Claire was supposed to meet up with Annabelle after school to discuss her slowly dropping grades. For the first half of the school year Claire had been an unassuming C student, withdrawn and practically running away every time Annabelle approached her about wearing her hair over her eyes (was it even possible to read the blackboard?) or participating in class.
And then she’d had an apparent change of attitude. Taken to wearing her hair full of bobby pins, which took the blonde ringlets from messy to an absolute riot. To wearing her school uniform skirt hiked up, and looking at Annabelle’s ass in her pencil skirts in a way that made her heart skip beats (or it could all be wishful thinking). A more social attitude, more bright smile, and… steadily dropping grades.
This had been concerning Annabelle, her English teacher, for a while, and she wasn’t going to let another disappearing act slide. So, when Claire failed to show up for a solid half hour, Annabelle went looking for her.
The high school and middle school stood back-to-back and had a jungle gym in the middle between them. She started searching there, because she knew Claire sometimes smoked by the swings with the other children who thought teachers were too wrapped up in their own worlds to notice. Granted, Annabelle only ever watched them for unsavory reasons, but still.
Sure enough, she found Claire exactly where she thought she’d be. However, instead of smoking or napping or doing anything else Annabelle had expected, Claire was…
Battling… a… monster?
“Hi Ms. Baker!” The teen shouted as she jumped from the top of the slide. “Sorry for being late, I’m a little busy!”
“I think she can see that,” said a voice behind Annabelle. She jumped nearly a foot into the air, and spun around to see who was talking.
She found a cat on the walkway, sitting cool as could be. She would’ve completely overlooked it in her search for the speaker, but it was very obviously not a normal cat. For one, its calico patterned fur came in a variety of pastel colors. For another, it had three eyes that shone and shimmered with rainbows as they moved. All in all, he looked like a gay Garfield.
For a third, it wore a thick, white collar with a variety of brightly-colored rhinestones set in it. Currently, a hot pink one was glowing.
Hot pink was coincidentally the primary color of the clothing Claire was wearing. Clothing which she certainly hadn’t been wearing in class. Including, Annabelle noticed with a blush, a set of panties featuring a heart-shaped cutout underneath her miniskirt.
“What’s going on?” Annabelle said, her voice so faint she thought no one would hear her.
That same voice came from the cat once again, and Annabelle felt she might pass out. “She’s fighting a monster. It’s really not that complicated.”
The huge creature swung one bladed forearm at Claire, and though she dodged it, Annabelle noticed there was already blood slicking down her side. It shone on the left half of her belly and waist, underneath the cropped leather jacket she wore. What little blood was still in Annabelle’s head drained out so fast she actually had to grab a metal railing to keep herself upright. “Isn’t this dangerous?” She asked around the queasiness in her belly.
“‘Course it is.” The voice which came out when the cat opened its mouth was incredibly lazy and distinctly deep, so she was pretty sure it was a male.
“I, ah,” Annabelle watched Claire hop again, defying gravity as she leapt at the creature’s head and swiped at it with a short blade. “She’s my student, I can’t let her r-risk her life like this.”
“Do you wanna take a shot at that thing?” Mr. Pastel Cat was openly derisive as he flopped on his side and licked a paw.
“I - I suppose I c-could?”
He paused, finally, and gave her a three way squinty-eyed look. His fat belly rose and fell in a huff as he hauled himself to his feet. “Yes, I suppose you’ll do.”
“Do for what?” Annabelle said, but before the words were even out something was happening.
A royal blue rhinestone began to glow to match the pink one as the cat opened his mouth. The air seemed to shimmer around it, iridescence and rainbows, and Annabelle had to blink as her own eyes watered in response. When she opened them again, there was a knife clenched between the cat’s jaws.
It was beautiful, but nothing that Annabelle would want to fight with. The blade belonged on a stiletto dagger, and the handle was all iridescent blue shimmers in a spiral patterned cone, like a unicorn horn. It didn’t have any kind of guard, though. “How am I supposed to use this?”
Ignoring her despairing tone the way only a cat could, he licked his paw again. His next words were almost swallowed by the sound of metal-on-metal behind Annabelle.
“Stab yourself in the head with it.”
Annabelle froze. Stared at the cat. Stared at the knife. “I’m sorry?”
“Stab yourself. In the forehead. It’s really not that hard.”
“I don’t, I can’t, I’m sorry, I - ”
“Did you want to help her or not?”
Turning around, Annabelle saw Claire still clashing with the creature. She was sweating, bouncy curls plastered to her forehead, and the blood on her side was beginning to crack and flake.
Quite apart from the fact that Annabelle was Claire’s teacher, Claire was her crush. She knew she couldn’t act on those feelings, couldn’t take advantage of the power she held over a student, but still… she couldn’t leave Claire, specifically, to fight this thing. And perhaps because of how surreal the situation was, or perhaps because the sight of blood had Annabelle too light-headed to think this through, she said, “Yes.”
Pastel cat jumped onto her shoulder as soon as the word was out. She twisted her head, a mouthful of fur muffling her yelp, and then he was jamming the blade into her.
Physics dictated that the blade snap against her skull because of the awkward angle, or that the cat not be strong enough to drive the metal in, or a million other things that apparently didn’t apply at the moment. Her final thought before the metal pierced her was, his fur tastes sweet.
And then light enveloped her, and the entire world changed.
Or perhaps it was only her perception of it?
Either way, her clothing melted off her body, a warm wash that felt like gentle wet waves dripping down. Then right back up, except this time in the form of clothing she’d never normally wear. Bright blue Mary Jane’s, white tights printed with the palest blue cartoon brains, and then white bloomers with two little bows enveloped her legs.
A blue underbust skirt cinched her waist, and then poofed outwards over a frilly petticoat. Under that materialized a high-necked blouse with a lacy cravat and long flounce sleeves, and finally a white hair bow pulled her long, straight, black locks into a high ponytail.
As soon as she opened her eyes once more, the magical transformation effect was somewhat ruined by the blood dripping into them.
“Woah, Ms. Baker!” Claire shouted from across the playground. “Lookin’ good!”
Rather than focus on that somewhat, ah, distracting statement, Annabelle clapped her hands together and then pulled them apart in a movement that seemed to come naturally. From her hands a soap bubble formed, then expanded, enveloping the area Claire and the monster had been fighting in.
“Fuckin’ sweet!” Claire hopped into the air, then - hopped again? “I dunno what you just did, but thanks!”
“Neither do I,” Annabelle said, then covered her mouth with one hand. Had her voice always sounded so confident? And when were her nails so stylishly painted?
“It’s a barrier,” pastel cat said. “People won’t be able to stumble across the fight, now. Useful.”
“But - I wanted to help Claire fight,” Annabelle looked down at her hands, trying to figure out if she was suddenly stronger or faster.
“This does help. Look.”
Before long she understood what he meant. Even if she wasn’t feeling especially spry at the moment, Claire was certainly moving better than before. And the monster was moving slower. “So, I cast buffs and debuffs within this area?”
“Nerd,” the cat said with a snort.
After that it didn’t take long for Claire to kill the thing. She stabbed it in its weirdly spindly throat, then landed light as a feather on the ground. The creature dissolved into tiny black flakes, leaving behind a normal girl lying on the ground. Claire leaned over, and picked up a silvery shard of metal beside the stranger.
“Shard get!” Claire cheered. Then she turned to Annabelle, and her big, brown eyes were glittering with the force of her smile. “Thanks for the assist.”
“Oh, um. No problem,” Annabelle said airily.
Then her legs abruptly gave out, and she sat down hard on the mulch.
Blearily, she looked up as Claire rushed over to her, the triumph gone all sour with worry. “Oh my god, oh my god. Are you okay? What the fuck?”
“I’m not sure,” Annabelle said. “Are you actually swirling like that?”
“Is she completely crazy now?” Claire said to Annabelle’s shoulder. Or, no, to the cat.
“Nah, but she’s about to pass out,” pastel cat said. “Her knife isn’t like yours. Since she doesn’t use it to fight, it stays in, which’ll let her keep the barrier up. But the longer the barrier stays up, the longer it stays in, and the longer…”
“Oh, I’m still bleeding, aren’t I?” Annabelle laughed lightly and pressed a hand to her forehead. “Should I just take this out then?”
“No, moron,” pastel cat’s tail hit her in the back of the head hard enough to hurt. “Claire, pop the bubble already.”
“Ten four, roger that.”
A moment later what felt like a cool rain fell on Annabelle’s body. Her clothes were abruptly back to the comfortable business wear she’d had on for the school day, and her body - pushed the knife out. The sensation made her shudder, but it lasted only a moment, and then she had a (mostly) clean blade sitting in her lap.
There were still a couple chunks on it, and a thin smear of blood. Annabelle swallowed hard.
“Ms. Baker, that was awesome!” Claire’s suddenly very loud and very close voice shook Annabelle out of her stupor.
Looking up, she found herself face to face with Claire, now back to wearing her normal clothes as well. “Seriously, you just did that! My first transformation wasn’t nearly that graceful! Like, woah, and did you see me take down that Corrupted One? So badass. I can’t wait to do it again! We are gonna be the best team.”
“Again?” Annabelle was right back to being a mousy teacher, and balked at the memory of what she’d just done.
“Of course,” The cat said. “You didn’t think my gift came free, did you?”
What on earth had she gotten herself into?