“Pet Play”

story by Mabel Harper & Emrys Webb
written by Emrys Webb


Caren routed mana through her super-speed agimat—it wouldn’t make her as fast as the apparently indestructible bloodsucker, and she wasn’t about to get her own ass killed trying to save fucking Sicko Mode. Her best idea by a long shot was that she, Ash, and Nathaniel should let him take one for the team and make a run for it.

She groaned inwardly as two quavering voices rang out at once, making it clear her associates were not on the same page she was:

“Get off him!” Nathaniel fumbled a pistol out of his jacket, almost dropping it, and pointed it at the vamp with a trembling fist.

Ash displayed his Martial Magus badge. “Stop, by order of the Auctoritas Magicae!”

Caren had to wonder if Nathaniel had ever actually pointed a fucking gun at someone before.

At the same time, she remembered what Ash had told them all at FUEL: I’ll end up in deep shit with the A.M. if I try to help you.

Kid…you’re risking your biscuit for fucking Sicko Mode? she thought.

As for Caren herself, her muscles were coiled, ready to launch her the fuck out of that alley the second that thing came at her.

But the vampire froze with the tips of her fangs grazing Sicko Mode’s throat, her weird milky eyes taking in her pair of distinctly unintimidating challengers.

When her gaze fell on Nathaniel, she just let out a bright, girlish laugh.

When it switched to Ash, she spoke, in a soft, sweet voice: “The Auctoritas Magicae…really? Since when does it extend its protection to dangerous apostates?”

“That’s my partner you’re about to bite into,” said Ash, almost convincingly.

It was all Caren could do not to facepalm.

The vampire laughed, turned a loving gaze on Sicko Mode. “Oh, nonsense…this”—she dragged talons down the side of his face, leaving several long, tiny cuts, from which blood droplets bubbled like beads on a string—“is a factionless rat who deals out pain, torment, and death to other mortals…and likes it. Don’t you, pussycat?”

Sicko Mode stared into her eyes, his own heavy-lidded, and let out the tiniest meow.

“If anything,” the vampire went on, “I think the Auctoritas Magicae would thank me for taking this little problem off their hands.” Her pale gaze switched back to Ash. She grinned a fanged grin. “And if you’re truly a Martial Magus, little boy, you’ll get in very big trouble with Daddy Abram for not arresting this animal on the spot for what you just saw him do to me.”

Ash seemed to have no response to this.

The vampire dragged her tongue over the cuts she’d made on Sicko Mode’s face. He made a pornographic sound.

“I said get off him!” There was a silent flash of light as Nathaniel fired his gun—it was enchanted to make no sound, Caren realized.

He’d fired to warn, not to hit—or at least she hoped so, because it was clear he’d missed the vampire by miles. Caren figured he must be afraid to take the shot because—unless he was a sharpshooter—a shot at the vampire was all but guaranteed to hit Sicko Mode too.

The vampire let out a fresh peal of laughter. “God…if only you could kill me with that toy.” She again placed her fangs against Sicko Mode’s neck.

Nathaniel rushed at her.

She swatted him away—which sent him flying so hard at the dumpster he left a dent in the side of it.

“Dude!” yelled Caren.

Nathaniel sprawled out on the ground, the wind knocked out of him.

“Just stay out of this, Natey-boy, okay?” Sicko Mode murmured, his eyes still lost in the vampire’s.

“A whole party of heroes!” the vampire giggled. Her eye fell on Caren. “…Except for you. You only look after your own skin, hmm? How boring.”

“None of us can fucking take you on,” spat Caren. She went to help Nathaniel to his feet, gave him a pointed look. “I’m the only one here who’s not goddamn stupid.”

“You’ve assessed the situation correctly; any effort to stop me will fail.” The vampire’s attention was on Sicko Mode again, her eyes and claws caressing his blood-smeared face. “But your companions aren’t stupid. They’re passionate. It’s delicious.” Her talons dug in a bit deeper this time. Blood flowed over Sicko Mode’s jaw. He gave a longing little whimper.

“Vernon!” croaked Nathaniel, leaning on Caren’s arm.

“Mmm, especially you,” the vampire said to Sicko Mode, as she slurped at the blood. “What a good, sweet, horrible, disgusting boy. Would you like to be my pet?”

Sicko Mode grinned a feeble grin. “Maybe!”

“Vernon!” said Nathaniel again.

“Mm-hmm, you want to belong to me, don’t you?” The vampire bit down gently on Sicko Mode’s lower lip. “It’s all you’ve ever wanted…to belong.”

He groaned. His eyelids fluttered closed.

“Can y’all please get a room?” said Caren.

“Look, we’re here on business,” interrupted Ash. His eyes were directed pointedly away from the scene.

“That so, Martial Magus?” The vampire remained absorbed in her snack.

“Yes. We’re here on behalf of Soren Dreyfus-Meillassoux, who’s seeking an audience with Natalya.”

The vampire released her victim, giggle-snorted into her tiny, delicate hand. “Really? Le petit chef des armées wants to meet with Her Majesty?”

“Yes, he does.”

She surveyed the group. “And he sent a child soldier, an incompetent gunman, an incurable deviant, and…a mercenary?” She clasped her hands, let out another airy laugh. “Oh, that’s too rich! What in the world could he want with her?”

“To form an alliance.”

“An alliance? How quaint! Of what benefit could an alliance with les petits Garçons possibly be to us…?”

“You two have got a common enemy—the fleshworker,” Caren cut in.

“We do?” The girl was wide-eyed. Her irises had darkened now to a pale blue, her pupils black, like normal human eyes. Her fangs and claws had vanished. “You’re referring to Adrian Megyesi, I assume.”

“Who else.”

“Who else indeed.” The girl turned and walked up the wall, sat down in the lotus position on the bottom of the fire escape landing overhead. Caren suppressed a shiver: Fuck that. “Well…” The vampire’s lips curved in a slow smile. “This could be a lark. God knows we haven’t had any decent entertainment around the Court of late.”

“Then you’ll introduce us to Natalya?” said Caren.

“Her Majesty might just find you lot amusing.” The vampire shot an upside-down wink at Sicko Mode, who stood staring up at her, panting and wagging his tail. His face, Caren realized, while still bloody, had somehow fully healed. “I’ll put in a good word for you. If she’s interested, she’ll send word to vos Capitaine.”

“Good enough for me,” grunted Nathaniel, who sounded like he was still catching his breath. He stepped forward, took Sicko Mode by the arm. “Vernon, let’s go.”

Sicko Mode stuck out his lower lip; let out a sad-puppy whine, then a little sharp bark, still staring longingly up at the vampire.

With lightning speed she dropped, stood in front of him, claws out—raked them straight down the front of his torso, shredding his suit, leaving deep trenches in his flesh, blood spurting from the wounds. Sicko Mode howled in pain, doubled over cradling himself. Nathaniel gave a shout of rage.

“Shhhhhh.” The vampire’s claws retracted as she laid her bloody forefinger across Nathaniel’s lips. He went quiet, staring at her face, mesmerized, while she stood with her eyes fixed on Sicko Mode.

“Fffuckk…ohhhhhhhh…Mommy!” said Sicko Mode through gritted teeth, and let out a wild, high-pitched whoop. He looked up at the vampire with glittering eyes, heaving and snorting like a bull, tears streaming down his taut red face.

As Caren watched, his potentially life-threatening wounds slowly knitted themselves shut, leaving behind not one trace of a scar.

“Well…that’s a neat trick,” the vampire murmured, and once again winked. Her eyes turned white as she licked the blood off her fingers, then briefly, tenderly cupped Sicko Mode’s chin before suddenly bamfing out of sight, leaving Caren, Nathaniel, and Ash all blinking at each other, and scouring the alley to make damn sure she was really gone.


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