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One Way or Another

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Rire took a sip of his scotch, his eyes slowly sliding from left to right as he surreptitiously surveyed the patrons at the lounge. As he tried to gauge who had the potential to be the most entertaining to him, the options tonight all seemed a bit… dull. How disappointing, he thought as he took another drink. The Snapdragon was usually more interesting than this; other lounges tended not to have the same draw that this one had.

Stifled snickering pulled him from his thoughts and his attention toward the door.

At first, nothing about her seemed out of the ordinary. She was pretty, wearing a light blue sundress that matched her eyes — which, even at a distance, were striking — with blonde hair that fell over her shoulders in gentle curls. Besides the eyes, nothing in particular stood out about her, let alone anything to laugh at. Rire almost looked away before he saw why she had drawn attention: something was peeking out of her purse.

A stuffed doll, a peculiar-looking thing with bright purple hair and large, red eyes. She had a tiny smile stitched onto her face, giving the impression that even though she was semi-stuffed into a small space, she was perfectly comfortable. Something was emanating from her: a light, gentle sort of energy.

Odd. He took another look at the girl. She had the same kind of energy coming from her, if not a bit stronger. She hadn’t seemed to notice the laughter, instead approaching the bar. Just before she was about to talk to the bartender, her posture suddenly stiffened, and she pulled her purse in front of her and started shuffling through it. From where he sat, Rire could see that her lips were moving, as if she were muttering things to herself, but he couldn’t quite tell what she was saying. There was a quick glance in his direction, barely even a flash, before the energy around her shifted, taking on a decidedly less friendly demeanor.

Rire smiled, hiding the grin by taking another drink. Perhaps tonight wasn’t going to be a complete waste after all.


We need to leave.

Ellie tensed at the sudden statement, pulling her purse in front of her and looking down at Annabelle. “What do you mean? We just got here.”

There’s someone at the end of the bar; he’s staring at us. Something feels wrong about him.

“Wrong? Wrong how?”

I don’t know.” Annabelle’s mouth shifted into a frown. “But you’ll know what I mean when you see him.

Ellie chanced a quick glance in the direction Annabelle had mentioned. Her heart stopped, and she quickly brought her attention back down. “He’s handsome, but you’re right. Something’s different about him.”

I have a bad feeling about this. We need to go — now.

“We can’t. We just got here, it’d look suspicious.”

Get a drink and leave as quickly as possible.

“Right there with you on that.” Ellie sighed through her nose and looked up at the bartender, flashing him a brilliant smile. “Sorry, thought I lost my wallet. Anything I can take to go?”

The bartender mirrored her smile, and shrugged. “Water, soda — sadly I can’t let you take alcohol with you.”

“Water’s fine — I gotta get home.”

He nodded and hustled to the drink station just as a shadow approached and loomed over her.

“Good evening.” The stranger’s voice was deep, sending shivers down her spine.

Oh god. He’s a bass. Ohhh god I’m in trouble. Ellie turned to face him, a blush immediately forming around her shy smile. “Good evening to you, too.”

“I don’t believe I’ve seen you around here before,” he said. “My name is Rire.”

She cleared her throat, “It’s nice to meet you, Rire. I’m Ellie.”

An amused grin formed on Rire’s face, careful not to show even the barest glimpse of teeth as he gestured with the hand holding a drink. “I’d ask if you’re drinking alone tonight, but it looks like you have a friend tucked away, there.”

Ellie laughed, a short, nervous sound, and put a hand on her doll’s head. “Ah, yeah. Ann’s a great conversation starter, for sure.”

“Ann? Is that short for anything?”

“Annabelle — just Annabelle.”

At that moment her doll piped up quietly. “Your drink’s here. Let’s go.

Rire tilted his head toward her drink. “I’m not keeping you am I?”

“Oh! Um —”

Yes.

“No. Well, I mean, not really.” Ellie picked up her cup, tucking her hair behind her ear. “What I mean is that I’d love to stay and chat with you, but I do… sort of have to hurry home.”

“Well, if you’d like, I can escort you.” Rire nodded toward the door, setting down his glass. “I can’t in good conscience let you walk there by yourself, and I’m sure we’ll have plenty of time to chat on the way.”

Ellie swallowed nervously — everything in her mind was screaming at her, “yes, yes!” But her body felt frozen on the spot, as if debating whether or not to kick on the fight or flight response and do what Annabelle was saying, “no, no!” She felt like she was fighting against every word, but slowly replied, “I… wouldn’t mind the company…”

Rire gave another closed-lip smile. “Wonderful. After you~”

Annabelle’s protective instincts kicked into high gear as Rire’s hand rested at the small of Ellie’s back, subtly ushering them to the door. “Ellie, whatever he’s doing, you gotta fight it. You’re not thinking straight.

Shit. SHIT. The moment they stepped outside and the crisp night air hit Ellie’s face, she immediately started mentally building a wall. Annabelle’s right. I’m never this candid. Plus, how the hell did I get this far without embarrassing myself?!

It wasn’t long before she could feel something trying to pull her wall back down, acting quicker than she could continue building. It was now or never. With the last bits of her dwindling willpower she pushed away from Rire. She swiftly raised a hand, placing the other on Annabelle’s head, and concentrated all of her energy into her fingers. “Fulgeo.


Unbeknownst to either Ellie or her doll friend, Rire had heard every word Annabelle said since the moment she pointed out Ellie’s drink. Given the lack of reaction from either the bartender or anyone else in the lounge, he assumed that they were the only two who heard her. He’d been tempted to address it, but was curious to see just how the two of them planned to escape him.

He had felt the slight shift when they left the bar — Ellie was finally catching on to his persuasions, all thanks to little Annabelle tipping her off. The moment that she pushed away from him, he was already expecting for Ellie to run, which he’d probably let her do for awhile, and think that she succeeded in getting away. At least until he decided to surprise both her and her toy and show them exactly what they had run into.

What Rire didn’t expect, however, was the bright flash that came with a loud BANG!

It was the sound that had startled him more than anything, making him recoil back from the bright light. While he hadn’t been fully blinded by it — who knew his sunglasses would actually have the chance to serve their primary purpose? — it had left a few spots in his vision. He didn’t need to see though to know that Ellie had vanished; her energy was quickly dissipating from where she once stood.

As his vision quickly cleared and the ringing in his ears stopped, Rire’s frustrated sneer turned into a grin. What an interesting little human. It didn’t take long for him to pick up on a slight, sudden pop! of energy not far from where he was. He followed it at a leisurely enough stride, keeping himself focused on it in case Ellie decided to jump again.

An interesting human, indeed.


Ellie collapsed against the alley wall, panting with exertion. “Did we… lose him?”

Annabelle was quiet for a moment, trying her best to pick up on Rire’s signature. “I can’t tell… Do you think you can manage to shapeshift?

“So soon after that?” Ellie shook her head. “Not for long, anyways.”

What about a vanishing spell?

She thought for a moment, before nestling herself as tightly against the wall as she could, imagining herself blending in with the shadows around her. She took three deep breaths, on the third barely even whispering out, “Dispareo.

There was a faint shimmer around her, before she felt her stomach flip and she grew faintly lightheaded. Her lips were parted slightly, keeping her breathing even and quiet so it didn’t whistle through her nose. A stray cat sauntered its way down the alley, hesitating in front of her for a moment and looking in her direction, but not seeing her — just sensing that something was there.

Go away, go away, go away…

Its head suddenly turned down the way it had come, before it bolted, deftly avoiding obstacles as it fled.

Ellie’s heart stopped.

Footsteps. Nonchalant, but just heavy enough to betray purpose behind them. The only movement she made was with her eyes, following Rire’s legs as he passed her. Shortly after they left her view, though, the footsteps stopped.

The alley was so quiet she could hear something steadily drip, drip, onto the ground.

“Little human, why are you hiding?”

Something lashed out and snaked around Ellie’s waist, yanking her out from her hiding spot and tossing her on the ground in front of Rire. She slid for a few feet, her skin scraping against the pavement. Her purse went flying, taking Annabelle with it. Dazed, she barely managed to put her hand flat on the ground to push herself up when whatever snatched her before had her again, and roughly dragged her down the alleyway before forcing her against a wall. Her head bounced against the bricks, causing her to cry out, just as something else slithered around her throat and tightened.

Rire stood in front of her, smirking and surrounded by inky, black tentacles, two of which were currently pinning her to the wall. He brought one hand up to his chin, resting his elbow in the other hand. “It’s ironic — for once, I have the pleasure of asking the question that you humans like to ask me. What exactly are you, Ellie?”

Ellie tugged at the tentacle around her neck, narrowing her eyes and wheezing out, “You first.”

He laughed cruelly, tightening his hold on her before sliding his sunglasses down the bridge of his nose. His yellow eyes seemed to glow in the shadows, his grin showing his sharp teeth in full. “I doubt you have to make very many guesses to know what I am. More importantly,” the tentacles pulled her forward and slammed her back against the wall, making her cry out again as he continued, “you’re really not in any position to make any further demands of me. Now, be a good girl and answer me.”

Tears welled in her eyes as she coughed, feeling tiny flecks of blood spray out from her mouth. “A-a witch.”

“Was that so hard?” One of the tentacles brought Rire her purse, and he pulled Annabelle out, idly fiddling with her braids. “I’ve come across a witch or two before, but never have I seen one who carried her poppets with her.”

“Don’t you fucking dare hurt—” Ellie choked on her sentence, and a tentacle suddenly shoved its way into her mouth, effectively silencing her.

I’m not a poppet,” Annabelle hissed, her eyes slowly shifting into angry half-circles. “Let her go.

“Why should I?” he laughed, turning the doll over in his hands. “Something tells me that I could have quite a bit of fun with you two.” He turned her back over, glancing at Ellie for a moment. “Well, more so your friend than you. Maybe I should leave you here —”

No!

Rire raised an eyebrow. “No?”

Ellie made a soft gagging sound, drawing his attention back to her. She was reaching out for her doll with a shaking hand, her grip on his ichor tentacle weakening and tears welling in her eyes.

She’ll die without me,” Annabelle said, her soft voice cracking. “If… if you want to have any kind of ‘fun’ with her, you’ll take us both.

Rire’s brow quirked further, considering her words.

Abruptly, Ellie collapsed to the pavement, coughing violently. Rire’s tentacles retracted, and he tossed Annabelle down just within reach. Her hand almost immediately shot out, as if on instinct knowing exactly where the doll landed, snatching her up and pulling her close as she could to her chest. Slowly, with wobbling knees, she pushed herself up from the ground, using the wall to steady herself.

Rire bent forward slightly, holding one hand out for her and the other behind his back. “After you, then~”

Chapter Text

The apartment was small, but cozy. Rire made himself at home and had already raided Ellie’s tea cabinet, which had been an interesting mix of jars of homemade blends, all with labels on them ranging from basic flavors saying “vanilla caramel” and “earl grey”, to what they treated, such as “for migraines” and “stops cramps”. He was curious to try one that had been labeled “heals mysterious nightmare bruises”, but after smelling its potent over-sweetness he settled on jasmine, and now sat in a comfy chair that was almost large enough for two people to sit on it side by side; however he had propped an ankle up on his knee and was letting his ichor tentacles curl out around him to take up the entire space.

Ellie had taken a seat on the matching ottoman, having made herself a cup of “calms the nerves” in a mug with a geometric unicorn on it, reading “I’m fucking magical”. Annabelle was sitting in her lap, glaring venomously at Rire while Ellie sat almost meditatively, having muttered something about needing to heal before they had entered the apartment. The three of them had been sitting in silence for a good few minutes, and Rire was starting to get bored with waiting for something to happen.

Thankfully, he didn’t have to wait much longer. Ever so slowly, the scrapes and bruises Ellie had gained from being tossed around the alley were fading. She sighed through her nose when the process started and opened her eyes, then immediately averted her gaze, taking a sip of her tea before finally saying, “…I appreciate your patience.”

“You’re welcome,” Rire said with a smirk. “Wouldn’t want you to break too easily. Now tell me more about this bond you two share.”

She tucked in her lower lip and took another drink. “Do you want the short version or the long one?”

“Depends on how interesting the short version is.”

Ellie’s eyes narrowed, but she sighed again, her shoulders slumping. “Another witch cursed me. I can’t reverse it without her, and I didn’t have much time to counter its effects. I sought out help, and Annabelle is what I got. If we’re separated, the curse will finish its job and I’ll be overcome with despair so crushing and bleak that I’ll be… persuaded to find a way to kill myself, or else it will manifest and eat me from the inside out.”

Rire sipped at his tea, curiosity piqued. “Sounds overdramatic.”

“So’s the witch who put it on me.”

“What did you do to earn that?”

The hateful stare Rire received was palpable enough that it knocked over a few books on the shelf behind him. “She manipulated me when I was at my weakest. I’m trying to regain my strength to show her what happens when you take advantage of my compassion.”

An amused grin crept onto his face. “And what would that be?”

There was a rolling sound like creeping thunder, vibrating the floor beneath them and making their tea ripple. “That my kindness has its limits.”

Ellie, ” Annabelle said, her irises shifting up and her brows slanting outward, “you’re doing it again. 

With shaking hands, Ellie downed the rest of her tea, taking deep breaths through her nose as she set the mug down on the coffee table, and the rumbling stopped. She closed her eyes, took one final deep breath in, before releasing it and looking at Rire once more. “Sorry, it’s not my favorite thing to talk about.” She stood up from the ottoman, and even at her full height of five-foot-one she was only just barely looking down into Rire’s eyes. “Much less something I want to talk about with you.”

He laughed quietly, setting his tea aside and propping an elbow up on the armrest, resting his cheek atop his knuckles. “Then we’ll change the subject.”

His ichor lashed out, winding around her waist and neck as he forced her down onto his lap, causing Annabelle to fall to the floor. Ellie yelped in surprise, one hand trying to pry off the tentacle around her neck while the other pushed against Rire’s shoulder. When her fingers managed to slide between her neck and the ichor, he tightened his grip, her fingers slipping from the appendage with a soft gasp. The tendril around her waist pulled her closer to him, in spite of her attempts to push away. Two more tentacles shot out and slithered around her wrists, pulling her arms behind her back and drawing another choked gasp from her. Gritting her teeth, she started to fight back against him, trying to keep her head turned away to hide the shame growing in her face.

Rire tilted his head, tipping his shades back. “Look at me, little human.”

“No,” Ellie snapped.

He rolled his eyes, grabbing her face with one hand and roughly turning it to look at her. Her eyes were full of hatred and repulsion, but the slightest pink tone was spreading in her cheeks. His grin grew wider. “Why are you still resisting? I promise it’ll be pleasurable, at least this time.”

“Fuck you,” she hissed, trying to jerk her head from his grip.

He let go of her chin, only to tangle the same hand in her hair and tug back. “If you insist~”

“Go to He— mph!” A tentacle shoved its way past her lips, filling her mouth and going far enough back that she was only just barely able to keep breathing through her nose. With his free hand, he unfastened his belt and unzipped his dress pants, pulling out his cock and stroking its full length. She sincerely hoped that he wouldn’t see her cheeks flushing even further at the sight, and she determinedly squeezed her eyes shut. She felt him pull her underwear to the side, teasing at her clit with his thumb.

Rire finally looked away from her face, focusing instead on her cunt. He toyed with her clit for a bit longer, before slipping two digits inside her, suppressing a shudder; she was already soaked.

“Look at you,” he laughed, the sound reverberating through his ichor and Ellie’s ribcage. “We’ve barely even started, and you’re already so eager to let me in.”

She whinged softly, trying to fight back tears and still struggling against his grip. He pumped his fingers in and out a few times before removing the tendril gagging her, only to replace it with the soaked digits. “Clean these off for me~”

Ellie finally opened her eyes again, her anger reignited, and she bit down as hard as she could.

Rire’s grin only grew wider, bearing all of his teeth as he curled his fingers and pulled down. She fought back, following his grip with her whole head and clenching her jaw tighter, to the point where anyone else’s skin would’ve easily broken. It was actually a bit impressive.

But he was getting tired of her disobedience. He tugged on her hair again, keeping his fingers in place and prying her jaw open, wrenching a cry of pain from her. He dug his fingers into her mouth and drew blood. “Now Ellie, is that any way to act toward your guest?” He let go of her jaw, shaking the saliva and blood from his hand before shoving his fingers right back into her cunt, adding a third for good measure.

“Stop!”

“When I’m done with you, I will.” The tentacle around her neck tightened, and he slid his fingers from her again before bringing them back up to her lips. “Behave this time.”

She tried her best to keep her mouth closed, but he still pushed past the barrier, pressing down on her tongue. Reluctantly, she complied, pushing back up against him and cleaning his fingers, the taste mingling with the blood pooling at her teeth.

“Good girl~” Rire cooed and slowly pulled his fingers from her mouth, then propped his face in his hand, one finger cradling his cheek while his chin rested against his knuckles. He watched her squirm for a little while, before lifting her up at the waist and then slamming her down, sheathing himself fully inside of her. The shriek that left her was quickly stifled as he willed his ichor to wind around her head and cover her mouth, her teeth sinking into the appendage as he thickened it until tears welled in her eyes. “You know, since you bit me… I think it’s only fair to return the favor.”

He forcefully pulled her further forward, pulling her hair to tilt her head to the side and expose her shoulder, while he dug the fingers of his free hand into her arm. Though she screamed and struggled in his grip, he held tight, slowly working their hips into a rhythm as he bit down on her flesh, just above the collarbone.

The sound Ellie made was almost inhuman, strangled by the tentacle encircling her neck and muffled by the one between her teeth. Rire bit down harder, thrusting in and out of her at a quickened pace, blood dripping down her chest and staining her pretty blue dress. The more that she squirmed and tried to pull away, the more his teeth tore at her flesh, dragging across her skin, and the harder and faster he pounded into her. He scratched down her arm, drawing long red lines before letting go and settling on her hip, leaving more dark splotches on the fabric.

Eventually, he pulled away from her shoulder and slowed down the pace a bit. A few more tears slid down her cheeks, and he could feel her struggles weakening. “Breaking already?”

Ellie shook her head, giving him the most hateful stare he had seen in awhile.

“Good,” he laughed, speeding up again. He released his hold on her hair, holding her hips with both hands, even though he was letting his ichor do all the work of moving her for him. He gripped her so tightly that she could already feel the bruises forming on her hips, her arms, her poor neck… but fuck.

Fuck if what was going on between her legs wasn’t making her body betray her.

Rire seemed to notice this and laughed again, moving faster. “Why do you keep fighting it? What’s the point? Your body is clearly enjoying itself, and given how wet you were when we started I’d say it’s not just instinctual habit.” He raised her up off of him so high that just barely the tip of his head was inside her, before he yanked her down to fully push inside again. Her head threw back with a strangled moan, and her cheeks darkened. “Cum for me.”

Ellie nearly did, but she took her breaths as slowly and deeply as she could, which was proving difficult with the tentacle around her neck.

He pulled almost all the way out and shoved back in again. “Give in.”

She sank her teeth further into his tentacle, screaming against it.

A small tendril toyed with her clit, making her see spots. “Cum for me .”

With a shriek Ellie finally let go, tears running freely as her walls clenched around him, spilling herself all over his length and dampening the front of his dress pants. He fucked her at full speed from there on, pounding into her with so much force she would swear he had pushed into her uterus. When he finally came himself, he held her tight against his lap, spilling every last bit of his seed inside of her.

Slowly, Rire let go of her, letting her fall limp to the floor as he tucked himself back in his pants and stood from the chair to kneel in front of her. He gave her cheek a few pats, once again grinning at her with all of his razor teeth. “Such a good girl.”

With that, he left her on the floor, careful to not step on Annabelle on his way to the kitchen.

Chapter Text

The dinner that followed had been a bit of a haze. Ellie remembered sitting down at her table with Annabelle in her lap, and Rire putting a plate of food in front of her. She remembered that it had been a quiet affair, other than her voice being hoarse when she complimented the food, though she couldn’t really remember what it had been. She knows she thanked him though — something told her it wouldn’t have been wise to not be polite, even though he had just raped the shit out of her on her own favorite chair. She remembered that when she stood and excused herself, she had set her dishes in the dishwasher, and then paused a moment.

“Do you sleep?” she asked, feeling his chest press against her back as he reached around her to put his dishes away.

“I do, but not nearly as much as humans do,” he replied, placing his hands on her shoulders. “I will join you if that’s where you’re heading.”

Ellie turned her head slightly, wincing at the strain it put on the slowly-healing bitemarks in her neck. She gently placed one of her diminutive hands over one of Rire’s, for a moment unsure of what to say or do. She eventually cleared her throat, “Don’t force yourself to sleep on my account. If you want to… explore the apartment, you’re free to do that in the meantime. Just mind Annabelle when you do choose to… join me. Don’t squish her.”

He chuckled quietly. “Will you feel it if I do?”

“No, it’s just rude.”

His lips quirked a bit further at that. He brought his hands to her cheeks, tilting her head back so she was looking up at him. Her eyes were no less bright, still boring into his like a tiny porcelain doll. When he leaned down, she stiffened, fully expecting him to tear at her shoulder again, or do something else equally (or even more so) horrifying —

Rire softly pressed his lips to her forehead, grinning at the stunned look on her face, before letting go, heading back for the living room. “Sweet dreams, little human.”

Now, Ellie lay on her bed, staring at the ceiling. Annabelle was laying on her chest, and her hands were laced together over the doll’s torso. There was a fucking demon in her living room; how the hell did she really expect to get any sleep knowing that at any moment, he could get bored and decide to torture her in the night? She tossed in one direction, turned the other, then lay on her back again with a huff.

“Annabelle?”

“Yes?”

“Do you think you can bring me some tea?”

“…If you have the strength now, but will you recover fully in the morning?”

Ellie nodded. “If you make the recharge blend and put some valerian in there, too.”

Annabelle sighed softly. “And if Rire tries to intervene?”

“I doubt he will. Something tells me he takes his teas very seriously.”

“…Alright.”

Ellie took a deep breath, putting a hand atop Annabelle’s head. “Spiritus.


Rire caught movement in his peripherals. He looked up from the book he borrowed from Ellie’s shelf and toward the kitchen. Two very small, very pale hands were moving a stepping stool into place near the counter, and a tiny grunt was heard as the back of a familiar purple head of hair climbed up it.

Annabelle dusted off her dress once she stood on the countertop, looking much closer to a miniaturized child than a doll. Her eyes caught Rire’s, and she straightened her posture, clasping her hands together in front of her.

“Evening,” she said, her voice now clear and melodic, no longer soft like it had been caught by the wind.

“Good evening,” Rire replied, closing his book. “Might I ask how you found your way to the kitchen?”

“I live here, too, you know.” Annabelle sharply turned away, her braids twirling with her, as she started pushing various canisters and jars into place under the cabinets. “As for my form and the actual capability to move so freely, Ellie grants me this will every now and again when she is unable to do small tasks herself.”

Rire sauntered into the kitchen, leaning against the island with his arms crossed in front of him as he watched her search through the first cabinet. “It’s hard to imagine she’d be so busy to need a spell like that.”

“Ellie writes a lot,” Annabelle said, carefully taking down a mug shaped like a cauldron from the lowest shelf. “She often gets so focused on her work that she forgets to eat or drink. She’ll be so absorbed in her ‘zone’ that if anyone besides me disturbs it, she’ll lash out. She nearly blew her true identity to the neighbors, once.”

Rire chuckled, raising an eyebrow. “Is she writing now? From what it sounds like, I’m surprised she would have it in her to do so.”

Annabelle sighed, crouching over the edge of the counter to open the silverware drawer. “She’s resilient, with an admirable knack for optimism and finding inspiration in the bleakest of times —” she shot the demon a quick glare before continuing “— but sadly, she’s not writing. She can’t sleep. After the rough treatment, I think she may also be having trouble moving now that she’s resting.”

He smirked, but stayed quiet, instead opting to watch her pull out a spoon and an infuser, before closing the drawer and moving her makeshift stepladder to the next cabinet. She climbed up and down, moving her canisters and jars appropriately but growing more frustrated with each cabinet she came to. Once she reached the last one, she stamped her foot down on the metal lid of the tallest container, muttering, “Of course it’s on the second shelf.” With a huff she pulled herself up inside the cabinet, carefully maneuvering until she could safely pull herself onto the second shelf. She got as far as opening a jar labeled “recharge” before hissing, “Dammit.”

“Something wrong?” Rire asked.

Reluctantly, Annabelle looked at him. “…could you please hold up the infuser while I put the leaves in?”

Without moving from his place by the island, one of his ichor tentacles did as Annabelle had asked, lifting the infuser within reach. As she measured small spoonfuls in, her cheeks tinted pink. “Would you mind also pushing the ‘tea’ button on the coffee machine?”

Again, without moving, he did as she requested with another tendril. “Are you usually this disorganized?”

She shook her head, closing the “recharge” jar and moving to a smaller one marked “valerian”. “Normally, Ellie has enough energy to transfer some of her abilities to me. If the situation were different, I would have enough of her magic to be able to do things more or less telekinetically.”

“If the situation were different,” Rire repeated, more a statement than a question. Annabelle pointedly ignored him, carefully adding just enough of the valerian so as to not counteract the other tea’s effects. As she closed the jar, Rire placed the infuser in the mug and put the mug under the coffee machine’s spout, not failing to miss the slight resentment in her “thank you”.

It took a few minutes for Annabelle to climb down and put back her makeshift stepping stools, and thankfully in that time the coffee machine started to beep. Once she pushed the tea button again, she sighed, and without turning to face Rire, said, “I know you intend to kill her when you’re finished.”

Rire let out a dark laugh, “Is that so? What brought you to that conclusion?”

“From the moment we arrived at the lounge, I knew something wasn’t right. I had this feeling that Ellie was in danger — I wasn’t sure what kind, exactly, but my instincts are never wrong. And then when you approached her, I could see it…” Annabelle shuddered, closing her eyes. “…All of your cruel intentions were practically painted on your face.”

When the mug finished filling with water, Annabelle shut off the machine and turned around, unfazed by Rire’s sudden proximity to her. He loomed above her, his yellow eyes like cruel, unfeeling fire glowing in the shadow he cast over her as they peeked over the rim of his shades.

“Why didn’t you tell her outright then what you saw?” Rire flashed his teeth, appearing to Annabelle as a mouth full of razor blades. “Perhaps if you had, the whole ‘situation’ could have been avoided.”

Annabelle looked him directly in the eyes, holding her ground as she coolly replied, “Because you and I both know that wouldn’t have stopped you.” She took a tiny step forward, her gaze narrowing. “Like any predator, you live for the hunt. You would’ve found her again, one way or another.”

The two stared at one another for another minute, before she turned away and hefted the full mug of tea into her arms. “If you’ll excuse me; I need to get this to Ellie before it steeps for too long.”

Rire stepped back from the counter, watching as Annabelle climbed down the step stool much like a child with a full gallon of milk would have. His gaze followed her as she reached the floor and then the threshold of the kitchen archway, and she looked over her shoulder to glare at him once more before disappearing down the hallway and back to Ellie’s room.


By the time Rire joined Ellie in bed, it was close to five-thirty in the morning, and she was so deeply asleep she hardly even stirred at his presence. Annabelle’s eyes were closed as well, now back in her doll form, though he doubted she actually slept. After removing everything but his pants and setting his folded clothes aside on her desk chair, he quietly slipped under the sheets, reaching over her to place his hair tie and sunglasses on her nightstand. As he lay flush against her back, he couldn’t help but notice the feel of her short nightgown. He peeked under the sheets to see the shiny, white silk, and smirked to himself as he circled his arm around her waist, tucking the other beneath the overstuffed pillows.

Rire looked over her shoulder at her room. He noted the closet was open, stuffed full of various dresses, shoeboxes, and hat boxes. The bloodstained sundress that she wore that evening was hanging over the edge of a hamper, with the stains mostly faded and a bottle of peroxide sitting on the floor nearby. Other than that, the room was kept modestly clean, if a bit cluttered with her various witch tools. Ellie’s desk, however, had stacks upon stacks of notebooks and journals, with her desktop monitor nestled among them. She even had an old typewriter sitting on a side table, with a fresh stack of paper sitting beside it. Perhaps once he was done playing with her in the morning he would see what sort of writer she was.

Rire pulled Ellie just a bit closer to him, burying his nose in her hair. She smelled sweet, but not nauseatingly so. Like freshly baked cookies, or cinnamon apples. It suited her. He pressed his mouth to her neck, not intending to either bite her or kiss her, but rather to feel the pulse beneath her skin. Like all humans, she was a fragile thing, but with every time she healed herself, he felt both delight and disappointment. Delight because now he could see what she looked like with fresh wounds on her pale skin without just reopening old ones and marring her until no space was left for new ones. Disappointed because he wanted the bruises and scars to remind her that it wouldn’t be so simple to get away.

Annabelle’s words echoed in his head. I know you intend to kill her.

Did he still? It might be useful, if not entertaining, to have a witch under his thumb. Especially one set on revenge; he almost wanted to let her go just to see how it would end between her and this rival she had. But he hadn’t seen everything she was capable of, yet. She’d have to hold his interest through tomorrow, at the very least.

Ellie stirred, rolling her shoulders and tilting her head a bit further forward, moving from under Rire’s mouth. He smiled again, laughing quietly at the subconscious movement. He kissed behind the shell of her ear, whispering, “Goodnight, little witch. Tomorrow’s when I’ll really have my fun with you.”

Chapter Text

Ellie’s eyes opened. They didn’t fly wide or slowly drag, they were simply closed one moment, then open the next. The dream she had been having abruptly stopped, but it was less a dream and more a haze of dark colors that felt like they were all touching her and prodding her and ghosting over her neck, so it was almost a blessing to wake up.

Almost.

The first things she saw were the sunglasses and hair tie on her nightstand.

“Annabelle,” she whispered.

The doll’s eyes opened in a similar manner to her friend’s. “Hm?

“…Last night…”

There was silence, and then, very softly. “…I’m afraid it was real.

Ellie took a deep breath through her nose, looking past the items and at her alarm clock. 8:15am. Where was Rire? As if to subconsciously answer herself, she became more aware of the arm around her waist and the warmth on her back, and she slowly turned her head to peek over her shoulder. Her heart stopped at the sight of him, stray locks of hair falling in front of his face and his eyes closed as his shoulders rose and fell with his breathing. As slowly and sneakily as she could, she turned over in his hold, rolling to face him fully with Annabelle close to her chest.

He looks so human…

Ellie quickly noticed a slight disturbance in his breathing pattern. It was so slight, that had she gone to sleep normally and awoken without the effects of her recharge tea, she wouldn’t have even blinked at it. But she saw, and bit her lip to keep from giggling. “Good morning, faker.”

A smile broke across Rire’s face, his teeth a stark reminder of his true form. His eyes slowly opened, an amused glint in them before he closed them again. “Only half right.”

She couldn’t help the snort. “Of course. Every time I spend the night with someone, I’m awake before they are.”

“Good for you,” he muttered, sighing through his nose. He could feel he still had at least a bit of sleep left before he would be properly awake. “I suppose this means you get a head start.”

Head start?

He opened his eyes a fraction again, the glow obscuring his slit pupils as he looked down at Annabelle. He lifted his arm and rolled over onto his back. “Better hide, little human, before I change my mind.”

Ellie didn’t need to be told twice. She quickly got out of bed, setting Annabelle on the dresser as she went to the closet. If she was going to be fighting this bastard, she sure as hell wasn’t doing it in her nightie. She changed into an older dress, solid black and frilly, foregoing any other morning routines as she picked up Annabelle and fled the room.

About five minutes went by before Rire finally stretched and sat up, carding through his hair and reaching for his hair tie. He realized he failed to specify that she couldn’t leave the apartment or use her magic, and he smirked to himself. He had a feeling that she would at least adhere to the first rule without thinking about it, but the second… depending on whether or not she just vanished again, he might let it slide.

Once he was redressed, he opened the bedroom door and stepped out into the hall. Ready or not…

Rire checked the kitchen first, looking behind the island and under the sink (she was only five-foot-one, he wouldn’t put it past her to take advantage of that). After that he tried the bathroom, seeing the shower curtain was closed, and quickly yanked it back, though he only searched there because he knew that she had to be in the living room somewhere — it was more fun to see if she’d move at all. He heard a pattering sound behind him make a dash for the bedroom. If she was running, she was surprisingly light on her feet. He followed the sound, and with a grin noticed the closet door was closed.

Rire used one of his tentacles to throw the door open.

The closet was empty, save for what he had seen in there the night before: dresses and shoeboxes. He growled deep in his throat, but he grinned wider when he heard the pattering again. He turned around, about ready to praise her clever little trick, when he didn’t see her flee. How was she moving so quickly? The pattering stopped in the living room, and with a snarl he folded his arms and looked around. Annabelle was propped up in the comfy chair, a wide smile on her face.

“Where did she go.”

She laughed, her eyes turning into upturned crescents. “That’d be telling. Where’s the fun in that?

“She’s using her magic — that’s cheating.”

The only rule that you gave her was ‘hide’. She’s hiding, and not even with her vanishing spell this time.” The look on her face morphed into one much more akin to a cocky smirk. “Wouldn’t want it to be too unfair, would we?

Rire folded one arm over his chest, propping his elbow up and cradling his chin in his hand. Not using her vanishing spell… So even if she was using something to boost her speed, she would still be limited to the spaces that he’s already checked. If she was shrunk, she wouldn’t have been able to move so quickly. She could plausibly have enough energy to perform both, but be it beyond him to sink so low as to crouch on the floor while searching.

His tentacles flipped over the couch.

A siamese cat frantically flailed about for a moment before zipping across the room, leaping from the coffee table, to the ottoman, then the chair, sitting on the arm and staring at Rire with a pair of familiar bright blue eyes.

He smirked at her. “Interesting choice. How long did it take for you to learn that?”

The cat blinked, swishing her tail before, in a shower of sparks, Ellie sat in the cat’s place, a sly grin on her face. “What do I win?”

The smirk broke into a toothy grin and Rire laughed. “Nothing.” His tentacles shot out and grabbed her, yanking her toward him and forcing her to her knees. “I never said the game was over, and technically speaking I still found you.”

Ellie was cringing at the tightness of the tentacles around her, but soon was grinning again. In another shower of sparks she was back in her cat form and slipped easily from his grasp, zipping around the room and dodging his tentacles at every turn. Just before she could jump back into the chair to pick Annabelle up with her teeth, Rire finally caught her, holding her up in front of him by the pits of her front legs and tight enough she wasn’t able to transform back. She was mewling fiercely, hissing and flailing her claws — Rire kept her just out of reach.

“As much fun as I’m having playing cat and… cat.” He squeezed, making her yowl. “I much prefer your human form.”

When he loosened his grip enough, Ellie transformed back, and he quickly regained his grip, forcing her to her knees once more. She glared up at him, her spiteful stare reflected in his sunglasses while his cruel grin was reflected in her pupils.

“You’re full of little surprises, aren’t you,” Rire mused, caressing her cheek with one hand while the other was already undoing his belt. “How long do you think you’ll keep that up?”

Ellie recoiled from his touch, hissing, “Until Hell freezes over.”

His grin widened. “Don’t disappoint me.”

With that he slammed his cock in her mouth. Her teeth scraped over his skin, and he tangled his fingers in her hair. She shouted indignantly around his shaft, glaring up at him as he held her head in place. His tentacles slowly slithered around her neck, her waist, and her thighs, curling tightly. She struggled against them, gagging on his cock as he face-fucked her. A soft squeak escaped her as a tentacle slid between her legs, ripping her underwear off and pushing its way inside her. She barely suppressed a moan, her cheeks flushing.

Rire kept grinning down at her, alternating which hole was filled. Ellie stared back, ferocity still in her gaze. It was admirable, really, seeing how well she could keep herself together under the barrage of sensations. Maybe it was time to try something different.

One of the tentacles holding her arms twisted and yanked, dislocating her shoulder with a sickening crack. She jerked back so violently that her head broke free of his hold. Oh, how she screamed — the glass door to the balcony behind him cracked, and he heard something shatter in the kitchen. He forced himself down her throat again, keeping a more firm grip on her head this time. Tears flowed freely from her eyes, but as he looked down into them when they finally opened again, the fire was still there.

Resilient, indeed.

A tentacle lashed out and whipped her back, causing another scream, but she continued to glare up at him. She dug her teeth into his flesh, not enough to be fully biting down, however it felt like a warning. He pulled out and gave her a warning of his own, backhanding her hard enough she nearly fell from the force of it. When she straightened back up, he hit her again, this time with a sharpened tentacle, leaving a cut on her cheek.

Ellie coughed a few times, her shoulders shaking with hoarse laughter. Rire raised an eyebrow as she straightened up again, a lazy smile on her face and her eyes half-lidded, though no less bold. She coughed again, the tentacle around her throat having loosened just enough that she wheezed out, “Is that all you’ve got?”

His eyebrow raised further, before his grin split wider, sharp teeth on full display. “You may regret asking me that.”

Two tentacles shot through her shoulders, hooking into them and lifting her from the floor. She shrieked again, though it was cut short as she was thrown down the hall. She turned over onto her stomach, trying to pull herself toward the kitchen, when the tentacles stabbed her through her calves, dragging her right back to Rire and streaking blood on the carpet. He kicked her legs further apart, one tentacle wrapping around her wrists and holding them in front of her while another wrapped around her waist and lifted, bringing her ass into the air. He summoned a few more ichor tentacles, using them to hold her steady as she was lifted off the floor to the height of his pelvis.

For a moment, he paused, taking both of her ass cheeks in his hands and fondling them. He couldn’t help the low hum of appreciation. “Now this — this is lovely~” A tentacle lashed out and struck, making her cry out in surprise and leaving a bright red welt across her rear end. The way she continued to struggle reminded Rire of the matter at hand, and he spread her cheeks apart. He slid into her cunt with ease, gripping her flesh so tightly he was leaving behind bloody crescent shapes. He leaned over her, his front flush with her back, as he licked the shell of her ear. “There’s time to take back what you said, little one.”

“Get bent,” she snapped.

He laughed, slamming his hips against her. “How is it you always say exactly what’s on my mind?”

Without warning, as he pulled himself out he forced a tentacle right into her ass.

“FUCK NOT THERE— ” Ellie managed to shriek before he slapped a hand over her mouth.

“Oh, yes.” Rire slammed into her cunt again, moving in tandem with the tentacle. “Right. There.

He removed his hand from her mouth, a tentacle shoving past her lips to take its place while he dragged his nails down her back, tearing through her dress and making it fall from her shoulders. He pounded into her relentlessly, feeling surprisingly thankful that her muffled protests and cries were drowning out his barely suppressed grunts. At this rate, he wasn’t going to last much longer. He reached beneath her with his other hand, roughly rubbing at her clit and forcing her over the edge first before following.

Then, quite unceremoniously, he let her fall to the floor. Standing upright, straightening out his clothes, and pushing a few stray hairs back into place, Rire let out a short, satisfied sigh, grinning down at her crumpled form.

“How do you like your eggs?”

 

Chapter Text

Shortly after breakfast, and fixing the glass door, Ellie threw on an oversized shirt and passed out in her comfy chair, her legs draped over one arm and her back propped up against the opposite one. She had downed another cup of recharge tea (diluted with milk and honey at Annabelle’s insistence), prompting Rire to take a closer look at what it consisted of. It had smelled like spices, but also like something... mildly fishy. He couldn’t imagine it tasted very good, and given it was only made for her use it probably wouldn’t do anything for him.

It’s dried cuttlefish tentacles, ” Annabelle piped up from her place on Ellie’s chest. “That’s what makes it smell so bad.

Rire closed the lid and carefully put it back. Definitely not a blend made for its flavor. “What does this blend do, exactly?”

It’s meant to increase the speed of her regenerative abilities, among other things that make it similar to... I suppose Nectar is the best equivalent. Though, a human frequently drinking Nectar — if she’s not careful and balances out some of the energizing elements with valerian or even just diluting it enough... ” Annabelle made a soft sound like she was clearing her throat, or perhaps trying not to let her voice quiver. “Well, she’d have enough energy to pull off a number of dangerous spells, but the energy wouldn’t stop building, and she’d lose the little control she has. ” The little doll closed her eyes, her stitched mouth turning into a tight frown. “Her heart rate would increase to the point where she’d go into cardiac arrest.

Rire quirked an eyebrow, intrigued. “Why bother making something so dangerous?”

Annabelle’s eyes snapped open. “To prove that she could.

The demon couldn’t help the smirk that pulled across his face. “So, when will she wake up?”

An hour, maybe two with any luck. ” Annabelle watched as he walked over to the bookshelf, his hand ghosting over the spines one by one. “How long can you be away from the Nether?

He glanced over his shoulder, the corner of his mouth lifting. “As long as I please. Though, I should return soon to check in on my subjects. Make sure no one’s been foolish enough to challenge my position.” He paused, tracing his fingers along the title of a red hardcover. “Are you growing tired of me already?”

You could say that. ” As he pulled the book from the shelf and sat down on the couch, she continued, “Though, it’s more that I’m growing tired of watching her suffer.

“Poor little doll,” Rire said, turning the book over in his hands. “Can’t do a thing to help her, can you?”

Annabelle glared at him, but otherwise said nothing, instead sighing softly and closing her eyes.

He looked at the time. An hour should be plenty for Ellie to rest.


 

Ellie shot upright in her chair, heart pounding and eyes wide. The apartment was dark, save for the dim illumination coming from the yellow street lamps outside. Rire was nowhere to be seen, and there was a stillness in the air that was suffocating.

It only dawned on her that Annabelle was missing when she realized that it wasn’t just the emptiness of her apartment; Ellie couldn’t breathe.

Pain suddenly shot through her nerves, kicking every sense into high gear. Fuck. FUCK . Doing her best to breathe as slowly and deeply as possible, she found that she was able to intake some air — though only barely enough to keep from completely choking and passing out. She rolled herself off her chair, a choked shriek escaping her as she landed on all fours, sending shockwaves of pain through her hands and knees as if she had landed atop of knives. Cussing with every movement, she forced herself to stand, doing her best to ignore the growing tightness in her chest.

What are you doing, little bunny?

Ellie cringed. If there was one voice she didn’t want going through her head right now, it was the sultry, saccharine one of the woman who cursed her. She started coughing violently, leaning against the hallway wall for support as a red-violet substance spattered over its surface with every cough. “F-fuck this. Not now.”

It’s so cute when you fight me~

Another shot of pain coursed through her, ripping a strangled cry from her vocal chords. But even as she stumbled to her knees, Ellie pressed forward, determined to reach her bedroom. There was one thing she could do to keep the curse at bay without Annabelle, but she didn’t have much time to find it. She felt the tiniest sliver of hope that she could hold out long enough when she reached her bedroom door, and managed to stand up once again.

Only for her hand to completely phase through the doorknob.

Come on, turn back around and go to the kitchen~ the voice continued. I’m sure we can find something to play with in there~

“Shut up , Ceri,” Ellie hissed through grit teeth, furrowing her brow as she reached for the doorknob again. It was firm in her hand — did she just miss grabbing it the first time? Another shot of pain, making her push her full weight against the door and open it abruptly, falling to the carpeted bedroom floor. No time to overthink it; she needed that goddamn elixir. Where the hell did she put it?

Just as Ellie was pushing herself back onto her knees, a horrible twisting feeling quickly began to build in her stomach.

Little bunny, you know you can’t win this. She could practically feel Ceri’s words wrapping around her head like an embrace. Let me set you free...

Ellie shook her head, panting with how much more difficult it was to breathe now. Weakly, she lifted her head to look around her room —

Her living room.

What?

Ellie barely processed the thought when she began vomiting. Thick, viscous, dark magenta substance began pouring out from her mouth, and every time it stopped long enough for her to breathe, the retching began again. It spilled and soaked into the carpet so continuously that it formed a puddle beneath her hands, droplets of it splattering back up and staining her arms.

It’ll be over with if you just let me help you~

Ellie finally stopped vomiting long enough to ask herself, how the fuck did she end up back in her living room?! Gritting her teeth and growling, she began to crawl across the floor, making her way back to her bedroom door, with a significantly long vomiting period by the kitchen. As she reached up for the knob with a purple bile-covered hand, it melted at her touch, and then it finally clicked in her head.

Rire was fucking with her.

Before she could fully react to the metal oozing between her fingers, another bout of vomiting ensued. Pain shot through her like lightning, her nerves filled with needles that scraped away at her from the inside. Between coughing and retching, Ellie managed to choke out, “Rire.”

He’s abandoned you, little bunny.

Her eyes started to burn as the cursed bile began slipping from her tear ducts. “Give her—” She coughed up more bile, shaking with the effort it was taking to speak.

You’ve always been a magnet for the ones who treat you like a plaything. That’s how I found you, after all~

Ellie’s grip on the melted doorknob tightened, the gelatin-like metal squelching in her hand. Her stomach felt like it was ripping in two, and when it was followed by the sound of her flesh and muscles tearing she nearly puked again. She spat out as quickly as possible, “Rire god dammit I can’t fucking focus on not dying with you FUCKING AROUND IN MY HEAD —”


 

Ellie shot upright on the couch so violently she nearly flung herself from it. She frantically looked around — her apartment was filled with daylight, her stomach wasn’t tearing, and Rire was reading in her favorite chair with Annabelle in his lap.

“Enjoy your nap, little witch?” Rire asked, idly turning a page with one of his tentacles.

Ellie held out her arms, and Annabelle was yanked from his lap into her tight embrace. “What the hell was that?”

He smirked and said, “Just a little experiment.” He snapped the book shut and finally looked at her. “I was wondering how serious this curse really was. You’re crafty enough to turn into a cat during our little game, I wondered if separating you two would actually do anything.”

“Well now you know,” she hissed, holding Annabelle tight. “I told you she was over dramatic.”

“Indeed she is.” Rire stood from the chair and stood beside Ellie, patting her head. “Of course, I couldn’t help but play with you a little myself.”

Ellie’s shoulders shot up and she curled around Annabelle, burying her face in the tiny doll’s chest. “Ceri said I attract types like you and her.”

“How unfortunate for you,” he drawled, patting her head again. “But you’re lucky this time.”

Annabelle finally spoke up, her voice filling the room, “Exactly  what about her almost dying is lucky?!

“The ‘almost’ part.”

Rire was surprised that Ellie had said it.

She looked up at him with puffy eyes, before quickly averting her gaze back downward as she slowly straightened out her legs on the couch. “You didn’t let me die.”

“I didn’t,” he threaded his fingers in her hair and gently tugged, pushing her head back to look up at him again, “because I’ve been having fun.”

Her cheeks went bright red. “...Thank you.”

His grip tightened. “Don’t get too excited. I want you to tell me something first.”

“Why she did it?”

He gave a light nod.

Ellie looked back down at Annabelle in her hands, the little doll’s eyes slanted outward with worry. She hadn’t told anyone about Ceri since she had survived their fight — hell, she hadn’t told anyone about Ceri, period.

She took a deep breath through her nose and pulled out of Rire’s grip, and shakily stood from the couch, setting Annabelle on the armrest as she moved toward the kitchen. She gestured for him to sit at the dining table while she pulled out two glasses and a bottle of white wine. After pouring for both of them, Ellie took a seat across from him, drank half her glass in one gulp, and sighed.

“When I met Ceri... it was love at first sight.”

Chapter Text

Rire raised an eyebrow, and Ellie pushed her hair back. “Look, there’s sort of a build up to the whole event; I don’t know if I’m gonna be able to really explain what happened without some preamble.”

Rire crossed his legs and leaned back in the dining chair, turning one hand over briefly in a “go on” gesture.

“When I moved away from home, I decided I wanted to get as far away as I possibly could. I didn’t have the best relationship with my parents, and at that point I’d lost touch with most of my friends, so I decided screw it, let’s try something crazy. I met Ceri after coming to this city. She showed me around, we had a few dates; soon we did everything together.” She traced a finger around the rim of her glass, a sad smile on her face. “One day, a couple months into it, she said to me, ‘You were right to leave everyone behind. You have a power in you that they would suppress if they knew of it.’ I just thought it was a weird pick up line, yeah?

“But as we got to know each other, she apparently meant that very literally. I’ve always kind of hoped that I had something... unique about me, I guess, and Ceri proved that to be true. She got me into witchcraft and legitimate sorcery, and I really got into it. I picked up really simple stuff easily — waving my hand and bringing things to me, making stuff appear and disappear, and then short verbal spells came pretty quick since they’re unique to each person as far as what you say and what you want them to do. So pretty soon, I had access to all this once untapped power, and I was way, way too eager to use it — I just wasn’t sure how or what to really use it for.”

Ellie paused to take a drink. “So, essentially she tells me, ‘You can use it to help me. I’ve done a few things I’m not proud of, and I need you to protect me from the people who are out to get me.’ And at first, that’s what I did — someone broke into our apartment one night, got all the way to the bedroom before I woke up, saw him, and...” She made her hands into fists before splaying out her fingers, accompanied by a wet squishing sound with her tongue. “Made his head explode.”

Rire’s eyebrows twitched at the image that produced, chuckling as he sipped at the wine. “Just like that, hm?”

Ellie started giggling, putting one hand on her face. “Motherfucker scared the shit out of me, I didn’t know what else to do! I just pointed my fingers at him like a gun and said, ‘BANG!’ Like something out of a cartoon, I swear to Christ... Anyways, Ceri started taking me to all these sketchy places and meetings, and brought me as her bodyguard.” She took another drink and snorted. “Me, five-foot-fuck-all, big blue eyes like a Barbie, a bodyguard.”

Rire smiled around the rim of his glass.

“And the looks on everyone’s faces when they saw what I could do. I mean, I didn’t go around blowing people’s heads up, that was just the one guy and I’ve never been so startled where I’ve done it again. But I could twist people’s arms, break legs, blow out kneecaps, all without ever touching anyone. Then it turned into frying their insides with the flick of the wrist, scrambling someone's brains until they were left a babbling mess with just a couple of words in Latin — there was one time where we were in public at some crazy dance club, and while I was getting drinks from the bar this fucker lunged at her in the middle of the dance floor with a knife, so I pulled his spine out from across the room.” Ellie tried to hide her grin behind taking another drink. “I dunno how, but the DJ somehow figured out it was me — I guess he'd seen his fair share of weird shit — and told me that while that was probably ‘the sickest shit he’s ever seen’, we probably weren't welcome at the club anymore. I did so much more, too. It was scary at first, but I was protecting Ceri, so I figured nothing was too far to make sure she was safe.

“After about a year, she started actively sending me out to get people for her. She never really wanted anyone brought back alive, and the few people that I did bring back were just so she could flex that she was the boss, and she wasn’t afraid to do the dirty work every now and then. All the while whenever I did something for her she rewarded me with love, and attention, and some pretty...” Ellie cleared her throat, lifting her glass and muttering, “Pretty mind-blowing sex. At the time.”

Rire couldn’t help but smirk at the addition. “I’m flattered.”

She quickly took another drink and refilled her glass, her cheeks beet red while she continued. “It was exhilarating, being so powerful. Being able to do things I’d only dreamt of doing. And I had this amazing woman who loved me and who I loved, and I thought to myself that life couldn’t get any more exciting.”

Ellie fell silent, staring down into her wine glass. Rire arched an eyebrow, patiently waiting. He watched as she clenched and unclenched her fists, feeling the slightest rumble in the room.

“...she cheated on me. She had slept with plenty of the people she associated herself with, but this wasn’t like I caught her in bed with someone else — that was whatever by that point, because I thought that the sex with me was loving, so it was different. But... I caught her when she was actively on a date with someone, whispering things and all these loving touches. The kind of stuff that... I thought was only for me...

“I disappeared for about a month after that, to sort of mull over everything that had happened. I was mostly in shock, at first. And then I was hurt, because I’d been lied to. And then... I felt humiliated, and angry, and I wanted...” The rumbling grew louder, almost thunderous, before abruptly stopping as Ellie took a deep, shaky breath. “I kept my eye on her from hiding, watching as she kept going from lover to lover, treating them all the same way she did me. By the time I came back, Ceri was all over me, upset that I was gone, wondering where I went, and at first I believed that it was true, that she really missed me.

“Then I dropped her most recent loverboy’s head in her lap.”

Rire chuckled again. “And you say she is overdramatic.”

Ellie shrugged. “Arguably only when I’m severely pissed off.

“Anyways, the second she sees I caught her, she completely changes her tune. She suddenly knew that I was aware of the relationship, and wanted me to prove my loyalty. I think she was expecting me to roll over and keep quiet about what I had seen, or to do the whole eye-for-an-eye thing and start seeing someone else. She couldn’t hide that was shaken by what actually happened, because she kept looking at the head.

“And then it occured to me: I spent so much time before I had left my hometown making sure that I would only ever do the things I wanted to, to not let someone take advantage of me and use me like past exes have, and to be my own person. And Ceri had completely ruined that for me. She buttered me up, and then almost ate me whole.” She took a sip of her drink. “I snapped.”

Rire raised an eyebrow. “Snapped?”

Ellie swirled her wine a bit, worrying at her lower lip before setting the glass down and getting up to stand next to him. She gestured for him to lean forward. “May I? It’s easier to just show you this part.”

He set down his own glass and obliged, his mouth quirking into a curious smile.

She placed her hands on his temples, and muttered softly under her breath.


Clouds of dust hung in the air like a fog inside the warehouse. The gaping hole in the ceiling provided a spotlight for the crater that lay beneath it, as well as for the two women in the center of the debris. They were bruised and bloody, and though Ellie had come out on top, her eyes were welling with tears, blurring the vision that Rire was watching through her eyes.

The brunette woman beneath Ellie’s legs laughed quietly, turning her head to spit out blood. “Look at you. If you wanted to top me, all you had to do was ask.”

Ellie’s hands wrapped around the woman’s throat, but she didn’t squeeze. Instead, she sobbed, “Why did you do it?”

The woman laughed, her green eyes glittering in spite of the immense pain she was in. “Because you’re weak! You are so, so goddamn weak. You and that stupid, soft heart of yours.” She grasped Ellie’s wrists and continued, “You can kill anyone else without a second’s hesitation, but you can’t even bring yourself to kill me; all because you just can’t bear hurting someone you love.”

“But you’ve hurt me Ceri.” Ellie’s eyes flashed with anger, and the electricity in the air thickened. “Aren’t I someone that you love?”

Ceri choked on her scathing reply as Ellie’s grip tightened and she slammed Ceri’s head on the concrete. She violently jerked her up by the neck and repeated the motion, leaving cracks in the ground and filling the cavernous warehouse space with sickening crunch sounds. The grip around Ceri’s neck tightened, Ellie’s fingers squeezing so tightly that her nails broke through Ceri’s skin. She slammed her head against the ground again, so focused on watching the light fade from the woman’s eyes that she didn’t even register Ceri weakly pushing up against her chest.

“Of all the people I’ve killed for you,” Ellie seethed, her voice low and gravelly, “you’re getting a much more merciful death than they could’ve hoped for.”

Ceri croaked, “ Désespoir.

BANG!


And then it had faded. It hadn’t been much, but Rire was surprised at how he could feel Ellie’s rage, and the sheer volume of power she had pulsing through her veins in that moment. It was reckless, lashing out every time the woman’s skull was bashed against the concrete, filling her with strength that shouldn’t have been possible for her. Ceri hadn’t been wrong: Ellie had power within her that was beyond what her appearance betrayed. The witch had trained her to harness it, without fully realizing the ramifications of what would happen if her little creation turned on her, until it was too late.

Rire decided it’d be much more interesting after all to watch the two witches fight in person.

Ellie brought her hands back, reached across the table, and lifted her glass once more, avoiding his gaze.

A slow, sharp grin stretched across Rire’s face. “You really are going to kill her, aren’t you?”

Her eyes snapped to meet with his, the shades of blue swirling like a star’s flaring tendrils. “I’m going to take her with me if I have to.”

“Let’s make a deal then.” Rire stood from the table and took her glass, setting it on the table and gesturing for her to follow him. She wandered to the couch first to grab Annabelle, and in response he wound ichor around her waist to pull her along the rest of the way. He sat down on the edge of her bed and placed her on his lap, her knees bent on either side of his legs. He smoothly took Annabelle from her hands, turning the doll over in his like he had done when they first met, before setting her aside on the nightstand.

“I’ve decided not to kill you. Yet.”

Ellie’s heart skipped a beat, and Annabelle’s eyes grew wide. “What?

Rire’s smile didn’t fade, and he peered at Ellie over his sunglasses. “You’ll be free to live your life until it ends. However, when it does end, and how it ends, determines a few things. If you die before killing Ceri, whether by her hands or from this curse you have, I’ll take your soul and do whatever I please with it.” He chuckled darkly, adding, “And that includes putting it in a bottle to consume at a later date.

“On the other hand, should you survive this battle, and you die at a later time, I’ll reconsider the part where I swallow your soul.”

Ellie’s hopeful expression fell. “You’ll take my soul no matter what?”

“Well, that is the price of letting you live for now,” Rire laughed, brushing the side of his hand against her cheek. “You should be thanking me, really. I normally don’t detail conditions like this for just anyone.” His hand drifted down to her neck and he curled his fingers around it, not choking, but applying the slightest bit of pressure. “I like to save it for anyone who could be useful to me, or that I find particularly... interesting.”

She squirmed in his lap some, furrowing her brow. “And... and if I refuse?”

“I really don’t think you want to know how disappointed I’ll feel if you do that.” He tightened his grip. “An opportunity like this shouldn’t be wasted so carelessly.”

Silence hung between them like a guillotine. Annabelle remained quiet, afraid that even the slightest noise from her might make Rire let the blade fall.

With trembling hands, Ellie gripped his wrist, taking as deep a breath as she could manage.

“Deal.”

Rire’s grin split wide open, the sharp teeth within taking on a menacing gleam. “Contractus signati .”

In one fluid motion, he pulled her from his lap and onto her back, laying her on the bed and straddling her waist. The tentacle holding her retracted back to him as he loosened his cravat. Ellie, her cheeks flushed a bright red, immediately understood his intentions, and quickly went on the defensive, scooting away and sitting upright against the headboard.

Rire smiled, leaning over her, putting one hand beside her against the headboard and blocking her escape route. He brought his free hand up to her face, watching as she bristled and tried to lean away from his touch when, almost affectionately, he caressed her cheek. Ellie had squeezed her eyes shut on instinct, but when it became clear that he wasn’t going to strike her, she pried one open, slowly relaxing her shoulders.

Hesitantly, Ellie reached out a hand toward his face, mirroring him and hovering near his glasses. “...May I?”

Rire couldn’t help the laugh that crept up at the request. “So polite.” He tilted his head slightly to rest his cheek in her palm, nuzzling it before dragging his teeth over her skin. The veins at the base of her thumb were so close to the surface that the action drew blood, and her hand began trembling slightly. “As long as you’re a good little human, I suppose it’s only fair I grant you that indulgence,” he purred.

With his permission given, Ellie carefully removed his glasses, setting them aside on the table. After another moment of hesitation, she settled her hands on him, carefully keeping her bleeding palm from touching his skin as she placed that one on his cheek again, the other resting at the nape of his neck.

He looked her in the eyes, grinning wide and tracing her lower lip with his thumb. “Feel better now that you can see me?”

Ellie shook her head, but her smile clashed against the motion. “I don’t think ‘better’ is the word I would use. I think I feel even more terrified now, actually.”

Rire’s grin grew wider. “Good. Wouldn’t want things to be too boring, now, would we?”


Technically speaking, Rire could have just marked Ellie and left. He really didn’t have to fuck her before leaving, but be it beyond him to pass up such a perfect opportunity, especially since she had, once again, surprised him with how her attitude completely changed. Being disobedient, then challenging him, and then reluctant compliance — though, the last one he supposed was because she didn’t know that their fornication hadn’t been necessary for sealing the contract.

As he re-dressed, he glanced at the doll on the nightstand. “I’m surprised you didn’t have any protests to the agreement.”

Annabelle’s eyes stayed on Ellie’s sleeping form. “I did, but I was afraid of the consequences. ” She emitted a soft sigh. “It may be better this way, really. She lives, sees her revenge fulfilled, but after that... ” Her eyes finally met Rire’s. “That’s when you’ll take her, isn’t it?

Rire gave her a bemused, closed-lip smile. “Are you always so grim?”

Annabelle’s own smile turned sad. “That’s the condition of my existence, unfortunately. I’m afraid I don’t get to see happy endings — at least, it’s very rare.

He reached over and picked her up, twirling one of her braids between his fingers. “I guess it’d be pointless to lie to you then.”

He set her down on the pillow by Ellie’s head, admiring his mark one more time before flashing a toothy grin. “Until next time.”


Ellie jolted upright, her heart pounding in her ears as she pulled Annabelle into her arms. “What happened? Where’s —”

Gone, ” Annabelle said softly. “Though, he may come back to torture you another day.

Ellie let out the breath she had been holding, shakily standing from the bed and going to her closet. As she passed her vanity mirror however, she froze, and looked at her neck.

It didn’t quite look like a sigil, and definitely felt like it carried more weight than one. The lines wrapped all the way around in a sharp pattern, stemming from a ring of dots on the side of her neck that looked an awful lot like teeth marks. She reached up and traced a finger along the pattern, paling. She made a soft “tch” sound, sighing as her hand fell back at her side.

“Of course he will.”