Trisha’s claws begin to knead into the bed and your leg. The cats have always required a lighter touch than the horses.
  976.  
  977. “So her dad comes in to see what all the commotion is about and they get in this huge screaming fight. It was not even about the mess or the broken door. They were right up in each other’s face shouting about ‘the room’ and ‘the key’.” The felid girl’s sharp claws dig into your thigh involuntarily. “Then she hit him, right smack in the chest with her tail and threw him into the wall so hard it knocked books off the shelves. It took so long for him to come back around, I thought she’d killed him for a minute. It was scary, really scary.”
  978.  
  979. You rub her ears, hug her shoulder. “So what did you learn about this room and key.” Knowing anything more about June or her plans would help tremendously.
  980.  
  981. “Nothing about the room. As for the key.” A quick sleight of hand and Trisha flashes an old brass skeleton key.
  982.  
  983. “You wonderful light-fingered minx.” You try not to shout. She holds it away from you, just far enough and at the right angle to make you kiss her to get it. You do so with gusto as you take the polished metal in your hand. She returns it threefold, seeking your lips with heart if not technique.
  984.  
  985. “Well, I have had a lot of practice with you.” The trickster pusseycat purrs when you finally pry her off. “Now scooch over.I didn’t get hardly any sleep either.”
  986.  
  987. Trisha yawns as she burrows under the sheets. Her small elegant face does look bone-weary. Up close, you can see the makeup foundation wearing off the dark patches under her eyes. So that’s how she was hiding her exhaustion. She holds up a corner of the sheet for you to crawl under and join her. It’s very tempting, but you’re awake, alert and there’s things that can still be done today. You give her a final kiss, praise her again and scratch her behind the ears one last time before packing up and moving out into the hall.
  988.  
  989. The Cheshire has her own agenda, doubly so now that she has sort of figured out what she wants. You’re not sure how much of her story is true, but you’re confident she’s floated enough truth on the surface to work with.
  990.  
  991. Too many groups in the hall go quiet as you walk by or turn to hushed whispers.
  992.  
  993. “That’s him?
  994.  
  995. Yeah.
  996.  
  997. What’s the big deal?
  998.  
  999. Haven’t you heard?”
  1000.  
  1001. But nobody bothers you.
  1002.  
  1003. You pass the Prez, who has her face covered in an old-style formal elven veil, very different than the usual slackerwear. You try to stop her and tell her sorry about the other day in person, ask if Nina gave her the presents yesterday. She just brushes you off, gives the elven sign for ‘All is well.’ without the accompanying “It’s cool kiddo”. You know Prez, she’s hunkering down, waiting for the storm to pass.  It wouldn’t do well to be seen hobbnobbing with the heart of the cyclone.
  1004.  
  1005.  You find who you are looking for soon enough. Her bandages and black-striped purple hair make her stand out from the rest. Nessa walks casually down the hall in the direction you came from.  She hides her surprise and breaks into a predatory grin when she sees you. Immediately her walk changes to a sashay as she swishes her tail and her skirt. She saunters up to you.
  1006.  
  1007. “Not busy necking with Trish? You’re a real heartbreaker, sleeping beauty. And after that crazy spy mission she did for you too.” The Cheshire tssks you. The violet tabby gives you a look that says twins tell each other everything. She certainly covered for Trisha in any case.
  1008.  
  1009. “I wanted to talk with you Nessa. I think it’s time we set things straight.” You grab the offending paw and push it out of your face.
  1010.  
  1011. “Call me Vanessa and we’ll talk.” She ventures.
  1012.  
  1013. “Talk with me and I just might afterward.” You promise. That piques her interest.
  1014.  
  1015. You motion her to follow and she drops in a couple steps behind you. She doesn’t trust you, but that suits you fine for now. You don’t trust her either. Maybe things will change though. Time will tell. Double checking for rubberneckers, you open a small closet, and herd Nessa inside.
  1016.  
  1017. “This is cozy. Not looking for a comparison with Trish are you?” The Cheshire purrs when she gets a good look around and sees no trap or other girls. Her uncovered pupil gleams round and green in the dark.
  1018.  
  1019. “Do you remember what I told you way back when I gave you a warning, what would happen if you screwed with me again?” You catch her good paw and interlace your fingers with the soft fur, pads touching your palm.
  1020.  
  1021. “Come on, don’t be grumpy. It’s just a little fun. What’s life without a little fun?” The royal-furred girl smiles, revealing sharp fangs in the corners of her grin.
  1022.  
  1023. You kiss the sensitive bare spot at the back of her cheek, where human ears would be. “I’m here to give you a choice, Nessa. I can carry out that punishment, or you can show me you’re sorry of your own accord. Then all will be right between us.”
  1024.  
  1025. “And what if I just rape you here? Nobody would come. We could take up where we left off on Monday.” She teases, shoving you back against the shelves on the wall.
  1026.  
  1027. “Don’t you want to get back at June too?” You ask trying to stay cool. You have to play to win.
  1028.  
  1029. “Hey, it’s all a game, and I lost that round. How dumb was I to trust a snake? I don’t take it so personal. You’re the one who likes holding grudges.” Her leg entwines around yours and she grinds ever so gently against your pant leg.
  1030.  
  1031. “Let’s play a game then Nessa. Which bodypart do you need the least?” You flip the short cat around and press her lithe nymph body to the boards.
  1032.  
  1033. The feline flattens her ears and rumbles the start of a growl. “Please don’t. It was going so well.”
  1034.  
  1035. “Please?” You shake your head. “Please is not a body part. How about your little finger here?” You rub the digit linked in hand with yours. “You don’t use that for much do you? There’s a culture that has men cut off the first joint of a finger to ask forgiveness. I could completely declaw you, or you could do that for me.”
  1036.  
  1037.  “If I’m sorry, really sorry, and I promise never to mess with you again, will you let this go? You saved me earlier, why would you do this? I don’t understand.” Nessa starts to huff up.
  1038.  
  1039. “Because, you’re the kind of girl that doesn’t appreciate something given freely. But if you pay for it…” You let the moment hang and rub her striped velvety ear. “Do this yourself, and I will forgive you of everything, Vanessa. We can start over, clean slate. ” You pull the exacto from your pocket, angled razor-sharp blade perfect for the job. The little hobby knife shines even in the small light let in through the door cracks.
  1040.  
  1041. “Did you just call me…it doesn’t matter. Not just no, hell no! Fuck you.” Nessa lets go of you, starts to turn for the door, her dander up.
  1042.  
  1043. “I will, however you want it, if you show me how serious you are.” You grab her by the shoulders, make her look you in the eye. “Or would you prefer the alternative? You know what happened to June yesterday. Do you think I couldn’t do this to you as well?”
  1044.  
  1045. “I like the confidence, really I do. You’re more interesting than you used to be.” The Cheshire steals the knife from you with well-worn skills and shakes it in your face. “I just don’t like the way you hurt people sometimes. Sure, people can get hurt during a game, but it’s not supposed to be the whole point. I thought maybe it was different with my last prank. I thought you understood it was all in good fun.”
  1046.  
  1047. Her face turns downcast. “I guess you just wanted to hurt me later.” She adds softly.
  1048.  
  1049. You lord over her, fuming. “Maybe if the stakes weren’t so high I wouldn’t mind. If your little joke meant June wasn’t addicting me to her venom and your bullshit didn’t put me at the mercy of my mind-controlling evil succubus stepmother on the fucking full moon. Who knows what she put in my head?” You should have never mentioned that last part. You lost your cool for a moment, let her get under your skin.
  1050.  
  1051. “What are you talking about?” She searches your eyes, sees the seething anger and truth there and drops her hand. “I didn’t know. You can’t blame me for what I didn’t know!”
  1052.  
  1053. “You never think Vanessa, about how it’s all connected. You never have. It’s just about the short game, the quick joke, never the long run with you. So go ahead and walk out of here. I’ll get the message across, one way or another.” Your voice is as hard and cold as your words.
  1054.  
  1055. Vanessa leans away from you, twirls the common hobby tool in her hand. She’s thinking hard, and you let her take her time. “Double or nothing.” She says finally.
  1056.  
  1057. “What?” You couldn’t have heard that right.
  1058.  
  1059. “Double or nothing.” The feline says it with conviction this time. “We’ll play a game. I win, you forgive me and lighten up. You win, I’ll give you the claws from both my pinkies, and I’ll cut them off myself.”
  1060.  
  1061. “A game you can cheat at I’m sure.” You retort.
  1062.  
  1063. “You pick the game, as long as it’s one that each player has an equal chance in. But no handicaps.” She offers the exacto back to you handle-first.
  1064.  
  1065. You take the blade and hide it away. At least she’s finally taking something seriously. It’s probably the best you’re going to get out of her. And the idea does appeal to you. Your first thought is archery, but no way are you going to be able to fool with the range. Prez will know, and you don’t want to burn that bridge. You need to focus on the snake anyway. Make this short and simple.
  1066.  
  1067. You reach into your pocket. “Alright, one coin flip. Call it in the air. Let it fall on the ground. I know your eyes are good enough to see it in the dark.”
  1068.  
  1069. “That’s not much of a game. There’s no skill in it.” She pouts.
  1070.  
  1071. “Take it or leave it.” The coin feels slick in your hand as you worry it through your fingers. You cast it into the air with your thumb. The metal disc tumbles to its apex.
  1072.  
  1073. “T-tails.” She gasps.
  1074.  
  1075. The tiny ring of metal sounds on the concrete floor. One bounce, two, and then silence. You can’t see the result. You don’t need to. There’s no victorious yell, no exclamation, nothing. It seems to stretch on forever until you hear the words. “Give me the damn knife.”
  1076.  
  1077. You’re floored. You expected her to lie. You can afford to be gracious. “I only need one.” You offer.
  1078.  
  1079. “I promised you two and you’ll have your two. I’ll show you who writes bad checks. ” The Cheshire struggles to keep her voice from cracking. A paw reaches into your pocket, takes what she asked for.
  1080.  
  1081. Vanessa starts to hyperventilate as she unwraps the bandage on her invisible paw. Her hair stands on end, turning her lithe felid profile into a six point fluff ball. The knife trembles in her furry fingers.
  1082.  
  1083. You wrap your hand around hers to steady her.  “Let me help you or you’re going to bleed like a stuck pig.”
  1084.  
  1085. The Cheshire says nothing, putting on a brave face. But her shaking body doesn’t resist you. You guide her unseen claws to the cool solid wall, splay them all out nice and neat by feel. Your hand travels upward to her pinky. The meat of your thumb moves to apply pressure to the blade. You can’t help but wonder for a moment if a cut off piece of her will stay invisible. It’s a question that stays unanswered as you apply the pressure sideways and hard, snapping the sharp brittle steel of the blade from the milled aluminum handle. The broken piece falls with a metallic tinkle to the concrete to join the coin.
  1086.  
  1087. The tabby lets out a terrified hiss at the movement and the noise before she realizes what actually happened.
  1088.  
  1089. “Oops.” You whisper in her ear. “Looks like it broke. Don’t worry. I’ll collect what is mine, in my own time, according to my own plans. Do you understand?”
  1090.  
  1091. Her shaking intensifies, and you worry that she’s going to break down. Instead, slowly, it turns into a quaking laugh and her troubled expression twists into a bemused grin. It takes her a solid minute to catch her breath enough to talk to you. “You got me. I admit it, you canny son-of-a-bitch. Ehehehe...ahahaha! I-I can’t believe I fell for the same trick twice.”
  1092.  
  1093. You twitch a fluffy triangular ear out of pure habit. There’s nothing else you can think of that will bring her some pain and get her attention as quickly. Her chuckles die in her throat and confusion crosses her face.
  1094.  
  1095. “Look at me Vanessa. Do you really understand what all this is about?” You demand as loud as you dare in the confining darkness.
  1096.  
  1097. “Say it again.” She rumbles, rubbing your chest with her vanished arm, tracing her way to your neck. The feline grabs your collar to pull you close to her short frame, predatory grin plastered wide and gleaming on her pale visage.
  1098.  
  1099. “Vanessa, I swear…” The twin stops you with a kiss. She takes you by surprise, licks your lips with her tongue, orbiting the fine wrinkles in the thin blood-flushed skin. She finishes by sucking on your lower lip, pulling it away from your gums then letting it go slowly until it settles back in place covered in her saliva.
  1100.  
  1101. The cat makes a small smacking sound as if to savor the flavor. “Mmmmm. I like the taste of my name on your lips. It’s a shame. One of the things that makes you so fun to tease is that you hate it so much.”
  1102.  
  1103. “Have you been paying attention at all you loose alley cat? If this continues, there is no happy ending.” You try to twist her ear and she slaps your hand away. Your head rings as she boxes your ears with the pads of her small powerful paws.
  1104.  
  1105. “I’m a smart kitty, and I listen. Where’s the fun in all that though? We’ve all been bred to be boring, less mad. I’m still a Cheshire, and I have a Cheshire’s needs. You scratch that itch better than anyone else right now.” Vanessa grabs your ear and pinches it between her furry fingers. “And I like it. You should relax and enjoy it too for once in your life. You’re a lecherous pervert and a twisted freak. So be yourself and enjoy some perverse fun. We can do anything and everything that makes that unfaithful cock twitch.”
  1106.  
  1107. She lets your ear go and grabs your hand. The cat nuzzles playfully into your palm, rubbing her cheeks and bandages into your skin, nipping and kissing your wrist. “Cards on the table, for real. I promise I’ll be more sensitive from now on. You have something delicate going on a particular day, you let me or Trish know, and I won’t bug you. The rest of the time, don’t expect me not to have a little good-natured fun. But nothing that will hurt you, I swear. That’s fair right?”
  1108.  
  1109. "I want to see what you do first. Your promises aren't worth much." You scratch her chin.
  1110.  
  1111. "Neither are yours." Vanessa licks the back of your hand with her small textured tongue and uses it smooth some of her errant violet fur down. “Besides, if Trish likes you half as much as I think she does, you’ll have more to worry about from her than me soon enough. I hear human girls tease guys they like at a young age. You think our games were bad when she had a little freshman crush? Imagine her loaded down with virgin baggage. She knows you don’t like it, but she can’t fight instinct forever.”
  1112.  
  1113. You pull your hand from her grip and wipe the spit on her skirt. “She does a better job than you.”
  1114.  
  1115. “I’m just an old fashioned kind of girl. So how about an old fashioned, Master?” Her good paw reaches for the zipper on your pants. “You don’t have anything super special today right? You know after that heroic rescue, I was so disappointed, stuck in that boring hospital hoping for a visit that didn’t come. I had to go looking for a substitute. His dick was bigger, but screwing a guy in a coma is even worse than forcing a guy who just lays there or cries.”
  1116.  
  1117. “You’re sick.” You can’t help but remark in disgust. “And you give me shit for hurting people.”
  1118.  
  1119. “I’m bored and lonely. You’re busy. You’ve got my closest family and best friend running errands for you. I’m stuck like this.” She gestures to the bandages all over her. “I just want a little fun. It’s all I’ve ever wanted.”
  1120.  
  1121. You try to calm down and step back from the moment, examine it without the hazy filter of rage she always seems to delight in poking and prodding out of you. Every time it gets so bad you’re about to blow, the Cheshire switches on her sluttiest attitude. Then the realization hits you like a brick. Vanessa gets off on it, pissing you off. She always has, since the very beginning, with every game. Even after everything, she hasn’t changed a bit. Only now she’s added sex to the equation.
  1122.  
  1123. You lean over her, dipping the small monstergirl in your arms, and are gifted a furry hug and a kiss in the bargain. “Tell me one thing. Why do you want me to hatefuck you so badly? Why not go for a gentler way like your sister?” You reach your hand under her skirt, and feel a wet rivulet meandering down her leg from her soaked panties.
  1124.  
  1125. “There’s a certain excitement that way isn’t there?” She looks at you with her one good eye. “You’re marvelous when you’re furious, absolutely beastly. I’m never one-hundred-percent sure I’ll live through it, that you won’t just snap.”
  1126.  
  1127. The cat tightens her hug and rubs her cheek glands onto your own cheeks, smearing a light musky oil into your skin. “I can only imagine how much of an animal you are when doped up on a good aphrodisiac. You made an impression on Trish. I’m a little jealous she got to taste that first, when she doesn’t have the experience to appreciate it.” Her paw reaches inside your pants. “I bet you were downright feral.”
  1128.  
  1129. “Less than you would think.” You tell the panting feline as Vanessa licks the base of your neck all the way to your chin. Then she leans her bandaged head over, inviting your teeth to her soft white neck.
  1130.  
  1131. She frowns when you hesitate. This is not going in the direction you want, and you need to get back on track. You set her upright. “No more warnings. No more scares. No more needling. Do yourself a favor and knock the pranks off, or I’ll make you wish you had.”
  1132.  
  1133. Zipping your pants up, you turn to the dim light framing the door and the faint background drone of students.
  1134.  
  1135. “Stay, Master.” The Cheshire mews gently, paw grabbing for your hand.
  1136.  
  1137. “No. We’re done here. If you show me you can be good like Trisha has been, the way you promised, we can have some fun together soon.” You tell her nicely as you reach for the knob.
  1138.  
  1139. “You know what you are? You’re a rat, Anon: dirty, nasty, mean, clever, vicious, horny. At the end, a survivor.” The little purple monstrosity nips your earlobe hard, drawing blood and lapping it gently with her rough tongue. “There’s no cat that can resist playing with a rat. But nobody wants to marry one. Remember that, and enjoy what you can, when you can, with who you can.”
  1140.  
  1141. The dumb bitch gambled and pushed too far. Stormy thoughts cloud your mind with old repressed fury. This time you don’t stamp it down, you cut the ropes and let it free. She needs a lesson, a real lesson to remember. You brace your hand on a spare conduit box on the shelf behind her. Your fingers brush the dusty galvanized steel, gain purchase on the drilled holes, and you let the beast go.
  1142.  
  1143. The sharp metal corner strikes the overgrown tabbycat square on her head wound with as much force as you can bring to bear. You feel something pop and crack under the bandages as you drive her to her knees. Her entire body flickers like a cheap hologram. Her shock turns to pain as you raise the improvised weapon for another blow. She opens her mouth to scream, and you hit her again with a wet crack before she has a chance. The bandage feels mushy this time, and you see red spots begin to leak into the dressing. Blood drips onto the concrete, flowing from her bitten tongue, dribbling off her chin.
  1144.  
  1145. She cowers from the next strike, eyes closed like she’s trying to teleport, paws up in front of her face to protect herself. She mumbles incoherently from a mouth filling with ichor. You spit on her, and set the box aside.
  1146.  
  1147. Jabbing your thumb hard into her soiled bandages, you twist into the open wound. Bits of her flicker here and away as you apply pressure indirectly to her bruised brain.  “How’s that? That’s what you wanted, a savage, a monster. I hope it’s everything you wished for. From now on, if you mess with me, it’s the only side of me you’ll see.” You sneer as you raise up her head. “Even my horses are just waiting for a chance to thin out the competition. Remember that you whore, and learn a little restraint. You have a choice now. Don’t make the wrong one twice.”
  1148.  
  1149. Giant dollopy tears roll down her cheeks to mingle with the blood on her chin. She’s crying, really crying now. It’s still a slap on the wrist compared to losing her claws. She would never have had the guts to take them herself. You’re sure of that now.
  1150.  
  1151. “Nuurrr.” She gurgles with a wide eye.
  1152.  
  1153. “Nurse? Not this time. You’re on your own. Try not to choke.” You tell her callously as you move to leave.
  1154.  
  1155. “Pwee!” Clipped claws grasp at your pants desperately.
  1156.  
  1157. “One second.” You kneel down, place your index finger in a small splatter on the floor and bring it to her face. A few quick strokes and you draw her a little red cat nose and curly whiskers on her cheeks. Who says you don’t still have a sense of humor?
  1158.  
  1159. You soak in the sight and the feeling lets you bind the monster inside. Your mirth only shrivels as the bawling cat coughs a mist of carmine over your pants, ruining another uniform. Flashes like static ripple through her body, invisible patches drifting across her soft skin. You regret your violent outburst. Not because of Nessa, you’d feel even better if you hit her a couple more times and could really vent. But Trisha…You had the power of a Cheshire in your hands, and all that she could and wanted to do for you. Now you’ve gone and fucked it up, and for what? She’ll want to know what happened and why. When she finds out…
  1160.  
  1161. The options spin through your mind as your adrenaline continues to ramp up, the seized overheated machinery of your mind protesting as it’s forced into motion once again. You wipe away the crude drawings from Nessa’s face with your sleeve, then offer a hand to help the small felid girl to her feet. She watches your outstretched palm warily and trembles while she hacks more crimson onto the floor. The monstergirl is afraid. Good. Maybe this time it will stick.
  1162.  
  1163. “I can be a beast or I can be a friend. It’s your choice Vanessa. It’s always been your choice.” You say soothingly to the distraught feline and take her invisible paw in your grip. You’re gentle, but she cries even harder.
  1164.  
  1165. “Doan pway wit me.” The twin sobs, her ears flat against her head. The white bandages on her head are quickly soaking in red.
  1166.  
  1167. “Funny. I thought that’s what I’ve told you, over and over and over again.” You haul her up even as she tries halfheartedly to pull away. “Come on. Lesson over. You want help or not? It’s yours if you can keep this between us.”
  1168.  
  1169. Nessa nearly tumbles to the floor, her balance completely shot. You send a quick message to Nina, then pick up the Cheshire’s tiny form in your arms, your half-healed back protesting against the strain.
  1170.  
  1171. It’s dodgy work hauling the cat back to the nurse’s office, but your faithful steed shows up within a few minutes to clear the way for you, lamely favoring her left foreleg. You think about having her carry Nessa, but one ruined uniform is enough. Nina looks you over, sees the red staining your clothes, and for a moment looks ready to snap Nessa’s neck. When she realizes it’s not yours, satisfaction and worry war for a heartbeat on her face before she gets to work forcing a trail through the crowd.
  1172.  
  1173. The fast rocking motion of a hundred and ten pounds of monstergirl in your arms as you hurry does not help the nauseous cat as she swallows more of her own blood. You don’t even realize it until she yaks a rose-tinted mess all over your shirt almost at the office door.
  1174.  
  1175. You send Nina away once you reach your destination. This will be hard enough to explain on your own. To her credit, the centaur only looks back twice and demands you call her if you need her for anything else. You wonder as you see her trot off if you should just dump the cat at the door and leave. No. Too many people have seen you. You’re committed now. At least you’ll have a chance to talk to Trisha before it all explodes.
  1176.  
  1177. Fifty-seven almost smokes from her polymer ears as you show up with the same problem twice in almost as many days. The monotone isn’t threatening but the volume has been ratcheted up ten decibels. “You can’t stay out of trouble even when you’re supposed to be in bed. Twenty minutes. You’ve been gone twenty minutes.” She shakes her head and her original terminator-like eye whirs and focuses on your face. “I need you to tell me right now. Is this a yan problem? Trudy Galt is an excellent school psychologist and…”
  1178.  
  1179. “Not exactly.” You interrupt. “This was just an accident. She thought she’d play a joke on me. She messed up the teleportation because she’s hurt and bit her tongue when she hit her head.” As soon as the words leave your mouth, you hear the awful quality of the story. Misinformation, omission, you can do. But full-on bold-faced lies, maybe you should have brought Nina with you after all.
  1180.  
  1181. The wounded Cheshire looks at you and tries to arch a chunk of visible eyebrow before dry heaving over your shoes. When she finishes convulsing, she nods weakly at Nurse Medic.
  1182.  
  1183. The golem stares for a second, processing. “Well, if that’s the story you both want to go with…” She trails off as she takes Nessa to a chair and calls for an ambulance. When she’s done she gets to work patching up the feline’s tongue to stem the bleeding so the girl can lie down without choking.
  1184.  
  1185. Razor-sharp claws sink into your arm and you notice Trisha standing behind you, woken up by the commotion. “Who did this?” The words are low and harsh. “Was it June? Was it one of your blasted vengeful horses?”
  1186.  
  1187. You could almost kiss her. You’re not even on her list. Very soon, she’ll probably never think of you like that again. “We shouldn’t talk here. How do you know Nessa didn’t start it?”
  1188.  
  1189. “I can tell. Now who did it?!!” The nails sink deeper into your arm as you bleed into your destroyed shirt, mingling with Nessa’s fluids.
  1190.  
  1191. “Trisha, just let it go. I let it go last time.” You try to steer her away.
  1192.  
  1193. The purple tabby fluffs up angrily. “So it was one of the horses, the big one I bet. Mina? She’s dangerous and violent. Why do you keep her around?”
  1194.  
  1195. “Just let Nessa tell you herself what happened. Focus on her getting better first.” You attempt to mollify her, but only divert her attention to her twin getting a tight bandage on her bitten tongue. The broken Cheshire waves her sister over, half-smiling with bloody fangs.
  1196.  
  1197. “This conversation isn’t over.” Trisha mutters as she reluctantly releases her hold. You can’t blame her. She does love her sister, and she’s worried about her. It’s not like she doesn’t have good reason.
  1198.  
  1199. “I know.” You breathe.
  1200.  
  1201. You get some temp clothes from the office stores while the twins confer and Heinz talks with the office on the phone. The baggy gray female sweats and warmups fit terribly, but it’s better than nothing.
  1202.  
  1203. Eventually, Trisha pads softly back over to you. She looks confused more than angry now. “I’m sorry about earlier. I was just scared. I mean look at Ness. Her head’s all, all…” The wounded twin coughs and the light passing through her whirling invisible spots turns into a prism of vibrant colors on the floor.
  1204.  
  1205. “She’s not making any sense. It’s worse than visiting family in Con Carrol.” Trisha frowns, her ears flicking and roving in consternation. “You want to come with us? Ness could use some company, and I skipped out last time to cover for her. Gives us both a chance to rest too.” She leans in close. “If I know Ness, she’ll be demanding something less than rest as soon as the quacks leave her alone, busted noggin or not.” The tabby rubs her shoulder and head against your chest. “You know kitty cats can find a way to have some fun wherever they happen to be.”
  1206.  
  1207. “I’m afraid I can’t. But I will send some nice flowers.” You promise. The last thing you need is to be around that family. Her mom would probably eviscerate you if Nessa opened her mouth and said the wrong thing. The chances of that when she’s under anesthesia or painkillers is way higher than you would ever want to risk.
  1208.  
  1209. The Cheshire looks put out, not so different from her own sister just a short while earlier. “I wasn’t going to say this but you owe me. If you have plans, cancel them. Look at her. Something is very wrong, way worse than before. She needs a distraction, something to take her mind off things. Like it or not, you’re her favorite in that department.”
  1210.  
  1211. “I’m not her toy.” You have to shut down your pride hard to not spit the sentence at her.
  1212.  
  1213. “And I’m not your stooge. I thought we were becoming friends?” Trisha pulls on your shirt coyly with a single nail. “Very good friends. So come with us. Be a pal. Entertain a poor injured girl for awhile. Aren’t we supposed to be putting all the bad stuff behind us?”
  1214.  
  1215. You accede to the short catgirl’s request against your better judgment. When the EMT’s arrive, the Cheshire drags you along into a waiting cab to transport you to a venue full of the smell of disinfectant and sick people. The entire ride behind the flashing lights of the ambulance, the small monstergirl clutches your hand in the silky striped fur and soft pads of her paws. She doesn’t let go for a second the whole time.
  1216.  
  1217. Trisha always seems to draw out something in you lately, an uncomfortable uncharacteristic warmth. It’s disconcerting to have a monstergirl court you kindly without having to force her at first. But it’s pleasing to have someone be genuinely nice at the same time. That’s why you don’t mind Jack’s antics too much either. You’re relieved Trisha shares a face and family with Vanessa, or that soft spot might threaten to become more. And that is something you absolutely cannot afford.
  1218.  
  1219. You let Nina and Izzy know where you are just in case. The destrier has practice today so it will be hard to pull her away for anything less than an emergency. But as you arrive at the hospital and the doctors wheel the evil twin off, you realize that it’s going to be the usual hurry up and wait. At least it gives you some time to think. June, how to break that stubborn snake?
  1220.  
  1221. Trisha cuddles up next to you on a spare couch as you settle in for a stressful few hours. The lithe felid rumbles a throaty purr as you absently scratch her tight pale tummy. Her terrifyingly sharp claws slip in and out of their sheaths while she wallows in your lap. The lids of her closed happy golden eyes hang above a disturbingly wide grin. You can see the tip of her tongue poking out between her fangs in bliss.
  1222.  
  1223. “How can she smile like that?” You wonder if the cat didn’t just make an excuse for you to spend some more time alone with her. Trisha curls up and rests her head in your lap, pretending to fall asleep. Only her loud purr tells you she’s faking.
  1224.  
  1225. “Because she’s a Cheshire cat.” A teasing voice pulls your attention upward. An older shortstacked Cheshire stands over you, and a middle-aged well-muscled man waits stoically at her shoulder. “I’m Melissa Heart, and this is my husband Stephan.” Her melty warm voice washes over you.
  1226.  
  1227. Before you can say a word, the woman is on you with a snap. Her fine nose runs over your shoulders, neck and hair. She crackle-pops from front to back and side to side, leaning on your back and shoulders, never giving you a chance to find your balance. The matron resonates with a power and a surety neither of the twins possess. You look in her roving golden eyes and see Vanessa’s madness amplified.
  1228.  
  1229. The attractive milfy Cheshire brushes her long graying braid back over her shoulder as she leans by your ear. “You smell like a toy…and both my daughters.” She whispers in a sultry growl, letting her hot fishy breath waft over you.
  1230.  
  1231. “Mel, come on, you’re freakin’ the poor kid out.” The man calls in a deep tenor. Getting a good look at him now, you see he fits the classic picture of what people in this town call a trophy husband or a homeking. Scratches and scars cover his bare arms and you would wager his back looks worse than yours. Marriage to a girl like his has to be hard on the body.
  1232.  
  1233. A snap and the tiny felid lays across his shoulders like a boa. She kisses him on the cheek and begins to talk. Lewd whispers just below the range of your hearing are fed directly into her husband’s ear. Only her eyes never leave you, watching, judging even as that trademark wicked smile gets wider with each sentence.
  1234.  
  1235. Trisha, trying hard to pretend to be asleep in your lap, gets redder and redder with embarrassment as her mother continues and her dad whispers back. The tired young Cheshire flicks her ears irritably until she finally gets up.
  1236.  
  1237. Combing her messy hair aside, she groans. “Can you not talk about my sex life like I’m not here?” The younger twin grumbles.
  1238.  
  1239. “We had to tease you a little honey kitty, for not introducing us.” Mel nuzzles her husband affectionately then teleports down back to the floor.
  1240.  
  1241. Trisha’s dad reaches over and musses up her hair. “We’re proud of you kitten, our little late bloomer.”
  1242.  
  1243. “I’m only sixteen. Just because I didn’t get laid the second I hit puberty doesn’t make me a late bloomer!” The purple tabby almost shouts the last sentence and several orderlies start to snigger.
  1244.  
  1245. “Okay Patricia sweetheart, if you say so.” Her mom’s face suddenly drains of mirth as she gets serious and sits down, tail twitching. “Now about Vanessa. The nurse said what happened was an accident and your sister’s life is not in danger. Explain the whole thing. Twice in a week, this has the stink of a fight for a man all over it. Did she tell you to share your toy?”
  1246.  
  1247. Trisha squirms next to you. “I mean, not exactly.”
  1248.  
  1249. “Then what happened?” Mel presses. “Did someone else hurt her to get at you? I’ll call in a paladin all the way from MGC to investigate if I have to. I’ll ring up Larry over at the DA’s office and have him call in a favor. He owes me for that pork stoplight on his street.”
  1250.  
  1251. “Mel, calm down and let her talk.” Trisha’s dad scratches his wife’s ears reassuringly.
  1252.  
  1253. “Stephan, nobody does this to our kitten and gets away with it, not twice.” The elder Cheshire’s braid thrashes like it’s alive and angry. “I don’t care if Vanessa started it. You don’t do this to a person. If she was a human, she could be dead!”
  1254.  
  1255. “Mel, you know Vanessa’s not an innocent kitten. Worry about all that when we know she’s going to be okay.” He tugs on her braid and she takes a playful swipe at him. The violet hellion smiles and calms down some.
  1256.  
  1257. “I can’t stand sitting still. We need to do something.” This woman is obviously used to being in charge and hates spinning her wheels.
  1258.  
  1259. “Then let’s go see the doctors again.” The man looks at his daughter’s shifting eyes. “This was really an accident Patricia? You know we’ll ask Vanessa too. If there’s something you need to tell us, now’s the time. You know no matter what happens, we’ll always love you.” His voice is gentle, playing the old good cop in the parent double team.
  1260.  
  1261. The small Cheshire grabs your hand almost protectively. “I wasn’t there, but it sounded like an accident and Ness didn’t say anything about it when I asked her and she was talking.”
  1262.  
  1263. “That’s that then.” Her dad pats her on the head one last time. “Here, have some tea and you two relax. We’re going to check on your sister again.” The man hands out two bottles from a pack before they turn to leave.
  1264.  
  1265. Trisha’s mom snaps by your ear for one last thing. “I’d tell you to watch yourself around my kittens boy, but those bites and scratches on you say I don’t need to.”
  1266.  
  1267. You watch the pair walk away and take a sip of the cold tea. The sight makes you bitter, makes you remember when you had a family that cared like that. The tea is good, something herbal and heavily sweetened. Trisha takes a swig and promptly spits half of it all over you. “Uhgn, CATNIP!”
  1268.  
  1269. Even as she exclaims it, her lily white face begins to flush. Setting the bottle aside, the Cheshire leans up against you and rubs her nose in the wet spots on your shirt. Trisha's growing purr stutters as she tries to hold back her oncoming caterwauling.
  1270.  
  1271. Down the hall you see both parents look back with shit-eating grins and high five.
  1272.  
  1273. “Give me your phone.” The horny tabby cat grabs for the horse-sized electronics in your pocket and stuffs it down a side cushion. When you try to push back, she pins you down, sinking her claws into you reflexively to hold you there. Her pupils widen and she smiles in aphrodisiac-fueled delirium as she grinds her whole body against you. A stomach-churning pop later and you’re enveloped in hot darkness.
  1274.  
  1275. “Where?” You try to ask as the Cheshire clumsily pulls your borrowed shirt up over your head and drowns your voice out in the cotton. The cloth sticks around your shoulders you feel the seams in the sleeves start to tear as the demanding cat yanks on it. The girl’s tail thumps against your side in frustration as she fights with the garment. With an angry growl the small feline finally rips it off you with her bare paws.
  1276.  
  1277. “Pants off!” Trisha meows at you between caterwauling yowls as she fumbles with the buttons on her own shirt.
  1278.  
  1279. You look around and try to get your bearings, laundry room, steam pipe room? The Cheshire bats at your face none-too-gently with a paw to bring your attention to her. “Now!”
  1280.  
  1281. Only a silver floral-print bra covers her slight girlish chest as her ribcage heaves with each heavy breath. A flash of tiny fangs at your hands and a possessive low caterwaul as the felid starts to tug your pants down to your ankles warns you to keep your mitts away. Well let her have her fun. This is probably the last time she’ll want you like this and you want to enjoy it too. When she finishes exposing you completely, the cat drags her textured tongue all the way from your calves to your neck, taking special care to avoid the bruises and the scars. Her shoulder-length hair tickles a path on the sides as it overhangs her beautiful face.
  1282.  
  1283. Trisha continues her incessant sharp stuttering caterwaul, too turned on to purr. Grinding her rapidly moistening snatch against your thigh, she wraps the tip of her tail tightly around the base of your dick and begins to rub her silky fur up and down the shaft.  As she moves the fluffy ring back and forth gently, you quickly get harder and larger and ready for what she requires of you. You had no clue her tail was so prehensile, more like a monkey’s than a cat’s. You can barely concentrate as your penis begins to leak precum, quickly mopped up by her striped fur.
  1284.  
  1285. A splash of cold shocks your attention back higher. The Cheshire is pouring the catnip tea all over your chest with the biggest grin you’ve ever seen. She laps the little rivulets up as they meander over your stomach and presses her nose into your skin to pick up the smell afterward. Giant round pupils take up most of her bright yellow eyes and her smirk threatens to touch their corners.
  1286.  
  1287. Trisha calls out her primal desire into your ear as she slides one leg over your middle and straddles your waist, drawing her furry knees up against your hips. Her tail works your member from corona to hilt hard enough you start to feel the friction. It only makes you harder as the heat rises. The lithe cat grabs the back your head and pulls you into the crook of her delicate neck, striped hair covering your eyes. “Bite down!” She demands huskily.
  1288.  
  1289. Sinking your teeth in just hard enough, the girl moans happily at the mating lock. She lets your member loose from her tail then slides her firm hips back over your bruises toward your groin. The Cheshire ignores your pained twitch as her full weight grates against you.
  1290.  
  1291. You try to flip her over to take control, but the feline’s triangular ears twitch and fold back. Her violet tabby forarms slip up to your wrists, and she sinks her nails in just enough to well up pinpricks of blood. The small monstergirl is still strong enough to force you back flat beneath her. She seems to relish your struggle as she licks your ear and sounds a fresh staccato of caterwauling. “No. My turn.”
  1292.  
  1293. In a rare display of skill, she leaves both paws up top and guides your dick toward her drooling snatch with only her tail. You can see her grin at eye level behind her hair falling all over your face. “Lots of practice borrowing from you.” She whispers proudly even as she slides you past her swollen clit to between the dripping labia of her tight shallow pussy. Slowly, forcing you inside with her weight, she takes you as deep as she can.
  1294.  
  1295. Trisha’s erect nipples dig pleasurably into your flesh as she lays her upper body on top of your chest. The cat locks her small sharp teeth into a mutual bite on your neck that makes her smooth cheek brush against yours. Compared to monsters like June, it’s only a pinch, a love bite.
  1296.  
  1297. Once she settles, the feline begins to rock her hips forward and back instinctively. The hot sucking constriction and the soft-ribbed folds of her vagina surround you with a slick inferno of pleasure. As she gets into her rhythm, the ferocity of her motions grows. Trisha bites into your neck harder when she finally bottoms out and her supple ass slaps against your thighs. You feel the small dome of her cervix mash against the apex of your swollen glans every time she tries to take you inside completely. It has to hurt, but she doesn’t seem to care, growling and moaning and caterwauling lusty vibrations directly into the meat of your shoulder.
  1298.  
  1299. Her hips switch to a grinding gyration as her paws creep from your wrists to your open hands. Trisha interlaces her paws into your fingers. It’s even more personal than when she held your hand earlier. You can feel where each of the spongy pink pads lines up with your own smooth palm. It’s an alien feeling. Even the horses and the snake have flat human palms. But it’s cottony warm, soft and filled with an innocent passion.
  1300.  
  1301. The Cheshire continues to rely on instinct and feel to pleasure you and herself. She tries different ambits and tightens harder and harder on your cock as she rides you, never letting air touch your bare glans. Clear natural lubricants flow freely down the shaft of your penis. Yours and hers mix together, giving a glossy coat to your whole lap that blends with the sheen of sweat in the hot humid air of whatever dark corner she brought you to.
  1302.  
  1303. She feels good, damn good, and more intimate than you can usually be with your remuda, though they are softer and more skilled. The squelching bliss of her pussy, only given to you and no other man, swells your dick with hot desire and brings you to the edge. You exhale sharply as she slams down one last time. Your mind blanks and your hips buck involuntarily. Once, twice, three times, you spurt to fill the confines of her narrow tunnel with thick white, critically draining your flagging reserves.
  1304.  
  1305. The Cheshire lets your hands go when you pull your teeth away and lay back onto the warm concrete floor.
  1306.  
  1307. “I’m not done.” Trisha mews as a paw pulls your right hand down and shoves your two longest fingers inside her pink pussy to stir the cocktail of semen and lewd juices.  Her own paw teases her clit as she rolls her hips to plunge your digits inside her, rubbing your knuckles on the spongey G-spot when she can.  
  1308.  
  1309. You vary the speed and the depth until she gives up and lays down on top of you, matching the pace of your fingering, yowls growing in pitch. When the felid is almost screaming her caterwaul in your ear, her tail swishes and her tiny frame quakes with the peak of pleasure. She cum hards all over your hand, making a mess of hand, paw and lap and collapses completely.
  1310.  
  1311. Moments later and you feel a throaty rumble emenate from the prone wonderland tabby.
  1312.  
  1313. With her full body in contact with yours, the Cheshire’s contented purrs vibrate your entire being in a sensual massage. She rubs her nipples against your chest and nuzzles the remnant smells of catnip all over you. A tricky look crosses her face.  “Maybe you like big soft breasts more than itty bitty kitty titties? Well mom didn’t get stacked until she had me and Ness. So chew on that.” Trisha pinches your butt to emphasize her point and smiles.
  1314.  
  1315. The catgirl cuddles up to your bare chest when you mumble an inaudible answer. You wrap her up in your arms. Sweat pours in streams off both of you at the heat of your combined bodies and the steamy air. It bothers you how nice and comfortable this feeling is, being without a care for a moment. Something like this every day, you can see how that could be as addictive as the wicked serpent’s venom. How many men fall for it? It’s a cold and sobering thought.
  1316.  
  1317. Trisha feels you stiffen and redoubles her cuddles. “Come on. Ease a little of that tension. Forget June. Forget the bitch cavalry.” She nibbles delicately on your ear then licks the half-moon shaped teeth marks on your shoulder. “If you’re so worried, we could go out for real and all those other girls would leave you alone. Even Ness likes you, I can tell. She’d help if there was trouble. It could be a magnificent romance if we both worked at it.”
  1318.  
  1319. Wistful eyes look at you and see what you used to be, blinded by nostalgia. “Together we could be absolutely sublime. I’m sure I could fill the hole here.” She scratches a little ‘x’ over your heart with a single claw. “And you could fill mine here.” The lithe feline pulls your hand to her right breast and lets you feel her heart pound. Slowly she drags it lower where your sinful fluids mingle. “And here and here, any which way you please.” Trisha whispers in a rich sultry timbre. In that moment she’s more lascivious than her sister could ever hope to be, making you feel she actually wants you for you: bitterness, faults, terrible temper and all. No beatings or punishment required. You almost feel sorry for her.
  1320.  
  1321. You still want to spare her the worst of it. As soon as Vanessa talks, if she’s not broken beyond repair, everything is going to come crashing down on Trisha’s fantasy.
  1322.  
  1323. “I told you, it’s too late for that.” You pull your hand away and Trisha’s hunter’s grin starts to falter. “But it’s kind of you to say. That still means something to me. I wish I’d heard it a year ago.”
  1324.  
  1325. You can see Cheshire’s bluster and hopes deflate. She was so confident just seconds ago.  “Don’t say that. Don’t you…” The cat asks sadly as her ears droop. “Don’t you even want to try?”
  1326.  
  1327. You start to shake your head and the feline clamps a cum-slick paw over your mouth. “Wait! Don’t answer now. Sleep on it. Please. No commitment, just to try.” Her tone is so insistent. Golden eyes shimmer with unwept tears.
  1328.  
  1329. You do the smart thing and nod to get her off you. You can almost see the relief wash over the cat as her hair starts to lay back down. It’s pitiable how the Cheshire brightens up almost instantly with a grin. She tries to hide wiping her eyes on the back of her furry forearm by starting to groom it. “We should go check on Ness. My parents will be expecting us after they helped take our mind off things.”
  1330.  
  1331. “They got us out of the way to talk to Vanessa alone.” You grunt, sirens of impending catastrophe blaring in the back of your mind.
  1332.  
  1333. Trisha’s face flushes in understanding as she lets you up. “That too.”
  1334.  
  1335. Her wide pupils shine green in the stuffy murk. “But that’s not a problem, right?” The tabby asks. ‘It doesn’t sound like it isn’t.’ She doesn’t say the last part, but the look from the corner of her eye while she tries to bathe says everything. You curse yourself for saying anything at all, letting your guard down for even a moment. She’s usually so playful; it’s easy to forget how sharp she can be.
  1336.  
  1337. The Cheshire cleans the fur of her sour squid-smelling paw with her tongue while you gather your clothes. You can’t tell if she likes the taste or not. The lithe girl just looks about like any cat taking a bath, purring, eyes closed, her long wide tongue pulling with the lay of her silky striped violet coat.
  1338.  
  1339. You run your fingers over the sleeve half-ripped off your shirt and watch her, trying to figure out what to do. You should never have come here. You knew it and you did it anyway.
  1340.  
  1341. Trisha feels your eyes on her and stops her grooming.  The twin raises an eyebrow and her fluffy triangular ears perk up mischievously as she starts again. You see additional purpose in her movements now, tongue probing deeply between the pads of her paws and the spaces between her claws, licking the tips of her nails in long wet strokes as sensually as possible. Every lap, every brush promises the same sweet diligent attention paid to you. She’s really trying to sell her proposal. When she’s finally done, she gives her messy hair a quick comb through with her claws and gets dressed.
  1342.  
  1343. Padding over, the small cat pulls at the torn seam on your shirt you’d been fingering. “I’m sorry about that. I guess I got a little carried away.” She looks off in embarrassment. “Can’t believe I fell for the old catnip tea trick after all of grandma’s stories.” The feline leans in close to smell you and you notice her try to subtly mark you with the glands on her cheeks. “Well, now that we had a little fun, it won’t work again on me for awhile. But if you haven’t taken a shower in an hour or two, don’t hold me responsible.”
  1344.  
  1345. The catgirl grabs your arm and a disorienting crack later, you’re back where you started, by an ugly waiting couch in the hospital hallway. Izzy’s phone is just where you left it.
  1346.  
  1347. Ten minutes later, you are still roaming the halls looking for Vanessa’s room. The kinder twin continues to pull you along by the hand, confidently going nowhere. You finally dig your heels in. “Trisha, stop. You don’t know where you’re headed at all.”
  1348.  
  1349. Swishing her long tail under her uniform skirt and flicking her ears, the fluffy girl turns around and looks up at you. “Cheshire cats are natural born guides. Don’t you know anything?”
  1350.  
  1351. “Commenting sexually on everybody we pass is not being a guide.” You try to pry your hand from her grip and she makes a game of ensnaring it in her violet paw every time it slips loose.
  1352.  
  1353. “Well maybe not in this city.” Trisha pretends to pout and puffs up her cheeks petulantly. “But don’t tell me you didn’t enjoy my running commentary when that sphinx nurse picked up the smell of catnip on you. All those things she wanted to do to you, whether you were already with a girl or not.” The Cheshire tugs on you to move and it takes more than a bit of effort stay put. “Or that doctor and the orc RN who thought they were hidden in that closet getting nasty. Only her moans leaked under the door every time he stabbed her hot dripping green pussy with his hard velvety...”
  1354.  
  1355. “I don’t need a replay.” You put your finger to her lips to quiet her and she sucks on the tip lewdly. Catnip or not, she’s plenty aggressive right now.
  1356.  
  1357. Still, even taking into account the games, you get the distinct feeling she’s been giving you the runaround. Her smile is strained. She’s scared of what she suspects, wanting to delay the inevitable. You empathize, and that weakness sickens you along with the nausea of venom withdrawal that still lingers in the pit of your gut. You need to know what Vanessa said, and you need to know it now.
  1358.  
  1359. Dragging the Cheshire behind you, you head back to the main nurse’s station at the ER entrance. A quick word with the leopard girl manning the desk and you get directions to Vanessa’s room. Her operation went smoothly and she’s recovering in her own room.
  1360.  
  1361. “Can you believe that spotted nurse?” Trisha whispers as you drag her to the elevators. “She was only running on coffee when she talked to us, but I saw her ears perk up and her face flush when she smelled you. Did you notice how she leaned so close when she handed you the directions, and only stopped when she picked up my scent on you? She would have taken you if I wasn’t there. And while she was wearing an engagement ring too.” She blows gently on your ear. “How indecent.”
  1362.  
  1363. “Monstergirls don’t do that if they’re really in love.” You think of your warhorse, broken for sure, but with a twisted loyal heart. You wish she was here in case you needed to bug out. But even trying to keep up appearances, she’s still pretty hurt. And Izzy isn’t quite where she’s able to handle that job yet.
  1364.  
  1365. “Well maybe she has an arranged marriage.” Trisha continues to the sound of muzak on the ride up to Vanessa’s floor. “Or maybe she realized that even if she’s with someone, that she might be happier if she gave someone else a chance instead.”
  1366.  
  1367. “Don’t start with me.” You tell her perhaps a little too harshly as the doors open and you step outside. Your tension is through the roof and you’ve humored her long enough.
  1368.  
  1369. Trisha’s ears lower and she leans up against you. “I was just saying is all.”
  1370.  
  1371. You finally come to the lesser twin’s room. Consciously telling yourself not to hold your breath, you open the door. The atmosphere is calm and relaxed as Trisha’s dad gets up from the chair he was using to sit beside Vanessa and chat with her.
  1372.  
  1373. He hugs Trisha when she says hello, and tells her that her sister is going to be okay. They just won’t know the extent of the damage to her brain until the swelling goes down. But it’s obvious that whatever was wrong before is worse now. “I told Mom to go back to work. She was driving me nuts here. You know how she can’t sit still.”
  1374.  
  1375. “I’ll be heading home to get some things Vanessa asked for. Keep her company for a bit.” He smiles and ruffles her already messy hair. “I think she’d rather hang out with you guys anyway.”
  1376.  
  1377. “I still feel like I don’t have the full story, but thank you for helping my kitten.” He messes up your hair in what must be years and years of ingrained habit from his family. “Here’s a word of advice. Speaking from experience, one interested Cheshire cat is all a man can handle. And sometimes I’m not even sure about that. So remember twins aren’t a set, for your own sake.” He points at the tear in your shirt then flicks your nose when you look down. “And no man, no man on earth, is ready for superpowered kittens. So use protection, because they sure as hell won’t.”
  1378.  
  1379. “No matter what dear ol’ Dad says.” He mutters under his breath.
  1380.  
  1381. As soon as the twins’ dad leaves, Vanessa waves over her sister excitedly. You can’t even see half her head with the bandages and a whole ear invisible. About the only thing you can tell is it looks like they had to shave part of her head to be able to fix what you did. Her good eye floats alone and half her teeth hang in midair.
  1382.  
  1383. “Hey Trish, Trish. Tonight’s the night. Once the zoo is closed, we’re going to steal that chimp. Oh my god, teach’s face when we put it in a uniform and leave it in the empty seat in class. They’ll talk about for years. Wouldn’t it be funny if nobody even noticed? Or that they noticed but we got everyone to go along with it?” The cat is practically bursting with energy as she sits up in her bed. You see saline and some kind of painkiller with a dose meter attached to her IV.
  1384.  
  1385. Trisha sits down with a look of concern and grabs her sister’s paw. “Ness, that was five years ago. And it didn’t work, at all.”
  1386.  
  1387. “No, it will be totally awesome. Trust me. It’s going to be great!” Vanessa argues animatedly, her hospital gown shoulders flapping up and down.
  1388.  
  1389. “That monkey nearly tore your arm off.” The healthy feline points out with a jab to her sister’s shoulder.
  1390.  
  1391. The wounded cat feigns shock. “Oh? Is that why I’m here? That damn dirty ape.”
  1392.  
  1393. “Quit shamming. It’s not funny.” Trisha starts to grumble.
  1394.  
  1395. Vanessa suddenly becomes cold. “Yes it is. Who are you trying to impress with the Nightingale routine? He doesn’t care about you.”
  1396.  
  1397. “Why are you so mean? He came all this way to visit, just like you asked.” The kinder Cheshire grabs your hand in her paw and squeezes reassuringly.
  1398.  
  1399. “Take a wild guess. Steel plate, a bunch of screws, a terrible haircut and the worst headache I’ve ever had in my life.” Her creepy eye turns to you and her expression changes to pure childlike amusement. You can almost hear her mind grind as she switches gears. “Hey Trish. Do something for me right now. Go down the street and get me something sweet and bubbly, like Castello del Poggio.”
  1400.  
  1401. The Cheshire does a double take to you then back. “Fine. But you can’t drink it until we run it by the doctors.” The unbroken sister pulls you down to be able to whisper in your ear. “She wants me to steal a few bottles of her favorite Moscato.”
  1402.  
  1403. “The good stuff from Pavia!” Vanessa adds.
  1404.  
  1405. “Yeah Ness, Pavia.” The younger twin sighs. “Well, this is why you’re here I guess, Anon. I’ll be back in just a little while. Both of you be nice.” She takes care to kiss you goodbye in front of her bedridden sister and rub her cheeks a couple times on your shirt.
  1406.  
  1407. The second Trisha snaps out of the room. The wounded feline makes a grab for your dick.
  1408.  
  1409. Smacking her bandaged paw away, you fume. Your fingers begin to curl unconsciously into a fist. “Haven’t you learned anything? Are you crazy?”
  1410.  
  1411. “Does it look like I’m all here?” She gestures at herself and snickers. The sound carries a strange unearthly echo.
  1412.  
  1413. “You didn’t tell.” You stare unbelievingly at the injured Cheshire.
  1414.  
  1415. The visible part of her head splits into a horror show grin while a yellow eye, disembodied teeth and bandages hang off the other side. “It’s more fun to wait and see what happens, whether you realize she’s the same as me first or she realizes what you really are.” Vanessa raises a gauze-wrapped paw and clipped claws scratch against your bare cheek. “But I always knew. It’s why I never thought twice when I spread those rumors way back to save her reputation.” The hurt girl lays back down in the bed and gets comfortable. “A lot of good that did at this point. I never understood that little crush she had on you. At least I was honest with what I wanted.”
  1416.  
  1417. “You’ve told me that before.” You shut her rambling down. Something feels off, and you’re not sure what. But you’re all gamed out for the afternoon.
  1418.  
  1419. The broken pussycat looks honestly confused this time. “Did I? I could have sworn…” She trails off. Her eye drifts to the ceiling and you can see her retreat into her thoughts, that dead-to-the-world zoned-out look that your own father wears at all times.
  1420.  
  1421. After a couple of silent unblinking minutes the feline looks over and gives a genuine panicked start when she sees you. “What are YOU doing here?!” She takes a deep breath; slowly a realization seems to dawn on her. “I’m sorry. I didn’t think you’d really come. So my hero, you came to comfort your Mistress after you rescued her from the big bad snake? Were you actually looking forward to our little session she so rudely interrupted? But then why aren’t you wearing your lovely collar?”
  1422.  
  1423. You feel the old rage start to strain its bonds and put it in check hard. You lucked out this time. Don’t waste it. “Vanessa, if you don’t cut it out…”
  1424.  
  1425. “Did Trisha tell you to call me that?” Surprised, she interrupts you in mid-sentence. “Nobody calls me that but my parents, and maybe someday a guy I like.” She twists a lock of her remaining purple hair coyly. “Well, I guess I could let you call me that, instead of Mistress or Ness, if you’re nice to me.”
  1426.  
  1427. “I told you before; I’ll be nice to you if you behave. And you haven’t been behaving have you?” A terrible idea comes to you as you look at her IV, an almost foolproof way to make her suffer.
  1428.  
  1429. “Let me get a good look at you.” You loom over the prone feline and reach your hand under the back of her neck. She smells the air with a chunk of nose and her pupil begins to dilate when you draw close. You grab a handful of hair at her scruff and pull up. Instantly, the felid girl appears in full view. She looks a little pale and wrapped in a lot of bandages, but otherwise the same as her sister.
  1430.  
  1431. “Hey. Say my name again.” The cat asks you with another sniff as you hear the start of a purr rumble in her tiny chest.
  1432.  
  1433. You can’t help but smile a little, remembering this, and knowing she doesn’t right now. “Vanessa.” You say it sweetly and kiss her lightly on the lips.
  1434.  
  1435. She wraps her free arm around you and forces it harder, sucking on your tongue. She lets loose a small happy meow when she finally lets you go. “Mmmm, I think I really do love that taste.”
  1436.  
  1437. “I know.” You kiss her again as the thrum of her purr grows to a roar.
  1438.  
  1439. It’s so worth it to watch her face fall as you pull away, to see the beginnings of confusion then fear as you raise your hand to her painkiller regulator.
  1440.  
  1441. “Are you frightened? Is your little heart beginning to pound?” You whisper cruelly as you begin to ratchet it down, morphine or whatever it is. Turning the dose up would get rid of your problem for good, but that would create too many new problems. This way is better. Let her feel the raw pain of her punishment. “What do you think the nurses are going to say about a young man and monstergirl alone in the same room with a raised pulse? Surely not that you need help. I would imagine more envious comments.”
  1442.  
  1443. You finish and pull the power cell from it to lock the setting in. “But be a good girl and bear with it, and we’ll get along if you stop messing with me.” You let go of her scruff and scratch behind the one ear you can see. Then you dig your nails in. “If anyone asks, you tell them you don’t want painkillers. They can’t make you take them.”
  1444.  
  1445. “You know you really are verm…” She stops at the fire in your eyes threatening to grow into an inferno. “Why are you so much nicer to Trish? We’re the same! The only difference is she’s still an awkward virgin!”
  1446.  
  1447. “You’re wrong. And if you understood the differences, you wouldn’t be here.” You tell her as you kick back into a chair. You really should leave, but gambling as hard as you have so far, one more roll of the dice should secure the rest of what you want out of this.
  1448.  
  1449. Vanessa bristles and props herself up on an elbow. “No, you’re wrong. You just wait and see. You think I mess with you? Think about the sort of things she’s going to do to get your attention. She’s always been the schemer, not me.” The feline screams angrily into her pillow and flounces onto her back.
  1450.  
  1451. A few quiet minutes and you think she’s just sulking and ignoring you. But she hasn’t pressed the call button either. Then you begin to hear it, the soft low moan of pleasure, followed by the stifled animalistic cries of her caterwaul. Furry limbs move slowly under the coarse sheets and her breath comes hot and heavy.
  1452.  
  1453. You wonder if the cat’s forgotten you’re here or if she doesn’t even care anymore.
  1454.  
  1455. Trisha returns before the end of the second round with a snap. She stares for a second with two bottles in her paws. “Catnip huh?” She asks you and Vanessa bolts upright.
  1456.  
  1457. “What are you doing here?” The wet-paw cat asks breathlessly. Her disembodied eye turns to you and a spark of recognition lights brightly. “Right, I forgot for a second. How did you ever drag him here Trish?”
  1458.  
  1459. “Don’t worry about it. I was just leaving.” You wave and get up.
  1460.  
  1461. “But you just got here!” Vanessa whines.
  1462.  
  1463. “He’s been here for hours already. Look outside. It’s almost dark.” Trisha reminds her while you kiss her on the cheek goodbye and head for the door.
  1464.  
  1465. “It doesn’t count. I just saw him now…now” The metallic echo follows at the end a moment out of sync with the rest. The wounded cat pouts and shakes her head. The pain and nausea makes her groan sickeningly. She practically swoons back into her bed.
  1466.  
  1467. Trisha checks her sister over once then follows you outside. Catching up, she stops you with a single claw hooked in your shirt. “I just wanted to say thanks for coming. It means a lot to me at least.” She looks into your tired eyes with her own, long wiped free of makeup. “You’re not still feeling a little blue are you? Have some wine. It will help.” She hands you one of the bottles she brought back with her. “I’m afraid it’s more sparkle and sugar than you would probably like but I hope you enjoy it anyway.”
  1468.  
  1469. “Think about what we talked about.” She says goodbye with her special trick, teleporting so fast it’s almost like she’s in two places for a few moments. A low static sound pervades your ears as she kisses both your cheeks with vibrating lips then a loud pop and she disappears.
  1470.  
  1471. How could two girls with the same genetic code be so different?
  1472.  
  1473. You decide to walk the few miles home and get some blood flowing to your brain to help you process today. You’re tired but you can no longer afford to wait for things to happen. You have to be proactive. You have to be the one to take control. It’s a mantra you’ve said before and you’ll say it to yourself every time you’d rather just lay down and quit.
  1474.  
  1475. You miss breaking Nina, when what to do was so obvious and instinctual. Training a horse was almost second nature. Things are so much more complicated now. But they seem to be going about as well as they could. Vanessa’s disregard for anything but hedonistic entertainment actually worked in your favor this time.
  1476.  
  1477. Halfway back, your phone rings with Izzy on the caller ID. The mad palfrey’s self-congratulating tone comes through loud and clear as she tells you she finished a few of the reports you asked her to put together. And she has some “interesting” updates she’s been able to pull from the school administration’s email.
  1478.  
  1479. Praising the Van Harne girl sincerely, you tell her to send Nina to the park with her laptop so you can look it all over. You could comb through the files at home, but at this hour you’d have to wade through an orgy of whatever dregs that blue bitch lured home just to get to your room. Better to wait, until at least a few fate faceless scrubs have tired themselves out. And you’re not ashamed to admit it, you feel much safer with your number one warhorse at your back.
  1480.  
  1481. “If that’s what you want, Master.” Izzy’s disappointment is clear when you asked for her sister instead of coming herself. You promise her she’ll be rewarded soon for her hard work.
  1482.  
  1483. “With a date?” Your dark horse asks.
  1484.  
  1485. You can hear the jealousy and accusation in the soft words. ‘You’ve taken Sis on dates before, but not me.’ She wants to say. It’s a nice sign of change. In the beginning, she didn’t give half a damn about spending that kind of time with you.
  1486.  
  1487. “If this is what I need, Saturday will be only us.” You assure your crazy horse.
  1488.  
  1489. “You won’t be disappointed, Master.” Izzy’s voice rises with excitement. “I’ll be looking forward to this weekend.”
  1490.  
  1491. Nina is waiting patiently for you in her exercise clothes when you arrive in the park half an hour later, centaur-sized laptop tucked in a bag under her arm. She canters up in her tshirt and tight haunch shorts with a pronounced lame limp in her right front leg, worse than before. The stubborn horse is pushing herself too hard to keep up appearances. She should have ditched her practice. That still doesn’t stop her from greeting you with a happy nicker and a warm hug as you soft twitch her ear.
  1492.  
  1493. The tall mare lays down to make a horseflesh backrest for you while you pull out the twenty-two inch silver brick and fire it up. The centaur’s rough sepia hands knead your shoulders gently as she gives you the password from Izzy, and you begin to browse through the compiled videos and notations and reports. Nina smartly lays quiet but at the ready, in true servile form.
  1494.  
  1495. First, you scan the profiles on the two seniors that accosted you. Neither have any black marks on their academic records: grades slightly above average, no clubs or activities. They appear to be what they seemed at first glance, desperate lonely misfits. For the second time you wonder if there might be a way to leverage that. Or perhaps you should make an example of them to send a message to others like them, the strange eyes that follow you in the halls.
  1496.  
  1497. The ant arachne is unique. Her species is brilliant at digging and navigating in total darkness to live around giant ants. Her pheromones allow her to blend into the background of most any crowd, a non-persona. It’s probably why such a pretty face failed to grab the attention of anyone. She’s built not to stick out. Her venom though, is terrible stuff, an irresistible toxic brew meant to sway even mated and married men.
  1498.  
  1499. The giant plant is even worse. She’s a titan alraune from the impenetrable jungles across the gate here on visa. That horrible smell is a part of her mating strategy. The more you absorb her aphrodisiac fluids, the sweeter she’d smell to you. And the more your own body odor would change to that of rotting meat. Eventually nobody but her could stand the scent of you, while she’d smell like heaven to your own ruined nose. Some forms of insect girls and other scavenger monstergirls even become attracted to it, forming harems of the worst kind. You can’t help but gag just remembering the stench.
  1500.  
  1501. There’s updated notes on the Cheshires and the other girls on your list as well. You peruse them quickly, looking for any new useful tidbits while your horse massages you.
  1502.  
  1503. Eventually, you’re the one to break the silence. You know how much your faithful steed craves attention, and she deserves a little to keep her happy.
  1504.  
  1505. Brushing the back of her hand with your lips, you bring her out of her reverie. “You know a female cat is called a queen? I guess that makes the twins the Queens of Hearts.” You tease her and test her a bit at the same time. Sharing with other girls is always hard on her, just like the blue whore said. The way things have been going, you’ll want to make Trisha a more permanent part of things. The centaur needs to get used to the idea.
  1506.  
  1507. “Yes Master, I’m sure that’s why their family chose that last name when they moved here from Con Carrol.” Your destrier lets it roll off her like water off a duck.
  1508.  
  1509. That pulls your cheeks tight in an honest smile. “Why did yours choose Van Harne?”
  1510.  
  1511. “I don’t know. We had surnames where my family came from. We were Van Harne’s for centuries before we ever met anyone from this side.” The dark horse rests her heavy breasts against your back. “Even so, I would be happy to take yours, like a human girl.” She kisses the nape of your neck with lush red lips, and sucks hard enough to leave a hickey. The round welt marks you like a brand, one of her ways of battling the marks of other women on you. “If that would please you, Master.”
  1512.  
  1513. You ignore the implication of marriage as you get to what Izzy was so proud of. It’s not a pleasant surprise, found hidden in a pile of bureaucratic garbage email that she’s been sifting through, something of great portent.
  1514.  
  1515. “June’s dropped out for homeschooling.” The sentence pours slowly from your lips, like each syllable is drawn from a great depth inside.
  1516.  
  1517. This is the first time you’ve ever been grateful that Diggood is such a dimbulb. Her password was actually taped to the monitor on her desk. Your palfrey found it easily enough, looking around with the master key after you dealt with the snake and went home.
  1518.  
  1519. You know the cottonmouth. She’s not given up. She’s up to something, something big. You dig around for the archived videos Izzy put together for you of the sinuous bitch. You’ll need Trisha to go back to the scaly whore’s abode and set up some cameras later.  You watch the shitty black and white footage of June on the roof, later in the class and by the lockers as you think, trying to pick up any clue.
  1520.  
  1521. 'We’ll see how tough you are when the only muscle you can rely on is your own.’ You’re concerned for your remuda first. Her threat was for them.
  1522.  
  1523. Eventually, the sound of a fake frustrated whinny brings you back to the present. “Master, how long are you going to stare at these videos?”
  1524.  
  1525. You look at the clock and realize it’s been over an hour since you were aware of your surroundings; the laptop battery is almost dead. Your stiff back creaks, your dry eyes burn in your skull and the bruise on the back of it throbs. “Give me the bag. I’m taking this home. I have to know more about her. I need to know how to hit her where she lives.”
  1526.  
  1527. The dark mare’s beautiful face creases in concern. Worry lines on her forehead and under her eyes stand in sharp relief to her usual velvety softness. “You should rest.”
  1528.  
  1529. “I can sleep when I’m dead.” You tear the tote from her hands and stuff the laptop inside.
  1530.  
  1531. The obedient girl actually dares to lay a hand on your shoulder to stop you. “Master, you’re exhausted and hurt. When you’re tired, you get mean, and you make terrible decisions. You need to rest and you need to heal.”
  1532.  
  1533. “Are you telling me what to do?” You turn hard eyes on her and watch the gigantic horse shrink back like she’s been struck. Her ponytail and tail both whip back in a pair of midnight black streams.
  1534.  
  1535. Nina trembles, but gets on all four of her knees to look up at you. Her strong fingers bring your hand to her ear, to twitch it if you please. “I want you to win, Anon. I’m always by your side to make sure you succeed. If that means telling you what you don’t want to hear and ordering you every once in awhile, I’ll gladly take any punishment.”
  1536.  
  1537. You twist her ear just hard enough to show your displeasure. “June won’t be waiting and resting. We need to move first, and we need to be prepared.” You ignore the warhorse dropping ‘Master’. She’s so serious suddenly.
  1538.  
  1539. Nina sloughs off the same pain that once would have turned her into a bawling mess. Rather, her face blushes darker with remembered pleasure. “You are not a monstergirl like her. You don’t heal like one. You don’t have the strength or the stamina of one. You’re only a man, a magnificent man, but just a man.” Worried brown eyes plead with you to listen. “You can’t keep this up. It will kill you. Isn’t that why you have Izzy and I? Trust us to carry out your will.”  
  1540.  
  1541. “I do trust you, Nina. I’m trusting you now to listen to what I say.” You press your forehead to hers. “Shut up and go home.”
  1542.  
  1543. Your horse snorts exasperatedly. “You know how long I need to sleep? Three hours. Three real hours of sleep and a little quick nap or two during the day. You need what: double, triple that? I know sometimes when we really get into making love I forget, but you need your rest.” Her voice drops to a whisper. “A man needs his rest.”
  1544.  
  1545. You don’t answer and start to walk away. But the more you think about it, she is right. Fresh eyes will see more in the morning. The walk home will be time enough for tonight. Only the centaur isn’t quite finished. She stampers uncertainly for a moment before opening her mouth.
  1546.  
  1547. “You want her.” Nina calls after you softly.
  1548.  
  1549. You clench your teeth and look slowly over your shoulder, back to the mare. “What did you say?” You demand harshly. She’s starting to push you now. This is borderline insubordinate. You are sore and bone weary, but you’ll lay down some real punishment if you have to.
  1550.  
  1551. Your centaur limps up behind you. “June. You don’t just want to make her suffer or fuck her.” Nina breathes gently in your ear. “You want her to be yours, the way I’m yours.” She toys with her ponytail in her hands, searching for the right words. “I’m good at two things, Master. I’m strong and I know you, know what’s inside. You want her. I don’t know why. Maybe those times she bit you turned your head. But you want her."
  1552.  
  1553. You think about the snake and another unconscious tremor of withdrawal works its way through your hands. Maybe you are becoming too obsessed? You remember what happened the last time you left the lamia to her own devices. No, you’re right and damn the rest.
  1554.  
  1555. “You will have her at the end. I’ll see to it.” Your glorious warhorse rubs her smooth dark cheek against yours. She turns your head to look at her rump as she hikes up the back of her shorts.  “Look here. Do you see the white hair beginning to grow in? I belong to you always, Anon. I love you, and I will fight for you to be happy, no matter what you decide you want.” She hugs you tightly into her vast umber mounds. “Just never stop looking at me.”
  1556.  
  1557. Reaching back over your head, you pinch her upper lip hard between the knuckles of your index finger and thumb. The huge centaur finally relaxes her embrace as endorphins flood her brain. “You’re a good girl Nina. You’re my good girl. Don’t think I’ll ever forget that.” No mention of promises, no mention of the L-word. It feels dirty to say it now, not as easy to tell her as it was in the beginning when it was a meaningless lie. This is as far as you can go without the house of cards coming down. Leaving her behind, you shuffle slowly home.
  1558.  
  1559. On the covered porch, you turn the knob of the unlocked door and are greeted by the sweaty grunting moans of strangers. You can’t even see the demon under the pyramid of hairy pink groaning flesh, butts and legs and arms all akimbo. Appetite successfully assassinated, you grab a bucket of hot water and some suds to take a sponge bath in the ward-protected safety of your room. A real shower will have to wait until you get to school in the morning. Finally, clean and earplugs jammed tightly in your canals, you curl up in the sheets and slip into a dreamless sleep.
  1560.  
  1561. The first light of morning comes through the open blinds to spear your sleep-encrusted eyes and force you up. The sheets, soaked with sweat, stick tenaciously as you try to throw them off. When you untangle yourself, you notice a still-warm depression in the mattress next to you and your own buck-naked form, boxers spirited away.
  1562.  
  1563. Your hand reaches instinctively for your amulet, fingers brushing the glass and metal suspended safely around your neck. A quick glance around shows all your holy symbols in the room still unblemished in their rightful places. You let out a breath you didn’t realize you’d been holding. Any monster with ill will would have been stopped dead, and any demon regardless of intent. No, this is something else.
  1564.  
  1565. Thin shafts of sunlight brightly illuminate your bed, a small thin object catching your eye. It’s a hair, a bright purple hair.
  1566.  
  1567. You bumble to your oak dresser as your temper already begins to rise with the sun. Yanking two brass handles you find the underwear drawer completely devoid of its namesake, only neatly folded socks remain. A single long violet hair, artfully placed, lays in the bare center. It’s the same story with the dirty ones in your laundry basket. There’s nothing left anywhere.
  1568.  
  1569. Throwing on a clean uniform sans boxers, you grab the laptop and your backpack. Just in case, you pass your hand over the depression in the fitted sheet. Nothing. Not that it matters.
  1570.  
  1571. Only stopping to check that your door locks tight, you blaze by the refuse left over from the previous night all over the house. Most of the human garbage has already left, but here and there a snoring form crashes in a chair or on a couch.
  1572.  
  1573. The kitchen sings with the clatter of utensils. Heat rolls out in waves with the smell of fresh coffee overpowering the stench of rank sweat and stale sex everywhere else. Your ever-emaciating father hustles around the stove swiftly and efficiently in a mechanical lurch despite his dead unfocused eyes. The table is packed, the regulars’ noses kept firmly in their own business of steak and eggs. The rare new guys take the cue as well when they see the look on your face.
  1574.  
  1575. The azure devil is there, wide awake and smiling like the cat who caught the canary. Lily doesn’t say a word, just palms you a folded note as you squeeze through the goons to get to the percolating dark roast.  Grabbing a mug of unadulterated joe, you get out of there as fast as you can shimmy between the half-dressed lummoxes.
  1576.  
  1577. Outside the kitchen, your rumbling stomach quiets down after a few sips from your cup while you unfold the note. It’s better to know what it says right away, even if she’s a master manipulator. The wedding rings on half the guys eating breakfast alone attest to that. Not playing the game is not an option at this point. The faint scent of wildflowers wafts up from the paper and written in impeccable penmanship is: ‘Keep a cool head. Don’t miss your chance. She’s taken the bait. Now set the hook.’
  1578.  
  1579. Once again you wonder what that thing gets out of all this. It feels like a more vested interest than pure bored entertainment. You just can’t be completely sure.
  1580.  
  1581. You open the door quietly to find the pale bedheaded Cheshire cat swinging her legs off the edge of the porch, drinking coffee and watching the early morning joggers pass by on the sidewalk. Her tail swishes back and forth nervously as dark clouds gather on the horizon promising thunderstorms later.
  1582.  
  1583. Turning toward the sound of creaky hinges, Trisha’s face lights up when she sees you. Her excitement quickly wilts in the heat of your glare that makes the bitter java seem sweet in comparison.
  1584.  
  1585. “Oh hey, you’re up. Good morning.” She sheepishly hides her face behind her mug and striped paws. “I’ve been thinking. I’d rather you show me your answer instead of saying yes or no, if that’s okay.”
  1586.  
  1587. “Why are you here?” You demand as calmly as you can. The cheap ceramic shakes in the iron grip of your hand. “And what the hell have you done with my clothes?”
  1588.  
  1589. “Shhh. Shhh. Not so loud. My head is killing me.” The cat winces and flicks her ears forward. “I’ll tell you on the way to school. We’ll be late if we don’t leave now.”
  1590.  
  1591. The truth is you still have a good fifteen minutes left, but any distance between you and the succubitch is good. You nod, accepting her lie at face value and hop lightly down the steps to the sidewalk, setting a brisk pace. If you’re leaving then you’re leaving and not looking back.
  1592.  
  1593. Slinging her bag over her shoulder, Trisha hurries to catch up to your side. A gust from the incoming cold front blows up her skirt, revealing milky white gooseflesh and a neatly trimmed patch of purple over naked womanhood. The overgrown pussycat gives you her trademark grin when she catches you staring. “You didn’t think I’d make you go commando alone did you?”
  1594.  
  1595. “You going to answer my question or not?” You press. The catgirl shifts her bag back and forth uncomfortably, speared by your gaze.
  1596.  
  1597. “Well…” The feline starts slowly, turning nearly beet red in embarrassment. “I may have been really nervous about what your answer would be. And I may have nabbed a lot more wine to keep busy. And I may have gotten really drunk having to listen to Ness trying to get me to compare notes about sex with you. And I may have seen you leaving the park on the ride home. And I may have followed you. And I may have passed out in your bed watching you sleep.”
  1598.  
  1599. You stare the shifty cat down. “That’s only half an answer, Trisha.”
  1600.  
  1601. “The other half is too personal. I can’t, at least not yet.” The felid girl mumbles. “I don’t see why you’re so upset at me. Your mom let me in. She said it was fine.”
  1602.  
  1603. “I don’t care what that fucking whore said was okay!” You explode at the Cheshire loud enough to turn the heads of pedestrians half a block away. This is the second damned time Lily has done this to you. That look in her monstrous black-sclera eyes at breakfast, like she did you a favor, just blows on the hot coals of your outrage.
  1604.  
  1605. Trisha, at ground zero, stands practically unfazed by the outburst. Holding a paw to her ringing head, she almost disarms you with her air of concern and the pity in her golden eyes. “I know what your mom was doing last night seems slutty and disgusting, but it’s normal for succubae going through mourning. She’s still your mom, and she loves you. I couldn’t imagine how much it would hurt my mom if I talked about her like that, especially if Dad wasn’t around. Family is everything right?”
  1606.  
  1607. Clenching your teeth until they feel like they’re going to crack you step deep into her personal space. “My dad is alive.” Spitting out the words between your incisors, you jab your finger hard into the center of her nearly-flat chest. “He’s easy to spot. He’s the only other guy in the house who doesn’t look like he’s having fun.” Your simmering vitriol slathers every word.
  1608.  
  1609. “Oh.” The Cheshire cat’s ears flatten as she takes a shocked step back.  “I didn’t know. I’ve…I’ve never heard of that happening with a married couple outside tv.”
  1610.  
  1611. Ignoring her, you get back to walking. You’ve made enough of a scene. Temper temper. You need to know when to control it. Like you didn’t learn that lesson well enough yesterday. Feel the humid air on your face and cool down, you tell yourself.
  1612.  
  1613. The silence only lasts a few seconds before Trisha hurries up to your side, forcing a kind smile and trying to change the subject. “I had no idea you lived just a couple streets over. If Mom didn’t always drop us off on the way to work, I would have probably seen you on the way to school. I mean, she did try to get us to bike for awhile but we always ended up late and…” Her mouth hangs open, frozen in mid-sentence as she obviously remembers that was your bicycle.
  1614.  
  1615. Coughing and clearing her throat, Trisha links her arm in yours and flashes a gentle smile. “Sorry, I stuck my furry foot in my mouth again. I need to stop that, before I get hairballs.”
  1616.  
  1617. She keeps smiling even when her joke falls flat. “But hey, we can walk together to school now. Ness will like that too, once they let her out after all this ‘observation’ stuff. The doctors say exercise and getting in her normal routine should help her heal the best, familiar situations and faces and all that. Won’t that be great?”
  1618.  
  1619. Her nervous jitters and rambling since she first saw you this morning would almost be cute if you weren’t so pissed off. You round on the short catgirl. “Let me get one thing straight. I don’t like Vanessa. You and her made my already miserable life unbearable for years, for nothing but your own petty amusement.” You see the hurt in her eyes and cut your tirade short.
  1620.  
  1621. Gently, you brush back a cowlick sticking up between her ears and soften your tone. “Even so, I do like you Trisha. I like you more all the time. I know you didn’t do what you did out of hate. But don’t push your luck with me.” Your mood darkens as you remember having almost this exact same conversation with Vanessa just yesterday. Unbidden, something ugly tries to claw its way to the surface of your mind. Before you know it, your hand is on her ear, crushing the velvety fuzz and digging into the thin skin with your nails. “I told you, you won’t like the result.”
  1622.  
  1623. Trisha growls and grips your wrist with unbelievable strength for a person her size. “Stop.” Her pained grimace highlights her sharp fangs even more than her grin can. “You’re hurting me.”
  1624.  
  1625. You tamp down your feelings and count to three, steadying yourself. “How many times did I tell you to stop? Even now you don’t listen.” You grumble, letting her go with a disappointed sigh. “You came into my home, and stole from me. You invaded the one private place I was secluded from all the horror outside. That’s worse than anything else you’ve ever done.” There’s a sharp, purely-psychological pain in your side as you say it. Your rock, your sanctuary is all but gone. No archery range to blow off steam. Nowhere is really safe anymore. Everything is so fluid, unstable. No wonder you feel like a mess.
  1626.  
  1627. The Cheshire reaches for your hand this time. “Look, I don’t know what to do, okay? I’ve never dated a guy before.” The vicious part of you wants to hurt her, even as her face contorts with honest guilt and her kind words spout forth her contrition. You lock it away. All the hell you went through, you will not trade her power for a few moments of satisfaction, at least not now, not when she’s still useful.
  1628.  
  1629. The catgirl is far from done. “You don’t have to be such a jerk. You used to be so much nicer and talkative and fun. I know you still are, if you’ll just lighten up and smile a little. Learn to let the small stuff go.” Trisha stops you and places her good ear to your shirt. “I can hear your heart, and it’s big and kind, not small and hard. Can’t you hear what it’s saying?”
  1630.  
  1631. She puts a single furry digit to your lips for silence. “Thump thump I need a fluffy hug.” She buries her face in your chest and wraps her soft violet arms around you. “Bump bump and a kitty kiss from my feline friend.” Standing up on the tips of her toes, she gives you a loving peck on your cheek before releasing you from her embrace. Completely against the orders of your brain, a little feeling in your heart thump bumps a thank you.
  1632.  
  1633. “I told you I was sorry. And I am, I’m sorry. I’m a sorry Cheshirepuss that got caught up in games and hurt the guy I liked. I’m trying to make it right.” Dexterous paws unzip a big pouch on her bag and she rummages around in her backpack. Finding the nondescript wrapped package she was looking for, she takes a deep breath. “I guess this is as good a time for this as any.”
  1634.  
  1635. “I can’t help what I am.” The gift is offered to you with a quiet blush. “It’s no excuse, but…well, I think you’ve just seen a lot of the bad. I think, if you give me a chance, you’ll see how much of the good you’re missing out on.”
  1636.  
  1637. You eye the plain brown wrapping suspiciously. “Trying to bribe me?”
  1638.  
  1639. “Open it.” Trisha beams and meows excitedly. “It’s real homespun Jurougumo silk. It’ll feel so much better than anything you used to have, especially on your bruises.”
  1640.  
  1641. You rip the edge off the coarse craft paper with special satisfaction in the tearing noise that only comes with opening a gift. Its frayed edges reveal cloth underneath, a perfect mirror of the Cheshire’s own primary violet. The one-of-a-kind cool smoothness of true one-hundred-percent silk plays over your fingers as you pull it free. Hearts and bright ivory grins break up the sea of purple, not printed or embroidered, but actually woven, tapestry-style, into the textile. It’s a pair of boxer shorts in just your size.
  1642.  
  1643. “Do you like it? I designed it myself.” The nervous catgirl announces. “No better color in the world right?” Her eyes slide unconsciously to her own striped arm.
  1644.  
  1645. “Thank you Trisha.” Grabbing her in a gentle hug, you continue to follow the blue whore’s instruction. What does it matter if it’s what Lily wants you to do or not? It’s time to set the hook.
  1646.  
  1647. “I’m sorry about this morning. The succubus always pushes my buttons. There’s no way you would have known.” You kiss her on the forehead as she turns over the motor deep in her tiny chest. You’ve never quite heard a noise that comes from the heart like that in any other creature. Even Vanessa, her own flesh and blood, sounds hollow and empty compared to the feelings Trisha is trying to convey through her simple vibrations. It’s a raw primal elegance. Even a bitter broken thing like you can appreciate the innocent beauty of it.
  1648.  
  1649. Running your fingers through her disheveled locks, you work loose her knots and tangles as her fluffy paws start to knead your chest. “Just one thing. What am I supposed to do with just one pair?”
  1650.  
  1651. “Wear it until I give you the next one. There’s a method to the madness.” Her ears pin back as she rubs on your collar, crown of her head bumping your chin, each word humming with glee. “It takes awhile to weave each design. Then I have to sew it from the cloth.”
  1652.  
  1653. The twin gives you a playful prick with her nails at the disbelief on your face. “Even paws can use a sewing machine with a little patience. I had the cloth made a long time ago. Honestly, I’d forgotten about it until the other day when I got thinking about the first time I saw you.” The rosy glow of her cheeks compliments the honeyed happiness in the words dripping from her fangs. “Well come on, try it on.” The fluffy paws on your chest are suddenly pushing you off the sidewalk to a row of hedges bordering the shady yard of one of the many older whitewashed houses on the street. The cat sheds her backpack and goes for yours.
  1654.  
  1655. “I’m not getting naked in front of the whole neighborhood.” You try to shove the enthusiastic furball away. Sure you’ve seen a monstergirl who couldn’t wait to get home to ravish a guy on occasion during a walk around town, but you’ve got some modesty. A snap and suddenly the hands are behind you, pulling you over the knee-high verge and onto the lawn.
  1656.  
  1657. “Don’t tell me something like that makes big bad you nervous.”  Trisha coos as the morning dew in the St. Augustine soaks into your pants. The rumbling cat vanishes until only her uniform, eyes and alabaster smile remain.  “Look. It’s like I’m not even here. You don’t have to be embarrassed in front of your girlfriend.”
  1658.  
  1659. “And who would that be, Trisha, or is it Patricia now?” A little hint at the truth, but she’s gone fully starry-eyed and completely misses what you’re trying to say.
  1660.  
  1661. “I like Trisha better. Sure, Vanessa is so much sexier than Ness, but Patricia just sounds dowdy, like an old lady.” Her coffee breath rolls over you like a fog as she breathes in your face, not that yours is probably any better. Unseen paws take the boxers from your hand and pull at your belt. “Now, off with the pants.”
  1662.  
  1663. “Later. I can’t be late to school. I have someone I have to talk to.” You try to sit up and she grabs your shoulders to shove you back down into the carefully manicured lawn.
  1664.  
  1665. “Forget school. Let’s do it until neither of us can stand up straight. I think I’ve got enough education for my dream job anyway. Couch potato.” Sharp teeth nibble affectionately at your neck, avoiding the scabs and fresh scars. “What could trump a morning tumble with the cat officially courting you?”
  1666.  
  1667. You take the gentle road, caress her cheek and turn the warm but commanding tone up a notch. “I have business with Nina. It’s important. Let me up.”
  1668.  
  1669. “You don’t need to think about her anymore. Stay here with me.” It’s like your words sail past her. Only the vaguest meaning seems to get through.
  1670.  
  1671. It’s time to get tougher. You drain the warmth slowly from your voice. “I told you the first time and the second time. There was a moment, many moments even, when it could have been just us but they’re long gone. I’ve never ever lied to you about that.”
  1672.  
  1673. A frustrated growl leaks from Trisha’s lips before she’s able to articulate it into words. “That time is only gone if you decide it’s gone. Don’t act like it’s out of your hands.”
  1674.  
  1675. With a grunt and a heave, you flip the small distracted girl beneath you and stare directly into her keen eyes.  “I can’t. I made a promise.”
  1676.  
  1677. Those words stop the Cheshire’s struggles dead, only the tip of her tail twitches back and forth. “Well, unmake it.” Her words take on a desperate edge now, half plea and half a demand.
  1678.  
  1679. You keep looking her straight in the face and try to respond as calmly as possible, all too aware of a full set of ten two-inch lethally-sharp claws sinking unconsciously all the way past the tip of the quick into your shoulders. “What would be the purpose of a promise if it’s just able to be thrown away on a whim?”
  1680.  
  1681. Trisha bristles as her tail thumps aggressively against your leg. “Why would you love up on that barn animal thug, acting like she’s so great? I remember her from when I used to follow you around. She was way meaner to you than I ever was.”
  1682.  
  1683.  “And she’s done everything to make it up to me.” You remind her.
  1684.  
  1685. The tabbycat puffs her cheeks up petulantly. “I would too, if you gave me the chance.”
  1686.  
  1687. “I am bending as much as I can, but I won’t leave her. If it wasn’t for her, nothing would have changed. She is the key to everything.” You say it with heart for the plain fact it is. You’re not sure who was worse back in the day thinking about it, her or June, but it was a damn close race for biggest bitch. And you look at her now, it’s amazing what a little discipline and sex can do to change someone’s mind. If only that sort of thing worked half as well on the twins.
  1688.  
  1689. “So? That doesn’t mean you owe her. That’s really your final answer?” Trisha seems to shrink and grow smaller. She looks at you like a child who’s been told Christmas is cancelled forever. “I’d gotten my hopes up it would be different. I just don’t understand.” The light clear feline voice starts to crack as she chokes down her disappointment. “I guess Ness was right. I’ve been an idiot, a stupid idiot with manblindness.” She looks away from you, staring vacantly at the grass, obviously trying very hard not to break into tears.
  1690.  
  1691. You lean over the short felid on her back, propping yourself up on your elbows and forcing her head around to look at you with your hands. “Hey come on. Don’t cry. You’re a big girl. You have your own skills and charms that are very attractive to me. Make no mistake. I want you Trisha.” You rub your nose against hers in a little Eskimo kiss that you know she likes then close the gap to seal the deal.
  1692.  
  1693. The depressed catgirl turns away from your lips before they reach hers. “It’s not like I’m not completely against sharing. If we went steady, I know Ness would butt in and beg for some action some days, and if any of my single cousins visited, they’d push for a round or four with you too. But that’s different. That’s sharing with family for a particular occasion, not being in a damn timeshare. And they’d stop after marriage…if that happened.”
  1694.  
  1695. “It’s just, I-I’m not part of some set to be collected!” The twin protests so softly you can barely hear.
  1696.  
  1697. After several long awkward moments of silence, her eyes brighten and clear as some thought worms its way through her mind. “Maybe…maybe there’s another option.” Intelligent yellow eyes turn upward and your ears echo with a stomach-twisting crack.
  1698.  
  1699. A flash of the ground twenty feet below and nothing but empty air between you and the grass barely registers in your eyes before another snap as the coffee churns in your gut. Gravel on a steep slope digs into your pants and you start to slip backward. Strong translucent claws hook into your collar and a third pop pulls you away again.
  1700.  
  1701. This time there are no claws to steady you. The world feels like it’s falling away while your reeling mind looks for anything to balance you. There’s only a black pole in front of you, and you reach for it with your flailing hands. The creaky metal twists in your near deathgrip but holds. A few deep breaths and you get your bearings. Your digits are glued to a harpy-shaped weather vane sticking up out of some minuet on a house. The old Lovegood place, looks like. Only your little tower sticks up over the two story house, making it the one room at a tiny fourth story, the old outdoor roost.
  1702.  
  1703. There’s no trees around that you could try to jump into and climb down. That would block the flight path of anyone returning home, only a stand of oaks shading the other end of the house. Twenty feet below you, the striped crazed cat stands on the steep slope of the main roof, grinning brightly.
  1704.  
  1705. “Don’t cross me, Trisha. You’ll regret it!” It’s kinda hard to make the threat stick while your good loafers strain to find purchase on the shingles under your feet.
  1706.  
  1707. The Cheshire stuffs the boxers she gave you in her jacket carefully and smiles. “Just wait there for a little while. You won’t break your promise right? Then I’ll talk to Nina. If she lets you loose, there’s no problem!”
  1708.  
  1709. “She’ll never do that, and I don’t want her to. I need her.” It feels impossible to truly get across how naïve and futile her kind of thinking is. Your dark horse would rather break a leg than relinquish her position. “Now quit screwing around and get me down from here!”
  1710.  
  1711. Trisha gives you a helpless ‘I would if I could’ gesture with raised paws before her final parting remark. “Nina cares for you. I know that. But she’s poison; she lets the meanness fester in you. You need someone to help you let it go, be yourself again. If she really wants what’s best, she’ll understand.”
  1712.  
  1713. “I wouldn’t count on it.” You say to yourself as much as the feline.
  1714.  
  1715. The tired lithe girl shrugs it off, takes a light hop back with the natural balance and grace of her race and disappears with a snap. The fuzzball explodes back into existence halfway to the ground then vanishes, blink and you miss it fast. Not even half a heartbeat later, she appears on the turf, no crouch, no momentum to absorb, just starts walking like she’s been strolling to school all along. Stooping only to pick up your bag and hers, she gives you a cheery wave and quickly disappears under the overhanging branches of the trees lining the next lot. You feel a hair of pity at what’s going to happen to her. Nothing good can come of this.
  1716.  
  1717. You look for any easy way down. The little bit of roof you’re stranding on overhangs the building below on eaves. The overlapping wood siding leaves no good place for human fingers to grip. You might be able to jump down to the main roof but it’s a long way down, and a very easy slide to fall off an even longer way down to the ground. Too risky, broken bones or worse could put you out of commission for a long time and destroy your plans. It’s just not worth it. You reach into your pocket just to confirm what you already know. Izzy’s phone is fried. Of course Trisha wouldn’t leave you with an easy option for help, not when she wanted you out of the way for a little while. You’re going to have to wait it out.
  1718.  
  1719. Thoughts turn to your loyal mare as you try to predict what’s going to happen. Nina has good control, but the warhorse is so touchy about you. She could be goaded into doing something stupid. And you’re stuck up here with a storm rolling in. You try waving and shouting down at other students wandering down the street. Some laugh and take pictures, a couple look like they want to help but have no idea what to do and after standing around for a few seconds scurry off to keep from being late. One gentle overfluffed weresheep freshman offers to call the fire department for you. Wanting to keep that circus away, you try to get her to phone Nina instead.
  1720.  
  1721. When she hears a woman’s name, her tiny face falls with disappointment before turning beet red. “I didn’t mean. I wasn’t. I mean I didn’t know you had a girlfriend. I would never.” Panicking, she mumbles her hasty apology and almost trips over her hooves to get out of there. Dumb move, you spooked the poor girl obviously wrapped up in some kind of romantic fantasy.
  1722.  
  1723. The whole situation is awful, the way things used to be for you all the time. You’ve almost given up when a rush of air blows by your head, forcing you to cling to the rickety weather vane for dear life. A harpy alights on the roof beside you with a curious look on her face. She wipes a snotty nose with her black wing and blinks feverish baggy eyes.
  1724.  
  1725. “What are you doing on my roof making all this racket? You’re ruining the one good thing about staying home with the flu, some peace and quiet.” The collegiate crow tengu asks with a sickly nasal lilt and coughs into the sleeve of her nightshirt. The thin fabric clings tenaciously to her sweaty voluptuous frame.
  1726.  
  1727. “I had a friend pull a prank on me. Could you help me down? I’ll be glad to be out of your hair.” You ask as sweetly as you can.
  1728.  
  1729. “Sure. Ask the sick crow to fly a hundred and fifty pounds to the ground.” She mimics your saccharine tone sarcastically in her heavy Zip accent. But the harpy shrugs and hops toward you on her talons. You see one of her claws catch on an errant shingle. Time slows down as your stomach knots with dread at the tumbling harpy. All you can do is grit your teeth as a black ball of coarse feathers trips on top of you.
  1730.  
  1731. By some miracle, the weather vane holds and you find yourself on your knees, the tengu wrapped around your middle. She looks at you sheepishly and opens her mouth. Instead of a thank you, she violently sneezes all over shoulder. The harpy take a couple of sniffs from her partially cleared nostrils. “I see now. Been dipping your wick in a few different lanterns huh? Then your girlfriend put you up here as punishment.”  
  1732.  
  1733. A hacking cough wracks her slight frame before she can continue. “Not that I should care about cheating scum, but you’ll be in more trouble if I get you down. Take your licks fledgling. She might forgive you.”
  1734.  
  1735. “It’s just a misunderstanding. I could really use your help. Even just a phone call…” You keep your voice as calm and level as you can. The panic festering in your gut has nothing to do with being trapped and everything to do with being unable to contact anyone you need to.
  1736.  
  1737. The sick bird wiggles out from underneath you. There’s no way in hell you’re letting go of your only support now.  Unfurling her massive wingspan, she looks back over her shoulder to get the nasally last word. “Oh, and stop making noise, or I’ll have you arrested for trespassing. Don’t worry about the storm, we got a really good lightning rod. I’m sure your girl will come by eventually if she hasn’t dumped you.” A strong launch forward and birdbrained bimbo glides lightly down to the grass below. You’re too worried to be angry about that right now, just frustrated and forced to wait. No other students stop as the closer first bell gets, the more in a hurry everyone is. Even the few fliers commuting barely spare you a second glance.
  1738.  
  1739. After what seems like hours, you hear the bell chime in your not-too-distant academy for the beginning of class. The clouds, like your mood are gray and sullen and have taken over the whole sky. Lightning crackles between the thunderheads, the violet glow of St. Elmo’s fire wreathing the cell tower a few miles away on the hill. Not a good omen if you ever saw one.
  1740.  
  1741. The clouds finally begin to discharge their rain, first in drops, then in sheets. You can’t see more than a block in any direction and the heavens only grow darker. It doesn’t take long to soak you to the skin, cloth sticking to your wet body, cold wind whipping at you, chilling you to the bone. And still nobody comes.
  1742.  
  1743. Time blurs as the storm rages on and your arms grow sore and tired. You imagine the roaring patter of drops eventually sounds like clip clop of hooves of the street: click click pitter patter thunderclap. Clip clop half-a-pause clop clip. The rain walks with a limp. Then it grows louder and you begin to doubt it’s just your imagination. A dark silhouette appears at the edge of the gray curtain of driving sheets of water, and you know.
  1744.  
  1745. Vindication. Sooner or later, the horse always finds her Master. She emerges from the downpour, just as soaked as you are, uniform clinging to her body, shining black hair laid flat against her skull by the weight of the water. Her hair’s all down, covering half her face and torso, her normal ponytail undone, and she’s carrying what looks like a drowned purple rat in one hand by the back of her neck.
  1746.  
  1747. “Master? Are you up there?” Your dark centaur shouts up at you over the storm. She sounds exhausted: tired and stressed and angry.
  1748.  
  1749. You try to answer and sneeze violently. Then you try again. “Good to see you, Nina.”
  1750.  
  1751. You can actually see her shoulders slump in relief at your voice and hear a noise that sounds an awful lot like a neigh. “Thank goodness. I was beginning to think this was another wild goose chase. We’ll have you down in justa’ moment, won’t we Trisha?” She shakes the cat by her scruff like a ragdoll. The Cheshire doesn’t say a word, eyes glued to the ground. But she doesn’t look like she’s been in much of a fight either. The dripping wet destrier whispers something in her ear with a nasty look and drops her on her paws.
  1752.  
  1753. You can’t hear the snap over the storm, but three jumps later, and the twin grabs you from your lightning-bait perch on the weather vane. Popping down to the main roof, she gasps for breath and huddles against you, quivering. It takes a moment, because of the rain, to realize she’s crying, face buried in your chest, ears laid back flat. Even as angry as you are with her, you can’t help but want to hold her close, the feline cowering like a beaten tiger. She weeps in your chilled arms, making a raw animalistic mewling sound.
  1754.  
  1755. “God, what happened to you?” You ask the whimpering Cheshire. But you only have to look at the paws pressed against your breast, the dried blood, the cauterized flesh on her furry fingertips…well what are her fingertips now, the dark purple bruises around her throat and the cold brown eye of your steed staring up at you from two stories below, as hard and unforgiving as packed earth, to know.
  1756.  
  1757. “My claws…” Trisha sobs hoarsely, her tail wrapping around your waist, holding you even closer.
  1758.  
  1759. You cradle the crying girl to your chest. “Shhhh, shhh, it’s okay now Trisha. It’ll be alright. Let’s get down, and I’ll take care of everything.”
  1760.  
  1761. Your stomach twists and you appear four feet above a hedge of dwarf holly, falling the rest of the way and crashing into the sharp wet sticks and pointy leaves, the Cheshire landing heavily on top of you. You barely have time to register the broken branches jabbing into your back before two big strong hands extricate you from the shrubs and separate you from the furball.
  1762.  
  1763. Nina worries over you, looking for wounds or any other new injuries on your body. Just when she seems satisfied and bends close for a kiss, you notice Trisha gathering herself up to spring, her knees bent, tail straight, and claws out on her right paw. Only three of the original five are left, but she seems to think it’s more than enough. You wave Nina down, put yourself between the tabby and the mare and stride towards her. The Cheshire’s tired and hurt and dangerous but she’s been broken enough, and this was all just a waste of time if you lose her completely. You can only bank on her being too exhausted to jump.
  1764.  
  1765. She keeps staring past you, eyes locked tightly on the centaur. Grabbing for her paws when she tries to shove past you, you hold on like a deadman when the lithe light catgirl tries to shake you off. A fight of tired nearly-cripples, you both tumble into a mess of limbs in the grass and the mud with a cry and an angry yowl. Even as you wrestle with her with all you have, she never takes her piercing gaze from the horse who watches warily, ready to intervene at any moment.  You try and use your weight to hold her underneath you, block her view of the horse. “Look at me Trisha!” You yell to be heard, really heard over the sound of the storm. “Look at me. I warned you this would happen. Nina is mine. I’m responsible for her, everything she does. If you have to get back at someone, get back at me.”
  1766.  
  1767. The Cheshire sounds a high cougar scream and her wiry muscles pull tight. Another growling scream and she breaks your hold, throws you up and flips you over on your back, face a hair’s breadth from yours. Bright sharp golden eyes of a wild animal stare at you, then the light of rationality flickers, and they soften with understanding and a bitter ache in the heart. She touches her nose to yours, rubs it back and forth, then kisses you ever so delicately on the lips. Hot tears drop on your face. You can feel the temperature difference between that and the freezing rain.
  1768.  
  1769. “I-I don’t want to hurt you.” The Cheshire’s nails retract as she lets you up. “I never did.”
  1770.  
  1771. You know now is the right time, if you’re going to save this. You pull Trisha into a tight hug, and you don’t let her go. She doesn’t struggle, just lays limply in your arms as the seconds tick by, rain washing the mud from your bodies. Then without warning, the purple cat embraces you even more tightly than you were holding her in her furry arms. She hides her face in your shoulder, and you feel the heaving of her chest as new salty streams dilute in the muddy water your entire body’s soaking in.
  1772.  
  1773. Only then do you notice your horse two steps away, limb fallen from a gust of wind in her hand. She for one wasn’t taking chances but drops it at a look from you.
  1774.  
  1775. Nina’s one uncovered eye in her mess of sopped hair turns to the lights on inside the house. She seems to spy them for the first time and her face twists with outrage. You recognize that expression. Your warhorse is on the warpath, has been since before she arrived, and she’s going to vent, one way or another.
  1776.  
  1777. She doesn’t knock on the door that only comes up to her tits. She beats on it with a hoof, and the light wood trembles against the assault until the resident you met earlier finally opens the door with a snotty wipe of her wing.
  1778.  
  1779. Nina glares at her, and lords over her with that hate-filled aggression in her posture you’ve only seen reserved for when something threatens you. “You. You were home and you didn’t help a man stranded on your own roof.”
  1780.  
  1781. The tengu shrugs. “I just didn’t want any trouble. You know how tough the laws are in the city for touching men, especially men in a relationship.”
  1782.  
  1783. “So you left my man trapped and exposed in the middle of a thunderstorm for hours instead.” The giant tomboy grabs the tengu’s shirt with both hands and lifts her off the ground to eye level, watching out for the sharp talons of the crow’s feet. “What the hell is wrong with you?”
  1784.  
  1785. “Watching out for your man is your own responsibility. Don’t blame me for whatever stupid love triangle shit he’s gotten into.” The rook spits and tries to wriggle free.
  1786.  
  1787. Nina wraps brown calloused digits around the small bird’s throat, suspending her from one arm. “Apologize.”
  1788.  
  1789. The blustering harpy is totally unfazed by what would normally just be monstergirl posturing in this town, ceremonial shittalk, rarely backed up. “Go fuck yourself preppie, and get off my lawn.”
  1790.  
  1791. The bird should have realized that your horse doesn’t play those games, at least not anymore.
  1792.  
  1793. Nina grabs a long stiff feather on the girl’s wing, gets a solid grip on the rough keratin, and with a sudden wrenching jerk, tears it free. A wad of pink flesh sticks to the end of the quill, and the harpy thrashes in her grip, trying to leverage up the razor-sharp hooks on her feet.
  1794.  
  1795. “That was a flight feather you daddyfucking twat!” Half disbelief and half anger, the reaction of a monstergirl that’s never been in a real knockdown dragout fight.
  1796.  
  1797. “I said apologize.” The centaur repeats and tightens her grip on the bird’s throat.
  1798.  
  1799. “Get bent.” The harpy chokes out and kicks at the horse with her deadly talons.
  1800.  
  1801. Your destrier backhands the undersized collegiate crow hard across the face with a hand big enough to wrap halfway around her head. The tengu’s head snaps back and thick rivulets of ichor trickle out of her nose. Nina raises her bloody knuckles again.
  1802.  
  1803. “I.” The crack of an open palm. “Said.” The smack of a backhand. “Apologize!”
  1804.  
  1805. “I’m…I’m sorry.” The harpy mouths deliriously with blood-coated teeth. You can’t even hear it over the deluge streaming down around you.
  1806.  
  1807. Veins pulse on the horse’s neck in her anger. “Not to me.” Holding the crow pinned against the doorframe with a single hand, Nina points to you with the other. “You say it to him.”
  1808.  
  1809. Not that you don’t kind of appreciate some disproportionate petty payback, but you have much more pressing problems, and you feel like you’re catching your death out here.
  1810.  
  1811. “THAT’S ENOUGH!” You command your mare. “Come here.”
  1812.  
  1813. “If anything happens to him because of this. I’ll be back.” Your darkhorse promises the harpy. An angry snort and she throws the tengu bodily inside the house; slamming the door closed so hard behind her, she tears off the delicate handle meant for bird wings.
  1814.  
  1815. Your horse, your Nina, still comes to you, head bowed in deference. “Master, I…” Nina starts. Trisha clings to you, terrified, and you have to pick her up to stand.
  1816.  
  1817. “Not a word until I get home.” You order. “I want out of this downpour first.” The centaur needs some time to calm down before you can really talk to her. She’s too volatile right now, ramped up on all the natural ‘Do anything to save your mate’ chemicals being dumped into her body.
  1818.  
  1819. You’re not that far from home but only a couple minutes pass quietly before she speaks up.
  1820.  
  1821. “I could carry her at least.” Nina offers when she hears your pained grunts from toting the cat with your hurt back. The numbing chill in your bones makes the pain less than it probably should be.
  1822.  
  1823. Trisha’s paws crossed over the back of your neck tighten to a deathgrip, and you have to pat her on the head and hug her back to calm her down. “No. I’ll be taking care of her from here on.”
  1824.  
  1825. Your warhorse snorts disparagingly. “What if she tries to run?”
  1826.  
  1827. “She won’t.” You kiss the top of the Cheshire’s head. “She’s mine, and I’ll take care of her like I’d take care of you.”
  1828.  
  1829. “If you say so, Master.” Nina sighs. You can tell she badly wants her hand held, a little touch, a little kiss, a twitch of the ear, any bit of affection at all, but the twin growls threateningly every time the centaur comes within three steps of you and you can feel her remaining few claws sink through your wet shirt into your already scarred back.
  1830.  
  1831. Another hundred yards, and you finally collapse in the wicker chair on your porch, the Cheshire still holding you tight, eyes closed, just crying. You’re really not sure what it’s about at this point, whether because she’s hurt, because her monogamous fantasies were dashed, regret for all the missed opportunities she threw away for her games. Probably a healthy mix of all three. Unable to separate yourself from the feline, you motion Nina closer. She has to stoop to avoid the roof over the porch.
  1832.  
  1833. “You went too far. The lightest fingers in all of school, and you ruined them.” You lay your grievance out for the fact it is. You don’t really have to say it. She knows. But it’s the right way to start the conversation.
  1834.  
  1835. The eldest Van Harne girl trembles from more than the cold but she steels herself before answering, and her words are as hard as her gaze. “Look closely. I only took three, Master: one for doing this to you, one for trying to take you from me, and one for not telling me where you were until I cut off the first two.” She reaches into a pocket and pulls out her handkerchief, the middle of the white cloth stained a vibrant red. Unwrapping it, Nina presents four pieces of Trisha, razor sharp keratin encasing a core of bone. Bits of bloody purple fur, flesh and tendon stick tight to the joints. The amputation was clumsy, hackneyed; white divots in the bones show where the dull cutting tool was worked back and forth. It was a poor job, unless the point was to make it hurt as much as humanly possible.
  1836.  
  1837. “Oh, that’s right.” The way the onyx mare sneers reminds you of the old her, your bully. “It was two for trying to run me off. That was personal.”
  1838.  
  1839. “Did I overstep Master? Was this not the punishment you laid down for if she betrayed you?” There’s a challenge in the question. ‘Will you hold to the threat you made at the Nettle? Are the rules still the same?’
  1840.  
  1841. “I was only trying to make him happy.” Trisha hides in the protection of your arms. “You cut off my fucking fingers you evil heartless whore.”
  1842.  
  1843. “You shut your face you upstart cunt. Do you know what Master would do to me if I did what you did? The last time I disobeyed Master like that he…” The centaur seems to lose her voice, clicking her tongue noiselessly as the full gravity of her actions finally seems to come down on her.
  1844.  
  1845. You stroke Trisha’s ears as she sobs into your chest, your shivering bodies trying desperately to warm each other. “Please continue, Nina. I want to hear the part of the story about the last time you beat down a girl without my say so.” It doesn’t have quite the dire tone you intend with your teeth chattering like a pair of jokeshop dentures.
  1846.  
  1847. Still, Nina’s breath quickens and her eye not covered by hair widens. You can actually hear the drumbeat of her twin hearts thundering over the rain, the panic attack coming on.  “Master, no. It’s not like that.”
  1848.  
  1849. “I believe the words I used were ‘Like yesterday’s trash.’” You say calmly, impressing upon her exactly what she’s done.
  1850.  
  1851. “Please Master.” Her voice quavers with fear. Only her anger steadies her as she points accusingly at the soaked feline huddled in your arms. “She was the one who left you up there, not me. Your phone was dead. Izzy couldn’t track you. This scrawny slutty hairball could have had you chained to a radiator in some basement for all I knew. I came to save you, like I always do.” She gets down on her knees to look you in the face on the level. “Everything I do, I do for you. You know it! You know it’s the truth!”
  1852.  
  1853. The more she freaks out, the calmer your voice becomes. You know her, as she knows you. And that’s not all of it. “Don’t lie to me. You know how I don’t like that, floating just enough truth on the surface to cover the rest. Did this little Cheshire cat hurt your feelings? Is that why you hurt her so bad? To get even? Come on. Tell your Master the whole story.”
  1854.  
  1855. You try to reach up and brush aside the hair covering the right side of her face…the once silky strands stick together in a mat. You push harder and it slowly peels away as Nina winces, revealing four ragged bleeding gashes in her once-perfect coffee-toned cheek. “Oh, my poor sweet Nina.” The upper catscratch barely missed her eye. One tore completely through her cheek, and now you place the reason for her slight slur, like she’s talking with a fat tongue.
  1856.  
  1857. The massive warhorse hears the care in your voice, and it’s too much. The hard façade crumbles, the walls breaking down as she starts to bawl.  “S-she said I would be a terrible mother for your children, that I was bad for you and I should never see you again. And she said you agreed with her!” Your first horse spits a bloody gob on the ground. “How can I be bad when I love you the most? Maybe I’m not the best, but I’m sure as hell better than her.”
  1858.  
  1859. “Any woman who’d chop off someone’s fingers just because of an argument would be the shittiest mother I could imagine.” Trisha hisses lowly as she clings to you.
  1860.  
  1861. The twenty-five-hand-tall mare clenches her fists and stands up, stepping out into the storm. She looks up into the sky, letting the rain wash the tears and blood out of her eye. Tall horse ears flick irritably. The centaur deliberately ignores the catgirl and speaks only to you. “She thinks she’s so fucking cute. I can be cute too. I can be kind. But that’s not what you need, is it Master? You need strength, and I give all I have for you.” Snot mixed with her tears dribbles down her chin, and she wipes it away with a weepy snort on her bright red jacket sleeve. “I’d share you with a hundred girls, as long as you still looked at me. But she wanted me gone, you understand? She wants me gone.”
  1862.  
  1863. “Stop, Nina.” You hold up your hand to forestall anymore groveling and excuses. “Your loyalty was never…will never be in question, only your obedience. Stop the waterworks, leave and get me another phone. Have Izzy setup the new one from her backups, and bring it to me. I need time to consider your punishment. Bring your bridle and your reins.” Scratching her withers, you run your hand up her back to the wet black curtain of hair covering her torso. “And get your pretty face looked at, okay?”
  1864.  
  1865. “…Yes, Master.” She finally answers as she takes a limping step on her bad leg and hangs her head. “I love you.” She waits then, for you to say it too, and you withhold it from her. You know it’s cruel, and you know it hurts her, but she needs to learn to get a grip on herself, let go of her blasted horse pussy complex.
  1866.  
  1867. “Thanks for coming for me.” You say instead and give her a skin twitch through the uniform skirt on her broad backside.
  1868.  
  1869. “I always will.” Nina smiles depreciatingly and ambles off into the storm. You feel like you should have offered her an umbrella or let her inside to dry off or…or something. But she’s too big for either. You watch her go and you know in your heart, she’s your very best tool. But maybe you’ve been using her too hard lately. You can see her starting to chip and dull. She needs to mend her injuries and have some quality alone time with you after her punishment has been applied. It might be time to give her sister a few new responsibilities whether the crazy horse is ready or not.
  1870.  
  1871. Once the centaur wanders out of sight, you struggle out of your chair and fish the housekey out of your pocket to open the door. Trisha curls up like a common housecat in the wicker rocker, small and shivering. She refuses to budge any way but in your arms, even though her feet work just fine. You’re cold and miserable yourself, and the adrenaline crash of the last few hours is starting to drag you down like a blanket of weresheep wool. Summoning what strength you still have, you princess carry Trisha inside and make a beeline for the bathroom. At this point, it’s just all about the follow through.
  1872.  
  1873. The transient partners of the stepwhore are long gone and only the stale stench of sweaty sex lingers in the dark house.
  1874.  
  1875. But the main bathroom at least, is always spotless. The braindead thing that used to be your father keeps it that way obsessively. Sometimes you wonder what the one in the master bedroom looks like, but you’d never dare set foot back there, into the thing’s domain that feels like one big fly trap.
  1876.  
  1877. You lay Trisha in the marble tub, and turn on the warm water. It should help a bit with the shock, and tending to her will keep her out of the hospital. It would be far too late to reattach her claws anyway, too little flesh, too much bone, too few nerves. They’ve almost certainly already necrotized. She stares blankly at the fine-mosaic tile wall, tears streaming silently, her eyes and nose red.
  1878.  
  1879. The Cheshire doesn’t fight you when you remove her wet clothes, only flinching when your fingertips brush the bruises on her neck and torso from the beating she received. You wash the dirt and leaves from her, drain open, then shampoo her silky striped fur. Your hands, shaking sore from holding onto the weather vane so long, clean her paws extra carefully, remove as much of the dried blood as you can.
  1880.  
  1881. You have to leave her for just a moment to get the medkit from your room and a change of clothes for the both of you. Those bleary golden eyes look at you when you return, staring past the flesh into your soul. She stimulates that little guilty part of you her sister doesn’t, pinches a sharp pain into your chest.
  1882.  
  1883. You give her one of the heavy duty centaur painkillers Izzy left back after the full moon and get to bandaging her properly, applying antibacterial ointment to her wounds, and filling the tub with water to warm her up, sneezing and half frozen yourself. You can already feel the swelling pounding headache coming on from being out in the weather. You finish one hand before the cat speaks up in barely a mumble. You have to lean down by her fangs to pick up the slight vibrations.
  1884.  
  1885. “It’s not fair. It’s not fair. It’s not fair.” Her voice is so soft you barely hear it. “Stop. Don’t be nice to me now.” The tears drip from her chin. “Don’t you dare. I can’t take it anymore.” Feline ears flick down and back. “I should turn her in. I should do it. I’m g-gonna do it.” The sentence is punctuated with a mewling nyaachoo.
  1886.  
  1887. You kiss her on the forehead like a child. “You’d lose. Attacking another woman’s man is a far worse crime than what she did and you know it. I’d back her the whole way. What did you think would happen when a jury heard you tried to steal an engaged man? She was within her rights to kill you.”
  1888.  
  1889. The intelligent gold eyes go back to staring at the tile. “Not if Ness came forward with me.”
  1890.  
  1891. “That wasn’t Nina who hurt her.” You scratch her ears. “That was June.” A half truth, but good enough for now.
  1892.  
  1893. “You’re lying.” The small felid sniffs and draws her knees up to her chin. “You think I can’t tell?”
  1894.  
  1895. “Well where you go from here is your own choice. I’ve no cause to punish you anymore.” You go back to bandaging her up. “I tried to warn you. You’re weak Trisha. You were too weak to tell me how you felt in the beginning. You were too weak to protect your sister. You’re even too weak even take a whole dick inside you. How could you think for even a moment that you could replace not one but two stronger more-experienced women?” Trisha flinches like you hit her, but you continue. “That’s not to say you don’t have your own charms and skills. You could have a place with me, like them. We’re all weak alone. Together we’re so much stronger.”
  1896.  
  1897. A spark of anger flickers in feline eyes before drowning in tearful sadness. “You’re never going to let it go are you? Just going to keep making people suffer.”
  1898.  
  1899. You finish wrapping her up and begin to stow your supplies away. “I like things more this way.” You rub a striped ear gently. “It’s better than how they were.”
  1900.  
  1901. Trisha folds her paws over her knees and rests her head sideways to look at you. “That’s what makes me so sad. I think it even makes the stupid horse sad. If we would have known, really known, what we were doing to you…” You sneeze loudly before she can finish, and she looks relieved she doesn’t have to complete the thought. Instead the Cheshire scooches to the front of the tub. “Get in with me. Warm up some.”
  1902.  
  1903. It’s not a bad idea, and she really looks like she needs a hug. It’s a good time to move into the next phase. The twin watches you undress, sharp eyes marking every bruise and scar in the bright unforgiving light of the bathroom. She smiles a little when you pull the silk boxers from her soaked dirty uniform and hang them to dry from the towel rack for later. The other thing you kept hidden in the stack of towels finds its way into your damp hands as you slip into the hot water behind her. The small cat lays back on top of you, pressing flesh to flesh, wrapping her wet tail around your thigh as the water sloshes back into place.
  1904.  
  1905. “Let’s cover up some of those bruises.” You whisper soothingly as you bring your surprise up in your hands. The same leather Vanessa so humiliatingly buckled around your neck once settles into its new home around her sister’s purple-fingerprint-splotched creamy white throat.
  1906.  
  1907. Trisha looks down, touches the collar. Turning half around, she presses her paw to your amulet, playing with the talisman’s string. “This was supposed to be for you.”
  1908.  
  1909. “It is mine. As long as you wear it, you’re mine too.” There it is. The final play for the cat. Head or tails. Snakeyes or boxcars.
  1910.  
  1911. Trisha is silent for the longest time, head leaned back against your chest, wet fluffy ears sprouting up to tickle your cheeks. You hug her close and wait her out. When she finally speaks up it’s with a one-hundred-percent serious tone that you’ve rarely heard her use. “Three conditions. One: I will never call you Master. I’m not your minion or your slave. You’re my betrothed, and that’s the story I’ll feed my family. Unlike your uptight horses, I’m not afraid of the backlash in school about it. So holding hands, kissing in public, all that is fair play. You shouldn’t mind. That takes some of the wind out of those rumors right? Two: whatever you had against Ness is done, even if she does something stupid to you. I don’t think she’ll ever really be right in the head again, but we’ll pretend and spend time together. Three: when it comes time for a game or two you have to brighten up, play along with me a little bit. I know you can; I’ve seen you do it.”
  1912.  
  1913. She’s still gunning for a regular relationship after all. “I don’t do conditions.” Is all you think you can safely say as you absently rub one ear.
  1914.  
  1915. Trisha flips over, splashing water all over the floor and pins you beneath her matted dripping paws and dry bandages. She flashes you that trademark shit-eating grin for the first time since she was turned into a sobbing wreck. “But these are so easy, and good for you. We both know I’m worth it.” She licks your neck and nibbles your ear as she rubs her scent all over you. “There are so many things I can do for you that nobody else can. It’s a good offer. We both know you ARE going to take it.”
  1916.  
  1917. “Vanessa was right. You are the smart one, the schemer.” Even now there’s a tint of admiration to your words.
  1918.  
  1919. She doesn’t take it as a compliment. “Isn’t that what you prefer?” Anger and frustration bleed into her voice. “After all-” Her remaining claws bite deep new holes into your shoulders, drops of bright red trickling down to disperse in the steamy bath. “-you’re not interested in happy romantic dreams. For a little while I believed, I really believed you might turn around.” She takes a deep breath, bites you on the nape hard enough to leave a mark and visibly brings herself back under control. “This is all I have left. But like the psycho horse said, that’s what you need isn’t it, ISN’T IT? Well you’ll have it, and I’ll get a little of what I want in return. That’s more than fair.”
  1920.  
  1921. “And to think you were inconsolable ten minutes ago.” You trace the left side of her soft face with your hand. “You really are twin with that monster aren’t you?”
  1922.  
  1923. “Be nice to Ness. She likes you too, you know? She just doesn’t know how to express it. It’s easier to play with a toy than treat you like a guy. That’s what I did for a long time, and I ruined everything.” She folds back her ears and nestles her head under your chin. “My heart hurts more than my paws. You don’t understand how much, where I’d rather just curl up and die. If you hadn’t held me, touched me…” Her shoulders sag in resignation. “But that game’s over. I gambled and lost. Now we’re playing the next one.” The feline tilts her face up and looks at you quizzically with those amazingly intelligent cat eyes. “Maybe you’ll realize just what a dynamite catch I am and things will get serious. Maybe I’ll get sick of waiting around for you and bail. Maybe something else will happen. In the meantime, let’s just have some fun.”
  1924.  
  1925. You honestly admire that. She knows the score, and she’s going to make it work the best for her that she can. Clever, very clever. A wonderful asset, as long as you can keep her. And you will keep her, as long you possibly can. A woman like this. Things could have been different, very different, if she hadn’t been a coward, if you hadn’t just taken everything thrown your way for the longest time.
  1926.  
  1927. “You really are a special girl Trisha.” You mean every word. You don’t realize it at the time, but looking back later, you think that moment right there is why she decided to stick with you, because that came from the heart. And it turns out, that’s what counts most with the Hearts.
  1928.  
  1929. The Cheshire grinds against you, marking you as she starts to purr. “Don’t you forget it.”
  1930.  
  1931. The catgirl pulls you further down into the tub until you are laying instead of sitting, water up to your neck. She straddles you with violet knees, the water around them oscillating in furry halos around lithe muscle. Her purr grows to a roar and the water ripples like a sonic bath from the vibration. Paws knead your chest, smearing the little bit of red that continues to flow from your shoulders. It’s all nuzzling and kisses and you return them in kind, strengthening the bond. In some ways, Cheshire cats really are a wondrous kind of crazy.
  1932.  
  1933. Just when you think it might start to lead into something more, a hint of blue catches your eye. Black sclera, wreathed in soft red light, reflect in the wall mirror through a slim crack in the door. “Please, don’t let me interrupt the moment.”
  1934.  
  1935. Trisha embraces you tightly and vanishes from sight. Not gone, her lower body is still completely bounded by water, leaving gasping holes around you and put you on full frontal view for the voyeur. Her disembodied collar hangs in the air like one of those old invisible pet novelties. Too weak to jump, too upset to leave you, you don’t know. Definitely too embarrassed to show herself.
  1936.  
  1937. Your half-naked stepmother in her loosely-tied black silk robe lazily opens the door the rest of the way and leans on the frame, purposely highlighting her stunning blue hips. “I don’t care if you play hooky, but let me know so I can cover for you if the school calls.” Scrying eyes judge you and seem inordinately pleased. “I’m heading out tonight so I won’t be back until morning. There’s a little something on the kitchen counter to keep you and your little friends entertained. You’re free to take anything out of the wine rack but the Falta Oh-Three Blackwater Vineyard.”
  1938.  
  1939. She turns to leave, letting a full firm breast poke just so from the folds around her chest. “Oh, and throw this old piece of junk on that collar. It will make the story more believable.” The demon pulls one of the many rings from her fingers and tosses it to you. You fumble the little hoop of gold right into the soapy tub. “Have fun. Love you son.”
  1940.  
  1941. By the time you retrieve it, Lily is gone, and the cat has reappeared with the closing of the door. Trisha watches, fascinated, as you wash the suds and succubus stink away from a single tiny stone surrounded by delicate fleur de lis.
  1942.  
  1943. No. It’s impossible. The small ten point diamond wedding ring catches the light as you turn it in your hand, a simple little thing given by your Dad to the woman he loved when he was young and poor. You can’t believe your eyes. It’s your mother’s ring, the one she was buried with. You saw it on her hand at the viewing four years ago.  That bitch. That graverobbing septic semen sucking cuckolding whore of a cunt!
  1944.  
  1945. “Why are you shaking? What’s wrong?” The concerned catgirl prods you gently.
  1946.  
  1947. You barely even hear her over the red haze tunneling your vision.
  1948.  
  1949. “This was Mom’s, my real Mom’s.” The rage building within is off the scales. “I’ll kill her. I’ll fucking kill her, spray her with holy water until the flesh melts from her whore bones.”
  1950.  
  1951. Something in your head pops and suddenly you’re not thinking. It’s like everything is moving on its own. You’re not really sure what happens after that.
  1952.  
  1953. You wake up in bed, completely calm with a few new scratches, rolled up like a cigar in a blanket with Trisha cuddling your head to her chest. She has a few new scratches of her own, but the ring hangs where your amulet used to from her collar.
  1954.  
  1955. The feline stops stroking your hair when you come around and gives you a wan smile when she sees your eyes glued to her throat. “Does it look good on me?”
  1956.  
  1957. The hot fires of rage are gone, but that only leaves you confused and bitter and cold. “That belongs to me.”
  1958.  
  1959. The cat sighs in relief and smiles with genuine warmth this time. “Just the ring?” She brings your hand to her small naked breast over her heart. “I thought you said all this was yours?”
  1960.  
  1961. What happened? You’ve gotten pissed off before but blanking out completely? Maybe you’re going crazy.
  1962.  
  1963. Trisha shakes her head. “I’m a born expert on crazy, and that wasn’t crazy.”
  1964.  
  1965. Shit. You didn’t mean to say that out loud.
  1966.  
  1967. “You got so mad you tripped something placed on you, fouled the enchantment and started screaming bloody murder in another language.” The Cheshire puts a velvet paw pad to your forehead to check your temperature. “I heard my name and Ness and a few others. It was hard to make out with you clawing for my throat before you passed out.”
  1968.  
  1969. “I don’t know anything but English.” You half mumble as you fight your way out of the sheets with the tabby’s help.
  1970.  
  1971. “Well that’s how the old magic works right? I think I’m starting to understand why you despise your stepmom.” Trisha hands you your new boxers, only slightly damp. She plays with the ring around her collar, maybe too much. Well, she’s still a dreamer.
  1972. The feline finally looks up. “It’s a long list isn’t it?”
  1973.  
  1974. “It’s shorter than it used to be.”You say with a kiss on the cheek.
  1975.  
  1976. Tap tap tap. Loud raps on the glass of your window. The very vision of a nightmare stands there in the driving rain, large as any from an old slasher flick. A large hand wipes the grit and condensation from the pane and a hooded shadow peers into your room. Lightning flashes and you just see the face of your number one mare, and the cloak resolves into a raincoat that’s more tarp than coat. About time.
  1977.  
  1978. You swear the damp cat reclines to look as perfectly comfortable and relaxed as she possibly can in your bed, envy bait for the girl that’s too big to ever do that. You remind yourself you’ll have to work extra hard on mending the damage between them from today. You throw on the closest t-shirt within reach and head over. Nina holds up a package wrapped in a trashbag to protect it from the rain.
  1979.  
  1980. “Meet me out back under the awning.” You shout at your mare through the glass. “I’ll be there in a minute.”
  1981.  
  1982. She leaves almost immediately. Good ears on that one. You look back at Trisha. “I need to talk with her alone for a minute, set things straight about today.”
  1983.  
  1984. The Cheshire shrugs and yawns, the painkillers making her want to lay down anyway. You don’t trust it, but it won’t be the end of the world if she hears what you have to say. The pecking order has to be made very clear from the beginning. And Nina has earned her spot at the top ten times over even with her flaws.
  1985.  
  1986. The dark mare sits under the covering over your back porch, waiting obediently. You soft twitch her ear and pull down the hood, inspecting her face closely. She’s got her hair tied back again into her signature ponytail and a set of hurt pads on her face held in place with gauze and medical tape. Her hands are wrapped up pretty good, and the wounds June gave her on her arm got new dressings. With her brown skin she’s starting to look like a centaur mummy. But those liquid brown eyes are as live and sharp as ever.
  1987.  
  1988. “Have you reflected on your actions?” You start gently.
  1989.  
  1990. Your destrier can’t even speak. A single terrified tightlipped nod of the head is all that acknowledges your question. She’s obviously built up her punishment in her mind, but you doubt she’s guessed what’s really going to happen.
  1991.  
  1992. “Easy. Easy girl.” You kiss her deeply and ignore the rotten meaty copper taste of old blood in her mouth. “You did well. I was ready to skin that cat alive, but you punished her and took the fall as the bad guy.” Her sprits start to rise and you turn your soft ear twitch into a full painful wrench. “But you fouled up too. What did I tell you about deciding these sort of things on your own?”
  1993.  
  1994. “I’m sorry master.” The pain clears her head, makes her smile at the familiar pleasure. She pulls you into a marshmallowy chocolate hug against her big centaur D’s. “I won’t say she didn’t deserve it, but it wasn’t my place.”
  1995.  
  1996. “It felt good though didn’t it?” You whisper like the devil in her ear.
  1997.  
  1998. She betrays a little smile in spite of herself.
  1999.  
  2000. You brush back a bang and kiss her again. “Good, I hope you got it out of your system.”
  2001.  
  2002. Now that you’ve assured her you still care and reminded her of what she’s done, it’s time to drop the hammer. “Since regular punishment doesn’t seem to do much anymore, give me your bridle. This time when you go back to the chain, you’re not going to have the certain comfort that it’s only temporary.”
  2003.  
  2004. That grabs her attention.
  2005.  
  2006. “Master, please no.” The massive horse begs. “It’s more important than my shoes. You don’t know what it means to me.”
  2007.  
  2008. You do. This will hurt her more than fifty lashings. But she’ll come out of it stronger if she sees it through. “You won’t get it back until you’ve healed up, and you’ve shown me you deserve it again. You’re right, I need your strength. You are my right hand. So be that for me, and you will always, ALWAYS be at my side, Nina. Stop doubting. Stop listening to others. You only need to care about what I say.”
  2009.  
  2010. “If, if that is what you wish, Master.” Your very first woman hands you her favorite of her three symbols of commitment with quaking fingers, the leather and steel you crafted with your own two hands. For all its use she’s kept it immaculately maintained and polished. That’s love, nothing more and nothing less.
  2011.  
  2012. How is it that she is so loyal, but you can’t expect her to do what you say when you’re not around? You trust her with your life but not alone in a room with someone who knows how rile her up. She needs confidence in her position without getting arrogant. That will only come with time, the one thing that always seems to be in short supply lately.
  2013.  
  2014. You set the bridle on a chair and turn back the mare. She still deserves a proper show of appreciation for all her hard work, every time she’s saved you, fought for you, pulled your ass out of the fire. Unbuttoning her wet coat, you slide it down over her shoulders to rest on her horse back. She’s still shaking from more than the cold. Pulling her down by the hand, you hug the centaur in that way reserved only for lovers, family and the very best of friends. Taking an ear in your hand and twitching softly, you kiss a line across her one unmarked cheek, each peck building a suckered trail down to the crook of her neck. You take in the scent of her, sweaty and sweet with the smallest hint of equine dander to remind you she’s part horse. She never fails to stir that something in you. Even damaged and broken, Nina’s one of the most beautiful women you’ve ever met, more-so because of every wound she’s taken for you.
  2015.  
  2016. “I have every confidence in you, my Nina. When your bandages come off, you WILL prove you deserve everything I have ever given you and more.” You breathe the words into her velvety brown skin, your hands snaking down to rub the knotted muscles where soft sepia meets black hide at the top of her skirt. “I have no doubt you will always be my destrier. I know you’ll show me I’m right.” Your fingers slip around to her front and under her shirt to trace her wonderful toned stomach. “And I look forward to it.”
  2017.  
  2018. She embraces you with trembling arms as her high body heat radiates into your hands and cheeks and even through both your shirts, her big primary heart thumping along like a giant muffled drum. What grace; what strength, even now. You wrap your fingers in her long ponytail and pull her down until her tall ears are level with your lips. “I do have one present for you for today, a favor.” Your white teeth nibble the fine black fuzz. “You may ask me for one thing, anything as long as it has nothing to do with the other girls or my plans.
  2019.  
  2020. She barely waits half a moment before grabbing your face with her rough calloused hands, tilting her head up to look at you with those big brown eyes like quagmires, dragging you into their depths. “Please Master, say it like you used to, back when it was just the two of us.”
  2021.  
  2022. That. Why did it have to be that? You’re tempted to say it. You’re not even sure it would be a lie anymore. You may not have much of a heart left; what’s there is under hard jaded layers, but she hammers at them every day, trying to widen the cracks. There are a lot of little cracks now. If you weren’t so far down this path, you doubt you would choose it again. It’s so much harder to hate when you’re not alone, when there are people who love you.
  2023.  
  2024. You have to remind yourself what a good actor she is, pretend those loyal liquid brown eyes are full of lies, that she’s still your old enemy. You gather strength from the wicked part of you that still remembers the ache of broken bones, her belittling quips and derisive laughter when all you wanted was a peaceful hour at the range. The monster inside blows on the dying coals of what once was your burning hate for her. It’s enough to shore up the gaps…for now.
  2025.  
  2026. You still barely manage to say what you need to the big centaur with a straight face. “I told you during the full moon, I can’t. Vengeance has to come first or it will never come at all.” Against your better judgment, you open your mouth and add one last thought. “But know if I said it to anyone, you would be first.” The worst part is the mare doesn’t hang her head in disappointment. Nina looks at you carefully, reads you in that way that others can’t. Then she sighs like a young filly that’s been told she has to wait another day to open a present. There’s not sadness there. It’s anticipation, like she’s reaching for something and having her fingers barely brush it, knowing she only needs to stretch just a bit further the next time.
  2027.  
  2028. You have to be honest with yourself. It has to be this way. If you admitted you really loved any of them in the way the centaur wishes, you wouldn’t keep forcing them all through this. It’s not like you’re doing this for their sake like a man going off to war for his family. It’s a purely selfish vendetta. But the satisfaction it gives you, oh it’s hard to put a price on that. When you think about bringing the rest to heel, especially the worst of them all, that batwing homewrecker… when it’s done you’ll be free to pursue the kinder and gentler things. You’re going to have everything, have your cake and eat it too. You just need to juggle it all awhile longer.
  2029.  
  2030. Nina bites her lip, glances down, ears flicking unsettlingly, and seems to decide something. She gets her hooves under her and stands up to her full height, stooping under the awning. The dark mare still holds your head in those big strong hands, making you gaze up at her over her bountiful chest.
  2031.  
  2032. She quietly nickers, blushing darkly. “I suppose I’ll have to say it for the both of us. I love my Master.” The mare kisses you hard to punctuate the phrase, her long thick tongue coils around your own, entwining in a mutual practiced dance. The huge centaur holds it for a long time surrounded by no sound but the driving rain outside before she breaks away. “And he loves me.” She says it with such conviction that your heart skips a beat. “I won’t let you down again, I swear.”
  2033.  
  2034. “I know you won’t.” It’s true. She’ll work even harder now, and the more control she has over herself, the more control you have over her. You grunt and pry her hands from your face. They’re starting to crush you like a vise with her hearts so full of emotion. You take those rough tomboy palms in your own and kiss her fingertips full of broken nails from her fights. “Do you want to stay here tonight?” She’s far too big to fit, but the offer still needs to be made.
  2035.  
  2036. “I would if I could Master.” Nina looks wistfully at the sliding glass, too small to capture her whole reflection even at this distance. “I don’t like leaving you alone with that troublemaker.”
  2037.  
  2038. “She won’t be a problem anymore.” You assure your destrier.
  2039.  
  2040. “You seemed to feel that way yesterday too.” Her wry grin is about the closest you’ve seen to the stressed out horse laughing lately.
  2041.  
  2042. “Nice to see you haven’t lost your sense of humor.” You try to give her a hard lip twitch but your exhausted hands give out on you before her eyes can roll back in endorphined bliss. “I’ll be fine. Go home, lie down and get some rest. I promise I’ll do the same.”
  2043.  
  2044. She nuzzles into your spit slimed hand with her good cheek. “Just be careful around the mad cat, for me. If there’s any trouble, I’ll always come if you need me.” ‘Just like today.’ The warhorse reminds you unsaid with a look. This one, when she’s one hundred percent again, she’ll be almost unstoppable.
  2045.  
  2046. You bid her goodbye and watch her disappear once again like a specter into the storm while you step back inside. What a glorious woman. She has to be as ready to collapse as you, but she keeps on going. ‘Perseverantia ad finem optatum.’ The phrase comes unbidden, like a half-remembered dream. You shake the cold chill that creeps up your spine and slide the glass door shut.
  2047.  
  2048. You might as well check out what the royal blue whore left for you before total exhaustion claims you. A small stained wooden box takes up the center of the polished oak table. Feet crackling the semen stained carpet, you approach it cautiously, pendant gripped in hand. It’s rather unremarkable except for a few arcane symbols scribbled across the surface. A pitstop raid in the kitchen nets you a long knife to open it with. You’re not touching something that obviously came from the demon’s personal collection with your bare hands until you know exactly what it is.
  2049.  
  2050. A controlled jab of the blade pops the ornate brass catch on the front. Standing to one side you slip the knife under the lid and slowly ease it open, looking for any other surprises or mechanisms. Instead, all you find is a plain red velvet-lined space full of bottles, a smaller box and two envelopes: one plain and one sealed with your name.
  2051.  
  2052. You take the letter with your name first, cracking the ancient-style wax seal stamped with the same archaic script as the box. You open the envelope carefully, still leery of the last time you opened a stranger’s letter. The note inside is just as simple and cryptic as the rest you’ve gotten, if a bit longer.
  2053.  
  2054. ‘Congratulations to you once again my dear Anon. I’m so proud of how far you’ve come. I hope you can find it in your heart accept this small token of my esteem. Just remember, chemicals are only chemicals, and money is just money. Power comes from within.
  2055.  
  2056. Love,
  2057.  Mom’
  2058.  
  2059. You set the note aside and pull out of few of the bottles labeled in the same script as the box itself. They all look old, VERY old, and obviously from beyond the gate. You find one with a manticore spine in it. The others you’re not so sure of. There’re spines and fangs and seeds and you don’t know what suspended in various liquids and powders. Some bottles are full and others are nearly empty. Shit, you wish you’d paid closer attention to old man Kong’s lectures. The symbols look familiar somehow. Then it clicks.
  2060.  
  2061. You drop everything and dash back to the kitchen, feet skidding on the tile. Shaking hands throw open the sealed glass door to the climate-controlled wine rack by the window. The one, the one she said not to touch. Which one was it again? You yank the bottles from their honeycombs frantically: Owl Harpy, no; Audrey Diony, no; Strongspear, no; Spadetail, no. Where is it? THERE, the antique ugly handblown bottle stopped with whatever they use instead of cork oak in the monster homelands. The symbols on the label, they’re the same as those on the box. What did she call it? Water, something water.
  2062.  
  2063. You can feel it’s important. Fuck, why can’t you remember? You take a deep breath and calm yourself. This is good, you remind yourself. The demon that came from nowhere and destroyed what was left of your grieving family, who circled your father like a vulture practically since your mother’s funeral. What do you know about her: where she came from, who she is beyond an unsettlingly keen mind hidden under a façade of indiscriminate lust? This will give you a clue, a place to start making your own plans against her.
  2064.  
  2065. But she has to know. You can’t shake the feeling that Lily’s leading you around by the nose, deliberately laying all this out in front of you. And the spell, you don’t even remember her casting it. How long has it been? Was it the last full moon? Was it earlier? What did it do? What was it for? You’ll work on those answers later. Right now, you need to record everything you can to give your main centaur researcher something to work with. You snap a few pictures of the bottle with your new phone and try to put everything back in the proper place. You’ll give Cheshire one of these other wine bottles later as a little something nice, help reinforce that she’s one of the team now.
  2066.  
  2067. You head back the dining room table and repeat the process with each of the small bottles and the wax seal on your note. Then you open the second thick plain envelope with the same care as the first. The loose green textile notes almost explode out of the crinkling manila: hundred denomination bills, at least a hundred of them loose, over ten thousand in cash.
  2068.  
  2069. You check the numbers, not sequential, not copied or counterfeit at least to your untrained eyes. That selfish stingy azure demon, when did she ever give away money like this? You had to scrimp and save and work a summer job last year just for the computer that sits in your room. And most of the rest you had put back has been spent on training tools for your remuda.  All the bills bear the mark of the mint in Monstergirl City and the federal reserve there, but then so do most of the bills here in town.
  2070.  
  2071. You’ll have Izzy look at that too and give her enough to cover all the electronics she’s fronted you that were destroyed by fights and Cheshire’s…plus all the surveillance equipment. Their mother is very tight with their allowances, even though it takes a truckload of money just to feed their family and they’re pretty well off. With the pile of extra work you’re going to be dumping on the younger sister, it’s only smart to make up for it in some ways. That’s why you have to plan a good date for the weekend as well, continue to cultivate your relationship into more than how it started. Being recognized for her own merits is what she really wants, to get herself out of Nina’s shadow.
  2072.  
  2073. You shelve that train of thought for later and get back to the gift box, the very last thing inside, a small box tucked in the corner of the big one. This container is tiny enough to fit in the palm of your hand. Its barren bright white exterior is a fine ivory veneer, buffed until it reflects the dining room lights in a blurry halo. You open the gilded hinges with the greatest care and hold your breath. The shadows fall away from under the lid.
  2074.  
  2075. A plain clear ball lies on the faded red velvet. It’s just a piece of crystal, about the size of an eyeball. What kind of joke is this? You take your amulet and touch the holy vessel to the orb just in case. No reaction, nothing evil, though you’d never heard of demonic curses working on an inanimate object anyway.
  2076.  
  2077. You take a picture and decide to pick it up, see if there are any hidden markings, perhaps when held against the light. The whorls of the little grips on your fingertips touch the sphere and everything seems to stick. Your hand freezes and everything goes dark. You feel the sensation of falling a long slow descent into cottony mist…
  2078.  
  2079. The fog finally clears enough to get your bearings. Cream colored walls covered in paintings and photos, well worn red leather couch, and the scent of vanilla candles in the air. You blink your eyes, or rather you try…and nothing. Eventually they blink on their own. It’s like you’re watching through someone else. You can see but you can’t do anything. Strangely, there’s no panic as you realize you’re only along for the ride. The soft fluffy sensation surrounds you in a blanket of good feelings. You’re in your old house you haven’t seen in two years, your old human home in your old human city. But it’s not how it was when you left; it’s more how you remember it from when you were a kid.
  2080.  
  2081. Music radiates in soothing tones from the kitchen, half a decade out of date. Somehow it feels fresh and new. Your feet wander of their own accord towards the undercurrent of conversation woven into the notes.  The bright light of the kitchen throws everything into sharp relief. The two people in there look up as you enter, a woman whose face you’d almost forgotten and the other…your own.
  2082.  
  2083. You stare into those eyes, eyes that have never seen a real living breathing monstergirl and they stare right back. You open your mouth, and words that aren’t yours leave it when all you want to do is scream. The you that isn’t you starts to say something. You never have a chance to find out what. Faster than you can blink a feeling grabs you from behind, sinks its bony fingers into the back of your neck and hauls you up and out of the fog. You speed higher and higher until finally you pop like a cork to the surface where everything is black.
  2084.  
  2085. You wake up, this time for real. You can feel your fingers and toes and they obey your commands. You coax open your eyes and find yourself sprawled haphazardly over the table, the crystal ball held in a deathgrip in your hand.
  2086. The hell was that? A memory? Not yours. It seemed so real. You could smell the pancakes; you could feel the heat rolling off the stove.
  2087.  
  2088. Only then do you feel the shadow on you, see the thin toothpick of something out of the corner of your eye. Dad, closer than you’ve been to him in years, so near you can hear the soft wheeze of his breathe from his paper thin frame. The skeletal wretch looms over your form as you scramble upright, his hollow eyes staring vacantly past. It takes the crystal from you with mechanical persistence, prying it loose with his cold boney hands. The braindead thing returns the orb reverently to the ivory box. Ignoring you like you’re not even there, he turns and shuffles off to the master bedroom, taking the container with him.
  2089.  
  2090. ‘Well he can fucking have it.’ You shudder as you stuff the rest of the items back into the big wooden case. What could possibly have been the point of that? Whatever it is, you’re almost positive it’s not just a bad prank or even torture. She’s not like the cats or even the snake, not one bit. Just thinking about it, you feel naked out here in the open, even with your talisman. She’s something more dangerous than all of them, in another league entirely. You suspected for the last while, but you let your disgust cloud your opinion of her. As sickening as it is, you have to respect how much of a threat she is. What’s worse is you’re still here living in the same house.
  2091.  
  2092. You take everything to your room as quickly as you can, slam the door behind you and engage all the locks, your own panicked breath coming unconsciously and fast. Trisha raises her sleepy head from the sheets at the sound of your entry, mussed hair and fluffy ears right out of an old comfy cat commercial. She’s made herself right at home. You decide to get down to business to calm down, take control of what you can, when you can.
  2093.  
  2094. Plopping down next to the Cheshire, you pull out your phone. “You should let your family know you’re with me and alright. They have enough to worry about with one daughter in the hospital already right?”
  2095.  
  2096. The catgirl yawns and blinks at the screen for a few seconds as she comes around “Grrrrmmmm.” She mumbles half asleep. “You smell like a barn.”It takes a few more seconds before she rattles off a number for you to type in. You hand it to her when it starts to ring.  She’s so close, so warm and soft and comforting. Your body realizes you need that before the rest of you does. Your arms are already stealing around her by the time the other end of the line clicks and says hello.
  2097.  
  2098. “Hey, Mom.” The Cheshire is becoming more awake now. Her sleepy grin is growing with every second as you cuddle her close, nuzzling into her hair and rubbing her ears. “Just wanted to tell you I’m staying at my boyfriend’s place tonight. I think he has something special planned.” She has to work hard to control the purr starting to vibrate her whole body. “He just might pop the question, and if he doesn’t I might.” Not a great lie, but passable when nobody can see her.
  2099.  
  2100. You can barely eavesdrop, but you’re surprised that the old cat seems excited instead of upset or surprised. It’s unbearably cute how Trisha has to hold the phone halfway up her head to hear the response. The felid’s yellow eyes aren’t quite so sharp with all the painkillers pumping through her bloodstream, but they look happy. And that makes you a little happier. As much as you want to touch that flat tight stomach, you don’t want to harry her bruises. Instead you turn your attention to her tail, stroking it, pulling it just enough to tease her a little bit, slipping your hand downward to grope her firm smooth ass every once in awhile.
  2101.  
  2102. But mostly what you want is to feel her close to you, nose where her collar meets her neck, her shoulder resting on your chest and her head resting on your shoulder. The little monstergirl doesn’t make you feel safe like the remuda, but she makes you warm and that’s what you really need right now. You stop paying attention to the conversation and proceed to harass her with your hands, molesting every unbruised bit of her with your fingers, trying to forget what you saw earlier. You don’t recall when her sweet purrs turned to gruff bestial caterwauls, but the phone was laying on the bed with ‘call:ended’ by then.
  2103.  
  2104. Even so, you’re both so exhausted, you wind up falling asleep spooning together instead of going all the way, her legs entertwined in yours, paws tangled in your arms, and shapely tight ass butted up against your hips, holding your dick perfectly aligned between her pale cheeks through your boxers.
  2105.  
  2106. No sweet violet girl stops the nightmares though. Flickering red light, like a low fire, but leaking in from everywhere: burning burning BURNING! Your eyes fly open and you wake in a cold sweat in the middle of the night, long time since the early afternoon, but not long enough. Trisha sleeps peacefully next to you so naturally, you could get addicted to this. Only after you extract yourself from the knot of your two bodies do you notice the heat and the light. Your necklace is growing so hot it’s starting to scorch your t-shirt, and the wards placed all over your room glow a soft white.
  2107.  
  2108. Only one thing could cause this kind of reaction. Then a soft knock sounds on your bedroom door to confirm it. You take a spare ward from your nightstand and pin it to your shirt for extra protection. You focus on your anger, let it steady you, let the monster inside free to overcome the fear you can feel flooding under the doorframe like cold water.
  2109.  
  2110. You open the locks slowly and silently, leaving the chain in place. The door is barely open before the demon’s low sensual voice wafts through the crack. “What took you so long? You’re late.” Gold irises on shining black shimmer in the darkness, the color-draining gloom making her perfect blue skin an ugly dark gray.
  2111.  
  2112. “Late for what?” It might have been smarter to try to play along but you’re still tired and don’t have a clue how to lead this conversation.
  2113.  
  2114. Her cruel eyes widen slightly. She snaps her fingers to one side of your face, then the other. Then the stepwhore smiles, by god she smiles as big as the day you lost your virginity. “You’re awake? You’re really up and wide awake! You’re full of wonderful surprises my son.”
  2115.  
  2116. Why would she be so happy that you broke the spell? And you’re still not sure just what the hell it did in the first place.
  2117.  
  2118. Lily sniffs the air and looks behind you to the passed out Cheshire. “The whole house to yourself and you only had a lonely twosome, maybe threesome? I suppose you are looking a little under the weather.” The succubus crosses her arms over her custom tailored silk nightgown, conservative for her. “I’ll just ask you straight then. I think you can spare me a couple simple straight answers for all I’ve given you.”
  2119.  
  2120. You consider it for a moment, decide to make it short and insulting but not a complete slap in the face. You have no intention of repeating the full moon Q&A, and as much as you want to tell her to fuck off, the way she phrased it makes you square if you make a deal. And demons are all about making deals. “Alright, two then.” You spit.
  2121.  
  2122. “Two pieces of information for all the inestimable value of your presents, you’re a real scrooge.” Lily wraps a strand of jet black hair around her finger lewdly. “I suppose then we’ll dispense with the pleasantries. You don’t need to tell me about your girls or how your plans are going or how many times you came today. But you will answer my questions fully and honestly.” She states it for a fact slathered in sensual emphasis of every syllable as her spadetail lifts up the side of her nighty skirt.
  2123.  
  2124. She leans close to the door and the wards and amulet glow brighter. “You accepted your gift and you went through all of it. What did you find inside? Tell me about it.”
  2125.  
  2126. “Just looked like a bunch of old drugs and aphrodesiacs, money, and a cheap piece of glass.” She scrys your face intently. Fuck, why do you have to still be so bad at lying? Well, you’re not terrible but anything less than perfect wouldn’t cut it in this case.
  2127.  
  2128. “The crystal.” The telltale red glow of power touches the corners of her black sclera as she leverages it at you. The necklace begins to burn your chest from the heat leaking through your shirt.
  2129.  
  2130. “What about it? Your slave took it back before I could really get a good look at it.” You try to blend a little truth in there. It’s always the best way.
  2131.  
  2132. “Don’t play dumb with me.” Her hackles raise. Fuck your luck. Of course she’d see right through you.
  2133.  
  2134. She edges even closer, almost face-to-face with you on the other side of the door, just a little silver chain separating the two of you. “You touched the crystal, and…you saw something.” The carmine glow burns brighter.
  2135.  
  2136. “What did you see?” Darkness leaks from her like a living shadow until only two bright carnelian beacons blaze at you. You can feel it prying at your mind even as the wards around you start to curl and scorch.
  2137.  
  2138. “WHAT DID YOU SEE?” She says it again. The volume isn’t there, but the power hits you like a hammer. She’s never thrown so much at you before, even on the full moon. Everything is red, bright red and spinning. The true monster tries to reach through the door, pointed nails half an inch from your face. Then they start to smoke. You can smell the burning keratin as they edge closer. Morbid fascination locks you in place as they finally touch you and burst into flame. Only that makes her draw back. She blows out her fingers and the tide of darkness recedes to wherever it came from, the red light in her eyes dying back to a soft teasing shine.
  2139.  
  2140. The demon regains her sexy composure and gives you an evil look that freezes the very marrow of your bones. “No matter. You saw something. That’s all that really matters.”
  2141.  
  2142. You have to swallow to find your tongue to follow up on the deal. “What…what about the second question?”
  2143.  
  2144. “That’s my son, trying to complete the bargain. Not that I would ever hold that over you.” She grins at you, like a kid who taught a dog a new trick. “Here’s an easy one then. Do you think I’m pretty?”
  2145.  
  2146. “You’re ugly on the inside.” She wants truth? There’s some truth to conclude her fucking deal.
  2147.  
  2148. Lily starts to snicker in that cold mirthless way that only the truly cruel can. “You and me both, my son. Two-of-a-kind, heart and mind, forever bind.” She twitters in a little singsong that sounds more like a quote than improv as she saunters boldly back into the shadows of the cold house, giving you the practiced optimized view of her gown clinging to her thick perfectly-shaped ass all the way, just begging for you to leer.
  2149.  
  2150. You shut the door, lock it tight, and try to put the whole business out of your mind.
  2151.  
  2152. Crawling back into bed, you find your way back beside Trisha. Somehow the Cheshire stayed knocked out the whole time, painkillers probably. You hold her close and give her peaceful face a kiss before you draw the sheets tight around you and try to rest more for tomorrow. The adrenaline keeps you up for awhile, but it’s not so bad watching the cat’s ears twitch in her sleep and running your fingers through her silky striped violet hair. As the rhythm of her soft breath lulls you to rest, you think that tonight of all nights you’re glad someone was here with you. It’s a weak thought, but plans can wait for tomorrow. Even the monster inside needs its rest.
  2153.  
  2154. It’s a blissful few worry-free hours before the gray light of dawn beams through your eyelids from the bedroom window.
  2155.  
  2156. Recharged but slow to wake, your first conscious sensation is heat, heat and sweat. You passed out spooning your soft-furred skinny catgirl, the warmth of your bodies combined completely overpowering the cool night air. The fine drizzle of morning mist blows against your window as you decide to tease her awake. The horses always get up before you, so the sleepy cat is a rare opportunity for a little fun. And luckily she’s just the kind of Cheshire who likes that sort of thing.
  2157.  
  2158. You start with the big fluffy triangles of her ears, blowing on the extra puffy white tips, watching in amusement as she unconsciously moves them out of the path of the tickling breeze. But you just keep at it until she groans and curls up into a little mound just like a housecat: on her side, knees tucked into her chest, head resting on her paws and her long striped tail curled up over the top to just about tickle her nose.
  2159.  
  2160. You apply your hands to her next, luxuriating in the band of tufted fur that marks the end of the hair on her legs and the beginning of her silky-smooth porcelain skin like the tops of violet and black thighhighs. Working your way slowly upward over the toned heart shape of her ass, you knead the powerful leaping muscles. She could have something truly great back here if she just had a little softness instead of being a scrawny alley cat.
  2161.  
  2162. “Ness, for the last time I’m not telling you about my first time. You better knock it off right now or I’m gonna…” The Cheshire mumbles before she realizes the digits molesting her are fingers instead of paws, that there’s a full rick of morning wood pressing up against her muscled butt.
  2163.  
  2164. That’s when you goose her with a double underarm tickle attack.
  2165.  
  2166. “NYAAAHHHH!” There’s a surprised shout, a snap and a crash as the tabby teleports off the bed and lands hard on the carpeted floor.
  2167.  
  2168. A disheveled dazed purple-striped mess looks up at you when you poke your head over the mattress to check on her. “Dammit!” The lithe Cheshire laughs and pops up on top of you. “I was going to wake you up with a good morning blowjob. I always wanted to try that. Good one though.”
  2169.  
  2170. Her happy fanged visage hangs barely an inch from yours, grin so wide it almost touches her ears, purr roaring with every breath. You smell your own shampoo in her hair. You can’t help but think that she’s really yours, the first time you can really say that for certain about anyone since Nina. Trisha really seems happy, and despite yourself, it’s contagious. “Well there’s always tomorrow.” You say as wrap your arms behind her neck, kiss those sweet pink lips and roll over until you’re on top.
  2171.  
  2172. “Oh, is that an invitation for tonight?” The small felid wraps her own paws around your neck and pulls past your lips to whisper sensually in your ear. “I’d love to, but I’m still going to get you back for this morning.”
  2173.  
  2174. “As long as it doesn’t mess with my plans, you’re welcome to try.” You reply as you rub your morning stubble in her almost lavender striped hair.
  2175.  
  2176. The soft smooth pads of a bandaged paw press over your underwear, caress your member through the exquisite patterned silk.  “That’s the sprit.” Her delicate fangs bare as she sounds her husky yowl of desire. The horny cat rubs her slightly musky oil from her cheek glands, like small twin symmetrical beauty marks, all over the side of your face and your neck. Her paws release your neck and dip under your shoulders as she rubs her scent from the glands in her wrists all over your back. The feline even locks her legs around yours as she does the same with the glands on her ankles.
  2177.  
  2178. The intent is obvious. ‘Mine Mine Mine Mine Mine MINE’ more than she’s ever done it before. Even as a human you can smell it, the raw claiming scent of the catgirl laid on you like a coat of paint. You must reek like a guy soaked in a bottle of cologne to any monstergirl with a good nose. When she’s done, the young Cheshire pushes you upright gently, careful of her bandaged paws, and reaches for your boxers. You let her slide them off and toss them over the back of your desk chair.
  2179.  
  2180. Her bright golden eyes gleam with lust at the sight of you, hard and ready to play. Then you see them glance over to the alarm clock, gauging how much time you have for fun before you have to get going. You pull her chin up to look at you. “There’s long enough for one round. Let’s make sure it satisfies.”
  2181.  
  2182. She nods and reaches for you with her damaged paws. Stopping her short, you force her stay put while you retrieve a few things from the locked drawer of your toybox.
  2183.  
  2184. The inexperienced pussycat shifts uncomfortably at the sight of vibrators, remotes, cords and tape.  Unlike the others, you’ll ease her into the depths of total perversion. It will be gentling for this one. Her delicate features, her porcelain white skin and small frame, she’s like a little doll that will break if you treat it roughly. Well you DID already break one that way.  But you’re not afraid to admit you have a bit of a softspot for the kitty. She’s always required more persuasion than punishment unless it comes to sharing, but then so do most. Anything cruel, you can make Nina do like the warhorse already has. Your number one will take the blame gladly. The hard cold hate you can save for the twin and the snake and the rest.
  2185.  
  2186. Trisha winces at the brush of your fingers against a bruise while taping vibrating eggs to her small delicate pink nipples.
  2187.  
  2188. “Softly, lover. I’m still tender.” Your sex kitten mews. You quiet her with a kiss, and her comforting rumble roars to new heights as she cautiously explores your mouth with the alien texture of her tongue.
  2189.  
  2190. The vibes weigh heavy on the peaks of her little perky A’s. You turn them on and she goes silent, the room silent except for the buzz of the weighted motors. Trisha not talking, that takes something special. Her ears are next, the smallest little eggs you have there, the heavier cartilage than the horses in the more robust structure letting you try there for the first time without them bending over painfully. Her purr blends with the sound of the motors then starts to crack, a little tongue-clicking trill taking its place. It’s difficult to describe the difference you hear, and you wouldn’t even notice it if you hadn’t laid with her before. It’s still a caterwaul but not so rough, less primal, more playful and sweet. You secure the last motor right above the base of her tail where she likes to be rubbed. The reaction when you turn that one up is instantaneous. Trisha’s long striped tail stands straight up liked a rod. With a gasp, she falls to her paws on the mattress, moaning and pointing her ass at you.
  2191.  
  2192. The Cheshire dips her back and spreads her knees, working her rear razor claws into the sheets and presenting the absolute maximum curve of her round spankable butt to you. The cat hunkers down and spreads herself even more for easier access, drifting her hips side-to-side, hypnotically inviting you.
  2193.  
  2194. She puts on such a display, you’re almost mesmerized by the thin rivulets of want spilling from her naked pussy. It drips into her fine trimmed violet bush, her fur and onto the bed, her hot mound dark pink from animalistic desire, her vulva even more swollen than you remember her twin’s on the night of the full moon.
  2195.  
  2196. Those bright golden eyes look back at you expectantly, begging wordlessly with her mewling call for her mate. She’s not just crying for dick like Vanessa would, she’s asking for you specifically. She wants your hands on her paws, your lips on her neck, your hips pressed against hers, your dick and nobody else’s filling her aching pussy. That single-minded passion makes you lust for her in return, your own desire feeding the cycle as she senses your arousal and presses for what every instinct tells her she needs more than water or air.
  2197.  
  2198. And why shouldn’t you revel in having a beautiful monstergirl sharing your bed? Let the rest of the house have to listen to you fuck someone first thing in the morning for a change. Things that belong to you are yours to do with as you please. You need to make the cat feel that she made the right choice, indulge her a bit, let her look from her mangled paws to the wedding ring hanging from her neck and find it a fair trade.
  2199.  
  2200. She wasn’t wrong to call it a game, and you need to play your part right. The stakes are too high not to. She is a Cheshire, and every Cheshire cat you’ve ever seen almost never stops playing. You should count yourself lucky. Compared to the rest, she’s downright down-to-earth. Trisha actually thinks about how what she does affects people, whether she used to pretend to ignore it or not, she was at least aware. It could be worse. Vanessa knows and just doesn’t give a damn.
  2201.  
  2202. 'Well, it’s not like you mind so much in this case.’ You think to yourself. Your growing desire is more than willing to take the reins away from thought and reason and dive in head first.
  2203.  
  2204. Trisha moans as you mount her from behind. Her fluffy tail rubs against your chest as she welcomes you, forcing your ridged cock inside her one-size-too-small feline pussy. The queen’s blissful meow is a far cry from the pain of her first time as the undulating muscles ripple while you stretch her insides to fit, so hot, so tight.
  2205.  
  2206. You start slow, working her open all the way, letting her slick secretions lubricate the cramped space. She’s completely overflowing, the excess pouring down her legs and your shaft, dribbling into the sheets.
  2207.  
  2208. The tabby makes an inarticulate whining sound and claws her messy hair to one side, exposing the soft white flesh of her nape, wriggling her hips. She really is cute when she begs like that. You shove her shoulders down into the mattress, and lean over on top, lips attacking her shoulders and back. Trisha forces her ass up high as she tries futily to take you in all the way and bends you both into the magic mountain position.
  2209.  
  2210. The muscles in her lithe back tense and twitch with every thrust even as her insides start to relax into the gliding piston rhythm of mating. It’s a shame she’s too shallow to let your hips slap against those firm buns. Then again, there’s another hole that might let you, once you stretch it enough to fit. This is still just the beginning of Trisha’s training. You can’t even imagine how magnificent she’ll be once she’s tamed.
  2211.  
  2212. The thought must have put a stupid smile on your face because Trisha turns around and bumps you with her head, nips at your cheeks with tiny fangs.
  2213.  
  2214. “I feel pretty great too.” The Cheshire growls huskily. “But don’t let up with the kissing. It’s my favorite part.”
  2215.  
  2216. “I aim to please.” You push her down with one hand and leave a bright red hickey on that flat ticklish stretch of creamy skin where a human’s ears would be behind her jaw. The felid caterwauls in delight, her tongue poking from betwixt her lips, her pussy coiling around you as you kiss her again and time it to a hard thrust. “Only don’t think to tell me what to do.” Then you intertwine your fingers with a fluffy striped paw, brushing the bandages that need changing.  “I’d think you’d learned that already.”
  2217.  
  2218. If it was any other girl you’d squeeze, remind her with some fresh stabbing pain over the ache she’s gotten used to. Instead, you hold her hand as Trisha moans and stabs her nails even deeper into the bed to brace herself as you increase the pace. The talk stops as you both really get into it, the feline clawing even into the mattress as she mews that curious musical rumble from her chest that’s not quite the usual caterwaul. It’s all too easy to imagine yourself covered in as many scars as her father one day if she doesn’t learn some better self-control.
  2219.  
  2220. You immerse yourself in her, the dichotomy of frailty and strength that’s only found in smaller monstergirls. Her twitchy tail tickling your belly, her wriggling hip movements matching your own timing and her pleased sensual moans all signal the same for the slim cat as well. Damn she feels too good even if she’s a little too small and tight. Well it is just an early morning quicky. No need to drag it out too long or you’ll be late.
  2221.  
  2222. “You’re getting…bigger.” Trisha pants and nuzzles you lovingly as her pussy sucks and pulses on your dick, its finely-ribbed texture clutching at the corona of your glans as you pull back then plunge back in. The Cheshire licks you sweetly with her rough tongue, a little drool leaking down her cheeks.  “You cumming? Just a little more, and me too.”
  2223.  
  2224. That desperation for satisfaction makes you want to play with her just a little bit more. “Where do you want it?”
  2225.  
  2226. “In…Inside!” The catgirl demands loud enough for half the house to hear.
  2227.  
  2228. You stop moving and blow on her fluffy tufted ears. “Then say ‘I want it inside, Master’.”
  2229.  
  2230. Your slim feline squirms impatiently under you and turns her head back far enough to shoot you an annoyed look. “Don’t be an ass.”
  2231.  
  2232. “Then I guess I’ll just have to spray it all over your back…” You whisper as your ram your piston as deep as it will go, her whole cunt clenching like a press when you mash into her cervix. “…and rub it in, make you reek like my cum all day.”
  2233.  
  2234. “I can live with that.” Trisha growls and leverages herself up on her paws, bucking you off her back into regular doggystyle where she can move her hips to fuck you back more freely.
  2235.  
  2236. Watching her attack you so enthusiastically from such a bottom position, you can’t resist a sharp redhanded spank to that supple heart-shaped butt as she backs into you. “You’re a dirty girl, sweetheart.”
  2237.  
  2238. Something changes in her posture the second you say that. A stomach turning snap later and you’re on your back, doggy-style inverted into reverse cowgirl. The Cheshire trills her hi-caterwaul happily as she rides you hard, bouncing her hips up and down, stroking your rod, her strong legs powering an incredible frenetic pace. The pussycat flashes you a wild predatory grin when she hears you moan under the assault, the ring rattling on her collar. Her slick pussy drips into your lap, beads of sweat form on her smooth back. She tightens up and gyrates those curvy hips down, countering her increased resistance inside with pure brute force, like she’s fighting her own body to draw in every last millimeter of your shaft she can. She doesn’t conceal that feral thrill as she brings you to the very edge, rumpling your torn sheets, stuffing beginning to poke out from your slashed mattress as the bed frame creaks under her assault.
  2239.  
  2240. The catgirl thrums ecstatically when she feels you at your limit, ready to blow, her tail teasing across your chest when she finally shudders at the apex of pleasure. Her ears flatten and her eyes roll back as your hips buck in time to her twitching soppy cunt, spilling a torrent of your thick starch-white seed inside her while she pulls off that rare timing of coming at the exact same time. The tabby does her absolute utmost to wring out every last drop, bracing her paws on your shins to hold herself up until she regains the strength in her legs.
  2241.  
  2242. That girl really really needed a fuck, mind and body.
  2243.  
  2244. When Trisha regains her composure, she turns to face you, revealing the black and blue bruise-marbled torso she tried to spare from your sight during sex. Somewhat guiltily, she grabs a tattered sheet and wraps it around you both as she snuggles up to your side. Her slight perky chest rumbles her ‘cuddle me’ kitty cat comfort sound, the felid smiling as she rubs her sweaty body against you, covering you in kisses and steeping you in her scent.
  2245.  
  2246. “You liked when I called you sweetheart.” You wonder out loud as the lithe feline starts to give you a light tongue bath.
  2247.  
  2248. Trisha pauses and her cheeks go from afterglow rosy to bright red. “It’s not a big deal.” The Cheshire mutters. “It’s just something used between people in my family: parents and daughters…husbands and wives.” The still somewhat innocent girl pauses awkwardly. “Sweet Heart, get it? You’ve heard it before.”
  2249.  
  2250. You can’t help but start to chuckle a little at her shyness after giving you that rough morning ride. She liplocks you to shut you up, covering her embarrassment with aggression while her throaty rumble massages every inch of you she touches. You brush her marvel of striped violet hair and let her needy lips seek yours until you can pry yourself loose and catch your breath.
  2251.  
  2252. “Then I’ll be sure to call you sweetheart all the time.” You pat her head as she purrs, gorgeous golden eyes watching your every move, her tail beginning to twitch like she’s going to pounce.  
  2253.  
  2254. “You’re incorrigible. I’d like that.” Trisha kisses you almost chastely on the cheek. Damn her fangs look big when she grins that wide. “Hey, let’s do it again.”
  2255.  
  2256. You play with the ring on her collar, pretending to think it over. “Can’t skip out today. We’ve got work to do, even more since we didn’t get any done yesterday.”
  2257.  
  2258. The tabby is not so easily dissuaded. A bandaged paw reaches down to your hot sticky cock basted in her juices. “You say that but you’re still so hard.” Sharp teeth nip at your ear as the first stutter of a caterwaul escapes her pink lips. “I know you want it too. Just say the word, we’ll make it a three day weekend.”
  2259.  
  2260. “Not right now, sweetheart. It’s time to get up.” You’re not completely sure why, but she still pushes all the right buttons to make you want to spoil her right now, just a little. You have to shut the feeling down hard. Maybe that urge is only vanity. She’s probably the only girl in your stable who remembers all of who you were, who studied you, your habits, your hobbies, your likes and dislikes, even if it was to torment you.
  2261.  
  2262. It seems lately even you have started to forget. When was the last time you checked your email for anything from anyone but Izzy? When was the last time you watched your favorite movie…come to think of it what WAS your favorite movie? It’s like you shunted it away, unimportant and irrelevant to the job at hand. All you’ve done is eat, sleep and breathe vengeance and juggle women. You miss the feel of a bow in your hand, the snap of the bowstring from your fingertips, the whistle of the arrow.
  2263.  
  2264. Trisha takes advantage of your momentary lapse to slink down to your lap unseen, leaning over your waist, her tail tip twitching behind her folded fluffy legs. The cat gives you that irritatingly-smug shit-eating grin while she presses her budding breasts together with soft paws and entraps your growing erection in the middle of smooth white skin, velvetine pink pads, and that silky black and violet fur.
  2265.  
  2266. Before she can pressure you into another round, you snag one of the sensitive guard hairs sprouting from deep in her ear and give it a painful tug. “Stop fooling around and listen to me. Cut it out with the paizuri. It’s time to go to school.”
  2267.  
  2268. “How could I be giving you paizuri? I don’t have the tits for that.” That infuriating grin plasters to the Cheshire’s face like a mask, taunting you. “But you’re still curling your toes to a flat cat rubbing her chest on you. Do you like me that much?” Coyly, she licks the tip of your cock with her rough tongue. “You want me to stop? You better tell me just what it is I’m doing that I need to stop. I’ll give you a hint. Starts with an ‘N’.”
  2269.  
  2270. This time you poke a bruise and she has to stifle a surprised hiss. “Save the games for tonight. Get your job done, and I’ll make sure you can’t walk straight in the morning.”
  2271.  
  2272. A crack and she’s on top of you, butt grinding against your erection, both arms draped over your neck as she nestles into your chest. “Say it with a smile lover, would you kindly?” The wildcat meows.
  2273.  
  2274. You tilt up her delicate chin, make her look you dead in the eye. “I’ll wreck your ass so hard, you’ll be picking up the pieces for a week.”
  2275.  
  2276. “I’d prefer something gentler, softer-” Trisha thrums huskily and shoves her forehead against yours, the light tinkle of gold on steel ringing from her collar. “-more intimate.” She follows up by rubbing your nose with an awkward Eskimo kiss. The Cheshire still tries to project that confidence even as you feel her trembling over her rumbling breath. She’s exuding that same raw emotion as she did once before. The thought echoes back ‘Don’t you even want to try?’. She just does not give up. It makes her impetuous, but that’s attractive in her own way, and you meet her halfway with a warm hug.
  2277.  
  2278. Breakfast is a mostly silent affair. Trisha laps her coffee with a silly fanged grin, her tan uniform jacket over a borrowed top from you and her rumpled pleated skirt. “Boyfriend shirt.” She had declared proudly when she took the dress shirt from the laundry pile, burying her face in the fabric to inhale the scent. Her capacity to behave like that even after everything that happened yesterday reminds you strongly of her twin, and not in a way that puts you at ease. She’s sweet and kind but she’s mad, even more than the palfrey, maybe even more than Vanessa.
  2279.  
  2280. The tabby fades into the background of your concerns when your father hands you a plate of pancakes with that vacant expression, and your mind flashes to yesterday. The smell, the taste is the same. You search for any sign of the divine spark in his eyes, hopeful for just a moment that today might be different, that you might see something. It’s the same old bitter disappointment as he moves like a limp puppet on jerky strings, thousand yard stare focused on nothing. Well, what did you really expect? If there’s anything left of the old man, it’s locked away far beyond your reach.
  2281.  
  2282. The slutcubus is worse than either of the others, looking you over with downright approval, stripping you with her gaze like a complete creep. The terrifying part is she’s almost humming with excitement, a far cry from the slothful deliberately languid sex idol that clawed her way into the hole left in your family. She even tries to engage Trisha in some meaningless happy small talk before complimenting the cat on getting you to do something so wonderfully perverted first thing in the morning. But she doesn’t give a damn about the Cheshire. It’s that same false smile that lures every poor sap to her honeypot. No, those yellow irises framed in pitch black keep sliding back to you. You can feel her eyes radiating red lust every time you look away for a bite or take a sip of coffee. Every instinct you have screams to run. It spurs you to leave as soon as possible, Trisha scrabbling to catch up.
  2283.  
  2284. The Cheshire sticks to you like glue the whole way through the misty morning fog, arm hooked in yours, leaning her head on your shoulder when you have to stop at intersections, puffing out her slight chest proudly to show off her collar whenever you cross other students’ paths.
  2285.  
  2286. You don’t know what the other monstergirls are even whispering about anymore behind their hands and claws. But the feline hears…and clutches you tighter, claims you even more thoroughly by rubbing on your clean uniform. She’s gone all in on the phony engagement front, but her clingy ‘Step off. This one’s taken!’ attitude in front of the others doesn’t seem to be faked much, if at all. She’s back to being playful, but that makes her hard to read again. Trisha’s face blushes a bright shade of crimson and she folds down her ears when she catches you staring.
  2287.  
  2288. “This is kind of embarrassing. They’re talking about us.” The catgirl mumbles.
  2289.  
  2290. “I can see that.” You mutter back while you keep an eye on the friendly purple thief, shifting your backpack to try to relieve the dull ache in the base of your spine that’s making your stuffy sinuses seem like a joy. You were a little too rambunctious this morning after carrying her yesterday with your hurt back. Trisha exudes nothing but energy and sunshine but you know she has to be hurting worse than you. She didn’t even take any painkillers this morning.
  2291.  
  2292. “No, not that. It’s about yesterday. Let me see your phone for a second.” You don’t know why she even asks when the feline has already picked your pocket. She’s too clumsy with three fully working fingers on either paw to get it past you anymore. The young Heart fights the touchscreen for minutes with pads three times as big as human fingers before she navigates to what she wants to show you, dredged up from a popular photographer’s online album.
  2293.  
  2294. It’s a picture of you, cold and miserable and tired, on a roof in a storm. It’s amazingly in focus for how bad the rain was coming down. Damn, you look like crap. Typical, just typical monstergirl, always watching, never doing jack unless push comes to shove. Laws are crushingly unforgiving about tampering with an official relationship, marriage or engagement or betrothal, if it can be proven. But the average monstergirl is still conditioned to empathize with a guy having a hard time. Saving a boy from a bad girlfriend because it wasn’t meant-to-be is one of the most popular power fantasies for young teens and bugaboos. That’s why you’re not surprised to see half a thousand comments on there. A guy from an expensive private school in town, hung out to dry, looking like he needs a hug, stuck there by someone who they can easily imagine doesn’t appreciate him, that particular fantasy hits all the high notes for them. In a society where romance is idolized even beyond all the soulmate stuff that was around before monstergirls, the obsession with relationship minutia by the fairer sex is worse than the old stories of middle-aged women with housefuls of pulp romance novels.
  2295.  
  2296. If you were smarter and more outgoing back in the beginning, you would have worked that angle years ago at a library or model shop or bookstore or something. Surely you could have found a nice girl and some good friends that way, instead of passively hoping for things to get better at school. Passive, reactive, afraid of venturing out of your comfort zone, you shared those flaws in common with all the women working for you now. But sometimes too late is just too late, and you have to work with what you have.
  2297.  
  2298. The rest of the way to school is uneventful. That is other than the strange looks and one huge croc of a girl, certainly not from your school, giving the cat a dirty glare, daring to put her claws on your shoulder and ask if you’re alright. If the viper made you popular in the worst way with her rumors, this has made you a fifteen minute celebrity. That ring on the Cheshire’s collar winds up being a godsend after all, as effective a ward against the curious as your necklace is against demons. A little flash of gold sends all but the boldest girls scurrying.
  2299.  
  2300. The blind in the game raises once classes start. If it was damn hard to find a private moment before, it’s near impossible now. June’s conspicuously empty desk looms like a specter and Ruby looks like she’s ready to gut you herself just an arm’s reach away. Well, they were friends, sort of. The real surprise is Trisha getting called to the office for something unspecified. She brushes by you as she leaves, trailing her arm over your shoulder, making everyone stare. Brazen, far too brazen. Every other man in class is taken too since you broke the serpent’s hold on her territory, but they and their girlfriends know better than to rub it in everyone’s faces. Even the horses know that. They understand the concepts of modesty and shame. But that mad cat practically taunts them, even meeting the literally fuming salamander’s gaze and giving her a confident mocking grin.
  2301.  
  2302. Damn you Trisha, you’re not the one who has to deal with the fallout of this peacocking. And then there’s the remaining single girls, all fifteen of them, realizing that you had a quality working dick all this time and they were tricked. You can almost hear the sound of them kicking themselves for not making a move on you or the other few guys sooner. They’re not too happy to learn the hard truth that the guaranteed husband so many students were sold on only exists for the lucky few and not for all. It’s the same lesson those desperate seniors who cornered you the other day still had so much trouble accepting.
  2303.  
  2304. The favored Cheshire twin still doesn’t return by the bell ending first period. She’s probably cutting class and cooking up something. The tabby made very clear in her body language that she really didn’t want to come today anyway. That doesn’t help things when you’re still avoiding the whispers and gazes of all the monsters commenting amongst themselves on your short-lived e-celebrity status. It’s even a hassle just opening the combination lock on your assigned locker next to a freshman kitsune that you could swear was the one that got ahold of one of your classmates during the full moon. But without Trisha or your remuda nearby, there’s nobody to stand in front of the first and second most troublesome bitch on your list.
  2305.  
  2306. Her shadow falls over the dark confines of your personal storage space, moments after you fight the lock open. Ruby surges forward to take advantage of your moment of vulnerability like she’s always had an instinct for. The timid civilized students around you don’t raise a hand or a word against her as the fire lizard locks her claws around your arm and drags you bodily toward the girl’s bathroom. Manicured claws click on the hall linoleum as the crowd parts out of the way with their heads down. That’s business as usual at least. Even now, this place is filled with cowards who won’t make it their business to help someone like you. Why should they and risk their chance at married bliss with someone else and glowing recommendations to their university of choice in the monster city states?
  2307.  
  2308. The heavy restroom door bangs open with a reptilian grunt. Wide doe eyes meet your own from a couple female students at the sinks, stunned to inaction. Ruby clears the place with a raspy monitor hiss and a look that promises to burn to the ground anyone who doesn’t get out immediately. Fluff and feathers and exoskeletons skitter and scuttle past with barely a pause. One young hairy freshman arachne opens her mouth to say something and her werewolf friend drags her out by the pedipalps. Well, the more things change, the more they stay the same.
  2309.  
  2310. Satisfied with her muscle-enforced privacy, Ruby drags you to the back by the large species stalls. You can’t help but let out an “Oomph” as the salamander pins your shoulders to the tile wall. Either side of you collarbone pops painfully under the pressure as she leans in, her reeking breath hot and nasty on your cheeks. The bullying bitch is colossally strong for her size. That redheaded skink is the same height as you almost to the millimeter, but she could give the cottonmouth a run for her money, probably even edge her out in a fair fight.
  2311.  
  2312. Ruby’s smoldering red eyes loom large as she gets uncomfortably right up close in your face. The reptile’s eyes burn with a pure flame, the true flickering of a fire unlike the dark light of the succubus. Her dark rosy lips part and she says one word. “Talk.”
  2313.  
  2314. It’s so rare, her asking for anything at all. Usually, it’s punch, kick, swirly, wet Willy, Indian burn, purple nurple, and whatever other non-sexual humiliating thing the lizard can think of, quiet and miserable for you, a little smile touching her ruby red painted lips when you cry out in pain like a punishment justly applied.
  2315.  
  2316. Sweat streams down your face in the presence of her overwhelming heat, a natural oven cooking you slowly. The dancing embers in her irises entrance you, pulling at that instinct every man has to stare into a fire, watch it burn, even as it threatens to consume him. She gives you a shake, too impatient for even a few seconds of delay. Call it cliché but she’s a hothead, especially when she’s this angry. And well, you’ve never brought out the best in her. The roiling heat bakes your face, the same source of her own red-brown fire-tanned skin. “Don’t play stupid. You and June. What did you do to her? And don’t lie.”
  2317.  
  2318. This bitch, concerned with anything but herself? No, it can’t be anything other than curiosity. In the face of such miserable heat, you fall back on your old entrenched habits.
  2319.  
  2320. “I wish I could. But I’m afraid the truth is that’s between me and her and no one else.” You tell her evenly. Cool and calm is the only way you know to deal with this one. The salamander always acts like you’ve caused her an infinite amount of frustration over some personal affront, but you’ve never been able to figure out what. Asking sure never helped. She’s about the only monster that’s been on your case since day one. She had the honor of bestowing your first punch to the gut, your first split lip, first second degree burn, the list goes on. But with a teacher for a mother, she’s also one of the most untouchable, especially since she only harries you and is close to a model student otherwise.
  2321.  
  2322. At least you have your original anti-bully system to fall back on. You’ll keep a straight face, she’ll shove you around a little, maybe something a little worse. Then she’ll lose interest. The salamander blood won’t hit its flashpoint without a real fight.
  2323.  
  2324. But today is not the usual. Instead, she smells you, makes a disgusted face and pats you down one-handed as she crushes you to the wall. Claws reach into your jacket and retrieve your new phone. Come on you fucking bitch. Can’t you give it a rest just once? There’s a crackling tinkle of breaking glass as she folds the phone around her thumb and drops the collection of broken plastic and silicon at your feet. God’s sake, are you going to have to start keeping half a dozen spares around like you do clothes? That’s not a terrible idea, if you can get some a couple generations behind that can still do the job for cheap. Disposables won’t have the features you need.
  2325.  
  2326. Your nascent backup plans shatter with a hard tap of your head against the intricate mosaic that makes up the bathroom wall. Ruby doesn’t let you indulge even a moment of distraction, her whole body feeding the magical flames that envelope her body. For her, she treats every instant with you like standing knee deep in old garbage. You only have to look in her eyes to know she’s not going to let you enjoy this loathsome conversation any more than her.
  2327.  
  2328. Ruby breathes deeply, and simmers threateningly like a bubbling caldera. The unbearable heat washes over you as you sense a beating coming on, years of ingrained instinct bracing you against the incoming flurry of pain. The reptile’s right claw raises in a languid habitual ready pose. You wait for the blow to come.
  2329.  
  2330. You wait, and you wait.
  2331.  
  2332. Uncharacteristically, Ruby stays her hand. “Tuum negotium vestrum.” ‘Your business is your own.’ The salamander slips back into that way of talking that her mother uses when she’s incredibly excited or angry, an archaic form of the common language of the gatelands that you can barely understand. “Quod numquam in vita sua aliquem determinatum quando surrexit. Ego timeo rationem.” ‘I’ve never seen someone so determined as June was when she left. If I were you, I’d fear her reckoning.’ The scaly grip slackens. The manicured claws slip from your neck.
  2333.  
  2334. With that, the salamander lets you go. “That's it?” You wonder half-dazed. An angry impotent warning? That’s not like her at all. Where’s the shooting sharp pain of measured blows, the harsh tone of derision?
  2335.  
  2336. Ruby sniffs. “Non spectant ad me. Et extendam manum meam super hominem nunquam promisit. Donec nunc timiditas.” ‘Don’t stare. I would never lay my hands on a taken man. Begone from my sight, you coward.’ Then you realize, it’s her way of washing her claws of you, her way of saying she’s done. She’s a rotten wannabe dragon, but she’s stuffier about old traditions than Nina. Whether it’s the cat’s ring or the snake said something before she left, she understands that you’re labeled hands off. You really wish some days that you paid more attention to the nuance in your language classes, your own anglocentric culture so different from those beyond the gate, even the so-called natives of the Little Monster City. Maybe then you could understand the finer points of what she’s saying. It has the feel of an ancient quote of a knight, from long before the Contact War, noble and revered in history.
  2337.  
  2338. And you hate the bitch for it, acting like she’s honorable and chivalrous when she’s the same whore that would kick you in the ribs when you’re down on the ground begging for mercy.
  2339.  
  2340. Ruby’s mother even teaches monster/human relations. It’s almost inconceivable that her idea of how to treat a man is something from a century before the Contact War. But you know that has to come from home from that two-faced painted whore. It’s nauseating, and the baking heat just makes you feel sicker. Still, that’s a fight for another day. Her time will come. You bet she’ll make a different face with a heaping dose of June’s venom pumping through her veins, or maybe something nastier from the variety giftbox of horrors. She may be done with you, but you swear, you are far from done with her.
  2341.  
  2342. Your twisted and vile thoughts stew as the salamander stares you down, baking you like a casserole in her natural heat. The silence stretches for what seems like an eternity, that inexplicable deeply personal hate sizzling as she tries to control herself. You can sense her just itching for you to smart off, any excuse at all to really rough you up. The malevolent lizard should be in some kind of martial arts club, anything to direct this anger away from you. Even then, you’re not sure if she wouldn’t just use you as a punching bag or for practicing new moves. Her silent vexed obsession isn’t sexual, you’re positive of that, but it’s terribly powerful nonetheless.
  2343.  
  2344. Just when you’re sure her resolve is going to crack and you’re going to get a new layer of black and blue applied over the old bruises, you hear a ruckus outside, something big moving fast in the hallway. Surprised angry shouts penetrate into the washroom followed by the the metallic thunk of students crashing into lockers to get out of the way as the thundering sound draws near. Even the salamander turns her head in curious confusion just in time for a nasty surprise.
  2345.  
  2346. The bathroom door slams open with a thud followed by the click of steel horseshoes on linoleum. Nina strides in gracefully in all her glory, her ruffled appearance settling almost naturally into her carefully projected image of beauty and power. A soft white turtleneck covers most of her bandages under her carmine uniform jacket, and her long raven hair is let down and combed in the farah style to hide the mauled part of her face. Painstakingly applied makeup hides the rest of her lesser bruises and scratches. Her ears stand at alert attention. She looks rested, stronger, and not a little dolled up.
  2347.  
  2348. It’s hard not to assess your centaur. What a typical Nina way to deal with any threat to her right hand position when the option of force is removed, whether it’s her sister or the Cheshire or anything else. She tries to make herself better rather than cutting the competition down. Such admirable efforts will always force your attention. Your warhorse is stunning to behold, exuding that magnificent strength that makes her unique, a strength that’s more than just muscle. You are not the least bit ashamed to acknowledge it. She wouldn’t be your destrier otherwise.
  2349.  
  2350. “Mas-Anon.” The mare catches herself in time. “It sounded like you needed some help.” The mighty centaur looks to the destroyed pieces of your phone then stares down the reptile. “Everything alright?” Those earthy eyes promise terrible consequences if things are not. God, she’s beautiful when her powerful leg muscles bunch with adrenaline like that, combed tail swishing over her skirt, preparing for a fight.
  2351.  
  2352. That’s your girl. That’s why she’s the best. She saw your new phone went dark and was here in just a few minutes. Or rather Izzy told her. That’s how the team is supposed to work. It’s fantastic to see how quickly the pair has implemented a new routine after the roof incident. You’ll all need to keep improving if you ever hope to take on the rest of the list.
  2353.  
  2354. But as intimidating as Nina is in wild bronco-mode, and taller than the fire lizard by a good two feet, the salamander doesn’t even flinch at the display. Dumb move on the reptile’s part, but she’ll learn the truth the hard way soon enough, once you’re sure the snake is dealt with. What’s most surprising is the heat dying down as Ruby releases the lapels of your jacket, stares past the horse and starts for the door. For someone itching for a fight as bad as she is, it’s so strange to see her turn down one handed to her on a silver platter.
  2355.  
  2356. Ruby attempts to shove her way past the solid ton of horseflesh blocking the exit, and you’re sorely tempted to let Nina get just a little ironclad kick in. It would make you both happy, and damn the consequences. The ugly part of you rails against its cage, demanding satisfaction. But you remember the last time you gave in to that. Lock down the current threats first. Strengthen your team. Being sloppy, you’ll never be able to win against someone with the credibility of faculty behind them, much less the sleeping giant in your own home.
  2357.  
  2358. Nina can sense how you feel, and nobody else understands you so well, even with Trisha poking around some parts of your heart you’d rather be left alone. Still, your centaur only lets the salamander go at a slight motion from you. Wiping the smug look off the bitch lizard’s face would just be a bonus; her main concern is your safety. A dismissive snort from the dark mare follows the burning skink out, and the crowd starting to gather around the place disperses when she turns her hard gaze on the rubberneckers, at least far enough to afford a little privacy.
  2359.  
  2360. Once you and your mare are finally alone, you kick at the remains of your smartphone and start thinking of ways to improve your communications. You’ve barely begun to get the wheels turning when Nina clops up to you, bending her sepia-toned torso over to examine you with practiced calloused touch. Her light perfume wafts up your nose, her sweater molding perfectly to her hanging breasts while she checks you over. She really cares so much and tries so hard.
  2361.  
  2362. Waving away her almost mothering concerns, you take her rough tomboy hand in yours, brushing her knuckles with your lips in the obsolete proper greeting for a lady. The centaur blushes darkly at the simple award of respect from you, still a maiden at heart.
  2363.  
  2364. Running your fingers through her incredibly smooth hair, you kiss her sweetly. “Everything’s fine now. You did well Nina, the best I could have asked for.” You offer your hand up to her when you break loose. “Care to walk me to class before we’re late?”
  2365.  
  2366. Your mare looks happy, then conflicted, more so when she smells how thickly you’ve been claimed by the Cheshire.
  2367.  
  2368. “I want to.” She clasps your hand, playing with your fingers that are almost child-sized compared to hers. “Nothing would make me happier. But we both know I need to be able to help you the most that I can. So I shouldn’t, not here, not in public. My pool of friends and favors is almost dry as it is. Half think I’m part of some secret sex club and are mad I won’t extend an invitation and the rest think I’m trying to steal a guy who already has a girlfriend.”
  2369.  
  2370. She’s not wrong, but she should understand such rewards are finite, and become more so as they have to be divided among an ever-increasing number of others competing for them.
  2371.  
  2372. “Walk you home instead?” Nina offers and gives you a legendary sweater puppy hug that only blessed chests can provide. Her big primary heart’s still beating a mile a minute while her body tries to back down from ramping up for a brawl. The thumping begins to subside as she embraces you and calms down. Poor girl is always worried deep down that you’re going to be whisked away or broken if she’s not there. The last few days haven’t helped that either.
  2373.  
  2374. That’s why you have to find a new safe place, not just for you, but for her and everyone else.
  2375.  
  2376. Reaching around her back, you pat the centaur’s withers and give her a little pinch over her drapelike black skirt. “Another time. You know today I visit Jack to find us a new haven in this bitch-infested warren.”
  2377.  
  2378. She nods in understanding, breaking her needy embrace so you can send her on her way with a soft twitch. The centaur hands you her own phone once again to get you through the rest of the day before the bell rings, and you hustle your way to the required scholastic pursuits.
  2379.  
  2380. The next period is quiet, the salamander uncharacteristically ditching. Not just the second period, but the third and the fourth. Then there’s Trisha, who is made conspicuous by her continued absence. No news from Izzy for that either. The Cheshire’s reason for disappearing doesn’t make itself clear until after the school day is just about done.
  2381.  
  2382. The mystery finally unravels in the middle of a crowded hall, wandering from fifth period Science to Modern Monster History during the break.
  2383.  
  2384. You catch a glimpse of striped purple fur, just the right height. You’re embarrassed to say there’s a bit of a spring in your step when you approach. Then you catch her attention. Her head turns, and you see what’s wrong.
  2385.  
  2386. “YOU!” You exclaim loud enough that half a dozen monstergirl students from every class look at you confused and point questioningly to themselves with claws and wings.
  2387.  
  2388. “There isn’t a hospital built that can hold me.” Half a Cheshire cat and all of a Cheshire cat’s toothy smile grin back at you. With a sound more like tearing paper than a snap, Vanessa teleports to your side. “I hate those places, boring doctors, boring patients, boring white walls, boring food, boring sex, boring, boring, BORING.” She rubs against you lazily in a uniform half a size too small and emblazoned a year below. You can only imagine some poor freshman girl stuck in her panties as a result.
  2389.  
  2390. It only takes a moment to pick up on the slight drag in her speech and her good eye dilated wide open. No fucking way. “Are you high?”
  2391.  
  2392. “Whatever they were giving me was doing fuck all.” Vanessa thrums huskily. “I felt like I was dying. Had to find some way to get comfortable.” She touches the tip of your nose with an invisible claw, having tossed away every bandage but the necessary ones on her head. “But that’s not difficult for a talented lady like myself who has ways around inconveniences: locks and doors. You know that.”
  2393.  
  2394. The Cheshire wraps a furry leg around your slacks then leans in and grinds on the khaki with smooth thighs that look like Swiss cheese in the harsh fluorescence of school lighting.
  2395.  
  2396. Does nothing deter this stupid girl and her short-circuited selective memory? You don’t have a chance to say anything else as she hooks her other leg under your right ankle and yanks it out from under you. Her weight on your left side pushes forward as you teeter backwards. You start to overbalance and that sharp-toothed Dali dreamscape grin looks up from beneath you. Unseen furry paws grip your pinwheeling arms to link you together completely and zap off with a grinding crack. Only this time it’s slow, wrong; you can feel yourself being torn out of the hall like a picture being crudely cut from a page. Then something crumples you up and throws you away…
  2397.  
  2398. You wake up prone, delirious and covered in sweat. Afterimages of claws and fangs blacken your sight. You lay on your back as the room spins all around you, Vanessa unconscious beside your soaked uniform, her limbs akimbo on the pile of gym mats you share. When your stomach stops trying to jump out of your throat, your slow mind begins to recognize where you are, a result of time well spent exploring the dark corners of the building. This storage room is way the hell down the way, at least a couple hundred yards from where you started. Even an adult Cheshire shouldn’t be able jump this far. That goes double for one towing a load. But there she is, groaning sickly and curling up next to you.
  2399.  
  2400. You should pity her, at least a little bit. It’s what Trisha would want. But you’ve already had your fill of being shoved around and thwarted today. Pushing her off your bruises, you try to shake her awake.
  2401.  
  2402. “Harder. I like it rough you filthy freecock.” Vanessa mumbles the old native monster translation for manwhore and sinks her fangs deep into your collar. Your jacket takes the brunt of her sharp canines, the tips piercing your shirt and digging little divots in your shoulder.
  2403.  
  2404. That’s enough. The twin comes around quick enough when you twist her Swiss-cheese-looking tail. But she doesn’t feel a bit of the pain she should from it. Lazy eyes slowly look up from your shoulder and focus on your face. “Ah ah ah.” Vanessa tsks you comically with one invisible paw, while she stuffs the other down your pants. “Play nice or I’ll tell Trish how I wound up this way.”
  2405.  
  2406. You take a deep breath and douse the building rage at her behavior. You have to be calmer, smarter. There’s other ways to handle her. She doesn’t even remember what she ate for breakfast. You can use that.
  2407.  
  2408. You pat her head and stroke her jigsaw piecemeal ears. “Tell Trisha how I rescued you from the viper? Haven’t you worn out that story already?” It’s worth a shot if your last encounter was any indication.
  2409.  
  2410. The Cheshire’s momentary look of surprise washes away and her brow furrows in consternation. “No! I mean you did, and I don’t think I told her but...” She shakes her bandaged head. “Stop trying to confuse me!”
  2411.  
  2412. Seeing her vulnerable and her mind muddled, something evil comes to you, something beyond physical cruelty. And with this cat, well the worst you can do is always guilt-free. Technically it’s breaking your promise to Trisha, but is it really if her sister probably won’t even remember tomorrow? Better yet, it’s just a little joke. Didn’t she tell you that you needed to lighten up and learn to play a game or two?
  2413.  
  2414. So you do what Vanessa expects the least. You psych yourself up, pretend as hard as you can that she’s Trisha and not herself. You move your hand from her ears to the side of her face, the other snaked around her lower back to draw her in close until her slight chest presses against yours, the buttons straining on her stolen uniform. Then you give the unsteady feline a kiss, one with a shadow of real warmth, to lips that yield uncertainly to your affection. Golden eyes finally close as she leans into you. When she starts to purr, you know to continue.
  2415.  
  2416. “Vanessa, sweetheart, I thought we were past all this. You don’t have to try to strongarm me of all people. You only have to say those three little words you always say.” You tickle the long guard hairs of her one visible ear with your sweet lies. When you’re holding her like this, and she’s so off-balance, you really can pretend she’s Trisha for just a moment.
  2417.  
  2418. It doesn’t last long. The Cheshire’s interest piques markedly at hearing both Vanessa and sweetheart. The feline looks at you seriously, curious and confused, but she doesn’t pull away. “Always? Me and you? I would never…well I don’t mean not never ever…you do smell like you’re mine. What do I...?” The bewildered cat tries to delve into her broken recent memories and comes up empty. “Three words? Fuck me...please?” She really does not understand, a dense little girl caught up in her games.
  2419.  
  2420. You remember Trisha mumbling cutely about not knowing how to act properly because she’d never dated before. Taking the smile that you buried then, you bring it forth and gift it to her sister, your twist on ‘best lies are half-truths’.
  2421.  
  2422. “That’s funny. But I’m just going to keep teasing you until you say it properly. Three little words.” You really lay it on thick, brush what’s left of her hair past the gauze, cupping her soft cheek in your hand and let her rub into it. “What are the three little words every man wants to hear to know his courter is serious, that he’s not just a toy?”
  2423.  
  2424. For the first time ever, you see her blush, a woman without even the concept of shame. She blushes so deeply even the invisible parts of her lend a reddish tinge to the air. “Okay! Fine! I get it. I l-love…” Her tongue sticks in her throat. Honestly, you’re not sure she’s capable of saying such a thing. But hell, she really believes you, every word. This is just too damn funny. You can’t keep up the charade anymore, no matter how much you want to play it out. Your nearly silent snicker grows into a dark chuckle.
  2425.  
  2426. Vanessa folds her ears down and pouts like child. “Why are you laughing? This is super embarrassing you know. I don’t remember. You may have heard it a dozen times but this FEELS like the first for me!”
  2427.  
  2428. You pull up the scruff of her neck so you can get a look at all of her, know her absolutely as Vanessa Heart: not the good twin or the kind twin or anything worth love or kindness, and drop your voice to a cruel whisper. “Because, you forgetful queen, you really believed for a moment that any man would ever love a rotten broken thing like you.”
  2429.  
  2430. Vanessa opens and closes her distorted mouth silently a few times, teeth hanging off the side of her face. The Cheshire looks more stunned than when you cracked her over the head. You expected some yelling. Maybe she’d insult you again. Maybe she’d laugh at you. She’s totally fucking nuts after all. The one thing you didn’t expect was the little sniffle before she starts to cry. “You got me. You g-got me good. I k-knew you had a sense of humor.” The words don’t match her scrunched-up face, the deluge of tears rolling down her cheeks, the hushed sobs that catch in her heaving lithe chest.
  2431.  
  2432. In that moment, you learn that Vanessa does have a heart, when you hear the sound of the brittle little thing being smashed into a thousand pieces. And after she put up so many walls too. Good, it’s only because she didn’t hide behind them, let herself be led out by a few cheap words, because deep down she still wants that special something she knows she doesn’t deserve. Seems there really isn’t such a thing as a monstergirl who doesn’t crave real affection at some level.
  2433.  
  2434. Well, you wanted to take a jab at her? Mission fucking accomplished you monster. The wicked side of you grows fat on her suffering. It hopes she remembers this. It hopes it comes in the quiet of night to her, alone and cold, while her sister sleeps in YOUR bed in YOUR arms.
  2435.  
  2436. Still, she is a wretched sight, wiping her eyes on her invisicamo-mottled fur, trying so hard to pretend she doesn’t feel a thing. And you’re not all monster, not yet. Your conscious may not protest loudly against tormenting the worst sort of Cheshire, but it does peep up to say when enough is enough, maybe more now than at the start, if only because you have more people around who believe you’re better than you really are.
  2437.  
  2438. You’ve never been able to leave the cat this way before anyway, and it’s always worked out for the best. No reason to go against tradition now. That would be bad luck. You’re certain that Trisha is searching for her, probably the whole family is looking. Vanessa’s not the kind to go through the hassle of checking out of a hospital properly, especially not in the state she’s in.
  2439.  
  2440. So you put away the darkness for just awhile and reach out your hand.
  2441.  
  2442. “Shh. Shh. Don’t cry, now.” You try to pat the feline on the unblemished part of her head and the wounded cat shrinks instinctually from your grasping fingers. Part of her knows how quickly the caresses can turn ugly. But you reassure her with a gentle rub. “It was just a joke. A veteran trickster like you shouldn’t take it so hard.”
  2443.  
  2444. “I KNOW HOW TAKE A JOKE!” The teary-eyed Cheshire screams at you and shoves you away, falling down on the mats. “YOU’RE THE ONE WHO NEEDS TO LEARN HOW TO TAKE A JOKE!”
  2445.  
  2446. “Maybe.” You offer. ‘Maybe your tricks have just never been funny.’ You add to yourself, listening for anyone coming to investigate the noise before moving to help her get comfortable. Play this right and you can score a few brownie points with her sister. Anything that binds Trisha more tightly to you and puts her in your debt is a positive thing.
  2447.  
  2448. The Cheshire pulls her knees to her chest and curls up into a ball, laying on her side, riddled with holes. Even her bad eye weeps, the tears making curved trails in thin air until they touch a seen part of her face. You try to reach out again and Vanessa swats your hand away. All further efforts are rebuked just as harshly. But she still lays there; she doesn’t leave. You’ll have to try something else.
  2449.  
  2450. You fish around in your pockets while you brainstorm, anything to keep your hands busy, and retrieve Nina’s centaur-sized extremely long phone; it has to be to reach her ears. Somehow, you don’t know if it’s the custom slipcase or the cat’s injured brain and messed-up teleporting, but the mare’s device still works. Finally, a little luck in that department. Losing two phones in a day would just really really suck.
  2451.  
  2452. A small flash of insight fires across your synapses while you idly look through the contacts. You should be able to wrap this whole thing up sooner than you thought, no nurses or dragons or hundred rubberneckers this time. You tap the touch-sensitive glass and ring your palfrey to ask if she has the number Trisha dialed yesterday.
  2453.  
  2454. Two brrriings later and the line picks up, the chatter of a classroom waiting for the starting bell echoing in the background. “Yeah?” The horse mumbles, trying to keep from drawing attention to herself. “You can text me you know.”
  2455.  
  2456. “Why would I do that when I can hear your sweet voice?” You tease even though you know she can get in trouble for talking on the phone during school hours. She’s probably wearing an earpiece covered by her hand at least. She’s smart about that kind of thing, and better at it than her elder sister. “I need you to find a number for me that Trisha called from my phone yesterday. Any way you can do that?”
  2457.  
  2458. She’s so eclectic about her systems, you can only hope she has some kind of automated remote backup and a way to access it.
  2459.  
  2460. “Of course, Master.” Izzy replies. “I keep records of everything, well-hidden and encrypted. Give me a minute.” That’s your second, more reliable by the day. Peel away her inferiority complex and she’s a true Van Harne. Though knowing Nina’s weaknesses, that might be just as much a part of their family as the diligence and strength.
  2461.  
  2462. In less time than she asked for, Izzy delivers the number for the twin’s mother so you can let the old cat know where her daughter is and that the girl’s okay. After saving the digits, you praise your mare for her good work and forward thinking, both on this and with her quick alert earlier. The centaur accepts it with the grace that she’s slowly learning, but stops you short when you start to say goodbye.
  2463.  
  2464. “About our date, tomorrow.” Izzy whispers. “I’ve never been on the real deal before exactly. I know it’s kind of cliché, but I’d like the old dinner and a movie as my first. Would that be alright, Master?”
  2465.  
  2466. You’d almost forgotten with everything else you have to do today. Really you’d like to sleep and be left alone, but she deserves this and you will make sure that you honor your promise. Plus, it could be fun. And Trisha’s right about one thing, you could use a little more fun.
  2467.  
  2468. “I’ll choose the dinner. You choose the movie.” You tell the younger centaur.
  2469.  
  2470. “I’m really looking forward to it!” Even hushed, her exclamation carries clear as she hangs up. It’s nice to see her continue to expand her focus beyond competing with her sister.
  2471.  
  2472. You check back on Vanessa, see her having one of her vacantly-staring-into-space moments and punch in the number for her mother.
  2473.  
  2474. “This better be important.” No ‘Hello’ or ‘Who is this?’ Mel sounds tired, irritable, the peppy charm drained from her voice.
  2475.  
  2476. “Sorry to bother you, Mrs. Heart. I just thought I’d let you know I’ve found Vanessa.” A tense silence begs you to continue, and you do. “She’s fine. Turns out she just couldn’t stand being cooped up, and she wanted to tell Trisha and me congratulations. She’s over here at school.”
  2477.  
  2478. The twins’ mother noisily lets out the breath she was holding. “I thought it might be something like that: not that exactly, just something like that.”
  2479.  
  2480. “You’re a very polite boy, covering for her, but don’t lie to me. I know my kittens, and there’s only one way she’d ever ask you to call her Vanessa.” You can almost sense the milfy true Cheshire grin even through the phone line. “I suppose my daughters never really did like it if one got something the other didn’t. But when they share so well, it’s hardly a problem. It’s a rare thing that’s too precious to share, certainly not a toy.”
  2481.  
  2482. You’re not quite sure if she means the twins might be fighting behind the scenes because Trish considers you more than a toy, or that you’re nothing but a toy and should get used to the idea of being shared whether you like both or not. She did call you a toy before. It’s hard to tell what really makes sense to a Cheshire. Madness is its own logic after all. It just seems like nonsense when you don’t know the rules they’re playing by.
  2483.  
  2484. Thinking about it, you almost miss Mel telling you that Trisha is on her way and a snarky “Good luck.” before she hangs up.
  2485.  
  2486. Well her mood sure improved quick. Is everything a game to them?...They’re Cheshire cats. What kind of stupid rhetorical question is that?
  2487.  
  2488. Shaking your head, you decide to tease Vanessa a little more softly to keep her from running off and buy time until her sister can get back to claim her. The damaged feline blinks at you innocently when you rouse her from her stupor. She looks around completely lost, then latches onto the one familiar thing, you.
  2489.  
  2490. “Zoned out for a minute. Where were we?” The forgetful cat mumbles . “Were we about to have some fun or what?” You’re not certain if she has forgotten or if she just doesn’t want to remember. But you’ve had your fun and play along. She’s part of your game now.
  2491.  
  2492. Picking up her unrelenting light body gently, you settle her into your lap and make her lean back against you. The felid girl fidgets uncomfortably, tail swishing against your shirt. It’s not a prelude to the forceful animalistic mating she expects or wants.
  2493.  
  2494. Vanessa likes the energy, the power of you when you get angry, but Trisha likes it when you use a lighter touch. It’s worth trying on this one just to sate your curiosity. It’s entirely possible the casual rape fiend never felt anything like that before. She just might like it. As doped up and out of it as the twin is, hurting her wouldn’t work very well anyway. If she was completely herself, she probably would have already gotten bored and zapped off by now.
  2495.  
  2496. You run your fingers under her stolen skirt and slide aside her dirty silk panties. The feline resists a little at first, not particularly in the mood for anything but a hard bite on the shoulder and a harder dick filling her insides. But her dementia-shortened attention span helps her forget once you coax her soft nub from under its hood, move your hand to pet it carefully with your thumb while your longer digits trace the folds of skin framing the slit below. As her pussy drips at your touch, you slide two fingers inside.
  2497.  
  2498. You feel something extra squishy already there as you explore, thicker than her natural lube. Curling your fingers into a hook, you draw them out for a look. Jellied white strands hang from your fingertips, reeking of fermented sin. That’s just plain gross. You wipe the remains of the old creampie on her uniform, fucking nasty promiscuous little alley cat.
  2499.  
  2500. The Cheshire squirms in your lap when you push your digits back inside her loose folds.
  2501.  
  2502. “Quit messing around and get to the only thing you’re really good for.” The feline growls, the one ear you can see, flattened down.
  2503.  
  2504. “Don’t be in such a rush.” You kiss the nape of her neck and work up a good pace with your hand and gently attack her tiny clit at the same time. “When has a man ever fingerbanged you before? You should enjoy it, a little different from your furry paws I bet.”
  2505.  
  2506. Vanessa has no retort to that when you intensify your efforts. The purple tabby leans all her weight into you as she arches her back and starts to moan. Her soft breath soon intersperses with the short harsh sound of her caterwaul, despite her earlier smart alec complaints.
  2507.  
  2508. Your free hand rises to the polished dragon scale buttons straining against her blouse, as tight as a corset on her lithe frame, straying only to brush her nipples poking hard through the fine shimmering arachne silk. What’s visible of her pale skin flushes a mottled pink as her heart flutters under your caress.
  2509.  
  2510. Beyond her clothes, you have to guess where the rest of her parts are by feel. She really is rather hideous as she is, half a Cheshire with half her head shaved, covered in drifting invisible patches that shock you with a light crackle when you touch their boundaries. Her outside matches the inside now at least, rotten and full of holes.
  2511.  
  2512. It’s still kind of fun to see her moaning and grinding her tight little butt in your lap, urging you to unzip your pants. ‘Sorry sweetheart, you don’t have half the charms of your twin. It’s just teasing today, and you should be grateful for that.’
  2513.  
  2514. You curl your middle finger to reach the roof of her sopping wet pussy and tickle the little spongy patch of her G-spot. Lean muscled thighs cross HARD and trap your hand in place between the smooth skin and tufted violet fur just above her knees. Clipped blunted claws press divots into your arm from an invisible paw to help hold you tight. The other reaches over her head and curls around the back of your neck as she forces your lips to her neck with that inborn monster strength belied by her size. The inside of your lips mashes so hard against your teeth you taste blood. So you open your jaws wide and give her a love bite brutal enough to almost taste hers.
  2515.  
  2516. It’s exactly what the mad cat wants anyway. Vanessa yowls and crushes your arm between her thighs until your bones creak and a tide of slick hot ecstasy washes over your hand. Even a loose pussycat like her can get worked up quick over a new experience you guess, and pretty much anything consensual like this qualifies with her. The Cheshire trembles with her climax and pins your arm tight for another few seconds before finally relaxing and slumping against your chest.
  2517.  
  2518. She nestles up against you, purring and satisfied, tears long forgotten, just the way you want her to be when her sister arrives.
  2519.  
  2520. But not even a heavy dose of painkillers and serious brain damage is enough to give her some manners.
  2521.  
  2522. “That wasn’t bad.” She rumbles and rubs her bandages against your chin, creepy dilated eye hanging off in space when she looks at you. Tensing her arm, the feline bats the side of your face in rapid succession with her paw like a regular cat playing with a mouse, rattling your brain. “You’re still a cunt-teasing rat-faced son-of-a-bitch. But you’re always an interesting one.” She flashes that frustratingly smug horror-show set of teeth to cap off the remark.
  2523.  
  2524. The grin doesn’t last long before it turns into a sleepy smile. All the exertion, the long jaunt from the hospital, everything catches up with her. The scrawny tabby shifts around making herself comfortable in your lap, first staring at you, then past you. Soon enough, Vanessa falls asleep in your arms and you lean into the pile of mats as you both quietly skip the last class of the day.
  2525.  
  2526. Finally, Trisha appears with a proper pop, disheveled and looking in need of a nap herself. She must have been running and searching all over town the whole day. Your Cheshire looks over you and her twin, those sharp gold eyes gleaming, genuinely happy you’re not at each other’s throats. A snap and she’s on top of the both of you with a fuzzy striped smothering hug and a big kiss on your lips.
  2527.  
  2528. “I might’ve known Ness would go to you.” Her felid nose twitches as she smells the one-sided fun her twin had. Somehow the smug knowing grin she gives you feels so warm compared to any ever given you by the one in your lap. “I told you she likes you, too.”
  2529.  
  2530. Vanessa wakes up to the jostling and noise, nyaawning and baring her fangs sleepily. Her eyes sharpen and fix onto Trisha’s collar almost immediately. It’s uncanny how lucid she looks compared to an hour ago, even single-mindedly focused on her sister’s neck like a predator.
  2531.  
  2532. Cats love shiny dangling things, and the ring is already brightly polished from being worried between soft paws. The sight connects to something and you see the spark of memory fire brightly between damaged ears, like god’s finger mashing a reset button in her head.
  2533.  
  2534. She fizzles and snaps out of your arms with a tearing sound. The half-visible Cheshire leers at Trisha, who frankly looks more proud than embarrassed her twin noticed.
  2535.  
  2536. Vanessa stares for a few seconds but breaks the silence first. “I remember now. Mom told me when she visited. She was so excited to hear one of us was already planning to be married. That was too interesting not to check out. And I was so BORED. Hospitals are the worst, Trish. Everything is boring there: the food, the cold fish coma sex, the other patients, the doctors, daytime TV.”
  2537.  
  2538. Her repeating habit is more annoying than endearing, but it’s useful to gauge what she recalls sometimes. Though even that might be a game if she’s realized she’s doing it.
  2539.  
  2540. Vanessa’s energetic smile vanishes as the cat unsheathes a clipped claw and rings the band of gold on her sister’s collar, frowning at the sound. “Even Mom and Dad half think it’s a joke, but I know better. Like grandma would say, ‘The Heart wants what she wants’, I guess.” She doesn’t even grin at the pun, just shakes what remains of her head. “You’re both so fucking stupid.”
  2541.  
  2542. What you don’t rightly understand is the bad twin’s tail bottle-brushing as she turns away from her sister and rounds on you.
  2543.  
  2544. “But you, you’re the dumbest asshole of all.” Vanessa shakes an invisible finger comically in your face like an amputee with a real phantom limb, the seemingly-hollow uniform jacket sleeve waving self-righteously and vaguely in your direction. “Look at you. Have you learned nothing all this time about how Cheshire cats, especially the two of us, operate? Do you even know what she took all those nice soft you-smelling clothes for?” The tabby sticks out her tongue and makes her best imitation of a stupid face. “Do I have to spell it out for you? She’s making a kitten nest! That’s like Catgirl 101, you utter incompetent. It’s not entertaining at all if you can’t piece this sort of thing together on your own!”
  2545.  
  2546. Trisha shrugs her delicate shoulders under her uniform and gives her best ‘I don’t have a clue what she’s babbling about.’ look.
  2547.  
  2548. You swear Vanessa’s dander rises twice as high at that, and it spurs her on.
  2549.  
  2550. Crackling and sputtering like a downed power line, the girl with the bad haircut jumps to your side, throwing her paw over your shoulder like a confiding friend. “Seriously, how could you not get a clue when Trish, who even when she was first crushing on you could make it through every full moon without pinning you down, is now on your dick every minute of the day?”
  2551.  
  2552. Vanessa grabs the crotch of your pants and drops her tirade to an emphatic whisper. “This is her honeymoon heat you fucking moron! She’s decided on you, and once she’s pregnant, she’s going to common law your ass under the One True Mate Act like a bad MGC daytime soap opera.” The catgirl taps the side of your face smugly the way she used to when she would call you mistaken when she’d steal your stuff. “It’s so tea-timing obvious! She’s even so careful to never say she loves you so you won’t catch on. I mess with you forward and honest, but THAT is some dirty underhanded scheming. You shouldn’t let her get away with it. I don’t think you’re ready to be a daddy.”
  2553.  
  2554. There’s a pop followed by flash of pale skin and purple fur as the twin that belongs to you pries her sister off your back. “Ness, enough.” Trisha orders firmly. “You’re not well. If you hate the hospital so much, let’s get you back home at least.”
  2555.  
  2556. The headcase hears an undercurrent to her words you don’t. Or maybe she’s just plain crazy. Her grin is as equally ugly as it is smug, hanging off half of her face. “Get mad all you want Trish, but this is for your own good. Look at what he’s done to us.” She takes Trisha’s declawed paw and shoves it up in her face. “You don’t want to marry that for real. He’s fun to play with, but a toy like him won’t keep you entertained for the rest of your life.”
  2557.  
  2558. She’s still spouting some powerful tinfoil hat assertions, but it’s all stuff that could well be true. She could just as well be stirring up trouble for her own twisted entertainment. But all of the girls have their own hidden agendas in one way or another, except maybe Nina. What rankles most under your skin is the information woven into her ranting. Trisha has obviously been talking to her sister about all the things she’s been doing. Not that they’ve ever really kept secrets from each other. They are very close, and similar in more ways than you’d like. That’s kind of what makes it interesting to see the two of them fight.
  2559.  
  2560. Turning down the popcorn value is Trisha, still keeping a cool head even as a hard edge creeps into her gentle mewling voice, and her face drops into the rare stern expression that only appears when she gets truly serious.
  2561.  
  2562. “Ness, you’re my sister and I love you, but we’re not doing this, not this time. Once was enough of a mistake.” Every bit of her posture says she’s done playing. And when Trisha is through with games, you’re left with an extremely bright monstergirl wielding ridiculously broken powers, a far more dangerous creature. Your Cheshire straightens her collar then forces Vanessa’s arms down to her sides. “Cut it out. Keep pushing it and I’ll never let you touch him again.”
  2563.  
  2564. The twin with the bigger thrillseeker fetish just takes it all in stride as she shifts into full antagonizing mode. “He doesn’t belong to you. I can do what I want. Or did you already forget who got to screw him first? I’d think that’d be pretty hard with all the noise we were making one room away.” That puts some color in her sister’s delicate porcelain-skinned face. “Besides, why would I care whether I can bang some dirty horsefucker anyway? That’s not a threat, that’s a bad joke.”
  2565.  
  2566. Your cat’s ears lay back, and she swallows a feral growl. Then, just as fast, you see the happy madness settle back over her with a knowing fanged grin and a flick of your mother’s engagement ring. “You do care. You’re jealous.”
  2567.  
  2568. “Jealous of WHAT?” Vanessa cries exasperatedly. “This is what I was always afraid of, latching onto the first loser who makes you moist. You should at least try more than one guy before settling.”
  2569.  
  2570. Trisha’s shit-eating grin gets bigger when she knows she’s hooked her twin into her new game. You can barely follow the crazy. Half the time they’re talking past each other more than having a conversation, but you do recognize this turn.
  2571.  
  2572. “Don’t try to feed me that, Ness.” Trisha laughs, snaps over and rubs her cheek glands on you possessively, then slips her paw quietly behind your back and gropes your ass, just to show she can. “You’ve screwed a lot of guys and you like him the best.”
  2573.  
  2574. You don’t know how much of that is calculated to get a rise out of her sister and how much of that is really her. Watching two Cheshire’s go at it just compounds every problem you normally have when dealing with them just on one end of a conversation.
  2575.  
  2576. Vanessa just lets it roll off her, and she shrugs. You’re genuinely surprised when she doesn’t outright denounce you. “You get to a point where a guy is just not worth the ticket to ride.” The brain-damaged cat halfheartedly taps the dressing over the plate screwed into her skull. “His lines are long and the crowd is mean. So it really doesn’t matter.”
  2577.  
  2578. “Riiiight. It sure doesn’t matter. That’s why you get so wet when he calls you Vanessa.” Trisha plants her feet and crosses her arms. You haven’t seen that cruel victorious smile on her face in a very long time, the heartless spoilsport ‘I WIN’ one. It doesn’t suit her, makes her look like the bad twin.
  2579.  
  2580. Vanessa seems far more concerned with something else as she cocks her head then flicks her ears. You can almost hear the grinding of chipped gears catching as the concussed cat connects that to a recent fragment that’s slipped her mind.  “Did you tell him to call me that?” All the final remnants of anger drain from the demented feline’s argument. She looks honestly puzzled. “I’ve been trying to figure it out, since…since awhile I’m sure…at least in the hospital.”
  2581.  
  2582. “You told him, Ness. And it took a lot of wheedling for you to get him to actually do it.” As soon as the ugliness was there, it’s already dissipated when Trisha replies with the genuine concern of a loving sister. “Has your head really gone that soft?”
  2583.  
  2584. The more damaged twin ignores everything after the first sentence, thinking hard with what functional parts she has left, trying to connect the dots. “And what about sweetheart?” She asks.
  2585.  
  2586. “He calls me sweetheart.” Your purple tabby corrects gently but possessively, quietly slipping a paw into your hand.
  2587.  
  2588. “Yeah, I guess that makes sense.” If you didn’t know better, you’d swear Vanessa sounds disappointed. “Well, I’m going home. This isn’t really fun anymore. My head hurts, and you’re both boring me.” She doesn’t look bored. She looks beaten and a little sad, ears falling flat and tail limp. Before you have time to really be certain, there’s a clap like canned thunder, and she’s gone.
  2589.  
  2590. Trisha finally takes notice of you as more than a prop for her arguement then, now that she’s not so focused on her sister, and they’re not feeding off each others’ madness.
  2591.  
  2592. “I’m really sorry about all that.” The violet cat mews, holding your hand tight. “Thanks for looking after Ness for a little while. Everyone was so worried. I gotta go though. I need to make sure she gets back home, safe.”
  2593.  
  2594. You think about asking for the truth about the missing boxer shorts, decide to let that go and push for the work you need instead. You need to make sure your plans continue moving forward.
  2595.  
  2596. “Alright, sweetheart.” You start with a returned squeeze of her soft pink pads against your palm. “When you’re done, get those cameras on the snake’s house for me. I want to know what she’s up to. Are you up for it?” It’s an order, but one given kindly with a way out.
  2597.  
  2598. “Up for it? The whole world is my hiding place. I can stand out there in the day or night amongst them and laugh.” Trisha whispers huskily and gives you a solid kiss on the cheek.
  2599.  
  2600. That niggles an old piece of your brain that hasn’t been used in awhile. “Isn’t that from The Invisible Man?” Well, that explains a lot, a lot more of the twins’ attitude than Lewis Carroll ever could.
  2601.  
  2602. Trisha’s pleased grin grows when she sees you recognized the line. She lets your hand go and touches the side of her nose with a furry finger. “Power. Power to walk into the gold vaults of nations, divine the secrets of kings, to stroll into the holy of holies. Power to make the world grovel at my feet. Even the moon is frightened of me.” Leaving you with that final quote, your feline agent snaps off to chase her sister then fulfill her mission.
  2603.  
  2604. While for you, the time has come to visit a similarly strange dragon. You already missed her at lunch trying to hunt down clues to Trisha’s whereabouts.
  2605.  
  2606. A good amount of searching combined with Izzy checking the handful of crappy buttonhole cams you have in the school and you’re still coming up dry. There’s just a handful of false positives who turn out to regular dragons, and one senior colddrake with a wedding ring who scowls at having a strange man bother her. Well that’s dragons for you, very reserved girls with a very rigid social structure. Though, you’ve never really had anything against them. They don’t lower themselves to the level of bullying that others have, and they shun everyone just about the same.
  2607.  
  2608. Seeing all these winged lizards and running around makes the mythical creatures stick in your mind. Unlike most monstergirls, you do respect them as a whole. The only time anyone ever stopped Lisa smacking you around was a senior dragon that has since graduated. And it wasn’t because she gave a shit who you were. You just remember those green scaly claws crushing the cyclopian’s fist until her big blue eye overflowed with tears. “Laying your hands on a man tarnishes this school, tarnishes every student here, tarnishes me. I won’t stand for it.” That help only came once, but it left an impression. Only those with money and power in this town can be so fearless. And gamblers like you, you suppose. Jack’s not like them, but that makes her intriguing.
  2609.  
  2610. After fruitlessly wandering the halls until final bell, you decide to sit out of the way on the back stairs until the rush clears, hoping to spy that bubblegum pink hair.
  2611.  
  2612. You stay out of sight pretty well, and only the clubby students with practice and matches mill around when everyone else is anxious to get gone for the weekend. There’s dates and games and movies and lewd things to do with boyfriends. Some seven foot tall jaguar girl on the rugby team is about the only one who sniffs you out. She gives you a little wave with a massive spotted paw and flushes to the tips of her whiskers when you halfheartedly return it. You wonder if this sort of thing is what it’s like for the average guy attending here, half hungry predators and half blushing maids. Well, for a little while. Most single guys aren’t single long. There’s always a rush every year to claim the freshman meat. June made your class an anomaly there.
  2613.  
  2614. You continue to wait, some other eyes on the front exit in the form of your remuda. Still nothing. You skip a pebble down the sidewalk and hear a little clatter as a bit of masonry tumbles down off the roof at the same time. Turns out you’re problem after all this time is you still have prey eyes. You never thought to look up.
  2615.  
  2616. Jack’s sitting on the flight rampart almost directly above you, bored look on her face, blowing little pink smoke rings in the still air. She scratches the chin of a concrete gargoyle next to her and the statuary claws new furrows into its mount. The dragon’s glittering red eyes look out over the campus, searching.
  2617.  
  2618. You could almost laugh. “Looking for someone?” You make a bullhorn from your hands and shout up at the Jabberwock.
  2619.  
  2620. The freshman starts in surprise, tail thrashing, the roof ornament freezing in place as soon her claws leave it. Frustrated at losing her composure, Jack carefully straightens her clothes and her hair before she turns to you with a congenial smile. “Hey, it’s the man of the hour!”
  2621.  
  2622. She glides down and lands softly at the base of the stairs, waiting for you. “I heard you had it rough yesterday. You look good though.”
  2623.  
  2624. Jack’s close enough now, you can see her clothes jump and move, her garishly decorated uniform a fantastical billboard of scenes. Today she’s wearing a tie instead of the golden snake scarf. Two ancient knights of the gatelands clash viciously on the loomed silk, a succubus and what looks like a wingless manticore with a foot-long stinger. Each ringing blow shakes the tie and jiggles the dragon’s healthy bust just so.
  2625.  
  2626. The lamia pin on her lapel has even more oversized-than-usual puppydog eyes brimming with tears. ‘Thought not come’ its banner reads.
  2627.  
  2628. Her overt friendliness is refreshing, even wrapped in the typically bizarre Wonderland trappings. Maybe you really do fit in with the crazies and the madmen more than the rest.
  2629.  
  2630. “I caught a bit of a cold out the rain, so I wasn’t really feeling up to slogging around in the sewers.” You start gamely. “But I thought it would still be fun to visit your corner of campus. I’ve never been to the live-in dorms. We could hang out and just chill instead.”
  2631.  
  2632. “You want me to take you back to my place?” The prim Jaberwock wraps a pink strand around a black scaly finger, folding back her wings. “Isn’t that a bit…premature?” The tone is cold and remonstrating, but her eyes sparkle with mischief. Then she starts walking and waves you to follow. “I’m just having some fun with you. Come on. They could use the shock of a guy wandering in to liven up. You’ll love it.”
  2633.  
  2634. Past the sports fields and ranges and gyms and pools is a tall flatiron building, moldering and covered in ivy. The gnarled oaks and hackberries planted beside it date back to the very beginning of the campus founding about sixty years ago. It’s probably the oldest building on campus except for the water tower and the original school building that was converted to special ed.
  2635.  
  2636. “So this is the Boo Box?” You whistle. Reminds you of some tower dungeon from an old Argenta:Warrior Succubus movie.
  2637.  
  2638. “The what?” The proud drake stops, her polished twisting onyx horns lifting high from her rosy hair as she turns and draws her gaze down to you at the same time.
  2639.  
  2640. “Short for bugaboo, right?” You answer obliviously, remembering some stories you heard about this place. “You know, the term for uncivilized monsters. Like what did you all used to call us that meant barbarians? Faarlun…something like that.”
  2641.  
  2642. “Where did you hear that? You sound like a racist old elf.” She sniffs indignantly and shakes her head. The chibi lamia is redfaced, wearing an elegant dress like a classy little princess. ‘Not a boo. Good girl!’
  2643.  
  2644. “An elf.” You cough in response, dislodging your foot from your mouth. “So what’s the right name?”
  2645.  
  2646. “We call it the Mystery Box. Jerks call it the Freak Show.” Jack starts walking again, and your lamia window into her thoughts slips out of sight.
  2647.  
  2648. You halt for only a moment at the double glass doors for her to swipe her student ID and unlock them. A good feature to keep out unwanteds in the future, you note to yourself. And one that’s easily bypassed by a Cheshire.
  2649. The lighting is old and flickering inside, a faint must of age on the air. But the floors are clean and buffed, the walls brightly painted and decorated with art from god knows where.
  2650.  
  2651. Photographs and paintings from every place you’ve heard of and a lot you haven’t decorate the entrance, each donated by alumni from their homelands. It’s all rather classy, lots of happy families and such, barring the giant marble man and lamia locked in coitus smack in the middle of the lobby. You’d heard there used to be stuff like this around campus, before it all got wrecked as collateral damage in fights and accidents. As you follow the Jabberwock past it, you see even this one has names and years and hearts carved into it, but it’s so odd that it survived here of all places. Bugaboos have the worst reputation among monstergirls.
  2652.  
  2653. The thing about a dorm, especially one with no vacancy, is you can never go far without running into someone. And you’re barely into the hall by the elevators before a troll blocks the dark dragon’s path. The manhanded girl in huge sunglasses sidesteps into Jack’s path every time she tries to slip past her. Your host doesn’t say a word, too proud to embarrass herself by running past. Dragons don’t dodge. People get out of their way. Doesn’t seem like the brightest idea in the world from the other end either. The Jabberwock could probably chuck the bitch down the hall one-handed if she felt like it. Then again, the shortstack bridge-dweller has pansies growing out of her head. That can’t be good on the old thinker. She’s wearing a uniform from your year, but must be of a different class. As far as you’re aware, there’s no visa girls you actually know, though Jack hides in plain sight easily enough.
  2654.  
  2655. The troll pulls down her shades and looks at you over the rims. Then you realize this is about you.
  2656.  
  2657. “Hey, Tanya!” The scalp gardner calls behind her. “You gotta see this. Her royal awkwardness brought a guy here!” Something massively tall and yellow pops its head out of a room at the noise and glides closer curiously. She comes about halfway down the hall before you catch a waft of sweet decay and both recognize each other at practically the same time.
  2658.  
  2659. The bubbling wheezing monstrosity nearly trips over her tentacles to get back in her room and shut the door.
  2660.  
  2661. “Come back here you overgrown daisy. It’s that roof guy everyone was talking about! Don’t you wanna check him out?” The troll shouts after the titan alraune.
  2662.  
  2663. After a moment, she shrugs and turns back to you. “Well, welcome to the Freak Show. And that’s just the first of many strange and wonderful creatures you’ll see here.” Her hazel eyes run up and down your body, undressing you in her mind. “Have you paid your admission, sugar?” The troll asks sweetly. “We take cash, credit, cuddles and kisses.”
  2664.  
  2665. “This isn’t a toll bridge.” Jack interjects, wrapping a wing around you and drawing you to her side protectively.
  2666.  
  2667. The troll takes off her sunglasses, slowly undoes the top few buttons of her blouse until the upper lace of her bra peeks out, then pockets the shades seductively in her ample cleavage. “Mind your own business stutterwalker. I’m not in the mood, especially today. Do you know the last time I even got to ask this question?”
  2668.  
  2669. A little smile tugs at the corner of the Jabberwock’s impassive mouth. “When you hit on Miranda’s fiancé and she broke your tail.”
  2670.  
  2671. “It’s still crooked.” The healthy shortstack looks down morosely at the tuft of fur swishing by her bare feet.
  2672.  
  2673. Need to pay for your ticket huh? There’s a creative way to get through this. You just have to dare, the way you have to get this far. And you need to do it now.
  2674.  
  2675. You grab Jack by the tie, pull her down the handful of inches to your level, stand on your toes and steal a kiss right from her hot lips. Not many men alive can say they’ve done that to a grown dragon of any kind. You lean in, and hold it long enough to make it memorable before you break free. No tongue, a lady who’s done no wrong to you deserves way better than that.
  2676.  
  2677. “Toll paid.” You smile at the gaping troll as she makes a little squeaking sound. “You never said it had to be you.”
  2678.  
  2679. The Jabberwock stands frozen, like a deer in headlights, everything moving and jittering but her. For a few tense seconds you think you misread her and overstepped bigtime. Then your gaze slides to your favorite little pin on her jacket.
  2680.  
  2681. Sharp white fangs menace you in cartoonized minature. Eyes glow red, peering from a miasma radiating from the entire tiny monstergirl. You just know it would be burn your hands if you touched it. Then you read the banner, little hearts on either side. ‘Here’s your change’
  2682.  
  2683. Before you can react, the Wonderland drake snatches you in her claws and locks her draconic maw on you in a full open mouth kiss. Dipping you down, she sweeps you off your feet, wings unfurling to surround you both in an instant curtain of privacy that hides her soft breasts pressing into you. Aphrodisiac mist pours from her nostrils over your lips, and you thank your stars that she’s not breathing through her mouth. Even so, you feel the warm tingle working its way through your skin, your eyes, wafting up your nose, your pants getting tight.
  2684.  
  2685. The magic spills from her onto you like an overflowing cup, what gives life to everything she touches. There’s a little flash in your mind, like when you saw through the crystal at home. Only this time it’s of when you met her. This time there’s no bloody cat on your back and you slam full speed into the Jabberwock while wearing nothing below the belt but your boxers. It lasts less than a second, but the experience is so visceral, like it happened, like you were there.
  2686.  
  2687. The feeling of certainty fades when she breaks contact. God damn. No two ways about it, that girl one-upped you in the impression department with that one.
  2688.  
  2689. Jack beams a confident smile that’s as friendly as it is haughty. “You are a real wildcard. I knew you would be fun to hang around.” The Con Carroll reptile takes her time and smoothes out her appearance with professional patience. “Don’t EVER kiss me without permission again.”
  2690.  
  2691. The little lamia, pin straightened, is holding up a warning finger with a sassy pout. ‘My smooches r 4 bf’s’
  2692.  
  2693. The troll looks deflated and even shorter as she leans up against the wall, letting you both pass. When you do, she peels away from the wall and follows at a slight distance, just looking like an average curious girl. Honestly, she seems nicer this way. Why do so many monstergirls have to become such bitches when they’re trying to score with a guy? Either that or be so shy they don’t come within a hundred yards of you.
  2694.  
  2695. The big elevator dings before you make it another ten steps. Well what do you really expect when it’s Friday after school? A pair of monstergirls exit, dressed to nine hundred: an elegant oomukade in bright shell colors you’ve never seen, and some kind of plain gray werewolf with eyes like a succubus and little flames curling from the corners and the tip of her tail. They’re both older, obviously seniors from the way they carry themselves. But they seem happy and relaxed, and you recognize the natural disinterest of girls who already have men picked out.
  2696.  
  2697. The huge redheaded centepide, simple engagement ring on her finger, stops at the group of you to get enough space to scuttle by on her sunshine yellow legs. Her curled carmine antennae, a shade darker than her hair drills, unfurl in mild curiosity at the irregular gathering.
  2698.  
  2699. The mopey troll looks jealously at the seniors and steps to one side. “Big plans?”
  2700.  
  2701. The mature-bodied scolopendre does that weird Zip thing where they clack their jaws in excitement in response. “We’re headed down to Tully’s on a double date to the Tribute Day celebration, only one in the city. Nikolas and I thought we’d try to hook up Jan here with his brother. Poor guy’s arranged marriage fell through because she snagged someone else on her own. Sucks being a gal’s plan B, but the payout ain’t bad. Figured he could use a cuddly pickup on the rebound. And Jan is just so quiet and lovable, she’ll wind up a spinster if she doesn’t get a shove. A little celebration, libation, should loosen her up.”
  2702.  
  2703. The hellhound rolls her eyes and hides her face in a paw.
  2704.  
  2705. The ojou multipod smiles teasingly at her friend then turns her attention to you then the Jabberwock in turn. Lunging forward, she gives her a friendly hug. “Babble, I just wanted to say it’s so great to see you found a guy that you like AND doesn’t make you stutter and go all dick-stupid. That’s tough for your kind. I remember this one time, when I was sixth grader at Central, there was this Jabberwock who lived next door that…” The hellhound tugs on a bright yellow leg and thumbs toward the door.
  2706.  
  2707. “Yeah. We better get going.” The chatty centipede nods to the canine even as Jack mumbles “It’s not really like that.”
  2708.  
  2709. Switching the subject again as easy as an operator, the venomous girl clacks her big neck mandibles together and smiles. “Oh, and don’t tell you-know-who where we’re headed. I don’t want her crashing the party.”
  2710.  
  2711. “Will do. Stay out of trouble, Miranda.” The Jabberwock delivers in pure deadpan, waving them off.
  2712.  
  2713. “What kind of party would it be if something felonious didn’t happen?” The oomukade whoops and skitters for the main entrance, fluffy sulfur-smelling wolf loping at her side.
  2714.  
  2715. You’re starting to think you prefer the freaks. They seem pretty friendly. You wonder who else you’ll meet at the show. This just might work out after all.
  2716.  
  2717. The Jabberwock leads you deeper into the tower, troll tagging along half a step behind. The spacious hallway finally ends in an arch of thick ornate double doors propped open on brass-clawed feet. The cool humid smell of wet earth and algae, stirred by your feet, curls up and invades your nostrils. You step over the threshold, and a cavernous space greets you beyond. Soft natural light diffuses from frosted skylights on the roof, beaming ten stories straight down through the core of the dorm to illuminate the lush courtyard.
  2718.  
  2719. Ferns and trees sprout from moldy sculpted marble planters, some shorn up with cement and cracks filled with caulk where the plants have grown bigger than was ever intended. Vines as thick as your arm trail from their branches. Moss covers the flagstone paths through the trimmed grass and the sound of running water trickles from somewhere farther back. Well that’s your school when they built it, spared no expense. There’s still a lot of money here. You even recognize a few of the more famous botanical specimens from beyond the gate: demon tea, honeybush, tulgey swordleaf and sheffle, probably to remind students a little of home. Benches ring the outside and the tops of smaller buildings built within the courtyard poke their spires above the tall reach of the greenery.
  2720.  
  2721. The drake, cheeks still faintly ruddy from anger or embarrassment, picks the broadest path and makes a beeline into the heart of the gardens. The babble of water grows louder, and after a few twists and turns in the maze of greenery, the path T’s into an inner ring. A huge fountain takes up the center of a large pool, the water clear and the marble stained green with algae. It smells like a lake. It looks like a lake. There’s even a little dock with a boathouse on one end and a few sandbars sticking up between the water lilies.
  2722.  
  2723. Other structures dot the perimeter around the fountain, some vending machines, a covered area with hanging lights sheltering neglected billiard tables and a dead arcade. There’s more, an amphitheatre with a stage, picnic tables and other closed areas that you can’t identify from here. You can see the thick coat of dust even from this vantage. For what was once such a nice setup, it’s long gone to waste. There’s hardly anybody even here.
  2724.  
  2725. The four hundred pound gorilla in the room is actually a man, a huge bear of a guy sitting at one of the picnic tables in colorful and alien garb like Oktoberfest had a bastard with Mardi Gras. Odd, this place isn’t co-ed. Monstergirls and boys living under the same roof is not the kind of trouble your school’s legal codes would allow. If you’re married, you’re living off campus. He’s older than most people you see at school, mid to late twenties you would guess. The brawny lummox watches the three of you with mild curiosity, but his slouched posture and fidgety hands say he’s waiting on someone and has been waiting awhile.
  2726.  
  2727. A shrill excited squeal followed by an assault of pinging clicks wrenches your attention back to the water. A splash in the water lilies preludes a speedy pale flash under the surface, easily six feet long. The Jabberwock seems to know the cause and tucks her skirt as she sits on the molded concrete lip of the pool. A streak of rosey flesh leaps and backflips through the air, crashing down in the reeds with a huge spray of cold water. Only Jack spreading her wing in front of you shields you from the surge.
  2728.  
  2729. “Friend of yours?” You ask the draconic girl while she shakes the drops from her leathery membranes. She opens her mouth to say something but the waterborne monstergirl sidles up to the edge and props herself up on her elbows to introduce herself.
  2730.  
  2731. “I’m Se’Lal of Dau, last of my kind.” The pallid pink mermaid smiles with a mouthful of peg-shaped needle teeth. “And I’m always looking for someone to help me save the species.”
  2732.  
  2733. “There’s a hundred like you across the gate, Squeak.” The troll mumbles loudly enough to be heard over the fountain.
  2734.  
  2735. The river dolphin keeps smiling, her pastel blue eyes shifting to the grumbler behind you. “Last of my kind on Earth, first of my kind on Earth, it’s all about the same. Why you gotta nitpick anyway? You know how often guys come here. I never get to talk to anyone new.” Squeak turns back to you. “So I’m VERY pleased to meet you…” She prompts you.
  2736.  
  2737. “Anon.” You offer your hand for a gentleman’s handshake and she shies away, flattered but embarrassed. You remember some of the cultures beyond the gatelands take physical contact between the sexes very seriously. Touching a man’s hand is something you don’t do in greeting, and usually not even on the first date. So you salvage it with a slight bow and a smile.
  2738.  
  2739. Just behind the mermaid, muddy green eyes peer up at you from the muck under the water, hint of a brown face obscured by wavy hair trying it’s best to pretend it’s algae and water plants. It’s the same shade and everything. What looks like a thick bony tail extends far out the back. Or maybe it’s just a log. Her camouflage is too good to know for sure.
  2740.  
  2741. “Anybody else hiding in there?” You ask the dolphin with a tilt your head toward the creature. The swamp thing immediately closes her eyes and tries to hide even harder by being perfectly still.
  2742.  
  2743. Squeak dismisses the girl with a wave of her webbed hand. “Don’t mind her. She’s just shy. There used to be some fish in here too, but you know how tempting those little morsels are.” She licks her lips in remembrance. “They didn’t really take girls like us into account when they built the place.”
  2744.  
  2745. You sit next to Jack and Squeak and spend the next few minutes just with chatting and initial pleasantries. Even the little troll apologizes and joins you, introducing herself as Carmen. The Jabberwock is stiff and formal but you can tell she’s excited to have you here. The others look at you more like a curiosity, especially after they’ve each had a good chance to smell Trisha on you. But an opportunity to pick a new guy’s brain and just talk in a relaxed atmosphere is of great interest to single monstergirls as well. They have a vested interest in learning what guys like, what they look for in a girl, and just general practice in taking it easy around the opposite sex. The marble lip of the fountain pond makes a comfortable bench, and you enjoy the small talk, slipping a few questions about the building and them in here and there.
  2746.  
  2747. It continues that way for a while, and just when you’re about to ask about the other guy sitting alone in the picnic area, Jack pipes up.
  2748.  
  2749. “So, you’re really getting married to the Cheshire cat?” The Jabberwock finally can’t take it anymore, she has to know. Her red eyes burn with curiosity. Even she’s not completely immune to all the gossip games of your school.
  2750.  
  2751. “Just a friend taking some of the heat off me-” You scratch an imaginary itch on the back of your hand. “-before I get raped by a mob that think I’m a public cherry picker or the town bike or I’m ‘rescued’ by some white knight.”
  2752.  
  2753. “But you’re not exactly single either. That’s some kind of friend.” She nods to agree with herself, pink hair tumbling around her ebony horns and down her shoulders. “Wonderland girls ARE some of the best friends to have.”
  2754.  
  2755. ‘Best all kinds of friends’ The little lamia on her pin waves the banner with a shy coy face.
  2756.  
  2757. Before she can pursue it anymore you sense a change in the air. It feels heavier, wetter. The humidity soars and you swear there’s a thin layer of cloud forming high up under the latticework of skylights.
  2758.  
  2759. Everyone but you groans in some measure of irritation or exasperation. The cause makes itself known a few minutes later with a tearful sob as it slithers into sight. It looks like a lamia with antlers, or maybe something closer to a wurm. You’re not too surprised to see yet another girl. Makes sense that everyone would be coming and going right now, shortly after last bell on a Friday. She’s got natural magic. That much is clear. The air vibrates with it, and faint thunder echoes from the ceiling.
  2760.  
  2761. The monstergirl herself looks like she’s been in a downpour, elaborate gold-patterned silk clinging to her every curve, makeup running down her face. She was dressed for some kind of hot date before someone dropped a couple gallons worth of water on her.
  2762.  
  2763. Not even noticing you, she heads straight for the little troll and picks her up like a big stuffed toy, burying her face in the girl’s shoulder. “I got dumped…” The blue-haired estdrake cries, muffling her voice in shortstack troll softness.
  2764.  
  2765. Carmen pats the ryu on the head awkwardly. “I’m so sorry Moira. I know you had your heart set on him. But one date does not make a guy your boyfriend.” She squirms as she tries to pry herself loose, dragon eyeliner and foundation smeared all over her shirt and jacket. “Don’t take it so hard. Did he say why he didn’t want to see you again?”
  2766.  
  2767. You don’t hear the answer. Some deep buried instinct, triggered by a smell or a noise you don’t consciously recognize, warns you. A quick look around and the cause stares you right in the face. There’s a succubus, a royal blue no less, in full regalia, striding briskly up the path toward the gathering, man mountain half a step behind. And she looks pissed. A light mist starts to drift down from above and her frown deepens even as you watch her approach. She flares her wings to make herself known when she’s in spitting distance.
  2768.  
  2769. “Always wonder why bad date, Moist? Is the usual. Filthy Zip think she is god. He obvious disagree.” Her thick scornful accent interjects into the middle of the ryu’s crying. “Now we all have damp for week again!” The rare blue-skinned succubus leans against a marble planter, one hand on her wide hips. Up close you can see she’s dressed in similar bizarre garb to her silent sentinel and covered in what must be half her weight in gold.
  2770.  
  2771. The antlered dragon wipes her messy face clumsily with her hanky clutched in giant reptilian claws. “Fuck you Loren.” She manages between sobs, dabbing her silvery eyes with the indigo silk.
  2772.  
  2773. Gold-capped onyx horns shake disparagingly at the Zipangu monster. “What you expect arrogant girl? Think people should lick dirty scales because of little rain. Maybe if you real noble of brimstone, they honor for you.” You recognize the accent now, like your own stepmother’s but far newer and coarser.
  2774.  
  2775. “Reverence come of true power.” The arrogant blue whore smirks at the legless water dragon. “You want see? Watch. Learn.”
  2776.  
  2777. Air whispers between the royal blue’s dark lips as she takes a deep breath. Black sclera begin to color with the barest hint of the lewd red light of her race.  Then the sluttcubus turns to you and raises her hand commandingly. “You, farlander, come. Is Tribute Day, yes? Kneel. Pay your respect.”
  2778.  
  2779. Confidently, she twiddles her bejeweled fingers to be kissed. Everyone around is quiet. Shock or fear, you’d bet one or both. Who is she that she can cause this reaction? It’s worse than when June had your class on dating lockdown. Only, the pendant around your neck doesn’t even warm to the touch. You’ve gotta be missing something. There’s no oomph to her imperative.
  2780.  
  2781. “On. Your. Knees!” The demon fumes impotently and the red tint increases marginally to a faint glow.
  2782.  
  2783. It’s laughable. Her power is like a baby’s compared to the thing squatting in your home, a torch against a lighthouse beacon. The stepslut doesn’t even tease you at this level, much less command. Against your better judgment, you can’t help but snicker at her. Are you supposed to be intimidated? Seriously? She slowly lowers her hand and stares at you wide-eyed. You can’t help but laugh even harder. The others stare at you aghast, even the ryu, but you can’t help it. Just that stunned confusion on a monstergirl’s face when her tricks fail is enough to crack you up. It may be stupid of you, but after all you’ve been through, it’s still a genuine goofy “Ahahahaha” that wracks your gut. It takes a moment to stifle it and let the more rational part of you prevail.
  2784.  
  2785. To your own surprise, the sluttcubus’s mood shifts radically. You expected building fury but all you see are bright inquisitive eyes as she stomps up to you, standing on the balls of her feet in her high heels to look at your face as closely as possible. Her tail writhes and knots around itself anxiously. “You, are you bonded? You don’t look gypas. You not be so far from…” Fine cobalt fingers reach for your face. As she draws too close, you feel the pendant warm slightly. Smoke curls from the tips of her black fingernails, and her hand quickly retreats back to safety.
  2786.  
  2787. “I’m just used to it. I live with someone far more terrible than you.” You inform her with calculated arrogance to match her earlier show, served with a wry grin instead of a sneer to tease. No reason to go full dick. Plenty of monstergirls have treated you much worse.
  2788.  
  2789. The skank ignores the tone completely as her interest increases exponentially. “Name? Her name? She is like me? Relation? Title?”
  2790.  
  2791. That kills your mood. The answer sticks in your throat, every consonant and vowel filled with contempt of the bearer of the name as you answer. “Her name is Lily. She is married to my father.” You didn’t have to, but you’re a little intrigued by this girl as well. There’s a certain novelty to meeting another blueskin and being able to make some comparisons, look for weaknesses. They are pretty rare in common society.
  2792.  
  2793. “I doubt much that true.” She seems to recognize the moniker, but shakes her head like it’s some inside joke. “If you not promised, would like talk. Get to know more, learn more about. Dinner?” The blueberry bimbo gives you her most inviting smile and gestures toward the door.
  2794.  
  2795. Only then does her manservant step in. He pulls her back a full yard with his massive catcher’s mitt hand, scratching at a lighter band on his middle digit like he’s used to having a ring there. Beefy fingers let her go then gracefully dance around his chest and face in some sort of complex sign language.
  2796.  
  2797. “Yes Sherman, I know he pissant. But if he mother be of family then is allow…” The spoiled whore whines before he silently cuts her off.
  2798.  
  2799. It doesn’t take a genius to recognize the ‘no, and that is final’ emphasis on his next set of signs. The succubus curses in some vicious-sounding gatelands epithet and pouts, glaring at him. The man in garish uniform just stares her down. Their wills battle for a moment, but she breaks eye contact first. Impaling the whole group with a furious glare, the demon storms off, stewing in her foul temper.
  2800.  
  2801. The man stays behind until he’s sure she’s leaving, waiting until the senior motions to him to follow her at the first turn of the maze. “Sherman, come.” She calls. “Lets us leave peasants to their games.” Damn, you can taste the bitterness from here.
  2802.  
  2803. The man makes an alien symbol at you with his hands followed by a respectful nod. The way he keeps a straight face, he could be flipping you the bird and you wouldn’t know it. Somehow, it doesn’t feel that way.
  2804.  
  2805. You want to know what made her deny the stepwitch, and who she is, but the burly guy at her back blocks you until she’s out of sight and then follows. Even after she’s gone, the others don’t say a word. Strange, most monstergirls almost never let humiliation go unridiculed in your experience. The ryu goes back to quietly cuddling the recalcitrant troll like she’s a stuffed bear and sits on a bench in her own little world. The mist begins to increase to a soft sprinkle.
  2806.  
  2807. “The hell was that?” You finally ask, glancing sideways at the Jabberwock.
  2808.  
  2809. “Landgravine Lorena Angruna, third cousin of the demon lord and total twat.” Squeak answers for the dragon with her squealing lilt, followed by sharp remonstrating clicks.
  2810.  
  2811. “Then what’s the deal with Lurch Jazzhands?” You press with a mime in a box routine, looking at Jack. She shifts uncomfortably in her seat, tail dipping into the water and tries not to giggle.
  2812.  
  2813. “You mean no-fun Sherman?” The dolphin continues in her stead. “He’s her gypas.”
  2814.  
  2815. Like that explains anything.
  2816.  
  2817. The mermaid twists her white hair around her finger when she sees you don’t understand. “Gypas are…how you say?” She pulls on the drake’s tail. “Babble! You have the best English. What’s the word closest?”
  2818.  
  2819. “Chaperone?” Jack wonders, her mind obviously elsewhere. ‘Nanny’ Her pin adds silently.
  2820.  
  2821. “Yeah, that.” Squeak’s creepy needle teeth chatter excitedly. “They serve the royals and stay with a girl until she’s married. It’s a big status symbol, having a manservant. But really, I think it’s to keep the bluebloods out of trouble and banging everything within a three mile radius.”
  2822.  
  2823. “Forget all that. Let’s talk fun.” The Con Carroll reptile jumps to her talons, every inch of her vibrating with excitement and her flair with more than that. “Hey, you know the one good thing about a holiday almost nobody celebrates like today?”
  2824.  
  2825. The river dolphin’s strange pink complexion lights up with the same idea. “Horror marathon all day on MGC 6!”
  2826.  
  2827. Jack smirks and winks a ‘you got it’ to the mermaid. “Alex has a tv card in her laptop. We could hook it up to the projector in the amphitheatre. I’m sure she’d be down for it.” Then the dragon turns your way. “What do you say, Anon? Up for a movie or two? It’ll be a party with or without you, but I know anyone who shows up would get a thrill out of meeting a guy who can take a faceful of Loren’s voodoo and laugh it off.”
  2828.  
  2829. You think about it for a moment, weight the risk. In the end this is what you wanted, enough of them getting to know you that the odd passerby won’t hassle you out of turn if they see you here later. A smart man knows when to seize a good opportunity when it presents itself, and you’ve made enough stupid mistakes that you need to take what you can get.
  2830.  
  2831. “I guess I have time for one movie. I could never turn down a good party, even if I can’t stay for the whole thing.” You try to accept the invitation with grace. Deep down, you really are touched to have anyone treat you this way on first meeting, especially as quick and spastic as introductions have been, although Jack is clearing the way. Even who they consider complete bitches are mild compared to the likes of June or Ruby or how Nina used to be. You still remember the tentacles of the plant girl and keep your guard up. But with your public non-single status, you’re learning you can walk safely in many more places than you used to.
  2832.  
  2833. “Oh, I promise it will be good.” The Wonderland monster assures you. “Carmen, go get Alex. I’ll grab permission from the dorm manager and get an open invitation announced on the PDA. Squeak, you should get your waterbucket. Anon can help you with that. Moira, wrangle us up some snacks.” The Jabberwock shines with the regal majesty of a true dragon taking control. “Evildin II: Resurrection of Smythe starts at four. I think we can get set up by then.”
  2834.  
  2835. Everyone breaks and scatters. You do your part and help the mergirl fill up her mobile bucket over at the shared dorm boathouse. The “bucket” is more like a four hundred pound rolling bathtub, a very old model. Probably one loaned to her by the school or the city. You offer to help her in but she just splutters when you reach out your hand, saying she’ll do it herself. Right, the touching thing.
  2836.  
  2837. When you emerge back into the courtyard, there’s only the waa waa waa of the PDA sounding the invite. Jack sure moves fast when something stokes her interest. There’s already the troll and some kind of butterfly or giant fairy down by the old lecturn. Moth, you determine when she raises her head and two silver feathery antennae poke up. Gold sparkles in a row of studs up her ears and a baggy black Queen t-shirt takes the place of the standard uniform jacket over her long sleeves. A huge box speaker juts over one shoulder as she directs the green shortstack to run cords this way and that. By the time they finish, there’s already guests dropping in from the upper levels, some bringing a few things with them. It’s strange to have so many eyes on you, but at least there are a few girls with engagement rings, their special someone too far away to visit on a weekend, who look more interested in the film.
  2838.  
  2839. The food is great considering the short notice. You’re leery that someone might sneak aphrodesiacs in there even as a joke, so only sample the safest looking things. There’s strange imported snacks and slapdash hors d'oeuvres made from leftovers, but the biggest pile is a scratchmade batch of fortune cookies the ryu was going to give the guy who wasn’t interested in a second date. They’re all full of saccharine sweet little love notes, but they taste fantastic…even if they are a little damp.
  2840.  
  2841. As the voluptuous wight host introduces the film on the big screen, Jack pulls out a thin strip of paper from between her teeth, reading the note thoughtfully while she chews. “Moira, these are pretty romantic. You’ve got a talent for this, better than some others. I got a fortune cookie one time that said ‘C is for cookie.’ Now what kind of a fortune is that? I still don’t understand third worlders. How can so many people be so bizarre and so boring at the same time?” The dragon nearly chokes when she remembers you’re sitting next to her. “Well not you, but you know.”
  2842.  
  2843. You shrug and point at the screen. “Don’t know what they told you at the gate. but this is fully developed first world. We have fast internet and everything.”
  2844.  
  2845. The dark-skinned drake munches on another cookie. “Arga, Wonderland, Dirt. You’re the third world. Come to think of it, you’re the third world in this solar system too, right? I thought this was supposed to be a top-tier private institute of education?”
  2846.  
  2847. “It means something different in Eng…you know what, nevermind.” You accede. “Your way makes more sense.”
  2848.  
  2849. Mischevious red eyes sparkle and the corner of her mouth curls into a hook of a grin. “Of course, no sense like nonsense.”
  2850.  
  2851. Everyone quiets down once the title bar comes up. The movie is a classic, one of those examples of the sequel being better than the original, but your mind keeps drifting to the things you have to do: your date with the palfrey; the snake, that fucking snake, whatever she’s up to; so much to do.
  2852.  
  2853. But you like this place. It has a certain zen to it. Even if it’s not quiet or peaceful, it is relaxing. People joke and chat and grab more food and drink during commercials. By the time the credits roll, you realize you’re already comfortable in your chair, surrounded by strangers, just as estranged from each other for the most part. You’re not stupid. You can smell the sexual tension as easily as they can smell the Cheshire, but this is about the nicest time you can recall having around unfamiliar girls. You can’t even say just monstergirls because there’s a couple of humans mixed in there, sign of the chosen tattooed on the back of their hands.
  2854.  
  2855. But now it’s time to leave, before anything can go wrong in the extended break between films. You get Jack’s attention as you stand to edge your way to the exit. “I better be going. I’m not so great with crowds anyway. But you’re right. It has been fun.”
  2856.  
  2857. The dragon follows you up the stairs clacking up on her polished red talons, only stopping when you turn around outside the auditorium sunk into the ground. The points of her leathery black ears flare and twitch back. Her complexion is calm. You can’t tell if she’s excited or irritated. Her wings fold over her shoulders like a big black cloak, hiding every hint her clothes might give.
  2858.  
  2859. “You don’t fool me. I’ve got you figured out.” The drake declares with a straight face that douses your soul with icewater.
  2860.  
  2861. “Really?” It’s a joke. It has to be. “Tell me what you’ve figured out.”
  2862.  
  2863. “You’re lonely. Doesn’t matter where I’m from or you’re from, I know the type. But you’re different than most. You have friends who would save you from that if you’d let them. No Cheshire would ever claim you that hard if she didn’t mean it. Some random centaur wouldn’t nearly dislocate my jaw if she didn’t care.” She cocks her head sideways just to look at you from a different angle. Her bumblegum-toned hair cascades down over soft mounds straining under her blouse as the Jabberwock stretches and cracks the joints in her wings. “But I guess that makes you interesting too. And I wouldn’t have the pleasure of your company today if you did.”
  2864.  
  2865. What a relief. You flash her your own off-brand shit-eating grin. “Well, how can I be lonely if I have you to keep me company?”
  2866.  
  2867. “Good point. So be sure to drop by again if you’re having girl trouble or feeling down. Anything that injects some extra life around here is always fun.” Jack thumbs back at the light and noise behind her, black scales catching the light. “Just look at this party you stirred up only by coming here. Shame you’re going to miss most of it…Take care ‘till next time.”  
  2868.  
  2869. ‘Don’t go yet.’ The chibi snake’s eyes beg.
  2870.  
  2871. “Until next time.” You wave farewell and turn on your heel. You don’t look back. You know she’s still standing there, watching you leave. You can feel it. You’re just not sure what it means. Too many mixed signals from that one. Con Carroll monstergirls are complicated in their reasons if not their wants. She has a lot of acquaintances, but what you think she really wants is a friend, or cheap entertainment. Maybe it’s the same thing? Even Trisha is always about games games games.
  2872.  
  2873. You finally shake the weight of eyes off you once you follow the garden maze out the way you came. The path, still wet from ryu sadness, is slick. It takes all your attention to stay upright to the main hall. Loafers weren’t built for this.
  2874.  
  2875. Before you get to the elevators the damp plant smell of the gardens gains a sweetness and the barest hint of carrion. The rot is not nearly so overpowering this time. You shudder in remembrance of the first encounter. But maybe there’s an opportunity for a bit of charity. If you could get through today without wringing Vanessa’s stupid neck, then you’re sure you can pull this off, especially after you saw mellow yellow raincoat run and hide.
  2876.  
  2877. Following your nose to the smell’s origin, you find yourself at Room 105: Special Accommodations. You step over by the hinge side, to keep you out of tentacle reach, and rap sharply on the stamped steel door.
  2878.  
  2879. “Tanya?” You call out and knock again.
  2880.  
  2881. After the third round, you stop and put your ear to the door. You could be mistaken. She might be out. No, burbled breathing carries heavily from the other side. She’s waiting for you to leave.
  2882.  
  2883. “Open the door, NOW.” You order the towering flower. Damn it feels good to yell. You haven’t been able to vent like that in awhile.
  2884.  
  2885. You would have given the odds of that working a coinflip. But sure enough, the door creaks open and hot steamy air like a jungle washes over you, carrying the fresh reek of the tentacled beast right down your throat. The carnivorous vegetable leaves the privacy chain on the door, peering at you behind the thin steel links. All seven plus feet of her trembles like she’s afraid, not the same way the bad Cheshire would if you hit her, but terrified of what you might say like Nina if she disappoints you.
  2886.  
  2887. She doesn’t even let you speak first before the wet gristly words start tumbling out of her mouth. “I-I’m sorry, for before. I’m not normally like that. I just, I wanted to hold a man in my arms, just once. When I heard the rumors I…” The abomination hides her iridescent eyes behind her wet scarf, smearing the nectar on her wet green skin. “The other girls aren’t freaks, but I am. I’m so disgusting. Assaulting a guy? I’m no lady. I’m a disgrace. But please forget it happened. I could not bear the shame of being sent home or worse. I promise it will never happen aga...”
  2888.  
  2889. “We never went far enough to say anything happened.” You interrupt, and take pleasure in watching her stoop several inches shorter in relief. “Tanya, I stopped here because you needed to be told something. You should know that you’re not disgusting. You are a lovely girl, and I think one day you will find a guy that will see it. It won’t be me, and it might not even be in this city, but it will happen. Just be patient. Don’t let the loneliness drive you crazy.” Nodding back in the direction of the courtyard, you look her right in those strange rainbow eyes. “You should go join the party. Have some fun.”
  2890.  
  2891. You’re not really a nice guy, not anymore, but you see in her a little of what you were and feel a smidge of pity for the titan alraune. A drop of kindness will mend her for awhile, and maybe she will find a guy before she snaps like you did. But you don’t dare touch her. A hug or a pat could push her over the edge. Just the thought of those arm pods turns your stomach. But you know the hell girls like that get from classmates too. Nina, as magnificent as she is, as much as you tell her otherwise, fears she’ll never be good enough because of the horse pussy stigma. This school can be exceedingly cruel if you were born with the wrong pedigree. It’s taken you awhile to remember that you’re not the only one who was stepped on by the people in this place. If even a bit of the soured milk of human kindness in your veins can be used to spite the bitches responsible, then it’s worth it.
  2892.  
  2893. You reach out close the door before the verdant monster can respond, and half jog toward the exit. Not taking any further chances with that one if she suddenly gets huggy or horny. You feel good about what you did just the same. Slowing down once you’re in the clear, you stride out past the huge lamia sculpture. Outside the Boo Box, you leisurely wind your way off campus and toward home.
  2894.  
  2895. This afternoon could have all be a waste of time, but you’re still happy you did it. Recharged, you’ll be ready to tackle more serious business at the house once Trisha is done with her part of the job. You turn over the ideas in your head with new energy. June’s alone now. The negative part is she’s on her own turf. The positive part is she could only call the cops for help for anything you do, and you’re ninety-nine percent certain she won’t. After all, she wouldn’t do anything to permanently lose the one guy she’ll ever want to fuck. Your brain simmers your thoughts down and begins to crystallize them into a plan, keeping you occupied all the way to the front door.
  2896.  
  2897. To your dismay, you’re not lucky enough to have home to yourself when you arrive. The whore succubus watches tv from the long irrevocably-soiled couch. It’s the first time in living memory you’ve ever seen anything but porn on the screen, and that’s in the rare times it’s used in the first place.
  2898.  
  2899. You recognize the catchy slow piano theme. It’s the old slasher B-movie cult classic “The Tar King.” Why would she even be watching this? What odd taste for a succubus. Doesn’t seem like her at all. But then you’ve been fooled more than once before. She couldn’t have known what you were up to? No, has to be coincidence. Everybody probably knows it’s a big horror marathon on the major networks today. Besides, she wouldn’t be so engrossed in the movie if she was trying to taunt you.
  2900.  
  2901. The demon senses your presence, sensitive wings stirred by the air of your movements. A sharp black nail hits soft mute while her terrible eyes remain intently glued to the screen. It’s at the part with the flashback of the evil wizard king’s defeat, the giant tar lake in flames at his back, the heroic army of the demon lord storming his castle. Forced to the edge of the huge veranda on the tallest tower, he screams his curses at the brave monster knights, bolts flinging from his fingertips. Further and further, he’s pushed to the railing, the flash of steel closing in.
  2902.  
  2903. With a final crazed laugh, what a hammy actor but what a classy voice, the Tar King dives from his perch into the burning pitch far below. The bubbling asphalt swallows him whole, and the final oath he swears is VENGEANCE on those who dared take his throne!
  2904.  
  2905. You remember the rest. Cut to the modern age, and a tar-covered skeleton with a crooked half-melted crown pulls itself from the hard surface of the lake, free to terrorize again, the real start of the movie.
  2906.  
  2907. The stepwhore sighs and rests her chin in her hand. “It wasn’t like that, you know. No one would dare set fire to the sacred lake, even in war. It was the city that burned and choked the skies with ash. You cannot imagine that much death. I don’t think there are words to describe it.” Lily continues slowly, eyes unfocused. “But I guess this is almost all fiction. He wasn’t a wizard; magicians of that caliber were long extinct by then. He never jumped either. He was captured and boiled alive by the army in a cauldron of tar, his remains crafted into a gruesome statue. He’s still there in the Demon Lord’s castle, a trophy they’re ashamed of these days but too afraid to throw away.”
  2908.  
  2909. That is an awful lot of trivia from her. Only, anything she says is almost never trivial.
  2910.  
  2911. “Tell me one thing.” You finally respond out of curiosity. “Why talk to me so much now, after all this time?”
  2912.  
  2913. “At this point, you’re the only one left I can talk to.” Lily shrugs, purposefully bouncing her azure breasts. “By the way. There’s a couple of your girls in your room. You shouldn’t keep them waiting.”
  2914.  
  2915. ‘You’re the only one…I can talk to…only one.’ The words trigger a flash in the back of your mind, like a memory, only more vivid. A short blue succubus child in a frayed dress clings tightly to your waist, sobbing into your jerkin. “You’re the only one I can talk to.” You feel no hate toward her, no bitterness, just an emptiness and a strong artificial compulsion to comfort the child. Patting her head, you comb her hair over young stubby horns. She hugs you even tighter. You can feel the moisture of her tears through your clothes, the spun silk of her hair in your fingers. As quickly as it was there, the moment is gone.
  2916.  
  2917. Nothing to worry about. Probably some Wonderland bullshit from kissing the Jabberwock or something in the food you ate. Who the hell even wears jerkins? If monsters are quick to use aphrodisiacs, they’re just as quick to use hallucinogens if it suits them. You dread to think of the alternative. ‘You saw something.’
  2918.  
  2919. Whatever it is, you hope it wears off soon. Unsettled, it doesn’t hit you until you open the door to your room that Lily said ‘girls’.
  2920.  
  2921. The whole litter of Hearts lounges about like they live there, the broken one napping in a sleazy outfit on the bed and the sweet one spinning around in your desk chair. No no no no NO! How did Thing One even make it past the wards? You can still see them, mostly unburnt and functional, pasted where you left them all around.
  2922.  
  2923. Trisha’s already happily smiling in clean clothes and bandages, freshly showered, her messy hair tidied up as much that carefree style she likes allows. The Cheshire’s twisted one of her finer stripes behind her ear into a candy cane side braid of violet and fuchsia, capped with a bow that whirls over her shoulder as the chair creaks around.
  2924.  
  2925. The cat’s wearing an old sailor-themed outfit that used to be a legendary uniform in your school, long time ago, back when clothes were still issued by the administration. Not even a fake, it’s the real deal, true indigo-stained accents and jurogumo silk with the gold thread crest on the shoulder. You wonder where she even dug it up. The only other time you’ve seen one in person was when the Prez would wear hers for a lark and swish the short blue skirt around while she made seaman jokes.
  2926.  
  2927. It takes your Cheshire less than a second to snap into your arms once she sees you. All four limbs wrap around you in a hug, striped tail twitching excitedly, purr roaring to life. She tries to go for a kiss and you block her face with your hand, quelling her enthusiasm.
  2928.  
  2929. “What’s SHE doing here?” You glance toward the sleeping Cheshire and demand in a loud whisper that’s halfway to a shout, your voice only lowered out of instinct. Or is it fear that the succubus might hear over the muffled sound of TV screams down the hall? You’re still loud enough to almost wake Vanessa. She yawns lazily and rolls over while Trisha nudges your hand aside and nuzzles affectionately into your neck.
  2930.  
  2931. Your feline’s warm breath tickles your ear. “Don’t be cross, lover. If Ness is going to meet us to walk to school every day, she has to know where you live. And this is the only place that smells nice, good and safe. You said I could play as long as it didn’t hurt your plans. This will help you.” Black leggings cover Trisha’s legs and press her fur down, the fabric emphasizing the curves of her thighs and pert ass in fantastic new ways as your hands support her, taking some of her weight off your sore back while your fingers sink pleasurably into her supple flesh. She’s even wearing full shoes, vintage hush, something that’s greatly fallen out of style with the modern catgirl generation. With her uniform and that braid, it’s like she stepped out of a time machine.
  2932.  
  2933. As mad as you are that she brought her slutty sister into your crumbling sanctum and won’t give a straight answer, you can admit the feline looks fine, damn fine, radiant even, in no small part because of how happy she is just to see you. The way she lights up, you’d have to be dead inside not to feel anything. And somehow the damn cat always finds some way to force you to acknowledge you’re not. Unconsciously, you rub your thumbs in little circles on the lycra-like material on her thighs, the sensation of the texture stretching over her warm skin as addictive as any drug.
  2934.  
  2935. Trisha’s ears stand straight up and you don’t have to see her face to know her sweet smile broadens into a lewd grin. “You like that?” She thrums, hugging you tighter in her arms, her remaining claws poking through your shirt. “It’s a Cheshire specialty. Any old catgirl would have to trim her fur down to squeeze in these, pulls against the coat the wrong way.” The tip of a rough wet tongue tastes its way slowly up the side of your neck over old bites and bruises. “Me? I just have to. Jump. In.” She punctuates the last two words with little sharp-fanged nibbles on your earlobe.
  2936.  
  2937. Forget teleportation or invisibility or any other cantrip, that girl’s real magic is stifling your worst urges, disarming you with nothing more than a smile, a kiss or a hug. You would have cracked her skull open like her sister’s by now if she was anyone else. Part of you wants to, to hurt her and scream why couldn’t she have been this way a year ago. It’s just…when you look in those bright golden eyes…she really believes you would never do such a thing to her: terrible things, evil things, sure…just not to her, not anymore. ‘Stop overthinking. Play the game. Just play the game.’ You tell yourself.
  2938.  
  2939. “Did you get the job done?” You rest your cheek on the top of her head and blow on the tuft of her closest violet ear. “You look like you’ve had time to spare.”
  2940.  
  2941. “Mmmmmostly.” Your tabby purrs as she drops her feet down to the ground, sliding your grip up higher, past her thighs and up the back of her skirt. She keeps her paws crossed behind your neck, coyly glancing up as she swings her hips side to side, just slow enough to naturally rest your hands on either cheek.
  2942.  
  2943. “How mostly?” You give her a playful squeeze then let go and shift your grip over her hips, fingers on the white cloth of the uniform blouse just above her tail. You let the rhythm she sets infect you and start to sway in time. The left shoe comes up as you take one step and then another, one-two-three, leading the Cheshire in a simple waltz. The only tune you need is the motor roaring inside her with every breath. As you rock her in your arms and spin in a circle humming softly, she looks even more pleased than if you had just tossed her on the bed and gone straight for the horizontal tango. It takes a prompted “Well?” to bring her head out of the clouds to answer you.
  2944.  
  2945. “I got plenty set up outside and around.” Her purr dies down enough for her speak with a rumbling timbre. “You should see how many people are there now, crawling over the place like ants: landscaping, painting, rebuilding. It’s like night and day.” She shoots a pointed look at a ward above your head. “But the inside, no joy. I don’t know how, but I don’t like it.”
  2946.  
  2947. Not perfect but it couldn’t have been easy to avoid detection with all those people around. Having a Cheshire onboard makes so many things possible. Only, here are two, and that’s one too many.
  2948.  
  2949. “You did good gorgeous.” You pull her more intimately close to dance and try not to wince when she accidentally steps on your toes with her big paw clogs. “But if you haven’t figured out how to bypass wards, then how did you slip Vanessa in here?”
  2950.  
  2951. “I didn’t slip Ness in.” Trisha teases, her six claws kneading the back of your shirt collar. “They only stop demons or someone who’s against you right?”
  2952.  
  2953. If your protection is working, and it stops anyone who wants to hurt you…
  2954.  
  2955. She stops dancing, leans into you and presses what little breasts she has into your chest, letting her joy vibrate through and resonate inside you. Rich gold irises watch the train of thought chug behind your eyes. “That’s it, lover. Work it out.” There’s that smug ass grin a mile wide. “I was telling the truth. The proof is right there. She likes you. But I guess it’s kinda hard not to like you when you show your good side.”
  2956.  
  2957. “You shifty little minx.” You scratch behind her ear. There’s no guile you can detect in her voice, just self satisfaction. If she’s tricking you, then you can’t even tell anymore. You chew on that thought for a moment, running the tips of your fingers down, following the braid underneath until you get to the soft black bow. You barely pay any mind while you play with it until white lettering in the corner draws your eyes, small but clearly legible: Lago 100% cotton.
  2958.  
  2959. You’re more amused than anything, and a little flattered. “Did you really make this out of a pair of my underwear?”
  2960.  
  2961. “Nobody with a good nose would need to ask.” Trisha giggles and suddenly you’re wondering if it’s clean. All you can smell from here is the saddle soap used to polish up her collar and a hint of your shampoo. The violet feline gives a sly flash of her fangs and rubs her cheek into your hand. “Why wouldn’t I want to show off how virile you are? It’s status for me. Girls turn green with envy when they smell how much of a stud the guy that gave me my ring is.”
  2962.  
  2963. The way she looks at you, she’s just begging for a kiss, not a playful brush but a real passionate teeth-clicking lip-lock. The feline tilts up her chin and adds weight to her furry arms, dragging you down by the neck to her level. Those eyes, like little yellow suns shining on your shrunken soul, making the high spots brighter and covering the nasty gouges of the low places in shadow, making you see you the way she sees you. A guy might forget what’s hidden in the dark if he stayed in that glow long enough. What would it take? A year? Two? Three? You could almost consider it, if it didn’t come with a twin-shaped timebomb of problems attached. And you’ve made promises-to yourself and others-that you refuse to renege. She knows that too under the veil of hope, but the siren call of the fantasy is so strong, even you can hear the echo of its song. ‘If only…If only…’
  2964.  
  2965. The air burns with electricity between the pair of you until you’re sure sparks are going to leap and shower the moment your mouth touches her waiting lips.
  2966.  
  2967. A loud ‘ahem’ of a fake cough yanks you both out of the moment before you can find out for sure.
  2968.  
  2969. “You done stroking his ego?” The twisted Cheshire calls to her sister. “If you ask me, he’s not that special. He’s not extra big or anything. He can just go for awhile longer than some.” Vanessa yawns and rubs at her new heart-shaped eyepatch three steps away. Out of bed, you can get a real good look at her now. Somebody sure went through a lot of trouble to clean her up. The custom twitch you built to clamp her scruff awhile back is solidly attached to back of her neck, blended with a wide black choker band that’s almost a collar. With her magic shorted out, she almost looks normal, no invisible chunks or holes, striped purple ears sticking up whole from base to tuft. A bobcut wig built for catgirl types, several shades too dark for her natural stripes, covers almost all the bandages and remnants of her real hair.
  2970.  
  2971. Her clothes are simple and slutty, a bright yellow camisole with no bra underneath and black spats with a heart-shaped hole in the back for her tail. You’d bet good money Trisha cut that part out to make the new cover for her twin’s bad eye. With all of Vanessa’s damage constrained above the neck, she’s more than happy to show plenty of milky white skin, her only blemish a half-moon set of red marks in the meat of her nape that you gave her earlier today.
  2972.  
  2973. Thing One finishes yawning but keeps digging at her eyepatch with the fleshy heel pad of her paw until her twin jumps to her side.
  2974.  
  2975. Trisha tsks her genetic mirror, sounding more like an older sister reprimanding her for bad manners. “Ness, stop rubbing. You’re just scrubbing off brain cells now, and you don’t have a lot to spare.”
  2976.  
  2977. “Everybody’s a comedian.” Vanessa grumbles halfheartedly at her kin while her one good golden orb shifts to you, dangerously sharp and focused, in one of her more cogent moods.
  2978.  
  2979. Trisha simply spreads a toothy grin and claps her on the back with her mangled digits. “Lighten up sourpuss.” She hugs her sideways in one arm, stands on her tiptoes and conspiratorially mouths into her sister’s ear. When she finishes, the feline lets her twin up, craftily slipping a yellow shoulder strap back in place instead of halfway down the slut’s arm. “Now, don’t you have something to say?”
  2980.  
  2981. Vanessa looks at you, then to her sister, then back again. “…” The broken cat mutters too low to understand, tense lips barely shaping the vowels. Crossing her furry paws, the scroungy feline turns to your tabby with something halfway between a pout and a sulk. “Happy? And when did you get to be so pushy?”
  2982.  
  2983. “When I realized I need to be when it matters.” Your Cheshire keeps smiling as she ups the pressure. “I could barely hear you. He’s a guy, so you have to speak up.”
  2984.  
  2985. The concussed cat stares at her sister for a moment, then sighs in defeat. Whatever she thinks of you, she does care about her enough to relent. The Cheshire strides up to you on bare paws, tail squirming in irritation, perky unsupported breasts bouncing slightly with every step under yellow cotton.
  2986.  
  2987. She stops right in front of you, looks you dead in the eye with the one operational iris she has, and opens her little smartass mouth wide. “I said I’m sorry, alright!” Her pale face colors red with something you’re sure is more anger than embarrassment or shame. “Fuck, I don’t even know what I’m apologizing for! I don’t remember doing anything I need to be sorry about. But I’m glad that’s done with.” She twists her head side to side and pops her neck noisily while her face splits into a big shit-eating grin.
  2988.  
  2989. The catgirl actually has the gall to spring into your arms like Trisha did earlier, except using nothing but her powerful legs. Your body reacts before your mind does, reflexively grabbing on to keep from overbalancing and falling over. Only instead of like the previous twin being soft and sweet, Vanessa just takes the opportunity to press her crotch hard into your hips, full cameltoe straining against the thin black fabric as she growls in your ear. “Whether Trish is serious about you or not, it’s her game and I should play along.” She rubs her cheek glands into you, probably as a jab at Trisha for pushing her, then tickles the tip of your nose with a blunted claw. “That means for all intents to me, you’re going to be family. So I should treat you like family. That’s different rules. It’s not right to be a spoilsport and ruin family fun.”
  2990.  
  2991. Before you can drop the damaged goods on her ass, she lets go of your shoulders on her own. Bending backwards, the feline arches her back in a smooth motion, touching her hand paws to the carpet. Her soft camisole falls and reveals a delectable pink navel as she lifts off your hips, the tips of her ears brushing the ground and her wig showing the punched cap pinned to her dressings as the off-color hair follows gravity down.
  2992.  
  2993. With a grunting heave of her whipcord muscles that flows from her delts down to her paws, Vanessa launches herself into half a backflip. Her feet nearly scrape the ceiling when she reaches the apex, twisting upright as she falls. She drops down beside her sister, landing daintily on her bare pink pads and blows you a little kiss. Fucking showoff. When they rely so much on their powers, it’s easy to miss seeing how acrobatic and flexible they are. They are cats at the core.
  2994.  
  2995. “Your turn.” Venessa purrs, glowing with anticipation.
  2996.  
  2997. “Are you kidding?” Like hell you can do that, even if you were at one hundred percent and your vertebrae weren’t aching from their teasing already.
  2998.  
  2999. Trisha disappears with a pop and suddenly over a hundred and ten pounds settles on your spine, paws hugging your neck as she rides piggyback. Sweet pink lips susserate lovingly into your ear. “You made her cry today, when you promised me you would be nice to her. We’ll call it a joke taken too far, but aren’t you the one that taught us to think of someone’s feelings in a prank? That’s all I’m asking you to do.” She rubs the little scent nubs of her wrist over your neck, covering over what her sister dared disturb. “You can do that for me at least, right? After all, I’ve been freezing my ass off naked for you and trying to rig cameras with crippled paws all afternoon.”
  3000.  
  3001. Now you get down to brass tacks. That’s the goal of all this: to completely force you and the terrible twin to put everything aside and be cordial. Well, that was one of her conditions. You just didn’t expect her to drop the issue right in the middle of your damn bed first chance she got. You can’t deny your girl’s a real schemer just like you were warned, much cleverer than she lets on most of the time.
  3002.  
  3003. You don’t even have to weigh the options. Trisha happy and on your side is worth more than any halfass apology, especially if you only have to fork one over the same quality as the one you received. Let her have this. The only thing that worries you is she knows just how valuable she is, and is learning to really use it as leverage. The cat’s not forcing so hard as she first did, just pushing now in that ever-so-reasonable way that good manipulators do.
  3004.  
  3005. You turn your focus to Vanessa, who looks like she just caught the canary. Swallowing your pride, you try to keep any sarcasm or meanness out of your voice. “I guess I’m sorry too, that I hurt your feelings.” Not sorry about what you said, not sorry that you meant it, just sorry that she couldn’t take the truth about what a horrible little thing she is.
  3006.  
  3007. “See, that wasn’t so hard. We can all get along.” Your fake fiancé thrums and kisses you softly on the cheek, engagement ring pressing into the side of your neck. “It’s nicer isn’t it, when everyone gets along?”
  3008.  
  3009. A crack and abruptly the arms are hugging you from the front, ears folded back and rubbing under your chin, gentle happy smile trying to melt your icy heart like an acetylene torch. God have mercy, you could weaponize that smile. You don’t even realize you’ve started petting her until her purr raises two octaves.
  3010.  
  3011. “So, you ready to have a little fun, my Anon?” She has to struggle to enunciate the words over the roar of her voice box.
  3012.  
  3013. You don’t like the way she said fun. And you doubly don’t like the way you can sense Vanessa is included in that. “What about ‘not part of a set?’ I thought you wanted something a little more…intimate?” You tease one of her fluffy striped triangles and tickle the guard hairs inside with your words. She’s not the only one who can play that game.
  3014.  
  3015. The imperial-colored tabby has to stifle a breathless ‘nyaaa’ to answer, her heart thumping bass to the song of her happy vibrations. “Not everything is about sex, lover. And besides, today is different.”
  3016.  
  3017. “A special exception” Vanessa adds.
  3018.  
  3019. “For a special occasion” Trisha finishes.
  3020.  
  3021. The twins in tune is NEVER good. Or more ‘Up to no good.’
  3022.  
  3023. Sporting mirrored leering grins, they pounce on you in tandem. There’s a terrifying moment of losing your balance, falling backward in a furry embrace. Then you feel that characteristic twist in your gut that accompanies a jump followed by a cushioned thump when you land on something soft. Dare you admit, you’re starting to get used to it.
  3024.  
  3025. The chilly night air washes over you as you blink up into the light-polluted sky. A thick comforter spreads out underneath your tangle of bodies, stolen from the laundry for the master bedroom. Tarred and graveled shingles lay beyond that. You know that as cats they love high places but your own recent memories of roofs are not so pleasant. Trisha knows that. She was the cause of them. It makes you wonder why, more forcing you to acclimate to her personal world, her family, her safe places. That’s a long term gambit, and doesn’t quite square with the deal she made with you.
  3026.  
  3027. Like Vanessa said, she’s not playing around. That no-commitment stuff your cat sold is more lies than truth. What bothers you so much is you forget so easily, constantly having to remind yourself of the truth. She always seems so bright and earnest, even when she’s pushing her way. You were a coward that broke into something hard and ugly; she was a coward that chrysalized into something beautiful…gorgeous and dangerous.
  3028.  
  3029. You know Nina well enough to discern her tells most of the time. With the Cheshire, it’s like learning a whole ‘nother cipher. But even now, as she sits up and pulls you into the pillow of her tiny lap, strokes your hair and plants a gentle upside-down kiss on your lips, it gets harder and harder to care. You wonder if there’s some devilry-magic, biologic or otherwise-at work like with the snake, or if she really has that much natural charm. You don’t remember her being so attractive in the beginning, just a scrawny capricious trickster, all skin and bones. You’d never imagined her lithe form was so soft or so strong, subtle developing curves and whipcord muscle that you had to run your hands over to really appreciate.
  3030.  
  3031. Shaking loose of cloying what-coulda-been thoughts, you try to sit up, only to have mangled striped paws firmly pin you down.
  3032.  
  3033. Before you can even think to struggle, Trisha’s side braid tickles your nose as she contorts herself over to whisper in your ear. “Easy. Anticipation makes everything better. Trust me, lover.” The pressure eases from your shoulders. “Let us take care of you. Just relax.”
  3034.  
  3035. The Cheshire’s purrs rise and fall with the silken bow on her dainty chest. The smooth pink pads of her thumbs dig hard and uncertainly into the meat of your traps, working loose the knots while her fur rubs against your neck. It’s not pleasant; a deep tissue massage never is while it’s going on. But the sweet feline is trying her best to look like she knows what she’s doing. Her bright sharp-fanged smile and the pillow of her supple thighs more than makes up for any discomfort.
  3036.  
  3037. You’re finally beginning to relax when Vanessa rouses with a sleepy flick of her ears. The cyclopean twin wordlessly works her way down to your feet, paws fumbling unsuccessfully with the laces on your shoes. Giving up on her unwieldy purple fingers, the feline gets a good grip and yanks the clods off with pure monster strength that nearly twists your ankles. The headcase tosses the leather loafers aside, then turns her attention to your socks. She smells them curiously, like it’s the only unmarked part of you. Then the Cheshire wraps her striped paws around your left foot and gets to work like her sister. That selfish queen serving anyone without having to be beaten into it, you’d never thought you’d see the day.
  3038.  
  3039. Trisha’s attack on your shoulders softens to a caress that tracks its way over your neck and across your face as she forces you to look at her. A strange light shines from the back of her wide pupils in the night, not the normal iridescence but a thin vertical stripe through the center brighter than the rest. It’s pink, bright pink against the labradorescent green.
  3040.  
  3041. Before you can get a really good look, her ears swivel forward. She breaks eye contact and looks to the horizon, over the treetops in the direction of downtown. You follow her line of sight from your slanted vantage point. Nothing.
  3042.  
  3043. The young Cheshire grins. “Like mom says, ‘Whatever the taxes are that pay for that, it’s worth every penny.’ ”
  3044.  
  3045. Vanessa looks back over her shoulder and stares too. Seeing the restless cats stay silent and still is downright creepy, only Trisha’s purrs breaking the quiet.
  3046.  
  3047. You open your mouth when you figure whatever joke they’re playing has gone on far enough. “Alright, I give up. What are you two looking at?”
  3048.  
  3049. “The fireworks.” Your Cheshire answers as if that’s the only thing anyone could be looking at right now, like a cat watching a laser dot on a wall.
  3050.  
  3051. You strain your vision and squint into the distance. There, where they’re gazing, a faint sparkle of indigo the size of a marble bursts against the muddy sky.
  3052.  
  3053. “I spoke you his eyes weren’t good enough to enjoy the show.” Honest mistake or mild aphasia, it’s always something a little different going on with Thing One’s brain.
  3054.  
  3055. The good tabby’s ears droop at the criticism, crestfallen. “It’s the first real date I’ve ever set up. I-I thought it would be romantic…” It’s unfair how cute she looks. It almost makes up for the unwelcome company.
  3056.  
  3057. You pat the claws resting on your shoulder and give them a reassuring squeeze. “You really are a sweetheart.”
  3058.  
  3059. “What’s that?” Trisha feigns surprise. “Is that an actual genuine smile? For me?” She halfheartedly teases and a joyful grin begins to creep back across her face. “You’re the sweetheart, Sweetheart.”
  3060.  
  3061. “You two are going to make me sick.” Vanessa grumbles and slinks up to flop on her back beside you on the blanket. “Just fuck already. You’re worse than Mom and Dad. And that’s saying something when Mom’s old uniform you’re wearing has enough of their DNA soaked in it to be our sister.” The feline snuggles into the crook of your arm like it’s natural, pressing the gooseflesh exposed by her skimpy clothes against you for warmth. “She’s going to be clocked you took it without questioning by the way.”
  3062.  
  3063. A sharp pop and there’s nothing supporting your head as your tabby drapes across your other side, resting her cheek on your chest, flattening her ears back just enough to beg to be petted. “It’s worth it. Dad always said a Cheshire wearing one of these is irresistible to a guy.” Her smirk begins to fray a little at the edges. “Besides, Ness, you think that’s even on her radar after everything you’ve pulled the last few days?”
  3064.  
  3065. “Eh.” Is the only response Trisha gets from her shivering sister as Vanessa folds the blanket over all of you, getting leaf litter in everyone’s hair. “Anystate, can’t you see you’re boring him? We can watch the show but he should be entertained.”
  3066.  
  3067. “You got a better idea?” The feline seems content to just hold you, watching the sky, warming up under the covers, and getting her ears scratched. Well, not totally content. She grinds a magnificent stocking-covered thigh slowly across the V of your pants and pulls your hand up under her arm to cup her budding breast, entwining what she can of her digits in yours.
  3068.  
  3069. Vanessa on the other side, just uses you like a heater pad, more focused on the distant celebration than anything sexual. She’s always been a little uncomfortable with that sort of thing in front of her sister unless she’s horny out of her mind, odd for someone who has no shame. “How about story clock? Spooky ones like the legend of the Bezekira or the White Nightmare.”
  3070.  
  3071. “Bezekira aren’t spooky, Ness. Cheshires were made from the last of the hellcats. Traded the telepathy for teleportation, can finally become visible, and umm a few unforeseen side effects.” You feel her kicking off her shoes under the comforter as she begins to rub her cheek harder against you, spreading her scent. “But what do you expect when you mess around with someone’s head?”
  3072.  
  3073. “Way to spoil the twist for him…” Vanessa starts.
  3074.  
  3075. “And I’m not in the mood to hear about the White Nightmare either.” Trisha cuts her off.
  3076.  
  3077. “Hits a little too close to home with collecting the claws of bad girls, huh?” The broken cat jabs with a smirk of her own. “What about how we popped our cherries then?”
  3078.  
  3079. The purring feline rolls her bright eyes. “You ever going to quit trying to pry that out of me?”
  3080.  
  3081. “No, and I’m curious about lover boy over here. Was it the stairmom, horsepussy?” A predatory grin spreads even wider, revealing her bright white teeth. “Or maybe that runty neko with the stupid glasses that was so friendly when he first moved here?”
  3082.  
  3083. “Lina.” Trisha mutters and holds you tighter, remaining claws slipping from their sheaths to pierce your shirt and hook her nylon-covered feet into your pants. You’ve not heard that name in a long time, a very long time. It’s one you’d rather forget, and are surprised anyone but you remembers.
  3084.  
  3085. The brain-damaged heart just keeps plowing ahead with her usual tact. “Yeah. I always thinked she was too beta to make a move, but I’ve been left about things before. So any volunteers?” Silence greets her challenge and she growls her disappointment. “Some master. Some alpha twin. Fine, I’ll go first.”
  3086.  
  3087. You really want to say ‘Please don’t.’ but if Trisha wants you to get along then she’ll have to be the one to step in. Not like you’re going to enjoy Vanessa being here either way, so what if she ruins what Trisha wants. Maybe then the one cat you like will get a clue. Most guys would dream about having twins cuddled up to them. You’d rather have time alone with one and the other locked away for a spare parts supply. You’ve got two other better-behaved sisters if you wanted to scratch that itch. You can’t really explain it. It used to not matter. But somehow, it kind of feels like cheating, and you know deep down it would make your Cheshire sad to share you with her sister even if she was all smiles. Logically, it should matter less than tending to your remuda. But come to think of it, when was the last time you had either of…
  3088.  
  3089. “It’s kind of funny in a sad sort of way.” The cat with the heart-shaped eyepatch interrupts your thoughts when she looks at you with her one good golden iris to begin her story. “You know it wasn’t that long before you moved here. Me and Trish were heading home after dark. We’d just stole some slushes from the Knight ‘n Day down the street. It was the whole moon and I was feeling horny as fuck. We both were. I’d lost rock paper claws for first use of the porn stash on our computer so I was even more frustrated. Then, like a present left just for me, there was this dumb straw-haired scrawny kid playing a handheld on his porch. From the sounds inside, he was trying to get some peace from the noise his brother and his brother’s girlfriend were making. I looked at him and something inside just snapped. I wanted him more than anything I’ve ever wanted in my life. I was out of my clothes and nothing but two eyes and a grin in ten ticks flat.”
  3090.  
  3091. Her face isn’t rosy with nostalgia or twisted with cruel pleasure. Maybe the closest you can imagine is regret, though a faded shadow of what most people would call it. “He didn’t have hardly any fight or fire on the surface, kinda like you before you went all First Blood. He whimpered and cried but with some work I got him hard enough for the job. Kinda pissed me off. I mean I was the one in pain and he barely lasted a minute before I had to start all over again.” Her eye slips back to the sky and she gets that same distant lost look she had in the hospital. “When I finished, I whispered in his ear that I was a revenant, and I’d be watching him unseen. If he told anyone, I’d know and he’d pay in ways he couldn’t imagine. Then I flashed my nastiest smile. He actually wet himself in fear while tears rolled down his face. All I could think was, ‘Is this crybaby supposed to be my future husband?’”
  3092.  
  3093. “Fuck no!” She nearly shouts and you feel her tail thrash angrily against your leg. “What a huge mistake that would be. Everybody latching onto the first man they have an inkling of nerving for, it’s insane. Am I crazy? Is it mad to sample the crowd a little before homesteading? Just like the way that Trish fixated onto you way way back. Same as everyone else: random chance, a roll of the bones. A look or smell, then the MY MAN instinct fires off and you’re hooked like a fish. Damn to hell falling in love that way.”  
  3094.  
  3095. “At least you became more interesting lately, instead of some inoffensive blob. And whether Trisha lets me or not anymore, you are an absolute joy to toy with and piss off.” She gives you a knowing wink and cuddles up closer, a soft purr starting in her chest. “I like that there’s consequences to our games. It makes them worth playing.”
  3096.  
  3097. “So, who’s next?” She asks cheerfully.
  3098.  
  3099. Silence greets her as Trisha paws playfully at your face to get your attention and kisses you to avoid answering. That’s a distraction you can gladly comply with. She’s lewder and more aggressive than usual, sucking on your tongue, nipping your lower lip every time she draws back, bumping her nose and cheek against your face to smear even more of her scent on you, cupping the back of your head in her bandaged paw to pull you even closer and control the pace. Her crotch grinds a wet spot on your hip through her panties and stockings.
  3100.  
  3101. You can’t see the lesser half of the pair, but you hear Vanessa mewl disappointedly. “I open up like that and get nothing in return?” You feel her shift and roll over to cling to you in mimicry of her twin, clipped claws futily kneading at your chest. “You both suck.” Her soft purring lips start to work up the other side of your neck, more gently than you imagined they could.
  3102.  
  3103. “What does a girl gotta do to get some attention, schedule an appointment? Horseday, snakeday, catday?” Her raspy tongue scrapes its way over your jaw, nose aggressively nuzzling away her sister’s paw so she can whisper huskily in your ear. “You can screw me however you want. Really mess me up. I can take it. You can’t break what’s already broken, but you’re welcome to try.”
  3104.  
  3105. Your Cheshire freezes at that, but doesn’t make a move or a say a word. She just stays there staring into your eyes. You notice the magical pink shimmer deep within again, this time distorted into an inverted almost triangular shape. Her sister’s paw drags you away to look at her own face, her one round pupil reassuringly normal and blank.
  3106.  
  3107. “Hey, I’m just messing with you, Master.” Vanessa smiles and flicks you on the nose. The tension drains from her sister. Your feline begins to thrum and kiss the snakebite wounds on your neck gingerly.
  3108.  
  3109. The concussed tabby rubs her purring cheek against yours and drops her voice. “I may not remember so good. But I know Trish doesn’t like it when you and me play that rough. She doesn’t like to see that you’re a monster too, the beast that walks like a man. And you don’t see how callous and conniving she can be. Makes me wonder what you’ll both do when you finally see each other for what you are.” She gives you a kiss that’s disconcertingly sincere. If you had your eyes closed, you’re not sure you would have felt the difference between the twins at that moment. “I know what I am, and it’s just as ugly as the rest of you. But I’m honest, and that’s better than hiding it.” She grabs your wrist and nuzzles into your hand in the old act of felid deference. “It’s been a long day. My head feels like it’s split open. It should; it is. I’m tired. You’re tired. Just scratch my ears. That’s all I want. Only lady lascivious over there on a crusade for kittens is cogging up for an all night marathon.”
  3110.  
  3111. “You’re so chatty.” You sigh and halfheartedly rub her ears like Trisha would want, careful of the wig and the bandages. “Nervous, Vanessa? Worried that you’ll come up short against a certain someone in a direct comparison?” The rubbing turns to gentle scratching at the base and your tone turns even more teasing. “Scared how much that ‘we’re the same’ mantra is going to fall apart?”
  3112.  
  3113. She doesn’t answer immediately, instead tucks herself up close, resting against you. The cat takes far too much comfort in this most minor pampering. For the first time today, you notice how tired and pale she is, easy to miss when she had the Swiss cheese look overlaying everything. Makeup hides the dark rings under her eyes in the same way her twin has used before. You’d bet Trisha even applied it. And her body is cold, far colder than her sister’s. She really should still be in the hospital. But you can’t really keep a Cheshire anywhere she doesn’t want to be, not humanely anyway.
  3114.  
  3115. The felid grins lazily as her breaths get deep and sleepy, her purrs growing rumblier and more satisfied. “I guess I am a little talky. Probably just hemorrhaging again. Doc spoke that the blood swimpooling in the back of my skull might hathswatch things a bit. Just what a rotten breaken unloveable thing does I guess.” She giggles, softly, madly, with an almost hysterical edge that blends slowly into her purring. Vanessa closes her eye and eventually that too drifts into silence, her chest rising and falling peacefully. A single tear rolls down her cheek, your shirt soaking it up before you can even be certain you saw it in the dark.
  3116.  
  3117. The minutes stretch on, Vanessa asleep, Trisha cuddled happily in your opposite arm: her shit-eating grin a mile wide, watching the tail end of the fireworks display. She doesn’t say a word, just plays with the ring on her collar.
  3118.  
  3119. “You’re quiet.” You finally mention when the last burst of distant glitter dies and she turns to you.
  3120.  
  3121. Mangled striped paws knead your chest and folded purple ears butt up under your chin. Feral sharp white teeth nip playfully at your collar. The tip of her tail slinks its way around your leg. “I wanted to see how you’d get along without a referee. You did marvelously, lover.”
  3122.  
  3123. “More teasing and games.” Same old same old. Disappointment coats your words. “Why would I ever imagine it could be any different?”
  3124.  
  3125. “You can think of it like that, but it’s just the only way I know how to do things. All I care is that we all get along. Ness seems happy. And YOU played along without a frown.” The feline beams at you. “I knew you could do it.”
  3126.  
  3127. “I could be happier.” You mutter, knowing full well those sensitive ears can hear you.
  3128.  
  3129. Her winning smile doesn’t waver for a second. “Well, lover, let’s see what I can do about that.”
  3130.  
  3131. It’s like you flipped a switch inside her. The small feline monstergirl looks up at you with her big golden eyes, the pink shapes hidden in her pupils now fully manifest.
  3132.  
  3133. Hearts.
  3134.  
  3135. They’re hearts.
  3136.  
  3137. Little.
  3138.  
  3139. Pink.
  3140.  
  3141. Shining.
  3142.  
  3143. Hearts!
  3144.  
  3145. You’ve never seen such a thing, never heard of it in your research on Cheshires, what little is available. The soft rosy light grows brighter as you look at them, beckoning to you to embrace the passionate madness.
  3146.  
  3147. Your first instinct is it’s some kind of trap. The glow burns that dark suspicion away, the light whispering how absurd that idea is. That’s right. You know she would never hurt you that way, not on purpose. She wants you, the real you, to win you for herself by being herself.
  3148.  
  3149. Part of you screams to twist her ears, to hit her, to make her stop. Part of you wants more. This feeling… This feeling is love, the love she wants to share with you.
  3150.  
  3151. Your amulet lays cold and dead against your skin, a defense against the unholy, demons and curses and ill will. This is something different. She’s projecting her heart onto you: strong feelings, inhuman feelings, monster feelings, a tidal wave of emotion overwhelming all sense and reason. Is this what they experience all the time?
  3152.  
  3153. Yellow cat eyes stare, half-focused but blazing brightly, bathing you in her ensorcelling glow. Raw Cheshire thamauto leaks from her like magic from a Jabberwock, too much for her body to contain. The arcane radiance soaks through cloth and skin into flesh and bone, every inch of you illuminated awash in the power, the excess shining like a torch under the blanket. Your body feels light, delicate, like the smallest breeze will blow you away.
  3154.  
  3155. Trisha doesn’t even seem aware of the lightshow as she straddles you, six surviving dexterous claws unbuttoning your shirt. Petite feline lips, reddened with lust, brush your exposed chest seductively before they kiss a red trail down your stomach. Her small fierce maw opens and sets loose its rough licking denizen, eagerly tonguing your naval with lewd devotion, tasting the untainted sweat and smell of you before claiming that too as her own with the hard rub of her cheek.
  3156.  
  3157. It’s worse than her sister on the full moon. Thing 2 doesn’t just want to screw or have fun. She’s dreaming of motherhood. She legitimately wants to breed. You can actually feel her desire for a child, your child. It has to be yours. It must be yours. You must be hers. Her instincts have rooted so deep, she’s beyond caring the how or the why. Trisha’s ravenous heat-swollen pussy leaks rivulets of want, staining dark paths on the skin-tight nylon of her inner thighs. She’s so engrossed in you, her only thought to her twin is push the almost comatose cat off you and into a blanket cocoon while your Cheshire lavishes herself upon you.
  3158.  
  3159. In that single moment when Vanessa rolls away, your fingers brush the white tuft at the tip of the sleeping monster’s ear.
  3160.  
  3161. Terrifyingly, suddenly, you aren’t on the roof of your house anymore, and the night is washed away.
  3162.  
  3163. ***
  3164.  
  3165. It’s not a flash. This time the world swims slowly into focus, the blazing sunlight of late afternoon attacking the curtains of your room on the fourth floor. Somehow you know for certain it’s the fourth floor. Your right leg hangs in a massive cast suspended by a nightmare mechanism of pulleys and counterweights, throbbing dully. A mechanical droning worms its way into your left ear just out of sight.
  3166.  
  3167. You can’t turn your head to look, once again a spectator trapped behind another pair of eyes: feeling the clean scratchy bedlinens on your hands, smelling the pinesol used to scrub the floors, hearing the fan run beside you. Bare pastel yellow walls loom like a cell. A dead TV screen lords over everything from a steel bracket bolted to the wall.
  3168.  
  3169. “I guess that’s a good stopping point for today.”A nasally voice yawns followed by the papery slam of a book.
  3170.  
  3171. Your vantage point shifts over, and there is a familiar sight, Trisha Heart in a white blouse and a tight black miniskirt, her red uniform jacket hung over the back of the hospital chair. Her sharp claws drum a tattoo on the cover of your Modern Monster/Human Relations textbook.
  3172.  
  3173. Too many claws.
  3174.  
  3175. She’s not missing a single one.
  3176.  
  3177. Ivory fangs flash as she yawns again. The source of her stuffy voice makes itself apparent in the form of a giant bandage over her nose, obviously recently broken. There’s no sign of her collar and no bruises on the flesh underneath. But those eyes, those bright golden eyes are the same.
  3178.  
  3179. You feel your lips move without directing them to, speaking in your own voice, thanking her for bringing your classwork again, like she does every day, and going over it with you. It’s a dull affair, not one suited to a Cheshire, but she still does it with a smile and makes a game out of it when she can.
  3180.  
  3181. The porcelain-skinned girl blushes splotchy pink at the praise. “Well, you’d get left behind if nobody did. And I can’t pretend I’m not kinda responsible for you being here.”
  3182.  
  3183. “You weren’t the one who threw me off the school roof.” As the words escape your mouth you feel telegraphed emotions for the first time swelling up to compliment the bombardment of your physical senses. Bitterness, frustration, a cruel unforgiving hate, much sharper and focused than your own, every bit of ill-will bent upon a single point. This starving monster has never tasted an ounce of revenge.
  3184.  
  3185. The feline smiles sheepishly at your remark, and the hateful clarity becomes blurred as newer nicer feelings rise up and clash against the old festering wounds. Trisha ten claws here does exactly what six claws has learned to do to you. She bats those eyelashes, wiggles her ears uncertainly, every bit of body language promising if you will just reach out and pet the vibrant stripes of her hair that she’ll be the happiest girl in the world, that she’ll share that happiness with you.
  3186.  
  3187. Fingers stretch out slowly toward her, the sleeve of your hospital gown pulling back over your wrists. Your eyes drift to the bandages exposed there, a flash in your mind of the claw-shaped wounds underneath, and the hand wavers. The hate returns, buoyed by guilt and shame. Your arm retreats back to the bed in bitter contemptuous disgrace.
  3188.  
  3189. The wonderland werecat takes it as a sign you just need a little push. Plainly, this one also has shrugged off her mantle of cowardice.
  3190.  
  3191. “Hey, I was wondering.” Meowing softly, Trisha swishes her tail side-to-side on the seat behind her. “When you finally get out of here, would you like to you know…go do something…together?” You’re certain she sees the cautious uncertainty on this borrowed face, because she jumps up and interrupts before you can even draw a breath, knocking all the books and papers onto the floor in her haste.
  3192.  
  3193. “Y-you don’t have to answer now. I tell you what, w-why don’t you ask me on a date if you decide the answer is yes?” The flustered cat stammers while she collects all the scattered work, just out of sight next to the bed. “I wouldn’t mind old farlander style, a-and that way we could be sure to do something you enjoy!”
  3194.  
  3195. Hair a mess, dust on the fur of her paws, she finally pops her head back up and lays the stack of work on your nightstand. “I’ll…I’ll just leave these here. Just think about it okay, no rush. It will be awhile before we can do anything like that anyway. I’ll see you tomorrow.” She wrings her paws shyly, then pecks you on the cheek , turning the deepest shade of red you’ve ever seen on a Cheshire before she snaps out of the room.
  3196.  
  3197. Not particularly Cheshire-like, but fairly Trisha-like. You didn’t get a chance to say goodbye. She even forgot her jacket. Vaguely, you wonder if this sap realizes it’s all just another game. Not that her affection isn’t real, but he’s still being played. Thought, it’s really hard not to get caught up even if you know. She’s so disarming and sweet and warm…
  3198.  
  3199. These gentle emotions of yours swirl with those of this broken body, amplifying each other. Only there’s one other mixed in that doesn’t match, cold and alien. It’s dread. Something else is coming.
  3200.  
  3201. The beep of the electronic privacy lock on your room slamming shut announces her entrance.
  3202.  
  3203. “I thought she’d never leave.” Almost on cue, a set of disembodied vicious teeth appears over your bed.
  3204.  
  3205. Untold, your fingers reach for the long hair pin hidden up your sleeve, stolen from the drowsy dormouse nurse earlier today.
  3206.  
  3207. “Well, aren’t you going to say hello to me to me too?” The invisible cat’s limbs press divots into the bed as she looms over you, close enough to smell the wine on her breath.
  3208.  
  3209. A spark flashes across your mind, a pinpoint surge of pure malice prompting action. It tells you this is your moment, when she’s posturing.
  3210.  
  3211. You strike at her with your improvised weapon. No, that’s not quite right. Your hand swings, but not because you told it to. The three inch brass spike aims into the emptiness right under her grin, right where her throat should be.
  3212.  
  3213. An invisible paw intercepts your wrist and stops you dead. Wicked yellow cat eyes twinkle with laughter. “Really now? I thought you were cleverer than this?” No surprises there. Let’s see how she handles part two.
  3214.  
  3215. Your other hand grasps the heavy textbook from your nightstand. Adrenaline surges through your veins as you hurl the brick of woodpulp at the Cheshire as hard as you can. She bats it away like it was nothing. Prowling hunter’s eyes follow the projectile as it crashes into the wall.
  3216.  
  3217. ‘Good.’ The background hum in your mind whispers. ‘Still according to plan.’
  3218.  
  3219. Now, while she’s distracted, you can make the real attempt.
  3220.  
  3221. You didn’t dare even think about it before this moment, the slightest stiffness or twitch would have given you away. The long spike of half a drawing compass sits under the sheets, tied to your good knee. You positioned it this morning, when you were certain neither cat was watching. Here it lays, parallel to your calf, just waiting for you to bend your knee into stabbing position.
  3222.  
  3223. You can’t tell exactly where she’s at when she’s invisible; so you take your best guess and ram the needle upward.
  3224.  
  3225. The compass pierces the sheets.
  3226.  
  3227. There’s a split second of anticipation when you strike something soft. Then you feel it penetrate. A surprised hiss of pain confirms the hit even as the paw that holds your arm convulsively sinks its claws deep, through the bandages and into the stitched-up flesh beneath. Oh, well, it won’t be the first time the staff has had to clean blood from your sheets.
  3228.  
  3229. Your invisible assailant tears the bedlinens from on top of you with an angry yowl, and relieves you of your last weapon. A sharp snap the next moment and she’s sitting on your torso, pinning you to the bed, her filthy cunt drooling a moist spot into your shirt. A flash and the streaking Cheshire finally shows herself in hated naked mirror of her twin. Furry knees hold your arms down while she checks the bright red welling from the disappointingly minor gash in her creamy thigh.
  3230.  
  3231. “Wasn’t expecting that last one. Where do you keep finding all these pointy toys?” Vanessa…no, here it’s still Nessa, contorts her lithe felid body until she knocks her teeth against yours, stealing a sloppy kiss. “Pretty resourceful for somebody who can’t leave his bed. I’ll give you an A for effort, freak.”
  3232.  
  3233. “You are the fucking worst kind of sister, the biggest piece of trash pretending to be a person I’ve ever met.” The words erupt in boiling scorn from your lips. Even that is tainted by the taste of her rancid spit.
  3234.  
  3235. “Temper temper.” Nessa just grins that infuriatingly smug Cheshire grin, licking your blood from her nails lazily, her eyes flicking to the red spots blossoming on the gauze wrapped around your arm. “Look at the mess you’ve made. Now we’ve got to get cleaned up before the fun can start.”
  3236.  
  3237. She pops away to god knows where and half a heartbeat appears again next to the bed with a crack, just out of your reach, duffle bag in one naked paw. Her middle claw hooks into the zipper and pulls it wide. Clothes and kinkier things threaten to spill from its packed insides.
  3238.  
  3239. “First things first.” The beaming Cheshire takes out two sets of fuzzy white handcuffs and leans over you, twirling them around a striped finger. “You know the drill.”
  3240.  
  3241. That hand, the human hand you feel but don’t control grabs her porcelain thigh and jambs your thumb as far as it will go into the bleeding gash. Your lips peel back into a defiant scowl. “Doesn’t mean I’ll make it easy.”
  3242.  
  3243. “That’s half the fun. But we both know that’s all bluster.” The feline barely winces as she pulls your hand out of her wound and locks one restraint around your wrist, then to the bedframe. “Contrary to what you think, I’m really rather careful with you. Boys are such fragile things. I had a guy try to outrun me once, real fitness nut. I got so into chasing him I mounted him right on the concrete when I caught him. There was this loud crack about halfway through and this broken meaty grate under my hips. Judging from how he started screaming, I’m pretty sure his running days were over after that.”
  3244.  
  3245. “And you…” The wretched feline smiles at you with something that approaches warmth, her own twisted and revolting version of it. “Even you’ve never gone for my eyes or anything particularly lethal, for different reasons I think. You want to hurt me just enough to make me leave. If you were serious, you could just hit that call button for the nurse, and they’d haul me off in a second if they could catch me.” Nessa teleports to the opposite side of the bed showing how difficult that would be, and chains your other hand to the frame. “You could even call the police. But then Trish would be so scandalized about us that she wouldn’t visit anymore. And that’s the one thing you just can’t bring yourself to let happen.”
  3246.  
  3247. “So you see, in this game,….” She leans over you, her shoulders bunched like she’s going to pounce, her naked chest inches above yours. “…every day I come back despite all that, I win. That’s the rules YOU’VE made.”
  3248.  
  3249. “It is not a game.” You spit. “What do you want to hear? That it is a game? That you won?  Fine. You win. YOU WIN! Congratulations! Haven’t you had enough? Day after day after fucking day. You’ve got to be bored. What will it take for you to just leave me...” The smooth pink pads of the short catgirl’s paw clamp over your mouth to cut you off.
  3250.  
  3251. “Not this again.” Purple-striped ears fold down in disappointment as the feline sighs. “Everything is a game, and nothing upsets a Cheshire more than being told she can’t play. Why do you think I came here in the first place when Trish started sneaking off to visit after school and leaving me all alone, hmmm? Maybe you’d prefer if I called it a sport?” Nessa giggles at her own quip as she removes her mitt from your face. “Well you can’t kill my mood. Today is going to be exciting, a special occasion.”
  3252.  
  3253. So much for reasoning with the evil twin. But then why would it be any different here? How many times did you ask them to stop their thieving and games in the past, and it never let up. Your own Vanessa is half dead and hasn’t let it slow down her antics hardly at all.
  3254.  
  3255. This one, whole, and maybe more insane that way, would never stop.
  3256.  
  3257. “Oh don’t scowl.” She tisks as she rummages through her bag of tricks. “I brought something just for you. It’s new, custom made. I burgled it from that high end shop downtown by the Roost, very expensive.”
  3258.  
  3259. Distracted and bent over the tote, she’s left her head in prime kicking range, probably on purpose. But what’s to lose from trying? She actually lets you pull back your leg to boot her in the skull, just like a cat letting a mouse out of its claws for a moment so it can catch it again.
  3260.  
  3261. And just like a good mouser playing with her prey, she snags you by the ankle when you attack. It’s pure toying, with her careful to keep her claws sheathed, more humiliating than a real fight. It’s doubly humiliating when she’s some hundred and ten pound twig a head shorter than you, no matter her unnatural strength.
  3262.  
  3263. “So feisty.” Nessa purrs with genuine pleasure as she brings your foot to her mouth and kisses each toe in turn, her soft pink lips trying to tickle a smile from yours. “You should calm down before something unfortunate happens. How sad it would be to rebreak your leg with all this thrashing, just as it’s healing.”
  3264.  
  3265. A flash of something in her free forepaw disappears as she snaps on top of you. Invisible claws muscle the device around your head and pull it tight, forcing your jaw open. The smell of tannins wafts up your nose, and there’s the taste of strange metal in your mouth.
  3266.  
  3267. “There we go. You’re so much cuter when you can’t run your mouth.” Nessa fiddles with the ring gag, her furry digits making sure it’s not mashing your lips or gums. Then she leans down, growing purr drowning out the nearby fan. “Well, that’s not exactly true. But we both know you’re a biter.” Her throaty whisper imitates the closest confidant as she sticks out her tongue, revealing the crescent of stitched wounds in the pink muscle.
  3268.  
  3269. “Ukk oo unn.” The half-formed curse rumbles up from deep in your throat, your lips unable to shape the missing sounds.
  3270.  
  3271. “What’s that?” Nessa cocks her head sideways until one big ear is pointed at your mouth. The evil twin nods thoughtfully in mock understanding. “Why yes, I am all sorts of prepared.”
  3272.  
  3273. Surprisingly, she tends to your wounds first, dressing and cleaning your forearms with stolen bandages and antiseptic from her stash. The serial rapist hums brokenly, the tune shattered by her purr, as she works. No rush. No hurry. She’s settling in for a long stay. Fuck.
  3274.  
  3275. There’s no uncertainty or unease from this you as his eyes stare daggers at Mirror Mirror Nessa. That means it’s not unsual, what she’s doing. If you were more detached, you’d feel sorry for the poor bastard. As it is, there is only this infectious bubbling hate, pulling at you like a tar pit, scalding your mind as it tries to subsume you.
  3276.  
  3277. “All better.” The Cheshire thrums when she finishes. Supple lips, reddened with lust, kiss the fresh-wrapped gauze as her big gold eyes gaze down at you. “Don’t give me that look. This whole situation is all your fault you know. You know who I am. I don’t have to hide behind tricks and illusions to have a little fun this way. Oh you dislike it, probably more than strangers do, but you’re not afraid.”
  3278.  
  3279. Dislike? DISLIKE?! That’s the understatement of the century.
  3280.  
  3281. She ignores the change in your gagged expression as you fume. “You’re the only one who has never been scared of me when I do this. I can be myself.”
  3282.  
  3283. Your face is hot now. Everything begins to narrow into a red tunnel of vision. You can hear your blood surging in your ears. You must be the color of a beet. Your chest heaves in great adrenaline-boosted breaths.
  3284.  
  3285. The whore just grins smugly and strokes your hair with her vicious claws.
  3286.  
  3287. “So much rage. You look like you’re going to blow a gasket.” She teases. “How do you know it’s not me all along? I put a little bandage on my nose, pretend to be somebody who looks exactly like me. It’s so easy. What makes you think my scaredycat twin would come do all this for you after you smashed her in the face?” Sharp feline fangs nibble your earlobe as her fetid breath sticks in your hair. “Maybe I’m the one that likes you. Maybe I want to see all of you, from that soft puppydog look you give me when I’m playing Nightingale to that blazing hatred when I mark you as mine. Maybe that’s all part of the game. Think about it. Have you ever seen us both in the same place at the same time since you got here?”
  3288.  
  3289. Amethyst paws give your junk a squeeze, just enough to make you flinch. “I’ll let you ponder that while I get dressed.”
  3290.  
  3291. A sharp crack and she’s gone, and her bag with her. Only the few bloody spots on the sheets catching the last of the failing light give proof you did anything to her at all.
  3292.  
  3293. It’s dark before the foul monster returns.
  3294.  
  3295. Her absence gives you a few minutes -not many- to try and think about what’s going on in this waking nightmare. But your mind keeps drifting as invasive thoughts pollute your own, the whispers of plans seeping through. You give up when you catch yourself thinking, ‘Poison. That’s what I need. Something slow acting but lethal so she’ll be out of here by the time she kicks it. With any luck she’ll crawl into some tiny hidden space Cheshire’s love so much and won’t be found until she starts to rot.’
  3296.  
  3297. That’s macabre, even for you. You’ve wanted certain people to suffer, to pay back every bit of misery they’ve meted out. But cold-blooded murder? Never, except perhaps the blue whore that destroyed what was left of your family and revels in the ruins. Even now you don’t know what you could do to her, what you should do, what that kind of cruel deliberate evil deserves. But here, this you is a hair away from going completely postal, and Nessa just keeps pushing like she always does.
  3298.  
  3299. A soft snap and the monstergirl in question appears directly on top of you, forcing herself through a spacial tear with the effortlessness only a Cheshire can in the split second it exists. Stiletto claw heels spike deep into the mattress on either side of your head, the black leather straps twining up to her furry knees. A matching set of fingerless gloves covers her palms back to her elbows.
  3300.  
  3301. Nessa sneers down at you from the full height of her diminutive frame, her devious eyes peeping over her corset and garters of her full queen getup.
  3302.  
  3303. “Well? What do you think?” She props her paws on the curve of her hips and leers. “Hard yet?”
  3304.  
  3305. Say what you will, the cunt knows how to make an entrance.
  3306.  
  3307. “No comment? Maybe the bandage on my thigh ruins the effect?” Her lips peel back over glistening fangs in a mocking grin. “Or are you still chewing on what I said before? I know that look. You think I was lying?”
  3308.  
  3309. Your gaze drifts from her face to the rose that’s appeared in her paw, a simple sleight of hand for either of the twins. The tabby twirls the blossom under her nose, sniffing gently and her face softens, grows gentle and meek.
  3310.  
  3311. “B-but why won’t you believe me?” Her triangular ears droop sadly, stirring her striped hair. “I even brought you this. It reminded me of you, and not just the prickly parts. Grandma always said roses were good for healing bones. It was definitely rose something. Hips? What are the hips of a rose?” She nibbles at a petal nervously just like Trisha would. Then she makes a disgusted face, just like Trisha would. “Ug, it’s like eating a salad made of perfume.”
  3312.  
  3313. “Yeah, you really wouldn’t want to eat this. Guess I messed up.” Her sharp claws disassemble the flower shyly, in perfect imitation of her twin, spearing the petals like shish kebabs. It’s all there but the blush. “M-maybe I should try to get some candied ones next time?”
  3314.  
  3315. You’ve seen them pretend to be each other, cover each other a dozen times. That doesn’t faze you a bit. What concerns you behind this set of borrowed eyes is you swear to god you see the hint of a pink glow in hers.
  3316.  
  3317. Suddenly, her ears perk up and her grin fixes itself back on her face. “But OF COURSE I’m lying all this time!” She laughs and scatters the petals over you. “But I did make you doubt for just a moment. You are just too fun to mess with!”
  3318.  
  3319. That didn’t fool either you for a second. It just makes you sick.
  3320.  
  3321. “Maybe I spoke too soon. What gave me away? My boobs?” The corners of her smirk drop just a hair as she scans your face and reads that truth. It bothers you she knows you that well. “I guess they’re almost B’s now.”
  3322.  
  3323. Just how much time has she spent here? There’s all this fury inside but you’re not fighting half as hard as you could. It’s like she’s worn you down.
  3324.  
  3325. “Of course that’s nothing compared to my ass.” The Cheshire teleports a full one-eighty, rotating away from you. She stares back over her shoulder, her tail swishing by her knees. “Four inches fatter in the back. What I’m wearing is literally the only underwear I have that fits, and all my mini skirts have turned into ultra mini skirts, damn inconvenient.”
  3326.  
  3327. “I’ll let you inspect that up close momentarily.” The feline promises in a low sultry tone.
  3328.  
  3329. Another clap of wonderland magic and Nessa kneels over you, paws braced on your shoulders. The prankster anticipation she exudes is the same as if she just put a tack in someone’s chair, that unsettling Cheshire brand of joking madness.
  3330.  
  3331. “But before that…” The cat thrums, face cheerfully plastered in a smile that’s far more terrifying than any of her lewd threats. “…who's ready to check the score?”
  3332.  
  3333. Reaching above you, the tabby pulls the back of the mattress away from the headboard. You look up, catching just a fraction of the dozens of fine tally marks scratched into the frame by feline claws.
  3334.  
  3335. “Forty-niiiiiine…” The serial rapist whistles as she counts them up. “That’s something. I think my previous record was five? And that was in one night. I rarely ever revisit guys you know, just too chancy. Never really felt the urge to either, before you.”
  3336.  
  3337. Nessa returns the padding to its place, then brings her full attention to you: rubbing her cheek on the back of your hand and following down your manacled arm, smelling your unwashed body deeply, savoring your scent as she overwrites it with her own.
  3338.  
  3339. “We’re compatible.” She whispers, half to herself.  “We have to be. I wouldn’t be going through these changes otherwise, no matter how much we’ve fucked. A touch of magic in you? Some ancestor from beyond the gate maybe?”
  3340.  
  3341. The only answer the cat gets when she looks at you is a glare.
  3342.  
  3343. “Come on. Don’t make such a pathetic face.” The predator smiles and ruffles your hair. “What does it matter really, how many times you’ve been violated? Cardio is good for you. You wouldn’t want to get any nyaaasty clots in your leg.” She bends over almost double, just enough to grind her purring cheek against your razor stubble. “I bet your bones are healing faster than the doctors guessed too. I’m helping you if you look at it that way, a little tit for tat.”
  3344.  
  3345. Even seeing red, you’re unable to deny the physical stimuli assaulting your adrenaline-heightened senses: the Cheshire’s porcelain skin impossibly soft and hot as she presses down against you, even softer than Trisha’s. Silken hair tickles your face. Fresh brushed breath pants intimately close with the sharp scent of peppermint. The evil twin really did clean up when she got dressed. It’s so different than the rough play you know her for. She is honestly being gentle as she said, at least physically: forceful, yes, but measured. Though, she’s had more than enough time to learn the limits of this mangled body. That’s as far as you get before your thoughts begin to scatter and fray, those simple observations taxing what faculties you can pull free from this mind’s vortex of hate as it continues sucking rational thought down with murderous intent.
  3346.  
  3347. Nessa kisses you softly on the nose then begins to back down over your body. Furry digits unbutton your hospital gown almost automatically from constant practice, revealing a gray t-shirt and a pair of underwear with a clasp at the hip to get around your cast. The Cheshire strips off the skivvies and leaves the rest.
  3348.  
  3349. “I’ve said it before, but it is so thoughtful for the nurses to give you the funnel instead of the catheter.” The hated creature looks over your half-naked form, rolling up your shirt to appraise the outlines of a well-defined six pack, something nonexistent on the real you. “I guess it’s only natural when they see what they think is a girl visiting her guy every day, and knowing there’s someone paying a whole lot of money for you to have this private room. Who does that by the way? I don’t think I’ve ever seen them visit.”
  3350.  
  3351. She pauses as she puzzles it over, almost as if she expects you to respond. Then she shrugs and fixes a smile back on top of her cruel mask. “Well, another mystery for another day. Now’s our exclusive playtime.”
  3352.  
  3353. A violet-striped paw flashes behind your ear as the cat pulls the old hidden-quarter magic trick. A tiny brown tincture catches the light when she brings her furry mitt back in front of your eyes.
  3354.  
  3355. “I grabbed this out of the cabinet for venom addicts while I was shopping around this place earlier. No idea what it is.” The evil creature eyes the strange thick liquid sloshing around in the tinted glass. Then she giggles and her eyes morph to slits, her sex-hungry grin gleaming like only a monster’s can. “But then you’re no stranger to a round of aphrodisiac roulette.”
  3356.  
  3357. “Sooooooo…” Nessa breathes out as she leans in, lips almost brushing yours. “Either you can take it, or I can take it. You choose.” The hot scent of mint floods your sinuses. “But I think we both know which is the more dangerous of the two.”
  3358.  
  3359. ‘That’s right.’ You catch yourself thinking thoughts that are not your own again as she bends down for a french kiss, moving one paw under your head to pull you up from the pillow.
  3360.  
  3361. ‘Just a little closer.’
  3362.  
  3363. Your shoulders tense. In this all of you acts with one mind. Your own frustration and helplessness as a bystander feeds the yawning maelstrom of rage in this other you. In a move that’s more instinct than thought, this you snaps his neck forward with enough force to splinter a board.
  3364.  
  3365. The Cheshire actually leaps up in surprise, nearly tangling herself in the complex suspension around your cast as she narrowly escapes a broken nose. ‘I hope it wraps around her neck. It would be worth snapping my leg again.’ The poisonous thoughts begin to seep through again, louder than last time. They quiet down as she avoids the delicately balanced apparatus by a hair.
  3366.  
  3367. Some of the anger gives way to sadness and bitter resignation when you see she’s even more excited now, flushed and panting, her eyes wide as dinner plates.
  3368.  
  3369. “Not…Not in the mood for that kind of foreplay?” Nessa breathes as she lays down at your side, twining herself around you. She slides a furry paw between your legs, groping your manhood directly. “Then show me you don’t need it.”
  3370.  
  3371. The pink pads of her forepaw assault your nethers with a dozen tiny cushions of skin, a warm massage from balls to tip, broken only by the tickle of the odd stray hair from her fingers. She buries her face in your neck, hot breath and hotter lips working up from your nape to your jaw until her sharp white fangs nibble the very bottom of your earlobe.
  3372.  
  3373. “You want an honest piece of advice?” She whispers, so low you can barely hear it over the rattling AC fan. “You shouldn’t pine after Trish. She’s just playing with you like I am, in her own way. She’d never really get serious. You just aren’t husband material, and that’s nothing to be ashamed of. A favorite toy can be treasured too.”
  3374.  
  3375. “But aren’t you lucky?” The feline continues, louder, huskier.  “The touch of her paws feels just like this. Her soft hair is like mine, smells like mine. She sounds like me, tastes like me. She even makes this same purr when she’s happy. It’s about time you face it, sweetheart. I’m your type too.”
  3376.  
  3377. For a split second you can’t help but imagine Trisha pawing at you the same way, and against every method you ever trained against this kind of assault your dick grows thick and hard in her sister’s paw.
  3378.  
  3379. “I knew you could do it.” Nessa mewls with true pleasure, then follows up with a loving kiss on the cheek. This you doesn’t recognize the sincerity in it. He sees the same patterns of behavior, can tell the girls apart at a hundred yards, but you can do one better. You can feel the ugly gnarled genuine emotion from her. You’re sure of it this time, her eyes giving off that soft rosy glow, unknown shapes of light buried deep within.
  3380.  
  3381. That’s when you start to see the layers to the game. Nessa has always protected her sister fiercely, and would not hurt her twin if she could avoid it. On the surface, it’s not normal at all to be acting this way. But you know her more than this other you. You’re beginning to piece it together.
  3382.  
  3383. You’re sure the first time it was just one more rape in a long line of strangers just like any other easy mark, plus an extra bit of revenge for hurting her dear sister. But something went wrong…or right. That something made her come back, made her want more. Only, she already blew her entrance and made you really hate her. After that it’s not like she could suddenly turn on a kind facade. Trisha already beat her to that role. There are only two ways for her to win in the current scenario. One is to utterly ruin Trisha for you through association and the other is to break you. Right now she’s trying for both.
  3384.  
  3385. She’s playing against time with her back to the wall. The trickster cat can only keep this up as long as you have something to lose. Without Trisha, she has nothing to keep you in check. Before you heal or she slips up, she’s hoping she can kiss you enough, hold you enough, that you’ll be hers. Typical monster instinct bullshit, just pouring her twisted affection into someone until they drown in it.
  3386.  
  3387. Even with all that, here she is acting like none of it really matters.
  3388.  
  3389. ‘Same old Nessa.’ You can’t help but think as she runs her claws through your hair while her other forepaw teases your shaft. The young feline rubs her cheek all up and down the side of your neck, staining you in her scent, her body pressed tightly to yours, the cool sensation of the smooth leather of her sensual outfit contrasting sharply with her vibrant striped fur and her hot pale skin.
  3390.  
  3391. Another pop and the pressing caress stops as the Cheshire disappears. The cold flicker of the hospital fluorescent lights keeping the night at bay die with the flip of a switch, and half a heartbeat later, the soft yellow incandescence of the desk lamp on the nightstand drives the darkness back into soft deep shadow.
  3392.  
  3393. Nessa returns with a snap, splayed over the top of you, the mattress shifting as her knees and elbows dig into the sheets as she comes to a rest, her previous position flipped to sixty-nine. The tormenting Cheshire’s tail weaves back and forth in excitement while her well-toned leather-clad ass hangs above your face.
  3394.  
  3395. Plush paw pads grasp your erection with a firm practiced grip, the heat of her breath washing over your dick as her deep purr cracks into a stuttering mewling caterwaul.
  3396.  
  3397. “Why hey there stiff stuff.” She barely manages, greeting your cock with a startling swipe of her sandpapery tongue. “Did you miss me? I missed you.”
  3398.  
  3399. Then she looks back at you. Upside down gold eyes peer at you from the scarce inches between your bodies, glowing with that strange combination of mischief and malice that is uniquely Nessa. Even now, her mask is all but impenetrable.
  3400.  
  3401. “Take a deep breath.” The Cheshire advises with a smirk, before she lowers her undeniably infuriatingly-fine feline ass onto your face and snuffs out the light.
  3402.  
  3403. In the dark, her firm cheeks mold against your head as her weight forces you down into the pillow. Unseen feline paws continue to tease you from tip to taint, stroking your shaft and fondling your balls with the utmost care. The fine hair between her fingers tickles you just enough to keep your whole body tense while her slick cunt grinds ever harder on your face, her clit rubbing hard into your nose on the upstroke and sliding over your chin on the downstroke. The Cheshire’s gushing anticipation drips and splatters into your open mouth as she draws herself lazily back and forth, flecks of impossibly sweet and salty want landing on your tongue. She doesn’t even taste normal anymore.
  3404.  
  3405. Completely at her mercy, you can barely squirm under the suffocating weight without pain lancing down your leg.
  3406.  
  3407. That’s when she wraps her petite mouth around your cock and begins to suck. The self-trained rapist rolls the rough tip of her tongue completely over, attacking you with the slimy underside as she drives your tip into her throat. She pulls hard and deep, impossibly so for her size, and then begins to move up and down. Slowly at first, she picks up her tempo, miraculously avoiding even the tiniest bump against her needle-sharp canines.
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