“Come on, mate," said Sonny. "I’m trying to extend an olive branch here. We’re all friends now, right guys?”
Everyone looked at each other, then they all looked away from each other, probably trying to get their vision to focus.
“That’s because they’re a bunch of idiots.” The atmosphere went from lukewarm to frosty. “You, on the other hand, are a scumbag. You always will be. Just stay away from us.”
The smart thing would have been to accept the olive branch and pretend to get along with him so that the next time we met he wouldn’t try to kill us, but fuck that.
“Fine,” said Sonny bitterly. He slammed down his wine glass. “Come on, Mandy. Let’s go.”
Mandy stood up, wobbling. “Sonny has invited me to stay with him, so I’ll be leaving you in Colin’s safe hands.” She winked at me. “I know you’ll all miss me, but try your best to keep going. Happy adventures!” She raised a full glass of wine and downed it in one.
I walked over to her and grabbed her by the arm.
“What’s the matter? Can’t bear to see me go?”
“No, I’m fine with it. I just want a word before you leave.” I turned to the others. “We’ll just be a minute.”
I guided Mandy through the French windows onto a balcony, moved to the side so we couldn’t be seen, and then released her arm.
“Ow. That hurt.” She rubbed her arm. “Aren’t you going to heal it?” She gave me a sly smile.
“I know, I know. Look, it’s fine. I’m not going to tell anyone your secret. You saved my life. I owe you, I know that. And I’m grateful. Really, I am. So I won’t tell anyone about the hocus pocus voodoo that you do, or how you’re all chummy with the monsters.” She put a finger to her lips. “Mum’s the word.”
She tottered towards the balustrade, managing to grab it just before she lost her balance. One push would send her right over.
“Mandy. Look at me. I know you’re still upset about everything, and that’s to be expected, but don’t be so blase about it. Don’t make me regret saving your life.”
Mandy suddenly stood up straight. “Fuck you. You can’t tell me what to do. If I want to tell people about you, I will, and there’s nothing you can do about it. You should be grateful I’m being so nice about it.”
“Nice? You and I both know where nice gets you. You aren’t nice, Mandy. Which is fine. But if anyone ever comes after me and they somehow know things about me they shouldn’t know, I’m going to assume they found out from you. And then I’m going to come looking for you.”
Mandy sneered. “And then what? You’re going to kill me? Are you really capable of doing that? Killing a girl in cold blood, it just isn’t your style, is it?”
“You have no idea what I’m capable of.” I raised my hand and it burst into flame, which took her by surprise. “All I want is to be left alone. But if you can’t do that, I will find you, but I won’t kill you. What I’ll do is burn your face off.” The flame turned from blue to purple to red.
Mandy’s eyes widened. She was sobering up, quickly.
“For the rest of your life, you’ll be the monster.”
Actually, the flames wrapped around my hand wouldn’t even singe her eyebrows, but she didn’t know that. She backed away from me, terrified.
Even though it wouldn’t hurt her, I wanted it to. The threat was real, even if my ability to carry it out wasn’t.
I rubbed my palms together and turned the flames into a ball of light, which I released into the air. We both watched it float away. I did that because it looked cool, but also because my hand was beginning to hurt and that was the only way I knew how to turn the flames off.
Mandy’s cocky demeanour floated away with the ball of light. “I won’t say anything.” Her voice was small and afraid.
The French window opened and Sonny stepped out. “You ready to go? What’s the matter?”
“Nothing,” said Mandy. She walked towards him without looking at me. “Goodbye, Colin. Let’s hope we don’t meet again.”
“Let’s,” I agreed.
It was a horrible thing to do to a girl. Threaten her, bully her, make her feel exposed and vulnerable. I had no excuse for it, even if it was a bluff intended to prevent worse things from happening. And there was another aspect of it which I hadn’t expected. When I told her what I would do to her if she betrayed me, it felt good.
The look of powerlessness in her eyes, the feeling of complete control over her, knowing I could make her do whatever I wanted… as much as I hated people who abused their power like that, when I saw the abject fear in her face… it felt really good.
“That was interesting,” said Biadet.
“Waah,” I yelped. “Stop doing that.”
She was sitting on the balustrade. How she got there, I have no idea. Her outfit had changed once more; now she was in an all black body stocking that made it hard to see in the shadows.
“Should your hand be smoking like that?”
I looked down. Smoke was coming off my hand. “It’s fine. It’ll go back to normal in a bit.” It actually hurt quite a lot. I had never turned the flames that red before.
“Mother always said I should find myself a man with warm hands. Maybe she meant you.”
“Your mother sounds like an idiot. You should ignore everything she tells you.”
“Good for you.”
Biadet cocked her head to the side. “Most people offer condolences when I tell them my mother’s dead, not congratulations.”
“Most people don’t know the advantages of not having a mother in your life.”
“And what would those be?”
“Double the confidence and half the self-loathing. Look, is there any chance we could keep this between ourselves?” I flapped my steaming hand about to make it cool quicker.
“I keep no secrets from my Master.” I could see this turning into a problem. Gullen would probably strap me to a lab table and do all sorts of probing. “But I could not tell the Lord Administrator.”
“Wait. So Gullen isn’t your Master?” I turned to where she had been sitting, but she was no longer there.
I re-entered the room. Mandy and Sonny were gone, and the others were barely managing to stay upright.
“Hey, let’s call it a night. Go back to your rooms and sleep it off.”
There were some drunken complaints but they all staggered off, leaning against each other for support. I helped Jenny out of her chair and towards the door.
“Getting kind of chummy with old Mandy, weren’t ya,” she mumbled. “Don’t forget to invite me to the wedding.”
I took her back to her room and thought about helping her to get undressed. All of you who are thinking, Now’s your chance, time to ride that train to Pound Town, stop it. She was very drunk. And also, as soon as she flopped onto the bed, she passed out.
“Biadet, can you help me?”
I turned to find Biadet standing there, as expected. “Can you get her undressed and into bed?” She nodded. “Thanks.”
I left her to it and went back to my room. I walked out onto the small balcony and took a few deep breaths. The more I tried to run away from trouble, the more it chased after me. Maybe a nice desk job would be just the thing for me. Because Gullen could be trusted, right?
It had been a long day and my bed looked like the best friend I’d always wanted. I planned to climb into my best friend and jerk off until I passed out.
I stripped off and got in between the sheets. I rolled over and then leapt out with a yelp.
“Jeeee-sus. Stop doing that.”
“Doing what?” said Biadet. She was lying in the bed.
“Please tell me you’re dressed under there.”
“Of course. I’m here to watch over you.”
“Can’t you do it from another room?”
“I am unable to see through walls. Yet.”
“Well, go practice. You can’t just get into bed with a guy. Even if it’s me. What if I’d done something to you in the middle of the night?”
She looked confused. “Why? I haven’t even finished developing as a woman... Oh, so it’s like that?”
“No, it’s not like that. Stop saying that. You know, you’re a very weird girl. I don’t suppose you know a princess called Laney.”
Biadet sat up. “You know Laney?”
“Yes. Why, do you?”
“We went to the same school. We are… old friends.” The way she said didn’t make it sound like they were best buds.
“Figures. Must have been a hell of a place. Unhinged Elementary for Demented Girls.”
“No. Sunshine Bouquet Academy for Ladies of Virtue.”
“Sounds lovely. Did they give you lessons in creeping the fuck out of people?”
“Every Wednesday afternoon.” It was hard not to like the sarcastic little freak.
She slid out from between the sheets and walked to the door. “Tissues are in the top drawer of the bedside cabinet.” She left, but you could never be sure with her. For all I knew, she’d snuck back in and was hiding under the bed. I checked under the bed to make sure.
There was nothing there, but I couldn’t shake the feeling I was being watched. I spent a restless night tossing and turning. My hands remained above the sheets. So it was mainly turning, not so much tossing.
AN: I managed to get to No.1 on Top Web Fiction… for one day. Hard to keep Wildbow off the top spot. If you have a moment, please vote for me over there. Voting refreshes weekly so if you voted before it still helps if you vote again. No signup required, just push the button [VOTE]. Cheers.