Chapter 1: Prologue
Panopticon /panˈɒptɪk(ə)n/ - noun, a circular prison with cells arranged around a central well, from which prisoners could at all times be observed.
In the place that was all places, in the tick between one second and the next, the Narrator was screaming. They clutched and clawed at their eyes as the fabric of not-there roiled and twisted around them. In the distance there were colors that shouldn’t be, and the Narrator saw them even though their eyes were shut and bleeding. Even though they covered their head with their arms and writhed face-down on what they pretended was the floor of this place.
TERMINATING LINK. ERROR CODE: 42.42.564
Discontinuity . It burned. They had come too close. The story teetered on the edge of disaster, and in a panic they had reached out, unthinking, and tried to push it away. The thread blurred- frayed for just an instant, and its wild, incoherent strands hit like shrapnel.
“Stupid stupid stupid!!!”
The pain would fade eventually. They’d had worse. The story was stable, for now. Not ended. They screamed anyway, because they were alone for now, and there would be no one to ask them why. “I should know better!! I should be better!! I can’t afford to lose now!”
They would have to stop eventually. To preserve their voice. To blink the blood out of their eyes. To see what their failure had cost them this time. But that was a formality, really. They knew what they’d see once their vision cleared and they found the strength to sit up and look. The error code was burned into their retinas. With no other available output their loose, flailing link to the world-narrative wrote itself directly on to their nerves and neurons, like an electric swarm of razor blades that filled them from the tops of their horns to the tips of their toes.
Eventually they would stop. They would dry their tears, sit up, and see exactly what they expected to see. The crystal that was the center of their little not-world, sitting in its mount, dimmed to near-darkness. Delicate connectors - many of them ruined, now - stuck to the crystal’s facets, feeding into wires that fed into a bank of screens, monitors, microphones, and the other necessary instruments of narration. Harsh blue light blaring from the screens, painting the void blue-ish in a way that was nothing like the sky, dotted with the soft glow of glass spheres that littered the nothingness in a way that was nothing like stars.
Consequences, writ large and covering every screen, every output. Words carved into the inside of the Narrator’s skull.
YOU ARE NOT THE APEX PREDATOR
It was all they could do just to sit there, lacking even the strength to lie back down and weep, to break, to stomp and kick their frustration into the solid nowhere beneath them.
There was silence in the void, and stillness, for a long moment - if such a timeless place could be said to have moments.
“I can stop at any time.” The sound of their own voice grounded them a little, pulling them out of the razors in their head and into their aching, exhausted self. “I don’t have to do this.”
There was no edge or other boundary to this void-space, but there was a door. At any moment, for any reason, the Narrator could open that door and walk through it. And then- what, exactly? “I am the Narrator,” they told themself, the world, Orion . They were not aware that they had said this out loud. They could no longer tell the difference between words and thoughts. “Without me, nothing happens. The story doesn’t end, it just… stops. Without me, there is no story. Right?”
The sound of their own thoughts grounded them a little, and they found the strength to stand. They walked over to the crystal, which brightened at their touch, lapping the blood from their fingers with what would be called eagerness, if it weren’t a piece of rock. They did not look at the door.
“If I leave, the story stops. If the story stops, Orion doesn’t die.” They delicately removed the connectors from the crystal’s smooth facets, and then lifted the crystal from its mount. The jagged diamond shape was the size of their forearm and brilliantly blue, in a way that was much like the sky, and separated from its supporting machinery it pulled at their mind and soul in a way that was much like falling.
They carefully carried the crystal away from the mount, and the screens, and the door, and then sat cross-legged on a clear patch of not-ground facing away from it all, looking out into the featureless void. “I’m sorry, Ori.” They did not look at the door, or at the fragment of sky in their lap. They did not cast their senses through the crystal, to ride along the strings of fate that only they could see. Not yet. “I’m so, so sorry.”
Re-establishing the mechanical link will take too long. The story approaches a critical point. Do they say this out loud, or only think it? Who are they trying to justify this to? They don’t know. They feel the strings of fate pulling them away, out of their body and into the crystal, out of the crystal and into the story. It’s been a long time since they’ve had to go analog. Their voice is the voice of the world, dictating fate. One fate in particular. The sound of their thoughts grounds them a little.
I’m so sorry, Orion. This is all my fault. I am the Narrator. You are the Narratee. Without me, you don’t survive. Without you, neither do I.
I’m so sorry.
A handcuff knot is a knot tied in the bight having two adjustable loops in opposing directions, able to be tightened around hands or feet. The knot itself does not possess any inherent locking action, and thus is not as easy to use for such purposes as the name might suggest.
- Part 1: Let Us Cling Together -
You are Aderyn Orion Icarus Atlas, and something has changed.
A feeling that you can’t quite identify pulls you up and out of dreaming. Your eyes flutter open, and you shift slightly, slowly, still heavy with sleep. For a moment you think someone else has slipped into your bed, but no, everyone’s accounted for. There’s Hyena - you’re cuddled up close to her side with your arms around her, so close that you can feel her breathing, can hear her heart beat in her chest if you focus just a little.
Her arms are stretched up over her head, wrists tied together with rope, tied again to a hitch in the wall. Her ankles are also bound and secured. Your work, and you’re getting quite good at it. She’s restrained. Safe. Vulnerable. The sound of her, and the feel of her against you - soft and warm and still, words that so rarely apply to quick, sharp, cutting Hyena - calms you deeply, and you almost fall back asleep right there.
No. Keep counting.
There’s someone on the other side of Hyena. You can feel their arm against yours where you both cling to her. You feel a scattering of scars against your skin, but that tells you nothing - you are all scarred, in so many ways. But you know this particular pattern, these particular scars. Bunny. Hyena’s keeper, sort of. Your mentor and fellow enthusiast in the art of tying people up.
Gentle breaths ghost against the back of your neck. Soft hands wrap around your waist, one resting on top of yours, which rests in turn on Hyena’s chest. Shark. Her chest is hot against the skin of your back, her legs tangled up with yours, and even at rest her presence feels like a shield.
Everyone you slept with and/or fell asleep with is accounted for. You’re all tangled up in each other in the elaborate nest of pillows, blankets, and mattresses that was once your bed, but has since transcended that definition after everyone has added their own touches of comfort to it, in what is semi-officially ‘your’ room in the Streetcrows headquarters. Your clothes and others are scattered over the floor. Your blankets and duvets are similarly devastated, some kicked clear across the room by the combined power of four sleeping, very overheated people.
Nothing has changed. You can think of nothing that should have pulled you out of your slumber. Here, in this place, you usually sleep better than you can ever remember. You close your eyes. Relax. Try to pick up what’s left of your dream.
No! There isn’t time for this! Wake up! Listen!
The dream falls away for good. That feeling is back, and stronger this time. Your brow furrows as you turn your thoughts from your sleeping friends to this strangeness, this change without change. I’m sorry for pressing you. You are hearing me, but not hearing me, because for as long as you remember you have heard me as a voice, and now the patterns of your thoughts form the shape of me without sound, closer than ever. Perhaps in another life you would know this - have never known anything else, even. Perhaps in another life I would have wanted that.
Selfish. No, not you. That was not your thought. I’m sorry. This isn’t easy. There are many definitions of dictation. The odd feeling withdraws. Shrinks. Go back to sleep. We can try again when you’re awake.
You can’t sleep. You’ve asked the question now and it won’t leave you alone. Your thoughts turn from the others inward, probing, searching. You’re never one to stop something you’ve started. Trust me, I checked. Especially when it comes to people you love, and-
Nevermind. I am the Narrator.
You lie there for a while, listening. You hear only breathing, and the muffled, distant sounds of Aberration outside, and then you wonder what you’re listening for, and why.
You think of Rigel.
It hurts. You cling tighter to Hyena, to Shark, to Bunny, to the others with which you’ve filled your heart, but it does nothing to cover the deep, dark hole inside you that looms so close every time you think of her, only anchors you so you’re less likely to fall into it. The absence of her is like the absence of your right arm, except you still have your right arm, and ‘amputation’ is too small a word to describe the wound in you. You are halved .
“Shark,” you whisper quietly, and gently pull your hand from under hers.
Shark’s breathing changes. She stirs, but only just, mindful of the others in the bed. “Mm?” It’s a quiet sound, half-asleep, but you know she can spring to full awareness in an instant, and back to sleep just as quickly, so you only feel a little guilty for waking her. “‘s’it?”
“I need to get up,” you tell her, quietly, and you very carefully begin pulling away from Hyena, trying not to stir him, or the thing in him. The heat of their skin lingers on yours, and this comforts you.
Shark lets you go as you sit up and carefully pick your way out of the tangle. But before she fully moves in to occupy the space you’ve left behind, she turns her head towards you, more awake now. “Need some company?”
The offer alone is enough. Gosh, how you love her. Shark is as much a shield in your heart as she is in your life. So it’s only a little bit of a lie when you smile and say “I’ll be alright.”
You hunt around on the floor and you find a shirt to throw on. Hyena’s, probably, judging by the size of it. You step softly out into the hallway. You just stand there for a moment, looking around, as if one of these other bedrooms might hold the source of this oddness that’s taken hold of you. Dim light crawls through a window at the end of the hall, muted further by faded, drawn blinds. You are aware that some of the other bedrooms are occupied. One door is slightly ajar, and you think you hear Tadpole and Shrike in quiet conversation within. As you pass another, you hear Bat’s familiar snore clear through the closed door.
You meet Scarab at the staircase landing. They stop and openly look you up and down, their mouth curving into a small, sharp-toothed grin. The note of teasing in the motion of their hands is good-natured, and they sign ‘Having a good night?’
It takes you a moment to realize what they mean, before you remember that you’re out here wearing a too-big shirt and nothing else. ‘So far, yeah,’ you admit, signing back to them. You look them over too, taking in the artful curve of their jaw, their strong shoulders, the fresh pattern of bruises running down their torso. ‘You look like you’re having a good time,’ you note.
Scarab’s grin broadens into a bright, beaming smile, and they stand a little straighter. Then they wince a little, when the movement pulls on the tender muscle of their midriff. They like to be appreciated. ‘The pursuit of happiness.’ The delight in their face and hands is so bright that you melt a little, even though you’ve heard the words a hundred times. ‘We were just taking a break. You want in?’
It’s tempting. Very tempting. You think about it for a moment, taking stock of yourself. ‘No,’ you say eventually. ‘Not tonight.’
Scarab nods understandingly, undiminished and radiant, and waves to you before heading back down the hallway, in pursuit of happiness.
As you head down the stairs, you turn the strange new feeling over in your mind. Rigel is there, again, always. Whatever this is, it bumps against the jagged edges of her silhouette in you, so empty and deep and dark, sending urgent shocks through your soul. But you know the pain of Rigel’s disappearance. It blankets your every waking moment even now, but you conclude that this is not that. It fills you with something resembling… longing? The anticipation of opening a door, expecting to find…
Voices break you from your inspection. You’ve padded down to the main floor of the Crow’s Nest. There’s lights on in one of the common areas, and you can hear Crow herself pacing around it and talking. You follow the sounds.
“I still don’t like this,” you hear her say. Her voice is level and steady in the way it gets when she working very hard to make it that way.
“Me neither.” Hound is there, sounding deep in thought, almost distant. You come to a doorway and spot them sitting on a couch, one hand on their chin as they lean forward, studying a pile of documents, notes, and maps strewn across a large, low table. You know that look - Special Investigator Quinn David Johnson is on the case, their mind working furiously at some critical problem. You love seeing them like this, so intent and focused, you can’t help but smile a little.
Fox is there too, sitting next to Hound, all but slumped against their side. She’s so slight that you might fail to notice her if she didn’t stand out so starkly with her pale skin and shock of red hair. Looks like she’s fallen asleep.
“And you’ll keep not liking it until you find a way to make it work,” she says. Not asleep, then, but it sounds like she really wishes she was. “And even then you still won’t like it, and it’ll still be our best and only choice. Hey, Magpie.”
You start, frozen in the act of walking into the room, looking at her. You’re sure her eyes were closed! How does she do that? “Hey, Fox.”
Crow turns to you, seeming surprised to see you. “You’re awake.” She breaks the pattern she’s been pacing around the room and comes to meet you. Leans down to kiss you, to touch your face with tenderness, even though you can tell her mind is elsewhere. You kiss her back.
Now that you’re further into the room, you have a better view of the materials the three of them have been examining. The files and photos are all too familiar. “You’re still going over the plan?”
Fox throws up her hands, matching the note of exasperation in your voice. “They never stopped going over the plan! They’ve just been working each other up over hypotheticals all night!”
You don’t need magic to know that’s true - it’s written all over the stern, defensive frown that comes over Crow’s features, and the glance she shoots back at Fox. If she wasn’t your wonderful girlfriend, boss, and fearless gang leader, you might think she’s pouting. “There’s too many variables.”
Of course. That’s so like them. You take one of Crow’s hands in both of yours and give her your most dramatic sigh. “Babe. Babes,” you add, looking at all three of them. “Look at me.”
They do, and you can almost hear the ‘crunch’ as the double combo of the sight of you wearing nothing but an oversized shirt and the most gentle, sincere look you can muster on your face devastates Crow and Hound’s trains of thought. A flustered blush starts to color both their faces. They really are so much like each other.
You strike before the wreckage can settle, tugging on Crow’s hand. Gentle, but firm. “You need to rest, okay? You won’t accomplish anything like this. Please come to bed.”
The fact that Crow hesitates - actually bites her lip - tells you just how wound up she really is. When you see she’s about to look back to the mission materials behind her, you stop her by reaching up and gently placing your hand on her cheek, stroking the area just under the black marks at the corners of her golden eyes. “Please, Artemis.”
She folds, finally, and some of the tension leaves her as she leans into your touch, reaching up to cup your hand. “Okay. You win, Magpie.”
A wave of warmth and affection fills you, and you smile, starting to lead Crow back towards the stairs. She’ll almost certainly reprimand you for using her real name, but that will come later, once she’s slept, and you’ll take it with a smile.
You look over to Hound, who’s still sitting at the table, looking uncertain. “You too, Quinn. It’ll be lonely with just the two of us.”
The deep blush on their face is still there. “I- You- Uh…” They have to clear their throat before they speak. “You two go ahead,” they say, eventually, looking back to the table in front of them so they don’t have to see how it stings you. “I still have to-”
“Nope!” Fox cuts them off, abruptly getting to her feet. She wraps both of her arms around one of Hound’s and pulls, and Hound is caught so off guard that she actually manages to drag them to their feet.
Quinn actually yelps in surprise. “Mallory! What are you-”
“Nope!!” She’s managed to drag Quinn halfway across the room- a few stumbling steps for them, a considerable achievement for her. “If you make me sleep on that couch when I could be sleeping in a real bed with two werewolves - and Magpie,” she adds, shooting you a wink, “then you can just send me back to jail because I will literally die.”
With the two of you leading the way, you with Crow and her with Hound, the momentum shifts entirely in your favor, and you lead the pair of anxious puppies back to Crow’s room. Mallory shoots you a knowing, mischievous look, and you thank her with a smile. Behind you Crow sighs resignedly and leans over to give Hound a kiss on the cheek. “They’re both right, and we both know it.” There’s warmth in her voice, and you think that maybe she won’t go too hard on you tomorrow after all.
(She will, of course, and you know it. She takes her role very seriously, and this is something the two of you established from the outset, when you made things official. She loved Bluejay, too.)
Crow’s room is fairly spartan. There’s a desk with a battered laptop and a few scattered files. A small, neat toolkit next to which Crow puts her prosthetic arm after she takes it off. What looks like one of Lioness’s shirts draped over the back of the desk chair, and a few of her sketches taped to the wall. A broad, thick, heavy mattress takes up a big part of the floor, with a small pile of books and a first aid kit next to it forming a makeshift nightstand, and a go-bag of clothes and other items lies at the foot of it. The first aid kit was a gift from Hound. The collector’s edition anime figurine posed on top of it was a gift from you.
Fox leaps onto the mattress, landing face-down with a quiet thwap , having shed her too-big turtleneck and pants. She keeps raiding Quinn’s wardrobe - or Crow’s, occasionally, since they started dating. You tried to take her clothes shopping once, since none of your clothes fit her, but she turned you down, smiling pleasantly in that way you’re coming to realize means you’ve hurt her somehow.
Crow, paused in the middle of pulling off her shirt, catches you as you move to join Mallory on the mattress. “Magpie,” she says quietly. You stop and turn to her, struck by the note of command in her voice. You see the wolf in her, in the white fur spreading up her arms and down the sides of her head, in the tail trailing behind her and the second set of fuzzy ears that now sprout from the top of her head, and in the way the hue of her luminous yellow eyes shifts just slightly towards sharp and golden. Crow changes forms as easily as she changes clothes.
You have a feeling you know what she’s about to say, but you try your best to look innocent anyway. Her use of your code name sounded very intentional. “Yes, Crow?”
Your intentional use of her title mollifies her a little, and she finishes taking off her clothes before putting one growing, twisting, changing hand on top of your head and firmly moving you towards the door. “Take off that shirt, then go put it back where you found it.”
There’s a sharp, short “Hah!” from Fox, who’s propped herself up on her elbows to watch your exchange. And then she yelps as Quinn, now fully shifted to their werewolf form, flops into the bed, and three hundred pounds of muscle and fur hit the mattress with enough force to jolt her clear up off the mattress. Clearly there will be no help from that direction.
You glance at the shirt that Crow is still holding in her other hand. “Can I borrow yours?” you venture.
You smile nervously, looking up at her. “This is for using your name, isn’t it?”
It’s not really a question, so it surprises you when Crow shakes her head. “No, I just don’t want to wake up tomorrow with my nose thinking Hyena snuck into my room. We can address that tomorrow.”
The look she gives you brooks little questioning, and you nod understandingly, pulling off the shirt you commandeered earlier. As you do, you hear a quiet wolf whistle from next to the bed, where Fox had hit the floor earlier. As the only other person currently in the room with the right kind of mouth, she has taken up the solemn duty of teasing you. (Not that she ever actually put it down to begin with.)
You feel yourself blushing in spite of yourself as you slip out of Crow’s room. It’s the middle of the night! It’s not like most of your fellow Streetcrows haven’t seen you in various states of undress, you remind yourself. You could confidently stroll through the whole building and you’d only raise an eyebrow or two, you tell yourself!
You tip-toe carefully down the hall, keeping to one side, hyper-aware of every sound and movement you make. Horrifyingly, the door to Tadpole and Shrike’s room is now completely open, and Shrike happens to be looking that way as you pass. You wave shyly when she does a visible double-take, then dart the rest of the way to your door as quietly as you can.
As you pass their doorway on the way back to Crow’s room, you see that Shrike has gotten Tadpole’s attention, and Tadpole blows you a kiss as you pass. Somewhere, somehow, you find the power to wink . Shirt or no shirt, Hyena’s been rubbing off on you.
You reach the door to Crow’s room, and you- freeze? Why have you stopped? What am I missing? I don’t-
“It’s good to have you back, Narrator.”
Your lips barely move as you subvocalize the words, in the way that you learned lifetimes ago, and that I did not teach you . You are through the door, kissing your partners good night, and asleep in their arms before I can figure out what to say.
Many thanks to my darling datemate for being my second pair of eyes on this. And many thanks to kibitzer, for making Streetcrows and changing my life.
Comments and kudos greatly appreciated!
Chapter 3: Blood Fog
The common whipping is the simplest type of whipping knot, a series of knots intended to stop a rope from unravelling. This whipping knot is also called 'wolf' whipping in some parts of the world. The 'Hangman's knot' is a variation of this whipping knot.
- Chapter 2: Blood Fog -
You are asleep. Mostly. Someone or something has been nudging you for a little while now, trying to wake you up. You float up to the far edge of consciousness just long enough to register that you’re still in bed, cuddled up close as you can be to the solid mass of soft fur, muscle and scars that is Hound, and then drift back.
I can’t see what you’re dreaming about, but I can tell that you very much don’t want it to stop.
The kiss definitely gets your attention, though. Hound is kissing your forehead, their strong hand this time gently cradling the side of your head, pulling you up and in. You follow along with the movement almost unconsciously, climbing up Hound’s big, broad chest until you’re sleepily kissing them back. They’ve shifted their face to human-shape for the moment, but the rest of them is still deliciously wolfy, and you reach up to scratch that spot by their ear that you know they like.
The way their breath catches and the small - for a massive werewolf, at least - pleased shiver you feel wash through them tells you you’ve hit the spot, and you can’t help but smile. You break the kiss for a moment and finally open your eyes, ready to greet your beloved.
You’ve barely drawn breath for a ‘good morning’ when Hound, their eyes full of love and just a touch of regret and a lot more awake than you are, gently puts a clawed finger to your lips, silencing you. They nod their head just a fraction to the side, and you turn your head to see, unbelievably, that nestled tight in between Hound and Crow, wrapped up in Crow’s arms and one of Hound’s, Mallory Todd is sleeping .
You almost can’t believe it. Fox almost never gets proper sleep. She’s the lightest sleeper you’ve ever met. You lie there, half-crawled on top of Hound, and just watch her for a while, certain that any moment now she’s going to make some joke about leaving her out of the makeouts, or a ‘And you say I’m easy to wake up’. But she doesn’t stir.
Crow’s room doesn’t have any windows, but it’s as if there’s moonlight here - living, breathing, with burnished red hair and the cutest damn freckles you’ve ever seen, and Crow and Quinn both hold her close, so close, like she’ll disappear at any moment. Your heart aches just looking at her, and you fiercely memorize every detail of Mallory Todd at peace. She’s beautiful.
Hound taps you on the shoulder, and you turn your gaze back to them. The quiet, knowing smile on their face tells you they know exactly what you’re feeling. They wave their one free hand to get your attention, and then slowly sign to you. “Crow says to do a full perimeter check of the building.”
Your attention snaps back to Crow, who hasn’t moved an inch, still fiercely holding on to Fox, but her glowing yellow eyes are fixed on you, and her gaze kills any objection you might have mustered.
Quinn’s smile has turned regretful. “Sorry,” they sign.
You shake your head and make yourself smile. It’s not their fault - you’re the one who broke the rules. You lean in and give them a soft parting kiss, and then another, and then a third, and then a long, lingering fourth before you can make yourself pull away. You get out of the bed and tiptoe your way to the door as quietly as you can - which is a lot more quiet than you used to be. You’ve been practicing.
You push open the door as quietly as you can. The air in the hallway feels downright frigid compared to sleeping in a pile of werewolf. You rub your hands over the goosebumps on your skin and you turn and look back one last time. By some miracle Fox hasn’t stirred, and Hound is looking at you. Your heart swells with emotion at the sight of them, the three of them, and the knowledge that you’re part of them. “I love you all so much,” you sign to them.
Hound’s smile is so full of light and love and warmth that it takes your breath away, just as the flash of teeth and crystalline edge of devil-may-care they’ve picked up over the weeks makes your heart race. They sign back. “I hate to see you leave but I love to watch you go.”
It’s so sudden, so smoldering and so delightful, you have to cover your mouth with both hands and dash out of the room to not bust out laughing.
You bump into Tadpole on the way back to your room. She’s coming out of the room you saw her sharing with Shrike earlier, and judging by the shirt she’s wearing - neon pink, two sizes too small, sporting the aggressive technicolor logo of one of Shrike’s obscure darkwave nu-metal electrofunk favourites - her talk with Shrike must’ve been very productive.
She yawns as she quietly pulls the door shut behind her. The dim light in the hallway bends and breaks around her as patches of the gloom around her seem to collapse inward, leaving the surrounding space apparently untouched aside from a silent, fizzing penumbra of broken light around them, and the light inside gathers into bright little pinpricks that spark and shimmer and streak across Tadpole’s dark skin like stars in the night sky.
The gathered light is bright enough that she notices you standing there. Then she freezes, all her fatigue slipping away from her as she just stares at you for a long moment, eyes wide and mouth half open.
“You have the coolest flashlight.” You try to keep as quiet as you can, mindful of the people who might be sleeping in the rooms around you even as the fact of Tadpole’s presence fills you. Thoughts of her fill your mind. Your feelings and desire for her crowd out all other concerns. Tadpole is strikingly handsome and brave and so ironically, deliciously tall . The day you frantically messaged your partners that you might literally die if you didn’t ask her out was variously met with loud encouragement, relieved ‘ Finally ’s, and more than one “Wait, you mean you’re not dating her already?”
She blinks, apparently surprised, before blushing furiously, seeming flustered by your breathless compliment. “Oh,” she whispers. “Hah, yeah, I guess I do.” She runs her fingers through her long dreads, shifting in place, a small smile touching her lips. She seems to be having trouble looking directly at you - her gaze flicks to you, dances over you, and then away, and then back again.
You step up to stand next to her, leaning on the wall next to the door to Shrike’s room. You smile. You can’t help it. “So... how’s things with you and Shrike?”
Tadpole glances back at the door behind her, where Shrike is probably still sleeping, and your heart flutters when you catch the small, fond smile that touches her lips, the spark of something wonderful in her eyes. “Not perfect,” she admits. “Not by a long shot. But… we talked. A lot. And…”
She pauses, clearly considering her next words. You love her for that, of course - you love her for a lot of things - but the anticipation is killing you. You find yourself leaning in towards her, perked up and fidgeting as you fight to keep, just, the biggest smile off your face, at least so Tadpole can have her reveal.
Tadpole sees you trying - and failing miserably - to pretend you don’t already know what she’s going to say. She beats you to the grin, at least, and the excitement on her face breaks you. You’ve wrapped your arms around her in a tight hug before you even realize it, your face pressed into her middle so that the gleeful noise you’re making comes out as a quiet “aaaaaaaaaa!!!!”, muffled by Tadpole’s abs and the strained synthetic fabric of Shrike’s shirt.
Tadpole hugs you back, even if she has to bend over you a little to do it. The motes of captured light on her skin flicker and jump from her to you and back again, dancing on your body and trailing electric warmth like tender touches.
You pull apart, eventually. Tadpole tenderly strokes the side of your face, and you lean into her touch instinctively, placing your hand over hers. You let yourself just, be there , for a moment, feeling her skin against yours, the pinprick warmth of her magic on your skin, the newfound energy in her eyes. “So, it’s official? You and Shrike?”
“Yeah.” For a moment she’s looking past you, as if thinking, and whatever she’s thinking about only makes her smile more. “Yeah, we really are. Wow. Wow?”
You kiss the hand she’s petting you with. “Wow,” you confirm.
“We’re gonna try, at least. I still have a lot of work to do on my communication. Speaking of which...”
She seems suddenly nervous, so you try to put her at ease. You give her your most encouraging smile, and wrap your arm around her waist. “Communication is good. What’s on your mind?”
“I like Shrike. A lot, actually.” Her voice is slow and measured. You can see from the focus in her eyes that she’s thinking through every word. You are so proud of her. “But-” she catches herself. Starts again. “ And I like you too. A lot.”
She’s quiet for a moment, a thoughtful look on her face. The sparks that trace your skin grow dim and sluggish. Tadpole is working hard on her communication, but sometimes it helps that your girlfriend comes with her own mood lighting. “I like you too, Tadpole,” you say. She’s still petting your face, and you appreciate that. You lightly touch your lips to her palm.
“Hah.” It’s a quiet sound. Barely more than a breath. She closes her eyes and takes another deep, measured breath. When she opens them again you can tell that her focus is back on you, and not in her own head. She literally brightens. “Yeah. I got a bit, stuck, there. Thank you. Do you wanna go out sometime? You, me, and Shrike? On a date?”
The question catches you by surprise. Even Tadpole can read it on your face. “We talked about it,” she quickly explains. “And, you and Shrike are a thing, and you and me are a thing, and we decided we’d really like to see if the three of us could be a thing, together. We like you.”
You manage to shake off the surprise, and contain your utter delight only for the benefit of your various datemates sleeping in the rooms around you. “Oh my gosh ,” you whisper. “Yes, oh my gosh, yes, absolutely? It’s a date? Can I kiss you please?”
Tadpole smiles, and you think you might actually cry. “It’s a date.” She bends down and you stretch up tiptoed and eager, and you wrap your arms around her neck and when she kisses you your whole body shakes, and she wraps her arms around you and pulls you close, and when you kiss her you can feel her laughing, quietly, a rumble in her chest and joy in her breath.
You make a sound like “Mm!” when Tadpole’s hands find your waist. She stops kissing you just long enough to ask, in a breathless, husky voice, “Good?”
It takes you a moment to find your voice through the haze in your mind. “Yes,” you manage, eventually. “Good.”
She grins, and you shiver as her hands slide down your waist, tracing the outline of your midriff. You try to return the favor, tangle your hands in her hair, kiss a messy trail down her jaw to her collarbone.
You feel Tadpole’s hands on your hips. Feel the delicious ache when her fingers dig into your thigh, and she shamelessly, greedily pulls at your leg with one hand while she grabs your butt with the other. But there’s a wrinkle in the warm, soft buzz that fills you more and more as you lose yourself in her. Your brow furrows as you tug at it. Something’s bothering you. But what? What are you forgetting?
The cool feeling of the corridor’s cement wall against your back, and Tadpole’s lips against your skin as she’s on her knees in front of you, halfway through kissing her way down your midriff, is just about the most unsubtle set of reminders you could possibly get. You actually squeak , when you remember…
“What?” Tadpole has stopped. She’s pulled back and she’s looking up at you with such concern in her eyes. “Too much? Too far?”
“No, no,” you quickly reassure her. You’re blushing so uncontrollably that you can feel it, a hot flush washing over every inch of you. “I love this, I want this,” and oh god do you want this, “I just-” You take a deep breath. “I completely forgot I’m naked.”
There’s a beat of silence. Tadpole looks you up and down, taking you in from your blushing hot face to your heaving chest with your hummingbird heart to your quivering legs, and she comes to something resembling a realization. “Oh. Ohhh. That- That explains a couple things. I’m so sorry, Pie, I thought-”
You pull your hands away from where they were tangled in Tadpole’s hair and you cup her face as you bend down just a little and you kiss her. You must admit, being the one that has to bend over to kiss her for once sends a shocking thrill down your spine. For a moment you want nothing more than to keep going, timing and location be damned. Wouldn’t be the first time.
Even as hungry as you are for her, you have to stop for air eventually, and you bite your lip and just barely stop yourself from darting back in to kiss her again. “I’m supposed to do a perimeter sweep,” you say, more to yourself than to Tadpole. “I want this very much, but I need to do the thing and I am very easily distracted by hot people and you are, just, very hot.”
Tadpole seems caught off guard by this. She blinks, then blushes almost as hard as you do. The lights on her skin feel somehow warmer than they were when you started, and burn with a kind of collapsing intensity that makes sparks fly. “Oh. Uh. Thank you?” She moves back from you, finds her feet and slowly starts to stand.
“Come find me, after?” You ask, watching appreciatively as Shrike’s too-small borrowed shirt lends extra definition to every stretch and movement Tadpole makes. “I would really like to pick this up again, if you’re okay with that, and also we can figure out that date.”
Tadpole smiles. Her little motes of captured light wiggle and spark. “I’d like that, Pie.”
You smile back. “It’s a date.”
There’s a spring in your step that takes you all the way back to your room, and you’ve just entered and closed the door behind you when a sharp, low voice cuts through you. “Magpie. Listen to me very carefully.”
You freeze. “Hyena?” He sounds lucid. And his voice is coming from your bed, right where you left him. You squint in that direction, trying to will your eyes to adjust to the darkness of the room. At first all you see is two pinpricks of light, the sharp glow of Hyena’s eyes focused directly on you. As your eyes adjust, you find the shape of him. He’s still restrained - his wrists are firmly tied above his head and to the wall hitch, his ankles similarly lashed to the floor, his muzzle is still in place covering half his face. Your blankets cover his lower body up to just past the hips.
“This is important, Magpie.” Her voice is steady. It’s probably her. Her homicidal passenger never calls you by name. “Beneath these blankets lies the key to my release.”
You walk over to them, checking their restraints out of habit. “What happened? Bunny should have all your keys - it’s not like her to-”
“Hah!” Hyena barks out a laugh. She is, as always, entirely uninterested in keeping quiet. “The keys to my cuffs are safe with her, yeah.” Her eyes are still on you, glowing hot and hungry. “I mean the better kind of release.”
You finally catch on to Hyena’s game, and you just as quickly realize that you’ve lost. The heat in her eyes digs into you and finds all the wild, needy fog just barely trapped beneath your skin. She cocks her head and quirks her lips in a knowing smile, that damn smile that pulls everything up and out of you, and you’re not just lost, you’re annihilated , no magic required.
You are very easily distracted by hot people.
Chapter 4: Momentarily Lost In The Blood Fog
A rolling hitch, Magner's hitch, or Magnus hitch is a type of knot that wraps around a pole or another piece of rope. Once you pull the loose end out of the rope, the knot is tied.
- Chapter 3: Momentarily Lost In The Blood Fog -
To say that Hyena just seduced you with a pun would be selling her - and yourself - far too short. It’s the way he arches his back just so. The tension in the muscles of her arms as he pulls at her restraints. The soft yet subtly predatory lines of her body. The way ze projects, just, total at-your-mercy vulnerability all while looking at you like you’re the one who’s tied up all helpless and needy.
It’s all of that, and more. And also the pun.
You half-crawl half-clamber into the sprawling nest of bedding that you sleep in, your eyes fixed on Hyena. You can’t quite make out his mouth behind the muzzle she’s still wearing, but her eyes alone tell you you’re giving them exactly what she wants. “Come here.”
You reach Hyena’s ankles, and you decide to stop there, making a show of slowly checking the padded cuffs around her ankles, tugging at the padlocks and chains that trail away to anchors hammered deep into the cement floor. “How’re you feeling? Do you need to walk around a bit before we start? Do some stretches?”
“I’m good,” Hyena says frankly, no trace of the come-hither purr she just had a second ago. “Bunny had me up and moving earlier, and she’s coming to check on me bit.”
You feel a flutter in your chest, and a slow smile touches your lips. “You set all this up, just so I could have you all to myself for a bit?”
He must hear the growing heat in your voice, judging by the way he shifts under you, the way that familiar sort of imperious smugness comes back to her. “Maybe,” she says, playing coy. “If you think you can take me.”
“Oh.” Ohohoho. That’s a challenge, right there. You feel a smile tug at the corners of your mouth. “How bold of you.” You lean forward, crawling on your hands and knees up to their waist, your movements slow and languid, always keeping some part of you touching her skin. A knee brushing against her shin. You pull away the blanket draped over her, and your impish half-smile turns to genuine delight, and something like smugness, when you find that he’s so wet he’s practically dripping . “Bold of you to assume I don’t already have you.”
“You’re one to-” They stumble when you let your hand wander up his thigh, gently pressing your fingers just a little into him while you trace slow circles around his clit. You can see the muscles in her entire body clench and unclench, waves of tension rolling through her as she bites back a moan of pleasure.
“Did you just-”
“Please,” he says, in between panting for breath. His voice is heavy with that relentless leonine pride of his, but even you can hear the needy edge under the dismissiveness. He’s clearly dancing right on the edge. “You haven’t- I need permission .”
“That’s-” You’re lost for words, for a moment. That is part of the rules. Hyena isn’t the romantic type, and you know, love, and respect that. But that he’s sticking to the rules even while he bucks and writhes under your touch strikes you as ridiculously romantic anyway. “That’s so nice , Hyena. You don’t have permission.”
They make a strangled, keening noise as you push your fingers further into him, his legs going rigid with tension as his entire body shudders and twists. But he doesn’t come.
“Woah.” At some point you brought your free hand up to your mouth, lightly biting your fingers. You let it wander down to your chest, then down further. “You’re really worked up. What’s gotten into you?” You let up on the teasing - just enough that he can catch his breath, just enough to keep his body humming like a live wire.
“Fffffunny you should say that-” He almost laughs, but it turns into more of a staccato moan as you let your thumb ghost over their clit. “Deeperrr~” The word trails off into a needy, greedy purr.
“Hmmm,” you pretend to think about it, keeping the pace of your teasing unchanged. “I don’t know. This could be a trick.”
“No tricks. You’re gonna love this.” The way he has to squeeze his words in between shallow, barely-controlled breaths, through gritted teeth, makes you want to believe him. “Trust me.”
You relent in your teasing, just a little, and with plenty of warning you push your fingers into Hyena's cunt. It hits her like lightning, shocking every muscle in her body at once. She screams, almost , but bites it back, and the strangled, animal noise that comes out of them has you more than tempted to quit the games and just fuck him senseless.
Your fingers find something inside Hyena. It's solid, but yielding. Round, and… pulsing? “An egg?”
“Yeah,” she breathes. “Bunny-” the egg pulses, and Hyena’s words cut into a sharp moan. You know that feel. Bunny applies the same touch of mad genius to all her gadgets - toys included - and you're one of her more eager test subjects.
You've crawled the rest of the way up Hyena's body before you know it, pulling frantically at the buckles of her muzzle with slick, trembling fingers. You get as far as loosening one strap before your patience runs out and you yank the thing down her face to let it sit around her neck while you kiss her.
The first touch of Hyena's lips has you moaning with such relief that you pause in sheer surprise. Between Tadpole on her knees and Hyena serving himself up to you in chains, you've gotten so worked up it hurts , your whole body vibrating with a need that’s now finally being met.
Hyena opens her mouth to say something, and there's a spark of triumph in her eyes and there's that damn smile , and you shut her up with more kissing, and you finally have enough control of yourself to loosen the last strap on her muzzle and toss it aside. She wants you to want her, and you do, and so you will .
You have to stop kissing him at some point, if only to catch your breath. You lie there for a moment on top of Hyena. Your head is swimming, you're gasping for air, and all you want, all you need , is- “Fuck, Hyena.”
You manage to rise to your elbows and knees, and you crawl forward until your dripping cunt hovers just inches from Hyena's face. You sit up and look down at him, his face between your legs. His eyes are unfocused, glassy with need. “Love you.”
Your whole body is shaking with need and anticipation. You can barely get enough breath to say it without stuttering. Your voice is barely more than a murmur. Hyena snaps to attention instantly, as if he's been electrified. Her whole body tenses in rhythmic waves. Her face, already flushed, colors even more. Her eyes spark and glow red and gold beneath you, and there it is. For a moment, Hyena is speechless .
You smile. It's a sharp, smug, victorious thing, piled high with all the confidence and bravado you've stripped from her. See? You can make her want you just as much as you want him. “Do a good job, and maybe I'll show you just how much I love you.”
You lower yourself over his face, and you make a noise like a squeak when their tongue brushes against your clit. You shoot up and try to hide your surprise at how close you just, well, came.
You look down and see mischief in Hyena's eyes. “Touchè.” You reach down and grab two fistfuls of his hair, and bring your legs in so that Hyena's head is tucked firmly between your thighs. “But not what I'm after. Now, behave. ”
You punctuate your words by sitting back on Hyena's face. You try to focus on the feeling of her hair in your hands, on her breath on your- no, your breath, on the various kinds and cuts of agates, edge-point ratios, the Interfect coefficient of sapphire, the-
The first touch of Hyena's tongue almost destroys you. It’s a gut punch that leaves you doubled over and gasping, clutching Hyena’s hair and squeezing their head between your thighs as you ride them for dear life. You yelp .
“ Fuck! ”
You can feel him grinning under you. You're far past caring. Your blood is roaring like an engine, out of your control. "Fuck fuck fffuck - Hhhhhy ena -"
Your face hits the pile of pillows on the edge of your bed. You wrangle your twitching, trembling hips into a thrust, and then another, and Hyena picks up the rhythm as you start to fuck his face. "Good-" your voice breaks for a moment when Hyena's tongue twists and presses hard against your clit, no doubt seeing if she can trip you up (which she very much can), and you yank on her hair until she falls back into your rhythm " Good boy ."
After the initial shock of just how turned on you are wears off, and Hyena stops being a brat, the lightning in your spine turns to liquid. Pleasure starts to pool and build in you, and you ride it higher "Such a good boy" and higher "You're ssso- fuck right there right there " and higher "I love you I love you I love you so much Hyena- "
Your orgasm builds, and builds, and builds. Your arms grow limp even as your grip tightens on Hyena’s hair. Your thrusts grow shallow and erratic. You moan and squeak and gasp as you're almost- almost- almost-
One of these days either you or Hyena are going to kill each other. He's- he's behaving! Maliciously! The closer you get to the edge, the more energy he puts into everything except what will make you cum. Your moans turn to half-desperate cries of frustration. "Hhhhhyena!!!" You squeeze your thighs around her head, trying to pin her down as you thrust into her face. Almost- almost- “HHHYYY ENA!!! ”
Seemingly deaf to your cries, they keep you riding the edge for what feels like forever, until your body is limp and your legs are numb and shaking, and you might have called out your safeword if you could unclench your jaw from biting the pillow. Just as you're about to hit the limit of your endurance, Hyena unmakes you. Xe goes from cruel edging to tongue-fucking your clit so fast you can't even process it at first - your nerves are too frayed and your thoughts scatter and buzz so it takes a moment before you even realize you're cumming, and when the white-hot pleasure finally cuts through the fog you scream . Your blood is on fire. Your whole body seizes around Hyena as ze works you relentlessly throughout.
It takes… a while before you're coherent enough to do anything but tremble and moan and ride Hyena's face as it drives you to orgasm after orgasm. "E- Enough," you manage to say, lifting yourself off its face, flopping bonelessly on to your side. "That's- that's enough. Holy shit."
You reach down and run your hand through Hyena's hair, petting him as you catch your breath.
He swallows. Audibly. "Magpie."
"Just- Just a sec. I'm- I can't, move my legs right now."
" Magpie. " His voice is rough - almost hoarse, but sharp, and vibrating with tension. Oh. Oh. " Please. "
"Right." You pull yourself up to your knees, turn, and manage to wobble-crawl down the bed, still straddling her body, down, slowly, too slowly for Hyena's taste, who moans and grunts with effort as their release approaches. "You've been very good, Hyena." Every muscle in their body is tense and trembling, and you can't resist leaning in and kissing a trail down his soft belly. “ So good.”
Don’t you have somewhere to be?
You freeze, your mouth and hands inches from Hyena’s dripping slit and shaking hips. "Oh. Oh shit, I forgot."
Behind you, Hyena sobs. " Magpie, PLEASE! "
The security sweep. You forgot. Crow asked you to do it and you forgot . One look from Hyena and the thought fell right out of your head. Some gangster you are. You roll to the side and clamber out from the bed pile and to your feet. Then you stumble and trip until your hand finds the wall and you steady yourself. Your legs are still wobbly. You’re still half-undone, the other half of your brain still dripping down your legs, down Hyena’s chin.
“No. No no no no. ”
You turn your head towards the bed, towards the soft red-and-gold glow of Hyena’s eyes in the dark, where you read genuine despair . “I’m sorry. Crow asked me to sweep the building and- I’m sorry.” Hyena’s pleading stabs at you as you pad over to the stash of clothes you keep at the lair and pick your way through them by feel. Binder? Binder. Shirt - yours? No - one of Shark’s button-ups, so soft, smells good, like her. Briefs. Skirt? Yeah. And- thigh highs, there they are.
“You monster! ” Hyena’s almost shouting as you pull everything on in a hurry, then step back to the bed. He falls silent as you drop to your knees over him. “C’mon, Pie, don’t-” She tries to put a bit of smolder in her voice, but the effect is broken when she trails off into a moan. Her eyes grow unfocused as she pulls herself back from the edge, again . You watch and wait while he bucks and writhes in his restraints. The begging, you could almost deal with, but the rattling of chains, the deep, sobbing breaths, the blood rushing in your ears- You’re leaving him with nothing, and he’s still being good.
“I’ll make it up to you.” You lean down, cupping his face in your hands, brushing sweat-slicked hair from her eyes. “I promise.” You kiss her.
“NNNGH!!” Pain. Sharp, hot, sudden. The taste of blood in your mouth. She bit you! Hard! Hard enough to tear at your lip as you reflexively pull back. “ Fuck! ”
Hyena smiles- grins? Bares her teeth at you? Below you. “Something to remember me by.”
You bring your hand up and touch the wound. You can feel blood drip down your chin. You reach down. “I won’t forget it,” you promise her, as you grab her muzzle and roughly strap it over her face.
You prod at your lip with your tongue, feeling the split flesh and the red blood pools in your mouth and Hyena’s eyes rip into you as you reach the door. You look back, back at the yellow and blood-red light pools in Hyena’s eyes in the dark, and you swallow the blood. “Tell you what.” You pull up your skirt. “You want to come?” You pull down your briefs, slide them down your leg, kick them aside. “Catch me, and I’ll let you come as much as you want.”
Three steps from the door, your body catches up to you. Your legs are sore and still unsteady. Your face is on fire. There’s blood dripping down your chin, your neck- staining the collar of Shark’s shirt. Fuck. You pull out your phone. It’s 5AM. Woo.
First, you message Bunny.
CutiePie Today 5:26AM
had 2 leave hyena high+dry
forgot a thing
make sure shes ok??
no cummies but like it needs 2 cuddle n hydrate
gives me a head start also
HunnyBuns Today 5:26AM
CutiePie Today 5:27AM
if hyena bites me and i choke on the blood is it still breath play
HunnyBuns Today 5:28AM
let us meditate
CutiePie Today 5:31AM
my love my pumpkin peach my dearest heart
i borrowed your shirt and
there’s blood on it now
i am so sorry
love you heart emoji
A moment. A breath. A whisper. “Narrator?”
Limping along, you decide to start your sweep at the nearest first aid kit.